chestnut applesauce cake (tree cake 2.0)

you may remember last year i made damian tree cake for his birthday. this year i discovered chestnut flour. have you ever had chestnut flour? it’s so yummy! so sweet and mild! it’s a gluten-free baker’s dream. i got super excited about chestnuts after reading mark shepherd’s book, restoration agriculture. chestnuts will save the world! don’t worry, mesquite will save the world too. think of mesquite as desert chestnut… i don’t hear paleo and gluten free folks raving about chestnuts, but i’m pretty sure it won’t be long until they do. we just need a celebrity chef to make a chestnut bacon doughnut or something and next thing you know it’ll be chestnut everything in all the health food stores. right now it’s still a bit hard to find. i found some chestnut flour at whole foods, and found super affordable bags of organic peeled chestnuts at the korean market. i also found acorn flour at the korean market, which was quite the thrill, let me tell you.

so, the cake. it was so good! so so good. it was very easy to assemble, it held together well, rose nicely, had a moist crumb and great flavor. and the whole double recipe was devoured in minutes. with such wholesome ingredients, i’m thinking of making another just for snacking. sorry i didn’t take any pictures. we ate outside and the sun went down so it was too dark for my crappy phone camera.

chestnut acorn applesauce cake

adapted from fanny farmer’s applesauce cake

1/4 cup melted butter of coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut or date sugar, or honey

1 cup apple sauce

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups chestnut flour

1/2 cup acorn flour (available at asian markets)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

mix it all up, pour into a greased 9in pan and bake at 350 (in the sun oven, of course) for 40 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. top with whipped cream if desired.

my baby is growing into a very, very active boy! i’m having so much fun watching him grow and develop. he cracks me up constantly. this phase is also challenging for me. i’m starting to understand what people are talking about when they say “terrible twos” i’m still offended by the phrase, but i get it. toddlers are passionate, opinionated, and totally irrational. it’s a little intense… but i’m learning more and more how to make life less frustrating for both of us.
one thing that is working well is slowing down and involving him in what i’m doing. so instead of trying to get stuff done, and being constantly interrupted, we do it together. he hands me clothes pins for each piece of laundry i’m hanging, and then when the clothes are dry i hand them to him and he puts them in the basket. it’s not at all efficient, and some stuff lands in the sand, but we have a good time and i figure eventually he’ll get to the point where he really is helping.
i’ve been involving him in cooking each meal too. it’s pretty crazy, i’m a little terrified that i’ll accidentally cut off his finger or splatter hot oil on his face, but that just adds to the sense of adventure, right?
here’s a little sampling of what we do in the kitchen.

more love for mark bittman

today i received what i believe is mark bittman’s latest cookbook, kitchen express; 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less.

i already knew i loved mark bittman and his cookbooks, i own three of his enormous volumes (how to cook everything, how to cook everything vegetarian, and the best recipes in the world) and i cook from them pretty much daily. but this, this may be his best yet. at least in terms of recipes i will make and love. from the back of the book: “this style of cooking is about three things: speed, flexibility, and relaxation. if you read one of these recipes, if it inspires you and you have the ingredients (or something aproximating them) to throw it together- then go into the kitchen, assemble what you need, and have at it. you may never order take-out again.”

when i said i cook from bittman’s cookbooks daily, i meant on days that i cook, which recently hasn’t been much at all. my schedule this term has been full of evening classes and 5:30 meetings. that combined with damian’s gigging and rehearsal schedule cuts the motivation to make a nice dinner down by a lot.

but this book, this book! i think this book is going to change all that. 20 minute meals! and the recipes look GOOD! i think i may end up making one recipe a day for a while. first on the list are: “potpie”chicken salad sand which, vietnamese beef noodle soup (instant pho?), saag paneer (20 min saag?), BLT salad, fish braised in lemon with tomatoes and red peppers, chicken with green olives, chicken with coconut and lime, pad thai, and chocolate mousse. and that’s just from the spring section.  happy day.


we are having some friends over for dinner tonight. we always mean to have people over, but seldom actually get around to coordinating it with people. i love having people over for so many reasons. not the least of which being it forces us to clean our house in a more thorough way. after i write this i’m going to dust the house and scrub the bathtub. two things i often ignore day to day. another reason i love having folks over is the excuse to have a fantastic meal. restaurants around here are few and far between and often lacking in service and/or quality. so if we want a great meal, we have to prepare it ourselves. we do eat really well, but i almost never make more than one dish per meal. it’s fun to plan a whole menu with appetizer, main, side & dessert. damian planned tonights menu and is doing the bulk of the cooking. on the menu are: dolmas -stuffed grape leaves (from our very own grape vines) falafel served on homemade pita with tahini sauce, tzatsiki, and veggies. and for dessert fig-pomegranate-porto ice cream! i’m in charge of making the ice cream. i dusted off my icecream maker and i have to say the dessert turned out pretty darn good! you’ll have to excuse my immodesty, i just get excited about stuff…

on another topic, the chickens are getting fat. and it looks like we have a silver laced wyondotte rooster. i’ll post photos soon. 

sweet sunday

damian and i try to set one day a week aside for rest, relaxation, and connection. today is that day. ahhh… it’s been a big week. our day-old chicks arrived on wednesday. they all seem healthy and happy. i can already tell the difference between the layers and the broilers. the broilers are fat! they don’t skitter around like the others. it’s more like a slow waddle. i hope they are getting enough protein for their little legs to keep up with their rapidly growing bodies. i gave them their first meal of worms today. they weren’t as excited as i thought they would be. perhaps worms are an acquired taste?
darlene & steve are gone for the week so i’m in charge of all the plants and animals. in this weather, that’s a big responsibility! so far so good though. it takes me about an hour in the morning to make my rounds, but i enjoy saying hello to the lizards, watching the grapes ripen, petting gilmore the cat, inspecting the new olive tree, adjusting the shade cloth over the tomatoes and marveling at all the pretty pomegranates between moving hoses.
damian bought me a new cookbook; the best recipes in the world by mark bittman. i’m already a huge mark bittman fan. i use his ‘how to cook everything’ almost daily. his article in the ny times about the no work bread has been revolutionary for us. not to mention lucrative. i’m only part way through the introduction of the best recipes in the world, but i am so excited about this cookbook. i may just read it cover to cover. dom yam gai, pho bo, and jook* here i come!
this is my first day off after 6 days of work. i usually work 4 days a week. i’m a little zoned. or maybe i’m just dehydrated. i better go make some lemonade just in case.

*my three favorite soupy dishes -dom yam gai a light brothy chicken and coconut soup from thailand
pho bo is outrageously good vietnamese rice noodles in a flavorful beef and basil broth
jook is asian comfort food also known as congee. a rice porridge or gruel served sweet or savory with all sorts of toppings. very nourishing and delicious.