Monthly Archives: September 2012

All the single ladies

Kabocha Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting 2

I don’t plan on being single anytime soon. But these days, since Jim is spending almost a month at sea for work, the way I plan my life feels different. I don’t really leave time for those slow weeknight meals, the kind that gently unfold once everyone’s home. It’s not that I mind cooking for just myself and a three-year-old. It’s that somehow, spending the evenings with other moms and their kids—having mediocre pizza, or a cacophonous dinner at our favorite pho place, or just hanging out at home, piling a few kids into someone’s bathtub after the inevitable toddler drama—feels easy.

I don’t know what I’d do without these ladies. They know each other, but they’re not necessarily friends. Many of them float into and out of my life from week to week or month to month, by accident or necessity, depending on the season. What they don’t know is that at times like these, when I’m balancing work and life and a kid without hands-on help from my husband, I line them up like helpful little G.I. Janes, one night after another. One stops at the store for me for milk. One helps when I back over my son’s walker with the car. Another picks all my ripe grapes, because she knows I don’t like Concords and they’ll be a mess if I don’t take care of them. Unknowingly, each one helps with these single little acts of kindness, adding up to make these weeks not just doable, but enjoyable, and not at all single-feeling. I love them for it. This weekend, Graham and I will head to Boise to visit my parents (his first visit since 2009), and some of those ladies will take turns walking the dog and petting the cat and watering the vegetables, supporting me in much more tangible (but actually less important) ways.

I made this homey little gluten-free breakfast cake for them. It’s a fallish squashy sort of a thing, scented with allspice and topped with a fluff of honey-sweetened cream cheese frosting. I’ll take a piece with us on the airplane—because wouldn’t you?—and leave the rest on the kitchen counter, so that as they come and go, these friends that make my life whole, they can stop for a bite. They’ll cut jagged pieces from the pan, or maybe even dig in directly, with a fork, and hopefully, they’ll taste the sweetness they’re giving me each day.

honey-cream cheese frosting

Kabocha Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting (PDF)

Every fall, as soon as the leaves show the faintest hint of color, I bring a kabocha squash home. Roasted (whole, stem and all) in the oven at about 400° for an hour or so, a volleyball-sized kabocha yields about six cups of mashed squash. In our house, it goes into simple cakes and muffins—if I’m not eating it straight off the roasting pan with a spoon, like baby food.

This cake is tinged with allspice and flavored with honey, but you could use any fall spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom come to mind as excellent substitutions) and substitute maple syrup or sugar for the honey, if you prefer. Since it’s not too sweet, I like it best for breakfast.

Makes one 8-inch square cake

Dry ingredients
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup millet flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients
2 cups mashed cooked kabocha squash (or one 15-ounce can pumpkin)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup milk (cow’s milk or rice milk)
1/3 cup liquefied coconut oil (warm before measuring)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting ingredients
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with oil or butter, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until no white spots remain.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm in the center and just beginning to brown at the edges. Cool to room temperature.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the frosting ingredients together on medium speed for 2 minutes, until fluffy. Spread the frosting onto the cake, and serve.

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, gluten-free, recipe

Back to school announcements

It’s been ages since I felt like the whole “back to school” thing affected me. But here I am, in full mom mode, having dropped my child off for his first day of preschool. He put his lunch away in his little cubby, kissed me goodbye, and charged into the classroom in his walker without looking back. I was so proud of him.

Sure, things might be changing for him, but I feel like they’re also changing for me. Sitting down, I feel like I need to have a little come to jesus with my computer. Where am I? Who am I? What am I writing next? I have so many exciting small projects, but I need big picture focus. I need lesson plans.

In the meantime, I want to share a few things with you. They’re like announcements, only the loudspeaker is hopefully much less annoying:

  • First, the September/October issue of Edible Seattle is out, and The Recipe of Summer (or The Recipe My Wife Won’t Put Away, if you ask a certain someone) is on the cover. Yup, that’s it, right up there – the vermicelli noodle bowl that’s taken over every dinner party, every weekend, and every ingredient in my refrigerator. I’ve made it a gazillion ways, often with squash, sometimes whirling hot peanut butter into the dressing, sometimes topping it with grilled spot prawns, sometimes containing it in rice paper wrappers, like Vietnamese-style summer rolls on steroids. I’ve tinkered with the vinaigrette until it’s just the way I love it. The recipe is below. Pick up a copy of Edible Seattle for more recipes; they’re designed to help you use the abundance of squash hanging fat on their vines these days.
  • Tomorrow, September 7th, a joint art exhibit opens at the Gage Academy in Seattle. Spearheaded by my friend Hannah Viano, a papercut artist, “Straight Back Home to You” explores the concept of home through physical art, dance, voice, and smell. (Guess where I come in?) You can experience all of them together at the opening reception on September 21st.

In the meantime, here’s that new favorite…

Summer Garden Vermicelli Salad (PDF)
Originally published in Edible Seattle’s September 2012 issue

serves 4 | start to finish: 30 minutes
This flexible, colorful salad takes advantage of whatever your garden gives. These days, that probably means cucumbers, carrots, and squash, but use whatever vegetables you prefer—think tomatoes, thinly sliced peas or beans, or shredded basil. Use the marinade on chicken, per the recipe below, or substitute tofu or fish. If you’re feeling fancy, fry thinly sliced shallots in canola oil and use them as a crunchy topping.

for the dressing
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sriracha, to taste

for the salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed of excess fat
About 8 ounces rice vermicelli (8 little bundles)
2 large carrots, peeled
2 small yellow or green zucchini, trimmed
2 small cucumbers, trimmed, peeled if needed
2 cups thinly sliced crunchy lettuce, such as romaine
4 sprigs mint, finely chopped
12 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

First, make the dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients to blend in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 cup of the dressing, the canola oil, and the chicken breasts in a baking pan, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (about 400°F). Soften the rice vermicelli according to package instructions.

Put the chicken on the grill, allowing any excess marinade to drip back into the pan first. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is well marked on both sides and cooked through.

Meanwhile, divide the noodles between four large bowls or plates. Grate the carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers with a food processor or hand-held grater, and add them in little piles next to the noodles, along with the chopped lettuce. Slice the chicken and divide it between the salads. Top with the mint, cilantro, and peanuts, and serve while the chicken is still warm, drizzled with plenty of the dressing.

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Filed under egg-free, Et cetera, gluten-free, recipe, stir-fry, vietnamese