Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kitchen adventure: sweet potato cake

This month has been cold and dreary so baking is one of those comforting activities that I enjoy to keep warm inside.  I've been experimenting with more vegan baking, and have had some good successes along with a few less than stellar results.  My husband's birthday is in February and he likes carrot cake.   I decided to bake a sweet potato cake to honor the day.  It's a similar twist to his favorite with lots of fragrant, warm spices and a soft, but dense texture.  There's plenty of nutrition packed in this sweet treat with lots whole grains (wheat and flax), nuts and apples as well as the sweet potatoes.

I was inspired by this recipe from Sweet Potato Soul.  I met Jenné in NYC when she taught a segment at the Main Street Vegan Academy which included her teaching us and making tacos for lunch - amazing!  Check out her many recipes and videos for more inspiration in vegan cooking.

Sweet potato cake with coconut cashew cream icing

2 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp flax seed meal
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup sugar 
1 apple, grated (or used 1/2 cup crushed pineapple)
1 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup shredded sweet potato
1 cup nuts, chopped
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

14-oz can of full fat coconut milk - put in refrigerator upside down
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water and drained
2 tsp vanilla extract or 2 in piece of vanilla bean
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon or orange juice (juice of 1/2 of lemon)


  • Open the can of coconut milk right side up and scoop out the thick cream layer, leaving the liquid in the can. Place the coconut cream into a high speed blender.
  • Add in the soaked cashews, vanilla, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • Blend until smooth using some of the coconut milk to thin as necessary
  • Put the icing in the refrigerator to firm up until the cake is ready. 


  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Oil a tube pan 
  • In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flax seed meal and water and let sit a few minutes until thick. 
  • Add the sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla and beat well.
  • Add the grated sweet potato and apple and  and mix until combined.
  • Add dry mix and stir until moistened, but do not over mix.  This is a very thick batter, but if the mixture is too dry, add a few spoonfuls of almond milk or orange juice.
  • Fold in nuts and coconut.
  • Pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cool in pan 10 minutes.
  • Use a knife to loosen edges of cake from pans.
  • Let cool fully on a wire rack.
  • Once the cake has cooled completely, frost and serve.
  • Store cake in the fridge to keep the icing nice and firm.

I hope you'll make this cake for a special occasion.  It's worth the effort.

Thanks for reading!

Cooling racks on baking day

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Expansiveness - year in review

Taken at the US National Arboretum

For more than a few years now, I have completed a review of the successes and lessons from the year before and crafted an outline to help guide me through the new year.   A few of my words from previous years include:  focus, serendipity, mindfulness and last year, expansiveness.  Looking back over my year of expansiveness, 2014 was full of  new adventures in learning through workshops, classes and exploration to nudge me out of creative stagnation and a feeling that I was adrift of my core values.  I am not one that naturally looks back to fully savor past experiences; I'm more of the kind that is always focusing on completing the current adventure while looking ahead and leaning full tilt into the next.  So, through annual reviews, monthly aspiration setting and quarterly check-ins, I am beginning to choose my adventures more wisely as well as embody my experiences more fully. 

For this reason, I have chosen embodiment as my word for this year.  For me, embodiment means to embrace, incarnate and take in with the eye and essence - to enjoy the journey.  Some supporting words will be simplicity, mindfulness (again!), passion and savor.  

I encourage you to explore setting your personal core values, conducting a year in review and guide for the new year. Although most of us instinctively know our core values, we may not be able to articulate them easily.  Having them accessible for reference has helped me make decisions much more easily when testing an opportunity against my values list.  It's less painful to let an enticing, but inappropriate choice go when I can see how it's not going to work with who I am and strive to be. 

