Almond Pistachio Cake with orange chocolate ganache and orange cream cheese frosting

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This is a very special cake.  Not for the flavors, not for its looks, but for whom it was made.  My mother is visiting from India and my Dad drove in from MI, and, for the first time in decades, we celebrated my Mommy’s birthday with this cake.  I make cakes for pretty much everyone who is near and dear to me, but to make a cake for my mother…….well it has by far been the greatest joy of my life thusfar !

Chocolate chip cookie cake

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As the unofficial “birthday-cake-baker” in lab (a job that makes science failures bearable)– I present the first cake of the year.  My labmate is a big fan of cookies and so I made him a cake that paid homage to the all time classic, the chocolate chip cookie.  This cake may look “over-the-top” (not my words), but it is two layers of chocolate cake with a cookie dough filling in the middle.  It a mascarpone cream frosting, a chocolate ganache drizzle and crushed cookies on top.  I had fun making it, and my labmates enjoyed it.  I hope this inspires your next baking adventure !

Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons (Haselnussmakronen)

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I will not take credit for this awesome recipe.  I read it in Food and Wine magazine and I knew I had to make it.  Granted this is more of a Christmas Cookie, I say yumminess is allowed all year round.  Also, it is snowing outside so I can pretend that it is the holidays !

Enjoy

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/haselnussmakronen

Blueberry-Almond Oatmeal Muffins

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I like some variation in the morning.  Normally it is oatmeal with honey, almond milk and black pepper–yes, black pepper–try it, it tastes great! But I digress.  This is about fresh blueberries in your oatmeal muffin.  Good Morning never tasted so good.  I have tried several oatmeal muffin recipes and I have settled on this one–moist, yet a little crumbly for the almond meal.  I hope you like it, as much I did.

Yields about 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1.5 cups of almond meal

0.5 cups of quick cooking oatmeal

0.25 cups of AP flour

1 tbsp of baking soda

1tbsp of baking powder

2 eggs

0.5 cups of oil

0.5 cups of almond milk

0.5 water

0.25 cups of honey

zest of 1 lemon or 1tsp of lemon extract (optional)

1 pint of blueberries

sliced almonds for topping the muffins

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl

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Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowls or large measuring cup

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Slowly incorporate wet into dry.  The batter will be runny

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Fold in the blueberries

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Portion into a lined muffin pan.  There might be some extra batter, I put it in a ramekin and bake it off.  (serve this one with vanilla ice cream for a late night treat).

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Garnish the tops with sliced almonds.

Bake for 30-35 mins, till a toothpick comes out clean.

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Beef and Sweet Potato Harissa

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As the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends”.  For this recipe, my “friend” was store bought Harissa Simmer sauce.  I keep reading about Harissa in magazines and have always wanted to try it.  However, this past weekend, I was in the mood for something delicious and fast.  So, I used the simmer sauce.  But I did doctor it up.  It turned out delicious! I mean, really delicious! MIND-BLOWING DELICIOUS!  Here is what you will need.

Ingredients:

1.5lbs stew beef

2 sweet potatoes, diced

1 large red onion, diced into large chunks

1 tomato, diced

1 can of red kidney beans

1 packet of Harissa simmer sauce ( I used Saffron Road)

2 tsp of cinnamon

2 tbsp of olive oil

salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste.

2 tbsp of chopped scallions

Lime wedges for serving (optional)

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Method:

Brown the meat in oil and set aside.

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Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, salt pepper and cinnamon and cook till vegetables soften.

Add the meat, beans and pour in the sauce.  I filled the pouch with water to rinse off every last bit of the sauce and poured it into the pot.

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Simmer on medium high heat for 30 40 mins, till meat and vegetables and fork tender. Add scallions at the very end and take off heat.

Serve hot with polenta or couscous.

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Shrimp Tacos

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I like soft seafood tacos.  I don’t get to eat them often, but recently I was really craving it. So here is a quick take on it.  Most of them are store bought ingredients.  I just spent time cooking the shrimp.  Then it is just a matter of assembling and eating !!!

For the Shrimp:

1lb of peeled and deveined shrimp.  Toss with zest and juice of 1 lime ,1tsp of salt, 2tsp of cumin, garlic powder and chilli powder.

Saute shrimp with some chopped scallions, till shrimp is pink.

To assemble tacos, I like the mini-flat bottom flour tortilla shells.  You can use whatever shell you like.  I put some store bought raw coleslaw, then a layer of salsa.  Next came the shrimp, 2-3 per taco.  I topped it with some guacamole and you are ready to eat !  You can add cheese, sour cream radishes or whatever you like.

Enjoy !

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Oven Roasted Okra

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A side dish or snack—simple, healthy and pays tribute to fried okra.  I like it hot from the oven with some spicy salsa.

Ingredients:

1lb of fresh okra, diced (frozen does not crisp up well)

1 tbsp of water, cornmeal and white poppy seeds

2tbsp of oil

salt, pepper and chilli powder according to taste

spicy, chunky salsa for serving!

Method:

Chop the okra and put in a bowl.

Add water, cornmeal, poppy seeds and seasonings.  Toss to combine and coat.

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Coat a cast-iron skillet with oil and add the okra.

Roast for 20 mins at 400F.  Halfway through roasting, stir and toss the okra a little bit.

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Serve hot!

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