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!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Iron Cupcake Challenge – Cranberry

In my last post I said “See you Monday” before I realized I had a deadline to meet. This month’s Iron Cupcake Challenge was to use cranberries in our cupcakes. Cranberries are a holiday favorite and certainly one of my favorite ingredients anytime of year.

I love the cupcakes I made for this challenge, but I’m not sure they qualify as Iron Cupcakes. I was further challenged by lack of lighting in my kitchen, and therefore didn’t work terribly hard on this entry. I used the Strawberry Cupcake recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking, and substituted whole cranberry sauce for the strawberry jam. It is a ridiculously easy recipe. The cupcakes baked up so beautifully. Somehow I ended up with crispy edges that all my tasters went crazy for. Honestly, they didn’t even need frosting.

No frosting would render them muffins, so I did make a small batch of frosting. As most of you know, I’m not a fan of sugary sweet frosting (I should find myself a muffin challenge!), but I did get an idea awhile back from Mo. She made Snowball Cupcakes, like the packaged kind with gooey coconutty covering. She wasn’t totally happy with her frosting though, and mentioned that next time she made them she would use the My Sweet Vegan ricemellow frosting recipe. So I just stole that idea. I made a third recipe of the frosting, because I only wanted to frost a few of the cupcakes, and tinted it pink by adding in the juice I let drain out of the cranberry sauce I used in the cupcakes. Then I pressed coconut shreds onto the frosting.

So here is my Holiday Cranberry Snowball Cupcake, totally delicious and totally festive.

The winner of the challenge will receive these prizes:
A pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES
Something lovely from CAKESPY
HELLO CUPCAKE book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Voting will begin no later than Sunday, November 30 at 8 p.m. at NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER and will be open through Friday, December 5 at 12 noon.
You can join the challenges at any time by visiting IronCupcake:Earth!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I have lots of issues with my house right now, mainly electrical, and workers I expected this morning have not yet arrived. I have no lighting in my kitchen. I was hoping today would be sunny so I could make food and take pictures, but it’s not. So here’s some this-and-that until Monday evening when I will post what I hope will be our most excellent vegan Thanksgiving dinner, and hopefully not prepared in the dark!

I have one food pic of some lovely baked veggies.

I was honored to be asked to give an interview with Vegan Nutritionista, Cathleen Woods. She has a wonderful website full of information on veganism, including recipes and links. She already conducted interviews with the fabulous cookbook author Dreena Burton and the fabulous FatFree Vegan, Susan Voisin. Needless to say I was quite thrilled to be asked to follow those two. I learned that I am not nearly as eloquent or knowledgeable as Dreena or Susan, but I am enjoying more and more any opportunities that come my way to promote a healthy vegan diet. If you would like to read the interviews, mine is here. Dreena’s is here, and Susan’s is here. And don’t forget to check out the rest of Cathleen’s site!

I’m supposed to do a 7 Things About Me meme, but I’m kind of in a bad mood right now and all I can think of is stuff that bugs me. So I better hold off on that for a while. See you Monday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Veggie Meat Pies and Fabulous Two Ingredient Brownies

I worked really hard on a Sunday dinner especially for my son, but he couldn’t make it for dinner. I don’t even know how these meat pies taste, but I chronicled the preparation so I’m posting it anyway!

There’s a local restaurant called Boomerang’s that makes traditional Aussie Meat Pies and also offers several vegetarian options, including one with tofu (but also with cheese). Since I’m on an Indian food kick at the moment, the Curry Veggie Pie appealed to me. I contacted the owner and asked if he offered any vegan pies. He said no. I told him I would be making my own vegan version and asked about the proper crust. He shared, and then asked me how to make a vegan pie crust. So maybe I’ll see a vegan option on his menu soon!

I began by making my filling with a package of Lightlife veggie crumbles, onions, sweet peppers (because I have so many), a little tomato sauce, and lots of vegan Worcestershire sauce. I also made the bottom crust, which is a standard 9-inch crust. The top crust is puff pastry. I would make four pies in my giant muffin tins. The tins are 4 inches in diameter, so I used a 6 inch bowl to cut my pastry.

After pressing in the bottom crust, I added the filling.

Then I added the top crust and sealed it.

I cut an X in the top crust before baking them. They baked for 10 minutes at 400, then I reduced the temp to 350 and baked another 20 minutes. All done.

While they were cooling, I began to wonder how I was going to get them out! I couldn’t just pull them out for fear of taking off the top crust. I was able to tip the pan and grab them as they slid out – whew!

I thought they turned out beautifully. Look at that crust!

I was DYING to know if you could really just pick them up and bite into them without the filling running out everywhere. But I didn’t take a bite or cut into it. I did peek though.

They are now in the freezer. I know the puff pastry won’t be any good after it’s thawed. Oh, well.
You MUST have mashers with the pies, so I made that too. I had one giant sweet potato and one smallish white potato, so I cooked both of those. Here are my Bicolor Mashers which I ate with some greens.

I also made gravy, for the pies and mashers, and Celine’s Whole Wheat Rolls. Celine, the rolls turned out perfect!

And now for the fabulous brownies! This recipe is the very first one I gave Chase, along with the ingredients and a muffin pan. I didn’t eat one back then, but he said they were amazing, so I thought they would be an easy treat for the end of this meal. I got this recipe from Hungry Girl, by the way. Here are the ingredients.

That’s it! Chocolate cake mix and pumpkin. I used a gluten free mix Amey gave me. I removed about a cup of the mix because I think the Betty Crocker mixes are 18 ounces and my mix was 25 ounces. Anyway, all you do is stir stir stir until it’s mixed, resisting the urge to add water because it’s seems like it will never come together, then put into your muffin tins and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I did add a little vanilla because I think it helps take away the box mix taste. But still, that’s only 3 ingredients. So here’s how they look when they’re done.

And here’s the inside, fudgy, but fully cooked. They are wonderful. They definitely satisfy a chocolate craving.

Besides having to eat alone on Sunday evening, I had to find/make room in the freezer for all these leftovers.

I’m actually enjoying leftover Samosa Soup. It just keeps getting better.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Samosa Soup

I’ve recently seen Samosa Pizza and Samosa Pockets that looked amazing. And subsequently I heard of a Samosa Soup that’s popular with the students here on campus. Since a blast of cool air came through last night, today I made a big ol’ pot. No wonder it’s so popular – it’s fantastic. Here’s my version of this hearty, flavorful soup.

Samosa Soup

1 T. olive oil
2 t. mustard seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
½ t. chili powder
1 t. tumeric
½ t. cayenne
½ t. curry powder
½ t. coriander
½ t. garam masala
½ t. cumin
1 T. fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. potatoes, diced
1 lb. cauliflower, chopped
1 lb. bag frozen peas and carrots
3 c. vegetable broth
1 can lite coconut milk
8 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
¼ c. fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 t. salt
½ t. black pepper

Heat oil in a soup pot. Add mustard seeds, cover, and let them pop. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add spices (except salt and pepper), ginger, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower, and peas and carrots. Cook a minute or two, mixing well and coating vegetables with spices. Add broth. Simmer, covered, until potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add coconut milk, spinach, cilantro, and lemon juice. Simmer 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Veggies and Cookies

I had the best time this afternoon hanging out with fellow vegan blogger, the lovely Christina, other foodies, and our local food writer while we did the photoshoot for Thanksgiving side dishes to be featured in the food section of our local paper. The dishes I tasted were fabulous, so I’ll be sure to post a link to the recipes which are scheduled to be published on the 24th. It was so interesting to watch all the food styling. The photographer spent 5 minutes taking pictures of the cooks, and 2 hours taking pictures of the food!

I haven’t been cooking too much lately. I want to cook, but it’s just so busy this time of year. I ate at a Korean restaurant yesterday and had an amazing hummus and veggie wrap, and Japchei, which is (from the menu): A warm bowl of clear sweet potato noodles and an assortment of veggies: carrots, green cabbage, red cabbage, red bell peppers, and organic spring greens. It’s delicious. I brought about half of the noodles home. Aren’t they beautiful? I’m going to look for them at my Asian market this weekend.

I stirfried some broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and spinach to have with my leftover noodles.

I picked up some multicolored cauliflower and some broccoli to roast. It was in a bin already chopped and was practically irresistible. I took before and after shots. Before…

… and after roasting. Yummy!

Tonight I started feeling guilty about neglecting my recipe testing for Ricki, so I made a batch of her Classic Peanut Butter Cookies. These cookies are perfect. I must take them to work so I don’t eat them all. And especially for Shellyfish and her Guppy, I added sprinkles to the tops.

I spent far too much time taking shots of these Aristo Wellness bars I found. When I read the flavors of these bars, I snatched them up and put them in my bag – Nutty Pomegranate and Cranberry with Chocolate, and Nutty Goji and Orange with Chocolate.

I mistakenly equated *wellness* with *vegan* and didn’t read the ingredients before purchasing them. These bars contain milk and whey, so don’t buy Aristo bars if you want a vegan bar. Bake these instead!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Holiday Frummus and Pumpkin Gingerbread

As much as I dread the stress of the holiday season, there is no denying its presence. For relief I go to the kitchen, and this weekend I’ve come up with two very nice recipes.

I have heard of frummus, but have never seen or eaten it, and the idea of fruity hummus is intriguing to me. I can’t imagine and certainly didn’t want anything sweet, so I decided cranberries would be perfect for my first frummus experiment. To make the frummus, I put together a low fat hummus recipe by using whole cranberry sauce for most of the oil and tahini. It is Holiday Frummus due to the addition of fresh cranberries and pistachios. (I set aside some chopped cranberries and pistachios for garnish. The rest were chopped up in the food processor, just so you know there are not chunks as big as the garnish in the actual frummus.) The final product isn’t quite as pink as I had hoped it would be, but it’s still a nice color. And how does it taste? It tastes great! It tastes like hummus with nice hint of tangy cranberry flavor. And I love the texture interest the pistachios give. I think almonds may be more appropriate for Thanksgiving and the pistachios are more appropriate for Christmas. Anyway, here is Holiday Frummus.

Holiday Frummus

Makes about 2 cups

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup whole cranberry sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. tahini
½ t. cumin
½ t. crushed red pepper
½ t. kosher or sea salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cranberries (plus extra for garnish)
¼ cup chopped raw pistachios or almonds (plus extra for garnish)

Put in a food processor the chickpeas, cranberry sauce, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, tahini, and spices. Process until smooth. Add in ¼ cup fresh cranberries and ¼ cup pistachios and process until combined. Put into bowl and garnish with the remaining cranberries and pistachios.

What do you think? I love pumpkin hummus and have been making it for years. But what about apple cinnamon or pineapple jalapeno frummus? I don’t know…..

The next recipe is so exciting for me – Gluten Free Pumpkin Gingerbread. This is a recipe I found on (which it got from Wild Oats Market) and adapted to replace the eggs, reduce the fat and sugar, and punch up the spices a bit. I also baked it in an 8x8 pan instead of a loaf. I must admit that my spice blend in this recipe made for one fantastic gingerbread! I must also admit that the batter in the middle of the pan did not firm up enough. I think another ½ to 1 cup of flour would make it perfect. Nonetheless, if you like a spicy, gingery gingerbread, I recommend using this spice combination in your own favorite recipe.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Gingerbread

¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup applesauce
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 t. vanilla
2 enerG eggs
3 T. molasses
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 T. fresh grated ginger
1 cup oat flour
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. kosher or sea salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 ½ t. ground ginger
½ t. black pepper
¼ t. allspice
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup candied ginger, minced
2 T. turbinado sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Light grease an 8x8 pan.

In a large bowl mix together the oil, applesauce, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, eggs, molasses, pumpkin puree, and fresh grated ginger.

In a separate bowl sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then stir in the candied ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Please let me know if you try either of these recipes.

I was away most of the weekend so I didn’t get to cook very much at all. This afternoon I went to the Texas Veggie Chili Cookoff and sampled some wonderful creations from around the state. It was a beautiful warm day, but not too warm for chili. I only saw one person I knew – Amanda from Walking the Vegan Line – hard at work in the Society of Peace booth. I hope she got some pictures because I didn’t take a single one. I did notice a local news crew there, so I'll watch and see if vegans get a plug tonight.
Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Local Flavors

It’s still summer here, which means local farmers are still harvesting tomatoes, sweet peppers in all colors, and onions. The only fall crop producing now is greens, lovely kale and crisp collards. So this is what I received in my CSA box this past weekend, and this is what Sunday dinner was built on. I turned to Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors for two tasty recipes.

First, Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes Baked with Herbs and Capers.

This recipe called for roasting the peppers, then baking them with the tomatoes and serving the dish cool as a salad. The herbs used were parsley and marjoram. I don’t use marjoram or capers very often, but this was a light, lovely dish we all enjoyed. And isn’t it beautiful!

Also from Local Flavors, Collards with Potatoes.

(They were still a little steamy in this picture.) I used my collards and kale for this recipe, along with two big sweet potatoes. It is flavored with onions and garlic, and a few fake bacon pieces for a nice smoky taste.

I also made Vegan Haggis! Bex commented on my post featuring Vegan YumYum’s Delicata Squash Bisque that she wasn’t so much a fan of squash, but thought she might try this recipe. I told her if she did, I would try the Haggis she made, which she got from Mo. She did make the bisque (and liked it), so I made the Haggis.

It’s a shame to call this Haggis, because it’s really very delicious. It’s got beans, nuts, veggies, and oats in it, so why wouldn’t be tasty? Now mine didn’t bake up too well; it stayed pretty mushy, but we ate it because it was good. Later I took a cold slice and dryfried it in a nonstick pan. This piece I could eat like a slice of toast and it was much more enjoyable.

I made some Tomato Herb Bread in the bread machine, which was very good, but I just don’t like the way the loaf looks when it’s baked in the machine. I usually let the machine make the dough, then I put it in a loaf pan and bake it in the oven. Anyway, here’s the little loaf. Tastes great, looks odd.

And here’s my plate of local flavors, along with a slice of bread and some mushy haggis.

I’m glad it’s still summertime here, but I’m also looking forward to some locally harvested broccoli and sweet potatoes.

For dessert we had ED&BV Gluten Be Gone Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies.

And one more treat – last night I made Coffee Buzz Energy Bars from Hannah’s Lunch Box Bites ebook.

They’re not especially beautiful, but you can see they turned out just as promised. And they are so delicious, like a big bowl of oatmeal with a cup of coffee, and a few chocolate chips too. I’ve got quite a few more *must makes* from that little ebook!