Vegan MoFo Yellow Week – Lemon Desserts!

MF5

I originally intended for this to be a post about yellow dessert foods, and only as I was finishing up did I realize that all of these desserts utilize lemons! I guess I just really love lemons. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Here are some of my favorite desserts made from this lovely yellow fruit.

Lemon Yogurt Cake 002

First I give you¬†Lemonade Parfait with Fresh Summer¬†Berries¬†from Happy. Healthy. Life. (click for recipe). ¬†Sorry for the kinda dark picture…this was a late night treat. ūüôā

Lemonade Parfait with Mango

This is a homemade lemon pudding layered with fruit and “crunchies.” ¬†Instead of the berries Kathy used in her original creation, I used chopped mango and bananas. ¬†For crunch I used a vanilla almond granola I scooped from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. ¬†There are tons of possibilities with this recipe and it’s a pretty healthy way to treat yourself. ¬†My sister M (who is lactose-intolerant) was visiting when I made these and she seemed to enjoy it. ¬†H said he liked his too. I’m not sure if he knew there was tofu in it though (surprise, honey!).

Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting from Chloe’s Vegan Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli.

Unfrosted:
Banana Cupcakes 2

Frosted:
Banana Cupcake with Lemon Frosting

Believe it or not, I don’t usually salivate over my own photographs while I’m posting them after the fact, but these cupcake pictures are having that effect, just remembering how good they tasted. ¬†I don’t even know what to say about these cupcakes without being a huge food bloggie cliche. ¬†Heavenly? ¬†Divine? ¬†Whatever, they’re¬†GOOD. ¬†Make them. ¬†I found the recipe reprinted online here.

And finally, the big kahuna, Lemon Yogurt Cake.

Lemon Yogurt Cake 008

The original egg- and dairy-filled recipe by Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) has been one of my family’s favorite things around the holidays for years now. ¬†It is a complex and impressive dessert (and high-calorie!), making it a perfect special occasion recipe. ¬†I decided to veganize it for MoFo, because it’s yellow, and because, well, it’s about damn time.

Lemon Yogurt Cake, adapted/veganized from this recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain coconut milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 flax eggs (1 flax egg = 1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water.  Combine and set aside for 15 minutes until it thickens up.)
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
2 tsp grated lemon zest (~2 lemons)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Then grease and flour the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. ¬†In a separate large bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the flax eggs, banana, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. ¬†With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. ¬†Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup of lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.

When the cake is done baking, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove it from the pan.  While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.  Let the cake cool completely (this is the hardest part!).

Once the cake is cooled, make the glaze by combining the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. ¬†Pour glaze over the cake (I usually go back 3-4 times to collect the glaze from around the edges and re-pour it over the cake.).

Slice and enjoy!

Ready to go into the oven:
Lemon Yogurt Cake 004

Fresh baked:
Lemon Yogurt Cake 005

Soaking in the lemon “syrup”:
Lemon Yogurt Cake 006

Glazed:
Lemon Yogurt Cake 007

Sliced and finally ready to eat!
Lemon Yogurt Cake 010

I was pretty pleased with how this adapted version of the cake came out. ¬†It looks different than the original with the little flecks of flax seeds peeking through. ¬†It’s also denser and slightly less sweet, but it is still moist and lemony and has the delicious “crust” of lemon glaze on the outside that is so delightful to bite into.

I initially wrestled with what to do to replace the 3 eggs that the original recipe calls for and settled on 2 flax + 1 banana “egg.” ¬†I think 3 flax eggs is too much for any recipe, but I thought 1 flax + 2 banana, or even 1 flax + 1 banana + 1 applesauce “egg,” might have been too wet. ¬†If I did it again, I might experiment with 1 flax + 1 banana + 1 silken tofu “egg.” ¬†If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see this handy dandy guide to replacing eggs in vegan baking, courtesy of the ever-awesome Post Punk Kitchen.

If anyone tries this recipe with a different “egg” combo, let me know how it turns out!!

A. Cook for Five Years

Today marks five years since I published my first blog post.¬† When I first started, there were only a handful of vegan blogs out there, which I read religiously. Some of them (Chocolate Covered Katie and Happy Herbivore, for example) are still going–with amazing success!–while others have sadly fallen away. My own blog has been somewhere in the middle (between “still going” and “falling away,” having never attempted nor approached the amazing success thing).

Now, of course, there are 63904850398 vegan food blogs and it’s overwhelming to think of how much our little lifestyle or movement or whatever you want to call it has evolved and spread. Combined with ridiculous advances in technology and information sharing, it’s no wonder that so many people have taken to the free media of blogging to share their passions.

Believe it or not, though, I didn’t set out to write a recap of the years or to wax poetic about veganism and technology.

