Friday, March 20, 2015

eat cake

raspberry-ricotta cake

And just like that, with no explanation and no apology I am here. I hesitate to say 'back' because I don't want to over-commit. Nevertheless my intention is to be back. I have (quite obviously) seriously considered not returning to this endeavour. There have been all manner of reasons not to but in the final analysis those reasons don't hold quite enough weight and the scale has tipped ever so slightly in the direction of picking up the threads. So here I am holding a few tattered threads that I will attempt to weave into something of a whole cloth again.

This cake, this cake is one of those cakes that does not demand attention. The quiet, elegant beauty standing somewhat aloof and shyly at the side of the room while the sticky, gooey, sparkly (totally unworthy and flashy) upstarts grab the focus. But if you give it even half a chance you will fall in love. Far more interesting in taste and texture than your average unassuming white cake - if you are like me you will be making this cake over and over again because you just can't get enough.

The ricotta adds a moist richness and depth of flavour without making the cake heavy. Fantastic warm with cream straight out of the oven I think it is even better on day two. I initially used some sweet, soft ripe pears as the fruit. Trial two was with apples. Three - frozen sweet cherries. And finally, for the fourth try I resorted to the original recipe as written in Bon Appetit and used frozen raspberries. Don't ask me which is liked best because I can't decide. Today my answer would likely be 'raspberry' because that is what is sitting on my counter right now but a week ago it would have been pears. And two days after that? Why cherries of course!

The changes I made to the recipe are very minor - a little more fruit, a different sugar, a touch more salt.

This cake reminds me a teeny tiny bit of a treat we used to buy from the convenience stores (I know - horrors!!) when we lived in Osaka ages ago. I can't remember what it was called but there is a map of Hokkaido on the wrapper. I loved it then and want to remember it as being wonderful - but I am afraid that if I were to try it now I might wrinkle my nose. For sure this cake is umpteen times better. Make yourself a batch of fresh ricotta - or go buy a tub - but make this cake. Tonight. And eat it all weekend long. You could share it with a friend. Or not :)

raspberry-ricotta cake
(from Bon Appetit - with the most minor of changes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raw cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grey sea salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted
1 1/4 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray or butter a 9" round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. In another smaller bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla stirring gently until smooth; fold in dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in melted butter. And finally fold in 1 cup of frozen fruit - being respectful of the delicacy of the berries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the remaining fruit over the top. No need to press it into the batter as the cake will rise around it while baking.

Bake until golden brown, firm to the touch and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean - about 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before turning out of the pan.

Friday, July 18, 2014

persian lentils and brown rice with mint

I have been having a bit of a fling with mint recently. I can't believe that I have overlooked what it brings to dishes beyond the obvious combination with chocolate. I have been meaning to share recipes for several salads for (obviously) weeks now. This salad is one that I made three times in 10 days and really didn't bother to take a good pic of any one of those times. I apologize. With all the beautiful food photography scattered all over every site it seems like a mark of disrespect to offer anything less but although I would eat this salad three times a week pretty much all summer, mine is not the only palate to please in our house. David loved it too but he loves variety even more, so I have reluctantly moved on - minus a decent photo - and agreed to rest this salad for at least a bit. Sad really because it is tasty, easy, and has the quiet virtue of being inexpensive. 

The combo of brown rice and lentils creates a complete protein. The addition of greens is obvious but the mint makes the salad much more interesting than one anticipates from the unassuming appearance. It changes character slightly when saved overnight but it is by no means a change for the worse. A big bowl of this nicely feeds a crowd at a BBQ or picnic or waits patiently in the fridge for a few days of lunches for an intimate twosome. 

