Monthly Archives: January 2012

Super Bowl: Jalapeño Popper Dip

“mmmm game day party food!”

The good thing is that you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this dip.  It’s delicious.  It’s smooth and velvety and bubbly with cheddar and chile peppers.  It’s rich and creamy while also spicy and warm, like a big hug on a cold winter game day.  It’s pretty much a gigantic bowl of awesome jalapeño popper filling.  I put it on some raw veggies and it’s delicious.  I put it on some toasted whole grain rye baked tortillas and it was awesome.  I put it on some sliced fresh bagels from our local bagel shop, lightly buttered and then toasted and it was phenomenal and that is truly what made it taste like a big bowl jalapeño poppers.  It’s so good it doesn’t matter what you put it on, honestly.  Feel free to make it your own with a diverse amount of choices.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery hearts
  • 3/4 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup chopped chile peppers of your choice (I used jalapeno)
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons minced, canned smoked chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 8 ounces cheddar, grated +2 ounces cheddar, grated, for top
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • salt to taste
  • Buttered (for baking dish)


In a large deep skillet over medium high heat, add onions, celery, garlic, chile peppers, sweet potatoes and chipotle chiles.   Stir frequently to prevent from burning.  When onions turn translucent and vegetables begin to stick to the bottom of the skillet, pour in water.  Stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook uncovered until water is gone and vegetables are tender, (takes about 25 minutes) stirring every few minutes.   Once liquid is gone and vegetables are tender, remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine the prepared vegetables with the remaining ingredients, reserving 2 ounces of grated cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup chopped chile peppers for the top of the dip as garnish.

Add salt to taste! Butter your 1-2 quart baking dish.

Once the dip is thoroughly combined, pour into baking dish and wipe the edges.  Top with remaining cheese and chiles.

Note: At this point, you may refrigerate (up to 3 days) until ready to bake and eat.

On the day you’re going to eat/serve the dip, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and place in preheated oven until hot and bubbling.

Serve warm with lightly buttered toasted bagel slices or fresh bread for extra crunch.


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Glazed Orange Banana Cupcakes

It has been a really good week in our house, and I’m about to tell you all about it with unrelenting perkiness. I apologize in advance for all the exuberance so early on a Monday morning. Sometimes, it’s just necessary and can’t be contained! First of all the first snow of the year fell!

We love snow and none has dropped since the end of October, which was wild, but nonetheless pretty.

Also my husband and I finally saved enough to book the family vacation to Disney world we’ve been talking about for the last 3 years.  The last time we went on vacation, Trey was a baby and doesn’t even remember it, which was about five years ago.  So, you can imagine how excited everyone is!  We’re counting down the days and in exactly three weeks from this moment, myself and the family will be preparing for landing, with seat belts fastened. The kids are very excited, as are we.

We’ll be going for Valentine’s Day too, which is also just a week away from our wedding anniversary and I hear it’s not crowded at all this time of year, so we couldn’t be more thrilled, honestly.

Speaking of anniversaries, did I mention, also that the one year anniversary for “Kate from Scratch” is on Friday?!  Yes, it’s true, I have been doing this for roughly one year, though with all of the site moving and post moving and editing, most of my early posts were left in the dust, which when looking back, might might have been a wise decision.  It’s amazing how much improvement and learning (and equipment upgrades),  can be done in one year.  Thanks to all of you who met me early in the game and have stuck around long enough for me to get better at what I do.  Also, a reader recently informed me that one of my recipes will be a tier at her wedding!  Yes, my cherry vanilla cupcakes made it to the big leagues.  I’m so honored and I wish her and her love a lifetime of happiness together.



This got me thinking about that recipe and how I really liked that one, and so maybe I should try it with some orange and maybe some banana in honor of all the good things happening right now.  In addition to the aforementioned lovely good news, Max is talking more and more every day and Trey is doing really well in school and reading now…they like cupcakes too.

