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They’re baaaaa-aaack!

After moving the voting to a non-blogging venue last year, we’ve brought it back this year and invite everyone to cast her or his vote for this year’s Ultimate Pumpkin Carving Champion.

I appreciate those of you who are not familiar with the pumpkin carving contest and who are just here for the food being patient as the wait for more recipes extends just a few days more.  But there will be more great eats, I promise.  On deck to be posted: balsamic hummus, apple strudel, citrus pound cake, and German potato salad.  For now, though, it’s all about the gourd art.

A review of the rules:

A two hour carving time limit, and

Bare-naked carving. No stencils, no accessories, no painting, no bells, and no whistles.  Just mad skills.

The carvers are to be judged by three things and three things only (but please cast only one vote as these are not three different categories but rather a rubric to be applied to your decision making): carving, creativity, and originality.

This year six carvers have convened with one dream: to be named the Ultimate Pumpkin Carving Champion of 2011 and to be given the bragging rights associated with the title.

A review of how it works: Please consider the six anonymous entries for this coveted title (pictures are posted below).  Post a comment that contains your vote for the pumpkin most worthy of being called the best of 2011.  This is where destinies are realized and dreams are shattered.

Voting will be open until Thursday at midnight and the winner will be posted on Friday.

Happy Halloween, and let the games begin!

The contenders, in no particular order:

Filigree Fright

I'm a Witch's Cat on the Full Moon. How Would You Look?

Hat Bee Howl Oh Bean!

E.T. Phoned Home

SpooooOooooky Cliff

Cauldron of Cookies. "Now what starts with the letter C? Cookie starts with C! Let's think of other things that start with C. Uh..uh...who cares about da other things?!" C is for cookie and that's good enough for me.

Please leave your vote in the comments below!

Apple Upside Down Cake

To celebrate this first weekend of October, I decided to use some of the apples that have been sitting in a bowl on our counter and turn them into something sweet and autumnal.  This dessert is a play on the ubiquitous dessert made with the most well known of Hawaii’s produce: the pineapple upside down cake.

For this dessert, I made an apple cider cake.  Genuine apple cider, like the type I was accustomed to drinking every fall as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, is very hard to come by in the islands, so instead of traditional apple cider I used Reed’s Natural Sparkling Spiced Apple Cider.  I am a big fan of Reed’s ginger drinks, and I have found that their apple cider is pretty tasty.

I have not baked with a sparkling or carbonated beverage before, so this was an experiment in baking, of sorts.  One of the cake layers came out of the oven with a small puka (hole) in it, which I attributed to some carbonation escaping during baking.  Regardless of the puka, the cake turned out deliciously – I was really, really pleased with it.  So was everyone who had it after dinner last night.

Crater Cake!

I am really happy to be back to blogging, and am happy that this is my recipe to return with.  This past year has been one in which I have struggled to find balance in all aspects of my life: meeting the high expectations I have for myself in my work, finding time for play (stand up paddle boarding, free diving, hiking, camping, traveling, reading, enjoying  movies …), healthy living (making food at home, exercise, mindfulness ….), and creative pursuits (cooking, photography, fabric crafts, crocheting, writing, teaching myself to play the ukulele…).  Several things, including this blog, fell off of my plate.

In the past few months, Dan and I have moved (a very short move, but into a much bigger place), inherited a very sweet 13 year old puppy, have both been promoted at work and are taking on greater challenges, and have set new goals for ourselves.  We find ourselves very immersed with our jobs, but we feel so fortunate to be able to do the work that we do, to work in such a fantastic place, and to work with the creative and hard working people that we get to work with.  I hope that each of you experience the same joys and challenges in your work, as well.  Those new goals of ours, though, revolve around balance – and hence I am happily returning to many of the activities that I love.

It’s good to be back.

Now, let us all eat cake.

Apple Upside Down Cake

Cake

2½ cups flour

3 tbsp cornstarch

1½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup Earth Balance “butter”

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1  cup vanilla soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

¾ cup apple cider

Apple Mixture

 2½ apples, peeled and diced

1 cup pecans, chopped

¾ cup flour

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp honey or agave (I almost always use agave instead of honey, and I wholly respect that many vegans would never touch the stuff, but in this case I did choose to use locally sourced honey.  I felt compelled to clarify due to a comment left in regards to honey’s inclusion in the recipe.)

