Chocolate Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Almond Butter Frosting

Raise your hand if you know someone who has food allergies.

About 5 years ago, my mom began to develop some serious sensitivities to lactose and wheat. To manage her symptoms, basically had to stop eating all her favorite foods. I can’t even imagine not being able to grab a brownie at the end of a meal, or having to pass up cake at a celebration. My mom is completely a trooper, but ever since she started cutting food groups out of her diet I have been trying to find ways to bring back the treats she loves so much. Of course, she has found her own modifications. She makes herself a version of Cake in a Cup that she really enjoys, and she eats that most of the time when other people are having ice cream or cheesecake. But I think everyone needs more than one or two desserts they can eat. Variety is the spice of life!

Last week was her birthday, and what I really wanted to give her was an allergy-friendly cake that is every bit as delicious as cake that contains butter and wheat flour. I don’t think it’s a credit to any cake when someone says that it’s “good for being gluten free.” And if that’s all you can eat? It just doesn’t seem fair to be stuck with something that’s not great, period.

I’ve been testing recipes for several years now, trying to come up with a few varieties that fit the bill. The main challenges I have faced are that a) most wheat-free recipes depend on dairy for flavor and texture, b) frosting really is better with butter, and c) it’s challenging to find alternative flours that behave at all similarly to regular AP flour and don’t taste…funky. I solve these issues in different ways depending on the kind of cake I want to make, and if you are curious, I would be happy to chat with you about the specifics.

For now, I will just say, try these cupcakes! While they do require some specialty ingredients, you will just need those anyway if you love someone with food allergies. This recipe is just as easy to make as anything that includes wheat or dairy, and all I can say about them is YUM! The texture is perfect and the flavor is wonderful (assuming you like almonds and/or are not allergic to nuts).

My mom loved these chocolate almond cupcakes, and so will you!

Continue Reading

Melitzanosalata (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

Maybe I am alone in this, but I still have the munchies. But maybe you, too, have a hard time cutting out all snacks entirely, simply because we have crossed the threshold into 2012…maybe your holiday munching mode can’t be switched on and off that easily.

Never fear…I bring you good news of great, healthy snackage: eggplant dip. Now I know that description may have just freaked you out, but I’ve brought it to many a football party and had people go, “Hey, this is great! What is this, guacamole?” (It doesn’t really bear any resemblance to guac, but hopefully you get the point that eggplant dip is super tasty and not at all weird.)

This dip is, as you may have guessed from the name, Greek. I first sampled it when my Greek neighbor brought it to a potluck, and I was immediately in love! I asked her for the recipe, but as with many traditional dishes that are passed down through families, her list of ingredients went something like: “and squeeze a lemon or two, and add some parsley, and you can put in a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream if you want to…” Being a bit anal retentive, myself, I tried to probe further about the specific ingredients and amounts she actually used the time I got to taste the dip, but to no avail. She was, however, very specific about using Japanese eggplants, which are much thinner and have fewer bitter seeds than Italian or American eggplants.

Ultimately, I took her sketchy list of ingredients and combed through recipes online to come up with my own version of roasted eggplant dip. My favorite part about this dip, aside from how simple it is to make, is that it’s very allergy-friendly: no wheat, no dairy, no nuts, and no eggs. Hooray!

Melitzanosalata will curb your snack cravings without completely breaking your shiny new diet plan.

Continue Reading

Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy New Year!

What is it about fresh starts that is so exciting, so full of promise? I made like 10 resolutions this year (of course, about 5 of them are already shot…oops).

Like…well, every American after the holiday season is over (ahem), several of my resolutions centered around eating well and getting back in shape. If you are anything like me, you might also be looking to detox a little from all the cookies and appetizers and late night slices of pie. So…let’s roast some squashes and fill them with quinoa!

This meal is is the perfect answer to any New Year’s resolution. It’s filling and tasty, and so healthy! It’s vegan and gluten free, low-fat, high awesomeness. And the best part? Quinoa is a super grain: both whole grain and protein! (Though, of course, if you don’t have quinoa, you could also use brown rice or even couscous.)

Stuffed squash is so simple to make (er, if you don’t count how much chopping is involved), and you could serve this for a sophisticated lunch, a main course at dinner, or even a side. It is a little sweet, a little spicy, a little tart, a little crunchy, and full of my favorite veggies.

By the way, I made this meal for the first time with my friend Sarah. You can read about her take on the recipe, and maybe even about what a scatterbrained cook I am (she’s fantastic, though…when I got to her house, she had already chopped up her ingredients and put them in cute little bowls! I was amazed), at her blog, Well Dined!

Continue Reading

Chipotle Sweet Potato Chili

So I haven’t posted in a week…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! In fact, it’s been kind of a frenzy of kitchen activity over here, between meals with visiting relatives (over 20 in all!) and Christmas dinner…lots of spicy, herb-y yumminess going on.

I wish I hadn’t missed the chance to share about our awesome Christmas dinner with you, but at least now we can prepare for a New Year’s extravaganza! I’m talking about awesome dips, chili, and…well maybe you have had enough of cookies for the time being 🙂

This spicy crockpot chili is a perfect dish to celebrate New Years with. Why? It’s quick and flavorful, it’s hearty but healthy, and it will complement the plethora of appetizers usually appearing around this time of year, from pimento dips to fresh salsa. The best part? Because this chili is made in the crockpot, it only takes about 10 minutes of effort at the beginning of the day, leaving you free to hang out with friends and relatives, or deal with whatever other dishes you have planned.

Continue Reading

Thai Red Curry with Tempeh

How high is your spicy tolerance?

Mine is apparently a lot lower than I thought…and more surprisingly, so is Dave’s! Despite this, I think that Thai curry is going to become one of our go-to meals. And don’t worry, I will share with you what I learned about the right proportions of curry paste to coconut milk so that you do not set your tongue and lips ablaze when making this for yourself!

The beautiful thing about stir-fry meals is that they are endlessly adaptable. Your ingredients can change with the seasons! It’s a cinch to transition from serving 4 to serving 8—all you have to do is chop some extra veggies and cook up some extra rice. And what makes this all possible? Tins of prepared curry paste, which you can buy in most supermarkets (or, at your local Lotte/GrandMart/HMart).

I know, I know, normally I do not go in for many things that come prepared. I prefer to make my food the hard way 🙂 But I promise you, the only way to make great Thai food in your own kitchen without buying at least 20 ingredients you aren’t sure how to use except in the dish you bought them for, and without spending 4 hours chopping and sautéeing to make a meal for 2, is to buy a tin of Maesri.

As a side note, this meal also works really well for non-vegetarians. Just substitute thinly sliced chicken or pork for the tempeh. But…I definitely recommend being brave and trying tempeh if you never have! Made from whole soybeans, it is high in protein and fiber, and it is much more similar to the texture of meat than tofu (which I personally hate), and it has some of the umami savory taste of meat. Try it! I bet you’ll like it.

Continue Reading

Salad of the Week: Sesame Sprout Green Salad

I love vegetables. Especially green ones. So when I looked in my fridge this week, and I realized that (except for tomatoes) all of my vegetables were green, I decided to take advantage of the beauty photosynthesis provided me and combine it all in a salad.

Baby spinach, broccoli, green peppers…what more could a salad ask for? Sprouts, you say? Why yes…those are here, too!

For those of you that are afraid of sprouts, let me just set the record straight. They are wonderful, both on sandwiches and salads. You think they are stringy, but actually they are crisp and delightful. They add a little moisture to a salad, a little intrigue. I prefer milder varieties, such as alfalfa sprouts or clover sprouts. Of course, you could leave them off of this salad, but you would be missing out!

Continue Reading

Greek Caponata

My husband and I don’t have a cable plan at our house. This is really no big deal, as Hulu keeps us knee deep in shows to waste time watching. The main drawback for me is that the Food Network hasn’t really caught on to the online episodes trend. Sure, they do have some episodes online, but for a very limited number of shows…and the episodes posted never seem to change.


So what happens is that every time I get near a TV that has the Cooking Channel or the Food Network, I become attached to it and I soak up every second possible of Ina and Giada and whoever else is on. Sometimes, I get really lucky with a great, figure friendly, vegetarian dish like this Greek Caponata, which I saw one glorious December day on Everyday Italian, and have waited anxiously to make once warm-weather vegetables were readily available. Which is now!

Continue Reading

Multigrain Granola

It’s so hard to find a good granola or trail mix when you don’t like fruit. Growing up, I was constantly chewing the yogurt off of the yogurt-covered raisins, or meticulously picking out the dried cranberries and holding them in my hand to throw away later.

So imagine my dismay when I got wind of the Greek yogurt craze: thick, creamy, fat-free yogurt (yay!) mixed with granola (uh-oh) and berries (danger!). I avoided the berries altogether and managed to find a granola that consisted entirely of oats and nuts…and a lot of high-fructose corn syrup. So I made a mental note that I’d better find a way to make my own granola.

As you probably know, granola is incredibly versatile. As I was searching the interblags for recipes, I came across so many different combinations that honestly, it took me 2 weeks to decide on what ingredients I wanted to include in my own version and buy what I didn’t already have. I knew I wanted something more complex than just rolled oats and almonds–surely there is something better out there for us fruit-haters!

Continue Reading

Creamy Hummus

This last week has been one of the most stressful weeks in my memory. I had two final projects due at the very beginning of the week (gah…30-page papers!), and I had to give quizzes to my students…then they had a meltdown about the quizzes, so I had to improvise my subsequent lessons so I could help them return to a calmer, more confident place. Anyone that knows me knows that I worship planning. Improvising freaks the crap out of me (yikes…maybe teaching is not my calling).

I also made many failed recipes recently: caramel sauce (I decided to refrigerate it so it would set faster…which caused it to bec0me extremely hard, more like toffee) followed by caramel candies (way stickier than I thought…ultimately a great, stretchy, sticky mess), golden gazpacho (is it supposed to taste like you are eating a grainy, raw tomato?), and last-minute microwave brownies (I know…that sounds like a horrible idea…and apparently when you halve the recipe, it actually IS a horrible idea). How frustrating! I keep trying to make great foods, but they are not coming out as intended!

However, I did have one minor success this week: Creamy Hummus!

I actually made a small gaffe on this recipe, as well (note to self: don’t start cooking 3 minutes after waking up). I made a double recipe of this hummus to serve to my students on quiz day…but in my sleepy stupor, I forgot to add the cumin! I actually didn’t notice this when I was sampling the hummus during school, though I thought the garlic was stronger than I remembered from the previous time I’d made it. Fortunately, none of my students (even those that grew up eating hummus regularly) noticed!

Continue Reading