Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest Post: S.B.D's Vegan Blueberry Muffins

One of my favorite part about food blogs are guest posts! I think it is really wonderful to share other's recipes and inspirations! I have a few guest posts lined up already, and here is the first one from a friend of mine, SBD. Enjoy!


"I went vegetarian about four months ago for ethical and health reasons. I still like to eat baked goods and junk food now and then, and one of my favorite baked foods are blueberry muffins. Few things are better than a homemade blueberry muffin, especially when it’s fresh out of the oven and still warm. While browsing, a site for people who like to cook and bake, I found this great vegan recipe for blueberry muffins. Now, I still bake with eggs and dairy, but I’ve been trying to find more recipes that don’t involve eggs and dairy because I like to experiment and try new things. These muffins are really tasty. They’re low in fat and they taste just as good as traditional muffins. This is a pretty easy recipe but pay careful attention to the directions. The first time I made these muffins I didn’t add enough baking powder. I misread the ingredients and thought it called for ½ teaspoon when it really called for a tablespoon. The result was yummy but dense purple muffins. I made the muffins again, paid close attention to the ingredients, and they came out great. 

Some people will say that vegan baking isn’t as good as traditional baking. That’s only partly true. The fact is that vegan baking, like traditional baking, only sucks if you don’t get the recipe right or don’t know what you’re doing. Anyone can bake but not everyone is perfect and you shouldn’t really try to be. It’s good to make mistakes because if you don’t, you won’t learn anything. With some patience and practice you can recreate all your favorite baking recipes but substituted with plant-based ingredients. A good book on how to do this is “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite” by Celine Teen and Joni Marie Newman. I bought this book to learn how to substitute certain ingredients, not to go vegan although I eat vegan about 70% of the time. The book contains some information at the beginning of the chapters before they tell you how to substitute things that is a bit misleading and a little biased. So like I said, get the book to learn substitutions, unless if you’re someone that is planning on going vegan then that’s fine for you but don’t get sucked into the fundie fanaticism. No one pushed me to go vegetarian, it was my choice, so don’t let anyone push you either. Omnivore or herbivore, everyone is cool in my book as long as they have a good heart and an equally good head on their shoulders.

Now that that’s out of the way, onto the muffins but before we get started, here is something you should know: 

Sugar: sugar is vegan, although some might say it’s not. Sugar is vegan unless it is sugar that has been whitened with bone char. Bone char is a form of charcoal that is produced by heating bone in the presence of a limited amount of air, to around 400 to 500 degrees C (752 to 932 degrees F), to remove “impurities” from liquids, and also in solutions of raw sugar. This process also removes nutrients and vitamins such as Riboflavin [vitamin B2], vitamin B [Thiamine], amino acids and fiber. It’s a “Don’t” in vegan baking. In this recipe I used evaporated cane juice, or light brown sugar if evaporated cane juice is unavailable. Evaporated cane juice and sugar are both derived from sugar cane but differ in the refinement process. Because evaporated cane juice doesn’t undergo the same process as refined sugar, it’s a healthier alternative. It should, however, still be kept to a minimum. 

- ¼ cup vegan margarine [I use Earth Balance but you can use any vegan margarine, unless if you have soy allergies.] 
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce 
- ½ teaspoon salt 
- 1 cup sugar 
- 2 cups flour [all purpose]
- 1 tablespoon baking powder 
- 1 teaspoon vanilla 
- 1 1/2 cup soy milk [preferably unsweetened. You can also use rice milk if you either have soy allergies or don't have any soy milk in your fridge.]
- 2 cups frozen blueberries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line standard muffin tins/mold with paper cups, unless you're using a silicone mold and then liners are optional. This will make about 10 or a dozen muffins depending on how you divide your batter. 

The standard way to make these is to just toss everything in and mix it. You can use a stand mixer, hand mixer or just do it all by hand with a spoon or spatula. I did something different. 

1) Sift the first cup of flour into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and whisk the two together. If you don't have a sifter you can just pour the flour and sugar in and use a whisk to incorporate the two or a fork. 

The reason I add each cup of flour separately is because flour has a tendency to go all over the place. 

2.) Add the margarine. Give it time to soften first. You can soften it in a microwave if you don't want to wait but keep an eye on it and measure carefully. You don't want it to turn to liquid and get all over the place. Add the applesauce and cream it together with the margarine, flour and sugar. 

3.) Add the soy milk and continue mixing but don't over mix. 

4.) Sift the second cup of flour, the salt and baking powder into the mixer and mix the dry ingredients with the wet. Fold in the blueberries. 

If the blueberries are stuck together in clumps, you can thaw them in a bowl of warm water or a large measuring cup and then drain the extra water. 

5.) Divide the batter evenly into the muffin cups, fill them about 3/4 full. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, just until the tops are golden brown or a knife/toothpick/cake tester comes out clean. You might want to poke them a couple of times because the insides will be a little moist from the berries. 

Sprinkle on a little cinnamon or spread on some butter – vegan or regular – and enjoy. I like to eat one of these muffins with chopped up fruit [strawberries, pears and apples], scrambled eggs and some tea or orange juice, but they’re also great with oatmeal or cereal. These muffins are also great by themselves, as a snack, or for dessert after dinner, especially with some vanilla icing. 

You can make a simple vegan vanilla icing by combining ½ cup vegan margarine, 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/3 cup soy milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Cream the margarine and sugar together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the vanilla and soymilk and mix until it’s thick and of a good consistency for spreading. Smear it on with a bread knife or just drizzle it on. They taste amazing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Restaurant Review: Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars

I don't always cook myself. In fact, I really enjoy going out to restaurants and eating.... a lot! It's where I started taking photos of food, and where I get inspired. It's also nice not to have to clean up all the dishes! 

My friend Swilson and I were hungry again, and decided we wanted to get smoothies. She suggested a place that had "unique flavors and combinations", and she had read on Yelp that it got good reviews. She "knew where it was, but not what it was called." I sighed, and got into her car, expecting some posh little indie smoothie place with hipsters and artists. Instead we drove up to a mini mall, and there at the end was a bright orange building with bright pre-school colored cartoon fruits and a popsicle with a hat that said MATEO'S. I don't speak spanish, but it was everywhere, "Paletas Y Nives De Frutas!" and "Jugos Y Licuados!" and as I got out of the car, I grinned. This was going to be an adventure! To me, hole-in-the-wall, homemade, mom & pop places are the BEST. They usually have the best tasting food, and I feel good giving them my money. 
Lovely Swilson in front of Mateo's

As we walked in, we immediately saw the ice cream counter. "Ooooh..." i murmured to myself, and as we looked at the smoothie options, we couldn't help but glance back down at the ice creams. "Want to get ice cream?" Swilson suggested, "Heck yes!" I replied. 

Mateo's indeed has unique flavors, some I haven't even heard of, let alone could pronounce. Of course I tried everything. 

The first one I tried was "Pitaya", AKA: Cactus Fruit. It was a gorgeous bright red color, with black seeds in it. It tasted pretty watery, was more sorbet in texture, and had a light fruity taste, almost like strawberries. 

The second one I tried was "Mezcal c/n Nuez" or just "Mezcal" for short. To my surprise, it was Tequila flavored ice cream! At first the tequila flavor was like a hit to the head, it even went up my nose a little. Then, as the ice cream melted, it simmered into a really lovely floral note, and ended creamy and smooth. The tequila flavor hit me as such a surprise, I don't even remember the texture of the ice cream!

The third ice cream I tried was called "Leche Quemada", AKA: Smoked Milk. What the heck is "Smoked Milk"?! Well, it tastes pretty much like milk that's been cooked over a BBQ flame and churned into ice cream. Or kissing someone who's been smoking who also happened to eat vanilla ice cream. Weird, and kind of not so tasty. The texture, however, was thick, smooth and chewy! Yum!

The fourth, and final, ice cream I tried was "Horchata c/n Nuez", or "Horchata" for short. Horchata is a mexican drink made out of the milk from rice...though it is originally found in Spain made from a type of nut. The mexican version is sweeter, is mixed with a lot of cinnamon and has a nice rice-like "twang" to it. This ice cream was both Swilson and I's favorite, as we also have a soft spot for Horchata anyways. 
We got a scoop of it, and sat down on one of the brightly colored chairs pulled up to the brightly colored tables with wooden animals carved into them and dug in. 

The Horchata ice cream was really sweet and full of creamy flavor. It had some diced up walnuts running through it, and had a little bit of spices as well, but was missing that ricey "horchata" flavor. Still, Swilson and I agreed that our favorite part about it was the texture. It was really thick, and chewy, almost having that taffy-like consistency...delicious 
Lovely Swilson enjoying her Horchata Ice Cream!
Me, er...enjoying my Horchata Ice Cream...
I would definitely come back to Mateo's for more ice cream, as I hear they change up their flavors a lot! Next time, I may even get that smoothie!

Address for Mateo's: 4929 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

Chocolate Fudge Cookies (w/ Mint Chip Ice Cream)

These chocolate fudge cookies have pretty much become my go-to cookie. They are easy to make, are incredibly delicious, and satisfying. Everyone who's tried them seems to go on about how good they are! Once again, they are also budget-friendly, simple to make, and make a very good cookie base to a number of other ingredients such as dried fruit or nuts. I tend to enjoy recipes you can really make your own. 

I found the original recipe on Love and Olive Oil, which were "Chocolate Expresso Fudge Cookies." The expresso really heightens the chocolate flavor, and adds a nice richness to the cookies. However, this time I left out the expresso powder because these babies were going to be smothered in creamy, cold, Mint Chip Ice Cream! I wasn't too keen on that deep coffee flavor mixing in with the mint. 
Mixing in the rest of the chocolate chips ;)
These cookies are more like brownies in cookie form....which I LOVE! They are soft, chewy, and seriously chocolaty. They call for semi-sweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate....with some more semi-sweet chocolate chips. Ridiculously delicious! I don't particularly like my sweets to be obnoxiously sweet, so the semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate was heaven to me. Of course, you add sugar yourself...which is great because you can really add as much as you want. The best part is that you can get away with eating only one or two of these, and be satisfied. 
I copped out of making home-made ice cream because I wanted something fast, and lacked an ice-cream machine anyways. Haagen Dazs for the win! 

If there were any changes I would make to this particular batch of cookies, it would be:
-Put in that dash of expresso powder. It makes a world of difference to the richness of the chocolate!
-Cook for 10 minutes exact. No more, no less. 
Otherwise.......they are pretty much perfect!

Once the cookies were ready (they only take about 10 minutes to bake in the oven,) I placed one, still warm, in a dish and scooped some of that mint-chip ice cream on top, letting it melt a little over the cookie....and dug in! 
Oh. My. Goodness. SO GOOD!
Seriously folks, you have to try these cookies!!


Here is the original recipe from Love and Olive Oil:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts (optional - I left these out)
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease two large heavy baking sheets.
In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup chocolate chips, and butter, stirring until smooth, and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, sugar, and espresso on high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes, and beat in chocolate mixture. Into mixture sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.
Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets and bake in batched in middle of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top. Cool cookies in baking sheets 1 minute and transfer to racks to cool completely.