Carrot (Cake) Cookies

I recently read a blog post by The Pioneer Woman, about how she hates, correction, “abhors,” bananas.  There is only one recipe on her website for the fruit that she “loathes,” and that’s for her mother’s banana bread.  It honestly struck a cord with me, because as soon as I started reading, I immediately thought about the one thing that I cannot stand: carrot cake.

I’ve been called “un-American,” for my dislike for the mal-spiced (yes, I’m making it a word), what people call a “cake.”  I’ve been asked how could I not like something that’s smothered with cream cheese frosting, because, “everyone loves cream cheese frosting.”  And my father has even questioned whether or not I was his daughter, the man who really should just legally change his name to, Mr. I Love Carrot Cake.

But in reality, I love carrots. I love them raw.  I love them roasted.  Roasted with a bit of chile oil, side by side with thinly sliced parsnips, even better.  They’re even lovely pickled.  I. Love. Carrots.

But in a cake….there’s just something about either the spices, the texture, the cream cheese frosting that I’m convinced that has a bucket of powdered sugar in it; I just hate it.  And what’s worse, is that I’ve had to choke it down three times in the past year.  Who knew that it was a favorite cake of Roo’s family members (not me).

Yes, I love Roo that much that I’ll accept a slice of carrot cake with a smile, and eat it.  I even ate it when I was 99% sure it came from a box.  And the frosting came out of a can.

I’m still scarred.

But like they say, love makes you stupid, ie makes you eat carrot cake.

So when I read that Ree (The Pioneer Woman) decided to “step out of her comfort zone,” and literally go-bananas, I figured why not.  How could I be experimenting with vegan and vegetarian cooking, but not try to adapt carrot cake into something that I might like.

Now I may not be as open minded, and actually make a carrot cake, but I figured why not try a cookie.  If I hated carrots in a cake, it may not be so bad in something that’s only as large as a tablespoon.

I’ve also been experimenting with ground flax seed in various baked goods, and since it’s an ingredient that is not only nutrient rich, but also complements the flavor of whole wheat flour, I added it to my cakey-cookie mix. I really liked the nutty flavor and was pleasantly surprised as to how well it paired with such a bold flavor like ginger, that I also was weary about adding.

I love that these cookies are cakey, full of wonderful textures like the grated carrot and chopped dried cherries, and not timid to let you know that it’s full of heat from the freshly ground ginger.  I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found a carrot (cake) cookie that even a hater like me, can love.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 20 cookies

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Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

Quarter cup whole wheat flour

Quarter cup ground flax seed

*You can use just one and a half cups of all purpose flour if that’s all you have*

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

Half cup olive oil (or a neutral flavored oil if that’s what you have)

Three quarters cup maple syrup

1 heaping cup grated carrots (I put one large carrot in my food processor, and used the ‘shred’ blade)

Half cup dried cherries, chopped (I cut each dried cherry in half, but a rough chop will also do)

two teaspoons fresh grated ginger

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Equipment

Two medium sized bowls (can hold about five cups of ingredients each)

A spatula

A whisk

Hand grater

Parchment paper

A cookie sheet

A clean tablespoon for scooping cookie dough

And if you have it, a food processor (shreds the carrot in less than five seconds)

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Place your oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flours, ground flax seed, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Whisk till combined.  Set aside.

In the second mixing bowl, add the olive oil, maple syrup and ginger.  Whisk till combined.  Add the carrots and dried cherries.  Because it’s easier at this point to use a spatula, use a spatula and stir till combined (I hate it when things like pieces of carrots get stuck in the whisk).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in increments.  I added the first half, folded everything together with a spatula till combined, then added the second half of the dry ingredients and folded till combined.

Let the mix stand for about 5 minutes (I got distracted and let it stand 10) before putting it onto the cookie sheets.

In the meantime, line your cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

Check Facebook because someone posted on your wall.  Pet your cat.  Check your Amazon order status.  Ask Roo about plans for next weekend.  Wash your hands because you realized you pet the cat and you’re about to handle food….

And by now it’s probably been 5 – 10 minutes.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out the cookie batter and place onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  The cookies don’t really spread out in the oven, but it’s still good to not have them touching.  I separated the cookies by one cookie’s width.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.  I like these cookies to come out of the oven a bit underdone.  They won’t be mooshy, but at 10 minutes, it really captures what I wanted in a “cakey” cookie.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them, on the sheet, for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, move the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely.

