Rhubarb. Yes, Rhubarb.

A couple of weeks ago, I acquired some rhubarb.

Rheum rhabarbarum - Rhubarb
Rheum rhabarbarum – Rhubarb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d never cooked with rhubarb, and the only experience I’d had with it (aside from a vague memory of a song some high school friends used to sing that involved repeating “rhubarb” over and over) was when my mom would pick a stalk from my grandpa’s Ohio backyard and then eat it raw dipped in salt. One quick taste convinced me that this was not the way I wanted to enjoy my rhubarb, but neither did I care for the high sugar content of most rhubarb recipes I encountered. So, I kept looking while hoping the rhubarb would stay fresh-ish in my fridge until I found a recipe I wanted to use. Read More

Why Are the World’s Best Cupcakes Languishing On My Table?

Last night, I made cupcakes.

The World’s Best Cupcakes.

 

Okay, well, among the World’s Best Cupcakes.

And no one’s eating them. All because my daughter came down with a stomach bug overnight. Then my son caught it. Now I’m listening to Elmo in the background (because on “sick” days I remove all screen-time regulations) and wondering when/if the bug is going to hit my husband and me.

I made them for our Girl Scout group. It’s a “group” rather than a “troop” because we’re homeschoolers and we like to do things unconventionally. All of our girls are registered as Juliettes (scouts unaffiliated with a troop). They range in age from first-year Daisies to second-year Juniors and meet twice a month to do chaotic but very fun activities led by not one or two Leaders, but by all of us. By consensus. By some kind of miracle.

Today, we—or rather, they—are meeting to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Girl Scouts in the United States (which is a little redundant since all of the rest of the world has “Girl Guides,” but I can’t expect everyone to be up on the history of scouting). The first Girl Scouts were inducted into the organization on March 12, 1912. Or at least that’s the official date. Apparently Daisy (Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts) wasn’t big on record-keeping. Some place the actual date on March 9, others on February 18. But the official birthdate of Girl Scouts is March 12th. (This is all from the new biography of Juliette Gordon Low, Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts by Stacy Cordery, by the way).

A side note (as if this entire post isn’t just a series of side notes), Juliette Gordon Low was a big proponent of teaching girls to play basketball and to shoot guns. Had they combined these two activities, they might not have had to put up canvas blankets to shield the girls from the view of adult males who made inappropriate comments about the basketball-playing females.

At any rate, today’s the day our group is celebrating the 100th Birthday of the Girl Scouts. And for that celebration, I made cupcakes. Vegan cupcakes. And, for the first time ever, I got vegan cupcakes that are also gluten-free to come out edible and cupcake-shaped. They’re a little denser than the non-gluten-free ones (more the texture of a corn muffin than a cupcake), but they taste incredible (even though I’m not officially eating sugar, I decided to taste one last night, just to make sure they were good enough to share with the girls this morning).

Gluten-free cupcakes, pre-frosting

But since the child who helped bake the cupcakes threw up a few hours later, the group opted for a cupcake-free celebration this morning. Not that I blame them. But now what do I do with these cupcakes?

My daughter says she’s not going to eat any even once her tummy feels better because she’s been getting tummy aches from sweet things lately (which is true. I don’t know why, but there certainly seems to be a correlation between sugar and tummyaches for her lately). My son wants to eat a cupcake right now, but it’s not been long enough since he got sick last to give him solid food. I just finished a load of sick-day laundry, and I’d rather not do another one quite so soon. I’m not eating sugar, my husband’s at work, and no one else wants these awesomely delicious but potentially contaminated cupcakes.

They look so stoic in their despair, don’t they?

If you would like to make these same delicious cupcakes in your own home, grab yourself a copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I recommend buying yourself a copy instead of always checking it out from the library because it might happen that you volunteer at the last minute to make vegan cupcakes and the book isn’t available at the library and then you have to ask your friend Jenny to send you the recipe because even with expedited shipping, the book won’t arrive fast enough to bake the cupcakes in time to languish on your table uneaten because your kids are sick. Your friend Jenny will pull through with flying colors, by the way, but you still might want to buy the book because you ought not to ask her to transcribe all of the recipes you will want to make from it.

