Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

A Dobos Torte is a six-layer cake with a caramelized layer of cake for the topping. It is quite rich with chocolate buttercream between the thin layers of sponge cake. As you can see, it is beautiful. I had visions of beautiful finishing touches for my cake, but kept it simple on my smaller, six-inch version. The cake was quite time-consuming. I would say from prep to cleanup was a good six hours. I baked the cake layers one day, and finished the next.

The original recipe is heavy on eggs and butter, so for my vegan version I used Bryanna Clark Grogan’s sponge cake recipe, and VCTOTW chocolate buttercream. I normally loath and despise buttercream, but I actually liked my recipe using Smart Balance instead of EB, and my favorite Scharffen Berger cocoa. I also made it mocha flavored by using strong coffee instead of milk. The sponge cake was fun to make since I got to make vegan egg whites. It really worked!

This was the first time I made cake layers without a cake pan. I drew 7-inch circles on parchment paper and spread the batter onto baking sheets.

This is how my kitchen looked when I was making the cake layers.

As I said, I finished up the next day and the cake turned out just lovely.

I took it to my mom’s (I try not to keep such decadent desserts at my house!) and nervously plated a slice.

Rich and delicious. I’m always amazed when I complete a vegan version of these fabulous challenges.

You can read the full recipe here.

If you have several hours to spare, make yourself a vegan or nonvegan Dobos Torte and I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flavor Tripping Contest Winners!

I held an old fashioned drawing. I printed out the numbers, put them in a baggie, and took the baggie of numbers to my office.

I had a friend draw three numbers. She drew these:

I came home and checked the comments. So.... congratulations to Chocolate Covered Katie, Amey of Vegan Eats & Treats, and Ricki of Diet, Desserts & Dogs!

Please email me at atxvegn AT yahoo DOT com and let me know where to send your pair of mberry tablets. Happy Tripping!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recent Good Eats

Today was the 63rd time this year our temperature reached 100 degrees or more, and it was actually a record breaker at 105. 69 days is the alltime record and we should easily match or beat that by the end of the week as there is no relief in sight. Needless to say, I’m still doing more assembling rather than cooking of food.

Last week there was a food bloggers meetup and we got a free burger at Elevation Burger. Their vegan burger is decent.

They are a green company using organic and sustainable products and environmentally friendly equipment. More businesses should follow their approach.

Okay, everything else here is raw. I love yellow zucchini and there has been plenty at the farmers market lately. Here I’ve spiralized a couple of them, added in some carrots, and topped it with guacamole. Yum.

Here is raw broccoli marinated in lemon juice and garlic, and topped with a cheesy sauce made from my new ebook from Kristen. The sauce was super easy and very tasty.

When I get really into raw foods, maybe someday I can make food as beautiful and exquisite as the food my mom and I ate at Austin's new raw foods café, Beets. We ate there last night and I cannot wait to go back. I’m also pleased to say that every seat in their beautiful space was taken, which is pretty awesome for a place that opened a week ago. Every single menu item was so tantalizing, I literally agonized over my selections. The excellent waitress offered to serve us each half portions of our orders so we could share our food without stabbing at it across the table or switching plates. Here’s what we were presented.

Starting from the bottom going clockwise, Caesar salad with eggplant bacon, pizza, cabbage slaw, and an open face burger with lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes, and special sauce. We also had flax chips and guacamole for an appetizer, and my mom had some tangy goji berry lemonade.

It was so good! Dessert? Why, yes, thank you!

We shared Maple Pecan Ice Cream (almost forgot to get a picture!), and I had my own little chocolate truffle in chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was divine, and the waitress told me it was just created that day. Lucky me.

Today I made okra pickles (an Alton Brown recipe) and cooked some fresh field peas.

I also made a raw pie inspired by Shellyfish’s Coconut Cream Pie. I made her pie crust using raw pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts because I’m saving the walnuts for another recipe. It’s really delicious.

I really really wanted to make coconut pie, but I only had ¼ cup coconut in my pantry. I know it’s not a proper substitute, but I used 3 peaches instead. I put it in the freezer to be sure it set up.

So fresh and delicious.

You still have a little time to enter my Flavor Tripping Giveaway. Comments will close tonight and I will post the winner in the next day or two.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Pie

Oh, this was good, good, good! Not perfect, but chocolaty deeelicious.

I have a cookbook titled Retro Pies. It doesn’t have a plentitude of recipes I would like to try to veganize, but this southern Chocolate Peanut Pie definitely got my attention. I will give you the recipe as I made, then tell you how I think it would have been perfect.

Chocolate Peanut Pie

The filling cooks up in layers – kind of gooey on the bottom and almost crispy on top, and the crunchy peanuts rise to the top.


2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened baking chocolate
¼ cup margarine
¼ cup brown or turbinado sugar
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup nondairy milk
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. light corn syrup (karo)
2 t. vanilla
3 EnerG eggs
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Make 3 EnerG eggs and set aside.

Melt chocolate and margarine together in a small saucepan over very low heat. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Combine sugars, milk, syrups, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat with electric beaters or in your electric mixer. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in chocolate mixture until well combined. Stir in peanuts. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

I know it seems really sugary, but even for me it seems perfectly balanced by the salty peanuts. So, my suggestions for improvement:

Can you tell there is no crust on my pie? I made a chocolate cookie crust and it literally melted away! Lesson learned – cookie crusts are for pies that do not require baking. Use a sturdy, i.e., standard pie crust for this recipe.

Did you notice this is a flourless (gluten free) pie? I had to refrigerate my pie to get it to set up completely. I don’t normally attempt to veganize recipes that contain 3 eggs, and this is why. I think a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch or flour (AP or GF) would give this pie the stability it needs. But hey, its still crazy hot here and we did not mind eating a cold pie!

This Chocolate Peanut Pie was for my mom’s birthday party. It was actually for the vegans and all chocolate lovers. After I baked this pie, I made a pie especially for my lemon lovin’ mom. Her birthday pie was a simple but very lemony pie, made with lots of love. It was not vegan because my mom is not vegan, but it could have been by using vegan cream cheese and milk. It turned out perfectly creamy and beautiful and my mom loved it.

I would have posted this nonvegan pie anyway, but I am posting it specially tonight as a show of solidarity for my friend Veggie Girl. I will let her address her issues on her own, but I will take this opportunity now to remind my readers to be compassionate to all beings. Where is it written that vegans should be kinder to animals than they are to humans?

And finally, I have had THREE very nice happenstances recently! Some of my Facebook and Twitter pals know I’ve been sick for the past several days, so fun stuff while I’ve been sick has been really great. (I'm feeling much better this evening.) So, I won TWO blog giveaways!!! First I won a whole box of chocolate Weil bars from Pride & Vejudice, plus Nora threw in 2 extra flavors.

Thank you, Nora! I’ve been enjoying these bars almost every day.
AND I won Kristen’s complete set of Raw ebooks! Yep, all eleven books full of recipes and information I am reading as fast as I can. Thank you again, Kristen!

(Oh, I should remind you now to enter MY giveaway – drawing this Sunday the 23rd.)

The third and most rewarding thing was an email I got. It began, “Hi Diann, I have been an avid reader of your blog for over a year now. I am ready to take the plunge to become a vegan…”

And life is good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge – Rice with Mushrooms, (Not) Cuttlefish, and Artichokes

The August Challenge was hosted by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes . She chose a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment.

The recommended nonfish version was to substitute potatoes. The only problem I had with using potatoes is that they starch-gooed my mushrooms. Lesson learned – don’t cook potatoes and mushrooms together! Otherwise, this is a fantastic, easy, vegan, gluten free recipe.

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4):

4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine
2 Cuttlefish (per Olga’s recommendation, I used 1 pound red potatoes)
“Sofregit” (see recipe below)
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) I could not find either of the Spanish rices, so I used Arborio.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice) I used vegan veggie stock.
Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce)

Here is my mise en place.

1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips. I cubed my potatoes.
2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish (potatoes) in the pan.
3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them. Cut artichokes in eights.
I presumed she meant the hearts only!
4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish (potatoes) and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit. This sofregit is amazingly wonderful delicious and I added about 5 tablespoons!
9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Arborio takes about 17 minutes total.
13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

And after a few minutes I had a beautiful pan of what I called Vegan Paella.

Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)

You really and truly must make this sofregit. You could put it on pasta or baked potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, or use it for bruschetta. I made a half recipe and had plenty left over to serve on the side.

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour
· 2 tablespoons of olive oil
· 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
· 2 small onions, chopped
· 1 green pepper, chopped (optional) I did use this.
· 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
· 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional) I did use these.
· 1 Bay leaf
· Salt
· Touch of ground cumin
· Touch of dried oregano
1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

I threw it all in the pan.

And cooked it down to this – so yummy!

Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste.
Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Prep time: 20 min aprox.
· 4 garlic cloves, peeled
· Pinch of salt
· Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
· Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)
1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José's tips for traditional recipe: It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.

I’m sure you guys know I didn’t spend 20 minutes on a couple of tablespoons of sauce. I tried, and I enjoyed the workout for about 8 minutes. This is very very garlicky. I love garlic, but extra oily sauce is not really my thing.

I served the dish with sauces on the side, and some fresh green beans and a hearty roll. (and also some peppadews, but I forgot to plate them)

Another fun challenge that was easy to veganize and naturally gluten free!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fresh Foods and a Good Burger

We have some rain in the area and the temp has dropped 20 degrees! Although it hasn’t rained at my house yet, I did get to enjoy watching a nice shower from my office downtown. The heat and drought has taken its toll for sure. Here’s a portion of my last CSA box.

Two nice sized melons, and very puny onions, peppers, eggplant, and okra. Pretty slim pickin’s. You may remember that okra (eggplant too) has never been a favorite veggie of mine. I read recently about a cooking method that promised to take away the slime. I started with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, added some thinly sliced onions and okra, and basically cooked the crap out of it. It worked – there was not a bit of okra slime.

However, there was definitely oily slime and that didn’t appeal to me either. I’ve still got a bunch of okra and I’m going to try again with half the amount of oil and see if some broth will work just as well.

I’ve still been eating lots of fresh salads. One I’m particularly fond of is Tomato, Mango, and Avocado, and just a pinch of sea salt.

It’s heavenly, and something I almost always have on hand.

My usual salads are a combination of greens and beans.

There is still a bit of squash and zucchini at the farmers markets, but not near the usual squash overload typical of the summer season. I made the Salsa Verde Yellow Squash from VegTimes, and it was pretty good, with onions, garlic, black beans, and cilantro. It called for tomatillos, but I only had tomatoes.

Most of you know I’m not a fan of packaged foods, but I do buy them for Chase. I found the new Vegan Gardenburgers at Costco and bought him a big ol’ box. My mom even bought herself a box. The picture on the box looked really good.

I saved one for myself to try. I sautéed it and got all my toppings together, then wouldn’t you know I couldn’t find any bread in my house. Except some leftover gluten free cornbread I had frozen. I didn’t actually get to eat a burger, but I built myself quite a monster.

That’s about all the food porn I have for now. Are you watching Top Chef Masters? I’m looking forward to tonight’s episode and Rooting 4 Rick.

PS – Don’t forget to enter my Flavor Tripping Contest!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Flavor Tripping – a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Flavor Tripping Party hosted by The Berry Fairy. I had so much fun that I want to offer you the same experience.

Here’s the scoop (reposted from the Berry Fairy site).

What is a Flavor Tripping Party?

Flavor Tripping parties are the latest craze in NY and SF and offer willy wonka-esque taste-altering experiences for your tastebuds. Party-goers get a fresh miracle berry and then help themselves to a bacchanalian banquet of food and naughty beverages. The miracle berry affects everyone differently and the effects can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours. This is what some flavor-trippers are saying:

- citrus fruits like lemons and limes taste sweet
- oranges and grapefruits tasted dipped in sugar
- goat cheese tastes like frosting
- vinegar is smooth enough to drink
- cheap tequila tastes like top shelf
- bologna sandwiches taste like cheesecake
- stout beers taste like chocolate milkshakes

Miracle berries are only good for 2-3 days after they are picked and so they are very rare, expensive, and hard to obtain.

What is a Miracle Berry?

Miracle berries, also known as miracle fruit or Synsepalum dulcificum are fresh plants indigenous to West Africa. The fruit when consumed have an extraordinary affect on your tastebuds. Scientists say a protein in the fruit works by binding to taste buds and altering the tongue's so-called sweet receptors to activate when sour foods are eaten. The "miracle" is everything sour and bitter will taste sweet temporarily.

Lemons taste like lemonade, Guiness beer tastes like chocolate milk, rhubarb tastes like sugar cane!

Miracle Berry plants can only grow in parts of Africa, Asia, and Florida. They take four years from seed to bear fruit. The berries are also highly perishable and must be eaten within 2-3 days once picked. For diabetics, it could be turned into a sugar-free additive. For cancer patients, it could eliminate the post-chemotherapy metallic taste in their mouths and make food taste more palatable. All of these factors including
recent press by the New York Times make this berry almost a "miracle" to obtain.

The party in Austin was very well attended and everyone had a blast, even though it was held outside and like a bazillion degrees.

So obviously I cannot provide you with a fresh Miracle Berry. However, at the Flavor Tripping Party there was a table set up selling mberry tablets. I bought a packet of 10.

