December 31, 2012

Goat Cheese & Pistachio Wrapped Grapes & Happy New Year

Happy New Years Eve! If you're celebrating tonight by hosting some friends or attending a party, you've probably already got your menu planned - I know I do!  But in case you're still looking for a small appetizer to add to the table, I've got the perfect idea for you!

I first saw the idea of wrapping grapes in goat cheese and nuts on a blog and I thought it sounded like the perfect bite-sized party treat.  It basically combines three elements of a typical cheese platter - grapes, cheese, and nuts, into one sweet and tasty bite!

While you only need three ingredients to make these, they are a bit time-consuming (although it will go faster if you can recruit a helper or two)! The results are worth the work though - I loved the combination of the crunchy pistachios with creamy goat cheese and a juicy grape inside. I served these to my family on Christmas Eve and they were definitely a hit, everyone loved them!

And for another easy hors d'oeuvre idea that also uses nuts and goat cheese, try these goat cheese and almond stuffed dates that I made last year during the holidays!

Have a great evening everyone!

Goat Cheese & Pistachio Wrapped Grapes
As seen on various sites, such as Squash Blossom Babies and Sandy a la Mode
Note: I realize you don't really need another recipe for these, but I just wanted to show the amounts that I used below. For more detailed step-by-step pictorial instructions, see the links above

40 small red seedless grapes
1 small log (113g) goat cheese
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios

Wash and dry the grapes.  Take a small piece of goat cheese and squish it flat with your fingers. Wrap it around one end of a grape and press firmly so that the cheese sticks in a thin layer. Continue adding cheese until the whole grape is covered (Note: You want the cheese as thin as possible, but without holes or gaps).

Continue wrapping grapes in goat cheese until the cheese is used up - you should have enough for about 40 small grapes. 

Use a food processor to crush the pistachios into fine crumbs.  Place the crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Roll each goat cheese covered grape in the pistachios and press them in with your fingers so that they stick. 

Keep finished grapes refrigerated until serving time.

December 28, 2012

Rum & Chocolate Dipped Apricots

Does anyone else feel like they've lost a sense of time, let alone what day of the week it is lately? I've been staying at my parents' place for the past week for the holidays, and without my regular routine I feel a bit thrown off track - but in a good way! It's been so nice to just relax and spend time with family, even though it means I haven't been cooking as much or keeping up with reading all my favourite blogs!

Since I'm sure many of you are also enjoying some time away from your computers, I thought I would just share a simple idea today that hardly qualifies as a recipe.

If you're sick of Christmas cookies but still like having treats around, or if you're looking for ideas for a New Year's Eve party, I'd recommend these rum and chocolate dipped dried apricots!  These were inspired by the popular chocolate and sea salt dipped clementines that I've seen around the blogosphere, but obviously I changed the base to dried apricots and added in a bit of booze because, after all, it is still the holidays!

To make these little treats, you just have to soak some dried apricots in hot rum, let them dry off a bit, and then dip them in melted dark chocolate and let them harden.  If you want to spice them up a bit, feel free to add a dash of cayenne or paprika to the chocolate, along with a sprinkle of sea salt on top of the chocolate for that sweet and salty combination.

I found that each of the flavours - the rum, spice, and sea salt - were fairly subtle on their own, but they all came together nicely for a fun and unique little treat!

Rum & Chocolate Dipped Apricots

Note: The rum taste isn't very strong, but if you don't like rum, or don't want to include alcohol in this recipe, then you can skip that step and just dip the dried apricots in melted chocolate for an even simpler treat!

1/4 cup spiced rum (or enough to cover apricots)
~15 dried apricots
~1 oz dark chocolate
1/4 tsp coconut oil
Dash of smoked paprika (optional)
Sea salt

Place the rum in a shallow bowl (I divided mine into two small glass bowls). Heat in the microwave for 15 seconds (this will help the apricots soak it up better). Add the apricots and submerge them as much as possible in the rum (some parts may still be sticking out).  Let soak for at least one hour, turning the apricots occasionally so that they soak evenly.  Remove from rum and let sit on a foil-lined baking sheet or plate.

Heat the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds on high.  Add the coconut oil and heat for another 15 seconds. Stir, and if lumps remain then heat an additional 10-15 seconds until melted. Stir in a dash of smoked paprika if using

Dip one end of each apricot in the melted chocolate and place on the foil to harden.  Once you’ve done a couple of apricots, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the chocolate before it dries.  Repeat with remaining apricots.  Place the whole tray in the freezer until the chocolate hardens.

Store at room temperature (Note: I stored mine in the fridge for a while, which seemed to make the salt disappear).

December 24, 2012

Recipe Round Up: Holiday Treats 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!  I hope those of you who are celebrating Christmas are ready for the big day tomorrow and are enjoying spending time with loved ones over the next couple of days. I've been home for a few days already and I've been loving the homecooked meals, watching Christmas movies, and making treats to have around!

Last year around this time, I did a round-up of no-bake, bite-sized vegan treats that I had tried from other blogs, and I thought I would continue that tradition this year. Not all of the treats are no-bake and vegan this time, but they're still small bites that won't weigh you down too much with richness or sweetness!

Cheesecake-Stuffed Cinnamon-Sugar Pillow Cookies

First up are these cookies that I adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie. The cookie dough is kind of like a cross between a sugar cookie and a snickerdoodle, and each one is stuffed with a cream cheese filling in the middle. I loved how soft and "pillowy" these were, and the cream cheese surprise inside made them extra tasty! I brought these to our cookie swap and they got lots of compliments (and disappeared quickly too!)

Notes: I doubled the recipe, which got me 23 small cookies. For the cookies, I used all-purpose flour and coconut oil, and I had to increase the amount of milk slightly to about 3-4 tbsp for the double batch, until the dough could stick together. I rolled my cookies in a mixture of 2 tbsp sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon.  I also changed the filling ingredients to the following:

Heaping 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese, softened
2 tsp melted white chocolate
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Stir all ingredients together until smooth.  Use about 1/2 tsp of filling per cookie.

No-Bake Coconut Snowballs

These were one of the healthier treats that I made and gave away as a homemade gift for a friend (one who doesn't like most sweets because of all the butter and sugar that usually go into them).

The recipe is from the Kitchn, and the only change I made was to use a bit less maple syrup because I didn't want them to be too sweet. They had a very chewy texture from all the coconut without being too dry, and I liked that I could eat them as a snack or as a non-sweet dessert!

No-Bake Sweet Potato Pie Truffles

Another treat with coconut that I made recently was these sweet potato pie truffles from Cara's Cravings, as seen on Clean Eating's website.  I made them mainly because I love anything with sweet potato, but also as an excuse to use some of my coconut flour.

I have to say, these got mixed reviews. I personally loved them - I thought they tasted just like sweet potato pie in bite-sized form, and I liked that the natural sweetness of the sweet potato came through without needing a lot of additional sweetener. When I tried sharing them with my family, however, they didn't go over very well - they all thought they weren't sweet enough to be a dessert and tasted more like a dinner side dish!

So I would still recommend the recipe, but with the caution that to enjoy them as much as I did, you have to love sweet potatoes, and be okay with less-sweet desserts!

Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Brittle

I love trying out different kinds of bark and brittle around the holidays.  I can never seem to get brittle quite right though, and this time was no different!  The original recipe for this popcorn peanut brittle came from Ezra Pound Cake. I increased the amount of popcorn a bit and added 1 cup of broken pretzel pieces, since I figured they would go well with popcorn and peanuts.

Despite using a candy thermometer, I still managed to overcook my sugar mixture so the brittle ended up much darker than it should have been. It did taste a tad on the burnt side, but we all still enjoyed it! It was super crunchy and sticks in your teeth, but was actually quite addictive! I would definitely try this again but keep a better eye on the syrup next time!

Peppermint Crispy Bark

After I made the peanut brittle, I wanted to make a chocolate bark to have one more dessert option around the house. I decided to go back to a recipe that I made last year and loved, this peppermint rice crispy chocolate bark.

I made a couple of changes this time, like adding a layer of melted white chocolate on top of the rice crispy layer, and instead of using Hershey's candy cane kisses (which I couldn't find, probably because it was the weekend before Christmas!), I chopped up those white christmas mint nonpareils that you can find in bulk bins.

This had tons of minty flavour and was nice and light and crispy - just what I was going for!

And here are a few other vegan holiday treat ideas that I didn't have time to make this year, but they're on my list for next year!

