Maple Wheat Bread and Red Velvet Cupcakes

What’s the time? B-b-b-baking time!

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am house-sitting for my parents this week. I had a “mini” day off today, where I technically had 24 hours between the end of my last shift and the beginning of my next. It’s “mini” because I am still scheduled both days and do not have an extra sleep between the two. This day off tends to be boring for me, because I spend most of the time trying to adjust to the idea of working from midnight to dawn. After today, I might make all mini-days-off into baking days, and I might have to beg my parents to let me use their kitchen each time!

Their kitchen not only has more equipment than mine, but also includes an island counter-top and amazing lighting. I’m afraid I’m going to get spoiled.

I decided to make a bread and a sweet, and to prep a sourdough starter for use next week and beyond.  For the bread, I chose “Whole Wheat Loaves” from Baking With Julia, with some changes. For the sweet, I decided on “Red Velvet Cupcakes” with “Cream Cheese Icing”, both from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Since this was my first attempt at vegan cake-making, I decided to play it safe on the cake. The only adjustments I made were doubling the icing, using gel food coloring instead of liquid, and following the in-book substitution for people who have never heard of chocolate extract and can’t seem to find it in any store.

For the bread, however. . . I really wanted to use my new cookbook, which hasn’t been used for actual baking since it was given to me in December. But I forgot to pick up malt extract and don’t eat honey, so I made some adjustments.

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Maple syrup. the adjustment is maple syrup (for both, yes). I also halved the recipe, because I really didn’t want an excess of bread if it didn’t turn out

Here we have some fungus-y tree sap doing its thing.

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Aaand there isn’t a good shot of the bread itself mixing because the mixer ran away. I had turned around to start flouring a cutting board, when I heard a loud crash. I turned around and found that the mixer had fallen, still plugged in and with the bowl still attached, into the kitchen sink. (Luckily, the dough was sticky enough at this stage to stay in the bowl and not touch anything.)

Apparently this mixer is a little old and unbalanced, and likes to throw a fit if you don’t give it proper attention! NOTED!
Now I wish I had brought my own mixer. It’s brand new, but I decided not to bring anything that my parents already have. . Oh, well. Can’t beat the laughs!

Eventually, the mixture turned into what looks slightly less than appetizing.

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But the mixer was a sweet assistant, going so far as to knead for me. . . Under careful watch. . .

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And then I had a pretty little ball!

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Meanwhile, while the dough rose, I stirred up my dry ingredients. . .

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And some nuclear-looking wet. . .

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And combined them!
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I may or may not have shared the liquid bowl. . . It’s. . . A lesson in sharing? Annie (bichon) failed.

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While the cakes baked, I finished prepping the bread and threw together my starter.

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Then, having switched the cake for bread in the oven, I let the cakes cool and got to work on my icing. (Yes, gasp, I still use refined cane sugar! I know some people view this as un-vegan, and I’m kind of on the fence. But I figure I might as well use up what I have!)

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I ended up doubling the icing, so I could practice my poofs.

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Meanwhile, my possibly-too-dense Plain Jane bread came out of the oven. It didn’t rise as high as I had hoped, but it still tasted great! Peanut butter jelly, here I come! Next time, I’ll try garnishing the tops with some seeds, for some prettiness.

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And because I fall victim to the chubby puppies and their spoiled ways, I did end up sharing my icing bowl. . . And the heels of the bread!

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Some of the prettier poofs, topped with Cupcake Gems (top), red glitter sugar (middle), and chocolate covered cacao nibs (bottom). Taste-wise, the best is the cacao nibs. Hands. Down. Appearance? It’s all about the pearls. They look elegant, perfect for such a sophisticated flavor! Meanwhile, the delicious cacao nibs ended up looking like rat droppings. Or raisins. Or raisin rat droppings. The sugar comes in last for both categories, giving the taste and appearance of a marshmallow peep.

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But look at those poofs!

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The bread ended up looking much prettier on the inside. It’s just too bad I can’t cut even worth a damn!

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Or choose proper bread bags? The bags I bought weren’t the right size for the loaf, and even without heels or a couple slices that I snacked on, they didn’t have enough room to tie! So I taped them shut and snuck the tie underneath for safe keeping. Meanwhile, these adorable stickers I saw near the bags. . . Well. . .

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I couldn’t resist.

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Father’s Day & Dump Pasta Salad

Father’s Day is a great day to break out the grill. For many dads, this is an exciting day of burgers, ribs, or steak. What’s a vegan daughter to do?

Control the dinner and make the brother cook the steaks!

I decided to make a pasta salad, since that’s something I could easily make into a meal for myself, but would satisfy the omnivores as a side dish. This was my first time making a pasta salad from scratch: I always made the boxed kind with the disturbing chunks of what smell like dehydrated vegetables, but taste like rubber. But I’d be lying outright if I said I don’t enjoy these. In fact, my salad would probably have been courtesy of Betty Crocker with an olive or two thrown in, if not for the fact my go-to flavor apparently has cheese!

So I got creative. My original idea was to toss the grilled veggies with the salad, but I ended up making a big enough salad with the cold ingredients that I could keep two distinct dishes. For the salad, I layered about one package of Wacky Mac with spinach, grape tomatoes, olives,  Annie’s Goddess dressing, homemade vinaigrette, and half of a sliced avocado.

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The vinaigrette was equal parts Annie’s garlic olive oil with balsamic vinegar, and a bit of lemon zest.  The original intent was to toss the salad with the entire bottle of Goddess dressing, but my mom took one finger lick of the dressing and protested to having any of the dressing on her portion. I took a sample too and found it to be a bit strong for my taste. I found that mixing the two really helped balance things out, and taste less like hummus with a chickpea-ectomy.

The veggies included a head of brocolli with a red onion, a red bell pepper, and a zucchini. My mom helped with this too, and made a marinade of lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic oil. We also grilled four rounds of pineapple with brushed on generic Asian sesame dressing.

These dishes with a bean burger for me and meat for the rest, with a simple seasonal fruit salad.

My brother grilling up the veggies. . .

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The fruit salad. . . Can you tell pineapple was on sale this weekend?
(Sidenote: if anyone knows how to take pictures of food in bowls without it looking like complete crap, I’d love to hear your secrets.)

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The finished veggies with my black bean burger (pre-made last week, adapted from Veganomicon).

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More veggie porn. . .

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My finished plate, which was so big I couldn’t finish!

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More bean burger goodness. . .

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The guest of honor with two of his babies!

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They didn’t need to make him food or buy a card. They make him happier than the human kids ever could just by being their cute little selves!

Speaking of these puppies, my parents are leaving town for a wedding this week. Guess who gets to play with the dogs, mooch off the satellite TV, and use the gigantic kitchen for a week?

Do you really have to guess?

I’m just hoping when I get there tonight, Annie (bichon frise, left) hasn’t left me any angry presents, and that Sparky (King Charles Spaniel/chihuahua/???????, right) isn’t borderline-suicidal without his daddy.

Godfather’s Pizza, Greatfull Gardens, and (no) Batch Cupcakes

Today, I experienced my first time dining out vegan. . . with company.

Up until today, I have eaten at the following places: a local pizzeria with vegan options, a “fresh Mex” chain with vegan options, a certain “Mexican” fast-food corporation with easy vegan substitutions, and a local sushi joint featuring over 40 vegan rolls.

I first went with a very non-vegan crowd to Godfather’s Pizza. My vegan dining “honeymoon period” screeched to a halt. I had considered a cheese-less veggie pizza, but was disappointed to learn the crust is not vegan.

I stuck with the salad bar and threw together just about all the vegan things at the bar (with the exception of beets and banana peppers, because gross). This resulted in a sad salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, matchstick carrots, broccoli, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, bac-o bits, and a tangy vinaigrette.

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I’m probably coming across as very whiny, but I just can’t stand iceberg. This was also my breakfast since I work graveyard on weekends, but I did end up snacking on a Larabar Alt (Apple Pie) from my purse.

Still a bit hungry, my dad came to my rescue when he texted me and asked if I wanted to go with him to dinner. I graciously accepted and we ended up going to Greatfull Gardens, which I’ve wanted to try ever since I discovered the neighboring Batch Cupcakery.

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Greatfull Gardens is a reasonably priced local eatery which caters to specialty diets (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc.) and uses locally grown organic produce whenever possible.

I started off with the Haute Chocolate, and was excited to see almond milk as a substitution. Almond milk, I find, has become something of a fad lately, and I am forever grateful(l). I prefer the creaminess of soy milk, but my under-active thyroid means I need to not consume it in excess. The cocoa was tasty, if unexceptionable: sweet, chocolate-y, and slightly watery. Very good for almond milk.

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For dinner, I decided on the Pasta Alfredo (broccoli subbed for peas). My steak and potatoes dad surprised me by ordering Juli’s Brown Rice Sauté (brown rice, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, white beans, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, lemon, and olive oil) and was gracious enough to let me snap a picture and sample a bite.

My pasta was surprisingly convincing as a copycat dish, if under-seasoned (which was easily fixed thanks to a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper). It came with a side of garlic bread which tasted even better. The bread was so delicious, and so visually appealing, that I had to double check its vegan-ness with the waiter (100%, the yellow hue comes from Earth Balance and not milk-fat butter). The only complaint I could think of is that the broccoli was mostly stems. The original dish came with peas, however, so this would be a silly thing to complain about.

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The rice bowl was hearty, healthy, and delicious. While I’m not sure I would order it myself (eating out = unhealthy treat!), I could definitely imagine replicating this in my kitchen for a healthy meal. It offered a variety of flavors and textures, from creamy to a crisp crunch.

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I’m not one to usually notice atmosphere, but I ate it up at Greatfull Gardens. There was a mural on the main wall, and the tables and chairs were of various sizes and colors. The water was served in jars, and poured from what seemed to be an up-cycled wine bottle.

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Even the restroom was cute.
From inspirational messages on one wall. . .

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To polka dots covering another. . .

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I was in love! (The fact I matched didn’t hurt, either!)

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On my way out, I couldn’t help but walk into Batch Cupcakery. . .

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Which had ran out of vegan cakes! I was a bit disappointed, but took it as a sign to get my ass in my own kitchen instead. Which I will try to do. Eventually. This week. Maybe.