I found the recipe in a publication that I used to read faithfully when I was young and newly wed but have ignored for years now for publications that are ... shinier. Shame on me for forgetting old friends - I have recently discovered that there is plenty on offer within. 

persian lentils & brown rice with mint
(adapted from Family Circle magazine)

1/2 cup brown jasmine rice (uncooked)
2/3 cup red lentils
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses*
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup fresh mint, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Cook rice as per package directions or (if you have one) use your trusty rice cooker on the brown rice setting. While the rice is cooking bring some water to a boil in a medium size pot. Add the lentils, return to a boil and cook for 6 minutes. (This is a good time to use a timer because you don't want mushy overcooked lentils here.) You are also going to want to watch it carefully because it will get foamy and boil over if you take your eye off it for long. When the timer goes off drain the lentils and rinse under cold water for a few minutes until they are cool. Add the cooled lentils and cooked rice to a large bowl.

Whisk the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, and salt together. Pour over lentils and rice, stirring gently to coat. Fold in the spinach, mint, cherries, pecans and feta.

*Pomegranate molasses is likely an ingredient that doesn't lurk in your pantry. It wasn't in mine but this recipe was one too many recipes that I had seen requiring it and pushed me over the edge to buying a bottle. It sounds incredibly exotic and hard to find but you may be lucky enough to find it (as I did) in the foreign foods aisle of a supermarket. If you have no desire to own a bottle you can substitute 2 tsp of honey mixed with 4 tsp of pomegranate juice for the 2 Tbsp of pomegranate molasses.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

rosemary sea salted brownies

gluten-free, refined sugar-free

If I was to worry about posting seasonally appropriate topics and recipes I would probably be looking for .... not this post. I defend my choice thusly: chocolate is never out of season. It is the food equivalent of fashion's black - goes with everything. Should I need to hedge my bet I would point to the rosemary I picked from my garden which must surely confirm seasonal appropriateness. If I was to need to justify myself.

Last spring in Vancouver Jonathon introduced me to the pleasures of Beaucoup Bakery. The very first treat that caught my eye was a beautiful chocolate cookie with rosemary. It was even better than it looked and I mentally filed the concept for future reference. This spring Jonathon has a shop of his own and a few weeks ago he had an order of very special chocolate from Mexico, including this beautiful bar of rosemary dark chocolate. I had been fine-tuning a recipe for spicy brownies when he sent me a bar of the rosemary chocolate and as good as the spicy brownies were I suspected there was a better direction. I was right - the time on the spicy version was not a waste because it simply meant that these were perfect from the first batch. I love the piney, minty-ness of rosemary and it is a perfect partner to good dark chocolate. Toss is a bit of cinnamon and top it with a sprinkle of flakey salt and I dare you to stop at one. I made a batch for last week's Sunday dinner dessert and on Friday Eden told me she couldn't stop thinking about them. Pretty much says it all.

I have made this with butter twice and once with coconut oil replacing the butter. Both versions are very good so if you and dairy do not get along well by all means make it with the coconut oil, but my strong preference is to use good butter. Taste and texture were both superior.

rosemary sea salted brownies

1/2 cup almond flour
3 Tbsp coconut flour
1 Tbsp cacao
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4.5 oz chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 
leaves stripped from a 3" sprig of rosemary
1 tsp flakey sea salt (such as Malden's)

Line an 8 inch square pan with a parchment paper sling and set aside.

In a bowl combine almond flour, coconut flour, cacao, cinnamon and fine sea salt. Set aside.

Combine the chopped chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until almost melted then remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes - this will finish the melting without burning the chocolate. Add the honey and coconut sugar and stir gently to combine. Gently stir in the eggs being careful not to over-beat. Add the chopped rosemary and stir the mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until everything is incorporated. Push into the parchment lined pan. Sprinkle with the rosemary leaves and sea salt. Bake at 350 degree F for 28 minutes.

Easy and fast - to make and to eat :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

no-bake chocolate cookies : re-invented

gluten-free, refined sugar-free

This story wanders a bit - or maybe a lot. Kind of like a new puppy, easily distracted.

I grew up on no-bake chocolate cookies. No-bakes and chocolate puffed wheat squares were my kryptonite - I could and would eat either one without discipline and to the point of illness. Needless to say the next generation (my children following my shining example) was no different. No-bakes are the obvious answer to every question. Or they were.

