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Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

8 Jan

There are some recipes you turn to again and again because they are deeply satisfying. This is one of them — a dark, rich chocolate Bundt cake heightened with hints of coffee and cinnamon. It is a frequently requested birthday cake at our house, made most recently for my son’s 21st birthday this week — with the addition of some Espresso Chip ice cream to complement the flavor.

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp.  cinnamon
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
2 c. coffee at room temperature  (or warm water mixed with 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso powder)
1-2 c. chocolate chips (preferably dark chocolate, if available)

3/4 c. chocolate chips
3 tbsp. non-hydrogenated buttery spread such as Earth Balance/Smart Balance
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Generously grease (with vegetable shortening) and lightly flour a Bundt pan.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the center, and add wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, and fold in chocolate chips.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until skewer inserted into cake comes out clean; be careful not to overbake.
4. Cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto plate or serving platter. Cool completely and top with Chocolate Glaze.

1. Melt first three ingredients on low power in microwave, stir until smooth, add vanilla, and drizzle over cake.

Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Recipe: Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup)

11 Dec

What do you do when 1) you have omnivores and vegans coming to dinner, and 2) it’s cold outside and you want something warm and filling that everyone will enjoy? Well, you could offer your guests a deconstructed curried rice soup to suit every palate (and dietary preference). Mulligatawny–with or without chicken–is another example of cross-cultural fusion: an Anglo-Indian soup with a name that means “pepper water.”  And like many other hybrids, there are infinite variations on the theme; this is just one version that can be served two ways.

When I am making this for the family, I prepare it with chicken broth and chicken as in the photo below. But it is just as good (and more versatile) made with vegetable broth and served with a variety of accompaniments on the side, so guests can add the ingredients they prefer.

Note: The instructions below are for making the soup to suit both omnivorous and vegan guests. If not meant to be vegan, the soup can be made with chicken broth and chicken; cook the chicken in the pot before you cook the onions, celery, and carrots. Remove the chicken from the pot when it is no longer pink, add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and proceed with the recipe as indicated below; return chicken to soup along with the apple and rice.

Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup–with or without Chicken)

Soup Base

3 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 carrots, grated
3 tbsp. flour
1.5 tbsp. curry powder
10-12  c.  vegetable broth (or water and equivalent bouillon cubes)
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 c. rice (I usually use white jasmine rice, but have also made this with brown basmati)
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5-oz.) can lite coconut milk

[Choose as many as desired and serve each separately alongside the soup]

2-3 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas/garbanzos, simmered in their liquid until warm, then drained
8 0z. mushrooms, sliced and cut in half, sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 zucchinis, sliced and cut into quarters, prepared same as mushrooms
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets and steamed
handful baby spinach, raw


1. Saute onion, celery, and carrots in oil in large soup pot until soft and golden. Add flour and curry powder, and cook 5 minutes. Add broth (start with 10 c.), mix well, and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add apple, rice, salt, and pepper, and simmer 15-20 minutes more, or until rice is done. Add more broth as needed to maintain a fairly soupy consistency.
3. Just before serving, add coconut milk and adjust seasonings to taste.
4. Serve soup in bowls and allow your guests to add any of the accompaniments they desire.

Recipe: Mushroom Gravy

24 Nov

This gravy is one that has earned a permanent spot on our competitive Thanksgiving line up. It is so easy to make, I don’t know why I don’t think of it at other times of the year. Perhaps some dishes are worth waiting 364 days to taste.

Among its many desirable qualities is the fact that this recipe is versatile; although the original version requires pan juices from a roast turkey, I have successfully made a vegan version, too (see note below). And going back to the carnivorous end of the spectrum, I bet it would be good with the drippings from a chicken roast, or from a beef roast (using beef broth instead of chicken broth, and perhaps a bit of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce for added flavor). Have now made a note to try that iteration….

Mushroom Gravy

pan juices from roast turkey
roughly 2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. cornstarch
salt and pepper

1. Just after the turkey is done and while it is resting, begin making the gravy.

2. Pour any pan juices there may be into a large (4 c.) measuring cup. Spoon off fat, putting 2 tbsp. into a large skillet. Add enough broth to pan juices in measuring cup to measure 3 ½ c. total.

3. Heat the 2 tbsp. turkey drippings in the skillet, add the mushrooms, and sauté until brown and tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the 3 ½ c. pan juice mixture and the cream to the mushrooms. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors. Mix cornstarch and ¼ c. broth in small bowl. Mix into gravy. Continue to simmer until gravy thickens, about 1 min.; season with salt and pepper.

Note: For vegan version, use olive oil for the mushrooms, 3 1/2 c. vegetable broth, and plain soy milk (or other non-dairy milk) as a substitute for the cream. Make sure that the plain non-dairy milk you use does not contain any cane juice or other sweetener. I learned the hard way just before Thanksgiving dinner one year that many plain soy creamers are sweet–do not use them in this recipe!)

Source of original recipe made with turkey drippings:  Bon Appetit magazine.

Recipe: Persimmon Cranberry Crisp

18 Nov

In the past, the closest I have come to persimmons was drinking a cool, delicate dessert drink at Korean restaurants. Soo Jeung Gwa (many different spellings) is a sweet, jewel-colored palate refresher, and I was intrigued to learn that it is made from dried persimmons. But still,  I did not encounter any actual, fresh persimmons until recently, when I saw some  Fuyu persimmons at the grocery store and impulsively bought them because they were so pretty:

But what to do with them? At first, nothing, since they were not ripe and I had heard horror stories about people biting into unripe Hachiya persimmons. Even though this isn’t a problem with Fuyus, I decided to wait just to be safe–and also to think about what to make with them. I settled upon a Persimmon Cranberry crisp, since in the United States, November is a cranberry time of year. Plus, I thought the two colors–orange and red–would look nice together. And finally, who doesn’t like a nice warm crisp, with vanilla ice cream at the ready?

The topping is one I have long used for fruit crisps: a very generous amount that is enough to top 6 c. of any type of fruit that you may fancy. It’s also vegan or omnivore friendly, depending on your preference. Note: I’m used to making big batches, but this recipe can easily be halved and made in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Persimmon Cranberry Crisp
Serves 12-15

Orange-Wine Syrup
1/4 c. red wine (whatever is on hand)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 star anise
2/3 c. sugar

4 c. fresh cranberries (float in a large bowl of cold water, carefully pick through and remove any that are soft, but make sure you end up with 4 c.)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
5 Fuyu persimmons, diced (cut out leafy core at top, slice in half, peel, and then dice)

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. oats (can be old-fashioned or quick oats, or a mix)
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated margarine (or butter)
1/2 c. canola oil

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly spray (or grease) a 9×13 baking pan.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine wine, zest, orange juice, star anise, and sugar. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard the star anise.
3. Add the cranberries to the syrup in the saucepan. Combine the cornstarch with the 1 tbsp. orange juice, pour over cranberries, and mix well. Fold in diced persimmons, then pour fruit mixture into prepared pan.
4. For topping, combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in margarine/butter and canola oil until evenly distributed and topping becomes clumpy.
5. Using very clean hands, take a small handful of topping and squeeze it together. Break it into a couple pieces and begin placing strategically on top of fruit mixture in prepared pan. (The objective is to have some topping chunks, rather than just crumbs.) Repeat with all the topping, filling in gaps with more topping pieces/crumbs.
6. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until crisp looks golden and bubbly. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Curried Lentils with a Twist

7 Nov

People either love lentils, or they don’t. I fall in the former camp, and luckily, so do most of my family members. One of my sons can eat his weight in these lentils–ok, half his weight in the actual lentils and rice, and the other half in the extremely hot lime pickle he slathers on top. I’m not sure how he has any taste buds left.

