Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Falafel Roasted Chickpeas

During my first pregnancy, which ended in the birth of my lovely daughter, I took the term "eating for two" quite literally.  I was lucky to never have experienced morning sickness, with either of my pregnancies, but when I got hungry...I got REALLY hungry.  Like, that kind of hungry where you feel like your stomach is eating itself, hungry!  It would almost turn to nausea if I didn't eat right away!! I even had to keep food in my pockets, lest the hunger grumbles came on in the middle of a work shift or mid-commute.  What's a regular amount of calories a pregnant woman should add to her diet?  100?!  I probably ate quadruple that!  My husband always tells the tale of when he knew I had given up; I was sitting on the couch watching Oprah, and crying into the container of ice cream I was just eating straight out of! hahaha.  I had cravings galore, not crazy person cravings, I just wanted everything.  All of it.  In my mouth.
One of my regular hankerings, was for falafels.  I worked in downtown Calgary at the time, and would waddle my way to Falafel King at least once a week.  By the end of my pregnancy they knew me by name, and even gave me free baklava!

Every once in a while, I still get an insatiable craving for a falafel, but I just can't afford the calories.  One way to indulge the craving, but still stay on track is with these Falafel Roasted Chickpeas.  They are an amazing crunchy little snack, and make a great topping to a deconstructed falafel sandwich salad.  All the flavour, but none of the guilt.

Falafel Roasted Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, drained, well-rinsed, and dried.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together all the spices, and set aside.  Lay out paper towels on a large baking sheet, and pour out the chickpeas onto the paper towels.  Gently pat/rub the chickpeas to remove excess moisture.  Use the paper towels to move the chickpeas momentarily to the side.  Use the same baking sheet, and add the olive oil, then return the chickpeas to the pan, and evenly sprinkle the spices over the top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.  I kept mine stored at room temperature, in an uncovered container, so they would retain crispiness. These are great to top a falafel inspired salad, or simply enjoyed as a snack.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pecan Praline Fudge Brownies

Okay.  It's time to get serious.  This is gonna be the last unhealthy sweet treat that I'll post for the next couple weeks.  I completely fell off the no sugar, no gluten, no booze, healthy healthy wagon at Easter, and the scale is screaming at me to get back on track!  I start every day with a workout, and the best of intentions of eating healthily, but all those friggin' little Easter eggs, got the better of me.  Not to mention the carrot cake that was also made, some boozy ciders consumed on a mama's night on the town, and these here Pecan Praline Brownies.  I'm my own worst enemy.  For Real.

I first made these brownies at Christmastime as part of homemade gift packages, but never shared this recipe with you.  My Son's dayhome provider loved them at Christmas, and asked if I could make her some more, as payment for a instead of money - hellya!  The only problem being that these brownies are so deelish, the whole cutting process turned into: one for for me...oh, a piece fell of that one, might as well eat it. Oops!
They are perfect for sharing, and would be great brought to a potluck, or to share with co-workers...pack them up, and go make yourself a salad.  DO NOT trust yourself alone with them, no matter what sweet nothings they whisper to you.  Okay, maybe just one little sliver.  Then, let's hook pinkies, and make a promise, we're getting back onto that clean eating, wholesome living, healthy healthy thing,!

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies

3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup hot coffee or  hot water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare your baking dish, or brownie pan, by greasing with butter (my dish was 8x11x2), and set aside.
Using a large mixing bowl, or a mixer with a paddle attachment, stir together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Pour in butter, and mix slowly. Next add coffee, vanilla and eggs stir until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in the pan on wire rack.  When they the brownies are almost cool, prepare the pecan praline fudge topping.

Pecan Praline Fudge
Recipe Adapted from: Cookies and Cups

6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup half and half, or table cream
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans 

Over medium-high heat, using a medium sized pot, add butter, cream, brown sugar and salt.  Stir mixture until it comes to a rolling boil.  Once it comes to a boil, keep it there it for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add in vanilla and powdered sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add the chopped pecans, and stir to combine.  Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, before pouring over cooled brownies.  Place somewhere cool, and allow the fudge to set for at least an hour.  Cut into squares, and serve.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegan Coconut Chai Coffee Cake!

