My Communal Table


Wacky Cake

I am not baker by any means. Actually, I do not even have much of a sweet tooth, but do expect a quick fork jab in your hand if you even try to take a french fry from my plate. Now, I have a son with real sweet tooth and I have a inclination of indulging it because he is allergic to everything else. He is so patient when we are at school or social events and the food that is served is nothing he can eat due to his allergies. He’ll say, “It’s okay, mommy. I was not hungry anyway.” Ohhh, it just breaks my heart a little, but my pride of how well he handles these situations everytime heals the heart break immediately. So I bake…so I indulge.

Wacky cake, crazy cake or depression cake are some of the names that I have heard it called. This spongy rich cake is made with oil, cocoa, and vinegar, but no eggs and dairy. Eggs and dairy were not readily available during the Depression, so the wacky cake was born. You can make it with everything you have in your pantry. It was present at almost every Methodist potluck I attended in my childhood. I also remember that is was the only cake my mom ever made right it in the same pan that she baked it in. I revisited this recipe when I learned that my son had allergies. I have heard it touted as a vegan cake, but giggle at the thought of explaining to the ladies at the church social back in the 70’s-80’s what the word “vegan” meant. How the world has changed, huh? This cake is just good, fast and easy to make and my son can eat it.

Original Version:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 T. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 T. vinegar
6 T. vegetable oil
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a 9inch square baking pan, mix all the ingredients through salt. Make sure that it is all blended well.
3. Then add vanilla, vinegar, oil and water. Stir well.
4. Bake in oven for approximently 25-30 minutes. You want to make sure that is not over cooked.

My version:
Add 1 banana mushed
Use only 5 T. oil
Replace 1/2 of the water with coffee

Glaze:
4 T. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T. Cocoa powder
1-2 T. Milk/Rice Milk

1. In microwave safe dish, melt butter in microwave.
2. Stir in the sugar and cocoa.
3. Slowly add in milk until smooth

Banana Cake version:

Omit cocoa powder
2 mashed bananas added
only 4 T. oil
add extra 1/2 t. vanilla
a few grates of nutmeg

Note: We placed a few ripe pear slices on top before we baked it. Turned out great. Do not know why you could not add strawberries or blueberries. Endless possibilities.

I am here to say Wacky Cake is one sane and satisfying cake. I would love to hear about your different takes on this recipe and about the wacky family members you make it for. Super good and cost effective on top of it.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Greens and Potato Soup for Meatless Monday

“Meatless Mondays!” An intiative with the goal to reduce meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of our planet. I just love the idea and found out that “Meatless Mondays” is not a new concept. It was first introduced to Americans during World War 1 by the US Food Adminstration, though is was reintroduced in 2003 for health, as a way to reduce the consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were born. According to Meatless Mondays.com

The effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week. According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better”.

Now do not get me wrong, I have said often the I am unapologetic carnivore, but working towards better health and safer planet is really a no-brainer. I make an effort to know where my meat comes from and I no longer desire to have an entire side of beef at one sitting to feel satisfaction. So we, as a family, decided to start not having any meat one day a week. No beef, chicken, pork or fish, so when you have a son that is allergic to dairy and eggs its more like vegan Mondays.

Okay, I was a little scared about doing this, but it has turned out surprisingly well. I have never allowed my child to eat something different then what the adults are eating unless is has to do with his allergies. I am not a short order cook to meet his every whim when it comes to food. I also believe that this really helps with the ability to try new things in many aspects of life. Have you ever know a super picky eater that loves to travel and explore new things? Gabriel know that what is served is what he gets for dinner or he doesn’t eat that evening. That being said, I do try to find things that he will find pleasurable. Soup is my best vehicle for going meatless for my six-year-old. He loves soup.

Super fast, super tasty, super healthy is Greens and Potato Soup. My six-year-old actually ate two bowls full.

Serves 2-4

Kale, one big bunch
3 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into chucks
1 large leek, thinly sliced
2 gloves of garlic
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 big handfuls washed spinach
fresh dill or other herbs that you have on hand.
few pinches hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Finish with purple onion,olive oil, and peashoots.

1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

2. Remove heavy thick stems from kale and slice up.

3. Place kale in boiling water for about ten minutes. Take a test bite of the kale and make sure that it is tender. When tender, drain.

4. In second sauce pan, place potatoes, leeks, and garlic with broth. Put enough broth in to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender.

5. Use a potato masher to mash-up the potatoes in the broth.

6. Add cooked kale, spinach, herbs, and seasonings.

7. Add more broth if necessary, then heat through.

8. Taste and adjust seasonings.

9. Serve and garnish as desired. Today I garnished with purple onions, a drizzle of olive oil (would have loved pumpkin seed oil, but I can not find it), and a few sweet pea shoots.

Note: a. You can make this super thick or soupy. I have made it thick like mashed potatoes as well. Just use less broth.
b. You can also mix up your greens. Use whatever ones you have on hand.
c. I have also added curry powder to this soup as well for a different flavor sensation.

Think about Meatless Mondays you and your family. When you join me and my family on Mondays at my communal table you will find us enjoying the bounty of vegetables and grains. I seem to make a new recipe every week to learn more and more about how to cook this way. I would love to hear about your favorite Meatless meals.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Creamy Cauliflower Sauce & Pasta

In my never ending search for the perfect comfort food that is low in fat and calories, I decided to make the much talked about whipped cauliflower. It is rumored that it would replace my cravings for the much more fat ladened mashed potatoes. I started out by roasting the cauliflower with garlic in the oven, then I blended in chicken stock with my emursion blender. There was not one sign of it even resembling my beloved mashed potatoes, but what emerged was a pasta sauce. Hey, the flavor was good… I started the pasta water to boil.

I have made this as a pasta sauce over and over again. Super creamy, super satisfying, and has become a comfort food for my son. With his allergy to dairy, I realized that Gabriel had not had much of that creamy texture pasta comfort that good plate of mac and cheese would give you. This has become his mac and cheese and I have some gratification that I have figured out a beautiful healthy comfort food that my son is going to carry with him through his life. Maybe he will tell the story of the disaster that turned into his favorite pasta recipe to his children. Okay, okay, I am a total sap. Get used to it!


Serves 6

1 head of cauliflower, seperated into florets
3-5 gloves of garlic, smashed
3-4 T. olive oil
fresh thyme sprigs, 3 or 4
3-4 cups chicken stock
2-4 T butter, I use Earth balance, which is vegan friendly
1 lb. pasta, traditional or whole wheat works great
1 15 oz can of butter beans, drained
big handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place cauliflower florets on baking sheet with the smashed up cloves of garlic.

2. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Throw the sprigs of thyme on a baking sheet then toss all the ingredients together, making sure everything is coated with the oil.

3. Place in preheated oven at 400F for about twenty minutes. You will know it is done when the cauliflower is roasted a light brown and cooked through. Remember, brown adds flavor.

4. Place everything from the baking sheet into a large sauce pan or blender, except the wood of the thyme springs. Pop the garlic out of its peels, then add.

5. Add some chicken broth and start emulsion blender or stand blender slowly. Keep adding chicken broth until you get a smooth consistency. I throw in some butter to blend into the sauce to give it a nice finish.

6. If you are using a blender, put the sauce in a sauce pan to keep heated. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust. Taste always while cooking.

7. Start your pasta water boiling. Drop pasta in water when ready. Cook through.

8. Place drained beans into sauce. Heat through in pasta sauce.

9. Add drained pasta to sauce. Throw in hand fulls of fresh basil. Toss.

10. When I plate it, I drizzle some very virgin olive oil on the top.

I have made this ahead of time and put in a lightly greased baking dish, then topped with cracker crumbs and baked as a casserole. I have added tomatoes and spinach in it. I have grated cheese on it when I served it or just added it to casserole.

So for leftovers…

I love to add a few things to leftovers to make them different. I added red peppers (from a jar), chopped purple onion, peapods, capers, drained tuna, and a tablespoon of mayo to the cold pasta and you have a delicious tuna pasta salad for lunch.

By the way, I still think mashed potato is perfect comfort food and there really is no subsitute.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Fresh Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Peas.
July 28, 2010, 12:39 pm
Filed under: side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , , , ,

This is recipe is about having the freshest, highest quality ingredients at hand and letting them do the talking. I love this dish. Super simple, but can only be had at this time of year. It is such a treat. I can still get fresh peas in the midwest and tomatoes are starting to reach perfection. I use the best butter that I can buy, a beautiful Chardonnay, and sea salt to make this perfect. I am putting down that this feeds 2 people, but I could eat the entire plate and a glass of Chardonnay and feel completely satisfied.

Serves 2

3 pads of sweet butter
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 splash Chardonnay
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

1. In my favorite 10 inch skillet, I melt the butter over med-low heat.

2. Add peas, tomatoes, & chives. Cook, tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes.

3. Add splash of wine, s&p and cook until tomatoes start to crack open and peas are tender. About 5 minutes more.

4.Serve warm. So simple and good.

