Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eggplant and Three Peppers Lasagna

A few days ago I was inspired to make an eggplant lasagna. I've made veggie lasagnas, even with eggplant, before. This time, I wanted to use some beautiful red, yellow, and orange peppers I had in my fridge, just waiting for the right recipe. My friend Carol, whose blog, A Cup of Mascarpone, featured her eggplant lasagna recipe recently, makes this all the time, and she talks about what a great dish it is. I agree.

My take on Carol's eggplant lasagna uses thin slices of the purple fruit (vegetable?), about 1/4-inch thick (peeled - my preference), cut in long strips like lasagna noodles and roasted in a fairly hot oven for about 15 minutes.  It's layered with a pepper and tomato puree, sliced tomatoes, and colorful cooked pepper strips. Italian seasoning is sprinkled over all and topped with ricotta and mozzarella -- both nonfat -- and then another layer of the whole thing all over again.  It's incredibly low-fat and low-calorie, but scores high marks in its pretty presentation and deliciousness!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray
Spray 8" square pan with cooking spray

1 large or 2 small eggplants, peeled, and cut in 1/4-inch slices lengthwise (like lasagna noodles)
salt and pepper
onion powder
minced garlic - about 2 cloves
1/2 cup chopped onion (I like Vidalia)
1 each: red pepper, yellow pepper, orange pepper, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced in 1/4-inch slices, placed on layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture (Carol says this step helps to avoid a watery lasagna.)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
Italian seasoning
1 cup non-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup non-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place eggplant slices on prepared cookie sheet. Spray tops with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a little bit of onion powder. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

While eggplant slices are baking, sauté pepper strips with chopped onion in a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a few tablespoons of water. Add minced garlic. After about 10 minutes, when soft, add drained diced tomatoes and cook until hot and bubbly.  Take half the peppers/tomato mixture and puree in blender. (I used a Magic Bullet). This will be the sauce for the lasagna. Reserve the rest of the peppers and diced tomatoes for layering.

Assemble lasagna:
Cover the bottom of the 8x8-inch pan with half the eggplant "noodles." Spread sauce over the eggplant (not too much, just cover). Layer half the tomato slices over sauce. Add a layer of peppers/tomatoes from the reserved cooked peppers mixture, draining well with a slotted spoon or strainer before adding.  Sprinkle well with Italian seasoning. Add half of the ricotta cheese, dropping by spoonfuls over the peppers, and spreading a bit. Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese over the layers.  Repeat this layering one more time: eggplant, sauce, tomato slices, peppers and diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, ricotta, mozzarella. After the last layer of mozzarella, sprinkle grated Parmesan and a little bit of Italian seasoning.  Remaining sauce can be reserved and heated up when you serve the lasagna.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to brown a tiny bit, and lasagna is bubbling.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for 30 minutes before cutting.  If it seems a little watery around the outside edges of the pan, use a folded paper towel to absorb excess moisture. (I had to do this, but it worked well.)

It takes a little bit of time, but this recipe is so low fat, so low in calories (half the whole thing is only about 350 calories!), and so delicious - well worth the time and effort!

Bonus shot: My grandsons Peter (almost 3) and Henry (5) enjoying a beautiful fall morning!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Apple Brownies and an Anniversary Cake!

This post is inspired by my friend Diane Loviza, who shared her Apple Brownies recipe with me on facebook.  Well, I left facebook and decided to look up recipes online for this wonderful dessert. I found a few I liked particularly well, but changed things up so much that I now have my own, unique recipe for Apple Brownies. I hear they are terrific (into week 4 of that food study - none for me!). My son-in-law Bill said, "You can make these again!" I dropped a bunch off to my son Joe, and the rest are getting wrapped and frozen for life post-food study, though the results of the study are so positive, I may never eat "that way" again. It's been phenomenal!

So, about those Apple Brownies. I sauté small chunks of apples in a little butter and apple cider until soft but still intact (my adaptation to the recipe). I chose to use brown sugar and white sugar, to provide a bit of solid chewiness. I left out walnuts because I didn't have any, but would definitely include them if my cupboards weren't bare (of walnuts)!

This is also a pretty dessert. Anyone who's read this blog for a while knows I love pretty food! But the appearance is only outdone by the delicious aroma and (I hear) taste!  Try these - you will LOVE them!

Before going under the knife!

8-inch square pan, sprayed with cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350-degrees Farenheit

Step 1:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 larger or 3 small apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add apple juice and apples. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until soft but still intact, and all the cider has evaporated.  Allow to cool and set aside.

Step 2:
1 bar unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugars and vanilla extract. Add egg and beat until very well combined.

Step 3:
Sift together dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Dump sifted ingredients into mixing bowl and, on low speed, combine with butter/sugar mixture.

Step 4:
Remove from mixer and fold in cooked apples. If desired, you can also add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts at this point.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until brownies begin to brown lightly on the outer edges and are firm in the middle.

Cool for 30 minutes.

Cut into 12  bars (3 one way, 4 the other).

Sift a little confectioners sugar on top if you like.

And speaking of pretty food....

The boys "helping" to make their parents' anniversary cake
Note - Pete's got TWO spoons!
(another one of today's projects)

Anniversary cake - filling - butter cream
and sour cherry preserves - just like their wedding cake!

Almond flavor layers

With Hershey Cocoa Frosting, and a slight hint of almond

...and here's the link to my web album with the original wedding cake from October, 2005 (and lots of other cakes, as well!).

Happy Anniversary, Katie and Bill, and many more!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Life After Facebook

It's been a few days, and my facebook withdrawal is going OK. I'm still fighting the urge to turn it back on, to check on my over-600 "friends" to see what's new. Of those 600-plus friends, I'd say I really only kept up with about 20 regularly. The rest I largely ignored because fb didn't send their updates to my newsfeed, or, I didn't go to each of their pages to see what was new. It got unmanageable.

So, what have I been doing instead of fb'ing? Well, I've been working, hanging out with Henry and Peter, and baking, and writing about it here, and baking some more. I have been working later nights, and making dinner when I get home, and finding myself with time that would have previously been lost to facebook. It's been very nice getting that time back. Still, the compulsion is there to just go check to see what's new. It's a hard habit to break, that's for sure, but much easier now that I've deactivated my account.

So, WHY did I leave facebook? Lots of reasons - but mostly, it didn't make me feel good. Often, I'd spend too much time, and then feel rotten about the lost time and lost productivity. I never cared for the political conversations or the religious posts. I don't have those conversations in real life so why would I engage in them on facebook? I grew up with the lesson that religion and politics were off-limits at the dinner table, and that expands to my workplace and also to cyberspace. It's just the way I am and I don't judge others for participating - I just choose not to. Not something I'll ever be comfortable with, regardless of the setting. It's not that I'm uninformed or don't have an opinion. I certainly do, but I keep those opinions private.  Another problem - I don't care for the dynamic I see on fb (as in real life) of keeping up with the cyber-Joneses, nor do I want to know what makes people angry or want to rant. I found myself keeping up with people I barely know, while at the same time not staying in touch, enough, with my own flesh-and-blood family and friends.

And at the same time, there are aspects of fb that I miss greatly right now, and I do hope that diminishes soon. I miss seeing my friends' updates about the happy things that are happening in their lives. I miss instant-messaging my sisters and friends. I miss seeing beautiful photographs that my friends and relatives post. I seriously miss sharing my blog updates and photos of my grandsons. That was all a big part of my every day. It's really like losing a long-term friendship, one I've maintained for over five years, and I have to find other ways to compensate.

Another thing I've noticed - without fb promotion, this blog is seen by far fewer people. That's troublesome so I have to figure out a way to keep my blog relevant and current and hope the audience doesn't leave without a fb nudge to keep my readers loyal. Time will tell...

I thank YOU, my readers, for coming back to see what's new here at ADK Baker. I promise lots of delicious posts to keep you coming back!

(And if you come back tomorrow, you'll find a great recipe for Apple Brownies posted!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake!

Click for a close-up!
It's that time of year here in the northeast, when we visit apple orchards and farmers' markets and are drawn in by the subtle scent of warm apple cider doughnuts. We wait in lines to buy our half-dozens (or more) of the cinnamon and sugar coated rings, so patiently as those ahead of us walk away from the counter or table, loaded paper bags bearing tell-tale grease stains. The lucky recipients dig in before getting 10 feet away since these doughnuts are meant to be eaten warm, just out of the fryer and cinnamon sugar bin.

I've been to two apple orchards in the last week, first Focastle Farm in Burnt Hills, about 20 miles south of my home in Middle Grove, where I joined my grandson Pete, my daughter Katie, and Pete's nursery school class! So cute! There, I picked Empire and Cortland apples. Then, over the weekend, we drove north and east to Hick's Orchard in Granville, New York, just west of the Vermont border.  There, the boys got to spend time in the bounce house, and it was a bit of work trying to get them out! The shop at Hick's is beautiful, with apple-everything.  They have a live bee-hive behind glass, an overhead train on tracks (that captivated Pete!) and a wine-tasting room for the over 21-crowd! There were food trucks and stands outside, and people were having lunch at picnic tables and on the lawns overlooking the orchards, where later we picked Honey Crisps (my favorite apple!). In the store, we watched through the window into the doughnut shop as the doughnuts came off the conveyor, into the fryer, and then into the cinnamon sugar bin. It was fascinating!

Pete and his little friends - snack time at Focastle Farm

Hick's Orchard, Granville, NY

So, with all this apple inspiration, today I bring you a new recipe for an Apple Cider Doughnut Cake! Yep, all the goodness of those luscious doughnuts baked into a beautiful cake - a mega-version of that little fall favorite. This recipe, adapted from Serious Eats, uses an apple cider/apple puree, mixed with all the best cake ingredients: creamy butter, fresh eggs, sugar, flour, a touch of nutmeg. The batter is spread into a buttered bundt pan. While it's cooling and still warm, a generous mixture of cinnamon and sugar is massaged over the surface of the cake. It's best to do this with the cake still on the cooling rack, over a large cookie sheet or pan. That way, the excess sugar mixture is captured in the pan and can be saved for the next Apple Cider Doughnut Cake, because there WILL be a next cake!

A slice of Apple Cider Doughnut Cake...
Can't you just taste it?

Here's the recipe. Please give it a try and let me know how you like it! But do it soon, while colorful leaves fall from the trees, and apples and cider are abundant.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Buttered bundt pan

1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 apple - peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk (or rice milk/soymilk - whatever you have on hand)

Bring apple cider to boil and add chopped apple. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and then puree cider/apple mixture in blender (I used a Magic Bullet). Stir in milk. Set aside.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature

In large mixer bowl, beat together butter with granulated and brown sugars until light and creamy. Beat in vanilla extract, and then eggs, one at a time.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace (I didn't have mace, used 1/8 tsp. allspice instead)

In separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients, above.

Measure out one cup of the apple cider mixture - this is all you will use.  Add flour mixture alternately with the cup of apple cider mixture to butter mixture in bowl. When just completely combined, turn off the mixture and then complete mixing by hand, scraping the bowl with a spatula.

Spread batter in the buttered bundt pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests done.  Cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto cooling rack.


6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mixt the sugar topping ingredients together and rub gently and generously into the surface of the warm cake.

Original Recipe:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day One of Facebook Withdrawal

Wow, day one of facebook withdrawal wasn't so easy. I woke up and immediately wanted to see what was new with people, and didn't do it. There were many moments during the day when I had the impulse to "check" facebook and just had to divert that energy elsewhere. It's a good thing I had a full day at work and then a celebration afterwards at Forno Tuscano in Saratoga Springs, to say so-long to one of our favorite museum monitors who's moving to Maine. There were about 10 of us, and we sat long and happily in a pretty corner of the restaurant, near the bar. Hearty salads, individual pizzas, and wine were the fare for the night, and we talked a lot and laughed even more. It was a good day. And now I am home, at almost 10 pm, and when I would normally be checking out all the updates on facebook, I am here instead, saying hello to you or perhaps no one in particular, but grateful to have this time to reflect on the day.

As I promised in my last post, I will be bringing you two terrific apple recipes in my next posts. The first, Apple Cider Doughnut Cake (!) is something I'll be baking tomorrow night and photographing in the next morning's light. Then, there's Diane Loviza's Apple Brownies - only problem is she sent me the recipe in a message on facebook, as well as a photo, and now I'm disconnected. I will make an actual phone call (I do remember her number!) and get the recipe over the phone, just like I did in 1990!

As I head toward the weekend, there are more cakes to bake (two birthday cakes) and muffins and scones for my favorite hotel. And, I'm looking forward to a visit from Russ as well, which makes me happy.

So...I think Day 2 of facebook withdrawal will be a little easier than Day 1, and Day 3 even easier. It's all going to be OK. There is life after facebook.

I hope you have all had a very good day, and a peaceful, restful night. I'll be back soon with those luscious apple recipes, so please come back, and leave a comment. I'll be very glad to know you're here!

Photo image credit: