June, 2012

  1. sweet potato casserole

    June 29, 2012 by Angie

    This week’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is gluten-free. I couldn’t find xanthan gum anywhere so I decided to make a sweet potato casserole, which, aside from the flour in the topping, is already gluten-free. Then I looked for sorghum flour and/or vegan marshmallows to make a gluten-free crumble topping or to just top with marshmallows but failed at finding those things as well. I couldn’t live without the brown sugar and nut (and white flour) topping, so my baked good this week is technically not gluten-free. However, if you live somewhere with well-stocked natural food stores or are not concerned about gelatiny marshmallows, you could easily follow the recipe I used and not consume even a teeny, tiny drop of gluten.

    It seems every vegan south of the Mason-Dixon line has blogged a version of this sweet potato casserole and mine isn’t much different so I won’t bother writing it out here. I followed this one from Oh She Glows pretty closely but was originally intending to use sorghum flour as suggested on Gluten-Free Dreaming. Oh She Glows adapted her recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen so I think she deserves a mention here too.

    Here’s the base before adding the topping. I made a couple of changes to this part. I used just 3 tablespoons of maple syrup as suggested by Oh She Glows. I accidentally put the 1/4 cup margarine intended for the topping into the sweet potato mixture so it has 2 tablespoons of extra margarine, oops. I honestly can’t tell so no big deal. Next time I’ll use less nutmeg. I think it overpowers the other flavors a bit. I think I will also use more maple syrup, maybe 4 tablespoons. I was trying to be good and cut down the sugar but this is a family gathering type of dish so no reasonable person is going to sit down and eat the whole thing anyway.

    The only change I made for the topping was cashew halves instead of the optional pecans.

    After sprinkling on the topping, it hung out in the oven for 50 minutes.

    I didn’t have the highest hopes for this but I was totally impressed with it. It’s great. The topping really makes this dish. The marshmallow people don’t know what they’re missing.

    This recipe is a good deal healthier (A LOT less sugar and fat) than the one I grew up eating and, while I will admit it’s not quite as good, it also just tastes different. With the vegan ingredients and drastic reduction in sugar, they’re so different that it almost doesn’t make sense to compare them. I’m still looking forward to eating a (moderately-sized) piece of Mom’s deliciously sweet and creamy sweet potato casserole this Thanksgiving. If you don’t eat eggs or evaporated milk though (or are lacking a Southern matriarch), this recipe is the next best thing.


  2. bbq tofu & vegetables

    June 28, 2012 by Angie

    Up until this week, I had only tried to make BBQ tofu once and was not successful. My friend and I marinated the tofu in BBQ sauce and wrapped it in a packet of aluminum foil and put it on the grill.  It didn’t go as planned and all the delicious BBQ-saucey edges stuck to the aluminum foil. It was very sad for us. I am happy to report that I tried an oven-baked method for Tuesday night’s dinner and it was a shining success. Robbie really liked it so this recipe is officially part of the easy dinner rotation now. I used a store-bought BBQ sauce but I hope to make my own soon when I have time to plan ahead.

    Adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

    Ingredients

    14 oz package extra firm tofu
    1 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce (We went with Stubb’s Original and really liked it. It has the least sugar of all the BBQ sauces available at our grocery store.)
    2 medium zucchini
    1 bell pepper
    Half of a red onion

    Instructions

    1. Lightly oil a large glass pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

    2. Press and drain the tofu using your preferred method.

    3. Cut the pressed tofu into one inch squares. Put the tofu in a bowl and gently mix it with half of the BBQ sauce. Move the saucy tofu to the pan and bake for 15 minutes.

    4. While the tofu is baking, wash and chop the vegetables into cubes. Place them in the bowl. Feel free to use additional or other vegetables, obviously. I think yellow squash and cherry tomatoes would be great, maybe pineapple, or even button mushrooms if you are into that sort of thing (blurgh, fungus).

    5. After 15 minutes of baking, turn the tofu over in the pan and bake for another 15 minutes.

    6. Pour the rest of the BBQ sauce onto the vegetables in the bowl.

    7. When the second 15 minutes are up, add the vegetables and the rest of the sauce left in the bowl to the pan and stir everything around a bit. Bake for 15 more minutes.

    8. Serve it up, preferably with grilled corn on the cob!


  3. low-carb vodka collins

    June 26, 2012 by Angie

    It’s time for an adult beverage! Rum and diet coke was my drink of choice for a long time. New information has come to light about the awfulness of some of the ingredients and when I drink a few out at a bar I get a terrible caffeine hangover the next day. I’ll be posting some new favorite low-carb drinks starting with this one.

    Adapted from Low-Carb Tom Collins.

    Ingredients

    shot (or 2) of vodka
    the juice of half a lemon
    agave nectar
    club soda
    lemon slice for garnish

    Directions

    Put two ice cubes in a bar glass. Pour in a shot or two of vodka. I do one and a half shots and you can barely taste the vodka. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add a small drizzle of agave nectar, about a teaspoon to start. Fill the glass with club soda and stir. Garnish with a lemon slice. Add more agave nectar in small increments if it’s too sour for your taste.


  4. single serving coffee cake

    June 21, 2012 by Angie

    This week’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is coffee cake. I love coffee cake but Cute Husband does not. In an effort to not eat an entire pan of coffee cake by myself, I made this single serving version from one of my new favorite blogs, Chocolate-Covered Katie. Extra bonus: it’s relatively healthy coffee cake!

    I went with the white flour and oil options, skipped the walnuts, and doubled the streusel ingredients because, let’s face it, that’s the best part. I baked it in a greased muffin tin, rather than try the microwave, to stay true to the rules of the challenge.

    It’s not the cutest coffee cake I’ve ever seen but it tastes really good. I split it with Robbie and he said “it tastes better than most coffee cakes.” So there you go, a coffee cake snubber likes it, must be pretty awesome.


  5. banana chocolate chip pancakes

    June 19, 2012 by Angie

    I had leftover Bisquick mix (from the cheddar bay biscuits) and a child visitor so I made banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. The mix is vegan and I don’t keep eggs or milk in the house so, with some easy substitutions, the finished pancakes were also vegan. I used unsweetened soy milk and in place of an egg I made a flax “egg” and added a teaspoon of baking soda for leavening. They held together great so the egg wasn’t missed. Aside from those substitutions, I followed the instructions on the box.

    Delicious, vegan, and kid-approved!

    Ingredients

    2 tbs flax meal mixed with 3 tbs water
    2 cups Bisquick mix
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 cup unsweetened soy milk
    2 bananas, sliced
    vegan chocolate chips (Ghirardelli are my favorite.)
    vegetable oil
    maple syrup

    Directions (that you probably don’t need because you’ve made pancakes before.)

    Make your flax egg by combining the flax meal and water in a small bowl.

    In a large bowl, mix the Bisquick, baking soda, soy milk, and the flax egg.

    Get your banana slices and chocolate chips ready on a plate near the stove.

    Coat a pan or griddle with vegetable oil and heat it up.

    Once the pan is hot, scoop 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the griddle. Quickly press the banana slices and chocolate chips into the batter. Flip when they look brown and cook the other side.

    Serve with maple syrup.

    I think you could get at least ten rather large pancakes from this, probably more. I gave up after four pancakes because they were only two of us and I was making the kitchen smoky. I think this is the first time I’ve ever made pancakes. They were really good but I’m still more of a tofu scramble kind of person.


  6. IPA bread

    June 15, 2012 by Angie

    This week’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is alcohol. I already used up the margarita cupcakes recipe on a similar challenge so I made IPA (beer) bread. I followed this recipe from Food.com without much variation but I wrote it up for y’all below anyway. This is the easiest bread recipe I’ve ever seen. There is no kneading…needed. I didn’t sift the flour like the author insisted because frankly I don’t know how and I don’t think I own the right tool. I just spooned the flour into the measuring cup by the tablespoonful and didn’t pack it or level it off and that worked out fine. I also used a cold beer which it said not to do but I don’t think that made a difference either.

    Ingredients

    3 cups flour
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup sugar
    12 ounces of beer (I used a bottle of Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA brought back from our recent trip to Atlanta.)

     Several pats of vegan margarine for the top of the dough

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease your loaf pan.

    2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.

    3. Pour in the bottle of beer.

    4. Stir together but not too much. It’s okay if you can still see some flour in there.

    5. Pour the dough into the greased loaf pan.

    6. Dot the top of the dough with several small pats of margarine or butter.

    7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s a good idea to put a cookie sheet under the loaf pan in case there is overflow.

    We ate the beer bread with lentil and spinach soup. Robbie and our friend who came over for dinner are both IPA drinkers. They really liked the bread. I loved the soft inside but the crust was too bitter for me. If you don’t have a taste for hoppy, bitter beer (like me), I’d recommend using a less intense beer that you enjoy for drinking.

     


  7. roasted vegetables and couscous

    June 14, 2012 by Angie

    Someone made this for a party I went to in 2006 and it was so good that I still remember it. I found what appears to be a very close recipe at one of my new favorite blogs, Budget Bytes. It’s an easy and delicious recipe that packs a ton of vegetables and flavor.

    I used half of a yellow onion, a large zucchini, two yellow squash, an orange bell pepper, five cloves of garlic, and two small tomatoes. Here they are oiled, seasoned, and ready to spend the next 45 minutes roasting in the oven.

    The key to making the couscous is to use vegetable broth, not water like the box instructs. It’s so much better that way. I followed the Budget Bytes recipe almost exactly except that I added some reduced fat feta cheese and parmesan to the finished salad and used dried parsley instead of fresh. The cheese was good in there but the couscous is so flavorful already that it’s not necessary.


  8. Atlanta, GA

    June 13, 2012 by Angie

    This past weekend we made our longest road trip yet to Atlanta – everyone’s favorite Southern megatropolis! We came for a Xiu Xiu concert, to visit friends, and to eat all the food/drink all the drinks. The concert was cancelled at the last minute but we had a great time anyway.

    We stayed at Regency Suites Hotel in Midtown near Piedmont Park. We got an awesome deal through Kayak on a gigantic suite with a kitchen. It’s in a great location just a block from the Midtown MARTA station and near a lot of restaurants and bars.

    Our only complaint about the hotel is that we could hear everything going on in the surrounding rooms and outside. The people in the room across from ours the first night were very loud and kept opening and closing their hotel room door which sounded like our door opening. On the last night, fire engines from the fire station down the street kept Robbie up but we can’t really fault the hotel for that. Overall, we’d recommend this hotel. Huge rooms, great location in a walkable neighborhood, very clean, and free breakfast!

    For Saturday night we were planning on seeing Xiu Xiu at the Earl but since that was cancelled we went out in Little Five Points with long-time best buddy Lindsey who lives in Atlanta. We went to a great brewpub for dinner called the Wrecking Bar. They have a full bar, they brew their own beer, and they have great vegetarian options. Robbie enjoyed the house IPA called Victor IPA. All three of us ordered the seitan veggie gyro and were not disappointed. I wish I had taken a picture. The fries were really good too.

    Next we walked to Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream in the Edgewood shopping plaza. Cute Husband and I were too full/lactose intolerant to get our own ice cream but I had a taste of Lindsey’s and it was quite fancy. It smelled amazing in there. After that we walked back toward Euclid Avenue and stopped at Tijuana Garage for a drink. I had a skinny margarita of some kind. It was pretty tasty and I liked that it was served to me in a little cactus glass. They have a nice deck but we didn’t eat there so I can’t vouch for the food.

    After that we walked to the Porter Beer Bar. They have so many beers! Robbie was in heaven. It’s a really cute place and was quite busy so it seems to be well-loved by many. They also have a full liquor bar and a kitchen so I was happy too. We were still too full to eat but the Belgian fries looked really good.

    The next day we had brunch at Lindsey’s adorable apartment. She made hash browns and baked brie with fancy bread, fruit, and avocado slices. Again, I wish I had taken a picture. It was really a pretty spread. Brunch was delicious and she even had real cloth napkins for us to use! She is way more sophisticated than I could ever hope to be.

    On our way back to our hotel we stopped at Trader Joe’s. We stocked up on inexpensive wine and some non-perishable foods like blueberry bars, almond butter, and gourmet popcorn that cost a lot less there than what we usually pay. That store is so cheap! There were so many things in the cold sections that I coveted but alas it was not meant to be. The whole time we were shopping I kept thinking how much I wish we had one here. Just looked at their website and a store is opening up in Sarasota soon! Still about an hour away from home but great news!

