Sunday, January 31, 2016

Almond Herb Crackers

Almond Herb Crackers
2 cups almond flour (ground almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons tahini paste
1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
1/4 cup olive oil
up to 2 Tablespoons water

Blend all ingredients together very well. Add more flour or water judging by your dough consistency. It should be like a thick cookie dough. Roll out very thin and cut into shapes. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or so until browned and crisp. 

This makes a good savory cracker or savory cookie base for appetizers. I will share my creation tomorrow.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

First Place In Cheese Competition

Today I participated in my first-ever culinary competition. I planned for weeks, tested out recipes I wanted to use, wrote and revised my menu, made excessively detailed time management sheets, and didn't sleep much last night. I was excited and nervous at the same time. My black box (mandatory) ingredients were: feta cheese, double cream brie, ricotta cheese, cheese curds, cornish game hens, and frozen raspberries. This was supplemented with a not so extensive general parstock list. I won't get into all the nitty-gritty details. Things were going well, despite the fact I had only picked up four eggs instead of the eight I needed and not nearly enough sugar, and we could no longer get more ingredients from parstock.

I made very good time, all my components worked, and I got my plates out. I cleaned up, and awaited the judges deliberation and the award ceremony. After third place, then second place were announced, I gave up hope and chalked the competition up to 'good experience'. I wish someone had caught my facial expression on camera when my name was announced as first place! I could not believe it; all my hard work had paid off! Here is a look at my menu; I may or may not share my award-winning recipes here soon.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Asian Inspired Vegetable Fritters

Asian Inspired Vegetable Fritters
1 package firm tofu, well drained and patted dry
1 small leek, green part only, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 bunch green onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1/4 - 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until vegetables are chopped finely and all ingredients are combined. Stir in additional flour by hand if needed if mixture is too wet or it doesn't hold together in a ball.
Form dough into balls - you can make them as large or as small as you want, for a bite-sized hors d'oevure or a larger appetizer plate. I got about 42 from my batch. You can chill the mixture before or after rolling into balls or both, as chilling may help them stay together. When ready to cook, fry in a deep fryer until golden and crisp on the outside.

This is a really easy, vegan snack or starter recipe, as you don't need to worry about knife skills - let the food processor do all the work for you! The tofu binds the fritters together, and the oil and tamari flavor them. These are quite healthy, that is until you deep-fry them. However, I recently read that deep-frying vegetables actually increases some of the nutrient content, albeit adding extra fat. I'm not sure if i totally buy that or not, so if you prefer, I am sure these could be flattened and pan-fried or baked.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Green Pea Guacamole

Guacamole. It's a delicious, rich green buttery spread that goes well with a variety of foods - crudités, crackers, bread, pasta, tortilla chips, etc. It's also high in fat. It is the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from avocados, but it can still feel a little heavy. Guacamole can be lightened up with a wide variety of other green foods, and what I have used here is green peas. 

What many people don't realize is peas are actually a good source of protein and very high in dietary fiber as well. They make the guacamole lighter, greener, and very healthy. I also added some other flavorings based on what I had around the house. It's a really delicious spread, dip, or sauce. I highly recommend using defrosted frozen peas in lieu of canned. I used canned, as that is all I had on hand, but frozen peas would give the dip a brighter green color and avoid that 'canned' taste. If you have fresh garden peas, that is even better!
Green Pea Guacamole
one large ripe avocado
one cup green peas
juice of one lime, lemon, or orange
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
oil, as desired, to achieve desired consistency

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. I actually did it by hand - mashed the avocado and peas together, then stirred in the rest. Therefore, my dip wasn't completely smooth but I liked the extra texture from the peas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Brownie In A Mug

Wednesdays have been throwing me off lately. I try to stay at least one day ahead on blog posts, so a post is ready to go if I am busy one day and I can just hit 'publish'. But for some reason I never have them ready for Wednesdays. I prepr on the weekend, and on Thursday, but Wednesdays? I know I am busy on Wednesdays and get home very late. But here it is now, just before tomorrow and I haven't put a post up yet. 

Here's something quick; simple but delicious. A good choice for those humpday Wednesdays when you just need a chocolate fix to get you through the rest of the week, but don't have time for effort. In less than five minutes you can make, cook, and eat this delicious, and healthy brownie option.