Super delicious does not mean complicated. Hope that you enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Roasting a Radish?
June 2, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, side dish, Vegan | Tags: , ,

When I was in France, fresh radishes came with salt and butter to dip into. When I was in Mexico, almost every meal had radishes accompanying them. I love their sharp fresh taste, but I would never dream of roasting them until I read this article in The New York Times. Roasting radishes mellows them out in a really cool way. It takes the sharp bite out and leaves it quite luscious. Esthetically, the color and texture were another surprise. Beautiful. Some cool facts about radish is that it has as much potassium as bananas and is a member of both the mustard and broccoli family.

Flank steak with some mushrooms that had been sauteed with onions, garlic, fresh tarragon and a little cream was a perfect entree to have the roasted radishes with.

I had a couple of parsnips that I sliced in half and stuck on a baking sheet with radishes cut in half. No peeling necessary. Coated them with olive oil, a little salt, pepper, and thyme, then stuck them in a 375F oven for about 30-40 minutes. My meal took hardly anytime or effort, but was fresh and really hit the flavor sensation highway.

My offical taste tester, my six year old, loved the radishes roasted, but does not like them raw. I will definitely make them again. Try them out yourself. Let me know what you think? I envision lots of different ways to use this colorful healthy veggie.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
February 24, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: bread, Desserts, Vegan | Tags: , , ,

Okay, okay, okay… I know whole wheat muffins are usually horrible, but I think that I found a recipe that I actually like and will make again. It started when I was reading Mark Bittman’s recipe for whole wheat muffins and my son said that he had never had a muffin in his entire life. I thought, of course, he hadn’t with severe dairy and egg allergies. Well, I converted Mark’s recipe to a vegan one, so my son could eat it.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I use beet juice sugar, which drops the calories and glycemic index)
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 cup mashed or pureed banana, sweet potato, apple, zucchini, pear, etc.
1 1/2 t. egg replacer (available at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup + 2T. soy milk (vanilla)
2 T. vegetable oil

1. Mix dry ingredient first, then add wet. I used mashed pear for my fruit and a handful of blueberries tossed in flour after everything was mixed.
2. Baked for about 20 minutes at 375F.

This recipe made 14 cupcakes making every muffin about 100 calories, when I did the nutritional breakdown on it. Better yet, my son loved his first muffin. He actually requested I put some in his lunch box.



Am I the only one that had never heard of FRY SAUCE?
January 22, 2010, 3:41 pm
Filed under: sauces and condiments, side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , ,

I keep hearing about fry sauce lately. Have you? I bet I am the only one that doesn’t know about it. So I heard that it is ketchup and mayo mixed. So I decided to try it out. I mixed my ketchup and mayo, then tasted… thousand island dressing without the relish. I had no idea how you made that as well. I have not had thousand island dressing since I was a child and I would order a wedge of iceberg lettece with it smothered on top. That was the salad of my childhood.

Now the experiementing continued… enter the present day ingredient of the moment… Sriracha sauce. Love it! I mixed equal parts ketchup and mayo, then started squeezing in Sriracha sauce a little at a time, tasting as I go. When I found just the right heat, I stopped adding. Now that is going to taste good with my fries.

Then I tried mixing up a batch with vegan mayo instead of Hellman’s brand. My son, Gabriel, is allergic to dairy and eggs and thought he might like it. Okay, as far as vegan mayo goes. Yike. It tastes too much like Miracle Whip to me. Not a fan, but I thought Sriracha can cure a lot of ills. It still tasted like dodo to me. Maybe you Miracle Whip eaters would like it. I really did want it to taste great because the calories are so much lower in the Vegan mayo.

Just on a side note: Does anyone else find it a little ironic that there is a picture of a meat sandwich on the vegan mayo jar?

Now for the fries. These are good. Big taste and a much healthier version then most. Super simple. I also do this with sweet potatoes.

For 2 people:
Preheat oven 400F
Cut three small baking potatoes into strips. No need to peel.
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss together and lay out on baking sheet. Place in oven and toss every ten minutes until done. About 30 minutes. Salt lightly when taking out of oven. Bravo.

Gabriel is a big part of this blog and told me that he thought the blog needed a lot more pictures of him. “I am the one that eats most of the food that you write about, Mom.” Gabriel loves burgers served on a thick cut baguette. Ketchup, no fry sauce. What a goof.

UPDATE: I tried the fry sauce with non-fat greek style yogurt, less ketchup and it was great. The best recipe yet. I made it with sweet potato fries this time. I get the great fry taste and I feel so decadent, but have relieved some of the guilt.