Friday, May 31, 2013

Fish Tacos

I haven't eaten meat in 18 years and I've never had vegan fish...until recently. I always knew of the existence of Sophie's frozen vegan seafoods, but had never actually seen them sold anywhere. Until we got some of the breaded fish patties in at work the other day. When I saw them, I cursed that I had not brought my Caribbean cookbook I checked out from the library because too many of the recipes were fish based.

So I went out on a whim and decided to make something I have never made or eaten in vegan or omni form tacos. Fish tacos always just seemed weird to me and I had never wanted to try them as a child.

I tried the fish patties and thought they were interesting, but needed to be a little fishier. And they definitely needed some sauce. So I found this recipe for tartar sauce (at the bottom of the page) from Sweet Orangerie and it was fantastic..just what the patties needed. I also added some toasted nori with the fillings for extra fishiness. I used Annie Chung's seaweeds snacks. You can use Seasnax, Sea's Gift or whatever you have. (If you haven't tried seaweed snacks before..check them out! They're a satisfying and salty. I believe Trader Joe's has their own brand too.)

My tacos had red peppers, cubanelles, corn, radishes, cilantro and guacamole on the side. (Don't leave out the radishes..They're great taco fare!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Banana Cake with Almond Butter Frosting

My friend hinted to me the other day that her birthday was coming up, so my scripted response was, "What kind of cake do you want?" She said she needed some ideas, so I sent her my cake page on Pinterest with about 2000 cakes and she happened to pick the one that I made for my birthday last year. Weird. But not so weird because it's a delicious cake from the tolerant vegan.

yes, the letters are like that on purpose..

I love that the recipe calls for 3 whole cups of banana. I think that came out to about 6 large bananas for me. Any banana baked good should use a whole bunch of bananas for optimum nanna-i-ness, in my opinion. And because I'm a banana fanatic, I add a box of banana flavored pudding. (It won't taste artificial, only give a little extra oomph to the natural banana flavor. My mom scoffed at this artificial addition when I first dumped the box in, but said she could only taste fresh banana in the finished product and thought the cake was great.) Pudding mix is also cornstarch based, and cornstarch is a great egg-replacer. Not that you need it here..especially with all the banana. But it will make for a better texture. Using pudding mixes is one of my favorite easy ways to flavor cakes. Just cut down the sugar in the recipe a bit and add it with the dry ingredients. If you're like my mom and hate the idea of a processed pudding mix going into homemade food, then you can leave it out. It also tastes just fine and banana-y without it.

I made the cake at work a few days before because we happened to have 80000000 overripe bananas. I had always planned on using my mayo frosting, since I think it's similar to, yet better than cream cheese frosting. And then I used the last of the vanilla in the cake.. and the mayo frosting pretty much needs vanilla so you won't guess you're actually eating mayonnaise on top of a cake. The only other extract we had was almond..and we had plenty of almond butter...


Yes, of course...almond butter frosting.

And it was fabulous. 

This one has more Vegenaise/almond butter and less powdered sugar in the frosting than the birthday one.
This one has more powdered sugar in the frosting. I could pretty much mold this frosting with my hands. It was almost fondant texture.

So here is my banana cake (only slightly modified from the tolerant vegan) with almond butter frosting.

Banana Cake with Almond Butter Frosting
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 box banana flavor pudding mix (Jell-o banana creme is accidentally vegan.)
1 cup melted Earth Balance
3 cups pureed banana
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 8 or 9 inch cake pans. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. I prefer pureeing my bananas, to make it less banana bread-like, so pour your almond milk into the blender and add a few bananas at a time until your blender bowl says 3 1/2 cups. I think that's actually easier than mashing and measuring out 3 cups anyway. Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth. (I also like emulsifying the fat too.) Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until combined. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Make the frosting.

