Saturday, September 24, 2016

Little Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cookies (Gluten Free!)

Named so for their little bite-sized appeal, these cookies are a powerful reminder that even if it's an unbearable 90 degrees in St. Louis (and has been so since like May!), fall is really just around the corner.

The fact that my oven has been on the fritz since about the same time means my kitchen magic has, too. Thank god for husbands who will stay home while one works to answer the door when oven repairmen appear, to steadfastly refuse to let said person leave unless it has been undeniably tested beyond a reasonable doubt that said oven is FULLY functional because, godforbid, should said WIFE come home and even for one minute NOT be able to work her oven because we had that happen already and to say life was pretty miserable for awhile without the oven is an understatement, well. . . it was. 
I am happy to report, things are MUCH better here now.  

Little Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cookies (GF)
*makes 12 cookies

3/4 cup plus 2 T. gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill 1:1)
1/4 C sugar
3 T. brown sugar
4 T. vegan butter
1 1/2 t. ground flax seed plus 2 T. water with 1 T. olive oil (for the egg)
2 T. pumpkin puree
2 T. pecan pieces
1/3 C chocolate chips
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder

Sift all dry ingredients (including spices) together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Then mix your vegan egg (flax seed mixture) in a small bowl and set aside. Put butter, sugars, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract in a medium bowl and mix well until smooth and creamy. Add the flax seed mixture to this. Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet mixture while also adding the pecans and chocolate chips--mix just until all dough is wet. Place the dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Using a cookie scoop, place cookie dough about 2" apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Vegan Flag Cake (Gluten Free. . .Born in the U.S.A.)

All this cake needs is Bruce Springsteen and a sparkler and you'd be set. 
I became Flag Cake obsessed this morning while catching up on some reading. More specifically this article on Food52. It showed up in my Twitter feed as I was scrolling through the "what you might like" links. Wow. They REALLY know me. The article is about the history of the (wait for it): Flag Cake.
I read the entire history of this cake from Betty Crocker to Ina Garten and Taylor Swift til now. I always assumed Flag Cake was something our mom did to the store-bought angel food cakes to make us feel less poor. Turns out, we were poor, but this cake was not our mother's invention. (Let me give credit where credit is due, she did splurge on some sparklers and a few of those awful stick things where giant plumes of color flames flew out right there in our HANDs!) 
I thought my cake making days were behind me. I mean, it's been years since I've made a cake. But being the OCD person that I am, I could not stop thinking about Flag Cakes. All morning. Until finally I announced we'd be having Flag Cake (while hiding in our home with two terrified dogs and Netflix streaming at its highest volume, fans running in every bedroom to drown out the noise. . . until this godforsaken holiday passes). 

This cake typically gets made in a 9 x 13" pan. I opted to make mine a 9" square cake pan. There is nothing fancy about this cake. It's a basic vegan yellow cake (made with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour--the 1-to-1 kind), and your basic vegan buttercream frosting. I've made a hundred cakes just like this. What you want to keep in mind is that it is not going to have that airy, super crumbly texture you'd get were you using eggs and making it GF. You'll get a denser cake, which is fine because just look at the amount of berries you'll use. The cake weighs a ton, too. But serve it with a side of vanilla coconut ice cream and be ready to cry with happiness.  

Couple things on the cake making front, you'll notice I've used Ener-G egg replacer in my cake AND a flax egg. Why? The original larger cake calls for SIX eggs! So as I was parsing out how to adjust for not only it being a no egg cake, but also how the GF flour would react to all this deviation and I figured it'd be best to err on the side of caution and did the more is better thinking here. It worked!

Vegan Flag Cake (Gluten Free)

1 1/4 cup gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill 1:1)
1/4 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup turbinado sugar
4 tablespoons vegan butter
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ground flax with 2 tablespoons water plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pints red raspberries
1 pint blueberries

Buttercream Frosting
4 tablespoons vegan butter
4 tablespoons vegan shortening
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegan creamer
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9" square cake pan with a smear of butter and a dusting of flour to make it nonstick. Then line the bottom with parchment paper. Place all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and sift together. In another bowl, add the vegan butter and sugar, vanilla and almond extract and mix until light and fluffy. Prepare the vegan flax egg and egg replacer--then whisk them together. That's right, prepare them separately, then combine. Add this to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix well until fully incorporated. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and then add a third of the almond milk and mix well. Continue adding the flour, then milk until finished. Mix the batter until it is a smooth consistency. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting. 

Prepare the buttercream frosting by adding the shortening and butter cream and extract to a medium bowl and mixing well until smooth. Then slowly add in the powdered sugar. Add more if the consistency seems too thin, and add less if the frosting seems too thick. Frost the cooled cake. Take a moment to outline with a toothpick or tip of a knife where you'd like the blueberries vs. raspberries to go. Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. Serving the cake cooled yields a delicious cake. Trust me. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reading Between the Lines

I opened the door to walk out and get the paper in this godforsaken heat at seven in the morning, and this fellow was staring at me. First of all, it must have taken him all day to get up the gigantic hill in our back yard to our FRONT door. Omg. Poor creature. 

