In my family growing up, chocolate cake was a rare treat. It was a birthdays-only special, and  there were only five of us, so at most we had it five times a year. In my husband's family, on the other hand, chocolate cake is a complete meal. :-) I don't know if there's much he enjoys more than a piece of chocolate cake in a bowl with milk poured over it. Needless to say, I have learned to make chocolate cake a little more often than five times a year. :-)

I have two favorite chocolate cake recipes. They both come from a great cookbook called "The Basics and More Cookbook". (More about cookbooks in a future post!) My husband's favorite is actually an oatmeal cake. It is super-moist and tastes great even without frosting. I made it three or four times before I told him that it has oatmeal in it (he doesn't like oatmeal!). The second is better if you're living in a primitive setting. Although you do need cocoa powder, you don't need butter, eggs, or milk for this yummy cake!

 

And then there's the big question - what about frosting? Powdered sugar can be difficult to find - and if you find it, beware! It could very likely taste more like soap than sugar. Are there alternatives? I have often made chocolate syrup or caramel syrup to drizzle over each slice of cake when serving. Of course fruit is a great topping, especially for other types of cake besides chocolate. :-) I have also made peanut butter "frosting" by heating PB and regular sugar together. What are some alternatives that you've used?

 

 

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

1 c. quick oats

2 c. boiling water

2 c. brown sugar

1 c. butter or oil

4 eggs

2 tsp baking soda

1 T. hot water

2 c. flour

1/3 c. cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

Pour boiling water over oatmeal. Cover and let cool. Cream sugar and butter. Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Dissolve soda in 1 Tbsp hot water and add. Add oatmeal mixture, then sifted dry ingredients. Grease a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes.

Wacky Cake - aka Egg-less, Butter-less, Milk-less Cake

3 c. flour

2 c. sugar

6 T. cocoa powder

3 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 c. water

3/4 c. oil

4 T. vinegar

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

 

Do you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe? What's your favorite way to serve cake without frosting? Or your favorite frosting recipe that doesn't use powdered sugar? Please share!!

Several weeks ago I published an article about how we eat greens, and I mentioned a curry recipe that we like. I don't like fish, but it's good in this dish. We could get a smoked fish (they called it "smoked salmon" but it wasn't actually salmon. It was really good, though.) Of course, you could make it with chicken, or even with pork or beef too. Use whatever you have available! :-)

I have a hard time sharing recipes like this, because most of the time when I'm cooking I just add a bit of this and a bit of that until it looks good. I use recipes for baked goods, but not for main dishes! So the amounts I'm giving here are "guess-timates" and you'll have to taste as you go and make it the way you like it. :-)

Fish Curry

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated

fresh ginger, about 1", grated

3 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp vinegar

1/4 c. tomato paste

Salt to taste

1 c. water or chicken broth

1 c. smoked fish or other meat (use more if you can)

1 c. chopped, cooked greens similar to spinach (or about 4 c. fresh chopped greens)

2/3 c. yogurt, milk, or coconut milk (more if needed)

Fry onion in a few tablespoons of oil until soft. Add garlic and ginger and fry a few minutes longer. Meanwhile, combine curry powder and vinegar to make a paste. Add to onion mixture and fry a few more minutes, stirring constantly to keep from burning (it's great if you have a non-stick skillet for this!). Add tomato paste, mix well. Add water and meat (and fresh greens, if that's what you're using). Simmer for 15-30 minutes to blend flavors (or long enough to cook meat, if using raw meat.) Add greens and yogurt/milk and leave over heat just until warm through. Serve over rice - or millet - or even with potatoes.

 

Do you have a favorite curry recipe?

 Whoops! Here it is Wednesday morning in my corner of the world and "Tasty Tuesday" didn't happen this week. What DID happen instead is SPRING! :-) My boys and I spent the day outside - taking a walk, having a picnic lunch, playing in the sandbox, hanging laundry on the line and just enjoying the lovely warm weather. The temperature bumped 70 degrees yesterday for the first time this year, and it made this family HAPPY!

Yet how well I know that many of you are enduring temperatures of 100 degrees or more right now, and early Spring weather seems like a far-off dream. So I will stop talking about the weather, and move on to my belated post . . .

 

I'd been in West Africa for about two months when I suddenly realized that my baby would be ready to eat solid food soon. I panicked. All I could remember my mom doing for my younger sister was adding a little water to some flakes or popping the lid on a jar of baby food. (I was only 6, so that doesn't mean that's all she DID do. But it's all I remember.) There was a type of instant food available where I lived, but it was full of sugar and milk and I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to start with. But what WAS the right thing? At the time we had limited internet, and I felt at a loss to know what to do. Was it possible to make your own baby food? Surely it must be. But how?

Fast-forward four years, and I'm now preparing homemade baby food for my third six-month-old baby boy. This time not because I have no other choice (have you ever looked at the kinds of baby food available? Unbelievable!!) but because it's so much cheaper and healthier to make it myself. And really very simple!

CEREAL

For new eaters, grains need to be ground into a powder before cooking for best results. You can do this in a blender or food processor, but it will take a while. Grinding rice in my blender takes about ten minutes, and I still sift it when I'm done to get out the random large pieces. I don't actually have a flour sifter, so I use a tea strainer! :-) It works great since I'm only doing small amounts at a time. Whatever grain you're using - rice, oats, barley, millet - once you grind it, cook it like porridge.

1/4 c. grain flour

1 c. water

Because I'm doing such a small amount,  I just mix the water & flour, put it on the stove, and whisk constantly as it's coming to a boil. Be sure to boil for several minutes - less for oats, more for rice - so that the grain is cooked. Cool to room temperature before serving. Mix with breastmilk or formula (or just water) if the cereal is too thick. You can combine this with fruit or veggie puree as well, to make a "balanced meal". :-)

FRUITS & VEGGIES

With the exception of banana and avacado, which are the best superfoods for little people, fruits and veggies need to be cooked at first. Apples, pears, peaches, peas, sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots are all great first foods which need to be gently cooked to a very soft consistency before mashing (or pureeing in blender) to feed to baby. Introduce foods one at a time to test for allergies, but once a food is "safe" you can mix it with other foods to create yummy combinations for your little one. And it won't be long before you can introduce spices and seasonings as well - research shows that the more variety of foods  a baby is introduced to before age 1, the easier it will be for them to accept new foods as they get older.

You can find an abundance of information on feeding your little one at Momtastic's Wholesome Baby Food. I especially like their printable chart for when to introduce different foods - I've printed this out and taped it to my fridge for reference with each of my babies.

And one more thing . .  everything I've said here is based on the traditional feeding approach. I've never tried baby-led weaning, but  if you're into it, that's great! Maybe you can write an article about it for us? :-)

My husband's parents are missionaries to Native Americans in the southwest, and "frybread" is one of the best specialties there. A simple dough, rolled into a pancake and fried in hot oil . . . yum! But when we moved to the eastern US, we discovered a similar cuisine here is called "Fried Dough." Whatever you call it, it's a quick, yummy meal.

On the reservation, they pile the frybread with beans, meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese and call it an "Indian Taco". Where we live now, they spread the fried dough with spaghetti sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top like a pizza. My favorite way to eat it is with honey like a sopapilla. :-)

Frybread

3 c. white flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 c. warm milk or water

Oil for deep frying

Combine all ingredients except oil and knead until smooth. Cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Roll out enough dough to make a circle about 1/8 thick the size of your hand. (Or any size you want!) Deep fry in 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil until browned. Stand on edge in large bowl or cooler lined with paper towels. Makes 10 to 12 frybreads.