See how it all ties together? Life is good and with the snow on the ground and the trip to sunny Florida in our near future in addition to my love for tiny cakes baked in cups, it all emulsifies into this little creation, a simply glazed orange banana cake full of sunshine and happiness.




Orange Banana Cupcakes


  • one brown spotted banana
  • one medium orange
  • 2 cups  cake flour + 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 24 cupcake cups with paper liner, or grease or spray the cupcake pans.   Peel and chop banana into quarters lengthwise and then slice the quartered banana into slices about 1/4 of an inch thick until you have many small pieces.    Zest the orange into a small bowl.   Set bowl aside and then (discard remaining peel) and segment the orange.  Chop orange segments into small pieces approximately the same size as the banana pieces or only slightly larger. Sift 2 cups cake flour and one cup of sugar together in a medium bowl and drop chopped fruit into the bowl and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.

Sift together remaining 3 cups of flour and the baking powder in a mixing bowl, stir in the salt and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining two and a half cups of sugar at medium speed, then increase to medium high-speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add half the orange zest, reserving the other half for the glaze, and then add one egg at a time to butter and sugar, mixing for one minute after each egg is added. Stop mixing when mixture is pale and thick, which is about 5 minutes, total.  Reduce speed back to medium and add orange extract and vanilla extract and then one-third of the dry ingredients.

Add half the milk and another third of the dry ingredients.  Add the last half of the milk and the last third of the dry ingredients.  Turn off mixer and pick up oranges and bananas from flour/sugar mixture using a mesh strainer.  Shake off excess by tapping the side of the sifter gently over the dry ingredients bowl and then gently fold prepared oranges and bananas into the batter.

Swiftly divide batter evenly among prepared pans using a level 1/3 cup dry measure of batter in each prepared cupcake cup.  Bake in preheated oven until cake springs back to the touch, about 18 minutes.

Note: You may have excess batter (enough for 1-2 additional cupcakes) depending on the size of the fruit you use.

Makes 24-26 cupcakes


Orange Glaze

  • one stick of butter at room temperature
  • orange zest (from half a medium orange)
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • orange juice


With an electric mixer on high, beat butter and orange zest for five minutes, then reduce speed to medium and add sugar in 3 additions beating for a few moments (long enough so the sugar doesn’t fly everywhere) after each addition.  Slowly add orange juice until desired consistency is achieved. Spread over slightly warm cupcakes and then keep refrigerated.


Cupcakes: adapted from “white cupcakes” by Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

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Salted Chocolate and Caramel Cracker Bark

This recipe has been known in my family for the last two years, as “That awesome thing that Annie makes every Christmas with the crackers and the chocolate”.  Annie is my sister, and she’s the evil genius behind this highly addictive recipe.  I’ve seen it made with matzoh before, especially during Passover, but I had never seen the salted cracker variety version.



I, being an avid lover of pretty much anything that’s salty and sweet was instantly hooked the moment I tasted the buttery rich salted caramel poured over saltines and baked until golden and toffee-like. The generous coating of quality dark chocolate over the salted caramel covered crackers is genius alone; but then brilliantly topped with toasted pecans (or other nuts of your choice) which add a hearty and earthy element to the sweet and salty concoction.  A smattering of sea salt at the end puts this delectable little treat at the apex of delicious, in my opinion.

Did I mention, also, the thing I love most about this recipe?  It has so few ingredients, it bakes up in a few short minutes and is always an instant hit no matter where you bring it.  Notice, I say “where you bring it” because I don’t ever keep this in my house unless it’s brought to me, which is once a year by my sister and every year I curse her and thank her simultaneously while I go ahead and eat all of it over the next week  two days (being honest here).

If I kept this in my house all the time, I’d never stop eating it and while that sounds like heaven, it probably would end… not so cute.

That’s all I’ll say, as this one speaks for itself.

Try it once, and you’ll be hooked for life.  That’s both a warning and a promise.

