Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dining Out in London - Ms. Cupcake

Ms Cupcake Bakery London Vegan UK
Jaffa Cupcake - Ms. Cupcake Chococlate Vegan Blog
Jaffa Cupcake - Ms. Cupcake

I had this on my list of places to try thanks again to Chef Chloe Coscarelli. She did a cookbook tour in Europe and actually hosted a book signing at this bakery, the first vegan bakery in London! It was far from my hotel but I went along my route home from Paris. They recently started selling their products in Whole Foods so I'm sure many more vegan-curious folks will discover them soon. The baked goods were so fun and colorful! It was hard to pick what to bring home.

Vegan Cupcakes in London Veega

I had been indulging a lot already so I opted not to get a box of cupcakes, knowing I had very little self control! I picked up a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie for my friend (who excitedly reported back it was very delicious!) and for myself I got a Jaffa Cupcake, something I had never heard of before. It was a chocolate cupcake coated in an orange marmalade and then topped with vanilla-orange and chocolate frosting swirl, with a candied orange piece on top. The cupcake was moist, not overly sweet, frosting was plentiful and I enjoyed the sweet, tangy orange jam that gave it a more unique flavor than the average chocolate cupcake. Two thumbs up. I also saw on their website one of the more popular flavors is the Ferraro Rocher inspired cupcake, called The Ambassador, I was never a fan of those hazelnut chocolate balls so I decided not to grab the last one on the tray. Instead I ordered the Double Chocolate Cookie Sandwich, based on looks alone. My gut instinct was right, this was my favorite pick! I really liked the large, chewy cookies and the buttery, sweet frosting. I should know now that whatever I buy from a vegan bakery will get devoured in one day, just as these did. It's both a good thing, for my wallet (these were pricy) and waistline, and a bad thing, for my taste buds, that this place was outside of my central London location.
Ms Cupcake Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich Vegan LondonVegan Strawberry & Mango Cupcake Veega

In the storefront they are stocked with loads of vegan products, from cheeses, meats, ice cream, snack bars, candies, milkshakes, to baking ingredients and decorations. The baked goods case included many cupcake flavors, brownies, cookies, scones, and muffins. The prices of the baked goods were a little steep, when converted to USD so I didn't stock up. I got a good sense of their product though, and agree this was a great pick! Not too many vegan bakeries exist here, so they take the cake :)

I LOVED Raisinets as a kid,
these made me so happy!

Vegan Cheeses for Sale in the Cooler

Ms. Cupcake Vegan Bakery in Brixton London

Ms. Cupcake
408 Coldharbour Lane
Brixton (in South West London)
London, United Kingdom SW9 8LF

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dining Out in London - Tibits

A Mix of Delicious Vegan Dishes - Tibits London Buffet
A Mix of Delicious Vegan Dishes - Tibits

Buffet Food at Tibits London

I learned about Tibits from Chef Chloe Coscarelli's list of "must dine at" places in London. I was out and about on the Bank Holiday (May 4) enjoying the beautiful weather when I came across the lovely alley, known as Heddon Street with a handful of restaurants that had plentiful outdoor seating. Tidbits founded by three Swiss men is a vegetarian buffet-style restaurant that is pay-by-weight. I'll admit, this turned me off a bit before going. You might assume (like I did) when the kitchen tries to create so many dishes, 40 in total, and keeps them out for everybody to pick at, that the quality suffers. It did not, let me tell you! I enjoyed my meal so much that I cleared my large plate then went back for takeout on both dinner and desserts. I think I shocked the cashier when I downed so much food! I made sure to come back for another visit later in my trip, too.

Vegan Herb Dressing from Tibits London Veega
The rare find, a vegan creamy dressing!
Tibits offers a ton of vegan and gluten-free options, everything is labeled and it seemed at least 90% of the options were vegan. You'll find a mix of hot and cold sides and entrees. Some of the highlights on my plate were the Swiss Chard Lasagna, Orcchiette Pasta with Tofu, Japanese Noodle Salad, Creamy Herb Dressing, Gnocchi, Falafel, Red Pepper Hummus. For dessert I was already thrilled to have more than one vegan option so I took a whole box home with me of Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Chai Cream, Rhubarb and Apple Crumble and Victoria Sponge Cake. I also ordered a fruit juice that sounded appealing, named Tutti Frutti, with orange, kiwi, apple, pear, banana, and sea buckthorn syrup (what's this? I didn't know either, it's an herb with many health benefits including vitamin C)!

