Monday, November 28, 2011

Better Than Puppy Love Cake

Years ago, my Auntie Bea introduced me to a cake made with a German chocolate cake mix, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a jar of butterscotch ice cream topping, and a tub of Cool Whip. She pokes holes in the cake and pours the condensed milk and butterscotch all over it. It seems like a lot but it soaks right in. Then she tops the whole thing with the Cool Whip. I had started to become very passionate about cooking, baking, and general eating at the time, so I remember repeatedly asking her how to make it. Even then I was a stickler about funny ingredients, so I made a chocolate cake from scratch and home made whipped cream. I liked the cake so much that I even researched it, and found that the official name for it is "Better Than Sex Cake." Since I plan on becoming a teacher and my future students might read this one day, I gave it a more PG name=). Since going vegan, I've thought a lot about that cake. I knew I could easily make a version just as good with different ingredients.

What inspired me was learning about making a caramel sauce out of coconut milk. It works just like heavy cream and doesn't taste any different. The recipe I use is inspired by this one from Comfy Belly. I use 1 can of full fat coconut milk, which comes out to 1 1/2 cups, so I use 1 1/2 cups of agave (an obvious honey replacement). A lot of recipes for "Better Than Sex Cake" call for chocolate fudge instead of caramel, so I thought it would be fun to add chocolate chips to the caramel sauce. The result is what I like to call "Fudgy Salted Cocomel Sauce." I even want to make jars of it and give them away as gifts, but I digress. Needless to say, its very good.

The topping doesn't look like the classic, snowy white Cool Whip, but I couldn't resist adding just a touch of chocolate and a bit of peanut butter. I call it "Chocolate Peanut Butter Whip." The chocolate cake is Isa Chandra's "Just Chocolate Cake" from Post Punk Kitchen. Just double it and use a 9x13 in pan. I made this for Thanksgiving with my family this year. I hope you like it!

Just Chocolate Cake
2 cups almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (I use safflower or coconut oil)
2 teaspoon2 vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (I just use more vanilla, a total of 1 Tb)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat with great results)
2/3 cup cocoa powder (look for fair trade)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350?F.
  • Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix well. 
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK). 
  • Lightly grease an 9x13 in baking pan. Pour in the batter and bake for 32 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean. 
  • When cake has cooled, use the back of a wooden spoon to poke many many holes into the cake. Now you can make your cocomel sauce.

Fudgy Salted Cocomel Sauce
1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups light agave nectar
3/4 ts salt
3/4 cups dairy free chocolate chips
  • Combine coconut milk, agave and salt in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. 
  • Continue stirring for about 15 minutes from start to finish. It should be reduced to half, so 1 1/2 cups. I just pour it in a pyrex and if its not reduced to half yet, I pour it back in the pan and continue to cook and stir. 
  • Once it is reduced, turn off the heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until incorporated.
  • Pour this mixture all over the cake, seeing that it seeps into the holes. Now make the Chocolate Peanut Butter Whip.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whip
3 12.3 oz packages Extra Firm Silken Tofu
3/4 cups dairy free chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (mine was salted)
3 Tb light agave nectar
1 Tb butterscotch schnaps or non-dairy milk of choice (I use the schnaps)
1 ts vanilla
1/8 ts salt 
  • Using a double boiler or glass bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt chocolate chips together with peanut butter, agave, butterscotch schnaps, vanilla and salt. 
  • Put melted chocolate mixture and silken tofu into a food processor and process until smooth and silky. 
  • Spread onto cooled cake.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Impromptu Tempeh Tacos

I have a famous recipe for tempeh tacos that are loved by my husband and friends, but these are impromptu ones I made last night. It was well past dinner time, Jason was starving, and I knew I needed to make something fast. Thankfully I had a package of tempeh in my fridge, corn tortillas, and  green bell peppers and tomatoes from the farmers market. I can't believe they still have tomatoes! Also, it helps that I always have cashews in my freezer and tablespoon sized lemon cubes to make a quick ranch dressing. I keep lime cubes too which came in handy for the salsa.

