Happy Valentine’s Day! I shared the other day on my mental health blog about loving one’s self. Here I’d like to share one way to love someone special. Bake a cake! And if you are concerned about not feeding your family artificial dyes and ingredients, here’s one way to have your cake and eat it, too. I have made red velvet cupcakes before using beets to color them. This Valentine’s I tried out a red velvet cake with no food coloring.
Last week I was helping Little Bird with a science kit, and we were learning about acids, bases, and ph. We experimented with adding acidity (in the form of citric acid and vinegar) and baking soda (with is alkaline) to water colored with red cabbage powder. The acid made it more vibrantly red and the base made it more purple. No wonder red velvet has something acidic like lemon juice and/or vinegar in it! It also made me wonder if too much baking powder was the reason the red velvet potato bundt cake I tried to make came out purple/brown. (I love learning more of the science behind baking.)
I consider this more a recipe review than a super polished recipe. But I wanted to share none the less. I have only made it one time, and would tweak it some more to make it a little lighter. I used the suggested cream cheese, but found it way too dense, for my preference. I would replace that with buttermilk, and use more eggs. I reduced the sugar by half, in both the cake and the frosting. Next time I might play around with non-refined sweeteners.
This recipe is adapted slightly from a post from sophistimom. I did not change her method, so follow the link for the instructions. Here are my notes, however:
Starting with raw beets seems more labor intensive, but my past results using packaged, pre-cooked and peeled beets did not work as well.
My Vitamix did not process the beets well, as it wasn't full enough or liquid enough. My old Kitchen Aid food processor worked great, and I wish I would have started with it from the beginning.
I found it too dense and heavy with the cream cheese. I suggest buttermilk, which I will use next time.
I used 4 eggs as called for in the original recipe. Next time I will increase it to 6. My mom suggested separating the eggs, beating them separately to give it more leavening from the egg whites, and then folding them in.
I accepted another cooking challenge from Melissa’s Produce! This box arrived with beautiful winter fruit including Korean pears, mandarin oranges, and red grapes. It also included a package of steamed and peeled chestnuts. I learned making a chestnut bundt cake that prepping chestnuts can be a pain in the butt. But I also learned how delicious chestnut puree can be. I used the same gluten-free cashew/almond crust I made up for a lemon meringue tart (using my meyer lemon curd.) It can be made with butter, but this time I used coconut oil, which inspired me to make the whole tart vegan. Normally I would’ve considered mixing the chestnut puree with some whipped cream, but coconut oil and coconut milk made for a delicious vegan chestnut cream. By sweetening with only a little maple syrup, the whole delicious dessert qualifies as practically health food!
This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce, who supplied the featured ingredients free of charge. Recipe and opinions are my own! The box also included steamed beets, potatoes and a copy of “DYP’s The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook.” Among the inspiring recipes was a chocolate potato cake. I experimented with a red velvet potato cake. Unfortunately, it fell far short of being blog worthy. Sometimes I can spin a failure, such as my zucchini bread pudding, but there are also many, many recipes that just don’t make the cut. Being a recipe developer means taking risks. I only share the best of the best recipes — ones I want to make again and hope you might want to try, too.
Fortunately, this chestnut tart was a keeper! If you, like me, look for opportunities to bring your children into the kitchen, this is also a perfect dessert recipe. This tart crust is simply pressed into the pans. No finicky pastry dough or rolling out. My three-year old enjoyed pressing the dough. She loved decorating the tarts with the fruit, and sampling the fruit as she went along.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar)
A gluten free almond and cashew crust holds an irresistible chestnut cream. Topped with fresh seasonal fruit. Using only a little maple syrup to sweeten yields a winter decadence you don't have to feel guilty about.
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond meal
1 cup cashew meal
¼ tsp salt
6.5 oz peeled, steamed chestnuts
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic lemon zest
3 cups fresh fruit, such as mandarins, korean pears, grapes
Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, cashew meal, almond meal and salt. Using your hands, press the mixture into one 11 in tart pan or 5 4 in individual tart pans. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
In a food processor, mix chestnuts, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and lemon zest until very smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.
Spoon the chestnut cream into the cooled tart shells and smooth the top. Decorate with fresh fruit. Can be enjoyed immediately or refridgerated up to 3-4 days.
Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah starts tonight, the evening of December 16th. And no celebration is complete without latkes! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Whole Foods La Jolla, this year’s latkes are inspired by another Jewish tradition: bagels and lox. Papa Bird’s famous smoked salmon, a shmear of crème fraîche, capers and home-made pickled sweet onions topped our latkes.
My daughter’s favorite book right now is a silly story about runaway latkes that sing and roll off to see the town. She loved helping put the potatoes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and onion into the food processor. She also mixed up the eggs and the batter. Kitchen helpers get the spoils of tasting the first batch, hot in the kitchen!
Here are some of my top latke making tips:
Use a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.
Peanut oil is great for frying. I used a mix of peanut and Avocado oil.
My house usually smells of oil for days after making latkes. This year I closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened the door from the kitchen to the outside, and had the exhaust fan on high. Success!
There is no need to make balls or patties. Just plop a spoonful of batter in the pan. The latkes will be lighter, lacier and crisper.
Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.
I have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.
Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
8 oz butter, room temperature
½ cup honey
8 egg yolks
Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.
Get all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!
No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.
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My sister Marjorie has been making a fresh cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving since she was a teenager. She shares her recipe for easy cranberry clementine sauce every year, since I never write it down. I’m happy to share it here because now I will be able to look it up next November, too! This is also a fun recipe to make with kids.
Hi! I started Baby Birds Farm after the birth of my first daughter. I started sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from our garden, eggs from our chicken, and homemade cheeses from our goat milk co-op. Fast forward a few years, another daughter, another business, and now we are just surviving and enjoying our busy life and food as much as we can. Join our journey of good food, farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego and healthy living!
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Abigail Burd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist, provides women's mental health in San Diego, CA. Specialities include managing anxiety and depression during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Learn more about my practice in Clairemont (San Diego) at AbigailBurdLCSW.com.