Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting (egg-free / vegan option)

Good morning! I've got an itch to do something creative but am also kind of low on energy and ideas. So the best I could manage was checking off an item on my to-do list: save and share pumpkin bars recipe.
I tinkered around quite a bit to get these right and want to ensure the successful outcome is repeatable. Here's the deal: I often think pumpkin "bars" are mislabeled pumpkin cake - delicate crumb, sort of spongy, airy, etc. All well and good, but sometimes I want a pumpkin bar that's denser, with a crumbly chew I can savor, like a brownie or blondie. Dense baked goods frequently rely on eggs to afford that rich texture without compromising moisture. So all that tinkering was to figure out a blondie-style pumpkin bar, sans eggs. And I think I did it!



It's got butter in it, and I topped it with a cream cheese frosting. I added some vegan options below though, for anyone who might like those.


See below, our contribution to the festivities: all the carbs. Also, notwithstanding indications to the contrary, this post has certainly not been brought to you by Ove' Glove and Apple.


Pumpkin Bars
Yield: 13 X 9" pan (20 v. generously-sized bars)

3 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter (could use vegan butter sticks)
1 15-oz can pumpkin
2 tablespoons molasses

Grease a 9 X 13" pan. (If you want to serve these straight from the pan, just greasing is sufficient. If you want to take them all out and cut them to bring to your neighbor's Thanksgiving dinner, then you might want to line pan with parchment paper for easy removal.) Preheat overn to 350.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cream together sugar and butter in your biggest bowl. Add in pumpkin and molasses and beat until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and stir gently until there are no floury streaks left.

The batter will be pretty thick, closer to cookie dough than cake batter. Spread it into a pan and, if needed, use a wet off-set spatula to spread it evenly into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife in the center and seeing if it comes out clean. If it's still coated in batter, bake for 5-min increments until done. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
From All Recipes

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Using an electric mixer, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until fluffy and smooth. Add in powdered sugar and cinnamon and mix until you've got a spreadable frosting.

Dairy-free alternatives: use vegan cream cheese and butter and follow recipe above. Or, option two: cream together 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup vegan butter or shortening, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup soy milk or other non-dairy milk, one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta
(inspired by "Baked Feta Pasta" TikTok sensation)

April it is, and characteristically erratic. So far, we've had snowstorms bookend a steamy, sunburning week of highs-in-the-upper-80s. We have lilac buds and tulip blooms and all kinds of green shoots and stalks and tendrils fighting to stake their claim among fifty shades of brown. We've enjoyed wet walks and dry walks and pothole birdbaths and patio dining and a trip to the North Shore and too much birthday cake. There has also been a great deal of dining in. I'm trying to be better at family dinner, historically not where I've brought my A-game. There are just too many of them. Day after day after every day. But! I've recently allowed myself to accept and indulge the great unifying nature of pasta, and that's helped. I resisted pasta as a dinner staple for a long time (refined carbs and all) but the family likes it. It's quick and easy. There is no end to its variations. Inflation hasn't hit it so badly yet. And makes the absolute best leftovers.


Last night's pasta was a variation on a theme. About a year ago I first tried out the Baked Feta Pasta that got a lot of press coverage after it broke the internets when it debuted as viral TikTok sensation. (Or something? I don't even know the right words to use when TikTok is involved, or who should get credit for this recipe. I can speak to its deliciousness though. It's delicious.) At any rate! I made this a couple times almost exactly as written (less oil). Last time, as my spouse and I savored the feta tang, and while our children complained it was "too sour," I wondered whether a hunk of Boursin would work just as well, affording a milder, family-friendlier flavor. (My children are pretty picky. They hate my A-game.) I finally gave it a go last night and - YES! - it's delightful. Straight-up silky-smooth creamy. The combination of onions, garlic, lemon zest, and my favorite dried herb blend ensure it's at least as flavorful as the feta version. Everybody wins.

