Thursday, November 19, 2015

Holiday Spice Cake with Apple-Rum Caramel

For me, Thanksgiving dinner preparations start with desserts. This year I am making a Spiced Bundt cake with apple/rum caramel. I took the recipe from an old Bon Appetit magazine, but I did tweak it a bit from the original. If you would like to use the recipe as printed you can find it on their webpage. Here my version of the recipe:

Holiday Spice Bundt Cake with Apple/Rum Carmel


1 3/4 cups butter
1 vanilla bean-split lengthwise and scraped

2 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups slivered and toasted almonds

2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg (please grate your own if you are able)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice (again please grind your own if able)
3/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger (ok....even I use the stuff in the jar here)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 eggs
5 yolks
1 cup whole milk

In a sauce pan melt the butter. Add the vanilla bean and the scrapings. Cook over medium high heat-stirring often-until the butter foams up and then browns. Be very careful not to allow the butter to burn, you just want a light amber color.

Remove the bean from the butter, and pour the hot butter into a tempered glass dish. Place in the fridge for about an hour until the butter has set back up to nearly solid.

In the meantime...with the blade attachment in your food processor, pulse the flour and almonds until the almonds are finely ground. Add the next 8 ingredients, and pulse a few times to mix everything together.
(Preheat oven to 350F)
Once your browned butter mixture is solid, place into a stand mixer with the peddle attachment in place. Add the 3 sugars and turn the machine to the highest setting and whip the mixture until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Turn the machine off and scrape down the sides. Add the lemon zest and turn the machine to the middle setting. Add the eggs and the yolks ONE AT A TIME BEATING FOR 30-60 SECONDS AFTER EACH. If you have done this correctly you will have a very light, fluffy (almost icing-like) texture.

Turn the machine to low and add 1/2 the flour mix and all of the milk. Mix for 2 minutes and add the remaining flour. Mix one more minute.

Pour your cake batter into a very well oiled Bundt pan. Bake undisturbed for 65-70 minutes. Cake is done when a tooth pic is inserted into the deep part of the cake and comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 25 minutes, invert onto a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool completely before serving or storing WELL WRAPPED in the fridge for up to 6 days.


1 cup white sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup filtered or distilled water
1/4 cup fresh apple cider
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs. dark rum
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a HIGH WALLED sauce pan (you will thank me for this later).

Over medium high to high heat dissolve the sugar. Cook without stirring until the caramel turns a dark amber color (about 320F on a candy thermometer).

Remove from the heat, while standing a bit back from the pot, and add the remaining ingredients. The caramel with boil VIOLENTLY...this is normal and why you need a high walled pot.

Once the boiling has subsided, with a wire whisk, vigorously whip the caramel over low heat until any hard bits of sugar remaining are dissolved. Set aside and cool to room temperature before use.

Once the cake and the caramel are room temperature, you can pour the caramel over the Bundt cake and serve!

You can chill this in the fridge, and store cold in an airtight container for about 10 days.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rice Noodles with Broccoli

If you have known me for a long time, then you will remember that was a vegetarian for about 9 years. While I am no longer strictly a vegetarian, I do still eat mostly meat-free. This dish is one of my favorites, and while there is no meat in it at all, you can add it if you like. I think it would be super-yummy with shrimp, or chicken. 

Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Broccoli
3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari
3 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. freshly ground ginger
1 Tbs. finely minced chives
2 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tsp. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. Fresh minced garlic ( about 3 cloves)
12 oz. broccoli florets
16 oz. bag of wide rice noodles
1-2 Tbs. sesame oil
Combine the first 7 ingredients together in a glass measuring cup, or a jar. Whisk to make a smooth thick sauce.
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. In the meantime, place a 12-14 inch skillet over very high heat. Once the skillet is hot, spray it with a little nonstick food spray. Add the broccoli and allow it to brown on one side. 
Toss, and add ¼ cup of water, and allow this to completely evaporate while continuing to toss the broccoli. Be careful not to overcook it, as broccoli loses nutrients during the cooking process. The longer you cook it, the more goodness escapes!
Once the water begins to boil; add the rice noodles and turn the heat down to low. Soak the noodles according the package directions (about 7-9 minutes).
When the broccoli is done cooking remove it from the skillet, and add the sesame oil. Turn the heat off and add the minced garlic, gently brown it by tossing it vigorously to keep it from burning.

Add the reserved sauce. 
When the noodles are done drain them thoroughly, turn the sauce mixture up to medium-high heat and allow it to begin to simmer. Add the noodles and broccoli and toss together.  
 Serve immediately.  
Yields 4-6 portions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stuffed Roma Tomato Appetizer

Have you ever been asked out to a party or get-together on short notice, and then asked to please bring a snack or appetizer? While it doesn't happen often, it does happen. With the holidays coming up I've been thinking about last minute foods I can just throw together with a minimum amount of time and effort but a maximum amount of "YUMMINESS". Here is a recipe I came up with a few weeks ago when I got into a pinch and needed an appetizer on very short (like a couple of hours) notice.

