Beet + Seed Loaf Cake

7BE53C2C-5575-4E52-8049-982FB99A6BDC

 

I had an instance last weekend that after some consideration, seemed like a metaphor for life right now. I had been planning a creative cake project for William’s birthday and in retrospect I planned the more creative aspects of it, but not so much the logistics of size and weight, how many layers can actually stack before it’s too much. That sort of thing.

After a few hours of baking, as assembly got underway, the cake began breaking apart before me, each layer collapsing in to the next as their weight was too much. In panic, I *tossed* the whole thing in the freezer, hoping it would chill quickly enough to stop the destruction.

 

IMG_3648-2

 

And then like the cake, I completely melted down. William who really didn’t care whether he had cake or not, tried to reassure me, but the damn cake falling apart was in that moment an abject failure on my part after toiling away for hours and planning and looking forward to it for weeks.

So I took a break, made some tea and ate a snack because sometimes a blood sugar boost and tea actually is the best remedy before going on.

A little more resolve in my system, and I found a way to salvage two of the four layers, effectively putting the cake back in adequate proportion territory, and still plenty enough for a birthday.

 

IMG_3661-2

 

For the artistic frosting finale, I realized the downsizing really put a hamper on how the color scheme / paint-like effect of the frosting was going to end up and at the end, William laughed at the looks of my finished result, although ‘it doesn’t look bad, really‘ were the words that came from him, and ‘just different than what you were going for.’

 

IMG_3668-2

 

Different than what I was going for are probably words that describe most things for me. There’s that river again, which I cannot push. Trust and go with the flow. Again.

And maybe believe in yourself and know that you / I / we can make good come from every challenge.

 

IMG_3666

 

Back to the birthday cake and it turned out tasting, if not looking, perfect. Almond poppy seed layers from this base recipe, cream cheese frosting, and a few splashes of color from mostly natural food dyes, which was part of the project.

What all that has to do with today’s recipe, I’m not entirely sure. Other than we like poppy seeds in this house. And raisins. And cake, in various forms. Occasionally.

Fittingly though, I first made this beet + seed loaf cake, a major spin-off from Nigel Slater’s popular original, for a Mad Hatter Tea Party at work last spring. The party was for our volunteers and since most of them are retired master gardeners who also love earthy flavors and garden-inspired things, the cake was quickly gobbled up with approval. The tweaks I gave the original involve substantially less sugar and some more wholesome flours and it’s safe to say this is more of a breakfast or snack loaf, rather than a sugar rush in a slice.

 

IMG_3659

 

Beet + Seed Loaf Cake, makes 1 9×5 or 8×4-inch loaf
The flours can be changed here, depending on what’s on hand. Instead of chickpea, sorghum or millet are great substitutes. I used ground flax seeds here instead of eggs, but an earlier version of this made with 2 eggs instead also resulted well. 

2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
6 Tbs. water

100 grams / 1 cup chickpea flour
70 grams  / a scant 1/2 cup brown rice flour
25 grams / ¼ cup arrowroot flour
½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup applesauce
70 grams / 3 Tbs. brown rice syrup
150-170g / 5-6 oz. raw beet, shredded coarsely
juice of half a lemon
½ cup raisins
½ cup mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)
4 tsp. poppy seeds, divided

  • Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Line a loaf pan with baking parchment. A 9×5 will yield a larger, more compact loaf, and a slightly smaller pan will yield slices that are taller.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flax and water and then set aside for a few minutes.
  • Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix the vanilla, coconut oil, applesauce, and brown rice syrup. Stir in the flax meal.
  • Grate the beetroot coarsely and fold into the mixture, then add the lemon juice, raisins, mixed seeds, and 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds. Then stir in the flour mixture.
  • Pour the mixture into the cake pan, smooth the top, and then sprinkle over the remaining 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds. Bake for 50-55 minutes and test with a toothpick to see if done. The cake should be moist inside but not sticky.
  • Leave the loaf to cool for a good 20 minutes before turning out of its pan on to a  cooling rack.
Advertisements

Sweet Beet + Elderberry Oatmeal

IMG_7181

 
Happy Easter Friends!

Today I have a recipe I’ve been making on repeat for the last couple months, and one I’ve been meaning to share for weeks. But in truth, I’ve been busy. And stressed.

In what I knew would be a packed late-winter season, my class schedule was on overload for what ended up being six weeks. When I signed up for them, I thought it would be three to four, and knew I could get through for one jam-packed month. But then a job opportunity landed that I decided to take, my running coach decided I could handle more miles (and thus time), and one of those classes was taught by a professor that was amazing, but intense. Even for grad school.

