Cupcakes with a Side of [Unrelated] Food Poisoning

Oh dear. You’ll have to excuse me if this post isn’t filled with my trademark exuberance (?) and humor (??) – I woke up this morning with what I now think was a quick-moving case of food poisoning. It came on suddenly (while I was in the shower, gross!) and lasted for an hour or so, leaving me exhausted and disgusted. Needless to say, I didn’t make it in to work for my first day back after the holidays, and calling in sick was terrifying because I kept thinking I’d have to throw down the phone and go throw up! Yuck. Luckily I’d already taken the afternoon off as a flex holiday, so I happily rested up for the entire day. S graciously did some errands after his half-day, including picking up some bread because our cupboards were bare after our vacations.

So, with all that in mind, you’ll excuse me if I don’t feel inclined to talk about food for too long! I suspect it was last night’s dinner (a panang curry from a place that’s never made me sick) that did me in, and I’m not yet ready to eat much more than toast and crackers. However, I feel up to a brief chat about one fun food-related event during my Christmas vacation: my sister’s baby shower! My not-so-little sister and her fiance are expecting their first child in March (just a week before my birthday!), so my mom and I planned a surprise shower for her just after Christmas, when all the family would be in town. It was a big success; my sis had no idea! Even the impending snowstorm (which ended up starting halfway through the shower) didn’t deter friends and family from attending, and it was a really nice afternoon. I, of course, was in charge of dessert. I used a Christmas gift – a tiered cupcake stand – to display the three dozen cupcakes I made.

Cupcakery!

I made three varieties: coconut (with toasted coconut on the frosting), plain vanilla, and chocolate with crushed candy-cane Joe-Joes. All were topped with vanilla frosting, and the top layer had pretty blue pearl sprinkles to match the whale/nautical theme of the shower (and possibly the baby’s future room!). My mom and I also made some really cute whale toppers for the cupcakes after failing to find any appropriate ones for purchase at the craft store.

Whale toppers.

We didn’t just serve cupcakes, however. We held the event at Lemongrass, an Asian restaurant near my parents’ house. They did an excellent job of preparing a huge selection of food for us, all peanut-free (to accommodate my sister’s allergy) and quite a few vegan (to accommodate me, my mom, my aunt, and my brother). I wasn’t terribly hungry, but did enjoy one plate at the event and one later, because we got to bring home lots and lots of leftovers.

Eats.

On that plate is an eggless fried rice, eggless egg rolls, veggies with tofu, and lo mein. It was your standard Chinese food – a little bit greasy, but totally satisfying.

Y’know, looking at these pictures hasn’t made me feel at all queasy – maybe I’m ready for more substantial food. I think I’ll see if some spaghetti sits okay with me. In the meantime, here’s one last photo of my cupcake creations.

Cupcakes up close.

Happy New Year, all! Be safe and have fun.

S and I are canceling our party-going plans because we’re both under the weather, so we’ll have a quiet night in with the pup. :)

Insomnia, Brought to You (ahem, ME) by Bloom Bake Shop

Orange rectangle with the white fist-shaped Vegan MoFo logo and the text "Vegan Month of Food 2012."
As I write this, it’s 5:33 AM and I haven’t slept yet. It’s not because I’ve returned to my college-era night-owl ways, it’s not because I was feverishly working on some craft project, and it’s certainly not because I really enjoy all-nighters and the exhaustion they bring on the following day. No, it is because of this:

Top-down view of a big mug of coffee in the left-hand side of photo. In the right background is a small white rectangular platter with two cupcakes and a blondie.

My downfall.

Oh, coffee. You taste so, so good, especially when you’re lovingly brewed in a French press. But you are so, so dangerous to a small gal like me, a little lady with no caffeine tolerance to speak of and an idiotic “It’ll be okay!” attitude when she downs a big mug of you at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Clearly, it was very much not okay. After two hours of tossing and turning in bed, I slipped out and headed to the living room. As S and Moria slumbered, I curled up on the couch and finished reading A Feast for Crows. Then I tried to sleep again, this time on the couch. When that failed, I opened up the ol’ laptop and set to work sprucing up my LinkedIn profile, overhauling my resume, and researching housing options on the east coast. (I’m not on the job hunt right now, but I want to be prepared.) I Facebooked a fellow insomniac friend and invited her to visit me in Madison. I ate an apple. I Pinterested. And then I realized that I ought to prepare my post for tomorrow, so here I am.

Coffee isn’t the sole cause of my sleepless night, though. No, this fella probably played a part:

In the foreground is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. In the background are a blondie and another cupcake, this one with a lighter frosting.

Sugar overload!

These beauties come from Bloom Bake Shop, a truly adorable little shop just a few minutes from our apartment in Middleton. Bloom boasts an impressive vegan selection, most of which is gluten-free. Now, let it be known that I’m not gluten-free – I quite enjoy gluten in all its forms. So when S and I first stopped at Bloom a few months ago and noticed that all their vegan options available on that day were also GF, we were disappointed. We’d been burned by GF vegan baked goods before, and we didn’t want to repeat that crumbly, grainy experience. But we gave Bloom a chance, and I am oh so glad we did. Bloom blew my expectations out of the water. You would truly never, ever guess that any of their baked goods are vegan or GF, never mind both. Everything is always moist, sweet, and perfectly spiced. I’m pretty much in love with all of their offerings.

Yesterday, we got a carrot cake cupcake with maple-spice frosting, a blondie, and a chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cupcake is called Be Decadent, but that name could really apply to any of these baked goods. They are incredible. That blondie is most definitely one of the most sublimely delicious treats I’ve ever purchased; it hits the perfect balance of seeming under-baked (i.e. chewy and delicious) without being at all heavy or gooey. I can’t rave about these desserts enough! They are most definitely “sometimes foods” – they’re insanely sugary and clearly full of oil or Earth Balance – but I think they’re worth every unhealthy bite for the joy they bring me.

Close-up of the chocolate cupcake. It has a small frosting flower on top.

Sweet.

Not only does Bloom create beautiful, delicious desserts, but it’s also one of the most delightful little shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of entering. Every bit of decor – from the distressed wood cabinets to the old-timey display case to the pastel KitchenAids that are visible from the street – fits together perfectly, creating an environment that sits firmly on the unpretentious side of shabby-chic. The space is small, with a single table and two chairs, but floor-to-ceiling windows let in lots of light and counters by the window create additional seating options. It’s exactly the sort of place you want to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon, sipping coffee and nibbling sweet treats. And the staff is singularly lovely, friendly and just as charming as you’d expect someone who works in such a blissfully sweet environment to be. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a different lens for my (fine, S’s) camera so I can capture the interior – you want to see it; I promise.

If all that weren’t enough to make you love Bloom, there’s this – they source many of their ingredients locally and use organic, fair-trade foods when possible. And they do all their vegan and GF baking first thing in the morning in a dedicated area of the kitchen. Be still, my heart!

Clearly, I’m enamored. So enamored that I can’t even stay angry with that coffee for keeping me up all night. It was worth it.

And now? Well, it’s 6:07 and I’ve been pretty productive. Let’s just say that I’ve got a household full of Sims who are calling my name. ;)

What’s your favorite indulgence? Where do you go to chill out and eat delicious treats?

S’mores Surprise Cupcakes

Today, I’m going to start things off with a photo.

Say hello to my s'mores-y friend!

I call that a S’mores Surprise Cupcake. Perhaps you’re thinking, “But Kelly! Where is the surprise?! I see something vaguely graham-y and something white like a marshmallow and something obviously chocolaty.” To which I must reply, “Shut it.” See that bit o’ white peeking out over the top, just under that drizzle of ganache? That’s the surprise. Or, well, it’s supposed to be the surprise.

Allow me to explain: a month or so ago, I won a bag of Dandies marshmallows from Kris over at Nom! Nom! Nom! Blog. When I tried a Dandie, I was shocked – they’re so puffy and sweet and eerily similar to the nasty gelatin-filled marshmallows of my childhood! I knew immediately that they needed to be made into something s’mores inspired – stat. So I worked up a recipe for some simple cupcakes, flavored mostly with molasses and a few spices, and decided to hide a little marshmallow in each one. As you can see, however, they refused to stay hidden:

Well, hello, there!

I think the problem was that I added the marshmallows before putting the cupcakes into the oven, so they had way too much time to puff up and go all soft and melty. Originally I meant to add Dandies to half the batch at the get-go, and then add them to the rest of the batch halfway through baking. But I got overexcited at go-time, resulting in little marshmallow-y volcanoes of sticky goodness. No worries, though. I think they look pretty fun, all covered with the Quick Melty Ganache from VCTOTW.

A whole legion of cuppers!

I wanted to post a recipe for y’all, but somehow said recipe disappeared. I wrote it out on an envelope or a scrap of paper as I put it together, then somehow lost said paper. Somehow, I think you’ll survive – the recipe needed a little work, and there are quite a few fun recipes for Dandie-filled delights out there. You could try Kris’ Sweetie P Cupcakes, for example, if you wanted a cupper that calls upon that most sacred of Thanksgiving traditions, sweet potato casserole. Or you could go with Amy’s Grahamy Mallow Brownies for a chocolaty, sweet square of delightfulness. Or, y’know, you could just eat these straight-up from the bag, popping them into your mouth like particularly addictive candy. Not that I’d know anything about that. I only make elegant, sophisticated baked goods with my Dandies!

Have you tried Dandies? What about Sweet & Sara marshmallows? I won a sampler of Sweet & Sara marshmallows last year… o m g. So delicious! Not the sort of thing you’d want to put in a cupcake, however. Them’s fer savorin’.

Chocolate-Covered Baby Balls [Or, Multiple Weeks’ Worth of Food, Mostly Dessert]

Okay, I swear this post isn’t a chocoholic pedophile’s fantasy (I feel gross just saying that)! Hear me out and I’ll explain – it’ll be worth the wait, I promise!

Tonight I had the most satisfying, amaaazing, and simple dinner ever. My hungry belly loved this meal!

Hello, summer deliciousness!

I channeled Angela‘s hot-over-cold approach to dinner with this dish, and I was surprisingly delighted by the result. I sauteed a yellow zucchini, some spinach, chard, and spring onions and piled that on top of a bed of a cold Southwestern Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa salad I whipped up a few nights ago. Paired with lots of raw sugar snap peas and hummus, this meal screamed “SUMMER!” to me, especially since the veggies came straight from my CSA share. My roommate and I have a half-share (every other week) from a local organic farm, and they deliver the boxes straight to our work. It’s pretty much the most convenient thing ever! I didn’t get a chance to photograph this week’s haul since my roomie picked up the share, but here’s last week’s deliciousness:

First share o' the year!

That box included arugula, broccoli, cilantro, garlic scapes, head lettuce, kohlrabi, radish, Red Russian kale, salad mix, spinach, and strawberries. Holy freshness, Batman!

Anyway, after tonight’s dinner, I desperately wanted something sweet to round out my fabulous meal. Too bad I didn’t have any chocolate-covered baby balls left!

Oh, my.

Yeah, I know that photo is grainy, ugly-colored, and badly composed, not to mention a little nauseating. But its subject is so damn delicious that I’m posting it anyway. A chocolate-covered baby ball, you see, is born when two awesome bloggers’ recipes collide; more specifically, when Averie’s No-Bake Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls take a dip in Katie’s Pseudo Magic Shell. This chocolate covered hunk o’ peanut butter is a totally Katie-inspired dessert, hence the “baby” in its name. :)

Unfortunately, though, I didn’t have any baby balls left for dessert tonight. Nor did I have its flattened cousin:

Mmmffff.

Yep, that’s essentially a homemade peanut butter cup comprised of the same ingredients as the baby balls. Freakin’ amazing. ‘Nough said.

So without baby balls or peanut butter cups ready for my sweet tooth, what could I eat for dessert tonight? Not these cupcakes, sadly:

Multicolored brethren.

I made these for my roomie’s birthday last week. Using some VCTOTW recipes as a base, I made Peanut Butter Cupcakes with chocolate frosting aaand Mint Chocolate Cupcakes with vanilla frosting. The vanilla frosting is dotted with – get this – accidentally!vegan mint chocolate chips I discovered at Woodman’s recently. Score!

Sadly, though, those cuppers are no more. I considered devouring the only fruit from today’s CSA share…

(Okay, this photo is from our first share, but whatever!)

…but decided to save them for tomorrow. Instead, I went with a perfect dessert for a hot day – banana soft serve, of course!

Very soft serve.

It was a little more soup than soft serve, but that didn’t detract from its cool deliciousness. I made Averie’s vanilla variation, and used maple syrup for a sweetener, and it was almost too sweet! Now that I’m the ripe old age of 23, I find myself much less able to tolerate eXtReMe sweetness. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

So – that’s pretty much a summary of the foodie happenings in my life lately. What’s the most delicious thing you’ve eaten recently?

A Match Made in Heaven, Just Like Milk and Honey (You make the gobi, he’ll make the money!)

This past Sunday afternoon, I received a text message that both pleased and worried me. A friend from work said she was making curry for dinner and wanted to know if my roommate and I would join her, her boyfriend, another work friend, and the latter friend’s son. As pleased as I was to receive a dinner invitation, I was also a little apprehensive. My friend knows I’m vegan, but even so, visions of chicken-laden curries and awkwardness swam through my mind. After a mild bit of panic, I texted her back to accept the offer and to ask if I should bring a vegan option (followed by a smily face, of course). Not five seconds later, my cell phone rang. My friend was calling to tell me that she was making two coconut milk-based curries, one with chicken and one with mushrooms and other veggies.

“No vegan option necessary,” she reassured me.

The cockles of my heart, they were warmed. Full of gratitude and happiness, I knew I couldn’t arrive at the dinner party empty-handed. I had to bring something, an edible expression of my gratefulness for my friend’s considerate and kind behavior. I briefly considered making some sort of Indian-inspired dip and bringing that with some veggies, but I quickly abandoned that possibility in favor of the most timeless, impress-the-omnis, food item in existence. Obviously, I’m talking about vegan cupcakes.

An innocent and unassuming cuppiecake, say you?

Not just any cupcakes, though. This batch packed a secret punch, something invisible to the eye. That little cupper up there isn’t just your average chocolate-coconut delicacy. Nope, lurking inside this sweet fellow is a surprising blend of flavors.

Lurking in the chocolaty shadows - garam masala!

Yes ma’am, I found a recipe for Garam Masala Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes that helped me create some slammin’ cupcakes. They were perfectly moist, and the garam masala spices added a touch of flavor complexity that complemented the chocolate and coconut surprisingly well. They were the perfect opportunity to showcase the fantastic garam masala I picked up at Penzey’s (which, by the way, is an AMAZING store!). This garam masala features coriander, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, charnushka, caraway, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, a truly killer combination.

And my friends agreed. The cupcakes were a big hit at the dinner party, the perfect follow-up to the yummy curry my friend made for us. Great success!

Truly, though, I feel so lucky. I’ve met some really wonderful people since moving to Madison. My roommate spontaneously decided to make me a vegan birthday cake when I turned 23 a few weeks ago; she whipped up a Cookies ‘n’ Cream cake that was decadent beyond belief. And my work friends are quite inquisitive about my veganism, in the best way possible. The friend who made the curry is interested in sustainable agriculture and local foods, so we relate well on that level. All in all, things are good here. Who would’ve guessed my move to America’s Dairyland would’ve only made me feel more comfortable and happy in my newish vegan skin?! Life – it never fails to surprise me. :)

(P.S. I swear the title of this post is not completely random and misogynistic. Anybody get the reference?)

Sweets for a Sweet Sister

It’ll be my little sister’s 18th birthday in 11 minutes. I guess she’s not actually “little” anymore, what with her being a legal adult now, and what with her being 3 inches taller than me, but you know what? She’ll always be my baby sister.

So when Mom asked me to make some vegan treats to accompany the decidedly non-vegan ice cream cake Rhiannon requested for her family party yesterday, how could I refuse? I decided to whip up a batch of the Cookies ‘n Cream Cupcakes from VCTOTW using some accidentally-vegan Oreos.

Yum in my tum.

Mmm. I love that this frosting looks and works best just haphazardly slapped on top of the cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy whipping out the ol’ pastry bag and piping beautiful swirls of frosting atop my cuppers, but for reasons of time and laziness, this method gets an A+ in my book. And these little guys didn’t just look pretty. Suffice it to say that these cuppers were absolutely delicious and received rave reviews from the omnis who tried them. Great success!

Even though my sissie was feeling a little under the weather on the day of her party, it was still a great evening. All our little cousins showed up, even the ones from out of state, and we had fun bonding with the kids and being amazed at their boundless energy. So even though Rhiannon had to head back to college today (she was home for Thanksgiving break) and therefore won’t be spending her actual birthday with us, it was okay. We enjoyed the time we had together, and that’s really all that counts.

So, happy birthday, little sister. :)

My wonderful sissie.

Adios, MoFo: Ghosts of Halloween Past and Cupcakes of Halloween Present

Happy Halloween, blogpals! I wish I were a kid, because it’s 70 degrees today – perfect trick-or-treating weather! All the neighborhood kidlets will be able to gather their candy without having to hide their costumes behind icky winter coats. Awesome.

Before I move on to the Halloween fun, I just want to do a little MoFo wrap-up. This has truly been an amazing month. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my first month as a vegan! To everyone who participated, read posts, and left comments, thank you so much for your support. I can’t tell you how much it means to me! The vegan community is amazing, and I felt so welcomed during this month. Your support helped me to post every single day this month. THANK YOU! See the end of this post for an exciting announcement – you’ve all given so much to me, so now I’m giving something back!

Now for the fun. This year, I’m celebrating Halloween in true MoFo style – I baked and decorated a lovely batch of Halloween-themed cupcakes. I was intending to share them with all my little cousins tonight, but a bunch of them are sick and they’ve decided not to gather so as to prevent the further spread of germs. :( Oh well; I’m sure I’ll find someone to share them with! I made a batch each of the Golden Vanilla and the Basic Chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW, and decorated them in a variety of styles.

First up is Mr. Pumpkinhead. Isn't he cute?

I hope you're not scared of spiders...

All hail the Pumpkin King - it's Jack Skellington!

And here’s the whole gang (minus their less-than-photogenic pals, who will soon find a home in my tummy).

All together, now.

I also finally got to use my new Halloween mini-cake pans! They make cute little ghosts and pumpkins.

I think they're a little scared of Yorick...

And here I am with my creations.

Do you like my Jack Skellington earrings? ;)

I may have to make cupcake baking a new Halloween tradition! I’m breaking with old traditions this year – I’m not dressing up. This is my first costume-less Halloween ever! I know, I know, that’s horrible, especially because I absolutely love costumes! But this year I just felt like taking a break from the partying and dressing up craziness. I politely declined a few invitations, so for the first time ever I’ll be staying home and handing out candy to the kids. It’s a far cry from the past four years of college Halloween fun, but I’m okay with that. Next year I’ll be in Madison – which is supposed to be absolutely insane for Halloween – and I’m sure I’ll be up for crazy costuming once more. In the meantime, here’s a little collage of my costumes from previous years. They’re not all from Halloween, but I think they illustrate my love of dressing up. We’ve got some Lord of the Rings, some Harry Potter, some Nightmare Before Christmas, a zombie witch doctor, and a Goth Detective front and center (if you get that reference, I think I love you), among other things. :)

I may or may not be holding a huge bottle of vodka in the center photo.

Happy Halloween, friends! Be safe and have fun. Also, MoFo may be over, but the fun sure isn’t. Check back tomorrow for my first ever GIVEAWAY! Yay!

P.S. If I were dressing up this year, I’d definitely be one of the girls from Subtle Sexuality. ;) Office love!

Yup, it’s Another Pumpkin Baked Good

My Google Reader has pumpkin recipes up the wazoo these days – MoFoers are sharing the pumpkin love  left and right, and beautiful orange baked goods are ubiquitous. It almost seems trite to make my own pumpkin-y post, but I’ll just tell myself I’m getting into the seasonal spirit.

Unlike the tons of creative MoFoers who are sharing brand-y new pumpkin recipes, I’m just going to share a photo or two of some simple Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from VCTOTW. It’s difficult to go wrong with the pumpkin + chocolate chip combo, so these cuppers are super yummy. Light, fluffy, and smooth, they’re perfectly delicious.

I left these cupcakes nekkid because a. I didn’t feel like making frosting last night, and b. I only made three traditional cupcakes. The rest of the batter was used in a Halloween-themed mini-cake pan I recently acquired. I’m not posting photos of the results because this was just a test run; I needed to see how high the cakes rise so I can judge how much batter to use next time I make them. But I’m preparing to make some cute Halloween baked goods, so expect to see those soon!

I promise to have more inspiring/inspired posts for this final week of MoFo – I can’t believe it’s almost done! This month has flown by. My oh my.

Beachin’ it Up with Pineapple Cup(cake)s

Lately I’ve been having a difficult time falling asleep. I know this is partly because I’ve slacked off since I got home from Italy and haven’t been exercising much, but it’s still no fun to lie there tossing & turning. Last night, however, I fell asleep almost instantaneously. And that, my friends, is because yesterday was a BEACH DAY!

Living in Rhode Island means that fabulous beaches are only 45 minutes away – we are the Ocean State, after all. Yet the crappy weather that descended upon us for most of this summer meant that yesterday was my first official beach day of the summer. Even though it was late, it was perfect, and I even managed to get some exercise in! After basking in the sun for a bit, VeggaSis and I walked down to the water and meandered our way along the shoreline for a while before venturing into the ocean. It’s a little colder than usual this year, just because the weather’s been so wonky, but I love that moment when you submerge yourself and shiver once or twice before realizing that, despite the coldness, it feels absolutely wonderful. So VeggaSis and I swam parallel to the shore until we reached our “spot” on the beach, and I ain’t lyin’ when I say that it was quite a workout! I’m no swimmer, so my swimming muscle group was surprised to find itself in use. After our swim, we returned to the blanket and threw ourselves down for another bout of sunbathing. Bliss.

We returned home salty, sandy, and a little pink around the edges. It was the perfect end to the perfect beach day when I discovered this little guy waiting for me in the fridge:

Tropical bliss.

VeggaDad thoughtfully saved the last of the Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes for me. I whipped up a batch a few days ago, and I think that this might be one of my favorite recipes from VCTOtW. I love the cake’s flavor; it’s got the perfect amount of sweet pineapple mixed with subtle spices. I was a little disappointed at how tiny and short these cuppies were, though; they barely rose and seemed slightly dense. Next time I’ll definitely fill the liners with a little more batter; Isa and Terry recommend filling them halfway to allow room for the filling, but I think I definitely could have gotten away with adding a little more. I might have to make less cupcakes to compensate, but I can deal with that. :)

Anyway, tonight I’m going to try an experiment. Obviously my swimming exertions of yesterday helped me fall asleep quickly and sleep well, but tonight I’ll try something different. This morning I found an email from Gaiam in my inbox, and it featured a link to Six Yoga Poses for Insomnia. So I’m going to give them a try before bed tonight, since I haven’t been doing enough yoga lately. To be honest, I’m a little skeptical, but we shall see. I’ll report back tomorrow. ;)

Ciao!

The Not-So-Humble Carrot

Sometimes it seems that the most ubiquitous foods are the most under-appreciated. I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask someone to think of a vegetable off the top of her head, the likelihood that “carrot” would come up first is pretty high. But who really gives carrots a second thought? I mean, yeah, they’re orange and kind of phallic, but I think most of us take them for granted despite these two rather special characteristics. And that’s a darn shame, because carrots are wonderful for so much more than dipping in hummus as a tasty afternoon snack.

You probably know where I’m heading with this, but allow me to give you a brief bit of background info before I get to the good stuff. First, for your healthy body, carrots are chock-full of carotenoids, and a diet high in carotenoids (both alpha and beta carotene) has been shown to decrease the incidence of certain cancers. Beta carotene also keeps your immune system strong and helps to promote cell growth. Carrots are bursting with vitamins A, K, and C, and they’ve got respectable amounts of fiber and potassium to boot. Plus, the potency of carrots’ antioxidants has been shown to increase when cooked! That last bit is good to hear, because although I love raw carrots, I also love using them in baked goods. ;) So let’s get to that, shall we?

Last night, to do his part in our clean-out-the-fridge attempt, Dad grated up all our remaining carrots and threw together a carrot salad as a side dish for dinner. But there were a few cups of leftover grated carrot left after he made the salad, so Dad turned to me to do away with the remainders, and I knew just what to make.

Immediately I thought of the Carrot-Raisin Muffins from VWaV. I remember these little suckers fondly. Last winter when I was still at school, I whipped up a batch and froze a couple of them for my big comps exam weekend. During the first weekend in April, I took my comprehensive exercise exam and wrote a bunch of essays on a predetermined list of literature; Carleton requires students to take ginormous exams or write long papers to prove that we’ve actually learned something during our four years. ;) I did almost all my essay writing in the Libe, and prepared a big snack tray of delicious brainfoods to keep me going. I took along a couple of these muffins, and they helped me not only to pass the exam but to achieve distinction on my comps. Needless to say, I now associate carrot muffins with grreaaatt successss. ;)

So last night I made a batch of Carrot & Cran Muffins, replacing the raisins with dried cranberries because, as I’ve said before, raisins remind me of bloated insects and I am rather stubborn when it comes to including them in my baked goods. I think cranberries make a delicious substitution, personally.

Carrot & cran numminess!

Yum! Healthy and delicious. I love the fact that these muffins contain two whole cups of grated carrot. They’re so hearty and fresh tasting. But I didn’t stop with muffins. I turned to Isa and Terry – as I so often do – and decided to make a batch of Carrot Cake Cupcakes for a not-so-healthy dessert.

More carroty deliciousness.

Color me seriously, seriously impressed with these cupcakes. Although VCTOtW has yet to fail me, this might be one of my favorite recipes. I know this picture doesn’t actually show the cupcake’s crummy innards, but trust me – these babies had that sort of smoothness that makes a great carrot cake, and the flavor was phenomenal, even with my minor moderations. Although I know that “classic” carrot cakes contain nuts, my sister is allergic to all nuts, and I never bake anything that I can’t share with everyone! So I replaced the walnuts with sunflower seeds to retain the crunch that nuts give to the cake, and I think it added a really interesting textural change (not to mention some extra protein). I also failed to find soy yogurt at the supermarket (ugh), so I hit up Google for an alternative. I found this recipe for soy yogurt replacer from Celineyum, but I think I used too much cornstarch because my soy “yogurt” was quite gummy. This in turn led to some rather gummy batter, but after adding a little extra soy milk, I think I fixed it. Once baked, the cupcakes teetered on the edge of being the tiniest bit gummy, but not enough that anyone would really notice since they were so darn tasty and moist. They were a huge hit with everyone, especially after I totally de-healthified them by adding the vegan cream cheese frosting from VCTOtW. Mmm.

While Googling nutritional info on carrots for this post, I came across some interesting (ahem) websites. First, Oprah tried to tell me that I should “hide” carrots in her recipes for Italian meatloaf, brownies, and cranberry sauce. Thanks, Oprah, but no way – I want my beautiful bright carrots where I can see them, out in the open and sharing their gorgeous color with the world! The last thing I want to do with carrots is stow them shamefully away in a hodgepodge of ground-up animal flesh. No sirree, no carrots in meatloaf for me. Then I discovered the World Carrot Museum, which isn’t an actual museum but an online devotional for people even more obsessed with carrots than I am. And if you’re interested in juicing – something I don’t do nearly often enough – you should check out this site for some carrotastic juice recipes.

Bottom line? Carrots are amazing and delightfully multifunctional. I love love love veggies in desserts; zucchini bread is one of my all-time favorite quickbreads. And carrots cake? You just can’t beat it. Plus, look how colorful these suckers can be!

Colorful carrots!
(Yeah, I borrowed that photo from here.)

So do yourself a favor and go give those orange veggies in your crisper drawer some lovin’! Your body (and tastebuds) will thank you for it. :)

Ciao!