Wednesday, October 29, 2014

4 ingredient vegan coconut chocolate pudding

My family loves pudding. It seems like on a daily basis, Addie asks for pudding. When we pass the pudding aisle in the grocery store, she asks to buy some. I politely tell her that we won't buy any pudding, but we can make some at home. That usually appeases her... at least until we get home and then she asks to make the pudding immediately.

This is a perfect recipe that you can make quickly, without a stove, without dairy and with no fuss. Just put everything in a blender, puree, and voila. Of course, feel free to dress it up or down as you like and add spices like cinnamon or even cayenne to add some heat.

My friends at Cocozia sent me some coconut water to try, and I thought that this recipe was wonderful for highlighting their product. Coconut water is a fantastic substitution for water in baking recipes, and it replaced the dairy in this vegan chocolate pudding.  I could not taste the coconut, so if you are a coconut fan, you can add coconut extract or even try making this with coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut, since that has a lot of sugar added). As an added bonus, this recipe is vegan, so your vegan friends can enjoy it too.

P.S. Addie ate this up like a champ and didn't notice the coconut either.

4 ingredient vegan coconut chocolate pudding
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup Cocozia organic coconut water
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Directions
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Transfer to ramekins.

For best results, allow the pudding to set overnight so it thickens.

Serve with toasted coconut, coconut whipped cream or chocolate shavings.

Disclosure: Cocozia sent me complimentary samples of their product to try. I was not given any additional compensation. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Yield: 2 6-ounce ramekins

Source: Teaspoon of Spice

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cranberry spiced acorn squash muffins

I just finished telling you about these muffins that I baked with my acorn squash. Since I had another acorn squash from our recent CSA delivery, I decided to bake a different kind of acorn muffin. I found a recipe that included sweetened dried cranberries and knew that Addie would love these.

As soon as she found out that I was baking muffins, she ran and got her step stool and asked to help. She whisked the dry ingredients as gently as she could before spilling a bunch on my countertop. Then she mixed the wet ingredients together (not before saying "eeew" when I told her I added squash) and was able to keep everything contained in the bowl. I helped her mix everything together briefly before she took over and mixed. She said that I didn't add enough dried cranberries so I opened up another package and added some more in. She mixed until she thought everything was done and asked to help scoop the batter into the muffin pan.

Addie and I had a good old time baking this batch of muffins. After the muffins had cooled slightly, we dug in and sampled one. As expected, my little girl gobbled up her muffin and was so proud of what she had made. Obviously, the squash didn't bother her at all, and she promptly asked to bring some to school for her teachers. I packed up a few of these cranberry muffins and some of the apple ones and she joyfully brought them to her teachers.

Of the two acorn squash muffins I made, I actually like this one better. The spices were more prominent and tasted like fall. These were much denser and were reminiscent of a quick bread, but in muffin form. The cranberries packed a punch of sweetness and added a great textural contrast as well. Maybe we shouldn't have given some of these away, because these muffins have been a huge hit at our house.

Cranberry acorn squash muffins
  • 2 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup acorn squash, pureed*
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
* To get pureed acorn squash, cut 1 small acorn squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle and discard. Place cut side down in a high-sided baking pan and fill with about 1/2 inch of water. Roast in a 350 degree F oven for about 50-60 minutes or until the squash is soft. Scoop out the squash "flesh" after it has cooled slightly and puree in a blender or food processor. 
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin tin and set aside (I used a silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the acorn squash, egg, applesauce and milk.

Transfer the acorn squash mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or rubber/silicone spatula, gently fold the ingredients together. Do not over mix. When the flour has almost been fully incorporated, add the dried cranberries. Fold until everything is just mixed together.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I think mine baked for much longer... closer to 25 minutes).

Allow the muffins to cool completely before serving. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 15 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Recipetips.com


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Skating Fridays



Breaking in Boots - Diary of the Past Week

I got my new boots last Monday, so I am still breaking in my new boots. Edea claims that there is a rather short break-in period… about 6-8 hours. I can attest that the time to get used to these boots has been fairly short compared to my old Jacksons.

The first 10 minutes in my new boots were very painful. My arches were killing me, and everything just felt really loose and unstable. I couldn’t do a simple three turn. Thankfully, I didn’t fall and hurt myself. I told this to the skate fitter, and he adjusted the blades slightly so my natural pronation wouldn’t cause my arches to hurt as much. After skating another 10 minutes, I still felt sharp pain in my right arches so he added some shims underneath the blade. Then he sent me on my way.

Day 1 of my new skates was frustrating. I had a lesson, and Coach B spent the entire time helping me learn how to balance on my new equipment. We stood on one skate, then the other, and we did basic stroking skills down the length of the rink. I was able to do 3-turns forwards and backwards and was even able to do a scratch spin, back spin and sit spin. Let’s be clear – my spins were nothing near the spins on my previous skating equipment, but it was a start. My arches were very painful that day.

