Hobbit’s Feast.

I got a copy of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition in the mail yesterday. I proceeded to watch it immediately to see which extra scenes and extended sequences were included.

While I don’t quite enjoy the films as much as I do The Lord of the Rings, they still entertain and delight my spirit and for that, I will always love them.

Last fall I made this Hobbit-Lord of the Rings inspired feast that I never posted about. The inspiration for this platter of goods comes directly from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring when the hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry & Pippin) arrive at The Prancing Pony. On the menu: hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter, and half a ripe cheese.

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So Many Artisanal Pizzas.

Grilled Heirloom Tomato Pizza: Basil Pesto, Tofu Ricotta, Wild Arugula on Blue Corn Crust.
Grilled Heirloom Tomato Pizza: Basil Pesto, Tofu Ricotta, Wild Arugula on Blue Corn Crust.
Grilled Pear Pizza: Bail Pesto, Tofu Ricotta, Red Onion on Herbed Crust.
Grilled Pear Pizza: Bail Pesto, Tofu Ricotta, Red Onion on Herbed Crust.
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BBQ “Chicken” Pizza w/ Beyond Meat, Pineapple, Red Onion, Cilantro & Guava BBQ Sauce.

The first two pizzas were recipes from the new Plum Bistro cookbook. I saw them and knew I had to make them at once. I cannot express how delicious they were. The grilled pear one was one of the best flavor combos I’ve ever had. I’ve never been to the actual restaurant, but the cookbook definitely doesn’t disappoint for me. The tomato pizza was equally good and perfect for summer.

I decided to go ahead and make the pineapple pizza because I saw it as a recipe suggestion on the awesome Beyond Meat package I was sampling. I wanted to spice it up so instead of using a regular bbq sauce, I found this recipe for guava bbq sauce and made it. It’s VERY tangy. In a good way. Everything on this pizza pairs great together too. Make them all. Make them all and eat them!

 

Preservin’.

For the last two years I have been experimenting with creating and infusing some homemade liqueurs and such. I made apple brandy in 2011, nocino, sloe gin, limoncello and brandied cherries in 2012. Now I have a batch of homemade coffee liqueur (Kahlua) infusing in the pantry, brandied kumquats and a 90 proof limoncello going (thanks to the Saving the Season: Citrus class @ Institute of Domestic Technology). I’m looking forward to when I can get out this spring to pick elderflowers, so I can make my first batch of elderflower liqueur.

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Blood Orange Chiffon Cake.

To be honest, I can’t remember ever eating chiffon cake before. Supposedly it’s very fluffy and rich, made so by being full of eggies.

When I saw this Blood Orange Chiffon cake, I knew I wanted to make it. I have been really inspired by blood oranges this year and have made several desserts featuring them. I don’t know what got into me. Beauty maybe? Because, oh my, blood oranges are gorgeous. I’m not sure I think them more delicious than say, a Valencia orange, but the colors, the colors! I could just look at them all day.

But fast forward to chiffon cake….vegan chiffon cake….I searched everywhere for leads and came up with nothing. I knew I was going to have to experiment on my own….which I like doing, but you see I only had a limited number of blood oranges left for treats. I’m positive I got the absolute last ones of the season and I they had to used for something really special. I couldn’t go just wasting them on ruined vegan chiffon cake. Lucky for me, I used Irvin’s base recipe and just subbed out some things and added some other different things. And more things! I think I came up with something successful. I fed it to some omnivorous friends who seemed to enjoy it. It’s a slightly involved cake, feel free to make the blood orange butter a day or two in advance and then it seems like less work.

*Feel free to double this recipe for two full 9” cakes. The cake pictured is one recipe, baked in two pans. Each layer was then cut in half and then layered with the blood orange fruit butter (recipe follows).

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake

Adapted from Eat the Love

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup unbleached cake flour (I like King Arthur brand)

2/3 cup white whole wheat flour  (I like King Arthur brand)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup pure olive oil

1 cup pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

zest of two blood oranges

Method:

Preheat oven 350°F.

Place all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Place wet ingredients into separate mixing bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combined being sure not to overmix.
Pour batter into a greased 9″ cake pan or split between two pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, using the toothpick test for doneness. If you’re splitting the recipe between 2 pans, check on the cakes after about 18 minutes.  Again, use toothpick test for doneness.

 

Blood Orange Fruit Butter

Ingredients:

¾ c plus two tbsp fresh squeezed blood orange juice

¾ c palm sugar

1 tbsp blood orange zest

pinch sea salt

1 ½ tbsp coconut milk (the full fat canned variety)

1 ½ tbsp tapioca starch

1 ¾ tsp coconut oil

Method:

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, sugar, orange zest, and salt over medium heat, stirring well until the sugar dissolves.

In a very small bowl, whisk the tapioca starch with the coconut milk. Combine with sugar and juice mixture and cook and stir until mixture starts to thicken. Add the coconut oil and stir until combined. Remove mixture from heat. Let cool completely and store in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours. If you like canning, you can pour this butter into a jar or two and process it to use at a later date. Double the recipe for a bigger yield—I originally made twice the listed amount and got almost 4 pints, which was a little two much for one person. I ended up canning the remaining stuff.

For the frosting, I just made a vanilla bean vegan buttercream. Feel free to use your favorite recipe.

Gilcrease Orchard & Farm Fresh Apricots.

The last time I was in North Las Vegas, my friends and I attempted to visit one of the only local produce farms, Gilcrease Orchards, for some u-pick goodies. Unfortunately, they were not yet open for the season so we didn’t get to explore. The good news is, on my most recent Vegas jaunt, the farm was open for business and u-pick vegetables and apricots.

Looks like they’ll have some yummy pears soon 🙂

I was really looking forward to the apricots as their season in California is typically very short and I never knows how the cots will be each season. I haven’t had a good apricot in the past two years. The past two seasons I have bought them (from farmer’s markets and Whole Foods) they were just too sour for anything. I tried cooking them, as apricots on the tart side usually bake well, but no. Sour as could be and not in a delicious Granny Smith sort of way. I am extremely pleased to report that the apricots I picked at Gilcrease Orchards were sweet and delicious. This orchard is not certified organic, but they don’t use any pesticides on the fruit. You can tell, as the cots are a bit on the small side, but what they lack in size, they make up for it deliciousness.

Tree full of Apricots.

Farm Fresh Apricots.

And with these gorgeous and juicy cots, I decided to make Honey-Apricot Bakalava Strudel (adapted from Sunset magazine). I used holistic farm fresh wildflower honey, cardamon, pistachios, almonds and whole wheat filo. I have to admit though, I do enjoy true vegan baklava (with agave or brown rice syrup) a little more than I enjoy it made with honey. It was still really good it that sticky sweet kinda way.

Gilcrease Orchard

7800 N Tenaya Way

Las Vegas, NV 89131

Let There Be Pie.

I recently lost a close family member to cancer. I don’t exactly want to talk about that right here, right now, but I do want to talk about pie. The first few days after the loss, I was overwhelmed with grief. I use the word “grief” as a blanket term to cover the roller coaster of emotions felt when you lose someone who you love dearly. I was finding it hard to carry on, so I decided to make pie. Or well, pies. Turns out there is something about the art of pie making that calms me down. I started to set out ingredients, measure flour, sugar etc. It was nice to have something to do besides cry and be sad. While I am not new to loss, I don’t think we ever get used to it. I know that with time, the acute pain will ease. Until then, let there be pie.

I’m going to share a few pies I made from Vegan Pie in the Sky and then I will be back with a recipe for Blackberry Pie w/ Lemon and Lavender sometime this week. 🙂

First up was this Maple Kissed Blue-Beary Pie. I made a whole wheat, maple crust for this pie rather than using the suggested crust with the recipe (which is actually quite good, but I didn’t think it right for this pie). I needed to cover the blueberries completely with leaves and crust, but as you can see I didn’t do that, so the pie was a little drier toward the top than what I would have liked.