This is one of my fave coffee cake recipes, and was first made preblog.  This recipe lingers and lurks in your memory banks so sneakily - oh, that streusel topping!!  I have never once stopped thinking about baking this coffee cake or that streusel, and have been asked by colleagues who remember me bringing it in to work waaaay back when, to share this recipe, and so's the goods!  

When I first made this coffee cake, I followed Tracy from Shutterbean's version of the recipe to the letter (errr measurement?!).  If you have never perused Tracy's blog, she is a superstar! And super inspiring!  She writes about food (duh!), as well as fun home organization projects.  She gives simple tips and steps, and you can always count on her recipes being unintimidating and easy to follow.  She takes everyday pics, everywhere she ventures with the eye of an artist, and somehow makes it all come together with seeming effortlessness.  One day I hope my blog may grow up to be like hers! 

Since I was bringing this unforgettable Coconut Chai Coffee Cake to a staff potluck, I decided to make a few alterations.  We have people who don't eat eggs, a few who have gluten sensitivities, and a whole bunch who like to eat healthily, so I decided to attempt this vegan & low gluten version of the coconut chai coffee cake of my dreams.  But if you want the butter and the flour?  Follow the link to Shutterbean's original recipe.  I guarantee you won't regret it, either way you make it.

Vegan Coconut Chai Coffee Cake
Recipe Adapted from: Shutterbean
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup light spelt flour
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup light spelt flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 cup dairy free yogurt (I used coconut yogurt), at room temperature
2 flax eggs (1 Tbsp ground flax, mixed with 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Using a 9-inch spring form pan, grease with coconut oil, dust with flour, and set aside.  Make your flax eggs!  Add 2 Tablespoons ground flax to 6 Tablespoons water, mix with a fork, and set aside to thicken - about 15 minutes.
To make the streusel topping, melt coconut oil via microwave or stove top. Using a small bowl, add all remaining ingredients, and use a fork to ensure they are well incorporated.  Set aside.
Using a medium sized bowl, add together the dry ingredients: Spelt flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour (I was running low on gluten-free flours and used a bit of everything!  All flour = 2 cups - use what you have), baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
Using a stand mixer, add the melted coconut oil, and coconut sugar, and beat together until light and fluffy.  Add to the oil and sugar, the coconut yogurt (or fave dairy-free yogurt), flax eggs and vanilla mixing until thoroughly combined.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just moistened, do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread out as best you're able.  Pour the streusel over the top, and press slightly into the batter.  Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean(ish).
Cool on a raised rack for about 20 minutes before removing from spring form pan.  Slice and serve!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coconut Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Baking a cake is like my own little piece of paradise. I know allot of people though, who may find baking and decorating a cake too hard, too time consuming, too much work.  I however, find it to be a joyful and rewarding activity.
It starts with leisurely perusing the web, or flipping through cookbooks, to find that perfectly suited recipe.  Maybe a grocery shopping trip?  Gathering ingredients, far better than shopping for clothes - no need to try anything disappointment in dietary (ahem, waist circumference) progress!
I especially love the process of measuring and adding ingredients then mixing it all together, like a little kitchen scientist.  Maybe being bold enough to substitute one ingredient for another??  So daring!  Then waiting to see how the experiment faired, and turning from scientist to artist!  Creating layer, upon layer of deliciousness, with the flourish of a spatula.  Appealing to both the eyes, and the stomach!
Finally, the best best bestest part; presenting your creation to it's intended with a song:  Happy Birthday You! For He's a Jolly Good Fellow? Er... Hippity Hoppity Easters' on its Way?

I made this particular cake for my Mother-In-Law's Birthday last month.  She has a few food sensitivities that I have to keep in mind during my cake selection process.  She does not have a food allergy, but a serious health condition, which pretty much eliminates any cakes containing nuts, or seeds, or even fruits and berries with seeds!  She suggested a lemon cake, and I was happy to concoct my creation from there.

