Starting From Scratch

I am a dessert person. I love dessert.  There is no doubt that I got my love of desserts entirely from my mom. My dad is not a “dessert person”, at all. Apparently, when it came to dessert at a restaurant, they did the “she gets the dessert, he tastes a couple of bites” routine. And I don’t mean “he actually eats half”, I actually mean a couple of bites. If I let my husband share my dessert, I generally cut it in half first because a) I don’t share well, and b) he also loves dessert (although slightly less than me).

Since it was my dad’s birthday a few days ago, I wanted to make him a cake that was, well, healthy. Something he would actually eat. I wanted to make a super fancy raw cake, but didn’t have the time to do all the prep (i.e. learn how to make 8 cups of almond milk from scratch). I resorted to making a “regular” cake. I figured an apple cake. Between applesauce and apple bits, if I searched for a healthy vegan apple cake, there would be something, right? Wrong. Apparently “healthy” includes at least 1/2 cup of oil, usually more like 1 full cup. After nearly an hour of searching, I gave up. I did some research. I built my own recipe from scratch. Nearly 1/3 of the recipe volume was applesauce.

And it tastes and looks delicious!

20140322_223944

Except for one itsy bitsy problem…it’s super dry and crumbly. Half of me wants to just try upping the applesauce, as it was a pretty thick batter. The other half of me is fairly sure I will have to increase the coconut oil from 2 tbsp to 3 or 4 tbsp. The tragedy! Unfortunately, until this fiasco is resolved, I will be keeping this recipe to myself. I don’t think there’s a huge demand for healthy, crumbly apple cakes.

I suppose the problem could be covered up solved by slathering it in icing…but where’s the fun in that?

What’s your favourite “healthy” dessert recipe?

Advertisements

Natural Vegan Rainbow Cake

My sister turned 19 this past week. Much to my relief, she didn’t immediately go out and get drunk (19 is the legal age in BC). I like to think she had a good birthday anyway.

I realized a few days beforehand that a rainbow cake was the perfect type of cake to make for her. If you knew her, this would make sense to you. If you don’t…well, she’s a very special 19 year old. One thing I’ve discovered in the past year, though, is that what they make the food dye out of is nasty business. Not only what it’s made from, but how they test it…pass, thanks. It’s not to say I never buy premade food with food dye in it, because that wouldn’t be true. But I do try and avoid it when possible. Besides, it’s much more exciting to try and colour things naturally.

After a lot of research, I decided to double a 9″ white cake recipe and split the resulting batter into 5 parts.

  1. Pink / Red – Raspberries
  2. Orange – Carrot juice
  3. “Yellow” – Mango (It wasn’t very yellow at all)
  4. Green – Matcha powder
  5. Purple / Blue – Blueberries

For the raspberries, blueberries and mango, I put 3/4 of a cup (approximately) worth of frozen fruit into a mug and threw it into the microwave until everything was thawed and mushy. Then, I squished the fruit into a fine-mesh strainer with a spoon, draining all the juice out into the batter.

Because I was putting extra liquid into the batter, I cut out 1/4 cup of milk for each layer. Then add in 1/4 cup of milk to any layer that isn’t getting extra juice put into it (i.e. the Matcha layer).

It was SO much fun, watching the batter turn colours and then seeing how everything turned out in the end!

20140302_203936

The best part was that the berry layers actually tasted like blueberry and raspberry!

The worst part was, my measurement skills sucked, so the layers are 3 different sizes. I don’t even know how I did it, I was using a scale.

Also, the icing job went very poorly, since there just wasn’t quite enough. I shaved down the cakes since somehow, despite being baked in the same pans, they were different sizes. Regardless, I think I covered it up nicely.

20140302_160451

All I can say is, thank goodness for large coconut shavings. And cake shavings, I guess?

The icing was very very sweet, so in the end, it was a good thing there was only a thin layer on everything. It was delcious though, and you can find it over on instructables. The cake recipe turned out amazingly, even with my tinkering (we ran out of butter so I subbed in some applesauce, and I also used nearly 1/2 c less sugar). It is the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from The Joy Of Vegan Baking, which is a cookbook I highly recommend. The recipes aren’t “healthy versions”, but they are accurate vegan replicas of the classics, which is really useful to have on hand. And I must confess, the colouring ideas weren’t my own (except for the mango…which didn’t work…), I found a lot of helpful information on Growing A Green Family.

Verdict? I highly recommend making this cake; it’s fun to make and to eat!

 

First Married Christmas

This is going to be the first year that I have not slept at my parent’s house on Christmas Eve.

We decided that if we were ever going to come up with a holiday situation that didn’t involve stressful planning and then travelling all over the place, this year was the year to “take a stand”. So this year, we will be spending Christmas Eve and morning in our own home.

It will be a transition, but it will be a good one, I think.

What I don’t love is how stressful it is to be a full adult at Christmas. There is just so much to DO! You have to buy presents, plan meals, buy groceries, pre-make food, wrap presents, get a tree, decorate a tree, decorate the house, make sure you fit in seeing everyone, go to holiday parties…and it’s not like regular life really stops to fit all those things in.

I think the main difference between this year and previous years is that this is our first full-vegan Christmas. So we have to be in charge of finding and making dishes that we can eat. Because many people find the concept of vegan too intimidating to attempt on their own. I try to tell people it’s not that hard, it’s just a different set of ingredients, but that doesn’t seem to reassure them. (Does anyone have some good recipes / recipe books that are for the omnivore trying to feed a vegan?)

There’s also something missing when you celebrate Christmas with no kids around who are so excited with the magic of the season. It’s hard to generate that enthusiasm on my own.

