Tag Archives: dessert

Spin on a classic

4 Jan

I have two go-to cookie recipes when I want to please a crowd or just my belly and am not feeling creative. One is the Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodle recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar that I know you’ve seen here before. The other is the Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies from the Joy of Vegan Baking. Both are simple but spectacular.

When I woke up on Christmas Eve, I dove right into wrapping gifts because, well, I’d done none so far. When all was done, it was 12:15, and I needed to shower and get ready for my first family gathering across town at 2:00. Except that I realized I hadn’t made a single food item for the celebration. Not only that, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until that second. I was desperate for a moment, and after being reassured by my mother and my taller half that I didn’t need to bring anything, I ignored them both — and the clock — and decided to make cookies, the Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies, to be exact.

Of course, I couldn’t just make cookies. I needed to make everything more complicated. Since the recipe makes about a dozen cookies, I realized I could take half to my dad’s house in the evening if only they were gluten-free. And didn’t I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour in the freezer? I know you know where this is going. Yes, I had my first baking experience with gluten-free flour at that moment. The result…

I came home empty-handed. Woo hoo!

Because I was scrambling, I didn’t get a good photo, but you can see them sitting comfortably with the Brussels sprouts and the steamed squash here:

The recipe is a copy of the original except that I subbed in the gluten-free flour for the all-purpose white flour. The texture and flavor were both slightly different — a little heartier, maybe — but the biggest chance was that these actually spread. Vegan cookies often do not.

The next yen I get, you may see my beloved snickerdoodles shackin’ up with Bob.

Vacation Recap Part IV: Rome

3 Jan

This post is a long time coming. I’ve actually had it ready for well over a month, but I didn’t want to post it during Vegan Mofo because it’s pretty dairy-laden. Here it is now, folks. Enjoy!

This is Part IV of IV recapping my recent Italian excursion. Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here. You can also read about my tirade against American Airlines here.

Our adventure left off on October 9 as my taller half and I boarded a train for Rome. We made a mistake on this leg; we did not buy our tickets the day before. As a result, we had no seats on the train. Instead, we occupied part of the hallway between two of the cars, near the bathroom. It made me grumpy, very grumpy, but luckily I recovered before our arrival.

When we arrived in Rome’s Termini station, we bought tickets to the metro and hopped off at the Spanish Steps area. Then we checked into our room at the Hotel Panda:

Immaculate, lovingly furnished, and freakin’ tiny. The room was really too small for the two of us. I had nightmares two nights in a row about suffocating that I can only assume were caused by this room. However, I have only positive things to say about the hotel itself. The staff was wonderful, and the location could not be topped. But if you are traveling with someone else, I would recommend a larger room.

As I said, we were near the Spanish Steps:

That first day, we visited the Villa Borghese, and my feet have never hurt more in my entire life than they did that day. See our tired faces (and the Galleria’s reflection)?

But we saw the Trevi Fountain:

Fourth time’s a charm:

(Yes, I’ve been to Rome four times.) The trip also included the Pantheon:

And the Vatican (more on that below):

And the amazing ruins in the Jewish Ghetto, called the Portico d’Ottaviano:

And those other ruins:

If you go to Rome, you must:

  • Make the trek to the Villa Borghese. You will have to climb a giant hill, but do it. It houses Bernini’s The Rape of Proserpine, which is the most amazing statue I’ve ever seen, including Michelangelo’s David. Check out this hilarious/awesome video showcasing it. It also has a Raphael painting of a girl holding a unicorn the size of a puppy (which made me think of Keiko!).
  • Have Sunday brunch at il Margutta (more below).
  • Stroll around Piazza Navona at night.
  • Throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain (see above).
  • See the Portico d’Ottaviano in the Jewish Ghetto. The Roman Forum is cool, but this was even better. It’s free, and you are practically right up against everything. Plus, the Jewish Ghetto is breathtaking.

Let’s talk Roman food now.

October 9
We had breakfast in Florence, as I reported before, and we did not eat again until dinner that night. It wasn’t because I wasn’t hungry; it’s because my feet hurt so much that I considered removing them several times. However, because our hotel was near the Spanish Steps, all the food nearby was tourist-central. Eventually, we wiped away the tears and began our Roman Death Food March. It was the longest two-mile walk of my life. The end result, however, was Zaza’, a pizza-by-the-slice joint:

Mine had cherry tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, and rosemary. It was phenomenal. My taller half had a classic Margherita, which was good, but not as good as mine. With two bottled waters, dinner cost us €5.50. Yeah, not kidding. We ate outside on a curb. I was very classy, I’m sure, in my tiny dress (see Trevi Fountain picture above).

Then we somehow found the strength to walk to San Crispino, which supposedly makes the best gelato in the world. I think it was the sugar and fat calling my name that kept me going.

I had hazelnut meringue, caramel, and cinnamon-ginger. The hazelnut meringue was freakin-frackin-flippin-flappin delicious. The other two were good but not great. My taller half had caramel, regular hazelnut, and yogurt. His were also good but not great.

Then we returned to the hotel, and our feet cried themselves to sleep.

October 10
We treated Sunday as a bit of a free day, which was nice. Our intended brunch place didn’t open until 12:30, so I had a coffee and gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut) brioche at a nearby place. I don’t have a picture, unfortunately.

After wandering about for a bit, we made our way back to il Margutta, a vegetarian restaurant (!!). They offer a Festivity Brunch every Sunday and holiday. For €25 a person, you can choose from 50 different dishes, including salads, hot dishes, fruit, juice, dessert, and coffee. Wow! Check out the non-brunch menu, which includes vegan options:

And look at the swank interior:

We were some of the first people there. Once the food was ready, we made our way through the line. Nothing was marked, so I can’t tell you exactly what is what, but I do know it’s all totally vegetarian and abso-freakin-lutely delicious. Here is my first serving:

My taller half had the following:

Then we had more food. Here’s mine:

And of course, dessert was mandatory.

At €50 total, this was by far the most expensive meal we had, but it was completely worth it. As much as I loved Osteria la Zucca in Venice, il Margutta was our overall vacation fave. I never wanted to leave.

That afternoon, we went to the Jewish Ghetto, which was really fun. I tried to hunt down a pastry shop recommended by the guidebooks, but I sadly never saw it. We took the bridge to Isola Tiberina, the world’s smallest inhabited island, and then to Trastevere to stroll. We were too full from the massive brunch for dinner, so instead we went to Gelateria Giolitti for dessert. It’s the gelato place featured in Roman Holiday, apparently.

I had marron glace (candied chestnut, a favorite of Pope John Paul II), mint, and dark chocolate. My love had bananas, coffee, and a flavor we can’t recall. It was definitely the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, and that’s certainly saying something. However, the place was absolutely crammed with a tour group. There are a ton of flavors, and you’re expected to shout out your choices quickly. Compounded with a turbulent, sardine-can-packed-and-rude-woman-filled bus ride earlier in the day, my anxiety kicked in, and I had a panic attack. It was my first one since college, so I didn’t recognize the signs quickly enough. I was doubly disappointed by it because of how delicious Giolitti was, but I was not going to venture a return visit. Hopefully my next trip to Rome will work out better.

That was the end of our otherwise lovely day.

October 11
Monday saw us rising at 6:30 a.m. to arrive bright and early at the Vatican. We had breakfast at Bar Castroni not too far from the holy city. Once again, no photo, but it was honey-topped brioches for both of us, coffee for him, and a caffe macchiato for me. The brioches were incredible, probably the best ones on the entire trip.

It’s important for me to tell you that it rained that day, and it was chilly. Anyway, we visited the Basilica and then decided to save €3 by walking up the stairs (more than 550) all the way. Let’s talk about some exercise. Check out the view once more:

For the record, we made a major mistake. We should have gone straight to the museums instead of St. Peter’s, but we didn’t realize this. So after our descent, we spent four hours (no, that’s not a typo) in line in the rain. The good news: we met a really nice girl from Romania who I believe was called Simona. The bad news: we stood in line in the rain for four hours. By the time we entered, I was starving, so I went to the caffeteria for a cornetto and coffee. I didn’t take a picture since I wasn’t supposed to use my camera inside the museum (though everyone else did). My taller half and I got separated, then reunited, and then separated again. It was stressful, but at least we got to see the sights.

We returned to the hotel because I’d effectively been wearing drenched clothes and shoes for six hours. After changing, we ventured to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and then – more importantly – Pizzeria Baffetto (which means mustache). This was such a fun dinner experience. We began queuing up at 6. Italians don’t eat dinner before 8 typically, but the line to this place was miles long by 6:15. We were the first at the door, though definitely not the first to order.

Because the place is small, we had to sit with strangers, a lovely, young French couple. Our table was right by the wood oven. Signore Baffetto was gruff and awesome, but I was too intimidated to take very many pictures. I do apologize for that. However, just imagine watching an experienced pizzaiolo throwing dough, flinging toppings, and perfectly cooking each pie. It was breathtaking and invigorating and oodles of fun. I found this great shot online, though:

Source.

Eventually, we had pizza:

Mine topped with mushrooms.

My taller half’s four cheese. We both had more Italian Coca-Cola and sparkling water and left happy and full. During dinner, we watched the mustachioed owner snap at people who tried to sneak in without waiting in line. At one point, an old woman attempted to do so, and he yelled at her to wait like everyone else. She gave him a “cut me some slack” look, and he responded, “Cammina!” which means “Walk!” Minutes later, he walked by our table and pinched the cheek of the gal sitting with us. It was awesome.

You didn’t think we were too full for dessert, though, did you? We decided to try San Crispino again since it was close, and I was hoping to be wowed.

I had crema di San Crispino, clementine, and their special chocolate; my taller half had crema di San Crispino, the amazing hazelnut meringue, and cream. Again, the hazelnut meringue was amazing, but the others were just fine. Giolitti was better, even if it made me hysterical. After eating, we walked around Piazza Navona and then returned to the hotel. I had my first claustrophobia nightmare that night.

October 12
We slept in until 9:00, which was an excellent choice. For breakfast, we popped over to Caffé Greco, an historic bar built in 1760:

Apparently Keats and Casanova liked it. So did we. We both had cream-filled brioche. I enjoyed my final real cappuccino, and my love had coffee.

We looked at ancient stuff that day. When we were ruined out, we had – wait for it – gelato at Ara Coeli:

Mine was pretty insane. I went with pine nut and nutello. I assumed the latter was Nutella-flavored gelato, but it ended up being straight-up housemade chocolate-and-hazelnut spread. It was brilliant. The two were incredibly good together. The nutello was so intense, though, that I had to give some to my taller half.

He went a little crazier than I did with four flavors: banana, lemon, white chocolate, and caramel.

After some Roming (get it?) around, we strolled over to Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio to buy some artisanal chocolates. I bought a large dark-chocolate medallion with toasted hazelnuts for my mom. I sure wish I knew what happened to it. (That is not code for “I ate it!” I honestly cannot find the darn thing.) We got a little assortment for ourselves, too. Check out the adorable packaging:

I had incredible dark chocolate with cinnamon shaped like seahorses. My taller half chose three: milk chocolate with coffee (amazing!), milk chocolate with raspberry (so good!), sugary mint dipped in dark chocolate (delicious!).

We did a little shopping, returned to Piazza Navona, and then made our way to our final dinner destination: Cacio e Pepe.

The weather was nice, even if it was dark, so we ate outside. First we ate fresh bread:

And then we died. And then we were revived in time to eat the house specialty (cacio e pepe, surprisingly, which is pasta with cheese, pepper, and butter):

We died again. The noodles were incredibly long and clearly made fresh that day. The dish was packed with flavor. It was a great farewell to Roman cuisine.

By this point in the trip, I was exhausted and not feeling well, so sleep came quickly.

October 13
We left the hotel at an ungodly hour to catch the first metro to the train station. Then we took a train to the airport. I had breakfast there. I won’t show you the cappuccino and brioche because I think you get the point by now. My love had coffee and fruit salad.

I won’t talk about the flight because I’ve already given my rant. Just know that I was not happy.

My health deteriorated on all the airplanes. When we arrived at our layover in JFK, I purchased a Mediterranean wrap (Field Greens, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Sun-Dried Tomato Relish, hold the feta and olives) and orange juice from Au Bon Pain. It tasted incredible, possibly because I felt pretty ill. And thus I embraced my dairy-eschewing ways back in my homeland. I slept on the next two flights as much as possible, and eventually, we returned home.

So that, my friends, was my culinary adventure through Italy.

Gingerbread Pudding

27 Nov

I was a miserable failure at posting baked goods yesterday, but the truth is that I was just tired. I was too tired to bake and too exhausted to post anything other than my restaurant review. I didn’t bake today either, but I did whip up a double batch of Chocolate Gingerbread on Wednesday for my taller half’s family Thanksgiving. Four pieces remain, so I guess it was a hit. I used a slight modification on the original. In addition to doubling all the ingredients, I also:

  • Baked it in a 9×13″ pan instead of two 8x8s.
  • Added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Used about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips.
  • Used 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of black-strap molasses.
  • Substituted white sugar for the brown because of the molasses.

