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beauty products from your kitchen

February 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

I’ve been paying attention to all things food for as far back as I can recall, and the more in-depth I go with food, in all aspects of my life, the more I can see over my lifetime that it’s been in me since I was just a little kid.

Back in the early years of college, I used to randomly read Cosmopolitan magazine, long before it became the sensationalist rag that it is today. On one occasion, while sitting in the student union at the U of M, waiting for a perpetually late friend to show up for a study date, I picked up a ragged and torn issue of Cosmopolitan and began paging through it. I came across an article about using regular, ordinary food products for beauty treatments, and read through it, transfixed. Here was simple and easy ways to enhance the look and feel of your skin, using items that everyone has at their fingertips. I slipped the magazine in my backpack, and those pages became so dog-eared from use that I eventually tossed them out. But the information I read there, and keep in mind that this was likely in 1983 or 1984, I have utilized in some way, to this day. And it’s been illuminating to see the food world around me embrace the use of everyday food items for personal use.

The best part about these treatments is that they are completely chemical-free. No worries about absorbing something unsafe into your body, and you aren’t harming the environment when you rinse them down the drain.

Here’s a few of the treatments that I love:


Avocado Hair Mask: Mash one ripe avocado in a bowl with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Apply to slightly damp hair (prior to washing) Rub or comb through and place a plastic bag over your hair to insulate. Wrap your head in a towel and let the treatment sit for an hour. Wash hair as usual. Avocado oil is also good to have on hand. Rub a few drops through your hair after styling to help tame flyaways and make it feel lustrous.

Egg White Skin Toner: Whip an egg white until stiff peaks form. With your fingertips, apply the whites to your freshly washed face. It’s messy, yes; but after a half hour or so when you rinse it off, your skin will feel tight and firm, and man alive, will it glow!! The proteins in egg whites will do wonders for your skin, as well as your eating plan. This can be used on any part of your body.

Sugar Scrubs: These are very popular now, but I’ve been using some form of a sugar scrub for a very long time. Mix a cup of plain white sugar with a few tablespoons of olive, avocado or almond oil and several drops of any essential oil you like (my favorite is bergamot oil- smells like oranges, or lavender). Mix to combine and keep in a sealed jar. Scoop a small amount on wet hands and rub sugar over skin, nail beds and cuticles. Rinse with warm water and apply a good moisturizer. This can be used all over the body for amazing exfoliation. Mix 1/4 cup of coarse cornmeal in with the sugar and oils to use on tougher areas, like feet and elbows. My friend Shaina has a lovely recipe on her blog for Ginger and Coconut Oil Sugar Body Scrub that sounds amazing.

Olive Oil Wash: Olive oil was once prized by ancient civilizations for it’s moisturizing properties, long before it became a staple in cooking. When I worked in a professional kitchen and washed my hands a million times in my 8-hour shift, I would drizzle a bit of olive oil on them to help keep them from cracking and drying out, as it wouldn’t contaminate the food I was preparing like regular lotion. A dime-sized amount in the palm of your hands make a refreshing and pure face wash, lifting dirt and oil gently and without harsh chemicals. Your skin feels incredibly soft and clean. I realize it sounds counterintuitive, but it really works.

Olive oil is also an excellent source of moisture in your hair. As a pre-shampoo treatment, rub it through the ends of your dry hair, then massage a bit on your scalp. Cover your head with plastic and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes before you shampoo and condition as usual. If you use a deep conditioner on your hair, you can add a few drops of olive oil to it before applying for an extra level of moisturizing. {{For more information and ideas: source: Hairlicious}}

Almond Facial Scrub: It helps the look of your skin to exfoliate the dead layers on a regular basis. Crushed almonds make for an amazing facial scrub. Grind the nuts to a coarse powder; add a bit of water and gently rub the mixture over your face, avoiding the tender skin around the eyes. I love how this smooths out rough patches on my forehead, and really cleans up the pores. Coarsely ground oatmeal is also an excellent exfoliator, and is a bit more gentle for sensitive skin.

Almonds are a nutrient powerhouse for the entire body, and one food item worth incorporating in to your eating.

Apple Cider Vinegar: The astringent properties of apple cider vinegar are wonderful for neutralizing minor skin irritations and helping calm the aggravation of yeast infections. A cup of this in a shallow bath is very soothing, and you can dab it on mosquito bites to take the itch away. A cotton swab dipped in apple cider vinegar and touched to acne breakouts can help speed the healing process.

Check out Bragg Live Foods for more information on the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.

