Before I started blogging about food, lemons were lemons and oranges were oranges. Things are different now.

Now, I’m obsessed with Meyer lemons.

And crazy about specialty oranges: blood oranges, in particular. I’m totally and completely in love with them because they are so beautiful…

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…and because when they are in season (now!), they taste just like a perfectly ripe orange should (maybe even better). In a perfect world, I’d be able to say the oranges are local (alas, here in New York that’s an impossibility).

When Amanda and Merrill from Food52 challenged us to create a recipe utilizing blood oranges, feta cheese and mint, I was pretty much all over it.

I contemplated doing a salad. But that seemed so obvious. So I pondered some more and decided to adapt this Meyer Lemon Cake to feature blood oranges instead. My entry for the contest ended up being this Blood Orange Cake with Mint Feta Ice Cream…have a look at the recipe on Food52, if you like.

That’s not the recipe I’m going to share here on the blog, though. You see, when I first blogged about the Meyer Lemon Cake, I got a lot of questions from readers wondering about adapting the recipe in various ways. Could they reduce the sugar? Or use a more natural sweetener? Change the oil? Leave out the yogurt? Make it gluten-free?

I had, of course, been wondering all of these things myself, and since I just love making my favorite recipes healthier, I decided to make another version of the cake keeping all of your concerns in mind. This one uses high protein, gluten-free almond flour, pure maple syrup and organic coconut oil. It is gluten and dairy-free, and I think it’s pretty fantastic.

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My family loved this cake. I am being very honest when I tell you that they do not always enjoy my healthy baking endeavors, but they definitely enjoyed this one.

The almond flour I used is not blanched: there are flecks of almond skin throughout. I see no reason why you can’t use the more widely available blanched almond flour in this recipe, though (just know that your cake may end up with a slightly different color and texture then mine). I added some ground cardamom because I love how it compliments the orange flavor, but you could use cinnamon instead.

I personally prefer a subtle orange flavor, but if you want more of the lovely blood orange taste (and color) in your cake, you are welcome to add the juice of 1-2 oranges to the batter (you may want to add a bit more almond flour to compensate for the additional liquid if you do so). If you can’t find blood oranges, use the sweetest “regular” oranges you can find. Because this recipe incorporates orange zest, it’s important to use organic oranges. If you can’t find organic oranges, I strongly suggest you use a produce wash to remove chemical residues from your oranges.

Lastly, make sure you use a high quality extra virgin organic coconut oil. Organic coconut oil should have a subtle sweet coconut flavor with no “off” taste whatsoever. I’ve been using Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Garden of Life lately and I love it. The glaze at the last step is optional, but I really like how the citrus-y coconut oil melts in and leaves the zest as a simple and pretty adornment for the top of the cake…

Gluten-Free Blood Orange Cardamom Cake Recipe
Adapted from my Meyer Lemon Cake Recipe (which I adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s French Style Yogurt Cake)
Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the cake:

*3 cups almond flour
*1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*pinch of sea salt
*1 tablespoon minced blood orange zest
*3/4 cup pure maple syrup
*4 large eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*1/2 cup extra virgin organic coconut oil, warmed so that it is liquid

For the syrup:

*1/4 cup pure maple syrup
*juice of 1 blood orange

For the optional glaze:

*3 tablespoons extra virgin organic coconut oil
*juice of 1/2 blood orange
*1 tablespoon minced blood orange rind

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil, and sprinkle almond flour on the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together the almond flour, ground cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Add the orange zest and mix well.

In a large bowl, combine the maple syrup, eggs and coconut oil. Whisk well to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk again to combine.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I suggest you start checking after 25 minutes: you do not want to overbake it.

Cool the cake for 15 minutes and then remove the sides of the pan. Place the cake (it will still be attached to the bottom of the springform) on a large plate and gently prick the cake all over with a fork. Whisk the syrup ingredients together, and then drizzle the syrup all over the cake. The syrup will seep into all those fork holes (and some will probably run out onto your plate, too- don’t worry about it).

Allow the cake to cool for another 30 minutes or so and then mix the glaze ingredients together. If the coconut oil is very hard (due to a cooler room temperature), you may want to warm it up a bit. Using a offset spatula (or a spoon), cover the top of the cake with the glaze: expect it to “disappear” into the cake leaving the zest behind.

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This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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Soba noodles are a traditional food throughout Japan. When it’s cold out, they are usually served as part of a hot soup; when the weather warms, they are generally chilled and paired with a dipping sauce.

