Red Remedies

After the first couple of visits to the doctor, “rest” was all that was prescribed. Much to my drug-desperate pleas, I took her advice with serious action, not venturing out of the house for more than one hour at a time. When I finally felt well enough to move about the house, I took my mother’s prescription for some kitchen remedies, and made myself one large pot of Chicken soup and one pot of red bean soup.

Unlike the dried legumes of the Western World, Red Beans (红豆 or, adzuki beans in Japanese) are more commonly found in desserts than in any savory form. Boiled down and cooked with sugar, red bean is traditionally found in paste-form, stuffed into fluffy white pastry doughs in China or chewy unctuous mochis in Japan. In Taiwan, red beans are often cooked down in soups for an equally homeopathetic and sweet delight.

According to Dr. Mom, red foods such as red beans and dried chinese dates should be eaten to boost a person’s blood. Blood supply? Blood levels? Blood cell count? Who knows, the Chinese just say blood. So when she heard that my white blood cell count came back surprisingly low in my initial blood tests, her first reaction was to order me to make myself a pot of red bean soup. So much for sticking around the house and getting some rest, huh?

This soup might not be for everyone. If you’re like a lot of people I know, the thought of sweet beans might make you gag. Personally though, to me this soup is comforting and appealing. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, depending on the weather outside or your mood, as a snack or a dessert. It’s extremely simply, and can be plain (like the recipe I provided) or spiced up with additional ingredients, like the red chinese dates that I added, too. And according to Mom, it can cure ailments.

Chinese Red Bean Soup


  • 1 cup dried red beans
  • 1 medium piece of rock sugar (or, 1/4 cup brown sugar)
  • water, for soaking and boiling


  1. Soak red beans in water overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.
  2. Add red beans, sugar, and about 4 cups water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low, stir a few times, and cover, letting the soup simmer for 1-2 hours. Add water for a soupier soup, or let it simmer down for less. Taste for sweetness, adding sugar to suit your tastes.
  3. Enjoy hot, or allow to cool and refrigerate for a cold snack.


Guinness Chocolate Cake: A multi-layered indulgence

I love birthday parties.

Not only because it’s a guaranteed fun time, but there’s always a birthday girl or boy who needs a cake.    And, since my pockets are not too deep nowadays (nor have they ever been), the best gift I am able to give usually comes in baked form.

I knew that I wanted to make a chocolate cake…and seeing that I’ve made David Leibovitz’s devil’s food cake about a gajillion times already (and yet still HIGHLY recommend the recipe), I wanted something a little newer and more exciting.  Since I knew that this birthday would be celebrated with a group of booze-loving friends, the next obvious chocolate alternative was a rich, not-too-sweet, decadent chocolate stout cake.  “chocolate” and “stout” just love to be with each other, don’t they?

After pulling up a dozen or so recipes on stout cake, I decided to go with a Nigella Lawson recipe (although, the Smitten Kitchen/BonApp recipes came in a very close second).  I think the Smitten Kitchen’s addition of chocolate chip and coffee really heightens the cake, but since I knew I was going to whip up a cream cheese frosting I wanted the simplest stout base I could find.  Yes, I often spend my Saturday mornings debating these important matters…



Guinness Chocolate Cake

adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson, reprinted in NYTimes and

**I actually doubled this recipe, with the intention to make 2 two-layer cakes.  In the midst of mixing the cake batter I decided I would just make 1 3-layer cake.  So I used up about 2/3 of the batter and now have extra cake batter stored in the freezer, which I am hoping does not somehow ruin the consistency or quality of the mixture.  Because I figure it can’t hurt to have an emergency stockpile of chocolate Guinness batter…

for the cake:


3 9-inch pans, buttered and dusted with flour
1 cup Guinness (or any stout beer)
10 tbsp unsalted butter
3/8 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cups plain whole yogurt
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt


for the icing:


1 cup confectioners sugar 1 pkg (approx 8oz) cream cheese (at room temp.)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. Bailey’s irish cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter over med-low heat until the butter completely melts, stirring occasionally.  Remove from stove, and add cocoa powder and sugar, stirring briskly until fully combined.
  3. In a small bowl or measuring glass, combine yogurt, eggs + egg yolk, and vanilla.  Whisk thoroughly.  Add to the Guinness chocolate mixture.
  4. In another small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, and stir together.  Add this to the Guinness chocolate mixture as well.
  5. Pour or spoon the cake batter into 3 buttered cake pans, distributing evenly.  Bake until the edges are firm and the cake has risen slightly, or about 30-35 minutes.  Remove for oven an cool, inverting the cakes onto a cooling rack after 10 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 ample servings

For the icing:

After the cakes have cooled completely- usually at least half a day, start the icing process.  Dump the cream cheese, sugar, and bailey’s into a medium bowl and using either a firm spatula or even a fork, start to mash and then mix the cream cheese until smooth.  Slowly pour in cream, beating vigorously, until smooth.  Increase sugar or bailey’s to your liking, but be careful not to add too much Bailey’s (not for fear of getting your guests drunk, but rather for making a too-runny icing).

Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up.

When your cakes are leveled and trimmed to the size you like, spoon dollops of the cream cheese icing in between each layer and finally, the top of the cake.  I like how this cake looks with its imperfect, icebox-ish frosting technique.

If this cake isn’t going to be consumed right away, I would suggest putting it back in the fridge to keep the cream cheese frosting intact.

ps- happy birthday Julia and Vickie!!!