Sweet Potato~Chickpea Cakes with Avocado~Tomato Salsa



Cooking Light magazine featured similar chickpea~ sweet potato cakes a couple of years ago and inspired my version.  They were an interesting and satisfying vegetarian dinner option.  We love sweet potatoes and grating them for these cakes was a new way for me to use them.  You could substitute cooked mashed sweet potato as well but the cakes would have a bit less texture.  We served them over greens with the fresh avocado-tomatoe salsa on top and extra lime wedges.  Feel free to add cilantro or parsley to the salsa and some chopped jalapeno peppers  for more flavor.  Bon appétit!


For the cakes:

1 can of unsalted garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

8 oz or 2 cups of grated sweet potato

1/2 c red onion, diced

1/4 c celery, diced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 t cumin

1/8 t hot pepper flakes

1/2 t salt

2 T olive oil, divided

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c panko bread crumbs

juice of 1 lime

lime wedges to serve on the side

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a pan, heat 1 T oil and sauté the onion, garlic, celery for 3 minutes.  Add the grated sweet potato, salt, cumin, hot pepper and sauté another 2 minutes.  Cool.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, lime juice, panko, egg and sweet potato mixture and pulse until a coarse texture is achieved.  Do not overmix.   Divide in 4 and form into cakes.   Bake the cakes at 400 F for 6 minutes.  Heat remaining 1 T oil in your sauté pan and brown the cakes for a few minutes on each side, until golden.

For the salsa:

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

1 1/2 c diced tomato

1/2 c red onion

juice of 1 lime

1/8 t red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and serve over the cakes.

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Charred Cauliflower Carbonara


For  more than 30 years I hardly went near cauliflower except for maybe a few times I made soup with it.  It was one of those vegetables that I grew up eating boiled, in rotation with other common vegetables of the era.  Then I went through phases where I thought the darker a vegetable, the better for you and just bypassed cauliflower’s pale hue.  Now cauliflower seems to be everywhere and we can’t get enough.  And we know it is a nutritional powerhouse. Cauliflower roasted at high temperature to bring out its flavor and char its edges becomes a revelation.  Yum!

When I came across Jessica Merchant’s  recipe for cauliflower carbonara last week, I knew I’d be making it.  It did not disappoint.   It is basically a classic carbonara with tons of cauliflower.  The cauliflower is roasted in bacon fat, an outrageous but  divine pairing!  We added balsamic and hot pepper flakes to the original recipe, doubled the cauliflower, and reduced the amount of bacon.  This was a perfect winter comfort dish, worthy of company.  Roasting  the cauliflower and frying the bacon ahead of time  would help ease some of the last minute assembly the dish requires. Mama Mia this is good!



12 slices of nitrate-free bacon, chopped

2 large heads of cauliflower, chopped in flowerlets, spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet

1/2 t cracked black pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb box of bucatini pasta, cooked as directed in salted water

6 large eggs

3 c of freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

1/2 c chopped flat leaf parsley

2 T balsamic vinegar

hot pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425 F.

1-  In a large deep skillet cook  the bacon until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Turn off the heat.  Take 4-6 tablesppons of the bacon fat and drizzle it over the cauliflower.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Roast the cauliflower on the bottom rack for 20 minutes at 425F, tossing once. Drizzle with the balsamic.

2-   Start boiling the pasta. Whisk together the eggs and parmesan.  When the pasta is almost done cooking,  sauté the garlic in the reserved bacon fat, over low heat, for a minute.   Drain pasta, add to the pan and coat with the garlic and remaining bacon fat.

3-  Remove the skillet from the heat and toss the pasta with the egg mixture to coat well, mixing constantly for 3-4 minutes.  Toss in the cauliflower, bacon and a pinch of hot pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings.   Top with parsley and extra cheese and serve immediately!


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Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake



When Meyer lemons are in season, I cannot get enough of them!  I find all kinds of ways to use them in recipes.  Did you know Meyer lemons actually originated in China, where they are grown as ornamentals in garden pots?  They came to the US in 1908 yet were not really popular in cooking  until Alice Waters of the famous Chez Panisse restaurant discovered them and put them on her menu in the 1990s.  Further popularity was gained when Martha Stewart introduced them in her recipes.  The Meyer lemon is a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or a regular orange.  It is thinner and smoother skinned with a distinctive taste.  For this recipe I played around with Dario Cocchini’s famous olive oil orange cake recipe.   I wanted to make it with Meyer lemons and include the whole fruit, peel, juice and pith.  If you are a marmalade lover, you will like the bite of citrus in this cake.  It is not very sweet and has a bitter note, so it lends itself well to a smear of jam.  It is meant to be enjoyed for breakfast or as a late afternoon snack with a cup of strong coffee or tea.   It can be enjoyed over 3 days.   It also freezes well.  Enjoy!


