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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Curried Cabbage and Carrots

I am still working through a pretty large stash of cabbage from the St Patrick's Day specials (17 cents a pound!) a few weeks ago. Cabbage is one of those wonderful vegetables that can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks--not to mention my "root cellar" garage where I felt like a pioneer when cabbages bought at the end of last year's season were still solid and tasty at the beginning of March.

Now, what to do with all of those bright green heads? I pulled off the thick outer leaves and put them back in the crisper for some stuffed cabbage leaves next week. A big batch of overnight cole slaw has also been shared with friends and is continuing to serve as a side with lots of other meals. There will be vegetable soups soon, along with stir fries, but today I was hungry for something curried.

A web search turned up lots of curried cabbage recipes, so I started with some of these and added my own touches. Since I almost always have carrots--also able to be stored for weeks in the fridge--they could be added, for their color and all the Vitamin A and antioxidants that yellow and orange vegetables bring. While this dish is fine with just green cabbage, I had a bit of red cabbage on hand. Along with half a green bell pepper, this would make this a really colorful side dish.

With all the great vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, don't forget that this does not contribute much protein or B vitamins, so it should be paired with some other healthy options to make a "complete" meal. Not hard to do, as brown rice is a great side dish, and a dollop of yogurt is a great topping. Stirring a can of your favorite beans (black beans are especially attractive) into the vegetables before serving is another good way to supplement the dish--both in terms of nutrition and good taste.

Though I didn't have any marinated tofu on hand, that would also be a good add-in...maybe I can add some to the leftovers. Since this mixture reheats well in the microwave, I can easily try one or more of these variations later.

 Curried Cabbage and Carrots

1 to 2 T olive oil
1 large carrot, sliced--about 1 to 1 1/2 c total
1 medium onion, chopped--about 1 c
 2 to 3 t curry powder, to taste
3 to 4 c shredded cabbage (about 1/2 medium head)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 c)
2 to 3 minced garlic cloves, to taste (may use bottled minced garlic if fresh not available)
1/2 t ground ginger, to taste
1/2 t salt
1/2 c chopped cilantro, stems and leaves (optional)

1.  Put enough oil in a large heavy skillet to just cover the bottom. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is just shimmering.

2.  Add the carrots and onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions are just beginning to turn golden.

3.  Stir the curry powder in and allow to simmer 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger, salt, and 1/4 cup of water and stir to make a kind of curry paste with the vegetables.

4.  Bring the mixture back to a gentle boil and stir in the cabbage, green peppers, and about 1/3 cup more water. Stir to mix, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes, until the cabbage is just tender, stirring occasionally. For best flavor and results, don't overcook!

5.  About 5 minutes before serving, add the cilantro if used and taste for seasoning, adding salt and more curry powder as needed.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

A long time ago, I had a Home Ec teacher who explained there are three basic kinds of cookies: chewy, crisp, and cake-like. These old-fashioned oatmeal cookies are definitely in the cake-like group, soft and moist and full of flavor.

They are also relatively healthy (though still with enough sugar that they definitely should stay in the "special treat" category of your family's menus). This is an adaptation of a recipe I found in my mother's church cookbook from the early 1930s. Originally they called for one and a half cups of butter. Substituting unsweetened applesauce, cutting back the sugar,  and increasing the spices improved the nutrititive value without compromising flavor at all.
 Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
2 t vanilla
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
2 1/2 c old-fashioned or regular oats (oatmeal, NOT the instant kind and NOT steel cut)
1 c dried cranberries
3/4 to 1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

1.  Cream butter and sugars together. Stir in the eggs and then the applesauce and vanilla. Blend until very smooth and light.
2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and spices together and add to the egg mixture. Stir until well blended.
3.  Mix in the cranberries and nuts and then add the oats gradually. Continue to stir until the oats are evenly blended in.
4.  Drop by spoonfuls on to a greased baking sheet and flatten lightly with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.

Makes 3 1/2 to 5 dozen cookies, depending on the size you make. For those in the picture, I scooped out balls of dough a little bigger than a golf ball, with a yield of 40 cookies.


Replace the dried cranberries with raisins or dates.

For a very different texture, put the oats and raisins in a processor and blend until quite fine. This works very well if you have family members not especially fond of raisins.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tackling Those Hard-shelled Butternut Squashes

I'll admit it. For years, the only way I ever prepared butternut squash was to roast them whole and then scoop out the flesh from the finally softened peelings. Sometimes I would be so brave as to cut them in half, take out the seeds, and turn them upside down on a baking sheet to speed up the roasting a bit, but every push of the knife into those wobbly pear-shaped things raised my anxiety level to a fever pitch.

You do need to understand my history around sharp objects is not a really good one, and I have a string of anecdotes about kitchen mis-steps and subsequent stitches, so my fear was not entirely groundless. Still, as a result of my conservative approach, I was missing out on some really good recipes. Finally, when I came into a stash--an entire bushels-worth!--of deep yellow butternut squash one fall, I knew I needed to try some of the great recipes I had seen that called for diced or even shredded squash.

Now, several years later, my fingers all firmly intact and not even slightly gashed, I have some suggestions that might help you if you also fear these hard-shelled garden treasures.

(Scroll all the way to the end for a hint of how your microwave might be of help with this whole process. There are also some links there that include a few recipes to try with your cubed squash.)

To start, you need the right equipment. A large cutting board is important, preferably wood, as it is less likely to slide around than the thin plastic sheets, and a glass cutting board is too hard on your knives.

Next, you need to select the right knives. Contrary to what many cooking shows would have us believe, you don't always need great big knives. In fact, too large a knife for some tasks can be downright dangerous. On the other hand, you should have a large, relatively heavy bladed knife for doing the initial "hacking" up of your squash.

As you can see in these pictures, I use two different knives for getting my squash cut into cubes. The larger one has a serrated blade (reluctant admission: it is a "ginzu knife" I bought at a supermarket demonstration, one of the best bargains I have made in my cooking career). I like the serration because it seems to grip the flesh of the squash with less likelihood of slipping off the side of the squash. If you have a large "chef's knife" or even a heavy, serrated, bread knife, these can work well too.

Another advantage to serrated (or "granton edge," wavy bladed) knives is that they tend to keep their sharpness. It is not an old wives tale that dull knives can be more dangerous than sharp ones. When cutting into a squash, you want to start gently and push slowly, without too much pressure, so that the blade doesn't suddenly slip off the squash--and likely right on to the hand you are using to steady the thing!

For whatever reason, most of us seem to think of cutting squashes like these in half from top to bottom, and that is the way I first learned to cut them. However, a far easier, and safer, way to cut is to begin at the top of the squash and cut slices, as though you are cutting bread. Saw gently into the squash about an inch or so from the top and then continue slicing until you reach the seed "bowl" at the bottom.

When you reach this bottom part, you can either leave it as a "bowl," scooping out the seeds and baking it with a stuffing, much like you would stuff an acorn squash. However, if you just want to use this part of the squash along with the rest, cut the bowl in half (or if very large, in quarters) and scoop out the seeds. An ordinary tablespoon or a grapefruit spoon can be the best tool for this.

Now that you have the slices cut, you could just put them into a roasting pan coated with some oil, cover them with foil, and roast at anywhere from 375 to 450 (your choice) until they are soft, with the flesh easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and, as soon as cool enough to handle, slip the peelings off easily with a small knife.

If, however, you want to cube the squash for use in sautes, an Indian curry, etc., you now need to peel them. Remember when I mentioned having the right tools? Now is the time for a small knife, definitely nothing too big. You need a good paring knife--paring as in paring, removing the peel from something, right? Good.

Now here is the next step that I almost hesitate to share. The easiest way to peel these pretty rounds of squash is not to use a cutting board. Instead, you are going to use a time-honored and potentially dangerous method. You are going to take the round of squash in one hand and then gently take the small but sharp knife in the other hand and begin cutting the peeling off the squash slice, pulling the blade toward yourself.

Some key words: A sharp knife and a gentle cut. You don't want to push too hard with the knife or try to cut too fast. However, once you have tried this a few times, you will see that it is really not very difficult at all. In fact, it is much, much easier than slashing downward on the squash while it sits on a cutting board.

Once you have the slices peeled, you can now cut them into cubes. Maybe the better word is chunks, since the irregular shape of the squash is going to mean that the pieces are going to be only roughly the shape of a mathematically perfect cube, and that is perfectly okay. The key is to keep them uniform enough that they will be finished cooking at approximately the same time.

To cut the slices quickly, cut a slice (or oval from the bowl-shaped section) into long strips and then line the strips up next to each other on your cutting board. Use your large knife to cut through several of these strips at a time. Do NOT try to stack the slices on top of each other, as they are slippery and too easily slide off such a stack and, again, possibly right on to the fingers you are using to steady the slices. (Not that I have any experience with such an event of course!)

In no time at all, you will have a large supply of cubed squash ready for all kinds of cooking adventures. Even a medium squash will provide enough cubes for several recipes. Packed into a plastic bag, the uncooked cubes will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, so you can try out a couple of different dishes with your stash.

I don't recommend freezing the raw squash cubes. If you discover that your squash is going to yield way too many cubes to use right away, you might want to peel and cube just enough for what you need and roast the rest of the squash slices as noted above. Once the squash is roasted, it can be mashed or pureed and then frozen for recipes that call for this form.

A few recipes you can try using your cubed squash:

Barley with Butternut Squash and Apples

Braised Vegetables

My Daughter's Great Tree Hugger Chili
You Have to Try It to Believe It Soup

Now, the Microwave Hint

If you still find it very difficult to peel your recalcitrant squash, you may want to try this approach. Wash the squash and pierce it in several places, especially around the seed cavity section. Place the squash in the microwave and heat it on full power for one to three minutes, depending on the size of the squash. You are not trying to cook it, just getting it ever so slightly softer so it will be easier to cut. Take the squash out of the microwave and allow to cool just long enough to be comfortable handling it. Now, it should be just a little less hard as you proceed with the steps above.

Sweet and Simple Vegetable Soup

Sometimes, inspiration strikes and the results are even better than expected.

The story of how this soup came to be is far too long for a single blog post. Just know that I was looking to make a flavorful, comfort-food type soup using some of the vegetables I had on hand. If it was healthy and inexpensive as well, all the better.

My root-cellar-garage still held squash, onions, and cabbage, and this somewhat unlikely trio became the base of an amazing soup. Everyone I have shared this with has loved it, even those who didn't believe that they would like something using just these three vegetables. In fact, some of my testers have recommended that I avoid titles like Squash Cabbage Soup, since too many might be reluctant to even try it.

So here is an ungainly named soup that is likely to get compliments from even those most averse to one or more of these vegetables. Combined, they result in an unexpectedly sweet yet still savory flavor; just don't omit the herbs, since they are what is needed to bring this all together.

(Please note: there is a companion post here, in case you struggle with easily preparing butternut and other winter squashes:  Tackling That Hard Shelled Butternut Squash )

You Have to Try It to Believe It Soup

 canola or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 to 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 c butternut squash, diced  (about 8-10 oz)
4 c coarsely shredded cabbage (about 10-12 oz)
2 to 4 c water
1 T chicken or vegetarian bouillon powder (or 2 bouillon cubes)
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
black pepper to taste

1.  Put just enough oil in a large skillet or soup pot to lightly cover the bottom. Heat over medium high and add the onion and celery. Saute until the onion is translucent and beginning to turn golden.

2.  Add the squash cubes and cover the pan. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

3.  Add the cabbage and about two cups of water, along with the bouillon powder, basil and oregano. Cover and continue to simmer until the squash and cabbage are tender. As the soup cooks, you may add more water to reach the desired consistency.

4.  Taste to adjust for seasonings, adding black pepper as desired.


Use chicken or vegetable stock in place of the water and bouillon powder. Add salt to taste.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Basic Potato Soup with Lots of Variations

Part of my family and I were enjoying a pre-Valentine's day simple supper of soup and bread, with the Chocolate Cherry Cookies I had made for the holiday. I mentioned that, if the cookies passed their taste test panel, I'd be putting them on this blog. Misunderstanding which part of the menu would be added, my ten year old grandson enthusiastically said, oh yeah, this soup is awesome, you have to share it.

So, I tried to explain why I haven't included too many soups, that so much of soup making is just a matter of starting with some basics and then continuing to add this and that until the flavor is what you want.

But then I was reminded that The New York Times has recently been emphasizing this kind of approach with their Wednesday Cooking email newsletter, featuring no-recipe meals for the middle of the week. Somewhat coincidentally, the Times also included an article this weekend on the variability of measuring standards over time, "A Measured Approach to Cooking."

Maybe it is time to post a basic "recipe." Potato soup is a great meal to fall back on when the wind is blowing the thermometer down to below zero windchills, so I decided to play test kitchen. I began carefully measuring as I cooked up yet another batch. The result of all that measuring is the recipe below, but you will see lots of notes and variations at the end. What I have attempted to do is provide a guide, a starting point, for soup that will match your own preferences and pantry supplies.

