Monday, August 14, 2017

Plum Coffee Cake


 Usually when I'm in the mood to bake something, I choose what I'm going to bake, based on what ingredients I have on hand. Well, this time, I chose the recipe based on what I DIDN'T have on hand. It rarely happens, but somehow or other, I ran out of butter. WHAT???? I know. I know. It's crazy. Clearly I wasn't paying attention. Oh well. What can you do? So how does one bake without butter? First, one googles recipes that use oil instead. I also wanted to use some gorgeous red plums that were so ripe and sweet and juicy, they were begging to be baked into something fabulous. More googling. Luckily I found this recipe on Joyofbaking.com that just happens to fit all of my baking criteria. (Isn't Google a wonderful thing?) So I whipped it up, popped it in the oven, and in no time at all my apartment was smelling HEAVENLY as I was setting this perfectly gorgeous cake out to cool. It's REALLY easy to make, (you don't even need a mixer) and it's super tasty! Seriously, if you're a baking novice, you can do this one! If you can measure, you can bake it!
   Another great thing about this recipe is that you can use it as a blank slate for any sort of variation you'd like. The recipe states that you can add lemon or orange zest, but how about some almond extract? Or how about switching up the fruit! Use peaches or nectarines or sliced strawberries, even sliced apples or pears! And how about a pinch or two of spice? It SCREAMS for cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Just add some to the dry ingredients and then add a little to the sugar on top. SO many different possibilities. I know I'll be making this again and again, but I'm wondering if I'll ever make it the same way twice!! Maybe next time I'll really pump up the vanilla flavor by adding some fresh vanilla bean to the batter. YUM. And if YOU can think of any variations, be sure to let me know!!
 So, thank you, Joyofbaking.com, for the fabulous recipe. I now have a new favorite go-to recipe, and I didn't even have to go to the store to buy butter!


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt or flavored yogurt 
Zest of one orange or lemon (optional) 
1 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated white sugar 
7 - 8 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted or 4 - 5 red or black plums, halved and pitted (if the plums are large then cut into quarters)
1 - 2 tablespoons coarse brown sugar


 Heat oven ton 375ºF. Butter an 8 inch spring form pan. (Alternatively spray pan with non stick vegetable/flour spray.) Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set Aside.
 In a large bowl, stir or whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.
In another large bowl, stir or whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt, orange or lemon zest (if using), and vanilla extract. Stir in the sugar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and evenly arrange the halved plums on top of the batter, flesh side facing up. Sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for about 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this cake with a little honey drizzled over the top or with a dollop of whipped cream, ice cream, or lightly sweetened yogurt. 


Tips:
If you don't have yogurt, you can just use an equal amount of regular sour cream (which is what I used), or an equal amount of buttermilk.
Oh, and one other thing... Whenever I bake ANYTHING, I always taste the batter before I bake it. More times than not, I wind up adding an extra pinch of salt. It REALLY brings out the flavor of whatever you're baking!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Joey's Hoisin Chicken with Cashews


 This is one of those recipes that I made and then tucked away for sharing at a later date. I honestly have no idea where I got the original recipe, but I probably didn't follow it very closely anyway. So here is MY version! I'm pretty sure this was one of my so-called "throw together" meals because I didn't write down any quantities. I just threw in a handful of this and a splash of that. If you're planning to cook for a crowd, use A LOT of chicken tenders and A LOT of veggies. Just cooking for yourself? Add just enough for a serving or two. That's really the beauty of it. The method doesn't change, just the quantities. If you don't have a wok, just use a wide shallow pan. But I highly recommend getting one. It makes things SO easy when you want to just throw a few things together for a quick stir fry. I recently bought a new one, and this was the first meal I made. It's SO light and fresh, which is usually how I roll during summer months.
 And one more thing... People always ask me how I cook when I'm not following a recipe word for word. TBH, it's not really something I ever set out to learn. I just DID IT. It's how my Mom cooked, it's how I grew up! You just see what's fresh, you add what you like, if you like a lot, add a lot, and you cook it until it's done. This recipe gives you an outline of what I added, but that doesn't mean it has to be what YOU should add. Would you rather have snow peas or string beans instead of sugar snap peas? Go for it! Don't like onions? Leave 'em out! Or maybe use scallions if you want a milder onion flavor. Before you know it, you'll be a pro because you'll be cooking the way YOU like it!
Boom.



chicken tenders
corn starch
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
big handful of fresh sugar snap peas
soy sauce
toasted sesame oil
rice vinegar
a couple tbs Hoisin sauce
Big handful of cashews


Cut the chicken tenders into bite sized pieces. Dredge in a couple tbs of cornstarch until evenly coated. Crank your wok up to high heat, and working in batches, saute the chicken in a few tbs oil. Cook each batch of chicken until just almost cooked through, but not completely. Remove each batch to a separate bowl as you go. After you finish cooking the chicken, add the veggies and garlic. Stir fry over high heat until you reach your desired level of doneness. If you like crisp veggies, just go a few minutes. If you like your veggies to be a little more tender, then go a little longer. Add a few splashes of soy sauce, a good splash of rice vinegar, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Stir for a minute or two, then add the chicken back to the wok along with the Hoisin sauce. Toss everything together, continuing to stir fry until the chicken is cooked through. Add cashews and give a final toss. Serve over rice, if desired.


Tips:
When it comes to stir frying, you want to have all of your veggies prepped before you even start. It goes pretty quickly because you're cooking at a really high heat.
When using toasted sesame oil, think of it more as a condiment than an oil. You want to just drizzle some in toward the end of the cooking.