pumpkin palooza

I’ve been dying to try these pumpkin-y recipes from two of my favorite blogs, The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and The Spunky Coconut, for weeks. When I saw organic canned pumpkin on sale at Whole Foods for just $1 a can, I took it as a sign from the great pumpkin gods and decided to have myself a feast of pumpkin treats.

These gluten-free pumpkin cinnamon rolls from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking were absolutely delicious. It was only my second time ever baking cinnamon rolls, and if practice makes perfect, I can’t wait to see how much better they look once I get some good practice rolling them. If you haven’t read Kate Payne’s blog or her book by the same name, well… you, sir or madam, are a fool. I got the opportunity to meet Kate and hear about her upcoming book The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen when I interviewed her for an article in this month’s Austin Woman Magazine, and I can’t wait to read all the fabulous tips and tricks that are sure to be in it.

Because I love the orange-flavored cinnamon rolls in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and have a penchant for cream cheese frosting, I decided to top these beauties with orange cream cheese frosting.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1 10 ounce package of room temperature cream cheese
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, or blend in a small food processor. Wait until the rolls cool before spreading it on!

After all that butter and refined sugar (mmm, delicious) I was relieved to try these Pumpkin Chai Bars from The Spunky Coconut. The bars are completely vegan, low-glycemic because they use coconut sugar, and even have a raw crust! They were super fast to put together, and I only had to wait an hour before they were chilled enough to eat. I didn’t have almond meal on hand, so I subbed flax meal and the crust still turned out absolutely perfect. The recipe can even be adapted to make a No-Bake Vegan Pumpkin Pie, which I’ll definitely be making for Turkey Day next week.

Will I ever get sick of pumpkin? I’ll report back after I’ve eaten my fill of these treats, but I’m pretty sure the answer is… never.

sometimes, it’s nice to pretend

I want so badly for it to be fall. I’ve opened my windows in the vain hope that a cool October breeze might flow through them, but the only thing coming through is some very loud Tejano music from my neighbor’s house. That’s okay, though, because dinner tonight tasted like fall and that’s really all that matters. Butternut squash soup is one of my all-time favorite cold weather soups, and anyway, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use my fancypants immersion blender my boyfriend’s mom gave me for my birthday back in June.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Vegan, serves 4)

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash
1 can organic coconut milk
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp white pepper
Salt to taste
Optional: 3 tbsp mulling spices, 3 sachets ginger tea

1. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise, and place on a sheet tray lined with foil. Scoop out the seeds and save them if you’d like toasted seeds on top of your soup as a garnish. Rub the squash halves with olive oil and put into the oven to roast at 400 degrees for about an hour.

2. Drizzle a whole clove of garlic with olive oil and wrap it up in a little foil pouch to roast along with the squash. Take it out after about 25 minutes, though!

*Optional: while your squash and garlic are roasting, you’ll prepare a spiced tea to add to the soup when you’re finishing it on the stove. I thought this was sort of a genius idea, but flavoring things with tea is always really difficult. The results were more subtle than I would have liked, but still noticeable. I bought mulling spices in bulk from Whole Foods, and simmered 3 tbsp in 1 cup of water along with 3 ginger teabags on the stove for about 30 minutes. It made the house smell amazing and produced a really strong spiced tea- yum!

2. When your squash is done roasting, remove it from the oven and let it cool. After it’s cooled, scoop out the meat and add it to a large soup pot along with the roasted garlic.

3. Add a can of coconut milk and use an immersion blender to combine the roasted squash, garlic, and coconut milk.

4. Heat the soup on medium-low and stir in the spiced tea, white pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and sea salt to taste.

5. In a small pan, toast the seeds you reserved earlier and season with salt. Once the soup is heated through, ladle into a bowl and garnish with toasted squash seeds.

Here’s to fall (and boots weather!)

foodspotting street food fest

Hungry SXSW’ers braved the rain Saturday afternoon for some trailer food treats at the third annual Foodspotting Trailer Food festival, where some of Austin’s best names in the food truck scene gathered to represent Austin’s growing reputation as the city for the best trailer food. The Foodspotting app is handy for finding great food near you wherever you are- just load up the app to see user-uploaded photos of dishes at restaurants (or trailers!) closest to you. During SXSW, users can load up the app and discover golden tickets to win prizes ranging from a free t-shirt to a pair of Southwest plane tickets.