These are the Golden Vanilla Cupcakes with Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting. To make the gluten-free ones, just sub out some type of gluten-free flour for the wheat flour (I used rice flour and garfava flour). No xanthan gum necessary! If you make these yourself, note that the batter for the GF ones is not so tasty, even though the cupcakes are super yum. So don’t worry when you lick the beaters; just put the cupcakes in the oven, confident that the baking process will bring out the yumminess.

Moskowitz has a recipe for a gluten-free cupcake in her book, but that one didn’t come out for me.

I consulted the owner of the vegan bakery I love in Salt Lake City (Cakewalk Baking Company), and she suggested I just sub out the flour in Moskowitz’s regular recipes and that’s what worked. Once everyone is well, I might just work my way through the book, making GF versions of every single one of the cupcakes in there. And then giving them away since I’m not eating sugar.

The Apple-Crisp-and-Beach-Trip Anniversary (#12, of course)

Today is our 12th wedding anniversary.

I’ll wait for the applause to die down before continuing.

Yesterday we drove out to Gloucester to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary by spending the day at the beach. We had 80-degree temperatures and clear blue skies. We found a protected little cove with lots of sand and bordered by trees, so while my sun-loving family played in the water, I reclined in the shade and read. I walked in the water for a little while. Collected some sea glass, took some photos.

Afterwards, we had dinner at a Portuguese restaurant where we determined that my daughter loves lobster and that my son is convinced that it’s hilarious to even suggest he might eat it. “I doan eat wobter!” he’d giggle every time we offered him some. It was a good dinner, but I’ve yet to eat blow-your-mind seafood since we’ve been in New England. I’m still looking.

At the restaurant, I asked my husband if he had anything to say about our 12 years as a married couple.

“I think we’re keeping it real,” he said.

We got stuck in traffic on the way home for some undetermined reason probably explained by wave theory. We were tired of our music and entertained ourselves for a while with the erratic “seek” function on the car stereo. The highlight was King Harvest’s “Dancin’ in the Moonlight.”

Everybody here is outta sight, indeed.

Actually, I think my husband would say the highlight was “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe. The fact that we listened to both songs in their entirety happens to be our secret to wedded bliss. That and the fact that we both remembered all of the lyrics to “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

Today, we biked to church in the continued awesome weather. But before we left, I threw together a gluten-free, dairy-free apple crisp. Three out of four of our family members agreed that it rocked. The holdout was my daughter who’s decided that she doesn’t like apples.

With any luck, we’ll be able to finish out our anniversary with some spaghetti, an early bedtime for the kids, and a couple of episodes of “The Office.” If my husband doesn’t feel too weird about the fact that I dreamed about Jim Halpert last night. (It was totally G-rated, I promise. Well, PG.)

Happy Anniversary, Honey!

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Anniversary Apple Crisp

modified from the Pear Plum Crisp recipe from Cynthia Lair’s Feeding the Whole Familyand is similar to her recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. (Follow the link for a much more attractive picture of a crisp than I took.)

Ingredients:

1 c gluten-free rolled oats

1/2 c gluten-free flour blend of your choice (I eyeballed a mix of rice flour, arrowroot starch, and buckwheat flour)

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 c dairy-free margarine, melted and divided

7 T maple syrup, divided

1/3 c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

3 t cinnamon, divided

1/2 t nutmeg

2 t vanilla extract

5 to 7 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced (I used Cortlands. They worked great.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix oats, flour, salt, 1 t cinnamon, and nuts together in a bowl. Add 1/4 c of the margarine and 4 T of maple syrup and mix well. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 T maple syrup, 1/4 c melted margarine, 2 t cinnamon, the nutmeg, and the vanilla, and set aside.

Put apples in a lightly oiled 8×8 baking dish. Pour the liquid mixture over the fruit and stir gently to distribute as evenly as possible. Spoon the oat-nut mixture over the top of the fruit. Cover and bake about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to make the topping crisp.

Watermelon-Mint Smoothie

I love fresh mint, and I always buy it when I see it at farm stands and markets. I smell it on the way to the car and as I put it in the produce drawer, then I leave it there, unable to think of anything to do with it, until it gets all nasty and rotten and I throw it in the garbage or compost.

One day, I would like to try to make vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream, but the recipe I have calls for mint extract, and I’m not sure how much fresh mint that translates into (and I’m not sure if I’m prepared for the disappointment if it doesn’t turn out). If I figure it out, you know I’ll be posting about it.

