Daring Baker's Challenge March 2013: Hidden Vegetables.

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

I kind of opted out on the challenge this month - in part because I've done my fair share of hiding vegetables in baked goods.  Instead of making something new,  I have quite a few successful experiments that I'll list here for you.

For example:

Beet Cake.  This was de-gluten-free-ified  from one of my favorite local bakers, Annie Wegner-LeFort. It was also a hit with my son, who would never touch a beet if prepared traditionally.  Click the photo for the recipe (and a link to the original, gluten-free recipe) on flickr.

chocolate beet cake

Hidden Veg Muffins.  There is pureed carrot in here, and some banana, making for a muffin with very little refined sugar.  For some reason, my kid will not eat carrots - but I try and sneak them in where I can, and this is one place where they went undetected.  Recipe is also linked to the photo on flickr.

hidden veg muffins.

And speaking of muffins, these Sweet Potato Muffins went over well at my house as well.  A whole cup of sweet potato puree in these!

sweet potato muffins

I mentioned in the notes for these Vegan Zucchini Carrot Muffins (also posted on flickr), that the world really doesn't need another muffin recipe - but that sometimes a good muffin recipe is hard to find.  I've made these several times - and they are deliciously able to hide about 2 cups of shredded vegetables and keep them hidden from suspecting children.

vegan zucchini carrot muffins

On a more desserty note, I had tinkered for some time with black bean brownies.  I probably haven't made them again in the 3 years since I wrote about them, but they were good, and vegan to boot.  I do highly recommend whipped cream with cayenne pepper though, which is what made these brownies not truly vegan.

Deena's Chocolate Zucchini Cake is probably one of my most favorite cakes ever - if you don't include her Honey Cake.  So much of what Deena writes sticks like glue in my  head.  The opening of her post on this worthy cake says: "My friend's husband once left her a note in the kitchen that read: Honey, we're out of bundt cake."  I always think of this when I want to make a bundt cake, because I grew up in a bundt cake-eating family, and I long to hear (or see)  these words lingering around a bundt in my own house.  My Husband is not so much a sweets eater, so I live vicariously through these words - and I make this bundt cake in the height of zucchini season when I have friends for supper.  Perhaps when my kids grow big enough to leave me notes, I'll be as lucky as Deena's friend...

chocolate zucchini bundt cake

Since adding copious amounts of shredded vegetables to cake is usually always a good idea, I took Susan from Wild Yeast's lead and made a cake with a whole lot of shredded parsnip.  The original cake was made with carrots, and it too is one of my favorites.  I try to leave myself a supply of sourdough ends to dry and grind up, just so I have the ability to make it on a whim, since there is no flour in this recipe - only dried bread crumbs!  I wonder how this cake would fare with well-drained zucchini?

baked parsnip bread crumb cake
Sourdough Breadcrumb Parsnip Cake.

Most recently, I made these Carrot-Banana Muffins, which were devoid of refined sugar and gluten.  In my opinion, they are the perfect near-dessert muffin - and they really satisfy a sweet tooth.  And we all know that I have a whole mouth full of those that I'm trying to deal with.

carrot banana muffin

Hopefully, I'll be bake to my Daring self next month and able to concoct something new and exciting.  But I'm glad I had a chance to think back on all of the ways I've been successfully able to hide vegetables in the baked goods here at my house.  Be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll and website for more inspiration!


Today ends a year I spent working on a 365 photography project. I actually learned a lot in a year of daily photography. I learned that I do not like to be bound to posting pictures every single day, even if it only takes two minutes. I learned that mobile app photography on my phone is infinitely satisfying, even though the quality of the pictures isn't always the best. I learned that no matter the advances in technology, I am inherently old school: I prefer to frame up a picture rather than crop it, I prefer to get the lighting right up front than try to figure it out in post production. I learned that it's hard to say what I want in 17 syllables, but that the brevity of words makes no impact on my ability to remember the thoughts behind the picture of that day.

Photography is so deeply personal. Food photography is hard, because the gusto I feel for the food is never as well translated on "film". I really believe that anything is beautiful if viewed the right way, and of course I say this because I am no food stylist. All of my rejections from Tastespotting confirm that I feel my sense of composition is better than it is (though to be fair, they have accepted some of my favorite photos). Fortunately for me, as long as something tastes great, I don't much care if the picture is the best ever.

This weekend was long and rewarding, my work centered around food for a friend's college graduation party. I love making food for others, and this was no exception. I made a lot of different things that I'd never made before, including gluten-free cookies, and have a new batch of recipes for my arsenal. So to celebrate a year of photography, here is what I made this weekend, with lots of links. Hope you enjoy!

Purple sage.

My sage didn't come back this year, so I had to borrow some from my neighbor. I'm rooting some, and will plan it next to a green variety that I picked up at the farmer's market last week. This sage was fried for a sweet potato and bean salad.

