Sweet and Spicy, Orange Pan Glazed Tofu

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I’m convinced I’m going to be found in our apartment trapped under three years of Rachael Ray magazines. They’re stacked high on top of our bookcase, next to the back issues of Martha Stewart Living, unread.

I can’t bring myself to throw them away. Who tosses out the secrets to an amazing souffle or how to make a ribbon wreath just in time for the holidays? I’m obviously assuming what’s in those magazines as I have yet to open a single issue.

I blame Costco. They’re the gateway to buying things you don’t really need. Where else would I gain the mindset that I need to buy three years of Rachael Ray Magazine?

There are, of course, worse things you could buy in bulk. Like three hundred rolls of toilet paper. Who needs three hundred rolls of toilet paper? Or rather, where would you store them without it becoming a hazard in your home? Being found under a year supply of toilet paper is far worse than a bunch of magazines. It leads to questions like, “Why did you need all of this?  Are you feeling alright?” as the person eyes your bathroom.

It was at Costco where I stumbled upon a case of tofu.  Ok, stumbled is a stretch. I practically ran into the place, glass eyed and salivating. With my mother’s club card in hand, I was ready to spend some money. I mean, save money. That’s the purpose of a wholesale club, right?

An hour later I came home with a full trunk and a receipt that took about a minute to print out at the register.  (And maybe a “possible fraudulent alert” sent to my Gmail from my credit card company.)

“No one needs a case of tofu,” Roo said, as he helped me lift the bags out of the trunk.

“I’m half Asian. Of course I need a case of tofu.”

No one needs a case of tofu.

A pan fried tofu recipe with a spicy and sweet sauce however, is something of a necessity. Just don’t buy a case worth of ingredients, ok?

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Baked Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Donuts

I am not the best when it comes to “just buying the essentials.”

When I’m let loose in a store, I end up trying to rationalize purchases “we absolutely do not need.”  Well, according to Roo.

Last weekend I convinced myself that I needed five pairs of knee high socks.

“Why is there a plethora of socks at the bottom of this Target bag?”

“Oh. I need them.  You know, to keep warm.  Boston’s cold in the winter.”

“Spring is almost a week away.”

“I’m cold!”

Roo picks up one of the pairs, “This doesn’t have to do with the fact that they all have Hello Kitty on them?”

Damn.

What’s ironic is that this behavior gets quite bad when I’m trying to save money.  After a few weeks of setting a little aside from each paycheck, I feel the need to reward myself.  And if that treat comes to me via “free super saver shipping” from Amazon, then so be it.

Today, it was a donut pan.

But I’ll be ready when Roo comes home from his mother’s.

Yes, this pan is something we absolutely do need.

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Chewy Granola Cookies

I am not the easiest person to live with.

For one, I’m becoming my mother at the wee age of 30.  I realized this when I started to wash out the kitchen trash can last weekend.  Really, who does that?  My mom.  Oh, and me.

Also like my mother, I ask, without fail, the second after Roo takes a bite of food how it is.  (FYI “it’s good,” is not a proper response.)

Second, there were a few times where it was pointed out that I have a hard time throwing things away.

“Babe, we have so many empty glass jars.  I feel like we’re one away from being cast on Hoarders.”

“What are you talking about?  I use them, like all the time.”

“For what?  Besides leaving them in a paper bag on the floor.”

“That’s where they live!  I don’t have any cupboard space.”

“Because there’s no room in the cupboard from all your glass jars.”

Lastly, I may or may not have had two meltdowns so far this week.  But in my defense, the first was from burning my hand….by grabbing a pan that had been in the oven.  The second was after realizing there was shattered glass in every single cup we owned….because I dropped a bowl on top of those cups and it um, shattered.

So when Roo asks if there’s a way he can have cookies at ‘snack,’ (which to me is essentially second breakfast), I try to make it happen.  After all, I need to keep someone around to identify my body when it’s found underneath a mountain of fallen glass jars.

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Double Coconut and Banana Loaf

This afternoon I was interrupted Facebook stalking doing my research for my next lab meeting by a phone call from Roo.  He occasionally calls when he’s stuck in traffic.

“Babe, sometimes I think I’m psychic.”

“Mmm hmm….Wait, what?”

“Are you doing something right now?”

I click my browser window closed, “Uh no, I was just petting Monkey.  What’s up?”

“As I was walking up the stairs at school today, I thought, you know what would be funny? If I missed a step.

“Uh huh, so you missed a step. Ok, well…”

“No, that’s not the whole story.”

“You missed a step and the children saw you?  Did you fall in front of a parent?  Oh no…did you take down a parent?”

“What? No. No, what happened was, I was carrying my cup of tea as I was walking up the stairs, and it spilled. Up into my face.”

“Are you serious?”

“And when I went back into the classroom, the kids were wrapped up in a conversation about what ‘their problem was.’  To which I said, ‘You know what my problem is?'”

“Oh no, please don’t tell me you did a two-face reveal of your horribly burned face,” I said, picturing him asking the class with his ‘good side.’

“Oh yes.  And when they asked, I replied, ‘I just boiledmyface.'”

“You did the dramatic point and reveal, didn’t you.”

“I boiled my face.  Of course it was dramatic.  But that’s not why I’m calling.”

“Are you ok?”

“It feels like burning.”

“Seriously, are you on your way to the hospital?  Do you need burn cream?”

“No, it’ll be fine.  But…do we have any of that cake left?”

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Pumpkin, Molasses, Cranberry and Golden Raisin No Knead Toasting Bread

“I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter.”

“Sometimes I think you try to find things I say offensive, just so you can find an excuse to eat peanut butter.”

“……I can’t believe you said that! Now I’m going to have to eat my feelings in peanut butter!”

“Like I said.”

Roo may have a point, but I’ll never admit it.

Would you?

…Don’t answer that.

One of my favorite ways of eating peanut butter is standing by the kitchen cupboard and eating it out of the jar with a spoon.  I swear it tastes 10 times better this way.

I also love it on classics like toast.  Practically burnt toast with a dollop of peanut butter has been my breakfast for the majority of these bitterly cold mornings  (it’s 24F as I type).  This sticky, crunchy, lip smacking treat makes waking before sunrise almost bearable when paired with a hot cup of tea.

I said almost.

This past weekend I made a couple loaves of a recent favorite: pumpkin and molasses with dried cranberries and golden raisins.  It’s a great toasting bread, where the natural sugars from the pumpkin and molasses have this wonderful crunch; almost caramelized with an ever so slight, sticky chew.  It’s chock full of raisins and cranberries, but I love that the pumpkin still shines through.  Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger enhance the pumpkin’s warmth, but notes of caramel that can be tasted in the squash naturally make it a perfect partner to deep, lush molasses.

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Marbled Banana Bread

10 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Boyfriend Marbled Banana Bread

1. The trash is always taken out

2. Even though your apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher it doesn’t matter because they miraculously get done every night

3. Feet are never left alone in a cold corner under the duvet as they are always sought out to be intertwined

4. Cold hands always have a home in another’s warm ones without complaint (except that one time when you placed your ice cold hands on his bare rib cage and he screamed like you were skinning him alive…note to self, laughing so hard that you can’t breathe wasn’t the best response)

5. Heavy grocery items are whisked away from your overburdened shoulders with ease

6. No matter what kind of <insert hysterical moment of bad body image> day you’re having, you’re always looked at like you’re the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen when you’re getting dressed

7. He always moves to stand over the bathtub and gives you the sink, even though he started brushing his teeth way before you walked by and decided it was a good idea too

8. He ignores your obvious cookbook buying/Amazon addiction

9. He said he hated brussels sprouts and tofu but now serves himself seconds

10. He will often visit you in the kitchen as you make dinner to say it “smells really good,” pop a few items into his mouth, thinking you won’t see it but you always do

(This list of course will be followed by “10 reasons why you should make yourself something great because you live with your boyfriend,” because of course no relationship is perfect.)

Bananas and chocolate!  In a loaf!  Make this for someone you love right now.  Or tonight for yourself.  I won’t tell.