I hope you all enjoy this little sweet treat and have a wonderful week!

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Cracker Bark

Recipe courtesy of my sister, Annie

About 40-42 salted crackers (I used saltines)
1 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 cup, packed, brown sugar
Dash of sea salt +more for finish
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans or other nuts of your choice, lightly toasted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Wrap the topside of a 11 by 17 inch baking sheet  in foil, and cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the baking sheet
  2. Place crackers in a single layer, covering as much of the baking sheet as possible.  Note: the crackers don’t fit perfectly so you will have a gap at 2 of the 4 edges.
  3. In a small or medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until it begins to boil.  Once it begins to bubble, reduce heat to low and leave it unstirred and boiling for 2-3 minutes over low heat.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla and mix that in quickly and thoroughly then pour over the crackers quickly and spread with a rubber spatula or the back of a metal spoon.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for about ten minutes, while watching carefully as the caramel bubbles over the saltines for ten minutes. Remove from oven after 10 minutes (or at the most 13 minutes).
  6. Immediately pour the chocolate chips over the caramel crackers  in a single layer and let them melt for five minutes before spreading over the sheet of caramel crackers.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts and a bit of evenly and lightly distributed sea salt for finish.
  7. Leave to cool completely and break into pieces before serving.


Note: the corners of this are prone to burning in the original recipe.  When they begin to darken quickly, it’s done. Because of this I reduced the original baking time from 15 minutes to ten-thirteen minutes and still got excellent toffee-like results.


Posted in All, Dessert, Entertaining, For Kids, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Black Bean Chili

The bus will be arriving in fifteen minutes.  Maddox in a snow suit, under a thick wool blanket in the stroller, now resembles the little brother in “A Christmas Story” and can barely put his arms down.  Next, Trey insists on wearing only a t-shirt under his coat because it has spider-man or star wars on it or something, which apparently trumps the cold when you’re five.  I choose not to have that battle, today.  So I bundle him up too, placating both him and myself, a compromise made daily  in order to make it to the bus stop on time.

Hats, gloves, scarves and heavy coats are on.  Once everyone is ready and I double check everything three times, we’re off!  The wind whips through us, sending shivers down our spines as we briskly walk to the bus stop talking about how it really should be snowing by now and what we’re doing after school.  We finally make it and we wait, huddled together.  The roar of the engine is heard over the top of the hill and the big yellow school bus is in sight!  It pulls up, Trey gets on.  We wave and say, “bye!” as the doors close and the bus starts on its way again.  I lean in to ask Max if he’s cold, he just says, “burr” which is also his newest word, by the way.  So, I run back home pushing the stroller and then we quickly go inside to thaw ourselves with warm milk for Max and some cinnamon stick tea for me.  Good morning.  Is it really ten already?


After about an hour of playing, I attempt to get Mr. Max to take a nap.  That’s hit and miss these days.  With errands looming and chores in the forefront of my thoughts, I think, “what am I having for lunch?”  And then it hits me.  I made chili last night!


Not just any chili, but really one of the best I’ve ever made in Mike’s opinion and mine.  That is saying a lot, because he’s not one for empty compliments nor is he naturally inclined to love something healthy, like this vegetarian chili.   Why do we love it so much?  It has different levels of spicy and sweet, it has hints of smoky and fresh and it has a punch of spice but also a slow, warm underlying heat to it too which quenches my seemingly insatiable desire for warmth today.  As I finally get Max to nap and the house becomes quiet, I dig in to this steaming bowl of delicious comfort and soon the icy freeze in my body melts.  Now, warm and satiated, I officially declare this chili one of my favorite ways to revel in a winter day like today.




Black Bean Chili

  • 2 cups dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots or parsnips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/grated
  • 2 cups roasted diced tomatoes with garlic olive oil and basil (recipe below or you may use store-bought)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetarian vegetable stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoon chili powder (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, minced
  • 1 cup beer

Preparation:  Soak the sorted and rinsed black beans in water overnight.  Drain water from beans and then rinse them.

