Today’s post is not about my usual tempting desserts, but it is still decadent. The dish is a savory appetizer, but one so creamy and tasty that you’ll find it disappears quickly. It is perfect for a holiday platter, especially for New Year’s Eve festivities.
This recipe was shared by a friend at a cooking get together. I made minor alterations for my taste preferences, but essentially it’s the recipe provided to the class. It was already vegan, and can be made at any altitude. And, with pre-baked vegan fillo shells, you can make these in no time.
Easy Spanakopita Appetizers
2 TBS olive oil, divided 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 TBS minced garlic 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 8.1 oz Violife Just Like Feta 8 oz Kite Hill Ricotta Alternative 2 TBS finely minced dill leaves (no stems) 2 tsp lemon juice 1/8 tsp salt, or to taste 2 (1.6 oz) packages The Fillo Factory Mini Fillo Shells
Preheat oven to 350F. Add 1 TBS olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until almost translucent. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to brown. Transfer the onion-garlic mixture to a bowl. Wipe out the warm pan and add the additional 1 TBS olive oil. Add the spinach and cook until warmed through. Stir the onion-garlic mixture into the warm spinach in the pan. Crumble the feta into the pan and stir in the ricotta and dill. Cook just until the cheese softens. Add the lemon juice and salt and stir to combine.
Transfer the filling to a food processor and process until just blended. Taste and adjust for dill, lemon juice, and salt. Transfer the filling to a piping bag. Arrange the fillo shells on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pipe the filling into the shells. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the shells are just browned on the edges. Eat while still hot.
Until next time, Happy New Year, and happy baking!
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.
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.
During this time of year you will find people decorating their yards, going for walks along frosty lakes, or making the house smell divine with their baked treats. I, of course, fall into the last category. There is something magical about baking up a storm in a warmed kitchen while snow falls gently outside. Also, the holiday season screams — bake cookies! A typical holiday cookie is one that is rolled out, cut, and decorated. This recipe is similar but a bit easier because the dough is formed into balls that are then stamped. If you want to make a pretty cookie that requires less effort, then these fit the bill.
The original recipe was not vegan, but I modified that by using vegan butter in place of regular butter. Next I added vanilla extract because I needed a little extra moisture for high altitude, and vanilla would add flavor as well. I also added pistachios because I thought they would complement the cardamom.
1 cup unsalted Flora Butter, room temperature 1/4 cup organic light brown sugar, packed 1/4 cup coconut sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 2 cups all purpose flour 1/2 tsp ground cardamom 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/4 cup chopped pistachios for the dipping mixture: 1/4 cup vegan sugar 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
In a stand mixer, cream together vegan butter, brown sugar, and coconut sugar for 1 minute. Add vanilla and beat to combine. In a bowl, sift together flour, cardamom, and salt. Add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, to the butter mixture and beat after each addition. Stir the pistachios in by hand. Scoop up the dough and form it into a ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, make the dipping mixture by combining the vegan sugar with the cardamom. Preheat oven to 350°F.
When the dough is ready, roll it into 1” balls in your hand. Roll each ball in the cardamom sugar and place on baking sheets with 2” between each ball. Press down on the dough balls with cookie stamps or the bottom of a clean glass. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Today’s post is different than my usual high-altitude recipes. I just attended an online chocolate tasting and wanted to share my experience. Never having participated in a chocolate tasting event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course I’ve eaten my fair share of chocolate, but never in so sophisticated a fashion. I imagined it to be like a wine tasting, without the spit bucket.
The monthly Chocolate Club tastings are organized by Boulder Book Store. As this is my birth month, I decided to give myself the gift of a chocolate class. (Self-care at its best!). After signing up and then receiving the chocolates, I went to the chocolatiers’ websites to look over their tasting notes. These are not your average chocolates. With clean ingredients, ideas of “notes of blackberry and cashews,” and suggested beverage pairings, I waited eagerly for today’s class.
John Lehndorff, the instructor, started with a brief discussion of the areas where the different chocolates were made. For some chocolate producers he described how much labor went into the production of the bar in my hand. Next, John explained how to correctly do a chocolate tasting and added some of his own tasting notes.