Picture 002

Warm and Spicy Kale with Shiitake Mushrooms by Maria Guadagno (click for recipe)

Even though I’ve been prone to long blogging absences (I’m looking at you, 2010), I’ve thought of this website almost as a diary these five years. It means a lot to me to be able to look back at old posts. The memories that they evoke go far beyond the actual food that was eaten to remind me of wonderful times shared with family and friends. Even my bar exam posts are enjoyable for me to read, safely positioned as I am, two years removed from that hell.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not any big deal that it’s 5 years for this blog. This blog is very unassuming. I use a free blogging service and I don’t have any fancy software for photo editing, nor do I engage in more than the bare minimum of food styling or background design.¬† I take photos on my point-and-shoot digital camera (or, more recently, on the iPhone).¬† I’ve never tried to promote the blog to sponsors or do anything with it other than give credit to some of the wonderful recipes and products I’ve encountered and show how fun and exciting a vegan diet can be, and how accessible, even fit into a very busy lifestyle. At the end of the day, I blog for me.

Picture 016

Caesar Salad with Avocado and Chickpeas by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (click for recipe)–LOVE THIS RECIPE

It might seem like the majority of my posts are about going to restaurants or making food from other people’s recipes, and that is accurate in a way. The truth is, I have thousands and thousands of recipes, in cookbooks obviously but mostly ones in electronic format that I’ve scoured and pooled from all corners of the Internet. Finding new recipes just happens to be super-exciting for me (nerd), and often times after I see a beautiful photo of a recipe on a blog, I get tunnel vision and just want to make THAT recipe immediately.

Nevertheless, I have learned so much about cooking since the inception of this blog. This is the one message I really want to convey in this post.

It started out with a simple lesson from my dad: the basis for any good dinner is onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil. Dad taught me to heat the oil a little, add garlic first so that it can infuse the oil, and then add the onions and cook until they’re a little translucent and a little browned. But I’ve since learned that with some meals, it isn’t as good to add garlic first, because it gets too browned/burnt by the end of the cooking process. For example, when I cook leafy greens or asparagus now, I like to warm the oil and add the veggies first, then the garlic once the veggies have started to soften. I’ve also learned that all veggies, especially leafy greens, taste amazing finished with a splash of lemon juice.

Picture 015

Banana Cupcakes from Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli (these were later topped with Lemon Icing)

Things like this aren’t groundbreaking, but my current grasp of them is a testament to my growth over the past 5 years, and the process that all of us as cooks undergo.¬† Somehow, without studying the actual science behind the chemistry of cooking, we come to understand it.¬† I know that, even when making something as simple as a stir fry, certain ingredients have to go in earlier because they take longer to cook (onions, broccoli, carrots) and others have to go in at the very very end because otherwise they will reduce to nothing (mushrooms, bean sprouts).¬† Fresh herbs ALWAYS go in last. It’s second nature by now.

Over the years, I have learned to recognize when vegetables are done cooking by looking at them.¬† I know how to get a great sear on a piece of tofu or tempeh.¬† I know how to cook perfect brown rice and recently I’ve started doing it with add-ins too (most often with sliced shiitake mushrooms).¬† These things were learned over time.¬† Cooking from the recipes of others helped with this education. I am grateful for it and most of all, I truly love it.

Finally, I have learned about so many new foods and uses for foods since becoming vegan and since starting this blog. And I am still learning!

For example, just recently I tried jackfruit for the first time. I only learned about it in the past few months and now after making it I’m not really sure how this thing hasn’t exploded more forcefully in the vegan world. I mean, look at it:

Picture 009

It may be hard to totally tell from the picture, but in person this stuff looks exactly like pulled pork or chicken.  Like, weirdly so.

I made Jackfruit Carnitas (click for recipe) from Made Just Right, the Earth Balance blog, and enjoyed them the first night as tacos.

Picture 011

Served on corn tortillas with a dab of Mindful Mayo, some vegan slaw (I went with Summer Slaw from Happy. Healthy. Life.–click for recipe), and fresh cilantro.

Picture 010

The Summer Slaw:

Picture 008
The next night I had the leftover jackfruit as a BBQ “Pork” sandwich. Just…look.

Picture 012

With the addition of barbecue sauce it truly takes on a pulled pork texture. I could see myself eating this at every barbecue from here on out. Again, amazing that I could have just discovered a brand new food!

Anyway, this post has gone on for long enough and I think I have made my points, but in closing, I am truly looking forward to continuing my journey as a cook and as a blogger!

The Mighty Mango

I freakin’ love mangoes.
 photo Mangoes_zpsa9d313e2.jpg

A good mango is one of the sweetest, creamiest things there is to eat. Period. A bad one is…bad. ¬†Mealy, stringy, too flavorless or too tart, any or all of the above. ¬†Fortunately I have long since learned the art of picking out a good mango. There is no science to this, just my own personal experience. ¬†First, the color of the skin matters less than you’d think. ¬†I used to think I wanted ones that were more red, or had a nice balance or red and green, but my experience has been that even mangoes with a uniform green or slightly yellow color to the skin can be good. ¬†Second, the fruit should be relatively firm; not rock-hard, but definitely not soft. ¬†Third, and most importantly, the smell of the mango should be, well, mango-ey. ¬†Test the smell by inhaling near the stem end. ¬†You can’t miss that sweet, citrusy mango smell. ¬†If you don’t pick up on it, then you have a crappy mango.