Lentils with Caramelized Onions

It has been a very eventful day for the kitties.

Both Evil Monkey

and Stinkee

(yes, those are their real names) had their annual appointment.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been in their individual cat carriers since Roo brought them home from the shelter a year ago.  They also haven’t ventured outside our apartment, like our over-stimulating porch, since Monkey threatened to launch herself off the ledge while chasing a house sparrow.

Roo was left alone to get them into their carriers and bring them to the vet, as I had to work.  And according to Roo, it was a bit of production.  The short of it being that they wanted nothing to do with leaving the apartment.  And there were escapes.  And tantrums.  And mewing.  Lots of mewing.

Luckily that morning was not an indicator of how the actual appointment was, as the kitties were very well behaved.  They sat still for their physical exams and shots, only to mew the whole way there, and the whole way back.  Roo felt quite bad for them, especially when the vet suggested that if it was for only once a year, the cats would be fine in their individual carriers, but more than that, then perhaps they would be happier in something more spacious.  Irish Catholic Guilt is the only level of remorse I can describe for how Roo felt.

Now, don’t feel too bad for them, as the kitties have slept it off and are up to their usual shenanigans of finding new places to explore,

finding new places to call a bed,

no no, this bed is much better,

and claiming things that don’t belong to them.

Needless to say with that last photo, I think they’ve forgiven Roo.

As for me I came home pretty uninspired as to what to cook for dinner.  After asking on Facebook what I should make, my friend JS suggested mujadara.  Mujadara, is a wonderfully creamy dish featuring lentils, rice and spices that I love such as cinnamon and cumin.  Unfortunately mujadara seemed a little heavy for me, but I couldn’t get the idea of lentils out of my head.  I love how a tiny legume has such a complex flavor profile.  They’re peppery, soft and creamy, all in one bite.  And, they’re filling, healthy and cheap!  What girl doesn’t love affordable ingredients?

In the end I decided to do an take on Mujadara, with my three favorite components of the dish: lentils, caramelized onions, and cumin.  It’s still peppery from the lentils, creamy, and a bit sweet from the caramelized onion, and has a lovely, earthy heat from the cumin.  I am seriously addicted to cumin.  And red pepper flake.  I think I need spice rehab.

Now I’m going to warn you.  Unlike the pictures of the kitties, this dish is not cute.  In fact, I’d say it’s uglier than “ugly salsa.”  It may be the ugliest dish I’ve ever made.  But try to remember back when your (insert parent) read to you at bedtime and it ended with the important moral of the story.  No, I’m not talking about don’t talk to strangers.  How else are you going to get free candy?

Lentils with Caramelized Onions

Serves Four As a Side

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Ingredients

One cup of lentils

Three to four large onions, thinly sliced (this may seem like a lot of onion, but it’ll cook down, and it’s so so good)

One teaspoon of cumin (if it’s your first time using cumin, start with half)

Three to Four tablespoons of olive oil (at least enough to coat the pan for the onions)

Salt to taste

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Equipment

A large saute pan

A pot (can hold about four cups of water) with a lid (or something that you can partially cover it with)

A fine colander

A sharp knife

A spatula

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In a small pot (this just prevents you from using another dish), rinse the lentils with cold water, picking out any debris (I’ve found discolored lentils and once, a pebble).  You can rinse the lentils with cold water, then dump them into a fine colander to drain out the dirty water and pick out the debris.  When you’re done rinsing, put them back in the small pot, and fill with water, about two to three inches above the lentils.    Place the pot over a burner, on medium high heat.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so that your water is at a simmer.  Partially cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until your lentils are soft to taste.  If your water evaporates to expose the lentils to the air (mine usually does), just pour more water into the pot, covering the lentils again, about two to three inches.  As for the end point of your lentils, you want them to be soft, but not be mushy.  Once they’re soft, remove them from the heat (you don’t want them to overcook and lose their shape).  Immediately drain the water from pot, or just dump the lentils back in the fine colander again, and then put the now drained lentils back into the dry pot.

