The Daring Cooks Have Arrived! Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

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This is a very speical day, and not only because it’s Celine’s birthday or because Ricki’s fabulous Sweet Freedom is available tomorrow!

Today The Daring Cooks make their début! I’m genuinely excited to be part of this groovy group of culinary crusaiders, bravely going to new and uncharted foodie-lands. I know this group is going to help me flex my creative muscles in the kitchen, veganizing new foods and old favourites, and if this first challenge is any indication of the fun we’ll be having than I know this is going to be a blast!

I’m sincerely honored to have been named the Daring Alternative “Cookie”, meaning I’m trolling the Alternative forums to try to field questions and help find solutions for my fellow Alternative Daring Cooks. This is really exciting because I know I’m going to have many opportunities to learn so much, and even more importantly, to get to know my fellow Daring Cooks even better.

Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

Tofu Ricotta Gnocchi…can you feel the Yum?

The Inaugural Challenge recipe is the Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, and it could not be more fitting that our founding Mothers, the wonderful, the fabulous, the ridiculously underpaid Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina host this first challenge. I loved them before, but after making this month’s challenge, I love them even more!

This month’s challenge, the Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi, is a blast! (For the recipe go visit Lis – she’s got it up on her blog). It it’s delicious, fun and easy to make, too. Oh, and really easy to veganize! I suggest using everyone’s favourite tofu ricotta recipe, found on the PPK and in Veganomicon. You’ll want to make a few subtle changes, but it’ll work famously. This tofu ricotta recipe will yield about 25 gnocchi, about half of the challenge recipe’s yield.

If you’ve never made this ricotta recipe, I have just a few suggestions 1) add way more garlic because it’s so tame you can’t taste it; 2)add whatever herbs you’d like – you can add more than is called for; 3) make this in advance. I’d suggest 24 hours, to really allow time for the flavours to take hold.

Vegan Ricotta, to make Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

The big change that I made to the ricotta recipe was to add gluten flour to the ricotta once it was all mashed to paste. I used between 1/4 and 1/3 cup gluten, and I let it set a good few hours before forming the gnocchi. It worked like a charm. I had doubts, but it was a slam dunk.

There is one thing to keep in mind – do not follow the main challenge instructions which tell you to be delicate with your ricotta. You need to man-handle the stuff, I mean really, really knead it, and force it into little gnocchi, squeezing tight with your hand. That’s the ticket. I tried to be sweet and gentle with the first few and they came apart in the boiling water. A tight squeeze makes for a solid little gnocchi.

The other cooking directions for the challenge are valid and work with the ricotta. After boiling mine up and flouring them I let them set a good hour, even more, in the fridge before pan-frying them as per the challenge and that seemed to work well. You could let them set longer, too.
Vegan Ricotta Gnocchi

I really can’t stress enough how fun and easy this challenge was! I had fun making it, and my family had fun devouring it. Give it a try – it’s  worth it!

Would you like to play with your food? Everyone is welcome in The Daring Kitchen! I would especially like to extend this invitation to any vegans and vegetarians out there – this is an excellent opportunity to flex your creative culinary muscles and veganize omni fare. Learning to prepare delicious “omni-friendly” meals is a wonderful talent to develop, and it’s such a relief to have more recipes in your repetoire!

And…be sure to come back tomorrow for a very special interview! Woo…how mysterious and exciting is that!

Has Birthday Cake, Will Travel? A Very Special Birthday Wish…

Happy Birthday To You!!!

Today is Celine’s birthday everyone! Go wish her a very happy birthday!

Chocolate (Breakfast) Cake

And a little belated birthday love to my birthdayfaced Jessy who celebrated her happy day on Tuesday!

I’m sending you both some real love and some virtual birthday cake!

