Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Vegan Cupcakes Just Took Over This Blog Part 5: S'mores

You're probably thinking,another cupcake post? Is this becoming a cupcake blog?

I promise you this is not turning into a cupcake blog, but I'm trying to keep up with demand of birthdays and special occasions. Apparently January is a popular birth month (mine is in a week!). This means cupcakes!

In honor of two co-worker's birthdays this weekend, I made S'more cupcakes from the "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" book I so love and cherish.

PS to Mrs. Butter: there is no apple cider vinegar in this!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

For the topping:
6 graham cracker rectangles, broken in half
extra graham cracker crums

vegan buttercream frosting

1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffn pan with cupcake liners.

2. Mix the brown sugar, oil, molasses, yogurt, soy milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.



3. Sift the flour, baking powder, bking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a sperate bowl and mix. Add the graham cracker crumbs and mix it up.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, mixing well after each addition.

5. Fill cupcake liners full. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before decorating.



To assemble the topping:

1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla and soy milk, beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

2. Spread a thick layer of frosting onto each cupcake. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over the frosting. Drizzle with ganache or sprinkle with shaved chocolate and stick a graham cracker square onto each cupcake.



Cook's Thoughts:

1. Now it's been like 20 years since I was a girl scout, but I'm pretty sure S'mores have marshmallows in them. It's what makes it gooey and good. So why aren't there any marshmallows? Are they not vegan? Aren't they just sugar? Instead of a graham cracker square on top, there should totally be a marshmallow, even a baby one.

2. I didn't have any chocolate to shave or to melt to make a ganache. Instead I sprinkled cocoa powder along with the graham cracker crumbs on top of the frosting.

3. There should have been chocolate chips in the batter to melt inside the cupcake. You know, like a REAL s'more.

4. A coworker noted that they tasted like gingerbread cupcakes.

5. Molasses= gross. I've never used it before and the smell repulsed me. I would have rather had the apple cider vinegar/ soymilk smell than this. Yuck.

Despite all this, they tasted good, but I'm not making them again. Not unless someone begged and provided compensation. The mint chocolate ones are so much better.




Cougar and her cupcakes

Crockpot Lasagana

I love lasagna (actually I love all pasta, I'm an equal-oppertunity pasta consumer) and I love my crockpot. I've been dreaming about the two merging and coming up with something glorious.

I guess Real Simple Magazine heard my pleas, because in the January issue there is a recipe for "slow-cooker lasagna."

Lasagna is a slow cooking food anyways. It takes at least 45 minutes in the oven (if not more). This recipe promises to have it ready in 2 hours, 25 minutes.

I wanted to try this recipe out for a special occasion. It was my friend Cougar's birthday, so I opted to have a small dinner party in her honor. The recipe claims to serve 6, so I purposly only had Cougar and another friend over because I was convinced we wouldn't have enough food.

Because we were going to see a movie and then have dinner, I threw everything in the crockpot and set it on the lowest setting and let it cook for 3 hours. We came home to a house that smelled delicious.


Ingridients:
2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
3 garlic cloves fibely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper
16 ounces fresh ricotta
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsely, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
12 ounces dry lasagna noodles
1 bunch Swiss Chard, tough stems removed and torn into large pieces
12 ounces mozzarella, grated


Now before I start in with the directions, let me tell you how difficult these ingridients actually are. The first grocery store I went to had two types of parsely: curled and uncurled. I assumed the uncurled was really flat leaf.

That grocery store did not have swiss chard. There had been some debate between my friends and I on if I should include the swiss chard. I don't like it, I had a bad experience with it, but Cougar (who likes her veggies hidden in food) wanted to try it. The second grocery store I went to had two types of chard: red and green. I felt like the swiss chard I'd had and hated was red, so that's what I bought.

Oh, and no one had fresh oregano. I bought one of those fresh spice in a tube things.

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.




In another medium bowl, combine the ricotta, parsley, Parmesan, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.



Spoon 1/3 cup of the tomato mixture into the bowl of a slow cooke. Top with a single layer of noodles, breaking them to fit as necessary.



Add half the swiss chard. Dollop with a third of the remaining tomato mixture. Sprinkle with a third of the mozzerella. Add another layer of noodles and repeat with all the other ingridients. Finish with a layer of noodles and the remaining ricotta mixture, tomato mixture, and mozzerella.



Set the slow cooker to low and cook, covered, until the noodles are tender, 2 hours

Cook's thoughts:
1. Leave out the swiss chard (unless of course you totally love it and won't mind that some bits will be cooked and soggy and other bits will be bitter and tough). I don't see why we couldn't have used spinach, or even left the veggies out.

2. Use the no boil noodles.

3. I didn't like the chunky tomato consistancy. I like my sauces smooth. Next time I'd use regular jar sauce.

4. It was really hard spreading the ricotta on the swiss chard. It might have worked better if the layers were noodle, cheese, chard, tomato, cheese.

5. I had a square crock pot and the noodles fit pretty well. It really does serve six. This is a tall lasagna.

It wasn't bad, but most of us kind of ate around the chard. I have leftovers and I won't mind eating it for the next three days as long as I can pick out the chard.

I'd say the crockpot lasagna was a moderate success.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cheese and Tofu Stuffed Shells

When I was a kid, my mom occasionally made stuffed shells. I remember helping her mix the cheeses to stuff inside. Oh, how I adored these cheesy pasta goodness!

But I haven't had them in years. Actually that's a lie, I had them once in Healthy Choice frozen dinner.

