Halloween “Corpse Cake”

With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to share this fun “recipe” for a creepy cake that will entertain your family or party guests on the 31st.  The word recipe is in quotes because this post is less about recipes and more about a technique that I played with to make this unique confection.  It’s super easy and should be a hit with all lovers of the macabre, especially those with a sense of humor.

The idea is that you’re going to create a cake in the shape of a person; this cake person is going to be decorated in a way that makes it clear that he or she is unwell (for the rest of this post I’m going to use male pronouns because our cake was none other than Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec – more on that later); and when you cut into the cake person, it will result in a deliciously bloody mess.

The first thing you need is a pan that is at least somewhat human shaped.  I used a large, deep gingerbread form that I found at an online bake shop.  Any gingerbread person shape should work, but I’d steer clear of anything too thin as you want enough depth to allow you to pipe in oozy-ness.

Create a nice, big batch of your favorite vegan vanilla cake mix.  I can’t tell you exactly how much to make because it’s going to depend on the form you’re using,  but I’m confident you can play around with it and figure it out.  If you don’t have a favorite cake recipe, do an internet search for either Chef Chloe’s vanilla cupcake recipe (what I used – I had to double or triple it) or the vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  I’m recommending vanilla both for the taste and because it will show the food coloring well, but you could undoubtedly get away with using other flavors if that’s what your heart desires.

Speaking of food coloring, you’re going to need some excellent food coloring for this cake to work well.  I recommend the Americolor Soft Gel Paste variety.  This line of coloring is vibrant enough to make your baked goods dramatic without having to add so much that you alter the taste.  At this point, have your red food coloring on hand…  divide the cake batter into two separate bowls, and lightly tint one until it’s a pinkish hue and put more into the other bowl so that it’s a more vibrant red.  Carefully pour the contents of both bowls into the mold at the same time (one in each hand), and then swirl it gently together.  It should look something like this:

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Bake until cooked through and slightly golden.  It will look like this:

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Once your corpse has cooled, turn him out onto the platter you’re going to be serving him on.

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Now it’s time for the frosting.  You’re going to need a lot of frosting because you’re going to be doing a lot with said frosting.  I kept running out and having to make additional batches (but again, I can’t tell you how much, exactly, because it will depend on the size of your corpse and how you decide to decorate him).  Make a big bowl of your favorite vegan vanilla buttercream frosting (mine is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World).  Put a nice, generous helping of the frosting into a separate bowl, put some red food coloring into it and blend.  Use a knife to create some troughs in your person where you want it to be extra oozy and then pipe your red frosting into the troughs.  My piping kind of looked like the logo from the Blair Witch Project,  but that’s okay.

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Now you need to make your special decorating frosting by taking some big dollops of the vanilla buttercream and putting them into separate small bowls and then using food coloring to create your desired effects.  I will warn you that the next sentence is pretty gross:  For our corpse, we went with blood (the red one), puss (the yellow one), and decomposing flesh (the weird purply one).  We also made a small batch of brown frosting to use for head and mustache hair.

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Now that your special frostings are standing by, use your plain vanilla frosting to completely cover your corpse.  (Again, you can use whatever color you like, but we used plain vanilla because it shows the decorating treatments well and because Ron Swanson is a fairly pale fellow.)

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Now it’s time to have a little fun and decorate your corpse.  Who is she or he?  How did this person die?  Our corpse was for Queenie to take to school, so I let her create the back story. We were deep in the midst of binge watching Parks & Rec at the time, and she selected a theme that came up in Season 6, Episode 5, when Ron is creating his hilarious will that leaves all of his worldly possessions to “the man or animal” that killed him.  Ben then quotes Game of Thrones and makes a reference to a boar, and Ron claims that he’d “never lose to a boar.”  We found all of this quite funny, and our corpse is what we imagined Ron would look like if he did, indeed, lose to a boar.   It isn’t pretty, but then death by boar wouldn’t be.

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As you can probably tell from the photo above, the eyes were two inverted chocolate chips (flat side up), which worked nicely.  Here’s a close-up of one of the wounds:

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And another.  We layered the various gross colors together for dramatic effect.

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When Queenie took the corpse cake to school, we had a bit of fun with the packaging, trying to make it look at least a bit like a body bag.

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Now for the disappointing part of this post:  I can’t show you the fabulous oozing effect that happened when Ron was cut open.  I wasn’t able to be there, so I’d asked various people to please take photos.  However, they ended up having too much fun cutting and gasping and eating to remember to do so until it was too late.  But I was told by many eye witnesses that Ron was a glorious, delicious crime scene of fun, and the remnants left on the tray would seem to support that.

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I hope you have tons of fun this Halloween, and if you end up making your own corpse cake, I’d love to see the photos!!

Enjoy!  xo

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And the Runners Up Are…

I recently had the pleasure of writing the VegEscape column in the May/June issue of VegNews Magazine, which highlighted several vegan eateries and activities in the Seattle area.

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With only two pages and a very tight word count, the establishments featured in the article were by no means an exhaustive list, and I’ve been wanting to create a longer list of options ever since the piece came out.  In case you want to delve deeper into Seattle’s veg offerings, I present a few more spots for your consideration (also not an exhaustive list!).  These are in no particular order, but know that the first few were in and out of various drafts of the article and just barely didn’t make it in.  All are worth exploring!

Araya’s Place – Founded in the 1980s, Araya’s has mastered the art of vegan Thai food.  There are several locations to choose from, each with its own distinct personality.  While the menu is delightful, Araya’s is justifiably famous for its lunch buffet.  There are healthy options, like brown rice, soups, salads, and steamed veggies, as well as more decadent fare, such as noodles, fried rice, stir fried veggies, and crispy spring rolls.  Whatever you’re in the mood for, it’s all delicious and all you can eat.  If you have the will power to do so, save a little room for the Black Sticky Rice Pudding dessert.  Served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily.  http://www.arayasplace.com

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I love, love, love Mighty-O Donuts!  So many flavors, so much deliciousness.  They make dense, cakey donuts (yay!) as well as yeasted donuts (also yay!) and there’s undoubtedly a flavor or five that will make your heart sing.  They have beloved standbys (try the Donut King, a vanilla-glazed chocolate donut topped with coconut, or the perfect cinnamon sugar) or one of their seasonal flavors (the blueberry they have going right now is delish).  While donuts aren’t exactly health food, you can feel good about eating treats that are organic, GMO-free, and contain no trans fats.  You can find them at their four locations around town as well as in various markets and cafes.  http://www.mightyo.com

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If you find yourself in Redmond, be sure to stop in at Teapot Vegetarian House which, despite the name, is actually 100% vegan.  In fact, Teapot is so tasty that you may want to make a special trip over just to eat there.  The crispy Goldfingers appetizer is like a battered chicken strip, but it’s somehow made from compressed mushroom stalks.  It’s crave-worthy and I order it every time I go.  I also cannot recommend the soups highly enough.  Whether it’s the perfect hot and sour, the delightful sizzling rice, the savory won ton, or the spicy Laksa, you can’t go wrong if you’re availing yourself of one of their soups.  As if the food wasn’t reason enough to go, the proprietors are lovely people, and their kind, gentle spirits make the experience even better.  Let them recommend a pot of tea to go with your meal and you won’t be sorry.  teapotvegetarianhouse.com

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El Chupacabra is a festive restaurant serving up hearty Mexican food and cocktails in a colorful setting (think Day of the Dead-inspired decor and a loud jukebox).  While not a vegan establishment, they are able to veganize just about everything on the menu, substituting in vegan chicken, steak, cheese, and sour cream.  My favorite is the veggie burrito served wet style with a side of sour cream, but I will concede that the chimichanga with “mock green chicken” is fairly mind-blowing, with its crispy-flakey wrap full of creamy deliciousness.  Pop a few quarters into the jukebox, sit back, and get ready to have a very full belly.  http://www.elchupacabraseattle.com

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Sizzle Pie in Capitol Hill always offers three vegan pizzas by the slice in their case, along with a host of vegan menu items.  There are two crisp, tasty vegan salads:  the Rabbits with ranch dressing and “bacon” bits and the Caligula, a vegan Caesar.  The salads can either be ordered alone or as part of a slice-and-salad combo.  As for the pizza, options abound, but my fave is the Buffalo 666, which comes with Buffalo jackfruit shreds, cheese, and two kinds of sauces (a spicy wing sauce and a cooling ranch).  Warning:  the place can be a bit loud and tends to feature somewhat aggressive metal on the playlist.  If that doesn’t sound fun, the tables outside can be a little quieter.  http://www.sizzlepie.com