Nonetheless, I am still pretty excited to eat breakfast and open a few gifts in our living room with the fire place turned on (assuming the downstairs neighbours don’t have theirs cranked up again!). And there are much worse things to do on Christmas morning than baking!

Happy holidays everyone!

What are your Christmas morning traditions?

Autumn Baking

There is something special about autumn, with its multi-coloured leaves, and crisp bite to the air. It speaks of bundling up for long walks in the diminishing sunny days. It whispers of the cool winter days to come. It pulls everyone in around a warm fire place, and pushes warm drinks into their hands.

The ability to use the fire place again makes it one of my favourite times of year. Nearly as wonderful as when all the flowers start blooming in the spring. But one of my favourite things about fall is how it just makes me feel like putting pumpkin and apples in everything is the right way to go.

It started with pies (which is really the best way to start anything). Then, this past weekend, I had to make a cake. Originally I was going to make this one, until I discovered that my staple ingredient of applesauce was absent in the cupboards. So, I thought about what I felt like, on a crisp fall day. It wasn’t a far stretch until I found apple cake with caramel glaze.

It's not much to look at, but I promise it's delicious :-)

It’s not much to look at, but I promise it’s delicious 🙂 (Oh, and those black flecks are from a few too many sparklers being placed in the cake, whoops!)

I changed it up a little bit, instead of 1/8 c. olive oil and 3 tbsp water, I used 1/2 of a very large banana and 1 tbsp of canola oil. The cake part turned out a bit dry, although it was hard to tell, it being doused in caramel topping and all. So I think I would add 1-2 tbsp of water to try and get a moister batter. I would also decrease the sugar-content in the caramel topping; it was delicious, but would be even better if it wasn’t so overwhelmingly sweet. I think just decreasing the icing sugar to maybe a 3/4 c would make the difference. It would make the glaze more gooey, but it’s better that way anyway!

All in all, it was a really good recipe, and I am continuing to enjoy eating it on these crisp fall days!

What’s your favourite thing about fall?

Fan Friday – Pie Edition

Something about the cool weather just got my body yearning for something that was both sweet, pretend-healthy and warm. There are a few desserts that accomplish this, but very few that do it as well as pie.

Fan Friday Presents…Pie!

It’s a bit of work, I won’t lie. I don’t make tons of pies because of the whole getting the crust right and then chilling it before you can even put the pie in the oven. And then it has to cook for ages. Where’s the instant gratification in that?

But the fact is, pie is worth the wait. The warmth, the versatility, the deliciousness…I had indeed forgotten how wonderful a fresh homemade pie could be. Until I got the Vegan Pie In The Sky book out from the library. I mainly got it out because there is a similar book by the same authors about cookies, and I wanted to judge the quality of the cookie book by the pie book (yes, I know, logic hard at work here).

20131004_090647

Mmmmmmm

After making a peach basil pie (I know, it sounds weird, but it’s actually delicious), and then a pumpkin pie (’tis this season!), I can officially say I’m hooked on pies again. The only question is what kind to make next!

What’s your favourite type of pie?

Cooking vs Baking

It has come to my attention that there is a bit of a divide between the “cooks” and the “bakers” of this world. I have met a lot of people who love one, but dislike the other. I am someone who loves to bake, but hates to cook, and I am slowly realizing why.

You see, to cook, you either need improv skills, or to follow a recipe. If you are the follow the recipe type (like me), then you have to have the ingredients you need on hand. And whenever I try to cook, all of the recipes I want to make include some sort of ingredient that isn’t in stock right now. Which requires the ability to improv with savoury materials–an ability that I don’t appear to have.

I have tried to improv cook a few times. I made pasta, with a sauce. It was turning out really well until I thought italian dressing would give it the right flavouring. It didn’t. It made it grossly sweet, and difficult to eat. But, I have had some successes, cooking. They just usually followed a recipe. So I often insist, when someone accuses me of not being able to cook, that “I can cook, I just don’t want to”.

My husband, on the other hand, loves to cook. He much prefers to improv dinner than to try and pick a recipe in a book and follow it. And while he enjoys baking, he doesn’t enjoy it as much. It’s too easy to mess it up.

Because it’s chemistry. Which is finicky. And totally awesome. No bias on my part, of course.

Although, I can’t lie, in part I love baking because, well, who wouldn’t prefer to eat this over dinner:

As you can see, the cake is tiered. (Photo by Julia, my new sister-in-law)

Still dreaming of this cake! (Photo by the lovely Julia)

Which do you prefer: cooking or baking (or both!)? Why?

Fan Friday #3

It’s Friday again (thank goodness)! This week, I’d like to put the spotlight on something that I can’t believe I didn’t discover sooner.

Fan Friday Presents…Microwave Baking!

I love the microwave. It quickly and efficiently reheats leftovers, steams veggies, helps make quick chocolate sauce, and now, it bakes, too. It is a recent trend, and I did try it a few weeks ago, but the recipe turned out a bit sub par. So when I made the Single Serving Chocolate Chip Cake from the one and only Chocolate Covered Katie (Seriously, check out her recipes. Now!), I was blown away by how easy and delicious it was.

C'mon, doesn't that look amazing?

C’mon, doesn’t that look amazing?

The recipe pictured is German Chocolate Cake For One — which, while it had an amazing texture, was extremely lacking on sweetness. This is our fault because we subbed out the oil for applesauce and then reduced the sugar by 1/2 tbsp. Fortunately the chocolate chips on top and some ice cream made up for the lack of sweetness.

Well, what are you waiting for? All you need is 10 minutes and a microwave! And then there’s no pesky leftovers to deal with (or tempt you).

Have you tried any microwave baking? What’s your favourite recipe?