Then, working in the book biz continues (to my utter shock and dismay). At times, my intermittent dealing with the public slowly erodes my faith in the future of humanity. Not that all book lovers are dealing a blow to my sensibility of our plight, but let's say if I have one more seventy year old woman ask me to look up five erotic-romance titles for her while she steadies herself on her walker, well, I think I might just leave the whole entire job behind with utterances of "WTF?!" I cannot make this up. I wish I could. But nope. When I come home and share these stories with DH, he laughs hysterically, shaking his head in disbelief.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Homemade Chamomile Tea with Fresh Flowers from The Garden

The flowers of the chamomile plant resemble a carpet of mini-daisies blanketing a small, sunny corner of my vegetable patch. 
They're lovely, actually. Hardy, too.
Tonight I made my first batch of chamomile/mint tea. 
By the way, mint is the other "easiest herb in the world to grow"--you simply cannot kill it. 
Trust me. 
So back to chamomile: I snipped a small bouquet of the white and yellow flowers and placed them in my coffee mug with a few sprigs of mint leaves. I poured warm water over and set the timer for about five minutes. 
I strained the liquid into another mug, and like magic, we had homemade chamomile tea.
Your tea will taste nothing like the dried bags of herbal chamomile tea you may have tried. 
The fresh-flower variety of tea is very herb-y. A bit of a lemony taste, too. It's delicious. 
Chamomile tea is said to be good for helping ease stomach upset and to help with sleep.

The best chamomile herb to buy is one of German origin matricaria retutica, or so I've read. 
I basically used common sense and bought the herb from the nursery with the tag that said, Excellent for Making Tea! 
Side-by-side growing mint with green beans. I KNOW! 
But it works. 
Make sure you strain the tea. Once you do, you'll have this lovely pale greenish-yellow brew. 
Comfort in a cup.
In other news. This is Frankie. She's a giant. We just adore her and her sissy tolerates her. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Gluten Free Mexican Casserole with Pickled Onions

This dinner should be called, "my-kitchen's-calling-me" casserole. 
Here' how this awesome vegan (oh and did I mention it was gluten-free, too?) casserole came about.

 I made a lovely pan of veggies and beans to use as my filler: onion, garlic, green pepper, mushrooms, black beans, corn and a can of tomatoes, plenty of cumin and oregano--spice it up to your heart's content. *I have a special Penzey's blend I use, too. Let this mixture simmer for a bit (let the juices reduce, too), and while it simmers, make the pickled onions: red onion slice thin, juice of one lime with a pinch of sugar and some salt and white vinegar--enough to cover the onions in a bowl. Set this aside. When you've finished the pickling stuff, begin layering the casserole by using a square dish, spread a bit of salsa over the bottom to begin with, then cover this with corn tortillas (you'll have to break a few in half just to fill in the corners well. In between the three or four layers you make, add a smattering of vegan cheeze in between for good measure, then top the casserole with a bit of the cheese and bake at 375 until bubbly, about 30 minutes. While this bakes, make your rice and guacamole you'll be serving with it on the side. This has been on our table at least once a week for the past few weeks now. 
You can see here what I'm talking about with the whole "layering" thing. Just keep layering until you run out of filling. You'll want to keep room at the top so while it bakes, you don't have oven spillage.
This is delicious and makes for an even better left over.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March Gardening Chores and What the. . . Snow?! (And Books I'm Reading Now: Padma Lakshmi, and When Breath Becomes Air)

I'm so glad mother nature has a sense of humor. It's not unheard of to have snow in St. Louis in March or April for that matter. But this morning, it looked like a December morning when I pulled back the curtains and looked outside. The flakes were like wet cotton balls coming down. Very odd.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Vegan Feel-Good Chili with Everything (cooking to help heal--isn't that what all cooking is anyway?)

I needed to spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen. It began like all chili making endeavors: a glug of oil, spoonfuls of cumin, coriander, some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt and the pile of veggies I had carefully spent the last half hour chopping and mincing. I literally just kept pulling out veggies from the crisper and methodically went through them with the knife: zucchini, onion, carrot, garlic, green pepper, celery. Then poured in a can of black beans and a can of kidney beans, then two cans of tomatoes--one sauce, one diced. And finally, added a bag of my favorite vegan crumbles (Beyond Beef). With the aroma of cumin and my heavy-handed scoops of some favorite chili blends (okay, it's Penzey's), my kitchen began to heal my soul. 
Low and slow--the way all chili should be cooked, the way all souls should heal. 
Quickly, while one eye was on the pot of chili, I whipped up a batch of brownies, too. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Easy Vegan Veggie Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust (comfort food cooking. . . simple knitting)

I will give this pot pie recipe one thing, and that is, it came together in a snap. My prep work consisted of pulling a puff pastry sheet out from the freezer and putting it in the fridge while I went about sauteing an onion, some mushrooms and garlic, adding a can of tomatoes, then opening a bag of veggies, pouring in some ready-made potato leek soup (oh the horrors! but hey, that's life right now) and a smattering of seasoning, close it up with the pastry top, bake: ta-da! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Finding My Voice and Strength Through Change (and a new blog direction)

Time is ridiculously cruel. How dare spring think she can rear her head up! It's only February for goodness' sake! Now here I am post-seven-years-of-solitude, and everything around me seems to be moving at lightening speed.

