May I Have Your Vote?

This past Saturday, I participated for the second time in the Virtual Vegan Potluck.  Annie at An Unrefined Vegan was once our host and organizer and did an amazing job at it!  It truly is a fun and exciting feeling to be connected to so many bloggers from so many different places.  Plus, my meal-making inspiration is now overflowing with ideas from all the other delicious looking dishes that were shared!

Close Up - glaze and sliced into - edited

Now, I don’t do much self-promotion, but I am here today to ask you for your vote.  You see, for the potluck, I made and virtually brought this Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple Caramel Glaze.  Remember it?  I’ve been wishing I had some more of it myself!  While it may be long gone (for now), it is time to honor those potluckers who made everyone’s favorite dishes.  If you liked my cake, you can vote for me here under the desserts category.  If you are also inclined, head on over to the Virtual Vegan Potluck’s featured ingredient page and re-pin my cake.  The dish featuring the secret ingredient with the most re-pins is also a winner.

Thank you for your vote (or for just reading this far) and for joining me in another blogging adventure!

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple-Caramel Glaze

One of my favorite things to do these days is to spend an afternoon home alone baking, feed the finished product to Mr. Move Eat Create when he returns, and then ask, “Do you know what was in that???”

Whole on cake stand from above - edited

Of course, I know that its unlikely he’ll guess correctly, but I wait and anticipate his answer.  Then, I excitedly share what the secret ingredient actually was, basking in my sneakiness and healthy baking subterfuge.

I first discovered the odd fun of this little game when I made zucchini brownies.  I reached new levels of enjoyment with it after sharing my batch of Chocolate Covered Katie’s black bean brownies, and totally had a blast with it after making this creation here.

Close Up - glaze and sliced into - edited

This cake was a perfect opportunity for me to:  a) practice my gluten free baking skills, b) use nutritious ingredients (like vegetables) to make something traditionally lacking in health promoting properties, and c) eat chocolate.

As an added bonus, I was already in the process of fine-tuning this recipe when the Virtual Vegan Potluck sign-up and announcement came out, indicating they’d be featuring a key ingredient this time around and that the key ingredient was beets!

Perfect!  I had clearly earned some good food blogging karma somewhere.

slice on plate - edited

For this final version I added a maple-caramel frosting which was so good that I may have scooped up and eaten much of the excess drizzle with my fingertips.  And it may have made me so happy and weak in the knees that I had to sit down.

If all that extra sweet drizzle isn’t you’re thing, I also made a version that was topped with a simple dusting of vegan powdered sugar.  It, too, was wonderful.

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Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple Caramel Glaze

Makes one bundt cake

A Move Eat Create original recipe

(but inspired by various recipes throughout the Internet)
                                                      Sliced into on cake stand - edited

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 medium beets, diced
  • 2 ¼ cups gluten free all purpose flour (I like Pure Pantry for baking)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • 1 ½ tspn baking powder
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ cup vanilla (or plain) coconut milk
  • 1 tblspn apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 small very ripe mashed bananas
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life)

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup vegan brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Earth Balance
  • 2 tblspns coconut milk
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract
  • ½ tspn maple extract (optional: If you don’t want the maple flavor, sub additional vanilla extract)
  • ½ cup vegan powdered sugar

Directions:

To make the cake:

  1. Place diced beets in a pot and fill with enough water to cover by an extra inch or two.  Bring to a boil.  Let beets boil for approximately 7-8 minutes to soften.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or oil your bundt pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare dry ingredients.  Place flour, cocoa powder, flax seed, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together and set aside.
  4. Place boiled, drained beets in a food processor or good blender.  Add coconut milk and apple cider vinegar.  Puree until smooth.
  5. Pour beet mixture into a medium bowl.  Stir in vanilla extract, turbinado sugar, and mashed bananas.  Mix well to combine.
  6. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients in.  Mix well by hand to combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Pour in your chocolate chips and stir a couple more times to distribute them throughout the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

To make the frosting:

  1. Melt brown sugar, Earth Balance, and coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk/stir frequently during this process.  Once they melt, the mixture should turn a nice shade of brown.  This should only take 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and maple extract.  Let sit to cool for a few minutes.
  2. After the sauce has cooled for about 5 minutes, stir in the powdered sugar.  This will thicken the sauce, making it a more substantial frosting/glaze.  Stir/whisk well until all powdered sugar has been incorporated into the sauce.  Let cool completely before drizzling over cake.

And now, please check out other dishes in the potluck!

To visit the dish presented before mine click this link:  go_bck-300x257

To visit the dish next in the line up click through here:  go_forward-300x243

 

** I am also submitting this recipe to Healthy Vegan Friday, hosted over at The Veggie Nook.  A wonderful weekly gathering of delicious vegan recipes!

Foodie Firsts: Meyer Lemons (Plus, A Recipe: Meyer Lemon Linguini with Kale Raab and Cherry Tomatoes)

wooden spoons-001

Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Meyer lemons are one of those foods that people have very strong opinions about.  They almost have a cult-like following.  Devotees talk animatedly about their return each season, preserve what they can for the dark days when fresh ones are not available, and fill their lives with Meyer lemon goodness when the season is right.  If food were science-fiction, you might say that Meyer lemons are the Doctor Who of the food world.  (Or maybe, I’m just excited about Doctor Who right now and it’s infiltrating my other life spaces.)

Whole Close Up - edited

As you might have guessed given the focus of this column, I had never had a Meyer lemon.  So when people started blogging excitedly about them or expressing joy in the supermarket at their return, I just wasn’t getting it.  What was all the fuss?   Could they really be that much different from a ‘regular’ lemon??

Let me say that I am a BIG FAN of lemons.  I happen to believe that they are one of the most endlessly useful items to have in a kitchen.  Their zest and juice can transform baked goods to a whole other level of awesomeness, add zingy interest to soups, brighten up pasta in a flash, elevate salad from dull to exciting, and, heck, a slice in a glass of water (or, ahem, gin) can go a long way to increasing taste and experience.

Lemons are good stuff.

So, I had to ask, was a Meyer lemon going to be much different?  And, if in fact it was that different, was that going to actually be a good thing?

Meyer Lemon Collage

I think I can say that it WAS THAT different.  I decided to try Meyer lemons two ways – sweet and savory.  Plus, I just sampled a bit of the juice itself.  The difference, of course, starts right from the get-go with the visual aspect of the fruit.  It’s lemon-shaped and lemon-sized, but the color is not the same.  Less bright and catchy, the Meyer lemons I purchased had a flatter hue.  When I placed them side by side on my counter with a standard lemon, there was no confusing which was which.

Tasting the Meyer lemon juice on its own, it was clear that the taste is definitely a different experience from standard lemons.  I could tell it wasn’t as sharp or acidic and I was curious to see how this would impact my food.  I had 6 lemons and decided I would put 3 to work in a savory dish (pasta) and 3 would be used in a sweet dish (lemon bars).

I’ll start with the bad (because the good was REALLY good).  The lemon bars didn’t quite come out right.  To be fair, I don’t think it was entirely the fault of the Meyer lemons themselves.  The recipe I used just didn’t work quite right for some reason and I needed to have baked them longer, I think, as they didn’t set up quite right.  So, there were some serious fundamental flaws.  What I will say is that regardless of these issues, if you want a traditional lemon bar, with loads of wake-up-and-stimulate-your-senses sharp flavors, Meyer lemons aren’t going to do that for you.  If you want a smoother, more subtle, and possibly more sweet lemon bar, than the Meyers just might work.

Plated 5 - edited

Moving on to the good.  I made pasta.  Meyer lemon linguini with cherry tomatoes and kale raab to be specific about it, and it was tremendously satisfying.  Maybe I was just having a good night in the kitchen, but the Meyers really worked with this dish.  That lack of bold lemon punch was a really good thing in this case, as the Meyer lemons actually added a rounder, more full-bodied flavor to the dish, rather than just a zap of acid and tartness.  I would venture to say that they added a richness to this dish that a standard lemon just would not have done and it elevated the flavor to something a bit more complex.  This dish made me excited about Meyer lemons the way I have seen others be.

What about all of you?  Are you a Meyer lemon convert?  Do you get excited when their time rolls around each year?

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Lessons Learned:  As I said, I really love lemons.  I can’t say that Meyer lemons have won over my heart from their more common counterparts quite yet.  I certainly don’t think they have the versatility of their lemon cousins.  I was really excited about the pasta dish though and, in that context, totally understand how they could be used differently, uniquely, to make a dish their own.  That gives me enough incentive to want to experiment with them further.

Serving Suggestions:  Well, the pasta below, of course.  But also, I’ve seen a variety of recipes for Meyer lemon muffins and bread.  I am pretty much always in favor of a good muffin or bread, so those seem like an excellent thing to try.  Also, probably one of the most popular things to do is snag some while they’re in season and preserve them for later use.

Lessons Learned: I was struck by how it really is quite possible for two items to be so closely related to one another and yet be so very unique in the outcomes they produce.  It has caused me to give more consideration to the subtle differences between similar food items and how they will impact a dish.  It is fun to notice how my own palate is becoming more discerning as I continue to try new things with an open mind and attention to subtle details!

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Meyer Lemon Linguini with Kale Raab & Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:In Pan 2 - edited

  • 8 oz linguini (I used spinach linguini)
  • 2 small batches kale raab, stems discarded, leaves and flowers chopped
  • 3 tblspns water
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • Juice of 3 medium Meyer lemons
  • 1 tspn kosher salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (vegan or dairy, per preference)
  • Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Prepare noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Warm sauté pan over medium heat.  Add chopped kale raab, along with 3 tblspns water.  Cover immediately and let steam in pan for 2-3 minutes.  Remove steamed kale raab from pan and set aside.
  3. Return sauté pan to stovetop, over medium heat.  Add oil.  Once warmed add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes, or until garlic begins to lightly brown.
  4. Add steamed kale raab, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and thyme to pan.  Stir to combine all ingredients well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add cooked noodles and cherry tomatoes to pan and toss all ingredients together.  Cook 2-3 more minutes until all components are heated and combined.
  6. Remove from heat and add Parmesan, tossing to coat other ingredients.  Serve with fresh Italian parsley garnish.

Foodie Firsts: My First Vegan ‘Cheesecake’

wooden spoons-001

Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try!  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Welcome to the inaugural entry in my new weekly series.  I’m excited to continue to push my boundaries with food and cooking and share it all here.  I commit to sharing each adventure, whether it is successful or, well, disastrous.

It pleases me to no end, however, to say that this first post is one of success!  I decided to start off this column big.  I feel like I really went for it this week.

Homemade.  Vegan.  Cheesecake.

partial whole cake pic 2 - edited

I went into this little experiment totally prepared for it to fail.  Not expecting it to, but prepared for the possibility.  Let me give you some history.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Move Eat Create for introducing me to cheesecake to begin with.  I had never tried it until well into my twenties.  Blasphemy, I know!  Here I was, going through my life, thinking that cheesecake was absurd.  Why on earth would anyone make a cake out of cheese??  What was this horrid concept???  Were people mad????  Mr. Move Eat Create was, because he was a fan.  A big fan.  So he had some; I tried it, and my world was never the same again.

Now, you may think I’m being dramatic (and maybe I am), but it blew me away.  I had never tasted anything like it.  I wanted to devour it all the time.  I tried to restrain myself, but cheesecake was always a wonderful treat.  A rich, decadent reminder of how many things I had yet to taste in my life.

Whole with slice cut out - edited

These days, as you may know, I eat a mostly clean, healthy and plant-based diet, so cheesecake is a very rare item on my plate.  For a while, I’d been tossing around the idea of trying a vegan cheesecake.  I’ve seen several versions featuring vegan cream cheese (which I’m sure are delicious and I WILL try sometime), but, I was feeling sort of . . . ballsy.  I decided to go all out when I came across this recipe for a raw strawberry cream cake at The Veggie Nook.  A soft, creamy cake that mimics the experience of a cheesecake, but totally vegan?  I was in.  No questions asked.

