Monthly Archives: August 2014

Lights Out Summer Gazpacho

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I have to admit, lights out summer gazpacho is a funny name for a recipe. It’s definitely not the original name I came up with. However, 10 minutes after I finished photographing this beautiful soup, I put it in the refrigerator, went upstairs to write this post and the lights went out in my house! The computer shut down and my post was lost. What would happen to my delicious gazpacho? I ran downstairs and poured myself a bowl. Topped with some avocado, cucumber and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, this cool refreshing soup took my mind off how hot my house was! It was the perfect dinner. I think the blackout worked to my advantage – and yours. The other story I wrote was quite long! You will be happy to know that a mere 3 hours later my lights were back on and the gazpacho was just fine. Gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup, made with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and onions. It takes less than 30 minutes to put it all together and only gets better with age. There aren’t too many soups you can say that about.

I don’t know about you, but among the many staples I have in my kitchen, are onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and tomato juice. With these few ingredients you are always ready for a Bloody Mary (just add vodka) can make everything from a tzadziki dip (just add Greek yogurt!), roasted vegetables, add cheese and bread and make a panini, and of course this quick, easy and delicious gazpacho.

One thing I like most about living in the Midwest is the amount of local farms around. Throughout the year we go blueberry picking and apple picking which can’t be beat! Whenever possible, I like to buy my produce at the farmer’s market where you can find the most amazing and beautiful varieties of vegetables. In this recipe, I used Roma a.k.a. plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes but you can substitute any kind of tomato. I have made it with heirloom, which I know can be expensive but worth the flavor it adds, tomatoes on the vine, cherry tomatoes, or a mixture of several varieties. During the summer, you can find sweet and delicious Vidalia onions – use them for everything! In Georgia they say people eat them like they would a peach as they are so sweet. Two fun little facts: they are Georgia’s official state vegetable – and I’m a huge fan!

Aside from the weekly farmer’s markets we have throughout the summer, there are local farms you can go to for picked that day produce. The one I frequent most is Smith Farm Market in Gahanna, Ohio. They are very conveniently located and open 8 months out of the year. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can go straight to the source for your fruits and vegetables you should make the effort, there is nothing like fresh farm grown fruits and vegetables… Enjoy!

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4 plum tomatoes
1 pint red teardrop tomatoes
2 bell peppers (any combination of red, yellow or orange)
1 English (aka hot house cucumber) cut in 1/2 and seeded
1 sweet onion cut into large pieces (if vidalia onions are in season, use them!)
4 cups low sodium tomato juice (I use Trader Joe’s low sodium Garden Patch)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 cloves of garlic minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
hot sauce (optional)

Garnishes: avocado, croutons or oyster crackers, finely diced cucumber, sliced olives, feta cheese or grilled fresh corn kernals.

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How vibrant and beautiful are these peppers from the farmer’s market?

 

Cut the tomatoes, peppers and onions into approximately 1″ pieces. Slice and take the seeds out of the cucumber. Mince the garlic and add to the onion. Put the vegetables into the food processor one at a time and pulse until it’s coarsely chopped. Don’t process it too fine. Then after you process each vegetable, add it to a large bowl or pot.

Add the tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Mix well and chill before serving. You can top it with any of the garnishes suggested or come up with one of your own.

This recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Delicious Cream Filled Chocolate Cupcakes and oh, by the way… They’re Vegan!

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7, 270 cyclists took to the streets of Columbus, Ohio this past weekend to raise money for cancer research. You can read more about this amazing organization on Pelatonia’s website. One of those riders is my friend Hilary. She is 18 years old and rode 100 miles raising $1,800. Not only was she one of the youngest people to ride, she was also the only one on a mountain bike, which she was told is the equivalent of running a marathon in flip-flops! As a bike rider myself, I don’t know how she did it! Somehow, she did and you can see by the smile on her face how happy she was to finish! What an amazing girl!

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I am so proud of her, I wanted to do something special to celebrate her accomplishment. I already donated money for her ride; now I wanted to do something just for her. You already know I’m all about the baking! Even more than that, I love to share it with people and make them happy. My only challenge – Hilary recently became a vegan. Her path to a healthier lifestyle started gradually, first she was a pescatarian (a vegetarian who will also eat fish), then a vegetarian (no meat, fish or seafood, but dairy is okay), and now, a vegan (a vegetarian diet that also eliminates all animal byproducts). To a baker that means no milk, eggs or butter or dairy of any kind!

Although I have never baked anything vegan, I have baked many things without dairy products, making them parve in the kosher world. I figured if Hilary can ride a bike for 100 miles, surely I can bake a vegan dessert! I was up for the challenge!

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Now, where did I find this delicious recipe you ask? It is straight from Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen. She is an adorable baker and cook, who also happens to be a vegan! I first heard of her when she won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. The judges were very surprised that her cupcakes were vegan. I immediately went to the library to check out a copy of her cookbook.

