Thursday, June 28, 2007

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I've never made carrot cake. Certainly never made Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes. But the VCTOTW recipe sounded so good, with all its raisins and walnuts and spices... I needed to give a go.So I had no idea how the batter should look. I expected a regular thick cake-like batter.
It was a bitch to get into the paper liners because it was so liquid-y. I feared I had missed an ingredient, or over beaten, or had committed some other 'cruel to cupcakes' crime.
But I soon learned what 26 minutes in a 350° oven can do!I also learned that grating carrots by hand may be a royal pain, but it is worth every minute! Oh scrumptious little carrot cupcakes! I had marzipan left over from last week's cupcake adventure (the green tea cupcake 'cherry blossoms') so I made little marzipan carrots. They may not be sculptures of great art - but you get the idea. Carrots.
I have nothing to say but "Bow Down Before the Vegan Cupcakes!"

The Vegan Cream Cheese Icing is absolutely perfect. I like carrot cake, I've never craved it or gone out of my way for it, but now I think carrot cake cupcakes are going to be regulars on my baking list.

A Nice Salad

I would bet that the majority of people hear Vegan and think: salad. Naturally. It's not the only thing to eat, but it is easy and quick. When it's boiling hot outside it's also light enough that you won't feel heavy and sleepy afterwards.

This one is a little too simple.

It's just half a bag of prewashed salad - because washing lettuce is my least favorite thing to do in the kitchen
1/2 c of frozen roasted corn kernels (run some cool water over them to defrost them - you want them to be cool)
1 small avocado cubed
a handful of roasted almonds

I don't care much for bottled dressings. I tend to buy them, use them once and then end up throwing out the bottle a year later. So I whipped up my own dressing using an envelope of Seven Seas Garlic & Herb as the starter. Since I only wanted enough for one or two salads I did not follow the directions on the packet. I just 'eyeballed' some flax seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, water and white balsamic vinegar with a few sprinkles of the dressing mix. Quick and no waste!

Who doesn't like a fresh, pretty, EASY salad?

I Didn't Cook It

I met my friend Maria for lunch today to celebrate her (belated) birthday. Because she is thoughtful, and has a vegetarian sensibility, she chose Quantum Leap. I was very excited because I've never eaten there but have heard some great things about it. One thing I really wanted to try was the Sweet Yam Tempura. Yes. Yes. Yes. Crispy coating, not greasy, with hot, sweet, succulent yams inside. Did I say "Yes"? Yes!
We also had the guacamole. It's not Rosa Mexicano's awesome guac, but it's darned good with a bit of tomato and nice thick tortilla chips.
I was so busy running my big mouth that I forgot to take pictures until we were already digging in!
The Seitan satay in peanut sauce was my favorite. It's quite spicy (just the way I like it) and the texture of the seitan is perfect, tender but with a little chewiness. The slices of tomato and cucumber were very welcome to cool some of the heat of the peanut sauce.

We also split a slice of chocolate tofu pie which I completely forgot to photograph. It was extremely RICH and creamy. The crust was made of oatmeal so it had a nice, nearly crunchy texture. If you go and it's available: save room - you'll want to order this! The service is really unobtrusive, yet friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. I can't wait to go back and try some of the other menu items - most of them are Vegan and they ALL sound terrific (but how many can you have at one meal?) So a trip back is definitely required.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baking Soda Biscuits

When the summer weather finally kicks in, and it's hitting the nineties, what do I like to do?

Turn the oven up to 450° and start baking!

Yeah, well. That's pretty much how I am.

These Baking Soda Biscuits are from La Dolce Vegan and though I was hesitant to include the oregano I did it because I'm all about the rules. Uh. No. Not so much. But I was curious to see how they would come out. My opinion? Oregano = good biscuits! I think other herbs would actually be even better, but that's for next time. My only complaint about La Dolce Vegan is that there aren't any food pictures. But I guess that's what blogs are for!

Sarah Kramer, La Dolce Vegan's author. Suggests making a fancier biscuit by dividing up the dough into three balls and smooshing them into the muffin tins. Naturally I did it. Had to try, at least on a few.
I did some plain, some in the clover-leaf, some with black sesame seeds (because I was out of the poppy seeds the recipe asked for) and some without.
And look how pretty they are!
Closer... Closer...

Now split one open and throw on a little Earth Balance vegan margarine (which I swear on a stack of VCTOTW cookbooks tastes more like real butter than real butter does!) And you have yourself a quick and fabulous baking soda biscuit to eat alone or with soup or with anything you like!
The whole process takes maybe 30 minutes, and that's on the first-time. Things always go faster after you've done it once. So what if it's 90° out there? If you can't take the heat, get out of the vegan's kitchen!

Oh man... the heat's getting to me.

But I have biscuits!

Never fear a cupcake!

I found this on Totally Not Vegan. It perfectly sums up the reaction I got to my first batch of vegan cupcakes.

