Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gluten-Free V-day

This year, we celebrated all the toddlers’ birthdays on Valentine’s Day. Given a few allergies and intolerances here and there, I decided to make VCTOTW’s gluten free cuppies – with 10 of the 12 vanilla ones topped with this sugar-free frosting (I’m getting sick of icing sugar…and it’s not especially great for the little ones anyways) and the chocolate ones topped with chocolate tofu mousse.

I also couldn’t go without also recognizing Valentines’ Day, so I teamed up the cute little valentines for Ash’s little buds with goodie bags filled with more gluten-free treats. Seeking something both nut-free and gluten-free and healthy at the same time, I came across these toddler treats. I have to admit that I was sceptical, because the uncooked dough didn’t taste all that great. But once baked, delicious! I did use mini-chocolate chips instead of raisins, thereby upping the sugar but I hope also the taste value. I don't have a pic for some reason, but they looked EXACTLY like how they turned out on the website with the recipe.

I had hoped to try sculpting those cookies into hearts to suit the theme, but it wouldn’t have cut it. And Ash and I sampled so many that we didn’t have enough for all of the goodie bags! So I broke out my copy of VCIYCJ (I hadn’t tried anything yet!) and went to make the gluten-free version of their roll-out sugar cookies. I was going to use their recipe for Gluten Frida, but it called for coconut flour which is a no-no for one of the kiddos. So I pulled out my bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Blend and subbed it 1:1 with a ¼ tsp of xanthan gum. The dough still seemed very wet, but once chilled and rolled out with more GF flour, I had no problems. They baked up great! I just wish that I could get over that GF taste – some flours seems a little beany. But I’m hoping the kids don’t mind! When Ash sampled it, she didn’t seem to notice and told me it was yummy in her tummy.

Between writing this post and actually posting it, it looks like we're having to modify Ash's diet to not include soy, gluten, corn and sugar until we figure out what's causing her so many I'm thinking my food prep challenges are about to increase! Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ashy's Second B-day!

Last year, I did cupcakes, but now that Ash is two, she has a keen understanding what birthdays are all about – cake, candles and presents. Given that I couldn’t simply grab a cake from the store since there aren’t a lot of vegan options around, and I didn’t have the extra cash to outsource the production of a vegan themed cake, I decided to make one – and a big one at that to serve almost 20 people.

I bought 2 9x13 pans, with the goal of stacking the cake so I could serve more people. I had looked at converting other recipes to suit this pan format, but decided to go with something tried and true – Vcon’s Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake. I made the recipe twice in two separate bowls (good idea from my mom, as there’s so much batter that I wouldn’t have had a bowl big enough to mix 2 batches at once!) and baked for about 40-45 minutes, as per this site’s recommendations. It turned out great! I decided to freeze the layers on two separate cookie sheets as I made it the day before the party and find it easier to ice frozen cakes anyways.

And now here’s where my history of birthday disasters begins. I’m not sure what happened. I looked for a frosting with little sugar…maybe agave? All seemed too glaze-like and not fitting my image for what the cake would look like. Again, trying to stick to my tried-and-true mantra, I thought that I would make the same chocolate mousse topping that I did for my mom’s bday, but since I didn’t want to give Ash that this time, I thought I’d use the vegan white chocolate chips I had bought from my overly-expensive Vegan Essentials order last year. I should have noted that the term ‘Decorator's Chips’ is not the same as ‘chocolate chips’ or ‘baking chocolate’. Even though the ingredient listing is only sugar and cocoa butter, these things are waaaayyy to oily to bake with. It might turn out OK in the use of cookies, but once melted, they take on a grainy feel. It was disaster when I mixed them with the silken tofu in my food processor. After Kyle suggested mixing it up better with my immersion blender, things seemed OK – until the morning of the party.

The mousse was a gloopy mess. I tried mixing half of the ‘mousse’ with icing sugar, but I would have needed about 10 lbs of icing sugar just to get the runny mess to be a firm frosting. So I scrapped that and tried to think of another plan. I could go with VCTOTW’s buttercream frosting, but I would want to cut the sweetness with a different middle layer. I then tried heating the other half of the mousse and adding a little cornstarch and coconut extract, thinking I might be able to salvage it and make a coconut cream. Again, these damn chips stayed grainy and it was an even bigger disaster than trying to make the mousse. So I scrapped that too. I then decided to make the same lemon curd I made for my cake this year, and use all Earth Balance for the buttercream frosting (two batches required!). Everything then turned out perfectly. With everything ice cold, the filling didn’t seep out, and I could ice the cake with no issues. I wish I had time to pipe something more elaborate, but Ash was happy with the simplicity of the decorations.

Unfortunately, the disaster didn’t end there. I used the bread recipe Tracy shared with me and attempted to use it for pizza dough. I thought it was pretty runny, but I then stupidly covered it to rise using a dry tea towel. Obviously when I went to bake it, I tore away about half of the dough. Tracy told me it was good, but I’m convinced that she was just being nice.

All in all, I think everyone had fun – especially the birthday girl.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Mami!

To borrow the title of one of Ash's fave stories...

It’s been so long that I’ve downloaded pics off the camera that I can’t really remember this day all that well. All I know is that I made the Butternut Squash Penne with Sage Pesto and Almonds dish from Skinny B*tch (with chicken tenders, of course) and mom liked it! Tracy also brought some delicious bread – she is now tasked with being the bread baker for our family events! I did end up trying to make my own at a later date:

For her cake, I think I used the chocolate cuppie recipe from VCTOTW and doubled it to make 2 8-inch layers. I used chocolate tofu mousse topping to fill the layers and ice the top, but nearly ran out to do the sides of the cake. So with whatever I had leftover for the mousse, I added melted chocolate chips to make a thick mousse-like ganache. I ‘pasted’ it on the sides and it was good! Definitely mom (and Ashley)-approved!

Mom also revealed that she’s considering adopting a vegetarian diet. I think Tracy nearly fell off her chair. This is after she became violently ill after eating at The Keg. Now that she’s over her illness, I’ll have to follow up on the status of her potential diet change…