A Berry Oat Cake for the Birthday Girl

It’s my birthday today! To celebrate the magic of the big 3-1, allow me to share a recipe for a sort-of-healthy birthday cake. Full disclaimer: I doubt I will actually bake this cake for my birthday today. I’ll probably be lazy (AGAIN) and let somebody else do the work, if I have cake at all. Chocolate could very well be involved in lieu of cake. My kitchen love affair gets a little cramped in the summer months. 🙂


I’ve already established how much I enjoy working in the kitchen on this here blog, yes? (I know for a fact I’ve already confirmed what a nut I am when it comes to cooking for road trips, and I’m pretty sure I’ve also demonstrated the peculiar/OCD issues I have with using other people’s kitchen utensils before, so if you’re not convinced of my love for cooking just yet, let’s just pretend that being a compulsive, nutty, non-borrower of other people’s crock pots equals Big Time Kitchen Love.)

I love making things from scratch whenever I can, and I’m also somebody who strives to waste as little as possible, food or otherwise. I’ve been making our own almond milk for over a year now and, after documenting a few initial mishaps (which of course were Freshly Pressed– WordPress loves celebrating failure!), I’ve become a well-oiled machine with the process: Soak almonds. Add water. Blend. Strain. Blend again with vanilla and dates. See? Simple!

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about making almond milk from scratch was having the almond grits left over. What to do with a bunch of soggy almond bits, save for tossing them in the compost bin? I tried making chocolate truffles with them before, but the results were mushy and gross, to put it politely. (I have a serious chocolate addiction and even I didn’t want to eat these truffles, if that says anything.) Anyway. I wanted to do something with the leftover almond curds, but unless I wanted to excel at food failure, it seemed that the compost heap was the only viable option.

Almond grits in all their glory

Enter the Berry Oat Cake.

The recipe for this cake (which is more like a mild afternoon loaf than it is like a hyperactive kid’s birthday cake) secretly came from a “diet” book (sssh!), but given the amount of times I’ve eaten a quarter-plus of a pan in one sitting, I can safely say that I’m not losing any weight from it. 😉 What I like about this recipe– aside from its addictive, not-too-sweet quality– is that I can easily and deliciously incorporate my almond grits into it. So what if I make this cake exactly as frequently as I make almond milk, i.e. weekly? At least I’m not wasting any food by doing it! “Eat up, honey bunches”, I tell my husband when yet another Berry Oat Cake emerges from the oven: “We’re recycling!”

The edible version of “waste not, want not”

(Marty is an eco-warrior, too. He does his bit for the environment by dutifully eating his share of the berry oat cake each week.)

It goes without saying that this cake can be made without soggy almond grits, too. You don’t even have to make it weekly like we do– I’ll just keep my snide judgments about your commitment to recycling/future generations/God’s Green Earth to myself.


Berry Oat Cake

(revised from the O2 Diet book recipe by Keri Glassman)

You Will Need:

– 1/2 cup finely ground almond meal (or soggy almond grits!)

– 1/2 cup turbinado sugar (looks big and crunchy compared to regular white sugar)

– 1 1/2 cups oat flour, plus 1 Tbsp oat flour (I’ve made this before with spelt flour and it was fine. You could probably even use regular flour if it pleased you.)

– 2 1/2 tsp baking powder

– 1/2 tsp sea salt

– 1 egg (or vegan egg replacement equivalent)

– 1/4 cup high quality cooking oil (canola, etc.)

– 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your preference)

– 1 tsp vanilla (I use my homemade extract, obviously)

– 2 cups mixed frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries– all of these will work in any combination)


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a square (8″x8″) baking pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine almond meal, sugar, oat flour, baking powder, and sea salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk egg with a fork, then add oil, vanilla, and almond milk.

Whisk together until emulsified and add to dry ingredients. Stir together until combined. Batter will be thick and sticky.

4. In a medium bowl, toss frozen fruit with extra 1 Tbsp oat flour to coat. Stir fruit into cake batter and transfer to square baking pan.

Hey– nobody said it was going to look pretty. Appearances aren’t everything, you know.

5. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown on the top. Makes 9 diet-sized portions (or 2 to 4 “Hungry Man” portions. I won’t judge you if you eat half a pan at once, because I’ve been there before, not to mention last week.)


Do you have a sweet tooth, dear readers?

    Do you indulge your sweet tooth under the guise of recycling like I do?

Any birthday wishes for yours truly (hint, hint)?

Refurnishing Our Furnished Kitchen

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have certain… kitchen issues. For some reason or another, although I never scrutinize the cutlery in restaurants or at other people’s houses, when it comes to my own kitchen– the kitchen I am expected to cook in and eat out of on a daily basis– I prefer to use my own dishes. The special ones. And although I could care less about the bread pans used in local bakeries or whether the cupcake shop uses metal, glass, or plastic mixing bowls to whip up their confections, I’d be hard pressed to bake anything of my own using mixing bowls or baking trays that weren’t mine. You know… the special ones. (Thankfully, this peculiarity of mine extends only to the culinary domain. I am remarkably easy to please when it comes to bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms. Is it logical of me to protest drinking out of somebody else’s crockery mug but happily sleep in their bed? Obviously not, but they don’t call it an obsessive compulsive disorder for nothing.)


It goes without saying that, when we moved into our furnished cabin a month ago, I insisted on bringing our own “kitchen things” along. Both the landlords and the previous tenant here raved about how wonderfully stocked the kitchen already was, but I wasn’t convinced. Sure, there was a blender in the cupboard, but was it a Vita-Mix blender? Probably not. And yes, there were pots, pans, baking trays, and even a crock pot at our disposal, but were they dreaded aluminum pots? Were there remnants of other people’s food still crusted onto the baking trays and on the sides of the crock pot? Probably. Hence, I packed up our kitchen “essentials” and assessed the situation for myself upon moving in.

Sorry. Can't do it.

Inefficient use of cupboard space. Sorry. Can't do it.

Obviously, this wonderfully stocked kitchen did not live up to my impossibly stringent standards. (Greasy plates and suspiciously-spotted cups, as a rule, do not make the grade, even in a summer cottage.) I ended up photographing all of the cupboards and drawers as though I were fully documenting a crime scene, carefully removing all of the items from the shelves, lovingly (and thoroughly) cleaning the insides of everything with my special all-natural cleanser… and then putting my own dishes back in. All of the pre-supplied items– piles of plates, bowls, and saucers; extra lightbulbs; enough forks and spoons to last a whole year before washing; a popcorn machine; pyrex measuring cups; ice cube trays; plastic wine goblets; plastic-feeling dish towels; a lifetime’s supply of aluminum foil; aluminum-laden pots; scarily-encrusted baking tins; a sad little blender; barbecue tongs; and way more cheaply made fly swatters than I deemed necessary for the winter, fly-free months– were packed into boxes and tucked away in the deep recesses of the loft. (By the way? LOVE THE LOFT. We have turned one side of it into a gigantic storage area where things go to be forgotten until April. The other, secluded side of the loft has been transformed into a tranquil meditation corner.) When the time comes to move out again, I’ll use my photos as reference and arrange everything in the kitchen as though nothing had ever been moved, used, or even touched. I’m diligent like that.

I made one exception during the purge. Progress is progress, people.

For better or worse, I *MUST* have a hand blender, food processer, and a Vita-Mix blender in the kitchen, but a rice cooker has never appealed to me.

It took me a whole day of scrubbing, packing, cursing, arranging, and generally toiling to get the kitchen into its new order. (To put things in perspective, Marty managed to clean the entire rest of the cabin in the time it took me to get the kitchen up to (my) (ridiculous) par.) Everything was worth it, though. Sure, I don’t enjoy cleaning other people’s stoves and ovens, but it sure feels great cooking on a mostly spotless stove top or pulling a delicious Berry Oat Cake from the now-impeccable oven. Both Marty and I have remarked on a number of occasions how nice it is to be eating off our own plates and spooning soup out of our own bowls. (Perhaps these kitchen issues are contagious? If so, I fear for Marty’s sanity.) Making almond milk every week in our own Vita-Mix blender feels like a blessing. Everything feels right.

