Double the Daring Bakers Posts!

Since the Daring Bakers started back in November of 2006 and I just joined in May of 2008, I’m a little behind on all that they have made. A bunch of us decided to go back and make all of the past challenge recipes as well as the current challenge each month.

So what are we making for our past challenge? Well, we started back at the beginning with the very first challenge: Pretzels! No, not crunchy pretzels but those awesome soft pretzels that you dip into mustard and have salt on them, or the kind with cinnamon sugar, oh yum! Not only one of my favorite snacks, but also something I’ve been craving for the past week or so.

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I’d made pretzels once before, but they didn’t turn out quite like I wanted them to, they were too small and a little too tough. So I was excited to take up this challenge. And challenging I made it. Not only was I making Pretzels, but I was trying to make some Pita Bread to go with dinner that night. I ended up starting the Pita Bread, and as it was rising, I started the Pretzels. I guess I was hoping that I could work on one while the other one was rising/baking. It sort of worked out that way, until I had to make dinner in the middle of that too. Whew. I definitely lucked out with this one but next time, I will make sure that I am just making one thing at a time, but the pretzels came out great (so did dinner and the pitas).

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I basically stuck to the recipe except that on half of the pretzels I put the salt on while they were still wet from their baking soda bath and the other half I used a little earth balance to “wet” the pretzel and sprinkled on salt and cinnamon sugar (no, not on the same pretzel). My husband, who so does not like soft pretzels, actually thought it was not bad. He wouldn’t eat a whole one, but he did like the couple of bites he had. I didn’t do the variation of the stuffed pretzel, but I intend to try it next time around.

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The only trouble I had (besides working on too many recipes at once), was rolling out the pretzels. My hands were so dry that I just kept pushing the dough around on the board instead of shaping it into ropes. I had to keep a bowl of water by my board so that I could wet my hands after every few rolls. Because of this, I ended up with mostly smaller pretzels, and only 2 of the giant size ones you get at the mall (I’m saving those to eat last). Yes, I am hording all of the pretzels and eating them myself, well, I did give one of the smaller size ones to my parents so they could try it (gee, aren’t I nice, hee hee). I guess I get pretty selfish when it comes to the eating of a yummy baked good.

What I learned, have a little more patience when shaping the dough and its okay to have some water standing by to wet my hands to keep shaping. Also, of course, try to do one recipe at a time, especially if you are unfamiliar with the recipe. Oh, sorry, only pictures of the completed pretzels, it was a little too crazy to take pictures of the different steps. (Bonus pita pix too)

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Daring Bakers Challenge #1Pretzels (November 2006)

Soft Pretzels

1 ½ cup lukewarm water
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cup all purpose flour
4 cup water
4 TBSP baking soda
coarse salt to sprinkle on pretzels
2 to 4 TBSP butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450º F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans.

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl & stir to dissolve. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add brown sugar & salt stirring to dissolve. (I ADDED SALT W/ THE FLOUR!)

Into the bowl of a mixer, add flour. Using the paddle attachment on low speed, mix the flour & drizzle the yeast mixture into the bowl. Beat until the dough forms a ball, then change to the dough hook attachment & knead until dough is smooth & elastic, about 5 minutes. Alternately, you can do this by hand, kneading for roughly 10 minutes.

Place dough into a greased bowl & allow to rise for at least ½ hour in a dry, warm place. (I either use the inside of my oven [turned off] with the light on, or I put the bowl on top of my dryer while I’m drying clothes.)

While the dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 4 cups warm water & 4 TBPS. baking soda stirring often until baking soda is completely dissolved.

After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough & roll into a long rope (about ½“ or less thick) & twist into desired pretzel shape.

Once shaped, dip the pretzel in the soda solution & place on a greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again – I let mine go about 15 minutes or so.

 

Bake in the prepared oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter & sprinkle coarse salt over them or you can use any herb or topping of your choice on the buttered pretzels. Sesame seeds work well, as does cracked black pepper. A great sweet topping is cinnamon sugar.. chocolate doesn’t hurt either.

Variations: For stuffed pretzels – prepare your choice of filling. In this recipe, I used:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
Beat well with wooden spoon until a thick frosting/filling forms.

