Saturday, November 23, 2013

Apple and Caramel Pie

Thanksgiving is almost here!  That means it's time for pie!  Yay pie!

This pie is epic, especially when it's warm.  It's good enough when it's cold, but you really have to have it warm to get the full experience.

First things first, I apologize again for the pictures.  I found my camera, but it's broken now.  Of course.

Anyhoo, first thing is to make some taffy.  Mix melted butter, brown sugar and flour in a bowl until it's crumbly.

Don't make fun of my pitiful little plastic bowl.  It was a wedding gift. It's like, 16 1/2 years old.

Now peel, core, and slice some apples.

Go ahead and forget to engage the peeler for your first apple. It's fun to peel a sliced apple.

I use winesap apples that I get from the local fruit farm. I have loved winesap apples since I was a child. We lived in San Diego and we would drive up to Julian for apples in the fall.  Stopping at Dudley's Bakery on the way.  Is Dudley's still there?  I love their potato bread.

Moving on, throw the apples in a bowl with some sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice.

Toss to coat.

Now grab a bag of these:

When I first started making this pie I had to unwrap and quarter individually wrapped caramels.  Then Brach's got wise and invented caramel bits.  I love them.  I think I used about a cup. It was definitely half a bag.

Now start layering into a pie shell.  Apples, caramels, taffy.

And one more layer of apples, caramels, and taffy.

Top it with more crust, brush on some cream, sprinkle on some sugar, and pop it in the oven.

50 short minutes later, you have pie:

It's wonderful. You should try it.

Apple and Caramel Pie

1 Recipe double pie crust

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups thinly sliced baking apples
2/3 cup white sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup caramel bits or 20 caramels, unwrapped and quartered

2 Tbs heavy cream
Granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Mix the first three ingredients together in a small bowl until crumbly to make taffy.

Put apples in a large bowl with sugar, cinnamon, flour, lemon juice and salt.  Toss to combine.

Spoon half of apple mixture into a crust-lined deep dish pie pan.  Sprinkle half of the caramels over the apples.  Sprinkle half of the taffy over the caramels.  Repeat with the second half of the apples, caramels and taffy.

Top with remaining pie crust and vent. Brush heavy cream on top crust and sprinkle with sugar.  Cover the pie with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubble and the crust is golden brown and delicious.  Serve warm. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream certainly wouldn't hurt.

Well, that's all for today.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Coconut-Lime Margarita Cupcakes

Enough with the healthy food, already.  Let's get back to the bad stuff!  Who wants cupcakes?!?!?!

I saw these over on Make Me Cake Me ages ago, and I finally got around to making them.  They're lime cupcakes with lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) frosting.  I've been meaning to try SMBC for some time, but because I'm lazy, I haven't.

What does lazy have to do with trying another kind of frosting?  Dishes, that's what. I plan entire dinners by how many dishes I have to wash afterward. And this frosting uses extra dishes. But you know what?  After trying it, I may not care about the dishes.  It was delightful. Silky and smooth and not too sweet.  Perfect!

Anyhoo, it was the boss' birthday, so I brought cupcakes.  And because I took them to work I opted not to use the booze that the original recipe calls for. That, and I don't really drink, so I don't have any Tequila in the house and I didn't want to go to the liquor store for Tequila when I only needed 3-4 tablespoons. I'm also cheap frugal.

So they're not really margarita cupcakes, per se, just limey cupcakes with a sweet-salty kick. But if you wanted to make them and add the booze, they'd be margarita cupcakes again. And then they'd be happy. Or at least tipsy.

Because I didn't put any booze into the icing, I decided to add some coconut extract instead (about a teaspoon, in case you were wondering) in addition to the lime juice called for in the recipe. (Dude, I just had an awesome idea for pina colada frosting...)

