Happy Birthday, Vaccuum Vati!!

Happy Birthday, Vaccuum Vati!

Whaat. October already?! Sheeesh.

Time to bust out the pumpkin, ahhh yeahhh. Because as we know, I am the Queen of Orange.

But before we do that (and because of this ridiculous Indian Summer we’ve got going here: a hundred degrees in October?! Excuse me?! We know I loathe hot weather. Can’t it just be fall already?? I can’t quite do pumpkin until it’s at least a little cold-ish)… I bring you the end of Birthday Month!! Slightly belatedly, but hey–better late than never. So with that in mind, here’s this little bit of deliciousness: Vaccuum Vati’s birthday cake!!

mmm

As per request, things got a leeeetle spiiiicayyy up in hurrr since Vati wanted cayenne pepper in some form of dessertness. I thought about brownies for a split second but nahhh, why make brownies when you can make cake?! Pssh. Brownies. It’s a birthday, after all.

I’ve never baked with cayenne before, though I’ve had desserts where it was sneakily present.

hehhe.. edge on!

I think I’ve decided I like it, at least in this cake—the pepper sneaks in subtly, rather than punching you in the face going “I’M SPICY! EAT ME AND CLEAR YOUR SINUSES, PITIFUL HUMAN!” Or at least that’s what a lot of those less subtle desserts feel like to me… sort of like the sea salt and vinegar Kettle Chips. But I digress. This cake is super hydrated (remember, we don’t like the m-word), rich, chocolately and spicy. Just sweet enough (though I didn’t cut the sugar on this one as per request as well, as SOMEONE has an (inherited, I’m sure) sweet tooth the size of Texas). And the frosting?! Oh yes. The frosting. Hooooly crap. I had to save myself from cleaning the bowl out with my face, it is that good. Maybe if you make this,  double the frosting and save the second bowl for something creative. I don’t know, like eating with a spoon or something, with a token graham cracker so you pretend you’re using it as “dip”. Haha. Yeah right. I’m sure you’ll think of something, you’re a creative bunch.

The first word that comes to mind is… craggy. Um. No comment.

Anyway. Go in the kitchen, get out a bowl. It’s simple. Spicy chocolate cake, you know you want it… you’ll thank me later!

mmm.

Spicy Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Mascarpone Frosting

Slightly adapted from Baked Bree, here! I made a half recipe in 6″ cake pans, so I’ll include those measurements here.

For the cake:

  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 + 3/8 c whole wheat pastry flour (sorry for the awkward measurements…)
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 4.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c milk bev (I used 1% milk)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4.5 tsp Bourbon vanilla

This couldn’t be simpler… in fact, it’s pretty close to instant cake gratification. Lezzz dooo eeeet!

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease two 6″ cake pans, line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper, and then lightly grease that (coconut oil is fab for this). In a largeish bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: cocoa through salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together milk, oil, applesauce, egg, vinegar and vanilla until combined. Pour wet into dry (see? EASY.). Chuck batter into prepared cake pans (ideally the top is evenish, if not.. oops oh well, you get to do trimming, which means there are cake scraps to be eaten), and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (For full-size cakes, increase bake time to 45 minutes). Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, then upend onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Subliminal messaging eeeeaattt meeee!!!

While the cake is baking: make the frostinggg (Keep your fingers away from the bowl, please) (as if). I made half the recipe. Don’t kid yourself, make extra. My measurements below are for half but really… what else would you do with that leftover mascarpone?!

  • half of 1 tub (8 oz) of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Bourbon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 c heavy cream

Whip yo’ cream (and yo’ hair) until stiff peaks form. Once cream is whipppp-ed, set aside. In a bowl, “whisk” (and by whisk, I mean sort of stir) mascarpone, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar. Fold cream into the mascarpone mixture, and try not to eat it all at once. Some is supposed to go on the cake, you know…

With half the recipe, I had enough to put a layer between the two cake layers, and frost the whole thing.

Drool. Eat. Love!

Vaccuum VATI! (Loves his ducks)

Two for the price of one: Squashlets AND cookies!

coooookies!

There is an influx of baby squashlets in the garden! And not just zucchini, ohhh no.

So somehow we ended up growing acorn squash in our back garden…. which is odd considering we never planted anything of the sort. I’m guessing some little entrepreneurial seed got excited when we put it out in the compost and decided to become …a plant? Which is awesome, considering I just ate squash for dinner last night and lunch five seconds ago. TWO kinds of squash: acorn aaand zucchini, yesss. And if you’ve been following me for awhile (or at least since last fall), you’ll know that I am madly, head over heels in love with squash. You name it, I’ll eat it. Fact. I am still the Queen of Orange!