My other changes from the original are these: cut oil in half, used dried herbs instead of fresh thyme (unless it's growing in my summer herb garden, I find thyme a bit too fussy and not-my-favorite-enough to be worth it), went with baby red onions instead of shallot (first local farm produce of the season!!), and added a bag of baby spinach. That's gnocchi in the photos, but I've used whatever shelf-stable pasta is stashed in my cupboards and it's always turned out great. It's kind of heavy, as far as weeknight dinners go, so we ate it with a big green salad last night, and roasted cauliflower or green beans when it was colder out.


Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta
Serves 4-5

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small red onion or shallot, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons dried herb blend (better yet: Mrs. Dash or Penzey's wonderful rendition of same: Mural of Flavor)
1 package Boursin cheese* (or 6- to 8-oz block of feta)
10-12 oz pasta, cooked according to package instructions

To finish:
5 oz baby spinach
Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss tomatoes, onion, and garlic with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 9X13" baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and dried herbs. Make a space in the center of the mixture and put the Boursin cheese there. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil on the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until tomatoes have started to burst a bit and the Boursin has browned on top slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and cook your pasta. Coordinate the pasta cooking time with your sauce-in-the-making. You'll want the pasta to be done just a minute or two before the tomatoes and Boursin. Reserve a cup of pasta water before straining.

Remove baking dish from oven. Add pasta and baby spinach, top with lemon zest, and stir until spinach wilts, and the Boursin and tomatoes turn into a creamy sauce, coating pasta. If you'd like the sauce thinner, add some pasta water, two tablespoons at a time. (I did this with the feta, but found the Boursin version was saucy enough on its own, and did not add any pasta water.) Sprinkle with basil leaves before serving.

*Tip: put the Boursin in the freezer while the oven preheats (10 minutes or so). That firms it up so you don't lose any bits with the foil encasing it.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Spiced Chickpea Sweet Potato Stew and Happy March

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your March is going well. Here, March brings with it two household birthdays, a much-anticipated spring break, new hardwood floors and siding (on the construction side of things) - AND, strangely, sort of disturbingly, it marks my ninth month of dream-chasing. A human gestation period's worth of dream-chasing. It doesn't feel v. dreamy, unfortunately, or like I've gotten much closer to those aspirations I'm after. In January, I completed my first short story, which certainly felt like an epic accomplishment when it finally happened, but the subsequent let-down and failure to launch whatever is meant to come next have cut against that ever-so-fleeting feeling of dead chuffed. Self-motivation is tricky to sustain. Right?

I've specifically struggled to unearth that archived motivation I once had - loved having, in fact - to regularly write to be read. I had that when I posted here more regularly in the long-gone days of feeding toddlers and teaching cooking classes. (Presently, I have two middle schoolers; and the last cooking class I taught was in 2017.) That era stands out in my memory as a creative time. And though memory has its flaws... I was creating babies and a family-oriented life and a hodgepodge, exciting, inspiring alternativy career and new-to-the-face-of-the-earth content, and even, it felt like, on the best days, community. While those years were frantic and, in retrospect, sort of dicey on the mental health front, I saw steady improvement in my ability to find just the right word, I made really great food because I was always on the lookout for something worth sharing, I think I was brave without knowing it, and I generally identified as a creative person in the thick of creating a life, and growing and nurturing other lives, and fostering creativity online, at home, and in the Local D'Lish classroom (RIP). The well didn't dry up, even when I worried it might. I have always worried it might. That's why I'm back here, spottily for now, but earnest. Trying to make systems and build practices and come up with a supportive structure to make this work. To make work. To write my damn book. Or maybe something else entirely. Or maybe just to share one of my favorite dinners. Regardless, thanks for reading.



My sister first introduced this chickpea stew recipe to me. It's from canceled NY Times contributor Alison Roman, who, despite it all, I kind of like and kind of relate to because I say the wrong thing too sometimes, have endured disastrous episodes of grandiosity, and prioritize a nice crunch in my salad. Maybe it's her oversized Elizabeth Cole earrings. Or more likely, her food. I like her food.

