Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Orange Almond Cake {GF& DF}

I love cakes that can be whipped up quickly but are deliciously impressive. This is one of those. And this one is also gluten AND dairy free, which is helpful when you have friends or families who have dietary restrictions. 

What I also appreciate is that this cake doesn't call for specialty ingredients - the only "unusual" thing is almond flour, which is not unusual at all anymore - you can even get it at Aldi! (That's my litmus test of a regular ingredient - can I get it at Aldi? HA!)

This is a wonderful light, spring or summer cake, which we really enjoyed with ice cream and fresh berries. (And the dairy free folks without the ice cream, wah!)

You will need your mixer for this, because the lightness of the cake comes from whipped egg whites. Of course, you could do it by hand if you have arms and shoulders of steel, but I do not. I'm grateful for stand mixers, because you can turn it on and just let it go for several minutes. But the rest of the cake you can just mix together by hand.

Enjoy this beautiful spring, and enjoy this cake!

Orange Almond Cake

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one small orange
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups almond flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds
powdered sugar for dusting

Using an electric stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. 

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, zest and orange juice. Stir in the almond flour and salt. 

Once egg whites are stiff, add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the batter, and fold gently until combined. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, but do not over mix. 

Pour the batter into a greased 9" springform pan. (If you like, you can also line the bottom with parchment.) Top with the sliced almonds. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and the top springs back slightly when touched. 

Cool completely on a wire rack, then remove the sides of the pan. If you've used parchment, you could remove the cake from the bottom as well. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart

This is a beautiful, citrusy, refreshing dessert, perfect for any spring occasion. 

It got rave reviews at our Easter dinner and would be wonderful for Mother's Day, too! I can't think of a better combo than shortbread and lemon curd. The crunchiness of the shortbread pairs wonderfully with the creamy filling. It really is SO good. 

I've made lemon curd before but this new method is so easy - combine everything in the microwave and let it do the cooking - you just stir it every 45 seconds. It turns out fabulously - bright, sunshiny and smooth and absolutely jaw-droppingly delicious.

You could go all out and make a coulis to coat the bottom of the plate, or drizzle with a raspberry sauce or something, but I thought this was lovely unadorned, with no competing elements. I just garnished with a few fresh raspberries to bring a little color to the plate.

Look at that lemon center! And the wonderful crust and topping. So good. A dusting of powdered sugar completes this beautiful tart. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart

1/2 cup butter 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup almond flour

Lemon Curd:
1 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 egg yolks
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, cubed

For the lemon curd, combine the sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks and eggs in a large microwave-safe bowl. Whisk well until combined. Stir in the butter cubes. Microwave for 45 seconds on high power, then stir well. Continue microwaving in 45 second increments, stirring well after each heating, until the curd coats the back of the spoon or reaches 175 degrees. This process will take 5-7 minutes, likely. Stir in the lemon zest. Let cool on the counter top while you assemble the tart dough.
 You can also make this in advance and refrigerate it until you need it. 

For the tart, in a medium-size bowl, whisk soft butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk again until well combined. Add the flour and almond flour and stir with a fork until the flour is incorporated and large crumbs start to form.

 (Alternatively, you can use chilled butter and do this process in the food processor. Just don't pulse too much or you won't get nice clumps of butter. You want to create a streusel.) 

Spray a 9-inch tart pan with baking spray. Press about 2/3 of the dough evenly up the sides and covering the bottom of the pan. Place the bowl with the remaining dough into the refrigerator.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Place a sheet pan on the rack and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the tart pan on the sheet pan and bake for 10-14 minutes, until the crust is just beginning to  firm up and turn golden brown on the edges. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the tart to cool for 10 minutes, then spread 1 1/4 cups of the lemon curd evenly over the bottom of the crust. (You won't use all the lemon curd. You could use the remainder over ice cream, on scones, to make a trifle, etc!)

Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator. Grab a handful of the crumb mixture and gently squeeze it in your hand, then sprinkle it over the lemon curd, breaking it up into large crumbs as you go. Repeat until all of the crumb mixture is used up.

Return the tart (on the sheet pan) to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm, crisp and lightly golden in color, and the filling is not "jiggly," about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. 

Remove the outer ring from the tart pan and serve. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Yum Yum Sauce


Rice bowls have become a regular part of our dinner rotation. It's a great way to get protein, carbs, and veggies all in one place, and it's a particularly great summertime meal since you don't need to bake anything. (You CAN, but you can also grill, air fry etc.)  I just wanted to talk about summertime for a moment because it's almost Easter but we're in the middle of a snowstorm. Ahem.

