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!

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!

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

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!

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites and matcha tea

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites and matcha tea

The seasons are starting to change, often a time that ushers in new colds and flus. It’s a good idea now to keep up immune health, and I have a tasty way for you to do just that. These nuggets of sweetness can be beneficial to your immune system, all the while disguising themselves as dessert.

Over the years I have collected many recipes for what are called Energy Bites. The recipe here is a mashup of those, with an accent on herbs to keep you well. It’s raw and vegan so there are no high altitude tips and no veganizing was necessary. You can substitute your favorite sweetener and nut or seed butter, but please do not consider this medical advice. Seek out your healthcare provider if you have serious health issues.

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites

2 TBS astragalus root powder
1 tsp maca powder
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
6 TBS date paste (see my post on how to make date paste, or use Soom Silan Date Syrup)
1 cup tahini or nut butter (I used Soom Premium Tahini)
walnut pieces, for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk the powders together. In a medium bowl, combine the date paste and tahini or nut butter. Stir the powders into the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes for the powders to better absorb. Roll teaspoon-sized balls in the palms of your hands. Press walnut pieces in the tops of the bites. Store in an airtight container on the counter. Eat 2-3 daily. Makes 10 Immune Boost Bites.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!

This post was a collaboration with Soom Foods, however my opinions are my own.