For now, one thing I do make with mint is a watermelon-mint smoothie. It’s a refreshing summertime dessert/breakfast/snack/post-hike treat. It also helps me eat the watermelon. I like to buy whole watermelons (because I’m weird about worrying that the store people haven’t properly washed the rind before they’ve cut the melon) but the rest of my family only eats about three bites before they’re done and I’m left with 7/8 of a watermelon to eat on my own. This smoothie helps facilitate my watermelon-eating process. My husband likes the smoothie, too, so it also gets him to help me finish the melon.

If you want your smoothie to look more pink than the one I have here, you can use less mint, add more watermelon, or add a few strawberries. You can use seedless watermelon, or, if you have a snazzy blender (like a VitaMix or a Blendtec) you can use the seeded ones and toss the melon in seeds and all. Apparently there’s something healthy about the seeds, so there’s that extra benefit, vague as it is.

And one problem with our new house is that there’s not really a great place to take a photo with natural light without going outside. I’m going to have to work on that, though, because the flash really takes something away from the photos.

My son thinks it's beer when he sees it in the glass. It's not, though. I promise.

Watermelon-Mint Smoothie

Makes 1-4 servings, depending on how much the people you’re serving it to like it. (That’s about 5 cups.)

Ingredients:

1/4 medium-to-large watermelon, flesh cut away from the rind

leaves from 3 stems of fresh mint, washed

about 4 ice cubes

Put everything in the blender, blend on high for 45-60 seconds or until beautiful and smooth. Pour into a fancy glass and enjoy!

♥ Irish Cream Cheesecake (via it’s a Greyt Vegan Life)

The photo that popped up when I reposted this was not of the vegan Irish Cream Cheesecake, but trust me, you’ll find the recipe if you follow the link below. And even more important, if you look through the cheesecake recipe, you’ll find the link to the vegan Bailey’s Irish Cream recipes (yes, there are three of them, one for sipping, one for mixing, and one for cooking!).

♥ Irish Cream CheesecakeHaving a birthday the same week as Valentine’s Day means that you rake in twice as many gifts. It also means twice the gift-giving stress for the romance-challenged male! But this year, Valentine’s Day was relatively easy on J since I all but picked out the gift myself. The only surprise was the type of animal (a sweet boy goat named Justin) that J sponsored in my name. For my birthday, J did something unbelievably sweet (or totally unimaginative … Read More

via it’s a Greyt Vegan Life

I made my cheesecake GF by using Mi-Dell Cinnamon Snaps instead of graham crackers for the crust.

And I think my springform pan is bigger than 9 inches across. I wonder if that could have contributed to some of the baking issues I had, or if that was all altitude. I also added a parchment paper circle to the bottom of the springform pan. I’m not experienced with springform baking, but I seem to recall that a parchment paper circle was somehow important. So I put one in there.

At any rate, I ended up intentionally overcooking my cheesecake because the middle of the topping was still liquid (almost as much as when I poured it on) after the cooking and sitting time were through. I think when I make this again, I’ll just adjust for the altitude immediately and cook it at 400 instead of 375. I’m betting that will take care of the problem.

Here are some photos of my cheesecake and vegan Irish cream.

One of the only decent in-process photos I have.
The other in-process photo I like. (Crust ingredients, before adding melted vegan butter.)
Overcooked, but yummy! Grated dark chocolate on top.
My daughter's piece. No Bailey's. She couldn't keep her fingers out of it, saying how yummy it was. But then she decided she didn't like it after getting a forkful of it.
My husband's piece, with Bailey's. I think any negatives resulting from overcooking were overcome by the Bailey's garnish.

Three of the four of us liked this fairly well. It lacks that tangy cheesecake taste, and has a little bit of a tofu flavor (just a hint…that’s overridden nicely by the vegan Bailey’s). I like it, though. The texture is quite nice, which was a relief after all of my undercooking/overcooking. We’re sharing a big hunk of this with my husband’s vegan coworker (he’s a single guy, and I like feeding him). We’ve got more left than we can handle, I think, so if you’re interested in trying some and live nearby, let me know. Quickly.

And because I like you so much, here’s the direct link to the vegan Bailey’s recipes.

