Category Archives: Recipe

Best Damn Muffins

2014-08-12 15.52.12I may never make another muffin again. In my opinion, this is the holy grail of muffin recipes! Keep in mind that these are not your healthy, low-fat variety of muffin but nor are they cupcakes either. The beauty of this recipe is it is versatile: the batter gives a nice base for adding any kind of fruit or nut. I think it’s best with a sour fruit like cranberries or red currants. (The muffins in the photo are red currant and blueberry.) They are good even on day two and freeze well!

If you want to veganize it, replace the butter with canola oil, use egg replacer in place of the eggs (flax eggs would probably work really well too), and make vegan buttermilk by stirring in a teaspoon of white vinegar into a half cup of soy milk. I have yet to try veganizing this recipe but I see no reason why these substitutions wouldn’t work.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a small bowl. (For a lower-fat option, skip this step and double the canola oil below.)

In a large bowl, mix together:
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp baking powder
zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together:
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
And then add the melted butter.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix just until incorporated. Add in 11/2 cups of berries such as cranberries (frozen or fresh) and any other fun things you like: pecan pieces, pumpkin seeds, etc. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups (either lined or greased) and top with a sprinkling of coarse sugar (optional). Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Try and let them cool for at least 15 minutes before attacking.

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Best Banana Bread

I have been making this banana bread for years. It is foolproof, very delicious, and reasonably healthy. And it is super easy! Everything goes in one bowl and you can whip it up in under 10 minutes. I can’t be bothered to take a photo of the loaf I baked this morning. Yes, having a newborn makes you that tired. All my dear readers, you know what banana bread looks like, right?

Add all the following ingredients in one bowl:

½ cup applesauce  (try to get unsweetened; if using sweetened, reduce the amount of sugar added)
1/2-1 cup demerera sugar (or half and half white and demerara)
1½ cups flour (I can use 1 cup all-purpose, ½ whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas (or two really big ones)

That’s it! Mix it all up and bake in a greased loaf pan for an hour at 325. If you want a dessert bread (which of course, you do), add about 1/3-1/2 a bag of chocolate chips.

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Chocolate Icing, aka Matt’s Birthday Cake

SAMSUNGMy dear friend Matt’s birthday was last Sunday and I wanted to celebrate the occasion with a chocolate cake (this was admittedly as much for him as it was for me). My usual go-to recipe is the Guinness chocolate cake that my mom introduced me to years ago. However, being 9 months pregnant, I didn’t relish the idea of going to the liquor store and facing down the glares I’d inevitably get as I purchased a 4-pack of Guinness cans. Plus the recipe is pretty high in fat and since I intended to eat a lot of this cake, I wanted something a bit more “nutritious”. Once again, I turned to the fabulous Isa Chandra over at the Post Punk Kitchen for some ideas. I was not disappointed! I made her “Just Chocolate Cake” recipe, doubled it to make a layer cake, and voila: chocolate cake perfection, in my humble opinion. This is exactly the cake I wanted to make: rich without being fattening or greasy; a slightly spongy texture; and very, very chocolatey. However, I wasn’t too enamoured with Isa’s suggested icing: a chocolate ganache. In my experience, ganaches tend to be rather rich and more like a glaze than an icing. I wanted a nice thick fudgy icing – the texture that you’d get from a tub of Duncan Hines icing without all the unpronounceable ingredients. I did a google search for vegan icing recipes and decided to combine two that I found from a site called Short & Sweets: Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Raspberry Buttercream Frosting. The result? A very chocolatey icing with the unmistakable taste (and bite) of raspberry. Awesome.

Here’s the recipe for the cake. Like I said, I copied Isa’s recipe exactly so you can go straight to the source for it. However, I’ll put it here in case *heaven forbid* the Post Punk Kitchen ever went defunct:

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 or 9 inch cake tins and line with parchment paper if you’re pretty paranoid about the cake sticking. I did this extra step and was glad I did.

In a large bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 cups almond milk (soy or other non-dairy milk would work here too)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Allow to curdle for a few minutes. In the meantime, combine in another bowl:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder – try to use Dutch processed if possible!
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Now that the milk has curdled, add to it:

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cups canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in two batches. Use an electric mixer to combine until there are no large lumps left.

Bake for 32 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted through the centre comes out clean.

 ICING

Melt 140g/5oz bittersweet chocolate either in the microwave or in a double boiler and allow to return to room temperature. Beat in 1/2 cup of softened Earth Balance vegan butter (1 stick) for about a minute. Add about a cup of fresh raspberries and beat. Next, add a cup of icing sugar and beat until combined. Add another cup and beat again. Add 1 tbsp of cocoa and a couple splashes of almond milk and taste your icing at this point. I’m not a fan of icing that tastes like icing sugar or that is gritty so I tend to use less icing sugar than most recipes call for. However if you feel it’s not sweet enough or icing-y enough, add up to another cup of icing sugar.

This yielded plenty of icing to do a thick layer between the two cakes and to ice the entire outside surface area. After icing the cake I noticed that the icing was a bit droopy so I decided to put the whole thing in the fridge to stiffen up. This was a very good decision and did not affect the taste of the cake.

Enjoy!

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Perfect Zucchini Cake

SAMSUNGI find zucchini a pretty blah vegetable*, as vegetables go. It turns all soggy and mushy when it’s stir-fried and has such a mild flavour that it’s almost unnoticeable in soups and stews. So what to do with a garden brimming with this blandest of vegetables? Well, cake, of course! The exact qualities that make zucchini unsuitable for cooking combine to make it one of the absolute greatest ingredients in baking. It lends a particular moistness to baked goods that just can’t be achieved with anything else. Plus, it combines well with chocolate – always a bonus! I’ve made a lot of zucchini loaves, cupcakes, muffins, and cakes in my time but I have never been as wowed by any of them as by this particular recipe that I found doing a completely random google search, on a website called Simply Recipes. This is a cooking blog run by a woman named Elise Bauer, and if her zucchini cake is any indication of the quality of recipes on the rest of her site, I will be back to try them. To be honest, I don’t know what it was about this cake that made it so good. It contains no butter (canola oil replaces it), tasted great even without cream cheese icing, and I (*gasp*) added no chocolate chips. This was just plain zucchini cake in all its glory. I did tweak the recipe slightly from the original, adding less sugar and more spices than suggested. Below is my ingredient list, but you can find the original here. At the risk of messing with a good thing, next time I might try replacing half the canola oil with apple sauce and maybe one or two of the eggs with banana or ground flax seed. For cream cheese frosting, I used my new go-to recipe that I learned from recently making the Blueberry Pull-Apart Bread (but seriously, it tastes pretty great without the icing too!).

To make the cake, whisk together the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Beat together 3 eggs until they are frothy. Then beat in:

  • 1.5 cups white, granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (or replace half the oil with applesauce – no discernible difference in outcome!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add the wet to the dry (or the dry to the wet – whichever bowl is bigger) and stir in:

  • 2 cups grated un-peeled zucchini (don’t squeeze out the liquid as some recipes recommend; it makes the cake extra moist!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

Pour batter into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan and bake at 350°F  for 40 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

*I am aware that if it’s got seeds, it’s considered a fruit. But I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to refer to zucchini as a fruit. 

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Yeasty Lemon-Orange-Blueberry Pull-Apart Bread

SAMSUNGA couple weeks ago I went blueberry picking and after devouring most of them, I was left with enough to do some baking. I had the sudden inspiration to make blueberry scones, a baked good I had never attempted. I don’t even really like scones, so who knows what I was thinking. At any rate, I started googling blueberry scone recipes and came across what might be my new favourite baking blog. La Petite Brioche is written by Christina Rose who is some kind of baking prodigy. Her site is replete with beautiful photos of mouth-watering photos of deliciousness (with the exception of some recipes that involve meat….why pollute a perfectly good dessert website with MEAT?!). Anyway, as soon as I discovered Christina’s blueberry scone recipe I quickly discovered that I no longer wanted to make blueberry scones. Not because it didn’t look like amazing but because below it, I discovered an even more drool-worthy recipe, for lemon blueberry pull-apart bread. Check out the photo for yourself. Needless to say, the scones were quickly forgotten. This bread seemed like a real project, something that I was feeling up for, given that I had an open Saturday afternoon in front of me.

I followed Christina’s recipe exactly, except that I used one less lemon than she suggested (only because I only had two), and I found that the dough actually yielded 1.5 loaf pans’ worth of bread…a very happy finding. I baked the half loaf for dessert that night and put the full loaf tin (unbaked) in the fridge to bake the next day. This worked wonderfully! I will not bother to record the recipe here, because Christina does a fantastic job of giving a step-by-step rundown of how to make this somewhat complicated recipe. Click here and give it a try!

Here are two photos of my process:

This is how my loaf looked before I baked it:

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And this is how it looked when I took it out of the oven, before icing it. The nice thing about this recipe is that it cools really quickly: you can eat it about 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Perfect!

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Raw Strawberry Cake

SAMSUNGI have been baking a lot of yummy vegan treats lately. Back in the fall I thought I was really on the path to being an at-home vegan, and really, for the most part I am. There are oodles of reasons to become a vegan and I’m not going to go into them now. However one of the best reasons I think is that it encourages experimentation in the kitchen. Instead of relying on the same old milk-eggs-butter combination, you are introduced to flax eggs, almond milk, and applesauce as substitutes. In many cases the vegan recipe is tastier and lower-fat than its dairy counterpart. (Chai snickerdoodles are maybe my favourite cookie; and I just whipped up a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies which are a contender for the title). Last weekend I attempted a raw strawberry “cheese”cake. There is nothing remotely cheesy about this cake so I prefer to call it just a raw strawberry cake. At any rate, I was pleased with the results. Happily, the recipe involves no vegan cream cheese, which is both expensive and not very good: the “meat” of the cake is soaked, pulverized cashews. I think if I had a better food processor the cake would have been smoother and creamier, but alas I’m waiting for it to kick the bucket. This recipe also introduced me to alcohol-free vanilla, something that isn’t easy to find (I got mine at Whole Foods) but I don’t think I’m going back. The alcohol-free version is thicker and richer and just more vanilla-y. I’m a convert!

I’d suggest making this if you have some health conscious friends coming over in the summer: since the cake is raw, you want to use fresh, juicy strawberries. Your friends will appreciate the low fat, fairly healthy dessert: you will appreciate how easy it is to make this cake and the fact that you make it the day before.  Not surprisingly, I pilfered this recipe from my favourite vegan website, the Post Punk Kitchen. You can follow the instructions there, or my version below. The original includes a “fluffy white frosting” (which is the white dollop on top of the cake you see in my photo below). I didn’t find this added much if anything to the cake, so I’m not including it the instructions below.

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Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil.

To make the crust, combine in a food processor:
1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds (I used blanched)
1/4 tsp salt
Pulse until fairly fine. Then add 4 pitted and chopped medjool dates; pulse them in until the dough squishes and holds slightly between your fingers. Press into the bottom of a cake pan. Wash out your food processor.

To make the filling, pulse 3 cups of cashews which have been soaked at least 3 hours. 3 hours is totally acceptable but you can leave them overnight if that’s easiest. Once the cashews are nice and crumbly, add:
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract
Puree until the mixture is smooth as you can get it. Add up to 1/4 cup water to ensure a good, smooth consistency. With the food processor running, add in 4 cups of hulled, halved strawberries. I think you might get away with adding another cup of strawberries so if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try for extra strawberry-goodness. Once the strawberries are incorporated, add in 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil slowly, with the food processor running. Pour the filling into the pan, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Before serving, combine about 2 cups of chopped strawberries with 3 tablespoons of agave syrup and mash together to make a coulis. Spread a bit of the coulis on each plate and top with a piece of cake.

This is a very un-vegan suggestion, but this cake would probably be extra tasty with whipped cream (is there some way to get whipped cream to taste of strawberry?) or frozen yogurt on the side.

Very Green Vinaigrette

P1020210When I sat down last week to my customary lunch of baby kale and/or spring mix salad with the expected accompaniments ( avocado, chopped bell pepper, and carrot), I actually felt revulsion. After eating this lunch for several months (and as a mainstay of many, many dinners), I was finally sick of those soggy leaves coated in my usual olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette. As a vegetarian with a tendency towards veganism, I never thought I would see the day when I would feel ill at the sight of a salad! Well, that day had come. The convenience of buying salad leaves in those plastic clamshell containers has been overridden by my gag reflex. It was time for a new salad routine. Having promised to bring a salad as my contribution to a friend’s dinner party, I was inspired to actually go through the salad section of my numerous cookbooks, something I had rarely done before. In Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook, I came across what looked to be a fairly strange recipe for a romaine salad with kohlrabi and cucumber and an herby vinaigrette. I typically use none of those ingredients and unusual is just what I needed to get over my salad boredom/aversion. It was a good risk to take: the vinaigrette in particular was a hit at the dinner party. I’ve included my adapted version of the recipe here. The salad itself, as I mentioned, included cucumber and kohlrabi, but I think the vinaigrette would go well with just about any veggie you choose.

2 garlic clove
1 shallot
a handful of fresh parsley
1 sprig of fresh terragon
1 sprig of rosemary, needles only
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
salt to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus a bit more olive oil (add more if you like a less vinegary tasting dressing)

I used a Magic Bullet to grind up the ingredients but you could use a food processor or blender. Put the first 6 ingredients in first to grind, then add the others and grind them together. This makes enough to coat about 8 servings of salad.

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