Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Birthday Cakes, King Cake, Taco Joes & More!

It's been non-stop-action over here at Chez Vegan Eats & Treats. First, there was a family dinner party to celebrate my brother's 40th Birthday (!!) and also his girlfriend's daughter's bday. My brother has a traditional Favorite Birthday Dinner: Taco Joes. It might not be the most photogenic dish you've ever seen, but it's mighty tasty! And, it pleases a wide range of palettes, which is important in our family of raw vegan - meat eatin' - gluten free - soy free - Taco Bell lovin' - kids to grown ups crew.

Here's a dark picture of the set up (damn you, winter!). Taco Joes are pretty much a big taco salad on top of fritos. Fritos are technically vegan, but some of us hippies are too "sensitive" to be wild about eating fritos, so I also made a batch of the Crispy Tortilla Strips from "Real Food Daily." They were perfect! So, here's how to make your own taco joes:
Fritos or homemade chips
Taco "filling"*
Toppings: green onions, black olives, salsa, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, guacamole...
We also had some non-vegan toppings like cheese and sour cream for the non-vegans

First make some homemade taco seasoning (it turns out store-bought taco seasoning pretty much always has milk in it!?)
6 Tbsp chili powder
2 T cumin
4 T paprika
1 T oregano
1 T garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 T sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
Mix it altogether. It will make a lot more than you need, so you can also half it.

Now for the Taco Filling:
1 lb tofu or seitan
2 cans kidney beans
olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper (preferably red), diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
6 Tbsp taco seasoning
1 c water or broth.

Crumble your tofu or grind the seitan into crumbles in the food processor. Saute the onions, & bell peppers over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes until slightly softened. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, water or broth, and then the tofu/seitan and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. It's best if you cook it in advance, to let the flavors stand and blend... then you can heat it up before dinner.

For dessert, also by request, I made my favorite chocolate cake recipe (the vegan chocolate cake from "Joy of Cooking," of all places). In between the layers, I put a layer of homemade raspberry jam, and then I used some defrosted frozen raspberries to make that crazy frosting. I just melted some frozen raspberries, strained out the seeds with a sieve and then used the resulting juice as the liquid AND the coloring for the frosting. It was super yummy!

I made a pretty similar cake when my cool friend Alana turned 30 last week (wooo!), and her husband asked if I'd bake a cake. What an honor! So I whipped up a big sheet cake for the party - I used my biggest pan. I think it's 11x13, and tripled my standard Joy of Cooking cake recipe. It's amazing how much longer that cake took to bake when I tripled it. At least twice as long! There was a thick layer of raspberry jam on top of the cake, and then the whole thing was covered in thick chocolate ganache.

Last week, something very unusual happened... Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats made dinner! He had a vision, and he was determined to have it. Probably more than anything in the world, Mr. VE&T loves tomatoes + rice. Anytime I make anything with tomatoes + rice, he goes crazy for it. So, it's no surprise that tomatoes & rice were the foundation for his dish. There was rice (white rice ONLY, mind you), with a tomato stew/broth on top. Just as he likes it, there was some cinnamon & nutmeg in the sauce too. Then, on top, one of Mr VE&T's favorite veggies - roasted cauliflower. Unfortunately, I've been under the weather with a cold this week, so I didn't have much appetite or enthusiasm for this special occasion, but Mr. VE&T assures me that it was very good & perfectly hit the spot.

Lastly, but not leastly, I've been looking for a reason to cook up a king cake again this year, now that it's officially King Cake Season. So, the glorious victory of the New Orleans Saints in the superbowl this weekend was all the reason I needed. Yesterday, I made up an Apple Praline King Cake and then my parents came over after dinner for a celebratory slice... a day late.
Fresh out of the oven...

Sliced open, half-way to touchdown!

Please take a moment to appreciate the glory of my special metallic Baby. As some of you already know, an important aspect of the Mardi Gras King Cake is that somewhere in the cake is hidden a little baby. Traditionally, if you get the baby in your slice, then you are supposed to make the next cake and host the next party. You can use a bean or a regular plastic baby (plastic babies are inserted after baking, mind you)... or you can get totally lucky, like me, and happen into a party store while you are staying in New Orleans, and just happen to find a whole supply of purple, green and gold metallic babies. Oh yeah!

Finally, a few more New Orleans cuisine meals I've made recently, for your enjoyment:
New Orleans style tamales...

Red Beans with Cornbread. (Beans & Cornbread had a fight! Beans knocked cornbread outta sight! .... Meet me on the corner tomorrow night, I'll be ready!)



  1. it warms the heart!

  2. Bliss Doubt11:52 AM

    Hey, I once heard an NPR interview with the children of the guy who invented Fritos all those decades ago. He was apparently quite a renegade in his day, and he modeled Fritos after fried masa street food he enjoyed when visiting Mexico. He was a vegetarian.

    That was according to his surviving kids, or maybe his grandkids. It's been a while since I heard that interview. In any case, the Wikipedia entry on Fritos is way off base.

  3. Bliss Doubt12:11 PM

    Found the 2007 interview. Link:


  4. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Oh wow, I really envy your writing-on-cake skills! That's something I still haven't attempted myself.

    Everything looks really yummy and your tamales are making me hungry! Did you know that Garden of Eatin' (I think) makes a natural foods-style Fritos now? In case you feel a craving or something :)

  5. Your king cake is super impressive looking!

    We had a taco bar-style setup for the superbowl and I had the same problem when looking for taco seasonings. I found one organic brand that was vegan and bought it, then ended up making a homemade seasonings mix anyway...

  6. Oh, look at all those cakes! (And the baby!) I could so go for a vegan king cake.. better dig out my Papa tofu zine!

  7. All sorts of yummy and beautiful things, Amey! Your cakes are particularly gorgeous.

    Sorry to hear you've been sick. This current cold going around really lingers and lingers. I'm ready to kick mine to the curb after a two week stay. Hope you're feeling better, and have more appetite soon! It's no fun not to feel like eating...much love to you!!

  8. Oh man, I want to make a King Cake! Taco Joes are very similar to the spread at our place for birthdays.

  9. Anonymous5:39 AM

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  10. Anonymous6:19 AM

    The King Cake is new to me, but I'm totally fascinated. I might have to make one because yours looks amazing!

  11. I'm overwhelmed by all the amazing food you've made! And those birthday cakes are both absolutely perfect (the lettering!)--how lucky can those recipients be? Then again, pretty lucky to have a hubby who makes you dinner, too. :) Oh, and to find metallic babies--yee-haw!

  12. I'm impressed with the "King Cake" you made.
    Great birthday cakes as well.
    We love taco night and yours looks yummy!
    So what did you add to the tamales to make them New Orleans tasing?

  13. What feasting! I like the idea of jam between layers of the chocolate cake, mmm and roasted cauliflower. Beans and cornbread hoo ha! So many good eats...

  14. Tamales yum! Your cake looks gorgeous too :)

  15. What a fun feast you had! Everything look so tasty.

  16. Your cakes look so beautiful! The lettering is perfect; how do you do that!? And I totally need a recipe for tamales...


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