Friday, May 25, 2012

All Creatures Pink and Beautiful

I have noticed I often pick out juices, sodas, and even foods that match my clothing colors.   If you were to take a look at my pin boards on Pinterest right now, you would see an awful lot of pale pink.  Enough to ward off boys forever.  I have a strawberry yogurt cake recipe, pink mixing bowl bakery labels, a strawberry lemonade bathing suit, and even a board devoted to cotton candy hair inspiration.  I am clearly pink-obsessed and should probably try to become BFFs with a five year old girl so I can borrow (for keeps) from her extensive My Little Pony collection.  Okay, I just took a moment to look up My Little Pony collections and I'm pretty sure I still want to own all of them.  Is 29 too old for that?

Poesy Pony

By the way, does anyone remember how good these ponies smelled?  Like sweet magic plastic.

My hair is now a visual testimony to my current obsession:

I dyed it pastel pink.  I'm pretty sure this isn't a midlife crisis.  Those happen at 50, these days, right?  It may look like a unicorn threw up all over my head; but, I can live with that .  Before I did it, I asked my Facebook friends for objections and only got one.  From my mother.  And I am old enough to know that when mothers say "no," they really mean "yes."  A mother saying "no" is the best form of encouragement she can give.  So, I suggested that my mother dye her hair pink, too.  

My dog is so lucky she's black.  

So is my cat.

Please don't let me do this.

This isn't the first time I've had a color & flavor obsession.  There was an incident a few years ago when I came home from grocery shopping to discover that nearly every single thing I bought that day was either orange scented, flavored, or colored.  I bought orange scrubbing bubbles, a big bag of naval oranges, mandarin spice tea, orange-vanilla scented candles, and citrus dish liquid.  I should probably also mention that I loaded all of these things into the hatchback of my brand new spicy-orange Chevy.  True story.  The cashier must have thought I was insane.  Did I have a vitamin C deficiency? Was I subjected to subliminal messaging at a movie theater?  Or, did I just wake up in an orange mood?

I don't think this phenomenon is only happening to me.  I've spent more time working in coffee shops than I probably should admit.  One thing I began to notice as I was banging out portafilters and tapping away on cash register buttons was drink choice and how it correlates to clothing choice.  The first time I noticed this was when I was ringing up a sale for a woman holding a bottle of Nantucket Nectars cranberry juice.  She was wearing a cranberry colored ruffle blouse and a large faux garnet ring.  I couldn't resist pointing out her color-coordinated drink and asked if she had chosen it to match her outfit.  She gave me a surprised smile and admitted that she had been unaware of the synonymous color when she had selected her beverage.

That's when I began paying attention to juice sales.  There were bottles of nearly every color in our beverage case, so all I had to do was wait and see.  I was excited to find that nearly everyone who came through the line carrying a juice bottle wore colors to match their flavor choice.  I wonder if this means we love fashion so much, we want to drink it?  Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?  Have you ever gone on a color & flavor bender?  I was telling my friend Julie about this and she wondered if goths only like burnt toast with their coffee.  I think it's an excellent question and worthy of investigation.  But, they probably wouldn't tell me about it.  Not with my Poesy Pony hair.

Maybe I have this pink itch because it's strawberry season and every food blog I see has posted something that looks like strawberries-and-cream in big beautiful, mouth-watering, melty ice-cream and fluffy pink frosting photographs.  I salivate just thinking about them.  Here are some that I've noticed lately:

Roasted Rhubarb Honey Cardamom Ice Cream

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Curd

Rhubarb Ginger Lemonade

Noticing a theme here?  That's right, I've been paying attention to my pinks and the color of the season is rhubarb.  I will be making something with rhubarb by the week's end.  And I promise to share.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sweet Orange Corn Cakes With Tangy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ok, remember yesterday when I said I had made a successful gluten-free muffin and I was super proud?  Well, I have out done myself today.  This recipe is a definite keeper.  In fact, it's the best GF cake I've EVER HAD.  It's a cornbread and orange cake hybrid with the most amazingly tangy lemon-orange "cream cheese" frosting.  The cake texture is dense and slightly grainy like cornbread, but it has a lovely flavor.  Most importantly, it doesn't hang around like sand in your mouth like a lot of gluten free cakes seem to do.   I wish I could give everyone I know one of these adorable little cakes right now.  Instead, I will post the recipe and hope with all my might that it reaches a GF person with a little bit of kitchen ambition.  I promise, even though this recipe requires some fore-thought, you won't regret making these sweet and tangy citrus corn cakes.

