Gooey Greens and Two Kinds of Cheese


Very lightly butter or brush olive oil on two slices of sourdough. I used seeded sourdough, but this tastes great on plain sourdough, too. This will be the outside of your sandwich. If you use butter, you should try lightly dusting finely grated parmesan on the butter.

Spread a thin layer of basil pesto on the inside of each slice of sourdough. If you’ve got a tree nut allergy, blend together two tablespoons of olive oil, a packed handful of fresh basil, 1-2 cloves of garlic and two pinches of salt to use instead. Pile a slice with crumbled goat cheese, spinach, arugula, avocado and sliced swiss cheese. I like to add a secret sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook both sides over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron pan to get a nice crisp on the bread. You don’t want it too hot or you’ll scorch the bread before the cheeses have an opportunity to melt. Serve hot.


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Let Them Eat Almond Cake


Cream 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar together. Add 3 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites, you’re using them, too!) and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract, and the zest of one lemon (avoid the pith, it’s bitter and won’t taste good in your cake). Stir until combined. Fold in 1 cup almond meal, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cake flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a separate dry bowl, whip the three egg whites until they begin to get frothy. When they begin to get frothy, add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. When you have stiff peaks, fold egg whites into the almond and flour mixture. Pour into a greased cake pan and bake 30 minutes at 350. Remove and let cool on wire baking rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.

While cake is cooling, heat juice of three lemons and 1 tablespoon lavender flowers. Let steep 5 minutes, then strain to remove the flowers. Add in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and stir to combine. Pour glaze over the cooled cake. Press lavender flowers in while the glaze is warm to decorate if you’re artsy. Otherwise, let cool about 10 minutes after the glaze is applied and serve.

Some notes: if using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on high. Everything you read on the internet will tell you to whip them at a low to medium speed. And on a stand mixer, this will get you nowhere. With a handheld mixer, start at medium and if you don’t see progress, increase the speed slowly. You should see serious progress in just a couple of minutes and have achieved stiff peaks in about five minutes. If you’re considering whipping the egg whites by hand, good luck and God speed.

Different flavor options:

  • Instead of lavender, steep fresh basil leaves in the hot lemon juice.
  • Substitute orange zest in for lemon zest and fresh squeezed orange juice for the lemon juice. Omit the lavender and instead whisk a teaspoon of vanilla extract into the warm orange juice and powdered sugar. In the alternate, throw some pineapple chunks into the warm orange juice in place of the lavender.
  • Substitute grapefruit zest in for lemon zest, and grapefruit juice and fresh mint for the lemon and lavender.

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Cinnamon Cardamom Challah


It took some time, but I’ve finally gotten my challah just how I like it.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk 1 packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons for those who use jars of yeast) and 1 teaspoon of honey into 2/3 cup of warm water. You want the water to feel warm to your hand, but not hot (about 110 degrees). Let this hang out until it gets foamy, about 10 minutes. With a spoon, mix in 1/4 cup honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 large eggs, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 4 cups flour, 4 teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon sweet almond extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla. When it begins to hold together like a dough, let your stand mixer’s dough hook take over and knead about 6 minutes on low. Remove this dough ball to a lightly floured surface, give that stand mixer bowl a quick wash, dry it, and use olive oil to lightly coat the inside of the bowl. Transfer the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in one of the warm areas in your house to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

To make by hand, follow as above until the dough begins to take shape in your mixing bowl, then turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes, until it feels smooth and stretchy. Clean and oil your mixing bowl, return the dough to the oiled bowl and let rise.

At some point during your rise, mix together: 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 2 teaspoons granulated sugar. This is also a great time to decide what you want your braid to look like. The braid pictured is a three strand braid formed into a circle. If you’re doing a four strand braid, divide your dough into halves instead of into thirds, and, after stretching your two ropes, cut in half. If this all seems overwhelming, there are some great YouTube videos that show different ways to braid challah, and you’ve got an hour before you have to make big decisions. Go forth and conquer.

After the dough has doubled in size, cut into three roughly even dough balls. One by one, roll these out into a rectangle. Using a sifter, sift the cinnamon sugar mixture over your dough, focusing on the center. Roll along the longest end to give yourself a cigar-shaped dough rope. Stretch the ropes to give yourself lots of braiding material. For the donut shape pictured, braid the three ropes together as you would a normal braid, then shape into a donut and pinch the ends of the ropes together. I like to braid first then shape the braid around a glass to keep the shape round, before pinching the ends together. Transfer your braided dough to a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk one egg and a tablespoon of water together. Using a pastry brush, brush this egg-wash onto your braid, avoiding getting egg on the silicone or parchment paper. Let this rise for approximately 1 hour. Brush again with egg wash and add 1/3 cup of sliced almonds. Crushed unsalted pistachios would also be stellar.

Bake approximately 35 minutes at 375. If you go with the round four strand braid, bump that up to 45 minutes because there’s a lot of dough in the center. If your bread is browning too quickly, cover with foil. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

For my nut-allergy friends or those who simply prefer chocolate: in lieu of sweet almond extract, use orange extract. Instead of cinnamon and sugar in the center, use extra small semi-sweet chocolate morsels. It’ll make your dough ropes bumpier but don’t be deterred. I like to dust a little powdered sugar over the top of these orange-chocolate loaves, but you do you.

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Tuna

I suppose I can’t call it mac and cheese if there’s no mac!

I sort of made it up as I went, but it goes something like this:

Melt about three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium low heat, when melted add four or five tablespoons of flour, mix into paste. Cook until lightly browned, add two cups of milk, increase heat to medium and stir/whisk until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then throw in a few handfuls of the shredded cheese of your choice, melt. Throw in a few more handfuls. Melt. A few more handfuls. Then throw in some spinach for good measure so it wilts. Add a few squeezes of Sriracha and stir. Add two small cans of tuna, drained.

At the same time, bring a pot of salted water to boil, throw in two cups of farfalle and four cups of riced cauliflower. Boil three minutes, add a cup of chopped bell pepper, boil four more minutes, then drain.

Stir into the cheese sauce. Add frozen sweet peas in the quantity of your choice and chopped green onions. Dump it all into a greased casserole dish, top with a light handful of cheese, then a bit of parmesan, a pretty Sriracha design, and a healthy coat of panko bread crumbs. Cook at 350 for a half hour, then turn on the broiler to brown the bread crumbs. Let stand ten minutes before serving.

Top with chopped green onions and chives, because you’re fancy.

Better Than Ranch Chicken

If you’ve ever had ranch chicken, you know it’s pretty good. It has a lot of flavor, and just the right amount of crunch from the panko breadcrumbs.

One of the things they tell you to do is use mayo to dredge the chicken pieces, before rolling them in the ranch power/panko bread crumb mixture. But there’s a better way. We recently tried adding Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and it changed everything.

You’ll need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1-oz. packet Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
¾ cup unseasoned panko crumbs
1/4 cup buffalo sauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a bowl, mix the mayo and buffalo sauce.
In a shallow bowl or plate, mix the panko crumbs and ranch dressing mix .
Dip each breast in the mayonnaise mixture turning on all sides until well-coated.
Shake off any excess.
Lay the chicken in the panko crumbs mix and turn until evenly coated.
Arrange the chicken on a foil lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°F or until juices run clear. Crumbs will be slightly browned.