Monday, April 28, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Cake

A cake can make any day brighter. It can set the tone for a special meal. And it can make a dramatic statement at a dinner party. I love cake. There, I said it. I love to see a pretty cake sitting on a platter in my kitchen. Plus I love sneaking a thin slice every time I walk by.

This delicious recipe comes from “Vegan…Made Simple” – a new cookbook from my mom (Thanks, Mom!) I modified it by adding almond extract along with the vanilla. I reduced the sugar also. My changes are included here.

I hope you try this simple and delicious cake: very tender and moist and full of raspberry flavor.

Here’s what you need:
2 1/3 C all-purpose flour
½ C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
1 C sugar
1 ½ C almond or soy milk
½ C canola oil
½ C raspberry preserves, warmed and strained
½ t vanilla extract
½ t almond extract

For the frosting:
3 T non-dairy milk
½ C chocolate chips (vegan if possible)
½ C powdered sugar
1 T maple sugar
Fresh raspberries to decorate
Create a simple raspberry sauce by warming and straining more raspberry preserves

 You might notice in the photo above that I used a 10 inch spring form pan and baked it for about 30 minutes. Why it sunk in the middle I can’t say – it was cooked all the way through….I guess I should have put a bunch of raspberries in the middle to hide the ugly crater!

Here’s what you do:
Grease a 9 inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk the milk, oil, preserved and extracts well. Add the dry to the wet and mix gently, just until everything is moist. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: heat the milk over low heat until just reaches the boiling point. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and syrup. Mix well. Cool for a bit before frosting the cake.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Raise the Roof Lasagna (from My Beef with Meat)

“My Beef with Meat” by Rip Esselstyn is a quick and easy read, and the recipes included in the back of the book are solid….and masculine, in a way, if you know what I mean….like this lasagna….and  Zeb’s Waffles which you can see here. It’s the perfect book if you are curious about the rationale behind a vegan diet; the information is not overwhelming and it’s not chock full of nutritional facts and figures. If you’re looking for that kind of info, turn to “The China Study.”

(A side note: Esselstyn’s father is part of the “Forks Over Knives” movie - have you seen it?)

Esselstyn quotes a letter which he received that especially drives home the point of a plant strong diet. The letter writer says that none of his friends even batted an eye when he reached for his 5th piece of meat pizza after eating a plate of wings and drinking 5 beers. They did start to chirp up when this guy started eating fresh fruit and vegetables, citing all sorts of evolutionary evidence which supposedly points to the necessity of including meat in our diet. All of a sudden, the friends had become biochemists who were worried about nutrition! The man continued to lose weight, reverse health issues and regain strength, all the while smiling and quietly witnessing to his friends.

This legendary recipe is a total complete 100-% VEG OUT fest. Don’t even consider making this unless you are in LOVE with the pure authentic taste of VEGGIES. Look at the crazy amount of VEG layered in there. Broccoli, corn, spinach, onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots – it just never ENDS!  Talk about chopping! And believe it or not, I cut the recipe in HALF! I don’t think there is any room in the casserole for another crumble of goodness.  

Many reviewers suggested doubling the amount of sweet potatoes, which I did, and that made the second layer of this lasagna (see it in the photo?) extra nice. (Mr. Living Cookbook doesn’t love sweet potatoes and he did not go back for second helpings – rare)

If you want this recipe, you’ll have to get to the library and check out “My Beef with Meat” or search around the internet. Caution: It’s a VEG FEST!!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Zeb’s Waffles (from My Beef with Meat, by Rip Esselstyn)

We have been eating like kings around here lately. Along with time spent on preparing great meals, I have been reading a ton. Last week I read “The River of Doubt- Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.”  I always assumed that I knew everything about Teddy Roosevelt, but how wrong I was. He could just be my new favorite President and that’s saying a lot because I have an on-going fascination with Jefferson and Jackson.

Was I the only person who didn’t know about his trip into the heart of the Amazon jungle, his near-death illness, and his obsession with adventure? This book was a face-paced, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of book. Well written and chock full of gruesome details about life in the jungle. Termites that literally ate through clothing, uncivilized natives shooting poison darts, insects x 100, death and disease.  

I read with my iPhone in hand, pausing every few pages to do quick research about carnivorous fish, murderous Nhambiquara Indians, and maps of all sorts. I learned stuff like this: back in 1542, Spanish explorers noticed that certain native women went about naked, carrying huge bows and arrows. They could out fight 10 men. The Spaniards named these ladies “Amazons” after ancient Greek women who were said to have removed their right breasts to be able to shoot arrows better. A-mazos: meaning  no breast and hence the name Amazon.

A  Polish explorer wrote this after spending months in the Amazon: “Something began to go wrong in us. Coming daily into such close contact with the virgin forest we found that its grotesque forms and brilliant colors got on our nerves like a nightmare. It was stifling us; the whole exotic jungle became one gigantic cauldron of hatred and brutality.”

Hatred and brutality….. I love stuff like this!

I also loved these waffles from Rip Esselstyn.  Extra hearty and no sugar-rush I normally get after eating regular waffles. These are ridiculously filling - plan on serving only two small waffles per person. If you are not used to eating flaxseed, then you'll be surprised how quickly it fills the tummy. 

Zeb’s Waffles

2 ½ C old-fashioned rolled oats
¾ finely chopped walnuts
¼ C flaxseed meal
Zest of ½ orange
½ - ¾ t cinnamon
1 medium banana, smashed
1 – 1 ½ C almond milk

Mix the oats, nuts, flaxseed, zest and cinnamon. Place two-thirds of this dry mixture in a high speed blender or food processor and process until a fine consistency. Return this to the remaining dry mixture. If you prefer a less-chunky waffle, process all of the dry ingredients, but a little chunkiness was perfect.

Add the banana and milk and mix well. Add more milk if you want thinner waffles. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter on the iron. Cook on a hot waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. I served mine with fresh raspberries and a raspberry-maple syrup. Delish!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chickpea Paella

This paella is so pretty – spectacular, in fact. If you've never made paella, then you might be surprised at how simple it is to create such a special dish. All you need is time, a low flat oven proof pan and saffron. If you have a paella pan, awesome! If not, I think a rimmed baking sheet would work in a pinch. A metal pan will give you the best result – a crispy, chewy, golden-brown bottom layer. I don’t really have quantities today –just trust your kitchen instincts and give this a try!

Here’s what you need:
Vegetable broth, warmed with a pinch of saffron (don't be shy)
Uncooked white rice
Olive oil (don't be shy)
Chick peas
Other various vegetables cut to bite size pieces. You can see I used red peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes and snap peas. Lemon wedges are also delish in paella. (Peas are classic also.)

Here’s what you do:
Place the paella pan on low heat and coat it liberally with olive oil. Sauté the rice and chick peas in the oil, stirring constantly until the rice loses its pure white color. Carefully place the pan in a hot oven (350 degrees) and carefully ladle in some warm, saffron broth. Cover the rice with broth. Close the oven and wait about 5 minutes. Without stirring, add more broth and wait another 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Continue doing this until the rice seems done but resist the temptation to stir! I often drizzle more olive oil around the perimeter of the pan to help create a crispy edge.

When the rice is almost done, begin to add the veggies, in a decorative way. Add harder veg first and allow to bake before adding the softer veg. If using lemon wedges, add them last.

That’s it! Simple, right? Serve with salad and a big glass of red wine. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Roasted Salt and Vinegar Potatoes

This is an excellent recipe – straight from America’s Test Kitchen.  Not too salty. Not too vinegary. Perfect with a salad and grilled veg. There is a shocking amount of salt used in this recipe, but you need that much. Somehow all that salt helps create a totally creamy potato.  I modified the amount of oil recommended in the original recipe. 

Here’s what you need:
2 lbs small red potatoes
1 ¼ C table salt
8 C water
4 T Malt Vinegar  (I used cider vinegar)
Cracked black pepper to taste
2 T olive oil 

Here’s what you do:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and it aside. Brush a different baking sheet with oil.

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add all the salt and when dissolved, add the potatoes. Cook until fork tender – about 20-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool on the wire rack for 10 minutes. Some salt will form on the potato skin.

Transfer the potatoes to the oiled baking sheet and smash them with a measuring cup until they are about ½ inch thick. Brush them with oil and half of the vinegar.

Roast the potatoes for about 20-25 minutes or until they are well browned and crispy. Brush with remaining vinegar. Season with pepper. Serve immediately. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

3 Noteworthy News stories you may have missed – Plus my favorite Tapenade

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, NPR recently interviewed a man who has written his 2nd book about the man. I had no idea there was even one book about Cobain, but I have since learned there are many, many, many. Why? I don’t know. Nirvana fans, my apologies. What’s so fascinating about this guy?

"Kurt loved plaid."

Well according to the radio interview, Cobain is responsible for the word *grunge* and all that is associated with that term – including, of all things, fashion. You can literally google the term ‘grunge fashion’ and see entire lines of clothing. Thanks, Kurt.

"I'm now going to add a stick of butter....."
And speaking of drug abuse, how about recent news that Nigella Lawson was barred from entering the United States for previous drug use? Seriously? Please compare that to the dozens of American celebrities and politicians (including our current president) who flaunt their drug use in our faces and continue to live very happy and productive lives in the lime light. Rob Ford, anyone? Uh, no thank you. Let’s cut the domestic goddess some slack. Any woman who snacks while standing at the fridge in the middle of the night is all right with me.

"Honey, let's eat in tonight."

Have I upset anyone? Well here’s my last noteworthy news story. I hope you are sitting down. A Michigan couple recently burned down their apartment complex while using a blowtorch to remove the fur off of a squirrel they were planning to eat for supper. More drug abuse? Possibly. They don’t call it dope for nothing.

Here’s what you need for the world’s BEST Tapenade – everyone RAVES about this:
1 lemon – zest and juice
2 small cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces best quality black olives, minced
½ C fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
4-5 green onions, minced
½ C walnuts, minced
1 C fresh parmesan cheese, grated very fine
4 T olive oil

Mix well and serve with crackers. If using a food processor, watch that you do not pulverize anything beyond recognition. Leave it a bit chunky for the best taste.