As a group, we carefully unwrapped our chocolates and savored the smells and tastes. The chocolate bars are chosen as they are special in their own ways, so we took great care to absorb the nuances of each one. As a I held a bite of chocolate in my mouth and let it melt on my tongue, I savored the evolving flavors. One bar had a burst of sea salt; another held nutty overtones; a third was infused with ginger and rose essences. My taste buds were amazed, even after trying several bars, because no two bars were alike. I did not tire of sampling chocolate as the experience was unusual in its complexity.
The concept of chocolate tasting may sound snooty, but it was an excellent learning experience. It doesn’t mean I will never again devour chocolate in a few bites, but I hope that I can try to pause and take wonder at the intricate flavors that abound in a special bar of chocolate.
Ah, Sunday brunch. It’s an excuse to eat, and cook, something different and extravagant. Like, maybe, a chocolate quick bread. Then … add a decadent glaze, one with a punch of coffee flavor and an aftertaste of sweetness. And, to make it even more tempting, it should be a treat that’s simple and quick to prepare. Are you drooling yet?
The uncomplicated chocolate bread recipe I chose was already vegan. I adapted it to high altitude by reducing the leaveners and adding more non-dairy milk. To make the bread brunch-sized, I baked it as mini cakes instead of a loaf. The festive pan I used has cavities with a fall theme. (It’s hard to see in the picture, but the upper cake is acorn-shaped.) Sadly, the glaze masks the intricacies of the cake form. But that glaze — it’s so delicious that I forgave it for hiding my artistic creations. Cheers to brunch!
for the mini breads 1.25 cups non-dairy milk 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup cocoa powder 2 cups all purpose flour 1/2 cup + 1 TBS vegan brown sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda pinch fine sea salt 3/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 cup canola oil 1/4 cup agave syrup 1 tsp vanilla extract for the glaze 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted 1 TBS + 1 tsp strongly brewed coffee, cooled 2 tsp non-dairy milk pinch fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar then set aside to curdle. Grease mini cake pan cavities with shortening then dust with cocoa powder. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk milk mixture together with oil, agave, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until the batter is just smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the mini cake pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a mini bread comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the mini breads. Let the breads cool on a wire rack while you prepare the glaze. For the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, coffee, 2 tsp milk and salt. Drizzle it over the cooled breads.
Thank you for visiting my candy store for Halloween. Today I have several treats for you … and no tricks! I offer you a trio of fairly easy candy recipes. You won’t need a candy thermometer, and you don’t have to laboriously temper chocolate. And, if you are the impatient type (aren’t we all when it comes to treats), the truffles are ready in just a few minutes.
Each recipe that I adapted was already vegan. There is no baking involved, so high altitude was not a problem. Any changes I made were to finesse textures and include ingredients that I prefer. I also chose treats that were a little bit healthier so I wouldn’t get too crazy a sugar buzz. I hope you enjoy these treats, and have a Happy Halloween!
Add everything except the matcha to a food processor. Process until well combined, with a somewhat crumbly texture. Add the matcha powder and process again. Pour the mixture out into a bowl. Take a spoonful of the mixture in your palm and squeeze tightly, then roll it into a ball. Place on a dish and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Makes 10-12 truffles.
Chocolate-Covered Caramel Rolls
1.25 cups medjool dates, pitted 1 cup raw cashews 1 tsp maca powder pinch sea salt 1 TBS vanilla extract 1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a food processor, combine the dates, cashews, maca, salt, and vanilla. Process until the cashews are broken down to tiny flecks and the mixture starts to form a ball. The mixture will be a bit sticky. If it is not, then add another date or two and process again. Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll it between your palms. Place each roll on the parchment-lined sheet. Put the baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. When melted, remove the chocolate from the heat. Place a cooled roll on a fork, quickly dip it into the chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then place it on the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with remaining rolls. When all are dipped, put the cookie sheet in the fridge until the chocolate is firm. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Makes 24-30 rolls.