The fest’s surprise guest was revealed to be competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi, who is best known for his six world hot dog eating championship titles, but also holds Guinness records for devouring meatballs, pizza, pasta, and hamburgers in a matter of minutes. After stopping to take a few photos with fans, he made his way around the circle of trailers to sample a dish from each one. It isn’t often that so many amazing food trucks are together in one spot (aside from the Gypsy Picnic) so I took advantage of the opportunity.

A few trailers seemed to have at least one veggie-friendly option. The Peached Tortilla’s veggie szechuan taco came stuffed with fried tofu and a rainbow of veggies, including stir-fried Japanese eggplant, red peppers, pickled daikon, carrots, and a sprinkling of cilantro. The sweet potato fries with sriracha mayo were a crowd favorite, and the huge portion was definitely worth the $3 price tag. The brightly-colored fries reminded me of something else delicious and orange: the carrot cake cupcake from one of the first Austin food trailers, Hey Cupcake! If I had Kobayashi’s stomach, I might have eaten one of those too.

Hankering for more trailer food at SXSW? All week, Squarespace is giving away free food from more of Austin’s best trailers, including Top Chef winner Paul Qui’s East Side King. Check out the schedule here.

austin taco experiment

To say that Austinites love tacos would be the understatement of the year. We eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and sometimes, especially during SXSW, at 2 a.m.) We develop extreme loyalties to our favorite spots around town. Like your astrological sign, the place you go to get your morning breakfast taco speaks volumes about your character. The taco business in this town is a serious one, as the thirteen chef-testants demonstrated at the Austin Taco Experiment on Sunday, serving up some killer tacos in the hopes of winning prizes and (most importantly) bragging rights.

Team Temple’s Bo Lo Taco, pork belly with fried green apple puree and kimchi

With much horn-blowing and shouts of “Hallelujah!” the Holy Smokers served up a Grec-Mex taco that effortlessly fused Greek and Mexican flavors. Served on a mini pita square, the Grec-Mex boasted gyro meat laid on a slathering of habanero hummus, topped with jalapeno tzatziki sauce and “Greco de gallo,” a fresh mixture of tomato, corn, onion, cucumber and mint. It was unlike any other taco there, and everyone at the table agreed it was a welcome change from the abundance of pork and beef tacos. This was the taco experiment, after all- and the team was rewarded for their bold ingredient choices with second place from both the audience and judges.

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I was excited to find a dessert taco at the very last table. Mary Makes Dinner presented The Frio Tillo, a bite-sized ice cream sandwich with roasted tomatillo buttermilk ice cream and avocado buttercream layers sandwiched between two mini corn tortilla shells, topped with a candied jalapeno slice. The cold ice cream neutralized the burning feeling left on my tongue from some of the spicier tacos, and the avocado and tomatillo flavors were clean and fresh. It was a perfect end to the taco experiment experience, and it was naturally vegetarian!

And the winning taco? Depends on who you ask. The judges chose Zesty Bean Dog’s Pecan Smoked Duck Pastrami taco as their number one. Starting with a made from scratch tortilla, the succulent duck was topped with a pickled yuzu slaw, Brooklyn Lager duck egg aioli, and crunchy tortilla strips. The audience loved Sous Me Alchemy’s Tacos Amores, a slow-smoked pork taco with homemade queso fresco, roasted corn, pico de gallo, sour cream, and a choice of red or green salsa. This also happened to be my favorite taco. Everything was so incredibly fresh, and they happily gave me extra queso fresco in place of meat. I’m such a sucker for homemade cheese.

It was evident that lots of love, patience and quality ingredients went into both the winning tacos. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to Brooklyn Brewery for hosting such a fantastic event. Looking forward to next year! To see all thirteen tacos, check out guest judge Stella’s mouthwatering taco by taco round-up.

tofu noodle soup

Cooking is always difficult for me when I’m sick. My appetite is almost non-existent, and I’m so fatigued I often can’t bring myself to walk to the microwave to re-heat some leftovers, much less cook a complete meal. Tonight, I found myself without leftovers or someone to cook me food (Mom? Boyfriend? Anyone?) so I grudgingly dragged myself to the kitchen to throw together something, anything, with some semblance of “healthy.”

