December 31, 2011

Most Popular Posts of 2011

With 2011 coming to an end, I'm excited to be able to share my first year-end round-up of the most popular posts here on Vanilla & Spice!

I chose the top 10 recipes by number of pageviews, but since two recipes were pretty much tied when I last checked my stats, I combined them and added one more to make a Top 11 list.

I was a bit surprised by a couple of the recipes that made the Top 11, but overall I think this turned out to be a pretty great list!  And apparently Thanksgiving recipes are very popular with readers, since almost all of my Thanksgiving Week recipes ended up in the Top 11!

Without further ado, here they are:

I love peanut sauce, so not surprisingly, I absolutely loved these noodles and fresh veggies coated in a spicy ginger peanut dressing!

I fell in love with brussels sprouts after making this recipe. I liked it so much that I made variations of it at least four times in the last few months (which is saying a lot, since I rarely repeat recipes!)

This was the ultimate Fall soup for me this year - so creamy and flavourful and I loved the addition of the crunchy cauliflower pieces

Not only was this the first time I've tried sweet potato pie, but it was also my first homemade pie ever, and I was so proud of how it turned out! And the coconut milk whipped cream took it over the top!

This was a unique spin on cornbread, since it included pureed fruits and veggies. I loved the texture and the fresh rosemary laid on top of the crunchy crust looked beautiful!

I came up with this salad as a way to use up leftover ingredients, and it turned out so good! The combination of fresh pineapple, shredded kale, avocado and black beans with a spicy peanut dressing was perfect!

These were an adaptation of my original soft chickpea granola bars, and I liked them just as much, if not more, than the original! They were a perfect healthy snack during pumpkin season. 

This quinoa dish included so many of my favourite Fall ingredients in one colourful and delicious meal! I also got some great feedback from people who tried it and liked it just as much as I did!

This was a recipe I had been making for a while before starting my blog, and I still look forward to eating them each time I make them. They are basically made from one main ingredient (chickpea flour) and they are perfect for dipping in spicy ketchup!

These little baked sweet potato balls rolled in oats and coconut were pretty popular on Pinterest. They make a great appetizer or snack, and they could even pass as dessert if you leave out the spices!

And the most popular post overall this year were my spinach tofu patties! These soft vegan patties flavored with Asian ingredients are perfect for eating on their own, or in a burger bun smothered in peanut sauce...I definitely want a make another batch of these in the new year!

So there you have it - the most popular recipes so far on Vanilla & Spice, chosen by you. And tomorrow, I'll be sharing my own favourite posts from the year!

December 29, 2011

Goat Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates

I mentioned in my last post that one of the appetizers I made on Christmas Eve were stuffed dates. Even though you don't really need a recipe to make these, I thought I would still post them for anyone who is looking for an easy appetizer or hors d'oeuvre idea to serve at their New Year's Eve party!

All you need to do is slice open some pitted dates, stuff them with sweetened goat cheese and top them with toasted whole almonds. They make a perfect little one-bite snack and are just sweet enough to eat as dessert too!

I love the combination of honey, goat cheese and almonds, but the recipe is very adaptable to other kinds of nuts and cheese. I think pistachios would taste great with these, and other soft cheeses like brie, mascarpone or cream cheese would work well too.

Goat Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates
Inspired by Healthy Food for Living

25 pitted dates (I used regular small dates, but Medjool would probably taste better!)
~ 2 oz/50 g goat cheese
~ 1 tbsp honey (or to taste)
25-40 whole almonds

Place the goat cheese in a small bowl and mix with a spoon or fork to soften it. Add the honey 1 tsp at a time and mix thoroughly. Taste and continue to add more honey until the mixture is sweet enough to your liking.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the almonds. Toast until fragrant and browned, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Remove the almonds from the pan and set aside.

Slice open the dates and place a small amount of the goat cheese mixture inside (as much as you can fit).  Add 1 large almond or 2 small almonds to each date on top of the goat cheese.

Keep refrigerated until serving time.

Makes about 25 dates.

Note: These are best eaten the day they are made, but they will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days.

December 27, 2011

Grilled Sweet Potato & Avocado Sandwich

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I had a great weekend spent with my family eating lots of delicious food! Our tradition is to prepare lots of small appetizers for Christmas Eve instead of a big meal, and for my contribution I made some stuffed dates, these chai-spiced roasted almonds from Healthful Pursuit and these rosemary apricot chickpea bites from spabettie.

