SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Pieces
The last Monday of October is here in all its pre-Halloween glory, and chilly not-so-glorious mornings!  It is Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, and here I am to disclose the blog I was assigned to cook from: The Colbert Clan, hosted by Kate. Now, I must confess that this month I almost decided to skip participating because we traveled so much.  I kept the blog going normally, but we barely stayed home. First a trip to Santa Monica, CA, back home for 24 hours, then we caught a plane to São Paulo, Brazil.  I knew that my only chance of sticking with the Secret Recipe Club would be to jump on the assignment right away.  So, I took a slightly different approach to it, and went straight with a search for a cake. Cake? Me, the anti-cake-baker? Yes, you got that right. I wanted to take a chocolate cake to the department and that’s what I searched for.  The choice was easy, painless, and very sweet: a Chocolate Zucchini Cake, adorned with a luscious buttercream frosting which yours truly made with only minor boo-boos. It was an almost painless baking experience, which is saying a lot. But let me tell yo a little bit about Kate. She is a young, stay-at-home Mom of three kids, and her blog reflects life-style of someone who needs to get good food at the table for a family of five.  I am sure it’s not easy, kids can be picky, and juggling everyone’s desires is like a full-time job!  Kudos for her…   I could not resist browsing a little bit through The Colbert Clan, and was tempted to make her Mini-snickers Cheesecakes, which are simply adorable with a drizzle of caramel on top. I am sure my colleagues at the department would be absolutely thrilled…  And, since we are on the subject of cuteness, how about these Macaroon Kisses? Definitely something to consider as a baking project…  But, chocolate cake was on my mind, and without further ado, let me share the recipe with you.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING
(from The Colbert Clan)

for the cake:
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 and spray your 9×13 pan.

In one bowl mix together oil, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk until combines. Add grated zucchini.In a second bowl mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix.

Pour into your 9×13 pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Beat the butter until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and milk. Mix in cocoa and powdered sugar, whip until the mixture is smooth and creamy. I did not have to use all the powdered sugar mixture.

Cut in squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I’ve always wanted to make a chocolate cake with zucchini in it, because it’s so intriguing! Of course, I am very fond of a particular type of carrot cake from my childhood, and zucchini is not too far from carrots as far as food is concerned. Plus, chocolate can make many things taste delicious and decadent, even the humble zucchini.  This cake is simple to prepare, the hardest part was shredding the squash.  Now, a piece of advice for novice bakers: if you are a neat freak like I am, and decide to rinse the sieve after making the cake batter, make sure it is 100% dry before you go sifting the cocoa powder for the frosting.  If there is water in it, you’ll have a big mess on your hands, especially if you are puzzled about the cocoa not going through and decide to “help” it with your fingers.  Enough said.

The cake was a big success with our colleagues, and of course Phil had to remind me of speeches he gave me in the past, like  “The Importance of Frosting on Any Cake,” and  “Why Cakes are Not Real Cakes If Not Smothered in Frosting.”  He is thrilled that I seem to be getting his point, after so many years of food blogging.  Our marriage only gets better and better.

Kate, I hope you had a great time cooking from your assigned blog!
I invite my readers to browse through the collection of goodies made by my fellow virtual friends from The Secret Recipe Club with a click on the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey-Mustard Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

THREE YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

FIVE YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

SIX YEARS AGO: Panettone

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: AMAZING APRICOT BARS

Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

AMAZING APRICOT BARS
(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ApricotComposite

The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.

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Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TAILGATING PARTY!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will probably be a bit surprised to see another Secret Recipe Club feature just one week after the last one.  Here’s the reason: some months have five Mondays, but there are only four groups of blogs (A through D) in the club. So in some months a Monday would be empty of virtual fun, and that is sad.  The moderators then had this brilliant idea of coming up with a special theme for these extra Mondays in which all groups participate. Since football season is starting, the theme for today’s Reveal Day is “Tailgating“. Now, I must say I’m not too wild about tailgating, probably because I did not grow up in the US. But, nothing makes me miss a party, and I loved coming up with a recipe appropriate for the occasion. I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies, hosted by Amanda, a member of Group A. One of the things I got a kick out of stalking her blog is the way she chooses pretty creative, unexpected names for her posts.  For instance, what do you think a post called “Heart Racing” would be about? A bowl of chili? a hot Indian curry?  Nah. It’s about Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies!  :-) How about a post called “Meet me at Midnight?” Caviar on toast and a shot of vodka?  A platter of oysters on the half shell?  No, not really. That one is about German Chocolate Brownies…  For this tailgating event, my contribution is a plate of cookies, and since Fall is knocking at the door (stiff upper lip ON), my cookies include the P word. Talk about someone who dances with the music… that’s me, baby, all the way! And speaking of dancing to the music, Amanda just explained to me the meaning behind her posts titles: they are all song titles, the “dancing” part of her blog, Dancing Veggies.  Too awesome for words!

Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies2

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(slightly modified from Dancing Veggies)

makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin
1 + 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup mini dark choc chips
1/4 to 1/2 cup white choc chips

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Cream the butter and sugar for 5 minutes, until slightly fluffy. Add in the egg, salt, and vanilla extract and beat for a few more minutes before adding in the mashed pumpkin.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Slowly add to the wet ingredients and beat until just mixed. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets in walnut sized portions. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a golden orange shade. Cool on a rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  My main modification of the recipe was to use a mixture of white and dark chocolate chips. I am very fond of white chocolate and had just a little bit left in a bag, so I decided to put them to good use.  I left the amounts pretty flexible in the recipe, because Phil loves a cookie that is loaded with chips, so see how much your dough can take and go for maximal pleasure.  I think dried cranberries would work great too, by the way. The texture of the cookies is on the chewy side due to the pumpkin puree, which by the way, I used canned.  As usual, no one will be able to taste the pumpkin, it just gives them a mysterious flavor.  The nutmeg and cinnamon of course complement it all beautifully.  A perfect Fall cookie (stiff upper lip threatening to fail).

have a cookie

You cannot have summer back, but you can always have a cookie!

Amanda, I had a lot of fun browsing your collection of recipes, in fact your zucchini fritters were insistently calling my name, but I thought that maybe those would be hard to enjoy at tailgating with the dipping sauce and all. So I stuck with cookies, easy to grab and run away to the stadium not to miss the kick-off. As usual, everyone can check the collection of tailgating recipes by poking the cute blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO:  One Million Page Views!

TWO YEARS AGO: Tlayuda, a Mexican Pizza

THREE YEARS AGO: Paradise Revisited

FOUR YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

FIVE YEARS AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

SIX YEARS AGO: Italian Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TURKEY-CHORIZO BURGER WITH GREEN CHILE DRESSING

August is bit too close to the end of the summer, so the dark clouds start to contaminate my mood, as I notice the forecast showing less and less days over 90 F and more and more below 80 F, which is the divisive line between life worth living and misery.  Meteorological troubles aside, the fourth Monday of the month brings with it Reveal Day for  The Secret Recipe Club! This month I was paired with Lynsey Lou’s, a blog I’ve already been following  for a while, so of course the assignment made me super excited… it was like getting a dear colleague from work on the Secret Santa drawing…  Lynsey has been married to Spencer since 2008, and is convinced that the way to a man’s heart involves food. They both have fond memories of a particular  batch of brownies taken to his frat house when they started dating. Too cute! If I remember correctly, Ina Garten has a similar experience with her husband of many many years, Jeffrey. Great relationships might very well start around the table. Or around a lab bench, I suppose.  ;-)   One of the lines I loved the most in Lynsey’s About page was this one:

Cooking, like many other things, is a learning experience that comes with a lot of trial and error.

I feel exactly the same way, and like her, love to expand my horizons trying recipes from different cuisines whenever possible. So many recipes appealed to me this month, it was tough to settle on one.  Some of my final contenders are here: White Chocolate Coconut Cookies, Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Ganache (sigh), White Chocolate Toffee Crunch Cookies, and her Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (you gotta stop and check the recipe, perfect to start the day with freshly baked rolls without having to wake up at 4am).  Since so often I lean towards sweets in the Secret Recipe Club, I forced myself to do something different this time.  So, without further ado, I present you with Turkey Chorizo Burgers with Green Chile Mayo.  A mouthful of a name for a fantastic recipe that Phil and I absolutely loved!

Turkey Chorizo Burger

TURKEY-CHORIZO BURGER WITH GREEN CHILE DRESSING
(slightly modified from Lynsey Lou’s blog)

for the burgers:
8 Oz fresh chorizo, casings removed
1-1 1/2 Pounds ground turkey
2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp cayenne pepper
4 slices Jack cheese
hamburger buns (optional)

for the dressing:
1 Poblano chile
3/4 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Make the chile dressing: Heat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the cleaned chile on the prepared baking sheet and place in oven.  Roast for approximately 15 minutes, until skin is charred and blistered.  Rotating during the roasting process.  Place the roasted pepper in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Remove the pepper from the bowl and remove the skin, stem and seeds.  Finely chop the pepper.  In a food processor, combine the chile, yogurt, olive oil, and lime juice and process until the mixture is smooth.  Season, to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl combine turkey, chorizo, Worcestershire sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.  Gently mix the ingredients together, being careful to not overwork the meat.  Divide the meat evenly into 4 pieces, approximately 8 ounces each.  Gently form each section of meat into 1-inch thick patties.

Place the prepared patties on the grill and cook to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Once burgers are cooked to desired doneness, transfer to a plate and top with cheese.

Spread a generous helping of green chile mayonnaise on the top and bottom of hamburger buns, if using.  Place the burger patties on bottom portion of each bun.  Top with lettuce, spinach or arugula and top with the top portion of the bun.  Serve immediately. If not using buns, assemble the burgers using appropriate substitutions (we went with grilled eggplant slices). Spoon the dressing on top, and serve with your favorite toppings.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  The main modification I made from Lynsey’s original was to skip the mayo and use yogurt and olive oil instead for the dressing. We are both very fond of turkey burgers, but this poblano-infused dressing totally stole the show! Poblano peppers are delicious in their natural form, but roasting improves their flavor and texture quite a bit. Once you process the roasted pepper with the yogurt, you are in for a very special treat…  I found myself sampling a teaspoon here, another there while the burgers were outside on the grill.  Really superb.

These days we almost never have bread with our burgers, so don’t be shocked by the absence of bread from our spread of goodies….  We like our burgers served over hearty lettuce leaves, but this time I grilled thick slices of eggplant and that worked even better.

dinnerserved1

Adding chorizo to ground turkey works great to give a little extra fat and a boost of flavor.  Grilled corn on the cob, avocado, and tomato slices were perfect as side dishes for our meal.

Turkey BUrger Sally

And, of course, I was a super happy camper next day, look at my lunch!

MyLunch

Who said leftovers have to be boring?
😉

Well, folks, that’s all for this Reveal Day… Lynsey, I hope you also had a ton of fun stalking your assigned blog. As usual, I invite my readers to browse the collection of goodies, the result of the hard work of my virtual friends from Group D of The Secret Recipe Club. Just poke the alien-looking frog at the end of the post and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Taco Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Semolina Sourdough Boule 

THREE YEARS AGO: Forgive me, for I have sinned

FOUR YEARS AGOCracked Wheat Sandwich Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Au Revoir, my Bewitching Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO:  French Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: STRAWBERRY CHOC CHIP CAKE & A BONUS RECIPE

Strawberry Choc Chip Cake

The Secret Recipe Club strikes again, as it does every last Monday of the month. Each participating food blogger gets assigned a blog in secret, and must publish a post about a chosen recipe from the assignment at the exact same time as everyone else in the group.  This month I hit gold. Pure gold. My blog was Fried Ice and Donut Holes, hosted by Melissa. A special assignment not only because it is one amazing blog, but because a little bird told me that this month marks her last participation with our club. That is sad, of course, but sometimes we need to make choices and set new priorities.  When I read Melissa’s About Me page, I kept smiling all the way through it. For one thing, this whole paragraph could be equally applied to me!

Though I absolutely love my job, cooking and baking are my passions.  During the summer of 2009, I started reading some food blogs and finally, my husband suggested that I start my own.  As a result, I began Fried Ice and Donut Holes in July of 2009 as a hobby and online recipe box, so to speak, for us to keep track of the many great recipes that we try. 

Ok, maybe the baking in my case should be re-phrased to “bread baking”. Although I started reading food blogs long before starting my own, it is true that Phil was a big supporter of me making the move from “reader” to “writer.”  I am sure you are also curious to find out the origin of her blog’s name, so I quote yet another paragraph from her page:

When I was younger, I remember my grandpa always telling us to behave or we’d be having fried ice and donut holes (aka nothing) for dinner.  For some reason, that phrase stuck and now it lives on forever!

Isn’t that super cute?  Melissa started her blog almost at the same time I started mine (6 long years ago), and in another coincidence, she joined The Secret Recipe Club at the same time I did, as well as other old timers such as Dorothy, from Shockingly Delicious.  It is sad to see her go…  She received my blog as her monthly assignment not too long ago and composed a great post about my French Style Rolls, if you’d like to see it, click here.

As you can imagine, someone who’s been blogging for so long will have a ton of great recipes, and it was not easy to pick one to feature today.  Just to tease you with some of those in my final list of possibilities: Tomato Ricotta and Prosciutto Tart, Sriracha Turkey Meatballs (my love for the spicy sauce is hard to ignore…), Eggplant Cannelloni, Bacon & Spinach Souffle, Roasted Cauliflower Risotto (oh, my…), Pretzel RollsBaked Coconut Shrimp, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles (yessssss!)…  But in the end I went with her adorable Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cake, which was fun to make and a pleasure to eat!

Strawberry Choc Chip Cake2

STRAWBERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP YOGURT CAKE
(from Fried Ice and Donut Holes)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of the pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, yogurt, and sugar and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, no more than 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and mix in the egg, beating until light and fluffy. Then add the milk and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the strawberries on top of the cake, cut sides down and close together. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips between the berries. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for about 40 minutes before releasing it from the pan. Dust the top with powdered sugar, if you want.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: My only modification of the recipe was to use mini-choc chips because that’s what I had in the pantry and I thought they would work well too.  The cake is absolutely delicious, made our graduate students happy during one of our early meetings, and the small amount leftover was shared with colleagues from the department. Huge baking success!

Since this is the last participation of Melissa in our club, I decided to make an additional recipe from her site as a special farewell. A recipe that I’ve always found pretty intriguing, but stayed as a culinary project for years.  Not anymore. I made a small batch of shakshuka for our Saturday lunch. Have you heard of it?  A flavorful tomato and pepper based sauce that is used as a base to gently cook eggs.  So, so good!

Shashuska1

 

SHAKSHUKA
(adapted from Fried Ice and Donut Holes)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch strips 
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 can (15 ounces) of whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
up to 1 cup water
4 eggs (I used only three for the two of us)

In a very large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cumin and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, brown sugar, and herbs and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes to develop color. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Reduce teat to low and cook for 15 minutes, adding water 1/4 cup at a time, so that the mix has the consistency of thick pasta sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning so that the mix is potent and flavorful.

Remove the bay leaves. Make wells for the eggs and carefully break eggs into the wells. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook on very low heat for about 8 minutes. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set, about 1 minute more. Serve right away…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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I am so glad I made this bonus recipe from her site!  I’ve always been intrigued by Shakshuka, had quite a few versions of this recipe saved “to make soon”, but finally this assignment with The Secret Recipe Club gave me the chance to go for it.  It is a perfect dish for a brunch, or light lunch.  It’s important to not over-cook the egg yolks, you want to have the yolk liquid so that it mixes with the very flavorful tomato sauce, with intense saffron flavor. A crusty bread to soak the sauce is a must!

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Melissa, I hope your last assignment with the club gave you as much pleasure as I had cooking from your site!  I wish you good luck on all your future projects!

To my readers, please stop by Melissa’s site to say hello, and if you want to see what my fellow club members shared this month, click on the blue amphibian smiling at you at the bottom of this post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mini-Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

TWO YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

SIX YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LEMON LAVENDER BARS

Once again the end of the month brings the excitement of Reveal Day for us members of The Secret Recipe Club.  For those who don’t know what it’s all about, the club pairs two food bloggers in secret, and on reveal day everyone posts their recipe of choice.  I was assigned the blog Turnips2Tangerines, hosted by Lynn, from Wisconsin. Lynn’s site is a very sweet spot, with many recipes centered on all things dessert, but you will also find plenty of savory dishes to drool over. She also publishes a monthly feature called Culinary Adventures, where the cooking of a particular country is highlighted through a menu and recipes. Very nice, check her latest post on Sweden by clicking here.

When classes are over Phil and I tend to get a lot busier in the lab, with daily meetings at 7:30am.  I know that the occasional sweet treat is more than welcome by our students, so I jumped on Lynn’s blog with that thought in mind.  The moment I saw her post on lemon lavender bars, I looked no further.  But, at some point I must make her Chai Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting. They look adorable, and of course, spices make sweets special.  Or how about a Banana Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze? Yeah, baby…

LemonLavenderBars1
LEMON LAVENDER BARS
(from Turnips2Tangerines)

for the crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/2 t culinary lavender

for the filling:
4 eggs
5 T fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1 t culinary lavender

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a bowl combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and lavender; cut in butter until crumbly (I used the food processor).  Press into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Make the filling by beating the eggs in a bowl until frothy.  Stir in lemon juice and peel.
In another bowl combine the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Stir into the egg mixture, mixing well with a whisk.  Pour over baked crust, and sprinkle lavender over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack, cut into bars. If you want, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  Yellow might be one of my favorite colors, so it’s only natural that I always have plenty of lemons in the fridge. Plenty.  I cannot imagine cooking without them, even savory dishes.  Lavender is another flavor I am fond of, but of course it needs to be in small doses, it’s easy to have it overpowering a dish. In these bars, the amount of lavender was just right.  I decided to use the food processor for the crust because I felt that the lavender would be better dispersed throughout the crust by doing so. After processing, I dumped everything on the counter and made sure the flour was all coated with butter, no big spots of dry flour remaining.  It is also important to try to spread the crust as evenly as possible, so that it browns at the same rate in the oven. I almost managed to do that, but one corner ended up a bit over-baked.  No major harm done, though.

The bars made a Monday morning early meeting much easier to go through…

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Lynn, thanks for a lovely recipe, and I hope you had a great time with your assignment this month!  For my readers, you are all invited to browse through the goodies made by my fellow screters from group D. Just poke the blue frog at the end of this post, and have a blast!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

TWO YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SIX YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO

When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!

LambMeatballs

LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO
(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

ONE YEAR AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Superman

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango