Chocolate & red wine cupcakes

I embarked on a cupcake experiment today.  Chocolate and red wine are one of my favorite pairings, and I thought, “Why not fuse the two together into a cupcake?”

Yesh, why not?

Behold!  It is done.


And I made a video detailing my adventure in the kitchen today.  You can check it out below.  And if you are interested in trying the recipe yourself, you can find it here.

Let’s make hummus!

I love hummus, but I have to be honest here, I don’t love store bought hummus.  Sure, I eat it, but I usually only buy it for camping or field work.  I much prefer homemade hummus, and you know what?  It’s really easy to make!  And the best part is you can make it any flavor you want.

The video below will show you how to make it entirely from scratch using dried chickpeas.  You can also use canned chickpeas if you want to skip cooking the beans yourself, but if you have a pressure cooker, it doesn’t take long at all to cook dry beans, soaked or not.  More on pressure cooking in future posts.  I absolutely love mine and I’m a huge proponent of using them to save time and preserve nutrients in food.  Check it out:

The best birthday cake ever: hazelnut carrot cake with cream cheese frosting


I have the same birthday cake every year: carrot cake.  I cannot even remember a time that I did not have carrot cake, though I remember (vaguely) of a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake like this one from my early childhood:

I actually had the original cake form up until I last moved 7 years ago, along with several other cake forms for Blue Clues, Tigger, and many more cartoon characters that I can no longer recall.  But for years and years and years, it has been carrot cake.  I love carrot cake.  No….wait.

I LOVE carrot cake.

Last year I switched things up a bit, like I always do, and instead of using pecans or walnuts, I decided to try hazelnuts.  It was a freakin’ home run.  In fact, when I was first pondering what to make for my first YouTube video, this carrot cake was one I thought about making as my debut video.  But for some reason I didn’t.  Maybe it was for lack of time, who knows.  But the time has now come and yes, even though it was my own birthday, I made my own birthday cake.  Not-so-secret:  I always do.

I enjoy it, so why not?

And also…once someone, who may or may not be Hubby, made my birthday cake for me and made the comment that the batter looked like vomit.  Fair enough.  This batter doesn’t have a sexy, lick-the-bowl look to it, but it tastes phenomenal (both in batter and baked cake form).  So from that point forward, I decided it was just easier on everyone involved if I made it myself.  This year I had a particularly grand time making this cake, as you will soon find out if you watch the video.

Soon-not-to-be-secret: I lightened up the original recipe considerably and there is absolutely no compromise in flavor, texture, or overall quality of this cake.  It’s practically health food, as far as cakes go anyway, so you should definitely give it a try.

Recipe is here.  Video is below.

Winter Squash Brownies. Say what? You heard right.

Happy Solstice, everyone!  This is my favorite day of the year.  Why?  Because beginning tomorrow, the days start to get longer!  We have finally reached the shortest, darkest day of the year.  And on this longest night, it is going to be bitter cold outside so I am sitting by the wood stove while I edit my video.  We got about 8″ of snow in town yesterday and our local ski hill, Great Divide, got 18″ of snow.  We’re supposed to get several more inches in town tomorrow so we are going to take Friday to ski before the bitter, bitter cold moves in.

So…about those brownies.  I didn’t get a chance to let them cool completely before taste testing on camera, so the final verdict lies within this paragraph.  It’s pretty simple, really:  THESE BROWNIES ARE FREAKIN’ AWESOME!  The squash, which I could taste while the brownies were still hot, could not be tasted once the brownies cooled.  The wine taste wasn’t all that strong, which was a little disappointing for the cheesecake in particular.  But these went over really well at dinner Monday night, and some of the patrons are perhaps a little picky about what foods they like and don’t like, and winter squash is not high on the list of ‘likes.’  So since the picky eater(s) ate these with reckless abandon, I take that as a compliment.  If you have a hard time getting kids (also read: hubby or yourself) to eat veggies, this is a sneaky way to get more nutrients in your diet without even knowing it.  And they are much lower in fat than traditional brownies.  Bonus!

Check out the video below & the recipe is here:

Blueberry cake donuts with lemon icing– baked, not fried

I’ll post the recipe later this week, but holy cow, these are absolutely terrible!  Don’t even bother trying to make them and certainly don’t blame me if you make them and eat 4 of them just so your significant other doesn’t find them and discover how terrible they are, too…

Recipe is here.

How to dry brine a turkey

I love love love Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.  And I am hosting this year, both friends and family, so we’re expecting a nice crowd of about 8.  But who knows?  If I see anyone in the neighborhood up for adoption Thursday, I might drag them along for our Thanksgiving ride, too (we play Scattergories after dinner–it’s so much fun!).

Since I love to cook, this is absolutely my holiday.  And I prep well in advance so that I don’t get too stressed out on Turkey Day.  I began my preparations on Sunday, FIVE days before Thanksgiving (one can never be too prepared).  I found my Thanksgiving menus from the past 3 years along with my list of To-Do and When, and created my Thanksgiving Timeline of Preparations.  And since I have a vegan friend joining us for the big day, nearly everything is vegan.  Here’s the menu of what I’m making:

Non-vegan:  Turkey with gravy  /  cheese log

Vegan:  gravy  /  ‘Thanksgiving’ rolls  /  pumpkin pie  /  mashed potatoes  /  corn casserole  /  curried fruit  /  sweet potato casserole  /  roasted carrots & parsnips  /  French cornbread dressing  /  chocolate hazelnut-blueberry pie  /  mulled apple cider

Stepdaughter # 2 is bringing chocolate pie, coconut cream pie, cranberry sauce (from a Harry Potter cookbook, no less), and a sweet potato & apple dish.


And in case you’re curious, here’s my what my Thanksgiving Timeline of Preparations looks like:


  1. toast hazelnuts & skin.  chop.  toast pecans. chop.
  2. make vegan pumpkin pie–from scratch–& video
  3. start sourdough starter
  4. make curried fruit topping
  5. make vegan pie crust for chocolate hazelnut pie


  1. make French cornbread
  2. make turkey rub
  3. roast garlic
  4. make sweet potato casserole topping
  5. make herb/spice mix for ‘Thanksgiving’ rolls


  1. brine turkey & make video
  2. grate cheese for cheese log
  3. bake sweet potatoes in skin
  4. cut & toast French cornbread
  5. mix together dry ingredients for chocolate hazelnut pie


  1. slice / steam carrots & parsnips
  2. make chocolate hazelnut pie
  3. assemble curried fruit
  4. assemble sweet potato casserole
  5. prep corn casserole
  6. prep dressing
  7. make sourdough roll dough (bread maker)


  1. make ‘Thanksgiving’ roll dough (bread maker)
  2. bake curried fruit
  3. roast carrots & parsnips
  4. roast turkey
  5. bake sweet potatoes  / corn casserole  / dressing
  6. bake rolls (Dutch oven & solar oven &/or in kitchen)
  7. mulled apple cider (Crock Pot)
  8. pressure cook potatoes
  9. make gravies

Wednesday night will probably be my most ‘stressful’ night in part because I will work Wednesday afternoon and I teach barre that evening.  So by the time I get home & showered, it will be quite late to begin some of the prep.  But the good news in all this is if it doesn’t get done on Wednesday night, it will just happen on Thursday.  And Thursday won’t be all that crazy, despite the long list of things I have to do.  The turkey will take up the largest chunk of time, and while it cooks I can prep other things.  Then while the turkey rests, I’ll bake the casseroles and such.  Should be a fairly relaxed day, all things considered.

Now, about that turkey.  I prepared my turkey this afternoon with a rub and dry brine.  I had a near turklamity while bagging the turkey, and you can witness the look of horror on my face when I thought I was about to lose it.  If you want the rub recipe, it will be posted here.  And here’s the video:

Homemade pumpkin pie–totally from scratch!

I’ve been radio silent for a couple of weeks–other priorities have taken my time away from videos and blogging.  Such is life, I suppose.  This is the last week of the CSA and then I’ll have a bit of a break.  We had a really good season, but I am looking forward to focusing on other things for a few months.  Videos will continue throughout the winter, but may be more sporadic–who knows?

But I’ve got two, count ’em TWO, videos specifically tailored to Thanksgiving this week.  This is the first installment, which walks you through how to make a pumpkin pie, completely from scratch:  from pumpkin to pie.  And you know what?  It’s really not that hard!  Sure, it’s more time-consuming than opening a can of pumpkin puree, but this is better.   Waaaaaaaay better than pumpkin from a can!

The second video will show you how to dry brine a turkey.  Never tried it?  Well, you should!  I think this will be my go-to turkey preparation for Thanksgiving forevermore.  Look for that video tomorrow!

Winter squash & black beluga lentils make some fine Halloween veggie burgers


I’m not going to wax poetic about these veggie burgers.  I’ll let them speak for themselves.  But I WILL say that you ought to give them a try.  I really dressed mine up with the chipotle & dried cranberry coleslaw I made to go with them, as well as some dill pickle, Swiss chard or beet greens, fresh tomato slices and some candied jalapenos (they are so good!) that my friend made this summer.  I’ll post the recipe soon!  Til then, here’s a crazy Halloween video, with plenty of outakes at the end, on how to make the burgers and slaw.

