Monthly Archive for December, 2012

Cranberry Down-side Up Cake

This festive holiday cake is inspired by a recipe from Lindsey Shere, former longtime pastry chef at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California (one of my favorite restaurants). This is a perfect winter dessert – Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years (okay even Valentine’s Day) are all perfect times to make this treat as fresh cranberries are abundant in the winter months. If you can’t find fresh, then frozen ones will do the trick.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake



4 TBS unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 lb cranberries


1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

8 TBS unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

1/8 tsp cream of tartar


1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 TBS powdered sugar


Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper. To make the topping, place the butter and brown sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into prepared pan, making certain to cover evenly. Scatter the cranberries over the butter-sugar mixture. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, (approximately 2-3 minutes). Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk.

In another small bowl, using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Using the spatula, fold the whites into the batter.

Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the cake pan, spreading it evenly. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert onto a serving plate, let stand for 5 minutes, then lift off the pan.

To make the whipped cream, in a bowl, using a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the vanilla and confectioners sugar.

To serve, cut the cake into wedges and top with the whipped cream.

This recipe is a keeper. File it away, it always gets rave reviews!

Veronica’s Sweet Christmas Tamales

While this may *look* like a complicated recipe, it is *really* quite simple to make tamales. Time consuming, but simple. Don’t be afraid of the length of this recipe. I’ve tried to error on the side of being overly detailed. Since it was my first time making tamales, I wanted to ensure that any other novice tamale makers could also succeed. Total time to prepare and cook this large quantity of tamales (9 dozen) is about six hours. The recipe can certainly be cut in half but I recommend inviting some friends over and making a tamale party of it – extras can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later date.

Sweet Tamale Dough

Sweet Tamale Dough Ingredients

4.4 pounds Instant Corn Masa Mix – masa harina – (9 cups dry mix) or prepared masa without salt

2 TBS baking powder

3 (16 oz) packages shelled corn husks

4 cups sugar or to taste

2 cups vegetable oil

2 TBS vanilla (optional)

8 cups water, warm

red food coloring

green food coloring

Sweet Tamale Directions

Place corn husks in a large bowl, baking dish or pot, cover completely with water, and weigh down with a plate or bowl to fully submerge. Soak until husks are very pliable, about 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain, squeeze out excess water, and wipe dry.

Place raisins in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and soak until plumped, at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Using a large bowl or pot mix masa harina and sugar by hand, then add water and mix until a dough is formed with a consistency of thick batter. Mix oil and add vanilla together. Add oil mixture to masa and mix all ingredients until blended. Add baking powder and let dough rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in half and color half of the dough with the red food coloring and half with green food coloring. Mix until uniform in color.

Place a steamer basket in a large pot (or a tamale pot) and fill the pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Cover and bring the water to a simmer over low heat.

Lay a corn husk in the palm of your hand, or on a clean work surface, with the wide edge toward you (this is the bottom). Measure 1/3 cup dough and shape into a cylinder about 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Lay dough lengthwise in the center of the husk, leaving about a 1/2-inch border at the bottom.

Tightly close the left side of the husk over the filling and roll to the right as if rolling a cigar. Fold the top of the husk (the empty, tapered edge) back over the filled husk to close. (If your husks are particularly small or they don’t want to stay closed, use a bit of corn husk to tie them closed.) Repeat to make approximately 9 dozen tamales.

Arrange tamales upright in the steamer with the open ends facing up. (If making less than a full recipe, the steamer could be too big to hold all of the tamales snugly together, in which case you can place a small heatproof bowl upside down in the center to stabilize the tamales). Cover with a plastic bag and steam until the dough is set, no longer raw-tasting, and pulls away easily from the husks when unwrapped, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn the heat off and let the tamales rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Sweet Tamale Fillings

Sweet Tamale Fillings Optional Ingredients

1 cup coconut

3 apples diced with skin

1 can of pineapple tidbits, without syrup

1-2 cups raisins, plumped in water

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts or pine nuts

12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

favorite jams (blackberry, apricot and strawberry are my favorites)

Alternative Filling Mixture

1 large apple, peeled and diced

2 oz package pecan, pieces

6 oz can pineapple pieces, drained

½ cup golden raisins (or plain raisins)

1 cup mozzarella cheese

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup coconut flakes

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Mix and toss until blended. This quantity is enough to fill 30-40 dried corn husks.

Barley Black Bean Burgers with Baked Parsnip Fries

For the last eight months I’ve been obsessed, practically on a quest to find the most amazing veggie burger. I had it narrowed down to a select few restaurants that made the cut, yet I felt there was more that could be done to entice even the stodgiest of carnivores. Mission accomplished- Barley Black Bean Burgers take center stage.

Barley Black Bean Burgers with Pesto Mayo

Barley Black Bean Burgers Ingredients

1 cup barley, cooked

30 oz can black beans, drained

1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 cup mushrooms, minced

1 cup zucchini, minced

1 cup yellow onion, minced

8 slices provolone cheese

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3 TBS garlic powder

1/2 TBS garlic salt

pepper to taste

2 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 cup breadcrumbs


red onion, thinly sliced

mashed avocado


Barley Black Bean Burgers Directions

Bring barley and water to a boil in a saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the barley is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Mash black beans with a fork in a large bowl until thick and pasty. Stir in barley, black beans, basil, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, zucchini, onion, eggs, garlic powder, garlic salt, and black pepper into mashed black beans. Once well mixed, add in vinegar. Mix bread crumbs into bean mixture to form a sticky batter that holds together, adding more breadcrumbs if needed.

Divide batter into 6-8 patties. Add oil to non-stick frying pan. Cook on medium high heat until a slight dark brown crust forms, then flip using two spatulas. Alternatively, if you wish to grill the patties, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate. Generously grease a sheet of aluminum foil with oil. Place patties on aluminum foil, cook for about 8 minutes on each side.

Mayo Pesto Spread

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup pesto

Baked Parsnip Rosemary Fries

Parsnip Rosemary Fries Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut 3-1/2-inches

1 TBS fresh Rosemary, finely chopped

5 sprigs Rosemary

3 TBS olive oil

1 tsp paprika

kosher salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

2 TBS Parmesan cheese, finely grated (or 1/2 tsp cumin)

Parsnip Rosemary Fries Directions

Preheat oven to 450°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Mix parsnips, chopped rosemary, garlic, and oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out parsnips in a single layer. Scatter rosemary sprigs over. These springs will make the kitchen smell fantastic!

Roast for 10 minutes; turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes longer. Crumble leaves from rosemary sprigs over; discard stems and toss to coat. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, paprika or 1/2 tsp. cumin. Season to taste adding more spices, if desired.