Boozy Orange Cake

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I’ve made this cake and variations of it now dozens of times since the first go round. It has come to be one of my favorite standby desserts. My most popular version and the one I’ve now made over and over… and over again is this boozy variation. It’s very dense and moist and I love that my new officemates still get baffled when I tell them it’s gluten free. And dairy free.

Boozy Orange Cake
3 medium oranges
2 cups (280 grams) almonds (blanched or slivered)
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 Tablespoons orange liqueur*
2 cups (500 grams) sugar

*Any orange liqueur will work. I use Paula’s Texas Orange or Patron Citronge.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the oranges. Cover and boil gently for 1 1/2 hours- turning over once at the half-way point. Strain the oranges and bring to room temperature. You can do this step ahead and place the oranges in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a springform pan and line with parchment paper.

Place almonds in the food processor and blend until somewhat fine, leaving some texture. Add other dry ingredients (rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and mix.

Remove dry ingredients and place in a large bowl. Cut oranges in half and place in the processor. Blend until almost smooth- just about 30 seconds. Add the eggs, sugar, extract, and liqueur and mix. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix (a whisk or spatula works).

Bake for 40 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes.The top will be browned but not crisp. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs attached.

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Three Layer Peanut Butter Brownies (Raw)

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These were amazingly rich and decadent and though I made them myself, I couldn’t believe they were raw (and vegan and sugar free and gluten free). Everyone’s favorite Sal-Pal left town and for her going away bash I had to think quick for a vegan and gluten free treat. Enter- brownies.

These are an adaptation of a raw peppermint brownie I made at Kaylee’s Thai Fresh Vegan Baking Class. They are incredibly easy and tasty and after making them a half dozen times, I’ve adapted them and made a dozen variations (extra layers, different flavors). This one was created especially for Sally, the peanut butter loving fiend that she is.

Brownies
1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums (prunes), chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
pinch of salt

Line an 8×8 baking pan with saran wrap. Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the pecans and blend until fine. Add the dates and prunes and blend. You will need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the cocoa powder, syrup and salt. Blend until the dough comes together. Press evenly into the prepared pan and chill while you make the next layers.

Peanut Butter Layer
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup peanuts
pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1-2 T maple syrup (more to taste)

Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the peanuts but set aside 2 Tablespoons for later. Add the peanut butter and syrup and blend. Press the peanut butter layer evenly over the brownie layer, sprinkle the extra 2 Tablespoons of peanuts for a crunch on top and return to the refrigerator. Now make the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

In a blender or with a handheld mixer, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. While warm, pour all ganache over the brownies and smooth with a spoon. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably over night. Cut into squares or triangles and serve.

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Salted Chocolate and Nut Triangles

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I made these for a vegan’s going-away fiesta and they were a hit. These were a quick and easy naturally gluten free and vegan treat- the texture was somewhere between fudge and a chocolate bar. I used chopped walnuts, pecans, and almonds for these but they can be done with a variety of options or stick to just one kind of nut. Try also using half the amount of nuts and add half dried cherries.

Salted Chocolate and Nut Squares
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup (8-9 ounces) 70%-72% dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, and almonds
1/2-1 teaspoon flake or sea salt

Toast and cool the chopped nuts. Set aside. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate together. If you’re multitasking, use a double-broiler, otherwise stir constantly over low-heat until chocolate is melted. Fold in the vanilla and then the nuts (cherries if using).

Pour chocolate into prepared pan. Spread the mixture evenly. Sprinkle desired amount of salt over the top. Refrigerate until chocolate is soft but not liquid. Cut desired shape directly in the pan and return to the refrigerator. When completely firm, break pieces apart and serve.

Store in the fridge if you don’t finish them within the hour.

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Sesame Balls

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I made these sweet Sesame Balls filled with Red Bean Paste to ring in the Chinese New Year.

The paste is two ingredients and the sesame balls are another two. Yep, that’s it. Both were pretty fool-proof. They were amazingly simple however also a bit tedious (hence the long instructions below). Make sure you leave plenty of time and have some good background music or enlist a few helpers.

Red Bean Paste
6 ounces small red beans
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons grapeseed oil

Wash the beans, cover with cold water, and soak overnight. Drain and place beans in a medium saucepan and cover completely with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1-1/2 hours or until beans are very soft. Check every so often to ensure there is still plenty of liquid covering the beans, add more if necessary. When tender, strain beans.

Place the beans and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beans and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate the oil. Beans are done when they are fairly dry. Set aside.

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Sesame Balls
1 cup water
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 cups glutinous rice flour
oil for frying (grapeseed and vegetable oil)
1 cup sesame seeds

In a small saucepan, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat.

Create a well with the rice flour in a medium bowl. Slowly add the hot liquid and stir until completely smooth. Knead a couple of times in the bowl to pick up any dry flour. The dough should be play-dough consistency and easy to work with. Divide the dough into four parts. As you use each part, cover the remaining pieces with a damp cloth.

Roll one part into a snake, about 1 inch in diameter. Pinch off about 1 inch pieces and roll each into a ball (you’ll have about 6-8). Have a small bowl of water nearby as the dough can get slightly dry.

Heat a wok or a deep skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to make about 4 inches deep. Heat the oil to 350. And work with the heat to keep it at 350 the whole time.

Form the balls into a cup in your hand and fill with about 1 teaspoon of red bean paste. They will not explode if you over or under fill them! Pinch all sides of the cup around the paste back together and roll into a ball. Use water as necessary to make sure there are no cracks. Repeat with all pieces from this snake (do this to all 6-8 pieces before the next step).

Place wax paper on the counter and pour about 1/3-1/2 cup of the sesame seeds. Dip one ball at a time into the bowl of water and then roll in sesame seeds. Repeat with all 6-8 pieces you have rolled so far. When the oil reaches 350, add this round of balls to the oil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir and flip them around and cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you opt to make larger sesame balls, they will need 6-8 minutes.

While the first round is cooking, move on to the next snake and repeat above steps. It took exactly the amount of time to roll 6-8 balls as it did for the prior round to cook. So there was no waiting around between batches. As the balls are done, remove them to a baking sheet lined with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Then add the next batch ready to go. Repeat.

These are best right out of the wok but can wait at room temperature for several hours.

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Pancetta, Manchego and Caramelized Onion Biscuits

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I’ve been working on a buckwheat biscuit recipe for quite some time now. I’ve had some successes and many, many fails. I thought I would have it all figured out by now but it’s still a toss up whether the next batch will work or not.

I had a Meat and Scone Brunch to attend but rather than hedging my bets with a new creation, I set aside my buckwheat flour and pulled out Blackbird Bakery’s Gluten Free Flour Mix. I keep a couple of her mixes on hand for “just in case moments” such as these. I opted to use her bread and pizza blend and create something a little different. Using a pre-made flour mix (use only those you know and love!) means baking like the days of yore. It means I’m not measuring flours but I’m still creating something from scratch which was exactly what I wanted and had time for. This recipe is loosely based on a Sausage Bialy Biscuit by Silvana’s Kitchen

Pancetta, Manchego, Caramelized Onion Biscuits
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Blackbird Bakery GF flour mix
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus some
pepper
6 Tablespoons butter (earth balance), cold
3-4 slices pancetta, diced
1/4 cup chopped manchego cheese (or more)
3/4 cup almond milk, plus 2 Tablespoons for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a skillet, saute the pancetta until just crisp over medium heat. Remove the pancetta (leave the oil) and add the onion. Stir until translucent and soft. Set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and a dash of pepper. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with your fingers until the dough is uniformly crumbly. Add the pancetta, onions, and cheese and mix. Stir in the milk and mix until completely absorbed (with a fork or your hands).

You have options here: roll about 1-2 tablespoons of the dough into a ball, place them on the baking sheet and leave them as is or flatten them with the palm of your hand for a uniform biscuit. Or my preferred look and feel: scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop, place on the baking sheet, and gently press with the tips of your fingers- this turns out a more rustic biscuit.

Brush all of the biscuits with the remaining almond milk and sprinkle with course salt. Bake for about 22-24 minutes (this will vary depending on how flat you pressed them), until they are golden brown in some spots.

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Lemony Broccoli Soup (and garlicky too)

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Best. Broccoli. Soup. Ever. I dropped by Springdale Farm on my way to work the other day and saw some beautiful broccoli I needed to have. That’s odd for one reason: I don’t particularly care for broccoli. But it looked so tempting. I came home and immediately made soup for the week. And then I ate it in two sittings. I will make this all season.

To serve this soup you can top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream (as pictured), a little olive oil and coarse salt, or grate parmesan or another salty and hard cheese right on top. Serve with a crusty bread or just straight piping hot in a mug on the go. Don’t worry about being precise with this recipe- it can take a little flexibility.

Lemony-Garlicky Broccoli Soup
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stocks, chopped (leaves on)
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic, bruised and separated
1 pound broccoli florets and some stock, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon and zest
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
salt and pepper to taste
optional garnishes:
parmesan, yogurt, chives, parsley

In a large skillet, sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and 2 cloves of the garlic until just soft and onions are starting to become translucent. Add the broccoli, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir in lemon zest, parsley and 1 clove garlic (chopped). Pour in 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer the soup partially covered for about 15 minutes. If the broccoli is not completely tender continue to cook for 10 more minutes and add more broth so the liquid continues to reach about 1/2 or 3/4 up the vegetables.

When the broccoli is tender, puree the soup. Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and stir. Taste for salt, pepper, and more lemon. Add more broth if you want it thinner.

Serve hot (or cold) with any number of the garnish options.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Walnuts, Pomegranate, and Tahina

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It’s been awhile. Quite awhile. I have a long list of recipes on post-its around the house but this one tops the list and is timely for this winter season. The proportion of vegetables can be varied according to your taste. Make extra Tahina sauce and store in a jar for the next time (or to eat with a spoon).

My parents brought me a bottle of tahina from Israel and it’s sort of unfair how delicious it is. Go with your favorite brand and adjust the amount of liquid according to its thickness. My favorite available at most grocery stores here in the US is Al Wadi. Speaking of my parents, here’s a handy way to get pomegranate seeds easily and stain free (thanks mom).


Roasted Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Walnuts and Lemony Tahina

1 butternut squash (about 1.5 pounds), cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Tahina
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 Tablespoons water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3-5 Tablespoons walnuts, toasted and chopped
3 Tablespoons pomegranate seeds
flake salt
2-3 teaspoons Za’atar*, optional

Preheat the oven to 425. Layer a large baking sheet with tin foil. Toss the vegetables with 2-3 Tablespoons of the olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread on the baking sheet- vegetables should not be overlapping, but touching is okay. Use two sheet pans if you need. Roast for 30 minutes, toss and roast for another 10-20 minutes. The vegetables are done when a fork easily pierces the skin and some pieces are browned.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the sauce. Combine the tahina, lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the water. Whisk until it resembles a creamy peanut butter. Add more water as necessary. Taste for lemon and salt. Set aside.

When the vegetables are done, place them on your serving dish, top with the walnuts, pomegranates, and the tahina. If you decide to use za’atar- try toasting it in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and the walnuts. Top with a good sprinkle of flake salt.

*Za’atar is a delicious Middle Eastern spice available at most spice shops and ethnic markets. You can also make it at home from oregano, sumac, cumin, sesame seeds and black pepper.

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