Vegan 101: How Samoas and Thin Mints can make you friends.


It can be tough to make friends as an adult. As we get older, it seems that time becomes more elusive, leaving many people to settle for the friends they already know from work or high school or beer league softball or yoga class. I’m not insinuating there is no value to long-term, meaningful relationships – just that there can be life-enhancing value in engaging with the unfamiliar – and that goes for anything in life. I have found that with every new experience my mind opens up, my creativity is stimulated, and there exists new things to learn about myself (not to mention new memories to laugh at that don’t include the same mishaps from high school…what a relief!)

Moving to Oregon we made a ‘brave new world’ list with ‘make friends’ at the very top.  And what better way to make these friends in a new world then looking for love on the internet?!  Thankfully there is Meetup, an online matchmaking site for all the shit you love to do.  Are you plus sized AND into playing sports? There is a meetup group in Virginia for you. Obsessed with your bearded dog? There is a meetup specifically for bearded dog owners to socialize called ‘The Dirty Beards’. As much fun as it would be to forego cultivating meaningful friendships for time alone laughing at peculiar meetup groups, we figured that the Southern Oregon Vegetarian/Vegan group would be a great place to start.

While I’m a little too curious about the members of The Dirty Beards meetup, it would be tough to beat the group of folks that we met during the last potluck of our new Southern Oregon meetup group.  The people were relaxed, loved talking about obscure kitchen gadgets and ingredients, and were as equally self-deprecating about the life of a vegan as we claim to be. What can I say, I dig talking about frequent bowel movements with strangers.

Onto the foods (great segway, I know). The pressure was on to represent who we were as people through our food – so Evan the Athlete prepared a protein power salad with lemon-tahini dressing and Hayley the Nostalgic-Sugar-Junkie celebrated the seasons with two kinds of vegan Samoas (one with shortbread, one without) and vegan/gluten-free Thin Mints.  We made our own touches to these recipes, but much of my help came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Babycakes Covers the Classics.  Now go out there with confidence adults, and make some friends!

Earn yourself a merit badge for being awesome.

VEGAN SAMOAS (with shortbread)

SHORTBREAD

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance (melted, slightly cooled)
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour (make w/ 1 cup all-purpose flour to 2 tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 pans with parchment paper, and set aside.

Mix everything, knead into a cohesive lump. On a floured surface, roll dough to a 3/8″ thickness, cut into rounds (I used a biscuit cutter).  Cut out the middle to resemble the Girl Scout kind (I used the back side of a pastry tip, but you can even use a marker top or anything lil.)

Bake 15-20 min, or when the edges begin to brown.

COCONUT CARAMEL TOPPING

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp Earth Balance (melted)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

In a small pan over medium heat, melt the sugar, stirring constantly.  The sugar will caramelize, and once it’s a deep copper color and begins to smoke, slowly add the Earth Balance and milk while stirring rapidly. Cook until there are no clumps of caramel and you can see the bottom of the pan when sliding the spatula across. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut.

To assemble: once coconut topping is cool enough to handle, spread evenly on cookies top. Once completely cool, you can use wet fingers to make hale in the middle and even out for esthetics.

DECORATING

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Line pans that will fit into fridge/ freezer covered with wax paper. Use a double broiler to melt chocolate chips, then stir in coconut oil.  Allow chocolate to cool for 5-10 minutes, then dip bottoms of cookies into chocolate and set onto wax paper. Drizzle remaining chocolate over the top of cookies using a fork or pastry bag with a round tip. Chill for at least 30 minutes to set.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

NUTRITION IN SHORTBREAD SAMOAS: 153 calories – 9 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 48 mg sodium– 17 g carbs – 1 g fiber – 11 g sugar – 1 g protein- 4 WW points

VEGAN SAMOAS (*see notes for gluten-free) 

Ingredients:

DECORATING

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two pans with parchment paper, set aside.

Pour coconut into skillet and toast on medium-low heat until golden brown. Remove from heat into dish to stop cooking and cool down.

In large bowl, combine coconut oil, brown sugar, milk, flaxseed, and vanilla until smooth. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix together to form thick batter. Fold in coconut until combined.

Scoop 1 tbsp dough, 2 inches apart on sheets. Flatten with back of measuring cup and use your (or someone else’s) finger to work hole in center to look like Girl Scout kind. Bake 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. After cooling, transfer cookies onto wax paper surface for easy refrigerator storage.

