Baking · Cooking · Painting · Photography · Travel

Devil’s Food

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Survey shows, whatever it is, if it’s rich and seemingly “sinful” we want more. Thus, “More chocolate, please!”, “Devil’s Food Cake” was born. “Devil’s Food”, you know, that deep, dark, chocolate cake, traditionally made with cocoa, a little extra baking powder and finished off with hot water or coffee? It’s been a favorite of mine since I was seven. In not so high falutin’ high school I used to eat Hostess “Suzy Qs” for lunch. Anyone remember those, deep oily-brown, cellophane wrapped, hefty double rectangles of chocolate cake filled with super sweet, white, fluffy “cream”? I ate them with a plastic fork.

Sure, 35 years later, living South of the border,  I could go to any tienda, “corner store”, and pick up a package of “Bimbo”, Mexican equivalents, but I gave up polysorbate 80 after the 80’s. These less sweltering days, I just whip up a cake.

Today I had some some leftover spiced pears and wanted to bake them into a chocolate cake. (Good idea.) I winged the cake, using coconut oil as my fat, and milk as my liquid, along with some spiced pear syrup I made from the poaching liquid: red wine, water, cinnamon sticks, several fat slices of ginger, black peppercorn, brown sugar and an orange cut in four.

In our house we like our cake not so sweet. I often half the amount of sugar called for in classic cake recipes. Or, I add espresso.

In a pinch for a school bake sale? Add espresso to boxed brownies to take down the sweet, a bit of cayenne, cinnamon. Superb ease.

Ahh, red wine spiced pears in deep, dark chocolate cake, “Frenchy” loved it! We all did. Especially after our “Conquistador” shrimp and smoked marlin tacos at Baja Taqueria. I told one brother owner we had dessert at home, “una pastel de chocolate con perra“. He laughed beautifully. Perra means dog. I over rolled the r in pera, to a dog filled chocolate cake! Now, that’s Devil’s Food.

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Photo from juliasalbum.com. Ours, below,  was similar, but less styled.

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Love Cast Iron!

“Frenchy” is the one who got me thinking about the name “Devil’s Food Cake”. Looking around the web I found this fabulous cake reference page. And this interesting bit on cake, chocolate, cookies and the Marquis de Sade.

“The oldest print reference we find for baked goods with chocolate ingredient is 1779. In this letter sent from prison, the notorious Alfonse Francois, Marquis De Sade complains bitterly to his wife about the “care” package she sent him. ‘This sponge cake is not at all what I asked for: 1) I wanted it iced everywhere, both on top and underneath, with the same icing used on the little cookies; 2) I wanted it to be chocolate inside, of which it contains not the slightest hint; they have colored it with some sort of dark herb, but there is not what one could call the slightest suspicion of chocolate. The next time you send me a package, please have it made for me, and try to have some trustworthy person there to see for themselves that some chocolate is put inside. The cookies must smell of chocolate, as if one were biting into a chocolate bar.’

This guy may have enjoyed an exotic Pastel de Chocolate con Perra. Or perhaps enjoyed witnessing some one else eating it. Quien sabe?

Give the Joy of Cooking’s Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne a try. “Cockaigne” is the term used by Marion Becker to denote a recipe she loved. Cockaigne is a mythical land of plenty. Though might I suggest cutting this classic recipe to 1/2 c. white, 1/2 c brown, then add ripe, cooked or stewed apples, plums, apricots or pears to the batter, after it has been poured into the prepared pan. Bake. Cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Whole upright, nested half fruits and fans of slices offer simple spectacle. Gorgioso. Divine. Options. Endless.

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Photo & Styling Katie Quinn Davies

Rich and seemingly sinful? Yes, please.

Though remember, every where, every way, every day, keep it
Slow and holy…slowly whole.

Buen Provecho!

XoXo,
e.

