Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tin Roof Sundae & Chocolate Milk

leaves and flours vegan

Aside from Just Like Honey & Ricemellow Creme, I have found a third product that I really love from Suzanne's, their Chocolate Rice Nectar . The easiest thing to liken it to is Hershey's syrup. It's thick and pourable. It's smooth and chocolatey and sweet. The best part is it doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup, potassium sorbate, vanillin, and other artificial flavors. Their rice nectar is just brown rice syrup and cocoa powder. It stirs into almond milk to make chocolate milk, much like Hershey's syrup. The chocolate syrup also makes a great topping, in case you too wanted to make a sundae. A tin roof sundae is generally vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and spanish peanuts. I didn't have any spanish peanuts around, so I just used what was lying around in my cabinets. I also used Luna & Larry's Vanilla Island coconut ice cream. It is currently my favorite store-bought vanilla ice cream. Homemade will always be better.

leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan

I know it's a little late for spring cleaning, but I have been feeling that urge strike me. Maybe it's just because people are moving in and out of my house again. Maybe it's because I am feeling a little too cluttered. Last night I finally hung up some of the artwork I have had leaning against a wall since January. This week I am hoping to clean out my closets and get rid of all the clothes I never wear anymore, or don't fit, or bought intending to alter but won't get to. I also want to clean out the kitchen cabinets and donate all the pans and dishes we don't need.
I feel like I have to purge a lot of my possessions about once a year to keep myself from gathering way too many unnecessary objects. In the last week I have been given a second ice cream machine and a milkshake machine! While neither of those are going anywhere, I also have at least one broken blender, a griddle I have never used, and two panini presses.
There is a shed full of bicycle parts that haven't seen daylight in years. They have been stacked in there with half used bottles of spray paint and gardening equipment since several seasons before I moved in. I am hoping to tackle it all. Let's hope I can keep up this motivation to get further than just reorganizing the spice rack again.

leaves and flours vegan
This week I have also cleaned up my Google Reader finally too. I decided to switch to Bloglovin, since I have heard a few dissapointing things about the way pictures look in Feedly. I pared down my reading list and am hoping to feel a little less overwhelmed when I unplug from my computer for a few days in a row. If you want to join me on Bloglovin, you can do so here!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just Like Honey Baklava

leaves and flours vegan

Sometime's I run across a business that I am really pleased with, and Suzanne's Specialties is one of those groups. They are responsible for Ricemellow, a vegan marshmallow creme that I adore. It's great for making creamy fudge or sticky rice crispy treats. A few months ago while browsing around a local natural food shop I found a few of their other products, and knew I would have to give them a try. I had previously bought a jar of honey flavored agave before, but I didn't feel like the taste was really there. As soon as I cracked the seal on the jar of Suzanne's Just Like Honey, I knew it was the best faux honey I would find. I meant to bake with the remainder of the jar, but its contents kept slowly disappearing into cups of tea (and sneakily being spooned into mouths). I finally got a second jar, and used it for my original intention. I have never had baklava before, but I feel like the taste of this is very close to the "real" deal.

leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan
adapted from the Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 jar Suzanne's Just Like Honey (agave or brown rice syrup should work as well)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 package filo dough (thawed for several hours)
1 1/2 lb walnuts, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons Earth Balance, Melted

In a saucepan combine Just Like Honey (or 2 cups of either agave, brown rice syrup, or a mixture of the two), water, & sugar. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until the mixture has reduced slightly and formed a syrup. Stir in vanilla bean paste. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine chopped walnuts and cinnamon. Melt Earth Balance in another small dish. Remove filo from package and trim filo to fit easily in 9x13" baking pan. I lined my pan with parchment paper to easily remove all the baklava, but you could just butter the pan instead. Place 4 sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan. Brush the top sheet with butter, sprinkle with a thin & even layer of walnuts. Top with two more sheets of filo and butter again. Sprinkle with another layer of nuts. Repeat this until you are nearing the end of your filo dough. You want a lot of layers! Place 6 sheets of filo on top and butter it one last time. Cut the tops of the filo with a sharp knife into as many pieces as you desire. I cut approximately 20 squares. Bake for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden. While the baklava is still hot you want to slowly pour the cooled syrup over it. I poured it in thirds, allowing the syrup to soak for a few minutes before I added more. Once that is finished allow the baklava to sit overnight at room temperature before eating it. It's difficult I know, but it is something that gets better as it rests. If you want to play with flavors a little, you can substitute the vanilla for a little rosewater or orange blossom water. You could also add orange zest. Rosewater and pistachios might make a really interesting twist on the classic! I have also seen people use almonds or pecans instead of walnuts. I feel compelled to infuse lavender into everything this time of year, but I do feel like this would be a great place for it. Lavender & honey are an amazing flavor combination.