  1.   In a large pot over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil until lightly coating the bottom of the pot.
  2. When oil starts to smoke, add onion, red pepper flakes, carrots and celery.
  3. Sprinkle vegetables with a little salt and pepper, and toss with a wooden spoon to combine.
  4. When onion becomes translucent, add the garlic and stir continuously for about 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.
  5.  Add tomatoes (recipe below) stir once and then let the vegetables cook untouched for about a minute or until liquid from vegetables is near to completely evaporated and the vegetables, themselves begin to brown on the bottom of the pot.
  6. When vegetables begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, add the crushed tomatoes and then vegetable stock.
  7. Stir to combine while scraping up any bits of vegetables that got stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  8. Add water, cumin, chili powder, chipotle peppers and the serrano chili pepper.  Stir and then add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the prepared black beans.
  9. Bring to a light boil stirring every few minutes for about 30 minutes or until beans start to become tender and the liquid begins to reduce.
  10. When the liquid coats the back of a spoon, taste and add additional chili powder or salt and pepper if desired.
  11. Reduce heat to low, add beer.
  12. Stir and cover.
  13. Cook covered on low, stirring every 8 minutes or so, until the chili is thick to your liking and the black beans and vegetables are exceptionally tender.
  14. Note: The longer this cooks, the better it will taste as the slow cooking process at the end marries everything in the chili together.  Because of this, you may add water every half hour if needed so the chili does not become over reduced.


Roasted tomatoes

  • 4 cups sliced fresh tomatoes
  • about 8 whole basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • 5 black peppercorns, freshly ground
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Place tomatoes in baking dish, slightly overlapping.
  3. Stick basil leaves evenly under tomato slices and grate garlic clove over the tomatoes.
  4. drizzle olive oil and vinegar over tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place in preheated oven until the edges of the tomatoes begin to shrivel.
  6. Use immediately or jar for future use.
Posted in All, Dinner, Lunch, Vegetarian | 7 Comments

Breakfast of Champions

Happy 2012!  Time to get organized and healthy!

Why I do this, exactly, is still unknown; perhaps some crazy idea I formulated years ago and just never really questioned.   This is not a resolution, well, not exactly since those never last anyway and I don’t make any promises to eat a certain way forever or have an organized house forever.  I guess the new year is just a good time for me to cleanse of clutter and excess in order to make room for more clutter and excess in the new year.  Sure, that sounds good to me. I mean it can’t hurt to lighten things up and think twice about healthy options from time to time. Right?

  Besides, after eating nutritionally packed and balanced meals like this one for the last 4 days, all of my cabinets are now organized.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  Or, maybe I just have more time to clean my cabinets now that I’m not constantly dreaming up new frosting flavors.  <shrug>  But, don’t fret too much; I’m sure I’ll be back to decadent delights before too long…in moderation and therefore tasting even more delicious than ever, of course.



Breakfast of Champions

  • tomato slices (any kind)
  • salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil
  • sprouted whole grain bread
  • Butter, for toast (you may use plain Greek yogurt, if preferred)
  • egg or egg white
  • thyme
  • organic baby spinach leaves
  • dash of hot sauce, if desired (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 and line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place tomato slices on prepared baking sheet and drizzle on both sides of the tomatoes, the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, just to bring out the sweetness. Remove from oven.

Fry egg in a nonstick pan over medium low heat with your favorite spray, butter or oil, season to taste with salt and pepper and a tiny sprinkle of thyme too.  Meanwhile, toast the bread and spread with butter or plain yogurt and top it with a few baby spinach leaves and a couple of the prepared tomato slices.   Add the fried egg on top of the spinach.  Add a dash of hot sauce on egg, if desired.  Enjoy.





Posted in Breakfast, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments