Mark your calendars for Earth Hour 2012!

Now in it’s sixth year, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Earth Hour is once again inspiring people all over the world to switch off their lights for one hour on March 31st, at 8:30pm local time as part of a global vote for the environment. On this date, hundreds of millions of people around the globe will turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as part of a campaign whose mission is to awareness about the environmental challenges we all face, provoke discussion about these challenges, and get individuals and governments to commit to long-term solutions that will benefit the planet.

In 2007, Sydney, Australia was the first city to switch off its lights. In 2008, Earth Hour went global and 50 million people around the world took part. In 2011, 1.8 billion people from over 5,000 cities and towns in 135 countries and territories across every continent participated!

If you’d like to participate, you can sign up as an individual or organize an event. For more information and resources
visit World Wildlife’s website.

Happy Earth Hour!

Meatless Monday: Hearty Vegan Split Pea Soup

Lately the weather has been waffling between summer-like and winter-like. One day last week, when it was feeling particularly chilly, I decided to make a hearty split pea soup. The potatoes and barley give it the consistency of a stew more than a soup, and the addition of nutritional yeast and Liquid Smoke™ give it a creamy smokey flavor without the additional of ham. This recipe makes about 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 1/4 cup barley
  • 4-1/2 cups water, or vegetable broth (I use Imagine’s “No Chicken Broth”)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke™
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I set my grinder to a very coarse grind, as you can see by the large black specks in the photo)

Directions:

In a large pot (6 quarts works well) saute the onion and bay leaf in the oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the split peas, barley, and vegetable broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for 1 hour.

Add the carrots, celery, potato, salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast, and Liquid Smoke™ and simmer for another hour or so, stirring occasionally, until the peas and vegetables are tender.

Serve with crackers and a salad for a healthy, hearty meal.

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Vegan Champagne Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

I love to bake. But since baked goods tend to get stale in my household (generally nobody eats them after the initial thrill of the first serving), I tend to only indulge my habit when I have a good reason to share the goods, like a birthday celebration, party, or potluck. So recently when my my neighbors babysat my bunny, I had a good excuse to make a batch of homemade cupcakes as a thank you gift.

The cake portion of this recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in the Washington Post by the owner of Sticky Fingers vegan bakery in DC, but the chocolate frosting portion of the recipe is my invention.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthurs; you can also use unbleached white for a lighter cake)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-3/4 cups vegan sugar (I use Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 teaspoons vegan egg replacer (I use Enger-G)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup champagne, sparkling wine or cava (you can check Barnivore for a listing of vegan varieties)

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups vegan confectioners’ sugar (I use Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic)
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Blend the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a hand mixer, combine the sugar, margarine and almond extract in a large bowl and beat at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until softened and well blended.

In another small bowl, combine the egg replacer, vanilla and almond milk, and stir until the egg replacer has dissolved. Add the champagne and mix until combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and almond milk mixture, alternating between the two, to the sugar mixture, making sure to thoroughly integrate the ingredients at each stage.

Place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan, and fill each cup to about three-quarters full with the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the temperament of your oven. Your cupcakes are done when a toothpick poked into the center of your middle row of cupcakes comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from oven and allow them to cool completely. In the meantime, you can make your frosting.

Place the margarine in a clean medium-sized and beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Gradually add the cocoa powder and confectioners sugar, alternating with the almond milk and vanilla extract, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Continue blending until the frosting is uniform and fluffy.

Fill a pastry tube or piping bag with your frosting (I used a star-tip to give the frosting some interest, but you can use a wide plain one as well). If you don’t have a pastry tube or piping bag, you can also just fill a  plastic bag half-way, fold over the open end, and cut off one corner to push the frosting through. Pipe a layer of frosting onto each cooled cupcake, adding more frosting to your tube/bag as needed.

This recipe makes about 18 delicious regular-sized, or 40 mini cupcakes.

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