Sunday, March 28, 2010

Buttermilk Avocado Pound Cake

I dropped the cake. I dropped my Buttermilk Avocado Pound Cake midway through it's baking cycle. I dropped the cake all over the oven, in the oven.

And here was my attempt to salvage the cake:

Sort of looks like a cheesy baked...something or other.

But alas, it is cake, not cheese. Sweet, not savory. Despite my clumsiness, the parts that I managed to salvage actually tasted quite, well, tasty. I had a grand time picking off all the browned spots (my favorite)! At least I had another loaf pan of cake that I did not drop. Fewf.

My clumsiness was like "heyday" for the dogs. The following series of photographs chronicles Penny the dog's happiness/determination regarding my dropping the cake/her trying to help me clean up the delicious green gooey mess (NOTE: I had cleaned up the mess hours before I took these photographs; apparently Penny could still taste the yumminess).

"What? I'm just casually lingering by the oven, looking all innocent"

"mmmm, oh yah, this is good"

"I've got to get into every crevice, who knows where some extra cake goup may be hiding"

"Searching, searching..."

"Got it!"

"This is my last lick, I swear"

"Ok really, I'm almost done. Lickity Split"

Finnegan the dog usually enjoys a steady diet of dirty, sweaty socks and tomato plants + their fertilized soil, but whenever I come visit, he is also thrilled to lick up my baking accidents.

So yes, cake. Buttermilk Avocado Pound Cake. Different. Strange. Wonderfully moist and one of the best cakes that I have eaten/made in a while. Plus, it's green! Helllllloooooo Spring!

Ever since I saw this cake posted on Joy's blog, I have been dying to make it! The combination of buttermilk and avocado is utter bliss. Joy notes how the avocado taste is " subtle but distinct with a nice sweetness and a hint of crunch from cornmeal." A home run, indeed, Joy.

My brother took a bite and he did a little jig, dancing around and saying mmmm this is gooooooood!

Oh, family, you are so fun to cook for!

I came home to visit the fam this past week, and the first thing my dad says to me is "what are you going to make for us this week, Stephanie?" Yesterday morning was my last morning in LA and, mind you, as we are both chowing down on our a.m. cereal, my dad says, "Stephanie, are you going to make me anything special for breakfast before you go?" Goodness, I'm a sucker for him; what a good eater.

This cake was one of many hot hits this week. I can definitely see it served at a nice restaurant paired with creme fraiche ice cream and candied kumquats. Oh, or an olive oil whipped cream! But really, this cake is perfect on its own. Really, perfect.

Just try not to drop it like I did.

Buttermilk Avocado Pound Cake

recipe found on

makes 2 9x4x3-inch loaves

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used my own homemade extract!)

3/4 cup buttermilk

flesh of 1 1/2 ripe avocados, just over a cup of avocado, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. Set the four eggs out on the counter to come to room temperature while you beat the butter and sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until softened and pliable. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the avocado and beat another minute to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is thoroughly mixed.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after the addition of each egg. Beat in vanilla extract.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the flour mixture, all of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Beat just until combined.

Divide the dough between the two loaf pans and place in the oven. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean (Here is where I messed up. I wanted to rotate my cakes halfway through baking, and plop, I missed a beat and it fell EVERYWHERE. Go Steph). Check the cakes every ten minutes or so after the 30 minute mark. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Soup's On: Easy Carrot Soup with a Dill n' Yogurt Swirl

Fun Fact: Cooked carrots supposedly provide more nutrients than raw carrots (credit: Natasha).

A few weekends ago, I was dining at Pizzaiolo Restaurant in Oakland and ordered a carrot soup. My goodness, this was the most perfect way to start my meal. This utterly irresistible bowl of soup arrived at the table and my only job was to eat, savor, enjoy. And that I did.

The soup had a tangy tone that took it to the next level. I later discovered the secret gem that made the soup so "tangy:" lemongrass. Oh, and the soup had this dilled yogurt sauce swirled into it, which provided a beautiful medley of color and flavor.