Health issues introduced our family to a new eating paradigm and I hadn't even looked at that well-exercised recipe for a good long time, long enough to have forgotten exactly what was in them. A week ago our family grew by one (we now have an adorable grand-dog) an event certainly deserved to  be celebrated. Celebration = food so I offered to bring a treat when we went to meet Mark and Tiffany's puppy. As time was short my mind inevitably went to our fail-safe, no-bake chocolate cookies. Then I looked at the recipe. I may have gulped and certainly grimaced - 2 cups of white sugar!!! 2! I just could not do it. I argued with myself and still couldn't. Really, two cups of white sugar in roughly 30 cookies. That's a lot of sugar. A lot of plain not good sugar. Tasty, easy, gluten-free and full of sugar. Bah! 

Not one to be undone by a couple of cups of sugar I determined that although I may be tempting fate by playing with a recipe as sacred as this one, it had to be done. That or toss the recipe entirely. It seemed a worthy gamble and at the end of the effort all agreed that it was. In fact, the reinvented cookies were universally approved as the preference. Lest anyone be mislead these cookies are not healthy doppelgängers for the originals - they are chewier in texture and deeper in taste. More dark chocolate than milk. But even the littlest of our clan loved them.

I think we should christen them Bailey cookies in honour of the new puppy. They are good enough to have a name of their own (not just 'the healthy no-bakes, you know...') and Bailey (the Brittany) is cute enough to warrant a cookie named after her.

David liked these well enough to stand jealous guard over them. Deacon liked them well enough to request a blog post a week after the fact. The pictures are reflective of no intention to post but I cannot withstand a request from a 10 year old. Really, I cannot :) What grandmother worth her salt could?!

bailey cookies
(adapted from my mom's recipe for no-bake chocolate cookies circa 1960)

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk of your choice, I used coconut milk
6 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
 3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine the honey, palm sugar, butter, milk of your choice, cocoa, and vanilla in a large heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and immediately add the oats, coconut and chopped pecans. Mix well. Using a 1" cookie scoop drop in mounds onto parchment paper (or foil) to cool and set - about 1 hour. (A brief stint in the fridge will shorten that time somewhat.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

morrocan super salad

It has been a while. 'Nuff said. 

Tonight for dinner I made a salad so full of virtuous super-foods that I really feel like I should charge up a mountain or something ridiculous. Sweet potatoes, beluga lentils, red quinoa, pumpkin seeds, pecans, pomegranate seeds, chickpeas all tied together with a spicy/sweet dressing to give it a kick. One of the best things I have put in my mouth in a while. I made a mountain of dirty dishes in the process and really can't think of any shortcuts in that regard but the making is simple if multi-stepped and well worth the dish washing. The recipe advises it will feed 6. I would add that would be six very hungry people who love quinoa and lentils and all the rest of the good stuff. But that is all to the good because it means left-over salad for a lunch or two. I served our salad over a bed of baby kale, chard, and spinach because I have decided if you don't eat leafy greens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner there is just no way you are going to eat enough of them in a day. Besides, it looks pretty and tastes better.

I found the recipe yesterday morning. One of my most beloved personal indulgences is reading - anytime really - but specifically reading a magazine while I eat breakfast. While I was thus indulging yesterday morning (and finally catching up on the important business of getting up to date with my publications) a very pretty salad caught my eye. Thinking that fresh pomegranate seeds would be as scarce as hen's teeth this time of year I didn't expect to experience the salad any time soon. Short story: I was wrong - but about as happy to be wrong as I have ever been. If you can be as lucky as I, make the salad with pomegranate seeds. If not, try blueberries. (That's my plan for next time - and I know that next time will come soon here.) The original recipe called for fresh mint but what little mint is managing to show its brave self in my garden is just to small to snip so I subbed some mint tea leaves I have in the pantry. Fresh would be better but the dried was good.

