Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Frosting

My absolute favorite part of this time of year is pumpkin. Hands down, pumpkin things win my heart in terms of fall favorites. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie, pumpkin candles, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin seeds, and dogs dressed up as pumpkins (of course Wyatt has a pumpkin costume). Yes, falling leaves are beautiful; yes, scarves and boots are a nice change of pace; yes, crisp, clean mornings and dynamic trail runs are much appreciated; but pumpkin takes the cake.

Speaking of cake, I decided to exemplify this love of pumpkin into my favorite food-form: cupcakes.

These pumpkin cupcakes are heavy on the pumpkin flavors. Using canned pumpkin in conjunction with the pumpkin pie spice and the sweet molasses from the brown sugar (not to mention the pumpkin pie frosting) mean these cupcakes are pure fall happiness in cake form.

I chose to use flax eggs in this recipe, but I am assuming vinegar+soymilk (buttermilk) or egg replacer would work just as well. You can also use roasted pumpkin - just puree it and sub it in for canned pumpkin. Also, if you are looking to cut down on the oil - sub out 1/4 cup oil for 1/4 cup applesauce. Whatever floats your boat.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
  • 2 "flax eggs" (2 tbsp. flax + 6 tbsp water)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, prepare your flax eggs. Place flax in bowl and then whisk in cold water. Leave in fridge for 10 minutes or so to thicken.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. When flax egg is prepared, fold in wet ingredients, including canned pumpkin. If batter is too thick, add a little bit of non-dairy milk until smooth.

Line cupcake tin with liners and pour batter into liners until about 1/2 - 3/4 full.

Place cupcakes in preheated oven and bake for 17-19 minutes, depending on your oven.

While the cupcakes are cooking, prepare your frosting!

Pumpkin Pie Frosting
  • 1/2 cup vegan nonhydrogenated shortening  
  • 1/2 cup vegan nonhydrogenated margarine (i.e. Earth Balance - I used the whipped) 
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3-4 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Splash of nondairy milk, if needed 
 In a stand mixer (preferably kitchen aid), beat the margarine and shortening together until fluffy.

Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue to beat for another 4-5 minutes.

Add pumpkin, spices and nondairy milk (if needed - add this last) and continue to beat for another 5 or so minutes or until light and fluffy and frosting-y!

Pipe frosting onto completely cooled cupcakes and be ready to get hit with fall flavors!

Ah! Wonderful :) Feel free to pair with a Hot Toddy, mulled wine or - best idea, yet - Pumpkin beer!

Live long and prosper! And enjoy this wonderful season we call fall. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Summer's End Vegan Dinner

First off, I want to say thank you to everyone who reads/has read/lives by/occasionally browses my blog. As of yesterday I reached 100,000 views which seems like a ton to me. I have received so many comments, questions and pleas for advice since beginning this blog and I really hope that, whatever your interaction with it, you have gotten something out of it! I really love being part of the blog world, so thanks!

OK! Onto the food!

For my mom's birthday, I made two reservations at the 3rd annual "Summer's End Vegan Dinner" hosted by Chef Greg Gourdet of Departure and Blossoming Lotus.

My general impression of the entire evening was basically that I was blown away. Seven courses of beautifully and articulately crafted vegan and paleo food complied by a couple of the best chefs Portland has to offer. I mean what could be better? This was the type of experience that is (yet another) reminder that vegan food can do pretty much anything "other" food can do. It can be just as complicated, flavorful, delicate, fine and diverse (in terms of flavor, texture and experience) as any other "fine dining" type of food. And it can do it better. And by harming the animals and the world less. Aaaand healthier.

I could go into complete detail about each course but I was so overwhelmed by the amazing-ness that I think my feelings got all mushed together and overlapped. So I'll just leave you with these photos along with a brief description of each course :)
Wanted to start with this photo because it is my favorite :) I mean, really. Look at that! It's spiced tamari glazed lobster mushrooms, purple potato dumplings, truffle-coconut broth with roasted heirloom veggies and lotus chips. The mushrooms were PERFECTLY cooked and the truffle-coconut broth complimented the delicacy of the whole dish quite well but honestly my favorite part of the whole thing was the potato dumplings. I don't have any idea how they were made or what else was in them but I literally could eat those dumplings every day. They were melt-in-your mouth delicious. I think they might have been my favorite part of the whole meal.

Taking a real quick step back, I am not generally a big hard-alcohol drinker and I started with a glass of wine when we were sitting on the back deck of the Nines before our reservation (see amazing photo of the view below!) but when I saw this on the menu, I had to have it. I do NOT like cloyingly sweet mixed drinks, but simultaneously spicy, salty and fresh-fruity drinks are on the top of my list.

And, of course, this drink has Jacobsen Salt on it (gets me everytime) so, naturally, I ordered it.

Let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed! Fresh jalapeno and fresh raspberry? Absolutely. This drink was perfectly balanced and complimented the meal delightfully.
The view that I mentioned :) The Nines is SUCH a beautiful hotel.

My mom and I, pre-meal <3
This first course was, as waitstaff informed us, was "not on the menu." It was just an extra little bonus appetizer (you know, just in case the six other courses weren't enough). There were little rice balls, a raw ravioli and sushi rolls with a couple purees on top. That is about  all I can tell you (remember - mushy emotions and thoughts about the food all blurred together because of the wonderful-ness)

Don't worry! This part WAS on the menu :) Official course #1 - charcuterie board. On it was (drum roll, please!) 

Part 1 (the cheeses)
1. Brie with a pear mostarda (which, I learned because I had to look it up, is an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavored syrup)
2. Pepper jack with a red pepper jam
3. Apricot ginger chevre with apricot chutner

In terms of these cheeses, the cherve was both my mom and I's favorite. They were all so unique and had a shocking breadth of flavor and texture, but I do remember we agreed on the pairing of the cherve and apricots as the clear favorite. 

Part 2 (the other delicious things)
1. Broccoli and marinated tomato terrines
2. Shiitake mushroom mousse with blackberry glaze
3. Chia and pumpking seed crackers 

The crackers were BOMB. The broccoli was perched on top of a little broccoli pudding that was so fresh and smooth. The Shiitake mushroom mousse I really liked but my mom didn't. I thought it was a little much to have both the mushroom mousse and the broccoli pudding thing; they were too similar in texture and with everything else on the plate, I thought one or the other would have been sufficient. 

Seriously glowing with happiness :)
Course # 2/3 (depending on if you count the first appetizers...which I do. We'll call it #3) was the "End of Summer Fruit and Vegetable Trio"

From left to right:
Corn custard with grilled sweet corn, tomato syrup and sea beans
Smoked eggplant curry and roasted chile stuffed eggplant
Fig and walnut tart, ginger-onion marmalade and  beet vinaigrette

Each of the components on this place made me so excited. Sea beans! Fig tart! Smoked eggplant! That's sort of like what my reaction was like. I LOVE sea beans. Just love them. They are so real and fresh tasting - they really taste straight from the sea which I adore.
I am obsessed with figs. Can't ever get enough. So a fresh fig tart is obviously a win by my standards. 
The EGGPLANT. I don't know how they made the smoked eggplant but it was definitely one of my favorite bits of the night. I think that smoked eggplant would satisfy any meat-eater - it was so smokey and hearty. Just wonderful.

Soup course! Look at my mom...isn't she cute?

Soup! Celeriac and Macadamia Nut Soup to be exact. With an apple fritter (in the center), Asian pear, maple nam prik and thai basil. The beauty and delicacy of this soup speaks for itself. It was just as pleasurable to eat as it was to look at. Some serious culinary art right there. Plus I got to explain to my mom what celeriac is. And she liiikes it.

The mushroom/potato dumpling course, discussed above

Did I mention there were TWO dessert courses? No? Well there were.
Dessert course eins (pictured above): 

Grilled zucchini cake, triple peach ice cream, curry carrot curd with pomegranate syrup and candied carrot.

Edible flowers! And moist, fluffy zucchini cake, accented intelligently with the curry/carrot flavors. I love vegetables for dessert. Especially when they are so sweetly paired with a complex array of flavors.

Last but not least: Mignardises. Ginger beet lollipops. dark chocolate nut clusters, coconut caramels and raspberry pate de fruit.

I'm not going to lie, I was so full by this point that we had to take these desserts home. But since then I have snacked on them every night and that caramel is probably one of the greatest creations ever. I hadn't had caramel in so long and I forgot how good it is. Sigh.

So that concludes the summary of our wonderful evening! What an amazing experience. Can't wait to do it again next year. And if YOU'RE in the Portland area, you should definitely attend. You won't be sorry.

Thanks Chefs!!

All right beautiful people: as always, Live Long and Prosper. And thank you for all the love.