Craziness, Cookies, and Cupcakes

It seems I spent all of last week in the kitchen baking, prepping, dicing, kneading, waiting…

I don’t have many pictures to prove it, but trust me. It was a lot of work. Fun work. Rewarding work. My fridge and freezer were stocked full of food my family couldn’t eat. We were living off chik’n strips from the depths of the freezer. And edamame. Because I found some of that kind of chilling out at the bottom as well.

So why the madness? It has to do with church again, of course. The biggest fundraising event of the year was on Saturday, and I was helping to coordinate food (again). My partner-in-crime (who I’ll refer to as Doc) was covering most of the day-of stuff. The guacamole, salsas, etc. After all, Doc has a day job. One of those “real” jobs where you wake up in the morning, put on some somewhat nice clothes, and go in for several hours to do some really geek-intensive science-y stuff. You know, the kind of science-y stuff not in a kitchen. I hear that type of science exists.

I covered flatbread dough, bruschetta, cupakes, cookies, and strawberries. And the booze. LOTS of booze. At least I got to buy that at the store!

All told, we made up six flatbreads with a sundried tomato and olive oil base, onion jam, fresh basil, and (sigh) whole-milk mozzarella. Doc made a queso dip with braised beef in it. It smelled fantastic. I salivated. I remained strong. (Woot!) Three salsas graced the table: pineapple, corn, tomato. We probably went through six bags of tortilla chips. There was leftover guacamole this year, which surprised us.

The bruschetta (LOVED IT) was a recipe I found in a Vegetarian Times magazine, substituting nutritional yeast for Parmesan. And of course, there was the always-present hummus. I don’t think a church gathering is complete without it.

Samoa cupcakes made an appearance again, along with a plain vanilla. Apparently, playing it safe isn’t very popular, since there was still a vanilla left at the end of the intermission. It’s okay. A friend came to the rescue and disposed of it for me.

I tried some new recipes, like these almond cupcakes with green tea glaze and marzipan flowers, inspired by the green tea cupcakes over at The PPK.

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Oreo buttercream was a huge hit.

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Turns out people were getting those Oreo cupcakes just for the frosting. Maybe I’ll just do some frosting shots next year and save the cost of flour.

There were so many cookies I don’t even know where to start. We were still eating them during coffee hour on Sunday, and there was enough left over to make up 44 snack-baggies of cookies for the sandwich line on Tuesday morning.

Since I had leftover marzipan, I made cookies for another church event Tuesday evening. almondCookiesAnd these… I’ll give you the recipe for right now.

Almond Cookies

  • 1 C vegan margarine, softened
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C AP flour
  • 1/2 C finely chopped almonds or almond meal

Beat margarine, sugar, and extracts in a bowl until fluffy. Beat in flour, then almonds. Divide dough into two halves on plastic wrap. Wrap and roll into logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Unwrap dough. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F. Trim rough ends of dough logs. Cut cookie rounds about 1/2-inch thick. These cookies don’t spread, so you can arrange them on the cookie sheet quite close. Just don’t allow them to touch. Bake 15 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden. Allow to cool 2-5 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Green Tea Glaze
(recipe from The PPK, but she didn’t include directions for some reason)

  • 2 T margarine, melted
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp unsweetened matcha tea powder
  • 1 – 2 T coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Drop of vanilla

In a small bowl, combine margarine and matcha. Whisk (I used the whisk attachment on my beaters) until combined. Add 1/4 C powdered sugar and beat. Add almond and vanilla extracts and another 1/4 C sugar. Use coconut milk as needed to thin the mixture appropriately to keep it smooth. Add in remaining powdered sugar 1/4 C at a time until entirely incorporated. Use a butter knife or small spreader to spread glaze on the cookies. Decorate elsewise (Is that a word? It should be a word.) as you wish.

 

 

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Samoa Cupcakes

I told you before about the whole cupcake-lady-at-church-thing. When the annual Chili Cook-off & Homebrew Competition rolled around, of course I volunteered to bring in some vegan cupcakes for the cupcake bar. I mean — pssssssh. Duh.

A friend shared this recipe for Samoa cupcakes with me. He begged me to make them for him. I should point out that he lives in St. Louis. That’s a bit of a trek from the East coast. In lieu of cupcake delivery, I promised him some Facebook foodp*rn.

Rather than shelling out $$ to buy some vegan caramels, I made my own for the topping. Caramels + shipping >> cost of making my own. By a factor of 5+. Do the math. I’m cheap.

Anywho, these cupcakes are just a simple chocolate batter with a delicious top.

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

  • 1 C full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4C sugar
  • 1/3C canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or coconut extract, if you wanna get fancy!)
  • 1C AP flour
  • 1/3C extra-dark cocoa
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 12-ct cupcake tin. Whisk together milk and vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugar, oil, and vanilla until combined. Add the milk mixture and beat until foamy.

Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, beating so no large lumps remain. Fill liners 2/3 full. Bake 18-22 minutes.

Samoa Topping

  • 1/2 recipe coco-caramels (8-10 oz)
  • 3 C shredded coconut (I used sweetened, but use unsweetened if you prefer), toasted
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2-3 T coconut milk

Break up the caramel and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with coconut milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir every minute or so to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula. Allow to cool slightly before spreading on cupcakes. If the mixture begins to firm up too much, microwave it for about 30 seconds to soften it enough for spreading. I used about 2T topping per cupcake, spreading it on with a small spreader.

Chocolate Drizzle

Place the chips in a piping bag or Ziploc bag. If in a piping bag, stand it up in a large microwave-safe drinking glass. If a Ziploc, make sure it’s sealed. Microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, squeezing the chocolate between each zap. Once melted, snip the end of the pastry bag or the corner of the Ziploc and drizzle over your cupcakes.

Voila! Beautiful, delicious perfection.

samoaCupcakes

 

Coco-caramels

I have an affinity for all things caramel. It can be in a candy bar (Caramello, I miss you!), a simply-wrapped chunk of chewy goodness, or the all-time-bestest-ever candy: Milkfuls. Oh how I miss Milkfuls.

Even my Grandma’s sticky buns were drenched in an incredibly gooey and cavity-inducing sweet caramel sauce, making them completely irresistible to me. As difficult as giving up cheese proved to be, the caramel torture was a much heavier burden to bear.

What is a caramelholic to do??!?

It involves superheated sugar and coconut milk. And a few burns. And some lessons learned about the differences between wax paper and parchment paper. And in the end? Worth. It.

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You’ll want a candy thermometer for this. Don’t use a digital unless it really is instant-read. The response time on those is usually just wayyyyy too slow. (I’m looking at you, Martha Stewart. You liar.) Even the nice heavy-duty ones don’t necessarily work well with the way I make these caramels. I have a Wilton model, with a little lip that prevents the bottom of the thermometer from resting on the pan. Sorry. Now it’s above the syrup, even. Oi. The best one I ever used was a super-cheap one like this, and I accidentally put it through the dishwasher. Oopsie.

I like to use a deep, wide-bottomed pot. The larger surface area makes for quicker heating, and the depth gives you a little leeway during the second stage of the process, when the caramel mixture becomes really bubbly and foamy.

As a safety note, you’re going to be working with some really hot stuff here. Wear long sleeves and have some oven mitts handy for handling hot stuff.

Are you ready to get gooey? (Sorry I didn’t take step-by-step photos. Maybe next time.)

For starters, prepare an 8×8 or 9×9 pan by lining it with either parchment paper or non-stick aluminum. Wax paper doesn’t work. I repeat. Wax paper doesn’t work. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Brush the bottom and sides of the lined pan with some melted coconut oil, or use some baking spray on it.

  • 1 pint (16 oz) coconut milk or creamer — I like to use So Delicious creamer
  • 3/4 C light corn syrup

Combine in a large pot. If you’d like, add up to 1 tsp of your favorite sea salt. Heat this while stirring over medium heat until the corn syrup and creamer are a homogenous mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • 1 3/4 C evaporated cane juice
  • 3/4 C water

In a separate pot, combine sugar and water. Stir until sugar is all moistened. Clip candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat on medium-high heat without stirring until the thermometer reads 310F/155C (hard crack). If you’re nervous about not stirring the pot, you can lift it from time to time and give it a gentle swirl.

Here’s where it gets a little hairy. Pour the superheated sugar mixture into the milk mixture. Do it quickly. It’ll bubble and splash. The sugar will cool quickly and form a lump. Don’t worry. Take the opportunity to swap your candy thermometer to this pot.

Your caramel mixture will require nearly continuous stirring. Stir it on medium-low heat until that lump of sugar melts, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir stir stir until your thermometer reads 240F/115C (soft ball). This seems to take forever, but once your caramel starts to rise above the boiling point, the temperature will shoot up fairly quickly. Be diligent. You’ll have to stir vigorously to keep the foaming to a controllable level as well. Once the foam dies down a little, you’ll be pretty close to finishing.

Once you’ve reached soft ball stage, grab a spatula, remove the pot from the heat, and quickly pour the caramel into your prepared pan, scraping the sides almost immediately. If you wait to scrape the sides, the caramel will cook past the soft ball stage and you’ll have some awkwardly crunchy bits in your chewy caramels from the scraped bits.

PRO-TIP
Immediately sprinkle the caramel with some coarse sea salt before it gets a chance to do much cooling. Yummy!

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Use a hot knife coated in a little coconut oil to slice this sweet gooeyness into squares. Or, top with some melted chocolate before cutting.

Recipe from Saveur

Ratatouille Leftovers

You guys know I can’t pass up an opportunity to use up leftovers in a new dish. It’s part of the fun in making food in the first place. So when I had a big pot of delicious ratatouille left after dinner, I put on my superhero cape and got to work.

I use no-boil or “oven ready” lasagna noodles when I can find them. Two reasons: time-saving and I don’t boil the skin of my hands off by handling hot slippery noodles. When possible, I assemble my lasagna the moment I know I’ll have leftovers. Having a large lasagna pan with a lid makes that super-easy. Just slap it together and refrigerate or freeze it until you’re ready for it to bake.

I do keep some jars of pasta sauce on hand, although it’s super-easy to make your own from fresh tomatoes or cans of tomatoes or tomato sauce. What I use depends on the time I have and what flavors I want in my lasagna. As a fair warning, I LOVE garlic. So a classic Napoletana made with roasted garlic is usually my go-to kind of sauce (Yes, I know Barilla isn’t exactly high-end).

Ratatouille Lasagna

  • 1 pkg oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1-2 C ratatouille
  • 1 recipe tofu ricotta
  • 1 (14-16 oz) jar pasta sauce (or 2 C of your own devising)
  • 2 C kale or spinach, washed, dried, sautéed
  • Daiya mozzarella shreds

In the bottom of a 9×13 casserole or lasagna pan, spread about 1/4C of pasta sauce. Cover with a layer of noodles. Top with the kale and half the ricotta and a sprinkle of Daiya. Add a layer of noodles and coat with sauce. Spread with ratatouille and top with Daiya and some sauce. Layer with noodles. Spread with the rest of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with Daiya. Top with noodles. Use remaining sauce to completely cover the noodles. Sprinkle  with more Daiya. Cover pan with foil.

You can refrigerate this up to two days, freeze for (probably no longer than) a month, or bake it immediately for an hour in a 350F oven. Remove foil during last 10 minutes of baking.

lasagna_side

Ratatouille

Skinner: You know something about rats, you know you do!
Linguini: You know who know, do, whacka-do. Ratta-tatta – Hey, why do they call it that?
Skinner: What?
Linguini: Ratatouille. It’s like a stew, right? Why do they call it that? If you’re gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat patootie! Which does not sound delicious.
from Disney/Pixar’s “Ratatouille“. quote via IMDB

Weirdly enough, my own “Little Chef” doesn’t like this movie as much as I do. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feature enough animals, or maybe because he’d rather actually be in the kitchen helping me rather than watching people cook on TV. Who knows. The kid is crazy.

But lookit this.

remys-ratatouille

If you’ve ever had ratatouille, you know it would take more than just that tiny little stack of perfectly-mandolined veggies to make a meal. It’s a stew. A bit heaping bowl or plate of delicious, warming, comforting stew. Like this:

ratatouille

Ratatouille

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 eggplant, stemmed and diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T vegetable broth or water
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • herbs of choice

In a large saucepan or a pot, saute onion over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan as needed. Add bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, and broth or water. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper.

I used 1 tsp of dried basil in this, but an Italian blend or Herbes de Provence also does well.

Of course, there are other variations to this dish. Often, the eggplant and zucchini will be sautéed separately, then a sauce is made with the onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. The eggplant and zucchini might be layered in a casserole dish or a dutch oven, then covered in the sauce and baked or simmered on the stove. Whatever method you prefer, it will turn out delicious!

Leftovers? Well, you know we’ll make good use of those. Tune in next time (and sorry for the wait)!

In the meantime, enjoy this article I read recently from our local “alternative” newspaper: “Methinks I Don’t Protest Enough or Mama, I’m Running Away to Join the Circus Protest.”

Cold Killer

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve had an appetite for anything. Having a cold means that the sense of taste is so dulled, eating isn’t enjoyable. What’s the point of eating good food if I can’t taste it? I’ve been living off of cream of wheat and coffee, so it’s understandable that this week has been dragging on. I was so tired of not tasting food by Friday that I decided to fight back with garlic. LOTS of garlic.

Like, an entire bulb of garlic.

Cold-Killer Soup

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 oz stemmed and thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 bulb garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 C rice vinegar
  • 1/4 C dry quinoa
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 C filtered water
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat oil in a soup pot over med-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add rice vinegar and cook until evaporated. Add quinoa, water, and broth. Bring to a simmer. Add kale. Simmer 20 minutes, until kale is softened and quinoa is cooked.

    I prefer to use lacinato kale in this, but curly kale is also a good alternative. I lightly massage the kale by rolling it between my palms while I’m adding it to the pot. This makes it a little more tender and slightly less bitter.

    Feel free to cut the garlic in half if your tastebuds work properly!

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    Troublemakers…

    Carol is causing trouble again over at Coffee, Clutter and Chaos, making my sweet treats healthier (and not quite vegan — but I’ll let it slide).  She converted my Chocolate Death Puddingcake into a diabetic and Weight-Watcher friendly recipe. Use coconut oil or vegan margarine such as Earth Balance (did you know they have a soy-free option??) in place of butter and rice milk instead of 1% cow’s milk, and the points and conversions should be similar.

    I’m sorry I have nothing new to give you guys this week, since our household has been suffering from some sort of Yuck. I hope to be back in the kitchen cooking up evil by early next week at the latest! Thanks for being patient.

    If you have any recipe requests… types of food you like, maybe for some more sweets or savories, leave it in the comments below. I’m always up for a challenge!

    V.V.