Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Happy spring! I received a gift of rhubarb from a coworker last week, and I had been saving this rhubarb upside down cake recipe from Cooking Light, so I decided to modify the recipe to be gluten-free and dairy free. It turned out delicious!

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake



1 lb rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut to 4 inches
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt


7.25 ounces gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 tsp Pamela’s baking binder (this is an alternative to xanthan or guar gum, but you could use those instead too)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup mayo (we use the brand Just Mayo, which is egg free)
2 Tbsp Earth Balance, softened (or other non-dairy butter)
3 eggs
1/2 – 1 tsp lemon juice (or 1 tsp orange zest)
1 tsp or less vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegan sour cream (we used Tofutti)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by coating with canola oil or cooking spray. Combine rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl, toss or mix to coat and set aside.

Combine 1/4 cup Earth Balance, brown sugar, thyme, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and 1/4 tsp salt in a small saucepan and cook over medium, stirring, until butter is melted. Pour mixture into prepared pan evenly.

Mix together flour, binder, baking powder, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 3/4 cup sugar, mayo, and 2 Tbsp Earth Balance. Using a paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until well incorporated and smooth (about 3-4 min). Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in lemon juice (or zest) and vanilla extract until just combined.

Add flour mixture and sour cream to the bowl of the mixer, alternating between, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined after each addition.

Arrange rhubarb pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. This may be more difficult than it first seems, but feel free to cut the rhubarb to a shorter size to make the pieces fit. If you have extra rhubarb, chop it into smaller pieces, mix with a bit more chopped thyme, and save as a topping for the cake.

Pour batter on top of rhubarb, smooth out, and then drop the pan gently a couple times on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean (beware the bubbling over! Place a sheet pan on a lower rack to catch any spills while baking).

Cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the pan edge to loosen cake, then place a serving plate on top of the pan and flip over. Let stand until the cake releases from the pan.

Serve cake with non-dairy yogurt and any extra rhubarb coated in sugar.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Hoppin’ John and Jalapeno Corn Muffins

It’s supposedly good luck to eat hoppin’ john on New Year’s day (in fact, the legend goes for the best luck, you should try to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas for good luck in the new year).  I had never heard of this tradition until last year, and this is the second year in a row that we’ve observed the practice. Hoppin’ john goes well with corn muffins, so I also tried out a jalapeno corn muffin recipe.

I used the hoppin’ john recipe from our latest Cooking Light magazine, with a few modifications:

olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of salt, to taste
3/4 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
1/2 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3/4-1 cup diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup brown rice

Rinse the black-eyed peas, cover with 6 cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour (if you ever need to know how much water and time you need to cook dried grains and beans, this is a helpful chart).

Rinse the brown rice and cover with 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer about 30 minutes (you don’t want the rice to be completely done, as you’ll be adding it to the hoppin’ john to finish cooking).

Heat a large pot over medium high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot, and add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and cooked black-eyed peas, along with the salt, paprika, thyme, black pepper, and ground red pepper and stir well. Drain any extra water off the cooking rice and add the rice to the black-eyed peas mixture and stir well.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the rice is done (up to 10 more minutes or so). Be sure to keep stirring to avoid burning the bottom of the pan, and feel free to add more liquid (water or more diced tomatoes) if needed.

Hoppin' John copyright Sarah Bhimani

I found the recipe for the jalapeno cornbread muffins here.  Overall, the recipe is a good one.  The muffins are best fresh with Earth Balance butter and honey. The ones we saved in the refrigerator got a tiny bit slimy, as gluten-free baked goods tend to do, but when we microwaved them, they still tasted great.  If you don’t like too much spice, omit the second jalapeno and don’t put any jalapeno slices on top.

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

Happy New Year!

Medlar Jelly

I’m always fascinated by fruits and vegetables that are less common nowadays than they used to be, such as quince, persimmons, and medlars.  I recently received a bag of medlars, close to when they are perfect for using – rotten.  Yep, you can’t use medlars until they are overripe, also known as “bletted.”  Medlars that have bletted have an interior that turns buttery and spreadable, much like apple butter, but with a strong yeasty taste.  I’m actually not a fan of the taste or the smell of ready to eat medlars, I discovered, but I found this article with a recipe for medlar jelly, so I figured I’d give it a try.


I separated the medlars I had into two groups – one group that had already been bletted (already soft and squishy to the touch) and one group that needed to blet further.  For the second group, I laid them in a single layer on a plate and set them in our coldest window, as cold (but not refrigerator-cold) helps the ripening process.

Medlars Bletting

I tried my hand at following the above article’s jelly recipe, following all the steps: quartering medlars and boiling along with a chopped apple and lemon, then letting it strain through cheesecloth into a bowl overnight and boiling into jelly the next day.  However, while most of the articles I read said medlars should have just enough pectin to jell naturally (the apple helps increase the pectin), my first batch never jelled.  It did get thicker, to the consistency of syrup, so that’s how we’ll use the first batch – just like we’d use maple syrup.  The syrup is a beautiful rosy color and has a very mild, yet sweet taste (nothing like how raw medlars smell or taste, thankfully!).

Medlar Syrup

A week later, I tried again with the second batch of medlars.  I followed all the same steps, but this time I added Pomona’s Universal Pectin to the mix, following the directions/amounts in the box for quince jelly.  The liquid never really reached a jelling point as far as I could tell, yet once I had ladled it into jars and it was refrigerated, it jelled up.  Not as firm as I would have liked, but definitely jelly-like.  It was interesting to note that the second batch was less vibrant in color and more orangey, but I’m not sure why.

Medlar Jelly

I’m not sure why my medlar jelly wasn’t exactly successful.  Perhaps I needed more medlars in each batch, or perhaps they needed to be bletted further (some of the ones I included weren’t totally bletted all the way through).  Either way, I encourage you to experiment with these fruits and to see what you can come up with!


One good aspect (of many) of working at a food co-op is that I’m surrounded by people who like food and have a great wealth of food recipe suggestions.  I can simply ask my co-workers for dinner suggestions when I’m drawing a blank.  Recently, my co-worker was coordinating a class on how to make Iraqi Biryani and shared the recipe with me.  It was a surprisingly hearty and satisfying meal.  The recipe my co-worker shared with me is here, but I made a few modifications. For some protein, we added ground turkey and instead of vermicelli pasta, we used half a bag of brown rice pasta which we had in our pantry.  I followed the recipe, and then after frying the almonds, raisins, and peas, I cooked the turkey in the already hot pan.  I cooked the brown rice pasta as I normally would (letting sit in hot water) and then added the already cooked pasta to the turkey along with the cooked almonds, raisins, and peas and continued with the recipe from there.  The great thing about this recipe is that it seems fairly flexible to what we may have on hand. We’ll definitely be making this again!