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Archive for July, 2012

Portland is an awesome place to live. It’s like the land of beer and vino, with a lot of funky, slow driving, alternative lifestyle loving, vulgar doughnut eating, striped sock wearing people thrown in the mix. There are more food and bar establishments here (not to mention strip clubs) than you can ever possibly visit. Most of the big names in music make a pit stop here, and of course if you want to be disappointed you can always catch a Blazers game. I mean, where else can you drink a pint and play Dr. Mario Brothers or BurgerTime?

But all this awesomeness doesn’t come for free. Portland seems to have a knack for attracting tons of mid-20’s/ 30-something’s that all arrive without jobs. This means that those of us already here have an ever growing amount of competition. And while it used to be the cheapest city of the west coast to live, and perhaps still is, it’s quickly growing up. Though it’s not on par with San Francisco yet, it’s trying its damnedest to get there. So while it’s truly a fantastic city with a wonderful climate and superb amenities, the hubs and I have decided to move it on down the line.

So where are we bound? To a city both of use said we’d never move to. Dallas. Texas. The Big D. Did you know it’s been over a 100 degrees there lately? Did you know my husband practically melts in the heat? Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting! My sister pretty much sealed our fate when she moved there in February. Plus the job market is supposedly not quite the ferocious beast it is here, but we’ll be the judge of that I guess.

So having said all that, the posting here will be a bit sparse over the next few weeks as we pack and clean and load and drive and drive and drive and unload and unpack and etc, etc. But I’ll leave you now with a tasty little summer treat, and hopefully there will be some cookies up here before we begin our trek across country.

Almond Amaretto Ice Cream

  • 6oz extra-firm silken tofu
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is better than light)
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 5 T Amaretto liqueur
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C sugared or candied almonds, roughly chopped

Puree the tofu in a blender with just enough milk to help it along. Once it’s completely smooth, add the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts, and puree again. Place it in the fridge for a bit to cool back down.

Now regarding those nuts, they’ll get all soggy and mushy if you just place them straight into the ice cream without doing anything to them, and nobody wants soggy nuts do they? The best way to avoid this is to candy them, but that typically involves egg whites and we obviously don’t do that here. You can sugar them however, and that’s super easy to do.

Generally you do not chop nuts before sugaring and toasting but if you chop them after you’ll break the barrier you just created and all will be for not. So, roughly chop the almonds. Bring a solution of equal parts sugar and water to boil (also known as simple syrup). Toss the nuts in the boiling simple syrup and stir them around for about 15 seconds. Now drain them, reserving the simple syrup if you like for another use, and spread them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a Silpat. Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven until they’re no longer sticky. And since you can’t tell if they’re sticky while they’re still hot, pull an almond out of the oven and set it on the counter for a minute and then test. If it’s not sticky and has a good crunch, you’re done!

So when you’re ready, spin your ice cream in your ice cream maker. Add the cooled almonds towards the end of the spinning process, or fold them in after it’s spun. Cover tightly and freeze for several hours to allow it to setup completely.

Well I guess I’ll see you on the other side, but hopefully before. If you live or have lived in Dallas and have some vegan tips for me (i.e. restaurants) please share!

Cheers!

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So all vegetables and fruits belong to different pigment families. In general there are three groups: chlorophyll (green plants like broccoli), carotenoids (orange and yellow plants like carrots) and flavonoids (red, purple and white plants like beets). When cooking veggies or fruit the acidity or alkalinity of whatever you’re cooking them in affects their ultimate appearance and texture. Acid will make spinach an ugly dull green but leave it firm while an alkaline will keep is bright but make it mushy. Flavonoids are affected differently. Acid leaves reds red but alkalinity turns them blue.

This means that if you put cherries in a cupcake batter and add baking soda (an alkaline) they’re going to turn blue. Furthermore, if you soak the cherries in whiskey and then add some of the soaking liquid to the batter, that blue hue is going to come with it. And since there is only bit of blue and a lot of tan/ brownish color from all the flour and sugar, the cupcake will take on some Dr. Seuss green eggs and ham like quality during baking. Thankfully the majority of the green pigment baked out of the cupcakes but part way through baking it looked like I was making spinach cupcakes.

