Friday, February 24, 2012

Cinnamon-Sugar Coated Treats: Sort-of Snickerdoodles and Apple Sunflower Seed Butter Pretzels

Sawyer is an interesting fellow, in that if you offer him dessert, he will probably decline.  In general, brownies, cookies, cake, and pie are all likely to be shot down.  I think because he gets home-made food all the time, a treat in his mind is something that we buy and ration out, like Annie's bunny fruit snacks or pretzels.  However, while finished baked goods are taken for granted, the dough is always savored. When snack time comes around, and I anticipate that Sawyer will not be very excited about his options, I usually whip up some cracker or cookie dough and let him make shapes out of it.  While he does so, inevitably he will eat a good chunk before anything reaches the oven.  Such was the case with this healthy, inspired-by-snickerdoodles, cookie creation.

1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 Tbsp. chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp water (could sub flax seed meal)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking trays with parchment paper.  Mix the evaporated cane juice with the cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar and mix well.
3. In a small cup, mix the chia seeds with the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the chia mixture, canola oil, agave, and vanilla. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon until well combined. You should have a moist but firm consistency. If necessary, add more flour a tablespoon at a time until you can shape the dough into balls that hold together well.
4. Form the dough into golf-ball sized balls and roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Space them evenly on your prepared baking sheets.  Flatten the cookies with your palm if desired, as they will not spread out when they cook. Bake in the preheated oven for 7-8 minutes, until the cookies are just slightly brown on the bottom.  Let them cool on wire racks before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen.

 If that isn't enough cinnamon-sugar goodness for you, Sawyer woke up early this week and declared that he couldn't go back to sleep because he was hungry and wanted to make bread with me.  He loves to smell the yeast and, yes, both he and Abiline even eat yeast bread dough.  Sawyer loves the apple cinnamon pretzels at Jamba Juice, so I thought to make something similar when he hit me up with the unexpected bread request.  My version has a great soft texture; Anthony loved them and was scarfing them down two at a time.  His one criticism was that they did not turn out all chewy on the outside like the ones you buy.  I think the problem is that when I drop the dough in the boiling water, it is hard to maintain the high temperature needed to rapidly cook the outside.  Please let me know if you have any ideas on how to get them chewier!

1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. plus 1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 cup lukewarm non-dairy milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
4-5 cups white whole wheat flour

3 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix the warm water with 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar and then stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let sit for a few minutes until the yeast gets all bubbly.  Then add the non-dairy milk, applesauce, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, sunflower seed butter, and finely chopped apple bits and stir until all is well-combined.
2. In a separate, large bowl, mix the salt, cinnamon and 4 1/2 cups of the flour. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. If the dough is too sticky to hold its shape for kneading, add additional flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough can hold together well enough to be transferred to a floured work surface to be kneaded.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as necessary to avoid sticking, until the dough is smooth and supple.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl to rise in a warm place, with a damp towel covering the bowl, for 1-2 hours--until a wet finger poked into the middle of the dough leaves an impression without filling in. If the dough sighs, it has risen a bit too long. (I turn the oven on to 400 for a few minutes, turn it off, open the oven, and place the bowl on the door. Once the oven cools down a bit, I place the bowl in the oven.)
4. Gently deflate the dough with damp hands, form it into a ball, and turn the ball out onto a large, lightly floured work surface. Let it rest for 10 minutes, covered with the damp cloth. While the dough is resting, place a large pot of water on the stove to boil, set out some wire racks, line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
5. Then, with a wet knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces. Form each one into a ball and let them rest for 5 minutes more.  Flatten each ball with your hand and then cut each one into 3 equal pieces (so that you have 12 total).  Roll each piece of dough into a long rope and either fold the ends over each other to form the classic pretzel shape, or make whatever shape you want. 
6. Place the shaped pretzels onto your prepared pans. Once the water is rapidly boiling, drop the pretzels in two at a time, let them boil for 30 seconds, then flip them over with a slotted spoon and boil for 30 seconds more.  Remove the pretzels from the water and place them on the wire racks while you boil the rest. 
7. Transfer all of the boiled pretzels back to the prepared baking pans and cook them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning them 180 degrees after 10 minutes and switching the pan on the upper rack to the lower rack and vice versa.
8. Let the baked pretzels cool on wire racks while you prepare the topping. Mix the evaporated cane juice with the cinnamon in a small bowl and in a separate bowl melt the coconut oil.  Brush the baked pretzels with the melted oil and then sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.   

We took a bunch of these pretzels to snack on when we went to Disneyland this week.  The park was very crowded (for Mardi Gras?), but luckily, there is never a line for Abiline's favorite ride: the carousel.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cheesy Pumpkin Barley Risotto

"Why not barley and 'cheese'?" I thought, as I inwardly rebelled against making yet another pasta dish for Sawyer and Abiline's lunch. Why not, indeed. While Sawyer tends to have spasms when a big bowl of rice or quinoa is placed in front of him (I usually have to fry such dishes into veggie burger patties before they will be accepted), I have had consistently good results with barley, which has a chewy texture that makes it quite pasta-esque.  Of course, you could use this cheesy sauce on macaroni as well, for yet another vegan homage to the classic dish.  While I was blending it up in the food processor, Abiline scampered into the room at the sound of the familiar buzzing, exclaimed, "dough!", clambered up the kitchen stool, and dug in with her fingers (once the machine was stopped, of course). Chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast--yes, I let her dig in.

2 cups pearl barley
5 cups vegetable broth, or water plus 5 tsp. veggie broth powder

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed kernels
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat and hemp.)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3-1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange champagne vinegar (could sub with more lemon juice)
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 1/2 tsp. dried ground sage
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. agave 
pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until browned and starting to caramelize.
2. Scrape the cooked onion into your food processor work bowl, return the skillet to the stove top, and add the barley. Stir it around for 2-3 minutes to coat it with the remaining oil in the pan. Add the broth and raise the heat a bit to bring it to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the broth and looks creamy in texture.
3. While the barley cooks, add all of the remaining sauce ingredients to the food processor (starting with 1/3 cup nutritional yeast) and buzz until smooth.  Taste and add additional salt, pepper to taste, or more nutritional yeast if you want to up the cheesiness. Just stir the sauce into the cooked barley, and cook for a few minutes to warm it through. It's great with some broccoli on the side!

Sawyer did like this recipe, asking "Why does the risotto taste so good?" but what he likes more is that he isn't taking a nap anymore.  He has trouble falling asleep at night, so to get him good and tired, he gets to stay up and have quiet time playing on his bed while Abiline sleeps.  During quiet time this week, he made this Lego version of his favorite tunnel slide park, and boy was he thrilled:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reduced Sugar Strawberry Sugar Cookies with Strawberry Coconut Butter Frosting

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and if you are anything like me, that means you are wanting some of those bleached white, soft sugar cookies with the pink frosting and confetti sprinkles. You know the ones. Yes, they are delicious, but let me suggest that you may show more love for yourself and your family by serving up some of these strawberry-preserve sweetened delights. You won't even miss that wad of colorful vegetable shortening you had been craving.

This coconut butter frosting is awesome.  It is not the vibrant pink that you get with artificial food coloring, but certainly pink enough.  I decided last minute today to invite some friends over for a cookie decorating party at our house, but I didn't have any powdered sugar on hand to make icing. So I decided to see if I could grind shredded coconut into coconut butter in my food processor and use that as the frosting base. I am so thrilled that it worked, as store-bought coconut butter is so expensive. The kids had fun making shapes and being liberal with the sprinkles. As always, more dough gets eaten than actual baked cookie, but that is the joy of a cookie-making party. Happy Valentine's everyone!

For the Strawberry Sugar Cookies:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup canola or coconut oil (I used 1/4 cup of each. Use some coconut oil for the best flavor.)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp. non-dairy milk 

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the flours, evaporated cane juice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and stir until well combined.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the preserves, oil, and vanilla.  Mix until you form a firm but pliable dough that holds together. If it looks a little dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons of non-dairy milk, until it holds together well like play-dough.
4. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to about 1/8-1/4in. thickness. The thinner the dough, the crispier the cookies will be. I like my cookies soft, so we kept them on the thick side. Cut out your shapes as desired and place them on the prepared baking pans. Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes, until just slightly brown on the bottom. Let cool before frosting and decorating.

For the Strawberry Coconut Butter Frosting:
2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 tsp. xantham or guar gum
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp. non-dairy milk

1. In a food processor, grind the coconut until it turns into a thick, smooth paste. This took 7 or 8 minutes for me. Scrape down the sides as necessary during this process.
2. Once you have your coconut butter made, add all of the remaining ingredients, minus the non-dairy milk and process until well-incorporated. It will be a thick ball. Add the non-dairy milk one tablespoon at a time, until you have a spreadable consistency.

