Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover chocolate cake

Passover starts at sundown tonight (though with the rain, the sun never really came up today). The folks at Godiva came up with a flourless chocolate cake that is good anytime, but is especially good for Passover. If you are making this for the holiday, use the special Kosher for Passover powdered sugar.

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

10 tablespoons butter

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

¾ cup sugar

5 eggs slightly beaten

4 tablespoons Godiva Breakfast Blend Coffee, brewed strongly and then cooled

powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper as well.

Over medium-low heat, melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir until the chocolate is smooth. Immediately remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and sugar. Add eggs and coffee, and then stir well. Add melted chocolate to the egg mixture and stir again until well blended. Pour the batter into the buttered pan.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan by inverting onto a serving plate. When completely cooled, dust the cake with powdered sugar using a fine sieve.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whenever my family travels, by plane, car, train, my kids get hungry. They seem to have an internal mechanism that kicks in once we leave the house, requiring us to buy snacks as soon as we hit the road. One of their favorite meals is the mid-morning post-breakfast meal, when only a muffin or scone will do.

In New York City, chain restaurants are required to post calorie counts on everything from breakfast pastries to double cheese burgers and while kids don’t usually balk at a 500 calorie muffin they do give me pause. Plus buying our family of five a bag of pastries can cost $15 or more. So I bake and freeze.

Godiva developed these scones using their caramel coffee, though you could use any flavored coffee. They are easy, and inexpensive, to make, and if you want to keep the calorie count even lower, you can make them a bit smaller, or eliminate the glaze.

Caramel Coffee Glazed Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup whole milk

1 large egg

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

small amount of heavy cream for brushing atop scones

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons Godiva Caramel Coffee, strongly brewed and then cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, mix together the whipping cream, milk, egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir briefly—only until combined.

Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough down to 1½-inch thickness. Using a 2½-inch round cookie-cutter, cut the dough into rounds then place on a cookie sheet, spacing each two inches apart.

Brush the tops of the scones lightly with cream. Bake the scones for 17 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven; set the scones on a baking rack until cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the brewed coffee and the powdered sugar, creating a glaze. Spread desired amount of glaze atop each scone.

Allow the glaze to set for several minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Family Farmers Market

In the nice weather, we make it a habit to visit farmers markets regularly. The food looks more appealing than in conventional supermarkets, the kids are naturally drawn to the fruits and vegetables, and they make a connection with the food they eat, where we buy it, and who grows it. In New York City, year round Greenmarkets bring kids close to the food source.

In the fall, we travel to our food, to go apple picking and to a pumpkin patch. It was a revelation to the kids to see that pumpkins actually grow on vines, not at produce stands.

But in winter, hunting for food becomes more of a challenge. The farmers market isn’t as appealing in the very cold weather; besides the cold, the choices are limited. So we turn to indoor cornucopias.

One of my kids’ favorite places is the giant Fairway Market at 125th St. If you think the ordinary city supermarket is frenetic, this one is on speed. It is not for the cautious, the claustrophobic, or the newly emerged walker.

Like its older downtown sibling, this Fairway begins in a sumptuous produce display, tempting even the most persnickety. Then there is the huge selection of bread. But outweighing all is the ‘cold room’ filled with fish, meat and dairy. It’s so cold that Fairway provides jackets. My daughters love to shiver their way through here, pausing at the lobsters and choosing a yogurt.

Chelsea Market, at 9th Avenue and 15th Street, is a collection of small shops under one roof. Here, kids can see bakers at work, and try wonderful selections from Amy’s Bread, Sarabeth’s Kitchen, Fat Witch Bakery. There are also places to get nuts, veggies and fruit.

We've eaten our way through Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, Logan Square Farmers Market in Chicago (both indoors and outdoors) and the Farmers Market LA.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Living in New York, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to eat at a fast food chain restaurant. There are unlimited choices, not all overpriced. But when I travel, I know that sometimes, fast food is the only option.

But now, believe it or not, I am compelled to seek out Taco Bell. The chain recently launched a Drive-Thru Diet Menu that even has a vegetarian option. The Fresco Bean Burrito has a salsa of tomatoes, onions and cilantro instead of a thick cheese covering.

The bean burrito has 8 grams of fat and 340 calories – the same as the steak-based burrito supreme – and is surprisingly tasty. I would prefer a whole-grain tortilla to the white flour tortilla, but still, this is a step in the right direction for the chain, which urges people to ‘think outside the box.’

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Molly Ringwald gets saucy

I’ve gone in a few days from watching Molly Ringwald at the Oscars to watching her television show, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” with my 12 year to meeting her at a Ragu “Recipe for a Good Startevent. Molly was the quintessential teen, beautiful but quirky, the star of the teen movies of my youth: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club. Now she is a mother of three, cooking pasta for her kids.

Ragu touts the fact that its tomato sauces have more than a full serving of vegetables in every half cup of sauce, and the sauces are also good sources of vitamins A and C. But I made a very difficult decision a few years ago to virtually eliminate pasta from our diet. Pasta had become our default meal, too easy to serve my vegetarian kids and not encouraging them to broaden their tastes. We literally had it 3 or 4 times a week. Now, we have it at most once a month.

Of course, when we went to Italy, we had pasta nearly every day. But Italian meals are a multi-course affair, with a soup or salad, a little pasta, then a meat or fish course. Busy moms don’t have time to cook three courses.