Inspired by Post Punk Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Quarter cup of soy milk (or your preferred non-dairy milk) with a quarter teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, mixed and set aside for about 5 minutes

Three quarters of a cup of sugar (this yields a not too sweet cake, if you’d like a sweet banana bread, go for 1 cup)

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of warm water and set aside for at least 5 minutes)

2 cups of white whole wheat flour (If you would like the crumb that you would normally find in banana bread, all purpose is the way to go; for something a bit more luxurious and velvety, I would suggest using 2 cups of cake flour. I personally love the nutty, heartiness of white whole wheat. It makes me feel like I’m eating something wholesome.)

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Three quarters of a teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt

Quarter cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

3 – 5 tablespoons of boiling water

Quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce

Quarter cup of mild tasting olive oil

Equipment

One large mixing bowl

One medium mixing bowl

One small mixing bowl (to hold the cocoa powder and water in to be mixed)

A whisk

A spatula

A 9″ loaf pan

Parchment paper to line the loaf pan or baking spray/butter and flour the pan

A clean knife (like a dull butter knife)

Place your oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 350F.

If using parchment paper, line the loaf pan, otherwise be sure to use plenty of baking spray/butter and flour the pan.

In a large mixing bowl add the mashed bananas, soy milk with apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, applesauce, olive oil and flax seed egg.  Mix till combined.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Whisk the ingredients together to well combined (making sure there aren’t any lumps) and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl add the cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of boiling water.  Whisk till it becomes a smooth paste.  If it’s still lumpy, add another tablespoon of water.  Keep adding water and mixing until it’s smooth.  Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing till just combined (be sure to scrape with a spatula the sides of the bowl, going down to the bottom and back up to ensure all the ingredients are mixed).

Remove half of the batter and place in your medium mixing bowl (where your dry ingredients used to be).  Add the cocoa paste from the small mixing bowl and mix together till combined.

Start adding your cocoa and plain banana batter to the loaf pan.  I just scooped out some plain and cocoa and threw it into the pan in bit dollops.  If the batter starts to run away from you in the pan (because you greased it) it’s ok! It’s a marbled loaf, the sloppy batters aren’t going to hurt it.

When all of your batter is in the pan, take a clean knife and run it through the batter, making a couple swirling patterns.  There is no “perfect” way to do this.  Just swirl about and it’ll turn out great!  Trust yourself.

Bake the loaf for 60 – 75 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (or with a bit of dry crumb, not wet) when inserted into the center of the loaf/the cake springs back at touch.  Check the cake at the 55 minute marker as all ovens run at different levels of hot.  My normally super hot/I love to dry out cakes asap oven took 70 minutes to fully bake this cake.  Very unusual for my sometimes nemesis, but it was probably just having an off day.

(Practically Unsweetened) Homemade Applesauce

There were some reasons why I didn’t want to write about my making applesauce.

One, I’m absolutely addicted to homemade applesauce.  I love it.

Which results in two, when it’s done and I need to remove ingredients like lemon peel and cinnamon stick, they find themselves in my mouth, sucking off what little remnants of sauce are on them.

And three, Roo never knew how much I love applesauce and caught me trying to get said lemon peel off the roof of my mouth and into the garbage.

I’m incredibly attractive.  What a winner.

But, there are a few recipes popping up soon in which apple sauce is an ingredient, so why not use homemade?  It’s tasty (as I’ve already established), easy to make (just toss into a pot and simmer), and makes your apartment smell like love.

Yeah, love smells like apples cooking in cinnamon and lemon.  What, doesn’t your’s?

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients

3 pounds of peeled, cored and quartered apples (I used Macoun because that’s what I blindly grabbed at the market)

3 strips of lemon peel

1 lemon, juiced

1 cinnamon stick

One eighth cup of sugar (it’s two tablespoons, in case you don’t have a wee little one eighth measuring cup)

1 cup of water

One quarter teaspoon of salt

Equipment

A large pot with lid

A sharp knife (and a vegetable peeler if you don’t feel comfortable peeling your apples with your knife)

A spatula

*Maybe a potato masher

Throw all your ingredients into a pot and stir to combine.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat so bring it to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes.

In my case, after some stirring around with a spatula at 20 minutes, the apples really broke down and gave me a mostly smooth sauce.