This dish is actually a hybrid (hence “the twist”). It is mostly Indian, but with a few Spanish and Latin American hints. There is some degree of overlap between the cuisines, which I capitalized upon here: the lentils, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and lemon. But the turmeric and garam masala tip the balance toward a more pronounced Indian flavor, while the use of bouillon powder is typically Latin American. Either way, the result is a testament to fusion food, and like so many recipes that stand the test of time, it is one you can adapt almost any which way.

Curried Lentils with a Twist
Serves 8-10

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lg. onion, diced
3 tsp. whole coriander seeds
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, diced (after dicing, remove as many of the white core parts as possible, without worrying too much)
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 (16-oz.) bag lentils (about 2 heaping cups), picked over and rinsed
6.5 c. water, divided
4 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon powder (or equivalent cubes to make 4 c. bouillon)
salt to taste (if needed)
2 tsp. garam masala
juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Sauté onion and coriander seeds in olive oil in a medium saucepan until onion is soft; add garlic and cook for a couple minutes more. Add tomatoes and cook until soft, mashing them with a large slotted spoon to break them up. Add ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, stir, and cook for a a minute or two. Add lentils, 5 c. water, and bouillon powder/cubes.

2. Bring to a boil, cover saucepan, then simmer lentils until soft, usually about 30-45 minutes. Note: Stir lentils every 10 minutes or so, adding remaining 1.5 c. water as needed if the lentils start getting too dry. Depending on the lentils, they may absorb a lot of liquid, so it’s important to check periodically. Ultimately, the lentils should be soupy and almost stew like–not too thin, not too thick.

3. Add garam masala and lemon juice and check seasonings.

4. Serve with rice (short-grain brown rice is great) and chutney or Indian pickle (such as lime pickle for those who like it hot).

Recipe: Potato Leek Soup

2 Nov

When it is cold, wet, and blustery outside, my thoughts turn to soups and stews–hearty, satisfying dishes that lift any spirits. And when a delicious soup can be made with only four ingredients (ground pepper doesn’t count…), what’s not to love?

This recipe came about by accident. Most potato leek soup recipes call for cream. But I forgot to add it once, and have never added it since–and no one has ever missed it. As an added bonus, this accident made the soup vegan friendly, too, and I like having delicious vegan dishes that everyone loves in my repertoire.

After experimenting with various toppings, fried onions were the clear winner. The crispy texture not only balances the smooth soup, but also adds another layer of onion flavor. My favorite places to buy the fried onions are 1) by the bag at Indian grocery stores, or 2) in small round cartons in the grocery section at IKEA (Swedish fried onions are very nice!). I like both those versions much better than the ones at our chain grocery store, but have used those in a pinch, too.

Potato Leek Soup
12 servings

4-6 leeks, ends trimmed, white and palest green parts only (use 4 leeks if they are large with long white sections; 6 otherwise)
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 lb. potatoes, peeled  and cut into chunks (Yukon Gold imparts a nice color)
10 c.  vegetable broth (or 10 c. water + sufficient vegetable bouillon cubes; Knorr brand is nice)
ground pepper

1. Cut each leek in half lengthwise, then slice the halves into 1″-thick half circles. Put in a bowl of cold water and swish around to remove any dirt that may have gotten trapped between the layers. Drain and shake dry; I sometimes pat the leeks dry with paper towels (as much as possible without stressing over it).

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch Oven (enameled cast iron pot, or any other heavy bottom pot), add the leeks and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the broth (or water and bouillon cubes) and the potatoes, and stir once or twice.

4. Simmer until potatoes are tender, then blend with an immersion blender (or carefully blend in a regular blender or food processor, in batches, then return to pot). If soup seems too thick, add more broth. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper, and serve with fried onions.

Note: When heating up leftover soup the next day, you may need to thin with a bit more broth, or even water. It is a soup that keeps on giving.