Baking Soda Build-Up Remover: As someone who has colored her hair for most of my life, this method for removing build-up on my hair has been the best overall natural treatment I’ve done. If you use any kind of styling products on your hair like gels or sprays, they can build up over time and cause hair to become limp and dull.  I can’t use shampoos that will do this, as they strip the color right out of my hair, making it really flat. But adding a tablespoon of baking soda to my shampoo creates a natural cleanse that leaves my hair shiny and fresh, and most importantly, with the color intact. Keep a box within reach of your shower and add a small amount to your shampoo weekly for best results. It will leave the hair shaft wide open, and your hair might feel a bit rough when you rinse but a good deep conditioner follow-up will take care of that right away. You’ll love how it feels.

Baking soda is a mighty multi-tasker in your household, as many of you know how well it works for cleaning purposes too. Here’s a good article on the versatility of this pantry standard: “51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda”. We use baking soda to keep the litter boxes fresh, and it does wonders on odors in your laundry too.

Shaina also talked recently about using coconut oil in your hair to tame dryness and add a lustrous shine. I’ve tried this a few times and now am hooked on how wonderful it makes my hair feel. I find it helps to enhance the natural curl in my hair too.

Sometime in the mid-90′s, I picked up a book called Blended Beauty, by Phillip B. that was filled with natural, food-based beauty treatments. Published in 1995, this book was way, way ahead of it’s time, listing ingredients like lemongrass, quinoa, kale, coconut oil, fresh herbs and a host of other novelty items that were basically unheard of, or even widely available at that point in time. The book is available on Amazon, and is well worth having in your personal library, especially if you’re like me and hate using chemically laden products on your skin. I’ve tried multiple recipes from the book, and have been very pleased with all of them.

 

Do you use any natural beauty treatments or natural remedies around the house?
What have you found in your food that you love on your skin??

 

{{photo credits: Avocado, Eggs, Sugar, Olive Oil, Almonds, Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda}}

 

 

brie with toasted nuts and balsamic honey glaze

November 7th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

 

That’s a pretty way to end a long day, isn’t it?

I gave in yesterday to some unhealthy eating, including things fried, and eating meat. While the meat isn’t exactly unhealthy, it did it’s usual number on me with stomach upset and I found once again that after a few bites of it, I wasn’t enjoying it. Still, I ate what was remaining on my plate to be polite because my staff bought me that lunch, and they were thrilled to share with me.

Then for dinner, I was unmotivated, not to mention alone, as Mike and Griffin were at their Sunday night youth group gathering and dinner ideas just slipped in and out of my mind as the dark afternoon gathered in the quiet house. I was feeling off from the afternoon fare, and a few perusals of the refrigerator didn’t reveal anything exciting. Except a small wheel of Brie.

Soon enough, this delightfully warm and enchanting snack lay on the table in front of me. A variety of nuts, chopped and toasted, were spread over the top of the heated cheese, then drizzled with a fragrant balsamic-honey glaze. A sturdy knife, some multi-grain crackers and Etta James crooning over iTunes radio to me, and an unsettled day, busy with work and people, gave way to a calmer and more focused evening.

This creation would make a delicious and unique appetizer for a holiday party. It’s so simple to make too; I used pistachios, almonds and pecans for my nut topping. You could use whatever nuts appeal to you. My wheel of Brie was fairly small, and I used a cup of assorted nuts. I chopped them coarsely, and toasted them in a pan until golden and fragrant. Just before I removed them, I made space in the center and dropped in about a half tablespoon of butter. When it melted and the foam disappeared, I stirred it into the nuts, then scraped them in to a bowl.

Placing the same pan back on the burner, I poured about a half cup of balsamic vinegar in the pan and warmed it to steaming. The Brie was in a 375° oven on a small stoneware pan while I worked on the topping. When the balsamic was warm, I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of honey in to the pan and just let it melt and mix with the vinegar until the Brie was warmed through. Removing the Brie from the oven, I topped it with the nuts, then poured the warmed glaze over it, scraping the pan with a rubber spatula. The Brie wheel was in the oven for maybe 10 minutes, but I could have gone longer as the rind seemed a bit thick and the cheese was still firm in some spots. Time will depend on how warm and melty you want your cheese, and the thickness of the rind.

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month?

 

 

discovering horchata, with french toast

January 28th, 2011 | 10 Comments »

Sometimes all it takes for me to leap into a new recipe idea is something completely random that I either read or hear. It makes my culinary brain start spinning, usually because it’s a food item I’ve never heard of and have no clue as to what it is. I am nothing without my near obsessive need to understand all aspects of food, and when faced with this empty space in my food dictionary, I am unable to resist the urge to learn, to know more and to understand.