    We dropped the groceries and car off at the hotel and took a ride on Atlanta’s public transportation system, MARTA, to Downtown Decatur. Cute Husband was impressed with how easy and fast it was. We got from our hotel to the Decatur station in less than half an hour, probably closer to 20 minutes.

    A train at the Midtown station.

    MARTA map

    Robbie waiting for the train with our necessary and giant umbrella.

    We walked around Downtown Decatur then took a little hike to the Thinking Man Tavern. We really loved this place. It’s adorably decorated and they have tons of board games for their customers to play.

    Thinking Man Tavern in Decatur, GA

    Robbie ordered a giant bottle of Moylan’s Hopsicle Imperial Ale billed as “the hoppiest beer on the planet.” I got a Hurricane made with Rogue dark rum. Lindsey met us there and we ate delicious gouda cheese dip while playing Trivial Pursuit.

    Lindsey and Angie enjoying a round at Thinking Man Tavern.

    Next we rode with Lindsey to the Dekalb Farmers Market in horrible flash flood style rain. The Dekalb Farmers Market is an enormous, permanent, warehouse-like structure with every kind of food/ingredient imaginable. We bought some beer and chocolate-covered pistachios and cashews to take home with us. They have an extensive cheese section and bakery and neat things like fresh pasta. Again, I wish we had something like this near our house.

    After the market we made our way to the Brick Store for dinner and drinks. This was a favorite place of mine when I briefly lived in Decatur. Great beer selection for Cute Husband, full bar for me, and awesome veggie burgers, vegetarian sides, pierogies, and soft pretzels for everyone. We weren’t hungry enough to eat anything but the veggie burgers but I remember the soft pretzels and pierogies fondly.

    We got a late start on Monday morning and missed the free breakfast at the hotel. We decided to take a short walk to the Flying Biscuit Cafe for brunch. We passed the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum on the way.

    <3Gone with the Wind 4ever<3

    The Flying Biscuit Cafe is the queen bee of the bustling Atlanta brunch scene. There are several locations and you can expect to wait over an hour at each of them for brunch on the weekend. Luckily, it was Monday and we didn’t have to wait for a table. We both ordered the tofu scramble which was tasty but a tad watery and too heavy on the mushrooms. Cute Husband said the tofu scramble I make is way better – awwww. Their housemade biscuits smothered in cranberry apple butter can’t be beat though.

    Before heading back to the hotel we took a stroll through the beautiful and gigantic Piedmont Park. I’m truly impressed by how impeccably manicured and trash-free this park is considering its size.

    One park entrance

    A lovely path through the park

    Hey look, horses!

    Later on Monday we went to Lindsey’s apartment and walked with her to a sushi restaurant in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood called Harry & Sons. We were still full from brunch so we just had drinks. Lindsey’s sushi looked good though and she is a regular and vouches for the greatness of this place.

    After some hanging out and drinking we worked up enough of an appetite to walk less than a block from our hotel to Chinese Buddha. This was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Chinese Buddha is a 24 hour Chinese restaurant with meat offerings as well as a full vegetarian menu, meaning any Chinese dish you could ever want is available there made with fake meat.

    Robbie ordered the house fried rice with fake chicken, pork, and shrimp. Yes, I said “fake shrimp.” They even put little pink stripes on them so that it looks like the real thing. I got the General Tso’s Chicken. I’m pretty sure the “chicken” was made of seitan. I loved this dish so much. Robbie really liked his too even though it was so realistic that it made him a little freaked out at first.

    We dropped our copious leftovers at the room then walked over to Cypress Street Pint & Plate. We were really impressed with this place. Their house IPA is made by local brewery Sweetwater and is only three dollars. Our bartender was really nice and made me a delicious skinny margarita with agave nectar. We were so full of Chinese food that we couldn’t even consider eating again but we were sad about that because they had some really enticing things on the menu including nachos topped with vegan chili and a vegan fajita wrap. The bar has a great neighborhood feel but still seems quite upscale.

