Saturday, February 26, 2011


Today is a snowstorm and vegan chocolate cake(!!!).
I am frolicking about the house in knee-highs and a silk skirt, with Thelonius Monk, fireplace blazing, ignorantly ignoring the fluffy white flakes falling from the sky.
I'm all wrong for this weather.

I'm just popping in to say "hello" in between playing games of speed scrabble with my sister and studying for my abundance of midterms coming up this week. And I've actually got something pretty cool to share. Today officially marks my first attempt at baking vegan. Kyran had requested a remake of a vegan cake his sister made once upon a time, and I happily obliged. So today, he and I made vegan, refined sugar-free, and gulten-free chocolate cupcakes from this cookbook:
Right off the bat I'm thinking, if you bake without sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and flour, what the heck is the point of baking at all? I've done the whole vegan thing, and while I loved it at the time, I am vegan no longer and loving it. Also, vegan baking has a tendency to be loaded with ingredients with names that awkwardly fill your mouth and are impossible to pronounce. Not good. But, I had heard some really wonderful things regarding this vegan and gluten-free bakery from NYC (if it's good enough for Natalie Portman, certainly it must be good enough for us regular folk), so I picked up their cookbook a couple weeks ago and have been daydreaming of garbonzo bean flour and coconut oil ever since.

Today we opted for chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting. Our icing was a disaster, as in, it resembled cottage cheese rather than that gorgeous smooth, billowy stuff in the photos. Flavour wise, it was okay. But I was disappointed I wasted an entire tablespoon of my expensive vanilla extract on it. I was quite offended by this vanilla frosting imitator. When I bake, it turns out. Always! Kyran scoured Amazon reviews to see what the deal was and found that many reviewers were disapointedby the result of their vanilla icing as well. We also read rumor that the icing in the book isn't actually the same as the famous icing they use in the bakery. Lame. So that was the bad news. We rectified the situation by pouring the icing down the drain, and searching the web to find an alternate recipe. Kyran is experimenting with another variety of vegan icing (one using coconut milk! Mmm!) as we speak. I'll keep you posted as to how it turns out!
On the bright side of things, the cakes were delicious. Decadent, moist, and sinfully chocolatey. I was pleasantly suprised by the final product, which resulted from the combination of potato starch, arrowroot, garbanzo bean flour, agave nectar, and other strange and magical things. Kyran ate two, right off the bat, and is probably eating more right now-sans icing, which puts it into the "totally delicious, definitely will make again" territory.

I don't want to deliver my final verdict of the Babycakes NYC cookbook just yet. After all, I've only made two recipes. However, I think I will continue to be perplexed by the addition of altered bakery recipes that don't turn out well. What's the deal? I want that billowy frosting Babycakes is known to have, and now I have to go search for it elsewhere. Oh well. The chocolate cupcakes were quite wonderful and were the perfect treat for an afternoon snuggled up to my favorite person in the world, whilethe entire world slowly turned white.

Photo's of the final product coming SOON!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'm Not Horse'n Around

I just had reading break. It felt like it was 30 seconds long, but actually it was a week. Scary. I got next to nothing done, and now I'm freaking out because everythingisdueatonce! Ahh! Save me! Write my essay? Fill my brain with information, read me Shakespeare and John Milton, help me memorize how to classify metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks. Did I mention that it all has to be done by Wednesday? Oh sweet maria...

I'm tired and grumpy, but Kyran is still putting up with me like an all star, like he always does. That boy, I tell ya, is so good to me. Thanks to Ky, my music diet lately has been very Prefab Sprout heavy. Good music and frequent dance breaks are a must for getting through weeks like these. Also thanks to Ky, my food diet the past couple of years has been filled with amaaaaaaazing batches of guacamole. Avocados are filled with those healthy fats that are an essential part of maintaining a balanced diet, and essential for keeping me energized and focused during intense study sessions. (No, I do not get paid by Avocado growers to pimp this fruit. I just like it a lot a lot a lot, especially when Kyran serves them a la guacamole).
One time, we made a batch with 4 avocado's and polished off the entire thing in a matter of minutes. When our friends come over, we make a double batch it's always the first thing to go. I have a feeling that if we didn't make such good guacamole, we wouldn't be invited to many social outings, which is funny and probably not entirely true. In reality though, our guacamole is better than yours. And I know this for a fact because Kyran once entered it into a competition and won. Bam! True story.


