Sour Cream & Blueberry Coffee Cake

I love an excuse to make a special breakfast. This time, it was a cold and rainy Saturday morning at home with my daughter. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from San Francisco’s Hobee’s Restaurant via Mario Batali’s Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA. I loved that Batali noted that this coffee cake is “suspiciously under the heading ‘Light Bites'” on their menu. 🙂 I suppose it doesn’t incorporate that much butter… 😉

I adapted the recipe by incorporating whole wheat pastry flour, increasing the baking time, and modifying the topping. Instead of using a 9×9-inch baking pan, I used an 8×8-inch equivalent baking pan (it has a berry pattern on it!), which was a little bit too small… Still yummy, thank goodness.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the Brown Sugar Topping:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Make the Cake: Rinse the berries in cold water and then toss them in 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour.
  4. Place a sieve over a mixing bowl, and pour the berries into the sieve. Shake the excess flour off into the bowl; set berries aside.
  5. Add the remaining 1 cup all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour to the bowl, along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to incorporate.
  6. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, beat together the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and granulated sugar until well combined.
  7. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until a smooth batter forms.
  8. Pour half the butter in the pan and scatter most of the berries over.
  9. Pour in the rest of the batter and drop the rest of the berries on top.
  10. Make the Brown Sugar Topping: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Combine throughly using a pastry blender.
  11. Spread topping over the top of the batter.
  12. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is uniformly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  13. Let cool before serving.

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Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves garlic, skins left on
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15-20 leaves
  • 2 lemons
  1. Heat oven to 375, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken aggressively with the salt and pepper.
  3. Place a pot that will fit the chicken snugly (I used a deep 4-quart pot) over medium-high heat on the stove, and add to it the butter and olive oil.
  4. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot. (I left more fat than recommended but would reduce the amount next time.)
  6. Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute or 2, then return the chicken to the pot (preferably breast-side down) along with the milk and sage leaves.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of skin off the two lemons, and add them to the pot as well.
  8. Slide the pot into the oven, and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)
  9. To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto plates. Spoon sauce over each serving.

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Sam Sifton’s Middle-School Tacos

We are counting down the days until the end of my son’s elementary school career. 😦 His 6th grade Graduation- a.k.a. “Moving Up” ceremony- is next Tuesday. So… it’s the perfect time to share this recipe for a popular Middle-School lunch! I’m getting him ready for his next chapter. ❤

The recipe for these “Middle-School ‘Gringo’ Tacos” was featured in a New York Times article titled “The Case for Hard Shell Tacos,” contributed by Sam Sifton. They were a wonderful upgrade from a taco kit. 🙂 I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, decreased the chile powder and red pepper flakes, and doubled the garlic. We topped them with grated cheeses, sour cream, guacamole, shredded iceberg lettuce, and chopped grape tomatoes. I served them with refried beans on the side as well. Great.

Of course, my kids absolutely loved them! Then they informed me that their school lunch tacos are served in soft tortillas. Funny. Maybe that’s an elementary school thing? We’ll see! 😉

Time: 30 minutes

For the Meat Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola, peanut or grapeseed
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1-2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute hot or sweet paprika)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock or beef broth, low-sodium if store-bought

For Serving:

  • 12-18 hard taco shells
  • refried beans, optional

Topping Suggestions:

  • grated cheese (I used both cheddar and Monterey Jack)
  • sliced jalapeños
  • chopped tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • lime wedges

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the onion, and cook until softened and starting to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so to soften, and then the ground meat. Cook until it starts to brown, stirring and chopping with a spoon to break up the meat, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Pour off excess fat, leaving only a tablespoon or two in the pan.
  4. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cornstarch, paprika and red-pepper flakes, and stir to combine.
  5. Add the stock or broth, stir, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. As sauce cooks, place taco shells (on a taco rack, if possible) on a sheet pan, and toast in oven until they are crisp and smell nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Serve a few tablespoons of meat in each taco, along with whatever toppings you like.
  8. Serve with refried beans on the side, if desired.

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Grilled Swordfish with Za’atar Salsa Verde

I love a fresh herb sauce. This Middle Eastern variation on a classic salsa verde brightened up the grilled fish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with sautéed collard greens and green kale on the side.

This dish was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alon Shaya. I used homemade za’atar. I also used swordfish in lieu of red snapper, grilling instead of broiling, and modified the proportions in the salsa verde. Healthy and tasty. 🙂

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 6-ounce swordfish steaks, patted dry
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Toast pine nuts in a 400 degree oven (I used a toaster oven.) or a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop, if desired.
  2. Heat a gas grill or broiler. Season fish with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with coriander.
  3. Drizzle 1 T oil onto one side of the fish, flip and repeat on the opposite side. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill fish until cooked through, about 3-4 min per side for a 1″ thick steak. (Alternatively, place fish on a small rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, about 8–10 minutes.)
  5. Meanwhile, mix together cilantro, parsley, garlic, za’atar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 4 T olive oil in a mini food processor or small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir lemon juice and pine nuts into salsa verde and spoon over fish.

