Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Although I eschewed eating the flesh of land animals for 15 years, I was never, ever vegan (couldn't give up ice cream). Quite by accident, though, I have a recipe for a chocolate cake that I can easily make vegan by using margarine instead of butter. I think I started making this cake the year I moved to NYC, and I didn't have a well-stocked kitchen or proper equipment--it's super easy. Just mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients, and add the wet to the dry.

I'm posting this in honor of Miles H., one of my several vegan friends.


3 C. Flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
6 T. Cocoa
1 C. Sugar

10 T. Margarine, melted
2 tsp. Vinegar
2 C. Warm water

Powdered sugar


Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a different bowl. Add the wet to the dry, stirring until smooth (the vinegar and baking soda are what make this cake cake-like instead of eggs). Pour the batter into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish and bake 30 - 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let it cool, then sprinkle with powered sugar to serve.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Buttermilk Corn Bread

My church serves a dinner for hungry people in our community every Sunday. I am on the team that serves dinner on the second Sunday of every month, and our assigned meal is always chili with corn bread and salad. We have dedicated cooks who make vats of chili every month, and I usually volunteer to bring corn bread. Over the past year I have made a few different recipes, changing this and that and the other thing, and I think I finally found the one I like the best. I like this recipe because it's sweet with a little tang; however, you should be aware that my dinner team captain thinks it's a little too sweet, so it's possible that you will want to reduce the amount of sugar. I make this in a big batch (we feed 60 people), so it's also possible you might want to halve the recipe and use a smaller pan.

1 C. (two sticks) butter
1 1/3 C. sugar
4 eggs
2 C. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 C. corn meal
2C. flour
1 tsp. salt
Butter to grease a 9 x 13" pan

In a small mixing bowl, combine the corn meal, flour and salt, set aside. Put the baking soda in the buttermilk separately, and set that aside for a moment. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then in a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugar until they are thoroughly beaten together. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and keep whisking. Pour in the buttermilk mixture, and whisk thoroughly. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix in the flour and cornmeal mixture until it's all thoroughly wet. Pour into a buttered 9 x 13" baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes before you cut into squares.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This is how to do Mac and Cheese

I once had a very excellent friend whose comfort food was mac 'n' cheese from a box. Not mom's apple pie, or Nana's chicken soup; no--when she felt bad, when things were going wrong, she wanted Kraft. It's a long story abut why that was so, and it's not mine to tell. However, I think that her deriving comfort from the strange collection of powders and coloring that is Kraft mac 'n' cheese is not altogether strange for our generation. Before the all-natural-whole-grain-locally-grown-grass-fed-humanely-raised-more-veggies-than-breads movement--our parents and grandparents were fans of the "easy fast prep" kind of foods. Using canned, boxed, and processed foods as part of recipes was promoted by cook books and newspapers, and I think when our parents and families made these recipes for us it marked my generation's taste buds indelibly with a taste for MSG, corn syrup, and malodextrin.

I think of my friend's passion for mac 'n' cheese every time I make my own favorite and very comforting mac 'n' cheese, largely because one of the ingredients is "processed cheese food product." While I am no Michael Polan, I'm always a little embarrassed to be seen buying a "food product" at Fairway.

1 Pound macaroni elbows
1/2 C (1 Stick) butter
2 C. of shredded cheese--I usually use equal parts sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, and jalapeno jack
8 Ounces processed cheese food product, cubed
3/4 C. cream
3/4 C. milk
2 Eggs, beaten
Pepper to taste

Boil your pasta according to the instructions on the label, then drain and return to the pot. Put the butter in and stir until it's melted. Stir in the shredded cheeses, cheese food product, cream, milk and eggs. Add pepper to taste. (You can add salt, too, but remember you've got cheese product in there, so you might not need so much salt.) Transfer into a 2.5-liter baking casserole, and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Let it rest for about 10 or 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Breakfast Scones

These scones are a staple in our house. We must make them every weekend so that we have portable, delicious breakfasts every day. The original recipe comes, of course, from NPR, but I have made a couple little changes to make this easier for me--for example, I always double the recipe, and I use chocolate instead of cherries. This version reflects those differences:

3 1/2 C. whole-wheat flour
2/3 C. sugar
4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 C. buttermilk plus up to 2 tablespoons, if needed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
14 T. (2 sticks minus 2 T.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 1/2 C, cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)
6 oz. chocolate chips
2/3 C walnut pieces, toasted then chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add the cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and use your hands to work them into the flour, breaking up and flattening some of the chunks as you go, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until you have some shaggy pieces and some small chunks of butter remaining. You will still have plenty of loose flour, not a cohesive dough.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir for a few seconds to barely moisten the flour. Add the oats, chocolate and walnuts, and stir gently just until ingredients are combined. The dough will be thick and will not come together into a ball. If you still have some dry oats or bits of flour at the bottom of the bowl, add up to 2 tablespoons of buttermilk, a few drops at a time, so that all of the ingredients are just moistened. You don't need a wet dough in order to pat it together in the next step.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it together into 2 balls with floured hands, kneading once or twice. Flatten each ball into a thick disk and roll it into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Lightly dust the dough and work surface with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut the each dough disk into 8 wedges with a large, floured knife and transfer the cut scones to the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between the scones.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

We freeze our scones, taking them out one at a time to defrost on the subway ride and munch on them at our desks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cranberried Sweet Potatoes

My mom used to make a casserole she called cranberried sweet potatoes for me that I love, love, loved as a kid. When I was in seventh grade Mr. Hinkle, the technology teacher at Memorial Middle School and also the resident Piney, made us all bring in a dish made with cranberries, and that was dish I chose bring. I've never been able to replicate it, or get the recipe from my mom [update: I now have my mom's recipe!], but the following recipe is one that worked out pretty well for me, and it also contains cranberries and sweet potatoes.

