“Cake or death?” “Is it vegan?”

Featured

Cake:

  • 1 3/4 Cup Unbleached Cake Flour
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Boiling Coffee
Baking is something we love to do together around here even though we rarely have a sweet tooth.  Since adopting a no processed foods lifestyle, we really stopped baking much of anything except wheat breads.  I made this recipe into a two layer round cake and had enough batter left over to put a thin layer into a rectangle cake pan and it was the perfect consistency to make a swiss cake roll.  This cake doesn’t rise much but it is very moist and sturdy.  It would also work very well as cupcakes, in a single layer sheet cake or whatever you can think up!
Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare your “egg”.  Ener-G calls for 2 Tablespoons of water for every 1.5 teaspoons.  You can use any egg replacer like chia or flax if you like.  Start by mixing the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  I use King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour.  I prefer a less rich chocolate flavor so I only used a scant 3/4 cup of cocoa – closer to 1/2 cup, but there is room for fluctuation depending on your taste.  Then put the Ener-G, almond milk, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla into a mixer and beat on medium for a few minutes.  Any kind of non dairy milk will work and oil can be used in place of peanut butter.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until well mixed, then add the boiling coffee and continue to mix until smooth.
Pour the batter into your greased cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.  You will know it is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the sides start to pull away from the edge of your pan.  Once your cake is in the oven, it’s on to the frosting!

Frosting:

  • 1/4 Cup Earth Balance
  • 16oz Vegan Cream Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
The frosting is easy.  Throw your ingredients into the mixer and beat on medium speed until it’s smooth and fluffy.  Because there are no dry ingredients, this frosting is very soft.  Refrigerate it immediately after mixing and leave it there until ready to use.  If you prefer a thinner and sweeter frosting, only use one 8oz package of cream cheese.
When the cake comes out, I put it directly into the freezer uncovered and leave it there until it is frozen firm.  This makes it much easier to handle the layers for cutting and frosting.  When it’s time to frost the cake, use a long bread knife to cut the tops off of the layers so they are flat and stackable.  Apply a layer of frosting to the top of the bottom half, then stack on the top half and cover the entire cake with a thick, even layer of frosting.  If there’s any left after the initial serving, stick it in the freezer!  We love it as a frozen treat!
As I mentioned in the beginning, I used the leftover batter to make a thin layer for a swiss cake roll.  As soon as it cooled, it was the perfect pliability for rolling up but I waited a bit too long with this one and it dried a little as it sat waiting for me to finish the big cake.  When I finally got around to trying to roll it up it cracked a little but I’m certain it would have looked beautiful had I shaped it first.  Either way it tasted great!  We’re so happy to have a sugar free, non processed go-to for desserts and celebrations!

I’m so excited that we can once again say “Cake, please”!

Eddie Izzard – Cake or Death

Ingredients

  • Cake:
  • 1 3/4 Cup Unbleached Cake Flour
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Boiling Coffee
  • Frosting:
  • 1/4 Cup Earth Balance
  • 8oz Vegan Cream Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Mix together dry ingredients and set aside
  3. In a stand mixer, combine the Ener-G, milk, peanut butter, agave and vanilla and mix on medium for a few minutes
  4. Add the dry ingredients and continue to beat on medium for two more minutes
  5. Add the boiling coffee and mix in
  6. Divide into two greased cake pans
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake begins to pull away from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  8. Frosting:
  9. Combine the Earth Balance, Vegan cream cheese and powdered Sugar and whip on medium until smooth and fluffy
  10. Refrigerate until ready to use

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegan

Diet tags: Vegan

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Must Love Dogs. Till The End.

I was 17 when my first dog found me.  I had just finished high school and was arriving for my first job of the day (I had three).  I was starting my morning with a little before-school nanny service at my former Biology teacher’s home.  Every morning I would get her kids up and off to school before heading to my college classes.  This particular morning was different and definitely one I’ll never forget.

As I pulled up in front of the house and parked in the street, a giant wolf started approaching my car.  He had one blue eye, stood tall enough to peer straight through the driver’s side window of my gold ’87 volvo, and he stood there just looking at me.  I turned the car off and contemplated what to do.  He was clearly a dog of the Husky variety but with Cujo/bear proportions.  Having zero dog experience, I wasn’t overly familiar with the multitude of dog breeds and didn’t know about the gentle giant that is the Alaskan Malamute.   I was in for the treat of a lifetime – but not just yet.  I still had a wolf outside my car door at 5AM.

