Thursday, April 28, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I have a friend coming over tonight so I thought I would be a good hostess and bake something yummy. My favorite cake is red velvet cake. So moist and sweet, it really does melt in your mouth like velvet. I haven't had any since I went vegan, so I thought it was time to pull out my cupcake tin again and make some.

I Googled "vegan red velvet cupcakes" and the first link to come up was from a blog called Mac & Cheese.  These Red Velvet Cupcakes have no complicated ingredients and stay pretty true to the original recipe, which is what I wanted since I love it so much. The author adapted the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, a book I am dying to get.

I halved the recipe and made a few changes. I used mirin instead of apple cider vinegar because it is what I have on hand. The vinegar is for leavening mainly, and you use so little that it does not alter the taste really. I also used hemp milk instead of soy because I like it better. I used melted dark chocolate instead of coco powder and butter instead of vegetable oil.

Nice deep red color.
The biggest change was the coloring. I used beet juice instead of food coloring. I did this for two reasons: it's cheaper (one stupid little tube of red dye was $4.99!) and it's healthier. Food coloring is pretty much all chemicals---and sometimes isn't even vegetarian because it contains carmine (beetle scales). I thought of using a natural dye after I saw my friend Eva posted a blog where she used bright foods to dye her Easter eggs (check it out here).  I Googled it and it turns out I am not the only one who doesn't want a "red beetle cake." I wasn't sure how much to use at first so I added a little at a time till the color was right without thinning the batter too much. You cannot taste the beets at all. But, to be safe and keep Marquis happy, I added a bit more sugar just in case. They did not come out BRIGHT red, but that's fine with me. I'd rather have lighter cupcakes than ones full of toxic dye.

Make your own if you can
And I have to admit, I used store-bought frosting from a can. I suck at making frosting and since these are for a guest, I wanted them to be perfect. At home my mom usually ends up fixing my pathetic attempts. I never can get the consistency right. Most can frostings are actually vegan. They are made with soy, which doesn't spoil quickly like dairy does. I found the one with the fewest scary chemical ingredients and punch it up a bit with vegan cream cheese.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 cup hemp milk (or whatever non-dairy milk you prefer)
1 tsp mirin (or whatever vinegar you like)
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tps baking soda
1/2 tps baking powder
1/2 tps salt
14 g dark chocolate, melted
1 tbs vegan butter, melted
2 tps vanilla extract
The juice from 1 can of beets
1 can vanilla frosting 
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (try Tofutti)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray. I don't use cupcake liners, they are just extra waste.

In a small bowl, add the mirin to the hemp milk and set aside to curdle. This is to replicate buttermilk.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Next add the milk mixture, melted chocolate, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Mix well so you don't have any streaks.

Add as much beet juice as necessary to reach the desired color without thinning the batter too much. This is the main reason I didn't use oil, cut down on the liquids to keep the right consistency. It should be slightly runny like a typical cake batter.

So happy my mom bought me a cupcake tin.
Fill the cupcake cups 3/4 the way full and bake for about 20 minutes.

They smell so good!

They are done when no longer jiggly and a toothpick inserted comes out fairly clean.

Let them cool in the pan for a bit so they are easier to remove. Then let them cool completely before frosting. I made mine the day before and refrigerated them over night.

To make the cream cheese frosting, put the frosting and the cream cheese into a bowl. Mix together well, whip it up a bit to make it fluffier. You can add some powdered sugar to thicken it up if needed.

Mix well so you don't have cream cheese lumps.
Not only am I bad at making frosting, but I am bad at the actual frosting step as well. So, I use a piping bag instead---well actually I use a ziplock bag with the one tip cut off.

Since I added more liquid, I added some powder sugar to thicken it.


I got a little fancy and made a swirl frosting. I put some beet juice in half of the frosting to make it pink. To make the swirl pattern, put half the white on one side of the bag and the pink on the other then squeeze together (I forgot to take a picture of this, sorry).

When you pipe it on to the cupcakes, the colors swirl together. Because I live in a humid place, I stuck mine in the fridge to set.

