April 29, 2008

Roasty Toasty Coconut Curry Cauliflower

Indian curry dishes with cauliflower are a favorite of mine, but sometimes their saucy goodness isn't what I'm looking for. After my Aunt Barbie shared the Weight Watcher recipe for roasted cauliflower poppers I've tried it with a lot of different spices. This same aunt also has been generously gifting me with some amazing Penzey's Spices and one just happened to be their Maharajah Curry Powder. This coconut curry combination isn't as low calorie as the WW version but it tastes awesome! The curry spices give off their fragrant aroma and the coconut gets crisp and sweeter when toasted on the outside of the cauliflower. If you need some justification for the coconut just think of the added fiber and possible health effects from the lauric acid.

I've included an image to show you that I only whipped the egg white to a light froth before using it to coat the cauliflower. You don't need to beat them more than 30 seconds or so. The coconut oil I used in this recipe because I have it on hand and I think it improves the taste. Feel free to substitute any neutral oil or even oil spray to coat the baking sheet. The final change you may need to make is that if you can't find finely shredded unsweetened coconut you can take any unsweetened desiccated (dried) coconut flakes and make them finer in a food processor or even a blender. Enjoy the recipe!

Roasty Toasty Coconut Curry Cauliflower
This cauliflower is an easy, tasty, crunchy treat. The curry spices give off their fragrant aroma and the coconut gets crisp and sweeter when toasted on the outside of the cauliflower.
Makes 4 servings

1/2 head of cauliflower (~3 cups of pieces)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
1 egg white

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Pull apart or chop cauliflower into 1 inch pieces (about the size of a large grape).
-Grease a baking sheet with the coconut oil (Optional: line the sheet with foil or parchment paper)
-Mix together the coconut flakes, curry powder, salt, and cayenne. You can do this in a bowl or an easier way is to use a gallon sized zip-top bag.
-Beat the egg white in a medium bowl just until frothy (~30 seconds).
-Toss the cauliflower in the egg white until evenly coated. Place the egg white coated cauliflower in the bag or bowl with the coconut and spices. Toss again until the cauliflower is coated.
-Empty the bag or bowl onto the greased baking sheet. Gently, to not dislodge too much coconut, spread the cauliflower into a single layer.
-Roast for 15 minutes. Gently turn the cauliflower again leaving it in a single layer. Roast an additional 10 minutes. Check for doneness.
-Remove and eat. Some of the spiced coconut will have fallen off and formed toasty clumps, serve these as a garnish on top.


April 27, 2008

Tofutti Cheesecake Pops

My first Daring Bakers' challenge! If you don't already know, the Daring Bakers are a group of foodbloggers that agree to all make the same recipe each month. The idea is to try and stick to the original recipe as much as possible and then compare our experiences. When I saw how many other alternative bakers were on their blogroll I was inspired to join.

The recipe for this month is Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. I'm making these cheesecake balls for Alex, my son who is allergic to dairy.
Here are my alterations to the original recipe:
-I halved the recipe,
-substituted Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese,
(I rarely buy this because I think it has a very plastic taste and is not real food. But exceptions in life are good and it seemed the easiest way to stay true to the recipe.)
-and replaced the heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of soy milk and 2 teaspoons of margarine. (I melted the margarine in the soymilk and then let it cool to room temperature. I think using a little margarine in soymilk is a much better heavy cream substitute than soy creamer.)

I tasted the batter (I can never resist) and it had a strong artificial taste from the Tofutti. I was a little worried, but forged ahead. After testing a few pans for the correct volume for a half recipe, I baked in a 2-quart Pyrex dish. It took an hour and five minutes to set, which is much more than the recipe's 35-45 minutes. It didn't brown on top, but it did dry out a little.
Rolling the balls was a sticky process but I was happy to see that the cheesecake was set all the way through. It was very creamy and the taste is much improved from the batter flavor. It was definitely recognizable as cheesecake. Covering the balls went well and I chose to drizzle on white chocolate for decoration. If anyone is looking for dairy-free white chocolate, I love the chips I buy from the Chocolate Emporium. Other than the cooking time being off for me the only other problem I had was that a lot of my balls had cracks in the chocolate coating. I'm not sure what I did wrong to cause this.

