Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Insanely Moist Carrot Cake


First off, I have some exciting news! I had my baby! Jack was born two weeks ago and he is perfect. Check out my other blog for his full birth story

My mom came for a month to help take care of us---for which I am insanely grateful. She left today and I wish she could come back already. She took care of all the cooking so I apologize for not having any new recipes lately. However, she made me an awesome treat for Easter that I wanted to share.

Carrot cake will always remind me of my grandmother. No one else in my family likes carrot cake but me, so she only made it when I was visiting. Sweet carrots, rich cream cheese frosting, and the smile on her face when I took the first bite. Such happy memories. Then my mom burst my bubble few years ago and told me she used a box mix. Oh well, I still cherish those memories. At least she would doctor it up with extra carrots, walnuts, and raisins.

So I asked my mom if she would make me a carrot cake for Easter. She also used a box mix but doctored it up. Now, no offense to late grandmother, but my mom's cake was AMAZING. Light but insanely moist. Just the right amount of sweetness with light creamy frosting. 

This recipe makes one sheet cake. Because this cake is vegan and does not have eggs, it will not rise significantly. As a result, I would not suggest making this into a layer cake. 

Carrot Cake
Cake
1 box carrot cake mix (check to make sure it is vegan)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 can crushed pineapple in juice
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Frosting
1 container of vegan cream cheese 
1 cup powder sugar 

Pre-heat the oven to temperature for a sheet cake as specified on the box. 

Spray a baking sheet pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together all the cake ingredients. Use the whole can of pineapple, juice included. 

Bake according the the directions on the box. However, since there are no eggs it may take a bit longer. Adjust the time as needed. Like a regular cake, a toothpick inserted in the middle should be clean when removed.

Once the cake is cooled, make the frosting. Mix together the cream cheese and powder sugar. It will just be a light frosting/glaze. 

Spread on the cake and let it set. 

It's so insanely moist, I love it. Maybe Jack will take after me and love carrot cake too. Maybe he can have happy memories eating it with his grandma too. And maybe you can bake up this treat and make memories of your own.



Monday, March 31, 2014

Homemade Applesauce


This recipe to accompany my last post, Vegan Potato Pancakes. Applesauce is soooo easy to make. And it tastes so much better fresh. I used Golden Delicious apples because they are my favorite, but any red apple will do. I also don't use that much sugar because I honestly don't think it needs it. Apples are sweet enough as it is, just a little bit more sugar makes it a treat.

This recipe makes 4 servings, but can be easily multiplied to make more.

Applesauce
6 red apples (I used Golden Delicious)
1 cup water
2 tbs of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Peel the apples and cut the fruit off the core. Chop the apples. Don't worry too much about size and evenness at this point, just get them smaller.

Put the apple pieces and all remaining ingredients in a pot. 

Bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover.

Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until the apples are so tender you can't even stab them with a fork without them falling apart. 

Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.

You can leave it this if you want it really chunky. For smoother sauce, pulse it in the blender for minute. I left a few chunks in mine.


Serve it as side dish, a snack, or even dessert!








Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vegan Potato Pancakes


Potatoes pancakes just might one of the best foods on the planet. Salty and flaky on the outside, while soft and warm on the inside.  Do I even need to say anymore?

I grew up knowing them as Polish dish, but they are pretty much the same as Jewish latkes. That's why I decided to use a Manischewtiz Potato Pancake mix---along with some fresh potatoes. I also used olive oil, not vegetable oil for frying. 

And yes, fried white potatoes are not the healthiest thing ever, but they are a nice treat once and awhile. Just eat them in moderation and watch your portion sizes. And these are especially good with a side of homemade apple sauce (I'll post that recipe soon). 

This makes 6 servings (not gonna lie, we ate them all).

Vegan Potato Pancakes
1 box ( 3 oz) Potato Pancake Mix, with no eggs or dairy in it
1 large russet potato, shredded or riced (I riced mine)
1.5 tbs Ener-G Egg Replacer + 2 tbs water, mixed together 
3/4 cup cold water
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper







In a large bowl, combine the mix, shredded or riced potato, egg replacer mixture and water. Mix together well. 

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Don't put too much oil, this is just shallow pan fry. 

Once the oil is hot, drop in a big spoonful (like up to 1/4 cup). It should naturally flatten and spread out. Repeat a few more times, without over crowding the pan. I fit four at a time in mine.

Fry until they are golden on the bottom, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side.

Remove from the oil and let them drain on a paper towel or wire rack.

Repeat until the batter is gone.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.


Serve with some apple sauce and you have one tasty meal!



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pilothouse and The Argonaut Cafe

A few weekends ago, Michael and I went on our babymoon in California's Gold Country. Check out my pregnancy blog for a full review of the trip and money saving travel tips. We had both been dying for a Gold Country trip for over a year now, so this was the perfect way for us to have some quality time before the baby comes. We ate at two restaurants that really impressed me, so I thought I would share.

Old Town Sacramento at night. 

We went on our babymoon starting the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend, so we decided to save our fancy Valentine's Day dinner for that night. We both wanted a nice dinner in Old Town Sacramento, so I did some online research and found Pilothouse.

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The restaurant is located inside the Delta King Hotel, a retired riverboat docked along the Sacramento River. I made reservations online, but we probably did not need them. We came later in the evening so we missed the rush, and the hostess told me that the day after Valentines Day is never that busy. She suggested that in the future we always make a reservation just in case.


The staff was very friendly, though our specific waiter was kinda slow (Michael's beer and our bread came about 15 minutes later). The atmosphere was very nice, the whole dinning room restored to it's 1930's charm. And the view of the river all lit up at night was lovely.


I ordered the beet salad (Michael just ate the cheese for me). It was sooo good. The beets were perfectly cooked and very juicy.

For my entree, I had to order the only vegan thing on the menu, Grilled Vegetable Tagine. I was a little annoyed at first there was only one choice, but it was tasted good so I have no complaints. Lovely crisp veggies served over rice, seasoned with a sweet but savory spice blend. I am sorry I don't have a photo of my entree, I know I took one and somehow it vanished off my phone....

Michael ordered the Saturday Night Steak Dinner Special---nothing besides his starter salad was vegan. He always wants steak for Valentines Day. I can't complain because I didn't have to cook it for once. He loved his organic and antibiotic free prime rib. And was in heaven with his buttery mashed potatoes. Meh, I will stick to my still delicious healthier food :-)

Aren't we cute all dressed up?
This place is expensive, but it was a lovely treat. We got to dress up and snuggle up next to each other. It would have been even better if I could have sampled the wine selection.....


On Monday while visiting the Marshall Gold Discovery Park, we had a lunch at this adorable little cafe across the street from the Visitor's Center. The Argonaut Cafe is an organic, farm-to-fork style restaurant. It's a tiny little building, and even at 2:30 PM when we entered, it was pretty busy.


The cafe is decorated like an old Gold Rush era store, mostly wood and metal. There are a lot of picnic tables out back with a great view of the American River.


The menu is basic cafe foods, like soups, sandwiches, salad, and a few desserts. I ordered the Fresh Veggie Sandwich (without the cheese) on Sourdough and Michael got the Organic Smoked Turkey on Sourdough. My sandwich was heavenly. Fresh, crispy veggies with a creamy hummus. And I love buttery California avocados. I was so happy to find fresh organic food in such a small town at reasonable price (both sandwiches were $8 each).  The soup of the day was vegan chili, but I didn't want to be too full and set off my acid reflux. It looked really good though, maybe next time.

We want to do a bigger Gold Country trip when Jack is old enough and I totally plan on coming to both these restaurants again. Though, Jack might stay the night with his Auntie who lives nearby when we go back to Pilothouse so momma can enjoy some wine in peace.

And see, it's not that hard to go on a vacation and eat vegan. Just do some research and be prepared that your food will be delicious, just not a mound of buttery mashed potatoes. Or who knows, maybe you will luck out and find an awesome organic cafe!





Monday, February 24, 2014

Coconut Noodle Soup


This is one of my simple go-to recipes when I want something easy and satisfying. My mom is coming to to help me before and after the baby comes, and I am so asking her to make me this for me. (and make freezer meals of this too). This soup is a mix between a milder Thai Tom Kha Kai and a simpler Japanese Ramen soup.

This recipe serves 4 entree sized portions.

Coconut  Noodle Soup
4 servings of ramen or soba noodles, cooked according to directions and set aside
Coconut oil
1 tbs minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 of a white onion, chopped
1 medium carrot or 8 baby carrots, chopped
1 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 block of firm tofu, drained and cut into bit-sized cubes
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
The juice of one lime
1-2 tbs soy sauce, depending on taste
1 can (12 oz) coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass
1/4 tbs yellow Thai curry paste
Basil, cilantro, or chili oil for garnish

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add a little bit of the coconut oil.

Add the ginger, garlic, and onions. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add carrots, bell peppers, and tofu. Saute until the carrots are soft.

Add the vegetable broth, lime juice, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.

Reduce to a low simmer. Add the coconut milk, lemon grass stalks and Thai curry paste. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked noodles.

Serve with a garnish of basil, cilantro, chili oil, or any combination of those. I normally do chili sauce and basil, but this time I left it plain.


As this cool, the noodles will absorb some of the broth and make the dish creamier. If you want it more broth, just add more water of vegetable broth during cooking.











Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe Contest: Make A Dish For My Baby!


I recently posted a recipe for a Samosa Pizza. As I was eating it I realized the dish represents two of my baby's heritages, Indian and Italian. It made me happy to know that soon Michael and I will have a son to teach about the world. So I decided to share all this happiness with all of you by a recipe contest! Make a vegan dish that incorporates 2 or more of my son's heritages, and you could win an Amazon gift certificate!  

The Official Rules:
  • It must be completely vegan  (no meat, no dairy, no eggs, or any other animal products)
  •  It must incorporate two or more my son's heritages: Fijian, Indian, Hispanic (Spanish), Caribbean, Native American, Polish, Italian, French Canadian, or German. 
    • Major bonus points if you can get all his heritages in the dish
  • Be creative! I want something more than frozen ravioli with curry sauce. 
  • Please include a story about how you came up the recipe 
  • Email me the recipe, easy to follow instructions, and a photo of the dish at samanthaskelly@rocketmail.com.  
    • Please include the subject "Recipe Contest" 
    • Please include your name and a valid return email address so I can contact you if you win
    • If you have a blog, please include the link so I can link the recipe. 
  • If one or more of the requirements above is missing, the submission will not be considered.
  • First place will receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate via email. 
  • Second place will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate via email
  • Third and Fourth place will receive honorable mention 
  • Submission deadline is April 12, 2014 at 11:00 PM
  • The winners will be contacted via email by April 30, 2014
  • Winners must respond by May 7, 2014
  • Contest not open to family members and close friends 
Can't wait to see your recipes! Good Luck!

Check out my pregnancy/motherhood blog, Vegan Babymama, for why we chose the name Jack and other updates about my pregnancy as well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Small Meal Ideas

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I mentioned in my last post that I am suffering from horrible heartburn/acid reflux right now. Guess my little son decided that my stomach was annoying and shoved it out of his way. As a result, I had to start eating 6 to 8 smaller, more simple meals to keep my stomach happy. I thought I would share the list of small meal ideas I came up. These are not only great for heartburn issues. Try them for kid's lunches, party finger foods, and smaller meals for diets.

Breakfast:
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal cooked with rice milk with a 1/2 a banana mashed and 3 chopped up dates
  • Smoothie: 1/2 an avocado, splash of apple juice, handful of spinach, and 1/4 cup blackberries
  •  Burrito: 1 warmed medium flour tortilla,  1/2 an avocado, handful of kale,  handful shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter spread on a piece of whole grain toast, and half a banana
Lunch:
  • 1 cup of my Feel Better Vegetable Soup
  • My rice cheese or Soy Cheese Quesadilla , but with salsa or hot sauce
  • Half Sandwich or wrap: 1 medium tortilla or 1 slice of bread, 2 tablespoon avocado, handful of greens, half a handful of shredded carrots, and a bit of stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup of plain cooked lentils over 1/2 cup rice with a bit of kale or spinach
Dinner:
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta, a bit of olive oil, handful of sautee kale or spinach, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 of cup of chopped vegetable salad with a light apple cider vinegar dressing 
  • 1/2 cup whole pinto beans, 1/2 cup brown rice
  • A plain Tofu Scramble---light or no spices, no tomatoes, and no onions
Snacks:
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds or cashews
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 8 dates
  • 8 carrots and 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 1 small apple with 1 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 6 ounces soy or rice yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber and 1/4 cup whole wheat crackers
And remember to stay away from sugary drinks. Drink as much water as you can. Try coconut water to keep your electrolytes up.  And try some low sugar apple juice with a splash of apple cider vinegar to settle your stomach and soothe your throat.