Monday, May 30, 2011

Lovely Lavander Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


I am obsessed with lavander lately.  It has been finding its way into many of my dessert recipes, because I simply cannot resist the lovely purple flowers.  Can you blame me?  They have the most beautiful aroma which is soothing as well as calming.  Ever since I was a little girl when my Mom would make lavander soap from essential oil, or have dishes of lavander to scent a room, I have thought of the scent as comforting.  It wasn't until recently that I discovered how delicious it was when added to sweets, and I wish I would have discovered that earlier!  I should just plant a big pot of it on my patio for the fresh version to have an unlimited supply.  Until then I guess I am stuck with buying large amounts of the dried! 


I feel like the scent of lavander goes well with most fruits, and so last weekend when I was trying to decide which ice cream to make to accompany some fruit desserts I would be making I decided on lavander.  I know vanilla goes with everything as well, and I love it, but I was looking to be a bit more creative.  So lavander it was, but I didn't leave the vanilla out all together.  I decided to make a lavander AND vanilla bean ice cream.  I thought their delicate flavors would be perfect in a creamy coconut milk base, and I was right!  I infused some of the milk with a bit of the lavander, and let it steep overnight as well as adding some more lavander at the end to make it extra aromatic.  The vanilla and lavander together was a heavenly combination, and a perfect compliment to the strawberry rhubarb cake I had made, as well as delicious on its own.  It had a calming affect as I let the silky smooth ice cream slowly melt on my tongue...pure delciousness!  Here is the recipe if you would wish to try some for yourself! 


Lovely Lavander Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
Makes about 4 cups of ice cream

3 Tbsp dried Lavander flowers, divided
1 cup lite coconut milk
2 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar
seeds of one vanilla bean
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
a few drops purple food coloring (plant based), optional

To make ice cream, combine lite milk, and 2 Tbsp lavander in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and chill in the fridge until very cold. When chilled, combine with all ingredients except remaining Tbsp lavander in a blender, and process until well blended. Mix in the last Tbsp lavander, and pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Pour into a freezable container with a lid and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffeecake



You and I go together like strawberries and rhubarb...it sounds so much more delicious than peas and carrots, at least to me!  No, I am not talking about romantic relationships where the couples go well together, I am talking about true friends...our gal pals that we have so much in common with and always "get" us, even if we haven't yet said what we are thinking.  I have been thinking a lot lately how I am very happy to have friends such as these in my life, they make it so much sweeter...just like strawberries and rhubarb do. 


I decided to pair strawberries and rhubarb in a delicious coffeecake yesterday, perfect for serving with coffee or tea while in the company of good friends!  I have to confess I haven't tasted the deliciousness of coffeecake in years!  The last one I had was when my Mom made a pumpkin apple coffeecake back when I was in highschool...it has been too long!  So I decided that it was about time to create my own.


Not the yeasted type though.  The type that could also be considered a crumb cake, topped with a thick layer of heavenly crunchy oaty streusel!  I wanted the batter to be studded with pockets of flavorful strawberries and rhubarb throughout, not simply in one layer in the middle as many traditional cakes have.  The cake took a long time to bake as it was a tall cake with lots of fruit, but it was well worth the wait.  Although rather cruel to smell the heavenly aroma of it and not yet be able to taste it. 


When I finally was able to enjoy it, I was in a whole other world...it was one of those moments where I just closed my eyes and savored it.  The cake was moist and sweet with bursts of strawberry and rhubarb and the light scent of cinnamon.  The topping put it into it's own level of deliciousness...crunchy in contrast to the sweet cake!  Texture is very important to me in a good dessert.  Although it was good on its own, I enjoyed it warm with some lavander vanilla ice cream I had also made this weekend.  And since I had made 2 cakes there was enough to share with some special people as well!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself!


Strawberry Rhubarb Coffeecakes
Makes 2 6 inch cakes

2 6 inch round cake pans

Topping:
6 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp maple or brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
Cake:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup maple sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups diced organic rhubarb
2 cups quartered organic strawberries

 To make streusel, combine flour, sugar, sea salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Cut in Earth balance with a pastry blender until you have large pea sized clumps.  Add oats and scrunch with hands until larger chunks of streusel are formed.  Set aside in the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Spray two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the lemon juice, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Stir in rhubarb and strawberries, and pour cake batter into each pan, dividing evenly between the two, Scatter streusel over each and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes (after about the first 20, cover the tops of the cakes with foil if they are getting too brown). Cool cake for about 15 minutes in pan then place a plate on top, hold firmly and flip over to unmold, then carefully flip to right side up onto another plate.  Repeat with other cake. Let cool slightly before serving. 