Persimmon Oatmeal Cookies - Vegan Yack Attack as seen on Keepin' it Kind
Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Coconut Snowflakes - Purely Twins as seen on Cara's Cravings
White Chocolate Peppermint Rounds - Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes
Gingerbread Muffin Cookies - The Kabocha Fashionista
Gingerbead Granola Bars - Yummy Mummy Kitchen
Eggnog Cheesecake Thumbprints - The Sweet Life

Now I'm off to prepare some food for our Christmas Eve hors d'oeuvre party with family tonight!  I'm looking forward to stuffing myself with lots of appetizers and desserts, and for my part I'll be contributing these bourbon peanuts and goat cheese & pistachio covered grapes, plus some gingerbread cream cheese truffles and the leftover peppermint bark!

Merry Christmas everyone!

December 19, 2012

Tangerine Coconut Cookies

It seems like time is flying by these last couple of weeks - there's less than a week left until Christmas, and I feel like I haven't done all the Christmasy things that I've wanted to yet, like watching all my favourite movies, spending evenings shopping in the crazy busy malls, driving around to look at Christmas lights, and going to see the lights display in the park.

One thing I have managed to is some holiday baking! Our annual cookie swap at school took place a couple of weeks ago, and in the last few days I've made 4 more kinds of little treats.  The latest treat to come out of my kitchen was these tangerine coconut cookies.

I had bookmarked the original recipe for mandarin coconut cookies from Whole Foods, and I was inspired to try them after a fellow student brought some clementine cookies to our cookie swap that I really liked.

These cookies are kind of like a cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread, and they're made vegan by using coconut oil instead of butter.  Because the baking time is a bit longer, they come out with a crisp, crumbly texture (perfect as a tea biscuit!) and if you place them in the freezer before baking, they stay nice and thick without spreading.

These are studded with lots of coconut and full of tangerine flavour.  I love anything with coconut, but I'm actually a bit picky with orange-flavoured treats as I find the zest can be a bit overpowering.  That wasn't the case with these cookies though - the tangerine zest and juice added lots of flavour, but it was balanced out really well by the coconut at the same time.

I also loved the pretty effect of pressing the cookies with a small glass to create the ridges around the edges. Plus the coconut-sugar mixture that I rolled the cookies in makes them look like they were dusted with snow!

If you're still looking for more cookie ideas, I plan on doing a round-up post of some of the other treats I've made lately, so stay tuned!

Tangerine Coconut Cookies
Adapted from Whole Foods

1 tangerine (can substitute with a clementine instead)
6 tbsp (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cane sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.

Wash the tangerine and use a zester to remove the zest. Set aside the zest and cut the tangerine in half with a knife.  Use a lemon juicer and juice one half of the tangerine – you should get at least 2 tbsp of juice. Save the other half of the tangerine for another use.

Cream the coconut oil and powdered sugar together in a large bowl, until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and coconut extracts, 2 tbsp of the tangerine juice, and ½ tbsp of zest. Beat until mixed.

Add the flour, 1/4 cup of coconut, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and beat again until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Use your hands to form the mixture into a smooth dough.

Combine the remaining 2 tbsp of coconut and the cane sugar. Use a blender or food processor to grind until coarse.

Form the dough into small balls.  Roll each ball in the coconut-sugar mixture and place on the baking sheet. Take a small glass (I used a shot glass) and dip the bottom in water, then in the coconut-sugar mixture. Press the glass into each cookie ball to flatten (You will need to wipe off the bottom of the glass and re-dip in the water a few times).

Bake cookies in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until firm and lightly golden on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 19 small cookies.

Note: If you prefer a softer, chewier cookie, you can try baking them for less time, but I haven't tested this!

December 13, 2012

Mashed Rutabaga & Kale with Chickpea Gravy

Today's post is all about comfort food - vegan style!

The thought of a big mound of fluffy mashed potatoes drenched in creamy gravy is probably enough to make most people's mouths water, and yet it's something that I've never actually made myself.  I'm pretty sure the last time I ate mashed potatoes and gravy was back when I was a kid, and at every holiday meal since I became vegetarian, I've had to skip the gravy.

I figured it was time to change that by making a vegetarian (and vegan) gravy that would taste just like the kind I used to enjoy as a kid. I've seen lots of recipes for mushroom gravy that sound really good, but I wanted a smoother, silkier gravy.

Then I came across this recipe for vegan gravy that used chickpea flour as the main ingredient for both flavour and texture. I had to make some changes to the method in order to get a sauce that was thick enough, including increasing the cooking time and adding some cornstarch, but in the end it turned out just how I wanted!

The texture was still slightly on the thinner side, but the colour and taste were just right - savory and a bit salty, with notes of fragrant herbs like rosemary and thyme. I also added some nutritional yeast which gave it one more layer of flavour with its slightly nutty, cheesy taste.

