Sunday, March 31, 2013

Blueberry Pie Filling

leaves and flours vegan blueberry pie filling

Every "ten tips for blog success" post you will find will tell you that your blog should be an uplifting, happy place. You shouldn't write about your bad days and frustrations. It needs to be all sunshine & rainbows. But I just can't agree with that sentiment. It's too hunky-dory for me. I would rather be real. March has been a rough month for me personally, and I am more than happy to celebrate its end. There's been a lot of stress, a lot of changes, and a lot of emotional heaviness weighing me down. This weekend I worked two 12 hour days creating all of the Easter items and filling the wave of catering orders. I woke up at 3:30am. There's not many people who will give you really happy feedback on rising at that hour. But at the end of my shift yesterday I walked across the parking lot and realized that the sky finally wasn't gray anymore, the snow was all gone, and I could take off my coat finally. April is just around the corner, and things will definitely get better. Until Mother's Day. At least it doesn't fall on my birthday this year!

leaves and flours vegan blueberry pie filling leaves and flours vegan blueberry pie filling leaves and flours vegan blueberry pie filling

Blueberry Pie Filling
enough filling for 1 nine inch or 2 six inch pies

4 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tbl water
zest of half a lemon

In a small saucepan combine 1 cup of blueberries and sugar. Mash some of the blueberries with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to release some of the juice. Cook on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a rolling boil. Whisk cornstarch into the water. Pour into boiling blueberries. Cook until a thick jam has formed, then remove from burner and allow to cool for ten minutes. In a large bowl combine the remaining blueberries and lemon zest. Fold jam into the berries. Now you're ready to fill your crust. I generally use a double crust with blueberry pie because it is a little juicy. I always brush the top crust with coconut milk and sprinkle a little sugar on it. It gives you a perfectly crisp top with a lovely golden shine.

leaves and flours vegan blueberry pie filling

I know berries are still a little pricey. But they are back in season so soon! And then you can fill up as many buckets and pails as you and your friends & family can carry for the most amazing prices at local pick-your-own farms. You can take cute pictures of each other with blue and red tinted lips from all the berries you have been trying to sneak into your mouths while you are walking around.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oatmeal Cream Pies

leaves and flours vegan oatmeal cream pie homemade little debby

My best friend and I frequently experience something I refer to as same brain. She will often send me a message that is exactly what I was thinking. She will be forming ideas for projects that pair perfectly with what I am working on. It's mind boggling how similarly we think sometimes. Earlier this week she wrote about the 6 things she did instead of blogging, which basically wrapped up my last two weeks. I haven't been writing about what I have been doing, because I have been doing so much. I have been working extra hours in the kitchen while my assistants have gone on vacation. I baked a birthday cake for a friend. I did a bake sale at a punk show. I have been organizing some details for my participation in Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. I have been teaching myself how to lift weights & taking new classes at the gym. I've been obsessed with my upgrade from a five or six year old flip phone to an iPhone (Instagram is possible my favorite thing about this transition!). I have been making an active attempt to be a better friend and make more plans with people I want to spend time with. Next Sunday I plan to finally watch the Beyoncé documentary with several of my favorite DC ladies. There are still so many more things that I want to do. There are terrariums I want to build & museums I need to visit. With longer days and (slightly) warmer weather I feel a lot more motivated to push myself.
I have always been interested in veganizing snacks that I loved prior to my shift in diet. I've done malt balls and Girl Scout cookies, but last week I set out to do something I haven't tried before. I found BraveTart's recipe for homemade Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies, and they were immediately bumped to top priority on my must-bake list. The only down side is that you need a scale to make the recipe. If you don't have one, I'm sorry! You should consider investing in one. I use it almost every time I bake. It's way easier to weigh out my Earth Balance and shortening than scoop it into cups or buy overpriced sticks!

leaves and flours vegan oatmeal cream pie homemade little debby leaves and flours vegan oatmeal cream pie homemade little debby

Oatmeal Cookies
veganized from BraveTart's amazing recipe

8 ounces all purpose flour
4 ounces rolled oats
1/2 ounce cocoa powder
2 ounces dried apple rings
3 ounces Earth Balance margarine
2 1/4 ounces canola oil
7 ounces sugar
1 ounce molasses
3 1/2 ounces corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 Ener-G egg
2 ounces almond milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. Chop the apples into small pieces to save your food processor a little of its life. Then combine the flour, oats, cocoa and apple rings in your processor bowl and allow it to chop for several minutes until all it looks uniform. Cream together the margarine, oil, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices until fluffy. Add the egg replacer and beat another minute. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on a low speed while drizzling in the milk. Mix until the dough forms. I used a medium sized 1 1/2 oz scoop for the cookies and placed them 8 to a cookie sheet and ended up with 3 trays of cookies total, with a lot of room to spread. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cookies edges are just firm. The cookie should look under-baked when you remove them from the oven. They will crisp as they cool, but you want them to stay perfectly soft!

