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.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge – Caramel Cake

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. The recipe is from Shuna Fish Lydon as published on Bay Area Bites.

The rules for this challenge were simple – make the cake and the frosting. I am STILL further challenged by a kitchen with no lighting. My electrician did finally show up and we resolved issues in 4 of the 5 rooms, and parts for the kitchen fixture are on order, so you won’t have to hear me complain for much longer. And I have been further FURTHER challenged by having the flu or whatever you call it when you have 102 fever and ache so bad you can’t get out of bed. I only had energy to make one component at a time, starting on Wednesday, and I just now completed the cake.

I began by making the caramel syrup, the key ingredient in both the cake and frosting, and the hardest part of the challenge for me. It took me a couple of tries to get it the right consistency.

Here’s what you start with:

Here’s what I ended up with the first time:

Oops, obviously not syrup! Here’s the second try:

This syrup hardened too and I had to cheat and add milk to it to make it pourable. I also added in vanilla extract because it tasted bad as just sugar and water.

The cake recipe was easily made vegan. I used EnerG egg replacer and almond milk to substitute the eggs and milk. I figured many bakers would opt to make cupcakes with their batter instead of the 9-inch round, so I chose to make two 6-inch round layers. Interestingly, the recipe stated to place the pan on a baking sheet, so that’s what I did.

You can tell by the way the edges baked that my pans were a little small. Why don’t two 6-inch pans substitute for one 9-inch pan? Oh, well, nothing a little frosting won’t hide.

The frosting was also easily made vegan. I made a half recipe because I don’t like my sweets too sweet. Earth Balance browned just fine, and I used coconut milk for cream. Ready to make frosting – syrup, browned EB, and coconut milk:

I haven’t tasted the cake yet, but here’s what will be served after Sunday dinner. I thought some toasted pecans would help balance out the sweetness. And a frosting shot is available if anyone wants more frosting. This cake is nearly as tall as it is wide!

I’ll take a shot of a slice tomorrow and then let you know how it tastes.

Thanks to this month’s host, Dolores, and co-hosts, Alex, Jenny, and Natalie. Another fun challenge!
Time for more Tylenol and another nap.....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Vegan Thanksgiving 2008

Heads up, I’m still in a bad mood. This post is rather long, so feel free to scroll down for the recipes. Otherwise, thanks for listening.

Last year’s Vegan Thanksgiving was quite a feast. This year, as you’ve heard me complain, I have no lights in my kitchen except the stove. I have electricity, just no lights. I also have lights but no electricity in BOTH of my bathrooms and there are other rooms with issues too. I have been waiting on an electrician friend for a reduced rate for services, but I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from the Whole Foods Culinary Center saying they thought I might be interested an upcoming class - a veggie Indian Thanksgiving cooking class. After looking at the menu, I signed up, thinking I wouldn’t have to give my dinner another thought. I went to the class last Thursday and the food was amazing. It wasn’t all vegan, but easily veganizable AND I wouldn’t need to shop but for a few budget friendly ingredients. The recipe I was most interested in, the entree, was Whole Cauliflower Baked in Puff Pastry with Curry Sauce Gravy. Yep, I paid the price of admission just to get that recipe! But I got my money’s worth. Also on the menu was an amazing Quinoa Lentil Risotto, not too spicy; some green beans with a sauce that didn’t appeal to me; a fantastic cranberry chutney; and the most delicious cornbread muffins I had ever tasted. Yay – this year’s Thanksgiving will have an Indian twist, which we love, and I’ve got my recipes all in one handout.

Saturday and Sunday were cloudy and extra dark in my kitchen – not good for cooking or picture taking. I began prepping some sauces and made the cranberry chutney on Saturday, then began Sunday afternoon making the rest of the feast. Well, I started running into some problems. The recipes were VERY poorly written. The ingredients were out of order and the instructions made no sense. While I had reviewed the ingredients lists to make sure I had what I needed, I had not budgeted time for figuring out the directions. I made out okay with everything except the cornbread muffins! This upset me for many reasons, but mainly because I chose to make these muffins instead of Christina’s most amazing ever recipe for dressing, which I asked her to give me before it was printed in our local paper (more on that later) and she was kind enough to take the time to oblige me. I don’t even like dressing, but hers is fabulous!

All right, on to the main event – Whole Cauliflower Baked in Puff Pastry with Curry Sauce Gravy. This was fun fun fun to make and it is completely delicious and so beautiful. I tried to capture it the best I could. I am not going to post the recipe because it’s a mess (email me if you really really want it). But I’ll give you the method and also tell you that you can adapt it to suit your own tastes – it doesn’t have to be Indian spiced. My cauliflower is stuffed with about one cup of saucy cashews.

(Sorry for the fuzzy picture – it’s the worst of the bunch.) You could stuff your cauliflower with mushrooms and serve it with cranberry sauce or a tomato based sauce, or any other stuffing and sauce combination you can think of.

So to begin, trim the cauliflower, removing as much of the stem as possible, but remembering to leave it intact and whole. Blanch it for a couple of minutes. I used my biggest soup pot and had to blanch it on the bottom first and then flip it over and blanch the top. Let it dry completely. This can be done far in advance. Get one sheet of puff pastry and thaw it. Roll it out just a bit and remove one-third to be placed on top of the cauliflower. Stuff the cauliflower as best you can. Anything that won’t go in can go on top. Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place the big piece of pastry on the paper. Place the cauliflower bottom side down onto the pastry. Put any extra stuffing on top, then pull the corners of the pastry up on top of the cauliflower. Put the extra strip on the top to fill in any gaps. I saved a small piece to make a cutout leaf for the top of mine. It will look like this.

Bake it at 400 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Take it out and place it on a carving board.

Isn’t it cool!!!! I’m sure you will do a better job wrapping your pastry than I did. To plate, spoon some sauce on a platter and add a slice of the cauliflower. I topped ours with some more cashews. It’s plated with some steamed green beans and a mustard ginger white sauce I made from leftover Veggie Meat Pie sauce.

The other fantastic recipe, which turned out to be reasonably well written (I’ve cleaned it up for you) is the Quinoa, Lentil, and Squash Risotto. It too can be adapted with different herbs to suit the theme of your meal. It's sooo tasty and very easy to make.

Quinoa, Lentil, and Squash Risotto

½ small butternut squash, diced
3 T. canola oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup quinoa
1 cup red lentils
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper
¼ cup chopped herbs (I used cilantro and chives)

Toss the diced squash with 1 T. oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, sauté the onions in the remaining 2 T. oil for 2 minutes or until soft. Add the quinoa and lentils and sauté one minute more. Add 4 cups of water and the salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes on medium high heat. Remove from heat and stir in squash and herbs.

Now about that cornbread… I took a picture of it before I had a bite. You know, another reason it was so disappointing is that it’s a gluten free recipe. What I also loved about it was that it had cabbage in it! I love cabbage and I thought it was such a clever idea. It also had that crunchy, peanut topping. Maybe you can adapt one of your favorite cornbread recipes to include cabbage. I know I’m going to try. Oh, and the recipe has club soda in it to help it rise.

I realized after this picture that my plate wasn’t very colorful. I forgot the cranberry chutney! So I took one more shot of the chutney in a jar and the remaining cauliflower.

The chutney is very good too. Again, email me if you want the recipe.

We had Iron Cupcakes for dessert. Mmmmmm.

Finally, here’s a link to today’s Austin American-Statesman food section, with my recipe for Pumpkin Vinaigrette, and Christina’s recipe for Walnut, Fig, and Cranberry Cornbread Dressing.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!