Saturday, January 29, 2011

Short n Sweet

Last week my recipe of the week was Shortbread Cookies. I didn't get to posting it, I had another busy week. I do have a good excuse, however, I was cooking for a dear client. Her sweet lil 6 year old girl is in the midst of being diagnosed, as she's not been well, so they're trying a certain diet (wheat free, soy free, dairy free, nut free, bean free) to see if it helps her condition. Poor lil thing, I'm really hoping my food helps her out! I made some safe lasagna and a pasta dish with rice pastas, a creamy potato broccoli soup and some nori rolls filled with fresh raw veggies. Pure love food! I hope it heals her! :-) A gal can hope can't she?

Back to the short breads....which came out tremendously delicious I might add.... I grew up snacking on these delectable numbers regularly- Walker's Short breads to be precise. My mother ALWAYS had a tin of them on the top shelf in our fancy dish cupboard, the one that no one really went in. Unless they knew there was a secret stash of fancy cookies in it, then they went in it often. :) Anyhow, my mom loved to have her evening cup of Lipton tea and a lil sweet of some sort, and the favorite was often shortbread cookies. I too loved them, and it sure was hard to stop after just one. I loved the perfect balance of sweetness and the denseness yet delicacy of the crumb, not to mention the cute little holes that were poked in the tops to ventilate during baking. Alas, I took on the famed Scottish cookie for my project of the week. Although, the classic Scottish recipe is 3-2-1. 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part sugar- that's it. Also, often you will find rice flour or oat flour as being a main ingredient in the delectable cookie. My guess is it probably lends to its' delightfully crumbly texture. I didn't really stick to the ol' classic Scottish version, but rather did my own interpretation. I added a touch of salt and vanilla extract, but also tried a variety of shapes in the baking process. Since it's close to a certain holiday, I thought hearts were appropriate. :) I'm already thinking though, what other fun things could I add into this great cookie base? Lavender flowers? Lemon thyme? Chocolate bits? Slivered almonds? So many possibilities, we must experiment and find out! :) For now, here's the outcome of my short breads. They're so cute.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No frills? YES FRILLS! and other juicy inspiring bits....

Wow, what a beautiful, inspiring and busy week I had! So busy I had to skip my recipe of the week last week, eek! I'll make up for it hopefully tonight.... Something heart shaped is on the docket :)

I had a new delightful client last week! A lovely and sweet couple who heard of me through another client, love that. They wanted to do a raw food cleanse and brief 3 day juice fast, and I assisted them through it. They were all about it and so excited to dive in. They bought a juicer and opened up their kitchen and their hearts to me and completed 7 days of raw foods and juicing! It's moments like these that I just LOVE my life! Helping others to better their health and showing them how it can be easy and possible, then to see the joy and good feeling it brought to them, just melts my heart. I wish I could do it every week for different people, helping them improve whatever aspect needs improving in their diets. Perhaps soon....Speaking of improving your diet and inspiration.....

I don't know where I've been, but I was recently turned on to the lovely and inspiring Kris Carr, of Crazy Sexy Life and even more-so of Crazy Sexy Cancer. (featured in this months VegNews) This gal beat a rare form of stage 4 cancer, and tells her prickly, heroic, painful and cancer-embracing tale in a movie documenting the whole scenic route along her way. Now she has put out a book called Crazy Sexy Diet! It sounds so dear and so fun and life-changing, I ordered mine yesterday! She's already number 1 on Amazon! So awesome! Through yoga, green juices every day, cutting out starches and sugars, eating only what could be harvested from a garden pretty much, and A LOT of self lovins, she has kept her cancer from growing for (I believe) 8 years now! Just go to her website, watch some vlogs, watch her movie, buy her book.... this woman needs to be in every body's focus right now! It's scary how unhealthy our country is with cancer, autism, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, you name it- they're all increasing every minute! We all need to be educated and share that information with everyone around us!! Like good ol' Ghandi said, Be the change you wish to see in the world! She sure is doing that, I love her :)
So, after all that inspiration just filling up my heart and being, I headed to the farmers market yesterday and bought some beautiful fruits and veggies! YAY! Between my new clients and Kris Carr, I was really feeling like I've been missing my fresh juicing and greens. Thank god for all the beauty and inspiration in our lives!