I never would have chosen this recipe since it is so reliant on dairy but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. Alex thinks they look really cool and wants to eat them. But, he only eats the chocolate and doesn't really want to eat the cheesecake part. He's a funny guy. I fed some to my parents this past weekend and they were both impressed with how much they taste like real cheesecake. Today is Greek (Eastern Orthodox) Easter and I plan on offering them to my husband's family for dessert.
I can't wait to see what the next challenge will be! Until then, drop by the Daring Bakers Blogroll and see how the others fared with their pops.
Here are my finished balls:

April 25, 2008

Cardamom and Candied Ginger Shortbread

This will be my first time entering the Royal Foodie Joust. I saw this month's ingredients: brown sugar, cardamom and mango and my mind immediately went to mangoes on cardamom shortbread. My father is a huge fan of Walker's shortbread and I love their candied ginger flavor. I thought it would be even better with brown sugar and cardamom added. I have to admit to almost nibbling away on all of the shortbread by itself! I'm going to be making this shortbread again, a lot! It's crunchy, chewy, sweet and spicy. I added a little black pepper for heat and some barley flour for nuttiness. You could definitely use only all-purpose flour or replace the barley flour with whole wheat pastry flour if you'd like. I topped the shortbread with a cold, spiced-up mango salad and a rich cashew cream to make it more festive but keep it dairy-free. The mango salad and cashew cream are excellent with the spicy shortbread and together they make a beautiful little dessert. Here are the recipes:

Cardamom And Candied Ginger Shortbread Cookies
These are chewy, spicy shortbread cookies heady with the flavor of cardamom and bits of candied ginger.
Makes 13 3-inch cookies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup barley flour (or more all-purpose)
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or butter)
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger, 1/8 inch dice

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Mix together flours, cardamom, pepper and salt. Set aside
-Cream sugar and margarine (or butter) together.
-Add in flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Add in ginger and mix again until evenly distributed.
-Gently roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut 3 inch diameter circles of dough and place on a cookie sheet. Prick surface with a fork to prevent bubbles in the dough.
-Bake for 10 minutes (6-8 minutes for 1 inch rounds) or until lightly golden.
-Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheets until firm.

Mango Salad
Makes ~2 1/2cups

2 ripe mangoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon lime juice, more to taste

-Mix ingredients together and store for an hour or more in a refrigerated covered container.
-Serve on top of shortbread.

Cashew Cream
This makes way more than needed to top the cookies. You can use the rest on top of fruit, cereal or granola or freeze it and eat it like ice cream.
Makes 2 cups

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1 tablespoon of agave nectar (or your choice of sweetener), more to taste
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice

-Blend the nuts and water on high until smooth and frothy.
-Add in the sweetener, lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust accordingly.
-Serve on top of mango salad.
-Store extra in the fridge or freezer.

April 24, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Improv

The sexual innuendo was flying everywhere this week but in the end the jokes weren't enough to save Jen from being sent home. This week began with a dessert themed quickfire. Ah the bane of the Top Chef contestant, dessert. It seemed that most people had learned from the previous seasons and had some dessert recipe to fall back on. I was pleased that Richard ignored the fear of baking and approached a dessert like I think most "chefs" (as apposed to bakers/pastry chefs) should. You can make a great dessert that doesn't require knowing formulas for baked goods. The uninspired chocolate cakes from several contestants only shows that they can memorize a good cake recipe. Richard's dish of banana scallops with banana guacamole shows that he was trying to bring the most out of a sweeter presentation of the ingredients given. I was happy to see him earn immunity and a spot in the Top Chef cookbook for his dish.

Next, the contestants are given a night on the town and seats at Second City. During the show colors, emotions and foods are chosen in random combinations shouted out by the crowd. The contestants are then told that these combinations will be the inspirations for a five course meal to be served the next night. The contestants pair up and choose their improved categories. The next day they go shopping. There is some complaining on the part of Lisa and Antonia about not wanting to use their improved ingredient, polish sausage, and so they swap in chorizo. Snotty comments about polish sausage fly. A few little twists are added in the Top Chef kitchen and they end up serving their dishes back at their own house. The squash soup starter goes over well and then comes the yuk it up phallic asparagus plate. This plate looks like such a mess I though Erik had snuck back in! The toasted, orange goat's cheese looks and sounds like it would be great with the asparagus but the plate is just too messy with too many things on it. The dishes of chorizo (Polish sausage stand in) with sea bass and pork loin with bacon look good, but not winning awesome. The wow-factor dish of the night is Richard and Dale's beef fat marinaded tofu with green curry. Not only does this sound awesome (beef fat, tofu, Thai curry, fried eggplant, yum!!) but it pulled in their emotion, perplexed, wonderfully. Everyone seems to enjoy the food.