I honked the horn quickly and he didn’t flinch.  I needed to get inside to let Mrs. Horton leave for work so I decided that I’d open the door and if he did anything weird, I’d retreat.  I cracked the door and he took a step back so I flung it open.  As he stood back looking at me, his calm demeanor emanated so I stepped out of the car.  Before I could reach to lock the door he shoved the crown of his giant head into my leg and snuzzled me.  He was sweet but he smelled horrid and had obviously been on the lam for some time.  He followed me as I walked to the door and waited on the doorstep as I went inside to ask Mrs. Horton about the beast outside.

Even though he was smelly and covered in filth, we thought he was amazingly beautiful and with beauty like that, he must be a girl.  No one was interested in digging through the double coat in violation of his privacy to check so we assumed he was a female for the better part of three days.  No one knew where he came from but he hung out in the neighborhood when the kids got off the bus and played with them until dinner and then disappeared into the night until the next morning when he would meet me at my car, follow me to the door, and wait there until I left for school.  He did this for a week and during that week, the kids made signs, I called all the vets and shelters, no one was missing him.  I had already grown so attached to this dog, I had to do something.

In college, working three jobs and still living at home, I wasn’t able to keep him.  I talked about him to my parents and at work every day and finally worked out a plan to get him a home.  The head chef at the resort I worked at, Hank, was looking for a dog for his kids, this one was awesome and needed a home.  I wanted to make sure he was totally taken care of and Hank didn’t have the money to cover vet bills so I volunteered to collect him, take him to the vet and get a clean bill of health before bringing him out to their house.  My parents agreed to let him stay until his appointment.  To this day my mom still thinks it was all a ploy for me to keep him, but I know she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The vet diagnosed him with heart worms and the treatment would be a six week process where he would have to have multiple appointments and be kept calm at all times – any excess of activity could kill him, even his own excitement.  By the time of the first appointment, my mom was already in love with him, she was secretly excited that he was going to have to stay for another 6 weeks.  He truly is a kindred spirit to all with kind spirits.  It was probably within the next 48 hours that my mom turned to me, sitting on the couch with his paw on her lap (he pets you back when you stop petting him) and said “you know he’s not leaving here, right?”.  That was it.  The dog and I had each other forever.  He needed a name.

He seemed so spiritual and sacred that I immediately went to Native American names, maybe it was the wolf-like appearance but he seemed like he should have a dreamcatcher draped around his neck at all times and that he would shift into a raven at any moment and fly away.  On some list somewhere, the name Merlin said it meant “sea fortress” or “from a place by the sea”.  Well, when he found me he smelled of foul seawater, we live at the beach and his one blue eye made him ultra wizardy so that was it.  I looked no further.  Merlin and I were soulmates and it was the beginning of an incredible journey.

In 2001 the vet estimated that Merlin was about a year old.  He could have been older, but we called it a year.  He had a bb in his ear and on the top of his snout.  My heart breaks to think about what my gentle bear-dog went through before he found me.  I can only hope that now, 12 years later, he’s completely forgotten.  Loud bangs still make him run inside to cower though.  I long to know what it was like to hold him as a puppy.  Whoever gave up this wonderful soul and allowed him to be subjected to whatever got bb’s embedded in his face really missed out on the lesson of a lifetime.

After spending more than a decade with Merlin, we’ve grown into one on a soul level.  Like twins with a secret language, inflections in his voice mean different things, he’s at my side with his gentle breath when I’m upset just before I even realize I need his love, and so many other little special moments that we share, just knowing that we know.  For more than a decade he’s always been there, like my mom, always there with endless gentle kindness to ease pain, teach lessons and guide the way.  Over the years he has followed me everywhere.  We’ve hiked and partied, camped and beached, and moved – a LOT.  I think for the better part of this relationship I’ve depended on him much more than he depended on me.

Now that he’s getting older, I cherish every bit of our special moments more than ever.  I get choked up when I see posts about elderly dogs needing homes, I can’t imagine Merlin being homeless now, at the end of his run, after giving so much unconditional love.  I’m finding out now, for the first time, how much things change when your dog ages.  He’s slower – at everything.  He has a harder time hearing me and doesn’t always jump up when I enter a room or something sounding like a leash jingles.  He used to drag me down the street and now he strolls around, in circles sometimes!  Getting to know the old man Merlin is a completely different journey full of more love than I ever knew I’d feel.