So, as I stated, I was prepared for this to be a fail simply because I’ve never, ever eaten or made anything like it before.  Plus, the crust (which is yummy) is made solely out of almonds, dates, and salt.  The last time I tried to puree dates, I had a bit of a disastrous gooey mess that went quickly to the garbage can.   The recipe indicated a strong food processor would be needed and ours is a fairly small, simple model.  Would it do the job?  And, would my cheesecake-loving boyfriend enjoy this for what it was or would I be eating it all by my lonesome?

Single slice with coulis 5 - edited

I officially declare this foodie first a success!  While this is certainly not going to pass for a traditional cheesecake, it doesn’t need to.  It is delicious in its own right and it does provide a similar experience to feasting on cheesecake.  It’s soft, cool, and creamy.  It strikes a chord between sour/tart (from the lemon juice – a very important element) and sweet (strawberries, dates, vanilla and agave) and the strawberry coulis drizzled on top is fresh and bright.  The process of making this was a breeze, really.  I had to puree in batches (so as to not overwhelm my food processor), but the steps were straightforward and unfussy.  Plus, the possibilities with this are limitless.  Chocolate drizzled on top would be amazing.  I can imagine any berry subbing for the strawberries with success.  Vanilla bean mixed in would be rich and luscious.  Skip the berry layer altogether and do a caramel cream with chopped nuts on top.  Endless possibilities.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

The recipe can be found here:  Raw Strawberry Cream Cake  Whole with side of pan off - edited

Modifications:  The only thing I did differently was to use agave and additional vanilla extract instead of stevia.  I didn’t have any stevia on hand and decided to sub instead of purchasing some.  I doubled the vanilla extract and added agave in 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting as I went.  I found that about ¼ cup was the right amount for me.

Lessons Learned:  Simply because something doesn’t taste just like its inspiration, does not make it a lesser product.  Do I still think traditional cheesecake is delicious?  Of course I do.  But this option is so good and so satisfying that it is more than just a substitute.  Plus, the nutritional components mean a lot to me these days and knowing I can feel really good about the ingredients in this dessert is pretty fantastic.

Plus, I am constantly amazed by the humble cashew.  What can’t this little nut do?  Cashews = food chameleons.

Finally, making this taught me a bit about patience.  I don’t have much of it and when I cook, I like to keep things moving, see results, work on the next component.  The fact that my food processor is small made me have to work cautiously and in small batches.  I was forced to slow down instead of tossing everything in at once.  It actually was quite good for me to experience.  To have it pay off in the end was highly rewarding.

Recipe: Bundt Cake with Apples and Fall Spices

I am such a sucker for fall baked goods.  Cinnamon.  Vanilla.  Warm spices.  Apples.  My stomach gets all rumbly just thinking about these flavors.  I mean, seriously folks, throw some cinnamon-vanilla anything at me and I’ll be your friend.

Go ahead.

Try it.

Please.

This cake definitely satisfies my fall-flavor lust.  The spices are warm and comforting and the texture is dense, but soft and studded with bits of apples.  You could certainly put a glaze or icing on this cake if you like, as the original inspiration recipe does, but I didn’t particularly feel like it needed it to suit my tastes.  I ate it just as it with a lovely dusting of powdered sugar on top and thought it hit the right note.  I do wish I had another slice left, because I suspect that a drizzle of honey or agave drizzled on individual portions would actually be quite delicious, too.

I guess I’ll have to make another one to test that theory.

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Bundt Cake with Fall Spices and Bananas

Adapted from Averie Cooks

Makes one cake

 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut spread/oil or Earth Balance, melted (or butter, if you like)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 oz non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 2 tblspns egg replacer + 6 tblspns water (or 2 large eggs, if you prefer)
  • ½ cup turbinado/raw sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn vanilla extract
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn ground ginger
  • ¼ tspn pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tspn nutmeg
  • 1/8 tspn ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 med-large mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 medium apple, diced (I used a semi-tart green variety)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tspn baking soda
  • ½ tspn salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bundt pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Toss with a whisk or fork until well combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine melted coconut spread/oil (or Earth Balance or butter), applesauce, yogurt, egg replacer with water, sugars, vanilla extract and all spices.  Whisk all these ingredients until smooth and well-combined.  Stir in mashed bananas and follow by gently stirring in the diced apples.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture.  Pour wet ingredient into the well and stir just until all ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Pour batter into your prepared bundt pan.  Bake for approximately 40-43 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Invert and remove cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. Dust with powdered sugar (I used a  vegan version) if you like.

