Monday, May 30, 2011

Karina Makes the Chow, Ariel Takes the Vow: cupcakes for the newlyweds!

This weekend...oh, what a weekend. Our very own Ariel and Sam got themselves hitched on the beautiful Mt. Tam, and I was lucky enough to be there to witness one of the most unique and inspiring ceremonies imaginable... Even better- I was asked to make cupcakes for the celebratory event!

Ariel requested enough cupcakes to feed 75 folks, and hinted at the wish for two different flavors. I knew there was going to be a more traditional wedding cake front and center made by her incredibly talented friend Butch, so I decided to stick to my style and go bizarre and bold.

I made my favorite go-to vegan cake batter using all the organic ingredients I could get. (I made a little over double what this recipe calls for:)

2 cups water
3/4 cups light oil (I used extra virgin olive oil this time)
2 tbl white vinegar
4 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 cups unbleached flour (I used whole wheat instead and recommend it!)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking soda
cinnamon and cayenne

Then I split the batter in half and made two different flavor purees to add to each one.

Kiwi-Lavender (with added mango, ginger and dates)

And Banana-Chipotle (with added cayenne, ginger, more cinnamon and dates.)

I added each puree to one of the batter bowls, and made a few last minute flavor adjustments by adding this and that (more spice here, a little lemon to balance it there, agave to make it perfectly sweet..) I made both minis and regular size to make sure there was more than enough to go around.

Once they were all cooked at 350* to moist and golden perfection and cooled over night, I set up my decorating station and got to some serious business... (notice my new frosting syringe I just bought- an awesome addition to my cake garnishing tool box!)

I had made both frostings by starting with a base of room temperature earth balance, vanilla, powdered sugar, sea salt, dates, fresh ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. I added bananas and chipotle peppers to one, and kiwi, lavender buds, lemon, and rose water to the other.

I garnished the kiwi-mango-lavender cupcakes with dried pomegranate seeds, dried blueberries, and candy pearls...

And the Banana-Chipotle cupcakes with freeze-dried bananas, chili-coated dried pineapples, dried pomegranate seeds and more candy pearls.

Butch's gorgeous cake!

The crafty couple planned for the reception to be one giant potluck, and luckily all of their friends and family apparently are INCREDIBLE cooks. I am fairly confident that no one went hungry that night.

Congrats Ariel and Sam!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Karina's Spring Breakfast Series- Pt. 2- Easter Brunch!

When the Downey house throws a Mimosa Brunch, there is never any messing around about the mimosa aspect of the event. In hosting our second annual Easter Brunch this year, I decided it was best that I prepare to make extra food to accompany our dozen+ bottles of bubbly and OJ and 20-something expected guests... I started by whipping up a huge batch of Lavender-Orange Infused French Toast. My work kindly let me take the day old bread that was to be composted (Several delicious loafs of whole- wheat bread that we get from San Francisco's local ACME Bread!) which saved me a ton of money and worked perfectly making a massive amount of FT.

For my batter, I threw in probably 7 or 8 fresh organic eggs, a half carton of vanilla hemp milk, a tablespoon or two of vanilla extract, some sea salt, cinnamon, some dried lavender buds, and a splash of orange juice in a big bowl and whisked it together until it was well blended. I'm never too concerned about measuring anything with my french toast batter (no surprise there), as long as its thick enough to give the bread a good coating without being to eggy. (For only a few servings of FT, I might only use 1 or 2 eggs...)

Since the bread was a little hard, I made sure to give it a good, thorough soaking on each side. I heated my pans on high, used Earth Balance for coating instead of butter in between each batch, and went to town on my FT Station. I also sprinkled some extra cinnamon on each piece before flipping them over. I threw all of the finished French Toast in a big foil pan in the oven on 200* to keep it warm, and periodically drizzled agave over it to keep it moist. I often like to make a fruit compote topping instead of just having a bottle of syrup out. (Its cheaper than offering up real maple syrup, and tastier and better for you than serving up the fake imitation route.)

For this occasion, I threw a carton of organic strawberries in the food processor with a peeled mango, some fresh ginger and rosemary and a splash of hemp milk and blended it up into a thick puree. I heated up two spoonfuls of earth balance in a small sauce pan on the stove and added my puree to it. I simmered the compote on low for over an hour, occasionally stirring in agave, cinnamon, fresh lemon, sea salt and a little maple syrup.
In the food processor, I shredded two bags of trader joe's organic sweet potatoes. In a colander, I pressed all of the excess liquid out for a crispier outcome in the end.. In a skillet I sauteed a large yellow onion, several cloves of garlic, and two of my favorite field roast vegan sausages in some olive oil... Once I had added in my shredded sweet potatoes to the working saute and cooked them through for about 15 minutes while adding salt, paprika, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne, I transferred it all to a big baking pan, drizzled it with agave and olive oil and stuck it in the oven at 400* to get it nice and crispy. I left it in the oven for about an hour until all the guests arrived and it was ready to serve up, so I gave it a good stir every 15 minutes or so, so the top didn't burn. Lastly I prepared my egg scramble. I began by sauteing another large yellow onion in some olive oil, and then adding chopped asparagus, apple, zucchini, and orange, red and yellow sweet peppers. I flavored the mix with sea salt, Braggs, Cumin, Curry Powder, Cayenne and black pepper. Once people started to arrive, I poured in the 15 eggs that I had cracked into a bowl and lightly scrambled.. I stirred and spiced until they were fluffy and cooked through but not over-done! (Nothing worse than overcooked eggs!)
I had also set out some quinoa-beet salad I had snagged from the free pile at work, and Alma brought and amazing and fresh batch of tahini sauce that made for a mind-blowing topping for the sweet potato hash and eggs!

All in all, the food was a big hit and served as a necessary palate cleanser in between the many..many mimosas!