Tutti Frutti Juice - Tibits
Tutti Frutti Juice - Tibits

I could eat here almost everyday, but cost-wise, it can get expensive if you're not careful, my first plate cost about $15 USD. There is so much variety, so much to choose from, and everything I tried was delicious. Buffets can be overwhelming, so given more time I would soon discover my favorite items, until next time... or maybe a trip to Switzerland?

12-14 Heddon Street
London, England W1B 4DA
Tibits Website

Tibits on Heddon Street in London

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dining In - Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo

Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega
Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

I first made this dish last December for Christmas. I had just gotten Chloe Coscarelli's new cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!) and was rapidly making my way through it. My mom helped a lot with this one! It makes a huge batch when using one pound of pasta so get ready for leftovers, or feed to a large group.

I just made this again for dinner for my boyfriend and I. With a reminder on the taste, I can say it's on the sweeter side because of the caramelization of the vegetables. It's not your traditional alfredo sauce and without any soaked nuts to add fat it left me wanting a slightly creamier, more satiating sauce. Regardless it's still a good dish and with the added homemade vegan Parmesan (a little on the sweet side, as well) it was enjoyable. I don't know if it lives up to the adorable name, but for how easy it was to prepare it's worth a try!

Pasta Alfredo
Cauliflower on a Kitchen Scale
12 oz. cauliflower florets, fresh (use a kitchen scale to measure)
5 garlic cloves, whole
1 onion, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound fusili pasta (I used Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Brown Rice Fusilli)
2 cups almond milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ground black pepper
Italian parsley, fresh, for garnish

Parmesan Topping
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup

To Prepare Pasta Alfredo:

Cauliflower, Onion, and Garlic Cooking in Pan
Cauliflower, Onion, and Garlic Cooking
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix cauliflower, garlic, and onion with olive oil in a large baking pan, season with sea salt. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring a few times, and remove from oven when vegetables are fork tender.

While vegetables are cooking, prepare the pasta according to package in salted water. Drain and rinse, particularly if using gluten-free pasta as the water gets cloudy.

In a blender, add in cooked vegetables, almond milk, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Blend until smooth. Toss sauce with the cooked pasta and add pepper to taste. Top with parsley garnish and Parmesan topping.

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce Veega Blog Vegan Recipe

To Prepare Parmesan Topping:
Skinning Almonds Veega Blog
Making Blanched Almonds

In a food processor, combine blanched almonds, nutritional yeast and sea salt. Pulse until it forms a crumble. Add in maple syrup and pulse again. Use this to top each serving of the pasta alfredo. 

Parmesan Topping - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega Blog
Parmesan Topping - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

Leftover Parmesan Topping!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dining In - Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting (Gluten-Free)

Banana Chocolate Chip with Coffee Frosting - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega Blog
Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

When my boyfriend's birthday rolls around it's time to jump in the kitchen and bake! In previous years I've made full cakes, including last year's ambitious duo of German Chocolate Cake and a Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake (divine!), but this year I hate to say I was pressed for time so cupcakes were the pick. I wanted to incorporate my boyfriend's favorite flavors and Chloe delivered with her new cookbook for a recipe that included coffee, banana, and chocolate. The recipe is in Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!). I chose to make these gluten-free like my last baking experiment, because it came out so well! I used Trader Joe's gluten-free flour and Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum. These were a delicious batch of cupcakes. I loved the chocolate chunks in the subtle banana-flavored cake, and of course coffee frosting is taking things to the next level of yumminess. The banana cake included similar spices that you would use in a banana bread, like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, so it smelled great when baking! I did notice that the cupcakes got a little tough and chewier than normal ones, so my lesson learned was to bake for a little bit less time.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Mashed Banana
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 ripened bananas mashed (equals about 1 cup)
1 cup canned coconut milk (I use Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk, canned)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips

Coffee Frosting

1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

To Prepare Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins for about 16-18 cupcakes.

In a large bowl sift together all dry ingredients up until the bananas in above list. In a separate bowl, combine bananas, coconut milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes Batter - Vegan, Gluten-Free

Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and stir together without over-mixing. Next add in chocolate chips and stir so they are evenly distributed.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. In my baking experience these would have been best baked for about 18 minutes then removed from pan to stop from cooking. Let cool.

To Prepare Coffee Frosting:

Use a stand mixer or handheld mixture to smooth out shortening for one minute. 

Slowly add in powdered sugar and vanilla, while beating on slow speed. Add one tablespoon at a time of the espresso liquid, blend in completely and continue adding tablespoon by tablespoon until you reach the proper consistency for frosting. Continue to blend on high speed for two minutes until frosting is fluffy. Set aside.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting (Gluten-Free) Vegan

Once cupcakes are fully cooled, use a frosting bag and tip to frost or a frosting knife. 

* I went a step further to make these visually appealing by mixing up some chocolate ganache to drizzle on top. I heated up about 1/4 cup chocolate chips and a couple teaspoons of coconut milk to blend into a nice sauce that I then poured over the cupcakes and cooled in the refrigerator. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting (Gluten-Free) Vegan

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes - Vegan - Veega Blog Coffee Frosting

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dining Out in Charlotte - Luna's Living Kitchen

Rawco Taco Salad - Luna's Living Kitchen Charlotte Vegan
Rawco Taco Salad - Luna's Living Kitchen

I've been frequenting Charlotte for work recently and though I don't have much free time when I'm there, I always find time for a good vegan meal! After dining at Fern on my first visit down, I went to Luna's Living Kitchen for a solo lunch on my second trip this March. My Uber driver even asked how I found out about Luna's because he takes other out-of-towners there fairly often (must mean not everyone can handle BBQ for every meal!). It's located in Charlotte's South End District at the Atherton Mill and Market, which is a very cool industrial style shopping center with retailers, a farmer's market, and quite a bit of history to it (built in 1919). The restaurant itself is bright and airy with high ceilings and lots of seating. I liked what I saw on the menu and in the Yelp photos. It's a clean, wholesome, vegan menu with lots of raw and gluten-free options and a large juice and smoothie selection. Despite it being Charlotte, this place is not cheap; prices here were in line with NYC prices. 

Vegan Veega Blog Charlotte - Menu at Luna's Living Kitchen

My first visit was dining in and I ordered the Rawco Taco Salad. It was a huge bowl of healthy ingredients: All layered on a bed of lettuce and raw crackers was avocado, pico de gallo, walnut-almond crumbles, cashew sour cream and a delicious hot sauce, served with lime wedges. This was fresh, vibrant, colorful and had the right amount of kick to it. As I sometimes find with raw meals, the walnut-almond crumble was a little bit salty, but the creamy sauce, hot sauce, and lime balanced it out. I ordered the Grey Hulk Smoothie to go, hoping it would keep well enough for breakfast the next day. Of course I sipped it my whole ride back; it was filling and not-too-sweet, though a little bit chalky and actually grey-colored! It had berries, banana, hemp milk, spiraling  mama, and hemp protein. With the spirulina and added protein I felt I was doing my body good.
Grey Hulk Smoothie - Luna's Living Kitchen Hemp Protein Veega VeganChia Breakfast Bowl & Iced Matcha Latte - Luna's Living Kitchen

Chia Breakfast Bowl - Luna's Living Kitchen Charlotte NC Vegan
Chia Breakfast Bowl - Luna's Living Kitchen
My most recent visit was a quick one, I picked up take-out to have for breakfast and lunch. To get my energy kick I ordered the Chia Breakfast Bowl, which they just packaged in a parfait cup. This sweet tapioca-like dish had chia seeds soaked in a homemade cashew milk with vanilla bean and orange zest, topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup. It was outstanding! I loved the vanilla flavor and the creaminess of the pudding. The fruit was fresh and bursting with flavor to complement the chia seed mixture. I also requested a Matcha Latte but iced and they were able to accommodate. It was the expected matcha earthiness taste with a very creamy almond milk. I could have used a tiny bit more sweetness. 

Lunch menu items are not available until 11am so I ordered the Living Bagel to save for a later lunch. It was a raw, savory bagel made with almonds, flax, zucchini and rosemary with cashew sour cream and topped with tomato, onion, avocado, basil and sprouts, jalapeƱos on the side. I didn't know what to expect with a raw bagel but this was really filling. The bagel held together nicely. All the toppings made this a delicious, much better-for-you bagel sandwich I could easily eat a few days a week as a full meal. It was certainly high in fat content because of the nuts and avocado, but I felt satiated right away.

