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Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

I always have buttermilk in my fridge to make homemade ranch dressing, waffles and pancakes.  I usually have some left over so I’m always on the hunt for new ways to use it and this recipe is now in the rotation.  I’m not a huge dessert fan (I’ll take a piece of pizza over a piece of cake any day.  Don’t judge!) but this cake reminds me of the devil’s food cake I loved as a kid.  It’s a bit denser (as most pound cakes are) and the slight tang of the buttermilk is a great balance for the richness and chocolate.  A dollop of fresh whipped cream on top is the perfect complement for a crowd-pleasing dessert.   I used a Bundt pan but I think batter would make two loaves or even a few smaller ones to share.  

Ingredients

2 cups                 Flour

¾ cup                  Cocoa powder, unsweetened (I use Hershey’s)

1 ½ cups             Butter at room temperature

3 cups                 Sugar

½ tsp                   Baking powder

1 tsp                    Salt

1 ¼ cups             Buttermilk

5                           Eggs, large at room temperature

1 tsp Pure vanilla extract

2 tsp                    Instant coffee

1/2 cup Chocolate chips, tossed with a teaspoon of flour so they dont sink to the bottom (OPTIONAL)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325.

Into a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Beat the butter with an electric mixer till smooth, then add the sugar and beat till fluffy (about two minutes). Add one egg at a time on low speed. Slowly pour the buttermilk into the egg mixture and then add the vanilla and coffee. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl, and the bottom, to make sure everything has been incorporated.  Fold in the flour mixture a little bit at a time.  If you really want to bump up the chocolate, you can add 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips at this point. Just be sure to toss them in a little flour to make sure they don’t sink to the bottom.

Pour the batter into greased (I used canola spray but shortening or butter would work well, too) and floured Bundt pan.  Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool for 30 minutes right out of the oven then I use a sharp knife to go along the edged to help alleviate sticking.  Once you remove the cake from the pan, let it cool completely before serving. 

A dusting of powdered sugar would be lovely and I served each slice with fresh whipped cream. Ice cream would be great, too.

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Chicken Veggie Lo Mein

I could eat Asian food every single day.  So much variety and lots of options for healthy choices.  Over the past few years, I’ve been making more Chinese dishes at home instead of ordering in.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some dishes I will never be able to duplicate but this Chicken Veggie Lo Mein is one I will definitely make over and over again.  It’s basically a stir fry with noodles so the customization of noodles and veggies is yours to decide.  I went with chicken but shrimp or beef would be great, too.  And the veggies? I love bok choy and zucchini but when I don’t have those on hand, broccoli works well.  I usually prep the chicken and veggies earlier in the day and then when dinner rolls around, everything comes together in about 20 minutes so this is a great weeknight meal.   

Ingredients

1 lb.                  Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, thinly sliced

1                      Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then slices into half moons

4                      Small heads of bok choy, washed and chopped into 1-inch pieces (You can use one large head if you can’t find small heads)

2 cups               Fresh bean sprouts

1 can                Sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 tbs                 Canola or vegetable oil

1 tbs                 Sesame oil

½ c                  Oyster sauce

1 tsp                 Garlic, minced

1 tsp                 Ginger, minced

1 tbs                 Toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp + 1 tbs     Corn starch

1 cup             Water

1 pkg (16 oz)    Fresh egg noodles.  (If you can’t get these in your supermarket, linguini works well too)

Preparation

In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, ½ cup water and tablespoon of corn starch.  Mix and set sauce aside.

Place the thinly sliced chicken in a bowl with the sesame oil and teaspoon of corn starch.  This will velvetize the chicken and make the texture of the chicken silky and tender.  Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain, rinse with water (to stop the cooking process) and set aside till the chicken and veggies are done.

In a large skillet on medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil and then cook the chicken till it is cooked through (about four minutes).  Transfer to a plate. 

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan along with the bok choy and zucchini along with ½ cup of water.  Cover and cook till almost all the water has evaporated and the vegetables are fork tender but not overdone (check them along the way).  Add the sauce, bean sprouts and water chestnuts to the pan and mix well.  You can add some water to the sauce if it is too thick for your taste.  Add the chicken (along with the juices from the plate), mixing well to incorporate.  Top with sesame seeds.

You could combine the noodles with the chicken and veggies and serve or, you could make individual bowls if you want to control the noodles to chicken/veggie ratio.

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Citrus Icebox Pie

Lemon pie, key lime pie, icebox pie, lemon meringue pie; there are so many variations of this pie and I love each and every one of them.  Apologies to all you chocoholics but a citrus pie is hands down my favorite dessert and I usually find it very hard to pass-up.   The tartness of fresh lemon or lime juice paired with the creamy filling and sweet, cookie crust make this a winning pie and, in my house, a family favorite.  Not only is it delicious but it is super easy to make.  The filling has only three ingredients (egg yolks, lemon/lime juice and sweetened condensed milk) and the refrigerator does most of the work. I had a bunch of limes that needed to be used in something and while I could have made a big batch of margaritas (which I would have had to drink by myself) I opted for this Lime Icebox Pie.  If I had lots of lemons, it would have been a Lemon Icebox Pie! 

I first had Lemon Icebox pie at The Bright Star restaurant in Bessemer, Alabama while I was traveling between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa (home of the University of Alabama).  The restaurant is a landmark and the Greek style seafood and steaks were a favorite of legendary football coach Bear Bryant.  My pie is a slight variation of the one that is on the menu. People were so crazy for the pie they frequently ordered full pies to take home so I knew it was a good before I even tasted it. It did not disappoint.

I like to make my own crust with graham crackers and butter but you can certainly buy pre-made to simplify this even further.   In full disclosure, when I went to make the crust, I didn’t have any graham cracker crumbs.   My solution was a cereal that is always in our house – Cinnamon Toast Crunch.    Same flavor profile and when I calculated the sugar amount, it was actually lower per gram than the sugar I would have used.  I put a bunch of cereal in the food processor and pulsed it till I had crumbs.  If I put it in front of you along side plain graham crackers, I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  And the taste? Delicious!  I might just go with Cinnamon Toast Crunch moving forward and skip the graham crackers.

This pie is super easy to make but you do need to plan ahead. It really should set-up in the refrigerator overnight but if you don’t have that much time, at least four hours.   This makes one large pie or five smaller ones.  You can use a tart pan as well.

Ingredients

Crust

2 ½ cups             Graham cracker crumbs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch crumbs (if you use cereal, omit the sugar)

3 tbs                    Sugar

7 tbs                    Butter, melted and cooled

Filling

2 14oz cans       Sweetened Condensed Milk, chilled

4                           Egg yolks

1 ½ cups             Lime juice (or lemon juice), freshly squeezed

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 300.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs/cereal crumbs with the butter and press into a pie tin or tart pan.   I put the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set it. 

Cinnamon Toast Crunch for the win when you don’t have graham crackers!

In a bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks.  Once combined, whisk in the lime (or lemon) juice till smooth.

Fill the pie(s) and place in the oven for about 10 minutes till the edges are firm.

Let the pie(s) cool for 15 minutes and then pop them into the refrigerator for at least four hours but preferably overnight.

I serve with fresh whipped cream and a little lime zest grated on top.

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The BEST Buttermilk Waffles Ever

My husband and our kids are big fans of waffles.  We love having a big breakfast together on Sunday and waffles are frequently requested (bagels seem to have taken the #1 spot over the past year though).  This batter is super easy to pull together and with the exception of buttermilk, you probably have everything you need in your cabinet or pantry.  But don’t even think about using regular milk since buttermilk is the reason these waffles are over the top.   And, if by chance you don’t have a waffle iron (and why wouldn’t you?!) this batter is great for pancakes, too.  You could also make extra waffles and freeze them after they have cooled as they reheat well in a toaster oven.

There are so many ways to enjoy these waffles:

  • Traditional. Butter and syrup are the classic toppings (my husband’s favorite).
  • Nutella or Peanut Butter.  I spread Nutella on one half, add sliced bananas and then fold.  It was a great breakfast to eat in the car on the way to school. 
  • Fresh berries.  On top or in the batter works.  If you add them to the batter, make sure you clean the waffle iron after as the sugar will caramelize.  A little powdered sugar on top is the perfect way to finish these.
  • Bacon. Yes, bacon! I cook the bacon first and crumble it into the batter.  Topped with syrup it’s a dead ringer for a McGriddle®.
  • Cheese.  If you are a fan of chicken and waffles (and who isn’t?) you could add some shredded cheddar cheese to the batter which would pair great with fried chicken.

Ingredients

2 cups                 Flour

1 tsp                    Baking soda

3 tbs                    Sugar

2 tsp                    Baking powder

¼ tsp                   Salt

3 cups                 Buttermilk

2                           Eggs, large

4 tbs                    Melted and cooled butter

Preparation

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk and eggs, mixing well.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk mixture.

Mix until just combined and then add the melted butter. 

The batter will be lumpy and I always let it sit for 10 minutes before I use it. 

If you don’t use all the batter (and I rarely do) it keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.  Just make sure to mix it before you use it.

Follow the directions for your waffle iron. 

Featured

Roasted Garlic Bread

Is there anything better with an Italian meal than garlic bread? Frankly, this garlic bread is a bit more sophisticated than your average garlic bread so I would even serve this for friends at a dinner party. Roasting the garlic brings out the sweet, nutty flavor and eliminates the strong, overpowering flavor from raw garlic. Slathered on a loaf of Italian bread and toasted under the broiler is the traditional version but this mixture of roasted garlic, parmesan, etc. would be a great spread with sliced bread too. Either way, it’s worth making!

Step 1: Cut the tops off two heads of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Wrap them in foil and bake in the oven at 350 until soft and golden, about an hour.

Step 2: While the garlic cooks, in a bowl mix 2 tbs. grated parmesan cheese, 2 tbs. mayo, 2 tbs. parsley and 2/3s stick of butter (room temp).

Step 3: Once the garlic is cooked, let it cool for a few minutes and then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the casing into the other ingredients.

Step 4: Slice a loaf of Italian bread in half from end to end and top with the mixture. Place on a cookie sheet under the broiler till golden and toasted. (I usually put the sheet on the lower part of the oven to make sure the bread doesn’t cook too quickly).

Enjoy!

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Blueberry Crumble

It’s always a great day when the first crumble of the season goes into the oven.  Yes, I could (and do) make fruit crumbles during the year but there is something about the fresh fruit of the Summer that makes baking so special.  Pies, muffins, crumbles – I love baking them all and thankfully my family loves eating them.  My favorite crumble ingredient is in the topping – oats.  They really give the topping great texture and more depth than just sugar, butter and flour.  Beyond the fruit, it’s the star of the show.

Speaking of fruit, I use this same recipe regardless of the fruit with some minor additions.  The topping is always the same but when I make a peach (or cherry) crumble, I omit the lemon and add ½ tsp of almond extract and apples get ½ tsp of cinnamon.  This is such a versatile recipe and the perfect dessert for a pot luck, picnic or if you are bringing something to a friend.  It can be served warm or room temperature and I’ve frequently made it a few hours before I bring it somewhere and it’s perfect by the time we are ready to enjoy it.  Ice cream or whipped cream are never a bad addition but this crumble is great alone too.    

Ingredients

Filling

4 c                    Blueberries (preferably fresh but frozen is fine)

½ c                  Sugar

3 tbs                 Corn starch

2 tbs                 Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

                        Zest from one lemon

Crumb Topping

1/3 c                 Brown sugar, firmly packed

¾ c                  Flour

¾ c                  Sugar

1 c                    Old fashioned oats (not instant) (I use Quaker)

½ tsp               Salt

1 stick               Butter cut into piece, room temperature

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 350.

In a bowl combine all the ingredients for the filling, set aside.

In a separate bowl for the crumb topping, combine the brown sugar, flour, sugar, oats and salt.  Add the butter and mix till combined and the topping holds together.  I use my hands rather than a mixer but you could use a stand mixer with the paddle if you like. 

Crumble topping, ready for the butter

Pour the filling into a casserole dish at least two inches deep.  Crumble the topping all over the filling.  I grab a handful of the topping, squeeze it together and then break it up which produces large and small pieces which is what you want.  

Place on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet (depending on your casserole dish, the filling may bubble over the sides could make a mess). 

Ready for the oven

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling.

 

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Good Morning Cinnamon Buns

There is something about starting a Saturday or Sunday with a great cup of coffee and a sweet treat.  Now I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth (I would always go for a piece of pizza vs. a piece of cake) but everyone else in the family does.  What I am a fan of is pulling a weekend breakfast together quickly so I can actually sit and enjoy it with everyone.  Making traditional cinnamon buns with a yeast dough, could take hours before they make it to the table, which basically means I have to get up hours earlier than everyone else rolls out of bed. There has to be a better way. 

One of the products I always have on hand is puff pastry and for good reason.  There are so many ways to use it from turnovers, pot pies, cheese sticks, appetizers, streusel and on and on.  I prefer Pepperidge Farm and each box has two sheets of frozen puff pastry which defrosts in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter in less than an hour.  These cinnamon buns came together in about 15 minutes and were in the oven for 30, a doable amount of time for me on the weekend.  By the time these are almost done and the house smells like a bakery, everyone starts to stir looking for breakfast.  I prefer straight forward cinnamon buns (and my kids do, too) but my husband loves pecan rolls so I put some pecans in some of the muffin cups and I have to admit, they were delish.

Keep in mind these are best eaten right out of the oven.  They will be super-hot but if they sit for more than a few minutes, the sugar will solidify.  These are great as is but if you’re an icing fan, you can whip some up in less than a minute. 

Ingredients

1 pkg                Puff pastry (two sheets), defrosted in the refrigerator overnight (I love Pepperidge Farm)

6 tbs                 Butter (I use salted butter)

1¼ c                Brown sugar

¼ c                  Pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

2 tbs                Cinnamon

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 375.

Cut four tablespoons of the butter into 12 pats and place one in each of the 12 cups of a regular sized muffin pan. (I use a silicone muffin pan – click here for the link. ) Add one tablespoon of brown sugar and if you want pecan buns, then add one teaspoon of pecans.  Set aside.  Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter.

Butter

Butter and Sugar
Butter, Sugar and Pecans

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper. With a rolling pin and without pressure, roll the sheet to smooth out the seams. Brush the entire sheet (covering all edges) with melted butter, top with one tablespoon cinnamon and finally, ¼ cup brown sugar.   

Puff pastry ready for melted butter
With cinnamon
With cinnamon and brown sugar

Carefully roll the sheet by tucking the edge closest to you and rolling with two hands to keep it tight. 

Pinch the edges to close.  Cut the roll in half and then cut each half into three pieces.  Place each piece in the muffin tin, pressing down gently.  Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.

Place the muffin tin on a cookie sheet (to help make sure it remains flat in the oven) and then bake for 35 – 35 minutes or until the tops are brown and the filling is bubbling.

Once you remove the muffin pan from the oven, place a large platter on top and carefully invert to release each cinnamon bun.  If there is filling remaining in the tin, remove it quickly before the sugar solidifies.  Serve immediately but be careful as they will be hot. 

(Note: If you like icing on your cinnamon/pecan buns, combine ¼ c powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon milk and adjust with more milk or sugar till you get the consistency you want.)

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Chicken and Saffron Rice

One pan meals are my go-to these days.  I love being able to take a pan or skillet from the oven or stove and put it right on the table for dinner.  This dish is a stepchild to Arroz con pollo, a traditional Latin chicken and rice dish with peppers, peas, etc.  My family can be a bit picky so this is a simplified, but no-less delicious, chicken and rice.  After a quick sear on the chicken (who doesn’t love crispy chicken skin!?) the rice and chicken finish cooking together in the oven.  The secret ingredient that takes this dish to the next level is saffron.  It may be a little pricey but even a tiny bit packs great flavor so it goes a long way. Until I met a dear friend who is Persian, saffron wasn’t something I used regularly.  After enjoying her cooking and learning from her, I’ve found a number of ways to use it.  Oh, and my 14-year-old loves rice with saffron (actually I think he likes hers better than mine but that’s another story!).  The saffron comes in threads but I learned that the way to get the most flavor is to crush it or grind it into a powder. 

This meal is perfect for a weeknight dinner.  It came together in less than an hour once all the ingredients were assembled. (Having all the ingredients chopped, measured and ready is critical to making sure you don’t miss a step or forget an ingredient.  The French call it mise en place which translates to setting up and I can’t stress how helpful it is.)  Since this dish cooks in the oven, I especially loved how the edges of the rice got a little crispy which added some texture.  I sauteed some broccoli with garlic and served that alongside the chicken and rice. 

Ingredients

6                      Chicken thighs, bone in (you could use boneless but I fine these have more flavor)

½ c                  Diced shallots (you can use an onion if you don’t have a shallot)

1/8 tsp              Saffron, crushed or ground

1 tsp                 Grated garlic (on a microplane)

2 tbs                 White wine (I like a dry wine like Pinot Grigio)

1 ¾ c               Basmati rice

3 ½ c               Chicken stock

1 tbs                 Olive oil

1 tsp                 Seasoned salt

½ tsp               Salt, kosher

¼ tsp               Freshly ground pepper                                      

Parsley for garnish

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 400.

In a small bowl, combine the saffron with two tablespoons of stock and mix to help dissolve it. Set aside.

Pat the chicken thighs on both sides with a paper towel to make sure they are dry otherwise you won’t get a good sear on them.  Sprinkle both sides with seasoned salt.  In a wide, oven safe non-stick skillet (I love my Cuisinart casserole with glass cover), heat the olive oil and then brown the chicken, skin side down till golden brown.  Flip the chicken and sear on the non-skin side till brown.  You might have to do two batches so you can avoid crowding the pan.  Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove from the pan and place on a plate.

Pour off all but one tablespoon of the rendered fat and cook the shallot on medium to low heat until it is translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute to combine. 

Add the wine and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan, cooking for another minute.

Add the rice and mix with the shallot and garlic till coated and starting to toast. Add the stock and mix well.  Add the saffron mixture and combine.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Carefully place the chicken (and the juices from the plate) in the pan on top of the rice, being careful not to completely immerse the chicken or you will waste the great crust you have.   

Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the stock has been absorbed, about 20 – 25 minutes (depending on your oven and pan).  Check it after about 10 minutes. You can add more stock if you need to or move the rice around to check if the stock has been absorbed. 

Once the rice is cooked and the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 you can enjoy!

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Crunch-tastic Zucchini Fries

When I was growing up, fried zucchini was immensely popular and I specifically remember ordering it at Houston’s restaurant.  They were crunchy and seemed like a better option than French fries since zucchini was also a vegetable, even though they were fried.  Houston’s served them with horseradish sauce and it’s a combo I loved.  I rarely fry food in a big pot of oil because it’s just not the healthiest and I hate the mess it makes in the kitchen.  I still love these fries and especially because they are baked in the oven.  Panko breadcrumbs are key to making super crunchy “fries” and using only egg whites instead of a full breading (eggs, flour and breadcrumbs) also makes these healthier than the ones I grew up eating.  Since these only call for egg whites, handle them gently so you keep all the crunchy goodness on the zucchini.

We made this batch and enjoyed them on their own but they would be a great appetizer for a ballgame or with burgers if you are looking for something beyond french fries.

Ingredients

3          Zucchini, medium to large

4 c        Panko breadcrumbs

1 c Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

½ c      Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 tsp     Seasoned salt

4          Egg whites

            Canola spray

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 400, convection.

Cut the tops and bottoms off each zucchini and then cut them in half through the middle (not from end to end).  Cut each into sticks, roughly 18 per zucchini depending on how large they are.  Set the cut zucchini on a paper towel to ensure they are dry before you prepare them. 

Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and seasoned salt in a bowl or casserole dish and set aside.

With a whisk, beat the egg whites till they are just frothy.  Add the zucchini, a few at a time and then one-by-one, dredge in the breadcrumbs. 

Be sure to press the breadcrumbs onto the zucchini.  Carefully place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a single layer being careful not to crowed the fries.

Spray the zucchini with canola spray, which will help them brown, and cook at 400 degrees on convection until golden brown and tender, about 20 – 25 minutes.

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Blueberry Muffins

It’s blueberry season so I am always looking for ways to use them! I actually like blueberries cooked more than I like them raw. I love making blueberry pies that remind me of Summers in Maine along with crumbles, pancakes and these delicious muffins.  I’m not one for complicated recipes or ingredients so I especially love how easy this is.  Buttermilk adds great moistness to the muffins and the lemon zest amps up the blueberries.  Lemon and blueberries are great together and even if a blueberry recipe doesn’t call for adding juice or the zest, I do and I think it makes a difference.  

One of the things I try to avoid when I bake with blueberries is having purple batter.  When fresh blueberries are added to a batter the blueberries tend to fall apart which makes a messy, purple batter.  I like to see the blueberries in the muffins so I freeze the fresh blueberries (after they are washed and picked over for stems) and keep them in the freezer till I am ready to mix them into the batter.  I also prep the muffin tin so the blueberry batter doesn’t sit on the counter for too long.

If you are hosting a brunch or want fresh blueberry muffins in the morning, make the batter the night before and simply combine the batter and blueberries before you pop the muffins in the oven. Enjoy!

Ingredients

3 c        Flour

4 tsp     Baking powder

½ tsp   Salt

1 c        White sugar

½ c      Milk

¼ c      Buttermilk

2 c        Frozen blueberries

2/3 c     Vegetable oil    

2          eggs

1 tsp     Lemon zest

            Raw sugar for muffin tops

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and white sugar together in a large bowl. Stir together milk, buttermilk, oil, eggs and lemon zest in a separate bowl. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is mixed.  Fold in frozen blueberries (the batter will be thick) but be careful not to over mix or your blueberries will start to defrost and pop.   

With an ice cream scoop, place the batter into a muffin pan (about 3/4s full).  If you aren’t using muffin liners, spray the pan with canola spray.  Sprinkle each muffin generously with the raw sugar.

Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

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Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

I love pasta salad at a BBQ or picnic (maybe a little too much) and this is the one that I get the most requests for.  Nothing complicated and simple ingredients but the combination is a winner.  I especially like the bacon in this because everything is better with bacon, but you could easily omit it and make this vegetarian.  

I find that making the pasta the day before and tossing it with a little mayo and ranch is the best approach.  If you toss the pasta with the dressing right after you cook the pasta, the dressing will be absorbed and the pasta will need more than I’ve listed.  Tossing the pasta and putting it in the fridge overnight is best but a few hours in the fridge is fine too.  I’m a fan of saving steps where it makes sense and since you need to blanch the broccoli for a few minutes, I use the same pot and water I cooked the pasta in and instead of pouring the pasta and water into a colander, I use a spider (hand held strainer) or a small strainer to remove the pasta.  I highly recommend using fresh broccoli.  Frozen broccoli will be soggy and turn to mush in your salad.  By blanching the fresh broccoli and then shocking it in a bowl of ice water, it will stay bright green and firm.

Personally, I don’t love tons of dressing on my salads or on pasta.  I found the perfect balance of flavor and dressing by adding some ranch seasoning to the pasta salad rather than more ranch dressing or mayo. I always have ranch powder (specifically Hidden Valley Ranch) on hand for salads, dressings, rubs, etc. But you can add a little more mayo or ranch if you like – there are no rules!

Ingredients

1 lb.                  Short pasta (I like fusilli, gemelli, bow ties or large elbows)

3 c                    Broccoli florets, blanched

½ lb.                Thick cut bacon, thinly sliced

1 ¼ c               Mayonnaise (I love Hellman’s)

¼ c                  Ranch dressing (homemade or your favorite brand, mine is Hidden Valley Ranch)

3 tbs                 Ranch powder (Hidden Valley Ranch is my favorite)

1/3 c                 Milk (low fat or whole)

Preparation

Cook the pasta until it is al dente (you don’t want mushy pasta or it will break when you mix it).  Remove the pasta (reserve the water in the pot if you are blanching the broccoli) and rinse under cold water.  Toss with ¼ cup each of mayo and ranch dressing and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

Blanch the broccoli florets for about 2 minutes in boiling water.  Remove the broccoli and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process (aka shocking).  Drain well and pat dry.  I make the broccoli when I make the pasta so if you make the pasta the day before you are going to serve it, just put the blanched broccoli in the refrigerator till you are ready to assemble the pasta salad.

To make the bacon, cut ½ pound of bacon into ¼ inch wide strips and cook till just done.  Drain the pasta and cool till you are ready to assemble the whole dish.

To pull the pasta salad together, place the pasta in a large bowl.  In a measuring cup, combine 1 cup mayo, 3 tablespoons ranch powder and 1/3 cup of milk and mix well.  Pour over the pasta and combine.  Add the broccoli and bacon and season with salt and pepper to taste (I find the ranch powder has more than enough salt but feel free to customize according to your own taste).  

You can serve immediately or place in the refrigerator until you’re ready but I recommend assembling this the day you plan to serve it. 

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Chicken Parmigiana Meatballs

This may be my new favorite recipe I’ve created.  I’m all for eating heathier but I don’t want to give up great flavors and I know my family isn’t willing to go without their favorites.  That’s exactly how this recipe was born.  It has the delicious flavors of cheese and marinara sauce that make chicken parmigiana so fabulous but without the added breading and oil.  Instead of frying chicken cutlets, these juicy meatballs cook in the oven.  Less calories, no mess but tons of flavor are the perfect combination when I’m creating a recipe.  I didn’t this time but moving forward I will double or triple this recipe and pack the freezer for sure.  Like my traditional meatball recipe (also on eyummykitchen.com), these are great as a snack, on pizza, mixed with pasta and vegetables so make a batch and keep them on hand.  These make a quick, no stress weeknight meal especially if you use your favorite jar of marinara.

Ingredients

1 lb                   Ground Chicken

1                      Egg, lightly beaten

1/4 c                 Italian bread crumbs

1/4 c                 Panko bread crumbs

1/2 c                 Parmesan, grated

1/4 c                 Warm water

1 tbs                 Dried parsley

1 tsp                 Salt

½ tsp               Pepper

1 – 2 tbs           Olive oil

3 cups    Marinara sauce (I like Rao’s or Patsy’s)

1 pkg                Fresh mozzarella, sliced to top each meatball

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the ground chicken, egg, bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the water a little at a time.  The mixture should be wet but still hold its shape. 

Use a small ice cream scoop to form the meatballs.  You can roll them in your hands to shape them but if you do, be sure to wet your hands so the mixture doesn’t stick. Place the meatballs on a plate and put the into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to let them firm up. This recipe should yield about 22 – 25 meatballs.

To cook the meatballs, line a cookie sheet with foil and parchment paper and coat the parchment with a drizzle of olive oil. Place the meatballs on the pan and bake until they start to brown, approximately 20 minutes (the internal temperature should register 165 degrees). 

Once you remove the meatballs from the oven, set it to broil.  In an ovenproof dish (pan or casserole) place two cups of marinara sauce.  Place the meatballs on top of the marinara in the dish and spoon about a teaspoon of the remaining marinara over each one.  Top each with a slice of mozzarella (about ½ oz each) and place in the oven.

Cook until the cheese and sauce are bubbling, about 5 – 8 minutes depending on your oven.  Serve with pasta.  

 

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Split Pea and Ham Soup

When I host Easter brunch or dinner for family and friends, I love to serve a ham.  It’s perfect for brunch and goes well with eggs and biscuits served at room temperature.  For dinner, macaroni and cheese or scalloped potatoes along with lots of veggies is ideal.  I glaze the bone-in ham (usually spiral cut) with a mixture of apricot jam and mustard and baste it regularly so the edges get crispy.  As good as a well-cooked ham is for Easter, what I really like are the leftovers. 

I hate wasting food so I save as much of the ham as possible.  Some gets frozen for eggs, casseroles and quiches while some ends up in grilled ham and swiss sandwiches.  Even the smallest ham produces lots and lots of meat! But the best part is the large bone – the shank – that remains after most of the meat is removed.  It is a flavor bomb (a good thing!) and I think the perfect way to use it is to make split pea soup.  It’s one of the easiest soups to make and adding the shank to the simmering soup gives it a deeper flavor beyond the stock and vegetables.  If you’ve never used dried split peas, you can find them in any supermarket and normal they come in one-pound bags.  No prep needed – they go right from the bag to the pot.

This recipe will net at least three quarts of soup and it freezes very well.  I use an immersion blender to create a smooth texture although I like to actually taste and see the vegetables so I usually remove a couple of cups of the soup before I blend it and then add them back in.  Once the soup is done, I remove the shank bone and add some diced ham.  Ham can be salty so I wait till the soup is almost done before I see about seasoning with salt and pepper.  A drizzle of olive oil and a dash of Tabasco (for me) is the perfect finish.  Some croutons wouldn’t be bad either!

Ingredients

1 c                    Diced onion (I use sweet onions)

1 c                    Diced carrots

1 c                    Diced celery (I like to use some of the leaves for extra flavor)

1 clove            Garlic, whole

2 tbs                 Olive oil

1                      Ham bone (most of the meat removed but some is fine)

1 lb                   Dried split green peas

6 c                    Chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium if not homemade)

1/3 c                 Whole milk (optional)

1 ½ c               Diced ham

                        Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation

In a large Dutch oven or pot, add the ham shank and the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and olive oil. Cook for about 5 – 8 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender.  Add the split peas and stir until the peas are coated and mixed with the vegetables. 

Add the stock and simmer until the peas are falling apart, about an hour.  Stir frequently as the peas like to clump together on the bottom of the pot.

Remove about two cups of the soup (give or take) and blend the remaining soup till smooth with an immersion blender right it the pot.  Add the two cups of soup back to the soup along with the diced ham and milk. 

Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Meatballs

A bowl of pasta and meatballs makes just about everyone happy, including me.   Believe it or not, it’s an easy meal to pull together during the week and I’m always on the hunt for easy meals the entire family will like.  I often double this recipe and make a big batch so I always have some on hand.  I let them cool after they come out of the oven (I don’t put them in the sauce) and then put them in a zip top bag for an extra dinner in the future.  They are great sliced on pizza, in a hero, for a snack or even an appetizer. 

The meatballs are baked in the oven rather than on the stove so clean up is easy since there won’t be any oil splattering all over the kitchen – a major selling point for me.  I also like using less oil to cut down on calories.  You can certainly slave over the stove making your own sauce but for a great shortcut I go with my favorite jar sauce, Patsy’s.  Good food with good shortcuts is the name of the game for weeknights.

One of the keys to delicious meatballs – or any recipe – is great ingredients.  For these I always use ground beef with a high enough fat/meat ratio so they don’t dry out.  80/20 is my go-to and I balance the extra fat with the cooking in the oven vs. the stove.  Sometimes I will do 1 pound of beef and then add 1 pound of pork which adds great flavor.

Ingredients

2 lbs                Ground beef (80/20)

2                      Eggs, lightly beaten

1 c                    Bread crumbs (I mix Italian and plain panko)

1 c                    Parmesan, grated

1 c                   Warm water

2 tbs                 Dried parsley

1 tsp                 Salt

½ tsp               Pepper

                        Olive oil

Preparation

Preheat the oven on to 400.

Combine the meat, eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper into a large bowl.  Add the water a little at a time.  The meat mixture should be wet but still hold its shape. 

Use a small ice cream scoop to form the meatballs.  You can roll them in your hands to shape them. Be sure to wet your hands so the mixture doesn’t stick.

Place the meatballs on a foil and parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake till they are browned and sizzling, approximately 20 minutes. 

Meatballs aren't just for pasta and one batch goes a long way!

This recipe usually yields about 40 – 45 meatballs. 

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Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi makes an appearance on many, many restaurant menus and is recreated in homes regularly for good reason.  It’s indulgent, luxurious and delicious and brings together some of the most popular ingredients for cooks and chefs – garlic, butter, olive oil, lemon and of course, shrimp.   If you look up most recipes for shrimp scampi in cookbooks and online, it is prepared in a pan on the stove.  Not sure about you but I would like to reduce the recipes I fry or sauté to cut down on the mess as oil splatters everywhere, which is inevitable.  This version builds all the flavors into one dish, at the same time, and they cook together in the oven.  One dish, easy clean up and also a beautiful presentation from the oven right to the table.

I frequently make this for dinner during the week because it doesn’t take much to pull it together.  But it also is an impressive dish for a dinner party.  I put the large casserole dish in the middle of the table along side a big bowl or pasta and a crisp salad and we’ve got a great meal.  Some red pepper flakes and a little (or a lot!) grated parmesan cheese on top and it’s perfect.

Shrimp scampi is delicious on its own but I like a little texture so I started adding a topping of panko breadcrumbs which gives it great crunch, especially when it’s mixed in with the pasta.  Your call on the adding the topping but if you do, be careful to get the topping on the shrimp as much as possible.  Breadcrumbs are sponges and will soak up the sauce you worked to create at the bottom of the pan.  I protect that delicious sauce but pushing the shrimp together so there aren’t too many gaps between them and when I put the dish on the table, I prop up the end with the breadcrumbs so the sauce pools at the other end.     

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs.           Raw shrimp, deveined, tails removed (I use Jumbo which nets 21 – 25 per pound)

2 tbs                 Garlic, finely diced

¼ c                  Olive oil

3 tbs                 Butter, diced into small pieces

1 tbs                 Dried parsley

2 tbs                 Dry white wine (I’m partial to Pinot Grigio)

1 tbs                 Fresh lemon juice  

1 tsp                 Seasoned salt

Topping

½ c                  Panko breadcrumbs

1 ½ tbs            Butter

¼ tsp               Dried parsley

¼ tsp               Seasoned salt

Preparation

Preheat your oven to broil.

In a bowl, combine the shrimp with the olive oil, white wine, lemon juice and seasoned salt.

In a single layer, place the shrimp in a large casserole dish.  Cut up the butter into small pieces and place around the shrimp.  Sprinkle with parsley and place in the oven on a low rack (not directly under the broiler) for about 8 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and butter and microwave for 30 seconds or until the butter melts.  Mix together.

Panko topping

Once the shrimp is pink and the sauce is bubbling, remove the pan from the oven carefully. The shrimp will be slightly smaller so push them together so there are limited spaces between them.  If you skip this step, the topping will absorb all the sauce.  Sprinkle the topping over the shrimp and return the pan to the oven to toast the topping which will take about 1 – 2 minutes.  DO NOT WALK AWAY – THE TOPPING CAN BURN IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE.  Not everyone in my house likes the topping so I usually only do half of the shrimp.

Remove the pan from the oven and serve.  If I put the pan on the table, I put a towel under the side with the topping to tilt the pan so the sauce pools on the other side which makes it easier to get to the sauce.

Serve over pasta and an extra squeeze of lemon.

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Soul Satisfying Meatloaf

Meatloaf could be the poster child for comfort food. 

While it cooks, your house smells like heaven and once it hits your plate with some mashed potatoes and green beans, you are mesmerized.  I don’t make this often, but when I do, it’s a hit.  There are lots of recipes out there for meatloaf and I’ve tried dozens of them and came up with this recipe which is a keeper.  Lots of recipes call for ketchup which I found to be kind of pedestrian and I looked for ways to get concentrated flavors into the meatloaf without slathering it with ketchup.  I start with 80/20 beef which is the single most important tip for good, moist meatloaf.  If you try it with a blend that is super lean, you will have a dry brick for dinner.  Turkey meatloaf is a great option if you don’t want to use beef.  Don’t go with super lean or you will give up lots of flavor. I mix in sautéed onions, breadcrumbs, eggs, stock and Worcestershire sauce and then bake it so the ends are crispy and it’s brown on top. It’s full of flavor and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, is great on a sandwich the next day.   I go for the traditional sides but macaroni & cheese would be an amazing addition.

Ingredients

1½ lbs          Ground beef (80/20)

1 cup            Sweet onion, diced

1 tbs              Seasoned salt

1 tbs              Olive oil

2                   Eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup           Warm water

1½ tbs          Tomato paste

1 cup             Beef broth

½ cup            Panko breadcrumbs

1 tbs              Worcestershire sauce

1½ tsp           Kosher salt

½ tsp            Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a small frying pan, sauté the onions in the olive oil and seasoned salt till translucent, about five minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef broth and cook till combined and slightly reduced, about four minutes.   Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs, water, eggs and salt. Combine well.  When the tomato/onion mixture is cooled, add 2/3s of it to the ground beef. Reserve the rest for the top of the meatloaf.

Place the mixture on a foil and parchment paper lined cookie sheet and form into a loaf, ensuring it is evenly shaped.  I go for a longer loaf of about two or three inches in height.  Spread the remaining tomato/onion mixture all over the top of the meatloaf.

Bake uncovered for about 30 – 45 minutes until the center registers 160 degrees.  Let sit for at least five minutes before serving.

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Lemon Chicken Thighs with Zucchini and Orzo

Who doesn’t love a one-pot dinner you can get on the table in less than an hour? Sign me up as there are plenty of days, as organized as I am with meal planning, when 4pm rolls around and plans need to change.  Someone has practice, a class or a call and what I originally planned is no longer a good idea.  This dish is a variation on one created by @thehungryhutch (currently a food writer at the Washington Post and one of my fav food bloggers – check him out).  I’ve only tweaked it a bit as it’s a great recipe and the star ingredient in my opinion is lemon.  Some people are obsessed with chocolate or truffles – I love lemons.  I love the way they taste – fresh, tart and juicy – I love having them in a big bowl on a table, I love the way they smell (I buy the William Sonoma Meyer Lemon candles in bulk!) and I especially love to cook with them.  This recipe calls for only one lemon but when you cut a lemon and cook it, the flavor gets ratcheted up and the amount of juice seems to double.  When I grill, I always cut a lemon or two and grill them to serve with steak and chicken.  Even if you don’t love a spritz of lemon on your dinner, they look great on the serving platter.

I made this dish a few times with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and with bone-in, skin on too.  The skin on, bone-in thighs are 100% the way to go.  The crispy skin is not only delicious but the fat you render from cooking them first adds lots of flavor to the overall dish.  The skinless thighs were good and I might make this again and shred them so everything is mixed together but until then, I’m sticking with the skin on thighs.

The original recipe calls for broccoli which is great and you can use fresh florets or frozen but I swapped broccoli for zucchini this time and I really liked it.  You need a sturdy vegetable since it cooks with the orzo which takes a few minutes to absorb the liquid so if you want to substitute your favorite vegetable just make sure it’s something that won’t fall apart as it cooks.  

We eat a decent amount of rice (always on Tuesdays with tacos) but lately I’ve been using more orzo which we really like.  I like it in place of rice for a “risotto” and it’s wonderful in pasta salad, casseroles and soups because it’s a sturdy pasta and doesn’t get mushy. 

Ingredients

4                           Bone in, skin on chicken thighs

1 tsp                    Salt (I use Kosher)

1 tsp                    Seasoned Salt (I use Lawry’s)

½ tsp                   White pepper

2 tbs                    Olive oil

3 tbs                    Butter

1                           Lemon (medium), sliced thinly

4 cups                 Zucchini (you can use broccoli or another sturdy veggie too), cut into ½ inch, half moons

1 ½ cups             Orzo

1 sprig                 Thyme

1 clove                Garlic, grated on a micro plane

½ cup                  White wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

2 ½ cups             Low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat the chicken thighs dry and sprinkle the seasoned salt on both sides.  In a heavy bottom pot or skillet (I use a Cuisinart dutch oven which lives on my stove) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Place the chicken skin side down and cook till they release from the pot (that’s when you know it’s time to flip!) and are golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Flip them over and cook the other side, about another 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 tbs of butter and the lemon slices to the pot, spreading them out to a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes until the juices are released (they will also start to pick up some color which is great).  Remove lemon to a plate and reserve.

Add the orzo, zucchini, garlic, thyme, 1 tbs butter, salt and pepper to the pan and cook until coated and orzo is toasted, stirring for approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook for about a minute and then add the stock.  Stir well to release the bits off the bottom of the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the lemons and chicken back to the pan along with any juices from the plates.  Make sure to place the skin side up and don’t completely immerse it in the sauce or you will have soggy skin.   Cook uncovered for about 10 – 15 minutes, carefully moving the orzo and liquid mixture around a bit if needed.  Once the liquid is reduced and the orzo is tender (I always go by the taste test rather than live and die by the time) you are ready to go.

I place the pot on the table and serve right from there.

Enjoy!  

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Sweet & Spicy Pickled Onions & Jalapenos

I love spicy foods and spicy condiments on anything and everything. I got the savory gene instead of the sweet tooth and as a result, I’ve got about a dozen hot sauces and pepper mixes since certain ones go with certain food. My refrigerator is always full in part because of all the condiments, hot sauces and salad dressings.  I love adding jalapenos and banana peppers to salads, tacos and sandwiches.  I first had pickled onions on fish tacos in Mexico years ago and then my sister made a great batch a couple of years ago so I needed to figure out my own version.  My recipe has sugar to cut the vinegar and spicy bite for these sweet and spicy pickled onions and jalapenos.  They are the perfect combination of my love of spicy, with a big punch of flavor from the vinegar and just enough sweetness to balance everything out. I put them in salads, on sandwiches, tacos, burritos and they make a great topping for avocado toast or with hummus on crackers.  The best part is they are super easy to make and keep for a few weeks in the fridge.  When I get close to needing a new batch, I use the brine to make a super flavorful vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1                      Large red onion (or 2 small)

2                      Jalapenos, seeded

1/3 cup          Sugar

1 ½ cups       Red wine vinegar

½ cup             White vinegar

¼ tsp               Salt

Directions

Combine vinegar and sugar in a saucepot and heat till dissolved.  Cut the onion in half, slice thinly.  Slice jalapeno (you can discard the seeds and stem but I keep them in for more heat).  Add onions and jalapeno to vinegar and sugar.  Let the mixture cool and then transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator.

Basil Pesto

During the Summer and early Fall, there is an abundance of fresh basil and I am unable to walk past the giant bunches at our local farmers market.  Basil is an herb I prefer to use fresh rather than dried and I use it often.  At the top of the list for ways to use basil is pesto.  Garlic, fresh parmesan, olive oil and basil (and pignoli/pine nuts) all the makings of classic Italian flavors and produce a sauce that has endless possibilities for how to enjoy it.  Homemade pesto, like many things, is so much better when you make it yourself with fresh, quality ingredients. 

If I’m going to make a batch, I double it and then freeze the pesto in ice cube trays so I have one tablespoon portions on hand for months. Once the pesto is frozen, I transfer the cubes to a zip top bag.  I drop a couple of cubes into Bolognese for the perfect depth of flavor, on a toasted baguette topped with tomatoes, spread on a panini, drizzled on pizza, tossed with pasta and so on, and so on.  A big batch of pesto is the gift that keeps on giving.     The food processor does all the work and the most time-consuming part of the process is cleaning the basil, which can be sandy.   Most recipes for pesto call for pignoli nuts but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use another nut.  Salt is also in the traditional recipe but I don’t put any salt in mine. Since I use it in so many different dishes, I prefer to season once I add the pesto so I can control the amount of salt.

Ingredients

5 cups                 Fresh, cleaned basil leaves, firmly packed.

¼ cup                 Pignoli nuts (also known as pine nuts)

5 cloves              Garlic

1 cup                   Freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cup               Good, extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

In a food processor add the garlic, pignoli nuts, and basil.   Mix while drizzling in the olive oil.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the cheese.  Pulse till combined. 

Transfer to ice cube trays and freeze if not using immediately. 

Peachy Keen Cake

Mid-August is the perfect time to enjoy fresh, ripe Summer peaches.  They are worth waiting for and once they are here – like so many other Summer fruits and vegetables – I try to come up with lots of ways to use them.  I’m trying to expand my baking repertoire (honestly, I’m not much of a baker) and I couldn’t walk past the basket of fresh peaches at the @summitfarmersmarket. Peach cobbler, crisps, pies and crostatas are all great but I’ve been in a cake mood so I set out to find the perfect cake recipe.  I found one in the America’s Test Kitchen’s 20th Anniversary Cookbook but I made a few edits (the first was not including peach schnapps – my peaches were so fresh, they didn’t need any enhancements!).  There were a few more steps than other recipes but they are worth it.  Peaches give off lots of liquid and this recipe helps eliminate a potentially soggy bottom.   I use fresh peaches but you could probably do this with frozen though I would defrost them first to help cut down on the added liquid.

Ingredients

2 ½ lbs               Fresh peaches (peeled, pitted and cut in half)

4 tsp                    Fresh lemon juice

¾ cup                  Sugar

1 cup                   Flour

1 ¼ tsp                Baking powder

¾ tsp                   Salt

½ cup                  Light brown sugar, packed

2                           Eggs, large

8 tbs                    Melted and cooled butter

¼ cup                  Sour cream

3 tbs                    Super fine flour (Wondra is one of my secret weapons!)

1/3 cup               Raw sugar

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 425.

Cut some of the peach halves into wedges (about 24), toss them in 2 tsp lemon juice and 3 tbs sugar – set aside.  Dice the rest of the peaches into large chunks and mix the chunks with the remaining 2 tsp of lemon juice and 2 tbs of sugar.  Place the diced peaches in a strainer for 5 minutes and reserve the liquid.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and parchment paper and spread the diced peaches in a single layer.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes to extract additional juices.  Remove from the pan and let the peaches cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.  Combine the brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar, and eggs in a bowl till mixed.  Add the sour cream and vanilla, mixing well.  Slowly add the melted and cooled butter.  Combine well with the flour mixture but don’t overmix.

Grease and flour a springform pan.  Add half the batter and scatter the cooled peache chunks over the batter, lightly pressing them into the batter.  Sprinkle the super fine flour over the peaches and top with the remaining batter making sure to cover the peaches. 

Arrange the peach wedges on top in a circle making sure to fill the center as well.  Sprinkle the entire top generously with the raw sugar and bake, rotating the pan once, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about an hour). Once you remove the cake from the oven, run a sharp knife around the edges and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing the outer ring.  Let the cake cool completely for a few hours before serving.

I served slices with whipped cream but vanilla ice cream would be great, too.