While the lentils are cooking, add the olive oil to the saute pan and place over medium low heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the cumin.  Cook until fragrant, about thirty seconds.  Add the onions.  Add a good pinch of salt.  Cook until caramelized.  You want them to be soft, sweet, golden brown and practically melting in your mouth.  This should take between ten and twenty minutes, depending on how crowded your pan is with the onions, and how strong your burner is.  Keep an eye on it, stirring it occasionally with a spatula.

When the onions are caramelized, remove from heat.  They can totally hang out on a cool burner until the lentils are ready.

When the lentils are ready, add the lentils to the pan.  With a spatula, fold the ingredients over one another till combined.  Add salt to taste.  Eat immediately.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I don’t think I’ve made cinnamon rolls since I’ve had my coworkers over for a dinner party.  And by dinner party, I mean my serving them random things, like cinnamon rolls at 10 o’clock at night.

I haven’t had them over in a couple months; since February perhaps.  How the months have slipped away since then completely amazes me.

It turns out my mother was right (yes yes they’re always right). When you’re a kid, you can’t wait to “grow up,” and it feels like an eternity to get there.  I thought I was never going to turn 21; I was one of the last of my friends in college to do so.  But now, as I can say I’m in my thirties…ok, that was too painful, now that I’m thirty, time really feels like it’s moving too fast.  The only positive I can see for the days going by quickly is that when I buy things online, they seem to arrive at our doorstep instantly!

This past week I purchased the latest cookbook craze, Peas and Thank You.  It’s a cookbook filled with meatless meals, and with my recent dabbling in vegetarian cooking, I purchased it from Amazon when I read how other food bloggers stated they hated vegetables, but loved this cookbook.  Despite Roo’s horror after he read the subtitle of the book, “Simple meatless meals the whole family will love,”, I was looking forward to finding some inspiration.

Yes, there are pages filled with recipes in which the base proteins are seitan, tofu and tempeh, but there is also a great sweets section, new smoothie recipes I haven’t thought of, and an interesting take on what to do for the first meal of the day.

There was a lot to choose from, but I didn’t want to fall into the stigma that Roo was terrified of, by starting with, for example, a tofu frittata.  I wasn’t in the mood for french toast (because I still believe it’s blasphemous to stray from this recipe), and a smoothie wasn’t going to cut it.  What did catch my eye were blackberry cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t have blackberries, applesauce, or almond milk on hand, which were essential for the dish.

But, always one for improvising, and despite what my father has always said (“baking is chemistry, don’t mess with the recipe or you’ll be sorry,”) I decided this morning I’d try with what I had my pantry.

Long story short, it worked out wonderfully.  The pumpkin puree was quite a delicate flavor in the roll, so I may increase the amount used for next time.  Or maybe even throw in some pumpkin butter.  The roll itself was not very flaky, as it lacks butter, but it’s more of a soft bread, sweetened by the flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.  The homemade brown sugar I made was amazing, and spread evenly throughout the dough when it baked in the oven.  It was worried when I scattered the filling on the dough (looking sparse), and wondered if we’d have pockets of just plain roll amongst the layers, but it settled itself out.

I’m also glad that I reduced the sugar in half for the icing, but I may add lemon zest to it next time.  Although I love icing on cinnamon rolls, I feel I may be over the whole sweet on sweet theme that you normally have on these pastries.  If you do so before me, let me know how it works out!

Adapted from Peas and Thank You Cookbook, and the original recipe can be found here

Makes 12 Small Rolls

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Ingredients

For the dough

1 cup 1% milk, warmed (about 100F or to feel comfortably warm to touch)

Two and one quarter teaspoons of yeast (or one yeast packet)

Quarter cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)

1 cup whole wheat flour

One and a half cup of all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

One tablespoon (I know, it seems like a lot) baking powder

Quarter cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon nutmeg

One eighth teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt from Diamond)

For the filling

2 tablespoons buter, softened

Half cup brown sugar (I made my own and it was awesome: half cup sugar and three quarters of a tablespoon of unsulfured molasses, pulsed in food processor until it looks like “brown sugar”)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the icing

Half cup powdered sugar

Quarter cup reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

the tiniest pinch of salt

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Equipment

Three to four large mixing bowls (four if you don’t want to clean one of the bowls to reuse)

A spatula

A whisk

A rolling pin (although people have been known to use wine bottles when caught in a pinch)

A 9 inch cake pan

Parchment paper

Cooking spray (I use Pam)

A damp towel (or paper towel)

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Pour the warmed milk into a large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast.  Whisk so that the yeast is evenly distributed in the milk. Set aside.

