Posts Tagged 'vegetable oil'

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes + Chocolate Peppermint Frosting

Hiya blog friends!  Before I get into my latest création délicieuse, I wanted to point out a couple fun blog updates for you all.

1. If you missed my last post, you may not have heard the excitement.  I joined Twitter!  So if you’re interested in what I’m up to between posts or care to get sneak peaks into what my next baking adventure might be, you can now follow me there or keep tabs by checking out the widget along the right side of the blog.

2. You already know that everything I bake is full of whole foods and free of refined flours or sugars.  But I thought I’d take the health factor a step further and label my recipes with specific dietary preferences(V) = vegan; (GF) = gluten-free; (DF) = dairy-free.  So check out my Recipes page if you haven’t been in a while.  Perhaps an oldie but goodie will now catch your eye!

Ok, baking time!

My sister and I had BIG plans for our Christmas dinner desserts this year – an eclectic assortment of seasonal mini cupcakes.  Flavors to please every palate.  All bite-sized to allow for maximum taste bud enjoyment without maximum belly filling.

Well, all did not go according to plan…

We started with five cupcake ideas.  Imagine the spread!  The family would be blown away.  But we then remembered all baking and frosting would have to be done on the same day we were cooking Christmas dinner itself – darn tight travel schedule!  And five quickly narrowed to three.  No worries – three still provided a great variety.  So the ingredients were bought, the holiday arrived, the family opened presents and we got to work.

And two of the three recipes bombed!  One did not rise at all and left us with flat cupcake “discs” as they not so affectionately became known.  The other was a crumbly mess – though we were able to miraculously salvage it by transforming the cupcake scraps into a quite yummy bread – cupcake? – pudding.  Chaos feeds creativity people.

And then there was one…

The sole recipe to survive – or dare I say, thrive! – was for Mini Chocolate Cupcakes + Chocolate Peppermint Frosting.  I found this recipe for chocolate cupcakes and this one for chocolate frosting and basically followed them to a tee.  Just added some vanilla extract to the cupcakes – because I believe no recipe is complete without vanilla – and some peppermint extract to the frosting – because otherwise we wouldn’t have Chocolate Peppermint going on, now would we?

Oh – and these were very fun for me to bake because they contained a new-to-me ingredient – COCONUT FLOUR!  Using coconut flour is not only thrilling for me – it also means the cupcakes are gluten-free!  Whoo!

Here’s the recipe:

Cupcakes:

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated butter substitute (I use Earth Balance)

2 cups unrefined powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk (or almond, rice, etc.)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Spray mini cupcake pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, agave and vanilla extract until well-combined.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting by blending together non-hydrogenated butter substitute, unrefined powdered sugar, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, soy milk, cocoa powder and salt with an electric mixer until smooth.  Once cupcakes cool, spread frosting on top.  Makes 16 mini cupcakes.

These cupcakes are SO cute and SO tasty!  I think I have a new addition to the Sweet + Natural favorite recipes list.  The frosting is an absolute dream.  Fluffy but rich.  Chocolately but refreshing.  And I am very excited to have had such success with my first ever coconut flour baking attempt!  That is one ingredient that will definitely be experimented with further in my kitchen.  Yep yep.

Have you ever baked with coconut flour?  Any tips for the newbie?

Gingerbread

Merry Christmas and happy holidays…

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Etc, etc, etc…

I HEART THE HOLIDAYS!

This really truly is my favorite time of year.  Something about the cheesy joyful Christmas music and festive decorations and anticipation in the air makes me warm and fuzzy and happy inside.  I am proudly a total sucker for it and feel all cozy everyday and everywhere I go.  Even the chilly weather is tolerable!  Ehh…sort of.  I don’t do well with cold.  Unless it’s snowing!  Sigh.  Contentment.

That said, the older I get, the more the season sneaks up on me.  It seems that Thanksgiving dinner dishes are barely washed when I blink and it’s Christmas.  All before I can even get a chance wear my favorite holiday sweater!

Well, this year, I said no more!  I made a vow to go immediately into holiday mode the second Thanksgiving weekend was over.  So my mini-Christmas tree quickly found its way out of the box under my bed and onto the dining table.  Little Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines stand by its side.  A scented candle is lit every night – smelling of cinnamon snap then spiced pear then Christmas cookie as the wick burns down.  Holiday tunes are loaded onto my iPod and played on the daily.  Both work and personal computer background images are now illustrations of Christmas trees.  My Google homepage displays the Winter Village theme – super cute btw! – right above a red and white Christmas countdown.  I even manually changed my Gmail colors to be red and green!

With all of these steps taken to be Miss Holiday Spirit 2009, all that was left to do was bake up a season-inspired treat.  So I decided to try my hand at Gingerbread!  I’ve always been curious about Gingerbread – because it is quite possibly the epitome of holiday baked goods – but have never actually eaten it.  I know, weird, right?  I guess I was always too busy filling up on peanut butter kiss cookies and Grandma’s pumpkin cake roll to bother looking its way.  It was about time.

Here’s my recipe for Gingerbread, adapted from this recipe:

1/2 cup Sucanat

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix Sucanat, vegetable oil, egg and molasses until well combined.  In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just blended.  Stir in hot water.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Now I know I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I thought the Gingerbread tasted delicious!  The spice combination worked wonderfully together and completely captured the flavor of the holidays.  And the brown rice flour gave the bread a bit of texture – sort of like cornbread!  I was a fan.

Is there a holiday treat you’ve always wanted to try, but never have?

Pumpkin Brownies

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I found myself with a whole lot of of pumpkin to use up the other day – remains from the giant-sized can I was forced to buy when my grocery store ran out of cans for normal-sized people.  What else is a girl to do but purchase enough squash for a small army when pumpkin pancakes are on the mind?  I promised myself I’d bake something with the leftovers.  And so here I am!

There’s obviously LOADS you can do with pumpkin, but I wanted to get creative.  Actually, what I really wanted was a brownie.  But I couldn’t forgo the pumpkin mountain in my fridge to fulfill my chocolate-y desires.  How utterly wasteful that would be.

Then it hit me. Pumpkin. Brownies. Half fudgy brownie.  Half dense, pumpkin-y delight.  I was so very excited about my highly original, super fun, and simply ingenious idea. Then I found out Martha Stewart had already done it.   Of course she had.

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Not to be outdone by the diva homemaker, I set out to put my own twist on the pumpkin brownie idea.  And twist it I did!  Along with performing my standard Sweet + Natural adaptations to Martha’s recipe – whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, Sucanat for sugar, etc. – I made a bunch of other changes to ensure I got exactly what I was looking for.  Added some extra spice to the pumpkin…used a bigger pan…but most importantly, eliminated the baking powder.  Martha’s brownie pics look too much like cake, right?  Now, I have nothing against cake.  Unless it’s trying to pose for a brownie.  In that case, believe you me, I will not be fooled.  I want fudge, not fluff.  No baking powder = lower rise = density-dense flavor-packed yumminess.  Yes.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Brownies:

Base mixture:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Sucanat

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mixture:

6 ounces grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pumpkin mixture:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  For the base mixture, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, eggs and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until blended.  Divide this mixture into two bowls.  For chocolate mixture, melt chocolate chips and oil in a bowl.  Stir into one half of the base mixture.  (Note: If batter feels dry, just steal some base mixture from the remaining half and add it in.  I found the chocolate batter to be drier than the pumpkin batter, so this is totally cool to do.  The pumpkin batter is very generous and will not hold it against you.)  For pumpkin mixture, combine pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a bowl.  Stir into other half of base mixture.  Spread chocolate batter evenly into prepared pan.  Top with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 24 brownies.

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Success!  The no baking soda idea did the trick in making these Pumpkin Brownies brownies and not cakey, chocolate-and-pumpkin flavored squares.  They were indeed the fudgy, dense, pumpkin-y delights I set out to achieve.  They also just so happen to be orange and black – quite fitting for the upcoming Halloween holiday, wouldn’t you say?

What’s the most interesting brownie you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. After mentioning it in my last post, I’ve had a request to share my European vacation with you all. Now I know such a trip is totally unrelated to Sweet + Natural baking, but I’m highly tempted to oblige – mostly because I love reliving it! Would you guys be interested?

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Walnut Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies

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I finally did it.

I jumped on the Dreena Burton bandwagon! And let me just say how happy I am to be here. The woman is a genius I tell you.

It’s not like I was avoiding Dreena and her recipes. She’s ALL over the blog world, and I’ve done my fair share of oohing and ahhing over her creations. But I’m careful with my pennies and always felt I should make more use of the cookbooks I have before purchasing new ones. I guess that belief slipped my mind when I saw eat, drink + be vegan at the bookstore the other day. I knew I had to have it. So into my collection it went!

The first ed+bv recipe I set my sights on was for the infamous Super-Charge Me! Cookies. OMG – they were like little balls of nutritious crack. I would have loved to share them with you all, but since Dreena hadn’t posted the recipe on her site, no dice! So to celebrate my newfound Dreena love, I found another one of her cookie recipes that was on the internet to modify and write about.

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Oh, and wouldn’t you know, Dreena posted the Super-Charge Me! Cookie recipe this week? Go figure!  Or go make them.  You won’t regret it.

Anyway…

Here’s the recipe I followed to make Walnut Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies:

1 cup spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup Sucanat

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, mix together spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, Sucanat and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together maple syrup, molasses, vanilla extract and canola oil until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Place spoonfuls of batter on cookie sheets and bake for 10-11 minutes. Makes 12 cookies.

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These cookies were YUM! After tasting my Maple Almond Butter Cookies and these, I am convinced that maple syrup = cookie perfection. It really adds a depth of flavor and keeps cookies wonderfully moist and gooey. Seriously, that stuff’s not just for pancakes.

The only thing I’d change about this recipe next time around is leaving the molasses out. I’m not buying that 1/4 teaspoon is making a huge difference when spread throughout 12 cookies. I mean, really, that’s 1/48 teaspoon in 1 cookie. You know? Other than that, A+.

What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?

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Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

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Friends, I am EXCITED.
There was a new development in the Sweet + Natural kitchen last weekend that makes me so happy!  I’m pleased, I’m proud, I’m itching to get back in there and do it again.
What on earth could bring such delight to my baking life?
I made my first loaf of homemade bread!
Wheeeee! Yep, we’re talking yeast, we’re talking kneading, we’re talking rising.  And whole grains of course.  I got in there with my electric hand mixer’s special hook and went at the dough until it was shiny and smooth.  I waited patiently for hours until it doubled in size.  I shaped the loaf.  And I relished in the wheaty goodness that emerged from my oven.  I am now legit, no?
This was such a fun accomplishment for me.  Bread from scratch has been on my list-of-things-to-bake forever, but I’ve always made excuses to avoid making anything with yeast.  It takes so long!  What if something messed it up?  Would my hours of effort be fruitless? I guess I just never had the patience – or extra time! – to devote a chunk of my day to an attempt.  Well, I found myself with that extra time one afternoon and figured it was as good a chance as any to give it a go.
With this recipe and my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book (courtesy of Dan’s sister – thanks Kate!) by my side, I was ready to go.
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Here’s the recipe I followed to make Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons molasses
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix until moistened and combined. Cover dough, let rest for 20 minutes then knead until fairly smooth (I did this in the bowl with the dough hook of my electric hand mixer for about 15 minutes). Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.  Gently deflate the dough, shape into a log and place in an 8  x 4-inch bread pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan.  Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes, tenting loaf lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking.
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It looks like real bread!  And tastes like it too!
Let me tell you, I was thrilled to look in the oven halfway through baking and see a monstrously tall crust growing from the pan.  It’s working! And I was even more thrilled when I cut into the loaf to reveal it’s crumby insides.  It’s dense, but soft.  Subtly sweet.  And has a slight crunch when you get a walnut bite.  It may not the prettiest looking thing – I like to think of it as “rustic” – but it’s mine all mine.
Have you ever baked bread from scratch?  How’d it go for you?

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Honey Yogurt Cheesecake Bars with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crusts

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Any cheesecake fans out there? I love the stuff and it always reminds me of two things…

Thing #1 is my mom’s no-bake cheesecake – light and fluffy and so easy to make.  It was a go-to dessert in my house growing up.  My family would top their slices with cherry pie filling, but I always thought – and still do think – that that is SO not the way to go.  No putting fruit on my desserts, no sir.  I’ll take the cheesy goodness all by itself.

Thing #2 is The Cheesecake Factory.  Obvious, yes.  Impersonal, hardly!  I used to LOVE going to Cheesecake.  Hello Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough! My adoration for all things cocoa and PB indeed started at an early age.  Every time we went to TCF, I made sure to save room in my belly to fit a whole slice.  Then I’d roll myself out of the restaurant in a sugary, cheesy, sweet bliss.  Ahh…those were the days.

Anyway, Kristina from Stonyfield Farm recently contacted me to see if I’d like some coupons for free Oikos.  She had spotted me using Greek yogurt back when I made Yogurt Glazed Carrot Cake and thought I might be interested.  Umm…yes please!  I promised to come up with a fun recipe to spotlight my Oikos and – BAM! – cheesecake bars popped right into my mind.  Actually, cheesecake popped in there first, but I don’t have the right pan for that.  So bars it was!

Since Greek yogurt was to play a key role in these cheesecake bars, I let it be my inspiration as well.  I asked myself, what kind of cheesecake bars should I make? Well, I replied – does anyone else have conversations with themselves? what do I like to put in Greek yogurt? Ooh ooh!  I like honey and cinnamon and vanilla… And that’s pretty much how it happened.  Before I knew it, I had created Honey Yogurt Cheesecake Bars with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crusts.

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Here’s the recipe:

Crust:

1 cup whole wheat graham cracker crumbs*

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cheesecake:

16 ounces Neufchatel cheese

1/2 cup honey

1 egg

1 egg white

1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* I used MI-DEL Honey Grahams to make my crumbs – 100% whole wheat and sweetened with only honey and molasses.

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray.  To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, canola oil, honey and cinnamon until well-moistened.  Press mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  To make the cheesecake, beat together Neufchatel cheese and honey until well blended.  Add egg and beat well.  Add egg white and beat well.  Add Greek yogurt and vanilla extract and beat well.  Pour mixture on top of graham cracker crust.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Let cool and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.  Makes 16 bars.

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These cheesecake bars were uber cheesy and creamy and subtly sweet.  I enjoyed my bites with a bit of honey drizzled on top – just like in the pics!  Next time I might even add extra honey to the batter.  Yum!

Have you ever baked with Greek yogurt? How do you like to use it?

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Maple Almond Butter Cookies

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Raise your hand if you like almond butter!

I’m going to assume a unanimous arm lift just occurred out there in the blogosphere.  Because almond butter is sa-weeeet!  Peanut butter often takes the leading role in my life – can’t deny unending love.  But almond butter is truly one-of-a-kind.  It really has its own roasty, nutty thing going on.  And because it’s not an everyday eat for me, I do feel a little more special each time a spoonful meets my lips.

To celebrate the opening of a new AB jar – and my subsequently boosted self-image – I decided to make Maple Almond Butter Cookies!  Almond butter cookies were actually the brainchild of my sister – also known as Ashley’s Part-Time Muse, The Egg Separator or Amanda The Panda, if I’m feeling silly.  She’s a nut butta luva just like me.  I have taught her oh so well.

So Miss Muse e-mailed me last week with her genius idea.  A few days later, I stumbled upon the perfect recipe to adapt.  I knew it was meant to be.

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Here’s my recipe:

1/2 cup natural almond butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, combine natural almond butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla extract until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, along with chopped almonds, and stir until just combined.  Let sit for five minutes.  Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 of an inch and place onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Makes 18 cookies.

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These were goooood. Dan ate five a couple last night.  After his first bite, a long silence and many questions on use of ingredients, he declared them “Hands down the best thing you’ve ever baked.”  Now I personally wouldn’t go that far.  But I, too, am a fan.

The cookies are softly chewy with a perfect almond crunch.  And I love that maple syrup is the sweetener.  I’ve been meaning to use a liquid sweetener cookie recipe for awhile and this one fabulously fit the bill.  The only change I’d make for next time is using almond extract instead of vanilla – to add some extra almond-y oomph!

What’s your favorite nut butter treat?

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