Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cheese Cream Frosting

Yes, this cake has vegetables in it. No, it does not taste like vegetables. It tastes like the moistest (is that even a word?) cake you’ve ever eaten in your entire life and you will die of happiness. But hopefully not before you’ve saved the recipe.

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These beets WILL NOT MAKE THE CAKE TASTE LIKE BEETS (yes, that needed to be shouted.) The beets contribute to the cake by adding sweetness and making it super moist. They also make the frosting a purpley-pink color. That is all.

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I’ve been making my own birthday cake for a few years now, and each year I want to try something new and different and a little bit crazy. So that’s where the beets came in this past birthday.

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And you may need to get on your knees to frost it. Totally worth it.

So, if you’re feeling a little crazy, go roast a few beets and throw it in some cake batter. You’ll be wondering how you ever lived a life eating cake without vegetables in it.

Originally from Joy the Baker [makes two eight-inch layer cakes]
2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

1. Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Place clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
3. Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
4. Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane. Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan. Cut it out and place inside the cake pan. Butter the parchment paper. Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
6. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
8. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
9. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the Frosting:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
2. To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. You will have extra frosting left over. Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

San Francisco Eats

My family and I just got back from three days in San Francisco. Those three days were full of amazing views, tired legs, and bursting stomachs. We ate our way through that city. As my mom proudly boasted as we drove across the Bay Bridge and headed back for home, “we vacationed like tourists but ate like locals.”

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The amazing eats were all thanks to recommendations from bloggers who live in the SF area. So without further ado, here are some of the places we ate at and deem as worthy for a visit as the Golden Gate Bridge.

1. Boudin
boudin Clam chowder in the famous San Francisco sourdough bread bowl…I really don’t think I need to say much else. This was our first meal here, and it was the perfect way to be welcomed to the home of sourdough bread.

2. Café Bunn Mi
bunnmi //photos from SF Gate//

I heard about this place from Say Yes and decided to go because you can’t say no to huge $4 crispy duck sandwiches. My family thought I was crazy because I was dragging them to some Vietnamese place and no one really knew what Vietnamese food was. Turns out that little café was the best thing to happen to us. We ordered a grilled pork sandwich, shaken beef salad, spring rolls, beef noodle soup, and even watermelon slush. AND IT WAS ALL SO GOOD. It was so delicious that we ate it all before I could take a picture.

3. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
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These people are seven time world champions, or something equally ridiculous, for their margherita pizza. So we obviously had to go and try this thing out. After eating it, I believe it deserves seven more years of victory. Tony’s only makes 73 of these pizzas a day, and it’s even topped with homemade mozzarella cheese. The pizza was so fresh and light that I actually felt good after eating it. And that’s deserving of another award.

4. Gelateria Naia
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A trip to the Italian district isn’t complete without gelato. And this stuff was good. Super fresh with AMAZING flavor. The pistachio tasted like you were eating an actual pistachio, the kiwi tasted like you were eating a real kiwi, and the chocolate orange gelato was the best thing to ever happen to this earth.

And that’s a wrap. I’m off to dream up the next place to vacation, and most importantly, eat.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

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Scones have a bad rap with some people. They can carry around a reputation of being hard, dense, and like a mouthful of sawdust. This, my friends, is wrong. Because a scone made the right way is sent from the heavens: light, buttery and melt in your mouth status. But we’re flying past the basics with this recipe and going straight to the flavor. A sweet, citrus tang from the orange, a dark, slight bitterness from the chocolate, and a tartness from the buttermilk combine together and create magic. I make these scones every year for Mother’s Day, and that’s because they’re the best.

Originally from Joy the Baker [makes about six scones]

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold buttermilk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. I use my fingers to rub the butter and dry ingredients together. In another bowl, combine egg yolk and buttermilk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.
3. Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 15 times. Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 4 large or 6 small squares. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. These are best when serve immediately with butter and jam.