Next came the issue of what to serve my gravy with! My first idea was to make a mashed potato and rutabaga mixture that is formed into patties and baked in the oven until firm.  Rutabaga - a relative of the turnip but sweeter - is a root veggie that I've been wanting to experiment with, so I was excited to try these. The patties turned out well in terms of looks and texture, but unfortunately they did not taste good at all for some reason, so I had to come up with a new plan!

I still had half of a rutabaga left, so I decided to go with a simple mashed rutabaga flavoured with vegetable broth and garlic, with some cooked kale mixed in to make it even more nutritious!

The mashed rutabaga made the perfect base for soaking up the gravy. It was delicious on its own, but became even more delicious when it was smothered in a generous helping of the gravy - see the before and after photos below (don't mind the mess I made after pouring the gravy)!

This was definitely my idea of comfort food!

Mashed Rutabaga with Kale

2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 a rutabaga (~1.5 lbs), peeled and diced
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups packed kale leaves, stems removed
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp almond milk
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper

Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer on medium-high heat in a large pot. Place the diced rutabaga in a steamer basket and insert the steamer into the pot. Steam, covered, for about 30 minutes, until soft (Note: try to keep an eye on the liquid level in the pot and add more water partway through to prevent burning).

Meanwhile, heat ½ tsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, stirring often.  Add the kale leaves and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Add 3 tbsp water and cover. Let steam for 2-3 minutes, until the water is gone.  Transfer kale and garlic mixture to a bowl to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out any remaining water from the kale with your hands, then finely chop.

When the rutabaga is done, transfer to a large bowl. Mash partially, then add 1 tbsp olive oil and the almond milk and continue to mash until all the pieces are broken down (it will remain a bit chunky). Stir in the salt, kale mixture, and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Makes 2 large servings, or 4 small servings (Feel free to double the recipe if you want to use up a whole rutabaga)

Chickpea Gravy
Adapted from Savvy Vegetarian

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 vegetable bouillon cube mixed in 3.5 cups water
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute, stirring. Add the chickpea flour and the spices and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly browned.

Gradually add the vegetable broth, whisking constantly. Continue to simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, whisking frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Whisk in the cornstarch, 1 tsp at a time, until it is dissolved. Continue to simmer, whisking often, for about 10 more minutes, until thickened.

Transfer mixture to a blender and add the tamari, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Blend on low speed until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Return to pot and keep on low heat until serving time.  

Serve over mashed rutabaga, or use with another recipe, such as mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, tofu, or lentil loaf!

Makes about 2 cups (you will have more than you need for the above recipe of mashed rutabaga)

December 10, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato & Chickpea Salad with Warm Cranberry Chutney Dressing

After posting a couple of holiday recipes that have been on the sweet side, I thought it would be good to share a savory dish that could fit into your upcoming holiday meal plans too!

I love adding fresh cranberries to baked goods, like scones or my cranberry orange almond loaf, but I wanted to try out a dinner recipe highlighting cranberries in a different way.  I saw this recipe for a roasted sweet potato salad with cranberry-chipotle dressing from Cooking Light and thought it would be the perfect base for my own version of a holiday salad.

Along with the roasted sweet potatoes, which I spiced up a bit with chili powder, I added canned chickpeas to bulk up the dish a bit more.  The sweet potato and chickpeas are then tossed in a warm, chunky dressing of fresh cranberries simmered with a bit of orange juice, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and chili flakes for a touch of heat.

Finally, I added some dried cranberries to the mix for even more cranberry flavour, along with some pumpkin seeds and chopped fresh parsley.

I loved everything about this salad - the potatoes were nice and tender, and I especially loved the cranberry dressing with its mix of sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy notes.

I would definitely consider serving this as a Christmas side dish, since all of the flavours together really did remind me of the holidays. Plus the red cranberries paired with the green pepitas and parsley make for a very festive looking salad!

Of course, you don't have to wait until Christmas to make this - I enjoyed it for lunches and dinner last week when I was busy making treats for our annual school cookie swap, and I was glad to have a healthy yet still filling meal to look forward to once I got sick of eating cookies!

Roasted Sweet Potato & Chickpea Salad with Warm Cranberry Chutney Dressing
Inspired by Cooking Light 

~1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 a shallot, finely minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
Heaping 1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss diced sweet potatoes with 1 tbsp of olive oil, chili powder, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring once, until tender.

To make the dressing, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the shallot and ginger and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add the cranberries, orange juice, balsamic, maple syrup, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have started to break down.  Remove from heat and mash the cranberries to make a chunky sauce. Keep sauce warm over low heat until the potatoes are ready.

When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and transfer to a bowl. Add the chickpeas, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and parsley, and toss to combine.  Add the sauce and toss until the potatoes and chickpeas are evenly coated.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Makes 3-4 large servings, or more as a side dish

December 04, 2012

Vegan Eggnog Pudding in Raw Ginger Cookie Cups

I hope you're all getting as excited for Christmas as I am (or the holiday season in general if you don't celebrate Christmas), because I've got another Christmas-themed recipe to share with you today!

I've already shared a recipe featuring cranberries, and now I've got a recipe featuring two of my other favourite holiday flavours - gingerbread and eggnog!

I bought two bottles of So Nice Noel Nog (an eggnog flavoured soy milk)  recently, and one of the ways I wanted to use this tasty beverage was in a pudding.  But instead of serving the pudding on its own, I thought it would be fun to serve it in miniature cookie cups.

And to keep these on the healthier - and easier - side, I decided to make raw cookie cups that taste like gingerbread!  There's no baking involved in these cookie cups - just mix together some ingredients in your food processor and press them into mini muffin pans.  Stick the pan in the freezer and voila, you have raw ginger cookies that serve double duty as a cup for your eggnog pudding!

Here's what an unfilled cup looked like...

These started out as an idea in my head that I wasn't sure would work, but luckily they turned out just how I wanted!  The pudding was cool, creamy, and sweet, with a distinct eggnog flavour - even though it was made without "real" eggnog!

I also added a touch of spiced rum to bring out the eggnog flavour even more - I only used a hint of rum because I didn't want it to be overpowering, but feel free to increase the amount for a more grown-up tasting dessert!

The cookie cups were chewy and held their shape well. I loved the mix of salty and spicy notes in the crust, and I thought they made the perfect base to pair with the eggnog flavour. The only caution I would give is that the pudding was a bit on the thin side, so be careful if you bite into a filled cookie cup or you might end up with some pudding spilling out - and you won't want to waste any!

With this recipe, you really get three treats that you can eat any way you like - the pudding is great on its own, the cookie cups can be eaten plain, or you can put them both together and get the best of both combined into one dessert!

Vegan Eggnog Pudding in Raw Ginger Cookie Cups

Adapted from this recipe for vanilla pudding

1.5 tbsp cane sugar
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup soy nog
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp to 1 tbsp spiced rum (optional)

Place the sugar, cornstarch, salt and spices in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Gradually add the soy nog, whisking constantly to remove any lumps. Continue to heat, stirring constantly, for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture thickens.  Continue heating for 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and 1 tsp rum. Taste and add more rum if desired (I only used 1 tsp).  Transfer to a container and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Note: You may want to double the pudding recipe if you want to have enough for all the cookie cups, plus more for eating on its own. Or, you can only make half the recipe for the cookie cups, which is what I did. 

Cookie Cups

2/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup chopped raw cashews
2/3 cup rolled oats
dash of sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2 tsp molasses
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp non-dairy milk

Place pecans, cashews, and oats in a food processor and process until the mixture is finely ground. Add the salt, spices, molasses, and maple syrup and process again until the mixture starts to stick together.  Add the vanilla and milk and pulse until the dough comes together (you should be able to pinch it into a ball with your fingers).  

Remove mixture from food processor and divide into 14-15 mini-muffin pan cups. For each cup, press the dough down with your fingers so that it moulds in a thin layer around the bottom and up the sides of the muffin cup. 

Place the muffin tin in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until the cookie cups are firm.  Run a knife around the edges of each cookie cup to carefully remove them. Transfer to a container and return to the freezer to keep them firm.

Makes about 14 cups 

To assemble:
Keep the pudding and cookie cups separate until you are ready to serve. Once the pudding is firm, spoon it into each cookie cup (be careful not to fill them too much or they will overflow when you try to eat them!).  Sprinkle a bit of ground nutmeg over each filled cookie cup.

Note: You may end up with extra cookie cups, depending on how full you fill them with the pudding. Feel free to re-shape any empty cups into cookie dough balls instead! 
Also, you may want to eat these over a plate or napkin - once you bite in, some of the pudding might spill out!  Or you can just eat them the way my sister's boyfriend did - by putting the entire thing in your mouth at once!

