August 7, 2014

B'tay Avon!

One of my favorite parts of living in Israel was the food - fresh hot pita from the bakery, savory juicy shwarma carved right in front of you, creamy hummus at every meal and crispy falafel covered in tahini sauce and salads/veggies. I've tried to recreate as many of those foods as I can on my own, and when I can't, I simply head over to any local Middle Eastern restaurant and indulge my craving. 

Since I've been on this Standard Elimination Diet (SED); however, it's not that simple. I can't eat anything from a restaurant, on the off-chance that it's been contaminated by something that will cause me to flare. Usually, I've found that nightshades are the culprit, as paprika, red pepper flakes, and cayenne are used very often as a spice...especially in falafel. Who knew!? 

I did find a recipe, though, that allowed me to adapt falafel to my SED, and when I paired it with some homemade hummus (coming in another post) and tahini sauce, it really hit the spot. Now, it's definitely nowhere near as good as my favorite falafel stand in the middle of Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem (chetzi eish t'nor em chips, hummus, tahini, v'kol h'salateem, b'vakasha!) but it was pretty dang good. Even the threenager liked it - never mind the fact that we had to agree that it was a Spongebob crabby patty. He ate it, and that's what counts! 

Falafel Burger 

2-3 large garlic cloves
Packed ½ cup fresh parsley
Packed ½ cup fresh cilantro
½ cup scallions, rough chopped
2 14.5 ounce cans chickpeas  rinsed and drained-reserving at least 2 TBS of the liquid
1 cup rolled oats (I used flaxseed meal for allergies, which worked nicely!)
2 ½ TBS fresh lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt (I would leave this out, as it made it too salty)
¼ tsp pepper
Optional: red pepper flakes for heat 

Using your food processor, chop garlic, parsley, cilantro and scallions until fine.

Add in everything else, and process, but be careful not to over process into a paste. It's good for their to be texture differences, but yet you want it to be able to hold patty forms. If it's too dry, add in a little bit of the reserved chickpea liquid.

Transfer the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium-high until hot, and form patties while you wait. You can either dry fry them until crispy, or use a little bit of EVOO. Place patties into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until browned.

Notes: Veggie burgers can be served immediately or refrigerated for up to a week. Simply reheat them in a pan, a toaster or a microwave before serving.

Alex and I thought these tasted best when you added a little more crunch/texture to them. Serve with cucumbers, lettuce, Israeli salad, or any other toppings that you enjoy!

Tahini Sauce 
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 Tbsp water
Dash of salt (optional)

Combine everything in a bowl and mix well. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. 

July 16, 2014

Might as well face it, you're addicted to steroids!

Warning - this has nothing to do with cooking or baking!

It's taken a little bit for me to work up the courage to post this, but I knew I had to get my story out there. Please take it with a grain of salt, as this is *my* experience, and will not happen to everyone; however, I feel that it's important enough to share. If I can save one person from going through this, it's worth it.

I've been pretty withdrawn, anti-social, and a bit un-Beth-like for the past 6 months, and this is the reason why:

When you deal with life-long eczema, every doctor you see will tell you the same thing: "You need steroids." They will also tell you that you shouldn't use it for more than 2 weeks because it will thin your skin, but what do you do when your eczema re-appears immediately after the 2 weeks are up? You go back to your dermatologist, and take another course of oral prednisone (another steroid) or you get a higher dose topical steroid. And the cycle goes on....for 30-something years, in my case.

In late January, I stopped using all my topical steroids because they stopped working. Within days, my eczema worsened. The rash spread from a few regular spots (the back of my hands, lips, and arms) to my whole body. It kept spreading. I developed night sweats, insomnia, and lost my appetite. I was also a bone-deep chill that kept me hunched over, shivering, at all hours. Some days, I dressed in 3 layers, only to sweat through them all, but I was still freezing. Yet despite being cold, my skin burned. I developed Reynauds in my fingers, and they turned purple/white at the slightest chill. I spiked fevers, had horrible headaches, terrible fatigue, and a general sense of "cobwebs" in my head that I just couldn't clear. The worst was the shedding. It was like a fine dust of skin-snow followed me everywhere I went. It was gross and incredibly embarrassing.

Alex and I were really worried and couldn't figure out what was wrong. We thought it was my elimination diet, and that I was just lacking basic nutrients which was leading to my chills and lack of circulation. So I ate more fat, and added loads of oils. I tried organic lotions, creams, supplements, and oils. Nothing helped. In sheer desperation, I turned to Google, and got my first inkling of my problem when I found this:

"The term "Red Skin Syndrome" was coined by Dr Marvin Rapaport MD, an American dematologist who has worked with many patients suffering from eczema and found that overuse of topical steroid creams can cause nasty side effects when withdrawn. Common symptoms include weeping, burning skin when a steroid cream is discontinued. In many cases, overuse of potent steroid creams causes the skin to enter a cycle of addiction, with doctors prescribing more potent steroids to treat the worsening skin condition."

More research on "Topical Steroid Addiction/Red Skin Syndrome" lead me to ITSAN (Int'l Topical Steroid Awareness Network) and a whole community of people with my exact symptoms. I read through their checklist and cried:
  • Red, burning skin
  • Unbelievable, extremely intense itching
  • Shedding or flaking skin
  • Edema: Swollen skin or swollen body parts containing fluid.
  • Oozing skin
  • Raw, painful skin
  • Eczema-like rashes spread from area of skin that was originally affected by eczema
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature
  • Exhaustion.
  • Insomnia or difficulty maintaining a normal sleep schedule.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Very, very dry skin that has the look and feel of plastic.
Finally, I had a name for what I was experiencing: Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW). The only problem was (and still is) that not a single medical professional believed me. My dermatologist insisted I needed more steroids to clear this up, and he scoffed when I told him about my strange symptoms. My GP recommended yet another dermatologist, who listened compassionately, but still recommended I go back on steroids.

There is one dermatologist out in LA who specializes in this, but he has become so overwhelmed with patients that a mere phone call is $500. So I turned to the community of TSW sufferers and used their collective knowledge to handle the past 6 months. One of the scariest things about TSW is that it can last for months. There is no set time-frame for how long it will take for your body to recover from years of steroid use and addiction. Some of the people I "met" have been dealing with this for years. YEARS! It remains a constant source of frustration for all of us that we haven't been able to find a doctor to help. There are thousands of people dealing with TSW, either personally or as a caregiver/parent, and we all have the exact same symptoms, brought on in the exact same manner. Yet the general Western medical community denies that this is a problem.

The pictures above are from late February/early March, when I was in the worst of it. Now, in July, I'm very much improved. I believe that my saving grace has been due to the fact that I used over the counter cortisone cream (Cortaid 10 and generic equivalents) over most of my body. I saved the hard-core prescription stuff for serious spots; lips, eyes, elbows, neck, backs of my hands, and behind my knees. Now, these are the areas that continue to flare and cycle in TSW, while the rest of my body has continued to heal.

While parts of me look normal, my skin is still far from healed. I can't stand any lotions or creams as it sends me into an immediate flare and full-body rash/itch fest. I can't tolerate make-up, face wash, or any sunscreen. Even the tiniest bit of sweat gives me a rash. Every morning, I wake up with swollen eyes and lips, due to retained fluids. I still keep ice packs within easy reach at home, so that I can put them on a flare-up and help numb the itch away. And I'm still nervous that I could re-flare at any point. 

I've been told by "TSW Veterans" that you do eventually heal. Your skin gradually becomes normal again, you can use lotions/creams/make-up, you can work out without fear, and you can eat anything you want without reactions. Many of them have also lost their life-long eczema when they came out on the other side of TSW. So, I'm hopeful. I just don't know when it will happen for me. 

So that's my story. It's hard to be social when your eyes are swollen shut, your skin is hot pink, and you can't even tolerate a short shower without severe pain. I'm thankful to be past that point, and I'm incredibly grateful to my friends and family for being so supportive. I've also started taking my life back, which feels awesome. I wear short sleeves and shorts/skirts most days, and try not to care about the flares on my arms or legs. I'm back to baking, even if I can't eat it  yet. And physically, I feel like me...which is the most important thing. 

For more information on TSW, I encourage you to visit

Note: WOW. I am incredibly humbled and overwhelmed by the positive support I've received on this. I put it out into the "blog world" just to share my experience and help get the word out about topical steroids. I also wanted to clarify/explain what I've been dealing with so that my friends and family know I wasn't trying to avoid them personally all this time! Thank you all for the positive messages, support and love. 
For those of you interested in learning more, here is a small sample of the blogs from fellow TSW sufferers. 

April 16, 2014

Taste the rainbow

I love this dish, not only because it's easy and delicious, but it's also so dang pretty. I love all the bright colors from the carrots, kale, curry, and turmeric. The flavors are a bit sweet, a bit sour and a little bit spicy, and it's a great side dish for chicken or fish.
This one is SED friendly, and now it's also Kosher for Passover friendly! Alex and I love it, and I've made this about 6 times in the past few months. As long as you have the quinoa pre-cooked and ready to go, it will take about 15 minutes to throw it all together. Normally, it calls for almonds, but I was all out, so I used cashews. They got a little too soft and lost their crunch, so stick with almonds when you make this. And you should make this! Look how pretty it is!
Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf
adapted from Nourishing Meals
2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 cup raw almonds, chopped
½ cup currants or raisins
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (I never have this, so I just leave it out)
4 cups chopped kale
4 to 5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1 small lemon, juiced

Heat a large over medium heat. Add olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Sauté onions for 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the sliced carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes more. Keep the heat at a medium temp to allow the onions to cook but not brown.
Add the almonds, raisins, spices, and salt and sauté 5 minutes more. Add the kale. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until kale is tender. Then add cooked quinoa and stir together over low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pilaf seems dry. An extra tablespoon of oil will also help prevent the quinoa from sticking to the pan.

Remove from heat and add the juice of the lemon. Stir together, taste, and adjust salt and seasonings if needed.

April 7, 2014

Cooking with Gwyneth

Me and Gwyneth Paltrow are total BFFs. Okay, not really at all, but I did technically have her over for dinner the other night. This recipe is from her blog, which I had never heard of until I started my elimination diet. Apparently good ol' Gwynnie likes to eat clean and the majority of her recipes are Standard Elimination Diet (SED) friendly.
This recipe is one that I will keep in our rotation long after this diet is over. It's incredibly easy, delicious, filling and even the 3 year old likes it. Well, he picks out the kale, but I'll take what I can get. Alex wraps this up in corn tortillas, and I just eat it plain. We both like to top it with diced avocado, but I imagine it would also taste good with some sour cream or tomatoes. I recommend doubling the recipe so that you have more than enough for lunch the next day.
Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Skillet
adapted from Goop

2 sweet potatoes, peeled (I like to leave the peel on)
1 can black beans
2 hearty handfuls kale, torn into bite-size pieces
1 lime
olive oil
pinch of sumac (I omitted)
pinch of cumin
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Dice the sweet potatoes into small/medium chunks.

Place large sauté pan over medium high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add sweet potatoes, sumac(if using) and cumin to pan and cook for a minute until they begin to brown, stirring throughout to coat. Cover after a minute, bring the heat down to medium and let cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they’ve softened up.

Add black beans. Stir to mix. Add kale, season with salt and pepper, mix and cover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, uncover and stir. (It will most likely be a bit too dry at this point, so drizzle over more olive oil.) Cook for another minute or so until kale is cooked to your liking. Squeeze the lime juice over top and toss gently to coat.

Serve with diced avocado, warm tortillas or any other topping you desire.

April 1, 2014

Elimination Creativity

Some of the meals I've made for the Elimination Diet have actually been so delicious (and easy!) that I will keep them in our meal rotation, even after I'm off this blasted diet. This salmon dinner is definitely one of them. I will admit that our grocery budget has gone up since I started this diet, because unfortunately cleaner, healthier, and fresher foods cost more. We are still cautious about how much we spend, but it's unavoidable in some ways. 

This diet has also forced me to be much more creative in the kitchen, which is fun. Now that I have a good grasp of what I can/can't eat, I am able to improvise some meals, either by altering recipes or gathering what I can find in the pantry. This recipe is a collection of a few different ones I've made in the past. It's fast and easy because the salmon cooks very quickly, and you can throw together the avocado and cucumber salad while it's roasting.

Skillet Salmon with Avocado Cucumber Salad
2-4 salmon fillets, skin removed
2 TBS olive oil 
2 ripe avocados, pitted and diced
1 large cucumber, de-seeded and diced

Pre-heat the oven to 450

Lay the salmon on a flat surface and generously salt/pepper each side of the fillets. Put the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet (if the handle is not oven-proof, you can wrap it in foil), and bring it up to high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, place the salmon fillets in and let them sear for about 3-4 minutes so they form a nice crust. 

After, flip the fillets over carefully, and place the skillet into the pre-heated oven, until the fish cooks through, about 7-8 minutes (depending on the thickness). While it's cooking, combine the diced avocado and cucumber in a bowl, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. 

When the fish is done, squeeze more lemon over the top and serve immediately.

March 19, 2014

Elimination Diet - aka "Boring"

Well, it's happened folks. My eczema has gotten the best of me, so I decided it was time to go big or go home. That means I'm on a full elimination diet to try and pinpoint the cause of my lifelong itching. Since January 14th, I have been off dairy, gluten, sugar, eggs, corn, soy, peanuts, coffee, and nightshade vegetables (eggplant, white potatoes, peppers, cayenne and paprika). The first two weeks were AWFUL. I wanted to kick puppies and steal everyone's candy. I didn't realize how addicted I'd become to sugar and gluten! I craved bagels like I did when I was pregnant, and I started drooling when my coworkers ate candy.

Slowly, the cravings went away, and I began to feel better. The big question I get these days is "What on earth do you eat!?" My diet consists of vegetables, chicken, fish, quinoa, rice, almond milk, GF oatmeal, nuts and water. Lots and lots of water.

I'm going to start blogging my Elimination Diet recipes because after combing through Pinterest, Google, Amazon, the library and the rest of the vast universe, I discovered something sad. There are not a lot of resources dedicated to ED recipes. So I'm going to put some more information out there, in the hopes that it can help someone else. For now, here are some of the resources I've been using:

My Pinterest board

Oh She Glows (vegan recipes, delicious!)

Nourishing Meals

Nightshade Free Recipes

And last, but not least, my awesome nutritionist, who has been holding my itchy little hand every step of the way

December 8, 2013


So I've been a bit lax about posting. What can I say? Life is busy. So busy, in fact, that I blinked and my baby turned 3. THREE! He's sweet, sassy, curious, funny and full of attitude some days. We call him our "threenager."

One of my favorite parts of celebrating Eli's birthday is making him a special birthday cake. This year, I wanted to incorporate his favorite things (Thomas and train tracks) into it, and I just about died when I saw the perfect cake idea on Pinterest.

It came together really well, and it was surprisingly easy! I used Hershey's chocolate cake recipe for 4 9-inch cakes (1 batch makes 2 cakes), and my favorite buttercream recipe. I am really picky about my frosting because most buttercream recipes are too cloyingly sweet for me. This one uses a dose of salt and lemon juice, and I think it makes for a perfect frosting. I also don't like to fill my cake layers with frosting because I think it's too much. I prefer jam because it helps to balance out the sweet cake and frosting, and lends a nice bit of tartness.

