Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cupcakes from the Family Baker

Our first guest blogger! My sister is sharing one of her vegan cupcake recipes. My NON-VEGAN sister. And my NON-VEGAN self loves them! Seriously, don't back away just because of the lack of butter and eggs. These cupcakes are amazingly moist and have all the flavor, if not more, than regular cupcakes. Yes, this is coming from me! Thanks, Emily, for writing this post!

A few Valentine's Days ago, my lovely friend Kara and I decided to get each other the same cookbook that we both wanted, and that was probably the best Valentine's Day ever! I love baking vegan cupcakes. For some reason, I find them lighter, fluffier, moister, and delicious-er than cupcakes made with dairy products. Plus, they are really easy to make, and you've probably got most of the ingredients already! So next time you want to impress a vegan or want to make a lactose-intolerant person fall in love with you, this is a great place to start!

Two tips for vegan baking. The biggest problem with vegan baked goods is that they very easily become too dense. Here are two ways to avoid this problem:
  1. Sift, sift, sift!! I know it's kind of annoying. But you won't regret sifting your dry ingredients, because it helps in this second piece of advice.
  2. Whatever you do, DO NOT overstir! When you stir too much, all the air leaves your batter, and you get dense and chewy cupcakes. Only stir until just mixed - and by sifting, you avoid being left with large lumps of flour.

Don't let the vegan label frighten you. You don't even have to tell anyone that they don't have dairy or eggs - you'd never know if you didn't make them yourself!

Red Velvet (Vegan) Cupcakes
(from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Line 12 muffin tins with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350.

1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Whisk together in a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sift together into a large bowl and mix.

1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Add oil, food coloring, and vanilla & almond extracts to curdled soy milk. Whisk well to combine. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry, mixing until large lumps disappear.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full - these cupcakes will rise fairly high. Place in hot oven and bake 18-20 minutes until done, but do not overbake. Let cool for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting

Vegan frosting tends to be a little finicky. My best advice is to make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before making the frosting. Set them out when you bring the cupcakes out of the oven, and the temperature should be good by the time the cupcakes are cool enough to frost.

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup soy milk or creamer

Beat together shortening and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add sugar and beat about 3 more minutes. Add vanilla and soy milk, beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, top with buttercream frosting.

You won't miss the eggs and butter one bit!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A New Favorite?

I have grown up eating the same chili my whole life. I remember when my mom taught me to cook it. She and my sister have even converted it to a veggie version. It is hearty and warming. Large chunks of meat, beans, and a delicious tomato sauce build this chili. However (and yes, there had to be a however), I decided to try a new chili for dinner.

Cincinnati-style chili is something I have heard about before. Or seen. All I knew about it before was that it was made with much finer pieces of meat. Also, it is often served over spaghetti and garnished with cheese, onions, and beans. Then came the day I saw a recipe for it. Oh, the spices! It sounded delicious, and I had to try it.

I will say that this in no way will replace my original chili recipe. It's something different, and it is fabulous. But I don't always want different. So the next time I make chili I'm sure I will go back to the original and I will be blogging that. This new chili was probably not hub's favorite. I absolutely loved it: the flavors were phenomenal. I truly believe that everyone should try this. It will be worth it, even if it doesn't replace your standby chili recpie!

Also easily converted to veggie, this would be great with a TVP substitute. I realize that typically this style of chili is made with very small pieces of meat. I've read that the best way to achieve this is by cooking the raw meat in a pot of the liquid and whisking as it cooks. That totally skeeved me out, so I didn't do it that way. I think TVP would probably result in a more accurate consistency.

Cincinnati-style Chili
from Cooks Illustrated by way of Joelen's Culinary Adventures

1 lb. ground beef
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. unsweeted chocolate (shaved or minced)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
kosher salt, to taste
2 c. tomato sauce
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. brown sugar

spaghetti, cooked per package directions
1 can of kidney beans, drained, rinsed, and warmed
1 onion, chopped
grated cheese (I used cheddar)

In a large dutch over or other pot, brown the ground beef over low heat, using a masher to break the meat up into small pieces. When the meat is nearly browned, add the garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, chocolate, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Heat for approximately 1 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, water, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for at least one a half hours.

Before serving cook the spaghetti. Serve the chili over the spaghetti and garnish with chopped onions, grated cheese, and warmed beans. Revel in the smell and taste of those amazing spices. I hope you love it as much as I did!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A New Classic

I finally ventured to try something many people would consider a classic comfort dish. Boy, am I sorry I waited so long! Let's see... green pepper, ground turkey, cheese, and tomato sauce. That is certainly a list of ingredients that is right up my alley. These stuffed peppers were delicious and very well-cooked. I've seen stuffed peppers on the list of various menus before, but was always hesitant to order because I was concerned that the peppers would be mushy. I am always, always a crunchy vegetable girl!

I added a little mexican flavor in these, which I think went over well. I could also up the cheese content, but since I'm slightly cheese-obsessed that's not so abnormal. It's possible that I made these slightly too spicy, but for some reason I've been on a huge spice kick. I've lowered the amount of cayenne pepper in the recipe below to account for this.

I would very much recommend making a veggie version of these as well. Using "crumbles" or TVP, I think, would also make a delicious meal. The original recipe called for four peppers, but I made this for two instead. We did end up with some extra filling, but one peppers plus the extra filling was perfect for hubs, while one pepper was plenty for me. Don't wait as long as I did to make this!

Stuffed Bell Peppers
adapted from Food by way of Joelen's Culinary Adventures

2 large green bell peppers
1/2 c. rice, cooked according to directions on packaging
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb. ground turkey
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 c. + 2 handfuls of shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
kosher salt (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the top with the stem off of the peppers and remove the seeds and innards. Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add a pinch of salt and the bell peppers. Cook until the peppers are just beginning to soften, about 3 - 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers from the water. Run cool water over the peppers to blanche and stop the cooking process. Drain on a plate with a paper towel. You may need to turn the peppers upside down to remove excess water from the inside. Place the peppers cut side up in a baking dish. I used a bread pan and this held them perfectly.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Next add the garlic and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey and break up while browning the meat. Once the meat is browned remove from heat. Add in the chili powder and cayenne pepper, along with a little more kosher salt to taste. Add the rice, tomatoes, and 1 cup of cheese. Mix to combine well.

Fill the peppers with the meat mixture. Top with another handful of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the filling is heated through, about 15 minutes.

Eat however you can figure it out! It will be delicious no matter what!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Welcome to Our Kitchen

I'd like to welcome you to a special addition of At Home with the Raceys:

Conversation before dinner:

Hubs: What's for dinner tonight?
Me: I don't want to tell you.
Hubs: Why not? It's a simple question.
Me: You'll think it sounds weird and you won't want it.
Hubs: Tell me.
Me: Ok, Shakshuka.
Hubs: Why can't I just get a good ol' American meal in here once in a while?!
end scene

enter stage left, 30 minutes later
Hubs: Babe, this is great! I'm really amazed!

Allie: 1 Hubs: 0

Victory! Seriously though, I barely get credit for this one. This dinner was so easy, and delicious, and even nutritious! Yay for making a homerun super easy. The spicy tomato sauce is fantastic in this dish. The eggs add a really delicious rich quality to the sauce, although they are by no means overwhelming. The original recipe calls for feta, but I am SO not a fan, so I subbed in goat cheese. The slightly salty aspect of the goat cheese was perfect. Scooped up with some pita bread, this was a perfect weeknight meal.

This is apparently an Israeli side dish. I believe I've seen it similarly in other places. I could go into it more, but I will let the original poster do that. I heart Smitten Kitchen for posting fabulous recipes.

barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 c. olive oil
3(ish) jalapenos or other hot peppers (stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped)
1 small, yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. paprika
1 28-oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes (undrained)
salt, to taste
4 eggs (or more, if you like, there is plenty of sauce)
1/3 c. crumbled goat cheese or feta
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
warm pitas

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and peppers and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and paprika and cook for an additional two minutes. Dump the tomatoes in a bowl with their juice. Get in there with your hands and crush them (trust me, this was the best part). Add the tomatoes and their liquid to the pot, along with about 1/4 c. water. Add salt, to taste. Cook the sauce until slightly thickened and reduced (yeah, I'm still bad at this).

