Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brownie Pumpkin Pie with a Crunchy Pecan Topping

This Thanksgiving, I had dessert duty - something I was very glad to be assigned. For some reason, I always found dessert-making less stressful than main/side dish making.
Dessert is the ''fun'''s the dish you can dress to impress.

I wanted to make a vegan dessert that was easy, included the traditional pumpkin ingredient, but had a bit to that "Ooh" factor.

I paroozed some of my favorite food blogs and stumbled upon this little ditty from Angela of Oh She Glows: Brownie pumpkin pie with a crunchy pecan topping.

Oh, yes...this had traditional pumpkin, but also the little zing of a brownie crust and a crunchy, sugary, pecan topping. This was the winner.

Here's my variation on her recipe:

Brownie Pumpkin Pie with a Crunchy Pecan Topping
You'll need: 
Pumpkin brownie layer
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill whole wheat flour
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup organic cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pumpkin pie layer
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
3 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp pumpkin pie spic

 Pecan topping
1/4 cup earth balance
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/3 cup Bob's Red Mill whole wheat flour
3/4 cup pecans

To make: 
1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a pie pan. 

2. For brownie layer: Using a hand mixer, mix together the coconut oil, pumpkin, vanilla, and sugar until blended. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking, soda, sea salt and mix until incorporated. Take the entire mixture and place in pie pan; spread evenly.

3. For pumpkin layer: In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, vanilla, and milk. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well until all clumps are gone. Now add on top of brownie mixture.

4. For Pecan topping: Mix all ingredients until well combined and sprinkle on top of the pie. 

5. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven and cool for 20-30 minutes and then move to the fridge to chill for 1.5 hours.

This recipe produces a dense, moist, savory dish with multiple layers of flavors. You'll taste the cocoa in the crust, the gooey middle of pumpkin and spice, and also the caramelized brown sugar and pecan crunch.  

Do you prefer making dinner or dessert dishes? 
Do you have a go-to dessert recipe for the holdays, or do you like to take a risk with a new dish?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Southern Tier Imperial Pumpking Ale

Southern Tier Imperial Pumpking Ale
 Brewed in Lakewood, NY

Slightly bitter upfront with a spicy, vanilla-hinted finish. This beer is more spicy (cinnamon, clove, and pumpkin spice) than pumpkin-y. Very smooth, light, and flavorful

Other notes:
-Bottle has story of Celtic folklore creature, Puca.
-The printing is festive with unmistakably Halloween colors
- Contains: 2-row pale malt, Carmel malt, pureed pumpkin, kettle hops: magnum, aroma hops: sterling
-Best served chilled in a goblet at 40`F

Friday, November 25, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving! 

( I know I'm a little late, but it was a busy day yesterday!)
 Don't worry, little guy, you will be spared - LIVE! BE FREE!

This was year 2 of no turkey for my family's Thanksgiving; none of us are really big on meat, so we forgo the bird and make other yummy dishes. But aside from the normal food talk, Thanksgiving began with the big race I've been training for, my first race ever...the Turkey Trot!

The 8K spanned through a good portion of Buffalo and reached capacity at 13, 200 runners.

This being my first race, I had no idea what I was doing. Jon helped me pin my race number to the belly of my hoodie, I stuck the Ttag on my shoe, and got into the enormous crowd that was the starting line.

I waited for about 20 minutes in the crowd, doing little stretches and jumping a bit to keep warm (it was overcast and about 45' F). Just when my toes started to hurt a little from the cold, they announced it was time to set our timers and take our mark; it was 9:00 a.m. The gun was shot. I waited...and waited...and stood on my toes to see why the heck nobody was moving.
There were so many people, I didn't even make it to the starting line until 5 minutes had passed after the gun! But, once I was over the start, I ran. It was exciting and fulfilling to be actually running in this 116 year tradition!

Overall, the race went well. Aside from some nasty gusts of icy Lake Erie wind, I kept warmer than I thought I would. I pushed through and didn't walk once; good music helped keep my pace. My goal was to finish the 5 miles in under 45 minutes.
Here's how I did:
3906 Alyssa Rizzo 
Place in sex: F#  753 
Place in age group: 139/1009 
Net race time: 43:29 
Net race pace: 8:45 
I'm pretty happy with those times.
The best thing, though, was having my dad and Jon at the finish line to cheer me through.
The Turkey Trot was a great experience, and I'd definitely do it again.
Races are a great way to set goals, work to achieve them, and then see them through 
when the day comes.

Besides, when else can you do this awesome pose on the streets of Buffalo, NY:

What was your first race? Was it how you expected it to be?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bites

This post is going to be short, sweet, and...raw.

Eating raw is similar to eating vegan in that it carries a stigma from the general population that eating/cooking this way is difficult, time consuming, and does not taste very good because it lacks ingredients like butter and milk.
This could not be further from the truth...and these cookies are proof - they are easy to make, flavorful, and are ready in no time.

In addition to being fast and easy, eating raw also provides many health benefits. By not heating food over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, it retains all of its nutrients and natural enzymes. When raw food is consumed, those nutrients and natural enzymes are placed directly into the body and provide a source of energy, enhance clarity of mind, and allow the body to work with what it was intended to (it doesn't have to work through synthetic ingredients and separate the good from the bad).

Raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bites
You'll need:
2/3 cup raw almonds
2/3 cup raw walnuts
2/3 cup steel cut oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3-5 tbs raisins

To make:
1. In a food processor, process the almonds, walnuts, oats, cinnamon and salt to a fine meal.
2. Add the agave and vanilla and process to combine.
3. Add the raisins and pulse just to combine.
4. Roll the cookie dough into balls (about 1 tbsp each) and place them on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper.
5. Place the pan in the freezer for about an hour to firm up.
6. Store balls in a tightly covered container in the freezer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trottin', down to Buffalo . . .

Silly me, I never updated you on the status of my Buffalo Turkey Trot decision...well, I signed up and I'm running the 8K (5 miles) this upcoming Thanksgiving morning! Woo!

It'll be my very first race, and I am so excited. I've been training in the gym for the past few weeks, going from 3 miles, to 4 miles, to 5 miles, to 5.5 miles (just to push it a little). 

In those past few weeks, I've learned a lot about running: how important it is to stretch pre and post run, how not to think about running while you're running, how you might feel soreness in parts of your legs and back you never knew existed (until you stretch, that is), how a good playlist on your iPod is key when running 5 miles on a treadmill...

I don't think it'll be boring to run this race, though. There are a lot of creative people at these Turkey Trots . . . check out this trotter:
 Needless to say, with all this training, planning for the Thanksgiving holiday, and working in a job when overtime is as common as sneezing, it's left me in a scramble to get dinner on the table lickety-split. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve!

When I first decided to eat primarily vegan, I didn't want to miss out of ultra savory sauces - like Alfredo. Hey, I am half Italian, after all!
After some snooping around on the internet, I managed to piece together a wonderful vegan Alfredo recipe. It's super thick, creamy, "cheesy", and (most importantly) it's so easy to make.
So, without further ado. . . 

Ultra Creamy Vegan Tomato Alfredo Sauce  
You'll need:
1/4 cup Nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbs vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup tomato paste

To make:
1. Mix dry ingredients in a sauce pan
2. Add water and mix with fork/whisk until smooth
3. Turn heat on stove top to medium-high heat and add vegan butter and tomato paste
4. Stir very frequently (almost consistently), making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
5. Alfredo sauce will thicken as it heats. Heat and stir until sauce reaches typical Alfredo texture.
6. Pour on top of pasta, barley, rice...whatever your pleasure!

 What are your favorite go-to, lickety-splt meals?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Dreaming Tree: Crush; Red wine north coast 2009

Name: Crush


Winery: The Dreaming Tree

Grape: Bottle did not specify, but we much suspect it's a blend

Year: 2009

Look: Dark purple middle with red rim

Smell: Upon uncorking, it has a strong alcohol front with lingering sweet strawberry notes. Faint bits of vanilla and oak.

Taste: Strong body with a consistent sweetness. Hint of tartness. Jammy after-taste. Light tannins. "Notes of smoky berry...pop of raspberry Jam"

Overall: High average-low good

Other notes: This is not a flashy wine, but it's good all the same. Easy drinking. The bottle is fun and filled with intricate details (e.g., Dave Matthews Band quotes wrap the cork and the neck of the bottle, the label looks rustic and appears if Dave Matthews sketched the Dreaming Tree himself)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

''R-E-C-Y-C-L-E: Recycle!'' A guide to the symbols.

I do think that the old Nickelodeon cartoon Rocco's Modern Life taught me how to spell 2 words as a child: 1. Recycle and 2. Conserve.

(I used to be able to sing this whole song when I was about 10 - haha.)

It's kind of funny, though, that I learned those words as a child watching TV because they are such an important part of my life as an adult. Every week, the recycling bin that was given to us by the city is brimming on pick-up day. We have more in that bin than in the garbage! 

It's so easy to recycle, all you have to do is look on the container in question, and search for the little arrows in a triangular symbol (there's most likely a number within the arrows).

