vegetarian

Vegan Chocolate Cake

A few months ago my little sister made every Italian mother's nightmare come true...she became a vegan! In the words of one of my favorite movies My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "What do you mean you don't eat no meat!?" Needless to say we all gave her a hard time. I mean whats a life without cheese, without that perfect runny egg yolk, without BUTTER!? We all thought it was a phase but hey this girl has been sticking to her guns! Since I love my sister oh so much I decided to surprise her with a special vegan dessert for her 20th birthday. Like the rest of the Marullo clan, Julia loves chocolate and her favorite dessert was always the Double Chocolate layer cake from Magnolia Bakery in NYC. After some research and the combining of a few good looking recipes I came up with the following recipe and let me tell you it is decadent, it is chocolatey, it is moist and you will not miss the dairy one bit! It tastes a lot like the Magnolia Bakery Cake but its vegan!

 

vegan cake.jpg

 

Ingredients

Dry ingredients:

  • 2½ cups all-Purpose flour
  • 2½ cups white sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Espresso Powder (I like the Medaglia D'oro brand) (this is optional but truly enhances the chocolate flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 2⅔ cups Unsweetened Almond Milk (you can also use Soy)
  • ⅔ cups Canola oil (or vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients:

  • ½ cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening 
  • 1¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Instant Espresso Powder 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons Almond Milk (as needed)

Instructions
To Make the Cake: Preheat your oven to 350F. Prepare two 8" round baking pans by lightly greasing them, and then cutting a circle of parchment paper to fit into the bottom. You can also use a 9 inch spring form pan and then careful cut the baked cake in half horizontally to fill it with icing but it will take more time to bake. This recipe will also work in sheet pans and cupcake tins! 
In a large bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients, then set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together all of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't over mix. Divide the batter into the prepared pans, then place them in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting: Use a mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand blender and whip the vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add all the rest of the ingredients except for the Almond Milk. Blend until whipped and creamy. If the frosting is a bit too stiff, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of Almond milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble the Cake: Run a knife around the edges of the cake pans, and flip the pans over to remove the cakes. Remove the parchment paper and discard. Place the first cake on your cake plate, and spread about half of the frosting on top. Place the second cake on top of the frosted cake, and spread the remaining frosting on top of that cake. Add sprinkles or Dairy Free Chocolate Chips around the perimeter to add a little pizzaz!  Store the cake in the fridge or a cool place until you are ready to serve. Serve at room temp! 

 

Spaghetti Squash Fritters- Vegetarian "Crab Cakes"

I HATED leftovers as a child!  I always felt like they never tasted fresh, and being the foodie that I am, I didn't want to have the same dish multiple times in one week.  Once I started managing restaurants and cooking in professional kitchens, I realized how important it is to take the scraps and leftovers of your vegetables, meats, cheeses etc. and use them to create more dishes!  Ultimately, if you throw good, useable leftovers in the garbage, you are throwing money in the garbage!  This week I had a substantial amount of Spaghetti Squash leftover, so I got a little creative and created a delicious appetizer to bring to my friend's apartment for dinner. These fritters are crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.  The pleasantly stringy texture of the spaghetti squash and the flavors of the capers, sun dried tomatoes and breadcrumbs oddly make these little patties taste just like crab cakes! My friends kept insisting that I was lying to them and that they were crab cakes and not vegetable fritters!  So if you are a vegetarian or have vegetarian guests, this is the perfect dish to serve!  You can even make a "crab cake" sandwich by making a larger spaghetti squash patty, put it on a nice brioche bun with a cajun style aioli and top it with some mixed greens..now how delicious does that sound!


Ingredients-

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

Canola Oil

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes chopped fine (you can use more if you'd like)

2 Small Cloves of Garlic Minced

Seasoned Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup sometimes you need a little more)

1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1  1/2- 2 Tablespoons Capers

2 Eggs beaten

Flour (you just need a few Teaspoons for the mixture to hold together)

About 4-5 Large Fresh Basil Leaves Chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)

Salt & Pepper


Steps-

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half vertically using a big chefs knife.  Scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of the squash and then drizzle the flesh with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the cut side down onto a foil or parchment line sheet pan and roast in the oven about 35-45 minutes or until a fork can easily poke through the outer skin of the spaghetti squash.  

When the squash is cooked, using a fork scrape the squash flesh into a bowl.  It should fall into the bowl like spaghetti! Let it cool and set aside.

Once the spaghetti squash is cooled place in some paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and try to squeeze out any excess water that the squash naturally has.

Place the squash in a bowl and add the minced garlic, chopped sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese an capers.  Add the 2 beaten eggs and a dash of salt and black pepper.  Stir together until combined.

Add the seasoned breadcrumbs, about 1 Cup and stir together.  Add about 2 Tablespoons of Flour and stir together.  This will help to bind the mixture.  If you try to fry them and they are not crisping up and are just falling apart, add a little more breadcrumbs and flour.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with Canola Oil and heat on medium heat.  Test the temperature of the oil by placing a dot of the batter into the oil and if the oil sizzles around the batter, your mixture is ready.  Scoop about 1  1/2 Tablespoons of the mixture into you hands, make a ball, and flatten it out into a pancake shape.  You want them about 1/3 inch thick.  Place them in the pan with the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crusty on the bottom and then flip and brown the other side. Only fry a few at a time so they brown evenly and the oil temperature doesn't drop.

When they are cooked place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with a dollop of the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema! See below!


Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema-

Ingredients-

Plain Greek Yogurt

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (you can also use regular pesto)

2 Large Basil Leaves Chiffonade

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Steps-

1. Mix together some Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with the Greek Yogurt, a drizzle of Olive Oil and the chopped Basil. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, and give it a taste!  If you feel the flavor or color is too bland add more of the pesto! That is all there is too it!