Cool Peppermint Patties
organic powdered sugar for baking sheet 1 TBS raw cashew butter 2.5 TBS refined coconut oil, in solid form 1.5 tsp agave syrup 1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint extract, or to taste 2 tsp organic powdered sugar 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar, and set aside. In a bowl, use a spatula to combine the cashew butter, coconut oil, agave, peppermint extract, and 2 tsp powdered sugar. Place the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes for the mixture to get firm. When the mixture is a scoopable consistency, take a small amount and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, then place the sheet back in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Prepare another baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. When melted, remove chocolate from the heat and let it cool slightly. When cooled, take a large dollop of chocolate and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Swirl it into a thick disc with the back of a spoon. Place a peppermint disc on top of the chocolate, then place another dollop of chocolate on top of that. Swirl the chocolate around to coat the peppermint disc. Refrigerate the coated patties until firm. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 15 patties.
‘Tis the season for pumpkin and pumpkin spice. But, to be honest, I’m only a fan of pumpkin spice when it’s in pumpkin bread. To get on board with the seasonal flavor, I had to make pumpkin bread soon. In order to make things more interesting, I added dried cranberries inside the bread and streusel on top. Now that’s a bread combination that would make anyone a fan.
The pumpkin bread recipe is an adaptation of a vegan cake recipe I found. To make it high altitude friendly, I reduced the baking powder and oil, and split it into smaller loaves, all of which created beautifully domed breads. The added sweet streusel topping and tart cranberries played nicely off of each other, but didn’t overpower the pumpkin and spice flavors. These tasty mini breads would look great on any fall holiday table.
Topping 2 1/2 TBS vegan butter (such as Flora Plant Butter) 1/2 cup vegan sugar pinch of salt 1/2 cup all purpose flour 3/4 tsp cinnamon powder 1/4 cup sweetened roasted almonds, chopped (such as Monk Crunch Cinnamon) Mini Breads 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp powdered ginger 3/4 tsp cinnamon powder 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 TBS vegetable oil 1 cup pumkin purée 1/2 cup + 1 tsp almond milk 1 cup dried diced cranberries (such as Patience Fruit & Company’s with no added sugar)
Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly spray 3 mini loaf pans with cooking spray. To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a pan over low heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, flour, cinnamon, and almonds. Stir in the melted butter, making sure to leave some streusel clumps. Set the topping aside while you prepare the bread batter.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Whisk in brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together vanilla, oil, pumpkin purée, and almond milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until evenly moistened. Mix in the dried cranberries. Transfer the batter to prepared pans and spread the topping over all loaves.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack. Tip out of loaf pans, trying not to lose the topping. To store leftovers, cool completely and wrap well. Will keep at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for longer storage.
Before I went through pastry school, I had never made a tart. I don’t know why but tarts never got my attention. Then, part of my training was to make everything and, in doing so, I discovered something. I love making tarts! The art of pressing the crust ingredients into a shell can be very meditative. There is also the flexibility of making the crust raw or baked. And don’t get me started on fillings or toppings — there are so many to choose from!
For this recipe I began with a vanilla pastry cream filling. Then I chose to roast pears to put on top, as I had pears that needed to get eaten. Next I opted for a raw crust that began as a basic recipe but then got a bit crazy with the inclusion of some Kibo chickpea chips. (It was a creative dare, and they worked beautifully.) I threw in a bit of raspberry jam and fresh raspberries and my creation turned heavenly, although hubby said it needed some chocolate. He can be predictable.
Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream (This recipe is separated into components as any or all of the parts may be made ahead and the tart assembled later.)
Vanilla Pastry Cream adapted from Rouxbe Online Culinary School 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 3-4 hours to soften 3 ounces unsweetened almond milk 1 ounce agave syrup 1 tsp vanilla extract pinch of sea salt Place cashews, milk, agave, vanilla, and salt in a high speed blender. Process on high until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the jar as needed. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts. (There will be extra, but it keeps in the refrigerator for a week.)
