Smell and taste Harvest

Even though I live in Santa Barbara, fall is upon us.  For those of us who have experienced a “real” fall, you know how the air shifts — you can actually smell it in the air.  I can smell fall in the air today, and it excites me.  Fall time makes me want soups and stews.  Of course, I always love a good salad, but I enjoy warmer foods when the climate changes.

Today I made Organic Tomato-Fennel Soup, and it’s FABULOUS!  There’s nothing like fresh fennel and organic vine-ripened tomatoes. Couple it with a spinach salad, a slice of gluten-free sourdough bread, a glass of white wine, and you’ve got a great light meal.

So, here’s the recipe!

Organic Tomato – Fennel Soup (Vegan)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium or large fennel bulb (trimmed, cored and chopped…save the feathery leaves)

2 large garlic cloves

4 medium shallots, finely chopped

2 large parsley springs, finely chopped

2 small carrots, finely chopped

3 fresh vine-ripened organic tomatoes, diced

1 16 oz. can organic fire-roasted tomatoes, diced (Trader Joe’s)

3/4 cup organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 cup water

1 teaspoon Braggs seasoning salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed aniseed

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-size stock, place the oil and the fennel, carrots, shallots, garlic, and parsley and cook over medium-low heat (stirring occasionally) until vegetables are softened, but not brown.

Add the fresh tomatoes, the vegetable broth, the fire-roasted tomatoes, the water and the seasonings.   Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes.

Either transfer the mixture to a blender or use a high-power hand blender and puree.

Serve hot garnished with chopped fennel feather leaves.

*Note:  A sprinkle of fresh grated Romano cheese is also a nice touch for non-vegans.

Buon Appetito!

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Organic Tomato – Fennel Soup

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I’m just crazy about…

Arugula! No kidding.  I think I could eat it every day.  Even though it has a very strong flavor…I simply love it!  When I got home from work this evening, I decided to enjoy a fine wine, a variety of foreign cheeses, a Trader Joe’s “Margarita Pizza,” and salad of shaved fennel, sliced oranges and candied pecans.  It was fabulous, if I do say so myself.  But hey, don’t just take my word for it–try it, and see for yourself!

Shaved Fennel, Arugula Salad with Sliced Oranges, Candied Pecans and a Vinaigrette Dressing

INGREDIENTS:

Salad

3 tablsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tablsp. white wine vinegar

1 medium fennel bulb, rinsed, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 valencia oranges, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 cups organic baby arugula leaves

pinch celtic salt

course black pepper (optional)

Candied Pecans

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 tablsp. organic maple syrup

1/2 tsp. raw cane sugar

1/2 tsp. celtic salt

dash cayenne pepper

Here We Go!

I would suggest making the candied pecans first, especially because they need to be cooled before throwing into the salad.

To make the candied pecans, preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the pecans in a small mixing bowl with the maple syrup.  Add sugar, salt and cayenne, mix to coat.  Spread the nuts on a small baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.  Really watch them, because some ovens cook hotter than others, and they can quickly burn.  Cool before placing them in the salad.  Break apart and toss in the salad.

For the salad, whisk together the oil and vinegar in a salad bowl.  Place the thinly sliced fennel, red onions, orange slices and arugula into the bowl with the oil and vinegar and toss throughly.  Add salt and pepper.  Make sure the salad is completely coated with the oil and vinegar.  Add the cooled pecans and serve!

This is a fabulous salad that is especially great with cheese and crackers, wine and goat cheese pizza, even though we settled for Trader Joe’s “Margarita Pizza” tonight.  Sometimes you just have to compromise a little, ya know?  😉

Enjoy!

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Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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What? A moist VEGAN German Chocolate Cake?

Whether  you’re baking for the holidays, or any other time of the year, German Chocolate Cake is always a popular dessert.  Yesterday, I made a great German Chocolate Cake, and it was not just moist and yummy, but VEGAN!

