Santa Monica

Okay,  I’ve been slacking a little, but it’s only because I’ve been busy falling in love… I’m getting closer to finding a kitchen of my own. I can feel it, let me  say… I think I’m in love with California…

Enough about love ! !  Let’s talk cakes…

I got scared . Really scared. I am learning a lot in terms of baking. For example; self rising flour is not to be confused with all purpose. Our cake did not rise like a normal one would. What can I say? I was in love with the west coast, and my mind wasn’t firing correctly, I was distracted by pretty people and waves… forgive a girl just this once. I read that it doesn’t change the taste just the texture. It was a cross between a brownie and a rock… But I did like two things about this recipe, 1. blackberry jam 2. instant coffee… Yum, both go good in chocolate cake .

Los Angeles was a ball, and we were spoiled rotten staying with my beautiful aunt & uncle. I wish I could say my cake was mouth watering, but it was really just okay. Nothing to write home about.

My cousin Lucy here baked with me. She is adorable in an apron.


just as long as it looks pretty



I was getting nervous I might not find a kitchen …

But the KFG’s  (kitchen finding gods) are on my side. obviously.

I guess I should tell you what I’m doing.

I’m driving across the country with my best friend.

On the look-out for a new home. We are hoping to settle our tired wanderlust-full bones. Traveling the cities we like, or think we’ll like: Denver, Boulder, LA, Northern Cali, Portland and Seattle.

We made it to Denver. Spent a night with some circus performers, and then went to stay with Michelle. She is a fellow food blogger, and an amazing cook. Find out what we ate for dinner at:         

Denver is hot. HOT . I mean seriously though, it’s really hot here.

We wanted to bake, and cook dinner. But , it was just so hot. All the recipes I thought of were heavy, and I just imagined my cake melting all over her kitchen . I decided to keep it simple : Blueberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream. This is  the perfect July dessert. Not just in Denver, but anywhere in this currently boiling country.

I hired a blog photographer! My traveling compadre Randi. She took pictures of everything, even the crisp after I put it in the oven! Rule number one: No opening the oven during baking ! Regardless, she is on her way to baking photo-taking brilliance.

Blueberry Crisp: ( serves 8 )

The Filling :

3 pints of blueberries

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of salt

The Topping :

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup of rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

6 tablespoons of butter

1/3 cup of sugar

Preheat oven 375* Mix blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Once mixed put into a 8- inch baking dish.

For the topping stir together flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Cream butter, sugar in a mixer till pale and fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients . With your fingers squeeze the topping into clumps and spread over berries. Bake for 1 hour. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


So I entered a Pie Baking Contest. My first contest..

Okay, so the first pie I’ve ever really baked..

I’m not really a pie person..

I decided on a Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie.

But, I needed a kitchen . I called my friend Vicky  in Lenox. She has a lovely kitchen with everything I knew I’d need. She was away in Jersey but said “Just go in, and bake , no problem!” She gave me the security code and I crashed her kitchen. My mother met me there. We were planning a mother/daughter pie duo. cute. right?

Almost as cute as this girl voting for my pie.

We baked our butts off , is that even possible with pie?

Pies require patience and precision especially when being voted on.

These are not necessarily the first assets my mother and I would possess in  a room together. But that day, we gathered our energy , and we possessed it !

We left the pie overnight in the fridge with a big DO NOT EAT sign, and returned the next day to top it off with whipped cream… yum

The contest took place in Great Barrington and was a hit!

There were some beautiful pies. Like these..

the one on the left with the berry rings – won!

Here’s my mama voting…

We did not win , but our pie did get devoured, and we met some amazing bakers.

                         the start 
t                                         the end 

I need to ask you something . . .

I ate  Ben and Jerry’s for dinner last night.( I know this doesn’t have anything to do with  baking ) But it has to do with a very important issue I must address before we go any further together.

I got ice cream, not the frozen yogurt kind, which made me question everything and why I ever  bother with that. I ordered it in a cone, with  rainbow sprinkles. I ate it in my car on the drive home, and it was amazing. It blew my earlier baking extravaganza out of the water..  I entered my bathroom to brush my teeth as I looked up there was this chocolate covered face. I was shocked, how could have I done this so cluelessly? I was a mess. no joke.

I came to the practical conclusion, this is why I normally get cups.  It seems like as an adult I make these practical choices without even thinking what I actually want. I really want a cone ,but cones are for kids and cones get your face sticky.

So my question to YOU is what did you choose as a kid? I know it’s silly and not real , and it probably makes your clothes sticky or your face chocolate-y. But give it a shot .Do it anyway. Just for today.

It’s what you  really want to do anyway.

On this note,  I give you my newest healthy indulgence for all you outdoors. Take these on the trail with you go play in the woods, like you used to do .

Laura’s (Gluten Free) Walking Bars . 

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or regular butter)

1 cup pecans

1 cup walnuts

(unsweetened) shredded coconut

1/4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal

cup brown rice syrup

½ cup of almond butter

1/4 cup natural cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 tablespoons ground espresso beans

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350*. Grease pan with coconut oil. Depending on desired thickness of the bars . 8′ by 8′ or 9′ by 13′ inch pan. I vote for 8′ by 8′ .

On a rimmed baking sheet toast the coconut, walnuts and pecans for about 7 minutes until coconut is golden. In a bowl mix toasted nuts and coconut with cereal and oats set aside.

Combine rice syrup, sugar, salt , espresso, almond butter and vanilla in a small sauce pan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens, about 4 minutes. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir.

Spread into prepared pan and let cool to room temp. Cut into desired size. I wrapped mine up in parchment paper. Throw in your back pack and you’re off !

West Stockbridge

Some mornings instead of baking, I should meditate .

Like this morning , a disaster of a Gluten Free Banana Bread (yup , no wheat in this kitchen!)
Lessons learned; measurements fully 2. do not rush 3. don’t try bake overlycaffeinated , it’s not pretty.4. did I say, do not rush? don’t rush.

I  am crashing at Chantal and Dan’s house for a few weeks . Chantal and Dan own a dance/yoga studio in the Berkshires and their house is a sweet little haven in this hidden spot I forget sometimes is here : West Stockbridge.

We have had a few “EXPERIMENTS in the Leven’s kitchen so far….” none have been marvelous enough to hand over the recipe. I want to only give you the best , because I love you like that.

.. A few nights ago we wanted to make a strawberry moose pie. It contained gelatin, WHICH I happened to have in my car. (I know. don’t ask .) Do you know what gelatin contains?! DON’T google it , unless you want to never use it again, ever !

I threw out the gelatin and instead we made cookies that don’t really count as baking, because came out of a BAG. I call that a quick fix crash, hardly happened . but, it still get’s a photo. Chantal doesn’t like to use spoons she say’s hands work better.

I’d have to agree…


week 1:

Saratoga, NY.

I could not have asked for a better first baking date!

a  rainy indoor cozy sweatpants kinda day,

with the  sweetest couple of cake connoisseurs to bake with me.

I went to Saratoga Springs to see some friends. Dan who is a carpenter and Jennilee a yogini globe-trotter … I truly didn’t know if they would be interested in this experiment of mine, they not only were interested, but thrilled and dedicated to cake this. Dan sat on the edge of his stool for hours mixing and stirring his heart out. We laughed and caught up and as a team baked our very first gluten-free cake. The plan was dinner with another couple, who are completely gluten-free. I am not one to ever bake without flour, so this was seriously outta my comfort cake zone. I was intimidated by all the flours I couldn’t pronounce, and while shopping we were falsely led to stores unnecessary… (Heads up xanthan gum is not found in the candy store !) I was not sure what the outcome may be.
Without sounding too pretentious , this cake totally ruled. It was moist and delicious, and dripping with coconut frosting and love ..

I slept on their couch that night as their 4 doggies rolled around upstairs still sugar buzzed and full. I fell pretty hard for this cake, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I did not have it for breakfast, although I wanted to.

I left it in Saratoga , that is part of kitchen crashing (by the way) goodies stay with crashers !

Thanks Saratoga , you two were ultimate sweetness.

Margaret’s Chocolate Cake:  

2 1/4 cup of gluten-free flour mix

1 1/14 tsp. xanthan gum

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. egg replacer

1/2 tsp. salt

4 squares (4 ounzes) semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup hot water

2 sticks of butter

2 cups of sugar in the raw

4 eggs

1 cup of plain yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Coconut Frosting:

1 cup of evaporated milk

1 cup of sugar

3 egg yolks lightly beaten

1 stick of butter

1 tsp. vanilla

the cake:

preheat oven to 350 * . Butter two round 9” cake pans and dust with flour.

In a medium bowl whisk flour , xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, egg replacer and salt. set aside.

Place water and chocolate in a double boiler and over boiling water and stir until chocolate melts. Set aside.

In mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy . Add one egg at a time beating after each addition. Pour in chocolate and blend.  Add the flour alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla in two additions. Beat on low until well blended. Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 40 minutes .

oh yes that frosting:

In medium sauce pan combine milk , sugar, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. Stir while cooking over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Beat until frosting has cooled and put in fridge until ready to ice.