Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mild Vegan Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

This past weekend, I made one of the tastiest vegan dishes I have possibly ever had. Vegan enchiladas with black beans and vegan beef! I mean it was just loaded with flavor and it's actually quite simple to make. To be fair, I haven't eaten a lot of vegan food in my life. I have been deliberately eating vegan dishes on and off for maybe a year and a half now. However, I am somewhat of a snobby omnivore when it comes to food :) Not picky. Snobby! Remember my vegan chocolate cupcakes? That kind of snobbery ;)

I generally like enchiladas but find that unless I make them myself, there is a good chance I may feel disgusted if I eat too much of it. I find enchiladas at restaurants way too cheesy and creamy. It's delicious at first but then near the end of the meal, I kind of feel sick :( Or maybe I have been to all the wrong places. I don't know. The vegan enchilada I am about to share is not only tasty, but also healthy and satisfying. It was good at first bite and when it was all gone, I helped myself to a bit more (oink, oink!). The next day, it tasted even better. My husband also loved it! Because it was all vegan, he raved about it even more :) Our 4 year old ate every bit of it but he would probably still pick pizza over enchiladas any day. Lol.

I think this dish could easily fool non-vegans. It uses imitation ground beef and it looks and feels just like the real thing. For those of you who can't live without the creaminess, you do get some of that from the guacamole it is served with. The enchiladas would have been good on their own but serving it with the homemade salsa and guacamole made it excellent.

Dying to try it, aren't you? Please let me know how it goes or if you have any suggestions in the comments below ;) Thanks!

Mild Vegan Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas
Serves 6
(Inspired by the black bean enchiladas recipe at TheKitchn)

2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups thawed frozen corn (or can)
1 large yellow pepper, diced
200g vegan ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (use more if you want it spicy)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

5-6 tortilla sheets (I used the flavored ones spinach and pesto)
1 bag Daiya shredded cheddar
2 cups salsa
guacamole for serving (recipe included)


5 ripe avocados, mashed
1/2 red onion, minced
1 cup of cilantro leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt

Process the salsa according to the recipe, wrap, and place in fridge. For the guacamole, mix everything together, wrap, and place in fridge. Cook the black beans and set aside.

In a large wok, fry the onion, jalapeño, garlic, corn, cumin, chili powder, and salt in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the yellow pepper and cooked black beans and fry for another minute. Add the vegan ground beef, stir to mix well and shut off the stove. This is the enchilada filling.

To assemble, spread 2 cups of salsa at the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Take each tortilla, add filling to it, sprinkle with some cheddar and roll up. Place seam down in the baking dish. Repeat until the baking dish is full. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes. Serve with salsa and guacamole.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Family Fun with Homemade Pizzas

Pizza with anchovy tomato sauce, olives, beech mushrooms & cheddar.

One of my 4 year old's favorite foods is pizza. Actually it's one of mine as well. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It wouldn't be the same pizza but even if it was I would happily eat it all day. I would make a special breakfast pizza, lunch pizza, and then dinner pizza. The possibilities with pizzas are endless!

Rocket shaped pizza.

I love making pizzas and getting the family involved. It's a bit of work but then we have food for a couple of days. I also tend to freeze some for emergency meals. I start by preparing the pizza dough a day in advance. It's always a blast to make our own pizzas. We usually make pizzas on a Friday too so it feels like a weekend party. My 4 year old would request for odd shapes like a rocket ship. He gets the idea from the Curious George Pizza Party story we often read. He loves to assemble his own pizza and then would be so proud to eat it :) I would love to have a pizza party for him and his friends one day. Maybe when we have a larger home.

Pizza sauce, olives, anchovy paste

Assembled by our 4 year old

For my husband, he gets his vegan pizza. Here is an example of what he will put together.

Vegan Pepperoni and Cheddar

Homemade thin crust pizza dough
Simple tomato sauce
Vegan pepperoni
Daiya Cheddar (or Mozzarella)

Vegan pizza with a gazillion things on it.

I love them all but I have my personal favorites. For all my pizzas, I add most of the cheese right after the sauce, then toppings, then top with just a few sprinkles of cheese. This way, you can identify what is actually in the pizza. For the ones I use fresh basil, I add the basil after the pizza is cooked so it lies on the very top in uncooked form. It's prettier that way as well :) Two of my favorites are the following.
Pizza: Anchovy tomato sauce with black olives and capers.

Anchovy Tomato Sauce with Black Olives

Homemade thin crust pizza dough
Tomato sauce mixed with 1-2 tbsp of Anchovy paste
Olive Niçoise
Mozzarella cheese
Some cheddar cheese (optional)

Pesto Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Smoked Salmon (or Chicken, Shrimp, or Ham)

Homemade thin crust pizza dough
Homemade almond pesto sauce
Freshly sliced tomatos
Fresh basil
Smoked Salmon

Pizza scene from a previous time but so funny to see.

Other toppings that I love:

Caramelized onions
Cheddar cheese
Feta cheese
Sliced fresh pineapple (especially if there is ham)
Marinated artichokes
Sundried tomatoes
BBQ sauce (especially with chicken breast)
Fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

Making pizzas at home seems like a lot of work, right? Besides being totally fun to do with your family, here are a few other reasons for you to make your own pizzas at home:
  • You can customize the shapes and make small or big ones.
  • You can have varieties in many smaller pizzas, instead of 1 or 2 different ones in a larger size.
  • You can put whatever you want on them, some toppings of which may not be an option when you order at a pizza shop. E.g. anchovies, marinated artichokes, or capers
  • You can add extra cheese or a variety of cheeses!
  • You can make it vegan. Let's face it. There aren't many vegan pizza stores out there.
  • You can control the bad stuff that you put on them. I.e. less processed foods and preservatives. It may also give you a peace of mind knowing that that stuff you add is fresh.
  • It's a lot of work but in the end, you do save some money.
  • In my opinion, homemade pizzas taste better overall.
  • Finally, you enjoy it more if you make it yourself :)
Do you make pizzas at home with your family? What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thomas the Train Heart-shaped Cookies

I can clearly remember the first Valentine's Day when my son was at daycare. Everyone got sent home with a class list with names of all the kids and teachers. I remember looking at that and asking my husband, what is this? We were first time parents and it was a big surprise to us. I told him that Valentines is coming up so I'm assuming it's customary for all the kids to give each other Valentine cards. I haven't bought or received a Valentine card from a friend since Grade school. My husband in French and they don't do Valentines in France. He thought and still thinks Valentines is ridiculous.

For the first year my son was at daycare for Valentines, I went out and bought Valentine cards and gave them out. We quickly discovered that not only do people give out cards, but they also give out gifts. Lots of gifts! So we looked like the lame parents who only gave out cards :( Like many other new parents, I learned and then joined in on the crazy Valentine gifts. Since I was also learning how to bake sweets like cookies, I decided to make it "my thing" and make cookies to match the Valentine cards for every Valentines Day.

Last year, I made Spiderman heart cookies to accompany the Spiderman cards for all the kids at daycare. I thought it was the coolest thing. All the teachers got red velvet cupcakes. I knew those gifts would be hard to top so this year I had to work harder. I also had a more difficult theme to work with. Thomas the Train! Choo-choo!

I drew up a few designs and settled on one that involved fondant for the 3D effect. I also figured that I could get something more circular and more consistent in size if I just cut it out of fondant. I made eyes beforehand using royal icing. Even though I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, it didn't feel much like Valentines so I decided to add a few heart sprinkles. Initially, I thought I could put the hearts near the top so that it would look like Thomas was steaming hearts instead of well, steam. Then I figured no one would get that so I just put them in random areas to hide flaws in the icing. Lol. I think my favorite combo is the one with three hearts cluttered on one side. It makes it look like Thomas is in LOVE :)

I'm quite happy with the end results. I tried a different chocolate sugar cookie this year and I have to say it's the best recipe so far. Also food coloring pens work so much better on fondant compared to hard royal icing. Was easy and looks great!

So there you have it. I survived another Valentine's at daycare :) Do you think I'm living up to my reputation as Supermom at daycare? I'm totally not but now I feel like it's expected of me to deliver. Sigh.

Ingredient list included with each cookie.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Homemade Fortune Cookies for Chinese New Year

What is cooler than receiving a custom fortune cookie for Chinese New Year? Okay, maybe a big fat red envelope with lots of cash in it... but besides that! Imagine being given a fortune cookie and when you bite into it, it has a personal message in there just for you? A message only you would understand. Whoever came up with fortune cookies is brilliant. Whoever came up with do-it-yourself fortune cookies is my hero.

I made fortune cookies today for the upcoming Chinese New Year. I brainstormed, researched, and came up with some messages that are funny, provide good fortunes, and also bad fortunes. Ahem. I really wanted to have fun with these cookies. I made ones I'm sure Star Wars fans would love! Here are a few of the messages I printed out:
  • "Happy Year of the Snake 2013"
  • "Kung Hei Fat Choy"
  • "Warning: This is paper. Do not eat."
  • "Ask your mom."
  • "For a good time, go to Legoland."
  • "May the force be with you in 2013."

