Muir’s Tea Room – a slice of vegan heaven in Sebastopol!

It’s been far to long since I have posted on my blog, and this is just perfect. For those of you wondering what adventures I have been on… well, after leaving a job in Marin as an Accounting Manager in a construction company last year, I went on a journey of self exploration. I came through it realizing I need to be much more creative and I became a baker and head chef at Muir’s Tea Room. We opened in December 2014, but for a few months before that I was testing and perfecting recipes and menus, all of which has kept me so busy I never had time to blog. But this fellow blogger inspired me to get back on the horse and keep on bloggin! Thanks SO MUCH for this wonderful review and article Pegasus in Paradise!

Pegasus in Paradise

Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh my friends….I can’t BELIEVE it has taken me so long to find this place, it has been open since shortly before I got here at the end of 2014! I had heard about Muir’s Tea Room on Facebook, but thought it was just a regular old tea house with some vegan options. Imagine my extreme excitement and urgent need to get there asap when I found out it was ALL PLANT-BASED!!!!! Woo-hoo!!! That makes it the only vegan restaurant in Sonoma county, which is a travesty that needs to be addressed asap by anyone other than me, hee hee….

Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California Muir’s Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Muir’s Tea Room was opened in December 2014 and is inspired by John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. Owner Christine Dzilvelis and chef Tika Moon serve a traditional Scottish/English tea service with…

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Vegan Sugar Cookies with Icing

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Some vegans don’t eat cookies too often, unless they bake them at home. They are hard to find in the stores and always a bit pricey. If you can find any, they will usually be peanut butter or chocolate chip, but very rarely a sugar cookie and a great tasting one at that. In fact my daughter prefers these over the non-vegan ones!

I made this batch of cookies for the First Annual Veg-Fest in Sonoma County last month. Since these needed to look pristine, I ended up with some rejects left at home. My friend was visiting a few days after the event and ate the rest of my cookies, he claimed they were so good he couldn’t stop eating them. Today he asked for the recipe because he just needed to make some vegan cookies and he thinks I can go into business with these and sell them to places like Whole Foods or other vegetarian friendly places.

I hate to even call these a “Sugar Cookie”. Most sugar cookies are hard, chalky and dry. What makes these so different than a traditional sugar cookie, is the flax-seed meal and the cream cheese. Those two items give this cookie a much better texture and flavor than the old fashioned ones. To change it up once in a while, you could add some lemon or orange zest to the cookie dough and icing for a different taste.

These cookies are just as easy to make as any other cookie, with the added fun of cutting out different shapes and decorating them.  If you are not an artist, then no worries, you can just spread the icing over the tops then devour. If you are more artistically inclined, then you can pull out all the stops and really make some fun and gorgeous cookies!

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* VEGAN * ROLLED *SUGAR *COOKIES *

Ingredients for cookies:

  • 1 Cup Golden Flaxseed Meal
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Vegan Margarine – such as Nucoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 2 tbls water
  • 1/2 container of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (or Lemon or Orange zest/extract)

Directions:

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  This should take about 3 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, combine together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Prepare the egg replacer  by mixing replacer with warm water and whisk until frothy
  • Add egg replacer, vanilla and almond extracts to mixer and beat another minute or so.
  • Add the flour mixture slowly, mixing after each cup is added.  (Be careful not to add too much at a time.
  • Blend until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a piece of parchment paper.
  • Place the dough in a large plastic (zip-lock type) bag or Tupperware bowl with a lid and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight.

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  •  Take about half the dough at a time and roll it out until about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Carefully stamp each cookie cutter until that piece is full. (If cookie cutter starts to  stick, dip the edges in flour.)
  • Prep an area to roll out the dough. I use a roll out mat, and a little flour. If you don’t have height guides for your rolling pin, you can use two wooden spoons of the same height as guides as shown above.15 min before you remove the dough from the refrigerator, preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
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  • Pick up the scraps and re- roll the dough, continue to stamp cookies until full, then repeat.
  • Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet (you can use parchment paper or a silicone mat on top of the sheet if you prefer) and place in the freezer for about 5 -10 minutes. This assures that the cookies stay very cold and will help prevent spreading.
  • Take the other half of the dough and repeat the process until all cookies have been stamped.
  • If you don’t have enough cookies sheets you should leave the unrolled dough in the fridge until your first batches are completed.
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    PRO TIP: Place similar sized cookies on the same cookies sheet. That way all the cookies will cook evenly and you won’t have some cookies under-baked and others to crispy.

  • Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the cookie.  Bake until they are just barely beginning to take on a golden tone.  They will continue to bake as long as then are on the pan, so don’t let then get too brown.
  • Cool for just a minute or so on the pan, then carefully remove cookies from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack.

This recipe yields about 28, 2 1/2 inch cookies or 16, 3 1/2 inch cookies.

Once cooled, the cookies can be decorated with frosting, royal icing or rolled fondant.



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* VEGAN * ROYAL * ICING * RECIPE*

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (organic) powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp of non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp of light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (or Lemon or Orange zest/extract)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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See my Sugar Cookie Extravaganza Post for all the details and tools used to decorate cookies. COOKIE DECORATING TOOLS NEEDED

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Directions:

  • Using Kitchen-aide mixer, add sugar, non-dairy milk and whisk until smooth.
  • Add in extracts and corn syrup.  Whisk  until icing is smooth, shiny, and a little runny.
  • Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.
  • You will want this to be thicker at first so you can use this for your borders. So add more powdered sugar until icing is thick enough to hold its shape. (You will add water as needed later for the flood fill.)
  • In the icing bottles, place some of the white frosting in each one. Tint with food coloring or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency. For the borders, you want it to be stiff and thicker, but still able to squeeze out.
  • Once your desired colors are mixed, then fill each bottle, or parchment bag.

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DECORATING : See my Sugar Cookie Extravaganza Post for links, ideas and more how-to’s.

  • While the borders are drying, use the same bowls as before to mix your thinner flood fill icing. This needs to be thin enough to “set” itself in about 10 seconds. Add only a few drops of water at a time. If it’s too runny, then you will had to add more powdered sugar and mix again.
  • Fill squeeze bottles with flood will icing. Use a toothpick or bamboo skewer stick to help move the flood colors to cover the surface area and reach into the corners.
  • Once your borders are set and dry you can begin filling in all your designs and colors. The possibilities are endless, so watch the videos for inspiration.
  • In-between uses, cover the bowl of plain white icing with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying. You can also cover each bottle with a tip or damp cloth to prevent them from getting hard or clogged.

It took a little time to get used to the vegan royal icing.  It’s not bright white like the traditional recipe is, but its a lovely off-white color that still takes gel coloring well. I was able to paint on the dried icing  as well as add edible glitter, and fondant flowers. By the time I decorated a few cookies, I was used to it.  The cookie at the bottom right corner of the photo below is bright white, because I rolled out white fondant and used the same cookie cutter to cut a square shape, iced cookie with the flood fill icing, then stuck on the fondant. The icing acts like glue and worked great. Fondant will give you a smoother canvas to work on, as well as giving it the pure white color. Some people love the taste of it and some hate it, I personally prefer the icing flavor over the fondant, but its great to use as an accent such as the flowers.

 

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** H A P P Y * B A K I N G **

How to Bake the PERFECT Chocolate Chip Cookie

Originally Posted on http://www.ozy.com

I have often wondered myself how people get that PERFECT chocolate chip cookie. I like them a little chewy, soft center, with a crisp edge. Looks like the cookie marked BOTH is the one for me! My daughter on the other hand loves the kind marked MORE FLOUR.  Now I will be able to fine tune my cookies to fit exactly what I am craving. Now if I only had some chocolate chips  ….

 

You like soft and chewy. He likes thin and crispy. If only there were a chocolate chip cookie recipe that pleased everyone…

There is! And, no, it’s not Martha Stewart’s. It’s science.

We’ve taken our cues from a few spots: a bioengineering grad student named Kendra Nyberg, who co-taught a class at UCLA called Science and Food, and chef and cookbook author Tessa Arias, who writes about cookie science on her site, Handle the Heat.

There’s also an illuminating Ted Talk animation on cookie science. And if you really want to go nuts (or no nuts, your call), Serious Eats offers 21 painstakingly tested steps for the Perfect Cookie, including kneading times and chocolate prep techniques.

“Even though I can describe what I like,” says Nyberg, “I didn’t know the role of each ingredient in the texture and shape of cookies.” So she looked into it — as only a scientist can.

(MORE: His Grandfather Invented Doritos But Tim West Prefers Kale)

Here, relying on the experts’ help and based on the classic Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, OZY presents no-fail tips for baking your perfect cookie. (You’re welcome.)

Ooey-gooey: Add 2 cups more flour.

A nice tan: Set the oven higher than 350 degrees (maybe 360). Caramelization, which gives cookies their nice brown tops, occurs above 356 degrees, says the Ted video.

Crispy with a soft center: Use 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

Chewy: Substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour.

