Comfort Baking: Olive Oil Cake

My son and daughter-in-law visited so I baked a cake. I was flipping through magazines and so I baked a cake. I was looking through my news-feed and had to bake a cake. I sense a pattern here. I’m thinking I might be baking a cake in the near future as well.

I finally got around to making this cake. I was looking for the magazine that had created a recipe for veggie sauce with the mouth feel of ground meat. I had attached a note to the front of the magazine with the names and page numbers of recipes I wanted to try and this one was there. This turned out well, having a grown-up taste, not too sweet and quite moist. It is possible that I under-baked it by 5 minutes but that did not affect our enjoyment of the cake. The problem with this cake is that it was so easy to slice off a sliver each time one walked by it.

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest (I used orange zest; the second time I used lime zest. Stick to lemon or orange)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk.)

Oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 inch spring-form pan. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl whip eggs on medium speed (stand mixer with whisk attachment) until foamy about one minute. Add sugar and zest increasing speed to high and beating for about 3 minutes. Reduce speed back to medium and slowly pour in oil, mix only one minute. Add ½ the flour mixture about one minute. Add milk and mix for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix for one minute. Of course, you are scraping down the sides of the bowl during the addition of the flour and milk. Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Bake 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing. Supposedly let this cool completely before slicing. Hah!

And here’s another cake: Guinness Chocolate Cake in honor of St. Patrick’s Day but really because it was a Friday and I got home from work. For this one I made a Bailey’s Buttercream and not a cream cheese frosting.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1875-chocolate-guinness-cake

Thoughts:

Weight loss is out the window. With all this Coronavirus Pandemic, hunkering down, figuring out how to work from home, how worried should I be, binge-watching Netflix for escapism, I eat what I want. I apparently bake and eat cakes too! See above. We re-watched the whole Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD set. There’s a situation that puts this in perspective. I would have liked to put one of those images and quotes here but am not sure how or if things are copyrighted.

It’s all about priorities and enjoying life. I like to learn about food. I like to do new things with vegetables to eat more of them. I like to bake and cook. I am reasonably healthy and not too overweight. I do not want to add more anxiety in this day and time with regard to the food I eat.

Maybe I’ll get back on the weight loss train sometime later this year. One day at a time.

Scones for Hubby

Food: More Scones

One weekend I seemed to spend all my time in the kitchen. I decided to bake as well as cook. Hubby likes scones and I remembered a recipe that I had made once. It took me a bit of time to locate it in my various recipe notebooks but I did.

Basically scones appear to be made up of 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, salt, 1/3 cup butter-like substance and 1 cup cream, and then flavor ingredients if using. The recipe I made is one touting itself as “healthier” with supposedly lower calories, lower fat content, and the like. This healthier tagline does not mean a hill of beans when Hubby eats half the pan in one sitting! And Hubby likes cranberry as the flavor ingredient but failed to remind me we have oodles of frozen whole cranberries in our possession.

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter (the healthier original called for trans-fat-free buttery spread)
  • 1 cup + 2 Tab. Yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (the original called for ½ cup raspberries)
  • ¼ cup candied ginger bits (the original called for mini chocolate chips)

Mix flours, baking powder, and baking soda in large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix in the cranberries and ginger bits. Mix yogurt and honey and then mix with the flour mixture. This will be very soft dough. Pat out onto a floured surface and knead 2 to 3 times. Roll into a circle or square to about ½ inch thickness. Or pat with your floured hands. Cut into shapes or a circle to cut into wedges. I have a scone pan so I made a square and then cut into four squares and then four triangles per square. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. You can sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top before baking but I did not.

These are quite tasty. They are best the day made but not too bad the next day either.

Thoughts: Stay Home and Stay Safe!

I am working hard at following my professional training on staying calm, maintaining hope, finding meaning, and practicing good public hygiene during this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Reading the news constantly has not been a good plan for my mental health. The public agency that I work for has deemed me essential. The folk we work with are in need of knowing that there are people to talk to who care who have not just shut the doors. The agency worked very hard and quickly to manage a part-time work from home which we have begun. Most of our face-to-face is for crisis and emergency management.  Most of the work now is phone contact for health promotion, supportive counseling, prompting self-care, and making sure people have access to basic needs such as medicine, food, and shelter as well as connecting with those living alone who have invisible struggles.

