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“If it’s flourless, does it mean less calories???”

Raising the twins requires plenty of energy and a lot of work. These days I spend my time down on the floor singing songs, shaking rattles and playing peek-a-boo with my girls. Occasionally, I find a chance to open the computer, but not long enough to actively update my posts. As I am hardly in the kitchen lately, I asked a few friends if they would contribute to the blog and do a few guest posts. Here is one from my first brave soul: Beth from Boston with a deliciously sounding chocolate cake that doesn’t require flour! Which has led me to wonder: “If it’s flourless, does it mean less calories?” Happy Baking!

When I’m bringing dessert somewhere, I would always rather make cookies or bars than a whole cake. Not only because bite-size, single-serving items are pleasing to serve – but also because cookies are less intimidating to make. They require no frosting, no special cake stands. You can sample them and ensure you aren’t poisoning people. And you can set some aside for when you come back from the party and need a late night snack.

This cake, however, is terribly easy. Unintimidating to make, impressive to serve, and totally worth it, for several reasons:
-There are only 5 ingredients.
-It’s a petite little thing. At a table full of desserts, this cake will seem approachable.
-It’s gluten free (though check your cocoa powder to be sure). Dieters will even convince themselves to eat it, because it has no flour and no garish frosting.
-It’s really good.

If baking is about showing someone you care, this cake is an enthusiastic embrace. You don’t even need a party to bring it to – and you probably have the ingredients already. Best of all, even if you invert it onto a paper plate, it’s a lot more elegant than a sloppy pile of cookies.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
adapted from Gourmet, with notes for bakers in the Czech Republic

4 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate (I like a Lindt mix of 70 and 85%, but 4oz is just a little more than one of those bars, according to my scale. So you’ll have extra. You can use it as a topping, or save those squares to eat when you get home from the party, solving that whole problem of having a late night snack waiting for you.)
1 stick/½ cup/113g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs (I don’t use large – I just look in the carton and choose the biggest ones, because sometimes there is crazy variation.)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus extra for sprinkling, if you want. (I use Orion na varenie, which has just a cup or so per box. You could totally make this cake twice, very easily, and then that could be your late night snack).

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
Butter an 8 inch round baking pan, line it with wax paper (I use parchment) and butter the paper. (A note on the pan – I use a silicone pan I got at Tesco, and the flexibility makes it ideal for this kind of cake. A metal pan would be fine, too.)
Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
In a double boiler (feel free to improvise with different size pans – just make sure the water in the pan underneath is barely boiling), melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring until smooth.
Remove the chocolate from the heat and whisk in sugar, then eggs.
Sift in ½ cup cocoa powder and whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into pan and bake 25 minutes, or until a thin crust is formed on top.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then invert onto a serving plate.

Then comes the best part. You can leave the cake just as it is (simple and lovely), or personalize it however you want. Lily-gilding options include:

-Making a ganache (heat up 1 cup cream and pour over 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted. Let it cool to room temp and whip until it becomes frosting.)
-Tossing some raspberries on top and around the edges. Or toasted peanuts and coconut flakes.
-Opening a can of Tatra Caramel and making a swirly design on top.
-Cutting the cake into brownies – or use a star-shaped cookie cutter (this defeats the whole pretty presentation idea, but does allow you to eat the scraps and make sure you aren’t poisoning people).
-Shaving some chocolate curls on top, dusting on some extra cocoa powder, and sticking a sprig of mint in the middle. Or rosemary – whatever! People will think you are being exotic!
-Serving the cake with ice cream – but you know what’s more interesting than ice cream, and really delicious? Mascarpone cheese. With a little honey swirled in, and some cardamom or nutmeg sprinkled on top.

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Low Maintenance Birthday Cake

I am sure I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t like cleaning up the dishes, which is why when it comes to birthday cakes, I do adore this recipe. All the ingredients are placed and mixed into one bowl. Voila, easy peasy.

A few weeks ago, I interrupted my husband with a very important question. He was intensely curled up with Orhan Pamuk’s recent novel, The Museum of Innocence, when I said, “Can I ask you a question?” Sweet guy that he is, he paused to respond and gave me his full attention.

Here was the all important question: “What kind of cake would you like for your birthday?”

