Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tapioca and Buckwheat Gluten-and-Dairy Free Crepe Batter

 

Savory Breakfast Crepes

Yesterday I woke and immediately started daydreaming about Sunday breakfast.   With all the writing and social networking that goes with my job(s), sometimes I just get cranky for time IN the actual kitchen.

Crepes.  I don’t know why, but I started daydreaming about crepes.  Filled with eggs and goat cheese and something bright colored to remind me what spring looked like.  Luckily I was only a few blocks from Whole Foods, where a bunch of gorgeous little tomatoes from Mexico found their way into my basket, along with some fresh cilantro and small Mexican champagne mangoes.  The sun was out, the air was warm, I walked home with my jacket unbuttoned and my raggedy hair blowing in the wind.  New Yorkers had a bit more of a spring to their step, and I didn’t realize at the time how this quick break from the cold would make smiles turn up a bit more on most of the lovely people I’d encounter in my day.

Anyway, back in the kitchen.  I had decided on using a little buckwheat – which is common in some crepe recipes but used sparingly as it can be a bit bitter – and tapioca flour to pull along with the eggs and soymilk I was using for the crepe batter.  A tiny bit of butter and salt, and that’s it!  I utilized the whipping strength of a blender and the ease of a non-stick skillet to aid in making sure that the eggs would be beaten light and fluffy and the crepes easy to flip.  When the first one actually WORKED I called my boyfriend to the stove, giddy like a school-child out the first day of holiday.  We delighted in a few seconds of cheery contentment, flipping gluten-and-dairy-free crepes onto a waiting pan while eggs slow-cooked nearby.

This recipe is quite simple, and quick, and with a little practice I soon had a stack of warm crepes that I filled with sauteed eggs and served with a guacamole-type mix and the freshly sliced champagne mangoes.

It was a good, good, good day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup soy or unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp melted butter or olive oil

Directions

Whip eggs and milk of choice in blender until creamy and a bit fluffy (if you don’t have a blender you can use a standing or hand mixer, or just whip the heck out of them with a whisk).  Add the flours 1/3 a cup at a time, whipping thoroughly with each addition.  Add the melted butter or oil and salt and whip quickly to incorporate.

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Hold skillet away from heat and let cool for 5 seconds, then pour enough batter in the center of the skillet, swirling quickly to cover the entire surface, until the bottom of the skillet is just covered with batter.  Return to heat and cook for 15-20 seconds or until the sides of the crepe start to curl.  Flip gently and cook on the other side another 20 seconds.  Remove to plate.  Repeat until you get a pretty stack of crepes!

Before I started cooking the crepes I had a second skillet going on low heat with melted butter, slowly stirred eggs, fresh cilantro, soft goat cheese and the skins of these tomatoes:

I then reserved the insides of them and mashed them with avocado, more cilantro, a squirt of fresh lemon juice (in the absence of lime) and some sea salt and pepper.  And then adorned the dish with the fresh champagne mangoes.  They’re a little tarter, firmer and less fibrous than regular mangoes.

While the tomatoes weren’t quite what I wanted (beautiful in color but still lacking that perfect summer tomato sweetness), it was a gorgeous dish, paired with orange juice and locally roasted coffee.  The perfect start to one of the best Sundays I’ve had in a long while.

 

Creamy egg-filled crepes with champagne mangoes, avocado and Mexican tomatoes

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Gluten and Dairy-Free Irish Soda Bread

Back-story to this recipe: In a few weeks I’ll be hosting my annual St. Patrick’s Day party.  It started several years ago, when my boyfriend-at-the-time-now-best-friend moved in with me in Queens.  He’s from an Irish family (Ruark Michael Downey – you don’t get more Irish than that!) and I’d been to Ireland several times at that point.  What naturally followed was a succession of parties where we’d bring in a keg of Guinness, bottles of whiskey and Irish cream, and I’d make a full boiled dinner.  The second year I made lamb stew and corned beef and cabbage.  Subsequent years brought us to the point where we were making 9 corned beefs and I was whipping up car-bomb cupcakes by the several dozen.  We needed nothing more than good food, good booze and the company of our lovely friends.

This year I’m doing a bit of experimenting with gluten-and-dairy-free recipes to include with the traditional ones I’ll be presenting.  For this  I found the most traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe I could find, having discarded anything fancy and landing on one with thorough directions and a bit of history.

So, the Irish are famous for soda bread for two reasons: the abundance of soft wheat with a lower gluten content and the availability of fuel for home fires and therefore the ability to bake bread at whim.  Simple ingredients (flour, milk, salt and baking soda) create a quick bread that’s delicious with a bowl of thick stew or layered around cold meat.  Since you don’t want the gluten to develop (as you would with a harder wheat and yeast combo), this makes this bread perfect for a gluten-free version.  I tried to approximate the taste of flour I remember from my glutenous soda-bread days, so threw in some oat and quinoa flour with the bulky rice flour and starches.  And I soured unsweetened almond milk, hoping that the vinegar would produce the proper chemical reaction with the baking soda.

The result?  This bread is delicious!  Deceptively sweet, especially as it contains NO SUGAR.  And popping warm, it’s perfect with a touch of Irish butter.  I gave some to my friend Lynn and her boyfriend Griff, who’s from Ireland.  His response: “this is a very close approximation of the bread of my people”.  They gobbled them up.

For this go around I made 8 mini loafs from the recipe to cut down the baking time dramatically.  For St. Pat’s I’ll be making two full loaves along with a wheat-flour version.  I have a feeling the recipe is equally successful either way.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free whole-grain oat flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour / starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (optional – I did not use)
  • 8-10 oz buttermilk or soured milk of choice at room temperature (directions below)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 45o degrees.  It should be fully preheated and nice and hot before you put the bread in.
  • Lightly flour a heavy baking sheet with gluten-free flour.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, sugar and baking soda.  Gather and sift again, so that the baking soda is fully dispersed.  Make a well in the center.
  • If using regular milk or milk alternative: measure one Tbsp white or red wine vinegar in a 2-cup measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 10 oz.  Use a fork to mix thoroughly.
  • Slowly pour about 8 oz of the milk into the well of flour, and quickly start blending with fork until it starts to pull together.  The mixture should be rather lumpy and on the drier side, but pulled together.  Add currants and fold in gently.  If too dry, add remaining milk until mixture pulls together.
  • Turn onto a slightly floured board and knead just until the dough is one, about 15 seconds / 6 kneads.  Don’t over knead.
  • Break dough into 8 balls, and press into slightly flat disks.  Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in each loaf about 1/3 into the dough.
  • Place in hot oven and bake 13 minutes, or until the tops are slightly brown.  If you tap on the bottom of  a loaf, it should sound hollow.  The dough in the center should be slightly soft though.
  • Cool before eating or enjoy warm with melted butter.

One-loaf Option: Shape into one loaf, slice the cross in, and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then decrease heat to 400 degrees and bake for 25 minutes longer or until crisp on top and sounding hollow with a tap on the bottom.

Note: This recipe is dedicated to my lovely roommate, Erika.  She’s been working so much lately that she hasn’t been able to (in her opinion) contribute to the upkeep of our generally clean apartment.  So she paid someone to come in and wash and scrub everything, and we lounged in our immaculate living room, catching up.  And less than an hour later, I was in the kitchen… and it got a bit dusty.

My Blog is Carbon Neutral

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes.  I grew up, not surprisingly, in a family somewhat addicted to food.  Someone special to me is struggling with his addiction to cigarettes.  There was a time when I was being taken off (doctor-prescribed, necessary) pain killers that I had been on 24/7, for 10 months; never did I so harshly realize the power of a body’s addiction.

And then there are the new addictions of our time: addiction to our blackberries, our macbooks and PCs, our facebook and twitter and the thousands of other social networking sites that we spend more time with than our real friends.  Or spend outdoors.  Or reading a good book.  Or discussing politics.

I am horribly guilty of all these things, most especially since I embraced the food blogging world and all the networks that go with it.  Just look at my sidebar.

But now and then you stumble on a cause, through the blog-of-a-network-of-an-email, that makes you stop and think, ‘yeah, I can do that‘.

Enter MY BLOG IS CARBON NEUTRAL.  An initiative started in Germany, bloggers and website owners in the U.S. do what I’m doing – write a short article about the initiative and post a badge on their site – and a tree will be planted in a fire-devastated region of northern California (currently Pumas National Forrest in the northern Sierra Nevadas).  Technically, the amount of CO2 the tree absorbs neutralizes the amount of CO2 that it takes to power the maintenance of a blog.

I don’t really care about those numbers.

I join this initiative and tree gets planted in a place that needs it.

Simple.

My boyfriend teases me about the little things I do in hopes that they neutralize some of the consumption I abuse by living as I live.  I sponsor children in other countries, donate to various food banks and charities, use only biodegradable paper products and natural cleaning soaps.  I know that overhead consumes a lot of the money I donate.  And because I can’t contribute a lot, my monetary contributions are meager, sometimes seeming to be so little that I wonder how much of my money is actually helping.

But I’m addicted to little steps.  And when it comes down to it, that’s not a bad thing to be addicted to, huh?

Make Your Blog Carbon Neutral

Stylish Blogger Award

Yesterday, in my echinacea-Theraflu-ricola-hot-toddy haze, I got a lovely comment from Sabrina at Eat. Drink. And Be Merry that she was passing along the Stylish Blogger Award to yours truly!  I so enjoy Sabrina’s blog and am honored that she’d think of including me in this circle of bloggers who admire the crap out of each other and want to show it.

I’ve had a hard time coming up with the origin of the award, and after scanning dozens of blogs of those who’ve received it, I’ve realized that the purpose is more important than the source – simply to share the love and encourage others to keep creating and keep writing.

So, anyway, the protocol for receiving this award is that you have to:

  1. Thank the person who gave it to you.
  2. Award it to 10 other blogs
  3. Share 7 things about yourself

Thank you Sabrina!

Sabrina of Eat. Drink. And Be Merry

Sabrina and I connected on Foodbuzz.  I don’t remember who contacted who first.  But she caught my attention because we both share a Portuguese heritage that comes out in our food explorations.  Her site is beautiful, her writing style warm and interesting, and her food looks incredible!!  A recent post that makes my little Portuguese heart miss my Avo (and her soup) is her Roasted Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup, and her Punch Drunk Love cake was recently a Top Nine on Foodbuzz!  Thank you, Sabrina!

10 Blogs I Award

  1. The Daily Dietribe: I found Iris’ blog randomly when I first started writing on IAmAWholeHumanBeing, and love her style and delicious recipes.  She focuses on gluten-free recipes and healthy ingredients, so I can actually make some of her recipes!
  2. The Innocent Primate Vegan Blog: I love this blog and the two ladies who write it are delightful.  Back in the day Sara and I used to exchange emails about our food preferences and diets, and I’m continually amazed by the recipes on their site and what they’re doing with their lives.
  3. Gluten-Free Goddess:  I’ve never contacted Karina, but this blog has done wonders for the gluten-free community.  Her site is more than just incredible recipes and photos – it’s a reliable, intelligent resource for those going gluten-free.
  4. Healthful Pursuit: I recently found Leanne’s blog, and find myself bookmarking many of her recipes.  They’re delicious!  And with her degree in healthful nutrition, you can rely on her to blog you the good stuff.
  5. Bake or Break: Sadly, I can’t eat most of the gorgeous recipes on this site, but boy do I like to look at them!  Beautiful pictures and mouth-watering recipes from a Southern woman recently transplanted to good ol NYC.
  6. A Tablespoon of Liz: Liz has her BA in pastry arts and she’s exploring being a vegetarian.  I love reading about her progress.  And peanut butter banana cupcakes.  I love reading about those too.
  7. Sticks, Forks, Fingers: Pam is sorta living the life I hope accidentally happens to me.  Love took her from big-city living to a rural home where she buys local eggs from the dude with chickens in his back yard and her wine is mostly local.  I love her style and the bits of foodie-knowledge she throws into her posts.
  8. Bittersweet Sugar and Sarcasm: If we lived in a Marvel world, this guy would probably be my archnemesis.  I say that as a compliment.  And now I’m thinking about superhero baking powers and dramatic backstories.  Anyway.   If you want your sweet with a dash of sarcasm, read his blog.  I want to run into him on the subway so I can give him a shot of insulin and an apple.
  9. Sandra’s Easy Cooking: Sandra is one of my new favorite people.  The quote on her Foodbuzz sites is “When you believe in yourself, anything is possible”.  Her site is beautiful and her spirit is just too divine.  Check her out please.
  10. Rosemarried: I recently discovered Lindsay and bookmark the crap out of her recipes, like Beet Quinoa pancakes and Grapefruit cupcakes.  And the woman has 3 chickens.  I really want chickens.  In NYC.  Yes.

