Cooking with SMEA

Social distancing is hard, and it’s sometimes easy to feel isolated. For many of us, we’ve been turning to cooking and baking comfort foods to feel more connected to friends and family, both near and far. This week on Currents, we share with you some recipes from around the world from our students, staff and faculty. Most are vegetarian, some are vegan, and some gluten free. As the quarter proceeds we will continue to post more recipes on our Instagram. Happy cooking!

Honest-to-Goodness the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

Chef: Leah Quinn (w/ help from sous-chef Otis Bell, aged 3)

Sometimes you run out of engaging activities for toddlers whilst quarantining, so you recreate their birthday cake, construction vehicles and all.


2c all purpose flour (or cake flour if you don’t like sifting)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

¾ c cocoa powder

Sift these altogether, or if using cake flour, just stir with a fork.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and then add:

2 c sugar (or a little less, because, wow)

1 c veg or canola oil

1 c hot coffee 

¾ c milk

¾ c sour cream (or silken tofu pureed in blender/processor)

1 tsp vanilla

Beat all for 2-3 minutes. Allow the youngest person in the kitchen to lick the beaters.

Grease and flour/cocoa two 8” cake pans, or one bundt pan. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes (more for bundt cakes); this recipe is very wet, so you have to test for doneness with a toothpick. Let cool completely before attempting to dump out of the pan. My talent ends here, as I can’t make a good frosting to save my life. I buy it. But I’m told a great buttercream tastes heavenly with this recipe.

Veggie Tikka Masala 

Chef: Abby Keller 

My favorite comfort foods are anything soupy or stewy! Here, I made a super creamy vegan tikka masala with lots of veggies and chickpeas. BRB getting my third serving…

Recipe Link: Veggie Tikka Masala

Pastiera Napoletana

Chef: Marlena Skrobe 

I’m Italian-American so for me, springtime means pastiera napoletana (Ricotta Easter Cake). Italians, especially from southern Italy, have many variations of this traditional Easter dessert, but my family has always used this very simple recipe. I have been cooking a lot of Italian food in order to stay connected to both my family in the tri-state area and to Italy.


Heat oven to 300° F. For the dough: Mix 2 cups of flour, ¼ tsp. baking powder, 5 tbsp of butter/shortening, and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, beat 2 egg yolks and 2 tbsp of sugar, and then add to the flour mixture. Add as much cold water as needed, then knead and roll out and line a 9’’ pie dish. For the filling: Mix 1 ½ lb ricotta, ⅔ cups of sugar, 3 egg whites, grated orange rind, and pinch of salt. Pour the ricotta filling into the pie mixture, use leftover dough to create a lattice pattern on top, wet lattice with milk, sprinkle some cinnamon, and then bake for 1 ½ hours.

Choy Faan

Chef: Sallie Lau

I love rice. Choy Faan (Vegetable Rice) is something I’ve been cooking recently whenever I miss home. Serve it with a cup of cold, sweetened soy milk; so cheap and so, so good.


1 cup rice (I like jasmine), 2 tbsp oil, 1 cup bok choy, chopped, Copious amount of salt, 2 eggs, Soy sauce (to taste), Sesame oil (to taste)

  1. Cook the rice with the oil and salt at high heat. Once the water starts boiling, slow down the flame to a simmer and add in the bokchoy. Stir.
  2. In another pan, fry up the two eggs. 
  3. When both the rice and eggs are done, serve them up in a bowl and add soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.

Hawaiian Butter Mochi 

Chef: Karin Otsuka

I remember eating these little rectangular mochi bites when I was little, but only from time to time when we would find some at the grocery store in Honolulu, Hawaii. Since then, I’ve always had a craving for them but could never find it at grocery stores here in Washington or never bothered to look up recipes…until several years ago. My go-to snack to take to events or enjoy at home ever since! 

Recipe Link: Hawaiian Butter Mochi

I typically use brown sugar and cut down the amount to about 1 ½ cups. If you don’t have or want to use evaporated milk, you can also replace it with another can of coconut milk. If you want to experiment with texture, I’ve also made it without eggs and that comes out really gooey and yummy as well!

