Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Frosting

My sweet tooth was triggered with my vegan lavender cupcakes, so I decided to make some more cupcakes.  Since I'm not going to the farmers market until Saturday morning and I'm out of eggs, vegan cupcakes to the rescue!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled vinegar
1 cup water
Mint frosting (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake muffins.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together. Then add the oil, vanilla, vinegar, and water. Mix well. Pour into the prepared cupcake tin and bake for about 30 minutes.

1/2 teaspoon mint extract
2 cups powdered sugar
6 teaspoons soy milk

Mix the ingredients together using an electric mixer. Add more or less soy milk depending on your desired consistency.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Italian Sweet Pepper Sauce

I bought a few Italian sweet red peppers at the farmers market last week.  I hadn't cooked with them before, but they looked so fresh and tempting.  They are similar to a bell pepper, only longer and more narrow.  And they taste even sweeter than its bell pepper counterpart.  I first thought about stuffing them with goat cheese and then roasting them.  Then I got a little addicted to the goat cheese one morning and promptly ran out.  Oops.  So, a new sauce emerged. 

3 Italian sweet red peppers
1 large clove of garlic
Chili powder
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup fat free milk
Freshly torn basil leaves (about 6)
Whole wheat pasta cooked al dente

Add the peppers (deseeded and trimmed), garlic, and a pinch of salt to a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Remove the pepper mix and add to a medium sized skillet over medium to high heat.  Add a dash of the chili powder to offset the sweetness of the peppers.  Then add the cream cheese and milk.  Continually mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.  Toss with the pasta and add the torn basil on top.  Serve while hot. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vegan Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

I love the smell of lavender!  It's second only to the smell of fresh bread from the oven.  I decided to go vegan for this recipe mainly because I was completely out of eggs.  I need to go grocery shopping....I digress.  These cupcakes are light and not too overwhelming in either sweetness nor flavor.

1 cup plain soy milk (unsweetened)
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 vegetable oil
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
Lemon frosting

Preheat the oven to 350. Line muffins pans.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon and milk together. Sit aside for 10 minutes to allow the milk to curdle.  You have now made soy buttermilk!  (So much cheaper than buttermilk you buy in the can do this with regular milk and lemon as well.)

In a medium sized bowl, combing the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix briefly.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract together.  Add the flour mixture and combine until smooth.  Sprinkle in the lavender, roughly rubbing the lavender between your fingers are you add (this will help release some of the flavor of the flower).  Mix and then add the mixture to the prepared pan.  I made mini-cupcakes which took about 12 minutes to cook.  If you use regular sized muffin tins, increase the time to about 15 minutes.  What carefully to not brown.  Top with the frosting.

Note - The flowers on top are made out of gum paste.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ravioli with Mushrooms and Mascarpone with Pesto

In addition to the dishes in my previous post, I also made homemade ravioli with portobello mushrooms and mascapone.  It's a little more labor intensive and requires a longer recipe, hence the split from that post.  This is my favorite ravioli recipe (no cheating with wonton on wrappers!).  You do need a couple of tools (yay for kitchen gadgets!): ravioli press, rolling pin, and a pasta maker - hand crank. Warning, it does take a couple of hours to make, add in a little extra time if it's your first try at making ravioli.  It takes some getting used to in order to figure out what is a good consistency and how thick to make them.  Trust me, it's completely worth it!

Olive oil

In true home cooking fashion - particularly Italian home cooking - there are no amounts of how much to use of each.  Don't panic!  Stay with me....

In a large bowl, crack two eggs.  Then add in flour.  You want approximately one cup of flour for each egg.  Then put in about three tablespoons of olive oil.  Then add a pinch or two of salt.  Using your hands, yes be prepared to get a little messy, combine the ingredients well.  Knead until the dough is smooth.  If you're noticing that the dough is sticky after kneading it for several minutes, add some more flour.  If it's crumbly and dry, add some more olive oil (or a splash of water).  What's important is that the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Form a ball and cover with a damp towel.  Allow to rest for about 30 minutes. 

2 packages of baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 green onion sprigs , chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone (found in most grocery stores)
Salt and pepper

In a food processor, add the mushrooms and chop (much faster and easier than doing it by hand).

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, do not allow to brown.  Then add the mushrooms and onion.  Cook for about 7-8 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices.  Continue to cook for a few more minutes until most of the liquid is cooked off.  Remove from heat. In a medium sized bowl, add the mushroom mixture.  Then stir in the mascapone.  The heat will melt the mascarpone somewhat and that's fine.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Fresh basil
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Pine nuts, lightly toasted

In a food processor, add the garlic cloves, pinch of salt, olive oil (about 1/3 cup), Parmesan cheese, a handful of pine nuts and basil together.  Blend until smooth.  You may need to adjust by adding more olive oil if it's very thick or more basil if there's too much olive oil. 

Breaking off a handful of dough, run it through the pasta maker on the thickest setting, making a flat lasagna-like sheet.  After running it through a couple of times to get a smooth sheet, lower the thickness setting by one.  Run the sheet through a couple of times.  Keep doing that until the thickness is at 4.  I've found this to be ideal.  Not too thick and not too thin to tear.  The sheet will be long

Laying the sheet on top of the ravioli press, with one end lined up with the end of the ravioli press, put about a 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each mold.  Fold the "extra" dough on top of itself.  Then roll the dough out on the press.  This will seal all edges.  Be aggressive with it!  Press hard or else the edges won't close.

Push out the ravioli and lightly dust with corn starch or flour.  (Corn starch is good if you're going to wait a couple of hours to cook - the dough will get gooey if you don't put corn starch on it.)

Repeat the above steps for the rest of the dough and filling.


Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add in 5-6 ravioli at a time (don't overcrowd).  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove from water.

Toss the ravioli with the pesto and serve hot.

