Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chocolate Red Velvet Cookies...with a secret ingredient!

I admit it, I am a bit obsessed with beets.  I would go as far as to say I love beets.  I pretty much eat them every day in some form, in a salad at lunch or blended into a berry smoothie.  What's not to love, they are sweet, beautifully colored and packed with nutrition!  I am also aware that some people hate them and refuse to touch them. I find this unfortunate, and so I try and change their minds by creating things which make beets appealing.   One of my favorite ways in which to use beets that is definately delicious is in baked goods.  Whenever I make a red vevet anything you can be pretty sure it contains beets as I am not a fan of using bottles of artificial red food coloring. 

Last week at work when I was prepping beets for a salad at work, I began dreaming of red velvet desserts... oh yes, cake sounded nice but too much work.  But now cookies on the other hand sounded like the level of effort I was willing to put in. 

I have made red velvet cookies in the past, but they were simply mimicking the cake, vanilla frosting atop a red hued soft cookie.  I wanted the ones I made this time to be different, containing chocolate as well! 
But simply adding chocolate to my beet cookie base was not interesting enough for me so I decided to throw in dark chocolate chunks and dried cherries as well.  The dough was so increadibly good, it was a wonder as much of it made it through being chilled over night and into the oven the next day.  Good thing I had the willpower to restrain myself from eating it all.

I wasn't sure how much of the red color would be retained though baking, but actually the baking process made the cookies all the more lovely!  The red intensified into a beautiful deep color instead of a muddy one.  They smelled amazing while baking as well, like the aroma of brownies! 

Once they were just cool enough to dive into but while the chocolate was still gooey and liquid, I had to indulge in them.  They were amazing, the soft chocolate base, the warm chocolate pockets throughout the dough and the tart sweet chewy cherries!  Simply heavenly, and they did not taste of the beets, they were just made beautiful by them.  I can guaruntee that if you gave one of these to a non beet lover and told them they were red velvet cookies they would never know they were eating beets.  Only you would know the secret. 

I can guaruntee that if you gave one of these to a non beet lover and told them they were red velvet cookies they would never know they were eating beets.  Only you would know the secret. 
Beet lover or not, here is the recipe if you would like to experience some of the deliciousness for yourself!

Chocolate Red Velvet Cookies
makes about 16 large cookies 

1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup cooked red organic beet puree
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
12 oz chopped vegan dark chocolate
1 cup dried cherries

In a large bowl, combine coconut oil with sugar and whisk until well combined. Beat in the beets, vanilla extract, and agave nectar until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined, then add chocolate and cherries and mix until well distributed.  Place in the fridge to chill until firm (preferably overnight). To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 3 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays). Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly (but do not overbake!). Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Almond Joy Hot Chocolate

Ok, so I admit it...I haven't had real hot chocolate in years!  It is a tradgedy I know.  No, I don't mean the cocoa that comes in the packets, as I refuse to drink that stuff which is mostly just sugar and little chocolate.  I mean the rich melt real chocolate in your milk type. 

For some reason I was really in the mood for it this weekend so I had to make it no question!  I used to make a version with good quality dark chocolate and milk infused with vanilla beans that I loved, so I used that as a starting point. 

However, I no longer keep milk in the house, just soy, almond and coconut so it was to be vegan.  I decided on the coconut milk, because if you are going to have dessert, then have dessert!  It is the silkiest and richest of the three and I just love it in drinks. 

I didn't want just plain hot chocolate however, I wanted something I came up with a coconut almond variation (as the coconut would already be there) with the flavors of an Almond Joy but much better. 
I flavored my coconut milk base with real vanilla bean, then melted good quality dark chocolate into it as well as added some almond extract for a sweet almond flavor.  It was divine, and super rich...but it needed something to top it off and make it pretty. 

I am in love with whipped coconut cream as of lately, and I happened to have some in my fridge from a dessert I made the night before, so I used it to top off my hot chocolate!  It was amazing, the intense dark chocolate with the hint of coconut and almond...the coconut whipped cream slowly melting into it.  Quite beautiful actually if you can call a cup of hot chocolate that!  I enjoyed it far more than if it had been made with whole milk and heavy whipping cream because the coconut milk gave it such a lovely flavor. 
I will not let it be years before I enjoy hot chocolate again as this was so delicious!  Here is the recipe if you would like to experience it for yourself!

Almond Joy Hot Chocolate
Serves 3-4

4 cups lite coconut milk
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise and seeds scraped out (some seeds reserved for topping)
4 oz good quality vegan dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped
2 tsp pure almond extract

1/3 cup full fat coconut milk, chilled (from the top of the can, the thick part)
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup toasted large flake coconut
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
dark chocolate shavings

Before you begin, chill a medium bowl and beaters in the freezer (for topping). 
To make hot chocolate, in a medium saucepan, bring coconut milk to a simmer with the vanilla bean and 3/4 of its seeds (reserving the rest for the topping).  Add chopped chocolate and whisk to melt until a uniform color.  Add almond extract, remove from heat and keep warm while you prepare topping. 
To make coconut whipped cream topping, remove bowl and beaters from freezer.  Add coconut milk to the bowl, and whip to soft peaks, then add agave nectar vanilla beans and vanilla and continue to beat to stiff peaks. 
To serve, pour chocolate into mugs, and top with a bit of vanilla whipped coconut cream, some toasted almonds, and some toasted coconut as well as a little chocolate shavings.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles with Fleur de Sel

I don't know about all of you, but I enjoy eating cookie dough just as much as baked cookies.  I always ignored the warnings about raw eggs, as I secretly swiped spoonfulls of dough from my Grandmother's cookie dough bowl when her back was turned as a child in her kitchen.  Good thing I never got sick, and I admit that I haven't made a batch of cookies myself as an adult without "sampling", ok more like indulging in the dough.  Good thing pretty much the majority of the cookie dough that I make in recent years is vegan, or contains no eggs, and therefore no risk of contamination. 

As I was enjoying some cookie dough last weekend for a batch of cookies, I was thinking how wonderful it would be if I made some just for enjoying in that form.  However, dough balls themselves are a bit messy, and would stick together once I thought dipping them in chocolate and having them be "truffle" style would be perfect!

Now, I know these probably don't qualify as truffles but who says I can't call them that on my own recipe. I was just about drooling at the thought of them.  But, what would make them even better in my mind was a little fleur de sel.  Salty and sweet is just an irrisistable combination to me especially with dark chocolate! 

So I made my recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookie dough, omiting the rising ingredients, since they wouldn't be needed and went to work! 

I will admit I ate quite a few of the dough balls before they were dipped in the chocolate because I just couldn't wait, and of course I needed to be sure they were up to my standards! 

Once finished they were even better though, with the extra chocolate shell, and sea salt on top!  Who knew cookie dough could be even better than it already was.

If you are like me and you cannot resist cookie dough, you must try this, so I have included the recipe.  Happy Monday and don't deprive yourself of good cookie dough, enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles with Fleur De Sel
Makes about 28

1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
2/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup pureed silken tofu
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp fleur de sel sea salt
1 12 oz bag vegan chocolate chips
10 oz vegan chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel

In a large bowl, combine coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the tofu, vanilla extract and agave nectar until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined. Mix in the chocolate chips, and place in the fridge to chill until firm. Once firm, roll into small 1 1/2 inch balls, and place in the freezer for about 1/2 an hour.  Meanwhile, melt the 10 oz chopped chocolate in 30 second intervals in the microwave until smooth, stirring between each heating.  Lay out a piece of non-stick foil.  Dip dough balls one by one into the melted chocolate letting the excess drain off and place on the foil.  Sprinkle with a litttle fleur de sel and repeat with remaining dough balls. Place in the fridge to set chocolate and enjoy!  Refrigerate truffles for up to a week (that is if they last that long).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Orange Silk Dress Martini

Orange Flintstones pushups.  I can remember eating those as a kid at my Dad's house before bed, and one was never enough, I always begged for a second.  Now, there were other flavors, but orange was the best, and the flavor that was always eaten first from the box.  I can remember the flavor of the ice cream treats, a mellow smooth vanilla flavored orange sherbert that melted on the tongue.  I am sure they were filled with lots of artificial things as those types of treats we enjoy as children often are, but they were good, and bring back memories of good times.  I haven't eaten one since I was probably 10, but for some reason I had a craving for that orange vanilla flavor this weekend.  So I decided that it would be lovely in a martini, and sort of a more adult way to enjoy it. 

I used a vodka base so that the other flavors would shine through.  Then I added fresh orange juice from the flavorful oranges I had on my counter, because I am an orange juice snob and you will never find a carton of storebought in my fridge. 

Also, a big vanilla flavor was a must, so I used my vanilla bean infused agave nectar syrup for a bit of sweetness, and some full fat coconut milk for creaminess (Not a fan of heavy cream in drinks) and a touch of silkyness.

It was a beautiful color, like that of the start of a sunrise, and what was more important was it was heavenly!  It was silky smooth, fragrant with citrus and sweet vanilla, luxurious and decadent.  So much better than an orange push up, but for adults only.  It deserved a better name than the orange push up martini, so what came to my mind was an orange silk dress. 