Individual Vegan Microwave Chocolate Brownie
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (can use plain or probably a gluten-free option)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon nut butter
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses (or sub maple syrup for a sweeter taste)
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
optional: splash vanilla or preferred extract, sprinkle of cinnamon, dash of chocolate chips or chopped nuts

Mix all ingredients together well. I find this works better if you do this in a small bowl, then transfer the mixture to a small, microwave-safe mug, but if you only want to dirty one dish, you can mix it right in the mug. Microwave on HIGH (100% power). I LOVE my brownies ooey and gooey, so I only microwaved for 30 seconds. If you prefer a more cake-like brownie, microwave for up to two minutes. I recommend cooking it in thirty second intervals and checking to see how set it is. 

I topped my brownie with quick chocolate sauce (cocoa powder and molasses heated until smooth) and cashew coconut butter. A yummy afternoon snack!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie Fix

The other day a friend came to me with a lemon meringue pie that didn't set up quite properly. It was strange, because the crust was delicious and perfectly baked and the filling was firm and tasty. Then the meringue was spread on and torched. I think the issue either came with not letting the filling set and cool long enough before being put in the pie shell, or before the meringue was put on. Also the meringue was not cooked or baked - only the top was torched so it weeped.

This causes a very yummy lemon meringue, well soup. It was liquidy and didn't stay together but the flavor was there. I suggested transforming it into a mousse, parfait, or trifle-type dessert. But then the pie was left with me to fix and I decided to try fixing it into a pie again. 
Lemon pie, take #2
I scraped the meringue off the top and put it into a bowl to set aside.
I scraped all the lemon filling out and put it in a pot, added some cornstarch and boiled it to thicken. Then transferred it to a bowl and cooled it to set.
I popped the crust in the oven briefly to crisp up and not turn out soggy from the lemon filling.
Then the meringue. I knew I couldn't rewhip it to form a nice meringue, so I decided to do something completely different with it. I put it in a saucepan, added some brown sugar for flavor and some cornstarch to thicken. I cooked it, then cooled it. This formed a 'burnt' (toasted from the meringue) caramel sauce that didn't harden because the cooked egg whites kept it soft and not overly sweet. It also enriched it without the use of butter.

To assemble, I spread the thick lemon filling into the crust, then since I didn't have a lot of the caramel, I piped it around the pie. The result? A really good lemon caramel pie that held together, and you would never know it had been a failure. The lesson? Learn from your mistakes, don't throw anything (that isn't spoiled) out, and get creative to use up leftovers.
It may not be the prettiest, but it is tasty considering what it came from!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Once upon a time at a camp I attended in the summer, I opted for the vegetarian option and it was a vegetarian version of shepherd's pie, or what the French refer to as, 'Paté Chinoise'. The regular entrée wasn't even shepherd's pie, is was something completely different and I am guessing not great looking. But the shepherd's pie looked interesting and certainly intrigued me. It turned out to be a version I liked even better than the traditional. 

Shepherd's pie is traditional meat-laden (usually ground lamb or beef), filled with chopped hard-boiled eggs, mixed with vegetables in a creamy sauce, and topped with creamy, butter mashed potatoes and sometimes cheese. 

There are three vegetarian/vegan versions you could make. The first one would be as traditional as possible, just subbing the closest ingredient options (simulated ground beef crumbles, coconut cream sauce, mashed potatoes with vegan margarine). The second one, which is what I made, is not nearly as traditional, but actually much healthier. I used lentils (brown are a good option for looks, but I only had red on hand). I threw in whatever veggies I had and used lots of spice, and some oil and just a splash of cream for the sauce. Then I topped it with mashed sweet potato because I love them and they go so well with lentils, both taste-wise and nutritionally. A sprinkle of paprika, and dinner is served!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Individual Oatmeal Applesauce Cake

Individual Oatmeal Applesauce Cake
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup nondairy milk
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1 Tablespoon nut butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground cloves

Mix all ingredients together well, transfer to a large mug or small microwaveable bowl (grease if desired) and microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 2 minutes until just set. This is meant to be soft. Like oatmeal more than cake. Just not liquidy. Feel free to add flavored extracts, nuts, other spices, maple syrup, etc. Or swap applesauce for mashed banana and chocolate chips for raisins. 

For the frosting, I simply microwaved a little maple syrup to make it thick and caramel-like, then added some almond milk to thin it out, and sprinkled with ground cinnamon. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
4 large white onions, thinly sliced
salt
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 Tablespoon spice mix (see http://bexysbakingblog.blogspot.ca/2015/11/spice-mix.html)
1 Tablespoon tahini paste
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses

Lay the onions out on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil, then season with spice mix and salt. Cook at 400F for 30 minutes or so until well darkened and caramelized. 
Transfer to a food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until just combined, leaving it slightly chunky.