Which means that I got creative last night and invented another stuffed squash recipe (and actually did the same for lunch today, such an inspired idea). Both variations are easily adaptable to whatever you have, and are delicious.

squash-lunchlet

Anyway. So besides the squashy excitement, I also made cookies! Um. Why do you look so surprised?!

more adorable mushroom pottery

Because I love graham crackers. And vegan things. And cookies. And as I was searching for recipes, up popped one for vegan graham cracker cookies!! Whaaaat. This is what went through my brain: “cookies!! cookies cookies cookies hmm we haven’t had any cookies around here for the last day or so, clearly time to make more… these have graham crackers and cinnamon oooh”, at which point I was already preheating the oven and squashing the graham crackers into a pulp. Or rather crumbs, I suppose. Anyway. These cookies are fantastic: chewy (although be sure to store them in plastic if you want them to stay that way, not glass), graham-y, and full of cinnamon.

textural appreciation

 

And this way my dad and I don’t have to fight each other for the last few graham crackers, as SOMEONE likes to eat an entire sleeve with milk and call it lunch. Harumph. Vaccuum Vati strikes again. I, on the other hand, like to spread mine with peanut butter (oh really?! Surprise surprise) or mash it into ice cream. This way we can share the crackers aaand the cookies, like normal people. A perfect compromise, if you ask me.

balancing acts are fun with cookies

Vegan Graham Cracker Cookies

Very slightly adapted from Quiche-A-Week, here! This recipe is fab. Just do yourself a favor and make it, nowwww. I got about 20 cookies.

  • 9 sheets of graham crackers (I use Erewhorn Organics), divided
  • 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 c organic peanut butter (mine was creamy this time)
  • 1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water
  • chocolate chippies, optional

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In  small bowl, combine flaxseed and water and let sit. In a plastic baggie, mash 7 graham crackers into a fine powder (or use a food processor, but seriously–smashing them with a rolling pin is wwaaaay more fun). In a largeish bowl, sift together graham cracker crumbs, flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, cream together peanut butter and sugars. I opted to skip the electric mixer and get a bicep workout, but that part’s up to you. Add in flax ‘egg’ and mix. Toss in applesauce and vanilla. Mix again. Toss wet into dry, and mix again, until just incorporated. Break up the last two graham cracker sheets into smallish pieces, and stir into the batter. Add chocolate chippies if you want—I added them to about half the batch, by sticking them into the tops of the cookies.

While the oven is heating, stick the cookie sheet into the freezer—the dough is sticky, so this makes it easier to deal with. Drop cookies onto the cookie sheet by spoonful, flattening slightly. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch. Cool for a few on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack.

Eat with a milk-type bev and pretend you’re a child. Works like a charm, every time.

mmm

Southwestern-ish Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe by… me! Serves 4. This makes enough filling for 3 squashes (squashi?), so I used the leftover half for lunch today, and stuffed it with zucchini, corn, and egg, topped with a teeny bit of parmesan. Also delicious, do what suits you!

lunch, when it ended up being almost better than dinner!
  • 2 acorn squashlets
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 zucchinis, ideally warm from the sun in your garden
  • a handful or two of frozen corn, defrosted
  • a bit of fresh spinach (this is terribly specific, I know…)
  • cinnamon and curry powder, to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/3 c grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425.

Wrestle the squashes to the ground and somehow attempt to cut them in half. I always seem to struggle with this… Once the squashlets are halved, brush the cut side with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place cut side down onto a cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender.

In a saute pan, heat a bit of olive oil and pepper. When hot, add zucchini and saute until tender. Add in black beans, corn, and spinach, and continue to saute. Toss in desired amount of cinnamon and curry powder, and stir to combine. When veggies are done, stir in monterey jack cheese before turning off the heat. Spoon the filling into the cut halves of the squash, and top with cheddar cheese. Eat whilst hot :)

Like I said above, this recipe is infinitely adaptable. Use whatever you have on hand—beans, eggs, any veggies, whatever cheese. Decidedly satisfying in any form!

this was dinner, hurriedly photographed when I decided it actually looked tasty

Cookies + chocolate bar = beautiful babies.

coookies

I don’t have anything too interesting or anecdotal today, but these cookies were delicious, so I want to share.

timber!! oops.

 

They remind me of something I ate in my childhood, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what. I feel like they’re something out of Chocolat (exceptional movie, by the way), in that scene where Judi Dench takes a drink of the hot chocolate for the first time and says “it tastes like… I don’t know… ” and then giggles. These cookies are kind of like that for me too, except they’re unfortunately not filled with Mayan chocolate or infused with ancient magic. Oh well, they’re still a worthy substitute. AND not too bad for you, to boot. Almonds for manganese and Vit. E, as well as lowered LDL cholesterol levels… antioxidants from dark chocolate, and blood sugar stabilization from cinnamon… what’s not to love?

yum yum yum.

