Tag Archives: cake

Hippie Baklava Cake

5 Dec

Recipe Source: For the Love of Food

Baklava is my specialty – I’ve been making my great-grandmother’s recipe for years. And while I’m not at all biased in saying it is THE BOMB, and content to make it the same way over and over and over again, this take on a classic intrigued me. It’s a baklava cake rather than pastry, meaning no phyllo to wrestle with. And further, it’s gluten, soy, dairy, egg, and grain-free!

(I’m labeling this recipe as vegan, although I know some vegans do not eat honey. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a substitute that compares in flavor – agave is a neutral sweetener – and when it comes to baklava, I am a traditionalist.)

baklava cake

I also liked that this recipe calls for almond flour, as I’ve had 2.5 lbs of it sitting in my fridge for a while, neglected. I was intrigued by the use of saffron in this recipe, and happy to use the traditional rosewater, since my family recipe doesn’t call for it. Basically – nice job, Noosh! What’s not to love?!

saffron

Since there are no eggs in this recipe, chia seed meal is combined with applesauce to create a binder. (This can also be achieved with flax seeds.) If you’re thinking about Chia pets right now, you’re not far off – the edible grade of these seeds is considered a superfood, high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Chia seeds absorb water, which gives them the perfect “gloopy” texture for replacing egg. I recommend grinding the seeds fresh in a coffee or spice grinder, if you have one.

chia meal & seeds

When the chia meal, applesauce, honey, rosewater, and saffron water are combined, they’ll have a syurpy texture. Combine with dry ingredients (almond flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking powder) to form the dough.

wet ingredients texture

The texture of this dough is somewhat crumbly and moist. In the original recipe, Noosh allowed for a range of measurements for the honey, and I used the higher end. I also sifted my almond flour, and I think these two decisions made the cake very smooth, sweet, and dense. Next time, I will scale down the honey (already done below), and perhaps not sift the flour to get the more crumbly texture from her pictures.

dough texture

I love using pistachios as a garnish – the green and purple are so lovely and eye-catching, and colors you don’t often get in baked goods. Top each slice with pistachios and a slivered almond, and this makes a unique, wonderfully allergy-friendly treat!

pistachios & almonds

Just be forewarned – you’ll want to serve this cake in small pieces – it’s very rich!

baklava cake

RECIPE – Baklava Cake
(gluten, soy, dairy, egg, grain free)

1/2 cup organic applesauce (unsweetened-just apples)
1 Tbsp organic chia seed meal
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon rose water
2 cups almond flour (Trader Joe’s)/7 ¾ oz/220 g
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of prepared saffron (optional)

Topping
Slivered almonds
Ground pistachios

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease either an 8” glass or parchment-lined pan.

If using saffron, grind threads with a mortar and pestle, add 1/2 tablespoon boiling water, and let sit while you go on to the next step.

In mixer bowl, beat applesauce with chia meal on high for one minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom.

Add honey, rosewater, and saffron (if using) and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: almond flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking powder. Add to mixer bowl and beat just until incorporated. Stir once or twice just to make sure the bottom was mixed in.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a rack, slice in diamonds, and top with crushed pistachios and slivered almonds.

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VegWeek Day 7, Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1 Oct

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901-1978)

VegWeek_2011

Today is the end of VegWeek, but it’s the beginning of the rest of your life! Every day is a new day, full of decisions. If you’re interested in cooking vegan more, most, or all of the time, here are some blog resources I discovered recently. Read them. Try recipes. Find community.

Choose Veg.com
Elana’s Pantry
Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Gluten-Free Goddess
Gluten-Free Vegan Family
Manifest Vegan
Post Punk Kitchen
Vegan Baking.net
Wheat Free Meat Free

girl hugging cowImage via Denise Rich

Change starts small… you can reduce your meat consumption by 15% simply by participating in Meatless Monday! Or if you’re ready to do more, you might consider signing up for the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program. Cooking at home is the most efficient and affordable way to manage your health, but I assume you might want to go out every now and then… fortunately, there are also numerous resources online for finding veg-friendly establishments!

Discover Veggie
Happy Cow.net
Veg San Diego in my ‘hood… and likely something similar in yours!

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

For the rest of us…

Many people I know are not ready to go vegetarian, but still care about the plight of farm animals. I know these feelings are not mutually exclusive. I personally have been paying 2-3 times the price for cage-free eggs for years. Sadly, what I’ve learned is that labeling is misleading. Animals on organic, free-range farms and egg-laying hens in cage-free facilities often undergo the same abuses that non-organic, cage-free animals do. In some cases, they are actually worse off because they cannot be fed antibiotics to counteract the disease their mishandling produces.

Humane farms do exist, but they are few and far-between. Now I understand why going vegan is considered the most practical solution to the cruelty, health, and environmental concerns arising from meat-eating. However, these organizations may offer an alternative.