The best part about tempeh tacos are the crispy tempeh kernels. My sissy in law says they are like corn nuts. The way to achieve this is to crumble up the tempeh and drop it into a shallow pan of very hot oil. Then you must leave it undisturbed until the sides are golden brown. Flip, then repeat. When you read about how to prepare tempeh, many will say to steam it first to get the bitterness out. I find that to be completely unnecessary for crispy tempeh kernels. The only time I steam tempeh is if I need to infuse moisture in it to make a patty, like Isa Chandra's famous Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. This recipe makes about 8 tacos. Top with my ranch dressing and even some sliced avocados if you like. Enjoy!

Crispy Tempeh
1 8 oz package tempeh
1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts garlic powder
1/2 ts cumin
1/2 ts paprika
2 Tb olive oil
  • Crumble tempeh into a large bowl and mix in salt and spices.
  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until oil is shiny, but not smoking
  • Drop in tempeh and listen for the sizzle. If it is not sizzling, your  oil is not hot enough.
  • Give it a little shake to make sure its spread evenly over the pan, then leave it alone! Allow it to get nice and golden underneath.
  • Flip, repeat.

Simple Salsa
3 diced roma tomatoes
2 diced small green bell peppers
1 Tb lime juice
1/2 ts salt

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving With Friends 2011 Recipe Round Up

I know Thanksgiving is typically reserved for family, but this is the second year in a row that I've hosted a Thanksgiving party for all my friends, with an all vegan spread made by yours truly. Long before going vegan, I developed a love and passion for cooking. It started toward the end of my college years. became my Bible, and I would pour over cooking magazines and cookbooks. I remember throwing huge dinner parties and making mashed potatoes with bacon, BLT salad and fried chicken. Cooking became my creative expression. It was my way to share the best of myself with those I care about. Now that I'm vegan, my passion for cooking has only intensified, and I love showing people how delicious plant based food can be. As a vegan in a meat eating world, cooking for others also allows me to share who I am and what I'm about in a healthy and positive way. Then I am free to be myself without feeling the need to talk about veganism, because it speaks for itself. In my interactions with the world, I believe every single thing needs to be positive, and nothing is more positive than good tasting food with good friends. This years crowd was quite big, a total of 20 people, 5 of which were kids who were too busy playing to be in the picture. Three of them are new vegan friends that I've made in my area, because every vegan needs a few vegan friends! As you can see from their faces, every one was having a great time. Ironically, the Thanksgiving meal is one of the easiest to veganize. All it is is a bunch of carbs and a turkey, easily replaced by Tofurky, aka, the "beige ball." Thats just what I like to call it! Its a little intimidating right out of the package, but if you cook it right, its even BETTER than turkey. All the meat eaters said so.

Here's Jason cutting the "bird"
Jason was kind enough to take individual pictures of each dish, but the lighting wasn't up to my standards, so I'll apologize for that now. This blog post is a round up of my recipes for any one who wants to host a vegan Thanksgiving of their own. 

The process for Tofurky is quite simple. Just make sure to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge 24 hours before cooking. The best way to prepare it is to rub it down with oil and spices, wrap it in tin foil, and cook it for 1 hour at 350 degrees. 1 Tofurky serves about 8-10. I made 2. Here are my rub ingredients for 1 Tofurky.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tb soy sauce
1 ts garlic powder
1/2 ts poultry seasoning

I've been a pro at mashed potatoes since long before my vegan days. It all started when I watched my Auntie Bea make it with Carnation Evaporated milk and multiple sticks of butter. I knew that was the reason hers tasted so good, and for years I insisted on making them that way. These days, I still believe that mashed potatoes should be rich and creamy, just plant based. The biggest mistake people make with their mashed potatoes is not using enough salt. Potatoes are incredibly bland so don't be afraid to use it. I know this dish isn't the prettiest, and once again, I apologize! I clearly needed a bigger dish right? The potatoes actually started to bubble over onto the bottom of the bottom of the oven. Despite the way it looks, it was a huge hit. I used a box of unsweetened mimic cream, which is an almond and cashew blend, but next time I will use a homemade cashew cream. Here is my recipe that serves 20 people.

Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs organic red potatoes
1 cup olive oil
1 cup veggie broth
4 cups unsweetened mimic cream
8 ts salt
1 Tb garlic powder
1/2 cup diced green onion
  • Boil potatoes in a huge pot until fork tender
  • Drain potatoes and add them back to the pot. Allow excess water to cook out
  • Add remaining ingredients except for the green onion and mash or beat, depending wether you like them chunky or silky smooth. Don't ever over beat your mashed potatoes, or they will turn gummy.
  • Put potatoes in a larger than 9x13 in casserole dish
  • Bake for 1 hr at 350 degrees

My corn bread stuffing was another huge hit. I couldn't find a bag of Imagine brand stuffing mix at any store, and I refused to buy a bag of Rainbow bread cubes or Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix with high fructose corn syrup, so I knew a corn bread stuffing would be the way to go. I just used the recipe on the bag of Bob's Red Mill Corn Meal, subbed applesauce for the egg, and doubled the recipe to fit into a 9x13 in pan.

Corn Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups corn meal
1 ts salt
8 ts baking powder
2 Tb sugar
2 cups almond or soy milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine the dry ingredients 
  • Combine the wet ingredients
  • Add wet to dry, and mix just enough to incorporate. Do not over mix.
  • Pour in a 9x13 in baking pan. 
  • Bake for 30 mins
  • Allow to cool
Corn Bread Stuffing
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large diced yellow onion
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced apples
3 cups veggie broth
8 ts salt
2 ts garlic powder
1 ts poultry seasoning
1/2 cup green onion
Corn bread recipe (see above)
  • Add olive oil to large pot on medium heat
  • Add onion, carrots, and celery and saute until onions are transluscent
  • Add apples and continue to cook for another 2 minutes
  • Break up corn bread and add to the veggies and apples
  • Add remaining ingredients and incorporate 
  • Put stuffing into a 9x13 in baking dish 
  • Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees

Of all the dishes, my sweet potato casserole was raved about the most and was the first to go. Next time I will make more. The funny thing is, I didn't make as much as the other sides because I always thought a lot of people don't eat sweet potatoes, but that certainly wasn't the case with these ones. Their favorite part was the topping. They kept asking me what was in it. Well, here's the recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 lb organic sweet potatoes
1/2 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1/2 ts salt
Topping ingredients:
1/2 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 ts salt
  • Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet
  • Prick a few holes in the potatoes with a fork and bake until fork tender, about 1 hr and 15 minutes
  • Once the potatoes are cool enough to touch, the skin should come right off
  • Add them to a mixing bowl and add shortening, milk, agave and salt. Use a strong fork or wisk to incorporate all ingredients
  • Put the sweet potato mixture into an 8x8 in casserole dish
  • Put almonds into a food processor and pulse a few times until crumble, not too long, or it will turn into butter
  • Add remaining ingredients and pulse until all ingredients are incorporated
  • Crumble the mixture on top of the potatoes
  • Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees

My roasted veggies were just roasted veggies that anyone could do, so I won't bother posting the recipe. What I will say is, next year I will do a huge salad instead so I have more oven space and I can make flaky biscuits and more of the other stuff. I'd love to have two ovens, but thats a first world problem isn't it?

My classic Thanksgiving gravy is so good I've made it on other occasions as well. I came up with it by studying various recipes from the internet and can truly call it my own. I find that the all-purpose vegetable seasoning I use is crucial to this gravy, so if you can't find this certain brand, you may have to tweak it a bit.

Classic Thanksgiving Gravy
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup brown rice flour, spelt, or whole wheat
8 cups veggie broth
1 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 ts salt
2 ts garlic powder
1/4 cup Aromatica Organics All-Purpose Vegetable Seasoning

  • In a large pot on medium high heat, add olive oil and flour. Stir constantly until roux is peanut butter brown
  • Add veggie broth, stirring continuously 
  • Stir in remaining ingredients
  • Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 40 minutes

My chocolate cake is a long story, but I'll do my best to retell it. A few posts back I made the Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes from Post Punk Kitchen, only our printer wasn't working at the moment, so I had to write the recipe down. Why wasn't our printer working? Well we later found that Ava had stuck pens in there. I can't get mad at her because she's only two, and once we took them out it worked just fine. So anyway, I decided to double that recipe for this cake, but as I read the actual recipe on the PPK Website today, I found that I was missing a key ingredient, baking soda. No wonder it was so dense! Every one still liked it, but I will certainly add the baking soda next time. I was going for the classic Better Than Sex Cake that my Auntie Bea introduced me to years ago. If you aren't familiar with it, its a chocolate poke cake soaked with caramel and topped with Cool Whip. I can't say if its better than sex or not, but its really good. I made this Caramel Sauce from Comfy Belly and it was divine. I like to call it Salted Cocomel Sauce. Just use coconut milk and light agave instead of honey. Next time when I use baking soda, the cake will be fluffier and absorb more caramel, and I will double the caramel. The whipped topping is the Mimic Cream brand that comes in a small box. Half of it is sandwiched between the two layers, and the other half is whipped with a chocolate ganache and spread around the whole cake. Oh, and Isa Chandra actually uses her same cupcake recipe for her Chocolate Cake on the PPK Website. I actually quadrupled the recipe because each layer is double. I'm not going to bother posting this recipe until its totally perfected, but like I said, people still liked it! All together the party was a smashing success=)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alicia Silverstone's Peanut Butter Cups That Stay Firm at Room Temperature

These are my version of Alicia Silverstone's famous Peanut Butter Cups. Just one bite will make you forget about Reese's like Romeo forgot about Rosaline. When I first made the original recipe in my early vegan days, I realized that the peanut butter part doesn't stay firm at room temperature. This is problematic if you want to leave them out at a party, or better yet, give them out as a gift. My solution is agar-agar powder. I'm not sure why they named it twice, but agar-agar is a natural stabilizer derived from a sea weed.

The original recipe calls for Earth Balance Butter, but now that I know about the destruction of the rain forests from palm oil production, I use Spectrum Shortening, which uses organic palm oil. It has no transfats and the only ingredient is palm oil. Instead of maple sugar, I've used unrefined cane sugar, but I recently decided to take a chance with maple syrup and it worked great. I'm sure agave or brown rice syrup would work great too. For the graham cracker crumbs, I've used crushed up Annie's Chocolate Chip Bunny Grahams, because they are honey free, but I've recently discovered something even better, which is Barbaras Oatmeal Snackimals. They are whole grain and wheat free for anyone who is intolerant, although they are made in a wheat processing facility.

I made these for Halloween and decided they are now my official Halloween tradition. Same goes for Easter. They are highly addictive though. Jason took most of them with him to work because he knew I would eat them all! I was able to make 21 mini cups. Enjoy!

3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cups crushed Barbara's Oatmeal Snackimals
1/2 cup Spectrum Shortening
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 ts agar-agar powder
1 cup dairy free chocolate chips
1/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk
  • Line a 24 cup mini muffin pan with paper liners
  • Prepare your crumbs by putting cookies in a food processor and process until fine. I think about 1 1/2 cups of cookies makes 3/4 cups. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.
  • Combine peanut butter, shortening, maple syrup and agar-agar in a small pot over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Continue to cook and stir for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and add the crumbs. 
  • Spoon 1 Tb peanut butter mixture into each paper liner. Allow to firm up in the fridge.
  • Combine chocolate and milk in a double boiler, or like me, you can use a glass bowl above a pot of boiling water. Stir until melted and smooth. 
  • Spoon a 1/2 Tb of chocolate into each cup. If you have a little left over chocolate, do not hesitate to use every bit of it to top off the peanut butter cups. Allow to firm up in the fridge.