So, from going over these favorites I’ve realized that (a) all my free time has been taken up specifically with food-blogging sites.  Really, that’s all I seem to follow anymore other than the Huffington Post and NYC sites.  (b) I should live in Oregon, because I am most jealous of bloggers who live there.  (c) This is an awesome foodie world we live in.

7 Things About Me

  1. I smell people’s food. Since I can’t eat gluten, cow dairy and sugar, I often literally pull fellow diners’ plates to my nose when we’re out and they’re eating something I can’t.  Consider yourself warned.
  2. I own (and know how to use) tools. My family business is construction and development.  So I own and know how to use power tools.  I have painted several apartments, most recently my boyfriend’s.  Luckily he finds my owning a power drill hot.
  3. I once pretended my dad was in the Portuguese mafia: He cut off part of a finger in a construction accident years ago.  In college I subtly dropped to my friends that my uncles were mysteriously missing the same finger.  My dad and tios have strong Portuguese accents and drive nice cars.  It took years to convince all my friends that I made it up.  Which I did.  Really.
  4. I want to own chickens. Really.  On an NYC rooftop is fine.
  5. I don’t know how to swim. I never learned properly how to swim and have a fear of dying underwater.  That doesn’t stop me from playing in the ocean though, or gliding across the pool.
  6. I love to walk. My first bout of Lyme Disease left me unable to walk for a while when I was little.  So I am always thankful for this ability.
  7. I want to be a superhero: I don’t read many comics on my own, but have a somewhat nerdy thing for guys who do.  And love the culture behind where so many comics come from, and the talent of artists who make them.

Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Rustic.

That’s a word I’ve been throwing around my kitchen lately.  My ambitions with allergy-alternative baking are to make gorgeous treats just as delectable for those without sensitivities as those with, that are as appealing to the eyes as they are to the tastebuds.

But sometimes things just look…rustic.  They taste delicious but look a bit like the ugly duckling pre-swan-age.

This recipe is one such recipe.  I’m playing with molding carob powder with spices and fat into a hard candy that is satisfying and palatable for even the most sensitive stomachs.  Once again, this combination tastes delicious – with citrusy tangs of coriander and a cinnamon spice – but it took a while to get them to release easily from the molds.  Like the little engine, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… but for now I’ll enjoy my “rustic” treats.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground decaffinated coffee
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup coconut creme
  • 1 cup carob powder

Directions

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins and dust heavily with cinnamon
  • Place a small pot on low heat and melt ghee or butter
  • Add 2 Tbsp cinnamon, coffee and coriander, and whisk to combine
  • Let sit on low heat for about 5 minutes to infuse
  • Slowly whisk in coconut creme, doing so until thoroughly combined and the mixture is a light brown with all the butter absorbed
  • Add carob, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly with each addition.  By the second addition, the ghee may separate from the creme and start to lump with the carob: don’t sweat this.  It should absorb back into the final mixture, which should be rather lumpy.  The mixture should not be smooth like chocolate, but almost look like a big pile of used coffee grounds.
  • Use a scant tablespoon to fill each mold, and pat the tops down flat.
  • Heavily dust with two coats of cinnamon.
  • Refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour, then let sit for about five minutes to soften a tad.  Use a very thin knife to work around the mold and slowly ease candies from pan.  Dust with cinnamon.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Sugar-Free Coffee Carob Candies

Coffee Carob Candies

For a few years at the height of my illness, I wasn’t able to eat most things that one would consider an indulgence – chocolate, sugar, alcohol.  While my stomach is stronger and I can moderate some of these things back into my diet, I have a dear friend who still is very limited in what her body can digest.

She hit a pretty big birthday recently, and when I visit her to celebrate I want to present her with something special, indulgent and… digestible.

Carob is a delightful alternative to chocolate – it contains no caffeine, as much vitamin B1 as is in strawberries, and is full of protein, fiber and trace minerals.  It’s gentle on the stomach and naturally sweet, so you don’t need to sweeten it as you do raw cocoa.

