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
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).


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. 

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.