Monday, April 25, 2011

Coconut Pancakes

I couldn't make it up to Scranton for Easter this year. My family doesn't do much for the holiday, but I was still pretty bummed I wouldn't get to see everyone. And on top of it, Ken was working a bunch of doubles in a row, and wouldn't be home at all. Though I love my kitty, the thought of spending any holiday alone with my cat had my grumpy-pants all in a bunch. To cheer myself up, I made some cupcakes. Just look at these things. They're too adorable to not make you smile.
Vegan coconut cupcakes with strawberry 'butter'cream and toasted coconut nests. Jelly bean 'eggs' complete the cuteness.
 Then, late Saturday night, Ken called to say he didn't have to work Sunday morning. He was coming home! Joy of Joys! An Easter miracle. My sour-puss was replaced with a big ol' smile.
Since I anticipated spending the day alone, I hadn't planned much of a menu. Sunday morning I decided to make a nice holiday breakfast for us with whatever we had around the house. I think I did a pretty good job pulling it together.
As a baker, at any given time I probably have the ingredients to make you whatever kind of sweet breakfast you want. Except waffles, because I don't have a waffle iron (hint, hint...). Ken and I are also the kind of people to have things like mangoes, toasted coconut, mango butter, and coconut extract lying around. It makes throwing together a holiday breakfast a little easier.
Sunday's menu: Coconut pancakes with mango butter, fresh mango, and strawberries. Vegan sausage links. Mango Lemonade. Coffee. Boo-Love.
This is a nice basic vegan pancake recipe that works best as thin, almost crepe-like pancakes. Ken loved them. You've probably got all the necessary ingredients right now, and can make them yours with whatever happens to be in your fridge/pantry. Next time you want to make an impromptu breakfast for someone special, this recipe will be your best friend.
Vegan Coconut Pancakes
adapted from Vegan Yum Yum

1 1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Preheat oven to warm, 200 degrees, or the lowest temp your oven will allow. To keep pancakes warm while you make them, you'll stack them on an oven-safe plate inside the oven.

Pour milk into blender. Add all other ingredients except toasted coconut. Pulse a few times. Scrape down sides, and pulse a few more times, but don't over blend. You can place this in the fridge overnight, or use immediately. If using the next day, you may need to thin the batter with a tablespoon or so of water. (*note: I use a blender because I like being able to pour the batter, and also it keeps the dishes at a minimum. A bowl and a whisk would work just as well)

Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat for a few minutes. Pour batter into center of pan. I like to make my pancakes about 4-5 inches across, and swirl the pan slightly to spread the batter and make a thin pancake. Sprinkle coconut on top. After a few minutes, the top will bubble, and the batter will change color from white to a dull yellow. This is when you should flip. If the other side of your pancake is not brown yet, you may need to turn your heat up slightly. If it's over-browned, turn down the heat. Allow to cook for another few minutes, until brown. Place on plate in oven, and continue to stack as you make them.

We served these with mango butter from Trader Joe's and fresh fruit. I'm sure they would have been lovely with a coconut syrup too. Also, making them coconut pancakes was a last minute decision, when I remembered I had the leftover toasted coconut from the cupcakes. Had I planned in advance, I would have probably substituted some or all of the almond milk for coconut milk.

If coconut's not your thing, you can use another extract and add any other filling: bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, etc. And then come back here and tell me all about it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vegan Apricot Scones

Full Disclosure: I don't really like scones. They're usually so dry and flavorless and pointless. I'm aware that in the right hands they can be quite tasty, but they're also pretty easy to mess up. Normally, I'd say my favorite flavor of scone is muffin, and let's move on.

But a few weeks ago some people I really like asked me to make some scones, and since I'm a people pleaser, I got to work.

I started with chocolate chip. They were pretty tasty, and everyone seems to like them, but they weren't special enough to make me change my opinion on the pastry.
Then I got it into my head I was going to make some apricot scones. And let me tell you, these just might convert me to the cult of scones. Especially still warm from the oven. They're lovely. So pretty; so lady-like. They'd be a pleasant addition to brunch or tea with your lady friends. As a matter of fact Gracie LaRoux, the sweetest gal I know, gave these treats her stamp of approval. So there you have it.
The secret ingredient? Lemon zest. Because let's get real, lemon zest makes everything better.

