Archive for March, 2008


 Another month, another Daring Bakers challenge. This month’s challenge was cake and, due to a hectic work schedule and then vacation (woo-hoo!) it came down to the wire for me this month and I baked this up at the last minute, unfortunately with no real reason for having a cake on hand. That means that Dan and I are currently staring at a very large party cake with equal parts delight and trepidation … just how is all of that cake going to get eaten? Tomorrow I will have to make the rounds and share some cake with the neighbors.

I had to make some adaptations to the recipe to make it vegan. For the cake I replaced buttermilk (with soymilk and cider vinegar), egg whites (with soy yogurt), and butter (with Earth Balance). The icing was a whole other challenge altogether: a merengue buttercream frosting. Oh my. The one thing I have not yet figured out how to veganize is merengue. Instead of spending hours pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to replicate merengue, I made a lemon buttercream frosting, toasted some coconut and macadamia nuts (becuase I live in Hawaii and have lots of them in the kitchen), and smothered the cake in the toasty goodness.

Overall, this is a very good cake. Dan immediately had a second slice, which is always a good sign as cakes can sometimes prove to be too overwhelmingly sweet for him. The taste is quite good ( I went with the recommended lemon cake and raspberry jam flavor combination), the texture is nice on the tongue, it slices well, and it is very pretty to look at. I would be interested in playing around with different flavor combinations as this cake lends itself well to improvisation. Maybe lime and coconut? Chocolate and raspberry? Chocolate and Grand Marnier? Vanilla and Kahlua? Vanilla and lilikoi? I could go on and on and on …



 Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups vanilla soymilk + 1 tbsp cider vinegar
½ cup vanilla soy yogurt (or use lemon soy yogurt for a more intense lemon flavor)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
8 tbsp Earth Blance, at room temperature
1 tsp lemon juice

5 cups powdered sugar
½ cup Earth Balance
½ cup shortening (I use Spectrum brand)
3 tbsp lemon juice

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
1 ½ cups flaked coconut, toasted (to toast: place coconut in skillet over medium heat and toast for 3-5 minutes, being sure to keep the coconut moving so that it does not burn)
½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted (to toast, repeat process used for toasting the coconut)

To Make the Cake:

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans.

2. Mix the cider vinegar with the soymilk and set aside.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. Whisk together the soymilk mixture and soy yogurt in a medium bowl.

5. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the Earth Balance and, using a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the EB and sugar are very light. Beat in the lemon juice.

6. Add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the soymilk mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the soymilk mixture beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

7. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

8. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, and turn them out onto the rack to cool.

To Make the Buttercream:

Beat together the EB and shortening until well mixed, light and fluffy. Then slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating to mix well. Add the lemon juice and, finally, beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.

To Assemble the Cake:

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.

Put one layer cut side up on your cake stand or plate. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.

Press the mac nuts into the center of the cake. Press the coconut into the frosting around the nuts, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


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An Abundance of Gold

As has been well documented on this blog, I have a very generous, very large yellow pear tomato plant taking over my garden. (Never fear, however – we’ve been busy this week carving our two new garden plots.) The tomato plant has kicked into over drive this past week and I’ve been having trouble keeping up with its productivity. We’ve been eating tomato carpaccio just about every day and tossing tomatoes in every salad, but I had to find new ways of using the things. The first recipe listed below was inspired by a recipe that I have been wanting to try for some time now: the Golden Gazpacho on Freshtopia. I had to adapt it somewhat to accommodate my available ingredients (I did not have a lemon cucumber and the store in town only had sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, which I avoid in favor of the ones that come in packages and need to be re-hydrated in hot water) and to adjust it to my taste, and it turned out really very good.  I would still like to try the recipe as posted on Freshtopia because I think the sundried tomatoes would really make the gazpacho something special. The second recipe listed below- yellow tomato sauce – was one I made up on the spot the other night when Dan requested pasta for dinner. The sauce was delicious, and I served it with steamed vegetables.

