Monday, January 17, 2011

Why did I not think of this before: Easy way to peel butternut squash

Okay so I wanted to eat Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Salad but I was not looking forward to the somewhat arduous task of peeling the squash. So I made Mahesh do it.

Just kidding! I turned to my good friend Google for advice. I found a blog suggesting to poke the squash with a fork a few times and then microwave it for 3 minutes to soften the skin before peeling.

I tried it and it worked like a charm! The squash was peeled and cubed before the oven was preheated. Great tip!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vegetarian split pea soup

There's nothing better on a cold winter day than a big pot of healthy soup. This version comes together super-fast due to the use of a pressure cooker.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Adapted from Allrecipes


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried split peas, yellow preferably
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or savory, or both (UPDATE: I have recently decided I don't like dried thyme and now use fresh instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a pressure cooker over medium high heat, saute the oil, onion, celery, bay leaf and garlic for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, then close pressure cooker and cook for 4 whistles. Allow pressure to come down naturally, it can take a long time for a very full pot.
  3. Puree the soup and taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

hot cereal for breakfast -- seven grain cereal

I am mostly an eggs-for-breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) type, but every once in a while I go on an oatmeal kick. I bought this seven grain cereal from our local co-op, and it does not come with cooking instructions on the bag, so in between kicks I always forget how to cook it. So, for future reference, here is the recipe:

-- 1 cup dried seven grain cereal (the one I buy is steel-cut and takes a long time to cook)
-- 4 cups water
-- dash salt

Put ingredients in pot, bring to boil, simmer for 25 minutes on low, or until cooked through, stirring every few minutes. Eat immediately, with any of the following toppings:

-- brown sugar and milk
-- chopped apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little sugar microwaved for 1 minute until cooked
-- berries, microwaved with a little sugar or raw
-- savory oatmeal
-- anything else your brain can think up!

Makes 3 servings, leftovers can be refrigerated and re-heated throughout the week, mix up the toppings for variety.


For future reference, here are ingredients and nutrition information for a similar product,

Ingredients: organic whole grain cracked wheat, organic steel cut oats, organic whole grain barley grits, organic soybean grits, organic wheat bran, organic whole grain buckwheat grits, organic yellow corn grits, organic whole grain hulled millet.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1/3 cup (44g)
Servings Per Container: 14
Amount Per Serving
Calories 140 Calories from Fat 10
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Potassium 290mg 8%
Total Carb. 28g 9%
Dietary Fiber 6g 25%
Sugars 0g
Protein 8g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% Iron 10%
Thiamin 20%

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Apple Cake

Very simple and very good, this apple cake is a recipe I don't want to lose. Everyone loved it at the New Years gathering I attended last night.  Happy New Year everyone!

Apple Cake

As seen on The Amateur Gourmet

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake
from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table"

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (I used the last of the box of local apples I bought months ago, a little shriveled but very good)

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

3. Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they're foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and, when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter.

5. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it's evenish.

6. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

7. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it's fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.