But, hey, I’m breaking out the old pasta pot and wooden spoon and getting creative. Ragu has a $5,000 contest, for an original recipe using its pasta sauce. Enter at Recipe for a Good Start.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Philadelphia Vegetarian

Philadelphia may not seem like a city on the forefront of the dining scene, but a new restaurant there, Square 1682 begs to differ. Chef Guillermo Tellez, a Charlie Trotter and Stephen Starr veteran, emphasizes sustainable and organic ingredients, using seasonal produce, free-range meats and ocean-friendly seafood. No taking out your little sustainable seafood watch card to see if the fish meets eco-standards.

The chef puts the same care into his vegetarian dishes as he does the signature short ribs. A vegetable lasagna consists of layers of portabellas, squash and peppers; no pasta at all, with aged balsamic and brown butter. It is utterly delicious. Even better, the decadently rich mushroom tart has a hauntingly earthy sauce, under a puff pastry crust. A line of miniature vegetables alongside had beets, roasted onions and micro-greens. These entrees make vegetarians feel like full members at the table, not afterthoughts.

Since the chef prepares everything to order, you can also customize other dishes. Black Cod in Porchetta comes with a fantastic creamy polenta, leek confit and caramelized fennel. Ask for it without the pork if you eat fish, or without either port or black cod if you don’t. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

The LEED-registered restaurant, in the LEED Hotel Palomar also uses eco-friendly materials, including a bar of walnut, sourced from a Forest Stewardship Council certified forest. From the bar, the signature Bell Pepper Smash, with vodka, peppers, ginger and raspberry is a must.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Should a vegetarian stay at Pig Inn?

Actually, The Pig Hill Inn, in Cold Spring is one of the rare Bed & Breakfasts that welcomes children. They offer cots, cribs and you can get connecting rooms. Children will love the inn’s signature pigs, rendered in porcelain or fleece; even the milk pitchers are pigs. In warm weather, eat breakfast in the garden; there is also a conservatory, or you can have breakfast brought to your room. And you don't have to just eat sausage, though it does come with the excellent pancakes and French toast.

Cold Spring is a perfect weekend getaway, close to NYC, accessible by train and family friendly.

Boscobel Restoration, the country mansion overlooking the Hudson, is a Federal style home open for tours. The gardens are filled with flowers and picnicking is allowed on benches near the pond. There is a Woodland Trail, perfect for beginning hikers; you can picnic here, too, but must carry out all your garbage.

Just south of Boscobel, the Constitution Marsh Wildlife Preserve has wildlife and wildflowers. Take a self-guided nature tour, and stroll the boardwalk along a tidal marsh. The terrain here is rather rugged; the foot path is decidedly not stroller friendly, but young children can walk the short path. There is also a small nature center with Hudson River exhibits and fish.

If these short hikes give you a taste for more, head to Clarence Fahnsetock Memorial State Park, where there are several hiking trials, including an eight mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. There is a mile and a half nature trail around a pond, and a beach with showers and a picnic area.

The little town of Cold Spring is a great place for families. The shops in town tend towards antiques and kitsch, but you can find nice cafes, and a farmer's market.

At the end of Main Street, accessed by a tunnel under the train tracks, there is a large grassy area where you can let kids romp, climb trees and over rocks and toss pebbles in the water. The chief attraction, though, is the trains that rumble past. The outdoor tables at Cold Spring Depot almost touch the passing trains. When a lone Amtrak roared by, our table actually shook. The restaurant has a children’s menu and vegetarian choices include a portobella sandwich and whole grain vegetable wrap.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cooking Winner - Vegetarian!

Last week, French’s had a cook-off in Manhattan. On the day of the latest winter storm, but that doesn’t stop intrepid writers and bloggers from getting around the city.

Of the five finalists, only one recipe was vegetarian. As it happens, the recipe was delicious – and the winner. The onion polenta with spiced tomato avocado salad was most definitely not your mother’s tuna casserole, topped with French’s French Fried Onions, but the recipe did make use of with French’s Cheddar French Fried Onions and French’s horseradish mustard.

The contest rules state that the recipes must use no more than 8 ingredients (not counting salt, pepper or water) and take no more than an hour, making the entries particularly family friendly. In fact, 4 of the 5 finalists were moms, and all were women, so despite male chefs running most major restaurant kitchens, women still seem to dominate the home kitchen.

The winning recipe is by Suellen Calhoun, a mother of 2 from Des Moines, Iowa. She won $25,000 (and got a trip to New York). It’s time to break out the canned fried onions, the mustard, the Worcestershire sauce, and get creative for next year’s contest.


Servings: 6 Cook Time: 30 min. Prep Time: 10 min.

4 ½ cups Water

2 tsp. Salt, divided

1 ½ cups Dry polenta grain

6 oz. French’s Cheddar French Fried Onions

1 lb. Tomatoes, seeded, cut into ½ inch pieces

2 Ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces

1 bunch Fresh cilantro, chopped

5 Tbsp. Olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar

1/3 cup French’s Horseradish Mustard

Optional Garnish: Fresh cilantro

  1. In a medium saucepan add water and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil.
  2. Slowly add polenta to water, whisking continuously until all of polenta is used. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously.
  3. Remove polenta from heat and stir in coarsely chopped French’s Cheddar French Fried Onions.
  4. Spoon into a 10 inch pie dish. Let stand for 15-20 minutes to firm.
  5. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and French’s Horseradish Mustard until blended. Set aside.
  6. Turn polenta out onto a board. Carefully cut into 6 pieces.
  7. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place polenta pieces in hot oil and brown until golden on each side, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from skillet and serve browned polenta pieces toped with spiced tomato avocado salad.