I've been dreaming about this soup ever since, and as I was flipping through Cooking Light Magazine the other day, I saw a recipe for a simple carrot soup that I just had to make. This soup is not only satisfying but is also very low in calories and fat (yay).

By the way, if you have not already seen this, you should check out thisiswhyyourefat! Delicious and totally gross.

Cooking Light's recipe uses a touch of sesame oil which "lends depth to this velvety soup". Joining the carrots are shallots and ginger, giving the soup a nice sweet and spicy punch.

The magazine pairs this soup as a part of an Easter brunch menu: carrot soup, Parmesan thyme rolls, champagne cocktails, asparagus and spring greens salad with Gorgonzola vinaigrette, and deviled eggs with smoked salmon.

I used dill instead of mint as my herb garnish, but any fresh herb should go nicely. I also chose to top my soup with some cubed avocado.

Carrot Soup with a Yogurt Swirl

Yield: (supposedly) 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup soup, 1 tablespoon yogurt, and 1 mint sprig)

***NOTE: This soup barely served 4 in my house


  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup sliced shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 pound (baby) carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek-style plain yogurt
  • 8 fresh mint sprigs


1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots to pan; cook 2 minutes or until almost tender, stirring occasionally. Add carrots; cook 4 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 22 minutes or until tender. Add ginger; cook 8 minutes or until carrots are very tender. **NOTE: I had to add a LOT more broth than the recipe calls for. Cover and let stand 5 minutes at room temperature.

2. Pour half of carrot mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining carrot mixture. Return pureed soup to pan; heat over medium heat 2 minutes or until heated.

3. Spoon soup into small bowls, and top with plain yogurt and fresh mint sprigs.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 47
Fat: 1.6g (sat 0.4g,mono 0.5g,poly 0.5g)
Protein: 2.2g
Carbohydrate: 6.5g
Fiber: 1.7g
Cholesterol: 1mg
Iron: 0.6mg
Sodium: 163mg
Calcium: 36mg

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Ate my Final Project: Cooking up Change Competition 2010

One of the perks of being a nutritional science-dietetics major is...well, food. Finally, after suffering through chemistry and biology and biochemistry and physiology...finally I get to take classes that are more "fun."

Food Science, Food Systems Organization and Management, Human Food Practices, Nutrition in the Community...

For my final project in my food management class, I teamed up with my classmates Julia and Maggie to cook up a storm so that we can enter the Cooking up Change Competition 2010.

Cooking up Change is a contest in which teams of college students from across the nation compete to design a healthy school lunch.

We had to submit a recipe, a report on the nutritional content of that recipe, and photos of the team during various stages of the process. A judging panel of culinary professionals will evaluate our recipe on format and clarity, originality of the dish, and cohesiveness of the ingredients. We were instructed to present one entree and two accompanying side dishes that follow their strict ingredient list and nutritional requirements. And if we win, we get to go to Detroit to compete in round 2!

So, what's on the menu?

Entree: Rainbow Rotini: multi-grain rotini pasta, fresh spinach, tomato, summer squash ribbons, basil ribbons, and chicken

Side #1: Cheesy Basil and Garlic Toasts: rustic whole grain bread loaves, broiled until bubbly with cheese, topped with basil ribbons and garlic

Side #2: Fresh Fruit Salad: chopped apples, sliced bananas, raisins, cinnamon, and fresh squeezed lemon juice

Our recipes had to have six steps or less and our meal had to meet certain nutritional requirements:

Calories 750-850 calories
Fat Less than 35% of calories from fat
Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
Zero trans fat
Protein 2.0 oz – 2.4 oz protein
Fiber 10.7 grams or more
Grains 2.4 oz – 2.6 oz grains
At least half must be whole grains
Fruits and Vegetables 1 cup vegetables, 1⁄2 of which must be either dark green or orange
1 cup of fruit (not juice)
No starchy vegetables (i.e., potatoes, corn or peas)
Sodium Less than 1000 mg

After futzing around and thinking out load, we were able to adjust our meal to meet the requirements.

My team entered the competition because, firstly, cooking is WAY better than, well, anything. Second, we wanted to find a way to incorporate local ingredients and fresh, tasty, colorful meals for (college) student lunches.

Here are some photos documenting our adventures in the kitchen...

Fresh tomatoes, diced

Fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

Julia is so happy surrounded by colorful veggies!

Stir stir stir!

Chop that chicken, Maggie!

Ah, the finished product!

And now...LET'S EAT!

Rainbow Rotini

This recipe has so much great color and texture to it! Mmm


1 lb. Multigrain Rotini Pasta

5 cups fresh spinach, chopped

3 yellow summer squash, peeled into ribbons

3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch of fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 lb chicken breast, cubed

salt, black pepper, garlic powder


  1. Boil a large pot of water. Add the pasta.
  2. When pasta is almost done, add the spinach and squash ribbons. Let cook until all components are cooked (about 2-3 minutes more).
  3. Drain the pasta/vegetable mixture.
  4. Sauté chicken in 1 Tablespoon of oil until no longer pink inside.
  5. Add the cooked chicken, tomato, and basil to the pasta. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Cheesy Basil and Garlic Toasts

Note: Having a broiler made this go very fast and it browned our toasts to perfection. If you do not own a broiler, you can use a toaster oven or just a normal oven at high temp.


1 loaf of whole grain bread, cut into slices

3 Tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

12 slices jack cheese

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons


  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Brush bread with oil.
  3. Sprinkle with black pepper and garlic powder.
  4. Place one slice of cheese on each slice of bread.
  5. Place bread on a sheet tray and broil for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
  6. Take the toasts out of the broiler and sprinkle with fresh basil ribbons.

Fresh Fruit Salad


1 apple, chopped

1 banana, sliced

¼ cup raisins

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Combine fruit and raisins in a bowl.
  2. Pour the lemon juice over the fruit.
  3. Add the cinnamon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm Goin' C-c-c-Curry Crazay!

Today I learned how to use a rice cooker. My life is now infinitely easier.

Today I made curry for 60 people without using a recipe, I just chopped, sauteed, poured, and stirred. Somehow everything turned out great.

I made it in a pot THIS big:

Now that the sun stays out later, I can take pretty pictures of my Tuesday night co-op dinners in nice daylight. I can enjoy a nice meal outside on the beautiful porch with beautiful people and the most amazing view of the Bay Area.

So back to curry. I have eaten many types of curry in my day, however I still feel pretty clueless about all the different kinds and what they each entail. There is Thai curry, Indian curry, red curry, yellow curry, green curry...and all have specific names that I have trouble remembering and pronouncing (maybe Mexican mole sauce falls into this "curry-like" category?).

From my experience, curries are usually stew-like, thick yet liquidy and eaten with rice or some form of bread. There is a variety of spices and flavors used.

The curry that I made today was spiced with fresh ginger and garlic, tumeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, curry powder, and cinnamon sticks. All of these spices gave the curry a nice yellow/orange color.

I threw in a TON of vegetables: sweet potatoes, onions, bok choy, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, roasted Kabocha squash, scallions...I also threw in garbanzo beans and fried up some tofu and tempeh to add to the mix. The liquid was a combination of coconut milk, tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, and lemon juice.

Simmering, steamy, sumptuous:

With a little (or in my case, large) dab of yogurt sauce (plain yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, dill, scallions...), I am ready to dig in! Feast your eyes on this:

To wash it all down, my cooking assistant David made some freakin' chai-licious chai tea drinks. Well done, David.

In my opinion, this curry felt really hearty but very "light" at the same time. I did not use cream or butter (ok fine I did still use some oil and coconut milk...), and the curry is mostly made of vegetables. I love all the different textures and colors, and I love that this can be made for just a few or for a bazillion people. It is also nice because once all of the vegetables are prepped, the curry just simmers and there is no need to exert a lot of physical energy to cook it. Carrying the HUGE pot to the table is the hardest part.