I was sure he was going to say something with strawberries, as he is a summer birthday boy and isn’t much into sweets. The first cake I ever baked for his special day was a Strawberry Shortcake and since then we have had other strawberry filled delights: Strawberry Mascarpone Cake, Strawberry Tiramisu, Strawberries with Chocolate Cake, just to name a few.

He looked up from his book and turned to me. With a thoughtful expression, he said “Mocha chocolate cake.”

I said, “Really?”

“Yes, that sounds good to me. I want something with mocha.”

Well, this was a first in our relationship.

Struck with disbelief, I asked once more “Really, nothing with strawberries?”

“Nah, mocha,” and he returned to reading his book.

No problem, I thought. Through many trials and tears, I have built up my confidence and relationship with mocha frosting. And I have, what I consider the best Devil’s Food Cake recipe. Why is it the best? Well, here are the two top reasons for me:

1) It contains buttermilk (my favorite ingredient for baking and it means you will get a moist cake!)
2) All ten ingredients are mixed together at the same time in one bowl.

It’s truly a low maintenance cake.

I quickly decided to make a devil’s food cake with mocha buttercream frosting. But then, the other day, mi amor throws a curveball at me. When discussing plans for his birthday, he says he really didn’t want a cake. He just wanted to go home and have some ice cream. I said, “Do you want me to make you an ice cream cake?”

“No, just plain ice cream,” he says.

I just couldn’t accept it. We couldn’t have a birthday without a birthday cake, especially since I already devised a plan for it. I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth into that moist chocolate cake and coffee frosting. So, this year we shall have both. We shall have ice cream and eat our cake too!

(Tip! Best if made a day in advance. The chocolate flavor will intensify!)

Devil’s Food Cake with Mocha Buttercream Frosting (adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)

Cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
3 ounces or 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon double-action baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

Place all the ingredients into one large mixing bowl.
With mixer, begin at low-speed.
Stop constantly to mix batter with a rubber spatula
to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
When the batter looks well mixed, increase the mixer
speed to high and beat for 5 minutes.

Divide the batter into the two pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center
comes out clean with a toothpick or fork.
Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
Then remove from pans and let it cool
completely.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

1 16 ounce package of confectioner’s sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup hot coffee

In a large bowl, mix at medium speed.
Beat all the ingredients until very smooth, add a little more coffee is necessary.

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One Pan Couscous


Home-cooked meals have been sparse these days. When they do happen, they need to be fast and easy. Nothing that involves chopping too many ingredients and standing in the kitchen for too long. This is one of our simple and satisfyingly tasty, go-to recipes: the one pan couscous with pine nuts and raisins. A great blend of the sweet and savory.

In the spirit of this recipe’s ease, this will be a short and quick entry.

One Pan Couscous with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of couscous
2 1/2 cups of broth (I used vegetable)
2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts (depends on how much you like them)
1/4 cup of raisins (pre-soaked in hot water)
1-2 tablespoon of chopped scallions
1 tablespoon parsley, preferably fresh and finely chopped
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pan.
When ready, add the pine nuts.
Toast them in the pan until slightly brown.
Remove with slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl.

Lower the heat.
Add the couscous and give it a swirl in the pan.
Let the remaining oil coat the couscous and
give it a chance to get slightly toasted.
Turn off the heat.

Add the broth.
Mix it evenly into the pasta.
It’s okay if there is some extra liquid floating around.
The couscous will absorb the broth.
Place a cover on the pan and let it sit for 15 minutes.

When the time has passed, lift the lid and with a fork,
move the couscous around, fluffing it up.
Let it sit covered for another 5 minutes.

Then add the toasted pine nuts, drained raisins and scallions.
Add the remaining oil and salt to taste.
Voila, all cooked in one pan and ready to eat!

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 18 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 19 posts. There were 75 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 245mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 20th with 259 views. The most popular post that day was Where the Red Kitchen Shops….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were praguemonitor.com, facebook.com, mail.yahoo.com, foodieblogroll.com, and praguemonitor.cz.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for amerikano, adventures in the red kitchen, okra quiche, christmas ham, and leche flan.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Where the Red Kitchen Shops… April 2010
6 comments

2

Almusal ng Amerikano (An American Breakfast in a Filipino Home) June 2010

3

A Farmer’s Market on the Riverside September 2010
6 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

Ouzo Octopus January 2010
4 comments

5

Beerlao & Fried Seaweed Combo, please! May 2010

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Where the Red Kitchen Shops…

Prague’s Mosaic of Specialty Stores

Are you interested in diversifying the items in your pantry and creating dishes from countries you have visited or want to reconnect with those flavors from abroad? Fortunately, Prague’s melting pot continues to expand and as Anthony Bourdain once said, “People come with their food.” If you are looking for a few specific regions, here is a list of shops to buy the ingredients that are missing in the international aisle at your local Tesco, Albert or Bila.  To my fellow Prague People, feel free to add-on to the list!

Asian:

Korea Mart You’ll find fresh blocks of tofu, dried sweet potato noodles to make a plate of Jap Chae or some of those spicy grilling sauces to go with your next Korean BBQ. Just one block away from the metro and tram stops. Gorazdova 356, Prague 2, Mon.-Fri. 10-20:00, Sat. 10-20:00, Sun. 12-18:00

Arirang Korejské and Japonské potraviny Is your stir-fry missing something? This grocery store sells a variety of cooking sauces, such as hoisin, hot and sour and fish sauce. A good Pad Thai needs fish sauce! If you need to spice up your plate, fresh kim-chi should do the trick. The frozen section offers a variety of fish and seafood, as well as frozen eggrolls and mochi cakes.  Korunní 47, Prague 2 Open Mon.–Fri. 9–18:00, Sat. 9–16:00

Japa You’ve conquered rolling the bamboo mat; here is just the place to get all your ingredients to throw a sushi party. Wait, there is more. They also sell frozen dumplings, udon noodles and delicious Japanese rice crackers for a healthy snack.  Puškinovo nám. 10, Prague 6, Tel. 233 320 629. Wed.–Fri. 11–19:00, Sat.–Sun. 10–18:00

Shalamar Attempting to cook some Mataar Paneer and you’ve just realized that you don’t have methi or curry leaves in your pantry closet? You’ll find that, along with spices such as garam masala and cumin, as well as fresh vegetables like okra, hot peppers and baby eggplants being sold here. Also, if you just want to cheat, they sell prepared packets of dishes like Butter Chicken or Korma that you can whip up in an instant. You’ll find what you need for Pakistani and Indian cooking right here. If you’re hungry, be sure to visit the Pakistani restaurant right next door! Lipanská 3, Prague 3 Open Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–20:00,  Sat. noon–20:00

African & Middle Eastern

AfroAfrik Don’t be fooled by the African art, textiles or even the supply of hair products. This place also sells groceries; they are just located down the stairs on the bottom floor. You’ll find boxes of Fufu, flour made from plantains, frozen goat meat and fish, some vegetables such as yam and okra, bags of fried plantain chips and more. Stepanska pasaz 36, Prague 1 Tel. 777 324 928,

Farah Oriental Market As soon as you step foot into this shop, you will quickly encounter barrels and barrels filled with grains, legumes and fresh spices. They also have a deli counter where you can purchase olives, dried fruits or fresh meat. In their dairy section, there is a selection of halloumi and goat cheese. Their frozen section sells yufka (phyllo) dough so you can make some homemade borek. There is also a huge selection of Middle Eastern canned goods and breads for sale. Myslikova, 5 Prague 2, Mon.-Fri. 9-19:00, Sat. 9-17:00

Mediterranean

Nostos This Greek delicatessen reminds me of the ones I grew up with in Astoria, NY. The shelves are stacked with various bottles of Olive Oil, packets of dried olives and marinated olives for sale. The refrigerated counter is displays a wide selection for a mezze dinner, such as Taramosalata (fish roe spread), Melitzanosalata (eggplant spread) and marinated seafood. You’ll also find blocks of sweet halva, baklava, feta cheese and Greek yogurt, which you can use to whip up some tzatsiki at home. You can also purchase it ready made as well! Skolska, 32 Praha 1 Tel.775 282 952, Mon. – Fri. 10- 20:00, Sat. 10-15:00

Aromi La Bottega Don’t have time to make your own fresh pasta or some pesto? No worries, Aromi La Bottega has it ready for you. You will also find a good variety of Italian cheeses, cured meats, glass jars of marinated vegetables, such as roasted peppers, some spreads as well as bottles of Italian wine and olive oil. Manesova 83, Prague 2 ,Tel. 222 725 514
Mon. – Fri. 12- 20:00 Saturday 15- 20:00

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