Here’s To Health … and a little decadence

Hello Friends, we meet again!  It’s been a while since my last post because  Jordan and I have been busy bees packing up our lives in little Lafayette and moving to the big city.  That’s right – culinary school begins in T-minus 17 days!  I can’t believe it’s all happening.  We are ready to begin this new chapter of our lives.

And what better way to begin a new chapter than with some healthy eats?  As I’m sure you can relate, living in and out of boxes, even for a short period of time, can have a tremendous effect on one’s diet.  But amidst the cardboard and chaos, I managed to nail down a few recipes to share with you today.  And when I say “a few” I actually mean five.  That’s right folks, FIVE fabulous recipes.  So let’s get to it!

Let’s start off by cooling down before we heat things up a bit.  It is August after-all (how did that happen, by the way?)  My Blackberry Yogurt Popsicles should do the trick!  Just grab your blender, some popsicle molds and go to town.

Blackberry Yogurt Popsicles

Yields 8 popsicles

Ingredients

1 1/2 c plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farms organic plain low fat yogurt)

1 1/2 c frozen blackberries (if you use fresh, add 3-4 ice cubes)

1/2 c agave nectar

1-2 tbsp plain soy milk

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth.  Strain mixture if desired to get rid of the seeds.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.  Enjoy!

***

Next up … lunch!  This is also my go-to snack.  I try to always have homemade hummus on hand.  It’s so much cheaper to make your own and that way you can adjust it to your own specific tastes.  You may want to add more tahini, or more yogurt or more lemon juice depending on your tastes and on the consistency you want.  This hummus is destined to be your new favorite recipe.  Make it with the naan/pita-style bread recipe that follows for a complete and tasty meal.

Two Bean Hummus

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed

1 can navy beans, rinsed (These are not traditionally found in hummus, but I love their creamy consistency.)

1/2 c tahini

1/2 c plain yogurt

4 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Directions

In a food processor, combine all ingredients.  (Note: make sure you stir the tahini in the jar because it tends to separate.  Refrigerate after opening.)  Blend in a food processor, adjusting the ingredient ratios if needed as you go.  Store in an airtight container.

Naan/Pita Bread*

Yields 5 pieces

Ingredients

2 c all purpose flour or chapati, plus extra for kneading

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 tbsp canola oil or melted butter, plus a bit extra for oiling the bowl

3/4 c plain yogurt

1 tbsp warm water

Directions

Sift the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast and salt.  Blend the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the oil or butter with the yogurt and water.  With your hands, create a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour the wet mixture into the well and slowly begin to incorporate the two.

When the two mixtures are somewhat incorporated, dump the dough onto a floured surface and begin kneading until it becomes smooth.  This should happen within a few minutes so don’t be tempted to over-knead the dough.

Oil a clean bowl lightly and put the dough in it, rolling it a bit to ensure it gets coated with the oil.  Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest and rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Lightly oil a large baking sheet or alternatively heat a pizza stone in the oven.  If using a baking sheet, warm it on the center rack in the oven for a few minutes.  (Don’t let the baking sheet heat for too long because you don’t want the oil to start smoking.)  Gently take the dough and divide into five (or however many) chunks.  Roll each chunk to about 1/8″ thickness and place on the warmed sheet or stone.  Bake until the loaves are lightly browned and puffy, about 5 minutes.  Let cool for a minute or two before serving.

*Variation of Alex Guarnaschelli’s Naan recipe.

***

Ittttttt’s Vegan Time!!!!  So, one of my goals these past couple of weeks has been to use as many things in my cupboard as I can before the big move.  Easier said than done.  I soon discovered that I was spending more time in the kitchen cooking, baking and doing dishes than packing and organizing.  But it was worth it because now I have a wonderful guilt free and cruelty free snack to share with you.  I said in a recent post that I’ve been obsessed with vegan baking and one of the most common searches I’ve been Googling is “egg alternatives”.  There are so many!  It’s kind of mind boggling.  But what bothered me the most was that the majority of them are these “egg replacer” concoctions that you can buy in the grocery store.  I’ve never tried any but I hesitate to because I wanted something more natural and more interesting.  And then I found a recipe on the FatFree Vegan blog that peaked my interest.  In her recipe for Banana-Maple Oatmeal Cookies, SusanV uses ground chia seeds mixed with water to form a sort of paste that acts as a binding agent.  Genius!  I didn’t have chia seeds, but I did have flaxseeds, which she suggests as an alternative.  It works incredibly well and I plan on using this technique as often as I can.  So thanks, Susan!  This one goes out to you :)

Vegan Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies*

Yields 18 large cookies

Ingredients

2 tsp flaxseeds

2 tbsp water

2 c quick-cooking oats

1 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1 c whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1/2 c dried apricots, chopped

3/4 – 1 c mixture of dried craisins and pomegranates

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c maple syrup

1/2 c agave nectar

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a high-speed blender or spice grinder, grind the flaxseeds to a powder.

Pour the ground flaxseeds into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp of water.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes to thicken.  In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and dried fruits.  Mix to combine.  Add the vanilla extract, maple syrup, agave nectar, bananas and lemon juice to the bowl with the flaxseed mixture.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine, but don’t over-mix.  Scoop the batter, form into large cookies and place onto the parchment.  Flatten each cookie slightly.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.  Let sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!

***

Do you remember way, way back in my first ever blog post that I discussed my search for the ultimate chocolate cake recipe that didn’t involve lots of eggs, sugar and butter?  Well … (drum roll please) it’s here.  And it will knock your socks off.

If you recall in that first post, I shared two recipes, both equally delicious and both very different.  But the unifying factors were a tender crumb, moistness and depth of flavor.  I was determined to create a cake that tastes chocolaty, but also earthy.  Sweet but also rich.  Light but also dense.  Decadently cakey but also homey and bread-like.  I hope this doesn’t disappoint you.  I plan on playing with it some more, but I feel like I had a major breakthrough and I just couldn’t wait to share it with you.  What I love about it is when I taste it, I taste chocolate.  There are so many things in this recipe that might fool you into thinking that it will taste like a banana bread, or a sweet potato bread, but it’s not.  It’s chocolate!!!! And I couldn’t resist dressing it up for the photo party in a fancy fondant glaze :)  Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Earth Cake with Orange Fondant Glaze

Yields 1, 9 x 5″  loaf or 8 x 8″ cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 c cake flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of cinnamon

3/4 c light agave nectar

6 tablespoons canola or coconut oil

2 tsp flaxseeds

2 tbsp water

1 very ripe banana, chopped (about ½ c)

1 small sweet potato or canned pumpkin puree (about 1 c)

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp orange zest

6.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped (Make sure it’s vegan.  I used orange flavored dark chocolate.)

for the Orange Poured Fondant Glaze

1 ¼ c confectioner’s sugar

3 tbsp fresh orange juice (plus more for dusting)

Directions for the cake

(Please disregard this step if using canned pumpkin.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Poke the skin of the sweet potato with a fork a few times and then place on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Roast in the oven for about 1-1 ½ hours until very tender.  Remove and let cool.

In a high-speed blender or spice grinder, grind the flaxseeds into a fine powder.  (Alternatively, use flaxseed meal and skip this step.) Pour the ground flaxseeds into a large bowl, add the water, mix and let stand for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Prepare an 8 x 8 cake pan or 9 x 5 loaf pan with either vegetable spray or oil and a dusting of cake flour.  (Take care not to oil the pan very much, just lightly.)

Sift all dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder, into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  Peel and scrape the cooled sweet potato flesh out of the skin into a blender or food processor, along with the chopped banana and the orange juice.  Processes for a minute or two to ensure the mixture is very smooth.  Strain the mixture if necessary to ensure a velvety consistency.  (I would recommend this step even if using canned pumpkin just to ensure the banana is really smooth and both are well combined.  However, if you prefer a little chunkier texture to your cake, don’t bother pureeing the two.)

Add all wet ingredients to the large bowl containing the flaxseed mixture: agave nectar, vegetable or coconut oil, banana/sweet potato/orange juice puree, vanilla extract and orange zest in a large mixing bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches.  Before adding the final round of flour, toss the chopped chocolate in the flour to coat.  Add the final flour and chocolate mixture to the batter and stir well until thoroughly mixed.  Pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.  Let cool completely before pouring the fondant mixture on top.

Directions for the poured fondant

Sift the powdered sugar into a small saucepan and whisk with the fresh orange juice.  Bring to a rolling boil for 10-20 seconds, or until it reaches the softball stage (235-240º F on a candy thermometer).  Once the mixture is in this temperature range, you can test if it’s ready by drizzling a little bit of the mixture into a small cup of water.  If you are able to lift the mixture from the water with your hand and form it into a ball that does not stick to you, it’s ready.  Remove from heat and whisk constantly until it starts to thicken. Pour it over the cake when it’s very clearly thickened, but not too thick to pour. If the icing becomes too thick, reheat and start again.  Pour over the top of the cake and let the fondant drizzle down the sides.  Let the icing cool then dust the cake with powdered sugar to finish.

***

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This entry was published on August 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm. It’s filed under Cake, Chocolate, Cookies/Biscuits, Culinary School, Culinary Student, Popsicles, Snack, Vegan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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