Then on Christmas morning, we enjoyed our annual overnight stuffed blueberry french toast that my mom makes (topped with some coconut agave syrup that Santa brought me!), followed by a family dinner later that evening. I was stuffed by the end of the night, but in a good way!

I'm also enjoying being on holidays and having plenty of time to just relax and be lazy. Another bonus of being on holidays is that you can prepare a freshly made lunch that can be eaten right away, so its my chance to make things I wouldn't normally get to eat for lunch!

This sandwich is one of the lunches I made on a recent day off. I had half an avocado to use up, and I couldn't get the idea of a grilled avocado sandwich out of my head. I also happened to have part of a sweet potato in my fridge, so I decided to mash it and spread it on the sandwich too.

A simple avocado-sweet potato combination would be great on its own, but I also added a quick sauce made of tahini, yogurt and lemon juice. I think tahini pairs really well with both avocado and sweet potato, but you could easily leave it out or substitute a different sauce (I'm thinking mango chutney would be delicious too!)

This is an easy and fairly quick sandwich to put together, and being able to eat a warm toasted sandwich hot off the stove definitely made this a more memorable lunch than usual!

Grilled Sweet Potato & Avocado Sandwich
2 slices of bread (I like to use multigrain)
Coconut oil
1/2 an avocado, peeled and sliced
1/2 a sweet potato (about 4 oz)
1 tbsp plain low-fat or soy yogurt 
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Peel the sweet potato and microwave on high until soft (about 3 minutes). Once it is cool enough to handle, mash it until smooth.

Mix the yogurt, tahini and lemon juice in small bowl (start with the smaller amount of lemon juice, then taste and add more if desired). Add some salt and pepper.

Heat a small skillet on the stove over medium heat. Spread a bit of coconut oil on one side of each piece of bread (this will be the outside of the sandwich). On the other side of one piece, spread the mashed sweet potato. Spread the tahini sauce on the other piece of bread. Lay the avocado slices over the sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Put the sandwich together carefully. Place in the preheated skillet and press down with a spatula. Grill each side for about 1-2 minutes. Remove and slice in half. 

Makes 1 sandwich.

December 23, 2011

Recipe Round-Up: Vegan No-Bake, Bite-Sized Holiday Treats

With Christmas right around the corner, there's just enough time to share one more post featuring holiday treats! 

I've already eaten my share of not-so-healthy desserts lately, but with so many temptations everywhere this time of year, I thought it would be a good idea to keep some healthier dessert options around to snack on.  So in the last couple weeks, I've made a few different bite-sized treats that I've been enjoying myself and sharing with others...and now I can share them with you too! 

These are all easy to make, store well, and don't involve baking (except for the last one), so you can whip them up quickly and enjoy them through the rest of the holidays!

Notes: All recipes are vegan. I have not included the recipes here, so you can click on the links to find the original recipes. All photos are my own versions.

Raw Gingersnap Truffles from Young Married Chic

These may have been my favourite of the bunch! They had just the right balance of gingerbread flavors in a chewy bite-sized ball made of ground nuts, oats and spices. 
Notes: I made 1/4 of the recipe, which gave me 9 small balls. I also added 1/2 tsp of molasses to enhance the gingerbread flavor even more. 

Apricot Coconut Snowballs from Healthy Blender Recipes

The original recipe for these balls called for dried mango, but I substituted dried apricots instead. These came together well and had a nice balance of sweet and sour. I thought the apricot flavor was stronger than the coconut, so as long as you like apricots, you will like these! 
Note: I made half the recipe and still got about 20 small balls. 

Peanut Butter & Jam Thumbprints from Alisa Cooks

These no-bake thumbprints tasted exactly like a peanut butter and jam sandwich with a nice crumbly texture from the graham crackers. I filled them with strawberry-rhubarb jam but another flavour like raspberry would work just as well! I regretted not making a bigger batch of these!
Notes: I made half the recipe, which only got me 2 thumbprints. These will start to soften and melt quickly so you should eat them straight from the fridge or freezer.

Banana Coconut Date Macaroons from

These macaroons have just three ingredients - banana, coconut and dates. They had a strong banana flavor - which I liked because I love bananas, but they definitely aren't the same as a traditional macaroon cookie. They make a great mid-morning snack!
Notes: My dates never fully broke down in the food processor, so I would suggest chopping them finely by hand first, or soaking them first to soften them up.

