Thursday, December 19, 2013

a birthday cake


I make the following cake for Little Debbie every year for her birthday, and though it's a little sweet for my taste it's always a great success. Nurse Patty asked me for the recipe and I'm finally setting it down for her--I hope it's not too late! It's adapted from a recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance. Note for non-vegans: if you don't want to get special milks and creams just for this cake, I'm sure it would work just as well with regular milk, and half and half and butter for the frosting. I always make it with spelt flour, because Deb doesn't eat wheat, but all-purpose would work fine. If you want to make a smaller version, multiply the recipe by 2/3 and bake it for a little less time in a 9"9" pan.

Li'l Deb's Chocolate Cherry Cake
makes one fat, fudgey 9"x13" cake
300g (2 1/2C) white spelt flour
70g (1C) Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2t baking powder
1 1/2t baking soda
2/3t salt
600ml (2 1/2C) soy or almond milk
200ml (1 scant cup) canola oil
12oz jar cherry jam, divided
canned unsweetened or barely sweetened cherries (I use Trader Joe's morellos), about 1C, drained
1T vanilla extract
350g (2C) sugar

for the frosting:
1C soy creamer or thick, homemade almond milk
1/3C Earth Balance or other tasty margarine
16oz chocolate chips

Heat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9"x13" baking pan.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a big bowl. Mix the milk, oil, 1/2C of the jam, and the sugar together in another bowl till the jam's mostly broken up, then mix it all into the dry ingredients. Stir in the drained canned cherries and pour into your prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Bring the creamer and margarine to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Take off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips till they're melted and it's all nice and smooth. Let cool while the cake bakes.

When the cake's cooled to barely warm, spread the rest of the jam over it (this might be easier if you put the jam in a little bowl and break it up with a fork first). Pour the frosting over it all, then let it cool really thoroughly--it should set into a nice, fudgey ganache.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

a spring tonic

bag of nettles

Yesterday I went nettle-picking in Interlaken Park (aka 'the ravine') for the second time this season. The first time I didn't get very many as the plants were still very small and most of the places they normally grow were freshly covered with bark, but this time I got a Chico Bag full--enough for a big pot of revivifying soup.

If you should decide to pick some nettles yourself, don't believe the thing about grasping the nettle--I know from sad experience that it's a big lie and one should always bring along some sturdy gloves when planning to have dealings with nettles. My nice deerskin gardening gloves work well.


My friend Little Debbie gave me a couple of eggs from her hens Daphne and Lilac (I think Lilac's egg is the smaller, really pretty one that looks kind of like it was cooked with onion skin). Since I don't normally eat eggs and these were a special treat I wanted to do something festive with them and decided to make a nettle frittata with the fruits of my initial harvest.

cooked nettles

When I get home with a bag of nettles I want to get them cleaned and cooked as quickly as possible so nobody gets stung by mistake. Wearing heavy dish-washing gloves, pull the leaves from the thick stems and rinse them thoroughly in a big bowl of cool water. Rinse a couple of times, till there's no grit at the bottom of the bowl. The rinse water will look kind of rusty. When they're clean, put them in a heavy pan with the water clinging to them plus another 1/4 cup or so, and cook over medium-low to medium heat till they're limp and sting-free. Check them and stir them around after about five minutes. With my stove and pan it takes 9 minutes. You can immediately proceed to make your intended dish or let the nettles cool, then squeeze out the (very dark) water and put the nettles in the fridge till you're ready to deal with them. Save the water if you're making soup, otherwise you can drink it--it may be practically black, but it tastes like very minerally leaves.


My frittata was simple to make once I had my cooked nettles. I cooked a thinly sliced shallot over medium heat with a little olive oil in a 8" nonstick frying pan, then added my roughly chopped cooked nettles and the two eggs which I'd whisked with a little salt and pepper. If I were a cheese-eater, I might have added a little feta. When it seems nearly cooked but the top's still slimy, slide it onto a plate then invert it back into the pan so the top can cook.


My soup was a little more complex, and I didn't measure the ingredients in advance, but I'll set it down here anyway in case you want to give it a try.

Nettle Soup
a couple of shallots, minced
half a small celery-root, trimmed, peeled, and diced
1T oleo
a big bag of nettles, prepared as above and nettle-water saved
1C raw cashews, soaked in the nettle water for at least half an hour
salt and pepper
half a lemon's worth of juice
chives, for garnish

Cook the shallot and celery-root with the oleo in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat till it's tender. Add the netles, cashews and nettle water, salt and pepper, and about a quart of water (use your judgement about the amount of water, as you may have ended up with more or less nettles than I did), Bring to a simmer and cook for about five more minutes. Transfer to a blender (unless you have a big blender you'll have to do this in batches), add the lemon juice, and whiz till smooth. Serve immediately, with some snipped chives scattered over.

nettle soup

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

quick and easy braised carrots and parsnips

I fixed the above carrots and parsnips for my work lunches this week, because I had a lot of parsnips from my vegetable box to use up, and was pleasantly surprised at how tasty they were for a truly quick and easy dish. Parsnip-haters could make it with just carrots, or try substituting some nice rutabagas. This much will serve 2-4 people, depending on your appetites and what you're eating along with it.