Orange happens to be my favorite color, and I would wear such an orange silk dress so it was the perfect name for my drink.  It made me feel as if I was enjoying something luxurious, but simple.  If you would like to experience this fabulous martini for yourself, here is the recipe!

Orange Silk Dress Martini
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
3 oz fresh organic orange juice
1 1/2 oz organic full fat coconut milk
1 oz vanilla bean agave syrup*

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

*Vanilla Bean Agave Syrup:

1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise

Combine all ingredients in a jar and mix well to dissolve syrup.  Let cool, then cover and place in the fridge and let sit at least a day before using. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fennel Pomegranate Salad

Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.  A walk with a friend, a beautiful sunset, a cup of really good coffee unadorned.I have to admit that the things I enjoy most are usually the least complicated, especially when it comes to foods.  I like a good soup that comes together quickly, or a stir fry, but salads are a must with many of the dinners I decide to make on weeknights.  If I have a warm main dish, I like a cool fresh side so I get the best of both worlds. 

Which is where my Fennel Pomegranate salad comes in! I actually have made a fennel slaw for quite a while now with just fennel and toasted pine nuts in a lemon vinaigrette that I quite enjoy, and my Mom often requests that I make for her.  If I am feeling a bit decident, I add a bit of pecorino romano as well for a simple but delicious salad. 

The other night however, I decided that pomegranate seeds would be wonderful in my simple fennel salad.  They were a beautiful addition, and they added a tart sweetness.  Since it was so good I needed to share it with you all, it is super simple and easy to make!  Perfect for when you have had too much rich holiday food as well.  Hope you all are having a great first week of 2012!

Fennel Pomegranate Salad
Serves 3

3 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
seeds of one pomegranate
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine fennel, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts.  Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, thyme and sea salt and pepper to taste and toss dressing with fennel mixture.  Serve!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

What could be better to celebrate the arrival of the New Year than delicious cupcakes?   Afterall, I am not a big fan of champagne, in fact my celebration last night instead involved martinis and wine in its place.  And of course the cupcakes!  

I chose last night to go out early for a nice dinner in good company, then spend the rest of the evening in my pjs with a nice big bowl of home made kettlecorn, a good martini good cupcakes, and away from all the drunken crazies driving around on NYE.  Maybe staying in makes me boring, but I thoroughly enjoyed being comfy (dressing up to go to dinner was enough for me)!  I think I am getting old, because I was in bed by 11 and was sound asleep by the time the ball drop was happening on TV!  I hope you all had a wonderful New Years spent with the ones you love whether it was spent staying in or going out and I hope that none of you are nursing too bad of hangovers if you had a little too much fun!

Now back to those New Years cupcakes...I will admit that I am really more of a fan of a big grand layer cake the cake lover that I am, but I couldn't resist making something cute with some festive confetti sprinkles I recieved last week as a gift!  To me they screamed "Happy New Years!"  I think this is because I can remember having New Years Eve parties at my house as a youngster with my friends and they always involved throwing confetti of some sort!  I can remember finding confetti under the couch in the summer half a year later, it was never quite cleaned up.  Good times, confetti will always hold a special place in my heart!

So cute mini cupcakes with confetti in my mind were the perfect dessert to celebrate the coming of 2012 with!  I used my vegan vanilla almond cake base which is my favorite because it is so fragrant and also holds significance because it was used for both blogaversary and birthday cakes.  I folded the confetti sprinkles into the batter this time, as well as sprinkled them on top of the creamy vanilla almond frosting.  The cupcakes were quite delicious, fragrant with the scent of vanilla and almond, soft light cake and creamy frosting, remeniscent of birthday cake!  I will admit that I enjoyed way more of them than one probably should, but least I shared some as well. 

I have included my recipe below because it should not be limited just to New Years, so feel free to make it when you are in need of cupcakes!  I would like to wish you all the best in 2012!  Happy New Years, lets make it a great one!

Mini New Years Cupcakes
(Vegan Vanilla Almond Cupcakes)
Makes 12
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple sugar or granulated sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup lite organic coconut milk or almond milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
1 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup confetti sprinkles

1 8 oz pkg tofutti cream cheese
3 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
plant based food coloring (if desired)
confetti sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two 12 hole mini muffin pans with foil liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, milk, vanilla extract, vanllla seeds, and almond extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice vinegar and stir quickly, then fold in 1/4 cup confetti sprinkles. Transfer cake batter to prepared tins, filling 2/3 full and bake 10 minutes until tester inserted into center of one comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely
To make frosting, whip cream cheese until smooth, then add agave, vanilla and salt beat until smooth. Beat in a few drops of food coloring if desired.  Using a pastry bag and large tip, pipe the frosting into swirls on top of each cupcake and sprinkle with confetti sprinkles!