W.I.P. Wednesday Birthday Time! Guppy’s 4 & A 60-Day Project Update

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It’s all about the birthday goodness here at W.I.P. Headquarters! First a big fat thanks going out to Kittee of Cake Maker To The Stars, Amy of Tahinitoo, Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness & Virginia of Bananas & Soymilk. They have been keeping the birthday momentum going for my dear Mammafish and I thank you all from the bottom of my little heart! The 60-Day Project will be wrapping up at the end of the month, and I’ll turn the blog over to guest-blogger Mammafish, but for now, here’s a little comment she left for you all :

When I read Shelly’s blog comments, I look at your names and see what you sent me. Makes me feel like I’m getting to know you all better. My heart is so full! You girls are beyond amazing. I am sure the world is a better place with each of you in it. Love, Mamafish

Since we’re talking about birthdays, here’s a little look at some of Ms. Guppy’s handmade birthday surprises. The first was a very special envelope that arrived from the United States…

Amy's envelope

Guppy was very excited to see her name on the envelope when we got the mail after school, but was even more thrilled once she looked inside!

Dinoriffic Birthday Card

Look at this dinoriffic handmade card by the sweet and talented Amy (Ms. Tahinitoo)! Not only did she send birthday love to my mother , but she also made this fantastic card for Guppy!

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Guppy carried the card around all afternoon and evening (see smudge mark above). After a bit of negation, I did manage to convince her it would be better to frame it and hang it in her bedroom (cookies and juice were involved).

I wanted to make Guppy a Princess hat for her birthday. Or a Prince Charming hat as she calls it (she likes Prince Charming better because he can wear pants and boots which is better for running on cobblestone paths says she). I’m not a big fan of all that is princesses, damsels in distress, etc., but we do live down the street from a castle (!) so, it’s difficult to totally ignore.*(cute story at bottom if you’re interested).

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She has a hat that we made from paper months ago, but it looks more like scrap paper now than anything fit for royalty. There are so many different kinds of hats you can make with felt and/or fabric (check out fellow Wipster Nicole’s more classic – and super-cute – crown how-to here), but I wanted to make one similar to her paper hat. There are probably tutorials all over the net for this – and it is so easy to make, you really don’t need a tutorial, but I’ll give you some rough instructions here…

Princess Hat 1

Since we make these cone-shaped hats out of large pieces of paper, I had a good idea of what size to make. If you’re not sure, you’ll need to measure you’re future royal’s head. Once you’ve got the measurement, add a few centimeters for your seam allowance, and using string and a pencil, make an arc as long as your measurement (for us that was 50cm). You’ll also need to decide how tall you want your hat – if you’re not sure, just make a paper hat as a practice hat and you’ll see what you’re in for. (Initially I was going to make a dual-colored hat, but it ended up being too big so I cut off the pink over-hang.)

I used the vegan felt I bought in the U.S. last year, and ironed on some interfacing to give it a little more structure (be sure to keep the heat low – I also used a piece of fabric to cover the felt just be sure).

Princess Hat Ribbons

For your ribbons and tulle, I suggest you sew them together into a bundle before trying to sew them into the hat. This is a lame picture, but you can make out that things are gathered on the right side. I sewed back and forth a few times to make sure everything was well anchored.

back view of hat

I do recommend you use two layers of felt if you’ll be sewing sequence and beads on as I did. I also suggest that you sew them onto the outer layer before sewing on your royal child’s initial – this is to hide your stitches which will get caught on hair ties and elastics and cause your child grief when they see their beads falling off. Because I was making this up as I went along, I decided to sew everything on after I’d sewn on the “L” (because no, her name isn’t really Guppy!), and yes, tragedy did ensue. I’ve since re-sewn on enough beads to not forget this lesson.

I just sewed the “L” on, through the two layers of felt. Then I pinned them together into a triangle, right sides together, with the ribbons at the top between the two layers and I sewed through it all. Then you just turn it ride side out and marvel at your creative awesomeness (15 minutes before the birthday girl wakes up from her nap to go to her birthday party…).

Lilah in her new hat

We have a lot of movement here, but she just put it on, so she was pretty excited…

Princess Hat 2

There were lots of tasty treats at her little birthday party : I made cupcakes without frosting, because 99% of French people do not like the frosting, chocolate dino cookies and with the extra cupcake batter made a small cake for Guppy – with frosting. I wanted to try to make fondant so I could have some dino-cuteness on her cake, but decided at the last minute to decorate her cake with mini-dino toys that she could keep and play with.

dino cake

The cake and cupcakes are from The Joy of Vegan Baking. They come out better than any other vanilla cake/cupcake recipe I have ever made – vegan or omni. Super moist without being heavy – they raise right up!

Chocolate Dino Cookies

The cookies are also from TJOVB, the sugar cookie recipe but with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup cocao added. They were a big hit at Halloween when I made them into skeletons. Thanks again Libby for sending that cookie cutter!

What have you been up to W.I.P.-wise? Whatever your works-in-progress, have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

*This post is so long – but I had to share this! As you know, we live down the street from the castle, and so we often walk the grounds and gardens. The castle is a very popular spot for wedding photos, and ever since she was 2, whenever we see a new bride all decked out in her meringuey-poffy dress, Guppy just gets so excited and declares “It’s the princess of the castle!”. One young woman thought this was so sweet she called Guppy over and gave her a flower from her bouquet.

Raw Yummies : Something that reminds me of Tuna Salad (in a good way).

Spring has indeed sprung here in France, and though I feel like I’m ready to sprout myself for the liters and liters of rain we’re getting, I’ve been in the mood for something fresh and bright.

The warmer temperatures are making me long for my once a week “Raw” days, and I hope I can start working more raw cuisine into the rotation. Food prices are so out of control here (I know, it’s bad everywhere), and I just cannot afford nuts of any kind anymore, and I’ll be honest, fresh veggies are a real toughie, too. I do have a large supply of sunflower seeds and walnuts on hand, however, so this worked out just fine :

Raw faux tuna salad

No tuna were harmed in the making of this salad.

I saw this recipe that Pixiepine posted, and decided to give it a whirl. I’m so glad I did, because it was delicious! I’m not going to re-post her recipe – just go check it out!

One thing I will say is I did get crazy changing it up and I added way more pickles and pickle juice than was called for, didn’t use celery (didn’t have any), used more onion, and I was ever so pleased. The addition of the sea veggies also really made a difference. I used this :

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My favourite “Salad of the Sea” mix. It’s got dulse, nori and sea lettuce (not sure what it’s real name is in English – that’s just what we call it here), and it’s great. Not too fishy as to scare away Monsieur Picky Pants (aka Monsieur Fish), but just enough to lend a nice sea-worthy flavour reminiscent of the tuna salad I loved as a kid.

I really recommend this – it’s not going to fool anyone (unless they’ve had too many martinis), but it’s a delicious alternative to eating fish. We had this on a simple green salad, then the left-overs worked well as sammie filling with sliced tomato and greens. Delish!

Happy Mother’s Day – To Every Woman, Everywhere

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Is it Mother’s Day where you live? Even though it’s not Mother’s Day yet here in France, I feel compelled to wish a very happy day to all you Mothers out there in North America – and wherever else people are celebrating today.

I sincerely feel that every woman is in her own, sometimes quiet and unsung way, a Mother. Women nurture, coach, listen, lend a receptive shoulder and offer heartfelt advice. I wish I could create a holiday that celebrated all that every woman does to cultivate the beauty around them, especially in the lives of the women who consider them sister, friend and mentor.

So to all women, be they the biological Mother of six (like my mumma!), the big sister someone has always longed for, the school teacher who gives 110% to show her students she cares… Happy Mother’s Day!

Peanut Butter Goodness Galore!

If you’re not a fan of peanutty goodness, this post will probably not interest you very much at all! It’s all about the peanut butter and here you’ll find it stealing the show decked out in some fabulous baked goodness…these glorious recipes will be in Celine and Joni’s upcoming vegan opus, 500 Vegan Recipes. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Quick Bread

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Quick Bread

This dense & delicious loaf has just a hint of boozy goodness. I added bits of dehydrated bananas (but you could add any dried fruit!), and it was the perfect breakfast with a dollop of jam. This is one of my favourite tester recipes by far! POST UPDATE – CELINE JUST POSTED THIS RECIPE ON HER BLOG! NOW YOU CAN ENJOY THIS AMAZING BREAD!

Peanut Butter Sconey Biscuits

Peanut Butter Sconey-Biscuits

Don’t let the “work-in-progress” name detract from their absolute deliciousness! These are peanut butter goodness incarnate. With just hint of sweet, these are a lovely marriage between a scone and a biscuit. Perfect with a cup of tea for an afternoon knosh or with a smear of jam for breakfast.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oat Quick Bread

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oat Quick Bread

It’s not the bread’s fault I’m a klutz…despite being a crumbly mess (I tripped when moving it from oven to cooling rack), it was a fun breakfast treat – complete with oats, peanut butter and jelly – you just need to add a cup of joe and you’re set!

My oven is going to mourn the end of recipe testing for 500 Vegan Recipes…it’s going to be a long wait until November! If you just can’t wait, don’t forget to visit the flickr group – but don’t even try it on an empty stomach!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Meet May’s featured Wipster, Carmen!

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I’m very excited to present May’s featured Wipster, Carmen, who blogs at About a girl… Carmen was one of many unexpected blessings that grew from my accident. A fellow runner, she left me some very encouraging words when I really needed them – thanks again! After a visit to her blog I found we had more in common than just our love of running, and I’ve been a regular reader ever since.

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A super-cute doll by Carmen

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Super-Knitting Skillz!

Carmen is a Canadian crafting Mamma, and she is one of my knitting heros – she can knit socks! That is so rock and roll in the crafting world! I hope I someday get to hang out with Carmen so she can teach me how to get crazy with the knitting needles, but for now, I give you Carmen in her own words…

I think my crafty bone comes from two sources. My Mom, who was an artist (an oil painter) and studied art, and therefore raised me doing all sorts of craft adventures – we sold fleece mitts and origami bird earrings at community hall craft sales to name a couple. But, I was surrounded by her personal craftiness – quilting, sewing, knitting (she even owned a knitting machine!). The second source would be my Art class I took in Grade 12. I had a spot open for an extra option and thought, what the heck, I’ll try art. That decision moved me from following the sciences to heading to an Art College. I studied photography, drawing, screen printing, and acrylic painting for five years. I let all of it slide until my daughter was born, in 2007. Being at home with her I wanted to take the opportunity to learn new things and get back to my artsy roots (I work in the Oil & Gas Industry). I took two cake decorating classes, re-took up knitting, took a crochet class, and have recently started quilting. I love it. I hope I can inspire my kids the same way my Mom inspired me.

Five Random Facts About Carmen:

1. I live in the same city I was born, and in practically the same neighborhood. I have lived two other places (one being East Africa) but I always knew the prairies were my home.
2. I have played music since the age of 3 and have my Grade 12 in piano in Royal Conservatory. I grew up playing duets in the church with my Mom, and hated doing music festivals or competitions.
3. I am addicted to Starbucks. I have at least one latte a day. Usually a Chai or a Caramel Macchiato.
4. I am turning 30 this year and I’m not scared about it. I’m very happy with where I’m at in life. I did have a hard time turning 25 though, not sure why.
5. One of the most interesting places I have travelled is Japan. I would still love to go to Thailand, New Zealand and Australia. Oh and Ireland too. Mind you, I could probably add alot of other places to that list. There you go, I love to travel!

Thanks so much to Carmen for opening up and sharing some of her craftiness! Is there a creative blogger out there you’d like to learn more about? Let me know! Just email me or leave me a comment and we’ll try and get them on the featured Wipster list!

Little update : In last week’s W.I.P. Wednesday post I told you about the Tie One On Aprons – well Amy’s got the gallery up. Go check it out if you’re looking to be inspired!

I have some major blog reading & post writing to catch up on this week – including updates on the 60-Day Project, Guppy’s birthday and more!

Have you managed to get any lingering W.I.P.s finished up? Whatever your works-in-progress, have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.