Archive for the 'Almond' Category

I broke your heart…

I know it’s hard right now, but it’s best for the both of us. Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day.

The title and first line of this post come from an email I received from a friend, who sent me this picture he took of my heart-shaped cake. For a friendly Valentine’s Day potluck, I baked this almond cake with raspberry filling, with a buttercream icing. In the shape of a heart, of course, with no less than pink piping on top. It was whole until we decided to cut into it, and the very creative cutting job was done by the friend…

The cake was enjoyed by all and devoured immediately. I guess that’s what tends to happen when pieces are cut as large as eighths of the cake being slid onto each person’s plate!

A Crunchy Start

For some reason, I was under the impression that granola was difficult to make. I have a friend who makes granola quite often, and I’m always extremely impressed with her ability to create something I want to eat in the morning for breakfast, snack on mid-day, and eat for dessert again in the evening. My new housemate also makes incredible granola, and after I ate the remaining scoop of her creation, I felt like I had to step up to the plate and try my own hand at granola-making. I used a Deborah Madison recipe, but since I can’t leave well-enough alone, I made a lot of adaptations. My version is posted below. I like this granola a lot; the quinoa gives it a crunchy texture and with the quinoa and nuts it’s a protein-packed breakfast that is just perfectly sweetened. You can make whatever substitutions you want depending what kinds of nuts or dried fruit you have at home, or add more or less juice (just keep the total liquid amount about the same, but you can play around with ratios of sweetener to juice to oil…). I’m sure you have lots of ideas of how to eat granola, but my recent favorite granola-pairing has been with homemade applesauce! My housemate likes to eat her granola as a topping on smoothies, and in the winter I love it as a sprinkled addition to a hot bowl of oatmeal.

For some people, school has started already, and this granola would be a perfect way to start your kids’ mornings or pack in a baggie for a mid-day snack. Monday is the first day for my school district, so tomorrow I will have 24 eight year olds in my classroom and I’m hoping that starting my day with a bowl of this hearty granola will help me keep them at rapt attention and create a strong learning environment from the get-go!

Granola Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oatmeal flakes (use gluten-free oats if you want)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice – I used orange
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup large flaked unsweetened dried coconut

Preheat the oven to 300º F. Mix the oatmeal, quinoa, spices, and nuts together, then add the vanilla, juice, oil, and sweeteners. Toss well to moisten evenly, then toast on a sheet pan until browned, about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the raisins and coconut once the cereal is cooked.

Raw Banana Pie, Take 2

It’s been a year since I made this delectable dessert; I know because last year I made it for Passover and this year I’ve done it again! This frozen treat is surprisingly sweet and you won’t feel like you need anything with processed sugar or even “real” ice cream to compete! The healthy sweetness and creamy texture of the frozen blended banana will satisfy any sweet tooth, I promise. And, if you need a chocolate fix, you can always melt down some dark or semi-sweet chocolate and drizzle it on top – I bet no one would mind.

You can find my recipe from last year here; the only changes I made this year were to add blueberries on top and leave out the lemon decoration. The strawberries and blueberries taste great with the banana, almonds, and dates, and they add a different, juicy texture to the top of the pie.

Here’s what the almond-date crust looks like before adding any filling into the pie shell. I like the uneven texture, however, you can grind your nuts into a finer and more consistent texture if you want to.

Pretty In Pink, and a Lesson

Becky’s birthday party on Saturday was themed Hot Pink/1920’s so I had to come up with something to help me with my lack of costume (I don’t own any hot pink clothes! How is this possible? I’m shocked at myself). I figured that everyone would forgive me for not dressing up if I had a batch of delicious vegan cupcakes in tow, and so when I woke up in the wee hours of the morning I whipped some up.

Inspired by these gorgeous cupcakes, I adapted Lindsay’s recipe only slightly by adding a teaspoon of almond extract to the cake batter and another teaspoon to the frosting (making them a little more like these cupcakes). I also added about a teaspoon of Raspberry Jam piped into the center of each cupcake to give it a little more pink and a little more flair. To do this step, wait till your cupcakes are completely cooled, and then fill a pastry bag with the Raspberry Jam (or other filling). Use a round tip to pipe a small amount of the filling into the center of each cupcake. Use a spoon to smooth the filling down into the cupcake, if necessary. Once the cupcakes are filled, fill another pastry bag with the Almond Icing, fitting the bag with a large star tip. Pipe the icing onto the tops of the cupcakes, concealing the Raspberry filling.

I did learn a valuable lesson in patience while baking these rosy pink cakes. When I took them out of the oven, I immediately unwrapped one and tried to take a bite – However, this is when I thought disaster had struck! The cupcake was stuck to the wrapper. I’m not talking about a little bit of crumb sticking to the paper, I’m talking full-blown cupcake-attachment. The cupcake itself split in half, chewy middle crumbling about while the sides were glued to the pink paper liner. It was impossible to eat, extremely messy, and I was truly upset about this. I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong (I followed the recipe exactly, except for adding almond extract, and I baked them at the right temperature, and I trust Lindsay’s recipes). I was sad about it, but I decided to let these cupcake babies cool and I would frost them anyway; I didn’t have time to bake a whole new batch for the party the same night. After filling and frosting, the cupcakes looked really nice, but I was hesitant about how they would be when people tried to eat them. I brought them to Becky’s house, worried I was going to cover all her guests and their fabulous 1920’s/Hot Pink attire in frosting and cupcake messes. However, when they began consuming the cupcakes, the wrappers peeled off perfectly! I was so relieved.

