Recipe Share: Vegan Carrot Cake

Recipe Share: Vegan Carrot Cake

I had a bag of carrots aging in the fridge, and my Tweeps voted Carrot Cupcakes on my Twitter poll, and so I decided to look up a carrot cake recipe I found on Pinterest and try it out. It’s a recipe by Alison at Loving It Vegan, and it totally rocks!

And yes, it’s a vegan recipe. Yay!

Click here to head on over to Alison’s blog and learn how to make this delicious cake.

The recipe was pretty straight-forward, and I had no trouble at all mixing these up–especially since my mommy let me borrow her Kitchen Aid standing mixer (seriously, this thing is da bomb). The only thing I noticed was that the batter had more of a muffin consistency, which was alright with me as I’ve been needing to spice up my usual breakfast of a frozen waffle smeared with peanut butter.

I love these so much because, not only are they more muffin-like in texture, but they are also a bit cake-ey as well. They’re like the in-between of a muffin and a cupcake. And they’re sweet enough that you could go without the icing and wind up with a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

Or you could go all out and do the entire layered carrot cake with lemon frosting. It’s up to you!

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The Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Challenge

The Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Challenge

My daddy turned fifty last weekend! That meant a big surprise party at my aunt’s. There are a lot of food allergies/sensitivities in my family, and as a mostly-vegan, I know what it’s like to have to pass on something that looks super yummy. So I decided to take on the challenge of the cake. My dad is a big fan of German chocolate cake, my goal was to pull off a gluten-free vegan German chocolate cake that everyone could enjoy.

I started a week early, practicing with gluten-free flour. I’ve never used it before, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My aunt told me I would need xanthan gum, and so I looked for an all-purpose flour that had xanthan gum already mixed in. Then I looked online and found a few recipes I could tweak and customize to my own needs.

These cakes aren’t fit for a party, but they were necessary mistakes to learn some of the dos and don’ts of gluten-free

Cake number one came out really gelatinous, and it had an awful, bitter flavor. The recipe was all wrong. Not enough sugar to sweeten up the 100% cacao powder, and too much rise that fell immediately after removing it from the oven.

Cake number two also came out gelatinous, but it had a better flavor. After doing some research, I learned that the flour might be the culprit to the jelly-like texture (which wasn’t at all appetizing). So I bought a different brand of flour.

Cake number three was given an extra twist: a tablespoon of all natural chocolate sauce, but was already in the oven when I realized I’d forgotten the flax egg. I paced around the kitchen and waited for the timer to go off, and was surprised at how well it rose. Not only that, but it had a “cake-like” texture, with just a bit of density. It tasted like a damn good brownie.

Cake number four was merely a test, to see if the flax egg helped. The answer is no. It sank, and didn’t taste as good. I decided to opt out of the flax egg, wondering if I’d stumbled upon an egg substitute by using the chocolate sauce.

Cake number five was a sheet cake, and was the cake, so I gnawed on my fingers and attempted to sew as it baked and cooled. It didn’t sink at all, and kept its shape even after cutting into it. Success! I had several compliments, and a few others said that it didn’t even need the icing (which was not, in fact, traditional German chocolate cake icing, as I’d run out of time and didn’t realize I’d need pecans).

What I learned from baking five gluten-free cakes:

  1. Keep your coconut oil as hard as you can. I softened mine just a little after creaming it into the sugar, but only so it would mix better. The batter was chunky with coconut oil, something I learned was a good thing.
  2. While prepping other items, keep your batter in the fridge. This will keep the coconut oil hard and give the cake more stability.
  3. When mixing the wet into the dry, gently fold it in. Don’t whip it or use a mixer. Try to churn as little air as you can into the cake. This will prevent sinking.
  4. Don’t open the oven until the timer goes off. Opening the oven early can sink a cake.
  5. When your cake is done, leave it to cool in the oven with the door open for a few minutes before gently moving it to a cooling rack. This also prevents sinking.

