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Scintillating Spice Cake

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.”
~ Jim Davis, 20th-Century American Actor

Scintillating Spice Cake

When I was a child, everyone was crazy about chocolate cake. It seemed to be the star of every birthday party, along with the balloons, presents and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

Myself, I’ve never been extremely partial to chocolate. I can enjoy it, to be sure, but I don’t crave it. And, it certainly isn’t at the top of my “yummy” list, whether we are talking about cakes, cookies, candy or ice cream.

I was pretty boring as a kid, preferring oatmeal cookies, white chocolate candy and plain vanilla ice cream. Then, something happened that set up my cake preference for life…I tried my first slice of spice cake.

I honestly have no idea where or when this happened. But I do know that once I tasted it, I never had another cake preference again. Wedding cake? Must be spice cake. Birthday cake? Yup, spice cake. Baby shower? Sign me up for some spice cake!

Other people have harangued me for my choice numerous times. Apparently there are large numbers of people who dislike or even (shudder) hate spice cake. Those people are boring whiners who need to take there Devil’s Food cake and shove off! LOL.

But, my one fault has always been that I have never baked a spice cake myself that did not come out of a box marked Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines. Truly. Never. Not once. Until just this year.

I wanted to make something special for my hubby’s birthday in May. And those of you who read this blog will know that we are healthy food people, or at least natural food people. So, how could I turn to a box.

Well, I couldn’t do that. So, I did my research, practiced a little trial-and-error and ended up with the most moist, lovely, homemade spice cake. It was a big hit (with “Happy Birthday” written in Russian) and was devoured rapidly…more of it by me than anyone else. I can’t help it, I just LOVE spice cake.

Now I have baked it again, confirming its amazingness and am sharing it with you. Enjoy! :o)

    Scintillating Spice Cake
    Makes: 2 9-inch round layers
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cooking Time: 50 minutes

    Ingredients:
    1.25 cups whole wheat flour
    1.25 cups white flour
    1.75 cups sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp baking powder
    .25 tsp salt
    1.5 tsp cinnamon
    .5 tsp ginger
    .5 tsp ground cloves
    1 tsp nutmeg
    .75 tsp allspice
    .5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    .75 cup melted butter
    3 eggs
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1.5 cups pumpkin pureé
    .5 cup buttermilk
    .5 cup milk (I use soy.)*
    1 apple, slice very thin

    Optional:
    raisins
    walnuts
    applesauce (replace 1.5x for the milk)

    Cake Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl.
    3. Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
    4. Slowly mix wet into dry ingredients to create a smooth batter.
    5. Add any extras (raisins, walnuts etc…)
    6. Line bottom of one spring form pan with apple slices
    7. Pour in the bottom 1/4 of two buttered springform pans.
    8. Bake for 45-55 minutes, testing near the end with a toothpick.
    9. Release spring edges and allow to cool for more than 1 hour before frosting.
    10. Cut the top of the non-apple lined cake so as to make it flat level.

    For Buttercream Frosting:

    3.5 cups powdered sugar
    1 cup softened butter
    .25 cups milk
    3 tsp vanilla

    Frosting Directions:

    1. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.
    2. Add milk slowly, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency.
    3. Cool in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, or as long as needed.
    4. Place the leveled cake on the bottom of your cake plate.
    5. Frost the top of this level cake.
    6. Gently turn the apple-lined cake upside down and place on top of the bottom layer. (This sometimes works better if you refrigerate the cake for an hour first.)
    7. Frost top and sides of entire cake generously.
    8. Store in a lidded cake carrier or the fridge.

    This cake is undeniably GORGEOUS, but just be careful. It can become so gorgeous that it begins to look like a sensible breakfast. It’s not. Try a parfait instead. Save the cake for dessert. ;-)

Oniony Seabiscuits

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
~ Robert Browning, English Poet and Playwright

Oniony Seabiscuits

LOL. I wanted to name these biscuits something cute and that is what I came up with. Don’t know why the taste of them reminded me of seafood. Probably because people alway seem to put onions or garlic, salt and butter together with seafood, so these biscuits taste to me the way that seafood smells. Weird, since they are vegetarian.

Anyway, we live in Nova Scotia now and it is (sadly) still wet, cool and windy in May. While we were out walking along the ocean today I got the urge to come home and make nice, warming biscuits. My problem? No yeast. Hmmmm…

My past experiences with yeast-free breads have not always been failures, but they’ve also not always been edible either. What to do? My only guess, more baking powder.

