Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Alfajores

For me, it just wouldn't be Christmas without alfajores.  Alfajores are a shortbread type of cookie, with dulce de leche in the middle.  My best friend's family is from Peru (and Bolivia) and she and her mom always make me alfajores for Christmas, as they are my all time favorite cookie.  Having recently gone vegan, they expressed their sadness that I would no longer be able to eat their alfajores.  I took this as a challenge.  And thankfully, I succeeded!  I will be bringing these to our Christmas Eve dinner, as I think they could fool any omni alfajor expert.

Alfajores:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar + more for dusting
  • Zest of half a lime
  • 11 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread, divided
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine coconut milk, 1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread, and brown sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. When almost boiling reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes, until thick like dulce de leche. Cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, powdered sugar, and lime zest in a large mixing bowl.  Add the buttery spread and mix with an eletric hand mixer. Mix until a dough ball is formed. It's ok if it's slightly crumbly.  Roll out dough on a floured surface until 1/4 inch thick.  Use a shot glass to cut out the cookies. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper).  Bake for 5-7 until the edges are barely light brown. Cool.  Make cookie sandwiches by spreading the cooled dulce de leche inbetween two cookies.  Dust finished cookies with powdered sugar.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Party 2012

Last night I had a Christmas party for my new grad school friends.  They came over to help decorate my tree, watch Elf (best Christmas movie ever?), and share in some general Christmas cheer since the semester is finally over.  I provided them with a few snacks that everyone seemed to enjoy.  For the savory I had some celery and carrot sticks with hummus.  I also made a vegan goat cheese spread which was really delicious and served with triscuits.  The recipe for the cheese can be found here.  I also made the mushroom bruschetta from my friend's blog Vegan Pandamonium.  The only thing I changed was adding 1/4 cup or so of nutritional yeast.  A few of my friends felt it necessary to sample the mushrooms right out of the pan.  It's such a simple recipe but very impressive.  Definitely a crowd pleaser.

For the sweet I made the sugar cookies from Vegan Heartland.  I set up a decorating station with four different colors of frosting and some sprinkles.  Everyone had a lot of fun with this.  And you can send the guests home with their creations.


And a Christmas party wouldn't be complete without some hot chocolate.  I'm not sure which blog my friend found the recipe from but it was super simple and delicious.
Vegan Crockpot Hot Chocolate:
  • 4 cups original almond milk (soy would probably work well too)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add all of the ingredients in your crockpot.  Whisk together until there are no lumps.  Put on the lid and turn your crockpot on low.  Cook for four hours, stirring occasionally.  I served it with a candy cane for stirring, giving it a nice peppermint flavor.  A friend also brought peppermint schnapps if you like even more peppermint. 




Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Waffles

Vegan Mofo is winding down but it feels like fall is finally starting here in Florida.  For brunch yesterday I made the pumpkin waffles from the Post Punk Kitchen.  They were amazing!  Delicious and tasting like fall.  I already had almost everything on hand and just did some simple substitutions for what I didn't have.  The recipe turned out perfect and it made a ton!  I now have breakfast for the rest of the week. 

Pumpkin Waffles from the PPK:
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Combine almond milk and vinegar, let curdle.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk together.  Pour wet into dry and stir until combined.  Prepare waffles in your waffle iron.  Serve with Earth Balance and real maple syrup.

Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and reheat in the toaster.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Central Florida Veg Fest

 Have I mentioned how much I love living in an area that has not one, but two Veg Fests?  Because I really really love it.  The boyfriend and I hopped on I-4 yesterday to get to the Central Florida Veg Fest in Orlando, only about an hour drive from us.  We got there just in time to hear Dr. Melanie Joy speak.  Her presentation was awesome.  As a graduate student in sociology I find Dr. Joy to be really inspiring as she teaches both sociology and psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  I was able to talk to her afterwards and she was really nice and approachable.

But let's get on to the most important thing: the food.  We started out sharing a plate of vegan nachos with chili and queso.  Easily my favorite last year it definitely claimed that place in my heart again.  The added pieces of tempeh to the chili.  They were messy and delicious, exactly what nachos should be. 

We also had a meatball sub that I failed to take a picture of.  We scarfed it down pretty quickly; it was delicious.  As if we hadn't eaten enough food already we shared the combo plate of Indian food: a samosa, rice, stewed chickpeas, and jalebi (fried dough soaked in syrup).  We love Indian food and for $5, the plate was a bargain.


So after the nachos, sub, and Indian food we still had room for dessert.  The boyfriend had a chocolate cupcake with fall spice and cayenne frosting.  It was really good, he loved it.  I had the pumpkin espresso cupcake, a perfect taste of fall.  Overall, we had an awesome time.  I can't wait for 2013 so we can do it all over again!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

ATL

 The boyfriend and I took a road trip to Atlanta last weekend to visit his family.  We had an awesome time.  We didn't get to eat at quite as many local Atlanta restaurants as I would have liked but we did find a pretty awesome vegetarian Chinese restaurant for a late lunch on Sunday afternoon.  It was a bit of a fiasco finding it, but really great once we did.

We shared an appetizer of crispy chicken drumsticks which was served with hot sauce.  The drumsticks were awesome.  The crispy outside reminded me of crispy skin, a texture I haven't had replicated too many times since being veg*n.  




 The boyfriend had a spicy eggplant and chicken dish for his main course, but I forgot to snap a picture.  I was a little to enthralled with my own dish.  Crispy orange beef with broccoli and a side of rice.  Oh.  My.  God.  The crispy pieces of beef were awesome and I loved the slightly spicy orange sauce.  It was one of my favorite Chinese dishes I've ever had.

For dessert we shared a mango bubble tea.  We're boba lovers so it was a pleasant surprise to find some in Atlanta.

I'd really love to go back to Atlanta to eat at some of the places we missed, especially Soul Vegetarian.  Any Atlanta people have recommendations for visitors?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My First Vegan Food Swap

 This was my first month participating in the vegan food swap organized by The Verdant Life.  I received my box from Amie at Whole Soul Vegan.  A fellow Floridian, she sent me a great box of goodies.  And most of it is snacks, perfect to bring with me to my prison cell of a graduate assistant office.  There's seaweed snacks (which I've been dying to try), granola, soup, tea, couscous, an oatmeal raisin cookies, almond butter, and ginger chews.  I can't wait to dig in.  Thanks Amie!


I'm mailing my box out to my lucky recipient today.  I did a Florida themed box with all the ingredients plus the recipe for my key lime pie.  She lives in Rhode Island so I think it will be a nice reminder of summer during the cold winter months.  I hope she enjoys her box as much as I've enjoyed mine.

October was the last month for the vegan food swap this year but you can still sign up for when it starts again in 2013.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taco Bus

Taco Bus is kind of a big deal.  They're a local legend here in Tampa, pretty much with a cult following.  They've been featured on cable t.v. several times, including a feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  The cool part about that feature was they showed two dishes including one vegetarian option!  I always take my family to Taco Bus when they're in town because it has something for everyone.  But most importantly, the food is just super delicious.

The vegetarian (vegan when you ask for no cheese) options at Taco Bus include tofu, tempeh, "steak" strips, and my personal favorite, butternut squash.  On Saturdays and Sundays they also make vegan tamales.  I always get the same thing, the taco meal deal: two butternut squash tacos, rice, and beans.  It never disappoints.  In the gigantic cup is pineapple agua fresca, which is pretty much like drinking liquid pineapple.

I can't say enough good things about Taco Bus.  Seriously, if you're ever in the Tampa Bay area you have to check out Taco Bus!

I'm heading to Atlanta pretty soon for a mini vacation so if you have any recommendations on where to eat leave a comment!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Homemade Vegan Sausage

For my Chopped Vegan Brunch entry I made sausage gravy using homemade vegan sausage.  I used two for the gravy and the other two for a marinara sauce the next night for dinner.  The recipe is incredibly simple and the only ingredient I had to pick up for the recipe was vital wheat gluten. 

The recipe calls for the use of a steamer basket which is a kitchen gadget I don't have.  So I thought I'd share with you my inventive, homemade steamer.  You know those store bought pie crusts that come in a disposable pie plate?  Save that plate and poke a bunch of holes in it.  Put the plate on the top of a pot of simmering water.  And tada! You have a homemade steamer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tampa Bay Veg Fest 2012

 It's that time of year again.  The time of year that I attend not one, but two, veg fests.  This Saturday was act one, the 3rd annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest.  While it was still hot out it wasn't scorching with 98% humidity like Tampa has been all summer.  With the park being on the water there was even a nice breeze.  Perfect weather for the strawberry limeade I downed in about two minutes. 

The food vendors were pretty much the same as last year.  And I ended up eating what I had last year.  I'm a creature of habit.  Sammi had the giant Italian sausage with the works on the left.  I had the regular sized hot dog with onions, relish, and ketchup on the right.  Don't they look like a mommy and baby hot dog?

Of course, I'm all about dessert.  And I absolutely love this frozen banana soft serve from the Gone Bananas truck.  I had mine with "cookie crumbs" (which turned out to be two whole oreo cookies), graham crackers, and chocolate syrup.  It was divine.

I wish there had been more new vendors at veg fest this year.  That being said, I still had an awesome time.  The food was delicious and the weather was great.  I love that I live in a place that celebrates veganism at least once a year!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chopped Vegan Brunch Round

It's another round of Chopped Vegan!  Again, I'm pretty impressed with myself.  This round was brunch so I could have gone sweet or savory.  The mystery basket contained butternut squash, fresh rosemary, popcorn, and apricot preserves.  I made Rosemary Sausage Gravy over Butternut Squash Biscuits and Rosemary Potatoes with Apricot Popcorn.  It's a mouthful to say, but a mouthful of awesome when you eat it.  The salty savory potatoes go surprisingly well with the sweet popcorn.

Butternut Squash Biscuits:
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine), cold
  • 1 cup homemade butternut squash puree 
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
In a bowl mix the squash puree, almond milk, and sugar; set aside.  In a food processor combine all other ingredients.  Pulse until the margarine is pea sized.  Add the squash mixture.  Pulse until a dough ball is formed.  Roll dough out on a floured surface.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut and drop biscuits until a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 425 oven, until the tops are golden brown.  Serve warm under gravy.  Or with margarine and agave or maple syrup.

Rosemary Sausage Gravy:
  • 2 homemade vegan sausages, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
 In a saute pan over medium heat brown the sausages in olive oil.  Once brown add the rosemary and coat the sausage in flour.  Stir in milk.  Let the mixture simmer until thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over butternut squash biscuits.

Rosemary Potatoes and Apricot Popcorn
  • 3 large red potatoes, chopped into even pieces
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups salted popcorn, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
Coat potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Roast in a 425 oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked and slightly crispy.  Meanwhile, pop your corn with just a bit of salt.  Toss hot popcorn with apricot preserves, coating the corn.  Mix with roasted potatoes.  Serve with biscuits and gravy.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ever since I got an iPhone for my birthday I've been really bad about using a camera.  And I've also become kind of crazy about instagram.  So excuse the instagram photo.

I started graduate school in August.  I'm loving it and I've made new friends really quickly.  One of my new friends had a birthday in September and her favorite dessert is red velvet cake.  Wanting to let my new friends know how awesome vegan desserts can be, I made cupcakes for the M.A. students on her birthday.

I found the recipe for the cake here.  Instead of making 2 8-inch rounds as the recipe calls for I made about 20 cupcakes.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops spring back and a toothpick comes out clean. 

I topped the cupcakes with homemade cream cheese frosting.  That recipe can be found from the early days of the blog here

*Make sure the red food coloring you use is vegan.  Alternatively, you can substitute with an equal amount of fresh beet juice!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paris Cafe

When I was in high school about once a month or so my school would have "late start days".  Sometimes I would sleep in, but more often my friends and I would meet downtown for brunch before going to school.  I'm not sure which friend found this gem, but the Paris Cafe was where we went.  The food has always been consistently fantastic.  The place is fairly vegetarian friendly, but this was my first time back as a vegan.

The options were more limited but I really enjoyed what I ordered.  It was the Moulin Rogue salad; mixed green, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and pistachios.  They also serve a house made tarragon dressing with almost all of their salads.   I'm not a huge fan of salad dressing but I'm tell you I could drink this stuff!  It's seriously the best salad dressing I've ever had.  And they serve it to you in a super cute Eiffel tower bottle.  Also served along with your salad is a big chunk of fresh baguette.  It's an awesome place and I highly recommend it if you're ever in downtown West Palm Beach.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Victory Garden

USF has a botanical garden on campus, including a limited number of plots in an organic vegetable garden.  Who has two thumbs and one of those plots?  This girl!  Florida's growing season is pretty much reversed from the rest of the country.  October is a good time to plant, as the weather is slightly cooler (this is kind of a joke, I sweated buckets out there in the cool 88 degree weather).  We started with some tomato, basil, and parsley plants picked up from a local shop.  Then we planted carrot, kale, and lettuce seeds.  I'm going to update the blog with progress from the garden.  I'm hoping for lots of kale by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Holy Guacamole

Probably like most people I go through cycles with recipes.  I'll find something I like, make it once a week for a month or two, then kind of forget about it for another few months.  Then one day I'll think, it's been a while since I've had ____, and then the cycle starts again.  Enter empenadas.  I've posted two different recipes for empenadas on the blog before.  And to be honest I never make the recipe the same way twice. 

The filling always consists of whatever I have in my fridge and/or freezer.  Today I used half a package of Boca meat crumbles, a can of black beans, red onion, garlic, cilantro, and spinach.  Then I sprinkled a tablespoon or so of taco seasoning.  Top that mixture with some pepper-jack Daiya cheese and that makes one tasty empenada.  In the past I used Goya brand empenada shells, which aren't vegan.  But I found another brand in the same section of the grocery store that is vegan.

I served these with yellow rice (Mahatma brand is vegan) and homemade guacamole.  Guacamole is a new passion of mine.  I simply can't get enough of it.  When I saw a recipe for a copycat of Chipotle's guacamole on Pinterest I knew I had to try it. 

Chipotle Guacamole:
  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt to taste
Mash avocado with a fork, it can be chunky.  Mix with all other ingredients.  Serve with empenadas, tacos, or tortilla chips.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vegan in an Omni Family

 A few months ago I was the only vegetarian in my family.  It had been a little over three years and it seemed like everyone had finally adjusted.  And then I told them I was going vegan.  So now I'm even weirder, still the only one who doesn't eat animals, but now I don't eat their secretions either.

My family is very supportive of my choice to be vegan.  To me it seems like one of their primary concerns is how we're going to eat together as a family.  I'm vegan, my sister is notoriously picky, and my dad would eat junk every day if my mom let him.  So when we find gems like BurgerFi it's a very happy occasion. 

It's a burger joint, so obviously there's a whole lot of animal flesh going on.  But they do have an AWESOME veggie quinoa burger.  Seriously, probably the best veggie burger I've ever had.  Restaurants like this are great because they show my family that just because I'm vegan doesn't mean I can't share meals with them.  In fact, there are many places we can share a meal that satisfies all of us.  We each had our own burger with the fixings we wanted and shared/devoured a bucket of well done, super crispy french fries.  It was a great lunch.

If your family is hesitant about you adopting an animal-free diet I think it's really helpful to not only cook for your family, but find restaurants that serve all of your unique tastes.  That way they realize that you can still share meals together and that you're not missing out on anything.  My mom had a bite of my quinoa burger and loved it!  It's unrealistic to think that we can change our families, but we can come together and share delicious meals and have honest conversations about our values of compassion and kindness.

And just to reiterate, this was the best veggie burger I've ever had.  Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.  And they have all sorts of cool toppings.  I had lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, pickles, and ketchup.  Be sure to tell them to hold the cheese. Hindsight, some avocado would have been great as well.  Not pictured is the glass of strawberry lemonade I had which was also amazing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Onion Rolls

Oh onion rolls, how I love thee.  I've made these probably about ten times now.  They never get old.  They're always perfect.  Even though I know I usually eat two tempeh sandwiches, meaning two rolls, I always have to sample an extra one straight out of the oven.  You know, for quality control.

Onion Rolls:
  • 1 cup lukewarm water 
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1 egg replacer (1 1/2 tablespoon oil + 1 1/2 tablespoon water + 1 teaspoon baking powder)
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
  • 3 tablespoons minced dried onion, plus more for topping
  • 1-2 tablespoons soymilk
Using a stand mixer with the dough hook, combine first 8 ingredients.  Mix on low until a ball forms.   Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel.  Place in a warm spot and let rise for at least 1 hour, until doubled in size.  Roll out dough into a 12x17 rectangle.  Sprinkle dough with the minced onion.  Roll the dough into a log, sealing the ends and the seam.  Cut the dough into 10-12 rolls.  Places the rolls on a lightly greased cookie sheet, then flatten with your hand.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour, until they're very puffy.  Remove the towel.  Brush the rolls with soymilk and sprinkle with more minced onion.  Bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool slightly.  Slice in half to use as sandwich rolls. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Year of Vegan Mofo

This is my first year participating in Vegan Mofo (month of food).  Some bloggers have a theme they try to work on for the month.  For me, as a new vegan, my theme is simply what I'm eating on a regular basis and how I'm dealing with the transition from vegetarian to vegan.  And one thing I'm eating a lot is this BBQ tempeh sandwich with coleslaw and sweet potato fries.  I found the recipe through the Kind Life.  I make it about two or three times a month now.  The recipe can be found here.  I've also been trying to make the onion rolls that I serve the sandwich on.  Because what's better than homemade bread?  I'll post my recipe for onion rolls later this week.  And if there is anything you'd like to see on the blog during Vegan Mofo just let me know!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vegan Ranch Dressing

On August 8th I started Colleen Patrick Goudreau's 30 Day Vegan Challenege.  Other than one slip-up about half-way through I've been vegan since that day.  And I've been loving every minute of it.  My boyfriend went vegan on the same day, as I do all of the cooking in our house.  He was on board, but one of his biggest concerns was finding a replacement for ranch dressing.  Personally, I'm not a fan of the stuff, but he uses it almost as much as he uses barbecue sauce.  I searched for a few recipes online until I found one that I had all the ingredients for.  It took less than 10 minutes to whip up.  And this recipe received my boyfriend's stamp of approval.

Vegan Ranch Dressing:
  • 1 cup vegan mayo (I used vegenaise by Follow Your Heart)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, plain soymilk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients.  Store in the refrigerator.  I used an empty agave nectar bottle.  For a thinner ranch for salads, use the above recipe.  For a slightly thicker ranch for dipping add about 1/4-1/2 cup more mayo.

I might be posting a little less frequently until October 1st, when Vegan Mofo starts up.  Since I'm going to try to post every day I need to save up a few recipes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vegan Thin Mints

I finished my last minute preparations for Tropical Storm Isaac by early afternoon so I decided to make some snacks for tomorrow.  I pinned this recipe awhile ago.  It just looked so simple and easy, as well as tasty.  And yes, it was incredibly simple and easy.  It took me about ten minutes, then I just had to wait for the chocolate to harden in the fridge.

The recipe can be found here.  I will enjoy snacking on thin mints tomorrow while the storm rages on.  To all of my fellow Floridians, stay safe and dry!

Coming soon are recipes for homemade, vegan ranch dressing and homemade onion rolls!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pici Pasta with Peppery Cashew Cream

My last post was a recap of my final meals in Italy.  And one of my favorite, final things I ate in Italy was a pasta dish, pici with cheese and black pepper.  It was so simple and amazingly delicious (a characteristic off all of my favorite dishes).  While I was your normal run-of-the-mill vegetarian in Italy, once I got home I started transitioning to a vegan diet.  And now I've started the 30 Day Vegan Challenge (day 5 and going strong).  I really wanted to recreate the dish but I knew I had to do it vegan.

This vegan version tasted exactly as I remembered it, if not better.  Because there is almost no fat yet it was still filling and cheesy and warm and wonderful.  I brought back a bag of pici from Italy, but you can use any long noodle.  Spaghetti or fettuccine would work well. 

Pici Pasta with Peppery Cashew Cream:
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 cups water
  • Long pasta of your choice
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4-1 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • Parsley, minced for garnish
Drain and rinse your soaked cashews.  Blend with two cups of water until smooth.  Bring pot of water to a boil and cook past according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, in another pot or saute pan saute garlic in olive oil until fragrant.  De-glaze with white wine.   Stir in cashew cream, bring to a simmer.  Stir in nutritional yeast.  Add pepper, starting with two teaspoons, adding more to suit your palate. 

Once pasta is done, drain in a colander, then return to the pot.  Pour on sauce.  Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eats in Italy: Part 4

 This will be my last post about what I ate in Italy.  It's been great reliving the memories.  And even better, I've recreated one of the dishes in this post, so that recipe will be up soon.

This first picture is a Tuscan soup called ribollita.  My mom and I each had a bowl for lunch in Radda.  We knew we were going to have another ridiculously long dinner but since it was going to be for 6+ hours, we also knew we needed to eat lunch.  This soup was perfect.  It was light, fairly veggie heavy, and a delicious lunch.

And yes, as it turns out, we did have our final, hours long dinner that night.  It started with some anti-pasti, and then two types of pasta for the second course, both served family style.  The first was tagliatelle with a mushroom sauce. 

The second was pici pasta with cheese and black pepper.  Even though I knew there would be more food coming, I filled up on both pastas.  The problem was that I couldn't decide which type I liked better, so I kept going back in forth between the two, eating two big portions of pasta.  I never did make up my mind.

After our tour is Tuscany, my mom and I took a side trip to Venice for two days.  The weather was terrible, the city somewhat touristy and overcrowded, but we still had a good time.  As soon as we arrived in the city I got ourselves a map and we walked to the iconic Harry's Bar.  Yes, it was crazy expensive.  But I just didn't think we should miss out on the birth place of the bellini (peach puree and prosecco).   And it was a delicious cocktail, shared with one of my absolute favorite people in the world.


I can't say enough wonderful things about this trip.  Beyond the food (which was obviously fantastic) our tour group was great, all the guides were wonderful, and every person we met was a pleasure.  If you're ever looking for a small group tour in Europe that lets you sleep in and provides you with amazing food and drink, check out Tuscany Tours.   Tell them I sent you.  Ciao!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Broth in a Bag (and other tips)

 A while ago I posted a recipe for vegetable broth.  And while that recipe is still good I've found a much cheaper way to make broth.  You know all of those veggie scraps you throw out, like the tops of onions and the ends of asparagus spears?  Those have lots of flavor!  So save them from the garbage and get the full bang for your buck with your vegetables.  I keep a gallon bag in my freezer for vegetable scraps.  When it's full I dump the scraps into my biggest pot, fill it with water, add some bay leaves and peppercorns, and simmer for an hour or two.  And then I have homemade vegetable broth for super cheap.  I pour the broth into some Tupperware containers, stick it in the freezer, and then I have vegetable broth whenever I want.  In the bag pictured above I believe I had the tops of some onions, kale stems, asparagus ends, carrot peels, garlic nubs, Brussels sprout leaves, and probably a few other things.  On top I threw in a handful of fresh chives I had that I had no immediate plans for, as well as bay leaves and peppercorns.  I never salt my broth because I prefer to salt for the individual dish.  
 
While we're on the subject of saving money let me tell you that I am a coupon girl.  It's a learned skill from my mom.  I shop for sales and always try to combine with coupons.  But some of the prepared vegan foods that I enjoy are somewhat expensive and rarely go on sale.  So what did I do?  I e-mailed the companies directly asking them to send me coupons.  Amy's, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, Tofurky, and Van's all gave me positive response and I've already receive the coupons from Amy's, Follow Your Heart, and Tofurky.  These companies want your business so you should shoot them an e-mail as well.  Let me know who you get a positive reply from!  Are there any other vegan companies that you like that I've missed?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chopped Vegan Dessert Contest

When I heard that the Post Punk Kitchen would be hosting a Chopped Vegan Dessert contest I was incredibly excited.  But also kind of nervous.  I mean, how weird were they going to get with the ingredients?  But then I saw the four secret ingredients and I felt that this basket was meant for me.  I mean, beets?!  I'm Queen Beet.

My dessert using mangoes, beets, rice cereal, and unsweetened flaked coconut:


Mango Crisp with Coconut and Rice Cereal Topping, served with Beet Syrup and Whipped Coconut Cream
Beet Syrup:
  • 3-4 medium sized beets, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice

Crisp Filling:
  • 3 mangoes, peeled and cubed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Crisp Topping:
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • ½ cup brown rice cereal
  • ¼ cup oatmeal
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

Whipped Coconut Cream:
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, placed in the fridge overnight
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the Beet Syrup:
Using a juicer, juice all of the peeled beets.  In a small saucepan add the beet juice, sugar, and cinnamon stick.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the consistency of thick syrup.  Stir in orange juice.  Set aside while making crisp.

For the Crisp:
Stir together mangoes, sugar, and vanilla.  Pour into 8 inch round cake pan.

For the Crisp topping:
Mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and brown sugar.  Cut margarine into the flour mixture.  Stir in coconut, rice cereal, and oatmeal until combined.  Spread the crisp topping evenly over the mango filling.

Place the crisp on top of a baking sheet to prevent spill over in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes at 375 until the top is golden brown.  Cool before serving.

While the crisp is cooling you can make the whipped coconut cream.  Carefully open the can of coconut milk without shaking it.  Skim off the full fat cream on top and place into a mixing bowl.  Add the powdered sugar to the coconut cream.  Beat with a hand mixer until creamy.  Spoon on top of cooled crisp and drizzle with the beet syrup.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Garlic Chive Biscuits


When I heard about the recipe contest for Earth Balance Mindful Mayo I knew I wanted to participate, but I really had no idea what to make.  You see, I really dislike mayo.  I seriously don't like it.  I have started warming up to things like potato salad, but seriously, it's really just not my thing.

But while searching the internet for inspiration I found a lot of recipes for cakes and other desserts.  So I knew if mayo could work in cake it could certainly work in biscuits.

I've also been trying to find a decent, quick and easy biscuit recipe for a while but nothing ever turned out right.  Until this recipe.  Which is amazing.  The first time I made them I spooned a generous serving of vegan sausage gravy on top.  Currently, I'm just snacking on one straight, warm from the oven.  They would also make a great dinner roll.  It's up to you.  Just promise me you'll try them.

Garlic Chive Biscuits:
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance Mindful Mayo
  • 1 cup Earth Balance soy milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350.  Gently whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the mayo and soymilk and stir until combined.  Fold in the chives.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and spray with a little bit of cooking spray.  Drop in batter evenly until about two thirds full.  Bake for 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Serve warm.     

I think other herbs, fresh or dried, would be good to.  Feel free to experiment and let me know how they turn out!  Just don't forget the mayo.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Key Lime Pie

As a native South Floridian I'm pretty serious about my key lime pie.  I only ever use one recipe, my mom's, for a very simple reason: it's the best.  I almost never order key lime pie at a restaurant because I'm always disappointed; it's never as good as mine. 

However, the family key lime pie recipe is certainly not vegan.  As it has 4 ingredients and 2 of them are super not vegan (eggs and sweetened condensed milk) I never thought I would be able to veganize the recipe successfully.  I always thought I would just have to find an already vegan recipe.  Well, thankfully that turned out not to be true.  See, I knew replacing the eggs would be easy (silken tofu, duh).  But sweetened condensed milk?  There is no such vegan thing.  But one day as I was reading that a fellow blogger made homemade vegan sweetened condensed milk accidently.  What a happy accident.

Vegan Key Lime Pie:
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust (homemade or store bought, I certainly won't tell on you)
  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
  • 2-3 ounces Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
In a saucepan over medium high heat simmer the coconut milk and the sugar for 30 to 45 minutes, until thick and the consistency of sweetened condensed milk.  Let cool.

Preheat oven to 425.  In a mixing bowl whisk together condensed milk, pureed tofu, and the lime juice until combined.  Pour into prepared pie crust.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Let the pie cool slightly, then place in the freezer for at least 6 hours.  Remove pie from freezer about 30 minutes before serving.  Slice and enjoy! (Be sure to put it back the freezer or you'll have key lime soup in a pie crust).

Yes, it's that simple.  And I really think the homemade condensed milk makes the pie even better, as the subtle coconut flavor goes so well with lime.  And soon I will have an even better version of this recipe: mini chocolate covered key lime pies. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eats in Italy: Part 3

While I do have more recipes planned they had to take a back seat this past week because my sister just had a baby, my first nephew!  He's a handsome and healthy boy and completely captured my attention for the past week.  So I'll get to work on new recipes now, but first I though I'd share yet another post of what I ate in Italy.

I'm a coffee drinker.  Occasionally I'll switch to tea in the morning when I feel a cold coming on, but I really enjoy coffee.  Well breakfast every morning in Italy was a cappuccino, some fruit, and some type of pastry.  My favorite was a croissant filled with chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar.  I'll give you the secret of how I actually lost 4 pounds while I was in Italy when I do my last Eats in Italy Post.

Two days after our spectacular meal at the vineyard we were whisked away to a medieval castle for lunch.  Castello della Serre is a medieval castle that has been beautiful restored and is now a luxury hotel.  We didn't stay there, but we ate there.  Oh yes, we ate there.  This meal was actually much more reasonably sized than any other meal we had, only three courses.  And it also stands out because the meal was entirely vegetarian.  Usually I had the same first course as every one and dessert was always the same, but I always had my own main course.  But not at the castle.  And you know what?  I didn't hear anyone complain that there was no meat on their plates.  The first course was marinated, roasted bell peppers and eggplant, and an eggplant parmesan.  Delicious!


The second course was really delicious and somewhat unexpected.  It looked kind of like a manicotti, pasta rolled up and stuffed with cheese and topped with tomato sauce.  But it wasn't pasta.  It was a crepe.  And inside was a filling of cheese and spinach.  It was wonderful, and as I stated before, I didn't hear anyone at the table whining about having a meatless meal.  


And finally, dessert.  Now, I'll tell you something about myself.  I think you all know by now that I'm a dessert person.  My sweet tooth rules my body.  But did you know my all time favorite dessert is tiramisu?  Well, it is.  And I knew that I had to have it at least once while I was in Italy.  And oh my goodness.  This tiramisu...words almost fail me.  It was the perfect tiramisu, every element was simply perfection.  I ate almost the whole thing with my eyes closed thinking "I'm at a stunning castle.  In Tuscany.  Eating tiramisu.  What did I do to deserve this?"  And I will think about that piece of tiramisu for a very long time.  


While I do have some ideas for new recipes planned I would really like to take some requests!  So if you have any requests or suggestions leave a comment or e-mail me at blakebakesfl (at) gmail (dot) com!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Waffles with Strawberry Sauce

While I've enjoyed sharing pictures from my trip to Italy, and still have more of those to share, I thought it was high time to post an actual recipe.  I found the recipe for the waffles one night while stalking Food Gawker and Finding Vegan.  I no longer feel guilty about that activity since I have the whole summer off from academic responsibility.  And the motivation to make the strawberry sauce was simple; I was out of maple syrup and had strawberries in the freezer from the season's peak.  The waffles are great leftover, heated up in a toaster oven to keep them crisp.

Chocolate Chip Waffles, adapted from Mangia, Gioia!
  • 1 cup almond milk (soy, rice, whatever you've got)
  • 1 flax egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your waffle iron.  Add the dry ingredients in a large bowl and give it a quick whisk.  Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, don't over mix.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Prepare the waffles according to your waffle makers instructions.  Serve with homemade strawberry sauce.

Strawberry Sauce
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Cook for five minutes or so, stirring often.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.  Once cooled, blend until you reach the desired consistency.  Spoon over waffles, ice cream, etc.  It keeps in the refrigerator for a week or so, if you let it last that long.

More recipes and Italy pictures coming soon! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Best Meal I Ever Ate (Eats in Italy: Part 2)

 The majority of day three in Tuscany was spent in a family vineyard eating the most ridiculously delicious meal I've ever had in my life.  The meal started with champagne and parmesan cheese.  The owner of the vineyard, where they make their own champagne, opened the first bottle with a sword.  So the meal literally started with a bang.  The name of their champagne is Bella Bolle, which means Beautiful Bubble in Italian.  And the champagne was beautifully delicious.  Then an enormous wedge of parmesan cheese was brought out and cut into chunks.  So we sipped champagne, nibbled on the cheese, and enjoyed the amazing view of the beautiful Tuscan vineyard.  And that was just the beginning.

The meal was served family style and our group of sixteen sat at two large tables.  The wine flowed and the food never stopped coming.  First several types of antipasti were passed around the table.  I of course, sampled all the vegetarian options which was almost all of the antipasti.  Pictured are a slice of typical Tuscan bread, two crostini (one with mushroom spread, the other with a spicy tomato spread), grilled marinated eggplant, and an artichoke tart.  The mushroom crostini and artichoke tart tied for my favorite antipasti.  It was all delicious.


Wild boar are a huge problem in Tuscany, as they love feasting on grape plants.  So they are widely hunted in the region.  Because of this, wild boar was a large part of the meal and everyone was served wild boar lasagna.  Everyone except me.  And boy was everyone else missing out, because the spring vegetable lasagna, filled with asparagus and zucchini, was incredible.  It was a little salty for my palate, but it was so good that I really didn't care.  At this point in the trip I began pacing myself at meals, because I realized I would be served crazy amounts of food, but I ate every last bite of that lasagna.  Every.  Last.  Bite.


After the lasagna, but before dessert, everyone else was served stewed and sliced wild boar, while I was served eggplant marinara.  It was good, but I only managed a few bites as I was stuffed from the lasagna, and I also knew dessert would be on it's away.  And this dessert...oh my god...The highlight of the meal, and until two days later when I finally had tiramisu, it was the best dessert I had ever eaten.  Ever.  It was a pear cake served with pastry cream and macerated strawberries.  Everything about it was perfect.  I requested the recipe and am excited to recreate it at home.