Decorating: Melt chocolate chips in double broiler, then stir in melted coconut oil. Allow chocolate to cool for 5-10 minutes to thicken. Dip bottoms into chocolate and return to wax paper. Now, drizzle remaining chocolate over cooking using a fork or pastry bag with small, round tip. Chill cookies for at least 30 minutes to firm chocolate, then store in cool place in a tight container.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

NUTRITION IN VEGAN SAMOAS: 182 calories – 12 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 6 mg sodium– 19 g carbs – 2 g fiber – 13 g sugar – 2 g protein- 4 WW points

VEGAN/GLUTEN-FREE THIN MINTS 

MAKIN' IT RAIN THIN MINTS!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp mint extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, arrowroot, xanthan gum, baking sode, and salt. Add the melted coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla and mix until thick dough forms.

Drop dough by tsp onto sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten each mound and smooth edges. Bake 7 minutes, rotate sheets in oven, bake for 7 more minutes. Leave on sheets 15 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

After cooling cookies for 15 minutes, combine chocolate chips and mint in sauce pan or double broiler over medium heat. Stir until just melted, then remove from heat. Dunk the top of each cookie and smooth out with finger. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set before eating the shit out of them.

Makes 30 cookies.

NUTRITION IN VEGAN THIN MINTS: 129 calories – 7 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 1 mg sodium– 16 g carbs – 2 g fiber – 10 g sugar – 1 g protein- 3 WW points

PROTEIN POWER SALAD with LEMON-TAHINI DRESSING 

Thanks to www.ohsheglows.com for the template to this great dish (and the pic since we forgot to take one.)

Ingredients for salad:

  • 1 cup green lentils (uncooked)
  • 1 cup kamut berries (uncooked)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil, for sauteing
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • salt & pepper

Cook lentils and cook grains in separate saucepans or separately in a rice cooker.

Saute together onion, garlic, red pepper, and tomato for approx. 5 minutes. Add kale, then cook until kale is soft.  Stir in dressing (see below), then add lentils and grains – stirring until combined.

Remove from heat, add parsley.

Serves 6.

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 + 2 tbsp cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp water

All all ingredients together in food processor and process until smooth.

Yields 1 cup.

NUTRITION IN PROTEIN SALAD W/ DRESSING: 323 calories – 13 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 32 mg sodium– 44 g carbs – 13 g fiber – 4 g sugar – 17 g protein- 7 WW points

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Vegan & Gluten-free red velvet cake makes you sexy.


What better way to add the sex to what sounds like a cake stripped of all it’s fun then literally saying it will make you sexy?  Sex sells ya know, and I want to sell you on how this cake will A. Make you more interesting at parties, B. Bring you pure joy by getting sandbox-style dirty in the kitchen and playing with colors, and C. Make in an overall better person in every way.  I would TOTALLY hit that.

So hear’s the deal…Evan the Vegan Birthday Boy  and Sarah the Celiac Pregnant Friend would be attending the mini-holiday weekend where a cake would be eaten, and I was bring the cake.  The challenge is that every GF/V cake I have eaten has the compactness of weaponry and tastes like putting your tongue on a sugary sponge.  Challenge accepted.

*Thanks to Epicurean Vegan  for the core recipe magic

Express your love through cake. It works 60% of the time, all the time.

VEGAN & GLUTEN-FREE RED VELVET CAKE

1 cup vanilla rice milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 cups Gluten-free baking mix (see below)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 cups cane sugar

1/2 cup palm oil (or vegetable) shortening

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

1 oz red food color (or any color if you want to get sassy)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

1 tsp baking soda

1 recipe fluffy buttercream frosting (see below)

Gluten-free baking mix

3 3/4 cup garbanzo fava bean flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

2 1/4 cup potato starch

1 1/2 cup tapioca flour

Buttercream frosting

*make sure shortening and margarine are at room temperature

 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance)

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s/powdered sugar (sifted if clumpy)

1 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup soy creamer (non-dairy milk can be used, the creamer just makes a more robust frosting)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the baking mix first, using a whisk to mix them well then put in an airtight container or zip-lock bag and shake for 1 minute to combine. This mix should last for 3 months and makes about 7 cups of flour.

Grease 2 9″ cake pans then line the bottoms with parchment paper (I use coconut oil to grease the pans and use the cake pan to draw a stencil on the parchment to line the pans.) Set aside.

In a measuring cup, combine the milk and vinegar to create the ‘buttermilk’ and set aside to curdle.

In a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the baking mix, salt, and xanthan gum.  In a medium bowl or stand mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening.  Add the applesauce, food coloring (1 oz is the whole bottle), and vanilla and mix everything until the mixture is light and creamy.  Add the cocoa powder and mix well.

Alternating, add the dry ingredients and the ‘buttermilk’ mixture to the wet ingredients, ensure you begin and end with dry ingredients. Pour the white vinegar into a small cup and add the baking soda over it. Immediately pour the fizzing mixture into the batter and mix thoroughly.  Evenly divide the batter into two cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes on the center rack or until a toothpick comes out clean, turning halfway if your oven bakes unevenly. If both pans won’t fit on the same rack, ensure the are staggered so one is not on top of the other and switch racks halfway through baking. Let cakes cool completely on rack before turning them out of pans to avoid sticking.

One cooled, turn over the pans and remove the parchment paper. Take a large plate and place it upside down on the bottom of one of the cakes. Flip over so the cake is face down on the plate.

*When layering cakes, I recommend using a one wire cake cutter to trim down the bottom cake for easy, professional looking stacking. Again, this is all about looking better then you actually are. 

To make frosting

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.  Add the vanilla and creamer, beat another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.  Add more extract if accomodate flavor and beat longer or less time to accommodate texture appropriate for decorating.

IF FROSTING CAKE: Once the bottom cake is trimmed, frost the top and sides of the bottom cake pretty thick, especially on top. Carefully  stack the second cake then put a light layer of frosting on cake at let set (this will lock in all the crumbs and leave a professional finished when frosted). Once set, frost around the entire cake and DONE!

IF USING FONDANT: Prepare cake with a light layer of frosting all around (should still see cake color. Soften icing with the bread hook for the mixer for 1 minute or by kneading for 1-2 minutes until malleable.  Dust your work surface with confectioner’s sugar to prevent sticking. Use a rolling pin to roll out fondant to cover cake (approx 18″x 18″) ensuring you prevent sicking by picking up fondant. Gently lift fondant onto rolling pin and position onto cake.

Shape fondant to sides of cake with smoother. You can use your hands to smooth, but this may leave indents or your sweatiness from all this work may melt the icing. Beginning in the middle of the cake top, move the smoother outward and down the sides to smooth and shape fondant to the cake and remove air bubbles. If an air bubble appears, insert a pin on an angle, release air and smooth the area again. Use the straight edge of the smoother to mark fondant at the base of cake. Trim off excess fondant using a spatula or sharp knife.

Baking well is a like an exercise for the mind. Visualize every step and how you want the finished product to look. This helps in preparing what you need ahead of time (and preventing multiple trips to the store).

*NOTE: I have learned that the thinner the fondant, the better the cake. The icing shouldn’t overpower the cake flavor, which is the star of the show. I use Satin Ice fondant and gel edible coloring for the best flavor and colors. When coloring fondant, roll into a ball, use a toothpick to make stripes of color around ball, then knead color until blended. If you need any help in this, I LOVE youtube and it’s wonderful instructor’s. Just Google it:) 

Favorite vegan fondant and gel color.

Decorating:  

PIPING: If you can make friends with a kitchen or baking store, do so..and fast. Most supplies can be found there, but the basics I keep around are my box o’ tips that includes a coupler (the thing that holds the tip in place), piping bags, basic shapes and number/letter cookie cutters, and a long rolling pin.  With every tip and design there is a technique, but instead of spending hours online watching youtube videos (still helpful, but seriously, you have shit to do), I recommend buying cheap frosting that is expired or post-holiday, getting an apron and some parchment paper, and practicing away. It’s really fun to do with kids…I’m assuming this, I have none but who wouldn’t love getting messy and making cool, edible designs?

For this cake (see picture below):

I made the flowers using tip 2D – Hold piping bag at a 90 degree angle with firm frosting. Twist your wrist as you squeeze the bag.

The leafs were tip 352 – Hold piping bag at 45 degree angle with thin frosting. Squeeze hard to build up base, then slowly raise tip as you relax pressure and pull away from point.

The border was tip 10 – Hold piping bag at 45 degree angle with medium frosting. Squeeze hard with tip slightly above the surface, then let icing fan out as you relax pressure and pull tip towards surface to form a point. Start the next bead 1/4 inch away from tail of previous bead.

It's like a double rainbow. At least that feeling of experiencing one, it's THAT fun.

BE CREATIVE!  I love to look at pictures online of other peoples creations and make them.  Oh, and one last bit of advice: Wear gloves and try not to slice your finger on the dryer the day before.  (I promise there was minimal blood in the cake.)

I had a job interview this day. Hot. Mess.

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