Hi! I'm taking a little break and it might take me a few days to reply to comments and emails. I'll be back soon! :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No-Knead Rustic Crusty Bread

Do you have a carb tooth? My carb tooth is even more demanding than my sweet tooth, if that tells you anything.

I am powerless in the presence of a good crusty bread! Or even a bad crusty bread. Unfortunately for my midsection, I have found a recipe for a fantastic No-Knead Rustic Crusty Bread that requires a minimum amount of work. It's a no-knead bread, so all there is to do is combine the (very few) ingredients and then do a lot of waiting for the dough to rise. All you need is flour, yeast, salt, and water.

No-Knead Rustic Crusty Bread 
I like to use a combination of half bread flour and half all purpose flour. Sometimes I make loaves, sometimes I make rolls, and most times I make both. A nice slice of this rustic bread is a perfect companion for a hot bowl of soup.

No-Knead Rustic Crusty Bread 
The crumb is fluffy but hardy, and the crust is impossibly perfect. To achieve that beautiful crunchy-when-it's-warm and chewy-when-it's-not crust, you will need to make the oven nice and steamy by pouring some hot water into a preheated broiler pan. Believe me when I tell you that that will make you feel like a badass baker!

Find the recipe (with handy step-by-step pictures) for this amazing and easy Rustic Crusty Bread at Mel's Kitchen Cafe! My carb tooth thanks you for this recipe, Mel!

No-Knead Rustic Crusty Bread 
Today's cuteness is brought to you by the magical land of Japan. It's a cat cafe! I like the second cafe that Sharla visits best. They would have to call the police to kick me out of that place because I would refuse to ever leave!

I saw it on Cute Overload. Direct link to the video on YouTube here.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coconut Oil Shortbread

Is vegan butter available where you live? I never take my precious Earth Balance for granted and it would break my heart (or my belly) if I ever had to give it up. A few weeks ago, Yvonne left me a comment asking about the biscuits that I showed in my quince post. I gave Yvonne the recipe and told her that I made them with Earth Balance. Yvonne didn't let the fact that Earth Balance is not available in the Netherlands deter her from making biscuits, and she went ahead and kicked some biscuit butt with coconut oil instead. Yeah!

So now I'm sharing a recipe for my favorite cookie, but made with coconut oil instead of Earth Balance: shortbread! This one's for you, Yvonne!

Coconut Oil Shortbread

Coconut Oil Shortbread 
(14-16 single cookies)

1/2 cup refined coconut oil at room temperature*
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 tbsp water
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

1. Scoop the coconut oil into a medium sized mixing bowl. The coconut oil should be solid but not hard like a rock. If it's very hard you can place it somewhere warm for a few minutes until it becomes softer. I had the oven on, so I just let the coconut oil sit on the stove top (with the stove top off!) until it softened a bit.

2. Using an electric mixer on high, cream the coconut oil until it looks smooth and there are no visible chunky bits of fat. This will take a minute.

3. Add the sugar, extracts, and water. Keep mixing on high until everything is well blended.

4. Use a large spoon to stir in the flour and the salt. You can use your hands to knead in the last of the flour if it becomes too hard to stir. You should end up with a dough that resembles Playdough: not soft and soggy but also not dry and crumbly. If it's too dry and not coming together you can add a little bit more water.

5. Now we need to shape the dough into a log. To do this you will need a piece of wax paper cling wrap large enough to wrap the dough log in it. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the wax paper and place the dough right in the center. Use your hands to shape it into a log that is about 2 inches in circumference and then wrap the wax paper tightly around the log. Have you ever rolled a cigar? Me neither, but I'm guessing it's a very similar process! Fold the ends/tips of paper over and refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

7. Check to see if your dough is firm enough to slice. Just unwrap the log and use a sharp knife to slice a bit of dough off. If it's still too soft you can refrigerate it for a little longer. If it's easy to slice, keep cutting the dough into about 1/3 in slices. You should end up with 14-16 slices.

8. Place the dough on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie, and bake on the highest or second highest oven rack for 18-20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet half way through so the cookies will bake evenly. Baking time will vary depending on how reliable your oven is. My oven is a cretin, so I have to bake these on the highest rack or the bottoms will burn.

9. Transfer your cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool down completely. Enjoy!

*You can use unrefined coconut oil if you don't mind your cookies tasting coconutty.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Filling

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp non-dairy unflavored coffee creamer or your favorite non-dairy milk

1. Combine the chocolate and creamer in a microwaveable bowl.

2. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well and check to see if it's smooth. If it's still a bit chunky, nuke it for 15 more seconds, stir well, and check again. Repeat until your chocolate filling is completely smooth and silky. Let it cool down for a few minutes until the chocolate firms up slightly.

