Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake – Vegan and Gluten Free

 

img_6321I’m not usually one to make cakes, cookies or sweet breads, but if they are made with chocolate and sweet potatoes, I am easily convinced! Dinner with vegan friends on Saturday night and a promise to bring dessert has thrown my sweet tooth into a crazy chocolate frenzy! Perhaps more than the idea of baking something with both sweet potatoes and chocolate was the challenge to create something with whatever I have in the pantry at the moment. I do get a kick out of being able to make something out of nothing especially when I am cooking from the farmhouse and the nearest grocery is twenty minutes away.

I don’t know how many of you do this, but when I am looking for a new recipe, I use keywords like vegan chocolate cake, but instead of looking at the recipes, I look at the images. I want to find something that gives me a visual of what I might like to eat. And, with the very talented food photographers in the world today, it can be a dangerous hobby to do on an empty stomach! In my quest for Saturday dessert ideas, I stumbled across the Minimalist Baker’s beautiful Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and knew that I had to create something along those lines. I love that she has whole hazelnuts between her cake layers and for tasteful decorating on top – classy! I am a huge fan of a powerful nut crunch of any sort along with a forkful of gooey, fudgy chocolate.

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So, once I choose a picture of something I think I might like to recreate, I toggle over to check out the recipe. Minimalist Baker’s recipe Chocolate Hazelnut Cake calls for lots of things I do have in the pantry and lots of things I don’t have. Her recipe obviously calls for hazelnuts, but I only have almonds. Her recipe calls for applesauce, but I only have a sweet potato. Her recipe calls for gluten-free flour, but I only have brown rice flour. Basically, I decide I have pretty much everything I need to riff off her fabulous ideas and delve into a little jazz improv of my own. Some key ingredients used as replacers for original components in the recipe are medjool dates and one giant sweet potato to replace the applesauce and sunflower seeds and almonds to replace the hazelnuts. I also traded out balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar and reduced both quantity and types of sugars. Because baking soda always seems to find me in sweet bread – yuck, I cut it by one-third. I figured with the vinegar, this cake will rise with less baking soda and I wanted it to be dense and fudgy. Goal accomplished!

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This cake is everything I dreamed it would be – rich, dense and fudgy – punctuated with toasted almonds and deeply satisfying for someone who does not want to include animal products in their diet. It is completely plant-based and delicious! Try it. I even made a small extra in case I need to go to another party…or just eat it all myself!

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Ingredients for Cake:

  • 1 large sweet potato or 2 small (enough for about 2 cups mashed)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, toasted and ground into meal
  • 1 cup whole almonds, toasted then chopped
  • 12 large pitted medjool dates
  • 4 Tbs. flax seed meal
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (I recommend unrefined virgin coconut oil retains more coconut flavor)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup gluten free oats ground into flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. amaretto liqueur

Directions for Cake:

Step 1: Wash and prick sweet potatoes. Place them in a bowl to microwave on high for 5-7 minutes depending on the size. Cook the sweet potato(s) until soft and allow to cool.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sunflower seeds and almonds on separate baking sheets to toast (unless, of course, you bought pre-toasted, unsalted nuts). Toast seeds and nuts until they start to brown. It helps to stir the sunflower seeds as they toast. Once toasted, remove from oven to cool.

Step 3: Once sunflower seeds are cool, grind to flour in a food processor with 1 cup gluten free oats. Add 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup cocoa powder then transfer these dry ingredients to a mixing bowl.

Step 3: In food processor add dates, flax seed meal, water, almond milk, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda and scooped out flesh of the sweet potatoes. Pulse until the dates are pureed.

Step 4: Add the wet ingredients from the food processor to your dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix by hand or with a mixer.

Step 5: Oil cake pans or line with parchment. This recipe will make two 8 inch diameter cakes, two loaf pan cakes, a dozen cupcakes or one shallow 9 x 13 pan.

Step 6: Bake cake(s) for 35 – 45 minutes depending on thickness or depth of pan. Check with toothpick or knife. This is a moist cake, so never leaves the knife completely dry, but you will be able to see the crumb develop.