I found “Chlostess” Cream-Filled Cupcakes and even though the cupcake had three components, it seemed simple enough. You can see by the fluffy cream filling, shine of the glaze and tender crumb of the cupcake, they are going to be good and something special! I will tell you that once I got started I was surprised how easy they were to make. This recipe is adapted from Chloe Coscarelli’s Cookbook and it was so good, I’d like to say I didn’t change a thing, but had to according to ingredients I had on hand. I wrote her recipe and my changes in parenthesis. I may have reworded it a little, but the recipe is the same. They are truly delicious and you don’t miss the eggs or butter. If you’re a vegan or not, you’ll love these.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold coffee or water (I used decaf)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

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Creme Frosting Filling:
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (find this in a health food store, or section of your grocery)
3 cups powdered sugar (also called confectioner’s sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 5 tablespoons soy, almond, or rice milk (I used almond milk*)
1/2 teaspoon salt (this is my splash on her recipe, I like a little salt in my frosting)

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Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy free)*
1/4 cup canned coconut milk, mixed well before measuring (I didn’t have coconut milk and used almond milk which worked fine)
2 tablespoons canola oil

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with 15 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. For this step I use an ice cream scoop so that all the cupcakes will be the same size. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It’s okay if a few crumbs are clinging to the toothpick. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting. I made the frosting while the cupcakes were baking.

To make the cream frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar one cup at a time, alternating with 1 tablespoon nondairy milk until frosting reaches a nice spreadable consistency. Add vanilla extract and beat on high for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

To make the Chocolate Ganache: Melt chocolate chips, canola oil, and coconut milk (remember, I used almond milk in this step) in a double boiler or microwave. Whisk until smooth.

To assemble the cupcakes: Fit a pipping bag*** with a small round tip and fill with the creme frosting. I used a rosette tip and it worked very well. Insert the tip into the center of the top of each cupcake and squeeze the bag to fill the cupcake with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of frosting. Be careful when you are filling them. My first one exploded! Level off the frosting that sneaks out on top. Then, spread the top of each cupcake with a thin layer of chocolate ganache.

In another piping bag fitted with a small tip, add 4 tablespoons of the frosting and pipe a 4 loop design.

*The almond milk I used has 4 percent fat

**There are several dairy-free brands of chocolate chips. Look in a health food store or section of your grocery. If you can’t find them there, check the kosher section of your grocery. They will be labeled Parve, meaning they do not contain any dairy products.

***If you don’t have a piping bag, use a gallon size Ziploc bag, cut the tip of the bag off and insert the piping tip.

 

 

 

 

Just Peachy!

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A few weeks ago I attended a pie baking class. It was instructed by a woman I met at The Big Pitch in June. Her name is Sheila and she runs a local business in Columbus for food lovers. You can read more about her and her company on her website, Ala Carte Columbus.

The cooking class she held entitled “the life of pie” was very well run and informative. At one point in the class Sheila went around the room asking everyone what their favorite flavor pie is. It was mostly cherry, with a few apple lovers weighing in. I was having a difficult time narrowing down my favorite. I love cherry pie, but then again, peach is so good, and let’s not forget about apple! It was almost my turn and I committed to peach – peach it was, yummy, juicy peach. Then the little girl next to me, said her favorite was chocolate cream pie… chocolate cream pie, how could I have ever let that one slip through my fingers? As all eyes turned to me, I made a fast switch to chocolate cream pie! Chocolate cream pie – yes, that’s the winner! Of course as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was still thinking peach! No, cherry! How can you choose just one pie as a favorite?

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After we had all finished, it was noted that no one chose peach! This would not make my mother happy – she loved peach pie! I quickly asked her, how can you commit to loving only one kind of pie? It’s just not fair! One thing lead to another and Sheila mentioned how the crop of peaches was so bad this year because of the weather and yada, yada, yada, if you want delicious peaches you have to go to the peach truck. Apparently there was someone who drove a truck to Ohio from Georgia with the most delicious peaches. I immediately grabbed my phone to find their website, thepeachtruck.com, and noted it was coming to my area on August 8th. I put it on my calendar and couldn’t wait for the day to arrive.

That was three weeks ago and I have been counting down the days until finally, it was time to go pick up my sweet, juicy peaches! Yesterday I set my alarm, got myself ready and then set out on my journey. Before I left, I quickly checked their website for time and location just to be sure I was headed to the right place. Ugh! I made a mistake! They came to my area on Friday, I missed it – good think I checked! But how could that be? Then I saw that they were at another Ohio location but it was a 30 minute drive from my house. I had already committed to going, and waited 3 weeks for the day to arrive. I had to go. I grabbed my Carole King CD, jumped in my husband’s convertible and off I went! The sky was blue, it was a cool day and I was off to buy peaches! What could be better?

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I pulled into the parking lot of a gardening store, saw a tent next to a white truck filled with boxes of peaches and was excited I had made the journey. While waiting on the line, I asked the two women in front of me if they had purchased them before and they said they hadn’t. They read about it in a local paper and like me, couldn’t wait to buy them. Another woman made a joke she had come the farthest from California! The man running the stand said it was the last day for peaches and they would be back next year. I was the last person on line and when it was finally my turn, I handed Neil from The Peach Truck my credit card. There was only one size box and it was 25 pounds! Okay, I thought, I’ve come this far, peaches for everyone! I was literally the last person to buy peaches for the season. I wheeled the cart to my car, put the large sweet smelling box of peaches in the trunk and off I went. As I sang along to the Carole King song Beautiful, I started to wonder how I would ever explain this to my husband? Maybe I’ll bake him a pie before I tell him how much they cost! So now the question is turned to you… What would you bake with 25 pounds of peaches? I know my mother would bake the most delicious pie! Enjoy!

Natalie, this one’s for you… My Mom’s Famous Zucchini Bread

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My mom was famous for her zucchini bread, so when my friend Natalie emailed me for a recipe, I was more than willing to bake a couple of loaves today, photograph them, and of course eat them! My children thank you very much for the request! Natalie and her family have been living in Switzerland for the past few years. They moved in 2011 and I’m counting the days till her return! She is truly one of the funniest people I know and I really enjoy sharing recipes with her. Every now and then, she posts recipe requests on Facebook and gets quite a response from family and friends. Once she requested a brownie recipe because she couldn’t find boxed brownie mix in Switzerland. Hmm, poor Natalie, stuck in Switzerland with no boxed brownies! I couldn’t let that happen so I quickly sent her two different recipes, one made with cocoa powder and one made with melted chocolate. Her email back to me was simply – bless you my friend! I checked my mailbox for days, but nothing arrived. I assume they were so good that she didn’t have a square to spare!

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Okay, back to the zucchini bread… Natalie’s daughter Julia went to a friend’s house and fell in love with the zucchini bread her friend’s mother baked for them. Being the terrific mom she is, Natalie didn’t waste any time looking for a recipe! This is an easy recipe for me to post, as I’ve been baking zucchini bread for as long as I can remember. My mother was famous for her zucchini bread, hence the title! It could be because is not as heavy as some recipes. When I started making it, I cut way down on the sugar, and some of the oil.

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When my boys were younger I would make this all the time for an after school snack and always baked extra to send in their lunchbox, and to share with a friend. They didn’t know it was loaded with vegetables and I kept that secret to myself! I can’t remember the first time my mom made it or where she got the recipe, but I do know why it’s called famous. Whenever I would visit her in Florida, she would have many loaves of zucchini bread in her freezer. When I asked her why she had so many, she said “oh, because I’m famous for my zucchini bread here at the condo, everyone wants my recipe!” My mom wasn’t a big fan of eating vegetables and I assume when she found this recipe, she felt she was getting a nice serving of vegetables for the day. I can almost hear her saying something like, it has zucchini in it so it’s good for you – have another piece! So make my mother happy and get a good healthy serving of vegetables today! Enjoy!

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 cups zucchini grated and moisture squeezed out*
4 extra large eggs
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
2teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins or cranberries – reconstituted** (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 small (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple drained well (optional but highly recommended!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans and set aside.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. If you are adding raisins or nuts add them to the flour. In another large bowl, beat sugar, oil and eggs and vanilla until creamed. Note: If you don’t want the zucchini to be obvious in the bread, use a fine box grater, if not, a regular grate is fine. I usually do a combination of the two 50/50. Add the zucchini and if using pineapple or dried fruit add them as well. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture in a couple of batches and stir until combined. Mix just until combined, over mixing will make a tough bread or muffin. Divide batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; there may be a little bit of crumb on the toothpick, that will be okay. Note: If they are browning too much on the top, but not done in the center, place a sheet of aluminum foil over and keep an eye on them for the last few minutes of baking.

*If you don’t want the zucchini to be obvious in the bread, use a fine box grater, if not, a regular grate is fine. I usually do a combination of the two 50/50.

**When I bake with dried fruit, I like to reconstitute them before adding them to the batter. If I know ahead of time, I’ll leave a cup of dried fruit in a container with 2 cups of room temperature water covered lightly overnight on my counter. Then in the morning, I drain the fruit in a colander. For times when I don’t plan ahead, I’ll put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour hot water over it for at least 1/2 an hour. I don’t like a chewy dried fruit in my breads and muffins. If you do, definitely skip this step.

 

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This recipe also makes great muffins. Note: if you choose to make muffins, the recipe will yield 24 large muffins or 48 mini muffins. Bake approximately 18 to 22 minutes for larger muffins and 14 to 16 minutes for minis. Test with a toothpick and if it comes out dry, it’s done. Keep and eye on the muffins and don’t over-bake them, you want them to be moist.

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