You will note that this makes a large amount of soup, one you may think is totally improbable for you and yours to finish before tiring of it. While that could be true, you may be surprised to discover just how many times everyone will go back to the stove to refill their soup mugs or bowls, and a container of the leftover soup will keep in the refrigerator for almost a week, ready for grabbing a serving to heat in the microwave for a fast late dinner, even midnight snack, or for packing to take to the office for lunch. If, however, you don't have pans big enough or if you are sure you want to make less, the recipe is easily halved.

One last note: While I don't generally worry about keeeping my cooking gluten free, this recipe, and most of the variations, will work for those who definitely need to stay away from gluten. The potatoes provide all the thickening needed to make really creamy soups.

Creamy Potato Soup

(For the various vegetables, I have included several different measures to help you have a guide to amounts. However, feel free to adjust as you like.)

1/4 to 1/3 c canola oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (13 oz. or about 2 1/2 c)
4 stalks celery, diced (8 oz or about 1 1/4 c)
3 lb potatoes, cut into about 1 inch cubes (approximately 8 c)--I had a mixture of white, red, and russet potatoes for this batch
1/4 c chicken or vegetable bouillon powder OR 4 to 5 bouillon cubes
approximately 2 1/2 quarts water
12 to 16 oz pureed butternut squash (about 1 1/2 to 2 c)--if frozen, no need to thaw
3 oz chopped fresh spinach (app 2 c after chopping)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used bottled minced garlic today)
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1 t black pepper
1 12 oz can evaporated milk, either fat free or "regular"
1 to 1 1/2 c nonfat dried milk powder
4 oz processed cheese (like Velveeta in the rectangular yellow box)

1.  Pour enough canola oil into a large pot to just cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and celery and saute over medium high heat until the onions just start browning and the celery is slightly tender.
2.  Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes, cut out any spots and eyes, but do not peel. Dice into approximately one to two inch cubes. Add to the onions along with about 2 quarts of water and bouillon powder. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft.
3.  If desired, use a potato masher to break up most of the chunks of potato. (An immersion blender can also be used for this.) Be sure to do this before adding the spinach, to avoid ending up with a kind of murky green colored soup!
4.  Stir in the squash, spinach, and garlic, along with the basil, oregano, and pepper. Continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes (or until the squash is completely thawed if it is put in frozen).
5.  Mix the dry milk powder with a cup or so of water and add it, along with the evaporated milk, to the soup. Stir well. Cut the cheese into a couple of pieces and add. Stir until the cheese is melted and the entire mixture has returned to a slow simmer.
6.  Taste for seasoning and then serve or allow to simmer together for another 10 to 15 minutes. This is also very good the second day as well.

Suggested toppings:

bacon bits, either imitation or real
grated Cheddar cheese
choped parsley or cilantro
diced red or sweet onion

Yield:  Approximately 1 gallon soup, enough for 12 to 16 servings.



Replace 1 quarts chicken or vegetable stock for the water and bouillon.
Omit the dry milk powder and use milk (skim, 2%, or whole) for part or all of the water.
Substitute carrot puree for the squash OR saute about 2 to 3 c sliced carrots with the onions and celery.
Omit the processed cheese. Just before serving, mix in 2 c coarsely grated Cheddar cheese and stir vigorously to incorporate it throughout the soup.


Corn chowder:  Add 16 to 24 oz corn--either frozen or canned--to the mixture, adjusting the seasonings to taste. (Be aware that canned corn will add a lot of salt unless you use the unsalted variety.)

Mexican style chowder:  Substitute cumin for the basil. Add corn as for the corn chowder and stir in a 4 oz can of diced green chilies and/or about half a cup of finely chopped bell peppers. For added heat, use serranos or jalapenos instead of bell peppers. Serve with chopped cilantro and grated white Mexican cheese.

Clam chowder:  Omit the bouillon and use seafood stock or clam juice for part or all of the water. Stir in 16 oz canned clams, with their juices.

Vegetable soups of many kinds:  Use the potato soup as a base, adding broccoli, cauliflower, or mixed vegetables in place of, or with, the spinach and squash. Finely shredded cabbage (about 2 to 3 cups) can be sauteed with the onions and celery for a surprisingly sweet addition to the soup.

Ham bone and potato soup:  Omit the bouillon (to avoid an overly salty soup). If a ham bone is available, add it to the onions and celery and with 2 quarts of water and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes, until any meat on the bone begins to come off it easily. Add the potatoes and proceed as in step 2. After the potatoes are softened, but before mashing, remove the ham bone, cut the meat off the bone and return the meat to the soup. Proceed with step 3.

Ham or hot dog soup:  Cut the bouillon amount in half (to avoid having an overly salty soup). Cube some ham (2 cups or as desired) or slice a 12 to 16 oz package of hot dogs and stir in with the spinach and squash.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Still trying to think of something sweet you can whip up as a valentine treat for friends or family? While these cookies aren't heart-shaped (which confused one 3 year old briefly when they were introduced as "Valentine cookies"), they do have chocolate and sweet maraschino cherries, two ingredients just right for the holiday.

I first found this recipe over 30 years ago but it called for a third of a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Since that is an ingredient I almost never have on hand, mostly because of the cost, and because the other recipes I have seen for this usually call for a full can of condensed milk, I had never tried it.

Still, the idea of making a cookie that has the "frosting" added before baking was intriguing. When looking for something special this Valentine's day, I pulled out that old recipe card and started experimenting. The result is a cookie that tastes richer than the relatively simple ingredients might indicate, and one that--because it is not heart-shaped--could be made any time of the year.

Though the recipe may seem a little fussy, the overall prep time isn't long...and there is a likely bonus: I found that the recipe for the "frosting" was overly generous. Rather than cut it back and discover that I didn't have enough to top all the cookies, I kept these amounts and have some leftovers that will warm easily in the microwave for a few seconds--voila, hot fudge sundae topping. How can you argue with that!

Ingredient Notes

While I don't keep condensed milk on hand, I do stock nonfat dry milk powder on the shelf and maraschino cherries in the refrigerator, alongside other condiments like mustards and ketchup.

The advantage of dried milk here is that the amount used is more than the milk solids you would get from a third cup of skim milk (the kind I buy), adding body and richness to the topping. If you don't have dry milk powder, it will be best to substitute whole milk or even half and half. Evaporated milk could probably also be used, but, once again, you would be using only part of a can. (Of course, you could use the rest for a nice creamy soup, like some I have posted and will be adding later this week.)

Maraschino cherries are another "staple" food for me. I buy a jar or two whenever they are on special (usually in the Thanksgiving to Christmas baking season) and keep them on the shelf. Given the high sugar content, the pull dates are usually quite long and, after they are opened, they will keep for a very long time in the refrigerator. If you don't have any of these, you might try substituting frozen (thawed and drained) sweet cherries. While I haven't tried it, my guess is that a miniature marshmallow in place of each cherry could also be very good. In a pinch, just try making these without any cherries, marshmallows, or other substitutes; the baked frosting will still be special.

Hidden Cherry Chocolate Cookies

1/3 c water
1/3 c nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

 Cookie Dough
1/2 c butter, softened but not melted
1 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
1 egg
1 t vanilla (OR 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t almond extract)
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 t baking soda

approximately 15 to 20 maraschino cherries, including syrup

1.  Prepare the cherries by putting them in a small strainer. Reserve the juices that drain from them. Cut each cherry into two or three pieces, depending on how large they are.

2.  Stir the water, dry milk powder, and sugar together in a large saucepan. (The mixture may foam up, so don't choose too small a pan.) Cook over medium to medium low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is bubbly and begins to thicken. This can take 10 to 15 minutes.
3.  When the mixture is about the consistency of a light gravy, stir in the chocolate chips and continue cooking and stirring until the chips are completely melted and the topping is smooth and silky. Set aside.

Cookie Dough
4.  Beat the butter, sugar, and cocoa together until well blended. Stir in the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until smoth.
5.  Sift together the flour and soda and stir in, mixing just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. If the dough seems a little sticky, you may want to chill it for a short time.
6.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a well-greased cookie sheet about an inch or two apart. (I find it easiest to make uniformly sized cookies by making them all into balls before proceeding to the next step.) If the batter seems very sticky, you could also just drop the batter on to the cookie sheets, forming drop cookies about an inch around.
7.  Using your thumb OR the end of a wood spoon OR the bottom of a quarter teaspoon measure, make a depression in the center of each cookie. Place a cherry piece into each cookie.
8.  Using a small spoon, spread a small amount of the topping over the cookies, just enough to cover the cherry pieces. While you want to be sure you have enough to cover the cherries, spreading too much on each cookie will just cause the topping to sag off the cookie and melt on to the cookie sheet.
9.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies are just done. (While it will be hard to do the "until the cookie springs back when pressed lightly" test, you can judge by the outer part of the cookies starting to be less dry and shiny. If you underbake them, they will just be more chewy/gooey...but also more prone to breaking.)
10.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pans for about 3 to 4 minutes and then slide them on to a cooling rack. The cookies should be cooled completely before stacking in a cookie tin or on a tray.

Yield: about 3 to 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Raspberry Marble Cake

Way back when, when our grandmothers did a lot of baking, they had some very basic cake recipes that could be tweaked into something special without a lot of effort. Taking a plain white cake and marbling in some chocolate to part of the batter was one of those things. This recipe does the same kind of thing with frozen raspberries. The version I made today has a simple powdered sugar icing and then, to make it look more complicated than it really is, some chocolate chips were melted and swirled over the top.

For less time of prep, frost the cake while in the pan and then just sprinkle some chocolate chips over the top--you will still get that favorite flavor pairing of chocolate and raspberry. And don't be intimidated by the cake itself. It's pretty easy to make, you can boast about it being made "from scratch," and there isn't that long list of unpronounceable ingredients that you would have been feeding your family and guests had you used a mix.

Raspberry Marble Cake

1 c butter, softened
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1 1/4 c sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 c flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 c milk
1 c (OR 10 oz pkg) frozen raspberries, partly thawed; do not drain

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or 325 degrees if using a glass pan. Thoroughly butter (or use baking spray) a 10" round cake pan. See below for other pan choices.

2.  Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

3.  Sift the flour and baking powder togeterh and add alternately with the milk. Beat another minute or so, until the mixture is very smooth.

4.  Place the raspberries in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Fold in about a third of the cake batter and stir only until well blended.

5.  Drop the white and raspberry cake batters in alternate spoonfuls into the prepared cake pan. Pull a table knife or small spatula through the two different batters to add a marbled effect. (Don't stir too much, or you will end up with just a single color of cake. It won't affect the flavor but it will take away the attraction of a marble cake.)

6.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to remain in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake plate or cooling rack.

Alternate pan sizes:  You may use either a 7 X 11 rectangular pan or a very deep 9 inch pan. If using the deeper 9 inch pan, increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

Basic Almond Frosting

1 T softened (but not melted) butter
1 T softened low fat or regular cream cheese
1/2 t almond extract
approximately 2 to 2 1/2 c powdered sugar
approximately 3 to 4 T milk--anything from skim to whole milk is fine

1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Gradually add about half the powdered sugar, the almond extract, and a tablespoon or so of milk. Beat well.

2.  Add the rest of the powdered sugar and then stir in milk, just a teaspoon or so at a time, until the mixture is of the right consistency to spread.

3.  Cover the top of the cake with the frosting and then push some of the frosting to the edges. You may choose to leave the cake with the frosting "drizzling down" the sides or you can continue to spread the frosting so that the sides are completely covered.

Microwaved Chocolate Topping

3/4 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 t canola oil

IMPORTANT:  Be sure that the bowl and spatula used for stirring are completely dry. Chocolate has a wonderful property of irreversibly "seizing up," getting granular and lumpy, if there is ANY moisture in the melting process. That's why you don't want to cover the bowl, in case there is any steam at all generated in the heating.

1.   Place the chips and oil in a small bowl, one that does not generally heat up in the microwave. Microwave, uncovered, for about 25 seconds, on no more than half power. (I use power level 4 out of 10.)

Another interesting chocolate fact: When melting in the microwave, the chocolate will not lose its shape even as it is melting. You need to test how much it has melted by taking it and actually stirring it. If you wait for the chips to melt into a liquid on their own, you will end up with burned and unusable chocolate--and a not very pleasant smell in the kitchen as well. You have been warned!

2.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. The chips will not yet be melted at this point, so return them to the microwave and repeat the heating at half power for another 20 seconds.

3. After stirring the chips, return them to the microwave and repeat the heating, removing, and stirring at decreasing intervals (down to only 10 seconds at a time) until the chips begin to be melted throughout most of the mixture. At this point, you will just stir them until the remaining small chunks melt smoothly into the rest.

4.  If the mixture seems a little too thick to spread, you may add another few drops of canola oil.

5.  Immediately, while the chocolate is warm, drop the chocolate in little blobs around the surface of the frosted cake, and then use a table knife to swirl the chocolate into a pleasing design.

Alternative toppings:

If this all sounds too complicated, just take some mini chocolate chips and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.

For either method, with melted chocolate or just the chips, you could add a few fresh raspberries as a special garnish as well.

Alternative topping:

If this all seems too complicated, just take some mini chocolate chips and sprinkle them over the top of the cake. If it is fresh raspberry season, you might also add a few whole berries for garnish too.