Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vegan Blueberry Maple Chipotle Brownies


Last Thursday I had just finished a workout and I was quite hungry.  We were standing in line at Chipotle and I was piling up my burrito bowl with pretty much as many veggies as I could.  You can never have too many veggies afterall, as far as I am concerned!  When I got to the salsa and said I wanted all the different kinds and a lot of it I sort of got a funny look from the guy behind the counter.  "Are you sure?"  he asked, "Even of the hot???"  Yes, I replied, and you can put extra of the hot!  You see, for me the spicier the better!  I have been know to eat a habanero whole at times just for the burn of it.  Crazy, maybe but I hear it gets your blood circulation going!  Of course I love a good hot salsa, but I also love to use chilies in sweet applications as well!  Which is exactly why when I decided to make brownies on Friday, adding chipotle chilies came to mind. 


I love the paring of chocolate and chipotle and the subtle kick and afterburn that it gives that sneaks up on you.  I didn't just want to make plain chipotle brownies however, I wanted to add blueberries for little sweet pops of flavor throughout the fudgy lightly spiced batter.  I had made some with raspberries in the past and the results were delicious so I thought I would try blueberries. 


I also addded a bit of maple as well to sweeten and give a slightly caramelly note.  The batter was delicious, and of course I had a few samples of it as these were vegan so no worries about raw eggs...afterall one of my favorite parts of baking things like brownies is licking the bowl.  They smelled of intense dark chocolate as they baked filling my home with a heavenly aroma!  Once they were cool enough to enjoy (and letting them cool was the tough part), I bit into one and was greeted with pure deliciousness. 


They were fudgy, decadent and sweet with notes of caramel and bursts of jammy blueberries with a warm afterburn of chipotle that lingered on the tongue with the sweetness.  I actually enjoyed them more than the raspberry ones I had made earlier in the year because the blueberries were a bit sweeter than the raspberries.  They needed no adornment except for a little powdered sugar to make them prettier. 


I couldn't resist cutting them into cute little hearts because square bars can be boring.  It was a delicious experiment!  If you would like to experience them for yourself, I have included the recipe! 

Vegan Blueberry Maple Chipotle Brownies
makes 24
Brownies:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground chipotle powder
1 cup coconut oil
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple extract
3/4 cup pureed silken tofu
2 Tbsp blueberry jam
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups fresh organic blueberries

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt, and chipotle 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 maple syrup, agave nectar, along with vanilla, maple extract, tofu, and jam, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. fold in berries until well incorporated, and pour into the prepared pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then lift foil out by the edges and cool on a rack. Let cool completely, dust with powdered sugar if desired, then cut into 24 bars (or use a cookie cutter if you want to make it more interesting).


 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Maple Balsamic Champagne Grape and Peach Crisp


If you were to ask me whether I would rather have a fruit pie, crisp, or cobbler, I would say crisp about 90% of the time.  I have to admit, it is my favorite of the baked fruit desserts and has been since I was a kid  I can remember coming home and the house smelling of warm spices and apples and an apple crisp cooling on the counter that my Mom had made to end our meal with that night.  It always had to be topped with a crunchy oat topping though, if the oats were missing it just wasn't the same.  One time she bought a premade one from the store and it was all white flour streusel and I remember complaining that I didn't like it and that it wasn't as crunchy.  I had sophisticated tastes as a 10 year old. 


Even now, my crisp has to have oats in the topping.  But I have also decided that it has to have large flake coconut, no matter what the fruit that went into it.  It adds a nice crunch and subtle sweetness that I would miss were it not there. This has become my standard topping.  So of course last weekend when I decided to make a crisp for myself that is what I used. 


Yes, I said for myself.  I guess I needed a bit of alone time after a week filled with lots of people and chaos...after all I am an introvert.  I needed to spend an evening enjoying some good dessert, wine and watching a chick flick with no interruptions.  So I got to work creating the delicious dessert!  I made an individual champange grape and peach crisp laced with balsamic vinegar and sweet maple.  Balsamic vingear?  Yep!  It is one of my favorite ingredients and it adds a sweet tartness that loves roasted peaches and grapes.  The maple just added that caramelly sweetness!  If you haven't had champagne grapes, then you are missing out! 


They are so sweet and delicious that every time I see them in the store when they are in season I pounce on them!  They make a wonderful dessert and were heavenly in the crisp.  The peaches and grapes baked into a jammy sweet  consistency which was complimented perfectly by the crunchy oaty coconut topping.  I served it with some ice cream (which I also HAVE to have with my crisp), and was feeling pretty relaxed watching my movie with the delicious crisp and wine! 


Maybe you need to make yourself a dessert and have some selfish alone time...I have included the recipe, but I need to add that I halved the one below so that it only made one crisp.  If you are not so selfish you can make the whole one and share of course!  Hope you all are having a wonderful week!


