Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Vegan Milanos

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

How nice to have an option to make either or both of these cookies for this month’s challenge. The marshmallow cookies, sadly, were not an option for me, as I don’t have any vegan marshmallows. The Milanos, however, have already been veganized, thanks to Isa.

Isa’s recipe is more suited to my family’s tastes. She uses a bit of orange zest in the cookie batter and a pure chocolate filling. Gale Gand’s recipe has lemon zest in the cookie batter and orange zest in the chocolate. My family has a thing about fruity chocolate. I did use Gand’s method to spread on the chocolate filling rather than Isa’s method of dipping the cookies into the melted chocolate.

I knew the hardest part of the recipe would be making good looking cookies. I've steered clear of baking sandwich cookies because it's difficult (for me, anyway) to hand shape evenly sized cookies. I didn’t flour my hands to pat out the dough as per Isa’s method. I found the oily batter to be quite easy to work with as is. As usual, my only issue is the time it takes to shape 32 cookies. My attention span is about 10 minutes and these required much longer than that, probably about 30 minutes. I was reasonably happy with my shaping.

I baked the cookies for 14 minutes. After they cooled I melted the chocolate. I was doing other things in the kitchen, and my chocolate seized up. I saved it by adding 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance and 1 tablespoon of corn syrup, then I reheated it and got it back to a nice smooth consistency. I spread it on and made the little sandwiches. Voila!

Now I haven’t had a store bought milano in years, but I’m sure mine are too thick. I have to call them My Big Fat Milanos.

Since these are not gluten free cookies, I had only a taste of about half a cookie. Aside from being too fat, the cookies are wonderful. I am a huge chocoholic, but I would enjoy eating just these cookies without the chocolaty center. They are really crispy, and I enjoyed that for a change. Plus it's perfect with the creamy chocolate center. I know this recipe made the blog rounds about a year ago, so if you didn’t make them then, you should now. They are actually quite easy to bake and super delicious to eat!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lunch Fun

Well, hello there! My body is back from vacation, but mind is still on the beach. I’m having a hard time readjusting to real life. I made myself a silly salad lunch to lift my spirits.

As soon as I organize my thoughts and pictures, I’ll post about my beach trip. Until then, here’s a sneak peek of my week of bliss.

I look forward to catching up with all of you this weekend!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


As I mentioned earlier, there were two ladies in our family celebrating birthdays this past weekend.

Yours truly (in the back next to my mom) and Chase’s girlfriend, Cat (next to Chase). Actually my birthday was yesterday and Cat’s is today, but with the likelihood of me being in the office on Sunday and the certainty of me being in the office at 7:00 a.m. Monday, Saturday night was the perfect time to celebrate. We had a fabulous meal at Shoreline Grill at the Four Seasons. Here’s me with my mom and brother at the entrance.

Everyone had such busy schedules we arrived in 4 cars! I brought my mom, and my brother brought his girlfriend.

Cat brought her sister who was visiting from Colorado.

And Chase came after he got off work, kind of late. I took the liberty of ordering lots of vegan dishes for Chase and me to share. That method worked out great for Chase, because they brought the food as soon as he got to the table. My pictures didn’t turn out so great, but it was so beautifully presented and all so incredibly delicious, I have to show them anyway. Here’s what I ordered.

Roasted tofu with edamame and potatoes.

Microgreens salad with dried cranberries and hazelnuts. Chase thought it was hysterical they put craisins in their salad.

Veggie stirfry on soba noodles.

I’m so sad not a single one of the pictures I took of this dish turned out. It’s potato wrapped sushi rolls! Look again at this blurry closeup.

It’s filled with rice and asparagus and came with pickled ginger and excellent wasabi. Chase and I concur it was one of the best things we have ever eaten. How I wish I had asked the chef how he prepared it.

We went back to my mom’s for dessert, which I made. I really took a risk making an ice cream pie to take a 20 minute car ride to my mom’s house when it was 103 degrees, but it arrived okay. The pie was fantastic and perfect for a hot summer night. I made an Oreo Mint cookie crust. I love how black it is. It was a little hard to cut once frozen though. It may have been a little too thick.

I filled it with So Delicious coconut based chocolate ice cream and topped with a minty fudge sauce. The crust and sauce recipes were adapted from The Everyday Vegan and Vive.

Mmmm, it was so good!

I’ve thought a lot about this birthday, and whether or not I wanted to divulge my true age. You all know my son is 23, so you probably figured out I’m pretty old. Oh, I know you’re as young as you feel, blah blah blah, and in my head I’m 35. In reality, I’m now 50. Yep, The Big 5-0. Five decades. Half a century. If I’m honest I can’t check the box on surveys for 30-49 year olds anymore. I guess it’s now 50 and over? – ugh. Most people are kind enough to say I don’t look 50. I know it’s just a number, but it’s also reading glasses, aching joints, crazy hormones, sagging skin, love handles, and what used to be fine lines but are now definitely wrinkles. I weigh the same as I did in high school, but it sure doesn’t look the same. One thing that definitely keeps me feeling young is hanging out with all you fabulous bloggers, many of you the same age as my son. Your energy and creativity continually amaze and inspire me. Enjoy your youth! It seems weird to be 50, but on the other hand, being 50 brings a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. So okay, yeah, I’m 50, but I will be 50 and Fabulous, and next year I’ll be 51 and that will be all right too. Am I where I thought I would be at 50? No. Do I have any regrets? Maybe a few, but mostly no. The best thing about my entire life is my loving family, and my proudest accomplishment is raising my son on my own. Chase is a gorgeous man, hardworking, compassionate, smart, and considerate.

And now, after working like a crazy woman the past few weeks, I get to take a vacation. I’m meeting my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews on Thursday for a week at the Florida beach – woohoo! So I’ll be back next week, 50, fabulous, relaxed, and refreshed!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Demy – a Fun New Kitchen Toy

Awhile back I had the opportunity to test drive blogger friend Sophie’s great new gadget, the Demy. It’s a digital recipe reader that lets you sync up your personal recipe collection into a touch screen device that you set right on your kitchen counter. Here’s a few pictures I snapped showing some of its features.

When I had the Demy on, all the pictures I took gave it a brown frame, so here it is off. You can see it is shiny white. And by the way, it is kitchen safe and cleans up easily.

It is small.

It comes with many recipes already loaded into it, a few of mine included. After scrolling through the index, I pulled up my recipe for Peach Buckle.

Here are some screen shots showing my recipe. I remember this is super delicious, so if you have fresh peaches to use up, I can recommend this yummy treat!

This shot shows the features available, easily accessible at the bottom of the screen.

There’s a handy converter.

And a handy timer.

Be sure to check out all it can do at

I’m sorry I don’t have a Sweet Freedom treat or any food pictures to show you. It’s been a long hard week at the office and record breaking heat every day and I’m whipped. I’ve done nothing but assemble salads and make frozen veggie stirfrys with Amy’s soup sauce, which is tasty and healthy enough, but certainly not blog worthy. I will, however, be making birthday party dessert today and will be back with party pics soon!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Festive Fifth of July

I’ve had a quick peek at all of your July 4th posts and you guys prepared some fantastic feasts! I didn’t get to make an All American meal on the 4th, but I did get to – finally - have a Sunday dinner on the 5th with Chase. It was just the two of us enjoying several hours of much needed quality time together. He told me he had been neglecting his intake of veggies and fruits lately, so I set about to remedy that!

I think it’s been a year since we last made this, but we made Indian spiced kabobs using the marinade from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. It is completely fabulous. The recipe calls for pureeing and straining the marinade, but I left mine chunky. We had all farm fresh ingredients, except the tofu. We skewered the tofu along with purple and red peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, and one tiny pattypan squash.

I also had lots of red potatoes that I got from my CSA box, so I made the Potato Cole Slaw from Vegan Brunch. I only sorta liked the avocado cole slaw from VB, but I absolutely loved this one! What a fantastic concept. I used broccoli slaw instead of cabbage, and coconut yogurt instead of vegannaise (eww). The toasted cumin seeds in the slaw complemented the kabobs perfectly.

I also made yummy gluten free cornbread.

So here’s the table set for two hungry people.

And here’s my happy son’s veggielicious plate. I was lucky to get a shot just before he dove in.

I saved the Sweet Freedom strawberry and blueberry dessert for him, and he ate all of that too. I thought it was huge, but he thought it was just right. Someone asked if I put coconut on top – yes, I did!

I think I got 8 kinds of veggies in him plus two fruits – just what he needed.
Now I need some help from you. Actually, I need two recommendations.

First, I need a good protein/carb post workout drink. With this heat, I’m just too thirsty to eat within 30 minutes of my workouts. What product do you recommend that’s not pure sugar or too high in calories and vegan?

Second, we have another family birthday this weekend. I’m looking for a pure chocolate cake, preferably wheat and soy free, and not the wacky cake I just made two weeks ago. Has anyone made the Double Chocolate Crumb Cake from Babycakes? Or Dreena’s Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake she posted on her site? Please recommend your own or your favorite recipes. It doesn’t have to look like a birthday cake, but it does have to be chocolaty delicious!

Thanks for your help!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Red, White & Blue Sweet Freedom Saturday

How fitting for Sweet Freedom Saturday to coincide with Independence Day. I had many options for red and blue berry type treats to choose from Ricki’s book, but as it continues to be insanely hot here, a no-bake dessert was in order. I blended up some delicious Vanilla Pastry Crème to layer with fresh local berries. Yes, it's a simple offering, but beautiful fruit, just slightly enhanced, is a wonderful thing.

If I had had a pie crust in the freezer, I might have made a festive pie like the one pictured on the cover of Sweet Freedom.

Or a patriotic tart like I made last year.

I am thankful to live in America. There are many things to be proud of and to love about our country. But after seeing Food, Inc. last night, there is much that needs improving, much much more than I realized. Without commenting on big government, the food industry, and the general ill health of our citizens, let me urge you to do whatever you can to support local growers. Become a part of your community and patronize the farmers markets in your area. It really does matter that you eat locally, seasonally, organically, and naturally. And go see the movie!

Happy Independence Day!