Dairy free brownies

12 08 2013

I am on a dairy and soy free diet because Santiago has milk allergies, this has put me on the fast lane to weight loss, but also on a tight spot for indulging. Since we cook most everything from scratch it has been not too hard to come up with ways to replace dairy, but the lack of milk in my baked goods has made them somewhat dry and not as rich and unctuous, not so satisfying. That is until I decided I wanted brownies for my husband’s birthday, and since I do not have a lot of time or patience lately, I decided for a very simple recipe. My recipe uses coconut oil, whole wheat and, as usual, less sugar than regular recipes.


You will need:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 325°. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with foil. Coat foil with nonstick spray.
Whisk coconut oil, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.
These were very thick and chocolatey. If you use whole wheat flour you will get a drier end product than your usual brownie, so if you want it more fudgey bake for a little less time.
We loved them! I baked two sets to share, but never got to! Ignacio just devoured them in no time!

Tofu Pineaple stir fry

22 01 2013

I am the kind of cook that opens the fridge and sees “what’s there to be used” instead of carefully planning my meals. And this is what happens when I have some left overs that need to be used (aka: for some strange reason the pineapple was getting sad in the back of the fridge!):


Firm, organic tofu, deliciously golden in sesame oil!

You will need:

1 block Tofu

1 medium onion

4 large sprigs celery

2 medium carrots

1 pint mushrooms

1 red bell pepper

2 cups diced pineapple

Sesame oil

French tarragon




Cut your veggies in medium sized slices.

Cut the tofu in medium sized rectangles and fry until golden in a pan with sesame oil.

In another pan fry the vegetables, starting with the onions, finishing with the mushrooms. Once you have your veggies tender but not mushy, add the tofu, pineapple and spices. Mix well and cook together for five minutes so the flavors integrate.

Serve with rice.

I like fusion cooking, mixing spices that are not traditionally found in Asian cuisine can give a surprising flare to a stir fry. This recipe came out so good that  even my husband, who does not really like tofu, praised it. It makes for a delicious treat and the pineapple goes wonderfully well with tarragon and thyme!


Add unexpected spices as tarragon and thyme to enhance the flavor of pineapple!

Avocado cake: two recipes that you will love!

22 10 2012

I know, everybody goes “Avocado cake!!?” And I don’t blame you, we relate avocados with Mexican food, as if it was the only way of using them. Growing up we ate them with mayonnaise or salsa golf (whatever the name for it is in US) and later, when I moved out, because I don’t really like mayonnaise I would just eat them plain or with salt and olive oil, make salads of different types, or mush them for guacamole. But I remember my dad always telling me that his dad used to eat them with sugar… and why not? If you think of it, avocado flavor can be defined as “buttery” but it is not definitely salty nor sweet. So I have been wanting to try it for a while, and since the awesome Bryan Street Market a few blocks from home has avocado sales regularly this time of the year, I thought I’d take advantage and buy a few avocados to try to make a cake.

What was my surprise to see that there are many options to make an avocado cake! So I just made one avocado pound like cake, and one chocolate avocado cake.

Chocolate Avocado cake with tropical avocado frosting.

The chocolate cake I got straight from Joy the Baker, it’s a vegan recipe, and that was a plus, because I’ve always wanted to know how vegans get the cake to work without eggs or anything animal. I followed the recipe as is, except that I reduced the sugar to half (only using one cup) because I figured that the frosting was going to make up for a lot of the sweetness. For the frosting I made my own recipe as follows:

Avocado frosting:

1 mashed avocado

2 cups confectionery sugar

3 teaspoons coconut milk

1 teaspoon orange blossom extract

The cake came out fluffy and moist, very palatable and the avocado flavor is very subtle, it is a light cake that does not feel heavy at all. The frosting has a very interesting flavor that I find complements the cake very well. My husband, who is very much not vegan or vegetarian, really liked this cake, as well as my toddler who does not like avocado. It’s a hit for sure!

