Saturday, August 29, 2009

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

First let me say that I often make these into muffins, loaf cakes, round cakes, sheet cakes, you name it. This recipe came from my dear friend Leslie Wales many many moons ago and has become my most often baked item. Thanks Les. I bake hundreds of muffins with my zucchini harvest every fall and freeze them. It works perfectly to take out one on a cold winter's day. Or take out a dozen and frost them for a little party.

I've adapted and reworked this recipe a number of ways. I've listed the original which is also delicious and noted my adaptations along the way, as much as I can. Because you see, this much requested recipe brings up a couple of issues with doing this kind of blog. The first is, I like to improvise and I don't always keep track of how much of this, that and the other thing I've added. And the second thing is that I never time my baking or cooking for that matter. Most of the time I just know how long it takes, or I smell it or I check. With these muffins, I swear, I open the oven when they are a minute or two away everytime. So while I have the time listed for making the loaf cakes, the muffins and sheets cakes are fairly good estimates. Furthermore, I cook on a Viking Professional Stove that is made for high heat cooking. I'm pretty sure that it cooks hotter than other gas stoves and I know that it cooks hotter than electric stoves. So please take these things under consideration, for baking don't change the temp, but just know that the cake may take a little longer in your oven and don't wander too far away. Disclaimer over. These are SUPER yummy.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

3 Eggs
1 Cup Vegetable Oil (I often replace half of the oil with 1 1/2 cups Flax Seed Meal, this make them low fat and a little denser, but I really like the texture)
2 Cup Sugar (I've replaced the sugar with 1 1/2 cups of Agave Syrup because Agave is sweeter than sugar, and it's good too, but my family likes the ones with sugar better)
2 Cups grated zucchini (I go heavy on the zucchini)
2 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (I never add cinnamon. I think cocoa and cinnamon is a strange combination, but don't tell the Mexicans I said so)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup nuts (optional – I always do one batch with pecans but my kids prefer them sans nuts)
1 Cup chocolate Chips (not part of the original recipe, and I often leave them out if I am making a sheet cake that will be frosted, but indispensable for the muffins and what gives them their name, as in "double.")
I've also added 1/2 cup raisins, cranberries or dried cherries which have all been yummy, but don't seem to be keepers, just once in a while changeups.

Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. After everything has been added, mix for an additional 30 seconds until thoroughly combined.

Grease and flour loaf or cake pans or use paper liners for muffins. Muffins take approximately 20-22 minutes, loaf cakes take approximately 45 minutes and sheet cakes take approximately 30-35 minutes.

Note: I just made this recipe into sheet cakes for Jerry's birthday. It was a two-layer cake. I didn't add chocolate chips (or nuts), but I did make a simple ganache (bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream) and spread it between the layers. Then I frosted it with a vanilla buttercream. It was delicious.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Veggie Pancakes

These versatile pancakes/fritters have been adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sundays at Moosewood. I like to bake these instead of frying as Katzen calls for. First of all, you don't have to babysit them like you do in frying. Second, I always found that they weren't cooked in the middle when I fried them, so I'd end up finishing them in the oven anyway. It is way more healthy to bake than fry, as we all know. So much less fat. I like the texture better, they are fluffier. And if you need yet another reason, olive oil is costing upwards of $30 for a gallon, lets save the cash.

I'm listing the veggies I most often use, but feel free to use anything you have, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever can be grated. And quantities are approximate. If you have one carrot and a huge cabbage, do that. Visa versa, no worries (muchos carrots and a little cabbage). Small zucchini, giant zucchini, whatever.

You can serve these hot, at room temperature or cold. You can freeze the leftovers and they're delicious thawed months later. You can serve them as an appetizer, a lunch on the go, or sometimes I like to make veggie dim sum for dinner, with veggie eggrolls, seitan skewers, etc. and these are a great addition. I've included a new dipping sauce I developed recently, but you could serve them with applesauce or any Asian-style dipping sauce.

Veggie Pancakes

4-5 carrotts
1 small cabbage or thereabouts
medium onion
small sweet pepper
1 can waterchestnuts
1 Tbs. Tamari
1 Tbs. Toasted sesame seeds
3 eggs slightly beaten
1 Tbs. baking powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour, plus more as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grate carrotts, zucchini, cabbage, onion and pepper. Combine in a bowl. Chop waterchestnuts, add to bowl. Add everything else and mix thoroughly. Lightly oil two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Drop pancakes onto pans and slightly press down so they are about 2" in diameter. If your batter is soupy, stir in some flour.

Bake them for about 15-20 minutes on the first side, until they are golden brown, turn, bake for another 15-20 minutes. Voila.

