Health(ier) German Chocolate Cake (?)

german chocolate cake

I have been giving more thought to being healthy lately–being physically active in a different way, using more essential oils and less chemicals, giving up some foods that are bad for me,.   But unless my life depended on it, I don’t think I could give up birthday cake for one of my children.

So this May when Number Six asked for German Chocolate Cake, I was happy to oblige. But with all those “health” thoughts running around in my head, I immediately started to wonder if I could make a cake that was, in some way, actually GOOD for you.  Well, I don’t know if you’d call Rosa’s birthday cake nutritious, but…it could have been worse.  Here’s what I did and what I will do differently next time.  (Of course there’ll be a next time!)

The big thing was that I switched out the white flour for freshly ground organic whole wheat pastry flour.  Cup for cup.  Just switched it out.  The sugar I used was labeled “100% cane sugar” and it was tan-colored.  I don’t know if it was the legit, no bone-char used kind or not.  Next time I will look harder for that kind of sugar.  And…that’s pretty much the only change in the cake itself.  I could have used baking powder without aluminum, but I’m not quite convinced that the aluminum kind is bad for you–and it works better, in my opinion.

For the frosting, instead of the regular sweetened grocery store kind of coconut, I used organic unsweetened coconut, which came in larger pieces than the little bitty flakes I’ve always used before.  And I think the nuts I used were organic…maybe not.  I used half pecans and half almonds, all lightly toasted.  Same kind of sugar.

So how did it turn out?

Well, the cake was okay.  Reminiscent of wholegrain muffins, which I like but are not the same as cake.  After a short while, the cake became quite dry.  Next time, I’ll use less of it instead of substituting cup for cup; maybe that will make a heavier, denser cake (which I prefer), but not so dry.

The frosting tasted the same as the other kind.  The coconut being unsweetened didn’t seem to make any difference in the cake.  It was pretty chewy.  Are cakes supposed to be chewy?  Probably not.  But I liked it.  (Why be like everyone else?)

So, there you are.  I have another birthday cake coming up in June, and it is for an off-and-on health nut.  I will definitely turn on the brain gears for it.  

Advertisements

I want to be a good snob

 

I’ve been thinking:  Am I a snob? Sigh…I guess so.  Darn. I mean, it isn’t nice to be a snob. I should not want to be a snob.  But still…I want to be, and have truly believed that I am, quite wonderful in the kitchen.  (I have pictures.)

cooking.jpg

Oh, to be a Martha!  (Stewart, that is.)  Or a Julia, or a Lydia, or…whoa–a Chris (Kimball).  That would be so nice.  To be unfailingly good in the kitchen. Always knowledgeable, alert, committed to the science and the art!  Using the best–which means that you know what the best is!  Instead, I find myself forgetful, inattentive, and over-confident with cooking to the point that I often, and I mean often, end up creating dishes that are quite ho-hum and not even as good as store-bought.  B0000.

Some of my children definitely surpass me in the kitchen, and that is absolutely fine. It’s great! Somehow, I feel like I have something to do with their successes.  Ha!  But I need to polish up my skills and my attention so that we can be peers, not examples of youth and age.

I have seen it happen to old people.  They were well-known for their kitchen prowess back in the day, then they got tired, I guess, and just slid into home plate, dragging boredom and mediocrity along with them.  I gotta snap out of it.  I don’t want to do that.  That is, I don’t want to keep doing that; I’m doing it already.

Some of my problem is just not devoting myself to the task.  I don’t leave enough time to do something well and end up rushing through it, which is not what I want.  Heck, it’s not enjoyable, either!  I try to do more than one thing at a time, like cook and also write emails or watch a movie or read.  This really messes with my cooking.  I’m such a slacker. I must reform.  Give it my best.  Think well.  Be a Martha.  Be a Chris.

Well, if you see me cooking or serving sometime and I seem like a snob, let me know if you think I’ve earned it.  If I’m going to be a kitchen snob, I might as well be a good one.