In the second mixing bowl, add the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk till combined.

In the third mixing bowl, add the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix with spatula until combined.

Hopefully by now it’s been about five minutes since you’ve added the yeast to the warmed milk.  Add the pumpkin puree to this bowl.  Stir till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a spatula until combined (ie a dough forms up).

Either clean your dry ingredients bowl, so that you can use it again, or throw it in the sink for someone else to clean (ha ha), and have you fourth mixing bowl on stand by.

Dump the dough onto a floured flat surface (like your kitchen table).  Knead the dough, adding flour to avoid the dough from sticking to your hands or flat surface.  Knead for about five minutes, or until the dough is no longer sticky.  *I’m probably a horrible “kneader” as it took me this long.  In the book, it recommends you knead for the duration of a minute, or about twenty times, but no, not enough for me.*

Add more flour to your flat surface, and roll the dough out into a large rectangle (I rolled mine out to eighteen inches long and a foot wide, but I like thin layers and small cinnamon rolls).

Scatter the filling over the dough.  Don’t be afraid if it won’t schmear across your dough like a pesto with a spatula.  I just scattered it about, like dotting a pizza with fresh whole mozzarella.  It’ll work out!

Roll up the dough, tightly.  Slice the dough up into similar sized, little rolls.  It worked out for the size that I rolled out, rolled up, and then cut, to 12 cinnamon rolls.  You may like them bigger.  This is your breakfast, be brave and cut how you like!

Line your cake pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray so that it’s lightly coated.  Put in your rolls, so that they have some space in between (ie not touching).  Cover with a damp towel.  Place somewhere warm and let rise for forty five minutes.

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  When the rolls and oven are ready, bake for fifteen minutes to twenty minutes (maybe even twenty five if your rolls are huge), depending on how large your rolls are.  Mine were on the small size and only took fifteen minutes to take.

While the rolls are baking, add the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt to either your cleaned mixing bowl (where you mixed your dry ingredients), or your fourth.  Mix till smooth, with a spatula.  You do not want to see giant lumps in this icing, so keep mixing until smooth.  Hopefully with the room temperature cream cheese this won’t be very difficult.

When the rolls have finished baking (firm to the touch, cake tester comes out clean), remove from the oven and schmear the tops with the icing.  Let the rolls cool for about five minutes, but I urge you to eat them while warm.  Icing may get all over your face, and fingers, but seriously, it’s more delicious this way.

You’re welcome.

The Best Veggie Burger Roo Ever Had

I hate veggie burgers.

Roo hates veggie burgers.

I think this is why we get along so well.  Well that and our love of cookie dough.

But lately I’ve been curious about making a meatless burger.

For me to even admit that, to the one reader I have (Hello, self!) is a bit of a feat.  Yes, I’m probably exaggerating, but I love the dramz*. And by dramz, I don’t mean “the situation.” Which, by the way, I 1. hate myself for knowing that catch phrase/title (that sound hear right now is my soul crying), 2. did Abercrombie really pay him to not wear his clothing?  Can I also be labeled “bad for the brand,” and be paid?, and 3. Yes, I like CBS news (although I don’t know what this “Celebrity Circuit” crap is). It’s right before Matlock.  Or Columbo.  Or…

Ramblings aside, it’s taken a lot for me to think about beans.  In a burger.  And it tasting delicious.

Having been scarred by all the commercial ones that tasted akin to a cardboard box that previously housed ten cats, I knew I didn’t want it to have ingredients similar to this.  And if you happen to love those, well, just you wait, I have found you something better.

Thankfully a lot of the….vegan world, has been all about making a homemade meatless burger.  So there were many, many recipes to look at, judge, make snarky comments about, to my only audience at the time, the cat that loves paper bags more than me,

laugh shrilly, because I was still in disbelief that my life of loving thinly sliced, right on the diagonal, grilled flank steak, appears to be coming to an end (not really), and then picked one.  Sometimes a girl is manic about choosing the right meatless burger.  Most often times not.

*One of the words I’m obnoxiously trying to get going again.  But not fetch.  Never fetch.

