Monday, July 30, 2012

Honey Cinnamon Almond Butter


If you've never tried almond butter before then I urge you to give it a try! I used to be a faithful peanut butter lover until I first tried it, and now I'm addicted to almond butter. Not only is it delicious, but it's also a great source of healthy fats and protein. You can buy it at the store next to the peanut butter, but making your own is super easy and usually cheaper too (if you have a food processor). The addition of honey and cinnamon in this recipe are optional but definitely worth it and pair perfectly with the almonds.

Ingredients:

2 cups roasted, salted almonds - You can use natural almonds if you prefer, but I just like the flavour of roasted salted almonds better
1 Tbsp. liquid honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
You may also need just 1-2 tsp. of oil (either canola or coconut oil will work great) if the almond butter isn't coming together smoothly, depending on your food processor

Directions:

Put the almonds in a food processor and process on the highest speed until smooth. This will take about 5-10 minutes and you may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the processor with a rubber spatula a few times to ensure everything is evenly processed. At this point you can transfer the almond butter into a container and be finished if you just want plain almond butter.

Add in the honey and cinnamon and continue to process until combined. Once you add in the honey, the almond butter will become a little more thick and gummy, but don't worry it will still be smooth enough to spread. If you find the almond butter really isn't coming together smoothly after about 8-10 minutes of processing, try adding in 1-2 tsp. of oil. This should help to smooth it out.

Scoop the almond butter into a sealable container or jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. As with any natural nut butter, there may be some separation between the oil and the solids as it sits, but just give it a little stir before using to recombine them and it will be fine. Use as you would peanut butter!


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Monday, July 23, 2012

Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins




These muffins are great for using up those brown bananas on your counter. They are super moist and full of healthy ingredients - lots of fibre and omega-3's! I've enjoyed them as a morning or afternoon snack with tea and as a part of my breakfast.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. unsweetened apple sauce (or additional 2 Tbsp. oil)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup milk (I used soy milk)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups. This recipe will make about 16-18 muffins.

In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, flax seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate, large bowl mix together the egg whites, oil, applesauce, vanilla, bananas, and milk.

Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until the batter is just combined. Do not over-mix otherwise your muffins will be tough and rubbery. 

Evenly divide the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack in the muffin pan for about 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to continue cooling. Store in an airtight container.


*Recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes for Two


At my little brother's birthday party this week my family enjoyed a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing that I made. However, my vegan cousin was also coming to the party so I couldn't leave her to watch everyone else devour dessert without anything for herself! Instead of making a whole separate vegan cake or a whole batch of cupcakes, I found this great recipe for vegan vanilla cupcakes that just makes two. It's a perfect recipe when you just need a little something sweet but don't want to make a large batch and have a bunch of leftovers!

The cupcakes were moist, sweet, and full of vanilla flavour. You would honestly never know they don't contain butter or eggs. Even the vanilla icing is vegan! I used Becel Vegan Margarine, which is a tasty and very affordable product Becel recently came out with, but feel free to use Earth Balance or another vegan margarine. My cousin loved her cupcake and I enjoyed the second one. Now I kind of wish there were more than just two!

Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients:

1/4 cup soymilk (I used So Good sweetened vanilla)
1/4 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with 2 cupcake liners. Depending on the size of your muffin tin you may be able to get 3 cupcakes out of this recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together the soymilk and lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the canola oil, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl with the soymilk and stir to combine. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until no large lumps in the batter remain. 

Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Vegan Vanilla Icing Ingredients:

1/4 cup vegan margarine (Becel or Earth Balance are the two most common brands)
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
splash of soymilk

Directions:

In a medium bowl, beat the margarine with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the icing sugar and vanilla and continue mixing until completely combined. Add in a splash of soymilk and mix. If you accidentally add too much and the icing is too thin then just add in a bit more icing sugar until you get a spreadable consistency. Scoop the icing into a plastic bag or piping bag and chill slightly before using to frost the cupcakes. To frost the cupcakes, snip the corner off the plastic bag and pipe on the icing, or pipe on using your tip. You could also just spread the icing on with a spoon. Top with sprinkles or coloured sugar and enjoy!



*Recipe adapted from My Little Celebration

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baseball Cake

Yesterday was my little brother's 16th birthday so we had a big family BBQ to celebrate. As is quickly becoming tradition in my family, I was in charge of making the cake! He is a baseball player and currently plays on a competitive baseball team, so I couldn't wait to use my sports ball cake pan to make him a 3D baseball cake.
Happy Sweet 16th Birthday Jordan! I love you :)
 As you can see, it was a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing. It was pretty simple to put together and decorate, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. The birthday boy and the rest of my family all enjoyed it!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Saskatoon Pie

Earlier this week my mom and grandma picked a couple big bucketfuls of wild saskatoon berries from the trails around her house. I went for a walk with them around the trails a few days after and the bushes were still packed full of ripe berries, so we still have lots of picking to do and lots of pies to make. If you're unfamiliar with saskatoons, they are a purplish berry, similar in size and colour to a blueberry, that are native to the Canadian prairies, Northern Canada, and British Columbia. They were traditionally grown by Aboriginal peoples, who used the berries and the shrubs for food and medicinal purposes. Saskatoons are higher in antioxidants than blueberries and other berries, and they taste delicious (especially in saskatoon pie or as saskatoon jam)! 

I made this pie last night and enjoyed it with my grandparents and parents. I have memories of eating saskatoon pie, homemade by either my grandma or mom, as a child so it was really nice to be able to be able to finally make a pie for them! This is a great, basic pie recipe that really lets the flavour of the berries shine through. The pie crust is my perfect pie crust recipe and it really is the best pie crust I have ever had! It is flaky, buttery, and light - and I guarantee you won't have people leaving big chunks of crust behind on their plate. If you don't have saskatoon berries then you can use fresh blueberries instead, but I definitely recommend trying this Canadian superfruit!

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh saskatoon berries
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 recipe pastry for a 9" double crust pie - Try my perfect pie crust recipe here
1 Tbsp. butter
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1/2 cup water)


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Roll out the pastry dough for your bottom crust and line a 9" pie pan with the crust. I recommend using a glass pie pan so that you can monitor your crust while it bakes. Roll out the pastry for the top crust and cut vents into the crust for the steam to escape while baking; set aside. 

In a large saucepan, simmer the berries in 1/4 cup water for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and flour, then gradually stir into the berry mixture. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared bottom pie crust. Using a pastry brush, brush the overhanging pie crust with an egg wash.

Dot the top of the berry filling with butter. Place the second crust on top of the pie. Seal and flute the crust edges. Lightly brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes on a low oven rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, move the pie to the middle rack, and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the berry juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Slice and serve with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or on its own. This pie is great warm, at room temperature, or cold.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vanilla Vegan Pancakes


These pancakes are super light, fluffy, and very vanilla! You can't tell they are vegan at all, and they were definitely some of my favourite vegan pancakes to date. I topped mine with a big spoonful of crunchy peanut butter and pure maple syrup - it was heavenly.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour - I used whole wheat
1/2 cup quick oats (or substitute with 1/2 cup more flour)
1 Tbsp. sugar - Omit if you use sweetened vanilla soy milk because that will make it sweet enough
2 Tbsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup vanilla soy milk - I used So Good sweetened vanilla soy milk
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, quick oats, sugar (if using), and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no large lumps remain.

Heat a griddle or large frying pan to medium heat, and grease with vegan margarine, oil, or cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup measurements of pancake batter onto the greased griddle. Cook for 1-3 minutes, until bubbles appear on the top or the edges of the pancakes look cry. Carefully flip to the other side and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

Top with your favourite pancake toppings and enjoy! This recipe makes about 10-12 pancakes, so double the recipe if you are serving more than 3-4 people.