So in light of all the action happening at once, I took a class extension. I dropped creative projects and unproductive activities like social media, I spent all my waking hours working or running save a precious few in the early mornings and evenings, and I just got through.

I’m still recovering, trying to prioritize down time, read some good books, bake (currently experimenting with gluten-free/vegan hot cross buns!!), and run with joy and gratitude. And also, feed myself well.

And while it’s spring break for many, I’ve a couple more weeks before I get there.

 

So today, let’s talk a little more about stress, overwork, and the nutrients that are necessary always, but even more so when we’re trying to bulldoze forward at full speed. The first are the entire friendly group of B Vitamins. 

The essential B vitamins are necessary in every step along the pathway of converting food into energy. When the body undergoes any kind of stress, whether it is physical or emotional, and feels depleted, the B vitamins are likely needed to restore balance and energy. In addition to converting food into energy and helping to cope with stress, many of the B vitamins can also help alleviate symptoms of insomnia, nervousness, PMS, and mood swings.

Each of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, and their friend Choline) have their own specific roles, but they function quite well as a group. They are found abundantly in whole foods, particularly in whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, fruits, and vegetables–except for B12 and Choline, which each deserve their own discussion another day. In order to incorporate the spectrum of all of these essential nutrients into your diet, it is important to eat a wide variety of fresh, colorful, whole foods.

Most of us are actually getting sub-optimal levels of these nutrients, especially when we are overworked and very active.

 

Next up in importance in times of stress is Magnesium

Magnesium is a key player in over 300 biochemical reactions and is essential for creating and maintaining healthy bones, energy production, nervous system balance, and blood sugar control. And it is anti-inflammatory. Magnesium is required for DNA and RNA synthesis as well as the synthesis of glutathione, which is a powerhouse antioxidant that combats free radicals and cellular damage.

Like the B-vitamins, Magnesium is often lacking in the modern diet, our needs are more when we are stressed either physically or mentally, and it’s abundant in whole foods like leafy greens, beans, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains.

 

Finally, when we are overworked, our immune system takes a hit, and it’s during these times that we often fall victim to colds and flus. While winter flu season theoretically should be winding down, the mega virus(s) that’s been hitting hard these past few months is still going strong. Enter my favorite immune booster, elderberries.

Elderberries have strong antiviral properties and have been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu outbreaks in research. They also have a very long history of use in traditional medicine. Made into a delicious syrup and combined with anti-inflammatory ginger (which I’m now making and selling in my shop), a daily small dose during times of increased stress gives a good immune boost*. I’ve been taking it all winter and especially these last few weeks, and even with exposure to a whole lot of sick kids, have been staying healthy.

 

IMG_7203

 

Sweet Beet + Elderberry Oatmeal, serves 1-2
Due to all the aforementioned whole foods I’ve packed into this delicious breakfast bowl including oats, beets, flax seeds, sunflower seed butter, as well as a little drizzle of elderberry syrup, this makes for a really nice start to the day. It’s one of my favorite breakfasts lately, and definitely feels like a meal that brings to life the meaning of self-care and stress reduction. For busy mornings, I like to prep all the ingredients, save the oatmeal and toppings in a saucepan the night before, and then store it in the fridge. In the morning, bring the pan to a boil, add the oats, cook until done, and then add toppings and serve. 

1 1/2 cups water
1 medium-ish beet, finely grated
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1-2 Tbs. raisins
1/2 Tbs. sunflower butter
1 tsp. elderberry syrup
a dash of cinnamon, optional
1 tsp. ground flax seed, optional
additional sunflower seeds to top

  • Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the finely grated beet, salt, raisins, and oatmeal. Turn down to medium-low and cook until soft and to desired consistency, about 8-10 minutes. You might need to add more water, as needed.
  • Then stir through the sunflower butter, remove from heat, and add the syrup and any additional desired toppings. Enjoy, ideally in a non-distracted setting for the ultimate self-care.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product does not intend to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

sprouted wild rice + beet salad with muhammara bean puree

sprouted wild rice + beet salad with muhammara bean puree

IMG_2068


In the moment 

I have a muhammara recipe bookmarked from a favorite cookbook and with a big bowlful of the last of the season’s peppers in varying shades of red, orange, and gold, all streaked through with green, I decide to make up a batch. In the last minute as I’m setting whole peppers in the pan to roast, I remember I have another muhammara recipe from a separate cookbook which I loved the last I made it. I double my peppers on the pan and make them both.

