Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bar Hopping

These past couple days have been non-stop energy... bordering on insanity! My last two exams came and went this week with so little fuss and fanfare (on my end, anyway) that I didn't even bother mentioning them - in all honesty it took me longer to drive to the school than write the darn things. Even though I've been waiting on it for what seems like eons, I can't believe that the school year is actually over now! I'm kind of sad about it in a way, though... it means saying goodbye (for the most part) to my best friends for the Summer since they're either working full-time or traveling back home. A couple of us have talked about a trip downtown before Johana leaves, so with luck we'll have one last hurrah. If we can get my stomach et al to quiet down for all of 30 minutes, that is!

Speaking of hurrahs, I have had a fair few of those this week too! I'll let you in on more details in my next post (hey, I have to keep you all reading, right?) but the two biggest ones involved copious amounts of sugar, butter and flour (and if you really want, you can check out Flickr for a couple hints). The other big one is I finally figured out the beast that is Twitter (yes, I'm a tad behind the times!). So now, I'll be able to update even if I don't have time for a full-out blog! Just don't hold out for any Twecipes... I'm too verbose for that kind of junk!

For now, I'll talk about a subject near and dear to college students' hearts everywhere, especially come post exam party time - bars! Of course, I don't mean the alkiehol-type (the booze on this blog is all in baked form!)... I mean the rich, dense cookie-type bars - in this case, banana-rich! I'm going to kill two birds with one stone here, since if I don't they'll NEVER be written about!

These first bars are fudgy and dense, made with a touch of yellow corn flour (this isn't cornmeal or cornstarch, mind you!), only 1/4 cup of margarine and a single egg white! Definitely a lighter indulgence for lunchbox or after school noshing too... I added banana chips and Craisins for texture, and I definitely wouldn't leave out the chips. You could add chocolate chips or nuts instead of the Craisins, or leave those out entirely!

Banana Chip Blondies
12 bars
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn flour (not cornstarch!)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp custard powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
3 tbsp water
1/4 cup craisins
1/2 cup (slightly crushed before measuring) banana chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375F, grease or line a 9" square baking pan.
  2. Whisk together flours, custard powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Cream together sugars and margarine.
  4. Beat in vanilla, egg white and water until smooth.
  5. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well incorporated, the fold in the craisins and banana chips.
  6. Scrape into the prepared pan and bake 13-15 minutes. Cool completely in pan before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 174.3
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 51.6 mg
Total Carbs: 32.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 2.5 g

I'm actually surprised at the outcome of these other bars - since they had copious amounts of sour cream, heavy bananas and tofu in them (without an egg or butter) I thought they would be heavier and thicker-textured than they were. The pans (I modified the 9x13" recipe to make two 9" square pans instead, topping one with walnuts... it works the same!) came out comparatively fluffy, with a light crumb that makes me think they'd work out well as a layer cake. Maybe a layer of peanut butter in between? Or strawberry preserves?? The possibilities are endless!

Tarzan Ape - Man Bars
24 pieces
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or "quick", not instant)
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves)
2 tbsp canola oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sour cream (light's fine, NI is for 14% M.F.)
1 tbsp vanilla
6 oz silken tofu (I use Mori-Nu lite), pureed
3 medium-large bananas, mashed
Walnuts or chocolate chips for topping (optional, not included in NI)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line a 9x13" pan or two 8" pans.
  2. Whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda and pie spice in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together oil, brown sugar, honey and applesauce until smooth.
  4. Add sour cream, vanilla and tofu puree and again beat smooth.
  5. Add flour and bananas in alternate batches, starting and ending with dry.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan(s), top if desired.
  7. Bake 25 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes.
  8. Cool completely in pans (or chill if possible) before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 110.2
Total Fat: 3.5 g
Cholesterol: 4.2 mg
Sodium: 30.8 mg
Total Carbs: 18.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 2.1 g

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Definitely Not "Just Bananas"

What do you do when, all of a sudden, you realize you have a bounty of culinary resources hidden away in the back of your pantry and fridge? I'm completely guilty of the "European" method of shopping - I'm perfectly content to run out for bits and pieces of the evening meal each day, picking up produce that's fresh and bright (provided I'm lucky enough to be there shortly after stocking) and arriving home only to find that there was an extra whatever lurking in the fridge from the big shopping the weekend before. I especially tend to get suckered in to the "mini-trip" mindset when I'm downtown in Roncesvalles Village, because it always seems like new goods are flooding into the produce stalls and the shop owners are always able to point out the best stock and even some new finds (like mini kiwis and ground cherries). It was there that I bought the quince that I turned into sauce. I always look forward to trips down to my acupuncturist because it gives me that window to browse... like a mini Kensington or St. Lawrence market at my fingertips!

I think I began the "market shopper" mindset when I was living in Ottawa: the famous, gourgeous lifeblood of the city known as the Byward Market was only a short bus-hop away from the university residence (and later, the apartment I shared with Andrew), and I can vibrantly remember one particularly freezing cold winter night during exams when Andrew, my suite-mate Allison and I walked for an hour (in the wind and blowing snow) off campus to escape the cabin fever brought on by cramped quarters and too many text books. We wound up in a Loeb of all places (how very chic, I know), buying a loaf of crusty, almost-stale bread and a wheel of Vache Qui Rit to share back at the dorm. I don't think I ever had a better meal that first year.

But that is a major digression from what I originally started out talking about! Reminiscence can be a powerful thing, eh?

Anyways, fridge finds. I have to admit, this was made a heck of a while back and I'm just getting around to posting it because I've been a lazy blogger! Basically, I had a bunch of ingredients languishing in various areas of my kitchen - which seems to be a constant these days (especially since recently I've been so nauseous that what I do buy at the market lacks luster to my heart come dinner) - including a half-cup of ganache from my mom's birthday cake, the dregs of a jar of jam and three brown-verging-on-black bananas. What would you have done??