Sweet, moist, and velvety. Just as good as dairy red velvet cake. Sure to please any guest---that is if you want to share. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quinoa with Cucumber and Clilantro Salad

Quinoa is one of my favorite foods. It's been a staple of most South American cultures for centuries. My Bolivian friend Leslie has asked me several times to post a recipe with it.  It is eaten like a grain, but actually is a seed. It's related to spinach and beets. It's a very strong little bugger, capable of surviving in poor soil and high altitudes. 

It's a complete protein, and is high in calcium, iron, and fiber. And it's gluten free, so it's great for people with gluten allergies. Don't listen to the rumors it tastes like mud. Unwashed quinoa is a bit muddy tasting, but majority of the quinoa sold in stores is washed so don't worry about it. I think it tastes like any other grain, like rice or wheat. I like it because it has a soft texture.

I came up with this recipe by myself. Every time I Skype with Leslie, she asks me for a simple quinoa dish and this is what kept coming to mind. Once again, all my veggies came from the Hilo Farmers Market and were very cheap. The veggies, including the garlic and onion, are raw in this dish. Raw veggies hold more of their nutrients and although I am not really into the whole raw food diet, it is still important to eat raw veggies often. Raw garlic is amazing for your digestion, just eat it in small dozes so it isn't overwhelming. I use canned beans because even I think soaking dried beans is a pain.

Funny story how I got my quinoa. I drove to Kona last weekend to have some nice beach time before finals and met some nice tourists. They rented a timeshare so they cooked some of their meals. They were leaving that day and offered to give me their unopened stuff. Score for a broke college kid! Thanks Jason and Rick! 

Quinoa with Cucumber and Cilantro Salad
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 large cucumber
1 large tomato
1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs olive oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add the quinoa and water to a pot, and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce to a simmer.

They must be Duck fans, they yell "O," ha!
Cook for 10-15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the grains are translucent with the little inner ring is visible. Set aside to cool while you make the salad. Hot quinoa will warm your salad and wilt the cilantro. 

I add a lot of red pepper because I like it hot.

Chop the cucumber and tomato into bit-sized pieces. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Remove the cilantro leafs from the steam and chop if you desire (I left mine whole, they aren't that big). Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Add everything to a large bowl and mix.

Although it's good fat, it's still fat so don't over do it with the oil.
Next add the lime juice, olive, oil, red pepper, and salt and pepper. Mix well to coat everything evenly. I suggest under red-peppering  and salting at first, it takes a little for them to reach full potency.  I chilled mine for a half an hour before serving to let the flavors really set in.

You can mix the quinoa in with the veggies or just serve the salad on top. I just topped mine. I am so glad I finally made this, I've been thinking about it for awhile.

Clean, crispy, but very filling.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! Would You Like Some Green "Eggs" from Sam?

Happy Easter and happy spring! I thought I would make myself a little brunch today. I had some left over pierogi filling from last night, so I thought something egg-like with potatoes would be nice. Of course vegans do not eat eggs, but we make awesome things with tofu. Tofu scrambles are a great breakfast staple, but I wanted something a little fancier for Easter.

I found a recipe for Tofu Quiche with Spinach and Broccoli on VegWeb, and thought it would be tasty.  Instead of making a crust, I used my pierogi filling as a base and made little mini quiches. You can use just plain mashed potatoes or even instant too.

So creamy!
I used hemp milk in this recipe because it is my favorite non-dairy milk. It's creamier and a little sweeter than soy milk. I haven't been able to find it in Hilo, but to my delight I saw some in the health food store yesterday. You can use whatever milk you prefer.

I also decided to puree my tofu filling to make it all green in honor of my favorite childhood book, Green Eggs and Ham. Purees are a good way to get more vegetables into your meals, especially for picky little kids.

Green Mini Quiches
1 cup prepared pierogi filling or mashed potatoes
1 tub of extra firm tofu, drained
1/2 cub hemp milk
1/4 cup spinach, frozen or fresh
1 cup broccoli
1 clove garlic
1/4 of an onion
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbs turmeric
pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

I saved my stems for a stir-fry later this week.
Chop the broccoli into smaller pieces. They are going into a blender so don't worry about size too much. Make sure to save the stem, it's really the best part. Just peel off the outer tough layer. The inside is sweet and tender.

If you use fresh spinach, just tear it up a little first. If you use frozen, thaw it first.