In the food processor, the first batch turns a lovely golden hue, subtly sweet from pomegranate molasses, but a little lemony to my taste. The second, the one I had loved before, is date-sweetened and much too sweet by comparison. The lemon is gone though and the paprika addition nicer.

In a dash of inspiration I decide to combine the two. I can’t stop licking the spoon and it’s not just that I’m performing this endeavor the morning after a marathon-season long run.

Muhammara, if you haven’t tried it, is the most delicious thing you’ll have all season. Traditionally a Syrian roasted pepper, walnut and pomegranate relish/dip for bread or meat, I next whim my way into pureeing half a batch into cooked white beans. When I want beans and rice to go down a treat, I take 30 seconds and puree the former in with a special sauce, and there’s nary a complaint of same old same. This is definitely what happens with the muhammara.

 

IMG_2055


sliding into the intuitive of it.

Next I bloom some wild rice. We’re into sprouting week in my raw foods cooking lab for my nutrition program, and though I’m arguably at the medium-experience level of sprouting as far as the norm of us goes, I’m learning new things. Sprouted wild rice is a dream that opens up into fat, fluffy grains, downright pillowy compared to standard wild rice. The extra few hours of hands-off sprouting makes all their nutrients more usable too, a practice I know I can stand to incorporate as much as possible.

After sprouting, I drain and rinse the rice and pour it back into my steaming pot, adding water afresh and steaming it for a further 40 minutes. It doesn’t need this extra step since we just sprouted, but on this day I’m craving warm and I have a feeling about this. I slide a handful of washed clean beets from the garden into foil and pop them in the oven.

I look in the fridge, grab the quick-pickle jar I emptied of onions but left the vinegar from a week ago, reserved for just such a day. I grab half an onion, slice it thin, and set it in the vinegar to marinate. William texts he’s on his way home. As he walks in the door, I’m later than usual, less rushing him as normal, and more like sliding into the intuitive of this dinner project.

Ten minutes, I say.
I’m sliding the rice off the heat, pulling the beets and slicing thin. Into the wild rice, going crimson by degrees as the steam rises. Cumin, a few sprigs off the cilantro that is almost ready for the compost, the slices of quick-pickled onion drained and spooned in. Salt. A couple dashes pepper. A little more vinegar. More salt, this time reaching into the back of the pantry for that crumpled bag of black-truffle salt, a fortune for such a small homely package. A dash is enough. A taste, and it’s done.


On the plates

A big spoonful of muhammara bean puree, moon-swiped over the half in a chef’s half pirouette and then heaps of the rice spooned atop.

If this is weeknight cooking, it’s the kind we shouldn’t be getting used to. A result of what happens when I’m sliding into the intuitive of the moment, letting my flavor memories and creative tendency take over. In the kitchen and on our plates, the experience is pure magic.

 

 

Sprouted Wild Rice  + Beet Salad
1 cup wild rice
5 beets, tops and bottoms removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/2 an onion, quick-pickled
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 tsp. sea salt
black pepper
black-truffle salt (optional but adds subtle depth), to taste

  • To sprout the rice, start early in the day of cooking by measuring out 1 cup of wild rice, rinse well, and then soak in a 1 quart jar with 2 cups water in a warm oven on the lowest setting for about 6 hours. It will be ready when it has bloomed and the grains have become fluffy and open. Then, to cook, rinse and drain again, and bring to a boil in a small pot along with 1 1/2 cups water. Turn down, cover and steam for about 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  • While the rice is cooking, roast the beets by wrapping them in foil, and placing in the oven for about 40 minutes. They will be ready when they can slice through easily with a knife or fork.
  • To prepare the salad, slice the beets thinly and add, along with the quick-pickled onions, cumin, cilantro, and vinegar, salt(s), and pepper to taste.

 

Muhammara, makes about 1 1/2 cups
9 oz. / 250 g roasted red or orange peppers
3/4 cup / 3 oz. / 75 g toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. / 20 ml pomegranate molasses
3 Tbs. / 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika (smoked or regular)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • In a food processor, puree all the ingredients and then taste, and adjust seasonings. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

 

Muhammara Bean Puree
half batch Muhammara
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed

  • To make the puree, leave half the muhammara in the processor, reserving the other half for another use. Add in the white beans and puree until smooth. Spoon into a small dish and heat gently on the stove or in the microwave to serve.