Vanilla Wedding Cake with Mocha Filling


Vanilla Mocha Cake - exteriorOur friends Joe and Sarah recently got married, and one of the highlights of the celebration was their amazing wedding cake. I wanted to shove a few illicit pieces in a napkin and bring them home, but good manners got the better of me, so I decided to try to recreate it at home while it was fresh in my mind. The key elements were: a light, slightly chewy white cake, a rich layer of mocha frosting inside, topped with light and tangy vanilla frosting.

This was a new form of cake construction for me as I’d never made a true white cake before, and I found it’s easier and faster than I’d expected. I love the way the plain white frosting hides the decadent mocha layer inside.

Serves 12


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

Mocha Filling
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. milk chocolate (I used a Fair Trade chocolate bar)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cold-brewed coffee concentrate OR equvalent from instant espresso powder
1/4 cup milk, warmed (may not need all – see instructions)
8 oz. powdered sugar

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. powdered sugar


For the Cake
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by first buttering, then flouring, and then lining them with parchment paper. Whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a small bowl.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat in the butter, one piece at a time. Continue to beat for about a minute, or until the mixture looks like moist crumbs. Pour in the milk mixture, reserving 1/2 cup and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about a minute.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to pull up any un-mixed flour. Add the final bit of milk and stir again briefly, about 20 seconds. Scrape the batter into the cake pans, dividing evenly and spreading the mixture in each pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a thin blade around the edge of each cake and turn them out onto wire racks. Peel off the parchment paper, and allow the layers to cool completely before assembly.

Mocha Filling
Vanilla Mocha Cake - InteriorIn a heat-proof or microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter and milk chocolate together using a double boiler, or by microwaving for short periods of time and stirring frequently. Sift in the cocoa powder and sugar and add the coffee, then begin whipping the mixture with a hand mixer or whisk. If the mixture is too stiff, slacken it a bit with some warmed milk, adding just a little at a time. Continue to whip until the filling is light and fluffy. Then refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to allow it to firm up a bit.

Whip the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together until smooth and some air is incorporated, then add the sugar a little at a time. Continue to whip until the frosting has doubled in volume.

Make sure both of your cake layers are completely cooled before assembly. Otherwise you will, quite literally, have a “melt-down.”

Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Using a flexible spatula, give the mocha filling a good stir before spooning it into the middle of the first cake layer. Gently spread the filling towards the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch margin all the way around the cake (this will prevent brown streaks in your outer frosting).

Gently place the second cake layer on top and center it. Frost the entire cake with the vanilla frosting. I find it easier to work from the top down, spreading the frosting around the top and down the sides of the cake with a thin metal spatula. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the filling and frosting to firm up before slicing. Serve with coffee.

Cold Oatmeal

Ah, winter. Time for hearty, sustaining foods that get us through long dark days. Ironically, it’s the time that I turn to one of my favorite breakfasts, cold oatmeal. I’ve never been a fan of hot cereal – something about the warm, gluey texture just puts me off. But I discovered I do like oatmeal served cold, with plenty of fruit.

By adding yogurt, the slimy/gluey texture is transformed into a thicker, richer yogurt taste. Making this ahead of time takes just a couple of minutes while I’m preparing dinner or waiting for my evening tea to steep. And in the morning I can grab it quickly on the way to work.

Make the day ahead. Serves 1.


1/4 cup Scottish oatmeal (more finely ground than steel cut oats)
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond, coconut…)
1/3 cup yogurt*
1/2 apple, cut into chunks (or fresh fruit of your choice)
Handful of dried, sweetened cranberries (raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots, even dates would be nice)
Walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped (optional)

*I prefer a slightly sweetened yogurt such as Green Mountain Creamery maple or vanilla. Or use an unsweetened yogurt and sweetened milk, or add a little honey or maple syrup to taste.


The night before, cut up the apple and place in a portable container with the other ingredients except the nuts. Stir thoroughly to make sure the oats are moistened with the milk. Place in the refrigerator.

The next morning, throw in a handful of nuts if you like, stir again and enjoy!

Southwest Soft Tacos

Have I mentioned that Mother has been spoiling us with homemade dinner? Ever since Rick broke his foot earlier this year, and now that we’ve also been starting a new business, making dinner once a week has been Nancy’s way of helping out – and it really is a huge help.

This week, she made slow-cooked pork butt, which became pulled pork sandwiches at first. But what to do with 7 pounds of leftover meat? A few ideas came to mind, one of which was tacos.

This recipe is a (possibly odd) fusion of flavors from traditional beef tacos and fish tacos, but it worked, so I’m writing it up here. Makes 6 tacos – serves 2-3.


  • 1 pound cooked tender meat, shredded or pulled (pork, chicken, or a meat substitute)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Chili powder
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • 1 cup Green or red cabbage, wilted
  • 2 oz. Sour cream
  • Chipotle in adobo OR chipotle hot sauce
  • Salsa – your choice (I used canned peach salsa for some sweetness, but any style is fine)
  • Freshly chopped cilantro (optional)


Shred the cabbage and salt it generously. Let it stand for a couple of hours, then wash thoroughly in a bowl with cool water, to remove excess salt. Drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove excess water.

