Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting

strawberry lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting
strawberry lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting

A friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to make a dessert that’s easy to share at a celebration. Cupcakes come to mind, but I need to bake some that are a little extra special. Fruity flavors are enjoyable in the summer, with strawberries and lemon reminding one of a cool drink, so they are perfect in my cupcakes. All these cupcakes need are a sumptuous fruity frosting to put them in the realm of ‘special enough for a birthday.’

I found a vegan cupcake recipe that included my combo of lemon and strawberry. To prepare at high altitude, I added extra liquid and flour while reducing the baking powder. I also used dry sweetener instead of wet to help keep the cupcakes light and fluffy. Next I switched to a deeply fruit-flavored frosting to embrace summery tastes. Tasters raved about the cupcakes noting how airy they were, and the mix of fruity flavors were a welcome surprise.

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting adapted from One Green Planet and Food Network

for the cupcakes
1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1.5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup organic sugar
generous 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the frosting
6 tablespoons vegan butter, cold
2 tablespoons vegan shortening
3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons soy milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons raspberry fruit spread

Preheat oven to 325 F and line muffin tins with 14 paper cups. Whisk soy milk and apple cider vinegar together in a bowl or container. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to curdle.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Place pureed strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add curdled milk and stir ingredients together. Add dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is smooth. Scoop batter into lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking time. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out with a few tiny crumbs. Let the tins sit on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack to fully cool.

While the cupcakes are cooling, begin the frosting by beating the butter and shortening together in a stand mixer. Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, beating after each addition. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the fruit spread and beat until smooth. Put the frosting in a piping bag with a star tip and frost the cooled cupcakes.

Until next time, happy baking!

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cherry Bars

gluten free blueberry and cherry bars
gluten free blueberry and cherry bars

On a hot summer day, it’s nice to have an easy dessert recipe. Turning on the oven can take all of your energy, so slaving over a complicated treat is not welcome. Sometimes scooping out individual servings or cookies can be just too tiring. That’s when bar cookies come to the rescue. Mix, pour into a pan, bake, cool, and cut.

The bar cookie recipe I found was fruity (yay!), and I decided to make it gluten-free to share with friends (yay, again!). It was already vegan, and high altitude wasn’t much of an issue, so I subbed gluten-free ingredients, mixed up the fruit choices, and added a decadent icing. Now I had a dessert that was not only easy, but bursting with flavor and allergy-friendly goodness.

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cherry Bars adapted from Blueberry Crumble Bars

1.75 cups gluten-free flour blend
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup organic sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup vegan margarine, room temperature and cut into slices
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup + 4 teaspoons nondairy milk, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen cherries, chopped into quarters
1/4 cup organic sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup organic confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, including an overhang of a few inches on two opposite sides.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, oats, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the margarine, oil, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed but with a few small clumps.

dry ingredients for blueberry cherry bars
dry ingredients for blueberry cherry bars

In a small bowl, gently combine the blueberries, cherries, 1/4 cup sugar, potato starch, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Using your hands, press three-quarters of the dough mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the coated fruit evenly on top of the dough. Sprinkle the remaining dough over the fruit layer. Bake for 50 minutes, until the top is crisp and bubbly. Place pan on a wire rack to let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make an icing by whisking the confectioner’s sugar over a bowl. Stir in the 4 teaspoons milk until well combined. When the bars have cooled, drizzle the icing over the bars. Then use the parchment paper overhand to lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares, and store in an airtight container.

Until next time, happy baking!

Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies

gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies
gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies

Marshmallows and chocolate — what a yummy combination. Just thinking of them reminds me of summer parties with marshmallows made oooey gooey from time spent over a fire’s flame. Add a graham cracker or two with a chocolate square and you have s’mores. Or you can bake these cookies in the oven for a similar tasting but easier to make treat.

I discovered a vegan cookie recipe with these flavors that I could make gluten-free and adapt to my circumstances. Aquafaba was used to make a super flax egg for extra moisture and structure that is lacking at high altitude and in many gluten-free desserts. Also, I made sure to use baking powder to help activate the dutch-processed cocoa powder. The last change made to add extra rise was to use vegan butter that was not melted. The result was a chewy cookie with a crisp exterior.

My gluten-free testers raved about the cookie. One said that each bite was a different combination of tastes and flavors, while another said it was the best cookie she ever had. Not too shabby for a gluten-free and vegan treat baked at high altitude.

Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies adapted from Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons aquafaba
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup vegan sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup vegan marshmallows, chopped large or unchopped minis

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flaxseed and aquafaba and set aside to thicken.