In judging, the squash soup and tofu dishes come out on top with the tofu taking the win for the evening. The lower scoring teams end up being Stephanie and Jen for the asparagus and Lisa and Antonia for the chorizo/sea bass. Lisa really defends her Polish sausage hatred and in the end Jen is let go for the asparagus dish. Lisa is clearly on the outs with the fans from what I've read online and I have to agree. She seems to argue and complain and generally not enjoy herself. We'll see if she can improve her mood next week when all the chefs get to cook with kids. I'll have to see if Alex will want to watch this one. He watched Ratatouille this week and had to cook for us that evening. He's just like his mom though, he hates following a recipe.
This weeks winning dish: TOFU STEAK MARINATED IN BEEF FAT

April 23, 2008

Warm Miso, Maple and Bacon Dressing

This weekend I ventured out to the farmer's market despite knowing that April in Michigan doesn't offer a lot in the way of local produce. I was relieved to find that among the expected eggs, apples and frozen meat there were some fresh greens to be had. Alex and John were thrilled that the kettle corn guy was there :) The new maple syrup kettle corn was awesome!

I brought home some hunter's sausages, eggs, bread, bacon and some deliciously spicy organic Asian salad greens. When it came time to dress the greens, I was inspired by the traditional wilted spinach salad with egg and bacon and the recent Top Chef recipe for miso glazed bacon. I had my greens, local double smoked bacon, and Sleeping Bear Farms maple syrup to work with. The resulting take on a warm vinaigrette worked wonderfully with the spicy greens. Here is the recipe:

Warm Miso, Maple and Bacon Dressing with Asian Salad Greens
A new take on a warm salad dressing. Perfect on spicy or bitter salad greens.
Serves 1 as a lunch or dinner, 2 as a side

1 tablespoon shiro (white) miso
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (or any other rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon maple syrup
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 slice of thick cut smoked bacon
flavorful salad greens (2-3 cups)

-Wash and dry the salad greens.
-In a small bowl, mix together the miso, vinegar, mirin, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
-Chop the bacon into 1/2 inch lardons (I like to use kitchen shears). Cook the lardons in a small frying pan until crispy. Remove the lardons leaving the bacon grease behind.
-Add the miso mixture to the bacon grease and cook until thickened slightly (less than a minute).
-Drizzle the dressing over the greens and toss to coat. Top with the lardons and eat.

April 22, 2008

An Iron Chef Game for the Wii?

I was reading an interview with Alton Brown on Chow today and apparently there is an Iron Chef game due out this summer for the Wii and Nintendo DS. I really enjoyed playing Cooking Mama for the DS last year and there has been a lot of similar games out lately. The Wii version of Cooking Mama was just a uninspired rehashing and only worth spending the money if you are dying to play multiplayer. The indie gaming community has come out with several different food related games, the most widespread being Diner Dash. Diner Dash has to be one of the most copied game styles ever! You can find every different kind of restaurant as well as salon and pet shop versions. It's ridiculous! Recently, I've tried a few indie games with gameplay more like Cooking Mama but without the user interface of the Wii or DS I just couldn't get into them. I'm hoping the Iron Chef game will be a new take on this genre. There is completely worthless trailer on the production company's website but hopefully they'll be letting us know more soon. Here's the link: Iron Chef:Supreme Cuisine
And if you want to play the best casual game of all time be sure to try Chuzzle!

April 18, 2008

In honor of Earth Day

My magnolia tree opened up today and since it's getting close, Tuesday the 22nd, I was inspired to make an Earth Day themed post.

