Friday, July 29, 2011

Vegan Fudge Brownies


These are hands down the moistest brownies that I have ever had! They are soo dense and chocolately - you would never believe me if I told you they were made with whole wheat and contained no butter or eggs. My family (including my little brother who had a T-bone steak the size of a small dog for his birthday dinner a couple weeks ago) loved them and could not believe that they were vegan! But enough about the fact that these brownies are actually pretty healthy.. the main reason you should make them is that they are ridiculously delicious!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder - Make sure your cocoa powder does not have traces of milk if you want these to be vegan
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
scant 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup white sugar - I substituted with palm sugar for a healthier, lower-glycemic index brownie. You could also substitute with sucanat if desired.
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, carob chips, or chopped walnuts - For vegan brownies make sure the chocolate chips are dairy-free or substitute with carob chips and/or walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8" baking pan with tin foil so that it overlaps two ends of the pan. Lightly spray with a non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together to flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is just combined. Fold in the chocolate/carob chips or walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and evenly spread it around the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sides begin to pull away from the edge of the pan and the middle is still slightly gooey. Don't worry if they aren't completely cooked all the way through, the brownies will firm up as they cool so don't overbake them! Cool the brownies on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Speed up cooling by placing them in the fridge. To cut, lift the brownies from the pan using the tin foil that overlapped the pan and place on a cutting board, then cut into 8 brownies.

These brownies are even better the day after you make them! Hopefully they last that long :)


*Recipe adapted from Peas and Thank You

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orange Cranberry Almond Biscotti


This crunchy Italian treat is perfect for dunking in your coffee or tea!

Ingredients:

2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups white sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp. orange zest (the zest of about 1 med. orange)
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Juice from 1 medium orange
5 Tbsp. chopped almonds, toasted, divided use
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop your almonds and place them in a skillet or on a baking sheet. Toast them over the stove or in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar,  salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cranberries, orange zest and 3 Tbsp. of the almonds. In a separate bowl whisk the 3 eggs and then mix in the vegetable oil, almond extract, and squeezed juice from the orange. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet mixture. Mix the dough by hand until it comes together in a ball. It may seem too dry at first but just keep mixing with your hands and it will come together. 

After mixing, separate the dough into equal halves and roll each half into a log about 8" long. Place the dough logs on the prepared baking sheet and flatten so they are about 3/4" thick. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-27 minutes. 

 Before baking

After baking for the 1st time

Cool the dough until it is not longer warm, about 30 minutes, then remove from the baking sheets and place on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, slice the dough diagonally into 1/2" slices. Lay the slices on their sides and place them back on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 more minutes, turning the slices over to the other side halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. The finished biscotti should be hard and crunchy.


When the biscotti have completely cooled, melt your white chocolate chips in the microwave at 30 second intervals so that they don't burn. Dip the biscotti into the melted chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the biscotti. Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbsp. of chopped, toasted almonds over the chocolate and gently press them into the chocolate so that they are secured. Allow the chocolate to harden (you can put the tray of biscotti in the fridge to speed this up) and serve with coffee or tea for dunking. Store in an airtight container on the countertop.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two-Tone Icing Swirl Cupcakes


This is a beautiful icing technique that looks difficult but is really so simple! I love the effect that it produces and the endless colour combinations you could use. It would be perfect to use on cupcakes fora baby shower, wedding shower, graduation, or any event that has specific colours associated with it. It's also a great technique for making icing flowers that have a more realistic two-tone colouring. Even if you're not a skilled decorator you can master this technique very quickly and produce impressive, unique looking cupcakes that will wow your party guests!


First you need to prepare your icing bag. I used a Wilton 1M star tip to create the big swirl of icing - but any star tip will work fine, it just depends on how big or small you want your swirl to be. Once you have your icing tip inserted into the icing bag, put the bag into a tall glass cup, tip-first. Fold the top 2-3 inches of the icing bag over the lip of the cup so that your icing bag is wide open. 


Separate your prepared icing (either homemade or storebought) into two bowls. Each bowl should have about 3/4-1 cup of icing if you are making 12 cupcakes. Dye each bowl of icing in the colours of your choice. You could also try using half chocolate icing and half vanilla icing instead of two different colours of the same icing. Take an angled spatula or butter knife and scoop out one colour of icing from the bowl. Smear the icing into one side of the prepared icing bag. The icing should be against one "wall" of the bag and not completely covering the middle of the bag. Repeat this technique with the other colour of icing on the other side of the icing bag. It's alright if it's not perfectly even, as long as the two colours are separated "vertically" in the icing bag. Next time I make these I will remember to take a picture to show exactly what this should look like!

