Cannellini Bean Cake

When you live in Bellingham, or the Pacific Northwest for that matter, one thing is known: you get a lot of rainy days.  This means many things.  It means we get a wickedly beautiful green world, sponged with fresh water.  It means we get to go on many rainy hikes (and if it’s one thing the PNW has, it’s awesome hiking).  It also means we have clean, healthy air.  But it can also mean we find ourselves inside more than we’d like.

After a Spring-like yo-yo of Sun/Rain/Cloud/Rain/Sun/Sun weather, yesterday we found ourselves soaked in the wet stuff.  And during these rainy-days, there’s one thing (okay, quite a few, actually) I really enjoy doing: baking something new.  So, my two little boys and I ran to the nearest grocery and bought ingredients for what we named The Rainy-Day Bean Bundt.

Step 1.  Whip and fluff.  Whip and fluff.  I use a fork.  Get some air in that business.

Step 2.  In a food processor, cream the beans nice and smooth.  After that, cream all this together.  That’s right.  Make Eric Clapton rethink what Cream is all about.

Step 2 (Continued).  Make with Love.  Sweet boy hands (plus bits of crunchy egg shells, mmm) puts a yummy ingredient in any cake.  We all know what boys are made of…

Step 3.  Get those almonds out.  Bake ‘em and grab a few to munch on.  Hey, if you’re extra adventurous, start a mini-food fight (we did, and the youngest won).

Step 4.  Once everything has been added in the cream mixture and you mix it all together, put all the gooey stuff in a greased bundt pan. Make sure to lick the bowl and get some of the sticky goo in your hair.  It’s a lot of fun getting it out once it’s been dried for a few hours.

Step 5.  After baking for 45-50 min, let cool.  While this is cooling, this is a good time to take a moment and drink a glass of wine and call your sister.  You know you’ll get some good stuff out of her.

Step 6.  Flip over and admire adoringly.  If this is your first bundt cake, be extra impressed.  Even if it’s not your first bundt, be impressed anyway.  Besides,  I’m sure that the glasses of wine will make it that much more impressive.

Step 7.  In honor of Spring, whip up meringue & get the coconut ready.  Fall in love.  Deep in love.

Step 8.  Decorate with playful skill.  Act like falling snowflakes while making your cake pretty.

Step 9.  Voila.  Now eat dinner in record-breaking speed so you can have dessert.  Scratch that.  How silly and irresponsible of me.  Eat cake for dinner.

Step 10.  Make sure to dish the cake in pretty, sweet dishes when serving to little Boys.  Afterall, they really are suckers for hearts and flowers and all things beautiful.  It’s not always about worms, soccer and super-heroes.

Ingredients For the Cake:

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup slivered almonds

For the Meringue Frosting

2 large egg

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

pinch of cream of tartar

1/2 cup toasted coconut

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Add beans to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  Whip until beans are almost to a smooth puree.  It’s ok if there are some beans that are not completely pureed.  They’ll be well incorporated once they are beaten with the butter and sugar.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter, sugar, and bean puree.  Beat on medium speed until butter and beans are well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.  Beans will break down and create a slightly soupy mixture.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.  Beat in vanilla and almond (if using).

Slow the mixer to low speed and add half of the dry ingredients.  Beat until almost completely incorporated, but several white streaks remain.  Add all of the buttermilk.  Beat until incorporated.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.  Use a spatula to fold together and make sure all of the wet and dry ingredients are completely incorporated.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake come out clean.  Try not to over-bake the cake, as it’s dense and can quickly suffer from dryness.

Remove the cake from the oven.  Allow to rest in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While cake cools, make the frosting.

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

In a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar.  Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until sugar has completely dissolved, about 4 minutes.  Mixture will be a foamy white and on it’s way to thickening.

Transfer the warmed egg mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until whites are thick and glossy, about 4 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and almond (if using).

Smooth frosting over cooled cake.  Top with toasted coconut.

Cake will last, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Make A Sweet Detour

I’m an avid walker.  By “avid” I mean that I walk my oldest son to school every day with my littlest son in tow (who is four).  We have walked this route for the last three years and I’ve never bothered to clock it.  I’ve just thought,

“Well, if they don’t complain, it’s not that far.”

Over the hills, and through the woods....

I clocked it recently to find that it’s a total of 1.6 miles (there and back).  I have to say … I’m pretty proud of my littlest one who has to do this twice a day.  This is through snow, sleet, sun, rain, wind or hail (and sometimes, being in the Northwest, all combined in one go).