Well, I decided to toss everything together with my basic banana bread recipe - yup, ganache and all - bake it off and see what happened! The butter-consistency of the cold ganache filled the fat component of the recipe, and allowed me to significantly reduce the amount of sugar added to the loaf. A cup of yogurt made for a tender, more cakey than bread-like crumb and a loaf so moist that when I initially tried to unmould it, it folded in half! Lesson learned - when something says to cool completely in the pan, there's a good reason for it!

Banana Berry-Truffle Bread
Serves 14
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup room temperature chocolate ganache (truffle filling... use the full sample recipe below if desired)
1 cup plain yogurt (low or full fat is fine)
2 tbsp strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 ounces bittersweet (65% +) chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a large loaf pan.
  2. Beat together bananas, vanilla, ganache, yogurt and jam in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl whisk together remaining ingredients.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture until just combined, scraping the bottom to ensure even mixing.
  5. Bake 55-65 minutes, tenting with foil after 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool in the pan completely before unmoulding.
  7. Ganache: Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Bring cream to a low boil, then pour over the chocolate, stirring to melt completely. Set aside to cool for 45 - 50 minutes, until the consistency of room temperature butter.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 147.6
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 8.1 mg
Sodium: 11.1 mg
Total Carbs: 26.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Ate" Huzzah!

You will have to blame thank my little sister for the title of this post - she's been using that expression ever since she did factorials in math class (back in, what... October??) when she and her friends would refer to anything with the "!" symbol as "(number) huzzah". Apparently her teacher had a fondness for 8!, so now it's stuck itself permanently into my brain. Hence now, "ate" huzzah.

Actually, though I always thought it just meant "yay" or "Hallelujiah", Ripley's says that "huzzah" translates into "paradise". Paradise... yup, that would be a good marker for this loaf. Dense, slightly chewy, riddled with onions and garlic with that "just so" touch of roasted sesame oil, I wouldn't hesitate to pair this bread with (garlic?) butter, or even a crabapple jelly would be awesome! The original inspiration for the bread came from one of my favourite baking blogs - Baking Bites - where Nicole made Caramelized Onion Bread in a tube pan. I halved the recipe to fit it nicely into the awesome stoneware pan my dad gave to me for my birthday this year (I was dying to try it out!), then fiddled with the ingredients to use what I had on hand and use up the granulated garlic I had bought for a batch of (as yet unblogged) bagels and only used part of. Originally, for the colour contrast, I had planned to use a red onion that I had spied in our bin, but upon cutting it open I was - shall we say - a little less than thrilled with the black and slightly oozy innards. Plan B worked out perfectly in the taste department though, since really, how can you go wrong with a Vidalia in anything?

A long, slow, super-fragrant cooking of the onions was the critical first step in this venture, and the smell of them alone is reason to make this bread ASAP! Actually, after the bread was out of the oven and the whole house smelled like Italy, all I could think of was another name for the loaf: "last date bread". Mind you, I couldn't date someone who couldn't stand onions and garlic... they are the base of my blood! However, even if you do wind up dining on slabs of this alone, the aroma will caress you all night long... so you still get a date out of the deal. It'll even come to bed with you, and it will still respect you in the morning (as a base for your scrambled eggs!). I've submitted this loaf to Susan (of WildYeast fame), who is hosting her event YeastSpotting.

Caramelized Onion, Garlic And Sesame Bread
Serves 16
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional but highly reccommended!)
1 package active dry yeast (about 1 1/4 tsp)
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 cups flour, divided
1 tsp gluten flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
  1. In a medium sauce pan, cook onions and oil over medium-high heat until onions are translucent.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until onions are light golden, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sesame oil and cook 1-2 minutes further.
  4. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature.
  5. In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup water. Let stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add remaining water, mixing well.
  7. In another bowl, mix together 1 cup flour, gluten, whole wheat flour, garlic, pepper and salt.
  8. Add this mixture to the wet mix in the bowl and beat well to blend.
  9. Stir in onions.
  10. Add remaining flour gradually until dough comes together into an elastic ball (you may need more or less).
  11. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes.
  12. Place dough in a greased bowl, and let rise 1 hour.
  13. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
  14. Gently deflate risen dough, shape into a loaf and place in the loaf pan.
  15. Cover with greased Cling Wrap and let rise about 45 minutes.
  16. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30 - 40 minutes, until dark gold.
  17. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Amount per Serving
Calories: 106.1
Total Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.5 mg
Total Carbs: 20.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7 g
Protein: 3.3 g

Unfortunately, some of us have to live with families who are less than accepting of culinary odours *cough cough*. Luckily enough for me, I was approached by Charlie Kondek (my good schwag buddy!) who was toting a smell-fighting arsenal from Febreze - not only did I get some air-misting sprays (they call them AirEffects) for the immediate damage-control, but the huge gym-bag they sent to me had some candles and their NOTICEables oil warmer plug-ins too. All the scents I was sent (ooh boy, we're getting into homophones!) were part of their new line of destination scents, featuring Morocco (my personal favourite), Brazil and Hawaii as inspiration. Now, I'm pretty sensitive to the "air freshener" types of scents (and perfumes in general), so I was really disappointed when I found the Moroccan NOTICEable that I had stuck in my room was making my eyes and throat burn (fair warning: use these in large spaces like a front hallway - enclosed rooms are no good!). The AirEffects sprays have the same, shall we say, effect when my mom uses them in the house, because she can easily hold onto that trigger for a year! I was okay when I used short spritzes of them in the kitchen and bathrooms though, which I'm sure were closer to the intended purpose! The candles smell wonderful and are lightly scented enough that you pretty much have to snort the wax before you'd get any sort of overload. I can't wait to see if they release the Moroccan flavour for those in the future!

If you do wind up trying one of the new scents, and you fall in love with the idea of being in either Brazil, Hawaii or Morocco (and really, who doesn't? I could be in any of those places right now in a heartbeat!), Febreze is running a sweepstakes until July 5 for Canada and USA residents! The grand prize is a trip for four to one of the locations mentioned, and you even get a little spending cashola ($1,000 US). And really, who doesn't want some extra moola these days?? Good luck to those who enter!

And a second huzzah moment that I had overlooked until now - I'm over halfway done with my exams now!! Yeah, it involved me spending almost all of this glorious, 27C Saturday in school, but only two more left!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keeping Up with the Times

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Hopefully everyone is finding something "eco-friendly" to fill their time with today (you know, when you don't have things like work or school... yeah, remember those?). Our household was kind of thrown into a forced water-conservation movement this morning, awaking to find out that our kitchen faucet was, to quote my Grandpa (who came over to try fixing it), "peeing sideways". Leaky didn't even begin to cover it - when we turned on the tap, we got a geyser! So now our kitchen is back to the Pilgrim times, sans running water. How fun it is to do dishes by lugging bowlfuls upon bowlfuls of hot water from the laundry room (the only faucet that runs hot enough in this house!). It's like camping, but without the convenience of a spigot (or the bugs, come to think of it...). At least our oven and fridge still work! I tell you, if those two ever died (God forbid at ONCE!) we'd be out to lunch... and dinner... and breakfast.

Well, the lack of water didn't dissuade me from embracing Spring, and I even did my part to use up stuff lingering in my pantry and fridge before it went south (except for a single red onion... though that story must wait for another post). This week's English class was not only the last one before exams (yay!) but was also the date I was slated to perform a demonstration / instruction presentation for everyone. When the project was announced originally, I got it stuck in my head that I would do something food-ish. And sweet. "Ah," the brain began to say, "why not decorate cupcakes? You can bake them and frost them before and all that's left is assembly!". Now if my head was screwed on right at the time I would have been able to see well in advance the sheer amount of planning and work that would go into that 10 minute time slot. But no, all I could think of was "Cake! Frosting! Pretty things!", and I was sunk.

Luckily, I have the world of blogging at my fingertips - having decided on a "Springy" lemon-flavoured cake base with a poured fondant icing (gross, I know, but easy... and I used a mix) I knew I would have to find a recipe that was vegan in case there were any allergies in the room. I found one heck of a winner with Bryanna's wedding cake recipe, though tweaked it to (obviously) reduce the volume it made and make the prep method seem a bit more "usual" to me (though if anyone can tell me why her's is made that way and if it works, let me know!).

The cake prep was super easy, and I was rewarded with exactly what I was looking for: light, spongy, perfectly tangy and just slightly sweet (I didn't want the blend to be cloying with the fondant). It sliced wonderfully (Andrew happily took the bits) and turned out to be a great base for the glaze. So, thanks Bryanna!

The fondant is (obviously) where I began to struggle. I had never done anything with that kind of poured or rolled frosting before, and have limited success with royal icing and even simple sugar glaze, erring on the side of too much liquid. I was extra-careful this time and got it to a good consistency, but the issues began when it came to the whole coating process. The cake wasn't completely level, apparently, and the cupcake I did for the demo pictures was even less so but I failed to notice in time. So, sliding fondant and subsequent re-covers filled up a good portion of my Friday morning!

After all that was sorted out and the cakes were dry, I got down to the business of decorating. I had made the pretty pretzels earlier in the week (melted candy coating and storebought twists!) so it was mostly assembly. Andrew was a complete doll by helping me dole out chocolate frosting (for the body, antennae and "glue") into Ziplocs for the class to use, too! Smarties provided the heads and in all I think they turned out pretty nicely. They don't visually live up to their inspiration though, but who can when you're dealing with The Martha? According to my mom, my demo cupcake was perfectly delicious, and my classmates didn't complain either! Of course, getting everything into the classroom in one piece and one trip was a production in itself - if anyone was in the GTA this past Monday you can attest to the deluge that beset us that day!

Vegan Lemon Sheet Cake
Serves 12
10 oz sugar
4 oz margarine
2 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon extract
12.3 oz flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup (soy or rice) milk - I used soy
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. Cream together sugar and margarine. Add lemon juice, zest, vanilla and lemon extracts and beat well.
  3. Whis together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Mix the water and soy milk in a measuring cup or small dish.
  5. Add dry ingredients alternately with the liquids, beating well after each addition.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until cake tests done.
  7. Cool completely in the pan before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 272.3
Total Fat: 8.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 100.7 mg
Total Carbs: 47.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 4.0 g

Ironically, and sort-of-but-not-really on topic, I also picked today of all days to do a mass of baking. Including bagels, which as we know require boiling, which requires water. I never thought that our tub's faucet would get such a workout! I did a deliciously odiferous bread too, and this cake again, but you'll find out all about those later. Fingers crossed our faucet feels better soon!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Three for the Price of One

Hey everyone! Well, exam week has hit, and with it the neverending slew of last-minute reports, study sessions and cake making - wait, did I say cake making? Yeah, I've been busy covering myself in flour and sugar again, in fits of boredom and procrastination! Last week I went to my monthly lunch date with the Exxon ladies, and this particular one coincided with their plan of taking me out for my birthday - nevermind that that event was a good 3 weeks ago! A sumptuous meal of sushi rolls and green tea, with a follow-up of "devil tea" (Starbucks - it's becoming like crack, I swear!) led to all of us back at the office.