Now here I didn't measure out any ingredients and I came out with different textures each time I did it. Basically you want to use the regular mayo frosting recipe with the higher sugar amount, but use almond extract (but much less almond because it's so strong) instead of vanilla and add almond butter. This is what I estimate my amounts to be. If you want it stiffer, add more sugar, softer, add more Vegenaise and almond butter. See the pictures above for different consistencies.

1/2 cup grapeseed Vegenaise
1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 tablespoons almond butter

You don't even need an electric mixer for this. It whips up smooth with just a hand whisk.

To add chocolate decorations, melt some chocolate chips, put them in a zipper bag, cut off the corner and pipe designs onto parchment paper. Transfer the paper to the fridge for 5-10 minutes and then peel off your decorations!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bean Baked Goods

All of these went into baked goods!
Black bean brownie recipes have been around forever thanks to diet books, but have gained some positive popularity in the past few years. I heard people say you can't taste the beans. But I was suspicious..and curious so I finally decided to try a few bean recipes.

The first one was the Deep Dish Cookie Pie from Chocolate Covered Katie and it got me hooked. I believe I picked this one to try when I was out of flour. It uses oatmeal and beans as the base. I made it 3 times as specified with different kinds of white beans in each. I tried chickpea and navy, lima and cannellini, and great northern..and all worked great! I have to admit I added extra vanilla because I was paranoid about the bean taste..but I gave these to several groups of people who were all fans and no one guessed there were beans in them. As a bonus, these are gluten-free if you use gf oats.

Next I tried a recipe from Robin Robertson because the picture with the recipe looks fantastic!.. Unfortunately I was not a huge fan of these. As often with baked goods containing banana, I could taste the banana and was not a fan. I served them warm and people liked them, but cold they were not up to par. These were also very cake-like, which I don't like in brownies. (Why not just eat cake, yo?) 


I then decided to try my hand at my own recipe. I liked CCK's idea of using ground oatmeal instead of flour and I like being able to dump everything in the food processor to mix. 

And I like peanut

Peanut Butter Black Bean Brownies

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup agave
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter, separated
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 fahrenheit and grease an 8x8" pan. Add all ingredients, except chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of the peanut butter to a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into pan. Heat remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter in microwave or on stovetop and pour over batter and swirl. Bake for 20 minutes.


While not necessarily "healthy" with all those chocolate chips, these do count as high fiber and high protein for a baked good. And they taste great too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mardi Gras Mayo Cupcakes

I ended up with about a quart of Vegenaise the other day..the bottom of a foodservice jar froze slightly at work and was going to be thrown away..and rather than let it go to waste, I figured I'd take it home and do something with it...despite the fact that I don't like mayo. (I find purple cap Vegenaise to taste better than traditional mayo, but that won't change that I'm still not a mayo person.)

My mom suggested mayo cake, and me being the sweet-tooth monster that I am had already been thinking about that from the moment this large sum of mayo came into my possession. But I wanted to make Mardi Gras cupcakes and make them colored...and mayo cake is chocolate. So they had to be vanilla.

So why is vanilla mayo cake not a thing? (Seriously, google it! They're all chocolate!) Sometimes there just don't seem to be good reasons for things. Why was there no peanut butter tunnel cake either? I just don't know. So I found one internet recipe for vanilla mayo cake and tweaked it a bit...AND IT'S FANTASTIC! These cupcakes rise really high, are very springy, and of course, in the tradition of mayo cake...supermoist!

And since I have all that mayo, I thought I might as well try frosting too...why is there no mayo frosting?? Would it be nasty? Well, I thought I'd find out..and whadda ya know.. IT'S GREAT TOO! It's like cream cheese frosting, but I actually think it's a little better. It even pipes and holds it's shape. No Tofutti or Earth Balance? Try some Vegenaise next time. 

Mardi Gras Mayo Cupcakes
makes 12 full size cupcakes (plus 2 slightly-less-than-full-size)

1 cup grapeseed Vegenaise
1 cup cold almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 T cornstarch
food colors (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tin with paper liners. Beat together mayo and almond milk until smooth. Beat in extracts. Beat in sugar. Beat in dry ingredients. If desired, separate batter into 3 bowls and dye green, purple and gold. Spoon colored batter into liners gently. There's nothing fancy you have to do to get the look in the picture. Spoon in some purple. Gently spoon in gold, then green. Or do them willy-nilly. Bake for 16-19 minutes.

Mayo Frosting
This makes enough to pipe about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons on each cupcake. Double if you want to completely cover each cupcake with a mountain of frosting.

1/2 cup grapeseed Vegenaise
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 cups powdered sugar
food colors (optional)

Beat vanilla into mayo. Beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. (Less sugar if you don't need it to hold it's shape or be piped) Add colors if desired.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and top with colored sugar. (Rub some food color into a bowl of sugar with your fingers for DIY colored sugar.)

Some notes: The lemon and almond extracts compliment the tang of the mayo, but you'd probably be ok leaving them out if you don't have them. I'm not sure how other mayos will work in this recipe. I've never had blue cap (original) Vegenaise, but the consensus seems to be that purple cap (grapeseed) Vegenaise tastes much better. In the cupcakes, it might not matter, but it could possibly make a difference in the frosting if your mayo does not taste great on it's own. (Uh, so don't use that jar of nasty-brand vegan mayo that a well-meaning family member accidentally bought you 3 years ago.)
These pictures were taken a day after the cupcakes were made and had been stored unrefrigerated (there's no room in my fridge!) in a plastic container. The color of the frosting changed just slightly (This actually happened within an hour of them being made) and the enclosed moisture made the cupcakes glossy.

accidentally smooshed the forsting on this one in the storage container

The unfrosted ones here are not as big as the others, because they were the last
bits of batter I was trying to stretch. And they're all Jackson Pollock because of that.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras-colored bird, juvenile Honeycreeper

Monday, January 21, 2013

So I guess I should mention that I won in the cake category for the Earth Balance Bake-off...

I was waiting to post about my cake until the contest was over, cause I didn't want to somehow jinx my chance of winning. It was hard, because I spent so much time concocting this thing and went through many cakes trying to perfect the recipe and I was so excited when I unmolded and bit into the last one to find that I had gotten it just right...I just wanted to share with everyone!

So how did the peanut butter tunnel cake come about? Well, I've always been intrigued by the tunnel of fudge cake that won the original Pillsbury Bake-off and launched the bundt pan to stardom in the 60s. Looking at it simply, a tunnel cake is just an undercooked bundt cake..but when you make the filling something different than the rest of the cake, that's more of a challenge. (More challenge=more reward.) So I thought..I've never seen a peanut butter tunnel in a chocolate bundt, and for good reason...seriously, google it. They don't exist. But I thought they should..and they should be vegan too.

classic 60s recipe: 800million eggs and a frosting box mix

I won't go through the process I spent trying to perfect this thing, cause that would be a novel. I'll just give you the recipe which is on the Earth Balance website too, but hey it's my recipe, so it's gotta go on my blog (particularly since I'm so proud of it.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tunnel Cake

Peanut Butter Filling
3/4 cup Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter
3 tablespoons Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup Earth Balance Unsweetened Soymilk
1 1/4 cups vegan powdered sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon corn starch

Chocolate Cake 
2 cups Earth Balance Unsweetened Soymilk (one or both cups cold)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
2 cups + 2 tablespoons vegan granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional ganache and peanut butter glaze toppings
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup Earth Balance Unsweetened Soymilk

1/4 cup Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter
1-2 tablespoons Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
1 tablespoon agave nectar
superoptional: extra chocolate chips

First make the chocolate slurry for the cake so it can be cooling while you make the rest of the recipe. In a small saucepan, whisk 1 cup Earth Balance Unsweetened soymilk (save the cold cup for later) with cocoa powder and instant coffee crystals until smooth. Turn on the heat to medium and whisk occasionally until mixture begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool while you make the peanut butter filling.

For filling: In a medium bowl, cream together Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter and Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread until smooth. Beat in molasses, vanilla and Earth Balance Unsweetened Soymilk until well incorporated. Beat in powdered sugar, flour and cornstarch until smooth and creamy. Spoon filling into a large zipper bag. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and generously grease and flour a heavy duty fluted tube cake pan. (To grease a fluted tube pan, rub 1 tablespoon Earth Balance shortening all over inside of pan, taking care to apply well to the crevices in the design. Mix together 1/2 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and flour and dust all greased surfaces. Using just flour will leave white marks on the outside of your cake.) 

Continue making the cake: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. 

To the chocolate slurry, add the cold cup of soymilk, vinegar and vanilla and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Alternate beating in the dry mix and the wet mixture a little at a time. Reserve 1 cup of batter and pour the rest into the prepared pan. 

Snip a corner off of the zipper bag (about an inch) and pipe filling in a circle on top of the batter. Gently cover filling with reserved cup of batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 2 hours. Gently run a small thin spatula or knife around all edges of the pan. Shake the pan from side to side so you can feel that the cake has loosened from the pan. Invert a plate or platter on the pan and quickly flip over to unmold cake. If the pan was well greased and floured, the cake should unmold perfectly. If not, the toppings can cover imperfections.

For optional ganache topping: Heat Earth Balance Unsweetened Soymilk over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.  Set aside to make peanut butter glaze.

For peanut butter glaze: Heat Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter, Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, agave nectar and agave nectar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth and melted. 

Spoon toppings over cake. Let toppings cool. Slice into cake for a tunnel of gooey peanut butter goodness! Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies

Chocolate and chipotle aren't just for putting into chili and adobo sauce! They make fabulous cookies too! I've made a few batches of These double chocolate cookies lately since most of my outgoing holiday gifts this year were those jar mixes...I just couldn't help but mix up a few complete batches as well. And today I had the idea of adding chipotle! And what a great idea it was! I don't think I'll ever make them without chipotle again. (And if you still have some belated gifts to give, those mixes are a great idea. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of my kitchen table full of all my jars. It was epic!)

gotta love Costco's ginormous bag of choc chips!

So here I present this easy recipe, which is basically the PPK recipe with spices added.

Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies
1 cup flour (I used half AP, half white whole wheat without the texture suffering any)
1/3 cup natural cocoa
2 tsp flaxseed meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (Penzey's Vietnamese, as always!)
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts this time)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup non-dairy milk or water (tried it both ways, I cannot tell the difference)
1/3 cup veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350f. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Mix it all together. Form into balls and flatten slightly into discs. (Isa gets 20 cookies rolling 1 inch balls and I get 16-17 rolling slightly larger balls.) Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack.

rich, hot and smokey!

Vermillion Flycatcher, a bird native to Mexico from The Internet Bird Collection

Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Gluten Free Baked Goods

I got a taste the other day of what it must feel like to be a beginning vegan baker...because the other day I started my journey as a beginning gluten-free baker. It was a bit confusing and I had some questions, but everything ended up turning out mostly ok.

I have been curious about the gluten-free fad for a while, but have always been intimidated by expensive flours of which you need 2 or 3 or 4 of for each recipe, the superexpensive and seemingly necessary xanthan gum, and that a lot of gluten-free recipes make up for the sticky proteiny-ness of gluten with loads of eggs.

I'm no celiac, but if I eat a lot of seitan, I feel like there's a brick sitting in my stomach. My cousin, however, is a celiac and gets insufferably sick when he gets "gutened", as he says. So my cousin's baked good-less holiday and my curiosity for different and challenging things brought me to the next three recipes.

I had a few gf flours in the pantry, mainly cheap things like white rice, potato and tapioca that I get at the Asian market. And I had no intention of buying an $8-$12 bag of anything, including xanthan gum, so I searched and searched to find recipes that didn't use those and were beginner friendly. I decided on "brownies"flourless peanut butter cookies, and the vanilla gluten freedom cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.

The brownies were the most baffling. I chose them because they only required rice flour and seemed pretty straightforward. I'm not entirely sure the recipe is correct, because it was modified from another...and I think there is too much liquid, but I didn't want to deviate from it with this being my first attempt at a new kind of baking. The original recipe calls for sweet rice flour, so perhaps that makes a difference. Other than upping the sugar, as mentioned, I changed nothing. My rice/water mixture wasn't paste-like, so perhaps I didn't cook it long enough. When the oven timer went off, I checked to find a pan of bubbly boiling chocolate syrup.. There was a little brownie skin in the middle of the pan, but the edges were boiling liquid...So I ended up keeping them in the oven for about and hour and a half until I finally gave up. When I pulled them out, they were still bubbly liquid, but as they cooled, they congealed and turned into something like fudge. And they were actually really good! I just wouldn't call them brownies, and I would use a foil lined or disposable pan next time. And be sure to cut them before they cool completely, or they will be near impossible to remove from the pan. (There was so much baked on stuff, I'm not sure I will ever get the pan clean.) But I would definitely make these fudgethingies again! Maybe I would reduce the water to see if they turn out more brownie-like.

pan of dishwasher doom
squares of gooey fudgey deliciousness
Now the peanut butter cookies are a bit of a cheat because they don't use any gluten-free flours...They don't use any flour at all! Flourless, eggless cookies...hmm...sounds too good to be true, but I had seen several variations of this recipe, which is basically peanut butter, sugar and egg replacer. This recipe uses powdered egg replacer and applesauce. I made the recipe as directed, but using DIY egg replacer instead of Ener-G. You could probably use ground flax with the same (or better?) results. I halved the recipe and got 12 substantial cookies. They are a bit crumbly and super peanut buttery (duh), but amazingly simple. I used the harder solids and some oil from the bottom of a jar of natural peanut butter..I bet the texture would be different (more chewy?) with stir-able peanut butter. Here are some other variations on the recipe.

with cashew butter and tofu
these use applesauce and a few tablespoons of flour

I wasn't planning on the cupcakes because they call for quinoa flour which is $8 for a 1 lb box, but when I found cheap millet flour at the Asian market, I figured millet flour would be very similar and would work. The VCTOTW recipe does use four flours (tapioca, corn or almond, white rice and quinoa), which has always intimidated me a bit, but quinoa was the only one I was missing.

not $9!

I chose corn instead of almond to help use up my bag of corn flour that I rarely find uses for, and it definitely left a distinct taste on the cupcakes. Unfrosted, the cupcakes tasted a little like sweet corn muffins. Almond would definitely replicate the gluten free cupcakes from my favorite NYC sandwich shop. In fact, now that I've made the gluten freedom cupcakes, I'm nearly certain that's the recipe they use with almond flour instead of corn.

I decided to half the recipe and make minis, because I didn't want so much to go to waste if I messed it up (although I should know by now, Isa and Terry rarely lead astray with their recipes.) If you didn't know, a cupcake success secret is that minis are a lot more fool-proof than regular sized cupcakes. I figured this out when I had a mini cupcake machine in an oven-less boat I lived in, and was able to sloppily throw together batter with unmeasured ingredients and have the cupcakes still turn out great.

I got 18 minis from the half recipe. I frosted the cupcakes with a buttercream with a tiny bit of cocoa powder for a light chocolatey frosting and rolled them in red sugar. I would definitely make these again for myself..They have a nice texture that isn't pure fluff like white flour cupcakes. I'll try the almond version next, but I am satisfied with the corn one.

look at that beautiful crumb!

So my first gluten-free baking experiences did not make me want to pull my hair out. And I didn't have to buy xanthan gum or multiple $8 bags of flour. And everything didn't fall flat or turn to bricks. It makes my cousin insanely happy to be able to eat homebaked goods, and I enjoy trying new things, so there will likely be more gluten free recipes to come.