    On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Mac’s Beer and Wine across the street. Robbie added more beers which cannot be found in Florida to the ones he already picked up at Trader Joe’s and the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. This store has a lot to choose from and must be a convenient treat for people living in the Midtown neighborhood.

    For our last night in town we drove to Zucca Pizza in Smyrna to meet some friends who moved to Marietta, GA earlier this year. The pizza was so good! We ordered our usual – tomato, garlic, and spinach with a side of marinara sauce – and it was amazing. Robbie got another Sweetwater beer on draught which is a treat for a Floridian. My skinny margarita was not so great unfortunately but our friend ordered a red sangria that looked really good. A poker tournament started up around us at 9:00 pm and we saw that they offer other events during the week including triva.  Overall, seems like an awesome place with way better than average pizza. It was great to see our friends – so glad they recommended this place.

    After checking out of our hotel on Tuesday morning we made one final beer run at a store nearish Georgia Tech called Hop City. Robbie was happy with the IPAs available and bought a few. The guy who helped us seemed to really know beer and was quite jealous of our proximity to the Cigar City Brewery. Cute Husband packed the trunk of the Prius with a grand total of seven different unavailable-in-Florida beers in various amounts. Here’s a photo of the loot at home.


  9. cheddar bay biscuits

    June 7, 2012 by Angie

    This week’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is to recreate a restaurant or store-bought food. I went with Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits!

    Cute Husband loves these buttery, cheesey, garlicky biscuits but, as this is probably the only menu item we could/would eat at Red Lobster (on account of the vegetarian thing), he never gets to have them. I followed this copycat recipe from Good Morning America. I’ve seen it elsewhere online as well. It’s easy and they come together quickly.

    These biscuits are insanely good. We each taste-tested one and I’m sending the rest off to work with Robbie because it’s too dangerous to keep them in the house.

    I haven’t been to a Red Lobster since the mid-90s so I can’t weigh in on their authenticity. Robbie says they look and taste like the real thing and they taste awesome to me so I consider it a success. I think these would be great for Thanksgiving instead of serving a plain roll. Pretty sure they could be made a day or so ahead of time and refrigerated, saving the butter/parsley/garlic powder step for after they’ve been warmed up just prior to serving.


  10. pastelitos de guayaba y queso

    June 1, 2012 by Angie

    Week 22 of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Baking Challenge is pastry. For this challenge, I made a favorite Cuban treat: pastelitos de guayaba y queso (small guava paste and cream cheese pastries). These were extremely easy to make and very good. I tried out some different shapes with the dough and the turnover/triangle shape seemed to work out the best. Most of the authentic pastelitos I’ve eaten have been triangular so this is probably already common knowledge. If you like these and don’t live near a Cuban bakery, I really recommend trying this recipe. With the Goya guava paste, simple syrup glaze, and flaky dough they’re pretty true to the traditional pastry. A word of warning: these are a high-sugar, “dessert crack” kind of food so proceed with caution.

    Yields 18 small pastries.

    Ingredients

    1 box of Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets
    1 can of Goya Guava Paste (I bought the big one and only used half of it here.)
    1 8 oz package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I used the fat-free kind.  You can easily make this recipe vegan by using Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup water

    Directions

    1.  Take the puff pastry sheets out of the freezer. Open the package and break the two sheets apart. Lay them on a plate to thaw about 40 minutes before you plan to start making the pastelitos.

    2.  Make the simple syrup glaze by putting the sugar and water in a pot and boiling it until the sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and let it cool until the pastelitos are assembled.

    3.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut 18 one inch squares of the guava paste and cream cheese.

    4.  Unfold the pastry sheets. Cut each sheet into nine even squares. Place a square of guava paste towards the bottom of each pastry sheet square. Top the guava paste with a piece of cream cheese. Fold the dough over to form a triangle (or square but triangle worked out better). Seal the edges of the dough to make an envelope with the guava paste and cream cheese completely sealed inside. You can wet your finger with a little water to help seal the dough edges.

    5.  Place the pastelitos on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a brush to coat the outside of the pastries with the simple syrup. Bake for 15-20 minutes. I turned my cookie sheet after about 10 minutes and baked for another 7 minutes or so after that. When the pastelitos are flaky and slightly browned on top, they are ready.