This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
Are you trying to eat healthier but really, really crave fudge?  This one uses healthy fats and honey.   It's also dairy-free and gluten-free for those who need to avoid those.  

Avocados are high in three amazing fats: both phytosterols and PFAs (polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols) are documented to be anti-inflammatory, and oleic acid, which helps our digestive tract absorb fat-soluble nutrients.  Coconut oil is healthy for many reasons, including being anti-inflammatory and having a high lauric acid  and medium-chain fatty acids content.  
But enough about that.

The big question is, doesn't avocado totally mess up the flavor here?

No.  I have a pretty discriminating set of tastebuds, and the only way I can detect the avocado is by a faint fruity flavor.  Because of that, some of my favorite variations of this fudge include fruit:  orange zest or oil, chopped dried cherries (and toasted almonds!), and the like.  This fudge is really only a slightly thicker version of my ChocolateTruffle Pie.

The recipe below includes both orange and pecans; if you don't want them, just omit the pecans and orange zest or orange oil.

You can also use this recipe to make truffles; cut into squares, then quickly roll each square into a ball; roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to coat.

Orange-Pecan Fudge            makes about 3/4 of a pound 

1 ripe avocado, peel and pit removed
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. water
zest from half of an orange (about 1/2 Tbsp.), or 2 drops orange essential oil
3/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt (1/16 tsp.)
1/4 c. toasted chopped pecans

Line a 5 1/2 x 3 loaf pan (or 2-cup rectangular or square container) with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.   Set aside.
Put the water, zest (should be about 1 Tbsp), honey, coconut oil, cocoa, avocado, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Run on high for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set.   

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  If freezing this, let pieces thaw about 10 minutes before serving.  I don't know how long it will keep in the fridge because it gets eaten so quickly.   But the one piece that survived us for a week and a half was still good.  Any longer than a week, though, it'd be better preserved in the freezer.  Wrap tightly.

 
 

Yesterday I got to have lunch with some friends at a neighbor's house.  We each brought something; Emily, whose house we met at, made Apple Butternut Squash Soup; this link goes to the recipe on her website.

I had lots and lots of Romaine lettuce on hand, thanks to another friend...  so a salad seemed in order.  I started out intending to make honey-mustard dressing, but it lacked something... so I looked around the kitchen to see what to use.  In went some orange peel and the white parts of some green onions.  

Oh.

That was good!

Next about a pound of lettuce and the green parts of three green onions were mixed with around half of the dressing; just enough]to lightly coat.  Then four or five sliced hardboiled eggs went on top, 4 oz. of cubed cheese, and a big handful of toasted pecan pieces.  
Everyone loved it, except the person who didn't try it because she's allergic to eggs and nuts. :/

This would be delicious brushed onto chicken a few minutes before done baking.

Honey-Orange Dressing  Makes about 1 cup

1/4-1/3 c. honey (depends if you want this more sweet or more tangy)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (I used 2 drops of essential oil)
2 Tbsp. onion (I used the bottom 1 1/2" from 3 green onions)
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest (I used about half the peel from a clementine)

Throw everything into a blender; puree until smooth.  


 
 
Most salads like this use so much dressing that there's a pool of it at the bottom of the bowl.  And the dressing is about all you taste.  
Not this one.  There's enough oil in the salad to help you unlock those fat-soluble vitamins; both cabbage and cashews are very high in Vitamin K.  And you can actually taste the cabbage, in a way that accents only its best features.  

If you have any left over, even though the noodles will not stay crunchy by the next day, the cabbage does.

Cabbage Ramen Salad        Serves 4-6.  Or two who really, really like it.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 package Ramen noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger OR 1 1/2 tsp. chopped crystallized ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1 small cabbage, shredded, OR a 14-16 oz package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1/2 c. cashews, optional

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet on high heat.  Break the Ramen noodles into small pieces and add to the hot oil.  (You won't need the flavor packet for this recipe.)  Stir dry noodles constantly for about 2 minutes, until some of the noodles start turning a toasty brown.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, honey/sugar, salt, pepper, and ginger. Stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage or coleslaw mix, green onions, turkey/chicken, and cashews.  Stir thoroughly, until no puddle of dressing remains on the bowl's bottom.  Serve right away for the crunchiest noodles.  

 
 
Curry is becoming known as a  bit of a superfood.  The spice blend's famous color is from one of its ingredients, turmeric.  Turmeric is now known to reduce inflammation- brain, systemic, and joints.  Here's a great way to use up some leftovers in a flavorful, healthy way!
Curry has an affinity for sweet, so it mixes perfectly with sweet potatoes or yams.

