Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Flowers

Happy Boxing Day! I hope you're surviving the weekend in good cheer! These are more of the Chinese Hibiscus from Longwood Gardens. Enjoy!

I'm enjoying Christmas on the east coast with family. What are you doing to celebrate?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Minute Edible Gifts

In case you missed the news, it's Christmas on Saturday. Between Santa deliveries and parties, you may need some last minute inspiration, so I've gathered together a few of my favorites for you. Bon appetit!

These Gluten & Dairy Free Cupcakes can easily be Christmasified with some green and red food coloring.

Vegan Cinnamon Buns for a Boxing Day breakfast? yes, please!

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake would be welcomed by any hostess or houseguest

And finally, if it's impressive you want, this Picake has you covered. and then some.

What are you baking this year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cookies Galore

You should head on over to Bake at 350 (cute name, right?) and ooooh and aaaahhhh over Bridget's cookies. They are super, super, super impressive!

She's got tons of recipes, giveaways, and a cookie index for you to peruse. Just pick a topic, and there will be cookies. Beer and hotdogs? check. Bowling? check. And of course, all the usual and many Christmas cookies. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vegan Chocolate Orange Two Tones
Speaking of cookies, if you haven't placed your Christmas order with me, you need to get on that! Monday is the last day I'll ship things, so you want to give me a chance to bake you something delicious, right?

Vegan Sugar Cookies with Jam & Buttercream

If you're still looking for presents, I can ship directly to your friends and even include a note. Everything is packaged so that it's gift-pretty.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vegan & Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Pie

This week turned really cold really fast. Fast enough for there to be thunderstorms the other night that were windy enough to knock down formerly happy trees. So I wanted something warm and comforting that was delicious, not overly complicated, and easily made without braving the grocery store. (Have you noticed that grocery stores get crazier and crazier the closer we get to Christmas? It makes me not want to go, and grocery shopping is my favorite chore. It's a bummer, but maybe I'll vacuum instead?)

Oh yeah, and sweet. I wanted sweet.

Official Taster is big into pies, and apple is his favorite. Apple is not my favorite, and I don't like crust that much, so the standard double-crust apple pie is relatively low on the dessert list. But, since I'm awesome, and since OT has been feeling a bit under the weather, I decided I could get on board with a baked apple pie-like thing.

I've mentioned before that fruit crisps are one of my favorite things, so I chose to use my favorite topping on the apples and dress them up with some dried cranberries. One of these days I'll make a homemade pie crust, but, in the meantime, store bought does just fine.

Vegan Apple Cranberry Pie

1 premade pie crust (both vegan and gluten free are available)
6 Cups-ish apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin (5-6 medium apples)
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C dried cranberries
lemon juice

For the topping:
1/2 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
6 tbsp chilled vegan butter, cut into half inch pieces
1 C quick oats
gluten free: see the notes below

Prepare the pie crust according to directions on the package. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the apples and cranberries. Drizzle a little bit of lemon juice over the bowl and mix again. Transfer the fruit to the pie crust.

In a food processor, blend the flour, sugar, salt and butter with several on-off pulses or only until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Add the oats and pulse a few more times to break them up.

Spread the topping over the fruit and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown. 

I used the juice of about half a lemon since I had a fresh one left over. It's probably totally optional, and you could also use juice from a bottle. 

I didn't use enough apples because I was lazy. I only used four. As you can tell from the pictures, it's a pretty small layer, so you should use more. 

Want to make this gluten free? Click here for the post with the wheat free topping recipe.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Edible Dresses

Believe it or not, this dress is made entirely with spring onions. South Korean artist Sung Yeonju's edible dresses run the gamut from a lotus root dress to a winter mushroom fringe top. I don't know how wearable these creations are, but they're fun to look at! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Flowers

If I'm remembering correctly, these giant lily pads are called Dinner Plate Water Lilies, but it's possible I'm making that up. They are way bigger than dinner plates, as they're maybe 2.5 ft across. Even though I don't usually like taking pictures of random people and then posting them on this blog, I'm glad there are some faceless people back there to help with relative size.

This was the main stem of one plant, and then it branched out with the giant lily pads. The undersides are thorny, which I assume helps protect them from hungry fishes. The day we went it was quite windy, and a few had actually gotten flipped over. I think if we had visited Longwood Gardens one week earlier, we would have seen the lily ponds at their prime, but they were still worth braving the chilly air to see.

I hope you're having a good weekend and that the holiday season is making you merry rather than stressed out. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Etsy on Nightline!

Here's a great little video from ABC's Nightline about Etsy.  If you're having trouble explaining Etsy to people, pass this along!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My Christmas tree fell over yesterday.

