Sunday, June 9, 2013

Grilled Fennel Salad

Grilled fennel and purple onions, simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, make a lovely fresh salad.

When I was a young girl, I didn’t know anyone with a food allergy.   By the time my own babies came along and grew to school-age, a couple of their classmates were mildly allergic to nuts.   Now it seems like allergies and intolerances are rampant and many have become life-threatening.  Which is rather scary.  I am in awe of the parents who work hard to make life normal for those children, working on recipes that eliminate the offending ingredients but still taste great.

Our host for this week’s Sunday Supper , Bea of The Not So Cheesy Kitchen, is one such mom.  Her daughters cannot eat milk sugar (lactose) in any form, so her blog is a fabulous dairy-free resource with delicious recipes.  Most posts include photos of her adorable daughters offering their opinion on the dishes with one or two thumbs up, which means that Bea’s recipes are not only healthy but kid-friendly and approved.  Which, I am sure you will agree, is very important to a successful Sunday Supper.

This week the Sunday Supper group explores “free-from” recipes, so there are tasty options for everyone, no matter what their food allergies or diet restrictions.

1 large or 2-3 small fennel bulbs, preferably with some fronds
1 small purple onion
Olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt
Black pepper

Cut the frond off of the fennel bulbs and set aside.  Trim the tough stems and discard.  Now cut the bulbs from top to bottom into slices which are a little skinnier than half an inch or 1 cm thick.

Slice the onion very thinly.

Put the onion in your salad bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.  Squeeze over the juice of your lemon.  Set aside.  This will take some of the sharpness out of the raw onion.

Heat your griddle pan till it is searing hot.  Lay the fennel slices on the griddle and weigh them down with something heavy, like a full kettle.  Cook for three to four minutes or until the fennel softens just slightly and there are lovely char marks on one side.

Turn the fennel slices over and weigh them down again.  Cook for another three or four minutes, making sure to get some charred lines on the other side.

Remove the fennel to a cutting board and allow to cool.

Chop the grilled fennel up and add it to the salad bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.  Give the whole thing a good stir and add more salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

Top with the chopped fennel fronds.

I served this alongside the smothered pork chops and potatoes from my recent Mothers' Day post.     It is a great fresh complement to a rich meal.


Have a look at all the wonderful "free from" recipes this week.  It's a fabulous round up of flavor!


  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut & Soy Free Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding by girlichef
  • Dairy & Nut and Sugar Free Blueberry Tangerine Muffins by Vintage Kitchen
  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut, and Soy Free Homemade Mango Jam Recipe by Masala Herb

Main Courses





Friday, June 7, 2013

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Bundt with Cinnamon Glaze

Have you ever started a new project or job thinking you would enjoy it but then you are utterly surprised by the amount of joy it brings?  Motherhood was like that for me.  Who knew how gorgeous new babies would smell fresh out of a bath or nuzzling into your shoulder still sleepy from a nap?  You could have told me, but I would never have believed, that I could enjoy changing diapers because I could wonder anew at the perfect little body that we made.  How?!  Or the pervasive elation that comes from seeing a child succeed beyond her own wildest dreams, through hard work and perseverance.  When finally she rolls over.  Or draws her first letters, tongue out, concentration immense.  (Don’t even get me started on when she strides across the stage at her university commencement ceremony!)  Is there any sweeter smile than that of a child shyly proffering the gift she made by hand?  How can you not open your arms and embrace the giver and the gift?  Witnessing my girls grow and blossom into the creative, caring, loving, diligent people they are meant to be makes me deeply joyful, down to my soul.

Almost two years ago, I started this blog without any idea of the joy it would bring either.  I knew I would like the cooking and the writing.  The photography and social media were more of a stretch but I have come to love the challenge of those as well.  The blogging community, including my readers (Yes, you lovely people!) became that sweetly smiling child for me, offering a friendly hand, a supportive word, a pithy comment.   When this post goes live this morning, I will be at my very first blog conference, meeting with members of the community and, I hope, learning how to be better at this blogging thing.  This thing that gives me joy. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

This month’s BundtaMonth theme is swirly cakes!  My cinnamon-pecan-brown sugar filling didn’t so much swirl as solidify into pecan candy, but I can tell you that the Bundt itself was buttery and delicious and the "candy" center was deliciously crunchy.  Scroll on down to the end to see what everyone else made.  Many of them actually swirl.

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the swirl:
3/4 cup pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/2 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 teaspoons milk
Pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your Bundt pan by greasing it liberally with oil, butter or cooking spray.  Now shake a little flour around in the grease until the whole inside is well coated.  Set aside.

Toast your pecans lightly in a dry skillet on the stove.  Keep tossing or stirring the pecans so they don’t scorch.  This takes just a few minutes.  When the pecans have cooled, chop them with a knife.

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the swirl, including the chopped pecans.  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of your upright mixer or a big mixing bowl, if you are using a handheld mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat until light yellow and fluffy.

Add in the vanilla extract.  Now add in the eggs, beating well between each addition.

Egg one

Egg two

Egg three

Now add in a third of the buttermilk, followed by a third of the flour mixture, beating between each addition.  Continue alternating buttermilk and flour until it is all mixed together and your batter is complete.

Spoon about half your batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth it out.

Sprinkle on the swirl mixture.

Top with the remaining batter, smoothing it out when you are done.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for about 15-20 minutes.  The cake should begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Turn the cake out onto a plate and leave to cool completely.   If any pieces stick to the bottom of the pan – sadly, this happens sometimes – just loosen them with a spatula and stick them back on the cake.   Glaze covers a multitude of sins.

In a small bowl, (The one the swirl ingredients were in will do nicely and you don’t even have to wash it first.) combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt and two teaspoons of milk.  Mix thoroughly with a small spoon.

Keep adding milk one teaspoon at a time until the glaze is barely pourable.   Drizzle it over the top of the completely cooled Bundt.


Have you ever taken on a project or started something new that you enjoyed more than you ever thought you would?


Here is how you can be a part of Bundt-a-Month:
Simple rule: Bake us a swirly bundt
Post it before June 30, 2013
Use the #BundtaMonth hashtag in your title. (For ex: title could read  #BundtaMonth: Cherry Bundt)
Add your entry to the Linky tool below
Link back to our announcement posts

Even more bundt fun! Follow Bundt-a-Month on Facebook where we feature all our gorgeous bundt cakes. Or head over to our Pinterest board for inspiration and choose from hundreds of Bundt cake recipes.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Olive Parmesan Cocktail Muffins #MuffinMonday

This weekend we celebrated the achievements of our elder daughter, the beautiful and talented Victoria.  But her graduation from Rhode Island School of Design was tinged with sadness for our family because, as we flew north for the weekend, we lost one of our patriarchs.  If you have been reading for a while, you’ve heard about my wonderful mother-in-law and how she has cared for her ailing husband, through increasing infirmity throughout this last year.  As she held that sweet, caring man in the wee hours of Friday morning, he passed peacefully from this world and was freed.

We had just been up to their home for a quick overnight after arriving in from Dubai, and before leaving for Providence.  As I usually do, I cooked dinner (this time with help from my own dear mother) and my mother-in-law invited her friends for drinks and a meal.  It’s my way of giving her a break and repaying the many kindnesses and constant support her closest friends provide when we are away.  I made these little olive Parmesan muffins for appetizers.  Bob ate one as part of his evening meal that night.  We didn’t expect that when we left the next day, we would never see him again.  After all, this time, we would only be gone three days.  But the ache of missing is there and real.

A couple of years ago, I wrote Bob a letter, which my sister printed for me and gave to him on the occasion of the joint celebration of his birthday and Fathers’ Day, thanking him for the part he played in raising my husband to be the wonderful father and husband he is.  When he married their mother, Bob took on day-to-day responsibility for three more young boys, in addition to his two.  Together, he and Heather had one more.  The stories of “yours, mine and our” holidays with six boys were rollicking and joyous, but I am sure they required a logistical mastermind and a firm hand and an enormous sense of humor.  I am more grateful than ever today that I wrote down the words and that Bob read them and knew of my gratitude.  It is a debt I can never repay, no matter how many meals I cook or muffins I bake.

2 cups or 250g all purpose flour
1 cup, grated, or 90g Parmesan cheese (plus a little extra for after baking, optional)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 240ml milk
1/4 cup or 60ml canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and liberally grease your two 12-cup mini muffin pans.

Grate your Parmesan, if not already grated, and cut the olives into three or four slices each.

Set aside 24 middle slices for decoration, making sure you have red and green represented in each slice.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour, salt, baking powder and Parmesan.

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk your eggs, milk and oil.

Fold your liquids into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Fold in the sliced olives.

Divide the batter between the prepared cups in the muffin pan.

Top each with a reserved olive slice.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are lovely and golden.

Sprinkle on a little more Parmesan, if desired.  More cheese always equals better.

Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

These are fabulous warm and go great with a glass of wine or whatever cocktail you are serving.

If there is anything my father-in-law enjoyed, it was a good meal.  Bob didn’t talk much in his later years because, after surviving cancer of the larynx 30 years ago, he spoke with esophageal speech, using swallowed air and his stomach muscles to create sound.  As he aged, and his muscle tone declined, he was less able to muster the strength required.  But Bob was lavish with his smiles and his  “thumbs up” whenever he was pleased.  The twinkle in his eyes said more than words ever could anyway.  He was one of my most generous supporters and, except for onions, he ate everything I made with relish and two thumbs up.

On 20 June, he would have been 85.  Happy almost Fathers' Day and almost Birthday, Robert Martin Lane.  You were one of the good guys and you are deeply missed.