March 28, 2013

Coconut Mango Breakfast Cake

With the long weekend coming up, and the Easter holiday for those who celebrate it, this weekend should be a busy one filled with family and food! And for anyone who plans on doing some Spring baking this weekend, I've got a nice light breakfast cake recipe for you today.

This cake will also get you in the mood for warmer weather (which hopefully comes soon!) with its tropical notes of coconut and mango. Plus it has a fun twist - instead of adding fruit to the cake batter, mango slices are laid on top of the cake before baking, so that it comes out looking like rays of sunshine!

The idea for this recipe came from including cake, a blog that has tons of unique vegan creations (I have so many of her recipes bookmarked!). Her version was a coconut "sweetbread" with nectarines and cinnamon, which I changed to mango and ginger to complement the coconut flavour even more.

The original recipe was made with gluten-free self-raising flour, but since I wanted to stick with baking methods that I'm more experienced with, I made my cake with light spelt flour and added baking powder (sorry to my gluten-free readers!).

The cake itself was lightly sweetened with a hint of coconut, so the mango slices on top added a welcome burst of sweetness and kept the cake from being dry.

My favourite thing about this cake was the texture - it's soft and chewy, kind of like a cross between bread and coffee cake. I also found it to be really light tasting, which is why it's appropriate as a breakfast cake!

This is the type of breakfast that I couldn't get enough of  - I tried just eating one piece, but found myself going back for another, and then another. So be careful if you make this with the intention of sharing it with others, because it might be difficult to share!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Coconut Mango Breakfast Cake
Adapted from including cake

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup light spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger (this adds a strong ginger flavour - use 1/2 tsp for less strong)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup mashed banana (1 small ripe banana)
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp almond milk
1-2 tbsp large flaked coconut (I used a mixture of unsweetened coconut flakes + sweeteened coconut chips)
Half a ripe mango

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet or a cake pan by spraying with cooking spray (I used a 9” round cake pan but a baking sheet should work fine).

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through to coconut). In a separate bowl, mix the mashed banana, agave, and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are incorporated. If the  mixture is still too dry, add almond milk 1 tablespoon at a time until there are no more dry parts (I used 1 tbsp).

Drop mixture onto the baking sheet or cake pan and use a rubber spatula to spread it out into a circle about 6” wide and 1” thick. Sprinkle the coconut flakes on top.  Carefully slice or peel off the skin of the mango and cut one half lengthwise into thin slices (save the other half for another use).  Lay the mango slices on top of the cake so that they join in the middle and point outwards (as shown in the photos). Press them down lightly into the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes one 6” cake (2 large servings or more as a snack)

March 25, 2013

Peanut Butter Bunnies and Raw Cookie Chicks for Easter

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you've probably realized that I love to make themed recipes for every holiday that comes around, and Easter is no different!

I couldn't wait to share these Easter themed treats that I made last week because they actually turned out even more adorable than I had imagined!

I started developing these chicks and bunnies in my head when I was bored (ie. procrastinating) one day. I knew I wanted to make healthy-ish, bite-sized, no-bake treats and since I came up with different ideas for both chicks and bunnies, I decided to make both.

The chicks are a raw cookie base, like the energy balls that I'm used to making as snacks for myself. I went with a mixture of cashews, walnuts and oats with a dash of cinnamon and salt to get a cookie flavour. And while I would usually use dates in a raw cookie recipe to add sweetness and stickiness, I went with golden raisins this time so that the chicks would have a light, golden colour.

Once I shaped the cookie mixture into chicks, I rolled them in coconut to create a feather effect, and decorated them with raw cacao nibs and dried apricots to complete their features.

While they certainly weren't perfect (especially the one on the left!), they did end up looking like chubby little baby chicks, which was what I was going for!

The chicks themselves had just the right texture - chewy and crumbly, with a touch of sweetness from the golden raisins and a hint of coconut flavour.  They did taste more on the healthy side rather than a dessert (especially since I forgot to add any extra sweetener), but as long as you're not expecting a sweet, rich treat than I think you'll love them as a snack!

These bunnies on the other hand, are definitely on the tasty dessert side of the scale!  The filling is a mixture of creamy peanut butter with a bit of icing sugar for sweetness and rice puffs for crispiness. I also added a bit of coconut flour to help thicken the mixture and make it a bit easier to work with.

I wasn't really sure how to go about creating rabbit shapes from scratch, but managed to make shapes of different sizes from the peanut butter mixture and stuck them together to create something that (hopefully) resembles bunnies!