Take Horchata, for example. I’d never heard of it before seeing one brief mention of it from someone on Twitter, along with the question of how it could possibly create a stunning French Toast, and I basically leapt into researching it like I’d been shot from a rocket. Strange, I know, but my brain likes to evolve; I’m not content to rest on any kind of laurels with my quest to find out as much as I can about the cuisines of the world. Horchata, for those uninitiated, is a cool and refreshing drink, usually a type of aqua fresca, served traditionally with Mexican style meals. It’s light, creamy and easily pairs with most any foods, especially dishes with a lot of spice and heat. It’s not, however, made with milk so it’s a lovely dairy free beverage.

The standard Horchata recipe combines ground rice and almonds with water, lime juice and zest and cinnamon. This mixture is saturated with water and allowed to stand overnight, then it’s drained, resulting in a delicious liquid that you sweeten with either white or brown sugar. I wasn’t at all certain how it would taste, but my first sip dashed away any doubt; this was stellar, and here I was enjoying it zealously during some of the coldest days of our Minnesota winter. For a hot summer day, I would imagine this is a perfect accompaniment to a sultry afternoon, and I look forward to the day that I can test that theory. For now, I’ll settle with it being the base to the best tasting french toast that’s crossed my kitchen counters in a long, long time.

French toast is really not that interesting of a dish. There’s a creamy custard that you dip slices of bread into, which are then cooked on a hot skillet, doused with syrup, spread with jam or maybe sprinkled with powdered sugar. It’s simple and basic, and really, the bread you use can make or break the final result. But overall, there’s little you can do to make the dish leap from it’s ubiquitous nature to something altogether stunning. Unless you start with Horchata as your base.

The Horchata, when made from scratch, only requires forethought to prepare. Most of the work is done as it sits on your counter, marrying the amazing flavors of almond, lime and cinnamon together. Strain it, sweeten it and chill it and you’ve got a pitcher of perfection whenever you need cool refreshment. I looked to the most trusted source for South of the border delights, the never fail Lisa of Homesick Texan, and sure enough, she had a recipe for Horchata that came straight from Rick Bayless. Between those two, there was no way this would disappoint.

And it didn’t. Nutty from the almonds, zesty with lime and lush with light, refreshing flavor, the French Toast was a delight from first bite to last. It needed only a minimal drizzle of maple syrup to make it perfect. Make up a big batch if you can; the flavor sustains itself in your refrigerator, making it perfect to have on hand for a delicious and quick breakfast.

Horchata

Ingredients:
2/3 cup of uncooked rice
1 1/4 cups of blanched almonds
1 teaspoon of lime juice
Zest from one lime
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar or brown sugar, depending on how dark you want the drink

Method:
In a blender or spice grinder, grind the rice until it’s powdery. Place ground rice, almonds, lime juice, lime zest and the cinnamon stick in a pot and cover with two cups of warm water. Let stand overnight or for eight hours.

After the mixture has soaked, take out the cinnamon stick and pour contents into a blender with two cups of water and blend until smooth. Take a mesh colander that has been double lined with cheesecloth, and over a bowl or pitcher slowly pour the mixture, wringing the cheesecloth to get every last drop out. You should have a milky, smooth liquid at this point. If there are still rice and almond bits floating around, strain it again.

In a pot, heat up one cup of sugar and one cup of water on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir this sugar water into the horchata, along with the vanilla. Add one more cup of water and serve over ice or chilled. Mixture may separate under refrigeration. Just stir to combine.

(From Homesick Texan, and adapted from Rick Bayless)

Horchata French Toast

2 c. prepared Horchata
3 eggs
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 T. natural cane sugar or brown sugar

Whisk custard ingredients in large wide bowl. Heat skillet until a drop of water sizzles and vaporizes on impact. Dip bread into custard and cook until browned on one side; flip over and repeat.

winter fruit compote

November 7th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

My apologies for starting this post out using the word ‘Winter’ in the title. Those of us in the northern climes are still experiencing a gorgeous Fall- and the sunshine that we’ve had through the early part of November is dazzling. And so unexpected. November around here is equated with a dense gray expanse of sky that rarely seems to break. It’s a gloomy month, usually, and for the sun and blue sky to be greeting us each morning is a gift. A true weather gift. One that I am savoring with all my might.

But then I go and say ‘Winter’.


But bear with me friends, as you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Even with the still mild days of November to wrap around us, my mind is gearing up for cold. It’s inevitable, and I think people are taking bets around here on when the first real snowfall will drop from that leaden sky that we know so well. The first snow that sticks, snarls traffic, makes people grumble inside…. we know how it is around here. We may have resided here all our lives but there comes that first coating of white and it’s like folks have wiped any memory of it clear from their heads.

Like who could forget something like this?

Sorry, there I went and did it again.

But the thing is, it’s coming and when it does, and we wake on those chilly Winter mornings craving all forms of comfort food to fill our Minnesota bellies with warmth, what you should be making is this simple and delicious compote. It tops so many winter breakfast foods like it was meant to be, like the way Winter will eventually lead us to Spring. A spoonful in your Oatmeal is heavenly; a spread across your pancakes, waffles or french toast is worthy of your best food-lovin’ eye roll and exclamations of ‘Oh dear! This is good!’. It’s endlessly versatile and needs no special ingredients. And if you make it in your flannel jammies, with thick slippers on your feet while the furnace hums it’s way to warming your home, it might just make those Winter mornings a bit more pleasant.

And as Minnesota goes, in the wintertime, we need as much of that as we can get.

Winter Fruit Compote
by Kate

1 medium tart apple, washed, cored and diced fine
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. currants
1 T. butter
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple. Saute for a few minutes until the apple is soft, then stir in the pecans and cook, stirring regularly, until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant. Pour in the maple syrup and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the maple syrup has been absorbed. Stir in the currants and heat through. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. Will keep refrigerated for several days. If you can resist. Reheat in the microwave if desired. This tastes amazing if sprinkled with a light dusting of sea salt prior to serving. Something about that salty sweet crunch…..

KATE’S NOTES:
Winter pears, like Anjou or Red or even the Bosc would make a good substitute for the apple in this. Change up the nuts, use raisins instead of currants, or add other dried fruit. Toss in some shredded coconut if it’s your thing. Or even chop up an orange, mix it with dried cranberries and chopped pistachios and a dash of cardamom for an exotic option. The possibilities are endless, people. Endless.

a slip of season

August 10th, 2010 | 8 Comments »

Well, hello August.

I can’t say I’m thrilled to see August because it’s sort of reminding me of all the summer that’s now past and how little I’ve been able to enjoy  a most fleeting time. I can count on one hand the number of farmers market trips I’ve made. Just yesterday I shook out my swimsuit from the drawer where it’s been buried and ignored. The sun goes down quicker, and with a more resigned feeling than just a few weeks ago. People are talking about returning to school. Somehow, August just feels different; it feels like a slow, warm denouement, like the last dance of a spirited, eloquent party full of flushed faces and sighs of ‘The next one will be just as much fun.’

But at the same time, August is abundance. Corn is everywhere. And the heat of July is making my tomato plants nearly burst with crimson globes of homegrown tomato glory. Like this…. in one day.

Yes, that’s one day of harvest. But those tomatoes need barely a thing on them save a dash of good sea salt and a few grinds of pepper to make their way eagerly to my mouth. My Rutgers and Bonny’s Guy plants are nearly 5 feet tall, and still loaded with potential. There are peppers galore hanging from the seven pepper plants and I am eagerly awaiting the ripening of the mysterious Italian Heirloom peppers of which I discovered late in the Spring. Four plants, fully adorned with long and cylindrical deep green peppers hold a bounty and so much more. I eye them, thinking of stuffing, or sauteing or simply slicing on a salad. I love the anticipation held within the tiny patch out my window.

The rain has been copious in Minnesota, and the resulting humidity oppressive, but what the rain has done is unavoidable. My tiny Japanese lilac bushes, which faded so fast after an untimely Mother’s Day frost, sprung back into a lush fragrant bloom in mid-July, bringing a welcome surprise amidst the waves of high summer heat. The Delphinium is on a second bloom too, and the yard has stayed a rich verdant green. I even find humor in the huge weed that’s formed in our neglected fire pit, it’s long stems sneaking up and over the walls, potentially snagging unsuspecting varmints. The toad population in my garden is copious. Mike even found a small frog clinging to our sunroom window one evening. Just about the same time, we discovered a tiny amphibian clinging to a baking pan in the midst of the kitchen at work. It was a moment of surprise, and likely shock for the poor little green creature, which I quickly captured and took outside to release in the grass. His legs were too miniscule anyway, as luck would have it.

