INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

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From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

crackerstutorial

My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

cucumber

In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

zataregg

I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

blueberry-chia

for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

four-simple-recipes-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

IMPOSSIBLY CUTE BACON & EGG CUPS

Should I be embarrassed to blog about a “recipe” that is essentially two ingredients plus seasoning? Potentially, yes. But in reality I am not, because this non-recipe has a nice little unexpected twist to it: the bacon was pre-cooked sous-vide. WAIT!  Don’t run away, you can make it if you don’t have the Anova gadget sitting in your kitchen drawer. But I must say bacon cooked sous-vide and stored in the fridge waiting to shine in any recipe is a very nice item for the busy cook. Or any cook, actually, because this method gets quite a bit of the greasy “feel” of bacon out of the equation, and the texture will be superb.

bacon-egg-cups2

BACON AND EGG CUPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

several slices of bacon, preferably cooked sous-vide
large eggs
salt
Aleppo pepper (or pepper of your choice)

If cooking the bacon sous-vide, place the slices in a bag and submerge in the water-bath set to 147 F (64 C) overnight. I left mine 12 hours, but you can do it longer if more convenient.  At the end of the cooking time, a lot of fat will have accumulated inside the bag. You can save it if you like to cook with it, or discard it.  Place the cooked slices of bacon over paper towels to dry them well. Store them in the fridge until ready to use. If not using sous-vide, cook the bacon on a skillet, but do not allow it to get too brown or crispy.  Drain them well in paper towels before assembling the cups.

Heat the oven to 375 F (175 C).

Cover the bottom of a muffin baking tin with bacon, making sure to come up all the way to the top. Gently break an egg and place it inside. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake according to your preference. I like the egg yolks to be runny, so 10 to 15 minutes maximum will be enough.  If you like your eggs fully cooked, go for 20 minutes, but pay close attention, you don’t want to over-dry the egg.

Remove to a serving dish, and dig in!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made this recipe for the first time in July, and since then we’ve been cooking bacon sous-vide on a regular basis. To me, it takes bacon to a whole new level, cutting some of the harshness I find overpowering. If you get your pan screaming hot, you can get by simply searing one side of the bacon slice, as the whole thing is already perfectly cooked to start with. But, even if you crisp up both sides, the texture will be perfect.

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These little cups are perfect for breakfast, or a light lunch.  Having the bacon waiting in the fridge makes this preparation a breeze. All you need to do is warm up your oven (we use the Breville that heats up super fast), grab the muffin tin, and you are less than 20 minutes away from a nice meal.   I also made those using prosciutto and ham.  Both work very well, but the sous-vide bacon is my favorite. Keep also in mind that if you’d like a vegetarian version, cooked spaghetti squash strands can be a nice receptacle for the egg. I intend to blog about that sometime. The secret is to  be assertive in the seasoning, otherwise it can be a bit bland.

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For those interested, this is low-carb, Paleo-friendly, Whole30-friendly, but above all, it’s very very tasty!

impossibly-cute-bacon-and-egg-cups-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

TWO YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

THREE YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

FOUR YEARS AGO: On my desk

FIVE YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

POST-WORKOUT CHIA YOGURT BLISS

After blogging for more than seven years, every once in a while I wonder if I could be repeating myself?  Have I mentioned this before?  Have I said this in the past? Of course, a search in my own site could be helpful, but I prefer to go with the flow, if a thought crosses my mind and seems relevant enough, it becomes printed material.  So, if you’ve read before that I was probably the last person to join the Chia Seed Cheerleading Department, here I go with the encore. Truth is, the more I have it, the more I like it. They are gelatinous in nature, a bit slippery even, so if you have issues with some types of texture, they could be challenging for your taste bus. This texture thing bothered me at first, then a little less, and now I find chia seeds playful, fun, happy little beings. In this picture, you can see three variations of chia-yogurt concoctions that I like to have after working out.

compositeChia

 

CHIA-YOGURT BOWL OF BLISS

Basic mixture:

1/2 cup yogurt (full-fat)

1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds

1/8 cup of coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew milk

Optional additions:

Sweetener (agave, honey, brown sugar, date syrup)

Matcha powder

Mix it all together and leave in the fridge at least one hour, but overnight is best.

