Sunday, August 31, 2008

eat’n veg’n is 2!

Today is my two-year anniversary of blogging. It has been so much fun to share healthy vegan food with all of you. Aside from enjoying the camaraderie of fellow veg’ns, I want to make a special point of applauding the number of college and graduate students I’ve *met* who cook such amazing food and maintain such healthy lifestyles, all while maintaining their GPAs as well as busy social and family lives. You are truly exceptional.

A couple of items I will be using today for our celebratory dinner are:

A mango weighing nearly 2 pounds, a gift from Mexico.

A sifter that is not only a great baking aid, but was hand painted by my great aunt many many years ago.

Now I get a chance to remind you that voting in the Iron Cupcake Challenge begins today at noon!

There are several outstanding vegan entries, so be sure to *Vote Vegan* at No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner.

(In case you forgot, my entry is Texas Torpedo Cupcakes.)

See you in a couple of days!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Indian Food via Vcon

After a busy week and weekend, we all decided an uncomplicated (no fancy plating?) and comforting meal would suit us just fine for Sunday dinner. I hadn’t made Indian food in a while, so I turned to Veganomicon to try two new recipes.

Although I love the unique and complex flavors of Indian cuisine, I do have a few issues with it. One, it’s just not real pretty. Two, it never includes broccoli. Three, recipes that call for curry powder don’t taste authentic. The first recipe from Vcon I selected and have wanted to try for quite a while was Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes. I liked this recipe okay, but my main complaint is the suggestion to serve it with Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry, which I did. The two recipes were very similar in taste and color. Also, the potatoes took much longer to prepare than the 20 minutes (after baking the potatoes) indicated. I added broccoli to our potatoes, and served it and the curry with some pita bread and sliced mangoes.

Blah, not a very pretty plate. Chase told me during dinner he really prefers tomato based curries. I should have made ED&BV’s Palak Panera again. It’s such an excellent recipe with vibrant color. I can’t remember the last time Sunday dinner was a flop. Anyway, we decided we will go back to fancy fun and pretty dinners. We did however enjoy my chili cupcakes for dessert!

Some personal notes - the Invisalign braces are working out okay. They require a lot of care and attention, and my mouth and hands are always impeccably clean.

Watching Chase and his band perform was such a thrill! I don’t know when they’ll get another gig, but I do hope it’s soon. I was so proud.

I’m really looking forward to a long holiday weekend. We will most likely celebrate with a traditional menu – grilled something and all the sides. I hope you get to enjoy an extra day off as well.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweet Heat – Texas Torpedo Cupcakes

I have joined the Iron Cupcake:Earth bakers challenge! Each month a secret ingredient is revealed and bakers are challenged to come up with a winning recipe, much like the Iron Chef America show I still love so.

I’ve been in need of a challenge in the kitchen, so I took this challenge seriously, as I’m sure all the competitors did. Obviously, adding a teaspoon of chili powder to a cupcake recipe is not much of a challenge. I challenged myself to REALLY use chilies creatively and produce a little cake that I would bake again because it tastes great. I further challenged myself to use only ingredients I had on hand and not shop for any exotic chili spices or specialty chocolates. I did not bake gluten free for this first challenge. I have never made gluten free cupcakes, but my experience with the dry tendencies of gluten free treats made me think a gluten free version wouldn’t hold up to the mix-ins I was going to include. So what did I decide on?

As much as I love the combination of deep dark chocolate and a kick of heat from peppers, I figured lots of folks would do the chocolate chipotle combo, so I looked to something different. You may remember the big bag of red jalapenos I got from the farmers market recently. Jalapenos are the king of peppers in Texas. They are hot, slightly acidic, and are added to everything TexMex – migas, soups, breakfast and dinner tacos, breads, margaritas, and on and on. I thought about how I have used jalapenos, especially in salsas in combination with strawberries, mangoes, and pineapples, which are all wonderful.

Believe it or not, I had no fresh or canned pineapple on hand, but I did have dried pineapple. I made this nonvegan dessert, from Anna at cookiemadness, for my mom to take to a party and knowing it would be a huge hit, I bought extra pineapple to make a vegan version. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Anna found chopped pineapple, but this is what I have.

Yes, I do love my chocolate so I did include a bit. Any good chocolate lovin’ gluten free health conscious vegan keeps cocoa nibs on hand, right? So that’s how I came up with the combination of jalapenos, pineapple, and cocoa nibs.

As for the name I chose, “Texas Torpedo” usually refers to a cream cheese stuffed jalapeno (aka “popper”), but really it can be applied to anything with jalapenos as an ingredient, e.g., Texas Torpedo sandwich or cupcake! My cuppers are topped with a cream cheese frosting.

Now for the recipe.

Texas Torpedo Vegan Cupcakes:
(adapted from Golden Vanilla Cupcakes
from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

1/3 cup candied jalapenos (recipe follows)
1 cup nondairy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
2 T. cornstarch
¾ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
¾ cup sugar
2 t. pineapple extract
½ t. vanilla extract
2 T. dried sweetened pineapple, diced
2 T. cocoa nibs
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Cocoa powder for dusting (optional)

Begin by making the Candied Jalapenos. This is best done the day before. It is a bit time consuming and messy, but so much fun to make!

Candied Jalapenos

8 medium jalapeno peppers
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
extra sugar for coating (optional)

Put on rubber gloves. Cut the tops off the peppers and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membranes. Slice each half into 1/3 inch wide pieces and put into a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to boil. Let boil for 3 minutes, then drain. This will soften the peppers and remove some of the acidity.

Oil a cooling rack and set it over a parchment lined baking sheet. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add the pepper strips and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of the syrup is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn the peppers onto the rack and separate the strips. Let them dry uncovered at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours, or until they are only slightly sticky.

I coated my candied pieces with additional sugar to make chopping them easier, but yours may not need it. Chop enough strips to make 1/3 cup for your cupcakes.

You will have more than enough candied strips for the cupcakes, so use the leftovers for garnish and/or snacking.

Pineapple Cupcakes:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake tins with paper liners.

Mix the milk and cider vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

In a stand mixer or with electric beaters, beat together the sour milk, oil, sugar, and extracts. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in the peppers, pineapple, and cocoa nibs.

Fill your paper lined cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake for about 21 minutes or until done. Let rest 5 minutes in tins, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

The cupcakes turned out perfectly.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
(from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

¼ cup margarine, softened
¼ cup soy cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 t. vanilla extract

Cream together the margarine and cream cheese until just combined. Using electric beaters, add in powdered sugar a half cup at a time. Mix until completely smooth, then add in vanilla. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Texas Torpedo Cupcake

Do you like the Iron Chef logo positioned peppers? Here’s the inside.

Honestly, these cupcakes are perfectly delicious. The crunchy nibs and chewy candies add excellent texture to the soft cake, and the jalapeno did exactly what it was supposed to – leave a lingering, subtle heat.

Please vote for my pretty little spicy cupcake! Voting begins 9:00 a.m. August 31st and runs through noon September 4th at No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner. Some really nice prizes have been donated for the winner of the competition.

The winner will get all this:
The complete line of HEAD CHEFS from Fiesta Products,

A copy of the new book HELLO, CUPCAKE,

A one-of-a-kind piece of original CAKESPY art by ETSY artist Jessie Oleson,

A luxury hostess apron from JESSIE STEELE,

The next generation of the CUPCAKE COURIER,

And a new publication from the library of TASTE OF HOME BOOKS.

You can view all the outstanding entries for Iron Cupcake on the IRONCUPCAKE FLICKR GROUP page.

Why don’t you join Iron Cupcakes too! The next challenge starts soon. Learn all about it at

This challenge was so much fun and I can’t wait for the next one. Let the battle begin!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Box of Treats and HUGE NEWS!

I ordered a box of treats from VeganEssentials. Why? Because Monday I’m getting Invisalign braces. (This is not the huge news, btw.) If you’ve followed my blog awhile, you know I’ve had dental issues. The issues are resolved, but have left my front teeth crooked and gappy, making me very self-conscious. I’m really excited to get Invisalign, but they are removable braces and you must remove them whenever you eat, or drink anything other than water, and then brush and floss and rinse before you put the braces back in. And obviously the braces won’t do their job if you take them out all the time to eat. So I decided to eat all the snacky type foods I can until d-day. I got:

Crumblz – chocolate peanut flavor. Yum! Tastes like Butterfinger candy bars. Kind of crispy, yet flaky. Handmade, all natural and gluten free. I would definitely buy these again.

Betty Lou’s Jumbo Bars – strawberry, blueberry, and apple flavors. These are made with barley flour and oats, so they are wheat free but not gluten free. I ordered these because LK Sisters went to work for Betty Lou’s. LK Sisters are twins who recently graduated with honors from Texas A&M and both got jobs with this Oregon company. I had the apple flavor today and it was very good.

Mrs. Mays Crunch – cashew and pumpkin flavors. Mrs. Mays makes the crunchy Trio bars I like so much. These aren’t quite as crunchy as the bars, but very good.

Donut Holes – these are actually for Chase. Unless I make donuts myself or order them, he would never be able to indulge in vegan donuts.

Chocoreale – I was feeling very left out that I couldn’t bake anything with this vegan nutella, so now I will happily be able to do so.

And now for the big huge news! Chase’s band finally got two gigs downtown!!!! The first show is tomorrow night, and I have my ticket.

His band is Gone From My Sight and he is the bass player. They have worked so hard and we’re all really nervous and excited about the first ever performance. If you want to check out GFMS, you can visit their website, Chase also has his own website with his own completely different style of music, which I really really love, at

Hooray for living in...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tacos a la Mexicana

My idea for a taco dinner took root when faux pork reappeared at the Asian market. I had long ago promised Chase I would make him the most fabulous pork and potato tacos, and finally it was possible. I don’t go for the faux stuff (it’s always made with soy anyway), so I decided to make myself zucchini tacos. Both taco recipes are from Rick Bayless’ Mexico: One Plate at a Time, and both recipes start with a “flavor base” of lots of dried chilies and fresh tomatoes.
I found plenty of fresh ingredients at the farmers market Saturday morning, including a giant zucchini (nearly 2 pounds) and tons of tomatoes, along with peaches, onions, tomatillos, jalapenos, squash, and apples. Here’s a portion of the goodies.

I used my biggest mixing bowl to rehydrate all the dried chili peppers I had seeded, cut, and toasted.

That’s a lot of peppers! I worked on the Tacos de Puerco y Papas (pork and potatoes) first, since chef says they taste even better the next day. I must admit, the puerco was kinda freaking me out.

But many peppers and potatoes later, it all came together beautifully. I can’t describe how amazing the aroma was. And they tasted sensational. Look at the spicy goodness.

Next time I will make them with just potatoes so I can enjoy them too, and I’m sure they will taste as wonderful.
The next most fabulous part of the dinner was Green Sauce, a cool creamy sauce to add to the spicy taco filling. I found a recipe idea on Homesick Texan’s blog, here, and after my own touches, came up with this.

I’m sorry it’s a bad picture, but you’ll have to trust me that it was super terrific amazing. It’s light and fluffy and oh so tasty on everything.

My Tacos de Calabacitas (zucchini) filling was also very good, but as you can see, not nearly as spicy as the papas.

I also made Chili Pesto from The Artful Vegan, which was very good, Pineapple Slaw, Rice with Tomatoes and Green Chilies, and Black Beans. Chase asked me why the beans were so black and I explained that they were homemade and therefore hadn’t been in a can on a shelf for 2 years! Here’s our table full of spicy and wonderful food.

It really was an exceptional meal. Chase said it was the best he could remember in quite some time. Here’s his plate.

I tried to keep a Mexican theme with dessert as well. I made Coconut Banana Cake from Lickin’ the Beaters, and to brighten it up I served it with Pomegranate Sauce from The Artful Vegan and kiwi slices.

I did make the cake gluten free and chose it because the recipe had more bananas than sugar, but I still found it a little too sweet. My decision to add the Pomegranate Sauce was a good one. It was the perfect complement to offset the sweet cake, and added some great color too. This cake was actually the first recipe I’ve tried from Lickin’ the Beaters, and I was really very pleased. The cake texture was perfect – here’s a close-up.

Maybe the food was so good because we were really hungry and in an extra good mood because it was only 90 degrees instead of 100, but I’m gonna have to say *Yay Me!* for serving up a pretty darn fantastic fiesta and another gluten free meal.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Try Trio! (and a recipe)

Trio is one of the few bars I like that has no chocolate in it. It is vegan and gluten free, about 220 calories and costs 99 cents at my market. It comes in 4 flavors – cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, and tropical fruit. I’ve not tried the tropical flavor, but all the berry flavors are delicious.

A couple of commenters on my last post asked for the recipe for the bread I made, so here it is:

Buttermilk Wheat Bread (bread machine)
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 cup sour nondairy milk (1 T. cider vinegar added to milk, stirred, and left to stand 5 minutes)
¼ cup water
1 T. canola oil
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups bread flour
1 T. sugar
1 T. wheat gluten
¼ cup finely chopped toasted nuts or seeds
¾ t. salt
1 packet active dry yeast

Put in bread machine as directed and bake on basic cycle.

I've been to the farmers market this morning and am getting a start on tomorrow's Taco Dinner. The chili peppers are making me sneeze like crazy!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pasta Dinner

We had a pasta dinner for a change on Sunday. I didn’t spend too much time preparing the food or taking the photos. I was more interested in watching the Olympics and enjoying all the great athletic specimens.

Our pasta was Broccoli and Chickpeas on Whole Wheat Spaghetti. It was real garlicky and real delicious.

I made Chase Apricot Almond Tofu. I thought he might just take it home to eat later, but he ate two pieces in addition to a pile of pasta. The tofu was baked in a sweet and spicy apricot mustard sauce and topped with toasted almonds.

And I made Antipasto Salad to go with our spaghetti. I layered steamed green beans, carrot shreds, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and olives in a bowl, and before serving poured a vinaigrette over the top.

I hadn’t made bread in a while, and of course you need good bread to eat with pasta, so I made a Whole Wheat Bread in the bread machine. It turned out lovely, crispy crust and soft inside.

And for dessert, Strawberry Cupcake Mountains. I made Cupcake Mountains before (here) with chocolate cuppers and vanilla frosting. For this dessert, I made VCTOTW vanilla cupcakes and added in the juice and zest of one lime for lime flavored cupcakes. I made a fresh strawberry sauce for the layers. Strawberry and lime is the most refreshing flavor combination ever.

These are so fun to make and adaptable to any flavor combinations you like.

Thanks to everyone who left such nice comments on my previous post. Vegyogini asked for my Cilantro Spinach Pesto recipe, so I will oblige here. This is my favorite thing to put on zucchini shreds for my gluten free pasta. Cilantro fans will love this!
Cilantro Spinach Pesto

½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
½ cup fresh chopped spinach
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. soy sauce
1 medium to large chopped fresh tomato

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.

Gotta get back to Beijing! Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

200th Post Party!!!

Welcome to my 200th post! Of course we celebrated with a fun Sunday dinner. Even though it hit 105 degrees on Sunday, I decided to celebrate Texas style with grilled kebobs. Thank goodness vegan barbecue only requires a few minutes at the grill. Our meal was entirely gluten free and as usual very healthy.

I prepped all my kebob ingredients and marinated them for several hours. I had tofu, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, onions, and peppers, and made up four beautiful skewers for the grill.

Hot off the grill, a picture of summer.

I made two party sides. First, Baby Spinach Burgers from V Cuisine. I made them gluten free by using oats instead of breadcrumbs and also used fresh instead of frozen spinach. The patties are baked and served room temperature and they are delicious!

Next, also from V Cuisine, Zucchini Wrapped Quinoa, only I didn’t have enough quinoa so I used rice. The filling is so yummy and these were served cold. They look like sushi rolls and don’t you think they are just adorable?!!

I decided the kebobs and appetizers all needed a condiment to go with them. Trust me when I say it takes me less time to actually make three dips than to decide which of the three I want to make. I made my favorite Cilantro Spinach Pesto. It’s made with pumpkin seeds and I could eat a boatload of it.

I made Vcon Sundried Tomato Dip. I didn’t love it when I first made it, but it’s fantastic after short stay in the fridge.

Lastly, I made Ricki’s Avocado Mayonnaise. Well, sort of. I used raw cashews instead of olive oil and added in 4 chopped dates and I didn’t have very much basil so I left it out completely. It was still very good.

The pesto, dip, and avo mayo were all equally good with the grilled veggies, wraps, and patties. Here’s our table.

I made some cookies that Anna at Cookie Madness posted a few days ago, Wheat Free Vegan Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies. They are actually gluten free since they are made with rice flour. These cookies are awesome!!! I even forgot to add in the peanuts and I promise these are the best cookies ever. Chase even asked me where I bought them. (I never know whether to take offense at that.) Do yourself a favor and make a double batch of these delicious treats.

Anna’s recipe makes only six cookies, which was perfect because they weren’t our real dessert. I decided I kinda liked the couple of “Martha” comments I got from my Ice Bowl post (below), so I went just a little Martha again for our party dessert. Our dessert started with a unique and absolutely fabulous orange scented Cornmeal Cake. It’s a one layer cake with a slightly crunchy texture and a taste very similar to sweet cornbread. It baked up beautifully. I adapted a recipe in Bon Appetit, but made it vegan, less sugary, less fatty, and gluten free, so I guess that makes it MY recipe, and it appears at the end of this post. I served it with fresh blueberry sauce and these adorable miniature “watermelons”!

Aren’t they the cutest thing ever! The watermelons are actually limes cut in half lengthwise, pulp scooped out and filled with strawberry sorbet and chocolate chips, frozen, and then cut into wedges. Sadly it’s not my own idea, but it was still fun making and eating them. A little lime flavor does come through the sorbet and the combination of the lime, strawberry, and chocolate flavors was excellent. Even better is that combination, combined with the orange flavored cake and the blueberry sauce. So refreshing and so delicious.

All the food for this party turned out quite tasty and was fun to make. Sometimes a new presentation is just as much fun to make as an amazing new recipe, which I’m always in search of. That reminds me, my copy of Great Chefs Cook Vegan should arrive next week!

Before I end I want to thank Kelly at the Triumph Dining Blog for featuring me as the Gluten Free Blogger of the Month! She said really really nice things about me and my blog and for anyone interested in information on living gluten free, this is a nice site to look around.

I also must take this opportunity to thank my readers and fellow bloggers for keeping me inspired for 200 posts. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! It’s a great time to be a vegan blogger.

Now here’s the Gluten Free Vegan Cornmeal Cake recipe. I think you’ll really like this cake. It doesn’t need icing, just a bit of fresh summer fruit alongside.

Cornmeal Cake:

1 cup gluten free flour blend
½ cup cornmeal, plus extra for pan
1-1/2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. xantham gum
4 T. margarine, room temperature
4 T. applesauce
1 T. orange zest
2/3 cup sugar
2 EnerG egg replacers
½ cup plain soygurt
2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. coarse sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil a 9-inch cake pan and dust with cornmeal. Tap out excess. Sift flour into medium bowl; stir in cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and xantham gum. Set aside.

Beat margarine with electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth and light. Beat in applesauce and zest. (Don’t be alarmed by its curdled appearance.) Gradually add sugar, stopping to scrape sides of bowl a couple of times. Beat in soygurt, egg replacer, and vanilla. Slowly mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.

Pour into pan and smooth the top. Top with coarse sugar. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto plate, then onto rack (sugar side up) to cool completely. Wrap in foil and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.