More blueberries. These are the Blueberry Ginger Hand Pies from VPITS. I liked these a lot better than the Maple Kissed Blueberry Pie–not that the pie was bad, but these were awesome. You can’t really tell, but they also have a thin lemon glaze over the outside. I used wild blueberries to make these and I think I prefer them over regular blueberries.

This Peach-Basil Pie was amazing. Completely different from a traditional peach pie, this pie contains no brown sugar or cinnamon. Not that I’m knocking traditional peach pie with cinnamon and/or brown sugar (that ish is goooood). This pie was a nice change though. The inclusion of fresh basil was really yummy and almost made this pie taste like a pizza pie. Peach pizza. Sounds gross, but magically delicious.

This right here is a Cherry-Vanilla Pie. For the crust I busted out my organic vodka, that I have infused with vanilla bean to make it vanilla vodka (leave it long enough and it will eventually become extract). That was the first time I used vodka in a crust. While I typically don’t like vodka as a drink, it was a great addition to this crust.  I also utilized my homemade vanilla cane sugar to add just a touch of sweetness to the crust and used a slightly larger amount to coat the cherries–plus lots of scraped vanilla beans (and by lots I mean 1 1/2). This recipe is my own, not from VPITS–but, most recipes for cherry pie are pretty similar. I had only attempted cherry-apple pie combos before this and never really had a success. Admittedly, I was using the wrong cherries before. I had looked for tart or sour cherries everywhere and could never find them, fresh or frozen….and there is something about syrupy cherries in a can that I can’t get past. Then one lucky day last summer, I found fresh tart cherries at Whole Foods. I bought like 4 or 5 lbs, pitted and froze them. They were what I ended up using for this pie and it was a great success. This has got to be one of the best pies I’ve ever made. I tested it on some people and everyone enjoyed it. But, as mentioned before, a lot of this pie’s wonderfulness had to do with the sour cherries doing their baking magic. Never make a cherry pie with sweet cherries–follow Isa’s advice and enjoy sweet cherries on their own and only use sour cherries for pies. You won’t regret it! Here’s hoping I can track them down again this summer.

Last, but most certainly not least is this wonder of the vegan world; Vegan Lemon Meringue Pie. Say what?!?! Yes. I only ate real meringue once or twice in my life and had never attempted anything even close to making it, so this was a definite first. And I couldn’t be more happy with how this first experiment turned out. While, I am super happy, this was not a perfect pie and could use some tweaks. Oddly, I was most afraid of the meringue not turning out, but what needs the most edits is the curd filling. I researched traditional lemon meringue pie and looked at a lot of pictures. It looked to me as if they are all pretty much the same. Shortcrust, lemon curd/custard filling, meringue topping. I made a lemon curd with lemon juice and some starch. I think next time, I should definitely do a tofu base and use some natural food coloring to dye it yellow. I’ve made lemon bars in the past and tofu sets the best. I could also add agar to my preexisting curd, but I think a tofu base is really the right direction here. An agar and starch base can always be an alternative for those who can’t have soy. Anyhow, so I’d like to make a better setting curd or filling and next time I need to balance out the sweetness of the sugar with the tartness of the lemon. There was something about the filling that was just too lemony-sweet. It tasted great, but I could only manage a few bites at a time. I also didn’t pile on all of the meringue like with traditional pies. I sort of wanted equal amounts of filling and meringue. Now I see that maybe people pile that meringue so high because the filling is so bold tasting. Either way, I’m going to replace the curd with a more subtle, yet equally as delicious lemon custard with a tofu base. For those who may be reading and thinking, ew tofu in sweets? You can’t taste it AT ALL. It serves strictly as a replacement for eggs and such. I’ve made countless desserts with tofu as base, from lemon bars, to pumpkin pie to chocolate cake and people love them. They can never taste the tofu and usually shocks and surprises them that it’s even in there.

This picture makes the pie look like it hadn’t set all of the way, but this was actually a day-old slice that I left in the fridge. Meringue sorta looses it’s umph after a night in the fridge. Either way, vegan meringue!!! Right?!?!