Friday, January 23, 2015

Oscar Noms #2: HummingBirdman Cake

If you are Southern, or into Southern food, you may be familiar with the Hummingbird Cake. It is a layer cake that includes a delectable combination of bananas, pineapple, and pecans, topped with a cream cheese frosting. My parents send me a big bag of pecans from their home every year, and this seemed like a great use for some of them, since I'm kind of pecan-pied-out from Thanksgiving and the holidays. Plus I love any dessert that features bananas, or pineapple, and this has both. And I made it as a tribute to Birdman, one of this year's most intriguing films, with a stellar cast. Although bananas, pineapple, pecans, and vegan cream cheese is a pretty stellar cast (of ingredients) too, if you ask me.

For this recipe, I simply veganized this one that I found online, apparently from the River House Tea Room in TX. This is the real deal, which is to say that although it is veganized it is NOT what would qualify as health food. There's plenty of sugar and vegan butter in it. But this blog has never been about dieting or weight loss, it's about good food. And this cake is delicious. So invite some friends over to help you eat it, and enjoy.

Hummingbird (Banana-Pineapple) Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 10-12 servings

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, mixed with 6 Tbsp. water (equivalent of 3 eggs)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chopped bananas (from about 3 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple with juice

2 8-oz. packages vegan cream cheese, room temperature (like Tofutti or Daiya brand)
1 cup vegan butter, room temperature (like Earth Balance)
2 - 3 cups powdered sugar (I found 2 to be sweet enough, but you may want to add more)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Use nonstick spray or vegan butter to grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk in oil, egg replacer, and vanilla. Stir in bananas, pecans, and pineapple. Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Run knife around cake sides and turn out onto rack to cool completely.

2. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle toasted pecans in border around top edge of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Let stand at room temperature before serving.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oscar Noms #1: The Theory of Everything Breakfast Cookies

Oscar Noms is back! Hooray! I missed blogging during Oscar season last year, overwhelmed as I was with a newborn and a toddler to take care of, but this year, I'm back on my game. Even though I'm in the middle of moving. The 2015 Oscar nominations were just announced a few days ago, and I thank you in advance for indulging me while I celebrate my love for both the cinema and food puns.

We're kicking off this year's Oscar Noms with The Theory of Everything Breakfast Cookies. The Theory of Everything is the story of renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. While I haven't seen it yet, it is said that this story glosses over the "anguish" of their divorce and the controversy over his second marriage, which also ended in divorce. But hey, they have a right to tell their story as they wish it to be told.

Another thing that may or may not be controversial is the idea of cookies for breakfast. I will state for the record that I am firmly pro-cookie, any meal or time of the day. I came across these Everything Breakfast Cookies on one of my favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker, and seeing as they contain just about everything, they looked like a good way to use up some ingredients in my pantry as well as the half can of pumpkin puree in my fridge. They do contain some flour, so they are not gluten-free, but they are incredibly wholesome and healthy as they also contain all of the following:

  • mashed bananas
  • pumpkin puree
  • almond butter
  • almond meal
  • coconut oil
  • agave nectar
  • oats
  • cranberries
  • pecans
  • dark chocolate chips

See? Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. They are tender and moist, but very satisfying, and chock full of protein from all the almonds and pecans. Along with the oats and dried cranberries, you have all the makings there for a healthy breakfast. They're practically health food! At least that's what I keep telling myself as I reach for another...

The recipe for these beauties is at the link above. Stay tuned for the next installment of Oscar Noms, coming up soon!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Butternut Squash "Carbonara" with Tempeh Bacon & Sage

Still freezing cold here, still dealing with housing/eviction issues, and what I need is comfort. Hearty, warming, comfort food. For me, that pretty much always means pasta. All kinds of pasta. Cheesy pastas, lasagnas, noodle soups, and now, this unbelievably delectable butternut squash "Carbonara" topped with a crumble of tempeh bacon and sage. I wish I had made this before the holidays because it would have been a wonderful addition to any holiday menu, but there's still plenty of winter ahead and plenty of time to make this again and again.

I saw this recipe last winter in Bon Appetit and just got around to veganizing it. Traditional Carbonara sauce is fatty and cholesterol-laden, made with raw eggs, bacon, cheese, and lots of fat from butter, olive oil, and/or cream. A heart attack on a plate. The idea of lightening up the recipe by using winter squash, which still gives it a gorgeous golden hue (without the salmonella risk from raw eggs) is nothing short of genius. The squash cooks down with plenty of onion, garlic, and vegetable broth, then is pureed, resulting in a luscious, velvety smooth sauce that will make you want to lick the plate clean. This sauce was truly a revelation for me. The entire family devoured it, which also gave me the added pleasure of having found a new way to sneak vegetables into my picky toddler.

The slight sweetness of the squash is perfectly complemented with the smoky, salty sprinkle of tempeh bacon and sage. It's a perfect winter dish that will, however briefly, melt all your worries away.

Butternut Squash "Carbonara" with Tempeh Bacon and Sage
veganized version of this recipe
makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. tempeh bacon (about 1/2 package if using store-bought), chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-lb. butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
12 oz. fettucine or linguine

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4-5 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tempeh bacon and sage to a small bowl; set aside.

2. Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.
3. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
4. Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Beginnings and Smoky Vegan Beet Reubens

Happy new year to all of you, as this is my first post of the year. I hope you are all staying warm inside, as it is a blistering, painful, 12° in NYC today. I am trying to remain inside as much as possible, which is a change because for the past 8 days I have been pounding the pavement, with both babies in tow, freezing and searching for a new apartment. You see, a week before Christmas we got notice that our apartment building had been sold. And then, on New Year's Eve, we got another notice from the new owners, that we have 30 days to evict our apartment. Happy. Fucking. New. Year. 

I can't even begin to tell you here how stressful it is, for so many reasons, to be suddenly kicked out of the apartment where you have lived for over 9 years. Where you were married. Where both of your babies were born. Where you have wonderful neighbors (who are also being evicted), who are so fun, and also available to babysit for you, and who occasionally bring you free vegan goodies to eat and drink. (I will miss you so much M and B.) But I am trying to focus on the positive side of the situation, and while this may be stressful in the short term, I am hopeful that we will find a better apartment to live in, and new friends to make wherever we land. 

So the new year is certainly starting with big changes for us. And you know what else is new? I'm eating beets. If you know me or have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I have been firmly anti-beet in the past. But my husband loves them, so I keep trying to find ways to prepare them that I will actually like. And this recipe is just that. The beets are there, front and center, but roasted and seasoned and paired with some tangy, acidic sauerkraut and creamy melted vegan cheese and a homemade Russian dressing. It's so delicious and the most creative twist I've seen yet on the vegan Reuben, which usually features tempeh bacon or seitan, which I also love but, you know, it's kind of played out. These sandwiches are warm, hearty, and surprisingly comforting. If you're on the fence about beets, please try this recipe. Trust me. Unless you hate beets AND sauerkraut, in which case, I can't help you this time. Sorry. 

Smoky Vegan Beet Reubens
simply veganized version of this recipe from Food & Wine

makes 4 sandwiches

1 large beet (about 14 ounces)
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, finely crushed
Smoked salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I recommend Vegenaise or Just Mayo)
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
8 slices of rye bread
Vegan butter, for brushing
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained and warmed
4 slices of vegan Swiss cheese (I used Daiya Swiss style slices)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the beet with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the beet in foil and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until tender; let cool slightly. Peel the beet and slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the slices to a plate and drizzle with the 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, then sprinkle with the coriander and smoked salt.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the mayo with the ketchup, relish and lemon juice. Season the Russian dressing with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Arrange the bread on a large baking sheet and brush with butter. Broil 6 inches from the heat until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer 4 slices of the bread to a work surface. Flip the remaining 4 slices on the baking sheet and top with the beet slices, sauerkraut and cheese. Broil 6 inches from the heat until the cheese is melted. Close the sandwiches, cut in half and serve.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Good & Simple: White Bean & Kale Bruschetta

I hope you all have been enjoying a wonderful winter holiday. I am just back from a visit with my family, and I think I spent at least half the time in the kitchen cooking up the Forager's Field Roast, the baked mac & cheeze, the sweet potatoes, the roasted Brussels sprouts, the stuffing, the pumpkin cheesecake, and on top of all that, a birthday cake for our baby girl who turned one the day after Christmas. Add to all that the soy nog and a bunch of Santa cookies, and well, I am ready for some seriously simple meals for a little while.

I pulled this recipe out for Skillet Bruschetta with Beans and Greens from Bon Appetit magazine back in May. It's so easy and you probably already have the ingredients at home. And it's already vegan, I didn't even have to change a thing. Basically you just saute some garlic in olive oil, then add some white cannellini beans, a bunch of kale, some vegetable broth, a splash of lemon juice, and then serve it over some grilled slices of crusty bread. It's warm, it's comforting, hearty enough to make you feel satisfied but not heavy enough to make you feel like that large man from the North Pole. You might even feel like you've been healthy enough to deserve another slice of that leftover pumpkin cheesecake. (I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe from Annie Shannon's Betty Goes Vegan and my very non-vegan family LOVED it.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Pesto Trees

This recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Soup caught my eye in Food Network magazine recently because it is so darn adorable with those pesto Christmas tree croutons, and also because it seemed like a healthy, light lunch, perfect for the holiday season when we all tend to overindulge and maybe not get enough of our vegetables. This one is loaded with roasted red peppers, carrots, celery, leek, and potato, then blended smooth. The pesto is made from blanched broccoli, then the usual pesto ingredients of basil, garlic, olive oil, toasted almonds (instead of the more traditional pine nuts), and vegan parmesan. The only substitutions I made from the original recipe were the vegan parmesan, and vegetable broth instead chicken. Then you just use Christmas tree-shaped cookie cutters to cut out some toasts, top them with the pesto, then add to the soup.

The soup was absolutely delicious, my whole family loved it. It is perfectly wonderful on its own, but the pesto croutons really take it to the next level. Scrumptious! I know that using the Christmas tree cookie cutters for the toast is kind of twee, but hey, it's the holidays and everyone gets kind of goofy around this time of year.

I am so happy to be back to blogging and I thank you all for sticking with me. I have a lot of great posts lined up, so please stay tuned! Happy holidays to all, 'tis the season for peace and compassion and joy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingersnap-Mango-Coconut Icebox Cake

Hi all! Back again from yet another hiatus. But I have a good excuse this time! In addition to the chaos and craziness that is raising two small children, my 10 year old laptop died. Yep, 10 years old. That's like, a million years in computer age. It was so old and crappy it would have made a dial-up modem look fast. The "g" key didn't work so I had to cut and paste a "g" every time I typed one. That is a serious pain in the ass for someone with a vegan blog. But I'm back up and running now! My wonderful husband got me a new computer for my birthday with a great big beautiful screen and now I am doing a happy dance and so inspired and motivated to get back to blogging with regularity. Look at all those g's I just typed! Without cutting and pasting a single one! You have no idea how happy it makes me.

So, something else that starts with G (I am watching way too much Sesame Street these days) is Gingersnap! 'Tis the season for gingersnap cookies, one of my favorites among all the cookies. I found this recipe for a Gingersnap-Mango Icebox Cake in Food Network Magazine, which yes, I do buy occasionally, so don't judge. It captured my attention with the combination of tropical coconut and mango, which of course pair wonderfully with spicy ginger, and I immediately wanted to veganize it. It seemed like a perfect holiday dessert, with a fresh tropical twist. The original recipe make a long, log-shaped "cake," but I thought it would be just as easy and even prettier to make these parfait-style, which is what I did.

This recipe also caught my attention because it gave me a perfect use for one of the best new vegan products I've tried in a long time, which is So Delicious' new CocoWhip Coconut Whipped Topping. This stuff is amazing! I have a really, really hard time not just eating it out of the container with a spoon. It's like Cool Whip except a million, trillion times better. It definitely does have a light coconut flavor though, which I love, but if you're not a coconut fan, or if coconut somehow doesn't go with the other flavors in your recipe, then consider yourself warned. And yes, there are a million recipes out there to make your own coconut whipped topping, like this one, and while it is great to make your own, sometimes you forget to put a can in the refrigerator to chill overnight or sometimes you don't have time to whip up your own because your toddler is busy destroying something/trying to strangle his baby sister, and you just want to open up a giant tub of the stuff and eat all the stress away have it ready, without any more work.

So back to icebox cakes. If you are not familiar, icebox cakes are generally made with alternating layers of cookies and whipped cream, then refrigerated overnight (i.e. put in the icebox) so that the cookies soften and become cake-like. Generally these are perfect summer desserts when it's too hot to turn on the oven, but this particular recipe includes gingersnaps, which are more ubiquitous around the winter holidays. It couldn't be any easier to make, so easy in fact that it barely warrants a recipe, but the only hard part is waiting several hours before you can eat it. Trust me, it is so worth the wait. These were so easy and so delicious (ha, see what I did there?) that this will definitely be one of my go-to desserts now. A very good thing.

So this recipe is just a general guideline, how I made my version. Obviously, the amounts will vary if you use different sized cookies, or different sized serving glasses, etc. Basically, just layer the whipped cream topping and the cookies, then top with the toasted coconut and mango, per instructions below. Easy peasy.

Gingersnap-Mango-Coconut Icebox Cake
adapted from this recipe

Serves 5-6

1 9-oz container So Delicious CocoWhip Coconut Whipped Topping
1 9-oz box of Back to Nature Triple Ginger Cookies*
1/2 cup unsweetened large coconut flakes
1 ripe mango
juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt

1. Spread about 1 Tbsp. of CocoWhip on the bottom of each serving glass. Make a layer of cookies, then spread a layer of CocoWhip, and repeat, until your glass is nearly full, leaving room at the top for the coconut and mango topping (I used about 6-8 cookies per glass). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread the coconut flakes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes, until just barely golden. Let cool completely.

3. Peel, pit and dice the mango. Toss with lime juice, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of each serving glass, then top with mango. Enjoy. 

*Obviously, use whatever brand of vegan gingersnap cookie you prefer, or that you can find, but I really love these cookies because of the extra-gingery kick and the chunks of crystallized ginger in them.