Directions for Icing:

Step 1: Put 1 cup almond milk and 4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate in a bowl for 2 minutes in the microwave.

Step 2: Remove mixture from microwave and stir until chocolate melts into the almond milk. At this point it will seem grainy.

Step 3: Add coconut oil and mix until melted into baking chocolate and milk.

Step 4: Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. amaretto. Mix well. Now the chocolate icing will be smooth and pourable.

Step 5: Pour the icing over the cakes and decorate with chopped toasted almonds.

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Lemon Spice Cookies

Feeling like your holiday cookies need a little updo? This lemony ginger spice cookie may just be what you are looking for! This cookie’s chew is addicting, the flavors fresh and intriguing, and oh so perfect for the holiday tray with a little dusting of snowy white confectioner’s sugar. If you’re like me and hardly ever bake because you can’t live with the temptation, this is the perfect cookie. These cuties don’t last long if anyone else is around.

I originally posted this recipe a couple of years ago when lemons filled my mind for days. Lemons are enticing, but what caused this recipe creation was not only the idea of lemons, but a divine Indian dish with coriander…hinting of lemon! Sometimes obsession and distraction make for a happy child. A sudden urge for a really good chewy cookie and voila was born the lemon spice cookie recipe that had been floating around in my head.

When the idea hit me, I knew I would base the recipe on my childhood favorite chewy gingersnap recipe from The Joy of Cooking, but with lemony spices instead of molasses and cloves. I would use lemon zest, lemon grass, ground coriander and ground ginger. To lighten the color of the cookie, I replaced the molasses with honey. I was hoping for the crinkle effect of a gingersnap, but for some scientific reason, that did not occur. Does anyone know why not? I used baking soda and vinegar…doesn’t mixing these two cause the chemical reaction needed to make cracks in the cookie…or is molasses involved?

I’ll include the original gingersnap recipe below as well. If you love chewy cookies, it’s an amazing recipe.

Ingredients:

Makes 4 dozen cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • zest 1 lemon
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbs. finely pureed lemon grass (I used Gourmet Garden Lemon Grass prepared product)
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

Preheat oven 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add all the other ingredients except the flour and mix well using a hand or stand mixer. The last step is to add the flour and mix together well.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. Bake on a cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes. When the cookies cool, cover them with sifted powdered sugar.

Gingersnaps from the Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Cream together:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar

Stir in:

  • 2 well-beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. vinegar

Sift and add:

  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 to 3 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves

Mix ingredients until blended. Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar. Bake on a greased cookie sheet about 12-15 minutes.

Trifling a Strawberry Moon

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Up here in the North it’s strawberry season! And what a wonder to have a full “Strawberry” moon coincide with the Summer Solstice! According to Martha White’s recount of the Old Famer’s Almanac, “From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.” That means when I am not eating strawberries, I work on the annual “Burdock Eradication Program,” thin the carrots and beets and plant a few of each for good measure!

Fruit trifles became a mainstay of farmhouse life last summer as the individual mason jar 1/2 pint servings are easy to store for a fancy dessert when company arrives. These I made with a gluten free granola crunched pie crust crumble that is AMAZING! It’s both delicious and easy to prepare. There are three components to this dessert: crunchy crumble, lemon minted cream cheese, and strawberries. Layer them together for a fresh and delicious summer dessert.

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The Strawberry Moon rose late last night and was just setting as I awoke at about 5:30 today.

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Gluten Free Granola Infused Pie Crust Crumble

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Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:

  • 4 packages cream cheese
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large lemon zested
  • 1 large lemon juiced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 handful fresh mint

Directions: In a food processor, mix all of the ingredients except the whipping cream. You may need to push the cream off the sides of the bowl once or twice. Then add whipping cream and run processor until blended.

Note: I’m not one for sweet desserts, so you may want to add more honey or sugar.

Strawberry Filling: Simply mix about a pound of strawberries with a tablespoon of sugar or honey. In this recipe, I pulsed the berries and honey in a food processor just until they were slightly chopped.

