Chai Apple Cake + Lemon Ginger Frosting


 If you are needing a little indulgence, this cake will do the trick.  Originally, I wanted this cake to be a bread but after making 3 different test breads (because each wasn't just right) it seemed like the bread was telling me it wanted to be cake.  It would also be good as cupcakes.  I like cupcakes.  

Chai Apple Cake

1 cup milk

2 chai tea bags

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cardamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 stick butter. softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons white vinegar, separated

2 apples, peeled, cored, diced

Lemon Ginger Frosting

1 stick butter, softened

grated zest of one lemon

grated fresh ginger of about 1 inch root

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease two cake pans, 8 or 9 inch rounds and set aside.

For cake, Heat milk until hot but not boiling and brew a strong tea using both chai tea bags, about 5 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and let stand 5 minutes.  It is now chai flavored buttermilk.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.   Set aside.  In another bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs 1 teaspoon vinegar and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and chai butter milk.  Lastly add apples.  Pour evenly into prepared baking rounds.  Bake about 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool 10 minutes in pans and then turn out to cool completely.

In the mean time, make the Frosting.

For Frosting, with an electric hand or stand mixer, combine all ingredients.

Frost the cake.

chipotle aoli

Second to hot sauce, my new favorite condiment.

Chipotle Aoli

1/2 cup mayo

1 garlic clove

juice of 1/2 lime

1 teaspoon chipotle powder


Mix everything together. easy.

bean burgers

It's nice to take a break from meat sometimes.  These happened because the other day I over cooked three batches of dried beans in a row.  What do you do with over cooked or extra beans?  This recipe is a good base and could be used with other beans.  Other spices or herbs could be used as well.

White Bean Burgers

8oz dried white beans, cooked until just breaking

1 small shallot, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

drizzle olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

3/4 cup corm meal

finely grated parmesan

1 egg, beaten

In a pan, saute shallot and garlic in olive oil about 5 minutes.  set aside.

In a bowl, lightly and unevenly mash beans keeping some in pieces and some smashed closer to a puree.  Add shallots and garlic.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until evenly combined.  Chill bean mixture in fridge about 20 minutes, this will help them form and stay together.  Remove from fridge.  Heat a griddle or pan to medium heat.  Form beans into burgers and cook evenly on each side until cooked through and light golden brown.

Autumn Hash

I think this is a great weekend breakfast to make for people you really like.  You could leave out the meat entirely if you're having a vegetarian moment or substitute another meat.  I think a chicken apple sausage would be a great trade.  Serve with eggs and toast.

Autumn Hash

4 to 8 oz bacon (depending on preference), chopped

1 celery root, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 onion, peeled and diced

olive oil

2 sprigs fresh thyme

several sprigs fresh chives, diced

salt and pepper

1 apple, peeled, cored, diced

juice of 1/2 lemon

In a skillet, cook bacon until crispy.  Transfer to towel to drain.  Pour out grease from pan and lightly wipe it out.  Return to medium heat and cook celeriac, sweet potato, potato and onion in a drizzle of olive oil.  Add thyme sprigs.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and let cook 10 to 15 minutes until vegetables are fully cooked.  Add apples, lemon juice and cooked bacon.  Season with salt, pepper and chives to taste.  Cook 5 minutes more.  Serve warm.

Mojito Classico

Thank you, Cuba.  Classic recipe but fresh fruit (strawberries) or fruit purees can also be added.  Recipe is per drink.


1/2 of one lime cut into wedges

1 teaspoon sugar

1 large leafy sprig of fresh mint

2 oz white rum

2 oz bubbly water

In a mixing glass, muddle lime wedges, sugar and mint.  Add rum, add ice and shake.  Tumble into highball glass and top with bubbly water.  Garnish with mint leaves and lime wedge.

Baked Apples / Ginger Whipped Cream

Went apple picking at Apple Ridge Orchards in New Hampton, NY so watch out for more apple recipes than you probably want.

This is a healthy dessert if you go without the whipped cream (but why would you want to do that?)  I think these could also be suitable for breakfast with yogurt and granola.  I prefer whipped cream not to be sweet but feel free to add more to your liking.  Along with the whipped cream, I served these with red zinger maple syrup.

Baked Apples

4 apples, washed and dried



Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove stem and core apples.  Peel apples so they look like they are wearing vertical peel stripes.  Dust will cinnamon and nutmeg.  Place right side up on baking dish.  Add about 1/4 inch of water.  Bake uncovered about 40 minutes.  (I like to flip mine half way through and add a pinch of water if all of it has evaporated at this point for more even baking.) Remove from oven and serve warm.

