Friday, May 30, 2008

Homemade Granola

We've wanted to make granola for a long time. We have been known to order $8 one lb. bags of Milk and Honey Granola from Chicago and of course Marc and D surrender at least a lb. or two every time we visit Taste in Indy. Even though those two midwest cafe's have some tasty granola, there is no granola like our home made granola. It is fucking delicious. And if you want some, just ask. I'll stop some by your crib (until I open a tea shop/breakfast place and you have to come buy it because I've gotten you addicted).

Recipe: (these are approximations, we just throw it together)
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut flakes
6 tbsp ground flax seeds
3/4 - 1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup almonds (sliced)
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 large pinches of sea salt
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
4-5 pinches of Love Street Living Foods 100% Raw Rare Vanilla Powder or 3-4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 + cups dried fruit of your choice (cranberries, cherries, strawberries, apricots, mangoes, raisins, you choose)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet that has a rim with parchment paper (a large cake pan also works). Mix first seven ingredients together in a large bowl (I mix with a wooden spoon). Heat the next four ingredients on the stove on medium until you see little bubbles, stir constantly. Once you see bubbles, turn off heat. Pour the hot stuff on the stuff on the bowl. Mix it all together with that wooden spoon. If you don't splurge on Vanilla Powder, add the vanilla to the bowl last and mix it again. Once mixed, pour it on your baking sheet (sprinkle the Vanilla Powder on top) and put in the oven. You want to pull it out of the oven every 5-7 minutes to stir it like so:

After it gets to the desired browness (25-30 minutes), pull it out of the oven and sprinkle on your dried fruit. Mix it up and let it cool. Then eat and share!

Local Strawberries

Strawberries are my favorite fruit. Every winter I stare at the gigantic strawberries in the grocery and count down the months until the real babes are on the shelves. Well, it is time. The local strawberries are flush and they are just perfect: petite (as in, it doesn't take 6 cuts with a pairing knife to make them edible size) and red all the way through (no white middles).

Love Street Living Foods

We're in Whole Foods so much that we've established 'wink and smile' relationships with over half the staff. Yesterday must have been my day for good vibes. I had noticed the Love Street Living Foods 100% Organic Raw Vegan Chocolate Spread Sweetened with Agave Nectar spread on the shelf last week, but was on a budget and could not splurge. I was thinking of how wonderful that chocoalte spread would be on crostini with sea salt...mmmm. Well, when I was shopping for Granola ingredients yesterday afternoon I came across this wonderful ingredient:

I stopped to ask the grocer about it and he also turned me on to their line of raw chocolate bars. Yes, they are a bit pricey but I was buying Granola ingredients and had money to spare. So, I brought them all to the check out lane and was given all of these lovely products for free! I couldn't believe it. I know Whole Foods has an amazing customer service policy, but a few $3 candy bars and some $12 raw vanilla bean? Wow. Not to mention, the clerk tipped me off that Love Street Living Foods has just made a raw ice cream that the Louisville Whole Foods will be stocking. I'm stoked.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vegan Sloppy No's

J was pretty happy to title these little sandwiches as Sloppy No's. Actually, this is a PPK recipe and they call them Snobby Joe's. I like J's name better; we're not snobs, just vegetarians. This particular recipe came from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook and it is wonderful. As I've mumbled before, I'm not a fan of cooking with meat substitutes (tvp, tofu and all the other textured meatless wonders). So I was pretty psyched to find a "sloppy joe" recipe with lentils. As my friend Erin stated, lentils are little "nutritional powerhouses" and any one should be happy to include them in a delicious meal.

Here is the link to the Snobby Joes Recipe on the PPK site. The only thing I might do different is substitute brown sugar for maple syrup. I know that sugar sucks and maple syrup is packed full of good shit, but brown sugar gives me nostalgia. So, ha.