Vegan Apricot Scones
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
2 tbsp water
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of Earth Balance vegan butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup dried apricots, diced
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1-2 tbsp non-dairy milk for brushing tops
sugar for sprinkling on top (I like Demerara sugar)

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk egg replacer and water together until frothy. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter. Continue to cut in until mixture is crumbly, and resembles coarse cornmeal. You can leave some pea-sized chunks of butter, this will keep scones flakier.

Using a fork, mix in the apricots and lemon until incorporated. Add the egg mixture and milk, and using a fork, wooden spoon, or your hands, combine with flour mixture just until moistened. DO NOT OVER MIX. If you over mix, the gluten starts to activate, and will make your scones dense. And then you'll perpetuate the idea that all scones are dry and terrible. Using your hands, gather dough into a ball. You may have some dry crumbs at the bottom, and this is okay. Press them into the mixture, but again, do not knead or over mix. You just want to bring the dough together.

On a sheet of wax paper or table top sprinkled with flour, press out the dough with your hands to form a circle about an inch thick. Cut into triangles (usually makes 8-10), and place on prepared baking sheet at least 1/2 inch apart. If you're making these in advance, you can place the sheet in the freezer overnight at this point, and bake the next day. If baking immediately, brush tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until tops are golden brown. If scones are frozen, they'll take about 20 minutes to bake. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes.

These are great slightly warm, or fully cooled. In an airtight container they'll last about 2 days, but are best eaten the first day. Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cupcakes took over my life

This month has been consumed with whiskey-filled cupcakes. Seriously. They're kind of taking over my life. Earlier this month, I made a whole crap ton of them, and headed up to Scranton for Parade Day

Let me school you on a little thing called Parade Day. Thousands of people descend on the small city of Scranton, PA wearing their finest green t-shirts and drink until their livers beg for mercy or they get arrested, whichever happens first. The bars open around 8AM, and the actual parade starts around Noon. But as you could expect, most of the people who go to the bar at 8AM never actually make it to the Parade. It's a long day of drunken revelry all in the name of green beer. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's sad, but it's always interesting. 

Parade Day used to be the most magical day of the year for me. I loved it, obsessed over it. I made big countdowns on put them on my wall and saved my change all year to buy my own personal bottle of whiskey for the festivities. Those days are gone now, (my drinking capacity has all but diminished) but I still look back on Parade Days past and remember them fondly. (Well, what I can actually remember...)
Since partaking in the festivities no longer interests me, the lovely ladies at the Fanciful Fox suggested I set up a table outside their store, and feed the drunken masses with my goodies. And I said, "Well, why NOT?" I loaded up my car with cupcakes, grabbed my little brother and headed to downtown Scranton. 
It was an interesting day to say the least. My brother, at the tender age of ten, learned a lot about business, cash handling, and the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I made some money to put towards the business, and people got tasty treats. Really, everybody won.
The big sellers of the day were the goodies with booze in them, of course. The Carbomb cupcakes and Irish Coffee Whoopie Pies made me a lot of new friends. To make them vegan, I make my own Irish cream. I know, I'm fancy.
It was a really fun day, and definitely the best way to spend Parade Day if you're not drinking. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by and enjoyed a treat. And of course, a very special thanks to the ladies at the Fanciful Fox for helping me make it happen. Slainte!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday Breakfast

Ken made this for breakfast yesterday.
It's a quick hash he tossed together with sweet potatoes, soy chorizo, peppers, and spinach, placed on corn tortillas and topped with broccoli shreds and avocados, and served with a side of fried plantains. That's about the closest to a recipe I can give you, as the boy just knows how to make magic in the kitchen with no guides.
Have I mentioned lately how deeply and passionately in love I am with that man? He puts such fine snacks in my belly. I'm a lucky girl...

Monday, February 28, 2011

QT Vietnamese Sandwich

During my winter vacation review, I mentioned Ken and I ate some Banh Mi. I forgot to mention that those particular Banh Mi are my favorite in the city: from QT Vietnamese Sandwich. I'm not the only one who loves this place. Mac & Cheese and Fries with That Shake reviewed it years ago (and with better pictures), and CityPaper gave a glowing review around the same time. . But that's not gonna stop me from adding my two cents, and assuring you that they are still as delicious as they were 2 years ago.
QT has two vegetarian options: The lemongrass tofu, and the tofu, mushroom and onion. I prefer the former, Ken likes the latter. The lemongrass tofu is pure perfection. Warm, sliced thin with a crispy texture and kissed with the subtle elegance of lemongrass. Add pickled veggies, a long cucumber spear, cilantro and a fresh roll, and you've got yourself a tasty sandwich. Pro tip: to make yours vegan, ask for the sandwich without mayo or butter (they've been known to butter a roll or two).

Did I mention that these bad boys cost $4.95 a sandwich?? The service is also extremely friendly. I know, it's confusing, but I promise, you're still in Philadelphia...
The tofu, mushroom and onion has tofu cut and cooked to a similar consistency, but looses the lemongrass in favor of earthy sauteed mushrooms and onions. Though this isn't my sandwich of choice, I do always make sure to snag a bite or two from Ken. And I have no pictures of it, because it always gets gobbled up too quickly.
Traditional Banh Mi has beef or pork, or some other gross dead animals that I don't eat. But these sandwiches aren't about the meat. QT has all the necessary components of the sandwich perfected: the roll (crispy outside, airy insides), the pickled veggies (tart and crunchy), and the cilantro (give me more!). And that tofu, geez Louise, I'd like to eat it by the bucket! QT has other things on the menu, like rice dishes, but I don't think I'll ever get any further than the Banh Mi. It's just too good to pass by.
Next time you're in Chinatown or have a hankering for an awesome sandwich, give QT a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

QT Vietnamese Sandwich
48 N 10th St
Philadelphia PA 19107
(267) 639-4520

Monday, February 21, 2011

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

It's been awhile, and I hope no one's been worried about me. I've been MIA most of this month because I've been on vacation for the last week and a half! Don't get too excited, I barely left town, but I did have a full week of no-work, responsibility-free fun. I tried to stay away from the internet as much as possible, and just enjoyed spending time with my workaholic boyfriend, who was also on vacation. I'm here to give a recap for all you Nosey Nancies out there. (Don't worry, sometimes I lurk too...)

My vacation started by baking a bunch of cupcakes and cookies and heading up to Scranton to visit family and friends and drop off an order. Banana Split cupcakes, bowling, laundry, haircuts, and vegan chili cheese fries filled up my agenda.
AND I got a belated Christmas gift from one of my closest friends, Justin. I've been drooling over this necklace for awhile, and even though I never told him about it, somehow, he knew. I guess after 15 years of friendship, it comes with the territory. But seriously, how cute is this??
I headed back to Philly, and Ken and I did some nice weekend stuff. Gospel Brunch with friends at Johnny Brenda's...
...and a visit to meet Ken's new nephew! I've been working on a blanket for him over the last month and it was awesome to finally have a sweet little baby to wrap up all warm.
We spent our Valentine's Day enjoying the beautiful weather in Philly (over 50 degrees!). We headed to Chinatown, ate some Bahn Mi and honeycomb waffles, and roamed the streets and stores finding all kinds of gems.
That night we headed to a dinner party. I made some cake: vegan chocolate cake with a raspberry Chamboard filling, a raspberry Chamboard frosting and a dark chocolate ganache topping. It needs a little tweaking before I can give you the recipe, but it was a pretty big hit among the party guests.
Tuesday, Ken took me to New York. He had planned a really sweet, romantic getaway, but God laughed at all our plans, and after losing a debit card and forgetting to take enough cash out (combined with our lack of smart phones) we had to improvise. Not to be deterred, we still had a great day full of free art at the Met, tasty snacks, and a self-guided walking tour of Ken's alma mater, NYU.  Best of all, I finally made it to Lula's Apothecary and got some vegan pistachio ice cream in my belly. I'm pretty sure I'd walk 20 miles in a mud storm with someone whipping me the whole way to get another scoop of that good stuff, so it definitely made the trip worth it. After a long day of riding trains and walking the big city, we got home late and slept like fat babies.
The rest of our vacation was pretty uneventful. I did a lot of cleaning around the house, more laundry and organizing, mixed with ample amounts of reading, loafing and snacking. I made sure to meet up with my lady friends for early-afternoon Lucille Bluth-style lunching and enjoyed the sunshine and ridiculously unseasonable temps that blessed Philadelphia last week as much as I possibly could. And of course, I got in lots of quality time with my sweet little love, Gracie LaRoux.
I didn't get to leave the Mid-Atlantic region, let alone see a sunny beach, but I did ease deeply into that stress-free vacation mind-set. Now it's back to work, back to baking, back to cold temps, and back to the grind...