Ginger Whipped Cream

8oz heavy (whipping) cream

2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (i love a good micro plane)

In a bowl, whisk cream until it almost begins to stiffen, about 5 minutes.  Add sugar and ginger.  Whisk until cream forms little peaks.


Even better when homemade.  Very easy and once you have the ingredients in your pantry or spice drawer you'll be making them all the time.  This is a good base recipe that can be easily modified with different vinegars or aromatics.  Shoot for 1/4 cup seasonings for each pound of pickles.

Basic Pickle Recipe

1 lb kirby cucumbers, halved

2 cups water

1/2 cup white vinegar

3 tablespoons salt

3 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

handful fresh dill

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Place cucumbers in a bowl or pot with garlic, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, dill, bay leaf and peppercorns.  Set aside.  Boil water, vinegar and salt until salt dissolves and pour over cucumbers.  Place a small plate over pickles to submerge them.  Cover bowl or pot and leave at room temperature 24-36 hours until crunchy and pickled.  Transfer to fridge.

Citrus Ricotta Pancakes + Red Zinger Maple Syrup

Good Morning!  I could be a morning person for these pancakes.  Pick any small citrus you prefer like orange, lemon or lime.  The syrup uses Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger herbal tea of hibiscus and lemon.

Citrus Ricotta Pancakes

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon agave syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup ricotta

juice and zest of small citrus

2 eggs, seperated

2/3 cup milk

For the Pancakes:  Mix flours and baking soda and make a well in the center of the bowl.  Add agave, valinna, ricotta, citrus zest, juice, egg yolks and milk.  Stir to just combined.  In a seperate bowl whisk egg whites until light and foamy.  Fold into batter.  Drop small ladlefuls of batter onto hot griddle or pan.  Bubbles will show up on edges and then center when ready to flip.  Flip and cook  opposite side about 1 minute.  Serve with butter, fruit, jam and/or syrup.

Red Zinger Maple Syrup

1/2 cup water

2 red zinger tea bags

1 cup maple syrup

For the Syrup:  Brew 1/2 cup water with two tea bags.  Let brew 5-7 minutes then discard tea bags.  In a pan, combine maple syrup and tea.  Simmer until reduced and a maple syrup consistency.

how to roast a red pepper

Lovely on a sandwich with melted cheese or on an antipasto plate.

Roasted Red Peppers

1 red bell pepper, washed and whole

drizzle of olive oil

pinch of salt

Have a pair of BBQ tongs handy for this one.  At the stovetop turn on a gas burner to high and place bell pepper directly on the range.  Rotate occasionally to cook all sides.  Pepper skin should be black and flaky all over. Remove from flame and place in ziplock bag and close.  Let rest about 10 minutes before removing from bag.  Skin should peel off very easily.  Remove stems and seeds.  Slice to your liking or leave whole.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt.


Dear gumbo, you're great. Sincerely, mea.


1 lb chicken breast, cut into small pieces

6 oz andouille sausage, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup flour

4 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

2 stalks cerely, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons worcestershire

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon file gumbo

3/4 teaspoon oregano

3/4 teaspoon thyme

1 14.5 oz tin whole peeled tomatoes, chopped and with juices

juice of 1 lime

1 bunch scallions, diced

1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook chicken.  Set chicken aside.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot and cook sausage.  Set sausage aside with chicken.  To make the roux, melt 4 tablespoons butter in pot.  Sprinkle in flour and cook until the mixture the color of chocolate, being careful not to burn the roux.  This may take 10-20 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and return to heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot and bell pepper.  Stir to coat vegetables in the roux.  Cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.  Add stock, sausage, chicken, worcestershire, bay leaves, paprika, salt, garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, file gumbo, oregano and thyme.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered 30  minutes.    Add canned tomatoes.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes more.  Add juice of one lime.  Serve with white rice and garnish generously with scallion and parsley.

Stuffed Mushrooms

These are my father's specialty and are a requested staple at every family get together.  It's an exercise in willpower to resist eating half the tray before it gets to the table.