Sam's Baking Success: Banana Cake

So, my friend Sam Whitaker has recently been inspired to bake (maybe I'm rubbing off on her...hehe). Past baking experiences had left her with a bad taste in her mouth, literally, but her will is strong. The woman can cook you some vegetarian soul food that'll really stick to your bones. She is an amazing cook (you've never had mashed potatoes until you've had hers), but was an intimidated baker. Well, today was a triumphant success in the Whitaker Kitchen! Just Look:

She made the Decadent Banana Cake inspired by Southern Living: Our Best-Ever Cakes & Pies. Although she did not follow the recipe step by step, the result was one tasty banana loaf and one tasty banana short cake (not shortcake, but a short cake).

2 1/2 cups plus 5 1/2 tbsp cake flour
1 tbsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4-5 large, very ripe (like stinky brown) bananas
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour, baking soda and salt (this is an unecessary step, you can simply wisk it. Most flours come pre-sifted these days). Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium until smooth. Add sugars and mix on medium until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating mixture until blended after each egg. Add bananas and mix on low speed. Add 1/3 flour mixture and 1/3 buttermilk, mix on med-low until just blended (do not over mix). Add another 1/3 of flour mixture and 1/3 of buttermilk, mix on med-low until just blended (do not over mix). Add the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk and mix on med-low until just blended (do not over mix). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool for about an hour. Ice (or not) and eat.

Brooke Hint: Every time you add another ingredient, stop your mixer. And when a recipe says not to "over mix" or to "mix until just blended", this means that you mix the ingredients just barely. If you over mix a cake or a loaf, they will be dense and a little hard. If you want the cake/loaf to be moist and soft, you want to have little flour balls in your dough. These flour balls are your friends, they create air pockets and fluff!

For this cake, Sam used a standard Butter Cream icing. I don't feel like icing is necessary with this cake, the flavors are wonderful without the sugar additive. In fact, they would make delicious morning muffins. However, the Cream Cheese frosting on the Carrot Cake below would be a good match.

P.S. Other things Sam makes well...babies!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Andy and Alicia's Birthday Carrot Cake

As it turns out, I was supposed to make this cake three times in the past three months: One for Ryan's 30th, One for Heather's 30th, and one to share for Alicia's 25th and Andy's 27th. Ryan's cake was trumped by a dinner at St. Elmo's. Heather's cake was replaced with half a Dairy Queen frozen cake since our Florida trips did not overlap. And after losing my beloved recipe to a drawer in Florida, I thought Andy and Alica were shit out of luck. But Deidra came through with her Grandma's Carrot Cake Recipe and (with a few alterations) it was a tasty delight.

2 cups Unbleached, Organic All Purpose Flour
2 cups Vegan Cane Sugar
1 tsp granulated salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups canola oil
4 large cage free, organic eggs
2 1/2 cups grated carrots
8 oz. can crushed pineapples
1 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
(I added a banana and 1/2 cup raisins)

8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. butter, softened
1 1/4 lbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Heat oven to 350. Line two 9 inch baking pans with parchment circles. On parchment paper, sift together flour, sugar, salt, soda and powder. In large mixer with paddle attachment mix oil, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add carrot, pineapple, coconut and nuts. Mix well. Slowly add the sifted ingredients in 3 batches. Do not over mix. Divide into 2 prepared pans and cook for 25-35 minutes (until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean). Remove cake from pans after 10 minutes and place on cooling rack.

For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well with the whisk attachment.

Assemble cake after cake has completely cooled. Eat it.

Grilled Gazpacho Pasta Salad

I needed to make a family friendly side dish for our Mother's Day cookout in Indy. As much as burgers and brauts tempt me, I'm just not gonna do it. So I recreated a meal that I had made last summer, Grilled Gazpacho & Tubetti Salad. It is extremely nutritious and colorful, not to mention the wonderful hearty flavors of grilled veggies. Plus, it makes a ton so leftovers for the week!

10 tbsp. olive oil (estimate)
1 1/2lb cherry tomatoes
3 bell peppers (I use red and yellow, seed and cut in 1/4's)
2 medium red onions
4 medium zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 box tubetti pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Optional: 1 cup herbed feta. Or slice a few spicy, grilled sausages for the carnivores.

Soak skewers for grill. Cut peppers and onions in quarters for grill prep. Toss all veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Skewer veggies. Skewer your tomatoes 4-5 per skewer. Lay zucchini on grill. Wrap garlic in foil once oiled and seasoned. Grill it. Tomatoes grill the fastest in 3-5 minutes. Peppers take about 8-10 minutes. Onions and zucchini take 12-15 minutes. Once done, peel half the peppers and throw them in a blender with half of the other veggies (1/2 toms, 1/2 zucchini, 1/2 onion) and all the garlic. Add the vinegar, sugar and press play. Then coarsely chop the remaining veggies. Prep your pasta and mix in a large bowl with the blended ingredients. Top with chopped veggies, herbs and feta. Serve and eat warm. However, it is damn good once it is refrigerated.

Vegan African Peanut Stew

I'm on the hunt for new flavors and new recipes. So, I pulled out last summer's Vegetarian Times and experimented. I was a little nervous when we decided to try the Spicy Peanut Stew. I was mostly nervous because the picture sorta made it look disgusting and the flavor combination was a little foreign to me (peanut butter and tomatoes?). But, of course it was a hit. Not only was it a one dish (plus rice maker) meal, but the sink wasn't filled with dishes afterwards, which always makes my husband (aka dishwasher) happy!

Recipe: (for stew...hold on, you should make the salsa too)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 celery stalk, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tbsp. grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 2 cups +)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles
1 1b. butternut squash, cut into 1 inch chunks (about 3 cups)
1/2 lb. cauliflower florets (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used 365 Brand, Organic)
6 cups cooked brown rice
1 head watercress, stems removed (I did not add this ingredient because mine wilted)

Heat oil in large pot on med-low. Add onion and celery and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and tomatoes. Increase heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes until sauce is thicker, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 cups of water and season with some salt and pepper (i always under salt my meals for health reasons, but this one really needs some salt). Simmer partially covered for 10 minutes or so. Add squash and cauliflower and cook 15 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender. Whisk together peanut butter and a 1/2 cup warm water. Add to the stew. Cook another 5 minutes and stir constantly. Pour over rice.

Recipe: (for salsa on top)
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers
4tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. salt

On this recipe, I doubled all the amounts above because there was a group consensus that the cucumber salsa was a key component to this dish. So, no need to double up because I did it for you. But simply toss all those ingredients together and spoon on top of your stew.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Vegan Bean Salad

So, I've been e-mailing my lady Erin about food and life and how much I miss chugging caffeinated beverages and working out with her. She's pretty much over cooking/baking. I can't blame her. She has worked in the restaurant industry for about a decade! But, I made this little number for dinner tonight in homage to Erin. It's pretty, it's simple and it's packed with wonderfulness (just like her).

I bag Frozen Organic Shelled Edamame
3 Fist fulls of Green Beans (trimmed and cut in half)
2 Ears of Sweet Corn (cut off the cob)
1 15oz can Red Kidney Beans (drained and rinsed)
1 large Shallot (diced)
1 tbsp Poppy seeds
1 tbsp Dijon
2 tbsp Honey
1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup Veg Oil (I used Organic Canola)

So, boil some water for the edamame. Once its boiling, throw the edamame in and let it get back to a boiling temperature. Once you are there, throw the green beans in. Cook for 4-6 minutes. Drain. Steam your corn if it's not fresh and then cut it and mix all beans and corn together in a bowl. Then (either whisk or use a food processor) mix the vinegar, shallot, mustard, honey, poppy seeds and oil (oil last) for the dressing. I found that this made two times the amount of dressing that I needed so I saved it in hopes of making more Bean Salad later this week. Last, toss the Bean-Corn mixture with dressing and eat. I don't mind eating this dish a little warm, but its much better if you make it and then eat it the next day for lunch. It is superb when it's cold.

This meal should take you no longer than 15 minutes to prepare. It's a fast one!

Big Ol' Bump

So, it's getting there. It's really getting there.

