Tag Archives: summer

“Ode to Oregon” Blackberry and Hazelnut Cake





Andrew and I celebrated our 2 year “Oregoniversary” this week with a night out in downtown Portland dinner at Cafe Yumm and cocktails at The Original. (Psst, for locals and Yumm Sauce addicts- I just made a Yumm Sauce knock off and will share the recipe soon if Andrew approves it! ) We also celebrated with  this decadent tasting cake containing two of Oregon’s most abundant edibles : blackberries and hazelnuts.  I regretted turning on the oven for the rest of the evening, but the cake really was divine…
Our four day road trip from Illinois to Oregon was one of the most exciting adventures I’ve had, despite dreading it initially (I hate driving). It’s amazing to look back and see how much we have accomplished and how much has changed since we made that blind leap of faith. Honestly, I don’t know if I would make such a leap where I am in my life now. But two years ago I was a little younger, a little more desperate, and sporting some rosy, heart shaped lenses that made anything Andrew wanted to do seem like the best choice for me, too. I would have followed him anywhere. Really. I’m lucky he picked Portland 🙂
Anyway… that’s enough nostalgia for now! Wanna know how I made this gluten-free, reduced sugar, little gem?
Even though I used blackberries and hazelnuts, you could make this with lots of other combinations if these aren’t readily available to you. Cherry-Almond? Peach-Almond? Strawberry-Pistachio? The possiblities are endless.

Blackberry-Hazelnut Meringue Cake 

*4 egg whites

*1 cup raw hazelnuts

*1 cup sugar (or use 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup stevia baking mix like I did)

*pinch of salt

*1 cup fresh blackberries

*3/4 cup whipping cream

*1/2 cup greek yogurt


1.) Toast hazelnuts in 350F oven for about 15 minutes, shaking pan every few minutes to ensure even cooking. This will make your house smell amazing by the way! Remove from the oven when fragrant and golden brown, transfer to a dish towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Don’t fuss if there are a few remaining, but do try to get most off. Let cool, then grind to a powder in a food processor or coffee grinder.

2.) Turn oven down to 300F and line to pans of equal size with parchment paper (I did two loaf pans, because that it the only size pan I have two of, but the original recipe used two 9 inch pie tins). Make your meringue by beating the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form (you will probably need an electric beater unless you have crazy strong and fast arms). Beat in two tablespoons of the sugar and then fold the rest of the sugar in, two tablespoons at a time. Fold in the ground hazelnuts.

3.) Divide mixture evenly between prepared pans and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering with foil if it browns too quickly. Let cool completely on wire racks before assembling cake.

4.) Meanwhile you can prepare the whipped filling by beating the whipping cream (again, bust out that electric mixer for this job) until thick and fluffy. Mix in the greek yogurt by hand and add a touch of sweetener if desired (I used stevia). If you don’t have greek yogurt, do NOT use regular yogurt- it will be too runny. You can use all whipping cream (1 1/4 cups) also, I used greek yogurt for the health benefits and slight tang it imparts.

5.) When cake is cool, lay one slice on a large plate and generously frost, then dot with berries. Lay the other half on top and frost and top with more berries. Isn’t it pretty? You can eat it now and it will be delicious, but it will be prettier, tastier, and much easier to cut if you let it sit a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

This cake was amazing, but I think if I made it again I would use hazelnut macaroon cookies for the crust and layer it like a berry-licious tiramisu. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Now I just need another excuse to make a fancy dessert…

Well I’m off to Mt. Hood with a couple of my clients for work now. It’s just a short trip (1 day and one night) and lets hope everything goes smoothly!




Refreshing Hibiscus Lemonade



I must confess, I used to be a water hater. I grew up drinking Kool-Aid and cream soda. I dropped the sugary drinks when I was about 13 and have been a staunch water drinker ever since. But for some reason lately I’ve been really enjoying beverages with a bit more… oomph? I’m not really fond of juice (too viscous and sweet for me… and it has a lot more sugar and a lot less nutritional value than many people are aware of!), but I do enjoy flavored waters, teas, and the occasional coconut water.  During the day, I drink a lot of green tea, but after about 5 pm I generally cut myself off from caffeine. Iced herbal teas are a great tasting and low calorie alternative to juices.

My current obsession? Hibiscus tea! Hibiscus tea is naturally sweet and tart, not to mention it’s natural bright fuchsia coloring makes it lovely to look at. Hibiscus is also rich in vitamin C and a natural coolant for your body. There have even been studies showing that drinking 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day can help lower blood pressure (see a summary of the research from Bastyr University here). I love it when delicious things are good for me!



     Lemonade is a summertime classic, but can often be heavy on the sugar and light on the lemon… not so great for hydration to say the least. My hibiscus lemonade is sweetened with a touch of stevia, a natural and sugar free herb that tastes sweet and makes a great sugar substitute. You could also sweeten with agave and still keep the overall sugar content low because of the natural sweetness of the tea.


Refreshing Hibiscus Lemonade:

*4 hibiscus tea bags such as Stash Raspberry Hibiscus Tea (my favorite)

*8 cups pure water

*1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I used one big, juicy lemon but you may need two if your lemons are smaller)

*scant 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder or 6 NuStevia packets OR about 1/4 cup agave nectar


1.)Brew the 4 tea bags in 8 cups of pure water, transfer to a large pitcher and chill completely.

2.)Add the fresh lemon juice and stevia powder and stir to mix completely. Pour into a chilly glass with ice and enjoy!

This also makes amazing Arnold Palmers! Just mix equal parts iced green or black tea with the hibiscus lemonade. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m willing to bet this would also make a great cocktail mixed with a little gin or vodka.

I was lucky enough to win a NuNatural’s stevia package from a giveaway hosted by Laura and have been loving all the amazing stevia products and enjoying replacing the sugar in many favorite recipes. Stay tuned as I hope to host a giveaway here soon so you can try out these products too!

What are some of your favorite summer beverages? Have you used stevia before?

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your weekend! Take care 🙂

xo/ Nikita