Crumble Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • dash salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut chilled butter into chunks. Mix dry ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients with the butter and vanilla until combined. Spread on parchment and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. When the crumble cools, you will want to break it into smaller pieces.

Energy Bars

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I’m not sure that any of us really need any more energy, in the sense of calories, in our lives! The calorie is easy to find around these parts, but it is nice to have a treat now and then. I’ve been making way too many of these, so trust me, if you want to put on weight, this is what you should eat. These are very densely packed calorie bombs that will surely keep you moving if you know what’s good for you! This would be a great snack to carry with the road bike crew or mega run in prep for a marathon. Of course, a bite or two for your average teacher is a good thing too! These are stored in the freezer and best to eat when frozen.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Coconut Banana

  • 2 cups Medjool dates
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut

Chocolate Cherry

  • 1 cup Medjool dates
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of sea salt

Apricot Orange

  • 1 cup Medjool dates
  • 1 cup dried pineapple
  • 2 cups dried apricots
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 mandarine oranges zested and juiced
  • a pinch of sea salt

Lemon Coconut

  • 1 cup Medjool dates
  • 1 cup dried pineapple
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 lemons zested and juiced
  • a pinch of sea salt

Orange Cinnamon Chocolate Apricot

  • 2 1/2 cups dried apricot
  • 2 cups Medjool dates
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sprouted and dried buckwheat groats
  • 1/2 cup dried pineapple
  • 2 clementines zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together. If the mixture is too dry, add more dates or a dash of water. Pour the mixture onto parchment paper to form a flattened square. A pastry blade is helpful to shape the edges. Wrap in parchment and place in a baking pan in the freezer. When frozen cut into one-inch cubes and store in the freezer.

Plum Galette

Do you ever wonder what happened to good old-fashioned pie? Do you occasionally crave it, then find the slice that sits in front of you to be woefully inadequate? What happened to that thick slice of pie chock full of fresh fruit with a richly flavored, not-too-dry yet flaky crust?  I sometimes dream of that pie, but so often forget it can’t be found in a bakery. We can all find lots of mediocre pie at chain restaurants and grocery stores but if you want to find the real thing, you might be looking forever. Perhaps some nice old Finish lady in Northern Minnesota could hook you up, but if you’re looking in a store or pastry shop, you’re probably out of luck. I feel bad for kids these days because I don’t think they’ll ever know what pie really is. There is just something about old-fashioned pie that can’t be replicated in the bakery kitchen.

Having grown up with a nice old Finish lady to show me the ropes, there are a few things I know. First, butter is a must. I am a practicing vegan except when it comes to pie – no margarine allowed. The dough has to be cold, cold, cold so leave it in the fridge for a good long rest before you roll it. And finally, don’t roll your crust too thin. It’s just a beautiful thing to eat a slice of pie from tip to crust – to end with a generous chunk of flaky dough lightly kissed with caramelized fruit juices and sugar. Mmm mmm!

I know that one problem with pie is that it seems too difficult. So many of us just don’t have the time anymore, so I made a galette instead of pie. Galette is a fairly easy alternative allowing for free form rather than fussing with a pie pan and crimping edges. Fortunately, with a galette, we still get that old-fashioned sense of the pie!

Ingredients:

Crust: For a really clear and easy-to-follow recipe, see Elise’s directions at Simply Recipes.

Filling:

  • 6 red plums
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1 beaten egg
  • turbinado sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the plums either into small chunks or thin slices. Place them in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add flour, sugar, nutmeg and lemon juice and mix.
  4. Roll out the pie crust to about 1/8 inch and place on parchment covered cookie sheet.
  5. pour plum mixture into center of pie crust. Push all the plums together into a tidy flat circle.
  6. Fold the pie crust up over the plums crimping the dough where it doubles over itself.
  7. Brush the dough with the egg wash and then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes until the dough is browned.

Honey Brittle Nut Bars

These bad boys fall into the dessert category for me, so I wouldn’t normally encourage anyone to have such treats around the house, but my dad’s honey is just the most amazing thing, and I wanted to come up with a way to really highlight its sweetness.