3. Spread a generous amount of chocolate over one cookie. Top it with another cookie - without pressing down! If your chocolate starts spilling out, it means that it's still too warm and you should let it cool down for a few more minutes. Try again and if the chocolate stays put, keep going until all your cookies are done. 

Full disclosure: I only tested this recipe once, which is two or three times short of my usual pre-blogging tests. It's just that I am too excited to share with the world the fact that if I ever had to live somewhere where Earth Balance wasn't available, I would still be able to enjoy my favorite cookie. Well, I suppose there was a bit of a trial before this official recipe, but it only involved baking one single cookie. I made this dough with 1 cup of flour, like my regular Earth Balance based shortbread, and I baked only a little piece of dough to see what happened. It melted five or six minutes into the baking time. It became a cookie puddle. That's how I knew that I needed to work some extra flour into the dough, and an extra 1/4 cup was all it needed. Success!

Coconut Oil Shortbread

Oh look, I can't just leave cookies alone. I have to add chocolate somehow. The coconut-oil-based shortbread is not quite as tender as the one I make with Earth Balance, but it's still buttery and delicious. These cookies have a bit more crunch to them, and unlike the ones made with vegan butter, the sandwich cookies don't become softer on the second day. They are not too sweet but sweet enough, which is why I love shortbread so much!

Coconut Oil Shortbread

Oh, I just don't know when to stop, do I? A little chocolate drizzle on top and a good sprinkling of slivered almonds made these extra ridiculous! What's wrong with ridiculous when it comes to chocolate?

Coconut Oil Shortbread

Now as if I hadn't overloaded this post with photos, here's a picture of a duck doing... something... weird...

Creepy? Funny? Just weird?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Creamy, Dreamy Tofu(less) Mushroom Stroganoff from Isa Does It

Creamy pasta, come to me!

Tofu(less) Mushroom Stroganoff from Isa Does It

This is the Tofu-Mushroom Stroganoff from Isa Does It, minus the tofu. I like tomato-based pasta sauces, but my heart entirely belongs to creamy, smooth, cashew-based* sauces. This dish was as excellent as I expected it to be, even without my precious tofu that I miss so much. It's velvety and mild, but definitely not lacking in flavor thanks to the yummy sautéed onion and garlic. The mushrooms are there, even if you can barely see them in my pictures.

The recipe says to garnish this dish with flat leaf parsley, but I used curly parsley because I do what I want! Also, it was the only type of parsley that I had. When I was eating it I realized that this dish looks more irresistible when it's all messy and all the noodles are coated with the saucy goodness, so here's a quick shot of that.

Tofu(less) Mushroom Stroganoff from Isa Does It

* If you have a nut allergy, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to make this with sunflower seeds instead of cashews. I have made this Sunflower Mac before, also one of Isa's recipes, and I can tell you that it was delicious and super creamy. So go forth and nomnomnom!

Do you have a copy of Isa Does It

- Yes? Awkward high-five! 
- No? Don't worry, you can find the recipe here. Yeah! Awkward high-five for you too!

You know who's not getting a high five? This pesky duck that landed on one of our bird feeders and ate all the food, that's who.

Pesky Duck

Friday, January 10, 2014

Triple Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Oh, I've been a bad blogger, haven't I? I'm sorry it has taken me a while to reply to some of your comments this week. I found myself in an extremely antisocial state and all I wanted to do this past week was sit on the couch watching Doctor Who while my new heated throw blanket kept me warm and hidden from the world. May I attempt to make it up to you with some chocolate cake doughnuts?

Triple Chocolate Cake Doughnuts 
These are the Basic Chocolate Cupcakes from VCTOTW, but baked in a doughnut pan instead. The recipe made six doughnuts and there was enough leftover batter for three cupcakes, which I didn't mind at all. To make the cake a bit more dense like a a regular cake doughnut would be, I only used 3/4 cup of milk instead of a full cup. You might have to play with it and add more or less milk depending on what type of flour you use and how you measure it and all that good stuff. So we have the cake made with cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa), the semi-sweet chocolate topping, and the deep dark chocolate shavings for a winning trio of deliciousness!

Triple Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Triple Chocolate Cake Doughnuts 
(Makes six doughnuts)

1 batch of Basic Chocolate Cupcakes batter from VCTOTW. Make the batter with only 3/4 cup of milk instead of a whole cup (you will have some leftover batter, enough for three cupcakes)

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
dark chocolate shavings, sprinkles, coconuts, chopped nuts, or whatever toppings you love

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a doughnut pan with cooking spray. If you are like me and you can't be bothered to do the math to calculate how much batter you will need for exactly 6 doughnuts, then prepare a muffin pan too - but only for 3 cupcakes. The doughnut pan should be thoroughly sprayed with cooking spread. I speak from experience when I tell you that not spraying the centers (where the holes will be) sufficiently will leave you with pesky doughnuts stuck to the pan.

2. Prepare the cake batter with only 3/4 cup of milk instead of a whole cup. You might need to adjust the amount of milk depending on the type of flour and non-dairy milk that you are using. The batter should be more fluid than muffin batter but not as runny as cake batter.

3. Pour the batter evenly into the doughnut pan cavities (doesn't that word make you cringe?) about 2/3 full.

4. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a doughnut comes out clean.

5. Let the doughnuts cool on the pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool down to room temperature.

6. Now it's time to melt the chocolate chippers. Microwave them, in a microwave-safe bowl, on high for 30 seconds. Give them a quick stir and nuke them again for 30 more seconds. Stir well, nuke, and repeat until the chocolate is melted. Add the coconut oil and stir well.

7. To coat the tops of the doughnuts with chocolate you have two options. You can dip the tops of the doughnuts into the melted chocolate, or you can just spread the chocolate over the tops with a small spatula or knife, which is what I did.

8. Let the chocolate topping cool down for a couple of minutes, but not long enough to let it harden, and sprinkle your favorite toppings all over the doughnuts. If you are sprinkling chocolate shavings like I did, the chocolate topping shouldn't be too warm or your shavings will melt. Keep them at room temperature and enjoy!

The doughnuts are soft and cakey and the chocolate topping becomes just hard enough to create a nice crisp contrast. The dark chocolate shavings mingle beautifully with the semi-sweet topping for an extra layer of deep chocolate flavor. Oh yeah.

Triple Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Today's cuteness is brought to you by this insufferable weather. Mrs. Ducky McSnowbill seems to be coping quite well though, doesn't she?

Sleepy, snowy duck

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! (Lucky Quinoa with Black-Eyed Peas and Sausage)

How's 2014 treating you so far? Have you made any new year's resolutions? I have decided to eat lots of chocolate and watch more Doctor Who marathons. Oh wait. Those are almost exactly the same resolutions as I made last year! This blog is evidence that I kept last year's resolution to eat more chocolate. Never say I don't stick to my decisions.

So I guess we should eat some black-eyed peas for good luck and whatnot? This Lucky Quinoa with Black-Eyed Peas is my lunch, and later for dinner we are going to have some sort of black-eyed pea soup so I'd better get some flippin' good luck this year!

Lucky Quinoa with Black-Eyed Peas and Sausage

This is hardly a recipe. There were things in the fridge that I needed to use up and that's how this dish was born. The most involved step is the chopping of an onion, which you can even omit if you're not in the mood for that. Just add some onion powder to the pot before you add the broth and you're set. This dish doesn't have any spices other than a little bit of black pepper because my sausage was pretty spicy already, but if you're skipping the sausage feel free to add whatever seasonings float your boat so it's not too bland.

Lucky Quinoa with Black-Eyed Peas and Sausage
(Serves two)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
about 1 cup of frozen spinach
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes (I had a leftover half can in the fridge)
1/2 cup of quinoa, rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup frozen or canned black-eyed peas
2 tbsp your favorite vegan parmesan or 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon of salt or to taste
ground black pepper to taste

a splash of olive oil
2 vegan sausages, sliced (I used an Italian sausage)

1. Preheat a medium sized pot or a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and slightly browned. It will take at least ten minutes. If your onion wants to stick to the bottom of the pot you can add a tiny bit of broth to show it who's boss.

2. Throw in the frozen spinach and cook for a few minutes until the spinach is soft. Keep cooking and stirring for a couple more minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, quinoa, broth, black-eyed peas, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed.

4. Keep your quinoa covered and move on to the sausages, if you're using any. Preheat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, pour a little splash of olive oil evenly over the bottom and cook your sliced sausage for a couple of minutes on each side. We just want to get it nice and toasty.

5. Mix the sausage into the quinoa, give it a taste and add more salt, pepper or parmesan as needed.

Lucky Quinoa with Black-Eyed Peas and Sausage

That's it. Now you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk? :)

Curly, you're in charge of wishing everyone a happy 2014! Take it away, buddy! 

Happy New Year!
Go home, Curly! You're drunk!