Almond Meal Date Muffins

almond meal date muffin
almond meal date muffin

Sometimes I look at an ingredient in my cupboard and wonder what to do with it. It may have been procured for a particular recipe, then got pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. Today I uncovered the almond meal and decided it needed to get used up soon. But, what to make? Since almond meal is heavier than flour, and it soaks up more liquid, I hoped that it would bake similar to bran. Bran muffins are always good for breakfast or a snack, so I scoured my recipe collection for a bran muffin.

Because the initial recipe was a bran muffin, it would need many changes to make it into my almond meal muffin. It was already vegan and adjusted for high altitude, so my adaptations were to give it the familiar texture of a bran muffin without being too heavy. I then added components for the flavor profile I desired. Above I referenced the fact that almond meal can be a sponge, so I added apple sauce and milk because they have more liquid. I also chose date syrup over molasses to ramp up the date flavor. (You can use molasses if that’s what you have.) The muffin then got a hefty dose of cinnamon and some raisins because, well, it was my muffin recipe now and I like cinnamon and raisins.

Almond Meal Date Muffins inspired by Vegan Molasses Bran Muffins

1 cup almond meal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup slightly ground oats (ground in a coffee grinder until no large flakes are visible)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon powder

1 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cup raisins

1 tsp grated orange zest

1 cup + 3 TBS plain dairy-free yogurt

2 TBS unsweetened apple sauce

1 TBS milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup date syrup ( I use the one from Soom Foods)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together almond meal, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dates, raisins, and orange zest. Toss lightly to coat the dates, breaking up large bits of date if needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, apple sauce, milk, oil, and date syrup until combined. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Let the batter sit for 15 minutes to fully absorb the liquid. Spoon batter into muffin cups until the cups are almost full. Bake for 20-23 minutes, rotating the muffin tins halfway through baking. Muffins are ready when they are firm to the touch. Place muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Until next time, happy baking!

Easy Spanakopita Appetizers

easy spanakopita appetizers
easy spanakopita appetizers

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!

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!

Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread

cardamom pistachio shortbread
cardamom pistachio shortbread

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.

Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread adapted from Brown Sugar & Cardamom Stamped Shortbread Cookies

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Brunch Bread with Cafe au Lait Glaze

chocolate brunch bread
chocolate brunch bread with cafe au lait glaze

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!

Chocolate Brunch Bread with Cafe au Lait Glaze inspired by Easy Vegan Chocolate Bread

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

Cranberry-Studded Pumpkin Breads with Streusel

cranberry pumpkin breads with streusel
Cranberry-Studded Pumpkin Breads with Streusel

‘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.

Cranberry-Studded Pumpkin Breads with Streusel adapted from Pumpkin Spice Cake

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

Choosing the almond flavor for the streusel
Choosing an almond flavor for the streusel

Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

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.

ready for tart assembly
ready for tart assembly

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

A Sweet New Year Apple Muffins

sweet new year apple muffin

sweet new year apple muffin

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.

A Sweet New Year Apple Muffins adapted from my Cardamom Peach Morning Muffins

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.

Vegan Honey

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

perfect chocolate chip cookie

the perfect chocolate chip cookie

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

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.

Until next time, happy baking!

Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

Peach season is just starting where I live in Colorado. I have waited very patiently for this, so I am now gobbling up peaches in a frenzy. They are too few and too precious to do anything other than eat raw with their juices running down my arm. Using them in baking will have to wait until my tummy’s desire for fruit salad has been quenched. Until then I have a supply of dried peaches.

If properly soaked, dried fruit can often be a replacement in baked goods for their fresh counterparts. Cookie recipes are the perfect place to try dried fruit, so use any dried gems that you have. Just remember to soak them first so they get moist and plump. The amount of water and time this takes will depend on your fruit’s moisture content.

My recipe is loosely taken from one on Organic India’s blog. It was already vegan, with no changes required for altitude, and it allowed me to test their fiber supplement as an egg substitute. I tweaked it to accommodate my dried peaches and their soaking water. (Here’s a tip: never discard soaking water from fruit — it’s delicious). Next I made many other radical changes that suited my eating habits and pantry supplies. Cookies are forgiving that way, and they turned out wonderful.

Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies loosely adapted from Organic India

3/4 cup soaked and chopped dried peaches
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp Organic India Cinnamon Spice Pre & Probiotic Fiber Supplement
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup soaking water from the peaches
1/3 cup + 1 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 3 TBS maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

soaked and dried peaches

soaked peaches and dried peaches

Several hours prior to making the cookies, soak the dried peaches in plenty of water. Strain and save the soaking water. Chop the peaches into small bits.

Heat oven to 375F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift in flour, fiber supplement, baking soda, cardamom, and ginger. Add rolled oats. To a medium bowl, add soaking water, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Whisk together, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir to combine until a dough forms. It will be slightly sticky. Fold in chopped peaches.

Set the bowl of cookie batter aside for 15 minutes. This will make the dough easier to handle. Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, making 30 cookies. Bake for 19-20 minutes, or until the undersides are lightly brown. Let cool slightly before removing onto a wire rack to fully cool.

Until next time, happy baking!