Recipe Adapted, a little, from Oh She Glows

Makes Six Large Burgers

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Ingredients

1 onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

Olive Oil (about a tablespoon) for sauteing the onion and garlic

2 large egg whites

1 cup oats, processed into flour (I used old fashioned oats)

One and a half cups bread crumbs (I pulsed two end pieces of whole wheat Pepperidge Farm bread in a food processor)

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup cooked black beans, mashed up (I pulsed them in the food processor)

Half cup of slivered almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon Olive Oil (for the burgers themselves)

1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari (you can use reduced sodium soy sauce)

One and a half teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt to taste (I used half teaspoon coarse sea salt, and I use Diamond)

Another couple tablespoons of olive oil for pan frying your burgers

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Equipment

A large saute pan

A food processor (optional)

A large mixing bowl

A small mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula/tongs

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Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the large saute pan and place over medium heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and cook until lightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds to one minute).  Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes.

Add all other ingredients (egg whites to tamari) except spices and salt to a large mixing bowl.  Scrape the onions and garlic with a spatula, into the large mixing bowl.  Wipe the large saute pan clean with a paper towel (or if you must, clean it) for use later.  Mix the ingredients in the large bowl until combined.  Add spices and salt to the ingredients in the large bowl.  Mix until combined.

Start making the patties.  Grab a handful of batter and flatten with palms of your hand.  Don’t be afraid to pat them tightly so they hold together.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil (or basically enough to coat the pan) to the saute pan that you used for sauteing the onions and garlic with.  Place on a burner over medium heat.  Pan fry the burgers until they’re browned, about five to seven minutes on each side.

Serve on my favorite, brioche buns, with sliced tomato.  It’s kind of epic.

Cookie Dough Balls

I’ve been holding out on you.

I’ve been hoarding this recipe all to myself because it’s just too good.

Every Friday for a couple weeks now, it’s been a bit of a ritual.  I click on the Pandora app on my iPod (lately it’s been the City and Color playlist), and just start throwing ingredients into the food processor.  Coupled with banana soft serve (no really, it’s fantastic), it’s truly a great way to start the weekend.

I love that I can eat it without the worry of possible salmonella contamination, without the guilt of it being full of processed sugar, and that it actually tastes wholesome.  Yes, a cookie dough ball can taste wholesome.

How is this possible?

They’re…vegan.

Yes, I probably felt the same thing you are right now when I learned that they were vegan.  But you know what?  They’re good.  They’re really good.  And dare I quote Roo saying, “If these are vegan, I’ll gladly eat more vegan things.”

Really.

And they’re super easy to make!  It’s a one dish recipe, and you can make your own soft serve in the same food processor after.

A hint of salt, a creamy texture from the cashews, and plenty of dark chocolate, these cookie dough balls make me eager for Friday.  Or now.  I think I might dig into the back of my freezer and have them now.

Recipe adapted from, just a little bit, Oh She Glows

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Ingredients

Half a cup of unsalted cashews (I’ve used both raw and roasted seeing no difference)

Quarter cup of old fashioned oats

Quarter cup of whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of sea salt (I use Diamond)

1 tablespoon of cane sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Three squares of good dark chocolate broken up with your fingers (or a quarter cup of chips)

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Equipment

A food processor

A spatula

Something to store the cookie dough balls in like a piece of aluminum foil, or a ziploc bag

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Add the cashews and oats to the food process and pulse until it forms almost a crumbly consistency (almost flour like).  Then add the salt, sugar and flour.  Pulse a few times until combined.  Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup and pulse until combined.  The “dough” is going to be very sticky, but this is completely normal.

Add the chocolate.

Pulse until they break up a bit and combine into the rest of the “dough.”

Remove the “dough” from the food processor with a spatula, and roll into balls.

Store them in the freezer until it’s time to eat with your soft serve.  Or, eat one, then store one, as I do.

One Ingredient Ice Cream (Banana Soft Serve)

I didn’t believe it when I read it, but it’s true.  You can make ice cream with just one ingredient, and without an ice cream maker.  All you need is an open mind, a food processor and bananas.

When I come home from work, right before I start cooking dinner, I like to take a few minutes to check up on any of my favorite cooking websites, and The Kitchn is one that I check daily.  A few months ago I read that you can make ice cream from just frozen bananas.  I immediately got up from the couch, cut up some ripe bananas we had on the kitchen table that I was saving for banana bread, and threw them in the freezer.  A little grumpy that I had to wait a day to use them, I went on my usual routine of cooking dinner (I may or may not have overcooked the chicken), but basically forgot about them until a week later.

I am so thankful I remembered.

What came out after a few rounds in the food processor was a smooth and creamy, practically guilt free, lovely banana soft serve.  I say practically because Roo and I ooo-ed and aaah-ed as I topped it with cookie dough balls.

No one said we were perfect.

Recipe from The Kitchn

Serves Two People

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Ingredients

Two bananas

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Equipment

Food processor

A spatula

A ziploc bag or a plate, or whatever you can store the bananas on in the freezer

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Peel the bananas and then cut them into small pieces.  Throw them into a ziploc bag and into the freezer until frozen.  Our freezer is the saddest piece of electric equipment known to man.  I leave them in overnight just to make sure they truly freeze all the way through.

When the bananas are frozen, throw them into a food processor.

Pulse, stopping periodically to scrape down the sides if chunks stick.

When they just smooth out, stop, and serve.

Blueberry Cake with Oat and Almond Streusel

There have been blueberries from our CSA sitting in our fridge for over a week now.

There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

I’m obsessed with blueberries, a blue-mouthed (and handed) theme that goes all the way back to childhood.  One significant memory I have was when my family went blueberry picking one July in western Mass.  It was an incredibly hot day, with the sun beating down on our backs as we walked around the blueberry bushes; coffee cans hanging off our necks from long, shredding twine.  An hour later my mother found me underneath one of the bushes, coffee can in between my legs, grabbing berries by the fistful; some for me, some for the can.

The following weeks my mom would go through her rotation of blueberry recipes.  Pancakes, cobbler, and then there was coffee cake with streusel.  The streusel was my favorite part.  Buttery, crunchy, a bit of spice from cinnamon, piled on top of a blueberry coffee cake that wasn’t too sweet and had a bit of tang from the sour cream she would swear was “the secret.”

When I rediscovered our blueberry stash at the back of our fridge today, I knew what I had to make.  Unfortunately, a cake that normally is made with a stick of butter, was out of the question.

I’m always weary of substituting butter for olive oil, but lately I’ve been lucky.  I also lucked out in that my substitution for my mother’s “secret” sour cream addition, of greek yogurt, also worked.  I should just go to Mohegan and spin their roulette wheel, betting it all on 00.  No, maybe not.

I couldn’t take all the butter out of this recipe (the streusel needs it, there was no way around it), but I still got what I wanted: lots of crunch from the toasted, gooey pockets of cake from the batter being nestled up against the blueberries, and a lovely not too sweet taste, with tang from the yogurt I added.  It almost made me want it to be a rainy day; curled up on my kitchen chair with a cup of tea in hand and the cake cooling on the table by an open window.  Almost.

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

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Ingredients

For the streusel

Half cup oats (I used old fashioned)

Quarter cup brown sugar, packed

Half cup slivered almonds, toasted

Quarter cup all purpose flour

Half teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cake

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Half teaspoon baking soda

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

Three quarters of a cup of sugar

2 egg whites

2 cups yogurt (I used 2% Chobani)

Quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 cups fresh blueberries

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Equipment

Two medium mixing bowls

One large mixing bowl

A spatula

A whisk

A 9 inch cake pan

Parchment paper or butter and flour to grease down the pan

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Place the oven rack to the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Place all streusel ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir well to combine.  Make sure that the melted butter has covered all the ingredients.  Set aside.

In the larger mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, yogurt, olive oil, and sugar.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl (and underneath the ingredients) to ensure that all ingredients have been well combined.

In the second medium mixing bowl, add the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together until combined.

Line the cake pan with parchment paper (or butter and flour it).  Pour half of the cake batter into the pan.  Smooth it out so that it’s evenly distributed in the pan.  Spread out half a cup of blueberries on this cake batter layer.  Pour in the second half of the cake batter into the pan, and smooth it over the blueberry layer so that it’s evenly distributed.  Cover this top layer with the rest of the blueberries, and then the streusel.

Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for one hour.

Roo’s Chocolate Cake

It’s been for while now that Roo has been asking for a chocolate cake.  It’s his favorite, but I’ve been procrastinating on how I was going to make something that revolved around butter, sugar, all purpose flour and of course, chocolate!

