Archive for November, 2009

Decadent Chocolate Pecan Pie

Looking for a chocolate-heaven-like dessert to serve at our Thanksgiving table, I found this Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe in Ricki Heller’s cookbook Sweet Freedom. She also has it online for free, here, but everything else I’ve tried from the book is delicious so it’s definitely worth checking the full cookbook out. The recipe wasn’t quite perfectly matched to the diverse dietary restrictions and needs that our guests (and myself) required, so I took the liberty of making a few minor changes. Simply, I switched the spelt flour in the crust recipe with an equal combination of sorghum and brown rice flours, making it gluten-free. Then, because I’m not eating refined sugars right now, I used unsweetened baking chocolate instead of the chocolate chips in the filling, and I used almond butter instead of cashew butter to adapt for one of the nut allergies. What I got was just what I was looking for: A rich, heavy, purely decadent chocolate dessert that would fulfill any chocolate addict’s cravings. It was also gorgeous, especially when cut into slices and the pecan pieces shone bright in the midst of all the dark chocolate fudge. If you are looking for a holiday dessert, or really any type of chocolate treat, this is definitely the recipe to try. I fully recommend it!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Coconut Topping

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, filled with family and friends, and of course lots of delicious food. Based on my own experience, I suspect that you stuffed yourselves, although hopefully not as much as I did! But, however full I felt last night (and still this morning!), I always enjoy looking at more food, so here is a sample of what I made and ate last night.

For our feast, I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake and topped it with a rich Whipped Coconut Creme. It tasted quite delicious, although definitely more like a pumpkin pie than a cheesecake. I think if I had used a Vitamix or a more powerful food processor, I could have gotten the filling to have a more even consistency (like the one in the original recipe’s picture, here), but nonetheless it tasted great. It had a wonderful pumpkin taste, and the pecans in the crust complemented the fall flavors very nicely. We had a little bit of extra crust dough that I baked separately, and it ended up thick and tasty as a simple shortbread-like cookie on it’s own. The coconut creme was from a recipe in Sweet Freedom, for a sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free vegan whipped cream. Dolloped on top of the pie, it was rich, sweet, and certainly very creamy, but not as light and fluffy as whipped cream should be. Our consensus was that it would have been very good as a fruit tart filling, and next time I make one I will definitely use this recipe!

Cornmeal Muffins

In my Kindergarten student teaching placement, we have been studying corn as a way to address the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It is a complicated issue to talk about in a classroom, as there are clearly multiple perspectives to cover and so many politics to maneuver. The inaccurate mythology and historical omissions can be confusing and damaging to teach, especially when you get into the denser and more confrontational issues surrounding genocide and land theft. As an educator working for social justice, how do you make sure you cover the valuable positive and big ideas of gratitude, fairness, equality, resistance, and liberation without miscommunicating the true facts? I’ve always felt trapped in how I would like to cover this material – and have often found that it is much easier to just avoid talking about it altogether in the classroom. However, Kindergartners get so excited about holidays that you have to incorporate it somehow into the curriculum.

I really like the critical way my cooperating teacher thinks about these issues, and her solution this year has been to teach the students all about corn. She can teach them about the Native Americans’ history growing and eating corn in different forms, and about how the Pilgrims interacted with the Native Americans and their land when they arrived in the “new world”. We have had class discussions about how the Native Americans lived and how that contrasted with the lifestyle that the Pilgrims were used to, and how both were very different from how our students live today. We have talked about what it would feel like if someone moved into your backyard, and had the kids think about how they would react to this. We shared about the communities and customs that both groups of people had, and the reasons why the Pilgrims were leaving Europe. We framed these conversations around the kinds of foods the two groups of people were used to eating, tying in our larger theme of corn. My cooperating teacher has brought in many different examples of corn for the students to study as Scientists with huge magnifying glasses – we’ve looked at dried “Indian Corn” in beautiful shades of purple, yellow, and red; baby corns in a jar; dried corn kernels; cornmeal; canned corn; and hominy. We’ve had them taste different kinds of corn-foods, like corn chips, corn nuts, popcorn, and even candy made with corn syrup. Yesterday, I woke up obscenely early for no good reason, and decided what would make me feel better about this lack of sleep was to bake something for my class. So, out came the baking pans and on went the oven (a perfect way to warm up my chilly house!). I quickly whipped up a batch of Cornmeal Muffins that I could give the students, who would then get to taste the corn in a new way.

