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.

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.

Just Beet It

On a hot summer night, there’s nothing that says “crisp cool salad for dinner” better.  A nice balsamic vinaigrette, with delicate garden lettuces, plump tomatoes, spicy chives, goat cheese and avocado always hits the spot for me, but tonight I wanted to do something slightly different.  I also wanted to use up some of the beets in our back garden.  And so, in mind of forgoing the traditional Caesar Salad with Romaine, I decided to use Beet Greens.  And what a surprise!   It made my taste buds very pleased.

Ingredients:

  • One beet, fully cooked (300° F baked in oven for 1 hr)                              
  • Entire stock of beet greens
  • 3-4 leaves of red or green leaf lettuce
  • Handful of croutons
  • 3 T fresh Parmesan
  • 1 T Caesar Salad Dressing
  • Roasted chicken (optional)

Makes 2 servings.

You can probably just toss everything together, but I always do it the same way every time: add greens together, dressing and mix together.  Then sprinkle Parmesan cheese, stir.  Add croutons, chicken and cooked beet on top.  (In other, simpler words, your basic salad making skills) Voila!  It’s a nontraditional Caesar Salad!

How To Make Kombucha

I am drinking a delicious chilled homemade kombucha as I write this.  And to my great satisfaction, I am happy to announce that my first batch turned out as good as I could have hoped.  My only “complaint” (if you can really call it that – I’m seriously so proud of myself and happy to open the refrigerator, finding 5 bottles of freshly brewed, carbonated kombucha tea waiting for my enjoyment!) is it only made 5 16oz bottles.  This means I can only have a little less than a bottle a day.  I’m greedy when it comes to my daily kombucha intake and wouldn’t mind if I had about 2 bottles.  And I certainly want enough to make where I can actually share with my friends and family.  So, with this in mind, I’m going to start and double the recipe.

If you want to make Kombucha, it’s really simple.  All you need are these ingredients:

* 1 gallon boiled water

* 2-3 black or green tea bags

* 1 healthy kombucha organism (oftentimes called a “mother” or “scoby”, which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts’)

* 1/2 cups organic raw sugar (some people use 1 cup)

* 1 cup existing kombucha fermented brew (I would recommend a GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha) – aka “mother brew”

The most difficult item to find is the Kombucha organism, but there are ways to get one.  Once you start asking around your local co-op and checking out their message boards, you might find a couple of local people who have been making their own kombucha for years and have extra organisms their existing scoby has made.  If you don’t want to go down that route, you can find them online.  A good website that I’ve known people to go through are HealthyVilliage.com.  I found that the easiest way to get one was to ask around, and strike up Kombucha conversations (easier than it sounds, trust me!).

METHOD:

Before anything, be sure everything in your kitchen (utensils, countertops, gallon jar you use, etc) are CLEAN.  Because this is an organic culture, in its raw state, a clean environment is the safest way to go.

Step 1: Boil water. Once water is boiled, "brew" tea bags in and let it steep for 8-24 hours. I used PG Tips tea bags (a personal favorite).

Step 2: Take tea bags out and add sugar, dissolving completely. The organism feeds on sugar; without it, you will not have kombucha, so there is no "replacement" for this. Additionally, the "sugars" are digested into the organism, producing organic acids, vitamins (primarily B and C), amino acids and enzymes. So, the sugar isn't really sugar anymore, but now healthy living organisms which are crucial to kombucha's reputable health benefits.

Step 3: Add mother brew to tea mixture, and pour this in your gallon-sized jar, then float "scoby" on top. Cover jar lightly with cloth, and seal tightly with large solid rubber band. Store in dark place (preferably in warmish 70 degree place for 7-12 days. Some use a seed mat, however I made a shelving system earlier this year to help germinate seeds. I covered one of the shelves, creating a "dark place" and took out the fluorescent grow lights, however left the bottom shelves' lights on, thus creating a warming system for the top, where I stored the Kombucha.

