Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Three D Chocolate Cake Recipe


This one-of-a-kind chocolate cake is great for any or no occasion at all. We whisked this DDD (decadent, delicious, disappearing) cake last week-end as a part of a surprise Happy Birthday salute. Well, it was a DOUBLE surprise, both in taste and the secret major ingredient of it which nobody could guess: the BEETROOT. Really?  Abso-xx-lutely.  Hmmm, how can the chocolate cake be decadent and delicious if its major ingredient is beet? And yet, the sweet-savory taste of beets marries dark chocolate happily making this cake deep and unbelievably moist. I promise, your guests will be asking what is in that cake besides chocolate first thing.
This velvety rich, mildly dense, slightly fudgey and delicate-crumbled cake is both rustic and elegant and guarantees to make the most vivid sweet food memories.  Few decades ago using beets in chocolate cake might have been considered downright shocking, but with today’s baking taking a scientific direction it totally makes sense as a second major ingredient, providing healthy and colorful starch and fiber while still letting the chocolate shine through the cake’s earthiness.
Health and fashion-wise,  this Chocolate, Almond and Beetroot Cake (to be exact with its name) ticks multiple WOW boxes, including: ‘trendy’, ‘no flour’, ‘no butter’, ‘no grain’, ‘gluten-free’,’ paleo’, ‘ kids friendly’, and more.  So, yes, DECADENT, DELICIOUS and fast DISAPPEARING cake. Unfortunately, the latter adjective is not just used in a figurative sense.  According to the news, the most wanted food of Gods is imperiled by droughts and diseases and the future of the proverbial cocoa seed doesn’t seem so bright.  I therefore suggest you schedule your next chocolate baking session while it’s still available and/or affordable…
Not to mention, how nicely it juxtaposes with today’s gloomy and foggy weather…
The recipe didn’t fall on our lap, we’ve made an extensive research trying to find/compile it and balancing the demand (birthday person’s love for chocolate) and the supply (our personal choice to skip the flour and butter from the cake and replace them with leaner and healthier nuts and edible fiber).  We’ve casted avocados, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini as possible combinations with dark chocolate, but to no avail of something extraordinary in our archives. We then reached out for several modern baking guru suggestions (Anna Olson, Nigel Slater, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, David Leibovitz, Aran Goyoaga) and the beets quickly surfaced from their recent books, shows and Internet recipes. The beets in chocolate cakes are mostly appreciated for adding the moistness and caramel flavor touch (while the beets themselves being completely disguised in the cake to absolutely no way you can tell them apart from chocolate). These facts got us hooked. We couldn’t wait to experiment with them and chocolate!
The recipe became a cross of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chocolate & Beetroot Cake’ recipe with ground almonds (no flour or butter in it, just like we wanted), and beetroot ingredient being baked in advance (like in Anna Olson’s recipe).  Quick note: most of the recipes stipulated that the beet should be baked, so we decided to skip raw beets and use the cooked ones (although may be next time we will dare to use them raw – we just didn’t want to take a chance this time).  As for the icing we’ve selected Martha Stewart’s ganache recipe (thusly, adding some butter and cream to what otherwise was supposed to be just a melted chocolate drizzle). 
This recipe is not complicated:  we found it simple and relatively fast to prepare (guess what, it’s coming from the Jamie’s Garden Project with Kids series, so, clearly, you can engage your kids into play when making it for more fun).
For the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over chocolate cake.
As for the swaps I used 50/50 golden and red beets. I assume you can replace them with raw zucchini or pumpkin (excess water squeezed out). Ground almonds can swap with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan or macadamia. The crowning glory of the chocolate ganache coating can swap with just melted chocolate drizzle and/or powder sugar dusting, and/or fresh berries, like raspberries. The chocolate and cocoa are, naturally, irreplaceable for now. So far, and Ummm, for the next XXX years?  
Finally, one last note: according to Jamie Oliver, measuring the ingredients is ‘a key to the success of this cake, so please use the scale to exact the amounts.
Have fun and indulge your senses!
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NO-FLOUR CHOCOLATE ALMOND & BEETROOT CAKE 

