Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lazy Happy Birthday Cake -- Easiest Homemade Cake Ever!

This is the easiest bestest most deliciousest chocolate cake on planet earth. I've mentioned it a few times before.  It's from the best food blog on earth, Smitten Kitchen. If you have time to make the whole recipe of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake your guests are very lucky.  I have made it for several birthdays or important celebrations and every time someone in the crowd says it's the best cake they have ever had.
Well, when you don't have time to do the whole thing, like I didn't this weekend for my friend Elisa's birthday dinner, I used the cake part of the recipe (super fast in one bowl with just a whisk!  No mixer needed even!), whipped up some cream with orange rind and orange liqueur, and did a little decorating to make it look a little more impressive. 
So, here's how to make a super easy birthday cake:
  1. Soak Orange Slices (or berries!) in Orange Liqueur while you make the cake.
  2. Make the Smitten Kitchen Chocolate Cake (click on the above link)
  3. Whip up two (2) pint containers of heavy whipping cream with orange rind of two or three oranges (to taste), a splash of orange liqueur and some powdered sugar (to taste). 
  4. Once the cake is completely cooled (seriously, completely -- don't learn the hard way, like I did! LOL!) slather whipped cream on first layer.
  5.  Add orange slices (or berries!) and a sprinkle of toasted pecan pieces.
  6. Proceed to the next layer.  This is a three layer cake so you have one more layer to do before you get to the top!
  7. Slather the entire cake with the whipped cream -- which is so much easier to spread than frosting, so it's super fast!
  8. Decorate as you see fit! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lazy Delicious Goat Cheese Spread

Last weekend I went to a lovely party and my friend Karl brought a most scrumptious goat cheese dip buzzing with oregano and garlic deliciousness.  It was the perfect cheese dip/spread, the fresher-far-more-amazing version of Rondele Garlic & Herb Cheese Spread from my childhood. 

It was so incredible I asked for his recipe and decided to make it this weekend.  I went to Trader Joe's to get the ingredients and ran into the Pita Crisps with Cranberries & Pumpkin Seeds and was immediately inspired on a twist to Karl's dip specifically designed to got with these Crisps. 
Pumpkin Goat Cheese Dip
  • 1 11 oz. package of Trader Joe's SIlver Goat Chevre
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Thyme, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds (or regular ones if you can't find sprouted ones)
  • Drizzle of Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
 Put goat cheese in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften.  Mix in all the rest of the ingredients. Decorate with a few whole pumpkin seeds.  I served with a few different kinds of crackers and carrots, but the Cranberry/Pumpkin Crisps with their sweetness against the savory garlicky dip is pretty awesome. 
Karl Hamann's Goat Cheese Spread
  • 1 8 oz. package goat cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper (+ more to taste) 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Microwave the goat cheese in a small bowl until it warms up and softens. Add garlic, herbs, pepper, and one tablespoon olive oil. Whip ingredients together until creamy.
Add more olive oil if necessary – mixture should be nice and creamy.

You can add more garlic and more pepper to taste.  Best served warm with toasted slices of fresh baguette.



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lazy Lovely Tomato Soup

I was in D.C. last week. I had a mighty delicious tomato soup at Founding Farmers.  I highly recommend it.  The tomato soup/grilled cheese lunch is divine.

But the following day I ended up at Fiola and the chef sent out a small elegant oval bowl of tomato soup that made me swoon.  Look at this gorgeousness!

When I got back to LA I immediately got to work trying to recreate it, and I got very damn close. Close enough for my taste buds.   And it's super lazy!!!

I've now served it to two different groups of friends and they all asked for the recipe. Here's how I did it:


2 pounds heirloom tomatoes (mixture of yellow, green + red)
1 pound baby roma tomatoes
2 medium onions
6 cloves garlic
1 28 oz can tomatoes (San Marzano or another good Italian canned tomato)
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (or water + a splash of red wine -- see below) 
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, 1 or 2 Bay Leaves, Dried Basil (or fresh at the end of the cooking process)
Fresh Herbs and/or Cheese

Chop the large tomatoes, slice the onions and peel the garlic cloves.   Don't go crazy with how you chop. This should go fast. It's all going to be blended in the end so no need to make it pretty!

Toss with generous olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 450 for about 40 minutes 

Once roasted, toss it all into a pot.  Add the canned tomatoes, the stock, bay leaves, dried basil and red pepper flakes(if you don't like spicy, leave out the red pepper --I used between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon in mine for just a little kick). 

NOTE:  When I made this a second time, I found my pantry stock-less so I was stymied for a second.  Then in a super-lazy-I-refuse-to-go-to-the-market move,  I added filtered water and a big splash of red wine instead and it came out great! 

Simmer for about 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and use an immersion blender to smooth it all out into genuine soupy goodness. I added another bit of olive oil and simmered a bit longer.  

If you like creamy tomato soup, just add a splash of cream toward the end of the simmer.  But, before you do that, taste it, because you'll be amazed at how "creamy" it already is.  In fact my dining mates in D.C. all thought the soup at Fiola had cream in it, but I don't believe it did. I have no idea what their recipe entailed but I do know that roasted onions create a lot of creaminess when blended.  So, just give a quick taste before adding cream.

If you have fresh basil, you can add that at the end of the cooking process, instead of dried basil before the 30 minute simmer.  Also, if you don't like the tartness of tomato seeds you can put the soup through some cheesecloth after you blend it.  The texture will be spectacularly smooth and even!  I left it the way it was myself, but I have strained tomato soups and sauces in the past and it's easy and does give an excellent pristine texture.  I am guessing Fiola strained theirs because the texture was flawless.  I like mine with a little more heft and tartness, so I didn't strain it.
Final step, sprinkle some fresh herbs on top -- basil, flat parsley, dill, scallions -- whatever you've got and think will hit the mark for your taste buds.  For a second bowl -- after you've experienced the many layers of tomato flavors -- it's great with a little shaved parmesan on top.
Buon Appetito!