What are mberries? (taken from the mberries site)
Our tablets contain ONLY freeze dried granules of Miracle Berry fruit and cornstarch (to maintain the tablet shape). In this form, the tablets can last over a year with little to no degradation (when not frozen or cooked!) and the price per miracle berry experience is much more affordable than with the fresh berries.

Who uses Miracle Berries?
· Dieters
· Diabetics
· Curious and Adventurous Eaters
· People at Parties!
First, gently rinse your mouth with water be sure you have a clean tongue.
Please Note: Smoking directly before or after, may negatively affect the sensitivity of your tongue.
The effect of Miracle fruit is made possible ONLY by contact with the tongue, not through digestion.
For this reason, tablets must be allowed to dissolve completely on the tongue.
The most pronounced effect can be achieved by coating the entire tongue in a paste of Miracle fruit for up to 30 seconds.
If you wish to end the experience early, simple drink some hot liquid (tea, etc.) and much of the miraculin should quickly wash off your tongue.

About my experience: While I was at the party, someone at my table said, Hey, what if they sweetened everything before we got here? She was really joking. We could tell the food had not been sugared and the taste was not really sugary. It’s difficult to describe, but I’ll try. Lemons and limes retain their flavor but you can actually take a big bite without puckering. Raw rhubarb, sundried tomatoes, and tomatillos were the most delicious flavor experience of the evening. Hot sauce, jalapenos, sriracha, and mustard were very flavorful and not the least bit hot. I heard later some folks overdid tasting the spicy stuff! And foods that are naturally sweet, and even the hummus I tried, well, their flavor is just enhanced. It really was a trip!
Here’s my plate of the vegan offerings provided.

Last night I finally tried the mberry tablet. With my mom! I needed a newbie to validate that the berry tablets really are miraculous. My mom will be 73 on Friday. She was a little nervous about flavor tripping, but what a cool mom, huh? I brought some samples and asked her to prep them for us.

We had not-so-ripe strawberries, lemons, key limes, tomatoes, and tomatillos. We tried lemons first – my mom loves lemons. Her eyes got big and she couldn’t believe what she was tasting – pure lemon flavor without the sour bite. I was so happy that my food at the party hadn’t been spiked with sugar and that the tablets I bought really work! All of our samples were so flavorful. And my mom had fun. I asked her how she was going to describe her flavor trip to her friends and she said she didn’t know if she could. Then we rinsed and ate our dinner. I realized after dinner that I forgot to test dark chocolate!

So are you feeling adventurous? Are you restricting your sugar intake and want a sweet treat without the sucrose? (Ricki?) Do you just want to have a flavor trippin’ good time? If so, leave me a comment. Maybe you could tell me what foods you would like to trip on. In two weeks, I will randomly select THREE commenters and you will win a PAIR of mberry tablets so you can share your flavor trip adventure. Good luck!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Soup Into Salad

I saw a recipe on Johanna’s blog for Mexican Rice Soup and thought it looked so yummy. Without complaining again about the tortuous heat, there was no way I was going to make soup, so I decided to turn it into a salad! I just omitted the broth, and I took some shortcuts by using prepared salsa and frozen corn. The first night I ate it as is.

And the second night I put it atop some greens.

It was just perfect! I thought I was so clever and began looking through Vegan Soups by Nava Atlas for more ideas. Oh, the possibilities! You have your ingredients and spices all worked out for you, so even when it’s not soup weather you can still enjoy Johanna’s and plenty of Nava’s recipes in salad form. And if it IS soup weather where you are, be sure to check out Johanna’s recipe and remember to pull out your copy of Nava’s book of delicious soups.

I have a couple of other bloggers to mention. I made Vegetation’s Chickpea Tofu. I don’t tolerate soy, and I get so envious when I see all the wonderful tofu creations you all get to enjoy. Now chickpea tofu is not as firm as the soy variety, but it is really delicious and quelled my tofu envy both in taste and appearance. It just requires a quick mix, like making polenta. Then you let it set up.

Once set, give it a quick sear in your sauté pan and add it to your veggies.

A long long time ago, Amey sent me several packages of allergen free baking mixes. One morning before the thermometer reached 95 degrees (that would be 10 am, but, again, I’m not complaining) I decided to bake myself some treats and pulled out this mix.

I also decided to experiment again with replacing the margarine with beans. Kinda ironic the package says “bean free.” Anyway, I prefer fatfree, so I mixed up some drained and rinsed white beans and added enough applesauce to replace the ¾ cup oil.

I know some of you are still having a hard time believing bean brownies and cookies don’t taste like beans, but I swear you would never ever know! And see, they turned out perfectly.

Sometimes I don’t eat all my broccoli so I'll have room for cookies.