In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the shredded cooked meat and a couple of dashes of chili powder (to taste). Cook on medium heat until the meat is warmed through. Turn off the burner but leave the pan on the stove to keep the meat warm until serving time.

Combine the sour cream with one chipotle pepper OR 2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or to taste). If using a pepper I recommend pureeing in a food processor for even heat throughout the sauce.

Thoroughly wash the cilantro to remove grit, then chop roughly.

Just before serving, layer the corn tortillas on a microwave safe plate between damp (not soggy) paper towels, and heat on high for 20-30 seconds to gently steam them.

Serve buffet style. Use a doubled layer of corn tortillas per taco for structure and top with the meat. Lay out the cabbage, chipotle sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, and let everyone assemble their tacos with the toppings they like best.


Creamy Cassoulet

Until a year ago I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Chevrolet and a cassoulet, but after my last two visits to Trealy Farm in Wales I am all about the cassoulet. If you didn’t guess a cassoulet is very closely related to what Americans call casseroles, at least in name. The latter are usually baked in an oven, and in my limited experience the former are done on a stove top. Both are designed to be made in a single cooking dish, which makes them ideal for busy people.

This specific recipe is based on a dish I had at Trealy Farm in March 2015, and I modified it only a bit. A little web research indicates that there are many sausage and chickpea cassoulets out there, so please feel free to experiment. Personally I plan to add some mushrooms to my next one based on this recipe on Soup Club.

The recipe below took me all of 30 minutes from start to finish so it really is an ideal mid-week quick supper.


1 lb pork sausage links
15 ounce can of chickpeas
1 large yellow onion diced
3/4 cup whole milk or cream
Small bunch of kale, stalks removed and rough chopped
1 1/4 cup (uncooked) brown basmati rice
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil


I really do think the rice cooker is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a kitchen. It makes it nearly impossible to over or under cook rice, plus the the rice can be made ahead of time and the machine will keep it warm without allowing it to become sticky and or gluey. This is why this step in the recipe is first. I prefer brown rice for the added nutritional benefits, but any rice will do. However if you use brown rice it will take longer to cook, so plan accordingly. In our rice cooker, brown rice takes 2 hours. If you want to have this dish during the work week, consider programming your rice cooker to start before you get home so it is ready when you get home.

Select a large frying pan, and heat the oil in it. Fry the sausages in the oil until cooked through. One really can use any sausage they want, but a pork-based one will give up some of the oils needed to help make the creamy sauce. The first time I made this dish I chose an Italian style lamb and pork sausage from a local farm, Tamarack Vermont Sheep Farm.

Once cooked through, remove the sausages and add the diced onions to the hot pan. Sauté the onions and then add the chickpeas. Cut the sausages into chunks and then return them to the pan before adding the kale. Reduce the heat to low, and cover the dish to allow the kale to wilt.

At this point the rice is ready, and the dish can sit until you are ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, simply stir in the milk or cream to make the sauce. Ladle the cassoulet over a serving of rice in a bowl and enjoy.

Remember that this is a starting point for a very flexible dish. If you have a red pepper in the house, chop it up and add it. If you have mushrooms slice them up and add them!

Coconut Creme & Raspberry Cake

Coconut Creme Cake

It’s March in Vermont, and as much as I’ve been trying to deny it I’m in the mood for warmer weather. I’ve also been dreaming of the amazing coconut raspberry cake I had last summer while on vacation (in Edinburgh) at The Kitchin, a Michelin-star-rated restaurant that served the best meal I’ve ever had. While the chef, Tom Kitchin, does publish recipes, he doesn’t publish his method for this particular item, so I’ve been scouring cookbooks and websites, trying to find something that resembled what I ate.

I really couldn’t find anything that reminded me of that awesome cake, until I came across an overly-complicated version on the Food Network. The coconut custard seemed right to me, but the frosting and filling looked too heavy, so I cut back the butter and used the custard as-is without adding more heavy cream. My trusty Cook’s Illustrated book had an interesting recipe, but it called for “cream of coconut,” an ingredient I couldn’t find at any of my local markets.

My own attempt here is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Coconut Layer Cake, Bobby Flay’s coconut cake with coconut filling, and my memory of Tom Kitchin’s delectable creation. It’s more formal than the Cook’s version, but less complicated than Flay’s, and I added back the raspberry element which was missing from both of those. The best part of making this is your house will smell like a tropical paradise!