This was submitted to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert & Dogs and Bringing in the Holidays Potluck Party at Lifeologia. 

November 29, 2012

Cranberry Orange Almond Loaf

It's almost December and like many other food bloggers, I've already started my holiday baking!

Fresh cranberries are one ingredient that I always try to incorporate in my plans for holiday baked goods and desserts. I love their tartness, especially when combined with other sweet ingredients to balance them out. And even though both are sour, cranberries also seem to pair especially well with citrus flavours like lemon and orange.

For this loaf, I wanted to use the classic combination of fresh cranberries and orange, along with a third flavour: almond.  The bread itself is a soft, delicate loaf made with whole wheat and spelt flour, and studded with juicy cranberries and thinly sliced almonds.

I added orange zest and almond extract to both the loaf itself and the glaze, which is a simple icing sugar glaze made with orange juice. Finally, I used almond milk nog in the batter to add one more touch of holiday flavour!

This is a light and sweet loaf that can be served as either breakfast or dessert.  The loaf itself actually wasn't very sweet, but adding the glaze on top while it's still warm helps to add an extra layer of sweetness that absorbs into the top of each slice.

The almond flavour came through pretty strongly, which made this cake different from most of the other baked goods that I'm used to.  I also loved the sliced almonds throughout the loaf - they added a touch of crunch without being too prominent, really letting the cranberries shine!

This loaf definitely got me excited for the holiday baking season, and I can't wait to make more treats using some of my other favourite holiday ingredients, like gingerbread, eggnog, and candy cane!

Vegan Cranberry Orange Almond Loaf
Adapted from Ripe from Around Here

1 tsp egg replacer + 2 tbsp water (or 1 flax egg)
1 cup light spelt flour (or all-purpose)
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond nog)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest
1.5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare an 8.5x4.5” loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray or lining with parchment paper.

First, make your egg replacer – mix 1 tsp powdered egg replacer with 2 tbsp water and set aside for at least 5 minutes.

Whisk together all dry ingredients (flour through to sugar) in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the non-dairy milk, applesauce, coconut oil, almond and vanilla extracts and orange zest.  Pour the wet ingredients and the egg replacer mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Fold in the cranberries, almonds, and cider vinegar.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, until the tops are domed, the sides are starting to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Meanwhile, make your glaze by stirring together all ingredients until a thick, smooth glaze forms.  Pour the glaze over the top of the warm loaf and let it drip down the sides (you may want to put newspaper underneath to catch the drippings). Once cool, cut into slices. 

*Note: I would recommend not covering this loaf for the first day, and storing leftovers in the fridge, then warming up pieces as needed (I covered mine with saran wrap at room temperature overnight, and it got a bit mushy). 

November 26, 2012

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash and Tofu

Hope you all had a nice weekend! Mine was full of rest as I'm getting over a cold and fever that came on really suddenly and is taking its time going away.  I hope to get back in the mood for cooking this week because I have some new recipes in mind that I want to try out!

In the meantime, I thought I would share this hearty Thai yellow curry that I made last week before I got sick. I love Thai food, and I've already experimented with my own versions of Thai red curry and green curry, so I wanted to try something new.  I actually started with the idea of making a panang curry, which I've only ever tried in Thailand and loved it.  Unfortunately, I could only find a giant tub of panang curry paste, which wouldn't have been very practical for me, so instead I picked up some yellow curry paste as a substitute!

Yellow curry typically has a mix of vegetables simmered in a creamy coconut based broth and tends to be less spicy than other Thai curries.  For my version, I used squash, kale and red peppers as the vegetables, and added some tofu for extra protein and substance. Any type of squash should work here - I wanted to use delicata but went with buttercup squash instead, since I couldn't find any delicata at the grocery store.

Instead of using canned coconut milk, which I sometimes find too rich, I used coconut milk beverage from a carton.  I thought it worked well in the dish, although it made for a slightly less creamy curry, so feel free to use canned coconut milk for a thicker, richer dish!

Most of the flavour in this dish comes from the yellow curry paste, which contains ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime, turmeric, and lots of other spices.  I also added fresh ginger, garlic, shallots, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and tamarind paste to add deeper layers of Thai flavour and create a fragrant broth.

The broth smelled amazing as it was cooking on the stove, and the vegetables turned out perfectly - the squash was nice and tender and practically melted into the curry. The tofu was soft and chewy and it absorbed lots of flavour by cooking it in the spice paste before adding the other ingredients.

Overall, I thought this was a nice mellow version of Thai food - it wasn't very spicy but still packed a nice amount of heat. Sprinkle with chopped cashews to add some crunch and serve over rice for a nourishing vegan dinner that should warm you up on these cold nights we've been having lately!

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash and Tofu
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 package firm tofu (12-14 ounces)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbsp yellow curry paste
2 cups + 1/3 cup coconut milk beverage
3/4 cup vegetable stock
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 thai red chili, seeded and minced (or more if you like it spicier!)
1 buttercup squash (1.5 to 2 lbs), seeded, peeled and diced into pieces
1 red pepper, sliced
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Kosher salt to taste
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn into pieces
Cooked rice for serving
~1/4 cup chopped cashews for topping

Slice block of tofu in half and press between layers of paper towels, under a heavy book. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, then cut into cubes.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, garlic and curry paste. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the tofu pieces and stir to coat in the curry mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup coconut milk and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 cups coconut milk, vegetable stock, lime leaves, and red chili. Add the squash pieces (you may have to remove some of the tofu to make room for the squash, so that the squash is immersed in the liquid, then return the tofu to the pot on the top). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is near tender.

Add the red pepper and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the tamarind, tamari, lime juice, sugar and salt. Add the kale leaves and cover for about 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the kale is wilted.

Serve over rice.  Top each serving with a handful of chopped cashews.

Makes 4 servings. 

November 20, 2012

Toasted Buckwheat & Millet Granola

I'm finally back with another post!  If you noticed that things were a bit quiet on here for the past week and a half, the reason is that I was away at another conference, which kept me extremely busy! My sister and I were both invited to attend a conference in Seoul, South Korea and I just got back this weekend.  It was nice to return to some slightly warmer weather here in Ontario, since it was freezing in Seoul!

I was planning on doing another travel post to share some of the food that I ate on my trip, but it turns out that I really didn't have any interesting meals while I was there.  The only authentic Korean dish that I tried was a vegetarian bibambap (rice with lots of different vegetables and spicy Korean red pepper paste), which I shared on my Facebook page.  If you're interested in seeing more, you can check out my sister Natalie's post about our trip on her blog Once Upon a Cutting Board.

Since there wasn't a lot of vegetarian food readily available in Seoul, I was glad that I had brought some of my own snacks with me.  The day before I left, I made a batch of granola to bring along, and I liked it so much that I had to recreate it as soon as I got home so I could share the recipe with you!

Ever since I tried this buckwheat snack from SaSha Co., I've been wanting to make my own version of a granola using toasted buckwheat (also called kasha). Kasha is a heart-healthy whole grain made by toasting raw buckwheat groats, and is a great option to use as a base for gluten-free granola instead of oats.

I also added some uncooked millet to my granola, both for its nutrients and to add extra crunch! Along with the millet, I included slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, cherries and raisins as additional mix-ins.  Everything got coated in a mixture of almond butter and agave syrup and baked in the oven in a single layer to help it clump together.

After coming out of the oven, the kasha and millet took on an even stronger toasted, nutty flavour that I loved.  This is an extremely crunchy granola, so it's perfect for adding to milk or yogurt without getting mushy - this is actually the first cereal that I've been able to enjoy in a bowl with almond milk in a long time - it survived a photo shoot and was still perfectly crunchy by the time I was able to eat it afterwards!

I also liked that it wasn't too sweet, so it made a good snack for munching on its own too, which I did throughout my long journey to and from Korea!

Toasted Buckwheat & Millet Granola
Adapted from Mitten Machen

1 cup toasted buckwheat (kasha)
2 tbsp uncooked millet
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Dash of kosher salt
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries, and/or blueberries
2 tbsp sultana raisins

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the toasted buckwheat, millet, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

If your almond butter is on the thick/harder side, microwave it on medium power for 15-30 seconds, until it is thin and pourable.  Add the agave and vanilla to the almond butter and whisk to mix together. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.

Spread mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Press down with a rubber spatula to form a large rectangle that holds together. Place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and add the pepitas and sunflower seeds. Flip the mixture with a spatula and press together again to form a rectangle.  Return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the dried fruit and raisins over the mixture, then press them down with a spatula. Let cool completely on the baking sheet without stirring. Once cool, break granola up into pieces. Store in a bag or airtight container. 