Once I had formed the bunnies, the last step was to coat them in melted white chocolate so that they would have a firm shell in a nice Eastery white colour (although as you can see, I didn't do a very clean job with the coating so bits of brown are still poking through!). Of course, you're welcome to use dark chocolate instead if that's your preference!

I admit I did feel a bit guilty when I first went to bite one of these little guy's heads off, but once I knew how delicious they tasted, all my guilt went away!

I loved the creamy peanut butter filling mixed with the white chocolate coating, and the rice puffs helped to lighten up the texture a bit so that it didn't taste as rich.

The only downside of the bunnies was the effort and time it took to make them, especially since you need to keep chilling the mixture in between steps. That was one reason why I only made small batches of each treat for myself, but feel free to double or triple the recipes below if you want to share these Easter treats with others!

Note: the recipes below include instructions for shaping into chicks or bunnies. If you don't have time to do this, you can still use the recipes to make simple ball shapes, like truffles, instead!

Raw Cookie Chicks

2 tbsp raw cashews
2 tbsp raw walnuts
2 tbsp rolled oats
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of sea salt
2 tbsp golden raisins
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-1 tsp agave nectar (I forgot this and I still liked them - they just weren't very sweet)
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tbsp non-dairy milk
Dried apricot and raw cacao nibs for decorating

Place the first five ingredients in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the raisins, vanilla and agave and process again until it forms a sticky mixture. 

Roll dough into 6 balls - 3 should be a slightly bigger size for the bodies and 3 should be smaller to form the heads. Carefully stick the heads onto the bodies, pressing together to make sure it sticks and reforming the balls so that they keep their shape. (see pictures below):

Place the coconut on a shallow plate. Brush the milk onto the outsides of the chicks and then roll chicks in the coconut, pressing in to help it stick. 

Push two small cacao nibs into each head to make eyes, and two more cacao nibs into the bottom of each body to make feet. Cut small slices of dried apricot into triangle shapes and stick on to each head to make noses (Note: If the nose won't stick on its own, dot some peanut butter on the end first to help it stick). 

Store in the fridge. 

Makes 3 chicks

Peanut Butter Bunnies

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 cup rice puffs (I used kamut puffs and chopped them in half to make smaller pieces)
~2 oz white chocolate (can substitute vegan chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp coconut oil
Cacao nibs for eyes

In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, icing sugar, vanilla, salt, and coconut flour until smooth.  Stir in the rice puffs. Chill mixture in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up.

Roll mixture into shapes to make the bunnies: you will need 3 larger ovals for the bodies, 3 small round balls for the heads, 6 thin logs for the ears, 3 tiny balls for the tails, and 6 small ovals for the feet. I recommend forming the shapes in stages, chilling in between (as soon as the mixture gets too soft to work with, stick it back in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes before continuing).

Put the shapes together to make three bunnies: Lay the oval shaped body on the plate, stick the head onto one end, add the ears to the head, place the tail on the back end of the body, and stick the feet onto the front end of the body. Place bunnies in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm up. 

Meanwhile, heat the white chocolate in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Add the coconut oil and microwave again for 15 seconds. Stir until smooth and heat once more if it is not melted yet. 

Use a spoon or small spatula to spread the melted white chocolate onto the bunnies. As soon as you coat one bunny, stick the cacao nibs on for the eyes (Note: if the chocolate hardens before you can add the eyes, just dip one side of the cacao nib into melted white chocolate and then stick it on the head). Let the coated bunnies firm up in the fridge. 

Store in the fridge and serve chilled or at room temperature. 

Makes 3 bunnies. 

March 20, 2013

Tropical Detox Salad

I spent a few days in Boston last week at a conference - hence the lack of activity around here - and I came back home craving fresh and healthy meals, which always happens when I go away on trips. So this detox salad is what I'm eating this week!

I'm sure there are plenty of great vegetarian places to eat in Boston, but I didn't have any time to explore the city on my own, so my only meals consisted of the Starbucks in the lobby for breakfast, boxed lunches provided by the conference, and dinners at a restaurant nearby chosen by the group. That meant my options on the menu were somewhat limited to things like cheese pizza or pasta with tomato sauce, but I still had a good time which is what counts!

Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get back into my own kitchen and make a huge fresh salad to enjoy. The only vegetable remaining in my fridge was the rest of the parsnips from this recipe, so I searched through my bookmarks for other parsnip ideas and was reminded of this raw parsnip rice with pineapple from the taste space.

A raw salad full of fresh ingredients sounded like just the thing I wanted, so I headed out to the grocery store to pick up the rest of the components.

I ended up changing up Janet's recipe quite a bit to squeeze in even more fruits and veggies and turn the dish into more of a tropical inspired salad than her Thai version.

The base of the salad is a mixture of raw parsnips, carrot, and cauliflower all ground up to resemble the texture of couscous. Next, I added fresh pineapple, mango, red pepper and cucumber, plus some dried apricots, all finely diced to the same size.

Once you've got your fruits and veggies, the next component is to add more layers of flavour with lots of herbs - I used cilantro, mint, and green onion. And of course a great salad in my mind needs some kind of nuts, so I went with Janet's suggestion of adding chopped roasted cashews.

Finally, to bring everything together, I made a light and fruity dressing by pureeing more pineapple with some lime juice and ginger.

This turned out to be exactly what I was craving! The best way to describe this salad is that it's super refreshing, and how could it not be, with all of those raw ingredients? I loved the combination of sweet ripe tropical fruits with the crisp veggies, crunchy cashews, and fresh herbs.

My favourite salads are ones with lots of different ingredients so that every bite is interesting, and I thought all of the components in this salad were balanced out nicely so that one flavour didn't dominate.

This recipe also makes a big batch, and I'm happy to have a full container of it to eat for meals over the next few days until my cravings for comfort food come back!

Tropical Detox Salad
Inspired by the taste space

2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 a small head of cauliflower, chopped
1/2 a large red pepper, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup finely diced cucumber
1 ripe mango, finely diced
1.5 cups diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
5-6 tbsp chopped cashews (I used unsalted roasted cashews)
1/4 cup finely diced apricots

1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple
Juice of one lime
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp tamari
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
1 tsp olive oil
Dash of herbamare or salt

Add the parsnips, carrot, and cauliflower to the large bowl of a food processor. Pulse until veggies are finely minced, but not pureed (the texture should resemble rice).  Transfer to a large bowl.   It should look like this: 

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, stirring to mix thoroughly.

To make the dressing, add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to mix.

Store salad in the fridge until ready to eat. Serve cold or at room temperature.  Season each serving with additional lime juice and/or herbamare if desired.

Makes 4-5 large servings.

March 13, 2013

Hummus Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fries

Today's post is a quick one with a simple idea for eating your veggies in a fun way!  If you love sweet potato fries, and if you also love roasted root veggies, then I think you'll be a fan of this recipe!

I've tried making Angela's popular nut butter coated parsnip fries in the past, but something went wrong and they just didn't turn out as good as I was expecting.  I wanted to give parsnip fries another chance though, and now that I've discovered hummus-coated fries, I've found a new way to make tasty and easy parsnip fries in the oven.

I got the idea for these fries after seeing this recipe for tahini carrot fries on Glow Kitchen. I figured if you can use tahini to cover carrot fries, why not use hummus? And since I couldn't decide between making carrot or parsnip fries, I decided to make both!

All you need to do to make these fries is take your favourite flavour of hummus, mix it with a bit of olive oil, and toss strips of carrots and parsnips in the mixture until they are well coated.  Then bake in the oven for about half an hour, and you end up with tender, browned veggies that you can either eat on their own or dipped in ketchup.

I loved how roasting the veggies brought out their natural sweetness, and the hummus added a hint of spicy, nutty flavour. The hummus also dried out a bit in the oven and started to turn into flakes - almost like flavoured seasoning!

This is a simple side dish that will hopefully give some of you a new idea the next time you find yourself wondering what to do with those carrots or parsnips in your vegetable drawer!

Hummus Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fries
Adapted from Glow Kitchen and Oh She Glows

1 medium-large carrot
1 medium-large parsnip
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp hummus (I used a chipotle flavoured hummus)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Peel the carrot and parsnip and cut into thin french fry shapes with a knife.  Place in a bowl or other dish so you can toss them in the coating. 

Stir together the olive oil and hummus and add a dash of salt and pepper. Pour over the vegetables and use a spatula or spoon to toss the carrot and parsnip in the hummus mixture, until the fries are evenly coated.  

Transfer fries to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until the fries are softened and browned on the outside.

Serve warm, with ketchup (if desired). 

Makes 1 serving (the amount shown in the photos).

March 08, 2013

Green Vermicelli Noodle Bowl with Tofu

Like my last post, today's recipe is light and vibrant, leading the way into Spring, which I hope will come soon! After all, March did come in like a lion so that should mean it will go out like a lamb, right?

The inspiration for this green noodle dish came from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty cookbook, where I saw a recipe for warm glass noodles with edamame and green onions. I liked the idea of thin Asian style noodles full of edamame, so I turned that idea into my own dish.

I used brown rice vermicelli for the noodles (since glass noodles are hard to find). Then along with the edamame, I also added barely cooked snow peas for some crunch, and lightly sauteed tofu cubes for extra protein and texture.

Instead of using the green onions in the dish itself, I decided to pair the noodles with a recipe for green onion miso vinaigrette from Appetite for Reduction.  I made a couple of changes to the original recipe, like using white miso instead of red and reducing the amount of water to make a thicker, creamier dressing.

I have to say, the dressing surprised me - miso and green onions aren't typically ingredients that I tend to favour, but they came together to make a bold and flavourful dressing with just the right amount of bite from the onion, garlic and ginger!

I didn't intend for it to turn out this way, but with the brilliant green dressing, the edamame and the snow peas, this turned out to be a very green bowl - just in time for St. Patrick's Day!  You can also add extra green onions as a garnish for one more green component, which I forgot to do for these photos.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and don't forget to Spring forward on Sunday!

Green Vermicelli Noodle Bowl with Tofu
Inspired by Plenty; sauce adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1/4 cup white miso
1.5 cups chopped scallions (white and green parts)
2.5 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar (or honey for non-vegan option)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water

175g firm tofu
7 oz brown rice vermicelli
2 cups frozen edamame
6-7 oz snow peas
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 fresh green chili, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sesame seeds for garnish
Green onions for garnish (optional)

First, prepare the sauce by placing all ingredients in a blender and pureeing until smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Press the water out of the tofu (press between paper towels under a heavy book for 15-30 minutes). Slice tofu into small cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with a bit of cooking spray. Add tofu pieces and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then flip pieces and cook for a couple more minutes on the other side. Set aside.

Soak the vermicelli in boiling water for 2 minutes (or follow package directions). Drain and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the edamame and cook for 5 minutes (or according to package directions). Drain and set aside. Wash the peas and trim the ends, removing the strings if desired.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Crush the garlic cloves with the flat part of a knife, then roughly chop them. Add garlic to the heated pan and cook for about 1 minute, until lightly browned. Add the chili and the snow peas and sauté for about one more minute. Add the cooked noodles and cilantro, stirring to mix. Pour in the sauce and toss everything with tongs or large spoons until the noodles are all coated and separated (Note: If your skillet isn’t large enough to hold all the noodles, you may have to transfer everything to a larger saucepan).  Add the tofu pieces and toss to combine. Once everything is warmed through, remove from heat.

Serve warm. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a handful of chopped green onion if desired.

Makes 4 servings. 

Note: I found this was best eaten on the day it's made. If you plan on having leftovers, I would recommend only adding enough sauce for the portion that you are going to eat now, and then store the leftover noodles separately from the sauce in the fridge, only adding the sauce to each serving as you eat them.  Otherwise, the noodles will get a bit soggy (as I learned!).

March 04, 2013

Raw Rainbow "Ice Cream" Cake with Coconut Whipped Cream for St. Patrick's Day

With St. Patrick's Day coming up in less than two weeks, I wanted to experiment with a recipe to celebrate the occasion. It seems like pretty much every traditional Irish recipe from soda bread to colcannon has already been posted several times, and I've seen tons of different green tinted foods and beer infused foods on the web too. 

So instead of going with something green, alcoholic, or Irish, I looked for inspiration from another St. Patrick's Day icon: the pot o'gold at the end of a rainbow!

My mind immediately started spinning with ideas for how to create a rainbow themed recipe, and in the end, I came up with this layered cake made with a raw crust, four layers of "ice cream" made solely from fruit, and a coconut whipped cream topping to resemble a cloud. And of course, the final touch that I added just for photo purposes was a pile of gold coins (chocolate, not real gold unfortunately)!

I was so happy with how this cake turned out - it was just how I had pictured it in my mind. And since I loved how it looked so much, this post is going to be more picture-heavy than usual!

While the recipe may look long and it was a bit time consuming to make, there wasn't that much actual hands-on time and as long as you've got some ripe fruit and a food processor, you can easily make this yourself!

The crust is a simple mixture of raw nuts, dates and coconut that gets crushed up and pressed down into the bottom of your cake pan.

Once the crust is ready, the next step is making the layers for the cake one at a time.  The base of each layer is a frozen banana, which as many of you probably already know, turns into a creamy ice cream-like consistency when you blend it in a food processor (although it firms up quite a bit after being in the freezer).

By adding different coloured fruits along with the banana, I was able to make four distinct layers to represent (some of) the colours of the rainbow: purple from blueberries and blackberries; pink from strawberries; yellow from mango; and green from avocado.

I actually made enough for two small cakes, in different shapes.  Pictured above is a round cake made with a miniature springform cake pan (which makes removal much easier!), and below is a rectangular cake made by forming the layers in one side of a square cake pan.

I liked the look of both shapes, so feel free to use whichever size pan is more convenient. As long the pan has edges to hold in the layers, you can build your cake in pretty much any shape you like!

While you could eat the ice cream cake on its own, I highly recommend making the coconut whipped cream topping. If you've never made whipped cream from coconut milk before, you can find step-by-step guides at the Kitchn and Oh She Glows to use as references.

I sweetened the whipped cream with a bit of icing sugar and added a dash of coconut extract to bring out the coconut flavour even more.  I loved how light and fluffy the whipped cream was and it tasted so good with the fruity ice cream layers.

If you love rainbow sherbert, then you'll love this cake because that's pretty much what it tastes like when you take a bite of all the layers together.  And if you're worried about the avocado, don't be - it actually blends well with the other flavours and you don't really notice a pronounced avocado taste when you eat everything together.

And can you believe that there's no added sugar or sweetener of any kind in the whole cake (not including the whipped cream)? As long as you have ripe fruits, they should provide all the natural sweetness you need!

I doubt my cakes will last until St. Patrick's Day, but you don't need a holiday to make this - I think it would brighten up any day :)

Raw Rainbow "Ice Cream" Cake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Note: This recipe does require some preparation at least a day in advance. Before you start making it, make sure you have at least 3 ripe bananas in your freezer and a can of coconut milk chilling in the fridge.

1/4 cup natural almonds
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp ground flax
Dash of salt
1/2 cup (heaping) chopped dates

Purple Layer
1 small-medium frozen ripe banana, chopped
1/4 cup blueberries and blackberries

Pink Layer
1 small-medium frozen ripe banana, chopped
1/4 cup chopped strawberries

Yellow Layer
1/2 a large frozen ripe banana, chopped
1/2 heaping cup chopped ripe mango

Green Layer
1/2 a large frozen ripe banana, chopped
1/2 a ripe avocado (about ½ cup)
1/2 tsp lime zest

1 can full fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight unopened
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp coconut extract (can substitute vanilla extract if desired)

To make the crust, place the almonds and cashews in the small bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are ground. Add the coconut, flax, and salt and process again until ingredients are combined. Add the dates and process until the dates are broken down. The mixture should stick together if you squeeze it together with your fingers.

Transfer the crust to the bottom of your desired pans.  I filled one round mini cake pan (4-inch wide, 2-inch deep pan with a removable bottom) and used the remaining crust to make a rectangular shaped cake by filling an 8x8 square pan (lined with a piece of parchment paper) about one-third to one-half full. Press the crust mixture down firmly, making sure it is evenly spread.  Store the crust in the fridge or freezer while you make the remaining layers.

Make the ice cream layers one a time, in whichever order you like. For each layer, place the ingredients in the small bowl of your food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Once you’ve made one layer, spread it evenly over the crust in your pan(s). Let it sit in the freezer until it starts to firm up, at least 15-30 minutes.

Continue with the next ice cream layer, following the same process as before. Let each layer firm up in the freezer before adding the next one. 

Here's how the cakes looked before frosting:

To make the whipped cream, open your can of coconut milk (do not shake it first). Scoop out the thick white cream that should have formed on top into a bowl (leave the watery part in the can). Use a hand mixer (or stand mixer) to beat the cream until it starts to firm up. Add the icing sugar and coconut extract and continue beating until the cream is nice and thick and fluffy like whipped cream, about 3-5 minutes.

Keep ice cream cake(s) stored in the freezer. For the best defrosting results, transfer cake to the fridge for about 1 hour prior to serving, then let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, until the ice cream starts to soften slightly. Top cake(s) with whipped cream (Note: If you are storing the cake in the freezer, I would recommend keeping the whipped cream separate in the fridge, and adding it to individual servings when you're ready to eat, otherwise it will become a frozen block of whipped cream, as I learned!). 

Makes 2 small cakes or 1 larger cake.


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