Berry Custard Tart 

Chef: Sam Klein 

I have always had a sweet tooth which I got from my mom. One of the ways I de-stress is baking desserts for myself and loved ones. We had a bunch of berries in our fridge so I decided to make a fresh fruit tart with rich custard and a butter crust. It kind of fell apart but this isn’t The Great British Bake Off so all that matters is that it tasted amazing!

Recipe Link: Berry Custard Tart

Gluten Free Blackberry Pie

Chef: Brittany Hoedemaker

My grandma taught me to make blackberry pie when I was about 5 years old and I’ve been making it for special occasions ever since. Gluten free baking is tricky, but this recipe from The Loopy Whisk has officially beat out grandma’s recipe (but don’t tell her!). I made this anti-shark-finning pie to celebrate my graduation from SMEA. And, just like I’ve always done with my grandma, I used the leftover dough to make little mini apple pies (no food waste here!).

Recipe Link: Gluten Free Blackberry Pie from The Loopy Whisk   (sub with plant-based butter to make vegan!)

Japanese Curry Rice 

Chef: James Lee

Honestly I just use the recipe on the back of the S&B box and tweak it to my tastes! My family always bought the S&B brand curry paste when I was a kid so it’s nostalgic for me and definitely a comfort food I turn to in times like these. However, I make it with two different kinds of tofu (pressed and fried) and not beef, which is what my parents used to use. I put in more veg than what the recipe calls for since I prefer a high substance-to-sauce ratio and because it helps to cut the saltiness of the curry paste. Brown rice replaces white rice for added nutritional oomph. Oh, and I add fresh chopped ginger and garlic, plus extra turmeric, coriander, and chili powders to amp up the heat (Japanese curry tends to run mild so even their “hot” level feels like a medium to my Korean taste buds). As a bonus, any leftover tofu pieces that don’t get thrown into the pot of curry either gets dropped into a noodle soup or stir-fried along with whatever green vegetable is sitting in the fridge — usually it’s either baby bokchoy or gai lan (i.e. “Chinese broccoli”).

(Photo credit: Bradey Bononcini)

Recipe Link: Japanese Curry Rice (vegan)

Banana oat muffins with oat crumble topping 

Chef: Hanna Miller

Perfect for those bananas you didn’t get around to eating soon enough. Could easily be adapted to be GF and/or vegan. I started baking pretty young and my mom and I would say my bakery was called Hanna’s Bananas after the rhyming nickname every Hanna(h) must endure. Making this was a way to feel lighter and close to my family in California while still sheltering in Seattle.

Recipe Link: Banana oat muffins 

*Bonus recipe*:  Sweet Potato Feta Sandwich

Best sandwich I’ve ever had. Takes a little time to fix up all of the ingredients but is truly a delight and can make multiple sandwiches for the week. It is vegetarian and not once have I wished it had meat.

Dutch Baby Pancake 

Chef: Amy Olsen

If you’re looking for a wow-factor breakfast that is super easy with just a few ingredients, this is it. I usually add delicious toppings like fresh cut berries, honey, maple syrup or molasses. You can also make it savory with herbs, arugula and soft cheeses.

Recipe Link: Dutch Baby Pancake Recipe

Pickled Onions 

Chef: Abby Jahn

Add jalapenos, ginger, and lime to pair with curry or stir fry. Add cumin, jalapenos, carrots, radishes, and substitute apple cider vinegar for a tasty pairing with tacos or nachos. Both are excellent on their own or as a salad topping. I’ve been eating pickled onions for two weeks straight. 

Recipe Link: Pickled Onions

Stay-home” cooking: a vegetarian fusion Sunday lunch

Chef: Nives Dolsak


  1. Adas Polo (Persian lentil rice):
  2. Shimla Paneer (Indian Cheese with peppers)
  3. Borani esfenaj (Persian spinach yoghurt)