Ice Cream Sandwiches & Sarah’s Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I’ve been dying to share this recipe with you since I first made it a few weeks ago. These cookies from Sarah Kieffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog are simply magnificent. I’d been thinking about making them for some time, but couldn’t come up with a decent reason to justify a batch. Finally, fate stepped in and gave me a snow day. As soon as I pried my eyes open and checked my phone at 5:00 am to discover-joyously-I wouldn’t be going in to work that day, my body instantly ached to bake something. And while I didn’t anticipate posting this recipe, this is certainly one for the books. These are some of the best cookies I’ve tasted.

As we were planning a brief getaway in Chelan the following weekend with family to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday, I decided these cookies were destined to become ice cream sandwich cookies (perhaps the best decision I’ve made as of late). I picked out a vanilla ice cream (as I am usually a traditionalist when it comes to my cookies and ice cream) and a pint of So Delicious Cashew Milk Snickerdoodle ice cream (to honor my adventurous, experimental side) and packed them in the cooler for the trek over the mountains.
We celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday on Saturday night after a long day of cross-country skiing. Sore, cold, and exhausted we broke into these cookies and piled indulgent (I almost wrote “obscene”) mounds of ice cream in the middle, with a single candle sticking out of the fine specimen destined for my mother-in-law. While my husband reports that the vanilla worked well, the Snickerdoodle combination was by far the favorite complement to the cookies. We devoured the sandwiches in reverent, messy silence. The ice cream melted rapidly (as we didn’t waste any time chilling them in the fridge, which I recommend below), so we mopped it up using broken bits of cookie until our plates were clean, and sat back in bliss before diving into a decidedly heated game of Pinnacle.

These were quite the treat and I am already brainstorming the next flavor combination: Molly Moon’s coconut raspberry ice cream is the front-runner, or, for now, a strawberry ice cream substitute, as the raspberry won’t be in season for several months.

While the ice cream definitely adds to this dessert, these cookies themselves are the show-stopper. They are massive and chocolatey, soft and chewy with a subtle crunch of raw cane sugar on top. They possess a subtle hint of cardamom (my favorite spice), and would, I wager, satisfy any sweet tooth. I couldn’t ask for a better cookie to serve as a vehicle for ice cream. And as always, I’ve modified them to be gluten- and dairy-free so they are accessible to most folks.
Ice Cream Sandwiches with Chocolate Sugar Cookies (GF + DF)
Modified from Sarah Kieffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book
Serves 6 (12-large cookies)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (i.e., Namaste Perfect Flour Blend)
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup Earth Balance (or unsalted butter), room temperature
1 3/4 cups raw cane sugar, plus 1 – 1 1/2 cups for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-1 teaspoon cardamom, for rolling

1-quart ice cream (non-dairy or regular) (e.g., strawberry, old-fashioned vanilla, cinnamon-your choice)

Directions
For the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combined gluten-free flour, cocoa power, baking soda, and salt.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating for an additionally 2 or 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat to combine. Slowly add the dry ingredients, and beat on low until the flour mixture is just combined.

Mix the remaining sugar and cardamom in a small bowl. Roll out large balls of dough (about the size of a golf ball) and dredge them in sugar mixture. Place 6 cookies on the prepared baking sheet and bake for approximately 11 minutes until the edges are set and the tops begin to crack.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

For the ice cream sandwiches:
Once the cookies have cooled completely, or the following day if time permits, match up cookies in pairs based on similar size and shape. Remove the ice cream from the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving to warm up slightly so it is easier to work with. Lay out each pair of cookies, bottom facing up. Place a generous scoop or two of ice cream in the center of one of each pair of cookies. Using a dinner knife or spatula, smooth out the ice cream into an even layer leaving a little space around the edge as the ice cream will squish out a bit when putting the two cookies together. Once the ice cream is smooth, set the second cookie on top and push down slightly. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to prevent premature melting and then serve.

Tastes Like Spring


Last week at this time, we were thawing out from a large snow storm that engulfed the Seattle area. Fast-forward a week and it feels like spring. The past two days have been brilliantly sunny and nearing the upper 50s. As soon as we start to see weather like this, my body begins to ache for the transformation from winter to spring, and meals that fall into suit. This particular recipe was the perfect fit for these past few spring-like days.

I was introduced to this recipe from a friend in my weekly community group. Every Wednesday evening from October to June, my husband and I gather with 8-14 friends (depending on the week) and a couple kids at someone’s home. We enjoy dinner, conversation, and fellowship together. Since I love cooking and preparing food for others, I volunteer to cook for the group most weeks. We gather at 6:30 pm, though, it tends to be more like 6:40 pm or so before we actually pack up dinner and drive over. Once everyone arrives, we make our way to the large dining room table where we break bread together, listen to each others’ stories, and linger until the conversation winds down. We then make our way into the living room where we gather for another forty-five minutes. Dessert is sometimes served toward end of the night, often a cookie or bar of some sort. As it reaches 8:30 pm, families slowly begin to pack up and make their way home as another Wednesday evening winds down. I always look forward to this weekly routine, as I often feel re-energized afterward and ready to face the rest of the week ahead.

I encountered this particular dish during one of these community group gatherings last spring. We were hosting a potluck at our house and each couple brought a side dish. I can’t recall the main course that evening, but this salad stood out. It was the perfect dish for the time of year and included seasonal, fresh vegetables. Upon first bite, this salad was hearty, delicious and full of healthy, feel-good ingredients. I immediately tried replicating the salad and have since modified the recipe. It’s a good one to have in your repertoire and serves as a dependable side dish for any potluck. Let’s hope spring hurries up and gets here soon.
Spring Quinoa Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
Modified from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4-6

Dressing
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ripe avocado
1 teaspoon honey
fresh pepper to taste
Salad
2 bunches curly kale, destemmed, torn into pieces                                                                          1 – 1- 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
3-4 multi-colored carrots, cut in ribbons using a vegetable peeler
1 small bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
1 avocado, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup sliced almonds
 1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
Directions
Make the dressing using a food processor or blender. (I’d recommend doubling it depending on the quantity of quinoa you use). Combine all ingredients until smooth. (As a short cut, I usually whisk the dressing by hand in the bottom of a large bowl and then add the kale).
Massage the dressing into the kale until it starts to soften and is evenly coated. Add the quinoa, carrots, fennel, salt to taste, and toss. Then add the avocado and almonds, and toss gently one last time. Garnish with green onions and serve.
Leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several days. This salad is particularly flavorful the following day.

World Peace & Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies 

My great-grandparents were immigrants. My grandparents were born in the U.S. but their first language was not English. Both of their parents originated in Northern Italy, my grandfather’s side from Milan and my grandmother’s from a small hill town outside of Genoa. Their parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. They traveled through Ellis Island and eventually ended up on the West Coast, and settled south of Seattle in the Kent Valley where they owned a dairy farm, making cheese for a living. My grandparents were born a few years later in the mid-1920s. At the time, the valley consisted of family farms and fields as far as the eye could see. Now, the land is marked with traffic, strip malls and restaurants.

My great-grandparents are the reason I am here today, in this country and living a comfortable existence. But the path wasn’t easy for them, as immigrants to the country. It was particularly difficult for my grandfather growing up, with his dark Mediterranean skin and no English. When my grandfather was of school-age, he would hide in the family’s barn each day, terrified to go to school because he couldn’t speak the language. The school finally called about his absences and his parents made him return immediately. After that, my great-grandparents stopped speaking Italian and learned English. As a result, my mother didn’t learn her family’s native language growing up, other than a few words here and there. And while my grandparents did maintain some of their heritage, as they were devoted members of the Sons of Italy and cooked magnificent Italian feasts, I never heard my grandparents speak Italian, not once, though I knew they could.

