Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #2: Vote for Pickles and Cake

Voting is now open for Project Food Blog's Challenge #2! Your vote will help us move on to the next challenge!  We are having a blast with these challenges and our Ethiopian dish is a new family favorite! Thanks to foodbuzz.com for giving us a little push...

Please click the link below to VOTE for our fun family food blog...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ethiopian Stew for Two

One of the most memorable and interesting meals I've ever had was the dish Doro Watt at the Ethiopian restaurant Addis Red Sea in Boston. The chicken stew was filled with exotic flavors and spices served on top a crepe-like bread. It wasn't spicy but had more flavor per square inch than anything my taste buds had ever encountered. Instead of a knife and fork, you used your hands to tear off a piece of bread and then pinched up a piece of chicken and some rich sauce. The entire meal was eaten from small wicker chairs low to the ground and the table was a giant wicker basket in the middle. The African music and ambiance perfectly complimented the food. The experience and that dish were so memorable, I decided to recreate it for the girls in the hopes that my adventurous eaters would be ready for the challenge and a culinary trip to Ethiopia. For me that is what life is all about - trying something new. 

This traditional, classic dish has a few steps to it but they are all worth it in the end! The flavors are exotic yet familiar – similar to some Indian curries. If you have never tried African food before, this is a safe and fantastic first step.

I have never cooked this dish before so I was a little nervous starting out. The first step was to do some research online. There were so many variations that I was able to cobble together the pieces myself and taste it as I went. A little more cardamom here, a little more ginger there...

After putting together the rough recipes, we headed to the farmer's market for herbs and spices. I was lucky to find some fenugreek seeds and some black African cardamom.

The only ingredient I couldn't find was Teff – a small grain indigenous to Ethiopia used in making the crepe-like pancake that goes along with most Ethiopian dishes. I found some suggestions online to use buckwheat flour and some yeast as a substitute. It worked perfectly!

As always, the girls were ready to help in the kitchen. We smelled and ground all the spices, whisked together the injira, flipped the crepes and tasted the dish as we went along. Cooking with them is so cool. 


1 large red onion, diced
POS (Pinch of Salt)
1 teaspoon fresh-ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon BERBERE
2 ½ cups chicken stock
6 boneless chicken thighs
¼ cup red wine
Juice of 1 lime
1 lime, sliced into wedges
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Using a large saucepan, cook the onions in 2 tablespoons of the spiced butter over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes until onions are golden. Lower heat to medium low and add the remaining butter, garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and berbere and cook another 10 minutes until the onions are nice and soft.

Bring to a simmer and add chicken stock, red wine and the chicken thighs. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and the chicken is starting to fall apart. It won't be a thick sauce so don't be alarmed.

Stir in the lime juice, season with salt and serve over the injera with slices of lime and egg and extra injera on the side.

Ethiopian Spiced Butter (Nit'ir qibe)

1 pound unsalted butter
½ cup red onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds, black African cardamom if you can find it
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
8 basil leaves

Melt butter over low heat, stirring often. Skim foam off the surface as it rises and continue cooking until no more foam appears. Add all remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and decant the butter off the spices using a sieve.

Berbere Spice Mix

½ cup ground chili powder (I use Anahaim chilis because of their subtle, kid-friendly heat)
½ cup paprika
3 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons salt

Sadie and her African black cardamom pods

Grind as many fresh spices as you can with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. Combine all spices! Save the rest as a rub for pork, chicken, steak, etc.


1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp instant yeast
3 cups warm water

Whisk together ingredients in large bowl, cover with cheesecloth and let sit outside for at least 24 hours. Ladle one cup into crepe pan over medium heat and rotate quickly to cover entire surface. Flip in a minute or two after surface starts to solidify. Injira should be soft and not crispy on the outside.  

Time to eat! 

We sat outside and ate a late lunch. The girls absolutely loved the dish! Lillie even said that it was "Better than tacos!" That is saying quite a bit. 

They love eating with their hands and this is a great way to do just that without getting too messy. The communal focus of Ethiopian cuisine is a great approach to dining with your family. What a great adventure!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kid's Choice

The girls picked out the dinner tonight. Bacon Brussel sprouts, mushroom orzo and baked chicken nuggets!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Passion for Food from a Kid's Point of View

Pickles and Cake isn't a blog about tricking your kids into eating canned green beans or hiding zucchini in the brownies. Our blog helps break down the complicated steps of cooking, celebrates creativity in the kitchen and strives to demystify gourmet food for both kids and adults. See and taste the joy and discovery of food from a kids perspective.

What do you do when you realize that your kids will eat anything? Start a gourmet kids food blog, of course!

Once it was clear that my young daughters were adventurous eaters, I began to search for a website or blog that could help me turn my passion for food into something I could pass along to my kids. I was hoping to find ideas to kick-start meals and food related projects. I had so much trouble finding that guidance, I decided to start my own food blog dedicated to the adventurous child eater. It has been a life-affirming experience.

