Summer Grilling: Antipasto Kabobs, Pizza, and Olive Oil Cake with Meringue Topping

vegan-grilled-kabobs

Sponsored Post – Italian Summer Grilling

I recently started collaborating with online culinary magazine Honest Cooking on projects that are a good fit with what I do and make me happy. One of their new sites, Alimentari, just launched a campaign with Colavita Olive Oil and was looking for bloggers and photographers to make a summer grilling meal. I was all over that because 1) I love cooking Italian food, 2) I love cooking vegan meals in a traditionally non-vegan cuisine, and 3) I don’t own a grill or have a backyard, so I could bring this project somewhere else and turn it into an afternoon of cooking and gathering.

The aforementioned cooking and gathering fell on Mother’s Day, so I sent the ingredients to my family and we spent the day working in the kitchen, and eventually eating everything. I even got to show off my new party trick, making aquafaba meringue.

vegan-grilled-seitan-kabobs

The first dish I made was antipasto kabobs with chick seitan, two kinds of tomatoes, tofu “cheese”, zucchini, summer squash, and red peppers, marinated and grilled. These were an excellent main dish over rice, and can be made with any veggies you want.

Grilled Antipasto Seitan Kabobs

Makes 8 kabobs

Ingredients

Marinade:
1/2 cup Colavita Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Colavita White Balsamic Vinegar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Seitan and veggies:
8 ounces seitan*
1 small zucchini
1 small summer squash
1/2 package tofu, pressed
1/2 red bell pepper
8 Colavita Sun-dried Tomatoes (in oil)
8 cherry tomatoes

Skewers

Cooked Scotti Black Rice or other grain, for serving

*I used Upton’s Chick Seitan, but the texture of their Traditional Seitan would be more sturdy for kabobs.

Instructions

Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a shallow, rectangular dish. There are going to be 7 pieces on each of the 8 skewers, so break the seitan into 8 pieces, chop the zucchini and summer squash into 8 pieces, slice the tofu into 8 cubes, and cut the red pepper into 8 pieces. The cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes can be used whole. Assemble your kabobs by spearing one of each item on each skewer.

Place the kabobs in the marinade dish and let marinate for at least 2 hours. I reused the leftover marinade with the rest of the tofu and throw in the salad below, so don’t dump your marinade just yet.

Fire up and oil up your grill on medium-high heat, and grill each side for a few minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked and have grill marks. Cook time will vary, depending on your grill. Serve over rice.

vegan-grilled-tofu-kabobs

I’m all about reusing ingredients and sauces in other dishes to create a comprehensive meal, so this salad includes tofu marinated in the kabob marinade. The tofu and a garlic sun-dried tomato raspberry vinaigrette make an otherwise simple salad into a salad you actually want to eat.

Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

Salad:
1/2 block tofu, pressed and cubed
5 ounces mixed greens
1 can chickpeas (save the liquid to make the cake recipe below!)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup cucumber slices

Dressing:
1/2 cup Colavita Raspberry Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Colavita Roasted Garlic Olive Oil
1/4 cup Colavita Sun-dried Tomatoes (in oil), chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Marinate the tofu in the leftover kabob marinade, or in your marinade of choice. Grill or pan fry the tofu until it’s crispy on all sides. Toss the tofu with the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the whole salad, tossing to coat, or set on the side and let people add dressing as they want.

vegan-grilled-pizza

Since I don’t normally grill, this was my first time making grilled pizza, and the process was very trial and error (I’m glad I made two!). I kept this pizza simple, but you can add whatever toppings you’d like. The Kitchn has a good post on how to grill pizza, so check that out if this is your first time grilling pizza.

Grilled Pizza

Makes 2 small pizzas

Ingredients

1 batch prepared pizza dough (I used the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe)
3/4 cup marinara
1 pint small heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced into rings
1-2 cups vegan mozzarella cheese, as desired
Fresh herbs, as desired

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

Preheat grill to 550-600°F. Divide your pizza dough into two pieces (one large pizza will be difficult to work with at the grill) and roll out into circles. Oil the pizza dough and the grill very well. Grill each of the rolled out doughs on one side for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a baking sheet, uncooked side down.

