Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Classic comboThis is the first post I’ve done since school started… and it is going to be brief! I made these muffins last minute this morning and shared some with friends. They requested the recipe, so here it is! Makes 12. Read the rest of this entry »

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Messenger Lemon Cookies

crunchy and gooey

I wanted to make something speical for my friend Mel’s birthday, but we were going to be traveling in a car, so a traditional cake wouldn’t survive. I thought of regular drop cookies because they are oh-so-tasty, but they aren’t screaming “Happy Birthday!” in that festive way that cakes do.

Then, as I was about to go to sleep one night,  it came to me: large sandwich cookies with “Happy Birthday Mel” carved into the tops! Perfect! I based it on a scrumptious-looking ginger lemon recipe from Elinor Kilivan’s book “Big Fat Cookies.”

The cookies turned out tasting great- the almonds and spices make it hearty and flavorful- but they were a little bit messy. The lemon curd filling I made had fantastic lemon flavor, but oozed out the sides of the cookies, even after refrigeration! So, I am including Elinor’s powdered sugar-based filling in the recipe here. Although I haven’t tried it, I am confident it will come out better than what I used!

I used the extra dough and filling to make sandwich cookies with holes in them, as pictured here. This recipe makes 10 large cookies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Picnic Pies

meowI used to be mad at blackberries. In the backyard of the house that I previously lived in, I spent a good deal of time trying to fight the blackberry bushes. I would get my battle gear on and attack the bushes with large shears every few months. I’d always work up a good sweat and end up with a bunch of scratch wounds. On top of the constant struggle to keep the bushes from overtaking my backyard, we rarely got to any of the ripe berries before the birds did. I was not fond of the blackberry.

But then I moved into a house with a blackberry bush growing on the outside of my fence in the backyard, into the alley. No need to fight this one! I have let it grow and grow and grow and the blackberries are just starting to get ripe. There are so many of them that I think I’ll be eating blackberries all summer and fall! Blackberries have become my friend.

I was very excited to pick my first batch of berries, but soon after I filled the bowl, I was unsure of what do with them. They were a little too tart (for my liking) to eat raw, but I couldn’t think of something yummy to bake them into. So I posted an inquiry to my Facebook friends, asking for their help. I had many suggestions come my way… cereal, syrup, jam, raw… but Katy got me salivating at the suggestion of PIE. Pie! Perfect use of the first of the blackberries!

I was going to a picnic the next day, so I decided to make individual pies instead of one big one. They turned out adorable and delicious! The crust was amazingly flaky and the filling was a perfect combination of sweet and tart. I based these recipes on ones I found in the “Joy of Cooking.” This recipe makes 4 mini pies, but can be modified to make one regular size pie. Also, this pie could very easily be made vegan by substituting non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening for the butter in the crust!

P.S. Pretty darn good with lime ice cream! Read the rest of this entry »

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Sweet Summertime Strawberry Heaven

shortcake on the goI used to live a mile away from an organic strawberry farm. It was part of my normal routine to walk through the fields, overlooking the ocean, to hand pick strawberries. Those were some pretty sweet, strawberry filled days!

Fortunately those organic California strawberries make their way up to Oregon, but with a bigger price tag. I probably won’t be making as many strawberry treats this summer as I once did, but I will still allow myself to indulge in recipes that I can resist! This recipe fell into that category of totally irresistable. I followed a link to My Baking Addiction’s blog and only about 3 seconds passed between looking at the picture and reading the words ‘fresh,’ strawberry,’ and ‘cupcake’ in one sentence before I decided that I HAD to make these. And RIGHT AWAY! So, on my way home from work, I picked up the necessary ingredients and started baking away. Around 10pm I scarfed down a DEEELICIOUS cupcake and then had another…

The texture and flavor of these cupcakes is some of the best I have ever had. The recipe is based on one by Martha Stewart called ‘Sprinkles Cupcakes’ that was modified by My Baking Addiction. I made the following changes based on my personal tastes and My Baking Addiction’s reflections: She mentioned that the cake was a little dry, so I upped the amount of strawberry puree in the cake batter and replaced milk with sour cream. I also decreased the baking time and took them out of the oven when they were ‘just done.’ She mentioned that the frosting was a little on the soft side, so I decreased the amount of strawberry puree added. This however made the strawberry flavor in the frosting somewhat subtle, so I added strawberry puree to the top to pack in more strawberriness. I also put the frosting in the fridge for a bit to help it firm up. 

I honestly can’t think of any way to make these better, but if you do, let me know!  This recipe makes 18 cupcakes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rockin Elvis Pie

nannanaanaEvery time I bite into a yummy peanut butter and banana something-rather, I thank Elvis for making such a fabulous combination famous! According to some, the peanut butter/banana combo is only ‘Elvis’ if it includes bacon. While you might be able to swing that on a sandwich, bacon pie for dessert doesn’t sound quite right to me.

But when my friend Wendy introduced me to a recipe on Epicurious, I only had to modify it slightly to create something sinfully delicious. This pie actually tastes lighter that it sounds and is easier to make than it looks. And with fruit and nuts in it, what a great way to get your daily vitamins and protein! (That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.) This recipe easily serves 10 people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Upsidedown Pineapple Cake

too sweet to be good for yaI was feeling like making a retro dish and when I came across this recipe, it hit the spot- for some reason, pineapple upsidedown cake seems like a thing of the past, like mincemeat pie or little smoky casserole. Many people seem to have an adverse reaction to the mention of pineapple upsidedown cake, as they would to the other two dishes I mentioned above. I think that may be because it was often made with questionable ingredients- e.g. a can of mushy fruit cocktail pineapple and cherries. I fancied mine up a bit by using fresh pineapple and omitting those maraschino cherries altogether (I really think they should only be used for the occasional shirley temple or traditional ice cream sundae).

