Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chocolate Berry Loaf [recipe]

I've been a vegan baking fool ever since my sister gifted me with a copy of Joy of Vegan Baking for Christmas. Initially, my schedule kept me from dedicating time for baking, but I've caught up over the past week or so, finally having the chance to heat up my house by turning on that oven for baking!

As you'll see below, I made two recipes from Joy of Vegan Baking... the first was the Apple Pecan Muffins. Boy, were those good! I personally could've cooked mine a few more minutes, but they were still yummy, even if I didn't peel the apples as directed (yeah, I'm lazy!). The second recipe I made from the book was Blueberry Orange Bundt Cake, only I made mine in a regular loaf pan. Got a silicone loaf pan recently and I've been using it every chance I get because I love that thing! Came out great, even using frozen blueberries instead of fresh, because it was all I had on hand. Both of these baked goods were "tested" on my omni fiance... and he approved! He also got the chance to try the vegan banana bread I made back in December. I made two loaves at the time and froze one, which I defrosted last weekend and gave to him for munching. He didn't try it while I was at his house (we were eating blueberry orange cake, afterall!) but he sent me an e-mail later in the week to tell me the banana bread was really good. The fact that he made the effort to send an e-mail just to say that, says something to me.... that animal-free baking can be just as yummy! :)

Anyway, today is my birthday. Many of you offered me kind wishes earlier in the month when I celebrated with my family, but today is the actual day I turn the ripe ol' age of 34. As a birthday gift to myself, like last year, I took the day off of work today! I think everyone should have off on their birthday, don't you? :) I'm sitting here with my morning coffee, eating a slice of Chocolate Berry Loaf for breakfast (main post photo, above). Mmm.... would be a sin not to share! One of my goals for my blog this year is to adapt more recipes and share them with you... I haven't done a very good job so far, but last night I converted this recipe into an animal-free version and it came out pretty good. This recipe was adapted from a recent women's magazine.

Chocolate Berry Loaf
(makes 3 mini loaves or one standard-size loaf)

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 plus 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Egg replacer for two eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup Tofutti brand sour cream
1/2 cup soy yogurt
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped
3 tablespoons chocolate chips

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the three mini loaf pans with cooking spray or oil.
2) In a small bowl, mix together cocoa powder, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water until it's a smooth consistency. Set aside.
3) In a larger bowl, mix together flour, bakig powder, baking soda and salt.
4) In a medium-sized bowl, mix together remaining 3/4 cup sugar, your chosen eggs substitute, oil and almond extract. Whisk in sour cream.
5) Stir sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until well-blended. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the batter in with the cocoa mixture, along with the chopped berries, until no white streaks remain.
6) Drop alternating spoonfuls of batter into the mini loaf pans, then swirl a knife through the batter for a marble effect. Top each loaf with one tablespoon chocolate chips.
7) Bake at 350 degrees for 35-50, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool loaves on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely.

A few of my own notes:
1) Recipe originally called for dried cherries... I found a dried berry mix at my store and used that... couldn't resist a package of dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries all mixed into one!
2) For the eggs, I used flax meal and water... two tablespoons flax meal mixed with 6 tablespoons water, whisked together and heated in the microwave until gooey.
3) Recipe originally called for one full cup of sour cream... I initially wanted to try this recipe with a full cup of soy yogurt in place of the sour cream, but I had a half-used tub of Tofutti sour cream in my fridge and, seeing as how I rarely use sour cream, I didn't want the leftovers to go to waste so I used half Tofutti SC and half soy yogurt. If anyone tries it with only soy yogurt, let me know how it turns out!
4) Next time, I might try topping the loaves with a combination of chips and nuts, or just chopped nuts. What can I say, I'm nutty like that! ;-p

Tonight, my honey is coming over for dinner (Thai take-out... my favorite!). We'll have dessert, too, and that will be the topic of another blog post later this week. :) But first, I need to go shovel several inches of snow off my sidewalks. It always snows on/near my birthday... never fails. Wouldn't be my birthday without snow!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Vegan Rice Crispy Treats!

Quick post here, but I wanted to preview part of what I'll be giving my omni fiance tonight during our Valentine celebration... vegan rice crispy treats! But shhhhhh.... I'm not telling him they're vegan. I'm sure he'll figure it out if he happens to offer me one and I accept, but I'm curious to know what he honestly thinks of the taste without throwing the "vegan" word in his face.