Step 4: On day of last fermenting period, pour Kombucha in clean glass jars (I recycled old GT’s Synergy Kombucha bottles), and store in refrigerator. From this point on, you can play around with different flavors. Original kombucha is a personal favorite, but my kids (and me too) enjoy the sweeter versions. From the garden, I pureed four strawberries for two of the Kombucha bottles (they turned out delicious!) and also about 7 Black Currant Berries for a separate Kombucha drink.

Black Currant Berries from our garden

Some who are skeptical of “living organisms” and homemade projects involving live cultures in ones’ kitchen, I can rest assure this is a very safe and healthy task.  Some might question the fermentation process with tea and yeast, creating an “alcholic beverage”.  This is a valid concern, however to put your mind at ease, while the yeasts do create alcohol, the bacteria in the cultures eats up the alcohol and produces organic acids.  Very small amounts of alcohol, about 1%, are left in the Kombucha.

There are so many wonderful benefits for Kombucha.  I find I feel more energized, balanced, and clear during the day when I have about 2 cups.  I forgo coffee or tea, and drink my Kombucha in place of any other caffeinated substance.  It’s a good feeling.  A cleansing feeling.  It has been claimed to improve metabolic disorders, HIV, arthritis, chronic fatigue, liver damage, allergies, hypertension, and cancers.  And, getting past the initial “shock” of its vinegary taste … it becomes a delicious treat.  So much, in fact, you’ll want to make it yourself.

Saucy Sauce

We planted a new Heirloom variety of tomatoes this year: Hillbilly Tomatoes.  I knew little of this new fruit, but after pouring over each page in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog my mother so generously lent me, I spotted the Hillbilly.  A true tomato lover, I found myself drooling over the brilliant marbled red and yellow colors, and its intricate pink streaks showcasing perfect and succulent linings when sliced open.  Granted, I bought the seeds with no taste to judge on, but the words “rich, sweet flavor” sold me.  The day the package came, both my husband and I opened the envelope like excited children on Christmas morning.September 09 120September 09 126

Through four months of devoted time, love and care it is finally time to see the beauties in full bloom.  As though screaming, “Eat me!  Love me!  Devour me!” the Hillbillies have proven to be an absolute tomato gem.  We also planted a cherry heirloom variety, the Riesentraube, which are perfect for salads and sneakily popping in your mouth, freshly plucked from the vines teeming with these little red fruits of heaven.  However, the Hillbillies are my favorites: these 2lb fruits, when sliced generously thick, are excellent for a simple cucumber and tomato sandwich.  They’re meaty, sweet, and have that perfect sharp taste that a tomato should have.

Tonight we made a delicious Spaghetti Sauce, recipe provided by my sweet niece, Chanel, in England.  I have never made a Spaghetti sauce before, but am always up for a new culinary adventure.  If the recipe seems too difficult, with too many ingredients, and specific timing requirements, I have to admit: my sense of adventure gets dulled and I end up disinterested in the recipe the moment I begin.  I like simple, unpretentious recipes.  Chanel gave me just this, and the outcome tasted like a gourmet dish served in a five star Italian restaurant.  And trust me: I am no culinary expert.

Here is the recipe:

  • Grab a handful of tomatoes per person, or as many as possible (I used both the Hillbillies and Riesentraubes)
  • Score a cross on the bottom of each tomato
  • Crush a few cloves of garlic (I used 7 ripe from the garden because I am a bona fide garlic fiend)
  • Season generously with salt and pepper
  • 1 T sugar
  • A “glug” of olive oil

I added:

  • A handful of fresh sprigs of basil
  • 1 onion
  • ½ bell pepper
  • ¼ c. pine nuts

Roast all of this in the oven, 350F, for about 50 minutes.  Take out, mash a little (I used a potato masher) let cool and remove skins (I like the skins, so I left them on).   Pour over meat (if desired – can be used as an excellent vegetarian dish) and pasta.  Voila!  You’re done.September 09 115