Friday, March 22, 2013

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)

So ... the Paleo Challenge starts tomorrow.  D-Day for being photographed in my bikini and then performing a serious, muscle-shaking, face-reddening workout.  But I think I'm getting my Paleo diet dialed in and I will just have to be strong and face this challenge.  I doubt I'll get much sleep tonight, due to nerves, but I will carry on just the same.  Wish me luck!

It is a small comfort knowing I have some good snack options at the ready.  One is this recipe for baba ghanouj.  You've probably had it alongside hummus and pita at Middle Eastern restaurants.  It's surprisingly easy to make at home.  If you are grilling, I highly recommend you roast the eggplants on the grill - this will add another layer of smoky depth.  But I made mine in the oven and it is certainly snack-worthy!  And since, like the Paleo hummus, it's made entirely of healthy olive oil, sesame seed paste, and vegetables, you can nibble without fear of wrecking your weight loss efforts!  Ready?  Find it at GCH, and let me know what you think!

Crackers, pita, and pretzels are all very tasty dippers ... but not Paleo.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paleo Hummus (Plus an Admission, a Competition, and a Challenge)

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows certain things about me:  a)  Public embarrassment is to be avoided like the plague.  I will do nearly anything to spare my ego in front of strangers or people I'm not totally comfortable around.  b)  Hand-in-hand with fearing public shame, I steer clear of competition.  I hate to lose, and I would rather not play most games or sports so I don't have to feel the agony of defeat.  Do I need some therapy?  Perhaps!  But these are personality traits I've always had and I don't see them going away any time soon.

So it is with much trepidation that I even make this announcement -- I have entered a Paleo Challenge through my gym!  The Paleo lifestyle can best be described as eating as our caveman ancestors did, focusing on vegetables, meat, fruits, and nuts, and eliminating dairy, sugar, grains, and legumes.  For thirty days, I am going to be eating a strict Paleo diet, eschewing alcohol and the above verboten food  groups, and exercising like a crazy person.  There are, I am estimating, another 50 people in the competition, so I will be going up against a lot of people of unknown stamina, diet preferences, and cooking skill.  The challenge starts Saturday, with a visit to the dunk tank (to measure my body fat percentage) -- and a photo of me in my bathing suit.  (Insert screams of horror here!)  Then I complete a specific workout (to be determined) for time.  In a month, everyone comes back and repeats the process to see who has lost the most body fat, the most inches from their waist or thighs or whatever problem areas exist, and who has improved the most in their performance of that same workout.  We are also to keep a food log, so points will be docked for cheating on the diet.

I'm terrified of people seeing me in my bathing suit.  This is Hollywood, after all, and although I'm not obese, I do have some jiggles and bulges, and I'm creeping up on 40.  I'm terrified of performing the workout, period, because they're really hard, and I JUST joined the gym last week.  And of course, I'm terrified of losing, of putting myself out there and being found wanting, or a target for ridicule.  But I figure, since I'm new to the gym, perhaps my performance will ramp up quicker than others who are already used to the workouts.  And I have been cooking Paleo meals for a while, thanks to my husband's adoption of the diet a few years ago.

All of this is to say:  for the next month, you'll be getting Paleo recipes from me.  You are welcome to join me at home in the Paleo challenge!  Just weigh yourself at the beginning and again at the end of 30 days.  Who knows, you may drop a few pounds, find a new food you like, or decide you are ready to kick the soda habit once and for all!

Okay, on with the recipes.  This one is for Paleo hummus.  Since beans are off-limits, this one uses cauliflower.  This makes a great appetizer with veggie sticks as dippers, and is really satisfying when you want something snacky.  Curious?  Check it out!

Paleo Hummus


  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • stuff to dip with - I like carrots, but celery, peppers, or even pork rinds are Paleo!
  1. Heat oven to 500*F.  Cut cauliflower into bite-sized chunks.  In a large bowl, mix the cauliflower with 3 tablespoons olive oil, the cumin, salt, and pepper.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spread out the cauliflower.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes so nothing burns.  Let cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Add cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tahini, garlic, and the juice of one lemon.  Blend and taste.  If it's too thick you can add a little water or some more oil.  Too thin?  Add more tahini.
  3. To serve, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with paprika, if desired.  Go nuts on this stuff - it's good for you!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Roasted Cabbage Wedges

Okay, don't recoil.  Stick with me here.  This isn't stinky, or sulfuric, or boiled to death.  Roasted cabbage might be a revelation for you.  If you are making Corned Beef and Cabbage or Colcannon this weekend for St. Patrick's Day, you might have some extra cabbage that you don't know what to do with.  Try this.  I bet you might like it!

