Monday, February 22, 2010

Orange Cornmeal Cake.

It's funny how sometimes we associate citrus with warmer weather because where I come from at least, oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are in season in the winter. But no one can argue that their bright, sunny shapes bring some much-needed freshness to life during the cold months of winter.

I found this recipe on Orangette recently and knew it would be a welcome addition to our Sunday dinner with my sister-in-law and brother. Rachel has Celiac disease, so it needed to be gluten free, and I substituted the cake flour with my favorite gluten free flour but made no substitutions other than that and using orange zest for lemon, and serving it with vanilla bean frozen yogurt instead of whipped cream.

This is how I prefer my cornmeal - sugared and dolled up, and when people ask if I like my cornbread sweet, the answer is absolutely, positively, yes. (Sorry to my southern friends!! <3)

Orange Cornmeal Cake with Apricot Jam and Frozen Yogurt
1 1/4 cups cake flour
6 tablespoons fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange (or lemon)
To serve:
1/2 cup apricot jam (or your favorite)
Frozen yogurt, ice cream, or whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a 9'' round cake pan with baking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Cream the butter, zest and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Spread the batter in the cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, and when ready to serve, invert onto a plate. I sprinkled mine with powdered sugar and put the jam in the middle for presentation purposes, but you could obviously just slice the cake and serve the jam and frozen yogurt on the side, letting people take as much as they please.

My niece Keira put sprinkles on her frozen yogurt and had 2 slices of this cake. Kid-friendly is always a plus, right? :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Date Pecan Orange Bread.

Sometimes I bake because I want to, sometimes because I'm stressed. Sometimes I bake out of necessity - case in point, my mom likes to shop at wholesale clubs, especially for baking ingredients and we somehow ended up with TWO 10lb. bags of dates. We love dates here at my house though, so this isn't a problem, luckily! I plan on making date bars, date muffins and maybe even date rugelach. My mother also likes to stock up on oranges in the winter - and why not? They're cheap, plentiful and beautifully sweet. This recipe uses both perfectly.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other night and knew right away I had to make it. Deb adapted it from Ina Garten which I found surprising considering it only contains a mere 4 tablespoons of butter instead of 2 sticks or more as is the case with most Barefoot Contessa recipes! I didn't make many changes except I don't keep orange liqueur around the house - my family are more wine/beer/whiskey type of people! Anyway, I used a splash of Amaretto and substituted orange juice for the rest.

This bread should have been included in my last post about comfort food, but I guess you can never have too many recipes for that sort of thing, can you? :) It made my house smell warm and cozy with its spices and orange zest - the best scents you could ask for a dark, snowy Thursday afternoon in late February.

Date Pecan Orange Bread
2 cups (10 ounces) coarsely chopped, pitted dates
1/3 cup orange liqueur (or whatever you have)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 oranges
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (I used the juice of 3 large oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and spray or butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dates and the orange liqueur and let sit for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the dates all get some of the liquid.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add the egg, zest and vanilla and mix. Sift the flour, spices and salt and add to the butter mixture, alternately with the orange juice, ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the pecans and the dates with their liquid.

Pour into the loaf pan and smooth the top. I added 5 pecans down the top of mine because my loaf cakes never rise the way they should and I thought it would help it look prettier - feel free to leave these off or you could even sprinkle some turbinado sugar instead. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a knife comes out clean.

Let cool in the loaf pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sick of Winter.

I think one of the toughest parts about dieting during the winter is the lack of comfort foods I can have. Comfort foods are notoriously and infamously rich, buttery, creamy, cheesy, chocolatey, the list goes on - not food you can eat a lot of (or frankly, any) while dieting. I couldn't tell you the last time I even had a mug of nice, steamy hot cocoa. (Clocking in at around 200 calories per mug, I refuse to drink skim milk :D)

I guess you could say my mid to late February is a lot like most people's January - since January is my birthday month, I still have something nice to look forward to after the holidays. This year, my best friend and his family came to visit me the first week of February and we had a blast. They've been gone for just over a week now. I miss everyone, my house is so quiet, and looking out my window at the snow falling, the icy roads, I want to eat an entire casserole dish of macaroni and cheese and a chocolate fudge cake.

Instead, I bring you a fairly lo-cal granola from Cooking Light. Cooking Light is an amazing resource for dieters (or those who are just smartly watching what they eat) because they lighten recipes but they still keep the flavors of the original dish and in some cases, add even more flavor than before. I had a hankering for some granola last night and looked around at many different recipes and was surprised at how NOT lo-calorie it is. This version is possibly one of the best granola recipes I've had and you'd never know it doesn't have all the calories of other versions. I know granola doesn't seem very comforting, but after I made this, I sat down with a bowlful of it and a dollop of yogurt and it made me feel better. Besides, I tend to consider anything you can eat in a bowl comfort food. Just a couple more months of everything being covered in white and ice (I hope), things will be green and lush soon. Just a few more months.

This is a modified version; the original also called for 1/3 cup of groud flaxseeds and 1/3 cup dried cranberries. I didn't want to limit myself to just cranberries, so feel to add any dried fruit you want after the baking process or when serving! I should note that I used mango-flavored orange juice as well and I love the way it smelled while baking, but you can't taste it in the final granola.

Power Granola from Cooking Light
Serves 9 (serving size = 1/2 cup)
2 cups oats (I used quick-cooking, I suppose rolled would be better, but mine was delicious anyway)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine the orange juice, honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in oil and vanilla.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the oats and stir well to combine. Spread the mixture thinly on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir the granola and bake for another 10-15 minutes (although mine took much longer, I wanted it crispy so I let it bake for another half hour or so). Let cool completely, add any dried fruit you'd like and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

(Calories per 1/2 cup serving with dried fruit: approximately 196)