Friday, March 30, 2012

Tangarine Tango Martini

I love orange.  It is such a happy color, and I know not many people call it their favorite color, but I do.  It works out well because with my coloring as an Autumn it flatters my skin tone so I can wear it.  I was absolutely thrilled when I heard in January that "Tangerine Tango" was the color of the year!  I think orange doesn't get enough is always blue so it seems which people prefer.  Why am I talking about color?  Well, I made a delicious cocktail, as it is Friday and it was called "Tangerine Tango"! 

So....hopefully the color talk makes sense now.  I called it that because it was the most beautiful shade of orange, a sassy orange deserving of a name like tangerine tango! 

I need no reason to make a cocktail, but it being Friday, and the end of a week full of ups and downs was reason enough! So what was in this concoction? 

I had just gotten my hands on a bottle of Mandarin Napolean, so I knew I needed to use it in a delicious drink.  For those of you who haven't heard of it, Mandarin Napolean is a cognac based orange liqueur.  It has a warm smooth orange flavor and is so good that it could be sipped alone! 

I combined it with a bit of bourbon, a splash of Campari, which made the drink's color even more beautiful and of course I added some tangerine juice, because I have a big bowl of them in my kitchen right now. 

It was a lovely drink.  Almost too lovely to drink...but who am I kidding that never stops me!  It was delicious!  It was smooth and rich with the cognac and bourbon and the sweetness of tangerine and mandarin was wonderful!  A tango in my mouth, and so I thought "Tangerine Tango" was the perfect name for it!  If you would like one, I have included the recipe so you can recreate it!  Happy Friday to you all, cheers! 

Tangarine Tango Martini
(Tangerine, bourbon, Mandarin Napolean and Campari)
Makes 1

6 large ice cubes
3 oz bourbon
1/2 oz campari
1 oz Mandarin napolean
2 oz fresh tangerine or other fresh orange juice
orange zest or slices for serving

In a martini shaker add the ice, bourbon, campari, mandarin napolean, and juice and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink into a chilled martini glass through a strainer, garnish with orange zest or slices and serve!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mini Banana Cashew Monkey Bread

I have always loved monkey bread (or pull apart bread).  I can remember my Grandma making it when I was a kid.  I would walk into her kitchen and was immediately greeted by the aroma of sweet caramel rolls, anticipating devouring the sticky bread with my hands.  Grandma's monkey bread seemed like the ultimate, but since she has passed away and I didn't have the recipe I came up with my own version last year. It was just as amazing, and even better it was individually portions as I made mini monkey breads. 

I was thinking about how delicious monkey bread was last Friday and I decided to make it again this weekend.  However, I thought why not include bananas?  Afterall, monkeys eat bananas and it is "monkey" bread.  Plus it just sounded good.  Bananas and caramel are a match made in heaven! 

I decided to swap out the pecans for cashews as well, why not?!  It was all sounding quite delicious and I could not wait for the finished product! 

So I got to work and made a slightly sweet dough enhanced with coconut oil and milk as well as the banana.  It kneaded into a beautiful silky dough, perfect for shaping. 

I rolled it in cinnamon sugar, placed it in muffin tins for individual portions, and spooned some gooey maple caramel I had made over them.  The hardest part was waiting for the rolls to rise and bake...but it was so worth it!  They smelled heavenly like the best sweet caramel rolls as they emerged from the oven!  I didn't have to wait long to try them because they are best while still warm and gooey!  

They were heavenly...soft sweet banana dough with gooey cinnamon laced caramel and crunchy toasty cashews!  This was honestly the best monkey bread I have ever enjoyed! I think my Grandma would be proud were she still alive to sample my bread. 

I have a feeling you would also love it, so I have included the recipe should you wish to try some!  It is way better than the monkey bread most people make with refrigerated bread dough and worth the effort, trust me!

Mini Banana Cashew Monkey Bread
Makes about 16 rolls
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup coconut milk or almond milk
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple sugar
2 pureed ripe bananas
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups organic bread Flour
1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup roasted cashews

1/4 cup maple sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup maple sugar
10 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

In a large bowl, combine yeast, 1 Tbsp agave nectar and water. Let sit 5 minutes, until yeast is foamy, then add coconut milk, maple sugar, bananas, coconut oil, maple extract, vanilla, and sea salt. Mix well, then add the flour 1 cup at a time until dough is not sticky. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin, and a 6 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Drop about 6 cashews into the bottom of each hole. When dough has risen, punch it down, and divide into 16 pieces, and cut each into quarters. Combine 1/4 cup maple sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a large ziplock bag. Place half dough balls in bag, zip up, and shake in bag to coat. Remove from bag and repeat with remaining balls. Place 4 dough balls into each muffin tin hole. In small bowl, for topping, mix together maple sugar, butter, agave nectar, vanilla, maple and sea salt. Whisk until well combined and sugar is dissolved. Pour about 1 Tbsp over the dough pieces in each muffin hole. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise. Let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 35-45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack set at the middle position. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and done in the center (keep a close watch as they brown quickly, and if they are brown after only 10 minutes, cover with foil and continue to bake until done). Remove from oven and let cool slightly, about a minute, then invert onto foil sprayed with non-stick spray. Serve warm while caramel is still gooey!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Carrot Cake

