Cakey Brownies from Stuff You Probably Already Have

Know what I love? Brownies. Problem is, sometimes I want brownies and am out of butter. Or chocolate (OK, I never run out of chocolate, but I hear some people do. It sounds terrible.) Anyway, I’ve designed this recipe to be slightly more cakey (Cakier? Cakeyer? Cakeier? How the hell should I spell that?). And it’s out of staples that don’t go bad, except for the eggs. 





Cakey Brownies

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT alkalized/Dutch processed)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chips or nuts (up to 12 oz, which is one bag of chips)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). line a 9×13 inch pan with foil and grease. 

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda and 1/3 cup vegetable oil until smooth. Add boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened (it will froth up, I promise).

Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Add chips or nuts.

Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Use foil to lift from pan and allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Yield: 24 2”x2” squares

Sprinkle top with brown sugar before baking





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Vindaloo to warm you up!

So, the cooler weather is coming, and I like to make warming meals. Here’s on of my favourites, a vindaloo that can be as hot or mild as you like. The recipe originally came from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking”, which I highly recommend, but it’s altered somewhat. I like to double this recipe and freeze leftovers in 1 lb. packets for future quick meals. I know the ingredient list looks long, but that’s because you’re making your own curry paste. Don’t worry. 

Note: Asafoetida and Fenugreek are optional and seem stinky on their own, but they make a big difference in the final dish. Use them if you can, one or both.


  • Ingredients
  • 3 TBSP grainy mustard
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1 TBSP coriander
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • ½ scant tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp asafoetida
  • ½ tsp fenugreek
  • Glorp of vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions sliced into half rings
  • 1 bulb garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 pounds cubed pork (shoulder is best, loin works but isn’t as flavourful)
  • 1 can coconut milk, well stirred
  • 8 oz frozen peas



Mix spices with mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. Fry onions in oil until medium brown. While onions are frying cube pork. Dump garlic into onion and fry for about a minute. Then add spice paste and stir. Add pork and stir until lightly browned. Add coconut milk, cover, and simmer for about 90 minutes, until tender. Add peas and simmer until tender.  Serve over rice.

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By request, pumpkin soup

You know those adorable pie pumpkins in the store during the holidays? They are easier to use than you imagine.

Wash the outside, then cut into quarters. Grab all the seeds and soak them in warm salt water (because you totally want to roast them, right?) and then use a spoon to scoop out the ooky stringy bits. Then set the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until soft. Let cool until you can handle with bare hands, then scrape the fleshy bits from the shell and puree the heck out of it. TA DA! Fresh pumpkin.  Rinse the slime off the seeds and toss them with a little oil (coconut oil, vegetable oil, whatever) and season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, whatever. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast (the oven is at 350 still, that’s fine) stirring occasionally until they get brown. Cool before nibbling, trust me.

Now for the  soup. Curried pumpkin soup is an easy quick hot meal, and can be made vegan without becoming boring. Heat some oil in a stock pot and cut up a shallot or two . Cook the shallot Until clear and soft, then add curry powder (I use Spice Guys Madras, just use one you like) and stir to let the curry toast a bit. Add pumpkin and vegetable broth (proportions aren’t critical, I used one pumpkin, one shallot, 2 tablespoons of curry, and one box of vegetable broth).  Puree with a stick blender and bring to a simmer. Taste and add salt, sugar, or wine to balance the flavor. Bring to a simmer again and add yogurt, heavy cream, or coconut milk a little at a time until it tastes right (about half a can of coconut milk tastes right to me). Serve with toasted seeds.

You can scoop out a second pumpkin to use as a serving bowl for a special meal. People ohh and ahh, but it’s big pay-off for not much work. 

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Better than pumpkin pie

Yes, I hear you… “how can that possibly be?” Let me tell you…

You take that classic pumpkin custard, make it less sweet, and pump it up with cream cheese, and add a shot of rum. Turn the bland crust into a butter cookie, and make it crunchy with an oatmeal pecan crumb top.

Pumpkin Bar

1 1/3 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
¾ cup butter
1 cup oats
½ cup broken pecans

1 box (17oz) pumpkin puree
8oz philly cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp rum
½ tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp clove

Heat oven to 350
Line 9×13 pan with foil and butter.
Stir flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and allspice together, cut in butter, crumble in oats and pecans. Set aside a generous cup and press remainder into pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Use a mixer to whip cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sugar, then eggs, then pumpkin, flour, rum,and spices. Pour into hot crust, then sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes then remove from pan to cool on a wire rack. Cut into 6×4 grid.


