Sunday, November 22, 2009

Basic Whole Wheat Bread

I don't know about you, but I used to shy away from making bread because it was so labor intensive. Waiting while the yeast grew, knead, knead, punch, wait, punch, seemed to take hours! That all changed when my mom gave me this recipe for basic whole wheat bread. It's so easy. The photo above shows my whole wheat millet bread.

4 cups very warm water
3 Tb. yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar (you can use white sugar or honey, too, if you don't have brown sugar)
4 cups white flour
3 cups whole wheat
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sugar or honey. Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes and allow the yeast to grow in a warm place. I usually put the bowl near the heated oven. Meanwhile, mix your flours and salt together in another bowl. When your yeast is all bubbly, pour your flour mixture into the large bowl and add oil. Mix thoroughly. When the dough is relatively stiff, pour it out onto a floured surface. You will need to add flour as your knead your dough. Knead the dough until it is a smooth mass and "bounces back" when you lightly press your finger into it. Place into a large oiled bowl and allow to raise for 40 minutes or until about doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and once again place it on a floured surface. Knead a few times, adding a small amount of flour if needed, and then divide the dough into three pieces. Shape into loaves and place into oiled bread pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until it is nicely browned on top and bottom and sounds a little hollow when you thump the bottom. Allow to cool, then place in bread bags and store. I usually put mine in the fridge to keep it nice and fresh.

*This recipe is pretty versatile, too. I've added oat flour, rye flour, gluten flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and millet to this recipe and it has turned out fine. As long as you maintain the seven cups of flour, it should turn out fine. You may have to experiment if you use other flours.

Surprise your family with fresh baked bread and enjoy the delicious aroma that wafts through your house while it bakes!

My Favorite Granola

I realize that granola is already vegan, but after making a batch today, I couldn't pass up sharing this recipe with you. It is a very versatile recipe, which yields itself to fun experimentation. I've made date-pecan, cranberry-orange, cinnamon-coconut-raisin, and cherry-almond variations. It's not "clumpy" so if you're looking for that consistency, you will be disappointed.

8 cups rolled oats
2 cups flaked coconut, unsweetened
2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup oil, emulsified in 2/3 cup water (to make 1 cup liquid)

Mix dry ingredients (except cherries) in medium bowl. In a large glass measuring cup (or small bowl) mix oil and water together. Pour enough of the wet mixture over the dry ingredients to dampen and mix all together. Pour onto cookie sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or until golden brown) at 300 degrees. Check frequently to make sure it does not burn. Add the chopped cherries after you have removed the granola from the oven. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Like I said, you can adapt this recipe to suit your tastes. Instead of using almonds, you could use pecans or walnuts. You could substitute craisins or raisins for the cherries and omit the coconut.

This is one of our favorite breakfasts. My daughter and I ate granola and yogurt every morning for about a month. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Healthy Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I love carrot cake, but my family is not fond of the idea of vegetables in dessert. My husband remarked that these were the best carrot cake cupcakes he'd ever had. They are moist and tender and don't fall apart like other recipes that I've tried. Plus, this can be a sneaky way to get your children (or husband) to eat their vegetables! ((wink, wink)) This recipe was originally created by Ellie Krieger of the Food Network, but I tweaked it a little. The original recipe called for nutmeg and eggs.

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup silken tofu, blended until smooth with a little water
1/2 cup natural applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. walnuts or pecans, chopped fine

4 oz. low fat cream cheese, such as Neufchatel (I tried Tofutti Cream Cheese and the frosting consistency was too runny. You'll have to find a great alternative...I'm still experimenting!)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers.

Whisk together first six ingredients in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, and tofu until well combined. Add the applesauce, vanilla, and carrots. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in the medium bowl and mix. Add 1/4 cup of chopped nuts.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. I've found that a 1/4 measuring cup works excellently. Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare your frosting. With an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle some of the reserved chopped nuts on top.

You will want to store the cupcakes in the fridge. Yield: 12 cupcakes

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bobby Flay's Gingerbread Cupcakes ~ With a twist!

As soon as I realized that you could substitute silken tofu for eggs in cake type recipes, I started compiling recipes that I wanted to experiment with. This recipe from the Food Network by one of my favorite chefs, Bobby Flay, was one that I thought looked and sounded pretty amazing. The full title of the recipe is..."Gingerbread Cupcakes with Caramelized Mango Buttercream"! I didn't do the mango buttercream, unfortunately. I didn't have any mango and I'm still trying to come up with good substitutions for things like egg whites, etc. So, to make the cupcakes look beautiful, I just used some store bought icing and sprinkled a few pieces of candied ginger on top.