Almond Dipping Sauce

1 Tbs. Almond Butter (you can use peanut, cashew, sun - whatever kind of butter)
1 Tbs. Rice Vinegar (cider vinegar works fine too)
1 tsp. Agave Syrup
Splash of tamari
pinch of minced ginger
pinch of minced garlic

All amounts are to taste. Mix together in the blender, food processor or my favorite, the hand-held blender, taste and adjust. If you like it sweeter, add Agave, if you like it more tangy, add a little more vinegar.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Everytime I bring a dish somewhere or have folks over or even talk about food or gardening, I am asked for recipes, tips, advice. I am always willing and eager to share and generally have good intentions, but it seems I never do pass along the requested information. Finally, after being reminded by a good friend, again, that I owe her a dozen or so recipes from the last year or so, I decided to do the only logical thing, the only modern thing. What you may ask, why of course, to blog.

I don't pretend that you'll find anything eloquent or profound, but I will try for delicious, wholesome, always vegetarian. Most often tried and true.

So welcome to my blog. I'm hoping to not only remember all those recipes that have been requested over the years, but to come up with some new ones too. And add some other interesting commentary about cooking, gardening, shopping locally and whatnot.

Before all that, here's a little background on my cooking.

I've been cooking, gardening and eating vegetarian for over twenty years. Just a few years after becoming a vegetarian, I met my partner, Frank, also a committed vegetarian and of Italian heritage. His family has a strong ethnic heritage, one centered around food. It was in the midst of becoming an adult and a householder that Frank's mother, Ellie, and his grandmother, Gerarda, one of my son's namesakes, taught me how to cook Italian food. I would say that my style of cooking, while having branched out to every corner of the globe, is still rooted in the mediterranean. Around my 30th birthday, I decided that while I was an accomplished cook, I was a reluctant baker. With our kitchen newly renovated and a fancy stove to work with, I embarked on becoming a better baker. Fifteen years later, or thereabouts, I can make a pie without consulting any recipe at all and can tackle even the most complicated of pastries. Kudos must go to my mom on this one since she is that kind of baker - not one to rely on a recipe, but certainly one to bake at every occasion and who sees baking as the answer to insomnia, even in the middle of the night. She invited me to bake with her from an early age and perhaps my insecurity stemmed from feeling like I had some big shoes to fill. And one last big influence. As I was getting to know myself as an artist, my dear friend and fellow artist, Roberta Theriault, would often refer to her pantry as her pallet and her process of making dinner akin to the process of making art - spontanteous, and free. And somehow this freed whatever inclination I may have had (if I did) to follow the recipe, the rule, especially for savory cooking, but more and more for baking too.

And yay to my family of adventurous eaters who so appreciate my cooking. They certainly give me the freedom to have fun in the kitchen.

Cheers. Heidi

Warm Potato Salad

Today I managed to slip away from the lake early, promising to return for my family around dinner time. It was lovely to come home to a quiet kitchen and a little time to create something yummy for dinner. Frank had said he felt like grinders (a Sunday evening family tradition when he was growing up, even though theirs followed a big midday pasta meal, which we did not do today).

As with all our meals this time of year, my dinner plan needed to center around the bounty of the garden and whatever does not come from our literal backyard, comes from our proverbial backyard – farmers markets or farm stands in our area.

I remembered that I had a bag of rainbow new potatoes, so I started there. The rest just built on itself . The coup de grace was a ladel full of roasted tomatoes and garlic that I had in the oven for about three hours today and tied it all together. If you don't have time to roast tomatoes, add some chopped fresh tomatoes or some sundried tomatoes in oil. I let my roasted tomatoes finish off by turning off the oven and leaving them inside for the rest of the day. They were still very warm when I added them into the potato salad.

Don't forget to be creative. This dish could be delicious with just about anything you have in your garden or in your fridgie. What follows below is merely what I made tonight, not exactly what I'll ever make again.

Here goes:

2# rainbow potatoes cut in a large dice
3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 purple pepper, diced
1 cup cauliflower cut into small flowerets
1 cup broccoli, cut into small flowerets
several leaves of beet greens, green and red, chopped
few basil flowerets finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes roasted in olive oil with garlic
salt and pepper

Parboil the potatoes. Saute garlic, onion and pepper in olive oil for 2 minutes; add cauliflower, saute for another 2-3 minutes; add the parboiled potates, salt and pepper, saute for another 2-3 minutes; add broccoli, saute anohter 2-3 minutes; add greens and basil and saute for another 2-3 minutes; add tomatoes, saute for another 2-3 minutes. Check seasoning, adjust if necessary.

While Frank had a traditional cheese grinder (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles), I served the kids and I sandwiches of fresh tomatoes with an aged camembert-style cow's milk cheese from Capri cheeses of Hubbardston, Massahusetts. We all also enjoyed fresh green beans from the garden, boiled to tenderness then drizzled with olive oil and a little salt.