chocolate sponge cake

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Now I’ve come to the best part of any meal, the dessert. I made a chocolate sponge cake from the South Beach Diet cookbook. This recipe frustrates me because I can never get consistent results. The method is not very clear, and sponges, alas, are delicate. Sometimes when I make it, it is humongous! Other times, it’s only six inches high because of over mixing. I think a height of eight inches signals success. So here is what I think: when combining the batter with the meringue, the flour, and the melted butter, mix them up all at once. It’s a light and airy cake when done well. Not as moist as a chiffon, but it has its charms, particularly with  the rich chocolate ganache that just oozes down the sides. Included at the end of this cake recipe is the chocolate glaze from the South Beach Diet cookbook. In the photograph above I used a chocolate ganache that’s 1/2 cup whipping cream and 11 1/2 oz milk chocolate.


Chocolate Sponge Cake (
SBD)

Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes (includes cooling time)
Baking time: 40 minutes

Cake
7 egg whites (210g) separated while cold then bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (169g) superfine sugar
3 egg yolks (75g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (130g) cake flour
3 tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

Glaze
1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Make the sponge cake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Use one 10-inch tube pan, ungreased and un-floured, Microwave the butter in a glass one-cup measure for 30 seconds on high heat. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the egg yolks and vanilla. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks. Fold in one-third of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Gently scrape the remaining meringue into the egg yolk mixture. Using a sifter or a strainer/sieve, sprinkle the cake flour over the top of the mixture. Pour the cooled melted butter on top. Very gently, fold—do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the pan, spreading evenly. Use an skewer to make cuts in the batter around the inner and outer edges to reduce air pockets. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted hear the center comes out clean.

Invert the tube pan onto a large funnel or bottle, or if it has feet, let it rest on the counter top. Let the cake hang until it is completely cooled, about 1 hour. Press a thin blade knife towards the cake around the inner and outer edges of the cake to release the cake. Use a skewer to do the center. To release the bottom, turn the cake on its side and rotate it as you press between the cake and the cake bottom. Turn out onto a rack, and cool completely, with the crusty topside up to prevent splitting.

Make the chocolate sauce. Melt the chocolate and shortening in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Cool slightly.

Put the cake bottom-side up on the rack in the center of a large cookie sheet. Drizzle the melted chocolate in a criss-cross pattern across the top of the cake, letting the excess run down the sides and onto the cookie sheet below. Using a large spatula, lift the cake and transfer it to a serving platter.

cauliflower tots

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Cauliflower is becoming my favorite vegetable. It is so versatile to cook with, and its health benefits are undeniable. It is low in fat and carbs. There are different ways to serve it. Puréed, it becomes a low-cal substitute for mashed potatoes. Grated, it takes on the texture of rice or couscous as a vegetable–and vegetarian–side dish. Here’s yet another way to serve it: cauliflower “tots.” When my kids were little, their favorite vegetable finger food was Tater Tots. These tots are so tasty it’s a surprise to realize that cauliflower is the main ingredient. I found that the addition of the Chinese celery, cilantro, and scallion added a wonderful herbal flavor to the tots. If you haven’t got Chinese celery, chop up some celery instead. It will add a nice crunch to the tots.

Cauliflower Tots

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 18 minutes
Servings: 18-20 tots

2 cups grated cauliflower, florets only, discard stem
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped Chinese celery, stems only, discard leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallion
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated white cheese (e.g. Cheddar, Mozzarella)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs or 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Spray a baking tray with olive oil. Set aside.

Pulse the cauliflower florets 5-6 times in the food processor. Transfer to an oven-proof bowl and microwave on high power 2 1/2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the cooked cauliflower, Chinese celery stems, cilantro, scallion, garlic, cheese, and panko. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Mix well.

Scoop a tablespoonful of the cauliflower mixture into your hands and shape it into a fat oval. Place on the prepared baking tray. Bake 16-18 minutes or until browned, turning once during baking.