Even without the mango buttercream, this is still a delicious recipe for a holiday party or luncheon.

Ingredients ~ Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tb. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (*I didn't use)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted (I used 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup silken Tofu, blended with a little water until very smooth
6 Tb. black strap molasses
3/4 cup water

Ingredients ~ Ginger Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (I used a longish piece of candied ginger, then used the infused pieces to decorate the top of the cupcakes).

Start the ginger syrup first. Mix water, sugar, and ginger pieces in a small pan and bring to boil. Turn off and allow the syrup to rest for about 30 minutes, to infuse the ginger flavor. Remove the ginger pieces and set aside for decoration if you are using candied ginger. If not, discard raw ginger.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake papers in muffin tin and liberally spray the cups and top of the pan with Pam.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted margarine, brown sugar, tofu, and molasses. Add some of the water to the mixture and stir, then some of the flour and stir. Continue alternating with the water and flour until everything is added and smooth.

Fill each paper liner with 1/3 cup batter or until it comes about 1/4 inch below the top of the liner. Place into preheated oven and bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the tops liberally with the ginger syrup.

Allow to cool, then frost with your favorite icing or don't frost them at all! If you enjoy ginger, then you'll love these cupcakes. They'd go well with a cup of hot apple cider. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin Bars (To Die For)

Yummmm! This is my all~time favorite recipe for pumpkin bars. I first tasted these at a rehearsal dinner for a friends wedding and just had to have the recipe. I've never liked the amount of eggs required, though. I experimented last night using a bit of silken tofu as a substitute for eggs and voila! My family agrees that these are the best thing they have eaten all week! The tofu makes the bars more cake like: fluffy, moist, and without the eggy taste. This could easily be made into a pumpkin cake or even cupcakes!

1 cup silken tofu, blended until smooth (I used Mori-Nu Tofu)
1 2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup oil
16 oz. pumpkin
2 cups white flour
2 tsp. baking pwdr.
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix wet and dry together, making sure all the flour is incorporated. Pour onto a sprayed medium sized cookie sheet and smooth out. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. You can frost these with a mixture of powdered sugar, vanilla and water, and it yields a light "crunch" to the top of the bar.

Yield: Depends on how big you cut the bars! :) I cut 28 medium sized squares.

Enjoy these "melt-in-your-mouth" gems (as my husband calls them).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Decadent Peanut Butter Pie"

It's sounds ridiculously difficult with the long title, but it really is a piece of...pie! I veganized this recipe, just to see if it could be done.

1 chocolate graham cracker crust
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature (*veganize by using 1 container of Tofutti cream cheese)
1/2 c. white sugar
1 12 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 jar Smucker's Hot Fudge Spoonable ice cream topping (*veganize by using melted vegan chocolate chips)

Beat together peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar. Gently fold in 2 cups of the whipped topping. Spoon mixture into the pie crust and using a spatula, spread the mixture evenly to the edges of the crust.

If you are using the hot fudge topping, reserve 2 tablespoons in the corner of a resealable sandwich bag, then microwave the rest of the jar of topping. (If using melted chocolate chips, place about 1/4 cup in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir to melt.) Spread the chocolate over the peanut butter filling and refrigerate to set.

After the chocolate has set, take 1 cup of remaining whipped topping and spread over the pie, completely to the edges. Take the reserved chocolate topping and squeeze in decorative lines across the top of the pie. (You can do lines with the melted chocolate chips, too).

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

* Note: The only downside to using the melted chocolate chips is that they will harden too much and you will not be able to cut through without demolishing your beautiful pie. I've got to work to tweak the recipe so that it will not do that. I fed most of this pie to some little children in my apartment court and the resounding consensus was ~ "MMMmmmm! That was really good!" Children are brutally honest so I guess this is a good indicator of the like-ability of this dessert.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

One of the main reasons why I love this season is Variations on a Theme in the Key of Pumpkin! Pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cheesecake...the list goes on. I've been trying to find a good vegan recipe for pumpkin pie that does not taste like raw pumpkin plunked in a pie shell, and yesterday I met with success!

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. silken tofu, processed in blender (with a little water) until smooth
1 cup soy milk (optional ~ I didn't use it because the tofu was so smooth)
1 9 in. pie shell

Cream together pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and tofu. Add milk (if you are using it).
Pour into pie shell and bake at 375-400 degrees for 60 - 75 minutes. Makes one 9" pie.

This pie tastes just like a regular pumpkin pie, but doesn't include the eggs or condensed milk, which I feel better about. It's texture is a little soft, but definitely delicious!