The carving can be a bit of a challenge, but freezing the cakes made them easy to shape. I followed the advice on this website, which lays out all the numbers for you. I also fill my cake layers using this bit of advice I learned from my Wilton decorating classes. Instead of just slopping the jam/custard/etc in between the layers, pipe a barrier of icing around the cake and use it as a "wall" for your filling. This way, when you lay the top cake down, it won't squish out all the filling and make a mess. It also prevents the filling from leaking out the sides and ruining your final frosting coat. Works perfectly!

Eli's Train Cake -  Kit Kats for train tracks and M&Ms to help it look more finished. I'm really glad I used them because I ran out of frosting along the bottom edge of the cake!

The final product was really cool and incredibly delicious. Unfortunately, a few of his friends weren't able to make the party due to a snowstorm, so we have some leftover cake. I might have to go grab another slice...just to make sure it's still good. You know, for research's sake and all.

Cake Recipe found here

Buttercream Recipe
Adapted from Demolition Desserts, Elizabeth Falkner
Makes about 2 cups (I tripled this for my cake. I think that doubled would be good for 1 9-inch layer cake)
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted softened butter
2 1/2 c. or 10 oz. powdered sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. plus 1 t. whole milk
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. fresh lemon juice (I put 1/2 t.)
In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds and then add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.  
Add the rest of the powdered sugar, the vanilla, and the lemon juice and beat until combined.  Scrape down the bowl again.  Beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.

Set a small amount aside for piping the train tracks, if you so desire. Gel food coloring is the best choice here, as it won't alter the consistency of your buttercream.
Creating the Cake Shape
Once the cake is cooled, stick the layers in the freezer for at least a few hours (overnight is best, so they can be made a few days in advance).

For the number "3", take each layer of the cake and remove an 8cm circle from the middle. I made a paper circle template, put it on top of the cake, and cut around it. Remove about a 1/4 of one cake for the base of the three and about 1/3 of the remaining cake for the top. Position to make the number, trimming as required. It's best to put everything together on a cake board, as the final product is heavy. I cover my cake boards with foil because I like the way it looks.

Pipe your frosting in a wall around the bottom layer and fill with jam. Top with cake. Repeat for the other part of the 3. Using a light hand, go over the entire cake with frosting for your crumb coat. This doesn't have to be perfect; in fact, the point of this is to lock in the crumbs so it doesn't ruin your final layer of frosting. Just get everything thinly covered and pop it all in the fridge for at least an hour.

Note: the inside of the 3 was more difficult to frost than I expected. It's the inside of the cake, therefore it was crumbier and took more frosting to cover. I was glad I made a triple batch of buttercream.

Cover the cake with your final layer of buttercream and while it's still wet, stick on the Kit Kats for train tracks. If you're using M&M's, do those around the base now as well. Pipe the train rails carefully, and then set it all in the fridge to chill. I stored it there overnight because I didn't want to keep buttercream out that long.

September 5, 2013

Raisin Challah and Braiding Tips

L'shana Tova Umetukah! A happy and sweet new year!
On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, we eat a lot of round and sweet foods. The round symbolizes the cycle of a year, and the sweet is for your sweet year. One of my favorite traditional dishes is a round raisin challah. I've made challah before, but never attempted a round one. It seemed really intimidating!
However, I found a great recipe and tips from The Shiksa in the Kitchen, via Bon Appetite online. The Shiksa is a great blog for Jewish/Kosher recipes and food history (and let's not forget that Bubbie Ruth's Mandel Bread won an honorable mention in her recipe competition!). This article gave a great suggestion for round challah, which was creating a chain of dough links in a circle and letting it bake into a full round. I love the symbolism and the result!
I made the challah in advance, and then wrapped the fully baked and cooled rounds in foil and plastic wrap to freeze. When it was time to serve, I unwrapped and let them come to room temperature over 6 hours. Then I re-wrapped them in foil and popped them into a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They tasted great!
Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
This will make 1 large braided challah or 2 smaller round challot
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose baking flour

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raisins (for Rosh Hashana)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Pour 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees F) into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 packet of active dry yeast and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. Add remaining 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg and egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt; whisk till blended.