Cook’s Note: I found that the cauliflower tots stuck to the baking tray. My solution is to add more oil to the tray, but I remember when I did this to the black bean veggie burgers, it didn’t solve the problem entirely. The next time I make these I am going to fry them on the stove top in a skillet sprayed with cooking oil over medium to medium-high heat. This way I can turn them more frequently thus preventing sticking, and control the heat better.

Cook’s Note(added December 2, 2013): The cauliflower mixture should hold together when shaped. If it is too dry, add one large egg white.

fried cauliflower rice with chinese sausage and seasoned shiitake mushrooms

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Today I walked-jogged 18 laps around the jogging track; that’s 6k! So, not wanting to spoil the good feeling, I made a healthy fried rice for dinner. I used grated cauliflower instead of rice for a low carb option. Since I married an unreformed meat lover, I put slivers of Chinese sausage in it, but they can easily be left out to make this a vegetarian dish. The seasoned mushrooms are meaty and so full of flavor they really make this dish satisfying, I think.

Fried Cauliflower Rice with Chinese Sausage and Seasoned Shiitake Mushrooms

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

1 small head cauliflower, florets only, discard stem (yield: 2 1/2 cups grated)
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into slices
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark thick soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 large Chinese sausage or 2 small, cut into 2” sticks
1/2 onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons oil

Cut all the florets into even pieces and put them in the workbowl of the food processor. Pulse 6-7 times until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the sliced mushrooms, soy sauces, and sugar. Cook until the sauces are absorbed. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Clean out the skillet.

Heat another tablespoon oil in the skillet. Cook the Chinese sausage until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

To the oil remaining in the skillet, add the onion and cook until it is wilted, then add the garlic. Cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower rice. Cook until it softens and turns brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and the Chinese sausage. Mix well.

stuffed chicken breasts with orange-mustard sauce

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Orange-Mustard Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 3-6

3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 cup frozen spinach, slightly thawed
1/2 cup chopped bacon
Salt and pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon grain mustard
4 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven 350˚F.

Prepare the chicken. Trim the chicken breasts of excess fat. Split each breast in half horizontally so that you get two thin steaks about 1/4 -1/2 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the bacon. Fry the bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from rendered fat and let bacon drain on a sheet of paper towel. Don’t discard the bacon fat.

Fill the chicken rolls. In the middle of each steak, put about 1 tablespoon bacon and 2 tablespoons frozen spinach. Fasten with toothpicks.

Sear the chicken rolls. On medium high heat, lightly brown the chicken rolls in the bacon fat. Don’t discard the fat and brown bits in the pan. In fact, don’t wash it!

Bake the rolls. Put the rolls in an 8-inch baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until the rolls are cooked through. If some rolls are small, test them with an instant read thermometer after 10 minutes. Test the larger rolls after 15 minutes. Cook for 4-5 minutes more until the temperature reaches 160˚F. Remove the toothpicks.

Make the sauce. Meanwhile in the pan in which the chicken was browned, add the chicken broth. I like to save time by using concentrated chicken broth paste. It’s very salty so there’s no need to add salt, but do use it sparingly. If it says a teaspoon, use half a teaspoon then add the water to the pan. Add the orange juice and the Dijon mustard and cook down until the liquid is thickened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Remember you have almost a full bag of frozen spinach left over? Well, cook it with salt and pepper.

Spoon sauce over each chicken roll,  add a generous spoonful of cooked spinach on the side, and eat! I also recommend serving these stuffed chicken rolls with roasted vegetables.

jerk pork tenderloin with mango-avocado-tomato salsa

jerk pork tenderloin with mango-avocado-tomato salsa

This juicy pork tenderloin recipe was inspired by Gina at skinnytaste. com.  To me it is mildly spicy, and the cool slightly sweet salsa accompaniment just soothes the tongue!
P.S. I wanted to add this note to anyone concerned about the safety of pink pork. Pork is safe to eat when the internal temperature rises to 150˚F. For more information visit this link by America’s Test Kitchen/Shine Food.

Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Mango-Avocado-Tomato Salsa

Prep time: 5 hours (or overnight) plus 15 minutes
Cook time: 25-35 minutes depending on the weight
Servings: 6-8 as appetizer, 2-4 as main course

Ingredients:
• 1 lb lean pork tenderloin, all fat and silver removed
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 – 3 tablespoons Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
• 1 lime, squeezed
• 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
• 1/4 -1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

For the salsa:
• 2 Haas avocadoes, diced
• 1 tomato, chopped
• 2 large ripe mangos, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped red onion
• 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine the garlic, jerk seasoning, and salt, rub all over pork (wear gloves if you wish). Place in a 8 inch square pan, then pour the lime and orange juices over the pork. Turn so that the juices cover all the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight, turning pork occasionally.

The next day (or 5 hours later), preheat the oven to 350˚F. Remove pork from the marinade and discard the marinade. Bake the pork 25 minutes for 3/4 pound roast or up to 35 minutes for at 1 pound roast. When it has reached an internal temperature of 155˚F (check it 5 minutes before time is up), remove it from the oven and let it rest on the stovetop. The tenderloin should come to 160˚F during resting, about 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Meanwhile make the salsa: combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate salsa until ready to serve.

chicken satay with spicy sweet dipping sauce and thai cabbage salad

chicken satay with spicy sweet dipping sauce and thai cabbage salad

Thai Grilled Chicken with Spicy Sweet Dipping Sauce (adapted from Pasta Princess and More)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Resting time: 4 hours or overnight
Broil time: 10 minutes, depending on how fast your oven is it could take 15 minutes
Servings: 8 skewers

INGREDIENTS:

For Chicken:
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
8 metal skewers

For Spicy Sweet Dipping Sauce
6 tablespoons rice vinegar or mirin
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons white sugar (omit if using mirin)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. In a large glass bowl, mix together the coconut milk, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, cilantro, turmeric, curry powder, and white pepper. Add chicken chunks, and toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours at least or overnight.
  2. Preheat grill on high heat or heat up the oven broiler. Thread chicken chunks onto skewers. Discard the marinade.
  3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, pepper flakes, and salt. Stir sauce. Set aside.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate and place chicken on the grill. Cook for 10 minutes per side, or until slightly charred and juices run clear. Serve with spicy sweet dipping sauce on the side. I recommend Thai cabbage salad would be a great accompaniment!

 

turkey patty with broccoli, celery, and fennel

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This is a great meal: turkey patty served on a bed of grilled iceberg lettuce, kale chips, and asparagus and tomato-olive dressing with Canadian bacon and onion. Putting broccoli and celery in the turkey patty adds moisture and also crunch–not to mention increasing your daily vegetable portion!

Turkey Patty with Broccoli and Fennel

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes per patty
Servings: 5 patties

Ingredients
1 pound lean ground turkey (93% or higher)
1/2 cup broccoli stems, chopped
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons celery, minced
1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, beaten

Preparation
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and combine. Cut a wide sheet of wax paper. Dip a 1/2 cup measure in water. Scoop up some of the turkey meat mixture and scrape off the excess. Empty the scoop onto the wax paper sheet and repeat. Press each patty to flatten slightly. This much seasoned turkey mixture yields  five patties.

Cook’s Note: Dipping the 1/2 cup measure in water helps to release the patty.

I used the George Foreman grill to cook these patties. It took just four minutes per patty. Patties can also be broiled or pan-fried in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Cook until each patty reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F.

asian grilled tofu triangles with thai cabbage salad

asian grilled tofu triangles

This recipe was inspired by the South Beach Diet Cookbook. That recipe originally called for tempeh but as I’m not a tempeh fan I decided to use its first cousin, extra firm tofu. This recipe takes longer to make because you need to press out the excess water from the tofu and then marinate it for at least 4 hours. After it was grilled, I was a bit disappointed in the taste–the ginger and garlic flavors were overshadowed by the sesame oil. Next time I make this I will increase the garlic and ginger by one tablespoon each.