I brought the muffins in to the classroom, and while they were not overwhelmingly popular with the five year olds, they received good reviews from the adults who tried them before and after the sharing event. I wasn’t sure what reaction to expect from my students, since kids these days eat lots of sugar and Cornmeal Muffins aren’t particularly sweet, but I really wanted them to be able to feel the slightly crunchy texture of the cornmeal in the muffin and the softer sweeter fresh kernels of corn mixed in. In the end, some of the children devoured the muffins, some did not, and I of course felt okay about that. I think this recipe is quite delicious, but perhaps not the most kid-friendly one that I could have picked! Perhaps they would have enjoyed them more with jam spread on top, or with more sugar added to the batter. The muffins were moist and heavy, as a cornmeal muffin should be. The top was crispy and the color was a natural bright yellow from all the corn. I recommend it, even if my students did not!

Cornmeal Muffins – lightly adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup almond milk
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (equivalent of 1 egg – you can also use 1 Tblsp. ground flax seed)
1 Tblsp. warm water (+ 1 more Tblsp. of water if you use flax seeds…)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar + some for sprinkling on top
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup Earth Balance or other non-dairy margarine, melted and cooled
1 cup canned whole corn kernels

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or line your muffin tins.
Soak the cornmeal and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in the milk for about 15 minutes, while you prepare your other ingredients.
Meanwhile, whip the egg replacer (or flax seed) with the water in the blender, until thick and creamy.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
In a small bowl, stir together the almond milk/cornmeal mixture, melted margarine, and egg replacer mixture until combined. Add to the dry ingredients, and stir just until blended. Add the corn kernels and stir to combine. Do not overmix.
Let the batter sit for 10 minutes before spooning into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4 full.
Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each muffin (this will give it a nice crispy top, and add a little touch of sweetness).
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire rack.

Gluten-Free, Refined-Sugar-Free, Vegan and Delicious Pumpkin Scones

Yes, believe what the title says. It is definitely possible to make delicious vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free desserts. I’m slowly converting everyone I know, and I hope to convert you too, at least to the idea that this is a possible baking feat. I’m so used to adapting regular recipes, and have figured out good proportions of animal-friendly (as well as gluten-free and sugar-free) ingredients to make yummy veganized versions, but this time I found a recipe online that was already perfect and fit all my dietary requirements. Plus, it was already tested and blogged about, and even photographed so I could see evidence that this recipe actually worked. You can find all of that proof, plus the recipe, right here. I followed the recipe to a T, with a tiny addition of half a cup of chopped pecans mixed into the batter and sprinkled on the top before baking. I have to admit – these scones are a little bit muffin-like in consistency (they had a fluffier and a little more cake-like texture than most scones do), but they are so delicious you won’t care at all. You’ll eat tons of them. Especially because they are pumpkin (my favorite flavor), have no gluten, no refined sugar, no dairy and no eggs. So they practically don’t exist or have calories or anything, right?

Autumn Crunch

Fall is in the air – even here, in California, we have beautiful autumn leaves drifting down from the trees and blanketing our yards. They are definitely lots of fun to jump on and scrunch beneath your feet! However, not all the aspects of Fall are that alluring. With the school-based schedule crunch of final papers and projects looming over my head, and as the shorter, colder, darker days continue, I knew I needed something to look forward to and entice me out of bed with…So, using my dried persimmons and all the sweet warm spices I could think of, I created an autumnal breakfast treat to look forward to when I wake up.

