Posted by: Rachel | November 13, 2010

a mixed bag (2)

What a food week! First, let me thank Slow Food Austin *again* for organizing a delightful farm tour last weekend. We visited Simmons Family Farm in Niederwald, and I came away with a big bag of greens, some turnips, a dozen eggs, and lots of ideas for using all of it. We were also treated (in addition to a tour of their fields, pens, and amazing greenhouses, where tropicals flourish) to a cooking demonstration by the owner/chef of Thai Fresh here in Austin.

whacking lemongrass

what did that lemongrass ever do to you?

If you live here, eat there, and if you don’t, well, come visit!

I knew that there were several different kinds of soy sauces, but I didn’t know that there was one that incorporated molasses. It is dark, rich, slightly thicker that what I think of as “regular” soy sauce, and extremely yummy. Chef Jam made us an ambrosial dish of chicken, lemongrass, two kinds of soy sauce, and rice noodles with greens. It was delicious!

The Simmons Family Farm is a multi-generational undertaking. The whole family seems to have a good sense of humor and a great sense of “doing-it-right”. They thought they were going to raise rabbits for meat, but ended up using them as “manure machines” since the bunnies were just too cute. You get the idea?

papaya tree

papayas on the hoof

I was fascinated by the papaya “tree” in their big greenhouse, and the overall willingness to try out “crops” like lemongrass that are certainly not standard fare for this area.

I visited their stand at the downtown Saturday market this morning just to say hi, and to see this week’s crops. Wow.

farmers market stand with veggies

good and good-for-you!

On a totally unrelated tack, the topic of cooking with kids surfaced several times this week. Here is a seemingly foolproof, fast and kid-friendly recipe. Why it works I do not know. You’ll have to ask Bill Nye or Alton Brown or someone with a PhD in chemistry, but it rises every time (with *no* rising agent), takes all of about 6 minutes start to finish, and is great to make with kids as there is almost no waiting involved and you can watch it do its thing and it tastes great. Without further ado, I offer you:

5 Minute Chocolate Cake for Two

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large coffee mug (microwave safe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and whisk to mix well.  Add the egg and beat well to mix thoroughly (I use a small fork). Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the vanilla extract, and mix again. The batter should be smooth.

very messy chocolate cake, yum!

see why you want a saucer?

Put the mug in the microwave on a saucer or small plate and cook for 3 minutes on high. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!

Allow the cake to cool a little, and tip it out onto a plate. You may need to run a knife down into the mug and around once to dislodge the cake. Cut in half long-ways and “garnish” with ice cream or whipped cream if desired. I had my half with nutella/limoncello ice cream. Oh my… yummy!

cake with ice cream, not so messy

halve you cake and eat it, too

This is a fun dessert or after-school snack. It really is that simple, and while it doesn’t keep very well (its sort of like a sponge cake but denser), it won’t need to! If anyone out there understands *why* this works, I wish you’d let us in on the secret. Let me know if you try it, and what you (and your kids, if you share) think.



  1. Rachel, I really enjoy your blog, not just for the recipes but because it’s like sitting across from you in the kitchen and just visiting. Your writing skills are excellent and it makes reading your blog most enjoyable not to mention hungry. Thank you for taking the time to share your recipes.

  2. You make me blush like a ripe peach . Thanks!

  3. I love this tiny cake idea. I’m going to try it. I need some cocoa first. I know, you’re thinking how can I live in a kitchen that doesn’t have a supply of unsweetened cocoa. But then, you know me, so maybe you’re not thinking that.

    • You could *probably* use a “hot chocolate mix” sort of cocoa, and cut back on the sugar… but the management will *not* be responsible! .

  4. What a fun idea – and perhaps the best part is that the cake just makes one serving…so I wouldn’t be able to eat all of the leftovers while the kids were at school. Not that I would do that. Just saying…

    • Maybe I should call it “no guilt cake” (grin)

  5. What a fun idea! You don’t need any type of baking powder or anything?

    • Nope. No rising agent of any kind. I know it sounds weird, but I have never had this fail on me! Let me know if you try it, and *do* put a saucer under it in the microwave as it gets kind of excited .

  6. Sounds like a nice and easy recipe. I’ll try it some time. Not sure about “large coffee mug”. Is there such a thing as a mug that’s too large? Does it matter if it’s short and squat? Sure, I’d put a microwave-safe plate underneath just to play it safe. I like the idea of using hot chocolate mix and cutting back on sugar because I rarely have cocoa powder around.

    Here’s a plug for my recipe for ganachey icing, something easy and tasty to pour over the cake! Visit

    • It *is* easy. Let us know if you try it and how the hot chocolate works out!

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