My Valentines--Oh how I love them!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cabbage Apple Quinoa Bake with Creamy Garam Masala BBQ Sauce

This recipe is one of those leftover miracles.  Last week I bought a head of green cabbage, thinking that I was going to make coleslaw to go with some barbecue seitan sandwiches. Then Anthony broke the sad news that salad has been making him feel sick lately (He used to eat it every day for lunch at work), and he thinks that the dressing is the culprit (reason unknown).  After hearing that, I didn't dare make coleslaw, so what to do with the cabbage?  I kept ignoring it in the fridge until another unexpected turn of events made for more lonely leftovers that needed a new recipe home.  Our family was planning to go to Disneyland this week, but Sawyer has been refusing to go to sleep at night and thus got sick the morning that we were planning to go.  I had already made a bunch of snacks for the trip, two of which being roasted curried chickpeas and soy-free jerky.  It was time to start scheming for new ways to put these foods to good use.  I had a half an hour to make dinner, during which frantic time this casserole was born: totally improbable, and totally delicious.

For more tasty allergy-friendly recipes, please check out Allergy-Free Wednesdays!

For the filling:
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread (could just sub more coconut oil)
1 medium head green cabbage
2 medium sweet-tart apples (I used Pink Lady)
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 Tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup
2 cups cooked quinoa

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 recipe soy-free vegan jerky (You could sub about 1 cup vegan bacon bits.)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil

For the sauce:
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used hemp milk.)
1/4 cup vegan mayo
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
2-4 tsp. garam masala, to taste
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 400.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas, olive oil, curry powder, and salt. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the chickpeas evenly over it. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, stirring half-way through, until they are toasty with a bit of crunch.
2. While the chickpeas are baking, shred the cabbage and apples in a food processor. You could use a knife, but you want them shredded very fine.  Melt the coconut oil and Earth Balance in a large skillet.  Add the shredded cabbage, apples, salt, and pepper and saute for about 10 minutes, until cooked down and starting to brown a bit. Add the agave and stir to evenly distribute. Cook for about two minutes more and remove from the heat.
3. Oil a 9x13 inch baking dish, scoop the cooked cabbage-apple mixture into the pan, and then mix in the quinoa until evenly distributed.
4. Once the chickpeas are done, add them to the food processor along with the soy-free jerky or bacon bits and the remaining tablespoon coconut oil. Pulse until evenly ground. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the quinoa-cabbage-apple filling.
5. Bake the casserole in the 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and the topping is nicely browned.
6. While the casserole bakes, prepare the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Start with 2 tsp. garam masala, and increase the amount according to your tastes and the strength of your spices.  Serve the completed casserole with the sauce drizzled on top. Baked sweet potatoes and some sauteed greens make great side dishes.

Leftover idea/ variation:  I took about 2 cups of the casserole and mashed it up with a small, very well baked potato and 1-2 Tbsp. of the sauce to make a few veggie burger patties. Just fry them up with a bit of olive oil in a skillet and top with additional sauce in a pita or on a bun!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter and Easiest No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

Two weeks ago I stood, not blinking, mouth agape, mortified in the nut butter and jelly section of Trader Joe's. "How could they do this to me?"  I stammered inwardly.  The price of sunflower seed butter had gone up to $5 a jar!  And around here, where we go through almost a jar a week, this was sad news indeed.  I searched online and found that Amazon sells two huge 5 pound tubs for a decent price, the equivalent of $4 a jar.  But frugal mamma that I try to be, I still had to try to make my own and really sock it to greedy ol' Trader Joe.

I have often wondered while dishing out spoonful after beloved spoonful for my kids to greedily lick, how is sunflower seed butter so brown?  It's pretty much the same color as peanut butter, but sunflower seed kernels are not brown; they are grayish tan...The mystery lives on now that I have tried to make my own. Grind and grind them as I did in my trusty food processor, those seeds insisted on maintaining their grayish hue. I did not foresee this color change going over well with my kids.  How to mask it?  I'm sure you've already guessed: chocolate.  A sort of sunflower seed Nutella.  While I still may have to invest in factory-made plain, brown sunflower seed butter, the homemade chocolate version is certainly a treat we will be keeping around the house.

I paired the chocolate sunflower seed butter with some no-knead bread I whipped up last night to jazz up some leftovers.  I adapted the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book and will include it here for those of you who, like me, enjoy the taste and affordability of homemade bread, but just can't always plan your day around the required rising times.