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This Persimmon Granola is perfect paired with almond milk for a yummy breakfast, but it also is tasty plain as a snack, and I’m sure it would be good with vanilla ice cream as a crunchy topping.

You can make this granola with any mix of nuts, spices, and dried fruits that you have on hand. I think the persimmons give it a wonderful Fall flavor and color, but raisins or dates would be delicious as well. You can add brown sugar, agave, or honey if you want added sweetness, but I am enjoying the subtle sweetness of the brown rice syrup on it’s own; it really makes the persimmon’s natural sweet taste stand out. And the spices of course are flexible – add whatever you like best. My house was filled with great smells after baking this!

Ingredients:

5 cups oats
2 cups raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded & unsweetened dried coconut
1 Tblsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tblsp. vegetable oil

2 cups chopped dried persimmons (it is easy to cut them with scissors into bite-sized pieces).

Preheat your oven to 300F. Cover two jelly-roll pans (cookie sheets with sides) with aluminum foil (this will make clean-up easier).
In a very large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, walnuts, coconut, spices, and salt.
In a small saucepan, heat the applesauce, brown rice syrup, and oil. Stir constantly, till they are smooth.
Mix the heated liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, then divide and spread the mixture evenly on your prepared pans.
Bake the granola for about 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is a deep golden brown color.
Remove the pans from the oven, and cool completely.
Stir your chopped dried persimmons into the granola after it is cool.
Store the granola in a large, airtight container.

Dried Persimmons

I have a large Fuyu Persimmon tree in my front yard, and the fruits are ripe and ready for picking right now. These are the kind that stay hard and crunchy when ripe. They are delicious and sweet and some young friends of mine told me the “look a lot like little pumpkins.” I agree – except when you slice them through the middle horizontally, then I think they look like flowers. Check it out:

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Two years ago when we had our first Persimmon harvest, we had so many. We were eating them with every meal (sliced on top of green salads, mixed into fruit salads, on the side of every dish), and pureeing them and then mixing the mush into all of our baked goods. We ate persimmon cookies, persimmon cake, persimmon bread. You name it, we made it. I think we even tried to make a persimmon pudding, but that’s much better to make with the Hachiya variety of persimmons that get super soft and mushy when ripe. Recently, I’ve been on a sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan diet which, while difficult at first, has gotten a lot easier in the last week or so. I’m pretty comfortable experimenting with my baking, and adapting my recipes to fit any type of dietary restrictions, but honestly I have been baking less since changing my eating habits (also, I’ve had a lot less time to bake because of being in school). So I haven’t yet made any persimmon baked goods. I’ve been eating them raw and whole, like apples. It’s such an easy snack to take to classes with me! But, we have a lot, and I decided to try something new with them.

I started out by drying my persimmons, by slicing them thinly and laying them on metal cooling racks. If you want to do this at home, you can really do it with any type of fruit I think. If you have a dehydrator that would speed up the the process and make it a little easier, but since I don’t have one, I’m using my oven. It just means I can’t bake anything for a few days while the persimmons are drying in there, but somehow I’ll manage.

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I put the cooling racks in my oven (on top of the regular oven racks) and left the oven door a tiny tiny crack open so the air could circulate. I didn’t turn the oven on, but the pilot light kept the oven slightly warm and helped dry out the persimmon slices. I left them in for a day and a half, checking periodically and flipping them over to make sure the sides were drying evenly. You can decide when they’re done by checking to see how dry and crunchy they are – you want them pretty dry but still a little chewy. They’re very sweet and tasty for eating as a snack, but I have bigger plans for these babies. I’m posting these pictures as a teaser, so you’ll have to check in later to see the full recipe for what I’m going to make with them!


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Photos, Original Recipes & Text ┬ęcookiesandcandids 2008-2010 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. If you repost any material from this blog, please give credit by including a link back to me. Thank you!