March 25, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: A Build Your Own Cupcake Party!

My Grandma's Decorated Cupcake!

Another party, another success! I had so much fun throwing my very own "Build Your Own Cupcake Party" this weekend. I wish you all could have been there. Not that I would have had enough cupcakes for everyone...*wink*


I held the party at my Grandparent's house (Thanks Grandma!) here in Minnesota and some of my family came over to help me decorate some delicious Vegan cupcakes - including 6 kids who had tons of fun deciding on how they wanted their cupcakes to look! I offered both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes and had red, blue, green, and yellow frosting available. To top off the cakes - I had sprinkles that were every color of the rainbow (and more...) and some super delicious vegan chocolate chips! 

I always think it's so much fun to show people that Vegan food (especially desserts!) can be just as delicious as non-vegan food! My little cousin's friend was so shocked to find out that I didn't eat meat or dairy. I believe her exact quote was "How can you be such a good cook and not eat meat?". That's a compliment, right?

I have to thank Foodbuzz for allowing me to create such a wonderful experience for me and my friends and family! I can't wait to throw another get-together soon! When I wasn't busy showing the kids how to use a piping bag or decorating my own cupcakes I managed to get some pictures taken of the party. And thank you Mom for taking pictures when I was too busy stuffing my face with cake. Love you! Enjoy the pictures and recipes everyone!

*Makes 16-18 Cupcakes*

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp instant coffee (not coffee grounds, but instant coffee)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp melted margarine or shortening
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened smooth applesauce
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Original Almond Milk)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, instant coffee, and sugar.

Blend together the melted margarine, applesauce, vanilla, and vinegar with a hand mixer. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the non-dairy milk.

Put cupcake liners in your cupcake pan and spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Fill the liners 2/3 of the way full and bake for 15-17 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean! 

The Kids Getting Ready to Decorate
Using A Piping Bag For The First Time! So much fun!!
My Sister Decorating Her Cupcake!
Me and My Grandma Decorating our Cupcakes.

*Makes 12 Cupcakes*

Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened smooth applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Original Almond Milk)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cream the margarine until fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to cream. Add the vanilla and applesauce and mix in well.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and then mix into the batter in thirds, alternating with the milk.

Scoop the batter into the oiled cupcake liners, filling them 1/2 - 3/4 of the way full. I love using my ice cream scoop for this. It comes out with equal proportions every time. Just make sure you're filling the scoop 3/4 of the way.

Bake 18-21 minutes. Check at 15 minutes to maker sure the tops aren't getting too brown! Allow to cool before decorating. 

"Butter"cream Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1 cup vegan shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.

Add the vanilla and soy milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

My Cousin Leo With His Finished Cupcakes!
My Sister Kayla Enjoying Her Cupcake!
My Mom with Her Cupcake Creation!
The Kids Digging In!

March 22, 2012

Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Treats


It's been between 70 and 80 degrees here in Minnesota this past week and boy have these banana treats been hitting the spot! I love having quick and easy dessert ideas like this during hot summer days - not that it's even summer yet, but it sure feels like it!

You can pretty much use any topping you'd like on these. They would be really fun to make with your kids and I know they'd love putting rainbow sprinkles on top! Much healthier than ice cream - and just as delicious! I'm preparing for my "Build Your Own Cupcake" party this weekend and I'm super excited! It's going to be me and my family - including a bunch of little kids. Expect a ton of cute pictures of the little ones decorating cupcakes. That post should be up by Sunday!

Ingredients:
  • 4 large, ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chocolate chips - melted over a double boiler
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Lollipop or Popsicle sticks

Cut the bananas into halves or thirds - depending on the size of the banana. Insert a Lollipop or Popsicle stick into one of the ends of the banana. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with a little cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water. Once the chocolate is melted - dip each banana in the chocolate and cover completely. Set each banana on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet and cover with the toppings of your choice. The picture above is covered with coconut and the picture below is covered with walnuts. Both were delicious!

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze the bananas - about 2 hours.


March 20, 2012

Meatout 2012 - What I'm Doing to Help


Every year the amazing organization FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) hosts their Meatout event to raise awareness of vegetarianism and veganism. According to FARM - "Meatout is the world's largest grassroots diet education campaign. Today on March 20th, thousands of caring people in all 50 U.S. states and two dozen other countries will encourage their friends, families, and communities to "kick the meat habit" and explore a wholesome, compassionate diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

I became a vegetarian when I was 15 and when I finally decided to become Vegan at 18 I discovered how much healthier it really is for you! I know there are those who do absolutely no research before they make the decision and end up eating way too many processed foods. It's a slippery slope, but I think most Vegans end up discovering things they never would have tried if they continued eating meat and dairy. Veganism has opened me up to a whole array of fruits and vegetables that I had never heard of!

Not only does Veganism nourish my body - it nourishes my soul. Knowing that I don't contribute to the torture, slaughter, and death of innocent beings is a heavy burden lifted off my psyche. Humans can not be unconscious to the amount of suffering that goes into their meals any longer. It's time to make a change - and FARM's annual Meatout is a HUGE help in making that change happen.

So what am I doing you ask? Tonight - I'm doing something as simple as making my family a delicious vegan dinner. That's where you start. Start with helping your friends and family understand how amazing being Vegan really is! Here's what I'm making them: (please excuse some of the bad pictures! I should really take some new ones!) For the recipes - click on the captions underneath the pictures!

