Archive for August, 2010

A Crunchy Start

For some reason, I was under the impression that granola was difficult to make. I have a friend who makes granola quite often, and I’m always extremely impressed with her ability to create something I want to eat in the morning for breakfast, snack on mid-day, and eat for dessert again in the evening. My new housemate also makes incredible granola, and after I ate the remaining scoop of her creation, I felt like I had to step up to the plate and try my own hand at granola-making. I used a Deborah Madison recipe, but since I can’t leave well-enough alone, I made a lot of adaptations. My version is posted below. I like this granola a lot; the quinoa gives it a crunchy texture and with the quinoa and nuts it’s a protein-packed breakfast that is just perfectly sweetened. You can make whatever substitutions you want depending what kinds of nuts or dried fruit you have at home, or add more or less juice (just keep the total liquid amount about the same, but you can play around with ratios of sweetener to juice to oil…). I’m sure you have lots of ideas of how to eat granola, but my recent favorite granola-pairing has been with homemade applesauce! My housemate likes to eat her granola as a topping on smoothies, and in the winter I love it as a sprinkled addition to a hot bowl of oatmeal.

For some people, school has started already, and this granola would be a perfect way to start your kids’ mornings or pack in a baggie for a mid-day snack. Monday is the first day for my school district, so tomorrow I will have 24 eight year olds in my classroom and I’m hoping that starting my day with a bowl of this hearty granola will help me keep them at rapt attention and create a strong learning environment from the get-go!

Granola Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oatmeal flakes (use gluten-free oats if you want)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice – I used orange
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup large flaked unsweetened dried coconut

Preheat the oven to 300º F. Mix the oatmeal, quinoa, spices, and nuts together, then add the vanilla, juice, oil, and sweeteners. Toss well to moisten evenly, then toast on a sheet pan until browned, about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the raisins and coconut once the cereal is cooked.

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Going On The Perfect Date, With A Pecan

A few months ago when I was in New York, I made a variation of these cookies with my friend Marika. We ate so much batter, we couldn’t stand the idea of baking the rest into cookies that night. She met me for yoga the next day, and brought the cookies (freshly baked that morning!) for an after-yoga snack. These are the perfect energizing treat, and without wheat, gluten, refined sugar, and packed chock-full of nuts and dried fruit, they feel healthy. In fact, they are healthy. But, they don’t taste healthy!

So, when Marika visited me in California last month, she brought the recipe with her. I hadn’t had a chance to make them until a few days ago, when Talia and I wanted to whip up some goodies. They are so easy and fast to make – and don’t require specific fancy ingredients! You can use whatever kinds of nuts you have in your house, or leave out the carob chips, or substitute another liquid sweetener (honey instead of brown rice syrup?), or adapt them to whatever your preferences are. Make sure to eat a lot of the batter before baking them, just because.

Carob Date-Nut Cookies Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1 2/3 cup pecans (can substitute walnuts)
1 1/3 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
6 Tblsp. olive oil
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup pitted dates (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained)
1 cup grain-sweetened carob chips


Preheat your oven to 350º F.
Bake the oats and pecans on a baking pan for 10 minutes.
Food process the rice flour and half of the oats till they are thoroughly combined and finely ground. Add half of the toasted pecans to the food processor and grind to a fine meal. Add the rest of the oats and pecans, as well as the cinnamon and nutmeg, and pulse once or twice (leaving some whole oats and chunks of nut).
Mix the wet ingredients together, and add to the dry. Fold in the dates. Pulse in the food processor till fairly smooth.
By hand, stir in the carob chips. If the nuts and oats were still warm when you added them to the batter, the carob chips may melt and be incorporated into the batter – if not, they will stay whole and you will get lovely chunks of carob in each bite of delicious cookie!
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto lightly greased cookie sheets, and top each cookie with a whole pecan.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until browned around the edges.

