Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate-Cherry Cupcake with Guilt Free Frosting!!

For years, I've been looking for an alternative to traditional frosting. I'm sure a lot of people have felt the terrible guilt of ingesting empty calorie treats at birthdays and other special occasions, throwing away any effort to eat a healthier diet. I am super proud to show you how I managed to make this frosting very nutritious! The idea is not new, if you've read my recipes you'll know how much I love using the key ingredient: Black Beans!! This black bean frosting even hardens like the real one, mostly because it uses powdered sugar :)  No artificial sweeteners for these babies (read a very interesting reason here). Also, they are vegan so no cholesterol either :) So start the year the right way with this New Year Cupcake!

Enjoy this crazy and delicious recipe! Be curious!


Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup of cherry water reserved from 1 can (14.5oz) pitted red tart cherries

½ cup  soymilk

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar



For the Frosting:



3 cups unsalted black beans, cooked

1 can (14.5oz) pitted red tart cherries, (water reserved for cupcake batter)

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread or margarine, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder



Directions

For the Cupcakes:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease or line a 12 well cupcake pan.

In a large bowl ,with a hand or stand mixer, cream the sugar and buttery spread.

Add the vanilla extract.

Combine the cherry water with the soymilk

In a separate medium bowl, sift together the cornstarch, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture (¼ cup at a time), alternating with the milk mixture. Do not overmix.

Add the apple cider vinegar and mix with a spoon, discoloration will occur.

Fill the cupcake wells 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-23 or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

For the Frosting:

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and puree until very smooth.

Pass the frosting through a sieve to make sure no whole beans are left.

Decorate the cupcakes using a decorating bag. 
Refrigerate.

Enjoy!!!
 

Have a very successful and beautiful New Year! With all my LOVE ♥♥♥

Ruth  


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chocolate-Mint-Bean Sandwiches

After the incredible amount of cookies eaten during this month, the only ones my stomach is accepting are these. They are refreshing and nutritious thanks to the main ingredient of the filling: Black Beans!!! If you've tried the famous black bean brownies you'll know that they make a perfect ingredient for any sweet treat. You really do not taste the beans, just the chocolate and the refreshing peppermint flavor. If one of your new year's resolutions is to eat healthier, give these vegan cookies a try, you will be surprised of how good they are!






This recipe makes 18 sandwiches

For the Vegan Cornstarch Shortbread

Ingredients
 
1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery, coconut spread or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-8 tablespoons soymilk
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder


For the Chocolate-Mint-Bean Filling

Ingredients

2 cups unsalted black beans, cooked
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
6-8 tablespoons soymilk

Directions


For the cookies


In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar.

Add the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl sift the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well.

Add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time alternating with the soymilk. If 6 tablespoons of milk is not enough to make the dough come together add 1 or 2 more tablespoons.

Do not knead as this will make the dough become sticky, put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes if this happens.

At this point you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/4" thickness.

Cut circles with a cookie cutter (or a cup, cap or anything you have in hand) with a 2" diameter. If the dough starts to become warm, refrigerate it or stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Pick the circles up with the help of a dough scraper and transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet
Refrigerate any extra raw cookies to prevent excessive spreading when baking.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms just start to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack.

For the Chocolate-Mint-Bean Filling

In a blender or food processor combine all the ingredients with only 6 tablespoons of the soymilk.

Puree until very smooth, no beans should remain whole.

Add more soymilk if the paste is too thick, it should not be runny. 

To assemble the sandwich:

When the cookies are cool, place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the center of one and top with another cookie.

Press slightly to distribute the filling evenly.

Enjoy!




Monday, December 26, 2011

Last week of 2011! Make it amazing!

I hope everyone had a great Holiday Weekend! 

Now that Christmas has come and gone we can focus on the last week of the year. To make this week very special, my sister and I decided to try as many new things as we can before the year ends, so we can start the year wiser and with a head start in the resolution department. You are going to be very surprised! So stay tuned for next week's post, it will be a lot of fun, just like my week! Also this week, I will post some innovative recipes so you can start doing new things by trying them out!


To quote one of my favorite shows:

Make this week legend-wait for it... and I hope you're not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is DAIRY! 


I'll leave you with a few Christmas pictures! Have a great week! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alfajores and Spirals: This year's Christmas Cookies

This year's Christmas cookies are very special to me, as they were always present at the most memorable events of my life. Alfajores de Maizena are cornstarch shortbread cookies stuffed with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut, Maizena is actually the most popular brand of cornstarch in Argentina, hence the name. It is incredibly common to find these everywhere in Argentina (and I understand there are similar versions scattered around South America and Spain). There are other kinds also, (chocolate, white chocolate, filled with jam, etc.) that you can buy at any kiosko (street stands and mini markets), but these are the traditional homemade ones that will greet you at every Argentinian gathering.

You can use the dough to make the pictured Coconut- Dulce de Leche Spirals! The shaping process is explained below in the vegan version (product of a whole day of experimenting, phew!) Note: none of the spirals given out this year are vegan, we wanted everyone to experience the magic of real dulce de leche first, (we left the yummy vegan version for the family, they were crazy good, and in the cookie the vegan dulce tasted very similar to the regular one). So, keep reading and don't miss the fun cookie pictures!

Now, let me dedicate a few words to Dulce de Leche. When we first arrived to the US, it was very difficult to find our favorite staples and although we loved American flavors we needed dulce de leche! So my Mom got a tip from a friend that involved boiling condensed milk for several hours, what a wonderful idea that was! We spent years boiling cans, and still do. Now, you can get ready-made dulce de leche anywhere but back then, you couldn't. Argentinian dulce de leche is made with vanilla, I figured you could add a few drops of vanilla extract when it's still hot I haven't tried it because my husband loves it just the way it comes out of the can, and I can't complain either!

This weekend was Christmas baking weekend. It was certainly, a very busy one, thankfully, my mom came to the rescue and took loads of work from my back and in between laughter, flour and sticky fingers we shared an amazing and very overdue mother- daughter day. Thank you Ma!











And finally the recipes! I present to you:



 Alfajores de Maizena

 

Makes about 24 alfajores

For the Dulce de Leche

Ingredients
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk

Directions
Four to five hours before baking the cookies (you can make it days ahead, just keep it in the fridge until ready to use), remove any labels from the cans and place them in a large pot filled with enough water to cover them. I recommend you put a ceramic plate under the cans or wrap them with plastic to avoid rust staining the pot. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 4-5 hours. Check every once in a while to make sure the cans are still covered with water, add more hot water if necessary. Let the cans cool down a bit before opening. Add a few drops of vanilla extract if desired. Refrigerate. To make alfajores is highly recommended that the dulce is very stiff, otherwise they will become a big messy treat, depending on the brand of condensed milk you buy is the amount of time you will need to cook it. Like in any caramel, the cooling process will increase the viscosity.
Scroll down to the vegan version for a link to make dulce de leche the traditional way!



For the Alfajor Cookies



Ingredients
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
About 1 1/2 cans dulce de leche
Finely shredded coconut


Directions


In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition.

Add the vanilla and lemon zest.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well.

Once the butter is creamed, add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together. Like any butter dough, you might have to refrigerate if it gets too sticky to shape.


At this point you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/4" thickness and cut circles with a cookie cutter (or a cup, cap or anything you have in hand) with a 2" diameter. If the dough starts to become warm, refrigerate it or stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Pick the circles up with the help of a dough scraper and transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet ( I always line mine with parchment paper, no matter what). Refrigerate any extra raw cookies to prevent excessive spreading when baking.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms just start to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Once the cookies are cool, start making the sandwiches: Place a rounded teaspoon of dulce de leche in the middle of one cookie, the more dulce the yummier, just make sure it is not runny!

With a knife spread more dulce de leche on the sides and roll on the shredded coconut! And ces't tout!

Enjoy with a warm cup of coffee or hot cocoa :-)

Refrigerate left-overs in an air-tight container. 

Vegan Coconut Dulce de Leche Spirals

 
Makes about 24 cookies


For the vegan dulce de leche:
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown's Dulce de Leche recipe
Makes about 2 cups



Ingredients
6 cups regular soymilk
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup of vegan buttery spread or Earth Balance Coconut Spread
You can replace regular sugar with 4 cups of powdered sugar for a smoother consistency


Directions


Combine the soymilk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved, add the baking soda. Bring to an almost simmer and continue cooking uncovered for 1 hour, pay close attention, soymilk boils over just like regular milk does. Stir often, you don't want to clean up this mess!


 Remove the vanilla bean and continue cooking until the mixture gets reduced to about 2 cups and it turns a deep brown caramel color. Remember to stay close to stir when necessary. Once it reaches the ribbon stage, drain the caramel to get rid of any foam and add the buttery or coconut spread, this will keep it from crystallizing when you put it in the fridge. Refrigerate.
If for some reason, it doesn't harden as desired, you can always bring it back to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of agar agar powder, and stir for 5 minutes.



For the Vegan Cornstarch Shortbread

Ingredients
 
1/2 cup vegan buttery or coconut spread
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
6-8 tablespoons soymilk
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
To assemble the spirals you will need 1/2 cup of vegan dulce de leche mixed with 1/2 cup of shredded coconut flakes. 

Directions



In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar.
Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
In a separate bowl sift the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well.
Add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time alternating with the soymilk. If 6 tablespoons of milk is not enough to make the dough come together add 1 or 2 more tablespoons. Do not knead as this will make the dough become sticky, put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes if this happens.
On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough into a 1/8" thick rectangle.
Spread a very thin layer of dulce de leche-coconut mixture covering the whole surface of the dough.
Fold, jelly roll style, starting from the short end.
Repeat with the second half of dough.
Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and freeze it for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.





Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the roll into 1/2" slices and place them on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes.
With a very thin spatula, place them on a cooling rack, being careful as they are very tender when warm.
Refrigerate in an air-tight container if not eating right away.










Enjoy your indulgent vegan treat!

 The idea of these cookies was inspired by the Nutella Rugelach with Hazelnuts from What's Cooking Italian Style Cuisine



Finally, after the longest post ever!, a few closing words.
I feel very fortunate to have this blog which gives me the opportunity to share this, among other special recipes with you. I hope to have inspired you to make these cookies, and I hope they create special memories as they have created in my life. 


Enjoy and have a Beautiful, Sweet and Merry Christmas! 

**** Update**** 12/23/11

Yesterday I was going through some old pictures and I found one that I found hilarious! In the past, I had the same hairstyle as the picture above (my bangs are a few weeks old only)  and I was eating an alfajor! Check it out!

The one on the left is a picture of me and my sister on her first birthday in 1987.
 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Photo Rejection

This post will be short. I submitted some photos to Foodgawker and not surprisingly, they were rejected. It is a bit embarrassing for me as I am (or was) a perfectionist, but what can a perfectionist do if she doesn't have the knowledge, right? I felt better after reading some posts from other bloggers sharing the same story and how they started learning little by little how to take beautiful pictures. It was simple, just two options, quitting or educating myself. I chose to learn, after all, that's what life is all about. I read some tutorials from Taylor Takes a Taste and also I got some info from Spicie foodie about lighting kits, so applying what I read will be my next step. But as Taylor says those websites have a criteria to choose the pictures they're going to post but that doesn't mean the rejected ones aren't beautiful pictures. So while I take that advise in, and get over the rejection, I will let photography become my new obsession. It will be great to see my progress during this exciting journey... 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coconut-Chocolate Tres Leches (vegan)

Tres Leches is a very popular cake in Latin America. It is basically a cake soaked with condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream or regular milk. Even though I am from South America, the first time I tasted it was this year when I made it for my husband's birthday. Everyone loved it but unfortunately, the results were not that great, several members of my family are lactose intolerant. That's why I decided to make a vegan version everyone could enjoy with no regrets! I created two versions of this cake but today I will only share the one that I feel goes perfect with the season. This cake is absolutely amazing, the rum and coconut extract combination gives it a special and comforting flavor. I hope you enjoy this cake which I consider one of my best creations so far (I don't mean to brag, but you'll know once you try it!, lol! )

 8-12 servings
 
Ingredients

For the Cake:
2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup Earth Balance Coconut Spread, room temperature (or margarine)
1 tsp. rum extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
  2 cups  Soymilk
2/3 cup cornstarch
2  2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
For the Milks:

1 can (15oz) cream of coconut
1 can (13.5oz) light coconut milk or 1 2/3 cup of coconut milk beverage
1 cup  Soymilk
Decoration:

1/3 cup powdered sugar
9 marraschino cherries

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a 9 inch round springform pan.

In a large bowl ,with a hand or stand mixer, cream the sugar and coconut spread. 


 Add the rum and coconut extracts.

In a separate medium bowl, sift together the cornstarch, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture (¼ cup at a time), alternating with the first 2 cups of soymilk.
Add the apple cider vinegar and mix with a spoon, discoloration will occur. 

  Pour the batter into the previously greased pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

In a medium bowl mix the cream of coconut, coconut milk and soymilk.

When the cake is ready, let it cool for 5-10 minutes and invert it onto a plate with a rim and prick it all over with a fork. 


 
Pour the milks on top of the cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the milks get absorbed.

 
Decorate with the powdered sugar and marraschino cherries.

Enjoy!. 

 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finished my first 5K race!

 Taking a break from the food posts, I wanted to share something that was extremely important to me. For a while now, I've been having problems finishing or getting somewhere with all the activities I've started ( yoga, tai chi, dance lessons, etc). Honoring the name of my blog, I am curious, I like to explore, but normally that is all I do, I get a general idea of the topic and I move on to the next thing. So this past summer I decided to start jogging. It was hard, very hard, but it was a great activity to save money, be in contact with nature and burn the extra calories I eat! I invited my sister to join me, she is always looking for new challenges, so we started training for our first 5K! 

 The original date for the race was October 30 but because of the snow storm we had on the 29th, it was postponed until November 27, 2011



It was actually great for me, because I was recovering from heel pain that started after jogging more than the usual distance. Little by little I started jogging again, and even though I could not improve my timing, at least I was able to finish the distance, which is the most important goal when running for the first time!


The big day came and it was beautiful! It was chilly and a bit cloudy but perfect for exercising. I was very excited and nervous because I didn't know how anything worked and even worse, we got there 10 minutes before the race! So we ran to the pre-registration tables, we got our goody bags and long sleeve t-shirts (free stuff, yay!)  and after pinning the numbers to our shirts and attaching the timing device to our shoelaces we ran to the start line (no time to warm up!).
I started jogging slowly, with a big smile on my face, it was fun, and the other runners kept us motivated, so much better than the practices! And I felt important, traffic was being stopped for us, how cool is that!
One of my fears was to get lost, but that is almost impossible, there were signs with arrows everywhere and people leading all the time.
By mile 2, I was very tired but after spilling drinking a few sips of water ( I really have to practice how to drink while jogging, it looks so easy on TV! lol!),  I got more strength to continue. The cool water and the cheers got me through the last mile. My body was tired but when I saw the the blue lines, I felt no more pain or fatigue, I sprinted to the end feeling nothing but the desire to reach the finish line. Truly amazing!

Me on the left, Noelia (my sister)  on the right (grey pants)


My time was 29:48.6 which is good considering my athletic condition and that it was my first race, and I was 3rd within my age group, yay! (older people were faster and fitter than our "young" selves) .  My sister finished a little bit behind me, still with a stomach ache that started early that morning, probably nerves :-/, hopefully the next one will feel better for her.



After this big event, hopefully we can keep it up and run our first 10K next year, and more 5Ks with better timing, of course. Running this race gave me some peace of mind, because I proved to myself that I am still capable of finishing what I've started, motivation is the key!

Chipotle-Leguball Sub



Beans are the best gift Mother Nature has given  vegetarians. They are full of protein, fiber and antioxidants! The warmth of this sandwich brings pure happiness at the table. Besides enjoying these leguballs with bread, they are perfect to eat with spaghetti or by themselves! Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

1 (8oz) can Goya Tomato Sauce (Spanish Style)
1 (14oz) can Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
Salt, to taste
Baking soda, if necessary

For the Chipotle-Leguball Subs

1 cup black beans, cooked
1 cup garbanzo beans, cooked
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (Goya), minced
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
 4 Hoagie Rolls

Direction

In a medium saucepan combine all the ingredients except the baking soda. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. To reduce the acidity of the sauce, you can add 1 pinch of baking soda, stir and taste. Add 1 pinch at a time, too much baking soda will ruin the sauce. 



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet. In a blender or food processor puree the black beans and garbanzo beans. In a medium saucepan, combine the oats and the water. Cook until the water is absorbed. Add the bean puree and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, remove from the heat and let the mixture rest for a few minutes.


When cool enough to handle, grab rounded tablespoonfuls of dough and form into balls. Place them on the baking sheet and spray them with oil. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 
Coat the chipotle-beanballs with the sauce.



Assemble the sandwiches and enjoy!! 

As a side dish, I made the Baked Green Bean Fries from The Realistic Nutritionist. They are unbelievable!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Brussels Sprouts with Chard Dressing and Cranberries



There is nothing better than cooking with seasonal vegetables. Yesterday, I received my bi-weekly delivery of veggies and fruits from Suburban Organics and I decided to use several items for our dinner.
 This meal, besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, is very comforting, which is ideal for cold weather. For the dressing I used soy nuts (which are actually, roasted soybeans) but other kinds of nuts can be used. This recipe can be used as a side dish all by itself ( yes, it's that good!) or with pasta, as shown.



Ingredients
1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 cups raw chard ( any kind ), about 5 large leaves
1/4 cup soy nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried cranberries


Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a shallow baking dish, combine the Brussels Sprouts and leek, set aside.
In a food processor, combine the chard, soy nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Process until very finely chopped.
Add the mixture to the sprouts and leek. Mix well.
Bring to the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Add the cranberries and Enjoy!!

Thanks to Spicie Foodie for being the source of inspiration for this recipe! Check it out!



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