We live in a country of immigrants, like my great-grandparents, and that is what has driven this country to greatness. While I am still figuring out what it looks like in my life to stand up for refuge, safety, and rights of all people, I am working on it. I am going to start small and make a daily impact in my little corner of the world. And while this isn’t much, I’ve been baking and cooking a lot lately, because it helps me cope. And because food is love. These cookies from Dorie Greenspan have been in the rotation often (partly because of their name and partly because they are so darn good). I’ve adapted them to be gluten- and dairy-free. I’ve also added hazelnuts, large chocolate chunks of Theo’s 70% chocolate, and topped them with Maldon’s flaky sea salt. I brought them to a weekly gathering with friends last week and we enjoyed them as we challenged each other about tough things like what it means to be brave and what that looks like in our lives this next year. I hope these cookies bring a little light into your week.
Dorie’s World Peace Cookies
Modified from Dorie’s Cookies
Makes approximately two dozen cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (i.e., Namaste)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (sub Earth Balance or a non-dairy version)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces 70% chocolate, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup chopped raw hazelnuts

Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and baking soda. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter (or Earth Balance) and sugars together on medium speed until soft and fluffy. Add salt and vanilla, and combine. Turn off mixer, add the dry ingredients and blend on low until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap. Dump half of the dough on the plastic wrap and mold the dough into a log about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. It helps to cover the dough with the plastic wrap and squish it around until it becomes smooth and forms a uniform log. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Place both covered logs of dough in the fridge for about 3 hours (2 hours in the freezer), or let sit in the fridge overnight if baking the next day or so.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. If the rounds break apart (which usually happens), just press the dough back together until it holds. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, about 8 to a sheet since they typically don’t spread out too much. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes without opening the oven (I think 11 minutes is just right.). When the timer rings, transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest for 5-10 minutes. The cookies will look soft and doughy but will firm up as they cool. Transfer the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack, and bake the remaining dough.

I store these cookies in the freezer and let them warm up prior to eating. Otherwise, they can also be stored at room temperature for a few days but keep in mind gluten-free goods often don’t last as long so you’ll have to eat them up quickly.

Chicken & Cumin Enchiladas with Green Chili Sauce

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This is the year I turn thirty. While I have six months to prepare myself for this milestone, it seems as though the train is running full steam ahead. At times, I feel like this thing-this obstacle, or what have you-came out of nowhere. And while sometimes my stomach tosses and turns at the thought, I often feel anxious to get there already, especially as I watch my friends, one by one, make the leap. Mostly, thirty feels exciting. I’ve been told, and have written about this before, that thirty feels different. It feels good. There is less comparison to others, a sense of security and confidence in oneself. And I suppose I am tired of feeling out of place, too old to be lumped together with those in their early twenties but not officially thirty.

This age range 20-30 feels so gigantic, and has included a number of major of changes in my life. However, people often talk about how age 30-40 is all the same. (Note to self: watch reruns of Thirtysomething, I might learn something useful). When I started my twenties, I was in college. I was about to graduate with a B.A. in psychology, and I was living completely unsure of what lay beyond the safety nets of college. I was dating my now-husband (Nathan), living with a friend near campus, and working part-time at Starbucks as a barista. After graduation, I spent a few weeks traveling in Europe, before settling into work with my father in the world of insurance. A few years later, Nathan and I finally tied the knot just as I dived into a new venture as a graduate student. We moved to a quaint 1920s era apartment on the top of Queen Anne Hill, where we housed an illegal-or at least under-the-radar-kitten. Fast forward to my late twenties: I am five years into my career, and on my second job. We have purchased our first home (not an easy task in Seattle), remodeled it (my lord-never again, or at least not anytime soon), and managed to raise an energetic Goldendoodle puppy on the side (remodel + puppy = major hiatus in normalcy!).
f25ed6d7-dd4a-4138-a614-0924dd1a4c2eWhile chicken enchiladas may seem somewhat unrelated to this narrative, I can’t help but think of them as a marker of this time of tremendous change. These enchiladas were one of the first recipes I developed when I started investing time into cooking. I lived in an on-campus apartment with four women during my undergraduate years at the University of Washington, somewhere around my early twenties. Nathan lived two floors below. In that apartment, I started cooking regularly, and, gradually, I started becoming confident in my abilities. Retrospectively, this was a small miracle, given the old and dismal state-university kitchen with it’s fluorescent overhead lights, plastic laminate counter-tops, and makeshift appliances. While I shared the apartment, and consequently the kitchen, I found intervals of time where I could work alone, preparing meals for myself and Nathan who joined me regularly for dinner.

I hadn’t made these enchiladas since my early twenties. But this week, waxing philosophic about thirty, I felt an itch to whip up a batch. The memories came flooding back. And I realized again all the reasons why this was the most important dish of my twenty-something years. Moreover, they are at once easy to prepare, exceptionally delicious, and satisfying for a crowd. While these are loosely based off a few recipes here and there, I recognize now this Chicken and Cumin Enchilada recipe was the first recipe I could feel like I truly owned. Easily modified to be gluten- and dairy-free.
pic-16Chicken & Cumin Enchiladas with Green Chili Sauce
Serves 4-5 (and easily doubled)

Ingredients
8-10 medium flour tortillas (I prefer Mission Gluten-Free Tortillas for a gluten-free option)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole organic chicken, cooked and shredded (*see note below)
1-28 ounce can green chili sauce
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free all purpose, i.e., Namaste Perfect Flour Blend)
salt and pepper to taste

1-8 ounce package (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella (use Daiya Mozzarella for a dairy-free option)
fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Next, turn to low and add the prepared shredded chicken and cumin, and gently toss to combine. Then, add the broth and flour, and stir to combine until flour is incorporated in and the liquid has thickened slightly. Sprinkle in a handful of cheese at this point and remove the mixture from the stove.

Pour 1/4 cup of green enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×14 baking dish and swirl the dish around to coat the bottom of the dish. Next, fill the tortillas with the chicken and cumin mixture. Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling to each tortilla and evenly distribute within the middle. Wrap the tortilla to secure the filling inside and set in the baking dish with the crease on the bottom. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Next, cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce, making sure to coat each tortilla to prevent any edges from drying out and burning in the oven. I usually prefer my enchiladas extremely saucy but feel free to reduce the amount of sauce, as preferred. Afterward, sprinkle the enchiladas with a couple handfuls of the mozzarella and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and the enchiladas are slightly golden in color. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top.

*Note: I buy a whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds) and cook it the day before in a slow-cooker, which is easy and produces juicy, succulent chicken that really sets these enchiladas apart. If you are in a pinch, grab a plain rotisserie chicken or a package of chicken thighs to boil on the stove and shred. If you are going the slower-cooker route (which I highly recommend), rinse the chicken and put in slow-cooker with the gizzards. Cover with water and set on high for 3 1/2 hours. Once cooked, remove chicken from slow-cooker and let cool in a large dish or bowl. Then, shred the chicken and set aside. (Get ready for some of the best and juiciest chicken you’ve tasted). Put the skin and bones back into the slow-cooker with the remaining liquid. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and put on high for 12-15 hours to create a rich bone broth for future use (risotto, chicken noodle soup!) or to use in place of store-bought chicken broth in this recipe. Filter broth using a cheesecloth and compost bones and skin.

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Maple Donuts, Radio Cherry Bombe and Balance 

I took a short run around the neighborhood park last Saturday afternoon, listening to a podcast called Radio Cherry Bombe led by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, co-founders of Cherry Bombe Magazine, a publication celebrating women and food. The podcast highlights important woman in the culinary world through weekly interviews. My first time listening, I selected an old interview with Ruth Reichl, perhaps one of the most well-known and respected women in the food industry.