In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place vegan butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and combine on medium-high speed. Add flax mixture, vanilla, and non-dairy milk, and combine on medium speed until the batter is soft and smooth. Add dry ingredients and beat to combine. Add chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir with a spoon to combine.

Scoop up 2 tablespoons of batter at a time and roll into a ball. Place each ball on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand. Bake for 12-13 minutes, one tray at a time, rotating halfway through bake time. Let cool on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. They may seem too soft, but will become firm and crisp as they cool. Do not store airtight or they will get soggy. Yield: 24-26 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking and happy 4th of July!

Brown Sugar Rice Krispie Treats

brown sugar rice krispie treats
brown sugar rice krispie treats

With temperatures hovering around 100F I vowed not to turn on the oven. That meant no baking of any kind, including that of tasty desserts. Still I was craving a yummy snack so I turned to the classic Rice Krispie Treats. After the ingredients spend a short time in a saucepan and then a mixing bowl, they transform into a cool and decadent pleasure.

I have offered various versions of this in the past, but I delved deep into my archives to find a brown sugar cereal bar. The website I retrieved it from is defunct, so I am glad to share my take on these Krispie Bars. The recipe was already vegan and needed no high altitude adjustments. The changes made were to adapt the ingredient amounts for my tastes, including the addition of chocolate chips. These cereal bars taste a bit caramely, a bit marshmallowy, a bit chocolatey, and a whole lot of delicious.

Brown Sugar Rice Krispie Treats

2.5 cups brown rice crisps cereal
2 TBS + 2.5 tsp light brown sugar, packed
1 TBS almond milk
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 TBS vegan margarine or coconut oil, plus extra to grease the pan
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (or 14 large) vegan marshmallows
1/4 cup mini vegan chocolate chips

Line and grease an 8 x 8” pan with foil, leaving an overhang to help lift the finished bars from the pan. Pour the cereal into a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, over medium-low, heat the brown sugar, milk, salt, and 1 TBS margarine. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously, until the mixture looks like caramel sauce. Add the vanilla and cook an additional minute. Whisk in the remaining 1 TBS margarine until completely combined. Remove from heat and immediately add the marshmallows, stirring until smooth. Pour marshmallow mixture over the cereal and stir until partially combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until well combined.

Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan. Allow to cool before removing from the pan and placing on a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, or maybe just 9 squares as I did.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes for Mother’s Day

mini chocolate mousse cakes
mini chocolate mousse cakes

Mother’s Day requires a special dessert. The idea is that if you slave away all day at the oven, then you prove that you care. But all you really need is a treat that is decadent and delicious. These Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes are all that, and more. They are fairly easy to make, too. The hardest part for me was cutting the parchment circles to fit the mini pans. (I am not very adept with scissors).

My search for a decadent Mother’s Day treat provided a recipe that made a 7-inch cake. Not having a pan that size, I decided to change it up to make mini cakes. I liked that idea because they can be served individually so Mom can get a fancy one made just for her. The recipe was vegan and no-bake, so I didn’t have to make those changes. I did make alterations to ensure the mini cakes would be firm. The result was the cutest mousse cakes that were deemed so delicious that they should be made on more than just special occasions.

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes adapted from Vegan Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cookie Crust
14 vanilla cream filled chocolate wafer cookies (such as Oreos)
4 TBS vegan margarine or butter
Mousse Filling
11 ounces dark chocolate, 65% or higher
12.3 ounces silken tofu, drained but not pressed
10.6 ounces vegan greek style yogurt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 TBS powdered sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 TBS maple syrup
Garnishes
fresh raspberries
powdered sugar

For the crust: Cut parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of 8 mini cheesecake tins with removable bases. Set aside. Add cookies and vegan margarine or butter to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is like moist sand, up to 1 minute. Remove 1/2 cup of the cookie mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the bottoms of the 8 mini tins. Tamp the mixture down with the bottom of a small glass to compact it. Place the tins in the fridge.

For the filling: Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside briefly to cool slightly. Place the tofu, yogurt, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and maple syrup in a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, creamy, and slightly warm. (The heat will help the melted chocolate to blend in smoothly). Add the melted chocolate and blend again until the mixture is very smooth. Remove the tins from the fridge and pour the filling into them. Bang the tins on the counter to flatten out the tops of the mousse. Return the tins to the fridge for 4-5 hours, or overnight, to firm up. Once set, remove the cakes from the tins and remove the parchment paper.

To plate: Place each cake on an individual plate and place a raspberry on top. Sprinkle some of the remaining crust crumbs over the top and dust the cake with powdered sugar. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Until next time, happy non-baking and Happy Mother’s Day!

