Monday, December 20, 2010

Win Le Creuset

In the midst of this hectic Monday take a minute and visit David Lebovitz's blog. He's teamed up with Le Creuset to give away a six piece cookware set for Christmas. Hurry since the contest cut off times are based on Paris time:

It will probably be another week or more until I'm up and cooking. Right now Vega shakes are keeping me fed. A vegan, gluten-free, soy-free protein and fiber supplement is hard to find. One that tastes decent even more so. Add an wee umbrella to the glass and it will be your very own "Thomas Crown Affair" worthy gloppy, green breakfast.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Just read this excellent post on what tools a baking kitchen needs. Look for a new sections soon covering a kitchen witch's tools, pantry and freezer staples.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Comfort Food

I'm still struggling with medical issues and tests to try and figure out said issues. The current joke is my job is being a lab rat or medical experiment. Usually I freeze quarts of soups and stews for these stretches of time when trying to walk upright is a challenge. Right now I've worked through my entire stash. Which makes the box of Kettle Cuisine my good friend and neighbor gave me all the more welcome.

Chicken noodle soup is the quintessential don't-feel-good comfort food. As I recall it also is beneficial during colds, and other feverish, puny times. Mainly it tastes good, creating a feeling of lassitude and well-being, akin to a grandmotherly hug.

Now imagine a frozen soup actually tastes good, able to provide a modicum of those benefits, and you have Kettle Cuisine's gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free and soy-free Chicken Noodle Soup.

Does it compare to the best chicken soup I ever had in my life, last winter in Texas? Home-made with a roasting chicken, fresh chopped veggies, delicately seasoned, and brought over in a lovely tureen. Sort of. That tureen of soup will remain legendary in my gastronomic memories, along with the wonderful woman who made it. Cooking for someone with food allergies isn't a simple thing. Cooking and making it taste good is work. Everything has to be checked, even the spices that may be laced with corn-based anti-caking agents.

Kettle Cuisine's chicken noodle soup is clearly related to home-made and admirably 'real' for prepackaged food. It isn't overly salty, yet the broth is lightly flavorful, not bland and not so seasoned as to upset a twitchy stomach. The chicken pieces are real chunks of chicken, not pressed together mystery bits. The noodles are sturdy, flat, egg-style noodles, just long enough to slurp and not so long as to be spaghetti. Carrot slices, diced onion round out this much needed bowl of comfort. And all wrapped up in a package that microwaves in four minutes.

Of the three boxes I bought at Natural Grocers this morning I don't expect a one to last the weekend. They can also be found at Whole Foods. At just over $3 per bowl they aren't inexpensive. For the first time in over a decade to have the convenience of a fast bowl of steaming hot comfort food, they are well worth it.

Even if you don't have food allergies, try a bowl. I'll be consuming mine, each starting with a whispered thanks for good friends bearing food.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tomato Soup

In my memories tomato soup is as good as the old Campbell's soup commercials imply. Fragrant, creamy, soul-warming, nourishing yet decadent with a diagonally-cut grilled cheese sandwich to dip in a brimming hot mug. As good as grandma's lightly floury hugs, filling but not so much as to not have room for her fresh baked cookies.

It is another simple comfort food that became verboten for too long. Canned soups are full of corn syrup, boxed soups have cream or enough salt to pucker your face off, or worse taste like liquid cardboard. None of which evoke nostalgia or fulfill a craving. Then a couple years ago I stumbled onto a recipe. At the same time I bought my first immersion blender. Over the winter making the recipe mine involved changing proportions, deleting some ingredients and mugs upon mugs of soup.

This recipe is fairly forgiving, if you have two leeks and only half an onion, go ahead and make the soup. Craving garlic, add a bit more. Change up the peppers for roasted and add a dash of cilantro. Have yellow or orange bell peppers moldering in the crisper? Chop'em up and toss them in the pot.

Make a pot after work while enjoying a glass of the white wine or make it on a weekend while enjoying a couple glasses. This soup freezes very well making it as convenient as the old canned stuff.

Tomato Soup

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 leek (chopped)

1 yellow onion (chopped)

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

2 stalks of celery (chopped)

1 red bell pepper (chopped)

3-4 oz white wine, usually a sauvignon blanc

1 15oz can of pumpkin

1 tablespoon of basil (chopped) (or a palm of dried)

1 tablespoon of parsley (chopped) (or a palm of dried)

1 15oz can of diced tomato

1 small can of tomato paste

1 dash white pepper

4 cups of chicken broth, or veggie broth for a vegetarian option

Large pinch of kosher salt

Warm the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot. Add the chopped leaks, onion, celery, garlic and bell pepper.

Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the white wine and simmer.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, pumpkin, broth, and seasonings. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Purée with the immersion blender in the pot or transfer in batches to the blender. Let me know if what memories it evokes for you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gluten Free cookbook give away on Cybele Pascal's blog

Visit this blog for a review of "Gluten Free Girl and the Chef" cookbook, and comment to enter for a free copy.

Then do read the book, at the store or at the library. The flat bread crackers recipe alone make the book a must-buy. I haven't read the story of their life, Shauna's writing is evocative and the beauty she'll describe will hurt right now. For now I skip through the recipe and plan to read their story next year.

I'm trying a version of "Blackbird Bakery's apple pie tomorrow. Will post it Sunday if it comes out as amazing as the recipe sounds.

Mean time, go enter, and enjoy

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

I received this from a feisty, continuous, handsome, elegant friend who now lives a hemisphere away, and had to share it with y'all. With thanks to her and all the friends and chosen family so dear to me. You are always at the table of my heart.


Let us give thanks for a bounty of people
For children who are our second planting
and though they grow like weeds
and the wind too soon blows them away,
May they forgive us our cultivation
and remember fondly where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:
For generous friends, with hearts as big as hubbards
and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,
keep reminding us we've had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb
and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants
and as elegant as a row of corn,
and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts
and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes,
and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers
and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages,
as subtle as summer squash,
as persistent as parsley,
as delightful as dill,
as endless as zucchini,
and who, like parsnips,
can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;
For old friends,
nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time
and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils
and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And finally, for those friends now gone,
like gardens past that have been harvested,
but who fed us in their times
that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.