Awaiting me there was a gorgeous looking chocolate Bundt cake that Susan, one of the wonderful women in our group, had baked for me. I felt so badly that I couldn't partake in the yumminess - especially since she had used the (good) British Cadbury chocolate for the ganche glaze and put all that work into it, for me! I insisted that I would just have to live vicariously through everyone else's enjoyment of the dessert, and I think I succeeded in assauging that small dip in the day's emotions. I had actually brought in a couple goodies that day for the hard-working bees... brownie muffins made with a new flour!

Yup, instead of using traditional all-purpose, I used a recipe I had found somewhere along my journey for dense, rich brownies made with durum semolina - the same stuff made into pasta! The other secret player behind the scenes was traditional Italian olive oil. They had an earthy, fruity smell out of the oven, and not a one was left behind when my mom checked out that evening!

Semolina Brownies
Makes 16 squares (or 12 muffin-sized cakes)
1/3 c sugar
½ c unsweetened cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
½ c flour
½ c semolina flour
2 eggs
½ c brown sugar
¼ c olive oil
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease bottom only of an 8” pan.
  2. In large bowl, mix sugar, cocoa, baking powder and flours; blend in eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.
  3. Bake 25 minutes. Chill before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 120.4
Total Fat: 4.5 g
Cholesterol: 26.6 mg
Sodium: 11.3 mg
Total Carbs: 19.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 2.4 g

These other two recipes were assorted gifts from a while back... the beet and banana chocolate muffins were actually given to my old Psych prof Stan (hi, Stan!) when I was performing in the Copper Chef event back in March, and mini versions of these helped fuel my team-mates during our practice run too.

Banana-Beet Chocolate Muffins
Makes 16
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Dutch - processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup oil
1 mashed banana
1 cup (dry) pulp from juiced beets
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease or line muffin cups.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. In another bowl, mix together oil, banana, beet pulp, brown sugar, soy milk, vater, vanilla and vinegar.
  4. Add the dry ingregients to the wet ones and mix gently but thoroughly until just combined.
  5. Bake for 25-28 minutes, then turn out immediately and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 111.8
Total Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 8.4 mg
Total Carbs: 18.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 1.6 g

These final brownies that you see were the result of a "free reign" bakery order placed by the office's Ms. M... basically, she asked for "brownies", and if I added anything, all the better! Most excellent - I raided the pantry and the liquor cabinet, coming up with the "triple-shot" theme. A shot of espresso, a shot of Kahlua, and always fun chocolate shot (AKA sprinkles) are never out of place in a fudgy brownie recipe, right?

Triple-Shot Brownies
Makes 16
1 cup flour, divided
1 cup water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tbsp vanilla
1 shot (1.5 fl oz) prepared espresso
1 shot (1.5 fl oz) Kahlua liqueur
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chocolate sprinkles (AKA chocolate shot)
  1. Combine water and 1/2 cup of the AP flour in a pot and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, until it forms a gluey paste.
  2. Let cool completely.
  3. In another bowl, mix sugars, salt, cocoa, vanilla, espresso, Kahlua and oil. Add the flour-water mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour, baking powder and the chocolate shot.
  5. Spread mixture into a greased 13 x 9" pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out almost clean.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 267.2
Total Fat: 9.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 20.1 mg
Total Carbs: 45.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 3.0 g

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dating Myself

I had a wicked sweet tooth attack today - normally I do like my sweets, but I've begun to embrace the "fresher" side of the taste, moving towards fruit as a snack instead of something chocolate. I know, it's sacrilege - but I didn't say I leaving forever. Noo, no... we're just "taking a break". And it's not you, chocolate, it's me. Really.

However, I came across a recipe that tests that "on a break" rule a little, maybe bending it a little far! After making it, though, who cares - it's got fruit in it too after all! I'm talking about a "snacking cake" that I found on Ricki's site, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, called Mrs. K’s Date Cake. And seriously, looking at the post, how could you not be tempted to indulge? The dates promise a healthy sweet note that isn't cloying like honey can be sometimes, and with just a smidge of cocoa and (whole grain flour too!) the entire recipe would make itself right at home in a health food store. In fact, after I drooled for a while over the date cake and got all teary-eyed reading her story behind the recipe, I continued to peruse her site some more, finding some other recipes I had long since saved to make as well as a couple new gems. What I love about Ricki's food is that it's all insanely good-for-you without tasting like it. I mean really - Milky Way Bars? Chocolatey and fruity pancakes? Even - gasp - chocolate truffles? Yup. I don't know how she does it, but that girl is one wizard in the kitchen! She lives near me too, and has her own baking company, and went to the nutrition school I'm looking at attending after college!

So looking back at the recipe I picked out of the fray, could I have possibly come up with a cheesier title for this post? (Answer: probably, don't tempt fate!) Either way, this is definitely a cake you can fall in love with without the "morning after" guilt factor. I did (shamefully!) make a fair number of substitutions to the original recipe to use up what I had and to cut back on the fat a touch, but my results were so awesome that I can only imagine what the real recipe would be like! This is a rich cake at the same time as being something you can "grab and go"... it's a refreshing sort of sweetness that's tempered by the coconut and the bitter cocoa. If I was a kid that got a square of this delicacy wrapped up in my lunchbox, I'd be one happy camper! Ricki says that the cake will keep up to 4 days on the counter if wrapped, but I took advantage of the "freezes well" line and popped the pieces into our icebox for later giving / indulging.

