Sunday, July 24, 2016

Finally, a decent gluten-free cupcake!

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to make desserts for my friend Felicity's wedding shower. As she and I are both trying to cut down on our gluten intake, I decided to take another run at gluten-free baking. I mean, it's not like a wedding shower is a high pressure situation, suitable for a first attempt at a new recipe, right? ;) So I decided to make a few dozen mini peach tartlets and a couple dozen carrot cupcakes -- all gluten-free. And much to my delight, both came out deliciously. Things turned out so well, that I actually am whipping up another batch of cupcakes right now, which I'll be bringing to a pool party after work tomorrow. Just a dozen this time around.

Here, for your gluten-free recipe box, is a little something I adapted from the Divas Can Cook blog. I think even the decidedly un-diva-like Bugs Bunny would approve of these....

Gluten-free Carrot Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or milk + a splash of white wine vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2-2 cups carrots, finely shredded (I used a little over 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, finely shredded
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 TBSP butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar (may need more to thicken if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. (Or if it's my not-so-great electric oven, 375F. Don't ask.)

Prep a dozen muffin tins with paper liners (or grease with a thin layer of butter, then dust with flour.)

In a large bowl beat oil, both sugars, and eggs. Set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix just until just combined.

Fold in shredded carrots, coconut flakes, and vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. (I used a 1/4 cup measure.)
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, then cool in baking pan on a wire rack on the counter.

Prepare the frosting by first creaming together the butter and cream cheese.

Add in the confectioners sugar and vanilla.

Mix until silky and creamy. Add more sugar if a thicker texture is needed.

When cupcakes, are cooled remove them from pans and frost.

Note: Unfrosted cupcakes will keep on the counter for 1-2 days, or in the fridge for a handful of days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in the freezer for a couple of months.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A recipe for venison

For years I have listened to gardeners and farmers in rural areas complain about deer eating their crops (or in the case of my ex-boyfriend's mom, their hostas). Seems people try all kinds of things, from scattering powdered wildcat urine -- I can't help but wonder what the job must be like to gather said urine -- to draping human hair around the perimeter to hanging bars of Irish Spring soap nearby, to deter the gentle but hungry ruminants.

I never had to deal with deer myself until I started working with a school garden within long-range spitting distance of Rock Creek Park this past fall. One day in mid-October, students and I planted a 3-foot by 20-foot block of kale seedlings; the next day half of them were chomped down to about 2 inches above the soil. Now, that's just rude. A mass planting of garlic around the perimeter of the single long garden bed seemed to help, but I didn't want to take chances with the other half of my crop so I invested in a few rolls of deer netting. (Really, though, they should call it human netting, since more often than not students and I got ourselves tangled in it during the harvesting process.)

I've just worked with volunteers to build and plant a few more garden beds at the school, but without a protective garlic border around each of the 8 new beds I fear I might need to do something to supplement the deer netting loosely covering the tender young veggies growing in them. Perhaps I should prominently post a recipe for venison stew... and get it translated into deerspeak?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A german feast!

I was sad to have my friend Tinka head home to Munich earlier today, after our fun week of biking and dancing and exploring the city together and feasting. What a special treat it was to have my friend here for her birthday, when we cooked up a feast based on some recipes from the Bavarian cookbook she kindly brought me. (Seems I'm not the only one who gives other people gifts on their own birthday.)

Last weekend as we perused the farmers market, the two of us picked up fixin's to make chicken schnitzel and spaetzle. And of course since I had an extra sherpa with me at market, I went a little crazy again with the produce acquisition... which is funny, since my fridge was already stuffed with homebrew, and produce from both of my school gardens, as well as about 6 pounds of rhubarb from my landlady, but luckily I am an excellent fridge packer. Anyway, when Wednesday evening rolled around we got to work on a proper German meal, paying no mind to the fact that I was woefully underprepared for proper German cooking. How do I not yet own a spaetzle press?? At least I had a solid tenderizer:

Each of us playing to her strengths, Tinka took care of the chicken pounding and cheesy spaetzle making, while I got cracking on some veggies to make sure we didn't die of heart attacks right at the end of the meal.

It was SO delicious. But the highlight of the cooking was perhaps earlier that day, with our improbably successful German rhubarb cake, which we baked and then enjoyed with a few cocktails midday for a birthday "lunch." (I think the last time I counted drinks and dessert as a meal was some time during my senior year of college. Though at that time I didn't need a 2 1/2 hour nap right afterwards.) I say improbable because, dear readers, the recipe was the most bizarre thing I had ever read, and having never tasted -- nor even seen -- a rhubarb cake in my life, I had no idea if my interpretation of the less-than-clear directions would even come to an edible conclusion. Clearly it did, as less than half of the 10" pastry remained after lunch:

If you want to try making it yourself, here's the recipe we found online for the rhubarb topping and for the base. (Forget the meringue layer -- it's way too humid to mess with it these days.) Beware, though, as my landlady tried to recreate it twice to no avail. Let's just say the instructions are not up to the stereotypical German standards of precision. I'm thinking I need to head to Bavaria sometime soon to research this recipe further....