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If you’re looking for healthier options, head to Chaco Canyon for some tasty, old-school hippie food (I mean this as a compliment).  My favorite option is building my own bowl with brown rice, baked tofu, greens, and tahini, but the crowd favorite is undoubtedly the artichoke melt, with its creamy artichoke pate sandwiched between Macrina sourdough bread and just the right amount of crunch from cucumber slices and sprouts.  Round out your meal with a fresh juice or an elixir and you’ll be well-fueled for whatever your day holds.  http://www.chacocanyoncafe.com

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Because there’s no such thing as too much pizza (right?), next up we’ve got Razzis Pizzeria, a place that caters to folks who may have trouble finding food at typical restaurants.  That includes vegans, of course, but they also have an extensive gluten-free menu, if that’s a concern for you.  Just ask for the vegan menu and settle in for a nice, long read – it’s extensive!  There’s cheesy garlic bread and mozzarella sticks to start, tons of salads and baked pastas, and my favorite:  the Stay-Cay pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple.  If you oppose the use of pineapple on pizza, fear not!  There are countless options that will make you happy.  http://www.razzispizza.com

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Seattle institution Cafe Flora has been feeding hungry vegans and vegetarians since 1991 and they are still going strong.  The place itself is spacious and inviting, with different rooms to choose from.  You can feel like you’re eating outside year-round in the plant-filled atrium, dine in the main room surrounded by colorful art, or eat outside on the patio during summer.  There’s some seriously tasty food happening here and you’ll be happy no matter when you come, but I think Cafe Flora’s strongest suit is their brunch.  First, they have vegan cinnamon rolls!  Let me repeat:  vegan cinnamon rolls!!  And then there’s the hearty Southern Platter with biscuits and gravy, scrambled tofu, and smoky collards.  SO good.  And if you find yourself with some time to spend at Sea-Tac, check out Cafe Flora’s new sibling, Floret, which they describe as located in the “main terminal at the intersection of Concourses A and B next to the Delta Lounge.”    cafeflora.com

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Bamboo Garden Vegetarian Cuisine ran into some trouble a bit ago when it was discovered that they were using non-vegan mock meats (containing milk products in them) in dishes that customers thought were vegan.  People were understandably upset.  This prompted them to rework their menus and ordering systems.  They now have a separate vegan menu, so ask for that if you go; and when you order, be sure to specify that you want whatever it is you ordered to be vegan.  That should do the trick.  Given their location near the Seattle Center and SIFF, I sometimes pop in to this unassuming spot for food before or after events if I’m feeling burned out on the Armory.  If you’re quite hungry, I recommend asking to see the lunch specials menu (which I’ve ordered at dinner, too) and seeing what catches your eye.  For me, it’s generally the combo with sweet and sour chicken, fried rice or chow mein, green veggies, and a cup of corn chowder.  http://www.bamboo-garden.co

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Feeling a little bloated from all of that pizza and greasy Chinese food?  Head to Jujubeet Cafe for some light, clean, delicious fare.  They are known for their fresh juices, and you’re sure to find one that appeals to you from their abundant options.  If not, they’ll custom blend whatever you want.  Need something a little heartier?  Try a smoothie.  My personal favorite is the Cacao Wow, a creamy blend of almond milk, almond butter, raw cacao, banana, and vanilla protein powder.  If you’d rather chew something, they’ve got you covered there as well, with sandwiches, wraps, bowls, and a scrumptious cheese plate.  Hot tip:  if you’re fighting off a cold, their tiny bottled elixirs are fabulously intense blasts of immune-supporting magic.  Note that everything here is vegan except that they use honey in some things.  Keep an eye out for that.   jujubeet.com

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Plum Bistro in Capitol Hill is part of vegan chef Makini Howell’s flavorful vegan empire, which includes the Plum Bistro cookbook, Plum Pantry at the Armory, Sugar Plum (soft serve ice cream!) in a different part of Capitol Hill, Plum Burgers (a food truck), and Plum Chopped (a salad bar take-out spot next to the bistro).  Plum Bistro was the original jewel, opened in 2009, and it’s still a popular spot.  The menu changes with the seasons, but you can always look forward to their world-famous “Mac n Yease,” a spicy cajun take on mac and cheese (note that it’s extremely rich and probably a good idea to share with your table mates).  Everything here packs a flavor punch, including the inventive desserts.  (no website that I could find)

