Tag Archives: vegan

End of Winter Cranberry Chocolate Buns

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Winter is finally starting to let up over here in Toronto. There are still a few patches of snow here and there but for the most part the weather is warming up and I can finally stop wearing my heavy winter boots! This winter has been the longest and coldest I can remember in a long time. Ice storms, -40˚C days, and countless extreme cold weather warnings. This past Christmas we dealt with about a week of power outages across the city. Mine lasted from the night of my Birthday up until the day after Christmas. I sadly remember sitting in a slump in my frozen living room, wearing 5 layers of clothing, on Christmas day crying “This is the worst Christmas ever, I hate Rob Ford”. Yeah, I blame it on Rob Ford.

So, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever been so excited for summer to come. With its hot days, going to the beach, walking around Toronto’s different neighbourhoods, biking around the island, sitting out on patios, going to farmer’s markets, and hopefully some gardening. That is what I’m looking forward to this summer.

But for now, since it is still a little chilly outside, I like to warm up with some tea or coffee and something warm to eat. These buns are a nice way to use up some frozen cranberries that most people have lying around after their winter season. The combination of tart cranberries and the sweet dark chocolate makes for a nice contrast. This recipe comes from one of my all time favourite books: Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is a wonderful book that I was lucky enough to get for half price about 10 years ago in a small book shop in downtown Toronto. It is filled with wonderful recipes for buns, bread, tarts, cakes, and small pastries from their travels around the world. As well, each recipe comes with its own story from their travels or interesting backgrounds of where the food came from. It’s probably one of my favourite books just because of that. Who doesn’t love to read stories about the food they’re just about to make?

However, I did not follow the recipe exactly but instead made these little buns vegan by swapping the dairy products for vegan alternatives and omitting the egg from the original recipe. They’re just as delicious as the originals but maybe just a little bit better for the world.

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Cranberry Chocolate Sweet Buns (vegan)
Makes 1 loaf of 8 rolls (can be easily doubled)
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

1 cup almond milk, heated until lukewarm
1 tsp active dry yeast
About 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp and a little more
1 tbsp sugar of your choice (caster, coconut, brown, etc.)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, chilled
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 tbsp of almond milk or melted margarine for topping
2 tbsp coarse sugar for sprinkling

Lightly grease one 9×5 inch loaf pan with vegan margarine.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, pour in warm almond milk and stir in yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour. Add margarine, in pieces, sugar, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add 1 more cup of flour and stir in until fully incorporated. Now add in the chilled chocolate and cranberries with 1/4 cup more flour. Mix until incorporated. If not using a stand mixer, turn out onto a very well floured surface an knead gently, incorporate more flour until the dough is only slightly sticky. If using a stand mixer, just follow the kneading process and incorporate more flour until it is only slightly sticky.

Place dough into a bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch down. Cut into 8 equal sized pieces. Lightly grease the palm of your hand and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball beside each other into the greased loaf pan. Cover the pan with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes while you preheat your oven.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and place rack in the middle.

Once buns have risen, lightly brush with almond milk or melted margarine and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

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Lemon Basil Granita

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I know, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and yes I feel bad. I swear I had a whole post planned out for last week and it was going to be awesome, I could picture it in my head. I was going to post a step by step on how to make a layered vegan chocolate raspberry cake with moulded chocolate sides, chocolate ganache, raspberry preserves, and a chocolate plaque on top. But, somehow even after successfully making multiple layered cakes and actually learning how to make cakes in school I managed to create this. Seriously, right?! The cake was for Christoph’s birthday and how much did he eat? Half a slice. Yes, half a slice. He doesn’t like sweet things. Weirdo.

Don’t worry though, the cake didn’t go to waste. My aunt ended up taking it away to feed the poor. Hopefully they didn’t reject it like everyone else did.

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So instead of my failed attempt at making a vegan layer cake I decided to post a recipe that’s easy, delicious, and dependable. Granita is a great dessert for a hot summer day since it’s light, refreshing, tangy, and sweet; if you’ve never had it before it’s like an italian version of shaved ice but much less sweet and probably a little healthier for you. It takes a bit of planning before hand but you really only need 3 ingredients for this dessert and a bit of time. The original recipe doesn’t call for basil but since I had some on hand I thought it would be a nice addition. It actually adds a great herbal quality to the granita and makes it just a little more interesting.

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Lemon Basil Granita
Makes about 4 (1/2 cup) servings
Adapted slightly from Gourmet Magazine

3 large lemons
1 cup filtered water
scant 1/2 cup of caster sugar*
1/4 cup basil leaves and stems, torn

Using a peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long strips. The night before you wish to serve the granita, heat the water and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer the sugar syrup into a heat proof bowl and stir in the lemon zest and basil. Cover and chill overnight.

