Gettin' down with real food.

Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake with Labneh Walnut Topping

Why do you bake? I bake to relax. I bake to fill my kitchen with oven warmth and the smell of caramelized sugar. I bake when I want dessert, one made with ingredients I can pronounce. I bake to share my creations, to lift spirits with muffins.  

I've been plotting to bake this cake, adapted from a recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog, since Christmas, and today was the day I finally got my shit together. Yes, I define my current level of pulled-togetherness by whether or not I'm actively engaging in pastry arts...

Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake | Funky Beets

Meet carrot cake's spunky sister, parsnip cake. This recipe nestles a half pound of shredded root veg goodness amid a not-too-sweet but very moist and slightly spicy crumb topped with tangy thickened yogurt, crunchy toasted walnuts and tart dried cranberries.  Unlike zucchini bread, where the vegetable fades into the background, the parsnip flavor in this cake is unmistakable. Parsnips are slightly sweet and nutty, and so work well in desserts and play nice with the ginger, cinnamon and hint of orange in this recipe. The flours used are brown rice and oat, making this cake 100% whole grain and wheat-free.  If you're in the mood for something a little different after dinner, please give this funky cake a shot.

Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake | Funky Beets

Tip: to make the labneh for topping, simply drain plain, whole milk yogurt (or Greek yogurt) in a coffee filter or cheese cloth set over a bowl for 6 to 8 hours or until it is thickened but still spreadable.

Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake with Labneh Walnut Topping

Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories 

Serves 8


  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch or potato starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 pinch clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb parsnips
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp orange bitters (optional)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • 1 cup thickened plain whole milk yogurt (labneh) - see above tip
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Generously grease a 8 or 9 inch springform pan. Set aside. 

  2. Whisk together the flours, starch, baking powder and spices.

  3. Peel and grate the parsnips. I used the fine shredding blade on my food processor which worked like a dream. 

  4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until slightly frothy. Add the oil, maple syrup and vanilla and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the parsnips and then the flour mixture. 

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes, or until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before before removing cake from the springform pan.

  6. Make the topping by simply stirring together your thickened yogurt with maple syrup and ground ginger. Spread the icing over the cake when it has cooled completely. Garnish with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries.

  7. The cake will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and its flavor is actually better the second day. 


PS: This cake is completely acceptable breakfast fare!




Dark & Delicious: My Three (Gluten-Free) Christmas Cookie Recipes

The fog and rain have cast a moody tone over the decorated streets and glittering houses leading up to Christmas day. In Wisco, this is far from ordinary winter weather, but I'm not complaining a bit. I've never been attached to classic or traditional when it comes to the holidays. I like shaking things up.

Not to mention these skies are the perfect complement to my Christmas cookie repertoire. Each of my three sweet picks this year features dark chocolate and espresso powder; no cookie cutters, no icing or food coloring here. These recipes come together quickly, making them perfect for that last-minute urge to bake up something scrumptious and pretty to share with friends and fam. Whether your holidays are a little offbeat or beautifully routine, there's always room for a little chocolate in that Christmas spread. 

Three Gluten Free Christmas Cookies |

Vegan Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffles

The first recipe is one I've made three years running. It's vegan, gluten-free and grain-free, a total crowd pleaser with deep cocoa flavor that melts in your mouth as a hint of roasted espresso flavor lingers in the background. It just might be that one perfect bite of dessert you crave after a rich holiday meal.  They're red wine's best friend and will make you some quick pals too when you gift them in a little tin tied with a bright red ribbon.  


  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao), chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling


  1. Melt chocolate on the stove over medium heat with oil and the water stirring constantly. Remove from hear and stir in vanilla, sea salt. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish, and refrigerate until mixture is set but still pliable, about 2 hours.

  2. Using a 1-inch ice-cream scoop or regular metal spoon, scoop out 28 portions, using hands to roll into balls to make smooth. Roll in cocoa powder to create a swirled effect as shown. Refrigerate on sheet 10 minutes before serving. Truffles can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Coconut Pistachio Macaroons

The next recipe is a new one for me. It comes from Mark Bittman via New York Times Cooking and it's SO good. I love a classic macaroon, but these nuggets of joy step things up to a whole other level. The creamy, rich coconut cookie is studded with pistachios and then half-dipped in the same chocolate used to make the truffles above. Hide a few for yourself or you'll never even get a taste. 


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten until just foamy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Mix in egg whites and vanilla with a rubber spatula or your hands  until fully incorporated.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wet your hands and grab small piles of the mixture (1 to 2 tablespoons each) packing into nuggets that hold together. Place on baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake until firm to the touch and lightly browning on edges, about 15 minutes.Cool cookies on a rack for at least 30 minutes . Dip cooled cookies halfway in dark chocolate truffle mixture (above) while chocolate is still warm and set on parchment to dry/harden. Macaroons keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days

Chunky Oat n' Cocoa Haystacks

The final cookie is just the right mix of naughty and nice. Sugary enough to win over the kids but virtuous enough (thanks to oats and dark chocolate) to justify having a second one. Gluten-free if you use GF Oats. A kiss of almond extract is my secret weapon here. 


  • 1 ⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon rolled oats
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  •  Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup finely grated coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread rolled oats on a baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes, until slightly darker and toasty smelling. Remove from heat.

  2. Line some free counter space with parchment or wax paper. In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa powder, evaporated milk and salt and bring to a boil, stirring consistently. Remove from heat once boiling and stir in vanilla and almond extracts, oats and coconut.

  3. Immediately drop the warm mixture by scant tablespoons onto parchment or wax paper to create little "haystacks." Allow to cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Merry Christma-hannu-kwanza-kah to all... and to all a good feast! 

Raspberry & Chocolate Swirled Banana Bread

When I was maybe seven or eight, my dad took my sister and I to the home of one of his tax clients to pick raspberries from her backyard garden.  The woman, who was wrinkled and kind-eyed and lived on her own, gave my sister and I each a basket to gather the fruit.  It was late afternoon, and the deep pink berries were still warm from the day's sun as we plucked and ate and plucked and ate. When the mosquitoes finally chased us inside, we sat down with powdered sugar dusted brownies and cold glasses of milk at her cozy kitchen table. We ate the brownies topped with just-picked raspberries in her cool, homey kitchen in the fading summer light.  

I was not a child who enjoyed mixing flavors, let alone allowing the foods on my plate to touch one another, but that day I fell head over heels for the marriage of raspberries and chocolate: the crunch of the raspberry seeds in the thick of the brownie's soft crumb, the sunny tang of the fruit cutting through dark bittersweet chocolate.  

I only met her once. I can't remember her voice or her name, but I still remember the graciousness with which she let us roam her raspberry bushes and the delight she seemed to take in watching us enjoy the fruits of her labor.  Food is love my friends, food is love. 

raspberry chocolate swirled banana bread

Raspberry Chocolate Swirled Banana Bread

gluten-free, grain-free, low added sugar

Adapted from Deliciously Organic

Makes one 9-inch loaf


  • 4 medium bananas (about 1 pound, peeled)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup coconut flour (now widely available, including at Trader Joe's and online
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

For the swirl:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup raspberries, at room temperature


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan.

2. Combine the bananas, eggs, butter, almond butter and vanilla in a blender or mixing bowl (immersion blender works well here) and blend until mixture is smooth and uniform.

3. Combine the coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, mix well to break up any clumps and then add to the banana mixture, stirring until totally combined and no lumps remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.

4. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave until just smooth.  Add the room-temperature raspberries and mash with a fork into the chocolate.  If the chocolate becomes hard, warm again in the microwave briefly.  Spoon the raspberry-chocolate swirl in little plops on top of the batter and use a butter knife to swirl the mixture throughout the batter.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bread passes the toothpick test. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before serving. Keeps well in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

raspberry chocolate swirled banana bread

Crumbly Carrot Rhubarb Muffins and Raspberry Chia Jam

I enjoy curating lists. I realize this is not a unique character trait; I know and love many fellow list-makers. Two lists I keep, inspired by the movie Amelie, are my likes and dislikes. The things we embrace and those we shun are windows into who we are, a way of showing rather than telling our life stories. What do you keep close? What do you recoil from?

A recent addition to my "likes" list is "cookbooks organized by season" (showing). Cooking seasonally is important to me (telling). I recently borrowed Sarah Britton's new cookbook My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season from the library and devoured its pages in less than a day. The photos are full of life and light, the recipes sprinkled with highlighted ingredient notes where Sarah shares her holistic nutrition wisdom in a completely accessible voice. I ordered three copies of My New Roots (two for gifts) and have been scheming to cook from it nearly every day. 