-- Poem /prayer by MAX COOTS

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yukons and Yams

Yesterday turned out to be a no-cooking day. As I was getting ready to scrub the Yukon gold potatoes and the yams the garbage disposal fell off the sink. While running, and it kept running, giving the kitchen, the floor and the under sink cabinet contents a good rinsing, or flooding. Which means instead of slow roasting yams and boiling potato pieces the day went to mopping up, cleaning out under the sink, calling handy friends for help. Hopefully later this afternoon a good friend will have the disposal reattached, or replaced, and holiday cooking can move forward. Trying to be thankful it didn't happen Thanksgiving morning...and that not all my handy buddies are hunters off on a mountain somewhere.

Now we'll resume our regularly scheduled programming:

Yukons and Yams

You know how some leftovers taste better than they did during the meal? More flavorful, rich and enticing? That is one of the key reasons I like to prepare most of the side dishes and desserts a couple days before a feast. It gives the flavors time to meld, deepening the tastes, becoming leftover rich for the big meal.

Yukon gold potatoes are my favorite with their thin skins that don't require peeling and a buttery taste. While hosting a function at a hotel the chef made me yukons mashed with kosher salt and olive oil. They smelled divine, so golden yellow I was certain they'd been soaked with butter. I was blissfully wrong, slowly eating each bite and sorely tempted to lick the plate clean. That chef gave me back mashed potatoes. Even now I hesitate to put gravy on them, it distracts from their buttery simplicity.

Buy 6-8 oz of potatoes per person you're serving. If your crew consists of big eaters or carb fiends, bump that up to 12 oz. It will mean having a few leftovers, maybe.

The beauty of preparing potatoes, either kind, is there are no measurements after weighing them for purchase. Everything is by taste, by desired consistency, and fluctuates every time based on the potatoes.

Scrub the potatoes then cut them into even sized chunks. Place them in a pot large enough all the potatoes only half fill it. Add enough water to barely cover them. Sprinkle with Kosher sea salt. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Cook until the potatoes are soft and the liquid is almost gone.

I mash mine in the pot with extra-virgin olive oil, and a bit more sea salt. When I want smoother whipped potatoes the Kitchenaid immersion blender is the tool of choice; chunkier potatoes call for the old fashioned hand-masher. If it seems like they aren't salty enough add a bit of granulated garlic. It will enhance the salt and flavor without over powering the rest of the flavors. White pepper will avoid little black flecks, but really if your guests are whining about flecks in their potatoes they need to be a someone else's table.

At this point the potatoes go into a storage container to cool. The day I serve them about an hour before dinner I'll put them back in a pot with a bit of coconut milk creamer to keep them from drying out. If they aren't seasoned to the point you want to keep eating them out of the pot, keep adding salt, garlic, or creamer, until you do. Then they're ready.

Preparing the yams/sweet potatoes isn't much different, buy them in the same quantities as the other potatoes, scrub them well. Roasting the yams in-skin starts caramelizing the sugars, reducing the amount of sweetener needed later. If there aren't any other dishes needing to be baked, preheat the oven to 400 and bake the potatoes for an hour, or more, until they are tender to the touch. No need to wrap them in foil or even put them in a pan, right on the rack works best.

If you're baking other things, no worries, any temp under 400 works, the yams will just take a bit longer to cook. If you're lucky enough to be feeding a big crew having an oven full of yams roasting makes for a warm, autumn and caramel redolent house.

Once they're done, use mitts or silicon pads to remove from the oven. When they are still warm/hot but cool enough to handle without burning yourself, slit them open and scrap out the 'meat' into a mixing bowl. Mine end up in the Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle attachment. No mixer? That old fashioned potato masher works great too, just more effort on your part, or step where kids can easily help.

Add a splash of orange juice, a bit of light brown sugar, and a splash of Grand Marnier liqueur. If the yams seem a bit dry I'll add a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. Agave syrup also works in place of the brown sugar.

Just like the potatoes, store in a container and reheat in a pot with a bit more OJ and Grand Marnier.

These will be sweet, fragrant, yet nothing like the canned candied yams covered in sugar and marshmallows. If there are any leftovers a sweet potato pudding makes a wonderful hot breakfast or snack.

More later about cranberry relishes, right now it is time to reassemble the kitchen sink with a working disposal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Biscuits and Herbed Margarine

In 2001 a coworker introduced me to a fabulous cookbook: How it All Vegan. By then I'd figured out my dairy allergy, which made vegan recipes very desirable. I could be absolutely certain there wouldn't be even a hint of dairy in a vegan dish. Since I didn't have my own kitchen at that time someone else having already figured out how to make the substitute taste good, hopefully, was imperative.

After having a piece of pie made from the book I bought a copy. Such decadent, amazing pie, there had to be more amazing-ness in there. The next dish I tried were these biscuits, just as delicious and as the name promised, easy. Flaky, fluffy, and dare I say "buttery?" I ate biscuits for a week: plain, slathered in jam, with safflower butter, with gravy from the vegan restaurant around the corner from my office, with cold cuts, rice cheese and mustard. These will absolutely have your guests shocked when they take a bite. Add the margarine and cranberry relish and prepare to sigh with a mouthful of bliss.

I also like that the most of the recipes in 'How it All Vegan' make small batches. If you need more than six biscuits, double or triple the quantities. Do roll them out, the small bit of extra effort is worth it when you easily split one of them open and catch a glimpse of the fragrant steam escaping from the layers.

For the upcoming holiday feast make the biscuits while the bird roasts. With the margarine make it anytime between now and the day before. It is step & time intensive, definitely not a 'day-of' recipe. I'll be making a half batch of it later today. Who knows, I may make a batch of biscuits to taste-test the margarine on!

Easy Biscuits
adapted from "How it All Vegan" by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I prefer Pamela's)
3 tsp baking powder (Hain is the only one I've found that is gluten-corn-dairy-free)
1 tsp sea salt (Penzey's Kosher-style is currently in my cupboard)
1/4 cup shortening or margarine (palm shortening is free of everything but palm)
1 cup plain So Delicious coconut milk, soured with 1 tsp white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 (450 if the oven isn't convection)
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Cut in the shortening.
Add 3/4 cup of the soured milk. blend until just mixed, adding the other 1/4 cup of milk if the batter is too dry (most likely here in the arid West).
Gently roll out on a floured board, cut with floured biscuit or cookie cutter.

Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-18 minutes until lightly golden.
Try not to burn your fingers eating them fresh from the oven...not that I've ever managed to wait long enough to not burn mine.

The herbed margarine recipe I'll be trying for the first time is from the Washington Post:

Depending on how it turns out I plan on making a batch of biscuits with the margarine instead of palm shortening.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Getting Ready...the menu

With the most food-centric holiday just around the corner many emails, conversations, texts with friends are following suit: food-centric. For me it is also the most difficult holiday of all. Imagine the traditional feast without a butter-basted turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, bread-based stuffing, cream-based pies, rolls, corn, and more. Too many Thanksgiving meals ended with an allergic reaction or ravenous from not being able to eat anything at the table, topped off with a dollop of frustration from being exhorted to "just have a bite" of something allergen laden.

While Thanksgiving isn't a Wiccan/Pagan holiday the traditions are similar: gathering together friends, chosen family, and family to celebrate blessings with good food and drink. Before my food allergies it was my favorite holiday for the same reasons - feasting, blessings and friends - starting the holiday season together.

Tonight while listening to the Avalanche hockey game, I contemplated this year's menu, and roasted sweet spiced pecans in one oven, and balsamic glazed root vegetables in another oven. Pleased with the score, the scents radiating through the house, and the coalescent menu.

I prefer a generally regional menu that allows me to spend most of the day visiting with my guests, or given the vagaries of Colorado weather, out enjoying the day. Just enough leftovers to divvy up between guests, not a fridge full. Add in only having a couple hours of productive energy each day and a feast menu takes a bit of tactical planning.

Each day I'll post a recipe or two for the menu, why I chose each dish, and when to prepare it for maximum flavor, so you can pick and chose between dishes for your own feast. If the holiday is an intimate celebration for 2-4 people some dishes get deleted from the feast. More guests get added last minute, so do more dishes.

The Menu

Spinach salad with pomegranate and pine nuts
Roast pheasant with pan dripping gravy
Grand Marnier whipped sweet potatoes
Smashed Yukon Gold potatoes
Emperor purple rice
Sour milk biscuits
Herbed margarine
Cranberry relish
Pumpkin brulée
Bourbon chocolate pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream

Time to see how the pecans turned out...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Banana Bread

This weekend treat yourself to an indulgent treat, French Toast made with banana bread or a sandwich made with banana bread, peanut butter, honey and sliced bananas. As a bonus the house will smell divine for hours beyond the bake time.

Banana Bread

Adapted from Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

Two 8x4 loaves

2 ½ c flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

1 c shortening

2 c sugar (brown will make this bread very dark, moist & even sweeter)

6 ripe bananas (over ripe even better)

4 eggs

1 c walnuts (optional – omit for Jenna!)

Preheat oven to 350

Put bananas, shortening, eggs, and sugar in food processor. Blend until smooth.

Add flour, salt, baking soda and walnuts. Blend until smooth.

Divide between two pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 70 minutes or more until toothpick comes out clean. Loaves will be a dark brown. Impatient?Use small loaf pans and make more loaves - shorter baking times, closer to instant gratification.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes then place parchment lined loaves on cooling rack.

Excellent to make banana bread French toast with or banana bread pudding. In Texas I saw sandwiches made with peanut butter & honey. Bacon slices optional.

French Toast

Dip slices in egg batter, cook on teflon grill, enjoy with or without maple syrup.

Banana bread pudding will happen closer to Yule.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tricky Treats

A Tricky Treat…

My Halloween surprise came as the culmination of an odd combination. Usually I spend Samhain (Sa-wane) evening quietly honoring the people and companion critters in my life who have died. Given the visions of Dutch process cocoa clamoring in my waking and sleeping mind, for days leading up to all Hollow’s, apparently this year my offering would be brownies; dense, dark to the brink of black, moist brownies.

Receiving an email with the latest issue “Living Without” magazine recipe for gluten free brownies and a pending visit from a dieting girlfriend instigated these cocoa visions. We usually talk until 2am over a baked good and tea or wine. The recipe yields a mild, cake-textured brownie that is more similar to a German chocolate cake than my definition of brownie. Nice, and good enough to share but not a brownie.

Said girlfriend took that batch home. Another took a second batch, the product of melding my decades-old standard brownie recipe and the ‘Living Without” concept. So mine are inspired by “Living Without” they are a completely different recipe with double the cocoa, vanilla, brown sugar, and no flour at all.

Making the third batch my Treat.

Being Halloween there must be a Trick to go with the Treat.

Black beans replace most of the fat, all of the flour and reduce the sugar by half. Yielding brownies that are low-fat, anti-oxidant rich, high in fiber, dare I say even, healthy? And still a true, rich, moist, decadent brownie.

The key to these brownies is the black beans need to be hot when pureeing them with the cocoa, so does the small amount of olive oil. The heat releases the cocoa flavonoids allowing it to blend better with the other ingredients prior to baking. The steam wafting up from the food processor will make it all clear…

Also because of the beans this recipe is most easily measured in volume. Two cups of cooked beans actually weighs 10.125 oz, which is a 15oz can of beans drained, plus a third of another can.

Black Bean Brownies

2 cups hot, cooked black (turtle) beans, drained

5 tbsp olive oil, warm as well

1 cup Penzey’s Dutch cocoa, or other high-grade Dutch cocoa

4 tsp vanilla

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp kosher sea salt

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a 6x8 baking pan with parchment. Don’t have a 6x8 pan? Double the recipe and bake in a 9x13.

Place the beans, cocoa, oil, and vanilla in food processor. Blend to a paste.

Add in sugar, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum. Pulse until blended. Scrape down the bowl, especially the bottom edge – cocoa will try to cling there and not incorporate.

Pulse in eggs until barely blended, the dough with be very glossy and stiff. Spatula into pan. Sprinkle with semi-sweet chips.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Cool for ten minutes, devour at will.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cream Scones

One morning last January the soft winter sunshine gave me an immense craving for scones. The creamy, faintly sweet, kind the Savoy hotel made famous and I hadn't enjoyed in years and years. Finding a good substitute for organic heavy cream was a lost cause until the So Delicious coconut milk creamers arrived on the market. Figuring that if the batch didn't turn out I wouldn't be wasting a terrible amount of ingredients, I started tossing stuff into a bowl and preheating the oven. My stomach was not going to be happy until it had a scone.

Thirty minutes later steaming hot scones were disappearing fast with Trader Joe's Irish tea and a dollop of that lovely sunshine. My stomach and my soul were well fed and happy.

Fast forward to a rainy day last week, still shaky and aching, I was reading the wonderful book "The Bucolic Plague" with a pot of white tea; it just wasn't complete without a scone, or three. Once again my stomach insisted, and won. After a two month hiatus from being able to cook or bake, scones made the transition back to baking simple.

For this batch I wanted wee golden raisins in my scones. Plain makes them quicker and highlights the the soft, creamy interior texture of the scone. So make them either way, but do treat yourself to scones and tea, often.

Cream Scones

1 3/8 oz or ¼ c golden raisins (Hunza are nice small, almost currant-like)

1 oz brandy (I have Azteca D’Oro Reserva on hand)

½ oz water

5 oz or 1 heavy cup GF all purpose (AP) flour (I use Pamela’s)

¾ oz or 1/8 cup beet sugar (white sugar keep the inner scone creamy white)

2 3/8 tsp baking powder (Hain is corn free)

1/16 tsp kosher sea salt

2 ½ tbsp palm shortening

2 oz or ¼ c coconut milk creamer (I use So Delicious)

1 oz or 1/8 c vegan sour cream (I use Follow Your Heart)

1 egg

1 tbsp coconut milk creamer

Place raisins, brandy and water in small bowl, let soak for 30 minutes. If the craving isn’t that patient put the bowl in the microwave and warm them for 30 seconds. The goal is to soften the raisins and enhance their flavor.

In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Whisk them a bit more to ensure an even mix.

Mix coconut milk creamer and sour cream. Set aside.

Add palm shortening to dry ingredients, pinch together until crumbly with pea-size or small pieces. The warmth of mixing with your hands enhances the texture.

Drain raisins, reserve the liquid for your tea. Add raisins to bowl.

Add the creamer & sour cream mixture. Gently, very briefly, mix.

Divide into 4-6 lumps on parchment lined pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk egg and creamer, brush scones. Then let rest for 10 minutes.

If you like your scones a bit doughy inside, bake for 10 minutes. Otherwise bake for 13 minutes for lightly golden brown scones.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm almost vertical, almost cooking again, hang in here with me. Winter will be an outstanding season of savories with a side of comfort foods, and finished off with lush, decadent desserts.

Just as soon as I can stand up at the stove...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I'm inching towards healthy again. One sign is being interested in food again. This caught my eye:

Imagine a flavorful, rich, creamy substitute for the butter we can't have anymore, without the transfats, odd chemical ingredients or incipient blandness. I'll definitely be playing with this in recipes over the winter.

What flavor are interested in whipping up?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Delay of Cooking

Sorry for this is a small hiatus, my CVID is taking precedence with a knock-me down. A precursor of flu & cold season.

In the mean time, I'll be reading cookbooks looking for recipes to try with Lundberg's new rice couscous and Lucini's Cinque e' Cinque garbanzo crepes For a beautiful post about the Lucini products visit Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, that is where I read about the intriguing European treats:

Before you know it I'll be up and cooking again. If possible go buy lavender blooms at Penzey's, we'll celebrate with lavender martinis or lavender lemonade.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Snowballs aka "Raspberry Zingers"

After reading an article about the thirty-seven ingredients that make up a Twinkie I was reminded of how positive food allergies can be. By the time gluten, dairy and corn are ruled out of the ingredient list most packaged products don't make the 'safe-edible' list. Pardon the photo, I"ll update it soon. This recipe is a sure-fire packaged cake rescue. Again, don't tell anyone what these don't have, and all they'll taste is the "YUM!"

What really inspired making Snowballs earlier this summer was remembering being about four or five years old. Every Tuesday Dad would get paid by the Rocky Mountain News and we'd get two treats: eating out at Furr's cafeteria in Arvada and going to the Hostess day-old store on Carr Street. The sugary scent lingered in the parking lot, welcoming us into the store. The end caps full of brightly colored packages at my pint-sized eye-level. The store small enough I could linger by myself to ponder which treat to chose over all the others. Fruit pies? Hostess cakes? Lemon Zingers or chocolate? Would Snoopy be on the package this time? Or perhaps the exotic pink zingers coated in tiny pieces of coconut? I often wished for a package that held one of each Zinger flavor, it would solve so many pint-sized dilemmas.

My lemon and chocolate cravings have evolved, but the lure of a lightly red cake covered with fine shred coconut is still alive and well. The cakes themselves are easy to make, like any other muffin or tea cake. Dipping them in the seeded raspberry jam and rolling them through the coconut is messy, but after dipping all the cakes licking the jam off your fingers brings back the joy of being Five!

Preservative, additive and chemical free these get to focus on the soft, creamy flavor of coconut accented by that wee berry nowhere indigenous to the tropics. Using coconut milk and coconut flour creates a cake that manages to be dense and light at the same time.

I hope they become as fond a memory for my coconut crazies (that'd be you Jenna and Jolly!) as Zingers are for me.

Make a batch, pack them in your lunch or your kids and see how lunch hour goes. I bet you'll have to brush up on your trading skills...


¾ c coconut oil
1 ½ c organic sugar
1 c light Coconut milk (I use canned coconut milk to avoid the vegetable gum stabilizers)
1 tbsp Baking Powder (gluten & corn free, I like Hain)
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 tbsp Vanilla
4 Egg Whites
1 Egg
1 ½ c Gluten Free Flour Mix (I like Pamela’s)
½ c Coconut Flour
½ c Potato Starch

Makes about 18 muffins/cakes.

Place coconut oil, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and vanilla in stand mixer. Beat on medium to medium-high until fluffy, about 5-8 minutes. Occasionally scraping down the bowl.

Sift together coconut flour, gluten free flour mix and potato starch. Set aside.

Scrape down mixer bowl. Add egg whites one at a time, beat on medium high for a minute. Scrap down the bowl and repeat with each egg white. Don’t rush this part, you’re building the cake structure. I use a kitchen timer.

Add in ¼ of the flour and starch mixture, blend on medium-low, alternating with the coconut milk. Scrap down between flour additions. This is a dense, fairly stiff dough.

Spoon into greased tins. Bake in preheated oven to 325 (350 if it isn’t convection), for 24-30 minutes. Turn the pan half way thru baking.

While cakes are baking make the raspberry glaze.

Raspberry Glaze
¾ cup organic raspberry preserves (Trader Joe's reduced sugar organic is my favorite)
2 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Chambord liqueur

Deseed the preserves by pushing thru a mesh strainer with the back of a spoon into a glass measuring cup. Place cup in sauce pan of hot water to warm. Stir in water and lemon juice to get glaze consistency. Just before dipping cakes stir in Chambord.

Check the cakes with a toothpick for doneness. Should come out just barely clean.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then pop cakes out to cool on a wire rack over a shallow pan.

Place 1 ½ cups of unsweetened fine shred coconut in another bowl.

Once cakes are cool, quickly dip them into the raspberry glaze, then roll in the coconut. Place on wire rack to set up.


Banana Bread French Toast

This weekend treat yourself to an indulgent treat, French Toast made with banana bread or a sandwich made with banana bread, peanut butter, honey and sliced bananas. As a bonus the house will smell divine for hours beyond the bake time.

Banana Bread

Adapted from Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

Two 8x4 loaves

2 ½ c flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

1 c shortening

2 c sugar (brown will make this bread very dark, moist & even sweeter)

6 ripe bananas (over ripe even better)

4 eggs

1 c walnuts (optional – omit for Jenna!)

Preheat oven to 350

Put bananas, shortening, eggs, and sugar in food processor. Blend until smooth.

Add flour, salt, baking soda and walnuts. Blend until smooth.

Divide between two pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 70 minutes or more until toothpick comes out clean. Loaves will be a dark brown. Impatient?Use small loaf pans and make more loaves - shorter baking times, closer to instant gratification.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes then place parchment lined loaves on cooling rack.

Excellent to make banana bread French toast with or banana bread pudding. In Texas I saw sandwiches made with peanut butter & honey. Bacon slices optional.

French Toast

Dip slices in egg batter, cook on teflon grill, enjoy with or without maple syrup.

Banana bread pudding will happen closer to Yule.

Friday, August 20, 2010


In the 80s and 90s a favorite gathering spot was the Gemini. An alternative restaurant known for a spiced house tea and daring food options like a curried chicken salad with strawberries. That is, daring for a suburb west of Denver. The house iced tea was easy to drink by the glassful, tucked into a big booth, chatting with girlfriends or doing tarot readings for each other. Wired on caffeine from gallons of house tea, we'd split a Blondie brownie. Each serving decadent, warm, and surely full of butter, chocolate chips, nuts, plus the sweet surprise of chopped dates.

The restaurant is long gone, but the craving for a Blondie happens fairly often. Blondies are a brownie's paler sibling; a bar cookie grown up to be a chocolate chip cookie's bigger, sturdier brother. This winter it was time to recreate this favored treat. Redolent with warm brown sugar, vanilla, and gooey bittersweet chocolate chips these bar cookies are an aroma therapy category all their own. Mixing up in the time it takes the oven to preheat, it is pure bliss to sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea, basking in the scent of them baking. If I'm really lucky the scent lingers in the house, rich and smooth.

One pan makes nine servings that are half-size from what the huge slabs Gemini used to serve. Lately, I've taken to quartering each serving so the pan yields 36 Blondies. What I don't eat or give away the day I bake them get frozen. Popped from freezer to the microwave for 30 seconds they instantly resurrect to gooey decadence.

No stand mixer? No problem! As long as the sugar and palm shortening are thoroughly mixed the rest of the recipe calls for minimal mixing.


3 oz or ½ cup shortening
4 oz or ½ c + 2 tbsp light brown sugar
4 oz or ½ c + 2 tsp cane sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
4 oz or 1 cup gluten free flour mix (I use Pamela's)
1 ½ tsp baking powder (corn & gluten free I use
½ tsp sea salt
2 oz or ½ cup crushed walnuts
2 oz or ½ cup chopped dates
2 ½ oz or ½ cup bitter sweet chocolate chips

Preheat convection oven to 325 (350 if not convection)
Line 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper.

Mix shortening, sugars, and vanilla in stand mixer on medium, occasionally scraping down the bowl, until well creamed, verging on fluffy.
Scrape down the bowl.
Add in eggs, beating on medium-high for 2 minutes. Scraping down the bowl.

In separate bowl whisk together flour mix, baking powder, and sea salt until well incorporated.

Add gluten free flour mix to the bowl, mix on low until just blended.

Detach paddle to hand stir in nuts, dates and chocolate chips until just blended.
Spatula into parchment lined pan, pushing stiff dough into corners.
Garnish with additional nuts, chocolate chips and dates.
Bake for 30 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. May take longer to bake at higher altitudes.

Cool for about 5-10 minutes then devour at will.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zucchini Risotto

My neighbors are wonderful people. Besides being cool, fun, and nice, this week they've shared their harvest bounty with me: fresh herbs and zucchini! I know, I'm the only person who is thrilled to get zucchini. It is just so versatile. Cakes, bread, soup, stir-fry, and now risotto. Fresh herbs too. My growing space only has an sheltered Eastern exposure where herbs languish, so gifts of herbs and veggies are most welcome.

While standing over a warm stove top for an hour stirring isn't necessarily convenient on a week night after work, risotto makes it well worth the time. With air conditioning and a tall kitchen stool it is much cooler that grilling! Plus if you live at lower altitude the cooking time can go down by a third or more.

Keys to a creamy, lustrous risotto are:

  • completely coat and warm the risotto in the oil and onions

  • then deglaze with the white wine

  • only add a cup of broth at a time and it must be hot, almost boiling when you add it, keeping the temperature in the pot steady.

  • Stir, stir, stir

If you are fortunate to have kitchen minions aka kids, they can help stir in shifts, between getting home work done. It isn't unusual when I have girl friends over to enjoy a glass of Crios Torrontes, take turns stirring while catching up. For me it is soothing to be in the moment (or hour) sipping a glass and contemplating what else to make with my neighbor's bounty.

Zucchini Risotto with Lemon Thyme

2-3 tbsp olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

2 small cloves of garlic, minced

1 c arborio rice (I prefer Lundberg organic)

1 c chilled white wine

6 c hot fluid – either veggie broth, chicken broth or water, your choice

8 oz chopped zucchini

small bunch lemon thyme I used the leaves of six to eight 6” stems

white pepper to taste (Penzey's is my preferred)

sea salt to taste

Warm a 7 quart dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic, saute for a couple minutes to release the flavor.

Add the arborio rice to the the pot, stirring well to completely coat with the olive oil. While the rice starts to toast, put two cups of the broth in the microwave and heat to the boiling point.

After the rice has toasted for a couple minutes – so the pan is fairly dry and the rice isn't sticking or getting scorch spots – add the cup of white wine to deglaze the pan. This will also help the thick starch coat on the rice break down faster.

Once the wine has absorbed, add in the first two cups of heated broth/liquid. Stir the pot slowly and continuously until the rice absorbs the most of the fluid, about 15-20 minutes.

While stirring, heat the rest of the broth one cup at a time.

Each time the liquid is mostly absorbed, add another cup of the just boiling broth, until all six cups of fluid are incorporated into the pot.

With the sixth cup of broth, add the chopped zucchini to the pot. Continue stirring.

Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the pot, stir another five minutes to warm the beans.

Ladle into bowls, sprinkling each serving with lemon thyme leaves.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Here is the final recipe from our Lammas dinner, keeping the chocolate theme and honoring the harvest challenge of what to do with all the zucchini?! Baked into muffins or small loaves these pack into on-the-go breakfasts or sack lunches for professionals and students alike.

The mildness of the Dutch cocoa carries the orange zest and lets the cinnamon shine. The trio honors the South western blending of the Spanish (oranges), Native (zucchini), Aztec (chocolate), and European (cinnamon) cultures.

We eat it plain, but I've served it for tea by spritzing it with orange blossom water and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. If more zucchini appears on my door step this season I may play with some different glazes for it.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

16 oz zucchini, chopped

4 oz coconut oil

14 oz or 2 c organic cane sugar

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla

4 oz or 1 c walnut pieces

12 oz or 2 ¼ c Pamela's gluten-free flour mix

3 oz or ½ c potato starch

2 1/8 oz or ½ c cocoa powder, dutched

2 ¼ tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/3 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp Penzey's orange peel or zest from one fragrant orange

4 oz coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the racks in the lower third of the oven.

If using dried orange peel place in coconut milk to rehydrate.

Lightly grease preferred pans with coconut oil. Parchment line the bottom of any round pans you may be using.

Puree zucchini in food processor. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the walnuts, puree until smooth. Scrape down the bowl.

Add coconut oil, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla. Puree for two minutes, then scrape down the bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Then, yes, whisk them a bit more.

Add the flour mixture and the coconut milk to the processor, lightly pulse until just incorporated.

Spoon into pans and bake.

Bake muffins or bundt-shaped muffins for 20 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Bake 4” bundts for 30 minutes.

Bake 6” spring form rounds or two 8x4 loaves for 50 minutes.

This batch of batter is enough to bake two 8x4 loaves or 30 muffins or twelve 4” bundts.

Mixing this bread with a food processor for the texture of a mild chocolate cake has the side benefit of hiding the zucchini, if you don't tell no one will ever know.

Stand mixer directions:

Grate the zucchini on the large side of the box grater, it takes less time than you'd expect. Set aside.

Mix the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the sugar, beating until smooth. Scrape down the bowl.

Add in the eggs and egg yolks, beat on medium-high for two minutes.

Add the zucchini, mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the walnuts.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk until fully incorporated and then whisk a bit more.

Alternately add the flour mixture to the bowl, beating on low speed, with zested coconut milk.

Beat until just blended.

This method yields a more traditional appearing quick bread with the zucchini shreds and walnuts clearly visible.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pina Colada Granita

Today a bonus posting to enjoy while I work on the chocolate zucchini bread:

Anytime I crave coconut I think of Jenna. Add pineapple and I'm thinking of hot summer nights in the 80's - arriving home from exercising my horses or a long hot weekend of showing. I'd have Canadian bacon pineapple pizza delivered and make an alcohol-free pina coloda.

Now I think of Jenna and make granita - a cold, crumbly treat that tastes like a tropical vacation. Yesterday's almost 100 degree heat made granita a top priority. Here's the recipe so you have a secret weapon against the next heat wave.


14 oz can of chunk pineapple
14 oz can of light coconut milk
4 oz light agave
2 oz lime juice
2 oz silver rum (Thanks to Michael & Beth I'm a huge fan of Mount Gay rums)

Toss all the ingredients in the food processor or blender and puree until frothy and smooth. The rum is optional - for friends who abstain I leave it out.

Chill the puree over night, covered with cling-wrap. For sorbet freeze through one cycle of the ice cream maker.

If you can control the craving, grab all the ingredients and place them in the fridge overnight. That way the puree can go directly from the food processor into the ice cream maker.

For a true granita: Place the puree in a 9x9 glass or plain metal pan (Do NOT use a nonstick pan! Teflon shaving make a lousy garnish.) Put the pan in the freezer, then every 30 minutes scrape the mixture with a stiff metal spatula. The texture will be closer to shaved ice, not a smooth sorbet. Will still melt beautifully on your tongue during a hot summer night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chocolate Chili Chicken

By southwestern standards this is a ridiculously mild dish, which makes it perfect for serving to younger children. It also highlights the bright, summery flavors of the orange zest and cilantro. Madman zinfandel made a wonderful accompaniment to this dish.

Our Lammas main dish is an adaptation from “Adventures with Chocolate”. While shopping for ingredients I met some challenges, the oranges at the store were scentless, thick skinned and hard, shallots were not to be found. So my many jars from Penzey’s came to the rescue.

This meal was such a joy to share. I don’t have any words to describe making this dish, enjoying it with the boys. Simply make the dish and taste the joy.

May the first bite be as delicious for you and yours!

Chocolate Chili Chicken

Adapted from Paul A. Young’s “Adventures with Chocolate”

8 chicken thighs

olive oil

4 shallots, minced or 2 tbsp Penzey's freeze dried shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 tbsp orange zest or 2 tbsp Penzey's dried orange peel

2 c orange juice

4 red mini bell peppers, diced

6 arbol dried chiles

2 cascabel dried peppers

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp coriander

2 heritage tomatoes of a meaty variety, chopped

5.3 oz 72% dark chocolate, chopped, Sweet Earth Organic

Fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large dutch oven brown the chicken in a slight amount of olive oil. Place aside.

Add shallots, garlic, zest to pan with a slight amount of orange juice. If using dried shallots, zest, and chiles, rehydrate in orange juice while browning chicken.

Add the diced bell pepper and the rest of the juice and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add coriander, dark brown sugar, the chicken thighs, simmer another 10 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, and put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken to serving platter. Reduce the sauce until thickened a bit. Remove the dried peppers and toss. Add the chopped chocolate to the pan ladle over chicken as chocolate begins to soften. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Next time I make this for my circle, towards Samhain, I'll use hotter chilies and perhaps a Chipotle to add a smoky flavor to reflect the descending darker season. With any dish that features chilies use what suits your mood, your guest's palates, and what you have on hand.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Was there a time as a child that you imagined chocolate at every meal? In every dish? Life being a veritable candy land? For the next three posts I’ll share the dishes from our Lammas feast, each showcasing a different dark chocolate ingredient – cocoa, 72%, and 85%.

For celebration meals I ask the guest of honor to pick an ingredient they’d like to be in each course of the meal. The purpose is tri-fold: the celebrant receives a unique meal, I get a challenge, and we don’t get stuck in a rut.

For Lammas the boys (really, they are young men, but at half my age I’m prone to call them boys) chose chocolate. This spring one gave me an autographed copy of British chocolatier Paul Young’s book “Adventures with Chocolate.” If you can find this book on the internet and have it shipped here to the US it will be more than worth your effort.

A complete 180 degrees from Caesar salad, this dressing is sweet, tangy, dark and purely surprising. Be sure to use a real balsamic vinegar, not a cheap caramelized imitation, not only will it taste poor, it will probably be contaminated with gluten.

Perhaps this dressing will intrigue vegetable-indifferent kids to enjoy salads?

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Converted from Paul Young’s “Adventures with Chocolate”

2 ¼ oz balsamic vinegar

1 oz light brown sugar

.6 oz 85% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Place the vinegar and sugar in a glass measuring cup, heat in microwave to a scant simmer, just starting to bubble. Don’t boil it! Whisk until the sugar dissolves, add the chocolate, again whisking until emulsified.

Cool slightly, add extra-virgin olive oil at two parts vinegar mix to one part olive oil, or one to one if you want a lighter dressing. Shake or whisk until emulsified. This will a dark, glossy dressing. It doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge, but if you do the chocolate will solidify and need rewarming in the microwave or in a sunny spot.

If you can find some late season strawberries at the farmer’s market, try them dipped in a bit of this dressing.


I used Bolivian extra dark eco bar for this batch. If you don’t have 85% on hand use ½ oz of 100% baking chocolate and increase the sugar by ½ a tsp. Using a lighter chocolate will make this dressing unbearably sweet and lose the rich under note that good dark chocolate provides.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

German Chocolate Cake for Lammas

Each year Lammas sneaks up on me. Summer is usually very busy and this holiday doesn’t have a Christian or Catholic Saint counterpart. The beginning of August and the first harvest holiday always appear on schedule, yet surprise me none the less. This year cakes, instead of the more traditional bread, symbolize the holiday, endings as the harvest culminates a season and beginnings as the seasons shift.

On Lammas eve a good friend’s aunt came home to die. As a diabetic she hasn’t enjoyed cake in a long time. In what is expected to be her last week, her family gathers with her to reminisce and share a piece of her favorite, chocolate cake. The dark chocolate cake and icing from “The Flying Apron Kitchen Cook Book” is so decadent only her niece knows this final treat is gluten, dairy, corn and soy free. I hope it makes her passing richer and sweeter.

The next cake I baked this holiday is for another girl friend’s first gluten-free birthday. It begins a new, healthier season for her. Baked with the intent of celebration, of food being a pleasure again, not a mysterious source of migraines and pain, this cake is my gift to her.

Her favorite is German Chocolate, a mild, dark cake with a caramelly, lush coconut and pecan filling then wrapped in a bittersweet chocolate ganache. Without the sweetened condensed milk or high-sugar chocolate this cake is divine with champagne, hinting at longer nights and the coming autumn damp.

If you are baking in the morning to serve the cake that night, make the filling first so it has longer to cool. Then the ganache. Too warm filings are a misery when assembling a cake.

I adapted the cake and ganache from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.” Her aptly titled “The Cake Bible” was the only cook book I count on for the rare occasion I’d bake with wheat flour and dairy products for friends. Not being able to taste test the batters didn’t matter, her recipes always turn out, always. Since the recipe uses cocoa this cake is also suitable for folks allergic to chocolate or caffeine, by substituting a premium carob powder. On the off chance you’re thinking of just using normal wheat flour or cake flour, please don’t! The adaptations that make it a good gluten free cake will turn this into an oozing volcano of wheat dough in your oven.

The structure of this cake relies more on the eggs than the flour. The directions look longer and more complicated than they really are. Just be patient, rushing can mean doing something silly like forgetting the sugar. Think of the person or occasion you’re baking this for, focus your intent for them. Being a kitchen witch is part technical skill and part meditation.

I tried making a sweetened condensed milk substitute with soy milk powder. It was horrid, suitable only for patching the garage concrete. So the German Maple frosting is directly from the “Flying Apron Kitchen Cook Book” and better than I remember any other version tasting. I’m including it here with the hope it will inspire you to buy a copy of your own. Filled with straight forward ingredients, a wide variety or excellent recipes it reminds me of Marion Cunningham’s “Fannie Farmer Cook Book” that I originally started baking out of as teen. The cook book I turned to again and again, and still do for inspiration.

