Monday, September 7, 2009

dessert before dinner

It's been a delightful long weekend...I hate to think about going back to work tomorrow, so I'm going to share my tasty food stories (and pictures) with you instead.

Last night the baking bug bit me, so I pulled out Vegan with a Vengeance and set to work making Ginger-Macadamia-Coconut-Carrot Cake, except I substituted pecans for the macadamia nuts and I made cupcakes because it is so much more convenient to have the servings already portioned out! As the name suggests, this is no ordinary carrot cake. There is pineapple juice sweetening the batter and chunks of crystallized ginger throughout the cakes. In addition to the the coconut flakes baked into the cakes, I cut off the tops and made them into little baby layer cakes and frosted them with Isa's Coconut Heaven Frosting. I actually don't like icing/frosting on cakes because they tend to be too sweet, as was the case with this one, but despite the prettiness of his Birthday Coffeecake, Mister has impressed upon me the importance of birthday cakes having icing, so I made these to make up for his frostingless birthday cake.
Despite the frosting melting quite quickly and being sweet enough to give you a cavity just by looking at it, we each had two of these delightful and quirky cupcakes.

Unfortunately, that adventure only increased the hold Baking had over me, so today I set about to bake something that had formed in my head overnight. I can't say I dream of cupcakes, but I did wake up with this idea. A short segue: most of my favorite treats involve some kind of fruit being coated in chocolate. A tasty treat I haven't enjoyed in years (for no good reason) is a frozen chocolate covered banana. good. So, to capture all the tastiness without all the cold (I believe I mentioned we're having a bit of a cool-snap), I made Chocolate-Covered Banana Cupcakes.
Chocolate-Covered Banana Cupcakes
makes 12

2 cups flour, lightly spooned and leveled with a knife
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey (to make vegan, substitute 1/2 cup sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 bananas
1/4 cup dark chocolate peanut butter* or Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place liners in cupcake pan.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon with a whisk in a large bowl.
In a food processor, combine peeled bananas, broken in half, with honey, water, oil, and vanilla. Process until smooth, about 15-20 seconds.
Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and mix until combined - this will go faster with the help of a hand-held electric mixer.
Scoop batter into lined cupcake pan, dividing evenly and filling each cup almost to the top.
Bake 25-27 minutes, until a toothpick (tester) inserted into the center of a centrally located cupcake comes out clean.
Cool in pan 5-10 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
Put chocolate peanut butter/Nutella in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high 15-20 seconds. Spread on cooled cupcakes.

**Note: I used "Dark Chocolate Dreams" by Peanut Butter & Co.
It's actually Chocolate Covered Katie's fault - I would never have known it even existed if it weren't for her. Actually, she can share the blame with an old friend of mine who recently undertook what he named "The Nutella Experiment." It made me remember how much I loved Nutella when I was in high school, so when I was at the grocery store, I decided to either pick some up or read the label until I remembered why I don't eat it anymore. Then, magically, I saw this out of the corner of my eye, hanging out just above the big, shiny SALE sign. So there you have it. Moving on...

I thought up a second fun, nostalgic cupcake recipe and stood in my kitchen for about 5 minutes, trying to decide whether to keep going after the Chocolate-Covered Banana cupcakes or save some for later. In the interest of being a good neighbor (I'll explain when we get there) I've decided to refrain from baking the other cupcakes until Friday.

Dinner tonight was Roasted Heirlooms on Orecchiette, although I had to substitute medium shells for the orecchiette because I couldn't find any. I refuse to believe that only Walmart carries this pasta. Anyway, I had been wanting to use heirloom tomatoes for something ever since they made their first appearance in Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago. This is a really simple recipe, but it's soooo good (and extremely garlicky - not for the faint of heart or nose).

Roasted Heirlooms on Orecchiette
6 servings

4-5 large mixed heirloom tomatoes
8-10 cloves of garlic, pressed/minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
13 oz orecchiette pasta (or shells)
10 oz jar of pesto

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Core, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Press garlic cloves over the tomatoes in a non-reactive roasting dish, then drizzle the olive oil over top. Toss well with your hands.
Roast for 30 minutes, stirring twice (at 10 and 20 minutes in).
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, return to pot and toss with pesto. Add roasted tomatoes and toss well.
Serve immediately, with olives and Parmesan, if so inclined.

I'll leave you with a shot of my gorgeous heirloom tomatoes:

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