Maple Balsamic Champagne Grape and Peach Crisp
Serves 2 generously

Filling:
4 cups organic champagne grapes
2 cups diced ripe organic peaches
1/4 cup maple sugar or as needed depending on how sweet the grapes and peaches are
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Topping:
6 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp maple sugar
4 Tbsp cold organic butter
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup large flake coconut
Two 5 or 6 inch wide deep dish ovenproof bowls or pie plates

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack at the center position. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the rack. Spray two 5 or 6 inch wide pie plates or bowls with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the grapes, peaches, 1/4 cup maple sugar, maple extract, vanilla, and 1/4 cup flour. Spoon into prepared bowls or pie plates, and cover with foil. Place plates on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes until fruit is cooked through and bubbling. Meanwhile, to make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender, or 2 knives, cut butter into the flour until it is in pea sized chunks and clumping together. Add oats, and coconut. With hands, squeeze the mixture together forming larger chunks as well as incorporating the oats coconut and walnuts until it is evenly distributed as you go. Place in the fridge until the crisps are ready to top. When the fruit has baked for 35 minutes, and is bubbling, remove from the oven and top with the crisp mixture. Place back in the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and toasted (keep a close eye on it as coconut burns very quickly). Remove from oven and let cool until warm...enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chunky Monkey Granola


It had been far too long since I had made granola I decided last Saturday.  It used to be every other week or so I was whipping up a batch to have on hand to snack on and share.  There is something comforting to me about home made granola, and also something addictive as when it is cooling a large portion of it always seems to go missing.  I have made about 20 different varieties of the crunchy munchy snack, and that is what I love about making it myself. 


Being able to add ingredients which fit the mood I am in and satisfy my cravings at the time.  I have added just about every fruit and nut at one point or another, but there is one thing I hadn't tried...peanut butter!  Peanut butter sounded so good to me on Saturday, I had to add it to granola! 


I also had some dried bananas, and since bananas love peanut butter I thought it would be a perfect pairing!  I wanted it to have plenty of crunchy munchy things in it, so peanuts, pecans, and cashews along with some coconut for sweetness were added as well!  I had some cacao nibs which joined the nuts for a hint of chocolate, as well as a good dose of vanilla and maple flavor to make the granola even more delicious smelling!  I love the smell of baking granola, it always smells like oatmeal cookies while it is baking and the aroma fills every corner of my house for hours! 


It is so hard to wait until it is cool enough to sample, but when it just barely is I have to always taste it to make sure it is good of course!  It is funny as well, every time I make a batch of granola I always say to myself "This is the BEST granola I have ever eaten!"  I know that is not possible unless it gets better every time, but maybe in between batches I forget how good it is right out of the oven. 


I always make plenty to share, because who can resisit a bag of home made granola?  I called it "Chunky Monkey Granola" this time, because of the large amount of bananas and the delicious chunks of granola goodness due to the peanut butter causing it to stick together more (my favorite part).  Not only that, I felt a little like a monkey the way I was devouring it like a barbarian right off the pan as it is so addictive.  You should make some for yourself since I have included the recipe, I can guarantee you will love it as well along with whomever you share it with! 


Chunky Monkey Granola
Makes about 14 cups of delicious granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3 cups peanuts
2 cups pecans
1 cup cashews
2 cups large flake coconut
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp maple sugar
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups dried bananas
2 cups cacao nibs

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, and spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 and set rack at the medium position. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, and coconut, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oil, agave nectar, peanut butter, maple sugar, sea salt, maple extract, and vanilla extract until well combined, then pour over oat mixture and toss to coat until completely blended. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so until the granola is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir in bananas, and cacao nibs and enjoy!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Toasted Coconut Almond Bites


Sometimes I have those days where I need something sweet but not too sweet...maybe a little salty too, and with a bit of a crunchy element.  Oh, and lets not forget, I would like it be healthy as well.  I know most of you ladies out there know what I am talking about.  This is how I was feeling the other day when I threw together coconut and almonds and came up with a new favorite of mine, toasted coconut almond bites. 


There is nothing more heavenly than the aroma of toasted coconut and when you want to combat hunger, a handful of toasted almonds does the trick, so I thought how perfect if I could combine them in something dessert like but not too sweet. 


Bite sized as well, so portion controlled!  I kept it simple blended toasted coconut, almonds, the heavenly scent of vanilla and rosewater and a little coconut sugar and agave nectar to sweeten. The mixture was like a delicious coconut almond cookie dough!  I shaped it into little balls and rolled them in crunchy toasted coconut to give them texture on the outside, as well as keep the hands of those eating them from getting sticky!  


Their flavor was nutty and slightly sweet, aromatic with coconut when you bit into one and the flavors of the rosewater and vanilla subtle in the background.  The best part is they cured my craving!  They keep nicely in the fridge for months, but I doubt if they last very long...as they don't at my house.  I shared them with my Mom, and she became a fan of them as well.  She loves to eat them after a meal for dessert.  If you are a coconut almond lover like myself, give the recipe a try! 


Toasted Coconut Almond Bites
Makes about 16

1 cup toasted almonds
1 1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rosewater
1/4 tsp sea salt

1 cup toasted finely shredded unsweetened coconut

Combine all ingredients except 1 cup finely shredded coconut in a food processor and process until smooth.  Roll mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in the finely shredded coconut.  Place on a foil lined sheet and chill for a few hours until firm. 