When ready to enjoy it, add the toppings of your choice. My favorites are toasted shredded coconut, toasted slivered almonds with a bit of cinnamon, toasted walnuts, blueberries, raspberries, diced apricots. I also love a little sprinkle of cocoa nibs. Every time I make it a little different, every time I tell myself I should make this exact version again “because this one is a winner.”   What can I say? I am easily amused.

to print the basic “recipe” click here

Something about this mixture of yogurt with chia seeds is quite satisfying after working out. During the week, I exercise before lunch or dinner, but on Saturdays and Sundays I really look forward to these little chia bowls. I make sure to get my basic mixture ready in the fridge the night before.  I once tried using store-bought blended yogurt with fruit, but decided it was too sweet for my taste. Full disclosure: very soon I will experiment with a different type of yogurt, a strike of genius from Sue. Take a look at her post, and be ready to be amazed! I can hardly wait to give it a try, but if you do it let me know in the comments (and of course, let Sue know too!).

😉

Chia-Yogurt Post-Workout Breakfast, from Bewitching Kitchen
ONE YEAR AGO: Tomato Tatin

TWO YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

SIX YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

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TORTA DE LIQUIDIFICADOR

Come again? 

🙂


The best translation for this Brazilian recipe would be “Blender Pie.” First, let’s learn how to say it like a native. Repeat after me, three times:
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Easy, right? I knew you could do it.

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I have a sister in Brazil who is 16 years older than me. By the time I got into my teens she was already married, throwing parties, and pretty involved into cooking. One of the things she used to make was this blender pie, but her favorite filling was tuna with green peas, black olives and tomatoes. Being the mega picky girl I was, I never touched that kind, preferring instead more friendly (and austere) versions with ham and cheese, at most a touch of oregano. The basic process is always the same, a thick batter is made in the blender, half of it gets poured into a baking dish, the filling of choice scattered on top, and the rest of the batter spread all over. It is comfort food by default, or as we say in Portuguese, por definição. I won’t sugar coat the pill, it is a bit heavy. Accept it and move on. As an appetizer a couple of small squares will be enough for each guest. If you’d like to serve it as dinner with a salad on the side this full recipe feeds six hungry people.

Blender Pie

TORTA DE LIQUIDIFICADOR
(BLENDER PIE)
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the “dough”
1 cup oil (I used canola)
2 cups milk (full-fat)
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano cheese
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the filling
caramelized onions
sautéed mushrooms
shredded mozzarella cheese
diced tomatoes
(or any other filling you like to use)

Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease or spray with oil a baking dish (9 x 13 or slightly smaller is fine).

Make the dough: add to a powerful blender all the ingredients, and blend for 5 minutes until completely smooth. Stop the blender and clean its sides a couple of times during the process.

Pour half of the batter in the prepared dish, add all ingredients for the filling on top, pour the rest of the batter, spreading gently with an offset spatula to enclose all the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes or until all puffed up and golden on top. Let it cool until just warm before cutting in slices. It can be prepared a couple of days in advance, to re-heat use a low oven, microwave is not recommended.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. You can pretty much use any filling you imagine: shredded barbecued chicken, ground beef with taco seasonings, roasted veggies, maybe some grilled shrimp, all doable. One popular version in Brazil uses corn and peas, green and yellow like the colors of the country. I do think cheese is pretty much mandatory in any kind of blender pie. If using shrimp or roasted veggies I suppose a bit of crumbled feta would be a nice option. No need to measure anything, just cover the extension of the baking dish with a hearty amount of filling.

I made this particular version for a reception we hosted. Keep in mind that in the span of two weeks we hosted three receptions for faculty and one pizza-party for our whole lab. After the pizza party we had some toppings leftover, so this Brazilian concoction of my past was a perfect choice to use it all up. But to make it more special, I prepared a batch of  caramelized onions, following this recipe from my friend Elaine. She used a clever method that allows caramelization to be an almost hands-free process, by making them in a low oven. I added a smidgen of balsamic vinegar to the onions, together with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Here they are, in a before and after shot…
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I intended to add black olives to the filling too, but found the bowl with pitted Kalamata staring at me right after shutting down the oven door. Not the first time I pull this type of trick on myself, I believe it won’t be the last. Black olives would have been wonderful… (sigh)

The little pie squares are irresistibly gooey due to all the cheese…

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So there you have it, a Brazilian concoction from my teenage years finally featured in the Bewitching Kitchen. I hope I made my sister proud!  