 I loved every minute of my time alone. Well, I wasn't exactly "alone" in the sense that I sat in my hovel worrying away every minute of the day in my own head--there were the dogs, my husband, our garden, the woods, books, my cooking, running, knitting. 
Every day had its ebb and flow. 

Mornings were set aside for morning stuff, like coffee (lots), reading, knitting, walking the dogs and running. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Taming the Introvert Anxiety with LOTS of Knitting (new career, more gray hair: I Want to Believe!)

Well, week one went off without a hitch. I arrived, I met, I chatted, I learned. In the evenings I crawled into my shell and collapsed into bed for very hard, long sleeps. I got up the next day and hit repeat. 
Suddenly our whole world has been turned on its head by the arrival of my new career/J-O-B. 
I am in the book business now. Books and people, how bad can it be you ask? Not bad at all. . . so far.
I love books. I love people who love books. I love reading. (Truth be told, not much of that going on now that I'm the working girl again--though I sneak in as much as I can in the wee hours of the mornings or late evenings right before bed.) The working girl in me says, "calm down, this is the chaos part", this is the remembering what it's like to be surrounded by noise, people, and strangers all day. The introvert in me climbs out of her shell (yes the one who has spent the last seven years and mostly every day surrounded by canines, plants, food and my own quiet pace and rhythm)--and crawls into the depths of business/work. It's going to be a long road to my fully grasping every little detail of my new role.

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Organized Chaos

I have spent the better part of these last few days "tidying up". The stories of people in my community losing everything to raging flood waters sparked something in my heart that said, "if that were me, how would I manage." Every year around this time, I go through and try to purge from life those items and things collected that might have worn out their welcome and need a new home. It's a long process of self inventory as well as physical inventory of what we have, what we need and what can simply go. For me, doing so is a luxury, for others right now, it is a forced experience brought on by the floods.
I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like.

This is a year of change for our household. My blog will serve as my "outlet" for navigating around this coming year and all it brings. I'll continue to highlight vegan eats as much as possible and toss in those sometimes "snarky" observations of life here and there. 

The year ended on a sad note for us with the loss of Annie. We spent a lot of time during the holiday reflecting on our life as a family of "many dogs" and how each dog we've shared our life with has shaped us, changed us and made us better people. 
We cannot ever imagine our lives without the dogs. 

Then the floods hit and we once again, reflected on life
How can you not when you see neighbors suffering through one of the worst disasters to hit this area since the floods of '93. 

People impacted by the flooding still need help and I read in this morning's paper the Red Cross  provided shelter to over five hundred families at the height of the disaster. The Salvation Army is also assisting families. Donations of items to the displaced are now being sorted and will be distributed. 
It is still beyond comprehension the loss.

Soon I was considering the "things" we have and hold on to. I function best with very little clutter, straight lines and organization. Simple is better. That little best selling book on the matter of "tidying up" is my manifesto when it comes to dealing with life as I have dealt with it over these fifty-some decades. Does it give me joy, no? Out it goes.
Well. . . not so fast: Hello, YARN! 
All yarn gives joy, does it not? 
And cookbooks and books in general, they give joy, too. Right?
According to me, the answer is YES. 

So my tidying up began in earnest with my yarn. Oh. The. Places. I. Thought. I'd. Go. (with my yarn). And the places I still think I'll go to with my yarn: brioche knitting (loved it, then hated it, then NO). Cabled pullover sweater, maybe. Tons of shawls I never wear, YES! Why so many shawls? Mostly because they are fun to knit, to manipulate, to look at in admiration as I: YO, p1 and skpsso.
Knitting works to calm my mind. 
One of the last things I do every night before bed is to knit. 
So the yarn stays.
All one full closet of it and dresser drawer.
It all stays. 
Saroyan Shawl I am knitting (has a beautiful leaf pattern along the side. Pretty!). 

On the wardrobe front, I pulled every single piece of clothing I owned out from my closet and placed them in piles: keep, donate, business, casual, long sleeve, short sleeve, workout, light-to-dark color--one thing became clear: I am someone for whom the color spectrum of black bell tolls. My closet consists of black (mostly), grey (second mostly), purple (third place), and a very few teals have come to be my staples. No yellows, blues, greens, whites or any funky horizontal stripes or polka dots either. 
I hate stripes and when they began to appear in fashion I thought the world had gone mad! 
Stripes should be banished from fashion forever.

My life already feels lighter.


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