This past week has been very simple around the house. The Teen is off an the adventure of his young lifetime, away in the mountains of West Virginia spreading his faith and employing his helping hands. He returns to our fold this weekend, and I’ve missed his smile. Mike and I have enjoyed some much-needed quiet time, and a reprieve from chauffeur duties. My schedule, and the last of the July heat has kept the cooking to a minimum. Good bread, some cheese and those wonderful tomatoes have really been all I crave anyway.

I did turn on the oven for one short burst of creativity when I came across this Chipotle Lime Roasted Peanut recipe on Susan’s site. I’ve been indulging in this delicious smoothie , utilizing the frozen blueberries from my yearly berry picking adventure, and upon seeing her quick and simple method for this spicy snack, I jumped into action. One food item that we always keep on hand for snacking is nuts. Our favorite is almonds, with pistachios and peanuts coming in close behind. I took Susan’s recipe one step further, using all three nuts when I made my version.

With the first nibble, I was hooked. The nuts aren’t spicy right away, but a bit of heat builds up in the back of your mouth as you crunch away, and a slight salty tang of  lime tangoes a little over your tongue. They’re utterly addictive. It’s a good thing I needed to run out to work soon after fixing up a batch of them, or I might have poured myself a cold drink, taken a book out to the patio along with a bowl of these nuts and settled in to satisfied munching. It would be nice of me to save some for Mike, don’t you think?

Apple Crisp with Crystallized Ginger Topping

November 11th, 2009 | 9 Comments »

{{{I’m doing my first guest post over at The LoveFeast Table today! Yeah!}}}

Apple Crisp is so Fall, so perfectly suited for the October-November loop, and so willing to apply anyone’s simple signature to it’s luscious ingredients that it has sort of gone beyond being a favorite dessert, becoming more like that old dear friend that never fails to bring sunshine to a dreary day.

apple crisp6851

The smell of apples and cinnamon baking is a comfort that threads itself under your skin. It’s no surprise that the most popular of pies and scented candles are usually ‘Apple Pie’, long celebrated as All American and breathing remnants of home and Mom. Apple Crisp is simpler than pie, ready with a few turns of the peeler and knife, chunks of cold butter cut into crumbly flour and brown sugar to bake into a delicately scented crunch atop soft and juicy warm apples.

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The addition of crystallized ginger in this recipe is wonderful; a gentle hint of warmth and a touch of it’s sweetness made the crunchy topping extra flavorful. I’ve been making Apple Crisp since I was barely old enough to see over the top of our stove, and had to stand on a chair to be able to work the peeler, my Mom by my side watching to make sure I didn’t hack off a snippet of skin here and there. She showed me how to peel an apple whole, with a long dangling strip, and how to carefully carve out apple cores and slice them uniformly so they would bake evenly. Now I have a device that peels and cuts your apples all in the turn of a crank, making any kind of apple dish quick and easy. So when I was faced lately with a chilly night and an unidentifiable need in me to seek a little comfort, a good book and a warm plate of this crisp seemed to be in order. Just taking in the first thin whiffs of the aroma seeping from the oven took the edge off whatever empty spot had formed inside.  Apple Crisp was always a prominent item in our Fall kitchen, topped with cold ice cream releasing a thin river of creamy white over the still warm fruit. It’s a memory that tastes like home, if memories come with flavor which almost all of us know that they do. And maybe that night, I needed a memory to soothe me, the feeling of someone by my side watching over me. I know Mom would have loved this version as well.

I’m a nut for almonds – ha! pun intended- but there is little in terms of dessert items that I don’t think can be helped and favored by the addition of chopped almonds. For this recipe, I scattered chopped almonds over the apples in the pan before sprinkling on the topping, and also sifted the fine almond flour from the chopped pieces into the topping mixture to add even more flavor. To do so, just pour the chopped almonds into a wire sieve and shake it over whatever you wish.

Fabulous apple and almond flavor pours through every bite, whether topped with ice cream, whipped cream or yogurt……

apple crisp6848

Or not……

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And yes, I did eat it for breakfast. Wouldn’t you?

Apple Crisp with Crystallized Ginger Topping
adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, via The Heavy Table

Kate’s Advice- Make the topping first. Your apples won’t turn brown that way.

Heat oven to 375°. Butter a 8″square baking dish, or equivalent and set aside.

For the topping:

3/4 c. AP flour
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. white sugar
2 T. crystallized ginger (I chopped mine fine- it would have been WAY chunky otherwise)
1/4 t. salt (omit if you use salted butter)
1/2 t. cinnamon
4 T. butter, cut into chunks

Mix all ingredients except butter in a bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until it’s relatively chunky. Don’t mix it down to a fine sand. Chill until ready to use.