In an effort the last few months to stay away from grains, raw almonds have found their way into our pantry along with a few other nuts and seeds like cashews, pumpkin and sunflower. Apparently when eaten in small quantities, these powerhouses of life provide healthy fats, omega-3 as well as a myriad of other vitamins and minerals. That is when they are raw. Turning them into dessert by toasting them probably diminishes much of the health benefits. Regardless, these brittle bars are a really tasty snack made from all whole foods. If anything, they are a good source of energy for your average marathoner or long-distance biker. Since Jeff completed 72 miles this morning, I think I’ll encourage him to have a few of these!

Once these cool, they do become brittle, however as they rise to room temperature the honey begins to soften. I would recommend cutting them and storing them in the freezer in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 cup whole cashews
  • 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup large flake coconut
  • 1 tsp. flaked kosher salt

Directions:

In a non-reactive sauce pan slowly melt the coconut oil. Add the honey and bring it to a simmer. Stir frequently and allow the mixture to simmer for about ten minutes.

While the honey simmers, toast the nuts separately as the small ones will burn if you try to toast them together. After each batch is toasted pour them out onto plates to cool in a single layer.

Once the nuts are all toasted and the honey has simmered and evaporated for ten minutes, pour the honey mixture over the nuts and mix well.

Pour the mixture out into a 9×9 square baking pan lined with parchment paper. The bars will be about an inch thick in this pan. Use another sheet of parchment on top to press the mixture firmly together.

Place in the refrigerator to cool.

Cut into squares and store in airtight container in freezer.

Rhubarb Sorbet with Garden Herbs

Here’s the local beat in Minnesota right now: mint busting out of its pots and rhubarb galore! Why not have a tart little midsummer cool-down treat.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rhubarb, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large sprigs mint
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 Tbs. triple sec
  • 1 Tbs. Grenadine Syrup

Directions:

  1. Simmer rhubarb, water, sugar and herb sprigs until the rhubarb is soft and begins to break down.
  2. Refrigerate until the mixture cools.
  3. Remove herb sprigs.
  4. Puree mixture and add triple sec and Grenadine.
  5. Freeze in ice cream maker.
  6. Transfer to freezer container an allow to freeze for at least four hours.

Carrot Ginger Mini Scones

I’m not much of a breakfast food person. I know. Amazing. How can that be? Doesn’t everybody love breakfast? I’m just not a fan of sweet food in general, let alone for breakfast, and I really don’t like eggs much. I enjoy the occasional stack of homemade pancakes or waffles or a fresh bagel with peanut butter, but if I am going to indulge in a huge mid-morning meal, I like it to be Mexican – breakfast burritos, chilaquiles, quesadillas – I like it spicy and FLAVORFUL.

These scones fit the flavorful bill. Made with basil, ginger and lemon zest, they are fresh, sparkly and surprising –  decadent companion to a Spring Brunch menu.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 3 medium carrots, grated
  • Fresh basil, chopped (about a handful)
  • 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, minced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pulse together in a food processor the butter, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Pour mixture into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir it all together until combined then turn out onto a floured counter.

Gently form dough into a ball and flatten into a fat disk. Cut the disk into four sections. Work with one section at a time. Form one section of the dough into a ball, and flatten into a disk about 6 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 wedges and place them on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the other three balls of dough. You will end up with 32 mini scones. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bottoms have browned.

Strawberry Crusted Mojito Pie

Looks good, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t!

The kitchen gods appear to be out to get me today, and because of that I suffered a few minor disasters: I blew out the blender, cut the tip of my finger off, felt tired while cooking, served food cold that was meant to be hot, and to top it all off, my never-fails Mexican Montage all tasted, um I’m not sure the word…weird. Everything just tasted strange. Old-hat menu items came out tasting funky. I was feeling in a funk. Did the food pick up on that? I thought it might just be me and my taste buds, so I checked with Jeff and he agreed, “Yeah, everything was just okay!” Confirmed.

Why did this happen to me? Are they using some kind of strange gas in the trucks that transport from California? Is it that I am picking up on the regional flavor of California March Fresh (apparently not a good flavor)? Is it that the produce I used was not organic? Something I did only for purposes of convenience, and apparently a BIG mistake! What happened? Did the food turn out mediocre because I was having an off day, or was it the produce?

