Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lavender Cake with Lemon Curd & Raspberry

Have you every tasted the smell of something? It truly leads you to know that your sense of smell is as important to the foodie experience as the taste is. I'm am constantly on a search for the perfect aromatherapy food.

Nothing was as important for my wedding cake as creating the perfect balance between aroma and taste. Rob, an herbalist, and I, a soap maker, work with herbs in our hobbies so they're a big part of our lives. We use them for healing, beauty and peacefulness.

I chose lavender as the aromatic smell and flavor and decided to couple it with two tart tastes in tangy raspberry and tart lemon curd.


For cake
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 3 egg whites
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup & 2 Tbsn lavender flowers
* 3/4 cup lemon curd
* 3/4 cup raspberry preserves

For icing
This is for plain white frosting with a hint of lavender. For this cake I made homemade whipped cream with lavender in it.
* 1 cup milk
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup shortening
* 1/2 cup margarine
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For cake

Heat milk and lavender flowers on stove until hot. Strain and reserve liquid discarding flowers. Let milk cool.

Mix all ingredients, including cooled lavender milk, in a large bowl and, using hand mixer, beat until smooth.

Grease two 9" cake pans and distribute cake batter evenly between them.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.

For icing

In a small saucepan, combine the milk and flour. Cook over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the milk mixture is cool, add the margarine, shortening, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer for 10 to 12 minutes, scraping the bottom of the bowl occasionally.

Putting the cake together:

Now cut the first layer of cake evenly so that you have 2 thinner cakes. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the top of the first layer.

Set the next thin layer on top and spread the raspberry preserves over that layer.

If you need to, use a skewer through the center of the cake to hold the layers steady.

Now put the full-sized layer on top and completely frost the cake.

You can touch up the icing before serving after the cake has chilled. Keep frosted cakes refrigerated until 1/2 hour before serving.

Cool Crunchy Coleslaw

Hot days are here and picnic food is the order for the season!

Here's a coleslaw recipe to start you out.

Serves 6


1 medium head organic green cabbage
*make sure the outside leaves are tight to the cabbage
3 medium organic carrots
2/3 cup no cholesterol mayonnaise
3 Tbsn lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Cut cabbage in half and slice into thin ribbons, turn sideways and cut into thirds.

Cut carrots length-wise into long strips, turn sideways and cut into thirds.

Mix cabbage and carrots in large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix thoroughly.

Just before serving add mayonnaise. Salt & pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Will keep in fridge for up to 5 days.

NOTE: Once mixed the dressing will cause the cabbage to 'shrink' and be less crunchy, so if you want to preserve the crunchiness only add dressing just before serving.

(finishing photos to follow)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Harvest Stew

This stew is rich, hearty and a staple in my house from Samhain, or All Hallows Eve, right through to Ostara, or the Vernal Equinox.

When it's a celebration or company is over I serve it in individual sugar pumpkins from a large roasted pumpkin that I make into a tureen. If it's just us then it's straight from cooking on the stove into our bowls.

Serve it with a nice hearty loaf of homemade bread and you'll feel happy and sated. Leftovers freeze beautifully!


2 cups of celery tops, chopped, including leaves
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large butternut squash
8 oz package of mushrooms (shitakes give a lovely earthy flavor, but criminis or white will do fine as well), thickly sliced
2 medium organic potatoes, washed, cut into chunks
1 sweet potato, washed, cut into chunks
5 organic carrots, washed, cut into bit-sized pieces
1 lean turkey sausage, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
16 oz chicken or vegetable broth
8 oz water
1 bayleaf


In a large 5 quart pot, saute turkey sausage, onions, garlic and squash for 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes.

Add broth, water and celery cooking for 1/2 hour.

Add potatoes and carrots and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Serve with thick sliced grain bread.

NOTE: If you want to serve in pumpkins, then simply clean the pumpkins as you would a jack-o-lantern and roast upside down on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Carefully place large pumpkin on a strong platter and fill with stew. Place pumpkin lid on top and arrange little pumpkins & grain bread for guests around main pumpkin.

Cannoli Cones

You all may have noticed an Italian flavor to a lot of my dishes and comfort foods. That is because I am partially of Italian descent. My father's mother, Edith, is the youngest child of 17 siblings. At 95, she still makes her own tomato sauce and still asks me if I'm being sure to cook at home because she feels the kitchen is the heart of every home. I have to agree with her!

This fun dessert came to me in a moment of homesickness. A cannoli would be #3 on my dessert list only behind tiramisu and creme brulee.

A cannoli is basically ricotta cheese and sugar. No way can that go wrong!

This fun dessert are easy, fast, can be made in large quantities, in advance, and served easily to a party full of guests. It's great for parties because, unlike ice cream, it's not going to melt the second you serve it. You'll get compliments on a creative idea.(and it's inexpensive too!)

Makes 5 heaping cones!


5 flat bottomed ice cream cones
One 15 oz container lowfat ricotta cheese
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Sprinkles for decoration

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Let mixture sit for at least 1 hour in refrigerator (you can make this up to two days in advance).

Divide evenly into cones, cover in sprinkles and serve!

Tip: If you put the cones on a cookie sheet while you're doing the sprinkles you can save the sprinkles that miss and use them again.

Mangiare e Divertirsi!
Chi mangia solo crepa solo.

Eat & Enjoy!
He who eats alone dies alone.

(photos to follow)

Lamb Eggplant Stew

When I was in high school, my mom's friend, who never really seemed to be interested in culinary delights made this dish. I watched from across the kitchen as she went from cookbook to cutting board to stove. Curiosity grabbed me and I tiptoed over to read the cookbook. "Promising", I thought to myself. It was a Greek cookbook and the recipe was Lamb Eggplant Stew over pilaf.

Not really one to plate anything for aesthetic pleasure, I received a plate that was laden with a rich looking, brown creation served on a bed of rice pilaf.

The smell? Dazzling. The taste? Mouth-watering. To this day it is still on of my favorite meals.

Yes, I've tweaked it and changed measurements until it became the perfection that was hiding below the surface on that first day.

Serves 6 people.


1 lb. lamb stew meat, pieces should be small bite-sized cubes
1 large eggplant, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup cabernet sauvingnon (optional)
8 oz. crimini mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn olive oil
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 Tbsn oregano
1 Tbsn basil
1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (optional)
1 tsp mint for garnish


In a 3 quart pot, saute onions in olive oil for one minute and then add garlic. Saute on medium for 3 minutes and then add mushroom. Cook until mushroom have released most of their liquid (5 minutes). Add lamb and cook until meat is browned.
Add wine, simmer for 5 minutes. (For my friends who do not drink: this is not a necessity to have this great recipe!)

Add eggplant and continue to saute for 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, with the juice, oregano and basil and cook for another 15 minutes.

At this point you can add the yogurt which gives it a stroganoff-type creaminess or you can opt not to and it will stay a gravy sauce. Either way is beautiful!

Now serve out over rice pilaf, sprinkle mint very lightly over top and serve. This rich dish freezes beautifully and tastes great as leftovers!


Balsamic Vinegar Reduction!

Filling a special request on this one!

Yvonne, a new friend, asked if I could make this. My answer has to be 'yes' simply because I think we can do anything! LOL!

This wonderful reduction sauce is the pièce de résistance as a finishing sauce for items such as salads, vegetable, fish... almost anything you can think it might sound good on! (Try it on my caprese salad skewers!) It's tart! It's sweet! It's a must have! And so easy to make even anyone can do it. Make extra and store it too.


NOTE: Be very cautious as balsamic can burn quickly and you don't want to ruin the sauce. Just watch it carefully. It should only take you about 25 minutes.

Things You'll Need:

* Balsamic Vinegar
You'll want double vinegar of the finished amount you desire
Example: 2 cups vinegar = 1 cup sauce
* Sugar (to taste) - very light on this part.. maybe only 1 tsp.
* Saucepan
* Whisk

1. Pour the balsamic vinegar into the pan.

2. Heat the pan to high.

3. Whisk briskly, even prior to boiling. Once it starts boiling, keep whisking constantly to prevent burning.

4. The vinegar naturally sweetens when reduced, but if you like a very sweet reduction, sprinkle in a teaspoon of sugar. (I'm not a big lover of the sugar part)

5. Reduce by half, or until the vinegar takes on a syrupy quality. Allow to cool.

6. Use it on anything you want!


(pictures to follow)