Alright, I know I am a little late celebrating Spring since it was last Tuesday, but I tend to save my celebrations for the weekend.  You know...when I am off work, and have time to make some sort of fabulous dessert (because fabulous desserts are an important part of celebrations in my book).  So this weekend, in celebration of Spring (which it seems has been here for a while in Minnesota with the 70 degree temps) I decided a carrot cake was in order. 

I don't know who decided that carrot cake is a Spring thing, as I love it year round, but I suppose it is rather spring like being that bunnies are associated with Easter and they eat carrots.  But honestly, I decided on it simply because it sounded delicious and I make what I feel like at the time. 

This wasn't going to be quite classic however...I wanted to include pistachios for their beautiful green color since things are greening up for Spring and I thought it appropriate! 

I wanted the cake part to also include golden raisins, and coconut along with the pistachios and of course plenty of spices.  I decided to puree the carrots instead of grating them for a finer texture as well, but I actually liked it this way better! 

Cream cheese was important for the frosting and filling.  Although it was vegan cream cheese...just as delicious.  I flavored the creamy frosting with vanilla and almond, as is tradition in my family as far as cake frosting is concerned. 

The outside of the cake needed nuts, because to me the ultimate carrot cake has a nut coating on the sides, so that is where the beautiful green pistachios come in.  Also I decided that the top of the cake needed some pretty Spring colors, so I piped some lovely frosting on the top! 

The finished cake was beautiful in my eyes, but more importantly, delicious!  The cake was moist and lightly spiced, the frosting creamy and sweet, just as a carrot cake should be, and the pistachios salty and crunchy!  Altogether a heavenly combination!  So perfect to celebrate spring as well (although I wouldn't be opposed to it any time of year)!

If you would like to taste the deliciousness for yourself, here is the recipe!

Spring Carrot Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake
2 6 inch cake pans

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup toasted coconut
1 cup maple sugar
1 cup pureed cooked carrot
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

3 8 oz pkgs vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
plant based food coloring (optional)

1 cup chopped pistachios

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, baking soda, spices, salt, and coconut in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk sugar, carrot, oil, vanilla extract, and cider together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar until pale swirls form in the batter and it is well combined. Stir in golden raisins and 1/2 cup pistachios. 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. When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers.
To make frosting, beat together all ingredients until smooth.  To assemble cake, place one layer on a platter and put about 3 Tbsp on it and spread to the edges.  Repeat until you have placed the last layer on the cake and spread frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake.  Tint remaining frosting with food coloring if desired and use to decorate the top of the cake.  Press pistachios into the sides of the cake. 

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

Friday, March 23, 2012

Little Banana Peanut Butter Caramel Galettes

When I am in a good mood, I describe myself as "feeling sparkly".  I would say I was feeling pretty sparkly yesterday as it was one of those types of days where good things happen from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed.  I woke up in a good mood because a foot pain I have had for about a month now has finally subsided and I have been able to run the amount of miles I wanted to this week for the first time in a while.  I had a good run (which always makes my day better no matter what), and I had a good day at work in the deli!  I had gotten a lot done, made a new successful recipe, and even got a compliment on my food from a cute guy on my food (which always makes my day better).  Although it had been raining all day, it stopped and the sun came out for a short while long enough for me to go for a walk after work and even witness a rainbow. 
Now this may all seem like a whole lot of unimportant things, but added up the little things can sure make me happy!  I usually don't have much time to bake during the week, but since I was having such a good day, I decided that I needed to include a good dessert. 
I decided on a banana peanut butter caramel galette.  I admit, I came up with it while on my walk.  Because that is the type of stuff I think about when I am alone and have a bit of time to think.  I had some bananas on my counter, and caramel and peanut butter just sounded good! 
I thought I would enclose the filling in a sesame seed crust made rich with coconut oil and a hint of vanilla.  I enjoy sesame seeds with banana, and a plain old crust just wouldn't do. 
I didn't want the filling to be overly sweet, because I would be adding caramel later.  So I spread peanut butter with a little agave nectar and vanilla over the crust, then arranged the bananas on top, sprinkling with just a little maple sugar before baking.  The aroma it created while it was baking was heavenly, like sweet bananas and peanut butter toast my Mom used to make me when I was a kid! 
I made a boubon laced caramel to drizzle over the galette as if it wasn't delicious enough looking already.  It was beautiful if I do say so with the caramel on it ready to devour! 

