Peach Upside-Down Cake with Vanilla Caramel Sauce

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As a child, it wasn’t summer without freshly picked peaches from the East End. I have such fond memories of picking fruit and visiting farm stands, praying that my parents would let us take home an extra bag (or two) for my friends. While I used to just eat peaches on their own, I now try to incorporate them in sweet and savory dishes alike.

My new favorite way to enjoy peaches is in cake – well, technically on top of cake. The quintessential image of an upside down cake is a yellow cake covered in pineapple rings and jarred maraschino cherries. I wanted to make a lighter and more seasonal cake that would allow local peaches shine through without being covered by sugar. This cake also gets topped with a sweet vanilla caramel sauce, complementing the sweet yet tart flavor of the peaches.

This sauce is a little thinner than the sticky caramel you’d dip apples in. If you want a thicker and firmer caramel, just reduce the milk by one tablespoon, and swap out white sugar for brown sugar.

You can also make this cake without the caramel sauce. If you do, increase the honey in the cake by 1-2 tablespoons, according to taste. It would also be lovely with a little cardamom! You can add a pinch or up to 1/4 tsp. to the batter prior to baking.

Peach Upside-Down Cake with Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:
Peach Layer

2 Peaches, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 tsp. Butter
1 tsp. Honey
Squeeze Lemon

Cake Layer
1.5 cups + 2 Tbsp. Almond Flour
¼ cup Melted Butter (measure after melting)
¼ cup Honey
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Coconut Milk
2 Eggs
¾ tsp. Baking Soda

Vanilla Caramel Sauce
3 Tbsp. Full Fat Coconut Milk (or Cream)
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Butter
¼-1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. In a small skillet, melt the butter and honey, then add the peach slices. Toss the peach slices in butter/honey mixture and add a squeeze of lemon. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until peaches begin to soften. Shut off heat and set aside until they cool.
  2. Lightly grease a 7-inch pan with a small amount of butter. Trace the bottom of the pan with a pencil on parchment paper and cut out circle. Place parchment circle on the bottom of the inside of the pan.
  3. Arrange peach slices in desired pattern on the bottom of the pan. I arranged mine in a wheel pattern.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix almond flour, butter, honey, vanilla, lemon juice and coconut milk until well combined.
  5. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and add to large mixing bowl. Add baking soda and mix until combined.
  6. Pour batter into pan over the peach slices. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, or until top of cake is golden and slightly firm. Remove and let fully cool.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the sauce. In a small sauce pan, heat butter, maple syrup and sugar on medium heat until melted. Add coconut milk. Stir or whisk until sauce begins to bubble.
  8. Let the sauce bubble for around 30 seconds, stir, and lower the heat to medium low. Add ¼ tsp. vanilla. Taste and add the additional ¼ tsp. vanilla for a stronger vanilla flavor, if desired. Allow the sauce to bubble and slowly boil again while stirring until sauce thickens and coats a spoon (this will take a few minutes, but it starts to thicken quickly so try not to walk away from it). Turn the heat off but keep the pan on the burner to keep the sauce warm.
  9. Once the cake is cool, carefully loosen the cake from the pan and flip it upside down onto a plate. Drizzle the warmed sauce over the cake, or pour and spread the caramel over the top. Enjoy!

Grandpa’s Marinara Sauce

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I grew up playing between the rows of corn and tomatoes in my grandfather’s garden, running my hands through the green leaves as my feet kicked up the soil. At 93, my grandfather’s garden is now a single tomato potted plant in his front yard, but the tradition lives on in my parents’ backyard. Every year I watch as my parents harvest buckets of sweet tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, enormous zucchini, and deep green herbs. Every time I pick a tomato, I’m transported to my grandparents’ kitchen, where I watched my grandfather make tomato sauce “gravy” for the first time, letting it slowly simmer for hours until it was just right. I was mesmerized at how cooking these red fruits for a few hours could yield such an amazing sauce.  His marinara sauce was the first recipe I ever learned, and I try to recreate it with tomatoes from my parents’ garden or the farmers’ market as often as I can.

I recently purchased a few boxes of “dent” tomatoes from a local farm with the intention of making sauce. The makings of a rich and sweet tomato sauce isn’t a 30-minute meal type of deal, so I was in a bit of a bind when I realized the 40 pounds of tomatoes I purchased would go bad by the time I had a chance to transform them. I remembered my uncle and grandfather telling me about freezing tomatoes whole in the height of the summer months when they were overrun with tomatoes from their gardens, but I was fairly skeptical. With no other option, I washed and dried the tomatoes, stuffed them whole into freezer plastic bags, and popped them in the freezer. A week later when I was ready to make sauce, I let the tomatoes defrost for a few minutes and then the skin just peeled right off! Usually, I would blanch tomatoes and then put them in ice water to remove the skins, but the freezing method is so much easier. Then just chop the tomatoes and throw them (seeds and all) into the pot. If you have the freezer space, run (don’t walk) to your farmers market or garden and load up on summer tomatoes before it’s too late!

This sauce can be left chunky and rustic after cooking, or you can use an immersion blender or other type of blender to make it smooth. I usually can’t predict what I will be in the mood for, so I split the batch in half and leave half chunky and blend the rest. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Grandpa’s Marinara Sauce

*Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo-Friendly, Vegetarian, Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Sweet or Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ~15-20 lbs. Fresh or Frozen Tomatoes (whatever is most in season), Skins Removed and Chopped or Crushed
  • 2 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp. Dried Basil
  • 3-4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • ¼ Cup (or more) Fresh Basil, Chopped
  • Cracked Black Peppers & Red Chili Flakes, to taste

Method:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and let them cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are soft and nearly translucent. You may have to lower the heat to ensure the onions don’t burn.
  2. Turn your heat to medium-low, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes (or until fragrant) and then add tomatoes. If you are using tomatoes from the freezer, you can chop and throw them in while they are still mostly frozen.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until sauce starts to bubble, about 20-30 minutes, depending on if your tomatoes were frozen. Reduce heat to medium low, add dried herbs and half of the salt and stir.
  4. Allow the sauce to simmer on the stove top at low/medium-low heat for 2-4 hours, or until the sauce has reduced by around half.
  5. Taste the sauce and add the remainder of the salt (feel free to add additional salt, if needed), chopped basil, and black pepper or chili flakes. Let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
  6. You can either serve the sauce as is, or puree the sauce to make it smooth. I usually keep half chunky and rustic, and blend the other half with an immersion blender. Serve over pasta, meatballs, or let’s be honest, really on top of anything.

 

Nutrient Density and Eating Local

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Want to eat Nutrient Dense Foods? Eat Local!

When cooking for clients and my family, I focus on ingredients that are fresh, of high quality, and are nutrient dense. What is nutrient density? The standard definition of nutrient density compares the amount of vitamins/minerals/antioxidants of the ingredient to its number of calories.

While I think you and I can agree that most of the meat and produce you find at the store is nutrient dense in their own ways, but did you know that local food is on average more nutrient dense than store-bought ingredients?  I love supporting local suppliers in the Raleigh-Durham area, and love it even more after learning that local produce retains more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than store-bought produce. There is scientific evidence that local produce trumps conventional and organic store-bought produce due to the length of time from farm to table. The produce we see at the store may look pretty, but there’s no way of telling how long it was being transported from the farm to the store, or how long it has been sitting on the shelf at the store.

Studies show that seasonal local produce has a higher nutrient value than produce out of season or organic or conventional store bought produce (1). Another study also shows that produce (spinach in this case) could lose up to 50% of some of its nutrients after 4-8 days of sitting on the shelf (2).

It’s super easy to support local and eat local by visiting LoMo Market – a mobile farmers market food truck that comes to your work or neighborhood. I recently perused their well-stocked truck and outlined some of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are high in their products.

Below are nutrients that are high in products frequently carried by LoMo –

  • High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Fatty Fish, Pastured Red Meat, Egg (Yolks)
  • High in Calcium – leafy greens like Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, Turnip Greens & Collard Greens, Full-Fat Dairy
  • High in B6 – Bell Peppers, Turnip Greens, Spinach
  • High in B12 – Pastured Red Meat, Shellfish, Snapper, Mackerel, Crab
  • High in Iron – Pastured Red Meat
  • High in K2 – Aged Cheeses
  • High in Antioxidants/Polyphenols – Blue & Purple Produce (Purple Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, etc.), Turmeric Root
  • High in Probiotics – Kombucha, Kimchi, Sauerkraut
  • High in Vitamin C – Leafy Greens, Berries, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Strawberries, Rutabaga

LoMo was also kind enough to let me use some of their amazing ingredients to create some recipes for y’all! I have created two recipes – one for the meat eaters out there, and another for those who prefer seafood.

Scallops and Rutabaga “Grits” – a riff on shrimp and grits.

Strawberry Balsamic Flat Iron Steak Salad is a hearty and healthy salad for all of you red meat eaters.

I hope you enjoy!