When it comes to cooking, I find joy in creating complexity out of the most simple and base ingredients. Take carrots, for example. A boring carrot stick is something you pass by on your weekly grocery run in the produce aisle. Orange, stiff, sometimes with carrot top still intact (in which case, a no-waste carrot top recipe, here). A long ways from extraordinary. But when I think of a well-made carrot cake, my eyes can’t help but twinkle, my mouth salivates. The marriage between sweet, earthy, and spicy undertones signifies a TRUE carrot cake, not disguised by extreme amounts of sugar, as they usually are. The colors of the cake itself remind me of the beauty of fall – orange from the carrots, brown from cinnamon and brown sugar, purple and mossy green from the rye.
Too often, carrot cake is done a disservice. Fatty and sugary sweet isn’t the cake I dream of. If it comes out of the pan shiny, covered in grease and oil, then you know it’s not done right. The texture should be moist, but grainy too. It should be fluffy and crumbly. My favorite way to make it is to keep the carrot shreds long, so that they break up the cake and are featured in their own right, rather than disappear into the flour, overshadowed by bread. With this recipe modified from East of Kitchen, I was able to create such a cake for a Friendsgiving gathering, with plenty of left-overs to boot.
It’s time to do carrot cake justice.
For the cake:
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
5 cups carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp cinnamon
8 large free-range eggs
2.5 cups granulated sugar
2 cups coconut oil
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Grease two 9-in cake pans and line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and grease that, too.
In a large bowl, combine the rye flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs until frothy, about 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time and beat until the batter has thickened.
With the mixer running on medium speed, add the coconut oil in a slow and steady stream.
With the mixer set on low speed, add the flour mixture, and mix just until combined.
Dump the grated carrots and the pecans in the batter and incorporate with the aid of a spatula.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before removing to a cooling rack. When it is completely cooled, cut lengthwise through the middle with the aid of a serrated knife.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tsp lemon zest
In the bowl of your stand mixer beat the butter and cream cheese on low speed until everything is blended.
Add the powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time, with mixer running on low, until everything is incorporated and smooth. Beat in the vanilla and zest.
Refrigerate at least one hour prior.
To assemble the cake:
Place the first cake layer on a serving plate.
Wrap wax paper around the circumference of the cake to create a tall wall to support the building of the cake.
Spoon 2 tsp of milk over the cake. This will keep the cake moist.
Spread a layer of the frosting evenly on top, then place the second layer over.
Spoon 2 tsp of milk, and them spread another layer of frosting.
Repeat with the third and fourth layers. Spread frosting evenly on top. There should be more than a fourth of the frosting reserved for the top layer. Reserve a small amount of frosting for the sides of the cake.
Place the cake into the freezer without removing the wax paper. Let sit in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove the cake from the freezer and remove the wax paper. Ice the sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Place in the fridge for at least one hour to allow the frosting to set.
The cake should be ready to eat afterwards. If you wish, decorate with sprigs of rosemary stems.
We’ve kind of took it upon ourselves to create a frugal challenge that requires us to become vegetarian for a week. The progress report: Grocery bills have been less than $40 for two, sufficiently providing three meals per day, seven days a week. Frugal challenges for the win! As if this wasn’t enough, the past few weeks, I’ve indulged myself in an even bigger challenge, one spurred by a visiting 24-year old cousin from Virginia. Her recent visit divulged the fact that she has been pescatarian for two years, in an effort to be non-contributory to the food industry’s ways. I did give up beef one year ago, along similar lines of reasoning, but could not fathom giving up anything more (this fear driven by a love of bacon). But her youth and drive to make a difference was very inspiring. I have a lot of friends who have gone pescatarian. Additionally, I know of two people who gave up meat at 8 years old. If I could be whole-heartedly against plastic, why can’t it be the same of food? I bade farewell to my far-off cousin with the promises of at least trying it. Off course, I decided to time my first week of trials with this month’s frugal challenge of vegetarian meals for one week.
The results are two-fold. Extreme sadness and ill-conceived hunger at all times. Giving up chocolate was easier than this. It’s not like I haven’t gone vegetarian for a week before. It’s just that I’ve never done it knowing there’s possibly of a week (or lifetime) or pescatarianism after. On the other side, experimental recipes galore unleashes an innate happiness that only creation can.
Before we grocery shop, we always write a list. Firstly, because I am type-A. Secondly, because I despise wasting time in uncertainty. And lastly, to avoid getting any unnecessary items. Especially junk food and snacks! So when we were brainstorming for a week of vegetarian dishes, it was Mike who suggested trying an Indian dish. Some may call us crazy for trying a curry in mid-summer heat, but I wasn’t mad about the results. Plus, any excuse to eat rice is welcomed in my culture.
We’ve made curry before, but usually in the fall and winter, filled with squashes and, well, meat. We decided to try something a little different, with more summery ingredients. This recipe contains a good blend of spices, including bold Cayenne pepper. There’s a kick with every spoonful, balanced by Jasmine rice. It does already contain potatoes though, so if you are bothered at all by endless starches, maybe skip the rice. It tastes just as well as a soup! The carrots was Mike’s addition, and the spinach was mine. As with everything, personalize it however way you wish with your own selection of greens. Our recipe, below:
1/3 cupcooking oil
3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoonsalt
1 tablespooncrushed cayenne pepper
1 poundpotatoes, peeled, and cubed
1/2 poundgreen beans, trimmed and cut in 1 inch pieces
1/2 cupcoconut milk
1 bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine the oil and tomatoes and simmer for four minutes. You don’t want to burn the tomatoes, but you do eventually want their juices to come out. The tomato paste will go a long way with this dish.
Stir in the spices and cook for another 4 minutes.
Add the water and potatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. It may be that you’d need to add more water. Don’t let the dish dry out.
Add in the green beans, cover and cook 5-8 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in the coconut milk and increase heat to medium. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the spinach and stir, allowing the spinach to wilt, about 15-30 seconds. I personally still like spinach looking vibrantly green. The color makes it taste better, or so I tell myself. Once the spinach is wilted, it is ready. Serve and enjoy!
Optional: Globs of Jasmine Rice on the side, stray rice included.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
It’s summer in Southern California, and my frugal self can’t help but turn on the AC once the loft nears 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In a moment of weakness (I blame the heat), we went to our favorite local coffee shop in Santa Ana last Sunday, to reap the benefits of their AC in lieu of turning ours on. Which also is a confession for: we ordered coffee at a coffee shop, something we haven’t done in a while. Despite the regrets of spending $11 in exchange for two hours of AC time (we stayed until closing hour), we were introduced to a splendid drink, which they call the Frozen Sweet Latte.
The drink comes from a slushie machine, and while $5.50 a glass seems like a steep price, the joys of sipping one of these babies as icy crystals twinkle on your tongue is indescribable. It’s enough to evaporate any heat wave (well, the AC in the shop helped). Regardless, once we had a taste of their medicine, we just knew we had to replicate it, or at least try. Hence, the sharing of a similar, but slightly different, frozen sweet latte recipe. Without a slushie machine, we made up for their textured ice crystals with a more distinct taste of espresso. Here’s how you could avoid paying for coffee, and sit through another hot afternoon in a blazing room.
Makes 6 servings
Things you need:
Blender – You’ll need a blender to mix all this goodness right before serving. Having worked at Jamba Juice for almost two years, a blender was one of the first things to go on our registry. No Annie Banks Mackenzie crying over a blender as a wedding gift here (Father of the Bride fans, anyone?). This is the one we own.
Scale– I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
Grinder– The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious cups of Joe ever since.
Espresso Machine – This is the machine we’ve been using to sling espressos since before I knew what an espresso was. It’s a very affordable espresso machine, with is the main reason we chose it over others. One day, we will upgrade, but for now, it does the job.
Freezer safe bowl – Honestly, we just use a glass Tupperware to store the coffee in the freezer. We have a Tupperware set similar to this one.
1 cup of espresso
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup sugar
6 cups of crushed ice
Pull 1 cup of espresso from the espresso machine. We had to pull approximately 4 espresso shots, at 20 grams of freshly ground coffee beans extracted at 25 seconds each shot.
Pour the espresso in a freezer safe bowl. Add the sugar and mix until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Add 1/2 a cup of milk.
Freeze in the freezer for at least 8 hours.
Thaw slightly in the fridge right before use. We placed it in the fridge for approximately one hour.
Transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup of milk. Add 6 cups of crushed ice (depending on the consistency you want).
Blend on high until thoroughly mixed. We still wanted some crushed ice pieces in there.
Pour into 6 glasses. Sprinkle with freshly ground coffee.
Our version is definitely not as light as theirs, but if you really like the taste of coffee, the flavor stands out more in this version. If you could budget out $5.50 a glass, it’s still worth trying out their slushie machine version at Hopper and Burr. Really, the texture is better than ours! The owner, Severson, is doing otherpretty neat stuff worth checking out too.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
Rumor has it that my co-worker’s wife makes the best lentil soup, and vegan friends have sworn that lentils make for an amazing alternative to meat, whether in burgers or in meat-less meatloaves. So when Mike came across a recipe for Lentil Fritters and voiced a willingness to try a vegetarian alternative to meatballs, I decided to give it a go. This recipe in particular included tumeric, a spice that previous to this post, I have not tried for myself, despite seeing it on every shelf at Mother’s Market and Whole Foods in every edible form imaginable. The benefits of tumeric still escapes me, so anybody able to shed light on this is entirely welcome to! Either way, while curiosity killed the cat, in this case, it got two humans to try a vegan meal in a normally very-non-vegan house.
Happily, I was able to get all ingredients in zero-waste fashion from the bulk aisle of our local Whole Foods. Initially, there was no inkling amongst the both of us that lentil was a grain. For some reason, I always imagined a leafy green. But we finally found it after a quick Google search, and carted away red lentils, chia seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds in self-brought containers. Determined not to buy pre-packaged tahini sauce, I decided to be generous in the sesame seed purchase, so that I could make tahini from scratch at home. And in my efforts to continue with the zero waste, we used some day old bread to create the bread crumbs that we needed to add some texture to the fritters. Biased-ly enough, any recipe that allows me to curb landfill waste is a great one! So I hope you enjoy the nutty, seedy, earthy fritters atop a refreshing bed of salad as much as we did.
Seedy Lentil Fritters
5 clovesof garlicchopped
1/3tspor more cayenne
1/2cupred lentils, washed and drained
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2cuppacked chopped spinach
2 tbspchia seeds
1tbsptoasted sesame seeds
Tahini Dill Sauce
3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
3 tbs olive oil
Chopped tomatoes & cucumbers
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add all the spices and drained lentils. mix and cook for only a minute.
Add salt and water and cook for 11 minutes partially covered. Uncover, fold in spinach and parlsey and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and all the liquid is absorbed. The mixture will be soft. Taste and adjust salt and heat.
Add chia seeds and sesame seeds and mix in. Chill the lentil mixture for half an hour (in our case, we just placed it right in the fridge!)
Meanwhile, make croutons from day old bread using our Basic Crouton Recipe. Once croutons come out of the oven, crush them using either mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin.
Preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220ºc. Mix in 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in the lentil mixture. The mixture will be soft but should get easily shaped into soft balls without too much sticking or squishing.
Once the lentil mixtures have been shaped into fritters, place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to rub olive oil over the surfaces, for an extra crisp texture. Bake for 20 minutes.
Blend everything under tahini sauce in a food processor, starting with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients after the tahini sauce has reached the desired consistency. Taste and adjust, adding salt and lemon as needed. For a garlicky dressing mix in 1/4 tsp garlic powder.
Assemble the bowl with greens, juicy tomatoes or cucumbers, and as many Lentil fritters as you like. Drizzle dressing generously.
This makes way more fritters than necessary for a party of two. Good news is that they refrigerate quite well. Reheating in a toaster oven makes them good as new, so batch cooking these babies can really come in handy on a busy day. I would also venture to predict that future self will be substituting these for beef patties, on the regular.
With our recent bread baking habit, we have the privilege of having left-over starter around every single day. In case you are not familiar with baking bread using a live starter, a starter is pretty much a yeast culture in a mason jar that we feed on a daily basis on a set schedule so that the yeast continues to grow. We refer to our starter as our baby. And since feeding requires only a portion of the existing starter to continue growing, the rest is discarded in the trash. Or as is the case in our household, refashioned into a number of different baked goods, sourdough pancakes being one of them.
While the post regarding our entire bread baking experience will be saved for another day, this post is all about what we drizzle over that delicious pancake recipe. Cherry Compote! When I think of cherries, I think of warm summer days, with handfuls of this red, juicy fruit in a bowl, twined together by common, wispy limbs. I think of juice dribbling down chins, and fingers, and for some, shirts while we sit in basic tees and sneakers on the sidewalk or in the grass, picnic style. I envision a collection of pits, delicately eaten around, or more enjoyably, chewed and spit back out. I don’t associate the word cherry with the winter time, but winter time seems to be when I crave it the most.
This compote recipe is perfect for winter. Warm cherries should be as coveted as their cold summer counterpart, and the combination with something as earthy and aromatic as thyme really makes this recipe a simple yet special one. Even though we drizzle this mostly over our sourdough pancakes, it would also be a great addition to scoops of vanilla ice cream, a slice of cheesecake, or as a topping for a Thanksgiving pie. It’s officially Spring, but the weather is still cool enough that this recipe remains relevant, for another few months more.
1 pound of cherries
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
Pinch of Salt
The first part is the fun part. Remove the cherry pits from the cherries! I usually just use a pairing knife, although a cherry pitter would probably be quicker. But you know, minimalist household. The less tools the merrier in our book.
Slice the cherries into halves or quarters, depending on the size you want.
Add the cherries, water, and thyme in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Make sure to stir frequently, and continue to cook until they start to break down (approximately 3 minutes).
Stir in the honey and salt and remove from the heat. The compote is all done! Set aside until you are ready for use and rewarm as necessary. Sprinkle in some blueberries, and top with powdered sugar, more honey, or melted butter.
After a day of perusing the bulk bins at our local grocery store, I decided to stock up on a mason jar of coconut flour. Prompted by mystical fairy dust, mingled with curiosity as to the gluten-free-craze sweeping the nation (and my friends), I decided to experiment with my new-found ingredient. I perused the web for a recipe that uses this ingredient, and found that chocolate chip cookies would be entirely useful, given that I also picked up a handful of chocolate chips from the bulk aisle. Additionally, I was able to find a combination of ingredients that were already at hand in our pantry, thus eliminating the need to purchase more goods. Hurrah for resourcefulness, with a little thank you to our roomie, who offered up a jar of her coconut oil for my experiments.
I first made this recipe about a week ago and found it to be quite satisfying. Having been the first time using coconut flour, I was pretty surprised at the cake-like consistency. What you get is a cookie-formed dessert, that tastes like chocolate chip cake. A combination of two wonderful worlds. Chewy cookie lovers unite! Gluten-free converts rejoice! Moms just trying to find a healthy(er) option for their kids, weep with joy.
(Coconut Flour) Chocolate Chip Cookie Cakes
1/4cupcoconut oil, melted
1/4cupdark chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a bowl or a stand-mixer and then mix until you achieve a thicker, cookie dough consistency. Don’t worry if it looks runny at first, it’ll thicken up in a jiffy.
After the correct consistency has been achieved, add in the chocolate chips, and stir to distribute them evenly.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop a tablespoon of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. It is important to note that you must use your hands to flatten the cookies. Keep in mind these cookies will NOT spread on their own, so you’ll want to shape them how you’d like them to turn out.
Bake at 350F for 13-15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with a glass of cold milk, or with a bowl of home-made vanilla ice cream.
A late night post about a quick and easy early morning breakfast, just in case you are still in need of ideas at this hour. Overnight oats are one of the staple breakfasts that frequently grace our refrigerator doors. First discovered in an effort to keep wellness in mind, we have been consistently making them ever since. As with most other recipes, it was not created by yours truly in avant-garde fashion by any means, and in order to give credit where credit is due, I will refer you to Minimal Wellness’s blog, where you can also find the nutritional benefits of said recipe.
I’d like to say I’m not partial to it because of the mason jars, but that wouldn’t exactly be the whole truth. Either way, aesthetics aside, the taste itself is fabulous, a mixture of oatmeal with milk, but sweeter. Typically, I am not a fan of oatmeal unless there’s a lot of sugar involved, but I love this recipe, and I daresay it’s a bit healthier since I’m not adding sugar by the spoonful.
Additionally, it is so easy to make and requires very little planning. You literally throw all ingredients in a jar, top with a lid, shake to mix, and toss it in the fridge to allow the oats to soak up the liquid overnight. This recipe even works when prepared two hours prior to eating. Once made, you can top it off with anything, such as blueberries (our favorite) or peanut butter and banana. Below, you will find the recipe, with some of our preferences substituted, differing slightly from the original.
½ cup gluten free rolled oats
⅔ cup Strauss 2% Lowfat milk
⅓ cup Saint Benoit Creamery Organic Jersey Cow French Vanilla Yogurt
1 Tbl chia seeds
2 Tbl shredded unsweetened coconut
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup frozen berry of choice (Blueberries, typically. We try to only use these when we can buy them from a farmer’s market, without the plastic container. Otherwise, we opt for banana and peanut butter.)
Place all ingredients until the cinnamon in the mason jar.
Put the lid on and shake to mix all ingredients thoroughly.
Once ingredients are mixed, pour the frozen blue berries (if using) on top and replace the lid.
Place jar into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir the berries into the oat mixture and enjoy.
(If you are using Peanut Butter and banana, top with a healthy scoop (or two) of peanut butter and a sliced banana.)
If I’ve solved your late night meal planning problem, well, you’ve only got Minimal Wellness to thank! The recipe is too good not to share.
There’s something special about sharing recipes from one person to another. Perhaps it’s the coming together that makes the whole thing so great. Acknowledgement that we need to share pieces of ourselves with each other, one of the most valuable being our time. Maybe its the activity producing something sustainable, a necessity ingrained into our very beings. Whatever it is, there is something to be said of gathering over the makings of a meal, the way it connects people on multiple levels.
I always feel joy when I learn a new recipe from someone I know. Even more so when I’ve already tasted said recipe and have decidedly fallen in love with the taste (smell, and sight) of it. Today, I had the privilege of learning my sister-in-law’s delicious home-made granola recipe. I’ve been asking her to come over and teach me how it’s done ever since she handed me a mason jar full of this home-made goodness a few months ago. We finished the jar in just a few days, strewn over yogurt, or eaten simply by the handful. Since then, I’ve been craving it, and so for the past few weeks, I’ve consistently asked for any spare moment she may have so that I might learn to make it on my own. Today was my lucky day.
She came over mid-afternoon, bearing all the ingredients we needed, with her own additional twist: Coconut flakes. The great thing about the ingredients in this recipe is that they can be purchased in bulk, allowing you to make the crunchy goodness without waste. Plus the recipe is flexible, in the sense that the maker can add whatever ingredients they want. Creativity can reign in the production of something as simple as granola. Some of her alternative suggestions included pecans or walnuts. Sometimes you can simply make do with whatever left over nuts and seeds you may have in the pantry. Either way, there’s very few ways to really mess this up. I mean, it’s granola!
The honest truth: It’s more than granola. It’s magic. It’s versatile. It’s simple. It’s healthy. It’s a great arsenal to have in the pantry. Considered a year-round ingredient in our household, it seems appropriate that we address its production early on in this virtual recipe book. The greatest part is the ease with which the process can be executed. Once in the oven, there is nothing left for you to do, except to rotate the granola every 12 minutes. Now you’ve got time on your hands to read a book, write a novel, or chat like we did, over espresso in the waning afternoon light. Additionally, each batch makes a hefty amount (more than six cups of granola!), thus allowing you to be quite liberal with how you choose to spend it.
Additional things I loved when making this:
The smell of brown sugar caramelizing on the stove top.
The sound of granola shifting, when raking it to get an even toasting.
The scent of coconut toasting.
The earthy colors of the combination of grains, seeds, and coconut flakes.
The warmth of the baking pan as you take it out of the oven to cool.
The “plink” of well-toasted pieces being transferred to a glass mason jar.
The crunch of your very first bite.
The subtle sweetness it lends to whatever meal your gracing with its presence.
5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Boil brown sugar, canola oil, water, and vanilla extract for two minutes. Careful not to burn the mixture. We allowed it to heat over medium heat.
Combine all the dry ingredients until the sunflower seeds in a bowl. We will add the coconut flakes at a later time.
Mix all ingredients (wet and dry) together and spread on a cookie sheet.
Bake granola for 36 minutes, stirring the granola once every 12 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and turn the oven off (very important, lest you burn the upcoming coconut flakes).
Sprinkle 1 cup of coconut flakes on top of the granola and return the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes (or until desired crispiness has been reached), stirring once in the middle of the 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and cool before transferring to a container of your choice.