Cooking for Beginners: Quick & Easy Cake Recipes Part III

Wales has been the source of many simple cake recipes and these recipes for chocolate and a miner’s favorite, Tiesen Lap, are no exception. They are produced by rubbing the fat and the flour together (Method 2).

Easy Chocolate Cake (Method 2)

This is a simple traditional Welsh recipe for a classic chocolate cake made with cocoa powder rather than pieces of chocolate.

  • 3½ cups / 1lb / 450g of flour
  • 2 tsp (1/3oz / 10g) of baking soda
  • 1 cup + 1½ tbsp / 9oz / 275ml milk
  • 1 cup / 8oz / 225g caster sugar
  • 8 tbsp / 4oz / 110g lard
  • 3½ tbsp / 2oz / 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (170°C).

Thoroughly sift together the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder, then cut the fat into small cubes and add it to the flour mixture.

Combine the fat and the flour by rubbing them together between your fingers (you can also use two forks or a pastry blender for this but using your finger gives you a greater sense of involvement and greater satisfaction).

Add the sugar and mix well before adding the milk and egg. Combine thoroughly to form a batter then mix in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the batter to a single well-greased 8” (20cm) round cake tin and bake it in the oven for about 90 minutes at 350°F (170°C).

When ready turn the cake out to cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, the cake can be decorated, if desired, with chocolate frosting over the top and sides. The cake can also be split horizontally into layers and sandwiched together again with chocolate frosting.


Butter, margarine or shortening can be substituted for the lard. The above is the original Welsh recipe using inexpensive ingredients at the time.

A similar ‘rubbing in’ technique is used to produce crumble topping for pies and puddings.

Easy Recipes for College Students

Finding inexpensive and easy meals is a big challenge for many college students; fortunately, there are a number of healthy and cheap types of food that any student can easily make. Maintaining a healthy diet in college is one of the best things any student can do for herself, and it can help students avoid the dreaded “freshman fifteen” as well as teaching them how to cook simple meals.

Cooking Tools for College Students

Every student needs a few basic cooking tools to make it through the year. Having cooking supplies on hand will make meal preparation and clean up easier and neater. Every student should have his own frying pan and pots for boiling water, a set of cooking knives, a cutting board, a grater, spatulas and a strainer.

An easy going-away gift for any college student is a cookbook with a gift card to a grocery store inside. That will provide students with a way to experiment with cooking and the money to purchase the food they need for various recipes. Learning to cook is an easy but essential life skill for any student.

Easy Hash Brown Recipe

Cooking hash browns is a great way to serve up a meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hash browns make a healthy and delicious side dish to a larger meal, or they can become a meal themselves. Students can cook hash browns in fifteen to twenty minutes, which means they are a perfect meal to make in the morning before class.


  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon white flour
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Olive oil
  1. Wash, peel and grate the potatoes. Use a grater with large blades to create bigger sections for the hash browns. Squeeze the excess moisture from the potatoes so that they fry evenly. Dice a small amount of onion and garlic, to taste. Mix the egg, potatoes, flour, garlic and onion in a bowl. Add herbs like rosemary or basil for extra flavor.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Once the oil is hot, spoon sections of the potato mixture into the oil. Spread the section out so that it forms a flat pancake shape. Allow it to fry until it turns golden brown and flip it over. Repeat with the other side.

Pan Fried Potato Recipe

Potatoes are an easy food for college students to cook, and they are also inexpensive. For college students on a budget, potatoes and other vegetables are an indispensable addition to any kitchen. Making pan friend potatoes is healthier than eating fast food French fries, and it’s cheaper, too.


  • 2 large potatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Green, red and yellow bell peppers
  • Onion
  • Olive oil
  1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into ¼ inch thick sections. Wash the remaining vegetables and dice them into small sections. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cover it with a lid. Stir occasionally. Allow the vegetables to sit until the potatoes are soft.
  2. Remove the lid from the frying pan and turn up the heat. Fry the vegetables until the potatoes are golden-brown. Add salt and herbs to taste. Serve hot.