The cupcakes themselves are lime-flavored buttermilk cupcakes, and they might be my new favorite. I love citrus. Especially in cake form.  But a word of warning: The recipe calls for adding lime juice to your creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture.  While I was anticipating a bit of curdle once the lime juice went in, I was not prepared for the violence of the curdling. I almost panicked and threw the batter out.  But once all of the flour was incorporated, the batter was back to normal and everything was fine.

Anyway, follow the links to the recipe and give it a try.  You'll be glad you did.

And here is a tutorial on Swiss Meringue Buttercream that I found after I made the afore-mentioned frosting. Of course.  Fortunately, I obsessively lurk around cake and cookie decorating forums, so I had already seen most of the information in the tutorial.  But it's still a great tutorial.

Well, that's all for now.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Vegetable Lasagna

My husband is going thorough cheese withdrawal.  It ain't pretty.  But we found a pretty good plant-based vegetable lasagna recipe to help him work through it.

It's a lot of work to make it, I'm not going to lie.  But the recipe makes a TON, so you only have to make it once to eat it two or even three times. Or more.  Seriously.

Start by prepping your veggies!  It took about an hour for me to chop/thaw/mash all of these veggies.

The weird looking thing on the bottom left is mashed sweet potatoes.  That's the first thing you'll want to do.  Peel, chop, steam and mash two sweet potatoes. In the meantime, chop an onion, two carrots, one head of broccoli, and two red bell peppers. Slice 8 ounces of button mushrooms and 8 roma tomatoes (when I went shopping they only had three roma tomatoes, so I had to go with regular tomatoes. I used two...they were large). Thaw 16 ounces of spinach and a few cups of corn. While you're at it, cook a large box of whole grain lasagna noodles, but don't cook them all the way. 

Cook the onions and some garlic in a saute pan for a couple minutes.  I now saute without oil.  If the veggies start to stick, I throw in a little water.  I don't really have sticking problems, and my saute pan in stainless steel, not teflon. It's been nice to lose the oil.

Anyhoo, throw in the mushrooms and when they're limp and cooked, remove everything to a large bowl. 

Now add the carrots and broccoli to the same pan and saute for about five minutes, or until the carrots are soft.  OK, the carrots don't really get soft. Just make sure they're cooked.  I cut them really small to help them along.

Remove the broccoli and carrots to the vegetable bowl.

Repeat with the corn and red bell peppers. Remove to the bowl.

Stir up all of the veggies and add some rosemary, basil, oregano and salt. The recipe calls for cayenne pepper, but I don't think it goes, so I leave it out. (I think the recipe was going for spicy Italian sausage [without the sausage], but it didn't work out.)

Stir that all up well and set the bowl aside.  Now, if we were following the recipe exactly, here is where we would add a block of crumbled tofu. We don't eat tofu (or any unfermented soy), so we leave that out.

Grab your noodles and some sauce. You can make your own sauce, or you can find some without sugar or additives/preservatives. After reading what seems like hundreds of bottles of pasta sauce, I found two that do not contain sugar or additives of any kind. They do have a little oil and salt, but I can live with that. The first was Meijer Naturals brand. The second was Classico Tomato Basil.  You have to watch the Classico, though. Some of them have sugar. 

Put a little sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.  The original recipe says to use a 9x13 pan, but I think whoever wrote that was on crack.  The first time I made this, my lasagna was standing about an inch over the top of my 9x13 dish when I was done.  Wasn't pretty. I now use a Wilton 1/2 sheet cake pan - not to be confused with a true half sheet pan, which is actually bigger. But back to business, put some noodles and some more sauce in the bottom of whatever pan you choose to use.

Dump in the veggies.

Top with more noodles and more sauce.

Sprinkle on the thawed, drained spinach.  I only used 10 ounces because we're not really fond of cooked spinach here in the D-oh household.

Schmear on the sweet potatoes.  You may have to add some water to make them spreadable.  Just reserve some of the cooking liquid to add if you need it.

Add more noodles and more sauce.