Bridal Shower

My very good friend, Kelly, is getting married this weekend.  After many years of separation, she is marrying her high school sweetheart...I know!  Incredibly sweet.  A couple weeks ago, I threw her a bridal shower.  Since her soon-to-be hubby is Italian and the girl LOVES Italian food, I had my theme. 

The spread!

 The favors were bottles of olive oil with fresh rosemary (to my helper Kelly - another friend Kelly - sorry for making a mess of your coffee table with my not-so-graceful pouring).

 And yes, those are custom tags...And yes, I am THAT corny that I put "Olive You".  It's cute! 
Then there was the food.  I had antipasto, the recipe is so simple!  Marinate chopped veggies in olive oil, salt pepper, oregano, and lemon. The grill up! Refrigerate and serve cold.
There was the Insalata di Rucola, or Arugula Salad, with wedge tomatoes, sprinkled with Romano Parmesan. I had two dressings, one a simple balsamic vinaigrette and the other was a creamy dressing. 

There was the Pane alle Erbe (Herb Bread, recipe is also in a previous post).  Perfect for dipping in the three different types of olive oils...truffle, rosemary, and a peppery olive oil.  Yum!

For munching, there was also the caprese salad with fresh basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella from the farmers market the day before.

For one of the main dishes, I made a dish that my father made us growing up all the time.  Very simple.  Traditionally, my father did this over the stove top in a large pot.  I put it in a couple of crock pots.  Slice the bell peppers and onions and place in the bottom of the crock pot.  Then crumble up sweet Italian sausage (take out of the casing) and put it in the pot.  Pour in one container of tomato sauce.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, as well as a dash of oregano.  Cook on low for about 5 hours. Food of my childhood!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes with Honey and Ricotta

Here is another recipe I made for the going away party.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay for the party, so I'm dying to know how things went over.  :-(  I had to go to the doctors for lovely cracked cartilage along my sternum.  Not so fun, but at least I'll be able to get some amazing sleep tonight...they gave me Tylenol with codeine.  Yeah, I'll be going to bed in about ten minutes.

5-6 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sliced French or Italian bread
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1 additional tablespoon clover honey
Basil leaves, roughly torn

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, honey, thyme, salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Spread the tomatoes onto a baking sheet in one layer.  Bake the tomatoes for about an hour, until they start to shrivel and resemble sun dried tomatoes (yes! this is how you make sun dried tomatoes). 

Lightly toast the bread until just starting to become golden brown.  Spread about a teaspoon of ricotta on the bread, followed by some tomatoes.  Very lightly drizzle the additional honey on top and finish off with the torn basil leaves.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Tomorrow is the going away party for a co-worker.  She has declared a food throwdown!  We are broken into two teams and I am the leader of my team.  Lots of goodies are bound to be a plenty tomorrow!

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 pinches of salt
1 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
4 eggs
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly grease a baking sheet.  In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon.  Continuously stir over low heat until it pulls away from the sides of the pan (only a couple of minutes).  Remove from heat and cool for a couple of minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time.  Make sure each egg is incorporated completely before adding another.  Add the cheese and the pepper and nutmeg.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and pipe small mounds onto the baking sheets.  They do not spread, so you can put them pretty close together. Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and lightly brown.

It can be served warm or cold.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chocolate and Coconut Pie

When I become particularly stressed and/or emotional, I tend to cook.  A lot.  So on Sunday I spent most of the day baking and cooking (the farro with butternut was one result).  Another such result was a chocolate and coconut pie, which my coworkers benefited from yesterday.  I was a little hesitant to let them know that the main ingredient was tofu, but people were pleasantly surprised (and yes, I was holding my breath as the took their first bites).  This recipe may easily be made vegan (I didn't have vegan chocolate on hand and I used my standard pie crust recipe, so it wasn't so vegan this time around.)  And I have to admit up front that the picture I'm using below is not my picture.  I forgot to take a picture until it was mostly eaten at work.  And it was on my cell phone.  It didn't turn out well at all.  So, I'm going for the pretty picture as opposed to the brown mess from yesterday.  Thank you google images!

Pie Crust

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, dice
1/4 cup shortening
7 to 8 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Mixing with your hands, add butter and incorporate into flour mixture about 2 minutes. Add shortening and incorporate until the dough clumps together when squeezed, about 1 minute. Add the water. Dough is moist enough when it is moistened through but is not wet when pressed. Try not to overwork the dough or it may become tough.

Gather into a ball and turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Press it into a flat disk and wrap with the plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out the pie crust and place in a pie dish.  Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove and completely cool.


12 ounces silken firm tofu, excess water removed
1 bag melted semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup (honey would work here too)
1/2 cup coconut

In a medium bowl, break apart the tofu with a fork.  Add the melted chocolate. Using and electric mixture, beat well until mostly smooth.  Add the vanilla extra, maple syrup, and coconut and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust.  It will be thick.  It holds its shape well, so feel free to have a large mound.  Cool in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours before serving.  Add cool whip or whipped cream with fresh berries.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Farro and Butternut Squash

Have you ever eaten something the same way for months on end.  It gets old.  So I worked on a new farro recipe this weekend.  And thankfully, it worked...after a couple of trys that is. 

Sorry for it not rotating! Silly computer.
2 cups farro
Sea salt
4 cups water
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 large red onion, roughly chopped (not too small!)
1 tablespoon thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumble

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl combine the balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the thyme, dash of salt, butternut squash, and onion.  Toss to coat the vegetables.  Place the vegetables on a baking pan (single layer works best) and roast for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot, boil the water and farro together.  When done place in a bowl.  Add the roasted vegetables.  Add in another teaspoon of oil.  Season with salt (just a pinch or two is normally plenty).  Top with the goat cheese and serve while warm.