Valentine’s Day Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake

This post is in partnership with KitchenAid and Le Creuset. Both companies have agreed to partner with the blog as I document my baking adventures. This particular recipe was modified from the book Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt. Instead of homemade caramel, I used store bought La Lechera, and there’s no shame in that. I learned how to bake bread with Tartine and own three Tartine books. This edition goes through different pastries and cakes and I would highly recommend it to bakers who prefer making sweet delicacies over hearty loaves of bread. 

I have been wanting to make this Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake for a while. Something about the elegance and simplicity of this cake really drew my attention to it. It stands alone well with cake crumbs coating the exterior, or for icing lovers out there, perhaps a thicker layer of chocolate ganache would do. It is rich without being overly sweet, romantic without being exaggeratedly extravagant. The definition of delectable!

If you are looking for something to do this COVID Valentine’s Day, why not gather your loved ones and work together on baking this cake? If you’ve got little ones without the patience to sit through the steps of icing and layering a cake, the cake itself tastes like a good batch of brownies and this recipe makes two batches worth when using square 8″ x 8″ pans like these gorgeous ruby red Le Creuset pans. (Right now, if you spend $200, you will receive two free heart ramekins for the Valentine holiday.) You can skip the caramel and whip up the chocolate ganache in minutes, icing the top of your brownies with chocolate. One for you, one for the kids. It’s perfect.

The original recipe calls for homemade caramel but for the sake of time, I simply bought a can of La Lechera. The chocolate ganache was easy to make and I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate chips and heavy cream. Any bittersweet chocolate works in this recipe. Lastly, I had market flowers that were due to wilt, which I cut and placed into the cake. I like to cover the stems with parchment paper so as not to mar the cake.

This cake is super easy to make. With the help of a Kitchen Aid mixer, I was able to mix the cake within ten minutes. It cooks for forty five minutes, during which I was washing dishes and prepping the chocolate ganache. I would recommend waiting until the cake has cooled completely before assembling the layers. I let it cook in their pans for half an hour prior to removing the cake from their molds. Then I place it in the fridge to help firm up the cake prior to icing. Meanwhile, the cake tops are tossed into the oven to dry out. After I assemble the layers, I throw the cake in the freezer for thirty minutes prior to icing the exterior, just to make sure it is set and the layers don’t move around. The most fun part is getting the cake crumbs on the sides of the cake. I found that the original recommendation to tilt the cake isn’t the best, after all my work nearly sliding off the stand and into the sink. I prefer to take a spoon and chuck the crumbs on the sides of the cake, creating a beautiful mess, but nothing my Dyson can’t handle.

If you are looking to this cake as a romantic gesture, I would pair with a glass of red wine and some roses on the side. Candy heart messages optional. It’s going to be a winner, I promise. Other cake recipes this way.

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Ingredients

  • 1.25 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 0.5 cups Spelt flour
  • 4.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.25 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2.25 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • 20 oz Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 can of La Lechera caramel (about 3/4 cup)

The Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray two 9″ cake pans with coconut oil spray or butter them and lightly flour so the cakes do not stick. An alternative is to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper to make removing of the cake rounds easier.
  3. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Attach the paddle attachment to your Kitchen Aid stand mixer and beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy.
  5. Add the sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat on the same speed until light in color and fluffy.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until full incorportaion before adding the next egg. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition with a rubber spatula.
  7. With the Kitchen Aid mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 equal batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. In other words, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finishing with the rest of the flour mixture.
  8. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula, then mix again for another few seconds. This ensures full incorporation.
  9. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the top springs back (about 45 minutes).
  10. Cool cakes completely in the pans on wire racks.
  11. When the cakes are cool, turn them out by inverting the pans. Turn cakes right side up on the wire pans with the mounds on top. Use a serrated knife to cut off the mounded tops (leaving behind two flat rounds) and stick the tops on a sheet tray back into the oven at 250 degrees F. Let them bake for about 45 minutes to an hour to dry them out. These will turn into your crumb coat.
  12. As for the two cake rounds, I stick them into the fridge sitting on wire racks for 10 minutes to completely cool.
  13. Meanwhile, I make the ganache by placing the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl. I heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate into the bowl. Do not stir right away. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is partially melted. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Open the can of La Lechera, as we will assemble the cake layers next.
  14. Remove the cake from the fridge. Use the serrated knife to cut each round in half, resulting in four rounds. Place one round on a plate or cake stand. Spread 3 tablespoons of caramel over the cake, followed by a 1/4 inch thick layer of chocolate ganache. Place the second round on top of the chocolate. Repeat the process until you place the fourth round of cake on top.
  15. Place the newly assembled cake into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the icing. You can also refrigerate the cake until firm for 1-2 hours if you need more time. If you are letting the cake set in the fridge, I would cover the chocolate ganache with plastic wrap to prevent it from air exposure. Keep that out at room temperature.
  16. Meanwhile, the cake tops should be nice and toasty. Remove them from the oven and place in a food processor. Run the food processor until the cake tops are broken up into tiny crumb pieces. Strain the crumbs through a medium-mesh sieve. You don’t want a fine mesh, otherwise your crumbs won’t go through. Set aside the bowl of sifted crumbs for later.
  17. Remove the cake from the freezer (or fridge) and ice the outside with chocolate ganache using an off-set spatula. If decorating with came crumbs, you only need a thin layer. If you prefer to do just the icing, I would double the icing.
  18. After the cake is iced on the top and sides, sprinkle cake crumbs over the top of the cake. The original instruction says to tilt the cake left and right to let the crumbs fall over the edges but that didn’t work too well for me. I had to take a spoon and fling the crumbs at the sides of the cake instead. You can try either, just be careful not to tilt too much lest the cake starts to slip off the plate!
  19. I decorated the top of the cake with flowers from the Farmer’s Market, but this cake is seriously just as beautiful without any decorations at all. If you wish, you can place a dollop of left-over chocolate ganache in a glob at the center of the cake and stick two Sweetheart candy messages on there, calling it a day.

Note: This cake is best served at room temperature. Let it sit on the counter as you prep the rest of dinner. You can also serve this with berries and red wine. To store, keep covered and in a cool place for up to four days. Refrigeration will dry out the cake.

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day.

Cheddar and Herb Scones

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When it comes to breakfast items, I am one who favors savory treats over sweets. That is why these Cheddar and Herb Scones are a staple in our household! I am already a big fan of scones in general for their simple and quick process. As much as I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, scones are one of the few baked goods that I make by hand, without any electric gadgets. There is something very meditative about the sifting of flours, the pinching of cold butter bits in between my fingers, and the kneading of shaggy dough with my hands.

My favorite time to whip up these beauties is in the early morning hours, between rising and making coffee. It helps ease me into my day. Rote motions work subconsciously as my body wakes with every memorized movement. The oven pre-heats, warming the cold kitchen cement floors while I prepare the dough. The scones bake for 18 minutes exactly while I wash the dishes I used and boil water in my Fellow kettle. I make my pour-over coffee with my Chemex, the sound of coffee drips melding in with the smell of cheese. I pour my coffee into my favorite East Fork mug just as the oven beeps. It is a routine that I have mastered and re-mastered.

Scones also get bonus points for their versatility. I like to play with different types of flours as well as toppings. I had previously published my favorite Rye Strawberry and Thyme Scone recipe here. Alternative additions in our household include Blueberry and Lemon, or Caramelized Onion and Bacon. This Cheddar and Herb Scone Recipe is a modification of all those recipes. Once you have a good scone recipe down, you can’t really go wrong with the experimentation.

I hope you enjoy this as much as me and the housemates do!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dark rye flour
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup einkorn flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs (I like a mix of chives, thyme, and rosemary).
  • 1.5 cups Mexican cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • Smoked Maldon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Useful Baking Tools

The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it, Tara Jensen style. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  4. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  7. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use my marble pastry slab from Crate and Barrel which I use for all my baking needs, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  8. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares using a bench scraper (my favorite is by Ateco but something like this would do, too), then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  9. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for its unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

Italian Pasta Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

Over the summer, we spent a weekend in Colorado and met up with a dear friend (our accountant, actually, who of course I became dear friends with) and his wife who was also a dental school classmate of mine. It was the first time we saw friends since the stay-at-home mandate and it was our first sign of normalcy, an indication that things would eventually be okay.

They were hosting us in their lovely backyard and as I watched them wrangle their two kids, put one down for a nap, entertain a talkative other, turn on a grill, make burgers, grill hot dogs, and continue a constant flow of conversation, I thought to myself, “Man these people are super heroes!” Which, I suppose, all parents are.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was when we sat down for lunch, with the older one seated at the end in his floating high chair and the table set for five, my friend turns and pulls out this pre-made pasta salad and a bowl of already chopped fruit from the fridge to add to our awesome burger and hot dog feast. I remember thinking to myself, “Genius!”

I am all about pre-making meals when hosting gatherings but sometimes, in between wanting to impress guests and wanting to serve fresh food, I do forget that the simpler things are usually best. What amazed me most about our friends was that they weren’t running around trying to pick up toys from the floor. They weren’t trying to prevent their kids from running around in the yard. They weren’t concerned about the details of the table setting. They were concerned about whether we wanted another beer or how much ice cream serving is good enough. They focused on their guests alone and I think that when you have two kids and two dogs, you should get a medal for that type of stuff.

I’m sure this isn’t the exact same Italian pasta salad that she served, but that is another great thing about recipes such as these. You can make them on the fly with whatever ingredients you have in stock and they turn out just as great. This recipe is easily made in big batches and it actually tastes better after a day of being in the fridge, soaking up the dressing’s goodness. Plus it looks good in any container.

My parents recently hosted a BBQ themselves and I made a huge batch of this and saved half for us (which we ate with salmon a couple meals in a row) and brought half to the party. I can’t believe I wasn’t making this sooner. It was such a breeze.

Ingredients:

  • Rotini or Bow Tie Pasta (1 lb)
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 cup of small tomatoes
  • 1 cup of pitted olives
  • Other additions/veggies you want to add. Examples include bell peppers, roasted eggplant, roasted squash, pickled carrots, and more.
  • Italian Dressing, to taste
  • Feta cheese to crumble on top
  • Black pepper, to taste.

The Process:

I think the process is rather self-explanatory but here it is in a nutshell.

  1. Boil pasta according to the box instructions. Drain and shock in a bowl of cold water. If you skip shocking the pasta and toss the salad when it’s warm, the noodles will stick together and have a gummy consistency.
  2. Cut cucumber, tomatoes, and olives into similar sized pieces. You want this pasta salad to be easy to eat, which means you want everything to be about the same size.
  3. Mix pasta with fruit and veggies, toss with Italian Dressing, and top with Feta cheese and freshly crushed black pepper.

NOTE: You may notice that we have red onion in this pasta salad. Red onion has a pretty potent flavor and you don’t want to detract from the rest of the salad. If you do add red onion, you can soak it in the dressing prior to adding it in. I myself place cut red onions into a mason jar and soak for at least fifteen minutes so that the dressing pulls out some of the red onion’s harshness. It will also give the onion a sweeter, pickled taste. I toss both onion and dressing with the salad in step 3.

For those interested, the plates are side plates in Morel from East Fork Pottery and the coasters are Herringbone in Black from Fog Linen.

Soups for Slow Living

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

the colder months, I imagine that something happens to our energies. I can’t quite say whether they are lower in availability or simply hankering for a slower kind of work, but the things that our souls yearn for are markedly different from that in the summer. In the Fall and Winter, I like to slow things down. More than usual, anyway.

In an effort to budget my time in a way that allows me to do more meaningful work, I have recently been trying harder to practice Essentialism when it comes to household chores. And while I thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (especially when new recipes are in tow), I also like to minimize the cooking and cleaning when the goal is to keep our bellies satiated rather than to experience a new culinary feat.

So with the Fall and Winter season upon us, I’d like to turn your attention to a solution that generations before us frequently exercised but our youth has forgotten about: Soup.

A simple word, and not by any means pretty. Soup is the savior from the holiday rush that befalls all. Soup is the reliable companion ready to comfort you after a long day’s work. Soup is the nutritious meal that you need without the high price. Soup is readily available with a few basic ingredients in the kitchen, stocked. Pun intended.

There are many ways that soup alleviates stress in our lives.

It accepts our rummaging through the kitchen cabinets to collect what we have at hand and eliminates the need to run to the market for that one rare ingredient crucial to its being. It’s forgiving in preparation, usually welcoming a haphazard throwing into the pot. It requires little time (on our end). We usually take a few minutes to prep and let the simmering do all the work. I am the first to say that we put our Crockpot to good use during these short days and long nights. Big batches of stuff, frozen for later and rationed throughout the week, sometimes as appetizer and sometimes the main course, makes soup a practical solution. Cleanup is facilitated by the need to only have one pot.

I don’t know what else to say.

With all the excesses of today, the youth views soup as an add-on. An appetizer and nothing more. An introduction to the meal. Another excess to add to the bill when we are too tired to cook from home.

But may I remind that soup can stand on its own. And it’ll cook on its own while you’re off at work. It’ll let you live your life, however slow or fast that may be, without so much as a fuss.

Soups, therefore, are essential weapons to carry around in the backs of our pockets … and at the forefront of our minds.

Without further ado, a soup recipe for you:

Ciabbotola

(adapted from Kinfolk Table)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 3 green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 2 pds zucchini, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Fresh basil, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated

The Process:

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat before adding the onions and green and red bell peppers. Cook until the onions have softened and are translucent, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and salt.
  3. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and stir gently and constantly until cooked through, approximately six minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with basil and cheese.
  6. Serve with fresh sourdough (optional).

For those looking for soup of a different kind, here are a few favorites:

I’m sure many more soup recipes are to come. How about yours? Would you care to share your favorite soup recipes?

 

Mushroom and Sweet Potato Tacos with Almond Sauce

In the Kitchen is a series created to inspire others to cook more for themselves. It’s an effort to make healthful eating attainable in a zero-plastic way. It’s an ode towards the one life hack that keeps us well on our financial track. Hoping to slow people down this fast-paced track, I suggest giving up the dine-out and to-go habit, even for just a day a week. Some recipes are meant to be shared with your community, lest it be two or twenty. Others, more decadent and perhaps meant entirely for yourself. In either case, these are some of our tried, true, and favorited. 

This recipe, like most of our recent ones, is adapted from Kinfolk Table. At first, I thought maybe I would greatly dislike this recipe. Sweet potato and mushroom translates to, well, mush in my head, and I thought the combination between this and soft tacos topped with an almond paste would make me feel a bit like an old person trying to eat. Surprisingly, with a few changes that added texture and crunch to the taco, it became not so much the case. Also, the almond sauce and sweet potato makes the taco a bit sweet in my opinion, but by topping the tacos with home-made Siracha sauce, I was able to add another dimension that really elevated the taste.

I would admit that the prep work is not the quickest. I found myself focusing entirely on the recipe. I think that the best way to go about the prep work is to prep the potatoes and let them bake in the oven. As they are cooking, the mushrooms are best made next. And lastly, the almond sauce. Everything should finish around the time that the sweet potatoes are ready. A great thing to do would be to pre-prep the different parts of the taco prior, and then simply re-heat and assemble the tacos during dinner time. Despite the long prep-time, this isn’t a very difficult recipe to make. It would make a great tapa for any dinner party or happy hour gathering. Just have someone else make the cocktail.

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Ingredients:

For the almond paste:

  • 1 large head of roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil

For the tacos:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Large pinch of ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Twelve 6 inch corn tortillas
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Sliced Almonds or Chopped Pumpkin Seeds

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The Process:

  1. If you haven’t any roasted garlic, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, cut a garlic in half, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season the cut sides with salt. Press the garlic halves together and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for one hour. Transfer the foil to a rack and reserve for the sauce. This should be done prior to prepping this meal.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up the sweet potatoes and toss with cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tender. You can easily see why this is the rate-limiting step.
  3. Next, place the almonds for the sauce in a medium sized bowl and add enough boiling water to cover them by an inch or so. Let soak for approximately ten minutes, then drain.
  4. While they are soaking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about three minutes or until the mushrooms begin to release liquid. Add the three cloves of minced garlic and cook for five more minutes while stirring continuously so the garlic does not burn. The mushrooms should be a golden color. Stir in the parsley, remove from heat, and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, using the same skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Cook the shallot, paprika, coriander, and a pinch of salt for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallot becomes translucent and soft. Transfer the shallot to a food processor.
  6. Drain the almonds and add to the food processor, along with the vegetable stock, lemon zest, and if ready, the roasted garlic squeezed from the skin. Pulse until creamy. With the mixer running on high, pour the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil and the canola oil through the feed tube and continue processing until the oils are completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
  7. The sweet potatoes should be finishing up soon. Heat the tortillas directly on the stovetop flame for thirty seconds each side. This is Mr. Debtist’s favorite part. He has a particular preference for a bit of char along the edges. Me, I’m just happy if it’s warm.
  8. When potatoes are ready, assemble the tacos by filling each tortilla with sweet potatoes and mushroom. Plop a decent serving of the almond sauce. Top with cilantro leaves and either sliced almonds or chopped pumpkin seeds. The seeds are what give it texture. Drizzle siracha generously or to your liking. Enjoy!

Note: This is one of those meals that don’t have to be piping hot to taste good, which is why it makes as a great thing to serve for tapas or appetizers at a friendly gathering. 

Simple Almond Oatmeal

Monday night had us feeling tired after a long work day. Which meant we skipped the Monday night meal prep that usually ensues. We grabbed the left over fried rice from the fridge, and decided to worry about the next day’s lunches later. So when Tuesday rolled around and I was sitting at home, hungry, I was short on meal options for lunch, without the want for preparing. Feeling a bit sleepy, what with the fall weather beckoning both me and the cat back into the comfy bed, I was not about to whip out the cutting board and prepare all sorts of ingredients for a full blown meal.

Taking a cue from the cold and overcast late morning air, I instinctively thought to myself, “Oatmeal!” The easiest thing to prepare with ingredients already at hand in the pantry. Additionally, a poor man’s, woman’s meal, and quite in line with slow living. Here, I share with you the barest of oatmeal preparation guidelines. I wouldn’t call this a recipe per say, since every one already knows what making oatmeal entails. Consider it a reflection of what it took to make myself a meal this afternoon.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup rolled oats (we buy ours from the bulk section)
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • A handful of almonds (also from the bulk section)

There was no plastic involved in the production of this meal.

The Process

  1. Boil the water on the stove in a medium saucepan.
  2. Once boiling, add the oats. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a total of five minutes.
  3. Remove pan from the heat and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and almonds. Stir well, to incorporate all the ingredients.
  4. Let sit for two minutes.
  5. Add milk or honey, as you see fit.

If you’re like my grandmother, pour milk into the bowl until the oatmeal resembles cereal … and then some. If you’re like me, eat it plain as can be, enjoying it wholly. It’s a meal that can never be eaten slowly, no matter how late I was running for school. Unlike french fries or chips, the best way to eat oatmeal is by small (tea)spoonfuls . Slowly sneak back underneath the sheets and sidle up next to the cat, staring out into the world outside as you lose yourself in thought; of younger years, of simpler days, of what’s ahead.

Vegetable Dumplings

The quest for hunger-satisfying meat alternatives progresses as we trudge on through this vegetarian challenge. It has been two and a half weeks, not without relapses. I admit to taking the path of least resistance when I was offered a slice of pepperoni pizza at work, and the chicken empanada did not help either. Although neither I nor my husband foresee a long lasting meatless dining adventure, we have decidedly enjoyed discovering new vegetarian recipes together over the course of the past few weeks.

One such scenario where I miserably failed at resisting temptation was when we went out to our favorite ramen place for lunch. The bowl comes with chashu, and though I gave almost half of it to Mike, I still happily digested the first half before deciding that it was enough. I was brainstorming of alternatives to chashu meat, without getting the vegetarian bowl, when I came across this idea: Chashu donations to lucky Mike, and I will simply order a side of vegetarian dumplings to eat with my ramen. Which then had me thinking about vegetarian dumplings, the makings of which could not wait until the next ramen date. So I embarked on a journey to make my own.

Aligned with my practice of avoiding plastic like the plague at the grocery store, I have given up frozen foods for over a year now, amongst other things. Which also means passing up on extremely convenient, pre-made dumpling wrappers that my mother used to get when I was a child. I had to make these dumplings from scratch. Considering my new baking habit, it wasn’t all that foreign to me to make dumplings using flour and water. Off course, one could go the convenient route, but with Mother Nature in mind, I decided to make this recipe in the kindest I knew how.

The Ingredients

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Fresh Dumpling Wrappers

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup boiling water
Dumpling Filling:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 peeled and minced garlic clove
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1½ cups chopped green onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • sesame oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste

The Process:

 

  1. While the water is boiling, mix the salt and flour in a bowl. Add the water, and using a stand mixer with a ceramic paddle attachment, mix the water into the flour. It will still be crumbly when you switch to the dough hook, and knead the dough for 7-8 minutes. After kneading the dough, cut the dough in half. Make each half into a round bagel shape but forming it into a ball and then using both thumbs to push a hole through the center. Allow the bagel rounds to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
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  2. Meanwhile, cut up all the veggies. Once everything is chopped, heat vegetable oil in a wok. Add cabbage, ginger, and garlic. Stir fry over medium-low heat until cabbage has wilted. Add mushrooms, green onions and carrots, and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Add soy sauce and a bit of sesame oil to your taste. I typically don’t even add salt and pepper, but you can.
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  3. At this time, the dough should be ready. Using a tortilla press, I shape the dough into small rounds. I then make the dough even thinner using a rolling pin, compressing the dough into a very thin, flat disk. Depending on the consistency of the dumplings that you prefer, you can go as thick or thin as you want. Typically, if I am going to fry the dumplings, I go for a thinner wrapper. If I am going to steam the dumplings, I like a thicker piece.
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  4. Place a scoop of the vegetable mixture in the center of the dough wrapper, and then fold the dough in half. Wet one edge with water, and then fold the other edge over and over again to create the dumpling design.
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  5. You can immediately cook them, but I prefer to lay them out on a tray and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can package them in a Tupperware and they can stay frozen for up to a few months.
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When we want to cook them, we just toss them on a hot frying pan, or steam them while the rice is cooking in the rice cooker. This time around, we decided to eat them with a bowl of hot ramen, summer nights notwithstanding.

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