Elodee’s Dream Cake

I’ve always felt that writing and concocting food are disciplines that mirror one another. On one hand, you pick up a pen and with one word at a time, you build a feast for the heart and mind, keeping character arcs and plot lines intact, carefully measuring out conflict and raising the stakes, until at last: resolution!

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Baking a cake is not so very different. You begin with an idea—a ache for a particular flavor matched to a particular crumb. You count eggs, and level flour. You add dashes of this and that for whimsy, and you let it bake, wafting aromas into the rooms of your home and heart.

When an author friend of mine—Corey Ann Haydu—and I got to chatting one afternoon about writing and baking, love of books, and supporting dreams, a cake dream slowly rose into existence.

“I’ve written this story,” said Corey. “The main character bakes a cake— olive oil and jasmine with white chocolate pear frosting . . .”
“Tell me MORE!” I begged.

And she did, also sending me an advanced reader copy of her new book Eventown (OUT TODAY—February 12 and available wherever books are sold!) so as to offer the literal backstory on this cake idea.

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In Haydu’s book, (from the editor) Elodee’s world is tilting and it’s impossible for her to be the same as she was before. Not when her feelings have such a strong grip on her heart. Not when she and her twin sister, Naomi, seem to be drifting apart. So, when Elodee’s mom gets a new job in Eventown, moving seems like it might just fix everything.
   Indeed, life in Eventown is comforting and exciting all at once. Their kitchen comes with a box of reipes for Elodee to try. Everyone takes the scenic way to school or work—past row of rosebushes and unexpected waterfalls. On blueberry picking fieldtrips, every berry is perfectly ripe.
    Sure, there are a few odd rules, and the houses all look exactly alike, but it’s easy enough to explain—Until Elodee begins to ask questions about Eventown that no one seems to be able to answer.
   Everything may be “even” in Eventown, but is there a price to pay for perfection—and pretending?

And so, Elodee’s Dream Cake fell from the page and into reality, both here on my blog, and under the careful hands of Corey and her editor as they put their imaginations, baking prowess, and my recipe to the test (link to that video coming soon!)

But we all know that reality is fraught with as many twists and turns as fiction, and so this real version of Elodee’s cake is gluten free so as to accommodate some dietary needs. After experimenting with innumerable flours, editing measurements, and revising baking times and temperatures, I’m happy to share Elodee’s Dream Cake with you!

Be sure and grab a copy of Eventown before you serve yourself a slice. Because nothing goes with a good story quite like a good piece of cake.

Cheers!

 

 

Elodee’s Dream Cake
Olive Oil and Jasmine with White-chocolate- pear Frosting
(Gluten Free)

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Cake Ingredients:

8 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup of sugar-in-the-raw
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons of baking powder (yes, tablespoons) *
½ Teaspoon of salt
½ Cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Teaspoon Jasmine flavoring (a liqueur also works here, I’ve substituted Cointreau with excellent results).
¾ Cup of white rice flour
½ Cup tapioca flour
1 ½ Cups oat flour

* A note on baking powder: For anyone with severe gluten allergy, or celiac’s disease, you will want to make sure your baking powder is made with corn starch rather than wheat starch.

 

Frosting:

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1/3 Cup white-chocolate chips
2/3 Cup heavy cream
1 baby food jar of pureed pears
½ cup butter, melted
7+ cups of confectioner’s sugar

 

 

For the Cake:

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In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer combine olive oil, sugar, and eggs. Add in Greek yogurt, Jasmine flavoring, salt, and baking powder. Mix until well combined. The batter will rise slightly due to the eggs and baking powder. Add the flour into the batter and scrape down the sides of the bowl until the flour is well incorporated, and the batter has an almost fluffy consistency.

In a well-greased pan (gf flour tends to stick to the pan more than standard flour, and I will often add parchment paper to the bottom of a round pan in addition to butter or oil), bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

If you are making a layered cake, allow to cool before attempting to remove from pan. GF baked goods tend to “set up” more firmly once they have cooled. If you’re making a standard sheet cake, allow to cool before frosting.

*A note on flavorings: Most flavorings and extracts are derived by soaking herbs/spices/florals for a period of time in an alcohol base to “extract” their essence into the alcohol. With floral extracts, especially light florals like jasmine or rose, the flavor can be incredibly subtle and difficult to detect over the flavor and sent of the alcohol it was extracted with. Feel free to experiment with different brands or substitute a liqueur.
*A note on flour
There are many gluten-free mixes of flour on the market and even gf cake-flour mixes if you’d rather not mess around with finding three different types of flours as this recipe calls for. I was looking for a particular nutty flavor, which the oat flour provides in my flour mixture, but experimentation is the best part of baking—try your own flour blends and have fun!

 

For the Frosting:

Melt the white-chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, and blend with a fork until well incorporated. With a stand mixer or hand beater, blend in the pears and the heavy cream. Once mixed, slowly add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the frosting takes on weight and consistency. It should form peaks that do not readily fall, and if you lift your beater or mixing wand from the bowl, the frosting should keep its shape on the end of the mixing implement.