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Intro Still Life by Carol Sabo

Cooking · Culture · Photography · Travel

Invitation To Flow

Everyday, watching my son dive under white capped, rising, churning waves, the brunt of the crash passing over, I am reminded that we can flow in all kinds of conditions.

Always, there is a path of least resistance. It is our choice to take it or not.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Already, I am tuned in strongly to all I have to be thankful for. Externally, this is obvious. Daily magenta sunsets, baby turtles flapping their way to the sea, whales blowing a powerful hello, 75 cent pork rib tamales, with potatoes and carrots, steaming in the own juices. Warmth… I have a beautiful lot to be grateful for.

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~ You are full of grace ~

Though this year, what lies internal receives my greater focus, my greatest thanks. My keen self awareness is host of my party this year.

We have not been invited to any Thanksgiving gatherings. I feel us still carving out our place and relationships here. As well, our foundation of American culture within our little, slightly complex, non-coupled, co-habitating family is less than united. An American, a Frenchy, a bright young sun, newly living together in Mexico.

Who knows what the day will bring. Always, looking out to see/sea, I am comforted by the expanse, my sense of opportunity.

Last year, opportunity did not seem to be knocking and so, I invited her to invite. I posted on FB that our family was seeking a Thanksgiving connection. I was slightly shy to do so, but in other ways it felt good. Of course, I received a lot of love. It was cool. We were welcomed by a neighbor-friend to a cozy, delicious gathering with folks we otherwise might not share time with. Our hearts and community expand asking, receiving, giving thanks.

They were not sorry for having us either, “Seven” is a great conversationalist, and I brought these…

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The apple tart was requested by “Frenchy”, asking that I please keep it simple. I did. Though I added pear, I used no cinnamon, nor lemon zest. It was tricky to curb my inclinations, but it felt good to get outside of my view. Give even more less a try. It was, of course, fabulous! Great butter crust, thin bed of homemade apple sauce, layers of thinly sliced Cortland and Empire apples, red pear. For shine, I brushed the top with warmed seedless raspberry jam.

Ah, and then the Foccacia Pugliese, from my Nonna to my Papa to me. Yeast, salt, potatoes (cooked and milled), flour, water, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, salt, salt, olive oil, olive oil, salt. Ha!

Who knows, who knows, the waves they come, the waves they go… Today may be flat, tomorrow raging. Let us dive, grab a line, hold hands, float alone…

Keeping simple. Fluid. Awake.

Keeping holy and slow…

Buen Provecho, Grateful Ones. Buen Dia de Grace.

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Painting · Photography · Poetry · Travel

Everyday Nostalgia

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(homebody)

welcome.
smooth sherbert sunset,
bursting gorgeous star,
bursting
steely-blue,
heavy-gray,
with waves,
as if
the full
rising moon,
waxy-white
yellow-green,
were not
already enough.
below,
inside,
nostalgia spins the dial,
driving music,
driving home,
spanish ham,
warm toes

Sharing this poem, in a mist of nostalgia, simple impressions upon returning “home” from visiting what is now my new home. Deep down knowing this, the great myth, is no more than a feeling, a creation, a choice, never mind four walls. ~ e.

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P.S. I haven’t driven a car in three months.

Painting by Tom Schulen

Health · Photography · Recipes · Travel

La Balanza

How to keep our physical maintenance simple? This is something I’m always trying to distill. And in a way, the answer is really clear. Oxygen. Deep breathing. Water. Plenty of it. Movement. Fresh, whole food. But then, it’s not so simple, as it involves, so often, our clouded minds. Yeah, underneath the ease of deep breathing and hydration comes discipline and commitment. Diet and exercise are simple, we know what’s right. Alas, what we know. What be believe. What we do…

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Photo by Christophe Vani

Although I have grown a lot in the past couple years toward loving and appreciating who I am, I still slag behind in my personal “physical maintenance.” I love churros more I guess, than I love myself.

A lot of times, people have to get really sick to embed the lesson of real, habituated, loving self care. I hope I do not need to go this far. I’m improving, all the time, ‘cuz already, I got pretty sick, more than half ass kickin’. And it changed me.