Get in My Belly: Carb Edition

The favorites tab on my laptop is indecently long. And every single one of the links it contains is a recipe that I have deemed too good to not make. Some have been on that list for years, some just for a few days. But here are a few that I’m wishing I could make (and more importantly eat) this weekend, curled up with a good book and a quiet house.

Carbs, Carbs, and more Carbs
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1. Homemade soft pretzels. FIVE DIFFERENT WAYS (!!!) Let’s just say I’d be busting out the cinnamon sugar and not looking back.

2. Homemade croissants (can anyone else not spell that word, not matter how hard you try?) These are the real deal, super flaky croissants, with filling options of chocolate, pumpkin spice, or cinnamon sugar (who else just died?)

3. Blood orange loaf cake. The perfect citrus treat for summer. And that glaze makes me so happy.

Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Tzatziki

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There’s a place called The Olive Tree. The Olive Tree is a Greek/Mediterranean Café that happens to serve the best kofta kebabs ever. They’re so good that I wanted to learn how to make them so that I could have them whenever I wanted. And I am sooo glad I did because these kofta kebabs– made with ground lamb, garlic, onion, and a ton of spices– are so juicy and flavorful that you won’t even feel bad that you’re eating a little lamb. And they’re even better with tzatziki, a greek sauce made with yogurt and cucumbers. After making this dish, you’ll feel like you belong in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Originally from Food Network [makes 4-6 servings]
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1 pound ground lamb
3 tablespoons grated onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear mixture to a coarse paste. Mix the paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt with the meat, onion, parsley, and spices.
2. Line a pan with aluminum foil. Divide the meat mixture into 28 rough balls. Mold each piece around the pointed end of a skewer, making a 2-inch oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. Lay the skewers on the pan, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. (Or just stick the balls on the stick like I did because it’s way easier.)
3. Heat a grill pan over medium heat or prepare a grill. Brush the pan lightly with olive oil. Working in batches, grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki and flat bread.

Tzatziki
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 clove garlic
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled

1. If you’re using plain whole milk yogurt, line a small sieve with a coffee filter. Put the yogurt in it, set it over a bowl, and refrigerate 12 hours. Discard the expressed liquid and put yogurt in the bowl.
2. Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater into another bowl. Sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons salt and rub into the cucumber with your hands. Set aside 20 minutes, then squeeze the cucumbers to express as much liquid as possible.
3. Smash the garlic, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Stir the cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and mint into the yogurt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters with Lemon Curry Yogurt

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And now on to India! I wanted to make these because 1)fritters sound exciting 2)Indian flavors are amazing and 3)this is a type of food that I would usually never try. This recipe requires a lot of time with the grater, but it’s worth it! The fritters have a crispy exterior and although the vegetables are delicious alone, the lemon curry yogurt takes them to a whole new level with amazing flavors and a nice, acidic zest.

Originally from Smitten Kitchen [makes about 18 pancakes]
1 medium onion, peeled
1 large russet or Idaho potato, peeled
1 yam or sweet potato, peeled
1 large or 2 thin carrots, peeled
1 zucchini
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Place two nonstick baking sheets in oven.
2. Using box grater or food processor fitted with grating disc, coarsely grate onion, potatoes, carrot and zucchini and place in colander set in sink, setting aside to drain.
3. In large mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs. Whisk in flour, coriander, turmeric, and cumin. Mix in ginger, cilantro, and peas.
4. Press potatoes and onion to extract as much liquid as possible, then add to bowl. Season mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using wooden spoon or hands, mix well, but do not overwork.
5. In heavy-bottomed, 12-inch non-stick skillet over moderately high heat, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil or butter until hot but not smoking. Drop 4 scant 1/4-cup portions of potato mixture into pan and flatten with spatula to form four 3-inch pancakes.
6. Fry until bottoms are golden-brown (the color really counts on this; the darker you let it go, the more the pancake holds together – this goes for both sides.), 4 to 5 minutes, then turn over and fry until golden-brown and crisp, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season immediately with salt and pepper. Keep warm on baking sheets in oven while making remaining pancakes.
7. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out pan. And 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and fry 4 more pancakes. Repeat with remaining batter, wiping out pan and adding 1 to 2 tablespoons oil before each batch.
8. Serve pancakes hot with Curry-Lime Yogurt.