Soba noodles are generally made from a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour, and the buckwheat gives them a distinct dark gray hue. They have a rather chewy texture and a taste that many describe as “earthy”. Nutritionally speaking, soba are far superior to regular noodles: they’re quite high in vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Though they do usually contain some wheat, it is possible to find soba noodles that are made from 100% buckwheat. Eden is one brand that makes all buckwheat soba noodles and these are available at many natural foods stores and perhaps in the Asian section of large supermarkets. Buckwheat contains no gluten, so make sure your soba noodles are 100% buckwheat if you eat gluten-free. If you can’t find a brand of all-buckwheat soba noodles and you don’t need to eat gluten-free for health reasons, you can go ahead and use a brand that contains some wheat.

Though this recipe is not terribly traditional in the Japanese sense, I think soba noodles are a natural with vegetables and a dressing that highlights another one of my favorite Japanese ingredients: miso.

If you are unfamiliar with miso, it’s a creamy paste made from fermented soybeans. It is the main ingredient in miso soup, of course, but it has many other uses in the kitchen. White (“mellow”) miso is the variety with the mildest flavor, but it is still quite salty, so don’t add the full amount if you are sensitive to salt. Miso is high in iron and zinc, and well as naturally occuring probiotics which are excellent for the immune system and for the digestion.

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I had leftover roast chicken so I threw some in for protein, but you could substitute just about any type of leftover cooked meat or fish. You can also leave out the animal products for a vegan salad. Feel free to play with the vegetables: carrots sliced into matchsticks would be nice, as would colorful sliced peppers and/or some bean sprouts. If you don’t have tahini, you could try using some all-natural peanut butter in it’s place.

Recipe for Soba Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing
*use organic ingredients whenever possible

Ingredients for the salad:

*one 8 oz. package of buckwheat soba noodles, preferably made with 100% buckwheat flour
*1 cup frozen shelled edamame
*1 cup chopped broccoli
*1 cup matchstick-sliced cucumbers
*1 cup cooked shredded organic, free-range chicken- optional; you could also use another type of cooked leftover meat or fish, or add cooked tofu or tempeh
*1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
*2 tablespoons all-natural pickled ginger (I like The Ginger People brand) or 1 Tb. peeled and minced fresh ginger
*1/2 cup sliced green onion tops

Ingredients for the dressing:

*2 tablespoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
*2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
*2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice wine)- optional
*2 tablespoons white miso (“shiro” miso)
*2 tablespoons sesame tahini
*1-2 pinches crushed red pepper

Directions:

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a small pot of water (you’ll need enough water to submerge the edamame and the broccoli).

When the water is boiling, add the frozen edamame and the broccoli. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until both are bright green and tender.

Drain the edamame and the broccoli and allow to cool, and then mix with the sliced cucumbers and optional chicken. Mix well. Add the cilantro, ginger, and green onion and mix again. set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together. Add a little water if the mixture is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking, if necessary.

Pour the dressing over the noodles and vegetables and mix well to combine. Garnish with additional minced cilantro, if you like.

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This post is linked to the March 4th edition of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday!

By the time you read this, I will be on a ski slope in Vermont. I’m looking forward to getting away with my family for a couple of days; while I am gone, I hope you’ll enjoy this warming soup full of garlic-y goodness.

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This Spanish Garlic Soup (aka Sopa de Ajo) is meant to be thickened with good quality sourdough bread. Use a homemade loaf or the best quality store-bought bread you can find- it makes a difference. I love the addition of the white wine here, but feel free to just use more stock, if you like.

The flavors will intensify the longer you cook this soup…

Recipe for Spanish Garlic Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

* 3 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* cloves from 1 head of garlic (about 15), peeled, smashed with the side of a knife, and chopped
* 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
* 3-4 slices sourdough bread, cubed
* 1 cup white wine
* 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used vegetable)
* 1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika (I prefer the smoked)
* 1 pinch saffron
* 1 1/2 teaspoon coursely ground peppercorns (I use a mortal and pestle for this; if you don’t have one, you can just use a pepper grinder)
* 1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
* minced fresh parsley for serving
* crème fraiche for serving- optional

Directions:

In a soup pot, melt the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and bread cubes, and reduce the heat a bit so the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic and bread cubes are nicely browned (you can add a little water to the the pan during the saute process if it seems too dry).

Add the wine and 1/2 cup of the stock and bring to a boil. Cook for a minute or two, skimming the surface, if necessary, and then turn off the heat.

Allow to cool a bit and then process in a blender or food processor into a paste (you could also use a hand blender for this). Return to your soup pot and add the rest of the stock and the seasonings.

Cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. If you want the soup to be very smooth, you can blend it again before serving; garnish with fresh parsley and a dollop of crème fraiche, if desired.

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