Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blueberry Almond Scuffins

I was trying to decide between making scones and muffins because both sounded equally good to me.  The tender buttery flakiness of a scone vs the cakiness of a was a tough descision!  I asked my friends on Facebook which they preferred and the poll was equally divided.  So I thought, why not do a hybrid of a scone and a muffin!  A scuffin! 

What was the worst that could happen, they didn't quite turn out and I would be left with a tasty mistake.  I decided to take my basic scone recipe and bake it in muffin tins, because doing so would change the texture slightly to make it more muffin like but still buttery and with the delicious qualities of a scone.  But what type to make?  My Dad insisted I make blueberry muffins...cutting the scone out alltogether.  This was no shock to me because one of my earliest memories was of my Dad making blueberry muffins on a weekend morning and enjoying them with breakfast.  Granted he was no baker, but I still loved them as a child and at least he was making an effort.  This weekend I decided to use his idea of including blueberries, but they are out of season right now in Minnesota and the ones that are available at the store are flavorless.  I could have gone for organic frozen berries, but I opted instead for the dried, because those I did have.  I thought the dried blueberries would be lovely with toasted almonds in the scones with a hint of lemon zest. 

The scuffins baked up wondefully and smelled heavenly!  One good thing about them is they took less time to bake, as they were a little smaller than my usual scones.  I did not wait long for them to cool before I popped one out of the tin with a knife and devoured it.  This is why I burn my mouth so many times, but not this time thankfully!  What I had created was every good thing about a scone and a muffin...still buttery and flaky, but also muffinlike, and a nice crispy top!  The flavor was wonderful with the blueberries and toastyness of the almonds with a hint of lemon!  It was a good thing I made a double batch because I had promised to share some and there would not have been any left if I had made a single!  Can't decide between scones and muffins, make scuffins!   

Blueberry Almond Scuffins
Makes 12

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup maple sugar, or granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold Earth Balance vegan butter, cut into chunks
1 cup cold full fat coconut milk (chilled in the fridge is best), mixed well
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 cup dried blueberries
coconut milk for brushing
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 with the rack set at the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture starts to clump into pea sized pieces. In a small bowl, stir the vanilla into the coconut milk. Add the milk to the dough, and stir a few times, but do not overmix. The dough should hold together when squeezed, but still be clumpy. fold in blueberries and almonds until evenly distributed. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray, and drop the scone batter into the holes dividing evenly between them. Brush the tops with the coconut milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 12

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a Pink Panther Martini...and random memories

I have to warn you this blog post is very random!  Yesterday at work I was daydreaming while multitasking, and I was thinking about my past years working there in the deli.  The first year I started, I was pretty quiet.  I guess I was a bit shy, but also trying to concentrate on my work.  Whatever the case was, I didn't say a whole lot.  We had this one food delivery guy who would deliver all the cheese to  the deli, and he was very talkative.  One day I was back doing the dishes, and happened to be wearing a pink shirt, and he randomly told me "You are like the pink wear pink a lot, you are thin, and you sure don't say much!  That should be your name!"  I thought that was funny, and an odd thing to say, but I guess he wasn't aware of how much I could talk if you know me well.  He is no longer our delivery man, which is a shame, since he was pretty funny.  And I am no longer so quiet now that I have worked in the deli 4 1/2 years.  So last night when I made myself a pink cocktail, as it was Monday, and I was wondering what I should call it...Pink Panther popped into my head!  The coctail appeared as if it would be simply very sweet...maybe too sweet.  But in actuality it was tart as well, and quite silky as it had blood orange juice and coconut milk as well as Chambord and vodka.  It was way better than it looked, because as you know things aren't always as they seem!  Here is the recipe for my Pink Panther Martini if you would like a weeknight treat! 

Pink Panther Martini
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
2 oz Chambord or raspberry liqueur
2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
2 oz fresh blood orange juice

In a martini shaker add the ice, vanilla, vodka, raspberry liqueur, coconut milk, and orange juice place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, and serve!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Little Almond Poppyseed Muffins

My Mom has always told me about this really good almond poppyseed cake my Great Grandma used to make.  She described it as having a delicate but present almond flavor with a hint of lemon, and loaded with lots of wonderful poppyseeds in a moist dense cake.  This cake was a layer cake and was very beautiful with cream cheese frosting.  I have never seen this cake, because by the time I met my Great Grandma, she was in a nursing home and no longer baking wonderful cakes.  She has since died, and we do not have the recipe.  But all of those wonderful flavors in the cake sounded so good to me that I thought they would be perfect in a muffin!  The muffins would be much simpler to make, and a lot faster, but still just as delicious!  I decieded to make them in a mini muffin tin, because I like little cute things.  Not to mention that it is an excuse to eat much for portion control!  I was going to skip the cream cheese frosting this time however, since I didn't have any and simply sprinkle the muffins with turbinado sugar for crunch.  I my vanilla vegan muffin recipe but replaced the coconut milk with almond milk and added a good amount of almond extract for an heavenly almond flavor.   Also, I made sure to add plenty of poppyseeds and a little lemon juice, so it would be just as flavorful as my Great Grandma's cake.  The muffins smelled wonderful, and filled my kitchen with the aroma of almonds, somewhat remeniscent of a Christmas cookie!  I had to try a warm one right out of the oven and it was wonderful...bright almond flavor with crunchy poppyseeds in a moist cake!  I gave my Mom some to sample and she loved them, saying they had just as good of a flavor, if not better than her Grandma's cake.  My Mom has always been an almond lover though, so maybe she is biased.  Whatever the case, they were delicious, and if you would like to enjoy some as well try this recipe out!

Little Almond Poppyseed Muffins
makes 12 mini muffins

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple sugar or granulated sugar
2 Tbsp poppyseeds
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Spray a 12 cup mini muffin tin with nonstick spray in the holes.  Whisk flour, baking soda, sea salt, sugar and poppyseeds in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, milk, vanilla and almond extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Spoon the batter into prepared tins filling each 2/3 full, sprinkle each with turbinado sugar, and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Almond Butter Swirl Brownies

Peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven.  But so are almond butter and chocolate in my opinion!  I actually prefer almond butter to peanut most of the time, since I prefer it stirred into my oatmeal or on toast.   When I decided to make peanut butter swirl brownies the other day, I discovered I had no peanut butter on hand so I went for the almond instead! 

A great substituition it was!  Almost like a more sophisticated grown up version of the peanut butter chocolate combo.  The almond butter had a more toasty flavor, and was heavenly in the chocolate brownies! I used my vegan brownie base sweetened with agave nectar and filled with dark chocolaty goodness.  I baked them in muffin tins this time so they would already be in individual servings, no cutting would be necessary!    It made for a pretty presentation, but not that it mattered since they weren't around long!  If you are an almond butter fan, try out these brownies for a change!

Vegan Almond Butter Swirl Brownies
Makes 24

1 cup roasted salted almond butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup coconut oil
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp pure almond extract
3/4 cup pureed silken tofu
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Spray a 24 cup standard sized muffin tin (or 2 12 cup pans) with non-stick spray in the cups(or line with tins and skip the spray). In a medium bowl, whisk together almond butter agave nectar and vanilla extract (for the swirl) and set aside.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and sea salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in the agave nectar, extracts, and tofu until well incorporated. Then add the flour mixture and whisk until well blended, then whisk in vinegar until well incorporated.  You should see pale streaks in the batter from the vinegar reacting with the baking soda. Pour the batter into the prepared tins dividing evenly between them. Drop about 2 tsp almond butter swirl onto each brownie, and swirl with a knife, or a toothpick.  Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the tins and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan on a wire rack.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lemon Cream Pie Martini

It is the perfect time of year to use lemons in dessert.  Their sunny yellow color and bright tart flavor bring a bit of sunshine to otherwise cold winter days.  This is why I thought they would be perfect in a dessert like drink I was creating.  I was thinking some lemon cream pie sounded awfully good...but didn't want to go through the trouble of making one, so I put all the flavors of the pie into a cocktail!  Why not have my drink and dessert at the same time! 

I used coconut milk to make it creamy, and fresh lemon to give it that tart flavor along with vanilla bean syrup to sweeten.  The result was a delicious drink that brought a bit of sunshine to my taste buds!  If you wanted a non-alchoholic version, you could substitute some lite coconut milk for the vodka, and add a little more lemon.  Try this drink out to chase away the winter blahs! 

Lemon Cream Pie Martini
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
1 oz lemon infused vodka
3 Tbsp vanilla bean syrup*
2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
lemon zest for garnish

In a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, vanilla bean syrup, coconut milk, and lemon juice place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, garnish with the lemon zest and serve!

*Vanilla Bean Syrup:
Combine 1/2 cup agave nectar with 1/2 cup boiling water, and one vanilla bean split.  Stir to dissolve agave, and let sit to let flavor of vanilla bean infuse into the syrup.  After a few hours remove the bean.  Store in the fridge in a jar or bottle.