Saturday, April 2, 2011

get baked.


vegan devil's food cakes. 

it's no secret that i am a terrible baker. i hate being told what to do, so it follows that i hate following directions/instructions/recipes etc. i like to feel creative and spontaneous, especially when i'm cooking. unfortunately, there is little room for that in the world of dessert making. still, my disdain for failure forces me to try my hand at baking every now and then. so, i made these vegan mini-devil's food cakes. partially, because i was procrastinating doing my homework, and partially, because the next day was my friend gina's 26th bday. gina, if yr reading this, i was motivated mostly by the latter.

anyway, i got some cheap devil's food cake mix at aldis. i noticed it was vegan, so i figured might as well keep 'em that way. i used banana and egg-replacer (which i bought like a billion years ago at whole foods, and it just keeps going, and going. so for 5 bucks a box, it was definitely a good investment) instead of eggs. then the recipe called for vegetable oil and water. i suppose coconut oil may have been a healthier choice, but i didn't have any. thinking outside the box, i added a spoonful of fake sour cream, to make it richer. i also jazzed up the cakes with some sliced almonds. finally, half-way through baking i topped 'em off with some shredded coconut. and, voila. i was told they were pretty tasty. i would confirm, but i am always my own worst critic, and i think i overcooked them, just slightly. but, practice makes perfect, and i'm determined to get baked. and by that i mean, get good at this baking shisa. in my own way too, because i refuse to be boxed in by any recipe.

the backstory:
for the record. i am not vegan. once upon a time, a long, long time ago, i was.  to the dismay of my wisconsinite family, i abstained from all meat, dairy, and cheese for almost five years. but, let me repeat, i am not a "vegan." i always find it funny how strongly people react to the idea of veganism. like it's a direct attack on their own, personal eating habits. don't get me wrong, i know where this instinct comes from. i have met some extreme, peta-subscribing, teva-wearing, crunchy-granola eating, vegans. and, i know that they often insist on snobbily commenting on yr carnivorous dining choices, and for that, i'd like to apologize. in my early 20's, i might have even resembled one of them. i said might. however, for me, eating vegan is about eating healthily. it's a personal choice. and, i could care less what you eat. to each her own.

my fall from the good graces of veganism happened in st. croix. i worked in a fancy restaurant, where fresh fish made their way into our kitchen daily, courtesy of the local fishermen. as gross as it was for me to see our chefs (whom we affectionately called, "dreads" and "guam") clean/gut/break down a fish, i felt connected to the process. enough that one day i decided, if i was ever going to eat fish, now was the time. and of course, the way dreads and guam would masterfully transform those fish into something so amazing, also tipped the scales towards falling off the (vegan) wagon. it was all over after my first (guilty) bite of a panko-crusted, ricotta-stuffed wahoo in a pear butter sauce. i fell hard. from there i rediscovered my love of fancy cheeses, and then some not so fancy cheeses. until one day in the not so distant past, i found myself stuffing my face full of buffalo chicken strips dipped in ranch, in a douchy sports bar in chicago.

these days, i'm all about moderation. i mostly eat vegan, and i almost always cook that way. it's not a political thing, but, if it has some positive socio-political consequences, so be it. i try to eat this way, honestly, because i have no portion control, and eating this way ensures that i won't get fat. of course, i have no scientific data to back up this 'eating vegan means i won't get fat' theory. but, if you happen to meet a fat vegan, please feel free to dispel my optimism and let me know.

these days, when asked if i am vegan, i simply respond, nope. just picky. and it's true. i am picky.
don't like eggs. don't like milk. don't like most meat. don't like tomatoes, unless they are in the form of ketchup, salsa, or pan con tomate. don't like soda, unless it's club and mixed with some booze. and the list could go on. but this blog is about what i love, not what i don't.
so here's some visual insight into what i love. (and yes, they are mostly vegan.)

 thai red curry with tofu. (vegan)

tempeh/broccoli/pepper/onion/mushroom scrambler with roasted potatoes. (vegan)

"huevos" rancheros with red & yellow pepper slaw
(almost vegan. i subbed tofu for eggs, but added shredded cheddar. what? it's the wisco in me.)

vegan doughnuts. 
you can get these bad boys at voodoo doughnuts in portland, or.
(well, mostly vegan, those with a keen eye, may notice their famous maple-bacon doughnut in the background.)

friday night fish fry @ lake front brewery, mke, wi. 
(sooo good. and sooo not vegan.)