American Grassfed Association
Eat Wild
Humane Farm Animal Care

My hope is that we can change the future of the food industry through awareness, supply, and demand. After all, the most powerful political statement we can make is with our wallets.

sheep-loveImage via FaithFreedom.org

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Recipe Source: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Today’s recipe comes from a cookbook I accidentally stumbled on at the library recently, and I’m so glad I did. I love cupcakes, and I love the library! There are so many amazing recipes in this collection, and I was relieved to discover that they use normal ingredients already in my kitchen. One of the factors that has made me resistant to “alternative cooking” (e.g. vegan or gluten-free) is the sheer number of specialty items I need to stock up on. For something as indulgent as baking, I’m not likely to go out of my way. But with this book, I don’t have to. Uh oh…

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

If you’ve never done any vegan baking, I can assure you that you won’t be able to tell the difference in these cupcakes. I took them to work, and my [amazing! wonderful!] boss scoffed as he reached for one, “vegan…” That comment was shortly followed by “wow, these are really good!”

Try them for yourself. They’re perfect for Fall. And they only make 12… go on, do it. 🙂

RECIPE – Gingerbread Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup light molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons soy yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
(frosting recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a bowl and mix.

Whisk the oil, molasses, maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt, and lemon zest in a separate large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth. Fold in the chopped crystallized ginger.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full. Bake for 19 to 22 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

RECIPE – Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, cream the shortening and margarine until well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar in roughly 1/2-cup additions. After each addition of sugar add a splash of lemon juice and beat well with a handheld mixer. Add vanilla and beat for another 3 to 5 minutes until smooth, creamy, and fluffy. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

VegWeek Day 3, Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

27 Sep

“The greatness of a nation… can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to Day 3 of VegWeek!

Yesterday, I defined the different types of vegetarians, and some of the reasons people choose to limit or eliminate animal products from their diet. Today I want to address the first reason, animal cruelty. All reasons for the vegetarian lifestyle are legitimate, but to me, learning about the horrors our animals endure has been the most powerful.

Racism, Sexism – and now Carnism.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, though, I want to share a thought-provoking article. Actually, it’s a review of a thought-provoking book that I haven’t read, but sounds interesting. The book is titled Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. It addresses our social norms about animals, and a “belief system that supports the idea that it is normal, natural, and necessary for human beings to consume the flesh of other animals.” Dietary habits, of course, are cultural and relative. As an individual living in a connected world, with a life that impacts others, and the ability to consciously evaluate our choices, I think it’s important to look closely at those choices – especially one as profound as eating, which we do daily. Although I don’t typically get political on this blog, eating is absolutely political, and these ideas are timely. You can read the full review, “Why carnism matters,” here.

my-balogna-had-a-first-nameImage courtesy of I Can Has Cheez Burger

According to Global Patriot, “today, 54% of US food animals are concentrated on only 5% of farms. As of 2000, four companies in the United States produced 81% of our cows, 73% of our sheep, 57% of our pigs and 50% of our chickens. Globally, 43% percent of the world’s beef is raised on factory feedlots, and over half of the world’s pork and poultry is raised on factory farms.” Here’s a look into those factory farms.

Pork.

Shortly after birth, pigs born on factory farms have their ears, teeth, and tails mutilated, and are castrated without painkillers. Some bleed excessively and are left to die, just hours or days old, from these botched procedures. As they grow, they are fed a high-protein diet including growth hormone and antibiotics, that causes them to become larger than their legs and bones can support. They often cannot walk. Pigs who do not grow fast enough are brutally killed by having their heads smashed against the floor.

During transport to the slaughterhouse, pigs are so overcrowded in trucks that their limbs break from the weight of each other, and some die by heat exhaustion or freezing before they arrive. If they do survive the journey, improper stunning can mean they are conscious while having their throats slit or being boiled alive.

Source: Alec Baldwin for Peta

Beef.

Cows raised for beef do not have it any better. They endure castration and hot-iron branding without painkillers, and are beaten and abused by factory workers. In states with severe weather conditions, cows are allowed to freeze to death or die from heat stroke. On feedlots, they are crammed together in mud and feces, overfed and pumped full of antibiotics, and forced to breathe toxic fumes from their own excrement and gas. At slaughter, their throats and limbs are cut open while they are fully awake and conscious. In an interview with The Washington Post, one slaughterhouse worker said, “They die piece by piece.”

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

Dairy.