The first thing you will need to do is make candied orange peel.  When you make candied orange peel, you also make an orange infused syrup as a by-product.  Save the orange infused syrup in a heat proof container, and once it has cooled, pour into a plastic squeeze bottle if you have one.  These steps need to occur at least one day before you intend to make the cakes in order to give the orange peel time to set.

Sweet Orange Corn Cakes With Tangy Lemon "Cream Cheese" Frosting
This gluten-free & vegan recipe is by Emily Haydel 
makes 9 small cakes


For the cake:
1 cup finely ground corn meal (also called corn flour, but not to be confused with cornstarch)
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup all purpose gluten-free flour blend (I used Pamela's baking and pancake mix)
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup candied orange peel + more for garnish
3/4 cup orange syrup + 2 tablespoons to drizzle
3/4 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons almond milk

For the frosting:
1/4 cup orange syrup
4 oz earth balance
6 oz gluten free, vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti brand)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
juice of 1 lemon

preheat oven to 375 degrees F

1.  In small dish, mix chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of almond milk.  Let sit while preparing other ingredients.
2.  In small bowl, mix almond milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit while preparing other ingredients
3.  In medium bowl, add cornmeal, coconut flour, GF flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.  Whisk to combine.
4.  In a separate medium bowl, stir together orange syrup, applesauce, and olive oil.  Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
5.  Add chia mixture to batter and stir until incorporated.
6.  Add the almond/vinegar mixture to the batter and mix until combined
7.  Stir in candied orange peel, saving some for the garnish
8.  Spoon the batter into lightly greased muffin pan (I used a mini bundt pan).  Pat into the pan so the tops are level.  They do not rise very much, so fill them pretty full.
9.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they begin to brown around the edges
10.  When you remove them from the oven, squeeze or drizzle about a teaspoon of orange syrup over each one.  It will sizzle as it sinks down into the cake.
11.  When cool enough to touch, carefully lift from the pan onto a wire cooling rack

For the frosting:

1.  Add vegan cream cheese and earth balance to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until smooth.  Add the orange syrup, lemon juice, and powdered sugar.  Blend until smooth.  Sweeten to taste.

2.  Spoon frosting over cakes and garnish with orange peel 

Candied Orange Peel

vegan, layer cake
ginger layer cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting garnished with candied orange peel

Candied Orange Peel

This recipe makes quite a lot of candy.  You can easily cut it in half and have enough candy for several recipes and enough orange syrup for one batch of Sweet Orange Corn Cakes with Tangy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.


6 valencia or naval oranges (you want them to have a thick pith)
4 1/2 cups sugar + 1 cup to roll the peels in
1 1/2 cups water


1.  Cut the ends off of the oranges.  Quarter, then peel.  Cut the peels into thin strips (about half the width of a pencil eraser)

2.  Put the strips into a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Pour off water.  Repeat this step 3-4 times.

3.  Remove peels from pan.  Whisk sugar into water.  Bring to a simmer & cook for 8-9 minutes until a candy thermometer reads (230-234 degrees)

4.  Add peels & simmer gently, reducing heat to keep at a simmer.  DO NOT STIR.  Cook until translucent (about 45 minutes).

5.  Drain peels.  Save the syrup in a heat proof container.  Roll the peels in a cup of sugar on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave there to dry over night.  Store peels in the extra sugar in an air-tight container for up to 4 months.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gluten-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins

I was unexpectedly successful at inventing a recipe today!  I love when this happens.  It's a huge kitchen-confidence booster.  This is also a recipe that falls into an uncharted category for me- gluten-free baking.  On a GF-familiar friend's suggestion, I used Pamela's baking and pancake mix for this recipe.  I don't have enough GF experience to try creating my own GF flour mixture, yet.

The idea for this recipe came from my desire to recreate a muffin I had at Ravens Restaurant in Mendocino.  This recipe didn't come close to replicating that one, but it did successfully create a tasty blueberry corn muffin.  As with all GF baked goods I've ever had, I can't say this muffin truly compares to the real thing.  It is good for what it is, though; and, it's a healthier alternative to regular muffins.  I plan on playing with and tweaking this recipe over the next few weeks to refine it.  I'd love feedback from some of my gluten-free readers.  If anyone tries this recipe out, please comment letting me know what you think and if you have any suggestions.

Easy Gluten-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins

1 tablespoon chia seeds (you can leave them whole or grind them.  I used a mortar and pestle, but I       can't promise I actually did anything to them)
3 tablespoons almond milk
1 cup Pamela's baking & pancake mix (or GF flour mix of your choice)
1 cup cornmeal 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
4.4 ounces organic blueberries


1.  In a small dish, combine chia seeds with almond milk.  Stir and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
2.  Preheat oven to 375 F
3.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine Pamela's baking mix, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk to make sure ingredients are evenly distributed.
4.  In a small bowl, combine agave nectar, applesauce, olive oil, and almond extract.  Stir well.
5.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir vigorously until well incorporated.
6.  Add the (now goopy) chia seed mixture to the batter and mix in well.  Then fold in blueberries.
7.  Spray a muffin pan with oil and distribute batter into the spaces, filling 3/4 full.
8.  Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes, until they turn golden on top.  Makes about 6 muffins.

Serve warm or cooled.  I liked mine best warm from the oven with a spread of earth balance.

A Weekend In Mendocino

I could tell you about how we checked the weather online before leaving for Mendocino and it said the highs would be in the mid 90s all weekend.  I could tell you about how I packed my skimpiest clothing in preparation for what would probably be a sweltering weekend at the beach.  I could tell you that the weather in actuality was highs in the low 60s with heavy fog all weekend.  And that the warmest thing I brought with me was a sweatshirt.

Then I could tell you that mid-way during our canoe trip up Big River from the sea, our dog Poppy decided she needed a potty break.  We pulled to the side of the river.  I was in the front, and therefore the one to haphazardly struggle my way out of the teetering canoe, followed closely by an overly enthused Labrador.  My feet immediately sank six inches into mud.  I tried to keep images of leeches out of my head as I struggled to free myself from the goop without falling.  The dog did a happy dance around me.  She thought it was a brilliant idea to get out of the boat and tromp around in mud.  After she finished with her potty break, she couldn't get back into the boat on her own.  I had to lift her, so she and I became a slippery tangled mess of mud, legs, and arms.  She managed to squirm back to her space in the middle of the boat by somehow sliding her entire body across my seat.  I stood horrified, calf-deep in mushy river bottom, looking down at my now mud-covered seat.  In a pathetic attempt at keeping my bottom dry, I laid my only sweatshirt across the muddy seat and sat down.  Once we were moving again, I carefully dipped my feet over the edge of the boat to rinse them clean.  I tried very hard not to think about piranhas and anacondas.  My imagination had just gone through a circuit of scary movie scenes involving people in boats and the creepy, violent creatures they encountered:

Swiss Family Robinson anaconda attack

Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen after tromping through leech infested muddy waters
I mentioned to Ralph that if he ever fancied visiting a jungle, he could expect to leave me at home.

The outgoing tide made the ride a mostly pleasant one and once we passed an invisible barrier, we exited the foggy micro-climate of the sea-side and were met with a spectacularly sunny day.  The highlight of the trip was a row of seals sunbathing on a sandbar in the river.  They raised their sleepy little faces to watch us drift past.  One of them even appeared to wave as we paddled by.
We took a redwood canoe with outriggers to keep us from capsizing.
The return trip was much more difficult, the tide was actually working against us.  We didn't have the wind on our side either, it was frigidly blowing in our faces.  I finally resigned to the mud and put my mud-covered sweatshirt on over my life jacket and sat back down on the still muddy seat.  When we got back to the fog-enshrouded dock where the next happy couple waited to be loaded into a boat, I awkwardly climbed out of the canoe onto the dock on my hands and knees, hair wind-blown, head-to-toe mud, sweatshirt stylishly layered over top of life jacket, freezing cold.  I didn't have to look to know the couple's smiles were rapidly replaced with worried frowns and knitted brows.  I realized I was reenacting the last scene in a horror movie.  You know, the scene where the only surviving victim hobbles to safety.  Needless to say, I hid my muddy bottom in the car while Ralph paid for the boat.

I could also tell you about how Poppy did this at the beach:
This is why I love her

I could tell you all of that, but I won't.  This is a food blog.  I'm here to tell you about the gluten-free vegan muffin we had at our hotel restaurant.  We stayed at the lovely and very dog-friendly Stanford Inn.
medocino ravens restaurant

We ate several meals at their vegan restaurant, Raven's Restaurant.  I must say it was nice to eat fresh veggies from the inn's organic gardens.  The blueberry muffins were my favorite thing they served.  They tasted healthier than the usual white flour version, but were good in the way that olive oil muffins are good.  You taste the difference, but love them for what they are.  I think these muffins were made using polenta.  I'm going to be doing some experimenting with polenta this week.  I'm now determined to come up with a gluten free muffin that tastes as good as the ones we had for breakfast yesterday.

We also had a really good vegan dish at a french restaurant called Cafe Beaujolais during our stay in Mendocino.  It was breaded and fried tempeh with a spicy coconut sauce and rice.  I was curious about how they made the vegan breading (Okay, I was skeptical.  I was convinced they used eggs), and so asked the chef.  He said he dips the tempeh in coconut milk, then dips it in cornstarch, then rolls it in polenta, and finally fries it in oil.  Again with the polenta.  I'm very excited to try out this breading method at home.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake With Whipped Coconut Cream

vegan strawberry shortcake

My favorite dessert is strawberry shortcake.  Actually, I'm pretty sure most desserts are my favorite.  Today, as I was in between things I spent some time looking at food porn on Pinterest.  It got the better of me, and I decided that I had to make something new.  I have had a bottle of strawberry extract in my baking cupboard for over a year (ok, more like two) and have never found a reason to use it.  I also had several cans of chilled coconut milk and a big bag of strawberries left over from Sunday's garden party.  So, with the perishable ingredients in desperate need of a reason to have lived, I decided to make strawberry shortcakes.

This was a very quick dessert to whip up, taking only about 30 minutes total.  This recipe makes 8 shortcakes.

Strawberry Shortcakes with Whipped Coconut Cream
recipe by Emily Haydel


For the shortcake:

2 cups   all purpose flour
4 Tbs    baking powder
3/4 tsp   salt
2 Tbs    sugar
2 Tbs    earth balance (or other non-dairy margarine)
2 Tbs    earth balance (melted)
2 Tbs    non-hydrogenated shortening (I use spectrum brand)
3/4 cup soy creamer
1 pint    strawberries tops removed and sliced

For the whipped coconut cream:**

2 cans      full fat coconut milk chilled in the fridge over-night
1/2 tsp     xanthan gum (you can find this in the baking aisle of most health stores)*
3/4 cup    powdered sugar
1 tsp        vanilla extract (Or extract of your choice.  For this recipe I used strawberry AND vanilla)

Directions for the whipped coconut cream:

1.  Remove cans from the fridge carefully- hold them level and don't turn upside down

2.  Open the cans.  The coconut milk will have separated.  The cream will be at the top.  Scoop this out into a mixing bowl.  Do not add the coconut water, you want this to be thick and creamy.

3.  Whisk the coconut cream in the bowl until it is smooth.  Add the xanthan gum, powdered sugar and whisk again until  the mixture becomes thick and fluffy

4.  Add the vanilla (or other extract) and whisk again.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

vegan whipped cream

Directions for the shortcakes:

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees F

2.  Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.

3.  Add earth balance and shortening and pulse until the flour looks a little grainy, like course cornmeal.

4.  Pour flour mixture into a bowl and stir in soy cream.

5.  Drop by heaping spoonful onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush on melted earth balance.  Bake for 15 minutes.

6.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire cooling rack.

7.  Suddenly remember you need to get the dog to the vet's in 10 minutes.

8.  Rush around like a crazy person looking for your phone and keys.

9.  Find your keys and give up on the phone, take the dog to the vet

10.  Return from the vet with a healthier dog, wash your hands, and return to the kitchen to assemble your shortcakes.

11.  Slice the shortcakes horizontally.  Place a layer of sliced strawberries on the bottom layer.  Put a heaping spoonful of the whipped coconut cream on top of that.  Top with another layer of strawberries and replace the cap of the shortcake.  Serve at once and call it dinner, if you like.

