Reviving the Dinner Table

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

As a child growing up in a Mennonite home, I learned the importance of meal times as we gathered with our family - and often neighbors, friends or relatives – around a table every night on the farm. Lively conversations sprinkled with humorous storytelling kept time with the passing of bowls as we heaped our plates with food Mom and I had prepared.  After marriage and a family of my own, I carried on this tradition of gathering around the table.  Out of this culture of food and fellowship sprung spontaneous dinner parties with potluck-style meals served in beautiful dishes as we pulled up chairs - children and adults alike - to enjoy an evening of laughter in between mouthfuls of delicious food. Now, these evenings of warm dinnertime rituals have grown to include a widening circle of friends as we set up tables under trees, in backyards, around fireplaces and in dining rooms pursuing a simple culture of cooking great food and sharing it with those we love.

The smell of fresh bread permeates the room as a roast slowly cooks in the oven and a pot of potatoes bubbles on the stove.  A cherry pie cools on the counter, the dining room table is set and on the sideboard a spread of appetizers awaits hungry guests. Does this sound like a scene from your grandmother’s kitchen? It could be. Or it could be the home of a 20-something’s couple who, in this modern age of fast food and frenzied schedules, joins a swelling trend in reviving an older generation’s value of simple living. 

Appropriately called “The Slow Movement,” this cultural shift focuses on cooking with local and fresh foods while taking time to enjoy family and relationships around the dinner table. It emphasizes the importance of appreciating the present and offers a refreshing reprieve from the grind of life as we know it. From backyard cookouts to small apartment potlucks to gourmet dinners people are slowing down to experience life. While candles flicker, faces around the table are warmed by food and fellowship as china clinks, glasses are tipped and second helpings are passed in a setting that promotes community, builds friendships and nurtures families.

While Europeans have long placed an emphasis on slowly cooked meals and drawn-out dinners the reviving trend in American homes of gathering around the table has been sparked by movements such as Kinfolk, an independent lifestyle magazine founded in 2011 by Portland based editor, Nathan Williams, featuring the art of slow living.  Kinfolk’s monthly dinner parties and workshops have been hosted in multiple cities around the world since 2012 inspiring creative professionals to simplify and beautify their lives while cultivating the value of time spent with friends and family.

Also on the table scene is Sunday Suppers, a food and design community based in Brooklyn. Their popular food blog and subsequent cookbook of market-inspired meals and stunning photography has been vital in reviving the art of home cooking and has modeled the beauty of sharing simple food around a communal table.

In The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings, Nathan Williams states, “Entertaining looks different for each of us, but as long as we’re cooking and inviting people into our homes with a genuine interest in connecting, conversing and eating together, then the way we do these things will ultimately come naturally.  A burned dish or a missing serving piece becomes trivial. The humble soup or homely bread becomes a feast.”   Whether we host a spread reminiscent of grandmother’s style or choose the laid-back approach of a buffet, the rewards of inviting friends for dinner are many. With well-planned effort and a dose of creativity we can cultivate relationships as we ease into a slower pace and gather around our tables to share life.  

By Naomi Gingerich, featured in the May issue of Winston-Salem Monthly Magazine
                                                                    Copyright 2015

Sunday Afternoons are For...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A drizzly Sunday afternoon calls for napping, reading and baking these delightfully addictive chocolate ginger molasses ice cream sandwiches.  They are messy - best eaten while standing close to the kitchen sink or holding a plate to catch the drippings - but are so perfectly tasty.  The cookies are a great nibble on their own, perfectly paired with a cup of coffee (which I will do in the morning) but when made into an ice cream sandwich they bring out the kid in all of us.

My cooking partner is a professional chocolatier and recently gave me a bag of cacao barry cocoa powder from France.  Let's just say,  good-bye Hershey's and Trader Joe's.  The exquisite taste of using this fine cocoa is worth the switch.  Almost makes me feel like a chocolatier myself!

Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies

12 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulate sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
6 tablespoons cacao barry cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In mixer bowl, beat butter with brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until combined. Beat in egg, vanilla and molasses.

In medium bowl, combine flour with cocoa, baking soda and spices. Add into first mixture and beat just until combined. Chill in refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar in bowl.

Using scoop or a tablespoon, roll dough into small balls, dip in sugar, place on baking sheet and flatten.  Bake for 4 -5 minutes on lower rack of oven, then transfer to middle rack and bake an additional 4 - 5 minutes, until puffed and tops begin to crack.

Let rest on baking pan for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Make sandwiches using your favorite ice cream or eat plain.

Trading the Fast Life for Slow Living

Friday, April 24, 2015

Travel with me to the beautiful Sonoma Valley in California's fertile wine region where fields of vineyards drape over the landscape and the warm sun bathes everything in golden light. Nestled between two mountain ranges it carries the heritage of the oldest wineries in the state, and is the home of wine-making mama, Abigail Zimmerman.  Abi and her husband, Dean, purchased Annadel Estate Winery in 2007 and have been working on the restoration of their 1890's farmhouse and the grounds of the estate since 2008.  Along with their two children and dog Bodie, the Zimmermans enjoy life at the top of the valley where they cook dinner together each night, bask in the glorious sunsets and enjoy the slower pace of life outside the city. Then, after the kids are asleep and Abigail is (most likely) painting in her studio, a coastal haze rolls in from the ocean, caressing the vines and lending a distinctive flavor to the grapes.

Preparing for an open studio as part of Sonoma County's Art Trails.
Abi hasn't always lived the dreamy and romantic lifestyle she enjoys now. A former career woman with NASA for ten years, she decided to trade in the corporate world for the life of a "cellar rat" and devote herself to a "healthier, seasonal, fully artistic life in Sonoma Valley." She refers to herself as a "kitchen cook", admits to being a food nerd and is a self-taught painter with her first solo art show coming up soon. About her home, she says, "I am a food lover learning as I go in our old Victorian farmhouse last renovated in 1939. We literally live between wars. Our walls are horsehair and plaster and I learned to cook on a 1941 Occidental Automatic stove - which we found in the carriage house - and now have modernized to a 6-burner, 2-stove Wolf Range."

Living in Sonoma has been a deliberate choice to get back to a slower pace of life.  She muses, "Sonoma is a return to basics. A step away from gridlock and desks and clocked-in and clocked-out days. Sonoma is a return to primal, circadian rhythms of seasons and harvests of grapes, vegetables, olives and countless other food stuffs. Eating as close to the source is a way of life in Sonoma. For me and our little family, good food, art, and wine is proof of love. For each other. Our family. And friends."

The organic vineyards of Annadel are seeded with a crop cover before the rainy season starts.  The sheep are then let loose in the vineyard before the buds burst onto the vines. They eat all the nitrogen-rich crops, then poop it all out, making excellent organic fertilizer as it's punched into the soil with their tiny, sharp hooves.  
Sunset at the farmhouse
Working in one of the gardens at the estate.  
Abigail learned to cook on an old 1940's cook stove found on the estate. She soon upgraded to this Wolf Range which makes cooking much easier.  
While cooking in an 1800's farmhouse sounds dreamy, there are disadvantages. Abigail complains of not enough counter space, and not enough electrical capacity for the stove and the fridge.  This means her refrigerator is kept in an adjacent mud room. The rolling island, a new addition, is a great space for food prep.
Abigail does most of the cooking, although loves it when her husband grills. This was a recent dinner of grilled pork, blistered asparagus and Champagne.
And when husband, Dean, motorcycles to the coast, he brings back fresh oysters from Tomales Bay.  Yum!
The stone fruit orchard on the estate produces plenty of fruit for making jam.  When plums are in season, Abigail cans at least 15-20 jars of plum jam which she uses for topping anything from toast to ice cream.
For special events at Annadel, like their Annual Barn Party in the fall, they team up with Chef friends to do something great. Here they are preparing to roast two pigs with Chef Adolfo Veronese.
In their 1880's dining room, - perfect for hosting lunches with visiting Chefs, artists or friends - the remnants of a lovely afternoon.
Harvesting Merlot grapes as a family, toddlers included, is another charming feature of Annadel.
Annadel's gardens boast thousands of rose bushes whose blossoms are used by florists and brides around the state.

Kicking off Sonoma Plein Aire Festival with a first painting, "Abandoned Trains in a Vineyard."