My new job is conveniently located in a shopping complex that includes a Stop & Shop (as well as an A.C. Moore, an Applebee’s, and a liquor store, because why not?). ¬†S&S recently has had crazy insane sales on mangoes so I’ve been stocking up bigtime. ¬†Obviously many have been enjoyed as is, for breakfast or a snack, but I have also turned out some stellar recipes with them.

First is Mango BBQ Baked Beans, from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  This is the first recipe that really jumped out at me when I got this book a couple of weeks ago.
 photo Picture012_zpscf568b22.jpg

Served with¬†Jerk Asparagus, also from AFRIt was even better than I had hoped! ¬†Sweet, smoky, complex barbecue flavor in a hearty, warming dish perfect for a winter evening (though I can also envision it as a kickass addition to a summer barbecue!). ¬†H¬†loved¬†it. ¬†He has added it to the list of vegan meals he will eat “anytime.” ¬† As an additional matter, I know I am totally late to the party on AFR but better late than never, right? ¬†This book is SO awesome. ¬†I have like 56 stickies indicating the other recipes that I can’t wait to make.

Another gem from Ms. Moskowitz is Mango Fried Rice from her blog, Post Punk Kitchen.  Click through for the recipe.
Mango Fried Rice (PPK) photo 332.jpg

I ate mine with Asian Baked Tofu from Veganomicon (my go-to baked tofu, in case anyone was wondering).
 photo 335.jpg

I also separately cooked up a little bit of chicken for the man (tofu remains on the Do Not Call list for my H) and was shocked when he told me he actually preferred the rice as it was, without the addition of meat!
 photo 333.jpg

This incredible recipe does require a little extra work in the kitchen (the rice has to be cold before being added to the skillet, for example), but the beautiful, exotic and flavorful results are worth it! ¬†It’s also easy enough to cook rice the day before and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
 photo 4c0a7a5a-e508-466d-9546-cb951e7ba809_zps179f0f01.jpg
Bonus: makes lots of leftovers for next-day lunch!

Now to be truthful, I actually made this many months ago but never got around to posting the pics until now. ¬†But the recent bumper crop of mangoes has me thinking of whipping some up again this week…

So, I am currently training for a relay race in May, and the combination of Sunday cross-training and Monday running had me feeling super-sore, so yesterday was a rest day. ¬†With my amazing new job getting me home around 5:30 every night, and no gym time scheduled, I realized that I’d have extra time to spend in the kitchen. ¬†And so, last night I went for broke and attempted the Mango Masala Panini from Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli.

When I say “went for broke” what I really mean is that I chose a recipe that has multiple components that I knew would take me a significant amount of time to prepare. ¬†Basically, making this Panini recipe requires making three mini-recipes: Mango Tamarind Chutney, Cauliflower Curry, and Chickpea Masala.
 photo Picture014_zps633fc801.jpg
Three bowls, Three Recipes (sorry for the dark [and, actually, kinda gross] picture)

While the final result was undeniably tasty, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that it took me a total of 2.5 hours to get it all done, and by the time it was over, I was too tired to flatten it into a “panini” using my grill pan and a weight, so I just toasted the ciabatta and ate it that way.
 photo Picture018_zps57310e07.jpg

When I say “ate it that way” what I really mean is I cut it in half and then opened each half up, leaving me with four open-faced “sandwiches”, because it was way too messy otherwise.

To be fair, part of the reason that it took so long to get this together is that I was washing dishes before, during, and after cooking. ¬†Starting with a clean kitchen obviously would speed the process. ¬†But even so, the food processor is required for all three of the mini-recipes and needs to be cleaned in between. ¬†Let’s just say I cleaned A LOT of dishes last night. ¬†And actually, since I’m big on honesty, I will admit that I used my immersion blender for the Chana Masala. ¬†I just couldn’t clean that processor again.

 photo Picture016_zps5394357f.jpg
Mango Tamarind Chutney
 photo Picture015_zpsa02b2780.jpg
Cauliflower Curry
 photo Picture017_zpsd6d4688b.jpg
Chana Masala

Final verdict: I liked this recipe, and I liked all of the components. ¬†I am not sure that the final result is worth the aggregate time/effort, but if in the future I had time to do some ahead-of-time/day-before prep, I would make it again. ¬†Plus, there is now a ton of leftovers in my fridge, which I always welcome during the work week. ¬†I am even thinking about making the leftover Cauliflower Curry into samosas tomorrow, using another recipe from Chloe’s Kitchen.

Anyone else have any great recipes that use mangoes?