Recipe: Papaya with Lime

14 Oct

The first time I had papaya was as a teenager while visiting South America, and I was blown away by the simple presentation: ripe papaya, a sprinkle of sugar, and a squeeze of lime. I’ve been eating it ever since. Soft, slightly sweet, and packed with Vitamin C, papaya is also known for its soothing digestive properties. So if you ever need a boost, papaya is your fruit. I serve this dish as an accompaniment to Latin American meals (or whenever the urge strikes). Ripe papaya is also very nice in fruit salads.

Papaya with Lime
1 papaya (look for papaya that gives a little when you press it–a mottled green/yellow coloration is normal)
1-1.5 tbsp. sugar
juice of 1 small lime

To prepare, cut fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon:

Cut each half into strips with a sharp knife:

Peel each strip, cut into cubes, place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and lime juice. Toss gently and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve).

Recipe: Tabouli

5 Sep

When I was in college, the original Moosewood Cookbook was one of the first cookbooks I bought on my own. Other cookbooks have since joined my collection, but the Moosewood Cookbook still holds a special place in my affection–almost entirely because of this Tabouli recipe, which is a family favorite.

Serves 8
Note: Needs 2-3 hours refrigeration

1 c. dry bulgur wheat (I usually use coarse grind)
1.5 c. boiling water
1.5 tsp. salt
¼ c. fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried mint
1/2 c. chopped scallions (including green parts: about 3-4 scallions)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 c. (packed) freshly chopped parsley
1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (optional)

Combine bulgur, boiling water and salt in bowl. Cover and let stand 15-20 minutes, or until bulgur is chewable.

Add lemon juice, garlic, oil, and mint, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Just before serving, add vegetables (and chickpeas, if using) and mix gently. Check seasonings.

Recipe: Marinated Kale with Red Pepper and Garlic

1 Sep

At our house, we are evenly divided between those who love kale, and those who really don’t love it very much. But even the family members in the latter camp like the taste of this side dish, which is delicious at room temperature. With garlic, olive oil, lots of ground pepper, and a hint of sweetness from the seasoned rice vinegar, it’s hard to resist.

Note:  Like other greens, an enormous amount of kale cooks down to a fraction of its former size.

Marinated Kale with Red Pepper and Garlic
Serves 4

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
10 oz. cleaned, chopped kale, ribs removed (about 15 c., loosely packed)
1/2 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
lots of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1/2-1 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

Saute onion in olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat until onion is soft; add red bell pepper. When red bell pepper is soft and onion is golden at the edges, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the kale, and cook until it softens and has reduced in size by at least a half. Add the vegetable broth, cover the skillet and cook kale for about 10 minutes, or until most of broth has evaporated. Uncover, and heat on high for a few minutes to eliminate any remaining liquid; stir frequently. Add ground pepper to taste, then remove kale from pan and put in a serving bowl. Sprinkle rice vinegar over top and mix in gently.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Thai-Style Quinoa Salad

26 Aug

Quinoa is an Andean super food–one that has been cultivated for thousands of years. A source of complete protein, it is used and cooked like a grain, though it is technically a seed.  Because of its “exceptional nutritional qualities, its agro-ecological adaptability, and its potential contribution in the fight against hunger and malnutrition,” quinoa has been honored by the United Nations: 2013 will be the International Year of  Quinoa.

But quinoa deserves praise for its gastronomic adaptability, too. In this case, it makes a successful appearance in a salad with flavor origins a world away from the Andes. This salad, with its strong Thai accents, is a deliciously light and crisp summer dish.

Thai-Style Quinoa Salad
Serves 8-10
1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 carrot, shredded
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced (if using English cucumber, no need to peel)
1/3 c. chopped fresh mint
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro

6 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fish sauce (can substitute tamari or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add quinoa, salt, and 1 1/2 c. water to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Turn off heat and let quinoa sit for 5 minutes. Place in a large serving bowl and let cool completely.

When quinoa is cool, add red bell pepper, carrot, and cucumber and mix well.

To make the dressing, whisk together the lime juice and sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the fish sauce/tamari/soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. Gently mix in the mint and cilantro.

Source: Raising the Salad Bar, by Catherine Walthers