It’s been about a month since I first posted about our new organic garden, so I thought I’d share some photos of my kitchen vegetable garden now that it’s early July.

Despite the fact that the weather was terrible and it rained nearly everyday in June, my organic vegetable garden is growing very well. I attribute this to the fact that my veggies are planted in raised beds, and the soil is enriched with lots of compost.

Organic Garden Early July Highlights:

Here are my scarlet runner beans climbing up their cage; I’ve got lettuces you can’t see planted in the center…

scarlet runner beans

My squash plants are growing by leaps and bounds, and they’ve got gorgeous blossoms I love to use in recipes:

squash blossom

Here is one of my lacinato kale plants:

Tuscan kale

Here is our first ripe cucumber- my daughter and I ate it right after I took this picture:

first cucumber

I am a big fan of companion planting so my beds are filled not just with veggies, but with herbs, and lots of flowers, too. Here you can see some zinnias near my San Marzano tomatoes (these are awesome for sauces and they are just 1 of the 10 heirloom varieties I am growing!):

first sanmarzano

My herb spiral has filled in a lot: I’ve got dill, basil, lemon balm, oregano, winter savory, lavender, parsley and more growing in here…

herb spiral

That’s it for now- I’ll share more organic kitchen gardening photos as the summer progresses!

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Red velvet cake has always fascinated me, but I really have no idea why. I’ve never even tasted it (the whole food coloring thing doesn’t sit well with me), let alone attempted to make it.

I wanted a festive dessert for the 4th of July, so I decided to make a somewhat healthier, all-natural version of red velvet cake, one that is colored with beets.

I am not trying to pass this off as a substitute for one of those traditional red velvet cakes made with an entire bottle of food coloring. I repeat – this is not a bright red cake! This red velvet cake with beets has more of a deep reddish-brown hue. I think it’s beautiful as well as delicious.

It is very rich, though- appropriate for an occasional celebration, but not suitable for your everyday healthy diet!

I’ve made chocolate cake with pureed beets before, and I really liked the results. Contrary to what you might imagine, beets in baked goods can add natural sweetness and moisture without adding a pronounced flavor.

Using The African American Heritage Cookbook‘s red velvet cake recipe as inspiration, I adapted my beet chocolate cake recipe into a red velvet cake.

To top the cake, I did not make the typical cream cheese frosting that usually accompanies red velvet cake. I opted instead for a creamy frosting made with organic ingredients. Then I covered the cake with fresh berries (ala Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom cover!)- it was a big hit with my 4th of July guests!

Recipe for Red Velvet Cake With Beets

Inspired by The African American Heritage Cookbook by Carolyn Quick Tillery.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

*6 organic beets, boiled for 40 minutes, and then cooled, peeled, and chopped coarsely
*1/2 cup organic applesauce
*1/2 cup organic butter, softened
*1 1/2 cups organic sugar
*2 eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
*1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
*1 cup organic plain yogurt
*2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder or organic raw chocolate powder
*1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
*2 cups sifted organic spelt flour or all purpose flour
*1 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the frosting:

*6 tablespoons organic spelt flour or all-purpose flour
*1 cup water or organic milk
*1 cup organic butter
*1 cup organic sugar
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

For the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round layer pans. Combine chopped cooked beets and applesauce in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. In a large mixing bowl in an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, and then add the beet mixture, mixing well. Add the vinegar and the yogurt and mix well again.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa or chocolate powder, baking soda, flour, and salt together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended.

4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, you may frost them.

For the frosting:

Bring flour and water to a boil, reduce heat, and stir constantly until thick and slightly clear. Cool in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until fluffy. Keep the frosting refrigerated before use.

redvelvet3

I am happy to announce that the lucky winner of the June Healthy Cookbook giveaway is Sarah T. of Los Angeles. She’ll receive a signed copy of Ricki Heller’s healthy desserts cookbook, Sweet Freedom. Congrats to Sarah!

Thanks to everyone who entered and of course a huge thank you to Ricki for writing the book and generously donating a copy for the raffle.

For those who didn’t win the book, don’t despair…you can still get a copy through Amazon!

My next healthy cookbook giveaway will begin on July 15th. I’ll be announcing the title soon.

I promise it’s another great book you’ll be very excited about…hot off the presses and also signed by the author!

Take care and enjoy the holiday weekend!