Anyway, my sister cooked this for me and my family a couple years ago, employing her own adaptations - it was her idea originally to add the sweet potatoes, and she used broccoli instead of leafy greens. One of us at one point had a moment of genius that led to throwing in a half-cup of split red lentils to thicken the sauce. All this to say this recipe is one of those gems, conducive to resourcefulness and modification and virtually impossible to ruin. Just don't skimp on the turmeric! It infuses the creamy sweet potatoes and chickpeas as it simmers, and, IMHO, is the only non-negotiable. My main changes from the original include: a bit of streamlining, added coriander, subbed kashmiri chili (milder, more curry-like) for red pepper flakes, and I cut the fat in half - Roman, not famous for her judiciousness, calls for 1/4 cup of oil and two cans of coconut milk - and haven't since missed it. The stew thickens more quickly with the reduced liquid, and the addition of sweet potatoes makes up for any velvet lost on account of the reduced coconut milk fat.


Spiced Chickpea-Sweet Potato Stew
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
4-6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kashimiri chili powder or red-pepper flakes
3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 small sweet potato, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or spinach, coarsely chopped*
3 scallions and/or handful of cilantro or mint, for garnish
Brown rice, pita, for serving

Heat oil or ghee in a large pot over medium. Add garlic, onion, and ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally until onion is translucent and starts to brown a little at the edges, about 5 minutes.

Add turmeric, coriander, chili powder or red-pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir for 1 minute, until spices are fragrant. Add chickpeas and sweet potatoes and give them a stir to coat them in the spices. Add coconut milk, stock, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally; every 10 minutes or so, use a wooden spoon or potato masher to mash up the chickpeas and sweet potato; their starches will help thicken the stew. Cook for about 30 to 35 minutes.

Add greens and stir; cook until they wilt and soften, 5-10 minutes, depending on what you’re using. Kale (which I used) will take the full ten, all the while soaking up all that big flavor. Taste and add a little more salt and/or a squeeze of lime juice if you like a tangy finish. (I prefer this really smooth and warm - no lime juice for me this time, but in the summer who knows.)

Serve alongside brown rice or toasted pita or naan bread, and garnish with something green and punchy, e.g. cilantro, scallions, basil, mint.

*I throw my chopped kale stems into the stew and just make sure they're al dente before serving. Gives it a texture bonus.

The leftovers are even better. xoE-N

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Really Exceptionally Delightful Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

Here at CakeandEdith.com, you can have your cake, and Edith too on occasion, and then more cake and only cake. At least in 2023. I swear we eat other things, they just aren't as fun to share.

Oatmeal cake

Plus: I'm not even vegan.

This cake was assembled in under fifteen minutes before my youngest got on the bus to school - a haphazard effort to amp up my morning's sense of productivity and, multitasker that I am, infuse our arctic home with a little oven heat. Also the co-op's running a sale on Enjoy Life chocolate and my spouse and I both but separately opted to milk it for all it's worth, so we have like ten bags of chocolate chips. Did you like my literary play there? Using the word "milk" to talk about vegan chocolate chips? No? Just me?

I'm not a nerd, you're a nerd. 

Oatmeal cake

Anyway this cake quite exceeded expectations, especially given its slapdash origins. I started with a recipe from Snacking Cakes, which is wonderful and I'd probably just make all her recipes exactly as written but for egg-allergic child and that pesky insatiable obsession of mine to veganize baked goods. Absolutely worth memorializing here for at least myself, but maybe you too! (Critics unanimously acclaim: "Mom, this is, like, really good." "Can I have more?" "You used all the sugar in the recipe this time, didn't you?") The edges have a nutty-crisp thing going on while the inside is soft and v. chocolaty. Like so: 

Oatmeal cake

I will make this again, probably next week.