The name Pickles and Cake originated from two huge revelations that came my way around this same time. My first batch of butter-cream frosting and my first jar of homemade pickles. Somehow, I had no idea how different these items were from the prepackaged counterparts and it was a real eye opener for me. A little effort and fresh ingredients equaled amazing flavor that blew away anything sold in a store. It was that a-ha moment I needed.

3 years later, the girls are so involved with picking new foods and recipes to try. We take tons of eye-catching pictures of each adventure. Our favorite challenge is coming up with a new recipe. We will pick a cuisine from another culture or an unusual ingredient we found at a farmers market and use that as our starting point.

Creativity in the kitchen has always been a passion of mine and was fueled even more while attending college in the Boston area. In the Air Force and in college I was famous for taking a handful of leftover ingredients in a seemingly empty fridge and work them into an amazing meal. I found a job in fine dining while going to college and learned so much about fresh ingredients, sauces, and flavor combinations – a whole new world beyond my clever casseroles and savory stir fries opened up. This new driving force is now being shared with my children and anyone else who wants to come along for the ride.

At Pickles and Cake, we showcase both healthy and hedonistic food from around the globe. The primary focus revolves around culinary adventures and epicurean delights you can experience with your children. My daughters consistently surprise me with their enthusiasm for trying new foods and I use this blog to inspire myself and others to move beyond Easy Mac and Juice Boxes. Don't get me wrong, I love a good batch of "mac and chee” just like the next guy and I'll be the first to recognize that sometimes the easy way out is the only way to get through dinnertime. That being said, my ultimate goal is to help reinforce the belief that good food is worth making time for and that eating well should always be an option.

Take the time to cook with your kids instead of just serving them and there is a much better chance that they will eat what you bring to the table. Cooking and dining with your family can be a great way to stay connected and celebrate life's many blessings.

Is it true that every good blog entry ends with a poignant quote? Probably not, but this one does...

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." ~ Harriet van Horne

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homemade Ketchup

I stumbled upon a homemade ketchup recipe in Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook and was surprised that I never even considered making my own. The latest organic offering from Heinz is rich and delicious on fries and hotdogs - why mess with perfection. A challenge was born.

The basic premise is to cook down some veggies, spices and herbs until the concentrated flavor hits the delicious meter. This was more challenging that I anticipated. In the end, I changed up the recipe quite a bit. The flavor was more complex but not tomatoey enough so the next day I added 3 cups of V8 and cooked it down for another 2 hours. The end result was an intense roasted veggie and tomato concoction that will go toe to toe with any store bought brand.

Homemade Ketchup, Round 1

1 large onion, chopped
1 celery root, chopped
2 unpeeled organic carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp chopped celery leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground pepper
1 pound fresh tomatoes, rough chopped
15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 cups V8 juice
1 bunch fresh basil - leaves and stems seperated
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Rough chop veggies and combine with ginger, garlic, pepper, parsley, coriander, cloves and basil stems in a large pot with 1/4 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat, stirring every few minutes for about half an hour until softened.

Add fresh, canned and juiced tomatoes and bring to a boil.

This was Lillie's favorite part - seeing the fresh tomatoes enter the pot and making that flavor connection.

Reduce heat to medium low again and simmer gently until the sauce reduces by half. Stir every few minutes.

Add the basil leaves and then puree sauce in a top-load blender or with a immersion blender.

Push through a sieve into a clean pan and add vinegar and sugar.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer again until the consistency is similar to bottled tomato ketchup. Stir often with a silicon spatula along the bottom surface to keep from clumping and burning. Season to taste - I added another tsp or two of salt and a little more sugar. A splash of vinegar to boost the acidity might have been added too...

Let the ketchup cool and then use your funnel to transfer to clean jars and bottles. Store in your fridge for up to 4 months.

Once chilled, apply liberally to french fries, corn dogs, hot dogs, tater tots, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, onion rings, scrambled eggs...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pickles and Cake featured on Good Garden Ideas

Check out my friend Sara's new gardening website - all the tips, ideas and musings a good gardener needs.

She is featuring my herbed compound butter recipe in her Edibles section! Thanks Sara!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Pickles and Cake Logo

Our fun family food blog has two new mascots to help us launch our new look and feel! Stop by anytime for culinary adventures and kid-friendly gourmet recipes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mango Pineapple Bubble Tea

We spent the weekend outdoors in St. Augustine introducing Lola to the beach, soaking in some history and eating some amazing food. While waiting on our Belgian waffles in this charming courtyard we sampled a mango pineapple bubble tea from Crucial Coffee. I know that St. Augustine is the oldest city in North America and this old hut must have been one of the first buildings. It was an ancient coffee shack from way back that was so warm and inviting and look...they even have free Wi-Fi! Go figure!

The bubble tea was a first for the girls. Its a green tea-based smoothie with fresh mango and pineapple. The best part is the surprise at the bottom - translucent tapioca orbs lurking down below. Each tart and creamy slurp through an over-sized straw brings up some gummy treats from the depths of the drink. These unusual beverages filled with edible pearls originated in Taiwan and come in every flavor imaginable. The girls loved  it!