Monday, January 31, 2011

Birthday Cupcakes for the Portland Kindergartener

Lately it feels like every other joke around here is about Portlandia, the new show that lovingly makes fun of our fair, gray city. Believe me, Portland has earned every joke that comes our way, what with our open minds and acceptance of alternative lifestyles. We wear them with pride on our striped and polka dotted sleeves, I tell you!
So - it should come as no surprise that for our daughter Ruby's birthday today we had to bake some very special cupcakes. Vegan, gluten-free, soy free cupcakes, to be precise. Vegan (duh), gluten-free because one of her classmates is gluten-free as is her teacher (at her democratic public charter school, SO Portland) and soy-free because one of her classmates is allergic to soy! Whew!

Not white like processed flour cupcakes, but a better & nuttier beige vanilla!
Ruby was VERY excited about the chocolate.

SO - I made the Vanilla Gluten Freedom cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and the Chocolate Gluten Freedom cupcakes, too. Then I realized as I was getting everything prepped that my muffin pan was still lent out....but not to worry...5 & 6 year old humans don't care about cupcake shape, right? Freestyle cupcakes commenced.

I am not an experienced gluten-free baker, though I do use many different flours in my baking. I'll switch out the white whole wheat for some barley or kamut or spelt, but those all contain gluten. So this was a first for me, and it was easy as can be. The recipe calls for several different flours, one of which is quinoa flour. I was shocked that the price at my local high-priced natural foods market was $11.99 for a 1 pound bag of quinoa flour! That price does not jive with my budget or my sense of thriftiness. So I left the bag on the shelf and got myself a few cups of organic white quinoa (all I had at home was red) and went home to grind some flour. I know, I'm living in the dark ages, grinding my own flour. Ha. But it was just like grinding coffee, and within seconds I had plenty of quinoa flour. Look!
Thank you, Ms. Magic Bullet. A bounty of quinoa flour.
I wised up when I baked the chocolate one. Bread pans = Squares!
Here are the vanilla's pre-baked. They got wonky but still looked cute!
It was fun to make a treat for her class - especially a treat that everyone could have. Because she is vegan, Ruby is often not able to consume the same treat as everyone else. She's used to it - she doesn't want to eat food that isn't vegan and has never once complained. But to make a bunch of cupcakes that she can have with her class and her wonderful teacher was truly a treat for me. I am also a fan of showing the generosity that veganism is - for animals and for people. I like to show that we are a thoughtful bunch of folks who are trying hard to be kind to everyone. Damn, I'm a sap! I hope they loved the cupcakes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'd love to know

What was the biggest change for you when you went vegan? What foods did you eat at first? What did you miss, if anything? What was your favorite meal to make when you first went vegan - what are YOUR standby meals - for anytime of day - when you just don't know what else to make?

If you were going to add something to a Vegan 101 class, what would it be?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Everybody Say Knish

I may not love a parade, but I love a knish. Why do knishes inspire me to say bizarre things? I don't know and honestly I don't care. I LOVE A KNISH! My favorite knish line is "knish me deadly." You know, like the song by Lita Ford. And like Lita sings, a knish ain't no big thing.
So cute & round & with yummy insides.

A golf ball sized dough ball is enough to cradle what your knish loving heart desires.

It all begins with potatoes, whipped potatoes to be exact. I am never one for peeling vegetables, but for a knish, you must. Then you mix your cooked whipped potatoes with some flour (I only use white whole wheat) and some spices....thyme, garlic powder, the basics....and you make a dough.

Just fold those sides over and play patty cake with the disc. I'm not kidding!
What to put inside? Classics are mushrooms and onions. Or spinach. I believe some folks put cheese in but I've never done that. I like the knish as a vehicle for greens and such to get into my daughter. She'll eat anything when it's in a knish. Can you blame her? So this time, it's got onions, garlic, mushrooms, spinach and seitan. I know! Chock full of love.

I tried one as a square but it didn't make a difference. It still wound up round!
Once you have all your knishes made you just bake them for 25 minutes and make a salad to go with for dinner. Or, you just watch an episode of Diego! with your kid, do some laundry, or play fetch with the dog. You can always do the dishes if you're really inspired.

I used my silpat baking mat but parchment is nice too. These can be low-fat for sure!
I like to bake them until they get this crispy on the bottom.
I'm working on "my" recipe for these - but FYI, I am adapting one from this book. I really like this book, but the name is pretty insulting. Yes! I actually WILL believe good food is vegan. But hey, it's a good book.
I also want to make some knishes with sweet potatoes, because those are even more wonderful than yukon golds and better for you, too. I will post recipes soon....I still owe you the chickpea pancake recipe and now this one. I won't forget, promise!
Finally, if you can think of a good knish pun, leave it in the comments. I would love that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mr. Herbivore's Birthday

Before I begin, I don't remember....have you met Sassy yet? Here she is with her human sister. She has lived with us for a year and 3 months, and she's still scared of pretty much everything and everybody - except us. She is a Basset Hound, and she is one long dog.
My name is Sassy & I'm a scaredy dog. Don't love me, I'll run!
Anyway, traditions! We have a few of our own a vacation anywhere sunny during the first three months of the year to escape the rain...walks with the dog on Christmas day, bike rides whenever we can, but always to Proper Eats on our day off in the summertime...AND....double decker veggie burgers on Josh's birthday. Why? I don't remember, but dang if it isn't fun! This year, only Josh doubled it, but that's because I was too cheap to buy two boxes of burgers. I know, I'm a goof.

This is Ruby's burger! She never liked veggie burgers until this week!
 We used the new buns from Dave's Killer Bread, because they are the most delicious buns in the world. Buns! I love buns. And we got them at Foodfight, naturally. Also, I'd like some homemade fries with that burger, please.

We like potatoes at our house. Just tossed in oil, garlic, pepper, salt & baked to perfection.
Here I am, tossing the taters. Only one flew out!
This made the burger....melted Teese cheddar. This stuff is delicious!
Here's Ruby's whole plate. She at half her burger, all her salad, and two fries. The rest of her burger went in her school lunch the next day. She was stoked!

Though the salad was green leaf, and not her favorite (Mache) she ate it all. Yay!
And finally - dessert. Something small but yummy....vanilla Coconut Bliss with a butterscotch chocolate chip cookie from Sweetpea. I put the cookie in the still warm oven and it was supremely delish with the vegan ice cream.

This cookie is ridiculously good. Seriously. Go get one.
It was a very happy birthday for my man. Happy birthday Josh! xoxoxo

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taco Salad: Guesting and Testing at The Betty Crocker Project!

This is what it is all about. Amen.
I am HONORED to be a guest blogger for the Meet The Shannons today! You can check out their post which has a flattering intro that makes me blush...or you can read the post right here! Either way, thank you Shannons! xoxoxo

"You sweet talker, Betty Crocker!" Remember that jingle?

When I first heard about The Betty Crocker Project, I had that immediate feeling "Why didn't I think of that first!" I was jealous and relieved at the same time. Somebody would do this important work, and it wasn't me -- but dang if it isn't a great idea!

So obviously I jumped at the challenge to do a guest post for the blog. Confession: I was slightly disappointed that we were to do the Taco Salad recipe! It's true, though I did not tell Annie. I thought Taco Salad was too easy! I mean, I wasn't going to have to drive across town to sixteen ethnic markets to find the exact ingredients....I wasn't going to need to make 5 items from scratch before I could even begin the taco salad recipe....but wait... what is that? DEEP FRYING? Now I was scared. Talk about foreign and exotic! I'm in over my head and I am deeply afraid. There is nothing like deep burning hot oil to put the fear into me. I am not a deep-fried vegan - I'm more of a saute or steam vegan. Turns out taco salad was going to be exciting after all. I was going to consume something, fried deeply, that was made in my own home. Pigs flew, I tell you.

I enlisted the help of my doting husband and some other deeply traditional friends on Christmas Eve to complete the mission. 

The centerpiece really makes the table, don't you agree?
Here is what you need to get your party started.  I recommend getting all of your ingredients prepped first, because once you have your shells deep-fried, everything comes together quickly.
  • 4 Cups of Vegetable Oil for deep-frying the tortillas
  • 10 inch Flour Tortillas
  • 1 Package of Yves Meatless Ground
  •  1/2 Large Red Onion (diced)
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed. Wash the can, remove paper label & set aside to assist with the salad bowl making
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Dashes of Liquid Smoke
  • 1 Tablespoon Texas Pete Hot Sauce  we used Tapatio Hot Sauce instead!
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Braggs
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (ground)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Vegan Poultry Seasoning or Seasoning Salt (most are vegan but you need to read the label to make sure)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin 
  • 1 Head of Romaine Lettuce (chopped into bite size pieces)
  • 1 Cup of Daiya Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
  • 2/3 Cup Black Olives (sliced)
  • 1 Avocado (pitted and pealed. . . we made ours into guacamole but it would have been just as good in slices)
  • Vegan Sour Cream
  • Salsa
  • Green Onions (chopped) 
  • Cilantro (chopped)
Christmas eve in Portland was a rainy, cold affair, and we don't have an exhaust fan in our kitchen. These facts, coupled with my irrational fear of deep frying, means that I made my doting husband create our salad bowls outside on the deck. I am a very loved woman. Our buddy E was his accomplice while his partner T and I did the rest of the prep in the kitchen, dodging little girls playing dress up and pushing baby strollers, while we chopped onions, grated cheese and chortled at the idea of the salad soon to be consumed. All vegans eat is salad, right? Ha!
Here you see how the bean can gets the work done.
FYI - A deep fried tortilla is a delicious treat.

It's rough, cooking with fairies around....
Deep fried glory.
All this & no cholesterol!

Primero, you make the Salad Bowl / aka the deep fried tortilla. Use a deep fryer if you've got it, or else a deep enough pan to hold 4 cups of oil. Heat that oil up until it's popping. Take one of your tortillas and place it over the hot oil, then place your kidney bean can in the center of the tortilla. Using long handled tongs, very gently push down on the can, forcing the tortilla into the hot oil. Hold it there for 5 or 10 seconds, and then remove the can. It should stay down and be that familiar taco salad bowl shape. Leave it to cook for a minute or two until it's brown and golden. Using the tongs again, remove the tortilla and drain on paper bags or lots of paper towels. Repeat as many times as you need to feed your taco salad party people. Take a moment to celebrate the fact that you are going to consume a deep fried tortilla, filled with tasty, cruelty-free taco meat and various fixin's, which means that you rule! And celebrate that you won't come even close to consuming the calories and unhealthy crap the original Taco Salad called for!

Secondly, you need to make your taco meat. In a big pan (I used a big cast iron skillet) heat the olive oil, and stir in the dashes of liquid smoke and the hot sauce. Add the ground crumbles, onion and beans and then mix in the Braggs, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning and cumin. Mix thoroughly. It should take around 10 minutes for it to cook. Remove from heat once the crumbles are browned and the onions are caramelized. Be sure and let the mix cool before serving. Pause to smell the deliciousness and maybe steal a bite while it's piping hot. We did.

We made a double batch, can you believe it!?
Third thing is to build your taco salad empire. Go for it. Start with the chopped romaine and indulge in vegan taco meat heaven, plus cheese, sour cream, sliced black olives, green onions, cilantro, avocado and salsa. Want more salsa? Well, some people like to say salsa.

Digging in to the edible bowl. We all wished for seconds.

It's true, vegans love salad. Including taco salad.
The verdict on the Shannons Taco Salad recipe? Well, not only did we all totally love the meal, but recreating a classic American "Mexican" dish (that we all probably thought was 'real' Mexican food back in the day) was a walk down memory lane. It took me back, if you know what I mean, and made me proud to give Taco Salad some respect with this more compassionate ingredient list. I can't imagine how overly-filling this meal would be when made with animals! Ugh. Last thing? I don't often cook with meat analogs like crumbles, but this was a great reminder to me that they can be downright delicious and one heckuva quick dinner. And the homemade deep fried tortilla was an adventure I liked a little bit too much.

Thank you, Annie and Dan, for giving us the Taco Salad love!