The best thing on the menu was dessert. We enjoyed Strawberry Crusted Mojito Ice Cream Cake, but even that suffered the day’s revenge of the kitchen gods! My strawberry crust was too crumbly, and the whipped cream topping (omitted from the picture) looked brown. How do I appease the gods? What have I done wrong?

Strawberry Crusted Mojito Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 quarts Alden’s Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs. Creme de Menthe
  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, roasted, salted and crushed

Directions: Let the ice cream and the lemonade concentrate soften a bit before you take this on unless you want to blow out your blender motor. Place the lemonade concentrate in the blender first followed by the mint, lime zest, creme de menthe and ice cream. Pulse the ingredients until it looks like a malt.

Pour the mixture into a bundt pan and freeze. Allow the pie to set up for about an hour and then add the strawberry crust. Pulse the frozen strawberries in the food processor and then spread on top of the ice cream layer. Let the pie freeze for at least six hours.

To remove the ice cream cake from the bundt pan, immerse for a few seconds in a bowl filled with hot water, then place a serving plate on top of the bundt pan and flip it over. Allow the cake to firm another hour in the freezer before serving. Serve topped with toasted coconut and roasted pistachios.

Heart Healthy Goody Bars

Cruisin’ through some of my favorite food sites tonight, I stumbled on Cafe Cyan’s Heart Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookie post. I usually just breeze over baked goods, but she caught my attention talking about how walnuts and oats are usually not allowed to contaminate her sacred cookie. Having the same sentiment and intrigued by the recipe, I clicked to the link originally posted in Vegetarian Times, and was surprised to find that these cookies are actually a full-on vegan option-concoction. I immediately noticed no eggs and no butter. Instead, walnuts are processed with a little canola oil to make a walnut butter which replaces the traditional egg, sugar and butter base for the cookies. Anything to get rid of eggs, and I’m a happy girl!

So, how are they heart healthy? I think it’s all about fiber that helps to lower bad cholesterol, whole grain nutrients are rich in rolled oats, and this one has the added benefit of no cane sugar. But really, don’t treats like these just make you fall in love with whoever baked them? They make the old heart go pitter-pat!

For some reason, the original recipe calls to dissolve brown sugar in a saucepan with water and then cool it, but that would take too much time for this lazy lounge lizard. I opted for agave nectar to replace the sugar, and also cut some serious corners in the time department by baking bars and not cookies. It took about eight minutes to whip up the batter and twelve minutes to bake. I also added a little flaxmeal to make it even heart healthier. These babies are moist and delicious! Thanks to Crystal for the motivation! I know Jeff really appreciats the treats.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats, whipped to a fine powder in the processor
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxmeal
  • 2 cup rolled oats
  • 12 oz. bag chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups walnuts, ground to smithereens in a food processor
  • 3-4 Tbs. oil
  • 1 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Here’s How:

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Process two cups of rolled oats until they are finely ground like flour. Pulse in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flaxmeal. Remove the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl.

Next, place the walnuts in the food processor and turn it on. While the processor runs, drizzle in the oil until it starts to look like creamy peanut butter. While it runs add the vanilla and agave nectar. Scrape the wet ingredients into the ground oats mixture and stir together. Add the 2 cups of oats and chips and fold together.

Spread the mixture into a greased 9×13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until the bars brown on top. Let them cool, si se puedes, or eat them up warm!

Spanish Lesson: si se puedes = if you can

Clementine Cranberry Scones

I’m not a big fan of having baked goods around the house, but the smell of Clementines and the fresh yogurt in the fridge prompted me in the direction of scones. These are based on Heidi Swanson’s rendition of Romney Steele’s recipe from her new cookbook, My Nepenthe. These light and intensely flavorful scones are chock-full of whole grain goodness, have very little sugar, but are loaded with butter…choose your battles!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • zest of 2 Clementines
  • juice of 2 Clementines
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pulse together in a food processor the butter, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Pour mixture into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir it all together until combined then turn out onto a floured counter. Gently form the dough into a ball, and flatten into a disk about 10 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 wedges. Place the wedges on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottoms have browned.

