Monday, August 30, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

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This weekend, we went to see the all-star overdose The Expendables. We're, friends right? So let's be honest here. This movie made me feel old. It was like seeing all the great old action movies in some kind of Cocoon kaleidoscope--with more tattoos and stabbing in the neck, but fewer Wilford Brimley cameos. Sadly, it was the kind of movie where you spend the drive home talking about the previews. For example: Dan and I have decided that the new Green Hornet is going to be our new favorite movie of all time. I personally am willing to overlook the fact it has Cameron Diaz in it, and instead focus on Bad-Ass Kato. I mean new Kato really had to kick more ass than usual - considering one of the original Katos was Bruce Lee. It looks like a great, modern take on an old classic.

While I baked this cake, I debated whether I could be overdosing on comic book movies, special effects, and cupcakes. Nothing really makes me awestruck anymore, like when the Millennium Falcon first hit light speed; and nothing strikes me as just automatically cool, like Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Maybe the classics have ruined me for the new movies, unless it's a re-make of a classic (see: The Green Hornet). Luckily, this cake isn't just another cake - it's a classic. It was easy and fun to bake, but still special. When I flipped it over and the sticky sweet glaze melted over the pineapple and cherries - I had to smile. This isn't a hard cake to make, and maybe not the fanciest, but I'm glad we have a vegan Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe now. It fills this hole in our cooking resume that I didn't even know we had.

Come with me on this adventure.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Special Edition : Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

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One cupcake to rule them all!

I won't bore you with stories about how a certain portion of my life has been dedicated to searching out and locating ways to eat chocolate with chili pepper. They're uninteresting stories about mixing soy chocolate ice cream with Tabasco, or baking dozens of chocolate cookies till I figured out how much chili powder to add to get that kick at the end. Some flavors just really speak to certain palettes, and mine loves dark chocolate with a dash of cayenne. If someone ever made a master list or database of Annie's favorite foods, Mexican Hot Chocolate would have its own category/folder/color code, depending on how they choose to record this data. Because really, there's so much you can do with Mexican Hot Chocolate: beverages, frozen treats, baked goods, candy. I love them all.

I'm going to cut myself off here before I start on a tangent wondering why someone would need such a database, and if that information would be used for good or evil. For the record - I prefer good to evil.

I also prefer that you all make these precious cupcakes this weekend and send me one. I'll be expecting those shortly for second breakfast, elevenses, and/or afternoon tea.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Ranch Dressing with A SPECIAL BONUS!

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I was never a big Ranch dressing lover before I went vegan. I didn't grow up dipping my pizza or hot wings in it. There were no Ranch dressing fountains at parties I went to. To be fair, there are probably a few Ranch dressing enthusiasts who have never enjoyed one of those, though.

Then one day I discovered Naysoya Vegan Dressings. Creamy Dill, Garden Herb Ranch and Wasabi Ranch were some of my favorites from my days of experimenting. I made dips, sandwiches, and fancy mashed potatoes. There were a few months there when I may have gone a little "Ranch Crazy". I was the most popular gal in town at potlucks and parties. People I knew (vegan or not) with always trying to scam a few bites of my lunches and hinting at ranch dressing dips they wanted me to bring on road trips. Those days are over though; Nasoya doesn't make those babies anymore. Yes, there are other Vegan Ranch dressings on the market, but they never really spoke to me like those Nasoya dressings did around 2002.

When I was flipping through Betty's Salad Dressings, I was drawn to her Ranch dressing. Seemed easy enough to veganize and kind of a novelty; like ordering a drink with a baby umbrella. Something new and different than our usual herby olive oil & balsamic vinaigrettes. I even bought a bag of baby carrots just for the occasion.

It's a little thinner than the store-bought stuff, but it doesn't have the buttermilk and milk fat that solidifies when it gets cold. I don't mind it being a bit thinner, though. This is a pretty good salad dressing- actually pretty great with those carrots. I may even try to make another batch of Ranch mashed potatoes with it this weekend. Who knows... I might even make another batch of Hot Wings...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Once upon a time in the little neighborhood of Ghent, I used to bake a lot of cupcakes.

I baked dozens and dozens of cupcakes. I baked for birthdays and parties, slow Wednesday nights, whatever. I just really like to bake, and cupcakes are easy to make vegan and pass out to various loved ones. I also find them just charming. I like their little wrappers and sprinkles and all the cute things you can do with them. I like injecting them with fruit or frosting. These little handfuls of adorably-shaped sugar were a nice outlet for some bottled-up creativity in my life.

But lately something has changed.

Since Dan and I started working our way through The Betty Crocker Cookbook, we've found ourselves faced with more creative outlets than we have room in the fridge. I know, I know. Your first instinct is to call "shenigans," but seriously, we often find ourselves running out of hunger before we run out of casseroles and cookies. You know who pays the price in the end? The cupcakes. The neglected little cupcakes.

But now they're back!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Chicken Parmigiana

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You may already know that Eggplant Parmigiana is a pretty old-school Sicilian dish, and super easy to make vegan. You probably already know the original dish is more heavy on the vegetables, and not baked over pasta. Though, you could also point out that there's an area in Italy called Parma, and that they often bread their cutlets with Parmesan cheese there - so Sicilians should stop acting like they invented eating. Even though they did. Just kidding. A little.

The chicken version of this classic Sunday dinner dish is more of an international take. In places like London, New York, and Sydney, Chicken Parmesan was transformed into a popular pub sandwich, or served over pasta in sit down restaurants. I think most of us have come to expect some form of that version when we have vegan Chicken Parmigiana/Parmesan for dinner. So this take is my hybrid of the classic vegetable dish I grew up with, and Betty's more American version.

I love how it turned out. We've made Vegan Chicken Parmigiana a few times in the past, and what I love about it is that no matter how many nights you have leftovers, it always holds up. We never feel an obligation to eat our leftover Vegan Chicken Parmigiana--we look forward to it. (Ed. note: I'm looking forward to it right now.) We're even a little sad when we finally polish it off. Which isn't something you can say about every dish.

I'm also looking forward to having one of these cutlets with some of the extra Marinara sauce on some of that organic bread I've fallen in love with. I mean, who doesn't love a good sandwich?

OK. Enough chatter. Let's do this.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Vegan Fried Egg

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This weekend I did a lot of things I don't normally do. For example: I went grocery shopping without Dan. It was funny; as I was walking around the store, I realized that I was pretty much the only person not talking. All the other single shoppers (and many of the partnered ones) were on their cell phones. Here's the thing about when folks talk on their phones in public - you find yourself left with a lot of unanswered questions. As I walked home with my heavy environmentally-friendly cotton bags, I had time to think about a few things...

Like, who was that girl that Craig (maybe Greg) brought to the BBQ that other night? What was Craig/Greg's Mystery Guest thinking when she put on that outfit? And of course, why would Craig/Greg even bring a guest to a BBQ for his birthday when everyone knows he's still in love with the woman in track pants who stood between me and the organic pasta section and then later cut me off at the Earth Balance?

Why do people keep dumping the guy in Frozen Foods? Could it be because he's completely oblivious to the people around him and their desire to get a single bag of organic peas?

What is the woman ahead of me in the check-out line going to do about Megan's new 4th grade teacher who drives a van and has handwriting like a serial killer? Sounds terrifying.

Really, I thought about how I could take our Vegan Poached Egg from The Eggs Benedict Recipe and make the classic fried egg. Oh, classic fried egg... with your runny yoke for dipping toast in, and your crispy edges. I'm over you. I don't need you and your salmonella and battery cage hometowns.

Now vegans everywhere can enjoy this classic American breakfast staple. We really can make anything cruelty free.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Raspberry Chocolate Scones

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Where we're going, you need scones...

Friday morning is a good time to just chill, think about the weekend that lays just a few hours away, drink some coffee, and listen to this. Friday morning is a good time to watch cartoons or Charmed, (but skip Semi-Charmed, or it will seriously be stuck in your head all day) maybe read a few pages of a book you love but doesn't require any real thought, perhaps watch a little Space Ghost, or maybe if you're feeling a little more sunny and upbeat there is always this. Whatever your mood, set aside half an hour to enjoy these scones with some coffee or tea and some of your favorite time-wasters, and it can make any day feel like a Friday.

You could call this time travel without the DeLorean, a chocolaty time machine with raspberries and a crispy raw sugar crust. The kind of scones you only share with that special someone, because serving someone a scone that good says "I Love You" without saying a word. So let's make some buttery-tasting, sweet scones that are so good they just might be inappropriate for the work place*.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Kung Pao Pork

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I could type up a whole thing here about how even though Betty made this a pork recipe, the most common version of this is dish made with chicken; or about the political strife that lead to this dish being renamed for about a hundred years because of its association with Ding Baozhen. I could even go into the fact that this is an Americanized version of a classic Sichuan dish that was developed because from 1968 until 2005 it was illegal to import Sichuan peppercorns into the United States. But when I woke up today, I just wasn't feeling it.

Instead, I'm going to give you a list of my 5 favorite onomatopoeias from Batman--it is Kung POW Pork, after all. Please leave a comment to share your favorites as well.





Now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's enjoy some vegan Kung Pao Pork!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Beer & Cheese Soup with a Popcorn Garnish and a side of Smokey Collard Greens & Bacon

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Last night, a small group of weary wooden travelers arrived on our dining room table. They had just completed a long journey to start a new, octagon-shaped life on a little island named Cataan. In the end, there could be only only one to settle this island rich in ore, brick, sheep, wood and wheat; and last night Dan had the dice on his side. That's right Shannon; I'm calling you lucky. Love you.

You may remember our buddy Chris from his previous roles in Pizza Dip and Dan & Annie - The Wedding. Well, last night he took a night off from stacking bills and breaking hearts to come play a board game with us and be the test subject for Beer & Cheese Soup.

Beer & Cheese Soup may sound a bit odd to some, but in reality it's pretty tasty stuff. We were comparing it to French Onion Soup; the rich "beefy"* and savory flavors, the cheese mixed in and bread for dipping. This soup was amazing! It would be a really great fall dish, so we may have jumped the gun a bit, but I'm ready for the leaves to change and to start baking again.

We paired this with Smokey Collard Greens (a version of Betty's Spicy Collard Greens) and some fresh Limeade. Mostly because now that I have this dreamy Limeade recipe, I want to drink it every night.

The whole dinner was Ore-mazing! Yes, that's a Settlers of Cataan joke, but still totally true.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Special Edition : The New Orleans Stay-cation Part 2 : Vegan Po'Boys & Hush Puppies

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Morning on Bourbon Street

Even in a magical place like New Orleans, they don't eat Beignets all day.

When we were there about a year ago, one of our most memorable meals was vegan Po' Boys at Cafe Bamboo. So it only seemed right that we should make a few for our stay-cation. We had brought home a few postcards from NOLA with recipes for Creole & Cajun dishes that I wanted to veganize, and some day I'll share my version of artichoke soup that will make you do this*. This weekend we did an overhaul on the Hush Puppies postcard recipe to go with our Po' Boys.

Traditional Po' Boys are usually made with deep fried seafood of some kind; like shrimp, crawdads, or catfish. There are as many versions of Po' Boys--ranging from seafood to roast beef --as there are urban legends about where the name comes from. My favorite story is that the name comes from the free sandwiches a New Orleans restaurant owner gave to the street car conductors during their strike in 1929, so they wouldn't have to cave to feed their families. Back then, seafood wasn't as expensive as it is these days, and catfish and shrimp would have made up a cheaper sandwich then one with pork or beef. Hence these were sandwiches for "Poor Boys". As someone who grew up in a Union house, I kinda love that story.

Whatever the origin, Po' Boys are tasty. We made vegan Dressed Creole Shrimp and Bourbon Street Chicken Po' Boy Shorties with Creole Veganaise and vegan Hush Puppies. The recipes and photos for all 4 are below--and the fancy veganaise is so worth it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Special Edition : The New Orleans Stay-cation Part 1 : Vegan Beignets

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Dan is home! He was in San Francisco last week doing some pretty awesome stuff for the animals; including attending a Ringling Brothers demonstration that had over 250 protesters show up. Yeah, that's my man on the megaphone.

He deserved something special to come home to... like a stay-cation to New Orleans.

Now, we have never eaten the famous Cafe Du Monde Beignets. They aren't vegan, but they do look tasty, and it really is a shame they don't offer an animal friendly version of this old-school New Orleans favorite. Honestly Dan and I would have eaten a dozen every morning with barrels of café au (soy) lait while reading our books and people-watching for hours.

But a trip to NOLA wasn't going to happen this weekend. And even if we could make it down, we'd still have to make our own vegan beignets. Bright side: we caught up on Top Chef and True Blood--because we're married and that's what married people do--and enjoyed these beauties in our boxers with mugs of good freshly ground coffee.

New Orleans is a pretty liberal place, but they don't usually let you hang out in their cafes barefoot in your pajamas.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Linguine with Clams (Marinated Mushrooms) in White Sauce & Rosemary Garlic Bread

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OK: before everyone gets all ruthless about how this looks, please remember we're veganizing this. I didn't use the photo with the sauce mixed in because it just didn't really show the sauce--and that's the best part!

Yes, using Oyster Mushrooms for clams is a very old trick. I can remember making vegan fried clams (Oyster Mushrooms) with my roommate in college and thinking we were so clever, until I went to a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco and saw them on the menu. Oh. Que sera sera.

Just because vegans are some clever and creative folks doesn't make this recipe any less freaking delicious and amazing. Even if you don't like mushrooms; you can always replace them with vegan chicken or tofu and still have a dish that will bring the shock and awe.

I made this with Betty's Rosemary Garlic Bread. I think I'm going to make that again; I wish I had left the bread in the oven longer, so it would be more toasted, and had crushed my rosemary more. I grew up eating some pretty authentic Sicilian garlic bread and have had several different versions; you know every Tia (Auntie) had their own. I've had it with fresh parmesan mixed with oregano, and with melted mozzarella over butter and basil. Really, garlic bread is one of those dishes where Italian cooks can (almost unknowingly) leave their signatures. This version is pretty good, and went perfectly with the dish.

I have to admit I'm glad I'm only half Italian (I mean not like Frank & Dean are), but I'm Italian enough to tell you this dish is deliziosissimo (which is a real word - not a made up Olive Garden word).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Shortbread Cookies

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I've heard it said that in the culinary world, bakers are considered the mad scientists. Which I love.

I admit I love the measuring and testing, popping my creations in the oven, and then pulling out something different than what went in! I love the chemistry and tinkering, and how it really has to be just right or it's just a disaster. That sounds weird, huh? But the world is a mess, and I just need to rule it... through baking.

I have very fond memories of Shortbread cookies. My grandfather and I used to eat them with chocolate milk while we watched Perry Mason, Twilight Zone and Dick Van Dyke Show reruns when he babysat me in the afternoons. I remember my grandfather--or as I called him, "Great Dad"--opening the larger red tin and explaining to me that they were special. They came from Scotland. So we could only have 3 at a time.

These aren't that exotic, but these ones are vegan, and also go well with anything in black and white. And you can eat as many as you want.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Pad Thai

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I still remember the first time I had Pad Thai. I was going to school in Olympia, WA and I was out to dinner with my friend Amanda from San Francisco. I can still remember how hilarious she found it that I had never had Pad Thai before. I mean, I had eaten Chinese and Japanese food before. I had enjoyed years of eating smelly Kim Chi, and even had Vegan Mongolian Stew once; it was made with tempeh to replace the goat meat. Although I still applaud the creativity, I think we all agreed that night that it was not the best stew ever made... but I'm on a tangent.

