Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food for Zack's Birthday

I'm basically going to ramble through this entry about the food I prepared yesterday for my housemate Zack's birthday, who is not only vegan, but also gluten free. He has a wheat allergy. One of my friends joked that he heard Zack is not a wheatist. I like plays on words and ignore eye-rolling.

I made vegetable lasagna for the entree and cake for dessert. I hunted down rice noodles from Whole Foods and also got coconut flour for icing. Seeing asparagus on sale, I added steamed asparagus with lemon-orange sauce to the menu as a side dish. For the lasagna, I grabbed some zucchini as the Whole Foods employee was placing it in the bin. I also got mushrooms, a poblano pepper, and spinach. I already had an orange pepper and some Daiya cheese at home.

When I got into the kitchen, I started off by making the icing for the cakes, wanting time for it to thicken in the fridge. Cakes without gluten sometimes have the texture of sand and, while not giving up on the cake, I wanted to detract from its potential dryness with a rich, but light, icing. So, I followed the recipe for chocolate icing from the Babycakes' cookbook, which calls for a bunch of specialized ingredients such as coconut flour, soy milk powder, and agave. I mixed everything together and shoved the bowl in the fridge. The Babycakes'-style frosting has a consistency similar to whipped cream, but still packs a lot of flavor. I made the Babycakes' vanilla frosting for a friend's birthday in January and her house stuck the remaining vanilla icing in their freezer, eating it like ice cream over the next day.

Next, I made a small, round, chocolate, vegan, gluten-free cake and a larger vegan, chocolate sheet cake. The gluten-free cake turned out well, maybe because the chocolate chunks in it made it seem more moist.

In making the sheet cake, I'll confess to cutting corners. I simply blended a can of Diet Pepsi into Duncan Hines cake mix. This recipe for a cake may sound disgusting, but actually produces a moist, delicious cake. The soda substitutes for both eggs and oil without interfering with the flavor. A secret ingredient.

While the cakes cooled, I prepared the sauce for the lasagna. I always add extra garlic and usually put crushed red pepper into the sauce. Then, I diced the vegetables and put them into a pot to simmer for five minutes in a light, herb-rich sauce that I'd whisked together. I also blanched the spinach and mixed some Daiya cheese in with it as it cooled.

Finally, I made two layers of lasagna by stacking sauce, lasagna noodles, vegetables, spinach, and extra cheese. I topped it off with extra sauce and a sprinkling of Daiya cheese. Then, I talked to Lucas and Zack as the lasagna baked in the oven for 40 minutes.

Pat came over just in time for dinner. Zack, Lucas, Pat, and I managed to finish the entire lasagna as well as the asparagus.

After dinner, several people came over to eat cake, wish Zack a happy birthday, and watch a movie. Pat bought some Mocha Soy Dream ice cream, which went well with the cake.

We looked through the Netflix streaming video selection for a while and picked The Blues Brothers, which was entertaining. The Blues Brothers ends with the longest police chase I've ever seen in a movie. The entire Chicago police force trails after the brothers, who evade the police with enough spare time to stroll into a building and make a tax payment before hundreds of officers arrest them.

Jaimie made Zack an eclectic-looking, metal mobile as a birthday present. I didn't get a good look at it, but I saw some sharp objects, almost like geometry projectors, hanging near, I think, a castanet. I just glanced at it from a distance, though, so my description almost amounts to speculation. Zack's face lit up when he saw the present and I'm sure it's hanging in his room. I heard someone refer to it as the "death mobile."

Finally, the movie was over, and the cake and the friends were gone. Before he left, I found Joey, a mutual friend, standing at the sink in our kitchen, conscientiously trying to scrub cake plates. It was a nice night.

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