Monday, June 28, 2010

Vegan S'mores Cupcakes (Summertime Blues Lifted!)

vegan s'mores cupcakes
This time a cupcake craving had taken hold. I found my chocolate deficit a little to much to handle, too. Then, a candy bar commercial (okay, it was Hershey's) with Rascal Flatts starring and the s'mores making taking place around the little gathering of all beautiful, skinny people chowing Hershey bars, graham crackers and toasted marshmallows, just about did me in! I said, "That's it--I want s'mores!" That's when the cookbooks came out, pans were sprayed and flour, sugar, graham crackers and chocolate gathered--then this lovely gem of a dessert: vegan s'mores cupcakes had arrived! All without fear of fire, sticks and melty sugar coating my hands. Will miracles never cease?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stella's Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Feeding That Darn Cat on A Hot Tin Roof at Midnight)

I'm going to be perfectly honest with you all here and tell the story like it happened. It was nine o'clock or so last night and I was nursing a mighty craving--I needed a dessert fix. Not an ice cream sort--though there's been aplenty of ice cream eatin' going on--but I craved a hot-from-the-oven-with-a-tall-glass-of-ice-cold-soymilk kind. The temperature reached near one hundred yesterday--heat index was up over the hundreds. This is not Texas or New Mexico--we're in the hilly part of the Ozarks in the middle of the Eastern side of Missouri--WHAT, I ask, is going on?

I hunkered down and kept cool with my canine kids, crochet project and new quilt I'm working on at hand. (I've even gone so far as to put up a quilt wall for 'workshopping' quilting ideas in my lair--I'll do a post about such matters later.) I like toggling back and forth between small motor skill action and big motor skill action.

I wouldn't say I'm the world's best cookie maker, but I am maybe one of the top one hundred. . . thousand or so. (Seriously--the blogs of bakers I follow AMAZE me!) But, the truth is: I can bake, too. I'm not shy about saying so. Mistakes aside, when it works, it works--what can I say? I haven't met a cookie I didn't like. (For that matter, I haven't met a cake I didn't like either.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fresh Homemade Basil Pasta Tossed with Sundried Tomatoes, Broccoli & Cauliflower in Mustard Cream Sauce (The Basil Chronicles in Summer)

The flavors of sweet basil embedded in the pasta was amazing against the backdrop of the creamy mustard and vinegar sauce paired with the crunchiness of fresh cauliflower and broccoli. Added to this was the tartness of the sundried tomatoes--all tossed together in a large bowl for WOW--probably the best new flavor experiment I've tried in many months!
Enter the season of fresh basil. An herb that happily makes it into nearly all my cooking from here on out--until our first freeze--and sometimes after. Basil is a cook's best Hot Weather friend. It LOVES the heat! It also loves pasta--and luckily, so do we.

I had a hankering for some fresh pasta. I am now proficient enough with my pasta making skills that I simply toss the "oo" flour into a bowl and work it together by "touch" until I think it is ready to be kneaded through several runs through the pasta machine. (The ONLY flour you should ever make fresh pasta from is "oo". Use semolina when you want to store your pasta--or dry it out--but for fresh, only "oo"--this can be found at or at your local Italian grocer or at really swanky cooking supply stores). Fresh herb pasta is so simple, it ought to be a sin.

Cuttings from basil is a daily activity now. Just place some in a jar and set it next to your kitchen sink and I guarantee you will be using this magical herb daily--slap it between two slices of whole wheat bread and a swipe of vegan mayo--YUM! This here is your average, every-gardener-should-have basil: Genovese. I also freeze clusters of basil just as you see here. I simply place this entire bouquet of leaves into a freezer bag, make sure the air is out of the bag, and come December when I'm longing for the aroma of fresh basil for a lasagna dish, I crumble the green leaves into my pan and the next thing you know, the summer-basil-feeling is back--almost as if it were June again. Of course there is your vegan pesto you can freeze as well, but I prefer the crunched up frozen leaves. 
Red Rubin basil.
Boxwood basil.
Magical Michael basil.
Mammoth basil.

So yesterday, I longed for a pool to jump into as the heat index crept up to 110! I could slow cook a meal in that temperature for crying out loud! (Though lounging by a pool in a bathing suit did sound nice, the thought of facing a mirror in a two-piece did NOT.) I can't think of anything harder on the psyche than a woman my age trying on bathing suits--no matter how wonderful the More Magazine spread of "Look Good in A Swim Suit At Any Age" might be--(those women are all air brushed)--however, the airbrush is not in the fitting room at Kohl's with Vegan Thyme--and you know exactly what I'm talking about ladies! So, about the basil.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Photo Friday: Scenes from My Organic Garden

