Sunday, May 29, 2011

Potata Salad with Dill, onions and celery!

Tuesday May 24 I was invited by Liza Utter, a restaurateur who happens to be one of the most inspiring women I have ever met, to a private event for bloggers. What I found there was a family. What I found there was motivation. What I found there was love. I met women who have taken their passions, gone online, blogged about them, and as a result, have been able to earn a living, and in my opinion, have created small yet impactful revolutions within their communities. I left feeling not only moved and inspired, but also like I had tapped into something that would leave me forever changed. Please take the time to meet Liza: America’s Host (and in my opinion, America's Sweetheart), Gaby: personal chef and food writer, Andrea: ultimate savvy sassy mom, Heidi: personal chef, Rachael: world traveler and food writer, Liz: owner of Room at the Beach in Malibu, and, in my opinion, director of beautiful things in your home, and Michelle: fabulous mama and host. There are a few lovely ladies I am forgetting, not because they weren’t amazing, but simply because my memory escapes me and I cannot find their business cards! But do yourself a favor and check out the sites of the ladies I did remember below: for Rachael

As if the excitement of Tuesdays' event wasn’t enough, my computer decided it was time to move on to computer heaven on Wednesday, hence my tardy post.

In the absence of my computer, I found myself in the kitchen more than usual. Funny how that happened.

My vegan, gluten free icing is still a work in progress (though I’m so close!) and as I felt my organs shifting around nervously, wondering how many cupcakes they would have to maneuver today, I decided to go savory for a minute. Of course, the fact that I’m having trouble zipping up my jeans was also a contributing factor. Just saying. Here’s a friendly reminder, friends: gluten free and vegan baking does not mean you can have 5 cookies or cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They may not contain as many ‘bad’ ingredients, but they certainly aren’t a replacement for fruits and vegetables either. I know, I know. I’m sad too. Moderation still reigns supreme: only 4 cupcakes a day! Ok fine. 3. And maybe 1 chocolate chip cookie...

...And only after my first trip to Babycakes NYC in L.A.!!! Check it out!

The bag! Very exciting!!

Look what's in the bag!

Chocolate chip cookie, donut, and agave sweetened brownie. Enough said.
I'm sorry, did you ask me if I ate all of those?
The answer, my dear friend, is yes. Yes I did.

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. Hello.
Chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. At last, we meet.

Up close and personal.

The taste test - mine vs. theirs.

Outcome? Their icing - much better than mine.
Their cupcake - not as moist as mine. Hm...

I seriously could eat their icing with a spoon. So good!

Ok, enough of that excitement!

Onward to savory cooking:

I’ve had a bag of small potatoes sitting on my counter for a week now, staring at me, begging me to get creative and use them (yes, in my world, produce can speak, and can actually be quite demanding). So instead of creating a potato cupcake or donut, I bought some dill, salvaged some yellow onions, and saved the bag of celery that was near death in the crisper in the fridge (why does that always happen with celery? It’s like we know it’s good for us so we buy it, and then once we get it home, we look at it when feeling like a snack, but inevitably move onto something more exciting. Or maybe it’s just me?).

Anyway - Chop, chop, chop, add some dijon (I add this to everything that isn't a donut or cupcake), some apple cider vinegar, a touch of canola oil, some salt and pepper, toss it all together, and you’ve got a potato salad to die for. Check it out!

The recipe:

1 pound small waxy potatoes, washed and skin on (I used yellow dutch)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (remember: salt brings out the dominate flavor in any dish!)

Put the potatoes in a pot of salted cold water. Bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender. Strain.

Once cool enough to handle, chop the potatoes into desired sized pieces. Place in a bowl. Add the chopped dill, celery, onions, vinegar, oil, and dijon. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. If it's not coated enough, add more dijon and vinegar until you get the consistency you are happy with. Don't forget to adjust your salt seasoning if you adjust the dijon and vinegar!

You can enjoy this simple dish right away, or, put in the fridge to chill and enjoy later. This is a great dish to prepare ahead for a party, dinner, or even to take in a hurry for lunch on a busy day!

Happy Sunday :)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Sugarless, Gluten Free, Vegan Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes!

Today I ate a cupcake for breakfast.

 Ok. I lied. I ate 2 cupcakes for breakfast. And lots of icing too. It’s now noon. I’m contemplating having a third. Don’t judge me.

In my defense, I made 40 cupcakes yesterday, and needed to see how they tasted the next day.

In case you haven’t already guessed, these are gluten free, vegan cupcakes with a special twist – no sugar. What’s that you say? No sugar?

True story. The cupcakes and icing were sweetened with agave nectar.

 If you are wondering about the advantage of agave over regular sugar, you are not alone: I wondered about it too. Turns out agave is significantly lower on the glycemic index than refined white and brown sugar (agave measures below 30 while other sugars measure above 60). This means it doesn’t spike your sugar levels too quickly, which means less is stored as fat. For more information, check out the link below.

Anyway, what ensued over the past 24 hours was what inadvertently ended up being my very own amateur version of Cupcake Wars: Lauren Battles Vegan Frosting. To be clear, I like watching cupcake wars…sometimes. But I’m not a fan of having to complete cupcakes while a clock counts down, raising my anxiety level with every passing second. In short, I would never want to compete on the show.

I happily agreed to make 30 cupcakes for a Brownie meeting happening today at 2:45pm. 15 chocolate, 15 vanilla. So off I went, my new chef coat on (early birthday gift from Ted – so thoughtful!), a smile on my face, feeling confident. 

 The baking of the cupcakes yesterday went beautifully – they rose like a cupcake should, they were moist – in short: they were delicious.

Then I attempted the frosting. Soy milk and soy milk powder? Check. Coconut oil? Check. Coconut flour? Agave nectar? Vanilla? Check, check, check. I followed instructions. The mixture was like liquid. No problem – according to the recipe, this is what it is supposed to be like. Phew! Put it in the fridge to chill for 6 hours, and the liquid substance will turn to thick, creamy icing.

Flash forward 6 hours. 11pm yesterday night.

Still liquid. 


Should I put it in the freezer? Should I make another batch (and keep in mind, each batch costs about $20 to make)?

I do both, and go to bed, slightly worried, but still hopeful.

7am today. The frozen one is too hard. The second batch I made is still liquid. Ugh! The clock is ticking – I have to deliver these cupcakes in just under 8 hours.

I call Babycakes NYC in New York and talk to Ryan. Such a sweetheart! She tells me to melt down 1/3 a cup of coconut oil and add it to the icing. Refrigerate it again so the oil can harden the mixture. Good plan, but I don’t have that kind of time.

I call Babycakes NYC in L.A. Kaitlin, another lovely girl, tells me they sell icing – a great last resort! 16oz. for $21. Gulp. I need 2 jars. Double gulp.

I get to work on the internet, frantically searching for another recipe. If I use silken tofu, the texture will be more like icing, right?

Then it hits me – what if I put the icing back on the mixer, and slowly add coconut flour? I need to dry it out a bit to make it thicker, but I want to avoid powdered sugar, as that would, of course, defeat the whole purpose of these sugarless, vegan, gluten free cupcakes.

It’s now 10:45am. 4 hours and counting.

I add a tablespoon of coconut flour. Then another. And like magic, the icing thickens, and a rush of relief runs through me! The vision and subsequent panic created of 30 angry little girls beating me down because I messed up their cupcakes subsides. I can breathe again.

 I do a little jig, and finish the icing. I ice the 30 cupcakes, decorate them, box them up and look at the clock.

 11:45am. 3 hours to spare.


Stay tuned for more adventures!