The figurative “icing on top” came on the day when I simultaneously discovered a small farm down the street selling free-range eggs (yes!) and a local kitchen scraps composting service (double geeky YES!). Once I get going in the kitchen– which is now– most of the “garbage” we produce is organic waste, so it feels awesome to have the kitchen scraps composted for a ridiculously modest fee ($6 for 48 Litres of kitchen scraps. Cheap!)

It feels like home.

Perhaps I should take some more "after" shots of the kitchen, no?

Crying (And Cursing) Over Spilled Milk

Have you ever saved your money for what felt like forever and a day and bought something that struck you as exquisite and extraordinary? I’m not talking about gigantic purchases, either– like houses or yachts or Ferraris– I just mean basic, everyday things like a laptop, new glasses, or (in my case) a kick ass blender. Yes? No?

Vitamix Blenders: Sweet dreams are made of these!

When I still worked at the Office Job, I had an automatic savings plan set up specifically for this fantasy blender of mine. Every paycheque, a small amount of money would be skimmed off the top and squirreled away into the “Vitamix” savings account. It took a long time to accumulate enough dinero for this blender, because they definitely aren’t cheap, but I did it and the Vitamix was finally mine! Come to mommy, little blender! The problem was, by the time I finally got my blender, I was too afraid to even use it, lest I blow the motor or otherwise ruin my Expensive Purchase right away. Totally. Defeating. The purpose.

I confess: Up until very recently, I had only used my Vitamix to make what amounted to two very expensive batches of Peach Bellinis. (So much for all those healthy Green Smoothies I had originally envisioned! :)) I am a somewhat rational being, however, so I buckled down the other day and resolved to learn more about this Magical Blending Machine. I know that a Vitamix can perform virtual wizardry in the kitchen– nut butters! soups! bread dough! freshly milled flour! regular ol’ smoothies! delicious frozen cocktails!– and I figured that my reluctance to dabble in this black magic stemmed solely from my lack of practice in pushing the ‘On’ button. (Really, could it get any easier than ‘On’?) Time to break in my Vitamix, baby.

The first task I assigned for myself was to make almond milk for our tea lattés. (I know, I know– what a hippy-dippy mission for a bunch of boho punks!! Bear with me.) Marty normally takes rice milk in his morning coffee, and I drink my herbal teas straight– like the tough-as-nails badass I truly am– but both of us enjoy some vanilla almond milk in the occasional tea latté. (Speaking of which: if you have a Teopia store near you, totally get some Coco Caramel Rooibos tea and make an almond milk latté with it. Or order that tea online. It is to die for.) I figured homemade almond milk was worth a try, and I even found an encouraging recipe that said making almond milk from scratch was “easy”. What was there to lose?

It started out simply enough. I procured a cup of raw (not roasted) almonds and soaked them in a bowl of filtered water for about 8 hours.

The almonds softened and swelled up to nearly double their original size.

The almond on the top was soaked

After they had soaked for a nice, long time (8 hours or overnight– whatever works for you), I rinsed them thoroughly and plopped them into my Vitamix with 3 cups of water. (The recipe calls for 3-6 cups of water, but I decided to go with the thickest option for my first go-round.)

A quick flick of the ‘On’ switch and about 20 seconds of high-speed whirring later, I had a frothy blend of… um… almonds and water.

The next step was to strain this mixture through a cheesecloth into a new container, so I could separate the curds from the whey, so to speak.

Enter my first error. If you ever decide to make your own almond milk in the future, do not pull your cheesecloth taut over the opening of a pitcher and hold it into place with an elastic band (like I did in the very top photo). This will leave your cheesecloth flush with the brim of your container, and the almond mixture will spill over the sides of the pitcher in about .001 seconds, leaving you with a goopy mess of runny almond paste to clean up. Don’t do it!

