Tag Archives: cupcakes

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
salt
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

Dressing:
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Salad:
16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

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And the winner is…

5 Nov

I’ve been contemplating the gluten free thing for the last couple weeks, and I just don’t know if I can be vegan and gluten free. I love the vegan lifestyle, but give up whole wheat?! Oooh, I don’t know about that. I’m part Italian — I need my bread and pasta!

So I decided to do a little experiment. I went to www.allrecipes.com and looked up recipes for corn bread. I selected the one with the highest ratings and I made them. Only here’s the thing — I made half the muffins as listed in the recipe, and the other half with all the substitutions to make them vegan and gluten free — Ener-G egg substitute for the egg, almond milk for the regular milk, and gluten-free flour for the whole wheat flour. The original recipe ones went into Halloween cupcake liners and the vegan/gluten-free ones went into plain cupcake liners. They baked in the oven in the same muffin pan and for the exact same amount of time. I even rotated the pan halfway through to ensure even baking of all muffins.

And the winner is…
the vegan/gluten-free muffins!

I had my kids and mother-in-law do the taste testing since the original recipe muffins contained dairy. They thought both kinds were really good, but said the vegan/gluten-free ones were slightly more moist. I was actually surprised that they baked up the same height. I didn’t expect that. The only real difference was that the vegan/gluten-free muffins did not crack on the top or brown as much as the regular ones. Otherwise, they tasted exactly the same.

My conclusion? I can at least have tasty corn bread! I’m going to make them again to use in an upcoming Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. In the meantime, I’ll keep experimenting with all the substitutions and see what else I can come up with.

The original recipe is here. My version is below.

Original recipe on the left; vegan/gluten-free recipe on the right

Original recipe on the left; vegan/gluten-free recipe on the right

Vegan & Gluten-Free Corn Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Ener-G egg substitute for 1 egg, mixed per package directions
1 cup plain almond milk
1/3 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg substitute, almond milk and oil until well combined. Divide evenly between the cupcake liners.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

18 Oct

Did you know this day even existed? At the beginning of October, I did a little research on the background of Vegetarian Awareness Month. In the process, I came across a list of other “special” days throughout October. Actually, just about every day in October is National “Something” Day!

So in honor of National Chocolate Cupcake Day, I decided to bake again. As I’ve said before, I don’t usually do a whole lot of baking. But this is an occasion I can’t pass up because I own the most awesome cookbook for vegan cupcakes. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, features recipes for 75 kinds of cupcakes and not one of them contains dairy or eggs. I was skeptical when I first read this book. I honestly didn’t think cupcakes without eggs would bake up light and fluffy. But they do. And, my kids have gobbled up every cupcake that has come out of my oven!

I’ve already blogged about the fantastic Cookies & Cream Cupcakes and several others from the book. Just imagine biting into a moist, delicious Rum Raisin Cupcake, Chai Latte Cupcake, S’mores Cupcake or Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcake. Is your mouth watering yet? And how appropriate are the Apple Cider Cupcakes right now?! Yum.

Today I baked Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Peanut Butter frosting from Isa’s website, Post Punk Kitchen. (I didn’t want to infringe on anyone’s copyright by reprinting one from the book.) The cupcakes came out light and fluffy with a hint of banana and were very quick to put together. You can get the recipe by clicking here. The frosting is a basic vegan chocolate frosting from her website with a couple tablespoons of creamy peanut butter stirred in. (Recipe here.) Amazing. Give them a try!

By the way, October 23 is National Boston Cream Pie Day. Might be a good day to whip up a batch of Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World!

Happy Birthday, Jessica and Pooh Bear!

14 Oct

Today is Winnie the Pooh’s birthday. I’m not sure if it’s his exact birthday, since he started as a child’s stuffed animal and then became a character in A. A. Milne’s beloved book series, but October 14 is often recognized as his birthday because it is the date of the first printing of the original book. I’ve been a Pooh Bear lover for a very long time (the classic Pooh; not so much the Disney Pooh). When Madison was born, I couldn’t wait to paint a classic Pooh mural on the wall of her room. And when she outgrew it 5 or 6 years later, I was almost in tears as her new favorite color of paint was rolled over Pooh and his friends.

Today is also my niece Jessica’s 13th birthday. She’s officially a teenager! Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday she was having a Little Mermaid birthday party with her cute little party hat on. This year, she’s going shopping at the mall with a friend to celebrate her big day. Happy Birthday, Jessica! Hope your day is fabulous!

In honor of these two sweeties, I baked some cupcakes today. (What?! More baking?! My husband will be wondering who I am and what I did with his real wife!) But these aren’t just any old cupcakes. These are moist, delicious honey cakes! There’s nothing Pooh Bear loves more than honey, you know. They are lightly spiced with sweet apple undertones. Topped with frosting, they make a perfect birthday party treat or after-school snack. Or, skip the frosting and drizzle with a little honey to serve with brunch. Fabulous!

Honey Cakes
makes 1 dozen

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs (try substituting Ener-G egg replacer for vegan cakes)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups grated apple (peeled)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar and applesauce. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Blend in honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Slowly add to the sugar mixture while blending with the beaters on low, until it’s all incorporated. Divide batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one cake comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool a few minutes in the pan then move to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Top with vanilla or cream cheese frosting, or drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

The Classic Pooh wall mural I painted. This was taken before the curtains were hung or any furniture was moved in.

p.s. It’s also National Dessert Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

20 Jun

I love camping. I think we've been going camping my entire life. Growing up, my sister and I looked forward to our family camping trips more than just about anything. We camped throughout most of Michigan, from the Irish Hills to Sleeping Bear Dunes to Copper Harbor to the shores of all of the Great Lakes, and many other beautiful places this country has to offer. Now that I have kids of my own, I'm so glad to be camping with them, and thrilled that most of these trips include my mom and dad. 

Day 4 of our Pokagon camping trip was another great day. Lots of hiking, biking and a toasty afternoon at the beach (or, should I say smokin' hot afternoon at the beach?!) But, the kids had a blast searching for interesting shells and rocks and splashing in the cool water.

This night was our Mexican Fiesta. It's one of our favorite camping meals because we have a huge buffet filled with all kinds of things to put on a tortilla. We started off with a tasty Creamy Salsa Dip with homemade tortilla chips for an appetizer. This recipe has been in our family for probably twenty years, but I hadn't made it for a long time. It uses mayo and cream cheese, but I chose to veganize it and it ended up tasting just as good as, if not better than, the original. (recipe and photo at end of post)
The guys then grilled steak and shrimp, and my mom and I grilled sliced onions and peppers, for fajitas. For toppings, I made fresh guacamole and we had black beans, lettuce from my garden, chopped tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, black olives and probably a few other things I'm forgetting right now. 
After dinner, we celebrated both my dad's birthday and Father's Day with him. He opened presents after my dessert of carrot cake cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World). Delish.
Our midnight snack – Chicken Bacon Poppers – continued the theme of our Mexican Fiesta. My mom introduced us to these tasty campfire treats last summer. You season strips of chicken breast with cumin, garlic powder and chili powder. Then stuff them into fresh jalapenos that have been cut in half and seeded. Wrap a strip of bacon around the whole thing and secure with a toothpick. Grill them over the campfire until the chicken is done and the bacon is crispy, then serve with a dipping sauce of sour cream, lime juice, cumin, salt and garlic. I didn't eat any this trip since I'm no longer eating meat, but trust me — they are fantastic. I did attempt to make a vegan version using Trader Joe's vegan chicken strips that I had left from earlier in the week, but they didn't really work out. I'm going to have to experiment with them a little more to see if I can make a meat-free version without sacrificing flavor.
Although I don't get to see my dad today, I'm so glad we got to celebrate Father's Day with both of his kids and all of his grandkids together at the campground. I love you, Dad! Happy Father's Day!
Here's the recipe and picture of the Creamy Salsa Dip:
CREAMY SALSA DIP
makes about 2 cups
1 8-ounce package Tofutti vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
1 cup chopped, seeded fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced green onions
salt substitute
Combine cream cheese, Vegenaise, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add black olives and green chilies and pulse until just blended. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in tomatoes and green onions. Season with salt, if necessary. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight and enjoy!