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Stolen (or gifted) Apples

I’ve ended up with a lot of apples this year, which is awesome. Here is what 30 pounds of apples looks like:

This is what 4 of those bags looks like:

Seriously. And that’s not even all since Awesome Neighbor gave me some and I raided a vacant house for others. So… apple butter!

First thing you want to do is wash the apples. Why, since they are organic and unsprayed? Bird poop. Fill the sink with warm water and add half a cap of bleach. Stir around, drain, let  stand wet for a few minutes, fill the sink again, add 1/4 cup of vinegar, drain, and rinse well. You don’t HAVE to go through all that, and you can skip the bleach, but I’d rather be safe.

Cut the apples in half, scoop out the seeds with a melon baller, and chop them into bits.  Don’t even bother to peel ’em, most of the fiber is in the peel and we’re cooking them into oblivion anyway. So… fill your crock pot with apples. Here’s about 12 pounds before I trimmed them, and how much I actually threw away:

Pour some water, apple juice, cider (hard or otherwise) or wine in, about 8oz total. Add brown sugar and spices. Cinnamon, ginger, and clove are traditional, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom also go into mine. Use about a half a cup of brown sugar, you can always add more later.

Cook overnight on low of during the day on high with occasional stirring. The apples will let down their juices and cook to mush.

This is with no more smooshing than a simple spoon can smoosh. Hit it with a stick blender and you’ll get this:

Looks delicious, but is it DONE? Add some of the last batch to be sure. Not only does this give you a larger variety of apple, and thus a rounder flavour, it also introduces some sugars that are already deep-caramelized and can get to nearly-scorched without actually scorching, which is what gives the apple butter its richness.

As you can see, it can get a LOT darker. Cook it some more, mine is usually on for about 24 hours. Give it another blending when you think it’s done. When is it done?

When it’s dark like chocolate and thick enough to stay on an inverted spoon it’s done. It can be hot-water canned or frozen, and it’s good in the fridge for months. I recommend 1 cup portions because that’s the amount that goes into my apple muffins.

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Wherein my neighbor is awesome

So a couple of summer back I was going to plant a square foot garden. I didn’t. Last summer my neighbor asked if all the stuff was going to go to waste, or if she could use it and simply provide me with random produce. In a rare moment of intellect I said ‘Sure!’. So last summer and this one shes dropped random bags of produce on my porch, and I try to use it, with varying degrees of success. 

Today she brought me lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, a jalapeno, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and chocolate mint. More herbs than I can use, really, so i’ll be passing some on. But what to do with the other stuff? Well, the dinner plan was to cook a couple of lonely hotdogs and a chicken breast on the grill, so a salad works well. I cut up the tomatoes, sliced and salted the cukes as I always do for salad, chopped some parsley and basil, grated some pepper, dressed with olive oil and rice vinegar and just a pinch of sugar, and here’s what I’ve got:



It’s in the fridge thinking about what it’s done. What else do I need for a meal? 

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I accidentally went to a farmers market today

Seriously, I was driving by and saw it and it caught me eye (and the sausage cart caught my nose) so I stopped. I totally couldn’t tell you where it was, either. I had some cash in the console, so I picked up some goodies. How friggin cute are these?



Got ’em from a patchouli-scented dude with long blond dreads who told me that biodynamic agriculture “Is, like, organic farming on steroids, man. It totally enriches the spirit of the food”. Not sure how the science works, there, but I’m sure these are good for my soul. 

Anyway, I cut the fat ones in half and boiled them all in salted water for 10 minutes while the oven heated to 450. Chilled ’em in ice water, tossed with bacon grease (Yay,  bacon grease!) savory, lovage, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Roasted for 15 minutes. Amazing finger food.

These little darlings aren’t the only thing I got, either. The same dirty hippy sold me a beautiful heirloom tomato, and at other stalls I got a packet of Madras curry powder, a jar of goat cheese in herbed olive oil, a loaf of bread, and 14 organic palisade peaches (last of the season, he said). Not bad for a trip I didn’t know I was going to make. Maybe I’ll report on those, too, if I’m not too busy licking the bacon grease and salt off my fingers.

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