(click on picture to enlarge)

I think there will be much less resistance to the next batch!

I love that the baker pictured here is actually using Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the J.K. Rowling of Vegan cookbooks.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Corn Muffins

I woke up this morning and all I could think about was corn muffins. It's been ages since I've had one but corny-muffiny-goodness was SCREAMING at me. I had to make some. There really was no other option.

I grabbed my new cooking bible: Vegan with a Vengeance and opened to the Sunny Blueberry- Corn Muffins. This was just what I needed. Unfortunately I found only about a 1/8 of a cup of blueberries in the freezer. What I really wanted was a plain ol' corn muffin but this recipe sounded so fun I had to try it out. Since I had a dearth of blueberries I added cranberries with the few blues I had on hand. Because cranberries are so awesomely tart (and so plain ol' AWESOME I always have extra bags in the freezer) I sprinkled a tiny bit of sugar onto the berries while I made up the batter in hopes that it would be just enough extra sweet to counter the tartness without being too sweet. I wanted a corn muffin, remember?
The batter was ready. I was ready. I filled a couple of paper muffin cups with non-berry adorned batter (just in case those cranberries mocked me with their tartness!) Then folded in the berry mix and filled my muffin pan!
Even before they baked they looked delicious!
But after they came out of the oven all golden and smelling sweet, I was a lost cause!
I kept telling myself I wanted plain. Just a plain, ordinary corn muffin. That's all.

But who am I kidding? I popped open one of each, spread on a pat of Earth Balance vegan margarine and as soon as it started to melt - so did I.

If there is even one of these left by the end of the day it will be a certifiable miracle.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pigeon Pea Curry with basmati rice and jicama

As in life, so in the kitchen. Oh brother, when did I become a philosopher? Still, it's true. You have the sweet, and you have the savory. The cupcakes were sweet - now let's delve into the savory!

I made it up as I went along because I had no clue what to do with pigeon peas! A little internet research came up with pigeon peas with rice made with coconut milk so I took that general idea and got crazy with my inner chef. This was my first taste of the cute little peas, I bought them as part of the "try something new every day" plan (beans are good to do that with because they are CHEAP!) and they are delish. Of course. What bean isn't?

Pigeon Pea Curry

This is what I was working with. Went through the cupboard and pulled anything that felt vaguely right.
I put the pigeon peas in to soak the night before - adding a bay leaf and Epazote spice to the water. I had a 1/4 cup of coconut milk left over from my foray into coconut ice-cream making, I didn't want to open another entire can so I only used this little sip. Given the high fat content, I think it was more than enough. Of course there are onions and garlic. Spices: curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg (go me), chili powder is in the picture but I did not use it (wrong kind of flavor for this dish). I also used turmeric (very good for you), ginger (hello healthy), one large black cardamon pod, and an Indian spice called Ajwain which I've never used before but is supposed to 'aid digestion of bean dishes' (so it couldn't hurt!). I would list amounts but I didn't measure - just threw it in and hoped for the best. I guess you could call it cooking by faith.

First you put the rice on to cook. Then saute the onions and garlic in a little (and I mean LITTLE) bit of olive oil. I added the spices here during the saute to let them all develop together.

I wish I could post the fragrance of this - with the basmati rice... forget it, I was in heaven.

After the onion spices mixture is softened up a bit, add two cups of vegetable stock. You could use water I guess but I like a lot of layered flavors. Then after that cooks for a few minutes stir in that 1/4 cup of coconut milk. It turns everything a luscious color and it starts looking like CURRY! It also thickens things up a bit so it's not so soupy.

Last I tossed the beans into the mix and just let it all simmer and blend until the rice was ready.
I had a sad little jicama that I bought about a week ago and never cut up. I do this with jicama a lot. Not sure why this happens with jicama. Seems we have some karmic issues to work out, jicama and me. But before it all went soft and useless I decided to use it with this dish, I thought the sweet crispy jicama would be a good foil for the more savory bean curry and I'm happy to say it IS! (The 'rays of the sun' in the finished product are the slices of jicama, which are yummy to crunch on in between bites of the curry and beans. I love textures!)

And here's the finished product.

As with any sort of curry or stew or soup, I'm betting this will taste even better tomorrow after the flavors have a chance to really meld. But right off the stove it was still really great. I'm a pigeon pea fan now!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Welcome to My New Obsession!

I think it's only fitting that the first post should be on the Summer Solstice. And that it should feature a gorgeous cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!

Green Tea Cupcakes!

It starts like this:

After much sifting and stirring you get this:

Careful plopping of the batter into the pans:

While they're baking you start making the icing and the pretty, pretty flowers:

Take 'em out of the oven to cool:

Then you spread that gorgeous icing on top and pop on a marzipan flower and you have this most beautiful celebration of vegan cupcakey goodness!!

Whose going to go Vegan with me now?!