So I made a mental list of things my dearie can have and played with proportions.  The result?  A fudgey, chocolate-y treat with a huge blast of coffee and a spicy finish.  An easy, quick way to indulge in a sugar-free treat!

Ingredients:

  • I cup carob powder
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp ground decaf coffee
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk plus more if necessary

Directions:

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins or candy tins.
  • In a small pot, melt the ghee, then add coconut milk, whisking continually until warm.
  • Add coffee and cinnamon and whisk to absorb.
  • Slowly add carob, whisking continually, until all the carob powder is smooth.  It won’t have the same consistency as chocolate, being a little thicker, but should be soft and malleable.   If desired, blend with an immersion or standing blender.
  • Press into individual molds and refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour.
  • Loosen candies from pan with a thin knife.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  • Makes about 16 candies.

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes

Oh.  My.  Dog.

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes.

Nothing remarkable in this combination.  Nothing remarkable in any of the FOUR types of pancakes I’ve baked and eaten this week.  Except that these are, in themselves, remarkable.  As remarkable as the last three.  So remarkable that I HAD to take pictures and write about them.   So remarkable that as I chew I’m already thinking of what other combinations of fruit and cake I can make for breakfast.

And as I tear into another piece, I realize that this sensory satisfaction has gone over the borderline.

I am a pancake junky.

I will not deny it.  At my best my body can tolerate most grains in unlimited quantity, so much so that I can even splurge on a wheaten food now and then and not suffer greatly.  At my worst, a grain as gentle as quinoa feels like a freight train careening through my digestive tract.  For years I would never dare to combine grains with fruit, because of the competing digestive enzymes (a practice I still keep as much as possible).  And for much of my childhood, ingredients and awareness of tasty alternatives to gluten and dairy were just not around.  So now I’m reveling in this treat that was absent in my life for so long.

I know, an addict can justify anything.  And I’m not so self-focused that I’m unaware of the difference between being addicted to a relatively-healthy baked good and, say, heroine (ask me about coming down off of 10-months of 24-hour constant doctor-prescribed opioids – now that wasn’t fun).

So instead of groveling in guilt and thinking about having, say, eggs and spinach for breakfast tomorrow, I’m just gonna come to terms with my adoration and spell out this easy, gluten-free, dairy-free source of this moment’s joy for all you fellow junkies out there.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour or gluten-free pancake mix
  • IF NOT USING PANCAKE MIX add 1/4 cup tapioca starch and 1 tsp xantham gum
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened milk – I used soy but almond or cow’s works too
  • 1 Tbsp butter or Earth Balance, melted and cooled
  • at least 1 cup blueberries

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in order listed except blueberries, mixing thoroughly with spatula.  The mixture should be just slightly smooth, enough that it doesn’t run but slides a bit off the spatula.  If too dry, add a few tablespoons more milk.
  • If possible, let mixture sit for at least 1/2 hour (I did for an hour, which was perfect)
  • Fold in blueberries, about 1 cup or more to taste
  • Heat a non-stick, stainless steel or cast iron pan to a medium heat and spray with nonstick spray
  • Drop about 2 soup-spoons worth of batter for each pancake, enough to make it about 3″ across
  • Cook until the pancake puffs and the underside is brown, flip and cook till brown.
  • Serve with fresh blueberries and real Maple Syrup.

I told you it was easy.  Nothing complicated or out of the ordinary.  But the lemon packs a huge punch and large, ripe blueberries provide enough sweetness that I only used a tiny bit of maple syrup.  Oh.  My.  Dog.

Sweetheart Chocolate Fudge Cake with Raspberry Sauce

I know it’s practically sacrilegious to admit to using boxed cake mixes when one claims to call oneself a baker.  But I’ve been doing the gluten-dairy-sugar free thing pretty much since I was twelve – about 18 years ago already!  And for the majority of those years, that meant going without.  Without bread, frosty desserts, birthday cake, or holiday celebrations in school.  As an adult, still, I’m usually surprised with a cake on my birthday by well-meaning relatives that not only can I not eat, but I must slice and serve to guests, with custard-y filling dripping down my fingers while they exclaim that “this is the best cake!”

