Saturday, October 4, 2008

I'm not dead... just poor! Haha!

My newly empty wallet has me headed towards new horizons, check out my delicious vegan meal ideas for $7! There will be seven new meals each Tuesday.

I'm about to head back to school for another BA (I just can't get enough of that college thing can I?) and my job has turned into part time... leaving little money or time for extra baking on the side. I still have to make the basic foods though, which has lead me to my new project

Shannie's Sinful Seven. Hope you'll check it out!

http://shanniessinfulseven.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 28, 2008

EGADS!


I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted! I'm such a bad blogger! I've been far too busy taking in the sights of the Oregon coast to bake, woe is me.

My parents came to visit from Florida and we spent a week going down the coast and saw some beautiful places. To the right is a picture of Crater Lake's Wizard Island. Crater Lake is this incredible lake that was created by volcanic eruptions like... seven thousand years ago.

A friend of ours works as a researcher there this summer and we're hoping to arrange a camping trip soon (my parents idea of roughing it is no cable tv).

Even though I grew up in Florida, I'm not a big beach girl. I blame my irrational fear of the sun and bathing suits. For my money Oregon beachs totally trump the boring sand pits that are Florida's beaches-- my parents strongly disagree... but really you can't beat this. Sure the water is too cold for swimming, but it's just absolutely gorgeous to look at, even on hazy over cast days that are prevalent on the Oregon coast.

As a thank you to our friends who took great care of our Lylah Bean & Fitzgerald while we were gone (and answered my 1.5 million phone calls to check in on them) I whipped up a cherry cake. I found some amaretto cherry pie filling at Crater Lake and I thought it would be delicious in a dark chocolate cake. I remembered my mom making some cake from a box cake mix and a can of cherry pie filling about a million years so I decided to try to replicate it without the box mix. It turned out great. I pulsed the jar (13.5 oz) of cherry pie filling in the food processor and added it to my chocolate (vegan) mayo cake recipe (which I left out the water). The batter was VERY thick so I added a dash of soy milk to thin it out and separated the batter in two cake tins. I baked the cakes for about 20 minutes until done but still moist. While the cakes were cooling, but still warm I glazed them in some black cherry preserves I had found at the co-op. Instead of using "buttercream" between the layers I used the cherry preserves. I added about 4 tablespoons of the black cherry preserves to my basic "buttercream" recipe which gave it a lovely pink color (which the Oregon lighting doesn't really capture even with two photo lights directed at the cake and my amazing camera) dotted with some cherry skins.

I was surprised that the cherry flavor was not overwhelming. It was great-- cherry isn't exactly my thing so next time I'm going to throw in some amaretto extract into the cake and frosting and decorate with some dark chocolate ganache splatters on the icing next time to give it some more flavor profiles. The amaretto flavor wasn't as pronounced as I would have liked once I added the preserves and icing.

In other news, I'm on a roller derby league thats just starting up and we're having a bad ass bake sale sometime in the near future, so I'll be sure to be baking and posting a lot more now that the summer has calmed down. So far the best derby name I've come up with is TNT (Tits N Tofu) which is a hommage to my old nickname in high school TnA (Tits N Apathy-- I used to have no ass what so ever, that has changed in my "old" age).

I leave you now with the reunited (and it feels so good) Lylah Bean & Fitzgerald.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summertime!


Ah... summer. Time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little R&R.
Unless your name is Shannon Pfingsten! I have been ridiculously busy lately. Nicole came and went and we had an absolute blast! The following weeks my in-laws visited and we're just recovering from that. In two weeks MY parents come for a week long tour of the Oregon Coast.

Whew.

Unfortunately I haven't had all the time in the world to bake for pleasure, but I have been eating some incredible food!
(Yes, probably the least attractive picture of me, of all time, but theres a great vegan donut in it, so it's totally worth it!)
Our first stop on the "Eat your way through Oregon" tour with Nicole was Voodoo Doughnut which we visited as soon as her plane landed. I haven't had many vegan donuts in my time, but these are hands down the best I've had. Great texture and flavor... not dense at all! We grabbed lunch at The Hungry Tiger Too... but I've already reviewed that here.


Next stop was Newport, my friend is an eco-tourism guide there so we were excited to go out whale watching with him. Unfortunately we didn't see anything as far as whales went but we still had a blast. We did get to see Sea Lions though, they were awesome! I was worried about finding vegan options in Newport since the whole town is fish crazy. Ever wonder what happens when you go into a seafood restaurant and ask for something vegan?
Spicy tempeh and vegetables over thai noodles. Delicious! This restaurant didn't even have any vegetarian items listed on their menu so I was so pleased they had tempeh on hand for us and they came up with something more interesting then a green salad with oil & vinegar.Nicole was excited to hear that one of her favorite bands, Sea Wolf, would be performing in Portland while she was in town. Since I live outside of Portland we decided to spend the night in the city. We prepared for the show by drinking beer out of mason jars at Bye & Bye and eating AMMMMAZING food. It's an all vegan bar which is great-- Nicole and I aren't used to have quite so many choices and we took forever to make our dinner selections... but it was worth all the thought. Nicole had the meatball sub and chili. I had a chili dog. We split a side order of tofu, chips & salsa, and more chili. Delicious. The service was great too.After a few mason jars... our pictures began to look like this...
After a great night in Portland we woke up and ate vegan sausage and the best maple syrup I've ever had wrapped in a waffle. Crazy, ridiculously, good. The Flavour Spot isn't just a small waffle cart in the parking lot of a video store... it is a diamond in the rough. They don't advertise their vegan options on their menu (what the heck) but the owner (who was nice enough to chat with me) told me they just opened another location as well! They have a few vegan options... peanut butter & jelly, vegan sausage and maple syrup (not to be confused with their veggie sausage which is not vegan), and strawberry & vegan whipped cream. Yum, Ian & I stopped by Flavour Spot again after dropping Nicole off at the airport.

I was sad to see Nicole go, but I had to hurry into "in law" mode and get everything ready for their visit. We had some friends over, as well as Ian's family, for dinner and conversation while they were in town. I think I made a pretty decent spread, and the non-vegans were just as happy as the vegans.
We had... homemade gaucamole, homemade roasted red pepper hummus, asian dumplings with miso ginger dipping sauce, balsamic marinated portabello mushrooms, champagne & mushroom pate', salad, and "chicken" fingers with honey mustard dipping sauce.















"Chicken" Fingers (Southern Style Seitan from this post. I doubled the recipe and made them into strips instead of patties)













Asian Dumplings, soooo simple to make. I bought premade vegan wonton wrappers. Sauteed some garlic & bagged coleslaw mix (carrots, cabbage, etc) until it wilted. Stuffed the wontons with about a tablespoon of the veggies and baked for ten minutes.

Now I am off to badger Nicole into uploading her pictures from the vacation... hope everyone is getting some much needed R&R this summer!

Got yelp? Me too... add me!
http://shanniecakes.yelp.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

I know, it's 4am...
who wakes up in a cold sweat with the desire to bake cupcakes at 1am? I do.

Who takes 3 hours to make said cupcakes? I do.

Who comes out with a batch of beautiful cupcakes but is still not satisfied? I do!

My sleeping schedule is completely messed up lately... I went to bed at 5pm! With nothing better to do at 1am when I woke up (it's my one day off a week from the bakery) I decided I should just jump in and try to make my rainbow cupcakes again.

Instead of focusing on flavor combinations I focused entirely on the best way to get the perfect looking rainbow cupcakes.

I mixed a regular ole batch of vanilla cupcake batter. Seperated the batter into 4 bowls (a 1/2 cup of batter in each) and mixed red, yellow, blue & green batters.

Starting with the red I portioned out 1/2 a tablespoon into the bottom of a sprayed (but not lined) cupcake tin. I stuck the tin into a preheated 350 degree oven and baked for about 4 minutes, until the top was cooked. I should have used a full tablespoon for the bottom layer... more on this later.

I repeated this step with the yellow batter. Using the back of the tablespoon I gently evened out the layer of batter (not shown). Because my red layers had separated from the tin (due to the cooking spray) some of the yellow batter seeped into the sides of the other layer.I baked for 4 minutes and repeated the steps for the green and blue layers. After the blue layers were done I wanted a bit of a larger cupcake so I added another red layer with some left over batter. All in all I got 6 complete cupcakes and 3 that did not have the final red layer.

I allowed the cupcakes to fully cool and then inverted the tin onto a kitchen towel. The cakes slipped out easily-- along with my hopes & dreams.

The cupcake looks good-- but not great-- from the outside. The layers seeped into each other a bit. This cupcake is the best looking of the bunch with a fully defined bottom red layer.

A few of the cupcakes you couldn't see the bottom layer at all from the side.









The cupcakes were MUCH better looking on the inside.
Vibrant, rich colors. Defined layers (though the yellow IS a bit lost). I eased my unhappiness about the outside of the cupcake by reminding myself that cupcakes are frosted-- and in this case I was planning to frost it completely in some of that left over fondant I still have on hand.

I punched out some fondant stars, painted them silver...and created this monstrosity of tacky cakeSo while this attempt was not a complete success the final product looks like something David Bowie would like-- and I'm cool with that.

In other news one of my oldest and dearest friends is coming to visit me this week! The impending visit got me feeling very nostalgic and thumbing through some old photos on my computer (unfortunately most of my old photos are still in a box in my parents barn in Florida).

I found this gem though... I'm between the guy in the Good Riddance t-shirt & the girl in the grey. Nicole (my friend whose visiting) is the 2nd on the right in black. This was EIGHT YEARS AGO (I was 16 awww) which just is insane to me. That night we we're going to see H2O and I remember being so bugged that Nicole came because we hated each other back then (a boy, it's always about a boy isn't it). My trip down memory lane also got me thinking about all the bands I listened to back then... not to get too terribly mushy but I 100% believe that music saved my life & made me into the awesome vegan baker I am today. *end nostalgic mush fest*

I hope everyone has a great week... mine will be filled with whale watching, vegan waffle carts, some random show Nicole wants to go to, and listening to my favorite CDs from when I was 16.

Monday, June 2, 2008

An adventure in food...



Since I was MIA for awhile, I have a giant post of food & friends to make it up to you!

Ian & I rarely eat out, there's the obvious "problem" that we're Vegan but mostly I just really like to cook-- and I tend to think I cook better then restaurants (oh no! blaspheme!). When we heard that a new upscale Slow Food establishment was opening up we decided to try it out for our 5 "monthaversary". Strega is beautifully decorated and has a great atmosphere. Of the 27 things on their menu... two of them were vegan and we were told the cooks would be happy to put together something special for us. We decided to stick to their menu and split the Butternut Squash Curry. It was an Indian Curry and very good. I'm not a huge squash fan but I loved it. It was missing spice and they served it with an unusual flat bread instead of the traditional naan... but I was pleased, or perhaps just drunk. Knowing me it was a bit of both. :D

I happily received an e-mail from Melisser of The Urban Housewife fame letting me know she was going to be in Portland for a few days! We decided to meet up for Donuts at Sweetpea and the Saturday Market. I've eaten at Sweetpea before, and reviewed it here. Truthfully, I am still disappointed. The baked goods are... good. They aren't great. Ian made the observation that they seem to make up for flavor by adding sugar-- I completely agree. We picked at a few snacks and I was sugared out the rest of the day-- Which doesn't happen to me. Sugar? Me? We're like best friends forever! I feel like as vegans we sort of forgive the mishaps of a lot of places... we're just happy to have options. We shouldn't be! Vegan food can be amazing food. It SHOULD be amazing food. We put more thought and effort into our day to day diets... we should expect to be dazzled! Sweetpea's baked goods just aren't for me, I've met with people who think they're great. I'm not one of them and probably won't go there again-- which bugs me! I want to hang out in an awesome space with awesome vegans and eat amazing food!

The donuts are a speciality they have a few days a week. They're yeast donuts-- but the texture is more of half way between cake and yeast. They were doughy and lacking in flavor. The jelly donut had perhaps a tablespoon of "red" flavored jelly... it was a tasty filling but none of us really knew what the flavor was. The boston cream's chocolate topping was the high light of the donuts. It had a bit of a cappuccino flavor too it and was tasty on its own. The cream was tasteless and runny. The glazed donut was good-- I'm not a cake donut fan so the texture of these may have just thrown me off... even though they were yeast donuts they were too dense for my personal preference. The flavor just wasn't there for me. If the jelly donut was filled with more jelly it probably would have been my favorite.
The scone and snickerdoodle were Ian's choices. I don't like snickerdoodles so I didn't review it, it wasn't a hit at our table though. The scone was a bit too dense for my tastes, it had a bit of a buttery flavor which was nice... Ian thought it tasted more like a biscuit so we took it home, toasted it and topped it with Earth Balance and he seemed to enjoy it then. We also split a cupcake three ways, but by that time we were all pretty sugared out so it (like everything else truthfully) was not finished.We met up with a friend of Melisser's, Emily who recently moved to Portland. Then Ryan, Melisser's husband, finished up from his "nerd convention" and we went off to lunch together. The group was kind enough to forgive me for not sleeping the night before. I was an exhausted mess so I'm stoked everyone was understanding of it! We ate lunch at The Hungry Tiger Too, and I thought it was pretty great. My nachos were my favorite, though the cashew cheese did make the chips soggy. Ian got amazing Mac & Cheese, I think they used cashew cheese as the base for this as well and it did not disappoint. Emily & Ryan both got sandwiches they seemed to like. Melisser got Black Bean Soup & Polenta Fries. The fries weren't exactly what we expected... they would be great drunk food, oily and dipped in garlic "mayo" (vegan mayo with minced garlic... who knew it would be so tasty?).


I'd definitely eat there again-- even though the service left much to be desired. The prices were good, down right cheap... and everyone seemed happy with their meals.

I had a great time exploring the city with Melisser, it was nice to meet her in person since we've been lurking each others blogs for awhile now. I finally got some sleep before my bake Saturday night and was able to turn out some down right delicious treats!




Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Puffs with vanilla glaze








Vegan Apple Cherry Bran Muffins









Vegan Strawberry "Buttermilk" Coffee Cake




And my whole bakery case in all of it's glory:Melisser & I were talking about the best way to make rainbow cupcakes, so I decided to test out two ways. The first way I stacked blueberry and lemon batter one of top of the other. This was the way I was most weary of... afraid the different densities of the batter would cause them to swirl... I was right, haha.
Good, but not good enough.

The second way was a method I've seen to make these German "tree" cakes somewhere or another. You spoon batter into the mold and stick it in the oven for a few minutes until it begins to bake on the top, then spoon the second batter on top and follow the steps until finished. This would have worked perfect if Ian hadn't called me to meet him for lunch, damn that husband of mine for wanting to spend time with me between classes and teaching and working in the lab! So I made these quicker then I should have... and just did two layers but if I had the time, it would have been great, promise!Perfect layers, or close enough.


The inside of the first batch. Not exactly what I wanted, but pretty enough. Check out that blueberry layer! I used Italian Soda Syrup as the flavoring and then a bit of food coloring to get the blue color, instead of the purple the syrup was.




The inside of the second batch. I really feel like if I had made smaller layers they would have stayed more even in the center. The blueberry layer began to rise before I put on the lemon layer, if I had done smaller layers they would have set before rising.



So there it is, my huge food post! Phew. It was a great weekend, now I need to go for a run to try and curtail some of the damage done!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm alive! I promise!

I have been such a bad blogger lately! My husband was sick for over a week... and then I of course caught it, thankfully my cold wasn't nearly as bad and didn't stick around as long. But there's my excuse! I did make one of my specialties while Ian was sick, so I thought I'd share it here. It's a perfect use for that week old chinese take out rice still in your fridge (though I'm pretty sure our rice was more then a week old, oops!). I start by spraying a small sauce pan with cooking spray and warming the rice to get it back in "rice" shape instead of shaped like a box. I like to burn a few kernals of rice a bit to give it some crunch. Then I add a cup of vegetable broth, we use a powdered broth that you add water to so it's always on hand. These powdered broths can tend to be a bit bland so I added about a teaspoon of garlic salt and some red pepper flakes to the pot as well. The amount of broth should just thicken with the rice, meaning there shouldn't be more broth then rice. I allow that to warm a bit and then add a cup of soy milk (I actually used hemp milk because we had a little bit left and I knew I wouldn't use it in anything else). At this point there should be a "soupy" but thick texture to the dish, add more vegetable broth if desired. The soy milk gives the dish a nice creamy flavor but don't over do it for fear it will come out too sweet or "beany" tasting.

When we use broccoli I always save the stems to use, as well as any bits of carrots I happen to not need in any particular recipe (usually I just get sick of chopping carrots at some point so I save the other bits for a rainy day). So I did a coarse chop on these bits and pieces as well as some mushrooms that had been in my fridge WAYY TOO LONG. They were all dried and shriveled but had not yet developed any mold or anything. Then I throw in a few pats of Earth Balance to taste and maybe a sprinkle of salt and pepper.So there you have it. Sort of an everything but the kitchen sink rice dish. It tends to be bland, depending on your left overs but it's nice to warm you up and soothe the aches and pains from a cold (or a bad day at work).

Since I bake every night I decided to take some pictures of where I bake... sort of a get out of jail free card for now!

So this is my awesome work station. Notice the anti-SUV sticker and the mock "Gingerbread Man" horror poster... I work in an awesome bakery! Haha I just noticed you can see my book all the way at the end of the table there... I never leave home without a book, it sort of a compulsion of mine. That was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. If you're at all interested in food culture, slow food, or heirloom vegetables it's a great read. Hell if you just like food a lot it's pretty great to read too.
Hey, did you know bananas split into three equal pieces? Well I sure didn't my husband showed me, I was throughly wowed! I make two coffee cakes, bran muffins, gingerbread muffins, two specialty muffins, 6-8 types of cookies, 3-4 types of scones, a brownie, a trail mix bar, and a specality bar, macaroons, and peanut butter chocolate cookies every day! It's a mix of conventional and vegan baking which is nice, of course I'd rather it be 100% vegan but I'll take what I can get for now! Though I did see a bloody egg yolk the other day and was cemented in my own food choices from that point on. My vegan chocolate chip cookies sold out by 10am last saturday! I was so proud.

Speaking of which...Two dozen of these little guys are on their way to LA California to meet their fate at the hands of some of my buddies. It's a recipe I've been working on forEVER and I think I'll keep it top secret for now... they're perfectly chewy and they just make my heart so happy, I've made probably 5 batches in the last 2 weeks because Ian keeps gobbling them up. But Your Vegan Mom did post a link to a GREAT cookie recipe the other day... try that one out and mess around with it... you'll probably be pretty close to mine :).

Speaking of Your Vegan Mom, I made the recipe for Southern Seitan she posted the other night... it was delicious.This southern girl was disturbingly happy with the results. It was delicious to say the least.

I hope everyone is enjoying their spring! Melisser The Urban Housewife is visiting my part of the world this week and it looks like we'll be hitting up the Saturday market in Portland... I hear rumbles of vegan elephant ears that just make my heart pitter patter.