Category Archives: desserts

Back to Baking

…not that I ever stopped.


It’s summer in California and I am enjoying every foggy morning turned sunny afternoon! Running up and down the Napa hills is giving me great morning workouts. I have a bike and a car to get around and there is so, so much to see and do here!

The first priority is finding an apartment. Lee and I are looking at our favorite candidate this evening so I have my fingers crossed that we get this place and don’t have to keep playing the San Francisco housing game. All I want is a good-sized (as in not tiny) kitchen, preferably with a gas stove, and a place to sleep.

Once we have a place to live, I’ll pick up the job search again. Does anyone know of a bay area museum that’s hiring for entry-level anything? Until I find employment, I’ll find a place to volunteer in the area and do as much blogging as I can! That doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend a few months!

I dove right back into cooking as soon as I got back to the mainland. After a short stint in a hotel on St. Kitts while Lee and I put the boat away I was ready for some home cooking in a real kitchen. My first stop was my mom’s house in Seattle, where I wanted to pick up my car and spend a little quality time with my mother. We had a great week cooking together, visiting her favorite Seattle restaurants, and taking in some culture.

My aunt was visiting as well and the three of us drove to nearby home of some long-time family friends for one night. The baker in that family was generous enough to share his sourdough starter with my mom and me! We brought home a generous portion, which we grew and then divided in half when I left for California. This 10+ year old starter is a treasure that I hope to craft into delicious bread in my own kitchen.

Not only did our friend share his starter with us, he also made us his famous Swedish Pancakes for breakfast! My parents used to make this recipe when I was growing up but I haven’t cut into a gooey, sweet Swedish pancake for years. They were better than I remembered them and I watched closely to pick up the proper cooking technique. These delicious breakfast treats will definitely be appearing on this blog soon!

At my mom’s house, our baking endeavors included a hearty polenta bake (for which I will have to find the recipe), rosemary walnut bread with fresh rosemary from the garden, and a yogurt cake that starred as dessert with strawberries and vanilla sugar.


Unfortunately I didn’t use a recipe when I made the rosemary walnut bread. I loosely followed this one and added some chopped fresh rosemary and chopped walnuts before the final rise. The result was quite good considering I’ve never experimented with adding ingredients like that to bread before. The rosemary flavor was wonderful with the chewy wheat bread and it was a great accompaniment to dinner at our friends’ house.

For dessert, this yogurt cake was too tempting for even our full bellies to resist. I couldn’t resist a cake recipe that called for plain yogurt, one of my favorite staples that I always have in the fridge. I added lemon zest to the original recipe because I thought a summery flavor would be nice. My mom, my aunt, and I picked up a few boxes of fresh strawberries at a local stand to serve with the cake. Nothing says summer like cake and berries!

I didn’t have my camera with me on this adventure so I wasn’t able to photograph the cake and berries. I did snap a few pictures of both the cake and the bread when they came out of the oven!


Simple Yogurt Cake
From Whole Foods Market

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 cup cane sugar 3 large eggs
1/3 cup expeller-pressed canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Oil the paper, too; set the pan aside. (I used a square cake pan, as you can see)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract.
Gently whisk flour mixture into yogurt mixture just until blended and smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and top has formed a thin crust.
The cake should be just firm in the center when done. (I think I slightly overcooked my cake so check it after 35-40 minutes)
Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and peel off parchment paper. Continue cooling on a rack.
Slice and serve with berries.


Filed under desserts, inspiration and musings

Tropical Interlude


There’s nothing like a fruit net full of mangoes, papayas, bananas, and tangerines! I may be making something with this sucker next.