I know many of us are trying to use more local, organic, sustainable, seasonal, humane products.
We can't always fulfill all of those criteria but the closer we get the better.
These are some sites that helped me on my journey:

Local Harvest, sign up for their newsletter
Eat Wild
Eat Well
CSA Farms
Pick Your Own Directory
Farmer's Market Directory
NRDC Search
Niman Ranch
Seafood Watch
EDF Seafood Selector
Veg Guide
Eat Local Eat Natural Grassfed & Organic Meat
Michigan Fairs:
Mesick Mushroom Festival, May 9-11th 2008
Boyne City Morel Fest, May 15th-18th 2008
National Cherry Festival, Travese City July 5-12th 2008
Romeo Peach Festival, Labor Day Weekend
Armada Country Fair, August 12-17th 2008
Michigan Fun.com, find a ton of local food fairs (4 in April)
Michigan Charitable Organizations:
Forgotten Harvest, rescues perishable and prepared foods to feed the hungry
Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Earth Day Dinner April 22nd 2008

Blogs and other writing:
The Organic Report
Straight from the Farm
I Heart Farms
Modern Beet
Cincinnati Locavore
The Seasonal Chef
Chews Wise
Tree Hugger's Food and Health Articles
Micheal Pollan
Alice Water's Delicious Revolution

Two green ideas and how I made them work for me:
Stop the plastic or paper question
Over a year ago, I finally committed to bring my own bags to the grocery store. What worked for me was buying a matching set of 12 of these Dual Handled Lightweight Hemp Totes. You can only buy them as a kit now. They are light, they wash up great, I always have enough and I love the two handles (you can carry them in your hand or on your shoulder). The first month I only remembered to bring them half the time but now I bring them every time I go shopping. The pretty bags and lovely sayings are nice but I needed more bags and for me it helped that they were all the same. They all get stuffed back together after I shop and back into the car. The mismatched ones always got filled with books or Alex's toys so that I didn't have enough when I get to the store. Beware of the older cashiers at Meijer that think you're crazy and are making their job harder. Also, always stick them someplace in your cart where you can whip them out before the cashier starts bagging in the the plastic. You can't let them get buried under food. It's always nice to help bag as a way to make sure they aren't forgotten. This has just been my experience.
How I stopped buying paper towels
I had been trying to kick the paper towel habit for awhile. I had taken them off of the counter and had switched to only 100% recycled but ironically it was a consumption of new goods that got rid of them for good. After wanting a change of color in the kitchen, I bought new dishtowels. The old towels were still ok but I really didn't want them anymore. I thought about my paper towels that I had been trying to give up and finally just stopped buying them. I placed the old towels where I had previously had the paper ones and didn't look back. It's nice to have one less thing to purchase at the store too.

Finally, don't forget to recycle those food containers!
Ack, I keep thnking of more things and adding to this post!

April 17, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Tailgating

This week was all about "the common man". For the quickfire, the contestants had to choose a beer and pair it with a dish. I'm only an occasional drinker of wine or beer, but I really like Killian's Irish Red. I've recently been trying some local brews but I go through a six pack so slowly I haven't tried many. Any suggestions for a Midwest version of Killian's are very welcome, or steer me in a new direction. I was thrilled to see Stephanie in the top group again, since I'm really becoming fond of her cooking. Her mussels sounded the best out of all the dishes. Jen wins immunity for her shrimp and scallop beignets. They sound yummy but to quote Padma, "I could deep fry my big toe and it would taste good." It was appropriate for the challenge though. Am I going to turn into a bitter Team Stephanie fan?

Moving on to the elimination round, the contestants are given $350 to feed 80 tailgaters at a Bear's game. Other than figure skating, I'm just not a sports fan. I spent five years at the University of Michigan and didn't go to a single game, football or otherwise. So I don't have any tailgating experience but I do love grilled food. I was particularly interested in Richard's "Pate Melt" made with pork and veal. And even though I don't like warm bananas, the idea of making them part of a jerk chicken sandwich appeals to me. According to the judges, Antonia missed out by placing the bananas to the side and not on her sandwich. In the bottom three were messy Mark, a clueless Ryan and a poor planning Nikki. It was a surprise decision to send Ryan home for not following the spirit of the challenge and not performing up to par. I really think that Nikki's lack of effort and forethought should have at least made it a difficult decision. Who can tell when you aren't there to taste everything?
The winning dish this week: Tandori Pork Ribs
Which very bizarrely has a url link with the wording "brussels_sprout_zucchini_stirfry.php" What's that about?