 

TRSB’s Carrot Beet Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

carrot beet cake

 

Yes, you heard it right.  This cake has beets in it…and it is still good.

I wanted to make a semi-healthy cake for Fathers’ Day for my husband, and (obviously) I thought of carrot cake.  But I had these nice, fresh beets in the refrigerator from Care of the Earth Community Farmand since beets are good for you, well, I had to use them.

Truly, that’s only part of the reason.  The other part is that beets are practically the only food my husband can’t stand.  I knew that you wouldn’t be able to actually taste anything of the beet once you put a bite of the cake in your mouth, so why not have some fun?  Hide that beet in Larry’s cake!  Ha!

So, I did it, and sure enough, you couldn’t taste anything like beet flavor.  But I have to admit that I was a little let down because the cake just wasn’t that great.  It was okay, but you don’t shoot for “okay” when you make something special.

That was yesterday.  Today I had my second piece.  Overnight something had happened to that cake that made it no longer “okay”, but “mmm…really good”.

Disclaimer:  I, myself, think this cake is great because I like a dense, moist cake with lots of stuff in it.  Probably I am one of the ten people in the US who likes fruit cake.  So if a dense, moist cake is not your cup of tea, better make something different.

 

The Royal Slice of Bread’s Carrot Beet Cake

3 cups grated carrots and beets (I used one smallish beet)
1 cup crushed pineapple
3/4 cup grated apple
1/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
(OR 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 3/4 teaspoon cloves)
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or a little less) and grease ten-inch tube cake pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.  Set aside.

Combine apple, pineapple, oil, and sugar in mixer bowl.  Mix on high speed for 3 minutes. Add vanilla, then add eggs, one at a time.  Stir in carrots/beets.

Gradually add flour mixture to carrot mixture, mixing well.  Add nuts, raisins, and coconut, stirring only to combine.

Bake in prepared tube pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes on rack, then remove cake to rack.  Glaze while warm with Buttermilk Glaze, recipe below.

 

Buttermilk Glaze

In small saucepan, combine

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and boil for five minutes.  Pour over warm cake.

 

This cake is better the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rut is boring, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep–

 

The promises are to myself and, by association, to my oldest child, and they are to GET OUT OF MY COOKING RUT.  (One promise to me, one to Erin…two promises.)

For too long I have made the same things over and over, OR I have not made…anything!  Part of this is owing to depression and part is owing to, well, lesser depression.  Erin has kindly (and perhaps unknowingly) kicked me in the behind and said, “Where did your inner cook go, Mom?”

She shared this recipe with me recently, and I made it.  I climbed right out of that rut and made it!  And it is gooood.  Also easy and inexpensive.  

You try it, too.

 

shakshuka

secret ingredient muffins

93c2a7fa92a1fe30c30770aa29485703[1]

I bake enough bread for my family that we usually have a loaf on the counter and at least one in the freezer.  But last week I knew I wasn’t going to have time to do that, and I really didn’t want us to be eating white bagels from the store like we usually do when I run out of the bread I bake.  Soooo, I made some whole wheat muffins with a *secret ingredient* and froze them.  Oooh, they were good.  The reason they were so good lies in 1) the *secret ingredient* and 2) the generous hand I used in adding extra good stuff–that is, more than the usual amount of good stuff.

If you would like the recipe, I would be happy to give it to you.

What if you don’t LIKE summer squash??

crookneck squash

 

Summer squash…not a fan.  But I had four or five yellow crookneck squash in my refrigerator, and since I am trying really hard not to let food go to waste in my house, I determined to find a recipe that I could use the squash in…and that I wouldn’t mind eating.

I remembered having had a tasty summer squash casserole long ago that called for cream cheese as one of its ingredients.  It stood out in my memory because…well, it had both summer squash and good taste.  How often does that happen??

So I found the recipe, but I made some substantial changes to it—for the better.  First off, it called for canned cream of chicken soup.  There’s something about canned cream-of soups that makes me cringe…I don’t know.  So I substituted.  Also, I didn’t have as much squash as the recipe called for, but I did have San Marzano tomatoes.  Nice, firm, not juicy San Marzanos.  So I made it with half squash and half tomatoes.  It was a good, good decision.

And here is the recipe:

 

TRSB’s Crookneck Squash and San Marzano Tomato Casserole

First, make a cream soup base, using

4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup low-fat or skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in flour and let it bubble just a bit.  Whisk in broth and milk and stir frequently until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Half this amount may be used to substitute in any recipe calling for one can of cream soup.)

Now, here’s the rest:

24 round buttery crackers
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
Full recipe cream soup base (above)
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt to taste (try 1/2-1 teaspoon)
4 cups sliced yellow crookneck squash
4 cups sliced San Marzano (or roma) tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 small carrots, grated
3 slices bread*, crumbled OR 1 cup herb-seasoned stuffing mix
Poultry seasoning or Italian seasoning (if using bread)

Place crackers on greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish; set aside.
Combine cream cheese (make sure it is very soft), soup base, eggs, and butter.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in squash, tomatoes, onions, and carrots.  Spoon into baking dish.  Cover top with crumbled bread and seasoning, or stuffing mix.  Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty-five minutes.  Top should be nicely browned and casserole should be bubbling.

*Homemade bread is the best for this, and I know where you can get some.

 

Red Beans and Rice

smallredbeans

I grew up with a somewhat limited experience with foods.  I remember mostly vegetables from the garden and “ordinary” dishes like meatloaf, macaroni, top-of-the-stove kind of casseroles with ground beef and ketchup.

There were things Mama never made. And since I was so young when she died, I never thought to ask her why.  As I got older, I heard about foods/dishes that never made their way in to our kitchen, and I viewed them with uncertainty.  Were they bad-tasting? Hard to make?  Just too exotic for country people like us?

Red Beans and Rice is one of those dishes that I wondered about.  So a few years ago, I decided to delve into the mystery (if there was one) and create this foreign affair in my own kitchen.  I think the first recipe I used was one from Joy of Cooking.  It was okay, but  not worth making again–even though I did make it several more times, somehow hoping for a happier experience.  It never happened.

Child number Seven somehow heard about RBR and asked for it for her birthday meal last June, or so she tells me.  (I don’t remember; poor brain.) Sooo, having a reason to stake out a new path in red beans, I tried Paula Deen’s recipe.  I changed some things about the recipe, and out came something really good!  Here’s what I did, with Paula’s assistance:

TRSB’s Red Beans and Rice

3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cups diced, cooked ham
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or several sprigs of fresh thyme)
1 pound dried red beans
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons hot sauce*
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon (or more) chili powder
One medium, whole peeled raw potato (helps makes the beans less gassy)
6 cups cooked rice
¼ cup sliced scallions
Chopped avocado

Sort through and thoroughly rinse the beans.  Soak the beans overnight in a large amount of water. OR bring a large amount of water to a boil, remove from heat, then add the beans.  Let them sit in this water for 1-2 hours. Drain the beans, and rinse them thoroughly.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, heat the  oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cumin and thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans, salt, hot sauce, bay leaves, chili powder, and enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, add the whole raw potato, cover, and cook for 1 ½ hours. Uncover, add the ham, and simmer until the beans are tender and the sauce has thickened, 30 to 45 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Remove and discard the bay leaves and the potato–don’t eat the potato.  Serve over the rice, topped with the scallions and avocado.

*I used Louisiana Hot Sauce (original).  Other brands might be hotter; season appropriately.

NOTE:  I wanted to make this again, but when I went to buy the red beans, the store I visited had none.  So I got black beans, and used a 75/25 mixture of black and pinto beans.  I was surprised that, though it was good, it did taste different from the red beans.  I liked the red bean version better.