Crack the eggs on top of the liquid. Cover with the lid and cook until the yolks are just barely set, about 4 - 5 minutes. When this is complete, use a spoon to cover the eggs with sauce, without breaking the yolks. Add in the cheese and parsley. Serve with pitas: completely necessary for scooping up all that saucy goodness!

Make sure your husband appreciates your creativity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The First of Many Cauliflowers

I am a late cauliflower bloomer. Hmm, does that make sense? Anyway, my mom was never a cauliflower fan. She really didn't enjoy the way that caulflower was most often prepared. Over time we have introduced her to a cauliflower recipe or two that she really loves. This one is definitely not it, and I wouldn't even suggest it. I will be posting some of my other favorite recipes soon, but I just happened to make this one, so it comes first. It is not my first favorite.
I don't mean that it isn't good. It's actually really delicious. But it's a simple combination of flavors: cauliflower, cheese, and nutmeg. It's a perfect simple side dish for some dressed-up protein. In this case, we ate this with chicken marsala. Simple and delicious... works for me!

The original recipe calls for boiling the cauliflower in stock. I have done this and steamed it instead. Both were great, and there honestly wasn't much difference. Believe it or not, I'm actually horrible at reducing liquids, so I sort of like steaming the cauliflower better. I will post it that way here, but follow the original link if you'd rather boil it in stock.
Smashed Cauliflower
adapted from Rachel Ray via Food Network

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
1 - 1 1/4 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
1/4 c. parmesan
1/4 - 1/2 c. milk
ground black pepper (or peppercorn medley) & salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Steam the cauliflower until soft, about 10 minutes, depending on the size of your florets. When soft, transfer to a medium-size pot over medium-low heat. Add in the butter, cheese, and milk. You want enough liquid to create a cheesy sauce for the cauliflower, but not so much that it will be too soupy to eat. Using a masher, break up the cauliflower until it is the consistency of a chunky puree (what?). The cheese should melt. Add in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. If the sauce is too thin, turn the heat up slightly and cook until thickened, stirring regularly.

If you are a cheese fan, you will be a fan of this!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Comfort Fish?

The hubs and I really love fish. Like eat it at least twice a week in the summer, especially on the grill love it. It's not necessarily something I crave a lot of in the winter. I mean, when all I want is a nice, hot bowl of soup or some carb-heavy comfort food, fish is not the go-to dish (har har). However, I believe this could be the exception. Baked in the oven with potatoes, tomatoes, and jalapenos, this is everything I want a winter-fish dish to be: warm, hearty, and comforting.
This is an incredibly simple weeknight meal. It is one of those very special meals that tastes like you spent more hours on it than you actually did. The saucy tomatoes were probably actually my favorite part of this meal, although I generall don't like tomatoes. If you're of the veggie sort, this could probably be made well with some beans or other form of protein as well. Trust me, no matter what, you don't want to miss out!

Jalapeno Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

1 lb. (about 4) red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 c. cilantro, chopped and loosely packed
2 tbsp. pickled jalapenos
2 - 4 filets of fish (white, we used tilapia)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the potatoes and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. The thicker you slice them the longer it will take for them to cook. Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Toss to coat in a baking dish, 8 x 8 or slightly larger. Cover with plastic wrap with some small holes poked in it and microwave for about five minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes (with their juice), garlic, cilantro, and jalapenos. Process to a puree, leaving as much texture as you prefer. Lay the fish filets over the potatoes and cover with the tomato mixture. Bake the entire dish for approximately 15 - 20 minutes, until the fish is flaky.

Be sure to lick your plate clean at the end of the night.

P.S. I just realized my pictures here stink. I will post the one decent one and try to remember to update them next time we make this.