Cover the top with thinly sliced tomatoes.

Cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  

When it's done, remove the foil and sprinkle on a cup of ground cashews (give them a spin in the food processor).  I used less than a cup, because a cup just seems to be too much.  And cashews are expensive.

Bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered. When it's done, let it sit for 15 minutes, then serve.

How's that for a freaky photo?  

Anyway, it's an undertaking, but depending on how many people are in your family, it will make 2-3 meals.  More if you're single.  Eat some and freeze the rest for later.

Here's the recipe:

Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Vegetable Lasagna
(adapted from the Engine 2 Diet)

1 large or two small boxes lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2 jars pasta sauce
2 sweet potatoes, mashed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 head broccoli, chopped
3 cups corn, thawed
16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
8 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup cashews, ground
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400.  Saute onions and garlic in a saute pan over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until limp. Remove veggies to a large bowl. Add carrots and broccoli to the pan.  Saute for 5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Remove to the veggie bowl.  Add red peppers and corn to the pan.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, or until cooked. Remove to the veggie bowl. Add salt, basil, oregano, and rosemary to the veggies in the bowl.  Stir well.

Line the bottom of a large baking dish with cooked noodles and sauce.  Add the veggie mixture and spread evenly over the noodles.  Add another layer of noodles and sauce.  Add the spinach.  Spread the mashed sweet potatoes over the spinach. Add another layer of noodles and sauce.  Cover with thinly sliced tomatoes. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.  

When it's done, remove foil and sprinkle ground cashews over the lasagna.  Return to the oven for 15 more minutes.  When done, remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

If you're wondering how this lasagna relates to the hubby's cheese withdrawal, once it's all cooked the sweet potatoes actually become something reminiscent of ricotta cheese.  Really. It's quite amazing. 

Well, that's all for today.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Caramel Cookie Cups

Good morning!

I made cookies the other day!  I have been meaning to try this recipe for a LONG time, and I never had an occasion.  But yesterday one of the gentlemen at my job moved on to greener pastures (he found a better job) and to celebrate we threw him a party.

I am so sorry for the wretched photography. I did find my camera this morning, so there's hope for the future.

Anyhoo, I used this recipe from Baking Joy. It was an adventure because I don't have a good scale and the recipe is European, with the ingredients listed in grams.  In fact, here is an approximate representation of my scale.  Only mine is a little chintzier. Really. It's a wonder anything I make turns out.

But I'm happy to say the cookies came out perfectly! I did not use caster sugar, as the recipe says, because I've never in my life seen caster sugar in the grocery store. I also could not find Cadbury Chocolate Caramels, so I used Dove. I was out of chocolate chips (that has never happened, ever! What gives??) so I used mini chips. Finally, I have no idea what a bun tin is, so I used a mini muffin pan. :-)

I doubled the recipe and got 68 cookie cups, which means the original recipe would make 34 cookie cups, which means a bun tin is about twice as large as a mini muffin tin because the original recipe on Baking Joy made 15 cups. (Yay, I can do math!)

(Again, I apologize for the pictures.  Go over to Baking Joy to see some good photos.) The cookies were all gone by the time I left work, which was pretty impressive because I didn't set them out until lunchtime. I will definitely make these again, and I may even use the base cookies as my chocolate chip cookies for Christmas this year.

Speaking of Christmas, this morning I realized that it's about six weeks away and I nearly panicked.  I have not started anything yet and I like to be done shopping, etc., by the end of November.  I hate crowds. And I have not bought anything for Thanksgiving dinner yet. Eeek. If you need me I will be under my bed, curled up in the fetal position.

But that's all for today.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Raw Vegan NoTuna Salad

So we've been going to this awesome little cafe lately. It's called Portia's Cafe, and Portia serves mostly raw, totally gluten free, mostly soy free, completely vegan food. She's a lifesaver. And very nice, to boot! Unfortunately, she's on the other side of town, so we are limited to one visit every week or so. On second thought, that's probably fortunate.

Now, my absolute favorite is her raw Pad Thai served over kelp noodles. It's not technically on the menu, though.  It's frequently on the "Specials" board, but sometimes I can't get it. So on one of those shattering occasions, I ordered a NoTuna Wrap (a.k.a Sunny Walnut Pate), and I fell in love. So I came home and figured out how to make my own.  It's not exactly like Portia's, but it's close.

It kind of looks like tuna salad. It doesn't taste much like it. Which is good, because I'm not a fan of tuna. I piled it on some Ezekiel 4:9 bread with shredded carrots (a must!), salad greens, tomato, and pickles. Last time I made it I also added sprouts and cucumber slices.  I was out of sprouts.  It was unfortunate. The sprouts and the carrots totally make the sandwich.

It's raw and soy free and sooooo good.  Portia uses Bubbies pickles. I had never heard of Bubbies, but they are amazing. And raw. I know we said we weren't going to be raw food vegans, but I'm finding we're leaning more toward raw food the longer we stay on this whole foods regimen.

Anyway, I get Bubbies at the local health food market/co-op. I've never seen them in a grocery store.

But, without further ado, here is my cobbled-together recipe for notuna salad!

NoTuna Salad
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 4-6 hours
1 cup raw walnuts, soaked for 4-6 hours
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp kelp granules
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1 Tbs dill weed
3-4 Tbs cold pressed olive oil*
2 celery ribs, diced
2 Bubbies, diced

Place seeds, nuts, lemon juice, kelp, salt, and dill in a food processor and process.  Drizzle in olive oil while processing.  It may get clumpy so be prepared to stop and scrape a time or two. Once all the olive oil is added, if you think you need more liquid, splash in a little pickle juice until you get a consistency almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tuna salad. Just kidding. It will be similar to tuna salad. Remove from the food processor, place in a bowl and stir in the chopped pickles and celery. Serve in a wrap, over salad greens, or as a sandwich. Or just eat it out of the container with a spoon. Whatever. Just finish it in a few days.

*Next time I shall use coconut oil. I'm not a big fan of olive oil.

Well, that's all for now.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Harvest Party Cookies

Well hello there!  It's been a while.  Again.  Sorry about that.

Anywhoo, it's Harvest Party season.  We have two kids in school this year, so I got to make cookies for two classes instead of one.  WooHoo!

Actually, it wasn't so bad. The boy's class has six kids.  You heard me. Six. Kids. And because the class is so small, I decided to go a little crazy.  The boy is really into tic-tac-toe right now, so I made cookie game boards and cookie game pieces for everyone in his class. All six of them. Each kid got one board and 10 game pieces.

When I got ready to bag them it was dark. And I couldn't find my camera.  And it was dark.  I was very frustrated by my inability to take a decent picture.

Like, not gonna blog anymore frustrated.  I need some natural light, people. It's dark at 5:30.

OK, whinefest over. Sorry you had to see that.

The girl wanted happy candy corns.  I told her no tic-tac-toe for her class because there are 13 of them, and I would have had to make an additional 130 game pieces. Then all I could think of the whole time I was decorating the candy corns was Bob Ross and his happy little trees.  I miss Bob Ross. *sniffle*

I did some random designs with the extra cookies.  The one on the far left in the middle row was really cool until I dropped an icing bag on it.  It smoothed out, but the pattern was ruined.

But, being the overachiever that I am, I also made brownies for the girl at her especial request.  Then I made a pumpkin pie for the boy.  Out of a real pumpkin. The little punk insisted we use a real pumpkin. I bought a pie crust from the store to get even with him.

Thankfully, I didn't take pictures of the brownies and the pie.  But they were delicious.

Well, that's all for today.  I'm getting my Christmas cookie list together. If anyone has any suggestions leave them in the comments.  I'm always looking for new things to include in my cookie trays.