Recipe: Hummingbird (Banana-Pineapple) Cake with Pineapple Frosting

Earlier in the week, I mentioned a birthday cake.  As the week has gone by I have been eager to come back to that topic.  This birthday cake, you see, has been on my mind.

It has lingered in my consciousness because it was (I think) a big success!  I still get nervous about baking cakes, in a way I do not about baking other items.  I don’t feel apprehensive about baking cookies, muffins, brownies, scones, or even cupcakes; but there is something special about creating a quality cake, particularly if that cake is to be presented and shared with someone as a celebratory gift.

I had inquired with the birthday man in question about what kind of cake he would like and he expressed a desire for a banana-pineapple cake.

Whoa.

I’m not sure why that seemed so intimidating to me – but it was.  After doing some research, I discovered that banana-pineapple cakes were actually, like, a thing.  They had a proper name and all.  Hummingbird cake.  It’s a lovely name, isn’t it?  It sounds like a delicate and beautiful baked treat.

Finding several recipes for hummingbird cake, I settled upon one that looked like the best bet to me, made a couple of adaptations, and set to work.

The process? = Much easier than I had anticipated

The result? = A deliciously moist cake, rich with flavors from the fruits, cinnamon, and vanilla

Hooray for cake success!

This cake was quite fitting for the season, too.  It felt like a farewell to summer, served on the first day of fall.  With the pineapple providing a last hurrah for warm weather days and the warmth of the banana and cinnamon welcoming autumn, it was a great cake for transitioning the seasons.

The recipe for the pineapple cream cheese frosting which finished the cake is also included below.   I hope you enjoy it all as much as we did!

Hummingbird Cake

Adapted from myrecipes.com

Makes 1 8-9 inch square or 8-9 inch round cake

Ingredients:

1 cup Whole-Wheat Cake Flour

½ cup White Whole Wheat Flour (or AP Flour)

½ tspn baking soda

¼ tspn kosher salt

3/4 cup raw cane sugar

½ tspn ground cinnamon

1 tblspn egg replacer + 3 tblspns water (or 1 large egg)

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1.5 tblspns coconut oil, melted (15-30 seconds in a microwave should do it)

1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)

1 tspn vanilla extract

4 oz crushed pineapple, with juice

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the square or round cake pan of your choice with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the egg replacer and water mixture, applesauce, melted coconut oil, mashed bananas, vanilla extract, and crushed pineapple.  Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir well with a spoon until the mixture is combined and all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool in pan for approximately 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow cake to continue cooling on a wire rack.  Once completely cooled, top with pineapple cream cheese frosting (or frosting of your choice).  A smattering of chopped nuts on top of the frosting is purely optional, but makes a lovely presentation.

Pineapple Cream-Cheese Frosting

Makes more than enough to frost one 8-9 inch cake

Ingredients:

4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese/Neufchatel (standard or vegan)

½ tblspn butter or Earth Balance

2-3 cups powdered sugar

½ tblspn vanilla extract

2-3 tblspns crushed pineapple, with juices

Preparation:

  1. Combine cream cheese, butter/Earth Balance, and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high speed with a mixer until combined and somewhat creamy.  (It will be fairly stiff at this point.)
  2. Add the powdered sugar in batches, until you have reached your desired level of sweetness (I used about 2.5 cups), continuing to beat mixture after each batch is added.
  3. Add in pineapple, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition.  Check for flavor and consistency.  If you want a thicker frosting, you may need to add additional sugar, but for a thinner frosting (more similar to a glaze), add more of the pineapple liquid to the mixture.

*** The frosting will continue to thicken up after it sits for a while.  I made my batch a bit thinner than a traditional cream-cheese frosting, so that it almost seeped over the edge of the cake when I frosted it.  I thought it was delicious this way and it did firm up further as the cake sat for a couple of hours.