29 December 2008

Wellness in a Bowl

cranberry beet soup with hearty rye bread

There's something about beets--their rustic, earthy appearance, the vibrant color and subtle sweetness they develop when cooked, and, most importantly, they have an array of health benefits, to boot. Not only are beets are a good source of iron, they also contain vitamin C, which, among other things, helps our bodies absorb iron.

And, of course, one of my favorite things about beets: their earthy sweetness goes deliciously well with the hearty taste of fresh rye bread.

hearty rye bread with pumpkin seeds

In fact, rye bread is what started it all. The other day, as my Hearty Rye Bread loaf was baking in the oven, and the kitchen smelled warm and sweet, I felt inspired to make an equally warm and wonderful soup, using the flavors of beets, orange and cranberry. Like beets, fresh cranberries are packed with nutrients (vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and vitamin K, to name a few), and they are (still, although barely) in season. The cranberries also add a little tartness that compliments the sweetness of the orange juice, creating a delicious soup with several layers of flavor.

In the photo at the top, I topped the soup with a bit of tarragon (which makes everything taste better, in my opinion). The next day when I was eating leftovers, I also added some golden raisins and sunflower seeds, and I think that added so much to the recipe. The raisins add a simple sweetness that compliments the tartness of the cranberries, and the texture of the nuts and seeds makes the soup much more interesting.

Cranberry Beet Soup:
3 whole beets, tops removed and cleaned thoroughly, roughly chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 handfuls fresh cranberries
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
salt to taste
sunflower seeds, golden raisins, and fresh tarragon for serving

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over the stove; add the onions and cook until they begin to sweat, then add the caraway seeds and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add the beets and cranberries and then the orange and pomegranate juices. Add enough water to barely cover everything and simmer until the beets are tender (depending on how large you chopped your beets, about 30 minutes). Wait until cooled and then blend in a blender until smooth. Sprinkle the tops with tarragon, sunflower seeds and golden raisins.

24 December 2008

ICE: chocolate with a twist (vegan)

vegan chocolate almond poblano cupcakes

This month's Iron Cupcake: Earth challenge was "chocolate with a twist," so I'm taking this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, as they say. I'm finally posting my chocolate poblano almond cupcake recipe (although a new, and I think improved version), and I'm trying my luck again at ICE.

Poblano peppers naturally have a rich, earthy, and somewhat sweet flavor that is really brought out when they are roasted; I've heard some describe the flavor with hints of cherry, licorice, and tobacco. To roast the peppers, you can use the flame of your gas oven (if you're lucky enough to have one), or, if you're like me, you can use the broiler inside your electric oven. Roast each side of the peppers for several minutes until they are charred. Cover them with a lid (or put them in a plastic bag and seal) for a couple of minutes immediately after roasting to allow for easy removal of the skin.

roasted poblano peppers (with skins)

After roasting the peppers, I tasted one and decided that they would go perfectly with the flavors of chocolate and almond. I based my recipe off the VCTOTW chocolate cupcakes recipe, which can be found here. However, I added two roasted (and peeled) poblano peppers to the soy milk in my blender before combining it with the other ingredients. The cupcakes were amazing, the poblano taste was a little subtle and perfect with the almond, and there was just a bit of heat. (Whenever it becomes this cold outside, I welcome a bit of heat in everything!) For the frosting, I used 1 roasted (peeled, this time seeded) poblano pepper along with the other ingredients. I used a different icing recipe than the last time I made these; I wanted something fudgier (is that a word?), something rich. The final result was delicious--so good, that I think I may make adding poblano peppers to my chocolate a regular thing. I hope you enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Almond Poblano Cupcakes:
makes 12 cupcakes
2 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled (reserve seeds)
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
3/4 cups evaporated cane juice (granulated vegan sugar)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan.

Combine the soy milk, vinegar, and poblano peppers (and seeds) in your blender; blend until smooth and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and blend until foamy.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches the wet ingredients to the dry and beat until no large lumps remain.

Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Vegan Chocolate Poblano Fudgy Frosting:
enough frosting for 12 cupcakes
1 roasted, peeled, seeded poblano pepper
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (granulated vegan sugar)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup nondairy milk
3 tablespoon refined coconut oil (refined will not give a coconut flavor)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup of vegan powdered sugar*

In a blender, combine soymilk and poblano and blend until smooth. If you would like to make two colors of icing, as I did with the green and cocoa, work in two (half-sized) batches, first making the icing without the cocoa, then making the icing with only 1/8 cup cocoa.

Mix granulated sugar, cocoa, nondairy milk (with blended poblano), coconut oil, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove mixture from hear and allow to cool completely.

After mixture is cool, stir in almond extract. Beat in the powdered vegan sugar a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.

* Vegan powdered sugar can be quite expensive, so I make my own. Grind one cup of evaporated cane juice in a coffee grinder and add 2 tablespoons tapioca flour (or arrowroot starch or cornstarch). Easy, and much more economical.

Voting will begin no later than Monday, December 29 at 8 p.m. at NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER, and will be open through Friday, January 2 at 12 noon.

Iron Cupcake Earth is a monthly challenge where bakers all over the world compete, creating cupcakes using the same special ingredient. It wouldn't be possible without a lot of people who donate items for prizes and the sponsors for the event. So, special thanks to:

BETTY TURBO, who is offering this original piece of art http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5002976

LOTS OF SPRINKLES, who made these cupcake earrings http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6057281

CAKESPY, who will be doing a piece each month for the winner

As an added bonus for December there is a limited edition cupcake pincushions by Moda Home, complements of SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Also, thank you to the corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; the CUPCAKE COURIER http://www.cupcakecourier.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com.

20 December 2008

bake my craft and moving, or why i've been MIA

December is, no doubt, a busy month for everyone. As the holidays approach, it seems like everyone is

a) stressed
b) getting ill
c) traveling
d) getting over being ill
e) all of the above

I am no exception.

On top of all that, I've been busy with finishing the semester (taking finals, writing papers), graduating, moving out of my apartment in Abilene, and moving into my sister's place in Ft. Worth. Oh yeah, and I decided to do another craft fair.

Bake My Craft:
What started my freshman year (5 years ago) as "Rock Paper Scissors" (a small group of people seated around tables in the "bean sprout" [the "chili's-style grill" at ACU], trying to sell their homemade goods and art), has grown (at least a little) to become an annual event on ACU's campus. Not that it's that big of a deal; I'm sure most people at ACU could care less. But, it was definitely fun and I've enjoyed watching it grow (and the quality of the art/crafts improve) over the years. This year was especially exciting with a live performance by Peter and the Wolf (thanks to dustin of silence productions for setting that up) and tons of Christmas baked-goods, which my mom helped me bake. (Thanks, mom!)

some flyers i made for this year's event

some of my favorite vendors

my table was still a mess when haruka took this photo

and, of course, christmas yummies

bake my craft: holiday sugar cookies

Holiday Sugar Cookies:
For the Holiday Sugar Cookies, I used this recipe from baking sheet, except I used soymilk + vinegar instead of buttermilk, earth balance instead of butter, and extra baking powder instead of the egg. As Nic warns in his directions, the dough is really soft and sticky, and mine had to be constantly kept in the freezer in order to be workable. Perhaps this was worsened by the substitution of earth balance for butter? Anyway, the extra work and time was worth it because the cookies were soft and delicious. I also used the icing recipe (although without food coloring) and then sprinkled the tops with turbinado.

Moving is always chaotic in my family. I tend to hold onto things, unable to part with them because of vague "memories" or fears that I'll need them...someday. This results in my having too much stuff. Moving, while it can be stressful, gives me the opportunity to look at things I have and think about how often I use them, and if I really need them. It's a good time to clear out some stuff and clean up my life.

But this move has been even better because I am moving in with my sister in Ft. Worth. I always thought I would move far away from Texas as soon as I finished school, but I am actually really excited about this move. Ft. Worth seems like a really nice place--already I feel a kind of neighborhood vibe, but there are still so many wonderful things that I've always associated with big cities. Plus, I'm excited about living with my sister, being able to paint my room whatever color I chose (a first for me!), and having a beautiful kitchen and a little room outside to make a garden.

I've only been in Ft. Worth a few days, and while I was excited about going new places and finding my way around, I spent a little time in the kitchen, too.

good morning muesli

Good Morning Museli:
I didn't really measure anything (I know I should start doing that more often...), but muesli is the type of food that you can just use whatever you want, or whatever you have, so recipes aren't really necessary. I combined rolled oats, raw almonds, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, dried cherries, golden raisins, dehydrated coconut, and oat bran. I soaked everything overnight in soymilk, and then served it with pomegranate seeds. The perfect way to say Good Morning! And the perfect send-off meal for my drive to Houston.