Living Bagel - Luna's Living Kitchen Veega Vegan Charlotte NC
Living Bagel - Luna's Living Kitchen

Needless to say I will be returning to Luna's whenever I can make it back to Charlotte!

Luna's Living Kitchen
2000 Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dining In - Chocolate Celebration Cake (Gluten-Free)

Chloe's Celebration Cake, Gluten-Free - Chloe's Vegan Desserts
Chloe's Celebration Cake, Gluten-Free - Chloe's Vegan Desserts

Slice of Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake Veega Blog Chloe

It was my friend's birthday and we had plans for a fun Hot Pot style dinner at his apartment (complete with vegan-friendly side of the pot and tons of veggies!), so I decided to be formal and make an actual cake. For his previous birthday, I made one of my most gourmet and "reblogged" desserts - the Coffee Almond Crunch Cupcakes. These were a big hit so I had to step my game up, but I also wanted to experiment. From a previous shopping trip I had a bag of gluten-free flour from Trader Joe's that I hadn't opened. I went out and bought the expensive, yet required, complement to it, xanthan gum. It's a thickener that helps starches combine to trap air. I was nervous baking my FIRST altered gluten-free dessert, meaning making substitutions versus making baked goods that were naturally gluten-free like: Healthy Chocolate Chip Blondies

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting
You can find this recipe and others in Chloe Coscarelli's dessert cookbook, Chloe's Vegan Desserts (buy your copy here). The prep was no different except instead of one dry flour you have to add an extra ingredient, the xanthan gum. Determining the appropriate baking time was difficult; for one thing I wasn't using the same pan size that Chloe's recipe called for. I had an 8-inch pan that I needed to reuse twice for two layers whereas she noted using a 9-inch pan. The cake wasn't cooked all the way through when I first checked it so I cooked it longer and then longer again. People are often concerned that gluten-free baking can be dry and I did worry that the outer part of my cake would be, because it already looked done when the middle was not. After letting it cool I saw that it held together so I kept my fingers crossed that the taste and texture were not sacrificed from the experimental baking time.

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake Chloe's Vegan Desserts
Now for the was a winner! The whole non-vegan, non-gluten-free dinner party loved it! I did too. I was really shocked at how moist it was, more moist than most of the other cakes I've made from Chloe's cookbooks. The chocolate was flavorful especially with coffee baked in, but wasn't overpowering and the sweet vanilla frosting paired perfectly with it. Up against a plethora of NYC bakery items, including vegan ones from Peacefood Cafe, this cake held its own! Although this is not healthy, it is a "make again" recipe and now I'm eager to incorporate gluten-free substitutes into other baked goods. 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake
Trader Joe's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour & Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum3 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (You can use all types here and it's best to follow the directions of what you're using to know how to pair with the xanthan gum and how long to bake! I used the Trader Joe's variety)
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold coffee
1 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Frosting
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance sticks)
3 cups powdered sugar
3-5 tablespoons of almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Earth Balance Natural Shortening Vegan - Veega

To Prepare Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray round cake pan with oil (I used an 8-inch pan instead of the recommended 9-inch).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, xanthin gum, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt.

Dry Gluten-Free Ingredients for Vegan Cake Veega Blog
Dry Gluten-Free Ingredients

In a medium bowl whisk together wet ingredients - coffee, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine, but don't overmix.

Fill pan with batter and bake for about 30-35 minutes, checking towards the end with a toothpick to make sure the middle sets and toothpick comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan, then flip over to release it onto a plate. 

To Prepare Vanilla Frosting:

In a medium bowl use a handheld mixer or a standing mixer and beat vegetable shortening for about a minute, until smooth. On low speed, add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and combine with vanilla extract and desired amount of almond milk so that the frosting is thick, but not dry.

To Assemble Layer Cake:

Flip cake layer back over so top is up and use a large sharp knife to trim the dome part off each layer. Place first cake layer on your serving plate. Scoop out about 1/3 of the frosting and coat the top of the layer. Add another cake layer and the remaining frosting to coat edges and top. Garnish with your choice: fresh berries, sprinkles, chocolate shavings... go wild! I actually used cake crumbs from the sliced off dome portion. Slice to serve.

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting Layer Veega Blog

Happy Birthday David Cake Red Writing Vanilla

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