Flourless Almond Orange Cake from My Pantry Shelf

I love a cake that is not pretentious.  One that does not demand some sort of special event such as a birthday, nor hours spent frosting and decorating.  Just a simple, yet elegant treat to bake for almost any occasion.  This Flourless Orange and Almond Cake is exactly that cake.  Oranges, cooked and pureed, mix with almond meal, eggs, and sugar to create an incredibly moist and fragrant dessert.  The toasted almonds give the caramelized top just a bit of crunch.  The cake is great even a day later, so do not be afraid to make it in advance.

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Muffins can solve many problems: a hungry house full of weekend guests, a last minute snack for preschool, quick and easy breakfasts through the week (from the freezer), or as I recently found myself, with double my usual number of hungry children running underfoot.  While not all muffins hold well enough to serve after they have been left to cool, these muffins are still moist and flavorful hours after they have cooled or even reheated from the freezer.

Apricot Almond Bran Muffins are adapted from a recipe in Supernatural Everyday by Heidi Swanson that I have come to love.  If you are seeking a super dense. chewy style of bran muffing, this is not the one.  Though this recipe is whole grain with a healthy dose of bran, the texture is incredibly light and tender.  The taste of butter is unmistakable.  I added apricots to take advantage of the beautiful fruit found at the market.  Almonds, always a friend of the apricot, flavor the muffin and add a crunch to the top. Make these for a crowd, or just for a few and freeze the rest.  They reheat beautifully.

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Some dishes seem to create themselves.  The ingredients radiate with pure excitement when they enter into each others’ proximity.  This was the case when the loads of astonishingly fragrant strawberries pushed into the log of chevre in the fridge the other night. They called to me in their sweet seductive voices to please toss them with fresh spinach and roasted almonds, I was powerless to resist. Luckily, this force is pure good.  This dish is  full of vibrant seasonal nutritional powerhouses, so the guilt factor is nearly nil.

While strawberries are often restricted to  dessert or breakfast dishes, they make an excellent salad.  Feel free to adapt this at will.  The spinach can be replaced with arugula or butter lettuce, the chevre with feta, and the almonds with walnuts or pinenuts, but do not leave out the STRAWBERRIES!  They are too good right now to miss.

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Santa gave me my first lesson in eating with the season.  Each year, nestled deep in the toe of my gargantuan knit stocking, I would find an orange.  First I would be disappointed- all that valuable stocking space used up by something destined for the communal fruit basket!  Then I would be perplexed.  Why an orange?  Sure, I liked oranges, but they were nowhere near my favorite.  Why not a juicy peach?  Strawberries?  Papaya?  Sweet watermelon?  OK, I understand why Santa couldn’t put a watermelon in my stocking.  Still, it never occurred to me that he was simply offering the sweetest treat that winter had to offer.  Though we had an orange tree in our backyard, it had not fully dawned on me that oranges are a winter fruit.   Vibrant, sweet, and juicy citrus is ripe for the offering right at the time when Santa swings through town.

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