Try this and never go back to your old guacamole making ways (or store bought varieties... ugh!). As mentioned above, guacamole is probably the number one most consumed food for K and I. We love!
This recipe does not have exact measurements, but I assure you, this isn't rocket science. You can do it. A little more of this and a little less of that isn't a problem here. Play around and figure out a ratio that works best for you! For now, I suggest:

2-3 avocados
1/2 of a firm but ripe tomato, diced
1/2 of a lime
3 thin slices of red onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (OPTIONAL! I prefer to do without, but if you are a garlic lover, you may want the additional flavor!)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

For a chunkier guac: Mash up the avocado A BIT, before mixing in everything everything else.
For a creamier guac: Mash up the avocado a lot, making sure to get out the lumps. If your avocados are really ripe, this will not be a problem. Then add all other ingredients and stir until everything is evenly incorporated.

Serve with chips, veggies, meat (cooked please!), or quesadillas!
The quesadilla in the photo above was filled with 2-year aged cheddar, sundried tomatoes, black beans and a whack load of spinach (my personal favorite combo).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lets Date

It has been brought to my attention that I am prone to experience over the top excitement far more than the average person. Sunshine, dance parties, strenuous workouts, kisses, and movie nights all tend to evoke the same reaction from me. Life is filled with so many beautiful and wonderful things, I just can't help myself.

I'm going to share some of this excitement with you today in the form of a totally unfussy and unpretentious date bar that will win over just about anyone, including yourself. Uh huh.
Before I get started here, we need to have a serious talk. Some people seem to be ridiculously scared of dates, or dried fruit in general. I'll admit that I do my best to avoid raisins at any cost, but dates, I swear are the most lovely little things on the planet. Do you realize that dates quite literally melt and become caramel when they are left to mingle on the stove in a pot of water? I don't think I need to say much else on the subject, because I am fairly certain everyone on the planet loves caramel. And if you don't like caramel, what is wrong with you?

Now that we've settled that, how do you feel about Valentines day?
I feel like it's in style for everyone to loath this day and complain about it as much as possible. Is it silly to have a day dedicated to roses, candy, and love? Are you kidding me, no! Roses AND candy AND romance... OH BABY! Is it ridiculous to have a day devoted to reminding those we love that we still love them, even though it's February 14? Okay, perhaps a little. But these date bars make a really lovely Valentines day treat. Not too over-the-top, which is great cause no one wants to seem too overeager these days, but ridiculously delicious... the kind of date (bar) you'd bring home to meet your mother. Ha!

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking.
You are thinking, "Whatever. I'm allergic to roses, candy is bad for my teeth, and my love broke my heart into a million pieces."

Fair enough. But hey,
you owe it to yourself to be excited every now and then.
These date bars, humble as they seem, are worth getting excited about. I promise.

Classic Date Bars
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2004

I returned home the other day to find that my sweet-souled sister had whipped up a batch of date bars, I was pretty dang happy. My happiness skyrocketed (it's possible, apparently) upon first bite when I realized that they were hands down the best date bars I have ever eaten. Ever. They were comforting, with a hint of cinnamon, slightly crumbly, and terribly moist. I've had my fair share of date bars. I'm telling you people, these are the real deal!
Thanks Em, for introducing me to these!

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 8x8-inch metal baking pan. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to simmer in medium saucepan. Add dates; simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in large bowl; stir to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until moist clumps form. Press half of oat mixture (firmly!!) evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Spread date mixture over. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture; press gently to adhere. Bake until brown at edges and golden brown and set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool completely on rack. Cut into bars and serve.

Yield: makes about 16 bars