Monday, August 15, 2011

Apples and Nuts and Bran - Oh My!

You know, we're always being told to eat more fibre, both soluble and insoluble, as well as boosting fruit and omega-3 intake while cutting down on fat, sugar and cholesterol. Honestly, while I can appreciate the need for moderation and control of the chronic excesses in the modern Western diet (being a holistic nutritionist and all), too often it seems like healthy eating and living is all about what we can't eat or do rather than what we should be relishing! For instance - I adore my chocolate, sushi and starches, but I also eat piles and piles of fresh fruit and veggies, use spices instead of the bulk of my salt, and drink gallons of water and herbal tea every day. I'd rather have a heaping spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder mashed into an overripe banana than a gooey, frosting-laden cake. I allow myself a daily "dessert" or two, eat carbs at almost every meal, and never feel like I'm missing out - if anything, I feel like I've been overindulging. It wasn't always that way - having struggled with being an overweight child and teen where sugar, carbs, fat and pretty much anything I loved was verboten, but now that a healthy existence is part of what makes me me I couldn't imagine anything else.

So when I stumbled across a fruit and bran-laden snacking cake at the Prepared Pantry, I knew it would be a great jumping off point for an even more healthful treat to share. The original was nowhere near guilt-trip city, but I definitely knew I could improve the stats on it by throwing in some extra whole grains, lowering the sugar (thanks to the Krisda stevia I received from winning Kristine Fretwel's giveaway) and added fat, nixing the cholesterol entirely and adding in some nutrition-laden sources of healthy, flavourful oil via ground and chopped nuts. I did stick to Lydia's suggestion of grating the apples - and I highly suggest it, since it really helps distribute the moisture and flavour through the batter (or dough, as it really turned out being) and makes for a truly tender crumb. The other suggestion I would make is to go absolutely no smaller than a 9" square pan - even with the 9" I used, it took my hands and a lot of spreading and pressing to keep it all in there! The end result was incredibly rewarding, in every sense of the word - and it was amazing to get back into the baking kitchen again after massively throwing out my shoulder a few weeks ago (it's still a little sore and stiff, but it's cake - you can't argue with the need to bake cake!). One thing's for sure - if you make this cake, you will never feel "stagnant" (you know what I mean!) again.


Apple - Nut Bran Cake
Serves 16, 1 9”-square cake
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
¼ cup hot low-fat, plain soy milk
1 tbsp ener-G egg replacer
1/3 cup cold low-fat, plain soy milk
½ cup graham flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
½ cup flour
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup ground walnuts
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
½ tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
1/3 cup vegan margarine (I used Smart Balance Light with Flax), softened
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
12 packets Krisda stevia (or ½ tsp stevia extract powder)
1 tsp maple extract
4 large, coarsely-grated apples
4 cups “twig-style” bran cereal
¼ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” square pan (don’t try this with anything smaller than 9”!).
  2. In a small dish, whisk together flaxseed and hot soymilk. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. In another small dish, whisk together egg replacer powder and cold soymilk.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, ground nuts, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
  5. In a large bowl, cream the margarine, sugars and stevia.
  6. Add extract, flax and egg replacer mixtures, beating well.
  7. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the apples, cereal and walnuts.
  8. Scrape into the pan, using your hands to smooth  the top and lightly press down the mixture.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack before unmoulding and cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 369.1
Total Fat: 11.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 173.0 mg
Total Carbs: 71.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 15.5 g
Protein: 8.4 g