*if desired, you cake bake the cake in 1 9 inch round pan, and give it additional time to bake, about 15-20 min.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Miso Almond Brownies


I love miso so much I will put it in almost anything, savory or sweet.  Especially white miso, it has the most wonderful salty sweet flavor that makes it perfect for use in desserts!  I not have seen recipes for peanut butter cookies with it, and cobbler crusts, which I have yet to try.  I made a miso maple ice cream a while back and it was remenicent of salted caramel, so delicious!  I figured if it was awesome with vanilla based things, why not chocolate as well! 


Most people including myself think of vanilla as a blank pallate to pair flavors with, and chocolate often gets overlooked.  Brownies are a wonderful canvas to cover with interesting flavors...so I thought the salty sweet miso would be perfect in them.  Afterall, fleur de sel brownies are delicious because of the salty sweet combo. 


I wanted to add another element as well, and I decided that crunchy, nutty almonds would be perfect!  I used my vegan brownie base, baked it in a tart pan, because I love the look of brownie wedges, and topped it off with a fudgy miso laced frosting.  They were scrumptious!  Chocolaty goodness with crunchy almonds and a slightly salty flavor from the miso. 


You never would have guessed it was in there, but they just had that something extra special and mysterious.  I am loving miso more and more every different way I try it, especially like this!  I will have to do more chocolate miso experimentation in the future.  Here is the recipe for the brownies if you would like to experience them for yourself! 


Miso Almond Brownies
Makes 12 wedges

Brownies:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp white miso
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp pureed silken tofu
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup sliced, toasted almonds

Frosting:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp white miso
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
a large pinch of sea salt

1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with non-stick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in agave nectar, along with miso, vanilla, and tofu, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Stir in 1 cup toasted almonds, and pour into the prepared pan and place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Remove from oven, and tap pan on the counter to deflate (creating a fudgier brownie).  Let cool in pan on a rack. When cool, whisk together the frosting ingredients until smooth, and spread over the brownies.  Top with sliced almonds, and cut into 12 wedges. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake



There is no such thing as failure...unless you decide to give up.  This is how I feel about many things in my life, and baking experiments are no exception.  So this weekend when I decided to make an upside down cake, I had the idea that it would turn out perfectly the first time, and be simple to make, but I was a bit off on my assumption.  I had never made an upside down cake before, not even the classic pineapple, and I wanted to try it!  So I thought, what better than a strawberry rhubarb upside down cake!  I am all for baking with seasonal fruit! 


I would use my vegan white cake base, and use berries and rhubarb in a caramelized topping.  It sounded like a great idea...but then after I had assembled the cake, and I thought it was done baking, since my normal cakes take the amount of time I had given it, and a tester seemed to come out clean, I unmolded it and what was on the plate was not attractive.  A pile of berries and rhubarb in a soupy cake batter with about a half inch of baked cake on the bottom.  I ate some anyways...it tasted delicious, but not something that I would want two serve to anyone let alone post on a blog. 


But I hadn't failed, I had only made an attempt, so I got to work with the second round.  This time however I had to settle for simply rhubarb because I had used up the berries I had.  I baked the cake longer the second time, and prayed as I went to flip it...success!  I had a beautiful cake, and it was delicious at that!  It was wonderful even without the strawberries. 


The rhubarb on top had caramelized into something wonderfully tart yet sweet, and was perfect atop the moist sweet vanilla cake.  I paired it with a lavander laced sweetened sour cream and it was perfect!  I was happy that I hadn't simply given up after my first attempt at the cake, and was rewarded with something delicious as a result! 


So if at first you don't succeed, don't look at it as a failure, but a learning experience.  Here is the recipe for the successful cake if you would wish to try some of the deliciousness for yourself!