We have a younger dog, Goober, he’s a three year old Shar Pei and Boxer mix.  He runs around like Merlin used to and Merlin has taken to sensing when he’s barreling down the same path from behind and hunkering down until Goober flies by so he doesn’t get knocked over.  Because he’s kind of unsteady with his steps these days, Merlin lets me know with a special voice that he’s waiting for me to escort him up the three steps from the living room to the rest of the house or outside past the porch.  He’ll wait until I’m there to put a hand on his back and let him know that I’m there if he stumbles, and I’ve had to catch him about 20% of the time, the number grows as time goes on.  However much it saddens me that he’s aging, I treasure the opportunities I have to baby him and attend to his needs like he has done for me for so many years.

Now I’m almost 30 and he’s pushing 13…or more.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to him not hearing me come in the door.  My heart stops every time I have to go find him.  But when I see him sleeping sweetly and catch my breath, I love being able to softly stroke his head and whisper sweet things to him until he wakes.  The flutter in his eyes when he realizes I’m there and it’s time to do something exciting is a feeling I’ll never stop reliving – just like the day he found me.  He’s getting old and our time is running short but no matter what changes we’ve lived through together, the moment our eyes meet is still the same as it was on the first day.  It’s always time for an adventure.

 

Best Granola Recipe Ever

This is the only granola recipe you’ll EVER need.  The ingredient list is pretty basic and anything can be substituted.

  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 2 1/2 Cups Steel Cut Oats
  • 2 Cups Raw Nuts (Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Walnuts, etc.)
  • 1 Cup Raw Seeds (Sunflower, Pumpkin, etc.)
  • 1 Shake Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Shakes Ground Ginger
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Coffee Extract
First, combine the coconut oil, sugar, and extracts in a small saucepan over low heat.  Like I said before, ANYTHING can be substituted!  I would say anything except the sugar and oil because that’s the glue that holds it all together.  So, if you’d like to experiment with other extracts just keep the measurements the same and keep it interesting!  My favorite combo is the vanilla/coffee one and that is why I listed it in the recipe.
While the oil, sugar and extract are melting into each other, mix the dry ingredients.  If you prefer your nuts whole, leave them whole.  I prefer to give them a quick run through the chopper.  If you prefer roasted nuts to raw ones throw them on a baking tray and in the oven until they are roasted just under your liking before mixing them into the recipe.  I’ve found that a good way to give your granola a peanut buttery flavor is to over roast and then chop raw peanuts before mixing them in.  You can also throw in a handful or two of carob chips or dried fruit or berries.
Once your granola is mixed and the oil and sugar is blended, mix the two together evenly coating all the dry ingredients.  Preheat the oven to 250F and spread the granola into your baking pans.  I use rectangle, bar and muffin cup silicone baking dishes but you can also line a baking dish with parchment paper.  If you’d like granola bars then tightly pack the uncooked granola into your baking dish, for more of a cereal, just drop the clumps onto your dish and put it in the oven.  Bake anywhere from 60 to 75 minutes, the longer you bake the crunchier it will get.  I usually prepare them all as bars and use the crumbles that fall away in storage for cereal.  This granola in a bowl of cold almond milk is by far the BEST cereal I’ve ever had.

Recipe: Basic Granola Recipe

Summary: Easy and versatile basic granola recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 2 1/2 Cups Steel Cut Oats
  • 2 Cups Raw Nuts (Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Walnuts, etc.)
  • 1 Cup Raw Seeds (Sunflower, Pumpkin, etc.)
  • 1 Shake Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Shakes Ground Ginger
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Coffee Extract

Instructions

  1. Mix oil, sugar and extracts in small pot over low heat on the stove
  2. Chop nuts and seeds
  3. Mix chopped nuts and seeds with oats
  4. Combine the oil/sugar mixture with the dry mixture
  5. spread into silicone baking dish
  6. Bake at 250F for 60 to 75 minutes

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Happy Life

I reflect a lot.  But sometimes it takes a special moment to bring me back and really make me remember and give a special, soulful, emotional credit to those who have helped shape me into the person that I am.  I have mountains of words to speak of my parents and my childhood caretakers that gave me my roots, but as I grew, there were some very special people who sprouted my branches and I ran into one of them today.

