5/09/2016

vegan rhubarb apple coffee cake

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Rhubarb is kind of a mystery to me. I'd really like to know how it got stuck in the strictly sweet application. Not that I'm complaining, but is that weird to anyone else? I've pretty much never seen it served in anything other than a dessert. Still, I'm sure whoever came up with this system had a pretty good reason. I mean, I have followed my curiosity long enough to try a raw piece of rhubarb and it doesn't exactly taste, well, good.

So whoever came to the realization that with a little time in the oven and some added sugar, rhubarb really turns into something special, into something that makes me look forward to its brief appearance in spring, its bright red stalks unmistakable on the farmers' market tables: thanks. You can have a little credit for how great this coffee cake turned out (but just a little).


Pies, sure, jams and even parfaits (had one last night, in fact), but what about a rhubarb coffee cake, I asked myself. Turns out, I wasn't the only one. But even if every good idea already exists, it doesn't mean it can't improved upon, right? And there's always more room for such improvements in the vegan baking spectrum.

This cake is perfect for a weekend treat. I decided to try it out on a pretty dreary Saturday morning and the bright notes in the green apple and red rhubarb immediately perked me up. That and the coffee, anyway.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cake:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon flaxseed meal + 2 tablespoons water, well mixed
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced**
1/2 cup apple, peeled and diced***

For the crumb topping:

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan butter, cold

**What I found worked best was to slice each rhubarb stem length-wise and then thinly slice from there. But do what you want! If you want bigger chunks, that will be great, too.
***I went with Granny Smith, a classic baking apple. But use what you have! It's all good.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In a measuring cup, combine your almond milk and vinegar. Whisk vigorously and set aside to curdle. In a small pinch bowl, mix together your flaxseed meal and water and allow to set, about 3 minutes.

In a separate smaller bowl, mix together your coconut oil, vanilla and sugar. Gradually add in your almond milk mixture and stir well. Finally, add your flax egg and whisk once more.


Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. Next, fold in your sliced fruit (rhubarb is a fruit, right?**) until evenly dispersed, about 10 solid folds. Transfer to a 8 or 9-inch square pan, lightly greased (you can use coconut oil for this as well, but any nonstick spray will do).

Quickly add all your crumb topping ingredients to a small bowl and break up/mash together with a fork. You may have to get hands on for any bigger vegan butter chunks, but no complaints here. When you've broken everything down into bite-sized crumbs (think no bigger than a dime), evenly sprinkle the crumb topping on your cake.

**Nope.


Transfer to your oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until 1. the top is golden, 2. the crumbs are golden, 3. the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan or 4. a toothpick comes out clean. All the above is your best case scenario and most likely what will turn out to to be the perfect coffee cake.

If you can stand it, allow to cool (in the pan) for about 5-10 minutes when it comes out of the oven. This just makes it a tad easier to cut so you don't miss all those rhubarb and apple pieces when it comes to scooping it out of the pan. If you can't wait, I understand. We all do.


How else can you get more rhubarb in your life?
**Even better, you can also make your own! 




5/02/2016

vegan snickers bars

Yum

There are certain foods that I just stopped eating one day. It was a combination of discovering information about "food" that I couldn't unlearn, ingredients lists that rivaled novels and a general understanding of myself that took some serious, conscious efforts in paying attention to how I felt. Turns out, food doesn't have to make you feel terrible. You don't have to always have indigestion or feel tired or suffer sugar breakouts.**

**More on this some other time, but if you're intrigued, start here.

So despite certain foods automatically falling off my normal rotation because I suddenly realized I was basically eating chemicals and preservatives and dyes and making my life unnecessarily harder and it wasn't even worth it (come on, guys, it's not worth it), it can be difficult to deny when those cravings roll around. My hankering for a Snickers bar usually begins somewhere on October 31st when everything comes in cute (but still bad!) bite sized packaging and ends, oh, never.


So what to do? You want a Snickers (or whatever your candy bar vice happens to be) but you can't eat a Snickers. Or can you? Can you make your own version with about ten million less ingredients (try ten, period, one of them being water) and still be just as satisfied?

I admit, I was skeptical. As much as I try to limit my dairy intake, I thought there was no chance a bunch of puréed dates would pass for caramel. Well, I've reformed. And I'm sorry (there's a first time for everything) I doubted. In just a few simple steps, Snickers cravings, be gone.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the base layer

65 grams pure maple syrup
240 grams almond butter (smooth is probably best here, but who's to say?)
8-10 tablespoons almond flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel

180 grams pitted dates
90 grams almond butter
4-7 tablespoons warm water
4 tablespoons coconut oil

For the rest

1/2 cup peanuts, unsalted
400 grams dairy-free dark chocolate**

**Check your labels! I'm sure you are, but seriously, you'd be surprised how many dark chocolate varieties contain dairy. I've always liked working with this brand. Zero percent chance of dairy (or other common allergens)!



Begin by forming your base. In a medium bowl, mix together your maple syrup and almond butter. Add your salt and vanilla and stir to combine. Add your almond meal one tablespoon at a time until you achieve the correct consistency. What you're looking for is something akin to slightly thicker cake batter. Once you're there, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer your mixture to the pan and spread in an even-ish layer about one inch thick. Transfer to the freezer to firm up (at least fifteen minutes).


Meanwhile, you can get started on your caramel. Though, if you're anything like me, don't get started on it too early or you may find yourself eating too much of it before it's time to assemble the bars. In the bowl of a food processor (or blender), add your dates, almond butter and coconut oil. Pulse together, about ten to twenty times. Next, add your water one tablespoon at a time until your mixture smooths out but remains thick.

Once your base has set, cut into even bars. How you do this is totally up to you. You can go with the traditional candy bar shape, squares, uneven and oblong blobs like I did. There are no rules, really. Once the base pieces are cut and you can live with the shape they are in, press a good amount (you'll just have to eyeball this one based on the shape of your bars) of peanuts onto the top of each bar. I pushed them down but not fully infused into the base. I figured this would help keep the tops slightly level which would help with the chocolate covering. Again, no rules.

Next, add a nice, thick layer of caramel to each bar. This part is fun. I felt like vegan Willy Wonka, with a lot less purple in my life. Also access to a chocolate river would have made coating these bars a whole lot easier.


Transfer your sheet pan back into the freezer for another fifteen minutes, minimum. The longer you can let them freeze, the easier the final step will be. But I waited fifteen minutes to the dot and I understand if you choose to do the same.

While you're waiting, you can get started on melting down your chocolate. There is, of course, the trusted double boiler method that will never let you down. There is also the 15-20 second increments in the microwave with a quick stir in between. This method has never failed me, either. To each their own (don't tell Martha and/or anyone else who would inevitably frown on this microwave method of mine).


When the chocolate is melted and the bars are frozen, quickly dip/coat each one in a layer of chocolate. After each bar is coated, transfer back to your parchment lined pan (you may need a new piece of paper; if so, flip it over: done!) and then back into the freezer for their final setting.

These will be ready in about 30 minutes and best in about an hour. I feel like if you make it the full hour you should go ahead and have two. Also, in my opinion, they seem to store best in the freezer. In the fridge or on the countertop, you risk that weird condensation on the chocolate that sort of kills my candy-eating vibe. Plus they don't ever fully harden, so what you end up with is a super nice, cold candy bar that won't break your teeth. Isn't that what every girl wants?



More candy? I thought you'd never ask:
This recipe inspired by the geniuses at The Happy Pear: thanks, guys!





4/25/2016

simple vegan white bean chili

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Chili is usually a dead-of-winter kind of meal. Something that stews and simmers over a low heat for an hour or more. Which is probably not something you want to do once the temperature starts to spike, though I have gone on a number of baking sprees in mid-July. The heart wants what it wants.

Something I'm adjusting to in Colorado's version of spring are the super warm days (hello, sun!) that cool down to sometimes half (or more) of what the high was. Did that make sense? So when it comes time to think about dinner, a bowlful of a super simple chili could be just the ticket. Pair it with some fresh, warm vegan cornbread and you'll find me at the table.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning**
1 15-ounce can navy beans, rinsed (or whatever your favorite is)
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 avocado, optional

**This one is my favorite lately. It's not just for pizza anymore!


Start by heating a good bit of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook your onions until they start to wilt down, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add your garlic, and cook for one minute more. At this time, you might start to notice your onions and garlic sticking a bit, so you can use some of your stock to loosen them up. Add a few tablespoons to scrape the bottom of the pot.

Add your carrot and pepper and the rest of your vegetable stock. Allow this to simmer gently for a few minutes or until your added vegetables begin to soften (5-ish minutes a good timeframe).


At this time, add in your seasoning and more salt and pepper. Add your canned tomatoes, stir well. Stir in your beans, well rinsed, and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer for about thirty minutes, until heated through and slightly thickened. Serve with sliced avocado on top (a great alternative to cheese!) and cornbread on the side.***

How easy was that?

***Um, it kind of blows my mind that I don't have a vegan cornbread recipe up. I've made one about a million-trillion times but just realized I never shared it. Ball dropped! I'll get on that soon, but in the meantime, here's a good one.


Some other simple uses for (white) beans:




4/18/2016

vegan baklava sticky buns

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One of my favorite things on earth is baklava. No, not just one of my favorite desserts and yes, all of earth. The whole thing. I love everything about it from the flaky, crispy dough to the honey-rosewater-pistachio layers. Sadly, this perfect trifecta an underused combo outside of traditional Mediterranean dessert world. Why? I can't see any reason why these ingredients wouldn't translate well to a cake, pie, or even a bowl of morning oatmeal. Which got me thinking: how can I get away with having baklava for breakfast?

Aside from just digging into a super sweet piece before 9AM (not above it), I tried to translate these familiar flavors into a more traditional breakfast pastry: the sticky bun. Even though there might not be much more nutritional virtue in one of these rolls than just going for the dessert, they signify something special, an exciting day ahead (maybe first started by a sugar-induced nap). Bake them up for special occasions, holidays and family gatherings, or as the perfect way to wake up. Who can say no to the smell of toasting pistachios?


For this recipe you'll need:

For the dough

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (any non-dairy variety will do)
3 tablespoons vegan butter
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2-3 cups of all purpose flour

For the filling

1/2 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Bee Free Honee**
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon rosewater (optional)

For the glaze 

1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
Splash of rosewater (still optional)

**If you can't find this or don't want to use it, substitute for another 1/4 cup brown sugar. If you aren't worried about keeping it vegan, you can also use real honey for the most authentic baklava flavor.


In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat the almond milk and 3 tablespoons vegan butter until warm and melted but not boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees - if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast which will result in flat sticky buns - bummer.

Transfer mixture to the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle in your yeast and allow to activate for 10 minutes. It should start to look foamy and bubbly. Next, add your tablespoon of sugar and the salt and whisk together.


Switch to the dough hook attachment and begin to add in flour 1/2 cup increments, stirring as you go. When the dough comes together and is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball, adding more flour as you go. Coat a large bowl lightly with oil (grapeseed or olive will do) and place your dough in the center of the bowl. Roll around to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.


While you wait, prepare your pan (a 9-inch square or round will do). Whisk together your melted vegan butter and brown sugar (and rosewater, if using) until smooth. Spread across the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the chopped pistachios in an even layer. Set aside.

Once the dough has just about doubled in size, on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle that's about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with 1/4 cup melted vegan butter and top with brown sugar and Bee Free Honee (or all brown sugar). Sprinkle with cinnamon and rosewater (again, if using). Top with remaining pistachios and roll up your dough, starting with the shorter side.  


Using a serrated knife (trust me here), cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch rolls. Place in your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set on top of the oven to let it briefly rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden. Cool for about 5 minutes before inverting the pan and serve immediately.

Hi, I heard you were looking for some other vegan breakfast options:


4/11/2016

vegan pineapple coconut granola bars

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I'm always looking for ways to keep food in boxes out of my kitchen. It's not always easy because things like toaster pastries exist and sometimes a girl just needs something simple. But food that comes in a box, even if it is frosted cherry-pomegranate, is never going to be as good as food that, well, doesn't. Case in point, granola bars. Sure, a lot of them taste good, and there are even a lot of varieties out there that follow all the rules I'm down with and don't have a lot of ingredients that my brain can't comprehend. But even still, a lot of them often have extra binders or oils or added flavors that aren't exactly natural.


So after I've read a bunch of nutritional information, so much that my eyes are ready to fall out and the kid stocking the cereal aisle probably thinks I'm insane (he is right), I often ask myself: is this something I can live without? Well, probably, but granola bars sure are convenient. They have their own wrapper, they fit easily in a purse or a backpack, they have kept me from slapping an unsuspecting stranger when a sudden bought of hangry-ness strikes. They tend to have a good balance of protein and fiber, sometimes the occasional chocolate chip. We could probably all live without them, but who would want to?


Instead, let's make them better. Raisins and peanuts, you say? Girl, please. Pass the dried pineapple (no sugars or sulfites added, please!), let's toast some coconut and make the best granola bar you've ever had.***

***I'm actually zero percent hating on raisins and peanuts. The good thing about granola bars is they're so damn adaptable. Don't have something? Don't like something? We accept substitutions! The only thing you probably shouldn't mess with is the oats, unless you have a different grain in mind, or the nut butter/bee-free honee ratio. Otherwise, go nuts! Literally.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole almonds, roasted
1/4 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
1/2 cup bee-free honee or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread out your oats into an even, single layer. Toast for about 10 minutes, tossing slightly and rotating halfway through. After ten minutes, add your sliced almonds and coconut and toast for 3-5 minutes more.


While you're waiting, add your honee (or maple syrup) and almond butter to a small bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds so they are slightly warmed. Whisk together until evenly combined. Add your vanilla extract and whisk once more.

When the oat-coconut-almond combo comes out of the oven, immediately transfer to a large bowl (if you don't, the ingredients will continue to toast and can possibly burn, specifically the coconut). Add your cinnamon and salt to the bowl and toss together. Fold in your whole almonds and pineapple chunks. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and fold together (a rubber spatula works best) until everything is evenly coated.


Line a square pan (9"x 9" or 8"x 8" will work) with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with some nonstick coconut oil spray. Add the mixture to the pan and press down until evenly spread to all corners of the pan. If works best if you slightly dampen your fingers and work quickly to the edges.


Transfer back to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges. You don't want to wait until the bars are very browned or hardened as that will result in a reeeally crunchy granola bar once they cool. You know, the non-tooth-friendly kind.

So what do you think? Did you keep the recipe as is or did you swap something out? Cashews for almonds? Dried apricots for the pineapple? There's an endless number of combination possibilities if you're not the tropical type. And even if you are, try another kind next time!


More breakfast (and snack and food) type things, please.