So, today I sauteed some of those delightful Red Frills Mustard Greens! Wow, so dang delicious and spiiiiiicy! I sauteed some garlic and steamed the greens and then made a pot of creamy polenta with the addition of.... doo doo doo dooooo: Way Fare Foods "We Can't Say it's Sour Cream". They just released this splendid creation in the last month or so, and my friend Jesse who works at Windmill Farms grocery store picked one up for me to try. (thanks Jesse!) I'm always a little apprehensive to try such dairy free concoctions- they might be a weird consistency or color, or just not palatable at all and tasting of wallpaper paste. I tried a straight up spoonful of the stuff and was pleasantly surprised! Before I knew it I was dippin greens in it, dippin crackers in it, and then scooped a whole mess of it into my polenta. Mmmmmm-mmmm! What a yummy and satisfying meal! In the end, a big thumbs up for Way Fare's Sour Cream product, I likey. :)

Earlier in the day, this morning kicked off with a tremendous brekky! My dear dad got me a cast iron double sided griddle for Christmas which I've been dying to try out. Well, today was the day for blueberry pancakes! MMMM! My mom also sent me an entire QUART (love her) of Wisconsin pure Maple syrup. I was all set, just needed a free morning for me and Ian to finally make them. The result was probably the best pancakes I ever made.... sigh. We both had pancake bellies of contentment- I think I ate 4 and Ian 5. If you enjoy making pancakes, I highly suggest the investment of a big griddle. I made them all so fast, you can fit about 5-6 on there at once! Not to mention the great even cooking of the cakes, perfectly cooked through, fluffy and golden brown. I will post my recipe for them soon, they're not to be missed!
Lastly, I had a MOST delightful package come over-nighted and packed with ice.... what could it be???? Gasp!

Shhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! It's the newest secret flavors of Whole Soy & Co's yogurts to be released early this year! Key Lime and Plain UNsweetened. I was so flattered, they sent me the newest flavors to try out and review!! They're the best lil Soy yogurt company ever! Needless to say, they're both superb! The key lime reminded me when I was a wee kid back in the sweltering hot and humid Wisconsin summer nights, and our salvation was popsicles. My dad would always get these "Tropic Pops" with flavors like coconut, pineapple, and I remember a lime one being in there too. The second I tried this key lime yogurt, it was a cooling and refreshing feeling, I could almost smell the sweet Wisconsin summer air. So yep, this is a winner for sure! Smooth and creamy with lil lime bits.... you could almost just pour it in a tart shell and eat it like dessert! The plain I've had for breakfast a few times now, throwing in some blueberries, banana slices, flax oil, hickory nuts and granola. Makes for a fine start of the day! I'm anxious to try it out in a savory dish next, like a mint and scallion yogurt with curried spicy seitan or something. slurp.

What about desserts and the vegan cookbook project? I'm on it, don't you worry. More on that in the next couple days. I'll be bringing you some early ideas for Valentine's Day with recipes #2 & #3 of 52. Just wanted to pipe in about some healthy other foods and things that have been inspiring me. So much juiciness and beauty I must share with you!

Thank you so much, if you are reading here, I'm grateful to have any readers at all as I share and spill open along the way. Much health and love to you! xoxo

Friday, January 7, 2011

Recipe #1 [Cranberry Orange Scones]

It's the first week of January, so that means my grand idea of making a cookbook commences! (Oh, it's on, people!) One recipe a week for all of 2011. Hopefully, if all goes accordingly and swimmingly, I'll have a solid 52 more recipes under my belt to put in a cookbook as 2012 commences. Oh my, that is if we don't all go hurdling out of orbit and disintegrate, or whatevers supposed to happen in 2012.... anyway, in the meantime....

This week I chose to bake some scones. Honestly and oddly, I've never baked a scone in my life! Over the years I've watched my sister joyfully inhale all sorts of different varieties of the scrumptious looking numbers; they're one of her favorites whenever we go to a café for breakfast. Blueberry, lemon-poppyseed, currant, strawberry, the list goes on.... I, of course, being vegan, haven't had a scone in about 11 years! I've not ever seen a vegan scone for sale, but I can imagine if I did, it might taste pretty horrid. The first place I waited tables at was a gourmet cafe and deli in Wisconsin and they sold a scrumptious whole wheat cinnamon scone that I loved with my morning coffee. I went vegan the following year, and I've just never entertained the idea of converting the delightful pastry into a vegan version. Until now.....

From what I've gathered over the years from either watching my sister enjoy scones, or eyeballing them for sale in pastry cases, scones can be quite delicious: if executed perfectly, they are airy and light with the perfect crumb. They can also fail miserably from being overworked and be dense and dessicated, or with the wrong ingredients be spongy and despicable and should downright not even be called a scone anymore! They're pretty darn close to the biscuit family, and depending on which recipe you're making, they're meant to be enjoyed simply on their own with no fancy toppings required. Unless of course you like a little clotted cream, or butter and raspberry jam as some British do, and they seem to be quite militant about their scones (or skons, or scoons). Such details to be considered are: to add sugar or not? dare you make them sweet or even add berries? simple bicarbonate or cream of tartar? self rising flour or all purpose? perhaps even the addition of lard! (gasp!)

Never mind the ingredients, what about the process? When handling the dough you almost treat it like you're making a pie crust- and we all know how tricky that can be. I think this is what makes a true scone win or fail. Keeping the ingredients good and cold and not overworking the dough AT ALL are the two most important factors I think. That's what I gleaned in my scone research and development anyway, and I would agree. I chose to indeed add sugar, with the idea of a slightly sweet breakfast scone. I wanted to use citrus and cranberries, since it's the season for such fruits and no local berries are to be had in the dead of January, not even here in San Diego. Here's my result....

Cranberry Orange Scones (yields about 12)

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup cane sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
3/4 cup Earth Balance buttery sticks or spread
1 cup soymilk
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
Additional sugar to sprinkle on tops before baking (optional)

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, orange zest, and salt and put it in the freezer to get chilly. Then measure out the fat (Earth Balance) and put it too in the freezer. Meanwhile add the orange juice and lemon juice to soymilk (instant sour buttermilk!) and allow that to sit. Then, almost like you're in a hurry, remove ingredients from freezer and cut the fat into the flour mix with a pastry cutter. Some people say to rub the fat and flour in between your hands, but I think that would make it too warm- defeating the chilling process. When there are no longer large clumps of fat, pour in the soymilk-"buttermilk" and vanilla extract, then (important!) just lightly stir until combined. (The dough will look kinda shaggy and undermixed, but resist the urge to stir and knead the hell out of it- it's not bread and you do not want developed gluten.)
Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and spread it out (using floured hands) to about an inch high into a large round or rectangular shape. At this point I pushed the cranberries into the dough. I didn't want them to be on the outside so they'd get all tough or burn and be awful in the mouth. Also, you can monitor their distribution this way. Using a round biscuit type cutter, pastry cutter or knife (whatever you use, flour it well between cuttings), begin cutting your shapes. I just shaped the dough into a rectangle and cut a dozen triangles. You could also shape it into a circle and cut triangles like a pie. There's many different ways of obtaining your desired shape, but triangles and rounds seems to be the most traditional. Swiftly place them onto a parchment lined baking tray, and if you like, sprinkle the tops with additional sugar. Bake in a 425º oven for 15-20 minutes. My unpredictable oven tends to playfully fluctuate when I'm trying to bake, so I have to keep a close eye on whats happening in the oven. After about 15 minutes I lifted a scone and peeked at the underbelly to check for browning, but they needed a little longer. At about 19 minutes, the ridges were kissed with a beautiful golden hue and the tops had a delightful crust from the sugar sprinkled on top. Success!

As I stated above, it's been 11 years since I consumed a "regular" scone, but I must say this vegan version came out prettyyyyy pretty delish and I'm very excited about it! What they say is true also, they are BEST right out of the oven. My sweetie, Ian, who is also an established baker but of the butter and egg variety, admitted these scones were impressively like the real thing and he greatly approved! YAY! Recipe #1 is a success! I'm looking forward to doing another flavor... any ideas? Perhaps in the spring I'll try a blueberry meyer lemon scone, mmmmmm. Or even a savory onion & herb scone to accompany soup! The possibilities are endless.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

and the winner is.......


That's right friends, yours truly won in the cake category for the Earth Balance Bake-off!

I honestly can't believe it. I had my hopes up of course, but was truly surprised I actually won! It's quite the good opening of the new year, which by the way, Happy New Year!!!! I hope you had a delightful ringing in of 2011!

I'm feeling quite great about this year, not sure why really, but I like it! I have many projects planned and things to accomplish, and I think this will be a great year to do all of the above.
How cool is it that I just decided to do a vegan cook/bake book, and now I win this great Whole Foods gift card and oodles of Earth Balance?!? It's like a sponsor from the universe! Which brings me to my next statement, THANK YOU EARTH BALANCE!!!! I'm very excited to get into the cookbook venture and this will help me out huge! It's hard enough just gettin by, and on top of it save extra money to spend on baking and everything that goes along with it....I'll tell ya these extra lootcakes will be very helpful!

So..... 2011 cookbook/blogging plan is this (but not restricted to): one new baking recipe created, tested and photographed every week for the next year. (52 weeks = 52 recipes) I'm definitely open to suggestions, as I'm not even sure which 52 things I'll be baking. I'd like to touch upon all different sweets across the board.... breakfast-y items (cinnamon rolls, muffins, french toast), and of course cakes, cookies, bars, pies, tarts.... Featuring great seasonal fruits from the farmers market will be very fun too! I think doing the span of a year will be really cool, as I'll get to try the fruits of a whole year, grown right here in Southern California. F U N!!! It's a good excuse to never miss a week of marketing. Hmmmm..... I'm already getting so many ideas!!! It's going to be very fun, and I'm excited to share my process and path on this blog with you.

Before wrapping up here, I must include the link to my lil winning Pumpkin Cupcakes!

Cheers everyone! Thank you so much for reading and joining me here :)
I think it's still okay to hear this song once more, it's one of my holiday favorites. Have a great weekend, and again, Happy New Year! woooooooohooooooooooooo (add your own visual of confetti and noisemakers here)