Monthly Archives: February 2012

Roughing It

Hi there, friends. I know I have been missing lately, but I promise I have a good reason.

and it's not just because i've been drinking wine. . . although that is one possible explanation.

Once upon a time, I had a housewarming party. And at that same time, my furnace stopped working. So you see, it’s really very simple. . .

1. Housewarming party prep = lots of cleaning, lots of decorating, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

2. Broken furnace = no heat, no hot water, no way to wash dishes, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

3. No cooking = no creativity = no posts

I really struggled there for awhile to come up with creative and healthy dishes that required one pot or less. I didn’t want the dirty dishes to pile up, so I limited my cooking. We waited patiently for five days for the parts to come in to repair our furnace. One particularly cold day, we got our first real snow of winter here in Richmond.

And we had no heat! The thermostat inside my home read 47 degrees F when I woke up the next morning. I spent the morning bundled up in three hoodies, then went to a friend’s house to shower, and then I decided to get cooking.

I had to use the heat from the oven and stove to heat up the house, so I baked a lot of cookies and made some slow-cooked soups on the stove top. I could not properly clean the dishes until the hot water was back on a few days later, but this soup was worth dirtying a pot and ladle.

I will post the recipe later this week – I know this one’s a keeper.

Here are some other ideas I had for one-pot wonders while we were “roughing it” inside our own home.

Now that we are finally getting back into the swing of things, I promise I will catch you up on my kitchen adventures soon, with a recipe for Caldo Verde by the end of the week. In the meantime, I would love to hear your suggestions for one-pot meals and hearty soups while there is still a little chill in the air!

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

As promised, I have a sweet new cupcake recipe for you. This winter citrus is insanely fresh and delicious right now. After enjoying fresh oranges for a few weeks, I decided to feature that nice zesty seasonal flavor in a sweet treat. I could pretend and say I was saving this recipe for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person so my close friends wouldn’t let that fly. The truth is I have been super busy and just haven’t gotten around to writing the post.

I went on a citrus kick a few weeks ago and made lemon cream cupcakes (from allrecipes) and these chocolate orange cupcakes ( my original recipe to follow) one weekend. It is amazing what a difference fresh ingredients can make! The subtle sweet orange flavor that is baked into these chocolate cupcakes is so fresh tasting, with this slight tang from the orange zest. The orange plays really well with the rich cocoa flavor.

I have mentioned before that I am not a natural baker, so when a confection turns out for me, I am genuinely surprised and delighted. Lately I have been experimenting a bit more with baking, and I am starting to get comfortable enough to make up my own recipes. Those work out for me even less frequently so it’s really nice when I come up with something tasty.

I am not even going to lie – this recipe is the second attempt. The first attempt did not work out so well. I am still learning about the delicate chemistry of baked goods. I did not realize that putting finely diced fresh orange in a cupcake would result in the batter soaking up all the orange juice, leaving chunks of stringy pulp behind. Because I believe that cupcake eating should not require post-dessert toothpicks and floss, I tried again. This time with juice.

The first batch never made it to the office. I choked down one or two cupcakes then threw them away. They just weren’t right. I brought the final batch into work and my coworkers approved. Success! I think they were pretty surprised to find out that the cake is vegan. The frosting, however, is not. I couldn’t resist topping these with dark chocolate ganache. I had never made ganache before and I was really surprised at how easy it is! If you want to go the vegan route though, you could use any vegan icing that your little heart desires and I am sure they would still be delightful.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (makes about a dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour and combine with other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir. Mix with a stand/hand mixer until well combined.
  4. Coat a muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with baking cups. Pour batter into cups until each cup is two-thirds full.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to continue cooling.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • Patience

Preparation:

  1. Pour the chocolate chips into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and stir to combine. Continuing stirring until chocolate is melted, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Let cool completely. Pop the bowl in the fridge for an hour or overnight if you have a lot of patience.
  5. Bring the frosting back to around room temperature then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.
  6. If you’re fancy, use a pastry bag or a cake decorating gadget to top your cupcakes. If you’re like me and have a ton of gadgets that you always forget to use, don’t bother dusting off the cookie press / cake decorator gadget, and just use an old fashioned knife to spread the frosting on to the cupcakes.

Hope you dig them as much as I do!

VAis4Bloggers Meetup at Feast! Charlottesville

Kyle and I ventured out to Charlottesville this weekend to meet with potential caterers and photographers for our wedding this Fall. I also had the privilege of meeting up with some great VA bloggers at Feast! Charlottesville. How have I never been to this place before? Clearly I need a Cville tour guide to reteach me all the great spots around town.

