Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberry Sauce

Its almost time to celebrate.  On Tuesday at 3:30 I will be a homeowner!  Its almost over!  And then the real work will begin.  But that will be the fun work – paint some walls – eventually re-do the kitchen – build tons and tons of garden beds.  Did I mention we were going to make this into an urban farm??  Well we are!  And soon (in about a year) we plan on selling our produce at the farmer’s market.  But there is lots to do before we get to that point.  lots. to. do.  But I can do all of that later on when I don’t have lemons, blueberries and yogurt waiting for me.

This is one of those cakes that you can make for any occasion – night or day.  Not all cakes translate well into a breakfast food – like German chocolate cake might not be the best way to start your morning – but this cake is!  I want to start every day with this cake!  It has yogurt and berries – and that, to me, sounds like a nicely rounded breakfast!

Anyway – this cake is to die for!  Its so easy – I made it 2x in 1 week.  Each time is was gobbled down in a day (with a small piece left over for breakfast the next morning!).  The great thing about this cake is that the ingredients are simple – you probably have most of them on hand.  And if you don’t have lemon you can use orange, lime, grapefruit – really anything!  And the same goes for the sauce.  I had a bag of frozen blueberries so I went for blueberry sauce, but you could use any kind of fruit – frozen or fresh.

So go forth and bake a cake.  And then once your friends have eaten it all, bake another one, because there is no better way to kiss up to your boss then to bring in a cake for no apparent reason.

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Simple Tomato Sauce

So, I’ve been a bit busy lately and have been woefully neglecting my blog (my apologies TJ).  Trying to buy a house (the house above) will do that to you.  After months and months searching for the right house, after one unsuccessful contract and then a couple more months of looking we found the perfect house.  The house we have lived in for almost exactly 4 years!  So no moving for us on closing day!  The house itself is great.  Lots of character, needs some (a lot) work but we’ve lived here for 4 years, so we know everything about it.  No surprises here.

No surprises until the appraiser came into the picture.  We had everything lined up – down payment ready, locked in a great interest rate, found the perfect house, all ready to go.  Then the appraiser comes (queue the dramatic music) and she seems nice and friendly – no reason to worry, right??  She looks around for quite awhile, measuring the house, opening cabinets, turning on heaters and then she goes.  A week goes by and we get a call from the bank and they tell us we need some repairs before we can close.  What?!  an appraiser calling for repairs?  this makes no sense!  Some of the exterior paint is chipping and lord knows that the bank won’t close on a house that has some chipping paint on the garage door.  The chipping paint could cause the house to fall down at any moment – how could we have missed this?!  In case you are  misunderstanding this – these repairs should have no reasonable impact if a bank will loan you money or not, very trivial repairs – but they MUST be completed prior to closing.  Oh and the awning over the back door has some dry rot and a bank will not close on any house with dry rot – hell no.  And the list goes on….  I guess every house that a bank loans money for must be in perfect shape – fixer uppers are no more!

So instead of basking in the pride of my new found homeowner-ship, I am basking in the glow of my own sweat, using power tools, scraping paint and having nervous breakdowns (yes plural) that this process will never end.  Oh and don’t forget, my amazing interest rate expires.  The fun is endless.

When you have a day where you go to work for 8 hours, come home and do manual labor for another 3 or so hours – the last thing you want to do is cook a big elaborate meal. But you still want that yummy satisfaction.  And that is where this tomato sauce comes into the picture.  It’s simple, easy and there are only 3 ingredients (4 including pasta).

This tomato sauce is mysteriously full of flavor even though there are so few ingredients.  The butter makes it really rich adding some depth of flavor.  It seems to make the sauce a bit on the sweeter side.  And the onions add just the right amount of flavor to make this sauce far from boring.

So the next time you are trying to scrape, sand and paint your garage door (it did not always look like this picture) and you are already stressed out and then it starts to rain – you might want to try this dish.  The simplicity will remind you that things do come together in unexpected ways.

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Sag Paneer (Spinach and Cheese)

I love Indian food.  It is always so savory, warm, saucy and delicious.  And even better, I live right around the corner from the best Indian restaurant in Santa Fe!  I never really thought about making Indian food, it seemed too complicated and exotic.  But man, I was wrong.  I have made this Sag Paneer twice now and it is a super simple dish – who would have thought?!

The ingredients list is short – most of it common.  The only thing I had a hard time finding was the Paneer – but I found it at Whole Foods.  Also the recipe says you can use halloumi instead which tends to be a bit easier to find.

You do need to use a food processor or blender, so there are a couple extra dishes to clean up – but this is seriously worth it.  The left overs are great too.  I nuked some leftovers the next day at work and everyone commented on how yummy it smelled.

I served it with rice and some delish homemade bread – more on that to come!

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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

No, they are not green.  But they do have Guinness, whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream in them.  These are not cupcakes for the faint of heart.  These are real, stick to your ribs, extraordinarily rich cupcakes.

St. Patrick’s Day was the 2 year anniversary of the company I work for.  And 3 of my co-workers have birthdays in March.  So we decided to celebrate all of these events with the 1st ever, national Focused Energy bake-off.  I think I gained 5 pounds that day.  There was a red velvet cake, tiramisu and my cupcakes.  It might not sounds like a lot, but I only work with 7 other people and 2 of them were not in that day!  There were lots of left overs, so it was a sugar filled week!

These cupcakes are fussy.  There are many steps and it takes awhile to get these together.  But the finished product is so worth it.  First you make the cupcakes.

Yes, my cupcakes fell.  But!  its not a big deal, because the next step is to cut out the middle of the cupcakes and fill it with a chocolate, whiskey ganache.  This ganache takes the cupcakes totally over the top, in a good way…

And then to top them off, a butter cream icing with Bailey’s.  Its totally ridiculous!

Oh yeah, and these cupcakes are really not good for you….

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My Favorite Salad

Hands down, this is my favorite salad.  When our garden gets going, I eat it daily.  And never get bored.  So the other night, when I saw that we had all of the ingredients in our fridge I was ecstatic.  I hadn’t had this salad since last fall when we ran out of beets in our garden!

I found 1 lonely beet in the fridge.  It wasn’t pretty looking, but you can’t judge a book by its cover.  It was perfect inside.

I roasted the beet for about an hour with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Once the wedges were fork tender I put the salad together.

Some lettuce (this year I am hoping to have arugula from my garden), the warm beets, a bit of local goat cheese, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt.  Its that simple.  Its so simple I am not going to even put up a recipe.

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Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins

This is a really easy recipe.  Really easy, unless you don’t realize until half way through that you are out of eggs and your buttermilk is bad.  And if that happens to you, like it did to me, you may choose to spread this recipe out over 2 days instead of 1.  But if you plan ahead and make sure you have all ingredients on hand before you start, this recipe will take about a half hour from start to eating.

I never really thought of making muffins out of pancake batter, but it makes perfect sense.  I love pancakes.  But I rarely have time to sit down and eat them, so why not make them portable – like a muffin?!?  It is brilliant.  And really yummy.

And this recipe couldn’t be any easier.  Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, mix the wet in another, stir together, add chocolate chips, pour into muffin tin and bake.  And if you don’t want chocolate, you could use blueberries, or bananas, or really anything you had on hand.  I love chocolate, but I think next time I will add a big slice of banana to each muffin before baking.

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No Knead Pizza Dough

Pizza is great.  Now I don’t mean the greasy cardboard that most chains sells as pizza, I mean real pizza.  Homemade dough, fresh toppings, maybe even some homemade pizza sauce.  It is a great way to use up stray vegetables and it can be a quick and extremely satisfying dinner.  But I have been having a hard time finding the perfect dough.  So this week, I tried something new – no knead pizza dough.

There has been a lot of buzz about no knead bread.  This was my first time trying it.  I always just kind of thought of it as a hassle.  Yeah, you don’t need to knead the dough, but you need to wait up to 24 hours to actually bake the bread.  And kneading bread really isn’t such a big deal.  It might get a bit messy, but its also a bit therapeutic.  But I started to read about it and I learned that by not kneading you are really allowing the yeast to work and add flavor.  So I thought I’d give it a try.

It started last night.  I mixed together the ingredients and it made a gloppy mess.

But I just followed the instructions and let it sit until I got home from work today.  And then it looked like this….

Still pretty much a gloppy mess.  I was beginning to lose hope.  But I continued to follow directions.  When I rolled it out, I did need to add quite a bit of flour to make it less sticky.  But man oh man, this is definitely the best crust I have made.  It has more flavor and it is just the right thickness.  This is definitely a keeper.  And another great thing about this is that the recipe makes enough dough for about 6 small pizzas!  So we made 2 tonight (1 veggie, 1 meat for Dan) and we wrapped up the other dough and stuck it in the freezer.  So now we have 4 individually wrapped pizza dough balls!  Now I won’t have to think so far in advance if we want to make pizza!

And for my brother…

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Burger and Fries

Ok, so this isn’t your typical burger and fries.  This is a home made veggie burger and sweet potato fries.  And they are delicious.  Now I’ve made veggie burgers before and its really great how adaptable they are.  Throw some veggies together, mash up some beans and then add some sort of binding agent – usually crushed up crackers and an egg.  These are in the same vein – but they use beets – which I can never get enough of.

I love beets.  I love how they stain your hands.  I love how they smell like dirt (in a good way).  And the color!  You don’t often get a chance to eat magenta food!  They are the prime ingredient in these burgers.  Now if you don’t like beets you could use a variety of different vegetables – peppers or corn or really anything that you have laying around.

The spices are what really make this burger shine.  When I made veggie burgers before I usually just let the vegetables do the talking and use very few spices.  But now, those burgers look bland in comparison.  The coriander really takes these up a notch.  If you don’t use beets, you may want to think about changing up the spices.  You could do an Indian inspired veggies burger with peas, potatoes, curry and turmeric for instance.  I just don’t know how well the coriander would meld with all different sorts of veggies.

This recipe made 6 good sized patties.  But with only 2 people in the house that is way more than we actually need.  Luckily veggie burgers freeze very well.  So I cooked 2 for dinner tonight, 1 for lunch tomorrow and then I made the other 3 patties, wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer.  And when I take them out, I don’t even have to defrost them, just put them in a pan of hot olive oil.  They’ll take a bit longer to cook, but they will be just as delicious as the fresh ones!

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Mushroom Bourguignon

I have been a vegetarian for 17 years.  Most of the time I don’t really miss meat, primarily because I don’t remember when I did eat meat!  But come winter I do lust after pot roast and stews.  I remember my mom’s pot roast – I might have only been 10 when I ate it, but it left a lasting impression.  And stew has been one thing that I have not been able to recreate.  But this recipe – this recipe! is the recipe I have been waiting 17 years for.  17 long years.    Now I just need large vats of this stuff so that I can eat it at every meal.  It is thick, it looks meaty and the smell is amazing.  It almost makes me wish I could turn back the clock a couple of months so that I could make this all winter long.  But alas it is almost spring.  And I have a feeling this will stay in my mind until next winter.

The sauce is rich, the portobellos are meaty, the pearl onions are slightly crunchy and the sour cream makes it just a bit creamy.  This is the kind of dish you want to eat when its snowing out and you have a fire roaring.  It would be perfect for after a long day of skiing.

This dish makes me happy to be a vegetarian.  Who knows what recipe I could find on my 18th year of being a veggie?!  Perhaps I can solve the mystery of vegetarian chicken noodle soup?!  But for now I am content with my new favorite winter meal.  I don’t think I will be yearning for my mom’s pot roast any more.

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Cocoa Brownies

I love chocolate.  Some people might consider it a problem but I consider it a blessing.  Chocolate is wonderful.  I love all types of chocolate – even white chocolate, the ugly step sister in the chocolate family.  It was 4 pm on Friday and I had a hankering for some chocolate, but there was none in the office.  So when I got home, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Cocoa brownies.  These are the fast track to getting you chocolate fix.

These are fudge-y brownies.  If you are more of a cake brownie type of person, you’ll want to go else where.  They are super dense and very moist.  Just a bit of a warning – these are really rich.  But that is a good thing too – you can cut them into smaller squares and get the same chocolate intake as a “normal” brownie.

I think I have found a new favorite brownie!

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