Spread the marinara out on each crust (the grilled side) and arrange the toppings as you like. Transfer to the grill, and cook until the bottom is grilled and the veggies and cheese are cooked. If the cheese doesn’t melt all the way (as vegan cheese sometimes behaves) and you’re worried about burning the crust, pop the pizza under your oven’s broiler for a few minutes.

vegan-meringue-cake

Because I can’t just stop at making dinner, dessert was necessary. This cake is filled with balsamic-glazed strawberries, uses olive oil in place of vegan margarine or vegetable oil, and is topped with Italian meringue dollops and a sprig of fresh basil. You don’t get more Italian than that. I’ve been using every opportunity I have to make aquafaba meringue (and I’m sick of buttercream), and it was perfect on this cake. I didn’t cook the meringue, but you could use a pastry torch to brown the dollops for a golden, crispy exterior.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Balsamic Filling and Meringue Topping

Makes a 2-layer 9-inch round cake

Ingredients

Cake:
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/3 cups non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling:
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Colavita Balsamic Glace
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Meringue topping:
1/2 cup aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For the cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and cayenne and mix until combined.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the olive oil, non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Mix all ingredients well.

Pour batter into two prepared 9-inch cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool before proceeding.

For the filling: Combine the sliced strawberries, sugar, Balsamic Glace, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until the sugar and cornstarch dissolves, and thickens into a syrup, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Taste and add more Balsamic Glace if you want a stronger flavor.

For the meringue topping: Pour the liquid from the can of chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use electric hand mixers…but you don’t want to do this by hand!). Add the cream of tartar. Whip the bean juice with the whisk attachment until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping. This process should take 6-8 minutes, but it can take up to 15 or 20 minutes. Here is a video I made detailing the process.

To assemble: Pour the strawberry filling over one cake layer and place the other layer on top. Top with dollops of meringue, then garnish with fresh basil and strawberries, if desired.

colavita-behind-the-scenes

And finally, a little behind-the-scenes imagery from the photoshoot!

Disclosure: Colavita and Honest Cooking provided ingredients and compensation for this post, but they definitely didn’t have to twist my arm. I like food. The prompt was very open-ended, so opinions, words, stylistic choices, and recipes are my own.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

vegan-chocolate-cake-recipe
Happy Friday! Today I give you a basic chocolate cake with a small twist. I often get a little overzealous when making desserts with unusual flavor combinations, so I had to reel it in a few times with this cake. In the end, the cake and frosting are both pretty basic: a chocolate olive oil cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting, and a little cayenne in the batter for kick. I wanted to also throw in curry! Or rose water! But I think the theme of simplicity with a sprinkle of spice is working in its favor. You best believe I garnished each slice with a grind of smoked sea salt though.

I made a mini cake (6 inches), but the recipe will make a full-sized double-layer cake.
olive-oil-cake

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 2 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne (to taste)
3/4 cup olive oil
2 1/3 cups non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1/3 cup vegan margarine
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons strawberry extract*

1/3 cup strawberry jam

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For the cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and cayenne and mix until combined.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the olive oil, non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and strawberry jam. Mix all ingredients well.

Pour batter into two prepared 9-inch cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool before proceeding.

For the frosting: Whip vegan cream cheese, margarine, and shortening with a stand mixer or hand mixer until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing after each addition. Add the strawberry extract and whip for 5-6 more minutes.

To assemble: Spread strawberry jam between the two layer cakes. Spread and pipe on frosting as desired.

*Strawberry extract can be hard to find, and sometimes tastes very artificial. Feel free to replace with strawberry syrup, strawberry jam, or another fruit extract you like.

vegan-strawberry-cake

Checkerboard Cake Tutorial

checkerboard-cake-tutorial

If you’ve ever ventured beyond making basic round or sheet cakes, you may have considered adding a novelty cake pan like a giant cupcake or a checkerboard to your collection. In most cases, these pans are a waste of money and valuable kitchen storage space, and have very limited use (how often are you going to bake a cake shaped like a castle or a specific cartoon character?). Nearly any shape or pattern can be cut or carved out of regular round or sheet cakes, and this checkerboard cake is one of the easiest “patterned” cakes to make.

If you can cut (or let’s be honest, trace) a circle out of cake, you can make a checkerboard cake using round cake pans without any special equipment. I haven’t inspected checkerboard cake pans in the store, but I’m sure they utilize the same technique. Cutting the cake pieces yourself means you can add as many layers as you want and make the checkers any size you want.