Yogurt

“You could make your own yogurt.” I know what those words mean, but always assumed it would mean investing in lots of elaborate and expensive equipment that would ultimately sit in the back of one of my cupboards only to be used once or twice a year. I never thought making yogurt would be simple. I thought it would be “simple” like canning 200 quarts of tomatoes is easy – not! Well, how wrong I have been.

First, I read through lots of yogurt maker reviews, then I found a bunch of sites about making yogurt, and a clear picture began to form in my head. Get some milk, heat it until it begins to froth, turn it off and let it cool down until it feels the same as a hot tub, add a spoonful of good quality yogurt, mix it all together and put it in the oven at 100 degrees over night. Now that is truly easy! In the morning take it out of the oven and the next day you can enjoy fresh tangy yogurt.

To make yogurt, you simply need to add a spoonful of premade yogurt with live cultures. I used Brown Cow brand and decided to freeze it in little glumps for future yogurt making adventures. This is my answer to having no ice-cube trays! Once it was frozen, I tossed the blobs into labeled freezer containers.

The new yogurt went into a covered Pyrex container overnight in the oven at 100 degrees…pretty slick! Not nearly the work involved in canning, and no unneccessary supplies!

Coconut Almond Granola

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For many years, Jeff and Max and I have vacationed on the Mexican Riviera. We have found that the “All Inclusive” is a great way to go for a vegetarian family. The all-inclusive hotels put out amazing spreads everyday, and there are always lots of options for the vegetarian. Max particularly loves the all-inclusive buffet because he can see what he is going to eat and everything is separate; something that is very important for kids.

Last year while we were in Akumal Jeff surprised me with his breakfast choice. He began to eat granola with yogurt and fresh fruit. I don’t know why that surprised me other than the fact that  granola was never a thing we ate nor was yogurt ever added to the grocery list. When we returned to the states, granola and yogurt became staples in our house…and our food bill went up. There is some fantastic organic granola at the co-op, but by the time the bag is full, I have a ten-dollar item. After a few weeks of this, it suddenly dawned on me that I could probably make granola for a little less at home.

Rolled or steel-cut oats are inexpensive as is quinoa, flax seed and oil, but the nuts and sweetener can be expensive. To make a less expensive granola, I have had to resort to Costco bulk –  the almonds, and agave in plastic bottles from Costco, lessen the cost.

Note: Co-ops try to buy things like agave nectar and salad dressings in glass bottles for environmental and food safety purposes. Perhaps Surly will help usher in an increased awareness of aluminum as a better food packaging alternative.

Thanks to Heidi Swanson over at Cookbooks 101, I came to understand how granola is ridiculously easy to make, and once you get the hang of it, your granola will become more creative. Jeff loves the almond coconut combination, but doesn’t like dried fruit. If you are a dried fruit friend, add it to the granola after it is baked and cooled.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried coconut, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup whole flax seeds
  • 8 cups rolled or steel-cut oats
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup agave nectar
  • 1 Tbs. Amaretto
  • splash of water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a saucepan, heat the oil, agave nectar and Amaretto until it begins to simmer.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl and add the liquids. I use a splash of water so there will be a few big chunks of granola. It helps bind it together before it gets baked.

Spread the granola out onto two cookie sheets and bake for 45 minutes.

Chestnut Crabby Crisp

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What a lovely little blushing princess is this! She’s called the Chestnut Crab, about the size of  a golf ball, just sweet and tart enough for a demure little nibble, with a finish reminiscent of childhood in the tree. The Chestnut is flying off the shelves of your local co-op because folks like Dan Walsh know their pleasures.

You may have met Dan and his family if you visited the Kingfield Farmer’s Market. The Walsh family spends their summer tending heirloom tomatoes, the early spring tapping maple trees and for a few Sundays in the summer, Kingfield can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Dan’s wife, Kathleen is a co-worker of mine – a fellow teacher extraordinaire!

