Miss E prepares to blow out the candles. Note the chaos in the background.
Valentine's Day has changed for us — it's now officially known as Miss E's Birthday. That's right, the charming Miss E (our little granddaughter) was born three years ago on Feb. 14, and the day now belongs to her. Completely.
Yesterday afternoon I baked a heart-shaped cake, and we headed to Miss E's house for a birthday dinner and an orgy of present unwrapping. Too bad all the relatives who sent gifts couldn't be there to hear the shrieks and squeals. I'm talking to you Grammy and Big Poppy, who sent a pretend wooden birthday cake AND a wooden pretend pizza with all the toppings. And Uncle Lenny and Aunt Ellen — I was summarily handed the old, hand-me-down-excuse for-a-Dora as soon as the new one emerged from the box, and the usually accommodating Miss E would not trade with me. She always gives me whatever toy I want, but she wouldn't give me the new Dora.
Is this not the cutest kitchen you've ever seen?
And what did we bring her? Why, a pretend kitchen, of course. Miss E loves to do both real and pretend cooking, and she's now set to turn out delicious pretend meals whenever she wants. She can make pizza, cake, cookies (a previous gift) or anything her very active imagination dreams up. I'm sure we'll be enjoying many pretend meals with her, along with the real ones.
Miss E's mama made a delicious, real dinner that included scrumptious, creamy stuffed shells with homemade tomato sauce, and a tangy kale and cabbage salad. She got the recipe for the shells from a friend, Brenin Williams, who generously agreed to let me share it with you.
Stuffed shells or manicotti
- 1 cup cashews
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 splash soy sauce (too much will affect color)
- 1 teaspoons black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 8 ounces silken tofu (soft)
- salt to taste
- 14 ounce to 1 pound firm tofu, quartered
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cups steamed spinach (or can be cooked frozen) or sautéed mushrooms
- cooked jumbo shells or manicotti (about 12 ounces)
- vegan cheese, as desired
- In a food processor, grind the cashews until smooth. Add the oil, garlic, oregano, soy sauce, pepper, vinegar, soft tofu and salt, if using. Blend until smooth. Add a little water, if necessary, to incorporate.
- Steam the firm tofu three to four minutes.
- In a large bowl, crumble the steamed tofu into the cashew mixture with 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast flakes. Stir in the spinach or mushrooms.
- Stuff into manicotti or jumbo shells and place in a large casserole dish.
- Cover generously with your favorite tomato sauce and a sprinkle of vegan cheese, and bake at 325˚ F, until hot, about 20 minutes.
Frosted with WHAT?
You can tell I made the cake by the lame decorations.
Now I have to say a few words about the cake and its frosting. Actually, this will be mainly about the frosting. I want to work on the cake recipe measurements and post it at another time. I got the frosting recipe here, on Diet, Dessert and Dogs. It's made from — hold onto your spoons — sweet potatoes! Well, there's other stuff in there, too, but not big globs of margarine and powdered sugar. I can't say I followed the recipe exactly, no, I can't say that, but I never would have thought to make anything like this without Ricki's inspiration. I wanted more volume, so I actually doubled the sweet potatoes but kept the other stuff pretty much the same. Ricky specifies coconut sugar, and I used jaggery* that I had purchased in an Indian grocery store, and which may or may not be the same. I used a little extra jaggery instead of stevia. And I used cacao powder instead of carob, because for some reason carob gives me a headache. I also used 56 grams of semi-sweet baking chocolate instead of 65 grams of unsweetened chocolate. I had to make the frosting in the morning, then refrigerate it all day before using it, so I whipped it with an electric mixer and added some soymilk and a tablespoon of agave to help it whip to creamy perfection when I was ready to spread it on the cake. In spite of my changes, the recipe worked wonderfully, and I loved it. Thank you, Ricki, for being so impossibly clever.
Jaggery — the pieces are about two inches high
*Jaggery is an unrefined form of sweetener that can be made from the boiled sap of sugarcane, sago palm, arenga pinnatasago palm, date palm, sugar date palm or coconut palm, with date palm being the most prized. It is usually found as a large solid cone, or as rectangular chunks, but can also be found in a granulated form. Jaggery is the most popular kind of sweetener in West Bengal, South India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Also known as known as gur in India, panela in South America, piloncillo in Mexico, hakuru in Sri Lanka, it comes in various shapes and sizes, varies in color from light to dark brown, and can range from dry to sticky. It has a rich, caramel-y flavor that is less sweet than white sugar. Coconut sugar is low on the glycemic index. The information available about the sources of jaggery is a little confusing, so I've done my best to summarize and present what I've uncovered. Coconut sugar is the latest "healthy" sweetener to hit the natural foods market.
I made this
I've been crocheting again, and Miss E received a hat for her birthday. I made the hat, crocheted a flower and attached it, then added a bit of elastic thread around the bottom so the hat would be a little more snug. I almost wanted to keep the hat — not to wear but to look at — but I managed to part with it and hand it over to its sweet new owner. Am I proud of my handiwork? Yes, in this case, I am.
Test recipe of the week for Urban Vegan
Hot and sour carrots and lentils
It doesn't seem like it today, but could spring be coming?
Last week I took a walk with a friend, and it was a sunny, warmish, photo-friendly day. We walked the 2.8 mile path around Green Lake, which is about a block from where I live.
When we arrived back at my house, we noticed the crocus growing in my next door neighbor's terrace garden. This week the temperature is colder, it's raining, and the possibility of snow is predicted for Thursday. But still ...