I must admit, when I first laid eyes on the Vegan Sweets Marshmallows, I was leery . While they try to look like "normal" marshmallows, they fall a bit short; the color is more off-white and their size is somewhere between big and miniature marshmallows. It probably didn't help that I ordered the irregulars because they were cheaper (and I knew I'd just be melting them down anyway). Even when I opened the package last night and sampled one before pouring the rest in the pan of waiting melted Earth Balance, I still was nervous that I had wasted my money because they didn't even taste like traditional marshmallows when eaten alone.

But, when these babies cooled and I sampled the scraps left over by my heart-shaped cookie cutter, I couldn't believe how YUMMY they were! I ate ALL the scraps last night, LOL. They were GOOD! But can they pass the omni test? We'll find out tonight. ;)

The recipe for these vegan treats (which is basically the same as regular rice crispy treats) is included on the Vegan Sweets Marshmallow package. If you haven't tried vegan rice crispy treats yet... what are you waiting for?!? :-)

UPDATE 2/16/08: These treats passed the omni taste test! My hubby-to-be had no clue these weren't "regular" rice crispy treats. Rice crispy treats are one of his favs. He told me these were very good... and then I did the big reveal that they're vegan! :) Yay!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hot Cocoa Mix - Veganized

"B-R-R! B-R-R!" is how my late grandfather used to greet us on a cold winter day. If he were alive, he'd definitely utter his signature phrase today... it's a balmy 17 degrees F (wind chill of 3 degrees F!) with 2 to 4 inches of snow expected throughout the afternoon and this evening. Gotta love Michigan winters. :)

But, one of the things I love about winter, aside from seeing bare trees coated with freshly fallen snow, is consuming hot cocoa! I love being at home, or in my office at work, watching the snow fall outside while I sip a warm cup of chocolate yumminess. It's easy to whip up a cup of cocoa on the stovetop when I'm home, but work poses a challenge. I need a powdered mix that I can keep in my desk drawer and make in a microwave. I had a homemade recipe for powdered hot cocoa, but I wasn't sure where to find vegan powdered creamer for the mix; I hadn't seen it in my local stores. Then while surfing the Net, I spied the non-dairy vegan creamer on Pangea.com, added it to my cart and anxiously awaited its arrival. Thank goodness they ship quick!

I don't remember where I found this recipe, but it originally contained non-fat powdered milk and regular non-dairy creamer. I've replaced those with the "Better Than Milk" (lite) Soy Beverage Mix and the Taam-Tov Instant Creamer for a delicious vegan hot chocolate mix that you just add hot water to. If you like your hot cocoa with spice, feel free to add some cinnamon or nutmeg to the mix. :)

Vegan Hot Cocoa Mix

1.5 cups "Better Than Milk" Soy Beverage
1.5 cups vegan sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cups Taam-Tov instant creamer

Stir all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Store in an air-tight container. To use, place 2 or 3 tablespoons in a mug, add boiling water and stir. Enjoy!

Monday, February 11, 2008

An (almost) animal-free birthday!

My early birthday celebration with my immediate fam Saturday was great. My awesome mom made a Mexican-themed dinner that included this recipe for a vegan Mexican Layered Dip as a starter. It was delicious, everyone loved it. In addition, my mom prepared this recipe for a vegan Mexican Lasagna, which also was a hit... but I think that's mainly cuz my mom cooked up a bowl of ground beef for the omnis to top their lasagna with. :( I was saddened by this, especially since I've been reading The China Study with great interest. I don't want to dictate what others eat by any means... they can choose to eat whatever, just as I can. But, the information contained in The China Study is fascinating. I wish my fam could've went that one meal without animal products and just enjoyed the plant-based food. I'll have to blog more about The China Study once I finish the book.

Despite the ground beef, I consider myself lucky that my fam truly is supportive of my vegetarian lifestyle. My sis and her hubby bought me both Veganomicon and Eat, Drink and Be Vegan for my birthday... and my folks got me an ice cream maker, among other things. :) I think my mom just wanted her machine back cuz I've been holding it hostage for months now! ;-p

My favorite part of the birthday meal was the cake! As I mentioned previously, I chose to make my own animal-free cake for the occasion. I should mention, not only was this the first vegan cake I've made... it's the first cake ever that I've made completely from scratch! And now that I've done it, I can't imagine ever making a pre-packaged mix out of a box again. I chose to make the chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting; both recipes can be found in The Joy of Vegan Baking. The cake itself turned out awesome... but I need some work on frosting-making, LOL. I broke the golden rule... a rule I know by heart, but in my haste, I ignored it and it cost me dearly. Always, always add additional liquid to a mix in small quantities because you can always add more, yet once there is too much liquid in the mix, it's not as easy to fix. At least not for me. And, while making the frosting, I added in too much additional liquid too soon and ended up with a very soft frosting, closer to a glaze. In the end, it all tasted the same... and it tasted DEVINE in my opinion! But, I affectionately dubbed my first cake from scratch "the ugly cake" because it didn't look as pretty as it would have had I made the frosting correctly.

I usually don't post my 'failures' here on the blog, but I'm going to post my "ugly cake" photo as a reminder to myself to slow down while cooking, or I'll have to pay the consequences, LOL. Besides, we're all human and each meal we cook doesn't come out looking perfect, so I vow to post more of my "ugly" food this coming year, as well as my ideas on how to improve them. :)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Crispy Potato Wedges with Mustard

Just a quick post to share this tasty potato recipe with y'all. :)

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that Fridays often mean comfort food for this veggie chick. And, because I'm currently single, cooking only for one, I can eat whatever I want for dinner... and tonight, it was potato wedges!

I spied this recipe in the New York Times recently, and since *I* love potatoes, and my omni fiance does too, I clipped it to give it a try. It was quick and relatively painless to make. I was short on time (cuz I'm baking my first vegan cake tonight!), so I used the microwave option on the first part and it turned out well. I should also mention that I halved the recipe, using only two potatoes. I like that the mustard doesn't overpower the potato, but adds a great flavor. A nice variation on oven "fries." :)
Crispy Potato Wedges With Mustard

4 large Idaho potatoes

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake
them until almost cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes. (Alternatively,
microwave them on high for 6 minutes, turning them halfway through.)
Leave oven on.

2. In a large bowl, stir together mustard, olive oil, thyme, salt and
pepper. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes lengthwise into 4
wedges each. Toss wedges in mustard mixture until thoroughly coated.

3. Raise oven temperature to 500 degrees. Lay potato wedges, with one
cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes,
turning them onto other cut side after 10 minutes. Transfer to a warmed platter, and serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pancakes, kale and soup.... oh my!

This entry is a bit of a round-up of what I've been eating this week... last Friday turned out to be a "snow day" me. Because I work in higher education, our campus sometimes closes when the weather gets too rough. Let me tell you, it's a great feeling to receive a phone call from your boss early in the morning, telling you to go back to bed because campus will be closed. :) In celebration, I treated myself to a pancake breakfast! I chose this recipe for low-fat whole wheat pancakes over at Vegweb.com. I took their suggestion of adding fresh blueberries into the mix, and I couldn't resist adding a few more after the maple syrup had been poured. Deeeeelish!

This week, I also tried this recipe for Bean and Kale Scramble over at fatfreevegan.com. It was my first time--ever--having kale.... and I liked it! Maybe it just tasted so yummy because I knew this dish was low-fat AND packed with nutrients. :) I should also mention that this recipe used white beans that I made in the crockpot, which makes cooking dry beans easy! After soaking them overnight, I put the beans in the slow cooker with an onion, quartered, and some minced garlic with water to cover. Mmmmmm. I'm cooking ALL my beans in the crockpot from now on. I made a two-pound bag of dry beans, and once cooked, froze most of them in one-cup servings in the freezer. Now they'll be ready to use in future recipes. :) Many thanks to my mom for giving me the book Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, which has the recipe for cooking dry beans in the crockpot.

Another new recipe I tried this week was Susan's Dirty Little Secret Soup from her blog, Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. LOVE IT! I've had a difficult time getting into frozen veggies. My personal fav is fresh. But, frozen veggies are perfect for this soup, which is super duper easy to make. Love it, love it. I've been bringing it to work for lunch all this week... yummy. Can't wait to make more.

I'm looking forward to this weekend as I'll be celebrating my birthday (albeit a tad early, but sometimes it's hard to get everyone together) with my immediate family. The deal is, the birthday person gets to pick their choice of dinner and then we usually play games or something. My preference is usually Mexican food, and last year, my mom prepared an awesome vegetarian Mexican feast. I just found out that this year, she'll be making a vegan Mexican feast for me. I cannot wait. My mom is the best! Oh, and I'm going to be making my own birthday dessert this year, from the lovely Joy of Vegan Baking book that my sis got me for Christmas. :)