Archive | September, 2013

Martha-inspired Lentil Loaf

27 Sep

Martha made these beautiful loaves, and then I stole them from the pages of a dentist’s office Real Simple.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I substituted most of the suggested ingredients for the remnants of last week’s grocery shop. Leave it to Martha to grab those mangey carrots, wilted cilantro, and shriveling sprouts right out of the clenches of the garbage disposal. I also swapped the loaf pans for cupcake tins, in the interest of portion control.

This is another one of those super versatile recipes– first I enjoyed Lentil Loaf with sauteed veggies, then with some melted cheese , and finally with poached eggs (my favorite). So basically, you can put whatever you want in this loaf and then eat it with whatever you want. Awesome.

lentilloafLenti Loaf Inspired by a Convicted Felon


  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 and 1/3 c green lentils
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 TBS curry
  • 2 c water (or broth)
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans,  drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 zucchini
  • 8 brussels sprouts
  • 3/4 c tomato sauce
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

    To substitute: keep the lentils, onions, beans, tomato sauce and eggs– sub whatever you have for the rest!


1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease loaf pans or cupcake pans.

2. Heat oil in a pan over med-high heat. Throw in curry powder and onions, heat until fragrant.  Add lentils and cook until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are almost done, which took me about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. While the lentils cook, grate your vegetables, either with a grater or food processor. Squeeze out any extra water and put in a large mixing bowl.

4. Put your cilantro and black beans in a food processor and blend until smooth with a hummus-like consistency (alternatively, I suppose you could just mash them up). Mix with grated vegetables.  Add lentil/onion mixture, and stir until well combined. Add beaten eggs and mix completely.

5. Pour into prepared pans and cook until top is brown and middle is set, about 25-30 minutes for cupcake tins and 55-60 minutes for loaf pans.

Roasted Turkey with Cinnamon and Star Anise

26 Sep

Greetings from the couch, where a nasty upper respiratory infection has kept me for the last several days. In the early days of the blog, I wrote an impassioned prescription for the uninsured; this time I can sing the praises of Flonase, which is the only thing that has brought me a moment’s comfort, courtesy of my awesome Primary Care Provider.  (To that end, October 1st is coming–check out your local Health Exchange if you need the hook-up to illness-altering drugs. And for all my fans in Canada–well, you just keep enjoying that single-payer system.)

Okay, so back to turkey. Right. So, a year ago BFKef received a turkey from his employer in a very Scrooge-on-Christmas-morning move. We had been meaning to cook it for, well…a year and finally decided that the best time to serve it up would be on my birthday. It didn’t really make sense to me either, but I found myself getting more and more excited about baking that bird as the date drew near.

Luckily, I have saved every November Bon Appetit issue since 2003 for a moment exactly like this one. I chose a recipe that came from the November 2011 issue, which called for a cider brine with star anise and cinnamon.  I assembled all the ingredients on the list (which was, admittedly, a bit long, even for me) only to find out that the good people of Trader Joe’s had pre-brined the turkey for us. Womp. Lesson learned- read your bird’s label, people!


So- I will post the recipe as we made it (sans brine)– but you should certainly give the ol’ cinder brine a try and let us know how it went. For proportion reference, ours was a 15-pounder!

Chef Kefi’s Birthday Bird


  • 1 pre-brined turkey, thawed, giblet/neck removed, rinsed, and dried
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 16 whole black peppercorns
  • 12 whole star anise pods
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • about 5 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 TBS cinnamon
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples,  cored and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup of mushrooms (shitake if you’re feeling fancy, regular if not), chopped
  • a few citrus fruits, chopped (use whatever’s in the fridge- we used 2-3 lemons and 2-3 limes, plus 1 clementine)
  • 32 oz apple cider


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Put butter, peppercorn, star anise, garlic, green onions, ginger, cinnamon, and cilantro in food processor and grate until a seasoned butter has formed. It took me about 3 minutes of processing, more or less.

2. Place your bird in a roasting pan on a rack and gently loosen the skin so you can stick your hands between the skin and the meat. I can’t give you any helpful hints on this one because I made BFKef do this dirty job. Carefully push as much butter as you can in between the skin and the meat. Spread the remaining butter all over the exterior of the bird.

3. Mix the apples, onions, mushrooms, and citrus together. Throw some in the cavity and the rest between the bird and the pan. Truss the bird if you feel so inclined (we didn’t). Pour apple cider into pan around the bird. Put turkey in oven.

4. Call every parent you have between you and whoever you’re cooking with so they can each tell you a different roasting scheme, even if they have been cooking turkeys with another one of the parents-in-counsul since the early 1980s. Opt instead to follow Trader Joe’s instructions, which are as follows:
— 400F for 30 minutes
— Turn oven down to 325, roast for another 90 minutes
— Take turkey out to baste generously and then tent with tin foil
— Continue roasting per poundage guidelines until someone more experienced than you says its done (or the meat thermometer you just happen to have hanging out says that the thigh is 165F). For us, it took a little less than 4 hours.

5. Let cooked bird rest for 20-30 minutes before serving. Let your beaming BF carve in front of a crowd. Enjoy.


Aunt Carole’s Microwavable Sherried Chicken and Spinach Casserole

18 Sep

Okay friends- the truth is that I use my microwave for storage. With the exception of microwave popcorn, I really don’t see the point of these things. Whatever–if Carrie Bradshaw can keep sweaters in her oven, I can keep pie tins in my microwave.

But, seeing as the rest of the world seems to find a use for this nearly-universal appliance, I present to you today: my Aunt Carole’s Sherried Chicken and Spinach casserole.  She made this for me in 2003 (back when I ate meat) and I have never forgotten it.   Imagine my shock when, after the fourth helping, I learned that the whole thing had been made in the microwave! My world was shattered. There are a lot of truly wonderful things about my Aunt Carole, not the least of which being that she always shares her most-delicious recipes.

Anyway, for those of you less-scandalized than I am by teeny tiny rays of energy that can cook a meal in a very small box, enjoy this delicious, too-easy-to-be-true casserole.

Aunt Carole’s Microwavable Sherried Chicken and Spinach Casserole


  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 20 oz frozen chopped spinach
  • 1.5 c shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 c shredded cheddar
  • 1 can (10 oz) cream of chicken soup
  • 3 TBS cooking sherry
  • 1/2-3/4 c breadcrumbs
  • paprika, to taste


1. Combine onion and 1 TBS butter in large measuring cup. Cook on high (in microwave!) until onion is tender, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add onion and butter to spinach and toss lightly. Spread in a 10-inch microwave safe baking dish (read: no aluminum!) and sprinkle chicken on top.

3. Combine soup, cheese, and sherry in a 1-qt bowl and mix well. Cook on high (in microwave!) for 4 minutes. Remove and stir to melt cheese. Pour cheese sauce over chicken.

4. Combine breadcrumbs and remaining butter (3 TBS) in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high for 1 minute. Stir butter throughout bread crumbs to blend. Spread butter/crumb mixture on top of cheese sauce and sprinkle with paprika.

5. Cook uncovered on high for 10-12 minutes.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake (Or, What I Ate For Breakfast)

16 Sep

Ever since I added ice-cream cake to the list of things I know how to make, I’ve been dreaming of all the possible renditions of amazingness I could serve at future occasions. Because 16 Sept is Mexican Independence Day, National Hot Dog Day, and National Play-Doh Day, I figured this weekend was good as any to throw a fall-themed pot luck. Oh, right, and it was my birthday–so a cake seemed in order.

As you may recall, last year’s cake was a narrowly-averted disaster that had me teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown just a few hours before guests started arriving. Since I am almost an old woman and need to reserve my anxiety for things that actually matter, I decided that this year I  would make myself an ice cream cake–in addition to being  extremely delicious, they go into the freezer looking a hot mess and come out looking impressive and professional–perfect for those of us who just can’t be bothered with presentation. I like to think of them as the before/after segment of “What Not to Wear” without all the gender-/class-normative commentary from Stacy London.

(Speaking of awesome accessories, my “I Love Cake” pin has become a birthday tradition!)


Lucky 27


And Number 28!

Okay back to the cake. Hell bent on making another gluten-free/sugar-free dessert my whole party could enjoy, I decided on a salted caramel ice cream with a FIG jam ribbon layered with last year’s chocolate birthday cake and a praline crunch. This time, I followed the Babycakes recipe exactly (xantham gum and all–full recipe link below), and actually found that the weird version I made last year was better–go figure.  But this one was dense and froze/thawed nicely so Erin McKenna still reigns supreme.


No-Stress Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake


  • 1 batch salted caramel ice cream + 1 extra batch caramel, for crunch and garnish
  • Enough chocolate cake* for at least two layers. Make your cake in whatever pan you plan to use to freeze your assembled ice-cream cake in–best is a deep-dish springform pan; short of that– something with removable sides; and short of that… I suppose you could also do it in a rectangular pyrex
  • 8 oz raw pecans, finely ground
  • 3 TBS butter


1. Take ice cream out of freezer to melt a bit.

2. Your cooled cakes should be in at least two layers. Using the Babycakes recipe above, my cakes were dense and about 1-1.25 inches thick, so they were great as is. You want layers that are thin but firm, so, slice your cakes horizontally if you need to.

3. Melt 3 TBS butter in a sauce pan. Add ground pecans and coat in melted butter. Cook over medium heat until toasted. Mix with a heavy coating of extra caramel sauce and set aside.

4. Once ice cream is melted enough to be spreadable, assemble cake by layering chocolate cake, ice cream, and crunch, in that order, ending with ice cream.  If you need a little more room at the top, cut strips of tin foil and tuck them into pan–they will come off easily from frozen ice cream.

5. Thaw for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra caramel sauce.


*A note on the true Babycakes version: I would substitute canola oil for the coconut oil because the coconut flavor gets really concentrated when you freeze the cake, as coconut oil has a verrrrry low tolerance for cold.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

16 Sep

I hunted and hunted for the perfect salted caramel ice cream recipe and am excited to say that I have stumbled upon it! No  preamble to this recipe today, just a few notes:

#1- I used unrefined coconut sugar instead of cane sugar here because I have made caramel dozens of times before. If you have never made caramel with cane sugar, I do not suggest making any substitutions during your first foray into the matter. Caramel is not difficult but it is finicky and, as coconut sugar has a lower tolerance for heat than cane sugar, there is a high margin for error if you don’t know what you’re doing. So-make one chock FULL of cane sugar and then make another batch with coconut sugar once you’ve mastered the browning process. Then you get to devour this twice.

#1a- I practice what I preach– I want very much to try a truly Paleo version of this by using coconut or almond milk, but as this was my first test of caramel ice cream, I went with what I knew. If you are already a seasoned ice cream maker and try an alternate milk, please report back!

#2- This recipe is a research paper, not an original dissertation. I read lots of recipes and comments to come to this particular recipe- most helpful were the proportions in and user comments on this Epicurious recipe (very worth it to read the comments), this Paleo version, and this yummy version with FIGS!  As such, this recipe uses a single batch of the caramel and doubles the custard-  you can trust your girl Chef Kef or millions of Epicurious users who thought the 1:1 caramel-to-custard ratio was life changing. Your choice.

#4- You will want to eat this everyday. Make with caution!

#5- Your cat probably won’t like the sound of the ice cream machine. Oliver Tambo was one intelligence report away from launching a full-scale military intervention against the motor-led insurgency.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Worth Every Second of Feline Angst


  • 1.25 c dry sugar of your choice (see #1 above before you get any cute ideas)
  • 3.25 c heavy cream or half and half, divided
  • 1-2 tsp  sea salt
  • 1/2 TBS vanilla paste (or extract)
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 c fig jam (optional)


1. To make the caramel sauce: Put 1 cup sugar in heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a fork to evenly heat sugar. After a few minutes, it will begin to melt. Continue stirring with fork and continually redistribute melted sugar from the center of the pan toward the outside to spread heat.  I found a nice rhythm of moving pan on and off of heat to avoid burning– when things were getting really melty I removed pan and gave a few stirs, then put it back on and stirred, then took it off, etc until it was a nice, melted consistency throughout.

2. While the sugar is melting, heat 1.25 cup cream until it is JUST showing the teensiest bubbles.

3. Once the sugar is melted and the cream is bubbling, pour about 1/4 c of the cream into the milk, whisking pretty furiously (it will splatter- do not worry, that is what we expect). Remove the sugar from heat and very slowly and add the rest of the cream.  This is where things will get a little hairy–just keep whisking and the bits of hard sugar will melt into the warm cream eventually. If you find that you are getting no where, return to your on-and-off heat dance described in step 1 and have patience. The sugar will dissolve and you will have a lovely caramel sauce.

4. Once sugar and cream have formed a nice sauce, add 1/2 TBS vanilla paste and 1-2 tsp sea salt, depending on how salty you like your salted caramel. Pour caramel into a bowl and set aside to cool.

5. To make the custard base: Combine 2 cups milk, remaining 2 cups of cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium sauce pan and bring JUST to a boil using medium heat. Meanwhile, lightly whisk 6 eggs in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk two cups of the just-boiling milk mixture into the eggs, then slowly pour the contents of the mixing bowl back into the  pot of milk/cream/sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Allow the mixture to build in thickness and reach 170F–it will now be custardy.

6. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer (I did not have one and so I skipped this step–the rest of the world says that you should not DARE skipping this– choose your own adventure there). Stir cooled caramel into custard and chill until cold, at least 3 hours.

7. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Transfer to air tight container and freeze until ready to devour. If you want to add anything (AHEM- FIG JAM!), let the ice cream firm up just a bit, mix in your fun of choice, and then return back to the freezer to firm up all the way.

Quote 16 Sep

Food is about making an interaction with ingredients. If you talk to them, they will always tell you a story.

– Jose Andres


“There’s no san…

11 Sep

“There’s no sanctuary more qualified to restore one’s sense of humanity… than time spent around a dinner table with one’s family and friends.” — Terrance Brennan

I always find it helpful on this strange day to take stock in the many amazing things and people this world presents to us. For me, it is less about “never forgetting” the terror of that day and more about “always remembering” the ways in which we can be kinder, more generous citizens of the world. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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