What’s Cooking Blog – Entry #22: Unfamiliar Ingredients Aren’t Always Scary

Aside from an accidental injury in the kitchen, what could be scarier than preparing a recipe using unfamiliar ingredients?

Early in the month curiosity got the better of me. After very thoroughly stirring a container of Tahini, I bravely dabbed the ingredient on my tongue to try and analyze the flavor. Still mildly hesitant, I found myself cautiously swirling dollops of the ground sesame paste into a greased Pyrex dish of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix. The baked result was chewy, rich, chocolaty, and slightly earthy; worth a try if you like to add nuts or nut-butters to brownies. Tahini also adds antioxidants, healthy fats, several vitamins and minerals. It’s suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties in Tahini may help reduce risk factors for heart disease and protect brain health. Interesting side note, when refrigerated, store bought Tahini can have a shelf life of one-to-three years, and about one-to four-weeks if homemade.

Along the same vein, last month I came across Red Velvet Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream frosting while I was vetting recipes for roasted root vegetables. You may already be able to tell where this is going, but to me the most interesting aspect of this recipe was that pureed beets substituted red food coloring. Curiouser and curiouser…

Title of Cookbook: Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More than 225 Recipes

(Note: A slight discrepancy in the subtitle, previously read “: the definitive underground guide to root vegetables with more than 200 recipes”.)

Author of Cookbook: Diane Morgan.

What prompted you to check out this cookbook? The craving to step out of my comfort zone motivated me to experiment creatively with new desserts.

What did you like about this cookbook? Although not quite vegan or gluten free, the ingredients in this recipe are accessible and can be tastefully modified to accommodate dietary restrictions. When using a little less sugar, the Orange Buttercream Frosting (pg. 58) wasn’t as sweet as what you might get from the grocery store, but the addition of citrus pleasantly brightened the flavor. A cream cheese or whipped cream frosting could easily compliment the cake mix.

A Source List can be found on page 407 for some of the less regional ingredients referred to in this cookbook.

What didn’t you like about this cookbook/website?

Overall, making cupcakes and frosting from scratch is a little more time consuming than I anticipated. Additionally, I would have liked the cookbook to offer substitutions for food allergies and intolerances but it wasn’t difficult to find comparable recipes online. On the other hand, knowing exactly what went into the final product definitely made me feel better about consuming one (or three) and giving the rest away.

Favorite recipe (that you tried from the cookbook/website): Red Velvet Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream (pg. 58).

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they?

Because I frequently combine recipes, this was no exception. I found a few Red Velvet Cake recipes online that called for applesauce, which because of slight intolerances, I prefer over desserts made with a lot of oil and sugar. Referring to Morgan’s Red Velvet Cupcakes and the Banana Diaries’, Best Ever Vegan Red Velvet Cake, I systematically improvised my own recipe.

I Used:

  1. Coconut sugar, but added slightly less than called for in the cake.
  2. Less confectioner’s sugar than called for in the Buttercream frosting.
  3. Added: Unsweetened cocoa powder, which may have made the cake a duller red, almost brown color.
  4. Substituted: (roasted red) beet puree for red food coloring
  5. No-added-sugar-applesauce instead of eggs and oil (resulting in a moist, velvety cake).
  6. Orange zest for pure orange oil in the Buttercream Frosting.

Would you recommend this cookbook/recipe? Yes, but only if you have people to share them with. I’m a little hesitant to freeze excess desserts, unless it’s gelato or ice cream, so I tend not to make them often. Fortunately, my coworkers and family are good eaters and helped critique a baker’s dozen with very little dissatisfaction. Even better, they knew what they were eating.

*If you’re still unsure about trying this, the recipe reminded me and at least one other person of Zucchini bread.


Books –

Websites –

Quick Subject links to the Library catalog:

Desserts. https://search.midhudsonlibraries.org/iii/encore/search/C__SDesserts.__Orightresult?lang=eng&suite=cobalt

Halloween cooking. (Vega, New Catalog) https://mhud.na.iiivega.com/search?query=halloween%20cooking&searchType=everything&pageSize=10