These are full of cinnamon flavor, which is great if you’re a cinnanut like me (I swear, I put it on literally EVERYTHING). They are soft and a little on the crumbly side, and best just out of the oven, when the chocolate is all melty and warm. Or you can just pop them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds (if they last long enough after the initial batch comes out of the oven… haha yeah right). Maybe they remind me of cinnamon grahams? Maybe. Except waaaay better. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

uh oh. one got away.

Chocolate Stuffed Almond Butter Cookies

The recipe is from The Vintage Mixer, and the only adaptation I made is less chocolate—I used a few squares from my TJ’s 72% fair trade bar (my fave). My recipe yielded 11 small-medium sized cookies, so you’ll just need enough chocolate of choice to stuff however many cookies you end up with.

  • 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (love love love)
  • 3/4 c almond butter
  • scant 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water
  • enough 1/2″ chocolate pieces to stuff into your cookies! Dark chocolate, preferably.
river o’ molten chocolate…

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a small bowl, mix together water and flaxseed. Set aside for about 5 minutes. Using an electric mixer, cream together almond butter and brown sugar. Add in flax and beat briefly to combine. In another small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon, and then add the dry ingredients into the brown sugar/almond butter bowl. Stir or use the mixer to fully combine. The dough will be on the thicker/stiffer side of things. Pinch off small balls (about 1″), push a piece of chocolate into the center of each, and roll/semi flatten into cookie shape before plopping them down onto your ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes—mine went for about 11. Let cool on a cooling rack (or, better yet, place on a cooling rack and then eat them warm).

sorry this picture has weird lighting… molten center. omnomnom…

Eye-level with a cookie is the best place to be!

mmm, chocolate cooookies!

Once again, the weather gods are totally bonkers. I think they just like to mess with tiny humans for sport. Like, I’m sure they find it hilarious when I go trudging through some nasty weather after class, only to walk into my apartment and have it become immediately sunny. The roof is steaming, haha! Snow? Again? Is this really necessary?? And yesterday it was so incredibly windy, I thought if I wore a hat large enough I might lift off the ground like the Flying Nun (except not a nun. More like a flying Pilates-enthusiast in my yoga pants). Gusts up to 50 miles an hour?! Ridiculous. This weather is even more insane than usual, even by Salem standards. Sheesh.

So what do I do? Make cookies! Natch. When the weather gets icky, baking is always a good strategy. Especially when it leaves you with excellent snacking cookies, healthy AND delicious. Come to the Dark Side. I have cookies! Ha. I was getting irritated by the lack of snacks I had around, so these happened. Besides, I need more things to put lemon curd and biscoff spread on, in order to convey them to my mouth so I don’t feel silly eating them out of the jars. Not that I really let that stop me. But life is more fun with a cookie, obviously.

These have all kinds of healthy benefits! Full of fiber and cholesterol-friendly :) (as in, NO cholesterol, and only healthy fats + plant-based saturated fats, which are okay for those watching cholesterol!) They clock in around about 200 calories, making them a great pre (or post. or both) workout snack. The chia seed has made a cookie comeback, after several weeks (gasp!) of disuse… and we already know all about chia’s crazy antioxidant capacities. These cookies also feature healthy coconut and olive oil fats, as well as unsweetened cocoa powder for more antioxidants! Besides all that, apparently cardamom has great nutritional benefits too! I didn’t know this, but it helps digestion, contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and essential oils, and is another source of antioxidants! Those sneaky free radicals don’t stand a chance.

This recipe supposedly made 28 cookies. Psh. I made 11. Mine are perfectly sized ;) I don’t stint when it comes to cookies, especially when they’re good for me!

eye-level with a cookie. (the best place to be)

Chocolate Chia Cookies

Adapted from Vanilla and Spice, here! These cookies are really tasty: a little like gingerbread, as Kira pointed out. We both really liked the cardamom flavor in them, and they’re soft but chewy on the inside. Mmm. Makes somewhere around 11 or 12 2-3″ cookies.

  • 1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom (seems like a lot, but it’s not overwhelming)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1/4 c light coconut milk (any milk bev you have on hand I’m sure is fine, I wanted to use up some leftover coconut milk. I am SO GLAD I did)
  • 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract (yes, that is tablespoons)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/3 c chocolate chippies
I like to play with my food!

Preheat the oven to 350, and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, cocoa powder, and chia seeds. In a smaller bowl, whisk together milk bev, applesauce, and vanilla. Add wet into dry, add oil, and then stir to combine. I found I needed to add a few tablespoons of water to make the dough come together. Fold in chocolate chips as you combine wet and dry.

Form into little balls and place on the cookie sheet—I kind of shaped mine and flattened the tops a bit. This dough is really easy to work with, extra bonus! Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the tops feel firm when lightly touched. Mine were done at 12!