Now, I love butter, sugar and all purpose flour (and never question me on my love for chocolate), but I never felt good after eating such a rich dessert.  All I want is a pair of sweatpants and a pillow to spoon afterwards.  It’s not something I want to feel very often.

But Roo has always been a good sport; putting up with so many experimental dishes.  As of late it’s been a lot of what he’s never eaten before – a plethora of lentils, chickpea based salads, and god forbid, a homemade veggie burger.  Sometimes I think he’s going to go all Ron Swanson on my ass, but practically after every meal he’s told me that it was delicious, and when it’s not, has given suggestions on what he would have liked, if I were to try it again.

Our friend M, would retort, that any meal, experimental or not, is a privilege, and she never lets Roo forget, telling him every time she’s over for dinner that he “better worship the ground she walks on.”

I love her.

This cake is great because the squash keeps it very moist, and the large dose of cocoa powder gives you that velvety chocolatey taste you’d expect from any chocolate dessert.  I love that it’s chock full of good-for-you things that, and if I didn’t tell you how whole-grainy it was, you probably wouldn’t know.

If you’re on the fence as to whether or not you’d like a cake made without butter , I think this is a good one to start with.  It’s still delicate, not “wheaty” in taste, and if you’re lucky, has a couple chocolatey, gooey pockets (which Roo loves), that makes it an absolute must with your afternoon coffee break.

Adapted from Zucchini Cake with Dried Cranberries and Dark Chocolate

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Ingredients

3 egg whites (you can also use 3 large eggs)

One and three quarter cups of sugar

1 cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Four cups of grated/shredded in the food processor summer squash (two large summer squash)

Two and a half cups whole wheat flour flour (I really push as to how much whole wheat flour I can get away with)

Half cup all purpose flour (if you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can use 3 cups all purpose for the total flour used)

Half cup dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder

1 rounded teaspoon baking soda

Half rounded teaspoon baking powder

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt

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Equipment

9″ cake pan

Food processor or hand grater

Two large bowls

Spatula

Whisk

Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your cake pan

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Place the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the cake pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the cake pan.  I highly recommend the parchment paper as it’s easy clean up.  I have not made this recipe using butter and flour, so I can’t say whether or not the cake will get stuck in the pan.  With parchment, it’s lifts right out.

With a food processor (“shred” disk side up) or a hand grater, grate the zucchini until you have four and a half cups worth.  Set aside.

Mix the egg whites and sugar.  Add the oil and then the vanilla extract.  It will look like an oily mess at first, but keep going, it’ll eventually come together.  Take your spatula and be sure the scrape the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt with a whisk.  Set aside.

Add the summer squash to the wet ingredients.  If it freaks you out to not squeeze out the excess liquid from the squash, then by all means, squeeze away.  If there’s anything to be learned from me, is that I’m lazy.  And thankfully lucky because the cake always turns out great without doing anything to the squash after grating.  In fact, Roo loves the occasional gooey “chocolate pockets,” that he sometimes finds in the cake.  Stir the squash in to combine.  Take your spatula and scrape the bowl.

In increments, add the dry ingredients to the wet.  I usually add the dry to the wet in two parts, but go with what you’re comfortable with.  I add the dry ingredients, then stir until they’re just combined, and then add the second half, and stir till combined again.  Again, take your spatula and scrape the bowl to ensure that all ingredients (ie there isn’t a wet pool underneath everything else at the bottom of your bowl) are combined.

Fill the cake pan with the batter.  Place into the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes.  For me, the cake is fully baked at the 50 minute marker.  But our oven is a bit small and runs rather hot.  Around 45 minutes, check with a chopstick, toothpick, or even a knife, to see if the cake is done.  There should be a little bit of crumb hanging on, but not actual wet batter when you remove it from the cake.  Check every three – five minutes until the cake is done as you do not want to over bake this cake.

This cake freezes wonderfully.  Because I have no self control around any chocolate product, I slice up the entire cake after it’s cooled and wrap the pieces in aluminum foil, and throw them into a ziploc bag, before stashing them away in the freezer like a half-crazed squirrel.  It doesn’t take long to thaw out, so I try to throw a slice on the table for Roo before I leave for work so he can have it with his coffee.