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The Chocolate Cake Affair

Good evening:

Regular readers of this humble blog may remember the chocolate-laden, gluten free post I re-blogged last week from fellow foodie writer Sophie James, who writes a very elegant blog called Stories from the Stove. Of course, that’s where the similarity ends, because mine is. . .less elegantly written. But that’s OK, I get my point across, and that’s a nice gluten-free cake she’s got there.

I’m going to tell you about another chocolate cake in a minute, and the story that’s attached. In a minute. Because, it was my BIRTHDAY.

This week marks a number of starts. First, I have switched phone companies and now have an iPhone 4s. I really didn’t want a Smartphone, because I see how dumb it makes people. But I was missing too much important email; people and companies assume everyone has one, so it became a necessity.  I’ve loaded it up with lots of cool apps, including one from east coast grocery chain Publix, which includes a nice grocery list function. It’s free and really handy, although it can be a little fussy. And you don’t have to go to Publix to use it! My local HEB used to have a similar thing on their website, but not anymore—and the only apps HEB has are all for HEB Mexico.) There are a number of free grocery list apps available for the iPhone, but I’ve been using the Publix grocery list for a couple of years on the PC, so I decided to stick with that one.

Once in a while, I actually make a real, live phone call with my iPhone. Go figure!

I also take comfort in the fact that people who are considered geniuses have very messy desks. That’s why you’re not seeing pictures of mine. Ever.

Also this week for my music fans, Def Leppard’s CD/DVD set of their Viva Hysteria concerts in Las Vegas earlier this year was released this week. If you buy it from Amazon, they also have something called “AutoRip” where you can download the audio for free, right away, and import it directly into iTunes before your hard copy arrives. Mostly I want to see the concert video, since I couldn’t get to Vegas to see these five handsome UK males (and they didn’t come to Houston this year) so that will be next week. I also have their previous live CD Mirrorball, and kept up with their shows on Facebook, so I kind of know what to expect.  If you’re a fan—and yes, I am—you can read more on DefLeppard.com.

Yeah, I know, it’s not foodie related. But it’s new. And it’s Def Leppard. RAOW.

The current diet phase is over, and I’ve lost ten pounds. Woo hoo! Should have been more, I tell myself, but if you don’t sleep 8 hours or so a night, and you sneak some chocolate now and again, you won’t lose as much weight. I know this because I’ve seen it myself on the daily diet charts. On the mornings where I slept less than 6 or 7 hours, I either stall or gain a bit. When I sleep enough and more or less follow the program, I drop it. Mostly I sleep in on the weekends, because there is too much to do when I get home at night. My evening task lists always start with, “feed cat. Feed big cat.” You can guess which one is the big cat.

I also ordered a case of 12 cans of Somersweet two weeks ago to stock up for a while. There was a free gift with purchase, travel sizes of some of her exclusive toxin-free hair care products. The day the box arrived, I got an email from SS’s website telling me that “Somersweet is 25% off!” Had I waited a week, I would have saved about $22.50. AAAAHHH!!! But that’s kind of the way my luck goes sometimes; I didn’t know that was coming. Darnit.

Last week was the annual Bootcamp for American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI), where I’ve been for the last three years, twice on my birthday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it this year, but will try again next year. It’s like missing the family reunion to me, but I wasn’t able to go for a handful of reasons. Keep your fingers crossed for next year.  Last year they not only baked my cake, I also had 325 copywriters sing me Happy Birthday.

This year, I’m on my own. But that’s OK too.

It was also at last year’s Bootcamp that my friend Akinnyi from London, a very nice man, said to me, “well, why don’t you write a food blog?” On the way home, the ideas started to gel, and I got on WordPress a few days later. In fact, when I logged on tonight to start this blog post, WordPress had a message for me: Happy Anniversary! It was one year ago, October 29th, that I started this blog.

Foodies have been rolling their eyes ever since. Including Sophie James, I bet.

This one’s for you, Akinnyi. Thanks for the idea. I ran with it.

Since I didn’t go to Bootcamp this year, I had to bake my own birthday cake. I already knew which one it would be, because I baked it many times before. It’s the Chocolate Ganache Cake from Suzanne Somers’ original 2002 Desserts book, incorporating her newly released Somersweet in to the recipes so that delicious desserts were available to make and not give you sugar crashes or toxins from aspartame. It was a while before I tried Somersweet, but eventually I was won over, and I still buy it today, in it’s updated form.

So this cake is, indeed, gluten free, because there is absolutely no flour of any kind, no sugar, and made from basic ingredients (and Somersweet). But since Suzanne Somers Desserts was published in 2002, most people hadn’t heard the term “gluten free” unless they were suffering with celiac disease or some other reaction from wheat. In this book, it’s considered “low carb,” because that’s primarily what SS’s books were about. Sugar manifests in many forms, wheat included, since most carbs turn to sugar in your bloodstream.  That sugar then stimulates the insulin response, and that’s where things can go awry, particularly with continued intake of sugar.

You may not realize this is happening until your doctor starts talking about “options for managing your diabetes.” I know this because my Dad continually ate what he was told by his doctors that would “improve his heart health,” only to later find out the hard way that none of it was true. Didn’t help his heart and didn’t prevent diabetes.

Anyway, enough of the Wheat Belly lecture.

This book was published just after Somersweet first came out in 2001, and the entire book, plus another called Chocolate, are all healthier versions of various desserts (although some may have small amounts of sugar for the times you can handle it.) This particular cake calls for a small amount, since the original Somersweet was 5x sweeter than regular sugar. Today, Somersweet is cup for cup like sugar, so I did a little reconfiguring to make it come out right.

The actual cake part is made by beating 8 eggs for several minutes with some baking soda and getting so much air into them that they bake up and come out baked as a cake. I haven’t made this one in 3 years, but it’s pretty simple to make, and works every time.

Beating eggs for 8 minutes fluffs them up for a perfect cake

Beating eggs for 8 minutes fluffs them up for a perfect cake

You bake the cake for longer than the 15 minutes in the book.  I think the new Somersweet changes that part, since it used to be just 15 minutes. But that’s OK. What you get out of the oven (using a 9 inch springform pan) looks like this:

It got a bit browner than I planned

It got a bit browner than I planned

Then you cut it into three layers, not the two I used to do:

Oops. But we can fix it

Oops. But we can fix it

This is an extremely delicate matter, because one wrong move and the whole thing falls apart. It’s heavy and dense, so you have to have a big spatula or two to move the bottom over to the cake plate.

A trick I learned from the Barefoot Contessa recently is to put a small dollop of buttercream under the bottom layer so the cake sticks to the cake plate. I did that, and later regretted it when I put squares of wax paper underneath so I could make it without a mess. Uh, right. . .

So, I grabbed my offset spatula and got busy with it:

Filling the first layer

Filling the first layer

Filling, or repairing, the top layer

Filling, or repairing, the top layer

Starting the ganache process. it didn't go well

Starting the ganache process. It didn’t go well

See the wax paper squares? That was intended to keep the ganache from dripping all down the shelves of my fridge. Unfortunately, it not only facilitated dripping chocolate, it made the ganache drip outside the confines of the baking pan I put the cake plate to to contain the mess. So it made a bigger mess than it was designed to contain. It figures.

That’s what’s known as irony, if you didn’t know that before.

After that last picture, I stuck the whole thing, plus the dishes of buttercream and ganache, in the fridge to chill and thicken up a bit, hence the drips on the top shelf.

This cake recipe includes a rich chocolate buttercream filling and a very nice ganache that is poured over the whole cake. Trust me when I tell you that I do not waste a drop of it. One of the benefits of being in your own kitchen is that YOU get to lick the beaters. If you have kids around, then you have to bake when they’re not around or are otherwise occupied.

Simple chocolate ganache. Yes, thank you.

Simple chocolate ganache. Yes, thank you.

Chocolate Buttercream. Is there anything more perfect?

The finished product, ready to eat

The finished product, ready to eat

In the end, it all worked, and while it doesn’t look quite the same as the picture in the book, it’s pretty tasty looking.

I picked up some raspberries at Kroger, and decided to up the ante a bit, because, well, I love raspberries with chocolate to begin with.

Just a little something extra to make it all mine!

Just a little something extra to make it all mine!

Four years ago I also bought that ceramic cake plate because putting it on a dinner plate wasn’t working. Of course, on this one it’s a bit, um, earthy, so the chocolate doesn’t exactly stand out. DUH. But that’s what was available at Hobby Lobby the day I went over there. It has been collecting dust, because I’ve gone to Bootcamp the last three years and didn’t bake my own cake.

Of course, the kitchen suffered and boy did I work to get that taken care of:

The remains of the cake (after filling and frosting)

The remains of the cake (after filling and frosting)

Chocolate ganache everywhere!

Chocolate ganache everywhere!

So, here’s what my favorite gluten free, sugar free, low-carb Somersweet chocolate birthday cake looks like when you cut a slice:

Rich. Thick. Chocolate. Any questions?

Rich. Thick. Chocolate. Any questions?

And to serve it:

OK, OK, so I flopped it on its side. It's edible.

OK, OK, so I flopped it on its side. It’s edible.

I did share with one of my neighbors and one of my Buddhist friends I visited the next morning. I would have shared with two of my neighbors, but the other one had surgery around her mouth and can’t chew. She got some delicious Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup. She didn’t want all of it, so naturally, I ate the rest this week. I gotta make me some more of that soup soon–it’s so good, and takes just about 20 minutes.

Now, it was indeed my birthday, so I headed out first to Starbucks for my free birthday drink. Want to guess what that was? Well, if you read my blog earlier this year, you’ll probably figure it was a Hazelnut Macchiato, and you’d be right. And because it was a splurge, it was my free one, and it was my birthday, I got a big one, and it went on my Starbucks card. I watched someone ring up a $4.65 cup of coffee and it went to “no charge.” However, I only do that once a year, when it’s offered. And check out the artwork on my coffee cup:

Coffee Cup art

Isn’t that cool?

I then went to Denny’s for a free gluten-free Grand Slam. Well, almost free:

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OK, so there’s the seasonal fruit cup off-camera that was 49 cents, and then the blueberries for the oatmeal was another 49 cents, and one more thing, I think, for a total of $1.61. Maybe it was the milk for the oatmeal; but still, it was pretty darn good.

Now for dinner, I decided on pizza–home made, gluten free pizza. I took out the Wheat Belly Cookbook and got to work. However, I also used a canned pizza sauce without sugar in it, as well as some delish sausages bought on sale at Cost Plus World Market. (Because it was my birthday, I had a $10 off coupon, plus they allowed me to use a 10% off purchase coupon I got in the mail. Cool!) Not bad, not bad, and I had plenty left for breakfast.

Pizza!

Pizza! (And half the Mango Mojito with Somersweet)

Overall, it was a pretty good day, and I even got a new shirt nearly completed too. The weather was good, the sun was out, the sky was a beautiful blue, and fortunately, everything was pretty good.

Sunday brought an old friend for dinner, and he was wowed with not only the cake but a delicious salad from Giada de Laurentiis and one of Nigella’s delicious dishes from her last book. More on that later.

Of course Monday came along, and I now live for next weekend, where I am promising myself I will not drive anywhere for anything and stay home for 48 hours. I hope so.

Enjoy!

Memorial Day

Hello, Dear Readers:

Once again I have been OBE, or “overcome by events,” and it has been another two weeks since I wrote. My apologies. I have one started and in the can (the draft folder) about a foodie adventure I went on recently, and can’t wait to tell you all about it. But today, I have lots to share.

First, let me say that Memorial Day is to honor the fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members who work hard to protect our rights and our lives in the US. (It is not about a day off, or great deals on furniture, cars and carpeting.) Because of those who died protecting this country, I can bring you this silly foodie blog, along with countless other folks who blog about a myriad of subjects. Cooking. Sewing. Cats. Cars. Gardening. Ranching. Homesteading. Theater. Traveling. And yes, (gulp) politics. People in the US who blog about their interests utilize their First Amendment right of free speech, which you don’t necessarily get in other countries. Some have died for what they’ve written because they were not allowed the freedom to express it (and not always politics, either.) You name it, there’s a blog for it, and we in the US all owe a debt of gratitude for the men and women who have given all in defense of our country.

Also, people in Oklahoma are suffering, so if you can donate, please do; if not, at least keep them in your prayers. There are a number of organizations helping tornado survivors, including the Salvation Army, Mercy Chefs (they bring mobile kitchens to disaster sites and hand out hot food to affected people) and others. I like that–and when I get to it I’m planning to give Mercy Chefs some funds myself. I’ve done it before, and I know they’re legit; but if you have a preferred charity, by all means, the great state of Oklahoma needs some help now. Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, also lists these organizations that are helping out.

It’s not always about Texas. Even when it is. Anyway. . .

So what have I been doing? Snoozing on the bus when I’m trying to read going either to downtown or home from it. I’m still hacking my way through a book, but while it’s a good book, and I need to re-read it now, I can’t help but doze off. Glad to have my little travel pillow stuffed in my commuter bag.

I’ve had a weekend where I should have been drinking but wasn’t (not for lack of alcohol), but today I’ve done some cooking and planted the HeatCageKitchen garden (that’s another blog post, with pictures.) I’ve done both flower planting in the front and veg/sunflower planting in the back, and I’ve even bought a Meyer lemon tree. Let’s see how that works out. Unfortunately, didn’t realize that Mr. Snail was inside my dirty gardening clogs that I just intended to rinse off (I wore my tennis shoes and socks to protect my feet.) I found him after I’d rinsed them with hot water in the bathtub, so I’m guessing when I tossed him back over the fence, it wasn’t to a new life, but to a burial plot. Sorry about that, but I don’t like snails much anyway, and no, I’ve never eaten escargot. Nor do I intend to, I don’t care if Giada de Laurentiis makes it for me.

This weekend I did some sewing, too, but didn’t get as much done as I wanted. Later in this post, I’ll give you the recipe for the official HeatCageKitchen yeast-free, gluten-free, dairy-free ultimate Breakfast Quiche. It’s got a lot of eggs in it. (And boy, do I need a shower.)

First, an update: I am thoroughly enjoying having a salad when I get home at night. Lettuce sealed in jars is a fantastic idea and I am happy to report that it’s well worth the small amount of trouble. I’m telling you, if salad is your thing like it is mine, you really gotta try sealing lettuce in the jar for yourself. It works perfectly, and the lettuce is totally delicious a week out. Don’t believe me? Check out this pic I took this morning:

The lettuce lasts all week!

The lettuce lasts all week!

Two heads of iceberg lettuce were chopped, rinsed, spun dry, packed into glass jars and sealed up with the Ziploc tool method. However, the two in the front were packed up 8 days ago. No kidding. Today is Monday, and those two front jars were packed a week ago yesterday. I ate one of them today with a huge tomato. Know what? It was STILL GOOD. Fresh and tasty, just like I packed them. I realize that a month down the road the lettuce might be a little funky, but for lettuce to last a week in the fridge like that, and perfectly crisp. . .yeah. I’m enjoying my salads. Heck, even plain iceberg lettuce with a bit of olive oil and salt is good, too–long as it’s not limp and brown.

This weekend I also put half a pork roast in the crock pot with some homemade BBQ sauce, (I bought a three pounder and cut it in half, froze the other part) and roasted two turkey thighs. I love turkey thighs; they taste so much better than breast meat, they’re available in most bigger grocery stores, and they’re usually a lot cheaper. Also made a batch of Five Minute Hummus. Just ’cause I could.