Perhaps there's no singing involved for your occasion?  Any which way, this vibrantly lemon-flavoured cake would make the perfect addition to your table, no matter the party!

Coconut Lemon Curd Layer Cake
Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake;  Page 250 Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites (keep the yolks for lemon curd!)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter & dust with flour two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Combine eggs and milk, and also set aside.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl, and mix with a fork, so the sugar becomes moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are light. Add the lemon extract, then one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk & egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Keep alternating the wet & dry ingredients, until all used up, and finish off the batter with a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is well aerated.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch, or a toothpick inserted into the centres should come out clean.
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, remove from pans, and allow to cool completely.

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks (reserved from cake recipe!)
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon
7 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Using a small pot set over medium heat, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture, taking care to scrape down sides of pot.  Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes
Remove from heat and stir in butter, one piece at a time, until consistency is smooth.
Transfer mixture to a small bowl.  To avoid getting "skin" on the top, lay a piece of plastic wrap over top, and press gently onto the curd, before placing in the fridge to cool completely. (Thanks for the tip Martha!)

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract (optional)
3-4 cups icing sugar

Using a stand up or hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and nutmeg and continue to mix. On low speed, slowly add in icing sugar a cup at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.

Put it all together!
Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each layer horizontally in half.  Place parchment paper in-between layers, to avoid them sticking together.
First spread bottom layer carefully with one third of the cream cheese frosting, taking it all the way to the edges. Top that with a spread of the lemon curd, but keep the curd from the edges, so it doesn't smoosh out and get mixed the frosting that will be on the exterior. Top with another cake layer, and repeat. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top.
For that extra something special that also hints to the flavours within, I used about 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut to decorate the exterior sides of the cake; and for the top: a very slim slice of lemon, that I first placed between paper towels to absorb excess moisture and hopefully prevent any lemon juice from damaging the top.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Raw Carrot Cake Bites

It's hard to imagine that in just a couple weeks, the kids running around the yard with baskets in hand, hunting for treats.  Right now everything is covered in a blanket of white.  Even though it's been snowing like Idontknowwhat out there for the past week, today the sun is shining!  The spring melt is about to begin (believe!), and Easter is just around the corner!  
Every time I venture into a store, I'm assaulted by all the chocolate bunnies, and egg shaped confections.  So far I have managed not to purchase any treats for the kids, I'm thinking this year I'll leave the treat buying to the Grandma's, and I'll go homemade on my end.

I thought I would share these Raw Carrot Cake bites as an alternative, or in addition, to all store bought chocolate treat madness.  Maybe you could tell the kids they are Easter Bunny droppings?! Haha!

These are a bit of a twist on one of my most favourite cakes - carrot cake (duh!), but these little babies are practically guilt free!  They are gluten-free and have no refined sugar added.  I loved how the yogurt-covered raisins (although probably not following strict raw rules) are reminiscent of cream cheese frosting, and add that extra hit of sweet - skip them if your diet is strict.  For me, these yummy bites help me stay of track, and almost (almost!) not miss those all those evil little chocolate treats!

Raw Carrot Cake Bites
Recipe Adapted From: Cookin' Canuck

1 + 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats - reserve 1/2 cup
1/3 cups raw pecans or walnuts, I couldn't decide, so I mixed both!
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
1 Tablespoon chia seeds, optional
1/2 cup almond butter (or your fave nut butter)
3 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey
3 mejool dates, pits removed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup + 1/2 cup grated carrot, packed - reserve 1/2 cup
1/3 cup plain or yogurt-covered raisins, chopped - reserve to add in with whole oats & grated carrots

Using a food processor, pulse the dates to break down.  Next add 1 cup of oats, pecans and/or walnuts, 1 cup of grated carrots, chia seeds, and ground flax, pulsing to combine.  Transfer to a medium sized bowl, and stir in the almond butter, agave nectar and cinnamon until well combined.
Finally stir in the reserved oats, grated carrots, and yogurt-covered raisins.
Roll them into small bite sized balls, and place in an air tight container bound for the fridge.  Allow to chill for about an hour to firm up.