Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

Last night I was at Gracias Madre with my beloved KRW. (Fairly standard story for a Monday evening.) Between lunch at Ananda Fuara and dinner at Madre, I was reminded how very lucky I am to live in a city with so many amazing veg- and vegan-friendly grub spots. Madre is warm and wooden and generally full of song and buzz; in the relative quiet we rediscovered plantains and butternut squash and the distinctly sweet pleasure of agave and almond milk in strong coffee -- and, most importantly, the remarkable creation that is the vegan and gluten-free Mocha Cheesecake.

Jesus. Wow.

Cheesecake tended toward the theme of the day. Aaron and Courtney both celebrate birthdays this week, and so their annual Blueberry Cream bundt made its way over yonder yesterday. Pic above left. I love the cheesecake flavor of this particular recipe. You've seen it often before, but never with mums and heather as pictured here. The best part? Coming home to a tub of leftover cream cheese frosting late last night. This is why we bake, friends. Those two words. Leftover frosting.

Tossing up a pic of another recent creation while I'm at it: this little guy was for Michelle's bhakti brunch last week, a Mocha Kahlua beast wrapped in purples and blues -- and vegan and gluten-free, I might add. I always hold my breath a bit when the restricted ingredients challenge a cake recipe, but this one turned out wonderfully, with some excellent fudge-y kahlua frosting to savor at the end of a long day.

Baking much less these days, but when I do, it counts. Grateful for these beloveds in my life for whom a little organic sugar and lot of vanilla extract can offer a little taste of celebration. It's all good, baby.


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