Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guest Post from The Boyfriend: Cherry Snow Cake

The Boyfriend made this mini-cake the other night and I posted the pic on Facebook.  Many of you wanted the recipe, so he agreed to do a guest post!  This is a recipe that his family makes for his birthday (which, incidentally, is tomorrow!..  Happy Birthday Sweetie, you rock my socks!)

Guest Post Below:

My mom makes this cake for me for my birthday, and I love it! Light and fluffy, not too sweet, with a nice mix of flavors. The cake is flavored with pineapple juice and almond extract, and the frosting with maraschino cherries and almond extract (which, if you didn't know, are the same flavors!). Stabilized whipped cream goes so well with fruit flavors, too. In my mind, this is the perfect cake.

As Melody mentioned, it was originally a recipe from my paternal grandmother, but that doesn't necessarily make it a "family recipe"... I'm pretty sure that she cut it out of the newspaper!

The original recipe contains gelatin, which is pretty standard for stabilized whipped cream. I wanted to share this with Melody, so I made it with agar instead, which makes it vegetarian. This was a pretty easy substitution; even as an omnivore, gelatin kind of grosses me out. Basic stabilized whipped cream calls for 1/2 tsp gelatin per cup of cream, but since this is a cake frosting it needs to be a little firmer, I used 2 tsp of agar powder per Melody's recommendation.  Just make sure to dissolve the agar in around 1/4 cup of boiling water and temper it with the cream before whipping which is a change in process from the original recipe using gelatin. 

Stabilizing whipped cream isn't rocket science, but there are some tricks to it, so Google around first if you've never done it before. Here is a good link to start with:

I'm sure that you could make this vegan by substituting for the egg whites and heavy cream, but vegan baking is WAY outside of my current skill set.

The recipe says to only put frosting between layers and on top, but I always end up spreading the remaining frosting on the sides. I made a half a batch to make the 4" size; it baked up just fine, although the layers were much taller then usual.

Cherry Snow Cake


    2 cups flour
    1 1/4 cup sugar
    3 1/2 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 cup shortening
    7/8 cup pineapple juice
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 1/2 tsp almond extract
    3 egg whites (do not beat)

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Drop in shortening, add about 2/3 of the pineapple juice and beat (cut the fat into the flour).
Add egg whites, extracts, and the rest of juice and beat.
Pour into 2 greased and floured round cake pans.
Bake at 360 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool.


    1 Tbl gelatin OR 2 tsp agar powder
    1/4 cup cold water
    8-10 oz. maraschino cherries (with juice!)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/8 tsp salt
    2 cups heavy cream / whipping cream
    1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp Almond extract

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water for 5 minutes.
Place over boiling water, stir until completely dissolved.
Add finely cut cherries w/juice, sugar and salt.
Stir until everything is dissolved.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Whip heavy cream.
Fold cherry mixture into whipped cream, adding vanilla and almond extracts. Mix gently but thoroughly 
Slice cakes into halves to make 4 layers. Put frosting on top and between layers only.

I'm sure you could use other preserved fruit instead of the maraschino cherries... why not blueberry jam? Cranberries? Canned peaches? Note that highly acidic fruits may require more gelling agent, and certain fresh tropical fruits (pineapple, mango) won't gel at all!

If you come up with a new variation, please send Melody a picture.

It's Melody again...  I wanted to show you another one of his amazing desserts... a Thai flavored version of "Baked Alaska" he called Baked Thailand! All homemade of course, coconut cake with a spicy peanut butter ice cream and kaffir lime meringue..  

Before Baking
 After Baking
Now you see why I NEED to be doing Operation Booty Shrink! 

Sprout Tutorial

I love sprouting.  It is so simple and you don't need any fancy equipment.  Here is an easy ways to grow your own sprouts at home.  I buy my seeds from Sproutpeople.  I am not affiliated with them in any way; they are just who I have been using for years. Many health food stores also sell seeds.  For lentil, mung, adzuki and chickpea sprouts, you can use regular dried legumes; you don't need to buy special sprouting legumes.

Soak your seeds for 8 hours.  It is often recommended to use filtered water, but it is not necessary. I usually use tap water. I am not a purest, I am a realist.  If you feel more comfortable using filtered water, then do so!