The Littlest Birds Sing The Prettiest Songs

I’ve kept you in such suspense! I’m sorry! Life has been very busy here, with traveling, moving, applying and receiving a teaching job, etc. So much is going on! But, part of the events going on were traveling to Seattle for Sasha and Robin’s beautiful wedding, which I was lucky enough to get to be a part of by making their wedding cake! Here it is, in all it’s glory:

Because you waited so patiently (and some not so patiently…hi Julie!), I’m giving you a lot of pictures. And a short run-down of the experience. In brief, it was stressful and chaotic and involved so many grocery-store trips that they caused a few break-downs. And a lot of phone calls to my mother to help explain the difference between baking in an electric oven versus a gas oven (literally NO ONE in Seattle has a gas oven. What? Why? I don’t understand). I almost lit the house on fire, no thanks to a certain firefighter that was helping me bake the cake…

But it was all worth it. The wedding was lovely; love-filled; such a warm and beautiful and community celebratory event. Everyone helped out and celebrated Sasha and Robin’s love for each other; every single toast (there were a lot) included a statement of the fact that Sasha and Robin are the best couple IN THE WORLD. I agree. That’s why it was worth it to bake their wedding cake in an oven that was not my own, and have this crazy adventure that I embarked upon. It was totally worth it.

Fluffy Ginger Cake, with Raspberry and Toasted Almond Filling, a Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting, and Chocolate Ganache piping for decoration. The winning combination for such a wonderful couple. The recipes are copied below all the pictures…

You can see Sasha in her wedding dress behind the cake:

The first thing you’ll need to make a wedding cake is lots of ingredients. LOTS. No kidding, I think we went to at least a dozen stores to find everything, which was ridiculous, because why couldn’t I just find everything at one place like I can here, at Berkeley Bowl?? Life outside of the Bay Area confuses me.

Since I doubled, tripled, quadrupled, 10-timesed the recipe, I needed a lot of ginger. We had to grate it all very finely:

Thank goodness I had help from good friends to grate all of this. And peel the ginger. Look, so much ginger peel!

My wonderful friends helped at every step of the process. Here they are, covering the cake-plate/board with black material, so that it would look fancy. It took a lot of concentration:

We very carefully sliced each cake in half horizontally. This is the biggest cake (15-inch diameter). This was the trickiest to slice and then lift the top half off, so that we could spread jam and sprinkle toasted almonds in between the layers — I was worried that if we picked up the top half, it would crumble and fall apart. So, I found a very thin large flat cookie sheet, and stuck it between the layers after I sliced them, and then simply lifted the top half off of the bottom, spread yummy fillings inside, and then pushed the top layer off of the cookie sheet and back onto the bottom…It sounds simple now, but it was a very stressful 2 minutes of the cake-decorating adventure!

Spreading jam, and carefully placing toasted almonds in the middle of the layers of the 9-inch round cake:

To decorate a 4-tiered wedding cake, you need a lot of frosting. Like the ginger, I mean A LOT of frosting. This bowl was insanely large, filled with an insane amount of frosting. Delicious, yes. Sickening, yes. Amazing, hell yes.

After frosting the cakes on top of each other, I piped thin vines, leaves, and swirls around the cake’s edges, made out of a simple chocolate ganache (recipe below).

Have you ever seen cuter cake toppers than these little paper mache birds? They were so perfect, nuzzling each other! Thank you, etsy!

The moment we’d all been waiting for! The cutting of the cake!! (The cake is the whole point of coming to the wedding, right?…).

Fluffy Ginger Cake Ingredients:

This recipe makes one 9-inch cake

1 Tblsp. apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups plain unsweetened almond milk
2 1/8 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 1/8 cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 Tblsp. freshly grated/zested ginger

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. Or both, if you’re neurotic like I am. Set aside.

Stir the almond milk and apple cider vinegar together well and set aside (the mixture will curdle). Grate or zest your ginger while you wait for the curdling.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl whisk together the almond milk mixture, canola oil, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth using a hand-held mixer, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the ginger at the very end, and mix to incorporate.

Fill your cake pan with the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then when luke-warm, remove cakes from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance shortening, room temperature
3/4 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Beat the margarine, shortening, and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. When you have a smooth, fluffy consistency, add the vanilla bean paste and confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Mix until fully combined. Add more sugar if you want a thicker frosting, but be aware that it can get quite sweet quickly!

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

1/2 pound dark chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler. When smooth, pour into a blender, and then pour in your almond milk. Blend on high for one minute, until fully incorporated. It should be quite thin, like a dark, rich chocolate milk. Pour this into a container and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight. The chocolate will harden (but not completely). You’ll be able to spread it onto a cake, or pipe it in little decorations. You can fiddle around with this recipe, adding more chocolate will make the mixture more solid after refrigerating it, or more milk will make it thinner.


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