So today we took a little detour after dropping my oldest to school.  We walked down to the closest donut shop (which, okay, is far out of the way, but worth it) and enjoyed what I want to call A Sweet Detour.

Sweets & Treats

Food Porn Friday

I’m trying something new, as of today.  I love food, and I love taking pictures of food.  I love experimenting with new foods, and so a new thought is born: Food Porn Fridays.  Because let’s face it: it’s sometimes just that good.

Today’s Food Porn was a concoction I made up years and years ago: Cottage cheese on toast, with tomatoes and avocados.  The toast I used today is my favorite of all times: David’s Killler Powerseed Bread.  I’m admittedly a bread snob.  I love the taste of good bread, and to be perfectly honest, the more seeds and grains and nuts in it … the better.  I also used Clover Organic Farms’ Cottage Cheese. So … simply put, here’s the recipe:

Toast                                               

Cottage Cheese

Tomatoes

Avocado

Pepper, to taste

It’s delicious, it’s easy and it’s healthy.

A Brief Look at 2010

My Beautiful Sister

I’m taking a moment today to look at the year.  I can safely say that I think most of us do this once Christmas and its holiday cheer and madness is over.  It’s a time of reflection and thought and questions and answers.

My sister and I, as teenagers, started a tradition that I still do today, 17 years later … we write ourselves a “New Years’ Letter”.  So, on the night of New Years’ Eve, we open the previous letter from the previous year, and find ourselves reading through pages and pages of memories from, what seems like, an eternity ago (amazing what a year does to us!).  We fill these letters with hopes and dreams, events and landmarks, answers to the years’ previous questions, and end it with questions to our future selves.  I can’t even tell you how many times we have cried over these letters; or how many times we have laughed so hard, for so long until we choked from lack of oxygen; or exchanged glances as we read the other’s letters, with a knowing look and a slight nod of our head and say, “mmhmm”.   We share our deepest secrets, and exchange our letters.  This is something we have done, when once upon a time we shared a small room saturated in crumpled homework, tea bags and tea cups, love letters never meaning to be sent, The Beatles Greatest Hits tape playing, and stayed up until the sun came up.

Now as “grownups” and having left Neverneverland, we haven’t been able to share the New Years’ Eve tradition for quite some time.  We still write our letters (and sometimes cheat by writing it a month-later, or use the laptop, or email it to each other on New Years’ Eve), but I always, always hold those days of us as young girls readying ourselves for young adulthood sharing with one another those dreams of the future so strongly in my heart. But this year, things are back on track: my sister & I get to share our wonderful tradition with each other once again.  In spite of sounding like a 14 year old girl again, will this year be the year where all our hopes and dreams come true??

What are some of your New Years’ traditions?  Or what are some of your hopes and dreams for 2011?

 

 

Cool Flavor Ideas for Kombucha Brewing

After about 4 months of brewing kombucha, I’m now just rolling into a new phase of “brewdome”: flavors!  Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy the sweet taste of ordinary kombucha, but I drink a lot.  Next to water, kombucha is my main liquid staple.  To get beside the point of topic (which, if you haven’t been aware of that yet is “flavored kombucha”), I do want to point out a few benefits I’ve noticed from drinking so much of this tasty tea.

1. I really have a better night’s sleep – I’m not sure why this is, but I have noticed it.

2. I get a good energy from it.  Not like the energy I get after drinking tea or coffee (that kind of energy is kind of cool, too – where you feel like you can run a 50k marathon in twenty minutes, and then crash an hour later with a dead-pan glaze, puffy and debilitated).  No, the kind of energy I’m talking about is an easy energy that flows through my body evenly and calmly.  I’ve said it before, but it’s an energy that clears my body and brain out.  A good thing.

3. I’ve noticed a lovely difference in my skin.

Okay.  I’m going stop there.  These are just noticeable, basic observations I’ve found recently.

Now onto the fun part!  Flavors!  (And keep in mind, I’m using a 1.5 L wine bottle for all these measurements…)

*   I strongly urge everybody who brews kombucha to try Strawberry. It’s a common flavor, but don’t underestimate its popularity.  Because it’s really, really good.  When pouring my brewed kombucha from its gallon-sized glass jar, I put it in the wine bottle.  I puree 5 organic strawberries, smoosh it in the bottle, and put it in the refrigerator.

Ginger-Strawberry is my next favorite.  The combination of the two creates such a satisfying and delicious taste.  I puree 4 organic strawberries and a chunk (1×1 inch) of ginger.