Almond Butter Rice Krispy Treats from Oh She Glows

These are a slightly healthier version of rice krispie bars (since they use almond butter and leave out the marshmallows). Not only were they easier to make, but I also liked the taste better than traditional rice krispie treats! Next time I would make the bars a bit thicker though.
Notes: I used a mix of rice krispies and rice puff cereal. I also left out the Earth Balance and added some unsweetened shredded coconut. 

Quinoa Cherry Chocolate Chip Balls from Running to the Kitchen

These were my second-favourite of the bunch! Don't be scared of the idea of using cooked quinoa in a dessert - they tasted amazing and I loved the unique texture! The combination of dried cherries with chocolate chips and almonds was sooo good!
Notes: The balls were very difficult and messy to roll, but as Gina says, it just means you get more to lick off your hands while you're making them! I also baked mine for slightly less time then the recipe called for. I recommend storing them in the fridge.

Mini M&M Christmas Funfetti Cookies adapted from my previous Funfetti Cookies, originally from Chocolate Covered Katie

I made these cute little dough balls once before, and since I liked them so much the first time, I wanted to do a holiday version! So I replaced the chocolate chips with red and green M&M's (I spent a long time in the bulk bin meticulously trying to pick out only red and green m&m's with the huge scoop) and Christmas coloured sprinkles. I think I messed up the proportions a bit when I tried to make a larger batch but I made them again using the original recipe for only 3 cookies and they turned out better that time!

Hopefully you will find a bit of time in your busy schedules over the next couple of days to make at least one (or even a few!) of these treats!  Now that I've finished my Christmas shopping and the treats are covered, I have to figure out which recipes I want to contribute to our Christmas Eve feast!

December 20, 2011

Crispy Peppermint Chocolate Bark

It seems like I've been posting a lot of sweet treats lately, but at this point I would feel wrong posting anything other than holiday treats until Christmas is over! But I promise I have lots more healthy recipes to share starting next week!

I made this bark as part of a homemade treat bag that my sister and I gave out to all of our colleagues with our Christmas cards this year. I thought it would be something a bit more fun and different than the usual chocolate bark.

The bark is made from a mixture of semi-sweet and mint chocolate chips, and sprinkled with Hershey's candy cane kisses for extra peppermint flavour (You could substitute chopped candy canes but the candy cane kisses taste so much better and they're a bit easier on your teeth!)

It's also filled with rice krispies, which gives it a nice crispy texture. Even though I don't usually like chocolate desserts, I couldn't stop eating this bark! I loved the minty taste and the light texture, which made it less rich than pure chocolate bark.

I think this would be a great gift idea for both kids and adults!

Crispy Peppermint Chocolate Bark
Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

500 grams of chocolate chips (I used a mix of semi-sweet and mint chocolate chips)
2 cups Rice Krispies
About 20 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, finely chopped

Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and set over a saucepan of boiling water on the stove. Stir the chocolate until it is melted.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in the Rice Krispies until they are fully coated. Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture out evenly onto a large baking sheet lined with foil or wax paper. Sprinkle the chopped kisses over the bark and press them in slightly with your hands or a spatula to ensure they stick.

Place the baking sheet in the fridge or freezer until the bark is hardened, then break into pieces.

Makes about 30 pieces.

December 16, 2011

Cherry Chia Carob Cookies

I made these cookies a few weeks ago for a cookie swap and I couldn't wait to post about them, since I think they would make a great addition to your Christmas cookie trays!

I was looking for a healthier vegan cookie to bring to the cookie swap, and I liked the sounds of these soft chia carob cookies that I saw on the blog Pure2Raw. So I started with their recipe, but I ended up changing a lot so my version looks nothing like theirs...but they still tasted amazing!

I decided to add carob chips in addition to the carob powder that's already in the dough, and then my favourite part of these cookies was the dried cherries that I added. The cherries are a bit more expensive than other dried fruit, but they are definitely worth it! The combination of the tart cherries with the carob worked really well!

I also liked the texture of the cookies - the outside was firm and crunchy but the inside was soft and chewy, and the chia seeds added another unique dimension.

Another great thing about these cookies is that they are much healthier than most Christmas cookies so you can feel better about eating them, but at the same time, they don't taste like a "healthy" cookie. You might even be able to trick people into thinking they are decadent chocolate cookies - although true chocolate lovers (a category that does not include me!) will probably notice the difference with the carob.

Cherry Chia Carob Cookies
Adapted from Pure2Raw

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp carob powder
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup carob chips
1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour to chia seeds) in a large bowl.

Add the almond milk, applesauce and vanilla to the bowl and stir to mix. Then add the coconut oil and stir until the dry ingredients are all incorporated (if the dough is still too dry, add a bit of water, 1 tsp at a time).

