Thursday, 27 March 2008

apples 'n oats

The other night I was just hanging out on my couch watching some Julia Child reruns when a light bulb struck. She was making a traditional French apple dessert with homemade pasty, lots of sugar and of course butter. Now, I have no idea how I got from fancy French desserts to the humble apple and oats you see pictured here but I went with it and made something very delicious. Nice juicy apples bits, sweet chewy oats and nuts all pulled together with just a touch of agave nectar spiced with garam masala. It begs to be stirred into yogurt, crumbled over ice cream or just eaten straight from the pan- hot or cold.

Starting last week a good friend and I started a 4 week refined sugar fast. We are still consuming natural sugars from fruits, vegetables and starches but have decided to cut out everything containing granular sugar. Just in case you have not read an ingredients label in a while....sugar is in everything! It was in my hummus, pasta sauce and curry paste. It's just small amounts in those things and our main concern here is basically cutting out actual sweets from out diet, but we don't do anything halvsies so here we are. Today makes exactly one week without sugar and although chocolate cake sounds really appealing, I know that it would probably just make my stomach ache, send me into a sugar high then send me spiraling down- leaving me tired, cranky and wanting more sugar. This is exactly the type of cycle we are trying to stop. Oh, and maybe to look a bit better in our swimsuits without resorting to the diet coke and cigarettes diet. I'm kidding. We are already swimsuit models anyway.

Eat this yummy goodness for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack or for a light dinner. It's probably one of the most versatile things I have ever posted. It's also a very forgiving recipe so if you don't like garam marsala, try substituting some cinnamon and nutmeg. Or if you don't like nuts.....leave them out! Maybe add some dried fruit? Whatever goes here and I'm sure whatever you do will be tasty. Promise.

you will need these:
baking sheet or cast iron skillet for toasting oats and nuts
8 x 8 baking dish
cutting board and knife
small saucepan
wooden spoon


4 medium organic apples, skin on
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 C rolled oats, not the quick cooking kind
1/4 C flax seeds
1/4 C raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 C raw cashews, almonds, pecans or walnuts
3/4 C agave nectar
3 T coconut butter
1 T garam masala
2 good handfuls of unsweetened coconut (optional)

pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

toast the oats and seeds and nuts on a cookie sheet in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until nice and fragrant. you can also toast the oats and seeds and nuts in a cast iron skillet on the stove in about the same amount of time using a medium/high heat. just make sure to move them around a bit to keep from burning

lower oven temperature to 350 degrees

chop apples into 1 inch cubes and place directly in baking dish, ungreased

zest the lemon and set aside the zest. then squeeze the lemon over the apples and mix with hands to coat

in small sauce pan over medium heat, heat agave nectar, coconut butter and garam masala until everything is incorporated

sprinkle oats and agave over the apples and with a spoon mix very lightly until everything is evenly spaced

bake for 30 miutes

then sprinkle a couple of handfulls of unsweetened coconut evenly over the top and broil for a couple of minutes until nice and golden brown

remove from oven and eat as soon as you can!

serves 8-10

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

chocolate stout muffins

St. Patrick’s Day does not do a whole lot for me. Inevitably I forget to wear green, it's not a stay-at-home paid official holiday, people turn their beer undesirable shades of green, and I bear no personal attachment because I'm not Irish. However, a lot of my very dear friends are Irish, I love beer (without food coloring), my favorite color is green, and shamrocks are extremely adorable (and lucky!). And not that I need an excuse to bake really: I just could not resist doing something for St. Patty's Day.

Randomly the other day I was poking around the PETA website and saw a recipe for vegan chocolate stout cupcakes. I was intrigued and inspired- most of all I was excited about taste testing several different stout beers and paring them with chocolate for the ultimate taste explosion. I had grandiose visions of myself in my kitchen with little shot glasses of fine expensive stout and little pieces of rich dark organic chocolate. I would be wearing fine linen pants and my hair would be pulled into a perfect little bun and posh, square framed glasses would be perched on my nose. I would take small sips of stout and then delicate crisp bites of chocolate and find the perfect pairing for my little cupcakes. I would be the hit of some random St. Patrick’s Day party and I would gain 20 new blog subscribers all thanks to my delicious chocolate stout cupcakes.

In reality, my little fantasy is pretty far from this image. There's me in Kroger without a list, without having read the recipe in a week and have since forgotten every single ingredient besides beer and chocolate and it's at the end of a long, long day. I have frazzled hair, am wearing cheap cotton pants and definitely have no posh glasses to speak of. I am perusing the beer aisle suddenly forgetting if it's stout or lager I'm looking for. Hrm. I finally decided on the Yuengling lager in its pretty green bottles and easy to swallow price tag. Then I get home and my internet is not working so I am unable to read the recipe. Honestly, this did not dampen my spirits one bit. After my last experiment with the peanut butter and jelly muffins my confidence level has raised significantly with creating a recipe from scratch. I have memorized certain ratios of things over the years and know when a batter is created whether or not it needs more liquid or flour to turn out just right. This comes from some pretty intense nerdy baking habits of reading every cookbook I can get my hands on, reading lots of baking blogs and doing lots of experiments in my tiny kitchen. It's all worth it.

So I arrived home from Kroger, immediately turned on the new Kylie Minogue album "X" and cracked open two beers. One for me, one for the muffins. I got to work with as much confidence as ever and had a wonderful time mixing, drinking, pouring, drinking and of course, lots of dancing and singing into my wooden spoon.

Before I even started this little experiment though I knew I did not want to follow the recipe exactly. There was too much sugar and fat in the version on the PETA website for me. I wanted something a little less sweet. I really wanted the beer flavor to come through but did not think it would pair well with a cloying sweet confection. Plus, after a night of heaving drinking the last thing a person wants is more sugar in their system. So, I added just a little molasses and touch of agave and what came out is more like brown Irish soda bread, than a cupcake. But it pairs so nicely with the vegan sour cream icing which contains sugar and vanilla. The end result is a muffin with icing kind of resembling a pint with a frothy top. The first moment of the bite tastes like beer, and then the savory/sweet flavors of molasses, flax seed and agave come through. You will get perfect little beer muffins just waiting to be gobbled up by hungry party-goers. Or, by hungover party-goers. Either way, these things rock- holiday or no holiday, Irish or not.

*a note about beer and stout. a lot of beers and wine are not vegan! it's easy to find out though the handy internet. just google 'vegan beer' or something similar and there are several web pages devoted to informing you on such things. if you are not vegan or don't care, use Guinness, because that's the right thing to do.

you will need these:
2 mixing bowls
wooden spoon
2 muffin tins

dry ingredients:
2 C unbleached self rising flour (white lilly makes an incredible version)
1/3 C cocoa powder (use the good stuff here since it's flavor will really shine through)
pinch of salt

liquid ingredients:
1 C beer or stout
1/2 C unsulfured organic molasses
1/2 C agave nectar
2 T flax seeds blended with 4 T cold water until a thick mass forms

sour cream icing:
generous 1 C vegan sour cream (i used tofutti and it was delicious)
1/2 C brown fine grain organic sugar
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla non-alcohol extract

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

grease two muffins pans or enough for 18 muffins

combine the dry ingredients and set aside

whisk the liquid ingredients until well combined

add liquid mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined

divide evenly among the muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

while muffins are cooking whip the sour cream with the sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy

let the muffins cool completely before slathering with icing otherwise you will have a runny mess on your hands. i speak from experience here, however this runny mess is super delicious so it's up to you if you want to get messy or not

my suggestion is to put the icing in the fridge for a little while before icing them. i've been icing them one at a time as i serve them and this has seemed to work best. store them in the fridge. and because this recipe has no oil or fat, they will get dry in a couple days. so eat up!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

peanut butter and jelly muffins

Yes, juvenile things just exploded all over your computer screen when you clicked this link, but I hope you like it. At first I was going to apologize for the tacky picture and seemingly childish food but then I decided against it because it kind of fits the mood I’m in. And so do these muffins.

Lately my taste buds have been reverting back to their 10 year old former selves and encouraging me to eat things like plain cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, plain rice with butter, tater tots, popcorn and Little Debbie cakes. I’ve not considered adding saffron to my rice, or opting for salad, or reading the ingredients and making a wise decision to not consume massive amounts of hydrogenated oils. I even bought a giant bag of jelly beans! Yeah, you can judge me if you want, that's OK. I’m confident that one day soon I will be back to my vegetable juicing, fruit smoothie, robust curry, making self. Until then, I’m happy to eat popcorn for dinner and say OK to cookies for breakfast. This is just a phase like any normal (adult) 10 year old.

I was not even planning on coming up with something for a blog post. I came home from work the other night and it was cold, raining hard and I was in the mood for, simple. Then it struck me that I really wanted a pb&j. like bad. But I guess not bad enough to brave the rain and wind and cold to go buy some bread. And like a light bulb it struck! Peanut butter muffins stuffed with jelly- I think that's what the Dali Lama might eat for dinner if he could. I googled "peanut butter and jelly muffins" and whole bunch of smuckers and goobers stuff came up. I’m consuming lots of preservatives now but I’ll be damned if I’m actually going to make hydrogenated crap for myself. That would have required going to the store anyway. And making things like that for myself just seems all wrong- that's Little Debbie’s job. Besides, I’ve yet to find a bottle of corn syrup solids in the baking aisle. I could feel the Force was with me so I went to the kitchen and like I had made these 1,000 times before I came up with what might be the ultimate (juvenile) muffin.

The title posted plus my ranting (and recent love of) preservatives and junk might lead you astray, but rest assured that like any other sweet-tempered recipe this one is quality all around. Organic natural peanut butter, spelt flour, jam without the added sugar, and only a little agave nectar for sweetener. However, I didn't stand in my kitchen trying to decide whether I should grind some cinnamon fresh, or de-seed a vanilla bean, or contemplate the flavors of peanuts and cardamom and would they go good together…..? It’s straight to the point here, folks. So if ever a childish sweet-toother (I’m leaving that typo 'cause I like it) strikes, or perhaps you are entertaining children, or maybe you are home alone during a thunderstorm and REALLY want a pb&j but don't have bread- this is the recipe for you. So grab the (soy) milk and chow down. Because unlike other peanut butter and jelly things, this is actually pretty good for you!

-this recipe made exactly 11 muffins for me. But I think I could have either stretched it a bit for 12, or given a little extra to each for 10. 'Sup to you- sweet-tempered reader. This can probably count under the "how much peanut butter to ratio" discussion that inevitably comes up while discussing pb&j's- it's my humble opinion to load both on without reservations. When it's dripping out the bottom of the sandwich you know it's a good one. I just happened to have smooth, creamy peanut butter but I feel when it comes to sandwiches crunchy peanut butter reigns champion. I also think it would be awesome in this recipe.

you will need these:
2 medium size mixing bowls
wire whisk
rubber spatula
muffin tin

dry mixture:
1 1/2 C spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

liquid mixture:
1/2 C creamy natural organic peanut butter
2 T neutral vegetable oil
1/2 C agave nectar
1/2 C soy milk
1 T apple cider vinegar

1/4 C-or so- jam or jelly (try using all natural, fruit juice sweetened varieties. i happened to have black cherry and that was some delicious stuff)

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

grease the muffin tin or line with paper cups

to assemble:

combine all the dry ingredients and set aside

whisk the vinegar into the milk and set aside

whisk the peanut butter, oil and agave nectar until nice and smooth (this is extremely tasty, by the way) and then whisk in the milk and vinegar mixture

add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just combined

plop into the greased muffin tin. then, with a small spoon put about a teaspoon of jam/jelly right into the center of the batter. if you are a 'lot's of jelly person', go for more. you can't mess this up

bake for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins give just a little to the touch

i can't stress enough how you should at least 2 of these warm right out of the oven. this is some of the best tasting juvenile stuff you will ever put in your mouth.

see? even my jokes are immature.

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