I bought a replacement "Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook" because my old mass market paperback one fell into a sink full of dirty dish water (don't ask). This new one actually has more recipes and photos! So during my first read through of the cookbook I stumbled on the stuffed shells.

It looked easy enough.

Ingredients:
12 jumbo pasta shells
1/4 cup shredded carrot (1 small)
2 tablespoons sliced green onion (1)
2 ta8 ounces tofu, drained
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 beaten egg white
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes, cut up (or just buy it already diced)
1/2 of a 6-ounce can (1/3 cup) tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a saucepan cook carrot and green onion in a small amount of water until tender; drain.



2. For filling, in a medium mixing bowl mash tofu with a fork. Stir in carrot-onion mixture, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, the egg white, salt, and pepper. Set aside.



3. For sauce, in a saucepan combine undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, sugar, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.




4. Stuff each cooked shell with about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling. Place shells in an ungreased 2-quart square baking dish.





5. Pour sauce over shells and baked, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until heated through.




Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.



Makes 4 main dish servings
349 calories
15 g total fat
3 g fiber
25 g protein

Notes:

1. I had to go to two stores to find the shells. Of course when I got home and started to make the shells I realized I forgot the tofu. So my "cheese and tofu stuffed shells" are actually just cheese stuffed shells.

2. Whomever created this recipe had the math skills of a cat. Seriously. There's at least 24 pasta shells in a box. Plus, what am I going to do with the remaining ricotta and tomato paste? It makes more sense to double it. Besides, once your dinner guests discover how great these are, they'll want seconds. And I'm sorry but 3 shells is a serving? What is this, Jenny Craig?

3. But they turned out really well. So well I ate all 24 over the course of two days. As much as I love them, they were a pain and a but to make, and I can't resist them.

4. Oh, and the carrot and onion- what was that about? Leave them out, trust me. Vegetables have no business in the stuffed shells. None. So if you really want veggies heat up some frozen broccoli or make a salad, but leave the carrots out!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Maggie's Onion Eggplant Soup

Awhile ago my friend Maggie passed on a few recipes to me, including this one for Onion Eggplant Soup.

I had the recipe with me when I went to buy the ingredients, but after that it was lost (until it popped up in my planner today), so I had to play it by ear and guess for part of the recipe.

Here is the original:

Ingredients

2 small zucchini or yellow squash
5 cups water or more
4 large onions cut into rings
1 medium eggplant peeled and chopped
1 6oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
1 can beef broth (or use bouillon cubes)
1 t basil
1 clove garlic minced
1 t olive or vegetable oil
1 t sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut up all vegetables and combine with other ingredients. This can be cooked in a slow cooker or on the stove (takes an hour or so)

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese when serving.

How I remembered it:


2 small yellow squash
some water
3 onions, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped (I left the skin on! Oh no!)



1 6oz can tomato paste
1 can beef broth
Italian seasoning
lots of minced garlic
olive oil (to saute onion first)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Freak out that you misplaced original recipe
2. Decide that four onions are too may and chop three. Use onion chopper and squirt onion juice in eye so that temporary blindness occurs.
3. Saute onions and squash in olive oil. Add garlic.



4. Dump eggplant in, followed by a can of broth. Realize there is not enough liquid, so continue to fill pot up with water.



5. Add tomato paste and stir.
6. Add seasoning.
7. Taste soup and decide it is too bland. Dump in a mountain of cayenne pepper.
8. Let it simmer for awhile.
9. Add lots of Parmesan cheese to soup when served.




Notes:

As you can see my soup and Maggie's are nothing alike. You could vegan/ vegetarianize these by replacing the beef broth with veggie broth.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Crock Pot Concoction # 1 or Super Easy, Nothing Fancy HAPPY NEW YEAR Winter Crock Pot Recipe # 1

In an effort to stop spending so much money in 2008, I am going Crock Pot crazy for the winter...I often read Crock Pot cookbooks and use their recipes but I wanted to try an "off the cuff" version of my own.

Last night, I made an amazing, comforting-on-a-cold-day, SUPER EASY Crock Pot concoction! I thought it would turn out to be more of a "hearty soup" or "stew" but it came out more like a pasta dish with a nice sauce in the end...so outcomes may vary.

Ingredients:

*vegetables -- carrots; tomatoes; broccoli; onions; dulse*..whatever else you want to throw in would probably work out great too!..the vegetables were frozen and pre-cut..making this recipe even easier

*chicken broth (I used organic but use whatever you prefer)

*chicken patties cut into small bits

*crock pot seasoning for beef or chicken..bought at local supermarket....or you could throw in a bunch of your own spices that you have handy with some flour....but for SUPER EASY just buy the crock pot spice packet..and the spice packet will give this recipe a better consistency

*bowtie pasta (or whatever shaped pasta that you have on hand that would be suitable for a pasta dish with sauce..not spaghetti though)

*add all ingredients to the crock pot!

cook for 4 hours on high..add bowtie pasta 30 mins before your 4 hours are up....I added them the last 45 mins and they were overdone...but again check on them after 30 mins.

Eat over more pasta or rice or solo! Could also be an appetizer. I also added some salt and pepper to the mix however the dulse offers a lot of natural salt flavor.

Serve with salad and a nice loaf of fresh bread and olive oil!

Warning: try dulse* before you use it..it's definately an aquired taste and not for everyone...after visiting a friend in Canada who LOVES it --I snacked on it for the rest of the winter and still like it when I want something healthy but salty!

For more dulse info visit:

http://www.grandmanannb.com/dulse.htm

http://www.healthrecipes.com/health_dulse.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmaria_palmata


Will post picture soon!

HAPPY COOKING!