Doesn't even need frosting.

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

I’m not kidding. A 2 ingredient cake. And it doesn’t have to be chocolate – works great with white/vanilla cakes too!

Let me rephrase: Easiest, BEST Chocolate Cake Ever.

If you need a last minute Thanksgiving dessert, this is it!

Ingredients:

2 Ingredients

2 Ingredients

  • 1 box of cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix – just pumpkin puree)

That’s it.

Mix for 2-3 minutes on medium.

Mix for 2-3 minutes on medium.

Mix the cake mix and pumpkin on medium for 2-3 minutes until a thick batter forms.

Scoop batter into a cake pan. I used a 9×5″ loaf pan. The original recipe used an 11×7″ pan, and I’ve heard of lots of variations (including cupcakes). You’ll have to tweak the baking times based on your pan size, but otherwise, have at it!

Bake at 350F.

Bake at 350F.

Bake at 350F. The original recipe (in a flat cake pan) called for 28 minutes of bake time. I tested mine (in the loaf pan) at 28 minutes, and it wasn’t done yet. A toothpick stuck into the center was still coming out gooey. So I added 5 minutes and rechecked – and ended up baking it for 15 minutes more (a total of 43 minutes). So, keep an eye on it depending on your pan size.

It's done!

It's done!

Mine came out perfect!

Best Cake Ever, Cooling

Best Cake Ever, Cooling

Moist and dense, kind of like brownies. So good, it doesn’t even need frosting! (There’s an apple cider glaze recipe at Big Red Kitchen, but I just used powdered sugar).

Doesn't even need frosting.

Doesn't even need frosting.

Subsequent slices have been eaten with black cherry jam spread over the top. Mmmmmmmm. So good.

Tonight’s piece might have to be warmed with gooey peanut butter on top.

For those who dislike pumpkin, let me say that at least with chocolate cake mix, it doesn’t taste pumpkin-y at all. It tastes like the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had!

Whether you’re eating cake or not, here’s to a happy Thanksgiving!

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Bring it on, fall! I’m going pumpkin-crazy!

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

It’s Vegan MoFo Day 2, and today I made some yummy, protein-packed vegan Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins. Dense, super-moist, pumpkin-y but not too sweet – I’m going to have a hard time eating just one at a time!

I went for crunchy in this batch and added pumpkin seeds, but I could totally see some golden raisins in their place. Nom.

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin

Muffins are so easy to make – mix the wet, mix the dry, combine, and bake!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin - The Inside

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin - The Inside

[recipe-show recipe=pumpkin-quinoa-muffins]

Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

Epic Concord Grape Freezer Jam

Last week, I promised you my recipe for (epic) Concord grape freezer jam, and I am a girl of my word!

But first, some backstory.

A couple weeks ago, I went shopping at the new Friendly City Food Co-Op here in downtown H’burg. (They’re open to the public – go there now!). I was out of grapes – the seedless kind that I can eat mindlessly while moseying to work. At the checkout counter, the clerk asked if I’d ever eaten Concord grapes.

Nope.

He excitedly ran around the counter, plucked a bunch off of the grape stand, and handed them to me. “They have seeds, and some people don’t like to eat the skins, but I just eat the whole thing. They’re so good!” he said. I pondered how I was going to gracefully eat a grape with seeds and inedible skins while standing in line at the grocery store. Whatevs! I ate a grape.

Holy $%&!! It tasted like grape jelly!

All these years, I thought that grape jelly was just some sort of frankenfood, because it never tasted like grapes. I figured it must have been a made-up flavor, just called “grape” for some weird reason. It never struck me that I was eating the “wrong” kind of grapes, or that grape jelly was made from grapes other than the red and green seedless ones I was used to eating. Duh. So, I’m a little slow. My Food IQ has been traditionally very low!

I was immediately determined to make my own Concord grape freezer jam.

After much Googling, it became clear to me that nobody on the planet had recorded a simple account of their Concord grape freezer jam making experience. I found hodge-podge mash-ups of partial methods, tons of half-arsed instructions, and many traditional jam methods (with the whole boil-your-jars and all that jazz) – but no true freezer jam methods.

Fear not, my friends. I made freezer jam from Concord grapes, and I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it. The results are divinely delicious – dare I say, epic.