Rio Zape beans: soaked, unsoaked.

Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad with Fried Sage and Pine Nuts.Link
I haven't bought pine nuts in ages, and couldn't believe their 30$ a pound price tag, but fortunately there were just a few tablespoons topping this off. This salad was in Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington's Heirloom Beans book. It was just another in a long list of excellent recipes I now love for life. Rio Zapes are the older brother of the humble pinto. They are just plain delicious. I have a half pound left, and I think I may try planting some.

Ina's Curried Cashew Chicken Salad.

This was really good. I actually improvised the dressing, blending a whole mango with a minced ramp, some lacto-fermented mustard, cayenne and the curry powder. One of the best things about cooking for others is that I don't eat meals and instead get to taste everything until I get the flavors right. This salad is missing it's raisins intentionally - and I have a little bit of dressing left. I think I'll crumble up some tofu, add some raisins, and have it for lunch.

Peter Reinhart's multi-grain bread, made into rolls.

Alton Brown's Gluten-Free "The Chewy" cookies.

These are the first gluten-free cookies I've made, and I loved them. They are made with brown rice flour, and have a good earthiness about them. They got a lot thinner than I suspected, but were still as chewy as their name suggests. I may try baking them from frozen next time I make them.

Crostatas: Rhubarb, Strawberry-Ginger, and Rhubarb-Strawberry-Ginger.

My kitchen got so warm that the pastry dough was unruly. These still turned out well, and this is still my favorite way to use up jam.

Quinoa with Tofu and Asparagus (sans tofu)

I pressure cooked some vegetable stock last week after reading this, and it worked out pretty well. I also roasted the asparagus instead of steaming it, since the oven was on and I used a full 2lbs of it. I also used ramps instead of garlic. Ah, Spring...

I made a double batch of gluten-free crackers, and this amazingly delicious Walnut-Lentil Pate that was left un-photographed (but check out the Bojon Gourmet and her lovely photos). There was also 5lbs of pork shoulder that I cooked down with some tomato jam, garlic, onions, and other miscellaneous spices - kind of like this - but maybe a little different. My friend served a jar of "Smokra", and I think I'm going to have to can up something similar this summer. It was amazingly good.

Tea from a coffee pot...

My little mid-century home has a wealth of built in storage disguised as a china cabinet in the dining room. Deep within the closed bottom cabinets, I found my old percolating coffee pot about a week ago. It was by accident, really, since I had to rearrange cookbook space due to the new additions. I can proudly say that I think I now have more cookbooks than any other genre of book, an obsession that really is only curtailed by my lack of funds. Fortunately, I have a great library within walking distance to fill in my gaps.

I'm not sure what made me decide to making tea in this contraption, but I figured this brand new percolator was not going to live out its life hiding away in the depths, or brewing up coarse grind coffee. Back when I got the percolator, 1996 I think, I did use it for coffee. I was not impressed with the lifeless, lackluster joe that emerged. In those days, I resulted to straight espresso instead of the brewed coffee that is currently my morning mainstay.

Faberware. A decade has passed, and it is still in the same pristine condition I left it in. No crazy, leftover coffee smells either. The tea snobs may shutter at my new found method of brewing, but I don't think I'll succumb to regular brewing again, at least for awhile. The basket neatly holds loose tea and prevents it from littering the water. It's a self-contained unit and only needs to be plugged in for about 3 minutes to cycle.

Granted, I think I do prefer the method of strainer basket for my nicer (and more expensive) Rishi Teas, since they can then endure multiple infusions. When I ran a second infusion of this Cinnamon Plum (below), a new seasonal obsession, it was rather weak - but not really non-palatable. But if you are in a hurry for great tea, and don't worry about the waste (or are using a teabag), 3 minutes is all it takes before you could be pouring that first cup.

I have recently recultivated a love affair with Celestial Seasonings. When I was a kid, there was a menagerie of CS boxes lining the back of the stove at my best friend's house.

I thought the artworks were amazing: of the boxes that I still remember - Tension Tamer: a princess atop a great green dragon, Bengal Spice:a burly, lounging tiger, and my most favorite Mint Magic: with its wizard conjuring up a golden chalice, presumably filled with my favorite beverage)....and what a treat to choose from 30 different kinds of tea! We liked tea at my house too, but usually we had only one kind open at a time. Even now, when you ask my Dad or Brother if they want tea, it is just assumed that you mean Lemon Zinger. I can see why. I recently bought a carton and am drinking it with honey.

just 3 more minutes...

My cabinet has expanded to include several open boxes. I like the choice of boxes, but I still waver back to my loose teas. A short list of links to my most favorites lately:

If you happen to have a percolating coffee pot around, I'd suggest having a go with tea brewing. My 4 cup pot is perfectly suited to one tea bag, I'm supposing because of all the percolating going on.