Recipe: Waldorf Red Velvet Cake

Our family has long been an fan of red velvet cake. I have had it more than once for my birthday. And now we have brought the cake back as part of our Christmas holiday tradition for the last few years. However, we modify the recipe from cake to either cupcakes or my favorite, bite sized cake balls.


Preheat oven to 350. Flour two 9 inch cake pans.

1/2 c Crisco
1 1/2 c sugar

Cream until fluffy, add 2 eggs, add one at a time to the batter, beat 1 minute. In a separate dish, mix 2 tbl unsweetened cocoa and 1/4 c red food coloring. Add to batter and mix well. Add 1 tsp salt. In separate dish, mix 1 c buttermilk and 1 tap vanilla. Add slowly into mixture, alternating with flour (2 1/4 c double-sifted flour). Combine 1 tbl vinegar and 1 tap baking soda. Mix into batter. Pour batter into cake pans, bake 25-30 min.


We actually use basic cream cheese frosting recipe instead, but here is the official one:

1 c milk
5 tbl flour
Carefully mix, cook on med-hi heat until think. Cool.

1 c butter, softened
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat together until fluffy. Add milk mixture slowly, maintaining fluffiness. Spread on cake or cupcakes.

To compile as CAKE BALLS:

Crumble cake in a large bowl and mix in frosting (we mix in a standard cream cheese recipe). Similar to making drop cookies, scoop spoonfuls and mold into balls. I prefer to freeze the balls for a few hours before dipping into melted chocolate. After dipping, place on parchment paper to set chocolate. Once chocolate is set, enjoy!

Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Dijon Glaze

In a recent weekly vegetable box, I received a handful of sweet potatoes. So it was time to find a recipe to showcase them with a salmon dish tonight. And I (we) scored! These fries are delicious with salmon (broiled with olive oil and a little salt and pepper) and a glass of white wine (Meadow from Ross Andrews).
  • 4 medium to large dark red sweet potatoes (often called Garnet or Jewel yams)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, and thyme are best; but any combo works)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425º F.
  2. Wash garnet yams well under cold water and remove the pointy ends. Slice the yams into long thin strips about 1/4 inch thick. The best way to do this is to slice them into 1/4 inch thick “planks” first and then stack up two or three planks to cut into strips. ((I varied the recipe and cut into rounds as my potatoes were on the small side)
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, mustard, herbs, and seasonings.
  4. Toss yam strips with glaze and spread out evenly onto a baking sheet. Be sure not to crowd them as they will steam and turn mushy.
  5. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until lightly browned. Some smaller pieces may brown or blacken a bit at the edges, but this is fine.

Serves: 4 to 6

Recycling Recipes

Now that year 41 is coming to an end, it seems ambitious to have set the goal to try 42 new recipes. Looking in the archive, I only have about 20 blog posts. As the girl says “FAIL”!

Part of my failure comes from my lack of recipe following. I often adjust depending on ingredients in the cupboard (daily trips to the market are not in my genetic pool). So I didn’t want to post my version, but rather the original recipe as intended. But without knowing exactly how good the real recipe was, I didn’t want to publicly endorse the recipe.

Another part comes from only wanting to post the very successful recipes. Only ones I wanted to eat again. And looking though the archive, almost every recipe has been made at least twice. (Accomplishment hidden in there).

Regardless of my excuses, I know I didn’t attempt 41 new recipes. That is almost one a week. And that is a lot to fit in the weekly meal planning for me. I know I did eat more than 41 new dishes…and likely enjoyed close to 41 new dishes. I also know that as I find a recipe to share, I will blog about it (I am finding that is an easy way to also keep track of recipes).

Now, what do I do for year 42?

Recipe: Nuts About Cabbage Salad


4 c red cabbage, slivered

½ c hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, chopped

¼ c flat leaf parsley, chopped

4 TBL walnut oil

1 ½ TBL balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix: Place cabbage, hazelnuts and parsley in a bowl. In separate, small bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Toss on cabbage mixture. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Ricotta Gnocchi

On my wish list for many months – and recently inspired by “His Birthday Dinner”, we took time over the holidays to try our hand at Michael Chiarello’s Ricotta Gnocchi and Salsa della Nonna.

Using ricotta as the base for these gnocchi produces a lighter pillowy gnocchi (don’t tell me, “pillowy in not a word”). Start making the gnocchi at least 48 hours before you want to  serve them, as you need to drain the ricotta overnight, and then freeze the gnocchi before  cooking.


  • 3 pounds whole-milk ricotta, drained  overnight in cheesecloth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably gray  salt
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling and dusting

Using the back of a large spoon, press the ricotta through a fine-mesh sieve  into a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and sea salt, and mix with a rubber  spatula. Gently fold in the flour; the less you work the dough, the lighter and  more tender the gnocchi will be. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly sprinkle your work surface [make sure it is as cold and smooth, like  marble or a countertop] and two baking sheets with flour. Pull off about a  quarter of the gnocchi dough and gently roll it into a rope about 1 inch wide.  Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut the rope into 1-inch  pieces. Gently transfer each gnocchi to a baking sheet and dust with flour.  Repeat with the remaining dough, then slide the gnocchi on trays into the  freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours, and up to 1 month (the texture is best  when they go directly into the water from the freezer).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook about 24  gnocchi for 3-3 ½ minutes, or for 30-45 seconds after they float to the  surface. Transfer the gnocchi to warm plates. Following serving directions.

Salsa della Nonna


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 4-pound chicken, quartered
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup peeled and finely diced  carrot
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes,  preferably San Marzano, crushed in a food-mill or pulsed 3-4 times in a food processor,  juices reserved
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil  leaves

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Season the  chicken with salt and pepper. Add the  chicken to the pot and lightly brown it on all sides, about 4 minutes per side.  Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the carrot, celery, onion,  and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the rosemary, bay  leaf, and red wine. Stir to scrape up the browned bits, then add the chicken,  and any accumulated juices, back to the pot. Cook, reducing the liquids until  the pot is nearly dry. Pour in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Top the pot with a sweating lid so it rests on the chicken, and place  in the oven. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.

With tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and keep warm for serving,  or cool, wrap, and chill for later use. Add the torn basil leaves to the sauce  and stir.

To Serve:

Serve about 12 gnocchi per plate. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, and a  spoonful of the warm sauce. Finish  with a sprinkle of pecorino and serve immediately.

*Make a sweating lid: You can  also use a normal pot lid, but the cooking time may increase. Trace the lid of  your cooking pot on parchment and cut out a lid with a slightly smaller  diameter. The lid helps reduce circulation in the pot, keeping the food more  moist.

Homemade Chai

For months, I have been wanting to make my own chai partially due to the abundance of caramom pods and fennel seeds in my spice cupboard. Today, I finally did it!

The recipe I chose:

1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
6 caramom pods

Combine in a medium saucepan. Lightly crush or bruise the spices.

Add 6 cups of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium low, partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add six tea bages of black tea (preferably Darjeeling) and steep 10-20 minutes. Remove tea bags and strain.

Add 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Simmer over low heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Pour into a tea pot and serve immediately (serves 6).

Kitchen Notes: It is a whole lot of yum – and also works with steamed milk for chai tea latte. Looking forward to making another batch with a few variations (add 1 tsp of fennel seed, reduce sugar in half).

Mac & Cheese Plus

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Gather up a list of ingredients for the ultimate comfort meal.

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper

And for the topping, I switched up the recipe to crumbled goat cheese.

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

And to bring it all together…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese — in my case, crumbled goat cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Grandma Ki-Ki’s Banana Bread

Going through the recipe box to pull out the Christmas cookies, I found an old banana bread recipe from the Great Grandma Ki-Ki archives. And in the spirit of sharing…

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c banana
  • 1.5 TBL milk
  • 1 TBL lemon juice

Blend until smooth. Add dry sifted dry ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • optional 1 c nuts

Bake at 350 until “toothpick” done. Usually 40+ minutes.

Tiana’s Spaghetti Gravy

Over the holiday weekend, we ate and ate. After we cooked and cooked. With almost no plans this weekend, our afternoons and evenings became the perfect time to try new dishes. We started with Tiana’s…

In a large stock pot, melt 6 anchovy fillets in 3 TBL olive oil. (I substituted anchovy paste.) add one large onion, finely chopped and cook until they start to soften. Add:

6 cloves of finely chopped garlic,
at least an ounce (maybe two) of fresh thyme
1 TBL dried basil (or fresh, that is what I had handy)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Dash cayenne
Cook two to three minutes longer

Add two large cans tomato purée and two large cans of crushed tomatoes. Stir well. Cover until it begins to simmer. Then remove the lid so sauce will begin to reduce and thicken. Simmer two hours, then add 1 to 2 lbs of cooked Italian sausage (our choice), meatballs or ground beef. Simmer one or two more hours (until reduced by a third). In the last 30 minutes, add 3/4 c of capers and 1 c of Cabernet Sauvignon.

We enjoyed our spaghetti gravy over rigatoni with a side of pan fried Brussel spouts and a bottle of Le Cuvier Cab Franc. The combination of the rich, spicey sauce and a full-bodied, spicey wine was deliciouso!

Winemakers Notes:

2009 Cabernet Franc – Sorry, Sold Out! – Smoldering firedrakes delicately carved from the madder lake petals of a deeply crimson blood rose plucked at sunrise; lavish globules of black cherry & pomegranate, flashing bright beads of berried perfume across a fragrantly spicy minced pie; earthy soy & the scent of a singularly rare & noble coffee bean fresh from the roasting oven, warm, rolling in the palm of your hand circling a ripe, Cimmerian plum dusted with dark roasted coco & just the whisper of a lily wafting across Summer’s Sweet Meadows. There’s something both sinister & wonderfully wacky going on in this wine.