Cooking is an easy but important part of any student’s day. Avoiding the expensive and unhealthy fast food present on a college campus can save students a great deal of money and ensure that they eat healthy, balanced meals. Pair simple recipes with other healthy food like salads, soups and spaghetti.

McDonalds and Food Allergies: Check ingredients on-line and again at the restaurant

By writing about McDonald’s Restaurants here, I am not recommending them in particular. However, they have outlets all over the world and sooner or later, many travellers find themselves stopping at McDonald’s even though at home it may not necessarily be their normal preference.

Not all McDonald’s are the same! While the U.S. McDonald’s website is very good at listing McDonald’s ingredients and nutrition information, that information is only good for the U.S. stores. If you are going to be in another country, you need to look at that country’s website, where the information may be different.

In experimenting with the U.S.A. and Canadian McDonald’s websites, using a Big Mac as a test case, it appeared that:

  • there are multiple screens to be worked through to actually find the detailed ingredients lists for the products, but both websites do have them – keep searching for “Details” and be thorough; try using the “Search” function or the site map as well
  • there are little differences in the specific ingredients of some of the parts of a Big Mac, for example:
  • in one place on the Canadian site, the pickles on the Big Mac are shown to contain garlic
  • in another place on the Canadian site, the pickles on the Big Mac do not appear to contain garlic
  • in at least one place on the U.S. site, the pickles on the Big Mac do not have garlic.

Does this matter? Possibly, if you are allergic to garlic. There were other apparently minor differences between the specific Canadian and U.S. ingredients, though not necessarily differences which would matter. For example, the bun (made mainly of wheat flour) also contains wheat starch in one of the Canadian lists, but not the U.S. list. If a person has a wheat allergy, they will probably avoid the bun altogether because of the flour. Whether there is a little added wheat starch probably won’t matter. It’s just an example of a small difference between two countries’ Big Mac ingredients.

More likely to cause concern is the sunflower oil which is listed as an ingredient of the grill seasoning in Canada but not in the U.S. If you are allergic to sunflower oil at all, would you take a chance on eating the U.S. version of the Big Mac? And yet, if you live in the U.S. and never had a reason to check the Canadian McDonald’s website, would you even consider this question?

Using the Search function on McDonald’s USA website, “sunflower” turned up only one result, and that was not for grill seasoning, but for Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait.

The customer has to realize that the lists of ingredients change from time to time. It is not wise to rely on outdated lists. Probably the best approach is to check the on-line list to get an idea of what to expect, but then to check in the restaurant again, before eating.

The bottom line is, don’t assume that things will be the same once you leave home. McDonald’s disclosure looks very comprehensive, so there is a fair bit of preparation you can do in advance, but ingredients lists change with time and from one place to another.

I have written to McDonald’s USA to ask about the sunflower oil in the grill seasoning or in any McDonald’s cooking oil. Please check back to see how they reply.

How to Stock the Pantry With Raw Foods: Eat More Raw Ingredients Daily — Make this Olive Tapenade in Minutes

Stocking a raw food pantry takes some getting used to. Be sure to go slow while adding raw items to a menu each day. Don’t be afraid to try new things. This may be the beginning of changing an entire lifetime of habits that may be threatening your health.

According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw [Alpha Books; 2008], “The attraction to eating raw foods is the weight loss, improved health, and increased energy. Some want to cleanse or heal from any number of modern illnesses. Others simply want to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet.” Your reason to eat more raw foods may boil down to wanting to use what is growing in your vegetable garden.

When stocking up on nuts, make certain they are raw, not roasted. Store them in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to three months or in a freezer for a year. Spices and dried fruits can be kept in a cool, dark cabinet for up to a year and organic coconut oil can last at room temperature for six months.

Raw Food Staples to Stock Up On

While this is not a complete list of raw food staples to store in the pantry, it is a great start in preparing to switch to a raw food diet.

  • agave nectar (a natural sweetener made from the agave plant’s juice)
  • almond milk (can store in pantry prior to opening), almond butter
  • almonds, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts
  • Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds,
  • dried apricots, cherries, Medjool dates, cranberries, raisins, apples
  • cacao nibs (lightly crushed bittersweet cacao beans)
  • carob (tastes similar to cocoa powder, but has no caffeine)
  • cashew butter (can be found at most health food stores)
  • sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive oil,
  • frozen organic raspberries, blueberries, mango
  • raw honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract
  • cinnamon, cayenne, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric,
  • herbal tea

Appliances and Tools to Use in a Raw Kitchen

It’s good to have appliances at the ready for chopping, mincing, blending and grinding. The shortlist includes a blender, food processor, juicer, chef’s knife (7 to 10 inches long with a very sharp edge designed to chop, dice, mince and slice) and a variety of other tools most likely already available in an average kitchen.

Make a Simple Olive Tapenade

(This healthy snack will give you your daily allowance of essential fatty acids.)


  • 2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put olives in blender and chop finely. Add oil slowly while blender is running until a thick paste forms. Serve immediately on crackers.

To purchase raw foods online, check out Raw Revolution. Eating a balanced raw food diet means learning to look at food as nutrition, not just something that tastes good. This is not to say that a raw diet cannot be a delicious way to eat. It is a journey of learning how to treat the body with the blessings of a rich, diverse plant life.

Healthy Eating All Year Long: Seasonal Produce and Other Tips for Fall and Winter Cooking

Eat Your Greens

While it might not be time to start hanging “greens,” this is the time of year to start eating them. Greens (collard, turnip, mustard, and beet greens along with spinach, kale and Swiss chard) are cool season plants (spring and fall). They are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin K, Folic acid, fiber, iron, calcium, and many other nutrients. Try sautéing greens with olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes or toasted sesame seeds as a side dish or add them to soups, salads and sandwiches this fall.

As fall approaches, thoughts turn to the holidays and holiday eating. Now is the time to brush off those portion size rules and healthy eating habits. If you let things slide during the warmer months, get back on track. Starting healthy eating habits now will make it easier when the real tests – all those parties and family meals – come. Use a food diary to keep track of when, what and how much you are eating. Break out the measuring cups to help refocus your portion sizes.

Now that peaches, watermelon, strawberries and other summer fruits are out of season, turn to apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, kiwi, grapefruit, and oranges to satisfy that sweet tooth. Use fall and winter fruits to liven up desserts, salads, grain dishes, breakfast and snack time.

Reduce and Replace

Find ways to lighten your traditional cold weather and holiday comfort foods.

  • Use low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, cream cheese, sour cream, and other dairy ingredients.
  • Reduce sugar by 1/3 in recipes especially those recipes containing fruit.
  • Reduce or substitute a fruit puree for 1/3 of fat in recipes.
  • Use egg substitutes or egg whites instead of whole eggs to cut fat and calories.

One large egg = 49 calories, 3 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat

Equivalent of egg substitute = 28 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated

Equivalent of egg whites = 17 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated

  • Leave out the salt. It is not needed in most recipes. Salt to taste upon serving.
  • Buy low sodium broths or make your own. To make your own, save the liquid used to boil vegetables or meat, freeze it in ice cube trays or freezer bags and use it later for soups and stews.
  • Increase the fruits and vegetables in recipes. Play with fruits and vegetables to add taste and texture to stews, soups, casseroles, and sides instead of ingredients with more fat and calories.

Winter Vegetables

A great winter produce choice is squash. There are a variety of winter squash available – acorn, spaghetti, butternut, pumpkin are just a few. Using winter squash is a low-calorie, low-fat way to add hearty texture and flavor to winter meals. Bake a spaghetti squash (375º for an hour) and top with pesto and pine nuts to create a tasty side dish or roast pumpkin seeds and toss with spices (cinnamon or cumin) to top desserts, salads or add to trail mix.