Easter is around the corner, and my mother has entrusted me over the past few years to host it. In an Italian family, when the matriarch allows a daughter to host a religious holiday it's like a coming -of-age. So I take hosting Easter very seriously. And through the years I'v acquired quite a repertoire of dishes and decorating ideas. Hopefully this will inspire you as you get planning for your Easter event.
You may notice there is a plethora of pistachio desserts in my back log of recipes. It's because my Dad is a pistachio fanatic-and I inherited his love of nuts. Every year for his birthday I make him a special sweet using pistachios. As he has gotten older, he has become border-line diabetic. So I need to be careful with what sweets I tempt him with. This recipe I saw for Valentine's Day on Food52. If you don't follow this feed, GO FOLLOW THEM NOW. This is a great online foodzine and community for foodies.
At any rate, I was very intrigued with the rose water mingled with Meyer lemons and the bright yet earthy punch of cardamom in this recipe. I also liked that it was low in flour and sugar which made me feel better giving it to my Dad. It ended up being a huge hit with him-and that always makes me feel special.
Happy Birthday Dad!
Rose Scented Cardamom Pistachio Almond Cake
2 sticks butter, slightly softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon Baker’s (superfine)
3 eggs, room temp
1 cup finely ground salted pistachios (I pulsed mine in my food processor)
1 cup almond flour
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. rose water
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
1 cup confectioners' sugar
A tablespoon of
reserved ground pistachios for decorating
Spray an 8- or 9-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking
spray and line it with parchment paper. Hit it with some spray again and set
aside. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the
butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add
the ground pistachios and almond meal on low and mix to combine. Add the lemon
juice, lemon zest, and rose water and mix well.
Whisk the flour and cardamom together in a small bowl. Use a
rubber spatula to gently fold this dry mixture into the wet butter and egg
mixture. Do not over mix.
Transfer the mixture into the waiting pan and spread it
out evenly, then bake for 40 minutes. Tent the top of the cake with aluminum
foil that has a steam hole at the top and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the sides are starting to brown
and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake will no longer look wet-looking or sticky when it's done. Allow the cake to cool down in
the pan for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling down make the icing. Whisk
together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar. Pour this over the cooled
cake. Sprinkle lightly with the reserved ground pistachios, then wait for at
least 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing and serving.
Days are getting brighter and longer. Weather is getting milder, and the air is getting fresher. When this time of year rolls around, our menus around the house match the weather. We crave meals that are lighter and flavors that are brighter.
If you have been following the blog lately you know I have been clean eating since January on the Fast Metabolism Diet. It was my New Year's resolution and I am happy to report I have stayed on it-more or less. Some days are harder than others. It depends on my travel schedule or client dinner schedule, or even our entertaining and family event schedule. But with some preplanning you can stay on track pretty well.
What's nice about the Fast Metabolism Diet and our craving for lighter, brighter flavors with the onset of spring is that they are a match made in heaven. You don't need heavy milk, cheese or cream to make a dish decadent. And clean eating means really allowing whole ingredients to shine on their own. This soup in particular is all about bright, happy tomatoes made thick and creamy with sweet potatoes. I adapted it from one of the FMD newsletters, adding garlic to kick things up. Make it on a Sunday and freeze it for weekday lunches, or enjoy it with some crusty bread and a light salad for a lovely dinner.
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2" cubes
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 bay leaves
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth ( I make it from "Better than Bouillon", our favorite)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
fresh or dried parsley
In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of chicken broth and cook the onion and garlic.
Cook until soft, then add the sweet potatoes, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Saute for 2-4 minutes on high heat until the sweet potatoes begin to sizzle up and sweat. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes. The onions will be soft and beginning to caramelize and the sweet potatoes will be soft. If things get too dry add a bit of chicken broth to keep things moving.
Add the rest of the broth and raise the heat to get it to a boil. Add the tomatoes, salt and fresh ground pepper. Combine well, then lower the heat and gently boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Pull out the bay leaves. Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until thick and creamy. Add a splash of broth if the soup is too thick.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley on top and some phase appropriate bread. But this soup is delicious without being on a diet-so if you can have a crusty, gluten-laden bread, go for it!
Special NOTE: You can use olive oil if you want to use this on phase 3, and even make Haylie's Phase 3 "sour cream" using coconut milk for a delicious garnish on top.
Cranking along on the Fast Metabolism Diet-or maybe cranking. I seem to have plateaued for a couple weeks. It doesn't help that my stress levels at work are through the roof. And my work hours are such that I haven't exercised the past couple of weeks, either. I was kind of frustrated Friday with the diet, so I decided to cheat and eat some handmade corn tortillas with my staff at a great new taco joint called Tall Boy Taco (if you are in Chicago and hankering for some fresh, light tacos, check them out.)
Ironically, I finally got the scale to budge yesterday and lost a pound?! Yes, it budged after my enjoyment of delicious corn-laden tacos and a few corn chips with guacamole!
SO maybe my metabolism was getting used to the phases? And my cheating on Friday kicked it into gear? I have no idea. But I am back on track and back to exercising this week.
I did not want to stay on this diet this long-it's sort of driving my ever patient hubster nuts. But I did want to lose anther 10 lbs. It's been 2 1/2 months of this diet and I am noticing this last batch of pound shedding is a lot slower than the first batch.
Here's a recipe that can help, and it's an easy one. This is based on Haylie's turkey zucchini meatballs, but as always, I adapt her recipes for my family. I had to add garlic, and I softened the bread crumbs with some almond milk, and I gave the zucchini a good saute before adding to the ground turkey.
I found a nice jar of sugar-free tomato sauce and a batch of gluten free quinoa based linguine and we had a feast for a Sunday. Even my "sick-of-this-crazy-confusing-diet-cranky-hubby" was happy!
Fast Metabolism Diet Phase 3 Zucchini Turkey Meatballs
1 lb. ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium zucchini, shredded
2 slices sprouted grain bread, well toasted and dried out then chopped/crumbled
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning blend
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
Toss the shredded zucchini with a healthy sprinkle of salt (about a teaspoon). Place the zucchini in a colander over another bowl. Place a bowl filled with water on top of the zucchini to press it down gently and squeeze excess water out. Let it sit this way for 30 minutes to an hour. Once ready, use your hands to squeeze the rest of the water out of the zucchini, pressing it against the sides of colander.
In a small saute pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until softened, then add the shredded zucchini. Cook until zucchini is beginning to soften. Let cool down for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350˚.
In a bowl, add the crumbled bread and mix with the almond milk to soften. Add the turkey and the egg and mix very well. Finally add the zucchini mixture and combine well.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the turkey mixture into 2-3" balls and place on the parchment. Bake for about 20 minutes (or until golden brown), flipping the meatballs once during cooking time.
Serve with a tomato sauce that has had no sugar or corn syrup added nestled in some low-carb, gluten free pasta.