This might not be true of all cherries. I’m guessing maraschino cherries would behave differently as they’re so freaking processed but I was using pure and unadulterated Bing cherries.

But regardless of rogue cupcakes pigments, I’m a huge fan of whiskey. I used to hate whiskey but during culinary school a certain instructor was very fond of the stuff and had us taste different whiskeys almost every day of the week. After a few months of tasting whiskey at 8am you start to develop a taste for it, to say the least.

Due to my new found love of whiskey, the Manhattan has quickly become my favorite cocktail. And when you order it at a bar (at a good bar, don’t order one at a dive bar) they tend to come with a whiskey soaked cherry sitting in the bottom of your glass. So of course I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a cupcake.

Whiskey Soaked Cherry Cupcakes

First you have to soak your cherries. A few hours might be sufficient. A day would definitely do. But I soaked them for two days, just to be safe.

Pit your cherries and then quarter them. I believe it took 24 cherries to get 1 cup pitted and quartered. Place the chopped cherries in a small bowl or jar and cover with whiskey. Cover and let them soak.

For the Cupcakes

  • 3/4 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C AP flour
  • 3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, about 10 swipes across a microplane
  • 1/2 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/4 C cherry soaking liquid (whiskey)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1 C quartered and soaked cherries

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Mix the soy milk and vinegar together to curdle and set aside.

Sift all your dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whisk together the sugars and canola oil. Add the soaking liquid and extracts. Fold in about 1/3 of the flour followed by 1/2 of the milk and repeat, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour.* Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid, and fold them into the batter.

Portion the batter into the cupcake pan – a 1/4 cup spoon yielded 12 cupcakes for me. Bake until they are springy and a toothpick comes out clean. These took longer than usual in my oven, I’m wanting to say over 25 minutes.

For the Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, room temp
  • 4 oz pressed extra firm silken tofu (1/2 of a Mori-Nu block)
  • Powdered Sugar, roughly 3 – 4 cups
  • Cherry soaking liquid
  • Pinch of salt

First press the tofu. Grab a few paper towels or a kitchen towel and wrap it around the tofu. Place it on the counter and put something heavy on top of it to help squeeze out the excess water. You can skip this step but then you won’t be able to add much flavoring liquid and/ or you’ll need more powdered sugar to absorb the excess water in the tofu.

After the tofu has been pressed for a bit, place it and the soft butter in a blender or small food processor bowl and blend them until well combined and “fluffy”. Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid bowl (or any large bowl). With the paddle attachment (or a spatula), add a tablespoon or two of the cherry soaking liquid and the salt. Mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. I used less powdered sugar here than I typically do because I wanted a less sweet/ not so stiff frosting, but the quantities are ultimately up to your fancy.

For Homemade Cupcake Liners

So if you find yourself riffling through your cabinet and you discover that you have about 20 different cute, fun, polka-dotted cupcake liners but not any serious, whiskey worthy, adult-like ones, have no fear. Grab a piece of parchment paper and cut it into squares, I’d say about 4 x 4 inches. Take each piece and press it into a cupcake cavity, use the bottom of a glass to help make the creases stay. Voila! Now you have plain yet sophisticated cupcake liners. Problem solved.

If you’ve ever baked with alcohol, you know that most of it bakes out of the cupcake, so typically you can’t taste much of it when all is said and done. These cherries, however, are lushes and held onto the whiskey quite well. Therefore if you aren’t a whiskey fan, skip right over this puppy and maybe try the mango cupcakes. If you are a whiskey fan, you’ll love these!

* Regarding the mixing method with the cake batter, I generally don’t worry about the flour-milk-flour-milk-flour method with vegan cakes. Usually I’m lazy and throw all my liquid in the bowl, sift in my dry, mix, portion and bake. I thought I’d try to go about the right way and see if any differences were noticed. These cupcakes did turn out to be quite moist and not in the slightest bit tough. However, that could be due to the mixing method or the fact that I used less starches than I typically do. So the moral of the story is, if you’re feeling lazy, just through it all in the bowl and forget about it. 🙂

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