Remove the applesauce from heat.  Carefully (be sure it’s cooled down a bit), remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the sauce and dispose.  Please refrain from putting them into your mouth as it leads to awkward conversation if you get caught.

Serve warm, or wait till it’s cooled and throw it in tupperware to chill for serving.

This also freezes great, so you can divide it into half cup portions (if you’re into things like list making and planning for things, like crazy me) and throw it in the freezer.

*You could use a potato masher and get all zealous on the stuff and break it down more (if your apples are stubborn and refuse to break apart).

Pumpkin Cranberry “Bites”

Lately I’ve noticed my desire for something sweet after dinner has become worse and worse. Usually, I would eat piece of fruit after.  Somehow it progressed to a piece of dark chocolate, to now cookies or cake.  All of which wouldn’t bother me, except the feeling I get prior to satisfying my growing sweet tooth.

It’s a need.  Like, a feeling of unrest until I get something laden with sugar, kind of need.  I don’t feel this way after breakfast or lunch, so I’m at a loss as to why having something after dinner has become such an issue.  And unfortunately, this nighttime habit of having one cookie usually doesn’t stop at that.  It’s as if once I start feeding my sweet tooth, the bigger and more demanding it becomes.

I’ve also noticed that Roo gets a bit irritated after dinner when he goes rummaging in the kitchen and comes up empty handed.  There has even been a few times when he’s asked if I was planning on making a cake or cookies that evening.  Inquiries like that made me realize we’re probably not doing something right.

In an effort to curb our nightly vice, I poured myself into my one-too-many-cookbooks to find a treat that wouldn’t leave me jittery after, or my sweet tooth demanding more until it made me sick (it happens).  I wanted something light, made with few, but mostly natural sugars, and a hybrid between cookie and cake (because I couldn’t make up my mind about which one I wanted more).

What came about was a pumpkin cranberry “bite.”  It’s a cakey cookie packed with the quintessential flavors of fall, perfect for “eating in the now.”  Pumpkin and cinnamon wrapped around a few cranberries make a lovely after dinner treat, especially with just a dab of peanut butter.  I love making a cup of earl grey with lemon and having one or two of these while Roo and I sit on the couch watching Parks and Rec reruns.  While you don’t need a good cup of tea or Parks and Rec to enjoy these “bites,” if there’s any take-home-message, it would be to try them with just a bit of peanut butter.  Please.

Adapted from Happy Herbivore

Makes about 20 “bites”

Ingredients

Half cup of pumpkin puree

Half of a large super ripe banana (like black), mashed

2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk (I used “original” almond milk)

Half cup of sugar (this yields a not too sweet bite, which is what I was after.)

Half teaspoon of ground cinnamon

One and a half cups of old fashioned oats

Half cup of white whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of baking powder

Quarter teaspoon of baking soda

One eighth teaspoon of fine sea salt

A Quarter to Half cup of dried cranberries (or raisins, whatever your fancy)

Equipment

1 medium sized mixing bowl

1 small sized mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatua

A clean tablespoon

A cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper, optional)

Cooking/Baking spray *this is a must as there is basically no fat in the cookies

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

In a medium mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, mashed banana, non-dairy milk and sugar.  Mix till combined.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the old fashioned oats, white whole wheat flour, ground cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Whisk the ingredients together until well combined and there are no lumps.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Stir together till combined.   (*It may look dry at first, but keep going, it’ll all come together.)  Add the raisins/cranberries if using.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the batter onto a lined or greased cookie sheet.  The bites don’t run together when baking, so they can be put fairly close to one another.

Bake the bites for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are firm and springy.

Allow the bites to cool on the cookie sheet before eating.

*Seriously, try a little dab of peanut butter on these. So yummy!

Pumpkin Bread with Molasses and Ginger

Roo has lived in our apartment for about ten years.  Two years ago, I remember getting buzzed into the building and walking up three flights of winding stairs, before reaching the top floor apartment.  Our date was spent sitting on his bed, as his roommate was in the television room and there was no where else for us to go.  The bed was by three uninsulated windows, and I remember being so cold, as I felt the November chill find its way through the seams.  We talked, sipped whiskey, and listened to a Best of Tom Petty album.  It was pretty great.

The apartment at the time housed bachelors that were there to do three things: eat, sleep and poop (Everyone Poops, I hope you’re now over it).  Cleaning was not on the top of the list, and while I myself admit to being a slob, these boys made me look like a reality star from Obsessed.

When Roo asked me to move in with him last year, there was no denying it, I knew what I was getting into…

The kitchen housed a broken toilet (literally, in the middle of the floor) and five cinderblocks.

There wasn’t a refrigerator.

The bathroom did not have properly functioning toilet.  You had to stick your hand in the cold tank to pull on the chain to make it flush.  I hated this.

Said toilet completely broke before I moved in, and then the kitchen housed two broken toilets.

I once tried to be “helpful” by picking up a large dustball off the floor, but it turned out to be a mouse the cats had killed god-only-knows-when.

There wasn’t hand soap in the entire apartment at the time.  Anywhere.

I ended up cleaning my hands with shampoo, wailing (wailing helps with decontamination) over a sink that is “old fashioned” with separate “hot” and “cold” spouts.  Going from “burn” to “freeze” also helped with decontaminating.  Sure.

Roo was incredibly sweet when he asked me to live with him last July, as he immediately followed his question with, “but I’ll make sure that this place is nice by September.  Everyone’s moved out now so I can make this place so much better.  I promise.”

While there were only two rooms that were barely functional in the house (the kitchen and the bathroom), Roo only had enough money to re-vamp one.  I asked for a working toilet, but as for how the bathroom looked itself, that wasn’t really a deal breaker for me.  What did make me hesitant was the state of the kitchen.  And Roo didn’t let me down.

Roo repainted the walls, bought us a new refrigerator, removed the items that were being stored there (ie two toilets and five cinder blocks), and basically made it beautiful place to make my meals.  He moved an old oak table he had in storage to one side of the kitchen, so we could eat there.  Even the floors were steam-cleaned, and right before I started unpacking my pans, he pulled out some shelving from the guest bedroom to store my cookbooks.

As the anniversary of our first date approaches, I can’t help but think of the first thing I made Roo and brought over to his apartment.  It was towards the end of November, practically right on top of Thanksgiving.  I was in an obsessive phase with pumpkin (but who isn’t this time of year?), so I baked him a loaf of pumpkin bread.

This year, I wanted to make something that brought together the flavors from my favorite family holiday (Thanksgiving) and Roo’s (Christmas), but had no idea how to do it.  When I stumbled upon Elise’s recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread, it was the inspiration I was looking for.  Rich molasses swirled into a smooth pumpkin puree, bold flavors such as ginger and cinnamon shining through, made a cake that I was incredibly eager to share.  I’ve already packed a bunch of slices for my co-workers for when I see them next.

I think Roo will enjoy this for breakfast this week, especially as with time, the flavors truly meld together and make something I’m sure he won’t mind skipping his daily Starbucks $3 holiday loaf for.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes One Loaf (or, if you’d like to reduce the baking time, split the batter into two loaf pans)

Ingredients

One and a half cups of white whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt

One rounded teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoons of ground ginger

One and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg

One and a quarter cups of pumpkin puree

Quarter cup of butter (like Earth Balance), melted

Half cup of turbinado sugar (you can use regular sugar, turbinado was all I had)

Half cup of molasses

1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 6 tablespoons of warm water, combined and set aside for about 5 minutes)

3 tablespoons of water

Half cup of raisins (optional)

Extra turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Equipment

A large mixing bowl

A medium mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A 9×5 loaf pan

Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your pan

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

In a medium mixing bowl add the white whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk the ingredients together until they are well combined and there are no longer any lumps.

In the large mixing bowl add the pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh grated ginger, flax seed eggs and water.  Mix till the ingredients are combined.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments.  Stir the ingredients till combined.  Add the raisins, if using, and stir till combined.  Again, be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.