This week, I was inspired to make Beet Kvass. It seemed simple, economical and full of benefits. My kinda medicine.

Beet Kvass, a lacto-fermented beverage, from Russia and the Ukraine, is thought to be more hydrating than water. Drinking 4-5 ounces, morning and night, is said to clean the blood, liver and kidneys, aid digestion, improve regularity and provide the body with potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, folate and folic acid. And of course, it is rich in pro-biotics and beneficial enzymes.

Kvass can be made only with beets, sea salt and water. Traditionally it is made with whey but this is not necessary if one increases the salt.

I chose no-whey and to add red onion and ginger, as I had read about it’s taste of earth funk. I figured the onion and ginger would lift that up. It did. It brought great balance. It was totally delish. (FYI I like salt and sauerkraut.)

Beet Kvass

One Half Gallon

Use a glass jar, which may be covered loosely or sealed.
If choosing to close tight, be sure to allow gas out on occassion.

3-4 Medium Beets, option to peel, 2″ chunks ~ Do not shred~
Half Large Red Onion, 2″ chop
Two Inch Ginger Finger, sliced
1 1/2 Tbs. Sea Salt
Spring, Well, or Filtered Water

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Much depends on the heat of your home. Here in the tropics, well, the process goes fast, I may need more salt than you. Play around with it.

After two days, Sally Fallon of “Nourishing Traditions” says to put it in the fridge. Then once the liquid has been drunk make a soup out of it, or do a weaker second batch, reserving 1/2 c. liquid to start. I made soup!

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There are a million people talking about this on the web, like here at Wild Fermentations.

I really like the stuff and it is super easy to make. I need to clean my blood, and hydrate. So… simple, for now…if I stay with the beets and heat. Stay with self care.

I had to go on anti-bios this week. Long denied ear infection. This drink will help me clean my filters and replenish my gut. Nice I had some pre-conscience, intuitive pre-sight, going on with the beets.

Three months now living tropical. Finally, the heat has taken a back seat, windows down, doors closed at night. I even wore socks inside the house, tho’ that had more to do with being lazy to every- everyday sweep and mop the silt and sand from slick tile floors. Felt good. Socks. Not sweeping.

Soon, I’ll have a churro. “Seven” and I always split one. We’ve agreed we don’t need the cinnamon-sugar roll. It’s the sweet dough, crispy-ridged outside, chewey-goo inside texture-vault that makes it so damn good. The boy is pushin’ for his own. Maybe…with a Beet Kvass chaser. Heh. Heh. Heh.

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I’ll share this one with you!
Photo by Aperi Oculus on Flicker

Cooking · Culture · Photography · Travel

Give It A Try

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Have you ever eaten cactus? Pig snout? Grasshoppers? Well, come to Mexico and try! There’s lots of great beaches here, too.

Today, I let my son “Seven” skip school for World School, and big market day. After our front seat AC, kid-movie-on-the-dvd, happy-go-lucky-bus-driver ride, I had to stay in the vein of “Yes!” I could not resist huge vats of frying pork fat.

I tried a taco de trompa, pig snout. It was as you might suspect: porky-tasty, gummy-chewey. I piled it with taco bar texture and spice. “Seven” stuck with carnitas or “regular” roast pig. Isn’t it funny how many omnivore-types freak at the thought of eating noses, feet or tongues, but have no problem with butts, shoulders and legs?

Ahh, that is another subject beast. For now, let’s touch on something a little less complicated, shall we?

Cactus! Humble star of the Mexican taco bar. Nopal, those hearty, prickly plants that grow with little water. We can eat them! I suppose to me they are uncomplicated because Some One Else harvests the brilliant green, clumps-of-tiny-sticker covered paddles, then Some One’s grandma holds them gently in her deep-brown hands and carefully cuts out the tiny-sticker-clumps. Finishing them off near julienne.

