Plum Cake & Big Race

I am exhausted and incapable of moving around too much or creating proper blog entries, so this will be short. I’m in bed watching Dora with Aurelia and we’re eating grapes.

Yesterday I made a perfect plum cake in the midst of glorious carb loading. I ate a piece last night and a piece this afternoon and I’ll probably have another after dinner. It’s everyday cake at it’s finest and I am not going to feel guilty about it one bit. Because while being simple and easy to eat too much, it’s an occasion when you eat it after running 13.1 miles without stopping. I’ll share pictures after the cake to say the rest for me.

This has been a truly awesome day.

Perfect Plum Cake
Adapted from Lottie & Doof, who adapted it from Ripe by Nigel Slater

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 slightly heaping tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2/3 cup plain greek yogurt
2 Tbs honey
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
12 ounces plums (about 4)
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line an 8-inch springform or square cake pan with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a bowl. Warm the honey and butter in a pan until the butter melts. Stir in the brown sugar and remove from heat. Halve the plums, or cut them into quarters if they are large, and remove the pits. Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and, and whisk to combine. Pour the golden syrup mixture into the flour and mix with a spoon. Pour in the eggs and milk and continue stirring until you have a loose batter without any traces of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, scatter the plums on top, and bake for 45 minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the pan and leave to cook for 20 minutes longer. Switch off the oven, but leave the cake in for a further 15 minutes, then remove and leave to cool.

Idaho Wine Run Half Marathon

Before the run:

Best cheerleader:

Right after the run:

A view on the course:

Recipe Revisited: Sweet Potato Craisin Muffins

Thanks to Aurelia for the pretty orange rose! She was a big help making these muffins and everything else in the kitchen today.

I make so many muffins, I’m remaking and reblogging recipes I’ve done before. These Sweet Potato Raisin Muffins I made in June are heavenly and one of my favorite recipes on this blog. The sweet potato and raisins allow for only a little sugar to be added and the ground almonds allow for only a cup of flour. The yogurt allows for only a bit of butter, (not that I frown at butter, ever). So while they aren’t gluten and sugar free, they’re closer than most. Plus they’re complex and satisfying in a memorable way and I’ve found myself craving these for months.

Because it’s feeling nearly like autumn, I wanted to try this recipe again with walnuts instead of almonds and craisins instead of raisins, because I consider those more fall flavors. If you’d like to swap pumpkin for the sweet potato, that would work too.

I tried a short cut with the sweet potatoes this time by peeling them, chopping them into 1″ cubes, putting them in a glass baking pan, adding a quarter cup of water, covering with a damp paper towel, and microwaving for 10 minutes, stirring half way through. Just out of the microwave, I dumped them into the food processor and blended for about 5 minutes, adding a bit more water to get them going, until they were silky smooth. So easy! I went ahead and made two sweet potatoes worth of puree to save the rest for something else, since I was going to the work anyway.

Another change I made was to add baking powder, but it didn’t seem to lift them much more. These are still a rich, serious muffin… as much as a muffin can be anyway. Still snack worthy, I assure you.

These smell so amazing while cooking and they pair perfectly with coffee or tea. Have one for breakfast or two after school with your favorite toddler. I’m sure I’ll be thinking of these again for a while and making them winter worthy before Christmas. YumYumYum.

Sweet Potato Craisin Muffins

1 cup pureed sweet potato (about one sweet potato, roasted, peeled, and mashed well)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup finely ground walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup craisins (I used cherry juice infused ones, but no matter)
1 cup plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 and put 18 liners into muffin pans. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix the butter, eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, yogurt, and pureed sweet potato, just until all ingredients are moistened. Fold in craisins. Don’t overmix! Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Bake muffins for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean.

*Instead of 18 muffin cups, I made 11 muffins and a small 3″x4″ loaf.

Herby Chicken with Tomatoes and Cauliflower

Delicious, everyday eats. Protein + Good Fat + Vegetables. Dinner + Leftovers.

Herby Chicken with Tomatoes and Cauliflower
Loosely adapted from Thierry Breton of Chez Michel via LA Times

1 roasting chicken, about 4-5 pounds
6 Tbs butter, softened
1 Tbs salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, peeled and thickly sliced
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried ground mustard seed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make sure the racks are centered in the oven. Clean the chicken inside and out with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Let stand for 20 minutes. Mix together the herbs, salt, and pepper. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture and set aside. Add the remaining herb mixture to the softened butter and blend together very well. Smear the herby butter under the skin and on the outside of the chicken. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Place the chicken, breast side down, in a roasting pan, and cook until the skin begins to crisp, about 20 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the vegetables. Combine the cauliflower, tomato, garlic, onion, and 1 Tbs reserved herb mixture in a large bowl. Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet.

After the 20 minutes of cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and use a turkey baster to remove the drippings accumulated in the pan, while leaving the chicken in the pan. Drizzle the drippings over the cauliflower and tomatoes. Put the chicken back in the oven and the pan of cauliflower and tomatoes on the rack below the chicken.

Cook for 30 minutes. Take the chicken out and flip it over very carefully to breast side up. Use the turkey baster to remove about 2 more tablespoons of drippings. Put the chicken back in the oven. Remove the pan of cauliflower and tomatoes, drizzle them with the reserved 2 Tbs of drippings, and stir well. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter and let stand 10 minutes. Surround the chicken with vegetables, spoon some of the cooking juices all over, and serve immediately.

After dinner, I let the chicken cool a bit longer, then removed all the meat from the bones. I put all the remaining drippings, skin, and bones into the slow cooker, filled the whole thing up with water, and added 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to help bring out the gelatin from the bones. I left the slow cooker on low to cook all night and will strain the broth in the morning before discarding the chicken bits and storing the broth in jars for soup later this weekend.

I shredded the leftover chicken, mixed it with the remaining cauliflower and tomatoes, and stored it in the fridge for what will be some yummy lunches the couple days. The jar on the left in the picture below is a special mix of the chicken and veg layered with mashed sweet potato for the perfect post workout meal I’m saving for after my half marathon coming up in only three days. Yikes! I’m so nervous! At least I’ll be well fueled, before and after.

Maple Brown Sugar Spice Tapioca Pudding

I understand that there are some people that don’t like tapioca, but it makes no sense to me. Usually it’s a “texture thing.” Old fashioned tapioca has what I consider to be the glorious texture somewhere between caviar, chia seeds, and risotto. If you think you don’t like it or have only tried the horror in plastic cups from the grocery store, give this recipe a go. I have a feeling it will win you over.

I’ve made this recipe several times and like the slow cooker method a lot. Substituting maple syrup for some of the sugar and adding the spices was a first for me though and I will never go plain again. The flavor is reminiscent of horchata and Christmas and childhood bliss. Really. Further proof is how fast Aurelia can eat a bowl!

Maple Brown Sugar Spice Tapioca Pudding
Adapted from Alton Brown

1 cup medium or large pearl tapioca (not quick cooking)
4 cups cold water
3 cups whole milk
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Place tapioca in a medium bowl along with the water, cover, and let stand overnight.

Drain water from tapioca. Place the tapioca into a slow cooker along with the milk and salt. Cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Temper small amounts of the tapioca into the egg mixture until you have added at least 1 cup. Then add this back into the remaining tapioca in the slow cooker. Add the vanilla, cardamom, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring at least once. Transfer the pudding to a bowl or jars and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

October Menu Planning

I haven’t done a menu plan in a while and had too many nights this past month making emergency meals out of whatever produce was around, coupled with meat, and far too many muffins. So, now I have a plan! I will be organized! Food will be prepped and we will eat like queens! Or at least I’ll print this out and put it on the fridge to cross off how many days we succeed.

I should note that there is a lot of beef because we are buying half a cow and splitting between me, my parents, and an uncle. It will be a great relief and joy to have well raised, local beef in the freezer.

Like usual, breakfast consist of eggs and roasted vegetables. Having a big salad sitting in the spinner and jars of roasted vegetables makes it convenient to add to every meal. Lunches are leftovers, soup from the freezer, or a mix of snacks at last resort. Having hard boiled eggs, sliced cheddar, ham, turkey, dried fruit, seaweed, and crackers make those in between times and hangry moments avoidable. So, here’s to the plan! I’m pretty excited about every single recipe on here, so it should be a very well fed month. Hoorah!

Click on the calendar for the PDF with hyperlinks to all the recipes.

Zucchini Cornbread

I needed a quick bread to go with the scrumptious Roasted Tomato Soup I made and given the heaps of zucchini still around, I wanted to try a savory zucchini muffin. The recipe is originally for a whole loaf and I’m sure that would be lovely sliced and toasted, but I lacked the patience for the baking time. These mix together quickly, really aren’t terrible for you compared to most carb accompaniments, and most importantly, are melt-in-your-mouth yummy. I don’t prefer super sweet cornbread (cornbread cake is wonderful, but different entirely) and this savory one avoids the bad habit of being dry that many cornbreads tend to have. I’m sure you’ll love it too!

Zucchini Cornbread
Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2011

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp honey
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs Herbes de Provence (or other dried herbs, like thyme or chives)
3/4 cup cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x5x3″ loaf pan or 18 muffin cups. Or use paper liners for the muffin cups. Melt the butter gently in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Once melted, pour the butter into a medium sized bowl and set aside and let cool. Whisk in the yogurt, honey, milk, and eggs. Add the zucchini and stir until well blended. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, herbs, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add in the zucchini mixture and fold just to blend (mixture will be thick). Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan or muffin cups. Bake golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55-65 minutes for the loaf and 15-20 minutes for the muffins. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy! These will keep for two days in an airtight container.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Oh, gosh, folks. This is really, really good. I don’t even know how it worked out so exactly, but I nailed it. It takes some time, but most of that is hands off. Because of the simplicity of this, I can only determine that the result was so incredible because of the quality of the ingredients, not the cook. Fresh tomatoes, ripened on their vine in the sunshine, nearby. Delicious olive oil and real butter. Whole milk from well tended cows. The flavors developed from roasting, the combination of herbs, and the roux are unbeatable.

Don’t you just love this time of year? I’m so thankful for farmers!

This made a large pot of soup because I had a heap of ripe tomatoes and wanted to save pints for lunches this week. Halving the recipe would make this more reasonable for a lunch or dinner for four.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and Bon Appétit, February 1998

7 pounds tomatoes, stem base removed and halved
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
7 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup butter
6 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Add onion wedges and garlic cloves among the tomatoes. Drizzle with the olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are dark and tender, about 1 hour, stirring once or twice. Some tomato bits may be charred and the onions may be brown. These are good signs. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Transfer tomatoes, garlic, and onions and any accumulated juices to a food processor or blender. Using on/off turns, process until slightly chunky. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, stirring well, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, sugar, salt, and spices. Continue to cook and stir until slightly thickened. Stir the baking soda into the tomato mixture. This will keep the milk from curdling when the tomatoes are added. Add the tomatoes to the milk and bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat, taste and correct seasonings. Eat hot and/or cool to room temperature before ladling into jars for the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

This soup is divine on its own, but is especially well paired with some homemade croutons, a grilled cheese sandwich, or these perfect zucchini cornbread muffins.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

This was my birthday cake made by my mom. She makes the best cheesecakes in the world and if I could have any cake for every birthday here on out, it would be this one. However, I’m not sure that even the 8 miles I ran this morning made up for the two pieces I ate today. I need it to be gone and I have trouble sharing. What a dilemma.

I think the key to this is the quality of your ingredients. Don’t try to make it lighter or sweeter or smaller. It’s supposed to be rich, tall, and of the best dark chocolate.

The thin pecan crust was my mom’s adaptation and I am swooning over it. It keeps the cake gluten free and adds just the right complexity to contrast with the smooth, tangy cheesecake on top.

Have a slice with a glass of good milk and say a birthday wish for me. As long as this cake is still in the refrigerator and part of my daily meals, I am still celebrating.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Appétit, October 2006

1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
9.6 oz (3 – 3.2 oz bars) dark chocolate, chopped
32 oz (4 – 8 oz packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend pecans in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling: Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in melted chocolate.

Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Cool for an hour before covering with plastic wrap and putting it in the refrigerator to chill overnight. To serve, run a knife around sides of cake to loosen. Remove the sides from the springform pan, cut into 16 slices and serve cold.

Farm Stand Shopping and a Birthday Dinner

Purdum’s Produce is a local farm stand selling an abundance of fruits and vegetables grown nearby. They are open mid July through October. Having the convenience and selection of fresh produce makes cooking, and eating, especially wonderful during these months and my diet suffers their absence the rest of the year.

My birthday was this last Thursday and I decided to make a meal that would be memorable, very me, and take advantage of the harvest season. Aurelia and I went to Purdum’s and bought whatever called out to us. Much of it made it into the salad smorgasbord dinner that was exactly the meal I wanted, what I could eat all the time, the sort of food I crave. Best of all, it was inexpensive, local, healthy, primal, and farmer friendly.

This farm stand is a mere mile from where my house is being built. I love living in such a rural area that still has these old fashioned (and new fashioned) resources that make this such a rich place to cook, eat, and feed a family.

Just for reference and to brag about the low cost of Idaho living, I’ll share that I spent $14 on this trip to the farm stand and bought the following:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 sunflowers
  • 8 onions
  • 1 habanero pepper
  • 2 sweet jalapeno peppers
  • 5 peaches
  • 4 plums
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 head broccoli

To make dinner, I cooked each ingredient separately and let everyone build their own salads, tacos, or burritos. I had the best salad of red leaf lettuce, spiced ground beef, sauteed zucchini and sweet jalapeno, caramelized onions, roasted bell peppers, garlicy guacamole, cotija cheese, fresh tomatoes and cilantro.

Not a bad way to turn thirty!

Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel Topping

Local peaches are just marvelous right now. My grandmother brought another 15 by and I couldn’t help but make a couple more pies. One went to my mother for her office and the other to a beguiling mister. I talked the latter into sharing after we went to see Henry Rollins last Tuesday. The show was incredible and I am ever more impressed with Mr. Rollins. The pie was the best way to wrap the night and what a treat it was!

This recipe is adapted from the Bon Appétit July 2010 issue. I don’t like their recipe for the crust (AP flour and veg shortening – ick) or the filling (peel the peaches with a veg peeler??), but that’s ok. Ignore those parts. Make my low sugar, fresh peach pie with whole wheat, all butter crust, and use only half the dough or double the filling and make two pies, like I did. Instead of making a top crust for the pie, make this streusel topping instead.

It’s good to have variations if you’re going to keep making the same thing over and over. I seem incapable of getting tired of peach pie and love getting more proficient at being a pie maker and baker.

Pecan Streusel Topping for Peach Pie

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Stir flour, oats, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture holds together in moist clumps. Mix in pecans. Sprinkle on top of classic Peach Pie recipe, made with a single bottom crust and peach filling. Bake per instructions, cool, and enjoy!

This is especially wonderful with homemade whipped cream. Yummm.