Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

IMG_5598This is one of those recipes that I made spur of the moment but, luckily, turned out well. So, I needed a quick dessert to make for a lunch at my parents’ house. We were having a guest who is gluten-free and I wanted to make sure there would be dessert for her.

There’s nothing easier than carrot cake. I love carrot cake. It’s not only flavorful and delicious, but it’s also very difficult to do badly. I mean, I’ve had great carrot cake, good carrot cake, and so-so carrot cake, but I don’t recall ever having terrible carrot cake.

That’s probably because it would take a deliberate effort to make a terrible carrot cake. There’s no creaming of butter, no whipping of egg whites, no adding of things in additions, or layering of ingredients. Aside from whisking together the dry ingredients first, everything gets mixed together. (And, quite honestly, you probably don’t even really need to mix the dry ingredients. I just recommend it to ensure that you get no lumps.)

I call this cake “wheat free” and not “gluten free” because it calls for spelt flour. I didn’t want to use all chickpea flour because I didn’t want it to be too heavy or dense or taste to “beany.” Spelt is related to wheat, so it’s the non-wheat flour that is closest to it in chemistry, flavor, and behavior. However, because it’s related to wheat, people who have Celiac disease can’t digest it. People who have a gluten/wheat intolerance, on the other hand, can usually consume it without negative consequences.

I (and everyone else) was pleasantly surprised at how light and moist this cake came out. It has a somewhat unusual flavor because of the chickpea flour but not a bad one. Just different. I hope you like it.

Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

1 cup chickpea flour
¼ cup spelt flour
½ cup coconut (palm) or date sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup water

Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in the carrots, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and water with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Make the frosting: With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and zest until smooth.

Remove the cake from the pan. Invert the cake, then invert it again on a serving plate. If you used parchment, peel it off gently. Spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides. Serve.

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(For the cake in the photo, I chose to use a simpler confectioners’ sugar icing and coconut flakes. Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with a tablespoon of water. Mix until smooth, adding a tiny bit more water at a time, as needed. Spread over the cake, then sprinkle on 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes.)

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Mediterranean White Bean Spread

IMG_5318I recently found myself with an abundance of dried Great Northern beans, and if you stopped by here last time, you saw that I took some of those beans to make Tomato-y White Beans.

I had cooked up a huge batch, so I needed to come up with something else. And, as I also said last time, because it’s summer, I’ve had access to a bunch of tomatoes. Well, both they went into a food processor for a white bean spread. With a few additional ingredients, this is a flavorful, filling, yet light, snack. It’s also perfect to taking to a picnic or barbecue.IMG_5309

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Tomato-y White Beans

IMG_5305Sometimes you go through your pantry or refrigerator and see a bunch of stuff that you know you have to use or it will go bad. It’s been that way with me and all of these dried beans I realized I had. And since it’s summer, I also find myself with a steady influx of tomatoes.IMG_5298

I’m a whiz at utilitarian cooking. And I say that because it really doesn’t take much to be a whiz at utilitarian cooking. You basically just throw a bunch of stuff you have together and that’s it. And, usually, it works out better than any pre-meditated, planned, plotted, and plated dish you can conjure.

Okay, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but it usually does. I wouldn’t tell you about the stuff that doesn’t work out, anyway.

So, I cooked up a mess of Great Northern beans, added some fresh tomatoes from my mother’s garden, and got this: tomato-y white beans. It’s really simple, so I hope you give it a try.

Tomato-y White Beans

Makes about 6 servings.

1½ cups dried Great Northern beans
2 bay leaves
4 large garlic cloves
½ large onion, sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup white wine
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Fresh herbs (whatever you have available)

Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Cover and soak overnight.IMG_5297The next day, drain the beans and place them in a medium pot. Add water to cover by about 2 inches. Add the bay leaves. Smash two of the garlic cloves and add them to the pot, along with half the onion, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low; partially cover the pot, and simmer until the beans are tender but still firm, about 45 minutes.IMG_5299Drain the beans in a colander and remove the bay leaves and garlic and discard. Finely chop the rest of the garlic.IMG_5300Heat the oil, in a wide pan. Add the rest of the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Add the wine and let it cook until it’s evaporated. Add the tomatoes, the rest of the salt, pepper and sauté 5 minutes.IMG_5302Add the beans, broth, and herbs (I had basil, savory, and parsley), and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens.IMG_5303IMG_5304You’re ready to eat. Have it over rice, pasta, or with crusty bread. IMG_5306

 

 


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Boozy Watermelon

IMG_5288I was passing by a market that had some fruit on display outside. I was paying no attention to it, but something caught my eye. They had a box of mini round watermelons. They looked so cute, I had to have one. So, I picked one out and took it home. (I paid for it first, of course.)IMAG3106

When I cut it open, I discovered that it was a yellow watermelon. They hadn’t labeled it yellow—the sign only said “sweet.” I love finding yellow watermelons. They’re like yellow topazes, sparkling in the light.

Unfortunately, it was a lot prettier than it was tasty. They lied. It wasn’t sweet.

Now I had to find a way to enjoy this melon without resenting the money I paid for it.IMG_5274

So, I cut it up and put some booze in it. But not just any booze. I had this beautiful elderflower rum that I picked up at a farmers’ market in Vermont and it paired perfectly with the melon. Then I decided to mash it and make it into a slushy. Continue reading


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Umbrian Cicerchia Soup

cicerchia soupThere’s one thing I love about Eataly, the Italian market in Chelsea in New York, and it’s not the prices. It’s the fact that you can get products that have been imported from Italy, things that you wouldn’t otherwise find, at least not easily.IMG_5261

During one particular perusal of the market, I found cicerchia, an Umbrian hybrid of chickpeas and fava beans. Ceceri means chickpeas, so I imagine that cirechia is a playful word meaning “in the realm of chickpeas.” Italians love playing with their words almost as much as their food.

It’s probably a good thing, though, that cicerchia isn’t available widely. According to Vorrei Italianfood, they contain a neurotoxin and should not be eaten every day over a prolonged period of time (alhough I don’t know what that means.)IMG_5245

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, though, as this was not a common product, at least not in the region where my family is from (Basalicata). Ultimately, I decided to use them in a typical Umbrian dish: chickpea soup.

If you’re able to get your hands on cicerchia, try this recipe—it’s light but filling and scrumptious.
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Roasted Cabbage

IMG_5071Roasting is probably my favorite way to prepare vegetables. They get golden brown, charred here and there, and caramelized for sweet, intense flavor.

I have never, however, tried roasting cabbage. It’s just never occurred to me. So, I had this head of cabbage sitting in my refrigerator and I was trying to decide what to do with it. Cabbage has may possibilities—I could boil it, steam it, saute it, make soup with it… But I was bored with all those options. I wanted to do something different.

And that’s when it hit me. Roast it. I cut it up, coated the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I roasted them at 350 F. The result? Delicious. The cabbage was tender, toasty brown, and so flavorful. I ate it all week long.

Here’s what I did. Give it a try.

Roasted Cabbage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cabbage in half through the core, then each half in thirds. (If you have a particularly large cabbage, you may want to cut the pieces even further.)IMG_5059Lay the pieces a baking sheet. Pour ¼ cup olive oil over the pieces and use your hands to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.IMG_5067Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.IMG_5068Turn the pieces over and cover again with foil. IMG_5070Bake another 15 minutes.Uncover the pan and roast 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender (it will depend on the size of your pieces).IMG_5075