Two of my first successes from the Spring chapter were these delightfully chunky yet tender oat-flour-based Carrot Rhubarb Muffins and a riff on her Strawberry Chia Jam (I used raspberries). For the muffins, I swapped eggs and coconut oil in for the applesauce she suggests in her version as  I wanted my muffins a bit more dense and filling, with protein and fat to satiate my voracious morning appetite. My rhubarb supply hailed from my neighbor's backyard (with permission of course), but I suspect there should be plenty coming into markets soon for your baking pleasure. 

oat flour carrot rhubarb muffins |

The raspberry chia jam is a breeze to make; all the ingredients are combined in a blender or food processor and refrigerated overnight, no cooking or pectin required. This ruby red, pleasantly seedy jam is amazing on waffles, toast, ice cream or yogurt. I imagine it would be pretty good on carrot rhubarb muffins as well (though I can't say for sure as we gobbled those up before I could locate some berries and whip up the jam).

raspberry chia jam |

In other news, I've been published!  My food writing appeared in this Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Check out the link below to find the online version of my story on how to throw a laid-back picnic party complete with light and tasty recipes to impress your friends without turning on the oven!

Recipe note: If you are gluten intolerant, be sure to use certified gluten-free oats and oat flour as many brands of oats contain trace amounts of gluten due to cross contamination. Also, these muffins are a bit on the crumbly side, I suggest using a plate and fork to catch any stray morsels of goodness.

Crumbly Carrot & Rhubarb Muffins

Adapted from My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season 

Makes 12 muffins


  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 free range eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 lb carrots, grated
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 4 thin stalks rhubarb, sliced into thin disks (about 1/4 lb)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin tin with liners or cooking spray.
  2. Add oat flour, oats, sugar, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a large bowl. Whisk well. 
  3. In a food processor, pulse walnuts until roughly chopped (or chop manually). Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk honey, eggs and melted coconut oil until combined. Add to flour mixture and stir just until moistened and no dry spots remain.
  5. Fold grated carrots, chopped walnuts, and sliced rhubarb into batter.
  6. Distribute batter evening among 12 muffin cups and bake for 25-30 minutes, until muffins tops are golden and glistening and toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before removing from muffin tin.  Enjoy warm with jam, butter, or coconut oil. 

Raspberry Chia Jam

Adapted from: My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season 

Makes about 1 cup


raspberry chia jam |
  • 1/2 lb fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tbsp honey (I used wildflower)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds


  1. Wash raspberries and place in blender or food processor. Add honey, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add chia seeds to blender and blend again until just incorporated.
  3. Pour mixture into a jar and refrigerate until thickened, about 20 minutes. 
  4. Keep in fridge for up to a week.

Almond JOY Energy Bites

"What if a chocolate craving is just the soul's way of trying to sweeten a bitter day?"  I'm a firm believer that indulgence is one of the many tools of self care, but let's face it: for some of us the desire to mute stress with sugar is more than an occasional calling. I for one prefer to end most meals on a sweet note. Sometimes it's a two-bite piece of crystallized ginger, others its a few scoops of mint chocolate chunk. I know I can't go full-boar dessert mode three times a day, so it's nice to have naturally sweet treats around to tame my beast of a sweet tooth.

This recipe is a riff on many other date-based energy bites I've found on the interwebs, many of which are akin to the delicious, although pricey Larabars. It's true these bites are inspired by a candy bar (Almond Joy), but here we throw out all the refined sugar business and are left with a naturally sweet, rich, and satisfying two-bite dessert weighing in at just over 70 calories. These bites contain fiber to slow the absorption of the date's natural sugar, giving you a sustained energy boost to fuel all of your breathtakingly beautiful adventures (or your 2 pm cubicle-contained spiral into nihilism). Along with complex sweetness and fiber, dates also provide vitamins A, K, and potassium, while the bites as a whole provide a healthy balance of carb, protein, and satiating fat. 


So, friends: let's whip out our food processors and do something good for ourselves. Let's sweeten the bitter with some bittersweet chocolate. Let's close our eyes and indulge for a few moments as we thank the stars and moon for this life.  Happy Sunday.

Almond JOY Energy Bites

Makes about 24 chunks o' energy


  • 8 large Medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender.
  2. Pulse at high speed until the mixture forms a smooth ball or paste-like consistency, adding a small amount of water if needed. 
  3. Using your hands, form into about 24 ball-shaped chunks. For added visual appeal, roll in shredded coconut.
  4. Enjoy for a quick energy burst any time.


Serving size: 1 energy bite (1/24th of recipe) - 72 calories, 8 g carbs, 4 g fat, 2 g protein, 13 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 5 g naturally occurring sugar from dates