My taller half liked this batch better. I think the flavor was about equal to the first (different, but not improved), but they are moister and more brownie-like, which is nice.

I would like to state once again that I do not believe in leftover dessert. There is only dessert that has yet to be eaten. However, sometimes it’s fun to play dress-up with what remains a few days later. I was curious to turn a square into Gingerbread Pudding with the addition of a butter sauce. Enter this unbelievably easy recipe:

Quickie Vegan Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1 tablespoon homemade almond milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put it all in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Yes, that’s really it.

To make Gingerbread Pudding, add a slice of Chocolate Gingerbread into the bowl and spoon the sauce on top. Put it back in the microwave for 15 seconds. Eat and rejoice.

The sauce was incredible! The last thing I needed to do was figure out how to make my Chocolate Gingerbread full of more fat, sugar, and calories, but I did it anyway. I plan to eat the rest of the leftovers in a similar manner.

I hope everyone’s having as delightful a weekend as I am!

Weekly Contest #3 Results and Winner

22 Nov

Yep, it’s time again to talk about my most recent contest, so let’s get right to it.

As a reminder, the challenge was to make something raw – an uncooking challenge, if you will. I decided to make raw, taller-half-killing soup. The poor thing is allergic to avocados, so it was all for me. Darn. ;)

I looked at a few recipes from around the blog world and combined them to make Raw Avocado Salsa Soup.

All you do is combine in a blender:

  • Flesh from 1/2 an avocado
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • Juice from 1/4 to 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • About 1/2 a cup of homemade almond milk (start with 1/4 cup and add more to obtain desired consistency)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro

Blend until smooth and creamy. I have to be honest: I didn’t love this soup. I think I made it too creamy. The flavor was good, but it just wasn’t my taste preferences. I would be willing to try raw soup again, but I need a different – maybe chunkier? – texture and flavor. It would have been a good salad dressing or dip.

And now, what did my readers come up with?

First is Little Momo, who submitted not one, but two entries. The first are Sunshine Bars, based on this recipe at Gone Raw.

Don’t they look gorgeous? She also shared Nanaimo Bars using an original recipe:

I had to Google the term. Basically, Nanaimo Bars are no-bake squares featuring layers of cookie, icing, and chocolate. Yum! Sign me up. Here is her recipe for our enjoyment:

Base
1 cups coconut, shredded
2 cups mixed nuts(I used pecans and cashews)
1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup raisins
3 tbsps. cacao powder
coconut water

Middle
1 8oz. jar of Artisana Goji Bliss

Topping
1 cup coconut oil(warmed)
2 tbsps cacao powder
agave to taste(you want a bittersweet top since the rest is so sweet)

You will need:
large mixing bowl
food processor
one small baking pan(8×11)
saran wrap or wax paper
refrigerator

First, put your coconut oil in a bowl of warm water to thaw and set aside. Do this with the Goji Bliss aswell. Then, combine dates and raisins in your food processor and pulse until finely chopped, put aside in large mixing bowl. Process your nuts until fine and mix in with dates, raisins, now add the shredded coconut and cacao powder. Add a very small amount of coconut water and mix together until it is a sticky consistency(if you use soaked dates/rasisins, you will not need the coconut water). Line your pan with saran or wax paper, press in mixture evenly, set aside. Now pour the Goji Bliss over this mixture and press in to even out. Now, mix together the coconut oil, cacao powder, agave, a wee bit of coconut water (this will make the top layer more of a fudgy texture) for your topping and pour into pan. Set in fridge or freezer. Ready in 30 mins. Enjoy!!!

Once again, Kate of Fat Ass to Fit Ass, shared her lemon recipe, Raw Lemon Pudding:

She gets major props for being able to cut through an avocado pit.

Superwoman much? Like me, she embraced the avocado and lemon in her creation.

Edit to add: Vegan of the Great White North submitted her recipe on time, but it hightailed it to my spam folder. Darn it! Here is what she shared, however, Raw Vegan Cheezecake.

Ain’t it gorgeous? Head to her post to see all the progress pictures.

And the winner is . . . Little Momo! I liked the double effort, and her presentation on both is just gorgeous, but the Nanaimo Bars won me over all by themselves. I can’t get behind the consumption of raisins, but I can let that slide. ;) I will contact you about your prize, darlin’.

Vegan get-well goodies

20 Nov

The wonderful Tara came by my place today to take possession of her contest winnings. She knew my evil little dog had tripped me and injured my ankle, so, in her thoughtfulness, she brought me a little something:

Virgil’s Cream Soda and a vegan pumpkin pie. How thoughtful is that? I can’t wait to break into both.

What’s your favorite comfort food when you’re sick or injured?

I’m off to continue lying on the couch before tonight’s Thanksgiving party with friends. I baked cookies, but otherwise I’ve been ordered to stay off my feet. Catch you foodies tomorrow!

Chocolate Gingerbread

19 Nov

I couldn’t decide what to whip up for my Friday baking, so I began looking through some cookbooks and comparing ingredients with what I had in the apartment. I ultimately decided to modify the Ginger-Spice Brownies from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. The results were a little cake-like for me to call them brownies. Instead, this recipe felt more like gingerbread to me with chocolate thrown in for good measure. Here’s what I did.


Chocolate Gingerbread

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, allspice, and cocoa.

Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

In a medium owl, stir together oil, maple syrup, water, sugar, and fresh ginger. Add the wet to the dry and combine thoroughly.Pour the batter into the baking dish, spreading with the back of a large spoon to make it even. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let cool completely, then cut into pieces.

Each of my contest winners received a few as well as some tea and more Justin’s Nut Butter. The original recipe includes some cinnamon, but I omitted it because a certain someone crazy delightful doesn’t like the stuff. I don’t get it either, but I don’t judge too much. It also called for regular sugar instead of brown, 1/2 cup of walnuts (which I left out entirely), and molasses instead of the maple syrup. I think my version is absolutely delicious and didn’t miss any of those ingredients. I saved a couple of small squares for myself. I ate one on its own but felt compelled to do something schmancy with the other one, so I made a Chocolate Gingerbread Shake based on my Pumpkin Cookie Shake recipe:

Deeeeeelicious.

And now I’m off to lay on the couch. My craphead dog tripped me earlier and caused me to aggravate my bad ankle. Hopefully this doesn’t ruin all my weekend plans.

Homemade almond milk and Sunday Night Scramble

15 Nov

So what was with that bowl full of wet almonds I posted over the weekend?

I decided to try making my own almond milk. I’m not a big soy milk fan. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite vegan dairy alternative. It mimics the real stuff well in appearance, nutrition, and texture, but the flavor is not my thang. Almond has a much better flavor, but all the packaged stuff is full of fillers and preservatives. Blech. It makes me think of a line from my favorite movie: “There’s no food in your food.” (Can you name the film?)

How do you make almond milk? It’s so flippin’ easy I’m almost embarrassed to call this a recipe.

Step 1: Soak one cup of almonds in enough water to cover overnight. (See above.) Mine stayed in for about 18 hours.

Step 2: Drain the almonds and throw them into the blender with two cups of water.

Step 3: Blend until smooth.

Step 4: Add two more cups of water. Blend until smooth.

Step 5: Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Or be super-cheap and ghetto and line with a paper towel instead. I will use the good stuff next time.

Step 6: Store in an airtight container.

That’s it. It took about three minutes in the blender. With a container full of freshly milked almond liquid, I had to make something, right? I decided to transform some leftovers with it. I ended up not with some dignified rice dish or soup. No no, friends, meet my new BFF the Pumpkin Cookie Shake.

This does not contain ice cream. However, I don’t feel as though I can sully the word “smoothie” by slapping the moniker on this definite dessert.

In a blender, combine:

  • 1 frozen banana, in chunks
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1 Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie (or other cookie)
  • 3/4 cup fresh almond milk
  • Sprinkling of cinnamon

Blend until smooth.

Drink and marvel at how amazing you are for creating this luscious dessert. The result is incredibly rich and creamy and wonderful. Not that there is such a thing as a leftover cookie, but it’s a fun way to transform a cookie you just haven’t eaten yet. ‘Twould also be good with vanilla added and really any other cookie you have already made.

Baked Goods Friday

12 Nov

I’ve probably mentioned before that I don’t work on Fridays. It’s a source of joy in my life. Usually I spend them lazing about and/or running errands, but ever since November began, you MoFos have been keeping me in the kitchen.

I told my taller half that I would be making Blueberry Spice Crumb Bars from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Check out the book for the recipe, but here are the steps.

First you mix together the shortbread dough and the blueberry stuff. This involves a pastry cutter.

Then you press three cups’ worth of dough into a baking pan.

Spread the blueberry mixture on top.

Crumble the rest of the dough on top and bake.

Eat and enjoy.

These are tasty, though they won’t change your life. They could use a thicker fruit layer next time around. I’m not a big blueberry fan, in all honesty, so I decided to whip up a batch of my much-beloved Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups unbleached white and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour this time)
  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease or line two baking sheets and set them aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugars, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients in batches, folding to combine.

Add the chocolate chips, folding to combine. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets about one inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes, longer if you want a firmer cookie. Let cool on a wire rack. Makes about 30 cookies.

I’ve had about a million today. They’re awesome!

Weekly Contest #1 Results and Winner

9 Nov

Hey folks,

I’m excited that five people participated in the baking challenge. I also heard from a few others who wanted to but had a stumbling block for one reason or another. I totally understand and encourage you all to participate in my next food challenge, which I will announce after this post goes up.

So, without further ado, here’s a round-up of my participants. I will start with my own entry (which, of course, can’t win the prize).

My reasons for choosing this challenge were partly selfish. A coworker now has a beautiful one-month-old daughter, and since I’m obsessed with babies, I’m always looking for excuses to go see mom and little one. On a recent visit, I told my friend to let me know if she needed anything, and recalling a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles I brought to the office for my birthday, she quickly responded, “Cookies.” The catch is that her new arrival cannot have chocolate – it’s too much of a stimulant for her. A catch for most bakers is also that the baby has a dairy allergy, but that one was easy for me. So I began to brainstorm what to bake instead of my usuals, which made me interested to see what all of you would do. Here’s what I made for her:

Citrus Glitters (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats) and Cinnamon Coffee Cake (from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

Not a bad little care package, eh?

For the Citrus Glitters, I used a mix of mostly orange and lemon zest with a bit of lime, too. It was the first time I made this recipe, and they totally rocked. The citrus packed a punch without being overwhelming. Next time, I will amp up the lime so the flavors are a little better balanced, but I highly recommend this recipe. You get to use your hands, which is always fun.

The coffee cake is one of my faves. It’s full of fall spices, and it’s great on its own or with a nice hot beverage. The only deviation I make from the recipe is in the crumb topping. I don’t use the nuts (I don’t like the way they overpower the ginger), and I add just enough oil to give it a good texture. If you skip the nuts and don’t reduce the oil, then the topping is basically impossible to spread. I never measure the oil – just drizzle it in and stop when the flour-spice mix is wet bit still sprinkle-able.

And now, let’s see what all of you came up with. These are in order of when I received them:

Up first is meansoybean’s (LOVE that name!) pan-fried butternut squash cake.Her entry is an inventive use of leftover cake (I’m trying to imagine that happening in my home) that is getting a little past its prime. I’m pressed to think of something more indulgent than fried cake. It sounds absolutely delicious!

Next, we have Czech Vegan in America’s Cranberry Pumpkin Bread.I love how gorgeous the cranberries look in that deep orange bread. It just screams fall. I also love how simple the recipe is. I bet mini loaves of this would be a great holiday gift.

Our third submission is Tofu Cheesecake from the blog My Brand New Life.

It’s like a regular cheesecake, only vegan and huge! I haven’t tried any vegan desserts with tofu, so this one definitely caught my attention.

Up next, Phoenix Dreaming brings us Jack (the Pumpkin King) Pie.

The name alone is definitely a winner, and I love pumpkin. For others unfamiliar with Speculoos, they are a kind of shortbread cookie. Tasty!

And finally, my real-life homegirl Kate of Fat Ass to Fit Ass (sorry, Mom!) brings us Vegan Apple Crisp.

Kate is not a vegan nor does she have much vegan baking experience, so she gets props for taking on the challenge, even if she apparently hates cinnamon. I also love that she took the challenge in a slightly healthier direction. Also, yum, apples!

And now folks, the winner is . . .

meansoybean!

Congratulations! The judges (i.e. my taller half and I) applauded your presentation, creativity, and the effort that went into sharing your recipe with us. I can’t wait to try it! I will email you to get your address so I can send some goodies. Please let me know if you have any food allergies.

