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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

I have a couple of "vegan" friends.  I use air quotes because it's the best way to define how they choose to eat even though it isn't entirely accurate.  Plant-based nutrition puts it best.  But I digress.  One of these friends of mine turned forty.  So vegan cake needed to be made.  I never thought I'd be making vegan cake, but I am certainly glad I found myself in the position to be doing so because these were amazing!  I got the recipe from my other vegan friend.  If you read my last cupcake post, you may remember that I had a chocolate cake recipe disaster a few weeks ago, so I went to a reliable source for a vegan cake recipe.  I was taking no chances on having bad cakes at my friend's surprise 40th birthday party.  Well my friend delivered.  I will make these again when I want chocolate cake for any reason whatsover.  The cake was so moist and the frosting was crazy good!!  If you like cinnamon, you will adore these.  I almost thought about toning the cinnamon down the next time I make these (because of course there will be a next time,) but then I decided that it was actually the perfect amount - I would call it a bold amount of cinnamon, but it was in fact perfect.  These cupcakes are a happy surprise.  Also, the original recipe is actually for Mexican Chocolate Cake, so there is some cayenne to give it a spicy kick.  I omitted this completely although I would be into trying it that way another time.  I included those measurements in case anyone is interested in doing the same.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cake
 by Colleen Patrick Goudreau
makes 24 cupcakes

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if you want a regular chocolate cake)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups nondairy milk (I used coconut)
2 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar (not balsamic!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly oil two 8-inch (round or square) cake pans, or prepare cupcake/muffin tins with paper liners or silicon cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, salt, and sugar.  In a separate bowl, beat together the applesauce, oil, vanilla extract, milk, and vinegar. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. It will be a bit of a thick batter.  Pour the batter into the baking pans or cupcake/muffin tins, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes (less time for cupcakes – between 15 and 17 minutes), or until the cake comes away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Chocolate Cinnamon Frosting

1/2 cup Earth Balance, somewhat softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons nondairy milk

Cream together all the ingredients using a mixer on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed once all the ingredients are combined, and you don’t risk powdered sugar flying everywhere. Increase the speed even more until the frosting is light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add an additional l or 2 tablespoons of milk, if necessary. Lick the spoon, and frost your cake!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Matzoh Brei

Matzoh what???  Matzoh Brei.  It's the Jewish version of french toast - invented out of necessity, because there is only so much dry matzoh you can eat during the week of Passover.  It's broken up matzoh - since bread which is off limits during Passover - soaked in egg and fried.  Doesn't sound like much, but once you cover it in sugar, it's extremely yummy.

So when my mom noticed an open box of matzoh on top of my fridge (which I hadn't touched since Passover), she set out to teach me how to make this childhood favorite of mine...and it was as good as I remembered.

Matzoh Brei
serves 2 to 3

4 boards of matzoh (I prefer egg matzoh)
2 eggs
big pinch of salt
canola oil
sugar for serving

In a bowl, break up the boards of matzoh.  Add enough water to completely moisten it and then squeeze all of the excess water out.  Add the eggs and salt and combine.  Put enough canola oil in a frying pan so that it covers the bottom and heat on medium-high.  Once the oil is hot, add dollops of the matzoh-egg mixture to the frying pan as if you are making fritters.  Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown and cooked through.  Lower the heat if they begin to get too brown.  Serve with sugar sprinkled on top.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Warm Shrimp with Wilted Escarole Salad

I love food (as if you didn't already know this,) and tonight's recipe is a perfect example of why I love food so very much.  It uses a bunch of ingredients that I love but don't use nearly enough (escarole and capers), as well as an ingredient that took me out of my comfort zone and proved there is actually a reason why people use it after all...anchovies.  I will admit I am incredibly intimidated by anchovies.  They have bones, right???  Then there was the Great White Clam Sauce Debacle of 2006.  Anchovies did not prove to be my friend that night.  So since then, I have not tried to tackle them again...until tonight.  I no longer fear the anchovy.  It completely dissolved into the butter and oil.  You wouldn't even know it was there if not for the depth of flavor they left in their wake.  I am pretty sure that this dish will appear in our house regularly.  It was incredibly well balanced.  The anchovies and capers make a saltiness that tempers the bitterness of the escarole perfectly.  When Jim walked through the door tonight, he asked what I was making (as he usually does.)  Upon hearing my response, he made a terrible face (as he sometimes does.)  Upon tasting the dish, he apologized for the terrible face.  He loved the dish, my mother who is visiting us (and is very picky) loved the dish, and Adrienne gobbled up all the shrimp she could eat (which is the best I can ask for at this "I will not - I repeat - will NOT eat anything green" stage.)   Success!

Warm Shrimp with Wilted Escarole Salad
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2013

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 anchovy fillets, packed in oil and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped
1 lb large shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 head escarole, torn into large pieces
1 tsp lemon juice
parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted and hot, add the anchovy fillets and press down with the back of your spoon until they have completely dissolved.  Then add capers and garlic and saute for about a minute.  Then add the shrimp and cook until they are pink and curled - about 4 minutes.  Then add half the escarole and toss until wilted.  Add the second half and do the same.  Add the lemon juice and toss to combine.  Serve with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Hyper Smash

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

It's Adrienne's 3rd birthday!!  I can't believe how time flies.  So what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes.  Adrienne loves cupcakes...and I love cupcakes...and Jim loves cupcakes.  Who doesn't love cupcakes?  And who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?  As Jim says, cream cheese frosting makes everything taste better.  Even things that wouldn't normally taste good will taste good if topped with cream cheese frosting.  So I decided on chocolate cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting.

I used a box of chocolate cake mix for the cupcakes because I got burned a couple of weeks ago with a chocolate cake recipe that I made.  It was terrible.  That's the bad thing about food blogs...just because the pictures look amazing doesn't mean the food actually tastes amazing.  So I ended up making 24 dry and tasteless chocolate cupcakes for a retirement party.  I was mortified...and mad! (::mad face::)  I am still looking for a "go-to" chocolate cake recipe, but until I find one, I won't be testing any recipes out when it's for a party.  So thank you Pillsbury - for being so easy AND delicious!

As for the frosting...I know how to make a good cream cheese frosting.  So I just played around with the amount of strawberry puree until I got it right.  Well, I definitely got it right - this frosting was SO good!!  I will definitely make these again...and again...and again...

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix
2 8-oz bars of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 stick of unsalted butter
6 Tbsp of pureed defrosted unsweetened frozen strawberries
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups of confectioners sugar
slices of strawberries for garnish

Bake your cupcakes per the instructions on the box.  To prepare the frosting, put the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat together with a mixer.  Add the vanilla and 6 tablespoons of the strawberry puree and combine.  Then add the sugar a cup at a time until completely blended.  Put the frosting in the refrigerator to set for at least 30 minutes.  After your cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting onto the cupcake.  You can garnish with a strawberry slice.

The cupcakes were delicious, but you should also see these Sesame Street themed fruit and veggie trays my mom made for the company who came to celebrate Ade's birthday with us.

 From right to left:
Grover or Cookie Monster (I'm not sure which): Blueberries with a blackberry mouth and cups of vanilla yogurt for the eyes with blueberry pupils
Oscar: Broccoli florets with a black olive mouth and cups of veggie dip for eyes with black olive pupils
Elmo: Strawberry slices with a blackberry mouth and cups of leftover strawberry cream cheese frosting for the eyes with blueberry pupils

These were a very cute centerpiece!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

This is one of the easiest cakes to make and it is as delicious as it is easy.  Another selling point is that it's extremely versatile.  I have made it twice before with raspberries...delicious!  Today, I made it with strawberries...even more delicious!  Next time, I will try blueberries because the season is coming and I just can't imagine it not being delicious.  The only this that makes me sad is that the berries always drop to the bottom, so the cake doesn't look like anything much - but with that in mind, it is a surprise how much I always like it - it tastes light and moist and is not overly sweet.  Try it next time you want a quick and easy cake to have for company.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter berries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Roasted Eggplant and Portobello Panini

Jim finally came around and requested that we eat less meat.  Before I responded to his request, I took a few minutes to debate whether or not I should inform him that I've been trying to make him less meatcentric for a looooooong time.  Every time I would make a meatless meal, he would complain that he was going to be hungry later.  Well, he has finally come around!  I hope his new found desire to eat less meat sticks, because I love to make meatless meals.  Don't get me wrong - I love eating meat and will continue to do so.  I just don't like to eat so much meat when there is so much more variety to to be had by incorporating more vegetables.  Chicken, beef, or pork versus so many leafy greens and root vegetables, mushrooms, beans, peppers, squash, the "bunch" vegetables, and on and on and on...and so many colors!

So tonight, embracing my husbands desire to eat less meat, I decided to roast up some eggplant.  (Did you know eggplant is a berry???  Crazy, but true.)  I did some research into how necessary it is to salt and press the eggplant first, and after much investigation, I found this article which allowed me to feel guilt-free in skipping those tedious steps when roasting:  To sum it up, it basically only matters if you are frying the eggplant.  So I skipped the salt and press, and it did not come out bitter at all.  It came out perfect.  I could have done a lot of things with the eggplant, but I chose to make paninis because I had some delicious panini bread laying around.  I had a good amount of eggplant leftover after making up two sandwiches and I was super-grateful - I ate it all up after I finished my sandwich.  I added the portobello because I love roasted portobello mushrooms, and since I was already roasting, then why not?  Then I threw in some tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and pesto...absolute heaven...and Jim approved!

Sorry there are so few measurements, but this is really an "add what you want and as little or as much of it as you want" type of recipe.  Do what you like and have fun with it.  To be honest, Jim really wanted the tomato sauce on it - so I made it and it was good - but I bet this would have been even better with roasted tomatoes or roasted red peppers...or roasted garlic???  I am sensing a theme.

Roasted Eggplant and Portobello Panini
makes 2 sandwiches

1 medium or 2 small eggplants, peeled (I like to leave some of the peel just for the look of it) and sliced 3/4-inches thick
2 portobello mushroom caps, stemmed and gills removed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and cover with about 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Then lay the eggplant slices down in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  While the eggplant cooks, line and oil another baking sheet.  Place the mushrooms gill-side down.  Brush the tops with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  After the eggplant has cooked for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and flip them over.  Then place them back into the oven along with the mushroom and cook for 12 minutes.  When done, you can slice the mushrooms if you prefer (I left mine whole.)  Assemble your panini.  I did mushroom, sauce, cheese, eggplant, and brushed one slice of the bread with pesto.  (I would add a lot more eggplant than you think is necessary - otherwise you won't taste it.)  Then I grilled them on an oiled grill pan for about 5 minutes per side.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mango Pineapple Salsa

I've been wanting to try making something like this for a very long time but I'm always being a baby about selecting and then dicing mangoes.  That damn pit.  It's huge and it annoys me.  When I was growing up, my mom would always do the hard work and give me slices of mango to eat.  I have vivid memories of her handing me slices of mango as we watched television together at night.  I was obviously spoiled, because despite how much I love mango, I never want to do all the work to eat it (you'd think it was like moving mountains.)  Well, I finally put on a pair of big girl pants and did it.  The mangoes were slim pickins' - either too soft or too hard, but I managed to get a couple that were workable (a little bit overripe, but they worked) and dicing them was not hard at all.  It takes a little bit more effort than your average fruit, but totally worth it.  I'd say dealing with a mango is a little like dealing with an avocado only where the pit of an avocado is all "here I am" the mango's pit is trickier because it plays hide and seek.

Well the effort was worth is because holy crap is this delicious!  I can't wait to make this again.  It's sweet and tart and has a bit of a kick - which is completely necessary to balance out the sweetness of the fruit.  It is really nicely balanced just as is - I absolutely wouldn't change a thing - and this is a super healthy recipe.  I would eat this all the time.  I made it to dip some chips in (which actually kind of takes away the super healthiness of it but whatever), but I bet this would taste great on shrimp and fish dishes - cakes, tacos, fajitas...yum, yum, and more yum.

Mango Pineapple Salsa

2 mangoes, peeled and diced small
1 cup of pineapple, diced small
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 red onion, minced
3 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp lime juice
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and serve!  Easy, huh?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Orange Teriyaki Chicken Skewers

I can't believe I haven't posted since Mother's Day.  It's just been a very crazy month.  I did not have it in me to take pictures of my food - but I wasn't very adventurous with my cooking anyway these last few weeks.  This weekend has been hideously hot and tonight we decided to grill it up.  I decided to try out a new marinade and it was very worth it.  It's basted onto the chicken skewers right before the chicken is done cooking.  It came out fantastic.  In the future, I would even consider using this sauce in a stir fry.  It would taste just like orange chicken.

Orange Teriyaki Chicken Skewers
adapted from Barbara Bakes
made 6 skewers

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 clove garlic, finely grated or pressed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
dash of red pepper

For the skewers:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
veggies of your choice, cut into chunks

Put the oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the ginger, orange zest, and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five more minutes.

Assemble your skewers, alternating chicken and vegetables.  Just before the a finished cooking - about 15 minutes (or once the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 170 degrees,) - brush the skewers with the glaze.  Allow to cook another few minutes so the glaze can caramelize onto the chicken a little bit.  Serve with rice or some pita bread.