Spilt Milk

And so we learned during our December break that one really can cry over spilled milk, because that’s exactly what Lilli did as soon after she spilled milk all over my laptop. I’ve been computerless since the day after Christmas, which has meant no blogging, for Cheap Beets or Hebrew school.


Still, we’ve needed to eat, and my kitchen didn’t shut down during this long pause. Nope. We’ve roasted watermelon radishes and drizzled herbed green tahini sauce on top. Roasted sweet potatoes have been dipped in a Greek yogurt dip, spiked with garlic and lemon. I’ve gotten into lentils, and engineered a potluck salad of lentils, roasted beets, red onion, dried cherries, feta and a sweet balsamic dressing. And, oh, my, we made a marvelous and moist carrot cake that had nearly a pound of of dried cranberries, golden raisins, coconut and pecans.

I am pretty sure that all these dishes, and many more, have been documented on my Instagram feed. But one of my baking feats, a chocolate beet cake with chocolate orange glaze, seemed to garner the most likes, oohs, and aahs. It was from a library book, Home Grown: Cooking from My New England Roots by Matt Jennings, which I borrowed based solely on the title of the book. I hadn’t recognized the author’s name at first, but as soon as I opened it up I realized this was that Rhode Island chef that made his way to Boston. Although I’ve never eaten at any of Matt Jennings’ restaurants, the amount of praise food writers have bestowed upon him in the past few years made me quite excited to read the book, based on title alone. Rich tells me he was on Radio Boston last week.


And it was in this recipe about beets that had me nodding enthusiastically in agreement:

Beets are one of those ingredients that are perpetually in season in New England. We see them toward the end of summer, all through the fall, and into winter, with a spring variety poking through the cool earth in early April as well.

I mean, not only have I named my food blog after the rosey root, but we basically eat what the farmer digs up every week, and beets make a perpetual appearance in our CSA.

The recipe is a simple one; I don’t think the girls budged from their Bubble Guppies episode while I whipped it up in the kitchen. Because I am me, I already had roasted beets awaiting in the fridge. I actually skipped over his directions on how to roast beets because his oven is much too cold (325F). I’ve found you need at least a 400F oven to soften them.

With fresh orange zest in the glaze I’ve found this to be a perfect example of a winter cake. I hope you like it. We certainly have.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Chocolate-Orange Glaze

Chocolate and beets are a natural pair. The earthiness of the beets contrasts with the richness and sweetness of chocolate. The milk chocolate frosting on this cake is laced with orange zest – orange tastes great with both chocolate and beets…

Makes one 10 ½-inch bundt cake; serves 12.

For the cake:

Unsalted butter, for greasing

1 pound red or golden beets, roasted

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

½ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped

½ cup heavy cream

Zest of 1 navel orange

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of kosher salt

Flaky salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease with butter and flour a 10 ½-inch Bundt or 10-inch angel food cake pan.

Peel your roasted beets and put them in a food processor; process until smooth. Measure the beet puree and set aside 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces); reserve any remaining beety puree for another use (it can be combined with ricotta or goat cheese and used as a sandwich spread).

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, canola oil, vanilla and beet puree. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Make the glaze:

Put the chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream to a bare simmer. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and add the orange zest. Let stand for 10 minutes, then gently whisk until smooth. Whisk in the olive oil and kosher salt.

Set the cake (still on the wire rack) over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the glaze over the cake and use an offset spatula or spoon to spread the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, letting the excess drip off. Garnish with a sprinkle of flaky salt.


All Of Us Under Its Spell

Ever catch one of those Tasty videos in your Facebook feed? Mesmerizing, right? Lilli caught one over my shoulder a few months back, and ever since she’s been hooked on watching recipes on the Internet. It wasn’t long before she and I discovered that you can basically watch a recipe of anything on YouTube. Her favorites are the intricate cake recipes, of which she, and now I, have watched have watched far more times than I would like to admit.


There are teen bakers, baking bloggers who do all sorts of incredible things with food coloring and pastry bags, an Australian baker who leans heavily on using chocolate bars on his cakes. Lilli likes this last one a lot, and so I promised her we would make our own cake using her leftover Halloween candy. This turned out to be a lie, because certain adults in the house have been nibbling away at it over the past three weeks. Ahem.

But we finally made our cake this weekend, and it went off without a hitch, just like we saw on the Internet. I didn’t use person’s recipe per se, but created one out of what I learned watching countless hours of online videos.

What I have prepared for you are directions on how to make a rainbow cake. I promise you it’s easy; it just takes a little bit of patience and time. (Ours took about two hours from start to finish.)


First thing’s first: Find yourself a vanilla cake recipe. Make sure it’s a vanilla cake, not a yellow cake, because that will mess up the colorings. This is the recipe we used.

Next, secure your frosting recipe. I always vote for cream cheese frosting, and this is my go-to, but if you have a vanilla frosting recipe – remember, it has to be white – then use that one instead.  Take out the ingredients for your frosting to come to room temperature when you start preparing your cake batter.

Now, I had never used food coloring until this cake. I’ve always been a little skittish about such things, so I went to the nice kitchen store in town and bought them there. The ones they had on their shelf were the same ones that the online bakers all use. But if you have a favorite brand you use, then please, do what you feel.

We used Kit Kats around the outside of the cake and M&Ms to decorate the top. The Halloween sized ones would have been the right height for the cake, but fortunately the large bars we used also fit when cut in half. Skittles will work as well for the décor, but I’m the only one in the house that likes fruity candies, so I would be the only one who’d eat the cake. I’m actually not a fan of M&Ms, so this was a guarantee that I wouldn’t sit and eat the entire cake myself.

Now that you’ve assembled the ingredients, assemble the cookware and utensils you’ll need. Grab as many 9-inch cake pans as you have. I had three so I ended up using each one twice for my six separate colors. I had Lilli butter them, but then I sprayed a layer of Baker’s Joy on top of that.

If you are using six separate colors, then get out six separate bowls and six separate spoons. An ice cream scoop, if you have one, is very useful.

Now, it’s time to start making your cake. As you can see from my photos, it was six very thin layers. If you want a cake that will have your friends and family oohing and ahhing, I mean, even more than this, then double the recipe to make thicker layers.

Now that your batter is prepared, evenly divide it into the six bowls. This is where the ice cream scoop comes in handy. Next, add your food coloring. We had to mix colors to make the orange and the purple, and it was a fun way to practice our colors. I hope you’re wearing an apron!



Now it’s time to bake. Carefully scrape the first bowl of colored batter into your first cake pan. It’s probably very thin, so gently push the batter to the sides of the pan with the spoon.

I baked my cake layers three at a time in the oven. Please keep an eye on them; mine were done in about 13 minutes. When they are baked through, remove the pans from the oven and set them on cooling racks to cool, which they will do very quickly. Turn the cakes out, let the pans cool, wash them, then repeat baking the remaining colors of batter.


While this is going on, have a small child practice their sorting skills by separating the Skittles or M&Ms into small bowls. This is also when you can make your frosting.


Lilli, auditioning to be a roadie for Van Halen.

Once your cakes are completely cool, it’s time to assemble. I find the easiest way to frost a cake is by placing it on a plate covered in wax paper, and place that on a Lazy Susan, if you have one.

Layer of cake, little bit of frosting on top, spread with an offset spatula, then next layer of cake, and so on.


It’s honestly up to you to choose a design. Rich pointed out that I’d actually stacked my cake layer colors in reverse. Make sure you save enough frosting to cover the outside and sides of the cake; your frosting acts like a glue.


Once it’s assembled, put it in the fridge for about an hour to set and firm up.

And how was it? Very tasty, although Lilli simply picked off the M&Ms and Kit Kats, ate those, and left the cake.

PS – This was Lilli’s theme song all summer long.


Has anyone else noticed that a head of cauliflower now costs $6? I’m not sure when it happened, and the truth is, that’s what it should cost. It’s winter. Wherever it was grown and picked – most likely by someone being paid a disturbingly low wage – it had to be transported here. Cheap gas or not, fresh produce is getting more expensive.

I mention this because it gets to the whole premise of my blog, which is that eating a vegetable-based diet is more affordable. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what that exactly means, especially considering that I don’t get to come by this space very often these days. For the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking with what I’ve found to be the most affordable foods I can find at the grocery store: frozen vegetables and canned beans.

girls on couch

I’ve used frozen cauliflower, frozen broccoli, frozen peppers, frozen leeks and frozen spinach. I’ve found all these things at Stop & Shop, Trader Joe’s, and even Target. There are still some things that are more affordable fresh. A two-pound rutabaga is more affordable than a one-pound bag of frozen rutabaga. Ditto for butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Frozen zucchini makes for a kind of soggy dish, but so does fresh zucchini.

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful green curry made with frozen spinach and frozen fish from Costco. Sitting on rice noodles I can buy for a couple of dollars at the Asian super market, the whole meal cost less than $6 to produce.

Of course, starting with dried beans is an even more affordable way to go, but my pressure cooker is broken, and I have no idea where to get it repaired. And honestly, I can buy a can of chickpeas at Stop & Shop for 79 cents. (I think it’s 89 cents at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve had a heck of a time opening their cans. Has that happened to anyone else? Impossible to open cans from Trader Joe’s?)

A lot of this has been going into soups: butternut squash with miso and coconut milk; sweet potato with a can of black beans and a bag of frozen corn. Tonight I made a green soup with frozen broccoli and frozen spinach. For Rich’s I added a dollop of plain whole yogurt and a swirl of jarred pesto I had in the fridge. One of the main reasons I’ve been making all the soups is for Bea who loves eating but isn’t yet very good at it.

The recipe I have for you today came via a mommy blog I get updates from, even though I don’t remember signing up for them. It’s for a chocolate cake made with black beans. The original recipe called for a can of chickpeas, but Lilli always breaks out in a rash whenever she eats hummus. I guess this is another trick to hide something healthy, like the chocolate zucchini cake from this summer, although the flavor is even more subtle here. I made some guests I had over for Chanukah sample the cake, and they described it as “very creamy.”

It’s a dead simple recipe – you dump the ingredients into a blender and press the button – so it’s very kid friendly. Instead of making a loaf, I make these in mini muffin tins, perfect for lunch sacks. It’s gluten free, and since the Conservative Movement announced that kitniyot (beans, rice and corn) are now permissible to eat, it’s now kosher for Passover. But you don’t have to wait until April to give this one a try.

Flourless Black Bean Chocolate Cakes

1 14 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of canola oil
Dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup mini chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan.

In a blender, blend all the ingredients, except for the mini chocolate chips, until smooth. If necessary add more milk one teaspoon at a time.

Pour batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Sprinkle chips evenly on top of the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Make sure to let the muffins cool completely before you remove them.

Eating My Words

This week I did something I’m not proud of: I flipped through Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook Deceptively Delicious in the cookbook section of my local library. When her book came out not quite 10 years ago, I scoffed at its premise. Hiding vegetables in foods? I shook my head at parents who served their children pizza and chicken fingers for dinner. Just feed them what you eat; enough with the coddling of palates.

Of course, now I look back at the childless me and shake my head at my ignorance and naiveté. My toddler subsists on a diet of Cheerios, fruit, yogurt, cake, cheese, pizza, fish, rice, farro (?!), and plain pasta. It has to be plain: last week Rich deigned to put a pat of butter on her noodles and Lilli promptly announced it was now “garbage.”

mac and cheese

Oh look, a toddler eating mac and cheese.

I asked the pediatrician for advice. And you know what she said? Make sauces of things and hide them in foods she will eat. So there I stood in the library, looking through Mrs. Seinfeld’s cookbook. Let me be clear: Lilli loves helping out in the kitchen. She loves going to the grocery store with me and requesting mushrooms and broccoli and carrots. She loves choosing cookbooks off the shelf and bringing me photos of recipes that look good to her. She loves pulling up her Kitchen Helper to watch me slice summer squash and helps move it into a bowl. She just won’t eat what we cook.

But then it occurred to me: She loves learning about new foods, loves preparing vegetables and adores baking. Why not combine those things into one dish? And that’s how I found myself having her press the “on” button on my food processor as we grated zucchini for a very nice chocolate zucchini cake.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is chocolate cake really the right sort of thing to be sneaking veggies into? But my approach was validated this week by our Shabbos dinner guests. Ellie, a very bright political science student at UMass, exclaimed that her mother Deborah used to do the exact same thing when she was a kid. Considering that Ellie seems poised to run the government some day, I think I might be on to something.

We found our recipe in Marcel Desaulniers Death by Chocolate Cakes: An Astonishing Array of Chocolate Enchantments. This book was handed off to me by my friend Gayle, who, if I’m not mistaken, just posted a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake on her own blog. I’d never heard of this baker, but Rich tells me there used to be a television show with the same name.


The recipe is called Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and it is pretty simple to throw together, although you have to wait a bit for it to cool down. Although the recipe says to bake for about an hour and 50 minutes, I found it was done in about an hour. I suspect it meant to say bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Whenever I see the direction to sift dry ingredients, I always whisk them in a bowl a few times. Works like a charm every time. I melt by chocolate in a glass in the microwave in 20 second spurts. If you use Earth Balance instead of butter this recipe can be parve.

And did it work? Did we succeed in Lilli eating food with zucchini folded into it? Not really, and really chocolate cake is not a healthy vehicle for even the most virtuous of vegetables. But Rich and I enjoyed slices for breakfast, trimmed slices whenever we walked by it in the kitchen, and were also happy to have it on hand when friends stopped by unexpectedly.

If you don’t need to sneak any vegetables, consider this a recipe to get rid of some of the zucchini your neighbors have been leaving on your front porch.

Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake


1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), washed and stem removed

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 ½ cup vegetable oil

3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (one 12-ounce package)


Preheat oven to 325F. Liberally coat the inside of a 9 ½ x 4-inch nonstick Bundt pan with the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Set aside.

In a sifter combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside until needed. (Or, just mix all these ingredients in a bowl and stir with a whisk a few times.)

Grate 1 large zucchini in a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk (or use a box grater). Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups sugar and 4 eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until light in color and thickened; then use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on medium while slowly adding 1 ½ cups vegetable oil in a steady stream (it’s a good idea to use a pouring shield attachment or to cover the top of the mixer and sides of the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap to avoid splattering oil outside of the mixing bowl). Combine to mix until the batter is yellow in color and thick, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Continue to operate the mixer on medium speed and slowly add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and mix on low for 15 seconds. Add 2 cups chocolate chips and mix on low for another 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter until thoroughly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt cake pan, using a rubber spatula and spreading evenly.

Place the pan onto a baking sheet with sides on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted, between 50 minutes and an hour. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes at room temperature. Unmold the cake from the pan. Place the cake, baked top facing up, on a cake circle (or onto a cake plate) and cool at room temperature for 1 additional hour before slicing.

To Serve: Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and wipe the blade dry before cutting each slice. Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and take a piece or two of cake along for the ride.


It’s a Brooklyn Thing

Well, we are two for two with baking times being totally off with cake recipes from The Mile End Cookbook. But, like the honey cake for Rosh Hashana, I’m still sharing this olive oil cake with you in time for Chanukah because the result was that delicious. It’s soft and fluffy and lemony. Pillowy, even.

olive oil cake

Lilli and I put this together when we got home tonight. The recipe, as written, says it should bake for about 40 minutes, and there’s something about a thermometer which I found useless since the cake was near-liquid 35 minutes in. In total, this took about 75 minutes to bake. While we waited, Lilli and I did some coloring and enjoyed some halva my mom gifted me for Chanukah. (Rich would like me to note that she’s not a chatty one, but actually said “halva” tonight in between popping sweet bites into her mouth. This is actually a really big deal considering she has yet to say her own name.) She was already asleep by the time the cake was cool enough to cut. Sorry about that, kiddo.

The authors describe this cake as not a “traditional Jewish thing, or even a Montreal thing. It’s a Brooklyn thing – it’s based on cakes you’ll find at some of the old Italian bakeries in Carroll Gardens…” They say the cake is still good for up to a week after it’s been made, but it would be a miracle if it lasted to the eighth day.

Olive Oil Cake


3 large eggs

Zest of one lemon

3 cups sugar

1 ½ cups olive oil (or substitute 1 cup canola oil and ½ cup olive oil)

1 ½ cups whole milk

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Powdered sugar, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh berries, and crème fraiche (optional), for serving


Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place the eggs and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed for a few seconds. While the mixer is running, add 1 ¼ cups of the sugar and mix until it’s dissolved, 10 to 15 seconds. Keep the mixer running and add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue mixing for another minute, and then add the milk in a slow, steady stream. Mix for another few seconds.

Stop the mixer and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining 1 ¾ cups of sugar to the bowl; mix on low speed for a few seconds to bring the ingredients together, then on medium speed for about 3 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until you have a smooth and fairly thin batter.

Line a 12-inch round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper trimmed to fit snugly in the bottom of the pan; grease the lined pan with a light film of oil or cooking spray. (I used a 12-inch spring-form pan for easy removal.)

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 75 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through cooking, until the top has split and become a deep golden brown and a thin metal insert comes out clean.

Let the cake cool, and then turn it out onto a serving plate. Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar and drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with fresh berries and crème fraiche, if you like.

‘Tis the gift to be simple

This humble, 2”x 4” piece is all that remains of the full 12″x 16” apple cake I baked yesterday. It was, I am pleased to announce, the easiest cake I’ve ever made, and quite possibly, the most delicious apple cake I’ve ever encountered. I found the recipe in a Shaker cookbook, which makes sense. Humble, simple, perfect in its simplicity, it exemplifies Shaker cooking, which the cookbook describes as “plain, wholesome food well prepared.”

I must admit, I was doubtful at first: “Is that all I have to do?” Which was soon followed by, “How is this little bit of batter going to fill up this huge pan?” Well, it did fit, just at the bottom, after I scraped it around to fill in the gaps and made sure it was even. Be sure to scrape the cracklings – the sugary crust – off the bottom and the sides, when serving. It’s the best part.

Dutch Apple Cake from Shaker Your Plate: Of Shaker Cooks and Cooking by Sister Frances A. Carr


1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup milk

2 cups flour

2 heaping teaspoons baking powder

4 apples (the recipe calls for 6 –8, although I’m stumped as to how to squeeze in that many onto the batter PLEASE NOTE: I just made the cake and could only squeeze two apples onto the batter. My advice is to go halve by halve.)

½ cup butter or margarine, melted

½ to ¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the sugar, eggs, milk, flour and baking powder together. Pour mixture in a 12” x 16” pan. Pare and slice the apples. Lay them on the cake batter real [sic] closely together. Pour the melted butter over all and sprinkle the sugar which has been combined with the cinnamon. Bake until apples are tender. This should take about 30 – 35 minutes.