Vegan Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes

There are plenty of things I should have done after work today:  grade papers, go to the gym, put away laundry…but I didn’t want to do any of those things.  So instead, I baked.

Baking is not only my go-to procrastination tool; for me, baking is kind of like meditation.  Throughout the day, my mind is constantly in 5 million different directions at once.  It’s really a miracle that I’m still sane…despite what some may say.  So when I need to escape and relax and wine is not readily available, I bake.  What is so refreshing is that I don’t really think about anything when I bake.  I’m too busy completely in the zone.  It’s a straight-up flow state of mind.

Tonight I was inspired by the Kahlua on my kitchen countertop. It had been lonely too long, ever since breaking up with a white russian, so I decided to match it up with some chocolate, and in what better form than a mini-cupcake.

Mini-cupcakes are, by logic, the cutest things ever.  It’s already a well-established fact that things in mini-form are cuter.  Since cupcakes are already mini-versions of cake, mini-cupcakes are technically a mini-form of a mini-form–therefore, cuteness to the second power.  Go ahead.  Check my math.  I ain’t scurred.

The cake itself is surprisingly light and moist.  The flavor, thanks to the  buttercream frosting, is a hefty little kick of delicious kahlua.  Good luck not licking the spoon, you lush.  Next time, I’ll try to punch up the chocolate flavor a little more, but I’m not complaining.  This is a work in progress and I welcome ideas.  Maybe a drizzle of chocolate syrup, or a little chocolate something-something in the frosting.
Really, my only complaint right now is that it’s not yet Saturday, when I will be embarking on a 7-day cruise in the Carribean to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.   It’s my first cruise, and I’m insanely excited to get away.  Baking is a great escape, but let’s see what a giant boat ride can do.

Vegan Chocolate Kahlua Mini-Cupcakes
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup kahlua
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled apple cider vinegar
Kahlua Buttercream (I don’t like a lot of frosting on my cupcakes, but if you do, you should probably double this.)
4 tbls vegan margarine (room temperature)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbls of kahlua
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place mini-cupcake liners in mini-cupcake pan.
2.  In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients.  Mix until well-blended.
3. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full of batter.  Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. In a new bowl, beat together the powdered sugar and margarine.  Beat in the kahlua.  Adjust proportions to taste.
5.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Brush a little extra kahlua on the top of each.
6.  Frost when completely cool.
For the roomies...
For the roomies...

Bacon Jam Crescent Rolls

I know what you might be thinking: “Bacon? Again? What’s with this woman?”

But if you’re cool, which you are, you’re probably thinking, “Bacon! Again! I love this woman!”

Now I promise I’m not obsessed. The sound of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me tremble. The smell of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me weak in the knees. Actually, when I’m at home, I usually eat vegetarian or vegan meals. But I saw this recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake, and I could not resist. I mean it’s JAM made of BACON!!!

Excitedly I told two friends about it, and they had the opposite reaction. Their faces scrunched up as if to say, JAM? Made of BACON?

This only made me more determined. It was even enough to get me out of my self-imposed Saturday morning coma to get some biscuits from Target.

Now Target is a trap. I go in for one specific reason and end up battling the urge to buy things I don’t need, like a donut hole/cake ball pan. True story. Now I’ve never wanted a wedding or thought much about getting married, but as I looked longingly at the kitchen appliances and gadgets, I realized that maybe I do want one someday…because I can register for some epic kitchen swag and get it FO FREE. Then I realized that it’s not really FO FREE because I have to pay for the wedding. Touché, frugality. Touché.

Anyway, Target did not have biscuits, and the thought of bacon jam hadn’t empowered me enough to make them from scratch, so I saw the crescent rolls and thought, why not?

I followed the recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake with no variations. And she’s right, it does smell pretty bad at first, but when it’s done, it mellows out and the flavors intensify. I won’t go into detail because I can’t do a better job describing it than she did. Much, much later I spread some on the crescent roll triangles, rolled up those suckers, and popped them in the oven. Easy.

I felt a little Sandra Lee using one of those tubes of pre-made dough, but whatever…call me Sandra Lee if you dare, because it was good. Buttery and bacon-y, and really, what could be better? These could be a great addition to a brunch menu, and quite simple if the bacon jam has already been made. All they need is a tall glass of orange juice, some scrambled eggs, and hash browns. Next time.

Edit: These also taste fabulous when you come home from dancing at 2 in the morning. :)

Roasted Fennel & Bacon Pizza

“Ms. B, aren’t stallions onions?” a student asked me, trying to settle an argument with his peers.

I paused a moment to process the odd question until it dawned on me…
“You’re thinking of scallions.  Stallions are horses,” I said.

It was funny, but it was one more reminder that my students have a very limited experience with fresh food (and horses apparently.)  Now scallions are a rare food for kids to know, but one of my coworkers was eating blueberries in the morning and her entire homeroom had never seen or had a fresh blueberry before.  They’re 12 years old!  But this is material for another post.  I actually wanted to talk about another onion-like food: fennel.  (Did you see that segue? Killed it.)

I’d never had fennel before a month ago, but I always heard it mentioned on cooking shows every once in a while.  I assumed it was just one of those fancy-pants foods they throw around like truffle oil.  I decided to try it because I needed to shake things up in the kitchen. (Oh, fennel? That sh*t cray!)  I bought it, roasted it, and loved it.  For you other fennel virgins, fennel looks somewhat like an onion but surprisingly tastes nothing like it, at least when it’s roasted.  The caramelization gives it a mild spicy-sweet taste akin to licorice.

A couple of weeks ago, in the horrible wreck that was February (note the lack of posts) I went on a pizza kick and came up with a new favorite combo: bacon and roasted fennel.  (This was literally one of the high points of that month, along with not dying.)

As a fan of anything both sweet and salty, this pizza was made for me.  (Which makes sense because I did, in fact, make it for myself.)  The combination of the salty bacon and the sweet roasted fennel was a perfect marriage. (This is a big deal because I hate using “marriage” to describe food pairings.)  This pizza can be done fancy, with a real crust, or simple with a whole wheat pita, as I opted.  Either way, I can promise you that it’s a match consecrated by my holy tastebuds. (Til death in my digestive system do they part.)  Oh, and use white goat cheddar if you can. It’s the bomb.  Here’s the recipe along with more delightful parenthetical expressions.

Roasted Fennel & Bacon Pizza
Whole wheat pita
Tomato sauce
Shredded cheese (I used goat cheddar and it. was. awesome. Some never made it on the pizza…)
2-3 slices of bacon
Half a fennel bulb chopped
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

Toss the chopped fennel in a little oil, salt, & pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast in 375 degrees until almost cooked through and beginning to caramelize.  (In my toaster oven it took about 20 min.)

Fry bacon strips until almost crisp. Place on paper towel to drain.
Spread tomato sauce to your liking on whole wheat tortilla.  Add your favorite seasonings to taste. (Since I buy plain, no salt added sauce, I’ll usually add some pizazz.)
Top with cheese and crumble the bacon on top.  Take out the fennel and add to the top of the pizza.
Stick that pizza back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and crust is crispy.