Asian Grilled Tofu Triangles

Prep time: 40 minutes
Marinating time: 12 hours
Cook time: 12 minutes
Servings: 4

1 pound extra firm tofu drained and cut into triangles
1 tablespoon canola oil (can use peanut oil)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons scallions sliced thinly on the diagonal for garnish (optional)

Press the tofu. Spread two layers of paper towels on a medium rimmed baking tray. Spread the tofu on top of the paper towels. Put another layer of paper towels on top. Cover the paper towels with a small rimmed baking tray. Place canned goods and or books on top to weight down the small baking tray. This will press out the water and flatten the triangles to about half the size when they were sliced. It takes about 20 minutes to remove the excess water.

Cook’s Note: The tofu may need a change of paper towels and an additional 20 minutes if the triangles have not reduced in size significantly.

Make the marinade. In a small bowl, whisk the oils, ginger, garlic and soy sauce until they emulsify. Put the pressed tofu in an 8” square pan and pour the marinade on top. With a pair of tongs, gently turn the tofu several times to coat. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours. I let them sit overnight in the marinade.

Grill the tofu triangles. The next day, I heated up the George Foreman grill and grilled the tofu 4 minutes. That was enough time to cook them and also get that wonderful burnt grill lines. If desired, sprinkle sliced scallions on top. Serve at once.

Cook’s Note: Save the marinade as a dressing for the grilled tofu. The tofu turned out slightly sweet and with a delicate flavor.

To accompany the grilled tofu, I made my favorite coconut kale recipe (kale, coconut oil, pepper flakes and Maldon’s sea salt. Yum!) and tried a new recipe for Thai Cabbage Salad from epicurious. I adapted the measurements because there was enough to feed everybody at a pot luck supper and then some. I think I could even halve the recipe one more time.

Thai Cabbage Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

1/4 head each red & green cabbage (sliced thinly)
3 carrots grated
1 medium cucumber diced small
1 large red pepper diced small)
1/2 cup scallions (sliced thinly)
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped coarsely)

Dressing:
1/4 cup rice vinegar or mirin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste
2 Thai chilies (minced)
4-6 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1/2 cup peanuts

Do ahead: make salad dressing in a large jar and store in the refrigerator up to one week

Toss all salad ingredients together. Twenty minutes before serving, add dressing to salad and toss. Let sit 20 minutes to let flavors develop. Sprinkle peanuts on top.

thai cabbage salad

bolivian spiced grilled pork cutlets with split peas

Now that Andy is here in New York, I am determined to make sure he eats healthy. Living on his own in Bangkok has led to all sorts of unhealthy eating habits–like eating ham hocks. I brought my South Beach Diet cookbooks when I came back from Bangkok in January, so I looked up interesting Phase One recipes. This one, to my astonishment, included a ham hock and pork loin chops. I decided I would make it without ham hock and pork chop. Though I knew that I could use lean pork tenderloin instead of pork chops there is absolutely no substitute for the meaty smoky flavor of the ham hock.  I had read about the concept of umami sometimes called the “fifth taste” that rounds out the four basic tastes: bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. Umami is savory. I decided to add powdered dry porcini mushrooms because it has an earthy savory flavor. To get back the smokiness I added a few generous twists of Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend. It was perfect.

bolivian spiced grilled pork cutlets with split peas

Bolivian Spiced Grilled Pork Cutlets with Split Peas

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes

Split Peas
2 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 parsnip, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon powdered dried porcini mushrooms
1 bay leaf
Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend
1 1/4 cup split peas, rinsed

Pork Cutlets
Rub
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground cardamom
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
zest of 1 lemon (about 3 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1 pork tenderloin trimmed of fat and silver and cut into eighths

Make the split peas: In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, heat the olive oil. When it is hot, add the onion, celery, and parsnip. When it starts to sizzle, add the garlic. Cook until the vegetables become softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and cumin. Stir and add the chicken broth, umami, peas, bay leaf, and the Smoke. Let it come to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 45 minutes or until the peas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

Make the pork cutlets: In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cardamom, coriander, pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Pound each cutlet flat, about 1 inch 1/2 inch thickness. With your fingers, work a half teaspoon of the rub onto each side of one cutlet. Put the cutlet aside on a plate and repeat with the rest of the cutlets.

I grilled the cutlets in 3 batches for 4 minutes per batch in the George Foreman grill. Alternatively, you can cook the cutlets in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray until done. The cutlets are cooked when they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F. I served these cutlets with the split peas, Tennessee-style cole slaw, and tomato-avocado salsa.

brown and wild rice turkey burgers with Tennessee-style cole slaw

Last weekend was beautiful. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. It was warm. We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to walk down the Cherry Esplanade with hundreds of other people. I am glad we went last weekend because I’m sure there are no more blossoms left on the trees after today’s rain!

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It finally feels like spring! After we had such a long cold winter here in New York followed by an unusually cool spring, the weather got warm and beautiful enough to enjoy the cherry blossoms at the BBG. However, cherry blossoms have absolutely nothing to do with this next recipe! I found a recipe for wild rice turkey burgers in the South Beach Diet cookbook but I tweaked it a bit. It had a delicious nutty flavor from the wild rice and a tartness from the extra sharp Cheddar, which melted wonderfully as the meat cooked. So here we go:

brown and wild rice turkey burgers

Brown and Wild Rice Turkey Burgers

Prep time: 35 minutes (includes cooking time for rice in a rice cooker)
Cooking time: 16 minutes in the George Foreman grill

1 pound lean ground turkey (93% lean is recommended)
1 cup cooked brown and wild rice mixture, cooled slightly
1/4 cup tonkatsu sauce (I happened to have this on hand; use barbecue sauce if you prefer)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
4×1 inch cubes extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese

Do ahead: cook the rice ahead of time and let cool. I used a rice cooker.

For the next step, I used my George Foreman grill but you can do these patties in the oven or in the broiler.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, rice, sauce, egg, salt and pepper. Pack a half-cup measure with the meat mixture and unmold it onto a plate or a baking tray. Gently flatten the patty until it’s about 2 inches thick. Now this is where it’s fun: make a dent in the middle of the patty, but not so deep that you poke a hole all the way through. Insert a cheese cube in the dent and cover it over with meat. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture.

I grilled each patty in the George Foreman for 4 minutes. I tested the patty to see that it registered 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Be sure not to insert the thermometer in the center or you will hit the cheese. Instead, go as close to the center as you can and be careful not to poke the thermometer all the way through. In any case, the patties were fully cooked in an average of four minutes per patty.

If you prefer, you can bake the patties at 350˚F for 10 minutes but it will not have a grilled appearance. You can achieve this by popping them in the broiler instead. Of course, you can also fry them on the stove. To cut calories, fry them on medium high heat after spraying the skillet with cooking spray.

To cut calories further, I dispensed with the bun and served each patty on a thick slice of grilled iceberg lettuce. No fries but roasted root vegetables, my favorite accompaniment to any grilled meat, and a delicious Tennesee-style cole slaw from saveur.com!

Tennessee-Style Mustard Coleslaw
SERVES 6
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 medium head cabbage, shredded

I never know how much mustard to use when using dried powdered mustard. So I just put in enough powder in a one cup measure that I judged was to my taste–about 2 tablespoons–then added enough water to come up to the 1/4 cup level. Then I whisked the mustard with the mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seeds in a bowl. Shred cabbage and toss with dressing in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve. This cole slaw has a delicious “bite” from the mustard!