Organic Gardening | Photo Friday: Scenes from My Organic Garden

I'm going to try to stay positive as the heat usually reserved for August in St. Louis (heat index of 105 predicted today and for the next five days) but has decided to arrive in June! What this could mean is that we are in for one Long Hot Summer. I have a deep love for my garden as I know I could not have as nearly as beautiful a landscape were I living in a much cooler climate. But for crying out loud, an entire summer of this is not good for anyone. Trying to make lemonade from lemons, I headed out to get some gorgeous shots of the yard this morning. First up: my lillies. Last year I bid on an assortment of approximately twenty beautiful lillies at our garden club's silent auction and won. I had no idea what I'd do with them all, I just knew I wanted them. I planted them in clusters throughout the yard. I am so glad I did because they are just gorgeous right now.
I just had to have a fig tree. HAD to have one! Well, my local nursery finally got several trees in and I placed this one on my deck. I have no idea how to grow figs. According to my friends at the nursery, these figs will be ripe in about six weeks. I can hardly wait. Then, for winter, I am to bring the plant into the garage, allow it to go dormant. In spring, bring it out, re-pot it and set it outside again. Hmmm. I am skeptical. But for now, I have a fig tree.
My new apricot tree. I decided it was time to plant some fruit trees. This is an investment of sorts because fruit bearing trees don't just magically produce fruit once you've planted them--who knew, right? It will take two-to-three years before these trees are established enough to actually bear fruit that I can pick. (That is, if the deer don't eat the tree first!) In fact, this one apricot here should really be plucked. But I couldn't stand the thought of doing so given my strong affinity for the apricot (plus I had already eaten one that fell off when I was planting it and it was the best darn apricot I've had in my life). So, I wait for this one to ripen, will pluck and promptly eat. But any other fruit products this tree creates will be removed so the energy in the tree does not get wasted on fruit at this early stage.
Thornless blackberry bush. Very young fruit. But officially it is blackberry season in Missouri right now. In case you're heading this way any time soon, hurry up or you'll miss it!
Nice. Very nice. 

Good looking tomato plants. That is until you look at the tops of them where the deer have consumed a third of ALL of my tomato plants! My mantra: I love my deer. I love my deer.
My square foot planting of my herb garden has really done well. The spaces are gradually filling in.
The two globe-shaped things in the front there are "bush basil"--I love these plants! I come outside every evening and snip herbs from my beds and add whatever I feel like to dinner. This was the best square foot garden investment ever!

This square foot space was an after thought. I plant everything with "companion" planting in mind--prevents bad things from happening to your plants, plus alleviates the need for cancer-causing chemical sprays.
In this bed we have our pumpkins, canteloupe, corn, radishes, and beets.
More square foot veggie garden shots. With SFG, it is much easier to see early on which groups of veggies performed best and which did not. I have a few blank non-performing bare spots that will be planted with cool weather crops later this summer. 
Here you have your celery, Swiss chard, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula (only the easiest lettuce to grow on the planet), other lettuce--romaine, my pea vines--which are now dying back and will need pulling out so I can ready the area for my next crop of peas to plant later this summer--first of August--so I'll have peas in the fall.
I love bush beans. So easy, such good producers. Inevitably there are pests that feed on my leaves as the beans emerge. But overall--these bugs are no problem. They have to eat, too. As the plants mature, I find that the "eating" of the leaves tames down, maybe some other bigger bug came along and feasted on them.
Buy a package of bush beans if you've never grown them
before. They'd even perform in a container if that is your only option.
Look at my lovely squash blossoms! Soon, very soon yellow and 
green squash. I planted three seeds per two square feet because as you will see, these babies like room!
Baby cuke--is that not the cutest?

Oh, Hello! Mr. Snake decided to sun himself while I was mowing and almost met his fate with the mower before he promptly wiggled away scaring me half to death and nearly had me mowing my own foot over. I am deathly afraid of two things in the world: mice and snakes. Near fainting when I see either--no joke. Luckily, I have been practicing yoga breaths and stare downs when I encounter snakes in the yard. So far, I am much improved from my opera screaming I do when I see them. Snakes are good for the yard. . . so I'm told.

On planting trees in clay/rock soil. Two words: not fun. Okay? See exhibit A. This boulder was what my shovel hit when I was digging a hole for my new apple tree. Nuff said.

This is a shot of my lower level in the back yard. Our home site is situated on five seperate tiered hills. (The house being on one hill, then another hill below, etc.) I have mowed a tier down closer to the woods--below this one you see in the photo here. My hope is to keep pulling my garden down hill, planting more trees, creating walking paths and making mini-garden scapes on each level. I have my work cut out. Gardening is a journey. It never really has a destination. I may have this finished by the time I'm seventy. You just re-imagine it each spring. Here we have my new apple tree and apricot tree (and a "pagoda" tree to the left that I planted a few years back). The unmowed fields are quickly filling up with Queen Anne's lace and I will have to get a shot of this at some point--I love those flowers! So far the only tree the deer have used as an appetizer is one of my apples (not this one yet). Mantra: I love my deer. I love my deer.


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