It is the end of January 2017. It’s my birthday week. It has been a rocky month politically. Today I had to turn inside myself and away from the never-ending news feeds that seem to break a little piece of my heart every time I listen. I took the afternoon off from being vigilant. I went for a walk in the wintry gloom listening to music to clear my head and heart. I baked an easy chocolate cake to sooth my soul. Baking helps.
This lovely cake is one dense, moist layer glazed with a really great chocolate bar melted on top and sprinkled with dried candied orange peels.
I broke this bar of chocolate into pieces and scattered over the top of the hot cake to melt. Any good bar of chocolate would do.
Ingredients for this cake are all mixed together in a blender. Easy and quick.
Easy Chocolate Espresso Cake with a Chocolate Glaze and Candied Orange Peels
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup dark cocoa
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4-6 ounce dark chocolate baking bar or flavored candy bar
- 1/2 cup candied orange peels
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Melt butter in a glass deep dish pie or cake pan in the microwave and then pour melted butter into a blender.
- To blender add eggs, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, flour and vanilla extract. Pulse to blend ingredients together well, scraping down blender as needed.
- Scrape cake batter into buttered glass dish and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is just done in the middle. Remove dish from oven to cool for a few minutes on a cooking rack. Turn hot cake out onto a plate.
- Break bar of chocolate into small pieces and scatter over top of hot cake. Let melt and then spread over top to glaze.
- Sprinkle candied orange peel over the top. Serve warm or room temperature.
Sometimes I see an ad for a new gadget or appliance that makes me stop and wonder. Wonder why? Wonder at the desperation to come up with the newest thing to sell to people just “because”. The novelty seems to be the thing in itself.
There is an ad for a refrigerator that is showing up everywhere right now that has a camera(s) inside that connects to your phone. If you have one of these you can always know what you have, or do not have, on hand to eat. Personally this is just too much information for me. One thing I wonder is if when you open this refrigerator does it take pics of you as well? Could this be another social media app- InstaRefrigerator? Has it come to this? You heard it here first!
Most days I just open the door of my refrigerator and improvise. Improvised recipes can be the best. Finding “hidden food” in the back of the fridge might even lead to a blog post. I happily found a few cartons of kumquats at the back of my “no-camera” fridge a few days ago. I bought them over the holidays, forgot about them, rediscovered them and made marmalade. Part of the fun was the unexpected discovery of these orange orbs still just as plump as the day I bought them.
A marmalade with three ingredients…seeded kumquats, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. It’s as “easy-as-this”.
Seeding is simple. Cut kumquats in half and seed with a spoon or your fingers. It takes a little time, but can be meditative.
Thick syrup, softened sweet-tart kumquat marmalade smeared on hearty crusty bread toasted, or not!
Maple Kumquat Marmalade
- 3 pints of fresh kumquats, rinsed, cut in half and seeded
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- pinch of sea salt
- Place kumquats and maple syrup in non-reactive pan and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to simmer, stirring often. Cook for about 30 minutes or until kumquats are softened to marmalade consistency and juice has thickened. If necessary add a bit of water to mixture as it cooks down.
- Ladle marmalade into glass jars. Store chilled for up to 2 months.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
After making this list of most popular-with-readers blog posts ever I noticed some common threads that must have made them so. One thing is there are lots of folks who respond to “boozy” posts. The exotic Buddha Hand citron is such a seductive subject in all its glory. Sweet things are universally appealing as are family stories. Enjoy.
# 1. “Pear Infused Vodka” Holiday Gift Idea / E.A.T. #11 Folks all over the world have clicked on this post…so I figure lots of folks like boozy pears? Thanks to each and every one of you.
#2. “Buddha’s Hand Good Luck Marmalade” A few years ago I ran across my first “Buddha Hand” citron. I purchased, I blogged and for over 6 years this post has been the second-all-time most popular, hit on, reposted of all my posts. It didn’t hurt that Smithsonian Magazine included a link to my site in their story about the subject. Who knew?
#3. Blood Orangecello and Bootlegging This post contains a family tale depicted in the title which must have proved irresistible to more than a few lovers of homemade hooch and blood-red, very-short-seasonal, blood oranges.
#4. Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake One of my favorites. It has a story about a dramatic blackberry picking experience with my Grandmother that left a definite impression on me as a child. I cannot hear a store of blackberry picking without thinking of it. The cake recipe is pretty good too.
#5. Give Me Some Sugar, Sugah! Sugars flavored with so many good things such as ginger, lavender, star anise, vanilla beans and citrus peel just to name a few appealed to the sweet tooth in so many readers. This story was also an homage to all the real aunts, aunts-in-friendship, grandmothers and mothers who could never get enough of our sweet “sugah” when we were young.
Simple seasonal cocktails is what December calls for. So, make it easy and delicious with this cocktail that has a combination of cranberries, apple cider and ginger beer to add fizz and pizzaz .
Alcoholic or not…you choose…Happy Holidays Y’all.
Cranberry-Apple Cider-Ginger Beer Cocktail
- 1 2/3 cups fresh cranberries, divided
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, or to taste
- 7 1/2 cups apple cider
- 3 1/2 cups ginger beer
- 2 1/2 cups Gin or to taste
- Note: You can make this a mocktail/no alcohol as well
- Place 1 1/3 cups cranberries in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
- Add sugar and stir well to mix.
- Add apple cider & stir well. Strain mixture into a large serving pitcher. Chill for 1 hour.
- Right before serving add in ginger beer and gin. Taste and adjust flavors if need be. Serve over ice with a few whole cranberries for garnish. Happy Holidays Y’all.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com www.foodonfifth.com
Here is what I think…or one of the millions of things I think….find something to celebrate. It can be a little thing or a big thing or nothing real at all, but some creative thing going on inside your head. Take some time to celebrate something. It can only be a good thing, right?