ONE YEAR AGO: Lamb Meatballs with Toasted Orzo

TWO YEARS AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Superman

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

SIX YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

WALNUT-RAISIN BRAN MUFFINS

Every single time I type raisin it comes as raising instead. Pumpkin more often than not becomes pumpking. You could assume I have issues with words that end with “in”, but when sous-vide first gets written as sous-vice, and kitchen turns to chicken that hypothesis falls flat on its face. Oh, well. The mind works in mysterious ways. Even more mysterious, though, is what constitutes the perfect bran muffin as far as my beloved is concerned.  It’s been a while since I baked a batch, so it’s time to share my latest attempt at reaching his Bran Muffin Nirvana. Keep in mind that they have to be big, very bran-y, and loaded with nuts and raisins. I adapted a very popular recipe from Heidi Swanson and surprised Phil one early Sunday morning with six jumbo-sized muffins. Just a side benefit of waking up full of energy at 4:30am…

Bran Muffin

 

BRAN MUFFINS WITH WALNUTS AND RAISINS
(adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe)

1 cup bran flake cereal
12 ounces full-fat yogurt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup diced walnuts, slightly toasted

Heat the oven to 400, and line 6 cups of a jumbo muffin pan with paper liners or grease them with butter.

In a small bowl, combine the cereal, yogurt and melted butter. Stir together very well, and let the cereal soak while you work with the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Stir the eggs and honey into the bowl with the bran cereal, then stir in the dry ingredients. Gently add the raisins and walnuts. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for about 22 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Amazing what almost seven years of blogging can do. I knew I had bran muffins on the site, but was shocked to see that this is my sixth recipe for this delicacy. What can I say? They are Phil’s favorite kind and my goal from the start was to bake the bran muffin of his dreams. Did I get there?  The asymptotic curve is getting closer to the top, I am told. The resident critic thought the amount of walnuts and raising raisins were spot on. The size was adequate. The texture got a nod of approval too. So, what’s the improvement needed? More bran. Not bran-y enough. Some people demand “more cowbell“, others demand more bran.  The quest for perfection is still on. But, in a way it’s  nice to have something to strive for…

muffin crumb

I wonder if Christopher Walken would also request a little more bran?

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: A Star is Born!

TWO YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

SIX YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

PALEO ENERGY BARS

First of all, let me state upfront the name “energy bars” irks me a little. Obviously, any food item is a source of energy. What would make something worthy of being labeled as energy bar? Going above a certain threshold in the number of kcal provided per bite?  Well, that’s a bit silly, if you ask me. But, just for the sake of keeping up with the trend, here I am to share with you a recipe for made-from-scratch “energy bars.”   Of the many commercially available cereal bars I’ve tried, I am fond of three:  Nature Valley Granola Bars,  Health Warrior Chia Bars, and Kind. As far as taste goes, my favorite would be Kind,  but the snag is that they are not at all kind to me: I end up with a  stomach ache half an hour or so after munching on one. No idea why, so I’ve decided it’s best to resist them. Phil loves Kind bars and they love him back. Go figure.  But, I am not here to advertise stuff you can get at the grocery store. Instead, I’ll offer a recipe to make some delicious bars in the comfort of your home…

Energy Bars

PALEO NUT ENERGY BARS
(slightly modified from Tastes of Lizzy T’s)

2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped almonds
20 dates, finely chopped
¾ cup egg whites (I used store-bought egg whites)
1 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamon seeds
1½ teaspoons vanilla