Will's Birthday Cake

Well, I made our buddy Will Russell a birthday cake this past weekend for his 32nd! The chocolate cake was perfect but I totally got the consistency of the Coffee Butter Cream Icing wrong. It was too thick and wouldn't spread with any kind of flow. They, as in Will and Hillary, assured me it was tasty. But I'm still throwing out an IOU to them. I can do better and they deserve better!

On a side note, Will did tell me that Ace of Cakes is doing a cake for his Lebowski Fest this year. Unfortunately the Louisville Lebowski Fest is on July 11th and I'm expecting to have a little baby by then. But I'm sure there'll be lots of pictures and maybe they'll do an episode of Ace of Cakes devoted to this cake. We'll see? How exciting!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Help A Friend: Emergency Parfait

I recently read something that said if you wish for positive things to happen to you, you should do positive things for others. This is not a new revelation, I try to live by this mantra. It's just nice to be reminded of this. I mean, I can't complain about not getting phone calls if I don't pick up the phone, you know. I believe that you should put good vibes out into the world so they can come full circle. If you haven't noticed, I cook/bake and give a lot. I do this because I love to share. But I have to say that I am a little worried that my 'cook and give' time is closing in on a long pause when this baby comes.

But for the mean time, I had a wonderful 'cook and give' experience this week. My friend Sam Whitaker, who is also a new mom, made a 8am remark about an empty fridge and a appetite. She was calling to borrow some sugar so she could bake the only ingredients left in the house into delicious Chocolate Chip Muffins (which would have taken at least an hour). So, I packed up the Vegan Cane Sugar and made her a Granola Parfait in an old jar.....something to snack on while baking! I thought it was cute so I took a picture.

The Strawberry Cake Incident

So I called a few friends to let them know to expect some delicious treats later Wednesday evening. I had bought the ingredients to make my Grandmother's Strawberry Cake recipe. My Dad had made a birthday request for the cake so I decided to make some extra cupcakes to share with friends. I made the cake, success. I made the cupcakes and the events following led to some disappointed friends and no company to play scrabble with! I swear, I can't keep my word even when I actually try....we are destined to be flakes.

The cupcakes were cooling on the porch railing.

And then they were on the cement. So I went to grab our camera so I could blog about this. And while backing up to take a picture...

My barefoot stepped on this poor dead bird.

Acai & Flax Smoothie

So, my friend Lindsey Dobson wrote me about a month ago asking if I had a good smoothie recipe. In true Brooke form, I was excited to share but flaked on writing her back. Lindsey, I have created many great smoothie recipes. In fact, I even have a great juice and smoothie book you can borrow too. But there are two Brooke-created recipes that I use most frequently: Vegan Strawberry Smoothie and my Acai & Flax Seed Smoothie. We make the Acai & Flax Seed Smoothies about five times a week. Acai is a superfood and is ridiculously rich in antioxidants; I use the frozen smoothie packs available at Whole Foods. And Flax Seeds, freshly ground and found in the refridgerated portion of the herb and vitamin section at your local health food establishment, are amazing in regards to nutritional qualities (especially for pregnant/nursing women).

Recipe: (not exact measurements, I just throw it in)

1 cup frozen organic berries
1/2 cup frozen organic peaches
3/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt/vanilla soy yogurt
1 package of frozen Acai
5 tbsp freshly ground flax seeds
1/2 -1 cup unsweetened organic cranberry juice
2 bananas

Just blend. Recipe yields 2 large ass smoothies seen below. Enjoy!

It Pays to be Right

So, you know how I predicted that the Kansas Jayhawks were going to win the NCAA Final Four? Well, I forgot that I entered a contest for free ice cream based on the outcome of the last team standing. Awesome!


So, I am certain that I married the perfect man for me. We had never committed ourselves to doing a puzzle before, but we were in Florida with time to spare so we bought a 1000 piece puzzle. And I'm pleased to admit that the both of us are so compulsive that we finished it is less than 8 hours. I am proud, very proud.