Tomorrow we are off for a week of rest, relaxation, and adventuring on Kauai. There are some leftovers in the fridge that you can nibble on while we’re away 🙂 I look forward to catching up with everyone when we get back! Have a wonderful week!

Yellow Gazpacho

2 ½ cups yellow pear tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
1 clove garlic
½ an avocado
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp agave
4 large basil leaves
Hot sauce, salt & pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar, chopped yellow tomatoes, chopped avocado, and basil leaves to garnish

Mix all ingredients tomatoes through basil in a food processor until your desired consistency is reached.  Taste and season with hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Top serve, garnish with sliced tomatoes, avocado, and basil leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Yellow Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups yellow pear tomatoes
¼ cup chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.    Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.

2.    Use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes a bit.  Add salt and pepper.  Cook the sauce over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring e3very so often, until all of the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce a cooked down and thickened (it won’t thicken too much, but it will transition from watery to saucy consistency).

3.    Pour over the pasta of your choice, add vegetables, and enjoy!

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St. Patrick’s Day could be summed up as such for me: finding new and interesting ways of using Guinness in the kitchen. (I posted this without the knowledge that Guinness is not, in fact, vegan (thank you, Romina!)  For more on this, please read the comments for this post … and, for you vegans, here is a link to a list of vegan beers to help you find an alternative to Guinness) For the last couple of years I’ve rested on the laurels of Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes, which probably would have made yet another appearance this year had I not still been in sugar overload recovery from Dan’s birthday a week ago. This year I decided that I wanted to make something more savory, so I researched different traditional Irish entrees and quickly came to realize that the culinary influences from the Emerald Isle have not made their way into my cooking. Colcannon, corned beef and cabbage, corned beef hash, and even shepherd’s pie are all strangers to my kitchen. After careful consideration, I finally settled upon a Guinness and beef stew recipe from the Food Network and a brown Irish soda bread recipe from Cooking Light to veganize (the shepherd’s pie will just have to wait). Below I have copied the recipes directly from their origins and edited them to reflect my adaptations. These two recipes make a wonderful and satisfying dinner for any night, not just St. Patty’s Day, so eat up!

Erin Go Bragh!

Seitan and Guinness Stew
Adapted from Food Network

2 cups seitan, coarsely chopped
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste, mixed with 4 tbsp water
1 ½ cups Guinness
3 carrots, large dice
2 Yukon gold potatoes, large dice
1 sprig thyme
Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Toss the seitan with ½ tablespoon of the oil. In a small bowl, season the flour with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss the seitan with the seasoned flour.

2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the seitan for five minutes. Reduce the heat, add the onions, crushed garlic and tomato paste mixture to the pot, cover, and cook gently for 5 minutes.

3. Pour the Guinness into the pot. Bring the Guinness to a boil, then add the carrots, potatoes, and thyme leaves. Stir and adjust seasonings.

4. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 1 ½ hours. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Brown Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled Earth Balance butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups soymilk, mixed with 1 ¼ tbsp apple cider vinegar1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix the vinegar with the soymilk and set aside. Lightly spoon flours into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine whole wheat flour and next 6 ingredients (whole wheat flour through salt) in a large bowl; cut in Earth Balance butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add the soymilk mixture. Stir just until moist.2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 or 6 times. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Using a sharp knife, score dough by making 2 lengthwise cuts 1/4 inch deep across the top of the loaf to form an X. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 12 wedges.

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Easter Tea Ring

It has been a week since my last post and I offer my apologies.  It has been a hectic few weeks at work and, as a result, I have not been spending much time in the kitchen.  Today is finally a day off but, along with the culinary endeavors, many other things have been neglected, as well, so today is one of those “productive” days off.  It is still Sunday, however, which always deserves a special breakfast.