 

*Notes on frosting a layered cake:

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Once my cake layers have cooled and have been removed from the pan, I set them on a cake stand, spread a generous layer of frosting between the layers, and then scrape a “crumb layer” of frosting over the entire surface of the cake. This is a light layer of frosting designed to set and keep the crumbly nature of the cake’s surface in tact while I add the finishing layer of frosting. I refrigerate the crumb layer for an hour or so to help it set, and then frost and decorate the cake as I would normally.
A sheet cake does not require a crumb layer.

 

savory pumpkin soup

Fall is definitely in the air.
Cool nights. Crisp mornings. Sky so blue it hurts my heart.
And I am loving every second.
Not that I’m rushing anything. Seriously. Here in northern Minnesota we typically have winter from the end of October till early May. So much fun. *heavy sarcasm*
Even so, I am in love with fall, and soup and I are basically bffs.
This savory pumpkin soup is warm and smooth with coconut milk, but bright with a hint of apple. If you crave a more hearty flavor, substitute beef broth for vegetable.
Enjoy!

SAVORY PUMPKIN SOUP

2 tablespoons clarified butter
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
a generous dash of cinnamon
a dash of rosemary
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned is fine, though making your own is a snap).
1 quart broth (vegetable, chicken, beef)
3/4 cup coconut milk

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt clarified butter and caramelize onion, garlic and apple together until translucent and fragrant. Add spices (salt, pepper, cinnamon, rosemary) and a splash of broth. Heat to boiling and simmer for a few minutes until you can’t even handle how good your kitchen smells.

Add pureed pumpkin, half the broth, and the coconut milk. Heat through, and then either with an immersion blender (Best Invention Ever) or by transferring the contents of your soup pot to a blender—in batches if necessary— whirl until smooth. If you’ve used a blender, transfer soup back to the pot and add the remaining broth.
Stir gently until texture is consistent.

Serve warm with crusty bread (or without if you happen to be doing whole 3o *cries all the tears*)

Cauliflower-Rice Stuffed Peppers

Well, the time has come.
I must lay aside my mixing cups, my sugar and flour, the almond and vanilla flavoring—it’s time to set aside the pastry and fruit, the chocolate, and cinnamon glaze. It is nearly September and this summer saw a bakery style transformation occur in my kitchen.
And somehow my closet also transformed.
All of my clothing shrunk.

Ahem.

But cooling evening temperatures and achingly blue skies are bringing out a desire for roasted root veggies and sage, soup, baked eggplant and zucchini, and a cleaner approach to life in the kitchen. It’s time.

Last September I did my first round of Whole 30. —For those unfamiliar with this, Whole 30 is essentially a month’s reprieve from processed food, grain, sugar, and alcohol. A reset. A month of whole-food eating. A gastronomical rest. It was the best thing I did for myself last fall. And I’m ready to do something good for myself again.
If you’re interested in jumping on that sort of bandwagon for a short period of time (read: do-able period of time) stick around. Most of the recipes you find here for the next thirty days will be Whole 30 compliant. But even if that’s not your jam, I promise the food you find here will be nourishing, tasty, and not overly-complicated, as always.

To get things off to a rolling start:

CAULIFLOWER-RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

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1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to your taste preference
3-4 chicken thighs, cooked and diced fine
2-3 cups of baby greens
3-4 sweet peppers, color of your choice

Start with a batch of cauliflower rice.
I use a food processor for this, but you can also use a hand grader.
When whirled in a food processor or run over a grade, cauliflower transforms into ‘grains’ that resemble rice in texture, but of course, without the grain aspect Whole 30 and other clean eating methods avoid.

Take one head of cauliflower and whirl, or grate one small batch at a time, until the entire head has been transformed into “rice.” In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and cook diced onion and diced garlic until transparent. Add the cauliflower rice and work gently with a soft spatula over the heat until it cooks through. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the rice and then add the diced chicken thighs (or omit, if you prefer to avoid meat), and finally, add the baby greens. Continue mixing over heat until the greens begin to wilt and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Remove from heat.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove seeds from inside. Fill each pepper with cauliflower rice, place in a baking dish, and bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve warm.

oatmeal and flax breakfast muffins

Sometimes breakfast is about coffee.
Okay fine. Breakfast is mostly about coffee for me.
But once in a while, mornings call for something else.
Like muffins.
Sometimes they turn into cupcakes.
But other times they actually stay pretty darn healthy. And tasty. And if breakfast is going to be anything besides coffee (or cupcakes), then I guess this is a good option.
Enjoy!

OATMEAL AND FLAX BREAKFST MUFFINS

3 cups cooked oatmeal (steel cut is my favorite—great texture)
1/2 cup flax
1/2 cup applesauce
1 banana
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 1/2 cups flour

These little guys are heavy like whoa. But they are incredibly satisfying and stick with you the way a nice bowl of oatmeal does. They work great on-the-go because they aren’t super crumbly. Which means I can distribute them to my back-of-the-car clan on our way to school when we are running a little behind. Even better, the sugar content in these muffins is almost zero—maple syrup, applesauce and bananas provide all the sweetness needed.