Vegan Rhubarb Upside Down Cakes
Makes 2 6 inch cakes

2 6 inch cake pans

Cake:
1/2 cup maple sugar
3 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 cups rhubarb, sliced
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup maple sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Lavander Cream (optional):
1/2 cup Vegan sour cream
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lavander flowers

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Spray two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Place half Earth balance into the bottom of each pan, and swirl to coat the bottom.  Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup maple sugar.  Toss rhubarb with 1 Tbsp agave nectar, and spread out into the bottom of the pans, dividing evenly between the two, and set aside.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the lemon juice, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Pour cake batter over rhubarb in each pan, dividing evenly between the two, and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cake for about 5 minutes in pan then place a plate on top, hold firmly and flip over to unmold.  Repeat with other cake. Let cool slightly before serving.  Whisk together sour cream, agave nectar, vanilla, and lavander.  Serve cake with lavander scented cream if desired.

*If you wish this recipe could be made in 1 9 inch pan, just increase the baking time at least another 10-15 minutes.  Or, cut in half for one small cake.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brownies + Blondies = Brondies



My friend good friend Laura told me that if I made a combination of my blondies and brownies her head would explode...so I decided to take her advice and try it!  Why not, afterall, brownies and blondies are delicious so why not combine the two? 


It is funny because Laura and I are kind of like the brondies.  I am the brownie, she is the blondie...in highschool, she used to have the most beautiful blond hair which I was always envious of, and I have always been a brunette. 

2003 Highschool

We are now both brunettes however, but I still remember her as a blond. I am happy to have her as a friend, and the time we spend together is always too short.  I love the fact that we can be silly and joke about stuff, as well as have serious talks, that is what makes us good friends!   

2011
I always enjoy sharing my baked goods with her and hearing her opinion of them...so last week on Facebook when I asked which I should make and she said a combination, something clicked in my head.  I am always looking for new ideas! 


I thought her idea of combining blondies and brownies was brilliant!  I decided to call them Brondies, since they contain the best of both bars.  So to make them, I simply combined my brownie batter with my blondie batter, swirled them and voila... brondies! I decided to bake them in cupcake tins so no cutting involved...plus you get the best of both worlds, the outside brownie pieces as well as the inside. They combined all of the goodness of both, sort of like a marble cake but way better. 


The vanilla in the blondies was a nice break from the intense chocolaty filling of the brownies, and the cruch of the walnuts, and extra chocolate from the chips I added created a nice textural contrast...heavenly on all levels!  Thanks Laura for the idea!  That's what friends are for :)!  Here is the recipe if you would like to make some for yourself! 

Brondies
Makes 16

Blondie batter:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic coconut milk
2 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toasted walnuts

Brownie Batter (halve):
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp pureed silken tofu
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 350, and spray a 16 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, to mix the blondie batter, combine agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla, and coconut milk and whisk until smooth.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and  salt, and then mix into the wet ingredients until smooth.  Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts until well combined, and set  aside.
To mix brownie batter, whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in agave nectar, along with vanilla, and tofu, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Spoon brownie batter into muffin cups (filling half full), then blondie batter, filling the other half.  Swirl with a knife.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan, then invert to remove. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Little Orange Scented Rhubarb Galettes


All last week when I went out on my runs, I was eyeing this patch of unattended rhubarb in the woods by my house. I knew nobody else would care if I cut some, because the woman who planted it has since moved, and she told me I was always welcome to pick some, as I do not have a garden of my own.  I was watching it to see when it would be perfect to harvest, and finally last Friday it was large enough to cut a good amount, enough to make at least a couple of delicious baked goods! 


Let me tell you, this rhubarb has been long and anxiously awaited!  My Grandma used to have a saying "Do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?"  It never made sense to me, and was rather silly, but you know this year, we have had a lot of rain, and the rhubarb was rather slow growing...so maybe Grandma Lyons was onto something?  Or maybe it was just the extremely chilly spring.  Very odd to be harvesting the first rhubarb the second week of May, when normally it is sometime at the beginning of April! 

 

So when I arrived home with my rhubarb the brainstorming of delicious treats to be made began, and I first made Strawberry rhubarb shortcakes, but then decided to make some lovely rhubarb galettes featuring simply the rhubarb.  I wanted mini galettes because I love little things, and in all honesty I halved the recipe I share with you below, because I live in a small household. 


I thought the rhubarb would be lovely with a hint of orange, and it was!  It gave it a light almost floral flavor that rhubarb doesn't normally contain when combined with simply lemon.  They came together quick, and were delicious warm with some home made vegan coconut vanilla bean ice cream!  If you have access to rhubarb, and are looking for a delicious way to welcome it being in season again, here is the recipe for these lovely galettes! 