Thanks again to everyone who entered! It was a really tough choice, which is why I had to ask for help from my taller half. You’re all awesome!

Which entry are you the most excited to bake? Also, look for the week #2 contest announcement in just a bit.

On cupcakes and amazing soup

7 Nov

Today my taller half and I ventured to Oklahoma City to attend The Girlie Show, a super kick-butt craft show full of talented ladies held every November. It’s a great opportunity to get started on holiday shopping, and it’s also a wonderful way to blow some of your holiday-shopping money on yourself.

Anyway, I don’t go to OKC terribly often because: 1. it’s an hour and a half away, 2. the toll costs $8 round trip, and 3. Tulsa is generally more awesome. Sorry friends, but it’s true. However, I do make it to Das Kapital several times a year, and it’s always a great opportunity to try out some tasty food. Today did not disappoint.

My first food encounter was the fine folks of culinary stop was a booth giving out free coffee samples from Elemental Coffee Roasters at The Girlie Show. I tried the Groove blend, which was light but still strong. I had about a shot-glass’s worth and was still bouncing off the walls. I should really never drink coffee twice in one day. All in all, it was a tasty brew, but I would have to try more blends before giving a real review. Also, I have no photos. No pictures, no write-up, I say.

Afterward, we ventured over to Saturn Grill in suburb Nichols Hills (which I didn’t realize until today even existed). Check out their interesting menu here. My cheese-loving half went with the Rustin Roman Pie:

It featured red sauce, roma tomato, red onion, fresh basil, mozzarella, goat cheese, and Kalamata olives. He was quite happy and ate every bite. I had a small nibble and gave it a thumbs up.

I veganized the Grilled Veggie Sandwich (held the mayo) and tried the daily soup, Pumpkin Ancho:

Oh my word. The sandwich was good — the veggies (zucchini, bell pepper, onion, portobello mushroom, plus spinach and tomato) were well grilled and full of flavor:

but the soup was one of the best soups I’ve ever had in my life. It had so much savory body and delectable spicy notes. It’s normally topped with sour cream and pecans, but I had them hold the dairy. I can’t imagine it would be better with it. I need to recreate the soup.

On the side were a trio of housemade pickles that I could sorta tolerate. That says a lot coming from me, an avowed pickle-hater. As I told the woman who worked there, they actually taste like a vegetable. My taller half loved the two pieces I didn’t touch.

Over all, I give it *** on the veggie-options scale and ***** on the tastiness scale. That soup inched it up an extra star. (See this post for more info on the scales.)

Saturn Grill has two locations, one at 6432 S. Avondale Dr. in Nichols Hills and another at 4401 W. Memorial in OKC.

———–

After lunch, we jetted a mere 0.7 miles up the road for cupcakes from Green Goodies by Tiffany — vegan cupcakes, in fact. A representative was there offering free samples at The Girlie Show, but none of the ones on offer were dairy-free. She told me, however, that vegan ones are available in the store every day, so I knew I wanted to drop by before we made the trek home.

It has an adorable exterior:

And an even cuter interior, but I didn’t take a photo. Silly Brigid. They offer a variety of flavors in organic, vegan/allergy-free, or diabetic-friendly and gluten-free. They do special orders, too. Pretty great, eh? Well, the proof is in the pudding cupcake.

Above is my taller half’s Salted Caramel (a vanilla cupcake with a caramel interior topped with buttercream frosting a caramel drizzle), and below is my vegan Green Hostess (a chocolate cupcake filled with vanilla buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache and a recognizable swirl). Here is what my love said about his:

The salted caramel cupcake rattled the walls and set fire to the floor!

I had a nibble and my goodness, it was incredible. Mine, however, was…also incredible! It tasted very much like a Hostess cupcake except instead of chemicals and beef fat, it was full of real-food flavor and a delicious dark-chocolate wallop. It was incredibly fluffy and moist, and the ganache was thick and chocolatey. The gal working today told me it’s their most popular flavor period. Check out the interior:

They can do any flavor in any of the preferred options (vegan, wheat-free, etc.) with advance notice. They also do cupcake towers for weddings and the like. If you’re in Oklahoma City, don’t miss out!

Over all, I give it ***** on the veggie-options scale and ***** on the tastiness scale. This is serious cupcake bidness. These are by far the best cupcakes — let alone vegan ones — I’ve had at a specialty shop.

Green Goodies by Tiffany is located at 7606 N. Western Ave. in Nichols Hills.

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