…And a Cup of Good Cheer

My kids pulled in quite the haul this year. My daughter got a real canvas painting kit, a lot of clothes (both wearing and dress-up), a new recorder, a music box, a harmonica, and a keyboard, among other things. My son got a toy tool kit and drill set, a stroller, a tea set and some faux condiments for his play kitchen, lots of clothes, a couple of books, art supplies, and a toddler basketball hoop. My daughter is painting her canvas right now (and has been for the past 2.5 hours). I can hear my husband and son playing basketball. My son yells, “Goal!” and then squeals, and I can hear his little feet running across the carpet.

During the annual Opening of the Presents, we had hot spiced cider for the kiddos and hot spiced brandy wine for my husband and myself.

My friend Jenny passed along her recipe for spiced brandy wine (from Martha Stewart. Apparently Jenny and Martha are pretty tight). It looked good, but I didn’t have any star anise and didn’t feel like going out to the store for any yesterday, so I found a different recipe. I was skeptical because it came from a chef in Fort Lauderdale (Is Florida known for its delicious, warming holiday beverages? I would have felt more confident about a recipe from someone in, say, Finland). But my worries were unfounded because it was very, very yummy, and perfect for sipping as the children tore open their gifts and strew the paper all over the living room.

Maybe next year I’ll work up a gluten-free, dairy-free figgy pudding recipe to go with the brandy wine.

Hot Spiced Brandy Wine

Spiced Brandy Wine (in one of the cool cups I found at the thrift store more than a year ago)

(via Hot Spiced Brandy Wine – – FabulousFoods.com)

Ingredients

2 T brown sugar

1 oz lemon juice

1 c orange juice

3 to 4 whole cloves

8 to 10 whole peppercorns

5 whole cinnamon sticks (I only had three so I only used three)

4 cups red wine (preferably a Burgundy or Pinot Noir) (I lucked out and there was a Beaujolais on sale at the wine store the other day. Kind of wish I’d picked up two bottles now that I know how tasty this is.)

4 ozs brandy (Don’t waste the yummy stuff on this recipe. A less expensive, “good for cooking” variety works fine.)

Instructions

In a four-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except the wine and brandy. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce by half. Lower heat and add the wine. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not boil a second time. Strain through a fine sieve, or just skim from the top and watch out for peppercorns while you’re sipping. Serve hot and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Oh, (Vegan) Fudge!

 

What do you mean, you thought it made two pounds? Isn't this two pounds of fudge?

This is a recipe entitled “Old Fashioned Vegan Fudge” from vegweb.com. While I don’t think there’s anything old fashioned about soy creamer, this is yummy vegan fudge. I made it and I ate (most of) it. I recommend having someone in mind with whom to share this fudge before you make it. Two pounds is a lot of fudge.

 

Old Fashioned Vegan Fudge

(reprinted and very slightly modified from Christine P’s recipe on http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=25962.0)

Makes 2 pounds.

Preparation time: 10 minutes and 1 hour+ cooling time.

Ingredients

5/6 c soy creamer (I used original Silk creamer)

2 1/4 c sugar

1/4 c vegan butter (I used half a stick of Earth Balance buttery sticks)

18 ounces vegan chocolate chips (I used a bag and change of semi-sweet chips and then an ounce of Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate)

1 t vanilla

1 c chopped walnuts, if desired (I desired them but my daughter didn’t, so I didn’t use them)

Prepare an 8×8 pan by either greasing it or lining it with foil or parchment paper.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine cream and sugar. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat to medium and continue boiling and stirring for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and chocolate. Keep stirring until satiny (or until your arm gets too tired, which is how long I stirred it). Add vanilla and nuts, if using. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Cool completely at room temperature before cutting.

A note about stirring the fudge: Some people warn against stirring fudge and toffee while they’re cooking. In my experience, the key is to not stir too vigorously. You’re just trying to keep the bottom from scorching. If you stir too vigorously, something happens that assume can be explained by physics or chemistry that causes the sugar and fat to separate out. Just stir gently and no too fast and you should be fine.