To ice the cupcakes, apply even pressure to your piping bag and start your swirl on the outside edge of the cupcake, moving around and up in a circular motion. The two-tone effect may not come out on the first squeeze, so you may want to squeeze the first bit of icing onto a piece of paper towel or a plate until you see both colours starting to come out, then switch over to your cupcakes. If you run out of icing and need to refill your icing bag, then make sure it is completely empty of icing and repeat the filling technique from above. For less mess, you could also remove your star tip from the empty icing bag and start fresh with a new, clean icing bag. Continue until all the cupcakes are iced and then enjoy!

My New Favourite Hummus!


Hummus is one of my favourite foods ever! I'm always looking for new and better hummus recipes to try out, and this is my favourite one of the moment! 

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (a little less than 1 can)
1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) - Tahini can usually be found by the peanut and other nut butters in your grocery store
7-8 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or 5-6 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice
2 Tbsp. water
4-8 drops of Tabasco sauce, to taste
Olive oil, for drizzling
Paprika, for garnish

Directions:

Place all ingredients except the Tabasco and salt into a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl as needed. Now add in the Tabasco and salt gradually, stopping to taste as you go. Add less or more depending on your taste preferences. 

Scoop the hummus out of the processor and transfer into a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle paprika over the top. Serve with fresh veggies, pitas, crackers, or as a spread. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.



*Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip


This dip is soo yummy and addicting - and you would never guess what it is made out of! I served this at a party and no one could believe it when I told them there was chickpeas in it! Don't be scared by the fact that it is a bean dip... just think of it as "dessert hummus." It is so easy to make and is great for dipping graham crackers, fresh fruit, pretzels, or even more cookies in.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cup chickpeas (a little less than a full can), drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1/4 cup milk or almond milk
1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar (sweeten to your taste preference)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup chocolate chips or carob chips (to make this vegan)

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor (a blender might also work but I haven't tried it) and process on high for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Scrape down the sizes of the processor with a rubber spatula as needed.

Transfer into a serving bowl and stir in the chocolate chips. Serve with graham crackers, fresh fruit, or anything dippable! Store covered in the refrigerator.


*Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Uncle and Auntie's 25th Anniversary Cake


I made this cake for my Aunt and Uncle's 25th Wedding Anniversary party yesterday! My grandma gave me part of their original wedding cake topper and some turquoise ribbon that had been used at their wedding to use for the cake, and I also used their wedding colour (turquoise/teal) in the icing detail. The bottom tier was white chocolate cake with a strawberry cream cheese filling, the top tier was chocolate cake with a chocolate fudge filling, and the icing was a vanilla buttercream. Click the links to be taken to those recipes!


I put a lot of time and love into this cake and I'm so glad that the happy couple liked it. I pretty much lived at my Auntie and Uncle's house growing up (hence why they nicknamed me their #4 1/2 child) and they put up with a lot of mine and my cousins' crazy antics. Just some of the things this marriage has survived include: a lot of late-night, giggly sleepovers that were fueled by slushies, Coke, and penny candy, home movies that turned the entire house upside down for props, costumes, and scenery, lipstick stains on the carpet (from dressing their son up as a girl, no less), violent uses of the good china, dance dance and more dance (without my Auntie's suggestion I never would have enrolled in dance in the first place!), a What Not To Wear episode featuring my Auntie's closet (sorry Auntie!), themed birthday parties that almost always included a pinata (they were so brave!), hot glue guns in the hands of children in the name of craft projects for the Country Fair, yearly Halloween haunted houses that put the pro's to shame, and a faithful old red van. I definitely wanted to do a little something for them on their special day to show just how much they mean to me - seriously, you guys deserve a lot more than cake haha! Congratulations on 25 years! 

Love, Brookie Brooke Brooke a.k.a. #4 1/2 xoxo

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Almond Cookie Dough Balls


Enjoy these super easy cookie dough balls as an energizing snack or treat! They have a delicious, nutty almond flavour and are packed with nutritious, wholesome ingredients! Oh, and they're also vegan and gluten-free if that applies to you :)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dates (about 5-6 large dates)
1/4 cup natural almonds
1/4 cup natural cashews
1 Tbsp. raisins
2 Tbsp. shredded coconut
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process on high for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture comes together into a "ball" of dough. The nuts should be very small pieces at the end of processing. 

Line a medium-sized bowl or airtight container with parchment or wax paper or plastic wrap. Remove the dough from the food processor into a small bowl and mix with your hands to ensure everything is evenly combined. 

Pinch off a Tbsp.-sized piece of dough and roll into a ball between your palms. If the dough is too sticky then try wetting your hands or refrigerating the dough for 20-30 minutes. Place the formed balls into the prepared bowl or container. Seal with a lid or plastic wrap and store the balls in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 1 month. 


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Sunday, July 10, 2011

California Veggie Stir-fry

Stir-frys are the perfect meal for when you want something quick, simple, and full of fresh flavours! They are also a great summer dish because you don't have to slave over a hot stove for hours to have a delicious dinner!


Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup sugar snap peas, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
4-5 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained of excess oil and roughly chopped
1/4 cup water
2/3 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup peach mango salsa
Cooked rice or noodles

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add in all the vegetables and 1/4 cup of water. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. 

In a small dish, stir together the soy sauce and salsa then pour into the stir-fry. Add the black beans and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until heated. Serve over rice or thin noodles. Serves 2.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Friday, July 8, 2011

25th Wedding Anniversary Cake

This is a cake order that I made for a good friend's parent's 25th Wedding Anniversary today! She wanted me to recreate the top tier of their wedding cake, and then she was going to put her parent's original cake topper on it. The cake was a 3-layer white chocolate cake with blackberry preserve filling in between the layers. I was sort of nervous about this project at first because it was obviously a very important cake to make - and of course I wanted to do their original wedding cake justice. After a long two nights of baking and decorating I'm really pleased with how it turned out and I really hope that it brings back some fond memories for her parents on this special day!

White Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
Cake Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line the bottom of two 9" round cake pans with wax or parchment paper and then grease with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, melt the white chocolate and hot water over low heat. Stir until smooth, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, beating well with each addition. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, then add the melted white chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack in the pans for 10 minutes, then gently remove from the pans and allow them to cool completely. You can cover and place the cake in the fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling process.

Once the cake layers have cooled, use a long serrated knife to level off the tops so they are flat. Place the bottom layer on your cake/serving plate or platter and spread your filling over top; repeat with the second layer and then top with the last layer. Ice and decorate with the decorator's icing recipe below. Store cake in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

*Note: For a 3-layer cake like the one I made you will have to double this recipe and make 4 9" round cakes.

*White Chocolate Cake recipe from AllRecipes
This recipe produces a pure white, decorator's icing that is perfect for a smooth icing finish and intricate piping details. I'll be honest - it's not the most amazing tasting icing but that can be fixed by using flavoured extracts. If you just need to cover a cake with icing and don't need it to be perfectly white or need to decorate it then I would recommend just using a buttercream or cream cheese icing instead. However, if you need a stiff icing that will hold up to piping and fine details then this is a great recipe!

White Decorator's Icing Recipe:

1 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups icing sugar
6 Tbsp. milk
1 and 1/2 tsp. almond or clear vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and butter with an electric mixer. Add in 1 cup of icing sugar and 1 Tbsp. of milk at a time, mixing until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add in the almond or vanilla extract and salt and mix until combined. Dye using gel pastes or food colouring if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocobanana Smoothie


Summer is synonymous with smoothie in my books - and it doesn't get much better than chocolate and banana! To make this a great post-workout snack or filling breakfast, add in 1-2 scoops of your favourite chocolate protein powder.

Ingredients:

1 very ripe, frozen banana 
Note: I like to use frozen bananas in my smoothies to make them extra thick and creamy, but if you don't have any pre-frozen then that's fine too
1 tsp. cocoa powder
2/3 cup chocolate milk or chocolate almond milk
1 cup ice or 4-5 large ice cubes

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy with a straw! 


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, July 4, 2011

Apple Flax Crumble


Enjoy this variation of an apple crisp as a light, nutritious and comforting dessert, breakfast, or snack.

Ingredients:

2 large Granny Smith apples
1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Core and chop both apples into small chunks. In a large bowl, mix the chopped apples, flaxseed meal, coconut, oats, cinnamon, and vanilla. Heat the peanut butter in a small, microwave-safe dish for 30-40 seconds, until just warmed. Stir the peanut butter into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.


Spoon the mixture into individual ramekins, or into large muffin tins. This recipe can be divided into 2 or 4 portions depending on how large you want them. 


Bake for 20 minutes, or until the apples have softened. Enjoy for breakfast with honey, syrup, or more peanut butter drizzled over top, or for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or banana ice cream.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Red Velvet Canada Day Cake


This cake was a double birthday cake because not only was it Canada's birthday yesterday but also my little sister's 19th birthday! Of course I had to do a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing to stay with the "red and white" theme! Red velvet cake is actually just a chocolate cake that has been dyed red (using a massive amount of red food colouring) - perfect for Canada Day. It doesn't have a deep chocolate flavour, but is very moist and delicious with the cream cheese icing.

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 2 oz. bottle liquid red food colour (or 4 Tbsp. red food colour) - You could also use about 2 Tbsp. of gel paste food colour if you have that instead
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the centre of oven. Line the bottom of a 9x13" rectangular baking pan with parchment or wax paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, food colour, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

Once completely cooled, transfer the cake to a serving platter or plate and ice with cream cheese icing (recipe below). Arrange the sliced strawberries into a Canadian Flag design or, if it's not Canada Day, you can cover the whole cake surface with strawberries or just leave it plain.


Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

Cream Cheese Icing Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Slowly add in the icing sugar. Add in the vanilla extract and mix until the icing is smooth. Store prepared icing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan