Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clementine Cake

Clementine Cake
I am not a frivolous person.  I am frugal, practical, efficient but not frivolous.  I despise wastefulness.  At this stage of my life I have pretty much everything I need.  When Christmas rolls around I am sure to tell my husband and kids I do not need anything and please do not go buy stuff just so there is something under the tree for me.  Really.  That is what will make me happiest. 

And that is just what I said to them back in November.  Until one day this little catalog came in the mail from Pier One Imports.  Oh - I also do not bake much.  I am not good at it.  I drool over dessert and baking blogs but I leave it to them.  My cakes never look like theirs. Nor my cookies, or cake pops, or cupcakes.  Luckily I have kids so I let them do the decorating and then it is okay that it does not look like theirs.   So back to that little catalog that arrived in the mail.  In it was this beautiful cake stand.  For some reason I wanted it.  And I did not stop wanting it.  Usually I can talk myself out of pretty much any purchase.  But not this.  It is definitely not practical.  It is totally frivolous.  Really not me at all.  But I wanted it all the same and made sure everyone knew it.  So here it is.  I found it under the Christmas tree.

I promised that from now on I will put all the birthday cakes in it.  But I did want to try it out.  So today I made a cake.  I wanted something light and refreshing.  Something that would make the stand the star.  I had just purchased a box of clementines and they turned out to be perfect.  I pieced together this recipe and for once it came out exactly as I wanted it to.  It is perfect with a cup of hot tea. 

Isn't it beautiful?!

Clementine Cake

Ingredients for cake:

2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4-5 clementines to make puree (to make 1 1/3 cups)
1 tablespoon apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350. One eight cup cake pan or bundt pan well greased and floured. 

1.  Remove the zest from the clementines.  I found this easiest to do with a carrot peeler.  Place the fruit and the zest in a food processor or blender and puree. Strain 1/3 cup of the juice and set aside for syrup and glaze.  You should have about one cup puree remaining.  Do not strain remaining puree - leave in the pureed fruit and zest. 
2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3.  Using a hand blender blend the eggs and sugar together until the eggs are light and the sugar is dissolved.  Blend in the oil and the 1 cup of puree.  Blend in the flour mixture.
4.  Pour into cake pan and bake 50 - 55 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  Turn the oven off. Remove from the oven and poke holes all over the cake with a skewer.  Pour the syrup slowly over the cake.  Put the cake back in the oven for 5 minutes. 
5.  Remove the cake from the oven and let stand 5 minutes more.  Then gently loosen the cake and turn it onto a plate.  Melt the apricot jam and lightly brush a thin layer all over the cake.  Let the cake cool completely.
6.  When the cake is cool make the glaze and drizzle it over the cake.  Place the cake on a beautiful cake stand and enjoy!

Ingredients for syrup:

Reserved strained puree
1/4 cup sugar

1. Remove 1 tablespoon of the clementine juice and set aside for glaze.  Put the rest in a small pan.  Add the sugar and bring the a simmer.  Stir and cook until the sugar is dissolved completely. 

Ingredients for glaze:

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon reserved clementine juice
1 cup confectioners sugar

1 Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave.  Add juice and sugar.  Whisk until smooth.  Drizzle over cake.  This glaze sets up pretty quickly so make it right before you will be using it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I am sad to say my leg of lamb is almost gone.  It has made such delicious meals and snacks, from the roast which we enjoyed for dinner, then as lamb sandwiches to the dolmades which we had for snacks and lunches to this final post:  Gyros.  Gyros are a family favorite and they really are not hard to make at home. 

We enjoyed them in the traditional way stuffed inside pita bread with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, lettuce and red onion but if you are watching your carbs you can turn this into a fantastic salad.  Just make a Greek salad with all the fixings - lettuce, tomato, olives, cucumber, feta cheese -  and top it with the heated gyro meat.  Serve it with Greek salad dressing and tzatziki sauce.  How good does that sound?

By the way, I use full fat Greek yogurt for the tzatziki sauce.  It is so rich and creamy.  You know when you eat at a Greek restaurant how rich and smooth the tzatziki sauce is?  Well that is why.  No fat free versions here.  And you are not using anymore here than that huge dollop of sour cream you put on your baked potato.  In addition, the yogurt contains those good for you probiotics people pay extra money for at the drug store.  This is a much yummier way to get them!  If you do choose fat free yogurt (which will still be good) make sure it is Greek yogurt.  Any other kind will just be watery.  No exceptions - it must be Greek.

This recipe makes enough gyro meat to stuff 6 pita breads.  Prepare the meat a day in advance as it needs to chill overnight.

Pack the meat mixture into a loaf pan lined with foil.  Leave enough foil over hanging to cover meat later.
Slice the chilled meat fairly thin.
Brown the meat on both sides in a non stick skillet coated with oil or bacon fat.

Ingredients for the Gyro meat:

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup very finely diced onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Heat oven to 325.  Line a loaf pan with foil long enough to extend over the side of the loaf pan. 

Mix all the ingredients together well and pack it into the loaf pan.  Leave the foil hanging over the side, it will be used later.  Bake the meat for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and drain off fat.  Now use the foil to cover the meat and place some heavy cans on top to weight the meat down.  Place it in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to serve, remove the meat from the pan and slice it thinly.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and coat the bottom with oil (or bacon fat as I did).  Put the gyro meat in the pan in a single layer and brown on both sides.  It is now ready to serve. 

Ingredients for Tzatziki Sauce

1 medium cucumber
2 cups plain Greek yogurt, I used full fat but it will taste good with fat free Greek yogurt.
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Peel the cucumber if waxed.  Grate it on the large holes of a cheese grater.  Place it in a colander and toss it with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile combine remaining ingredients except salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil and vinegar to taste.  When the cucumber has sat for 10 minutes use your hands and really squeeze it to remove all the water.  This way it will not water down your tzatziki.  Once it is really well drained add it to the sauce.  Then season with salt and pepper. 

Build your gyros. 


1 package pita bread (6 pieces)
Gyro meat, heated
sliced tomato
sliced red onion
tzatziki sauce

Preheat oven to 200.  Wrap the pita bread in foil and heat for 10 to 15 minutes to soften while preparing everything else.  Once heated let everyone make their own gyro to taste with all the yummy ingredients.


Monday, January 5, 2015



I love Greek food and I love lamb.  Yesterday I made dolmades with some of the ground lamb from
my leg of lamb.  They really do need to chill so we did not have them until today.  They were so good!  We are truly being spoiled this week!

Every time I opened the fridge I would sneak one!   There are as many recipes for this dish as there are cooks but here is mine.  I like a lot of rice because I like the way it plumps up and fills out the grape leaves.  By the way - I use jasmine rice for most everything because I just think it tastes better.  The only exceptions would be sushi or paella. 

Simmer until water is absorbed.

Snip off tough stems. 

Use about 1 1/2 teaspoons for each grapevine leaf. 

Line a large skillet with the leftover leaves.  Place the filled leaves in the skillet. 

Place an inverted plate over the leaves.  Add water to just cover the stuffed leaves, bring to a simmer and cover and cook on low for 1 and 1/4 hours.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion finely diced
1/2 cup scallions finely chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/2 pound ground lamb
1  cup jasmine rice
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parley
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 one pound jar grapevine leaves

For serving:  Fresh lemons, good fruity olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute the onion and scallions until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add the lamb, rice, dill, parsley, pine nuts and lemon juice.  Add 1 cup of water.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Take into account that these are going to expand some more so the seasoning will be diluted. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until the water is absorbed.  The rice will not be cooked at this point.

Let the rice mixture cool.  Meanwhile remove the grapevine leaves to a colander and rinse well to remove the brine.

 Lay the leaves out on a board and clip off the tough stem. Fill each leaf with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the rice mixture.  Start rolling, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to make a cylinder. 

Take any leaves that remain and line the bottom of a large skillet with them.  Arrange the stuffed grapevine leaves on top.  Place an inverted plate over top.  Add enough water to just cover the leaves (about 1  1/2 cups).  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer one hour and 15  minutes.  You may need to add a little more water after 50 to 60 minutes to keep the bottom of the pan moist. 

Thoroughly chill the dolmades.  When ready to serve place them on a plate.  Drizzle with a good fruity olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Roast Leg of Lamb

Right about the last week of the year, if you are very lucky, you will walk into Costco and the boneless leg of lamb will be on sale for $3.99 a pound.  The sale only seems to last a day or two so you must hit it just right.  Last year (December 2013) I caught it and bought one.  Then of course thought why did I not get two and when I went back a day or so later they were back to regular price.

This year I did buy two!  And when I was back a few days ago - they were back to regular price. 

I put one in the freezer and tonight started on the other one.  The leg of lamb was just shy of 4 1/2 pounds.  I cut off a two pound portion that was kind of flat and butterflied.  The other two pound portion was a big chunk.  Tonight we had the butterflied portion as a roast for dinner.  I ground the other portion and made Dolmades and Gyro meat.  I will tell you about those tomorrow because we have not had them yet as both have to chill and there are no pictures of the finished dish. 

The roast was simple and delicious and made some fabulous leftovers that will be terrific on sandwiches tomorrow.  So without further ado here is my simple Roast Leg of Lamb:

Season the inside of the lamb with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Tie the roast with kitchen twine.  Place on a rack in a casserole or use fresh rosemary.

Let the roast rest for 10 to 15 minutes, slice thinly and serve. 

a 2 pound leg of lamb portion, butterflied
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 500.  Open up the lamb and season the inside well with salt and pepper.  Rub the inside with 1/2 the garlic.  Place the sprig of rosemary inside and close up and tie the lamb into a roast.

Make a couple of slits in the lamb to allow the seasoning to penetrate.  Season the outside of the lamb with salt, pepper, the remaining garlic and the chopped rosemary.

I used a bed of rosemary to set the roast on or you can use a rack.  Pour the wine into the pan.  Set the roast into the pan fat side up.

Roast at 500 for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 350 for another 20 minutes for rare, 30 minutes for medium.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes.  Slice thinly and serve.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Best Homemade Croutons

Happy New Year and Welcome 2015! 


I really do not know where to start with this post.  I have been mostly absent this last year as I have been through some major emotional events.  My life will be forever different but that is life isn't it?  Always changing.  It is truly amazing how much we humans want to resist change yet it is so inevitable.  I am so thankful to have my family and friends.  They are the best anyone could ask for.  So we continue.

I have been in the kitchen.  I just have not been posting.  My New Year's Resolution is to blog more often.  I have so much to share. 

I am starting with something simple here.  I make these all the time.  I know that many a New Year's Resolution is going to include weight loss and dieting.   That must mean lots of salads.  No doubt many will be low carb as that is the current trend.  You need not load up on carbs but a few of these babies sprinkled on your salad will not harm you and will make it much easier to stick with the plan.  They are light, airy and crunchy and fairly melt in your mouth. 

These are so good my family often does not wait for the salad but eats them out of hand straight from the container. 

They would make an awesome hostess gift, packed in a fancy container and bagged up with some salad tongs and a fancy dressing! 

This recipe calls for tossing the bread cubes in the pan with the cold butter.  As the butter melts it coats the cubes more evenly than if you tossed the cubes into already melted butter in which case only a portion of them would get coated. These are so much better than those things you buy in the salad dressing aisle.  They are so easy to make too.  There really is no excuse not to. 

The reason this works is because each little cube of bread gets a light coating of butter before being baked to crisp perfection.  Do plan ahead.  It is best to work with day old French bread because it is easier to slice without it squishing up under the knife.  So here it is - The Best Homemade Croutons..

Cut day old bread into 1/2 inch cubes.

Toss in a skillet over low heat with 2 chunks of butter so it slowly melts and coats each cube.


1 12 oz loaf day old French bread
Scant 1teaspoon garlic salt (I used Lawry's), divided
Scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
4 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces.

Preheat oven to 200.

Cut loaf in half and using 1/2 at a time cut loaf into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Then cut each slice into 1/2 inch cubes.

Transfer cubes to a large skillet.  Sprinkle them with a scant 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons of cold butter to the skillet.

Place the skillet over low heat and toss the bread constantly as the butter melts.  What this does is make sure that each cube gets a hit of butter.  Once the butter is completely melted toss the cubes for a few seconds more to absorb it all. 

Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the other half of the loaf and spread on a separate baking sheet.  Place the croutons in the oven.  Set the timer for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes use a spatula to toss the croutons around.  Return them to the oven for another 8 minutes.  Toss and turn them and then go 8 more minutes.  They should be nice and perfectly crisp now.  pack them in an airtight container.