GF/CF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (and Week 16 Review)

NaNoWriMo Day 21 Word Count: 37,869

I know that many of you eat raw cookie dough even if there are eggs in it. But I’m certain I’m not the only overly-cautious person who will not even entertain the idea of eating raw any kind of anything with eggs in it. My daughter has been programmed so well that when we cook together, she says, before I even have a chance to say anything, “This has eggs in it so it’s not safe and sound to taste it.”

When we made these cookies, we were both thrilled that I could say, “Guess what? There are no eggs in this recipe, so we can eat the dough!” I imagine trippy psychedelic colors undulating in my daughter’s brain with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida playing over it. I highly doubt that actually happened, but she was excited about eating raw cookie dough nonetheless. So was her brother.

Oh, and the cooked cookies were excellent, too. And since they’re sweetened with maple syrup and have rolled oats in them, they’re health food, so you can eat the whole batch, which is only one dozen. If you whip some up after the kids go to bed, you easily will have gotten rid of all of the evidence by the time they wake up. The perfect crime.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

I’ve put the modifications to make this GF and Vegan in parenthesis after the original amounts.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Makes 1 dozen 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used Gifts of Nature GF oats)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (to make GF, sub 3/4 c brown rice flour, 3 T potato starch, 1 T tapioca starch, and 1/2 t xanthan gum, or 1 cup of your GF flour mix of choice + 1/2 t xanthan gum)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (I used coconut oil to make them dairy-free)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine oats, flour, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together maple syrup, butter (or coconut oil), and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts and chips.

With moist hands form dough into 3-inch cookies and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges turn golden.

These cookies are delicious and soft right out of the oven and turn kind of crispy once they’re cool. The flavor reminds me of Russian Tea Balls, which I think are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I would almost prefer raisins in them than chocolate chips. Almost.

Week 16 Review:

This week has been a little challenging. I’ve just been kind of low energy and irritable. I’ve been ignoring many of my resolutions from previous months as I focus all of my attention on NaNoWriMo. I’ve not been working out much because my knee has been bothering me and walking just doesn’t do it for me the way running does. Maybe if I don’t run until the beginning of December, my knee will be ready for action again. I’ve been going to bed late and not being as mindful as I was. I’m still aware of judgmental thoughts, which has been helpful, and I’ve started eating better again (namely, I’ve stopped drinking coffee again. I drink decaf, so I don’t think the caffeine was a problem, but I feel better without the coffee anyway).

I don’t think all of my malaise can been attributed to my self care or lack thereof, though. I think some of it is just a result of the psychological roller coaster that I’ve heard participants in NaNoWriMo ride as the month progresses. Here I am at nearly 38,000 words. I’m in the home stretch, and while I know that, if I keep this pace, I’ll finish in plenty of time, I find this fear creeping up that I won’t be able to do it. I’m doing my best to be gentle with myself and to recognize this naysayer for who she is (my inner critic trying to protect me from disappointment by keeping me from really trying to succeed at a goal I’ve set for myself. She seems to think it’s better to say, “I gave up,” than it is to say, “I tried as hard as I could and still didn’t finish.”)

5-Minute Dairy-Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Inspired by the chocolate ice cream recipe that came with my VitaMix.

This recipe makes about 5 cups. If you want to, you can cut the recipe in half. That’s actually the way we’ve been making it lately because my husband seems to think that ice cream is just a summer dessert. Why on earth would he believe that?

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup Ah-Laska dairy-free hot cocoa powder

1/2 cup Better Than Milk Soy or Rice powder

1/8-1/4 cup agave nectar (or sweetener of choice)

2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder (I think plain old cocoa powder would work, too)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups (about 2 trays) ice cubes

Place all ingredients in the VitaMix (and put on the lid). Turn it on variable speed 1 and quickly turn up to 10 then switch to High. Use the tamper that came with the blender to gently jam the ice cubes into the blades. The ice cream is done when the blender starts to sound different and four mounds form at the top of the mixture (30-60 seconds). If the consistency is like a milk shake, quickly add a few more ice cubes and run for a little longer (or just grab a straw and enjoy).

This is my personal favorite of the ice creams I’ve made in the VitaMix. As a result, there are no pictures of it. Next time I make it, I’ll try to remember to grab my camera before devouring the entire batch. (Hmm…I wonder if it would be wrong in some way to make up a half batch while everyone else is in bed…)

Update:

And I didn't even wake up the kids running the VitaMix.