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

This time of year I get a little excited for Charoset, the classic Passover relish made from fruits, nuts, spice, and grape (in the form of juice or wine). The combined tastes of those food elements dance playfully on my tongue. Some traditions make charoset into a paste rather than a relish, so I thought it would be fun to make a food item that melded the two forms. That is how I decided on dessert bites. A little pureed and a little chunky, with all of the wonderful flavors that I love.

This recipe is raw so high altitude baking wasn’t an issue. I merely wanted to create my version of this treat and share it with you. These bites make an energetic afternoon snack, a quick breakfast, or a healthy dessert. They would be appreciated for Passover or Easter, or anytime you want to savor the combination of apples, nuts, and grape juice.

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites inspired by Haroset Balls

1 cup dried apple
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp powdered clove
2 TBS almond meal
powders to roll the bites in, optional

Line a tray or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place dried apples, apricots, dates, and raisins in a bowl and cover with grape juice. Let sit for 15 minutes so the juice can soak into the fruit.

Place walnuts and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are roughly chopped. To the food processor, add the soaked fruit and any juices from the bowl. Add the spices and pulse until everything is finely chopped and well combined. Add the almond meal and pulse a few times to evenly distribute. The mixture will form a large ball in the food processor bowl.

Transfer the large ball to a bowl. Remove small amounts at a time to form balls the size of walnuts. Place balls on the lined tray and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. When firm, roll each ball into powder, if desired. I used ground up freeze-dried blueberries, dried raspberry powder, cocoa powder, goji berry powder, and maca powder. (Can you tell in the picture which bite has which powder?)

charoset dessert bites and toppings

Store up to 3 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. Yields: 24 sweet treats

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl

apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl
apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl

Dried apricots and pistachios seem to be ending up in so much of my food lately. They were in my muffins last week, and my Moroccan stew the other night. And now they feel right at home in this chocolate bark. I started out with the idea of making a bark, and the two just showed up in my ingredient list. Luckily they pair well together, and they are complimented by a touch of tahini.

Admittedly, the idea of adding tahini to chocolate bark wasn’t mine. I borrowed it, but made a few alterations in the no-baking-needed recipe I found. Chocolate bark can really be any combination that sounds tasty to you, so feel free to borrow my recipe then modify it to suit your tastes. But keep the tahini swirl in. Trust me.

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl adapted from Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Tahini

1/3 cup chopped roasted pistachios
3 TBS chopped dried apricot
6 oz vegan chocolate (I used a bar with fruity notes to complement the other flavors)
2 tsp runny tahini, warmed (I used Soom Premium Tahini)

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine the pistachios and apricot in a bowl and set aside. Chop the chocolate and place it in a stainless steel bowl. Melt it gently over a double boiler. To do this, fill a saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the bowl of chocolate over the simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When it is almost fully melted, remove the bowl from atop the saucepan and gently stir the chocolate until it melts completely. Add the pistachios and apricot to the chocolate and mix it in with a spatula.

Pour the chocolate into the lined baking pan, spreading it out evenly. Drizzle warm tahini over top and swirl it with a toothpick. Place the pan of bark in the fridge until it hardens, 30-45 minutes. Break the bark up into pieces. Store bark in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting to Celebrate Love

almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting
almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting

Today I was going to make an easy recipe for Valentine’s Day. A no bake treat or a quick cupcake sounded good. But, as I was scanning through my recipe files my sweetie leaned over my shoulder, peered at the computer screen, and said, “Yum, brownies.” So, today I have brownies. Not just any brownies for my favorite sweets tester. As a nod to the holiday I made brownies slathered in strawberry frosting because Cupid’s day often demands strawberries and chocolate.

The vegan brownie recipe my love ogled had peanut butter as an ingredient. He doesn’t do well with peanuts, so I used almond butter instead. You can choose any nut butter, but keep in mind that the amount of salt used in the brownies can change due to the salt content of your nut butter. I also added aquafaba to help give the brownies more rise that can be lost at high altitude. And, I added strawberry extract to ramp up the strawberry-ness. If you don’t have it, you can add more vanilla extract.

A search on Food Network offered me a recipe for the perfect frosting. To veganize it I used vegan margarine and shortening in place of butter, in addition to substituting the milk with a non-dairy variety. I also halved the recipe as it was plenty for one tray of brownies. The marriage of strawberries and chocolate is sublime, and these brownies are sure to be a hit with your Valentine.