Day 2 was better. My arches still hurt after 5 minutes of skating but it improved after a while. My edges felt more stable, and I even managed to do some backwards crossovers. Spins felt more comfortable, but the spin exits were extremely wobbly. I got the courage to try some jumps and landed a waltz jump, loop and salchow. Then I got the crazy idea of trying a mini axel. I wasn’t ready to go full speed yet but actually landed them.

Day 3 was better still, but my arches still hurt. Camel spin was nowhere to be found, and it is clearly something I need to re-learn. The spin rocker is different from my last pair of blades. I was still able to land my axels.

Day 4 was filled with both excitement and frustration. I had a choreography lesson, and my choreographer made a comment saying that I was “flying” across the ice and covering it well. Another coach said the same thing and noticed that I was skating much faster than before. That was the good news. The bad news was that I was tripping over myself, but I knew that my balance issues would improve in time. Arches still hurt.

What I found out through this process is that although Edeas have a short break-in period, it isn’t without some pain. The other Edea skaters at my rink also experienced extreme arch pain and numbness in their feet. They said that the pain and numbness eventually goes away after a week or so.

I’m still trying to figure out my new balance points, but I already feel like I am making a lot of progress. The fact that I am skating faster is a testament that properly fitted equipment makes a huge difference in this sport. Hopefully my arches stop hurting by next week and that the 6-8 hour break-in period is true.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin spice beer bread

Hooray for fall! Autumn is my favorite season. The temperatures start to cool down, leaves are changing, my birthday is around the corner, college basketball starts up, and hello - pumpkin! This month's What's Baking challenge is to bake with pumpkin or squash, so I decided to bake some pumpkin bread. Not just any pumpkin bread. No sir-ee! I wanted to bake a pumpkin that incorporated some beer to infuse some additional flavors.

I love baking with pumpkin and appreciate how much moisture it adds to baked goods. We recently had some friends over for dinner, and they gave us a growler full of some local beer. Unfortunately, the beer wasn't pumpkin flavored, but I still added it to the bread and it produced a nice malt-like undertone. The pumpkin pie spices and cinnamon chips gave the bread a fantastic fall flavor as well.

Be sure to check out Carrie's blog to see what everyone else contributed for this fall challenge!

Pumpkin spice beer bread
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree, about 1 cup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 bottle beer, preferably pumpkin flavored
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a separate medium sized bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, egg and beer.

Slowly transfer the beer mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon,  gently mix everything together. Do not overmix. Before the flour has been completely incorporated, add in the cinnamon chips. Mix until everything is just combined.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with your spoon or spatula.

Bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.



Yield: One 9"x5" loaf; about 12-16 slices

Source: Slightly adapted from On Sugar Mountain

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spiced acorn squash apple muffins

How is it October already? Wasn't it just January a few weeks ago? While fall is my favorite season of the year (hello, pumpkin and apple recipes!), it seems like it arrived way too quickly this year. I knew that fall was here when our CSA delivery included 2 acorn squash. Honestly, I had never cooked with acorn squash before we signed up for the CSA, so I am happy that I have been forced to use this new ingredient.

Last year, I made acorn squash bread, vegan muffins and baked custard. Since 2014 is apparently the year of the muffin around these parts, I chose to bake two different kinds of acorn squash muffins with my gourd stash.  These spiced acorn squash apple muffins were the first recipe.

The squash provided a nice moist texture to these muffins, and they resembled a pumpkin muffin in that aspect. The apples were soft yet crunchy and were a nice contrast to the otherwise soft yet dense muffin. Thankfully, these muffins didn't crumble too easily, which is always a plus when I have a 4 year old snarfing these down (side note: if I had a nickel for every crumb I've had to pick up...). If you are a fan of fall flavors, you may want to dial up the spices a notch in these muffins. I didn't think they came out as prominently as I would have liked. Also, feel free to substitute the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour to make these a tad bit healthier.

 Spiced acorn squash apple muffins
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 ounces (8 Tablespoons or ½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup pureed acorn squash (approximately 1 small squash*)
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
* To get pureed acorn squash, cut 1 small acorn squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle and discard. Place cut side down in a high-sided baking pan and fill with about 1/2 inch of water. Roast in a 350 degree F oven for about 50-60 minutes or until the squash is soft. Scoop out the squash "flesh" after it has cooled slightly and puree in a blender or food processor.

Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used a silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs individually - make sure each egg gets fully incorporated before adding the next.

Turn the mixer off. Add the vanilla, acorn squash and buttermilk by hand (using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula).

Gently fold in the dry ingredients by hand until there are a few flour streaks remaining. Fold in the chopped apples until the apples are evenly mixed in and there are no dry streaks remaining.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan. Fill each well about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool completely before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Savory Simple

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Skating Fridays

New Skates!


My current pair of skates is about 8 or 9 years old. At the time, I drove 2 hours to a small pro shop to get my feet fitted, and I was so excited to have something that actually supported my ankles and wasn't a beginner boot. As the years went by, I would often look down and notice an oddity - the skates looked huge on me. In addition, I often felt like I was tripping on myself. I brushed it off and blamed it on my bad skating technique or lack of confidence, and my coach agreed.

Flash forward to two weeks ago. I asked my other skating friends how much room they had in their skating boots, and nearly all of them said that they had no extra room. Their feet fit snugly in their boots, so they wondered why I would ask such a question. I told them that I felt like I had an inch of room beyond my toes and that I could easily bend my toes downward and probably even fit a golf ball inside.

<Cue gasps and mouths dropping>

I told this to my coach, and she was just as surprised as I was with this discovery. We looked at my blade, and it was the correct length for the boots. But because my boots were already big on me, the blades were too long for my feet. She asked me what size boots I wore, and I told her that my Jacksons were size 7.5. My coach was also wearing size 7.5 boots, but her (street) shoe size is half a size bigger than mine. Uh-oh. How on earth did I skate for so long with incorrectly sized equipment?!

Obviously, I needed to make an appointment to get properly fitted. I called a different pro shop that was located 2 hours away and made the time to go up there for a fitting. I pretty much did this on a whim and was not at all expecting to buy new equipment anytime soon (especially since I just replaced my blades this spring).

After 5 hours (!) of trying on different boots and discussing new blades, I finally decided on a pair of Edea Ice Fly boots with MK Professional blades. And get this - my new blades are a full 3/4" shorter than my old pair. And my new boots? They are a 1.5 sizes smaller than what I was wearing previously. Check out this comparison:

Left: Old skates (Jackson Competitor/Coronation Ace); Right: New skates (Edea Ice Fly/MK Professional)
My new equipment will take a while to get used to, so it might be a while before I start feeling comfortable on the ice. It's going to be so weird to be skating in a boot that actually fits my feet correctly!


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

S'mores cupcakes

Who doesn't love a cupcake? Weird people, obviously. Ha ha! I made these cupcakes for our end-of-summer cookout, and they received rave reviews. It mean, come on, it's a s'mores treat in cupcake form. The only thing I didn't get to do was toast the marshmallow frosting (I seem to have misplaced my kitchen torch - does anybody know where it is?).

The chocolate cupcakes have a fantastic graham cracker base and is topping with a homemade marshmallow frosting. I was thrilled that the frosting did not use any of the canned marshmallow fluff because that stuff is really hard to get out of the container. Instead, you melt egg whites and sugar over a simmering saucepan and heat it up like a Swiss meringue buttercream.

I garnished my cupcakes with some shaved chocolate, but you don't have to do that. If you can find your kitchen torch, you can use it on the frosting to give it a classic s'mores look. And if you want to be extra fancy, you can sprinkle on some crushed graham crackers too.

However you decide to decorate these cupcakes, they will be fabulous. I brought the leftover cupcakes to work one day and they were devoured. Yes, these cupcakes are a bit more time-consuming than others, but they are worth it.

S'mores cupcakes
Graham cracker crust:
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (you can use a rolling pin, food processor or blender to make graham cracker crumbs)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 and 1/3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
Cupcake:
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon hot water
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 1 (5.3 oz) container plain Greek yogurt (I used 0% Chobani) 
Marshmallow frosting:
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Shaved chocolate, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two standard cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside (note: since the recipe makes about 28 cupcakes, you may need a third cupcake pan).

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs,sugar and melted butter. The mixture will resemble wet sand. Evenly distribute the crumbs into the paper liners and spoon about 1 Tablespoon in each. Use the bottom of a cup or bottle to press down on the crumbs. Bake in your preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Keep the oven on.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water. Mix until smooth and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan set over low to medium heat, warm the butter and sugar until the butter has completely melted.

Transfer the butter/sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix together on medium speed until the mixture has cooled down, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla, and then the cocoa/water mixture.

Alternatively add the flour mixture and the Greek yogurt in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Do not overmix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared cupcake liners, filling each one about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, set a large heatproof bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) over a pot of simmering water. Add the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar and continuously whisk the mixture until it comes to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Once the mixture has reached 160 degrees F, take it off the heat and transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or to a handheld mixer. Whisk the mixture on medium speed and continue to increase the speed until the frosting is stiff and glossy and holds a peak. Add in the vanilla and continue to beat until it is fully incorporated.

Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe it onto the cooled cupcakes. If desired, you can sprinkle shaved chocolate and/or graham cracker crumbs on top for a completed look.

Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container and will keep for about 3 days. The frosting will deflate a bit after the first day, so keep that in mind if you are preparing these for an event.

Yield: About 28 cupcakes (the frosting may not be enough to frost every cupcake)

Source: Barely adapted from Annie's Eats

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