Tart Crusts 1 mini bag Kibo Himalayan Salt Chickpea Chips 1/2 cup walnuts 1/2 cup almonds 1/4 cup finely chopped dates 1/2 tsp water, as needed Lightly spray four mini tart pans with vegetable oil spray. Set aside. Place the chickpea chips into a food processor and process into a coarse meal. Pour the meal out into a bowl. (You will only need 1/8 cup of this meal). Put the walnuts and almonds into the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Put 1/8 cup chickpea chip meal into the food processor. Add the dates a spoonful at a time, pulsing between additions, until the dates are incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Add the water, a little at a time, and pulse until the mixture just holds together when pressed with your fingers. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add another date. If the mixture seems a bit too wet, add a few more nuts. Spread the mixture among the prepared tart pans. Press the mixture thinly, firmly, and evenly onto the sides and bottom of the pans. (You can use a small glass or measuring cup to press down with). Put the pans in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts.
Roasted Pears 1 tsp maple syrup 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar 1 pear, sliced thin Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the maple syrup and balsamic in a bowl. Add the pear slices and toss to coat. Pour the pears along with the liquid into a baking pan, arranging in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. Use immediately to assemble the tarts, or store in the refrigerator for up to several days.
To Assemble Tarts 4 mini tart crusts still in their pans 3-4 TBS seedless raspberry jam Vanilla pastry cream Roasted pear slices 12 fresh raspberries For each tart, spread a thin layer of jam over the bottom of the crust. Spoon the pastry cream on top of the jam almost to the height of the crust. Lay several pear slices and a few fresh berries over the pastry cream. To serve, carefully remove the tart from the tart pan. For tips on how to remove a tart from a pan with a removable bottom, see this article.
The Jewish New Year is celebrated this weekend. The holiday offers new beginnings at a time when hope is welcome. Traditionally, apples are dipped in honey, two symbols of the sweetness and joy of a new year. Although it may seem a long way off until the Gregorian calendar ends in December, now I give you a festive treat of apple muffins drizzled with bee-free honey.
For the muffin, I tweaked a recipe already in my repertoire. I traded peaches for apples, used applesauce as the liquid, and scattered apple pieces over the tops — all chosen for the most apple flavor. For the vegan honey-like drizzle, I adapted a recipe I learned at Rouxbe Online Culinary School. The end result was like dipping apples in honey, but in muffin form.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup agave syrup
3 TBS canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup + 2 TBS non-dairy milk
1.25 cup apples, peeled and diced into small cubes, divided
vegan honey (recipe to follow)
Preheat oven to 375F and line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the agave, oil, vanilla, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is just smooth. Gently stir in 1 cup of apples.
Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of apples onto the tops of the muffins. Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool the muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then gently remove each muffin and place on a rack to cool completely.
While the muffins are cooling, make the vegan honey. When the muffins have cooled, drizzle each with a generous spoonful of the warm honey. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for 1 day.
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 tsp vegan sugar
thinly sliced orange, organic
thinly sliced lemon, organic
Combine the syrups and sugar in a medium saucepan with high sides. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the sliced fruit. Lower the heat and cook at a low boil for 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a low boil. Once the desired consistency is reached, pour the syrup through a mesh strainer into a jar, discarding the fruit. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks.
You’re probably thinking … does she really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe? Yes, I do, because I found a new plant-based butter and it’s a game changer. This new butter, called Flora Plant Butter, consists mostly of plant oils. But it also contains faba bean protein, a component of aquafaba. Aquafaba is used by bakers to bind things together, and in my cookies this protein seemed to keep the butter from separating and getting oily. When vegan butter or margarine separates it can lead to greasy cookies, and I do not like greasy cookies.
I tried this new butter on a recipe of mine, Chocolate Chip Shortbread, so I didn’t have to worry about making vegan or high altitude changes. I did alter my original recipe to make it look, feel, and taste more like a classic chocolate chip cookie. If you like your cookies slightly chewy with crispy edges (like I do), then you will love these!
The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup Flora Plant Butter
1/2 cup slightly ground organic sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS aquafaba (bean water)
1/2 TBS non-dairy milk
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla, aquafaba, and non-dairy milk and beat again. Add in the sifted dry ingredients one cup at a time, beating between each addition. With a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.
Flora plant butter
Using a scoop, portion out balls of dough onto two cookie sheets. Flatten each ball slightly with the heel of your hand. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges are firm. Let pans cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then move cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.