The next day, strain out the zest and basil and add in 1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a large flat bowl. I used a large flat metal bowl but a pyrex baking dish would also work. Place the mix into the freezer and after about 45 minutes stir with a fork to incorporate the ice crystals that form. Keep doing this about every 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is evenly frozen and looks like crushed ice. About 4 to 5 hours.

Once you serve it, make sure to eat it immediately as it melts very quickly.

*You could probably substitute the caster sugar with something healthier such as concentrated fruit juice, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. Just make sure to adjust the quantity of sugar and taste the mixture before freezing.

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Truffles…The Raw, Vegan Kind

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This past week has been a little bit stressful for me. No, I’m not over worked or tired from studying. I’m actually pretty busy doing nothing. I’ve been stressing myself out with the fact that there’s not much for me to do now that I’ve finished my studies for the time being and I’m only working a part time (very part time) job. Is it really possible that I’m able to stress myself out more than when I was super busy working a full time job and going to school full time? Oh yeah, and I’m sure the driving lessons aren’t helping. Nor the fact that my driving instructor always reminds me not to kill him.

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Anyway, I’ve taken to meditation to try and relieve some of the stress and anxiety I’ve been having. The problem is that I’m only able to go for about 10 minutes without wanting to fall asleep or…eat something. Luckily, I’ve come across some studies where chocolate, the dark kind of course, is said to lower stress levels as well. Though, you’d think that with the vast amounts of chocolate I eat I’d be the most care free person in the world.

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These dark chocolate truffles are a take on a recipe from Vegetarian Everyday, the new cookbook from Green Kitchen Stories. They’re a perfect healthy snack with no added sugar and an additional healthy boost from spirulina. I changed up the original recipe a little bit by making a few different variations. One is filled with syrupy balsamic vinegar and rolled in coconut sugar, another is mixed with a little bit of cayenne for some heat and rolled in cocoa, and the last is the regular truffle rolled in dried coconut. I’m sure there are a million different possible variations that would be delicious. Maybe some peppermint extract or some fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, or lavender would be great. These truffles are also really beautiful and would make a great gift since they’re vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, and raw. They could also be made caffeine free if you’re into that sort of thing (just use carob instead of the cocoa).

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Cocoa Date Truffles with 3 variations (raw, vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free)
Makes about 20 – 30 truffles
Adapted from Vegetarian Everyday by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl from Green Kitchen Stories

20 dates, pitted
2 tbsp extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil
2 tbsp raw cacao or regular unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp spirulina, or substitute with more cocoa
a good pinch of pink himalayan sea salt

Variations:
Cayenne pepper, to taste
about 1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
extra cocoa powder
dried shredded coconut
coconut sugar

In a food processor, combine the dates and coconut oil. Blend on low until smooth. Keep scraping down sides of the bowl. Add cocoa, spirulina, and salt and pulse until thoroughly combined. This can also be done in a bowl by using your hands to knead everything together. Refrigerate mixture for about 30 minutes or until cold and firm. Divide the mixture into 3 equal pieces.

Cayenne Truffles: add cayenne powder to taste and knead with a fork or by hand. Start off with about an 1/8 tsp and taste for heat. Roll into balls and roll in cocoa powder.

Balsamic Truffles: remove about 2 tbsp of mixture from the second piece and mash in about 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar. The mixture should be very sticky. Divide the rest of the portion into balls. Flatten each out and place a little bit of the balsamic mixture into each one. Fold up the edges of the truffles and roll into balls. Roll in coconut sugar.

Basic Truffles: roll into equal sized balls and roll into coconut flakes or whatever else you would like

Truffles are best kept in the fridge.

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Strawberry Streusel Muffins and a Trip to San Francisco

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A few weeks ago, Christoph and I took a last minute trip to San Francisco. We were quite glad to get away from the rain and snow in Toronto and spend a few days walking up and down the sunny, steep streets of San Francisco. And holy moly were those streets steep! I really have no clue how people are able to park their cars there without them rolling down. One little trip walking down those streets and you’d be tumbling down, likely to your death.

One other amazing thing about San Francisco other than their streets is that they have SUCH beautiful fresh food there. Not only fresh, but many many vegan restaurants and vegetarian options. We were especially blown away by restaurants such as Herbivore, The Source, Golden Era, and Gracias Madre. Check out the amazing vegan flan we had at Gracias Madre. Thinking back now, I wish I had taken some pictures of the dishes we had at these restaurants but I guess I was too busy stuffing my face with all the deliciousness!

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The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market was amazing and I’m glad that I had my camera out for that. The colours of all the fresh fruits and vegetables were beautiful. If only I had a kitchen to use, I would’ve loved to cook up the amazing beets and carrots. As well as the artichokes, asparagus, and rainbow chard.

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For the most part, San Francisco is a very interesting and diverse city. We came upon quite a few characters while walking throughout the downtown area. It was like a mix of cultures and styles. We ended up staying in a hotel right next to the Tenderloin area, which is known to be a rather rough area. For example, we got to see a woman doing something between two cars on a busy road that you wouldn’t often see a grown adult doing in public…if you know what I mean. However, we also got to see areas with beautiful spanish style houses and massive palm trees that made us feel like we were somewhere else completely.