I also love how versatile these are. While I tend to make them the same way each time, I have changed it up a little depending on what I have on hand, or what veggies need to get used up. But one thing that doesn't change, is that the bowl must be drizzled (or covered?) in Yum Yum Sauce. Yum Yum Sauce is the famous sauce at hibachi restaurants that you put over the fried rice and meat. There's a reason it's called Yum Yum Sauce. It's really good. It's also not cheap to buy at the grocer's. So after trying a bunch of variations, I came up with a sauce that we love, and that's much less expensive than buying the premade jar. 

So here is the rice bowl before it gets drizzled with sauce. This is typically what we do: rice (jasmine rice in the Instant Pot), protein (here it's salmon but there's a picture of shrimp below, and I've also done pork tenderloin), pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, edamame and spring mix. I've also thrown in broccoli, snow peas, asparagus, carrots, whatever you like! 

Then drizzle with the sauce, and dive in. Some people in my family mix it all up together, and others eat all the parts separately. It doesn't matter. 

And here it is with shrimp. In this case, the raw shrimp got sprinkled with Old Bay and then went for a quick saute before adding them to the rice. 

Now Yum Yum Sauce is not just for rice bowls - it has lots of other applications. We've used it on steak sandwiches, fried eggs, even a "dip" for quesadillas. We do use it for rice bowls 90% of the time though!

Try it yourself and let me know how you like it - and what you put in your rice bowls!

Yum Yum Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 1/2 tsp. creamy horseradish 
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. sugar

Add all ingredients to a small bowl, and whisk well to combine. Refrigerate until serving, and to let the flavors meld. Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator.  Serves 6.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Rigatoni Alfredo with Chicken and Kale


We love pasta at our house, and I especially love it when it can be loaded with veggies. I also especially love it when it can be made in ONE POT. This is both.

This also fits my weeknight trifecta: delicious, easy, fast. AND it's "fancy" enough to serve to company, too - just add a green salad and some sort of garlicky carb, and you've got a great dinner. (Chocolate lava cakes for dessert, anyone?)

Kale is a veg that is so good for you, but I have to admit it's not my favorite. So when it can get chopped up and then wilted in a dish like this, it's a lot easier to take.

Since I last made this, I've actually figured out that I can tolerate kale a lot better if I chop it super fine in my food processor - here I've just roughly chopped it by hand, which was ok because of the wilting factor. But that's a tip I gladly share with you for salads or other raw appearances of kale - mince it up in the chopper, and it's WAY better!

However you choose to deal with the kale, this is a delicious dish that won hearty approval from everyone around the table - young adults PLUS their friends. So that's a major win in my book.

  • Rigatoni Alfredo with Chicken and Kale
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 ounces rigatoni
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3-4 ounces kale, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-7 minutes, turning after the first 2 or 4, until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the chopped onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until they turn translucent; then add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add in the pasta, milk, and broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 10 minutes at a light simmer.  
  • When the pasta is al dente, stir in the cream and the Parmesan, leaving a little cheese for garnish. Add the kale, stir, and cover again and let the kale wilt for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken and stir to distribute it through the dish, letting the chicken warm back up. 
  • Sprinkle with pepper, parsley and Parmesan before serving. Serves 6.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Banana Layer Cake


My husband chose this cake for his birthday this year, and since he normally says "whatever you want" when I ask what HE wants for his birthday dessert, I figured I better make exactly what he picked out! 

And I'm glad he did. This is banana bread on steroids - a delicious layer cake with cream cheese frosting. 

This is a nice change of pace from heavy chocolate cakes or the like - but is still completely substantial. 

The cream cheese frosting adds a delicious richness to the cake - when I make this again, I might be tempted to double the frosting! If you need an easy, delicious cake for the weekend, or for any celebration, and you love banana bread - this is the winner!

Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. banana extract, optional
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
3 tsp. milk or cream
1 tsp. banana extract (use vanilla if you don't have banana)
1½ cup powdered sugar

For the cake, in a large mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Add buttermilk and vanilla, and banana extract (if you have it). Mix until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture gradually, beating until combined. Fold in mashed bananas.

Pour into greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans and bake at 350 on center rack of oven for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Time will vary based on your pan size.) Remove to wire rack to cool, then remove from pan.

For the frosting, mix together the cream cheese, butter, milk and extract until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar, a little at a time, mixing until smooth and creamy.

