Archive for May, 2008

Suppporting Your Local Food Bank

The summer months are a great time for thinking about and eating all those lovely fruits and vegetables that are ripe and in season. But what if you couldn’t afford to buy cherries, peaches or watermelon, let alone milk or peanut butter? What if the rising costs of fuel and food made is so that you could no longer adequately feed your family? This scenario is increasingly becoming a reality for many people in the Bay Area (as well as nationwide), which is why our community food banks are now, more than ever, so important.

I spoke with Suzan Bateson, the Executive Director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, so I could learn more about food banks and hunger in the Bay Area. I focused on Alameda County as it’s where I live, but also because it covers such a large area. Here’s what I learned:

  • 1 in 3 children in Alameda County faces the threat of hunger each day
  • 38% of food bank recipients have at least one working member in their family
  • Calls to the Alameda County Community Food Bank are up 34% from last year
  • The number of people calling in April of 2008 was 1,890, compared to 1,059 in April of 2006
  • The average number of calls has been steadily increasing since last July, with each month establishing a new record
  • Since the beginning of 2008, the Alameda County Community Food Bank has received 1,188 calls from people who have never called before

Read more on Bay Area Bites…


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Yummy Strawberry Ice Cream

In the mood for some strawberry ice cream? How about homemade ice cream made with organic berries? Then have a look at my most recent Bay Area Bites article and relax with a cone (preferably under a palm tree in the shade with someone who is nice to look at fanning you) on this hot hot day.

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Chocolate Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Last Thursday was my birthday (and I’m not saying which one!). I am a big lover of homemade birthday cakes, and since it was my big day, I knew I wanted a home-baked rich chocolate cake. Although my husband gallantly offered to make it, I knew he was busy going to the grocery store for my big dinner and then cooking, so I decided it would be fun to make the cake with my daughters.

But which chocolate cake recipe should I use? One with melted bittersweet chocolate or cocoa? A flourless cake or a traditional one? Should it be topped with fruit, a ganache, whipped cream, or frosting?

And then I remembered an episode of the Barefoot Contessa (aka Ina Garten) I saw a few months ago when my mother was visiting. I recalled that the cake she made looked rich and moist, and that she used some freshly brewed coffee. I easily found her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe at the Food Network site and after giving it a quick look, decided I had all the ingredients on hand and then called in my daughters to help. We made the cake and I have to say it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. Although the batter looks incredibly soupy (which worried me a bit), in the end, the coffee accented the chocolate flavor nicely and gave the cake a velvety richness it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I decided at this point to skip the chocolate frosting Ms. Garten pairs with her cake as I find the chocolate on chocolate combo can be a bit overwhelming. I also think that pairing chocolate cake with a vanilla frosting simply makes the cake taste richer and more chocolaty. After a little consultation with my husband, I decided to use the frosting I usually make with my carrot cake. It’s a simple cream cheese and vanilla frosting that takes about three minutes to make and is delicious. It also has the added bonus of having a thick but not stiff texture, so it frosts cleanly.

After topping the cake with our standard cream cheese frosting (recipe below) we were ready to dig in. Happy Birthday to me!


8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1 box of powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Just combine these together with a mixer until smooth.

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