Begin stirring the flour into the bowl by half-cupfuls. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. I added in about 3.5 cups and mixed it with the paddle attachment on my stand mixer. Then I slowly started to use the dough hook with an additional 1.5 cups. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies; only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.” If you plan to add raisins to the challah, incorporate them into the dough as you knead.

Preheat your oven to 250. Once it reaches temperature, turn it off, but don't open the oven yet. Remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil. Cover the bowl with foil, then place it on the top rack of your oven. After 1 hour, take the dough out and punch it down into the bowl several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.

Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.

Now your dough is ready to braid. See the "How to Make a Round Challah" link at the bottom of the page here.

After you’ve braided your challah, place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper–one braid per cookie sheet. Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.

Cover the challah loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.

Remove the plastic wrap from the challah. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes total. First, bake your challah for 20 minutes. Take the challah out of the oven and touch up the center of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash (this area tends to expand during baking). Turn the cookie sheet around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put it back into the oven.

Bake the challah for about 20 minutes longer (bulkier shapes like round challahs might need more time in the oven). For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your bread–it may brown faster than it’s baking. When the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.

Take the challah out of the oven. At this point your house should smell delicious. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf–if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.

August 14, 2013

The Cherpumple

I can't resist a baking challenge. That's why I loved my time in The Daring Bakers a few years ago. Now, I don't have time for TDB, but I still love to challenge myself in the kitchen on occasion. A few years ago, someone introduced me to this monstrosity of a cake, the Turducken of desserts - the Cherpumple. So named for its CHerry-PUMPkin-apPLE pies baked inside of various cakes, all layered together, it's a huge and obscene dessert. 

Of course, I had to bake it.

A few months ago, we got together with a group of friends for dinner, and I volunteered (as always) to make dessert. Alex teased me about having promised a Cherpumple on various occasions, so I figured this was as good a time as any! I did modify it a little bit, though, as there were only 6 of us at the dinner. I eliminated the pumpkin layer and just made a Cherple. It was MORE than enough! 

There is a lot of information online about baking a Cherpumple, but after doing my research, I decided that this post was the most well-written and informative. It also helped me understand that this was a 2-day undertaking (at least!) and I needed to make sure that there was enough time to do everything. 

I saved myself some stress by doing premade pies and box mix cake, which isn't my favorite, but is cheap and easy. I did make my own cream cheese icing, though. The canned stuff is just too icky. 

Overall, it was tasty...but very rich and a little too much. The flavor of the pie filling blended nicely with the cake, and it was fun to taste everything together. 

If you decide to make a Cherpumple for your next gathering, please take note: 
  • This will easily feed at least 12+ people
  • The finished product is HEAVY
  • You'll need 2 days for baking and assembly
  • Cream cheese icing works best. Anything else is too sweet
  • Tiny slices are more than enough 
I recommend following VittleMonster's guide for easy instructions! Have fun :-)

Baked, cooled and crumb-coated

 Decorated, and ready for transport! 


July 26, 2013

Whole Wheat Ricotta Blueberry Scones

Scones are one of those baked treats that seem very impressive, but are really embarrassingly easy to assemble. If you are new to baking, I recommend trying scones as a gateway recipe, because they are also pretty forgiving.

This recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and I made it for our brunch while we were in the Outer Banks for a week. The original recipe calls for raspberries, but they are so expensive at the grocery store. We happened to have a big bucket of blueberries, so I just adjusted accordingly. You really could do these with other fruits, but it should be something jammy and squishable. Yes, those are official baking terms.

You wouldn't think that whole wheat flour and ricotta would make for a nice and delicate scone, but it does! The end result is a light, cakey and flavorful treat, perfect with a cup of coffee or a mimosa.

Whole Wheat Ricotta Blueberry Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup fresh raspberries (or blueberries), chopped
3/4 low-fat ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Roughly chop the raspberries (or blueberries) on a cutting board and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.

Add the ricotta and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.
Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula.

Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best to cool them about halfway before eating them, so they can set a bit more.