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In Mexico, we can buy nopales in many frutería/veggie stands, neatly packaged in clear, hopeful bags. Clean strips, or whole oval paddles. 12 pesos a pound. That’s 75 cents.

My first cook, I kept it simple, though not typical Mexican boil simple. I sautéed. After caramelizing a Spanish onion, I added garlic, then the nopales, sprinkling salt each round. Nopal cooks quickly… A little way in their clear, sticky liquid, their okra-like quality, shows up. By the end they’ve reduced to half their original mass. Rough, dainty cactus are full of water.

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I found them curiously sour. I was pleased I hadn’t squeezed in a lime. On the other hand, the fruit, the “tuna” or prickly pear, is sweet, melty, soft. Refreshing. Super hydrating. Light green or vibrating deep-purple-pink. You can peel the bulb by carefully breaking open the top with your thumb and pulling down the skin to make a star. Inside you’ll find many small-beebee-sized black seeds, which I swallow whole. To read more about nopal click here.

“Seven” and I like the cactus veg. It has a lot of give-back in the mouth. Smooth, slippery. Slightly green bean, slightly asperagee, but tart. I like to add them to a fresh tomato sauce to enjoy with spaghetti. (Spaghetti...my favorite comfort food.) Our new dinner-explore reminds me of a wonderful dish my Nonna used to make with these crazy green beans, 8-year-old-fore-arm length, super skinny flat, twirl around your fork with the linguine kinda green beans, with clingin’ garlic and tomatoes. Nonno’s Garden Memory Update = Spaghetti Nopales.

Que rico los dos!

And pig snout? Hmm…I put this in the Balinese Dragonfly-On-A-Stick category: happy to have been there, done that! El Fin.

Buen Provecho, Amigos!

Remember, Slow & Holy…

No wall between us.

Xo,
e.

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Cooking · Parenting · Recipes · Travel

Cacao For Now

Sometimes breakfast can be an overload on mornings my sleepy sun “Seven” and I are trying to get out the door. His tired being often wants to skip it, though I know eating breakfast helps him, a lot, to enter the day, fuel his dust kickin’ walk, his talk, talk, talk…

These days we are in half a banana, one egg, pinch o’ salt, dash o’ cinnamon, beat well, fry in butter, flip, brown, serve mode. And it’s workin’. The round can be a bit soft and sometimes break on the lift, but it’s delish. Two smalls would work perfectly, but I like the simplicity of one.

A couple days ago, I added 2 tsp. o’ raw oats to bring the bind, letting them soak a bit, while the boy slid from bed to sofa to sofa to bed, draggin’ butt to shorts and shirt. The oats brought more firmness, of course.

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This quick-whip breakfast is wholesome, satisfying and yum. “Seven” scarfs it right down, like he does all pleasing life.

Today, I added 1 heaping tsp. of unsweetened cocoa from “Mexicolate”, our local in house native cacao processing boutique and chocolatería. Que fabulouso!

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The banana provides a lotta sweet, the cocoa balancing it out. Though a fat pat of butter and drizzle of honey never hurt.

We are in the midst of a busy week, beach parties, circus performance, Halloween and Day of the Dead. And here in Mexico, if they say it starts at 630, well, it starts at 8.

We are often first to arrive and early to leave, and I am not ashamed. I have to live with the kid. Wink. Wink. I want him to rest.

When I visited “Mexicolate”, this morning, the owner, “Toto”, was there. He gave me a sample of a grain free, dairy free lime torte, the crust made of dates and coconut and the top with avocado and lime. It was beyond yum. I have already been on their whole sensual tour before, but today I met Max, a chocolatier, who let me snap him up.

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Their chocolates are lovely, hardly sweet at all, with a bit of cardamom and honey and topped with dried and fresh fruits, spices and peels. When I tried the chile one, I chewed the dry strip up well, then, half way through, spit it out. It had done it’s job. Click here to find out more about this fabulous business, from pod to mouth.