Like virtually all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young. But the exclusively human habit of drinking another animal’s milk – and doing so into adulthood – has disrupted this natural life cycle. To satisfy the demand for dairy products, cows are impregnated by artificial insemination 2-3 months after giving birth, which makes them nearly constantly lactating and/or pregnant. And the normal amount of milk produced to feed a calf – roughly 16 lbs a day – has been increased to around 54 lbs a day through the use of genetic manipulation, antibiotics, and growth hormones, as well as a high-protein diet that includes other dead animals. Although a cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years, the stress and burden of this overproduction renders them useless to the industry after about 5 years, and they are slaughtered.

And what happens to the calves produced as a byproduct of this milk-manufacturing operation? They are killed or separated from their mothers at birth to be raised as beef, veal, or dairy producers. Those that keep their lives are raised on a diet that includes blood from other cows, a practice that has contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

cows milk is for baby cowsImage courtesy of Natural News

For those who are concerned about cow’s milk being unnatural for humans, never fear – science has created a solution. Genetically modified cows can now produce ‘human milk.’ Although this product hasn’t hit store shelves yet, I won’t be surprised if it does one day.

Source: Peta

Eggs.

Over 200,000,000 male chicks are killed each year in the United States. They are sorted from valuable, egg-laying female chicks within hours of hatching, and either thrown alive into a large grinding machine, or smothered/suffocated together in a large trash bin. Female chicks are routinely de-beaked to reduce pecking each other in the overcrowded cages where they are about to spend the rest of their lives. Lack of sunlight, fresh air, and room to move creates stress in the birds, who become ill and diseased, often experiencing open sores and feather loss. Like all factory farmed animals, egg-laying chickens are abused by workers.

Source: meatvideo.com

Poultry.

Chicken and turkeys raised for meat are selectively bred to increase the size of their breasts, well beyond what their bodies are designed to handle. As a result, they often become crippled and unable to walk under their own weight, or suffer heart attacks. When they become ill or are ready for transport, they are handled violently, often sustaining bruises and broken bones. At slaughter, they are strung up by their feet and paralyzed in an electrified vat of water, fully conscious. They they have their throats cut or are drowned and scalded.

Sources: Food Inc., meatvideo.com

peepsIronically, not even Peeps are vegetarian. Marshmallows contain gelatin, which is “derived from collagen, an insoluble fibrous protein that occurs in vertebrates and is the principal constituent of connective tissues and bones.” Yummy!

Foie Gras.

The term foie gras literally means “fatty liver,” and refers to a disease that causes the liver to enlarge 10 times its normal size. Ducks and geese raised for foie gras spend their lives confined to small cages where they are unable to move, and are “fed” multiple times a day by having long, metal pipes forced down their throats, depositing the food directly into their stomachs. The pipes scrape and sometimes puncture their throats. The birds’ disease and inability to move results in open sores that are fed upon by rats. Finally, the birds are slaughtered at 3 months old by having their throats cut while they are hung upside-down and conscious. Foie gras has been banned in the UK, Israel, and Switzerland. Many restaurant owners have removed it from their menus, although unfortunately, it is still considered a delicacy to many people.

Source: Roger Moore for Peta

Fish.

Over 6 billion fish are slaughtered annually in the United States. Approximately 4/5 of these are caught by trolley nets in the wild, while the other 1/5 are raised on fish farms. During ocean fishing, nets indiscriminately catch all kinds of fish and animals, including several unintended species such as dolphins, sharks, and seals. The quick ascent from deep waters causes fish to undergo painful decompression that can burst their organs and pop out their eyes. On the surface, they suffocate or are crushed under the weight of each other. Some fish are skinned or hacked to pieces on boat decks while they’re still alive. Fish farms, like factory farms, are crowded with animals and full of disease and excrement.

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

People.

In addition to being cruel to animals, factory farming is cruel to the people who work in them. Conditions on these farms are dirty and extremely dangerous, despite known and feasible measures that could be taken to improve them. The volume of meat, eggs and dairy these farms produce demands fast and physically demanding labor, and risk of injury is high. Factory workers are hurt, mutilated, and sometimes killed on the job, with very little protection or recourse. The bottom-line is the bottom-dollar in these establishments, and workers are commodities as much as the animals are. Many workers are poor and desperate to keep their jobs. Many are undocumented and afraid of deportation if they speak up and organize themselves. They are threatened and intimidated.

When it comes to factory farming footage, I’ve often been the most disturbed by seeing what people are capable of doing – the senseless acts, punching cows, breaking the wings of birds, hanging pigs to slowly strangle to death – and yet, the psychological toll of this cruel job is impossible to imagine. It makes the animals crazy, it makes the people crazy.

Source: Human Rights Watch. Also check out the film Fast Food Nation.

Seeing is believing.

I will warn you: This video is emotionally painful to watch. It contains graphic footage of abuse endured by pigs, cows, chickens, and fish in factory farms. I debated for a long time on posting it, but ultimately decided to include it here because it’s important. It is easy to disassociate the hamburger at a summer BBQ and the neatly wrapped chicken breast in a bright grocery store from living, breathing animals – intelligent beings that experience pain and fear, just as we do. But our disconnect from the food we eat is the single biggest factor in keeping these practices alive.

