Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crockpot Classic: Beef Stew

I've had beef stew maybe twice in my life (that I can recall). Once was at a really good Irish Pub, the other was last weekend in a coffee shop. It was so good I decided I had to make it on my own.

I've also recently been obsessed with barely, so much that right after sampling the stew I went to the local health food store and bought a bunch from a bin for $1.

Fortunately I had about 7 beef stew recipes in a binder at home. I opted for a slow cooker recipe because I'm lazy and I like the idea of coming home and having dinner ready and waiting for me. Since I live alone, and my cats refuse to cook, this is my only option (unless Mr. Snowgoose happens to be in town).

The recipe was crazy simple and I actually had most of the indridients. I was a little nervous about buying beef stew meat, mostly because I never buy beef and cook it, and had no idea what to look for. But Whole Foods solved that problem for me. Sure enough in the packaged meat section there was one labeled "stew meat: beef." Bingo!


Beef and Barley Soup (ripped out of a health food magazine, but almost all the recipes looked the same)

Ingridients

1 tablespoon cooking oil
12 ounces beef or lamb stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 14 ounce cans of lower sodium beef broth
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon dried oregeno or basil, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, green beans, lima beans, carrots)
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup parsnip or potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices or cubes



2/3 cup quick cooking barley

Now I used everything but the celery, parsnip, and bay leaf. I actually used 2 28 oz containers of beef broth, but bullion cubes probably would have worked. I added an extra cup of mixed veggies and used a whole cup of barley.

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add meat and cook and stie until meat is browned. Drain off fat.


2. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine meat and remaining ingridients. Cover and cook over a low setting for 8-10 hours or a high setting for 4-5 hours.

Serves 8




Calories: 168
Fat: 4 g
Fiber: 3 g

Notes:
1. I had no idea what kind of barley I bought bought and it was fine.

2. This would make an excellent vegetarian stew, just sub in veg broth for the beef, and omit the actual beef. I would add in several more cups of mixed veggies, tomatoes, and potatoes, and another half cup of barley.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vegan Cupcakes Just Took Over This Blog Part 4: Tiramisu Cupcakes, aka Butter and Booze Cupcakes

Last weekend I was in the Midwest visiting my friend Butter and her husband. I had wanted to bake a hostess gift (ie cupcakes), but Butter requested that I wait so that we could bake together.

So I packed my trusty Vegan Cupcake Book and let Butter choose the poison. After much debate, she chose the Tiramisu Cupcake because who doesn't like a little booze with their dessert?

We had to make a special trip to the local market to pick up some of the ingredients and Mr. Butter put his foot down and vetoed the vegan cream cheese that would become the vegan cream cheese icing. Instead we used regular cream cheese.

We also had to make a special trip to the liquor store to buy Kaluha.

We started the cupcakes around 5. You would think that making the cupcakes would be a breeze with two cooks, but no. These are fairly complicated cupcakes. So complicated that we took a long break between the baking and the icing of the cupcakes to go get pizza.

Tiramisu Cupcakes from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World"

Ingredients:

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup non hydrogenated margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes:
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup non hydrogentated margarine, softened, or 1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, caramel extract, or more vanilla extract

1/3 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/3 cup Kaluha or other coffee flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 chocolate covered coffee beans or 12 chocolate chips or 12 coffee beans

Cupcake directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners
2. Whisk the soy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.
Note: Butter was extremely grossed out by this part.
3. If using margarine: sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt into a large bowl and mix.
4. In a separate large bowl, use a handheld mixer at a medium speed to cream the margarine and sugar for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla and other extract, then alternate beating in the soy milk mixture and the dry ingredients, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.




5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake 20 to 22 minutes until done. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.



The next step (where things start to get crazy):
1. Mix together the espresso and Kahlua.


2. Use a measuring spoon, a regular spoon, or a paring knife to carve out a small cone in the center of the cupcake. Place spoon about 1 inch form center of the cupcake, then dig the spoon about 1 inch deep and cut a circle around the center. Carefully scoop out a cone, trying your best to keep the chunk as intact as possible.

3. Use a spoon to pour the Kahlua mixture into the cavity of the cupcake, making sure that all sides of the cavity are drenched, using up to 2 tablespoons of liquid per cupcake. Scoop out 2 Tablespoons of vegan cream cheese frosting into the cavity and smooth over with the back of a spoon (Make sure to reserve a few tablespoons of frosting to dollop on top of cupcake).
Dip the bottom of the cut-out chunk into the Kahlua mixture, but keep the top part dry. Place the cut out chunk on top of frosting and gently pat into place. Continue the process with the remaining cupcakes.


4. Place the chocolate and cinnamon in a small strainer and dust all of the cupcakes. Dollop a small amount of frosting on top and place a chocolate chip or espresso bean on the dollop. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.




Notes:
1. We wound up with extra Kalhua and coffee mix, so before the frosting on top part, we poured a bit more onto the cupcakes.
2. Also, I cut the cavities too large and we ran out of frosting. This is the first time I've run out of frosting making cupcakes. Make a match and a half of frosting so you have enough.
3. We didn't use a strainer to sprinkle cinnamon and chocolate on top. We did our own thing and just shook it on from the canisters.
4. These cupcakes are messing. The book recommends you serve it with a dessert fork. I vote you just eat it over the sink.
5. We made a double recipe because Butter didn't think 12 would be enough. These cupcakes turn out so big and rich and gooey, 12 is definitely enough.
6. When traveling with cupcakes, cookie tins make nice carriers, but it still may confuse the airport security on the x-ray machine.
7. We used chocolate covered cranberries on top of the cupcakes.
8. This was my first time using a real kitchen aid mixer (it was over 100 years old) and a flour sifter.

I had fun making these, and even more fun eating them (especially for breakfast with a cup of coffee). Will I make them again? Probably not. Well maybe if I was trying to impress someone with my baking skills. The cupcakes might not look pretty, but they taste divine.

Pictures to follow shortly.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Vegan Cupcakes Just Took Over This Blog Part 3: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

A few weeks ago a coworker/friend had a "happy hour housewarming" gathering in her new condo. The vgeans, vegetarians, and carnivores in attendance demanded I bring vegan cupcakes. I flipped through my book in search of a good "fall" cupcake. I found some maple ones that looked yummy, but apple cider cupcakes called my name.

Procratinator that I am, waited until the day before the gathering to bother to look to see if I had the ingridients. I didn't.

Apparently, these are crazy ingridient cupcakes and my pantry was lacking agar flakes, whole cloves, whole allspice, apple cider, and apple butter. I was too lazy to run down the hill to Whole Foods, so I flipped through the book again and settled on pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes as I randomly had both a can of pumpkin and a bag of vegan chocolate chips in my pantry.

Here goes: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes form the "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

cinnamon icing:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 tablespoon soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl, stor together pumpkin, oil, sugar, soy milk, and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt. Stir together with a fork. Don't use a handheld mixer as it will make the batter gummy. Once well combined, fold in chocolate chips.
3. Fill liners 2/3 ful. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes. Transfer tow ire rack and let fully cool before icing.

Icing Directions:

1. Place sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the margerine, soy milk, and vanilla and stir with a fork until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to use. The mixture should look opaque abd honey brown.
2. To assemble, take a small plastic sandwich bag and cut out a tiny hole in one edge or fit a pastry bag with a small-holed decorating tip. Fill the bag with the icing and pipe it out Jackson-Pollack-style onto the cupcakes. Let the icing set at room temperature or refridgerate it.
Notes:

If you notice, the cupcakes look identical to the chocolate chip-pumpkin muffins that won the bakeoff last month. This led me to wonder: What is the difference between a cupcake and a muffin?

The cupcakes were really easy to make and looked like the muffins. I tried their suggestion to pipe the icing on the cupcake with a sandwich bag, but it was a disaster. The icing was too runny and more of a glaze. But it was delicious. And all my coworkers loved them.