Chocolate, Pear and Toasted Almond Spice Cake

chocolate almond pear cake2The last time we had slightly over-ripe pears, G unknowingly just chucked them because he didn’t want to eat them. (I know, I know. He’s learning). Afterwords I was very careful to explain all the wonderful things that can be done with ripe pears and so this time around, when they started to get a little sorry looking, he left them alone thank goodness. I hadn’t felt like blogging for a while, and I still really didn’t until I started a new diet to drop a few pounds for swimsuit season. Well you know what inevitably came next. Every time my mind wandered off at the computer I somehow ended up at gorgeous foodie sites, until after 3 days of mind numbingly boring pure protein meals, I just had to bake something, FAST. Unfortunately, there were no eggs in the house. (Already down one dress size!!) Side note: I have been chowing down on egg-whites left and right when I start to feel weak (like I’m gonna grab a super sized bag of sour skittles from the drawer and just murder them… mnnn sour skittles… ) so I had to figure something else out. Well, as you may or may not be aware, there aren’t many egg-less pear cake recipes out there, but I knew that there was a vegan chocolate cake recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while so I figured, what the hell. I added a bit of spice to it because I love chocolate with cinnamon, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. There were a few yummy looking chocolate pear cake recipes out there so I knew that I wouldn’t be too far off base with these flavor profiles. Most of them had walnuts, but I tend to be more of an almond lover (my Mom says all men are nuts and G is an almond, so it makes sense). Seriously, no double entendre intended but that sounded hilarious! So here it is, it came out a bit flatter than I’d hoped for, but it is perfect for a simple “on hand” cake or an impressive 2 layer cake, (double the recipe and bake in 2 matching pans). I hope you like it:

Ingredients:

Cake Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
50 grams sliced almonds, lightly toasted (reserve 25g of these for topping)
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3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
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Chocolate Glaze (this can be made vegan, visit the link above,  she explains how)

1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

chocolate almond pear cake

Method: (Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit)

1) combine diced pears with 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
2) combine all other dry ingredients into one bowl(don’t forget to leave out 25g of the toasted almonds for later).
3) combine all wet ingredients except vinegar into another bowl.
4) combine wet ingredients bowl with dry ingredients bowl, mix well. Then add pear mixture, and mix well again.
5) Add vinegar, mix into rest of batter. Why do you do this  last? Vinegar is an acid, (like citric or lactic acid, ie. lemon juice or creme fraiche) which reacts with the baking soda to make it rise, but baking soda is only active for a short time after the vinegar activates it so it has to go in as close to the baking time as possible.
6) In a 12 inch spring-form pan lined with baking paper, (or it will leak or stick) pour in batter.
7) Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
8) Cool for 2 hours. Then make the glaze. (I went for a walk with Bella since I have a hard time waiting for these things).
9) In a small saucepan, bring sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil.
10) Stir frequently until it boils, then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. There will be bubbles.
11) Remove from heat and stir for another 5 minutes.
12) Add vanilla, stir, and pour onto cake right away. Glaze dries quickly, so spread it immediately and add remaining toasted almonds over the top and let it set, 1 hour. I did this backwards, and yes, I am ashamed. I baked the almonds on top, and only after decided to make the glaze. Do it the other way and you will have a very nice looking cake for coffee, guests, or just to surprise a tired and studied-out husband who thinks you have been sitting on the couch all day watching The Simpsons and eating skittles.

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Coconut Curry Quinoa with Creamy Sauteed Garlic, Broccoli and Artichoke Hearts

coconutquinoaOK, you guys are going to love this one. It’s something we make all the time, and just forgot to put it up before because it’s such a frequent meal in our house that I just assumed I had posted it already. My sister assured me I hadn’t. Now, I’m trying to go more veggie and more healthy in general, and this is the most fantastic core basic thing that you can serve with just about anything. It also makes many dishes that you already make about 100x better so here goes.

The secret is in the coconut milk. Instead of the basic quinoa to water 1:2 ratio, I do quinoa to coconut milk to water 1:1:1. It comes out super fluffy and delicious, and much more hydrated than regular quinoa, for a much tastier and more satisfying texture. It’s almost like a non-dairy version (just the quinoa) of the difference between rice and risotto, but far healthier. You can make this vegan by leaving out the cream in the veggies.

Variations include adding 1-2 shakes of curry powder and instead of mixing in veggies at the end, serving it with glazed soy ginger baked salmon, or any main protein that you want. The coconut is super mild, as is the curry powder, so you get a really lovely side dish (I say side but this ends up being the main event more often than not, it’s that good) without anything being too overpowering. Just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to coconut before serving this, because it’s really undetectable other than the subtle things it does for the texture and flavor!

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a light but wonderful dinner)

For quinoa:

  • 1 and 2/3 cup white quinoa
  • 1 and 2/3 cup coconut milk, this works out to exactly a can for me. (coconut water, coconut liquid, and coconut cream all work, (unsweetened) look for the one that says 17% fat)
  • 1 and 2/3 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste (usually when i say this it works out to be about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 shakes yellow madras Curry powder (very tasty but OPTIONAL) to be added with salt and pepper

For veggie saute: (you can double this if you want lots more veg to quinoa ratio or if you have more people coming over)

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, (I use frozen) cut into bite sized pieces (run under cold water to ease cutting)
  • 1 cup cubed fresh, frozen or canned artichoke hearts (I use frozen or canned). (about 1cm cubes)
  • 3-4 smashed and minced cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil for sauteing
  • splash of white wine (optional, I think it doesn’t need it)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream, depends on how creamy you want it (15% for pastas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or to taste.
  • salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper usually works)

Method:

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan that has a cover.

2) Pick a glass that is around 1 and 2/3 cups. Fill it up to the very top with quinoa. Add quinoa to the pot, and mix it around, coating in the hot oil.

3) Cook for about 1 minute, toasting the little quinoa seeds. Then, using the same cup you use to measure the quinoa, add water and coconut milk. basically, 1:1:1 quinoa to water to coconut milk. You can do this with white, red or brown rice and the results will be the same, the only thing that varies is the cooking time (35-40 minutes for red or brown rice or red quinoa).

4) Add salt and pepper, don’t worry, you can correct this later if you don’t use enough. If you are adding curry powder, add it now, and mix it all up and cover.

5) Cook covered on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly. I use a kitchen timer. Do not stir. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed. Uncover and fluff the quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking, make the veggie saute.

1) Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add minced garlic when oil is hot enough to make garlic sizzle, saute gently on medium heat.

2) Chop broccoli and artichoke hearts, add now if both are frozen, otherwise, add fresh first, then frozen 3 minutes later, then canned 2 minutes later. Cover, and saute 3-4 minutes.

3) Saute until all veggies are mostly cooked through (broccoli should still be bright green!), then add splash of white wine if you are using it.

4) cook off alcohol for about 2 minutes, then add cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and stir gently for the next 2 minutes.

By now, the quinoa should be done, if not, turn off heat and cover veggies. Serve veggies over a warm bed of quinoa, and… Oh boy, my tummy is just rumbling away right now, I think I’ll go make some. Oh yeah, we added a cup of chopped fresh mushrooms and sauteed them with the other veggies once and it was delicious then too, so don’t be afraid to experiment with other options. All the best till next time, I love you guys!