Serve immediately warm, or chill and allow flavors to blend.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Battered Banana Bites

What do you eat when cookies, muffins, pancakes, or a plain banana just won't do? Makes these unique, healthy, vegan, battered banana bites. A perfect and quick snack for one!

Battered Banana Bites
1 large banana, peeled (I actually used a still frozen one)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk (nondairy)
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses or maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon coconut oil

Slice the banana into about 10-12 rounds. 
Mix all remaining ingredients together except the oil. It should be pancake-batter consistency, so add more flour or water as needed to reach this.
Heat in the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until melted. 

Using your fingers or a fork, dip the banana slices into the batter, coating them completely. Add to the hot pan and cook until batter firms up like a pancake, is golden and crisp. Flip, and cook the other side. 

Serve sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, molasses, chocolate sauce, chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter, or whatever our heart desires! Serve immediately, as the outside will be crisp and the inside will be soft and bananay, but the entire package will turn mushy once cool.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wild Berry Compote

Wild Berry Compote
one large  bag frozen berry blend ~ 1 kg (I used a four berry mix containing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
water
2 cinnamon sticks or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch, if needed
1 Tablespoon sugar of choice, if needed
drop vanilla extract
drop almond extract

Place the berries in a medium saucepan and just cover them with water. Add the spiced. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour or so until berries are softened and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. This is one of those leave-on-the-stove-and-forget-about-it recipes, as long as it is at a low simmer.
If mixture does not become as thick as you would like it, or you are short on time, mix the cornstarch and sugar together and add, brining the mixture to a boil and stirring until it is as thick as you need it to be. Remove from heat and stir in the extract. Use warm or chill to set.

This is an easy and versatile recipe. It would probably work with any fruit blend, as long as the fruit is chopped up. Change the spices and extracts as desired. It makes a great warm sauce, pie filling, custard topping, yogurt stir-in, shortcake topper, etc.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan mac and cheese. Some may call it an oxymoron, fake, or a sin. But I call it delicious. It doesn't have that same 'sharpness' you get from mac and cheese using old cheddar, but it does have a similar flavor profile and the same look and texture, it's hard to tell the difference. This is a hearty but healthy comfort food meal that can be on the table within thirty minutes. The procedure seems lengthy, but only because I've explained it in detail. It's really only a matter of cooking and puréeing. The key here is a good food processor or Vitamix if you have one - my sauce was not quite as smooth as I would have liked since I don't have a great food processor. Cooking the veg slightly longer if you have the time may also help alleviate part of this problem. 
I can't stress this enough - even if you are not vegan - you need to try this recipe!

Vegan Mac and Cheese
2 medium white potatoes o use one large sweet potato, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1/2 cup cashews (preferably raw, unsalted)
1 package (4 serving size) dry elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup coconut milk (from a carton or can - doesn't have to be the thick kind)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, for garnish

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile dice your veg - they don't need to be precise at all since they will just be blitzed in the end, but the smaller you make them, the quicker they cook, so I recommend spending the extra time chopping and not cooking.

Add the veg and cashews to the water and cook for 15-30 minutes until just tender. You don't want them mushy, but just soft enough to easily purée. I throw the cashews in here as well, in lieu of soaking them overnight, as is called for in many vegan recipes (cheeses, cheesecake, etc.) These is just for convenience sake and also to make the cashews extra soft for processing.

Once the veg are cooked, take them out of the water but don't throw the water away! Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the veg, then save the water for cooking the pasta - this is economical, saves time as the water will still be hot, and reserves all the nutrients from the veg and infuses into the pasta. Simply return the water to a boil, if needed, and add some salt. Then add the macaroni and cook to the desired doneness. 

While the pasta is cooking, transfer the veg and cashews (well drained) to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Process until very smooth. Check consistency, and add some pasta water, more coconut milk, or oil as needed, and adjust the seasoning. 

Drain the pasta well, return to the pot, toss with the sauce, and serve immediately! You may also choose to transfer to a casserole dish and bake for a more traditional mac and cheese, but I like mine straight from the pot as I find it creamier. Baked mac and cheese is good for non-vegan versions where you sprinkle the top with shredded cheese and want it to melt, or if you plan to top with breadcrumbs.

Variations: You may add diced whole veg of choice, or diced and cooked vegan bacon into the mix, add more nutritional yeast, add vegan shredded cheddar, or top with pecan parmesan. Sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers would also add nice flavors.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This is the cake recipe I used for my Star Wars cakes. It's an amazing recipe - very moist and very chocolaty with a nice hint of raspberry. It's also healthier than your typical cake; yes, it's still high in sugar, but it contains less fat, as moisture comes from applesauce and raspberries and not milk and eggs. You can also make it wholewheat, as the cocoa will mask this healthiness. 

Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Cake
1 1/2 cups nondairy milk (plain, unsweetened)
1 1/2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) or whole wheat flour, or a mix of both
1 1/3 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed in the refrigerator

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line two eight or nine inch round or square pans, or one 9x13 inch rectangular pan.
Add the vinegar to the milk and let stand for 5-20 minutes.
Whisk in the oil and applesauce. Whisk the water into the coffee and add along with the vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, powder, soda, and salt, mix well. 
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix until smooth. 
Mash the raspberries in a bowl with a potato masher. They don't need to be smooth or pulverised, just broken up a bit. Stir into the batter.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan(s). Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely, then frost/decorate. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Assorted Star Wars Mini Cakes

These are the three miniature cakes I made with the leftover cake scraps from my R2D2 cake from three days ago. These were really just shaped I carved out of my scraps and whipped up a small batch of (vegan) chocolate icing and used my leftover meringue pieces to decorate. They are all Star Wars characters as well. On the left is Dark Vador. On the right is Chewbacca, and at the top there I tried to make Yoda, but the shape I cut out reminded me more of Princess Leia's hair, so I went with that instead. 
The chocolate icing recipe is simple: I mixed about one part unsweetened cocoa powder to one part icing sugar together; you can vary these rations depending on how dark you would like the icing to be. I added a few spoonfuls of liquid coconut oil, a drop of vanilla extract, and enough almond milk to reach the proper consistency. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Blueberry Brown Sugar Bars

The bars are rich and sweet, soft and gooey, tasty and healthy. I am not sure if they are more of a 'cake' bar or a 'blondie' bar but they certainly are delicious. They retain their softness and moisture from containing no added fat, but using fruit purées instead. You get a hint of banana, but it is not a dominant flavor. Almond butter adds a nice taste and texture to these bars, and adds some nutrition. Use whole wheat flour and date sugar for a truly healthy bar that is also vegan!
Blueberry Brown Sugar Bars
1/2 cup smooth almond butter (no added ingredients, use a different nut if desired)
scant 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 medium bananas, well mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour, or use whole wheat, oat, or even almond
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (fresh would probably work as well, or substitute raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips)
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the almond butter, applesauce, banana, and vanilla well until very smooth. Mix in the sugar. Toss the blueberries in the flour and add along with the baking soda and salt. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, though may still have a few crumbs attached. Bars will be soft. 

It is imperative to allow them to cool, then refrigerate them to cool completely before cutting (unless you just want to dive into an ooey gooey, but equally delicious, mess with a spoon, as I TOTALLY would - but I like ooey gooey textures like that). I even recommend popping them in the freezer just for an hour or so before trying to cut them to help set the crumb.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Meatless Stuffed Peppers
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
salt
4 large bell peppers, I used one green, one red, one orange, and one yellow for variety
1 package (250 grams/8 ounces) white button mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 can (398mL) beans, I like to use a mixed bean blend
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce of choice, I used herb and garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
garlic powder, paprika, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper - start with one teaspoon each and add more as desired

Place the rice, water, and salt to taste in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat until liquid is absorbed and rice is just tender. You want separate, individual grains of cooked rice and you want it to be slightly al dente as it will cook more in the oven. Cool. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise, leaving the stems intact. Scoop out the sides and white part. Blanch the peppers just until the skin begins to soften, then shock in cold water to cool quickly, and drain well.
Mix the remaining ingredients together with the rice. Lay the peppers out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or baking dish. Stuff with the rice mixture, filling the peppers completely. You may still have some filling leftover, but that's fine - it's great heated up and eaten as is. 

Now you may either pop the peppers in the oven at 350F until piping hot, or place the dish in the freezer, freeze the peppers until firm, then transfer to a container or bag to have on hand for a quick supper. To serve as an hors d'oeuvre, cut each pepper half in to to three pieces. Buying mini peppers and using them is also a great option, though mini peppers can be more expensive and hard to find, not to mention tedious to stuff.

Friday, January 15, 2016

R2D2 Cake

As you may be able to tell from the patches of cake not-so-covered in frosting, this is not my proudest cake accomplishment. But I won't consider it a total fail either. Here is some back story to it:

I make my boyfriend an elaborate, appropriately-themed birthday cake every year (this is the fifth one). This year, I had been planning to make an R2D2 (a 'resourceful astromech droid' from Star Wars) cake, for awhile; even before the big hype for the release of the latest Star Wars film. I had looked at several different designs - one of them just the relative shape from a 9x13 inch rectangular cake and one used a 9x13 inch rectangular cake as the base, with half a nine inch round cake as the head, and some extra side pieces. These two dimensional designs looked pretty neat, but I then came across a three dimensional design that used several layers of six inch round stacked cakes, a six inch dome cake for the very top, and a 9x13 inch rectangular cake for the arms and extra pieces. I knew after upgrading from a 2-D to a 3-d cake last year (an army tank cake), I had to continue the theme - I couldn't go back to 3-D. The design seemed simple enough, I was just slightly concerned with stability. Also, that was a lot of cake - so I scaled back the design to be slightly smaller, doubling my batch of cake to make two 9x13 inch rectangles.

I always ask for my boyfriend's input on his cakes, and he usually likes a surprise for the design, knowing I will come up with something cool, but this year he requested the flavor. He asked for a chocolate raspberry cake, and because I had been experimenting with a lot of vegan baking lately, he wanted it to be vegan. Easy enough, I whipped up a recipe and it turned out great. The icing was a whole different story. I could have easily made a faux buttercream using either vegetable shortening (gross) or vegan margarine, but I was trying to make a naturally vegan icing, and I also wanted it coconut flavored. I made what I thought was a yummy icing, but then assembly time came.

I froze the cakes briefly to make them easier to work with, then cut them and froze them again while snacking on the scrap pieces that confirmed this was one delicious cake. I had made the icing in advance to give it time to firm up in the fridge. I coated the individual pieces with a crumb coat, and chilled them to set it. Then I tried to put the pieces together and add more coats of icing to cover. The problem was, even after adding more icing sugar to make the icing quite thick, the icing just kept sliding off the cake. It seemed to stick, only to slide off a few minutes later. It was very strange. I am figuring it must be my new icing recipe, as I usually stick to my regular buttercream. It's hard enough to complete incase a dark chocolate cake with white frosting, but add a frosting that doesn't stick, and you've got a problem. I even tried piping the icing on in lines, which seemed to work but it still slid off later. At least the pieces were sticking together, so I covered it as best as I could, added some vegan meringue 'buttons' and piped some blue frosting on as well for details. I crumbled extra meringue, dusted it with cocoa powder, and placed it at the bottom to make some dirt from the planets. And with my leftover cake scraps, I managed to make some other Star Wars themed characters (using chocolate icing that did not slide), which I will share in another post.

The cake didn't turn out how I wanted, but it did stay in one piece, hold it's shape, and taste delicious. I will definitely have to make another R2D2 cake in the future, with a different frosting, to make the details more accurate and have it look pure white. A white fondant covering would definitely be ideal, though I am not a fan of the stuff. Nevertheless, taste is most important right? At least that's what the birthday boy told me. 
Happy Birthday my love! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mushroom Green Pepper Dip/Filling

The secret to the smooth body and texture of this recipe? Tofu - blended until smooth. This adds lots of protein and calcium to the dish, and is also a great alternative for those who love the idea or texture or nutrition that hummus provides, but cannot tolerate beans.

Mushroom Green Pepper Dip/Filling
cooking oil
1 package (8 ounces/250grams) white button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely diced
1 small or 1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 package firm tofu, well drained and patted dry
1/4 cup tahini paste
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, green pepper, and onion and cook, sweating the vegetables but not coloring them, until just softened but not mush. Remove from heat and cool. You may prefer to cook the vegetables one at a time in the pan, they won't take long.

Place remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, adding more mustard, vinegar, or oil as needed. Stir in the vegetables. 
Now this can be used as a dip, spread or filling. I used it as a filling for Mushroom Green Pepper Pinwheel Bites, using yesterday's vegan pie dough recipe. I rolled it out as thinly as possible, spread thinly with this mixture (I did have some leftover), and rolled it up and sliced it, just like making cinnamon rolls. Then since the dough was very soft I popped them in the freezer for an hour to firm up, then baked them at 350F for half an hour until golden. I cut them in half to serve. This made about 25 whole pinwheels, or 50 halves. Makes a nice hors d'oeuvres that freezes well too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Flaky Vegan Pie Dough

Flaky Vegan Pie Dough
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cold water

Stir together the flour, salt, and sugar. Gradually stream in the oil, blending with a fork until incorporated. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, just until the dough begins to stick together. It should be slightly crumbly rather than wet, and be able to be pressed into a ball. Press dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill - I recommend the freezer for an hour or two, but if preparing a day in advance, you can just chill it in the refrigerator overnight so it doesn't become too hard.

It shouldn't be too firm to roll out once you remove it from the fridge/freezer - so no need to wait for the dough to warm up. Dust the work surface with flour, dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour, and roll dough out as thinly as required, depending on the desired use. Baking time/temperature also depends upon the application of this dough.

The dough can be used for pie crusts, savory or sweet (add a touch more sugar). It can also be used for biscuits, pot pies, and the pinwheel bites I made using the filling featured in tomorrow's post!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffles


Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffles
100 grams dark chocolate, chopped or in pieces
1/2 cup liquid coconut oil
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, sifted

Place all ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and heat until the chocolate is melted, stopping and stirring frequently until mixture is smooth. As you continue to mix, the coconut oil will cause the mixture to firm up a bit. Place the bowl in the freezer and leave to chill for a few hours until firm enough to roll.
Roll into small balls, then roll balls in sifted icing sugar. Chill to set.

This is a super-easy chocolate truffle recipe that is super delicious. They are not sickly sweet nor rich, but equally delicious; proving you don't need butter nor cream to make good-quality chocolate truffles. You could always use a different type of chocolate (less percentage of cocoa), add slightly more corn syrup or cocoa, or vary the vanilla flavoring with something else or add spice to change up the truffles. As well, you could stir in small pieces of dried fruit or chopped nuts into the mixture, or place a whole nut or candied cherry in the center of the truffles.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dried Fruit and Olive Tapenade

Dried Fruit and Olive Tapenade
1 cup sultana raisins
8 large dates, chopped
boiling water
1 jar (500mL) sliced green olives
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, to taste

Place the raisins and dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until the water cools. Drain well.
Drain the olives and add, along with the remaining ingredients. Mix well.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Allow tapenade to sit at room temperature for flavors to blend before serving. 
If preparing more than a few hours in advance, refrigerate tapenade and then bring to room temperature before serving. Tapenade may also be frozen for longer storage.

Serve with crusty bread, crackers, cured meats, or nuts.

The dried fruits can be varied - try figs or apricots. I used green olives for more color but black may be used as well. Chopped nuts can be added to the mixture for some crunch. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Multigrain Rosemary Crackers

Multigrain Rosemary Crackers
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/3 cup warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons dry rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup cold water

Soak the flax in the warm water for ten minutes or so until the flax absorbs most of the water and swells.
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, rosemary, and salt. Stir the oil into the flax and stir in. Slowly stream the water in, mixing well and using your hands to incorporate all the dry flour into the mixture. You may not need all of the water, or you may need slightly more.

The dough is ready when it is wet enough to hold together without crumbling and roll, but should not be quite as wet as biscuit dough. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible - like for tortillas, without being see-through. I find it easier working with only one quarter of the dough at one time. Cut crackers out into shapes, or simply use a knife to cut squares or rectangles. 
Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. You don't need to space them apart as they will not spread. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container. Serve with your favorite dip or spread. 
I cut hearts and flowers and got around 150 crackers.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Sweet and Sour Stuffed Dates

There is hardly a recipe for these - just something tasty I recently came up with. Dates can be stuffed with a variety of yummy fillings, the most common being nuts and soft cheeses. Wrapping sweet dates in salty cured meats is also popular. I decided to stuff my dates with a little sweet relish, bound together with a bit of tahini paste. I blended these together using a handheld immersion blender, then thickened the mixture on the stovetop with a small amount of cornstarch. Then I added a good amount of ground black pepper. Theses flavors give an acidic bite to contrast with the sweet date. I like the bright green color from the relish as well, and the consistency of the filling was perfect. 
I then sprinkled the dates with a few crushed red pepper flakes to add some color and extra heat.
The best dates to use for stuffed dates are those big, fresh, soft and sweet Medjool dates if you are able to get your hands on them. They usually have to be pitted, opening up a large cavity for a good amount of filling. These dates can even be cut in half for an open-faced stuffed date, or if you'd you would like smaller bites. I didn't have the Medjool dates, and I wanted tiny dates, so I used the common dates found at grocery stores.To prep in advance, these stuffed dates may even be frozen in a single layer. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Thumbprint Cookies

This is a really easy cookie recipe that just happens to be vegan and relatively healthy. The rolling and filling of the cookies is a little time-consuming but well worth the effort. These cookies are filled with oats and whole wheat flour, use oil instead of butter, and are naturally sweetened by molasses and maple syrup. They also contain a hint of spice for flavor, but this can be omitted for a plain cookie. They keep well and freeze well.
Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Thumbprint Cookies
4 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
strawberry jam (or your favorite flavor)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, salt, and spices.
Stir in the oil, molasses, and syrup; mix well.
Roll dough into walnut-sized balls, using about 1/2 tablespoon dough for each. Alternately, you may make these cookies as large or as small as you wish.
Place cookies slightly apart on prepared baking sheets.
Using your thumb or the opposite end of a mixing spoon, press a small indent into the center of each cookie. 
Fill each cookie with one teaspoon or so of jam - fill it straight to the top but don't overfill. The jam will reduce slightly when baked and doesn't tend to overflow like in some cookies, so be generous.
Bake for 15 minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes to firm up.

