Archive for 2015|Yearly archive page

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….


farmers cheese

In challenge on October 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm

longtime readers of this blog will remember the days when i used to do challenges. i love making things that are usually bought. not all the time, but just to better understand the item. some of my favorites were bagelsfig newtons, fortune cookies, junior mints, marshmallowssoft pretzels, and yogurt.

today’s post is in that same vein: farmers cheese.

(no, your memory is not deceiving you, i have made cheese before.)

so, farmers cheese (and i had to look this up) is technically a “pressed cottage cheese” or an “unripened cheese.” we’re not talking a hard block of cheddar, but softer, spreadable, creamy yumminess.

whether you add rennet or just boil the milk, essentially you’re looking to curdle it. that produces curds and whey (a la little miss muffet, aka cottage cheese), which you separate by draining and/or pressing, leaving you with the curd cheese. it’s got a texture similar to cream cheese, although a little crumblier.

you can use it in both savory or sweet applications. i like it on toast with jam. it adds a nice little tang which cuts the sweetness of the jam.


the recipe i used was from good eggs, courtesy of ms. nag

roasted broccoli

In technique on October 17, 2015 at 10:51 pm

remember what i told you about roasting lima beans? turns out you can do the same thing to broccoli and it’s equally as tasty (and probably a titch healthier).


cut your broc into florets and toss in a bowl with plenty of olive oil.

spread out on a baking sheet, leaving lots of space. do two batches if you have to. crowding leads to steaming and you want browning!

sprinkle with salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes and garlic powder.

roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, toss, and bake for about 10 minutes more.

scrape into a bowl, complete with all the oil/salt/seasonings on the tray, and top with plenty of lemon juice and parmesan.

what else can i roast??

shout out to ms nag for the inspiration.

another pumpkin-bran muffin

In recipe on October 12, 2015 at 11:09 pm

as you know, there’s nothing i love more than a yummy homemade muffin (maybe a bowl of oatmeal? an oatmeal muffin?) and as it’s the middle of october already (?!?!?!), i decided to kick off true muffin season with another pumpkin-spice-bran variety.

from the archives:

they’re all good–i’d pick which one to make based on what ingredients i have in the house.


so here’s…

another pumpkin-bran muffin
(inspired heavily by domestic dreamboat’s recipe)

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup wheat bran, toasted in a skillet until toasty-smelling
a scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar (measure a 1/2 cup and take out a tablespoon or so)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
chocolate chips

in one bowl, mix together the first nine ingredients and in another bowl, mix together the next five. make sure you put your spices, especially the ginger, and your baking soda/powder through a fine sieve. they are always lumpy and you don’t want lumps.

gently mix the two together. there’s so much fiber in this recipe – and i cut the sugar a lot – i would have felt just fine adding chocolate chips (so good with pumpkin), but he doesn’t like them so i abstained. i’m sweet enough already.

grease your muffin tin well and scoop batter in. i sprinkled some old fashioned oats over the top of each just because i like how they look. not necessary, though, especially if you went the chocolate route.

bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes.

cressida cress

In ingredient on October 1, 2015 at 2:15 am

this summer, my farmers market had a really exotic selection of yummy greens. our favorite has been pea shoots, which taste just like sweet, tender, baby peas. eat the very thin ones raw with dressing or sautee the slightly larger stems quickly with a lot of garlic. mmm

but last week, i discovered cressida cress. related to watercress, that rarified green found with butter in crustless english tea sandwiches, cressida cress is described as peppery and spicy.

i also found some very unique mozzarella-like goat cheese, so farmers market dinner was open-faced tomato and melted cheese sandwiches with mayo, salt, pepper and a big pile of cress.


the flavor of the cress was great, and it would be an excellent way to spice up a regular salad, too. check it out!

black-tarine-berry whole wheat crisp

In recipe on September 23, 2015 at 1:04 am

i had peach crisp in mind when i went to the farmers market this evening, but the nectarines were riper, so i started there. then i saw the blackberries…


wow. the size of plums! and sooo tasty.

so here we are. two large and two small nectarines and about 18-20 very large blackberries.

i chopped the nectarines pretty small and tossed them with a little sugar, salt, nutmeg (great with stone fruit and dark leafy greens. not at the same time necessarily) and about a tablespoon of corn starch. i’ll usually squeeze some lemon juice over it, too, but i didn’t have a lemon around tonight.

i didn’t want the blackberries to fall apart, so i didn’t toss them, but set half of them in a glass pie plate, poured the nectarines around, then nestled the rest around the top


for the crisp topping, i decided to use whole wheat flour and WOW. such yummy, dark flavor. a less guilt! i can’t believe i haven’t done this before.

crisp topping
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
pinch of salt

mix together and squeeze through your fingers until everything is combined and looks like sand.


sprinkle liberally over the fruit – i ended up with a some leftover, which will keep fine in the fridge for all your emergency crisp needs – and bake at 400 degrees until the fruit is bubbly and the top is golden.


sometimes this can take up to 40-45 minutes, but because i made mine in a shallow pie plate, it only took about 25 (plus, you get a higher topping-to-fruit ratio!)


skillet cookie

In dessert on September 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

i don’t really have another way to say this except, GO! do yourself a favor and MAKE IT TONIGHT!


sorry for the yelling. recipe from martha.

mini dessert party

In challenge on August 17, 2015 at 12:29 am

who doesn’t love mini desserts? here are a few i made recently for a celebration at work.

tiny lemon curd and blueberry tartlets.


this is a low-effort, high-impact one. the tart shells can be bought at your local speciality grocer or super-large grocery store (my whole paycheck does not carry them, however). they are about the size of a quarter. i keep a box around at all times because they are perfect for whipping up a last-minute dessert or app that is sure to impress.

lemon curd is easy and can be made way in advance. washing blueberries is also easy. the only trick to this is that the shells soften pretty quickly, so fill them right before you serve and remind your guests you just can’t have leftovers!

mini buttermilk cupcakes with vanilla frosting.


the secret to mini cupcakes is having a large mini cupcake pan. i used to make mine in a pan that had only six cups and it was brutal – all that filling and waiting and cooling over and over. so i recently invested in a professional-grade mini cupcake pan and it’s a godsend. makes 24 in a batch, which is about a full recipe of batter that would yield a dozen regular ones. it makes all the difference. (and when i say “invest” i mean $36. hardly a bank-breaker)

i had a bit of batter left over and used it to make a baby birthday cake for my upstairs neighbor. it was a two-layer cake and there was a candle (not pictured).


yes, i have a mini cake stand.

little chocolate “bundts.”


ok, they aren’t really bundts because they don’t have that hole in the center, but they kind of look like it, right? make any chocolate cake or brownie recipe in a mini cupcake pan. cool them upside down and then dip them halfway in melted chocolate and top with sprinkles. i like variety on my dessert table and this is an easy way to basically serve chocolate cupcakes but have them not look repetitive of the vanilla. (this is how my mind works.)

i also made one-bite chocolate chip cookies. they had mini chocolate chips in them! but i scooped too much batter for each and they turned out almost “regular” size. oh well. they were still eaten!