Well, a few weeks back, Dan informed me that the Chestnuts had arrived and I had better hurry if I wanted to indulge. Chestnuts you say…what exactly is the chestnut? He explained simply that they are one of the only edible crab apples and are quite delicious little delicacies. Well, of course, being the (clear throat here) foodie that I am, I suddenly had an urgent need to acquire some Chestnut Crabs, so off to the co-op I went.

Lo and behold, Dan was right. There, amidst the apples was a small section with a tag labeled, “Chestnut Crabs,” but there were no tiny lovelies to be had, boo hoo. I immediately inquired as to their whereabouts and was quickly reassured that they were just coming out of the cooler! Whew. Once the box of little crabbies was wheeled to the produce section, I had my pick. I packaged my two pounds and off I went to make a pie…

Four weeks later…

Apple pie turned to apple crisp! It’s Wednesday after all, I have the math tests yet to correct this evening, report cards are waiting in the wings, and a mock-up of this week’s art lesson is pounding on the door – not to mention that I better get started thinking about next week, or I’ll be planning lessons all weekend.

Yes, I am busy, but not without a little creative energy. Tonight’s apple crisp has a few surprises. First and foremost it is sweetened entirely with the Walsh family maple syrup from the spring of 2009. The demure little Chestnut Crabs also share their quarters with a large diced beet, some blueberries from last summer, a little amaretto glaze and chopped almonds to top it off. Not your average crisp. This one is hearty and not too sweet.

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Chestnut Crabby Crisp – Ingredients

Filling:

  • 2 pounds Chestnut Crabs, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup roasted beets, diced
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. Amaretto

Topping:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 6 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

Coring the Chestnuts is a pain. I tried the old-fashioned method of quartering and cutting out the seeds, and figured that would have taken me until tomorrow. Next I tried the apple cutter, but the skins are too tough to break through. So, I ended up cutting the bottoms off the little apples and that way they went right through the apple slicer. Check it out.

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Once you get all the fruit sliced, dump it into a 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle it with the amaretto and pour the maple syrup over the top.

Mix the crisp topping ingredients in a bowl. The oil and syrup should make the topping stick together slightly. Spread this out over the fruit and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. I found out that Chestnut Crabs remain pretty crunchy after baking and so this dish turns out to be pretty hearty – perhaps a good breakfast meal. Enjoy.

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Flipped PB and Apple Cake

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I don’t know about you, but I love apples with peanut butter. The other day, Max and I were enjoying some fresh-from-the-tree Minnesota Honeycrisps with creamy organic peanut butter, and I started to fantasize about an apple pie. Then I started to dream about an apple pie with peanut butter. Would it be possible? Well, the fantasy survived, but the time to make it never came to fruition. Then last night at about 8:30, I decided to build my creation, but as a cake instead. Time didn’t allow for pie crust.

A while back I made some zucchini bread and after a day, the egg flavor started to come through. I know lots of people adore eggs, but that’s one food item I abhor. I usually don’t mind them hiding in pancakes or other sweet treats, but last night I didn’t want to take my chances, so I created this recipe dairy free. Does that mean I am turning into a vegan?

The cake is dense and moist sprinkled with tart little niblets of apple and topped with a sweet agave caramel. It has all the apple pie spices, but rich overtones of peanut butter. The peanut butter provides protein as well as the garbanzo bean flour I added, and I used agave nectar to cut down on the glycemic index. It got three thumbs up from this household.

Flipped PB and Apple Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil to coat spring form pan
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon to coat pan
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour, sifted
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp. salt, sifted
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 4 apples, one thinly sliced, the other three diced
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 3 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

1) Preheat oven 350 degrees

2) Prepare a non-stick spring form pan. (I did not use parchment paper, but it would probably be a good idea as a few of the apples stuck.) First coat the pan generously with canola oil then sprinkle with cinnamon. Next place sliced apples in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the pan and top with 1/4 cup of agave nectar.

3) Sift and mix all dry ingredients.

4) Mix wet ingredients.

5) Combine the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients and the apples. Pour into pan and bake for 60 minutes.