Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blackberry Corn Muffins

Oh hai Tuesdee. Thanks for being a lot nicer than Monday. And thanks, Technology, for finally deciding to cooperate. Here's what I planned to tell y'all about yesterday. 
Sunday was quite a gray day. Cold and rainy and mopey. Know what made it worse? I had to be at work at 8:30 AM. For a meeting. Double yuck. 
8:30 am Sunday meetings should be illegal. It's cruel and unusual and downright inhumane. Such is the world of retail, I suppose. To ease everyone's pain, I decided to bring my coworkers some muffins to nosh on as we all miserably watched too many poor-quality corporate videos through half-open eyelids. 
And, like I often do, "maybe i'll make some muffins" turned into a muffin-palooza. 3 batches, 36 muffins. (There's not even 20 of us that work there). I wish I had taken a picture of the basket-o-muffins. It was pretty ridic. 
I stuck with my standard vegan banana muffins, half with and half without nuts, for one batch. They're a crowd pleaser. And some of my co-workers are pretty picky. 
The others, I figured I'd just see what was good at the market. I went to the Whole Foods on South Street, and they were having some kind of earth day festival on the block with lots of eco-friendly vendors and live music. Very nice. Once inside, I found some delicious smelling strawberries on special, and some (slightly beat up) rhubarb hanging around, so I decided to attempt a strawberry rhubarb muffin. They were OK, but mostly disappointing. A little dry, and not sweet enough. They've got potential though, so I'll try again and report back at another time.  
And then I saw some blackberries for real cheap, and got it into my head that blackberry corn muffins would be AMAZING. And they were. 
Oh lordy, are these babies delicious! 
I'm a pretty big fan of a sweet corn muffin. The gritty, but soft texture makes me feel a little naughty. But I didn't have a standard corn muffin recipe. I've made sweet potato corn bread, but not a regular, simple corn muffin recipe with which to play with. So I hopped over to the post punk kitchen, to see what Isa (of Veganomican and VCTOTW fame) had to say about them. This recipe got great reviews, and since she's yet to steer me wrong, I ran with it. 
Let me warn you guys, these things are like crack. They're a little sweeter than I'd normally like and I'll probably cut back on the sugar next time, but otherwise they're perfect. The texture is great, soft yet slightly gritty. They're crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not too crumbly. And the bit of lemon zest added at the end makes all the difference. Dreamy, really.  Just like Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink or Mannequin
These muffins got a one-way ticked to the "make as often as possible" list. For realsies. 

Blackberry Corn Muffins
adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup corn or vegetable oil
3/4 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons soy yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2-3/4 cup roughly chopped blackberries

Preheat oven to 400. Line muffin tins, if you plan to do so, now. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through sugar). In a seperate bowl, wisk together wet ingredients (oil through vanilla). Fold wet into dry, halfway through mixing add lemon zest and blackberries and distribute well.

Spray muffin tins w/ non stick cooking spray if not using liners. Fill each tin 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. 

If making in advance, you can warm these up in the microwave later for about 10-15 seconds, and they're still as tasty. (Don't microwave them for any longer, especially not a whole minute, or your whole apartment will smell like burnt muffins for at least 2 days. Ken, I'm looking at you.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

I think I'll move to Australia...

Guys, I'm having a serious case of the Mondays. All forms of technology and social media have crapped out on me today, and nothing seems to be going right. I had a lovely post all ready to go about Blackberry Corn Muffins, but I can't get the pics uploaded. And I'm having problems with the photos already on my computer. And Facebook is being a little bitch and won't let me upload photos and keeps asking me to login every 3 seconds and I can't get anything done. And I had to work tonight and I had a tummy ache and it was cold and rainy and just an all around terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

On the bright side, Ryan Howard will stay a Phillie for awhile (I love that big teddy bear!), and silly things like this exist in the world:

and this:

and then I remember I have the day off tomorrow, and I don't feel the need to move across the world or stomp my feet and whine and moan as much anymore. After all, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully a day when technology doesn't HATE me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Make Every Day Earth Day

Not to get all Al Gore on you, but seriously people. I hope you spent your earth day doing things to reduce your impact on the environment. Excuse me while I hop up on my soap box for a minute. 
Some of the easiest things you can do:

Philadelphia makes it so easy to recycle. They pick up once a week on your regular trash day. You don't need to sort, everything can go in one bin. And you can use any old container you have laying around, as long as it's clearly labeled for recycling. The city does have restrictions on what it will and won't take, so check out the list here to make sure you're recycling properly. The city also just started a program with Recycling Rewards where you can earn points for stuff just by recycling. Learn more about it here. 
*side rant* Are you listening South Philly? Stop being so self-entitled as to think that it's perfectly OK to just throw your trash on the ground where ever you are. I've lost count of how many times I've seen a kid buy a popsicle from a corner store, leave the store, throw the wrapper on the ground and not break his stride as he walks down the street. Really? And the adults are just as bad. Whatever happened to Woodsy Owl? Why doesn't anyone down here give a hoot?? *end rant*

Reusable shopping bags come in all forms, including ones that squish down into cute little pockets that fit on your keychain. Keep extras in your car so you don't forget when you go to the store. And don't just use them at the grocery store, take them to the mall or other retail locations too. And stop requesting bags for purchases that don't need it, like a small basket, or lip gloss, and especially don't ask for a plastic bag for your reusable bag (I wish I was kidding about this one, but it happens lots). And if you do take a plastic bag, make sure you're recycling or reusing them!

One way is to eat less meat. I can't preach about being a vegetarian, because I'm not anymore, but I only consume meat about 2 times a week, and I never eat any red meat or pork products. My friend Maura posted a link on environmental reasons to go vegetarian, and it's pretty good advice. Even cutting out meat 1 or 2 days a week can make a big impact. And while you're at it, try to eat seasonally and locally. You food will taste better, and shorter shipping distances means less carbon dioxide emitted. That's a win win if you ask me. 
Speaking of eating, let's get back to the food, and what I ate for earth day. (This is a food blog, when I'm not getting all environmentally righteous). I did reuse the icing leftover from the bake sale to make some pretty delicious cupcakes (Vanilla agave with rosewater buttercream and an Irish Coffee Cupcake- I'm sure you'll hear about them soon). But I wanna talk to you about my lunch. 
My dear friend Maggie used to be my snack master. I'd stop by for breakfast, lunch and dinner at her place, and she'd fill me with delicious vegetarian snacks. Then she moved to Albuquerque. [Insert sad panda face]. But back when she would fill my belly with the goodness, my favorite recipe was for a vegan chicken salad. And so for those of you that are thinking about reducing your meat consumption this is a pretty great recipe. 
Even for someone who was a vegetarian for many years, I don't often cook with tofu. (Well, I don't often cook at all, I usually leave that to Ken...) This is a really simple recipe though, and answers that question, "What the heck do I do with this big block of firm tofu?" (I didn't think ahead enough to take pics of anything other than the final product. Sorry!)

Vegan Chicken Salad
1 Container of firm or extra firm tofu
Fresh Dill
Chives or Green onions
Salt and Pepper
Sandwich fixins of your choice

Open the tofu and drain the water from the container. Keep tofu in container, place in a freezer bag/wrap in plastic wrap, and leave in freezer over night. (Freezing the tofu changes the texture. This is a very important step, so don't skip it!) The next day, take tofu out and allow to thaw. Once it's thawed you'll need to drain the remaining water. Take out of the container, wrap in paper towels and place on a plate. Place another plate on top of the tofu, and something to weigh it down (2 cans work well). Let sit like that for 20-30 minutes. After it's drained, crumble the tofu into a large bowl. Add the vegenaise to taste (I used about a 1/4 cup) and stir. 
From here on out, it's very easy to personalize. I add about 5-6 sprigs of fresh dill (and added more later, because I love the dill), a handful of chopped chives, two stalks of chopped celery, salt, pepper and some Herbs de Provence. I also chopped up some bread and butter pickles and tossed them in, but I'm weird like that. Mix it all together, and keep playing with it till you like the flavor. If you have time to let it sit you should, as I think it tastes better when all the flavors get a chance to come together, but if you can't wait, slap it in a pita and call it a day. It's also great on multi-grain bread or on top of leafy greens or on a spoon straight out of the bowl. 
This earth day sandwich consisted of toasted multi-grain bread with several hearty spoonfuls of "chicken" salad, spring mix lettuce, extra bread and butter pickles, and sliced avocados sprinkled with salt. Super yum!! And a pretty delicious way to be eco-responsible. WIN!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bake Sale Recap

When you have a bake sale where the proceeds go towards ending childhood hunger, everybody wins (especially the children). And when Philadelphia food bloggers donate the goodies, the results are quite delicious. You might remember I mentioned last week that I was participating in the Great American Bake Sale- Philly food blogger edition. Last I heard we raised over $800 for Share Our Strength. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and bought some snacks!
I met some very cool ladies and gents with great blogs and yummy treats. Despite the chilly temps and the hurricane-force winds (that may be hyperbole) that kept knocking cupcakes around, we had a lot of fun!
What were the most popular treats? The pretzels and the cupcakes with booze in them. This is Philadelphia after all. Alison's margarita cupcakes were the first to go, and my Carbomb's didn't last much longer. I didn't get to try the margaritas, so I think I'll have to set up some kind of swap with Alison. Cupcake Happy Hour? Possibly the greatest idea EVER. 
Stephan's pretzels were a huge hit too. Homemade sesame seed soft pretzels? YES PLEASE.  They were the first thing I put in my belly. I kept drooling over Baker E's whoopie pies and Elvis cake (but with all the dairy, my guts said 'please don't do that to us!' and I listened. *mope*), and snacked some Snickerdoodles and a whole-grain Apple Pie Pocket. For a full list of all the bloggers and their snacks, check out Julie's post at  Running Reckless. Here's a peek at some of the goods. 
Julie organized the event and did a great job. I was most impressed with the stands, containers and decorations she brought to set everything up. The table looked amazing! 
Julie also was sweet enough to hang on to my camera for me after I left it behind. Thanks for giving that tale of woe a happy ending, Julie!
So, moral of the story is bake sale = great success. And now I've got a ton of other local blogs to check out. I'll be adding them to my blogroll soon. 
Know of any other bake sales happening? I think I've caught a fever...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pear and Ginger Pie

So the Great American Bake Sale- Philly Food Blogger Edition- was today, and it went great! I took tons of pics and met lots of sweet ladies and gents with even sweeter snacks. And then I LEFT MY CAMERA THERE. Epic Fail. Since I haven't gotten it back yet, you'll just have to wait to see/hear about it. But in the meantime, I've got some other things to talk about.
I need to tell you about my dear friend Theresa. She's awesome. She's smart, and beautiful, and sweet and kind. She's tons of fun to hang out with and extremely supportive of her friends, and just generally a top-notch gal. To know Tree is to love her. And another reason why I love Theresa? She loves my pies. In particular, my pear and ginger pie. So for her birthday (which was back around Easter), I made her a little pie to call her own. 
I happened to have some mini-pie crusts in my freezer left over from a pie-a-palooza a few months ago. I had made a bunch of crusts, lined some small disposable tins, wrapped them in plastic wrap and threw them in the freezer. I don't normally plan ahead like this, but I was quite pleased with myself for the foresight. And I'm not usually one to take shortcuts while baking, especially with my pies, but since I was baking and decorating 4 dozen cupcakes that same morning, I thought i'd give myself a break. 
Theresa's not the only one that loves this pie. This pie can convert cake eaters and make boys fall in love with you. There's lots to love about it, but it's quite simple. It's not too sweet. I like to let the pears sing quietly in their subtle sweetness. But just when you thought everything was safe and mild, the ginger lights a match in the back of your throat and kicks you from behind. And somehow, it all works together and marries beautifully and delicately on your tongue and in your belly. And you'll start to find excuses to eat it for breakfast. 
Now I know that many people talk about baking being a science. And it is. I'd be lying if I said I never measure anything because somethings require precision and ratios. Like pie crust. I've fine-tuned my crust-making techniques over the last year and now have a flawless recipe. But when it comes to fruit fillings, I like to play fast and loose.  I don't think I've ever actually followed a fruit pie recipe. I tend to think of them as "suggestions", and just kind of toss the ingredients together until it looks right. But I realize some people need rules, boundaries, maps. So, I'm going to give you the recipe that I didn't follow, which is for a full 9 inch pie. I used every item listed in the recipe, but may have added some as I saw fit. As for amounts and ratios, all bets are off. 

Pear and Ginger Pie
adapted from The Garden of Vegan
One 9 inch vegan pie crust (i'll post a recipe eventually)
4 pears, not too ripe, cored and sliced
1/2 cup dry sweetener
3 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp cinammon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, I like to pour the sugar over the fruit first, and mix it up, then combine the other ingredients together (except for the cinammon and sugar) in a small bowl, and pour over the pears, tossing to cover. Pour into prepared pie shell, and sprinkle cinammon and sugar on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until liquid is bubbling and filling is set. Allow to cool completely on wire rack. Unless you're Theresa, and you can't wait for it to cool or set and need warm soupy pie immediately. Either way, it's delicious. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Philadelphia Food Blogger Bake Sale- This Saturday!!

Hey guys! How was your Monday? Mine was filled with sunshine and baseball and a Phillies win. That's a pretty solid Monday if you ask me. But I'm already thinking about this weekend, because I'm participating in the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale in Philadelphia! All the proceeds from the sale go towards Share Our Strength, which is a pretty great organization working to eliminate child hunger. It's a serious problem, people! 

The Philly version will be happening at a Full Plate Cafe in Northern Liberties (1009 N. Bodine St, Philadelphia PA) this Saturday, April 17, 2010 from 10am to 3pm. I'll be donating some snacks (right now it looks like the Casbah cupcakes and the CARBOMB cupcakes), and volunteering for at least part of the day. So for those of you in Philadelphia, stop drooling on your keyboards and come grab some of those yummy treats you've been ogling for months. 

If you can't make it, you can still donate by going here: DONATE!

And if you're a Philly food blogger and would like to donate some baked goods, you can contact Julie over at Running Reckless. She's running the show, and doing a fabulous job so far! (Get it? Running? I crack myself up!)

I do hope I get to see some of your smiling faces on Saturday. Come drop some dough and fill your bellies for a great cause!

Also, I made these today for the home opener:
(Low-fat Vegan Vanilla cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream)

Yay Baseball!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Snackin' in Scranton: Eden, a vegan cafe

I love vegan food and baked goods. But let's be clear about one thing: I'm NOT vegan. I hope I didn't break any of your hearts. I was vegetarian for about 10 years, and vegan for 2 of them. And of course, there's that whole lactose-intolerant thing. But every once in a while you'll catch me eating potato pizza or fish tacos or using butter in my pie crust. (My vegan crust is pretty tasty, but you just can't beat butter sometimes! sigh...) 
In Philly it's pretty easy to eat vegetarian. Most of the bar/restaurants I frequent have awesome menu standards and specials that are cruelty-free and delicious. But a place that's 100% without a doubt, no ifs-ands-or-buts about it VEGAN? None in Philly. You've got to go to Scranton for that. 
Yeah, you heard me right. SCRANTON. It's quite lovely up there. And they've got yummy places to eat. Like Eden- a vegan cafe. If you follow along with this blog, you'll know I stayed home an extra night while visiting for Easter just to make sure I could grab lunch there. That's how delicious it is. And the service is super friendly, and the place is bright and airy and pretty and they're on the coolest block downtown (on Adams Ave, right across from the best bar in town and the awesome Thai place, but those are for another post...). And the owners are big PHILLIES fans. And if you live in the Scranton area or if you're like me and from Scranton but go home frequently to visit, then you need to go. Immediately. And thank me later. 
Eden's got a full menu with soups, appetizers, salads, sandwiches (hot and cold), and desserts. They've also got weekly specials. I've yet to have anything from here that I didn't think was snack-tastic. 
Before hitting the turnpike on Tuesday, I grabbed lunch with friends. This time around, I got one of the specials- the Waldorf Chicken Salad sandwich. Soy Protein "chicken" salad with Vegenaise, diced apples, sliced grapes, walnuts, romaine lettuce and tomatoes. It came on a multi-grain wrap, but I got mine on a hoagie roll. (Sometimes I just want some bread, and they're really accommodating at Eden.) The result was super delicious. The textures and flavors blended so well: the tart apple crunch, sweet squish of grapes and earthy chewiness of walnuts. The "chicken" was also spot on. I'm always really impressed with the faux meat products Eden uses. I usually get freaked out by the texture of seitan (which most restaurants use for their veg dishes), but I don't think they use it at Eden.
With their sandwiches you get your choice of side. I usually order a super double secret side dish whose name I can't divulge, but I will show you pictures of it. As for the rest of you mortals, I'd recommend the slaw. I dream about their coleslaw some nights. OK, most nights. Alright, EVERY night. For REAL. Their smashed potatoes are most excellent too. (Surprise! The Irish girl loves potatoes too! Moving on...) I've never seen anyone order another side because both of those are so tasty, but I hear they have other options. 
Carolyn got the unofficial "Michelle Williams" turkey club, which is a typical turkey club but with avocado slices. Why is it called the "Michelle Williams"? Because that's what Michelle ordered when she stopped into Eden before the Wilco show in Scranton. Yes, that Michelle Williams. Yes, that Wilco. Yes, in Scranton. Yes, I was confused too. Let's get back to the food. 
The turkey club at Eden is the kind of thing that's so good I have a hard time ordering anything else. And I'm a firm believer that avocados can improve anything, so they managed to take this mighty sandwich to the next level of delicious. "Turkey" slices, vegan bacon strips, lettuce, tomato, Vegenaise, and avocado slices layered on whole wheat bread. But the avocado may have sent it over the edge, as it was pretty messy and Carolyn said she needed a bigger mouth to eat it (and she's got the biggest mouth of anyone I know). 
This led Carolyn, the philosophy professor, to start talking about the turkey club paradox: "How could there be a sandwich too large for the largest mouth to fit? If you take a layer off is it still a turkey club? Does it's essence change in any way?"... and then Louie started arguing with Carolyn (like they always do) about her Aristotelian snack-theorizing, and I stopped listening and continued eating my hoagie. At the end of it all she said the turkey club was like a "sandwich explosion, but an explosion of deliciousness." Which are the best kind, obviously
Louie had a Turkey Cobb Wrap (with avocado, bacon bits, ranch and lettuce) and Matt had the Waldorf wrap, both of which got two thumbs up. Dan joined us later and tried the Agave Nectar Mustard Salmon Wrap- grilled salmon strips, glazed with an agave nectar and Dijon mustard sauce, grilled pepper strips, and leafy greens on a multi-grain wrap. He was too busy snacking to get a comment, but it looked super yum!
Of course, before we left I had to try some dessert (it's research, people!) and got the Banana Chocolate cheesecake. I'm not a fan of cheesecakes (real or vegan), but I know the girl that they buy the cheesecakes from and I promised her I'd give them a try. I'm so glad I did. The filling was nice and soft, with a mild banana flavor marbled with smooth chocolate on a thick bed of graham cracker crumbs. Kelly, please keep making these delicious cheesecakes. So I can keep putting them in my belly. I also took some slaw for the road, and had a super yummy post-drive snack in Philly. 
I've only got one gripe about eden, and that's their hours. I wish they were open more! They close early most Saturdays and they're closed on Sundays and Mondays, which make it difficult for me to get there during my visits home. And leads me to stay in town longer than planned or beg friends to pick up orders. The slaw is that good! If I still lived in Scranton, I'd eat there everyday, and harass them into selling my treats. (Maura and Christian, I've gotta bring you guys some Casbah cupcakes or some Diddy cookies next time I'm home...)
So go to Eden! What are you waiting for? That trip you've been meaning to take to Scranton to take the "Office" tour? Do it now! And stop in Eden for lunch and you might see the sexy crew above. Or if you work or live downtown or at the University of Scranton, order some takeout and a cute boy who looks suspiciously like Buddy Holly will deliver it to you on his bike (though don't get too excited girls, his lady-friend is way hotter than Mary Tyler Moore). But whatever you do, eat there soon!
344 Adams Ave
Scranton PA 18503
(Become friends with them on facebook too!)