Chop the onion and garlic a little too.

So easy, no hard chopping or mixing.

Drain your tofu and place into a blender or food processor. Add the broccoli, spinach, onion, and garlic. Pour in the hemp milk. Blend until smooth.

Lovely green color

 Next add the nutritional yeast, turmeric, and salt. Turmeric turns whatever you cook bright yellow so it's normally used in tofu scrambles to make it look like eggs. But the pureed spinach and broccoli overpower the color, so the turmeric is more for flavor and it's amazing health benefits.

Make sure the bases are even so the filling doesn't leak.

Now spray a muffin or cupcake tin well with cooking spray. Evenly line the bottom of each cup with your potato mixture.

Fill to the top.

Pour the tofu filling on top of each potato base. Tofu does not rise like eggs, so don't be shy about filling to the top.

They smell so good.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the quiches no longer jiggle in the middle.

Let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. I have to confess they can be hard to remove so just be careful.

I topped mine with fresh tomatoes and a little vegan sour cream. It went nicely with a cup a green tea.
All the taste of eggs, and no cholesterol and loads of fiber.

Even as a vegan, I am Sam, Sam I am!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Potato Pierogi

Although I am trying to counter-act my terrible family health history, that doesn't mean I am still not proud of my heritage. I am 3/4 Polish, third generation born in America on both sides of my family. Although my great-grandparents passed away before I was born, I grew up hearing stories about their lives back in Poland and their journeys to America. My mom told me I would have loved my great-grandmother, she was a very sweet and funny woman. I think about her and my own wonderful grandma every time I make something Polish.

Pierogi are pretty much Polish dumplings. They are a basic flour dough filled with either farmers cheese, potatoes, beef or cabbage. They are usually boiled then lightly fried. They are traditionally topped with a little butter, and sour cream. I've seen them topped with all sorts of things. My mom saw them topped with tomato sauce once and said her grandmother would have cringed at such a horror, so I stay traditional to honor my Polish blood. I remember the first time I had them, it was pure heaven. My mom made some for my grandparents when the came to visit when I was about 8 or so. She served them with kapusta (similar to sauerkraut), and we were very happy Poles after that dinner.

I researched some vegan recipes, but most of them called for a lot of oil in place of the eggs, which isn't really good for a family riddled with heart attacks. So I decided I would use Egg Replacer by Ener-G instead. It is made from starch and is wonderful for baking. I based this on a recipe I found on, but veganized it and cut it in half.

You can make a fine pierogi dough without the sour cream, but I like it better. It makes it richer than other simple dumpling doughs. Try Tofutti brand, it's not as moist as dairy sour cream but tastes just as good (plus has no cholesterol!) 

Potato Pierogi
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tps salt
1 and 1/2 tps Egg Replacer
4 tbs water, divided 
1/4 vegan sour cream
1 tbs vegan butter
1/8 tps salt
1 large potato, peeled, washed, and quartered
1/2 large white onion
1 tbs soy milk
4 tbs nutritional yeast

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the Egg Replacer with two tablespoon of water. Add to the dry ingredients and mix.

Next add the sour cream, butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until it forms a soft but not sticky dough. I all the sudden had this flashback of my grandmother scolding me for overworking the dough, so be gentle. 

Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least a half an hour.

Everything would have been organic in Poland back then.

In the meantime, peel, wash and quarter your potato. Place in a pot of water and bring to boil on the stove. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough that a fork can easily pierce through.

Organic onion from the Farmers Market.

While those are boiling, fine chop the onion and place it in a skillet with some cooking spray over medium-low heat. Normally they are sauteed in butter, but those are just extra calories that in my opinion do not add much to the flavor in the end. Cook until just translucent.
The filling should cohere but not be overly moist.

Once the potatoes are done, drain and add them back to the pot. Add the onions, soy milk, and nutritional yeast and mash well. "No one likes lumpy pierogi," my mom told me. You can add some salt and pepper if you like too. Either my mom or grandma, can't remember which, told me it is a lot easier to work with cooled filling. I let mine cool for about 15 minutes before I filling my dough.

I used a ramekin as a cutter.

Roll out the chilled dough on a well-flour surface to about 1/8 of an inch thickness. My family is from the Polish countryside, and my grandma told me they make them big in country. So I find the biggest cup or small bowl I have and use it as a cutter.

Overstuffed pierogi will break open while boiling.
Fill each circle with about 1 tablespoon of the cooled potato filling. Don't over-stuff them or they will break open while cooking.

Make sure to do both sides.

Fold the circle in half to make a semi-circle. Go around the edges with a fork to seal properly. Flip over and repeat on the other side. You can use a little water too if you have a hard time getting them to close all the way.
Careful not to smash them when removing.

Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Add the pierogi. Just like ravioli, they will float to the top when ready.
I like mine just barely golden.

Remove from the pot, but don't use a strainer, they will just break apart. Scoop them out with a spoon or ladle. Next saute in a pan with some butter until slightly golden brown.

Top with some vegan sour cream and a little salt and pepper. I served mine with some steamed carrots. I am one very happy and proud vegan Polish girl :-)

I just sent a picture to my mom, she said her grandma would be very proud. And, she said as good as hers all stuffed cheese and slathered in butter were, great-grandma never wore a bikini like I do! Made me laugh.

Orange Pineapple Smoothie

I got free bananas from a fruit stand in Kona yesterday for Earth Day, so I made another great smoothie for breakfast this morning. I wanted something light since tonight I am making one of the most delicious things in the world, pierogi! Orange and pineapple blend together nicely so it has a clean, fruity taste. I used coconut water instead of soy milk. Coconut water is packed with vitamins, especially potassium. All my fruits are fresh since I live in Hawaii, but frozen is still better than no fruits at all. But always get fresh if you can, the cooking/flash freezing process strips it of some nutrients.

Orange Pineapple Smoothie
1 cup fresh pineapple
1 orange, pealed and membrane removed
1 medium banana
1 cup coconut water
Handful of ice cubes

Put everything into a blender and blend until combined and smooth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mandarin Orange Cupcakes

My mom bought me a cupcake tin last week, and although I used it to make Yorkshire Pudding, I thought it was time to make some cupcakes. When I was looking for a can of black beans yesterday, I found a random can of mandarin oranges and suddenly imagined orange cupcakes with chocolate icing. The battery was dead on my laptop so I decided to make a recipe up rather than try to look for one my phone.

Thanks mom!

Mandarin Orange Cupcakes
1 tbs flax seeds
1/2 cup HOT water
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tps baking soda
1/2 tps baking powder
1/4 tps salt
1/2 tps ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tbs soy milk
1/2 tps vanilla extract
1 can sliced mandarin oranges, drained but reserve 1/4 of the juice
1/2 vegan dark chocolate bar

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray.

Add the flax seeds to the hot water, stir lightly and set aside for at least 10 minutes. It should make a syrupy liquid.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, applesauce, flax seed mixture, soy milk, and vanilla extract until slightly frothy.

Pieces of oranges and flax seed for color and texture.
Next add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Then add the oranges and the reserved juice. If mixing by hand, whisk everything very thoroughly. If you are using a mixer, mix on high for 3-5 minutes. This will break-up the orange pieces and brings air into the batter so the cupcakes are light and fluffy. 

3/4 of the way filled is perfect.

Pour the batter into the cupcake tin, filling each cup 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden. You can insert a toothpick into the middle of one, if it comes out fairly clean, they are done.

All cooled. You can smell the oranges.
Let them rest in the tin for a few minutes, then remove them carefully and allow them to cool completely before you ice them. The chocolate will just melt off if they are still warm.

If it's too runny, it won't stay on the cupcakes

Once cooled, break-up the dark chocolate a bit and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It will vary based on the amount and type of chocolate you use. I did 3 squares for 30 seconds. You don't want it to be totally liquid, but it should be very loose. Stir a bit with a fork to break up any remaining solid pieces.

The fun part! I let mine sit in the chocolate for a second.
Next dip the tops of each cupcake in the chocolate, coating it to your liking (I slathered mine pretty good). Let them sit afterward for a bit for the chocolate to set.


A nice twist on normal white cupcakes. The ginger gives it a little bite. And chocolate and orange is always a good combination. They went great with a glass of iced citrus green tea.

They came out just as I imagined!