As you may recall, I rang in 2008 with a New Year’s Pretzel and froze half of the dough for later use.  Yesterday I pulled that dough out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator so that we could enjoy an almost ready-made breakfast this morning.  My bread baking cookbook, The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking by Jennie Shapter, has a recipe that I’ve had my eye on for some time: an Easter Tea Ring.  I decided to make the tea ring today because Dan and I won’t be home for Easter – we’ll be leaving on Saturday to spend six days on Kauai.

The book’s version calls for a dried fruit and pecan filling, which I replaced with fresh berries and sliced almonds.  I also subbed in the sweet dough from the New Year’s Pretzel.  I was able to quickly roll out the dough, fill it, and set it aside to rise for thirty minutes, during which time I weeded out a spot behind the cottage for a new garden plot.  Then I popped it into the oven to bake for 30 minutes, during which time I uncluttered the cottage.  We then enjoyed the tea ring with a pot of Earl Grey tea on the back deck.    This recipe is very easily adaptable to whatever you want to fill it with – be creative!

Easter Tea Ring
Adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking

½ recipe of New Year’s Pretzel dough
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Earth Balance butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cu shredded coconut
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup fresh blueberries

3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
Sliced almonds for decoration

1.    Place the dough on a floured surface and roll it out to a 12” by 18” rectangle.
2.    Melt the Earth Balance butter and brush it over the dough.  Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, almonds, coconut, raisins, and blueberries evenly over the dough.
3.    Starting from one long end, rollup the dough (just like when making a jelly roll).  Turn the dough, if necessary, to ensure that the seam is on the bottom.
4.    Curl the dough into a circle, brush the ends with the remained of the EB, and press together to seal.  Place the ring on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
5.    Use a pair of scissors to snip through the circle at 1 ½ – 2” intervals, making sure to cut 2/3rds of the way through the dough each time.
6.    Cover the dough with lightly oiled plastic and leave it in a warm place for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400F.
7.    Bake the ring for 25-30 minutes, until golden.  Cool on a wire rack.
8.    While the ring is still warm, make the glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar and orange juice.  Place a sheet of wax paper under your cooling rack to catch any dripping glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the ring and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
 We also had an unexpected visitor drop by for breakfast this morning:

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Salsas and Dips

Party food – don’t you just love it?  Too often, though, it is a love-hate relationship, one that draws us in with its sensory allures and then leaves us feeling guilty and cold with empty calories.  Friday was Dan’s birthday and we celebrated all weekend long, including a barbecue with our island ohana yesterday.  I spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen concocting the menu for the party, and I tried to be conscientious of the fact that people like to indulge at parties but that they feel better about that indulgence when the food is not only tasty but healthy, as well. This is not to say that I did not also bake up my fair share of naughtiness in the kitchen – I made two type of cupcakes, petit fours, sesame-ginger-mint potatoes, and pasta with a rich peanut sauce for the soiree – but the key to life is balance, no?  So I made sure to balance all that sugar with some pupus that feature our dear friends the vegetable, the legume, and the fruit.  I am sharing these recipes from all of the recipes that I made for the party not just because they all disappeared in the blink of an eye and got rave reviews but because they are all so easy to make.  What more can a hostess ask for than a delicious dish that is as low maintenance as it is sensational?
Black Bean Salsa

2 cups yellow pear tomatoes, sliced
1 mango, diced
2 15oz. cans black beans
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
A few dashes of chipotle hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir all of the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.

Tomato Salsa

4 cups grape tomatoes
1 jalapeno, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until finely chopped.  Spoon out the tomatoes into your serving bowl, and reserve the remaining juice for the guacamole.  Stir in the jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and salt and pepper.


2 avocados
1/3 cup reserved fresh tomato juice (from the tomato salsa)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 handful cilantro leaves
A few dashes of chipotle hot sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 generous cup grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the avocados, tomato juice, lime juice, cilantro, chipotle hot sauce, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.  Pour into a bowl, stir in the tomatoes and salt and pepper.