2-3 Meyer Lemons, quartered, seeds removed

1/3 c olive oil  (not extra virgin)

2 c flour

11/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

dash of salt

4 large eggs

1 1/2 c sugar

powdered sugar to dust top

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2)  Cut  a small slice off both ends of the lemons.   In a food processor, grind up the whole lemons coarsely ensuring some texture remains.

3)  Add the oil and pulse to combine.

4)  Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add in the sugar.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.

5)  Add the egg mixture to the lemon mixture and stir until smooth.  Into this, add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, mixing until just incorporated after each addition.  Avoid overmixing.

6)  Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan.  Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, on a middle rack.  Cool before slicing.  Dust with powdered sugar to serve. Yield 12 servings.

I used 3 lemons but if you want a cake with a bit less citrus bite, use 2.

I used 3 lemons but if you want a cake with a bit less citrus bite, use 2.



Whole lemons coarsely chopped in a food processor


Dry ingredients, beaten eggs with sugar and lemons with olive oil are ready to be mixed together.


Cake batter ready to go into the oven. Look at those chunks of Meyer lemon!


The golden beauty with its dusting of powdered sugar.

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Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Sharing this cake recipe with the fabulous bloggers at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@The Novice Gardener.

Biedermeier Flower Arranging: a Tutorial


As a lover of flowers and a seasoned traveller, I have admired my fair share of stunning floral arrangements.  But it was  in a restaurant a few miles from home, that a floral display stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was on my way to the powder room when I paused to admire a flower arrangement created on a cake platter that looked, well, like a cake!

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Nonchalantly I tried to figure out how it had been made. I fthought the flowers had to have been set in some sort of shaped oasis.  After a more than reasonable time fixated in front of this beauty, I thought it best to get moving.  On my way back from the powder room,  I couldn’t help myself.  I returned to the flower arrangement and slipped a finger into the flowers to see what was holding them in place….and got caught, literally with my finger in the flower~cake!  A woman who identified herself as the manager inquired if she could be of asistance.  How embarassing!  By then, my girlfriends had come looking for me as I’d been gone for such a long time!  We explained we were passionate about flowers and were from a local garden club.  The manager, Terri Dow, had actually been the floral artist and she began explaining that this beautiful creation was a Beidermeier floral arranging style and the flowers were held in wet sand.  WET SAND?!!!  We were blown away and promptly invited Terri to teach us a class in this art.

Beidermeier flower arranging is considered a floral design where the flowers are arranged in a pavé technique, in compact and  concentric rings of alternating colors.  The arrangements are usually rounded or conical.  Each ring contains one type of flower which contrast with the ring adjacent to it usually in color, form and texture to create interest in the design and to showcase each flower.  This style of arranging is suitable to low bowls, cake stands and footed  compotes.

Beidermeier floral arranging originated in Austria and Germany during the post war years of 1815-1848 and is associated with the famous furniture style of this era.

19th Century Beidermeier chest of drawers(google images)

19th Century Beidermeier chest of drawers(google images)

Modern arrangements can depart from the traditional Beidermeier technique in arranging the flowers in spiral or linear patterns.  Berries, small fruit or even small objects such as Easter eggs might even be introduced.  What remains consistent is the linear, dense arranging in one color per row.  I invite you to search for Beidermeier flower arranging on Google images or on Pinterest to be blown away by countless examples of this fun floral art.  Here are a few of my favorites!


Pinned by belfleur.be  No concentric rings of one color here but a pavé style of flowers in a very modern design.


Lemon Lime Topiary Pinned by Lynne Thompson


Pedestal table arrangment pinned by Lynne Thompson


Succulent topiary pinned by Lynne Thompson

Beidermeier dress form arrangment by houstonweddingblog.com

Beidermeier dress form by houstonweddingblog.com MY FAVORITE!

Recently my garden club was given a class in Beidermeier floral design. Learning how to design with wet mounded sand was exciting!   Not all Beidermeier is done on sand but the technique I will show you is on sand.  The sand is the sandbox stuff you can get at the hardware store.  It should be new sand to prevent bacterial growth and all used sand discarded after each arrangement is dismantled.  Still, using sand instead of oasis is a really economical way to create shaped arrangements.  It is also far easier to work with than shaping oasis to the form you are seeking.


My finished design


Start shaping a mound of dry sand with your hands, on your chosen vessel.

Once you have the desired shape, create a volcano well on the top of your sand.  You will now pour the water in this well until the sand is well saturated.

Once you have the desired shape, create a volcano well on the top of your sand. You will now pour the water in this well until the sand is well saturated, but not slopping wet.  The well will be filled with sand before you begin arranging flowers.


Once your sand is wet, you can modify the sahpe, such as making it taller,  as we are doing here, and pour on more dry sand.  Wet the additional sand.


Once you are satisfied with the shape, start arranging your flowers. Cut each stem very short, about 2-3 inches long. Just place them in the wet sand in your chosen design, remembering to set the flowers close together. You want to achieve a very dense covering of flowers.


To guide your design, it is important to create a line through the middle of  your arrangment and set a row of the flowers you will be using,  as shown above. This will help you visualize the rows of flowers and keep your design alligned precisely.  Start with the top flowers and work towards the base.  Once you have determined your design, you can work from the bottom up in arranging each row of flowers.


An evolving design.  The design can be tweaked as you work.  Nothing is etched in stone here!  I had started with astromeria in my center and switched them out for hypericum berries later on.


A darling finished design


Another lovely creation


Note the concentric rings of flowers. This design features small bits of foliage inserted here and there to give a looser feel to the finished arrangement.


My creation seen from above.

image Choose flowers with similar life spans and your arrangement will look great for up to 2 weeks.  Every 4 days or so, add a bit of water to keep the sand wet.  You can do this by simply pouring water in the top of your arrangement as you would to water a plant.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about Biedermeier floral design as much as I did.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.  Get in touch with your inner child and play in the sand again! Thank you to my fellow Scattered Seeds garden club friends for generously and patiently allowing me to photograph them in action during this flower arranging class!  I LOVE my garden club!  Thank you to Terri Dow and The Sip Inn  for hosting The Scattered Seeds Garden Club.

Sharing this tutorial with the bloggers at Fiesta Friday, hosted by the fabulous Angie@ The Novice Gardener.

Maple~Dijon Broiled Salmon Fillets


February is National Heart Month and what better way to celebrate than with a fast, tasty and easy salmon recipe.  Salmon is one of those nutritional marvels.  Considered both a brain food and a heart-healthy food, it provides heart beneficial omega 3s, high quality protein, loads of vitamins(B12, B6 and that all important vitamin D) as well as being an excellent source of minerals(selenium, potassium).  It cooks in no time so it can be a healthy weeknight dinner accompanied by veggies and a starch.  The trick is to not overcook it.  This tasty recipe coats salmon fillets with a simple glaze of shallots, maple syrup and Dijon.  10 minutes under the broiler, and it’s ready!  Fast enough for a weeknight but elegant enough for company too.


Maple~Dijon Broiled Salmon Fillets ( serves 4) Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

4 wild-caught salmon fillets, about 5 oz each

2 t Dijon mustard

2 T maple syrup, the real stuff

1 t dried thyme

1/2 t sea salt

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/2 shallot, minced( substitute red onion if needed)

2 T flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to broil.  Set your rack 8 inches from heat source.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set your fillets on top.

Mix all ingredients,except the parsley, together.  Brush on the top and sides of your salmon fillets.  Broil for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with the parsley after plating.   Serve with your preferred veggies and a starch.



Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Risotto


“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”  Mark Twain

With temperatures flirting with single digits, it seemed like a good time to make a creamy comforting risotto.  We had enjoyed a cauliflower risotto on a recent trip to Washington and I tried recreating it here.  I roasted a whole head of cauliflower but puréed half of it in broth to add body and loads of nutrition to the risotto. The leek and sausage added bold flavor.  You could substitute pancetta or bacon for the sausage or omit it altogether for a vegetarian option.  The final dish was creamy and delicious with the flavor of the cauliflower shining through.


image1cauliflower, trimmed and cut in 1/2 inch florets

1 T olive oil

4-5 c chicken broth

1 leek, diced

1 T butter

1 3 oz link of smoked chicken or turkey sausage, diced

1 1\2 c Arborio rice

1\2 c grated parmesan cheese

1/2 chopped flat leaf parsley

1-  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and toss the cauliflower in 1 T oil.  Roast on lower rack for 20 minutes, stirring once.  Reserve half as a topping.  Place half in a blender or food processor and purée with about 1 c of the broth until smooth.

