Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crunchy Asian Slaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing

Colorful and crunchy veggies with cilantro and peanuts, all tossed with a Thai-inspired peanut-lime dressing. Light, fresh, and perfect for entertaining! 

Asian Coleslaw

It's hard to believe we have been in this home for 4 years already. Prior to that we lived in our first home together for 9 years, and spent the second half of those years house-hunting looking for a home we could stay in forever.

When we first looked at our current home we liked the layout, the size, and the possibilities, but knew it would take some work. Ok, a lot of work. Then we stepped out onto the patio and were sold - a large, private, tree-lined back yard (gives us so much shade!!!) with an enormous flagstone patio (that needed a lot of work and we eventually replaced). But the best part of the entire yard is the garden wall that curves around the entire patio with a large garden behind it. We spent an hour sitting on that wall, looking at the trees, and talking about the house - and it was March in the Northeast so it was chilly. Immediately we made an offer.

Yes, we bought the house for the garden wall and trees.

Asian Coleslaw

One of my friends calls our backyard an oasis, and because of this we made plans to have dinner together on the patio. We were so determined to enjoy a night on the patio that we rescheduled twice due to weather! Then, last week, we had the most perfect Saturday. It was sunny with low humidity and a light breeze. We lit several torches around the garden bed and I made really easy centerpieces out of mason jars, groundcover and herbs, and floating candles to sit on our new table. An oasis it was!

My menu had to revolve around grilling and warm weather food, and since my friend loves Asian inspired food but never cooks it, I went in that direction.

We had edamame to start. Our main course was Jon's grilled beef negimaki. To go along with it I made noodles tossed in a sesame soy mixture with green onions and sesame seeds, and this amazing Asian Slaw.

This slaw is packed with so many crunchy veggies and just look at those colors! Just looking at this slaw makes me want it again ASAP! The dressing for this is awesome too - peanut butter, lime juice, and some heat from Sambal Oelek. It is thick enough to really coat all of the veggies but isn't too heavy at all. Surprisingly, even after being dressed, the leftovers held up fine in the fridge for 2 days! So feel free to make a lot of you want to have some leftover.

Thanks to our friends for sharing a great night of friendship and food with us!

Asian Coleslaw

Asian Coleslaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing
Adapted From: Center Cut Cook


  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, julienned and then copped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 sm can water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, julienned and then chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 green onions, sliced into 2 inch strips
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 c peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Combine the cabbage, carrots, pepper, water chestnuts, cucumber, green onions and most of the cilantro. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil, Sambal, hoisin, lime juice, ginger and garlic. Tip: I used the whisk attachment on my handheld immersion blender. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. 
  • When ready to serve, quickly whisk the dressing before pouring it over the salad. Toss well, and then top with the remaining cilantro and peanuts. 

Asian Coleslaw

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Covered Praline Hazelnuts

This cake is a chocolate lover's dream - a rich, double-layer chocolate cake with a creamy, whipped ganache and a chocolate glaze. The cake is dressed with hazelnuts that have been toasted, candied, coated in tempered chocolate and rolled in Dutch-process cocoa powder, and with fancy bittersweet chocolate swirls.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Our daughter turned 7 last week. 7!!! Being the daughter of foodies, why wouldn't she request a Belgian chocolate cake for her birthday? My husband heard the request and got to work! As he said, he couldn't let her down.

He chose a rich chocolate-hazelnut cake with so many elements he was in the kitchen for 4 hours on Saturday. But this cake - SO worth it.

Instead of making a single layer cake, he turned this recipe into two layers of rich chocolate cake. He layered the cakes with whipped, creamy chocolate ganache in between and on top. Next, he drizzled a chocolate glaze on all of the cake.

He could have stopped there, but this cake is seriously over the top in so many ways - layers, taste, elements, and beauty. In addition to the whipped chocolate ganache and the chocolate glaze, this cake has 2 more toppings - chocolate swirls and chocolate-covered praline hazelnuts.

The swirls started with tempered chocolate that he chilled in a thin layer and then scraped to make chocolate swirls.

The hazelnuts start by toasting hazelnuts that are then candied in a caramelized sugar. Once cool, they are coated in tempered bittersweet chocolate and chilled until hardened. The final step is rolling them in Dutch-process cocoa powder.

Drooling yet?

Once we sang happy birthday and cut the cake, you didn't hear anything out of any of us for about 10 minutes, except "Mmmmm...." and "wow...." And our 7-year-old was very, very happy :)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from: Martha Stewart

Tip: Read the entire recipe before starting since several elements can be done together. Such as the hazelnuts for the cake and the hazelnuts for the topping can be toasted together and then separated. The ganache and glaze can be prepared together and then separated to whip some and to keep some as the glaze.

The Cake Ingredients and Directions

  • 4 oz hazelnuts
  • 13 1/3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (1 2/3 sticks)
  • 2/3 c Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2/3 c boiling water
  • 1 3/4 c packed, dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 c buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Equipment: 2 9-inch cake pans; food processor; hand or stand mixer. 
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins. Transfer them to a food processor and grind with the granulated sugar until fine, but not pasty. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Butter your cake pans and then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. 
  • In a heat-proof bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Once smooth and cooled, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. 
  • Switch mixer to low and add in half of the dry ingredients (the ground hazelnuts/sugar, flour mixture). Once blended, add in the cocoa mixture. Then add in the rest of the dry mixture, mixing until just incorporated. 
  • Scrape batter into your prepared pans so they are both even; smooth on top. Bake 50 min - 1 hr until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove from a pan until completely cooled.
  • Directions for frosting and decorating the cakes can be found after the rest of the instructions below. 

The Chocolate Glaze and Whipped Ganache Ingredients and Directions

  • 1/1/2 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 3 3/4 cups heavy cream
Chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place it into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil over high heat. Pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the chocolate, and stir until smooth. Let sit at room temp for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

To make the whipped ganache: take 2/3 of the prepared glaze and transfer to a bowl. Place that bowl over a larger bowl of ice. Whip the chocolate with a balloon whisk until lighter in color and spreadable, removing the bowl from the ice bath and returning it as needed. 

The Chocolate Swirl and Candied Hazelnuts Ingredients and Directions

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 c Dutch-process cocoa
  • Equipment: baking sheet, heavy skillet, parchment paper, stainless bowl, saucepan, a bench scraper, a sifter
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins.
  • Place sugar and water in a medium heavy skillet. Stir with a fork over medium-high heat until dissolved. Let boil without stirring for 3 minutes. 
  • Add nuts to the pan. stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar mixture coats the nuts. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; let cool. 
  • Once the nuts are cool, place half of the chocolate in a stainless bowl, and place the bowl over a pan with 1 inch of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and hot. Add the rest of the chocolate, remove the pan from the water, and let stand 5 minutes and then stir until smooth.
  • Pour half of the chocolate onto an inverted baking sheet and spread with the scraper until smooth and about 1/8 inch thick. Let stand until tacky. Hold your scraper at a 45-degree angle and scrape the chocolate off the surface to make the curls. Store curls at room temp in a parchment-lined airtight container.
  • Add candied nuts to the remaining chocolate in the bowl, stirring until coated. Spread nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let stand until set. 
  • Sift cocoa powder over the chocolate nuts and toss to coat. Store in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Finishing the Cake

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Spread some of the whipped ganache on top of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top of the ganache. Frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped ganache.
  • Pour the chocolate glaze onto the center of the cake, letting it drip over the edges. 
  • Let the cake stand at room temperature until the glaze is set. 
  • Decorate with the swirls and nuts. 
  • Store in the fridge until 30 minutes before serving. 
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

This cake is a chocolate lover's dream - a rich, double-layer chocolate cake with a creamy, whipped ganache. The cake is dressed with hazelnuts that have been toasted, candied, coated in tempered chocolate and rolled in Dutch cocoa powder, and with fancy bittersweet chocolate swirls. #chocolatecake

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crispy Fish Sticks with Pineapple Salsa

Crispy and crunchy homemade fish sticks with a fresh pineapple salsa. 
A kids' style dinner good enough for adults!

I love to cook, but there are a few things I always have in for super quick dinners for my daughter, like on nights when my husband is traveling and we have 45 minutes between school and dance class. Frozen chicken nuggets, frozen fish sticks, baby carrots (to make "soft carrots," as she calls them), frozen broccoli, and a container of cooked spaghetti can almost always be found in my house.

However, homemade versions are always better. It's not like making homemade chicken nuggets or fish sticks is hard or takes a long time - it's probably faster to bread your own and fry them up. Actually, in the time it takes to preheat your oven and cook the frozen version, you could already have homemade ones on the table.

But I get it - convenience foods are a must! Some nights you just don't want the extra dishes, or you need to be focused on helping with homework instead of prepping and cooking dinner. When you have the time, it's always fun to cook from scratch!

Over the holiday weekend I made some homemade crispy fish sticks that were so incredibly easy and super yummy.

All you need is a fish that will hold up well and that doesn't have much fat. Cod, haddock and pollock are the most popular, but I prefer to use something a little better, like halibut, mahi, or even swordfish or catfish.

Cut your fish into "sticks" and then bread them - flour, egg, seasoned breadcrumbs/Panko. I fry them in just a small amount of oil - no need to deep fry - and in just 5-6 minutes they are done. Perfectly crispy and crunchy, yet light and flaky on the inside.

I love a light and fresh topping for fish, so I chopped up some pineapple to add to pico de gallo I had made for the weekend, and it was the perfect accompaniment. Bright, citrus flavors with some heat - so refreshing!

Crispy Fish Sticks 
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 6 oz fish cut into 6 sticks (double or triple to your liking!)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs beaten and mixed with 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs and 1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning: approximately 1 tsp each salt, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder 
  • 3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of your pan)
  • Set up breading station: flour in 1st bowl, eggs in second, bread crumbs mixed with seasoning in third (tip - I love using a throw away paper plate for the flour and bread crumbs - makes cleanup so easy!)
  • Heat your oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat
  • Roll each piece of fish in flour. Shake off the excess and roll in the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Place on wire rack.
  • Add the breaded fish to the pan being careful to space them out (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Cook until one side is golden brown; repeat on all sides until crispy. Transfer to the wire rack on top of paper towels.
  • Serve immediately! 

Pineapple Salsa
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

You can make this in a small amount as noted below (serves 4), or you can make a large bowl of the pico (all of the ingredients below x 4, minus the pineapple) and remove some to mix with the pineapple for this recipe.

  • 4 Ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and diced 
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp pineapple, diced

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Please stand by while we make updates!

As many of you may have heard, Photobucket changed the terms of their agreement without any notice, and many of us bloggers who host photos on their site were left with that big messy black notice at the top of this page. I'm working to get it fixed as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding!!

 - Mary Ellen