Sunday, February 8, 2015

365 reasons to eat something yummy

For Hanukkah, I ordered my daughter a subscription to Girls' World magazine. This gift was a huge hit! She stops everything when it arrives and reads it cover to cover. I am very happy she is enjoying this gift so much...for one, because although it's no War and Peace, it is in fact reading, and for two, I think the articles are valuable. They focus on things like body image, friendships, bullying, and other important tween issues, but since they are voiced by Disney tween TV stars (and not ME), she actually pays attention.

The other perk of the magazine is that in every issue they include a calendar of lesser-known holidays, such as National Send A Letter to a Friend Day. I've never been one to get on board with all of that, but in the middle of winter some of these are a nice little pick-me-up.

A couple of weeks ago it was National Chocolate Cake Day. Now, how could I let that pass me by? I am an avowed chocoholic, and luckily I have a GREAT recipe that I can make with little notice.

This cake recipe is a real keeper for several reasons: one, it's low in fat. I also love baking with oil instead of butter because it blends up so easily.

Two, it calls for buttermilk, which I use all the time in baking. I don't keep actual buttermilk on hand, but pour a scant cup of my regular 1% into a cup, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and let stand 5-10 minutes. So we are all getting a bit of calcium as well.

And third, it uses cocoa powder for its chocolate flavor, which I always have and which lasts a while, unlike those baking chocolate squares which I never seem to have.

You can bake this in rounds or cupcakes, and frost if you like, or serve with a scoop of ice cream.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake from Martha Stewart

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for pans (I used cooking spray)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.
  3. Spread 2 cups chocolate frosting onto top of 1 cooled layer. Top with remaining layer; frost top and sides with remaining 2 cups frosting.
Sadly we missed National Carrot Cake Day last week, but once I got the idea in my head it just wouldn't budge. So yesterday I used my well-loved copy of Martha's Good Food Fast (all the other recipes I find online) and whipped up these heavenly babies.

  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
  • 8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
  2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
  4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with shredded coconut.
I will definitely make these again, but next time I around I will make my usual tweaks and see if anyone notices a difference: I will use half whole wheat flour in lieu of all-purpose, and applesauce in place of oil. I may cut back on the granulated sugar as well. You can't do this with cookies or bars, but muffin-like cakes adapt really well, so it's worth a shot.

Not all of the holidays are dessert-related. Friday is National Tortellini Day, which is one of my daughter's favorite foods. It is officially on the menu for Friday night dinner.

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