Chocolatey Date And Coconut Cake
12 Servings
2.5 oz chopped dried dates
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
4 oz (113g) lite silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
2 tbsp unsweetened pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 1/2 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
6 oz spelt flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips, preferably dark
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8" square pan (I lined mine with foil too, since I'd be removing the cake).
  2. Combine the dates and sugars in a bowl.
  3. Add the boiling water and stir. Let stand 20 minutes.
  4. Puree the tofu, pumpkin, almond milk, oil and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Add to the cooling date mixture and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Pour the tofu / date mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to just blend.
  7. For topping:
    Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the surface of the batter. Cover with a sprinkling of the coconut then the chocolate chips.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Chill completely before cutting or freezing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 219.3
Total Fat: 6.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 17.8 mg
Total Carbs: 29.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 1.3 g

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Whole New Meaning

I cannot believe it. My sister, my BABY sister, just turned 18. I have no idea how time managed to slip past us so fast: now she's officially an adult and no longer can she be called a stubborn child. Nope, now she's an "uncomprimising individual" haha.

She lives up to that name too. Case in point - her birthday cake. Now, I usually make all the cakes / cookies that we have in our home, and generally they are well-recieved by both family and guests. After all, not many people seem to bother doing things from scratch anymore, let alone baking. Of course, I exclude us food bloggers - seems we do nothing but cooking and baking from the ground up! You would think, with someone ready and willing to put together a "real" cake from start to finish, my sister would jump at the chance for her Red Velvet cake or another Chocolate Guinness concoction. Alas, it is not to be. I have been silently deemed "unfit" for preparing her sweets from scratch, and she insists that we go buy a box mix of Chocolate Fudge, a can of chocolate frosting and enough decorating icing to feed the entire US Armed Forces (hence the "Teaghan Zone" of the cake slathered in the stuff). After the cake is served to everyone, rather than eat her slice immediately, Teaghan will pop off to our pantry and scour the shelves for the leftover decorating frosting. Provided she finds a tube, she'll proceed to smear as much as she can fit onto the unfrosted inner crumb before digging in.

There is no stopping her, but thankfully (for her arteries) she only gets cake two or three times a year.

The white coconut covered cake is my re-make of the Pumpkin - Coconut Spice Cake. This time, the treat was for Andrew - he offered to buy a cake from me after I said that I had been commisioned to making one for an Autism research / support auction and of course I said yes!

The main event for my weekend was putting together, decorating and delivering my dad and Martha's joint birthday cake. Well before their actual birthdays (on March 22nd / 23rd respectively), I had already been toying with flavour combinations in my head and scouring the blogs, recipe databases and my own cookbooks for basic recipes that I could just tweak a little to make them my own. You see, I got it into my head that this year's cake would be a Neopolitan affair: a delightful combination of chocolate, French vanilla and strawberry all wrapped up in buttercream and topped with an ice cream cone!

Sound crazy? Yeah, I thought so too. But it sounded like a great challenge, and an excuse to flex my cake-decorating wings.

I started off with the bottom layer. I knew I needed something dense enough to hold up the other cake and I found a winner on Allrecipes: Chocolate Sour Cream cake. I modified it to suit what I was after in the cake, and baked it in a 9" springform pan to avoid the possibility of the batter exploding in the oven (which happened once while making banana bread!). The result was exactly what I was going for - a moist, yet sturdy crumb, a flat top and it didn't self-destruct when I went to unmould it! I think the trick is to cool this completely in the pan, since the metal sides will cause a bit of sugar crystallization and therefore, a "crust". If you really don't like that aspect of home made cakes, you can always trim around after it's released. Ironically, while this was baking it smelled exactly like a Betty Crocker cake, even causing my sister to eye it with a hint of jealousy.

Midnight Dream Sour Cream Cake
Serves 12 - one 9" layer
3/4 cup unsweetened (preferably Dutch-process) cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line a 9" springform pan.
  2. Combine cocoa and water, whisking smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
  6. Beat in cocoa mixture until completely blended.
  7. Starting and ending with the flour, alternate additions with sour cream.
  8. Bake 28-30 minutes, until tests done. Do not overbake.
  9. Cool completely in tin before unmoulding.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 231.8
Total Fat: 12.1 g
Cholesterol: 61.4 mg
Sodium: 73.2 mg
Total Carbs: 30.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 3.9 g

The middle layer that you can barely see in the left-hand photo was just a plain buttercream recipe that I added a shot of my real vanilla extract to along with some instant custard powder for a rich, "French vanilla" mouthfeel and taste. I did go a bit shy with the filling mixture, only because I knew that both cakes would be rich, not to mention the whole concoction would be covered with two layers of frosting (crumb coat and final) before getting it's chocolate topping

The vibrant pink strawberry layer (based on an old recipe of my grandma's (or great grandma's, who knows?) baked up a lot higher than the chocolate one did, but if possible it smelled even better in the oven than the chocolate one did (though that could be a result of the two flavours mingling - I baked one right after the other). Being that it isn't quite strawberry season around here, I opted to use a 100% fruit jam and a bottle of LorAnn concentrated strawberry flavour in place of the "fresh hulled and milled" berries called for. Once the crops start coming out in June/July, I will definitely be trying this recipe with the reccommended ingredient! I may even add a touch of lemon zest and bake it in a Bundt pan to turn the cake into a Strawberry-Lemon ring!

Rich Strawberry Jam Cake
Serves 12 - 1 (thick) layer
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup thick, plain yogurt
1/4 cup strawberry jam
3/4 tsp (1 dram) LorAnn Gourmet Strawberry Flavour Concentrate (or 1 tbsp strawberry extract)
1 tsp red food colouring, optional
1/3 cup milk (I used 1%, whatever you have should be fine)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F, grease and line a 9" springform pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Beat in eggs, yogurt and extract until well blended.
  5. Add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, beating just until blended.
  6. Bake about 45 minutes, until tests done.
  7. Cool completely before unmoulding.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 224.9
Total Fat: 7.6 g
Cholesterol: 86.7 mg
Sodium: 69.8 mg
Total Carbs: 34.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 5.1 g

I wound up making the decoration in almost a "cop-out" fashion - I am so shoddy with frosting and decorating skills that it would never make it to the light of day - so instead I made a quick triangle mould with some tin foil and spread some melted chocolate into it. I pressed chopped peanuts into the "cone" to make it look a bit more wafer-y, then let it set up overnight. When I began the assembly, I decided that rather than piling buttercream blobs on top of the same rich frosting I would use some confectioner candy melting wafers as the ice cream itself.