Feast! is a market and lunch-counter-style restaurant that shares a building with a kitchen supply store, a wine bar, a chocolate shop, and a few other food-related local businesses. As bloggers arrived, we hugged, shook hands, took pictures, and moved tables to make a little corner of the restaurant our own. Like a group of America’s Next Top Model contestants, we struggled to “find the light” to get great shots of our food, our friends, and, well, everything. Every time I meet up with bloggers, I get a kick out of being around other people who will stop traffic to get a good photo of their food. I don’t think we turned the place completely upside down or anything; we were all very respectful and the great people at Feast were very accommodating.

Everything on the menu looked positively delicious and I had a difficult time deciding what to order. I was ultimately very happy with my decision: a cup of the vegan spicy chickpea and local chard soup and a half winter salad.

The soup was very filling and had just the right amount of spice. The winter salad featured arugula, roasted butternut squash, curried lentils, chevre, and a white wine vinaigrette. Do these people do catering? I am starting to think that I should have contacted them to do our wedding (there is still time…). This is the kind of food I love. Fresh, seasonal, wholesome food. Delicious.

And there were gifts!

Sarah brought us homemade peanut butter in adorable little jars.

And Brittany made Heady Goo Balls, which were so tasty! Check out the recipe that she posted here: Energizing Heady Goo Balls. These sweet little treats have all kinds of healthy stuff in them, including Amazing Grass. One of my favorite moments of the VAis4Bloggers meetup was when a fellow blogger (who shall remain nameless) bit into a Heady Goo Ball and exclaimed “I can taste the grass!”. . . (snicker). . . I assure you that while these delightful little goodies were delicious, there was nothing “special” about them, if you know what I mean. Totally legal.

I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I recommend that you check out Feast! the next time you are in Charlottesville. It seems like a place that would have something for everyone. And a special thank you to Sarah of The Smart Kitchen for organizing the outing.

Check out all the ladies’ blogs here:

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Welcome Relayers!

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions for BYOBB lunches that you wrote in the comments on my last post and sent via twitter. I really enjoyed getting some fresh ideas for my brown bag lunch dates.

Speaking of fresh ideas, check out the Relay Living Blog today, where the good people of Relay Foods have featured my recipe for Engagement Tofu as a Valentine’s Day special. And I would like to add that you don’t have to have a special someone in your life to enjoy this delicious vegetarian dish. The most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves. Show your self a little love and whip up this tofu sometime soon!

If tofu doesn’t quite do it for you, I have a new recipe for cupcakes that will satisfy your sweet tooth. If you’re a chocolate lover, look out for this post in the next few days. This cupcake was by far the most beloved confection I have ever brought into my workplace. And I have brought quite a few cakes, cookies, and scones into that office in the past. None have compared.

And hey, if you found me through the Relay Living blog today, welcome! You can find out more about vegology by clicking on the About link at the top of the page. If you like what you see, you can subscribe by clicking on Sounds Delicious on the right hand side of the page. Check out my review of Relay Foods here!

WANTED: Ideas for BYOBB Lunches

white board art is my pageant talent

In case you haven’t heard, BYOBB stands for Bring Your Own Brown Bag in my world. In fact, I use this abbreviation so much that while I was text-message-inviting someone to a friend’s Super Bowl party last week, my phone auto-corrected BYOB to BYOBB.  This auto-correct malfunction either made me look like kind of an idiot, or completely confused my fellow party-goer (sorry Craig!). Maybe both.

Anyway, when I say BYOBB, I am usually inviting a coworker or friend to enjoy a brown bag lunch with me. I have developed a lovely group of brown bag lunchers in my office, and I have found that a lot of people are into saving money and calories by bringing to work a healthy lunch from home. We have been going strong for 4-6 weeks and I hope to continue. Usually I bring hummus, veggies, a wedge of cheese, and a pita pocket, with a piece of fruit to enjoy later. And after a month or so of that, I am starting to get a little bored.

I have featured ideas for BYOBB lunches here before, and now I am looking for some more creative options. I love checking out bento box lunch ideas and coming up with meal options that sound more appealing to me than what is being served at the lunch cart around the corner (so I don’t cheat!). So do you have any ideas for BYOBB lunches? What do you usually pack, and what do you wish you had more often? Is there a combination you have been dying to try out? Have a cautionary tale about a lunch idea that didn’t go as planned? Want to see my try to makeover one of your favorite guilty pleasure lunch options into a healthier one? Give me all you’ve got!

And as for my ideas, here are a few: