Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Twin news!!

We're having a BOY and a GIRL!!!!  I don't think it could get more perfect than that...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Child's Play

I just set the kids up with chenille strips and puff balls to play while I try to get some things done.  It's amazing how difficult it can be to keep two young children happy and active while still trying to maintain some semblance of order around here.  Thankfully, my boys are very creative.  Even though they don't like to do things away from me for very long (unless of course it involves splashing water or juice or something messy), what they do choose to do when they are on their own is fascinating.  I love to listen to their exchanges...Luka likes to teach Cas how to do different things, and Cas likes to put his own spin on them.  Right now, Luka is constructing an airplane from the chenille strips, and trying to get Cas to do the same, but Cas is more interested in throwing the puff balls around.  He just came in to show me that he filled Nate's shoes with the puff balls and said "Yay Dada!"  I think he wants to surprise Nate with these lovely gifts in his shoes.  

Well, I can see that I only have a limited amount of time to try to do these dishes before this craft loses its appeal and the chenille strips turn into lightsabers...more later.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day

Today is a new day in America.  The possibilities are great, but there is still much work to be done.  Yet I feel like the country has opened up to the rest of us...those who have been jaded, those who have been disenfranchised, those who have felt like they didn't have a place here.  It's time to work together.

Friday, September 26, 2008

35 Years!

I am officially 35 years old today.  It has been one heck of a summer, but I thought I'd take a moment today to post about the many things I'm grateful for.  I have an awesome family, a great husband, and the two cutest little boys in the world.  The fall weather here has been beautiful, and this is my favorite time of the year.  This past year has been the healthiest of my life, thanks to my transition to veganism.  Elections will happen very soon and our country may actually see positive change.  There's so much good in the world, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of it in the midst of all the horrible things we see in the news.  I'm very thankful for the past 35 years--for the chance to learn, to grow, to become a mom, and to find my place in this world.

My severe lack of posting is actually for a very good reason...if there is anyone out there who hasn't heard, I'm pregnant with twins!!  Quite the shocker!  I'll try to post more once I start feeling better, which will hopefully be very soon!

Friday, August 8, 2008


I'm so happy it is August.  My CSA box this week should be over-flowing (I hope).  I am hoping to finally bust out the dehydrator that Mary Therese and family gifted me...I have big plans!

My New Moon resolution for this month is to de-clutter.  This is something I strive to do every month, but it seems that for as much clutter that I get rid of, I seem to attract new clutter.  So this month I thought I'd start in the boys' playroom.  I think I finally worked that room into a manageable space.  I don't think it will ever look clean on a daily basis (since they play in there every day), but at least it will be easier to pick up and organize.  My next mission is the upstairs bedroom, and that is going to be a hard one.  It's easy for clutter to accumulate up there since we can just close the door.  So we'll see how that goes...

I also have another unofficial New Moon resolution for this month, and that is to simply reduce the number of tofu-based meals I make per week.  I am NOT, in any way, worried about soy consumption, but it occurred to me a couple weeks ago that I am using tofu and tempeh about 4 times per week, and while I still don't think that that is  a bad thing, I would like my seasonal veggies to be the center of our dinners, especially in this season of abundance.  It's just so easy to make, say a yummy BBQ tofu, then have veggies and rice on the side.  So instead of on the side, I want the veggies to be the centerpiece.    That doesn't mean I am giving up tempeh bacon or stir-fried tofu (no way!!), I am just reducing the frequency of its appearance on our dinner plates.

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is very exciting!!  I am still waiting for my opportunity to make it, hopefully late next week.  I'll be posting my results at the end of the month.

Luka and Cas have been my kitchen helpers lately, and I have a couple cute pictures to post, which I will do when I have a moment.  Cas likes to stir things, and Luka is getting really good at using a measuring cup.  He tries to find opportunities to add chocolate to everything we make (smart boy!), and he practically knows Dreena Burton's chocolate chip cookie recipe by heart.  It's a lot of fun having these two little guys cooking with me!  While I dream of them becoming big-time vegan chefs when they grow up, I'll settle for them knowing how to feed themselves.

It's Farmers Market Day, so the kids and I are going to head out soon and see what tasty treats we can find.  I just love this time of year!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's Daring Bakers Reveal Day!!

Good morning!  Today is the day the Daring Bakers reveal the results of this month's challenge.  Our assignment this month, Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, was brought to us by Chris of Mele Cotte.  I have to admit that I wavered back and forth about even attempting this challenge.  As a vegan baker with a husband allergic to tree nuts, this sort of felt like Mission Impossible.  But...I joined Daring Bakers to learn new techniques, step out of my comfort zone, and most of all to have fun, so I decided to give it a go.

Before I launch into my story of doom and disaster (with a happy ending, however), click here to see the original (LONG) recipe.

OK, here we go...I kept putting off this challenge because there were just so many steps and, I was intimidated by the number of eggs.  On Monday night Nate was out with his friend Bill and by some rare stroke of luck, Luka and Cas both fell asleep at a reasonable time (!).  I took this as divine intervention and decided this would be the night I take on the challenge.

I absolutely LOVE my baking time in the kitchen!  It is almost therapeutic.  So even though this night of baking would end with a huge mess, it was well worth it!

