Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Key Lime Cupcakes and Whipped Cream flavored Vodka Frosting


Hey!  Remember me?  I hope you do!  Really though, I hope you all didn't forget about me because I promise I didn't forget about you!  (...although that seems like a big old crock, I swear I didn't!)  I wouldn't be surprised if I slipped your mind and I should probably start off by acknowledging just how much time has passed since I paid any attention to my baking.  (Holy s#!^, it has been a LONG WHILE!)  Now I don't like to make excuses, especially for my slacking...BUUUUUT the past couple of months have been beyond chaotic/grueling/insane/life-changing/etc etc.  I hope I can jog your memory of me and finally get back to the grind of doing what I love to do!  And I hope most of all that you will forgive me for being MIA.  :)

Now I don't want to give you a big old laundry list of reasons that led to my temporary disappearance, but I do feel I owe somewhat of an explanation since this is my blog and I like to have it be a little more than just a (pardon me for this next one) "sugar-coated" version of myself.  Yeah yeah yeah, you guys care about the food, I know..but at least lemme think you care about the crazy girl behind the blog itself!  (Come on, I know you do, even if just a liiiiiittle bit :) ) Let me begin by saying that turning 21 was one contributing factor to my absence.  I've spent quite a bit of my spare time enjoying the perks of being "of-age"...but I figure I can combine the best of both worlds and put that added advantage to good use on here.  Guess what that means?  Yes, you got it folks...alcohol inspired recipes!  Tis the season, correct?  Yes, that's right..I thought so too. :)

Along with spending my free time galavanting around with my horizontal ID, I have been putting in more hours at work, I moved back home with mom and dad, and most importantly I have been trying to get myself situated with school.  I am VERY happy to say that after graduating this spring, I will now be attending Johnson and Wales  University for their Business Management program and I will be starting their Culinary Nutrition program the following year.  That means someone will have a pretty full plate for the next few years (I know I know, again I apologize for the corny pun! But really though, I'm not that  sorry ;) )...and I am SO looking forward to working towards those degrees and my future!  Maybe someday, if dreams come true, you'll know my name for more than just being that silly girl who fell off the blogosophere for a few months. 

So, ya see...I've been a busy little bee lately, but I hope to never abandon ship (well, abandon "blog" really, but you  know the point I was trying to make....I think) like that again!  And most importantly, I hope you will continue to follow me and my rambling thoughts on here for the long haul.  :)


 Now, on to the good stuff!  This past weekend was one of my dearest friend's 25th birthday and I knew I wanted to make something fun and festive for the occasion.  Not only is she an inspirational and supportive friend to have, but she literally has a contagious personality.  The little ray of sunshine she is always brightens up any room she's in and literally just exudes positivity and happiness (she can't fight the hippie within her!).  So, when I was trying to conjure up some deliciously summer/sunshine inspired treat, my mind went a million miles a minute.  And then, it hit me. My inspiration came from the martini that gave me the worst hangover of my life.  Odd, right?  Most people can't drink/eat things that make them sick, but not me!  I thought a key lime martini (or 5) sounded great, and transforming it into a cupcake sounded just as delicious...so, I did!  Big success, and I suggest you try them too!  Especially if you're looking for a scrumptious treat for a summer gathering and like the idea of boozey cupcakes. :)


 Ingredients:

Key Lime Cupcakes
adapted from Bon Appetit, Sept 2008
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cool unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons key lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon key lime zest
  • 1 drop green food coloring paste
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
Adapted by: My Madison Bistro

Whipped Cream Vodka Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 4-5 cups confectioners sugar
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 4 shots Pinnacle Whipped Cream flavored vodka (this is to preference.  The flavor of the vodka really doesn't stand out but it does add a lot of vanilla and sweetness to the frosting)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350*F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
  • Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt three times, set aside.
  • Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low until it’s softened a bit. Add the sugar and increase the speed to medium. Beat until fluffy, about four minutes. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice, zest, and food coloring and beat until mixed. (The mixture will look curdled.)
  • Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix on low until just combined. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.
For frosting:
  • Cream together butter and shortening until fluffy
  • Add cream cheese
  • Gradually add sugar (1/2 cup at a time) and alternate with lime juice/shots
  • Add sugar until you have desired consistency.  Add more lime juice/shots if frosting is too thick, adjust to taste


Thursday, April 21, 2011

S'mores Cookies


I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but it seems to finally be getting to that time of the year for enjoying warm nights outside by a bonfire with friends...which of course means S'MORES!  (YAY!)  A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine and I took a trip down to our friend's house for what we thought was going to be a warm and sunny Sunday Funday.  After the absolutely wretched winter we had, we all had such high hopes of sitting outside in the sun having a few drinks together and just enjoying being outside. Well, it was absolutely beautiful out the whole drive down, but of course once we finally got there we found ourselves bundling up in sweatshirts and jackets so we could sit outside comfortably.  Oh New England weather, you slay me.


With a few handy men around the house, a fire pit was soon built and we were enjoying some grilling, games, and good times.  There's just something about the smell of a bonfire that makes you really itch for the summer and to me, I instantly want s'mores..and lots of them!  Who really cares that you have to wash your clothes and hair a few times to get the smokey smell out?  Not me!  It's totally worth it (in my eyes...and tummy) and ever since that day I had been seriously craving the sweet and gooey deliciosity of the classic camp fire treat.  I really wanted all of the components of that perfect little family favorite, but was looking to make a sweet little twist.  When I found these cookies I knew I needed to make them.  And now you need to, too.  Seriously!  I mean it...you will have people begging for more.  I didn't even want to eat one because I knew I'd clean out the whole batch before I got to share them, so after giving some to co-workers and friends I kept a couple for myself and damn, these are some yummy, chewy, ooey, gooey, chocolatey, awesome cookies! Campfire not required.  (But definitely adds to the fun!)



S'mores Cookies


Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 Hershey bars, chopped
 
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt, and dash of cinnamon. 
  • In a second larger bowl beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. 
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
  • Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. 
  • Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of hershey bar into each cookies. 
  • Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until fully cooked. 
  • Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.


Source: Baked Perfection

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seitan Black Bean Corn Burgers


I honestly can't believe that after being a vegetarian for 8 years, that I am just getting around to making homemade veggie burgers.  That's a long time and a lot of money spent on store-bought brands when they are equally delicious when made from home!  Plus, you know exactly what is going into them and can easily tweak the ingredients to your liking.  I can't even begin to imagine how much I have spent on store-bought veggie products over the years, but I'm sure if I found out I would be quite shocked.  Unfortunately, to live a healthy lifestyle it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to do so and there never seems to be enough hours in the day.  Last week was a perfect example of 24 hours just not being enough to each day.  After a long week, it's my day off and leading up to it I have been dreaming of little creations to get making in the kitchen, errands that need to be run, miles that need to be run, things that need to be cleaned, blogging that needs to stop being neglected, groceries that need to be bought, transcripts that need to be sent, dry cleaning that needs to be sent out..all little odds and ends I wanted to cross off of my "to-do" list.  This morning I woke up ready and raring to go and I'm really hoping to get myself back on track!  My last day off (Monday) was the day I intended to work on all of this as well, but once I woke up and looked outside I found myself facing a quite dismal day...and my motivation level went kaput.  I really can't wait for the nice weather to be here so I start feeling more motivated and accomplished, because this folks...it ain't cutting it!

I've mentioned before that the bank that I work in is in a grocery store.  Well, we are faced right across from the check-out lines and I see my fair share of groceries being bought throughout the day.  A co-worker and I came to the conclusion (without any scientific evidence aside from our observation) that it seems that at least 90% of purchases made contain a bag of some sort of chips.  People are always buying bags of them!  I was really quite shocked to see some of the things people buy and in the quantities they buy them, and chips seem to be the leading thing in most people's order.  I mean, they taste good, they're a quick snack, they have a long shelf-life, and mostly everyone likes them, but there's really no nutritional value to them yet everyone loads up on them!  It's all about taste and convenience to some because most people, like myself, find that 24 hours simply isn't enough.  Let's face it..the healthy stuff is usually more expensive, goes bad faster, takes more time to prepare, and requires a little more thought.  And now not only are people strapped for cash much of the time, but they are always in a rush and then many times turn to less healthy alternatives.  It's actually pretty shocking to see on such a large scale!

Okay, just so you know, I am no saint and anything covered in chocolate usually finds it's way into my mouth, but I think there is a fine line in indulging here and there and leading an unhealthy lifestyle.  I don't think life is about restricting yourself from eating things you want, but man is it scary to see the way people eat and how much they eat nowadays.  Not to mention the absolute crap you find in some foods.  I could honestly go on and on and on about how much it appalls me to read ingredient lists and see just what we are putting into ourselves without a second thought (yuck!).  Dave teases me because whenever I go to Trader Joe's I buy one box of regular Joe Joe's and a box of chocolate Joe Joe's (if you don't know, it's the all-natural/trans-fat free equivalent to an Oreo).  I don't buy them trying to trick myself into thinking they are good for me, BUT if I am going to be ingesting something as a treat, I like to know exactly what the ingredients are and I like that my body will know how to store the sugar, the fat, and the protein accordingly instead of it wondering what the heck to do with this chemical-laden thing I just ate (for example: sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, food dyes, etc).  You won't ever catch me putting an icky Splenda in my coffee to save on calories, that's for sure!  ....Okay, okay, I should really apologize for the tangent I am going on (sorry my friends!), but I think that happens when you have an honest love for good food.  Good taste, good quality, goodness all around. Like I said, I'm human and I won't object to a brownie if it comes from a box, but ya just gotta know when it gets to be a liiiiittle too much.  So, with ALL of that being said, I was really intrigued to try making my own veggie burgers for the first time and knowing exactly what was going into them since I controlled the ingredients.  And aside from being less convenient than picking up a box of veggie burgs from the store, they were a real success in my kitchen (and they didn't turn out mushy like a lot of homemade versions!)  Thumbs up!  :)


Seitan Black Bean Corn Burgers
Yields: 6-8 big burgers

Ingredients:
  •  1 cup seitan
  • 1 14 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce (I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
  • 1/2-1 cup bread crumbs (or 2 slices of bread toasted)
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp high-heat vegetable oil for pan frying
(Note: I doubled up on the spices in my burgers and I thought that yielded a great result in flavor.  Also, you may need to adjust the amount of bread crumbs depending on how moist the seitan is since it varies a lot in moisture content.  I used 3/4 cup)

Directions:
  • If the seitan is packed in water or broth, drain it.  Add to food processor and process until chopped.
  • Add the beans and process until finely chopped (You may still see the occasional bean piece).  Remove mixture to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the vegan Worcestershire sauce, tamari, bread crumbs, flour, corn, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and salt to the seitan/bean mixture and mix with your hands (you can use a fork, but your hands work best for faster results!)  Adjust the mixture to taste, and add more bread crumbs if the mixture is too wet.  (It should be moist, but not gloppy)
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat, preferably cast iron.
  • Begin forming patties.  (1/4-1/2 cup)  (I used more than 1/4 cup to make them wider to fit the big burger buns I bought, but you don't want them too thick or else they will get mushy in the middle and no one likes a mush-burger!)  These can be made in advance and stored until ready to cook.
  • When ready to cook, brown the burgers until they darken up nicely and get a "char" to them like a real burger would.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Adapted from:
VeganYumYum

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vegan Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bake


My breakfast conundrum never seems to cease!  That was until now.  I am always working on expanding my options and now I have found one of the perfect answers to my daily battle of what to eat for in the morning. This, my friends, is it!  I am officially obsessed with oatmeal bakes.  They are convenient, can be made in advance, are totally and completely versatile, take just a few minutes to whip up, are great on-the-go, taste oooh so delicious, are definitely nutritious,  and they are soft, chewy, and keep you full!  No need to battle the hungry horrors in the morning..just pack a square or two of these little guys and you are good to to start off your day.

I prefer to cut mine into 9 squares and usually bring 2 or 3 to work with me to snack on throughout the day.  I tend to be much more of a grazer when it comes to eating because my body feels better being replenished throughout the day on little healthy options than big meals only a few times a day.  I find when I eat little snacks throughout the day I am more alert, eat less, and make healthier decisions because I am not forcing my body to wait until "meal time".  They all tease me at work because I pack a ton of stuff to eat with me everyday.  Every morning I waltz in with my re-usable Trader Joe's bag in tow, which lately has been packed with oatmeal bake squares, hummus, cucumber slices, whole wheat pretzels, a smoothie, an apple, a banana or two, a bag of nuts, tea bags, sugar in the raw, a sammy, and well, you get the idea.  I know I know, that's a whole lotta food!  It's not that I end up eating it all throughout the day, but I really like having the variety to choose from.  Which is another reason why I love these oatmeal squares...there are SO many different ways you can prepare these.  And I can't wait to show you all the different types I try.  You may be seeing a lot of these in the near future. :)



Vegan Apple Walnut Oatmeal Bake

Ingredients:
  • 2  cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2  cup packed brown sugar (I love Trader Joe's brand!)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (or craisins)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tbsp milled flax seed
  • 1  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2  cups soy milk (or any other dairy-free milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1  tablespoons Earth Balance, melted
  • 2 tbsp apple sauce
  • 1  Ener-G "egg"
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375° F.
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, cranberries, pecans, and baking powder; set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the soy milk, vanilla, grated apple, Earth Balance, and "egg". Add soy milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well. Pour oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. 
  • Top with more pecans (optional) 
  • 1/2 way through top with more craisins (optional)
  • Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Serve warm.
Yields: 9 servings 

Note: This recipe was adapted from one that uses milk, butter, and an egg where I substituted soy milk, Earth Balance, and an egg replacer.  Feel free to sub the original back in the amounts listed if you prefer!

Adapted from: Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes



 Okay, so I know I've been a little MIA on here but I promise I didn't forget about you!  I have had quite a few successful adventures in the kitchen I'm dying to tell you about, but lately my head has kind of been in the clouds with school applications, work, and all that other fun stuff that comes along with being an "adult".  Against my Grammie's best advice not to grow up (I so should have listened to her!), I did just have yet another birthday and yesterday we did our annual March Birthdays family celebration for my mom, my aunt, and me.  This has been a tradition for as long as I can remember, and we three princesses will be carrying it on for as long as we can.  (We sure do love being spoiled!)  Brunch, family, lots of laughs, and a room full of presents...I'm still not sure why we only do this once a year?  I mean, we do have 1/2 birthdays too!  I'll be sure to bring that up the next time I talk to my Gram. :)


The day started out great, even though I was running late...as always!)  So in my rush to get to brunch, I flew into the parking lot and ran as fast as I could into the restaurant.  Seeing as it was a cool 35 degrees out at that point (plus we were right near the water), it never really dawned on me that cupcakes could still melt when it's that cold.  Lesson learned, THEY CAN AND THEY DO!  After eating, chatting, and digesting, we left to head back to my Grammie's to open presents.  As I rolled myself out of the restaurant and to my car, I was greeted by the delicious smells of lemon and lavender......melted all over my passenger seat.  What. A. Mess.


Yup.  Biiiiiig old mess!  I'm sad to say there were some handmade marzipan flower casualties as well. :(


My poor little cupcakes.  At least they still tasted good!


 ....Because they sure didn't look so good. :(


But then we walked in and saw this, and suddenly melted cupcakes weren't so so bad. :)  I got everything I could ever need for cupcakes making and baking, along with a crock-pot, jewelry, gift cards, all sorts of kitchen gadgets, and well..you see, my family kind of spoils me. :)


Cupcake gift bags, cupcake tissue paper, cupcake wrapping paper, and cupcake cards (at least none of those could melt!)  filled the room.  I sure had fun unwrapping and opening all my goodies. :)


What a beautiful birthday crown!  I felt very much like the Statue of Liberty.

 

After opening up all of our goodies, we moved our way over to the kitchen to eat some more!  This time, birthday cake, cupcakes, truffles, and much, much more. Yum!  We sure did our fair share of eating. 


And then it was time for a photo-op of the Birthday Princesses.  (Left to right: Auntie B, Me, Mom)


....Then a sneak attack!  Without fail, my Uncle pulled a prank and shot us with silly string. Lots and lots of silly string.


But he was nice enough to share the silly string with more than just the birthday girls.


Right, Jonathan?  :)


My adorable little brother...in all of his silly string glory.

And now, on to the recipe!

These cupcakes (much prettier prior to their melting) were really delicious, light, and the perfect spring-time flavors.  I had always wanted to do a lemon and lavender combination and finally after all this time I got to trying it out.  The hint of the lavender flavor in the buttercream really complimented the delicious lemon in the cupcakes.  And, just because they happened the get a little melted, it didn't impact their deliciousness.  So have some fun and try them out!


Lemon Cupcakes:
  • Yield Makes 24

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

    Source: Martha Stewart


    For the Frosting:

    Ingredients:
    • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
    • pinch of fine grain sea salt
    • 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp-1tsp lavender extract (adjust to preference)
    • 6-8 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
    • 2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

    Directions:
    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar, and continue creaming until well blended.
    2. Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bananadoodles (Vegan)


Spring is here!  FINALLY.  If you had as much snow as we did around here in good old New England, I'm sure you are as ecstatic as I am to kiss winter's patootie goodbye.  Thankfully the sun has been shining brightly and the temperature has been steadily creeping up to a bearable degree.  There is hope!  Although it was a little cooler today, the sun was still out full force so I decided it seemed like a good morning to bundle up and lace up my running shoes.  I dragged Dave and Tucker along with me and it ended up being a really nice to start the day by taking a run around town.  (Although by the end of the excursion, I was the one being dragged along...)  Once we finally got home and I was able to catch my breath, I was very happy to have started my day off productively.  And then when it came down to me and the bananadoodles facing off in the kitchen, I didn't have so much guilt about eating ten zillion of them.  Which, by the way, I am still digesting. But hey, that's totally okay with me because these are reaaaal good.

If you like banana, cinnamon, and soft yummy cookies, these are most certainly a wonderful choice.  And they are a great pick for your vegan friends and family members too!  Dave and I had some friends over last night so while the boys were watching their "boy shows", the girls were in the kitchen and I had some bananadoodle dough in the fridge that needed to be rolled into a cinnamon-sugary goodness.  So, with their help we got to baking these cookies and enjoying some spoonfuls of dough along the way.  And even better, no worries from the Salmonella Police! Remember, these cookies are egg free...so eat on!  Just be sure to leave some dough to actually get some cookies out of it.  Luckily they don't take long to bake so just be patient, because the cookie is even yummier than the dough!  Then once they cooled a little, we brought some in for the boys (who won't touch anything if they know it's vegan), and they actually approved.  ...And then we laughed and revealed our little secret.  So you see, sometimes ignorance can be bliss.  :)


Vegan Bananadoodles
Yield: About 2 dozen
 

Ingredients:
Cookie Dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 large bananas. mashed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Topping:
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon



Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease.
  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Using either a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the oil, sugar and molasses at medium high speed until light, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add bananas beating well after addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Scrape down sides of the bowl and beat 30 seconds more. At low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just blended.
  • In a bowl, make topping by mixing cinnamon and sugar together.
  • Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes (or up to a week in the fridge.) Shape the cookie into 1 inch balls (about 1 tablespoon of dough.) Roll each ball into cinnamon sugar mixture to coat completely and arrange balls on the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie into a 2 inch disk. Bake cookies one sheet at time, 14- 18 minutes until tops are crinkly and they are puffed and lightly browned around the edges. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
Note:  I only cooked mine for 10 minutes and the next day they were still extremely soft and delicious.  If you'd like them a little crisper I would keep an eye on them after the 10 minute mark.  These are a little bigger than tablespoon size, which yeilded a little more than 2 dozen big, soft, and delicious cookies to enjoy.  


Source: Week of Menus

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!


Happy Sunday, everyone!  And Happy Birthday to me!  I am FINALLY 21!  I thought the day would never arrive, and before I knew it, it was here.  I don't have much to post that is food related because the second I finished decorating my cake, Dave and I needed to skidaddle to our friend's house for the festivities which left no time to photograph. (Unfortunately, 21 years into life and I'm still not very good with my time management).  I will inform you that it was a chocolate and white layer cake with cookies n' cream frosting and it was very, very scrumptious!  :)

I ended up taking most of this week off from work so I could enjoy my special day (or should I say week), and I was very fortunate to have absolutely beautiful weather for my birthday weekend.  (Considering last year it was raining buckets the whole time!)  I've been very busy having fun, but it unfortunately hasn't left me much time for my baby blog.  Leading up to today, I have been lucky enough to spend time with a lot of friends, some whom I have not seen in a while.  I spent a couple days in Boston visiting one of my best friends from high school which was really great because it had been so long since I had last seen her.  A band we've gone to see quite a few times happened to get back together, so in order to keep up with tradition we went to see them again.  Not only was the show amazing, but it was really great to finally visit considering she and I practically used to be attached by the hip!  (Thank you again Tani!) 

Then yesterday rolled around and I was so happy that I finally got to spend the day with another one of my best friends whom I also had not seen in a while.  We spent the day be-bopping around some stores and chatted the day away.  I happened to be swooning over a particular cupcake stand in one of the stores, and being the awesome friend she is, she scooped it right up and got it for me for me.  (Thank you oodles of noodles, Poopsie!)  After spending a beautiful day out and about, I headed home to finish up my cake, get ready, and spend the night out with my friends.  We stuffed our faces with dinner, cake, and of course a few drinks.  Oh yes, and then one of my other best lady friends got us tickets to go see Buddy the Cake Boss' tour this spring!  So exciting!  Good food, good friends, good times!  (Thank you so much Chicky!)

I have to say, I didn't feel much different waking up as a 21 year old this morning except for the hour of sleep I lost due to daylight savings.  But luckily that was all remedied with a wonderful brunch.  I got a fire-roasted fruit pizza that had kiwi, strawberry, banana, and marscapone cheese on it that was absolutely amazing, and then washed it down with a delicious glass of pink sangria followed by a mimosa.  Oh yeah, I wasn't messing around this morning.  YUM!  Dave and I then meandered around a bit while the sun was shining, and I got to sit on a big old boot (as seen above!), and made a few purchases.


This was my highlight purchase of the day.  I am pretty excited about sporting my new Lululemon yoga pants and my new jacket from Urban Outfitters (not together though..I would look quite silly), but these 3 beauts were by far my favorite things I picked out today.  As they sit chilling in the fridge, my biggest decision I face is to figure out which one I want to try first.  Hmmm, decisions, decisions....


Oh!  And I got this little guy too!  I decided it was totally okay for someone else to make me a treat for once, so thanks to Whole Foods I also enjoyed a yummy little chocolate peanut butter cupcake.  But if you'll now excuse me..I think I hear one of those nicely chilled beverages calling my now legal name!  :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Butterfinger Cookies


"Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger"....cookies!  Just kidding, of course! ...I'm not that greedy (for the most part).  If you haven't noticed, I am a complete sucker for anything with chocolate and peanut butter in it. So, it pretty much goes without saying that whenever Halloween rolled around, I was always so thankful that my brother hates peanut butter.  (I swear he was adopted or something! ) Once we made our rounds being all cute and dressed up, we would head home and spread our candy out all over the floor.  This was where my "big sister" negotiating skills kicked into high gear.  I would then very strategically trade him some of my candy for his (1 for him, 2 for me), and then my mom and I would get to hoard all of the Butterfingers and Reese's to ourselves.  Not a bad deal if you ask me! Unfortunately, by society's standards we are both too old to go trick-or-treating now...so I guess whenever the day comes that I end up having children of my own, I will have to teach them to be very good at sharing. :)

On a side note, it really amazes me how candy is crazy expensive now! (like just about everything else in life)  So, when I happened to be perusing the aisles in the grocery store after work one day and saw that it was significantly marked down, I scooped up a few bags of everything in hopes of making something delicious.  And these my friends, certainly are delicioso!  I love using candy in baking and making new ways to enjoy old favorites, and a cookie that contains all of that sweet and salty, chocolately, peanut buttery goodness of a Butterfinger is a sure win in my eyes.  These are so unbelievably soft and chewy, which is the perfect way for a cookie to be (just my opinion).  And even better is that they really take no time to make!  I happened to wake up just a little bit early for work, so I decided with that extra time I would whip up a batch of these bad boys to bring in with me.  Let's just say no one had any complaints.  I didn't even have any left to bring home!  And everyone knows when that happens it means you have a good recipe on your hands.  (....Well, there may have been a slightly different outcome if I happened to have brought them home while visiting my parents and brother.  But that just means my mom and I could hoard them to ourselves for old time's sake.  And that would be completely fine by me.)  :)



Yield:
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon iodized salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, cooled
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • >1 cup chopped Butterfinger candy bars (I used 11 "fun size" candy bars)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy. Beat in vanilla. Beat in eggs 1 at a time.
  4. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well combined.
  5. Fold in chopped Butterfingers.
  6. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Cook 8-10 minutes or until edges start to brown and cookies are set.
  7. Allow to cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
Source:  Life's Abrosia

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Fudge Truffle Cake with Strawberries

Now that's a bit of a mouthful of a title for a cake, but I promise every single word is actually completely vital to it's description.  It's vegan, it's chocolate, it's fudgy, it's decadent like a truffle, it's a cake, and it has strawberries.  See!  I told you so. :)  (Unfortunately the front piece had more strawberries tucked inside than you could really see...I know this because I ate it right after I finished photographing!)  

I really had no reason to make this...except it is my birthday week so I figured I could use that as an excuse for this ultra rich and gratifying treat.  I actually consider the whole month of March to be a celebration for my birthday..and I'm definitely one of those people who is obnoxious about letting you know the countdown til my day comes.  (By the way, it's March 13th and I will be 21 finally!  Only 5 more days to go!)  And in case you're wondering, I hold my mother and my Grammie completely responsible for the monster/princess they created when it comes to this.  You see, my mom was always the same way as a child.  She was the only one out of of her brothers and her sister that was like that and let's just say the apple didn't fall far from the tree.  I just really love my birthday and I love telling everyone that it's my special day (whether they care or not, but that's beside the point!).   Coincidentally, it's usually in March that my pants begin to feel a liiiiittle more snug because I frequently use the excuse "But it's my birthday!" to indulge (and maybe slightly overindulge..), but hey, you only live once!  And I definitely enjoyed every second of indulging in this little slice of heaven.

I'm sure Betty Crocker didn't think I would see this cake and then decide to turn it into a vegan version, but guess what lady, I DID!  I mean, just take a second look at the title.  It says "vegan" so it must be dry, bland, and unappetizing, right?  Nice try!  I bet if I didn't include that little "v word" in the title, you would have had no idea it was.  And, if I sliced a piece and handed it to you with a big old grin on my face, I'm sure you still wouldn't know it was vegan until I gave you the recipe and you gasped and said "But where are the eggs!? The heavy cream!?  How did you...?"  And I would simply explain that vegan doesn't automatically mean flavorless, lifeless meals and desserts.  This cake is unbelievably delicious, rich, dense, and fudgy...it's simply amazing!  The addition of the strawberries make it seem like the perfect "March" kind of dessert.  You really never know what to expect from the weather this month, with the lingering winter and the (hopefully) approaching spring, which is why the chocolatey cake (which is quite comforting on the colder days) really benefits from the strawberries (which really add a great fresh and spring-like feel to the cake).  So, if you're looking for an excuse to try this out (just like I was)...just say I made you do it.  You'll be pleasantly surprised and happy you did. :) 


Ingredients:

For the Cake:
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 1 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Ganache Filling and Topping:
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) semisweet baking chocolate, finely chopped (Baker's semi-sweet is vegan)
  • 1 1/3 cups soy milk
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan butter
  • 2 cups cut-up fresh strawberries
Garnish
  • Fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup vegan white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8 pan.
  2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
  3. Pour into pan, smooth top.  Bake for 28-35 minutes.  (I checked mine every few minutes after 25 minutes just to make sure it didn't overcook)
  4. Cool completely, about 1 hour
  5. Meanwhile, in large bowl, place chopped chocolate; set aside. In 2-quart saucepan, heat soy milk and Earth Balance (or other vegan butter substitute) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until "butter" is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Pour "cream" mixture over chocolate; stir until smooth.
  6. Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper round. Cut cake into 1-inch cubes. In large bowl, beat half of the cake cubes on low speed until cake is crumbly. Add remaining cake cubes and 1 3/4 cups of the ganache (reserve remaining ganache for topping). Beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed until well combined (mixture will look like fudge). Fold in 2 cups cut-up strawberries. Spoon mixture into springform pan; smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 45 minutes or until firm enough to unmold.
  7. Run knife around side of pan to loosen cake mixture. Place serving plate upside down on pan; turn pan and plate over. Frost side and top of cake with reserved ganache. Arrange strawberry halves on top of cake.
  8. In small microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips and 1/2 teaspoon oil uncovered on High 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted. Place in small resealable food-storage plastic bag; cut off tiny corner of bag. Drizzle over top of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake is best served the same day.
Adapted from: Betty Crocker
Source for Cupcakes: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thin Mint Truffles


St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner and what says "Luck o' the Irish" better than mint chocolate desserts!?  Uhh, nothing, obviously!  And, being in the spirit of Girl Scout season and all things deliciously minty, I decided to try making these cookies even yummier than before.  Cake truffles, brownie truffles and now, thin mint truffles!  Talk about taking things to a whole other delectable level.  Basically rolling things into tiny little morsels makes them even more irresistible than their full-sized counter part.  Personally, I am partial to the pint-sized versions because I think they're just the cutest little things..plus you can dress them up to suit any occasion, even if it's just to sit on the couch popping them into your mouth one by one.  I really do love celebrating all holidays, and the fact that St. Patty's day is just after my birthday makes me like it even more.  (Especially this year because I'll just have turned 21! Woohoooo!  I digress...) 

I have always thought mint and chocolate's harmonious joining was something only a genius could come up with (thank you, whoever you are!).  And ever since the glorious day the two met, the flavor combination has become a staple to Girl Scouts, and the Irish alike.  (And as I'm sure you can tell, I have a lot of Irish in me with my red hair and the spelling of my name and all.) So, if you love a good Girl Scout cookie and have been thinking of a new way to go about enjoying it, this is definitely something to try!  They are seriously addicting.



Ingredients:
  • One box Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 lb Dark mint chocolate candy melts (or regular chocolate chips/candy melts)
  • 1/4 cup green candy melts (or sprinkles, shaved chocolate, anything you'd like to decorate with) 
  • 1 tbs shortening (+ 1 tsp)

Directions:
  • Put both sleeves of cookies into food processor, process until finely chopped crumbs are formed
  • Pour crumbs into a bowl and add softened cream cheese
  • Mix together with a fork (I used my hands to combine it together well)
  • Roll into truffle sized balls (I was able to get 15 out of mine)
  • Refrigerate for an hour (or freeze for 30 minutes)
  • Melt chocolate and shortening in a double boiler (a microwave works just as fine, use 30 second intervals if you go this route)
  • Carefully cover each truffle in chocolate and tap off excess
  • Place each truffle on wax paper on a cookie sheet (top with sprinkles or any other decorations before chocolate sets)
  • Refrigerate until chocolate is firm
 To Decorate:
  • Melt green candy chips & 1tsp shortening in a double boiler (again the microwave can be used as above)
  • Pour chocolate into plastic bag, snip a very small piece off of the corner of the bag
  • Drizzle over truffles
  • Refrigerate again until chocolate is set

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vegan Breakfast Sandwiches



At 16 I embarked on the journey of getting my first job.  For years my parents owned a restaurant (named after yours truly) that I would help out at, but silly me thought I wanted to get real job not working for mom and dad.  Like I said, silly, silly me!  Against my parents wishes, I began my quest in the "working world".  I didn't believe them when they said "Once you start working, you won't ever stop," and insisted on passing in my application where I would start off by working in the lovely world of retail. (I hate to admit it, but they were completely right.)  I spent a good year folding clothes and chatting with customers, but one thing I knew was that it so was not for me.  I am a huge people person, but after a while I found that the only thing I enjoyed about it was the weekly paycheck.  Now, if you ask me, 16 is a little early to be feeling that way about a job..so I went on my merry way and found myself another one.  Not folding t-shirts and jeans all day.

This time, I was a little more successful in my choice.  There's a local chain of Marylou's coffee shops in the South Shore that have really picked up in popularity over the past few years, and I spent a good three years there slinging delicious coffee for some great customers there.  Now, when I say "delicious," I mean that you were basically being served dessert in a cup.  You think of a sweet treat, there was probably a coffee flavor to match.  Tiramisu, Twix, Girl Scout Cookie, Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake, Butterfinger..the list really goes on and on.  It's definitely a stop worth making if you're in the South Shore sometime and happen drive by one of their hot pink signs.  I really loved this job, but one thing I didn't love so much were the ungodly hours I would have to drag my butt out of bed.  Sure, it was nice to be out of work at noon, but once I moved to a new town, that meant I had a half hour drive on my hands, which really stinks when you need to be at work by 4:15 AM.  I'm sure you can only imagine the ridiculous amount of coffee I would drink everyday to function.  Caffeine overload up the wazoo!  Working there in the morning not only meant tons of coffee slinging, but it also meant tons of breakfast sandwiches were being ordered.  Now, for the typical person, that's no sweat...but to a vegetarian, that's a whole other playing field!  I wasn't exactly fond of assembling those things with all that icky bacon and sausage, but it did make part of me miss the convenience of just stopping somewhere and grabbing a good old breakfast sammich.  It never really dawned on me to try making my own to suit my diet's needs...that was until I saw this recipe in VeganYumYum. 

I had been eyeing this since I got the book and finally got down to the grind and made it.  It's not exactly as easy as ordering at a drive-thru but it's worth investing a little time in.  I opted to make the homemade biscuits too and if you have the time, I highly suggest them..much better than any store bought English Muffin in my opinion!  The sandwich is comprised of scrambled tofu eggs, maple soy tofu, and homemade biscuits...and all three really come together in vegan breakfast sandwich harmony!  Be forewarned, if you don't like the flavor of nooch (nutritional yeast), I suggest reducing the amount in the scrambled tofu, because it is very rich in this recipe.  The maple syrup and soy sauce (I subbed Braggs Amino Acids for a healther spin) act as a great replacement for the smoky flavor of the meat in your traditional sammy.  This recipe shows off tofu's great versatility and makes up a really great breakfast for (vegan) champs!  Oh, and if you're anything like me..you'll finally be thankful for having a big mouth when trying to devour one of these! 

Ingredients:

Scrambled Tofu 'Eggs':
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 5 Tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Bragg amino acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Extra olive oil for cooking

Maple Soy Tofu:

  • 1 block firm pressed tofu
  • 4 Tablespoons Bragg amino acid (or soy sauce)
  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup

Biscuits:

  • 1 cup plain soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Earth Balance (or any other vegan butter)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegan shortening

Directions: (The order is different than in the book, but this helps to make the process smoother)
  • Press both tofu blocks (1 for 'eggs' and 1 for maple soy tofu). To press, remove tofu from package and drain all excess water. Wrap each block individually first in a paper towel then wrap that into a dish cloth. Put a heavy pan, like a dutch oven on top and let sit for about 20 minutes. 
Prep Maple Soy Tofu:
  • Cut one block of tofu in half then cut each half into about 1/4 inch thick pieces. You should have 8 pieces.   
Prep Scrambled Tofu:
  • Combine tofu, soy milk, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, tahini, mustard, cornstarch and baking powder in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Note: it will be very thick.

Cook Maple Soy Tofu:
  • In an ungreased skillet, cook each strip (working in batches if you need) until browned.
  • Add the syrup and sauce after tofu has been lightly browned. Be sure not to burn the soy maple glaze while cooking.
Cook Biscuits:
  • Preheat oven at 475 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar then set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Cut in Earth Balance and vegan shortening using a fork or pastry cutter, to create a crumbly mixture. 
  • Add the soy/vinegar mixture to your dry mix and stir until just combined.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press carefully until about 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, circle cookie cutter, or improvise by using a drinking glass, cut dough into circles and place on a baking sheet so the biscuits touch each other. 
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown, then remove. 
  • While your biscuits are baking, cook your 'eggs'.

Cook your Scrambled Tofu:
  • Heat a nonstick skillet (use non stick otherwise it will be an even bigger mess) to medium heat with a bit of olive oil. Pour about 1/3 cup of your 'egg' mixture  into the pan.
  • Carefully spread the mixture over the pan like a thin pancake. It's very sticky and kind of tough to work with. Let the mixture cook on one side until brown and rather firm. (It does take a little bit). Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes on med/low heat making sure they do not burn. 
  • Flip 'eggs' to cook the other side. When done, it is time to prepare your sandwiches.

Serve:
  • Cut biscuits in half lengthwise. Top bottom biscuit with a portion of your 'eggs'. On top of that place 2 pieces of the maple soy tofu.
And after all of that effort, you can finally sit down and enjoy!

Source: VeganYumYum, LaPureMama

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Happy March!  I have to say at almost 2 months into food blogging, starting this blog is one of the best decisions I have made.  I was a little apprehensive at first because I didn't know if anyone would actually read the thing, but it has opened up tons of doors and really helped solidify my love for cooking and baking, and sharing that passion with other people! 

A little background...when I was younger, I dreamed of going to school for photography.  There's just something I loved about being able to capture a moment that you would later look back upon and be flooded with memories of.  It's so true that a picture is worth a thousand words! I can't even tell you how many boxes I have that are filled with photos that I just cannot part with.  I'm very guilty of being nostalgic!

Then, in high school, I discovered my love for writing.  Confession: I am a total grammar nerd and constantly correct people (mostly in my head so I'm not known as an insufferable know-it-all) and cringe when I see spelling errors.  I'm human so I make mistakes too, but come on, we all know it's could "have" not could "of" and for the love of God (whichever one you believe in), please just be sure to use they're/their/there correctly!  ...Okay, I am going to stop this little tirade of mine before it spins out of control because I don't want to bore you with all of my grammatical pet peeves (I hope someone out there (note: not their or they're!) can relate to me!).  Anywho, in high school I was the editor for the school paper for the "Life & Style" column, and I really enjoyed expressing myself through writing.  Unfortunately, all everyone keeps hearing about is the struggle of college grads (especially in Communications majors) finding work after finishing their degree, and it really worried me to fall into that category.  So, I decided to try taking a different route.  I am happy to say I just received my Associate's Degree in a Liberal Arts Science Transfer program and now plan to double major in Business and Culinary Nutrition, because, well, I love food and would love to own my own bakery/cafe someday!   

So, I rambled a bit about my love for photography and my love for writing..now where does the love for food come in, you ask?  Well, I didn't want to completely throw away my other passions in life, but I always had a lingering thought of how much I used to love helping my mom in the kitchen.  I didn't really begin exploring all of my culinary and baking options until I began living on my own, which then turned into me experimenting in the kitchen quite frequently.  I started off by bringing desserts to birthday parties and any special occasion I could, and I realized how much I enjoyed creating things with my own hands and seeing the joy it brought to people.  I would bring some cupcakes here, some cake balls there...I became hooked to creating!  Then, after going back and forth for months, I finally decided to begin documenting it using this little blog of mine.  And boy am I glad that I got over my worries and finally made it!  I never would have imagined that I could combine all of my passions into one thing; a little page about baking and cooking with GillyCakes. 

(I swear, all of this information is relevant!)  You see, I don't want my whole blog to be a sugar-coated version of myself (no pun intended), so here and there I will let you in on some different "things about me." Whether it's an update of my day or a story that relates to my post,  in time you will learn more about me (whether you want to or not!).  I am sarcastic, I have a big heart, I (have a tendency to) have a truck-driver mouth, I'm sensitive, I love to laugh, I'm a hopeless romantic, I love animals, I'm corny, I'm a food blog addict, and so on and so forth.  But most importantly, I love what I do when it comes to creating, writing, photographing, and sharing my stories and food with you.

And somehow in some odd way, all of this led up to me making hummus for the first time.  I already divulged that I love me some hummus, but I had never tried making it on my own.  I knew it wasn't hard to do, I just never got around to doing it.  Until now that is.  Now that I have my blog, I have an excuse to stop making excuses!  My mental list of "Things to Bake/Cook" is endless, but I really wanted to try doing this and decided it was time to stop procrastinating!  And now, I will only be making it myself.  Homemade is so much better!  Roasted red pepper has always been my favorite flavor, so I thought it would be only fair for that to be the first one I attempt.  Let me tell you how delicious this is compared to the store-bought version.  Really, really freakin' delish!  It's creamy, spicy, and totally yummy!  If you have <15 minutes, you should without a doubt try it out!  And now, for what you really care about...the recipe!


Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 (4 ounce) jar roasted red peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

  • In an electric blender or food processor, puree the chickpeas, red peppers, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Process, using long pulses, until the mixture is fairly smooth, and slightly fluffy. Make sure to scrape the mixture off the sides of the food processor or blender in between pulses. Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The hummus can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.)
  • Sprinkle the hummus with the chopped parsley before serving.
Source: All Recipes

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spiced Chickpea Tomato Soup


What another lovely snowy day it was today.  (Okay, so that was a completely sarcastic statement.)  Living in lovely Massachusetts means you never know exactly what to expect from the weather around here.  So that means the "rain or snow" that we were supposed to get today inevitably ended up being, snow.  Wahhhhhhh!  (Yes, that is supposed to be said using the Snooki voice)  This winter has been an exceptionally rough one for us here and quite frankly, I. am. so. freakin'. sick. of. it!  But, apparently mother nature doesn't really care what I think..so she brought on more snow than we expected, again.  Lucky for me this is the best kind of day to spend cooking (plus I was also off from work today), so after finishing up at the gym, I had a long day in the kitchen planned.  I had quite a few things in mind, but I ended up scrapping a couple ideas for now and decided to add this soup to today's line-up instead.  It seemed like the perfect thing to make to accompany a day like today.

After spending a few hours of cooking and cleaning, I decided to take a little break so Dave and I could take Tucker to a local park to run around in the snow.  It's a good thing at least one of us likes this weather!  As much as I whine about the snow (which is just about every single day), it was a nice way to try to enjoy what we have to deal with.  Plus, it was nice to watch Tucker run around and enjoy himself since he's been cooped up inside a lot this winter.  After letting him get some energy out and becoming slightly frozen ourselves, we headed back home and I was more than in the mood to dig into this soup.  Once we got in, I made some grilled "cheese", heated up the soup, and can say I actually enjoyed this crazy New England weather for once.

Now, a little about the soup.  The flavors in this are very warming and comforting, which truly makes this a perfect winter meal.  The red pepper and spices really transform this into an aromatic dish that packs a lot of punch to it.  Don't be fooled though, this really isn't your typical "light" soup.  It's extremely hearty and rich from the pureed chickpeas, which add a lot of body to it.  Basically, it's damn good and you should give it a go!

Tucker and me in a little tunnel at the park. 
(Don't mind my appearance, I was unshowered post-gym. TMI?  Oh well!)




We had found a little broken sled while we were out.  Needless to say, despite all of Tucker's muscle mass, I don't quite see him having a future with the Iditarod.  And he sure loves wearing his backpack!

Spiced Chickpea Tomato Soup
Serves 4; makes about 6 cups

Ingredients:
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 dried hot red chiles, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed canned tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 cup drained jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable stock
  • (Vegan) Sour cream, for serving
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish

 

Directions:

  1. Using a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon, crush garlic, chiles, coriander, salt, and caraway to form a paste.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic mixture, and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and stock. Simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender. Rewarm if necessary. Divide among bowls, and top each with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.
  5.  
    Note:  To do the "swirl", water down 2 tablespoons (vegan) sour cream with one tablespoon water.  Put mixture into a plastic bag, snip the bottom corner and carefully swirl, make a heart, or whatever shapes you please!  And, I absolutely adore my little porcelain soup containers in this picture.  In case you may be wondering, I got them at Crate & Barrel.  Reasonably priced and super cute!  You should probably go get some.
Source: Martha Stewart

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Somoa Girl Scout Cookies


Girl Scout Cookie season is such a wonderful time of year, dontcha think?  Growing up, I never really had a desire to become a Brownie or a Girl Scout, but boy did I looooove eating their cookies.  I honestly can't say I have a definitive favorite between all of them, but if you were to put a box of Samoas (AKA Caramel deLites), Thin Mints, and Tagalongs (AKA Peanut Butter Patties) in front of me and told me to choose my favorite of the three I would probably....grab them all and run!  Those are definitely my top three picks, but there are different things about each of them that I absolutely love, so I can't really say which one I prefer over the others.  Unfortunately this indecisiveness leads me to buying one of each box when it is the season for Girl Scout Cookies.  It's just so hard to say no when I walk by the girls on my way into work!  They really know how to push those things.  And, considering I live with a human garbage disposal, I had to go back and buy seconds because I didn't get to enjoy even one the first time around!  Good thing I found a hiding place for these ones... :) 

 As delicious and irresistible as they are, I knew I had to stop splurging on them for my poor wallet's sake (buying a box is one thing, but once you're onto your 5th or 6th one, fuhhgedaboutit..make your own!).  Coincidentally, I happened to stumble upon a link to homemade Somoas one day and vowed that the second I got in from work that day, I would make them.  There really are some perks to working in a bank that's inside of a grocery store, afterall.  Once I ran through the aisles in excitement and grabbed everything I needed, I headed home to make magic.  (well, Somoas...but you should know they basically are magical!)  Surprisingly, these really weren't hard to make.  They do require a little bit of time and love, but judging by the outcome, they are definitely worth it.  I was able to get 24 perfect shortbread cookies out of this recipe...not to mention they were about twice the size of the originals!  Aside from the shortbread being a little thicker, they really taste just like the ones you buy from the cute little girls.  And this way, instead of having to buy stock up on an emergency supply to resort to when they aren't in season, try this recipe out instead!  They are seriously delicious...maybe I'll even try going door to door selling some.  I may not be as cute as those little girls are, but I surely can provide a cookie that's almost just as good as the real thing. :)

So, you're not much of a coconut or caramel fan, you say?  Do you happen to prefer another type of Girl Scout cookie over the Somoa?  Well, lucky for you, I will be taking a whack at some more homemade versions.   I was lucky enough to try a veganized version of the Thin Mint that Dave's sister over at Vegan Food Rocks made last week..so I will be sharing the homemade and the vegan homemade versions of that little cookie with you soon.  Stay tuned!


Yields: 
24 1 1/2 inch Cookies


Ingredients for cookie:
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Ingredients for topping:

  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 12 ounces of caramels
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 8 ounces chocolate chips

Directions for Cookie:
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, begin by mixing the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Next, add in the flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Finally, add the vanilla extract and milk and incorporate well.  (I found kneading it with my hands was the fastest and most effective way!)
  • Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out (on top of parchment paper so it doesn't stick to the table). Make sure it is about 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Using a small, round cookie cutter, begins cutting out the cookies.  (I didn't have one small enough, so I used the top of a drinking glass and it was the perfect size!)
  • Cut as many cookies as you can (it's really easy dough to work with so just re-roll it out as much as you can.  I was able to get 24 cookies from it)
  • When placing on the cookie sheet, to fit more at a time you can place them close together.  The shortbread doesn't expand much while cooking.
  • Next, cut a hole from the middles of the cookie using a straw, finger, knife, etc.  (I improvised and used the top of a water bottle cap and it was the perfect size.  I ended up covering the hole with the topping, but it did allow me to get a few extra cookies out of it!)
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Don't let them brown too much.  They may still feel soft after this amount of time, but still pull them and let them cool.  They will harden up a little while cooling, but you still want them to be soft. 
  • While baking you will want to start the ingredients for the topping.

Directions for Topping:
  • Unwrap the caramels. Place in a bowl with the milk and salt and microwave for about 3 minutes stirring occasionally (length of time depends on the power of the microwave).  You can also do this step on the stove top if you prefer.
  • Next, spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Stir it every 3-5 minutes. 
  • Fold the coconut into the caramel mixture and stir well. 
  • Using a small spoon, place the mixture on top of the cooled cookies (about 2 tablespoons per cookie). (In order to keep the mixture from sticking to my hands, I lightly wet them and then spread the topping over the cookie)
  • Finally, melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (or on the stove top, again preference). Heat for about 30 seconds then stir, and repeat until melted completely. 
  • Dip the base of the cookies into the chocolate and place onto parchment paper. Once all cookies have been dipped, place the remaining chocolate into a zip block bag and cut a small hole in the corner. Pipe the chocolate onto the cookie in a zig-zag pattern.
  • Place in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.
Now, after all of your hard work through all of these little steps..you finally have your own homemade Girl Scout Somoa/Caramel deLites!

Adapted from: A Bicycle Built for Two
(There are great step-by-step photos on this link!)

For a vegan version of this classic, click here! You can also purchase "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" for this recipe and tons of other delicious vegan cookies.  Yum!