Scoop out the batter into a prepared loaf pan (either lined with parchment paper, or buttered and floured).  Bake for one hour ten minutes to an hour and a twenty minutes (this cake is filled to the max with pumpkin, so it’s going to take a while to cook through).  At the hour marker, remove the pan and sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on top, if using.  At the hour five marker, remove the pan and check to see if it’s done with a cake tester, like a toothpick.  If it pulls out clean, it’s done.  If not bake for an additional five minutes and keep checking until it’s done.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool (in the pan) for about ten minutes.  Run a knife along the edge of the loaf and remove it from the pan.  Allow it to cool till room temperature before serving.  If you can wait till overnight to eat it, the flavor of the cake will be so much better.  But, we couldn’t, we’re not judging.

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

This, is what our life has come to.

Why yes, it is a roll of toilet paper inside a ziploc bag.

But why is it being stored like this?

Because of this.

Well more because of this,

who’s main goal in life, is to do evil and destruction (see that scowl?  The planning?), hence the name (Evil Monkey).

Monkey, like the rest of the deranged, has an affinity for the most random.

Aluminum foil? Delicious.

Bottle caps? Nom nom nom.

Full bellies?

Ok, the last I do appreciate.

But as of late toilet paper rolls have been her latest fascination/obsession.  And we’ve tried everything to deter it. Hiding it in the back of the bathroom shelving, putting it on the towel rack up high; she conquered them all.

So, the other day when I walked into the bathroom (the bathroom door had been closed, but like a velociraptor, she’s learned how to open doors. PS did that movie scare the crap out of you when you were a kid? Traumatized.) there she was, on the bathroom shelf, batting the toilet paper in between her paws.  She then looked up at me, and whacked it into the open toilet bowl.  Yes, she knocked it into the toilet on purpose.  (Roo just nodded along as I retold the story to him, my voice raising an octave with every sentence.  He almost looked like he was going to pat me on the head.  Almost.)

Needless to say, I lost it. I threatened to make her into a jacket as I grabbed another toilet paper roll out of the closet.  I told her I was going to bring her back to the shelter because she had outlived her cost in toilet paper rolls (who am I?).  But then, I took a deep breath, and came up an (insane) idea.  I put it in a ziploc bag.

While Monkey hasn’t figured out yet how to conquer the ziploc bag, it does make for awkward conversation when we have guests over…

F: Hey, can I use your bathroom?

L: Yeah, um…just one thing.  The toilet paper is in a ziploc bag.

F: Oh, ok?

L: Um, but what I don’t think you get is that it has to go back in the bag when you’re done.  Anditneedstobesealed.

F: (look of questioning our friendship)

Yes, I’ve now become that person.

I’ve been joking with Roo for a while now that we need to get a dog to keep our cats in line.  And with Christmas a month away, I’ve been upping the ante.

L: Hey, you know what would make a really great Christmas gift?  Besides that super awesome printer you bought last year, that didn’t really show up till after New Year’s because you forgot to hit “submit” on Amazon? Yeah, that was great.  But you know what else is great?  A dog.

(Yes, suggestion with double-guilt as the gift was late and it was…a printer.)

L: Wouldn’t it be great for every couple in your family to have a dog?  And then we’d all get together for Christmas, with our dogs, and maybe even take a photo?  Those would be some great memories.

(This was just plain old crazy talk, as I can now only imagine how chaotic the scene would be.  The “other dogs” in the family are: one overweight dachshund – his only flaw, he’s kind of awesome, a great dane that has the mentality of Lennie from Of Mice and Men, and another dachshund, who once peed in the mouth of Roo’s mom when he jumped up to greet her.  True story.)

I realized I had to play dirty.  And by dirty I mean I needed to bake a cake.  Something that tasted like Christmas but not your typical, “hey it’s almost Christmas, let’s get a dog kind of cake.”  Yes, those cakes exist (in my mind…and if you read that in a creepy Faye Dunaway/Joan Crawford’s Mommy Dearest voice, then you are far more awesome than I expected).

Cook This Now turned out to be the answer: Melissa Clark’s new cookbook that instructs the reader in what to make with produce that’s at its peak, in month-to-month chapters.  For November, she had a recipe for sticky cranberry gingerbread, and I knew that was the cake.