        Welcome to week 2 (or is this week 3?) of my time in the Bahamas. Is it so wrong that being here has kept me from blogging? There are cays to visit, treacherous passages to sail, and island ways to learn.
        Since crossing the gulf stream into this otherworldly place, Lee and I have visited Grand Bahama Island, a couple of spots in the Berry Islands, and Nassau. We actually arrived in the bustling capital more than a week ago but needed to accomplish a long list of things before moving on. Tomorrow, hopefully, we will cross the banks to the Exumas and spend the remaining month or so before our wedding exploring those fabled isles.
        Food wise, the Bahamas are fascinating. Big, beautiful Conch shells lie in heaps as evidence of the local obsession with their meat. Conch fritters, burgers, salad, and fried Conch are sold in ramshackle stands on Nassau’s Potters Cay and in restaurants serving local cuisine.
        I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have not tried any preparation of the Bahamians favorite mollusk yet. Conch salad, a raw, ceviche-like concoction, appeals to me the most. I know we will encounter local joints selling it in the Exumas so I’ll work up the courage to try some.
        Other than Conch, fresh seafood available includes Grouper and lots of Snapper. Lee and I bought a Snapper and had it fileted at the Potters Cay market (where fishing boats come to sell their catch and produce arrives from the out-islands). We cooked it on the grill with some of the sour oranges that a produce vendor recommended as a seafood marinade. It was delicious!
        Peas and rice is the side dish of choice on the islands. As a vegetarian, I have to wonder whether there’s ham involved. Macaroni and cheese is another stand by and I hear great things about island-style bread.
        The supermarkets in Nassau and Freeport are similar to US stores but their stock is limited. I could only find one carton of plain yogurt on my main provisioning trip but when I went back the next day they were stocking the shelves with a new shipment.

        Baking…yes, I’ve done some of that. I made cinnamon rolls the other day but they did not turn out well enough to be blog-worthy. I know today is Valentines day and I have some chocolate cupcakes planned for my valentine!
        The recipe I have to share today is not a local dish or my usual baked fare. It is so simple that I’m sure I’m one of the last kitchen-oriented people to make it. Still, I am so proud of myself for pulling this off. I made plain old vanilla pudding from scratch!


        That may sound ridiculously easy but for someone who has never done it before and has limited experience with cornstarch pudding is a great feat. I’m a bit of a pudding addict (when there’s no ice cream around) so I carry lots of instant Jello pudding packs on the boat. Still, it seems silly to make instant pudding when all it takes to make it from scratch is milk, corn starch, salt, sugar, and some flavoring.
        I went with plain vanilla flavor and stuck to a simple cornstarch thickened recipe. Adding eggs for richness is the next step. I’ll move on to that when I’ve perfected this formula!
        There are a zillion recipes for pudding out there. I consulted Joy of Cooking but went with the recipe in Laurel’s Kitchen.

Vanilla Pudding
Serves 3-4
From Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey

2 cups fresh milk (I made mine with powdered milk)
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 well-beaten eggs
Toasted coconut
Chopped nuts

Gently heat 1.5 cups of the milk in a heavy pan or double boiler.
Combine cornstarch or arrowroot with reserved milk, adding this mixture to the pan when the milk is hot.
Stir in sugar, salt, and vanilla and cook over low heat until thick.
Reduce heat further and cook gently for about 8 more minutes.

Optional richer version
Mix 1 cup of the pudding with 2 eggs, then return to the pan and continue cooking, stirring constantly.

Serve warm or pour into bowls and chill. Garnish with toasted coconut and/or chopped nuts (fresh fruit would be excellent too!).

        I poured my pudding into 3 dishes, covered them, and chilled them till dessert time. Mine was not particularly thick when I stopped cooking it and I was worried that I’d somehow screwed up. The pudding had thickened by the time we ate it that evening, though. I love this simple, smooth vanilla dessert with a dollop of whipped cream!

Leave a Comment

Filed under desserts

Chocolate Peanut Protein Cookies


        2011, here I come! I’m back from my Christmas hiatus and blogging is a top priority for this year. There are so many recipes I can’t wait to share and so many dishes I want to try! The highlight, I think, will be taking my culinary and other adventures to the Caribbean. Warm water, tropical fruit, and new cultures are on the horizon and I’m anxious to experience everything!


Double chocolate fig from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle.

        On to the food. It’s not like I wasn’t cooking over the holidays. I took advantage of my mom’s kitchen in all it’s spacious glory. We baked Christmas cookies (decorated cut-outs like we always do), put together quite a spread for Christmas dinner, and enjoyed several family favorites.
        Eating Light and Crisp Waffles, one of my mom’s standard breakfast treats, for dinner on Christmas eve was perfect. I am very sentimental about those crispy, tangy waffles and they made a satisfying dinner on a winter evening.
        Our meals out were as memorable as the one’s we prepared at home. My mom’s new neighborhood boasts fabulous restaurants like the vegetarian delight, Cafe Flora.
        We even had a little dinner party with a few Seattle friends, an occasion when it helps to have two cooks in the kitchen!

        I was sad to leave Seattle on New Year’s eve, but Lee and I had to get back to the boat in Charleston and keep moving south. I managed to pull together black-eyed peas and slang jang on New Year’s day. My grandmother would be so proud. Yesterday I was back to my old baking tricks and I’m proud of my first treat for 2011!
        These cookies are appropriate for resolution season, although that was not my intention when I came up with them. Brainstorming recipes while I run frequently produces interesting results. This time it was super-sized cookies with bonus protein!
        I wanted to use up the last of some Trader Joe’s chocolate hemp protein powder. I put the last few scoops in these cookies and now I wish I had more! I think I like it much better with peanut flour and oats in a cookie than I do in a smoothie!
        These big, cake-like cookies are chocolate peanut butter heaven. I’ve been munching them happily with the knowledge that I’m fueling up with protein, fiber, and healthful fats.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cookies
(Makes 7-8 large cookies)

1/2 cup peanut flour
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup chocolate hemp protein powder (may substitute with another chocolate protein powder or 1/4 cup cocoa powder + 1/4 cup flax seed meal)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup prune puree (1 prune baby food container) or applesauce
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine flour, oats, protein powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg, sugar, prune puree, and yogurt. Stir in vanilla.
Add wet mixture to dry ingredients, stirring till fully combined.
Spoon onto prepared baking sheet (lined with parchment, silicone mat, or cooking spray), leaving 2 inches between each cookie. I made mine quite large and ended up with 7 cookies.
Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes. Try one while it’s warm and gooey!


Filed under desserts, other goodies

Figgy Whole Grain Gingerbread


        This didn’t start out as gingerbread. The Buckwheat Apricot Cake I adapted slightly for this loaf is a favorite that I’ve been meaning to make. I just couldn’t stand the thought of missing gingerbread season. While it is unfair to relegate this spicy confection to winter holidays, it’s only natural to crave gingerbread this time of year.
        I hesitated to call my bread whole grain for fear of scaring off gingerbread purists. While I don’t think those purists would be disappointed in this recipe, they probably wouldn’t call it gingerbread. It’s no butter and sugar-laden loaf but the flavor is there and the texture is dreamy as far as I’m concerned. Sit down in front of your Christmas tree and try a hunk of this gingerbread with a cold glass of milk or a cup of tea.
        The bulgar provides chewy heft without sacrificing moistness. The sweet, crunchy figs and crystalized ginger go so well with the deep molasses flavor. I only substituted molasses for half the honey from the original recipe but feel free to play around with that proportion depending on how sweet you like things. Don’t be afraid of the prune baby food. I know it may seem weird at first but prune puree (aka. baby food!) is a great substitute for oil. That’s right, there’s no oil in this recipe and I dare anyone to notice!


Even from this far away, you can see the chewy bulgar grains.

Figgy Whole Grain Gingerbread
Adapted from The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: Simple Solutions for Eating Well

1/3 cup bulgar wheat
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
1 egg
1/4 cup prune baby food
1/2 cup (or more) dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup crystalized ginger, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir bulgar, water, and figs together in a large bowl and let stand for 15 minutes.
Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
Add buttermilk, molasses, agave, egg, and crystalized ginger to the bulgar concoction.
Stir dry ingredients into wet.
Pour into lightly greased 8×4 inch loaf pan.
Bake for 35 minutes at 375 F.
Cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving, then turn out of pan and cool on wire rack.


Filed under desserts, other goodies