To substitute the seemingly endless eggs (ok I'm exaggerating, but that is what it felt like), I decided to use a blend of bananas, silken tofu, and a little Ener-G egg replacer thrown in for good measure.  (The recipe also called for butter and heavy cream, which were easily substituted by Earth balance and hemp milk).  Since Nate is allergic to tree nuts, I was not going to use the hazelnuts.  I used peanuts instead.  All was going well, the batter tasted awesome and the aroma from the oven was wonderful.

While the genoise was baking, I decided to get started on the nut paste.  How could you go wrong with melted sugar?  Well, you could almost burn it.  For some reason unknown to me, I decided to stir in the nuts anyways.  I really should have started over, but I was on a roll, lol.  So I should not have been surprised when I spread the candied peanuts on the wax paper and they were black.  (The candied peanuts were supposed to form into a brittle, then go into the VitaMix to be processed into a paste which would then be added to the buttercream, which at that point I had not yet made.)  I decided not to get too upset about it and try something else instead...a peanut butter buttercream.  I used the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  At this point I realized I had very little hemp milk left, so I used what was there and replaced the rest with coconut milk.  The buttercream was decadent!!

The timer sounded and it was time to take the genoise out of the oven.  It did not rise.  It was flat.  Thankfully I was in a pretty good mood that night and had to laugh.  I was still going to make this work!  I let it cool and then took it out of the round pan, only to have half of it fall apart.  I then shaped it into a rectangle, piecing together the remnants.  (Yes, I was determined...while most people would probably have started over at this point, I was a woman on a mission.)

So there I am with my flat rectangle, and I have to somehow fashion it into three layers.  Thanks to some patience and a very sharp knife, I was able to do that.  I started doing the layering with the sugar syrup and my peanut butter buttercream.  My buttercream started out nice and thick but my kitchen was very hot, and soon it was running all over the place.  By the time I applied the ganache, I had a crazy mess on my hands.  Honestly, it looked like I had just baked a giant burrito with mole!!

I chilled it in the fridge and then Nate and I gave it a try.  It was SO good!!!!!!  SO ugly, lol, but so insanely delicious!  It was even better when we finished it (!) last night after it spent 24 hours in the refrigerator.  So I did end up with a wonderful dessert!

I think that one of my problems was my punk rock approach to the egg replacement.  I think bananas + silken tofu kind of weighed down the "sponginess" of the cake.  I also realize that burning the peanuts was my own fault, but I was happy with the peanut butter buttercream as a replacement.

So no, I don't have a picture to post.  It was that ugly.  But it was yummy, so thank you Chris for the challenge!  I look forward to seeing what the Daring Bakers have in store for me next month...

Monday, July 28, 2008


I just realized it's been almost a month since I've blogged about anything!

Stay tuned...this month's Daring Bakers challenge is scary, I will no doubt have some kind of story about that one...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers July Challenge: Danish Braid

I am proud to say that I actually completed this challenge AND it was a success! My final product was a little crazy looking, but oh so delicious...

This month's challenge was brought to us by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'. The recipe itself is from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking.

When I first read over this recipe, I was intimidated. This seemed like an easier recipe to veganize than the challenges of the past two months (cheesecake pops and opera cake), but it involved several steps and apparently patience, and those are the kinds of recipes I tend to skip over. But, I am so glad I gave it a go.

Here is the recipe as written, pre-veganization:


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

And now, my substitutions...some of them are very easy, i.e. hemp milk for the whole milk, Ener-G Egg Replacer for the eggs in the dough, and apricot syrup for the egg wash. But then there was the issue of the butter block. My first thought was Earth Balance, but I was reading on the Daring Bakers forums that that may not work, unless I could find it in stick form, which I could not. So I decided on coconut oil, which has become one of my favorite things in the world since becoming vegan.

Our Alternative Daring Bakers virtual bake-along was held on the solstice, and unfortunately I was only able to pop online for a few minutes, but I am so glad I did! I told Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go my plan to use coconut oil, and she suggested that I mix it with some vegetable shortening to improve the consistency. So that is what I did, and my layers turned out beautiful!

After all the turns and proofing, this beauty was now ready to go in the oven. The baking aroma was heavenly! The lovely scent of cardamom, apples and coconut filled my kitchen, and seriously I could have just stood there all day breathing it in if I did not have two monkeys climbing me like a tree. Luka even commented how yummy it smelled, but then was disappointed that it wasn't chocolate, lol (a child after my own heart!).

Once I took the braid out of the oven, I took many many pictures of it as if it were my firstborn. The apricot glaze had made the top darker than I would have liked, but it still looked pretty. Nate and I had some for dessert, and it tasted wonderful! I did spend a few moments admiring my lovely layers between bites.

I will definitely make this again. I never thought that I would make something like this, but thanks to Kelly and Ben, I can now say that I have made Danish pastry! This would be a great addition to my family dinners at Easter time. We love our pastries in Easter baskets, and now I can make a pretty vegan variety!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strawberry Moon and Baking for Barack...

Tonight's full moon is the strawberry moon. I mentioned a few posts ago that I am trying to get back into the habit of re-connecting with the moon cycles, and adding a special element to our dinner that corresponds with each particular moon.

There were a multitude of wonderful things I could do for the strawberry moon, but since our first CSA share comes this Friday and I am expecting strawberries, I didn't want to have to buy any more than I already have. Luckily, I had enough to make a no-bake strawberry pie with chocolate chunks, recipe courtesy of Colleen Patrick Goudreau's Joy of Vegan Baking. It is in the refrigerator right now setting. I took some pictures because it is a lovely "sunset pink" color, unfortunately my food photography leaves a lot to be desired and the photo made it look more like pepto-bismol.

This coming Saturday, Obama supporters across the country will be taking part in a "Hungry for Change" bake sale. This bake sale is organized by Move On to raise money for Barack Obama's campaign. My contribution will be banana chocolate chip muffins. Our local event here in Dearborn will be at Ford Field (Cherry Hill & Brady St. ) at noon. So stop by and buy some vegan muffins! :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hmm, what's missing from this post?

An opera cake, that's what's missing!  That was this month's Daring Bakers challenge.  I started the joconde (yes, I learned a new word!) late one night but never finished any of the other elements.  I'm hoping not to slack off for next month's challenge.  In the meantime, if you'd like to see a beautiful example of an opera cake, check out Bittersweet.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Paneer, part 2

I did it!  I finally made some good paneer!  I'm quite proud of myself too.  I have been working off of Angela Kasmala's vegan paneer recipe, but substituting whipped silken tofu for the cashew cheese because Nate is allergic to cashews.  Angela's recipe tastes great, but the tofu version is just not the same. It's good, but not great.  Last week I was enlightened with the fact that pine nuts are NOT, in fact, nuts, but rather, seeds from a pine tree.  Nate can eat pine nuts without any problems, so I decided to use them to make a blended cheese.  I used 1 cup of pine nuts, juice from 1/2 lemon, and some sea salt and blended it in my wonderful VitaMix, then added a package of  extra firm tofu and blended it all together.  Then I baked this creamy mixture for about 1/2 hour.  It was delicious!  So we will be having palak paneer for dinner tomorrow night, unless I eat all of the paneer before then...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oprah is going vegan for 21 days!

This is big news.  As we all know, Oprah is very influential.  She is embarking on a 21-day cleanse that will involve a vegan diet.  Read Oprah's blog here.  I'm very happy for her!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

another great cooking class!

Nathan and I had the pleasure of attending another one of Angela Kasmala's cooking classes last night.  The theme for this class was Vegan Backyard BBQ.  The menu included sparkling mint lemonade, tandoori seitan kabobs, "deviled eggs", an icebox salad with vegan ranch dressing, and banana split sundaes.  All delicious!  

The mint lemonade was so refreshing and perfect.  This would be the most wonderful drink on a hot summer day.  Nate commented that it would be even better with a little gin. :)  

It was great to see someone making seitan.  I had been kind of intimidated to try it myself because I had imagined the process to be more involved, but it really wasn't.  Angela formed the seitan, boiled it, then baked it.  The texture was very good, not too mushy or too chewy.

The "deviled eggs" were adorable!  Angela makes them by forming an egg shape with firm tofu and filling it with a mixture of  mashed cannellini beans, mustard, and various spices.  The filling tasted amazingly like an egg yolk.  Nate and I both agreed that the filling would also make a good spread on a cracker or baguette slices.

The evening was sunny and warm so we were able to eat our dinner outside in the "backyard" behind the Lab.  Gregg and Angela share a fire pit and picnic table space with their loft neighbors, and they are hoping to turn some of the space into a garden.  

Angela really is a fantastic teacher and a gifted chef.  As I said in a previous post, if she cooked for everyone, the whole world would be vegan!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cheesecake Pops, Revisited ( or Redeemed by Saint Colleen)

A couple posts ago I documented my first Daring Bakers Challenge, cheesecake pops.   I was not in love with my results and had pretty much decided that, as a new vegan, cheesecake was something that would no longer be a part of my life.

I was wrong!  This revelation came after a little baking accident.  I attempted to make Colleen Patrick Goudreau's Chocolate Cheesecake from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and when my springform pan would not release, I was left with clumps of chocolate cheesecake with burnt edges laying there on a plate...hardly appropriate for bringing to Mother's Day dinner at my Mom's house.  I pouted and threw the clumps in the refrigerator, figuring I would deal with them later.

When we came home that night, I used my ice-cream scooper to scoop little golf ball-sized bites of cheesecake, inserted lollipop sticks, then put them in the freezer for a few hours.  They were delicious!!  I am simply astounded that Colleen Patrick Goudreau could make Tofutti taste good!!  Is there anything this woman can't do?  This is a recipe I will make again, but instead of the springform pan I will use one of my square pans to make scooping easier.  Once again, YAY for Colleen Patrick Goudreau, patron saint of vegan bakers!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I have a VitaMix!!!

I am floored.  Sure I have been talking about these non-stop for a couple weeks since my trusty blender's motor burnt out, but I never thought I would have one of my very own.

Yesterday I was making dinner when I heard Nate come in after work.  I had the refrigerator door open so I peeked out to say hi, grabbed whatever veggies I was looking for and closed the door.  Lo and behold...there on the floor was a large blue fabric bag tied up with a very cute spring green ribbon.  When I opened the bag and saw the VitaMix box, I felt like a kid on Christmas!  He bought us a VitaMix!!!  He said he was going to save it for Mother's Day but he knew I would want it for my daily green smoothies.  (Yesterday's smoothie required the use of two old blenders since neither of them works very well.)

So I fired it up this morning...this thing is amazing!  I could not believe how quickly and efficiently it liquefied my kale and swiss chard.  One of the things that has frustrated me about our other blender is the fact that I have to blend FOREVER to make a  less-than-chewy smoothie.  Not so with the VitaMix!

I read that I can make frozen desserts in this thing, so the boys and I are going to try to make some sort of chocolate, coconut milk-based soft-serve...

I never, in a million years, would have thought I'd be so excited about a blender, but it's a VITAMIX!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge Reveal Day!

A few months ago I kept seeing the very cute Daring Bakers logo on several food blogs, so I decided to investigate. Daring Bakers is a group of bloggers (and some non-bloggers) who make one recipe per month as close as possible to the original recipe instructions, then blog about it on a pre-determined date. Well, today is that day...and having just joined the Daring Bakers, this is my first challenge. So without further ado, I can now reveal...


OK. So, cheesecake pops for a new vegan baker is probably not the best first challenge, but it was a challenge indeed. Each month there is a host/hostess who chooses the challenge recipe. April's challenge was hosted by Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms. The original recipe is not vegan, and one of the main rules of the Daring Bakers is to make the recipe exactly as it is written. However, there is a loophole for who Daring Bakers refer to as "Alternative Bakers", that is, vegans, gluten-free, anyone with allergies, etc. So as an Alternative Baker, I set off to veganize the recipe. In place of the cream cheese I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and in place of the eggs I used silken tofu. I also replaced the heavy cream with vanilla hemp milk.

I seriously dislike everything by Tofutti. I was very nervous to use the Tofutti cream cheese for that reason. I had not had it in a long time and was hoping that perhaps my memory was too harsh. Well, it wasn't. I think that stuff tastes like chemicals. I know plenty of people like it just fine, but it just really bothers me. I did not like the taste of my cheesecake batter because of it and was afraid my first challenge would flop.

An interesting thing about this challenge is that it required a hot water bath for the baking cheesecake. I had never used a water bath before so that was new to me. I poured my batter into my cake pan and then placed the cake pan in a larger roasting pan and filled that with boiling water until it reached halfway up the sides of the cake pan. The instructions were to bake for 35-45 minutes. However, at 45 minutes the center was very jiggly so I ended up keeping it in the oven and re-checking at 5 minute increments. It took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

The next step was to let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. I refrigerated for about 6 hours and then was eager to make my pops! I scooped the cheesecake into little balls, inserted the Wilton lollipop sticks that I found at Michael's, and stuck them in the freezer. I froze them for about three hours, and by that time I was dying to roll them in chocolate. I melted some Tropical Source chocolate chips and coated the cheesecake pops,, and they looked really good. I put them in the refrigerator to keep cool, but soon enough couldn't resist trying them.

Well, there was that Tofutti taste again, but covered in chocolate it wasn't as bad (which is just further proof that chocolate makes everything better!). I still wasn't loving it, though, and was kind of disappointed. To my surprise, Nate ate 3 of them! He didn't think they were great either, but he at least thought they were edible. The next morning I tried another one and it actually tasted better to me now that it was nice and cold. So all in all, it was pleasant-tasting, just not great.

I did not decorate my cheesecake pops like many of the other bakers did. Be sure to check out the blogroll and see some of these beauties! I did consider making some vegan caramel to drizzle over the pops which probably would have been tasty.

Despite my less than stellar results, I still found this challenge extremely exciting! It was great to learn some new general baking techniques, such as the water bath, and how to make a cheesecake since I had never tried that before, as well as some vegan trial-and-error, such as the whole Tofutti thing. If I make this recipe with non-dairy cream cheese again I will not use the silken tofu, or at least as much, in addition. I think it made the texture a little too mushy, although it did help to mask some of the Tofutti taste.

The best part of the challenge was the Bake-along organized by Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go. Several of the Alternative Bakers started our recipe at 7 AM on 4/12 and chatted via Gmail as we baked. It was like having tech support!

So thank you Daring Bakers! I had fun making a huge mess with my cheesecake pops! I am looking forward to May's challenge...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Now I can't get the Nick Drake song out of my head...

I had to look up which full moon we would be in tomorrow, and it turns out that it will be the Pink Moon.  A couple of years ago I started the ritual of celebrating every full moon by preparing a special dinner to correspond to that particular moon.  Unfortunately I have fallen away from that since having the kids, but I think now would be a good time to start again.  So I have to come up with some pink specialties for tomorrow night.  I think mango lassis are definitely in order...I have had a taste for one for the last several days but am out of silken tofu, so I'll do some grocery shopping tomorrow.  Perhaps a dessert with strawberries?  Hmmm...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

experimenting with paneer

A few posts ago I mentioned the Vegan Indian class that Nathan and I took at the Detroit Evolution Lab.  One of the dishes that was demonstrated and served was a vegan palak paneer, which was incredibly delicious.  Angela's recipe included cashew cheese, however, so that is not an option in our house.  Angela was nice enough to help me via e-mail to come up with another way to try this recipe.  So last week I took a stab at it, substituting a miso and silken tofu blend for the cashew cheese.  The taste was quite good, but the texture was weird.  Once I put the pieces of paneer into the vegetable/spice mixture, they just kind of dissolved.  So it still tasted good, but did not look very appetizing as it was just a lot of mush.  I ended up rolling it up in some leftover lavash, and it made a very tasty sandwich, but not exactly what I was going for.