Vegetable Penne Pesto with Cheesy Garlic Bread

Baby Greens Salad with Homemade Western Dressing

Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes

Grandma's Chocolate Mayo Cake

March 16, 2012

Carrot Cake Granola


The weather has been so amazing here in Minnesota this past week. Today it's supposed to be in the 70's! It kind of feels strange for it to be so warm in March, but I'm not complaining. No more snow = a happy me! One thing about warmer weather that is a little bothersome is it just makes it all that much hotter when baking! I was sweating a little bit when making this granola, but it was well worth it!

I got the inspiration from Nature's Path's new Carrot Cake granola which unfortunately contains milk ingredients. So I decided to create my own! It was so simple to create my own granola - and it's much nicer to be able to control the amount and quality of ingredients that goes into it as well. Nature's Path also makes a Dark Chocolate Raspberry granola that I've been dreaming about - so expect another granola recipe in the future. I've gotta try that one!

So Delicious sent me some AMAZING samples of their new Almond milk products last week. I've been so spoiled this week with the amount of ice cream I've been eating. The Butter Pecan flavor is insane. I'm creating a new cake recipe using their new Almond Milk this weekend! I can't wait to share it with you guys! I know you're going to love it!

*Adapted from Making It Naked*

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp light oil (canola, safflower, grapeseed, etc.)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl - combine the oats, pecans and coconut.

In a smaller bowl - combine the carrots, agave, brown sugar, vanilla, oil, and spices. Do not add the rasins! They'll be added later! Stir until well combined, then pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix together with your hands until everything is mixed well.

Spread the granola in an even layer over the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 40-50 minutes until the granola had become crisp and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before stirring in the raisins. Store in an airtight container.

March 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats



It's no secret that I *heart* peanut butter. I was trying to come up with a dessert to make for Valentines Day and I decided on these cute Rice Krispy treats made in the shape of a heart! Even though I took a month off from blogging - I was still cooking (a little...)! Obviously you don't have to wait around for next valentines day to make these treats! Cut them into squares and you've got a perfect little snack! I dipped mine in chocolate and covered them with pink and red sprinkles. Unfortunately I was a little lazy that day and didn't get a picture of the finished product, but you get the idea.

Also - I wanted to share something that I came across yesterday. It's a video that I think everyone needs to watch. It's a little long, but it's an important thing for all of us to watch. We can't let things like this go on any longer. KONY 2012!


Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp Earth Balance Spread (Margarine)
  • 1 10oz bag of Vegan Marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 1/2 - 5 cups rice cereal

Spray a 9x13 cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper - leaving a little bit of overhang to help you remove the rice krispy treats from the pan after they're done cooling.

Melt the margarine over low heat. Once melted add in the marshmallows. Stir frequently until the marshmallows have melted and the margarine has blended in with the marshmallows.

Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Once everything is well combined - stir in the cereal and coat with the marshmallow/peanut butter mixture.

Pour the cereal into the cake pan and press down firmly until all of the cereal is compacted tightly. Allow to cool and set. Once cooled - remove from the cake pan by gently pulling up on the overhanging parchment paper. Cut into shapes using any of your favorite shaped cookie cutters or just cut into classic squares! I even dipped mine in melted chocolate for an extra special treat!

March 1, 2012

Decadent German Chocolate Cake


Hello friends! I'm back from my little four-week hiatus and I'm starting out March with a bang! Even though I took a short break from blogging and cooking - I still had to get my baking fix in. I had been planning on making a German Chocolate Cake for a while now since I had a bag of coconut flakes sitting in my cupboard just begging to be used. Expect more coconut-deliciousness in the future since I didn't use the whole bag in the cake. I'm seeing granola (and possibly a couple other desserts) in my future.

It's interesting how much your tastes change from childhood to adulthood. I detested coconut when I was little. I wouldn't eat anything with coconut in it or on it. Well - actually my tastes have changed drastically. I wouldn't eat anything green when I was younger either unless it was candy that was dyed with artificial colors. Obviously you can't do that when your a vegan or vegetarian. Luckily when I did finally become a vegan - my world was opened to a whole new array of foods - and that included coconut. I think it helps that it's slathered on top of chocolate cake though.

By the way - It's funny that people still think coconut is unhealthy for you. I'm not saying this cake is the best thing to eat if you're on a diet, but adding coconut or coconut oil to your diet has been shown to help in weight loss in some studies! Anyway...here's the recipe for you. It's good to be back!

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or German chocolate - chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm coffee (use water if you don't have coffee)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray three 8x2 inch round baking pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Set up a double boiler on your stove top by placing a glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. Pour the chocolate chips or German chocolate in the bowl and heat until melted. Once the chocolate has melted - remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In separate, large bowl - sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another small bowl stir the coffee and non-dairy milk together until well combined.

In a separate, large bowl - cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the apple sauce and vinegar and mix well, scraping down the sides as you go. Add in the vanilla and melted chocolate and beat once more until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Add in the dry ingredients and the coffee/milk in three increments (add flour, mix, add coffee/milk, mix, add flour, mix, add cofee/milk, etc...) Beat all together until all of the ingredients are well mixed.

Pour the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Now we can make the frosting!

Frosting Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup Pecans - chopped
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the 2 cups of non-dairy milk in a medium sized saucepan. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to half the amount (1 cup). *I didn't write down how long it took for my coconut beverage to reduce - but I think it was about 10 minutes*

Stir together the corn starch and water until well combined. Add into the reduced non-dairy milk along with the sugar, shortening, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans, coconut, and vanilla. Allow the frosting to cool for 30-60 minutes until spreadable.

To assemble the cake - place one layer of the cake (with the top facing down) on your serving plate. Spread   1/3 of the frosting on top of that layer. Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosted layer and spread 1/3 of the frosting on the second layer. Place the third layer of cake on the very top and cover with the remaining amount of frosting.