Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter Citrus Avocado Salad


You know the days, the ones where you look outside the window, and it is grey and you can just see the cold sleet and snow coming down.  The ones when you don't feel like venturing out of doors to get to your car to drive home from work because it is icky and damp.  Yesterday was one of those.  Don't get me wrong, it didn't put me in a bad mood, in fact I was in a rather good one.  It just made me think about making something for dinner last night which would bring some cheer and sunshine to a sort of ugly weather day.  I knew that once I got home and was in my jammies I wouldn't be looking out the windows much anyhow. 


So I spent the last half hour at work yesterday daydreaming about what I could make with what I had on hand at home later that night.  Citrus!!!  Yes, citrus makes me happy, and it is so beautifully colored how could anyone not be in a better mood eating it?!  I had grapefruits, oranges, limes, kumquats, and I wanted to include them all!  I wanted to add a little richness as well without adding cheese so an avocado sounded perfect, as well as some toasted almonds for crunch! 


For more bulk in the salad some baby spinach would do, as I love it with citrus fruit.  It was going to be beautiful I could picture it before it was even made!  Lastly, I thought a slightly sweet citrus poppyseed dressing would be lovely! 


Once I finally made it and was getting ready to dive in I had forgotten all about the gross weather outside.  It looked like sunshine on a plate, and tasted like it too!  Bright and citrusy slightly tart a little sweet and the buttery avocados and crunchy almonds were perfect with the fruit!  I will not wait for a dreary day to make it again, but it does make them go away if you don't go outside.  If you would like to make it for yourself, here is the recipe!


Winter Citrus Avocado Salad
Serves 2

1 large grapefruit, cut into supremes
1 large orange, cut into supremes
8 organic kumquats, sliced thinly
1 large avocado, sliced
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Dressing:
1 Tbsp avocado oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
zest of one lime
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp poppyseeds
sea salt to taste

Combine grapefruit, orange, kumquats, avocados, and spinach in a large bowl.  Whisk dressing together in a smaller bowl, and toss well with salad.  Divide between serving plates and top with toasted almonds!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vegan Citrus Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a secret ingredient...


In the deli where I work, every time there is a pot of white beans cooking on the stove one of my coworker's always says, "Uh oh...Amy has a big pot of white beans again!" Even if they are not mine, it is assumed they are.  This is because I am known for always using white beans at work, and they even labled the big bin of white beans "Amy's White Beans" once because I probably use 75% of the bin in my cooking.  They may tease me about it, but I heard recently that white beans are supposed to be quite nutritious, so I am on to something!  Actually, I credit my frequent white bean use to my Mother, who always would buy white beans when I was little.  I grew up with them being the main bean used in cooking, as many of her recipes were italian based and they went well in them.  


My coworkers were teasing me about the beans last week, and it got me to thinking more about them.  I was in a daydreaming sort of mood on Friday and desserts to make this weekend were a big part of the daydreams.  I know people use black beans in brownies, but why not use white beans in something?  At frist I thought maybe blondies, but I decided I didn't want to make bars, so cookies it would be!


But what to pair with white beans?  Well, it didn't really matter because they have no flavor in the cookies, just add nutrition and texture.  So, I decided on citrus!  I had oranges, lemons and limes and it is the season to use them, so it was a great idea!  I didn't want the cookies to be too plain, however so I thought I would add some chopped dark chocolate because it goes so beautifully with citrus.  To the unsuspecting eater, they would simply taste like upscale chocolate chip cookies (the citrus and dark chocolate chunks being the upscale). 


The dough was amazing!  Yes, I always eat a good amount of it, and I wanted to make sure the beans were undetectable.  Plus, I cannot wait to try it until the next day when I bake the cookies because it has to chill overnight for best results.  But seriously, it was like extra delicious cookie dough all smooth and citrusy with rich chocolate bits!


Once the cookies were baked, I admit I tried one after it was only out of the oven for about a minute...you know, where you break off a piece and blow on it because it is still so warm.  But it was amazing!  It was soft and citrusy, buttery from the coconut oil and the chocolate was still gooey and melty!  I had to have another once they had cooled a little more, but the chocolate remained liquid for quite a while making them extra delicious! 


You would not know they had beans in them at all, which was the idea, but they were still there making the cookies hold together and be delicious!  If you don't believe me, you can make them for yourself, as I have included the recipe.  But I will warn you, you will eat a lot of dough should you decide to taste it, and you will eat a lot of warm cookies while they are cooling because they are irrisistable with the aroma of citrus and chocolate they create in your kitchen!