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp butter, melted

Naked Apples!

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2.Cream together the Earth Balance and sugars until light and fluffy.

 

3. Mix together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar, set aside.

4. Sift together all dry ingredients into a second mixing bowl.

5. Add vanilla to butter mixture and mix until incorporated.

6. To the butter mixture, add the following: a third of the dry mixture, then the soy milk mixture, another third of the dry mixture then the apple cider, and, finally, the rest of the dry ingredients.  Mix until well combined.

7. Combine all of the apple mixture ingredients into a separate bowl and stir well to combine.

8. Spray the cake pans with oil.  Place parchment paper in the bottom of one, and then layer in the apple mixture on top of the paper.

9. Pour the cake batter into the pans, using less in the pan with the apple mixture.

10. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into each cake comes away clean.

11. Let the pans cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Lightly run a butter knife around the edge of the cakes, turn out, and let cool completely.

12. Run a serrated knife along the edge of the cake layer without the apple mixture to remove the crunchy edge.  Apply a thin layer of frosting (recipe follows) to the sides and top of this layer, reserving a bit of the frosting for finishing the cake.

13. Place the layer with the apple mixture on top of the frosted layer.  Use the reserved frosting to fill in the edge between the two layers.  Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Brown Sugar Frosting

Adapted from this recipe

 5 tbsp Earth Balance butter

½ cup brown sugar

3 tbsp vanilla soy milk

1¾ cups powdered sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.  Stir in the brown sugar and stir until melted. Add the soy milk, bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

2. Place the EB butter mixture into a mixing bowl, then mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.  If the frosting appears thin, add in more powdered sugar.

Aloha and Welcome

Aloha to all returning readers and a special welcome to new visitors!  It’s been a long time in the making, but this blog will be back to active posting this weekend.    What to expect: lots of new vegan recipes, DIY house and craft projects, gardening discussions., and other fun and creative pursuits. It’s been a busy year for us here, and I’ll give everyone the update on that, as well.

I just want to say a quick hello! to all everyone, offer a special thank you to all of you who have stopped by after so much time, and extend a warm welcome! to all of you who may be stopping by from Apartment Therapy.  If you’re new around here, I hope that you’ll bookmark this page, follow on Twitter, connect on Facebook, and come back soon.

Aloha!

~Gail 

Sunset view from our new house

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

This recipe is by request (which I always appreciate, so definitely send any and all recipe requests my way in the comments!).  As you already know, I love sweet potatoes and I love caramelized onions.  This simple burger marries the two together, along with black beans (another personal favorite) into one simple patty-shaped deliciousness delivery system.

If you have never made your own burgers before, I promise you that once you do you will never go back to frozen pre-packaged patties.   Home made burgers pack a punch of fresh flavor and textures that the little cardboard hockey pucks simply can’t imitate.  These guys are fairly easy to make, especially if you “bake” your potatoes in the microwave (to do this I poke holes in medium sized sweet potatoes with a fork, wrap them in damp paper towels, and bake them in the microwave for about seven minutes or until soft) and have some caramelized onions in your refrigerator ready to go.  I especially like the addition of chipotle pepper to these – they add a nice smoky flavor that compliments the sweetness of the potatoes.

The best part about eating burgers is, of course, the fixins.

We top ours with lettuce, tomato, avocado, caramelized onions, mustard, ketchup, and cilantro-lime mayo (see recipe below).

Enjoy!

 

 

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

1 cup mashed sweet potato
1 15oz can black beans
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (I like whole wheat)
½ onion, caramelized (or, depending upon how you like your onion flavor, use a smaller amount of raw onion or still use ½ onion that has been sautéed for 10 or so minutes)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 small chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Oil for frying

1.    Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix/mash together until well blended.  (The black beans will lose some of their texture, but I like to make sure that there are always some whole beans left to make the burgers more interesting)
2.    Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat (a few tablespoons to cover the bottom will do, but be sure to continue to add oil if needed because these burgers can easily stick to the pan).    Shape the burger mixture into eight patties.  
3.    Cook four burgers at a time (or fewer depending upon the size of your pan – the goal is to not crowd the pan), for about 4-5 minutes per side or until crispy brown on each side.  
4.    Serve with lots of fixins!

Cilantro-Lime Mayo

½ cup vegan mayonnaise
½ -1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (amount depends upon how spicy you like it)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tbsp lime juice

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

 

 

Admit it … you probably thought that I’ve decided to take another year and a half break from this site again didn’t, you?  Well, I certainly can’t blame you for that.  I was, however, simply traveling for work since my last post, but now I am settled back on the island and I have a perfect recipe for your fall dinners to share.

Everyone has that moment in their lives when they do something that makes them suddenly sit up and realize that they are, indeed, an adult. For some, it’s a birthday (21 … 25 … 30 … maybe 40), for others it’s marriage, it could be buying your first house, or holding your first child.  For me, it was the moment that I realized that I enjoy Brussel sprouts that certified me in my mind’s eye as a bona fide, card-carrying member of the adult population.

Brussel sprouts are fairly simple to make as they require very little prep or additions.  They are versatile and they always seem to add something special to a meal.  This is my latest interpretation of sprouts (other versions may include walnuts, mushrooms, garlic, caramelized onions, carrots, shallots,, chestnuts, or pine nuts) and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  The apples and pecans add nice texture and flavor to sprouts.

I am curious to hear how everyone else best enjoys their Brussel sprouts (or if you simply can’t bring yourself to even try them!) – please share in the comments!

Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Apple and Pecans

2 lbs Brussel sprouts
1 apple, diced
1 cup pecan halves, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
More salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Cut off the ends of the Brussel sprouts and remove any wilted outer leaves. Slice them in half.  Dice the apple and slice the pecans.  Place the sprouts, apple, and pecans in a 9×12” baking dish.  Whisk together the oil, teriyaki, and maple syrup in a small bowl and pour over the sprout mixture.  Toss to even coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned.  Be sure to stir once or twice during baking to ensure even browning.

 

Repeat after me:  this is not a health food.

Despite it being a breakfast food, this is not the type of thing that rings a golden halo of healthy smugness over your head as, say, a bowl of bran cereal or a tall glass of fresh pressed green juice would.  It is exactly the type of thing, however, that will have you dancing around in tippy-toes of joy in front of your oven as you eagerly wait for the timer to go off.  It is the type of breakfast that pulls bleary-eyed sleepers away from happy dreams and warm beds and into the kitchen on cold mornings.  This is dessert showing up as breakfast at your doorstep on Halloween.

I saw these on apartment therapy a few weeks back and promptly booked marked them, knowing that I would have to have them.  I made them for a leisurely Sunday breakfast and was so glad that I did. As they do require some advanced prep work, they are not a spur-of-the moment breakfast, but they are perfect for special occasions like holidays or birthdays.  Be aware that this recipe makes a lot of rolls. If you are not feeding a crowd, I recommend halving the recipe.   I made the whole thing and was able to send one pan full over to our neighbors to enjoy, as well.

To adapt the recipe, I swapped out the dairy ingredients for their vegan counterparts.  I also swapped out white flour for a mixture of whole wheat and spelt flours (to attempt to assuage feelings of guilty decadence),  cut down the sugar by just a touch, and I swapped in Rice Nog for the milk to add just that much more holiday goodness to each bite.  I also swapped out individual spices for pumpkin pie spice because I love that stuff at this time of year.

 

I also have a confession to make.  I took a few of the leftover rolls the next day and slathered them in some maple butter cream frosting I had leftover in my refrigerator from a batch of cupcakes I had made earlier in the week and served them for dessert.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Over the top decadence.  My sweet tooth swooned.  And that is how you make a food item multi-task.

 

 

Pumpkin Rolls with Brown Sugar Glaze
Adapted from The Kitchn at Apartment Therapy

(instructions are verbatim except for my substitutions)

Dough:
¼ cup water
1 package yeast
1 cup Rice Nog
½ cup Earth Balance butter
¼ cup sugar
1 15 oz can pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups spelt flour

Filling:
½ cup Earth Balance butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped pecans

Glaze:
½  cup Rice Nog
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Meanwhile, warm the Rice Nog and Earth Balance in a small saucepan on the stove top until the EB is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Let the Rice Nog mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch – NOT HOT. Then stir in the yeast and the pumpkin. Add the salt and all of the flour all at once, stirring until all the flour has been absorbed. Squish it between your hands if you’re having trouble incorporating the last of the flour. The dough will be sticky, but should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flower.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-3 hours. Do not panic if it does not get very large in bulk.  It will be OK.   After letting it rise, you can punch the dough down and refrigerate it overnight or continue shaping the rolls.

To shape the rolls (either immediately or with the refrigerated dough), sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and dump the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle and then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a rectangular shape about a half an inch thick, longer than it is wide. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough’s surface and on your hands.

Melt the Earth Balance in the microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the pumpkin pie spice. Spread this over the rectangle of dough, leaving an inch of bare dough at the top. Sprinkle one cup of the toasted pecans over the dough, if using. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.

Rub a tablespoon of soft Earth Balance into the bottom of two 9×13 baking dishes, two 9-inch cake pans, or a combination. (I used one oval baking dish and one glass pie dish)  Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick (confession: I made mine bigger, probably in the 1.5 – 2” range).  Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little wiggle room on all sides to rise. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise until they fill the pan and look puffy, 30 minutes for already-warm dough and 1 hour for dough that’s been refrigerated.

About 20 minutes before baking, begin heating the oven to 375°. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to look toasted around the edges. Rotate the pans halfway through cooking.

While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the Rice Nog and Earth Balance. When the EB has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted.   Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave

 

 

Two Potato and Corn Chowder

 

In case you were wondering what to dunk your cornbread into, worry no more … this chowder is the perfect thing to pair with it.  I have a love affair with sweet potatoes every autumn, and they find their way onto our dinner table at least one time per week, often times more.  I love their vibrant orange color, their sweet flavor, and their versatility.  I bake ‘em, mash ‘em, cream ‘em, slice ‘em, dice ‘em, and roast ‘em.  I make sweet potato bread, sweet potato and black bean burgers, baked sweet potatoes with all of the fixings, coconut-mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato pie, sweet potato cake, roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, and sweet potato chowders.  For those of you who are having a Forrest Gump moment right now, I will demonstrate restraint … but please know how much I love thee, dear sweet potato.

Here in Hawaii we have purple sweet potatoes. True story.  Hawaiian Purple Sweet Potatoes (‘uala) are also called Okinawan potatoes and are native to Japan, but they are believed to have been grown in the Hawaiian islands for centuries.  They get their unique purple hue from their abundance of anthocyanin (a type of phytochemical).  We also have purple Molokai Sweet Potatoes, which are only grown on the island of Molokai.  This chowder  does not use purple sweet potatoes but instead calls for the traditional Mainland-style red-skin and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes because I really love their flavor and, quite frankly, am not too keen on serving up purple soup.  Purple sweet potatoes are best served with simple preparation so that their purple coloring can be a unique addition to your plate and not look like a side dish at a grotesque Halloween buffet.  If you ever have the opportunity to work with them, mashed or baked is the way to go with purple potatoes, and then top them off with the simple garnish of your choice.

This (not purple) chowder is simple to make, which makes it a prime candidate for a weekday meal.  Pair it with some bread and a salad and you’ve got a delicious, healthy dinner for your busy work week.  Enjoy!

 

 

Two Potato and Corn Chowder
1 tbsp Earth Balance butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
4 medium red potatoes, diced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder (add more or less depending upon your heat tolerance)
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 cups broth ( I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base but use whatever flavor strikes your fancy)
1 10 oz frozen corn
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped scallions and cilantro for garnish
1.  Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the onion, and saute for 10-12 minutes, until slightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the carrots and potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the spices, salt, and pepper and cook for 30 additional seconds.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower to medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
2.  Stir in the corn and almond milk and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Use an immersion blender or stand-up blender to puree the soup (I like to leave it a little bit chunky, but puree to your desired consistency).  Sir in the cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper.  Gently heat for 2-3 minutes.  Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro and serve.

 

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