1 lb mushrooms (cremini or whites), cleaned

4 cloves garlic, diced

olive oil

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

few leaves fresh basil, chopped

parmesan cheese, grated


Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove stems from caps.  Diced stems and set aside.  In a baking dish, place mushroom caps cup side up.  In a skillet, heat olive oil, add diced mushroom caps, garlic, bread crumbs, oregano, chili flakes, basil and parmesan cheese.  Cook until soft, adding more olive oil as nesseccery to keep the mixture moist, about five minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and spoon mixture into mushroom caps.  Bake until mushrooms are cooked, about 25 minutes.

hot sauce

We had a bit of a hot sauce showdown around here last week.  I really wanted to make hot sauce after seeing the spicy pepper selections at the union square green market and the brooklyn kitchen.  I couldn't decide if I wanted it roasted with onions and garlic (left) or thin and vinegary (right).  With the husband's help, we made both.

If you have made hot sauce before you already know about the eye watering, cough inducing, curse evoking hot pepper fumes.  Work in a ventilated kitchen, utilizing any window, fan or gas mask you may have.  And consider wearing gloves.

Use any combination or peppers you like.  I added 1/2 an orange bell pepper to hot sauce 1 because I'm a wimp.  For a spicier taste, omit bell pepper.

Hot Sauce 1

1/2 lb hot peppers, stems removed, roughly chopped

1/2 of 1 bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons (or so) water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white vinegar

In a blender, puree peppers and salt, adding water as necessary.  Transfer to a jar, cover and let stand at room temperature over night.  Add vinegar and let stand at room temperature,  covered 48 hours.  Puree mixture in a blender and strain into clean jar or bottle.  (I like a little bottle outfitted with a speed pour top.)    Store in fridge up to 6 months.

Hot Sauce 2

3/4 lb hot peppers, halved, stems and seeds removed

2 cloves garlic

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

drizzle olive oil

6 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup water, plus more if needed

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange peppers and garlic on baking sheet.  Roast about 20 minutes.  Set aside.  In a pan with medium low heat, saute carrot and shallot in drizzle of olive oil until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.   Transfer to blender and add garlic and peppers.  Add vinegar, salt and water.  Puree.  Add more water if needed to help with blending.  Strain into  clean jar or bottle.  Keep in fridge up to 6 months.

Eggplant Parm

I've been on the fence about eggplants for awhile but recently heard someone refer to it as a 'poor persons meat'  and for some reason found this appealing.  This is a traditional, straight forward recipe that requires no frying in oil.  When the eggplant comes out of the oven it should have a surprisingly light and pillowy quality.

Use any tomato sauce of your liking.  The one feature here is bright tasting and very quick.  (it's my new favorite for pizza as well.)

Eggplant Parmesan

1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced

salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup bread crumbs, purchased or homemade

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/2 portion fresh mozzarella

few sprigs fresh basil

about 1 cup tomato sauce, purchased or homemade (see below)

Begin by salting the eggplant to release its water and tame its bitterness.  Do this by sprinkling/rubbing eggplant slices with salt, placing in a colander and weighing down.  (heavy pot with a bag of rice or cookbook in it always works well.)  Leave for 45 minutes.  Dry slices with a towel.

Heat oven to 475 degrees.  Set up an assembly line for yourself with the beaten egg in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper combined in another.  (easy on the salt as the eggplant slices are already salted.) Dip eggplant slices one by one into egg and then into bread crumb/parm mix coating well.  Place onto baking sheet.  Repeat with all slices and bake 15-20 minutes, until golden.

Remove from oven and turn on broiler, moving rack to highest position in oven.  On each slice, place a leaf or two of fresh basil, a spoonful of tomato sauce and a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven and broil, until cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Quick  and Bright Tomato Sauce

1 tin whole peeled tomatoes

drizzle olive oil

2 cloves garlic, diced

salt and pepper

In a blender, puree tomatoes and all juices from can.  Set aside.  In a small pot, saute garlic in a small pan about 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree cook until warm.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Fire Cookies

I put hot sauce on just about everything so it was only a matter of time before I started craving my desserts with a little kick.  Serve these delightful little ones with milk.

Chocolate Cayenne Cookies

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch more for sprinkling

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup canola oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients.  Add oil, eggs and vanilla.  Stir until evenly mixed.  Chill dough for 2 hours.  Scoop into spheres of a size of your choice.  (I aimed for a generous tablespoon.)  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Arrange on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees about 12 minutes.


Peach Sangria

Still plenty of peaches at the farmer's market.  (I tried to sparkle a bottle of white wine for this recipe with a Sodastream soda maker.  It worked okay but I think it's just better to let still wine be still and just buy sparkling when wishing for bubbles.)  This recipe works with both still and sparkling wine.  I think vinho verde would be great.  Makes 4 servings.