Without further ado, here is the recipe I used for a Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 30-35 minutes

Oven Temp: 350 degrees at first, then 400 degrees toward the end

Yields: One 9×13 sheet cake or two round cakes

What you’ll need:

2 cups Gluten-free all-purpose flour w/ xanthan gum added

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1.5 tsp baking soda

1.5 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 Tbsp vegan chocolate syrup

1.5 cups almond milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup refined coconut oil (hard, or softened just a little. Do not melt in microwave.)

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9×13 sheet cake pan and set aside
  3. Cream both sugars and coconut oil with a mixer.
  4. Put bowl of sugar/oil mixture into microwave for no more than 20 seconds.
  5. Stir in vanilla, chocolate syrup, and almond milk.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Gently fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until combined. Batter will appear chunky because of the coconut oil. If your mixture winds up too wet, just add a bit more flour. If your mixture winds up too dry, add a bit more almond milk.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees, then turn the oven up to 400 for another 5-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the several places comes out clean.
  9. Turn off the oven and open the door, let cake cool in the oven for a few minutes.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan, on a cooling rack, for an hour.
  11. Make sure cake is completely cool before icing it.
  12. Store cake in fridge.

Hope it works as well for you as it did for me! Feel free to make creative changes, then tell me all about them in the comments below!

Vegan Taquitos

Vegan Taquitos

Note: these are pre-cooked. Cooked taquitos will be a nice golden brown on the edges.

These taquitos were so easy to make that I also had time to cook up some rice and fry some corn tortillas–cut into triangles–for the sides. They were also really great dipped in the mango peach salsa, which makes up a big part of the yummy–and nutritious–insides. I made a whole bunch so that we could have lunch for tomorrow, so this recipe could easily feed a family of four.

And if you really want cheese, you could go vegetarian and grate some sharp cheddar into the prepared sauce, or use vegan cheese. But don’t worry if you don’t have cheese on-hand, these were totally great without!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

Total Time: 30-45 minutes

Yields: 25-30 taquitos

What you need:

1 pkg of corn tortillas

1 can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic

1/2 cup to 1 cup of frozen bell pepper blend (depending on your tastes)

1/2 jar mango peach salsa

1 can black beans drained and rinsed

1 can sliced olives

1-2 tablespoons of your favorite taco seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

few tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

olive oil

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil (you might also spray the foil with nonstick spray, just to be on the safe side).
  2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, bell pepper, salsa, black beans, olives, and seasonings.
  3. Wrap five corn tortillas in wet paper towels and heat them in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  4. Spoon a small amount of the mixture onto each corn tortilla and roll the tortilla up, placing them seam-side down on the baking sheet.
  5. Repeat steps three and four until all of the mixture is gone.
  6. Brush the tops of the taquitos with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tortillas are browned.
  8. Serve with remaining salsa in jar and any sides you like.

Have your own favorite vegetarian or vegan taquito recipe? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Leavened Chai Bread

Leavened Chai Bread

I love baking bread. Not the quick bread, but the bread that takes you all day. From kneading it, to watching baking shows as I let it rise, to shaping and baking, and to the way my house smells like butter all day long, there’s nothing not to like about it.

What else do I love? Chai. One sip of it on a rainy day tosses me right into autumn, no matter what season it is. I like to shake up some almond milk in a mason jar and heat it up in the microwave, add it to my chai with a little vanilla and sugar, and voila! Chai latte brewed right at home.

Needless to say, when I found a recipe the other day for chai quick bread, I was super excited. It was an almost success–I didn’t have medjool dates, so I did use walnuts instead–but one thing I didn’t really like on it was the rise (most likely my own doing). Plus I didn’t really get a chance to “dig in” and feel like I was working with my hands. So, I decided to give it a try the traditional way, adding yeast and kneading the spices right into the dough. I’m not a baking savant, so I wasn’t sure if the yeast would even work after adding all of the spices and flavors, but it turned out just fine! I made my other loaf a basic white bread so I could compare their rise. The chai bread actually rose higher than the white bread. Possibly because of the warmth from the marinated walnuts.

Please note: this is not a sweet bread. If you’re looking to add a bit of sweetness, knead some dried fruit into the dough. For me, this bread is perfect with just a little bit of honey drizzled on top. Next time I plan to add the chai as part of my moisture to get more of a chai kick.

The chai dough is on the right, and the white is on the left
Chai on the left, white on the right

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Rise Time: 80 minutes

Rest Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 35-40 minutes

Oven Temp: 375 degrees

Yields: Two loaves

What You Need:

5-6 cups all purpose flour

1 tbsp butter (I used vegan butter)

2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk or milk of your choosing

1 packet active dry yeast

1 cup brewed chai tea

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tbsp canola oil

How To Make It:

  1. Pour your chopped walnuts into the cup of brewed tea to soak. I like to keep the tea bag in there just to steep everything longer.
  2. While walnuts soak, mix 2.5 cups flour with yeast in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat milk, sugar, and butter, and salt in a small saucepan to just about the point where the butter is almost melted.
  4. Create a “well” in flour and pour warm mixture into it.
  5. Using a hand-held mixer, mix on low for 30 seconds, then high for three minutes.
  6. Strain walnuts, then add them to your mixture.
  7. Using a wooden spoon (or your hands) knead the rest of the flour into the dough. Then knead until you get a nice soft ball of dough. If dough is too wet, simply add more flour.
  8. Coat your mixing bowl with the canola oil and then place dough into bowl, turn the dough once to make sure it gets coated with oil (but not saturated).
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
  10. Punch dough down, then flip onto lightly-floured surface and split into two equal halves. Cover with a towel and let rest ten minutes.
  11. Grease your bread pans, then carefully shape your dough into loaves by rolling gently and pinching the sides underneath.
  12. Place loaves seam side down into your pans. Cover with a towel and let rise another 35 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Bake loaves for about 35-40 minutes, or until bread sounds “hollow” when you knock on it. (note: it will not sound as “hollow” as basic white bread, or bread without fillings, but it will definitely have a hollow sound).
  15. Cool on racks for at least an hour before storing.
  16. Serve with honey, butter, or honey butter. Yum!

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out for you! Tell me in the comments below.

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

Going plant-based in the summer is tougher than I thought it would be!

Yesterday made one month vegan wooot!

It was also the first time I knowingly hopped off the plant-based wagon.

You see, the past week has been the most difficult for me. I’m not sure why, but I started to crave things like pepperoni pizza, cookie dough ice cream, cheese. My mouth watered when I made Goo a turkey hot dog for lunch one day. What was wrong with me? I’d never been a *huge* fan of meat, so I figured going vegan was going to be as simple as cutting out the things I didn’t care for. So why was I craving it? Ravenous for things like pepperoni when I barely gave it a second glance when it was “allowed?”

Was that it? Was it because I was telling myself “no”?

It got worse. I started to make mental lists of all the foods I would never eat again: ice cream on a cone at the fair, root beer floats, baked potato soup, marshmallows roasted over dying charcoals.

It doesn’t help that it’s summer, that fairs are in full-bloom, that a BBQ happens once a week, that every amusement park I go to–even just the pool–has nothing but cheese and fried meats on their snack menu.

But I also thought back to when I was pregnant. I was told that when you crave something, it’s your body telling you that you need something. That you’re deficient.

I thought about all of the foods I wanted, and I began to see a pattern. They were loaded with fat, grease, calories.

While craving these things, I had also begun to notice a constant “woozy” feeling. Plant-based food had begun to nauseate me. All food had begun to nauseate me. Which made me eat even fewer calories. It was a vicious cycle.

That had to be it. I simply needed more fat in my diet.

I listened to my body. I ate gobs of peanut butter on crackers and added oil and butter to foods to get more fat. But it just didn’t seem like enough. Was this diet really better for me? After all, the evidence on both sides of the argument is contradicting. Is there anyone I can trust to tell me the truth?

Yesterday, I wrote in my journal:

It’s a tough diet, full of foods I don’t know how to cook, and it takes a lot of work to make sure you’re getting enough of everything…I could just go vegetarian, but the whole reason I gave up milk and cheese was because I don’t agree with the practices to obtain those things. My morality, can I handle it? Can I push aside that feeling and go back to using eggs and cheese, even when I know I’m harming others to do so?

After a short talk with my husband, and a discussion on Twitter, and after reading this blog article, I began to see that vegan is only a title. A label. A word. Removing the title would free me to listen to my body, to say “I could, but I don’t want to.”

And then I did it. I pouted and said “I want baked potato soup.” So that’s what I had. Baked potato soup with a bit of cheese, and a salad, also with cheese, and ranch dressing.

I thought I would feel better afterward physically. I thought I would be able to handle it mentally. After all, I was taking care of me and that’s what’s really important, right?

But I didn’t feel like I was taking care of me. In fact, after I ate it, I just felt gross. The food wasn’t as great as I remember it tasting. Certainly not as fresh as the foods we’ve been eating. There was nothing “rewarding” about it.

And because of it, I doubled my sodium intake for the day. I just felt bleh.

I went vegetarian for a meal, and I hated it.

While I am annoyed at myself for letting the weakness get to me, I am glad I did it. I know now that plant-based is exactly where I want to be right now. I don’t really want cheese or pepperoni, I just want the freedom of knowing I could if I wanted to, but that I don’t want it. I also need to get a little more salt and fat content into my diet. Time to buy some trail mix and chow down!

And seriously, Lina, they do make vegan marshmallows. I could totally roast some on our if-it-ever-happens camping trip.

So I made it one month vegan and gave myself the ultimate test. I won’t beat myself up over it. All I can do is accept what I’ve learned and move on.

And I’ve got to remember my initial goal. It wasn’t to be a “perfect” vegan, but to be a better me than I was yesterday.

What are YOU Eating on National Junkfood Day?

What are YOU Eating on National Junkfood Day?

Apparently today is National Junk Food Day! And I’m giving myself a free pass to eat whatever I want, so long as it’s vegan.

I’m sure a lot of non-vegans are wondering if this means I’m going to fry up some tofu.

On the contrary! Here are five of my favorite junk foods that are totally vegan.

1. Chips and Salsa

I go with the standard Tostito’s restaurant style chips w/ Full Circle organic corn and black bean salsa. This salsa has a ton of cilantro, and something else (maybe lemon? lime?). Combine that with the sweetness of the corn…it’s amaaaaazing! I could devour an entire bag of chips if I have this salsa on hand.

2. Ice Cream

Yesterday, I TOTALLY FOUND ICE CREAM! I bought the chocolate chip cookie dough kind by So Delicious. Made with coconut milk, it is certified vegan. Om nom nom…

3. Popsicles

What can I say? It’s a thousand degrees outside. Outshine popsicles are great for when I’m craving something sugary and/or am melting from a few minutes out in the yard. I read through the ingredients about as thousand times, and it’s mostly fruit/vegetable juice so I’m almost certain they’re vegan.

4. French Fries

French fries are totally vegan! As long as they’re not cooked in animal fat, something I’m pretty sure most restaurants did away with. Dip ’em in some ketchup or vegan ranch. Om nom nom…

5. Pizza

I looooove Papa Johns vegan pizza. Both their crust and sauce are vegan, so I just order no cheese and load it up with veggies. Get a bunch of garlic dip (also vegan) and go to town. If you’re lucky like me, nobody else in your family will eat this pizza, so you will have leftovers!

Check out this list from Peta’s website of accidentally vegan foods.

So what are you eating for National Junk Food Day? Tell me in the comments below!

A Trip to the ER

A Trip to the ER

Yesterday morning, at around 10:30am, I had an aura seizure. The best way I can explain what these feel like, for me, is kind of like a tunnel vision-y thing that only lasts a second. Though I’ve had weirder auras, like strong deja vu and moments when the world is bright and colorful and I’m momentarily euphoric.

Anyway, these things are only about a second long and most of the time I just move on with my life. I figured I was staring at my phone too long, or that I was hungry or something.

About five minutes later I had another one.

Then the dizziness started, and I was lightheaded throughout much of my morning/afternoon. I decided to turn on the TV for Goo and take a short nap. I woke an hour later not feeling much better. In fact, I wound up on my bedroom floor because I was certain I was going to faint.

Was this a postictal state? Possible. Did it have something to do with cutting my Lexapro in half? Maybe.

Oh no…Did it have something to do with this new vegan diet? Had I messed up somewhere? Read more