Chocolate Rye Coffee Cake

I have altered the recipe from Bob’s Red Mill for this lovely treat. Like a cinnamon roll, sort of – but heartier and made with high-quality chocolate!

Some people associate “rye” with the savory and perfumey bite of caraway seeds which are typically included in what we Americans think of as rye bread. However, the flour itself is a slightly nutty, earthy delight that does not preclude sweet treats and works well with the soft dough.

Bob’s recipe includes cinnamon, which I omit, and a glaze, which I also omit. The bread is sweet and lovely as-is.

4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup light rye flour
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1-1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces, divided
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon softened butter
In a large mixing bowl combine just 1 cup of the unbleached white flour, rye flour and active dry yeast.

In a saucepan heat milk, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chocolate pieces and salt just till warm and butter is almost melted; stir constantly and add to flour mixture. Add eggs and beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes at high speed.

Using a spoon, stir in as much of the remaining unbleached white flour as you can. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in warm place till double (about 1 to two hours).

Punch dough down. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into an 18″ x 12″ rectangle. Spread 1 tablespoon melted butter over dough. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate pieces and sugar over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style, beginning from longest side.

Depending on what bakeware you’re using you can either make two loaves in 9 by 5 loaf pans, two side-by-side loaves in a casserole dish, or cinnamon roll-style in a 9 by 13. Grease the pan and place loaves / rolls in. Cover and let rise till nearly double (about one to two hours).

At this second rising stage you can cover with a cloth or greased cling wrap and put it in the fridge overnight; it should be ready to bake by morning.

Bake on lower rack in a 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan. Cool on wire rack.

* I don’t have a greased tube pan. I have a deep dish Pampered Chef casserole pan, though. I usually cut the tube into three pieces and place them side-by-side in my large pan to make three loaves. You can pull them apart, wrap one up, and deliver it to a very grateful friend!

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

This is a Martha Stewart recipe. She has a way of making recipes seem more elaborate than they really are; here I’ve condensed the instructions a bit. Please note – this is a double or triple batch! Which means you’ll spend about $427 on cheese alone, but, it’s worth it.

12 slices good-quality white bread torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for dish
10 cups milk (2 1/2 quarts or 63% of a gallon, if you don’t want to measure)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
9 cups (about 36 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
4 cups (about 16 ounces) grated gruyere or 2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated pecorino romano
2 pounds elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 12 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 6 cups cheddar, and 3 cups Gruyere or 2 cups pecorino romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dishes. Sprinkle remaining 3 cups cheddar and 1 cup gruyere or 1/2 cup pecorino romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.

Freeze your extra dishes (or give them to friends with baking instructions). Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes then serve.

Angry-Ass Lentil Stew

I made this dish tonight as I was totally – yeah. In a bad frame of mind. I chopped and chopped and sauteed and made this great stew. I was inspired by a very sweet lady’s recipe and this is what I made out of it. This is excellent with my pita recipe.

1 large onion, chopped
5 stalks celery, washed and 3/4 dice, including leaves
8 carrots, peeled and cut to 3/4 coins
3 potatoes, peeled and 3/4″ dice
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 lbs. linguisa sausage, 1/4″ dice
1/2 lb. black forest ham steak, 1/4″ dice
2 zucchini, 1/4″ dice
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
15 oz. can petite dice tomatoes
28 oz. can tomato puree
16 oz or two cups lentils, sorted and washed
1 cube chicken boullion (or 1 tablespoon loose)
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (or Tabasco)
salt and pepper to taste

Now that you’ve done all that chopping, heat the oil and butter on medium high. Add the first seven ingredients (not the zucchini) for a nice saute for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are soft and it smells so good that strangers are walking in off the street saying, “OMG what are you cooking!?” Pour in the diced tomatoes, the puree, 3 puree cans of water, the lentils, the boullion, and the bay leaves. Cook for 1 1/2 hours at a gentle covered simmer. Twenty minutes before serving, add the zucchini. Just before serving, add chili sauce and correct the seasoning. Serve with pita, rolls, or toast.

Pita Bread

Posted here: a double batch and they are all gone in less than 24 hours.

2-1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Mix the (very warm) water with the sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside and allow to proof about ten minutes. In another bowl, mix the flours (reserving half the bread flour), salt, and toss in the oil on top, not letting the oil touch the sides of the dry ingredients bowl. When the yeast has proofed, add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir. Set aside the dry ingrediaent bowl. Add more flour until the flour clumps up in the bowl and “grabs” itself. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead about 8 minutes. The dough should feel smooth, soft, and elastic.

Oil the dry ingredient bowl and put the dough in, turning to cover. Set aside and cover to rise until doubled.*

Turn dough out and cut into 20 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Then with a rolling pin, roll the balls into cakes about 1/4″ thick. Cover all pieces with a dry cloth and let rise about 30 more mintues (they will puff up slightly). Preheat oven to 500 with a stone (ideally) although the soft dough will hold up even on the oven rack! Put a towel on top of the oven (being careful not to create a fire hazard) and put a clean dishtowel aside.

When oven (and stone) are hot, put pitas in and cook 4 – 5 minutes until puffed up and gaining reddish brown spots. Remove from oven and immediately place pitas on top of the dry towel, then cover with the dampened kitchen towel until soft (even over-cooked pitas will soften well).

Once pitas a softened, either cut in half or split top edge for half or whole pitas. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for 1 or 2 months. But they are best when eaten immediately.

* I like to bring a pan of water to boiling, then put it under the oiled bowl in my oven. Most risings take about an hour this way. Each kitchen and cook has their own optimal rising system!

Hogaboom’s Pizza Dough

Lately I get asked often for my homemade pizza recipe. The truth is, only a little while ago I thought making homemade pizza seemed overkill, difficult, and time-consuming. With a little practice it has become as easy to cook as anything. It is well-received and healthy too. You can make crust and sauce ahead and freeze. Once you get used to making pizza it becomes easy, cheap, and delicious staple of the household.

I want to add: people who can make yeast breads often say how “easy” it is. Well, most yeast breads are easy but only when you know the general gist of bread-making. I didn’t have anyone mentor me through breadmaking and I’ve made a lot of horrible hockey-puck like things because of it. I’ve also overthought the issue of yeast, proofing, kneading, etc. If the pizza dough doesn’t work well for you, let me know and perhaps I can mentor you through it (for some even better help, view Joyce’s videos on I’mCooked).

This recipe makes enough for a large double-crust (or stuffed) pie; alternatively, divide dough after the first rising and freeze. The day you want to use it, set it out in the morning and it will be thawed and ready for rolling by evening.

1 1/2 pounds (5 cups) bread flour OR

4 cups flour, half whole wheat and half bread or allpurpose; 1 1/2 cups reserved
1 1/2 cups water (hot but not too hot)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt

You need two bowls for this. In the first bowl, add the hot water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and set a timer for ten minutes. Meanwhile, measure out the flour – about four cups of it – into the second bowl. Add the salt and mix briefly. When the yeast has proofed for ten minutes, toss the oil into the flour and salt mixture then add the yeast and water with a large, sturdy spoon. The dough formed should be relatively stiff and hold together; add flour if needed. Use the dough and spoon to scrape any flour out of the bowl. Turn dough onto a perfecly-clean floured surface and knead. The dough should vacillate between almost-sticky to tacky but never stiff. Add light dustings of flour as you knead. The dough should always be able to form back together when you fold it on itself but should not be so sticky it regularly adheres to the surface.

After about eight to ten minutes of kneading, transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled (I put it in the oven over a pan of water I just boiled). After it has doubled, take out, punch it down and briefly knead it again to collapse all of the air bubbles. If you are giong to divide and freeze do so now. Otherwise, divide up and roll out. Add sauce and toppings. Let rise another ten minutes. Cook in the oven between 400 and 500 degrees until crust is finished and toppings are hot and cheese melted. If you make a thick pizza crust, consider rolling out crust first, allowing to rise ten minutes, baking ten minutes, then adding sauce.

Hogaboom’s Pizza Sauce

This recipe is almost copied verbatim from’s “Exquisite Pizza Sauce”. I have amedned with a shortcut here or there but the moral is: cooking with tomato paste rocks!

1 12 ounce can tomato paste
12 fluid ounces hot water
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup honey or sugar
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
(alternatively, use 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste (I use about one to two teaspoons)

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except water; mix together, breaking up any clumps of cheese. Pour in water and mix. Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors; spread over pizza dough and prepare pizza as desired.

This makes enough for two generously-saucy large pizzas (freeze or refrigerate if you’d like).

Love Knots

Use the following pizza dough recipe:

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3+ cups bread flour
3/4 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the knots:
1 pizza dough recipe
1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)
1/2 head garlic crushed in garlic press
1/2 cup olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Procedure for pizza dough:

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let proof for 10 minutes. Put flour, salt and olive oil in bowl; mix together, then add yeast micture. Add three cups flour, then 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls way. Knead 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled.

Mix parsley, garlic and olive oil and let sit for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough to 1″ and cut in strips 1″ x 4″. Roll slightly and tie in a 1/2″ loose knot. Preheat at 450 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes until brown. Toss them into a bowl with garlic mixture until well coated and then sprinkle with cheese.

This recipe will make 30 – 40 garlic knots.

Black Bean and Avocado Tacos Fritas

OK. I first have to confess, this recipe can seem a bit involved or rambling. But I’m used to the pace of working with dried beans and I find the preparation of them both fun, soothing, and flexible. You can substitute canned beans as well of course.

1 1/2 cups dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
4 ounces Mexican melting cheese, shredded (you may use monterey jack)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons oil (olive or canola)
6 dried chile pods
10 corn tortillas
5 radishes
oil for frying

For the guacamole:
3 ripe avocados
Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 clove garlic

Prepare the black beans.* As they cook, make the guacamole: first remove the avacado flesh and mash coarsely with a fork. Mince the garlic and add to avocado along with the lemon joice, cayenne, garlic salt, and garlic.

Preheat oven to 350. Take a large dishcloth, wet, and wring out all the water. Wrap cloth around tortillas and place in a casserole dish. Put dish in oven.

When beans are tender, drain any remaining excess liquid. Add butter, oil, chile pods, and salt to taste; bring to a gentle boil. When beans and tortillas are ready, take one steamed tortilla and put about three tablespoons bean filling and a small handful cheese. Fold over and place in a hot pan with oil. Fry both sides until crispy and cheese has melted; but in a warm oven on a baking stone while frying the rest of the tacos.

Remove and top with guacamole and thinly sliced radish. Suggested serving accompaniments: either of my roasted jalapeno recipes (whole or seedless), sour cream, tapatio, and a pickled cabbage slaw.

* Soak overnight for best results (3 cups water to each cup dried beans). You can also use the “Quick Soak” method (which is what I do when I forget to soak beans the night before). Either soaking method aside, a couple hours before you want to eat, rinse the beans and add the same ratio of water back in a large pot. Heat to an active simmer and watch the beans – they should take an hour and a half or so. Two things are important while cooking the beans: add liquid if you need to to keep the beans submerged. Secondly, don’t add any salt or spices until the beans are tender. You can then drain again if needed and add spices and oil / butter as the recipe here indicates.

Mango Sticky Rice

This is a dessert. Below is a slightly-modified version of the recipe at Coconut & Lime (an interesting food blog I plan to visit more often). I think this recipe is a good way to start introducing your kids to different kinds of desserts that aren’t loaded with frosting or chocolate sauce. Mango is very fiber- and vitamin-rich and some researchers suspect the health benefits of coconut may outweigh its high calorie and saturated fat drawbacks. This recipe is vegan and also cholesterol-free.

Some more great coconut and sticky rice combinations can be found at

1 very large or 2 mangoes, sliced
2 cups sushi or glutenous rice
14 oz (1 can) coconut milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 lime, cut into wedges.

Using a sieve, wash the rice in several rinses of water. Allow to drain for an hour. Place in a large pot with 2 1/2 cups water and a pinch salt. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly and reduce heat. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Meanwhile, bring the coconut milk, a pinch of salt and the brown sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to cook until it has reduced slightly. Place the warm rice into a bowl and pour the hot coconut milk over it. Stir to combine. Allow to sit 30 minutes before serving (should be served room temperature). Serve with sliced mango and a squeeze of lime.

Yield: about 6 modest servings.

Eggplant and Tomato Choka

This is Madhur’s method and barely modified. Of the handful of cookbooks I’ve used – I own only four – this is the best one. As far as I’m concerned choka (as M defines it anyway) is the perfect food for me. Vegetables simply prepared and then dressed with garlic, chiles, salt, aromatic spice, and hot oil – a very satisfying dish.

1 medium eggplant
3 medium tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (keep one crushed clove aside)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 fresh hot red or green chile, finely chopped

for the final “choka”:

2 tablespoons olive, peanut, or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking tray with foil and spread out the eggplant and tomatoes on it. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and put in a bowl. Rotate the eggplant and continue to bake another 35 minutes, rotating every 6 to 7 minutes, until it has flattened and turned soft. Remove the eggplant.

Discard the liquid in the tomato bowl. Peel, remove cores, and coarsely chop them. Peel the eggplant and chop the flesh coarsely. Add three of the cloves garlic, the salt, pepper, and chiles. Mix well.

Heat the oil on medium high heat. Add mustard seeds. When they pop, add the garlic and cook just a few seconds more. Now pour the contents of the frying pan, oil and seasoning, over the eggplant and tomato mixture. Serve warm, at room temperature (my favorite), or chilled.