Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring Baker’s Challenge – French Yule Log

This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

What a fun fun fun and chocolaty delicious challenge this month! It’s a good thing I had plenty of time away from the office to work on this Yule Log. Although it wasn’t terribly difficult, it took quite a bit of time to make all six elements (cake, mousse, crisp, ganache, crème brulee, and frosting), plan their vegan preparation, and manage my time to make sure it would all come together and be ready to serve on Christmas Day. Believe it or not, my main concern was that it would be chocolate overload!

The most important element of the Yule Log was the mousse filling. VCTOTW Chocolate Mousse Frosting with a couple of tablespoons of Kahlua added in was incredibly delicious. VCTOTW also provided my ganache. Crème brulee was replaced with JOVB pastry crème. I got to use one of my favorite ingredients, rice krispies, to make a white chocolate crisp.

The cake was more of a challenge. The recipe provided was a meringue almond cake, which I presume was crispy, but not really a vegan option (3 egg whites). I thought about a graham cracker layer, but wasn’t sure I could make it almond flavored. I finally decided on the best almond cake recipe I had, the one from My Sweet Vegan. Not a meringue cake, but a delicious almond cake!

The frosting was the only other element I struggled with, because it was made with gelatin or agar agar. I hate stuff made with agar agar and I wasn’t about to ruin all my hard work and 5 other tasty components with rubbery frosting. So I made a vegan version of the given recipe sans agar agar. It wasn’t the smooth mirror-like finish it was supposed to be, but it tasted fantastic.

To make the log, I began layering my components in a loaf pan in reverse order: Mousse, crème brulee, more mousse, crisp, more mousse. This went into the freezer several hours. Then ganache (a very thin layer for me!) and cake, and back into the freezer overnight.

Time to unmold!

Now time to frost. Although I knew I was putting frosting on something frozen, I wasn’t prepared for my frosting to freeze as I was pouring and spreading it! Oh, well. So it’s not so smooth. Add a few candy canes and it’s a chocolaty Buche de Noel.

I had to take it to my mom’s for Christmas dinner, but it traveled just fine. When the entrees and sides were eaten and the dishes cleared, I presented our dessert.

I couldn’t wait to slice into it and see if my layers were even.

I’m not sure what happened to the crisp layer. Maybe it broke apart when I cut into it. And my crème brulee looks like it should have been reduced by a third. But just you and I know it’s not perfect. The eaters only knew they were enjoying a heavenly concoction – rich yet light, smooth and chocolaty, and balanced with layers of complementary flavors and textures.

Would I make this Yule Log again? It was awfully time-consuming and rather expensive, but oh so delicious. You betcha!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Little Christmas

Hi, everybody! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. I celebrated the best I could yesterday, with just my mom and my brother. Chase went out of town and of course I lost my dad earlier this year. So the three of us enjoyed each other’s company and plenty of good food.

I was grateful to finally be able to use my kitchen whenever I wanted. I didn’t go too crazy this year, but here are some pictures of most of what I made for us to have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

First, some test recipes from Urban Vegan’s cookbook, all delicious of course.

Lentils with Radicchio and Onions

Porcini Quinoa with Cauliflower and Toasted Pecans

Cranberry Upside Down Cake (yum yum yum yum!!)

Also, some of my favorites - good ol’ Chili Mac

Celine’s Pumpkin Whole Wheat Bread


I bought some RAZZCHERRIES out of the bulk bin to put in my granola gifts, but they were so amazingly delicious I ate them all myself! I don’t know exactly what they are, but if you see them, buy them!

Christmas Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

Isa’s newest recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies - these were gone in a hurry!

Big Fat Sugar Cookies

I also made some GF Polenta Cookies that I didn’t get a picture of, but they are outstanding. Please visit Rachel at The Friendly Kitchen to see her picture and recipe, and check out all her other great looking recipes.

Here’s our pretty table (before the meat).

My brother gave me three new cookbooks I asked for – yay!

I don’t think they are going to fit in my cookbook case, but I’m not complaining.

That’s it for holiday cooking. And frankly, I’m ready to take a holiday from eating. I’m so glad to be UNbusy so I can see what you all have been cooking because even though I’m too stuffed to eat, it’s still fun to look!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Christmas Miracle

It was supposed to take 3 days. It turned into 3 weeks. Now, finally....

.... baking may commence!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Full of Beans!

One day when Chase was about 7 years old, I went to pick him up from afterschool care and his teacher stopped me and said, “Well, Chase was sure full of beans today!” I had no idea what that meant, but was certain it was something gross and obnoxious, so I said, “I’m so sorry.” I later learned that it just meant he was acting silly – whew! Our Sunday night dinner was not silly, but it was literally full of beans.

I actually made two very filling entrees. The days are so hectic lately and I wanted to have leftovers for me and plenty for Chase to take home too. I also got to test some more yummy Urban Vegan recipes. I still don’t have kitchen lighting, so once again I made most of this dinner during daylight and reheated it just before serving.

One entrée was Curry Cashew Casserole, another fabulous UrbanVegan test recipe.

As you can see, it has broccoli and chickpeas, two of our favorite ingredients, in a cashew sauce. Due to tester protocol, I can only say mmmmmmmmmmmmm! I served it over baked brown rice. I have this one bag of rice I’m using up that will only cook properly if it’s baked - I have no idea why.

The second entrée was lasagna! I made Black and White Bean Lasagna in a giant to go container for Chase to take home.

It is full of wheat and soy so I didn’t taste it after it was baked, but I did taste the sauce and the cheese mixture while preparing it and they were good. And Chase loved it. It has just a bit of cilantro in it, but otherwise it’s just like regular Italian lasagna. I made the sauce with mashed white beans, whole black beans, and tomato sauce, and onions and peppers and garlic, the usual tomato sauce ingredients. Then I made a cheese layer with tofu ricotta, tofutti cream cheese, a little tofutti sour cream, and some nooch and other seasonings. I added in a layer of fresh spinach too. I have a recipe if anyone wants it. I couldn’t tell which of the entrees Chase liked best. It was probably a tie.

I had a recipe for Black Bean, Corn, and Cranberry Relish I had saved from a 1998 Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cooking magazine. It looked so pretty in the magazine I couldn’t wait to make it.

It’s good, but I would like to tweak with the seasonings a little to get it perfect.

I also made up some broccoli slaw. I thought it would be nice to have one food fresh from the oven for dinner, so I decided to make some phyllo wraps with the slaw. I hadn’t worked with phyllo in a while. I should have moved the wraps to the plate with a spatula and not my hands.

I may have missed out on the lasagna, but I got plenty to eat. I got the leftover broccoli slaw.

And I had room for dessert! This is a piece of Urban Vegan’s Choco Coco Oat Bars – chocolate, coconut, oats – what’s not to love?!!

I have a very busy week at work and then I’m off until December 31 – yahoo! I know many of you will be taking finals this week, as will Chase, so study hard, do well, and then look forward to a well deserved break. Everyone else – stay warm!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I CAN Make Breakfast!

Most of you know I am not a breakfast eater. Never have been. Chase loves breakfast, so every now and then I like to make him breakfast for dinner, which is what I served for our most recent Sunday dinner. On the menu was Tofu Migas (a scramble with onions, peppers, salsa, and tortillas strips), Crispy Roasted Potatoes, Julie’s Steamed Sausages, Homemade Pinto Beans, and Cinnamon Pancakes. Sorry I only have a few blurry pictures in poor lighting. Here’s Chase’s plate of migas, sausage, potatoes, and beans, which he enjoyed very much.

I actually made the pancakes ahead of time and then warmed them in the micro before serving. I recently acquired two of my mom’s 30 year old griddles. They are about 10 inches wide and 30 inches long! I tested one, which seems to cook a little uneven, but made great pancakes 6 at a time.

We really enjoyed the maple syrup, bluebarb jam, and habanero sauce from Bex with this meal.

On the homefront:
* I had to go to the doctor to get antibiotics to shake the flu, which seems to have settled in my ears, making me extremely miserable.
* Half of the parts for my kitchen lighting have come in.
* Yesterday it was a record setting 81 degrees in the afternoon. I went to a Christmas party after work and it was much cooler by then. When I left the party it was very windy and had started raining. On the drive home it began to sleet, and while I was asleep it snowed! Good ol’ Texas weather.
* Today I had lunch with friends at a great new café with many vegan options. It’s Eat Local Week here, but this café always serves fresh local food. It was outstanding as were the prices and quick service. I had today’s specials, chickpea cholent and collards with maple syrup, both delish. We shared some mushroom dumplings and panko crusted fried green beans for appetizer, also yum. Another luncher had mushroom fritter tacos which looked amazing and some slaw she let me taste which was also great. So, if you’re near Austin I highly recommend Somnio’s Café on South First.

I may try making some flatbreads on the other griddle. I think Jessy has some good recipes. Anybody else have a recommendation?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thank you, thank you!

Sorry for my recent absence, everyone. I've been super busy and away from the computer, and I've still been under the weather, still without kitchen lighting, and still cranky. I do have a minute before Sunday dinner for a couple of overdue thank you's.

First, thank you to Vegan View for bestowing me with this award.

I'm always grateful for kind comments about my blog.

And to Bex, my package swap partner, for the amazing array of local Vermont products I received from her.

I have Apple Roasted Shallot Dressing, rock candy, maple candy, Liz Lovely gluten free ginger molasses cookies which are about the best cookie I've ever had, maple cotton candy, Bluebarb Jam, Habanero pepper sauce, a chocolate pb bar, and real maple syrup. Thank you so much, Bex!
We're having breakfast for dinner tonight so we'll be able to have plenty of maple syrup and taste some of the other products too.
Thanks again, ladies, and I hope to visit everyone's blog soon.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Test-y Sunday Dinner and Great Cake!

I wasn’t feeling quite 100 percent Sunday, so I relied on Urban Vegan’s test recipes for our dinner. (Thanks for all of your get-well wishes!) And of course there is still this:

What should be 3 feet of lighting on my kitchen ceiling. Someday…..

The testers arrived, quite serious and hungry.

We had:

The most fabulous Hearty Adzuki Bean Soup

Mini Rice Croquettes with a super delicious Wasabi Miso Dipping Sauce

A refreshing Jicama Salad

And fantastic Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

Here is our table full of yummies. I found it interesting to see the soup bowls with varying degrees of DIY garnish.

I made myself a nice plate to go with my soup.

I sometimes wish I had the time to write a cookbook, but it’s much more fun to test and eat and let someone else do all the work. We will all certainly enjoy The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes when it’s released!

Now for cake! I must have been out of my mind sick to have waited an entire day to cut into the Daring Bakers Caramel Cake. It is totally delicious and so moist. The crumb is tight, yet the texture is light. And we all really really liked the frosting, which we don’t normally like, and even dipped into the frosting shot I made! Look how lovely.

That’s it for Sunday dinner. See you again soon.