Roasting a Chicken is always delicious. Roasting a Chicken steaming itself in Garlic, herbs, fresh lemon and white wine? Meteoric gorgeousness. And beyond simple. You will need:
§  1 small roasting chicken (2.75-4 lbs) from your Farmers Market or local butcher
§  2 heads of garlic
§  3 Meyer Lemons
§  Fresh herbs: I bought Thyme but have Sage and Rosemary growing in the garden and dried Oregano in the Pantry. Think 1-2 tablespoons of each.
Preheat oven to 450’F. Rub the interior of a Dutch Oven with olive oil. I am a hopeless convert of Staub Dutch Ovens.
Place the heel of a bread loaf or a slice of French bread (stale or fresh) in the center. You must elevate the chicken in some way so it steams in the wine. (*And that gooey chicken-fat, white-wine bread is like crack at the end.)
Wash your chicken and pat very dry with a paper towel. Place chicken on top of bread in the center of the Dutch oven. Rub olive oil over the top of chicken  (Keep washing hands every time you touch raw chicken).
Pour 1/2 cup-2/3 cup dry white wine into the well if the pot around the chicken.
Lift chicken butt and stuff cavity with 1 sprig thyme, rosemary, and sage. Add 3 cloves garlic (unpeeled but topped) and “close” with half a lemon facing inward. This steams herbs up into the chicken while roasting. (Wash hands.)
Sprinkle chicken liberally with kosher salt (think spreading 1 tablespoon over the top and sides) and a few twists cracked pepper. I throw on a liberal pinch of dried Oregano here but that’s up to you. Coarsely chop fresh Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. Spread over top and sides.
Remove excess garlic skin and top 2 whole heads of garlic. Slice remaining lemons in halves. Place lemons and garlics around chicken.
Cover and slide chicken into oven for 80-90 minutes. Be sure to baste chicken with well juices half-way through at the 45 minutes mark.
Remove from oven when finished and uncover. Let chicken stand for 5-10 minutes. Carve up. Serve alone for a deliciously protein-rich meal or with a fresh local greens salad. You can also roast root vegetables, onions and potatoes with this dish with a few more steps.  We served solo last night.

All photos courtesy of Abigail Zimmerman and used with permission. To view her blog, click here: Abi's Farmhouse Kitchen.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with a Blackberry and Honey Drizzle

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

So you're having a dinner party and there's a mix of guests with different dietary needs? It can send a cook into a panic, right?  Well, here is a diet-friendly bit of sweetness that will satisfy both gluten-free guests as well as most vegetarians.  This cheesecake is made with goat cheese and has a crust of walnuts and organic oats. If you're looking for a rich, decadent dessert don't read any further. But if you'd like something light that doesn't put you over the top after a heavy dinner, this is just the thing.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with a Blackberry and Honey Drizzle

1 cup organic Old-Fashioned oats
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup melted butter
8 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 - 4 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups fresh berries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch springform or round baking pan with parchment paper.

In food processor, pulse oats and walnuts lightly. Add melted butter and pulse a few more times.  Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of an 8 inch pan. Put in refrigerator while you prepare cheesecake mixture.

In mixer, whip goat cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice. Add egg yolks, one at a time, whipping for a minute in between each addition. (Separating the egg yolks from the whites gives the cheesecake a fluffy texture instead of creamy. If you prefer creamy, don't separate whites from yolks but beat all together.) Scrape sides of bowl several times during this process.  Set aside.

In a clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold this into the cheesecake mixture.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely.  

To serve, drizzle with blackberries and honey.  Whip cream garnish is optional.

More Than a Culinary Artisan

Friday, April 17, 2015

Geneva Schlabach carries the essence of what makes a home cook more than just a culinary artisan. This petite and dynamic co-host of farm-to-table dinner parties bursts with passion for encouraging people to pursue their dreams. The genuine love she displays in cooking and creating, along with the knack for initiating engaging conversations has guests vying for a coveted spot at her table. With a master chocolatier certificate from training received at the prestigious L'Ecole Du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Tain-l'Hermitage, France, Geneva has critiqued and developed recipes for fine chocolate confections and mouth-watering desserts. In addition to managing a former company, Geneva Chocolates, she has worked as a designer of beautiful spaces, creating an atmosphere of love and hospitality. Her kitchen reflects these qualities.  Come inside for a look!  (Scroll to the bottom for two favorite recipes.)

The kitchen is an inviting place where family gathers, creativity happens and culinary magic is birthed.
A beautiful cookbook on display encourages creative inspiration as well as recipe ideas.
A wire baker's rack keeps pots, pans and dishes within easy reach in a kitchen where cabinet space is at a premium
The pantry shows off Geneva's organizational abilities using clear stackable containers to store baking ingredients.
Geneva's cupboards carry an assortment of beautiful dishes in all shapes and sizes.
A loaf of freshly baked bread sends a warm and inviting aroma through the house.
Sharp knives and an array of cutting boards keep this cook happy.
This kitchen table is a popular gathering spot for family or friends while cooking is in progress.
A vintage salt well keeps a supply of eggs at room temperature, ready for a spur-of-the-moment baking idea.
A sideboard holds extra plates and baskets of linens while a canvas photograph serves as a conversation piece.