Vegan Citrus Chocolate Chunk White Bean Cookies
makes 1 1/2 dozen

Cookies:
1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
2/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup cooked, pureed white beans
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
1 Tbsp organic lemon zest
1 Tbsp organic lime zest
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
8 oz vegan dark chocolate, chopped

In a food processor, combine coconut oil, sugar, beans, vanilla extract, orange extract, zests, and agave nectar and process until well combined (alternatively place in a bowl and use an immersion blender), then scrape mixture into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined. Mix in the chocolate, and place in the fridge to chill until firm, preferrably overnight. To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 2 1/2 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays). Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Guest Post for Como Water - Vanilla Scented Beet Citrus Salad


I was flattered when Tiffany over at Como Water asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I am always admiring the beautiful and delicious things she is posting on there!  I wanted to make something special for her that I felt reflected the spirit of her blog, and decided to go with a savory but also a little sweet salad recipe, one using one of my all time favorite ingredients, beets!  I have been loving them in salads lately, and I thought this time I would pair them with citrus in the form of kumquats and oranges in a vanilla hibiscus vinaigrette!  It is lovely, light and delicious!  The sweet beets are wonderful with the slightly tart kumquats and oranges and the dressing is fragrant with vanilla and a lovely shade of pink from the hibiscus.  The toasted almonds are a nice textural contrast as well.  It makes me forget all about the fact that it is winter, and think I am somewhere sunny.  If you wish to recreate it, head over to Tiffany's blog to find the recipe for Vanilla scented Citrus and Beet Salad!  Here is the link: http://comowater.com/2012/02/25/vanilla-scented-beet-citrus-salad-february-favorite-veg-on-the-web/.   Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pomegranate Blood Orange Hibiscus Margarita




Yesterday was National Margarita day.  How could I not celebrate!  So of course I had to enjoy a refreshing margarita.  Now, I suppose I could have just gone out and bought one somewhere, because of course there are plenty of places you can get a cheap one.  But I am super picky, so if I am going to shell out a dime for one it better be quality aka not made from a mix and containing real fruit juice.  


Places which make these quality ones are few and far between when you consider all the places that serve margaritas. Also, I am not a fan of the ice filled ones...it bugs me when drinks are full of ice and not liquor.  I have to say, the best margarita I have ever had besides my own was one (or two) at Masa in Minneapolis for my 21st Birthday.   They used real fruit in theirs and they were not overly sweet, just the way they should be.  They were not classic margaritas however, but twists on the classic like guava and mango.  


Although I make a good classic margarita with nothing but tequila, lime and orange with a little agave, I decided that I wanted something with a little seasonal twist on it last night.  


Pomegranate, blood orange hibiscus is what I decided on.  It was a wonderful tweak on the margarita!  Slightly sweet pomegranate, but not too sweet, and citrusy from the orange and lime juice I added, as well as floral from the hibiscus agave syrup.  I was pleased, and the drink was lovely to look at as well before it was enjoyed!  If you would like one for yourself, here is the recipe!


Pomegranate Blood Orange Hibiscus Margarita
Makes 1

Rim:
Pink and red sugar
agave nectar

Drink:
6 large ice cubes
4 oz tequila blanco
2 oz pomegranate juice
1 oz blood orange juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 1/2 oz hibiscus syrup*

To garnish rim, place some sugar on a plate, then some agave nectar on another plate.  Dip your glass into the agave nectar, letting excess drip off, then dip in the sugar.  Set aside in the freezer while you make the drink.  
To make drink, in a martini shaker add the ice, tequila, pomegranate juice, orange juice, lime juice, hibiscus syrup, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink through a strainer into the prepared glass, and serve!

*Hibiscus syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup filtered water
2 Tbsp dried hibiscus flowers
Combine all ingredients in a jar, put the lid on and shake to dissolve agave nectar.  Let sit at least a day to infuse, then strain to remove flowers.  Store in the fridge for up to a month. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Piña Colada Ice Cream




Pineapple and coconut is such an amazingly heavenly combination and yet I have to admit, the piña coladas served in most restaurants make me cringe.  I cannot stand when places use a mix instead of good quality ingredients in a drink and load it with so much artificial stuff it no longer tastes like real coconut and pineapple.  I have made some really good ones at home using real pineapple and coconut milk, and luckilly those ones allow me to forget about the horrible commercial drink mix ones.  If you have had a real one you know what I mean!  


