Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vegan Caramel Truffles #SundaySupper

Well, now that the long weekend (or "final" weekend of Summer if you're cynical) has arrived with it's inevitable backyard shindigs and school lunch-planning moms, my mind is turning to quick to eat (and especially packable) fare. It's still nice and hot outside, which means outdoor-friendly food and platters get top billing - precisely what this week's #SundaySupper is all about.

I decided to take a little bit of a healthier twist on the dessert tray though, as delicious as all the cakes, quickbreads and brownies I've been churning out are. I'm no raw foodist, but I do know that dates make fabulous sweeteners and rich tasting desserts - especially paired with chocolate. Luckily, I had some help on the recipe front, being inspired by Jenna Zoe’s book Super Healthy Snacks and Treats: More Than 60 Easy Recipes for Energizing, Delicious Snacks Free From Gluten, Dairy, Refined Sugar and Eggs. Rather than the (admittedly decadent) combination of cream, butter and sugar commonly filling caramels (and especially truffles!), these are composed of sticky, sweet and rich dates, maca powder and tahini with a pinch of salt. That's it... no accoutrements necessary really, but since I can't not have a chocolate treat every day, they're dunked in a stevia-sweetened dark chocolate too. Yup, these bites of heaven are sugar free, nut free, gluten free and vegan. Can we say yum?

Tahini Date Caramels

Our #SundaySupper hostess this week is Constance (The Foodie Army Wife). Thanks! This week we are bringing you…

Savory Bites:
Sweet Treats:

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I'm not a closet chocoholic by any means - from 99% to 50%, give me a bar and I am one happy camper. I've been known to eat cocoa powder raw, turn oatmeal into a warm bowl of chocolate pudding for breakfast, add it to chili, granola, cookies and cakes, and of course I'm on a never ending quest for the best, richest and fudgiest brownies I can make. My day is not complete without some sort of cocoa lacing it - and sometimes my passion is so strong that my mom will ask me if I'm PMS'ing :-). Nope, I'm just a bona-fide addict, without a plan to stop the habit any time soon!

That said, I'm also a huge fan of vegetables, especially when they come out of my backyard at the peak of their flavour. As much as I do love a rich square of 70% Amedei, nothing truly beats the flavour of a still-warm heirloom tomato right off the vine or perfectly grilled slabs of zucchini and eggplant harvested steps from the BBQ. These days, the garden harvest is making its way into everything, both sweet and savoury, and obviously zucchini has been getting top billing lately. It's easy to see why, though - being relatively bland it's perfect for either taste application, it's packed with moisture (perfect for making sauces, soups and baked goods), it's cheap and plentiful (even if you don't grow your own) and it's nutritious. I mean, one medium, 31-calorie zucchini has two grams of both protein and fibre, no fat or cholesterol, and 56% of your RDI of vitamin C. It's enough to give anything a health halo, really.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

With all the summer squash at my disposal these days, I figured I could whip up some mighty fine chocolate goodies for one of my old schoolfriend's buck and doe party. I started on a mission not only to make a "hide the vegetable" treat, but a to-die-for healthy indulgence. I started, obviously, with the zucchini, and cut the fat even further with pureed prunes - which add such a rich texture to the bars it's hard to believe baby food had magic - then tossed in flaxseed for the eggs, spelt flour for a delicious nuttiness and Truvia for some of the sugar. To add the "devilish" side to these (after all, it was for a party), a whole bar of bittersweet chocolate and a shot of Kahlua wove their way into the batter too, and the whole thing was frosted with dollops of my favourite Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Shared with Foodie Friends Friday

Foodie Friends Friday

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gluten Free Double Ginger Cake

I'm giving you a break from the zucchini onslaught today. Well, sort of, since I had some pureed zucchini in the fridge nearing the end of it's useable life, and it seemed a shame to waste it when it adds such a perfect, incognito moisture to baked goods! 

No, instead I whipped up these dense, brownie-like snacking cake bars for a few friends who need to be either gluten free, vegan or both. Since the chill of Fall is coming (and some would say Augtober stole any Summer we may have had anyway), I warmed things up from a standard spice cake with a double hit of ginger - fresh minced for a wallop of spicy heat, and crystallized ginger in syrup for a slower, gentler burn that is nonetheless present in every mouthful. Like I said, the pureed zucchini is purely for moisture here - you could use applesauce or oil too if you want - and the slight bit of texture and flavour from ground almonds is echoes in the almond milk, adding richness to the mixture of molasses and maple syrup.

Gluten Free Double Ginger Cake

A square of this cake melts in your mouth, and save for nut allergies it will be a hit in lunchboxes and office break rooms regardless of anyone's dietary preferences (my eat-everything mom demolished the scraps).

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gluten - Free Zucchini - Flax Squares

Are you sick of me posting zucchini recipes yet? Well, I hate to break it to you, but I still have a few more up my sleeve thanks to the brisk proliferation from our vines (still!), but I did freeze a bunch of 1-cup shred "pucks" so I can meter out the remaining baking. I can't help but use the squash in everything these days, though - our growing season here is so pitifully short that I grasp every opportunity I have to savour what comes in from the backyard garden!

Gluten-Free Zucchini - Flax Squares

These tender, lunch box-perfect squares were the original brainchild of Emily Mainquist, one of the Special Contributors at The Daily Meal and author of Sweet Vegan: A Collection of All Vegan, some Gluten-Free, and a Few Raw Desserts. I definitely made it my own, though, pumping it full of super-healthy (and delicious) flax seed in both whole and ground forms, using stevia and agave for some of the dark brown sugar and mixing up my own flour blend rather than using a pre-mixed variety. I was also able to cut down on the oil significantly without sacrificing texture or flavour, and since I left out the nuts from the already vegan recipe the whole pan was safe to bring to school and share... not that much of that happened :-). Of course, adding in a hefty dose of chocolate certainly helped solidify the squares' lunchtime status, and the pan disappeared almost as fast as the zucchini arrived on our table! 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Zapple Butter Zucchini Loaf

I know there are a zillion zucchini bread recipes out there. Heck, I have at least 10 on here myself, each a totally unique variation on the theme (and common goal of using up zucchini glut). If you look at a lot of these recipes, though, you'll notice they contain large amounts of oil or butter - something that always surprised me, given the veggie's inherent moisture. They also tend to include grotesque amounts of sugar - a more understandable feature, since the squash is relatively bland (and easy to hide!). I knew there was definite room for improvement on both fronts, and wanted to see if I could make the loaf vegan too.

Apple Butter Zucchini Bread

Now, replacing oil with applesauce is nothing new. Dieters have been using that trick for ages, and in general it works - with the caveat that baked goods can be a tad spongy or gummy. I've found a lot greater success using apple butter, but usually only dared swap about 2/3 of the fat for it. However, I had been using up some of our zucchini glut by making Zapple Butter, and figured I'd try the double-zucchini treatment here exclusively. That's right - there is NO added fat in this loaf, and since I was on a roll, I made it 100% whole wheat and refined sugar free. Veganizing the recipe was the easiest thing to get my head around, since I had a fresh supply of Homemade Egg Replacer on hand that worked beautifully. 

Even after all that modification, the bread was perfectly moist (not gummy at all!), tender and rich tasting thanks to maple syrup, coconut sugar and a hefty dash of cinnamon and allspice accenting the nutty flavours from the coconut milk and whole wheat. It's great au naturale, warmed slightly with a dab of butter, apple butter or cream cheese, or even French toasted! When treats this good are this guilt-free, the options are endless!

Apple Butter Zucchini Bread