Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sugar and spice and everything nice

You know my predilection for putting just a dash of this and a hint of that in everything I make. Spices are the joy of life. I mean, don't get me wrong - I'm all for the true flavor of things and enjoying the freshness and tasting the dew that quivered on the leaf just that morn and all of that. But now that I've started learning how to use spices not to cover up, but to enhance, I see how the right spices and herbs can really wake up the food you make - bring out the essence of even the dew, if you will - and take a dish from tasty to scrumptious in 2 seconds flat.

And so, when the good folks at Aromatic Spice Blends sent me a heap of spice mixes to try, of course I was excited! They use quality ingredients and all the blends are small batch and freshly made, which is pretty much the key to a good spice blend. And after trying these, I can't wait to get to the other little packets!!

Combine that with just a little time on hand (enough to cook, but alas not enough to freshly grind my own spices - as is most often the case) and a certain husband's upcoming birthday, and I was hopping around with delight.

Plus, MIL had gifted me a Bundt cake pan (Bundt! Oo! Doesn't the word just promise fun?) that's been giving me a come hither look ever since Christmas.

So first up, a little spiced bundt cake. And then, a quick curried eggplant that comes together in under half an hour with the help of a pre-mixed spice blend.

Now this bundt cake fulfills all the essentials of a good bundt - moist and crumbly interior and lovely crisp exterior that just provides that satisfying hint of crunch when you first bite into it. The perfect coffee cake. Or dessert cake. Or breakfast cake (don't judge - you ate a muffin this morning - just cupcake without the icing, my friend!).

In this instance, the perfect middle o' the week surprise birthday cake - because D's birthday requires little celebrations all week long - surely just one little birthday celebration wouldn't do, would it? Of course the surprise is a bit harder to pull off when you're in the same little apartment and hiding kitchen activities would require banishment to the bathroom (a bit cruel, I thought). I suppose my rootling around with the oven and pulling out the KitchenAid might have given something away. But ssh. It's the thought that counts, right? Okay okay so it's a "not-reeelly-but-let's-pretend-you-didn't-know-I-was-baking-you-a-cake surprise birthday cake." But it's still perfect and it's still delicious. Now that's what counts.

It's also just what a chilly January evening calls for, because it's that point of winter where the cold has gone on long enough and the warmth is just a smidge too far away. You want to shake things up a bit and address that huge bout of cabin fever, but you also just need to huddle down and hibernate because who're we kidding, the polar vortex is here to stay.

A good bit of citrus zest perks up the warmer deeper flavors of the pumpkin spice mix so you end up with a wonderful mix of comfort and brightness. And the olive oil gives that crunchy exterior and a beautiful depth of flavor that really holds together the citrus and the spice.

So serve it up warm, dig in, and if you don't have any leftovers...well, nobody needs to know.

Spiced Olive Oil Citrus Bundt Cake with Bourbon Orange Glaze
(adapted from Giada de Laurentiis and What's Cooking Good Looking)


For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Aromatic Spices pumpkin spice (or your warm spices of choice - think nutmeg/cinnamon/cloves)
3 large eggs
Zest of 3 clementines (approx 3 tsp)
Zest of 2 lemons (approx 2 tsp)
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the glaze:
1 tsp bourbon
2 tsp orange juice (juice of 1/2 clementine)
1 tsp whole milk
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a bundt cake pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Beat together the sugar, eggs, and zests and milk. Gradually beat in the oil.

Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended.

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then urn upside down on a cooling rack and let cool.

While the cake is cooling, mix together all the ingredients of the bourbon glaze and drizzle over the cake once the cake is slightly cool. The glaze will harden and set in 5-10 minutes.


And if you're looking for an easy weeknight meal, grab an eggplant from the fridge, throw together some onions and tomatoes, sprinkle some garam masala, and you're all set!

Curried Eggplant

1 medium eggplant
1 large yellow onion
2 large tomatoes
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp Aromatic Spices garam masala
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup peanuts
Salt to taste

Slice onions thinly. Heat 2 tbsp oil on medium, add in the onions, then turn the heat to low and let cook, stirring often, until the onions caramelize (approx 15 minutes at least).

While the onions are caramelizing, chop the eggplant and the tomatoes into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces. Crush the peanuts and set aside.

When the onions are nearly caramelized, add in the ginger-garlic paste.

When the onions are caramelized and the ginger-garlic paste has cooked a little, add in the eggplant and tomatoes.

Sprinkle garam masala, turmeric, and salt over the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is tender stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Serve over warm rice with a dollop of yogurt on the side.


  1. Looks amazingly delicious...will be trying the cake recipe this weekend. Love to read your blog!

    1. Thank you! I hope it turns out just as delicious :-) Let me know!

  2. Wow. This looks and sounds delicious. Can't wait to make both of these soon. Thanks for sharing!


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