Geneva shares two favorite recipes with us for this Friday Feature Kitchen post.  One of them is for brownies, which is a recipe every home cook should have up her sleeve. From feeding an entire football team to providing a tasty treat for a summer picnic, these brownies are just the ticket! The next one is a recipe for cheesecake that will quickly become your favorite. It's made with goat cheese instead of the traditional cream cheese.  The result is a much creamier and genuinely addictive texture!

Belgium Chocolate Brownies
Belgium Chocolate Brownies

¾ C. Butter

1 C. Sugar
1 ½ C. flour
½ C. Belgium Cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½  C. Belgium dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter.  Add sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, eggs and vanilla.  Stir until well blended.  Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips. Spread in 9 x13 pan.  Sprinkle remaining ½ cups dark chocolate chips on top of batter.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until knife inserted comes out clean.  Do not overbake.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake 
Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Sauce

Pistachio crusted goat cheese cheesecake topped with Meyer lemon cream sauce and candied pistachios.

Pistachio crust:
1 heaping cup shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios (See Recipe Notes)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (11-ounce) log goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons good-quality honey
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
3 large eggs

Meyer lemon cream:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, from 3 to 4 lemons (See Recipe Notes)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
Candied Pistachios:
1/2 cup shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios, finely chopped
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon hot water
For the pistachio crust, combine pistachios and sugar in food processor and process until almost a fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the melted butter; the mixture should resemble wet sand. Press firmly into a springform pan.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes until set. Cool completely before filling.
For the filling, lower oven temperature to 300°F. Combine the goat cheese and sugar in a mixer and cream together. Add the sour cream, honey, vanilla, and salt and mix for about 30 seconds to a minute, scraping as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between each addition. Place the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until cheesecake is barely set. (just a bit “jiggly” in the middle when moved slightly.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Chill for several hours before serving.
For the Meyer lemon cream, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the eggs and yolks and beat for 1 minute, until well combined. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and continue mixing until incorporated. (The mixture will become curdled and lumpy upon adding the lemon juice, but it will smooth quickly upon heating.)
Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 165°F on an instant read thermometer; the mixture should be just thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Transfer to another bowl and press plastic directly on the surface. Let cool at room temperature until ready to serve. (Lemon cream will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Candied pistachios:
Spread chopped pistachios on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or sheet of parchment paper. Whisk the brown sugar and hot water to dissolve. Pour the mixture over the pistachios and toss to combine. Bake in a 350°F oven until golden and toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Once cool, crumble the pistachios for serving.
Serve each slice of cheesecake with a bit of the Meyer lemon cream sauce and sprinkle with candied pistachios.  Light and delicious!
Thank you for joining us for a peek into Geneva's kitchen!  We look forward to seeing you next week as we take an inside look at the spaces where life, beauty and great food intersect.

A breakfast scramble of eggs topped with fresh tomatoes and cilantro.
Copyright: Naomi Gingerich, Farm-to-Table Feasts

The Magic of Meringues

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Want to feel like a goddess in the kitchen?  Then try making these melt-in-your-mouth meringues with chocolate sauce and creme Chantilly.  Oh my.  Seriously.

Making meringues is a new experience for me.  The association I had in my mind with meringues was how Mom would put golden peaks of meringue on top of lemon pie - slightly moist and slippery.  Not my favorite thing, let me tell you.  But that was back in the day when I was young.  So when one of my heroes of the kitchen published her first cookbook with an awesome recipe for meringues, I was sold.  Actually, it was the photographs that sold me.  They looked nothing like the meringues of my childhood.

There are some tricks to the trade of making perfect meringues, as I have learned.  
     1.   There can't be a drop of egg yolk in the bowl with the whites. 
     2.   Your mixing bowl must be pristine - not even a fingerprint on the inside. 
     3.   Don't pick a cloudy, humid day.  Your meringues will flop.  

Other than that, it's a piece of cake, er, meringue.

Chocolate Meringue Swirls with Chocolate Sauce and Creme Chantilly
Recipe by Mimi Thorisson (A Kitchen in France)

6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup cream (for whipping, to serve with the meringues)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  (Here's a trick:  I didn't have parchment so I sprinkled - very lightly - a bit of cornmeal on the cookie sheet.  Worked beautifully.)

Whip the egg whites in a mixer until they hold medium peaks.  Add the salt and whip, adding cornstarch and then the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, until all sugar has been added, then continue to whip until the whites are stiff and glossy. 10 - 15 minutes total. Gently fold in the cocoa powder.

Spoon the egg whites onto the baking sheet, twirling the tops with a spoon. This will make six meringues. If you like, you can dust a bit of cocoa powder on top.

Bake for one hour. Turn off oven and leave the meringues in it, with door slightly open, for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Handle gently!  They are fragile and break easily, so use care when transporting them.