When I was in college, I lived in the cheapest off-campus apartment around.  There were several foreign students in the complex, and one day we had a potluck dinner together.  
One of the first foods on the table was an amazingly yellow... something.  So I asked what it was.  "Curry," she responded, "It's a food from Korea.". 
Further down the table was another bowl of yellow food.  I asked about it.  "Chicken Curry," she explained, "The Jamaicans invented it."  
Another friend walked up with a now-familiar color.  I asked. 
"Curry.  It's from Africa."

It was good.  All three were.  Good enough I could see why everybody claimed it was from their own native country.

Since my roommate was the Jamaican, that's whose recipe I got, though I had to watch her make it and estimate the amounts at the time.  This recipe is based on hers, though she used bone-in chicken thighs, less onion but added a couple green onions,  potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, and serve it not only over rice, but also with thick, chewy 'Jamaican Dumplings'.  The recipe is flexible.

Curry.  From America.

Sweet Potato Curry with Turkey- makes about 6 cups

2 Tbsp. oil
1-2 Tbsp. curry
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1 c. cooked turkey, cubed (can use chicken instead)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
water

*I used raw sweet potatoes, but feel free to use cooked ones- you can even get away with using leftover Thanksgiving baked sweet potatoes as long as they're not too saccharine; reduce cooking time accordingly.

Heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering-hot.  Add the curry powder- amount depends on how strong you like it.  (I like it strong.)  Stir, and let it heat for about a minute to 'bloom' the flavor.  It's done when it starts to smell delicious and a little toasty. DON'T burn it.  (Nasty, bitter flavor!...)  Reduce heat to medium, add onion; cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally.  
Stir in turkey, then add sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the food is nearly covered.  Put a lid on the pan and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove lid, increase heat and gently boil until liquid is reduced by about half.  

Serve hot by itself or over rice.

Optional:sprinkle with any of the following:
chopped peanuts
green peas
mandarin orange segments
shredded coconut
diced apple
dollop of sour cream or unsweetened yogurt
chopped hardboiled eggs
bits of dried fruit

 
 
How about this for a new side dish?  I love rosemary and olive oil. Or butter.  Or both.  :)

This recipe showed up at my house this week in a save-the-farmlands newsletter, of all things.  (I'm all for saving farmlands, but how about nixing the property tax instead of government paying them subsidies?!)  And since my live rosemary died over last winter and there's a bottle of rosemary essential oil in my cupboard, I adapted it to use that.

You can substitute about any squash you have on hand that is a similar size.  Or use something large, like half a banana squash or pumpkin, or kabocha squash, etc, but if you do, then double the amount of other ingredients except rosemary oil.

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Rosemary 

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 sprigs rosemary or one drop of rosemary essential oil (better if you have a 1 ml bottle, then use  two of those tiny drops) on top of the butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds.   (You can wash, roast, and salt these, just like pumpkin seeds.)  Put the squash cut-side up on a baking tray.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt.  In each natural 'bowl' where the seeds used to be, add 1 Tbsp. butter and a rosemary sprig.  EXCEPT:  if using rosemary oil, melt 2 Tbsp. butter and add the drop to it.  Pour half into the cavity of each squash half.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.

Remove from oven and pull off the foil; let cool until you can handle it.  Scoop out the flesh.  

Heat the last 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over med-hi heat.  Once melted and hot, add the cooked squash.  Gently toss until some parts become caramel-y brown.  Serve hot.

NOTE:  the photo shows the squash as it comes out of the oven, not after being scooped out and browned.  If you want it browned from the oven, do this instead:
When tender, pull off foil and brush the last tablespoon of butter over the cut edges.  Return to the oven and turn on the broiling element.   Broil, checking every minute.  (I am not kidding.  Seriously check every minute!)  If your baking tray is on the middle rack in the oven, this will probably take about 3-4 minutes.  If the tray is up high, close to the element, it might only take 1 minute, maybe 2.

 
 
The last time I cooked beet greens for my family was about three years ago.  I grew up eating them because I 'had to', and continued it because their nutrition content reads like a fantastic multi-vitamin:  protein, fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, Vitamins A, C, E, K, and three different B vitamins.
But I'll tell you what- after that last time cooking and eating those soggy, bitter greens (I might have burnt them a bit too) all by myself-- sort of plugging my nose as I did-- cuz, dang it, they're good for me!  I thought that'd be the last time I cooked them.

When I pulled the first beets out of the soil this year, though, the old "you oughtta" came back.  This time I was prepared with The Best Vegetable Recipes cookbook from the America's Test Kitchen people.  They had a recipe that could be completed in under ten minutes and sounded like it might not be as terrible as my last attempt.