2-  Melt butter in a large skillet and cook the leeks and sausage until the leek is transparent. Add the rice and sauté 1 minute.  Add 1/2 c of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth In 1/2 c increments, stirring constantly until rice is cooked.  Add the puréed cauliflower and parmesan and cook through, another minute or two.  Stir in the parsley.

3-  Serve in bowls and top with reserved cauliflower florets.

Sautéing the leeks and sausage

Sautéing the leeks and sausage

Stirring in the broth in 1/2 c increments

Stirring in the broth in 1/2 c increments


Adding the puréed cauliflower to the cooked risotto


Hearty and satisfying, a wonderful winter risotto.


Chinese New Year: Noodle Bowls with Ginger-Garlic Meatballs


The Chinese New Year arrives February 19th this year  and marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep.  This Lunar New Year is celebrated all over the world with fireworks, feasts, parades and cultural events . Our family loves to head to Philadelphia’s Chinatown to take in the festive celebrations, held over several weeks.

To celebrate the Lunar New Year I made Asian-inspired noodle bowls filled with veggies, piping hot broth and tasty mini ginger-garlic meatballs.  Reminiscent of the Hot Pot, this meal incorporates several symbolic ingredients for the New Year:  long noodles for a long life; ginger and scallions for prosperity and unity;  mushrooms for good fortune; meatballs for reunion/unity; cabbage and carrots  for prosperity and luck; cashews for gold/money; onions for cleverness.  Whoa, let’s hope this soup delivers all it promises!  For more good omens in the New Year serve fruit for dessert arranged on a round platter:  apples symbolize peace and wisdom, oranges and pineapple, wealth, good fortune and gold, dried apricots, gold and wealth.  The round platter symbolizes togetherness.  Fresh fruit is the symbol of new life, new beginnings.  (www.nationsonline.org)

Planning ahead lets this meal come together quickly with a simple assembly of the components.  It can be adapted for a crowd.  Essentially you will need a rich  broth,  meatballs and veggies.  Everyone tops their soup with add-ins of their choosing. At the end of the post I will share ideas for setting an Asian-inspired table.



1 lb of lean ground turkey or pork

1/4 c hemp or chia seeds( can substitute a slice of bread)

1/4 c of milk

1 egg, beaten

2 T low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 T minced fresh garlic

1 1/2 T chopped cilantro leaves

1/2 t sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

Pinch salt and pepper

1-  Soak the hemp seeds in the milk for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2-  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and form small meatballs.

3- Bake the meatballs on a parchment lined pan for 20 minutes at 375 F.  Remove to a platter with a slotted spatula to drain off any cooking liquids.

4-  May be made up to 2 days in advance of the soup.


rice noodles prepared as directed, about 4 oz per person

2 cups of chicken broth per person, piping hot

10 oz sliced mushrooms, sautéed in 1 T sesame oil + 1 T olive oil

shredded cabbage coleslaw, a handful per bowl

1 T chopped cilantro per bowl

1 T scallions, per bowl

Ginger-garlic meatballs, warmed, 6 per bowl

Toppings:  lime wedges, hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, chopped peanuts or cashews


In deep soup bowls, stoveside,  layer the cooked noodles with the  mushrooms, coleslaw, meatballs, scallions and cilantro.  Ladle with piping hot broth to cover.  The hot broth will coax the various flavors into perfect harmony. Serve the extra toppings on the table for everyone to help themselves to.



Because we were celebrating Chinese New Year I wanted to bring some Chinese ambiance to our table, eventhough this was a casual weeknight supper.   Chinese tassels, chop sticks, porcelain soup spoons,  a Chinese fan and some river rocks were gathered to inspire this tablescape.  Picking up  on the colors of the fan, I used plum serviettes as placemats.  Simple beige napkins were tied with the Chinese tassels.  Chopsticks rested on  river rocks.  Everyday cream china was chosen because of the big size of the bowls.  Chinese soup spoons were enlisted to hold the extra toppings and placed on a narrow slab of marble, they became table art.  The fan was set to the side on a small tripod.  In a Chinese enamel bowl I floated a single cream orchid with a purple center, snipped off a houseplant.  A couple more orchids were strewn casually on the table.  Luminous jade wine glasses completed this setting along with some votives.

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Happy Chinese New Year! May the Year of the Sheep be an ausipicious one for you!


Sharing New Year good wishes with my friends at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@The Novice Gardener and Judi@Cooking With Aunt Juju and Tina@Mademoiselle Gourmande.


(Title photo courtesy of Google Images)