I never had Thai food until I was around 21, and had no idea that the Pad Thai I thoroughly enjoyed that night wasn't even very good. Over the years I have come to love Thai food; all that basil, coconut milk, peanuts, and spice. To me, Thai food has become that special someone. I adore you, Thai food. That's how I know that Pad Thai comes in many forms and guises. From spicy seafood with rice noodles to catsup-y sauce over linguine, I've seen them all. That's just one reason why when I read through Betty's Pad Thai recipe I had to nod my head and just smile. This is the good stuff*.

We had to tweak it a bit here and there to replace things like Fish Sauce (gag) and Beef Broth, but this recipe is really one of the best dishes we've made thus far. I also got to use one of my very favorite tricks for replacing the fried egg bits in fried rice, chow mein and egg drop soup, which I always look forward to.

So: ทานอาหารกันเถอะ!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Moment of Silence for The Good-Sized Organic Tomato with a Big Future

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Make us proud.

The Betty Crocker Project : Spare Ribs with Three Different Glazes

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When we took on the challenge of veganizing The Betty Crocker Cookbook, we knew there would be times when we'd need get creative. We've already mastered the Vegan Poached Egg and the Stuffed Crust Pizza, but there are still some recipes looming--menacing really--in the distance. You know the type: the lurkers. Until we discovered Match Vegan Meats*, Spare Ribs was one of those recipes.

Now, our spare ribs don't look that much like real spare ribs--and we're OK with that. We prefer it really. I mean, bones. Ick.

But our little guys are prefect vehicles for BBQ sauce, and you can glaze 'em and bake 'em a little, and then toss them on the grill for some more smokiness, or even just eat them like this. Whatever. I won't boss you around. But I will tell you that if you're looking for something fun to eat on a summer night, something to bring to a potluck, or to just save yourself some dishes,nothing beats fake meat on a stick! Always a crowd-pleaser.

We made ours with 3 different types of glazes. The Spicy BBQ Glaze was our favorite. Yeah, I would have thought they'd name it something a bit more snazzy too, but the generic name doesn't make it any less remarkable. If you're going for a more traditional BBQ flavor, though, I recommend the Molasses-Mustard Glaze. If you like some heat, the Sweet & Savory Glaze is no joke. It may look weird when you see the ingredients, but it has a legit kick to it that really made it stand out.

But I guess Vegan Spare Ribs might stand out all on their own, so how you glaze them is kind of a matter of judgment. Enough lollygagging; let's make up a mess of these!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Beer Batter-Fried Fish (Marinated Tofu) & Tartar Sauce

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Sometimes you just get what you need.

The other morning I woke up and thought: "I'd love to watch a detective story that has something to do with submarines while I drink my coffee today."

And you know what? I stumbled across a random episode of a CSI-type of show with Mark Harmon as a Navy FBI/police-type-person (?) that... guess what? Solved The Mystery of the Sailor Swap on a submarine!

This morning I woke up and thought: "I think I need more Richard Dreyfuss movies in my life."

And Jaws was on! Yes, I know, it's like an X-file.

Last night, I needed to come up with a new plan for dinner because my Match Vegan Chicken wasn't defrosted... and there she was. A little, forgotten package of extra-firm tofu. She waved and said "Remember me? You were going to make me into vegan fish sticks!"

I smiled and thought, "I can do better than, that my little friend*."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Chicken Nicoise & Garden Patch Saute

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Why hellooo, little Garden Patch Saute & Vegan Chicken Nicose. What's a fancy French dinner like you doing in a blog about Betty Crocker?

One of the things I love the most about Betty is that mixed in with the Cheeseburger Pies and Patty Melts are some pretty schamncy dishes that you'd expect to find at one of the upscale vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants in LA or NYC.
Chicken Nicoise is one of those. Betty suggested pairing it with salad and serving it over rice, but I looked into it a bit, and I guess the French actually eat it with roasted potatoes or a baguette to soak up the garlicy white wine "au jus", and pair it with a side of sauteed seasonal vegetables. So tapping into my inner pretend French person, I followed suit. For the sake of authenticity, of course--not because I fell in love with the organic Artisan bread I used for the Avocado sandwich and want any excuse to eat more. That would just be selfish.

I had a lovely pretend French evening; I watched Love Me if You Dare and Paris, and ate this with several glasses of chilled mineral water. I admit I abuse mineral water on a regular basis. Polishing off bottles left and right, sometimes 2 in a day... we all have vices.

It was a stay-cation to France that I would highly recommend. Maybe spray your sofa with some lavender and play this song to add a little extra something.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Pizza Pie

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We've already seen Pizza Burgers and Pizza Dip. We all enjoyed the Stuffed Crust Pizza and the Ranchero Pizza. I still think about that White Pizza some nights when I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. But the other day, I found another recipe for The League of Extraordinary Pizzas that we're developing here.

If you're following along in your own Betty Crocker Cookbook, you can find this under Easy Mushroom Pizza Pie. It was an inspiring recipe with a good concept that wasn't that different than the infamous Cheeseburger Pie. But just looking at it, I knew we could do more.

I saw the promise for a dish with the works. A dish that could be more than a vehicle for soy cheese (not that we're opposed to that). So we maxed it out. In retrospect, I would have held back a bit--maybe fewer peppers or broccoli--but this version is pretty fantastic. It was fast and made a lot and went well with the second season of True Blood.

So ay-oh: let's make some Pizza Pie*!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Mocha Cookies

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We recently made a purchase that has changed our mornings for good. And let's face it: having a better morning can change your life.

We got a coffee grinder.

Dan has been grinding us fresh coffee every morning, and the difference is just lovely. Now, there's a running joke in our family that I don't really drink coffee; I drink coffee-flavored soy milk. I'll admit it; I like my coffee to taste like Mocha Almond Ice Cream. But who wouldn't want that? That's one of the best flavors of ice cream there is, and if you can have more of it in your life in any form, why not enjoy it? You only get one life.

That's what I love about these cookies. They have a lot of what I I like.

Please consider this a trial run. I think I can make these guys a bit better with a few crushed almonds mixed in and changing the caramel sauce a bit, maybe mellowing the coffee flavor with some brown sugar. Expect it soon. Like, SOON.

If you're more of a black coffee type* and want some cookies that go great with your morning cup, or hate nuts, or you just can't wait to eat these... I don't blame you. They're cute little guys, and even without the brown sugar, they stay chewy.

Please excuse any typos; I'm a little caffeinated right now. Let's bake some cookies! WOO!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Future is Here! The Herbivore Meets The Shannons Contest Results!

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About a lifetime ago, Lisa Simpson (one of our favorite animated vegans) traveled into the future and almost married a yellow floppy-haired Hugh Grant British type. The date of that never-to-be wedding was... YESTERDAY! GASP! Yes folks, the future is here! Where's my flying car and robot dog/vacuum cleaner*?

Well, while I wait for technology to catch up, let's anounce the winners of The Herbivore Meets The Shannons Contest.

The winner of our voting contest: Italia! I've already sent her a message and hopefully we'll get that $25 Gift Certificate and a stash of Buttons and Stickers from Herbivore Clothing in the mail to her soon. Hopefully she'll send me a photo of what she buys so we can all shop vicariously through her.

The dish we are making this week from The Dan and Annie Wedding Reception Menu : Italian Wedding Soup! I just need to hunt down a few things and should be getting that recipe to you in a few days.

Don't worry: if you didn't win this time, we have another contest being launched tomorrow! GASP!

(I'll leave it like this for one of those cliffhanger endings that make all the bloggers go into caffeinated frenzies and starts one of those so-called "buzzes" all the kids are talking about.)

*Yes - I know that Muffit is technically from the past, but he represents that Future Vacuum Dog we all dream of.