For myself personally I found the virtual church service this morning was a blessing. I did not expect it to be but lately I find I am often surprised by joy spiritually.

Hubby and my walks are around our neighborhood. People are walking their dogs or just themselves. We all wave and maintain social distancing standards. But the fresh air is good, and getting up off the couch, and a change of venue from the four walls!

Take care of yourselves. Follow social distance guidelines. Do not hoard supplies. Find comfort in faith, family, and friends. We are all in this together and will weather the storm. One day at a time and any other ways we manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to get through.

And don’t forget to wash those hands!

two pounds in two months!

Part A: dessert

So I made brownies. I am not always making brownies but they are easy to make and almost always good. I like fudgy brownies. I was thinking of making brownies all week but had run out of eggs. And we were not going to shop until the weekend. I waited. Then after buying 5 dozen eggs at the Walmart (the regular eggs were all packaged in Styrofoam which I do not like to buy) I made brownies. I decided to try Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies which claim to be fudgy and “ooiey”. https://altonbrown.com/alton-brown-brownie-recipe/ and/or https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe-2085484

I do not have a kitchen scale. I’m not that precise a baker. So I guess-timated the amounts of ingredients as he gives them in weights. These turned out very gooey. I did use the thermometer because I could not tell if they were actually done. We ate these while warm which meant they could not actually be picked up. They fell apart. Apparently that was not a problem in that we ate most of them! The next day they could be picked up and they were still very fudgy and very rich. Beating the eggs for a few minutes really does make a difference in producing the shiny crust on top. If I make these again I will bake them at 350 degrees F and not the 300 degrees in his directions. Here’s what I did.

  • 4 large eggs.
  • Scant 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar.
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Beat eggs for 2-3 minutes. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add the sugar mixture and mix, then the melted butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. The pan is 9 inch square, sprayed and lined with parchment so the parchment overhangs two sides by 2 inches. This will be used to lift the brownies from the pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Mine took 55 minutes and I had to use the thermometer to be sure they were done. Alton Brown says this should register at 195. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then lift out. Cut into 9 squares. Actually you could cut into smaller squares as these are very rich. Even letting them cool for that bit of time, lifting them out was difficult because they were so soft.

ooey-gooey brownies

Part B: two months of weight loss

Hah! Brownies are not good for weight loss. Eating Oreo cookies is not good either. And not counting calories appears to be my downfall. For the past two weeks I stopped counting calories. Counting calories makes me accountable for

  1. How many Oreos I eat,
  2. How many glasses of wine I pour myself,
  3. Portion controlling potato chips, crackers and cheese, and other late night-TV watching snacks,
  4. Not having seconds at meals.

So I have actually gained back the 2 pounds lost in January. I have a net loss of HALF a POUND! The good news is that I have lost 2.5 pounds since last summer and at times will weigh at a 5 pound loss since then. The inconsistency is frustrating.

So now I ask myself what to do. I want to bake and I want to enjoy my food. Yes, I should not be eating Oreos or Potato Chips, but I want to make a cake once in a while. I want to make new and interesting vegetable dishes.

Life is too short to not eat dessert!

Eat Your Vegetables!

In my endeavor to eat healthy and lose weight I am trying to put more vegetables in our meals. I find it difficult to eat the daily recommendations of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. That is unless I eat a salad which is 2-3 in one. In winter I find it harder to find salads appealing. I don’t hold to the idea of restricting vegetables in my quest. I will eat peas, potatoes, and carrots and not consider them too starchy, even though they might be. Beans are a vegetable and I am talking the canned variety of kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and the like. Even corn.

To this end I have been renting books from the library searching for interesting and easy ways to add fresh and frozen vegetables to our meals. We usually add frozen mixed vegetable to noodles, leftovers, chili, and casseroles. We dry roast them in a skillet with onion and seasoning too. But now I am looking for variety.