Marshmallow Cream Frosting
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup shortening
1 ten oz container Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat margarine and shortening until fluffy. Add 5 oz of the Ricemellow and beat again for several minutes. Add vanilla extract and powedered sugar. Beat until combined. Fold remaining half of Ricemellow into the frosting with a spatula. For extra oomph, toast the Ricemellow under your broiler for about thirty seconds and let it cool before using in the frosting. This step is vital if you are going to make a s'mores cupcake!

leaves and flours vegan

What's keeping you busy lately? I feel like I am always interested in starting new hobbies, but I am not always consistent at following through with them. I am a perfectionist. I get frustrated when I am not good at something quickly and then to avoid it afterwards. I know that it's a problem. I am trying to work on it. I just tend to feel like I would rather spend my time doing something that I know I am good at. I don't feel compelled to be a jack of all trades, but rather a master of one. What's your stance?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pignoli Almond Cookies

leaves and flours vegan pignoli cookies
These are the kind of cookies you would have at tea party. The kind of party where you break out the gold rimmed tea cup and saucer sets, lace doilies, silver serving platters, & linen napkins. There would probably even be pennant flags and pinwheels. Unfortunately I didn't eat these cookies at a tea party. I ate them on a rainy day in my yoga pants while reading a book about witches. I did however eat them while drinking a cup of almond infused black tea, so I suppose I am halfway there. Whether you are wearing yoga pants or an Easter dress, these cookies are totally appropriate. These are such a spring sweet to me. The almond flavor is rich but still refreshing. And the pine nuts add a buttery crispness to the top of the cookie.
I used the recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I didn't add the almond extract because the almond paste lends the cookies plenty of flavor. I also used far less pine nuts than suggested, because I am honestly not the biggest pine nut fan. I also didn't need to dip my cookies in milk before pressing the pine nuts on. They stuck just fine to the un-moistened dough. I used store bought almond paste, but am highly considering making my own next time. You basically puree blanched almonds with sugar until it's smooth. I have a fancy blender, so I feel like I should make the most of it. Has anyone ever made almond paste?
I am also in love with these dishes! I have the same plate in a different color, but I had never seen a matching cup. While I like the blue shade of the older plate, this lavender-grey has really won me over. Anthropoglie kitchenware always reels me in. I have been really good about not adding to my stock pile of dishes in the last few months, but I just couldn't help it?! Sometimes when I look at all of the kitchen related things I have I feel like I might have a slight hoarding problem. But then I remember about how good I am about maintaining minimal possessions in all the other aspects of my life. I don't have very many shoes or clothes. I don't have many books. It's just all cupcake pans & vintage saucers & hang printed napkins. Everybody's gotta have a vice right?!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Homemade Girl Scout Cookies

leaves and flours vegan homemade samoas girl scout cookies

I grew up in Girl Scouts. I started as a Daisy and made it all the way to being a Senior. I was obsessed with the pins and buttons and patches. My neighbor Jen and I spent countless hours together working our way through our books trying to earn as many badges as possible. I distinctly remember having both a vest and a sash as Junior because I had too many patches to fit on just one. My favorite patch of all was an image of Juliette Gordon Low wearing a fancy dress, in shades of pink and brown. I liked it so much that my mom agreed to sew one on both my vest and my sash. One day a bottle of bleach leaked in the washing room, and it ended up coating a fair portion of my vest, whiting out all the batches. I cried for days.
Aside from earning all sorts of swag, Girl Scouts led to a lot of amazing opportunities for me. I went rappelling. I went canoeing. I went to sock hops & lock-ins & tons of workshops. But most of all, I sold cookies. My sister and I sold countless boxes of cookies. I remember cookie season well. My dad would take our order forms to work and ask people to buy cookies, making sure everything was split evenly between us. We would stand with our troops at grocery stores every weekend. When the cases came in, our living room turned into cookie central. We organized each order in a different corner, double counting all the boxes to make sure everything was just right. And then it turned into a giant delivery operation. There is no doubt in my mind that selling thousands of boxes of cookies helped lead me to my life of baking. The excitement that only came once a year now comes every week as I sling baked goods on the daily.
The Girl Scouts started selling homemade cookies in the early 1900s, but starting using factories in the late 30's. Currently there are two licensed Girl Scout cookie vendors, ABC and Little Brownie Bakers. This year ABC revealed that four of their cookies were vegan! Those are the Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Thanks-A-Lot, and Lemonades. The only problem is that the vendors generally sell cookies in different regions. I haven't been able to find any of the vegan cookies in my area. While I am sure that I could wrangle a few boxes online, my conscious won't let me do it. The point of Girl Scout cookies is for the girls to be actively involved, and they intentionally don't allow online sales to promote hands-on learning. Since I can't find the vegan cookies in my area and the cookies I crave the most still aren't veganized, I don't feel too bad about baking my own. I really liked the filling from the samoa hamantashen I made, so if the caramel recipe seems familiar now you know why.

leaves and flours vegan homemade samoas girl scout cookies
Shortbread Cookies
1 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips
1 tbl coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the Earth Balance until fluffy. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat until combined. Add flour in two parts. Mixing until a thick dough forms. Roll dough out between sheets parchment, with additional flour to sprinkle if needed, until 1/3" thick. I cut the dough using a 2.5" cookie cutter and then cut the center with a piping tip. Alternatively, if you have a donut cutter it would be great to use here. Bake 15-19 minutes until edges are browned. Allow to cool completely. While the cookies are cooling melt the chocolate and whisk in the coconut oil. Dip bottoms of shortbread in chocolate and allow to set.

Coconut Caramel
1 cup full fat canned coconut milk
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

In a small sauce pan combine coconut milk, brown sugar and Earth Balance. Allow to come to a low boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the mixture has thickened into a syrup and smells like caramel. It will also darken in color. While this mixture is simmering, spread your shredded coconut on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 4-7 minutes. After 4 minutes stir the coconut to ensure that the coconut isn't browning unevenly. Remove when half of the coconut is lightly browned and continue to stir on the pan while it is cooling, as the coconut will continue to toast while the pan is hot. Stir the coconut and the vanilla extract into the caramel.

I found it easiest to pipe the caramel onto the cookies. You don't need a piping tip, just cut the bottom of the bag. I piped a ring around each cookie, then lightly pressed the caramel flat with my hand. I had a little trouble with it sticking to my hand instead of the cookie, so I lightly greased my palm with coconut oil. Drizzle the remaining chocolate in stripes on the top of the cookie. I added a few more chocolate stripes than you would find on a classic samoa. But who can blame me, there's no such thing as too much chocolate.

leaves and flours vegan homemade samoas girl scout cookies

If you have vegan Girl Scout cookies in your area and are interested in arranging some sort of mail swap, I am all ears! I could trade you all sorts of terrific vegan goods from the DMV area. But there are a few things to keep in mind when you are dealing with the girls!

leaves and flours vegan homemade samoas girl scout cookies

Heck yeah! The Girl Scouts are amazing for a whole slew of other reasons too. Like their huge push in science, math,& technology programs and their trans* acceptance! Was anyone else in a troop growing up? Or do you have children that are currently involved? I would be really interested in hearing what sorts of events were popular these days.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cheesecake Brownies

Sometimes you need a recipe in your arsenal that takes no time or effort to prepare. It bakes while you are paying bills or doing laundry or some other pesky task that always ends up falling on your day off. These brownies are one of those "recipes". I am not ashamed to use a box mix. Sometimes it's just really convenient. I know that I can mix together flour and cocoa powder and sugar and baking powder. But sometimes it's just easier to dump everything out of a box, and not worry about if I ran out of sugar and forgot to buy more again. For the box mix, I generally prefer Ghirardelli Double Chocolate. There are a few other vegan brownie mixes, but I don't remember them off the top of my head. I found Ghiradelli and never went back. I have used all sorts of egg replacers when using brownie mixes. While blending a can of black beans is still one of my favorites, I decided to try something else this time I went with yogurt. I had a little cup of coconut yogurt ready to explode, and I thought I would make use of it. It worked really well for me. Just use 1/4 cup for every egg you need to replace.

leaves and flours vegan easy cheesecake brownies
Cheesecake Brownies
one 9" pan

One batch brownie batter*
8 oz non-dairy cream cheese, I prefer Tofutti
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Ener-G egg

Make your brownie batter* (As I already confessed I used the box mix combined with 1/3 cup water, 1/3 oil, and 1/4 cup coconut yogurt). Pour 3/4 of the batter into a 9" pan that is well greased or lined with parchment. Make your cheesecake filling by blending the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and Ener-G together until smooth. Dollop the cheesecake filling on top of the brownie. Then spoon remaining brownie batter on top. Swirl lightly with a chopstick or butter knife. Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out almost cleanly. You want these brownies to be slightly underbaked so they stay incredibly fudgey.

leaves and flours vegan easy cheesecake brownies

Do you have a store mix that you turn into something more amazing than it normally is? I'm always interesting in hearing how people modify things to better fit their needs. I'm all into shortcuts lately. Between work, getting hooked on a book series, and getting back into a solid gym routine it seems like there is less & less time to spend in the kitchen. I have been comilingp a list of other quick desserts that will satisfy my sweet tooth. Baklava is next!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Campfire Bars

The whole beginning of the week was a buzz of snow anticipation. There were all sorts of magical predictions. I heard everything from five inches to a foot of snow was going to settle down on DC. I was baking tons of extra loaves of bread to keep up with the demand at the grocery store. Even I, the winter humbug, was starting to get excited about this snow storm. I stocked up on library books & flour and even splurged on two new boxes of tea in anticipation of spending my day off bundled under blankets watching movies and playing games with my housemates. I could practically smell the cinnamon buns. Today was not a real snow day. It snowed a lot, but nothing stuck and everything went along just as normal. I begrudgingly put on my boots and grabbed an umbrella and walked to my tax appointment to find that the office was closed. And no one bothered to call or email. After I walked home I changed into my gym clothes, only to receive an email that all the classes had been canceled for the remainder of the day. At least they emailed? These campfire bars are a lot like my "snow day". I had pretty high expectations, but they turned out to be lackluster and frustrating. Browsing around on the internet it looks like they have worked for almost everyone else except me. I think the culprit is the vegan marshmallows. While delicious, they don't melt quite like their gelatin-based counterparts. Because their was no gooey marshmallow coating all the bits of graham crackers and granola, my jar mix never actually formed bars. In the height of my frustration I did eat all the bits of marshmallow and a few Earth Balance soaked chunks of graham cracker.

leaves and flours vegan campfire bars leaves and flours vegan campfire bars leaves and flours vegan campfire bars

After trying to finagle the two new flavors into my stash, I have also come to the brutal realization that I might have too much tea. I think I am close to 30 or 40 boxes & a few bags of loose tea. At one point this afternoon their was an avalanche from the cabinet when I removed a box (no, I was never good at Jenga). I am always itching to try a lot of new varieties, but end up with many boxes that I will never finish. So if anyone is ever interested in a tea swap, I am all ears! You probably shouldn't enable me, but I am also always open to tea suggestions! I am largely a black tea fan. But I also love rooibos, white, & all sorts of herbal tea. I will drink green tea occasionally, but it's towards the bottom of the list. What are your favorites?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spring Fever Cake

I remember my junior high history teacher very distinctly. His name was Mr. Cecil. He was a crotchety old man with a strong appreciation for Tennessee history and high water trousers. He also happened to be my basketball coach during the same years. Which means I had the distinct pleasure of frequently witnessing him jog around the court in his above the knee, white linen shorts. Starting in March, I got to hear the same lecture twice every Friday in both class and basketball practice. It was about the perils of spring fever. How it warps the mind of many a dedicated scholar and/or athlete. One stops focusing on what is truly important and yields to the desire to frolic in warmer weather. I am currently a victim of spring fever. All I can think about is iced tea, bike rides, sunshine, & fresh produce. I have even succumbed to purchasing several pints of over-priced berries. I couldn't wait any longer. I wanted those bright, sweet & tart little bursts of pure happiness, and I wanted them now. I was even reckless enough to forego folding the berries into my standard morning fare of granola or oatmeal and instead piled them on top of cake. That I ate it for breakfast! I wonder what sort of lecture this would merit if Mr. Cecil could see me now.

leaves and flours vegan vanilla cake with fresh fruit berries

Vanilla Cake
Makes one 6" cake, approximately 3 inches deep

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup oil
1 tbl vanilla extract
1 Ener-G egg

Make Ener-G egg. While resting, curdle coconut milk and vinegar in a bowl. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla to bowl. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until just combined. Pour into a lightly oiled & floured 6" cake pan. If your pan is not 3 inches deep, then split the batter and bake in two pans. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are baking the cake in two pans, you should reduced the baking time by ten minutes and check every few minutes until done.
Top with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream and layer on fresh fruit. I used blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. After I cut the slices I served them with additional berries and slices of kiwi.

leaves and flours vegan vanilla cake with fresh fruit berries leaves and flours vegan vanilla cake with fresh fruit berries leaves and flours vegan vanilla cake with fresh fruit berries

Spring fever has never looked so good. Is everyone else suffering too?! I keep trying to wear clothing that isn't quite seasonally appropriate yet too. I will don a cardigan, leave my coat on the couch, and then shiver running to my car, darting snow flurries. I am just so ready for warm weather and longer days. I feel infinitely better in every season that isn't winter.