Pinch off a hunk of the dough, & roughly shape into a short log. Using a rolling pin, roll the log flat & then pipe the filling down the middle. I left about an inch of dough on each side. Starting at the ends, fold dough over about ½” of the filling & pinch sides shut. Then fold one side of the dough over the filling & pinch together with other side – making sure no filling is peeking out, what you get is an eggroll shape. Place the logs, seam side down on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in prepared oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Once they come out, brush with butter & then roll in cinnamon sugar.

Daring Bakers Logo

My first Daring Bakers Challenge!!!

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I am so excited!!! After debating wether to join or not and drooling over everyone’s posts for the past 6 months, I finally decided to join the Daring Bakers! You can check out their site and see all of the scrumptious baked goods that everyone have made. Some of the past challenges that I have dreamed of being a part of are: Cheesecake Lollipops, Perfect Party Cake, French Bread, Lemon Meringue Tart, Yule Log, and Tender Potato Bread.

I absolutely love to bake! It has been a joy since I was a little kid, but I was nervous about how much time I would truly be able to give to joining. I finally realized that it is only once a month, so I would have the whole month to plan time and I knew that I would get so much joy out of it, so I finally took the plunge!

Now, what exactly is a Daring Baker? Here is the history of the Daring Bakers: http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/2007/07/welcome.html Basically, it is a group of people who love to bake. Each month the host (different each month) chooses a recipe, and then we all make that recipe, following it to a T (unless we have food allergies, are vegan/celiac/ etc, then we are allowed to swap out those ingredients) and then we all blog about it and post pictures on the same day. It’s really fun and an amazing group of people! They are all so friendly and helpful, I am so glad that I joined!

Who were our hosts for this months challenge? The two founders of the Daring Bakers: Lis & Ivonne & 2 of our newer members Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie  & Shea of the blog Whiskful. Some of us are dedicating this month’s challenge to Barbara of winosandfoodies.com. Barbara is an honourary Daring Baker for her bravery & character in the face of a challenge. Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year’s LiveStrong Day is in May so we are showing our support by dedicating this month’s challenge posts to Barbara. In light of the LiveSTRONG foundation and of spring, we are keeping everything light, all colors and flavors. And now what you’ve all been waiting for! What is the May 2008 Daring Bakers’ Challenge???

L’Opéra!

The Origins of Opéra Cake:

For those of you that don’t know about this cake, it’s an extremely elegant & polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s.

There are many stories about the origins of this cake, known as both Clichy cake & Opéra cake. Many believe that Louis Clichy was its creator because he premiered the gâteau, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. It became the signature cake of Clichy’s shop on the Boulevard Beaumarchais. However, another pastry shop, Dalloyau, sold a very similar dessert, known as L’Opéra (in honor of the Paris Opera), & some claim that theirs was the original.” So what exactly is an Opéra Cake? It’s a cake that is made up (usually) of 5 components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) & a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse).Traditionally, a joconde is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But in honour of the season (spring in our neck of the woods) & as part of our decision to tie our posts in with the LiveSTRONG theme, we are making Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour & flavour.A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets & Tish Boyle & Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
For the joconde: (Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance & kept wrapped at room temperate)What you’ll need:
•2 12½ x 15½” (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15”.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) & a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk & a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•2 mixing bowls (you can make do with 1 but it’s preferable to have 2)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or 2 of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven & the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper & brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar & beat until the peaks are stiff & glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl & set aside.
5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) & beat the almonds, icing sugar & eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour & beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture & then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans & spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned & just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven & the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter & run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, & unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over & use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup: (Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance & kept covered in the refrigerator.)What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)
1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan & bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream: (Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance & packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature & then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl & a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula
2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of 1 vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle & scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream & do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one- flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ cups (7 oz; 200 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)
1.Combine the sugar, water & vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan & warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (124◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg & egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale & foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature & you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed & begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this & don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high & continue beating until the eggs are thick & satiny & the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl & mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in 2 tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high & beat until the buttercream is thick & shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring & beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below): (Note: The mousse can be made ahead & refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)
1.Melt the white chocolate & the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth & that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate & stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
For the glaze: (Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan or double boiler
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes & then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling the Opéra Cake: (Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut & trim each sheet so that you have 2 pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10” (25-cm) square & one 10 x 5” (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):Place one square of cake on the baking sheet & moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the 2 rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake & then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde & then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze & after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about ¾ of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the 2 rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake & then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde & then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) & then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze & after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.


The Elements of an Opéra Cake:
Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).
Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.Buttercream: The first 2 layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs & butter.Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead & make the ganache/mousse.Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished & elegant appearance.Dear Daring Bakers … go forth & make some music! The End! Lis, Ivonne, Fran & Shea
What changes did I make? Well, I am vegan (and lactose intolerant) and I was making this for my mom’s birthday, which means my dad would be eating it too (who had diabetes, so I had to cut back on the sugar a bit), so I had to do a few susbstitutions. My Opera Cake was flavored with almond, coconut and matcha. Yummy! Here is what I did:
Day 1: (You can make it all in one day, but I opted to spread it out so as not to confuse or overwhelm myself)

Made the buttercream and the syrup. The Buttercream! I was so nervous to make the buttercream, so I decided to make it first. Veganizing it was the daunting part to me, especially since I don’t use any form of butter or oil – vegan or not. I read about using agar/gelatin, but I’d never used those before (and didn’t have any) and I didn’t want to add anything else that looked complex to this challenge. So, I fretted and researched buttercreams for about 2 weeks and finally decided to adapt a recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and it turned out great! In fact, it was my husbands favorite part of the cake. I used ½ tofu and ½ earth balance (I broke down and bought some, it is a special occassion, right?) and cut the sugar by 1/4. I added some matcha (green tea powder), coconut milk and coconut extract as well as the vanilla. My husband liked it even more since I cut back on the sugar (he’s not a big sweets person), he actually liked off almost the whole beater! Now, on to the syrup.

The syrup for the jaconde came together quickly and easily. I did the recipe as is, using 1 tablespoon of almond extract.

Day 2: The Mousse & the Jaconde

I made the mousse today, not too hard, I’ve made lots of chocolate mousse before, but this time, I didn’t have enough vegan white chocolate (I didn’t remember how much I needed when I ordered it, and did not order enough), so I improvised a little. Well, it didn’t come out quite right. I should’ve read the directions one more time. I added 12 oz silken firm tofu, 1 cup coconut milk and ½ tsp almond extract, then blended it. Well, I should’ve blended the tofu, then added the coconut milk as needed, or whipped the coconut milk (well, half of it) and then folded it into the blended tofu. Live and learn. It still tasted great, it just didn’t set, too runny. I added some honey and vanilla to boost the flavor and hopefully the honey will help it set abit. Into the fridge it goes and we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow, right!

On to the Jaconde. I subbed 1 ½ cups soy yogurt and 2 tablespoons egg replacer to replace the egg whites, added 1 ½ tsp matcha, subbed 1 ½ cups firm tofu for the whole eggs, used whole wheat flour and used earth balance for the butter. It took about 15 minutes for mine to cook, but that’s understandable since egg whites cook up quickly. My didn’t really rise or bake up like a cake (I knew I should’ve added the baking powder when I thought about it, oh well). I think I would use either less yogurt/tofu &/or add more flour (or baking powder) next time! I’m going to try baking it again tomorrow and use todays for my hubby and me to snack on (it is delicious!).
Day 3: Re-do the Mousse, re-make the Jaconde and the glaze.

Marika from http://madcapcupcake.wordpress.com/ came to my rescue for the Jaconde. She had already finished her cake and was willing to help me out by sharing her recipe. Thank you so much Marika!!! Make sure you check out her finished cake on her site! I made a couple of changes to adapt the recipe to what I had on hand, and this is what I did:

Jaconde

2 cups almond meal

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup soy flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups confectioners sugar

2 cups almond milk

1 TBSP egg replacer (whisked together with some of the almond milk)

¼ cup soy yogurt

1 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Combine the almond meal, flour, soy flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and confectioners sugar in a bowl.

  3. Whisk together the egg replacer with ¼ cup of the almond milk, then add the remaining 1 ¾ cup almond milk, soy yogurt, apple cider vinegar and vanilla and mix until smooth.

  4. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time until combined.

  5. Divide the batter evenly into 2 baking sheets (or jelly roll pans) lined with parchment paper (I sprayed mine with a baking spray, the one with flour added) and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for another 20 minutes.

The jaconde came out great!!! Thank you Marika!  It wasn’t until after I finished making the whole cake that I realized that my first attempt didn’t rise as much as I thought it should because the pans were a lot bigger than I thought. That’s okay, I got 2 cakes out of it and they both tasted awesome!

Now, for remaking the mousse.

Coconut Mousse

12 oz tofu, silken firm

¼ cup of my runny mousse (or coconut milk)

1 tsp almond extract

½ cup honey

  1. Blend everything together until smooth and combined.
  2. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Next up, the glaze. This came out great!!! I was so happy.

Coconute White Chocolate Glaze

10 oz of vegan white chocolate chips

1/3 cup coconut milk

½ tsp matcha

  1. Melt the chocolate with the coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly.
  2. Once it has started to come together, sprinkle in the matcha.
  3. Whisk until the white chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool, whisking occasionally.

Last step, the Assembly.

I forgot to pour the syrup on the first layer, so I poured a little over the buttercream, then assembled the rest as instructed. To write on the top, I added a little of the runny mousse to a little of the glaze, it worked great. I cut out some marizipan into flour shapes and used those to decorate the top.

img_2321.jpg The Jaconde   

img_2322.jpg Spreading the buttercream

img_2324.jpg First layer done

img_2327.jpg All three layers, with mousse

img_2359.jpg Side shot, before trimming

img_2354.jpg  Completed cake

img_2360.jpg Decorations img_2361.jpg 

img_2368.jpg 1st piece

Verdict: I would totally make this again, using the original flavoring of dark chocolate, but I would still leave out the coffee flavor and opt for some black tea instead. This was sooooo good! Not a low fat cake, but it was a great way to celebrate my mom’s birthday. What did I do with the rest of the runny mousse and the other jaconde? I made another cake, just without the buttercream (which my hubby did not like as much, he looooved the buttercream). It tasted good. The mousse thickened up a little more so used it as the glaze on top and used the extra glaze I had as the “buttercream” layer on the inside. I still really liked it. Half of that cake is in the fridge and the completed Opera Cake is completely gone, except a small sliver I saved out for my hubby while I eat the “messed up” cake. It was a great experience and tested my veganizing skills, as well as my willingness to admit I don’t know everything and to ask for help. So, thank you again Marika!

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Busy in the Kitchen

Today ended up being a pretty good day.  I started the morning with a great workout, then some hashbrowns for breakfast.  On to Indiana Jones 4!  It was good, the plot was a little sketchy and some have found it a little confusion, but I still liked it.  Marian from the first movie is back in it again, that was fun!  On to lunch at Chili’s, and a really good black bean burger (minus the cheese and ranch) and steamed veggies with over 20gm of fiber!  It tasted really good too!  Back home for some much needed relaxing in the kitchen.  I overwhelmed myself a little bit, but it was fun.  I made 2 different yeast breads and made dinner all at the same time, but it ended up working out.  I will share photos a little later, and some recipes too.  Oh, and to top the night off, The Hunt For Red October and Karate Kid are on tonight, how fun and a great flashback to my Ralph Macchio poster wall decorations in junior high!  I thought he was the cutest guy ever!  The only bummer today was the freezing weather, although the rain was much enjoyed and very needed.  I hope you all enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Is it winter again?

Okay, last week it was in the upper 80’s and we even had 2 days in the 90’s and today it feels like November!  Tomorrow is only supposed to be 49 degrees!?!  I was all ready to break out my shorts and now I need to pull out my heavy jacket again 🙂  Isn’t nature fun?!  Well, at least it is beautiful out, the flowers are blooming and the trees are such a vibrant green!  Even though it will be cold, I am looking forward to the rain that is coming this weekend. 

I took a break from Veganomicon and just made some coucous and grilled veggies for dinner last night, YUM!  The only thing missing was some corn on the cob.  The best thing about grilled veggies, says K, is the grilled tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and roasted green chiles.  If these are not included, according to K, its just not the same. 

I was reading an email from PCRM yesterday and they had a great story in there.  Kathy Freston wrote a book called Quantum Wellness.  In it she talks about going on a 21 day cleanse where you cut out all animal products (meat, dairy, fish, etc), alcohol, sugar, and gluten.  This cleanses your body of irritants and gives you renewed health and energy.  Well, Oprah interviewed her and has taken up the challenge to do this 21 day cleanse, basically eating vegan while also cutting out sugar, alcohol and gluten.  She is blogging about her journey for the next 3 weeks.  Check it out.

Continuing my month of Veganomicon

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Well, I started out just planning on cooking out of Veganomicon for a week, but it has turned into a month.  There are so many good recipes, that its hard to just pick a few of them.  So, here is Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe with Rotelle on pages 190-191. 

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I need to start this one off with my husbands thoughts: “This is really good, I really like the sauce that the tempeh was cooked in.”  That means, “Wow, this is really good, please make it again!”  I also really liked it. 

The only changes I made was to sub the oil with vegetable broth.  I served it with some garlic bread and a glass of wine. 

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Boring, but busy

This past week, especially the end of the week, seemed to be full of stuff, but nothing too exciting to talk about.  We cleaned the garage (woo hoo!), talked about our goals for this year (good to do, but not always so exciting), and kind of cleaned the house.  Wow, I lead such a glamorous life, don’t I?  One of my husbands friends from Tucson stopped by for a couple of hours yesterday, which was nice.  It’s always nice to see old friends.  I did make a couple of more Veganomicon dishes, and will share the pix later, but mainly made such exciting dishes like stuffed potatoes and tacos (quick, easy and yummy). 

Snow! In May!?! In Arizona!

So, I woke up this morning to a mixture of rain and snow, not too bad, but when I got to work (which is 1,000 feet higher than where I live), there was over 1/2 an inch of snow.  It was really nice, it’s very refreshing looking tomorrow, but at 3pm it was still only 43 degrees outside. 

Back in May of 1995, it did snow 10 inches over Memorial Day weekend, but it is so not common to have snow in May!  It was starting to get nice and warm outside (hitting the upper 70’s and lower 80’s), but there is hope, it’s supposed to be back in the 70’s tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to wearing shorts and getting a little sun on my pasty white legs. 

Back to food tomorrow!

Black Bean Burgers from Veganomicon

My next dinner from Veganomicon was the Black Bean Burgers on page 99.  YUM!  I made this one for the family (sorry, no plating pictures), and everyone liked it. 

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I didn’t change anything about the recipe except that I cooked the burgers in a dry skillet instead of adding oil.  I served them with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on the side.  Next time I would slice up some avocado to add as well.  For leftovers, we used them in tostadas, crumbled up a bit, it worked great.  I will definitely be making these again. 

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Dinner from Veganomicon

A couple of nights ago we had Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth on page201.  Here are the modifications that I made: I cooked the noodles in the soup pot, not separately, I couldn’t find fresh shiitake mushrooms this week, so I used dried and used the soaking water in the soup, I substituted vegetable broth for the oil and used vegetable broth and water for the broth.  I also used the recommeded 4 tablespoons of light miso, because that’s what I had.

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The soup came together very easily and is a quick meal (30 minutes).   

Verdict: I loved it!  My husband and I are a huge fan of udon noodles and miso, so there was no doubt that I was going to try this soup.  I loved everything about this soup, it is simple yet full of flavor.  I happen to love kale, so that was a nice bonus.  Now for my hubby, he visually does not like kale, so he was indifferent with the look of this soup, but he loved the flavor.  He would’ve liked more noodles (his favorite part), but he would eat this again!  Yeah! 

We like to eat our udon soup with chopsticks, to get all of the good veggies and noodles, and with a spoon to slurp up all the broth. 

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Lunch from Veganomicon

Yesterdays lunch came from pages 90-91 of Veganomicon: Prospect Park Potato Salad

I made the recipe basically as it is in the book, but I did chop the carrots instead of shredding them, which she says not to do, but I just hate using the grater.  I always grate a nail or a knuckle.  I also omitted the olive oil.  After cooking the potatoes, this came together really quickly.  While the potatoes were cooking, I prepped everything else and had it all ready to go a little before the potatoes were done.  Oh, the other modification I made was that we ate it slightly warm instead of chilled. 

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Verdict: I really liked it.  It has a nice tang from the vinegar, but it is still sweet from the cucumbers and carrots.  My hubby really loved the cucumbers, he says they made the potato salad for him.  I liked it enough to have it for lunch again today.  One last picture for you:

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