Today’s post was extremely difficult for me to write, and I thank you for reading it. I know it was heavy. It was as heavy as it’s going to get this week – and it’s out of the way now. I hope some of this information was thought-provoking for you.

To lighten the mood, I thought I’d share this article I came across a few weeks ago, about a cow that escaped a slaughterhouse in Germany. Since reading this one, I’ve seen a few others like it from years past. It’s touching to see people respond personally and emotionally to these animals – we all want our independence.
Slate: Not even the “George Clooney of cattle” could convince Yvonne to turn herself in.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

Recipe Source: Manifest Vegan

Further reward for all that heavy reading – chocolate! This is a cool recipe, yet another take on gluten-free baking that I hadn’t tried: the primary ingredient is dates. Allyson over at Manifest Vegan was not messing around when she described the batter as thick – the brownies come out a bit dense, so you’ll want to enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk. Er, almond milk 😉

brownie batter

The really nice thing about them is the lack of added sugar. Most of the sweetness in these brownies comes from dates, with just a little extra coming from semi-sweet chocolate chips. Sadly, I found this recipe right after cherry season ended, so I used frozen cherries. I’m not sure it made a huge difference in the flavor, though.

brownie batter

I also discovered, once I started mixing the batter, that my 8×8 baking dish had been loaned out. As a result, I ended up making “brownie pie.” Of course, my friends still gobbled them up without complaint! I found the texture of these brownies we even better after about two days. Because they are so rich and filling, I actually had the self-control to let them last that long.

brownies

12 medjool dates
1/2 cup almond milk
2 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch (I subbed corn starch)
1 cup finely chopped cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a glass  8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine pitted dates and non-dairy milk into food processor and puree until very smooth.

Over double boiler, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate into the date mixture and blend again until super smooth. Transfer to large mixing bowl and stir in vanilla extract and salt.

Add in brown rice flour and potato starch and mix until well combined. The batter will be very very very thick. Fold in cherries and remaining chocolate chips. I used clean hands to more or less knead the mix-ins into the batter.

Press batter into pan and spread as best you can to make a uniform surface on top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely and cut into small squares.

Eat!

Supermoist Carrot Cake with Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

3 Aug

Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor
or other to be a deadly poison, and everything
I don’t eat has been proved to be
indispensable for life. But I go marching on.

~George Bernard Shaw

Recipe Source: Cake adapted from my friend Lori’s college friend, Kristen
Frosting adapted from allrecipes.com

carrot cakeomg!

I’m a big fan of sweets – really. Sweets of all kinds, especially bready ones like cakes. But I’ve never really been a fan of carrot cake. I often find it a little dense and oily, and the frosting is entirely too sweet. But this recipe I got from one of my best friends, whose taste I trust, and who famously made this cake without carrots once, by accident. She assured me that even then, the cake turned out delicious! So with a review like that, I had to try it.

carrot cake batterDon’t forget the carrots!

I’ve made this cake four times now, always for a crowd, and I think I’ve perfected it. The taste has always been wonderful, but originally, it called for 1 1/2 cups of oil. I lined my pan with wax paper to make the cake easier to remove, and the oil seeped around and under the paper, it was so oily. So I worked to cut down the oil each time, first using half oil and half plain applesauce (3/4 cups each), then cutting the oil down to 1/2 cup, with 3/4 cups applesauce. And eureka – it’s wonderful!

sifting powdered sugarSift the powdered sugar into the frosting for the smoothest consistency

This cake comes out tall and spongy. It’s still super moist from all the carrots, and their flavor shines without the thick masking taste of the oil. The applesauce lends a bit of sweetness as well. Then I add in a little allspice to play with the cinnamon, since I top the cake with an allspice cream cheese frosting. I always cut the powdered sugar in half from the original frosting recipe, which makes it a tiny bit runnier than, say, a buttercream, but it’s loads better for you. Of course this cake is still far from diet food, but it weighs a little less heavy on my conscience with these adjustments! (bad puns, I shamefully admit, are fully intended)

frosting the cake*PLOP*

RECIPE – Supermoist Carrot Cake with Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
3 cups (1 lb) grated carrots

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Make the cake
Mix sugar, oil and applesauce, and beat, adding 1 egg at a time. Mix till fluffy.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice in a separate bowl.

Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients.

Add carrots and mix well.

Bake in ungreased 9×13 pan (or two 10” rounds) at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes. Let cool.

Make the frosting
In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter, and allspice.

Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk until the mixture is spreadable.

Optional: sprinkle frosted cake with chopped walnuts.

“Magic” Fruit & Veggie Muffins

30 Apr

Recipe source: Food Network

I pride myself on having a well-stocked kitchen. Especially when it comes to baking, I can make any number of recipes on a moment’s notice with just what is stocked in my pantry. I have all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, corn flour, cake flour, garbanzo flour and gluten-free flour. But oh, noooo. THAT wasn’t ENOUGH for Miss d’Arabian, who came along with her crazy 17-ingredient recipe for “Magic Fruit & Veggie Muffins” that might be a nutritionist’s dream, but are a minimalist’s nightmare. Well, I’m not a minimalist, I’m pretty adventurous in the kitchen and a little bit stubborn. So that means I had to try this, and promptly went out to buy the soy flour and wheat germ I was lacking. Because HEAVEN FORBID I go without those in my house!!

17 ingredients

And I have to say, I was glad I did. This recipe makes stellar breakfast muffins, and not the “cake for grown-ups” kind of muffins, but really yummy, relatively low-sugar, nutrition-packed bready goodness. I only made two changes to the recipe, swapping out olive oil for coconut and whole milk for almond. I liked the idea of using two fruits and two vegetables, so I chose bananas and dried dates (plus the raisins I was too lazy to pick out of my raisin bran cereal), and carrots and zucchini. It will be fun to try different combinations of this recipe in the future, but I’d highly recommend sticking with bananas as they made the muffins wonderfully moist.

muffin tray
I was also happy to discover that the recipe yielded much more than it said it would – about 26 full-size muffins as opposed to 24 mini muffins. This would not be worth the work for less. Try them today!

muffin
RECIPE – Magic Fruit & Veggie Muffins

Cooking spray (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons soy flour
4 tablespoons wheat germ
1 cup bran flakes cereal or old-fashioned oats (or a combination)
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, plus more for topping (optional)
4 tablespoons safflower or coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 cups grated or finely chopped vegetables (carrots, zucchini and/or spinach)
1 1/2 cups grated or finely chopped fresh or dried fruit (apples, pears, pineapple and/or raisins)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners or mist with cooking spray.

Whisk the flours, wheat germ, bran flakes, flax seeds, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Beat the egg and brown sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the oil, vanilla, milk, vegetables, and fruit, and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir just until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way. Sprinkle the tops with brown sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

Makes ~24 muffins

Happy World Nutella Day!

5 Feb

Seize the moment.
Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.

~Erma Bombeck

Have you ever heard of National Hugging Day? What about No Housework Day? Rubber Duckie Day? Who makes  up these crazy holidays, anyway?

…Happy Mew Year for Cats Day?

And we thought Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark! Well, here’s a new one for you – World Nutella Day.  It was new to me, at least, until I came across this blog.  [Note: check out these fun hand-printed silkscreen calendars of silly holidays for 2011!]

World Nutella Day

Now, for those of you who know me personally, you can attest that I have a cynical side. I may be a little sarcastic  at times. A wee bit skeptical. Not about this. Friends, this is serious. This is NUTELLA we’re talking  about!

Of course my choice was clear. I had to celebrate this newfound Nutella holiday. As I did a little more digging, I  discovered a whole world of food bloggers paying their respects to the addicting chocolate-and-hazelnut spread.  Some take pictures, some post their own unique  recipe creations, some  discuss Nutella as a cultural phenomenon, and  some write touching odes to  their favorite pantry item.

Nutella

So now, without further adieu, here are some recipes I tried out this week!

Nutella and Fresh Ginger Mousse
Recipe Source: Ms. Adventures in Italy

It sounded like a strange combination, Nutella and ginger. It could be a match made in heaven, or a disaster. So I  had to find out which.

When I realized how much of my precious, brand-new 26-oz. Nutella jar would be used by this recipe, I decided to  halve it. Even with doing that, I would still say this pudding serves four, because it’s very rich and a little will go a  long way.

The first step for this mousse is melting Nutella with a bit of water over a double-boiler. Unfortunately, I missed the  double-boiler part of this instruction and overheated my Nutella right from the start. FAIL. (Not pictured due to  panic. But it looks oily when overheated. My advice, use a low heat. See my overly thorough tips on melting chocolate  here.) Once the Nutella and water are  melted and well incorporated, stir in about 1 tablespoon of soft butter and remove from heat. The butter can help if  you, too, have a chocolate-melting nightmare, so take heart!

Off the heat, stir in two eggs yolks, one at a time, then stir in finely minced ginger. I used a microplane grater to  get my ginger soft and paste-like.

The next step is to beat eggwhites and sugar into stiff peaks. This was accomplished beautifully with the help of  an immersion blender (with whisk attachment) and a pinch of cream of tartar. Unfortunately, again, it was done too  early, and the whites began to collapse a bit by the time I folded them into the Nutella mixture. My advice, follow  the recipe steps in order. Mousse is a tricky thing!