I use regular, wide mouth ball or mason jars.  You can buy special sprouting lids, but you don't have to.  I like to buy knee high pantyose and secure them with a rubber band.  You can also re-use any glass jar you have on hand.

After the 8 hours, drain and rinse your sprouts.  You will do this at least twice a day.  I keep mine on the counter with no problem.  Many people keep them out of the light.  I haven't found it necessary to do so.

It will take between 2-5 days to get mature sprouts, depending on how hot it is.  When the sprouts are done, fill a large bowl with water and rinse them, so the hulls rise to the top.  Scoop the hulls out of the bowl with a ladle, then drain the sprouts well in a colander.

Line a platter with paper towels or a tea towel.  Allow the sprouts to air dry turning them over several times over a day or two.  This process also allows them to turn nice a green.

They will keep in a covered container for 5 days if you make sure to dry them well!  I LOVE sprouts with avocado, roasted tofu and my Wasabi Ginger Dressing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Operation Booty Shrink Revisited!

So, as many of you know, I have struggled with my weight for a while now.  A big reason I moved to Boston a year ago was to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.  I sold my car and began walking and over the course of a year, I lost 110 lbs with very little change in my eating habits.  I was walking up to 12 miles a day, 5 days a week and the weight loss was happening on it's own.  Unfortunately, I was living in a very dangerous neighborhood (in an ADORABLE apartment) and over the summer, it became more and more apparent that I could not continue to stay there.  People were being murdered in broad daylight along the route that I had to walk every single day, and finally, I was mugged and I could not live there anymore.  My lease was up November 1st, but I have been staying with The Boyfriend since the mugging. He lives in the burbs and I have not been walking like I was; we also cook a lot and I've been under a bit of stress and the result is a 10 pound weight gain.

I AM NOT GOING TO GAIN ALL OF THE WEIGH BACK I'VE LOST, so I am starting my own version of Operation Booty Shrink again!  What this means to me is that I am going to be starting my day with a Green Smoothie, pay attention to my portions, eat much less dessert,  and start walking and exercising more.  I am not doing anything drastic, counting calories or restricting any foods, I am simply going to be more mindful.  I still have weight to lose, and I WILL get to my goal weight in a healthy manner.  One way I have achieved this through food, is to pay attention to the levels of grains in my diet.  I am in NO WAY suggesting eliminating grains or "carbs" but I have a tendency to overeat them, so basing my meals around legumes and veggies works very well for me.

It's amazing to me what stress does to my eating habits.  I have had very good luck relieving stress with exercise, but the initial behavior modification when I've given into bad habits is difficult.  "They" say it takes three weeks to make or break a habit and I think that makes sense.

I am not turning this blog into a weight loss blog, but it is going to be a focus of mine for a while as I ease back into this transition.  I was spoiled by walking so much as part of my daily life, and was very lucky to lose weight without much effort.  I am planning on moving back to the city as soon as possible, so my walking lifestyle will resume, but until then let Operation Booty Shrink begin!

The recipe pictured above is for my raw 5 Spice Lettuce Wraps

5 Spice Lettuce Cups
  • 1 head romaine hearts, separated
  • 1/2 batch Marinated Mushrooms (recipe below) divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon 5 spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, divided
  • Chopped cherry tomatoes for garnish
  • Grated Carrots for garnish if desired
Marinated Mushrooms
  • 12 oz Cremini or White Button Mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acid
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ½ teaspoon good quality Lemon Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander

  1. Wash and separate romaine hearts into individual leaves, set aside
  2. In a food processor, add half of the mushrooms and garlic; pulse.
  3. Process the rest of the ingredients (leaving the sesame seeds, tomatoes and carrots out for garnish)
  4. Fill lettuce leaves, top with remaining mushrooms , sesame seeds, carrots (if using) and tomato

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Simple Bok Choy and Tofu Stir Fry

"This is the meatiest tofu I've had," said The Boyfriend.  I took that as a compliment of course :-)  

This is a very simple stir fry that is ready in about 15 minutes or so depending on how fast you chop veggies. The key to getting a "meaty" texture with the tofu is buying extra firm tofu, freezing then thawing it and squeezing all of the liquid out of it.  It's like squeezing a sponge! In my cooking classes people are always amazed to see the water just pour out of the tofu.  One HUGE advantage in removing the water is that any marinade you put on the tofu soaks right in, so it really flavors it well.  You just have to be careful not to over salt it, because it is very different than working with regular tofu. 