These cookies were made for Chinese New Year but they could be personalized for ANY occasion. They taste great and are so fun to do. I was surprised at how easy they were to make. The first ones came out textbook perfect! I didn't burn myself working with them while they were hot either. I guess I'm fortunate to have tough hands since I can typically handle pretty hot things with my bare hands. My hands may be small but they were made for working!

The recipe I followed was from the Martha Stewart site. The fortune cookies are larger than your typical store bought ones. The recipe says 15 cookies but it's more like 20 large cookies. The cookies are also on the softer side, rather than crunchy. The edges are crunchy but the rest is a bit soft and chewy. I kind of like them like that actually :) If you prefer a crunchier and darker cookie, you can just bake them longer by 1 or 2 minutes. The challenge with this is that you will have even less time to fold them into shape before they cool and start to crack. Because they will be dryer, they may not stick together as easily. You would definitely need to be quick folding them into shape!

I would have never thought of making my own fortune cookies if I hadn't spotted them on Pinterest first. Of course you can make your own fortune cookies and customize messages for them! Duh. Why hadn't I thought of this?! Now that I have made them and have seen how easy they are to make and how great they look, I'm looking forward to themed fortune cookies for things like birthday party favors, Valentine and Christmas gifts, weddings etc. Imagine if someone got a marriage proposal or made a baby announcement with a fortune cookie? OMG. So. Much. Fun.

Speaking of Valentine gifts, I had a few extra cookies so I decided to make a few for my 4 year old to give to a few of his friends this weekend. Why not, right? :) When Chinese New Year lands on the calendar so close to Valentines, you got to make Valentine fortune cookies. You got to!

Valentine fortune cookies for gifts.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vegan Magical Frosting

I only started making cakes and cupcakes in the past couple of years or so. If you can believe it, I actually bought birthday cakes for my boy's first and second birthday. Hard to believe, right?! Then I taught myself how to make custom theme cakes and will probably never have to buy another cake for him again.

I didn't like cupcakes until I started to make them myself. I have a sweet tooth but I cannot eat things that are too sweet. Most cakes sold in the stores are too sweet for me. I grew up eating Chinese sponge cakes and Chinese bakeries don't make their cakes very sweet. They use whip cream and a lot of fruit and I love that. They are a totally different kind of cake though. I do like classic vanilla and chocolate cakes and those don't go too well with plain whip cream frosting. Buttercream frosting is the way to go but then everything gets sweeter. Add fondant and then get ready to be on a sugar high.

I'm always on the look out for recipes where I can control the sugar level. I tend to reduce sugar any way, even when I shouldn't. For instance my fondant is always on the stickier side because I just don't want to add more icing sugar to it. Lol. When it comes to buttercreams, I love swiss meringue buttercream. It's my go to recipe for frosting! I have also tried another great frosting that uses flour and milk called magical frosting. It actually tastes similar to swiss meringue buttercream. The nice thing about this frosting is that you don't need eggs.

This past weekend, I took the magical frosting recipe and turned it vegan. I also tinted the frosting blue and made some fun cupcakes for my husband's birthday. He had no requests so I made cookie monster cupcakes. I have always wanted to make cookie monster cupcakes! They're hilarious :) I already made a batch of chocolate chip cookies so all I had to do was cut the cookies in half and attach them to the cupcakes. I told everyone at the party that the frosting was vegan but no one cared. I don't think a single person could tell the difference anyway. Happy Birthday to my dear husband!

Cookie Monster cupcakes!

The card my 4 year old and I made.
Funny & so easy to do!

Vegan Magical Frosting
Makes about 4 cups frosting
(Adapted from mel's kitchen cafe)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 of the tub + 2 tbsp vegan margarine, at room temperature (1 tub is 1 lb)

In a small pot, mix sugar, flour, cornstarch, and almond milk. Stir until mixed well and smooth. Place this pot over medium heat and stir constantly until thickened. Don't ignore the pot because if there are clumps, then you'll get clogs in your piping tool. It should be hard to whisk when thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Don't be alarmed if the mixture darkens a bit. Mine looked grayish and a bit transparent.

Transfer cooled mixture to stand mixer and beat for a couple of minutes. Slowly add margarine by the tablespoon while mixing on low. Mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla. Mix some more. The frosting should increase in volume and start to whiten. That's it!

Now if you want a truly amazing vegan cupcake, make my vegan chocolate cupcakes and ice them with this magical frosting. You will blow away even your non-vegan friends with this dessert :)

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