Archive | February, 2013

Vegan Valentine’s: Delicious Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

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“Wait, that’s vegan? They don’t look vegan. Are you sure they are?” asked my chocoholic friend as he stared wide-eyed at the vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes I made for him. When he bit into one of the moist, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes, his face lit up with pleasure, but then he squinted his eyes and asked again: “Are you sure these are vegan?! They’re really, really good!” I laughed and said: “Yep, I made them myself and I swear they are! Your wife doesn’t want you to die from clogged arteries, and neither do I, so these are made without any animal fat. They’re much better for you.” I still don’t think he completely believed me though! 🙂

That got me to thinking: what do carnivores think vegan baked goods look like?  I took a poll among my meat-eating friends and found that this is what they visualize when they think of baked vegan treats:

That used to be the case for my carnivore, but I’ve been working hard to change his mind.  He’s finally realizing that vegan cupcakes aren’t dry, dirt-encrusted bricks wrapped in hemp leaves. Top bakers and chefs all over the world are recognizing the health benefits of desserts free of animal products and we’re seeing more and more incredibly tasty and inventive recipes from them. This vegan chocolate strawberry cupcake recipe is by chef Chloe Corscarelli, who used these yummy and pretty little cakes to win the Cupcake Wars competition. Most impressive: she was competing against people using whipping cream, butter, and every other animal fat you can imagine, and these amazing cupcakes kicked all of their booties. Score another point for Team Veg!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, give these beautiful cupcakes a try and see if you can convert a carnivore or two yourself!

vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes

Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Serves: 12
From fridge to table: 1.5 hours

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting and finishing:
2/3 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 2/3 cups plus 1 tbsp sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp soy milk (or rice or almond milk)
1.5 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line 12-cup muffin pan.

To make cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup water, the oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Divide batter among cupcake cups. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool completely in pan.

To  make frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla to mix. Beat in nondairy milk, 1 tbsp at a time, and beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Cut tops off of cooled cupcakes and set aside. Smooth about 1 tbsp of frosting onto each decapitated cupcake and cover with a few strawberries. Replace top and then add a dollop of frosting and few slices of strawberries. Dust cupcakes with a little powdered sugar. Then enjoy!

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Hearty Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot

Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot

Two years ago, John and I got the chance to experience a really special Outstanding in the Field event held on a private beach in Santa Cruz. The 100-person table was set up on the sand and wrapped around a huge beach bonfire. It wasn’t so bad watching whales spout in the background while sifting sand through our toes and sipping wine with our good friends! You’d think that would be the most memorable part of the evening, but no – since I’m an insufferable foodie douche weenie, the most mind-blowing thing about the whole dinner was being introduced to my new favorite food: the Italian butter bean.  The beans, which are large white limas, are creamy, tender and slightly nutty tasting – they’re unlike anything I’ve ever tried! They are as tasty as they are filling, making them great for entrees and side dishes alike.

The Outstanding in the Field organizers paired up local organic farmers with two top Bay Area chefs, one of which was Richard Reddington of Napa Valley’s acclaimed restaurant, Redd.  Chef Reddington created an incredible tomatoey Italian butter bean dish that left all of our jaws on the table. After dinner, Chef Reddington was kind enough to sit with me at the bonfire and give me some of his secrets for his incredibly flavorful butter bean dish. Unfortunately, I had sampled quite a few glasses of delicious local wine by then and had killed far too many brain cells to remember all the details he shared with me, but thankfully, enough key pieces of intel stayed with me so that I could create my own version of his delightful dish. I’m calling mine the Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot, which features a thick, rich sauce and deep, earthy flavors. Whenever I make this dish, it instantly transports us back to the beach and that spectacularly special evening, which might be why John and our friends request the bean pot so often. Well, it might have more to do with the fact that this dish totally rocks and the butter beans are to die for! And since it’s super easy to make, nutrient-rich and loaded with protein, it has become a staple in our house. I bet you will love it, too.

Note the wine glass in my hand: this is why I couldn't remember Chef Reddington's exact recipe!

Note the wine glass in my hand: this is why I couldn’t remember Chef Reddington’s exact recipe! But don’t worry, my version of his dish will still knock your socks off.

Cimeron’s Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot
Serves: 15 people as a side dish, or 6 as a main course
From fridge to table: about 3 hours (plus overnight soaking of the beans)
(Don’t worry – it’s one of those “let it sit on the stove for hours” kind of recipes, so it won’t require much of your time at all)

1 pound dried Italian butter beans*
1 extra humongous yellow onion, finely chopped
15 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and finely chopped
1.5 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
Smoked sea salt and pepper, to taste

First, soak the beans in water overnight. To de-gas the beans, soak them with a piece of kombu (a dried seaweed you can find at Whole Foods), or change the water often within the first few hours.

Drain the soaked beans, put them in a large pot and fill with fresh water until the beans are just covered. Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the salt and pepper. (Salt stops beans from cooking, so don’t add the salt yet). Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered. Then reduce heat to simmer (on my range, I set it to 3), and cook, uncovered, for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid and veggies become a thick, rich sauce. Be sure to stir every now and then to prevent scorching. If the sauce thickens but the beans aren’t soft enough yet, add some water (1/2 – 1 cup at a time) and continue cooking the beans. Once the beans are tender and creamy, add smoked sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Serve hot as a side dish or as an entree. Enjoy!

*I get dried Italian butter beans from Iacopi Farms at our local farmer’s market. Mr. Iacopi’s father immigrated to the Bay Area from Italy and brought his family’s famous butter beans with him.  If you can’t find them where you are, you can buy canned Italian butter beans in most high-end grocery stores, or buy the dried beans online. You could also substitute another large white bean, but if you can, try to find the butter beans since they are simply divine.IMG_0146

You didn't believe me when I said I am a foodie douche weenie, did you? Well, this might prove my point. Who else but a food groupie would get her photo taken with a chef-idol? Chef Reddington and his butter beans rock!

You didn’t believe me when I said I am a foodie douche weenie, did you? Well, this might prove my point. Who else but a food groupie would get her photo taken with a chef-idol? Chef Reddington and his butter beans rock!

If you have a chance, I highly recommend going to an Outstanding in the Field event. They travel around the US all spring and summer and they're quite amazing.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend going to an Outstanding in the Field event. They travel around the US all spring and summer and they’re super fun.