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting adapted from My Quiet Kitchen and Food Network

Almond Butter Brownies

1 cup plus 2 TBS old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted almond butter
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS unsweetened almond milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1.75 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp strawberry extract
1 TBS aquafaba (bean water)
1/2 cup mini vegan chocolate chip

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper. Process the oats in a food processor until there are only a few little pieces. Add the cacao powder, baking soda, brown sugar, cardamom, and salt. Pulse to combine. Transfer the dry mixture to a bowl. To the now empty food processor add the almond butter, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, strawberry extract, and aquafaba. Process until smooth. Add the dry mixture to the food processor and pulse until all is combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, then spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 29-32 minutes. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center (but not into a chocolate chip) comes out with a few crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using the parchment paper excess, remove the brownies from the pan and place on a wire rack to fully cool. Once completely cooled, spread the brownies with strawberry frosting (recipe below) and cut into squares.

Strawberry Frosting

2 TBS vegan margarine, at room temperature
2 TBS shortening
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 TBS non-dairy milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS strawberry all-fruit spread

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the margarine and shortening until there are no lumps. Add half of the powdered sugar, along with the non-dairy milk and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining powdered sugar and the strawberry fruit spread, and beat until smooth.

Until next time, happy baking!

Rice Cereal Marshmallow Bark Bars

rice cereal marshmallow bark bars
rice cereal marshmallow bark bars

Many of us start the new year with healthy ideals — eating better, exercising more, taking vitamins. But it’s midway through the month and I held off as long as I could. Now I’m yearning for a decadent treat. If you are as well, then keep reading. The recipe I offer today is loaded with layers of rich and gooey deliciousness. Dig in and enjoy!

This tasty dessert is my mash-up of rice cereal treats, s’mores, and peppermint bark. The components had all vegan ingredients and no baking, so there were no changes needed there. I altered the original recipe to make it more reminiscent of s’mores. There are layers of luxurious chocolate with a hit of cool peppermint wrapped up in a chewy yet crunchy bite. It has everything you deserve after being good for over two whole weeks.

Rice Cereal Marshmallow Bark Bars based on Chocolate Peppermint Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Cereal Layer
5 ounces vegan dark chocolate
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
Marshmallow Layer
20 large vegan marshmallows
1 TBS vegan butter
1.25 tsp peppermint extract
Peppermint Bark Layer
6 ounces vegan chocolate chips
2 full-size 5” vegan candy canes, crushed

Prepare an 8.25 x 4.25” loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper then greasing it with shortening or vegetable oil spray. For the Rice Cereal Layer: Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. When melted, remove from stove and stir in the rice cereal, mixing gently until evenly coated. Use a spatula to gently spread it in the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Set aside to cool.

For the Marshmallow Layer: Place the marshmallows and vegan butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until melted. Remove from stove and quickly stir in the peppermint extract. Gently smooth it over the rice cereal layer. Set aside. For the Peppermint Bark Layer: Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. When melted, remove from stove and spread over the marshmallow layer. Sprinkle the candy cane bits evenly over the warm chocolate. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Cut squares with a hot knife and set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 5 days.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Healthier Chocolate Cookies

healthier chocolate cookies
healthier chocolate cookies

When I mention that the desserts I bake are vegan, the usual response is, “That’s healthy, right?” Well, I hate to burst a person’s bubble, but I can’t say that food made with sugar and flour promotes physical health. I would admit that it boosts my mental health but, generally speaking, desserts aren’t overly healthy. So, I dug into my recipe collection and found a cookie that was healthier and wasn’t just a blast of carbs. Now, wait a minute; don’t be alarmed. That’s not a bad thing. You see, I added chocolate to it.

The recipe I worked with was already vegan, and high altitude doesn’t have a big affect on cookies. I did sub in gluten-free flour to lighten the texture a bit, and added non-dairy milk to account for dryness at altitude. The other changes I made were for flavor. I used chocolate tahini (made by Soom Foods – it is as amazing as it sounds) and added chipotle powder to give the chocolate a kick. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the dense dough balls were going to be more than hockey pucks. But the cookies came out light and chewy at the same time. It was the winning combination of a healthier cookie with a tempting flavor and satisfying texture. Maybe vegan desserts can be healthy.

Healthier Chocolate Cookies adapted from Maple Tahini Cookies

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup gluten free flour
1/2 cup fine almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 cup Soom Foods Chocolate Sweet Tahini
1/3 cup + 1 TBS maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and chipotle powder. In a large bowl, whisk together the chocolate tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and milk. Add the flour mixture into the tahini mixture and stir with a spatula until a dough forms. It should be moist and rollable, but not sticky. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough in the palm of your hand then place them 2-inches apart on a baking sheet. Lightly press down on the cookies to flatten.

Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies may seem soft but they will firm up upon cooling. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack for the cookies to cool and get firm enough to remove. Makes 20 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!