Next Level Burger is a casual joint nestled within the Whole Foods Market in Roosevelt.  They will build you a burger to fit your preferences, with choices of patty (they have house-made mushroom/quinoa and black bean/veggie patties, as well as Beyond Meat), toppings (you name it, it’s probably here, including a combo with tempeh bacon, blue cheese, and bbq sauce!), and buns (regular and gluten-free).  Their “Animal” burger was recently featured in VegNews Magazine as one of the best burgers in the country.  I haven’t tackled it yet, but if you’re up for it, we’re talking two sausage style patties, tempeh bacon, crinkle cut fries (yes, on the burger, not on the side), sauteed onion, Swiss or cheddar cheese, and your choice of special or bbq sauce.  Whew, I’m kind of full just writing that!  Where I think Next Level really shines, though, is with their shakes, which are as varied as their burger options.  Ranging from simple vanilla to concoctions loaded with chunks and drizzles, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your sweet tooth.  http://www.nextlevelburger.com

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Kati Thai is relatively new to the Seattle vegan scene.  I’ve only visited once, but I thought it was pretty tasty.  I will definitely go back further exploration.  The delicate, crispy appetizers were the highlight for me.  kativeganthai.com

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Looking for something to eat over in Kirkland?  You have two excellent options.  First, there’s HB Bev Co (aka Healthy Bonez), a take-out spot for the best Acai bowl in the Pacific Northwest.  Order it without honey (they will sub Bee Free Honee if you would like) and feel free to add a drizzle of peanut butter if it sounds as good to you as it always does to me.  They also have juices and other bowls, but once I had a taste of that Acai bowl, I never ordered anything else (and I’m not typically a person who gets in such a rut).  Pro tip:  get the app and order ahead – the lines get long!  hbbev.co

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My other favorite Kirkland option is Cafe Happy, a tiny restaurant downtown.  Although they have a table inside, I recommend taking your food to go and heading to the waterfront a block away for a picnic.  Don’t miss their steamed soy meat buns (I think I could live on these buns alone!), which pair nicely with a bubble tea.  A couple of menu items are not vegan, but the staff can help you find the right thing, so just ask if you’re confused.  https://m.facebook.com/Cafe-Happy-119008831443318/

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If life takes you to Everett, you’ve got two great options there as well.  I’m a big fan of Cafe Wylde, which offers flavorful, healthy food in a clean, bright space.  Personal faves include the smokey avocado dip, the jackfruit tacos, and the raw desserts.

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We recently discovered Curries in Everett, and we were blown away.  It’s the best Indian food we’ve had in the PNW.  Seriously.  The place is immaculate, the staff helpful, and the vegan items clearly marked on the menu.  We tried all of the vegan appetizers, and they were all delicious, but the Veggie Pakoras stood out – perfectly crispy on the outside, velvety on the inside.  Angels sang.  We also had the Aloo Gobhi and Dal Tarka, and each dish was perfectly cooked with distinctive spices and personalities.  Can’t wait to go back.  http://curriesineverett.com/

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I probably don’t need to point this out, but we’re lucky to have three Veggie Grill locations in the area, with one an easy walk from the Convention Center if you need sustenance while at an event there.  The seasonal menus are always worth checking out, the menu staples have stood the test of time (Santa Fe Crispy Chicken, anyone?), and now they’re featuring the new Just Egg in a breakfast burrito!  Heading there to try it soon.  http://www.veggiegrill.com

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We are also fortunate to have a wonderful co-op chain, PCC Community Market, with locations scattered around the area.  In addition to all of the grocery items and personal care products you could possibly need, PCC has wonderful delis and salad bars which make for excellent take-out options.  http://www.pccmarkets.com

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On the higher end of the price spectrum is Harvest Beat, a restaurant that some people absolutely love (as evidenced by the fact that one reader of my article vociferously complained about its omission) while others, not so much.  I wanted to love it (a multi-course, special occasion prix fixe vegan spot sounds great), but after dining there during the research for my piece, I’m in that latter camp, unfortunately.  I adore the mission of Harvest Beat and how consciously they strive to create a special experience for everyone in their orbit.  They clearly care about what they’re doing and how they source their ingredients.  Unfortunately, I had a very uneven dining experience.  The first course was exquisite, the next course was okay, and the main course (an unsuccessfully breaded slimy mushroom cutlet) was inedible.  Dessert ended back in the positive column.  By the time you add in beverages, this meal tops out at over $100 per person.  At that price point, I expect better than what I experienced, which is why I didn’t include it in the article.  However, as I noted, it has many ardent proponents and glowing reviews, so check it out for yourself if you feel so inclined.  Perhaps I visited on an off night?  At the very least, you’ll be supporting some nice people.  http://www.harvestbeat.com/

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Finally, I’m including an establishment that I’ve been wanting to visit but haven’t made it into yet, Georgetown Liquor Company.  This place is 21 and over, and since I’m often traveling with a minor in tow, it just hasn’t happened yet.  An eclectic, hearty menu awaits.  Will I order mini corn dogs?  Or nachos?  A ham sandwich with chipotle aioli?  A grilled cheese with Brie, Mozzarella and Gouda?  Only time will tell!   georgetownliquorco.com

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If you live in the Seattle area or are coming to visit, I hope you find this list helpful and full of tasty treasures.  If you have any favorites that I didn’t include, please comment below and spread the word!  There are new vegan and veg-friendly restaurants opening all of the time (I just heard about Celest Cafe and can’t wait to try it!), and the more people who frequent those places, the more this trend will continue.

Enjoy!  xo

 

Swoon-worthy BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw

I love the Minimalist Baker, Dana Schutz, and absolutely recommend connecting with her if you haven’t already.  Her cookbook, blog and Instagram feeds are all worth checking out.  To get you started, here’s a recipe that I recently tried that is DELICIOUS and was a huge hit with my people.  She posted the recipe on her blog, and I’ve included a link below.  The only tweaks I made were coating the buns with Vegenaise, squishing avocado on to one side of the bun, and omitting the cashews (although I’m sure they’d be nice).

The first step is to get your hands on some jackfruit.  I used this canned jackfruit, which I picked up at my local food co-op in the “Asian food” section.  The recipe contains details about exactly what kind of jackfruit to look for.

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After you drain and rinse the jackfruit, you’ll remove the core (the more solid-looking parts), leaving the shreds.  The next step is to toss these shreds in a spice rub, which ends up looking like this:

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Next up, you’re going sizzle this mixture in a hot pan and then simmer it with BBQ sauce (I used Annie’s, but just use your favorite).  As it cooks, use a fork to separate the strands to get a perfect texture.

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While the jackfruit simmers, make the slaw.  Do not be tempted to skip this step – it’s a wonderful part of the final sandwich and it’s simple to make (especially if you take Dana’s recommendation and use the Trader Joe’s cruciferous veggie mix like I did).

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Assemble the sandwich (I quickly toasted some buns in the oven)…

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… and get ready to be very, very happy!

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The link with all of the details:

https://minimalistbaker.com/bbq-jackfruit-sandwiches-with-avocado-slaw/

Enjoy!  xo

My World Famous 3-Day Lasagne

When I have a special occasion and want to make a stunning feast, I will often turn to this dish.  The initial inspiration came from the lasagne served at Union Square Cafe in New York and featured in their book The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano.  While that recipe calls for goat cheese, eggs, and grated parmesan, I have, of course, veganized my version.  My attempts to do so have evolved over time, but I think it is now pretty much perfected so I’m going to share it with you.  And don’t worry, while it’s a bit labor-intensive, you won’t really be working for 3 days to get it into shape.  The name came about because there is one step that requires you to plan ahead because something needs to sit for a few days to deepen the flavors.

As with many lasagne recipes, this one is comprised of a lot of components.  Happily, they can all be made ahead, including the assembling of the dish, which is a great help for your festive occasion; since all you have to do on the night of your dinner party is pop it into the oven, you will be free to have fun with your guests.

Now for the components… let’s start with the one that gave it the title, the one that takes three days, namely the oven-dried tomatoes.  These tomatoes are delicious, juicy, flavorful wonders that can be used in place of sun-dried tomatoes in any recipe, not just this one.  You will need to get your hands on about 2 pounds of plum or Roma tomatoes and split them lengthwise.  Place them on a baking sheet with their cut side up, sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt on them, and let them sit for an hour.  Now put them into a preheated 200 degree oven and roast them for 5 to 6 hours, until they are dried but still plump (not shriveled and leathery like a store-bought sun-dried tomato).  Once they have cooled to room temperature, put them in a storage vessel along with 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil, 2 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 fresh rosemary spring (cut in two), 3 sage leaves, and 3 cloves or garlic cloves, halved.  Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days before using.  Note that these tomatoes will keep for up to 2 weeks if properly stored.

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After they have done their thing in the refrigerator for a few days, they will look like this when you take them out and get ready to use them:

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For this recipe, I make a tomato sauce from scratch.  I start by simmering onion, zucchini, garlic, red bell pepper, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until soft and aromatic, about 25 minutes.

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Next, add canned plum tomatoes and about 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, along with fresh basil, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

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Puree this mixture with an immersion blender and voila – your sauce.

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You will need to make something to stand in for the traditional ricotta of lasagne (or in the case of this recipe, the goat cheese that Union Square Cafe used).  My favorite vegan ricotta recipe is the tried and true one from Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I love how it performs in baked pasta recipes such as this one and definitely recommend it (it’s also in Veganomicon and available all over the internet), but feel free to use any recipe or product that you happen to love.  If you go with the tofu ricotta, it will look like this:

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The last time I made this lasagne, I had a bit of an extra degree of difficulty added to the recipe because one of my guests doesn’t eat soy, so I made a macadamia nut-based ricotta for her.  Problematically, Mr. Man can’t eat many nuts, so this lasagne ended up being half nut-free and half soy-free.  The macadamia ricotta recipe is from Allison Rivers Samson and here’s a link (note:  the entire baked ziti recipe is divine, not just the ricotta!):

https://allisonriverssamson.mykajabi.com/blog/cheesy-vegan-ziti

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The next component is the Mozzarella Sauce from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli.  I adore this sauce (I could just about eat it with a spoon – it’s good on everything!), and I use it as a drizzle on top of the lasagne at the end.  Because it is nut based, on this particular lasagne (as you will see later), I only drizzled it on half of the pan.  But trust me, you’re going to want to slather it on everything!  Because every single thing I’ve made from this book has been delicious, I absolutely recommend that you pick it up at your library or bookstore and play with it yourself.  The mozzarella sauce recipe is on page 237 and involves cashews, lemon juice, salt, garlic, onion powder, cornstarch and magic.

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The final components of the lasagne that require any effort are the veggies that will be layered throughout, specifically eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash.  Slice a large eggplant thinly and evenly, place the slices in a colander and salt both sides of each one.  Place some kind of weight atop them and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly, pat dry and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle some olive oil over the slices, sprinkle with black pepper, cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until very soft, about 20 minutes.

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Cut one large zucchini into rounds and toss with olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.  Repeat with one large yellow squash.  (Do not combine the two squashes as you will be layering them separately.)

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Now it’s time for assembly:

Cover the bottom of a large baking pan with tomato sauce, then put a layer of lasagne on top of the sauce.  (Note – I’ve used both no-bake lasagne sheets as well as lasagne that you need to boil first.  Either is fine.  You will just need to have the one of your choice on hand and ready to go at this point.)  Spread more sauce on top of the lasagne, enough to cover it.  Arrange a layer of eggplant (use half of your eggplant supply) and a layer of zucchini (this will be all of your zucchini) on the sauce.  Next, spread half of your ricotta.  As you can see below, half of this pan has the tofu ricotta (left), while the other half is macadamia ricotta (right).

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Top this layer with some of the oven-dried tomatoes:

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Beginning with a layer of pasta, repeat the above steps, only this time use up your yellow squash.  You should have used up your eggplant, your ricotta and your tomatoes. Your final layer will be a layer of pasta, a covering of tomato sauce and a slathering of mozzarella sauce:

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Cover the lasagne in foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.  Here is the nut-based side, including the mozzarella sauce drizzle:

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And here is the nut-free zone, with the tofu ricotta and no drizzle:

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They’re both delicious, but my personal favorite way to build this dish is to mix everything together!  Both kinds of ricotta (in alternate layers) with tons of the mozzarella sauce drizzle is heavenly, indeed.  But just as I did, feel free to make this your own.