In the interview, Ruth and Kerry described the food industry as a “career of consumption” which couldn’t be more fitting. Those in the industry literally make a living through the consumption of food themselves, growing and making it for others, or writing about and styling it for the purpose of other people consuming and/or desiring to consume it. Later in the podcast, Ruth and Kerry discuss how many women in the food industry struggle with body image and eating habits. Specifically, how difficult it is to be in the world of food and stay thin because most people in the food industry are literally surrounded by food, be it a food reviewer whose job relies on the next dish they consume or restaurant they visit or a food blogger who tastes several phases of a dish before finally posting it online. They need to consume, in excess at times, in order to complete the work they do. This brief interview sent my mind into a whirlwind of thoughts. Particularly, the juxtaposition this creates of being part of a career of consumption, yet simultaneously obsessing over health, weight and body image. I myself am guilty of being obsessed with food, almost as an idol at times, while concurrently worrying about my health, body image and the impending doom my next baking experiment will inflict on my waist.I feel like this is a small glimpse into the lifelong battle I’ve been fighting with food. The balance between indulging in good food, whether it be at a new restaurant in town (which is often in Seattle) or baking up something in the kitchen, while trying to stay healthy and lean. I recall reading the book How French Women Stay Thin at an early age, hoping to extract any bit of advice to “stay thin”. I also remember the first time I started thinking about food as something bad, and engaging in self-deprivation. At one time I relied on an orange creme Yoplait non-fat yogurt for breakfast daily, followed by another one at lunch with a little granola on top, and then something small for dinner. No snacks. I ate the same thing twice a day because my brother’s girlfriend at the time told me that was the key to losing weight.Sitting here now, just after finishing a run and about to whip up a batch of baked donuts I’ve been dreaming about all week, this seems ridiculous. I cannot even imagine depriving myself of food since it is such an integral part of my life. But I think it is my early obsession with food that led me to my love of the culinary world. I still struggle today in various ways and will certainly do so for the rest of my life in some capacity. It is funny how the things you are most passionate about in life can also cause the most grief and pain. I’ve tried to overcome this through the words of Geneen Roth or other such novels on food and balance, with no such avail. But each day, I strive for balance. I fail often but I am beginning to accept how things are. And that’s why I can go for a run, do a few sit-ups and eat some cookies (or donuts, in this case).

While not your typical fried donuts, these baked ones are delicious. Crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. They have a hint of nutmeg, thick maple frosting and a sprinkle of large smoked sea salt granules on top.  Additionally, they are gluten-free and vegan and make a nice addition to any brunch or breakfast potluck.Gluten-Free, Vegan Maple Donuts with Smoked Sea Salt

Modified from Peas and Thank You
Makes 10-12 donuts

Ingredients
Donuts
1 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (i.e. Namaste) (or substitute 1/2 cup sorghum flour, though the result is a bit chewier)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup melted vegan butter (i.e. Earth Balance)
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar

Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter (i.e. Earth Balance), softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
splash of almond milk (about 1 Tablespoon)
smoked sea salt (i.e. Trader Joe’s)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or butter donut pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, milk, vanilla and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add liquid mixture to the flour and stir until just combined. With a small spoon, fill donut cups with batter. Use a knife to smooth out batter, if necessary. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of donuts until firm to touch. Allow donuts to cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

While the donuts are cooling, make the frosting. Beat together butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple and mix until combined. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it is thick and creamy. Add a splash of milk to thin, however, you want the frosting to be thick so it holds up on the donuts.

Once cooled, frost donuts and top with smoked sea salt. Store leftovers in a sealed container at room temperature or refrigerated.