Excuse my messy prep area.. I was cooking three different things when I realized I should take pics..  I separated the stem area from the leaves of the bok choy so I could cook the stems first.  

If you look to the right, you can see the marinade in a bowl.  

Tofu cooking in the oils..  I am loving Mustard Oil and will be doing a full blog post all about it soon!  

Adding the bok choy stems.

Baby Bok Choy and Tofu
  • 4 oz firm tofu, frozen, thawed,with the water sqeezed out; crumbled with your hands
  • 1 teaspoon mustard oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed and divided
  • 2 tablespoons each soy sauce, rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon each, mirin, sriracha, hoisin sauce
  • 1.5 lbs bok choy, stems chopped separately
  • Trader Joes Smoke Seasoning to taste or a drop of liquid smoke (optional but good)

  1. Heat the oils and 2 cloves garlic over medium high heat; cook tofu until brown
  2. In a bowl, add the remaining garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, sriracha and hoisin
  3. Add the stems of the bok choy; cook for 3 minutes
  4. Add the leaves and the sauce mixture, stir fry for 2 minutes
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.
 I found some bamboo smoked toasted black sesame seeds and used it as a garnish.. so good! I think we found them at Kam Man Asian Grocer..

.. and of course, I added more Sriracha. !

Monday, November 19, 2012

How to make amazing pizza crust without a pizza stone!

I LOVE using a pizza stone to bake pizza and bread, but I currently do not have one.  I remember years ago, when I used my Cuisinart Toaster Oven for most of my baking how excited I was to find an stone sized perfectly for it.  I loved that toaster oven!

..but back to pizza crust.  You need three things:
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • 450 degree oven
Make your favorite pizza dough recipe (or even use pre-made store bought dough.  Trader Joes has lovely pizza dough)

I make my own and it is really simple.

Pizza Dough
  • 2 teaspoons SAF yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 3/4 cups flour + up to 1 cup for kneading purposes
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (less or omit if you don't like heat)
  1. In a mixing bowl, add the yeast, sugar and water; let it sit for 5 minutes
  2. Add the oil and flour, cornmeal, and spices; mixing with a wooden spoon until you have to  knead by hand.
  3. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. 
  4. Spray the mixing bowl with cooking spray and return the dough to the bowl; cover and let rise until doubled in size (around 45 minutes or so)
  5. Punch down, divide dough into two pieces. Here is your pizza dough!
To achieve the lovely crusty pizza, heat your oven to 450.  Cut a piece of parchment paper; turn the cookie sheet up side down and and slowly, work your dough out by hand to fit the sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes on the lowest wrack. You are pre-baking the crust.  You will sauce and top it once it's pre-baked.  I used my simple Pantry Green Olive Tapanade as the topping for this pizza.

Top pizza with whatever floats your boat!  My Roasted Garlic Marinara is my usual go-to sauce for pizza, but vegan Pesto is delicious too!

Your pizza is topped with your favorite things; now it's time to finish baking it!

 This time, you will place the parchment directly on the lowest oven rack without the sheet pan.

Bake for around 8 - 10 minutes until it is crusty and brown. 

Look how perfect the crust is!

If you want a thicker crust, increase baking time by several minutes for a total of 20-22 minutes total baking time. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Broccoli three ways.

MMMM.... broccoli!  Raw, roasted, braised in a delicious coconut milk curry.. it's all good to me!  The above dish is my 'Good Stir Fry' which is my kids favorite meal ever.  You should make it.  As I've explained several times, it's not really a stir fry.. it's more of a Thai Curry, but the kids called everything served over rice a Stir Fry when they were little and they named this.  Spicy, tangy, sweet and full of yummy broccoli, this dish is a total crowd pleaser.

This is a VERY flavorful Raw Broccoli Salad.  Sunflower seeds and green olives make up the base of the dressing and it's all massaged together, creating a somewhat 'cooked' feel...

Raw Broccoli Salad
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped 
  • 1 carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup green olives 
  • several tablespoons olive brine
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Soy sauce/black pepper to taste 
  • 1/2 cup fresh parlsey 
  1. Mix the broccoli, carrots and onion together. 
  2. Pulse dressing ingredients in a food processor and pour over broccoli. You want the dressing to have some texture. 
  3. Massage dressing into broccoli and allow the salad to sit for at least an hour before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning.  

Finally, this Roasted Broccoli is so full of tangy, garlicky goodness you won't be able to stop eating it!

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon
  • 1 large head broccoli divided into florets and stems 
  • 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Crushed Red Pepper to taste
  • Salt/freshly ground pepper to taste 
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment and toss all of the ingredients together on the pan and arrange in a single layer.
  3. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once

What's  your favorite way to eat broccoli?  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spicy Tomato - Onion Chutney

The other night, The Boyfriend and I ate at The Fishtail Kitchen.  I love their food; they actually make it spicy which is rare for most restaurants in the Northeast.  I had their Muttur Paneer. (Which inspired me to re-create my own version of it the next night!) So spicy and yummy.  I had a wicked cold and the spices cleared my sinuses!  Better than Sudafed anyday.

So, they bring you papadums along with mint, tomato and tamarind chutney to munch and I knew immediately I had to make some for the Indian fest we were making.
I spiced mine a bit more liberally I think, using fresh curry leaves and brown mustard seeds.  I originally made it too thin by including all of the juice from the canned tomato, so I ended up straining it (and saving the liquid of course) so it would have a more chutney like texture.  If you don't have curry leaves or mustard seeds, it's OK; it will still be delicious.  Same goes for the asafoetida.  I used ghee, but for a vegan version, you can use coconut oil or even just plain canola oil.  You definitely need to use an oil with a high smoke point so you can sizzle the curry leaves and pop the mustard seeds.

Spicy Onion Chutney
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida 
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes and the liquid
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp salt 
  1. Heat ghee in a very hot skillet; add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.
  2. When the seeds pop, add the rest of the spices along with the tomato and tamarind.  Bring to strong simmer , cover and cook for 5 minutes
  3. In a glass or ceramic bowl, place the raw ginger, cilatnro, onion and garlic along with the salt, mix well and pour the hot liquid over the onions.
  4. Let the mixture cool, then refrigerate for a couple hour; drain the excess liquid and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
This will make around a quart of chutney and it will keep for two weeks in the fridge.  

More Chutney Recipes:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mint-Cilantro Chutney

The Boyfriend and I had an amazing Indian feast the other night.  I will be sharing the recipes I created with both vegan and vegetarian options.  He made goat curry; obviously, I didn't eat any of that and I won't be sharing that recipe.

So, onto the chutney recipe.  Plain yogurt (vegan or dairy both work super well.  I recently tried Wildwood Plain Soy Yogurt and love it!) mint, cilantro, garlic, salt and olive oil create such a wonderfully simple sauce.  It helps tame the heat and adds a lovely acidity and brightness to any dish you serve it with.


Cilantro -Mint Chutney
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (vegan or dairy) 
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • In a food processor , process the garlic and salt into a paste; add the yogurt and herbs and process until smooth.  Stir in the olive oil at the end.  Let chutney chill for at least 2 hours before serving for best results. 
 Stay tuned for the rest of the recipes.  Those that aren't naturally vegan will have both vegan and vegetarian options:
  • Muttur Paneer
  • Chappatis
  • Cilantro-Cumin Basmati Rice
  • Spicy Tomato-Onion Chutney

Friday, November 02, 2012

Leftover Love!

I love leftovers as you all know and base many of my meals on them.  Soup can be turned into a burgerChana Saag, Salsa and Chipotle Hummus can be pureed in a food processor and with the addition of tofu, a delicious 'Saag Panir' can be created in 15 minutes, Oatmeal can be turned into breakfast cookies. In fact, most of my cooking is based on leftovers.  I like to have 3 base sauces on hand along with 2 cooked legumes and 2 cooked grains and take it from there.  Many meals can be created in 30 minutes or less and let's face it, most of us don't have hours and hours to spend in the kitchen!

My Chickpea Flatbreads are great substitute for tortillas in the dish above.  Recips HERE.

My Mexi- Base makes a delicious soft taco filling!

Leftover lentils and Cashew 'Goat Cheese' turns into yummy soup in 20 minutes!

What are your favorite ways to use leftovers?