Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Old-Fashioned Blackberry Orange Cake (with or without Ground Almonds)

Now that spring is here and the weather has been so divine, it was about time to post something lovely and inspiring. And that's just what I find this old-fashioned orange-blackberry cake to be.

Thought I'd post some shots I took so far that have made us welcome spring:

There's something about this weather that makes a person want to be outside. So take this cake outside with your loved ones after dinner and enjoy the feel of warmer breezes, the sound of birds chirping, and the smell of new grass growing. And yeah, don't forget to bring the allergy medicine.

I have made this cake several times over the last few months and love it. It's particularly good in the morning too with a hot cup of coffee if you can stare out your window in silence for a few moments before the day's activities overwhelm you. This cake makes me nostalgic. It is a simple recipe that, again, reminds me of the kind of dessert my mother or grandmother would make that highlights the season's best fruits.

If you prefer lemon extract instead of orange, you could easily substitute that. Or replace the blackberries with raspberries. Or you could skip the raw sugar topping and make a glaze of powdered sugar and fresh orange or lemon juice to drizzle on top of the cooled cake--there are several possibilities.


Serves 6-8

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. fresh orange zest (zest of about 1 orange)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds (optional-but oh so good!)
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries (or slightly more)
  • 2 Tbsp. raw sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine sugar and butter, then beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed with paddle. Add in the flour, baking powder, eggs and zest. Scrape bottom of mixing bowl, then continue to mix for 2 minutes at medium speed.

Pour this batter into greased and floured tart pan with removable bottom or cake pan with removable sides. Drop berries over the top of the cake as evenly as possible. Then, sprinkle the raw sugar over the berries.
Bake cake until it tests done in center or until the cake pulls from the side of the pan, about 50 to 60 minutes depending on oven.
Let cake cool for about 10 minutes in the pan and then gently loosen edges of removable tart pan. When cooled, lift from the bottom on the tart pan or simply un-mold the cake pan sides.
Dust with powdered sugar or brush with a light glaze of your choice. (totally optional!)
This is a delicious cake served with vanilla or blackberry ice-cream. Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

North African Inspired Tomato, Chickpea & Spinach Stew (Vegan)

Inspired by pantry staples, I made this super basic, but healthy, vegetarian stew a few weeks ago. My intention was to serve it over rice or with pita bread, but instead I ate two bowls plain by myself. Really enjoyed the flavors and textures together. Thought I'd pass it along if you've got a hungry family and a few cans to use up.

If you're not a big spinach fan, cut the spinach amount in half!!! My picture, above, does not show the bright green vibrancy of the spinach because this particular portion was reheated as leftovers :)

I'm sure this stew would benefit from with some cayenne pepper for heat and topped with some Greek yogurt (if you weren't vegan) or fresh lemon/lime juice (if you are a vegan). The stew was also good over a wild rice mix with a little grated cheese on top (Kashkaval is particulary delicious). Enjoy.


Serves ~6

  • 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, thinly sliced in half moon shapes (1/2 circles)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes, pureed (I used Muir Glen's fire-roasted tomatoes)
  • 2 cans chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed--(can save a little liquid)
  • 1 tsp. coriander 
  • 3/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Salt & pepper to taste (I used ~1/2 tsp. of each)
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach (thawed or defrost, if you prefer) OR 2 cups fresh spinach

In a medium-sized pot with lid (I used a dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion. Add a couple tablespoons of water (or any of the liquid from the chickpeas). Saute until onion is translucent--about 10 minutes--making sure onion doesn't burn.

Add garlic and tomatoes. Stir until combined and cover. Lower heat to medium-low. Mix in chickpeas and spices, including salt & pepper, and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes or until the chickpeas are tender.

Add the spinach (mine was a frozen block that thawed in the hot stew). Gently mix it in and try to break it up if yours is frozen like a block as well (I used a fork to separate it). You can turn off the heat once most of the spinach has thawed--or when the spinach has wilted, if you are using fresh spinach.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spelt and Sunflower Seed Pancakes

A very rare thing occurred: My husband was home on a weekday morning. Granted, he was using a vacation day to study (boards are coming up) and he was working on taxes (for the umpteenth time)--but he was home! And that made us girls very happy. We needed something special to eat to distract from the paperwork and the painting (I'm tackling the trim on the bathroom--my workmanship is disastrous). Solution? PANCAKES!

I have a new love for spelt flour. I have now tried spelt flour in muffins and banana bread with excellent results. So, it was time to move on to using it in pancakes. Spelt flour just called for something nutty to be added with it--and of course, I paired it with sunflower seeds (been a bit obsessed with sunflower seeds as you have seen from my previous sunflower seed spread and the rustic sunflower seed bread).

(A note about SPELT: it's a member of the same grain family as wheat but is not as heavy as whole wheat flour--you get a more tender result by using spelt flour in baking.) 

And because we're mentioning sunflower seeds, here are a couple pictures from our local trip out to the sunflower field (from this last August)....

Back to pancakes: Well, I'm happy to say, my experimental recipe turned out great! LOVE these pancakes and will be making them again. Serve them with some veggie sausage on the side for some extra protein to take you through until lunchtime.


Makes 10-12 pancakes (depending on size)--should serve at least 4 people for breakfast

Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ~1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds 

Wet Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. safflower oil (or canola) + more for greasing pan/griddle
  • 1 Tbsp. honey

In a small-medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients (including the sunflower seeds) and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat eggs. Whisk in the buttermilk and oil. Add honey and whisk again until all the ingredients are incorporated.

(TIP: if you use your tablespoon to measure out the oil, the honey will slide out easily when you use the same tablespoon to measure out the honey).

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Feel free to add a little more buttermilk if the mixture seems too dry.

Heat pan, skillet or griddle over medium heat and lightly coat with some oil (of your choice--I used safflower again as it is good with high temperatures). 

Pour approximately 1/4 cup of pancake batter for each pancake. (I only got about 3 pancakes in a really large skillet)

Cook pancakes 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown--you will know they are ready to be flipped  when you start to see little bubbles form around the edges.

Serve the pancakes warm with maple syrup and fruit of your choice.

Go out there and make some pancakes for your loved ones this weekend--they're DELICIOUS!