Generously frost bottom layer of cake, stopping at the edge. Place top layer on frosted bottom layer, then frost top layer generously, then frost the sides. (If you prefer, you can leave the sides "plain" and just frost the middle and top. Up to you!) Chill until frosting is firmed up before slicing.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Banh Mi Turkey Burgers

Do you need to shake up your dinner routine a bit? Are you in a menu rotation rut? Do you love trying new flavors and experimenting with "fusion"? Then this recipe is for you!! This got two thumbs up from everyone at our dinner table, and the leftovers were great, too.

This recipe does require a little planning ahead, because the vegetables need time to pickle. You can get those ready the night before, the morning of, or even a day before. After that, this comes together really quickly - whip up the burgers, mix up a spicy sauce (only 2 ingredients!) and quickly toast the buns, and you are ready to go.

My family loves traditional banh mi (made with pork) but we really enjoyed this turkey burger version. It's a great way to get lots of veggies ON your burger, and a wonderful combination of flavors. Fusion away, baby!

Banh Mi Turkey Burgers

  • 1 

    carrot, sliced into matchsticks

  • 1 

    cucumber, sliced into matchsticks

  • 1 

    jalapeño, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup 

    rice vinegar

  • 1/4 cup 


  • 1 Tbsp. salt

  • 1 Tbsp. 

    plus 1 tsp. sugar (divided)

  • 1/4 c. 


  • 2 Tbsp. 

    sriracha, divided

  • 2 lb. 

    ground turkey

  • 1 Tbsp. 

    fish sauce

  • 2 

    cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 

    green onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 1/2 tsp. 


  • 2 Tbsp. 

    toasted sesame oil or vegetable oil

  • 6 

    brioche hamburger buns

  • Fresh cilantro leaves 

  • In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, carrot, jalapeño slices and salt. Add vinegar, water, and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Mix until combined and chill for at least 6 hours to meld the flavors and perfectly pickle the vegetables. (You can also do this a day or two ahead of time.) 

  • For the spicy mayo, mix together mayonnaise and 1 Tbsp. Sriracha, adding more hot sauce if desired. 

  • For the burgers, in a medium bowl combine the turkey, remaining 1 tablespoon of Sriracha, cornstarch, fish sauce, remaining 1 tsp. sugar, garlic and green onions. Mix with your hands just until all combined, and be careful not to overmix. Season meat with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into six equal patties. Heat sesame oil (or vegetable oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the burgers, flipping once, until cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. As the burgers begin to brown, add about 1/2 cup water to the pan and cover. Cook for a few minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. 

  • To serve, top each brioche bun with a burger patty, a generous slathering of spicy mayo and a scoopful of pickled vegetables. Garnish with cilantro leaves. (I like to lightly toast the buns first - just on a dry skillet over medium low heat - do watch them carefully so they don't burn.)

Friday, January 26, 2024

Meatball and Butternut Squash Orzo

About this time of year, I start to get really uninspired with menu planning and cooking. It's the end of January, but I feel like I've had enough comfort food, but we're nowhere near ready for spring yet. So a dish like this comes in handy. Hearty enough for the winter but not so heavy that you feel like you can't move. Chock full of protein AND colorful vegetables, with a creamy pasta base -- there's something here for everyone!

This recipe comes together pretty quickly, too, making it great for a weeknight. While you roast the squash and bake the meatballs (same time!), you assemble the rest of the dish. You can absolutely make your own meatballs for this, but I pick up a pound of fresh ones already made, then I re-roll them to make 24 instead of 12. They bake more quickly when they're a little smaller, too. 

Cook the orzo, add spinach and a bit of half and half for creaminess,

 then add back in the squash and the meatballs. Voila! Dinner is done. 

Here's a close up of all that goodness! 

Meatball and Butternut Squash Orzo

16 oz. pork/beef/chicken meatballs
12 oz. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 tsp. thyme
1 cup orzo
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
5 oz fresh spinach
1/2 cup half and half

If you are using unbaked meatballs, bake them at the same time as the squash. (I get the 12-pack of fresh meatballs at Aldi, and re-roll them to make 24 meatballs.)

In a large bowl, toss cubed butternut squash with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme. Spread the squash on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in one layer, without overcrowding. Roast at 400 F on the middle rack for 20 or 30 minutes. 

Combine orzo, minced garlic, and remaining Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the orzo over medium heat, stirring, for about 2 minutes until browned. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is cooked through.

Reduce heat to low, add spinach, and stir it in until it wilts. Add half-and-half, then stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Add roasted butternut squash and baked meatballs to the cooked orzo. Serves 6.

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