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!

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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!