5 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 T. white sugar
1 T. AP flour

Toss apples with flour and sugar and place in baking dish. Sprinkle topping over the apples and bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and top is browned.

Schooled in the untraditional

August 22nd, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Mike and I recently had our 7th anniversary. I’ve posted on the blog in prior years about it, but this time around I enjoyed it quietly. With cake. I’ll get to that in due time, ok?

And as a side note, today, August 22nd, is Mike’s birthday, my niece Leah’s birthday, and my friend Melissa’s birthday!! Woot!

Ok, now back to anniversaries, the untraditional, and of course, CAKE.

Someone asked me what gift coincided with the 7th anniversary, and I had to pause a moment to recall what they were talking about. Apparently each year has some sort of meaning in terms of the gift you give, and seriously,  who does this anymore? If you’re at all interested in what each year should entail, check this out. The 7th anniversary, according to that chart, should be either Wool, Copper or a Desk Set.

wool

copper

deskset

I’m stunned at the romance behind that.

My husband is not a gift giver, and I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has more anxiety and trepidation over getting someone a gift. It just isn’t his thing. If you’re one of those people who think that no special occasion is complete without a pretty wrapped package, you might have some trouble with this mentality, and admittedly, it was a somewhat tough reality for me to accept at first, but Mike has shown me in the eight years I’ve known him that the best gift he can give me resides within him, not in some store. He gives me his heart and his love on a daily basis. No brightly wrapped box will ever come close to that. Although in years past I have asked for a few items- a simple bracelet, a 5th anniversary ring- what I get from him every day comes without a price tag, and all year long. I would take that over a thousand red roses, a paper card or a shiny trinket because it really is so much more vital to a happy union than some expected token given out of a sense of obligation.

So I didn’t get an anniversary gift, not in a box, wrapped in paper, with a bow anyway. I got this…..

mikepic

……for the rest of my life. That’s an awfully spectacular gift.

But there has to be cake. It is, after all, the best of celebrations, the finest excuse to kick up our heels and revel in what we share. And because there is little convention to our celebrations, what with the absence of pretty packages, the cake we shared should also bear little resemblance to those towering stacks of genoise, layered in thick cloying buttercream that are often represented at your standard party.

So I made a Flourless Honey Almond Cake.

flourless honey almond cake 007

This cake, from the April issue of Eating Well magazine, caught my eye immediately when I first read about it. I like a good cake that is versatile, a slice being perfect for a quick light snack or dressed up with vanilla bean ice cream for a more glorious treat. The cake is light and deeply nutty, using ground toasted almonds for the base that is then fluffed with beaten egg whites. Although I was expecting something a bit sweeter due to the honey, and it was delightful as it was, I imagined a version with orange zest and juice to give it just a little more personality, some more ‘Hey, Look at Me!’ kind of taste. It was the easiest cake to put together. My new springform pan worked beautifully too.

Flourless Honey Almond Cake
1-1/2 c. toasted whole almonds
4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Topping (optional)
Honey and toasted sliced almonds

Heat your oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper and spray paper. Process the whole toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. It’s ok if there are some larger bits, it makes for a delicious texture.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt on medium speed until well combined. Add in the ground almonds and mix to incorporate. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the 4 egg whites until they become very foamy and double in size, but not to a point of holding stiff peaks. You want them to be firm, but still loose. Turn off the beaters and push them gently through the whites; the whites should be firm enough that the beaters make ridges yet still fall away when you stop.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond-honey mixture until just combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 25-30 minutes. A cake tester will come out clean and the top will be golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and release the spring. Cool the cake completely before removing the bottom part of the pan.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or fruit topping. Or just eat it plain.

Mango Almond Pancakes

September 20th, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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Whole Grain Waffles (or Pancakes)

1 c. flour
1 c. oat flour
2 T. ground flaxseed
1/3 c. rye flour
4 T. cornmeal
4 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar
½ t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. fat free milk
2 T. canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients together and stir into dry until just combined. Bake on heated griddle, topping with chopped mango and almonds before turning over.

Notes: For oat flour, plain oatmeal can be ground in a spice or coffee grinder to the consistency of flour. As for the rye flour, I have subbed in buckwheat and whole wheat and gotten results that are just as delicious. I have used plain or vanilla yogurt in place of half the milk too with excellent results. Don’t skip the sugar.