How do I begin to introduce my long time friend and colleague, the one and only Veggie Queen? Jill Nussinow and I have shared many adventures together, always as roommates, from IACP to Rancho La Puerta, where I told her there was no way I’d get up for a 6:00 am hike. With Jill’s encouragement, not only did I hike, but I did it a second time. We’ve stayed in each others homes, she on the sofa in my small apartment and me in a tent in her yard – sort of. Jill fermented vegetables in my kitchen, and taught me how to use the Instant Pot that was sitting on a bottom shelf in my kitchen. She said, “Fran, first you have to unpack it.” In fact, she has a video that says just that in this video. So here is my friend Jill, the woman who goes to Mushroom Camp every summer, with a dessert for us. I’m pleased the the always busy Jill Nussinow agreed to be this blog’s Fabulous Women in Food, March 2017. She’s got a recipe and a book to giveaway, so read through to the end and enter. For a self-proclaimed non-baker, Jill’s Pear Almond Upside Down Cake looks good!
When it comes to baking, I cannot even begin to compete with what Fran does. However, because I don’t have formal pastry training, I am not afraid to experiment so I do.
Since I spend a lot of time pressure cooking, having now written two pressure cooking cookbooks: The New Fast Food and Vegan Under Pressure, I wanted to include some “special” pressure cooked desserts in my latest book. The Pear Almond Upside Down Cake is moist and tasty and easy to make. I use gluten-free ingredients because that way it’s much more difficult for readers to over stir the batter and have a tough cake. It also means that I am able to eat the cake, if I desire, as I eat gluten-free. As a side note, people have made it with all-purpose flour and it turns out just fine.
I discovered that people love desserts and want them even when they want to eat healthy food. I consider dessert a special occasion treat, perhaps because I am a Registered Dietitian or maybe because I did not grow up eating dessert nightly or even once a week We had cake or pie only occasionally and I did not feel deprived, although when I was young my mother would take me to the bakery on our special alone time days. I always looked forward to that. I preferred cake to pie but if I had pie, it was the filling that I wanted, not the crust. Perhaps that is strange but fruit or fruit-based desserts are my go-to.
Pressure cooking a cake results in moist cake. This one is not only easy to make but tastes and looks great. I wanted it on the cover of Vegan Under Pressure but my editor said no since it is mostly a savory book (I am glad that he said no since I was able to get Sassy Sesame Tofu on the cover and that felt like a coup to me).
One of my recipe testers suggested substituting cranberries for pears as the topping which works well when cranberries are in season. Subbing apples for pears works, too, as some readers have done it. Peaches or nectarines (that aren’t too juicy) might also work but I haven’t tested them. If you are an adventurous baker, try it.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker in which to “bake” this cake, you can see how it turns out in the oven but I have not done so. When it comes to baking, and cooking, I follow my motto which is “I will try anything once (within reason).” Renegade baker? Perhaps… but sometimes it results in a sweet ending.
Pear Almond Upside Down Cake
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar, brown sugar, or Sucanat
- 1 large firm ripe pear, cut into thin slices
- ¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- ¼ cup granulated organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 cup vanilla almond or other nondairy milk, if you don’t have vanilla flavored, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons golden flax seeds, ground in a spice grinder or blender
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Spray a 1½- to 2-quart glass dish or other vessel that fits into your pressure cooker with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the coconut sugar and shake the dish to coat evenly. Arrange the pear slices in the dish in a swirl pattern from the inside out. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top of the pear.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour mix, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, arrowroot, and salt and mix well. Add the lemon zest to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, flax, and lemon juice. Let stand for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
- Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture by quickly folding it in. The batter will seem a bit sticky, and that’s OK. Pour the batter over the pears and almonds. Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil.
- Put 1 cup water into your pressure cooker. Add a trivet or rack to elevate the dish above the water (see page 14). Create a set of helper handles or use a silicone sling and set them on the trivet. Add the covered baking dish.
- Lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure; cook for 22 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. Carefully open the cooker, tilting the lid away from you. Carefully remove the baking dish, using the helper handle, and uncover.
- Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then put a plate over the baking dish. Invert and turn out the cake. Let cool and serve.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake: Mix ½ teaspoon allspice into the coconut sugar for the bottom of the dish. Use 1 cup fresh cranberries instead of the pear. Use the nut of your choice. Proceed with the recipe.
Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen™ is a Registered Dietitian who has been teaching plant-based, whole foods cooking for more than 25 years at Santa Rosa Junior College and elsewhere throughout the US and beyond. She is the author of four cookbooks: Vegan Under Pressure, The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes, Nutrition CHAMPS: The Veggie Queen’s Guide to Eating and Cooking for Optimum Health, Happiness, Energy and Vitality and The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, and, and stars in the DVDs: Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minute and Creative Lowfat Vegan Cuisine.
You will find Jill frequenting local farmers markets in Sonoma County. She also loves mushroom hunting and teaching fermentation classes. She speaks and does cooking demonstrations at vegetarian festivals throughout the U.S., and at the McDougall program in Santa Rosa and elsewhere.
Jill’s goal is to see everyone leading a healthy, happy life through better eating and cooking. She loves to share the passion and joy of great food. She has been successfully teaching pressure cooking for more than 20 years. She is an Instant Pot, and other pressure cooker, expert.
Jill has a copy of Vegan Under Pressure and 3 silicone sling bands for one lucky winner this week. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on March 28th. Good luck!