INGREDIENTS:

THE CAKE 
3½ cups all- purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups almond milk
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (Trader Joe’s has a great cocoa powder)
1 cup canola oil
3 cups real maple syrup
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

COCONUT-PECAN FROSTING
½ cup almond milk
¼ cup cornstarch
1 pinch sea salt
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ cups heavy coconut milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

VEGAN CHOCOLATE GANACHE (optional)
3/4 cup almond milk
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I recommend, Chocolove Dark Chocolate and Orange Peel or using Trader Joe’s brand chocolate chips)
1/4 cup real maple syrup

LET’S GET BAKING!

The Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°f.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan to slightly bubbling, and then add the cocoa powder. Remove from the heat and whisk well. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk well. Pour in the almond milk–cocoa mixture, and whisk until smooth. Using a mixer or by hand, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter evenly into the two or three cake pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Set the cake aside to cool thoroughly.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
Whisk the soy milk, cornstarch, and salt together in a small bowl.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the brown sugar in the coconut milk. Cook, whisking, until the mixture comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.  With the mixture on the stove still over low heat, pour in the soy milk mixture and stir continuously until the mixture is very thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Cool before using.

Chocolate Ganache (This is optional.  Not included in my photo)
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, and stir continuously until the glaze is smooth. Remove from the heat, stir for another 2 minutes, and then cool to room temperature.

Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate or stand, and spread a layer of the coconut- pecan frosting over the top (but not the sides). If  you have made three cake layers, do the same with the second layer. Place the last layer on top of the first, and spread a thick layer of coconut-pecan frosting over the top.

If you choose to make the ganache, use an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with a thick layer of ganache. Then warm about ¼ cup of the ganache in a small saucepan, or in a micro wave oven, and drizzle it across the top of the cake (or use a pastry bag to pipe it).

*Note:  Whenever possible, I use only organic ingredients.

This is fabulous!  Enjoy!

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Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Anytime is a good time for COCONUT CREME CAKE!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I decided to post something non-traditional!  That’s right… how about Vegan Coconut Creme Cake?  It’s one of my family’s FAVORITES!

INGREDIENTS: (I use organic ingredients whenever possible)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring/extract
  • 3 cups baking flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

FROSTING:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar (Trader Joe’s brand)
  • ⅓ Earth Balance or coconut oil (Trader Joe’s carries coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk
  • ½ cup flaked, sweetened coconut for topping and the sides
  • 1/2 cup raspberries for garnish (optional)

LET’S GET BAKING!

Directions:

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two (or three) 9-inch cake pans (I use three pans).

Using an electric mixer, cream together margarine, sugar, coconut milk, vinegar, vanilla, and coconut. Cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour to creamed mixture, beating until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans for 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks.

Cool completely. While cooking, make the frosting.  Once the cake is cooled, fill and spread cake layers with frosting and garnish sides and top with coconut.  Sometimes I toast some of the coconut for the top.  You can also garnish the top with raspberries.

Note: To prevent the cake from shifting as you stack it, you can use toothpicks, but make sure you remove them when slicing and serving!!!!

ENJOY!!!!!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Who doesn’t like a…

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE?

It’s hard to escape this reality.  For those who don’t want to eat dairy or animal, it becomes even more challenging.  However, I do have a great, easy recipe for a VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE that tastes just like grandma used to make!

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar (you can also use organic raw)

2/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk (the coconut gives it a wonderful flavor)

1 tablespoon tapioca flour

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

LET’S GET STARTED!

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease your baking sheet with earth balance.

Combine sugars, oil, almond or coconut milk and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl.  Mix really well for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth, almost like the consistency of caramel.  Next, mix in the vanilla.

Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda, and the salt.  Mix until well-incorporated, and then add in the rest of the flour.  Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans and mix.

Roll the dough into balls and then flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches.  Place on the greased baking sheet and bake for approximately 8 minutes until they are lightly browned around the edges.  Once in the oven, the balls will spread a little.

Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to cooling racks.

They’re great with warmed vanilla flavored almond milk!

Enjoy!

*Note:  When possible I always use organic ingredients.

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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I was simply in the mood…

We’ve had such wonderfully warm weather here in Santa Barbara the last couple of weeks, it’s a mystery why I was craving soup the other night, but I was, so I made one of my absolute favorites!  Vegan Split Pea Soup with Roasted Fennel.  The fennel adds an amazing flavor to this wonderful soup, which is the perfect comfort food.  It doesn’t require too much fuss or cooking time, and it’s filling, healthy and packed with protein and fiber, and low in calories and fat! You can’t beat that right?

Organic Vegan Split Pea Soup w/ Roasted Fennel

Ingredients:
2 cups green split peas (I often use a combination of green and yellow peas)
6 to 7 cups vegetable stock (you can use half water if you prefer)
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
2 creamy yellow potatoes (such as Yukon gold or fingerlings), diced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bulb fresh fennel, roasted in the oven and diced (1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar for roasting)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Sea Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional (this takes the place of ham, and adds that smoky flavor to the soup wonderfully!)

*OPTIONAL:  Sour dough croutons for garnish

LET’S GET STARTED!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Take one fennel bulb and cut the stalks off, cut the bulb in half and lengthwise.  Cut in 1-inch thick pieces and toss in a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.  Rub just enough olive oil over the fennel to coat. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar, also to coat. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil, and lay out the pieces of fennel and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Thoroughly rinse the peas. Set aside.  In a hot skillet wilt the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the remaining vegetables and sauté until soft.  Place all of the ingredients in a soup pot (including the roasted fennel), and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely and cook until peas are tender.  This usually takes about an hour and a half.  Check occasionally to make sure water has not completely evaporated. Heat should be medium low.

Once everything is cooked, puree the soup. Add additional salt and pepper, if necessary.  The soup should be thick and creamy.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

Serve the soup hot with sour dough croutons atop.  Add a wonderful green salad and a glass of white wine, and you’re golden!

*NOTE: You don’t have to roast the fennel.  If you want to save 30 minutes, then take the bulb and dice it up, adding it to the vegetables that will be sautéed.  You’ll simply treat it like the other vegetables.

Buno Appetito!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Mouth-watering Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache

Sometimes, you just have to have a little something sweet.  Recently, I baked a Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting for a group of friends at a dinner party.  I didn’t tell anyone that it was vegan until after they had basically demolished the entire cake!  The comments were flying… no one could believe it was vegan.  One girlfriend said, “Wait a minute… this cake has no eggs or butter in it?  How is it so moist?”  I simply grinned.

I thought I would share this with you!

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups unbleached white flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup organic canola oil
1 cup cold brewed coffee
1 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

For the ganache:

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
6 ounces 72% dark chocolate (Sharffen Berger Bittersweet)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

LET’S GET STARTED!

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking oil spray, then place a circle of parchment paper in each pan and spray again (the parchment paper is important).

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, coffee and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a spoon just until combined. Add the vinegar and stir just until it’s evenly distributed in the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched in the middle. Set aside to cool.

Place frosting ingredients in a small pot, heat gently and stir until the chocolate is totally melted.  Cool until it’s the right texture for spreading. If it seems too runny, put it in the freezer for a few minutes.

When the cakes have cooled, put a serving plate on the pan and and carefully invert. Remove the parchment paper. Spread a small amount of frosting (or the raspberry jam) over the top. Place a flat plate on the pan containing the second layer, invert and remove the parchment. Repeat the process with another plate so the rounded side is up.  Transfer it onto the bottom layer. Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Dust with powdered sugar

Serve immediately or leave lightly covered at room temperature and serve later or the next day.  I served the cake with a scoop of Luna & Larry’s  – Organic Coconut Bliss (vegan coconut ice cream), which complimented it wonderfully.  This ice cream is FABULOUS!

Serves 8

 

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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