Fold in the carob chips and dried cherries.

Roll the dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet. For rounder cookies (like the ones in the pictures), place the whole baking sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking.

Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 28 cookies.

December 14, 2011

Gingerbread Quinoa Muffins with Pecan Streusel

Before I get to today's post, I have a new update to share with you - I finally set up a Facebook page for my blog! There's not much on there yet, but make sure you like the page to get all of my updates!

So far this holiday season, I've been on a bit of an eggnog kick...first I made these soy nog chai scones, and then vegan eggnog soft serve.  But I've also been baking with one of my other favourite holiday flavours - gingerbread. I've already posted a recipe for apple ginger cookies, and now I'm excited to share these gingerbread muffins!

When I saw these Gingerbread Millet Muffins on the blog Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes, I wanted to make them myself as soon as I could! They basically had everything that I look for in a muffin - a soft and puffy top, warm spices, whole grains and other healthy ingredients.

Since I didn't have any millet, I decided to try using quinoa instead, and it worked out perfectly! The quinoa gives the muffins a nice texture with a bit of crunch, and I loved the spicy flavour from the ginger and other spices (plus they will make your house smell so nice and Christmassy when they are in the oven!)

I also wanted to add some nuts to the muffins, so I chopped up some pecans and mixed them with sugar and cinnamon to make a streusel topping. The tops of my muffins did sink in a bit where the nuts were, but I still thought the topping made the muffins extra special!

Gingerbread Quinoa Muffins
Adapted from Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (can substitute soy yogurt)
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar (I used cane sugar)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare your muffin tin by coating with baking spray or lining with paper liners.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through to nutmeg) in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, molasses, sugar and vegetable oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter into your muffin tin, filling the cups about 2/3 of the way full. 

Mix together the pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle the mixture over the tops of the muffins (you might not need it all).

Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

December 12, 2011

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash Salad

When it comes to squash varieties, I haven't seemed to branch out further than butternut, acorn and spaghetti. But this year I've added a fourth type to my rotation - delicata squash! I knew I would like it after learning that it has a similar flavour to sweet potatoes (and it's sometimes called the sweet potato squash). Plus there's no need to peel off the skin, and you can buy small ones that make a perfect serving size for one person!

This recipe is actually a variation on one of the Thanksgiving recipes I posted in October - this Brussels Sprouts Toss with Caramelized Tofu. I liked the recipe so much the first time that I wanted to make it again - and I loved this new version so much that I made it twice last week!

I left out the tofu and sweet potato this time and tossed the brussels sprouts with some sautéed delicata squash instead.  I also changed up the nuts in the salad - the first time I made this, I used walnuts, and the next time I used toasted slivered almonds (pictured).  Any type of nut, including pecans, would work well in this salad so feel free to use your favourite!

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash Salad
Adapted from my previous recipe for Brussels Sprouts Toss with Caramelized Tofu

2 tbsp chopped pecans, walnuts or slivered almonds
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 small delicata squash (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
1 tsp brown sugar or palm sugar
1/4 lb brussels sprouts
~ 1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 a shallot, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper

Wash the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and slice each half into thin half moon-shaped pieces.

Trim the outer leaves and stems off the brussels sprouts. Cut each one in half, then slice vertically to create shreds.

Toast the nuts by heating a dry skillet over medium heat and cooking the nuts for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the squash slices and sprinkle the sugar over top. Let cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes, then cover the pan with a lid to keep the steam in. Cook the squash for about 10 more minutes, flipping the slices halfway through, until they are softened and browned.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, smashed garlic and paprika and stir. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the shallots and garlic are lightly browned.

Add the brussels sprouts and a splash of water to the pan. Stir and toss with tongs for about one minute.
Season with salt and pepper and add the vinegar. Stir for a few more minutes, until it the mixture starts to turn bright green.

Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup.

Toss the brussels sprouts mixture with the toasted nuts and the delicata squash. 

Makes 1 serving. 

December 09, 2011

Vegan Eggnog Soft Serve

I've mentioned before that my new obsession this holiday season is So Nice Noel Nog. Other than drinking it straight from the carton, I've also used it in cookies and these scones, and now I have another delicious way to use it - creamy, Christmas-y soft serve!

This is another variation of the banana soft serve that has become very popular in the blog world. Not surprisingly, I'm not the first blogger to come up with an eggnog version - Peas and Thank You posted the perfect recipe last year so mine is based on hers, which you can find here.

I also thought that some graham cracker crumbs would be the perfect topping for my eggnog soft serve, but I didn't have any in my pantry at the time, so I ambitiously set out to make my own graham crackers from scratch....unfortunately, my attempt wasn't that successful - even though I checked on them in the oven early, they were already burnt and barely edible.

Luckily I managed to salvage a few of the least burnt crackers to crumble up and use for a topping, so it still worked out just how I was hoping!

Even though the base of the soft serve is a banana, the eggnog was definitely the dominant flavour, with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. This makes a great healthy holiday treat that is so easy to whip up for dessert or as a snack any time!

Vegan Eggnog Soft Serve
Adapted from Peas and Thank You

1 frozen banana
2.5 tbsp non-dairy egg nog (I used So Nice Noel Nog)
1/2 tsp agave syrup (I used a vanilla-flavoured one)
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of nutmeg
cinnamon and graham crackers for topping

Chop up your banana and place in a food processor. Add the eggnog, agave, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg. Process until the mixture is completely smooth. 

Transfer to a chilled glass or bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and crumbled graham crackers if desired.

Makes 1 serving.

This is linked to FaveDiet's December Blog Hop - you can vote for me here!

December 07, 2011

Indian Pot Pie

I made this recipe once last winter, and I couldn't wait to make it again this year because I loved it so much!  As you may have noticed by now, I'm a big fan of Indian food. I don't often make authentic Indian dishes when I cook for myself, but I do like to incorporate Indian flavours into Western-style foods.

This Indian pot pie is the perfect example of a traditionally American dish that has been updated to include Indian ingredients and flavours. The filling is made of sweet potato, carrots, onion, peas and chickpeas, cooked in a creamy coconut milk sauce and accented by sweet raisins and mango chutney. Then the filling is enclosed in a double-crusted puff pastry pie and baked in the oven until it's hot and bubbling and the crust is golden and crispy.

I was a little too impatient to let the pie cool enough before I cut into it, so it was a bit messy when I tried to photograph it...but it still tasted amazing!  (And since I had leftovers, I was able to take another picture the next day once the filling had firmed up a bit - see below). The filling would taste great eaten on it own like a curry, but I loved cutting a huge slice of pie and eating it together with the puff pastry.

And the best part was that I got to have the whole pie all to myself to enjoy all week long!  But I also think this would be a great dish to share with friends or loved ones, since it's something different than the usual biscuit-topped chicken pot pie and has a sweet and mild curry flavour that anyone would enjoy!

Indian Pot Pie
Adapted from A Good Appetite

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 cups of peeled, diced sweet potatoes
1.5 large carrots (or 2 medium sized), peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1.5 tbsp curry powder
salt and pepper
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
1.5 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
1.5 tbsp mango chutney
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 puff pastry sheets (15 oz package), at room temperature*

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced sweet potato and carrot and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, curry powder, and some salt and pepper. Cook until the onion begins to soften, a few minutes. Stir in the chickpeas. Sprinkle the flour over everything and cook for another minute, stirring.

Add the vegetable stock, coconut milk and mango chutney. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the peas and raisins and remove from heat.

Roll out one sheet of puff pastry and place on the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish. Transfer the filling to the pie dish, spreading it evenly across the top. Roll out the second piece of puff pastry and lay overtop of the filling, sealing the edges of the two pieces together around the edges. Cut several small slits in the top crust with a knife.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool and slice into pieces. Serve with plain yogurt if desired.

Makes 4 large servings or 5-6 medium sized servings.

*Note: I have only tried the recipe with puff pastry, but feel free to use another type of pastry (like vegan puff pastry, phyllo dough or pie crust) if you prefer - you might need to adjust the cooking time and temperature though.

December 04, 2011

Apple Ginger Spice Cookies

Every December, I love choosing which Christmas cookies I want to make. I like to stick to tried-and-true holiday traditions, like biscotti, shortbread and ginger cookies, but its also fun to try new twists on old classics.

These apple ginger cookies were a successful adaptation to my favourite soft ginger cookies.  They came out puffy and soft, with a nice crunch on the outside from rolling them in sugar. I wasn't sure at first whether I would like the addition of apples, but I actually loved how the apples tasted with the ginger and other spices!

These are also a bit healthier than the average Christmas cookie - I reduced the amounts of oil and sugar from the original recipe, plus they are vegan.

I think they would make a great addition to a Christmas cookie tray, but they could definitely be enjoyed any time of the year!

