April 27, 2009

DB Toasted Almond and Honey Tofu Cheescake w/ Pretzel Crust

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I'm celebrating a full year of being a Daring Baker this month! This month brings me back to my beginning with the group since my first challenge was last April's Cheesecake Pops. As a new member last year I didn't want to change much to the recipe so I trudged ahead and used Tofutti cream cheese but this year Jenny of Jenny Bakes wanted us to the be creative so I went for a less processed version using almond butter, honey and silken tofu. It was my variation on the great looking cheesecake from Diet, Dessert and Dogs. Even though I made several changes to her recipe I think the spirit remained and it was awesome! The honey and toasted nuts worked well together and the flavor and texture definitely satisfied my cheesecake cravings without dairy. Best of all I got to add in my new pet project, perfecting a pretzel crust. I last used this crust on the bottom of the vegan turtle cupcakes but didn't have the ingredient proportions quite right. After a few more trials I'm quite happy with recipe now and it was PERFECT with the honey and almond cheesecake filling. Salty, sweet, nutty--mmm!

Toasted Almond and Honey Tofu Cheesecake
Here are the changes I made to the Diet, Dessert and Dogs recipe for Vegan Farmer's Cheesecake:
-raw honey (thick set) for the light agave nectar
-roasted almond butter for the cashew butter
-no lemon zest (called rind in her recipe)
-no lemon extract
-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, instead of 1
-I baked the cheesecake in a 6-inch springform and it needed more baking time. Even with the extra baking time mine was a smidge runnier in the middle than would have been perfect. I plan on using a larger pan next time.
-And the last change was...

The Pretzel Crust!
Here are the amounts for the best version I've made so far.
For one 6-inch pan (double for larger) take 1 cup of fine pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Blend all the ingredients together and press into the pan before adding the filling.

*Don't forget to take a look at the other cheesecake creations by visiting more blogs in the Daring Baker Blogroll!

**Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs has a cookbook called Sweet Freedom that is currently going into production and should be available for purchase by late May. With her creative mind, it looks like a must have for those looking for "sweet things free of wheat, eggs, dairy and refined sweeteners". I've been very happy with all of her recipes I've tried and the cheesecake recipe is going to be in the upcoming book. Click on either of her links to learn more.

House update:
I'm moved! This past Friday I finished what packing I could and we moved about 80% of our stuff into our new house. After the exhausting weekend packing, unpacking and enjoying our new house I'm back down state while a few new house details get finished and we get the old house ready to go on the market. I'm still too busy to have time to spend online but the end of the craziness is in sight AND I got to cook in my new kitchen for the first time this past weekend!! Lots more pictures will be coming soon, in the meantime enjoy a glimpse of my box filled life.

April 14, 2009

Virtual Great American Bake Sale Kickoff and some kitchen pictures

I almost forgot to post about the Virtual Great American Bake Sale Kickoff! The bake sale is a collection of recipes from across the blogosphere and beyond. For the virtual bake sale, the recipes are being made available in ebook form with donations requested, with the donation amount completely up to you. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these ebooks will go toward Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale program. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale are donated to after-school and summer feeding programs--food programs that many kids depend on when school is not in session. The Great American Bake Sale is a program of Share Our Strength, a national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.

I joined in at the request of Kate who is another Michigan food blogger who writes at Cooking During Stolen Moments. Because file size may be an issue for some people, you can purchase the complete collection or choose just 1 or 2 of your favorites from 4 categorized ebooks. My recipe is Savory Pumpkin-Caramelized Onion Muffins which will be in the complete collection as well as the Muffin and Breads ebook. Update: The complete book is 5.09 MB and took about 20 seconds on my cable modem to download.

The Complete 2009 VGABS Recipes Ebook
Features all 170 of the submitted recipes. Many of the recipes include pictures.
On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart
Shopping cart courtesy of E-Junkie.

