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:   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 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

Pink and red sugar
agave nectar

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. 

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 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

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

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

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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vegan Blackberry Blood Orange Shortcakes

 Being that it is the middle of winter I am missing all things summer.  Daylight until after 8 at night, going for runs in sports bras and shorts, all of the beautiful flowers and green grass, and of course the fruits.  Especially berries...a nice fresh bowl of berries is something that I enjoy as often as possible in the summer!  I mean, I know I can enjoy frozen berries in crisps and smoothies, but it is just not the same.  Don't get me wrong, the citrus fruits in season are amazing right now but nothing compares to berries.   So when my Mom was nice enough to bring me some fresh blackberries that she had come across on sale at the store recently I was quite excited.  I suppose I could have just devoured them without thought, but I thought that they deserved to be used in something a little more interesting than that.  One of my favorite ways to serve berries is in a shortcake, so that is just what I decided to make. 

Blackberries alone would have been good, but since they are technically not in season I thought I would pair them with blood oranges this time for an even lovelier dessert! 

I used my vegan scone base for the biscuits, and included berries and blood oranges in the dough instead of just making it plain vanilla.  I even cut them into hearts, because I thought it appropriate since Valentine's Day is coming up.  

The fruit to be used in the shortcakes did not need much sweetening as it was quite flavorful, so I added just a touch of agave nectar and vanilla beans for a lovely aroma. 

Instead of the usual whipped cream in shortcakes, I made some whipped coconut cream scented with vanilla as I am in love with it lately on anything fruit for dessert.  It is so much more delicious than dairy whipped cream in my opinion and is already so sweet it hardly needs anything added. 

The finished shortcakes were lovely!  The bright red blood oranges and deep purple blackberries spilling out of the snow white coconut cream in between the biscuit hearts.  The biscuits were flaky and the perfect thing to surround the sweet silky coconut cream and sweet tart vanilla scented blackberries and blood oranges.  It reminded me of summer and yet had a wintery twist with the blood oranges!  If you would like to enjoy some for yourself, here is the recipe!  Feel free to substitute frozen berries if you don't have access to fresh.

Vegan Blackberry Blood Orange Shortcakes
Makes 4

1 cups plus 1 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup maple sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp 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 Tbsp blood orange juice
1 Tbsp blood orange zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pkg fresh organic blackberries
coconut milk for topping
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

2 organic blood oranges, cut into supremes
1 12 oz pkg fresh organic blackberries
1 Tbsp agave nectar
seeds of half a vanilla bean (other half reserved for coconut cream)

Coconut cream:
1/2 cup chilled full fat coconut milk (only the thick part from the top of the can)
reserved vanilla bean seeds (see above)
2 tsp agave nectar

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 blood orange juice and zest as well as 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 until evenly distributed. place dough on a floured work surface, and use a large heart cookie cutter to cut 4 hearts. Place biscuits 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 the biscuits are spreading, then place back in the oven). Cool on a wire rack completely. 
Meanwhile, place a medium bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill until very cold. 
In another bowl, combine blood oranges and blackberries with agave nectar and vanilla and toss to combine.  Set aside in the fridge while you make the cream. 
To make the coconut cream, remove the chilled bowl and beaters from the freezer and add chilled coconut milk and beat until stiff peaks.  Add vanilla beans and agave nectar and beat until combined. 
To assemble shortcakes, slit each biscuit in half lengthwise and place the bottom half of each on a plate.  Top each with some coconut cream, then some of the fruit mixture.  Place tops on and put a little more of the coconut cream on top and serve!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Salted Maple Caramel Ice Cream

I can remember being over at my Dad's house as a kid and enjoying a bowl of ice cream.  Not just a small bowl mind you, but a large piled high bowl with all the fixings.  Dad always had the best kinds of ice cream on hand...the cookie dough, the moose tracks (peanut butter cups and fudge ripple), the girl scout cookie varieties.  Oh, and not just the delcious ice creams, also the caramels, fudges and whipped cream to pile on top of the ice cream deliciousness as if the ice cream itself were not enough.  Now, I admit that most of these add ons were due to me begging him at the grocery store to buy them, since my Mom would do nothing of the sort.  I remember I used to have about 5 scoops of ice cream in a bowl of different sorts, then put about 1/4 cup each of fudge and caramel an a mountain of whipped cream piled so high that you would think it would overflow.  Then I would devour it...surprisingly never getting a tummy ache.  Good memories. 

I have since changed my eating habits and eating that much sugary dairy filled ice cream would not be kind to my system, but that does not mean I do not dream about it sometimes.  Which is precisely why I decided I needed to make some ice cream with something delicious stirred in last weekend.

I had some chocolate chip cookies in my freezer that I knew would be a wonderful add in and I thought a sweet maple flavored base would be perfect to stir them into. 

Something gooey swirled in was needed as well.  It was a toss up between fudge and caramel and the caramel won because I have always been a sucker for it.  I made some salted maple caramel laced with a little bourbon for an adult twist (as well as to keep it from freezing too hard) and it was the perfect addition.

A good ice cream needs no adornment, and this was the case with this one because it already had delicious things stirred in!  The base was silky and sweet with maple with the soft cookie bits suspended in it, little bursts of goodness.  The caramel was sweet and gooey with a delcious hint of salt intensifying the flavor.  It was delicious, and not so over the top as my childhood treat, but fit for my adult tastes.  I admit I don't feel quite as guilty going back for more scoops of this ice cream as I would if it were the stuff I used to eat...and I did.  If you would like to indulge in some yourself, here is the recipe as I made it! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Salted Maple Caramel Ice Cream
Makes about 6 cups

1/2 cup maple sugar
10 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp bourbon (to prevent caramel from freezing)
1 tsp fleur de sel

3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups broken up vegan chocolate chip cookies
To make caramel, in a saucepan combine sugar, butter, and agave nectar.  Heat over medium high until melted and bubbling, whisking to blend.  When well combined and heated for about 1 minute, remove from heat and whisk in fleur de sel, vanilla, and bourbon.  Let cool to room temperature.
To make ice cream, place coconut milk, maple syrup, agave nectar, vanilla and maple extracts, and sea salt into a blender and combine with all ingredients except cookies and caramel, 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 1/2 into a freezable container with a lid then drizzle about 1/3 caramel over along with 1/3 of the cookies.  Pour half the remaining ice cream mixture over, then drizzle with half the remaining caramel and cookies.  Pour remaining ice cream over and top with remaining caramel and cookies.  Use a knife to swirl slightly, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.