The second recipe is also from Joy the Baker, though I modified it to my less rich taste. You can see the original recipe here. At home we like things less sweet than average and I use less butter than most, plus we really like whole grains and use white flour just for fluff. My recipe for one cake (not two) is as follows:

Avocado pound cake:

1.5 c whole wheat flour

Avocado pound cake. Very interesting texture indeed!

1/4 c white flour

1/4 c corn meal

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp butter

0.75 c sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 c milk

1 ripe mashed avocado

Preheat the oven at 350F.

Mix the dry ingredients, except the sugar.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the mashed avocado and mix until uniform. Add one egg at a time, mixing well. Incorporate the dry ingredients. The mixture will be lumpy.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry.

My thoughts on this cake: It is good and sweet as it is, I really like the unctuous feel of the avocado and how it contrasts with the rough texture of the whole wheat flour and the crunch of the corn meal. You do feel the avocado flavor but it is very different from eating it fresh, and my baby (who does not like avocado, remember?) kept asking for more. The cake disappeared faster than what I expected! In retrospect I would probably eliminate all the butter, the avocado itself is oily enough, and I think I would enjoy it better with some vegetable oil instead, for a lighter cake.

OK, here you have the recipes you asked me for with so much interest! I hope you can make them at home and have fun with them! Surprise your friends and family and enjoy them! And you know, if you do try them, let me know, I always like to know what results other people get!

Celebrating a new citizen.

1 10 2012

One of our friends from Germany got her American citizenship last week, and to honor her we wanted to have her over to dinner. Obtaining your US citizenship is harder than what most people think (“You are a citizen now, right? You married and American!” “You’ve been living here for such a long time, you must be a citizen!”), and it is the only way you can vote, which is what she wanted most. Because it is such a lengthy, time consuming and expensive process, I wanted to make a special dinner for her, and I decided on roast and potatoes, black bread and All American cupcakes (I just made that up).

For the roast I simply marinated the meat with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme. For the potatoes I marinated them with olive oil, salt, thyme and curry. Then cooked everything in the oven.

For the bread I followed this recipe by 101 cookbooks, which is really good and very recommendable. It is time consuming and quite involved, but it is totally worth it. I was not quite sure about the carrots, but the truth is that you do not feel the flavor (with the bread being so flavorful!) and they keep the moisture of the bread for days. The cocoa and the coffee make it very interesting, and I find that the flavors are more intense as the days go by, not that it lasts very long, it is so good that we just attack it!

Black bread.

Now, the cupcakes.

I started by staining the paper cups to get them more festive, I did not have time to go to the store to get special ones, so I only had white paper cups. I had seen this cute idea in Little Wren’s blog so I decided to try it. It is quite a simple method, just dilute some food coloring in water and then let dry. I went for blue and red rims.

Coloring cupcake cups

While the cups were drying I prepared my cupcakes. I found an easy recipe and modified it to our less sugary taste. I halved the sugar and the butter, compensating with apple sauce here it goes:

2 3/4 c all purpose white flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c butter, softened

1 c sugar

1/2 c applesauce

4 eggs

1 c milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Red food coloring

Blue food coloring

Cream cheese

Red and blue sprinkles

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and applesauce, milk, vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients. Once you have the batter unified, separate in three portions (I chose to have less red, but that is up to you) and add the food coloring.

Preheat the oven. Line your cupcake tray with the paper cups you prepared earlier and add one layer of blue batter, one layer of white batter and one layer of red batter, up to 3/4 of the cup.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Once they are cold, cover the surface with cream cheese and sprinkle with your decoration. Keep in air tight container until it is time to serve.

All American cupcakes.

The applesauce adds sweetness and moisture making the lessening of sugar and butter viable. They were moist and fluffy, and the yield was about 16 cupcakes. They look really pretty, but in retrospect I should probably have held on the vanilla extract to keep the white whiter. I didn’t use any of my usual whole grains because I wanted them to be white, and that made them a little blander than what I am used to, but everybody loved them and the look was a win. I also think I would use a larger red layer and only red rimmed cups, since the blue color from the batter shows really well through the cup paper.