This was submitted to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert & Dogs

November 09, 2012

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Scones

Starbucks' pumpkin scones are a tradition that I used to love to indulge in occasionally, but I actually haven't had one in a couple of years.  I've become used to my own homemade baked goods, which tend to have much less sugar and calories than the storebought kinds, and are much more economical too!

While I love pumpkin baked goods, one of my other favourite Fall vegetables to bake with is sweet potato.  For a lot of baking recipes, you can easily swap pumpkin puree with pureed sweet potato for a slightly different flavour.  I also find that sweet potato is naturally sweeter than canned pumpkin, so you can get away with adding a bit less sugar to your recipe!

For these scones, I started with a recipe for copycat vegan Starbucks pumpkin scones, but made some changes to turn them into spiced sweet potato scones instead.

These scones are not exactly like traditional scones - rather than having the crumbly, buttery texture of some scones, these are a bit flatter (which may have been my fault for rolling the dough too thin) and softer inside - kind of like a muffin top.

Personally, I loved the softer texture and the flavour of these scones!  The scones themselves weren't very sweet, so you could add a glaze on top like the Starbucks variety.  Instead of a glaze, I opted for a cinnamon-sugar topping, which added a nice bit of crunch and extra sweetness.  

These can easily be eaten just on their own - I even liked them cold!  You could also spread a little Earth Balance on top for more buttery flavour, or a layer of peanut butter or jam if that's how you like to eat your scones!  If I had a jar of pumpkin butter or apple butter on hand, I think that would be the perfect topping!

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Scones
Adapted from With a Side of Sneakers' Pumpkin Scones

1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup light spelt flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup mashed sweet potato puree
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cold Earth Balance coconut spread (or other vegan butter)
1 tbsp melted Earth Balance
1/2 tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through to cane sugar).

In a separate bowl, mix the almond milk, sweet potato, molasses and vanilla. Stir or whisk until smooth.

Cut the Earth Balance into the dry ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until combined.

Press or roll dough out onto a floured surface into a square shape, about ¾” thick. Cut the dough with a knife in half lengthwise, and again across the width, to form four equal squares.  Cut each square in half diagonally to form 8 equal triangles.

Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom and firm on top.  Let sit on the baking sheet for about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

While scones are still warm, brush the tops with the melted butter.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the scones. 

Makes 8 small scones. 

November 06, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with White Bean-Sage Sauce

A bowl of warm pasta with lots of veggies and sauce is one of my favourite comfort foods in the winter. I grew up eating my parents' homemade veggie and tomato pasta sauce and I still look forward to eating that meal whenever I'm at home!

It may seem surprising that I've never actually made my own tomato sauce for pasta!  I like to think the reason is that I want to keep my family's recipe special by not attempting to create my own version, but sometimes the truth is that I just use jarred pasta sauce.  Another reason is that I'm always tempted to try new recipes and unique ideas for pasta using different combinations of noodles, veggies, and sauces other than tomato.

The latest pasta recipe that I've tried was inspired by a white bean and sage pasta recipe in the cookbook Vegan Planet.  The original version was a simple linguine tossed in a sauce made from white beans and vegetable stock and infused with fresh sage.

For my own version, I added some garlic for even more flavour, used a thicker noodle to catch all of the sauce, and added some roasted cauliflower so that the dish would have something other than just noodles and sauce.

I thought this combination really worked well together!  The sauce ended up being nice and thick and creamy, even though there was no dairy in it. It had lots of flavour from the garlic, sage, vegetable stock and lemon juice, and the roasted cauliflower was the perfect addition!

Overall, this was a healthy, yet still hearty and comforting pasta dish for winter.  And the best part was that my leftovers lasted me all through the week, so I could look forward to coming home out of the cold weather and heating up a bowl for dinner!

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with White Bean-Sage Sauce
Adapted from Vegan Planet

For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup torn sage leaves
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2-3/4 cup vegetable stock

For the pasta:
1 lb dried pasta, such as fusilli
Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut cauliflower into bite sized pieces.  Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Roast for 25-35 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic and sage and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the beans, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook until beans are heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer contents of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend, gradually adding ½ cup of vegetable stock. If you are making the sauce ahead of time, transfer it to a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente.  Drain and return pasta to the pot.  Add the sauce and the cauliflower and stir until thoroughly mixed. If the sauce is too thick, add more of the remaining 1/4 cup vegetable stock. Transfer pasta to a serving dish.

Serve warm, with additional ground pepper and fresh lemon wedges for squeezing over top.

Makes 4-5 servings. 


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