I make my own pesto and freeze it in 4 ounce containers, but you can buy a pretty decent pesto sauce-premade-from the dairy section of most supermarkets these days. This is one of those must-have items to keep around for last minute ideas. You can purchase 3 or 4 tubs of the ready-made stuff and freeze it until needed. It thaws in less than an hour at room temperature.

I keep Roma tomatoes in my veggie bin year round. You will never come to my home and not find them (unless I just ran out, and I'll be getting more tomorrow). I like Roma Tomatoes because they are fairly small, usually firm, and always available. They puree well into sauce and are easy to chop for salsa fresca. They are also a wiz for cutting in half and stuffing with a variety of ingredients-from truffle infused savory rice pudding to simple shredded cheese. Roma tomatoes are the workhorse of the two-bite world!

Here is my last minute easy-breezy appetizer for everyday use!

Pesto Stuffed Roma Tomatoes
6 Roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup pesto
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

Scoop out the 'guts' of the tomatoes and set aside for another use.

 Mix the breadcrumbs and pesto together in a bowl and stuff into the tomato shells.

Mix the two cheeses together and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Place them stuffing side up in a glass baking dish.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Teavana: a Review

WARNING: These people are like the used car salesmen of tea!

I was walking through the mall the other day, and passed by Teavana. Remembering that I was out of my hibiscus tea, I wandered inside thinking that their variety would be fun to try.

I tell the girl at the counter that I'd like to purchase a very small amount of an herbal (because I am caffeine sensitive) Hibiscus tea. That's where things went downhill.

She pulls out two large tins and begins fanning them with their lids in my direction. Sheesh...that's super-cheesy! So she tells me that they mix these two varieties together, and how much do I want. There is a two ounce minimum purchase, by the way. I tell her again that I am caffeine sensitive and the tea on the left has tea leaves in it and I can't have that one, so I'd like just two ounces of the tea on the right.

She then insists that the tea on the left has ONLY 1-15 mg of caffeine per serving and mixing them won't cause me any problems. This is like saying to a person with a peanut allergy "there is only one peanut in you cookie, so I'm sure you won't die of anaphylactic shock".

I finally convince her that I really do only want the damned tea on the right and she begrudgingly puts away the caffeinated one. Sheesh!

Then she starts trying to UPSELL me an airtight metal tin, that will keep my tea fresh for a full year (she tells me). But I then remind her that I only want two ounces of tea, just to try it out, which will not last me a full weekend. Then it's on to selling me some ugly-assed giant brown sugar crystals. I prefer, and have an organic honey for my tea, so I decline.

She then puts two big scoops of tea into a little bag and weighs it, it's four ounces, and she starts closing the bag...ugh!!!...I insist that I still only want two ounces ( am I speaking Japanese? ) just to try it out. She again begrudgingly removes a scoop of tea from the bag.

So $7, some medium aggravation, and a baggie in hand. I FINALLY have a pitcher's worth of iced tea to make. This type of salesmanship always makes me very uncomfortable, and quite upset.

Next time I'll just buy Celestial Seasonings.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

It is the end of October, and it is still warm here in Northern California's river delta area. As a matter of fact the farm stands, and farmer's markets are still overflowing with a great abundance.

This morning I was looking at the cucumbers I bought a few days ago, and was trying to come up with something besides pickles, or adding them to a salad. I am trying to eat a bit more healthfully of late, so I am limited on options. Then it came to me: Cucumber Soup!

Cucumber soup


4 cucumbers, seeds removed - peeled and grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups plain yogurt-or 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup heavy cream if you are not watching calories
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
fresh black pepper
  1. Combine the grated cucumber, lemon juice, mint, dill, garlic, yogurt, olive oil, and salt in a large mixing bowl; stir with a large spoon. Pour the mixture into a blender; blend on high speed until smooth. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Divide the soup between four bowls.Grind a little black pepper over each bowl and serve.
  2. Variations: reserve the olive oil until the soup has been served and then drize it over the soup (it just looks pretty that way. If you'd like a truly chilled soup, add 1/2 cup crushed ice to the blender with everything else, them puree. Reserve a few sprigs of dill and top the plated soup with them as a garnish.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chocolate Gnosh

This is a super-simple, delicious, chocolate dessert that everyone loves! You do not need to properly temper your chocolate, but it does make a prettier candy when finished. There is a tutorial on chocolate tempering at the end of this post. Happy eating!!!
crispy, chewy, sweet, salty, gooey love!!!