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
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In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. To prepare the 9×13 pan, line it with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray. Press the nut mixture into the bottom of the pan.
 .
Bake for 16-18 minutes. Allow the bars to cool for 5 minutes, then pull on the paper to remove them from the pan. Use a pizza cutter to slice the bars into rectangles or squares of the size you’d like.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Comments: 
These bars turned out wonderful. Containing much less sugar than most home-made versions, they don’t have that heavy, overly sticky feel, and I tell you one thing, they give quite a burst of…. how should I put it… energy? Yeap, that’s about right. Well, maybe the name is not that silly after all…
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They last quite some time in the fridge, wrapped in Saran wrap. I suppose they freeze well too, but we did not have to try that. They were gone in less than a week.  Not only they are great as bars, but you can also crumble them and enjoy with yogurt. Phil likes to warm them up in the Breville oven, but I don’t mind just taking them off the fridge, leaving at room temperature for a few minutes. You can also change the proportion of nuts or use different nuts to suit your taste. And guess what? Contrary to some popular brands, these were very kind to me…

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Millet Couscous with Roasted Carrots

TWO YEARS AGO: Mozarella-Stuffed Turkey Burger

THREE YEARS AGO: Happy Halloween!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Clay Pot Roast Pork

FIVE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Classic Roast Chicken

APPLE CINNAMON OATMEAL CAKE

Not too long ago I mentioned that apples and cinnamon make a perfect match. If you need any formal proof for the statement, look no further, this is it. Absolutely perfect for the season, this cake keeps the apples in chunks that get deliciously sweet and soft during baking. It reminded me a bit of a famous cake by Dorie Greenspan. But this version includes oats for a slightly more substantial cake. Let’s say it walks through a rustic path I am quite fond of. Complex flavors, delicious topping… The recipe comes from Pastry Studio, a blog I visit all the time and cook from regularly.  As usual, Gayle’s bench notes are perfect guidelines to highlight what is important when preparing the cake, as well as her rationale while designing the recipe.  A nice lesson in baking is what I always find when I stop by her site.

Apple Oatmeal Cake

APPLE CINNAMON OATMEAL CAKE
(from Pastry Studio)

for the streusel:
1/3 cup (1 5/8 oz) flour
1/3 cup (1 oz) old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch allspice
2 oz (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) molasses

for the cake:
2 medium (about 13 oz) apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch nutmeg
1 cup (3 oz) old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup (6 oz) apple juice
1/2 cup (4 oz) canola oil
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk at room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9” square cake pan and line with parchment, leaving a short overhang on two sides.

To prepare the streusel, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar and spices.  Cut the cold butter into 1/4” pieces and add.  Toss until coated with the dry ingredients and drizzle the molasses.  Using your fingers or a fork, press the butter pieces until they break off into smaller pieces and the mixture clumps together and is crumbly with large and small chunks. Chill until ready to use.

Peel, core and cut the apples into small cubes.  You should have about 2 cups.  Toss the apples with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.  Set aside. Combine the oats and apple juice and set aside for about 5 minutes.

In another bowl, whisk the oil, both sugars and eggs until thoroughly blended. Add in the vanilla and oat and apple juice mixture.  Mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the milk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until there are no dry streaks of flour.  Fold in the chopped apples.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer.  Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 34 – 36 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake.  Gently lift it out of the pan using the parchment overhang to assist.  Using a platter, flip the cake over and peel off the parchment.  Use another plate or platter to flip the cake right side up.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Reading Gayle’s bench notes you can tell she worked hard to perfect this cake. The batter is much more liquid than most cakes I’ve ever made, and it smells amazing as it bakes. The aroma seems to only get better as the cake sits and cools. Which brings me to the only tricky part of this recipe. Keeping the cake intact for 24 hours. Not easy. At some point Phil said if I did not cut it he would take matters into his own teeth and bite it. I was unmoved. Defended the cake as if my life depended on it. And it was worth it, because it is a cake that profits from a little time to itself, 24 hours left to evolve into its maximal deliciousness.

Apple Oatmeal Cake Pieces

It was hard to wait for a full day before indulging, but worth it…
Look at the chunks of apple waiting for you…

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

TWO YEARS AGO: Apricot-Raspberry Sorbet: A farewell to Summer

THREE YEARS AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

SIX YEARS AGOGot Spinach? Have a salad!