Apple Ginger Spice Cookies
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling cookies in
1 large apple, peeled and finely diced 

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or cooking spray.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt) in large bowl.

Whisk the oil, applesauce, and molasses in separate bowl, then mix in the sugar.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the diced apple.

Place some additional sugar in a shallow bowl. Form the dough into balls (about 1/4 cup for large cookies - I made smaller ones), and roll each ball in the sugar. Place cookie balls on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 20-24 cookies (depending on how big you make them).

November 30, 2011

Soy Nog Chai Scones

Now that December is practically here, I'm ready to start sharing some holiday recipes on the blog! As a lover of Starbucks holiday drinks, I usually focus on the following flavours when I think of holiday baking: eggnog, chai, gingerbread and peppermint.

These scones were my first holiday baking experiment incorporating two of those flavours: eggnog and chai. But instead of real eggnog, I wanted to try using my latest obsession: So Nice Noel Nog.  I actually like soy nog better than the real thing - even though it's not as thick and creamy, I love the taste! I've been drinking it on its own and adding it to my coffee, so I was excited to try baking with it too!

The inspiration for these scones comes from Mama Pea's vegan Vanilla Bean Mini-Scones. To get the holiday flavour I wanted, I used my noel nog for the milk, and added the contents of a chai tea bag, along with some cinnamon and nutmeg for more spice. I also used coconut oil instead of margarine (because that's all I had), and subbed vanilla extract for the vanilla bean.

The flavour of these scones was amazing! The eggnog taste definitely came through, and I loved the accent of the chai tea. As you can see, they weren't quite as fluffy as I wanted, but I may have rolled the dough too thin when I cut them, and I also overbaked them a tad! Despite my mistakes, I still loved them!

I also made a simple glaze by combining icing sugar with noel nog and cinnamon, and drizzled it over top of the scones afterwards to add some more sweetness. I liked them with the glaze as a treat, but feel free to leave it out for a more wholesome breakfast!

Soy Nog Chai Scones
Adapted from Peas and Thank You

1 cup whole grain spelt flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 chai tea bags
1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter or vegan margarine)
1/2 cup soy nog
1/3 cup cane sugar (or other sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the contents of two chai tea bags.  Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and mix in with a fork or pastry cutter until the dough is crumbly.

In a separate bowl, combine the soy nog, sugar and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined (do not overmix).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Pat or roll each portion into a flat circle, about 1.5 inches thick. Cut each circle with a knife into six equal wedges (like a pie).

Place wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until scones have started to brown and firm up (*Note: the instructions in the original recipe called for a baking time of 13-15 minutes for mini scones but since mine were larger, I increased the baking time to 15-17 minutes).

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, drizzle with eggnog glaze if desired (recipe below).

Eggnog Glaze
1 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp soy nog
dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add more icing sugar or milk to adjust the consistency if necessary.

November 27, 2011

Pineapple Kale Salad with Black Beans and Avocado

In my last post for an African Pineapple Peanut Stew with Black Beans and Kale, I promised I would give you another recipe featuring many of the same ingredients in salad form, so here it is!

I started with a recipe I had bookmarked for avocado salad with a spicy peanut dressing and since I had leftover black beans, kale and pineapple from my last recipe, I added them all to the mix too.  And instead of peanut butter, this dressing uses crushed up peanuts mixed with various spices.

I really liked this combination of fresh ingredients. I've always thought pineapple and avocados are meant for each other, and the black beans and lime juice went perfectly with them! This was also the first time I've tried shredding my kale and I thought it was a bit more manageable to eat this way.

This salad was a nice refreshing change from the heartier cold-weather soups and stews I've been eating lately, and it made a good lunch the next day too!  I didn't try this, but I bet the leftovers would also make a great filling for a wrap!

Pineapple Kale Salad with Black Beans and Avocado
Inspired by my African Pineapple Peanut Stew with Black Beans, also adapted from Girl Cooks World

4 cups chopped kale leaves
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 jalapeno, minced
2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 avocados, diced
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 tbsp peanuts
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar

Shred the kale into thin strips using a knife. Combine the shredded kale with the diced pineapple, black beans, jalapeno and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the avocado, lime juice and olive oil and gently toss to combine.

Grind 3 tbsp of the peanuts until they are finely ground. Mix with the paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and sugar.

Add the peanut-spice mixture to the salad and toss again until thoroughly mixed.

Garnish salad with remaining peanuts. Season with more salt and pepper if desired and serve with additional lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings (I only made half the recipe for 2 servings)

This is my submission to this week's Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert & Dogs


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