Nutella mousse

Lastly, pour the mousse into serving cups and freeze for two hours or more. If I were to make this a second time, I  think I could perfect the texture. But while I love Nutella and I love ginger, the combination didn’t really do it for me.

Nutella mousse

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Nutella-Banana Crepes
Recipe Source: French chef and boyfriend extraordinaire, David

This crepe is a classic, and for a lot of people, their first introduction to both Nutella and crepes. The exciting thing  is, once you’ve mastered the art of making a crepe, the possibilities for filling it are endless!

Much like the pie crust recipe I featured on my pot pie post, this batter has a magical 2:1:1  proportion:

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

This batter is much like pancake batter, in that you’ll want to whisk it gently to prevent it going flat. Ultimately, it  needs to be smooth, but in this initial mixing, a few lumps are just fine. It’s best to let the batter sit overnight in the  refrigerator, or at least for several hours. The next day, you can gently whisk out any remaining lumps, and add  about 1/4 cup milk to thin it down. Runny is what we’re going for.

crepe batter

An ideal pan for crepes is round and flat, about 12 inches in diameter, like this one:

crepe pan

Spray the pan with a light coating on nonstick spray or run a light coating of butter over it, and warm over a  medium heat. Your crepe will cover the entire surface of the pan. To pour it on, ladle the batter onto the top edge of  the pan, tip the pan and let the batter run down the surface. Rotate the pan and repeat this step until you have a  thin coating with no holes. It will take about one or two ladles, depending on the size of your ladle and pan.

pouring crepe batter

Let the crepe lightly brown on medium heat, about 2-3 minutes…

checking crepe

…then carefully flip it over to lightly brown the other side. While it’s browning, run a stick of butter over the surface  to give it a thin coating, and – this is the really yummy part – sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over that. The sugar  gives the crepe a wonderful, slightly crunchy texture. If you like a simple crepe, you can stop here – butter-sugar  crepe is one classic variety.

But we’re not going to stop there, are we? No… not on World Nutella Day!

SO. Once both sides are nicely browned, slide the crepe onto a serving dish, and fold it in half (butter and sugar  inside). Quickly, while the crepe is still warm, spread the Nutella over one side – as much as you like! A large,  flexible device is best for this, so you don’t tear the crepe; think pie server or frosting spreader. Place bananas over  the surface and fold in half again. (Strawberries are also a lovely fruit to add to a Nutella crepe.)

Nutella-banana crepe

If you’re eating these with someone you love, or someone you’ve just started dating, I must warn you – the point of  the crepe is the best part. It’s where all the Nutella, sugar and butter are concentrated, and it can make or break  your relationship. It’s best if both parties understand from the get-go: this point is not for sharing. It’s for savoring,  last, after you’ve gotten past the outer flaky edges of crepe and diplomatic, evenly spread middle parts. Whatever  you do, when you make crepes, make two.

Nutella-banana crepe

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Chocolate and Chickpea Cupcakes with Nutella-Sour Cream Frosting (gluten-free!)
Recipe Source: Lucullian Delights

If you’ve been cruising this blog for a while, you might have already seen my gluten-free brownie recipe, which is also based on  chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). Unlike that recipe, this one uses chickpea flour. If you can’t find chickpea flour at  the store, you can make your own by grinding dried chickpeas in a food processor. (I wrote a how-to on the  subject, as I found it to be an interesting experience…)

On her blog, Ilva made one plain and one orange version of cupcakes. I wasn’t sure about the orange-Nutella  combo, but I do love cooking with booze, so I opted to use Amaretto. If I’d had Frangelico, that would be even  better.

amaretto

Trader Joe’s carries this brand of Amaretto, and I think it’s great for baking because 1) it’s cheap, and 2) it’s  sweeter than DiSaronno and slightly caramel, so the flavor comes through well in baking. I save the expensive stuff  for after-dinner cordial 😉

I also lightened up this recipe a bit by substituting applesauce for half of the oil, and gave you U.S. measurements  below.

gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

The nice thing I discovered about using chickpea flour, as opposed to canned chickpeas, is that the cupcakes  resemble the more crumbly, cake-like texture achieved with all-purpose flour, than a dense, brownie-like texture.  The method for making this frosting was unique to me, and hands-down the easiest frosting I’ve ever made from scratch! The Nutella really comes through, and it’s just heavenly.

Bottom line: I loved this recipe and will be back for more of Ilva’s chickpea flour creations!

gluten-free chocolate cupcakes w/ nutella frosting

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Other quick and easy ways to enjoy Nutella

Nutella is delicious on a graham cracker…

Nutella graham

Or, you can try making a how-wide-can-you-open-your-mouth Nutella-graham sandwich:

Nutella graham

If you’re feeling a bit fancier, try topping a butter or shortbread cookie with Nutella, sliced banana and hazelnuts:

Nutella butter cookie

For health-conscious types, Nutella is delicious on sliced apple or pear. So I hear. Note lack of picture.

You can read more about World Nutella Day and find hundreds of recipes on the official site,  www.nutelladay.com
Also check out the haps on Twitter @nutelladay

RECIPE– Nutella and Fresh Ginger Mousse

125g Nutella
2 eggs, separated
Pinch salt
15g sugar
15g butter, softened
2t. water
1T. fresh ginger, finely chopped or pureed

In a double boiler, melt the Nutella and water until thoroughly melted. Add softened butter and mix thoroughly.  Take off heat.

Separate the eggs while the mixture cools down. After it has cooled down, add one egg yolk at a time to the mix,  incorporating it fully. Add the fresh ginger and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites with 30g of sugar until you have stiff white peaks. Fold the egg whites  slowly into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into glass cups or bowls to set up in the fridge or freezer.

Serves 4.

Ms. Adventures in Italy, adapted from “La classica Mousse” of Sale e Pepe

RECIPE – Nutella-Banana Crepes

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, plus more to thin
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 banana

In a medium bowl, beat two whole eggs, then gently stir in 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk until well-mixed. Don’t  worry about lumps at this point; you don’t want to overmix. Place the batter in the refrigerator for several hours or  overnight.

Spray a flat, round pan with nonstick spray and warm over medium heat. Thin the crepe batter by slowly adding  milk, until the consistency is runny (around 1/4 cup usually does the trick). Be careful to remove all lumps at this  point.

Hold the pan at an angle and pour on ladle-fulls of batter, letting it run down the pan and become thin. Rotate the  pan and keep ladling and running the batter until the pan is covered. Warm the crepe about 2-3 minutes, checking  the bottom for a medium-brown color. Once the bottom is lightly browned, flip the crepe and brown the other side.

Run a stick of butter along the surface of the crepe to add a thin coating on one side. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar  over the surface, and slide the crepe onto a serving plate.

Immediately fold the crepe in half, so the butter and sugar are inside. Spread Nutella over the folded surface, cover  with bananas, and fold in half again. Serve warm.

Serves 2, with extra batter leftover

RECIPE – Chocolate and Chickpea Cupcakes with Nutella-Sour Cream Frosting

cupcakes:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup of vegetable, sunflower seed, or canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup chickpea flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel, optional
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other liqueur

frosting:
3/4 cups Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream

Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy in a bowl. Add the oil and applesauce, and mix well.

Sift chickpea flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter and stir until well incorporated. If you choose  to make the orange version, this is when you add the candied orange peel and the liqueur.

Spoon the batter into cupcake forms and bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for about 10 minutes. but do  check with a toothpick to see if they are ready – they don’t need to be completely dry as they are even nicer if  they are a little on the moist side.

While the cupcakes cool down, whisk sour cream and Nutella until smooth and shiny, then pipe the cream on top  of the cupcakes.

Cake Truffles aka “Cake Balls”

11 Sep

There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.
-Anonymous

Recipe source: Bakerella / Pioneer Woman

Go ahead. Snicker. It’s what I would have done if I had thought of it. I told my friend I was making cake balls, and she said, “you’re making cake WHAT?!” I was only embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it first.

So, cake balls, cake truffles, it’s up to you. Think of your audience. Classy? Not?

I first came across these little pups on Pioneer Woman’s blog, and was intrigued to try them for a long time. Then I hosted a birthday party, and I had a bride-to-be friend contemplating what to serve as favors for her reception. Both occasions seemed worthy of trying this out.

It looks easier than it is.

cake truffles
I made three batches of these, each getting slightly better than the last, though none turned out as good looking as they are on the blogs. The valuable lesson I learned with this was how to melt chocolate like a pro. (Dipping cake into it is another story.)

MAKE THE CAKE

To start out, you make a box mix cake in a 9×13 sheet pan. Just follow the directions on the box, nothing special here. You can use any flavor you like; Bakerella uses red velvet, and I also tried it with spice cake.

Once the cake has cooled completely, turn it out of the pan and crumble it finely in a large bowl. You can use your hands for this, a dough cutter, a potato masher, a fork, whatever. Not your teeth, or you won’t be able to proceed to the next steps…

Next step, mix in some storebought canned frosting. The original recipe calls for a whole can, but I think that’s way too much. I used 1/2 – 3/4 of cream cheese frosting for both flavors of cake. I liked the cream cheese because it’s not as sweet as white frosting would be. You’ll want to keep in mind how all these flavors are going to work together.

cake and frosting
Cover a cookie sheet or cutting board with wax paper. Once the cake and frosting are well incorporated, roll the cake into balls about 1 or 1 1/2″ diameter, then drop on wax paper and freeze at least 1 hour. Freeze, do not refrigerate.

MELTING CHOCOLATE

Next, melt chocolate over a double boiler. Here is what I learned about melting chocolate: you don’t want to get it too hot too fast, or horrible things will happen. The method that’s working for me now is to fill a small saucepan about half-way with water and bring it to a boil. Then I turn the heat down to medium-low and place a metal mixing bowl filled with chocolate on top, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Then I hold the bowl with a ridiculously large oven mitt and stir the chocolate slowly-and-patiently with a spatula until it has all melted.

This is the perfect consistency (you will know it when you see it yourself):

melted chocolate
CHOOSING A CHOCOLATE

As for the type of chocolate you use, there are a few options out there. Chocolate bark is usually recommended for making candy, but in May, I couldn’t find it anywhere. A man at Trader Joe’s told me they carry it seasonally. When I finally did find it at WalMart, I had moved on to other things. If you try it, report back to me.

I was worried about my chocolate melting well, so I first used “expert” candy-making chocolate from Wilton.

Wilton candy melts
I have very bad memories of this stuff from my mother’s candy-making days. I’ve tasted many colored varieties, and none of them taste anything like chocolate. But since this claimed to be dark cocoa and I hadn’t seen it before, I thought I’d give it a try. It melted fine and tasted fine, but while melting it made my kitchen smell like a boy’s sweaty socks after a soccer game. Not appetizing.

So then I tried Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate.

TJ's pount plus dark chocolate
This also melted beautifully and tasted great. In the end, it was a toss-up as to which was better – with the Wilton chocolate, I could taste the cake more. With TJ’s, I tasted the chocolate more.

Moving on…

DIPPING THE CAKE BALLS

Prepare a plate or large board with wax paper. Then take your cake balls out of the freezer, one at a time, to dip. My method eventually became dropping a ball into the chocolate and rolling it with a spoon in my left hand to coat both sides while simultaneously pushing it onto a large slotted spoon in my right hand. Then I’d tap the slotted spoon several times against the edge of the bowl to shake off any extra chocolate. (Pioneer Woman recommends using a fork, but the cake ball rolls off a fork for me. Maybe she has magical cake-ball-balancing powers.)

dipping truffles
Then I gently push the coated truffle with the first spoon onto wax paper.

truffles
You want to be very careful with the spoons, as they will easily remove the chocolate and expose cake. Perhaps ironically, the cake part of these cake truffles is what gave me the most grief. For example, let me show you why you want to dip these one at a time out of the freezer:

melted chocolate
See that? Cake bits in the chocolate. This is what happens when the cake gets too warm, and it’s not good. It can result in dipping disasters, like this:


Clumpy chocolate will also occur if the chocolate is heated too high:


I got slightly better with some of the truffles on the right here, dipped in dark chocolate. I think this was about as good as I got, sadly.


So good luck with all of that. If you’re scared, this is another cute option.

CAKE TRUFFLE CUPCAKES

Pick up some peanut butter cup molds and colored melting chocolate. You can find both in a candy supply store and I think Micheal’s carries them as well.

candymaking supplies
Melt the dark chocolate in the same way as described above, and fill each mold half-way with it. Then dip in a cake ball about half-way, to bring the chocolate to the top of the mold.

cake ball cupcakes
Let these sit to firm up, about 20 minutes, or place them in the freezer. Then melt colored chocolate. You can use any color you like; I just used white this time.


Pop the truffles out of their molds and invert, dipping the exposed cake in the colored chocolate. The color should meet the bottom. It’s best to have a deep puddle of chocolate to dip in, so I recommend using a small bowl. Lastly, you can decorate your mini cupcakes with sprinkles, nuts, M&Ms, etc.

cake ball cupcakes
These didn’t turn out as cute as Bakerella’s, either. And frankly, I don’t like them as much as the regular truffles. The solid chocolate bottom makes them a bit awkward to eat, as it breaks when you bite into it. Hard chocolate, soft cake. But if you’re throwing a party, these do make a nice presentation.

While you still have some colored chocolate melted, you can put it in a pastry bag with a fine tip to decorate your earlier, disastrous cake truffle attempts. These are terribly ugly. I was terribly tired and apathetic by this point. But… ehhh… you get the idea?


The good thing I have to say about these truffles is they are fun, different, and people really love them. I served them at David’s birthday party, and unadorned and sweating as they were, my guests practically inhaled them, then gushed at how good they were while licking melty chocolate off their fingers. So if you’re not a perfectionist, or if you are, and if you have some free time on your hands, try these out. And good luck to you.