April 16, 2008

Buckwheat Crepes and Ramps

We went up north this past weekend and visited our property. (If you are interested, I'm writing about our move to northern Michigan at Building on Dog Hill.) I took a walk looking for signs of spring and found several patches of ramps! The ramps (also known as wild leeks) were still small but I couldn't resist bringing some home. I've used them a couple of times instead of green onions in my go-to coconut vegetable curry. But, I also came home with local, free range eggs from Mayfair Farm. The eggs were a beautiful clutch of various sizes and colors. Well, I figured I had the pungent, foraged ramps and flavorful, local eggs and I had to find a novel way to put the two together. After some searching I found a buckwheat crepe recipe on Epicurious. Their suggestion was to cook an egg inside the crepe with either bacon or spinach. I made the batter dairy-free by substituting soymilk for the cow's milk, Earth Balance for the butter and adding a little toasted sesame oil since browned Earth Balance does NOT taste like browned butter. Then, I filled the crepes with bacon, egg and ramps and they were great! Alex had a couple of bites of the eggy crepe but didn't care for the one bite he got with a lot of ramps. Then, he gobbled up a plain crepe spread with Earth Balance and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. We'll definitely make these crepes again with different fillings.

I'm entering the image to the right in the Art You Eat: Go Local event. Visit and see all the local food submissions at the beginning of May.
Buckwheat Crepes with Egg, Ramps and Bacon
Makes 8 crepes
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon margarine, melted
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 cups soymilk
3 eggs
8 eggs
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces of ramps (12-14 ramps)
Salt and pepper
Oil or margarine and a non-stick frying pan or crepe pan

-First make the batter. Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat until smooth. Cover and chill the batter for 30 minutes.
-Turn on broiler and place an oven rack in the top position. Lay out a sheet pan or cookie sheet.
-Chop bacon and cook until crispy, drain and set aside. Slice and wash the ramps keeping the green tops separate from the white bottoms. Cook the ramp bottoms in a pan with the olive oil over medium low heat. When the bottoms are softened add the green tops and toss. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Make a crepe by heating the non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot coat the inside with oil or margarine. Dump a ¼ cup of crepe batter and immediately swirl to coat the pan evenly. Cook until the edges dry out and the top is mostly set. Loosen the crepe around the edges with a spatula and then flip.
-As soon as it is flipped, add 1/8th of the cooked ramps in the middle of the crepe and crack an egg on top. Sprinkle on 1/8 of the bacon and flip up the sides of the crepe to form a rough square with the egg exposed in the center. Slide the filled crepe out of the pan and onto the sheet pan. Repeat 8 more times.
-Place the sheet pan under the broiler and cook until the egg whites are set (30 seconds to 1 minute). Plate with salt and freshly ground black pepper on top.

April 15, 2008

Honey Mustard Glazed Tofu

I found out today that WTVS, our local PBS station isn't airing King Corn until Sunday! I was really looking forward to watching it tonight, but at least I have it all set up to tape now.

Today's recipe was developed because of my addiction to Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Crisps. I had to stop buying them because I'd end up eating a whole bag in one day. They are so good! This baked tofu gives me the same flavor but the tofu is hearty enough that one portion is satisfying. The key to my recipe is not to use prepared mustard because the vinegar flavor is too harsh. Instead, I use one of my favorite spices, Coleman's Double Superfine Mustard Powder. I love using a pinch of Coleman's in vinaigrettes and anything with pork (chops, roasts, BBQ rubs). It has heat without the sharpness of prepared mustard. I usually use agave syrup in this recipe because it is thinner than honey and mixes easier, but honey works too. If you are in southeast Michigan I highly recommend buying Panda Brand Tofu. It's a local company, Michigan Soy Products from Royal Oak, and their tofu has the best flavor and texture.

Honey Mustard Glazed Tofu Recipe
Serves 2-3
Spicy, sweet and chewy tofu that is good with steamed veggies or even tossed into a green salad.

16 oz (1lb) of firm tofu (Asian style, not silken)
2 tablespoons light agave syrup or light honey
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 tablespoon warm water
2 tablespoons of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, or more to taste

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (I use a convection oven so you may need to raise the temperature slightly on a non-convection).
-Drain the water from the tofu and slice into 1/2 inch thick squares then slice the squares into triangles. Set aside on a paper towel while you make the glaze.
-In an oven-safe glass pie plate or baking dish mix together the mustard powder, oil, water, garlic, salt, cayenne and agave syrup or honey. Place the tofu into the glaze and turn a few times to coat. Lay the tofu flat in one layer.
-Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and turn the tofu to coat again. This time try and stand up the tofu triangles on end so they have a point sticking up.
-Place the dish back in the oven and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove the dish from the oven again and again turn the tofu in the thickened glaze that is on the bottom of the dish. Stand up the tofu with a different point up to get even browning. Bake for 10 more minutes.
-Remove the dish from the oven and eat.

Honey Mustard Glazed Tofu Recipe on GroupRecipes

April 11, 2008

Top Chef Chicago The Elements

Another episode, another chef that didn't make the cut. I had high hopes for this week's show. I really liked Ming Tsai back in his East Meets West days. I've watched his Fine Living show, Ming's Quest, and Simply Ming on PBS but neither really caught my interest. Most importantly, I find him admirable for agreeing to be a spokesperson for FAAN and for his efforts to make his restaurant, Blue Ginger, allergy friendly. Apparently, he has a child with food allergies. I can only imagine and compare his experience with my own. I was so excited about having a child and being the one to expose them to the world of food. As things turned out, it may very well be that my son will never be able to taste my favorite 3 year-old aged gouda or have a steak topped with buerre blanc. There was definitely a mourning period for me in regards to that and there was also the fear of feeding him to deal with. I can only think that as a chef he would have felt similarly. I've reconciled myself with trying to make the best quality food I can for Alex and be on the constant lookout for new things he can have safely.

Anyway...this weeks episode starts with a blindfolded taste test to see if the contestants can determine which is the "quality" ingredient. Fun for those playing, a little dull for the viewer, but it's a worthwhile quickfire to give those with discerning palates an advantage. The elimination challenge had four teams cook with the four elements as inspiration. I think the decision to eliminate Zoi because of her poorly seasoned mushrooms instead of Richard for his scaly, mushy looking fish was a little suspect. But, she has been in the bottom position before and possibly that pushed the judges her way. Richard on the other hand has been hovering in the top.

In my season opener post, I forgot another source of amusing Top Chef extras that I've enjoyed during previous seasons: Chow's podcast exit interviews! If you followed the previous seasons and haven't listened to these pod casts please do. I particularly loved listening to Michael from season two, but they are all worth listening to.
This week's winning dish: GRILLED SHRIMP WITH PICKLED CHILI SALAD (mmm, miso glazed bacon *drool*)

April 9, 2008

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

After watching Martha's cupcake week I was inspired to create a new cupcake for Alex. He really loves cinnamon and I saw that one of the Trophy Cupcakes flavors was snickerdoodle. Of course with the real butter and milk in their cupcakes and the fact that their shop is are over two thousand miles from our home, we aren't going to be eating any of their cupcakes anytime soon. So I added a little orange extract to a favorite vanilla cupcake recipe and swirled in cinnamon sugar paste. Then I made a simple vanilla frosting and topped it with more cinnamon sugar for sparkle. These are vegan, dairy-free and egg-free. They taste awesome and make the house smell amazing. I think I might try topping them with crumble topping and serving them as muffins too. Thanks to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the recipe I adapted to make these.

Cinnamon Swirl Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
-Mix together soymilk and vinegar and set aside for 1-5 minutes.
-In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and white sugar.
-In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil.
-Add remaining oil and the orange and vanilla extracts to the soured soymilk. Stir together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together to form a smooth batter. Pour into the lined cupcake pan.
-Spoon a heaping 1/2 teaspoon full of the cinnamon mixture into each cupcake. Make a zigzag with a bamboo stick or toothpick.
-Bake for 19-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
-Allow to cool and frost with vanilla frosting and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Frosting Notes: I rarely measure when I make vanilla frosting. I just take 1/2 cup of softened Earth Balance and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and beat it with enough sifted powdered sugar to get the right consistency and taste. If it gets too thick I thin it with a little soy milk.

Someone thinks I'm Excellent!

I'd like to thank chriesi from Almond Corner for noticing my blog and thinking it worthy of an Excellent rating. As far as I understand, I'm supposed to pick ten blogs that I think are exceptional. I suspect a few of these blogs have already been given this honor but I hope I have a few that are wonderful but haven't been nominated yet. I'm really partial to vegan blogs because they always have great ideas for cooking without dairy. Here are my picks:

Kim at My plate, my world has some great recipes. I love her recent posts with recipes for angel food bites and coconut rice.

Sarah at What Smells So Good? is full of ideas about alternative baking. She plays around with a lot of different ingredients and has a variety of recipes in different categories (vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, Weight Watcher friendly, etc)

Allergic Mom at The Allergic Kid has the most hilarious Shrek cupcakes that you just have to see!

Bobby at Blog Chef has inspiring recipes. I was particularly impressed with the egg tutorial.

I'm dying to try all of the recipes on Kitchen Wench. I love her comments about trying to get exact measurements for recipes out of her mother.

Trina at Your Vegan Mom is full of recipes that are perfect to test on Alex since they are full of veggies and no cow's milk. An added plus is that her little munchkin is ADORABLE!

feeding maybelle has great vegetarian recipes, many of which are kid friendly.

Michelle at Je mange la ville and I seem to share similar tastes, since everything she cooks sounds good to me.

Jen at A peek into the mundane is a fellow Michigander cooking vegan fare for her two boys.

Maria at Organically Cooked is cooking the wild greens of Crete. I love her spiral pita and I wish I wasn't so clumsy with filo. One of these days I'll get up the courage.

April 6, 2008

Martha's Cupcake Week

One of my recent favorite foodblogs to read has been Cupcakes Take the Cake. They have a seemingly endless supply of delicious and beautiful looking cupcake images and cupcake bon mots. When I read that Martha Stewart was having the writers on as guests as part of her cupcake week I had to watch. I rarely watch daytime television but she completely hooked me this week! My absolute favorite cupcake recipe had to be Thursday's Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow from Jennifer Shea, owner of Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle. The cupcake has a graham cracker crust on the bottom, topped with bittersweet chocolate, covered with chocolate cake, graham cracker and chocolate crumbs make a crust on the cake then it is finished with a toasted French meringue. *drool* You can watch Jennifer and Martha make the cupcakes if you go to the recipe link.

I think I'm going to have to do some baking tomorrow!

April 3, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Film Food

The quickfire this week seemed like a great showcase of the chefs' skills but the show editing didn't give us enough close up food shots for it to be worth it to the viewer. I would have loved to have a closer look at Dale's avocado rolls. Seeing him slice the avocado was impressive. And I would have been interested in know more about different components on Richard's plate. But alas the editors denied us our food porn and hurried through. Then came the film inspired meal. Usually just the thought of tapioca pudding makes me gag (sorry dad, I know you love it) but for some reason Andrew's mushroom/balsamic/soy tapioca with the seared salmon sounds awesome. I think it may have been a stroke of luck that broke poor Richard's smoker. I can just see the judges complaining that like Marcel's foams we really don't need every dish covered in plastic wrap and filled with smoke. During the judging, I think Zoi was full of sour grapes with her repeated complaints about what the judges are looking for. I trust Tom Colicchio and Daniel Boulud to call out a poor choice in flavor combination. Would I have put wasabi in white chocolate and served it with smoked salmon? No, but clearly the dish worked. Judging from her bloodshot eyes I think she may have been terribly upset and worried about being sent home (or maybe stuck in a room too long with free Bud Lights?) Stephanie's food is once again what I'd love to be able to taste. My mouth watered thinking about her NY Strip Steak, Braised Short Rib & Apple Potsticker with Caramel Sauce This is definitely a labor intensive dish though, not one I think I'd attempt anytime soon. My mind is spinning trying to think of a way to combine those flavors (beef, apple, caramel) in more simple preparation.
This week's winning dish: SMOKED SALMON WITH FAUX CAVIAR