If you have the chance to see San Francisco then I highly recommend it. We’d love to go back just for the food alone!

*  *  *

Now, on to the recipe!

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This recipe pretty much has nothing to do with the trip to San Francisco but is something that I absolutely love!

It’s a recipe I have made a few times throughout my life and every time I’ve made them they disappear in an instant. However, this time I changed it by making it vegan and my dad, who doesn’t “like vegan food”, loved them! Oh yeah, and my sister literally did not believe that they were vegan.

This is adapted from a muffin book that my mother picked up at book fair my elementary school was holding many, many, many years ago. It’s called The Totally Muffins Cookbook and is a tiny book in the shape of a muffin. How cute is that! The next year at the book fair I remember buying my mother a bagel cookbook in the shape of a bagel, however my mother still has yet to even open it up.

Anyway, the muffins are soft vanilla scented cakes filled with fresh strawberries and topped with a slightly salty sweet streusel topping. They’re so delicious and light and buttery, yes buttery! You wouldn’t believe they’re vegan…no one else did.

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Strawberry Streusel Muffins (vegan)
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from The Totally Muffins Cookbook by Helene Siegel and Karen
Gullingham

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup (55g) of vegan margarine (I love Becel vegan margarine for this)
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup of all purpose flour

Muffins:
1/2 cup of margarine (113g)
2/3 cup of caster sugar
1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
scant 1 cup of alternative milk (I used half coconut almond and half soy)
1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1 1/2 cups of ripe or frozen strawberries, hulled and diced

First make the streusel:

Cream together the margarine and brown sugar until smooth. Add in cinnamon and salt and mix until combined. Lastly, using a fork or pastry cutter, add in the flour using cutting motions until the mixture is crumbly. Refrigerate while making the muffins.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Line 12 muffin cups.

To make the muffins, cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and milk and mix. It is likely that they won’t combine and the mixture will look curdled, but don’t worry, it’ll be fine in the end! Now, add the flour, baking powder and salt on top of the wet mix and stir until almost combined. Add in the strawberries and stir again until the berries are evenly distributed.

Portion the muffin mix equally between the muffin cups and spoon the streusel mixture onto each one.

Bake for about 25 minutes until the streusel is golden and a tester comes out clean.

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Quickest Almond Milk and Blackberry Mash

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It’s day … of my elimination diet.

Ok, so I’m not on my elimination diet anymore. Yeah, I gave up. But I did stay on it for 30 days. No cheating or anything…except for that one time on day 25 when I shoved two donuts into my mouth and then ended up eating hot sauce and instant noodles. Yeah, that happened.

Though, from what I noticed, there was no change in my problem on the diet and there was no change when I stopped the diet. So maybe I don’t have any food allergies at all. Wouldn’t that be great! I was mostly scared that I would end up being allergic to gluten and never be able to sink my teeth into a fresh baked loaf of bread ever again. Saddest   thought   ever.

Anyway, I’ve been absent on here for a while due to exams and such and now that they’re over I’m going to bake EVERYTHING. Seriously. You don’t understand how much I think about bread and buns and rolls and all things that include flour. Apparently, according to the internet, what you crave the most is often what your body is sensitive to and that could indicate an allergy to that certain food. However, I’m just going to choose to ignore what the internet says.

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Anyway, today’s post actually has zero to do with bread but involves a sweet little drink I came up with when I was on my elimination diet. It’s super healthy, a little creamy, a little tart, and a lot delicious. You can use already made almond milk but I didn’t have any and found the almond butter to be a pretty good substitute. As well, most of the almond milks out there tend to use carrageenan as a thickener. There’s been quite a bit of speculation surrounding carrageenan as a cause of IBS and digestive problems. I’m pretty sure I already have enough digestive problems with the amount of gluten and sugar that enters my body.

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So, this drink is a combo of fresh blackberries mashed with a little lemon juice and homemade almond milk. The blackberries get layered at the bottom for a pretty colour effect and are lightly mashed for an interesting texture. It oddly reminded me of bubble tea. But much much healthier. I recommend getting your hands on some large bubble tea straws, which you can usually pick up at any asian grocery store.

Next time I make it, I plan on adding a banana to the almond milk to make it more of a smoothie texture.

Almond Milk and Blackberry Drink
Makes two 8oz drinks

3/4 cup of blackberries, cold
1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of filtered water, cold
a few ice cubes, optional
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tsp maple syrup, or to taste
pinch of sea salt

Mash the blackberries and lemon juice with the back of a fork until liquid-y but still chunky. Divide into the bottom of two glasses. In a blender, puree the almond butter, water, ice, syrup, and salt until smooth and frothy. Add more syrup if you’d like it sweeter. Pour the almond milk on top of the blackberry mash and serve immediately with a large bubble tea straw.

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