The cake didn’t have the look I was going for (it is really hard to cut pineapple in rings) and the cherries, while gross, would have added a bit of color to the bland looking cake. However, it tasted quite delicious, confirming that using the fresh pineapple was indeed a good idea. I served it up with vanilla ice cream (John mentioned coconut ice cream would be good too) because everything is better with ice cream.

This recipe serves 6-8 people and is based on a recipe by Alton Brown in ”I’m Just Here for More Food.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Edible Bowling Lane

i dare you to roll a strikeTo celebrate the end of yet another fantastic bowling season, I made an elaborately decorated bowling cake for the team. What started out as a simple idea became more complex the more I got into it. I usually think cake decorating is a pain in the ass, but if you have time for it, it sure can be fun!

This cake is quite big and will serve a couple of bowling teams at least! The recipes are from the Magnolia Cookbook.

I’ll tell you my method for decorating this cake, but leave your process up to you because I’m sure you’ll have some awesome ideas! I started this recipe out with a simple chocolate cake and plain buttercream frosting. After frosting the cake, I added chocolate to the remaining buttercream for decorating purposes. I chose gumballs for bowling balls because they are colorful and perfectly round. I played with the idea of drilling tiny holes in each one, but decided against that for safety reasons, and opted to just make dots on them with piped frosting. The closest thing I could find that remotely resembled  bowling pins were candy covered almonds (yuck!). My friend andy has been known to carve pins out of jack cheese and make the stripes with red bell pepper- perhaps I will use that method next time! I used chocolate jimmies to make the arrows on the lane, but I think chocolate chips or just piped frosting would work as well. i literally carved out the gutters in the lane with a knife and piped them full of chocolate frosting- above ground frosting gutters would have probably been less messy. The ball return carriages were made from leftover scraps of cake, frosted with the chocolate buttercream frosting. (It was pointed out to me after the cake was finished that the ball return carriages should have been placed toward the outsides of the lane, so as to leave room for the bowler- good tip for next time!)

Okie dokie, enough chit chat… here’s the recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lip Smackin Cheescake

creamy berry yeahI made this cheesecake for a crowd, which is definitely the way to go unless you can happily consume a billion calories without getting sick or feeling incredibly guilty. Yes, cheesecake is rich, but that is what makes it such a treat! The blueberry and lemon in this recipe lighten it up a bit and add depth of flavor- tart, creamy, and sweet. The shortbread crust is absolutely fabulous. I like it much better than a graham cracker or vanilla wafer cookie crust.

You will need a larger-than-usual pie pan to make this dessert as it calls for a 12 inch pie pan (regular pie pans are usually only 9 inches). I imagine you could substitute another type of pan if needed, just make sure it is big enough so the filling doesn’t spill over the sides! This cheesecake will easily serve 10 people. The recipe is based on one by Dave Lieberman. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gotta Love Sourdough

sourdough-loafI don’t understand how anyone could not love sourdough bread. In fact, I don’t think I’ve met someone who doesn’t. It is soooo good in soooo many ways! I like mine sour-as-can-be with a rich, chewy crust.

The flavor of sourdough bread is created by a wild yeast starter, used instead of regular baking yeast. You can purchase sourdough starter from some bakeries, or you can MAKE YOUR OWN! Making your own starter is quite a labor of love, but it makes for a very rewarding pet! It took about 5 weeks for my starter to fully develop and be ready to use for bread making, but during that time I really got to learn what the starter is all about. I even went as far as naming him Grover.  I got everything I ever wanted to know about sourdough starter (and more)  from: http://www.sourdoughhome.com/startingastarter.html. The best part about having your own starter is that once it is fully thriving, it can live forever as long as you feed it every once in a while. You can also give some to your friends so they can grow their own. I’ve had great success in using my extra starter in pancakes and pizza crust. Both very YUM!

This bread is great as a baguette or a sandwhich loaf- it makes two medium sized loaves. It is a good standard sourdough recipe that I got from the “Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart. It actually isn’t as much work as it appears, but it does take some time for all that delicious wild yeast to ferment. So, make sure to read the recipe ahead of time and allow yourself a couple of days at least for the process. You can do it! Read the rest of this entry »

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Bowling Cupcakes

these cupcakes will improve your score

I made these cupcakes for my bowling team’s Big Lebowski party. While I don’t think the Dude ate peanut butter chocolate cupcakes in the movie, I definitely think he would abide. And, they go splendidly with a White Russian. As a side note, after eating these cupcakes, our team went on to win our first game the following week- go cupcake power!

No one can tell that these cupcakes are vegan… they are so moist, rich, and chocolately! I am not a big fan of piping forsting letters onto cupcakes and I despise those store bought letters/icings, so I got a little inventive. I pressed upside-down mini chocolate chips into the frosting to spell out our team’s name. Yes, this did take a while, but it was a fun and mind-soothing activity.

This recipe is based on the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes from the book “Vegan Cupakes Take Over the World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The recipe makes 12 cupcakes. Read the rest of this entry »

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