So when I get to make my Nana’s birthday cake on the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day amongst much work to do, a boxed cake mix seems like an exciting prospect.  Especially as my pantry full of flours and specialty equipment is back in my apartment in NYC.

At the store yesterday I grabbed two mixes – one from Gluten-Free Dreams and one I have never tried from King Arthur Flours.   Upon pouring them out of their plastic prisons I immediately noticed that the King Arthur had a smoother texture to it that was less grainy than the GF Dreams.  This would prove itself again when they were mixed and in the final baked products – the King Arthur was fudgey and soft with no trace of gluten-free graininess to it.  The six of us agreed it was the taste-test winner (I’ve tried a few other brands, and this is my favorite out of them all).

I used canned pumpkin and unsweetened vanilla almond milk as the moisture for the cakes rather than oil and eggs, making them lower in fat and vegan, while tasting just as rich and chocolatey.  Because they’re seemed to not be a matching set of cake pans in the house, I used an 8″ and a 9″, as well as a miniature heart mold that I knew was crammed in a cabinet here somewhere (I’m stealing it).

Now these cakes are so delicious that they don’t need frosting.  I simply pureed three containers of raspberries to make a sauce and it was the perfect accompaniment to the dark and fudgey cake.  But to glue them together and add some color I made a basic buttercream frosting with butter (bye-bye vegan and dairy-free) and a bit of almond milk.  This is only needed if you make two layers.

Speaking of layers – my Portuguese/Italian heritage of always making too much food reared its dark-haired head again, in my making a double layer cake for 7 people!  We had two-thirds of the cake left over.  So if you’re feeding 8-10 people of a healthy appetite, one layer is sufficient for a dense and classy cake.

To simplify, I’m going to give you the recipe just for the King Arthur mix.  If you were to choose the Gluten-Free Dreams, you’d simply reduce the milk by 1/4 of a cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes of King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Chocolate Cake mix
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree
  • 3 1/2 cups unsweetened milk – I used vanilla almond, but soy or cow would work just as well
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • red food coloring, if desired

Directions: Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease cake pans of choice – I used one 9″ and one 8″ cake pan, plus the little heart molds
  • In a very large bowl: two packages of cake mix, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups of pumpkin puree.
  • With a hand mixer, start to mix on low.  These mixes will easily fly into the air, so consider yourself warned!
  • When the pumpkin is incorporated, make a well in the center of the batter and pour in 2 and 1/2 cups milk (the rest is for the frosting).  Start mixing on low until incorporated, then mix in medium until nice and smooth.
  • Pour into cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes, testing after 20, and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • Leave in pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

Directions: Frosting and puree

  • In a food processor, process raspberries until smooth.  Set aside.
  • Clean and remount processor.
  • Whip butter into confectioner’s sugar until incorporated.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Slowly pour in almond milk, stopping when frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • If desired, add about 5 drops of red food coloring until a delightful pink.
  • Put a dab of frosting between the layers, and a bit more on top to decorate as desired.  Serve with raspberry puree.

The Final Product

Happy Birthday Nana!

My sister and I dubbed this the Whoville Birthday Valentine Whobilation Cake.  Yes, it looks like something a Who would serve to their guests in a Dr. Seuss world. I do not deny this.  Nor am I too proud to share this with you.  But I did come home and sign up for a cupcake class next month so I can learn how to frost better.  And I think cake classes may be in my future in general.

Baked Blackberry Lemon Crisp Pancake

Baked Blackberry and Lemon Crisp Pancake

Last week I posted a recipe on Baked Blackberry and Lemon Pancakes along with a little story about the adorable girls who inspired it.  I thought the pancakes were scrumptious – and considering I ate the entire batch myself over three days, I hope you can trust me on that.

But I wanted a richer lemon taste and an even easier process.  So today, at my father’s house in CT where I don’t quite have my baking arsenal on me, I took on this quest.  And I think I conquered.

The challenge: no alternative sugars, so in this case I did use white sugar – it’s all I had – but there’s still only a trivial amount.  Also, my dad doesn’t have a saucepan that can go from stove to oven, so I opted for a Pyrex baking dish.

I increased the amount of lemon dramatically and added the zest of the lemon itself.  18 minutes in a 400 degree oven and it was good to go – and a triumph!

From the first bite to the last, you get an undercurrent of tangy lemon and the sweetness of blackberries amidst a cornmeal-like pancake.  The drizzled lemon and sugar gives the top a sweet and crunchy crust.  A tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup and you’re good to go with a treat perfect for a Sunday family breakfast or a brunch with your lucky sweetheart.

Prepare:

  • Rinse and dry 1 1/5 cups of blackberries.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degree F.
  • Spray an 8 X 11.5 inch baking pan (I used Pyrex) with non-stick pray or melted butter

In a large bowl mix together:

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pancake mix
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp sugar of choice

Whisk together in a small bowl:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I used the juice of the zested lemon and then filled to complete)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup milk – I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Mix in a very small bowl:

  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp choice of sugar

Incorporate and bake:

  • Slowly pour the egg/milk mixture into the dry and stir with a spatula to incorporate.
  • Fold in blackberries.
  • Spread batter into pan evenly with spatula, making sure blackberries are dispersed evenly.
  • Bake for 5 minutes.  Then drizzle the lemon/sugar mixture on the top of the pancake and use a knife to swirl into the batter.
  • Bake for another 13 minutes or until the top of the pancake is slightly browned.

This recipe makes enough for 4 people as a main plate or 6 as an partner for eggs or omelets.

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup

It has come – that time in February when my body just won’t let my brain ignore it.  As anyone with a chronic illness can attest, there are some times of the year that you go into bracing yourself, no matter the positive attitude you live by nor the years of knowledge you’ve accumulated to date.  That time for me is now, when my body screams “hibernate!”

Lily and I backstage for FALL OF HEAVEN

Last year at this time I was in Cincinnati, Ohio working at the Cincinnati Playhouse on the premiere of Walter Mosely’s FALL OF HEAVEN, directed by the incomparable Marion McClinton and featuring a cast of some of the loveliest people I have had the privilege to work with.  I did stage-crew for this show, meaning every night at about 10 minutes to curtain I threw on what we called “The Liza Minnelli Choir for the God of Smurfs” costume.  Or some variation on that combination of ideas.  The pants were puffy and brown, covered in glitter.  Over that was a soft, sky-blue choir robe, hemmed above the knee, with bell sleeves and a darker blue hood, also covered in glitter.  Very comfy and warm!  My partner Lily and I would do one onstage costume-change with an actor, then spent the rest of the show moving set pieces, holding curtains during entrances / exits and sitting behind the scrim reading books and drinking tea, our blackberries on the table in front of us.  I haven’t done crew for a show in years, but didn’t mind it one bit.  In fact, I had a whole 25 minutes in the first act when I’d go to my dressing room and either nap under my dressing table or watch 90210 on my computer (the original, on DVD, courtesy of Lily).

Why relay these (somewhat shameful) tales?  Because being part of this company gave me a whole new group of people to meet and adore.  And to bake for.  It was cold in Cincinnati, horribly cold.  So only rarely would we go out after shows for a drink, as was the norm with other casts.  I was only working on this show, whereas throughout the rest of the year I’d be memorizing lines for one show while rehearsing or performing in another.  So I had my days free to huddle in bed, my space heater nearby, and, well, hibernate.

Along with black bean brownies and cinnamon pan bars, I made a lot of soup during this time.  I needed to get nutrients without much food, because when I’m run down my body doesn’t seem to want to eat.  So this soup recipe, now lovingly titled “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup”, was the perfect answer to this need.  It contains edamame for protein, peas for vitamins, a good veggie stock for all things that are good, and seaweed for nutrients.  It’s both light and filling.  And I utilized the amazing frozen vegetable and stock selection that my neighborhood Kroger was stellar in supplying, so there was no chopping or lengthy simmering.  And this soup is simple enough that it can be sipped from a mug, backstage, with footlights blaring while you read Julia Child’s memoirs and an audience sits enthralled on the other side of a scrim.

Enjoy.

Clear Day Soup

In a large, cast iron pot combine:

  • 1 pint good, clear vegetable stock
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (shelled, obviously)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. wakame seaweed
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Bring up to a boil, then turn to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the edamame is soft.  Season with black pepper to taste.  I poured this over rice noodles for a heartier version.

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