Apparently it’s decided to be sunny this afternoon… I’ll guess I’ll just have to eat my cookies and enjoy it :)

see? there I go again. Cookie towers are more fun than blocks. You get to eat the pieces that fall off!

Holiday Trolls and Mispronunciation

Look at that cornbread. yeah. You know you want some!

I’m in full holiday-mode now.

Well, kind of.

I’ve put myself on Christmas music lockdown. I have a really irrational urge to listen to it, but I’m resisting. December 1st is the acceptable time to start listening. Tell that to Pandora. Trying to sabotage my lockdown, yeeesh… But really, the Nutcracker is obviously not JUST Christmas music, teeheehee!

Anyway. Besides settling into holidayish time, I can feel myself going into hibernation mode. Not my fault, since Salem has decided that night will fall around 4:30 pm. Or maybe 4:10 today, as I look out the window… Winter weather makes me want to curl up and eat. All this cold weather and dark starts turning me into a bear. Wait. Do bears do yoga and pilates? Okay. Maybe not a bear.  A troll? Yeah. Probably. Do trolls hibernate? Maybe they style their really cool hair during the winter months?

This is getting ridiculous. Apparently my brain has gone on holiday without notifying  me. I’d be the last to know, I’m sure. I think all that theories studying has gone to my head… but at least the midterm is done and the paper is nearly there (assisted by copious amounts of the bread that this post features).  Besides turning into a bear/troll in the winter, I start wanting things like soup. And baked goods. Ha. As if. In what season do I NOT want baked goods?! NONE. How silly life would be without tasty baked treats. Booooring. Besides, the gremlins would get antsy!

SO!

Let’s get on with the purpose of this post. Sorry for the long hiatus between posts… The eating last week wasn’t cooperating on photogenic levels.

This soup is immensely satisfying on a hibernating troll level. Or on anyone’s level, really… It’s creamy and thick–rich without being terrifyingly bad for you. It also pairs well with cornbread (what doesn’t?!). I’m sure it would also be deeeelicious with a baguette, were you to have one lurking around. The soup is fairly basic, and uses things typically found in your (ok, my) pantry. It has a pretty short ingredient list, which is a plus when you desperately want soup!

I also decided it was time for the world to see my “It’s Willamette, Damn it!” bowl… You see, people have  penchant for mispronouncing the name of my school. In fact, it’s the most mispronounced in the contiguous United States. And it rhymes with damn it. So see? It’s an easy way to remember, for those of you who like to say “Will-uh-met”. NO. It’s Willamette, damn it!

See? I've even puffy-painted it, so that people can get it right!

Coconut Sweet Potato Soup (Bisque?)

Adapted from here! Serves… 3 girls. With leftovers.

Peruse your pantry, and acquire:

  • 2 monster sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups of water, plus 1.5 tbsp
  • 1 can of unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • a hefty sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, also to taste (spicy soup=cleared sinuses, hoorayy!)

Bring the water in a soooop pot to a boil. Add your sliced sweet potatoes, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, making sure the water doesn’t boil away. Mash the sweet potatoes in the pot (with that potato masher that you insisted that you didn’t need, but have subsequently used about 3 times. Thank you, mutti! And your mutti-skills, that decree that you are ALWAYS right), and add the can of coconut milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger. Simmer for about another 15 minutes, until it begins to thicken. In a small bowl, add cornstarch and remaining water, and stir into a thick paste. Add the cornstarch and red pepper flakes to the soup, and cook for another five-ish minutes. (I may have added a bit more cornstarch to get it to thicken faster… the soup was still delicious, and I was HUNGRY). Use a blender (or an immersion blender, if you’re one of THOSE lucky ducks), and puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the pot, and season to taste with salt, pepper, or more spice or red pepper if desired. I’m sure it would be lovely with shredded coconut on top, but I wasn’t on the ball enough for that…

Eat with this!!

Sandy’s Cornbread!

Given to me by an awesome lady who I used to work with (and who is now fully enjoying retirement!), this is a very tasty yogurt-based cornbread. I adapted it a bit from the original recipe, mostly to include whole wheat flour (as we know… I don’t have all-purpose!). I made a half batch of this for Abby, Kira, and I, but I’ll include the full recipe here.

  • 8 oz lowfat plain yogurt (1 cup)
  • 1/4 c olive or canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • scant 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly grease an 8″ or 9″ pan.

Whisk together yogurt, egg, and oil. Combine dry ingredients, add wet to dry, and  mix well. Pour into prepared pan, and bake for about 20 minutes.

If you halve the recipe, the batter fits into a 6.5″ pan, and is done a bit past 15 minutes. I occasionally have trouble with the center of cornbread being done all the way through in the small pans—check it to be sure.

I think the cornbread is about to take a dive off the handle...