Here are the resources I used for both exercises:
Living Your Values free how-to by Steve Pavlina
Unravelling the Year Ahead free downloadable workbook by Susannah Conway
Tranquility Du JourAnthology beautiful memoir and workbook by Kimberly Wilson

Citrus ready for juicing

Finally, I thought I would share some of the highlights of 2014 - my year of expansiveness:

Successful suburban gardening season from start to finish
Photography featured in an exhibition at Annemarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center
Got dressed up and went to high tea at the Mandarin Oriental with fabulous neighborhood girlfriends
Volunteering through One Brick at the Capital Area Food Bank
Attended an intro and two 4-week Zen Photography workshops at the US National Arboretum
Enjoyed performing at local cultural festivals with fellow dancers
Attended a week long Main Street Vegan Academy course
Said goodbyes to former coworkers when they put on a vegetarian farewell potluck (they rock!)
Was greeted by new coworkers with a vegan welcome lunch (they rock too!)
Posted some healthy cooking favorites:  collard green egg rolls and coconut peanut butter bites
Attended fantastic milestone birthday that included a scavenger hunt in an historic mansion
Attended a beautiful milestone birthday/anniversary party complete with jazz band and cabaret singer
Savored neighborhood cookie baking party and holiday caroling events

I hope your 2015 is off to a good start, and I look forward to sharing my adventures during my year of embodiment.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Photo essay: a walk along the river

 Sun setting over the water

Just after the winter solstice, we enjoyed a walk along a branch of the Anacostia River near our home on an unexpectedly warm afternoon.  Here are a few photos from the walk.

 Moss growing on the rocks


A little winter greenery

Enjoying a walk along the river

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Summer garden wrap-up

Bounty from this year's garden including winter squash, bell and jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, raspberries, ground cherries, Asian, green and wax string beans

Winter has settled in here.  It seems as though the start of summer was such a short time ago, Somehow life just got in the way so I'm only now posting my wrap up for this year's summer garden. People often ask how much our garden really produces.  My answers have varied from - enough tomatoes so I don't have to buy tomato sauce until May or enough frozen pesto to get us until the first basil harvest the next year, but I didn't really know for sure.  So this year, I decided to keep track of the weight of the harvest. We found a nice vintage scale and general store weight sets after my digital kitchen scale gave out after about a month.  Here are the totals for the 2014 summer garden harvest,

An antique store find

Summer 2014 harvest (in pounds)

Basil, sweet 1.40 Ground cherry 3.20 Potatoes 8.00
Basil, Thai 0.05 Kale 1.00 Raspberries 7.54
Blackberries 0.27 Lettuce 0.68 Rhubarb 1.29
Broccoli 1.20 Mint 1.23 Soy beans 4.50
Carrots 0.53 Melon 35.86 Squash 32.27
Collards 2.95 Onion 0.95 Stevia 0.23
Eggplant 20.07 Oregano 2.00 Tomatoes 150.87
Garlic and scapes 2.11 Peas 0.73 Zucchini 8.56
Green beans 16.96 Peppers 24.36

Each year I learn a little more about raising an edible garden with the weather and nature making each year a challenge and a surprise.  I didn't have as much success with cucumbers and melons this this year after last year's never ending bumper crop, so it was nice to have a break after a diet saturated with everything from cucumber-melon juice to cantaloupe jam.  This year, we had an abundance of eggplant and winter squash for me to find creative new ways to use.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this year's garden adventures:
January through September in the garden beds
Garden fun preserving the harvest for the winter


In the bed, on the vine and at some colorful harvests
Garden beauties

It was a pleasant journey reviewing this last summer's work on a cold, dreary day.  I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing, creating and sharing with you in hopes that you are inspired to explore something new or revisit a forgotten creative endeavor.

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."  ~ Maya Angelou

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kitchen adventures: vegan chickpea omelet

Chickpea omelet topped with sauteed zucchini, sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic and tomatoes

It was one of those days that I had an armful of great veggies from the garden, and I wanted something light to take advantage of my harvest.  I decided to give a chickpea omelet a try.  The chickpea base was a perfect way to showcase some of the best of the garden harvest while providing plenty of protein.  It would also taste great topped with your favorite pasta sauce or any leftover veggies you have on hand.

Chickpea omelet

2 cups chickpea flour
2 tablespoons flaxmeal
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2  cup non-dairy milk + 1/2 cup water
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used thyme and parsley)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the olive oil.  Add more water if necessary to make a consistency like pancake batter.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat.  Add oil and saute onions and garlic until fragrant and the onions are translucent.  Pour in the chickpea batter and cook until the top is set.  Optionally, If you would like to brown the top, run it under the broiler for a few minutes or flip the omelet onto a plate and slide it back into the pan to brown.   To serve, top with your favorite vegetables lightly sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic or a favorite pasta sauce .

Thanks for reading!

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Sunny zinnias in the garden