4 Large Sweet Potatoes
6 T. Butter
One bag or about 2 1/2 C. Fresh Cranberries
1/2 C. Orange Juice
4 - 6 T. Sugar

Peel and chop up the sweet potatoes into about 1-inch or so cubes. Boil 30 - 45 minutes until soft. Drain the water off the potatoes, reserving a little--maybe 1/2 a cup or so. While the potatoes are still very hot, throw the butter in and mash it all up with a potato masher. Add a little of the reserved potato water as needed to get a nice consistency. (You can also use milk or orange juice to do this if you like.)

While the potatoes are boiling, heat the orange juice on a sauce pan until it boils and reduces by about half. Mix the reduced orange juice, sugar, and cranberries together in a bowl.

When your potatoes are mashed, spread half of them in a 2-quart casserole dish. Layer on one-half of the cranberries, then the other half of the potatoes, then the rest of the cranberries. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cranberries are hot and bursting.

You can sprinkle some walnuts on top for the last ten minutes of baking, if you like. Serve piping hot.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turkey Burgers

As you well know, dear reader, my household is not vegan, vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free, or lactose intolerant. We do not eschew fish, poultry, pork, or even red meat. And everyone knows that a turkey burger is no substitute for a beef hamburger. But sometimes it's nice to have a turkey burger. This recipe was honed by my girlfriend, and I love when she makes it:

20 ounces Ground Turkey
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Bread Crumbs
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely diced Onions
2 Egg Whites, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chopped Parsley
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch Black Pepper

Mix is all together. A. says it's best to use your hands for the mixing. Then divide this into 4 or 5 patties and grill 'em!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Cheesecake

So, after the 2008 Cheesecake Bake-Off (in which I did not win any awards), I rashly proclaimed I'd never make a cheesecake again--until next year, at least, I said. Well, for two reasons it has become apparent that I need to make the cheesecake ONE MORE TIME. First, I have exactly 200 grams of digestive biscuits in my house, and none of the members of our household is in need of a digestive aid, so far as I know. Second, I want people to taste my cake in an environment that is more suited to its subtlety--the Bake-Off was a little manic. So, I'm going to make the Christmas Cheesecake for Christmas dinner.

I did steal this recipe off the internet, but I had to do so much calculating and experimenting to get the measurements right, that I'm putting it up here as my own. It was from an Australian magazine, and they measure things by weight, not cups or tablespoons; and not just weight, but METRIC weight. Translations were necessary; charts were consulted; substitutions were made. So, if you want a very fine, creamy, custardy cheesecake, do this:

• 200 grams Digestive Biscuits (this is actually pretty OK to measure by grams because if you’re buying a package of digestive biscuits, they’re probably imported from Europe or Asia and sold in packages of 200 or 400 grams anyway)
• ½ C Unsalted Butter, melted
Layer one:
• 16 oz. cream cheese (two regular sized “bricks”)
• ¾ C. Heavy Cream
• 3 Eggs
• ½ C. Powdered Sugar
• 1 tsp. Vanilla
Layer two:
• 1 ½ C. Sour Cream
• ¾ C. Yogurt
• ½ C. Powdered Sugar
• 1 tsp. Vanilla
• 2 C Frozen Cranberries
• 3 T. Port
• 1 ½ tsp. Cornstarch
• 12 small rosemary sprigs dusted with icing sugar, to garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350°C.
2. Process biscuits to fine crumbs in a food processor. Add butter and whiz to combine (we don’t have a food processor, so we mash the biscuits to bits in a ziplocked baggy). Press evenly into the base of a 9-inch springform cake pan and bake for 5 minutes.
3. Place cream cheese, heavy cream, eggs, ½ C sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a mixer, and cream until smooth. Spread filling over biscuit base.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling has set. Remove cake from oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Seriously: you must let the cheesecake cool before putting the next layer on or it will crack open like the San Andreas fault.
5. Meanwhile, combine sour cream, yogurt, ½ C. powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Spread over the cooled cake, then return to oven for a further 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours).
6. Place ½ C sugar, cranberries, and port in a saucepan over low heat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Continue to cook until the cranberries give off their juice. Take out a little bit of the juice and mix the cornstarch into the dash of the juice, then return this mixture to the pan with berry mixture and continue to cook until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool—all the way cool.
7. To serve, top cake with cranberry sauce and garnish with the dusted rosemary sprigs.