Can you think of a good name for the Banana “Omelette”, that has no roll, Pancake, that has no grain, but is full of possibility?

“Seven” suggested “Banana Egg Galaxy”, or how about “Dragon Butt Egg”?

I hope you’ll try this my friends, get creative with what ever you have. Cocoa, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate chips, cream cheese, jam… Or dairy free, too. We just like the smell of morning fried in butter.

Buen Provecho!

And don’t forget, whatever, where ever, take it in slow and holy…

Xo,
e.

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Cooking · Culture · Recipes · Travel

Everyday Watermelon

I know at this time of year where I “come from” watermelons aren’t in the shops, nor in the minds of the people. Too cooling. Out of season. But I would eat them all day. I’m in another realm. One where today, walking with my son “Seven” to our first potluck gathering since we moved to this sweet, Mexican beach town, sweat was literally dripping off my upper lip. And I’m not a sweater. So I thought.

Moving along, I was wishing the bright yellow Guadalupe shopping bag I was carrying that was stressing my arms and belly could ride easily atop my head, the way that old woman was carrying a big, green-black plastic garbage bag-full atop hers, strolling along, smiling with her friend. Mine was too bulgy, busting my biceps with it’s loaded up. Sarongs, travel dishes, bamboo utensils, cloth napkins, bikini, sunscreen (probably expired), water, clean clothes, and a big, full, silver bowl, our first homey dish for school potluck at the beach. Watermelon Rice Salad.

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~ Do you know about these? I wish everyone had them.
“To Go Ware” Photo courtesy R.E.I. ~

Five people brought popcorn. It was good.

Our salad was superb. “Seven” and I ate some before we left. He said it was “the best ever”, then added he would like it with scrambled eggs. “No way”, I said. “It’s so clean and amazing.” A wonderfully balanced bowl. The flavor of celery is cleansing to me, offering a tiny, smooth-bitter bite, while the green beans add a sort of flat sweetness, very different from that of gushing watermelon. Lime. Onion. Zing.

“Seven” helped make the salad by picking the flat parsley leaves off the stems, and keeping his chunky mitts off the melon.

~ Watermelon Rice Salad ~

2 cups Cooked Rice
2 Tbs. Good Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground White or Black Pepper
3 Tbs. Lime Juice
3 Stalks Celery, small diced
1 Cup Steamed Green Beans, small diced
2-3 Tbs. Parsey, Mint or Basil, rough chopped
2 Tbs. Red Onion, fine diced
1 1/2 – 2 cups Watermelon, small diced

I started by breaking up the rice into a large bowl, pouring over mucho olive oil, sprinkling generously with coarse sea salt, grinding black pepper around and squeezing in 2 very juicy, small limes. So simple. I mixed it well, to melt the salt and coat the rice, to bring the juice alive. I added the celery and green beans. I mixed. We left the parsley leaves whole. Then I added the red onion and mixed again. Finally, gently, we added our brightest star, our beautiful-sweet-juicy-red watermelon, cubed a tiny bit bigger than her two green friends. I made sure to squeegee all the fabulous juice from the cutting board. It totally makes the sauce. Mix. Taste. Remember. Northern Summer.

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There was some great Pollo Asado, whole grilled chicken, at the sandy potluck table. Some one bought it from the side of the road, and I sure was glad. It was fantastic with our salad. Popcorn side, a few tostadas. Avocado, cucumber. Crazy orangenta sun sinking into a silver-blue sea. Small fire burning. Kids taking turns fishing into a late arrival bag of “Big Mix”, orange, chili-cheese-powder coated puffy corn stuffs. Big Hit!

It was not much like potlucks at “home”, and that’s A-okay. I’m brewing home within.

Buen Provecho, Amigos, where ever…whatever it may be!

Take in it slow and holy.

XoXo,
enza esperanza

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~ The start of mural alley. Golden Life.
I do not know who painted this beauty. ~