(MORE: Food Waste – There’s (Finally) An App For That)

Just like store-bought: Trade the butter for shortening. Arias notes that this ups the texture but reduces some flavor; her suggestion is to use half butter and half shortening.

Thick (and less crispy): Freeze the batter for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. This solidifies the butter, which will spread less while baking.

Cakey: Use more baking soda because, according to Nyberg, it “releases carbon dioxide when heated, which makes cookies puff up.”

Butterscotch flavored: Use 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (instead of the same amount of combined granulated sugar and light brown sugar).

Uniformity: If looks count, add one ounce corn syrup and one ounce granulated sugar.

More. Just, more: Chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking deepens all the flavors, Arias found.


 

 Check out more about the PERFECT COOKIE on this BLOG:   H A N D L E **  THE ** H E A T

 

 

 

 

Ashley Judd Stands up to the Media and Press

As posted by A MIGHTY GIRL on August 20, 2014:

When the media went into a frenzy over actress Ashley Judd’s “puffy” appearance, Judd struck back with this fantastic statement: “The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about…. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings.”

Read her full statement on the Daily Beast at http://thebea.st/1dlPPek

For an excellent film exploring the often disparaging portrayals of women and girls in the mainstream media and how they contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence, we highly recommend Miss Representation for ages 12 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/miss-representation

If you’re seeking resources to help encourage a healthy body image in girls, check out “Body Image” section at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/personal-development/life-challenges?cat=378

For books for parents that address body image issues, including the helpful guide “101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body,” visit our “Body Image / Self-Esteem” parenting section at http://www.amightygirl.com/parenting/body-image-self-esteem

And, for parenting books that explore the early sexualization of girls, visit our “Child Sexualization” parenting section at http://www.amightygirl.com/parenting?cat=447

When the media went into a frenzy over actress Ashley Judd’s “puffy” appearance, Judd struck back with this fantastic statement.

Back to School Again

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*** 1st Day of the 6th Grade ***  I wish I looked at least half as good when I was this age. She is quite the fashionista.  I don’t think we looked this good in the 80’s.

Somehow every year the summer whizzes by like a speeding locomotive that only Superman can stop. For whatever reason this summer was the fastest of all. Today is the first day of school for my daughter and it marked the beginning of the dreaded middle school years. She refused to let me walk her into class this year, another marker of just how independent she is starting to become. I am still in shock at how old she is; it’s like just last year she learned how to walk. It’s very bittersweet.

We are very fortunate to have an arts based school that is K-8, meaning that she gets to stay with all her friends and at the same campus location for all of her pre-high school education. I wasn’t so lucky. I had several different elementary schools, then I went to junior high (7th – 9th) where all of my friends ended up at another junior high, and then a different high school than all my friends went. I guess we always lived on the “wrong side of the tracks” and I was destined to repeatedly make new friends.

My birthdays were always difficult that first year in the new school as my birthday is in September. Back when I was in school, we actually started after Labor Day, which doesn’t give much time to make close friends. We had no computers, no cell phones, no Facebook, Instagram, and all that jazz. It was frowned upon to get a phone call after 8 pm and you never answered the phone during dinner. People were less connected back then.

I wish I could slow down time and take in every moment of my daughter’s life, take note of all the funny things she says, remember all the cool clothes she wore and all the sweet friends she makes. Anyone with more than one child I think deserves some kind of award or trophy, because if one if one child is this difficult to raise with this hectic a schedule I cannot fathom how much more crazy and difficult it gets with more kids.

We parents should really stick together and give each other as much support as possible. We can all use a kind word and help from time to time.  So to all mothers & fathers out there who are sending their kids to school today or this week, I applaud you; stand up and take a bow. Your child got to school, is dressed and wearing shoes, has something to eat for lunch, has a backpack, and you made that happen. YOU – got up extra early to help your daughter do her hair. YOU – stayed up late to make your son a perfect lunch.  YOU – ran around all day yesterday getting the last minute school supplies that are required by your child’s teacher.  Go do something nice for yourself this week, go out to your favorite restaurant, get that yummy dessert you have been eying, go get coffee and lounge in that coffee house all day (until you have to go pick up your kids), stay home and take a nap, give yourself a pedicure or go out and get one, or go get a massage – you know you deserve it. You made all this happen. YOU ARE PRETTY AMAZING!

Dinner Party Cooking – Circa 1946

Imagine eating something that looked like this, in 2014. I certainly can’t. Pink ice cream looking substance in a cantaloupe shell with some interesting placements of fruit.  It’s something about the bananas… just makes it so … wrong. It doesn’t look very appetizing. Thank goodness for me we don’t still have to eat like this, but just in case you are throwing a vintage party and need some ideas, let’s take a trip back in time.

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Lets go back again to the 1940’s and see what we should make for dinner tonight.  Put on the radio, roll up your hair and put on an adorable apron. Let’s consult my Lily Wallace New American Cookbook for some dinner ideas. Hmmmm .. . How about a Spaghetti Crown with Savory Spinach?


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Nooooo … I’m not really in the mood for fried cocktail pork sausages. What else looks good……  Oh I know, what about everyone’s favorite Spaghetti with Tuna Fish. Drat, I’m all fresh out of smelly canned tuna. Dang, that one looked promising!

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Maybe we should stick to something more traditional, like macaroni and cheese.  So many varieties to choose from…… Maybe I should just combine ALL these ingredients and put them in a jello mold. That’s what they did back then right?

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OK, now for dessert. I really need some inspiration. I could make one of these:

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These look too scary to eat, like some crazy old evil witch deep in forest made them to fatten me up so she can turn me into a stew or something…. they do not look appetizing in the least bit.  Besides, who puts a whole orange on top of a slice of cake and slathers it in some shiny sugary glaze? Or a circle of poop cookie filled with red jelly? Or a whole mushroom on top of a piece of cake? A witch I tell you, a witch. If you EVER see these at a party you are attending, RUN, don’t walk to the nearest exit and don’t ever go back!

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NO, NO, NO, and NO … none of these will do. It has to be really special. Something no one has had before that will really wow a crowd.


I’ve got it.. how about this! Recipe # 2978 PORK CAKE – YUMMMMMMY

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*** T H E *** E N D ***

Are You “ALL About That Bass?”

Earlier this week I discovered who Meghan Trainor was. I saw her video “All About That Bass” (<- click here to view it) and its a catchy vintage looking hummable cute ditty with lots of pretty colors and hey, Meghan’s super cute too and no she’s not a size 2 (what size is she though?). To me, she is still skinny, but hey everyone is entitled to their opinion). I love the colors and look of the video, with it’s 60’s vibe, adorable outfits, and even that random big dude dancing alone. And yes, the song is catchy!

After watching the video I must have clicked on something to get me to HERE: Trout Nation’s blog post about this video, by Jenny Trout. I read her post thinking that I agreed with some, or most of her comments, especially the section about why we have to “shake it like we are supposed to”. Why are women SUPPOSED TO SHAKE IT?  Why can’t men be the ones to shake it?  I thought it was interesting her dissection of the song and her thought process. My brain certainly does not think that way. When I hear a song that bothers me, I don’t take it apart and analyze it. I usually just change the channel. I am fascinated by people that can do this. They do it to movies, books, songs… they go in depth and think of things I didn’t even notice.

Me: That was a great movie. What did you think?

Friend: Well, there was this part where the General should have been angry and he wasn’t. Why did he act like that? A general would NEVER act like that. He had every reason to be upset and he should have made the soldiers go into battle with no weapons for what they did to him and blah blah blah blah blah ….. [ 10 minutes later ]

Me: Well …… I liked it …. um .. yeah

Yesterday my daughter and I were driving around doing some back to school shopping and “All About That Bass” came on the radio. She mentioned that this was a new song and I said “I just watched the video yesterday!” I proceeded to explain to her what it was about and the problems with it and what I liked and didn’t like about it. Remember she is 11 and she couldn’t care less about the problems with the song.  Kids either find it catchy or not. So far I can’t tell if she likes this song or not.

Today I went back to Trout Nation to copy the link to her blog post and at the top there is a note that was not there two days ago:

Trout Nation: Due to a recent threat I received on Facebook, I’m closing discussion here.

It amazes me that one persons opinion can outrage people so deeply that they threaten the life of the person who wrote it. It’s just an opinion. That’s all it is. It doesn’t mean she is a bad person, or a terrorist, or in the KKK. She wrote an opinion and a breakdown dissection of a catchy song that made her stop and think and question some of the lyrics. That’s all.  No, she didn’t write a blog post about how to end world hunger, or stop wars, or cure cancer. Are we supposed to write about those things if we have a blog? Are we supposed to only write about good things and topics that will help the world? Well, I never got the memo on that one.  If you have a chance read some of the comments on her blog, I was shocked by a lot of the responses she got.

I think we should all be able to speak our minds, even if it means we will get harassed. We live in America where we are supposed to have free speech. Let people have their opinions, and while you are at it lets go out there and cure cancer, end world hunger and stop all wars!!!