Peach Sangria

1 bottle white wine, your pick

2 oz cointreau or triple sec

2 oz brandy

1 ripe peach, pitted and sliced

rosemary sprigs, 1 per glass


Pour everything into a pitcher and stir.  Serve over ice, garnishing with a sprig of rosemary.

Stuffed Peppers

These are a childhood favorite.  They were always pretty and delicious.  This recipe makes 4 large servings but peppers could be cut in half and served like little bell pepper boats, serving 6.

StuffedBell Peppers

4 red bell peppers, washed, seeded with tops cut off

1 1lb ground lean turkey

1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1 small yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced

few springs fresh basil and parsley

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

generous grating of parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

tomato sauce 

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine turkey, rice, onion, garlic, herbs, pepper flakes, s&p, parmesan cheese and worcestershire sauce.  In each pepper, add a spoonful of tomato sauce.  Fill peppers with turkey mixture and bake uncovered until meat thermometer inserted into the middle of each pepper reads 165 degrees, about 1 hour.  Serve warm and with tomato sauce.

Spiced Peach Muffins

The peaches are the best part of these muffins with the baking spices bringing out their natural sweetness.

Spiced Peach Muffins

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oat bran

1 1/2 cup flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1 cup milk

2 peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, sugars, lemon zest and vanilla until combined.  Add dry ingredients and milk.  Stir in peaches. Spoon into papered or greased muffin pans about 2/3 full.  Bake about 18 minutes or until cake tester tests clean.  Remove from tins and cool.

Farro Summer Salad

Farro isn't the quickest thing to make.  It often requires soaking and then takes about an hour to cook but it's worth it.  The grain's firm, chewy texture and nutty profile make it a lovely substitute for rice or quinoa.

Farro Summer Salad

5 ears corn, kernels cut from cob

1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced

drizzle of olive oil

1 tin pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 red onion, diced

1 cup dried farro, cooked  (will be about 2 cups once prepared)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

handful fresh cilantro, chopped

smaller handful fresh chives and basil

1 avocado, peeled, cored and diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

fresh ground black pepper

2 dashed worcestershire sauce

Over medium high heat, saute corn and poblano pepper in a small drizzle of olive oil.  Cook about 5 minutes until corn is bright, sweet and no longer starchy.  Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix farro, onion, tomato, pinto beans and fresh herbs.  Add corn, poblano peppers and avocado.  In a small bowl whisk olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, s&p and worcestershire.  Combine salad and dressing.

Vegetable Strudel

Phyllo dough consists of very thin sheets of pastry that are layers together to create a delicate flaky crust.  It is sold frozen and should be thawed in the fridge.  Once thawed and opened, it will need to be kept under a damp towel or plastic wrap so it won't dry out.  I used Apollo brand #4 pastry sheets which are 12x17" and cut them in half leaving me with 12x8.5" pieces.  The package contains 28 full size sheets.   This recipe doesn't use the entire package so securely wrap up remaining sheets in plastic wrap and return to fridge or freezer.   Serve with basalmic vinaigrette.

Vegetable Strudel

24 (or so) sheets thawed phyllo dough

1/2 stick butter, melted

1 red pepper, washed, seeded, sliced

1 yellow pepper, washed, seeded, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed

1 log chevre (goat's milk cheese) , herbed or regular

black pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough on work surface.  Lightly brush with butter.  Place another sheet on top of the previous and brush lightly with butter.  Repeat until there are 4 layers.  Line up chevre, asparagus and peppers and sprinkle with black pepper.  Roll up, fold edges under to seal.  Brush with butter and poke 4 small holes in top to vent.  Repeat until you have 6 strudels.  Place all on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 30 minutes.

Old Fashioned at the ready

I love an old fashioned cocktail but don't always have all the components in the house.  After this is made, I'll have my favorite drink ready for when I'd like one.  Serve chilled and up or on the rocks with the optional splash of club soda.

Old Fashioned Bourbon

One bottle bourbon whiskey

16 dashes or so of anosturga bitters

10 cherries, pitted

peel of one lemon, pith removed

peel of one orange, pith removed

2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, optional

Combine all ingredients in a large glass container and cover.  Let infuse for five days.  Stir everyday or so.  Strain.  Bottle, label and distribute as gifts or keep if all for yourself.