Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introducing Ms. Abbien: The Gluten-free Vegan wonder!

Do you remember your freshman year roommate? Better yet, are you still friends with her/him? I'm lucky enough to have had the best roommate ever, whom I lived with for the rest of college, and we have not only remained friends, but still get to hang out from time to time. 

Abbie and I clicked over our love of Punk/Indie rock and an obscene pride in our Irish heritage. We bonded over eyebrow piercings and keeping a vegetarian diet on a freshman meal plan. We've changed a lot over the years, but some things, like our respective sweet tooths, have stayed the same. When I suggested that she come over and bake some oatmeal cream pies with me, I didn't have to ask twice. Bakin' cookies with Abbie is where it's at! Little Debbie, fear our skills. But I'll let Abbie tell you all about it...
I've known Colleen for many years, and I've known her to do many wonderful things. Working on perfecting a vegan oatmeal cream pie has undoubtedly been one of them.
Sometimes you just needs to taste your childhood. You know, something to distract you from all of those icky grown-up responsibilities that now consume your life. Well, I'm pretty sure my childhood is nestled somewhere between two oatmeal raisin cookies, right alongside baking with friends and family. So, heading into the kitchen with Colleen made perfect sense. It was a chance to channel inner girlhood, listen to some indie rock, eat (I mean test) cookie batter, and make gluten-free vegan oatmeal cream pies.
Wait! Gluten-free! Yeah, you heard me. It was time to bust out the alternative flours. Gluten-free baking can be tricky, and finding the right flour blend can take some experimenting. If you're looking for gluten-free flours or baking products, I totally recommend Bob's Red Mill. Not only does this brand have a huge selection of alternative flours, but Bob looks like he has a sweet beard. Who can deny the trustworthiness of an awesome beard? Is it just me? Well, in addition to Whole Foods and some traditional grocery stores, Asian grocery stores also carry many gluten-free flours (rice and millet flours, etc.).
As the world of gluten-free flours is vast, we used a blend from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. This book oozes wonderful information and ideas for vegan and gluten-free goodies.

We incorporated the blend into the recipe that Colleen uses for her vegan oatmeal cream pies and the smell of nugmeg and cinnamon added to my excited anticipation. Seriously, anything that produces that kind of cinnamon aroma in the kitchen has got to be good.
I often find that the challenge with gluten-free vegan baking isn't in the taste of the batter, but the right ingredients and the baking itself. I dare you not to be tempted to lick the computer screen. Look at that batter! That's full of gluten-free vegan deliciousness.

There were some adjustments with the actual baking of the cookies in order to find the right consistancy and shape. But that's part of the fun! Sitting around the kitchen, modestly nibbling the the edge of a cookie, hand on your chin, looking upwards in concentration trying to imagine all of the flavors, letting out the frequent "hmmm...". That's where it's at.

The cookies were pretty darn tasty and just needed the cream filling to make Little Debbie totally jealous. And for a brief moment, I forgot all about those pesky adult things I needed to get done, and enjoyed my first oatmeal cream pie, in like, forever. Well, I suppose there were many brief moments since then, seeing as they're all gone.

A guest post, how exciting! I hope you guys are ready for some more. My friendship with Abbie has seen many years and many bottles of whiskey, and now we're taking things to the next level. Abbie's agreed to become a regular contributor to the blog! Let me tell you why this will make Sweet Swallows even more awesome than it already is:
  • Abbie not only bakes tasty sweets, but rocks the savory snacks too.
  • Gluten-free and vegan means more allergies are covered, and more people are happy.
  • Her camera skills are far superior to mine
  • She's got a wicked green thumb and a bangin' garden to show for it.
  • She's Rad. Obviously. End of Story.

So welcome, Abbie, and I look forward to more posts from you! And thanks for not giving away too many of my oatmeal creme pie secrets... But seriously guys, if you haven't already gotten a copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, I don't know what's wrong with you. It's got a ton of amazing recipes to keep all the vegans in your life happy, and to fool all of your non-vegan friends into liking vegan sweets. Win win. And all of the recipes can be made Gluten free. Which puts us up to win win win. Winners all around. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Better Butter

It's been busy and a little distracting around Casa de Sweet Swallows this month. Some of it awesome, some of it less than awesome. I need to tell you about one of the more awesome things. I made a new friend, and I'm going to dork out and tell you all about it. 

I've got some really great readers at this blog. Sometimes I get e-mails from those readers. A few months ago I got an e-mail from Marina, another Philadelphian, who owns a peanut butter company. She said she liked picnics, and that we should get coffee. I said I love peanut butter, and I think you should be my new best friend. True Story. 
Marina owns Better Butter. It's peanut butter mixed with fruit and natural sweeteners to make it even more delicious, but with half the calories of other brands. It's all natural, no preservatives, and some of the tastiest stuff around. There's no dairy, soy or gluten in any of the products, and two of the flavors are vegan.
Better Butter has two standard flavors, Honey Nut Banana and Nutty Chocolate Chip. They're both pretty tasty. But there's also a seasonal flavor: Maple Pumpkin Peanut Butter. Yeah, you heard that right. Maple. Pumpkin. Peanut. Butter. It's like autumn in a jar. And tastes like pumpkin pie filling. NOM NOM NOM. 
I'm the kind of person who's known to eat pie for breakfast. Shamelessly. If you'd like to eat pie for breakfast, but feel guilty about it, just pick up the Maple Pumpkin spread and put it on some toast or graham crackers. Problem solved. 
I can't keep this stuff in the house. It disappears by the spoonful. Into my mouth. And Marina can barely keep up with orders. So I've been helping her occasionally to make those big vats of Better Butter.
So how did I spend my day yesterday? Filling jar after jar of all 3 kinds of Better Butter. And it took all my will power not to swan dive face first into the giant vat of it. I was really proud of myself. I held back. I might not be strong enough next time. Just warning you, Marina. 
You can find Better Butter all throughout Philadelphia. It's available in some local grocers like Almanac and Green Aisle Grocer, and Marina also sells at a few farmer's markets around the city. For a full list of locations, check out their website. And now it's even available for your morning bagel at Grindcore House in South Philly, and Bodhi coffee in Headhouse Square. 

Seriously though, you'll want a whole jar for yourself. TRUST ME.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We Have a Winner

Hey y'all! Thanks to everyone who entered the Fanciful Fox giveaway. Our winner is comment #13, Rachel! I used a random number generator to select a winner, but unfortunately Blogger is being dumb and won't let me upload any pictures. Including the screenshot. So you'll just have to trust me.

Rachel will be receiving a bar of the Dead Sea soap, and her choice of Orange Coconut soap. Congratulations Rachel! Please e-mail me your mailing address at sweetswallowsbaking at gmail dot com, and we'll get your soap right to you!

Also, I haven't mentioned it yet, but I was not one of the lucky contestants to move forward in Project Food Blog. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by the site and voted for me, both readers and other featured publishers. I was pretty bummed I didn't advance, but I'm so glad I took part in the competition. I've found so many new blogs that I love, and feel like I've gained some new readers and made new friends in the food blogger community. I'll still be following along with the contest and voting myself, and I'm sure eventually you'll hear about who I'm supporting in the competition.

With two dinner parties this past weekend and Ken on vacation this week, I've been taking a little break from blogging. But I'll be back soon with some reviews, recipes, and other nonsense.

And speaking of nonsense and nonsequiters, Happy Choochtober/Doctober/Red October, Phillies fans! Here's to a long month...