Archive for April, 2009


When I first started this blog, I sang the praisesof Ina Garten’s Double-Chocolate Layer Cake.  It is, indeed, to die for.  My husband declared it his favorite cake, and he requests it for his birthday and Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, it is also chock-full of gluten, so I regretfully retired the recipe when I got serious about my allergy.

Last November, though, because I couldn’t bear to see my dear J go cakeless on my account, I created a gluten-free, slightly healthier version of Ina’s masterpiece.  It was my first effort in converting a regular baked good to gluten-free baked good, and it was a huge success.  No one guessed it was gluten-free.  It was awesome!  In fact, this small triumph boosted my courage enough to attempt that gluten-free carrot cake at high altitude over Christmas (also a total success).

Starting with Ina’s recipe, I substituted Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix (found at Whole Foods, Amazon.com, and health food stores everywhere) for the flour, switched vegetable oil for coconut oil and white sugar for Sucanat, altered the leavening ingredients, and increased the frosting to cake ratio.  For what it’s worth, I also used duck eggs, which are supposed to be superior for baking, and I froze my layers before frosting them. 

I wish the pictures did the cake justice, but I had to take them after dark.  Still, if you want a rich, moist, deeply chocolaty, not-too-sweet cake that you can serve to anyone, regardless of health/allergy needs, you need to try this. 



Decadent Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake

1 3/4 cup Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix
2 cups Sucanat or Rapadura (unrefined sugar, different from turbinado)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I like Real Salt and Celtic Sea Salt)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, heated just until melted
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs with fantastic results; they’re especially good for baking)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

9 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk (actually, I used 1 1/2 yolks, but you could get away with 1)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
4 teaspoons hot water

Preheat oven to 350.  If you’re using high quality nonstick pans, simply butter and “flour” (using Pamela’s or cocoa) two 8-inch round cake pans.  If you have regular pans, butter the pans, line with parchment paper, and butter again.  Then dust them with Pamela’s or cocoa, tapping out the excess.  

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix Pamela’s, Sucanat, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt at low speed.  In medium bowl, whisk buttermilk with melted coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Slowly beat the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient until just incorporated, then slowly beat in hot coffee until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean.  Be careful not to over-bake them or the cakes will be dry.  Cool cake in pans 30 minutes, then invert on rack to cool completely.  Peel off parchment paper, if using.

For best results, individually wrap and freeze the layers for 24 hours, removing shortly before you wish to frost them.  This step isn’t necessary, but it seems to produce a moister final product, and it makes frosting easier (something that can be difficult with gluten-free cakes).

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or over very low heat, stirring, until melted.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  At low speed, slowsly beat in confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. 

In small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in 4 teaspoons of hot water.  Slowly beat coffee into the butter mixture.

Mix the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.

Set a cake layer on a plate with flat side up.  Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top.  Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up.  Finish frosting.


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So, I’ve been busy — busy with the best and worst move of my life. 

On the best side:

I adore our new neighborhood!  We have beautiful tree-lined streets, bookstores, scores of antique shops, a dozen or more restaurants, two grocery stores, and several speciality shops within easy walking distance.   J even picked up our dry cleaning on foot on Friday.  Furthermore, we really are within biking distance of the museums, library, post office, and farmers’ markets.  The people are friendly (how is it possible that people are friendlier in the heart of the city than in the ‘burbs?), and, what’s more, there are people like me living here.  I really hope we can make some friends.

I bought a fabulous vintage Schwinn bicycle, painted red and named “Dorothy” by the man who refurbished her.  She has a bell, a rear-view mirror, and even a basket on front.  I promise to share photos soon.

Now this one’s big.  Hold your breath.  My husband has agreed to go look at a scooter I found on Craigslist.  Shocking, no?  Wait, here’s a photo:

image 1130247168-2

And how about another?

image 1130247168-0

Be still my heart.  She’s a 2007 Stella, already decked out with a front and rear rack and a sissy back (I think that’s what that extra cushion thingy is called). 


More to come…

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My new apartment has a ledge over the kitchen sink that’s simply begging for cheerful houseplants.  Combine that with my desire to keep growing fresh herbs after the move, and you can understand why I was so thrilled that The Kitchn blog pointed me to a fabulous Chow article on growing herbs indoors.  The article explains why peppermint, lemongrass, and chives are easiest, while basil and sage are best avoided by the indoor gardener.  The author also details proper watering and feeding protocol, which, as a total gardening nincompoop, I really appreciate.  If you’ve ever wanted to grow herbs indoors, or — from one brown thumb to another — if you’ve ever killed herbs indoors, you might check it out.

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Even in the midst of moving madness, I couldn’t resist sharing a new creation from my kitchen.  The story goes like this: I ordered two turkey breasts from my natural meat co-op a few months ago, expecting the breasts to be about five pounds each.  When I arrived to pick them up, I discovered that they were over ten pounds each!  Holy cow.  That’s a lot of turkey for two people to put away at once.   I roasted one this weekend and found myself scrambling for creative ways to present the same ol’ turkey night after night.  Some will go into the freezer, of course, but I’m having cooked meat on hand is super helpful at the moment.

Inspiration struck when I attended a friend’s baby shower on Saturday.  (Well, technically speaking, I missed the shower part, because I mis-read the invitation and showed up two hours late!  Fortunately, my friend was forgiving, the guests were friendly, and the hostess still had plenty of yummy food, so I still go to munch and mingle.  Phew!)  Everyone raved about the chicken salad cups, which I couldn’t eat because the salad rested in phyllo (gluten allergy and all that).  But I asked the hostess how she made the salad.  She mentioned chicken, Miracle Whip, celery, honey, cranberries, and pecans.  Hmmm…  I started thinking. 

And the salad below is what I came up with — shredded turkey studded with sweet apple, tart dried cranberries, rich toasted pecans, crunchy celery, and a kiss of nutmeg.  Yum.  The effect is surprisingly fresh and light tasting.  Think of it as a spring-time twist on a holiday classic.  My husband, mom, mother-in-law, and I all loved it.  This one is a definite keeper!  In the future, I may serve it alongside a salad of baby greens and cranberry vinaigrette.  Hello, beautiful.

Recipe notes:

  • I used cameo apples, which are sweet and crisp.  Choose whatever apples you like best, though I would suggest avoiding Granny Smiths for this project.
  • Don’t under-salt this salad if you’re using home-cooked turkey (as opposed to canned turkey).  You really need enough salt to bring out all of the flavors.
  • Do try to make this a day ahead.  This way, the cranberries soften up and swell a bit, and all of the flavors develop and meld together.
  • A nice variation would be to use a good yellow curry powder instead of nutmeg.  I sprinkled a little curry over a spoonful to test it before I added the nutmeg, and it was awesome!  I just found myself in more of a nutmeg mood this week.
  • Although I chose to forgo the added sweetness of honey (and Miracle Whip too, for that matter), I’m sure a little honey would taste fantastic, if that’s your thing. 


Turkey Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, Apples, and Nutmeg

4 cups cooked, shredded turkey (all white meat or a mix of white and dark meat)
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large apple, cored and diced
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
mayonnaise to taste (I used Vegenaise this time, though I hope to use homemade in the future)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve with crackers, on bread as a sandwich, or on a bed of greens.  It’s all good!

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A New Cookbook on Order

Hmmm.  My blogging efforts are becoming ever fewer.  That’s okay.  I do miss it, but my life is quite full at the moment.  I did manage, however, to escape most of my life last week by hightailing it to Oklahoma for some R & R.  It was decadent.  I slept in late, watched great movies (Enchanted April, anyone?), organized decorating articles, ate delightful food, and enjoyed my mother-in-law’s company all weeklong.  Ahhhh.  I left my laptop at home just to make sure I would really take a break.  It worked.  I came home refreshed and inspired, though the drive back nearly killed me.  I spent two whole days recovering.  It stinks to be a wimp.

Providentially, one of my first discoveries upon being laid up in bed after my return was a fabulous-sounding cookbook.  As you know, the duplex we’re moving to in — Heaven help me — less than two weeks (you think I should start packing?) features a tiny kitchen with about 3 feet of usable counter space.  

That does scare me a bit, but I’ve been trying to think about the situation more positively.  What if it’s just the motivation I need to simplify my cooking?  Sure, I’ve really enjoyed preparing elaborate meals in my current kitchen, but I find my focus drifting elsewhere these days.  In past years, I relished spending hours over the stove and grill.  Now, however, I want to free up more time for other pursuits, like art classes, creative writing, and dancing.  So I’ve been plotting.  Instead of meals consisting of meat, a starch for hubby, and three different kinds of vegetables (all prepared separately), I’m thinking meat, a starch for hubby, and a lot of one kind of vegetable.  Seems obvious, right?  As long as I don’t cook the same veggie at every meal, we should do just fine.  I’m also hunting for healthy one-pot meals that need only a salad on the side. 

Enter Glorious One-Pot Meals: A Revolutionary New Quick and Healthy Approach to Dutch Oven Cooking.  This book promises a lot: “crisp vegetables, tender meats, incredible flavor, ONE pot, and ready in less than thirty minutes.”  Could it possibly be true?  The cookbook author, Elizabeth Yarnell, thinks she’s invented a totally new cooking method that involves layering, never mixing, every component of a meal in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven and cooking in in the oven at high heat for 30 to 45 minutes.  She says most meals prep in 20 minutes or less.  And they’re healthy.  Not a “cream of” soup in sight — just whole grains, fresh seasonal veggies, healthy meats and fats, and lots of flavor.  She also claims that you won’t need to offer even a salad on the side because the recipes include enough veggies.  I’m a bit more skeptical of this last claim.  Still, even if I have to make a salad to go with a meal (oh, the horror!), if this technique works, it just might save my life in that small kitchen.  I’ll need to tweak the recipes to incorporate soaking grains and avoid gluten, of course, but I’m pretty psyched to try this method.  I ordered the book from Amazon last night and since I wanted their free shipping, I also nabbed All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking, which came highly recommended from Kimi of The Nourishing Gourmet blog.  (I’ve tried two of the recipes that Kimi has shared from the book.  You can find my review of Braised 7 Hour Leg of Lamb here.)

And now — now I’m going to go pick up some free boxes.  Because I really need to start packing.  Really need to.


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