My dad and Martha both polished off their slices lickety split, so this was the only shot of a cutaway I could get!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Two - A - Penny...

Well, you had to know I'd do an "authentic" version of hot cross buns after all the waxing poetic I did in my last post! Don't worry, everyone - I have no intention of writing anything nearly that long tonight. The wonderful virus known as Mr. Influenza has decided to take up more or less permanent residence in my body, so I've been spending less and less time in class, and more and more time in bed (though depressingly, not asleep :-( ).

Lucky enough for my dad, I had made the dough for these yeast-raised (as opposed to the other recipe's "quick biscuit" method) buns last week, and let it rise once before shaping and freezing the individual balls (without the paste crosses, obviously). Initially I had done that to facilitate the whole "kitchen share" dance my family has to do every holiday (between the preparation and last-minute cooking of the grand feast, my own, separately cooked and eaten meal and all the extra people in the house it gets hectic!) while still having fresh-baked HCB for my dad. Turns out that advance planning in this case was beneficial in more ways than one! Not only did it make these already simple buns so easy it bordered on inane (especially since I didn't screw them up even while reeling from a heavy dose of Gravol) but the looooong thaw-out / second rise time (twelve hours total, though it varies with each individual kitchen) just developed the dough's flavour and crumb even more.

When they were in the oven, my sister (who is coincidentally turning 18 this Sunday! Eek!) wandered into the kitchen and immediately got hit with a craving for cinnamon-raisin bagels. The spices and fruits coupled with the yeasty aroma really did add to the bagel-shop atmosphere, though the finished product (thankfully, in this case) didn't resemble those doughy rings in the least! In fact, these buns are probably the most indulgent bread I've made (though there are a couple others to give it a run for it's money!) with a hearty shot of buttermilk, a whack of creamy, melted butter and a delicious dose of brown sugar forming a delicious capsule for the sweet fruits and candied peel. Yes, I know... I personally hate candied peel of any kind (and I used orange here), but it is common in traditional HCB (I used an old copy my mom had in her files) and my dad likes it, so in it went. I couldn't bring myself to do the currants though... it's just not right... so instead I kneaded in dark Thompson raisins and dried cranberries that I had soaked overnight in water (yes, this was before my Amaretto epiphany - I definitely plan to try it net time though (or maybe Southern Comfort! Even Frangelico or a fruit liqueur would be awesome, I bet).

The cross is nothing more than flour and water mied into a thick gluey paste, next time I'dd add a touch more water since as you can see the decoration is a little less than dainty. I also opted out of glazing these, mostly because I was not in much of a mood to stand any more than was absolutely essential and als0 because my dad's not really a "sticky sweet" person.

I've got plans to finally finish my dad's birthday cake tomorrow too (why yes, I spoil him rotten!). I can't wait, especially since the design I have in mind will look SO pretty when it's done! Stay tuned for that, and for more upcoming goodies check out my Flickr photostream... my mom was awesome enough to buy me a 1-year pro account that I've finally finished organizing my files on now that I can access all 650+ shots!

Mom's Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup warm buttermilk
3 cups flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
6 tbsp brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup candied orange peel

---Paste for crosses---
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. water
  1. Place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl.
  2. Let it sit 5 minutes, until foamy.
  3. Stir in buttermilk.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together flours with the spices and salt.
  5. Add 2/3 of the flour mixture to the yeast, stirring well.
  6. Mix in the butter, brown sugar, egg and dried fruit and peel.
  7. Add remaining dry mixture and mix until you have a sticky (but workable) dough.
  8. Knead for about 5 minutes on a floured surface, until smooth and elastic.
  9. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1-1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  10. Punch down and divide into 12 balls, placing them in a 9”x13” baking dish, spacing close together.
  11. Cover and let rise a further hour.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  13. Mix the flour and water for the crosses, put the mixture in a zip-lock bag and snip a tiny piece off the corner.
  14. Pipe a cross onto the top of each bun.
  15. Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 274.8
Total Fat: 4.9 g
Cholesterol: 28.4 mg
Sodium: 63.3 mg
Total Carbs: 52.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
Protein: 6.1 g

These are going over to next week's version of YeastSpotting at WildYeast.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One - A - Penny...

Like most things around the world of food blogging, I am pretty slow off the draw when it comes to the whole festive Easter-baking thing. Actually, come to think of it, our family never really did the whole Easter-baking thing - after (or during) four solid weeks of birthday parties, back-to-back cakes and the yearly Easter bunny visit, rich pastries like Colomba Pasquale, pound cakes and Babkas were not anywhere near the top of our list of things we wanted to eat. Generally, by the time we got to May, even chocolate-hoarding me was craving greens and a big glass of milk. I remember more than once going on a self-imposed Lenten-style fast after the festivities because I was so sick of all the rich stuff!

One thing I do remember always being in the house were hot-cross buns. My dad, as I recall, was really the only person who enjoyed eating these (I know I loathed the currants and candied peel), but nevertheless my mom would faithfully return from the weekly shopping once a year with a bag of them. They were always the same brand - I don't think another kind existed at the time (ironically, they've nixed the currants for raisins) - and my dad would spend the next week toasting them in our finicky Black & Decker toaster oven and topping them with butter, honey or (if we had it) an odd cinnamon spread. If he was particularly fortunate, he's even be able to snag an extra bag on sale after the holiday rush, and he'd freeze them for the next month or so's breakfast.

But we never made them. Mostly due to a sheer lack of time during that point in the year... bread making was my mom's thing, and being a working parent with two young kids and a house to maintain, anything requiring mass amounts of time in the house babysitting something inhuman and immobile was restricted to Christmas and maybe once over Summer break when us kids begged to make a plain loaf of bread. These days, the major breadmaker in the household is yours truly, and though I don't have a ton more time on my hands than my mom did a couple years ago, I'm a little bit freer as to how I spend my leisure hours. Being my mother's daughter of course, I never developed a fear of yeast. Rather, I developed a love for it - the smell of it's initial fermentation in it's little stoneware bowl, the poofing factor it gave to a perfectly balanced dough, and finally the appearance and aroma of the fresh loaves it produced out of the oven.

Soon I graduated from a plain, white-flour pan loaf to sweet cinnamon-raisin swirl, dark whole wheat and molasses, and eclectic beet-spiked loaves, along with pretzels and most recently, the quintessential bagel! Nowadays I make yeasted breads regularly (mostly in the form of the aforementioned bagels), but no longer am I restricted to packets of dried yeast - though they are by far the most convenient bread starters out there, and I still keep several packets of quick-rise as well as a small bulk bag of "regular" active dry in my freezer. Nope, last year I discovered the blissful flavour and texture that is sourdough, and my young starter has made it's way into a ton of my past creations since!

The best part about having the starter is that it gives you a perfect base ingredient for quickbreads in the form of toss-off. It was out of my frugal (okay, miserly) nature a few days back that I began scouring the internet for some simple recipes to use mine, as it had been a good week and a half since I had even looked at my poor starter and even longer since it had been given a "proper" feeding. I had been giving the beasties nourishment in the form of a spoonful or so of flour and water, and occasionally a pinch of sugar, but I hadn't tossed any of the slurry in ages. Luckily, my need for a toss-off use coincided with my discovery of a new blog, Frazgo Feasting, which just so happened to have a ton of sourdough recipes on the front page! A few minutes of poking around later, I had my sourdough answer (and a sudden urge to make hot cross buns) when I found Sourdough Dried Fruit Scones. The ultimate bonus was that because I could make these buns myself, I could control the mix-ins, and not only that but the recipe had no fat at all in it. I know... scones without fat? Cream? Butter? Was it even possible, I wondered... but what did I have to lose other than toss-off I'd be ditching anyway? I decided to give it a shot.

And boy, was I glad I did. Of course, I played around with the recipe a tad to make it a little bit more "Eastery", including soaking the fruit (raisins only, though who knows down the road!) in amaretto liqueur for three hours and making almond-laced royal icing crosses on top of the baked rolls. Surprisingly, they did rise very well, and kept tender (though not as flaky as butter scones) - the perfect sweet roll. I have it on good, maternal authority (the yeast goddess of my youth!) that even a couple days old, you can slice 'em, toast 'em and drizzle on some honey, and the taste can still kick the bagged bun's... well... buns.

Sourdough Dried Fruit Scones
Makes 12
1 cup 100% hydration sourdough starter (can be "old")
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar (more, if you like... for these particular buns I used about 1/4 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup assorted chopped, dried fruit (soaked in water, juice or liqueur)
Milk for brushing
  1. Combine starter, milk, flours, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Mix well, until it comes together into a ball.
  3. Add the dried fruit and mix for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn out onto a well floured board (I actually like to mix the dusting flour with cornstarch for a less "gluteny" result).
  5. Pat dough into a rough square.
  6. Cut into even pieces and place on silpat or parchment paper.
  7. Let rest while you preheat the oven to 375F (the 15 minutes or so it will take is perfect).
  8. Brush scones with milk and bake 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on the sheets, then move to a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 151.4
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 5.3 mg
Total Carbs: 33.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 4.0 g

I'm sending these to the YeastSpotting event at Susan's WildYeast blog this week.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lemony Love

Holy creeholey, it's Tuesday! And I'm home sick, but such is life, right? After all, this could be a blessing in disguise - it's giving me some time to catch up on the 47 gazillion things on my to-do list, get a blog post in, and maybe... just maybe... even sleep!

One of the things I haven't done today was bake (I know, horrors!), but I did actually do some Easter prep yesterday (while avoiding homework, of course!). A week or so ago (maybe longer, I really can't remember much these days - the old age factor, right ;-) ?) I had an oh-so quiet, demure, hint of a request for some lemon-poppyseed muffins from a certain boy. Of course, I had to oblige - how can I not when he does so much stuff for me?? - and I made quick work of the batter-y goodness, with the plan to deliver the freshly baked puffs to him at work the next day.

Well, since life didn't really work out as planned (and I'm an airhead who forgets things like putting said muffins in the car), I had to freeze the little beauties for the weekend, when Andrew (being the insanely generous person he is) stopped by to take me out for a sushi dinner / movie date.

*Sidebar: Um, yeah, by the way, can you tell I like sushi?? Really though, it's the only "out" food I can eat safely - raw fish = safe... goooo figure. End sidebar.*

So anyways, yes. Muffins. Lemon. Love. They're all gone, and the next request has come in too (for the pumpkin-coconut cake... hey, I can get pictures this time!) - not to mention I made (and delivered on time!) him another batch of muffins last week!

Andrew's Lemon Cupcakes
Makes 18 regular cupcakes
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters), or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with liners or grease.
  2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg substitute, oil, yogurt, lemon juice and lemon zest in a smaller bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients and mix lightly, then mix in poppy seeds gently.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, cool 10 minutes in the pan then turn out and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 160.3
Total Fat: 6.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.9 mg
Sodium: 22.9 mg
Total Carbs: 22.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Monday, April 6, 2009

Really That Old...