*A word about xanthan gum:  Xanthan gum is often used in baking as a binding agent.  It is quite expensive, but a very little goes a very long way.  I use it pretty frequently in things that need to have a thick, custard-like texture.  I'm going to keep using it because it gives me an excuse to use the letter "x" in my blog.

**Whipped coconut cream is my vegan answer to whipped cream.  It has a slight coconut flavor to it that I think works well in fruity and chocolatey concoctions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Picnic Bakery Hosts A Garden Party

garden party
Emily of Picnic Bakery

I spent the past month composing a playlist full of songs about sunshine and gardens.  This was my version of a prayer to the weather gods, and I am so pleased to report that it worked like a charm!  This past weekend, San Francisco had the VERY rare true summer weather.  I mean, it was actually hot enough for summer dresses.  You're welcome, San Francisco.  If anyone is interested in this magical musical cure for fog, you can play it here: Picnic Garden Party Playlist.  It's three hours of summery lyrical cheer.  

So, why was I so concerned with this weekend's weather?  Well, I had a garden party/photo-shoot planned for Picnic Bakery.  Thanks to the attendance and help of several beautiful, stylish, and hungry people, the party went off without a hitch.  

I spent two days of non-stop baking for this event.  I was actually in a baking trance.  I'm not kidding.  At the end of day two, I walked into the bathroom and realized I hadn't seen the room all day.  I slowly climbed into the shower to let the flour and sugar run off.  That's when, due to a pain on my foot, I discovered that not only had I developed a blister without noticing, but it had also popped.  It was like a spell had lifted and suddenly EVERYTHING hurt.  I proudly whined about all my hard work and battle wounds for the rest of the night as I made bunting with my very tolerant and very helpful boyfriend. 

The next morning,  Ralph and I loaded the car with boxes filled with desserts and glassware.  We headed to the Red Vic and set up two tables in a private garden behind the building.  It was a gorgeous morning to be in a flower garden:

Megan and Jenn were the first two people to arrive at the party. They had fascinators in their hair and an adorable vintage suitcase in tow. 

The fabulous Megan & Jenn

Of course, they were fabulous.  These ladies are always stylish, and I encourage you to check out their fashion and food blog, Pork Is The New Black.  They brought a suitcase filled with props for the photo-shoot, including the blue tablecloth in the above photograph and several pretty serving trays.  They kindly helped to hang tarps and bunting and set up tables.  

Soon, more people turned up and a party ensued.  There were lots of pretty floral dresses and lots of smiles:

To drink, we had champagne cocktails and Pimm's with lemonade and sliced fresh fruit:

I may have walked around with both.  At the same time.  Twice.  Don't worry, I switched to cucumber water after that.

Finally, let's talk about the desserts I made:

Chocolate Mousse Trifles~ Layers of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate cookie crumbs, strawberries, and topped with whipped coconut cream:

picnic bakery
Chocolate Mousse Trifles

Gingerbread tiny cakes~ spicy gingerbread with "cream cheese" frosting, topped with candied orange peel:

Gingerbread Tiny Cakes

Peach filled coffee cake~ a rich, "buttery" cake baked with sliced peaches and a cinnamon streusel:

Peach Filled Coffee Cake

Peanut butter pies~ Chocolate cookie crust filled with peanut butter mousse and topped with drizzled chocolate:

Peanut Butter Pies

Peppermint pandas~ Chocolate sandwich cookies with a peppermint filling:

picnic bakery
Peppermint Pandas
garden party
The Spread

garden party

I also unveiled my new business cards at the party:

They (along with Picnic's logo) were designed by artist Laura Allen.  She does amazing work and I will be posting more info about her on a future date.  

The party has been over for two days and I'm still washing glasses and packing them away for the next big event.  I've still got six gallons of lemonade to drink.  I put the last of the leftover cake in the compost bin yesterday.  I don't think I'll try to get it back out.  

All of the photographs seen here are courtesy of Ralph Pyne.  Thanks, love!