Harvest sweetness and joy this season. Eat cake with people you love.

German Chocolate Cake

Adapted from “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”

2.3 oz Dutch process cocoa (I use Penzey’s)

4 oz boiling water (if you live in an area with highly chlorinated water consider using filtered water)

4 oz extra virgin olive oil

4 egg yolks – at room temperature

4 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla (Nielson Massey is gluten free, but made with corn alcohol)

4 oz Pamela’s gluten free flour mix

2.5 oz potato starch

1.5 oz organic cane sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 1/3 tsp baking soda

3/8 tsp sea salt

Palm shortening the bottom of two 8’ round cake pans, then parchment line them, Don’t oil or line the sides.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the bottom third of the oven.

Boil the water, whisk in the cocoa, then cover with cling wrap and let sit until room temperature. This took a bit over a half hour in my warm kitchen.

While the cocoa is steeping, mix the egg yolks, oil in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Start the mixer out on low or it can fling ingredients everywhere. Work up to whisking on medium speed. Set a timer for a minute, scrape down the bowl. If the mixture is shiny and smooth like an icing, add the vanilla and whisk just long enough to incorporate. Then mix in the cooled cocoa concoction. Scrape down the bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together. You can use a sifter, for me whisking is simpler. When you think you’ve whisked all the ingredients into a uniform mix, do yourself a favor and whisk for a bit longer.

With the mixer on low mix half the dry ingredients in with the egg and oil. Scrape down the sides, be sure to get the bottom of the bowl as sugar tends to settle.

Add the rest of the dry ingredients, again start on low, then bump the speed up to medium- high and mix for a minute.

Scrape the bowl again. Add in the egg whites, mixing on low then increase to medium high for two minutes. Set a timer, it is easy to rush and not let the beautiful batter beat long enough, or get distracted and over beat it to a rubbery mess.

Split the batter evenly between the pans. Weighing them on a scale is so easy, making even layers a snap.

Don’t tap the pans or wait to put them in the oven. Successful gluten free baking hinges on capturing the in-dough gasses as they form. Bake the cakes for 15 minutes, then turn the pans 180 degrees, and bake for another 15 minutes. Even if you have a convection oven, turn the pans.

Test with a tooth pick. The cake should be pulled away from the pan edge, and lightly spring back when pressed in the middle. Remove from oven.

Set the pans out to cool for a couple minutes, then invert onto racks. The cakes need to rest on the top crust formed during baking. Once they’ve cooled lay pieces of cling wrap big enough to wrap each cake. Invert them again onto the cling wrap on the bottom of a jelly roll pan. Finish wrapping the cakes. Place in freezer for a couple hours or overnight. Gluten free cakes are more fragile than regular cakes. Freezing them makes assembling the cake easier, less likely for a layer to shatter into earthquake cake (still tasty, but not as attractive.)

Flying Apron Kitchen’s Maple Coconut Frosting

20 oz coconut oil (an entire small tub of the NOW brand)

8 oz maple syrup

1 tsp sea salt (I use Penzey’s)

1 tbsp vanilla

9 oz fine shredded coconut, toasted

5 oz toasted pecans, broken into uniform bits

Toast the pecans in a jelly roll pan at 250 degrees. Watch the pan, occasionally turning the pieces with a flexible spatula, like a pancake turner. Do Not leave the oven. This should take about 10-12 minutes, but varies depending on the humidity that day, how accurate your oven is, the moisture content of this batch of nuts and if you store them in the freezer. They can go from lightly toasted to a burnt crisp in that one impatient moment. Remove from oven to cool.

Now spread the coconut into an even layer covering the jelly roll pan. The coconut is finer than the pecans so it toasts quicker. Again, turn occasionally with the soft spatula and don’t leave the oven. Once the coconut shows hints of golden color remove it from the oven. Continue to shift in the warm pan to help it cool.

While the pecans and coconut cool, place the rest of the ingredients into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Start on low, easing the speed up to high. Beat the ingredients until inextricably incorporated. Add the coconut and pecans, beating on medium-high until fluffy.

I briefly chilled the frosting to make filling the cake easier. Cover the frosting in the bowl with cling wrap pressed onto the top of the fluff to prevent a skin forming.

Dark Chocolate Ganache (optional frosting for sides of cake)

Also adapted from “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”

8 oz 64% bitter sweet chocolate (I use Sweet Earth Organic it is vegan and soy free)

9 oz Silk cream (use coconut milk cream if you’re allergic to soy)

½ tsp vanilla

The super easy way to make ganache is place the chocolate pieces into a food processor or blender, pulsing into fairly uniform, small pieces. Heat the cream in the microwave until it just starts to bubble. With the blades running pour the hot cream over the chocolate until a smooth liquid forms. Add vanilla. Pour into small bowl, cover with cling wrap, pressing to the top of the mixture to prevent a skin forming. Cool a couple minutes on the counter then place into the fridge. The rapid chill will give the ganache a suede or velvety texture instead of a glossy sheen.

If you don’t have a blender or food processor use a small to medium whisk in the bowl of chopped chocolate. Whisk continuously while slowly pouring the hot cream into the bowl. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Follow the directions for chilling the ganache. Oh! Try not to eat it by the spoonful from the bowl.

To assemble the cake

Remove the cakes from the freezer. Place one layer on the serving dish, with wax paper strips lightly tucked under to keep the plate edges clean or be prepared to use a damp paper towel to clean the dish before presenting the cake.

Stir the maple coconut frosting, spread as thick or thin a layer you want on the top of the cake. Place it in the fridge for five minutes to set the frosting, that way the top layer is less likely to squish the filing down the cake sides.

Bring the cake back out of the fridge and repeat the process. Now is the perfect time to use a small, flexible frosting spreader to fill in any gaps in the filling. The frosting makes enough to fill a three layer cake. Store the rest in the freezer.

Hold the spreader parallel to the cake and smooth the ganache along the sides. By not using hot water on the spreader to smooth the ganache it will have a velvety texture instead of a glossy sheen.

There is enough ganache to pipe a top and bottom boarder on the cake, to play and decorate.

Alternatively, skip the ganache and serve the cake casual style with just the filling.