Cranberry Buttermilk Cake

This cake was gorgeous.  It just might be the perfect treat for Christmas morning.  The cranberries are bright bursts of tart juice, the batter is full of sweet orange flavor, and the cake is light and fluffy.  With the cranberries, this isn’t a very sweet cake, so it’s great for brunch or tea.  This is a great winter spin on the Blueberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake I made for Mother’s day in the spring.  If this seems like too much cake for you, you can halve the recipe and bake it in an 8×8″ square pan.

Cranberry Buttermilk CakeCranberry Buttermilk Cake (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 12-16

Adapted from Alexandra Cooks

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large orange, zested
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9×13″ pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.

Cream butter with orange zest and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla, beating well after each addition.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.  Leave a couple of Tbsp of flour to toss the cranberries in (this keeps the berries from sinking to the bottom), then fold the cranberries into the batter.

Scoop batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Favorite Winter Recipes

It’s officially the first day of winter…ironic since it’s about 70 degrees in DC today.  Can you believe how fast time is flying by?  I can’t believe it’s almost the end of 2013!  I still find myself almost writing 2012 when I write the date.  Well I’m sure everyone is busy this holiday season, so I’ll get straight to the point.  Despite the unseasonably warm weather here, this is a round-up of some of my favorite winter recipes.  I hope you find something new to try this winter.

For something warm and hearty:Favorite Winter Recipes (A Seat at the Table)

Banana Leaf Vegetable Curry (vegetarian)

Black Bean Burgers with Corn (vegetarian)

Ham and Green Bean Soup

Marsala Pork with Mushrooms

Moroccan Chicken with Couscous

Mushroom Artichoke Soup (vegetarian)

Santiago Bean Dip (great for serving with baked potatoes, vegetarian)

Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding (vegetarian)

Slow Cooker Wonderful Beef Pot Roast

Spanakopita Quinoa (vegetarian)

Turkey Meatballs

If you want something heathy and light:

Black Bean, Quinoa, and Citrus Salad

Carrot-Ginger Soup (vegetarian)

Cranberry Orange Relish (great on sandwiches!)

Crustless Spinach and Feta Pie

Feta and Sun-Dried Tomato Quinoa Cups

Ginger-Sesame Baked Tilapia

Holy Trinity Salmon Cakes

Little Fish Cakes

Roasted Green Bean, Mushroom and Barley Salad (vegan)

Salmon Cake Salad Nicoise

If you want to enjoy some baking:

Carrot Herb Rolls

Cranberry Pear Crumble (vegan)

Cranberry Snacking Cake

Cranberry Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

French Boule

Grapefruit Bundt Cake

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Mixed Berry Trifle (this is more assembly than baking, so anyone can do it)

Pumpkin Poppers

Raspberry Chocolate Pecan Rugelach

Salted Nut Chews (aka Lauren’s Christmas Cookie)

Chocolate Chunk Eggnog Cookies

These are one of the cookies I made last week for Carroll Cafe.  Now I have to confess that I don’t like eggnog.  But every year Sister likes to get a carton of eggnog for the season, and usually cuts it with milk because it’s too rich on its own.  So there’s typically at least half a carton left.  Now I finally have a recipe to help use up the rest of the eggnog!

These cookies are a bit cake like, and even remind me of a muffin-top…a little crispy on the edges, but soft and doughy in the middle.  The eggnog flavor is pretty subtle, but definitely noticeable with it’s faint spiced flavor.  And obviously you can’t go wrong adding in some chocolate chunks.  These are quite the seasonal treat, so put out a plate for Santa and enjoy.

Chocolate Chunk Eggnog CookiesChocolate Chunk Eggnog Cookies (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 18 Tbsp (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup eggnog
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
  • cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in eggnog, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until completely combined.  Slowly add in the flour, mixing until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Scoop the batter onto prepared baking sheet, then sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon.  Bake for about 22-28 minutes, or until golden around the edges and set.  Let cool on a wire rack.  If you don’t need to bake them all immediately, I recommend scooping the batter, freezing it and storing it in a ziploc freezer bag with baking instructions written on it to save them for later, or for when unexpected company arrives during the holidays.

Butternut and Sweet Potato Soup

My poor mom had some dental work done this week and has been feeling under the weather.  So in an effort to get her back in tip-top shape, or at least eating again, I created this soup for her.  It’s a quick soup, but tastes great:  creamy and comforting, just what you need when you’re not feeling your best.

Butternut and Sweet Potato SoupButternut and Sweet Potato Soup (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme

In a large cast iron pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sautee for a few minutes until tender.  Add garlic, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and sautee for an additional 2 minutes, season with salt.  Add vegetable broth and thyme.  Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes and squash are fork tender.  Remove thyme stems from the pot.  Turn heat off and using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Little Fish Cakes

Here’s another dish I tried for my nutrition class project of trying 5 new, whole foods…sardines!  Don’t run away!!  These were actually really good!  Sardines definitely have a bad reputation, but they’re a nutritional powerhouse and are a good sustainable fish.  Sardines are high in vitamin B12 (especially important for people who don’t eat meat), omega-3 fatty acids (these are the good fats that we need more of), protein, phosphorus, vitamin D, and calcium.  All that good stuff and they’re pretty low in calories too!  So why are we so afraid of some little fishes?

Ok, I have to admit there is something weird about the cans that they come in…not sure why they don’t come in a normal tuna-style can, and they’re really unappetizing looking when you open the can, but it’s not exactly like canned tuna’s a looker, right?  So once you get past those aversions you can focus on this  tasty recipe.  These were quite simple to prepare and I even served them to my aunt and uncle who stopped by unexpectedly for dinner and they liked them too.  The panko provides a nice crispy exterior, and the potato pairs nicely with the slight fishy taste.  Adding herbs helps keep these cakes tasting fresh.  I forgot to make some, but this would be great with a tartar sauce.  On their own they’re the perfect accompaniment to a salad or a bowl of soup.  I’ll definitely make these again and look forward to trying variations on these so I can up my fish intake.  After all, it’s recommended that adults get 2 servings of fatty fish per week.  What’s your favorite way of serving fish?

Little Fish CakesLittle Fish Cakes (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 8 small patties

Adapted from The Professional Palate

  • 1 medium red potato
  • 2 cans (about 4oz each) skinless, boneless, sardines in water, drained
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp dried dill (use 4 Tbsp fresh if you have it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • panko (about 1/2 cup)
  • canola oil for frying

Boil the potato for about 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Let cool and then chop finely.

In a bowl, combine sardines, shallots, dill, eggs, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add potato and mix well.  Form into about 8 patties, then dredge each patty in panko crumbs.

Pour oil into a pan, until the bottom is covered, and heat over medium heat.  Add cakes to the skillet (in batches if necessary) for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until heated through and golden on the outside.  Serve immediately.

Monster Cookies (gluten-free)

These cookies are full of all the tasty things a cookie monster loves, they’ve got peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, toffee and oats.  And they just happen to be gluten-free.  I don’t normally look for gluten-free recipes, but for last month’s Carroll Cafe, I thought it might be nice to have one gluten-free option.  These are definitely popular with kids, but adults with a sweet-tooth will love them too.  They’re nice and chewy from the oats, and peanut butter-chocolate is always a winning combination.  Feel free to mix in different candies or add nuts to make the perfect creation for the cookie monsters in your life.

Monster Cookies (gluten-free)Monster Cookies (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Adapted from Betty Crocker

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (make sure they’re gluten-free if that’s a concern)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate M&Ms
  • 1/2 cup toffee pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat sugars, peanut butter and butter until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in oats, baking soda and salt.  Then fold in the chocolate chips, M&Ms and toffee pieces.

Scoop dough into large balls on an ungreased cookie sheet leaving lots of space between each cookie.  Bake for 11-14 minutes, or until golden.  Allow to cool briefly before removing from pan.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are simple, yet exquisite.  The brown sugar tastes caramelized, giving a rich toffee flavor and nice chewy texture that goes well with the oats.  These are definitely going to be one of my go-to cookies.  It’s especially good for anyone who isn’t that into chocolate.  While obviously cookies are always best when eaten hot from the oven, these maintain their chewiness once cooled too.  I doubled the recipe and got nervous that I’d have too many leftovers, but these are definitely a favorite, so I’m glad to have extras in the freezer!

Brown Sugar Oatmeal CookiesBrown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 4 dozen (using a 2oz scoop)

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups dark brown sugar (light would be fine too if that’s what you have)
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 cups old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda, then add into the creamed butter mixture in 3 batches, mixing until just combined.  Fold in the oats.

Scoop batter onto lightly greased, or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until beginning to brown on the edges and center is golden and set.  Let cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely (I find this is easier to do if the cookies are on parchment paper and then you can just slide the paper onto a wire rack to cool).

Holiday Gift Guide for the Kitchen

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving full of good food, family and friends!

Now that my favorite holiday has passed we can turn our attention to the next one that is rapidly approaching….Christmas!  If you have a special someone who’s into cooking, or trying to get more into cooking, then read on for my favorite kitchen tools and gadgets!  These are some of my favorite products that I use all the time and would definitely recommend having in any kitchen.

I’m assuming most people will have the basics:Holiday Gift Guide for the Kitchen (A Seat at the Table)

Mixing bowls that can double as serving bowls if needed.  Nested, multiple sizes, and light enough that they’re easy to hold when full, are my requirements.  I also usually avoid metal ones because they transfer heat too easily.

Measuring spoons and cups, I like these since their funky shapes fit into containers better than just regular round ones.

Good knives:  Chef’s knife and a pairing knife.  These are the two knives I use for everything.  Well and a serrated knife for bread.  Everything else I do in the kitchen can be done with a good chef’s knife and a good pairing knife.  I got both of these as gifts and they’ve been absolutely amazing (thanks, Chris!).  I get that it’s an investment, but you’re going to be using them pretty much everyday, so get good ones.  I wouldn’t bother with a whole block set because you don’t need that many different kinds.  You also MUST keep them sharp!  There’s nothing worse than a dull knife.  If your knives can’t easily cut through the skin of a tomato, and it squishes the tomato instead, your knives are not sharp enough.  I’ll do a feature soon on how to sharpen your own knives, but until then, call your local hardware store and ask if they do it in store or if they have a recommendation for someone who does.  It’ll make all your cooking so much easier!

Some other suggestions for tools that I love in my kitchen:

Onion goggles.  I got these last year for Christmas and I have to confess that they have been life changing.  If you’re an onion crier like me, you’ll be saved with these goggles.  You might not look the coolest, but at least your eyes won’t be burning and you won’t be sobbing into your onions either.  Get them.  Get an extra pair for guests.  Give them to everyone you know.  They’re fantastic and I haven’t shed a tear over onions, shallots, or scallions ever since I got mine.

To keep your knives handy, I recommend a magnetic knife rack, just make sure you think about where you’ll hang it before you get it.  It needs to be handy, but out of the way.

Cookie scoop.  If you bake cookies even once a month, I’d recommend these cookie scoops.  I like having a 2oz and a 4oz.  The 2oz scoop is perfect for scooping cookie dough.  Make your dough, scoop all of it into dough balls, freeze and store in freezer bags, it’s the perfect way to have fresh-baked cookies on hand whenever you want.

Cupcake carrier.  If you like to bake for others this carrier is the perfect way of transporting your baked goods.  There are individual cupcake spots, as well as just a flat surface for things like cookies, brownies or bars.  The tray has handles that makes getting your baked goods out of the box easy, and the handles are reversible so you can have two layers.

Microplane.  A microplane is great for zesting and grating.  It’s perfect for citrus zest, easy to grate garlic, and great for grating fresh nutmeg.  It might seem like an unnecessary piece of equipment, but if you’re getting into cooking you’ll definitely be needing it sooner or later.

Pastry brush.  Ok, this isn’t something I use frequently, but whenever you need to “brush” something, an egg wash or what not, this is the perfect tool.  This is definitely a tool for bakers, but can be used to glaze meats or tofu too.

Bigger items:

Griddle or super-size (this is what I have).  If you’re a pancake lover, or want to pretend you’re a short-order cook at home on the weekends, a griddle is just what you need.  I never make pancakes on anything else, since it’s so convenient to have the griddle next to you at the table ready to serve hot pancakes immediately.  It’s also great for bacon, eggs, french toast, grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter sandwiches…  It’s not something I use all the time, but is definitely convenient if you like to serve brunch.

Immersion Blender.  This isn’t the exact model I have, but they seem to have discontinued it.  An immersion blender is great for pureed soups.  I love the whisk attachment, it’s much faster than my handheld electric mixer for beating egg whites or whipped cream.  It’s quiet, easy to use, clean and store.  I haven’t used it for smoothies, but I assume it’d work pretty well.  This price tag is kind of steep, so I’d wait for a sale; but if you’re interested in soups, dressings or an excellent whisk, an immersion blender is a handy tool.

Dutch Oven.  These pots are great.  They’re wonderful for slow cooking meats, they can go from stove to oven, they can be used just as a plain pot too.  They’re also ridiculously heavy, so you  can get your workout done in the kitchen too!  Got to love a multipurpose tool!  Le Creuset is the most well-known, I think the one I use is actually a Martha Stewart brand from Macy’s and about 1/2 the price.  It’s an investment, but definitely something you’ll enjoy using, and is built to last.

Stand Mixer.  This is for the serious bakers out there.  I got mine last year for Christmas and I love it.  It’s definitely not essential and I could do pretty much everything with a handheld electric mixer, but if you bake a lot you’ll definitely appreciate the hands-free nature.  This is also great for making bread, since it has a dough hook and you don’t have to knead by hand.

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets and tools?  Anything you’ve started using recently and don’t know how you lived without for so long?

**I’m not being compensated for any of these recommendations, they’re just products I use and like (or are similar to products I use).  All opinions are my own.