I was given a pineapple the other day, and I got to thinking a piña colada would be heavenly...but what would be even better, if I made it into a dessert with ice cream!  I thought about it for a while, and although I could have just made a smoothie, a vanilla coconut ice cream swirled with some rum laced pineapple jam would be even better!  I am a big fan of ice cream with swirls of deliciousness in it!  


So I made my coconut milk base with vanilla and a touch of rum and the base itself was amazing but what is a piña colada without pineapple.  So for the pineapple swirl, I cooked down some pineapple until jammy with a bit of agave nectar and lime, then added some vanilla and of course a good amount of rum!  


Once the ice cream was all assembled, had firmed up in the freezer a was all ready to taste I was quite excited to say the least.  Yes, I get quite excited when it comes time to tasting my desserts!  It was wonderful!  The coconut vanilla base was silky, creamy and coconutty, perfect with the jammy rummy sweet pineapple swirl throughout it!  I even got a little naughty and poured some rum over it which was fabulous!  It was the best "piña colada" I have ever had!  If you would like to enjoy some of this delicious ice cream for yourself, here is the recipe!  Cheers!


Piña Colada Ice Cream 
Makes 6 cups

Pineapple Rum Swirl:
24 oz fresh pineapple, chopped
3/4 cup agave nectar
juice of one lime
a pinch of sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp dark rum
To make jam, combine all ingredients except vanilla and rum in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.   Cook until pineapple is  jammy and have falling apart, and juices have reduced about 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.  Add vanilla and 2-3 Tbsp rum depending on how boozy you like it.  Pour into a jar and let cool.  You will have extra from the ice cream but it is a wonderful topper for other desserts.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 months. 
Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar
2 tsp rum
1 tsp coconut extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended.  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). Once processed, pour 1/3 into a freezable container with a lid, then drop a few large Tbsp pineapple rum swirl on top.  Pour half remaining ice cream over, then more pineapple, then the remaining ice cream and more pineapple.  Swirl with a knife to distribute jam throughout and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mixed Berry Hibiscus Crisp with Coconut Streusel




I don't know about you, but I am ready for berry season.  Yeah I know, keep dreaming right..it is months away!  Except for frozen berries.  I have been making berry crisps lately to get my berry fix while I am feeling berry deprived during the winter.  Afterall, a warm crisp fresh from the oven a la mode is sort of a winter dessert!  Recently, I was drinking some berry hibiscus tea when I had a great idea.  Berry crisp with hibiscus!  I have used it in dessert before and I love the slightly floral quality it gives to whatever it has been added to.  So I got to work creating one with the berries and ingredients I had on hand. 
 

I had raspberries, blackberries and cranberries.  Perfect!  I combined them with a bit of orange for a touch of citrus, along with the hibiscus for a floral note, as well as some vanilla and agave nectar for sweetness.  I placed it in the oven and baked it until all jammy and delicious, because I never top my crisp until the last 15 minutes with the streusel for fear of it getting soggy or overy brown. 
 

I topped it with a coconut oat topping that became wonderfully fragrant and crispy in the last 15 minutes of baking.  As always, my kitchen smelled wonderful, and the beauty of a crisp is you don't have to wait long to dive in, just until not to hot to burn your mouth! 

 
I served it with some coconut vanilla bean ice cream and it was heavenly.  The warm crisp with the creamy ice cream slowly melting on it!  The filling was wonderful, tart, sweet and slightly floral from the hibiscus, wonderfully jammy and even better with a bite of the crispy toasty coconut topping!  I love a warm dessert like this in the winter when I don't have to worry about getting all hot while eating it!  As far as I am concerned though, I will never tire of crisp a la mode no matter the time of year!  I have included the recipe for this one if you would like to enjoy some as well! 
 