When I took a bite, it was sweet with the roasted bananas and rich caramel, the peanut butter nutty and gooey between the crisp sesame crust and soft bananas.  It was as heavenly as it smelled, and it was another wonderful addition to my good day!  I have a feeling you would enjoy it as well, and if you wish to make one (or 4 since I made a small amount for just me, 1/4 of the recipe below) I have included the recipe!  Hope you are all having as good of a week as I am!
Little Banana Peanut Butter Caramel Galettes
makes 4 small galettes

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp maple sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
7 Tbsp coconut oil at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4-5 Tbsp ice water

4 small bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then in half
1/4 cup organic smooth roasted peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
maple sugar, or brown sugar for sprinkling
pinch of sea salt
melted coconut oil

1/4 cup maple sugar
5 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
1/2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp bourbon
1/4 tsp sea salt

To make crust, combine flour, sea salt, maple sugar, sesame seeds and coconut oil 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 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 managable, 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 peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt in a small bowl, and whisk to combine.  Spread 1/4 of the peanut butter mixture onto each of the dough circles leaving a 1 1/2 inch boarder around the outside. Arrange 4 banana pieces on top of dough on each dough round over the peanut butter.   Fold border over the bananas, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds. Brush edges of dough melted coconut oil, sprinkle with maple 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.
To make caramel, combine maple sugar, butter, agave nectar, and sea salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until brought to a boil, cook one minute, then remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and bourbon.  Drizzle a bit over each tart! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amy's Vegan Banana Split

I have to admit, the banana splits I have eaten in the past have far from impressed me.  I can remember having one at Dairy Queen and wishing I had simply ordered a the fruit sauces were overly sweet and the whipped cream probably came from a can...not to mention the nasty artificial marschino cherry perched atop.  Maybe I just hadn't had a banana split, but my opinion of them was they were not that great.  That is until I was watching a show on the cooking Channel on sweets and I saw a revamped classic banana split at a New York city restaurant.  The chef had totally played around with it coating the bananas in chocolate, including cake, and macadamia nut brittle and ice cream flavors like buttered popcorn and mango...I don't remember all of it but it looked and sounded amazing!  It got me to thinking, why can't I create my own banana split with ingredients and flavors I love?!

So I got to work creating it!  I started with the ice creams.  Classic banana split has vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.  But...none of these would do for mine.  I instead decided on maple peanut butter, chocolate cacao nib, and rasberry chipotle.  It took me a week to make all of the ice creams, because I only have one machine, but it was so worth it!  

Although the ice creams would have been good on their own, this was a banana split, not a bowl full of ice cream.  So of course I made sauces as well!  For the sauces, I would not be using the classic pineapple, chocolate syrup and strawberry...but instead maple peanut butter sauce, dark chocolate sauce, and fresh raspberry sauce.  I figured I would pair the sauces with the ice creams like in the classic so that was one thing that remained the same! 

I could have stopped there, but I liked the idea of something crunchy in the dessert, so I made some salted peanut brittle to throw in among the ice creams!  Lastly, I didn't want to use dairy whipped cream so I made whipped coconut milk which I much prefer.  It is so much sweeter, and even more so once I laced it with vanilla beans.  Now, about that cherry on will not find one on my banana split because I hate marschino cherries and their artficial color and hurt your teeth sweetness.  Instead I chose to top mine off with fresh raspberries, which I love! 

Once it was all assembled in one of my Grandmother's antique rose bowls, it was quite lovely!  Almost too pretty to eat, the ice creams all lined up on top of the bananas with their matching sauces and the billowy whipped cream on top dotted with berries! 

But...not too pretty because of course I dove in and devoured it.  It was amazing and it forever changed my opinion of banana split.  How do I describe the taste and was a lot to take in, all of it heavenly all together but I will try, by breaking it down.  The peanut butter ice cream was sweet and nutty with a hint of maple and a silky mouthfeel, and it went perfect with the maple peanut butter sauce which was gooey and sweet! 

The chocolate ice cream was intense like dark chocolate with the crunchy cacao nibs throughout and the decadent fugde sauce was a wonderful texture to add to it! 

The rasberry ice cream was sweet and slightly spicy and it paired well with  the slightly tart fresh raspberry sauce! 
The crunchy peanut brittle was like sweet salty goodness among all of the soft ice cream and the whipped cream tied it all together!  It melted a little and the bananas soaked up the goodness...the best part being the combining of the ice creams and melted coconut cream at the bottom of the bowl all together! 
It was amazing...and although it took a while to create, it was so worth it!  Yeah, I could have bought ice cream at the store and made it easier on myself but that is not how I operate.  If you wish to try any of the ice creams or toppings for yourself, or maybe the whole shabang, here is the recipe!