So. . .drum roll. . .I think I have created the perfect breakfast dish. The HeatCageKitchen Supreme Breakfast Quiche. It’s a hit! (It’s really good.) But first, a little background: I realized that my previous attempts were missing something: MEAT! I love sausage, but conventional sausage usually has sugar in it, so I leave it alone.

I was thumbing through Dr. Hotze’s Optimal Eating Plan looking for something else when I came across a recipe for homemade breakfast sausage. It calls for ground turkey, but I had some ground chicken I wanted to use for something, and it fit the bill. A little salt, a little pepper, a little fresh sage, and it’s pretty darn good. (I bought some fresh sage and planted some organic sage seeds so I’ll have it all year long. I hope it grows.) I cooked it like ground beef, crumbled in a big cast-iron skillet with all the ingredients, and then put it in the greased pie plate:

IMG_1993Topped that with a jar of chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, oh, yeah:

IMG_1995

I didn’t lose any this time.

Then beat the heck out of ten eggs with some almond milk poured in (maybe a quarter cup?) and a few shakes of Chipotle Tabasco. This type of Tabasco has some heat but doesn’t burn you; when you add a couple of shakes to eggs in this fashion, it gives a smoky flavor but no heat to speak of.

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I like this shot best because you don’t see the cat’s homeopathic allergy drops, which are sitting right behind the mixer. I did not add them, despite the formula’s alleged “bacon flavor.” That’s for the cat.

I beat the eggs to a nice little froth with my Suzy Homemak. . I mean, Suzanne Somers super-duper hand mixer. No, there is no milk, cream, cheese or other milk-based foods in this dish (and no tofu, either, forget that.)

My regular 4 cup measure was in the dishwasher (round 1 of 2) so I grabbed the seldom-used 8 cup, which I have for occasions that I need more room. Good choice, ’cause I could beat them eggs but good!

So then you just pour it over the sausage and tomato mixture and bake it at 350F until it’s done.

IMG_2001

I don’t know, you bake it until the knife comes out clean. I wasn’t paying attention. I had dishes to wash, you know. You time it and get back to me on it, OK?

I used the countertop oven. Why? Well, think about it–110v vs. 220v. In Houston. In summer. I use the countertop much more than the regular stove anyway. Because it works. I still have to clean it, though.

So after it’s baked, this is what you get:

IMG_2006

Oh, yeah. . .that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Not too rich, not too light, meaty but not heavy, with the wonderful tomato taste tossed in. Yeah. Oh, and I skipped that crust part. Got sick of it, actually, but I do like the golden flaxseed meal for other things, like that gluten-free sandwich wrap you make in the microwave. I need to make those again soon, they’re so delish.

So, there you have it–the perfect breakfast quiche. No gluten, no soy, no breading, no milk, and all real food. (Yes, sun-dried tomatoes in oil are real food. I can eat a whole jar.)

The recipes are as follows:

Breakfast Turkey Sausage (from The Yeast Connection Cookbook by Crook & Jones)

1 lb ground turkey (ground chicken also works well)

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 to 1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 to 1 tsp dried sage or 10-12 fresh sage leaves, minced.

Mix all ingredients using a fork or food processor for less than a minute.

You can turn this mixture into patties, cook and freeze, or freeze raw.

For this quiche, however, after you mix the ingredients, put it into a large pan and brown as you would ground beef:

IMG_1990

HeatCageKitchen Breakfast quiche

One recipe Breakfast Turkey Sausage (above), browned

One jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil (chopped)

10 eggs, beaten with 2 shakes Chipotle Tabasco and 1/4 cup almond milk (if not doing yeast-free, milk of your choice.)

Layer the sausage in a greased pie plate, covering the bottom.

Layer the chopped sun-dried tomatoes on top

Pour the beaten eggs over the top and allow to settle. Bake in a 350F oven until a knife inserted into the quiche comes out without liquid eggs.

Enjoy!