Since I don’t always have this much time and effort to spend on a meal, I am happy to report that I have also recently perfected what I’ve dubbed my “Everyday Lasagne,” which comes together quickly and easily.  I will be posting that soon.  In the meantime…

Enjoy!  xo

The Most Unhealthy Thing I’ve Ever Made (aka Nate Cake)

One of Queenie’s friends, Nate, recently celebrated a birthday, and I attempted to make him the cake of his dreams in honor of the day.  Yes, his dream cake.  Some months ago, our families sat around a table, wistfully discussing some of the most delicious things we’d ever eaten and dreaming up the most delicious things we could imagine eating.  During this discussion, Nate declared that the ultimate cake would contain the following:  a layer of Twinkies, a layer of frosting, a brownie layer, a layer of whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

My stomach turns slightly just typing that, but we decided that if that’s what he wants, that’s what he’s going to get, veganized of course!

The first layer presented the first challenge because Twinkies are definitely not vegan.  Like most (if not all) of the Hostess snack line, they contain beef fat (or tallow), so we were going to have to find or make a vegan version.  Thankfully, our fabulous local vegan grocery store, Vegan Haven, carries Dillos, and they had enough in stock to create Nate’s first dream layer.  In case you’re not fortunate enough to live near Vegan Haven, here’s a link to help you track them down:

https://store.veganessentials.com/dillos-creme-filled-snack-cakes-by-cakewalk-baking-co-p2706.aspx

Next up, I made the classic vanilla buttercream frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and put it in the ‘fridge while I got things ready.  You should own this book, but if you don’t, here’s the recipe:

http://www.food.com/recipe/vegan-basic-vanilla-fluffy-buttercream-frosting-453377

Next up, I made the brownie recipe from Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, and it turned out great.  Because it was larger than the amount of space that would be taken up by the “Twinkie” layer, I had to do a little figuring and cutting to make it just right.

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First I just sat the wrapped Dillos on top of the brownies to eyeball what I’d need to do.  Next, I spread a layer of the frosting on a cake pan, figuring that this would not only be tasty (more frosting!), but it would also serve to anchor the Dillos.

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Once I placed the Dillos on the frosting, that gave me the dimensions of the cake and what size to trim the brownie layer.  Measuring happened.

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The next step was to thoroughly frost the Dillo layer, including all of the cracks and crevices.  Frosting, frosting and more frosting.

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I placed the brownie layer atop the frosted Dillos very carefully…

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… and frosted the sides of the brownie layer to make it seem like one cohesive cake.  I left the top unfrosted because it gets a different treatment (but it would also work to frost the whole thing).

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I left the cake like this until right before serving, at which point I topped it with whipped cream, which needed to stay cold until we were ready to serve.  Specifically, I used So Delicious Coco Whip, which I had never used before.  Oh my – love it!  Light, fluffy, divine.  I bought it frozen at Vegan Haven and then thawed it in the refrigerator, where it sat until its big moment.  Here’s some info about it:

http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/cocowhip-original

Once I’d spread a nice, thick layer of the Coco Whip on top of the brownie, I drizzled chocolate sauce (Santa Cruz Organic Chocolate Syrup) on top.

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I honestly only thought that Nate and Queenie would dare to try this messy creation, but all of the adults, myself included, dug in as well.  It was surprisingly tasty and unsurprisingly nausea-inducing!  That’s a whole lot of sugar for my constitution.  But the guest of honor was happy, so I put this in the win column!  If you have a sugar fiend in your midst, he or she might just like it, too.

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Enjoy!  xo

Battle of the Breakfast Tacos

In one corner, we have the “Diner Breakfast Tacos” from Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten; and in the other corner, we have the “Supreme Bacon, Scramble and Cheese Tacos” from The Taco Cleanse by Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger and Jessica Morris.  Who will be named the champ?  Let’s find out…

The Diner Breakfast Tacos come out swinging with a delicious single-pan taco filling concoction comprised of potatoes, onion, vegan sausage, tofu, spinach and spices.  It comes together beautifully.  Quite swoon-worthy.

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But the secret weapon of this taco is baking the tortillas with some cheese shreds before filling.  Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

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Put these together, and it’s quite a one-two punch.  The recipe calls for adding salsa, sour cream and/or avocado, all of which would be fun but none of which are necessary.  These tacos are delightful as is.

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And what does the Supreme Bacon, Scramble and Cheese Taco have up its sleeve?  While the tacos above are light and nimble on their feet, happy to spar and trade jabs, these Supreme Tacos are big, heavy sluggers.  Three different components come together in a corn tortilla, and it’s quite a feast.  First, there’s tasty tempeh bacon cubes with a perfectly balanced, scrumptious mix of flavors.

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Next comes a deliciously flavored tofu “scramble” that goes heavy on the nutritional yeast (yum!).  The word scramble is in quotes because this is a baked tofu treatment, and while the authors call it a scramble, it’s certainly not a traditional one.  It is, however, wonderful and quite simple to prepare.

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The final filling element for this taco is a cheese sauce.  There are recipes for home-made sauces in the book, and I bet they’re great, but I used the Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze, which never disappoints and takes two seconds to heat up.

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Put all of that together and you’ve got a knockout punch of taste and texture.

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So who gets the trophy?  I’ve conferred with the judges and it’s… a TIE!  These are both insanely good tacos that will make you happy at any time of day (breakfast tacos for dinner has become quite popular around here).  While they are very different, they are both perfect.  It simply comes down to what you’re in the mood for.

I recommend picking up both books (every recipe I’ve made from both of them has been excellent), but if you google these specific recipes, you’ll find them reprinted in something that seems to be called google books.  I am not familiar with this platform and don’t know if it’s done with author permission, so I’m not linking here, but it’s easily located if you’re so inclined.  But again, BUY THESE BOOKS!

Enjoy!  xo

Chickenless Noodle Soup

This recipe is called “No-Bird Noodle Soup” in the book from which it hails, Eat Like You Give a Damn:  Recipes for the New Ethical Vegan by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten.  Before we get into the recipe that I’m featuring today, I must spend a few moments telling you how FANTASTIC this cookbook is!!!  Seriously fantastic.  Must-end-up-in-your-collection fantastic.

The authors are the creators of the Herbivore clothing line and the owners and proprietors of the Herbivore shop in Portland, Oregon.  If you’re ever in Portland, you’ll be happy if you make a point of visiting their store, which is full of their creations, as well as other snazzy vegan finds such as bags, belts, wallets, jewelry and quite possibly the most comprehensive vegan cookbook selection on the planet.  Luckily for you, you can also visit them online:

http://www.herbivoreclothing.com/

On a recent visit to Portland, I picked up the Eat Like You Give a Damn book at the store and I am thrilled that I did.  I have now made eight recipes from the book, and all eight are spectacular.  Not just pretty good, GREAT!  That’s an abnormally high ratio of awesome.  To make your mouth water, I will tell you that I’ve made the Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Walnuts, Apricots, and Garlic Aioli; the Smoky Cauliflower Soup with Fennel, Carrot, and Potato; the Herbivore Chili (that is so good my daughter, who doesn’t really like chili, had two bowls for dinner and then asked for it in her lunch the next day); the Savory Chickpea Pancakes; the Curry-Barbecue Soy Curls Bowl; the Classic Skillet Cornbread; and the Don’t-Be-Blue Cheese Dressing.

And, of course, the No-Bird Noodle Soup that I want to share with you today.  The flavors in this recipe come together to create a wholly satisfying bowl of deliciousness, one that is very reminiscent of my (somewhat distant) memories of what chicken noodle soup is supposed to taste like.  All I know for sure is that I loved it and my family happily slurped it up.  Let me walk you through the components, and there’s a link with specifics at the bottom…

Standing in for the chicken chunks are some tasty, happy, cruelty-free tofu chunks that have been sizzled with nutritional yeast and tamari.

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Next you’ll be creating the comforting soup base, with its herbed broth and chunks of carrots, celery and onion.  To this, you will add angel hair or spaghetti.

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The last step is to add in the tofu cubes and any nice brown bits from the pan, and you will end up with a delicious bowl of soup that resembles this:

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I found the recipe at this blog, which seems to be authorized (the blog’s author received an advance copy to review), so I’m sharing it here.  But PLEASE, run don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and get this book!  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Tofu ‘Chicken’ Noodle Soup

Enjoy!  xo