Recipes For All of the Components:
Maple Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Makes about 4+ cups

1 cup lite organic coconut milk
2 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor 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 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.
Chocolate Cacao Nib Ice Cream
Makes about 4 cups of ice cream
1 cup lite coconut milk
2 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup cacao nibs

To make ice cream, combine all ingredients in a food processor except cacao nibs, 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). Mix in cacao nibs and 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.
Raspberry Chipotle Chili Ice Cream
Makes 5 cups
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1 12 oz bag frozen raspberries
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp dried chipotle powder
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients except pepper flakes in a blender, and process until well blended. Stir in pepper flakes, 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). Once processed, pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Maple Peanut Butter Sauce:
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For maple peanut butter sauce, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If a thinner sauce is desired, add a little more maple syrup.

Chocolate Sauce:
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut oil
pinch of sea salt

For chocolate sauce, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.  If too thick, add a little more agave, if too thin add a little more cocoa to your liking.

Raspberry Sauce:
1 12 oz pkg raspberries
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make raspberry sauce, puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Keep in the fridge. 

Vanilla Whipped Coconut Cream:
1/2 cup chilled full fat coconut milk (from the top of the can)
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of half a vanilla bean

To make whipped coconut cream, chill a medium bowl and beaters until very cold.  When chilled, add the chilled coconut milk to the bowl and beat at high speed until stiff peaks, a few minutes.  Add agave nectar vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds and beat until incorporated.  Keep in the fridge until ready to serve. 

Salted Maple Peanut Brittle:
1 1/2 cups maple sugar (or granulated)
2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
Fleur de sel
Lay out a piece of foil and spray with non-stick spray. Heat sugar over high heat in a non-stick skillet with 2 tsp sea salt, until sugar begins to melt. Stir with a rubber spatula to evenly melt sugar and add peanuts. Stir to coat, and pour onto foil, spreading into a thin layer. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and let cool completely. Break into pieces (about a cup broken into very small pieces to be stirred into ice cream), you will have extra for serving and snacking.
For Serving Banana Split:
Makes 2
Fresh Raspberries
2 Bananas, halved lengthwise

To assemble, place one banana (two halves) in each bowl.  Scoop two scoops of each of the three ice creams into each.  Top the ice cream off with each of the toppings, pairing the peanut butter sauce with the peanut butter ice cream and so on.  Top off with some of the peanut brittle, then the whipped coconut cream, and lastly some raspberries.  Enjoy!  (And you will have plenty of extra ice cream for future enjoyment)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I can remember looking through a puddings, mousses and custards section of a cookbook a few years back and coming across an unusual dessert called "Cranachan".  It was a traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whisky and berries.  The cream being whipped to fluffiness with the whisky and a little honey, the oats toasted and folded in along with the berries to create a heavenly special mousse like dessert.  I told myself I was going to make it at some point, but never gotten around to it and had since forgotten about it until this week. 

I was thinking about how good the whisky was in Irish coffee with the whipped cream and got to thinking about how good it would be in plain whipped cream with fruit and the Cranachan came to mind!  The only problem is that these days eating a big pile of whipped cream doesn't go so well with my I decided that it needed to be veganized! 

Whipped coconut milk is more heavenly than real whipped cream so it was the perfect solution!  I looked at quite a few recipes for the dessert, and decided that I was going to do my own thing as far as proportions and oat preparations went.  I tossed the oats with a little coconut oil and maple sugar before toasting to make them slightly sweet and golden brown. 

For the coconut milk, I added a little vanilla extract, along with maple syrup in place of the honey to sweeten along with a good amount of whisky...which was a must!  Once it was all folded together into a cloud of deliciousness along with the raspberries I couldn't wait to dive in! 

It was heavenly, silky light coconut cream with the kick of whisky, sweetness of maple and vanilla and crunchy nutty oats along with the slightly tart berries! may be slightly non-traditional being veganized and maple and vanilla added but I loved it!  Best of all, it was easy to prepare and something new to me!  If you would like to experience it for yourself, here is the recipe!

Serves 4

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp maple sugar
2 cups chilled full fat coconut milk from the top of the can
6 Tbsp whisky
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
16 oz raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss oats with coconut oil and maple sugar and spread out on foil.  Toast until browned and fragrant, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Meanwhile, place a medium glass bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill until very cold.  Once chilled, place coconut milk in chilled bowl and whip until stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.  Add whisky and maple syrup and vanilla and beat until combined.  Fold in toasted oats and raspberries (reserving a few of each for garnish).  Spoon into 4 serving dishes and top with reserved oats and berries.  Serve!