Stand mixer, 2 9-inch cake pans, medium sauce pan

Coconut Custard
4 eggs, separated (see instructions)
1 14- oz can coconut milk, separated (see instructions)
3 T cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract

4 egg whites
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup coconut solids
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups filtered water
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract
3 cups pastry or cake flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

3/4 cup coconut custard
1 stick butter (softened)
4 T cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Finishing Touches
Raspberry jam
Shredded sweetened coconut


First, the Custard
Open the can of coconut milk and spoon out two generous dollops of the coconut cream (approx. 1/4 cup) from the top into a medium mixing bowl (this will be for the cake). Empty the remaining contents of the can into a medium saucepan, add the milk and extracts, and heat to a simmer.

Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks into an empty mixing bowl and the whites into the bowl with the reserved coconut cream; set the egg white mixture aside (for the cake).

Whisk the egg yolks together with the corn starch and sugar until lighter in color and smooth. When the milk mixture has simmered, remove it from the heat and pour a few tablespoons into the egg yolks, then quickly whisk to temper the eggs. Add the warm milk a little at a time and continue whisking until about half the milk has been added, then pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk, whisk again and return the pan to the heat. Heat the custard until it just starts to bubble, whisking as you go. When it boils the heat will activate the corn starch and thicken the custard. Remove from heat and pour the custard into a mixing bowl, stir to cool somewhat and set aside. When the custard has reached room temperature place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Make the Cake
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray the cake pans with cooking spray, and add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of each.

To the egg white/coconut creme mixture (reserved from the custard process) add two whole eggs, the milk, and the extracts, and whisk together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Beat on low speed and slowly add the butter, one piece at a time. Combine until the mixture looks like moist crumbs, about 1 minute. Pour in the egg/milk mixture and beat on low until combined, then turn off the mixer, scrape the sides and bottom, and resume mixing on medium speed until the batter is lighter and fluffy, about 1 minute more.

Distribute the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean, rotating once during baking. Allow the cakes to rest in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then flip the cakes out onto the racks, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to finish cooling completely, about 2 hours.

While the cakes and custard are cooling…

Make the Frosting
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until very fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Add 3/4 cup of the coconut custard and continue whipping until well-combined and fluffy. Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.

The Grand Assembly
Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and let sit 5 minutes. Slice the two cakes horizontally, creating 4 layers. Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Heat the raspberry jam in the microwave for a few seconds until warm, and stir to create a spreadable paste.

Place the first cake layer, cut side up, onto a serving plate. Spread this piece with a thin layer of jam, then dollop on 1/3 of the coconut custard and spread gently. Try not to mix the jam and custard layers; if the jam is too liquid you can pop the first jammed cake layer in the freezer for about 5 minutes to set up before applying the custard.

Place a cake layer on top and repeat: cake, jam (optional freeze), custard, until you get to the final cake layer. Finish the assembly by spreading the frosting over the top and all around the sides of the cake, and sprinkle on the shredded coconut. If you like a lot of shredded coconut you can press it on gently with your hand for a denser coating.

Put the whole cake back in the refrigerator and chill until time to serve.

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos just aren’t something we can find in Vermont, so I developed my own take on these. The cooking method is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish but the spice profile is decidedly more south-western. This is a great dish for two people to make together, one making the vegetables and the other preparing the fish. If cooking alone, make the vegetables and sauce first, then prepare the fish so that it’s not sitting around getting cold and soggy after coming out of the oven.

Yield: Serves 4

For the fish…
2 large fillets firm-fleshed white fish (such as Tilapia, Cod, even Catfish)
3 cups breadcrumbs (home-made from stale bread, or large Panko-style)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 4 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. mayonnaise
1 small can chilies in adobo (used for both fish and sauce)
1 T. chili powder
2 t. Old Bay seasoning

For the tacos…
Corn tortillas
Sour cream
1/2 head cabbage
2 onions
2 bell peppers
Olive oil

For the fish…
Preheat the oven to 350F. Set two wire cooling racks into a baking sheet to create a raised cooking platform for the fish.

Prepare the dipping assembly line before dealing with the fillets. Spread 1/2 cup of the flour in a shallow dish, pie plate, or platter with a lip on it. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayonnaise, chili powder, Old Bay seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce from the can (or to taste). When combined, whisk in 4 tablespoons of the flour until smooth, then pour this mixture into a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, spread 2 cups of the breadcrumbs.

Next, rinse the fish with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Cut the fillets into taco-sized pieces about 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles (they won’t actually be rectangles since fish aren’t rectangular!).

Coat each piece of fish as follows: dredge in flour, then tap to shake off excess flour; place into egg/mayo mixture and coat; drop onto breadcrumbs, scoop breadcrumbs over the top and roll to coat, pressing lightly to pack the crumbs all around. Add more breadcrumbs to the dish as needed. (I find it easiest to use one hand for flour/egg steps and second hand for breadcrumb/wire rack steps.) Set each piece on the wire rack cooking platform as you go.

Bake the fish for 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, the person responsible for the filling will…
Core the cabbage and slice it into thin slivers. Similarly, sliver the bell peppers and onions. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions when the pan is hot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the peppers and cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and cook for a few minutes more, until the cabbage is partially cooked but still a bit crunchy. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, make the taco sauce by whisking together some sour cream and more of the adobo sauce, to taste (you can even mash or blend these with a little milk if you like it hot!).

Just before the fish is ready, microwave the corn tortillas for 30-45 seconds, and cover with a damp paper towel to keep them warm and flexible.

To serve, place 2-3 pieces of fish in a tortilla, drizzle some of the spicy sour cream, and top with the sautéed veggies.


Eggplant Casserole

While trying to figure out how to use up some vegetables from our weekly CSA basket, we improvised the following, which was inspired by a time-tested eggplant Parmesan recipe and a cheese-less savory tart that mom makes.

1 large eggplant
1 bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
8 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno
olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 slices stale bread
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
1 egg
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425F. Slice the eggplant thinly and salt well. Place in a colander to drain. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Lay the tomato halves on a baking sheet or in a glass baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skins begin to brown and the juices caremalize. Place the tomatoes in a food processor, add the jalapeno and puree.

Rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange slices on baking sheets and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices once halfway through.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until tender.

Toast the stale bread. In a microwave-safe container, nuke the butter and the garlic for 30 seconds, or until the butter is melted. Brush the garlic butter onto the toast, then tear the bread into pieces. Spread these on a tray and bake them in the oven at 300F until they are dried. Remove, allow to cool a bit and then place in a paper or plastic bag and crush them into breadcrumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil, egg, and a quarter of a cup of the garlic breadcrumbs.

In a 9″ by 9″ baking pan, layer all of the ingredients as follows: One tablespoon of the tomato sauce spread around the bottom of the pan. One third of the eggplant slices, layered One third of the cheese mixture, dolloped around One quarter of the pepper and onion mixture, sprinkled on One quarter of the remaining tomato sauce, dolloped on Another third of the eggplant a third of the cheese mixture a quarter of the vegetable mixture one quarter of the sauce final third of the eggplant final third of the cheese one quarter of the veggies several dollops of sauce ultimate veggies breadcrumbs Bake covered at 350 for thirty minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes before slicing.

Moroccan Lamb with Rice

This dish is adapted from several different lamb-with-dried-fruits recipes I’ve found on Food Network. Most of the dishes I came across had a ton of ingredients and so many individual steps that it looked like one would spend an entire day preparing it and dirtying up every implement in the kitchen. Complicated isn’t a way I like to cook, so I created this simpler approach to a classic. The rice with vegetables can be served separately and is completely vegan.

You’ll need an electric slow-cooker or a dutch oven for slowly braising the meat.

For the Lamb
3 lbs. lamb, cubed or small bone-in cuts like chops, trimmed of all fat.
2 cups dried fruits, pitted and chopped. Traditionally apricots and golden raisins are used, but figs, dates and even a handful of prunes or cherries would be tasty.
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fresh cilantro
1T honey
1T coriander
1T cumin
2t dried ginger
2t turmeric
1/4 t cinnamon
2t salt
1t freshly ground black pepper

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Rinse the meat and pat dry, then coat with the spice mixture.

In the bottom of the slow cooker layer the onions and garlic, then the meat, and top with the dried fruits and drizzle the honey. Add the broth, place the lid on tightly, and set on high. Cook for 3 hours before testing the meat for tenderness. (If using a dutch oven layer the ingredients as above and place in a 275F oven.)

After cooking the meat should be very tender and pull apart easily with a fork. A total of 4 hours may be required depending on the size of the cuts used.

Meanwhile make…

Vegetable Rice
1 1/2 cups (dry measure) brown basmati rice
1 cup vegetable broth plus water to cover rice
2 zucchini
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
2 medium carrots
1 onion
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
14 oz. can garbanzo beans (low sodium preferred)
1T olive oil
2t turmeric
1t cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the machine directions, substituting the vegetable broth for part of the water required. On the stove, use a small sauce pan with tight-fitting lid, add the rice and broth and then cover with water by 1 inch, cook on low heat until water is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, wash and dice the onion, zucchini, pepper, and carrot. In a large skillet or shallow enamel brasier, sauté the onion and spices in the oil for a few minutes, then add the zucchini, pepper and carrot. Cook for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to cook but are still firm.

Add the tomatoes (with juice). Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and add them as well. Cook for a few minutes more until some of the excess liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, then turn off the heat and let stand uncovered until the rice is done.

A few minutes before serving, add the cooked rice to the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover with a lid and if the dish has cooled off to much put it on low to reheat for a few minutes.

Tear the leafy head of the cilantro bunch from the stems, wash thoroughly and spin to dry. Roughly chop the cilantro just before serving the dish.

On a large platter, place the rice to make a bed. Layer the lamb and pour all of the cooked fruit/onion mixture over the top, then sprinkle heavily with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant

9-inch round cake pan
Sauce pan and stainless steel bowl OR microwave-safe dish

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup organic canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cooking spray or extra canola oil

Chocolate Glaze
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (Check the label on the package to make sure you’re getting a truly vegan product. Some semi-sweet chocolate contains milk solids.)
1/2 cup chocolate soy milk or vanilla rice milk

Preheat the oven to 375º. Spray the cake pan with cooking spray or wipe the inside liberally with oil.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. In a large measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.

When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter, then quickly pour into the cake pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a wire cooling rack and set out to cool another 30 minutes before topping with glaze.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven. Stir the soy or rice milk into the melted chocolate until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and smooth the top with a spoon.
Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Slow-Cooked BBQ Beans

I was inspired to make my own barbecue beans after receiving a gift of Saint Louis BBQ sauce from a former coworker. You can make these vegetarian or carnivorous.

It is important to wait until the beans are completely cooked before adding the BBQ sauce, as the acid in the sauce can halt the cooking process.

2 cups dried pinto beans
1 large ham hock or 2 lamb shanks (optional)
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 cup (more or less) BBQ sauce
1/2 t. dried mustard (or 1 tsp Dijon)
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. salt, or to taste

Rinse the beans thoroughly, put in the slow cooker and cover by 1/2 inch with boiling water, and turn the cooker on HIGH.

Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic and add to the cooker. Cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. The beans should start to get plump but will not be cooked yet. Top off with a little hot water if needed, enough to keep the beans just under the surface.

If adding meat, make sure it is completely defrosted first, then trim any excess fat from the outside and place on top of the beans. Cook an additional 3 hours, checking every hour to make sure the beans are still slightly covered with water.

Test the meat – it should be very tender and start to fall off the bone. When the meat is tender, lift it bone and all onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Separate the lean bits of meat from the bone, fat, sinew etc, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add the meat pieces back to the cooker.

Add the BBQ sauce, mustard, and maple syrup, stir and let cook for 20 minutes. Taste, adding salt and/or more BBQ to your liking. If the mixture is too thin continue to cook it with the lid off, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Easy Vegetarian Cottage Pie

This is a quick and easy dish that captures the essence of the meat-based original. In our home it is often made on the weekend for a few days of quick suppers or portable lunches.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large yellow onion (diced)
2 Medium carrots (sliced or diced)
3 Medium crimini mushrooms
2 Cups peas (thawed if frozen)
5 Large russet potatoes cut into large chunks
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon dried sage (ground)
1 Teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic (whole)
12-ounces Condensed cream of celery soup (we use Pacific Foods organic)
1/4 Cup milk
12-ounce Package of Morningstar “meal starter” crumbles
Salt & Pepper


  • Boil water in a large pot and pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
  • Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is heated add the diced onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the meal starter crumbles to the saucepan and stir them into the mix.
  • Add the carrots and mushrooms and stir the mixture.
  • Once the mixture is heated through add the condensed soup and milk and stir until combined.
  • Add the sage and thyme and turn up heat to a simmer and thicken.
  • While the mixture is cooking, add the cut potatoes and garlic cloves to the boiling water, and cook until potatoes are cooked.
  • Drain the water from the potatoes and mash the potatoes slightly.
  • Add the butter and sour cream to the potatoes and mix or mash until blended.
  • Remove the “meat” and vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the peas.
  • Spread the mixture into a glass Pyrex dish.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes over top of the “meat” and vegetable mixture until covered.

Place dish in oven and turn heat up to broil setting. Depending on your broiler’s power, leave in oven until potatoes on top are slightly browned, but not burnt!

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Cranberry & White Chocolate Holiday Bread

For years I’ve baked cookies for friends and neighbors for the winter holiday season. I enjoy it, but wanted to try something new this year, and decided to go with breads. This recipe is adapted from “Bread Machine Breads” for regular oven baking, and a little richer than the original. For gift-giving I’ve been doubling the recipe and baking two loaves at a time.

10″ bread loaf pan
Stand mixer with dough hook (optional)

Makes 1 loaf

1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 1/4 t. dry yeast (a little more if using fresh)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Measure the flour into your mixing bowl or bowl of the stand mixer.

In a microwave-safe container, combine the milk, butter, salt, vanilla, and sugar. Heat the mixture until warm to the touch but not hot (about 80-90 degrees). Add the yeast and stir thoroughly.

Whisk the egg and pour into the center of the flour, then pour in the milk mixture. Mix the dough until all ingredients are combined, then work a little more to release the gluten in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for about 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, grease a loaf pan and prepare a work surface dusted with flour. Measure out the cranberries and chocolate into a small bowl.

Dust your hands with flour and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Stretch the dough out into a flat shape and spread the cranberries and chocolate on the surface. Then roll the dough into a log shape to engulf the add-ins and knead for a few minutes, turning the dough 90 degrees after every few strokes, re-flouring as needed to prevent sticking on the work surface, and pushing any cranberries and chips that pop out firmly back into the dough. Pull the dough into a log shape and place in the loaf pan. Cover the dough again and let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Remove the cover from the dough and bake for 45 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped.

Place the loaf pan on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to get the bread out. The loaf will shrink as it cools and should pop out of the pan but may need a tap or two. Transfer the loaf back to the cooling rack for 30 minutes before serving.

If this is a gift, you can wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before giving it away, or use a seasonal colored plastic wrap to preserve freshness and make a festive presentation.

I like this toasted slightly with a little butter. It’s great for dessert, tea-time, or breakfast.

Cranberry Relish

My grandfather loved his cranberry jelly in a can; for me that stuff was the one part of Thanksgiving Dinner that was never touched. It wasn’t until I learned to make my own that I understood why this dish is traditional at all. I call this version of “cranberry sauce” a relish because it has discernible chunks of fruit in it. With the addition of some caramelized onions and apricot jelly this could become a lovely cranberry chutney.

Makes 2 pints of cranberry relish.

1 pound fresh cranberries
2 medium oranges (choose a juice variety with nice skin)
1 cup water
2 cups port
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried allspice
pinch salt

Carefully wash and pick over the cranberries, discarding any that are squishy. In a large sauce pan cook the cranberries in the water and port over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You’ll hear them pop as the skins burst.

Meanwhile, zest and juice the oranges, finely chopping the zest. When the cranberries have started to break down (5-7 minutes) add the zest, juice and other ingredients and stir well. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced and the pectin from the fruit is released. The mixture will take on a jam-like consistency. Taste for sweetness and seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Serve warm or at room-temperature with turkey.

Black Forest Stollen

For some time now I’ve been searching for a Stollen recipe that is authentically German and not overly sweet like the versions I’ve found in American cookbooks. As luck would have it, one of my coworkers is the son of a German baker. With a little pleading I was able to get a couple of authentic recipes.

This version is adapted from a recipe published in a modern German cooking magazine and the original version that my friend’s father made in his bakery. Without the marzipan center and the thick coating of powdered sugar, it is decidedly more bread-like and less sweet than American adaptations of this traditional recipe.

Measurements have been converted from weight to American volume and tweaked to my own tastes. You can adjust the amounts of the fruits and nuts to your liking.

Note: this recipe should be made at least one week before it is eaten, to allow the flavors to mature and blend together. Will keep for weeks unopened, so it’s great to make ahead of time for holiday gifts.

Makes 2 Stollen

A large mixing bowl (at least 14-inch diameter) to mix and rise the dough
Stand mixer for first stage of the dough (optional)
Parchment paper
Aluminum foil

6 & 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2-3 T. fine sugar for dusting
2 packets dried bread yeast
1 pound unsalted butter plus extra for brushing
1 & 2/3 cups milk
2 cups whole almonds
4 cups golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied lemon peel
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied orange peel
1/3 cup medium or dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg

1. Roast and chop the almonds.

2. Chop the candied citrus and place into a bowl with the raisins. Toss all the fruit with the 1/2 cup flour to ensure they are not clumping together.

3. Melt the butter and warm the milk slightly. In the large mixing bowl combine the 6 &1/2 cups flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, yeast, nutmeg, melted butter and warmed milk and mix until thoroughly combined. (Optionally, mix this first dough stage in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then transfer to the large mixing bowl.) Dough should be wet and sticky; if not add a little more milk. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen cloth and set in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.

4. Add to the dough the dried fruit, almonds, rum and remaining granulated sugar, and knead together for 8-10 minutes or until thoroughly combined. If the dough is not wet enough it will be very difficult to work in all the fruit and nuts – add a little more milk if needed. Form the dough into a ball and let rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

5. Divide the dough in half. Dust with flour and roll each half into a flat rectangle approximately 14 by 14 inches. Shape the loaf by making a crease in the dough lengthwise at 1/3 of the width, then fold this third over onto the remaining 2/3 of the loaf. Repeat the folding process with the second loaf and place both loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone baking mat. Set aside and allow to rise for a final 30 minutes.

6. Bake at 350F for 60 minutes. Remove the Stollen from the oven and allow to cool sightly. Brush each loaf with melted butter and dust with the fine grained sugar.

7. Wrap each loaf tightly first in parchment paper and then in a layer of aluminum foil. Store in a cool, dry place for at least one week before unwrapping and cutting. Stollen will keep for several weeks after cutting if kept wrapped between servings.

Hearty Vegetarian “Shepherd’s” Pie

This shepherd’s pie gets its heartiness from the mushrooms and its richness from the red wine and butter. Use the vegetable broth version to make it creamier. It is full-bodied comfort food, and guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest carnivores. Serve with a full-bodied red wine or your favorite stout. Serves 6-8.

7 medium-sized red potatoes
1 whole package Gimme Lean! faux beef (or other crumble-style), browned (optional)
1 red or yellow onion
3 large portabella mushrooms, sliced (stems removed)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, or sliced carrots
3-6 cloves of garlic (depending on mashed potato recipe used)
3 Tablespoons real butter
1.5 cups red wine*
1.5 cups vegetable broth (water can be substituted. See above.)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1) Use the potatoes to make your favorite mashed potato recipe. Adding fresh roasted garlic adds a little something to the dish, but is optional. As a time saver, consider making the mashed potatoes ahead of time and thinning them with milk (if necessary) when it is time to use them in the recipe.

2) Over medium heat, in a 4-quart saucepan caramelize the onions. Lower the temperature, add the garlic, and stir for about 1 minute. Add the butter and mushrooms, and cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the butter is completely melted and the mushrooms are thoroughly covered. Pour the wine and the vegetable broth into the mixture. If adding the faux beef, stir it into the mixture at this point. Last, add the tomato paste and the flour. Simmer over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until sauce reduces and thickens. Stir in the basil, sage and peas, and remove from heat.

3) Using your fingers, press a portion of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom—and up the sides—of an 8×12 inch glass baking dish (or into 6 smaller individual baking dishes). Spoon the mushroom mixture into the baking dish(es). Carefully cover the top(s) of the dish(es) with the remaining mashed potatoes, and sprinkle the top with the grated cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the the top(s) begin to brown.

Serve with a hearty red wine. There should be enough left from the bottle used for the recipe for at least 2 glasses with dinner. Reheat the rest later if need be, it stores well.

* We used Our Daily Red the first time we made this recipe and we were happy with the choice. Our Daily Red is an organic red wine with no sulfites. It is a blend of Fresno Syrah and Carignan and Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon according to its makers.

Hearty Lamb Cobbler

Hearty Lamb CobblerHaving picked up some lamb from Tamarack Tunis on New Year’s Day, I was charged with making a “lamb dish” by the week-end. Waking to snow on Saturday morning, I knew I wanted to make something warm and filling. Something to remind me of those chilly days on our recent trip to England, Wales and Ireland. This recipe was perfect, and the smoked bacon from our neighbours at Back Beyond Farm really helped this dish.


    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/4 lb bacon, thick slice preferable
    1 lb lamb, cubed
    2 medium-sized yellow onions
    5 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
    3/4 lb crimini mushrooms, washed and trimmed
    1 1/2 cup peas thawed to room temperature
    4 tbsp all purpose flour
    2-3 bay leaves
    2-3 pinches ground sage
    1 tsp oregano
    1 tsp basil
    1/4 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, or other red wine
    250 ml beef stock
    1 splash Worcestershire sauce
    1 egg to wash the tops of the cobbler biscuit topping

The Cobbler Top
I used Bisquick and followed their directions for biscuits/dumplings, which calls for 2 1/4 cups Bisquick mix and 2/3 cup milk. Mix together and then kneed 10 times before rolling out on a flour-dusted surface to about 2/3″ thick. I then used a metal measuring cup (I didn’t see any cookie cutters, so I improvised) to cut circular biscuits. Gather the scraps, and roll out to cut more biscuits if necessary. I do this procedure about 20-30 minutes before the dish comes out of the oven (see below).

Heat oven to 350ºF (~180ºC). In a oven-safe dish heat the oil over medium heat, and sizzle the bacon for 5 minutes until it crisps. Leave the bacon in the dish, and turn up the heat before adding the lamb. Cook the lamb for about 10 minutes until brown. Remove the meats carefully with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Turn the heat up to maximum and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the flour. Return the meats to the dish and add the herbs. Pour the wine, the beef stock and the Worcestershire sauce into the dish. Lightly season with fresh ground pepper, then cover the dish and place it in the pre-heated oven. Allow to cook undisturbed for about 1.5 hours.

After an hour of the cook time has passed make the biscuit dough as described above. When the dish is done cooking for the 1.5 hours, remove from the oven, add the peas and stir them into the dish. Then lightly place the biscuits discs onto the top of the meat and vegetable mixture. Wash the top of the biscuits with the beaten egg. Return the dish to the oven and allow to cook for an additional 35-45 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes, which will allow the gravy to thicken. Serve with the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon!

English Trifle

When not traveling for the holidays, we like to host a traditional Boxing Day dinner party at our house. Of course, this being a British tradition, it requires such delights as pudding, brandy, and the pulling of Christmas Crackers. And after having the best and most decadent Christmas dinner in England a few years ago, I’ve added Trifle to the dessert offerings. You can pretend it’s healthy because it has fruits in!

This recipe is adapted from #291836 at Syllabub: Words on Food.

Large round or oval clear serving bowl with a wide flat bottom
Large heat-proof whisk
Sauce pan
Hand-mixer for whipping cream (optional)

For the Custard
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 T vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch

1. In a saucepan heat the milk and cream to boiling.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth and pale.
3. While constantly whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly trickle in the hot milk/cream.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over gentle heat whisking frequently until the custard thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil – it will split.
5. After thickening, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

For the Trifle
6 cups assorted fruits*, washed, peeled, pitted & sliced as needed
36 ladyfingers, or enough to cover the bottom of your trifle bowl in two layers
4 cups custard (above)
1/4 cup brandy, sherry, or fine Marsala
1.5 cups heavy (whipping) cream
12 amaretti cookies

1. Layer ladyfingers in two layers in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle with brandy.
2. Layer fruits one at a time, with heavier varieties on the bottom and lighter fruits like raspberries on top.
3. Spread the cooled custard over the fruits, leaving about 1/4 inch of space from the custard layer to the edge of the bowl.
4. Crush the cookies and sprinkle the crumbs over the custard.
5. Finally, whip the cream until fluffy, adding the remaining tablespoons of brandy as you go, then dollop this over the top of the trifle.

*I prefer assorted berries but you can also use cherries, peaches, mangoes, etc

Keep the trifle chilled until served. Allow your guests a moment to admire the beautiful layered concoction before the first portion is served and the entire assemblage collapses into a bowl of delicious sloppy mush.

Holiday Stuffing

I used to use store-bought stuffing mix to make my holiday stuffing, and to be frank, it wasn’t bad at all. But after years of something that felt a bit like cheating, I decided to make my own stuffing this year from scratch. The results were amazing and now I know I can’t go back to that package again!

Large frying pan
Baking dish 9×12″

1 recipe Vermont Maple Cornbread
1 large loaf rustic wheat bread (whole wheat or white)
1 package spicy pork, chicken or faux veggie sausage
1 stick butter, melted (8 tablespoons)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 apples, cut into 1-inch chunks – a sweet & firm variety like Macon or Fuji
3 medium onions, any type, minced
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Fry the meat sausage in a large skillet until cooked through, then remove from heat and when cooled, peel off the casings and crumble the meat into a bowl and set aside. Drain off some of the excess sausage grease leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.

Saute the onion in the grease (vegetarians use olive oil) with the dried herbs and a small pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. When the onions have started to soften, add the apples and walnuts and cook for another 2 minutes until the apples are just heated but still crisp. Set the pan aside and allow to cool slightly.

Roughly chop half of the wheat bread and place into the baking dish. Crumble in half of the cornbread and add half the onion/apple mixture and sausage and toss this with your hands. In the skillet, add the remaining half of all the ingredients and toss this together as well, then add this to the baking dish. Press down slightly to squeeze everything into the dish.

Drizzle the melted butter and stock over the top. Bake at 375 F in the top of the oven for 45 minutes or until the stuffing is hot and steamy and the top is browned.

Lamb Stew

2 lbs lamb* shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
4-5 large potatoes, blemishes removed but not all the skin, cut into 1″ cubes
2 large onions, cut into bite-sized chunks
24 ounces organic beef broth
12 oz. dark beer (Guinness, as always, is preferable)
8 ounces water (approximately)
1 Tbsp. brown mustard
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2-3 Tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 Tsp. dried oregano
1 Tsp. dried sage
1 Tsp. dried coriander
1 Tsp. dried cumin
1-2 bay leaves

This recipe is designed to work in a crockpot, but can easily be modified by browning the lamb meat and onions if one wanted to use a stew pot.

Combine the cubed lamb meat, onions, potatoes and carrots into the crockpot. Add dry herbs and seasonings and then the beef broth. Add water until all of the ingredients are covered. Stir. Add the mustard and red wine vinegar.

As I said, this stew is designed to be cooked in a crockpot, so be sure to start it the night before on low or first thing in the morning on high. If peas are your thing, add a packet of cooked or thawed peas about an hour before you anticipate the meal to be complete. Stew is done when the potatoes are cooked through.

* We use the delicious lamb raised by Marian White of Land & Lamb.

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers with Guacamole ... and Gin & TonicThis is a fairly standard stuffed pepper recipe, but I wanted to write it down with the proportions I used, since I just made this off the top of my head. This goes well with fresh guacamole and a little salad on the side. Serves 2-4.

2 Poblano peppers (substitute bell peppers if you can’t find Poblanos or prefer a dish without any “heat”)
2/3 cup ground pork sausage*
1 cup cooked rice
3 scallions, white and half of green parts chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 pinch cinnamon

Break up the sausage into small pieces and place into a non-stick frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Add the chopped vegetables and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice, mixing well to combine. The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two if you want to make this ahead of time.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the Poblano peppers and slice each in half from top to bottom. Carefully cut out the stem and pinch out the white ribs inside. Roll up four pieces of aluminum foil and form into rings. Place rings in a 9-inch square baking dish (or larger). Divide the filling into four equal portions and fill each pepper half. Place each filled pepper on one of the rings in the baking dish (this keeps them from tipping over during baking). Pour a little water in the bottom of the baking dish and cover the entire dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the peppers are slightly tender and the filling is heated through.

*I used free-range, Certified Naturally Grown pork purchased directly from Walter Jeffries and his family at Sugar Mountain Farm. If you are using a pre-cooked sausage, cook the vegetables in a little olive oil first, then add the sausage and the rice together with the heat turned off. Vegetarians can substitute their favorite faux-meat product for the pork sausage.