Jacques Pepin and Julia Child are two of my favorite chefs for reading about them and their recipes. My neighbor gave me her extra produce from one of those produce delivery services that touts themselves as reducing food waste. I hope it is true. There were two misshapen but perfectly good butternut squash. And there was a recipe for Butternut Squash Sauté in More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin (page 136). So I made that. Hubby had the task of peeling and cutting the squash and almost cut his finger off doing so! The dish was tasty. I did not take a picture of it; we ate it. And then I put the leftovers in a recipe for Lentils and Sweet Potatoes using the squash as substitute for the sweet potatoes. I did not take a photo of that one either.

Here is a photo of a vegetable dish: French Style Peas

This recipe is from One Pot Vegetarian by Sabrina Faude-Role. I modified the recipe a bit using baby broccoli instead of spring onions and used homemade vegetable broth instead of a vegetable stock cube. And it was tasty! Who knew one could cook lettuce!

  • Frozen peas, I had half a bag so about 1 ½ cups
  • One bunch baby broccoli, stems and all, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 8 ounces vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • A grind or two of pepper
  • 6 lettuce leaves

Put everything in a sauce pot, bring to boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Voila!

Now I have many many cookbooks and many have vegetable recipes. The glory of renting books from the library is trying them out to determine if any are worth getting for one’s own kitchen library. That one pot book is for me. It is not Vegan but all vegetables; and grains and pasta and a few more things like plant based proteins. There are even some desserts.

Who is Sally Lunn?

Food:

It was a weekend and I wanted to bake. Bread should be better than cake when counting calories, don’t you think? I looked through several cookbooks and finally settled on one from my handy-dandy Fleischmann’s Yeast Booklet from long ago. I have wanted to bake this particular bread for a long time but have never done so. It looks like a cake and is in the “no-knead” chapter. One of my other cookbooks explained that the origin is probably French and is popular in the South here in America. The Smithsonian magazine site relates that she may be a French pastry chef who sought refuge in England or a different woman, or even from Sun and Moon as descriptive of appearance. Others say it was one of George Washington’s favorites. Read all about it here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/colonial-recipes-sally-lunn-cake-82438919/

Whatever its origin it sounds of interest to me and I set out to bake. No knead breads are batter breads. This recipe made one large loaf baked in a tube pan, the kind used for Angel Food Cake.

  • ½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F); I got to use my new instant read thermometer which was not very “instant”; hmmm?
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used unsweetened oat milk)
  • ½ cup softened butter; okay, I nuked it for 20-30 seconds ( this apparently is a no-no but works for me in a pinch)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, well-beaten at room temperature; I put the eggs in a bowl of warmish water to take the chill off
  • 5 ½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Put the warm water in the big bowl of the stand mixer (KitchenAid fitted with the dough hook) and sprinkle the yeast and stir to dissolve. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt and eggs and beat until well blended about one minute. Stir in enough flour to make soft dough. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled, about one hour. So my kitchen is not a warm place. Hubby suggested I bring the bowl into the living room near the fireplace but I was afraid it would rise too fast. So I went off to the library and let it rise almost 1 ½ hours.

Grease well the tube pan. This needs to be a 10-inch pan and not a smaller decorative one. Stir the batter down, it basically needed to be gently pounded by the wooden spoon for this. My batter was all in one piece so I “poured” it into the tube pan and stretched it around to fit the circle. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Very yummy!

Thoughts: Also about food

I am hungry! I continue to count calories but find that I go over the weight loss amount regularly now. And it is not from the empty calories from drink. I’m not even eating a lot of sweets. How can I enjoy food and cooking this way? I don’t want to not pay attention to what I eat because I tend to put on weight that way. So far, I am not gaining but not losing either. Here is a typical work day’s food intake:

  • coffee, black
  • egg and cheese on English Muffin
  • leftover chili or vegetable curry, one cup
  • orange
  • 17 whole almonds
  • homemade sausage, peppers, and onions, one cup, if that
  • hamburger bun for sandwiching the sausage and peppers
  • handful of potato chips
  • dates for a sweet treat after dinner
  • glass of red wine at bar for Trivia night

Okay, so the potato chips were not the best choice. The dates add up as well but they are very nutritious. But this is not a lot of food. And this put me over the “limit” by at least 300 calories! Some mornings Hubby fixes oatmeal for me and sometimes I have yogurt for lunch. But I am still hungry.