You don't have to use the fennel or anise seeds, but I like the little crunch and burst of flavor it adds.  Also, the lemon squeeze at the end is optional, but if you've read this blog for a while, you know I try to put lemon on everything.  And you know what?  I never regret it!

So go ahead, take a chance, and try the Roasted Cabbage Wedges.  I eat several at a time, for lunch, when I can.  See the recipe at GCH ... scroll past the Colcannon, it's at the bottom.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vegetable Pancakes

Most people know these as latkes, but Koreans make something similar, called "jeon".  Whatever you call them - haystacks, vegetable hash browns, tasty crispy circles of love - these are easy and delicious.  Check out my recipe as I guest-blog over at GCH!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wellseley Fudge Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream (Solar System Cake)

Solar System Cake!

Every year I try to make my older daughter's birthday cake better than the year before.  I knew that wouldn't be too hard this year, since I was not impressed with the princess castle cake I made last year.  I didn't have a good design plan, and was left winging it when guests arrived.  This year, I knew I wanted to celebrate and encourage my daughter's love of the Solar System, and I wanted her cake to be awesome, since she's turned five, and might actually remember this stuff!

I searched around Pinterest for ideas, and found some good ones, but I still decided to design my own instead of copy someone else's.  When dealing with the planets, it seemed people either made cake pop versions of the planets, or suggested them as mounds of raised frosting on the surface of the cake.  I've never made cake pops, and didn't want to start now - too much pressure! - and besides, I wanted the planets to be different sizes.  So I went to Michael's and found the non-edible version in Styrofoam balls, and had them orbit on lollipop sticks.  This made it easier all around, as I didn't have to worry about dyeing frosting, and just used my kids' tempera paint.  I did go dramatic with the cake frosting color, with violet gel coloring.  I think navy or black would look sharp too, or you could make it really easy on yourself and make a dark chocolate frosting!  I used white chocolate chips for stars, but you can pipe those if you are so inclined.

Jupiter, Mars and Earth

As for the cake, I found a wonderful recipe using Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate.  You know, those big blocks of either bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate in the baking aisle?  Fantastic!  The secret to this cake's rich and incredibly moist texture is using a stand mixer.  I whipped the heck out of this batter, and it was amazing.  I really doubt you'd be able to get the same results with a whisk or fork, so if you don't have a stand mixer, maybe an electric hand mixer would do the trick.

The cream cheese buttercream is my own recipe.  It's simple and holds up well in the fridge and on the counter. It's firm enough to frost with and pipe, but not so stiff you'll drag the crumbs off your cake.  It took the dye really well too.

If you need to celebrate a birthday for your favorite future space explorer, try this one.  It's beautiful inside and out!

White Chocolate Chip stars between the layers too!

Wellseley Fudge Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream
(Recipe Courtesy Baker's Chocolate)


  • 4 squares Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water (I used cold coffee instead - you should too!)
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.  (You can use cocoa instead of flour if you have it!)
  2. In a medium bowl, microwave 1/2 cup sugar, coffee (or water) and Baker's Chocolate for 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted.  (Mine took 2 minutes.)  Set aside and let cool.
  3. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.  
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together remaining sugar and the softened butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well with each addition.  Then alternate adding milk and flour mixture, beating well with each addition.  Finally, beat in the chocolate mixture.  Divide evenly between the two prepared pans.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for ten minutes in the pans, then remove cakes from the pans and let cool on a wire rack.  Frost when totally cool.
She loved it!  Blowing out the candles

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 stick butter, slightly softened
  • 1 box confectioner's sugar (one pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or whipping cream
  1. In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, or a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter.  Gradually mix in the powdered sugar, and add the vanilla.  Add in the milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until you achieve your desired consistency (you may not need to add it all.)  Mix in any coloring.  This recipe makes enough to frost a sheet cake, or to fill and frost a 2-layer round cake.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chinese Tofu Stir Fry

I have successfully reverse-engineered my favorite take-out dish from a nationally-known Chinese take-out restaurant.  Schmanda Express, you have been put on notice!  It's an easy recipe, it's infinitely customizable,  and it's healthy too.  Make some rice, crack open a fortune cookie, and check out my recipe at GCH tonight!