I probably won't be charging up a mountain tonight but I feel virtuous enough to justify eating something wild and crazy for a treat. Plus having a tube of Harissa paste in the fridge just makes you cool. That and beluga lentils.

morrocan super salad
(from Style at Home magazine, renamed and ever so slightly adapted)

honey harissa dressing:
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp old-fashioned seedy Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp harissa paste
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 540-ml can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup beluga black lentils
1 cup red quinoa
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
1 tsp dried mint leaves (or 1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Toss 1/4 cup of the dressing with the diced sweet potatoes and spread the potatoes out on one of the baking sheets. Toss 2 Tbsp of the dressing with the chickpeas and spread those out on the second baking sheet. Put both sheets into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Fill a small pot with 4 cups of cold water and the beluga lentils. Bring to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender - about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Fill another small pot with 4 cups of water and the red quinoa. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and let dry in the sieve for a few minutes.

While all of this cooking is happening add the green onions, pumpkin seeds, pecans, mint leaves, and cranberries to a large bowl. When the sweet potatoes are done remove them and the chickpeas from the oven and add to the large bowl along with the cooked lentils and red quinoa. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, add the pomegranate seeds and toss to combine. Serve over leafy greens. Or don't. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

quinoa cacao bar

gluten-free, refined sugar free

I have been largely absent here - for reasons good and less good. A little bit lazy, a lot of busyness that is pure and simple of little interest to anyone, not even me. One of those periods in life where every day speeds by and at the end of it you wonder what it was that you did. This silly fire thing drags on - more boxes come back from the restoration company but little else happens. We still have no laundry room and the house still has a lingering odour of electrical fire. The smell is masked when I cook and we are strangely accustomed to it but when I return home and the house is quiet that unpleasant, sharp smell is easy to identify. You would think it would be motivation to cook a little more but the boxes that are stacked in corners, the bare floors, the disorganized pantry all leave me feeling like we are simply stopping here and so we eat meals that are healthy, simple and fast - but uninspired.

I spent several days last week unpacking the last 33 boxes. Many of the boxes contained treasures that I had forgotten we had - I am scratching my head over where the cleaners found some of it and then scratching more over why it was deemed worthy of restoration. Boxes of memories ... photos and old handmade Mother's Day and birthday cards from my kids that made me laugh out loud, the contents of Merin's dance bag that I cannot bear to part with - all two dozen bodysuits (or more!) plus tattered warm-ups - that I wept over. Toys and tiny clothes, study aids from school in Japan, box after box. All unpacked now and safely put away, the memories and the goods. It was cathartic - not particularly easy but in the end good. 

In the middle of the unpacking and muddle I felt a Pooh-bear like need for a little something. Honey is good but it wasn't quite the something that my particular tummy was wanting. Chocolate however was just the thing. A couple of weeks earlier I had tried a beautiful bar that was almost perfect. Well, really it was but I just had the urge to fiddle a little and so I fiddled and I think it was perhaps just a little more perfect. Licking the spoon I knew that Merin would have loved these and I smiled. It was a good end to a bit of a hard day. (after 3 1/2 years I am surprised at the tenacity of grief  - that and the oddness of what triggers the longing. I am content, even happy, but I realize more and more that I will simply miss the joy Merin is until I see her again)

These bars are very, very good as soon as they harden but if you can give them a chance to 'cure' they are even better. A day is good - three best. Just tuck them at the back of the fridge and hope nobody (including yourself) notices they are there. Both times I made them I thought they got significantly better with a period to cure. The recipe is originally from a blog that is new to me and I am so happy to have come across it. Lots of great ideas and very pretty pictures. Seriously - I dare you to scroll through and not want to make every single recipe she has posted. I certainly can't find one that I don't want to try!

quinoa cacao bar
( from Wholehearted Eats, with a little bit of fiddling)

3/4 cup virgin coconut oil
2 Tbsp almond butter
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2/3 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups puffed quinoa
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
1/2 cup pistachios

Line a 9x9" pan with a parchment paper sling and set aside.

