Modern Love Omaha – My Incredible Birthday Dinner!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Part One of finding incredible vegan foods on a cross country road trip.

Since my birthday was spent in a corn field with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, we celebrated my birthday the night before, with some “Swanky Vegan Comfort Food” at Modern Love Omaha.

So excited to finally be visiting Isa’s much anticipated restaurant, I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. Now that I have been there, I want to go back and order one of everything on the menu.

I know that being one week in on our road trip at the time – with minimal fresh veggies and lots of peanut butter oatmeal breakfasts – may have enhanced this experience, but I will always appreciate fresh ingredients prepared in a creative and thoughtful way. This is what Isa and her staff does, and does very well.

Modern Love Omaha

To drink, we ordered Cardamom Ginger Soda.

House made. Impressive. Refreshing and …

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Passionfruit Cheesecake with Pretzel Shortbread Crust

Passionfruit Cheesecake with Shortbread Pretzel Crust

I woke up this morning and made a cheesecake. Then I had a piece for breakfast.

I haven’t made a cheesecake in a while. This one is a birthday cake.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Since Dad grew up in Hawaii and loved all things tropical, I made this for him. Today I will …

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Summers End Vegan Dinner [second annual]

As I look forward to Departure’s Third Annual Summers End Vegan Dinner, I realized I neglected to share last years. Looking through the photos and remembering the details has me looking forward to this years event even more – please enjoy:

Here we are, at the end of summer. The crisp cool evenings with the smoky scented air, the savoring of the last summer fruits and veggies, the cutting into pumpkins and squash, the creating comfort foods of fall.

For the second year in a row, Departure Restaurant’s Summers End Vegan Dinner fell on my birthday! I could not think of a more perfect way to celebrate than with the culinary skills of Chef Gregory Gourdet.

This year, he partnered with Chef Aaron Adams of another favorite restaurant, Portobello Vegan Trattoria, to bring a group of lucky Portlanders an amazing seasonal seven-course meal.

We began with …

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Raspberry Coconut Flax Waffles

Raspberry Coconut Flax Waffles – light and fluffy waffles with a perfectly crispy exterior, these fruit flavored stacks are great for brunch or weekend breakfast!

Raspberry Coconut Flax Waffleserrryday I’m wafflein’

All right, not every day. Special days, birthdays.

Jason had a birthday last weekend, and …

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birthday cake truffles

I cannot even tell you about most of the hijinks and shenanigans my best friend Alix and I had from first through oh, twelfth grade. Yep, all the way through. We were permanently separated from being in the same homeroom class after third grade.

Darn that Mrs. Hall.

Some things I can tell you about:

I would set out walking to school, stop by her house to pick her up, and we’d stay there watching morning television and eating cereal. Then we’d make our way to school around 10:am – getting freaked out by Mr Bartnick, our music teacher, driving by very slowly in his hearse.

When we were still in the same home room, we would be separated to the opposite ends of the classroom. We developed a lip reading form of communication, and once, the classroom went quiet and everyone was looking at us. Mrs. Hall (heh, heh) asked, “are you girls finished?” to which I answered, “no” and turned back to Alix to keep talking.

Poor Mrs. Hall probably learned to never ask that question again.

Fast forward several years – Alix going through jaw surgery and me shoving mini peanut butter cups through her wired shut teeth.

The two of us carrying a huge pizza from the restaurant counter back to the table, and having it slide off onto the table.

Filling our other best friends locker full of packing peanuts, only to get caught by the shop teacher who told us we could leave it and give him our names, or empty it right then. I wanted to leave it, she wanted to empty it.

Having my boyfriend fix her mom’s dining room table that was broken during a rowdy party the night before. That party escalated quickly – there were way too many people there. Years later, her mom found out about the table

Me “spending the night” at her house, and her “spending the night” at mine, when we really stayed out all night at the all ages dance club. Years later, my mom found out about this by reading it here today.

That’s about all I can tell you. The rest is classified and is whispered about between just the two of us, wide eyed and incredulous that we even did some of those things…

My dear friend recently celebrated a birthday, and we went out for dinner and cocktails. I brought her an edible gift – I made some oooh sooo good fudgy chocolatey truffles. Then frosted and decorated them like a bright birthday cake.

birthday cake truffles

4 ounces dark chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon agave
1 (7 ounce) package dried figs
1/2 cup raw cashews
8 ounces white chocolate (vegansweets baking chips)
food coloring (Seelect is vegan), optional
sprinkles and sanding sugars, optional 

In small saucepan over low heat, melt dark chocolate. In a small bowl, stir together cocoa powder, water and agave, forming a paste. In high speed blender or food processor, combine figs and cashews, blend until sticky and crumbly. Add cocoa paste and melted chocolate, blend until mixture forms a ball. Transfer to refrigerator to set/cool, 10 minutes.

Using a small spoon, scoop uniform size amounts of the mixture, roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet with parchment (parchment is useful later for the melted chocolate). Return to refrigerator to set.

In small saucepan over low heat, melt white chocolate. Remove truffle balls from fridge, and using a fork, dip each one in the melted chocolate, return to parchment to set (shorten setting time by returning to refrigerator).

I love you, Alix. Cheers, here’s to another *mumble mumble number* years!


Brownie Bottomed Cheesecake

Brownie Bottomed Cheesecake – the most outrageous and glorious cheesecake we make! Rich brownie base, topped with a traditional New York Cheesecake – vegan and gluten free.


Brownie Bottomed Cheesecake @spabettie

For my birthday, Jason brought home tasty cupcakes from one of our favorite vegan/gluten free bakeries.

I also had an amazing dessert with my birthday dinner, which I still need to tell you all about. Soon.

Oh, and then I made cupcakes for my birthday party with the family.

Even with all the desserts, I still had to make my own birthday cake. This year I combined two of my all time favorite desserts – brownies and cheesecake – into one glorious and decadent treat.

Jason describes this as ‘tangy, not too sweet’ which is how we both love cheesecake. The …

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chai spice hominy cupcakes

Not only is this Heather’s Meatless Monday from A to Z, it is also the start of VeganMofo – Vegan Month of Food. This is spabettie’s third year participating, and will be the first year I have a theme – Treats and Sweets!

Yep, a whole month of desserts and sweets. What better month to do it than October, with my favorite holiday at the end?

Things will get interesting on Mondays this month, trying to incorporate the #MMAZ ingredient into something sweet – I do have plans for a couple of the ingredients already…

I celebrated my birthday with my family on Saturday – we went to dinner and bowling, then the parents went home and all us kids went to sing karaoke. A perfect spabettie birthday activity!

For dessert at the bowling alley, I brought cupcakes. Needing to find a way to sweeten hominy, I came up with these muffins that are warmly spiced with chai, cinnamon and cardamom. These muffins are great as is, but to make them a dessert I whipped up a decadent spice frosting.

You can taste the hominy if you know to look for it, and it adds a fantastic moisture.

Everyone loved them!

chai spice hominy muffins

adapted from cherry zucchini crumb muffins

dairy, egg, oil, soy* and gluten free, vegan

makes 12 -15 muffins

2 tablespoons flax seed, freshly ground
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water

1 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons chai tea powder (Natures Flavors)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon (fresh!) ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 can hominy, drained
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut milk (carton)

Grind flax seed in blender, coffee grinder. Place 2 tablespoons flax in a bowl, add water and stir. Place in refrigerator to set into gel (this equals / replaces two eggs).

In large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, chai, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. In food processor, purée hominy until smooth. Add syrup and coconut milk, combine completely. Stir flax mixture into hominy purée, fold into dry ingredients. Quickly spoon into prepared muffin cups – 3/4 full, and get into oven.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

*muffins are soy free, frosted cupcakes are not

chai cream cheese frosting

adapted from citrus cream cheese frosting

gluten, dairy and egg free, vegan

8 ounces cream cheese (Tofutti)
2 tablespoons chai tea powder (Natures Flavors)
1 tablespoon cardamom
2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip cream cheese,  chai and cardamom until softened, gradually adding powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Transfer to piping bag or frost as desired.

Here is where I usually link to other recipes using the #MMAZ ingredient of the week. Since this was my first time using hominy – I don’t have any other recipes. I cannot wait to see what everyone else made – visit Heather for Meatless Monday A to Z!



Jason’s Birthday Cookie

When I asked Jason what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday this year, his immediate answer was a big mall cookie.

He requested this back in April. Yep, I start planning things that far ahead.

Then in early May, we went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants that I used to frequent. Jason’s go to restaurant dessert is sorbet, or a simple vanilla bean ice cream. Looking at the menu, he saw an affogato – a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or gelato, generally) with a shot of espresso poured over.

This was his first affogato, and now he looks for it on every restaurant menu. If he cannot find it he asks for it.

I was so intent on the giant mall cookie, I made it for his birthday. This cookie is chewy and has just the flavor I was look for – a subtle sweet cookie studded with melty chocolate. I need to test whether this would make actual free form cookies, but as a large cookie or in whoopie pie molds, it works great!

and for Jason’s birthday, I had to include the mall frosting decoration.

We had affogato as well.

giant chocolate chip cookie

adapted from Butter Toffee Blondies

soy, dairy, egg and gluten free, vegan

makes one large cookie (standard 9 1/2 inch tart pan)

1/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons ground flax
3/4 cup butter (Earth Balance soy free)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup gluten free flour (Bob’s Red Mill all purpose)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips (Enjoy Life mega chunks)

Combine applesauce and flax in a small bowl, set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla; add flax applesauce. Add flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and chocolate chips – combine together then fold into wet ingredients.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly if you want to eat it warm with melty ice cream. Cool completely if you want to decorate it mall style.

Happy Birthday, Jason.