I also had some savoury ingredients in the fridge and, a real rarity in our house, actual butter (organic of course). So I threw it all together and hoped for the best. Since I am very picky about the consistency of my finished bread products, I didn’t hold my breath that these would be anything other than rock solid and dry.

But, a-ha, hey presto…they came out shockingly fabulous. Soft, flavourful and great when topped with butter, hummus or cheese! I’m so proud.

By the way, though several shallots were sacrificed, no famous race horses were harmed in the making of these seabiscuits. ;-)

    Oniony Seabiscuits
    Makes: 9-12 biscuits
    Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
    Cooking Time: 12-18 minutes

    Ingredients:
    1.5 cups whole wheat flour
    1 cup rye flour
    .5 cup barley flour
    3 tbs baking powder
    2-3 tbs flax seed (or flax seed meal)
    1 tsp salt
    1.5 cups rice or soy milk
    1-2 tbs honey
    .5 cup melted butter (or margarine)
    1 large egg (or egg replacer)
    3 shallots (sliced fine)
    1 large handful fresh chives (chopped)

    * optional: 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    * extra milk as needed for consistency

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    2. Mix dry ingredients.

    3. Mix wet ingredients. Leave shallots, chives (& cheese) separate.

    4. Slowly add wet ingredients into dry, mixing thoroughly with hands or spoon.

    5. Fold in shallots, chives (& cheese).

    6. Oil a baking sheet, leave a little extra for your hands.

    7. With oiled hands, make biscuits by forming thick, flattened balls of dough, roughly palm size.

    8. Place on baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.

    9. Bake 12-18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.

    10. Cool 10 minutes.

    11. Serve with butter, hummus, cheese or dip in soup.

    Yummy-nummy!

Union Jack Baked Beans

“Food made by hand is an act of defiance and runs contrary to everything in our modernity. Find it; eat it; it will go. It has been around for millennia. Now it is evanescent, like a season.”
~ Bill Buford, American Author & Journalist

British Baked Beans

We used to live in Britain, Mama actually studied for her Masters degree there, and we just fell in love with the place. I can tell you that most of our food adventures there were homemade and centered around Indian food and using local wild plants. But, there were the occasional products that we enjoyed.

One of these was Heinz baked beans. Though Mama grew up on Boston Baked Beans, she eventually took such a liking to these British beans that it was nearly an addiction.

Fast forward to our current home in Canada and you get Heinz beans imported for $3.00 a can. Crazy! We spent 12 bucks a week on them for nearly a month before deciding that it was finally time to crack the code and make them ourselves.

Mama set to work with her innate gift, the “magical recipe tastinator” and deciphered the code pretty well. :-) A few tweaks after tasting and here is the damn-near-perfect result for you. They cost very little, make quite a lot, last ages and fill you up for hours. We hope you enjoy them!

    Union Jack Baked Beans
    Makes: 10-14 servings
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: Hours and hours

    Ingredients:
    2 lbs navy beans
    800 ml chopped tomatoes (nearly pureéd)
    1 large onion, halved
    4 cloves garlic, whole & peeled
    3 tbs cider vinegar
    5-6 level tbs brown sugar
    3-4 tbs molasses
    4 heaping tbs tomato paste
    1-2 tbs olive oil
    pinch cinnamon
    pinch nutmeg
    pinch cumin
    1/8 tsp paprika
    1 tsp prepared mustard
    3-4 sprigs rosemary
    2 sprigs thyme
    2 bay leaves
    1 tbs baking soda

    Directions:

    1. Soak beans for 8 hours, or overnight
    2. Drain and rinse beans.
    3. Put in pan, with baking soda, and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil.
    4. Boil for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and set aside.
    5. Place two halves of onion and 4 whole garlic cloves in pan with oil and bouquet garni.
    6. Fry for a few minutes, then add crushed tomatoes, vinegar, mustard and molasses.
    7. Add beans and all remaining ingredients.
    8. Return to a boil for 10 minutes.
    9. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
    10. Place is oven-safe baking dish.
    11. Cover and bake at 250 for 2-3 hours. *
    12. Fish out the onions, garlic and bouquet garni. (If you can find them, I can never locate the garlic.)
    12. Test and add salt and pepper as needed.

    *Alternatively, remove from stove and place in a crock pot on low for 4-6 hours.

These can be served in myriad ways. I like them with scrambled eggs, veggie sausage and fried mushrooms. We also eat them over mashed potatoes.

All-in-all they make for a very filling, tasty and nutritious meal, at a fraction of the cost of canned beans. :-)

Papa’s Delectable Guacamole

“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.”
~ Erma Bombeck, American humorist (1927-1996)

Scoop of Guacamole

While in Guatemala earlier this year, Papa managed the near impossible (or so I thought.) This is to create a guacamole that Mama actually liked.

You see, Mama had lived in Mexico over a decade ago, and grown up in an East Coast city with loads of Spanish people and Spanish food around, yet never once tasted a guacamole that she liked. Which made this Mama very sad, as I know how healthy avocados are and really, really wanted to like them.

Try as I might, no likage occurred. It wasn’t the slimy greenness of the guacamole, that I surprisingly can handle. It was the flavour, or lack thereof.

Until magnificent Papa got his hands on some nicely ripe avocados in Guatemala. A quick list from Mama of what is usually in Guacamole, plus a few hints and tips from online resources and ta-da! Papa’s Delectable Guacamole!!!

And it truly is, too. I cannot stop eating it and I am now a happy lover of guacamole. So, thanks my dearest Papa! You rock! Saved the day once again, haven’t you?

Now, for those Latin American food purists out there, I know that some of the ingredients may not be traditional. But, we were going for the Mama tastebud stamp of approval only. ;-)

Without further adios, or whatever…..

    Papa’s Delectable Guacamole
    Makes: 1 serving
    Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

    Ingredients:
    1 ripe avocado
    1 clove garlic
    2 tbs salsa
    juice of 1/2 lime
    salt
    pepper

    Directions:

    1. Cut avocado in half, remove seed and scoop the meat into a bowl.

    2. With a fork, mash the avocado and mix thoroughly, making a cream paste.

    3. Dice the garlic very fine. Mix it into the bowl.

    3. Add the two tablespoons of salsa (or more, if desired).

    4. Mix all ingredients well. Salt & pepper to taste.

    5. Serve with tortilla chips, rice and beans or burritos.

    So delicious! So scrumptious! So delectable! I bet that, once you start, you can’t stop eating it!

Lentil Ambrosia Soup

“Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.”
~ Laurie Colwin, American Fiction Writer

Lentil Ambrosia

My confession: I hate peas in a soup! Hate ’em! But, oddly enough, I absolutely love lentils in a soup! Love ’em! The whys and hows are a very long story indeed. But, suffice it to say that when I think hearty and I think vegetable soup, I inevitably think lentils. Gotta have ’em!

To the ancient Greeks, ambrosia was the food or drink of the gods, something that had a lovely scent or flavor an which, when ingested, conveyed immortality. Lentils, with 26% protein, loads of B vitamins, folate and two essential amino acids, will certainly power you up and, when combined with other vegetables, give you the necessary building blocks for a longer and healthier life. The additional herbs and spices in this soup give a most heavenly scent that will tantalize your nose with delight.

As with many of my recipes, I start out with something that is either take-out from a restaurant or a packaged product from the grocery store, and then seek to replicate it with wholesome, healthier ingredients at home. This Lentil Ambrosia Soup recipe was inspired by Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup which, at over $3.00 a can, is somewhat less than economical. Made at home, it is ridiculously economical for how tasty and filling it is. :-)

    Lentil Ambrosia Soup
    Makes: 4-6 servings
    Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
    Cooking Time: 45 minutes

    Ingredients:
    1.5 – 1.75 cups black or brown lentils
    .5 cup chunked or cubed tomatoes
    4-6 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup warm water
    half of a celery stalk, diced
    1 medium carrot, thinly sliced in rounds
    1 medium onion, diced finely
    1 small potato, diced or cubed small
    .5 of a zucchini, diced
    1 tbs nutritional yeast
    1 bay leaf
    .25 tsp cumin
    .25 tsp turmeric
    .25 tsp basil
    .25 tsp thyme
    .12 (1/8) tsp curry
    12 (1/8) tsp black pepper
    pinch of chili powder
    * salt to taste
    * extra water or broth as needed

    Directions:

    1. Chop all veggies and measure out all spices.

    2. Mix the nutritional yeast into the cup of warm water until dissolved.

    3. Bring that water, the bay leaf and 4 cups of vegetable broth to a low boil.

    4. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer for 7 minutes.

    5. Add the lentils and reduce heat.

    6. Simmer for 10 minutes.

    7. Add all spices and the remainder of the vegetables, except the zucchini.

    8. Simmer for 20 minutes on low. Stirring occasionally.

    9. Add zucchini, checking to see if more liquid (e.g. water or vegetable broth) is needed. Add as needed.

    10. Simmer 10 minutes or until you deem it done.

    11. Re-season to taste and serve.

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