As a child in high school I got a silly job as a pizza delivery girl on a resort.  The pizza kitchen was inside a banquet kitchen for the whole resort and there was a very special General Manager, or should I say Micro Manager, who single handedly ran the entire operation.  In those simple words I can say she taught me that if you want something done right you HAVE to do it yourself.  And she did.  As a nobody in the huge operation of the resort, I followed her lead and barely knew her but when the pizza operation came to an end for financial reasons, she called me into her office to see what I had.  I didn’t know what was coming, but it was the start of my path.  Looking back, I feel like she already knew what was in store for me but I was clueless.  I got word that I was being laid off but Kely wanted to meet with me and I put on my best high school clothes and arrived at her office 15 minutes before said appointment because that’s what my mom taught me to do.

I sat.  It was easier than I anticipated and she praised my year or so of dedication and explained that she wanted to keep me in the company.  I knew nothing of what she was speaking but I accepted graciously because it was a job.  I still had one.  I learned that I was to be thrusted from dredges of the catering kitchen to the front line…the FRONT DESK.  I’ve always aimed to please and in this moment I was scared but I accepted with a hearty smile and adjusted to my new schedule and my new duties.

I could write forever on my experiences of the Front Desk.  It was the start of everything.  I learned how to say yes to all guests even if I couldn’t give them what they wanted and that keeping heavy objects on the counter was a bad idea because they were possible flying missiles for the disgruntled douchebags that like to throw their weight (or whatever is within their reach) around.  I was a tender-hearted, very naiive girl that cried the first time a guest yelled at me but Kely made it all better.  She lead by example and taught me what it was to be a great manager, a great person, the kind of hard worker that everyone should strive to be.

When high school ended, I went to college to be a zookeeper and was volunteering at the local wildlife refuge.  Kely took a special interest in all of my endeavors.  She allowed me to use our resort’s facilities for fundraisers and to foster baby raccoons while I was at work.  She entertained every avenue I wanted to delve into while teaching me how to do it the right way all the while.  I think a lot of people experience the nurturing that she provided but never grow into the greater good that allows for the appreciation of it.  She was always steadfast and professional, private and stoic, but always had a lesson to give with her actions.  On random late nights, you could catch her just needing her Diet Coke and wanting desperately to unwind from the multiple weddings and group functions we had just expertly executed.  I say we, but I really mean HER.  She was the micro manager that made everything happen.  And after all of that, when she FINALLY made it home, she would STILL come back in a heartbeat to balance my credit card machine if I was too retarded to figure it out myself.

At the time, she was a figure.  A manager, like the president.  Someone you take for granted because you assume they’re just doing their job without taking the moment to think about them as a person with a life.  Kind of like how you grow up and realize your parents are people with feelings and lives and relationships.  She spoke briefly about growing up without a mother when it was relevant, but it never hit me until I grew up and thought about it.  She ultimately became the most wonderful mother to everyone she touched and taught.  However private and stoic, she tenderly mothered all of us and taught with the greatest example ever.  Her actions.

So I ran into her today at a professional function.  I was proud to tell her who I have become, I was proud to tell her about this website that I’m blogging on.  But I really didn’t get the chance to thank her.  I took public speaking classes in college but they pale in comparison to the opportunity she gave me to construct and execute nature tours for our snowbirds.  While working under her wing she allowed me to share every dream I had and live it.  She let me build a family of ducks for our pond, plan the theme for the summer parties on the resort and incorporate wildlife awareness to all of our guests because that was what I believed in and through her allowance and nurturing of my dreams, she believed in me.

There are no words to thank someone for the immense fortune of what she gave me.  She taught me how to be a professional, how to manage people but what that really means is how to manage life.  Every professional decision I’ve made has been in the shadow of her light and I still thrive as the entrepreneur that she taught me to be.  Every professional success I have, I attribute to her…and even when I feed the ducks, I think of her and how her guidance shaped me.  I hope she knows what an incredible life she has lived and what an amazing example she has been.  Life is good for so many reasons but it’s especially good because of Kely.

 

Easy, Peasy, Non-Wheaty Whole Wheat Pita Bread Recipe

In a quest to eliminate processed foods from our diet, I found myself baking batches upon batches of whole wheat bread to keep the freezer stocked and adding an extra hour to taco or quesadilla night because I had to make the whole wheat tortillas first (and they aren’t as enjoyable when they’re not fresh off the griddle).

 

This pita recipe is an AWESOME happy medium.  It’s so versatile that it can be used for sandwiches or breakfast wraps, it’s two ply nature means it can be left thick, stuffed or separated to make for a thinner, tortilla like wrap. They make great personal pizzas and cut into pieces, they even bake or fry up into the perfect chip. If you already know exactly what your pitas will be used for, you can tailor their flavor with garlic and herbs and I highly recommend doing so.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup of warm water

2 teaspoons of instant yeast

3 1/4 cups of white wheat flour

2 teaspoons of sea salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

My better half is not a huge fan of the flavor of wheat (I’m convinced this will change but for now, I deal and try to accommodate). King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour behaves much like all purpose flour without all the nasty additives and so far, has been a crowd pleaser. In order to simulate the brick ovens traditionally used to cook pitas in the mediterranean and middle east, your oven rack must be moved to the lowest setting with a baking stone or cast iron pan, preheated to 475F for at least an hour before you begin baking.

I always let the yeast and warm water chill out in the bowl for a few minutes, until it starts to get a little foamy, then I dump the rest of the ingredients in. You’re going to need a stand mixer. Yes, you technically can do this by hand and if you do, I’d LOVE to hear about it.  Using the paddle, mix the ingredients (speed 2) until all the flour is moist and then switch to the hook.

Mix with the hook on speed 4 until the dough forms a nice soft ball. It should have the consistency of fresh, hand-warmed ball of Play-Doh. Speed 4 will seem excessive, and your mixer might threaten to take off in to space, but it’s necessary. (My main reason for not wishing to try this without a stand mixer) I do stop it a few times and smash the dough down into the bottom of the bowl when it starts to seem like the hook is chasing the ball around the bowl, but it only takes about 10 minutes to reach the proper consistency. Next, oil a large bowl and turn your dough ball over once in the oiled bowl to completely coat it with the oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rise. For oiling, I use a non aerosol olive oil mister because it eliminates the preservatives and propellants that store bought cooking sprays contain.

You can leave the dough to rise overnight if you’re preparing it ahead of time but it should be ready to work with after about an hour and a half. Separate it into 8 equal pieces. If you’re super serious, you can get fancy things like a dough cutter and a silicone mat. I LOVE my awesome kitchen gear, but it’s totally not necessary and a lightly floured countertop or cutting board will work just as well. This is usually when I arrange the oven shelves and turn it on to preheat.

Roll each piece into a ball and then lightly flatten them into thick discs. Keep the pieces you’re not working with covered with a damp cloth to help retain their moisture. The pitas will not puff properly in the oven if they are too dry. Once all the pieces are rolled and flattened, cover them with an oiled piece of plastic wrap and let them rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes (I usually move onto some other task and get back to them in about 25-30 minutes).

If you left your discs of dough rising to go start some hummus, baba ganoush, or olive salad to enjoy with your fresh pita, the 20 minutes will be over in no time. Take the discs out one by one and roll them out with a rolling pin to about a quarter inch thickness. I usually do two batches at a time and as I finish each one, I stack them on top of one another under the damp cloth. When they are all done, you will need to remove several and lay them out to rest, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes before you can start baking them. As long as you have 5 or more out from under the cloth and resting, you can cycle through them, replacing them as you put them in the oven and all of the uncooked pitas should get enough time to rest.

Quickly and carefully lay them flat on the ungreased baking stone or cast iron cookware and close the oven. In about 2-3 minutes, they should be fully puffed and ready to flip. Turn them over with a spatula and bake for about a minute longer. Remove from the oven and continue the process until they’ve all fluffed to the perfect pita goodness that they are. These pitas freeze well and if you plan to use them or a portion of them for personal pizzas or any warm dish that require them to be reheated, I recommend slightly undercooking them so that they are still moist and pliable when you incorporate them into future recipes.

 

Recipe: Whole Wheat Pita Bread

SummaryGreat, healthy bread alternative. Use for wraps, pizzas, sandwiches and more!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups of white wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix yeast and warm water in bowl, let stand until foamy
  2. Add remaining ingredients
  3. Mix with paddle attachment on speed two until moistened
  4. Switch to dough hook
  5. Mix on speed 4 until soft (about 10 minutes)
  6. Turn over once in oiled bowl
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in fridge for at least 90 minutes
  8. Separate into 8 equal pieces
  9. Move baking rack to lowest setting and place stone or cast iron on the rack
  10. Preheat oven to 475F
  11. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten into little discs
  12. Keep pieces you’re not working with covered with a damp cloth
  13. Cover discs with oiled plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes
  14. Roll them out with a rolling pin to about a quarter inch thickness
  15. Take several out from under the damp cloth to rest uncovered for about 10 minutes before baking
  16. Place dough directly on baking stone or cast iron and let rise until fully puffed (about 2 minutes)
  17. Flip and allow to cook for an additional minute

Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegan

Diet tags: Low calorie

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)