For the Cake:

Olive oil to grease the baking pan
Flour (regular or gluten-free if necessary) for dusting the form
10.5 oz (300 g) quality dark (bittersweet)chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
9 oz (250g) baked beet root, peeled and coarsely grated
4 large eggs
5.3 oz (150 g) caster (powder) sugar
1 1/5 cup (120 g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp quality cocoa powder
For the Glaze (Ganache) (optional):
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heave cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Cognac or rum (optional)
Berries, for serving
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake spring form with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, size of the bottom of the tin, to line the base. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.
Break 7oz (200g) of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl over the barely simmering water to melt.
Place the grated beetroot into a big bowl.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a separate large mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.
Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
Use a flexible spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then, once combined, fold the rest, but try not to over mix.
Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.
Bake in the hot oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Check with the cocktail stick if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If slightly sticky it needs to cook for a bit longer.
Allow the cake to cook slightly. Open the spring form and carefully move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Discard the parchment paper.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake, or glaze it with chocolate ganache (see instructions above).
Serve with fresh berries, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Adapted from Chocolate & Beetroot Cake by Jamie Oliver, jamieoliver.com 2014

One Spooky Night and Deviled ‘Shroom Bites

It is a Halloween night and we’re going to have some hello-w/in time taking a break from home cooking and going out. Part of the plan is to drive by some areas where people have turned their front yards into some creepy insane asylums and have our share of spine chilling and laughs. I’ve already got a few good Halloween recipes listed in this blog including the yummy Dead Fly Pies, or Fly Cemeteries, or Fly Graveyards, which in fact are also more humanly called Eccles Cakes; and Pumpkin No Brainers . If I would be selecting a recipe that sounds crazy-scary-engaging for most of North American ears tonight, I would probably go for a traditional British fare with ominous name Spotted Dick But that would be some other time. For now I have something else and a great story to tell: about one of our recent nightmarish evening and a later flop-cooking experience.

Couple week-ends ago we were driving back home with the double brown bag of dozen live blue crabs in it. We were excited to make a fresh crab risotto later that night. We took a rural side road going through the forest to go back home to avoid traffic. We’ve never taken that road before and first were surprised about how empty and quiet it was.

The night was rainy and foggy although the full moon still casted the eerie glow through the clouds and trees. The crabs managed to wet the bags through and were going out of whack, so we had to make an emergency pit stop to catch them and collect them into the plastic bag. While we were stepping out of the car a peaceful booty-song on the radio has awkwardly switched to vintage Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face. It was then that I started feeling uncomfortable. I became fear-stricken by darkness, emptiness, silence and sinister shadows appearing through the forest trees here and there. ‘Eyes without the face have got no human grace…’ the radio went on when suddenly the end of the road was lit by a light which, obviously, seemed like another car was approaching. Except the light stood there without moving for a minute or so and then disappeared…

The Good Shepherd by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1903 Zimmerli Art Museum

No big deal, right? But for some reason for me it was a heart pounding moment. I couldn’t wait to get out of that road. Imagine when I told this story to one of our neighbours the other day, he revealed to me that the empty road used to be the place where Hell’s Angels gangs were making their executions and/or police would sometimes find a burning car with the body in it (how’s that for hair raising?). And that came as real creepy news to me. Was it a sixth’s sense? You tell me. But if you are a mystic or clairvoyance, perhaps you can see some ghosts in these images.

Otherwise you can just apply your imagination and try to read these moon shadows – it’s actually quite interesting…

Once back home we were greeted by the local two-headed Boo dog. Making a crab boil was already not so easy task (crabs appeared to be much livelier than lobsters).

After we hankered down in our kitchen with cracking tools and bunch of newspapers to process them. Already upon the first five minutes (and to our greatest regret) of tackling the impossible and having the crab scraps flying all over the kitchen, we realized that the fresh crab risotto would be ready by next morning or would have to be put on hold. Hubby quit first, declaring he was an equal opportunist believing in fair trade and no exploitation. OCD driven, I went on crab-cracking to prove that home crab flesh extracting (like pierogi-making that D. believes should only be made by prisoners) is a doable chore. The problem was, I was hungry, so most of the result secretly went straight into my belly. After the crab juice went into my eyes though I abandoned. Well, may be somewhere in Japan people from Okinawa island consider crab-cracking a meditative and fun activity which they practice often while whistling Japanese version of La Marseillaise. But there are many other things I’d like to do around my week-end. Not to mention that exactly during times like that you realize more than ever that time IS the most precious commodity… Change of plan (which is not unusual for the flop cooking): I went to the pantry, got a can of the crab meat, and deviled a box of button mushrooms with savoured crab meat into these little guys within 20 minutes.

Sounds like a cell phone from 90ies? Hell yeah, but still as exquisite as ever. By the way, they didn’t use much of smoked paprika in those days Slice some black or green olives for the top to give that Halloweenish twist and, voila, you got your ‘Eyes Without A Face’ party snack. We managed to eat them before The Midnight Hour.

Happy Halloween and enjoy your cooking!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Mini-Tarts

DEVILED CRAB ‘N SHROOM BITES 

Ingredients:

1 box button mushrooms (around 18-20)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chives or scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp white wine or brandy
¼ crumbs (gluten free if necessary)
1 (7 oz) can crab meat, drained
½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
1 tbsp mayonnaise or sour cream
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Remove the stems from mushrooms with grapefruit knife. Chop the stems finely. Set aside. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and cook for 1 minute. Add chives (or scallions) and garlic. Cook for another minute. Add a splash of brandy or wine. Evaporate for a minute. Add crumbs, mix well. Add crab meat and mix well. Remove from the heat. Stir in Parmesan, mayonnaise (or sour cream), mustard and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool down. Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place mushrooms on baking sheet. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan, Top with sliced olives if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Match Point Carrot Cake for Thanksgiving


Don’t leave this cake unattended at your party because it will disappear in seconds and you won’t even notice that. Yep, that’s how good it is! Rather, keep it in the fridge until last minute to actually hear those OHHH and AHHH from your guests (it will still disappear, but at least you get to collect some kudos). Though the title for this recipe makes it sound as if we were going to re-watch Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’, or Allen’s ‘Match Point’, or have some sort of tennis tournament in between, it’s really just to show how we came to the idea of this dessert and how it became such a winning recipe for our Thanksgiving table. With the Riesling wine jelly glaze and decadent salted maple caramel sauce, the take on a traditional Swiss cake has never been tastier.
This year we didn’t have to really cast for a Thanksgiving dessert. The idea landed on our kitchen counter along with the mountain of fresh carrot juice pulp leftovers during our Saturday breakfast. What to do with all this goodness? We didn’t want to send it to the compost and were determined to make some use of the fresh majestically orange fiber. 
Carrot cake came as a natural answer (you can use mince grated carrot in place of the pulp if you want). We recycled carrot juice pulp before just by mixing it with nuts, maple syrup, raisins and spice and pressing the mix into the bundt pan to have a no-bake healthy (gluten, dairy and eggs-free) dessert or snack upon refrigerating it overnight. But this time we wanted something special, after all, it’s Thanksgiving. Classic Swiss carrot cake romantically named Rublitortesounded like something approaching that healthy vegan cake (as much as any traditional dessert can be healthy): almonds, carrots, almost no flour or butter… and it gets better with time, so making it few days before Thanksgiving was a smart idea.

Applying the white wine jelly glaze over instead of the classic apricot jelly was a grown up step up in the finishing touch (microwave jelly in increments for 30 seconds and stir each time until almost pourable consistency). When it came to the traditional lemon-sugar glaze however, I wasn’t satisfied: it tasted too 70ies and lacked ‘personality’ in terms of a great cake’s buttery touch.  We expertly played with cream cheese (first), Mascarpone (second) and whipped cream (third) on a side – they were all good, yet they still didn’t taste like perfect match. And then, BOOM-BAM, the idea of the salty caramel sauce dressing has arrived and made a real hinge point of the recipe. 

I used the fellow-blogger recipe of Ree Drummond, which I made before and loved, except I added some maple syrup to it (feel free to use brown sugar only (1 full cup) as her recipe stipulates) for an extra flavor. And that was where the magic happened: the finger-licking salted caramel sauce has turned the traditional carrot cake into a gourmand-endorsed upscale modern confection we were exactly looking for. 
Our Thanksgiving Monday was workaholic-industrious, having approximately this kind of beat.
The long week-end is always extremely vital for the seasonal backyard works. Seven of us were crazy-busy cleaning-up the garden before frost.  Removing dead leaves, needles and rotten apples; cutting perennials, branches and bushes; mulching; planting spring bulbs and new perennials; transplanting; patching the grass; working out compost, making barn repairs… (I’m already tired just listing this). 
Finally, we also had to fell another tree with almost bare hands and it was tough and dangerous (the tree was close to power lines). Guess what, this morning they gave a killer app on the radio, that cutting or pruning trees that grow close to the voltage lines can be done for free by Hydro Quebec http://www.hydroquebec.com/trees/entretien.html– WHOA! You live, you learn (and you are welcome) – that gives a hope next time we will be less exhausted. Everyone was dog-tired, even the doggie…
Kicking back at Thanksgiving dinner was more than well-deserved. Naturally, the dinner would not be complete without the roast turkey, succulent braised beef with gnocchi and mixed greens salad. But the carrot cake was a show stopper.  

It was euphoria inducing delicious and everyone raved about salted caramel applied to it (match point it was). Later that night we crashed on the sofas determined to re-watch one of the above-mentioned movies, but fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows…

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One year ago: No Fuss Coq au Vin 
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SWISS CARROT CAKE RUBLITORTE with SALTED MAPLE CARAMEL SAUCE
Yields: 10 portions
Carrot Cake:
2 cups (275 g) raw carrot pulp, or freshly grated and firmly packed
3 cups (300 g) almond (and/or hazelnut) meal
½ lemon zest
½ cup (60 g) flour (opt for gluten free flour if wish be)
1 heaping tsp dry yeast
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 ½ tsp sea salt
5 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 ½ cup powdered sugar (187 g)
1 tbsp butter to grease the pan
2 tbsp apricot or Riesling jelly, liquefied for the glaze
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish, toasted
Lemon Sugar Icing: (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Combine carrots, nuts and zest in a bowl. Add cinnamon, flour, yeast and salt and mix.
Beat egg yolks with sugar until thick. Stir into the carrot mixture. Beat egg whites until the stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into carrot mixture. Do not over-mix.
Grease the 9 inch diameter spring form pan and sprinkle with flour. Shake to coat evenly. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until the knife tester comes out clean. Let cool.
Remove sides from the pan and place the cake over the wire rack that has been set over wax paper to catch the drips. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake letting it to drip to the sides. Even out the glaze with spatula. Garnish with toasted almonds.
Refrigerate from overnight for up to 3 days in a tightly covered cake box from overnight to 3-5 days. Serve with salted maple caramel sauce.
Salted Maple Caramel Sauce:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup half & half cream
4 tbsp butter
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Instructions:
Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, cream, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-7 minutes, until it thickens. Add vanilla and cook for another minute to thicken further. Set aside. Use at the room temperature.
Adapted from: Easy Caramel Sauce by Ree Drummond, Food Network, Ranching in the Mist, 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Freedom from Want, by Norman Rockwell, 1943

”You can tell you ate too much for Thanksgiving when you have to let your bathrobe out.” –  Jay Leno

Most of us already know what Canadian and American Thanksgiving have in common. But have you ever heard about Thanksgivukkah? Check this out ’cause it won’t happen again for another 79,000 years! Happy Black Friday anyways.

No Fuss Coq Au Vin

”Have you ever tried Coq au Vin?” ”No, but I once let an Italian put his hand up my jumper on the back seat of his Fiat…” Anglophones truly love the play of French words in this dish. But, whatever the jokes are, Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) continues to tickle the taste buds and enthrall the world’s pickiest eaters through the centuries.

And maybe it’s not so bad that this French classic is so ‘’oxymoronic’’ – for sure it helps to create certain gastronomic enigma à propos de complexity of the dish. Which in fact is very simple to make and quite inexpensive if you adjust the ingredients set to create a healthy and easy weeknight meal. In this one I traded rooster for chicken, Burgundy for a good quality dry red wine (Cahors), and pearl onions for a regular yellow onion (the last one is REALLY a good idea when you want to have a quick supper without spending some extra 30 minutes peeling pearl onions). 

I also skipped the roux turning it into a gluten free meal (the sauce turned thick enough without any flour in it and, yes, turned into a gel comme il faut when placed in the fridge). The result: my very FRENCH (Canadian) hubby devoured it in seconds without even noticing there were no pearl onions in it, which are usually a big deal for him.  And if this did not convince you yet, please also note that for a true comfort dish like this, it is VERY low in calories. At different times, I served it with egg or rice noodles, with roasted or mashed potatoes, as well as with potato leek gratin, but my favorite part is just dipping the crusty bread in that savory wine sauce that is so typical in taste to this particular dish. HEAVENLY!
Although many historically attribute the origin of Coq au Vin to Burgundy region of France, rumor has it the Caesar’s cook made it when Romans were battling the Gauls (at that time Romans were very well established in the area of modern Southern France and they really liked local wine). The Gauls sent Caesar a scrawny rooster as a message of defiance. Caesar ordered to cook the rooster in wine and herbs and invited the Gauls to eat it to demonstrating the overwhelming sophistication of the Romans… Or so it goes… But most agree that Coq au Vin existed as a rustic dish long before that and was a way for peasants to recycle an old rooster or an old egg-laying hen by slow cooking in wine and herbs.  
Today Coq au Vin is made with cuts of chicken from hen or capon and has many designations depending on a wine being used: Alsacienne (with Riesling), Nuitonne (with Côte de Nuits), Jurassienne (with Arbois rosé), etc. My twist relates to Quercynoise version and table travels me to the beautiful town of Cahors where I tried Coq au Vin for the first time. It was made with a real cockerel (rooster) and Cahors wine; and included true Quercy-Perigord ingredients: fresh ceps wild mushrooms and duck fat. Needless to say, that a splash of Armagnac flambé was applied to the browning process in this version… The taste of it comes back to me each time I am looking at the pictures or am thinking of that travel…  
Again, this is a speedy version of the Coq au Vin, with no ceps or duck fat in it, but as hearty as the dish can be. The stock, wine, mushroom & bacon sauce imbues chicken and veggies with the iconic flavor during slow cooking transforming any cheapest piece of commercial chicken into a little French culinary voyage. Free range chicken however would deliver much tastier results, but you already know it. 
And, of course, if you are a true admirer of ‘’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’’ and are not looking for any tasty ersatz, I suggest you use Julia Child’s recipe or the version of the host of the Iron Chef of America, both of which are designed to turn you into a real connoisseur of the dish. 
 Cheers to all and happy French cooking!
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NO FUSS COQ AU VIN
Yields 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite size
3 lbs chicken thighs and drums (8+), skin on
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. butter
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups dry red wine
6-8 fresh parsley springs, minced
3-4 scallions, minced
¼ kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
In a large skillet, brown bacon bits, remove them to the paper towel and set aside while reserving the bacon grease in the skillet to brown the chicken. Add chicken pieces skin side down and sear them on the medium high heat until golden brown on all sides for about 6-8 minutes each side.  Transfer chicken to the Dutch oven or another casserole dish.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves and thyme to skillet and continue sautéing for about 6 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Transfer the mix to the casserole to cover the chicken pieces. In the still hot skillet, add butter, mushrooms and shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and broth to the skillet, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens a little bit (5 minutes). Add seasoning, mix well and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Simmer or bake for 30-40 minutes at 350F. During the cooking process, carefully skim off and discard any fat from the surface with the spoon. After 30 minutes of simmering, verify the seasoning, add chopped parsley and scallions and give it another 10 minutes of simmer. Serve hot with roasted/mashed potatoes or egg noodles and crusty bread on the side. Enjoy!