In a medium saucepan melt together the coconut oil and the almond butter. Stir in the coconut flour, cacao, maple syrup and salt. Add the puffed quinoa, cranberries and pistachios. Mix well and pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Add another couple of tablespoons of cranberries and pistachios to the top to make it prettier, pressing them into the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate until hardened. Wrap for easy grabbing when on the go - you won't regret the time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I have lost my groove. It is gone - who knows where or why? - and I have been waiting for it to come back as quietly as it went. Today I am tired of the waiting and so I am pursuing the mysterious motivation to share whatever it is I have previously taken such delight in sharing. I could blame it on the dryer-fire or the ongoing restoration project that is frustratingly stalled. It could have been the brand-new fridge sitting in the middle of my kitchen for a few weeks that chased my groove away (I am notorious for needing every element in its rightful place before I can be creative) or the empty pantry that short-circuits so many kitchen adventures before they even begin. I find myself paralyzed by the incredible abundance of healthy recipes beautifully photographed that fill untold numbers of food blogs and wonder if the world really needs another entry in that class. Somedays I love the old-school look of the blog and other days I think it really needs an overhaul but that thought completely overwhelms me. Whatever the cause I have missed being involved in this endeavour and so here I sit, fighting the temptation to check my Pinterest feed or see what is newly posted on Instagram in an effort to procrastinate the exercise of writing. I confess I have gotten lazy and the only way to get my groove back is to get ... grooving?

Tonight's dinner seems like a good place to start. This morning my plan for dinner was a kale salad with beets and roasted salmon. Simple, undemanding, healthy. Certainly nothing to write about. And then. Then I saw this recipe on Food 52 and it just had to be what was done with the kale and the salmon. I was so right. This is better than good and almost as easy as the easy plan that wouldn't have been news of any kind. Sometimes the day just ends up a lot better than it begins.

Turns out this recipe was inspired by one of Heidi Swanson's recipes from Super Natural Everyday. I in my turn have made minor changes to the recipe that Ashley Couse published on her lovely blog Bloom & Nourish. Granted my changes are truly minor but aren't those little changes that we make when we cook what gives a recipe our signature, a personal flavour? I like a touch of heat to make things interesting but another might find that level of spice either entirely bland or too intense. My preference for food with virtue colours the dishes I choose or create. Feeling free to add or subtract from a recipe or an idea is what makes being in the kitchen gratifying and fun. Sometimes things work out amazingly well, other times not so much but every time I learn something for another day. 

crispy coconut kale with roasted salmon, sweet potatoes & coconut rice
(adapted slightly from Bloom & Nourish)

1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp Tamari
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cube
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 bunch kale, ribbed and chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 lb salmon fillet

Combine the rice with the water and coconut milk and cook. (I confess to having a rice cooker for so long that I would have a hard time managing or knowing what to do without one. It is just what happens when you live in Japan - everyone has one like everyone here has a stove.)

While the rice is cooking turn the oven on to 400 degrees F. Using a small tightly lidded jar combine the coconut oil, sesame oil, Sriracha, sea salt and Tamari. Close tightly and shake well to emulsify. Set aside.

Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with the grapeseed oil then spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and smoked paprika and slide the lot into the oven to bake for about 25 minutes or until tender. Turn or stir the potatoes once during roasting.

Give the coconut oil dressing another good shake and pour roughly 2/3 of it over the chopped kale and coconut flakes. Mix well so that everything is well coated and spread on another baking sheet. Set aside.

Drizzle the salmon fillet with a couple tablespoons of the remaining dressing. Add the salmon and the kale to the oven with the sweet potatoes and roast for the last 15 minutes or so of the sweet potatoes baking time. Remove from oven when the kale is crispy, the salmon flakes easily and the sweet potatoes are tender. Serve the salmon on a bed of coconut rice topped with crispy kale and sweet potatoes. And be amazed.