This apple cake is of my own invention to celebrate no one thing, but just the season, the beautiful apples I had, a few lovely soft orange rose hips, some antique pieces recently acquired for props, the light coming in through the window on this particular day while I played with this still life. More than plenty to celebrate I think don’t you?
I made a wee cake and a larger cake..one to give away and one to enjoy.
A dusting of powdered sugar always seems celebratory to me.
An Apple Cake to Celebrate
- 6 crisp, tart apples or whatever is your favorite, peeled, cored & thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Spelt flour, sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds
- powdered sugar for dusting over top of finished cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. line the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with parchment paper and then spray sides and bottom with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Toss together in a bowl the apple slices & 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Set aside.
- Using a stand, or hand mixer, blend together the remaining granulated sugar, raw sugar, spelt flour, baking powder, apple pie spice, vanilla extract, eggs and butter.
- Fold in half the sugar-coated apples and spoon into the prepared springform pan. Top with remaining apple slices & chopped almonds.
- Bake for about 1 hour or until cooked throughout when tested with a skewer. Let cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then remove the sides and cool cake on a wire rack.
- Right before serving add a generous, celebratory, dusting of powdered sugar.
Note: Is delicious with a bit of whipped cream as well. If you decide to make a wee and larger cake like I did use a smaller 8 inch pan and an even smaller 6 inch pan. Worked great.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com http://www.foodofifth.com
Pure Vanilla Extract is one of the simplest & most appreciated gifts to give cooks. Bulk vanilla beans can be purchased online easily these days and combined with a good bottle or two of vodka or bourbon you have everything you need to make multiple bottles of richly flavorful Vanilla Extract is just a few weeks.
I have been thinking about why I like to make things a lot lately. As a child I made things with my hands all the time…little pieces of art or make-believe foods from mud, grass and sicks…pot holders and paint-by-numbers..my hands always busy and engaged.
I am like that to this day. I am pretty sure it is because the act of making stuff is something I can control in a world where so much is absolutely, insanely out-ot-control. When my hands and mind are engaged in a project I am more at peace and able to sort through my thoughts in a more calm manner. At the end of the process I have something to show for this time spent. An art piece, a cake or loaf of bread, a bottle of pure vanilla extract. Making stuff to share. We all have to find our way do we not? What is your method?
I split the beans…about 25 or so and add them to 6 cups vodka or bourbon. Add a tight-fitting lid and wait…..a small lesson in patience…..
….in a few weeks (2 to 4) you’ll have lots of pure vanilla extract. I keep my jar in a closet and shake it every few days to help release the vanilla bean seeds….week by week the color darkens to a deep amber.
I add a few of the vanilla beans to each bottle after I decant the extract. The vanilla flavor will just keep getting better.
Make stuff, share stuff….it’s as easy-as-this.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 6 cups good Vodka or Bourbon
- 25 vanilla beans, split
- 1 large glass jar with tight-fitting lid
- various decorative bottles with tight-fitting lids for decanting extract
- Pour 6 cups vodka/Bourbon into a large glass jar.
- Add split vanilla beans. Top with lid and shake.
- Keep in a dark closet or cabinet for 2 to 4 weeks, shaking jar every few days.
- Decant into decorative bottles. Add a few of the split beans to each bottle. Add tops and your ready to give away as gifts to your friends who love to bake. Bon Apetit!
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com www.foodonfifth.com
You know how you hear about something that is so easy you wonder why you never thought of it? This happens to me all the time. “Pickled Grapes” is one of those things. I first heard about them on two different NPR programs within one week. Touted as the “new olive” for a cheese plate I was so intrigued I had to see for myself. The how-to is child’s play for the novice or seasoned cook. The finished cold, crisp, spicy pickled grapes are divine served with a few well-chosen cheeses for a Holiday cheese platter. It is all as “easy-as-this”.
Gather a few clean, dry pint size glass jars with lids…seedless grapes…a few spices & vinegar and your ready to go.
Grapes rinsed & drained then packed into jars and covered with hot, spicy vinegar mix…cooled to room temp, lids added and then jars chilled….ready to eat. 30 minutes start to finish! They will keep in refrigerator for a few weeks. Good food gifts for friends who don’t like olives as well.
Some suggested cheeses – Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Raclette 5 Peppercorns, Reypemaer Gouda. All have a unique flavor and texture and are complimented by the “new olive”…the ‘pickled grape”! It’s as “easy-as-this”.
- Seedless Grapes – Red and/or Green, rinsed & drained, pulled from stems, enough to fill 4 or five jars – 6 cups?
- 2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
- 3 garlic gloves crushed and then minced
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves from fresh stems + a few extra stems for jars
- 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chili pepper flakes
- Fill glass jars with grapes.
- Bring wine vinegar, garlic, sea salt, sugar, rosemary leaves & red pepper flakes to a low boil and then turn to simmer, stirring for a few minutes to dissolve salt & sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in a few rosemary sprigs.
- Immediately pour hot mixture over grapes in jars. Nestle sprigs of rosemary down into jars
- Loosely cover jars and let cool to room temperature. Then cover with tight-fitting lids and store in refrigerator until ready to use. You can eat within an hour or keep for up to a few weeks in the refrigerator.
- These are amazing and refreshing and everything delicious to serve with cheese & crackers or toss in a salad.
Notes: Other ideas to try when making the next batch…fresh thyme sprigs, red wine vinegar, whole garlic cloves…I bet you have some of your own ideas.
Based on recipes jotted down while listening to NPR shows.
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com