beet birthday cake

In challenge on December 20, 2015 at 2:51 pm

i don’t know how i got it in my head that i wanted a beet birthday cake. i don’t even like beets that much (although they’re growing on me!). but six or so quite large ones arrived in our winter farm share box this week, and they just screamed birthday cake to me.


i looked at a lot of beet cake recipes online and decided to go with joy the baker’s chocolate beet cake. i don’t think i’ve made anything from her blog before, but i like her voice and the recipe called for cream cheese frosting. what more is there? actually, i also liked that it used more brown sugar than white and buttermilk. good flavors. and it was a layer cake. martha’s and the new york times’ were both single layer, and david lebovitz called his “not overly sweet, which is good for those of you looking for more of a snack cake” which, despite being an intriguing concept, was not what i was looking for.

i decided to boil my beets rather than roast them because i didn’t want to run the oven that long, but otherwise, i stuck to her instructions.


in any case, once you cook the beets, you grate them and beat them into the batter.



i wish the camera picked up the color better – once you add the cocoa, it’s not brown, it’s a delicious pinky-mauve. (has anyone called mauve delicious before? well, it is here.)


joy advises you to put beets in the frosting, too, which is another reason i chose this recipe. they make it gorgeous. i’ve heard people call beets the candy of vegetables, but it never really resonated until now.



happy birthday to me!


lettuce cups with homemade seitan

In dinner on November 17, 2015 at 12:47 am


we’re getting a winter CSA this year, and in the last box, there was a beautiful head of boston lettuce. IMO, the only and best thing to do with boston lettuce is to make lettuce cups (or “lettuce wraps,” for those p.f. changs fans out there.. you know who you are). well that sounded delicious but like an awful lot of work, so i put it off and put it off, but when the lettuce was STILL GOOD after TWELVE DAYS in the fridge, i decided i would reward its staying power (not to mention absorb its magical powers of eternal youth) and make it into a delicious meal.


do you remember when i made banh mi? for the french roll recipe, i needed to buy something called “vital wheat gluten.” interestingly enough, on the back of the vital wheat gluten box is a recipe for homemade seitan. what is seitan, you ask? thankfully, google/wikipedia provides the following synonyms: “wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten”

i think you get the picture. it’s a gluten-based meat substitute, most famous, if you’re from around here, as the basis of clover food lab’s bbq seitan sandwich. (unlike tofu, it’s not a healthy protein alternative. on a sandwich, you’re essentially eating bread on bread. perhaps that’s why it’s so delicious? i’m wrong! according to livestrong.com, seitan is “high in protein, low in fat and a good source of iron.” hooray! i shall make more, guilt-free!)

anyway, i was intrigued and wanted to try making it, so when i started thinking about a meaty alternative with which to fill my lettuce cups, i decided it was the perfect opportunity to whip up some homemade wheat meat. (i realized i’m not doing it any favors by calling it that, but how can i resist??)

vital wheat gluten is a powder. mix it with water (and i added some soy and oyster sauces), kneed for five minutes (in my kitchen aid), let sit, cut into chunks and boil for an hour. voila.


i cut these pieces into strips and stir fried them in a garlicy-gingery-asiany sauce with edamame.


to serve, fill lettuce cups with thin rice noodles, quick pickles and stir fry. top with cilantro.


the seitan turned out very well. much like tofu, it really just picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it in, so the texture is all that matters. it’s a little chewy, a little soft… not a bad filler for this kind of dish. if it can be crisped up on the edges, it could make good filling for spring rolls or even banh mi, too.

halloween baking extravaganza

In challenge on November 2, 2015 at 1:59 am

this year, i finally had the opportunity to make the halloween treat i’ve had my eye on for ages: the pumpkin cake shaped like a pumpkin. i know you’ve seen it on pinterest.

first, i roasted a sugar baby pumpkin, being careful to save the top and handle. then i used the pumpkin puree to bake two (giant) pumpkin-spice bundt cake (martha’s recipe and it’s good).


one sits upside down and gets a layer of (orange cream cheese) frosting and candied pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds/crystalized ginger.


and the second one gets flipped over on top, frosted with more orange cream cheese frosting, topped with the pumpkin top/handle, and surrounded with more crunchies.


i thought it looked fantastic and there was enough to feed an army of zombies. it also tasted great. mostly though, i’m just so pleased just to have done it after thinking about it for so long!

for those who need a chocolate fix, i also made a bittersweet chocolate ganache tarte with sea salt and oreo-graham crust.

this picture was taken before i styled it up on a white plate with plastic ‘roaches. i mean, it was halloween after all….