leaves and flours vegan
I highly recommend Just Like Honey. It is great drizzled on a peanut butter banana sandwich, especially when heated up in a panini press. It dissolves nicely in tea, with just the right amount of sweetness and flavor shining through. It won't do much for your allergies, but it's great by the spoonful regardless. I haven't tried it in a honey cake yet, but I don't see how it could fail.
Is there a new ingredient that you are crazy for? Have you ever tried Bee-Free Honee? I hear it's a little less honey flavored, and a little more appley.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strawberry Blood Orange Popsicles

I know technically it's still a week and a half away, but that summer feeling is in the air. Maybe it's just because I live in an attic that is already sweltering, but I can't get summer off my mind. I am craving popsicles, fresh squeezed lemonade, & pitchers of iced tea. I just want to wake up in the cool of the morning and go to a farmer's market and head home with a basket overflowing with local produce.
Since I haven't been quite able to do all of that, I took a little shortcut with these popsicles. I used a pound of frozen strawberries and a bottle of pre-squeezed blood orange juice. Because my strawberries were already frozen, it only took an hour for my popsicles to re-freeze after blending. If you use fresh strawberries, it will take a few hours. As I made the mixture, I realized that I put away my popsicle molds at the end of last summer and can't remember where I stored them. In a moment of desperation I decided to use a set of silicone cupcake liners and wooden spoons to improvise. I see a lot of people use paper cups, so this is even a little more eco-friendly. It also doesn't hurt that it made the popsicles look like little flowers.

leaves and flours vegan strawberry blood orange popsicles
Strawberry Blood Orange Popsicles
variable yield, depending on popsicle mold

1 pound strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cup blood orange juice
1-2 tbl agave, depending on desired sweetness
Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. If using frozen strawberries, this will immediately result in an amazing smoothie (only half of my puree ended up in popsicle molds, the other half ended up in a mason jar with a straw). Pour into popsicle molds and allow to freeze until firm.

This morning I got to sleep in, and tonight I get to sell lemonade and cupcakes at an event for the store. Tomorrow I am heading to Six Flags for a day in the sun with several of my friends. I will ride most of the roller coasters at least twice. And probably be on the drop tower at least 4 times. I even get an extra day off this week since I worked so much the last few weeks, so this weekend we are sneaking off to Philadelphia again. All sorts of wonderful things happen in warmer weather. I'm sure there will be ice cream. I'm so happy to have a few days to recover from the craziness that has been this spring. It's important to take time to let yourself rest and enjoy life. Sometimes I forget just how crucial that is to maintain my sanity.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Local Favorites: Fasika & Dama

leaves and flours vegan cake dama bakery

Today is my birthday! Things have been so hectic for the last few weeks, months, year, etc, that I decided it would be best to have a really relaxed birthday. I slept in, got bagels with Greg, and made myself a cheesecake. We walked around the portrait gallery for an hour, watched some TV, and are headed to my favorite local restaurant for a small dinner with friends. Fasika is in the Petworth neighborhood of DC. If you have never had Ethiopian food before, then DC is the place to try it. DC has the most dense Ethiopian population of everywhere that isn't the country itself! So you know it's going to be authentic. Their vegetable platter is unbelievable and a ton of food. Greg and I can eat dinner with a 25% tip included, for $20, and be stuffed for several hours afterwards.
In the last month, Fasika paired with Dama Bakery to offer a large selection of vegan desserts! Their case is always stocked with a selection of tea cookies and there is a large assortment of cakes. I have had the fruit cake and the rum cake, but nothing quite compares with their mille-feuille. Akin to an icebox cake, it's simply layers of filo topped with pastry cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. As the cake sits for longer, the moisture from the pastry cream seeps into the filo making it softer and more cake like. I have talked about another local bakery's napoleon that I also hold near and dear to my heart, but Dama's is just a teensy bit better than Chez Hareg's. For $4 a slice, you have to try this cake.

leaves and flours vegan cake dama bakery

After two slices of this cake, I became obsessed with it. I spent a solid two hours on the internet learning everything I could about mille-feuille and trying to figure out exactly what they make their pastry cream from. I am still stumped. But I did learn a few really interesting things about Dama Bakery. Dama is run by a pair of sisters. Almaz, the sister who is responsible for the sweeter side of things, was the pastry chef for President Clinton! I don't care what political affiliation one does or does not hold, it's pretty amazing that you can buy vegan desserts fit for a president at your local restaurant.
I will undoubtedly be recreating this dessert soon. Do you have a favorite pastry cream or pudding that you recommend? Sometimes it's the simplest things that are really the most important. Vanilla pudding is one of the easiest things to make, but I feel like it's one of the trickiest things to make that actually stands out in someone's mind. Somehow Dama has created something so special, that it's the only thing I want to celebrate my birthday eating!