We had a little going-away potluck for a friend last week and I volunteered to be in charge of the sweets, which is most unlike me. It's not that I dislike baking. What I don't like is how nearly-impossible it is to salvage baking mistakes, whereas cooking mistakes can usually be turned around with a little improvisation.

Fortunately, this cake was super-easy and possibly idiot-proof (and also praised by omnivores who love them some rich, fatty cake). It mixes quickly, bakes up beautifully, and goes down easy. I can't take credit for the recipe--it's just a slightly bastardized version of the Moosewood Restaurant's Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake--but of course I changed a few little things. There's half the sugar, less oil, more cocoa, and tons of deliciousness. I also think it would be amazing with cinnamon and cayenne pepper, or banana, and definitely with peanut butter frosting.

Vegan chocolate cake.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake
3 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cold brewed coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9 X 13 cake pan--I used Spectrum spray with flour. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, combine coffee, oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until smooth, using a hand mixer to pump some air into the batter. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. The vinegar and baking soda will start to react immediately, so pour the batter into your prepared pan quickly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean.

While it's baking, why not whip up some easy chocolate-raspberry topping?

Chocolate-Raspberry Topping
(I hate the word "topping," but this is neither frosting nor glaze.)
1 cup or more raspberry fruit spread
1 cup or more bittersweet chocolate chips
A few tablespoons of water

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the raspberry spread over low heat with a little bit of water, stirring until it is smooth. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until melted and thoroughly combined.

What you do next is up to you. Maybe you just want to take the sauce and go be alone with it. You could pour it directly on the (slightly cooled) cake, where it will fill in any cracks and drip down the sides. You could also chill it so that it thickens up, and then apply it to the cake more like a frosting.

I can also tell you that leftover chocolate-raspberry topping is excellent on plain, slightly salty wheat crackers.

I am still happily in the CSA's thrall, and last week's box had a big, beautiful purple cabbage in it. We're splitting our box with another couple, so I only brought home half the cabbage, but even so, it is a substantial vegetable and I still have about half of it left. Here are two ways I used it.

Stir Fry with Carrot "Noodles"
For the tofu:
A little oil for the pan
Soy sauce, tamari, or Braggs
1 pound of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed (if you have the time) and cubed

Heat the oil and soy sauce together over medium heat. Add tofu, toss to coat, and fry until golden on all sides. Set aside.

For the veg:
Half a medium onion, sliced
A cup (or so) of purple cabbage, sliced and diced or shredded
Half a head of broccoli, broken into florets. Please include the chopped broccoli leaves and the peeled and sliced stalks--they are delicious
Any other vegetables you have on hand
Sesame oil
Rice vinegar
Soy sauce

In your recently-vacated tofu pan, add a bit more oil (canola, peanut, etc) over medium-high heat and chuck in your onions to soften for a few minutes. Add cabbage and broccoli and toss to coat. As the vegetables start to fry and cook down, add a bit of water (like a tablespoon at a time) to encourage the vegetables to steam. Sprinkle with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.

For the "noodles":
2 large carrots, made into noodles with a good old fashioned vegetable peeler. I just set the carrot down on my cutting board and peeled away, turning the carrot to hit all sides and keep the peelings from getting too wide. Snack on the pointy leftovers.

Just before the stir-fry vegetables are done, toss in your carrot noodles and let them wilt and incorporate into the mix. Add the tofu back in and garnish with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, and Sri Racha sauce.

This would also be delicious served with actual noodles, though you might need more sauce.
Tofu, cabbage, and brocc with carrot "noodles."

Thai Slaw
This is one of the prettiest things I've ever eaten. The part about it being Thai is bullshit, but at least you know what flavor profile I am trying to evoke.

2 cups shredded purple cabbage
2 grated carrots
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 chopped scallions
a handful of chopped cilantro
chopped peanuts for garnish

For dressing:
Rice vinegar (cider vinegar would be just fine too, though you may want to adjust the flavors a bit)
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Sri Racha or other chili sauce
About a teaspoon of minced ginger (I have to admit that I bought a jar of this and it is extremely convenient, and inexpensive)

Mix together in pleasing proportions until you are satisfied. You can also dash in some balsamic and olive oil--this was left over in my cruet from the previous night's salad, and my "Thai" dressing mixed in to it deliciously. You want about a half cup of dressing for this amount of veg.
Slaw, before mixing.
Mix all your vegetables together in a big bowl and feel free to adjust the proportions. Add the dressing and toss it all together. Voila! If you can let this sit and marinate for at least a half hour before serving, it will be much more delicious. Top with chopped peanuts.
Thai slaw, all mixed up.
(At this rate, it looks like I'm shooting for one post about every three weeks. That's a good way to please your vast readership, is it not?)

Unfortunately, my friends, it seems that summer has officially ended. September 1 rolled around and brought with it chilly evenings and blustery rain. Oh sure, today around 4 it was fabulous and perfect outside, to the point that running around the lake didn't feel like much of a chore at all. But I know that these days are numbered, and when the nights are chilly, a makeshift cook's thoughts turn to soup.

I've had potato soup on the brain for a few days, knowing that I'm a bit overloaded with potatoes at the moment and need to use them up. This soup whipped up quickly and easily with just a few ingredients and I can't stop eating it. Really, it's still on the stovetop and every time I walk past, I dip another half-scoop of it into my bowl. As soothing as mashed potatoes, but with the kick of jalapeno peppers and the sweetness of corn to keep things interesting.

Spicy Potato Corn Soup
Olive oil for the soup pot
One good-sized onion, diced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
4 smallish carrots, diced (or two large ones)
3 big gloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp of cumin
About 2 pounds of gold potatoes (I used 10 medium), peeled (or not, if you like) and cubed
About 6 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of frozen corn, though if you have fresh, by all means use it
Fresh oregano if you have it
A few handfuls of fresh spinach
2 scallions, chopped
Salt to taste

Chop your veg first. You are probably virtuous and you do this sort of prepping already, but too often I find myself having to chop another vegetable while I'm right in the middle of the cooking, and this recipe has a lot of potatoes which, between you and me, are a pain in the ass to peel and cube.

Then. Heat the oil in your soup pot and add the onions, jalapenos, and carrots. Saute until the onions are translucent and then add the garlic and cumin. Let that sizzle a few minutes more, and then chuck in your potatoes, stir to coat, and add the vegetable broth, which I suspect is what pulls this soup together. I made some from scratch awhile back and froze it, and this is what allows me to say smugly that making your own veggie stock is the way to go.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let everything simmer until the potatoes are tender. At this point, use an immersion blender, blender, or old-school potato masher to puree some of the soup. If you forget to do this until later, like I did, the soup will still be delicious.

Add the corn and cook a bit longer. Last of all, add the fresh oregano, spinach, and scallions, stir it up, and turn the heat wayyyy down or off altogether. Salt to taste and let the soup stand for a few minutes to come together.

Serve with crusty bread, obviously.