Lavender Fudge Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Beer

Lavender Fudge Cupcake w/ Strawberry Beer

Over the weekend I met up with some friends to attend a Spork Foods cooking class. Afterwards, we had planned to go to the movies. So naturally I exclaimed to myself, “what a perfect opportunity to make cupcakes!” But what cupcakes to make?!? I’ve been on a lavender kick this summer, last summer it was the green zebra variety of heirloom tomatoes. I decided to make these Lavender Fudge Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Beer. A recipe I adapted from Quick and Easy: Vegan Celebrations by Alicia C. Simpson. I used Abita Strawberry Lager for the beer, but the strawberry flavor was not too pronounced. Feel free to use your favorite quality craft beer.

Lavender Fudge Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Beer

Adapted from: Quick and Easy: Vegan Celebrations by Alicia C. Simpson

Ingredients:

6 oz. strawberry beer

1/4 c canola oil

1/4 c non-dairy milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lavender extract

1/4 c plus 2 tbsp vegan sour cream– I like Follow Your Heart brand

2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 c plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 c loosely packed light brown sugar

1/2 c unbleached granulated cane sugar

2 tsp dried lavender buds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Recipe Chocolate Ganache–recipe follows

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake/muffin tin with liners.

Whisk beer, oil, milk, extracts, sour cream, applesauce, and apple cider vinegar in medium to large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Add cocoa, brown sugar, and cane sugar and whisk until smooth. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, dried lavender and the flour and mix until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 way full. Bake 20-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean.

Rich Chocolate Ganache

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

Ingredients: I used different versions of the ingredients listed in the book–not really sure if it is okay to post, but it’s only 3 ingredients so I’m doing it.

1/4 c almond milk

4 oz dark chocolate

2 tbsp maple syrup

Bring almond milk to gentle boil. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Stir with rubber spatula. Enjoy!

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Crepe Maker.

Wild Mushroom & Frisée Crepe

Vegan Crepes. They exist. They’re delicious. They’re easy to make. Basically, you should go ahead and make vegan crepes right now. I know what some of you must be thinking. Crepes are made of eggs! No. Not these. Thanks to Vegan Yum Yum, you too, can now make vegan crepes in a snap.

The picture above is one of the recipes listed on the Vegan Yum Yum site and it is magnificent. The only difference is that I used a combination of chanterelle and morel mushrooms, rather than chanterelle and trumpet. I don’t think I could find trumpet mushrooms at the time and I had never had morels, so I went for it. The love affair that began with morels is a another blog post for another day.

Today, I’d like to talk to you about Plum Crepes w/ “Ricotta” & Honey. I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for these crepes and I knew I wanted to make them. They sounded so delicious to me! But alas!!! They were far from vegan, made with eggs and dairy ricotta cheese. So, I decided to veganize them. Naturally, I went straight to Vegan Yum Yum for the crepe recipe, but added a small bit of local honey as well as freshly ground nutmeg to the batter. I made the sweet ricotta recipe from Veganize This! by Jenn Shagrin, used mint from my porch garden, slivered almonds, and a tad bit more local honey.

Oh, hello there. Sweet Ricotta w/ Meyer Lemon Zest, Sauteed Plums, Mint, Slivered Almonds, Local Honey

For the plums, I used a combination of beautiful black, red, and green plums as well as one yellow and red speckled pluot. I should have taken pictures of them because they were gorgeous. In fact, I will try to take more pictures of ingredients before they turn into recipes. Sounds like a good idea. I had found sugar plums at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, but couldn’t locate them this week, so I went with the others, which were equally as good. Plums are in season now, as well as pluots and other luscious stone fruit. Get to your local farmer’s market and pick some up. My personal favorite are Mirabelle plums, mostly cultivated in France, but I have been lucky enough to get them from local farmers in LA in previous summers. They are a beautiful golden color and are so sweet and juicy. I adore them, so if you happen upon them in LA, please let me know where.

But right now, the only thing you should really be doing is making the crepes from Vegan Yum Yum and adding your own yummy fillings or, veganize your favorite crepe recipe. Or try the recipe from Smitten Kitchen if you’re in the mood for something tasty and sweet.

Plum Crepes w/ "Ricotta" & Local Honey

Strawberry-Basil Cupcakes w/ Lemon Buttercream

Strawberry-Basil Cupcake w/ Lemon Buttercream

Happy Saturday to the world! I’m having a rather lovely time not really getting out of bed this morning! And by bed, I of course mean mattress on the floor. I might even be so bold as to take another lazy cat nap after this new post. Ahhhh, I love when you have a day or some time without work or any obligations to do whatever it is that you want. Like be a lazy ass, as in me right meow. 🙂

I don’t remember where I got the idea for these cupcakes, but at some point I was thinking that strawberry, lemon and basil would make good friends together in some kind of treat. I also love to use herbs in sweets, so I was excited to make these cupcakes. I have made them a few times and fed them to all types of people, including omnivores who could not tell that they were vegan….as omnis often can’t with my cupcakes. I vow to never feed omnivore or herbivore a dry, tasteless cupcake and call it vegan. Afterall, I am vegan and I have eaten dry, tasteless vegan cupcakes….I felt like a crime had been committed against me or something….

Anyhow, please enjoy these very moist, very yummy cupcakes with lots of flavor 🙂

The Never-Dry-Always-Flavorful-Strawberry-Basil-Cupcake-with-Lemon- Buttercream

Ingredients:

1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 c unbleached granulated cane sugar

1/2 c canola oil

1 tbsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp strawberry extract– I like this one, homemade w/ organic strawberries!

1 tbsp fresh basil, minced

8 oz fresh strawberries, pureed in food processor or crushed–I suppose you could probably use frozen as well

6-12 strawberries for garnish

A little bit of extra basil, chiffonade for garnish

1 recipe lemon buttercream–recipe follows

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Fill your cupcake tin with liners.

Mix the flour, sugar and baking soda together in medium mixing bowl. In separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine oil, vinegar and the extracts. Add the strawberry puree and stir to combine. Create a well in the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Stir to combine, but be careful not to overmix. This batter will be very thick, like a paste almost–so don’t worry, it is supposed to be thick. Add the fresh basil. Scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling them about halfway.

Bake for about 30 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let completely before you even think about frosting these bad boys!

Lemon Buttercream

Ingredients:

1/4 c non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening–I like Earth Balance brand

1/4 c Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/4 c confectioner’s sugar–sifted it if it’s very clumpy

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp lemon extract

2 tbsp coconut milk creamer–I like So Delicious brand

Zest of one small lemon–Meyer lemon would be very nice as well!

Method:

Beat shortening and buttery spread in your Kitchenaid or until fluffy. You can also use a hand mixer or a strong arm 🙂 Add the sugar and continue to beat for a few more minutes. Add extracts, lemon zest and coconut creamer, beat an additional 5 minutes or so until fluffy. If you like a ton of frosting, feel free to double the recipe.

Garnish w/ strawberries and basil.

Northwest Lavender “Crab” Cakes w/ Creamy Lavender Honey Sauce

I Pinch.

Crabs. Crabs have a bad reputation because they look like spiders of the ocean, they pinch and they’re an STD. Well, those are different crabs, but still….

Personally, I have always loved crabs….the kind from the ocean, ha-cha-cha-cha-cha! In my meat-eating days, crab was easily one of my favorite meats. I loved all different species of crab, from soft shell to Alaskan King crab and everything in between. I used to enjoy crab straight out of the shell, in the form of crab cakes, real crab salad etc.

Years ago on a trip to Maryland I ate so much crab that I got sick and swelled up from an allergic reaction. My body was like….srsly….enough with the crab already. Anyhow, that was when I started to eat much less crab. I decided a few years after that event to give them up entirely. My family used to go out to Red Lobster fairly often and I was always disturbed by seeing the crab and lobster tanks. Claws rubber banded….tiny tank….just sitting there waiting to be boiled alive….No thanks Red Lobster, no thanks. I always had a hankering to break into Red Lobster someday and steal them all to set them free in the ocean. Now y’all know who to point the finger at when you hear about it on the news 😉

Okay, moving on.

So, now I am vegan and don’t eat le crabs anymore. But, occasionally I still do miss being able to enjoy the taste of crab. Enter Match brand Crab Without The Meat.

Match Faux Lump Crab Meat

Recently I picked up a package of this wonderful faux crab at Figueroa Produce Market in Highland Park. For those of you in LA, Figgy Produce Market is a FANTASTIC and magical place worthy of your dollar. I don’t say that often, but it’s a very well run business, with nice and accommodating staff/owners and they commonly stock hard to find items like tamarind paste, frozen yuca, and canned jackfruit. They are the only location in Southern California that sells Match products. They carry them in the freezer section and they also sell by weight in the deli.

I decided to give the faux crab a try. The guys at Figgy Produce encouraged me to try it, as they were fans and said it was delicious. I decided that I would do a Northwest Lavender Crab Cake w/ a Creamy Honey Sauce.** This recipe is easy and makes for a satisfying and yummy meal. I served this meal to a few friends and they all seemed to enjoy the flavors, so I thought I would share it with you.

Northwest Lavender “Crab” Cakes w/ Creamy Honey Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 c minced celery, feel free to do this with your food processor’s shredding attachment or by hand

1/4 c minced green onion, feel free to do this with your food processor’s shredding attachment or by hand

1/4 c Vegan Mayo–I love/use Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise

1 tsp Ener-G brand egg replacer or equal amount of potato starch or other egg replacer

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp dried lavender–lavender buds create a little flavor explosion in your mouth. If you’d like the flavor a little less like an explosion, grind the lavender in a spice grinder

1/4 tsp unbleached sea salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 c panko bread crumbs–I like Ian’s brand because they make a whole wheat version

1 package Match Crab Without The Meat, defrosted if frozen–or alternatively, you can make a veggie based crab cake from parsnips, carrots, celery, seaweed etc. There is a good veggie based crab cake recipe in “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch”.

2-4 tbsp Earth Balance

Creamy Honey Lavender Sauce–Recipe will follow

Method:

In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix the celery, green onion, Vegenaise, egg replacer, mustard powder, lavender, sea salt and cayenne. Then stir in your faux crab. Mix 1 c of the panko bread crumbs into the mixture. You should now have a mix that you can mold or press together with your hands. If for some reason your mixture is too wet, add more egg replacer and a bit more bread crumbs. Place your remaining bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or on a plate.

Shape the crab mixture into patties. You can decide if you want them bigger or smaller, depending on how many people are going to eat them or whether or not they will be served as an appetizer or a main course. I made about 11 cakes. Press the cakes down into the panko bread crumbs, making sure to get both sides. After you’ve made all of your cakes, store them in the fridge while you make the sauce, set the table or prep your other dishes like salad etc.

When you are ready to make the cakes, heat the Earthy B in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Once the Earthy B is melted and your pan is hot, add 4-5 cakes and cook them for a few minutes on each side. The smaller your cakes are, the faster they will cook–the larger the cakes, you’ll need to add a little more time. Use a spatula to give them a peak. If they look golden, flip ’em! If not, give them another minute. Place the cooked cakes on a plate lined with a paper towel. Wipe out your pan and then do the next batch, using the same routine as mentioned above.

Place a dollop of sauce on top of each cake. If you want to be really fancy, cut up some lemon wedges and parsley for garnish. 🙂

Creamy Honey Lavender Sauce

Ingredients:

3/4 c Vegenaise

1/4 c vegan sour cream–I use Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet Sour Cream

1/4 c lavender honey, or plain honey. If you are a very strict vegan and you do not eat honey, sub agave or brown rice syrup

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tsp dried lavender

unbleached sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional: 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Method:

In a small bowl, whisk everything together. Then add your salt and pepper to taste and the cilantro if you’re using it.

Northwest Lavender "Crab" Cakes w/ Creamy Honey Sauce

I served my cakes w/ a simple side salad of mixed mesclun greens, and homemade croutons.

**I do eat honey! And…da da daaaaa, I still consider myself a vegan. I try to avoid honey when I don’t know or can’t find out what the source of the honey is. I will have to do a separate blog post on this subject, but bees are very important to me, all humans and Earth’s ecosystem and I try my very hardest to support and protect our little pollinators whenever possible. For me, this includes buying humane, unheated, locally sourced honey from bee keepers who deeply care about what they do and act as guardians to these little wonders that literally make our Earth beautiful and fruitful. 🙂 Buzz Buzz!

Millions of Peaches, peaches for me.

Movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches!

At least I think that’s how the lyric goes. Does anyone remember ‘The Presidents of the United States of America” band? I was never really a big fan, but “Peaches” was always a good song. Mostly because peaches are awesome and they really should have their own song. I would write a song about them if I wrote songs, but thanks to the Presidents, I don’t have to. Good lookin’ out guys.

Summer is the season for peaches and all stone fruit. They are at their very best right now, wearing fruit sized tuxedos and trying to charm us all with their vibrant colors and delicious tastiness. I picked up some white peaches at the farmer’s market and they were truly some of the best peaches I have ever eaten. They were organic, but still very big and had a wonderful sweet aroma….like if you closed your eyes and took a deep breath in through your nose you might find yourself on a giant floating peach full of friendly insects and some kid named James.

I decided to go back to the farmer’s market and buy some more white peaches. I brought them home and had planned to make a yummy jam or something with them, but instead I ended up making Balsamic Peaches. I used a very simple recipe from Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen, which is easily one of my top 5 favorite vegan cookbooks of all time. You make a simple marinade of balsamic vinegar, agave and freshly squeezed orange juice (Mr. Terry is all about the freshly squeezed and it’s totes worth it). You marinate the peaches for a few minutes and then saute them in the marinade. The result is a delicious warm dessert or breakfast. Mr. Terry also suggests serving these with Cashew Cream. I took his advice and whipped some up in my good pal, the Vitamix. As a finishing touch, I sprinkled on just a little bit of cinnamon sugar. The peaches are already very sweet, and the marinade is sweet, so I didn’t want to overdo it with the cinnamon sugar.

Balsamic Peaches w/ Cashew Cream & Cinnamon Sugar

More about our friend, the peach:

These little wonders originated in China and are considered part of the almond family. I think that’s why the pits look like almonds!
The only major difference between a peach and a nectarine is that peaches are fuzzy and nectarines are smooth. You can substitute nectarines for peaches in most recipes.

Peach in French, is peche!

Peach Caprese

Before I was vegan, Caprese salad and and sandwiches were one of my favorite things to eat. I thought they were a thing of the past until recently. The wonderful Spork Sisters introduced me to a vegan version of Caprese salad with a balsamic reduction that was out of this world delicious. It turns out that Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella tastes really outstanding right out of the package.

Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella

To change up the traditional Caprese even more, I decided to use fresh organic yellow peaches in place of tomatoes. I also mixed a barrel aged dark balsamic with a little bit of an aged peach white balsamic vinegar that my most amazing friend Bess got for me–I will have to do another blog post on the store she bought it from, Oliana (located in West Hollywood) which is AWESOME. So awesome. Anyhow, the result is a delicious and light snack or lunch. It’s good just as traditional Caprese salad or it’s delicious as a cold sandwich. If you’d like to do a Caprese panini with melted cheese, use the Daiya brand vegan cheese. It melts better than Follow Your Heart, and the FYH brand really shines in its unmelted state.

Peach Caprese

My Beautiful Cousin and the I-Hate-My-Downstairs-Neighbor-Tart

The other day, I got into an argument with my downstairs neighbor. I’m not big on arguments, so it was pretty uncomfortable. I live in an old house built circa 1920. It was converted into 4 apartments in the 1970’s. I have lived here almost 4 years, longer than any of the other tenants. It’s a quirky place to say the least, tucked above some old store fronts on Sunset Blvd in Echo Park. About 2 years ago, I decided to start a small compost heap. I live upstairs, so I picked a spot under my stairs (which are outside of course) for the heap. It has been living as a happy heap of decomposing fruits, veggies, dirt and some dog poop for the past couple of years.

Then, the other day, I suddenly found a giant plastic pot sitting directly on top of the compost. I moved the pot from atop the heap several times, only to find it right back on top of the heap every day. This was my neighbor’s passive-aggressive way of expressing her disapproval of the compost. SIGH. Oh and I forgot to mention that the plant inside the pot was a small dead palm. I have a lil bit of green thumb. I know a dead plant when I see one, and it’s going to take a miracle to bring that poor palm back to life. Anyhow, I looked inside of the pot and the palm was just sitting atop some soil. It wasn’t buried or really “planted”….just sitting in there. Anyhow, to make a long story short (because it’s too long already!) my neighbor came out and an argument ensued over these issues. My neighbor was very unwilling to hear anything I had to say, which is just frustrating when you’re trying to explain your point of view to someone. So, I told her that I was going to go back indoors if we couldn’t come to some kind of agreement regarding her continually placing her dead plant on top of my compost heap. It turned out that her issue was regarding the smell and attraction of flies. I told her she just needed to come upstairs to let me know it needed some dirt cover and I’d be happy to oblige. This was when she responded with “I never see you” in the snottiest way possible…..you know…..because it’s not like I live DIRECTLY ABOVE HER. Double SIGH. Basically, this is just an unhappy and unfriendly human being who feels like it’s too much to talk to a neighbor over something that was bothering her. I’m not even angry anymore, well, because if that’s the way you are, then I really just feel sorry for you. Good luck at having successful relationships in the future….bitch. –I know, I know, I had to!

Moving right along, I decided to bake this tart:

I hate my downstairs neighbor Pear Tart!

In the spirit of the film Waitress, I decided to pour my anger and hate for this awful neighbor into this pear tart, a recipe that I adapted from The Gluttonous Vegan. I also knew that I was going to visit my cousin, who is battling lung cancer. I decided that I would share the story and the tart and that we could have a nice visit and enjoy ourselves laughing about my idiot neighbor. And we did. And then we watched Rio. Awesome day. 🙂

My beautiful and amazing cousin!

I love, love, love my cousin!

*Also, for the record, all of my other neighbors are lovely and now I appreciate how great they are even more! Thank you other neighbors who are nice and not jerks!