So what else is new, friends? Just watched a couple episodes of Russian Doll last night, which had escaped my radar until yesterday, when the New Yorker mentioned it, thank heavens, because I don't want to miss anything involving Natasha Lyonne or that rad raspy voice of hers I've loved since she was slumming it in Beverly Hills and I was slumming it on the Newport Beach peninsula. So that romance has been rekindled (it's a really good, really funny show full of hilarious women) and all is again right in the world. Or will be soon enough, once I've binge-watched both seasons. Correction: most things in the world are not right. I'm being flip, which maybe shouldn't be allowed in 2023. Things seem kind of dire, right? Cake is still allowed though.

Oatmeal cake

Oatmeal cake

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake
Yield: One 8" pan / 12ish servings

1 cup oat milk
1/2 cup neutral oil
1/2 cup applesauce*
1/2 cup brown or white sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional but lovely)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or pastry flour or cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder*
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup oats, plus 3 tablespoons for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk oat milk, oil, applesause, sugar, flaxseeds, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and cardamom until combined. Sift in flour, baking powder, and soda and stir until just combined. Gently stir in half cup oats and chocolate chips.

Pour into pan and sprinkle 3 tablespoons oats on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Mine took 45 minutes. Be sure not to confuse molten chocolate perfection for uncooked batter. 

 * You could sub 2 eggs for the applesauce and flax seeds. You might want to add an additional tablespoon or two of sugar - your call - and reduce the baking powder from one tablespoon to one teaspoon. 

 xoxo E-NC

Friday, January 13, 2023

Pear-Parsnip Bread / Whole 30 Update

Good morning! I hope this finds you well and swimming head-above-water in the wreckage of bomb cyclones, blizzards, tornadoes, or whatever other pineapple express pummeling your part of the world presently endures. It's so crazy and sad and terrifying. My hometown, Aptos, has been devastated, along with its neighbors. Here in Minneapolis, we are okay, other than rough narrow roads and some occasional mishaps associated with too-heavy snow and ice on roofs. The roof of the arts auditorium at the U of M partially collapsed and some wall bricks came down with it. While parked in the driveway, my friend's car was assaulted by an ice sheet that broke off the roof of her adjacent house. 

I am safe and warm with no pending insurance claims. I've been writing more, and sharing my writing more, and continue with the Whole 30. 

*** We interrupt this broadcast with an important update on Whole 30 Take 3. I'm on day 13, but have not been 100% every day, mostly on account of social occasions. Even not super strict, it's powerful and interesting. There is a tremendous reduction in daily aches and pains. Sometimes I still notice the usual things - my left shoulder, right elbow and wrist, both hips, sciatica - but I think the elimination of inflammatory foods takes the edge off. Like a morphine drip, but with more chewing and cooking. And no hospital co-pay. I do think the impacts this time around are less stark though, and I imagine that's because I'm eight years older than last time. In my (mid)forties, physiological changes are generally more delayed than they were in my thirties. Like after skiing, I get super sore muscles two days later instead of one. And I'll leave it at that. ***

Today I made this loaf for my family, who are not Whole30ing. It's a riff on a recent favorite: Yossy Arefi's Vegan Zucchini Bread Recipe on NYTimes Cooking. (Subscription required for link to work - sorry or maybe you're welcome for sharing it here for free?)


Pretty good looking, right? Instead of zucchini, which I didn't have, I measured out two cups of mostly grated parsnip and pear, and a leftover nub of carrot. Inspired by another, older favorite of mine: Smitten Kitchen's Pear Bread. The. Best. Anyway root veggies and pears are more fragrant than zucchini! My house smells like cinnamon and fall. I veered a bit as follows: reduced sugar, used one kind instead of two, and threw in whole wheat flour along with white. Note that the gram measurements are from NYT, and I used them because I like using kitchen scales and I don't like cleaning measuring cups, and maybe we are simpatico.




Structurally, as far as eggless baking goes, this is the holy grail. The rise is amazing (dome never sinks), the crumb is like a perfect pumpkin muffin, and the sugared top gives it a lovely contrasting crunch. I would pay at least five dollars for this at a bakery, maybe even six if they served it with a generous side of salt-sprinkled butter. I hope you make it. Chocolate chips would of course be an exciting addition but I skipped those today in an effort to convince my children that not all muffins and quick breads have chocolate chips in them.

Pear-Parsnip Bread
Makes one standard 8.5 X 4.5" loaf

3/4 cup / 150 grams brown sugar
2/3 cup / 160 milliliters soy milk or other milk of choice
1/2 cup / 120 milliliters neutral oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar*
2 cups/225 grams coarsely grated parsnip, underripe pear, carrot, or mix
2 cups/260 grams all-purpose flour (I used 60 grams whole wheat + 200 grams bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
To finish: one more tablespoon brown sugar*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your loaf pan generously. If it's a pesky one, line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix soy milk with apple cider vinegar and set aside.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, oil, and grated parsnip/pear/carrot to the soy milk and mix. Add dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined, no floury streaks. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle with one tablespoon brown sugar.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.

* Arefi uses 1 tablespoon lemon juice, for which I subbed the apple cider vinegar here. But I've used the lemon juice with the zucchini and it's nice. Arefi also uses turbinado sugar at the end, which I've done previously but I found the brown sugar sufficiently delivered on crispy crust front.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins and Happy New Year!

Happy 2023! I hope you welcomed in the new year with loved ones and that sweet spot of hedonism - celebratory but not sleepless, hungover, or puffy. (Increasingly elusive as the years pass...)

My New Year's Eve (aka "My Birthday") was mostly fantastic: filled with food, kicked off with a decadent, boozy brunch with five of the best women friends a person could ask for, culminated at a perfectly chaotic family-friendly fondue party with neighbors, and sandwiched in between - lest we otherwise starve! - my little family enjoyed its "last pizza of 2022" at Pizzeria Lola. Unfortunately, we concluded the night with an anaphylaxis-induced ER visit. Everyone is okay! My middle child has a severe peanut allergy, however, and is sixteen months in to the miracle that is oral immunotherapy. For the most part, it's been smooth sailing and we take it for granted that he can handle his daily dose of two peanuts. There are many rules though - for good reason, we've been reminded! - and on a festive fondue-infused child-centered party-hopping night, strict compliance went the way of last year's resolutions. We messed up, and it mattered. He had his first v. scary, serious peanut reaction ever, and epinephrine is a medical marvel, and he's fine. THANK. GOD.

And now I'm doing the Whole 30 again and craving one of these pumpkin muffins. It's snowing cats and dogs out there; this winter is drowning us. I don't recall a whiter December in the twenty-and-change since I moved here. My nerves are still wobbly after the peanut incident plus a few other close calls of late (a 2.5-hour icy highway journey from St. Cloud to Minneapolis, a slip-and-fall involving hundred-year-old stairs and a cast iron radiator with evidently lacerative edges). So, as the inches accumulate on our roads, I worry about school buses in ditches. The drivers in Minneapolis are top notch, but still. A chai tea latte and a pumpkin muffin might be cozy on a dreary day like the one we're braving.

I am staying the W30 course though because my body needs it. There will still be sugar in February. In the meantime, perhaps you will enjoy a pumpkin muffin yourself. And perhaps it will alleviate any panic tendencies to which you are prone. In which case, I'm sorry and you're welcome. xo



A word on the recipe: these really are my favorite muffins from one of my favorite oldie-but-goodie cookbooks and I probably make these more often than any other baked good. You will love them. In the pictures some of them are topped with Trader Joe's pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds (seasonal - crazy good).

The Best (Vegan) Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Yield: 18 muffins (or 12 muffins + small loaf)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour (400 grams by weight - I sometimes do half whole wheat flour here)
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie or baking spice
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
14-oz can of pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup soy milk (or any milk)
3/4 cup neutral oil
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease twelve-muffin tin and a small loaf pan if you've got one.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, stir together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, molasses, and both sugars, until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients, one cup at a time, into wet and mix until there are no more rogue patches of flour.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Put the remaining batter in the loaf pan (or another muffin pan, or the same muffin pan after you're done with the first batch). Bake muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean. For loaf, test at around 30-35 minutes.