Little Orange Scented Rhubarb Galettes
makes 4 small galettes

Crust:
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp maple sugar
7 Tbsp chilled Earth Balance butter, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4-5 Tbsp ice water

Filling:
1 lb organic rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup maple sugar
pinch of sea salt

2 Tbsp Melted Earth Balance
Turbinado sugar

To make crust, combine flour, sea salt, maple sugar and butter in a bowl, and use a pastry blender to cut into the mixture until it resembles pea sized chunks (you can also use your hands).  Add orange zest, and vanilla and water and mix into the dough.  Knead a few times until it comes together (you may need to add an additional Tbsp more water).  Shape into 4 disks, cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold, but not hard.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each portion of dough to a 7-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick.
Place rhubarb, orange juice, zest, vanilla, flour, maple sugar and sea salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Arrange rhubarb mixture on top of dough on each round, leaving a  1 1/2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over the fruit mixture, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds. Brush edges of dough melted Earth Balance, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, 40-45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool the galette. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Sparkly Strawberry Martini


When I was five, I told my Mom I wanted to change my name to Amy "Sparkle".  I was in love with all things sparkly, as of course many five year olds are, so I am surprised I didn't go as far as naming my cat sparkle!  I have a video of me at a dance recital with all of my fellow dancers at preschool, but I was the only one not dancing.  Why?  I was picking up sequins off of the floor because they were sparkly!  Although I am not obsessed with sparkle anymore, I do still appriciate the beauty of sparkly things.  When I am in a good mood, I say I am feeling "sparkly", it is my word for happy, and I think it fits me. 


So last weekend when I made a drink, and it tasted so amazing that I was feeling quite sparkly while sipping it, I decided that it deserved to have the word sparkly in the title.  But not only did it taste delicious, it was sparkly beautiful!  It was ruby red, due to the strawberry puree added to it, and the rim was garnished with sparkling sugar and lovely lavander flowers.  It was a martini, as I used vodka as a base, allowing the flavors of the berries, lavander, lemon, and vanilla I also added to it to shine through.  It reminded me of spring, and it was incredibly refreshing with so many light flavors.  If you would like to feel sparkly, or maybe you are feeling sparkly, and would like a drink, here is the recipe!


The Sparkly Strawberry 
(Strawberry martini with citrus, vanilla and lavander)
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
1/4 cup pureed strawberries
1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp lavander agave syrup*

In a martini shaker add the ice, vanilla, vodka, orange juice, lemon juice, and lavander syrup and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, and serve!

*Lavander Agave Syrup:
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup boiling filtered water
2 tsp dried lavander flowers

Combine all ingredients in a clean jar and allow to sit for a few days to let the lavander infuse. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vanilla Scented Double Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcakes


When I was a kid, to me strawberry shortcake meant one of those spongy nasty little storebought angelfood cakes topped with storebought frozen sweetened strawberry sauce and coolwhip.  I will not go near any of those ingredients now, as I did not enjoy them then.  I have to admit, I have never actually tried making home made strawberry shortcake, but it is something I have always wanted to do.  I have seen the images of lovely strawberry shortcakes in Better Homes and Gardens issues with home made cakes, dalloped with lovely fluffy whipped cream and fresh strawberry sauce, and been inspired to want to create my own!  I decided this was the weekend I would finally attempt it!  However, rhubarb was to be added to the equation. 


I had finally gotten my hands on fresh rhubarb that I harvested myself, so I thought, what better than a strawberry rhubarb shortcake?!?!  My Grandma used to make the best strawberry rhubarb sauce when I was little from the rhubarb in her garden, and I would eat the stuff by the jarfull!  So I thought I would make my fruit for the shortcakes similar to her delicious sauce, but of course in my own style...which meant agave nectar instead of the large amount of sugar that she used to add.  I decided to make it vanilla scented as well, because I wanted plenty of vanilla in the form of vanilla seeds in my creamy filling!  I decided to veganize my strawberry shortcake and go with a fluffy vegan cream cheese mixture instead of the usual whipping cream, because I can't resist cream cheese in a dessert! 


Lastly, the shortcakes were to be anything but conventional.  I decided to use my best vegan scone recipe (so I don't know if technically these can be called shortcakes), and make them with strawberries and rhubarb, creating a "double" strawberry rhubarb shortcake!  I loved the idea of adding as much strawberries and rhubarb as possible!  They were delicious!  Packed full of strawberry and rhubarb goodness, and the perfect balance of sweetness!  Move over strawberry rhubarb pie, this might become a new favorite!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself! 


Vanilla Scented Double Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcakes
Makes 4

Shortcakes:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup maple sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp cold Earth balance vegan butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cold full fat orgainc canned coconut milk (whisked until smooth if chunky)
1 1/2 pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic strawberries, cut into quarters or sixths if large
1 cup thinly sliced organic rhubarb
coconut milk for topping
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 with the rack set at the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture starts to clump into pea sized pieces. In a small bowl, stir the vanilla into the coconut milk. Add the coconut milk to the dough, and stir a few times, but do not overmix. The dough should hold together when squeezed, but still be clumpy. fold in berries and rhubarb until evenly distributed. place dough on a floured work surface, and shape into a 4 inch wide log. Use a bench scraper to cut into 4 trianges. Place shortcakes on the prepared baking sheet, reshaping slightly if necessary. Brush the tops lightly with the coconut milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown (after about 15 minutes you may need to reshape with 2 bench scrapers if they are spreading, then place back in the oven). Cool on a wire rack.

Fruit:
2 cups strawberries
2 cups rhubarb
1/4-1/2 cup agave nectar
pinch of sea salt
vanilla bean pod (seeds removed and saved for filling)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make fruit, combine strawberries, rhubarb, agave nectar (adding more or less depending on how sweet the berries are), sea salt, and vanilla bean pod (reserving the seeds for the cream filling), and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook until fruit is tender and almost jammy, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, and pour into a bowl, and refridgerate until chilled.

Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz tofutti vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
3 Tbsp agave nectar
seeds of one vanilla bean
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make filling, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. 

To assemble shortcakes, spoon a bit of the fruit onto each of four plates.  Slice the shortcakes in half horizontally and place bottom half on each plate.  Spoon more fruit onto the bottom half of each of the shortcakes, then a good dallop of the creamy filling onto each.  Place the tops of the cakes over the creamy filling on each, and top with more fruit if desired (or if there is extra).  Serve!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Rose Colored Glass (whisky cocktail with grapefruit, rosemary and a hint of lemon)




I started off this week in a good mood...being positive, and looking at it from an optomistic perspective.  Instead of dreading Monday and being sulky about the weekend being over, I decided to adopt an attitude of looking forward to the good things the week might bring.  And you know what, so far it hasn't been half bad! Although by Tuesday I was already a bit tired from work, I wasn't crabby yet! It probably helped that I have people around me that remind me to laugh, and that life isn't all about being serious all the time! For whatever reason I had the urge to make a cocktail.  Afterall, when is a lovely cocktail not in order?! 


Crown Royal was to be my base for the drink, because I was in the mood for the smooth slightly sweet flavor it adds.  Last weekend I infused some agave syrup with rosemary with the intent to use it in a drink, and it had yet to be mixed...so I thought this was the perfect time!  I had a nice large juicy ruby grapefruit sitting on my counter and I thought it would be perfect with the herbalicious rosemary syrup, not to mention give the drink a beautiful pink hue!  Since I was adopting a positive rose colored mood this week, what better than a rosy drink! I also added lemon to balance out the sweetness for a perfect drink, as well as a pinch of fleur de sel!  It was delicious!  And if I wasn't in a good mood I certainly would have been by the time the drink was finished!  It was the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and the hint of rosemary gave it a nice herbal quality!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it for yourself!  I have to warn you though, you might be looking at your day from a rose colored perspective when you finish drinking it!  Happy Wednesday!


The Rose Colored Glass
(whisky cocktail with grapefruit, rosemary and a hint of lemon)
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
3 oz Crown Royal, or similar whisky
4 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp rosemary agave syrup*
a pinch of fleur de sel

In a martini shaker add the ice, crown royal, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and rosemary syrup, and fleur de sel and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled lowball glass, and serve!

*Rosemary Agave Syrup:

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup boiling filtered water
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried rosemary

Combine all ingredients in a clean jar and allow to sit for a few days to let the rosemary infuse. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mexican Margarita Cookies


 Since Cinco De Mayo is this week, I have been thinking about margaritas!  I love a good home made margarita...none of that mix stuff, but with real lime juice, good quality orange liqueur and smooth tequila, with the salted rim!  Yum, so refreshing!  So, I was thinking that what better to serve with a margarita for dessert than margarita inspired cookies?  So I created a crunchy shortbread to go with the drink! 