So today I tried again.  This time I used a blend of tahini and extra firm tofu, as well as lemon and salt, and blended then baked it.  I think it came out much better this time!  I haven't made the whole dish yet, the paneer is in the fridge for tomorrow's dinner.  We'll see if this one holds up any better.  The texture was totally different this time.  Angela's version was very smooth and creamy.  This one was  bit chewier, but had a texture that sort of resembled farmer's cheese.  I was worried about the bitterness of the tahini so I did end up adding more lemon and more salt than I would normally be comfortable with, but it seems to have done the trick.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bubbling Over With Vegan Joy!

Well, I was bubbling over yesterday...but came home to two kids with coughs and sneezes so I had to save the blog post for today.  

Yesterday Amanda and I went to The Great American Meatout.  I had two main purposes for going:  1) Detroit Evolution Laboratory would be selling bottled dressing, and 2) Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was speaking.  I bought a bottle of Angela's Signature Lioness Dressing and it did not disappoint.  We had it on our dinner salad but I also managed to dip my entire dinner into this stuff, it was so good (ftr, we had smoked tempeh sandwiches, so it wasn't that weird to dip it in this dressing).  For anyone reading who has made the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, this dressing would be the perfect accompaniment.  It is a mustard-y, tangy sauce with just the right amount of sweetness.

I also bought Colleen Patrick Goudreau's DVD.  I needed an excuse to go talk to her at her table, lol.  She seems like a very genuine, sweet woman and I honestly HAD to thank her for her work.  I am not the type to gush over celebrities, but strangely enough I found myself so overwhelmed with gratitude to this vegan author/podcast host, that I was most certainly gushing.  Her presentation was wonderful, and even though I had heard her say all of those things before, hearing them "live" was especially powerful.  

On top of the two main reasons I went, we got to sample some great food.  The carrot-cardamom cake from Inn Season Cafe was delectable!  So needless to say, I am very glad that we went.  Driving home I felt a great deal of gratitude to all of those in our world who are examples of compassion, sustainability, and healthy living.  I was lucky to see many of those folks at the Meatout.  Thanks to them and the many others who inspire me every day, I am also compelled to do better!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Top Secret Baking...shhh!

This morning I am baking a top secret recipe that I am dying to blog about but can't until the end of the month.  It's my first Daring Bakers challenge and, kind of like Fight Club, the first rule is I can't talk about it...yet.  Keep fingers crossed for me as this concoction turns out and I will "reveal" my end result at the end of this month!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

a lovely way to eat chocolate cake!

You know you've been doing lots of baking when your 3 year-old tells you, "Mommy, you forgot to bake me a cake today!"

I seem to have had several chocolate cake occasions over the past couple months, so I've been making the Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake from the Moosewood New Classics cookbook.  So yesterday, Luka asked for a chocolate cake and really, who am I to refuse anyone a chocolate cake??  I made the Moosewood cake but decided that this time some sort of icing was in order.  Vegan frosting and I do not get along well...it's something I just can't seem to make work no matter how hard I try.  So instead of going that route, I decided a chocolate topping sauce would be the way to go.  I mixed a bag of Tropical Source non-dairy chocolate chips with a 1/2 can of coconut milk and a little bit of maple syrup and melted it in a pot.  I am too lazy for the double-boiler thing so I just kept an eye on it so it wouldn't burn and did lots of stirring.  I flipped the warm cake upside down and let it cool for a few minutes, then poured the warm chocolate sauce over it...YUM!!  It turned out like a pudding cake, the sauce kept the cake moist and seeped around the sides drowning the whole thing in chocolate goodness.  It was better eaten with a spoon than a fork.  I refrigerated it after we all had some and then today after lunch I had a (big) piece and it also tastes really good cold.  I'm having one of those days where the boys are making me a little crazy, so chocolate cake is awfully nice to have around! :)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

a very pleasant evening with amazing food!!

Nate and I took a class tonight at the Detroit Evolution Laboratory.  It was a Vegan Indian cooking class.  I have to say, I was so ridiculously excited to be there!  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, and the experience was wonderful.  The Lab is a beautiful loft in Eastern Market.  The fact that the city of Detroit is seeing so many great new businesses such as The Lab and other positive changes cropping up was one of the reasons for my excitement as the city was my first home and always the home in my heart.  But Angela Kasmala's cooking...OH MY GOODNESS it was amazing!  During the course of four hours, we watched Angela prepare a beautiful vegan feast that included a curried beet salad, channa masala, and palak paneer.  I can't wait to try out her recipes on my own.  After she prepared all of the food, we all sat down to dinner together.  The Lab is getting plenty of press and attention these days, and it is more than well-deserved.  I am just thrilled that I can find support for a vegan lifestyle in the heart of Detroit!  I will be anxiously waiting to see their schedule of next month's cooking classes...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chick-o-stick Ice Cream!!!!!!!

I feel as if I've found the Holy Grail of vegan recipes! Yes, this lovely vegan blogger has formulated Chick-o-stick ice cream! I just found this so haven't had a chance to try it yet and probably won't this weekend, but this is one for next week's menu...


While browsing through many vegan blogs last night I came across one I had not seen before, The Conscious Kitchen. Once you have checked it out, it is needless for me to say I was inspired. Scroll down to the unbelievably beautiful cupcakes, for example. Besides all of the beautifully photographed food and amazing-sounding recipes, I particularly was drawn to this excerpt from the blog description:

I’ve been vegan for more than 10 years. For me veganism is (considered approach + eating) / (me + my contemporary context). I understand veganism as a process and a commitment to living a life with compassion. Veganism is not a stable or unitary response to production and consumption, it is active and comprehensive in its consideration of how best to respond to the commodification and degradation of life that takes place in the contemporary context of agribusiness production. Veganism is not even just about animals, it's about people, the producers, workers, transporters and sellers of food, it's about the environment, it's about our whole relationship to the big broad world out there.

Not to be mushy, but—I eat for peace, I cook for love, I think about food as a means to connect and I use this forum as a means of extending my table—the food on it, the work behind it, the thoughts about it, the fun and the flavor too.

--Emilie Hardman, The Conscious Kitchen

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sneaky Mom, 0, Toddler, 1

First of all, I am not a big fan of the current cookbook craze that teaches parents to "sneak" healthy foods into their kids' diets. I can't say too much about the books themselves because I have not read them, but just on principle, I don't like the premise. I've always thought it best to teach Luka (and now Cas too) about how foods are good for our bodies and how we can eat to be strong and healthy. Well...as far as Luka goes, that was all fine and good for the first 2 1/2 years of his life. I was always so thrilled when he chose fruit and vegetables over candy, or tofu over the meat offered by well-meaning relatives. Then he turned 3. Apparently 3 year-olds like to test and assert their own independence, and one of the ways Luka likes to do this is by eating very little food. He would live on cheese if I let him. Despite the dilemma that produces for me trying to transition to a vegan diet, all cheese all the time is horrible for his little digestive system. So last night, while reading the section on children's nutrition in Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, I once again came across the recipe for Sneaky Dad's Pudding. I had seen this recipe many times before but had never considered it, again because I don't care for the whole "sneaky" premise. But...desperate times call for desperate measures (or rather, toddlers screaming for cheese call for desperate measures) and I decided to give it a try. Luka loves to help out in the kitchen, so I invited him in to make chocolate pudding. He added all the ingredients and mixed it all up in the trusty Magic Bullet, and commented several times how yummy it looked. Once it was all done, I put it in a bowl for him and he actually seemed excited to eat something other than cheese for once. But did he eat it? No. He just looked at it thoughtfully for a minute, then told me I could have it and could I please go get him some cheese. Cas ended up gleefully eating the sneaky pudding, so at least someone reaped the nutritional benefits. So back to the drawing board...I am hoping this is all just a stage.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a bakeless Easter and banana lust

I wish I was here posting pictures of some fabulous goodies baked for the holiday tomorrow.  I bake every Easter.  But not this one. :(  We are just finally all getting healthy again, and my house is a crazy mess.  We will be eating at our parents' houses tomorrow and have been excused from bringing a dish this year, probably for fear we will contaminate everyone with whatever was going on around here.

On a positive baking note, I tried a cookie from Alternative Baking Company, who makes vegan cookies.  I had the Peanut Butter Persuasion, and it was the best vegan cookie I've ever had, and also the best peanut butter cookie ever.  

In other food-related news, I've developed an obsession with making sure we always have plenty of bananas in the house.  This is due to my newfound addiction to green smoothies (I use bananas for my base).  This is quite the shift for me, however, since just a few months ago I was still semi-boycotting bananas.  I wasn't buying them except for maybe once each month, and when I did I felt guilty.  I live in Michigan...obviously bananas are not local, nor will there ever come a season when they  will be (although with global warming I probably shouldn't speak so soon).  So again, I am faced with yet another facet of my food dilemma.  What's more important to me...local food...organic, veg*n?  I know that I vote with my dollars and when local food is not available I try to get organic and/or fair trade.  But what is involved in the banana business?  Some days I feel as if I am drowning in research trying to figure out where my money is going.  I wonder if there will ever be a day when I just *know* that something is ethical or not...although I suppose part of the human process involves developing our own system of ethics based on experience and awareness.  So...yeah, bananas.  We can't run out or I start to become very anxious like people do when they are on their last cigarette.  I don't know how I feel about the ethics of ME buying bananas.  Just confused.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Brobee! The little green one...

Well, Charm City Cakes won't be knocking down my door any time soon, but I thought Brobee turned out quaintly cute. The best part is that he made Cas smile!

Sadly, I'll be making Brobee 2.0 in a few days because we had to cancel today's party. Cas woke up in the middle of the night crying and very uncomfortable and stayed up for most of the night into the early morning. We have all been sick around here (except Cas) and now it seems it is his turn. I hope it doesn't last long...my poor little birthday boy. Anyhow, we rescheduled the party for later this week, so hopefully that will work out!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Time flies...

My baby is a year old today! More pictures of cake madness and toddler revelry to come...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

seasonal bad luck, green smoothie technique, and baby (toddler!) Cas

We have been bombarded by germs in this house, and it's making us all a little crazy. I am hoping that springtime will be a healthier season for all of us. I've started Cas on green smoothies and he loves them! His immune system is pretty strong and he has stayed fairly healthy this winter, so I'm hoping the smoothies will help to maintain that.

I've started using Nate's technique for blending the greens and it works much better than mine. He packs the fruit in first, then the greens and water before blending. I was doing the opposite. Having the greens closest to the blade seems to puree them nicely, leaving the chunks of fruit for last and giving them a creamier texture. I am able to use less bananas this way, although I'm not exactly sure why it works that way.

On a completely separate note...one year ago today began the loooong back labor that would lead to the birth of baby Cas. It was my due date, and he would not be born for two more days. Luka and I took laps around the block in my hopes of progressing the labor, and then later in the day Nate was a trooper and stayed with me for each contraction (24 + hours worth!). I can't believe my baby will be a year old! I made a couple practice cakes for his party yesterday and settled on one I liked (and I think he will like) best. It is the Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake from "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics", and it will be decorated to look like Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba. For our party guests, I will make an assortment of cupcakes which, at least for now, will include chocolate pretzel cupcakes, chocolate mint, and either banana split or chocolate raspberry. I'll try to post some pictures this weekend.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Raw Adventures

I'm still doing the green smoothies, even though I haven't blogged about them in a week. Much to my surprise, I got a second round of the flu earlier this week. I was lucky that it didn't last long at all (probably a result of the greens!) but I was still really frustrated that it happened at all. Attempting to eat raw until dinner has really opened up my eyes to the way I had been eating. I thought I was eating pretty good, but now I actually know what it's like to FEEL good. I have more energy and feel more balanced in general (except when I have the flu, in which case I just get mad). So now I have to figure out the best way to make this work for me. I'm not ready for 100% raw, although that is something I'd explore in the future once the kids are done breastfeeding. My comfort zone has been with vegetarianism/whole foods, but I am drawn to veganism more and more. My body feels better as a vegan, and honestly so does my conscience. My weaknesses are butter and chocolate. Vegan chocolate is easy and accessible, so that's not a big deal...but then there's butter. I do love Earth Balance, but not for baked goods. So right now, I'm mostly raw until dinner on most days. My goal is to incorporate more (cooked) vegan dinners. I don't expect Nate and the boys to follow this plan at all. Nate has been very supportive and encouraging of my vegan experiments, so I am lucky there. The boys can make up their minds when they grow up if they want to be veg*ns, or raw, or whatever. After all, it has taken me 34 years just to get to this point.

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Maternal Love Made Edible"

While searching like a junkie for a quick yet new brownie recipe this afternoon I came across this lovely.

This is not the one I ended up making because I did not have chocolate chips...probably for the first time ever. But this is definitely on my "to-make" list. Who can resist "maternal love made edible"?

GSC, Day #5--finally feeling the effect!

Breakfast smoothie: 3 large kale leaves
2 bananas
1 cup water
1/2 apple

Today I blended the kale and water first, improving the texture quite a bit. This smoothie was probably the least sweet of all of those I've made so far, but it was the most filling. I had no sugar cravings at all the entire morning! I didn't have another smoothie for lunch, I had pita bread and hommous instead, but I am considering a green smoothie "snack" in the afternoon to hold me off until dinner. So this really does work!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

GSC, Day #4, the murky smoothie

Breakfast smoothie: 1 handful baby spinach
couple kale leaves
2 bananas
handful of frozen mixed berries
1 TBSP raw honey

The texture on this one was rather swamplike since the kale didn't get mixed very well. I think for future smoothies containing kale I will have to blend the greens first. On the plus side, it was very filling and I did not have my usual sugar cravings, although I was already thinking about cupcakes (see previous post).

These are not green OR raw!

But they look delicious!


I keep seeing this blog "How About Orange" referenced on different sites and finally had to check it out, mostly because orange is my favorite color. This is a great blog! Check out the pictures of the orange office.

I think cream cheese chocolate cupcakes make a great dessert after a morning if green smoothies, don't you? Everything in moderation...:)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

GSC, Day #3

Breakfast Smoothie: 1 pear
5 strawberries
1 banana
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1 cup water

I've only had one smoothie today. I ate a big green salad for lunch instead. This morning's smoothie was actually rather filling, could be because I used more greens. By lunch again I was quite hungry, so I had a couple tablespoons of hommous with pita bread and a big kale salad with pecans. At this point I still feel ok, not as tired as I am most afternoons, so that's an improvement.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GSC, Day #2

Breakfast Smoothie: 1/2 mango
2 handfuls baby spinach
approx. 1/4 cup blueberries
1 orange
1 cup water

Lunch Smoothie: 5 large strawberries
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 apple
1 cup water

This morning I tried to use up the rest of our fruit before going to the farm market for more, so the combination was kind of weird, but still good. This one was definitely more "earthy" than the others I've made thus far, it had a grassy flavor but was still sweet enough to taste good to me. It actually kept me pretty full until about 11:30, when I was suddenly very very hungry for lunch. I had intentions of having a pretty salad and then a smoothie for lunch, but I was too hungry to assemble the salad and opted for hommous and pita bread instead (not a bad choice as far as lunches go, but not the "raw before dinner" that I was going for). Once the hommous and pita settled my hunger, I made another smoothie. This one was not quite as filling, and now a couple hours later I am experiencing my typical afternoon sugar cravings. Luckily I bought lots of fruit this morning so I have that to snack on, but that doesn't make the Girl Scout cookies in the pantry any less tempting.

something to try...homemade "Lara-type" bars

In trying to reach my goal of "raw until dinner" I've been looking for some creative raw snacks. I picked up a Lara bar at my last trip to the grocery store. I am usually not a fan of these types of health/protein/snack bars but I heard this one was raw so I thought it might give me some good ideas of what I could make myself. I had the cherry pie variety, and it was amazingly good! Anyhow, I started looking online for a homemade version and was pleased to find that they look rather easy. This blog has a nice recipe.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Green Smoothie Challenge, Day One

So today is the official first day of green smoothie goodness, although I did quite a bit of experimenting last week. Nate picked up Magic Bullet blender for us! That makes smoothie-making so quick and the clean-up so easy. I fell asleep early last night so I didn't get a chance to make up a batch for Nate before he went to work, so for today he'll have his after dinner. I made one for breakfast, consisting if the following: 1 banana, a handful of baby spinach, a cup of water, and one orange. It was great! I do think I need to add more greens to tomorrow's smoothie because I still felt a little hungry. My goal as of today is to try to eat raw until dinner a few days a week. I'll need to go to the farm market when the kids get up from their nap to stock up on fruit and greens. Other than that, we're off to a good start!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can you make a cupcake out of a chik-o-stik?

I'm making my chocolate pretzel cupcakes (not the vegan ones) for girls night tonight and it suddenly occurred to me that a Chik-O-Stik cupcake might be oh so wonderful. So I googled "chik o stik" (after a few mis-spellings) and realized not only has this been done before, but people seem to like it. More later...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Happy Foody Green Smoothie Challenge!

I don't know about you, but I am not a big fan of green vegetables. But considering they are such an easy source of good stuff such as iron, calcium and folate, I decided I need to make a better effort to work them into my diet. Sara of the Happy Foody blog has come to the rescue with her "Green Smoothie Challenge". It couldn't get much simpler: one month, 2/25-3/25, one green smoothie each day. I'm excited to concoct some yummy green goodness, and drag Nate and the boys along with me!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

First Attunement

Yesterday I went for a Reiki 1 class, and received my first attunement. The class itself was amazingly interesting, and the attunement was beyond what I have the ability to articulate. I actually saw colors!

There was a woman in the class whose energy was so powerful she actually seemed to radiate. She talked a bit about her avoidance of reiki, something to which I can definitely relate. The first time I became curious about learning to use the energy was at least five years ago. I've never understood it, but have always felt drawn to it.

I crave more instruction and information, but I think I am going to postpone Level 2 for awhile to see how this first attunement unfolds.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

History in the Making

We just finished watching the debate between Hilary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. For the record, I am an Obama Mama, through and through. But I also feel that Sen. Clinton also has a lot to offer our country, so I was excited to watch them both discuss the important issues tonight. By this time next year, we will hopefully either have our first African American president or our first female president! There are rumors and speculation that Al Gore will endorse Sen. Obama, I think that would secure the nomination. Now, a Obama/ Gore ticket...wouldn't that be a dream come true? It feels good to be hopeful for our country again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Family Photo

These are rare, so I thought I'd post one up!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Seriously, how cute are these?


And could I get away with wearing one at 34?

a rough day

Today just isn't working out for me. The kids were crabby this morning, which really is understandable after an exciting birthday yesterday. I get, I really do, but it's still hard. Then I went to buy some supplies for the guitar cake I'm making tonight, bought two bags of powdered sugar, and of course one of them had a hole so everything else I bought, including a black shirt, is covered in powdered sugar. Still no big deal, right? On the way home, people were honking their horns at me and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. At the light I rolled down my window and a man in the car next to me yelled that my tire was flat. Great, I pulled into the next parking lot and sure enough, flat as a pancake. Still I kept my cool, drove slowly, and got home. I decided to get it fixed tomorrow when Nate would be home so I wouldn't have to drag the kids out. So Luka hasn't had a nap, Cas is stuffing everything he can find into his mouth, and I have a ton of things I need to do before the party tomorrow. I've become better at handling stress, but today I just feel defeated.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Three Years Old

Today my son Luka turns three years old. I can't believe how fast he is growing up, right before my eyes. Three years ago today I was so scared of giving birth, and had no idea what to expect from the little person who would be coming home with me. I read a book by Jon Kabat Zinn where he says that our children are like little zen masters who one day parachute into our living rooms. I have learned so much from my son in these three short years. The gratefulness I feel for having such a beautiful little soul in my life is overwhelming. Happy birthday, Luka!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets and Brobee

First, the cutlets...These are genius. It feels kind of weird to make the inaugural post on this blog about mashed chickpeas shaped into cutlets, but the blog title is "Peek Into the Mundane", after all.

The recipe is from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. We're having them for dinner tonight with mushroom gravy, mushroom risotto and some sauteed veggies. I think the trick might be to lighty pan-fry them first and then bake. For some reason I have been trying to perfect these things since I got the cookbook for Christmas. It's sort of a culinary quest...

My other "fun" project for today is the Brobee pillow I'm trying to make for Luka. I know it would be much easier if I used my sewing machine (but I'd have to learn how to use it first) but there is something strangely satisfying about sewing a project by hand. I'll work on that when the kids are off to bed!

Tomorrow I will be baking cupcakes for Luka's third birthday and also trying to figure out how to fashion a guitar cake for his birthday party. The cake decorating is a major undertaking for a not-so-crafty girl like myself, so I really hope it turns out good. If it does, I'll post a picture.