Makes approximately small 60 cookies.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Roasted Pepper Dip

Roasted Pepper Dip
1 jar roasted red peppers (about 500mL)
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 block firm tofu, broken into chunks
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Drain the red peppers well and pat them dry to remove excess moisture. Then combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. You may make this completely smooth if you wish, or you can leave it slightly chunky. 

I would describe this dish as a cross between a salsa (with peppers instead of tomatoes) and a hummus. The difference being, the smoothness and body of this dish does not stem from chickpeas or even beans, but from tofu instead. Tofu makes a smooth dip and is a great alternative for those with bean or legume allergies (not extremely common, but still existent) or those who choose to avoid or don't like beans (beans, beans, the magical fruit...). The flavor comes from the peppers. You could easily roast your own red peppers for a more economical, but more time consuming, dish. I would estimate you would require two full peppers. 
I recommend this dip with my Spicy Cornbread Triangles from yesterday's post.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Spicy Cornbread Triangles

Spicy Cornbread Triangles
2 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, add the vinegar to the milk and let sit for a few minutes.
Whisk in the oil and molasses until frothy.
Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing to combine.
Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool slightly, then cut into triangles. 
I cut my bread into 32 squares, 4 cuts wide and 8 cuts long, then I cut each square on the diagonal into 64 triangles. These makes tiny, bite-sized pieces perfect as an hors d'oeuvres, but you can cut the pieces as large as you like if you are serving them along side a main course. Feel free to play with the herbs and spices as well!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Lemon Coconut Cream Filling

Lemon Coconut Cream Filling
1 can (400ml) full-fat coconut milk
juice and zest of one large lemon
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 drop almond extract
1 drop vanilla extract

Place the can of coconut milk upside down in the refrigerator overnight. This will cause the fat to separate out - leaving a layer of semi-solid, creamy white coconut fat, and a layer of watery liquid. If you forget to do this or don't have time - you can speed up the process by placing the can in the freezer. Just don't leave it there for longer than a couple of hours or you will end up with a rock-solid block of fat. Sometimes you can get the layer of fat without chilling the can first, but this will yield much less fat.

 Open the can and scoop off the solid fat on top, leaving the liquid and reserving for another use. This can be used for flavorful smoothies, vegan mac and cheese sauces, baked goods, or any other application requiring non-dairy milk, but not non-dairy thick cream. If you place this liquid back in the fridge, it will even thicken a bit as well.

You will need around 1/2 cup of solid fat. Add the remaining ingredients; you can add more or less maple syrup and more or less lemon zest for desired flavor. Mixture will thin out slightly, but will thicken upon chilling. 

Pour into parfait glasses or small bowls, prepared crust, between cake layers, or in desired application. Chill until firm, or freeze to firm it up faster. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Healthy Sweet Nut Crust

I've never been much of one for pie dough. We never had shortening or lard on hand, the traditional fats of choice, and butter or margarine never seemed to work for me. The dough was too crumbly, and when I added more water than called for, this didn't help at all. I've used shortbread, graham crumb, and chocolate crusts for my pies instead. But this is a new crust I tried and I love it. It basically has two ingredients. The procedure here seems long, but that's only because I explained everything at length - really all you need to do is blitz in a food processor! You can use any nut you wish, but I like almonds. It's simple, healthy, vegan, and goes with a variety of pies. I used it for my wild berry tart the other day.

Healthy Sweet Nut Tart
1/2 cup pitted dates
water
1 cup whole, natural almonds
feel free to add a dash of spice, a splash of extract, or something else to add some additional flavor

Put the dates in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn heat off and allow to cool so the dates will plump up and absorb all the moisture.

Drain all the liquid off. Reserve this liquid - it is amazing. It can be drunken warm as a hot date tea, as sweet as juice but with no added sugar. Or add some cocoa powder and make hot chocolate. It can be used to sweetened a variety of tings - baked goods, savory items, etc. etc. The liquid can be reduced to make date syrup or date honey, used as maple syrup or honey in baking (and cheaper!). 

Put half the dates in a food processor with all the almonds and begin to process until mixture comes together. The almonds will break into small pieces and the dates will bind them together. The almonds do not need to be finely ground, actually, I prefer them in larger pieces. If the mixture is not sticky, add some more dates. 