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thai Pineapple Martini



My first exposure to a piña colada was when I was eight.  Virgin of course...since liquor would have been a no no.  My Mom and I had just seen the production Cats and were going to have dinner at a Teppanyaki restaurant Downtown.  I was all excited because to me it was a special night.  I got to see singing Cats, I was all dressed up in the best dress I owned at the time, and we were about to eat Japanese food...I was in heaven!  While we were waiting for our table, my Mom decided that we should order something to drink.  I can imagine I was getting a bit antsy, not being the type of child to sit still and wait for a long time.  But instead of the usual root beer or Shirly Temple, since it was a special night she ordered me a virgin piña colada.  I felt like I was all grown up drinking a piña colada in my dressy clothes...I was in heaven!  The combination of the sweet pineapple and coconut was so good, and I remember I guzzled that thing down like no other!  After that I think every time I saw a piña colada on a menu when we would go out to a special dinner I would beg for one.  I still love the combination of pineapple and coconut.  But the funny thing is that as an adult, I have yet to order an alcoholic version of the drink!  To me it seems that far too many are made with mixes and filled with lots of sugar and ice. 


But creating my own version sounded like an attractive idea when I had an open bottle of pineapple juice and a can of coconut milk in my fridge so it was the perfect opportunity! 


Ok, so this was not traditional by any means...I swapped rum for vodka, I added some thai basil, and some ginger habanero syrup to give it a mild kick.  It was wonderful!  The perfect balance of sweet and creamy with a slight afterkick.  So much better than any sort of piña colada I could order somewhere.  That is what I love about making cocktails at home.  You can suit them to your own tastes and the possibilities are endless.  If you would like to try my cocktail, I have included the recipe.  Cheers!


Thai Pineapple Martini
Makes 1
4-6 large ice cubes
6 fresh thai basil leaves
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz vodka
3 oz pure pineapple juice
1/2 oz coconut milk
2 Tbsp ginger chili agave syrup*

In a martini shaker add the ice, and muddle with basil, then add vodka, pinapple, coconut milk, syrup, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a chilled martini glass, and serve!
 
*Ginger Chili Agave Syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 habanero or other hot chili cut in half
1 inch piece peeled fresh ginger
Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar, until it is dissolved. Pour into a small jar or bottle and add chili and and ginger.  Place in the fridge and let sit a few days, then remove chili and ginger.  Store in the fridge for up to a few weeks. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sweet Cherry Ice Cream


When I saw the Door County cherries in the produce department at my work, I had to have some...needless to say, I purchased a large bag of them on my way out of work.  I was expecting them to be good, because I love fresh cherries, but they were stellar! 


While eating them unadorned, I was thinking about how much better a perfectly ripe sweet cherry is than biting into any sort of fruit candy... just imagine how much healthier we would be if we always had cherries to enjoy when we wanted a bite sized sweet! 


I began to think of all sorts of delicious things I could possibly make with them, and ice cream sounded delicious! I haven't had a good cherry ice cream since I was little, and even then, I am sure the one I had wasn't filled with cherries as good as these.  Afterall too many  commercially made cherry ice creams taste as if they have overly sweet maraschino cherries in them, which I cannot stand.  So I got to work creating my own. 


I pureed a good amount of the cherries, combined them with my vegan ice cream base and added a little almond extract, because I love the way it seems to sweeten the cherries and go so well with them.  It was a beautiful deep pink color, but even more important, it was delicious!  The essence of cherries blended into silky cool cream that melted on my tongue.  One hundred times better than any cherry ice cream I have tasted in the past!  I may just have to make a cherry crisp this weekend as well to go along with it!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some, but make sure you use the sweetest most flavorful cherries you can find! 

Sweet Cherry Ice Cream  
Makes 6 cups

Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 cups fresh organic cherries, pitted
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Once processed, pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Very Blueberry Vanilla Muffins


I had bought a large amount of blueberries last weekend and had a craving for blueberry muffins.  Now, I have to admit I haven't made blueberry muffins in years, because for some reason I think they are too boring.  So I decided mine were going to be filled with more blueberry favor than the normal blueberry muffins.  


To give mine extra blueberry I pureed extra berries into the batter, giving it a bit of a blue hue.  I put plenty of berries in my muffins as well so they had lots of bursts of jammy delicious flavor.  I gave them extra vanilla flavor as well by adding the beans, because I love when blueberry muffins have a nice vanilla undertone... almost like cake!  I sprinkled them with turbinado sugar for a nice crunch, which to me is essential on any sort of muffin. 


They smelled wonderful when baking, and of course when they were just cool enough to handle I needed to sample one.  I cannot resist a warm muffin fresh from the oven!  It was wonderful!  The smell of the vanilla, the moist light cake and bursts of jammy berries with the crunch of sugar on top, simply heavenly!


Very Blueberry Vanilla Muffins
Makes 8

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
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup pureed blueberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 cups blueberries
large sugars

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line one 8 cup muffin tin with muffin tins or liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk sugar, oil, milk, blueberry puree, lemon juice, vanilla beans and vanilla extract, together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Stir in berries then pour batter into the muffin tins, and sprinkle with sugars.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.