Below are the basic instructions for a two-layer, two-color checkerboard cake. Depending on the size of your cake, you could also cut four rings (making more, smaller checkers) using the same technique, make the cake triple or quadruple-layered, or use as many different colors as you want. You’ll want to choose a cake recipe that’s on the sturdier side so you can make clean cuts and prevent breakage when moving the pieces, even leaving the cakes in the oven an extra minute or two. I used the vanilla and chocolate recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, adding blue food coloring to the vanilla batter.

how-to-make-a-checkerboard-cake

Then decorate your cake as you would any normal round cake. For this cake, I made a basic buttercream, made the stripe pattern with edible paper, and made little fondant sculptures of our pets.

checkerboard-cake-without-a-pan

And that’s it! This is a low-maintenance way to add something extra to a round cake. I imagine it would work similarly with a sheet cake–just cut rectangle rings instead of circles. Please email me if you want clarification on any of the steps, or want to see a tutorial on another kind of sculpted or patterned cake.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Want more pumpkin recipes? Well, you got it!

Every year, my grandma makes a pumpkin cake just like this one on Thanksgiving. I’ve made vegan versions a few times over the years, and I find that a modified version of the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World yields the best results. I double the recipe, leave out the chocolate, and throw some cream cheese frosting on top. Simple! While the pumpkin in autumnal recipes is usually shrouded with a spice blend, the actual pumpkin flavor really stands out in this recipe. Accented with a small amount of cinnamon, this cake shines in its simplicity.

vegan-pumpkin-cake

Like my ugly, warty yellow pumpkin? It rules. Now make this recipe, then eat it for breakfast and dessert everyday.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 9×13-inch cake

Cake recipe adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Ingredients

2 cups canned pumpkin
2⁄3 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (1 tub) vegan cream cheese
2/3 cup margarine
2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Mix until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into a 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray or coated with oil.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the center of the cake is firm and fully cooked (test with a toothpick, if necessary). Let the cake cool.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
  8. Whip together the cream cheese and margarine in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl.
  9. Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Add an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar if the frosting is runny. It should be a little drippy, but not liquid.
  10. Frost the cooled cake. Store in the refrigerator.

I found that the cream cheese frosting is excellent with fruit. Keep that in mind if you have any leftovers!

Do you jump on the pumpkin bandwagon this time of year? If not, is there another ingredient you bring out in the fall?

Chocolate Cake and Dog Cake

chocolate cake

Last week I was faced with the task of deciding what to do with an extra chocolate sheet cake. I know, such a difficult position to be in. I wasn’t interested in making another basic frosted cake, so I grabbed some cookie cutters and started cutting out shapes. The cake was too thick for the cookie cutters to slice through, so I had to finish the job with a knife.

Yet another task arose: what to do with the cake triangles? With some leftover buttercream to work with, the obvious choice was cake sandwiches, with some peaches for good measure. Insta-dessert. Done up with a chocolate drizzle and garnish, an elegant dessert at that.

If you’d like your own cake problem, here is the basic chocolate cake recipe I used. It’s a sturdy cake, so it’ll hold up just peachy (I tried to stop myself from including the pun, but it was quite persuasive) when you take a knife to it. Also, are you sick of overly sweet cake? Me too! The flavor of this cake is more chocolatey than sweet. Enjoy the dark chocolate flavor, or add a few more tablespoons of sugar if you’d like. If you eat it with buttercream, that takes care of the sweetness quite well.

Chocolate cake

Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 9×13-inch sheet cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt.
Mix together the milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and vinegar mixture, agave nectar, canola oil, and vanilla. Whisk together all the ingredients until combined. The batter should be thick, much like muffin batter.

Pour into a 9×13-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 28-30 mins until the cake is very firm, and springs back when touched, rather than smushing down. Let cool before cutting.

Assembly: Everything was all rather improvised! I cut the cake into triangles (saving the scraps for another dessert!), then sliced each triangle in the center to make a frosting sandwich. I chopped up a peach, mixed it into a bowl of buttercream, and spread a spoonful of frosting in each triangle. Finally, I garnished each cake sandwich with a buttercream swirl and a peach slice. This made about 1 dozen sandwiches.

Chocolate cake

So why did I have all this extra cake? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like to do things like sculpting and painting a giant cake that looks like my dog. My grandma and cousin came for a visit, so that was some incentive as well, but sometimes it’s just fun to break out my cake supplies and make something crazy.

Sculpted dog cake

Drake totally loved it, I swear.

Fluffy dog

This supply of cake is pretty much never ending, so stay tuned for cake pops made with the scraps and leftover buttercream!

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