vegan bake sale

Well, the time has finally come to let you all in on a little secret…my vegan baking endeavors are going public. Vegan Bake Sale has been launched. It’s still in it’s beginning stages, but now you can order vegan desserts till your heart’s content (or I suppose your belly’s content, whichever). Right now I’ll be focusing on cupcakes and cakes, but some great cheesecake options are on the way, and cookies too. So if you’re in the Los Angeles are and you need something special for a birthday or event, Vegan Bake Sale is here to help! These aren’t the healthy, crunchy, cardboard vegan desserts you find at health food stores, they’re the decadent, delicious treats that could fool any non-vegan.

In fact, I’ll be at 3:28 The Death of FUN this Saturday with a ton of cupcakes. So come out and enjoy the wonderful Los Angeles spring time and nosh on some cupcake goodness. The bike ride will be going all day and all over the city (you can see more details in the facebook event) but I’ll be at Pan Pacific Park between 5 and 6 pm. I highly suggest if you have a bike and are in the area, you should not miss this. If you don’t have a bike, borrow one! There are so many great rides incorporated into this day and a lot of cool events planned along the way. Besides, it is the death of fun, so if you’re not there, you may never have fun again.

Potlucks

Up until last year, when I was fortunately invited to meet up with some Los Angeles vegan bloggers, I had never been to a potluck besides some family holiday affairs. Recently though, it seems like every weekend I’m trying to make something to bring to an event. The most amazing part is that most of these have been vegan potlucks which is extra awesome because you get to try a bunch of treats made by other vegans.

There is always the dilemma of what to bring. Ideally one should bring actual food to a potluck so that everyone can eat. It’s no fun to show up when there is only various flavors of chips and dip. A few weeks ago I attended the BBQ/potluck after Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer, a bike race up the ten steepest hills in Los Angeles. I did not race up any of the hills, instead I biked a macaroni and chreese with broccoli casserole in my basket across town. I managed to arrive right on time, coming right around a corner to meet Shawn just as him and the other racers finished. Everyone was super hungry and most everything was devoured including veggie hot dogs, homemade seitan, vegan corn dogs and pasta salad.

Just the next day I got to attend another BBQ at a friends house. When I asked what to bring, I got the go ahead to bring dessert and was quite excited because there are few things I like more than baking cupcakes. I decided to try out a new recipe for spiced tea cupcakes. Since I wasn’t sure how many people would be there I went ahead and made mini versions. The spiced tea cakes were sweet and simple, a subtle black tea flavor with a bit of a kick. Even though it was an omni BBQ, our hosts made us an awesome vegetarian chili with extra beer, veggie dogs and grilled corn (with earth balance!). There was also homemade sangria to be enjoyed. Delicious!

We were also lucky enough to visit the new home of Sunny of Vegan Beauty Review and her husband along with some other vegan friends. We chowed down on vegan mushroom pate made by George from Sante la Brea and fried faux shrimps from Garden Wok brought by Lex and Kristen of Vegan LA. Vegyogini from Hugger Food made some tasty vegan cadbury cream eggs and Foodeater from To Live and Eat in LA brought a ton of adorable, colorful mochis (which I gobbled up quite a few of). I made cupcakes (again!) this time going for a simple strawberry shortcake cupcake. You can’t see the surprise filling of fresh strawberries hiding under the extra fluffy frosting. Unfortunately I was so full of other food I didn’t even get to try one of these, but Shawn assures me they were delicious and in fact still hold the place of his favorite cupcakes.

On a non-food related note, something I’ve been meaning to show off for a bit is the wall scratcher I made for my cats. When I first got Meeme and Mochi I was enthralled by all the modern looking cat furniture that was nothing like the carpet covered trees I’ve always seen. On the other hand, I was not excited at all about the prices. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own version of a wall scratcher. I ordered a piece of lovely orange carpet and obtained a leftover piece of wood shelving from a construction site, glued it together with some industrial adhesive and voila! While my custom piece cost less than $25 all together, the much smaller version it was based on cost double that. Most importantly though, Meeme and Mochi love streching out and scatching it so I have deemed it a complete success.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

First of all, welcome to the new home of Cute and Delicious! I’m really excited to start this off with a great recap of some Saint Patrick’s Day feasting.

For Shawn’s birthday this year, I gave him a number of tokens to be redeemed for favors or treats including meals and bike rides. Despite the fact that he has had a few months to use them, he has yet to come up with anything to trade them in for. That is, until Saint Patrick’s day. The first token was used for a full Irish feast day.

We started off the day with beans on Irish Soda bread toast and some smoked apple sage Field Roast Sausage . I’m not usually one to eat particularly hearty breakfasts (although I am a huge fan of toast) but this was a very satisfying way to start the day. The first time I had ever had beans on toast was actually in Belfast, and I’ve only had a it a few times since then. The beans were just slightly sweet and went really well with the soft, dense bread. We’ve tried other flavors of the grain sausages before and, previously, I have not been a fan. The apple sage sausage was perfect though. It had a very light flavor and a subtle sweetness to it.

For lunch, we had a picnic, since I only had a bit of spare time on my lunch break. I tried out the recipe from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen for Colcannon Puffs. I was very excited about mixing kale and potatoes, two of my favorites, and making them into adorable little toasted bites. I was so excited, in fact, that threw the kale in the food processor and blended to a puree instead of chopped leafy chunks. When I mashed it together with the potatoes, I had truly green potato puffs. I loved the texture of these, soft in the middle and slightly crispy on the outside, with a noticeable lightness. My only problem was that they were extremely salty, which is saying a lot coming from me, because I love salt. I didn’t even use salt in the water to make the potatoes so I would definitely cut down the seasoning a bit next time around.

We enjoyed these in the greenery of Griffith Park, along with some leftover beans, toast and sausage from breakfast. Shawn also made a great nutritional yeast cheese sauce to top everything off.

For dinner I busted out my crock pot and made an Irish stew. Sometimes I forget how amazing crock pots are. It’s great to be able to throw all the ingredients in and just let it cook away all day without having to do a thing. This stew was hearty and filling. All the vegetables were soft and flavorful. The other great thing about this stuff is that it’s even better the next day, it thickens up just a bit and makes it even more wonderful. The recipe is kind of a hodgepodge of things but you can check it out below. The only change I would probably make is to make sure the seitan is cut into small pieces so that it doesn’t overshine the vegetables. I would also recommend grilling the seitan a bit before adding so it has a little extra flavor.

Finally, for dessert we had apple bread pudding. The last of the Irish soda bread was put to use in the making of this recipe found in The Almost No Fat Holiday Cookbook. Since the slices of bread were a bit thicker than some pre-sliced bread, the top layer did not come out so much like pudding but a bit more like french toast.  Even still, it was amazingly tasty. A squishy bread pudding on the bottom with a layer of soft green apples, then a firmer flavored bread layer topped with a caramelly brown sugar sauce. I’ve actually never had bread pudding before, which I’m finding hard to believe myself, considering how much I love bread, and I was highly impressed with the way this came out.

At the end of the day I was so full I can’t even tell you. So full of bread and potatoes. The soda bread was by far the best part, especially considering how simple it is to make. I’ll definitely be trying out the stew again, and experimenting with some more crock pot recipes.

Hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patty’s!

Irish Stew
3 cups vegetable broth

1 can potato leak soup

1 package mushroom gravy mix

16 oz sliced mushrooms

1 cup seitan chunks

1 cup burger crumbles

4 small potatoes peeled and cubed

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1/2 cup peas

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2  tsp rubbed sage

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp olive oil

Throw all the ingredients in your crock pot, stir and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours.

Kitchen gadgets

vegan spritz cookies

I have a weakness for kitchen toys. While some people crave new electronics I like to fawn over kitchen supply catalogs. There’s always that one thing that would make the coolest dessert or the best presentation. I mean doesn’t everyone secretly want a sauce drizzler? Luckily I’m fairly good at keeping myself in check and not spending away my life on gizmos.

Over the holidays though, I did manage to acquire some neat toys in gift exchanges that I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased for myself. Since they’re definitely specialized, I hadn’t even busted them out till now to test them. The first test was a cookie press for making those adorable spritz cookies. I really had no occasion to try this, despite my desire to see how the tiny cookies would come out, until a late night sweet craving took me over and they just had to be made.

Using the cookie press is definitely one of those processes that must involve some sort of technique; one that I definitely don’t know. While about half of the cookies that came out were adorable, the other half were a bit more blobular. The main problem I had was making the dough stay on the pan ones it was squeezed out of the press. In the end, I usually just arranged the pieces together with my fingers. Luckily, no matter what each cookie looked like, they all tasted amazing. Absolutely perfect little treats that would be perfect for a party or gifts (or a late night snack). I can’t wait to incorporate some fruit or jams into the recipes, or of course, chocolate. Recipe for vanilla spritz cookies can be found below.

chocolate fondue
Another product I got to try out was a ceramic fondue warmer. Ok, so perhaps fondue is a little out of style, but it seemed like a tasty idea to me. The warmer is only heated by a small tea candle, so I thought it probably wouldn’t really keep the fondue that hot at all, instead it made the chocolate I pre-melted bubble even more than on the stove top. Amazing what conductive surfaces can do.

The great thing about making chocolate fondue for a dessert is not only how easy it is, but how amazingly satisfying. I simply cut up some apples and nectarines, and melted some semi-sweet chocolate with a dash of soymilk and it was ready to go. The result was fantastic. It’s easy to forget how sweet and tasty fruit is when there are so many prepared desserts out there, but combined with the dark chocolate it was absolutely divine. In fact, I’m craving it now, just writing about it. The important thing is just to have fresh ripe fruit and good quality chocolate.

While I would have to say that having the fondue warmer increased the fun factor by at least 10%, it’s totally not necessary to enjoy this simple dessert, just put the melted chocolate in a bowl or mug and it will stay warm for quite awhile. Another option would be to dip the fruit in the melted chocolate and refrigerate and harden for a cool treat later on.

spinach pesto pizza
Of course I had to include at least something savory, and of course, it’s pizza. In an attempt to make a simple but different (sort of) dinner one night, I collected some remaining ingredients in my kitchen to come up with a spinach pesto. To my surprise, it turned out insanely good. I’m generally the type that is good at following recipes, but when I just throw things together, there is a high risk of things going horribly wrong. I suppose it’s not hard to get it right when you combine such tasty ingredients though. I tried to keep the pizza uncomplicated and left off any other toppings besides vegan mozzarella. The result was a crispy, garlicy, spinach extravaganza. The pesto recipe is below.

Vegan Spritz Cookies
adapted from Wilton

3/4 cup earth balance
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tps egg replacer mixed with 1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder.

Cream sugar and earth balance. Add egg replacer and beat till slightly frothy. Add soy milk and extracts to combine. In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Slowly add liquid mixture and mix until smooth.

Put mixture into cookie press and press cookies onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Spinach Pesto

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Put the almond, walnuts and garlic in a food processor and blend till you have a coarse meal. Next add the spinach, oil and salt and blend until combined. Spread on pizza dough and bake away!

Since this recipe has raw garlic, I recommend using it for baked items. Otherwise, roast the garlic beforehand and add to the blend.

 

February roundup


Okay I have to admit I’ve been a bad blogger this month. I have been distracted by a number of things and have not devoted the time to this blog that I would like. In an attempt to find some redemption, I have a few things to report on.

Firstly, I inherited some ultra cute pastry dishes and despite the fact that I initially wanted to make them alternate cat food bowls, I resisted and actually put them to use feeding humans. To break them in, I made the asparagus tarragon quiche from Veganomicon, except smaller. They had a subtle flavor which I really enjoyed. I’m pretty sure you can’t go too wrong with a ton of asparagus, sauteed, seasoned and blended. The thing I liked about this recipe, was that even though it is emulating an egg-based dish, it did not rely on tofu to give it the right texture. Instead, the main ingredients were blended asparagus and walnuts.The most important recommendation I could give for this recipe would be to make the crust as thin as possible. This really lets the filling of the quiche shine. Also, especially with my miniature versions, it was difficult to cut through, even though my crust wasn’t overly crunchy. Because of the difference in consistency between filling and the crust, I ended up eating mine a little bit like a pizza, which was perfectly fine with me. Overall, delicious recipe. It took awhile to prepare as there is a lot of refrigeration time for both the crust and the quiche filling but was fairly simple. Obviously, it would be easy to prepare the beginnings ahead of time, but would still take over an hour for baking and resting.

Another thing I wanted to address was a interview I heard on the radio regarding the economy and comfort foods. Public radio is pretty much where I get all my news from. I find it much more informative and interesting than a lot of what gets reported on television and elsewhere. Of course, there are exceptions. I was genuinely disturbed by a recent interview with Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft foods. This interview was really oriented towards the business aspects of the company, but I couldn’t help but find the content deeply disturbing.

One of the first points made is that in a troubled economy, many people turn to comfort foods. This fact on it’s own, isn’t what irked me. What got under my skin was the equation of Kraft brand foods with comfort foods. Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup when they’re having a bad day? That’s why it’s called comfort food. It certainly does not mean it needs to be junk. “Pasteurized prepared cheese product” is not food. The tomato soup and grilled soy cheese you see above has all the appetizing qualities and simplicity of any good comfort food and it’s vegan.

Without going on a diatribe about how bad certain processed foods are, I just want to point out that if you want something simple and inexpensive there are vegan alternatives that cover these bases as well. Not every meal you make has to be gourmet. If you want a box of mac and chreese that is better than that blue box you had when you were a kid Roads End Organics makes some amazing vegan versions that are not only insanely delicious but under $2 a box. I recommend the Shells and Chreese especially.

I suppose I’m just upset by the fact that something like this interview even made it onto the air. I can’t believe that someone can go on and say that Velveeta mixed with salsa is a healthier direction. How about just salsa? How about delicious fresh tomatoes, chopped and seasoned with herbs and spices? Doesn’t that sound more appetizing? I realize I’m ranting a little, but I’m just a bit shocked still that on the same station I hear reviews of local farmers markets that I also heard this garbage about processed junk and how to market it to people when they economy is down.

And moving on…

One of the reasons I’ve been a bad blogger this month, is that Shawn and I have been out of town a number of times. On one occasion, we went camping in the Salton Sea. We got to be zombies with a bunch of cyclists and other such craziness. It’s been a long time since I’ve been camping, luckily Shawn is an expert. He also had a really awesome stove from the 1900’s to make us some great meals. We even managed some flavorful toast, which is pretty much a staple in my diet.

For Valentine’s day breakfast he cooked up some tofu scramble, camp style of course. Tofu and mushrooms mixed with nutritional yeast, ketchup, mustard and cooked over flame in vegetable broth. It was seriously delicious. We also enjoyed the typical camping fare: veggie dogs, veggie burgers and oatmeal. You can check out some more of our misadventures and Shawn’s beautiful photos of the trip over at studiodrome‘s blog We even made it in the local paper!