Despite my commitment to meatless eating, I tend to want something like chicken noodle soup when I’m sick, so tofu noodle soup is this vegetarian’s cure for a sore throat and the sniffles. I can see why chicken noodle soup is the quitessential remedy for a cold. The chicken (or tofu, in this case) provides protein, the pasta some carbs for a quick boost of energy, and the vegetables essential vitamins and nutrients. The salty broth soothes a sore throat and the steam works as a natural de-congestant.

Tofu Noodle Soup

1 quart vegetable stock
1 block firm tofu
1 small red onion
~1c. carrots
1-2 stalks celery or bok choy
2-3 handfuls egg or rice noodles
(Clearly, you can see by my measurements I was just throwing stuff in a pot. I won’t judge if you do the same.)

1. Dice onions, carrots, and bok choy/celery. Cook on low heat in the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil, salt, and pepper until fragrant. Add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.

2. In a separate pot, cook your noodles. I only had spaghetti on hand, and noodles in chicken noodle tend to be short, so I broke them into shorter pieces before tossing them in the pot. (I may have apologized to my italian great-grandmother for breaking spaghetti beforehand…)

3. Dice tofu into cubes and add to the pot.

4. When the noodles are finished cooking, drain and rinse with cold water. Add to the pot.

5. Adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, pepper, or any other spices as needed. I kept it simple and added more salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic powder.

To feel (almost) human again, follow up this meal with some Neti pot action.

mediterranean pasta delight

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe before! A catering place I worked at during my sophomore year had this pasta salad in their case daily, served cold, but it is also delicious warm. I like to eat it hot for dinner, then eat the leftovers cold the next day! This is also a great dish to bring to a summer picnic or potluck (yes, I’m already dreaming of summer.)

Mediterranean Pasta Delight

Makes enough for 4-6 hungry people, or leftovers for a few days for 1-2 people.

Ingredients:

1 lb. any short pasta (orzo, penne, shells, spirals)

2 large red bell peppers

1 small or 1/2 large red onion

2  15-oz cans artichoke hearts

2  4-oz cans chopped black olives

8 oz block herbed feta cheese*

Olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

*If you can only find plain feta cheese, you’ll need dried basil, oregano, parsley, and garlic.

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to box directions. Drain, toss with olive oil, and set aside in a covered pot.

2. While pasta is cooking, dice bell peppers and onions. Saute on medium heat with olive oil and fresh black pepper.

3. Drain the artichoke hearts and give them a rough chop. If you want things to look pretty, cut the hearts into quarters with a sharp chef knife. Add to the onion and bell pepper mixture.

4. Add the cans of chopped black olives. Heat the mixture through, then add to the pasta.

5. Crumble herbed feta into the pasta. If you like plain feta, that’s fine too!

6. If your feta is plain and you want some more flavor, I usually spice this pasta up with lots of dried oregano, parsley, powdered garlic, and a little basil. The feta is naturally salty, so I almost never add salt.

7. Mix it all up, and serve warm!

faux pho

After my good-but-not-13-dollars-a-bowl-good experience at the new Elizabeth Street Cafe a few weeks ago, I’ve been craving Pho. Pho appeals to me because it is a cheap, healthy meal that can be made easily vegetarian. Pho Chay, Pho made with vegetable broth, was on the menu for dinner tonight. And it’s pronounced Fuh, not Foe, but I prefer calling what I make “Faux Pho” because no matter what I do it never tastes as authentic as Pho from a Vietnamese restaurant.

For this recipe, I cheated and used a pre-made Vegetarian Pho Soup Starter by Pacific. It is the closest I’ve gotten flavor-wise to that ever-elusive restaurant quality Pho, so I definitely recommend it, especially for an extra quick meal. I’ll likely experiment making my own base using this recipe next time, though.

Vegetarian Faux Pho Ingredients:

2 boxes Pacific Vegetarian Pho Soup Starter

1 bunch green onions

Handful bean sprouts

1 large bunch bok choy

1 block firm or extra-firm tofu

1 package flat rice noodles

2-3 cloves garlic

Directions:

1. Pour the stock into a large pot and set to medium heat. Peel and score a few garlic cloves, and add them to the simmering broth.

2. While waiting for the stock to come to a simmer, cook the flat rice noodles in a separate pot according to package directions.

3. Open the package of tofu and gently squeeze as much excess water from the block as possible. Cut into small cubes and add to the pot.

4. Thinly slice the green onions and add ’em in!

5. Drain the rice noodles and rinse with cold water (this improves their texture and makes them less mushy.) Place a helping of noodles into a large bowl.

6. Roughly chop the bok choy and add to the pot right before you’re ready to eat. I actually turned the pot off, covered it, and waited a few minutes. The residual heat cooked the leaves perfectly.

7. Ladle broth over the noodles. Garnish with bean sprouts. Jalapeno and cilantro are other common additions, but I despise cilantro and prefer sriracha for my heat.

All in all, a pretty good bowl of Pho, for homemade and all. Vegetarians, if you know where the good veggie Pho is hiding in Austin, do tell!

simple winter comfort food

I heard this recipe on The Splendid Table a while ago, and I find it is perfect for a simple and quick meal that isn’t (too) unhealthy but has that comfort factor I love so much during the winter months…

… Even though it was 70 degrees outside today. But I digress. This is what Lynne Rossetto Kasper calls “the real fettuccine alfredo,” with some modifications made by yours truly.

The Real Fettuccine Alfredo

1 pound fettuccine pasta (Do you know how difficult it is to find gluten-free fettuccine? I used Hodgson Mill penne with flax seed, by far my favorite GF pasta)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

Finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (as much as you want!) For the record, parmigiano reggiano is expensive, so I substituted vegetarian parmesan cheese.

Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

To Make:

1. Cook your pasta according to box directions.

2. While the pasta is cooking, throw the stick of butter in a saucepan on medium heat.

3. Add the heavy cream once the butter is melted, stir gently to incorporate. Add any spices (garlic, black pepper, etc.) you want, but be careful, this dish is great because of its’ simplicity.

4. Drain your pasta, then add all that buttery creamy saucy goodness to it.

5. To make this meal at least somewhat healthy, I added roasted asparagus spears on top. Cut the tough ends off the asparagus spears, and place on a sheet tray. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until tender. Lay those spears over the bed of pasta.

6. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top and eat your little heart out.

Thanks, Lynne, for an awesome recipe!

the most perfect sweet potato

A quick post to prove I’m still alive and eating! I’m currently slogging through my last year at St. Ed’s, and bakery work + part-time course load + internship equals a sparsely updated blog.

In other news, I’m addicted to sweet potatoes. I thought I’d share how I’ve been making mine:

1. Bake your sweet taters, wrapped in foil, low and slow for 1 hour at 375. I had in 3 medium-sized ones, and they cooked perfectly through in this amount of time.

2. Unwrap your taters and place in a large bowl. Season with white pepper*, garlic powder, and sea salt. Add a tablespoon or so of coconut oil (healthy fats, yum!)

*Don’t underestimate the power of the white pepper. I don’t know what makes it so much better than regular pepper, but it is delicious and adds a great smoky flavor to these potatoes.

3. Mash them up, peel and all. I find the best way to do this is slice them, then mash, to avoid big pieces of peel.

I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever this year, for my dad’s side of the family. Everything will be vegetarian and gluten-free, except for the turkey! I think I’m going to do these sweet potatoes casserole-style, with some toasted coconut on top instead of marshmallows. What are your favorite sweet potato recipes for Thanksgiving?

summer = smoothies!

Lately, I’ve been making The Daily Juice more of a regular stop rather than a once in a while treat after swimming at Barton Springs. I’ve been adjusting to cooking with all my new dietary restrictions, and while I’ve got it pretty much figured out now, I was worried about getting all my vitamins. A daily smoothie or juice really helped me during that adjustment period. Some favorites off their menu:

Depth Charge
(coconut juice, cucumber, celery, parsley, spinach, cabbage, kale, and romaine lettuce) add hemp protein powder

Coco Love (fresh young thai coconut juice and banana) add kale and spinach

The Chronic (banana, hemp protein, hemp seeds, hemp oil, agave) add spinach

I’ve been sticking to vegetable juices and not fruit- mostly because I’m on a low-acid diet and most fruits are acidic, but also because vegetables provide the same essential vitamins fruit does without as much sugar. But I digress! No one does it better than Daily Juice, but a daily smoothie from there is an expensive habit for a college student to have. So today I made my own.

green drink!

This is a pretty easy smoothie to make, and even though it looks like liquid lawn, it actually tastes really good.

The Green Drink

2 frozen bananas
handful of spinach
4 tbsp hemp protein powder
3/4 cup or more almond milk

Enjoy- but only after admiring the particular shade of green you’ve just created!