The Only Chocolate Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

I recently discovered Julia Turshen’s new cookbook, Small Victories, which has been my go-to lately for quick and satisfying weeknight meals. I’ve tried a number of her recipes, all which have proven to be extremely flavorful, straightforward and repeat-worthy, including the following: Bread, Sausage & Apple Hash, Everything Biscuits, Julia’s Caesar, Bibb Lettuce with Garlic Dressing, Grace’s Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Radishes with Kalamata Dressing, one of her Fried-Rice variations (bacon and parsnips) and the main feature of this post, her Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake. Clearly there is a lot to love about this cookbook.

I think the chocolate cake, in particular, is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. I wrote a previous post outlining the very reasons why I hate traditional cakes. They are often boring, lack bold flavors and are seldom moist. Additionally, they either look too plain without decorations or I completely butcher the frosting making it appear as if a four year old must have actually decorated the cake. However, I am going to eat my words because this cake is good, probably the best I’ve had. I might even go as far as to say that I would have eaten this cake for our wedding because it was better than any wedding cake I’ve tasted. Once you make it, you’ll realize this is the only chocolate layer cake recipe you’ll ever need. And better yet, it is simple to throw together and tastes better the next day if wrapped and refrigerated.

What’s more, this cake can easily be modified to be gluten- and dairy-free. And I guarantee you, no one would be the wiser. While I wish I could take credit for this recipe, I really can’t. I’ve just taken a great recipe from Turshen’s brillant cookbook and modified it to meet my dietary restrictions. However, I think next time I’ll make some additional changes. I can’t stop thinking about all of the possible options for filling between the two layers: dark chocolate hazelnut butter, extra chocolate frosting, whipped peanut butter cream, rhubarb jam, the list goes on. I would also think a hint of heat in the chocolate frosting might be nice to create a Mexican chocolate frosting of sorts or flaky sea salt on top, because salt just makes everything taste better. In Julia’s book, she also gives directions for making a white cake by leaving out the cocoa powder. A hint of almond, lemon filling, strawberry, or coconut cream may also be nice. I can’t wait to experiment further with this one.

Find any reason to make this cake soon. After a few days, if you just can’t finish it, wrap it up, put it in a sealed container and store it in the freezer until you have one of those days where only chocolate cake will do. Trust me, you won’t regret it. I know I won’t since I have half a cake stored in my freezer and I certainly haven’t forgotten about it.
Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake
Modified from Julia Turshen’s, Small Victories
Makes one two-layer cake 

Cake
1 1/4 scant cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (i.e. Namaste)
1 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance), melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup black coffee, at room temperature
1 cup plain or vanilla coconut yogurt (I used a mix of both)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup vegan sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 cup jam of choice (or use chocolate frosting in between layers)
Berries, chocolate curls or sprinkles to top (optional)

Directions
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter the bottom and sides of two 8-inch cake pans, and line each with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper as well and set pans aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Then, add the melted butter, eggs, coffee, yogurt, and vanilla into the dry ingredients and whisk until batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. (Gluten-free cakes can sometimes take a little longer to cook so keep checking on them until the cakes are firm to touch and a toothpick in the center comes out clean). Leave the cakes in their pans and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, invert onto tray, using a knife to loosen the edges if necessary. Discard parchment paper.

For the frosting: While the cakes are cooling, melt chocolate chips in a microwave. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in sour cream and maple syrup until the mixture is smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting until the cakes have cooled, which allows the frosting to thicken, making it easier to frost.

Assembling the cake: Remove frosting from fridge. Set one of the inverted cakes in the center of your tray or work space, flat-side facing up. Spread the jam or frosting (if desired), over the top, leaving a little room around the edges so the filling doesn’t squish out when the next layer goes on. Place the second cake on top of jam (or frosting), flat-side up as well. Put a large scoop of frosting on top of the cake. Using a frosting spatula, spread the frosting over the top and down the sides. Once the frosting is covering most of the cake, spread to smooth.

Once the cake is frosted to your liking, let it sit for about an hour before serving for the flavors to mingle, or put in the fridge and serve the next day as we did. I would say that the cake was more moist and flavorful after refrigerating overnight, but if you can’t wait until then, serve yourself a small slice to satisfy your desire and then put the rest in the fridge overnight. When refrigerating, let the cake sit uncovered for 15 minutes and then cover with plastic wrap, making sure to cover the cut edges tightly to protect the cake from drying out.

Where It All Began

I spent Saturday morning walking around one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods where we resided a few years back. There was a cookbook sale taking place at Book Larder, a community cookbook store in Fremont, which only happens once a year. After spending a half hour or so browsing cookbooks and settling on a new one, I headed over to Lighthouse Roasters, a small unpretentious neighborhood coffee roaster which I’d argue serves the best coffee in town. When living in the area, we frequented this place regularly, always ordering the same thing: 2-16 oz Americanos with room for a touch of cold soy. Sadly, I didn’t recognize any of the baristas who were there day after day serving our coffee for two years. My favorite being the friendly, tall young man, often in an 80’s animal motif t-shirt (usually a large white wolf, sometimes a dog). I grabbed my coffee to go and ventured the long route back to my car in order to take in the sights of our old neighborhood and catch up on the new construction in the area.

It’s quite surreal how quickly the past few years have gone by; it’s been three years this past December since we vacated our little one bedroom 60’s era apartment (massive floor to ceiling mirrored closet doors, flashy chandelier, carport, popcorn ceilings, bedroom mold and all) in North Fremont and moved into our current home; three years being the longest we’ve lived in one place since our childhood homes. At the time, we didn’t realize how lucky we were living in such a trendy, convenient and urban neighborhood. When we originally came across the listing for the apartment, we weren’t familiar with this particular stretch of Fremont though we lived only a mile or so away on top of nearby Queen Anne.

Our apartment was on a residential street, two blocks from the main arterial which was home to noteworthy establishments such as Paseo, Dots Delicatessen (now closed but reopened in Pike Place), Via Tribunali, Pecado Bueno, Vif, Uneeda Burger, Rockcreek, Roux and Marketime Foods. It was near Book Larder and two blocks from Lighthouse Roasters. Quite the line-up.

While our apartment itself was quite bland, we had a large balcony overlooking Dayton Avenue on the second floor of the building. On the 4th of July you could just barely make out a glimmer of fireworks on Lake Union. We kept a small table and chairs out there which we used almost daily in the summer for our morning coffee or dinner while taking in the neighborhood sights.

We lived in that apartment for two years, the last apartment before purchasing our first home across town. Having migrated from a small 500 square foot apartment beforehand it was in that Fremont apartment that we finally had space to host our friends and families. It was also in that apartment that I discovered this quite delicious side salad and integrated it into our repertoire of reliable recipes. The recipe is adapted from Sarah Matheny who closed down her blog, Peas and Thank You, in 2013 and is no longer accessible on the web.

This salad is not only a favorite in our home, but widely appreciated by friends and family. It consists of hearty kale, apples, pistachios and a sweet but tangy sesame vinaigrette. The magic happens when you massage the dressing into the kale leaves (and we aren’t talking a light massage, really get in there good) for several minutes and then let it sit in the refrigerator to absorb and break down the tough fibers in the kale. It’s actually quite therapeutic and if I’m being honest, I sometimes purposefully include this salad in our dinner plans for a few peaceful minutes to clear my mind after a long day.

Sesame Kale Salad with Apples and Pistachios 
Serves 3-4, as a side dish

Ingredients
1 large bunch of curly kale, stems removed
1 red apple (i.e., Gala or Braeburn), chopped
1/2-3/4 cup shelled pistachios, roasted

Dressing
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1.5 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt

Directions
Wash and dry kale, and tear into bite size pieces. Whisk ingredients for dressing until combined well. In a large bowl, pour dressing onto kale and massage into the kale leaves for 2-3 minutes. Add the apple and pistachios, and toss to combine. Set salad aside or refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (as time allows) to enhance flavors. Serve along side main course.