The crazy food preservation day: How to cold smoke cheese (and almonds)

I nearly worked myself into a frenzy after last night’s post thinking about all the things I need to get done before I leave for an out-of-state conference in just over a week.  There’s so much to do!  But I am happy to say that after a full day in the kitchen, I managed to knock out a lot of the food preservation that needed to happen this weekend.  I smoked a ton of cheese (and almonds!), and shot the video (see below).  I also dealt with all those pears and made some pear preserves.  Sadly, some of the pears were beginning to rot.  The good news in all that, though, is 1) I was actually relieved I didn’t have to deal with the entire lot of pears and 2) the chickens benefited tremendously from eating those rotting pears–they were some happy girls!  I also made some pizza dough (for tomorrow night’s dinner) and garlic scape pesto–to be used on the pizza dough that is tomorrow night’s dinner.  Granted, my feet and legs were achy by the end of the day, and I was so tired that I only ate popcorn for dinner, but it was a very good, productive day at the urban farmstead!

Now, about the cheese and almonds…

If you’ve never smoked your own cheese and almonds, my friends, it is high time you consider doing it.  It’s so easy!

Smoking cheese is done via a cold smoking process, which means you do not add any heat while the cheese is exposed to the smoke, unlike smoking meats which is usually done over heat so that the meat cooks while it smokes.  There are a variety of ways to cold smoke, but I use a 12″ tube smoker that holds wood pellets, and I simply set it on the rack in my BBQ grill.  You can see in the video how easy it is to set up your grill as a smoker.  One thing you have to keep in mind while smoking cheese: outside air temperature–if it is warm, say 80 or 90 degrees F, your cheese will melt.  Smoking cheese is best done on a cool day (40 – 60 degrees is optimal).  Even if it is not hot enough outside to melt your cheese, if it is too warm, all the oils will sweat out of the cheese and pool on the surface of your cheese blocks, similar to how the oil pools on top of your pizza cheese.  This is no bueno.  So only smoke your cheese on a nice, cool day, preferably out of direct sunlight, too (the added heat from the sunlight could cause your cheese to sweat and/or melt).

Smoking cheese takes some time, so allow 4-5 hours for the process.  I typically smoke my cheese for 3-4 hours, and I flip my cheese over halfway through so that the smoke coloration and flavor is evenly distributed on my cheese blocks.  I have been using apple wood as my smoke flavor, but there are lots of options out there: cherry, mesquite, hickory, oak, alder, pecan…the list goes on.  Here are a couple of references that can inform you on which wood you choose: a chart and a blog.

Once your cheese has been smoked, it needs to cure for a few weeks in order to temper the smoked flavor and also to allow it time to work its way deep into the cheese.  In order to do this, and to keep your cheese from spoiling, you’ll need to vacuum pack your cheese.  The vacuum sealer is just one other tool that I use heavily in my food preservation regimen, so if you don’t have one, it’s something to consider.  I only recently–within the last year or two–added a vacuum sealer to my fleet of kitchen tools.  But I love it and I use it regularly.  And if you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, they aren’t all that expensive, either.

Smoking almonds isn’t quite the process as cheese, because you don’t have to let them cure afterwards–you can pop them right into your mouth once they cool!  Almonds don’t have to be cold smoked, but I do it this way because it makes sense to me to use the smoke as efficiently as possible, and I have the space on my grill to do it.  Before smoking almonds, you will want to soak them for a few minutes in a fairly strong brine solution.  Today I used 3 cups almonds in 3 cups water with 3 teaspoons of salt.  Let the almonds soak for 10 or 15 minutes, then drain the brine and spread the almonds on a baking sheet.  After cold smoking, you will need to put the almonds in a low oven to dry out completely because they will still be damp after smoking (this will make your house smell like smoke a little bit).  In the video I used 250 degrees F, but that wasn’t quite hot enough.  In the past I have used 325 degrees F and that was perfect (I just forgot that today).  Stick the baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, then stir the almonds around.  You might hear the skins cracking and popping a bit–it sounds like Rice Krispies once you’ve added the milk–and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  Then remove the almonds from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.  They will continue to crackle and pop while they dry and that is exactly what you want to hear!  Once they are completely cooled you can pop them in your mouth.  To store, put them in an airtight container and keep them at room temperature.  If it is going to be a while before you eat the almonds, you can vacuum seal them to keep them from going stale.

For all the gnarly details on smoking cheese (and almonds!), check out this video: