March 18, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes

So, a funny thing happened over the weekend... I turned thirty. And, as "milestone" birthdays sometimes do, this particular birthday has spurred many moments of life evaluation, grieving, and general emotional despair. Let's just say the last month has been challenging, and move on to tastier and more uplifting subjects. Let's talk about cupcakes.

Is there anything more cheerful than a Funfetti cupcake? I don't think so. There's a reason Funfetti is the unofficial-official cake of birthdays - it's damn difficult to bum out about turning another year older when there's a rainbow of edible confetti bits in each and every bite of cupcake goodness. It's that inescapable cheerfulness that makes me return, year after year, to the loving, perky embrace of Funfetti cake. 

This year I abandoned my trusty box mix and made homemade Funfetti cupcakes. Why haven't I done this before? Old habits die hard, I suppose. But it turns out that making your own Funfetti cake is embarrassingly easy. Here's the breakdown:

1. Make your favorite vanilla cake batter.
2. Fold in a few tablespoons of multi-colored sprinkles.
3. Bake.

See? One little jar of sprinkles is all that stands between you and the happiest birthday cake in all the land. The vanilla cake recipe I used is adapted from the Golden Vanilla Cupcake recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. A couple tablespoons of coconut oil add a round richness and intense moisture to the cupcakes without making them taste "coconut-y" (we don't want to steal the sprinkles' thunder). The best sprinkles to use for Funfetti cake are "jimmies" - thin, elongated sprinkles - which melt easily into happy little rainbow dots once in the oven. My guess is you could try nonpareils or small shaped sprinkles (stars, discs, etc) as well, though I've not tested that theory myself - if you give another sprinkle variety a try, let me know how they worked in the comments!

Chocolate Stout & Funfetti Cupcakes (recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Homemade Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

For 100% vegan sprinkles, be sure to check the label for "confectioner's glaze", an animal by-product that many vegans avoid. Some stores (like Kroger/QFC) happen to have vegan sprinkles, but if your local store doesn't, you can find vegan sprinkles at an online vegan grocer like Pangea.

1 cup plain nondairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil (2 heaping tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus neutral oil to total 1/3 cup)*
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 heaping tablespoons vegan multi-colored sprinkles ("jimmies")

*To combine the oils: Melt 2 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil briefly in a microwave, then pour into a liquid measuring cup. Pour neutral oil (like sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, or rice bran) into the measuring cup until you have a total of 1/3 cup oil (you'll add about 3 tablespoons neural oil).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar and set aside to sour. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the oils, sugar, vanilla and soured milk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until the batter is mostly lump-free. Add the sprinkles and stir briefly to incorporate.

Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake liners (they'll be about two-thirds of the way full) and place muffin tin in oven. Bake cupcakes for 20-22 minutes, until the center springs back when gently touched. Transfer cupcakes to a wire cooling rack, allowing them to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

February 27, 2014

Adventures in India

The past month has been a whirlwind, leaving little time for cooking, let alone blogging. But I'm back! Where have I been, you might ask?


Temple Dancer outside Jagdish Temple

Daniel and I were invited to attend our friend Janak's wedding in Ahmedabad, India. INDIA!!! Apologies for the all caps and multiple exclamation points, but this trip was worthy of both. I have always wanted to travel, and until now have not had much opportunity to do so. Between a tight budget and no paid time off, world travel has always seemed impossible. Daniel and I have worked hard over the last two years to improve our finances - paying off student loans in full, becoming homeowners, and prioritizing our saving accounts. All that hard work made this trip possible. For the first time, I got to fly halfway around the world and visit a country completely different from my own... and it was amazing.

Statue on the grounds of Fateh Garh Hotel

I think I said, "We're in India!" about a million times during our trip, trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was really there. We visited 600-year-old temples and mosques, explored crumbling, brightly painted neighborhoods, and marveled at the grandness of India's second-largest palace. We also saw more impoverished people, stray dogs, and skinny cows than I can count.

Stray dog in Ahmedabad's Old City

We spent the first 4 days in Ahmedabad, celebrating Janak's (amazeballs) wedding and sightseeing before driving 4 hours to Udaipur for more sightseeing (and some much needed R&R) for our final 3 days. Indians know how to throw a wedding, my friends.

Daniel, Janak, and Me before the Wedding

Janak's family was so gracious and helped us plan an incredible trip. Janak's brother-in-law Vishal took us to visit Gandhi Ashram, the 36-acre compound that served as Gandhi's home and headquarters from 1917-1930. I stood where Gandhi lived. That's an experience I'll never forget.

Gandhi's House at Gandhi Ashram

Statue of Gandhi at Gandhi Ashram

Janak's good friend Udbhav accompanied us on a guided tour of Ahmedabad's "Old City", where nondescript doors on crowded streets open to reveal stunning temples and mosques (a clever tactic to protect places of worship from the destruction of conquerors).

Exploring the streets of Ahmedabad's Old City

Jama Mosque in Ahmedabad's Old City (Can you believe this is hidden from the street?)
Ahmedabad is located in the state of Gujarat, which is almost entirely vegetarian (yea!). As such, the care of animals is seen as the responsibility of the people. Stray dogs and wandering cows are fed scraps, and chabutros (tree-like towers with food and water pans for birds) are found throughout the cityscape, built centuries ago when the city's growth replaced much of the area's tree life.

Cows and Dogs feeding on scraps
My favorite Chabutro (Bird Feeding Tower)
We only had a few days in Udaipur, but I am so glad we decided to visit (It's a city of lakes! And palaces! And palaces in the middle of lakes!). City Palace and Lake Pichola will take your breath away (do plan on spending quite a while at the palace - it is MASSIVE).

View from our Boat Tour of Lake Pichola (City Palace in back)

Vlad, Donna, Me, and Daniel in one of City Palace's many courtyards
We stayed in the most amazing hotel EVER, Fateh Garh, a modernized and restored palace (seriously, a palace). It was a total splurge (though Vishal secured us a fantastic deal) but the atmosphere, service, and meals were worth every rupee. I am still in shock that I got to stay somewhere so beautiful.

The View of Lake Pichola and City Palace from Fateh Garh's Pool

Enjoying dinner under the moonlight at Fateh Garh

Me and Daniel at Fateh Garh

I feel like I should have taken more pictures of the food, being a food blogger and all… but I was so focused on enjoying the food and the views that I rarely took out my camera at mealtime. That said, I came home with a TON of inspiration and some new favorite meals. I'm already starting to work on recipes and I can't wait to share with you all!

January 30, 2014

Vegan Super Bowl Recipes

Mini Burritos, Burger Bites, Fried Corn Frankfurters, and Vegan Queso Dip (Photo Credit: Field Roast)

Last Sunday Daniel and I spent the evening at a Championship Game Party hosted by David Lee, the founder of Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Despite not being a football fan, I ended up getting really into the game and had a fantastic time watching Seattle's very own Seahawks win a spot at the Super Bowl. I met some amazing people, including Makini Howell of Plum Bistro (one of my favorite vegan restaurants in Seattle) and Keith Tucker of Pursuit of a Green Planet (a documentary exploring the connection between the Hip Hop and 'Green' movements). I also ate a ton of delicious vegan "Game Day" food. Do you want the recipes? Of course you do.

Field Roast is rolling out four vegan "Game Day" recipes to celebrate the fact that their burgers and franks will be served at this year's Super Bowl. How amazing is it that high-quality vegan food will be available at the biggest game of the year? Such a huge step forward. You should absolutely check out the recipes, because they are solid - full of flavor, hearty, and easy to make ahead of time. If you're hosting a mixed group of vegans and meat-eaters for the big game, this is a great place to start. Here's a quick breakdown of the menu:

Vegan Queso with Smoked Tomato Crunch: By far the best vegan cheese dip I've ever had. Creamy, rich, and convincingly cheesy, with the perfect amount of spice. Highly recommend.

Mini Mexican Chipotle and Sweet Potato Burritos: These little guys were incredibly satisfying - the sweetness of the potatoes provides a great balance to the heat of the chipotle sausages. The crispy pan-fried exterior is GOLD.

Field Roast Burger Bites: These mini "burgers" are baked dumpling-style, with pre-made pizza dough enveloping a savory, mustard-spiked burger filling. I may have eaten a lot of these.

Corn Fried Frankfurters: A crunchy homemade vegan corndog. Need I say more?

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer, but this post is NOT sponsored or commissioned in any way. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

January 18, 2014

Recipe: Smoked Tomato Briks with Chermoula Sauce

Almost every culture has fried pastries of some kind - sweet, savory, or both - and Tunisia is no exception. Briks are a savory Tunisian treat of delicate pastry sheets enveloping any number of fillings - spiced potato, an egg and tuna combo, ground meat - and then fried until the exterior is crisp and golden. This recipe for vegan briks is a play on the ground meat version, which I created for Field Roast Grain Meat Co. as their "Urban Foodie" Recipe Developer (more about that here). 

Field Roast's Smoked Tomato Quarter Loaf makes a beautiful ground "meat" when pulsed in a food processor. Mix in traditional Tunisian ingredients - spicy harissa, bright lemon zest, and briny capers - and you've got a simple and flavorful filling for your vegan briks. Once the briks are filled, fried, and sprinkled with crunchy shards of coarse salt, you'll serve them alongside Chermoula, a traditional North African sauce bright with lemon, cilantro, and parsley. The combination of hot, crunchy fried pastries and the cool, vibrant sauce is phenomenal. 

Traditional briks use a special pastry sheet, called maslouqua or warka, which is very similar to wheat wonton and springroll wrappers. If you can locate the real stuff at a local Middle Eastern grocer, by all means do so! This recipe calls for wonton wrappers as I've found them to be widely carried in a well-stocked supermarket. Keep an eye on the ingredient list, as some wonton wrappers aren't vegan. I used the Twin Dragon brand of wonton wrappers, which were available at my local Safeway and QFC.

A quick word on frying at home: I'm generally not a huge fan (it can get messy; using a ton of oil can get pricey) but there's really no way to do a brik justice without some hot oil-y action. You can minimize the amount of oil needed by choosing a pot 8 to 10 inches wide - you'll be able to achieve the proper depth without a ton of oil. 

Smoked Tomato Briks with Chermoula Sauce
Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

6 ounces (half of one loaf) Field Roast Smoked Tomato Quarter Loaf, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon capers, well rinsed
1 teaspoon harissa
1 teaspoon finely-grated lemon zest
16-24 vegan wonton wrappers
water, for sealing the wontons
2-3 cups oil for frying, such as grapeseed or peanut
Coarse salt
Chermoula Sauce (recipe below)

In a food processor, pulse the Field Roast, capers, harissa, and lemon zest until the mixture has the texture of ground meat. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Place your wonton wrappers on a plate covered by a slightly-moist paper towel and prepare a "landing" zone for the assembled briks with a large platter or sheet pan covered by slightly-moist paper towel.

To assemble each brik: Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of one wonton wrapper (a #40/medium cookie scoop is the perfect tool for this job). Moisten the edges of the wrapper (all four sides) before placing a second wonton on top on the first to create a ravioli-style pastry. Positioning the second wrapper works best if you match up all of the edges first, then lightly press down on the pastry's center to release any air trapped in the filling. After removing the air from the pastry, press all four edges to form a good seal, then transfer to the "landing zone" platter and cover with the moistened paper towel. Repeat this process until all of the filling is gone - you should end up with 8-12 briks.

To fry the briks: Lay a double-layer of paper towels over a cooling rack/sheet pan and set aside. In a large, high-sided pot, add enough oil to reach a depth of about 1 1/2 inches.  Place pot over medium to medium-high heat and bring oil up to 350 degrees - the easiest way to measure this is with a cooking thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, wait until the pot of oil is shimmering (but NOT smoking), then test the temperature of the oil by frying "test strips" of an extra wonton wrapper - a one-inch strip of wonton should fry up to a golden brown within 10-15 seconds.

Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, gently slide one brik into the pot, carefully spooning oil over any unsubmerged dough. Fry until the edges of the brik turn golden, then use tongs to turn over the brik and fry other side. Once brik is evenly golden brown and crisp, use tongs to carefully lift it from the oil, allowing excess oil to drain off before transferring to the cooling rack and sprinkling with coarse salt. Repeat this process, cooking one (or two, if your pot is roomy enough) brik at a time, until all the briks are fried. Serve immediately alongside Chermoula sauce.

 Chermoula Sauce

1 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1/2 cup parsley leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons harissa
1/4 salt
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, harissa, and salt until herbs are very finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse until mixture forms a textured sauce (quite similar to a pesto). Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, then transfer to a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve.

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

January 6, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Applesauce... made in your microwave!

Remember that time I picked an obscene amount of apples at the orchard? Well, over 2 months has passed and there are still 5 pounds of (past their prime) apples sitting in my fridge, desperately needing love. Upon returning home from Michigan after the holidays, I pulled the last of my Calville Blanc d'Hiver apples out of the fridge and made a batch of my favorite homemade applesauce. In my microwave. That's right. Microwave Applesauce. Or, as we affectionately call it, "Awesomesauce".

Cooking applesauce in a microwave takes a mere 10 minutes as opposed to the half hour you'd spend cooking it on the stovetop. I learned this method from Alton Brown, and haven't made traditional stovetop applesauce since (sorry, Grandma!). The hands-off microwave technique and an ingredient list of five always-have-them-around staples make whipping up a batch of homemade applesauce so easy, you'll wonder why you ever buy it pre-made.

The best apples for applesauce are sweet-tart, crisp apples with a lot of apple-y flavor - Golden Delicious is an easy-to-find option. You'll peel and core the apples, chop them into slices, and toss them into a large microwave-safe bowl with a bit of brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and water. After 10 minutes in the microwave, the apples will be soft, lightly sweet, and deeply spiced. A minute with a potato masher will transform them into a chunky homemade applesauce that puts store-bought applesauce to shame. 

Homemade Applesauce (aka "Awesomesauce")
makes 1 quart (4 cups)

2 1/2 pounds sweet-tart, crisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into eights
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large microwave safe container, add the apples, water, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla, tossing to coat the apples. Transfer to microwave and cover with a lid, plate, or splatter cover, leaving a gap for steam to escape. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove from microwave and mash apples with a potato masher until you achieve a chunky applesauce texture. Cool completely before transferring to a storage container and storing in fridge.