Monthly Archives: December 2012

Prune Cake

I saw this recipe in some SJ Mercury clippings my parents gave me and I had to make it. I enjoy making recipes that no one seems to make anymore and this is that. I used pitted prunes, so no need to pit them per the instructions. I enjoyed the nice prune flavor; it was kind of like coffee cake with raisins, but chewier and more caramelly.


  • 1 pound or 1½ cups dried prunes
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼-½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs

Crumb topping

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup broken walnut pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover prunes with water and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup of the liquid, adding more water if necessary. Pit and chop prunes.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add sugar, prune liquid and vegetable oil. Blend vigorously for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating for a minute each time, then stir in prunes. Pour into greased, floured 13- by 9-inch baking dish.
  3. For the topping, combine sugar and flour, then cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over cake, then top with nuts. Bake 35-45 minutes or until done. Serve warm.

–Recipe courtesy Amber Rice & The San Jose Mercury News.

Prune Cake

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


2012 in review

Weird, my most popular post this year was Black Sesame Panna Cotta!! I never would have guessed.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


Refried Beans

My favorite thing at a taqueria is the beans. I’m not really that big a fan of the meat (fish/prawn tacos and the occasional carnitas not withstanding); generally my burrito jam is beans, cheese, and onions, drenched in hot sauce or salsa.

I became a huge fan of the Spilled Milk podcast a few months ago (completely randomly, I didn’t realize my fave Molly Wizenberg was one of the hosts), and I devoured all their shows in the course of a week or two of commute time. I highly recommend listening if you love hearing two nerds having fun talking about food and double-entendres. Anyway, they did a whole show on beans, which inspired me to try to cook dried beans myself (I never had before, believe it or not), and specifically refried beans, since I love them so much.

My first attempt turned out OK in terms of bean-cooking, but I burned the onions, which imparted a vaguely nasty flavor. They also were too dry (the recipe I used didn’t use enough broth for my taste). The second time, I didn’t burn my onions, saved more juice, and discovered how much nicer the consistency is if you use a blender (though I think my blender wasn’t all too happy about it, as it smelled like burned motor).

I do highly recommend the boil then bake method though – I had no trouble at all with undercooked beans, and it’s only 90 minutes with no presoaking!

Note: the below is a combined recipe from 2 sources, I’ll cite them at the end.


  • 1 pound pinto beans
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup of onion, diced [I used more than this]
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 slices of bacon [or what I used – just reserved bacon fat]
  • Salt to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 250
  2. Dump the beans into a large dutch oven or pot with tight-fitting lid.  Pick out any broken pieces. Add the salt.  Top with enough water to cover the beans by an inch and a half.  Bring pot to a boil.
  3. Then cover the pot, and set in the oven.  Cook for 75 minutes, but at about 45 minutes in, check on the beans.  If they look too dry add some boiling water to the pot.
  4. After 75 minutes they should be done. Drain them, reserving 1-2 cups of bean broth (you won’t need all of that, but save more than you need)
  5. Fry the diced onion in the bacon grease for a couple of minutes, and then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the drained cooked beans into the skillet, adding 1/4 cup of the bean broth.
  7. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding more bean broth for desired moisture. Keep stirring the mashed beans in the bacon fat until the texture is a chunky paste.
  8. If you like your beans very homogeneous in consistency, give them a spin in the blender (in batches).

–Recipe mashup courtesy The Paupered Chef and Homesick Texan.

First attempt (a little dry, and burned oniony, but overall a good attempt):

Refried Beans

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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


Caramelized Plum-Ricotta Crostini

I found myself with leftover ricotta and fresh plums from the FFTY box (and a recipe they so helpfully provided in their newsletter) so what better reason might I have to make this? We didn’t do any fancy grilling, just toasting in the toaster over worked fine. Come to find out, this is a Bobby Flay recipe – explains the insistence on grilling! It was a great treat, try it sometime!


  • 12 slices French baguette, lightly grilled
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 plums, halved, pitted and sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh ricotta
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring the orange juice and sugar to a simmer in a large saute pan, over medium-low heat. Add the plums and cook until slightly softened and caramelized.
  2. Top each piece of bread with some of the plum mixture, then a dollop of ricotta and a sprinkling of black pepper.

–Recipe courtesy Farm Fresh To You’s Sept 10 newsletter/Bobby Flay.

Pretty and tasty:

Caramelized Plum-Ricotta Crostini

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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


Cheese Spaetzle Noodle Casserole – Kaesespaetzle

I had never made spaetzle before, either fresh or dried. But we visited the German store in downtown Redwood City, and there we found dried spaetzle and had to try it (also beer-stein-shaped pasta, but that’s another recipe!).

So I looked for a tasty-sounding spaetzle recipe and came across this. The good news is that if you don’t have your own dried spaetzle, this’ll walk you through making your own, fresh! The caramelized onions really make the whole thing. I think it would have been rather uninteresting without that delicious umami flavor. Plus it has nutmeg!

Total win.


Caramelized Onions

  • 2 tsp. olive oil (20 ml)
  • 1 tsp. butter 9(10 ml)
  • 2 medium onions (400 grams) quartered and sliced

Spaetzle – Noodles [I didn’t make these, but I’d like to try it sometime]

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. water (125 ml)
  • 2 c. all purpose flour (250 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 oz. (100 grams) Gruyère
  • Butter and breadcrumbs for casserole dish
  • [I topped with some parsley]


  1. Start by making the caramelized onions about one hour before the casserole needs to go into the oven. Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick pan on medium, turn heat to low and add onions.
  2. Stir every few minutes for about an hour, or until onions are lightly browned and sweet enough for your taste. Here is more information on caramelizing onions.
  3. Turn off heat and set onions aside.
  4. Place a large pot of water on to boil. You may add salt if you wish, I do not.
  5. To make the dough, mix the eggs with water and add to the flour and salt.
  6. Mix or beat for several minutes, or until dough is smooth. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then beat it again.
  7. Add water or flour to adjust consistency to a thick batter (a little thinner than brownie batter).
  8. Place half of the dough in the hopper of the Spätzle Maker which is placed over the simmering water. Push and pull the hopper back and forth, creating a dough wave inside the hopper. Little bits of dough are pushed out the other side and drop into the water. They are fatter and more tear drop shaped than the Spätzle you make with a board.
  9. The noodles will drop to the bottom of the pot, then rise to the surface. Let them sit there for another two or three minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or small sieve. Rinse briefly in hot water, then drain well and set aside.
  10. Using the second half of the dough, make another batch of noodles. If the noodles stick to the bottom of the pan, give a quick stir to loosen. They should then rise to the top.
  11. Butter and line a 1 1/2 – 2 quart casserole dish with bread crumbs (“Paniermehl”).
  12. When noodles are done, add them to the (cooled) pan with the onions. Add the grated nutmeg and 3/4 of the grated cheese and stir to mix.
  13. Gruyère cheese can be used, as well as Emmentaler or Raclette, but any smooth melting, slightly stinky cheese can be substituted as long as you like it.
  14. Spoon noodles into casserole, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake, covered, at 350ºF for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes. If you like, brown the cheese topping with the broiler during the last 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

–Recipe courtesy Jennifer McGavin at


Cheese Spaetzle Noodle Casserole - Kaesespaetzle

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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


Mushroom-Barley Soup

I love mushrooms, I love soup, and I love barley, so this recipe called to me when I saw it in Everyday Food.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 ounce dried sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • [I added chopped flat-leaf parsley at the end]


  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Saute until onion is softened, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add button mushrooms and cook until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add broth, 4 cups water, and shiitake mushrooms. Bring to a boil and cook until all mushrooms are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add barley, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook until barley is tender, about 12 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

–Recipe courtesy Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, October 2012.

The soup!

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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized