Salted, Malted Chocolate Bundt Cake

This cake came to me in a snow-covered dream. I woke up Sunday knowing I had to do three things: shovel my driveway, take my kids sledding, and bake something. It’s no secret I love to be snowed in; I view it as nature’s permission to let everything go — I don’t stress about it, I don’t complain about it, I just let it all go. Northern Virginia was in the epicenter of the recent “snowzilla” storm. We had historic snowfall and the world shut down for a few days. It was pretty wonderful. I’ll be back at work tomorrow, so while I’m enjoying my last day of snowed in freedom, I thought I’d hop back on the blogging wagon and share this wonderful, easy recipe. No mixer required, and I bet you have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

The malt powder isn’t absolutely necessary — meaning your texture won’t suffer if you leave it out. You’ll still have a delicious, moist chocolate cake — but it’s so, so good. If you grew up drinking malted milkshakes like I did (my dad made/makes the best milkshakes), you might already have a container in your pantry, and if you want a treat, you’ll want to make a special trip to grab some. It’s sold in most grocery stores in the coffee/tea/hot chocolate section usually. You can stir it into cold milk, add it to your favorite cookie recipes, or, of course, make milkshakes with it. It’s nostalgic, old-fashioned, and truly one of my favorite things. My son loves it too, which just makes me so darn happy– have I ever told you how much I love that little guy?


Salted, Malted Chocolate Bundt Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: Ani Hughes —

For the cake:

  • Non-stick baking spray (I am in love with Baker’s Joy) or butter for the pan
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup malt powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee 1/2 cup hot water (you can use all hot water, but I love the richness the coffee gives)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons malt powder (plus a pinch or two for sprinkling)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk (or enough to make a smooth, pourable glaze)
  • a sprinkle of sea salt (maldon flaked sea salt is my favorite, but kosher salt will work just fine)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 – 12 cup bundt pan, or spray generously with baking spray. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in microwave or a small saucepan, remove from heat and add cocoa powder and malt powder. Whisk until smooth. Add coffee/water, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and whisk again until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Add butter mixture and whisk until smooth–this is a loose batter so don’t worry if it looks too thin.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes—don’t over bake! Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a large platter or cakestand. Let cool completely before glazing.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate glaze. Place all ingredients except salt into a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and a thick ribbon forms when you hold your whisk in the air. You want this pourable, not spreadable.
  6. Generously drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Wait 5 minutes for glaze to set a bit and sprinkle with malt powder and sea salt.
  7. Slice and devour


My Grandma

I have been away too long, and I thought today was a good day to change that. For reasons I won’t divulge, I haven’t felt much like writing, sharing, or being social lately. The wind was knocked out of my sails, I lost my inspiration, my mojo, my zing. I am still not 100%, but I miss writing, so here I am.

I spent the afternoon and evening with my grandparents yesterday, and my ever supportive and encouraging grandpa noted that I hadn’t written anything in awhile. I’m not sure if he knows how much it means to me that he notices things like that, but I know he is reading this, so, grandpa, thank you.

I decided that on the eve of Mother’s Day I’d tell you all about the woman I am named after—the woman who has never given up on me and who can make me feel restored and right no matter what is happening in my life. Her name is Anita. I call her grandma, and my kids call her Nini. She is my father’s mother. She is kind, gentle, patient, and brilliant. She is simply the best. IMG_1885

Spending long stretches of my summer vacation with her was the best part of my childhood. I loved it. She has since moved from the house that was ‘grandma’s house’ when I was little, but I can still remember the way it smelled. When I dream, I dream of that house, not of the house I grew up in. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve wished for a time machine.

I can still remember how it felt to crawl into bed with her in the morning after my grandpa went to work. We’d just lay there and chat and giggle while I played with her elbows. I’m sure this sounds silly, but it’s a memory that still makes us both laugh. I’d pinch the soft skin of her elbow between my index finger and thumb and it would stay in a little point until she bent her arm, then I’d repeat the process until she made me stop. Her skin was (and still is) so soft and she smells so good. I always take a big breath in when I hug her. Sigh.

My grandmother is the mother of 4 boys—my three uncles and my father. Incredible men with extraordinary brains and personalities. A diplomat, a physics professor and dean, an artist/photographer/graphic designer/mobile app designer and developer/jack-of-all-trades, and an international man of mystery who has worked in many different countries and who makes the best food anyone has ever tasted. All of them are fathers, and in a few days they will all be grandfathers as well. She raised them all. She is the matriarch of the incredible Parris family and she is always there for us all.

My son is 12 now, and when he was a year old I moved in with my grandparents for about a year and to this day that year is my favorite year. The time my son had with his great grandparents—the bond they created—is irreplaceable and I will always treasure it. We still recall moments from time to time, still talk about that year and the memories we have from it. Priceless.

My grandparents and my kids. Love.

My grandparents and my kids. Love.

Now I only live about 3 minutes from my grandparents, and I am the luckiest girl in the world for it. Yet, even with our closeness, the craziness of the last several months has kept us from getting together as much as I’d like. I can actually feel when I haven’t spoken with my grandma, like something is physically missing from me. Whenever I feel like that, I pick up the phone and I feel my shoulders relax as soon as I hear her voice and her signature laugh. It is such a rich, heartfelt laugh that makes anyone who hears it feel rewarded.

Oh, and she makes the best cherry pie ever, and it just so happens cherry pie is my favorite. Lucky me, I get one for my birthday every year. Best. Present. Ever.

This is just a tiny glimpse into the greatness of my grandma. I could write an entire book. But, for now, this will do. Happy Mother’s Day.


Moldovan Borscht (Chicken and Vegetable Soup)

I am quickly reminded when I say things like, “I learned how to make this soup from a Moldovan woman while I was visiting my father in Kabul, Afghanistan,” what an interesting life I’ve had—privileged, not in a monetary sense, but full of diversity, culture, and once in a lifetime experiences (some good and some bad). My goal is to write more about those experiences, starting with this recipe.

So, as I’ve just illuminated, I learned this recipe from a Moldovan woman in Kabul, Afghanistan several years ago. She made this soup while I peeked over her shoulder and took mental notes. Hers was a bit more rustic than mine (If you buy a chicken from a local market in Kabul, it will have its feet still attached, and if you grew up in a small village in Moldova, those feet will go into your soup pot). Regardless of my lack of chicken feet, I feel I really nailed the flavors and recreated the soup I remember eating. The dill and beets are key and my favorite part of this soup. There is no butter in the recipe, but the combination of rich vegetables and the irreplaceable flavor you get from cooking the chicken skin-on and bone-in both result in such a satisfying, buttery depth of flavor in the finished soup. IMG_8973I love any recipe that starts with a whole chicken; something about the process of breaking down a whole chicken makes me feel so capable, like I can do anything. Silly, I’m sure, but you should try it sometime. If jointing a whole chicken intimidates you, feel free to buy one already jointed, or ask your friendly butcher to do it for you.


In case you’re confused, this is not the widely-known bright pink, creamy borscht. Moldovan borscht is commonly a brothier soup, with variations on the meats and sometimes the vegetables. Clearly, I am not Moldovan, but in defense of my credibility, I did learn this recipe from a woman born and raised in Moldova, and hers was a brothy, hearty chicken soup full of root vegetables and packed with flavor like this one. I’ve also done quite a bit of research into Moldovan Borscht and her version and mine are pretty much spot-on. This is rustic, peasant food—restorative and good for you on every level. The wine is my touch. I don’t think she added any, but the French in me has a hard time not adding wine to soups and stews. It is entirely optional, but it adds a nice acidity.

Regardless of its origins and history, it is delicious, healthy, and comforting—hearty enough for a cold winter night, but light enough for warmer months, too. It’ll cure what ails ya.

PS: The leftovers are fantastic and taste even better a day or two later.

Moldovan Borscht

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into parts (breast, thighs, legs, wings)
  • 1 medium head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 2 large beets, peeled and cubed (or 4 small beets)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced or grated
  • 4 waxy potatoes, such as red bliss or yukon gold, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tomatoes, diced or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill (feel free to use fresh if you have it)
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons veg oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups water

To prepare:

Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot, cast iron if you have it. Salt and pepper chicken and place skin side down in a single layer. Allow skin to get very crispy and brown; don’t rush this step. Once all chicken has been browned, remove to a dish and pour any excess fat from the pot. Add chicken back to pot along with onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, beets, dill, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until chicken is completely cooked through. Note: You won’t get any meat from the wings, but it is important to simmer them as they are packed with flavor and will result in a richer broth.

Remove chicken to a clean dish and set aside to cool slightly. Add cabbage and potatoes to pot and continue simmering for one more hour until tender. Taste broth at this point and add more salt and pepper to taste.

When chicken is cool enough to touch, remove and discard skin, and pull meat from bones in large pieces. Discard bones and wings. I prefer to leave the chicken in larger chunks, but shred or chop as you prefer.

Once vegetables are tender, skim any excess fat from broth and add shredded chicken back to pot. Heat through and serve with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley and dill and crusty bread with butter.

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Reminiscing and asking for a favor

I recently discovered that one of my favorite food magazines, Saveur Magazine, is taking nominations for their annual food blog award. So, I thought I’d combine “Throwback Thursday” with my request for your nominations. I’m including my favorite and most personal blog posts. I hope you’ll revisit them, or read them for the first time, and if you like them and feel I am worthy, hop over to this link: Blog Awards 2015,  and cast your nomination for little old me. You never know… You can nominate me, and all of your other favorite food blogs, until March 13th, then go back and vote on March 30th. I’ll be sure to remind you.

photo 4


The Beginning: This was my very first post, with a recipe for one of my very favorite things—Orange Pound Cake. I feel it must be included in this summary since it was the post that started it all: Craving Inspiration. It’s pretty nuts how much has changed in my life since I wrote it. Friends have come and gone; my kids have grown so much; I have grown so much—I have achieved goals that at that moment in time felt so daunting and far away. I am so thankful for the people who encouraged me along the way—from starting this blog to completing my degree and everything in between. I am grateful.




Julian: This post is by far the most personal one I’ve ever written. It is one I struggled with and almost didn’t post. It is for my older brother Julian, a kind, sweet, gentle person who was taken for reasons I’ll never understand. His death is the reason I refuse to believe everything happens for a reason, because there is no reason he should be gone. I made these cupcakes for him; I always make something for him on his birthday and these are a nod to his favorite candy (and mine): Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Here is the post with the delicious recipe: Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting



IMG_1902Virginia: I love this post. I read it the other day and it actually made me cry. I’m a bit of an emotional wreck lately, but even if I wasn’t it would bring tears to my eyes. I just love it. The pictures, my words, my feelings. This post is so “me.” We are on our gazillionth snow day this year, and I still love Virginia; I can still rely on Virginia. I’m crazy, for sure, but I just love this place. Read on to find out why: Virginia, My Love





Christmas: I will always remember how I felt when I was waiting for Santa. I will always remember that magic. I’ve never lost it, and I love seeing the magic live on in my kids’ eyes. It is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. This post is an homage to Christmas—to my love of Christmas and all the magic that comes with it. (This is another one that gets me a little misty). Christmas: Feeling Nostalgic Already




I know most of these posts don’t include recipes, but they do include glimpses into my life and into my heart. Here’s a little more about me, in case you haven’t had enough already: About

I hope you’ll take a minute to revisit these posts and, if you want, cast your nomination for my blog on Thank you so much.


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Paleo Portobello Mushroom Stir Fry with Cauliflower Rice

I feel like I have to preface this recipe. I am not a vegetarian. I do not follow a paleo or low carb diet. I eat what I feel like eating and cook what I want (you’re not the boss of me!). I am not trying to convert you to a new fad diet. I just happened to make a really amazing stir fry that falls into a bunch of trending diet categories.

Ok, preface over: This is a recipe that really surprised me. I created it for a guest blog post, and I was so pleased with the results. I love mushrooms—I knew it was going to be good, but I just didn’t expect it to be SO good.

This stir fry hits all the right notes: salty, spicy, really savory with a tiny hint of sweet from the honey. The portobellos are really beefy and satisfying, even for a carnivore like me and the ginger, garlic, chilis, and soy give it the unmistakeable flavor and balance of a classic Asian dish. It is just so packed with flavor.

And, hello, cauliflower rice. Where have you been all my life? It’s such a funny thing. I did NOT expect to love it so much. I’ve been reading all of these cauliflower recipes, from cauliflower pizza crusts to cauliflower “mashed potatoes,” and as much as I do love cauliflower, I have to admit that some of the recipes made me roll my eyes. But I finally gave this a try to keep within the paleo/vegetarian/low carb theme and I take back my eye rolling. It is surprisingly delicate and satisfying and serves exactly the same purpose as rice: soaking up all the yummy stir fry juices!


I drove a plate over to my mushroom loving friend and her daughters (ages 7 and 6) begged to have it for dinner that night! She texted me a picture of them holding their clean bowls! A vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, low fat/low carb recipe that kids beg to eat? I’m still patting myself on the back. Oh, and I’m pretty sure the stir fry would be vegan-friendly, too, if the honey was swapped for something else… just a thought.

You can check out my BeFunky post here: 5 Pinterest Tips for Food Bloggers Featuring Paleo Stir Fry Recipe! 


Paleo Portobello Stir Fry with Cauliflower Rice

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Portobello Stir Fry with Cauliflower Rice

Serves 2-4
Time: 20 minutes


5 large Portobello mushroom caps, gills removed and sliced
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5 green onions, sliced thinly on a bias
1 or 2 red fresno chili peppers, ribs and seeds removed and finely sliced
3 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (if you are not strict paleo you can use corn starch here)
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
1 head of cauliflower

To prepare rice:

Cut cauliflower into florets, removing any large pieces of stem. Either grate the cauliflower on the large holes of a box grater, or pulse florets in food processor until you have fine, rice sized pieces. You will need to work in two or three batches to ensure you don’t over process the cauliflower. You want it fine, but don’t take it to the point where it becomes wet.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and add the cauliflower. (**The stir-fry I served this with is so flavorful I don’t even bother with seasoning the rice in this recipe, but if you are serving it as a plain side dish add a sprinkle of salt and pepper**)
Cook over medium-low heat stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam off the heat for 5-10 minutes.

To prepare stir fry:

  1. Mix soy sauce, sherry, water, and arrowroot in a bowl or measuring cup and set aside.
  2. Heat two tablespoons coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushroom slices and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until they are soft and golden brown.
  3. Add ginger, garlic, and peppers and cook for about a minute.
  4. Add soy sauce mixture to skillet, stir and cook until sauce becomes thick and glossy.
  5. Stir in green onions and serve over cauliflower rice.

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Sweet and Salty Graham Cracker Toffee

Since this is my second time making these in February (or in two weeks to be more precise), I figured I’d better share the recipe so you can all become addicted, too. I made them first with almonds, and today I made them with pecans. I love them both, but if I had to pick a winner, pecans would take the prize. Either way, they are delicious, and if you don’t like nuts, leave them out altogether.

These really need no introduction. Just look at the pictures, and imagine the taste of salted, caramelized brown sugar with crunchy pecans or almonds and buttery graham crackers.

Yes. You need it. I know.

Sweet and Salty Graham Cracker Toffee


  • About 14 sheets of graham crackers broken along perforations into 4 pieces each
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar, light or dark (I used dark)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds or chopped pecans
  • Sea salt

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a rimmed 1/2 sheet pan (18x13x1) with parchment or a non stick silicon baking mat. Cover baking sheet with Graham crackers. Get as many as you can on the sheet in a single layer, breaking some if necessary.

In a saucepan, heat butter and sugar until melted and bubbly. Add nuts.

Pour sugar mixture as evenly as you can over Graham crackers. Carefully (it’s hot!) spread to distribute nuts.

Place in oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt while still hot.

Let cool for an hour at least, but longer is fine, too. Overnight is even better. (Try to wait that long to eat some. I dare you.)

Break into pieces and enjoy!

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Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili Verde

I get a lot of slow cooker recipe requests, so here is a new one to add to the list!

I had a hard time calling this just “white” chicken chili, because I used my favorite “verde” (green) enchilada sauce ingredients. The “white” in white chicken chili, to me, simply denotes the fact that there are no tomatoes or red chiles, and obviously chicken is whiter than beef. But I use thighs in this which are dark meat. Anyway, technicalities aside, this is so delicious and easy! Thighs can slow cook forever, so this is great to get prepped the night before, stash in the fridge overnight, and pop in the slow cooker before a long, busy day. You can even streamline it if you want and skip the browning of the thighs, but I really think this adds so much flavor and color. This is not a spicy dish either, as I replaced the typical jalapeños with just one large poblano in order to make it family friendly as well as slow cooker friendly. If you want to kick it up, add a jalapeño or two to the veggie mixture.IMG_8810

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili Verde

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (usually one regular-sized pack)
  • 1 lb tomatillos (6-7), husk removed
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 3 16-ounce cans white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • fresh cilantro—one cup for recipe, plus more for serving
  • lime wedges and tortilla chips or strips for serving

To Prepare:

Preheat broiler to high.

Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, poblano in a large, oven proof skillet (I prefer cast iron), drizzle with vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place under broiler until the vegetables are blistered and very dark in spots. Alternatively, you can do this on the stove top over very high heat.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly, carefully peel the skin from the poblano—don’t get too fussy; it’s ok if you don’t get every speck of skin off—and remove and discard the seeds and stem along with the skin. Place the charred vegetables in a blender with a cup of fresh cilantro, one can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans, and one cup of your chicken stock. Blend until smooth and add to slow cooker.

Generously salt and pepper chicken thighs, and in the same pan you charred your vegetables, brown chicken thighs very well on both sides. Transfer thighs to slow cooker. While the pan is still hot, carefully remove excess fat from pan, pour in some chicken stock, and scrape to remove any brown bits of goodness. Add this liquid to slow cooker.

Add cumin, coriander, remaining two cans of beans, one can of hominy, and remaining chicken stock to slow cooker. Give it a stir and turn to low for 6-8 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, taste for salt and add more if desired—this will depend heavily on the saltiness of your chicken stock.

The chicken will be so tender and buttery, you can just shred it gently with tongs or a spoon. I like it a little chunky, but shred it however you prefer.

Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, fresh cilantro leaves, tortilla chips, and hot sauce. Enjoy!

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