You may not need all the dates, but now you have dates that are already pre-plumped for another recipe, just store them in the fridge. 

Press mixture into one eight or nine inch round pie or tart pan, two four inch round pie pans, or a bunch (I'd estimate eight to twelve) baby tart pans. Place in the freezer to firm up, then add your desired filling!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Cinnamon Raisin Waffle

The other day my father had the waffle iron out to make waffles for brunch, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and try out a new vegan waffle recipe. I don't have my own waffle maker, so I don't get too make waffles very often. I usually make pancakes - as the batters are very similar. But waffles just have a slightly different texture - one that can't be duplicated - and this waffle doesn't skimp on flavor nor texture. 
Cinnamon Raisin Waffle
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon smooth nut butter of choice
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2-4 Tablespoons raisins

Whisk the first six liquid ingredients together until smooth. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and stir to form a batter. It is fine if it is slightly lumpy and it should be thin enough to pour but thick enough to be scooped up with a spoon. 
Preheat a large (Belgian) waffle iron and grease lightly with oil. Pour the batter in and cook for a few minutes until waffle is done.

I served my waffle with a some leftover peanut butter caramel sauce I had, hot chocolate sauce, more raisins, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Delicious! It makes a very filling breakfast, lunch, or healthier dessert option.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Wild Berry Tarts

A stunning, colorful, individual-sized  wild berry tartlet featuring four juicy berry flavors, lemon, coconut, cream, and almonds!

This is a fruit tart I made as my first creation and my first lunch for the New Year. My boyfriend has been hinting at me for awhile about fruit tarts with lots of berries, and I was excited to finally make one. I will definitely make another version in the summer time when fresh berries are in season, but considering I used frozen berries, this fruit tart turned out pretty darn good. Despite being composed of 0% chocolate and 100% vegan ingredients. It's also chock-full of fruit and nuts, no-bake, gluten-free, and dare I say, healthy?
Components
CRUST (almond cookie crust)
FILLING (lemon coconut cream filling)
TOPPING (four berry compote)
GARNISH (berries)
GLAZE (maple syrup)

Procedure
Prepare the crust and press into two four inch tart pans or miniature aluminum pie plates. Freeze to firm up while preparing filling.

Prepare the filling and pour over the crusts. You can now refrigerate this until firm or freeze it so it firms up within hours. I recommend freezing, especially if you just made the crust, because if the crust is not fully set, it will become too soft in the fridge. Freezing for longer does not seem to affect the texture of the coconut milk in the cream filling.

Prepare the berry compote. Ideally cool the compote completely and chill it first, but if you are short on time like me, you can spoon it straight over the partially set cream filling and smooth it out as best as possible. It may make the filling melt a little, but it will be fine once you pop it back in the freezer. Alternately, chill it in the fridge.

Take the pretty whole berries set aside from the compote and arrange them artistically on the tarts. You want to keep the berries frozen until ready to use because they are too soft to work with (without smushing them) when thawed. However, you don't want to serve a tart with frozen berries, so keep in mind this must be done a little before serving time to allow them to thaw. The tarts can also be placed back in the freezer after topping with the berries if they are being held longer.

Heat a little maple syrup in the microwave for thirty seconds or so and brush over the fruit on top to make it shine. The tarts can be frozen again if you want to hold them, held in the refrigerator briefly, or if you plan to serve them very soon, left at room temperature to warm up a bit before eating. If frozen for more than a few hours, gently place in a container or cover with plastic wrap.
Serving
Gently unmold the tarts from the pans and place on plates. I find this is really easy if you line the tart pans with plastic wrap before filling with the crust mixture - then the tarts simply lift straight out! You can add other garnishes such as lemon wedges, toasted coconut, chocolate sauce, or (coconut) whipped cream, but I like to let these fruit tarts shine on their own.

Planning these ahead and serving them can be slightly tricky. The crust can be made as far in advance as you wish, as long as you have your dates soaked - so I recommend doing this at least the day before to ensure a less soggy crust.

The coconut custard firms up much better in the freezer and causes the crust to become a bit soggy if left for too long at lower temperatures.

The berries place don top of the tart should be done as closely to serving as possible, still allowing enough time for them to thaw out, though I did have success with freezing the tart like this as well.

Glaze the berries last minute for optimum shine.

Ideally thaw frozen tarts only 6-14 hours before serving, and allow to come to room temperature to serve. Do not freeze for longer than a few days, and do not leave at room temperature. This will ensure optimum flavors and textures.