Sunday, January 25, 2009

Among the Chaos, a Celebration

Last week, I was a mad woman due to stress from my first semester finals. I'm still pretty anxious since our grades have not been sent home yet, but I can relax a little but more thanks to a nice three day weekend :) My last test, as well as my mother's birthday, was Friday and instead of coming home and sleeping, I got to do something much more stimulating. I went and got my mom some flowers and cards from the rest of the family and then the real work began- her birthday cake! I let my mom pick the type of cake she wanted (she immediately responded with the same answer as last year- carrot cake!) and also sketched a few ideas for the design of the cake and she chose the following:

The cake itself was a recipe I sort of made up as I went along, combining the recipes from both VCTOTW and VWAV, and it is filled with and covered in the cream cheese frosting from VCTOTW. The borders and basket weave pattern on the side are piped with a cream cheese buttercream recipe that I just threw together because I needed more frosting, but I didn't have enough vegan cream cheese left. The cream cheese buttercream worked out really well because it had the tangy taste from a little bit of cream cheese, but the added Earth Balance and shortening made it fluffier and stiffer- perfect for decorating a cake! I decided to make the carrots out of marzipan since I've been curious about working with it for a while and it was great. Since I used small amounts of marzipan for each color needed for the carrots, it didn't take too much work to work in the color and I love how versatile it is! You will definitely be seeing more marzipan decorations coming from my kitchen.

I thought the cake came out pretty well, but the real test was what my mom thought. After dinner, my mom announced that she was ready for cake so I brought it up into the kitchen and, let me just tell you, her reaction was priceless! My mom thought the cake was gorgeous and exclaimed "You have to open a bakery, honey! Hurry, I want a picture of it!" Haha- I guess she liked it then! Everyone in my family loved how the cake tasted as well, which is the most impoartant thing. I did not make this cake gluten-free because I wanted to be absolutely sure my mom would love it, so I want to tinker around with my recipe a bit more to make it gluten-free before sharing it.

And, of course, I could not forget the beloved inside shot:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gluten-Free Bread Review (and a Bonus Herb Garden Shot!)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, when diagnosed with my food sensitivities, my doctor recommended gluten-free bread from Rose's Wheat-Free Bakery in Evanston. Rose's is such a great little bakery- they have cookies, cakes, and other treats, some of which are vegan. The day I went, they had some vegan banana bread which I almost snatched up, but I decided to just stick with some sandwich bread for this visit (but there's always next time!) They offer many different types of bread and one vegan variety which I stocked up on- the Seeded Sandwich Bread. My mom and I took home four loaves and only had them pre-slice one since we were planning on freezing the others (though slicing before freezing actually might be a better idea now that I think about it...). I must admit, when I first tried this bread, I was a little put off. It had a slight beany aftertaste which I was not expecting and the texture was like a cross between a quick bread and sandwich bread, though I suppose that's what's expected without gluten.

However, the more I ate this bread, the more I grew to like it and found the texture actually very enjoyable. Also, I found that toasting the slices before using them virtually eliminated any beany taste, which made my PB&J (or SB&J- sunflowerseed butter and jelly) sandwiched much more enjoyable. The sandwich you see above uses bread from my second loaf of bread which I sliced myself into thinner slices than they did at Rose's. I think the thinner slices work a lot better in sandwiches since I can taste the filling more than the bread that way, but the bread did get really crumbly and some slices' corners fell off. Until I can get myself a bread slicer (my mom said we used to have one! But she gave it away...), I think I'll probably let Rose's slice my loaves of bread, but who knows? What I do know is that I am very happy with this bread and am so greatful that I have such a great gluten-free, vegan-friendly bakery in my area.

And here's my little pride and joy! My herb garden from Xmas has been growing like crazy and I think I'm only a few weeks away from awesome fresh herbs. As you can see, the basil is really floursihing, but I expected this after seeing how much my little brother's basil plant grew suring the summer. The dill has been causing me problems, though. It didn't sprout after almost three weeks (they should all sproufn in two weeks or less), so I put in the new dill plant from the second set of herb containers that I got. Hopefully this plant will eventually sprout because I really like dill. I guess you'll just have to stayed tuned to find out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Southwestern Spice

I can't even begin to explain how flavorful this meal was! The Black Beans with Chipotle Sauce and Southwestern Corn Pudding are both from Vcon and were delicious. The chipotle sauce certainly had a kick, but I love my spicy food! The corn pudding was a really refreshing but hearty accompaniment. The only change I would make would be to replace half of the coconut milk with another nondairy milk because I think the floral flavor of the coconut was a little distracting for me. Also, I will wait to make this again until the summer when I can use fresh sweet corn because I think it will just make it pop even more. Despite these dishes being so wonderful, my favorite part of the meal was my nutritional yeast-roasted broccoli. This has been my favorite was of making broccoli for awhile now and it's fabulous! I just coat some chopped broccoli with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and red pepper flakes and roast it for about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees (F), stirring every 10 minutes. The broccoli tops get crispy and the nutritional yeast gets toasted and tastes beyond amazing. This meal was definitely a winner in my opinion :)

I haven't had a lot of time to cook much, but I made time this week to make some black bean and vegetable enchiladas for my family. Not in any way photogenic (what enchiladas ever are?), these make up for their appearance in their taste. I used the enchilada sauce from the Potato and Kale Enchiladas from Vcon but made up the filling myself. I figured that my family would probably like this meal, but I was shocked my how much they loved it! My dad's been trying to eat lighter and healthier lately, and he said he was really glad with how delicious and filling the enchiladas were- he's even mentioned several times this week how much he liked them. In his own words: "Add this one to the list!" (I actually do keep a list of meals my family enjoys- haha). Using corn tortillas made this meal a simple one to make gluten-free. Oh, a quick side note before I post this recipe- my parents noticed how stressed I was having to avoid so many foods or take 4-5 pills a day, so after talking with my doctor, I am going to focus just on avoiding gluten. I will also avoid the other foods I am sensitive to as much as possible at home, but if I choose to have some tofu or peanut butter, no big deal. I've found it really easy to eat gluten-free at home, but I still will treat myself if I go out to eat to some vegan cake or maybe a dish with seitan in it and just take a digestive enzyme pill then. Whew- sorry for such a long "quick note." Now, onto the recipe!

Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas:

1 T oil.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. fresh or frozen and thawed corn
2 small red potatoes, chopped and boiled until tender
2 (15 oz.) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 t. cumin
1 T. lime juice
1 1/2 t. salt
your favorite enchilada sauce
18 small corn tortillas
Nacho FYH cheese (I used this and it was actually very good!) or cheddar Teese, shredded (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F) and grease a 9x13 pan (I also had to use an additional 9x9 pan to fit all of the enchiladas). Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the onion, zucchini, and bell pepper until soft. Add corn, potatoes, and black beans and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients until heated through and let cool slightly before filling your enchiladas. Microwave the tortillas until softened. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the greased pan and place a tortilla in the pan. Coat on both sides with the sauce and spoon in some filling. Roll up the tortillas and place in pan seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and top with the remaining sauce and shredded vegan cheese, if using. Bake covered for 25 minutes then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. You may want to broil the enchiladas for a few minutes at the end to melt the vegan cheese. Serves 6-8.