Here is a rough recipe for the curry (you can subsitute any vegetables/fruits that you like and you can also add meat if you choose). Honestly, I just threw in a pinch of this and a squeeze of that...after cooking such large batches of food for so many meals, I feel fairly confident when I do not use exact measurements. The palm of my hand is a sufficient measuring device.

C-c-c-Crazay Curry

adapted from my own recipe for impromptu curry


Onion, sliced thinly

Spice mixture: tumeric, curry powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon sticks

Garlic, minced

Fresh Ginger, peeled and grated (use a microplane or hand-held grater)

Roughly chopped vegetable assortment: potatoes (yams and sweet potatoes are great, too!), bell peppers, bok choy, celery, cauliflower, eggplant...

Coconut milk

Tomato sauce or diced tomatoes in puree

Vegetable broth (or water)

Tempeh or tofu (or both), cut into cubes

Garbanzo beans

Lime zest and juice

Cilantro or other fresh herb of choice

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Sautee the onions and spices in oil. Cover the onions and let them "sweat" aka until the onions start to soften and become fragrant (about 5-8 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more.

2. Stir and add the peppers and potatoes.

3. Add the coconut milk, tomato sauce, and veggie broth.

4. Add water if it gets too thick. Just eyeball it, no need for exact measurements.

5. Let everything simmer for a while until the potatoes are tender (may take about 20 minutes).

6. While the curry is simmering, heat pan with a thin layer of canola oil until super hot. Add the tempeh and tofu and fry on each side until golden. Add this to the simmering curry.

7. Add the garbanzo beans to the curry.

8. Taste and add some lime/lemon juice, zest, and cilantro or scallions.

9. Remove cinnamon sticks.

10. Enjoy over rice or with naan bread!

Yogurt Sauce


2 cups plain yogurt
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Scallions, sliced thinly into coins
Fresh dill
if in season: cucumbers

Combine everything into a bowl and serve with curry and rice/naan.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yay for Vegemetables!

Yay for Vegemetables! The spring season is almost upon us! This means peas and favas and fennel oh my! This means asparagus and rhubarb, strawberries and pineapple, and ma ma ma mango!

It's almost spring. It's time to lighten up. It's time to soak up some sunshine and frolick in the park and wear hats and flowy dresses. Polka dots and flowers and bright colors and patterns. Frisbee and baseball and dachshund derbies!

It's mating season--for the squirrels, for the birds, and well, for us humans.

All I want to do is sip on mimosas and dance in the streets and have someone whisper sweet nothings in my ear.

When I think of spring, I think light. I think fresh smells. I think of color. And this is exactly what I think about when I want a nice spring meal. Something not too heavy (simple simple simple), something fragrant and filled with fresh herbs and flavors (fresh basil, chives, rosemary...), and something bright green and red and orange and white.

And now I present you with two beautiful spring recipes highlighting the essence of simple, fresh, and, well...springy!

Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics has a great recipe for roasted vegetables--fennel, fingerling potatoes, thin French green beans, and asparagus. You just need a splash of oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Parmesan. Done. Perfect. Gorgeous. TASTY TOWN!

Next I have for you a lovely galette, a free-form tartlette. Filled with the last of the sweet winter squash and spiked with the fresh hint of green spring basil and purple shallots. I'm licking my lips. My tummy is thanking me.

So, let's get cookin':

Oven-Roasted Vegetables a la Barefoot Contessa

serves 6

2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
1 pound fingerling or small potatoes
1/3 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound French string beans (haricot verts), trimmed
1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces (I just left mine whole)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (omit if making this for vegans)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Place on a sheet pan. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and place them on the pan with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands.

Roast the vegetables for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the string beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the green vegetables are tender. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.

and now...

Adapted From Doable and Delicious
Originally From Gourmet Magazine February 2009

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used Earth Balance spread to make this vegan)

1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade

1/2 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp ice cold water

Dough: Pulse flour, butter, basil, and sea salt in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle ice water evenly over mixture and pulse until it just forms a ball. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough. Gently press dough into a 5 inch disk and chill, wrapped in plastic warp, until firm, at least 1 hour.

For the filling:
2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 x 1/4 inch slices

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

A few shallots, sliced thinly

6 ounces soft mild goat cheese, crumbled (omit if making this tart vegan)

1 egg, lightly beaten (omit if making this vegan)

more fresh basil, chiffonaded, for garnish

Preheat oven to 500 with rack in the middle.

Toss squash with sea salt and 1 tbsp oil and arrange in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet. Roast, stirring once halfway through roasting, until golden brown on edges and undersides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove squash from oven and reduce oven temperature to 375.
Meanwhile, cook the shallots in remaining 2 tbsp oil with a pinch of salt in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6-10 minutes.

Roll out dough into a 13 inch round on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet (lined with parchment) or pizza stone. Arrange the squash, shallots, and goat cheese and fill the galette in an even layer in center of dough, leaving a 2 to 3 inch border. Fold dough in on itself to cover outer rim of filling, pleating dough if necessary.

Brush pastry with beaten egg (omit if making this vegan) and bake galette until crust is cooked through and golden on edges, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool on baking sheet on a rack 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hamentaschen for Purim

"Hamentaschen, Hamentaschen,
You're my favorite Purim treat,
One filled with prunes and
Two filled with cherries
Three filled with poppy seeds
I will eat, I will eat, I will eat"

I used to sing this song every year in elementary school. Good times. We would also host a big carnival on the Jewish holiday, Purim. Dunk tank, goldfish, snacks, spin art, the whole shebang...

So, what exactly is the story of Purim? Well, it involves kings and queens, good guys and bad guys, banquets and drinking, and, well, drinking. Purim celebrates Queen Esther of Persia foiling the evil vizier Haman's plot to destroy the Jews. This holiday is very joyous and celebratory, and possibly akin to a Jewish Mardi Gras. You get to dress up, drink, party, and just have fun.

Anyway, it is traditional to make these triangle cookies filled with either jam or chocolate or poppy seeds etc. Hamentaschen are named for Haman, the villan of Purim. Some call these cookies Oznei Haman or "Haman's ears." Haman was also known for his triangular hat, and thus we now make triangular cookies to the bad guy? The name "Hamentaschen" could also be a corruption of the Yiddish word montashn or the German word mohntaschen, both meaning poppyseed-filled pouches (from Wikipedia).

The pouches that I made this year did not have poppyseeds in them. Instead I filled some with homemade lime curd, some with homemade (by my buddy Tim) ginger and pear jam, and some with Nutella. Pretty freaking delicious if I say so myself.

So this year I made two versions: one was vegan and one was not vegan. I liked them both so much, in fact I could not decide which I liked better. I guess I will just have one of each. Enjoy and Happy Belated Purim!

(Above is a photograph of the vegan Hamentaschen with ginger and pear jam)

Vegan Hamentaschen Dough
Recipe from Emily Weingarten

I really enjoyed the subtle flavor of the brown sugar in this dough. Really great vegan recipe!

2 cups unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread (such as Earth Balance)
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soymilk

Your choice of filling. Suggestions include: any flavor fruit preserves or butter, chocolate, poppyseed filling...

  1. Mix together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the vegetable oil spread, brown sugar and soymilk. Mix in the dry ingredients. Chill dough for 6 hours or overnight (I just chilled for a few hours and my dough was A-okay).
  3. On a floured surface, roll dough ¼ inch thick. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut circles in the dough. Place a small amount of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch three corners of the dough to form a triangular-shaped cookie with a small hole in the center.
  4. Bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Jean's Award-Winning Hamentaschen Dough Recipe

Recipe adapted from Jean, a family friend/winner of the synagogue's Hamentaschen baking challenge

1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour

Filling of your choice

1. Beat together butter and sugar. Add the egg. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.
2. Combine salt, baking powder, and flour. Add this to the butter mixture.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least an hour.
4. Roll out your dough, cut into circles, fill the circles, pinch your edges to look like a triangle (make sure you pinch your ends together tightly otherwise they will open in the oven).
5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.