*Recipe adapted from My Little Celebration

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Silken Chocolate Pie (with a secret healthy ingredient)

This pie is one of my newest favourite desserts! One of the girls in my spring cooking class made it for her food demonstration and I couldn't wait to make it at home myself. I love it because it is so easy to make (it only has 4 main ingredients) and it tastes SO amazing! Each bite is velvety, rich, chocolate that pairs perfectly with berries or whipped cream. You honestly won't believe that it contains a secret healthy ingredient! 
The secret is using silken tofu in the chocolate pie filling. It gives the filling a creamy, silky texture, without adding all the calories and fat of a cream cheese or a custard-based pie. I love it mainly because I am lactose-intolerant and it doesn't contain dairy. I brought this pie into work to share with the girls in my office after lunch one day and it got rave reviews from them all, and my dad loved what was leftover for dessert that night. As expected, no one believed that it was actually tofu in the pie! I know it sounds weird, but you really must try this for yourself and be amazed at how delicious it is.
Another great thing about this recipe is that you can enjoy the pie filling on its own as a dairy-free, vegan, and healthier chocolate pudding! You could also use it as a fruit dip or ice cream topping.

Silken Tofu Chocolate Pie Filling Ingredients:
13 oz. semisweet chocolate - This pie is very rich, so don't use milk chocolate otherwise it will be too sweet. Opt for a good quality semisweet or dark chocolate. You can use chocolate chips too.
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 (12.3oz.) package Mori-nu Silken Lite Tofu or 1lb. silken tofu - Silken tofu is very smooth and creamy because it doesn't have very much water pressed out of it. You can find it next to the other kinds of tofu in the grocery store refrigerator section. Sometimes the Mori-nu brand will be in the regular aisles because it has special packaging that doesn't require it to be refrigerated.
1 9" prepared healthy graham crust (recipe below)

This is what Mori-Nu Silken Lite Tofu looks like:


Healthy Graham Crust Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs - Use gluten free graham crumbs or crushed graham crackers to make this celiac friendly
1/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt - You can use soy yogurt to make this vegan, and melted coconut oil may work too but I haven't tried it
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, yogurt, and cinnamon (if using). This mixture should resemble wet sand at the end of mixing. If it is too dry then add a little more yogurt, or if it is too wet then add more graham crumbs. Press the crust mixture firmly into a 9" pie pan using the heel of your hand or the bottom of a glass. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, until slightly golden. This will just set the crust. Set aside on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips with the vanilla, stirring often with a rubber spatula. If you don't have a double boiler, then make your own by setting a heatproof metal bowl over a medium-large pot full of simmering water, and placing the chocolate and vanilla in the metal bowl. The double boiler keeps your chocolate away from the direct heat and just uses the steam from the boiling water to melt it so it will not burn.

In a blender or food processor, combine the silken tofu and the melted chocolate mixture on a high speed until completely smooth. This process will take a bit of time, so just be patient and keep blending and stopping every few minutes to give it a stir with a rubber spatula or spoon, and continue blending until perfectly smooth with no chunks of tofu or chocolate. The mixture will gradually go from pale brown to dark chocolate brown, with a pudding-like consistency. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until the filling sets firm. You should have some extra filling leftover, so you can save it to use as a pudding or a dip, or discard. If you are just using this as a pudding you can refrigerate it for 30-60 min. so it will become thicker and chilled, or enjoy it immediately.

Top the pie with fresh berries, whipped cream, graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, chopped or crushed nuts, mint leaves, shaved chocolate, or just leave it plain. Slice, serve, and have your friends try to guess what the secret ingredient is! Store leftover pie in the refrigerator.


*Recipe adapted from Maxine Hackett

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cake Batter Blondies

These blondies taste exactly like birthday cake batter. Modifying a boxed cake mix makes them super easy to make too. I made them for my soccer team today and everyone loved them!

Ingredients:

1 box white or vanilla cake mix
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8" cake pan with butter or non-stick spray, or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, sprinkles, and white chocolate chips. Add in the oil, beaten egg, and 1/4 cup milk. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until evenly combined. You may need to add 1-2 Tbsp. more milk if the mixture looks too dry, but you want it to be very dense and thick, not runny like cake batter.

Evenly spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges just turn golden. The middle may still be a little jiggly but it will set as it cools - don't overbake it or you won't get a gooey cake batter texture. Allow the bars to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting so that they have time to set. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.


*Recipe adapted from Girl Meets Life

Cinnamon Pecan Pie Balls

These balls are a tasty treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way thanks to minimal, all natural ingredients. They taste like sweet pecan pie but with more of a granola bar texture due to the nuts and oats. I love having one or two as a pre-workout snack for an energy boost, and usually keep a couple stashed in my purse for on-the-go snacking! 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup roasted or natural almonds
1/2 cup roasted or natural pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process on high until the nuts are tiny pieces and the mixture comes together. It should be lumpy but stick together when you pinch it between your fingers. If it is too dry and crumbly then add in a few more dates and process again until it is the right consistency.

Pinch off 1-3 Tbsp. size chunks and roll into balls. You can make these as big or as little as you'd like - I usually make a 2-bite ball. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the fridge or freezer for up to one month.


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Banana Bread

This is a classic banana bread recipe that takes me back to my childhood, when my mom would have a hot loaf coming out of the oven just as me and my siblings were getting home from school. I think banana bread is the ultimate comfort baking for a lot of people! You can customize this recipe depending on whether or not you like plain banana bread, or if you like to add in nuts, chocolate, cinnamon (or all three). Personally, I always add cinnamon, and then may add the chocolate or nuts depending on what I'm in the mood for. The addition of sour cream or yogurt in the batter is the key to a super moist loaf, so don't skip it!


Ingredients:

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips (optional)
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. ground cinnamon (adjust to your preference)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream, or plain yogurt
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
3 very ripe large bananas, mashed well
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease a large loaf pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray. This recipe makes a large loaf so you may be able to divide the batter between two smaller loaf pans or make a loaf and a few muffins if needed.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Allow them to cool and then chop coarsely. 

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Stir in the nuts and/or chocolate chips, if using. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, sour cream/yogurt, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. Do not over mix the batter or it will result in a very tough, rubbery loaf.

Bake for about 55-60 minutes, until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Slice and serve warm.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Pancakes


I made these pancakes for my family for breakfast yesterday morning and they were honestly some of the best I've ever had! They are super fluffy and have just the right amount of peanut butter flavour. I added chocolate chips to half the batch and left the other half plain, and both variations were delicious. They were perfect paired with bananas and fresh strawberries, and a mug of hot coffee.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats - If you don't have quick oats you can substitute with more flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plus 6 Tbsp. milk - I used sweetened vanilla soy milk and it worked just fine
1 cup creamy peanut butter, melted - Melt it for 30-40 seconds in the microwave
4 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Butter or nonstick spray for greasing the skillet
Chocolate chips (optional)
Pancake toppings of your choice - I used maple syrup, bananas, and strawberries

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, quick oats, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk/soymilk, melted peanut butter, oil, and vanilla.

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. You may need to add a little bit more milk if the batter is too thick.

Heat a griddle or large frying pan to medium-low heat. Grease with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Pour out 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the griddle for one pancake, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until the outside is golden brown. If you want to add chocolate chips then sprinkle about 1/2-1 Tbsp. of chocolate chips onto the top of the pancake before flipping. The peanut butter makes this batter really thick so it won't bubble like normal pancakes to signal it's time to flip, so just watch them carefully as they cook.

 Repeat with the remaining batter. This recipe will make about 25-28 pancakes. You can halve the recipe if you want less; or you can just make the full amount and freeze the leftovers.

Top with fresh fruit and maple syrup and enjoy!


*Recipe by Brooke McMillan