Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Baked via Joy the Baker via Cake and Edith to You with Love: Rootbeer Float Cake!

My husband's birthday is today. So is his father's. Tomorrow is my son's. Weird, right? Yesterday we hosted a multigenerational birthday party in their honor and this root beer float cake that MC requested made for a quite festive, decadent conclusion to the event.

Bday party

I don't know if it's just that I haven't had a real cake in a long time (the kind with butter and flour and eggs), or if it really was one of the best cakes E-V-E-R, but I couldn't stop eating it last night. Moist, rich, near overload of sweetness beautifully balanced by near overload of cocoa and dark chocolate. Plus, root beer. Kind of fun! My only change was to add an additional 1/4 cup root beer to frosting (1/2 cup total) because it seemed like it was going to be too thick to spread. I also reduced salt in frosting to 1/4 teaspoon, per Joy the Baker's suggestion.

I hope someone you love has a birthday soon so you can enjoy this! Alternatively, I hope you are the kind of person who just randomly makes cakes. Because this is seriously crazy good.

Almost as good as the vegan cake that the allergic kids got...

Bday partyBday party

Which actually was delicious, just not if you had the root beer float cake first. ;)

Click HERE for the recipe at the Joy the Baker's site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Salad for Dinner: Orange Date Vinaigrette and How to Make a Really Great Leftovers Salad

Step 1: Have some greens on hand. (Mixed baby greens with herbs is what I had/used.)

Step 2: Roast some random vegetables or bits of vegetables that have been neglected. Best ones, IMHO: broccoli, winter squash, root vegetables, cauliflower. (I used the remaining half of a butternut squash that I'd had left over from my Mambo Italiano class last week.)

Step 3: Find something crunchy in your pantry, e.g. nuts, seeds, granola, toasted coconut flakes, cacao nibs. (I used the latter and they were kind of magical.)

Step 4: Wait. It's dinner. We should probably have some protein. Fortunately, I had some runner cannellini beans in my refrigerator, as well as some nice crumbly, salty queso fresco. Perfect. Other reasonable options: chicken, chickpeas, lentils, fried or baked tofu, more nuts. Steak? Does anybody ever have leftover steak?

Step 5: Make a really really really delicious, creamy, decadent dressing that makes your salad look and feel and taste like it's decidedly NOT a leftovers salad.


Like this one. Do it. Seriously. It's wonderful.

Layer/toss everything together and feel spoiled and healthy.


And afterwards, you might even feel full. Which is always a rewarding feeling when you've opted for salad over grilled cheese and fries.

Orange Date Vinaigrette
Yields: about 1 cup

7 regular pitted dates or 4 pitted medjool dates
1 clove of a shallot (about the size of a half a ping pong ball?) (or about a quarter of a small onion or 2 scallions, white and v. pale green parts)
Juice of 1 medium-large orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin or sherry or some other sweet wine you happen to have lying around (or you could use a couple teaspoons more apple cider vinegar + a couple teaspoons of honey or maple syrup or sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend everything in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if you want a thinner dressing. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tradition Shmradition, Local Shmlocal: Zippy Bruschetta

Would you like to see something beautiful? Great! Here you go:


I'd love to take credit for it but I can't. Four of the ten strangers at last night's Mambo Italiano class made that tomatoey deliciousness. I know tomatoes are not quite in season, but temperatures above freezing sure made it seem like (relative) summer yesterday. And nothing says summer like freshly diced, gorgeous, juicy, fragrant tomatoes (from another hemisphere, chopped perfectly by someone other than myself). 

This recipe is a good example of my style of food preparation/recipe development. I like a lot of flavor, so I add a lot of ingredients. Is this approach for everyone? No. Is simpler better? Yes, sometimes. But other times, like this time, you just want the best-tasting bruschetta ever, tradition and simplicity be damned. So mix it up with dijon and dried marjoram. They're delicious.

Last night's class participants: I had a great time. Thanks for being so helpful and inquisitive and all-around spectacular. xoxo

Zippy Bruschetta
Yield: 6-8 people as a starter

1-2 large baguettes
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs firm, fresh tomatoes, hulled, and finely chopped (could substitute 28-oz can diced tomatoes, partly drained)
1 shallot, minced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried basil, parsley, or Golden Figs Dynamite Herbs
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar in a pinch)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients and toss gently. Set aside and allow flavors to marry for several minutes.

Meanwhile, slice baguette thinly (about ½” thick). Brush one side of each slice with olive oil and place on baking sheet(s), olive oil side down. Bake on top rack until toasty, about 5-6 minutes.

Remove bread from oven and place slices on a serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, top each slice of bread with about 2 tablespoons of tomato-garlic-vinaigrette mixture. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Say It Five Times Fast: Cocoa Carrot Cookies (gluten free, vegan)

We were amazing this weekend! Bitterly, unfathomably cold weather and a sick preschooler will do that to a kitchen-savvy family. We did some more big-batch baking: granola, sugary coconut mini muffins, and tortillas this time.


And we soaked, because we're soakers: MC's starter, Old Mother Stallard beans from Seed Savers, and whole sorghum (a new ingredient for me - I'll keep you posted). And we also managed some vegetable (bean) stock and some funky cookies, the latter being what we're all actually here for today.

What's funky about them? Well, they're gluten free and vegan and have carrot and cocoa in them. They kind of look like they'd be crunchy like haystacks or chewy like a chocolate macaroon, and yet they are neither. If I can compare them to anything I've had before, it would be muffin tops. Chocolaty muffin tops, with a hefty dose of cocoa and a subtle complementary dose of cinnamon. They are quite lovely, and cute, and have a nice crumb. And after two years of alternative baking, I know to appreciate the following things about them too:

1. Only one grain: ground oats. You could substitute whole wheat or spelt flour cup for cup, maybe quinoa flour too although I find its taste quite offensive (which is sad since it's a v. workable, reliable, wheat-like flour).
2. This is a mostly whole foods cookie! No gums but they still have a good texture on day 2, stored airtight in the refrigerator, and thawed from freezer a few days later. At room temp they get too crumbly, however.
3. Flax seed slurry was a great egg replacer in these. Chia seeds would work fine too, although I think they add a crunch that flax doesn't. Not a bad thing but would probably cut against muffin top thing raved about above.


Cocoa Carrot Cookies
Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook (a v. good cookbook indeed)
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds*
3 tablespoons water*
1/4 cup olive oil*
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons sugar or brown sugar
1 1/2 cups oat flour (I ground mine in blender)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely grated carrot (2 small or 1 medium/large carrot)
1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar or cocoa sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

* You could use one large egg in place of flax seeds and water. Reduce amount of olive oil to 3 tablespoons.

Whisk together flax seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside. Combine olive oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt and whisk until no lumps remain. Add flax mixture to wet ingredients and stir to combine. Pour wet ingredients into dry and combine thoroughly. Stir in carrots. Dough will be wet, allow to rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes (this allows time for oats to hydrate and dough to firm up a bit).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Measure tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle tops of cookies with cinnamon or cocoa sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees after 7 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple minutes on baking sheet and then transfer them to racks to cool completely before eating. Store in refrigerator or freezer.