Muffins & Breads
Features 24 recipes, including my Savory Pumpkin-Caramelized Onion Muffins
On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart
Cookies, Candy, Cakes, Bars & Brownies
Features 50 recipes.
On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart
Features 49 recipes.
On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart
Beyond Baked Goods (Appetizers, Breakfast, Main Dishes, etc.)
Features 47 recipes.
On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart

And now for unfinished kitchen business...
I'm still packing and running around like a proverbial headless chicken but I am making headway. We'll hear tomorrow if we passed the final occupancy inspection, cross your fingers that it goes well! I had some pictures from last week sent by the builders of the kitchen backsplash that I wanted to share. I love these tiles, which came from Trikeenan Tileworks.

More about my new kitchen:
-Kitchen Lights
-More progress on my new kitchen
-Pantry Plans
-Building a dream kitchen feels like...
-Plans for my new kitchen

See more about the house in general at Building on Dog Hill or browse the Flickr set to see all the pictures from the beginning
Our builders, Steinorth Fine Homes

April 12, 2009

This year's Easter eggs

We to celebrate both Easters (Orthodox and Western) because my husband and his family are Greek Orthodox. Though our celebration on Western Easter is more low key, the Easter bunny and multicolored eggs come then. These are my food-dyed eggs for this year: red/pink = beets, purple = blackberries, yellow = turmeric, blue= red cabbage, green = red cabbage + turmeric. I attempted using onion skins for a dark red but they ended up dark brown, as always. I also tried using spinach in water and in oil but neither mixture transferred the color so I went with a double dip to get a greenish color.

Happy Easter/Palm Sunday!

P.S. I'm woefully behind in my blog visiting/reading because I'm packing like crazy for our move. I hope to find some time to catch up soon because I know there are a ton of great food and ideas I don't want to miss!
P.P.S. I didn't get around to trying all the Easter Ideas but I did make the homemade vegan creme eggs and my son Alex LOVED them!! They were the stars of this morning's Easter basket.

April 10, 2009

Hrudka (Slovak egg cheese for Easter)

The Slovak traditions for Christmas and Easter have imprinted certain taste memories that I can't avoid craving every year. One of the things I wonder why I desire is hrudka. Hrudka is also called cirek, sirets, sirok, sirecz, as well as just Easter egg cheese (by those who have trouble trilling their Rs) and it is basically a ball of scrambled eggs served at Easter. Some people put a slice of it on sandwiches but I always ate it plain with salt.

My family is always generous and I know that there would be a ball of hrudka for me to take at Easter. But this year things are a little crazy with our move coming up and I don't know for sure what our plans will be. Plus, the hrudka my family makes has cow's milk and my son has never been able to taste it. So this year I asserted my independence and made my own. It was fairly easy and the flavor only barely changed with my soy milk substitution. That is it still tasted like a ball of scrambled eggs. What can I say, it's tradition and somehow makes sense to my springtime taste buds.

I also was inspired by the posts on Bittersweet, a vegan blog. There she made soy cottage cheese spread and used the soy whey in bread for the following post. It's probably terrible for me to un-veganize an idea but in this I'm trying to respect the gifts of the eggs and not let any part go to waste. So I used my whey in the traditional paska (Easter bread), now made non-traditional with my dairy-free soy milk. Using the whey is apparently common but it's not something my grandmother did so I didn't know about it before. I'm waiting to taste the bread until Easter morning but it looks gorgeous this year and has a richer smell than my previous versions with just soy milk. Now that I've had my hrudka fix I can start playing with homemade soy cottage cheese!

Hrudka (Slovak Easter Egg Cheese)
Adapted from the recipe found in "Our Best to You", the 1st edition Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church cookbook of Livonia, Michigan. The original recipe was submitted by Mrs. Helen Rapasky. Hrudka is served for Easter along with ham, kielbasa, beet horseradish, and paska (Easter bread). Some people put it on a ham or kielbasa sandwich but I always eat a slice plain with a little salt. This savory version is what my family makes but sweet variations are common, some are listed at the end of the recipe.
Makes 1 large ball of cheese, ~1 3/4 pounds

1 dozen eggs
1 quart milk (dairy-free for us, I used soy)
1 teaspoon salt

-Set up a large double boiler or make one using two pans or a pan and a bowl. I used a large stainless steel bowl over a saucepan. Fill the lower pan with an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and turn down the heat so that it is strongly simmering.
-Off the heat, beat the eggs in the upper pan or bowl and then add the milk and salt. Beat all the ingredients to combine and then place over the pan of simmering water.
-Cook the egg and milk mixture stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the mixture curdles, this will take approximately 20-30 minutes. You'll see curds separated out and leave a thin, watery whey. Stop once it seems like no more whey is being produced, IE coming out of the curds.
-Line a colander with a square, double layer of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl or pot. Pour the curds and whey carefully onto the center of the cheesecloth.
-Gather the cheesecloth together to form a large ball with the curds. Twist the top and press to remove more whey and then tie with kitchen twine.
-Tie the ball to a wooden spoon and suspend it over a pot to drain further and cool. Other directions recommend tieing the ball to your kitchen faucet to drain.
-When the ball is mostly cooled and not dripping any more whey place it in the fridge to set overnight. You can save the whey to make paska (Easter bread), links to paska recipes follow.
-After chilling overnight, remove the cheesecloth. Store in the fridge wrapped with plastic or waxed paper. Serve slices on sandwiches or on their own sprinkled with a little salt.

Hrudka variations:
I have never had anything but the plain unsweetened hrudka but sweet recipes are common, just Google hrudka recipe. These recipes have anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of sugar added to the one dozen egg recipe and most of the sweet versions also have vanilla extract. There are also recipes that call for any one of the following: cloves, caraway seeds, cinnamon, pepper or saffron. For a drier cheese you can bake the drained ball for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Baked ball of scrambled eggs sounds even more bizarre to me.

Paska bread recipes:
My grandmother never used the whey for her paska bread but I like the idea of not wasting it. Plus, since I'm using soy milk in place of the traditional cow's milk I'm hoping it will add more flavor to my bread. I used the paska recipe from the same Sacred Heart church cookbook but only made the plain dough. The plain dough gave me enough for three small loaves. Here is another simple paska recipe that is similar to others from my grandmother's church cookbook. For something different you could try this paska recipe using whey and whole wheat flour.

Cooking the hrudka (counter clockwise from top left): starting cooking the egg and milk mixture, curds begin to form, curds and whey
A closeup of the hrudka curds and whey
The colander and cheesecloth ready to strain the hrduka curds from the whey Hanging the hrudka
This year's paska bread

Crossposted on Michigan Lady Food Bloggers (MLFB)

April 6, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Trailer

Right off the bat I can tell you that my husband will probably hate it and my son will almost surely love it-- me, who knows? All three of us are big fans of the book but I have my doubts as to whether they can create a cohesive story line that can carry a movie length feature. What do you think?

Thanks to i bake for you for posting this on foodgawker, where I found it. The movie comes out in the US on September 18th 2009, more information can be found on the Sony Pictures site.

What will be next? Maybe another pick from My favorite children's books with food

April 5, 2009

Savory Pumpkin-Caramelized Onion Muffins

Even though the sardine cupcakes weren't really savory (or real sardines for that matter), I *have* wanted to make a savory cupcake/muffin for awhile. A giant butternut squash I acquired this weekend prompted me to try making the flavors of this pizza into savory muffins. These are subtly sweet and moist with the intoxicating aroma of caramelized onions. The smell reminds me of the good Jewish onion rolls my parents used to buy. I really like the salt and crunch the pepitas give to the tops, analogous to a sweet muffin's crumb topping. I'm sure they would be good with butter (Earth Balance margarine) or some cream cheese but today I preferred nibbling on them plain. I plan on having one for breakfast tomorrow with some Fakin' Bacon or maybe a slice of ham if I'm in the mood for the real stuff. I also would love to try this with some other flours like quinoa or some soy flour for higher protein.

I'm submitting this recipe to the Virtual Great American Bake Sale hosted by Kate of Cooking During Stolen Moments. Kate just so happens to be another Michigan foodblogger and I'm all for mitten state solidarity! On April 13th, the recipes submitted will be collected together in an ebook for sale with all the proceeds going to Share Our Strength.

Savory Pumpkin-Caramelized Onion Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups diced cooking onion
1 tablespoon Earth Balance Margarine (or butter)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup milk (we use soy)
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup maple syrup

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
-Cook the diced onion with the margarine, thyme and a pinch of salt in a pan over medium high heat until caramelized. To get good color stir often and cook for at least 15 minutes. Set aside to cool in a medium bowl.
-Mix together the milk and vinegar and set aside while the onions cool.
-Spray another skillet with oil and add the pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Carefully toast the pepitas over medium heat until a few begin to make popping sounds and color a light golden brown. Remove and toss with a pinch of salt.
-In a large bowl, stir together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
-Add the soy milk mixture, the pumpkin, the oil and the maple syrup to the caramelized onions. Stir until combined.
-Dump the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
-Spray a muffin pan with oil and spoon the batter in, filling each compartment 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the toasted pepitas on top.
-Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the muffin pan and cool the rest of the way on a baking rack.
-Good for breakfast, a snack or serve like rolls for a meal.

April 2, 2009

April 1, 2009

Spinach and Sardine Cupcakes

I'm been wanting to make a savory cupcake for a while but needed some inspiration to get me started. When my son Alex showed some interest in a can of sardines at the store recently I knew I had to make something special with them. The spinach pasta for the recent Daring Baker lasagna made me think of the perfect combination, spinach and sardines!

For the cake, I chose a simple onion and thyme flavored sponge cake that wouldn't overpower the toppings. The trick was to have just enough sugar to keep the cake tender and yet remain savory. If I made it again I might use caramelized onions in place of the onion puree to give a richer flavor but using sweet onions was good enough for this first try. For the frosting, I would have loved to use whipped cream with spinach puree but with Alex's dairy allergies that wasn't an option. Instead I made up fresh mayonnaise lightened with extra lemon juice to cut through the fattiness of the sardine.

Yes, these will be intimidating for your kids to take the first bite. Encourage them to go for the head first and the brave ones will step up to the challenge. Just think of how packed with minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D these little fish are!

-Nutritional facts for sardines
-Pacific sardines get a best choice rating from Seafood Watch
-If eating the whole fish isn't for you, try this Sardine Pate recipe on TriniGourmet

Update: Of course, don't really make this recipe. Any cupcake flavor with green frosting will do. The fish on top are fondant with luster dust and black food color and here's how to make them. They did look disgustingly realistic once you bit the head off though. Special thanks to Rachel from one of my favorite sites, Cupcakes Take The Cake for this post. You can't fool all of the people all of the time but fooling even just one on April Fool's Day is the best!

Spinach and Sardine Cupcakes
For Oscar
Makes 12 cupcakes

Cake ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 large sweet yellow onion, peeled
1/4 cup melted margarine (or butter)
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar

Topping ingredients:
1 cup neutral oil (if you prefer you can use a flavorful oil like extra virgin olive oil)
1 egg (to be safest use a pasteurized egg)
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons smooth pureed spinach
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
canned whole sardines for garnish

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a cupcake tin with papers.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, thyme, onion powder and salt and set aside.
-Take the onion and the melted margarine and process together in a food processor until it forms a smooth pulp. Set this aside as well.
-Separate the eggs for the cake and place the yolks in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and beat until very light in color and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they foam. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar while whisking until the whites form stiff peaks.
-Add the margarine and onion pulp to the yolks and beat to incorporate. Fold the flour mixture into the yolk mixture just until combined. You don't have to be very careful with your folding at this point.
-Take one third of the whipped whites and mix into the yolk and flour combination. Add another third of the whites and carefully fold until only a streak of white is left. Add the final third and fold until no whites are visible.
-Spoon into the cupcake papers filling only half way. These will rise quite a lot.
-Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick entered in comes out clean.
-Cool completely.
-Make the spinach mayonnaise to frost the cupcakes by beating the egg with the salt and half of the lemon juice and then drizzling in the oil gradually until a thick and creamy base is created. Once the mayo is nice and thick add the spinach puree and more lemon juice and salt as desired.
-Frost each cupcake with the spinach mayo and then top with a plump whole sardine. Be sure to pat the sardines off with a paper towel to remove any excess oil before adding.
-Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for later.

My son Alex is fearless and went right for the head.
There was no way to keep Abbie away from these during the picture taking.