Curry Lime Yogurt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
A squeeze or two of fresh lime juice, to taste
Salt and pepper

1. Mix all ingredients together! And that’s it!

Tomato Caprese with Balsamic Vinaigrette

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This dish was the appetizer of an international dinner I made for the parents. Juicy roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a bite of basil is as Italian as you can get. And the balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect pairing to step it up a notch. This is so simple that it really doesn’t even need a recipe.

Roma tomato
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Basil leaves

1. Cut tomatoes into medium-thick slices. Cut cheese into slices and place on top tomato. Place a basil leaf onto the cheese, and there you have it. A little tower of pure, fresh food.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Ground pepper

1. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper.

Banana Oat Energy Cookies

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Let’s give it up for being home from college and having a full pantry loaded with spices and ingredients. And also for only knocking down the stack of cookies twice before I snapped a picture.

IMG_3557These cookies are healthier than most (no butter, flour, or sugar!) And, they can actually be made into banana oat energy bars by pressing them and baking in an 8×8 pan. And on top of being healthy, this is a perfect way to use up ripe bananas.

Originally from Sally’s Baking Addiction [makes about 20 cookies]
*This recipe is easily adaptable. You can cut the honey/syrup out if you want it less sweet, swap chocolate chips for coconut, or add nuts and seeds. I used peanut butter instead of almond butter, cut the amount of honey in half, and added a few teaspoons of both chia seeds and hemp hearts.

2 and 1/3 cups quick oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Grease or line large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
2. Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The dough will be sticky and thick.
IMG_35403. Each cookie will be 1.5 Tablespoons of dough. Drop this amount onto prepared cookie sheet and slightly flatten the tops into desired thickness. The cookies will not spread in the oven.
IMG_35414. Bake for 15 minutes until edges are very slightly brown. Don’t bake any longer or the cookies will taste dry. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets completely. Cookies stay fresh at room temperature for 1 week. Cookies can be frozen up to 3 months.

Egg Salad Sandwich

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IMG_3421                                                                   On homemade honey wheat bread!

I don’t know why I love egg salad sandwiches so much, but I do. And I loved them even more after I found out how easy they are to make. These are creamy and have great flavor from the chopped dill and ground pepper!

Originally from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe [makes about 5 sandwiches]
10 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 cup light or regular mayonnaise
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill, plus more to taste, if needed
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (1/2 teaspoon or so)
Salt and pepper to taste
10 slices hearty whole-grain bread

1. Cut the eggs into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add the mayo, yogurt, dill, and lemon.
2. Using a fork, combine and lightly mash the mixture until the ingredients are mixed and the eggs are the desired size. I prefer my egg salad with pretty good texture – so I try to keep the stirring/mashing to a minimum.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and lightly combine.
4. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve on sandwiches.

Lemon Cookies

Another guest post by the infamous twin sister (see her Black Bean Burgers below.) And the first dessert post on this website, which is crazy, because baking desserts is my favorite thing to do. I present to you: LEMON COOKIES!

These lemons cookies are so, so, so good. I’m definitely a chocolate lover, but these cookies don’t make me miss chocolate chips. These cookies have a shortbread quality to them, and when paired with the fresh lemon flavor, they are the perfect dessert.
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                                                          Photo from original recipe, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe [makes 2-3 dozen]
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheets with silpat liners, parchment, or lightly coat with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice and mix well, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the dry ingredients (except the powdered sugar) and mix until just combined. Place the powdered sugar on a large plate or shallow pie dish. Roll tablespoon-size balls of dough in the powdered sugar to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
3. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes. The cookies will not be browned on the edges but they will have lost a bit of their shininess on top. Don’t overbake! Cool the cookies on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container or eat immediately.