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A little birthday celebration while camping.

19 Jun

My family has a lot of summer birthdays, and since we were all together camping, we celebrated three of them in one weekend!

First up was Brady's. After a delicious dinner of chicken and vegetable packets cooked over hot coals (mine had the Trader Joe's vegan chicken strips in it), I served up some sweet and sticky vegan cupcakes from Isa's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World cookbook. These are your basic chocolate cupcake with cherry filling inside and topped with buttercream frosting and chocolate sprinkles. They require a fork, but are oh-so-tasty!
After dessert and presents, the kids took off on their bikes and we cleaned up and got a campfire going. When they had exhausted themselves bike riding, we all sat around the fire enjoying each other's company. Then my dad decided to surprise his grandkids with homemade kettle corn. He had found a recipe online for making it in a pan over the camp stove. He made several rounds, getting it just right, and they gobbled it up like crazy!
Now, you would think their bellies would be stuffed, but a couple hours later, we started making late-night campfire snacks and they gobbled those up, too! My brother-in-law made a new recipe for shrimp, fresh basil and a slice of red pepper wrapped in a strip of prosciutto. They were cooked in the pie irons over the campfire and they came out beautifully. He served it with a homemade garlic-mustard aioli. Being vegan, I didn't have one but everyone else loved them. Along with the shrimp were other various dips and breads, crackers, etc. I made a Tuscan White Bean Spread with pita wedges that was fabulous. It's very easy to make and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavor gets.
TUSCAN WHITE BEAN DIP
makes about 2 cups
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2-3 large basil leaves
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
dash crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine all ingredients but the olive oil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it's absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Enjoy!

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OMG – Margarita Cupcakes?!

8 Mar

No, I’m not kidding. Yes, they have tequila in them.

I have a new favorite cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you haven’t seen it before, you must check it out. It has 75 recipes for fabulous cupcakes and none of them contain eggs or dairy products. I borrowed this book from the library and about 15 recipes into it, I went online and ordered the book from Barnes & Noble. These are not your typical kids birthday party cupcakes, although you could definitely make them for that purpose.

How about Chocolate Cherry Creme Cupcakes, S’mores Cupcakes, Elvis Style Banana Split Cupcakes, or Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes? And there’s no way I’m passing up the Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting, Chai Latte Cupcakes, Tiramisu Cupcakes or Mucho Margarita Cupcakes.

I honestly did not think it was possible to make a moist, fluffy cupcake without eggs. But it is. Yesterday I baked the Cookies & Cream cupcakes and took them for dessert at my in-laws. They were a huge hit. Super moist, rich and so satisfying. I made them exactly as listed except I used So Delicious Coconut Milk in place of the soy milk. (So Delicious Coconut Milk is now available in Kroger’s health food section where the refrigerated soy milk is.) I used the Newman-O’s dairy free chocolate sandwich cookies as it says in the recipe, also available at my local Kroger store.

Vegan Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes
recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 cup soy, coconut or almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 Newman-O’s chocolate sandwich cookies, finely crumbled

Whisk together the “milk” and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with foil liners.

To the milk mixture, add the sugar, oil and vanilla and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients while blending. Stir in cookie crumbs. Beat until no large lumps remain. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

Frosting:
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soy, coconut or almond milk
5 Newman-O’s chocolate sandwich cookies, finely crumbled

Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and “milk” and beat for 5-7 more minutes until light and fluffy. Stir in crumbled cookies.

Spread generously onto the cupcakes and top each with half of a sandwich cookie. Enjoy!

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