Chocolate Nosh

2 Lbs. Dark Chocolate
1.5 Lbs. Milk Chocolate
8 oz. crushed pretzels
8 oz. mini-marshmallows
1 Lb. toasted chopped almonds
1 Lb. sun-dried fruit of your choice (cherries, apricots, blueberries, raisins, etc...I used Cherries for this batch)

Chop the chocolates and place in the top bowl of a double boiler.

In the bottom pan of the double boiler pour an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low. Place the bowl of chocolate over the steaming water.

While gently stirring every minute or so, allow the chocolate to melt. Place the rest of the ingredients into a very large bowl, and toss together.

Pour the melted chocolate over the mixture in the bowl and fold together.

Pour the mixture onto a sheet pan and allow to cool (you can place in the fridge or freezer if you are in a hurry). Once the chocolate is solid, cut into desired shape and size. Serve and ENJOY!!!

If you do feel like braving the chocolate tempering world, please oh please only use VERY VERY GOOD quality chocolate. If you use cheap chocolate you will be disappointed with the results. As well please see
for a full and detailed explanation of how to temper chocolate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Japanese Ramen Noodles

If you have known me for a long time, or you've been reading this, or my old blog (, then you know that I used to live in Tokyo, Japan for a couple of years. I loved Japan, and I especially loved the cuisine. One of my favorite things while there was to visit the small, local (every neighborhood seemed to have at least one) Ramen Shops that seemed to be everywhere. Each shop I visited had its own proprietary and "secret recipe" for their noodles and the soup broth in which they were served.

Thus, it has taken me a long time to find and tweak a recipe for fresh Ramen noodles that I consider share-worthy. I have finally found that recipe. Before you begin, you need to know a few things.

One of the key ingredients to making Ramen chewy is a substance called Lye Water. What is Lye, you ask? Lye Water (sometimes called “Lime Water") is caustic or corrosive liquid, which means it can corrode or ‘eat away’ solid objects. It is also a poison. If it is used in the wrong way, it can injure people or make people sick. Lye Water is used in many different ways by different groups of people. It tends to be used:to soften food or add flavour when cooking meat, fish, rice,noodles and/or vegetables like corn, beans, maize or okra. So you can see now that this substance needs to be handled with great respect and care. It must be measured exactly and not left out around children or pets. 
Now that you are in the know; here are a few other items you need: a scale that weighs grams (this is an EXACT SCIENCE), a stand mixer, a pasta roller/cutter, and a good quality strainer.Here we go:

Ramen Noodles
480g All Purpose Flour
120g Bread (High Gluten) Flour
1tsp Salt
1 cup of cool distilled water
2tsp. (10 grams) Lye water mixed into 90g cool distilled water

Place the flours and the salt into the bowl if a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment in place. Mix the lye water mixture and plain water together. With the mixer running at speed 3, pour in the water. Allow the dough to knead for 10 minutes. This will produce a dry, tight dough. 

Cut the dough into 6 pieces, dust them with flour, and wrap each ball in plastic. Allow the dough to rest for 4-5 hours in the fridge. If your dough turns yellow to green don't panic, this is normal and the color will disappear during the cooking process. 

Flatten your dough balls into small rectangles and run each ball, one by one through a dough roller until you reach the #4 thickness. You should have strips 2 1/2 to 3 feet long. Ramen is supposed to be long in order to really enjoy the art of slurping it up with chop sticks.

Cut the dough strips with the spaghetti cutter attachment. 

Toss your ramen liberally in flour to prevent sticking. 

Bring your largest pot, half full of water to a roaring boil. Add half of the Ramen and cook EXACTLY two minutes. Don't worry that the water stops boiling when you add the noodles. it will heat back up in a few seconds. Reapeat with your remaining noodles.

Once your timer goes off, pour the noodles into a large strainer and rinse them thoroughly until they are cooled and no longer feel 'slimy'. 

This is how you know you removed the lye from the cooked noodles. Place the Ramen into 6 Ramen soup bowls, add a strong meaty stock, and top with your favorite Ramen soup Toppings. Slurp and enjoy!!!    
My favorite Raman toppings: blanced baby bokchoy, sweet corn, roast pork loin, medium boiled egg, and shiitake.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Carne Asada "street" tacos

I have noticed a lot of excitement for, and the addition of, Mexican "street tacos" to many menus here in the USA. Perhaps it is because of the foodie-type Travel Shows on the Travel Chanel that are so popular. I have seen them highlighted on Anthony Bourdain's show more than once, and from more than one Latin American Country to our south...yes, my friends, there is more than Mexico down there!

What makes a taco a "street taco"? you ask...Epicurious defines TACO thusly: taco [tah-KOH] A Mexican-style "sandwich" consisting of a folded corn TORTILLA filled with various ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, CHORIZO sausage, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, onion, GUACAMOLE, REFRIED BEANS and SALSA. Most tacos in the United States are made with crisp (fried) tortilla shells, but there are also "soft" (pliable) versions. The latter are more likely to be found in the Southwest and California. Tacos may be eaten as an entrée or snack.  © Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Read More

So far as I can tell the only difference between a run-of-the-mill taco and a street taco is the location from whence you bought it! If you bought it from a Taco Stand or Food Truck on the's a "street taco", if you made it at home, or got it in a restaurant-NOT!!! That's right. All those expensive new menu items, are basically just a sales gimmick, and a very lucrative one at that!

I did find a GREAT GUIDE to Mexican Street Tacos on MEXCONNECT ( ) if you feel like reading up a bit further on the topic.

Here is my recipe for Mexican "Street Tacos" that will make everyone you serve them to beg for more! (You can add some cayenne pepper, and jalapanos to the strew if you like, but I have a little kid, so the spicy stuff gets served on the side as chimichuri, and pickled japs.)

Tacos Carne Asada
1Lb. stew beef (you can use pork butt if you prefer carnitas)
2 Tbs. Mexican Rub*see below (or my entry on 6/25/11)
1 small onion-julianned
3 cloves garlic-minced
1- 14oz. can diced tomatoes
1 beef bouillon cube, or 1/4 cup demiglaze
2 cups water
Toss the beef and the rub together and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, brown the onions over medium high heat. Add the garlic, and cook over low for 2-3 minutes until the mixture become very fragrant.

Add the beef and turn the burner to high. Spread the beef out so that it has full contact with the pan. Allow to brown on one side. With a pair of tongs, turn the meat over so that it can brown evenly on the opposit side.

Add the last thee ingredients and turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer for about 2 hours-add extra water as needed. If you have a crockpot you can transfer everything over and allow the mixture to cook on low 5-6 hours.

Once the beef have become very tender, remove it with a slotted spoon. Allow the meat to cool slightly-and with your fingers-break it up into shreaded bits. Put the meat back into the pot, turn the heat as high as it will go, and with the cover off allow most of the liquid to evaporate. You should be left with a very thick stew-like mixture. (Sometimes I add a little lime juice to brighten up the heavy flavor of the carne at the very end, but it's not 100% required.)

Warm a few corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet.

Fill each one with beef and any other taco garnishes you prefer. We use: Sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, fresh salsa, chimichuri, and jalapanos.

*Mexi-baja rub
2 Tbs. Smoked Paprika
1 tsp each-ground cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, garlic powder, lemon zest
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp kosher salt

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pork BBQ; Carolina Style

This week I did something that I have never done outside of one of my restaurants; I made a slow roasted pork BBQ at home.

In the southeastern USA Barbecue (or BBQ as I like to say) is a noun. If you are invited to someone's home in the south for barbecue, it will be some form of pork, slow-roasted or smoked, and served fork-shredded with several sauces on the side from which you can choose. Usually there are some burger buns, and cabbage slaw offered as well so that you can make a barbecue sandwich: The slaw is a MUST on the traditional sandwich. The condiments are of some dispute between the Carolina. In North Carolina the population likes a thin vinegar based sauce, while in South Carolina people like a mustard based sauce. Some people do like the thick tomato and molasses type of barbecue sauce, but I think Carolinians call those people "Yankees"!!!

I made both sauces for my barbecue yesterday, as I love the vinegar based sauce-having spent many years in Hickory, NC-and the Hubby loves the mustard one. Please note that this is a very hands-on two day process, so allow yourself some free time for this one. And don't send me emails about how cooking on the grill, or open flame, or using the smoker is best. This is just one recipe that can be used year-round, no matter the weather; which is why I use it...Here is the recipe:

Chef Julie's Porkalicious BBQ

4 Lb. bone-in shoulder roast (you can use boneless if you prefer)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper

Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper together. Completely encrust the pork with the salt mix. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest 12-24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 275F (250F for convection). Remove the roast from the plastic wrap and place is a roasting pan.

Cook 7-8 hours, basting the pork with its own juices every 20 minutes after 4 hours time.

Allow the roast to rest for 30-45 minutes on the counter, remove the bone (it will pop right out with no resistance if the roast is cooked properly).

 Shred the meat with two forks and place in a bowl or on a serving platter.

You can reheat it in the oven or the microwave if you like. Serve with Cabbage slaw and barbecue sauces.

Mustard-based sauce

3/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbs. brown sugar (optional)
1 Tsp. hot sauce (I like Frank's Original)
        Mix, chill, and serve.

Vinegar-based sauce

1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs. ketchup
1 tsp. cayanne or red pepper flakes
1 tps. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. salt
Bring everything to a boil in a small sauce pan. Chill and serve.