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Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella & Crispy Chickpeas

I love a recipe that gobbles up the greens from my CSA share. I have made this dish a couple of times using whatever combination of greens I had available. Recently, I used turnip greens, kale and spinach but I have also used chard and baby collard greens in the past. The classic combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was a nice complement to the sautéed greens as well.

This quick dish was adapted from a Food and Wine staff favorite recipe, contributed by Marcie Turney. I doubled the recipe, decreased the red pepper flakes, and increased amount of fresh mozzarella. SO delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound greens such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (or more, as desired)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 large basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated.
  7. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss. Add more pasta water, if necessary.
  8. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas and serve.

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Iceberg Wedge Salad with Green Goddess Ranch Dressing

This post is belated because I’m still recovering from my husband’s extravagant birthday feast. Recovering from preparing it… and from eating it (for many, many days!). 😉 I must say that it was well worth every minute AND every bite.

His special celebratory feast usually involves fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. I have made Caesar salad as our “vegetable” in the past, but this year he requested a wedge salad. Yay! I love a change.

This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn, via Martha Stewart Living. I used 4 tablespoons of buttermilk to adjust the consistency of the dressing. I also adapted the way the iceberg lettuce was sliced to modify the serving size and simplify the eating process. We all LOVED it!

For the Green Goddess Ranch Salad Dressing:

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives and/or scallions, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, such as white-wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • buttermilk or milk (optional)
  1. In a large bowl or blender, whisk or blend all the ingredients except the buttermilk.
  2. Add just enough buttermilk to thin to the desired consistency, if needed. (I used 4 tablespoons.)
  3. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine. Shake well before using.

Note: Dressing will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Complete the Salad:

Yield: 4 Servings

  • Green Goddess Ranch Dressing (recipe above)
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thick slices or wedges
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
  • English cucumber, cut into slices
  1. Prepare Green Goddess dressing and set aside.
  2. In a 9 x 13-inch pyrex baking dish, bake bacon at 350 degrees for 20 to 3o minutes, until crispy.
  3. Place 1 iceberg lettuce slice/wedge and 4 to 6 cucumber wedges on each plate.
  4. Pour some dressing over top with crumbled bacon and minced chives over each serving, as desired.

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Blueberry Muffin Tops with Streusel Topping

Yes, it’s true… I’m still talking about Mother’s Day. 🙂

One of my special Mother’s Day gifts was a “Muffin-Top” pan. It’s genius. (My daughter only eats the top of her muffins, so this really was a perfect gift!) Needless to say, I already have a couple of muffin-top recipes to share. We enjoyed this version for our Memorial Day breakfast. They were fabulously loaded with fresh blueberries.

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious.com. I lowered the oven temperature, increased the vanilla, and reduced the flour in the topping. Next time I plan to incorporate some whole wheat flour. These muffins could also be made in a standard muffin tin, of course!

An absolute highlight in the original recipe was the informative explanation about the origin of the “Muffin-Top” baking pan. It was described as a TV triumph from a 1990’s Seinfeld episode. Here’s the recap:

“After Elaine exclaims that she only likes the tops of muffins (“The Muffin Tops” first aired on May 8, 1997), her former boss thinks Elaine has hit on a clever marketing idea. But when you only sell the tops, what do you do with the hundreds of muffin ‘stumps’ (bottoms) that are left? Elaine and her gang take to the streets with garbage bags of stumps, trying to pawn them off on anyone and everyone. There are no takers; even the homeless turn them down with disdain. It didn’t take long after the airing of the episode for muffin-top pans to appear on store shelves.”

LOVE it. 🙂

Yield: 12 muffin tops

For the Batter:

  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 large yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can use some white whole wheat flour, if desired)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (12 oz)

For the Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Make the Batter:

  1. Put oven rack in the center or upper third of oven and preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection. Generously butter muffin pans. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. Melt butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, then remove from heat. Whisk in milk, then whisk in whole egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined well.
  3. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then add milk mixture and stir until just combined.
  4. Fold in blueberries gently but thoroughly.
  5. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups, spreading evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop.)

Make the Topping and Bake the Muffins:

  1. Rub together all topping ingredients in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until crumbly, then sprinkle evenly over batter in cups, about 1 tablespoon per muffin.
  2. Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick or skewer inserted diagonally into center of a muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
  3. Cool in pans on a rack 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge of each muffin top and carefully remove from cups. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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