It was so good I ate seconds.  My husband ate seconds.  My kids at least ate firsts.  And I shared this and Pink Potato Salad with a couple 'foodie' neighbors, who also loved them.  

Not that anyone'd choose this over chocolate; maybe it was just that the greens were much better than anyone's latest memory of them, especially with the crunchy, fragrant nuts and the bit of sweet from the currants.

The amounts and technique will work on any moderately thick green like kale or chard.  (The chard's up next in my yard.)  The original recipe called for cutting out the stems, but they're also good, just take a bit of extra cooking to tenderize.  They can be a little bitter, but the currants countered any of that.

The quantities I used were approximately
1-2 lbs. beet greens
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
1/4 c. pine nuts, chopped  (or other nut you like)
2 Tbsp. currants (chopped raisins work too)

See the slide show for instructions.
 
 
Everyone knows you can make bread with zucchini- but what if you have a giant yellow summer squash hiding in the garden?

Both zucchini and yellow squash-- either straightneck or crookneck-- are summer squash, with a similar flavor and texture, and CAN be interchanged in recipes.

My family's favorite quickbread is Lemon Zucchini Bread- so today we got Lemon-SummerSquash Bread.  I no longer shred zucchini -or this squash- for recipes, but puree it instead.  No more strings.  As a bonus, if I'm freezing some for later use, the texture does not change when thawed, unlike shredded squash.  

AND, if you're pureeing the squash, you can have the blender (or food processor) mix all the wet ingredients for you.

This bread is great for breakfast.

The recipe is found over here, though the blender method is below. 
 
 
Have you seen this before?  It's an example of molluscum contagiosum, and just like its name sounds, it is contagious.  

And yes, we got it.  Lame.

It's caused by a poxvirus and can stick around for quite a while.  Each bump lasts from about 6-12 weeks, but more pop up, so an infection tends to last from 8 months to two years. It can be much longer, especially in those with suppressed immune systems. 

The first time I noticed anything was when a pimple-like thing on my son's arm didn't clear up within the expected few days.  It didn't look quite right.  It reminded me a little of a chicken pox blister, but the symptoms weren't right for that either; there was no fever or anything.  Just about the time the blister finally disappeared, his younger sister had some unusual-looking bumps pop up under her arm.  Then they grew a little and spread to her torso, back, and under the other arm.  About that time I spent some time online trying to discover what this was and how to get rid of it.  If you want to get our solution without reading a bunch more, skip down to the bottom of this.  :)  

Each bump or blister is roughly shaped like a pearl, from 1/8" wide up to the size of a marble, and typically has a dimpled center.  If you pinch it off, a white waxy core often comes out with it, and the exposed spot will bleed more than you expect from such a tiny hole.  The core has the virus, which is just in the skin, so it can't stay dormant somewhere in your system. When it's gone, it's gone unless you pick up an infection somewhere else. It's most common in children under 10, but anyone can get it, and there's no permanent immunity.

It spreads through skin-to-skin contact, even things like shared clothing or towels, which is probably why three of my children got it. Things that make it worse include scratching, moisture (warm places on the body or long soaks in the tub),  a ruptured lesion touching another area, or not washing hands after touching or scratching these.

  I thought maybe they'd clear up on their own, but after 5 weeks had had enough of that, as they continued to spread.  I found all kinds of ideas online to get rid of them:
twice-daily applications of tea  tree oil or apple cider vinegar (both burn a little if undiluted),  salicylic acid, prescription-only chemicals that destroy the top layers of the bumps, liquid nitrogen followed with scraping.  Maybe different things work for different people.  
It turned out that at least 5 families in my neighborhood had children with molluscum, so us moms put our heads together to talk about what we'd each tried.  

One mom had the answer, and it wasn't any of the above.  She'd gone to the doctor (all the moms who did thought the cure was worse than the disease- if the cure even worked.  Which it didn't for most of them.)- paid $80 for a prescription cream, and the cream didn't clear it up, even after weeks.  She finally got on her knees and essentially said, "Lord, I know YOU know how to solve this; please let me know how to help my children."

The idea came to her to put olive oil on them.  So she pinched off all the blisters, being sure to remove the center with the virus.  Then she rubbed olive oil on all the spots at least twice a day, 3 or 4 times a day when she remembered.  They all cleared up.

I  tried it, keeping up the oil-rubbing regimen for about two weeks, getting rid of any new blisters that appeared. 

It worked for us!!!    Hopefully it'll work for you, too.

Picture
The pox up close and magnified. Image: Wikipedia Commons