I heard a little rustling, like an ornament was working its way off. But it wasn't an ornament. It was the whole. darn. tree. Then I heard all the water pouring out of the stand and onto the carpet. I hoped it wouldn't start dripping on our downstairs neighbor, until I decided it wasn't enough water for me to care worry about. Since the top of the tree passed about an inch from my right shoulder, I then picked my way out of the wreckage, avoiding the shards of glass (obviously, I was in socks), to take stock.

Having carpet helped keep the breakage down (and soak up the water), but the darn thing wouldn't stand up by itself again. I still have no idea why it decided to fall over after standing there for over a week, but it took some finagling of the screws in the stand to get it back up. I kept meaning to take a picture this week, but it didn't really happen. oh well. Once I get it redecorated I'll try again.

Luckily, to ease my pain, I had some cookies in the oven. Warm cookies are the best to shove in my mouth to daintily enjoy. These can be chewy or crispy depending on how long you bake them, but I always aim for the shortest time possible. Like some people and their steak.

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Joy of Cooking

1/2 C vegan butter
1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp Ener-g egg replacer (equivalent of 1 egg)
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp soy milk
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 C quick oats, uncooked
3/4 C chocolate chips
zest from an orange, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugars. Add in the egg replacer, water, vanilla, and soy milk and beat until smooth. Do the same with the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Finally, beat in the oats and zest, if using. If you add chocolate chips or dried fruit at this point, I would stir them in with a spoon rather than a hand mixer. Drop cookies 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper or silicon baking mat). Bake 8-12 minutes, depending on your preferred crispiness level.

Chocolate and orange zest are totally optional, and you can also mix in dried fruit, nuts, or coconut. I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are dairy free. If you don't like your cookies to spread out, put the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before scooping and baking.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cookie Swap Free Download

Today I bring you cookie exchange freebies from Joy Ever After. She's also included a recipe card and blank cards for all your tagging needs. While you're there, have a look around her site- there's lots of pretty things.

Tomorrow I have a new cookie recipe for you. Maybe you can use today and tomorrow's posts together?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Challah Bread

Saturday night Official Taster and I got to celebrate the fourth night of Hanukkah with new and old friends. Neither of us is Jewish, so it was a treat to be part of the ritual, the celebration, and, of course, the food. As good guests, OT and I each brought a gift- he brought a six pack of He-brew, and I brought a giant loaf of challah. I've made this once before, last winter, but it's definitely better to prepare for a large group of people to enjoy (or you can freeze half). If there are any leftovers, it makes great french toast or bread pudding!

I originally got the recipe from the New York Times Magazine, faithfully torn out and saved by Mom. Unfortunately, I can't link you to the article because you need to have an account. But if you do, I recommend reading it. Just do a search for "challah revisited," make sure you have the settings to search for all articles (not just the standard past 30 days) and it's the top result. The article was published in December 2008, and there's actually a second challah recipe in there as well.

The dough produces a sweet, light loaf, and the braiding really isn't as intimidating as it might look. Don't be put off by the number of steps, either. There's a lot of space taken up telling you to wait and let it sit for a bit.

I realize that Hanukkah is almost over, but this bread is good enough to make regardless of the season.


adapted from NY Times Magazine (originally published in 1976, Craig Claiborn wrote an article for The Times with the recipe from Sarah Schecht of Brooklyn, who immigrated to the US from Poland)

10 C unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
4 tsp dry active yeast (or 2 quarter oz. packages)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 C corn oil
3/4 C plus 1/8 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the yeast with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Place 6 cups of flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the water + yeast into the well, and with a fork, stir gently around the well to gradually incorporate no more than 1/4 of the flour into the yeast mixture. Set the bowl in a warm place and let stand about 45 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt over the bowl, and add the vanilla, 3 eggs, oil, and 3/4 cup of sugar. Add 1 1/2 C lukewarm water and stir with a fork. Add 2 more cups of flour, and continue to stir with a fork, and then with your hands. Gradually, add up to 2 more cups of flour, kneading for about 10 minutes in the bowl. The dough is ready when it doesn't stick to your hands. Shape into a ball, cover, and let stand 20 minutes.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 5 minutes. Add a little flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Put the dough in a floured bowl (you can use the one you started with), and lightly dust with flour. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

4. Turn the dough out and knead briefly. Use kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut off 1/8 of the dough, shape it into a ball, and set aside to rest. Repeat with the remaining dough so that you finish with 8 balls of roughly the same size. Using your hands, roll each piece into a 12-15 inch long rope.

5. Align the ropes vertically, side-by-side. Gather the tops together and pinch together, adding one at a time. Braid them as follows: separate the ropes down the center, 4 to a side. Bring the outer right rope over toward the center and place it down so it becomes the fourth rope from the left. Next, bring the outer left rope over toward the center and down so it becomes the fourth rope from the right. Repeat this process until the loaf it braided. You will need to pull and stretch the ropes a bit toward the end. When your braid is done, gather all the bottom ends of the ropes and pinch them together to seal.

6. Generously spray the bottom and sides of a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Carefully lift the braided load and place it on the baking sheet. Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf has doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the center rack from the oven and place the remaining rack in the lower third.

7. Beat your remaining egg along with 1/8 tsp of sugar. Brush the braid with the egg wash and then you can sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if you'd like. Bake until puffed and golden, 50-60 minutes.

If you have a corn issue, you can use clarified butter instead. I would stay away from olive or other strongly flavored oils because I think they would change the taste of the bread. Learn how to clarify butter here or here.

The original recipe only calls for 9 cups of flour, but my dough was still crazy sticky at just 9. So if yours works with less than 10 cups, great!

It's cold here. So to give my bread a nice warm spot to sit during the rising periods, I turned my oven on for a minute or so, turned it off, and stuck the dough in there.

I didn't use any seeds on top because I didn't have any on hand, and it was great even without them.

Learn how to knead bread here if you're not familiar with the process. It's pretty easy and a good skill to have, unless you plan on making no-knead bread for the rest of your life.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Bejeweled Cakes

This collection of jewelry inspired wedding cakes from Martha Stewart Weddings seemed like a nice bit of pizazz for a wintry Monday morning. Enjoy!

And please take the 10-second survey if you haven't!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Flowers

Good morning! Today's flowers are brought to you by the color Yellow. These gems are again from my visit to Longwood Gardens earlier this fall. This Chinese Hibiscus flower was HUGE. As in bigger than my hand if I stretch my fingers apart as far as possible.

I'm not thrilled with this photo, but the orchid is to snazzy for me to delete the file.
This chrysanthemum bloom is also big, like the size of my hand. Longwood is where the famous Thousand-Bloom Chrysanthemum stuns visitors, and which I forgot to take a photo of. However, click the link to see a photo and a video.

Finally, this Abutilon sp., or Chinese Lantern, looked really lovely as a giant hanging basket. It was a nice use of this plant because usually the flowers are below eye level, meaning you see the top of the lantern. But with the hanging baskets well above our heads, we could see the usually-hidden interior.

I hope you're having a great weekend, and, if it applies, a good first half of Hanukkah!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pumpkin Butter

Ever since I surprised you all with the news that it was raining in Seattle, it's been beautiful and sunny. Cool, crisp, and fall-like, but sunny. Hopefully this won't jinx it back the other way, because the sun has been very welcome. I've been taking advantage of it to by walking along the river than runs through town. There's a great walking/biking path that seems to go on forever right next to the water, and it's accessible to the new apartment complex, which is great. Accessible meaning I walk out the door, turn left twice, and I'm there. Now (thank goodness) I finally have a response to getting totally called out on Personal Best, at least until it stops being fall again.

Back in the day when I lived in Louisville, my friends and I would treat ourselves occasionally and head out to the Whole Foods. One thing I found there, only in the fall, was pumpkin butter. But it was butter with pumpkin in it, not the usual fruit butter. I discovered that wheat bread, dabbed with this butter, and popped in the toaster oven was a great autumn snack. Warm, a little sweet, and with my favorite flavor of the season.

So this week, I set to recreate this fall treat, and I'm sharing my experiment with you. It's not exactly the same as what I'm remembering, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that this version is made with vegan butter, and not butter. Vegan butter is a great substitute, but it's not exactly the same. Good, though.

Pumpkin Butter
1 stick vegan butter, softened
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 C + 2 tbsp pumpkin

Put everything in a bowl and beat until well combined.

That's it, you're done!

You can also do this in a food processor, which might work better for large batches. I've tried both and for this size, I prefer the mixer.

There are lots of variations on this- herbed butters, orange cinnamon butter, honey walnut butter. The sky's pretty much the limit, and it's easy to experiment. If you make a large batch, you can divide it up into small jars and set one out at every place setting at a dinner party, or make a basket of homemade breads and butters for a friend. Bon appetit!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recipe Cards, Menus, Gift Tags and More! free download

Head on over to West Elm's DIY Free Download for today's goodie. Print out menus, recipe cards, gift tags, and more, to your heart's content. I'm partial to the Botanical Suite, but there are some awfully cute penguins in the Animal Suite.

If you didn't already, please, help a girl out and take my 10 second survey.

Happy Gifting!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tell me what you think

If you could all take a quick detour over and take my survey, I would very much appreciate it! It will take about 10 seconds and 9 brain cells, and is totally anonymous. I want to make this better, and I'd like your help!

Click here to take survey
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