More NYC

We crammed so much fun into just a few days that my heart and head are full of NYC…

Since we returned, I’ve been posting pictures and reflections (art, architecture, history, public spaces, etc) over on Instagram. Follow me there for more: @sivricketts.

And meanwhile, settle into fall with a delicious, healthy, and oh-so-easy Cauliflower Soup.

Meatless Monday – Chocolate Stout Cake

Last night friends hosted a lovely backyard dinner party.dinner view a

The group was a mix of friends from church and neighborhood. At what became the first annual dinner two years ago, they toasted us off on our Costa Rica sabbatical. At this third annual dinner, neighbors we met two years ago have become friends with whom we look forward to spending an evening. And, sadly, last night we toasted friends who will soon relocate.dinner host

Our hosts prepared the meat and desserts, and guests brought a favorite dish and a bottle of wine. I made cauliflower soup topped with homemade croutons as a warm start to the meal. As I said here, it looks like caramel and tastes like comfort.dinner soup pots

I also made mini chocolate stout cupcakes as a not-too-sweet little bite to end the meal as our gourmet hosts served pot de creme and apricot trifle. I typically make this recipe as a bundt cake, but for this occasion I wanted a simple finger food. I also skipped the ganache and instead topped each cake with a few chocolate chips–just right.

Vegan Chocolate Stout Cake
Makes 1 bundt to serve approx. 12 or 48 mini cupcakes

2 flax eggs (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water = 1 flax egg)
½ c + 1 Tbsp plant milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 c stout
1 c vegan butter
¾ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ c white whole wheat flour
½ c whole wheat flour
1 c unbleached sugar
½ Tbsp baking soda
¾ t salt

16 oz non-dairy semisweet chocolate morsels
1 c plant milk
2 Tbsp unbleached sugar
2 Tbsp liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or agave
¼ c vegan butter

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and dust it with cocoa powder.

Prepare flax eggs in a small bowl and set aside. Add lemon juice to plant milk and set aside.

Bring stout and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and milk in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Pour cake into prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.

For ganache:
In a 2 qt saucepan bring milk, sugar, and syrup to a boil over low/medium heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Do not scorch/scald. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to mixture, whisking until smooth. Transfer ganache to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but still pourable. Spread ganache along top of completely cooled bundt cake so that the chocolate runs thickly down the sides and interior of the cake. Alternately, you can serve ganache on the side and allow guests to add some to their slice.

Perhaps the world’s most common stout, Guinness has traditionally been made with isinglass, a derivative of fish bladders. In November 2015, The New York Times ran an article stating that Guinness will be going vegan, but they didn’t specify a timeline.

I say “unbleached sugar” because refined white sugar processed in the US may have been bleached using animal bone char. Check labels and read this Huffington Post article.

I ❤ coconut milk for baked goods! It seems to make them lighter and fluffier than other plant milks. Use what you have, but if you have coconut milk, use that. (This recipe uses coconut milk, not cream, but you could use cream. Let me know if you try it).dinner stout cake

Meatless Monday – Cauliflower Soup

A year ago I wrote this post about lining up my expectations with my Quirky Christmas reality. Always a struggle, during this month between Thanksgiving and Christmas the house has been clean for about three-quarters of one day; the cards still haven’t been mailed; worse yet, the packages will cost us a mint to ship overnight; and the tree was up and lit for three weeks (as opposed to last year’s one week) before the kids had time together to decorate it.

You know what? Oh well! I’m not Pinterest Perfect, and that’s alright with me. The house is festive, the kids clean and fed, and we’re focusing on joy. Today, in fact, was downright close to perfect: I got up before the guys and reveled in morning quiet with coffee and a book. I met up with friends and kids for more coffee and belly laughs. Guy took the day off work and, because it’s raining and we’d originally planned a hike or a walk on the beach, we went to an indoor archery range and discovered a super-fun new family activity we can all enjoy; we ate a late lunch out; and now we’re cozy at home. And a cup of tea and another good book await me at bedtime.

There is beauty in brokenness

There is beauty in brokenness

Yes, it’s Christmas week and I have yet to plan the holiday menu and shop and slowly begin to prep ingredients over the next few days. But some days you just want something simple, quick, and healthy. A sweet friend who is way closer to Martha Stewart-dom (or her French counterpart, whoever that may be), introduced me to this recipe years ago when I thought cauliflower could only be endured in small florets doused in Ranch dressing presented on a party veggie tray. That is, in fact, how I introduced my kids to it. Later I took Tween to a farmer’s market where he discovered purple and peachy-orange cauliflower; of course we bought them and he ate them, still raw but relishing every bite. Since then we’ve added it to mixed roasted veggies and stir fry but most often in this soup, which looks like caramel and tastes like comfort.ingredientscauliflower soup

Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4-6

½ white or yellow onion, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt/pepper to taste
4 c veggie broth

Sautee onion, potato and garlic in a large soup pot, stirring occasionally. Chop cauliflower. When potatoes start to soften, add cauliflower, rosemary, salt/pepper, and broth. Cook over medium-high heat 15-20 minutes or until veggies are very soft. Use an immersion blender (or transfer soup to a blender) to blend completely. Homemade rustic bread croutons are a nice addition.