Lemon-Ginger is a unique combination that some might think sounds too weird, but it’s really good.  I made it when I got that “Autumn Cold” feeling (stuffy & runny nose, sore throat, etc) and drank this all day.  By the end of the day, I was good!  Unfortunate for my two little boys who did end of getting the dreaded cold (and it lasted 5 days).  I used an entire lemon peel and tablespoon of lemon juice, along with 1×1″ chunk of ginger.

So far that’s all I’ve tried.  Pretty basic to begin with, but new for me.  If any of you have any other ideas of what flavors I should try (or you’ve tried yourself) give me a shout! Additionally, if you’ve ever tried other flavors that you found totally disgusting, let me know those too!

Wordless Wednesday: Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast

I know this is snuck in as my “Wordless Wednesday” pick (so it isn’t entirely legitimate), however I have to say two things about this picture:

1) It’s taken from my phone and I was hugely impressed of its capability to capture such beauty and feeling

and

2) If you go to the Oregon Coast, and want to see what it’s all about, avoid the tourist-packed sea-side towns in the likes of Seaside and Cannon Beach (unless you like the chintzy tourism packed with people) and instead opt for a less-crowded, but more eventful and picturesque scene such as the Ecola State Park.  It offers a descent hike down to the beach, privacy (seeing as most people tend to enjoy the concept of “get in your car, drive to the beach, hunker down” approach), and a different and fantastic view of Haystack Rock (Cannon Beach’s claim to fame).  I urge you to check this place out while the salty air’s sea breeze takes your breath away.

Kombucha and the Great Love Affair

Kombucha has been around for centuries.  Much longer than GT’s Dave Synergy drinks and their distributors.

When GT’s Dave Synergy drinks (specifically their “Trilogy”, as matters of personal taste and opinion) abandoned us, I was left in complete shock and disarray.  Trilogy dumped me.  Flirted with me with its colorful packaging, and seduced me with its taste.  It left me feeling on top of the world, energized with bubbling bliss and euphoria.   It was a good thing going, Tril and me.  For years of solid happiness, understanding, mutual respect and awareness and calm, it was a good relationship.  And without warning, without any hint of its leaving me … Tril left me.  And I found out through a Co-Op employee!  I felt used, deflated, scared.  Was it really … the end?

I remember the day well: at my local Co-Op, shuffling around the store with old and worn-out Børn sandals, and heading towards the cooler section.  I stood there, where the Kombucha always is, and saw an empty space.  Had word got out that Kombucha was the cure-all of all disease and mental illness?  Was there something I was missing?  Was everybody having an affair with Kombucha, and is Tril cheating on me?  I walked over to an employee.

“Hey.  Uhhh.  What’s up with the no … Kombucha?”

“Out.  Distributors of GT’s Dave are questioning the alcohol content. So they pulled it and are testing it.”

“Get out.”

“Yeah.”

A profound conversation, I know.  The great masterminds of dialogue would be proud.  But it got to the point, and my question was answered.  My mind went into monologue panic mode. Okay.  What?! I didn’t even see this coming. No more kombucha?  This isn’t right.  How dare they? How am I going to drink Kombucha? What am I going to drink in the morning?  Tea?  Where’s the fizz?  I suppose instead of milk in tea, how would tonic water be?  That’s gross. No.  That won’t work.  Tonic water in coffee?  That’s disgusting.  My energy feels depleted just knowing I won’t have a kombucha in the morning.  How long does testing take?  This could take ages!  I do have a scoby and that one bottle of Trilogy in the fridge….

And then it was the beginning of a new relationship.  People warned me.  Sure, some could consider it a rebound.  My passion for Tril had faded – left me alone feeling half empty.  But I needed that feeling back, however small and tasteless.  I made my own kombucha.  I waited.  I brewed over my relationship with Tril.  Some said it wouldn’t be the same; there is no replacement for Trilogy.  I said, “I’ll make it work”.

I can happily say that, 3 months post-Tril, I have a newer, happier, more fulfilling relationship with Homemade.  Homemade makes me feel confident and secure (no distributor can pull it away; I’m in control here).  Homemade gives me more, oh! So much more satisfaction!  Tril only gave me one every three days because – Tril was out of my league, upper class and expensive.  Homemade gives it to me all that I want.  I blush thinking how many times I’ve endured Homemade … just in today!  I get Homemade every time I want.  It’s a good, healthy, fulfilling (and free!) relationship.  I no longer have to bottle up my desires.