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.

Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Tomorrow will be around two months and two weeks since I’ve eaten meat. I made it about two months vegan before deciding to ease into a more vegetarian diet, to give myself more flexibility. I ordered a veggie pizza with cheese from the grocery store and ate a few slices, then saved the rest for the next day. I felt no different that night, but the next day, no more than ten minutes after eating the leftover pizza, I had what my neurologist calls an “aura” seizure (feels like a long bout of lightheadedness followed by an hour or two of grumpiness, nausea, and a headache).

The cheese, I thought almost immediately. It had to be the cheese. After all, I hadn’t had a seizure in weeks. What also hadn’t I had in weeks?

It made sense. I have Catamenial epilepsy, which means I have seizures during hormonal changes–primarily when I ovulate, or have a period–and there are hormones in dairy products, even the kind made from cows which haven’t been injected with anything to help their production. Adding these hormones to my diet seems to affect my own hormonal balance.

It took a week or so before I worked up the nerve to try cheese again, just in case it might have been something else. But during a family emergency, I had no choice. I didn’t have a seizure–that I know of–but wound up with one of my “electrical headaches” (basically feels like someone is crumpling tinfoil in my head).

So I decided that was it, and have decided to give up dairy for good. Since then I haven’t had any issues.

Now I do still have the occasional egg, as some might have guessed from my recent recipe post: Tiny Vegetarian Quiches, and so far I haven’t had any issues from them. I make sure to buy the local Amish eggs, which are certified Humane, free range, hormone-free, etc., etc., which makes me feel better about eating eggs.

Now for the exhaustion

One of the reasons I decided to try switching to a vegetarian, or even a light meat clean-eating diet, was because of this sudden wave of fatigue which seems to be clouding up each and every day. Things have stopped getting done. I watch TV. I’m lazy. I hate it! I made a list of potential suspects:

  • Burnout (this stay-at-home momma might need a mini vacay)
  • Depression (not surprising, considering I’d weaned to a lower dose of Lexapro)
  • Cabin Fever (haven’t driven in 2.5 years! It does things to you!)
  • Nutrient Deficiency (though an extra B12 supplement gives me headaches)
  • Meds (Most likely, especially since I read Lexapro interacts with Klonopin and makes you more tired)
  • Allergies (Also likely)
  • Unknown

Once I had my list, I started to try a few remedies.

  • I called my doctor and talked to her about switching me from Lexapro to something else and she started me on Zoloft. So far, I’m getting more done, but the exhaustion hasn’t left me.
  • Maybe I was sleeping too much? Decided to stop the snooze button and just get out of bed. Didn’t seem to work.
  • Tried Yoga first thing in the morning. All it did was relax me, which made me more tired.
  • Instead of eating a breakfast on the run, or drinking my coffee in front of the TV, I sat at the table to write a morning blog with a bowl of oatmeal and my coffee. That seemed to work. It turned a few gears and got me moving. From there I began working on a list of things I needed to get done around the house, and even got some gardening done. It was refreshing!
  • I’ve started to have less “lazy” meals. For instance, instead of throwing a vegan TV dinner into the microwave, I’ll make a yummy chickpea salad sandwich with a ton of veggies and nutritional yeast for an added vitamin boost.
  • DRINKING MORE WATER. Apparently it doesn’t take much to get dehydrated and feel fatigued. Whenever I start to feel a little run down, I go drink a big glass of cold water and it seems to perk me up.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from having epilepsy, it’s that our bodies are a work in progress. We are always learning what works and what doesn’t. Although I’ve gained a deeper understanding about what makes my brain go haywire, I’ve run into a road block of exhaustion. Is it the meds? The pollen? Or is it something I’m not getting enough of, like water or B12?

Fingers crossed I find out soon!

Mini Vegetarian Quiches

Mini Vegetarian Quiches

These were super yummy, and an awesome start to our Saturday morning. So simple, in fact, that I just threw these items together without paying much attention to a recipe. I did my best to get the times and measurements right, but you may need to make a few adjustments based on your own personal tastes and how your oven cooks.

Oven Temp: 375

Prepare Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 15-20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yields: 6 Quiches

Ingredients:

6 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used almond)

chopped veggies of your choice (I used spinach and tomato)

1-2 tsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder (depending on how much you like garlic)

salt and pepper

bacon bits (optional)

Directions:

  1. Grease a 6 muffin pan
  2. Chop your veggies
  3. Add veggies to the greased muffin pan, filling each cup evenly
  4. In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together milk, eggs, and spices
  5. Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean and the insides are no longer runny
  7. Eat them all before you can get a picture! (oops)

These quiches are easy, yummy, and apparently you can freeze them! Whip up a batch, let them cool, then wrap them individually in cling wrap for some breakfast on the go.

Have your own vegetarian or vegan breakfast recipes you’d like to share? Feel free to paste links 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.