What Roo could only describe as “like Christmas punching you in the face,” it was gooey, packed with firey ginger, smooth, rich molasses and sweet and tart cranberries, some folded in whole and the rest made into lovely sauce, swirled into the batter.  It was an “in your face” kind of cake, but the texture was incredibly comforting, as I think rarely anyone would turn down something so sticky and gooey.  It wasn’t like “Oh my god this taffy is preventing me from opening my mouth, gah!!!” kind of sticky, but that “I just sneaked a slice straight out of the oven, and nobody knows” kind of wonderful.  But fully cooled.  And even better the next day.

While Roo didn’t turn to me, absolutely hypnotized, rambling, “Must. Get. Dog,” I can say that the cake may have made him nod his head a little bit more when I again, suggested getting another family member.  I guess we’ll have to see what Christmas brings.

…a dog.

Adapted from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

Makes one 9 inch cake

Ingredients

2 – 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (2 if you want just the cranberry sauce swirled in, 3 if you’d like extra, whole cranberries folded into the batter)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of water

Half cup butter, like Earth Balance (I know it’s a bit of butter, but I significantly reduced the amount of sugar, so yay! Compromise!)

Half cup unsweetened unflavored almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

(an overflowing) Half cup of molasses

(an overflowing) Quarter cup of brown rice syrup (I think I have a poor hand to pour with, because in both cases my liquid syrups flowed over the measuring cups. Whoops.)

One and a half cups of white whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

Half teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half teaspoon of baking powder

Quarter teaspoon of baking soda

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt

Quarter teaspoon of ground pepper

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 6 tablespoons of warm water, mixed and set aside for about ten minutes)

1 tablespoon freshly grated gingerroot (this makes the cake incredibly firey, which we absolutely loved the next day)

2 – 3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar to sprinkle over the top, five minutes prior to taking out of the oven, for a lovely crunch (optional)

Equipment

2 small sauce pans (can hold about 5 cups)

a medium sized mixing bowl

a large sized mixing bowl

a whisk

a spatula

a hand grater (for the freshly grated gingerroot)

a (square) nine inch cake pan (if you don’t have a square one, that’s ok)

a knife

a large spoon

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

Make your flax seed eggs and set aside.

In one of the small sauce pans, add 2 cups of the cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of water.  Place the pan over a burner on medium heat.  Stir the cranberry mixture occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved and a syrupy bubbling sauce forms.  Some of the cranberries will retain their structure, while others will burst and ooze into the sauce (yum).  This will take about ten minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and set aside.

In your second sauce pan, add the butter (like Earth Balance), non-dairy milk, molasses and brown rice syrup.  Place the pan over medium heat and stir occasionally, until the ingredients just start to simmer.  Remove the pan from heat and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the white whole wheat flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.  Whisk the ingredients until they are well combined and there are visually no more lumps.

In a large sized mixing bowl, add the butter and molasses mixture.  Add the dry ingredients to the large sized mixing bowl, stirring the ingredients till combined.  Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as it’s quite a sticky batter.  Add the flax seed eggs, stir till combined.  Add the freshly ground ginger, stir till combined.  Add the 1 extra cup of cranberries (if using), and fold them into the batter.

Scoop out the batter into your cake pan.  With a large spoon, add the cranberry sauce to the top of the batter.  You can just dollop the sauce out on top.  Then, with a knife, swirl through the batter as if you’re making a marbled cake.

Bake the cake for about 45 – 55 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs.  At the 35 minute mark, take the cake out of the oven, and sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar, if using.  At the 40 minute mark, take a cake tester (like a toothpick) and insert it into the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean, then it’s done.  If not, put it back in the oven and keep checking it every five minutes.

When the cake is done, cool till room temperature before serving.

*Roo and I thought that this cake was far far better the next day.  The ginger and cranberries were really able to meld together overnight, and what resulted, can be best described by Roo as, “like Christmas punching you in the face.”  If you can wait overnight to eat this cake, I highly recommend it.  Lastly, it sets up really nicely overnight as well.  When you eat it out of the oven it’s gooey and all, but falls apart a bit.  Next day = so. much. better.