So, I'm officially allowed to complain about my grey hairs and wrinkles now, right?

Well, I couldn't have asked for a better birthday! Not only did I get my hair all cut and dressed by my favourite stylist, but we went out bowling in the afternoon (where I had an awesome score even though I couldn't beat Andrew!) and I had my grandparents come to dinner with us at a sushi restaurant of all places! AND they both ordered rolls! Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks, eh?

Even though we were all full of rice, tea, (in the older farts' case, warm sake *wretch*) and assorted gifts from the sea, we still managed to clear enough room in our gullets for slabs of my delicious birthday cake! This was the best rendition of my infamous beet cake so far, in my opinion, and no doubt it will become a regular treat on my table - at least for celebrations!

I actually made a fair number of changes from last year's recipe, and now I don't know if I would change a thing more! One of the major swaps was nixing the Splenda for a new product that was graciously sent to me called Just Like Sugar. It's still a diabetic-friendly, calorie-free and low-GI sweetener that measures 1:1 to sugar (by weight, not volume), but JLS is all-natural and a whopping source of fibre: in 100g of the powder, there are 96 g of the good stuff!

The only things in the product (and they offer both a baking version - which I was sent - and a tabletop shaker) are vitamin C, chicory root, calcium, and orange peel, and for those of you observing Passover, it's kosher too! I know I sound like a total ad here, but honestly, if you can find it in your area (it's apparently an international product line), give it a shot in baking. I don't really reccommend it for table-sugar replacement unless you like the slightly bitter herbal taste of Stevia, but it seems to disappear once baked into stuff. The bonus with JLS in baking is that it stays hygroscopic like sugar - no dried out muffins or cake!

I'm hoarding my supply for now, even though you can PayPal order it online in the absence of a physical store... luckily enough I was generously given a full pound of the baking version, enough for four birthday cakes! Thanks so much, JLS - you made my (birth)day!

But enough of the product placement lauding, right? Here's the tasty goodness that was my 21st birthday cake, enjoyed by everyone who managed to snag a piece - and I took 2!

A Very Veggie Birthday Cake
Serves 12
398 mL canned sliced beets, drained
1/4 cup beet liquid
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2.5 oz low-fat silken tofu
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp liquid honey
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 oz "Just Like Sugar" natural baking sweetener
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 (3-oz) package Fat-Free Jell-O Cheesecake Pudding mix
1 cup cold water
1/2 tbsp skim milk powder
1 cup Cool Whip Free, softened
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly spray one 9 x 13" cake pan with PAM.
  2. Put the drained beets into the food processor with beet liquid, water, pumpkin, tofu, vanilla, vinegar and honey. Process until very smooth.
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Pour in the beet mixture and stir until well-combined.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not overbake!!
  6. Cool on a rack 1 hour before frosting.
  1. Whisk together cold water and skim milk powder in a bowl.
  2. Add pudding mix and beat until smooth. Let sit 5 minutes.
  3. Add Cool Whip, folding in until incorporated.
  4. Chill 20 minutes before frosting cake.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 101.0
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.1 mg
Sodium: 126.0 mg
Total Carbs: 31.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 13.0 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Aww, look at us! Going on 4 years, and still stronger than ever! Andrew must have read my mind for this birthday too - we're going to see Great Big Sea this summer!!! I can't wait!! Love you hon, and thanks to EVERYONE for their well wishes!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Clinging Onto My Youth

Well, tomorrow's the big day - yup, as of 10:28 on April 4, 2009, I will officially be the age of majority worldwide. And the funny thing is, I don't particularly care all that much about my own birthday... in all honesty, I'd much rather spend my time baking and decorating cakes and other goodies en masse for everyone else than churning out a single, otherwise unspectacular excuse for a celebratory birthday sweet. Gone are the birthdays past, filled with La Rocca fudge cakes and pizza. Yup, tomorrow will be (a new incarnation of) the chocolate beet cake and sushi.

But enough about tomorrow's squanderings. It is, after all, almost tomorrow! I made these cookies a while back as a total excuse to expend some academic stress energy (and get some more use out of my awesome SilPats) while cleaning out the pantry a bit. An added bonus was being able to send in some sugary goodness to mom's office and the gals at school while experimenting willy-nilly! At the risk (or guarantee) of sounding like a braggart, I pretty much knew these cookies would be a total hit. Dark chocolate - always a hit. Peanut butter chips - yup, pretty much don't know any PB haters out there! And the twist, which really was the screwball in terms of how it would behave in the cookies - dehydrated banana chips. I crushed them up a little bit, so they'd still add texture but not be slabs in the dough balls, and they softened just slightly so that they were mostly chewy but still a touch crisp on the edges. The banana flavour balanced perfectly with the ever so slightly salty cookie dough, bitter chocolate and rich peanut butter too.

Though my cookie-eating days may be over (at least for the moment) I'm sure that my inner child would find comfort in these morsels. Stay tuned, folks... the next post (no promises when, now!) will be the version nouveau of SusanV's beet cake (which I have officially take over, *evil laugh*). Eventually I'll even wind up catching up with all the other stuff I've done too!

Triple - Chip Cookies
Makes 26
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup miniature (if you can find them) bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup banana chips, lightly crushed
  1. Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugars until well blended.
  3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk.
  4. Gently mix in the dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Fold in all the chips.
  6. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, chill 12 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, but do not grease.
  8. Space cookies about 2" apart on sheets.
  9. Bake 15 minutes.
  10. Cool completely on baking sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 177.6
Total Fat: 8.1 g
Cholesterol: 30.1 mg
Sodium: 54.5 mg
Total Carbs: 24.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 2.7 g