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December 21, 2014

Last-minute chocolate gingerbread cake

Chocolate gingerbread cake: less than an hour, start to finish!

It's that time of year, the time when everyone is out and about, braving the crowded stores and getting prepared for the holidays. It's crazy-busy, and exhausting, and if you live on the flight path between your friends and the local shopping center, you will probably get some spontaneous drop-in visitors in search of a restorative cup of tea, a supportive hug, and a rest room with no waiting line. Even if you didn't get more than a quick text message saying, "I'm coming over in a few minutes", you can throw together a cake that's sure to cure the shopping blues. This last-minute from-the-pantry chocolate gingerbread cake comes together in less time than it takes to preheat the oven, and in an hour, start-to-finish, it's baked and cooled and ready for visitors. Even better, if you have a few minutes at the end of the day, throw one of these cakes in the oven. When it's cooled, cut it into four pieces and freeze. Each piece will serve 3-4 tired friends. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, or top it with ice cream, right before serving.

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October 31, 2013

Powdered buttermilk (Recipe: apple spice bread)

First published in August 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I think I've made this apple spice bread more than any other quick bread, ever. My family loves it, so I try to keep one in the freezer at all times. (Doesn't everyone keep an emergency apple bread on hand?)

Apple spice bread (make ahead and freeze).

When most people think of Rhode Island, they think of Newport mansions. Jazz festivals. Clambakes on the beach. Rhode Island Red chickens. (Okay, not everyone thinks of chickens....)

Until I moved here, I was one of those people. If you'd told me I was moving to apple country — that, in fact, I'd be buying my Macouns at an orchard named Apple Land — I would have said "hah!". But here I am, smack dab in apple land, where I can buy Jonagolds and Cortlands, Mutsu and Macintosh, from August until March.

The thing about apple land is that it's miles from here to anything like a grocery store. So I always keep powdered buttermilk, an essential ingredient in my favorite apple spice bread and other baked goodies, in my pantry.

What is buttermilk? And what makes it cultured

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October 29, 2013

Recipe for spinach and feta phyllo cups {vegetarian}

Spinach and feta phyllo cups, a quick and easy appetizer.

Mini phyllo cups just might be the best thing that ever happened to appetizers. To be honest, apps aren't really my thing; give me a bowl of hummus or salsa and something to dip, and I'm all set. However, every now and then, especially during the holiday season, I like to present my guests with something a bit more, well... polished, and that's when I turn to phyllo cups. I always have a few boxes stashed in the freezer; each box contains fifteen little cups, which means you don't need a lot of filling, and you can make multiple batches without much more effort. These spinach and feta phyllo cups are one-bite treats (or, for the very dainty, two bites), and offer a burst of flavor without a heavy filling. It takes less time to put them together than it takes to preheat the oven. How easy is that?

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October 22, 2013

Recipe for pear spice cake with cardamom and ginger

Pear spice cake with cardamom and ginger.

Do you have a lucky bread pan? Don't laugh, but this is my lucky bread pan. I acquired it at least twenty years ago under somewhat nefarious circumstances (let's just say that it found its way out of a Boston restaurant kitchen that was unceremoniously shuttered when the owner forgot to pay his bills), and after a scrub or two or three, it's been working for me ever since. Sometimes, I use it for meatloaf, and I tried a vegetable terrine once; though I never made that terrine again, I don't blame the pan. Most often, I whip up fruit-based quick breads like this pear spice cake with cardamom and ginger, and the pan works its magic in the oven, rendering a slight crust on the bottom and a lovely split on the top. I love having a pile of these cakes in the freezer; I cut each cake in half and freeze it, wrapped in aluminum foil and then a plastic bag. Long after our local apple and pear season ends, I can pull out a piece of cake, fix a cup of tea, and drink a toast to my magic bread pan.

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September 12, 2013

Chocolate sour cream cake recipe

Chocolate sour cream cake, from The Perfect Pantry.

Do you ever just need chocolate cake? As in, have to have it, nothing fancy, old fashioned, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake? Yes, you understand. I knew you would. I could tell you I baked a cake in honor of our granddaughter's birthday today (she is six years old!), but that wouldn't be entirely true. I baked a cake for me, because I needed chocolate cake. Once again, I adapted a recipe sent to me by a reader a few years ago, and I baked the cake in the beautiful ceramic Bundt pan she made for me. This cake has never let me down; in fact, it always cheers me up, and it will do the same for you. If you wish, mix a simple glaze from confectioners sugar and a few tablespoons of cold coffee, and drizzle it all over the top.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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