 
Mixed Berry Hibiscus Crisp with Coconut Streusel Topping
Serves 4

Fruit:
1 12 oz bag frozen blackberries
1 12 oz bag frozen raspberries
1 12 oz bag frozen cranberries
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp dried hibiscus flowers
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Topping:
6 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp maple or brown sugar
4 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup large flake coconut

Two 5 or 6 inch wide ovenproof bowls or pie plates

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack at the center position. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the rack. Spray two 5 or 6 inch wide pie plates or bowls with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the berries, agave nectar, orange juice and zest, vanilla, hibiscus flowers and flour. Spoon into prepared bowls or pie plates, and cover with foil. Place plates on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes until fruit is cooked through and bubbling. Meanwhile, to make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender, or 2 knives, cut butter into the flour until it is in pea sized chunks and clumping together. Add oats coconut, and with hands, squeeze the mixture together forming larger chunks as well as incorporating the oats and coconut until it is evenly distributed as you go. Place in the fridge until the crisps are ready to top. When the fruit has baked for 45 minutes, and is bubbling, remove from the oven and top with the crisp mixture. Place back in the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and toasted (keep a close eye on it as coconut burns very quickly). Remove from oven and let cool until warm...enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Silk Rose Martini


Remember Valentine's day when you were in grade school?  I certainly do.  We used to make those decorated shoe boxes to hold all of the valentines we would recieve from classmates, then get all excited about the surprises that would fill them.  I remember going to the store to pick out the perfect valentines to pass out.  They were different every year, but I know I had Little Mermaid and Hello Kitty ones at some point.  One year I got ambitious and made my own with glitter and pretty paper, those were the best ones!  Also I remember in art class making them for my parents and bringing them home thinking I had created the greatest thing.  Afterall, give an 8 year old glitter and lots of pink paper and she can create quite the masterpiece!  The big thing though was the candy.  How much candy would you get in that shoebox from classmates.  There were the heart suckers, which were all right, and the fruity candy hearts which were on about the same level (not a fan as an adult), then the candy heart conversation pieces which were disgusting but cute (I think they are better for looks).  Then of course, if I was lucky there would be a lot of chocolate hearts.  I loved those, even if they happened to come from a boy in my class (who I believed had cooties... because they all did at that age).  Those were simpler times, and now of course as an adult, Valentine's Day is quite different.  I have had a few memorable ones with a love, but most of course have been spent as a single girl.  Whitch is completely alright, because to me Valentine's Day is not just about romantic love, but about the love of the other people in my life as well! 


Even if I am not 8 anymore I admit that I still like the sparkly pink valentines and admire the beautifully colored foil covered chocolate hearts as I walk past them in the store.  So I decided that I needed to make a cocktail that satisfied my need for the sparkles and cutesy stuff of Valentine's day that I miss, but was also delicious enough for an adult to enjoy!


I started off with a neutral base of vodka to allow the other flavors I was to chose to shine through.  But what to include?  I wanted to include something red or pink of course, and I had some raspberries on hand so I thought that would be perfect!  I then added some amaretto for a sweet almond flavor, and some rosewater for a floral note.  Since the raspberries were a little tart, I also added some vanilla bean agave syrup as well as some vanilla extract because I couldn't resist and this was meant to be on the level of dessert as well as a drink.   Lastly, coconut milk was added to make the drink creamy and smooth. 


I garnished the rim with sparkle and hearts because the eight year old in me couldn't resist...and I still love that stuff.  It was a lovely rosey color, and it was sweet, well balanced and silky smooth.  The flavors of raspberry, fragrant almond, vanilla and rose were simply heavenly together.  I have included the recipe if you would like one for yourself.  I hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day! 


Silk Rose Martini
(raspberry almond martini with rose and vanilla)
Makes 1

For rim:
pink sugar
pink hearts
agave nectar

Drink:
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
1 oz amaretto
1 1/2 oz raspberry puree, strained
1 1/2 oz organic full fat coconut milk
1 oz vanilla bean agave syrup*

To decorate rim, place hearts and sugar on a plate (about 2 Tbsp worth), and about 1 Tbsp agave nectar on another plate.  Coat martini glass rim with agave nectar by dipping the edge in and letting the excess drain off.  Dip into the sugar and hearts to adhere and place in the fridge to chill. 
In a martini shaker add the ice, rosewater, vanilla, vodka, amaretto, raspberry puree, coconut milk, and syrup.  Place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into the chilled martini glass, and serve!

*Vanilla Bean Agave Syrup:

1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise

Combine all ingredients in a jar and mix well to dissolve syrup.  Let cool, then cover and place in the fridge and let sit at least a day before using. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan Raspberry Rose Truffles


I am sure many of you have heard the quote "Life is like a box of chocoates, you never know what you are gonna get" from the movie "Forrest Gump."  When I think about that quote, I can't help but think...if life is like a box of chocolates, I hope I get the dark chocolate truffle and not the cherry cordial or nougat (because I don't care for those two).  Well, I may not be able to guaruntee that I get the metaphorical dark chocolate truffles in life, but I can guaruntee I get to eat them.  I have always enjoyed the truffle boxes where you can pick out the variety you want.  My favorites are always the unusual ones like key lime pie or dark chocolate ginger or coffee...I don't care much for milk chocolate or overly sweet ones like orange cream.  The best chocolates I have ever eaten in my life were a variety of Leonida's dark chocolates that I bought while in Belgium.  They were the most melt in your mouth delicious things ever! 

I know it is a Valentine's tradition to give chocolates, and I can't help but imagine how wonderful it would be if I ever met a guy who would know how to make me some instead of buying them on Valentine's Day.  It would make them all the more special (even if they weren't as perfect) as hand made gifts always melt my heart.  I know it is a far reach to ever have that happen but hey, a girl can dream.  But for now I will make my own.  Which is what I did this year since I have no actual sweetheart. 


I don't know quite how I thought up the combination for a flavor I chose to make, but I decided on dark chocolate raspberry rose.  I am fascinated with rose in desserts lately and I thought the subtle flavor would be lovely in a truffle!  The raspberry just sounded good with the dark chocolate. 


Also, I have been wanting to experiment with vegan truffles lately and substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream so now would be my chance.  I have heard that it turns out fabulous but I am one that needs to find out for myself.  Afterall, what is the worst that can happen, they turn out ugly and I get to eat them...no harm done! 


Making them was really quite simple.  I decided that I needed to add real raspberries instead of just raspberry flavor, yes seeds and all (because I actually like the texture), so I whisked those into the ganache along with some rosewater to provide the floral rose note.  Then the base just had to chill for an hour before I rolled it into truffles (I love that the process does not take a long time so I can indulge faster). 


I then rolled them, making my hands smell like the most delicious raspberry chocolate for hours later.  They chilled for a short time in the freezer, then I simply coated them in melted dark chocolate.  I suppose I could have left them unadorned...but I am not one to do so.  Everything needs to be pretty even if it is just myself I am sharing the truffles with.  So I decided to top them with little edible dried roses which were quite beautiful atop the truffles! 


They were delicious when I tried the finished product!  As if I didn't know because I had popped a few of the unfinished ones before putting them in the freezer, but we will pretend I didn't.  The inside tasted of intense slightly tart sweet real raspberry in the smooth rich dark chocolate base with a light flavor of rose as the final note.  So delcious and I wouldn't have minded recieving a box of them if someone had given them to me (who am I kidding I would have been extremely happy and not shared).  Don't worry, I wasn't selfish and since they turned out beautifully I shared them. 


If you would like to impress someone, you should make them a batch of these (and hope they share them with you).  Here is the recipe if you would like some!

Vegan Raspberry Rose Truffles
Makes about 20

3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
10 oz vegan dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen raspberries, thawed and drained of all liquid
1/2 tsp rosewater
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Dried roses (edible) optional
Place the finely chopped chocolate in medium heat-safe bowl and set aside. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it is just under a boil then remove from heat and pour the hot coconut milk over the chopped chocolate and whisk them together along with berries, rosewater and vanilla extract until the chocolate is melted and it becomes a smooth ganache. Press a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the ganache, and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to scoop and roll, about 1 hour. If you wait too long it will get very stiff and hard to work with, so check it after an hour to make it easy to shape the truffles. Use a spoon to form small balls from the ganache, and roll them between your hands to get them round.  Place them on a foil lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm.  To make coating, melt the remaining 8 oz chocolate in the microwave until it is smooth and fluid (stirring after 30 second intervals). Using forks or dipping tools, dip a truffle until it is completely submerged in the melted coating, then bring it up out of the coating and tap the fork against the lip of the bowl to remove excess. Place the truffles on a foil-covered baking sheet, and while it is still wet, top each with a rose if desired.  repeat with remaining truffles and place sheet in the refrigerator to set the coating for about 15 minutes. They are best served at room temperature.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Almond Marble Cake and 2 Year Blogaversary!


I can not believe it has been 2 years since I first started blogging.  So much has changed over the last two years and I have learned so much!  I first decided to start a blog because I was constantly sharing recipes on Facebook, and it seemed like blogging would be an enjoyable hobby.  Little did I know it would become so much more.  I can remember my first post, "Red Velvet Cupcakes with a secret ingredient".   They were cupcakes containing beets and they were quite delicious but I had a lot to learn about blogging and photography when I wrote that first post.  I started out with very few followers and never thought that my blog would amount to much, but then I joined Foozbuzz, a wonderful community of food loving fellow bloggers.  They made me feel welcome, helped me get my blog out there and become more confident about my blogging and recipes.  I have also changed my baking quite a bit since I first started incorporating more vegan recipes into my blog as I have changed the way I chose to eat.  I have had a few failures, but many successes in my baking experiments.  But those failures have always been valuable for future successes!  I decided to merge my two blogs this year as well, so a few savory recipes have been incorporated onto Fragrant Vanilla Cake from Garlic and Sea Salt.  I know it is far less savory than sweet on here, but what can I say it is my passion!  It has been a wonderful year of blogging, and I just have to say thank you to all of you have supported my blog!  Family, friends, fellow bloggers...you are all VERY important to me and I appriciate you all! 


Now, what is a blogaversary without a cake, so of course I baked one.  It took me a while to figure out what to make this year, but I knew it had to contain some vanilla cake...afterall, this blog is Fragrant Vanilla Cake.  What I finally decided on though, was a marble cake.  I haven't made a marble cake in years, and it sounded really good! 


I also knew that this had to be more than just a marble cake with vanilla frosting.  Simple is good but this is a special occasion afterall!  I decided to add almond to the cake because when I was younger my mother would always make dessert with both almond and vanilla and it reminds me of Birthday Cake!  The layers needed something delicious to sandwich them together as well. 


Some marzipan to up the almond factor would be perfect and some dark chocolate ganache to add just a little chocolate decadence but not too much. 


The cake layers themselves smelled wonderful while baking like a vanilla almond cookie crossed with a brownie. 


Decorating the cake was quite fun.  I always feel like a little kid when decorating, creating something and putting my own personal touch on it.  Since this was my two year blogaversary I decided to be a little playful and use pink frosting, girly sprinkle hearts and sprakly pink sugar to adorn the cake! 


I have to say the best part of making a cake is eating the extra frosting and filling... and I did plenty of that!  Have to make sure it is perfect afterall.


The finished cake was quite lovely!  But more importantly delicious.  The cake layers were melt in your mouth and fragrant with vanilla, chocolate and almond.  The rich dark chocolate ganache and nutty sweet marzipan were the perfect additions along with the sweet creamy vanilla almond frosting.  It was a cake fit for a queen, or to celebrate a blogaversary!  I am looking forward to another year of blogging and many delicious posts to come! 


Thanks again for all of your support, and if you would like to enjoy some of my blogaversary cake for yourself, here is the recipe!


Vegan Almond Marble Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

Cake:
2 oz vegan dark chocolate, chopped
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 lite organic coconut milk or almond milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Filling:
8 oz almond paste
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
5 oz vegan dark chocolate, chopped

Frosting:
3 8 oz pkgs tofutti cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
plant based red food coloring (if desired)
colored sprinkles


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. Melt dark chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals (or however you desire) until smooth, stirring in between. Whisk flour, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, milk, vanilla extract, vanllla seeds, and almond extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Divide batter into 2 bowls.  Whisk the melted chocolate into one of the bowls until blended.  Whisk in 1 Tbsp lemon juice to each bowl 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). Transfer cake batter to prepared pans (drop alternating chocolate and plain dough in alternating 1/3 cup portions throughout the pans dividing evenly between the two pans and swirl with a knife to marble) 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 in half so that you have 4 layers.
To make ganache, heat coconut milk until very hot (almost boiling), then add chocolate and whisk to melt until smooth, and set aside. 
To make frosting, whip cream cheese until smooth, then add agave, vanilla and almond and beat until smooth.
Divide marzipan into 3 pieces, and roll each into a circle the diameter of the cake (6 inches). 
To assemble cake, place one layer on a plate, and top with about ganache. Spread out over cake layer but not all the way to the edge, because you don't want it to ooze. Top with one marzipan circle, then spread about 2 Tbsp cream cheese frosting over marzipan.  Top with another cake layer and repeat, then the next 2 layers ending with a top layer of cake. To frost cake, spread frosting over top and sides, smothing out as you go. Tint remaining frosting pink (or whatever color you like) and use the remaining frosting to pipe decoratively onto the top of the cake using a pastry bag or plastic ziplock with a hole in the corner. I piped the frosting around the top edges of the cake, but feel free to be creative! Decorate cake with sprinkles and sugars and enjoy!

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