Beautiful Holiday Desserts

Enjoy these beautiful and delicious desserts this Thanksgiving


Pear Upside-Down Cake



  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 medium pears (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Whipped cream or caramel gelato (optional)


View Step-by-Step Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
  • Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel, flat side down, overlapping as needed.
  • Mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 8 tablespoon butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occassionally scraping bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites; gently fold just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth top.
  • Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few small moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of pan to release cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
  • Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or caramel gelato, if desired.


Cranberry Spice Cake with Citrus-Cranberry Compote











  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup apple cider


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Citrus-Cranberry Compote (click for recipe)


View Step-by-Step Directions


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Coat bottom and sides of cake pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom with parchment paper; coat paper with spray. Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Pulse cranberries in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed; set aside.
  • Stir sugar, brown sugar, and oil in another medium bowl to blend. Add eggs one at a time, stirring to blend between additions. Whisk in sour cream, orange zest, lemon zest, and vanilla.
  • Whisk in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with cider in 2 additions and whisking to blend. Fold in chopped cranberries. Scrape butter into prepared pan; smooth top.
  • Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out almost clean, 1 hour–1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside of pan to release cake; turn out cake onto rack. Peel off parchment paper, then flip cake and let cool for 20 minutes.


  • Whisk powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Spread glaze over warm cake, allowing to drip down sides. Let stand until glaze becomes crackly, about 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
  • Serve cake with Citrus Cranberry Compote.











AVC Repost: “AVC Bakes: Rustic Plum Tart”

Our sister company’s latest blog post is out today! Check out this beautiful rustic plum tart.

Rustic Plum Tart2

Here is the link to the blog for the recipe!

Tastes of Summer

Well, technically it’s not summer yet. Luckily for us Texans we are already seeing beautiful summer produce popping up! One of the most efficient ways to eat well and stay within your budget is to eat seasonally. Now a days you can find these summer favorites year round, but trust me, they taste SO much better in the summer!

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 5.18.18 PM


Strawberries are so versatile. You’ve tried the pie, dipped them in chocolate, and pop them in as a snack, but have you tried them like this?

  • Strawberry and Walnut Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinegarette
  • Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Cilantro, Lime and Serrano
  • Strawberry, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Open Faced Sandwiches


Ripe and juicy tomatoes are the ultimate sign of summer. Just make sure you don’t refrigerate them. Refrigerating them can cause the tomato to stop the ripening process, leaving your tomato soft and mealy. Here are some great ideas that enhance the tomato instead of masking its sweet and hearty flavors.

  • Southern Tomato Pie with Ricotta and Parmesan Topping
  • Baked Egg Stuffed Tomatoes with Basil
  • Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta and Kalamata Olives

Summer Squash

Summer Squash is so versatile, comes in many beautiful colors and shapes. Unlike Winter squash the rind is edible so you can reap all of its nutritional benefits! Also, since they are significantly lighter you can really stock up at the grocery store or farmer’s market for less. Try some of these great ideas next time they go on sale.

  • Grilled Summer Squash with Herbed Butter
  • Cold Yellow Summer Squash Soup
  • Zucchini and Potato Quiche

I hope you are as excited for summer as I am. Now, its time to go to your farmer’s market or local grocery store, get cooking and your taste buds begging for more!

Reimagining Breakfast

We all know breakfast’s renown as the most important meal of the day, but as of late it’s come to light that loading up on pancakes, fruit, breakfast cereal, toast and granola may not be such a smart idea.   Every whole food philosophy, from Macrobiotics to Paleo, recommends we replace sugar and refined carbohydrates in our diet with more nutritious dishes rich in protein, vegetables, good quality fats, and whole grains.  It’s a sacrifice made worth it for better health and well-being, but it also challenges our perception of what a meal consists of, especially breakfast.  With that in mind, here’s a breakfast idea that is quick and satisfying- Veggie Hash.  This dish can be made ahead in bulk, and then re-warmed each morning in a skillet.
Veggie Breakfast Hash
1 onion
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 turnip or rutabaga
or a combo of vegetables of your choice, ex- sunchoke, beets, winter squash, parsnip
your favorite high heat cooking oil (I like bacon grease or ghee, but sunflower or coconut oil is great too)
salt & pepper

Start by preheating your oven to 400 and pulling out a large cutting board, a sharp chopping knife, a large bowl, two baking sheets or pyrexes, and a vegetable peeler.

Wash all your veggies and peel the ones you desire to be peeled.  In some cases I’ll wash and scrub certain veggies really well rather than peel them, for that extra fiber, but go with whatever you prefer!

Settle in to your cutting board and begin dicing all your vegetables.  Try to chop them to more or less uniform sized pieces so that they will cook at the same rate.  Remember that the smaller the pieces the faster they will cook.  Throw your chopped veggies in the large bowl.

Toss the chopped veggies with the oil, salt and pepper, and spread evenly on the baking pans, not too deep.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender and slightly browned.

These are especially good reheated in a skillet in the morning and topped with a fried egg and some saurkraut, or mixed with sausage, ground turkey, or bacon, yum!

Lasagna Time!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Lasagna with Marinara, Italian Sausage & Basil Pesto
AKA Pesto Lasagna


Lasagna of all kinds are great for potlucks or to feed a crowd.  You don’t have to tell your friends and family that this one is gluten-free and dairy-free, and because this lasagna has so much flavor, odds are they won’t notice anything is missing.  Since lasagna is a pretty forgiving medium, please feel free to experiment with adding cheese and/or substituting mushrooms for Italian sausage, or adding extra vegetables like eggplant & zucchini.  There’s so many possibilities!
Directions are for a 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

1. Noodles!
1 box of GF lasagna noodles
Big pot of water
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil, (spray kind is super handy but not necessary)

First, bring a big stockpot of water to a boil, then add salt, and follow the directions for cooking your lasagna noodles.  I recommend Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles, which I like to cook for 11 minutes instead of the listed 13 minutes so that they are less likely to break apart.  If you’re trying to guess how many to cook, try laying them out dry in the baking pan so you can visualize how many noodles it will take to make 3 layers, then cook 1 or 2 extra just in case.

Once they’re done cooking, drain and rinse them with cold water until they’re cooled, then spread them on a piece of wax paper until you’re ready to build your lasagna.  If you need to stack the noodles, dab or spray them with oil to keep them from sticking to each other.

2. Meat Sauce!
1/4c extra virgin olive oil, (first cold-pressed is ideal)
2 cans Organic Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
4-5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
6 fresh basil leaves
1 lb mild Italian sausage (bulk as opposed to link)
1T fish sauce
1-2T red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
black pepper, to taste
sea salt, to taste
brown sugar or agave nectar, to taste (start small)
a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar (optional)

Begin with a large pot.   Try to avoid non-stick, stainless steel or enamel coated cast iron is ideal.  Warm pot over medium heat, then add the olive oil.  Toss in the garlic and 3 of your basil leaves and pause for a moment until the garlic is fragrant, then add the sausage with the fish sauce, stirring occasionally so that it’s thoroughly browned and crumbled

Pour in the wine and your chili flakes, if you’re using them. Allow the wine to de-glaze the pan for a minute while stirring, then pour in the crushed tomatoes.   Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for 15-20 minutes, then add sugar, salt, balsamic vinegar & pepper to taste.  Simmer for at least 5 more minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

3. Pesto!
2c basil leaves
1/4-1/3c pine nuts or pecans (or a mix)
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic
juice of 1 small lemon or 1/2 a large lemon (or less, I like it more lemony than some)
sea salt to taste

Toss everything in a food processor and blend, adding a drizzle more of olive oil if need be.  Taste and add salt, more oil or nuts or lemon as you desire.

4. Build!
2 1/2c chopped fresh spinach
basil pesto
meat sauce
lasagna noodles
aluminum foil
preheat oven to 350

Grab your 13x9x2 inch baking dish and huddle the sauce, noodles, spinach, and pesto within reach.  Start by ladling about a 1/3 of the sauce into the pan, then create a layer of noodles (you’ll probably need to trim them or cut them in half with a knife so that they fit).  Now spread 1/3 the pesto onto the noodles, then 1/3 sauce, then cover with half the spinach, then another layer of noodles.  Then, 1/3 pesto & and rest of the spinach, and another layer of noodles.  Top it off with the remaining pesto and sauce and you’re ready to bake!

Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Once you pull it out of the oven, let sit about 15 before serving.  Enjoy!

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