Monday, February 21, 2011


That was the theme for my newest contest I entered, put on by Choose Cherries. A delightful website dedicated to the pure, sweet delight of the perfection of foods- the cherry.

It's one of my favorite fruits for sure, up there with ripe apricots, fresh figs, peaches, the list could go on and on.... but cherries! My god, I love when that red tented stall at the farmers market FINALLY has the mirage-like display of mounds and mounds of yellow rainiers and tart sweet juicy red cherries. I can't wait!
This is what I feel like in summer.... :)

This contest is a neat one, as they're trying to encourage cherry usage in the off season. Requirement is to use tart cherries in frozen, dried or juice form. I chose dried, and jam form. I made a tart cherry, wild rice and quinoa salad with a cherry-balsamic vinaigrette. Let me tell you- it's heavenly! I put it on top of spicy arugula, and the combination was divine. Spicy arugula, crunchy toasty almonds, sweet tart cherries, zingy vinaigrette- yummy!

I've been feeding on it all week.
Since the recipe isn't viewable online yet, here it is- very simple to make and keeps well in the frig all week. I hope you enjoy it!

Tart Cherry, Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad

with Cherry-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tart Cherry, Quinoa, and Wild Rice Salad:

½ cup Wild Rice

1 ½ cup Water, or Vegetable Stock

½ tsp. Sea Salt

1 cup Quinoa

1 ¾ cup Water, or Vegetable Stock

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1 cup Dried Tart Cherries

¾ cup Slivered Almonds, Toasted

2 T. Parsley, Chopped Finely

2 T. Scallions, Thinly Sliced (about 2-3 scallions)

Arugula, enough for plating salad

Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1 Small Clove Garlic, finely minced

2 T. Lemon Juice

¼ cup Olive Oil

2 T. Balsamic Vinegar

1 T. Tart Cherry Jam

1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

¼ tsp. Sea Salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

  1. Start by cooking the wild rice and quinoa in two separate small pots. Bring the water or vegetable stock to a boil, add salt and grains and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and keep at a low simmer and cover. The wild rice will take 55-60 minutes to cook, and quinoa will take 25 minutes. Once finished cooking, leave them covered for another 5-10 minutes to steam, then combine the wild rice and quinoa in a large bowl to cool.

  2. Add to the large bowl the cherries, almonds, parsley, and scallions. Toss the mixture together to thoroughly combine. Season the mixture to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

  3. To make the vinaigrette whisk all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

  4. To plate the salad, in a bowl or on a plate, place a layer of arugula leaves. Put cherry quinoa salad on top, and drizzle with the cherry balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peaches and Pomegranates

Well, it's been another busy week.....

Need I say more?!? My sister and my lil cutest peach of a nephew- Duncan- came to visit me! He's 3 months old this week, and has the best smile ever. He dipped his toes in the ocean for the first time, went to hot springs, laid naked in the California sun (they're from Wisconsin- 7 foot snow drifts right now!), and met so many new people, most importantly his Aunty Mickey!! :D
It was so wonderful spending the week with them, and I sure miss them already, but alas....
the baking must go on! I recently got wind of another baking contest, this time for POM pomegranate juice. The theme was Valentine's Day Cupcakes for American Heart Month, using pomegranate juice in some way. I baked, submitted, and the voting has begun. Voting goes until February 28th and the winner gets $300 and a bunch of POM juices. We shall see....

As I said on my facebook page tonight, I'm not sure if I have a snowballs chance in hell of winning, some peeps have almost 300 votes already and I'm at 45, but it sure was a fun challenge, yet again. I think I'm onto something with this cookbook challenge meets baking contests. They sort of fuel one another! I just found another one tonight (not baking themed though) involving dried cherries or cherry juice from the people at Choose Cherries. I suppose I could make a dessert, but right away I thought of a delightful quinoa salad. Besides, I'm sure they will have a ton of dessert entries. Very fun.....

So for my POM cupcake contest, here's what I produced-

POM Sweet Tarts! A vanilla bean-pomegranate cupcake, with Mocha Frosting and a pomegranate vanilla reduction drizzled on the top. They came out pretty darn tasty. I was a bit thrown off by the color of the cake, as when I made the batter, it was a delightful petal pink- exactly what I was shooting for!

When they were all done baking, they were sort of a muted lavender grey brown color. :(
I was going to redo them entirely, but they had such great zing and flavor from the POM, I kept them anyway. Besides, they were topped with fluffy mocha dreaminess, who cares what color the cake is! To top it off (pun intended) I added pomegranate-vanilla bean reduction and since something Valentines was still lacking, I made some little hearts at the last minute. Which, in my opinion, make the lil numbers complete.

It was hard to decide which one to submit, they were all so cute! (cupcake porn ensuing)

That's all for this week, please vote for me if you're reading this! I'll post results in March, if they're worth posting.... :) Thank you!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hop to it!

It's that time of year again, when you see the girl scout cookies being sold all around you. I was never a girl scout myself, neither was my sister, nor were any of my friends girl scouts. So I grew up not knowing what the deal was with the famed girl scout cookies. My parents never bought them either, so again, no idea. My dad DID, however, have a sweet tooth and often bought Keeblers Grasshopper cookies, which I LOVED! Same cookie basically,
but with a different name.

I adored the chocolate-mint combination (and still do), the crunchy and minty wafer cookie enrobed in chocolate. I could devour over a dozen in a sitting! I remember in the winter after school sitting in front of the heat register and patiently melting the chocolate on the outside, licking it off and then eating the cookie, all with a big glass of milk. :) Alas, after I went vegan I never gave them a thought again... similar to many things I suppose, like I said about the scones too. I'm really happy this vegan cookbook project has come about, as I get to revisit and recreate my old favorite pastries and other baked goodies! hmmm, what else...... :)

The result, I am pleased to say, came out quite convincing! I would like the texture to perhaps be a touch crunchier and more wafer cookie-like, but they aren't disagreeable by any means! I would do a second batch and change up some ratios a little, maybe roll them a little thinner, and bake perhaps for another minute. If I did any number of those things, I think a crunchier wafer cookie would ensue. I did get pretty rave reviews about them from friends and my sis (who is visiting me this week with my new nephew! yay!). All said they were great and couldn't stop eating them. I, too, can't stop eating them! They are sadly, nearly gone!

Wafer cookies are quite similar to most other cookies. Flour, sugar, butter, salt, cocoa powder, vanilla and mint, and an egg. I generally don't use egg replacer in my baked goods, but I made an exception this time since I've never made wafers before. The texture is a funny one to nail, it's a fine line between crunchy and chewy. There are also different variations in the way you can produce the cookies- the log/slice method, or the cut-out method. I don't really care for the log, as for one, you can get kinda odd shaped "rounds" and also you don't get those cute little scalloped edges! I wanted scalloped edges. Thus, I did cut-outs. Put the dough in the frig for an hour or so to chill, then roll super thin and cut out yer lil rounds. Bake only for 10 or 11 minutes, cool, dip in chocolate and voila! Homemade vegan hoppers :)