To serve (preferably same day), whip the heavy cream.  Put meringues on dessert plates, scoop some whipped cream next to each one, and drizzle with chocolate sauce (recipe below).  

Bow to the applause of guests.

Chocolate Sauce:

6 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup or dark corn syrup
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

Mix the water, cocoa powder, sugar and syrup together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir  until smooth.  Let cool for an hour before serving.  If needed, add a few drops of hot water to get to desired consistency when ready to serve.

Sour Cream Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Soft "frosting cookies" were always a staple in my Amish aunt's kitchen and I remember many days of going to their farm and helping myself to a handful of them.  I would sit on their front porch where the grapevines draped around the eaves and the chickens clucked happily in the yard as my bare feet pushed against the wooden floor to keep the swing in gentle motion.

We are a family of cookie lovers and I credit my Aunt Elizabeth for passing the cookie tradition on to me. So whip up a batch of these easy little frosting cookies, then sit on your porch and nibble on one (or two or three) as you enjoy this lovely springtime weather.

Sour Cream Cookies

2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice or flavoring
4 cups all-purpose flour

Cream together the butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy.  Add the rest of ingredients and mix well.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes, depending on size of cookie.  Cool on wire racks.

Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (or softened, but not melted)
3  cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 - 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Whip the butter and powdered sugar on low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Add the vanilla, salt, and milk and beat on medium for 3 minutes.

Friday Feature Kitchens

Friday, April 10, 2015

The kitchen is where the heart of the home beats a steady, rhythmic pulse as we move in and out of this bustling place where food is prepared and enjoyed. It's where we shuffle with bare feet still warm from cozy beds to brew that first pot of coffee as dawn breaks free from night's embrace and birds start their twittering chorus in the trees. It's where we eat our meals, when the dining room is too spacious for one or two, and it's where our style comes to life, from the dishes we choose, to the table settings we design, to the organization of our drawers and the arrangement of objects on our sills. It's where sunshine illuminates the still life of fruit on the counter. It's where the heirloom dish with colorful tomatoes shares the space with a bowl of fresh fruit while the smell of coffee beans lingers in the air.  And it's where we pour over cookbooks, plan our meals, cook our art, and wash that endless pile of dishes that makes its appearance in and out of cupboards daily.

Kitchens are fascinating and so are the amazing men and women who cook in them.  The stoves, the cupboards, the drawers, the pantrys, the food, the spices, the aprons - all carry a distinctive characteristic that reflects the innovative home cooks who take pride in their kitchens and enjoy the satisfaction of preparing fresh, quality food and enjoying it with those they love.

Friday Feature Kitchens will be a weekly series on these home kitchens - and the amazing cooks who create in them - giving us an inside look at the spaces where life, beauty and great food intersect.  I'd love to hear about your kitchen, so for consideration to be featured in this series, please email photos of your kitchen to and tell me a little bit about yourself and your kitchen, or tag me in your Instagram posts with #fridayfeaturekitchens.

Here's to Fridays, cooking in the kitchens we love and sharing our stories with each other!

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A good dessert can sweeten your outlook on life.  For real. I came home from work with the stresses of life weighing me down, so I turned to my pantry for some therapeutic baking ideas.  This Flourless Chocolate Torte is now cooling on the counter, waiting to be eaten.

Flourless Chocolate Torte 
(No, Mandy, it's not your recipe. It's adapted from Linda Lomelina.)

2 sticks and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons dark coffee or espresso
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 350. Grease a springform pan or line a round cake or tart pan with parchment paper.

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat, stirring until melted and smooth, then stir in coffee and set aside.

In mixer bowl, mix eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy - about 4 minutes.

Stir chocolate mixture into egg mixture with a spatula.  Stir until smooth.  Add a pinch of salt.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan.

Serve at room temperature or chilled with a generous dollop of whipped cream.


Vegan Ginger Cookies

Friday, April 3, 2015

My first encounter with ginger cookies came from a visit to my aunt's house where I discovered these spicy treats in the kerosene-lit coolness of her butler's pantry. This pantry was a five-year-old's dream with pies cooling on shelves, cookies nestled in tins and deep bins of flour, sugar, oats and lard for baking all kinds of Amish sweets.

This recipe is vegan-friendly, although everyone in our family loves them.  They are easy to make, and can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes.  And, for cookie dough lovers, the dough can be eaten raw!

Vegan Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I mix it half and half with all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ginger
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Beat together. Dough will seem crumbly.  Form into balls, roll in raw sugar, place on cookie sheet.  If desired, flatten with the bottom of a measuring cup.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.