I used a corn flour and cornmeal base, since it is popular in mexico, and I love the sweetness the cornflour gives, and the crunch the cornmeal contruibutes.  I added a good amount of zest, both orange and lime to give the burst of citrus that margaritas have without the moisture (which might make soggy cookies).  I also added a bit of tequila and triple sec, but don't worry, you can't get a buzz off the cookies, as the alcohol bakes off... that is what serving it with the margaritas is for!  Lastly I topped them off with crunchy turbinado sugar and fleur de sel for that classic margarita salt rim effect! 


I cut them into cute little stars, and they were incredibly cute, especially with the sparkly sugar!  They were delicious as well, the buttery cookies packed with citrus flavor and then that salty sweet crunchy topping hits you!  Perfect to serve alongside a chilled margarita for Cinco De Mayo!  Here is the recipe if you are interested!


Mexican Margarita Shortbread Cookies
Makes 24
2 sticks Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp orange extract
1 Tbsp tequila
2 tsp Cointreu, or Triple Sec
2 Tbsp organic orange zest
2 Tbsp organic lime zest
1 4/3 cups corn flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup maple sugar, or granulated sugar
turbinado sugar, or large sugar crystals
Fleur de sel
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack set in the center. Mix all shortbread ingredients together (except turbinado sugar and fleur de sel) in a large bowl until well blended, then between 2 sheets of parchment paper roll out to 1/4 inch thick.  Place in the fridge to chill, about 15 minutes, until dough isn't so soft, then use a star cookie cutter to cut out stars, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar and a little sea salt, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. Remove from the freezer and bake for about 10-12 minutes until set and lightly brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chocolate Red Wine and Olive Oil Cake

I have been wanting to make a dark chocolate cake featuring red wine for quite some time now, and I decided that this was going to be the weekend to do it!  I was enjoying a glass of red wine on Friday night after work and thinking about the heavenly combination of chocolate and red wine for dessert...and the thoughts of it being combined in a delicious decadent cake just got to me!  Before I knew it I was writing down the recipe and whipping up the cake. 


I decided that since red wine and dark chocolate are heart healthy, I might as well go for the full effect and use olive oil in my cake as well!  The scent of the batter alone while I was whisking it together smelled amazing...I had used a baby brunello and the fruityness of the wine combined with the scent of rich cocoa powder was amazing! 


Even better though was the aroma that filled my kitchen as it was baking!  Like chocolaty brownies but better!  I thought such an intensely flavored cake deserved a delicious frosting!  I didn't want a ganache however, I wanted it to be light and almost mousse like.  I decided to go with a whipped (vegan) cream cheese frosting which was creamy and chocolaty like a chocolate mousse!  The cake needed something else though, another element in the layers...some raspberry jam, something tart to cut the sweet and rich chocolate!  I had recently made some so I used my home made jam in between the layers and it was perfect!  


As a whole the cake was delicious!  The cake was deliciously moist thanks to the olive oil, and deeply chocolaty, lightly scented with red wine and enhanced by tart raspberry and silky mousse!  A chocolate lover's dream!  Even more perfect when enjoyed with a glass of red wine!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself! 


Vegan Dark Chocolate Red Wine and Olive Oil Cake with Raspberry Filling
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

Cake:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use ghirardelli)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Frosting:
3 cups tofutti vegan cream cheese
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup cocoa powder

Filling:
Raspberry jam (home made if available*)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, wine, and vanilla extract together in small  bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended.  Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier (since cakes with no eggs crumble easier).  When chilled, slice cakes horizontally (very carefully as they will be fragile, using parchment slid underneath each layer to move layers if needed) in half so that you have 4 layers. To make frosting, beat all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then top with about 2-3 Tbsp raspberry jam, then another layer of cake and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, then the top cake layer. Spread frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and use remaining frosting placed in a pastry bag to pipe decoratively around the top of the cake, and at the base.  Chill for a few hours and serve!

*if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.

*Vanilla Scented Raspberry Agave JamMakes 2 cups

2 bags frozen raspberries 12 oz each
3/4 cups agave nectar
Juice of one large lemon
a pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean

Lightly blend berries, agave nectar, and lemon juice in blender (you want to keep it chunky). Pour mixture into a pot and add salt.  Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, and scrape the seeds out.  Throw the seeds and bean into the pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour jam into an air tight container. Jam will store in your refrigerator for several months.