Boo! Hiss!

Attempt #2 at straining almond milk: I rescued as much of my almond mixture as I could and cut a new piece of cheesecloth. Thinking I had outsmarted those sneaky, dripping almonds, I lined the inside of a large plastic funnel with the cheesecloth and placed the funnel at the top of my pitcher. Then I poured in my blended almonds.

You can barely see it, but my funnel is propped inside the pitcher. You CAN see the thinnest-of-thin stream of almond milk dripping down from the funnel.

Enter my second error. Trying to strain a bunch of blended almonds through a cheesecloth and a funnel requires patience. Lots of it. Filtered almond milk dripped from the bottom of my funnel at a painfully slow rate, which I guess makes sense when you think about it: Lots of almonds + Cheesecloth + A funnel with a small hole = Not a lot can get through all at once. I win basic physics! Or not.

I tried to expedite the process by giving my cheesecloth a little squeeze. This was not a fabulous idea and was actually my third error. I didn’t really secure any loose corners of the cheesecloth when I did this, so almond mixture oozed out over the sides of my cheesecloth and down into my funnel. Globs of almond grits then fell into the filtered almond milk before I could prevent it from happening, meaning that I had to start the process all over again. (Again.)

Ahem. Attempt #3 at straining my stupid almond milk: I lined the inside of a wire-mesh sieve with a new piece of cheesecloth. My sieve didn’t fit into the mouth of my pitcher (at all), so I had to play a little balancing game with it using one hand and pour my almond mixture into the sieve with my other hand.

Nice fit FAIL. The rubber handle on the sieve is relatively heavy, so it kept slipping down to the right hand side and causing general straining mayhem.

Using the sieve would have been the winning strategy if I had chosen a container with a wider mouth to rest beneath it. As it stood, straining the milk was STILL awkward because I insisted on catching the filtered milk with my cheap-ass, narrow-mouthed plastic pitcher. Heh. If you decide to make almond milk in the future, line a sieve with a cheesecloth and then just use a mixing bowl to catch your filtered milk! You can always put the milk into a pitcher afterward. (*She says, completely after the fact.*)

Things got easier after I squeezed the last few drops of almond milk out of the cheesecloth (and managed to avoid simultaneously squeezing almond meal into the precious filtered liquid). I rinsed my Vitamix container, poured the filtered almond milk into it, and added 1/4 cup of pitted dates, 1 Tbsp coconut butter, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. (The recipe also called for 1 Tbsp of lecithin granules, but honestly: who has lecithin just lying around? Not even I do, and I believe that says something. I left the lecithin out.) Whir went my Vitamix at high speed, and voila! I had a pitcher half-filled with homemade almond milk.

This morning was the true test. I checked on my almond milk in the fridge while I was making breakfast, and I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that it had separated out into three distinct layers. (That is where the lecithin would have come in handy.) Not to worry. I just shook it up and added it to my Honey Chai Tea anyway after breakfast. Some stray almond grits instantly floated to the top of my cup, making it look like I had added curdled cream to my tea, but the milk actually tasted really good. I enjoyed the thicker consistency of the milk and felt proud of myself for making this “easy” recipe from scratch!

The saddest/grossest looking cup of chai you'll ever see. I sprinkled some cinnamon on top, and then the mystery almond meal floating at the surface looked more deliberate. Heh. Despite its sketchy appearance, the tea and milk tasted really great. I swear!

I’ll most likely attempt this almond milk recipe again, and when I do– I’ll be sure to use a mixing bowl underneath my sieve for straining purposes. I’ll also add a tiny bit less vanilla, because (as much as I love me some bourbon vanilla extract), I practically got drunk off of it when I had a few tablespoons of almond milk in my chai latté. Even 1tsp was a lot of vanilla!

My next Vitamix task will be to tackle some sort of flour: oat, rye, or maybe buckwheat flour for pancakes. I bought both a ‘wet’ and a ‘dry’ container for my Vitamix, so I’m really curious to see what this baby can do with some ordinary rye kernels!