Saturday, March 26, 2011

Banana Coconut Rum Cake

Look at this cake. Just look at it! You can't go into a sugar coma or gain 5 pounds by just looking at it, but you might if you make it. This cake is so indulgent, so moist (a little more moist and it would be bread pudding), so sweet, and so decadent. And it's my first drunken cake! You might ask what the special occasion is, but I had no reason to make this cake other than wanting to make something sinfully delicious. This is the kind of cake you make when you want to impress someone's family. It's just that good and that beautiful.

As I'll say again and again, I am not a baker. I hope to one day get the hang of making baked goods up on my own, but all I can offer you now is vegan versions of recipes that have already been tried and true. This "Bahama Mama Rum Cake" originally hails from Jill O'Connor's cookbook, "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey" - a very non-vegan cookbook. I couldn't stand not trying this cake out, so I made some necessary rearrangements to her recipe, including organic sugar and cruelty-free baking soda; both of these being wholly vegan where others are not. The original calls for sour cream, which I substituted with coconut milk as it has the same consistency and even adds a little bit more flavor to the cake. If you're against coconut milk, you could certainly use Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. Also, for a a little added kick, I used spiced rum rather than regular or dark. According to Barnivore, Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum is vegan. So go ahead, indulge! Enjoy!

Rum Glaze:
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (1 stick)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed organic dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum (other vegan rum will do)
The Cake:
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted 
1 1/2 cups Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (3 sticks)
2 cups granulated organic sugar
1 cup firmly packed organic dark brown sugar
5 Ener-G eggs: 7 and 1/2 tsps egg replacer with 10 tbsp water
1 cup very ripe bananas (about 3 medium sized), mashed
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
First make the glaze. Combine the Earth Balance butter, water, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Set aside, cover, and keep warm.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F. If using whole pecans, chop them or alternatively, place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse them a few times until they are chopped into small pieces, but not pulverized. Measure out the amount of pecans after chopping. Toast them for about 5 to 6 minutes in a glass oven safe dish. Remove from the oven and set aside. Next, grease a 10 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom of the pan. This will create quite a deep layer of nuts, but it will work out okay, trust me.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in Ener- G eggs, pouring them in a little at a time, mix well after each addition. Beat in the mashed bananas, vanilla, and rum. Sift the flour, baking osda, baking powder, and salt over the batter and fold it in using a rubber spatula, until well combined. Fold in the coconut milk.  Spoon the batter over the pecans in the pan and spread the batter evenly on top using a rubber spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean about 60 - 80 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for 5 minutes. 
Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to poke holes all over the cake. Pour 1/4 cup of the warm glaze over the cake. Let the cake cool for 5 more minutes. Next, place a serving platter over the pan and invert the pan to release the cake onto the platter. Spoon the remaining glaze over the cake, a little at a time, and let  it stand until the glaze is completely absorbed into the cake. As the glaze hardens, it will form a light coat of rum-sugary goodness over the cake.
Let the cake cook completely before serving (if you served warm, it's not only incredibly delicious, it becomes more like a rummy bread pudding).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Baked Mac and Cheese: Three ways!

It's been a rough week. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but this much needed week long vacation just couldn't come soon enough. I recently had a death in the family and after days of funeral/wake attendances and seeing my family mourn, I just needed some serious comfort food. Baked macaroni and cheese is my most favorite food in this category. Growing up, I was a big fan of the blue Kraft box and had no clue one could bake mac and cheese. Now I know better than to eat that junk and make a healthier, just as tasty (or tastier - depending on how you look at it) version. Of course, there's no animal based cheese in this meal, but you will easily be fooled and won't even mind that it's not there! And perhaps, you won't get that bogged down, tired feeling one gets after eating dairy. If you do, well, kick back and get comfy and rejoice in knowing that your comfort is not at anyone else's expense.

Note: I used jumbo shell pasta for this recipe, but since the recipe is mainly for the cheese sauce, you can use whatever pasta you want, including the traditional "elbow" mac which you see pictured here or a gluten free pasta. The veggies are also optional and interchangeable. I also found that the sauce alone makes a great cheese dip (not pictured) that can be served hot or cold. So think of it for your next party!

(serves 4 to 6)

1 box jumbo shell pasta
1 medium to large sweet potato
2 - 3 broccoli crowns, chopped (optional)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used the Trader Joe's brand, buy Panko, or make your own with toasted bread)

1 3/4 cup almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/8 cup water
1 tbsp juice of a lemon
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt (more if you like it saltier)
black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F and bake the sweet potato. This will take 40 to 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake it in a microwave.

In a blender or food processor, combine all of the sauce ingredients and blend well. When the sweet potato is done, scoop out the potato from the skin and add it to the bowl of the food processor. Blend again until the mixture is uniform and smooth. You may need to add a little more almond milk or water if it is too thick. It shouldn't be too runny, but it also shouldn't be a paste, in other words, it should be pourable, but thick.

Boil the pasta according to the directions on the box. In a small sauce pan, add a thin layer of water and steam the broccoli and peas for about 5 - 6 minutes. Drain the liquid and set aside.

Pour a thin layer of the cheese sauce into a 9 x 12 inch casserole dish (or a smaller round one if you are not using stuffing shells). Place the shells into the dish, in one layer, open side up. Put about 1 heaping teaspoon of sauce in each shell, then stuff each shell with some of the broccoli and peas. Pour the remainder of the cheese sauce on top and then top with the bread crumbs. If you are not using shells, just mix the pasta, veggies, and sauce together in the casserole dish.

Cover and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Alternatively, if not using shelled pasta, you could forgo baking and for a "creamier" mac and cheese, heat the dish in a medium sauce pan for  5 - 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then serve.