For the Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter:
1 cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil (or canola oil will do)
1/8-1/4 tsp. salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. agave nectar
3-4 Tbsp. non-dairy milk, enough to get a smooth consistency (I used hemp milk.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in the work bowl of your food processor (starting with just 1/8 tsp. salt and 3 Tbsp milk) and buzz.  You will need to run the food processor for a few minutes before the mixture will become smooth. Add additional milk if it is too thick, to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and add additional salt if desired.  This would be especially good on chocolate chocolate chip pancakes or even used as frosting!

For the No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread:

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 Tbsp. molasses (I have had success using maple syrup as well.)
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vegan protein powder or vegan milk powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shelled hemp seeds or sesame seeds

1. It is easiest to make this recipe using a stand mixer, but you could certainly try a hand-held one, or a really strong arm. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl and stir in 1 Tbsp. molasses. Then stir in the yeast and let the mixture sit a few minutes until it starts to bubble up.
2. Generously grease a 9x5 inch bread pan. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the yeast mixture and beat vigorously for 3 minutes. Use medium-high speed if you're letting the mixer do the work. The batter will be gummy and sticky. 
3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and even it out as best you can. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm place (like an oven that was turned on to 450 for just a minute) and let rise for an hour.
4.  Preheat the oven to 350 near the end of the rising time. Uncover the pan and bake the bread for 50 minutes, tenting it with foil after 25 to prevent over-browning. After removing the loaf from the oven, cool it on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a butter knife along the edge to loosen the bread, and flip the pan over to get it out.  Let the loaf cool for 30 minutes before slicing. This bread makes great toast!

This week my parents came to visit, and my mom brought me some shoes, which Abiline quickly adopted.  I never would have thought that a 19 month old could be so adept at walking in high heels. Sawyer quickly got in on the shoe swap, too, and was sliding around in Abiline's shoes. He really wanted to wear the high heels, too...It's hard to explain to a 3 year old why boys don't wear high heels; it was one of those "because Mommy says so" moments.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mango Custard Pie

My success with the vegan cheesecake has motivated me to try my hand at making other creamy vegan pies without using the typical soy products or nuts as the dairy replacement.  This past week I tried out a soy-free, nut-free mango custard pie: the mango cream filling got a big thumbs up, but my husband said that the crust was a bit too healthful tasting compared to his preferred graham cracker crust. So feel free to sub graham cracker crust, although I will include the recipe for my granola-type crust for those like me who like a hearty, less sugary crust. If you want to try out this recipe, but you don't have access to Trader Joe's and its mango butter, you could certainly try subbing canned or fresh mangoes plus some evaporated cane juice or agave nectar. 

For the filling:
2 cups soy-free tofu
2 cups oat milk (You could sub another non-dairy milk.)
2 egg replacers (either Ener-G brand, or 1/4 cup tapioca starch mixed with 1/4 c. water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
8 oz. jar of mango butter
1/3 cup white flour
2 Tbsp, soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread
generous 1/4 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. lemon or orange juice
1/4-1/2 tsp. stevia powder, to taste (optional, if you want it a bit sweeter)

For the crust:
1 cup dried, unsulfured mangoes, soaked overnight to soften
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried, flaked coconut
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

1. Oil a 9 inch pie pan and preheat the oven to 350. Place all of the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.
2. Either clean out the food processor or use a blender and add all of the filling ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup of the mango butter for topping the cooled pie. Puree until smooth and pour into the prepared crust, smoothing out the top.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack for about an hour before spreading the remaining mango butter over the top of the pie and placing it in the fridge to cool completely before serving.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Best Coconut-Hemp Milk Non-Dairy Yogurt

It seems that those who stumble across my blog are often looking for a non-soy based vegan yogurt recipe, so I thought I would do a quick update here and share what I have found to be the best non-dairy milk combo for yogurt:

1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups of water
1/2 cup raw shelled hemp seeds

Puree the milk, water, and seeds in a blender until the seeds are totally ground, about a minute. The milk will be thick; the ground hemp seeds will act as an added thickener in the finished product.  Culture the milk according to the instructions I posted earlier.  Once the yogurt has cooled in the fridge, blend it with the following:

1-2 tsp. vanilla, to taste
1/2 tsp. maple extract (optional, but very good)
1/4 cup cocont sugar or other natural sweetener
1 tsp xantham gum
1/4 tsp. stevia powder
1/2-1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, optional

Blend it for a good while, and it will get a mousse-like texture.  I also often add some calcium citrate powder. This is a great way to get good fats into your kids, as well as protein from the seeds. When blackberries were on sale last week, I mixed 6 oz, of blackberries and 1/2 banana in the yogurt as well, and the kids really loved it.

Here is my sleeping angel. Not always an angel when awake, but still totally precious.