One night we had grilled steak (4-6 ounces), sauteed squash, and Caesar salad with red wine and sat around the table having a nice conversation. The calorie count was over 50% of the allotted amount. And we only added a piece of fruit for dessert.

How can I keep this up? Yet I don’t want to give up. We’ll see at the end of the month what the scale says. Stay tuned.

Super Bowl “junk food” and Weight Loss

Part A: food

So I wandered around the library again and checked out 6 books; four of them were on food and cooking. So I made chili. I made this recipe because it has cocoa as an ingredient and I thought that was interesting. I read the recipe, jumped up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to cook. I had all the ingredients in the pantry. I rarely make chili the same way twice. I vary up the beans, or meat, and who ever heard of measuring spices!

  • Meat, one pound ground beef, browned in a skillet
  • One onion, chopped, sauté in large skillet with some oil
  • Add 3 cloves garlic, minced, along with the following
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds
  • Now add 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes with the juice
  • 2 cups pinto beans, drained
  • 2 ½ cups broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

Cover the pot, simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is adapted from the book Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning (2017).

This freezes well and we also served this for our Super Bowl Junk Food Meal as a dip for tortilla chips. There it is in the bowl in the middle. We also made two kind of wings, a yogurt dip and veggie sticks.

Part B: thoughts on Weight Loss Journey Month One

I made a lot of changes to my routine in January. So the 2 pounds lost cannot be attributed to just one factor. I’m hoping month two will keep the momentum going. At times I had lost 2 ½ pounds but one cannot trust the ½ pound. It was not consistent.

Two pounds in a month’s time seems like paltry results to me. It is not enough to be a natural motivator. If it had been five…maybe. February adds the addition of more mental effort to keep going. I must remind myself it is not just weight loss but health I seek. Here are the things added/deleted last month that are all factors in the two pound loss:

  • Circuit training twice a week: 20-30 minutes
  • One vegetarian/vegan main dish for dinner each week
  • 45-60 minute hikes each weekend outdoors with Hubby
  • Counting calories daily
  • Taking an Apple Cider Vinegar capsule and a Turmeric capsule daily
  • Weighing self-several times per week, if not daily
  • Dry January eliminating all alcohol

Going forward into February what might change? Depending on the weather hikes may not always be feasible. I will add back a drink or two occasionally. I’m not ready to give up yet, but would like not to feel so restricted in what I plan for meals and snacks. Baking seems entirely out of the question. There is a birthday in February. though; I might bake a cake!

May blessings to all of you.

On Food and Drink and not-Drinking

In sticking with my commitment to Dry January my new mock-tail is the Not So Dark and Stormy. I like the taste of Ginger Beer. My sister does not. Ginger ale is okay but can be sweet tasting, even the diet version.  Ginger Beer tastes more grown-up. So my drink is really not a Not So Dark and Stormy from the internet recipes. I had to look that up so I would know whether I made this up. I probably made my mock-tail but apparently not the name.

I found a six-pack of diet Ginger Beer at my local Walmart and after a few seconds of deliberation put it in the grocery cart. When I make the boozy cocktail I use spiced dark rum. I think to myself, “Self, why not spiced tea?” I have been enjoying chai type spiced tea from various brands but I prefer the non-caffeinated types. So I brew a strong cup of tea and let it sit until room temperature. Basically leave the tea bag in this whole time. Put ice in a tall glass, pour to half full with the tea and top off with Ginger Beer. Nice and refreshing! A lime twist would be the finishing touch but I did not have any.

The above is not a dish one should have on a weight loss eating plan. Pie crust is fat and flour and how can that be diet friendly? But I have only the top crust on this pot pie which is mostly vegetables anyway. I was debating between a quiche and a pot pie. I tried to roast the veg but they just cooked in the oven. I had one small and thin frozen chicken breast and diced this up to sauté with half an onion. And it worked well in the cast iron skillet; goes from stove top to oven in seconds!

  • ½ very large bag Asian stir-fry vegetables ( discard or save sauce packet for later), roasted
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 chicken breast, or more if you prefer, diced
  • Olive oil for the skillet
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk + ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • Seasoning of choice, I used a salt-free combination from a craft booth at the RV show similar to Mrs. Dash
  • One ready-made pie crust

Roast vegetables. Sauté onion and chicken in skillet with oil. Sprinkle with flour and add liquid and seasonings. Simmer slightly. Stir in the roasted vegetables. Make lattice with pie crust and put on top. I sprayed the crust with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkled more seasoning on top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes. Hubby said he wasn’t particularly hungry but he ate his portion happily.

Thoughts from my kitchen table:

What have I been thinking about these past weeks: Results of Dry January.

Dry January is supposed to have health benefits including improved sleep, improved mood, saving money, brighter skin, stronger immune system, more energy, and weight loss and better liver function. I can’t measure the liver function but let’s evaluate the rest.

  • I have not noticed any improvement in my sleep. Sometimes I sleep well, sometimes I don’t. This has not changed.
  • Improved mood: not particularly. But maybe. I don’t feel like going to work some days but that is because Hubby is home and I would like to be retired. I may have been feeling a little down at the first part of the month but that may have been post-holiday blues. My December was full of activities including a trip to Jamaica to see my son get married. And that was a fun time. My sister and her husband came out and we sat in the pool chatting, swam in the ocean, ate really good food and just relaxed. Flights got cancelled and trip home was two days instead of one. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s we had visits with all 4 children (all grown) and two grandchildren and Christmas Eve and morning in New Hampshire with the grandchildren. So the beginning of January was the start of quiet; all the activity was over. And then there is the news, of course, and that will dampen anyone’s mood!
  • Saving money: definitely. An O’Douls at the bar on Trivia night is $4 instead of $7 for a Guinness. The bottle of wine that was opened after Christmas still sits on the counter. I don’t think we’ve gone to the liquor store at all this month.
  • Brighter skin: I have no idea. I’m an older woman who has a few wrinkles as it is. I have few if any blemishes either. This one is probably a wash. Actually I only wash my face with water. I do not wear makeup so water is good, no drying soaps, and no goopy creams.
  • Stronger immune system: I had a nasty cold virus for 3-4 weeks but by the time I went to the doctor she said I was on the mend. She recommended the time honored use of turmeric, ginger, and honey from the wisdom of grandmothers. This depends on who is your grandmother. Mine would have recommended chicken soup and hot tea with lemon and honey, not to mention Vicks Vaporub!
  • More energy: maybe. I have started sewing again. I believe I have had fewer days of coming home from work and just collapsing on the sofa. Bedtime remains at 9-9:30 PM. I have also spent more time reading in the evening and a little bit less vegging out in front of the TV. But there may be more to this than the giving up of alcohol.
  • Weight loss: 2 to 2 ½ pounds. There are a lot of factors besides giving up the drink that contribute to this. But I won’t argue with this result. More on this weight loss journey and these other factors in another post.

What I did enjoy about Dry January was the “not feeling impaired” sensation after having a drink. Not that I get drunk or even tipsy, but I can feel the alcohol after even one drink sometimes, especially a mixed drink. This is probably the buzz that people seek and enjoy. The recommended about of alcohol for women is one drink per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. It is easy for me to have two glasses of wine in an evening and even if not every night this still can add up to more than 7 glasses a week. I also enjoyed the search for non-alcoholic drinks. I plan to seek out non-alcoholic beers to enjoy as well as drinking more Ginger Beer (diet, no need for empty calories). I’m sure my liver and brain will thank me.

Oh and I broke my fast on January 31st (as planned) with a glass of a nice red wine blend. at a gathering with friends over salad, pizza, and a fabulous dessert.

Now that my commitment is over I can have a drink whenever I choose to. But do I really want to? I am hoping that how much and how often changes.