a small onion, julienned
1T oleo
parsnips, about a pound, trimmed, peeled and cut into pieces about 2"x1/2"x1/2"
carrots, about a pound, trimmed and cut into pieces about 2"x1/2"x1/2"
1T tamari
1/3C water
a few grinds of pepper

Cook the onion with the oleo over medium heat in a frying pan which has a lid and is big enough for the remaining ingredients to easily fit in. When it's translucent and beginning to turn golden, add the parsnips and carrots and let them cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, till their color begins to change. Add the water, tamari and pepper, put the lid on the pan, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Check after five minutes to make sure there's still a little water in the bottom of the pan, and let cook for a total of about seven minutes--till the thickest parts of the carrots are just tender.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February birthdays

birthday children

Rachael's birthday was last Wednesday (she's 24!), and her sweetie Tommy's birthday was the week before, so we had a joint party on Friday. Poor Annie had a prior engagement and couldn't come, so it ended up being just the three of us. I forgot to take any pictures of the birthday children during the party--I documented the food in advance so as not to irk Rachael with photographic delays--so the above illustration is from a couple of weeks previous.

cauliflower salad

We had cauliflower salad from Ottolenghi and Tamimi's new cookbook, Jerusalem. It turned out really well, and Tommy said he'd never had such tasty cauliflower.

carrot salad

We also had the above roasted carrot salad, a Jamie Oliver recipe. My oven was going all day--almost everything I fixed was roasted or baked, and they all required different temperatures! This salad was good too, though a little more work than the cauliflower.


We had some nice challah,

vegan lasagna

and the main dish was vegan lasagna from Veganomicon with extra spinach and red sauce.

clementine cake

For the birthday cake we had Clementine cake, and some of David Lebovitz's chocolate sorbet to go with it. Rachael's not a sorbet or chocolate lover, so I tried to interest her in this dish by pointing out that it was a molecular gastronomy thing, a variant of Hervé This' famous chocolate mousse, and she just said 'Ew, chocolate mouse? Rosemary's Baby? Ew!' But she thought the cake was super, so that was good.

chocolate sorbet


Thursday, January 31, 2013

nut cheese

I have newish raw food book, Practically Raw, which I highly recommend. It's not just a bunch of salads and smoothies and dehydrator lasagnas--there are lots of really inventive recipes which an average person like me would never think up herself. There's a whole chapter on kale chips (chocolate! sour cream and onion!), and another on hummus. The recipes aren't entirely raw--for instance, she has three base recipes for hummus, one of them the traditional variety with cooked garbanzo beans--and she gives tips for how to use your oven if you don't have a dehydrator.

I'm currently excited about nut cheese. Vegan 'cheese' recipes are usually bland chèvre or ricotta imitations, or else nutritional yeasty sauces. The nut cheese in this book are fermented and actually get kind of a cheesy taste even before you add additional flavorings. Here's my slightly modified version:

Brazil Nut Cheese
makes about one cup, or 4 generous servings
1C brazil nuts (or use cashews if you want to have less fat and selenium)
1/2C filtered or bottled water (you don't want the chlorine to kill your germs!)
1t probiotic powder
2t nutritional yeast
1t kosher salt
1t lemon juice

Soak the nuts 6-8 hours (2-4 if you're using cashews), then drain. Whiz them in the blender with your filtered water and probiotic powder till very smooth, then transfer to a cheesecloth or nut milk bag-lined bowl. Let it rest for about an hour, giving everything time to settle and mingle, then set the cheesecloth or bag in a strainer over the bowl. Wrap the bag or cloth over the top of the nut paste, then add a little weight (I used a 5.5oz cat food can). Put in a warm place and leave it for 24-48 hours, till it's fermented to your liking. Scrape it out of the cheesecloth and into a fresh bowl, and stir in the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate.

Pictured above is the Mexican Cheddar variation, which has chili powder, onion powder and things added to give it a kind of nacho cheesy flavor. It was an excellent work treat along with some juice pulp crackers.

Friday, January 18, 2013

a couple of recipe suggestions

My computer has been broken since mid-November, so I'm going to try posting this from my tablet. It's more work, so the formatting might not turn out just right.... I just wanted to tell you real quickly about a couple of really tasty recipes I fixed from the New York Times yesterday when Ana came over to cast on for our hat knitalong and have lunch.
I made this cauliflower dish exactly as written except that I used some fake, vegan parmesan in place of the cheese. The parmesan tastes just like the kind you shake from the green can, but it worked out well with my cauliflower. The cauliflower got a pleasant, surprisingly fluffy texture from being boiled, then baked.
I also made this roasted carrot salad, and it too was a real success. I left out the olives as we were already having a lot in the cauliflower, and I had some radicchio on hand so used it in place of the arugula. It was so pretty and red and orange, I decided to make it even redder by adding some pomegranate arils. So yummy!