Healing Food / Oatmeal Arugula Biscuits / Chocolate Chili Cake

March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment


Sometimes, a Biscuit Cures All.

These past few weeks have been brutal with the change of seasons, the yearning for warmth, and the congestion of faces.  All of these things have left me incapable of exerting any extra effort outside of my daily routine.  Luckily, my routine involves sifting flour, roasting garlic, and supremeing oranges.  Unfortunately, my energy levels have been so low that writing about any recent adventures would have been overkill.   So now that spring has sprung, the temperatures have risen, and everything surrounding my sinuses has cleared I can share what I have been eating.

Blood Oranges are good for the Immune System

Orange Zest

Before I got sick, my body knew I needed an extra boost of vitamin C.  Therefore my mind decided to make a blood orange olive oil cake which Deb from Smitten Kitchen just so happened to post around the same time.  It was fate.  I really wanted to make the flaky blood orange tart but had neither the 10 blood oranges accessible nor the energy to acquire them.

Even a Gorgeous Cake Could not Save Me.

But Four Cloves of Garlic Could.

In retrospect I should have gotten the additional oranges for the tart because the cake, even with though it was packed with 4 nourishing oranges, did not prevent my body from aching and my face from congesting.  When preventative baking doesn’t work, its time for a healing soup.  And I can not think of anything better to ward off illness than garlic.  So I concocted a roasted garlic, teff, and lentil soup.  Unfortunately I can not report back about the actual taste, but here I am finally healed, so something must have worked.

Warding off Vampires and Congestion.

Now that I have been able to breathe, smell, taste, and move without cringing I have been craving some thing really decadent to make up for all of the meals lost to lack of taste and/or appetite.  Namely, a chocolate chili cake.  I wanted to experience something rich, yet not too sweet, and bursting with flavor.  So after a good amount of chocolate cake research Scharffen Berger’s chocolate chili cake  won my heart.  Although I did make quite a few tweaks to suit my liking.

The Chili Powder is Tasty, not Scary.

Chili Paste Complements Chocolate Beautifully

Thankfully, I could taste this cake in all of its glory.  And it may just be my new favorite way to get my chocolate fix.  Once it is baked it is moist, and stays moist for a couple of days.  It has the texture of an airy fudge brownie thanks to the buttermilk and leaves a striking remnant of spice on your palate without needing a fire extinguisher.

Chocolate Chili Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup +  2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 cups turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder +1 cup water
1 additional cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts- optional
2 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1/2 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the dry ingredients into a stand mixer.
3. Make a chili paste by heating the chili and water just to a simmer.  Then remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
4. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and stir on a slow speed until it looks sandy.  Now raise the speed and add the additional water and buttermilk once the mixture is uniformly wet add the eggs one at a time.
5. Pour the batter into a thoroughly buttered cake pan and place in the center of the oven.  It will take about 50 minutes to bake through.  After 20 minutes sprinkle the walnuts onto the top of the cake- this will create a nice nutty layer.
6. When a toothpick or knife inserted in the center come out clean the cake is ready.
7. Let it cool for 15 minutes.  Remove the sides if you used a spring foam pan or simply turn the cake out onto a plate to allow to cool completely.
8. Dust with cocoa sugar.

Making up for Lost Meals

After an indulgence, one should do something healthy like adding extra greens onto the plate.  In my case these greens made their way into a tender biscuit founded by homemade oat flour mixed with a nutty white whole wheat flour.  I discovered how easy it is to make oat flour thanks to Heidi Swanson’s oat soda bread which, slathered with a generous coat of Baily’s butter, comforted me during the height of my illness.

DIY Oat Flour

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: Grated Butter

The way to a Flaky Biscuit/ My Heart



Oatmeal Arugula Biscuits
Eat these when they come out of the oven.  Their succulence decreases with time.  I froze half of them after they were shaped and on the cookie sheet then threw them into a plastic bag for an easy warm breakfast in 12 minutes.

1 cup rolled oats or oat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled or frozen unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 packed cup arugula

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Add the rolled oats to a food processor and whirl them around for about 3 minutes until the oats look like flour, similarly, just get your oat flour out.
3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
4. Chop the arugula by hand or in a food processor and incorporate into the dry mixture.
5. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients and gently stir.  If the butter is not frozen, chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
6. Stir together the honey and buttermilk and slowly add to the oat and butter mixture.
7.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead a couple of times.  Using as much flour as necessary.
8.  Roll the dough into a 9 x 5 rectangle, which should be about 1/2 inch thick.
9.  Fold the short sides of the rectangle in thirds like a letter and re-roll the dough into another 9 x 5 rectangle.  Repeat this two more times.
10.  Roll or pat the dough into a 3/4 inch rectangle and use biscuit cutters to shape the biscuits.
11.  Place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden.
12. Consume with butter and honey.


Eat Happily.


Taking Stock in Flavor

November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Wednesday Night, I planned ahead and made the turkey stock required for the indecently rich giblet gravy and earthy mushroom stuffing.  I had never made my own stock before, and as it turns out, the whole process is quite simple and requires nothing but heaps of chopped veggies, pounds of turkey innards, plenty of chicken broth, and one steamy kitchen.  I used this recipe, and followed closer than usual.

I picked up 5 1/2 pounds of giblets from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square when I bought my very first Thanksgiving turkey and simmered the innards in a large pot with:

3 chopped carrots
4 small chopped celery stalks with the leaves attached
2 medium quartered onions
2 medium chopped leeks including the usually discarded green tops
2 bunches of parsley stems only
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 turkish bay leaves
12 cups low sodium chicken broth

Bring the pot of vegetables and broth to a boil and then simmer the brew for about 2 hours until the giblets are cooked.  Remove the turkey parts and save them to add extra flavor to the gravy then strain the stock into a bowl.  I let the stock cool so that the fat rises to the top and solidifies and can easily be removed before being added to stuffings, gravies, and roasting pans.  

Eat Happily.

Let the Brining Begin

November 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

As I walked through my kitchen door this evening I felt like a shop-a-holic.  The weight of my items were almost unbearable, and yet I found myself chuckling at the though of my spending habits.  My products were not boots, jewelry, body products, or any sort of typical merchandise.  The goods in my hands were mushrooms from the Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square; a fresh turkey with extra giblets and bacon on the side from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square; hazelnuts from Spring Run in Kennett; leeks, onions, sage, shallots, cider, and honey from Barnard’s.  Nothing could have made me happier than hauling my shopping bags into the kitchen and unloading my purchases.  I can completely understand how people become addicted to the feeling of new things.  Luckily for me my valuables tend to edible, so I always need more.

My Thanksgiving menu has blossomed into something I feel quite proud of.  Every flavor, from the woodsy mushrooms to the warm hazelnuts to the complexity of herbs, has meandered from one dish to the other.  And most dishes will be a compilation of recipes taken from articles in various magazines and basic knowledge.  I am a bit hesitant to be trying out new techniques and flavors with my usually quite traditionally palated family.  Although when it comes down to it, who could oppose bread pudding baked inside a pumpkin and drizzled with whiskey sauce, or wild mushroom, hazelnut, and olive bread stuffing? And roasting cranberries in red wine has got to outshine canned cranberry sauce, especially when they are mixed with spiced hazelnuts.  These are the dishes which I am fairly confident will be delicious; the bird is another story.  I hardly cook meat and a 14 pound turkey commands some loving care.  From all I have gathered, brining the gobbler will ensure a crackling layer atop a succulent frame, and just to go the extra mile I picked up some extra thick bacon to drape over the bird as he roasts provide some extra flavor and tenderness.  I mean, if I am going to eat meat it better be tender, juicy, and rich.

So tonight I brine and give the salt time to suck the juice fromt the body out to the skin.  The turkey will sit in a bath of citrusy salt for almost 36 hours and will be roasted Thursday morning.

Tomorrow I will roast the cranberries and toast the hazelnuts for the cranberry sauce as well as prepare the stock for the stuffing, basting, and gravy.

Thursday will be full of roasting, rotating, reducing.  The turkey will cook in my oven while I prepare the mushroom stuffing and pumpkin stuffed bread pudding.  Then everything will be transfered to my Grandmothers where the gravy will be made from the drippings from the turkey plus lots of extra innards, the stuffing will be baked, and the desert will be cooking while we indulge.

Recipes, regrets, and photos to come.  Please help me with any suggestions or comments!

Labels are Arbitrary: Baked Spinach and Cheddar Sconey-Biscuits

November 11, 2010 § 4 Comments

In Mark Bittman’s cookbook How to Cook Everything, he says that scones are basically ‘ultra-rich biscuits’.  Something in me wants to disagree.  There is a part of me which has a deep affection for scones with their soft, dewy innards and sturdy, craggy shell.  My dream scone is slightly salty and gathers its lingering sweetness from chunks of fresh fruit nestled into a combination of whole wheat flours and luxurious fresh cream.  Biscuits are all good and fine, they just dont have the heartwarming appeal of my beloved scones.  Not that a buttery, flaky biscuit is not the perfect home for a fried egg on a Sunday morning.  They simply lack the versatility of additions which makes scones wonderful.

The scones I set out to make this week were of the savory sort, with caramelized onion cheddar cheese from Trader Joe’s and fresh spinach aching to be devoured.  I expected the cheese to make up for the fact that there was no cream in the house and would have to settle for 2% milk.  This was where the scone began its descent into an oozy, bright, spinach spattered biscuit.  It lacked the density of a traditional scone but was not quite the flaky texture of a true biscuit either.  This is surely a new breed of baked good.

Spinach and Cheddar Sconey-Biscuit
Thank You Mark Bittman for your outline of scone recipes. Cooking Everything has been a great go to for basic techniques.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
chili pepper or garlic
to your liking
5 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream (preferable)
2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 cup grated/chopped cheddar cheese (I used aged cheddar with caramelized onion)

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  While the oven preheats mix all the dry ingredients together (flours, bp, salt, seasonsings).  Cut the butter into cubes and begin to use your fingers to add the butter into the flour mixture by rubbing/pinching the cubed butter in until the butter and flour is all blended and looks sandy.  When the butter is about the size of rice grains  you have succeeded.  Now beat the two eggs and milk or cream then add the cheese and spinach all in the same bowl.  Slowly incorporate the wet mixture into the dry ingredients.  Stir briefly, and knead even more briefly, adding more flour if it seems too sticky to handle.

Now flatten the cheesy, spinachy, dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.

Some scones are triangular and some are round, so choose your shape and get cutting.  I used a simple glass as my mould.

Transfer the scones to a baking sheet as you cut them.  With the dough scraps just re-flatten and cut in the same manner.  I topped my scones with extra cheese, but you can coat them with an egg wash (1 egg+ 1tbs water) if you prefer a glossy finish.

They will be nice and golden after about 8 minutes (give or take a minute).

Eat Happily.

Chameleon Cauliflower Soup

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is like the tee shirt and jeans of soups.  Clean, classic, and adaptable.  Throw in some curry to cozy it up, or dried herbs for a specific flavor pairing, or excessive amounts of garlic when you need a boost of health.  I love letting my mind wonder to the ends of the flavor spectrum.  I might want to add cinnamon and raisins next time.  But first I want to roast the vegetables to awaken their glorious hidden candied glory transforming this into the sexiest teeshirt and jean soup ever.

Chameleon Cauliflower Soup
Thank you Heidi Swanson and your book Super Natural Cooking for the inspiration.

1 1/2 pounds cauliflowerchopped (about 3/4 of a large head)
2 small cooking onions chopped
3-5 cloves garlic chopped(depending on the size)
1 apple chopped(I used Barnard’s Orchard’s staymen variety)
1/2 cup tofu chopped (or potato chopped, which I did not have)
1 teaspoon red chili pepper
5 cups vegetable broth
Cashew cream
(recipe included) or heavy cream
olive oil

Dress it up
Flavored olive oil (truffle)
Hot paprika
Grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the onions, chili peppers, and garlic.  After five minutes or so the onion will become translucent and the scent will become decadent.  Now throw in the cauliflower, apples, tofu or potato, and a healthy amount of salt.  It is best to add the salt and spices at the beginning rather than waiting until everything has cooked so that all of the flavors become one pot of lusciousness.  Once everything the flavors have sufficiently melded, about 5 minutes add the broth or stock and simmer the everything for about 15 or 20 minutes.  The soup is ready to be blended once the cauliflower is tender.  Use a hand blender for maximum convenience.  Remove the pot from the heat and puree with the blender until smooth.  I like texture so I don’t strain the soup further but it would probably be great silk smooth.

Ladle into bowls and top with the cream, olive oil, and paprika.  Dunk some crunchy bread into the goodness and enjoy.

Eat Happily.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto

October 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

If colors had a taste, this would be a vivid green, it is bursting with crisp peppery arugula and radient lemon fused with the nutty notes of pistachos.  This is a quick saucy spread that will leave your palette curious for more.  The key is to use the best arugula you can find, I cut my own from Rushton Farms in Newtown Square, Pa.  Get to it though, as the season for arugula is coming to an end.  The proportions here will yield about 1 cup, so if you stumble upon an abundance of late season crop, scoop it up and make lots of this pesto as an alternative to mayo, pizza or pasta sauces, or just serve it as a spread with fresh bread.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto Spread

1 clove garlic
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 cups arugula, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
and pepper to taste

Use a food processor to chop the garlic then add the pistachios and cheese and chop until they are finely ground.   Now add the chopped arugula, zest, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, you can adjust the lemon to you liking at the end.  Run the processor until the mixture has the consistency of a paste.  As the processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Take a little sample and adjust the levels of salt, pepper, and lemon.  Because arugula is already peppery I added a healthy amount of salt and most of the lemon juice.

Eat Happily.

Spiced Spaghetti Squash

October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment


Often times during the summer I will shred zucchini and use it in place of a pasta.  Although, when the chili air and short days of autumn appear the days of zucchini pasta are enthusiastically replaced by strands of spaghetti squash.  Its flavor is light and versatile, eager to adapt to almost any flavor you should choose.  Think of it as a vegetable chameleon.   I choose to coat it with a cumin, coriander, and chili pepper butter today as I prepared another sample for the Ruston Farm CSA.  If these spices don’t make you smile in anticipation of a nice warming meal, try substituting oregano or thyme for an Italian classic, or ginger and lime for something Asian and bright.  Also an option is to use solely olive oil and make the dish completely vegan, or maybe sesame oil with the ginger and lime.  So many options, so little time.


Spiced Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash (preferably from your farmer)
4 tablespoons butter or oil (I used a combination of both)
3 cloves minced garlic
sprinkling of chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon corriander
to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted nuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.   Place the squash on a light oiled baking sheet with the cut side down.  Roast for about 35 minutes until you can pierce the skin very easily with a knife.  While the squash is in the oven, melt the butter/heat the oil and add the garlic.  When the garlic is nice and golden add your spices, salt, raisins, and nuts.  Take the spiced butter off the heat.  Once the squash is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool to the point where you can touch it without disfiguring yourself.  Peel the skin with your brave fingers, a knife, or just use a fork to scoop/shred the strands into a bowl.  Mix in the spiced butter, and your are finished.

Eat Happily.

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