Sunday, April 15, 2007

An un-disaster, among other things

I'll save the nearly averted disaster until last. In the meantime, here are some good eats.

Have you ever tried popped amaranth? I got this idea from The Splendid Grain, and now I am completely taken by it. All you do is heat a deep pot over medium-high heat and then add 1/4 cup of amaranth, and stir and toss it constantly until most of the grains are popped. It only takes about 3 or 4 minutes.

EDIT: Careful; there is a fine line between popping and burning! I have learned this during repeat attempts... So watch your heat and keep those little grains moving!

It makes a great cold cereal, with 1/2 cup of soy milk, some sliced fruit, and some maple syrup. I even sprinkled in some ground ginger for a little kick. It's very crunchy and nutty and toasty, and quick enough for a school day. Plus, amaranth is higher than other grains in iron and calcium, which makes it a good nutritious choice.

We made a huge trip to Trader Joe's yesterday. Since we have to go all the way to Atlanta, when we do go we try to stock up on things. We came home with four big canvas bags full of groceries, and now it is spilling out of our cabinets and pantry... so perhaps, with the exception of fresh produce, we can get away with little or no grocery shopping for the next few weeks. Anyway, I picked up several packages of gnocchi, one of my new favorite foods.

My friend Abby turned 22 this past week, and last night she and our other good friend came over to celebrate with dinner and a movie. The movie, incidentally, was Dead Poets Society, one of my all-time favorites. Some times it's just good to bawl your eyes out in the company of your closest friends, you know?

Dinner, on the other hand, was nothing to cry about. We tried, for the first time, Dreena's Tomato-Lentil Pasta Sauce from Vive! and it was just delicious. I love the idea of adding lentils to plain marinara sauce, to increase the nutritional value of a pasta dish. We left the capers out of the sauce--I realized we didn't have any, and then one of my friends admitted that she doesn't really like capers. Next time I'm interested in adding them because they would really go well in this sauce. But dinner did not fail to make anyone happy!

What did we serve the sauce with? Gnocchi, of course.

Now for the disaster. We tried to make a birthday cake for Abby--and I say tried, because it really wasn't a day for cake-baking. I don't know if it was the humidity from the thunderstorms that we were having, or the heat, or my ignorance about converting cupcakes to 8-inch round cakes... But what was supposed to be a double-layer chocolate cake (by doubling the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe from VCTOTW) ended up being one intact cake and one chocolate crumbly mountain. On top of that, the Coffee Buttercream Icing didn't ever set and become light and fluffy--just moist and grainy and melty. I know I've made vegan buttercream before--I am not sure what went wrong there. How did we save the day?

One single-layer cake, which I tried to decorate with my piping tools but the icing wouldn't hold any kind of form. It was still cute, though. The dark chocolate-covered espresso beans made a really nice touch.

And, with the crumbly layer, mini cake bowls! The bottom layer is a pile of cake crumbs, topped with a nice circle of frosting, then topped with a circle cut out of the part of the cake that didn't fall to pieces. Little dollops of frosting on top, and a chocolate espresso bean in the center. Cute, eh? It's important to make even disasters into something good, when you can. Aside from the appearance, the cake was delicious, especially with a little scoop of So Delicious vanilla ice cream!

So tell me, how do you convert cupcakes to an 8-inch cake? I think we opened and closed the oven so many times to check the cakes for doneness that it messed up the temperature. Hmm... and as for the frosting, I am just going to call that one a fluke.

I'm playing around with my layout--it's time for a bit of a change, I think. I may change it ten more times before I come up with exactly what I'm looking for--just to warn you!

Until next time... peace.


Arine said...

30 minutes at 350F works perfectly for me (I did it with the chocolate cupcake batter from VctotW many times and with the banana split and the coconut heaven).

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you could use the cupcake recipes to make layer cakes too. Your dessert still looks great -- even with a slight mishap.

I love gnocci and was wondering how the Trader's Joe's one tastes. Vegan Ruthie made some from boxed instant potatoes once that looked very easy but it's still easier to get the premade if you can find a good tasting one.

jenny said...

You're the third or fourth person to post about Trader Joe's gnocci - I'm going to have to make the trek to my "local" Trader Joe's and try it out!

aTxVegn said...

The popped amaranth is so cool! Can you do the same with millet or quinoa?

We really do have the same pallette, Laura! Aside from Indian food, I also LOVE the lentil pasta sauce. I just made it a couple of weeks ago. I also made layered cupcakes awhile back! Great job on salvaging the cake. I think your buttercream problem was due to the humidity, and I know it has to be really cold to hold its shape for piping.

I just made the seitan log. I had a taste and thought it really good, but I'm giving it to Chase since it's pure gluten!

bazu said...

Cool! I had put amaranth on my shopping list, and now I'll know what to do with it once I get some. All your food looks so good - even the cake- you really rescued it! I'm sorry it didn't turn out like you expected. Once I tried making my own powdered sugar in the magic bullet and that made my buttercream really grainy and gooey... it happens to the best of 'em.

Dori said...

I tried to pop amaranth once and i burned it. I'll bet it was a nice crunchy coating on your cereal. Th e cake un-disaster still looks pretty yummy to me.

theONLYtania said...

Woot I'm glad you posted about the amaranth. I've had some for-ever that I didn't know what to do with!
I like the cake bowl :P

Anonymous said...

i make the same as Arine 30 minutes at 350F. even with the problems dessert still looks good!

laura jesser said...

Arine, thanks! I'll definitely try it. And, thanks for dropping in!

Midwest vegan, I love TJ's gnocchi... but then again, it's the only gnocchi I have ever had. I can't give you a comparison to other gnocchi, but I can tell you that, by my standards, it's excellent! I'd still love to make it from scratch, though.

Jenny, that's funny! Bloggers tend to blog about food in collective cycles sometimes--weird.

Diann, I think you and I should get together sometime and have a cooking palooza with all our favorite foods! :) I tried to find out about popping other grains, and all I found were amaranth and sorghum--nothing came up about millet or quinoa. I know that amaranth has a higher oil content than other grains, so that may be part of the reason that it pops well. Let me know if you discover anything--or if you try it yourself!

Bazu, lol... I was beginning to think I was charmed--I rarely have the mishaps that are inevitable for every cook! Guess this was just a reminder that it really does happen to everyone from time to time.

Dori, I have made the amaranth a couple of times now and I find that even a small variation in the temperature can make the difference between popping nicely and burning. If you play around with it just a little, I'm sure you will find that right temperature. The pot you use makes a big difference too--pick a heavy one with no hot spots!

Tania, I hope it works out for you! :)

Johanna, thanks! Next time maybe I'll have a normal looking cake! :P

scottishvegan said...

I think your cakes look great! Getting two desserts instead of one cake is pretty cool! I will need to try that Tomato Lentil Pasta Sauce…it sounds very yummy!

laura jesser said...

Scottish vegan, yes, try the pasta sauce--it's one of my favorite Vive recipes thus far!