Here's a little field guide on what plastics are recyclable and what the container could be in its next life:

PET or PETE 1 

PVC 3 

 PP 5
PS 6 

So, in the future, when it seems convenient to just toss a used water bottle into the trash - think once more! It could have another life and be turned into something else - because YOU made it happen.
The little things you do in your lifetime make a huge difference for the future. As my mom and dad always told us when we were packing up our campsite, "Try to leave it cleaner than when you came to it".
You have the ability to NOT make this the future.

Monday, November 7, 2011

You can't be good all the time!

Okay, so I have a confession to make: I love sweets.

Cookies, cupcakes, name it...if it contains sugar, I'll probably sample some. I usually stick to baked goods with natural ingredients and treats made with things I can pronounce, however, I do indulge some items with 'mystery ingredients' from time to time.

The other morning, when I was going through my blog roll, I stumbled upon a new recipe from Averie of Love Veggies and Yoga. The post opened with a picture of a Butterfinger bar - boy, did that grab my attention. Next, she claimed the recipe contained only 3 ingredients and only required a microwave to help make it. Lastly, she said this tasted so much like a Butterfinger bar, I wasn't going to believe it....whaaa?!? I'm all over it.

I was a little skeptical at first, but when I had my first try, it was a little bit of heaven. This tastes JUST LIKE a Butterfinger bar. The texture was even similar!

Butterfinger Bars
You'll need:
1 Cup traditional candy corn (white, orange, yellow)
1/3 Cup smooth, natural peanut butter
3/4 Cup milk chocolate chips

To make:
1. Line a 5x5 dish with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Scoop peanut butter onto big wooden spoon. Set aside.
3. Measure candy corn into a microwave safe bowl.
4. Microwave candy corn for about 40 seconds (until you see it start puff up).
5. Take candy corn out of microwave and mix with peanut butter on spoon. Mix fast and thoroughly. 
6. Pat mixture flat into tin foil-lined dish. Place in freezer for a moment, uncovered, while you perform next task...
7. In microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips (about 30-40 seconds). While the chocolate melts in microwave, grab the dish from freezer.
8. Mix chocolate chips until smooth and pour over the butterfinger base.
9. Put in freezer until chocolate is set.
10. Slice and eat!


These are not necessarily the most healthy treat, but everything in moderation, right? You have to spoil yourself here and there. 

Do you have a recipe that tastes like something store-bought? What kind of candy bar would you like to recreate?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bogle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage 2008 Review

Bogle Vineyards (Graton, California)
Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage 2008

Blackish purple

Dark grape, oak, vanilla, slight cotton candy

Heavy, dry, dark grape flavor with a strong vanilla finish. Smooth drinking with a dry finish. Light Tannins.

Overall rating:
Excellent (81-100)
Good (61-80)
Average (41-60)
Below average (21-40)
Poor (0-20)

Other notes: Be sure to serve room temperature - it brings out the vanilla notes.

The Baking Bug

Well, it looks like winter is starting to whisper around these parts.
See evidence below:
It's a beautiful yet terrifying transition into the season of winter. . .
Your windows are frosted, the leaves are dusted with a layer of icy crystals, you can see wisps of your breath when you's on it's way and you know it. Old Man Winter is stretching his legs; he's preparing for total domination of our lives for the next 5 months or so. However, with ice, snow and temperatures leveling around 10'F, it sets people up for perfect winter adventures!

But, okay, we're only in November...even though it's bound to, the snow has not taken over. Still, when the weather gets chilly, I get the baking bug. No need to get a flu shot for this kind of bug, in fact, it's quite welcome.
Symptoms of the baking bug include:
- The urge to fill the house with the smell of some savory treat
- The love of the heat from the oven when you go to switch cookie trays
- The uncontrollable desire to sample the goodies you just made, even though you know they're still scorching hot
, fresh from the oven

The cure for this bug is simple: bake!

Here's how I remedied:
Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
What you'll need:
2 C. quick cooking oats
1 2/3 C. whole wheat flour
2/3 C. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C. white sugar
2 Tbs. ground flax
2/3 C. non-dairy milk (I use almond milk)
1/3 C. Canola oil
1/3 C. Apple sauce
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 C. dried raisins/cranberries/cherries (optional...but so good)

1. Preheat oven to 350' and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
2. Stir together oats, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, ground flax, non-dairy milk until smooth.
4. Add the oil, applesauce, vanilla and almond extract to the wet mix and beat until well mixed.
4. Fold in half of the dry mixture, mix a bit, and then add the rest of the dry mixture.
5. Add the dried fruit (if desired). mix well.
6. Drop 2 generous Tbs of cookie dough on the parchment papered pan, spacing about 2in from each other.
7. Bake for 10-12 mins. When done, remove from oven and let rest on pan for about 5 mins to settle.
8. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool
9. Eat em!

 Do you love of loathe the changing weather? Do you ever get the baking bug? - How do you conquer your baking bug?