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A bit later than the rest but still well

15 Aug

A bit later than the rest but still well intentioned. #apieformikey http://ow.ly/63Agb

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Vegan Cupcakes!

11 Dec

I watched Food Inc. a couple of weeks ago and I was horrified.  I bought the movie about a year ago but I had heard so much about it, I was actually scared to watch it.  But, in my biodiversity class we were discussing large scale farming and agriculture and it seemed the perfect introduction to the topic.

If you haven’t seen it, you should..but be prepared for some things that you don’t want to see or even hear about.

I don’t want to get into it here , since I want you to read this post and get hungery–not sick.  But, I do think it is important to watch.  It is good stuff to know.  And think about.

I was vegan for a long time and vegetarian for even longer.  But this year, I started to eat chicken and turkey–mainly as another quick protein source and it is something the kids like.  Food Inc., got me to thinking about where we get our chicken and other meats and what I am feeding to my kids.

I am on a mission next year to find a supplier of local, small scale chicken and other meats.  I may even attempt to add a couple of chickens to our backyard (for eggs)–although we have lots of alligators, raccoons, and otters–it may not be such a good idea.

In the meantime, I decided to be a little more thoughtful when I bake.  I already buy organic, free range eggs from Jessica’s Organic Farm but what about milk and butter?

I started thinking about becoming vegan again.  Could I do it?  The best way to decide was to experiment with vegan cupcakes.

Luckily, it was the last week of class for my students and I thought they could use a little vegan sweets to liven up their tired bodies.  I used recipes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” and made both vanilla cupcakes with cocoa buttercream and chocolate cupcakes with white buttercream. I was on a baking mission…..It was great-the house was quiet, it was cold outside, the kitchen smelled heavenly.

And the cupcakes were so good. I ate three.

If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be able to tell that they were vegan.  Especially the chocolate cake and the frosting.

Serve this right away to starving artist (or starving anyone) and know that you are doing something nice for someone and for the planet.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Mix soy milk and vinegar together.  Whisk around and let it froth a bit.  Add the sugar, oil and extracts.  (I only used vanilla since that was all I had. )

2.  In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  (Once again, I had no baking powder so I added 1 tsp of baking soda instead-and it seemed to work just fine.)

3.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.  Stir until combined.  Lumps are OK!

4.  Scoop about 1/4 cup into pre-lined muffin tins.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes.

6.  Let cool completely before frosting with the Vegan Buttercream.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Follow the same steps as you did for the chocolate cupcakes!  (Steps 1-6 above)

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

This recipe make A LOT so if you only need enough for 12 or so cupcakes–half it.

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

3 and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 (or a little less) of soy milk or soy creamer

1) Beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.

2) Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes.

3) Add vanilla and soy milk and beat until fluffy (about 5-7) minutes.

4) Fill up a pastry bag and pipe piles of frosting on your cooled cupcakes.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

1/4 cup  shortening

1/4 cup margarine

2 and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 T soymilk

1) Cream together the margarine and shortening.

2) Add the cocoa powder and mix it up.

3) Add the confectioners sugar (not all at once but a little bit at a time).

4) Splash in a little soymilk and finally add the vanilla.

5) Whip it up for 5-7 minutes and pipe it on to cooled cupcakes.

6) I topped mine with crushed candycanes (festive!) but you could do whatever you want to make them look even prettier.

***Oh, by the way the book that I borrowed these recipes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” was written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  You can  buy it here.  But, I wanted the mention their other book that I absolutely LOVE, “Veganomicon“.  I am not vegan but the recipes are written so well and the many I have tried have been amazing.  I highly recommend it.  (This is not a paid announcement—just me proclaiming my love for a cookbook.  That’s normal, right?)

Guest Blogging in Kissimmee

10 Dec

We will be on our way to Kissimmee this weekend–exploring all alot of the holiday activities in and around Kissimmee.  I will be posting here to Forty Cakes and to the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau blog at i.seekissimme.com.  Their posts may be delayed a couple of days–but check them out.

Our plans include:

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

ICE! and SNOW! at Gaylord Palms Resort

Arabian Nights Dinner show

Osbourne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios

and lots more…….

We have so much exploring to do and we are all so excited to get in the holiday spirit.   Be sure to check it out.

McLane Creek Nature Trail, Olympia, Washington

4 Dec

We went on a quick trip to Seattle/Olympia to see my dad for Thanksgiving.  It snowed before we got there and we were lucky enough to see snow on the ground before Thanksgiving!

Even with the snow, I knew that I needed to make sure to go to my favorite little hike in Olympia, McLane Creek Nature Trail.  This short, relatively flat hike (about two miles) winds across a few beaver ponds, crosses McLane Creek (or ‘crick’ as my dad likes to say), and has loads of boardwalks and bridges to cross.   My sister, brother and I love this hike and always try to do it when we go home.

The air was cold and wet but the kids didn’t complain at all.  Grandpa was the only one grumbling about the adventure.

I had to beg him to get bundled up and get outside.  “It’s raining.”, he whined.  “Wear a rain coat.”, I said.

“It’s cold,”  he cried.  “Walk faster, ” I said.

“My feet hurt,” he complained.  ” I’ll give you chocolate when you finish your hike,” I said, and that was enough to keep him quiet.

I know that he had fun though—the Bean was so excited about all the dead salmon that we found in the river.  Salmon that had died either after spawning or on their way to spawn.  It was the perfect opportunity for grandpa to teach the kids about his favorite subject—fish!  After a quick discussion of the salmon life cycle we kept hiking.  At the next crick crossing, we even saw a couple of salmon struggling to make their way upstream.

Grandpa was also very excited to point out all the mushrooms.  Too bad we couldn’t eat any of them.

If you are in Olympia and need some time outside, here is a map to the trail head.

Don’t let the winter weather keep you away.  The canopy keeps you fairly dry in the rainy weather.  It was about 40 degrees, gray and rainy when we were there but the parking lot was full.

Washingtonians don’t let a little wet ruin their day.  And neither should you.

Olive Oil Cake

22 Nov

It wasn’t until about 5:30 last Thursday night that I realized I had NO DESSERT for the risoto party.

I had wine.  I had risotto. Bread and cheese.  Veggies.

But, no dessert.

I had remembered hearing a lot about olive oil cake and thought I would throw one together.

And throw it together–I did.

This couldn’t have been any easier and it tasted delicious.

A dense cake with a hint of orange and just a taste of sweetness.

Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from Savuer

Prep Time 10 min

Cook Time: 40 min

1 tablespoon butter for greasing
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
4 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoons orange extract (You can use  Grand Marnier or something if you have it.)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease bundt pan with butter and dust with flour. Set prepared pan aside.

2. Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for a couple of minutes.

3.  Add remaining 3 cups flour, lemon zest, oil, milk, and orange extract and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add baking powder and stir until thoroughly combined.

4. Spoon batter into bundt pan and smooth out top with the back of the spoon.

5.  Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

6.  Let cool completely in its pan.

7.  I sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar on top and surrounded the whole thing with a ton of pomegranete.  If I would have had homemade whipped cream–it would have made it all better.

NYC Restaurant Review: Curry Dream

21 Nov

We (my sister and I ) love Indian food and were so happy to find “Curry Dream” very close to our hotel in NYC.

The kids walked in and were thrilled to be in a fancy restaurant.  They determined that it was a fancy restaurant  because of the glass goblets for water and the cloth napkins.  Their standards are pretty low.

And because we were in the city and our motto was to “Be adventurous” they were willing to try more on the menu than normal.

We really did it up with Samosas, Naan, Dall Makani, and Alu Gobi–a spiced mixture of califlower and potatoes.  Let me just tell you that it was all excellent.  The onion chutney served with the samosas was amazing.  Even Little One was eating it—and she is not a fan of onions.

We also ordered a chicken dish for my kids—-Rasmi Malai Kabab which is described as cubes of chicken marinated in yogurt and cream cheese and then grilled.  The Bean LOVED it and couldn’t slow himself down.  It was not spicy but had a unique flavor that he loved.  He is still talking about it.

Everything was so good.  We left nothing uneaten.

The kids were so full–they were in pain.  Delicious pain.

Oh, the wait staff was incredibly patient with us and very kind.  We were the only family in the restaurant and even got a comment about how well behaved our children are. Ha!  If they had only seen us a few minutes earlier.

Curry Dream

66 W 39th St New York, NY 10018

Tel: 212-810-4125

http://www.currydream.com

Hotel Review: Hyatt, Orlando Airport (Or: Where I lost a child)

14 Nov

The Hyatt Hotel in the Orlando Airport will always be remembered as the first place I lost one of my children.  I mean really lost.

You see, we were all in the elevator together going up to our room.  The doors opened and we got off on the 9th floor.

And then I heard screaming.

Little one and I had gotten off.  The Bean, struggling with our large suitcase, did not.

The doors closed.  The elevator moved on.

What do you do?  The elevator needed a room key to move from floor to floor and I had the key so I knew he wouldn’t be able to get to another floor.  And, based on his scream I could tell he was petrified.  He was likely not thinking rationally.

Little one and I hurried back to the lobby, and with the help of a desk clerk got the elevator opened.

He was not there.

We were in the middle of the Orlando Airport.  He is only 7.

I had no idea what to do.

Just as we were about to go riding up the elevator to check each and every floor—-I saw the Bean get off another elevator with a friendly hotel woman.

He had done exactly what I had taught him—to find a kind looking woman and explain the situation.  And, luckily the women he talked to were able to get him back to us in a quick and calm manner.

That was scary.

The scariest part was we were in the middle of the airport.  Not just in a hotel next to the airport.  We were in the MIDDLE of the Airport.  The elevator could have taken him all the way down to baggage claim or ticketing.  Right in the center of a busy airport. Alone.

And that is also one great plus side of this hotel.  It is IN the airport.  The balcony of our room looked out into the middle of the airport–at the security lines and the airport restaurants.  When you are ready for your flight, you go down the elevator (be careful! The doors close quickly) and you are there.  No travel time required.  This is especailly important if you are travelling with tired kids.

The hotel is actually quite nice and even has a pool deck and a work-out room.  However, you do feel that you are in an airport once you leave your room.  And when you step out on the balcony-the hum of the airport is all you hear.

You can also get stay and park deals at this hotel which allow you to keep your car at the hotel for up to 7 days usually for the price of one nights stay.  If you are planning on paying for parking anyway—this may be the best way to go.  You get parking, relaxation and convenience for one price.

Halloween Re-Cap

4 Nov

A puppy and a ballerina enter the haunted cemetary

 

We had a Halloween party for the kids and their friends.

Complete with a cemetery, an old lady ghost hanging from a tree, a pumpkin patch and a pirate’s resort.  We ate beautiful cupcakes made by a new colleague’s wife, witches fingers, intestines (puff pastry filled with guacamole), popcorn balls, and cantelope.  I even made chocolate cupcakes filled with white cream and raspberry.  We had a candy corn guessing game, a pumpkin rolling contest, and a treasure hunt–all planned out and organized by The Bean.

But, guess what?

No pictures.

For some reason, this poor blogger did not think ahead to make sure there were batteries in the camera.  Nor did she ask anyone to be the party photographer.

The winner of the candy corn prize.....

Fortunately, Amy Winehouse did show up with a camera and was able to snap a couple of shots–mostly of the backs of kids heads.

I think she was drunk.

Spinach Lentil Soup

22 Oct


My mom sends packages.  It doesn’t have to be a birthday, Christmas or Easter—she just loves to fill up boxes and send them to us. Of course, we love to receive them but sometimes we just have to laugh at what is inside.  Last time, the package contained a cute skirt for me, a couple packs of gummy candy, an assortment of hair ties, a T-shirt for the Bean and two cans of refried beans.  The previous package was a bit smaller and contained a couple of recipes clipped from various sources, more gummy candy and a tube of toothpaste.  Thanks Mom!

One of the recipes that she sent was from a magazine called, “Delicious Living” for Red Lentil Soup.  It sounded perfect for a cool fall day—so using their recipe as a base and making a bunch of modifications—I came up with this recipe for Lentil Spinach Soup.  The soup was warm, hearty and healthy—just what I needed.  (I was so excited to eat it for lunch today until I realized that I had packed the Bean’s lunch (homemade pizza) in my bag and sent him to school with my green soup…..he is not going to be happy.)

Lentil Spinach Soup
Loosely Adapted from Delicious Living magazine
Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 heaping teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, diced tiny (My first from my garden!)
2 cloves of garlic (I didn’t have any but I know it would only make the soup better.)
2 cups baby spinach
1 tsp salt
3T heavy cream

1) In a medium pot, combine water, broth, lentils, bay leaves and smoked paprika to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Once the lentils start to break apart remove from heat.

2) Sautee in 1 T olive oil the chopped onion and diced jalapeño. (I was out of garlic but would suggest using it here as well.)

3) Add the onion and jalapeno mixture to the lentil mixture.

4) Using an immersion blender, blend the soup together.  Not too much though—you still want it a bit chunky.  Add the spinach and 2 T of heavy cream and blend some more.  Salt to taste.

5) I tried to be fancy and put a drizzle of heavy cream on top—just a tiny bit—to give it that little bit of needed fat.

6) Serve with homemade croutons or delicious Chanterelle Shallot Flatbread.

Enjoy!

Food Success: Chantrelle Shallot Flatbread

21 Oct

As you may remember, I had some issues with my apple cheddar scones.  Everything about them was embarrassing.  But then, later that same day, I was redeemed with this Chantrelle Shallot Flatbread.  It was good.  So good.

Like I mentioned before, I received a few samples of dried mushrooms from Marx Foods and made a wild mushroom risotto using four types of reconstituted mushrooms.  I didn’t use the Chantrelles however, I was saving them for something special.  And, this flatbread is that something special.

It is super easy and tasty too!

I started with my basic pizza dough recipe.  After the rising period, I rolled out one of the mini loaves and slathered it with about 2T of olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and a healthy dose of oregano.

I sautéed my reconstituted Chantrelles and shallots in about 1T of olive oil, and 1T of butter.  I then sprinkled these over the oiled and spiced crust and baked at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

The results were crispy, chewy and fabulous.

By the way, if you want to vote for me in the Marx Foods Mushroom Challenge, I would much appreciate it.  Go here.