Saturday, December 25, 2010

What to buy with your Christmas Cash

Happy Holidays, everyone!  I absolutely love this time of year.  The celebration starts in early December with my birthday, stretches into the next few weeks with all of the "religious" (or "consumer?") holidays, and wraps up with the start of a new year.  I love it because there's endless excuses to cook, to bake, to cut out snowflakes (ha), wear festive clothing, and buy presents!  Not to mention,  I GET A WHOLE DAY OFF!   By now, you probably have more gift cards than you know what to do with.  Well, I have a suggestion:

Cue the hallelujah.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.  This cookbook holds 140 cookie recipes.

Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Possibly even more impressive is the fact that the author is only 19!  And published!  Amazing!  Kelly started writing the book in the summer of 2007, and has been baking up a storm ever since.  What I love about her recipes is that they are simple.  You won't be running around (or biking, in my case) to five different stores looking for the ingredients*.  That's huge.  Additionally, she includes photos for almost every recipe, a conversion chart (so helpful), and no-bake cookies for those times when you're really craving a cookie and need some instant gratification.  Another life saving feature?  A troubleshooting section.

So, what kind of recipes can you expect?  Honestly?  Pretty much anything you can dream up.  Aside from the five different versions of Chocolate Chip cookies (!!), Kelly has broken her cookbook into chapters of deliciousness: Cookies Inspired by Drinks (Root Beer Float Cookies!), DIY Versions of Mass-Produced Cookies (Girl Scout Cookies!), and Cookies You Would Find at a Tea Party (Cinnamon Roll Cookies!) are some of my favorites.  She even included a recipe for the pup in your life!  

Harriet and David's birthday treats!

My only cons:
- I really, really, REALLY wanted to make the Root Beer Float cookies.  I looked EVERYWHERE for root beer extract, with no success.  I'm super bummed about it, because they sound amazing.
- There is a recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, which I had huge plans for (and totally talked up at work).  I was going to make a huge "ugly Christmas Sweater" that had my company's logo "stitched" in, with some of our manifesto piped on.  I tried the recipe twice, and it just doesn't turn out.  BUMMED, because the picture in the book is flawless.  

Peanut Butter Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Bars
Next up on my list (yes, I made a list of "immediate-makes"): Glazed Apple Cider Cookies, Oatmeal Cream Pies, Lemon Cornmeal Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Cream Bars, and Inside-Out Peppermint Patties.  YUM!

*except, in my case, root beer extract.  Help!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls!

My birthday was on the 14th (!!), and my amazing boyfriend bought me the best present ever-- a brand- spanking new 9-speed electric mixer!  Heyyoo!  I needed to use it immediately.  Chelsea came in for a visit, and she was craving apple muffins.  I wanted cookies and an excuse to use my mixer.  This was a.... delicious compromise.

(Vegan) Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls  

I've never made cinnamon rolls, so I used a base recipe that sounded amazing + some of my own touches.  It's essentially a cinnamon bun with an apple filling, apple cider glaze, and a caramel drizzle.  Hell to the yes.  The dough recipe came from a vegan blogger who used to work for Cinnabun.  SOLD.

The Dough:
- 4.5 cups AP flour
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 "flax eggs" (2 tbsp ground flax + 1/2 cup water)
- 1/3 cup vegan butter (melted)

The Filling:
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon

The Glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
- 6 tablespoons apple cider
- 1 tsp vanilla

The Drizzle:
(aka caramel)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1/4 cup vegan creamer

1. In a small saucepan, heat up the soy milk.  Warm it until it's just warm enough to dip your finger in it.  Remove from heat once warmed, and pour into a medium-sized bowl.  
2. Add the brown sugar, and stir to dissolve.  Add the yeast, stir, and set aside to proof.
3. Use a mixer (I can do this now!!) to blend together the ground flax seeds and water.
4. Add the flax mixture, melted butter, and vanilla to the proofed yeast (make sure it sat for about 10 minutes).  Stir gently.
5. Grab a large bowl and measure out your flour.  Add the wet mixture to the flour, and knead!  Knead! Knead!  It should be soft and "elastic" -- this will take a bit, but you will get there!
6. Place the dough back into the large bowl, shape into a ball, and cover with a warm, damp cloth.  Let rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
7. While the dough is rising, start your filling!  You can either bake your apples, or cook them down on the stove.  We chose the stove.
8. Chop your apples into teeny, tiny pieces.
9. Grab a small saucepan, and begin to melt your butter over medium heat.  As it begins to melt, add apples and spices.  Cook, cook, cook (stirring constantly) until apples are soft (but not mush!).  
10. Once your dough has risen, punch the ball into a disk and throw onto a floured surface. 
11. Roll dough into a rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick).  Once you have a nice rectangle, brush the vegan butter over the dough, leaving 3" naked at one end (to stay sticky- you need to seal those buns somehow!).
12. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, avoiding the naked edge.
13. Roll that baby up!  Cut into slices- you'll get about 8.
14. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place rolls on top, facing up.
15. Cover the rolls with another warm, damp towel, and let rise for another 30 minutes.  They should double in size again.
16. Preheat your oven to 400F.
17. Once buns have risen, place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  You're looking to achieve that lovely golden brown color.
18. To make the glaze: Grab a small saucepan and melt butter over medium-heat.  Add sugar, cider, and vanilla.  Stir to combined, and turn heat to low.
19. To make the caramel: Make sure you have everything pre-measured and ready to go- caramel is fast!  Heat the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir continuously with a wisk.  Once the sugar boils (and smells amazing), add the vegan butter and mix.  Once the butter melts, remove from heat.  Wait a few seconds, and add the vegan creamer.  Wisk to smooth!  BE CAREFUL!
20. Once the buns come out of the oven (ha), pour the glaze and caramel over them!

Friday, December 10, 2010

How cute is this?!

Lisa from the Lunch Box Project is celebrating the amazingness that is the cupcake this month.  Can I just throw it out there that I *love* her blog?!  It is the only non-vegan food blog that I follow regularly.  Her blog is so fun: her recipes are simple (but lovely), her art is inspiring (and adorable), and she involves her children in the festivities!  I love it!  Back to the cupcakes.  This is month, she chose 16 submissions to illustrate and feature on her blog.  At the end of the month, she is going to combine them into one delectable poster!  Well, I was lucky enough to have my Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes chosen for the occasion!

Just adorable!  The inspiration:

The recipe. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I am addicted to chocolate.

It's true.  There are two things that I need every single day: coffee and chocolate.  Unfortunately, many times I go to make a meal... and all I have is coffee and chocolate.  Which is awesome, but, you know, not really that healthy.  Last night I realized I hadn't eaten (the horror!), and decided I would make waffles.  I do this a lot when I either a) don't have any time, or b) don't have any food (or both).  You always have the ingredients to make waffles right??!  Well.... I didn't have soy milk.  But, I had chocolate almond milk...

(Vegan) Chocolate Almond Waffles

- 1 1/3 cups AP flour
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate almond milk
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Dash of salt
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat your waffle iron!
2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Mix together the wet ingredients in another medium-sized bowl.  
4. Combine!  Mix/wisk until you don't have clumps!
5. Throw 'em on the waffle iron, and cook!  Makes 6.

Super easy, and amazingly really delicious!  They're not super chocolatey, and kind of taste like waffle cones!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gossip Worthy Monday: Healthy Edition

The non-stop dessert of late is amazing.  However, we are starting to feel slobbish.  So, we decided to try a healthier meal for Gossip Girl this week.  We're both super busy and couldn't coordinate, so we did our own lovely things: stuffed peppers and split pea soup!

My version: (Vegan) Quinoa Stuffed Orange Peppers

For some reason, whenever I think "healthy," I think stuffed peppers.  Work with me.

- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 orange peppers
- 1 green pepper
- 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
- 1/2 a sweet onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup (chopped) mushrooms
- 1/4 cup (chopped) carrots
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 3 handfuls baby spinach
- 1/4 cup ground nuts (I used cashews)
- A few shakes cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper (all to taste)
- Soy sauce! (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Cook the quinoa: boil two cups water and one cup quinoa.  Lower heat, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes (just like rice).
2. Grab a few bowls and start chopping: the green pepper, the onion, the mushrooms, the carrots, and the parsley.  Minch your garlic!
3. Grab a saucepan and throw in 1-2 tablespoons of oil (over medium heat).  Once warmed, toss in the onion and garlic.  Cook until transparent.  
4. Toss in the garlic, and continue to saute.
5. The mushrooms, pepper, and carrots go in next!  Continue to saute.
6.  Mix in the parsley.  Throw in one handful spinach at a time (unless you have a huge saucepan, then toss it all in!  Go for it!), and allow to wilt down to make room for the rest.  Continue to saute.
7.  Shake in your spices, nuts, and finally the cooked quinoa.  Stir, and lower heat.
8. Cut off the tops of your orange peppers, and core the insides.  Fill with filling (you'll get 4-6 full peppers), and top with it's hat.
9. Cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour.
10. Once finished, either enjoy OR be a little less healthy and put on a ton of soy sauce before enjoying! I tried!:)

Chelsea's version: (Vegan) Split Pea Soup

- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup safflower oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 pound split peas
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Water
- A few shakes dried marjoram, basil, salt, and pepper (to taste)

1. Grab a saucepan, and saute the onions over medium heat until transparent.  
2. Add the celery next, and saute for another few minutes.
3. Add water to fill pan halfway, and raise heat to boil.
4. Add spices, split peas, and carrots, and boil for about one hour (until peas are softened).
5.  Add white wine, and cook down for at least one more hour.

:) !
Can I take this time to express my anger at the fact that Gossip Girl is on hiatus until JANUARY 24TH??!  Boooooooooooo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Veganville Voopee Pies!

(Vegan) Pumpkin Voopee Pies.  Delivered to my door.

Dave being Ninja Cat and crying at the camera for a snack!

Gigi from VEGANVILLE sent me this box of goodies, which are quite the After-Thanksgiving treat!  I loved the cute packaging and... she sent me SIX VOOPEE PIES!  SIX!  That's enough dessert for AT LEAST two days (haha)!

- Gigi.  She rocks.  Not only are her desserts delicious, but she is also super sweet.  And, she ships quickly.  Any time spent waiting for dessert is a sad and lonely time, but she finds a way to make it manageable.
- The Packaging.  The pies came individually wrapped in a pastry box (which is more than I can say for a lot of snail mail desserts...), wrapped in a paper bag, and packaged in a reused Whole Foods bag.  The layering of the paper saved the pastry box, as it was monsooning out (I am aware that monsooning isn't a word, but I like it so I'm going for it).  
- The Voopee Pies.  They were delicious, even after surviving the trip from California to Pennsylvania, and then sitting in the post office over the weekend.  They were moist, pumpkin-y (but not too much, which was nice- it's easy to go overboard when you're dealing with pumpkin!), and didn't fall apart:

Look at that!  Perfect!  My favorite place to get whoopie pies in Philly does them well, but they're a disaster of a mess.  I think this cake made about 4 crumbs (which I ate).  I didn't even know that this was possible.

- I can honestly say that there were none with these!  I am the first to admit a problem, too.  There is a bakery in Philly that I was super excited for, but was a huge let down and I have never been back.  That is not the case with VEGANVILLE's desserts.  Gigi knows what she is doing!

If you'd like to check out the delicious snacks Gigi has to offer, check out VEGANVILLE's Etsy Shop.  It offers various flavors of Voopee Pies, cookies, and other lovely concoctions.  The Swedish Fish Cupcakes really caught my eye:

How cute are those?!!  Thanks, Gigi!:)