Begin by cooking up three cups of oatmeal. Just as you would if you were serving it by the bowl-full. Allow to cool and then scoop into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add the flax, applesauce, chopped banana, cinnamon, and salt.Mix until incorporated. Then add the eggs, baking powder and yogurt. Mix again. Finally blend in the flour until the batter is smooth. It will seem quite wet and sticky. Not to worry, the oatmeal, flax and eggs hold everything together. Too much flour will dry these little muffins out.

scoop 1/3 cup batter into well-greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden across the top. Keep in mind they will not rise a great deal. Serve on their own or with a pat a butter and jam.

I’m draping you in purple

This could be an unpopular post. Forewarning. Also, it’s not really a foodie post. Ah well. Good to break format once in a while.

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Two things happened yesterday. A MUCH prayed for baby was born to a friend of mine—healthy and well, despite some early indications that it would not be so.
And the artist Prince died.

The contrast of these two things struck me this morning. I watched brief clips of people flooding the streets singing Prince’s music, weeping, while the city of Minneapolis draped itself in purple. And I thought how interesting it is, that we take so personally, so intimately, the loss of someone we never truly knew, because of how his work impacted our lives. And it made me think about how we value those around us.

Is value imparted because of how a person made us feel? Or because of the work they contributed to the world? Or because of who they knew? Is the life of Prince more valuable than the life of the baby that was born yesterday?

. . . My perspective is different because my heart was not tied to Prince’s music the way so many of my peer’s hearts are. He was amazing! And I am certain, now, that I missed out. I wish my teen years had been a little more touched by his work. But my perspective lends me a emotional distance. And here’s what I believe: Every life should be draped in purple.
Not because of what we bring with our accomplishments (or the lack of them). Not because of who we know (or don’t). Not because of the various social media votes we receive in all their numerous forms. But because of the intrinsic value placed on us from before the dawn of time by the hand of God. (This is the probably-unpopular part of the post I warned you about). I believe this with my whole heart. Every life, no matter how small, accomplished, flawed, broken, criminal, or deserving of death . . . no matter how celebrated, revered, awarded, or enthroned, has value. Only because God made it and God can redeem it. Even the very worst. Because, if I can’t believe this, then there is no hope. We are all capable of the very best—and the very worst.
So here’s what I’m doing today. I’m draping you all in purple. Every face I see today. Every voice I hear. Every man, woman, child, and unborn baby. I’m throwing that royal color around you in my heart and mind. Your life has intrinsic value. You are beautiful and loved and important. You are worth singing in the streets for. You are worth illuminated bridges and buildings.
You matter because God said so.
And I’m pretty sure He’s got a corner on the market when it comes to that kind of thing.
Right. I’m done. Off my soapbox.
Back to typical posts about my kitchen, things my kids say, and soup.
xo

Spiral skillet apples

Kitchen gadgets are like shoes. The more you have the more you need because you just never know when you might need that avocado cutter or counter-top garlic chopper! For real.
However. There are a few kitchen gadgets/appliances I’ve found it impossible to live without—especially as I am cooking for six people—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And several of my tribe have food/eating issues. (See my previous post).

My food processor has been a Godsend in this regard, and lately I find myself using it almost everyday. It’s a hard worker and it covers everything from taking care of onions so I don’t have to cry (more than necessary) over the dinner-making process, to baby-food puree, sauces and dips, and even shredding meat for sandwiches! I love that thing.
But yesterday something arrived in the mail that may rival my love—at least in the veggie department.
You guys.
This. Thing.
Boom.

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I refer to it as my food processor’s pretty little sister.
Is that mean?
I don’t even know.
Anyway.

Now, I have a big kitchen and room for a few extras, the unnecessary luxury of a spiral vegetable slicer being one such thing. I’m a kitchen gadget nerd. That said, if you are trying to incorporate more veggies (or fruits!) into your diet, or your kids’ diets, this may be quite useful. I made zucchini noodles topped with a fried egg for lunch yesterday and my third-born ate it all. Now, she is normally a great eater (my one and only) but even that was stretching it for her. And yet the novelty of the noodles won over her sweet but occasionally-stubborn toddler heart.
And me? Well, I’m sold. In fact, here’s breakfast this morning:

SPIRAL SKILLET APPLES

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1 apple, (spiralized on the smallest-noodle setting)
1 small onion (also spiralized on the smallest-noodle setting)
1/4 c of finely-diced dried fruit (figs/prunes/appricots/rasins/craisins/etc)
1 Tablespoon clarified butter
Sprinkling of cinnamon to taste
In a medium-hot skillet, sauté dried fruit in butter until soft. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften and then the apple spirals.  Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover the skillet and bake until the apple is soft—no more than a couple minutes. Serve hot.

• Note: If you choose to forgo the spirals and just slice your apple, then follow all the same steps above. But dice the onions, and when you add the sliced apples, let them bake a few minutes longer in the covered skillet.