Unlike most freezer jam, Concord grape jam does require a little cooking – but don’t worry. It’s nothing hardcore (though you can call it hardcore if you’re going for a more bad-ass jar of jam. The whole grape peeling part surely earns you some bad-ass kitchen cred).

You’ll need a food processor (or immersion blender or something of that nature), a fine sieve/strainer, a potato masher, a medium sized sauce pan, a medium bowl, a small bowl, 3 8-oz jam jars/lids, 2/3 cup sugar or other sweetener by equivalent sweetness, not volume (separated 1/3 and 1/3), and 2 Tbsp no-cook instant pectin. You can use less sugar if you’d like a less sweet jam.

Let’s rock it:

1. Buy some Concord grapes. A small batch of jam is three 8-oz jars. To make that, you’ll need just under 2 cups of prepared grapes (about 1 2/3 cups, in my case), and for me, that required 3 containers of grapes. The container said 1 liter, but that made no sense. My containers were the ones that measure about 8 inches long by 4 inches wide. 3 of those.

2. Peel those grapes. Pull a grape off the stem, then squeeze the end between your thumb and forefinger. The guts of the grape will slide out easily. Put the guts into a saucepan, and the peel into your food processor. It took me a little over an hour to peel all those grapes. Employing child labor here might be wise.

Peeled Concord grapes

Grape guts: peeled Concord grapes

3. Once all of your grape guts are in the sauce pan, add a little bit of water (no more than 1/3 cup) and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Why? Because this is the easiest way to separate the seeds.

Concord grape skins

Concord grape skins

4. In the meantime, your skins should now be collected in the food processor. Add 1/3 cup sugar and process until smooth. Be careful – this is where things have the potential to get REALLY messy. The skins don’t make much of a mess themselves, but once you puree them, the purple will stain anything and everything. (I am the Voice of Experience).

Blending Concord grape skins with sugar

Blending Concord grape skins with sugar

5. Turn the heat off the grape guts (OK fine… pulp… the grape pulp…). Grab your sieve, and position it over a bowl. Pour the grape pulp into the sieve and mash the pulp through the sieve with a potato masher. Your goal here is to remove all of the seeds but get as much pulp through as possible.

Mash the grape guts to separate seeds

Mash the grape guts to separate seeds

6. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with 2 Tbsp instant pectin.

7. Pour the pureed grape skin mixture into the sauce pan with the grape pulp. Add the sugar/pectin mixture. Stir for 3 minutes.

Add the pureed skins to the grape guts

Add the pureed skins to the grape guts

8. Ladle the grape mixture into jam jars. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch of head space at the top of each jar so that there’s room for expansion during freezing. You don’t want grape jam exploding all over your freezer.

9. Let the jars sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

10. Refrigerate jars that will be eaten within 3 weeks. Freeze the rest. Done!

The jam will thicken over time, though it’s perfectly spreadable right away.

Concord grape jam, 1 day later

Concord grape jam, 1 day later

While Concord grape jam is a little more labor intensive than other freezer jams due to the peeling and de-seeding process, what I appreciate most (besides the simple, pure deliciousness of unadulterated jam) is that I know exactly what’s in my jam. By that, I mean – I know for a fact there are no chemicals, no genetically modified sweeteners, no junk. My jars of jam contain organic Concord grapes, pectin, and vegan cane sugar. End of story. My jam is cheaper than buying pre-made organic stuff, and tastes so much better!

As a result of making this wonderful jam, I’ve been eating way too many PB&J’s. This picture was taken a few days after making the jam. It’s even thicker now.

Concord grape jam

Concord grape jam

So, there you have it! Epic Concord grape freezer jam in 10 easy steps!

Apple Quinoa Salad, Take One

A Base Hit

So, my first attempt at recreating the apple quinoa salad I had at the Whole Foods bar last month wasn’t exactly a knock-it-outta-the-park home run, but I’d call it a base hit.

After some recipe hounding and some creative guessing, I came up with the first draft of the recipe:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 apples, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Toast the quinoa dry, in a saucepan, for 3 minutes while dicing the apples. Add OJ and apple juice to the quinoa, along with all the spices. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Add the apples, raisins, and maple syrup, and simmer 10 more minutes. Stir in almonds and serve.

It smelled wonderful and looked wonderful….

Apple Quinoa Salad, Take One

Apple Quinoa Salad, Take One

… but alas, it’s just a little too sweet for my taste.

That said, I have a *very* low sweetness threshold these days, as I don’t really eat anything sweetened anymore. My sweets come from fresh fruit. So this may be spot-on for somebody with a “normal” sweet tooth. I mean, there’s not even any added sugar, unless you count the maple syrup.

Next time I make this (and it’s definitely good enough to try again), these are my planned modifications:

  • Prep the quinoa with water instead of the apple juice/OJ combo.
  • Use 1 apple instead of 2. (This is just a preference thing – I was hoping the quinoa would be the star, but with so much apple, the apple was the star – which is fine if that’s what you’re going for!)
  • Cut the maple syrup back to 1 tbsp.

I’d say this recipe made 8 small servings. I enjoyed it warm last night and chilled this morning, and it works well either way. It reminds me of the flavors of apple pie – a nice twist on an American classic for this Independence Day weekend!

Raspberry Freezer Jam

First Shot at Freezer Jam

Freezer jam, baby!

I’d never heard of freezer jam before Lifehacker mentioned it last week, but now that I’ve been enlightened, I can’t believe I’ve spent my life in the dark! Here’s the article linked from Lifehacker on How to Make No-Cook Freezer Jam.

Since I started the whole organic/whole-foods thing last year, I’ve tried a lot of new things in the kitchen (like, turning on the oven). I’ve always loved the idea of making cute little jars of stuff to give as gifts – jams, nut butters, etc. I’ve had grand intentions to try making some of these things.

This afternoon, when I realized the farmer’s market would be open for a mere 30 minutes more, I jumped in the Jeep and flew over there hoping to restock my fruit supplies. I made it – and one of my favorite dear farmers had some terribly beat up raspberries. “They were just picked this morning, but they didn’t survive the ride up here very well.” (He comes up from central Illinois). No worries, sir! I’ll take some of those raspberries off your hands.

What’s the time….? It’s jam time!

So what the heck is freezer jam? It’s an easy-to-make, no-cook jam that can be stored in the fridge for 2-4 weeks, or in the freezer up to a year. It’s not shelf-stable, so it has to be kept frozen for long-term storage, but hey. That’s no problem! Just don’t ever leave freezer jam out at room temperature. It will spoil.

The basic instructions: get yourself some Ball canning jars (I went with the small 8 oz. ones). The ones with straight sides are least likely to crack in the freezer, though they do make (ugly) plastic freezer-safe ones. I’ll take my chances! Grab a box of instant pectin (Ball also makes this – and I was able to buy both at Walmart). There are several varieties of pectin, but some require cooking/boiling. The instant kind doesn’t require cooking. Get yourself some fruit and your sweetener of choice, and have at it!

There’s an awesome recipe calculator (they call it a “pectin calculator”) on the web site listed on the Ball package – FreshPreserving.com. For most cases, it goes something like this:

  • 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp instant pectin
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or equivalent other sweetener by sweetness, not by volume)

Now, I had a heck of a hard time figuring out how much un-crushed fruit equaled 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit. Plus, I was pureeing my fruit, so I’m sure the 1 2/3 recommendation was too much for pureed fruit. I went with 2 cups un-crushed fruit. Some tips I found: A quart of strawberries makes approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crushed strawberries. 1 pound of fruit without pits equals 2 cups crushed fruit, or 1 1/2 pounds of fruit with pits equals 2 cups crushed fruit.

Here’s the recipe I used:

  • 2 cups un-crushed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp instant pectin
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar

It made two 8-oz jars per recipe. (So, I ended up with 2 jars of raspberry jam and 2 jars of strawberry jam).

Ball Instant Pectin & Agave Nectar

Ball Instant Pectin & Agave Nectar

Mix the agave and pectin in a bowl and stir well. Be sure to dissolve any clumps.

Pectin and agave nectar

Pectin and agave nectar

For round 1, I used raspberries.

Raspberries in the food processor

Raspberries in the food processor

For round 2, I used strawberries.

Strawberries in the food processor

Strawberries in the food processor

Pour 2 cups of fruit into the food processor and process until smooth.

Pureed Raspberries

Pureed Raspberries

Add the pectin/agave mixture to the food processor and whir for 30 seconds or so until everything is well combined.

Pour the mixture into Ball jars. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to firm up.

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Store in the fridge for 2-4 weeks if you’ll be enjoying your jam immediately, or in the freezer for storage up to a year.

Jar of freezer jam

Jar of freezer jam

I sampled a spoonful of each and I gotta say – it was mighty tasty! Kind of like eating a spoonful of fresh fruit!

Now, I don’t like chunky jams, so that’s why I went the food processor route. You could just as easily crush the fruit with a potato masher and have a more chunky jam. Whatever blows your hair back. I also don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I cut back the sweetener a little bit. Feel free to use more, to taste. I will report back on how well my fruit and sweetener ratios held up when I eat more of this.

This was so easy and fun to make that I feel like I’ll never go through another long, cold winter without the taste of peak-season ripe fruit! So exciting!

double decker french toast

Double Decker French Toast

This, my friends, is a vegan recipe that I declare is better than the “original” – and this is no April Fool’s joke!

Double Decker French Toast Plate

Double Decker French Toast Plate

The Magic Brown Truck Fairy stopped by yesterday and dropped off a new cookbook – Vegan Yum Yum. I’m a fan of the blog, and finally decided to break down and get the book. As I poured through it last night before bed, I had visions of wonderful breakfasts dancing in my head.

I had some surprise good news on the scale this morning – I’ve officially lost 100 pounds since December 2009 – so I had even more reason to make a special breakfast today!

It was a bit of an adventure making this French toast; it was my first time cooking with a cast iron skillet. Needless to say, my first few pieces weren’t pretty! (That won’t stop me from eating them!) I got better at the timing and the flipping as I went along, but it’s still probably a good thing that the French toast is mostly hidden by fruit.

My only complaint about Vegan Yum Yum is that some of the recipes have a lot of things that I try to eat only in moderation – margarine (i.e. Earth Balance), all-purpose flour, etc. So I decided to try to health-up the Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast recipe, and dare I say, it turned out wonderfully!

My modifications from the original recipe were to use almond milk instead of soy milk, agave instead of sugar, half whole wheat flour/half all-purpose flour instead of all all-purpose flour, and to add some ground flax seed. I also used nonstick cooking spray instead of margarine to grease the skillet.

It rolls in around 427 calories (you could lay off the fruit some to drop that number, but this is pretty much my standard breakfast, in the 400-600 calorie range).

One last note: if you’re still soaking your pancakes, waffles, and French toast in fake maple syrup (I’m lookin’ at you, Aunt Jemima!), for the love of whatever you love, stop it! Get yourself a bottle of real, 100% pure maple syrup. It tastes ridiculously better, and is – must I say it – real food, instead of a bottle full of chemicals. And you won’t need to drown your poor breakfast to enjoy it. Just a drizzle will do, because it’s so naturally sweet!

Double Decker French Toast Nutrition

[recipe-show recipe=”double-decker-french-toast”]

My Buddy Isa

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my buddy – at least, in my imagination. I imagine that she’s a pretty cool chick. I know for a fact I can learn tons from her in the kitchen. She could probably school me at being post-punk-rock, too. Isa runs a former cooking show turned web site, The Post Punk Kitchen. She also writes the most awesome cookbooks ever.

Being spring break and all, I’ve been goofing around in the kitchen again. I recently added Isa’s “Appetite for Reduction” cookbook to my arsenal, and have been cooking my way through it this week. (Check it out – if only to see the cover of the book. Total take on the old Guns n’ Roses album of a similar title. How cool is that?!)

Tonight, I made Baked Falafel from Appetite for Reduction. I also made Sanctuary Dressing, a cow-friendly ranch-style affair. The result:

Baked Falafel, from Appetite for Reduction Oh. My. Gawd.

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!

I’m new to the world of falafel. This past December, I was in Las Vegas for a poker tournament with my poker blogger friends. (Wow – never thought my foodie world and poker world would cross!) We were at the Aria poker room, hours and hours into the tournament. I’m not sure I had really expected to last so long in the game, and I was starving famished. On a break between levels, I ran next door to the little food bar to see what I could grab within 10 minutes (as the clock was counting down). The only vegetarian thing on the menu was falafel.

“WTF is falafel?” I asked.

“It’s good – you’ll like it!” CA April told me.

(For the record – falafel is a fried ball or patty of spiced chickpeas, usually served with a tahini-based sauce, often in a pita).

I tried it (served exactly as described above), and it was ridiculous-good. YUM. Apparently, I like Egyptian food. Who knew?

I’ve been yearning for falafel ever since! I even bought a boxed falafel mix, but when I paid closer attention to the ingredient list… yuck. So I was pretty excited to see a baked falafel recipe in Isa’s new cookbook.

This falafel was awesome – and way healthier than the fried variety. Spicy and substantial and yummy. And super easy to make. The recipe claims to make 12 falafel, but it seems my idea of a golf-ball size must be off, because I only got 9 falafel out of mine (3 servings instead of 4). That’s OK – there’s only one of me, anyway. Here’s the nutrition breakdown (based on 3 servings in the entire recipe):

Falafel NutritionNot bad, eh?

I ate mine over a bed of organic spring greens, about 1/4 of a cucumber, and a handful of sundried tomatoes – smothered in Isa’s Sanctuary ranch-like dressing (which, I am happy to report, is the first homemade dressing I’ve ever made that I actually really liked! And, only 40 calories per 1/4 cup… because really, who uses only 2 tablespoons of dressing?). That’s what I like about Isa. She’s a realist.

While I’m bragging about Isa’s food-smarts, I might as well add that I finally got around to trying her Chickpea Cutlet recipe from Veganomicon. It too was a smashing success, served over some whole wheat penne with her Mom’s Marinara recipe from Appetite for Reduction. The marinara was so simple and so delicious that I can’t figure out why anybody eats the junk from the jars! OK, jarred sauces are convenient – but it took practically no time at all to make this marinara, and it was infinitely more delicious. Real food ftw, again.

My tummy is happy this week!

Too Good Not to Share

This whole wheat pizza crust recipe is too good not to share! Those that know me know that I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my day. It’s still one of my favorite foods – just that these days, I make my own healthier version. Believe me, though – it’s just as decadent, if not more so! And at just 64 calories per slice (plus your toppings, of course), you can have a few pieces 🙂

[recipe-show recipe=”whole-wheat-pizza-crust”]

New Obsessions

It’s no secret that I’m a little bit obsessive-compulsive. Poor asparagus was the most recent victim of my OC ways. (I ate more asparagus soup in late 2010 than I care to recall. Hopefully I will recover by spring when those gorgeous little stalks poke out from the earth anew). This year, I’m off to a bang of a start, with two new food obsessions: kiwi and crumbled tempeh.

Let’s start with my new friend, the kiwi fruit. I’d never eaten kiwi before because – well, it’s furry. Furry food? Ew. But if I learned anything last year, it’s that you can’t judge a food by its cover. So I consulted the premier source for culinary training (YouTube), and investigated how to peel a kiwi. Enter: Pimp That Food.

Gordon taught me how to peel a perfect kiwi fruit. It’s actually very easy – and so pretty! I’ve had a kiwi a day ever since.

Here’s my new friend kiwi hanging out in a bowl of Fancy Oatmeal.

Fancy Oatmeal with Kiwi

And then, there’s tempeh. I like tempeh. I learned about tempeh when I first started cooking vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s a soy based food, but a lot different from tofu. It has a substantial texture to it – almost meaty, like a veggie burger. It also has its own flavor, unlike tofu. It tastes a bit nutty. It’s high in protein, iron, and calcium. What I’ve had a shortage of is ideas on what to do with tempeh.

Enter: crispy crumbled tempeh. My new obsession. Suddenly, my salads become dinner salads! My wraps become meals! So simple, and so yummy. Make up a batch of crispy crumbled tempeh and toss it on top of everything!

My latest salad/wrap combo: mixed greens, diced roasted red pepper, julienne-cut sundried tomatoes, pickles, some homemade cucumber dill dressing, and the now-infamous crispy crumbled tempeh. Sometimes, I cannot resist adding a drizzle of ranch; it goes so well with the tempeh!

(Does anybody else put pickles in salad? It’s so freakin’ good! But I feel like a weirdo).

Salad with crispy crumbled tempeh

Don’t forget to have a big bowl of greens every day!

[recipe-show recipe=”crispy-crumbled-tempeh”]

Vegan Dessert Recipes

The blog Kiss Me, I’ve Vegan! has published an awesome vegan cookbook review of…

Dessert recipes!!

Even better, my test of the vegan chocolate pudding is included in the reviews! (I’m the one that was inhaling the cocoa).

Check it out: Just In Time For The Holidays: A Dessert Cookbook Review Extravaganza!

Yummy 🙂

And while we’re at it – my fave food blogger Emily posted a vegan White Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. *dies*