Category Archives: Baking

♥ Giving Thanks For Leftovers

I hear a lot of supposedly good-natured ribbing that our Thanksgiving holiday is somehow lacking because we don’t cook a turkey. And I just do a mental eye roll and silently count to ten. Since when does the giving of thanks for the blessings in one’s life and gathering with family and friends only have meaning and significance when done over the mutilated carcass of a gentle and sentient being? Personally, I think the holiday has more value and significance when it is thoughtful and compassionate.

Peace on earth for ALL creatures.

Every year I swear that I won’t do it: that I won’t spend the entire Thanksgiving day (and the night before) in the kitchen cooking . And then, every year, I do it anyway. So much for resolutions. But, on the plus side, we always stretch the leftovers through the weekend. One marathon cooking day equals several days of feasting for us.

A good looking plate of leftovers.

Our Thanksgiving feast wasn’t lacking for anything. We enjoyed a Tofurky Roast baked with turnips, parsnips, fennel root and mushrooms. I made a simple baste for the Tofurky using the recipe on the box, but I added dried thyme and rosemary leaves, in addition to the sage, along with a tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate. Add a generous dollop of homemade cranberry sauce, Momma’s special holiday stuffing and savory red wine mushroom gravy over all. So good!

Sausage chestnut stuffing with mushroom gravy.

No self-respecting holiday meal would be complete without homemade rolls. I adapted this recipe for the bread machine for what is now our favorite dinner roll recipe (and it makes good doughnuts, too). I substitute plain soy milk and Earth Balance for the milk and butter and EnerG Egg Replacer for the egg. I also increase the amount of yeast called for in the recipe. Best of all, the bread machine does the work while the Tofurky and the side dishes are roasting in the oven.

These rolls are so light and fluffy; they practically melt in your mouth.

I like to try a new recipe every year, and this year I chose this recipe, from Urban Vegan. Fig-Pecan Stuffed Acorn Squash will surely make repeat appearances at future holiday dinners. The figs and pecans with the squash are such a delightful combination and perfect for Thanksgiving. I generally followed the recipe (as much as I ever do), but I increased the pecans to 3/4 cup and decreased the agave to 1/4 cup. I also stirred in a scant 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt into the filling before baking.

A side dish so good it should be served on a dessert plate.

As a kid (and still to this day), I detested the standard Thanksgiving side dish of candied yams with marshmallows baked on top. In fact, it is because of this childhood trauma that years elapsed before I willingly made a yam side dish for my own family at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s glazed yams (from fresh and not canned in heavy syrup) with candied nuts in place of the marshmallows, or it’s nothing.

Forget the marshmallows, walnut toffee is where it's at.

The Chinese five spice powder in the glaze makes this exotic side dish something special, and it has become a holiday staple for us. Of course, I don’t follow the recipe exactly. I substitute Earth Balance for the butter and I add a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper to the glaze. I replace the corn syrup in the toffee with maple syrup and I increase the amount of walnuts to 1-1/2 cups. A word of warning, though: it’s a good idea to halve the recipe if you aren’t cooking for a crowd.

Past Thanksgivings, I made both a cranberry apple pie and a pumpkin pie (yeah, I spent a lot of time rolling pie crusts). Then I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake With Candied Cranberries and now I make just one dessert. The combination of pumpkin and cheesecake with the candied cranberry topping provides the best of our favorite desserts and it is a perfect end to a Thanksgiving dinner.

A perfectly fitting Thanksgiving dessert.

I make my cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and I have found that you can easily halve the amount of sugar and water for the candied cranberries (like the recipe says, though, the leftover syrup is wonderful on pancakes and waffles). I recommend placing the cranberry topping on each slice of cheesecake just before serving (I learned this the hard way this year). Otherwise, the cheesecake gets a little sloppy. Still yummy, but not so pretty.

So, what are your favorite holiday side dishes?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. And that life’s blessings, big and small, are bountiful throughout the year.

And may we have the strength to survive the remaining weeks of the holiday madness. ♥

♥ It’s A Boy!

Meet Rock, our new greyt boy. Rock is short for Rockstarangelou, his name from a former life. Rock is now happily retired after 5 long years as a racing dog. Seriously, how adorable is he?!

Rock is adjusting well to his leisurely retirement. For the first time in his life, he knows soft comfy beds to rest on, his own toys to play with whenever he wants, and treats galore . . . just because. He will never spend another day locked in a cage again.

With every passing day, Rock emerges a little more from his shell. He’s so sweet and timid, but there is a loving and affectionate boy lurking just under the surface. It won’t be long before he is headbutting us for affection like his new greyt brother. Although, unlike his greyt brother, he is still a bit camera-shy.

If Rock could talk, I know that he would tell us that he much prefers walks along the trails and beaches to life at the track. Come to think of it, who wouldn’t?

The beach at Tahoe Keys.

In fact, we’re all enjoying the best thing about autumn in Tahoe: beaches devoid of tourists.

Kiva Beach.

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The one-week anniversary of a new forever home and a new best friend calls for a special kind of treat. Beside that, today is Halloween and dogs deserve treats, too. The ‘trick’ part is how fast these treats disappear!

Canine Cookies, made with unsweetened carob, from Hannah Kaminsky’s  Vegan Desserts are the boys’ new favorite treat. The greyhound shape is optional, but there seems to be a theme here . . .

After an action-packed day comes bedtime for the greyt boys. Retirement clearly does not suck.

♥ Irish Car Bomb Birthday Cake

Fudgey boozey goodness.

The baby J.

My two favorite Irish boys share a birthday today. It may be just another birthday for J, but our boy, ‘S’, is celebrating a milestone today: he’s turning 21. Twenty one. Holy cow! I am waaaay too young to have a child that old. Even so, there is a 21 year-old man out there that calls me “mom”. Oy.

The baby S.

Actually, I was quite young when I had him; young and stupid. I didn’t have a clue about being pregnant or taking care of a baby, for that matter. But I read everything that I could on the subject.

S at 3 days.

This was back in the day before Google. I actually had to go to the library (uphill in the snow both ways, of course) and check out books to read on the subject. There was no such thing as downloading to my Kindle, either.

I probably did everything wrong, according to the “experts”. I didn’t eat meat. I didn’t drink milk. I didn’t care how much weight I gained (and I gained a lot). I held him every time he fussed, while the MIL clucked in disapproval. I kept him in my bed at night because I was exhausted and because he wouldn’t have it any other way. I nursed him until he was two and I made his baby food myself. Baby food from real food, not from jars.

I hope that makes up for everything else that I put him through. Like being totally clueless. And the low paying job with the long hours while I worked my way through college. And the years following while I worked my way up the professional ladder. Sure, the pay was better  . . . but the hours were just as long. And he spent too much time in daycare, as far as I was concerned.

He often cringes when he sees these old pictures. Some of the outfits make him question just what I was thinking (or what I was on). The bow tie and suspender shorts? I’m sorry, S; I really don’t know what I was thinking. But, over time, the clothing situation in the portraits did improve.

Then again, maybe that is all a matter of perspective.

Regardless, there is really no valid excuse for letting him wear the mullet.

I’m sorry for that. Okay, not really.

Despite all that, he grew up to be a fine young man.

He has brains and an extraordinary sense of compassion (he’s a vegan by choice). He has a wicked sense of humor, too.

I still marvel at the miracle of it all. I must have done something right.

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A special birthday calls for a special birthday cake, for both of my boys.

Gone are the days when S had his very own birthday cake to demolish, some of which actually wound up in his mouth. While we snapped a million photos.

Now that he’s all grown up–and he’s heard my lecture on drinking responsibly and enjoying alcohol in moderation a million times already (blah, blah, blah)–it’s time to make an adult kind (the best kind) of cake.

I’ve always wanted to try an Irish car bomb cake. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I modified our favorite chocolate cake recipe, using Creamy Baileys in place of the non-dairy milk, chocolate stout in place of the coffee and Irish whiskey in place of the vanilla extract.

This cake is definitely not for the kids. Or the teetotalers. The alcohol will bake out of the cake, but the ganache and the frosting aren’t baked and they will be full strength.

Sorry, S, you don’t get your own cake this time. And you can’t eat this one with your hands.

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Irish Car Bomb Cake

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cake:

2 cups granulated sugar

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

3/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Ener-G egg replacer to equal 2 eggs

1 cup Creamy Baileys

1/2 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or Irish whiskey)

1 cup of hot chocolate stout (I warmed it in a saucepan)

Chocolate Ganache:

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces

2/3 cup Creamy Baileys

2 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (we like Jameson)

Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) non-dairy butter, melted

2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa

1 teaspoon Irish whiskey

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/3 cup Creamy Baileys

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 baking pans; set aside.

Cake: whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the egg replacer, Creamy Baileys, oil and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Add the liquid, except the stout, to the dry and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add the chocolate stout and continue to beat just to combine (the batter will be thin). Pour the batter immediately into the prepared pans. Tap the pans on the counter to release the air bubbles and place the pans on the middle rack in the pre-heated oven.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before removing from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Ganache: Heat the Creamy Baileys until it’s simmering. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl and pour the heated Baileys over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute and then stir it until it’s smooth. If it isn’t completely smooth, heat it for about 20 seconds in the microwave and stir well. Add the non-dairy butter and the Irish whiskey and stir until combined and smooth. Let the ganache cool until it’s thick, stirring occasionally, but still soft enough to spread.

Place one of the cooled cake layers on the serving plate and pour the ganache over the top, spreading it so that it covers the top evenly (I hollowed out the center of the cake slightly for the ganache).  Be careful not to let it pour down the sides of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top of the ganache.

Frosting: melt the non-dairy butter and beat in the cocoa and the Irish whiskey. Alternately add the powdered sugar and the Creamy Baileys, beating on medium speed, to a spreadable consistency. Add more Baileys if necessary. Frost the cake as desired.

If you want, drizzle the remaining ganache over the top of the frosted cake.

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Happy birthday, baby S! I've always loved you.

♥ Memorial Day . . . In Snow Boots

Memorial Day weekend once marked the beginning of summer for us . . . then we moved to Lake Tahoe. We had ambitious plans for working in the yard over the long weekend, but Saturday morning greeted us in what has become the usual manner:

And it snowed off and on all weekend (and throughout the week afterward, too). Since yard work was out of the question with the frigid cold and frequent snow flurries, J busied himself building deck planter boxes, which I figure that I will be able to use by the 4th of July!

And he made houses and feeders for the yard critters, too.

He even made a cute A-Frame bird house, just like our A-frame people house!

The new squirrel feeders were well received by the smaller Douglas squirrels.

They moved right in and made themselves at home.

“Fatty”, the larger Western Gray Squirrel, had some trouble getting in the hole!

It’s easier to grab the bird feeder and graze mid-air. Apparently.

The birds are so confused!

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By Monday, the snow let up for a few hours. It still wasn’t picnic weather, but we had plenty of picnic food. I managed to get a few pictures of the food on the deck before we came to our senses and retreated to the warm indoors. No coat and boots necessary!

I almost made J’s favorite chick’n tenders feast, but I decided to go the easy route with Tofurky Beer Brats. When served with sauerkraut on homemade buns, these beer brats are better than any greasy lips-and-ass sausage any old day of the week! The potato salad is a loose adaptation of Better Homes & Gardens’ Classic Potato Salad, veganized of course. The mayonnaise is replaced by (less) Vegenaise and the hard-cooked eggs are replaced with nutritional yeast. The pasta salad is (another) loose adaptation, from The Natural Vegan Kitchen. The barbecue baked beans are an old standby, using homemade barbecue sauce. I like this recipe, but I never add the fake meat.

For dessert, I made a S’Mores Pie from Vegan Desserts. Sorry, I have no picture because J placed the pie under the broiler to “toast” the marshmallow topping and he toasted it a bit too long. It still tasted all s’morey and awesome, because of the charred marshmallows (how we like ’em), but it didn’t look so pretty!

I originally planned to make just one dessert, but then I spotted this amazing recipe last Friday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake. Seriously, chocolate chip cookie dough AND cheesecake? Together?! How does one resist that combination?!