Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts

yogurt lemon loaf

It's Teacher Appreciation Week at Roosevelt Elementary, which means I'm doing some baking. Happily.

Sending my children off each morning to spend their day absorbing other people's values, playing with other people's children, and learning someone else's curriculum could be terrifying. Except it's not.

The public school down the hill from us is an amazing place on the planet. The teachers and staff really like another another, emotional intelligence is highlighted just as much as any other skill, and I usually hear staff and students laughing when I'm there. Things are serious and structured when they need to be, and playful and silly as often as possible. There's artwork everywhere, and little groups doing work around every corner--tutorials, gentle disciplinary conversations, peacemaking.

I always say we wake up in the morning with a certain amount of energy. We can waste it being touchy, annoyed, or feeling like outsiders, or we can make a choice to be engaged and present. Teaching is hard. And it doesn't pay very much. And you're ON for hours at a time in front of an audience that doesn't say thank you or even do you the courtesy of sitting still! But these Roosevelt folks? They spend their energy being present. And it shows in how my children are developing. That's pretty powerful.

This recipe is for you, Shelly. You light up that front office like fireworks, and I don't think you can imagine how much light and goodness you spread. Thank you.

Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts
Adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe for Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake, which I've adapted a million times. I adore her, her food sensibilities, her great writing, and the fact that this recipe just requires a spoon and a mixing bowl!

For cake:
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
10 Tb. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1-2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tb. lemon zest 

For glaze:
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. powedered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 Tb. soft butter 

Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, comgine the sugar and yogurt. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then fold in the melted butter a little at a time. Fold in walnuts, rosemary, and zest.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While cake is cooling, make glaze. Combine lemon juice and powdered sugar in a bowl, and microwave for 20 seconds. Take out of the microwave and add butter and lemon zest, whisking until mixture is glossy. Pour over the cake while it's still in the pan. Let cool for another 10-15 minutes before turning it out to cool to room temperature before slicing. 

Everyday Salads

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I bring or offer to bring salads wherever we go. If it were up to me, my minivan would have the following features:

  • A built-in car seat that converts as kids grow, can be removed later, and frees me from the guilt of buckling it in wrong.
  • A little composting bin for orange peels, apple cores, and compostable coffee cups.
  • Hell. While we're at it, a spigot for coffee.
  • A long mechanical arm that reaches back to pick Loretta's lip gloss off the floor when she drops it or takes away a toy that's being fought over.
  • And yes, a hollowed-out, covered, and secure slot for my favorite salad bowl so I can take it everywhere without worrying about spillage.

In the sixteen years we've lived in Seattle, I wish I had tallied up all the potlucks we've been to. I've spent many hours pulling over to check on a full pot of soup sloshing around or balancing a cake on my lap while Yancey takes corners. But I usually bring green salads because:

  • I almost always have the ingredients to make them.
  • They're easy to transport.
  • I am never, ever without ingredients to make salad dressing.
  • Salad isn't hummus (ubiquitous at every Puget Sound gathering).
  • My salads are better than anyone else's.

Did I really just say that? It's not true. Lots of my friends can make salads as good as mine, but they learned from me. There. How's that? My salads aren't fancy, but I've learned lots of tricks throughout the years that make them deliciously foolproof every time. Here is yet another bulleted list. I think it might be long. Don't let that scare you. I just have lots of opinions.

  • I'm a fan of the pre-washed cello bags of greens. They make lots of things easier. But they're expensive. If you're bringing unwashed greens home, wash them right away, lay them out on a length of paper towel, roll the towel up, and put the whole bundle in a ziploc bag. They'll stay fresh for well over a week and be ready for salad-making whenever you are.
  • My basic dressing is kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, one part white or red vinegar or lemon juice, and three parts extra virgin olive oil. So that, I might add some dijon or fresh herbs. Or maybe garlic or smoked paprika, depending on what kind of salad I'm making. If you want to make a creamy dressing, add a teaspoon of mayo (it doesn't take much) and you'll get a beautifully clingy dressing.
  • When my herbs are growing, they all go in (except sage). Right now, I am putting big, soft mint leaves in everything. I use them like I would a lettuce leaf. Same with celery leaves, beet tops.
  • Color! I work as hard to make my salads colorful as I do to make them tasty.
  • Toasted nuts are almost always in my salads--walnuts, almonds, pecans. If you're allergic to nuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas, or homemade croutons.
  • This one might be most important. I try to think of a forkful of salad and being able to get every ingredient in one bite. That means no giant, thick rounds of carrot or big wheels of cucumber. So I'll use a vegetable peeler to shave carrot into the salad or cut my cucumber into matchsticks. You want everything cut to manageable--not necessarily uniform--size. 
  • The bowl you pick is important, too. Try to use something shallow that just fits the ingredients so you can see everything and it looks abundant. A little pile of chopped vegetables in the bottom of a narrow bowl never made anyone feel like eating healthy.
  • Protein. Not always, but most the time there's something else in there--cheese, hard boiled egg, chickpeas. And if I'm really feeling ambitious or it's a main dish salad, maybe bacon, bits of crispy chorizo, or some roasted chicken or smoked salmon. 
  • Toss everything in your dressing right before serving, using your hands and mixing very gently. This will coat everything and ensure that you don't use too much dressing.

We're entering salad season, which I'm thrilled about. Let's get to it!

Everyday Salad
For the salad pictured, use about 6 cups of washed greens to line a shallow bowl. Whatever ingredients you add, keep a tiny bit separate so you can garnish the top. Add a handful of toasted walnuts, a couple handfuls of mint leaves, half a thinly sliced red pepper. With a vegetable peeler, shave one large, peeled carrot and some parmesan into the greens. Toss gently with your dressing (see above) and garnish with a few of your reserved ingredients. Happy Spring!

Chocolate Orange Walnut Loaf Cake

Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake
I feel like singing a little tune. That's how easy and scrumptious this tender-crumbed cake is.

Another baby has been born in our family's world, and the kids and I delivered dinner this afternoon. I wrapped up only three quarters of this loaf for them. We had to sample it first. Quality Control.  Melissa Clark's recipe. Again! I love her style--conversational, practical, inventive. This cake involves just a bowl and a spoon, and ingredients I always have around--plain yogurt, eggs, chocolate chips, nuts. I subbed walnuts for her pecans because they were on hand, and added orange zest to the batter and an orange glaze while it was still piping hot. I love how the glaze settles in, getting sticky and shiny, running down around the sides.

Loretta and I had a rare morning together. She stirred the cake batter, and we made valentines while it baked. There were various preschooler demands later in the afternoon (More snack! I don't want to have a rest time!), but our 90 minutes of baking and crafting were divine. I listened again to John Kabat-Zinn recently, who says that children are like little zen masters, parachuted into our lives to push all our buttons and see how we'll respond. It's funny--I just came back from a work trip, and what I missed was all those buttons being pushed. In my better moments, I can stand back and say,"This craziness means my life is full. I am choosing the uncertainty, the ambiguity, the loose ends, and I'd be lost without them."

valentines

My valentine

Chocolate Orange Walnut Loaf Cake

1 c. sugar
2/3 c. plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 c. (10 Tb.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. toasted walnuts or pecans
finely grated zest of one orange

For glaze:
Juice and zest of one orange
3/4 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Using a whisk, whisk together the sugar and  yogurt. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, fold in the melted butter a little at a time. Fold in the chocolate chips, walnuts, and orange zest.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make glaze. Using a whisk, combine orange juice, zest, and powdered sugar.

When cake is done, poke several holes in a it with a toothpick or skewer. Immediately pour glaze over the top and allow it to saturate the cake. It will pool up a bit at the edges--brush it back over the top with a pastry brush. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool to room temp before cutting it.