Have you ever made colored cupcakes? How did they come up? Do you have any nice recipe to share?

Recipes: Okra Minestrone

13 08 2012

I went to the East Liberty farmer’s market to show my dad how many stands they have and the variety, and in the Blue Bird Organic Farm stand they had okra! My husband is from Louisiana, so I could not go home without some! Half of it I fried, which was delicious! And the other half I used to make a minestrone soup. The secret of this soup is the okra, it will give it a unique flavor, bur you have to make sure to denature all the slime. Let me pass you the recipe:

Okra- half a pint. Sliced thinly

Carrot- one medium

Celery- four stalks

Onion- one medium

Zucchini- one medium

Cooked red beans- two cups

Penne whole wheat pasta- Two cups dried

Chicken or vegetable broth- one cube

Spices- salt, pepper, two bay leaves, oregano, thyme, curry


Garlic- optional


First cook the beans in just water, or use a can of sugar free unsalted beans. Slice your vegetables, and reserve.

In a large pot add some olive oil and saute the onions and garlic, add the carrots and celery and let them cook until slightly tender. Add three cups of water and let it come to a boil, add the broth cube. Then add the okra and zucchini. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. The okra will release a lot of gooey slime and you will have to cook for a long time, about one hour, for it to break down. Once the soup stops looking sticky and gooey add the spices, then add two more cups of water up to six cups, add dry noodles and let them cook in the tasty broth you’ve just made. Two minutes before your pasta is done add the beans so the warm up.

Serves six.

Voila! You have a unique and delicious minestrone! Serve hot and enjoy!

Okra minestrone.

Bacon roses.

27 04 2012

I do eat healthy, I swear I do!! But every once in a while I don’t. And every once in a while I like to do something naughty… as eating bacon.

Actually, this was for my husband. For valentine’s day I thought that the perfect way of telling him “I love you” was by giving him a dozen roses… bacon roses! And because Laura wanted to know how to make them, here is the step by step:

This is the easy way of doing them, I read about this way of doing it in which you have to basically drill your cup cakes pan… and I am not about to do that. SO my lazy and easy way of proceeding was by using aluminium cups and skewers, you will also need bacon, tooth picks, and a tray to receive the grease.

Stuff you will need.

Pierce the cupcake holders with the skewer.

piercing close up

Get one bacon slice and roll it up. Use a tooth pick to hold it in place, then put the ‘rose’ in the cupcake holder.

Roses preparation

I used two skewers to place the roses on top of them, you need the grease to drain, so this was my way of keeping the base of the holders to be in direct contact with the tray.

ready to go in the oven

Then you just pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350F, keep an eye on them to see if the grease is draining, if not, you can pick the cupcake up a bit and let the grease pass.

Voila! Ready to serve. Take them out of the oven when the bacon looks done, I like it very well done, can’t stand raw meat, but I guess doneness will depend on your taste. Once they are cold, take the tooth pick off of your roses. You can stab a skewer on their base to make a tall bouquet. I chose to display them on a bed of lettuce, so I used half a tooth pick to keep them in place.

Display your bouquet!




Pear coffee cake

22 09 2011

This is a modification I made up of a french cake. It can be made with plums, apricots, pears, apples and any fruit of that style. The batter is mildly sweet and the top sweet and crunchy, it makes a great companion to a cafe au lait!

You will need:

For the batter:

10 tbsp of flour

1/2 cup of sugar

6 tbsp of milk

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tbsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 or 2 pears sliced

for the topping:

1/4 c vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg



Cut the pears in thin slices.

Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Spray oil in a cake tray and lay your batter. You can opt to have one or two layers of fruit slices. If you choose two, add a thin layer of batter, a layer of fruit, a layer of batter and top the cake with one more layer of fruit. If you choose one, keep the pears for the top layer.

Bake 25 min at 350 F

In the meanwhile mix the ingredients for the topping and set aside.

Once 25 minutes passed, take the cake out of the oven, add the top layer and bake for 15 min at 375 F.

If you are using plums don’t use cinnamon. If you are using apples, try adding some ginger to the batter!