2 15.5oz cans garbanzo beans
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp red curry
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process and completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl when necessary.

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I snatched up several eggplants at the store the other day because they were on sale, and last night I found myself looking at them wondering what to do with them. Eggplants present a lot of possibilities and I just couldn’t settle on one. Finally I decided upon Anna Thomas’s “Eggplant Pancakes in Sweet Red Pepper Puree” from The New Vegetarian Epicure. I did, however, adapt it. I wanted to use less eggplant, less olive oil, less garlic, no eggs, no white flour, and no olives or feta cheese. And then there was that sauce … don’t get me wrong, a sweet red pepper puree sounds delicious. The thing is, you see, I have this tomato plant of mine and it is laden with little golden orbs of deliciousness. I decided to go out into the yard and pick some for dinner, so I adapted the red pepper puree to accommodate less ingredients and to use the tomatoes instead of the peppers. The pancakes were quite tasty and the tomato puree was delectable – we were scooping mounds of it into our mouth with pita chips! If I were to make this dish again, I wouldn’t change a thing about the puree but I would add maybe 1/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs to the eggplant batter in an attempt to make the pancakes just a little bit sturdier. We wnjoyed the pancakes and puree with some tabouleh and pita chips on the side. Enjoy!
Eggplant Pancakes
Adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure
3 medium eggplants
½ small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 potent Ener-G “eggs” (4 tsp mix + 2 tbsp water)
1/8 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste1. Preheat oven to 400F. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, pierce each cut side several times with a fork, and place each cut-side down on a greased baking sheet. Roast them for 50-60 minutes in the oven, until they are each soft and collapsing. Let them cool a bit, then scoop out the flesh.

2. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Whisk together the Ener-G “eggs” with the flour and add it to the eggplant. Mix in the onion mixture, the oregano, and the salt and pepper to the eggplant.

3. Lightly spray a large non-stick skillet or griddle pan wit cooking oil and place over medium-heat. Place large spoonfuls of eggplant batter into the skillet, shaping them into small 3-inch pancakes. Cooke the pancakes until they are evenly colored on both sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Be sure to turn them very carefully because they are delicate!

4. Serve the pancakes with dollops of roasted yellow tomato puree on top (recipe follows).

Roasted Yellow Tomato Puree
Adapted from the New Vegetarian Epicure
½ tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cups whole yellow pear tomatoes
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar1. In a non-stick skillet over low heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until caramelized, about 40-45 minutes.

2. In a small roasting pan coated with non-stick cooking spray, roast the tomatoes for 20-25 minutes, until the skins are browning and puckering.

3. Place the onions, tomatoes, vinegar, and brown sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Gently warm before serving.

Finally, Cakelaw has tagged me for a “5 Things About Me” meme, so here goes:

  • I believe that a person cannot be held accountable for the music on their iPod. What happens with your iPod stays with your iPod.
  • I like artificial banana flavor. Banana popsicles, banana lifesavers (found in the tropical roll), and banana runts are tops in my book.
  • I’ve been known to dress my cats in ridiculous clothing. Like collared polo shirts. And Halloween costumes.

Sometimes this upsets them.

  • I’m addicted to mints. My doctor once told me this was a problem.
  • I am currently in the process of weaning myself off of my caffeine addiction. It is now day 5 and I haven’t hurt anybody. Yet.

I am tagging the following people for this meme but give them all outs due to the fact that they are all super busy people who have babies, just had babies, just adopted babies, are tending to their spouse, are busy just being badass, etc…. Wow, that summary of my blogging friends just made me feel incredibly unaccomplished and lazy! :-O Really, though, the bottom line is that these are cool people doing cool things and they are blogging about them, so I’d like to highlight them in this small way.

1. Jennifer at What’s New Since Terminal 4

2. James at General Fuzz

3. Erin at Notes on Passage

4. Holley at 13th Degree Perspective

5. Maria at Bringing Home Babylicious

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