After a little internet-research, I’m realizing this was a silly mistake and I should have known better about it. I’m trying to excuse myself from this freak-out and tell myself I was simply acting so hasty because I was tired (I had woken up at 6am after staying up late the night before…) but really I think I was just rushing around too much and being quite impatient to try the cupcakes! They smelled so good coming out of the oven! So, here’s a new lesson to remember: Let cupcakes cool (at least partially) after taking them out of the oven before unwrapping them. This will give them time to settle and solidify in their final baked state, and they will come out of their wrappers much more easily. And, this rule can apply to other parts of life besides baking: Just a little patience will do you a lot of good!

What’s Black & White & Striped All Over?

I’m done with my finals! And all of my student teaching. It was incredibly sad yesterday to say goodbye to all my five-year old students. I was choking back tears all day as they made me the most lovely and thoughtful gifts, and gave me hugs and asked why I have to leave them – Next semester I’ll be student teaching in a third grade class at a different school, which they don’t understand. One child said to me “But we have third grade here!” and another sweet girl told me with a completely straight face that I must be so smart because they’re sending me to third grade straight after Kindergarten. That was pretty classic and sort of made my heart melt.

I was sad to leave my students, but I’m excited about having a little time off right now! I’m going to spend it mostly outside, taking hikes and bike rides, going to yoga, sleeping, having fun with friends, and of course baking. And, of course, updating my blog! Now I will have time to post recipes for all the cookies I’ve been baking!

These cookies take some preparation time, so be aware of what you’re getting into when you begin! It’s not much labor but a lot of freezing/hardening time in between each step. They are worth the effort though, because they look very fancy, and are incredibly tasty. I’ve seen variations of them in many holiday cookie books. In fact, my mother likes to make a checkerboard version that is ultimately exactly the same, just a different way to roll and slice the cookies. The Almond Dough is easy to adapt to your favorite flavor; you can take out the almond extract and add extra vanilla instead to have a very traditional cookie. One of my mother’s popular choices was to add orange rind into the dough to make a chocolate-orange combo, and I’m sure adding mint extract would be delightful. No matter what flavors you use, or shapes you create, these are perfect gift-giving cookies, since they are easy to stack and wrap, and they keep pretty well when in a covered container or wrapped tightly in plastic.

Almond Dough Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, blended with 2 Tblsp. warm water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 Tblsp. ice water

Chocolate Dough Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4  cup Earth Balance, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, blended with 2 Tblsp. warm water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tblsp. ice water

To prepare the Almond Dough, lightly spoon 1 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup Earth Balance, and blended Egg Replacer in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over surface of dough; beat just until moist. (Dough will be slightly crumbly.) Press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill 1 hour or until firm.

To prepare the Chocolate Dough, lightly spoon 1 cup flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 3/4 cup flour and cocoa, stirring well with a whisk. Place 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup Earth Balance, and Egg Replacer in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add cocoa mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over surface of dough; beat just until moist. Press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill 1 hour or until firm.

Prepare a piece of parchment paper over your rolling surface. Unwrap and place chilled Almond Dough on the paper. Cover dough with and additional sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough, still covered, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Place dough in freezer 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can easily be removed. Remove top sheets of parchment paper.

Prepare another piece of parchment paper over your rolling surface. Unwrap and place chilled Chocolate Dough on the paper. Cover dough with an additional sheet of parchment. Roll dough, still covered, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Place dough in freezer 5 minutes or until paper can easily be removed. Remove top sheets of parchment paper.

Place Almond Dough on top of Chocolate Dough, paper side up. Remove paper from Almond Dough; turn dough over onto a lightly floured surface. Remove plastic wrap from Chocolate Dough. (***To make Spirals, see directions below. If you want to make Stripes, continue reading here***). Cut dough stack in half crosswise to form 2 (8 x 6-inch) rectangles. Stack one rectangle on top of the other, alternating Almond and Chocolate Doughs; wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze 10 minutes or until firm and plastic wrap can easily be removed.

Cut the dough crosswise into 6 (6 x 1 1/3-inch) strips. Stack 2 strips on top of each other to form a stack, alternating Almond and Chocolate to form a striped pattern; wrap in plastic wrap, pressing gently. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 strips to form 2 stacks (there will be 3 stacks total). Chill 30 minutes or until very firm.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Working with 1 stack at a time, unwrap dough. Carefully slice each stack into 12 slices. Place dough slices 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

***If you want to make Spirals:
Roll your double-layer of dough in a tight spiral shape, starting from the long (12-inch) side. When you have rolled your dough, press down lightly on the edge so that it sticks. Cut your log in half, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Chill in the freezer for 20 minutes or until very firm. Preheat oven to 375° and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice your logs in 1/4-inch slices, and place each slice 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on pans for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

The Finals Crunch, Sweetened with Agave

The end of the semester somehow snuck up on me (can you believe it? It’s already December! The first night of Hanukah is tonight!) and I’m in the midst of the finals crunch at school. I have so much work it seems unbelievable, and of course this cold, rainy weather is tempting me every minute to drop my work and just cozy up and bake cookies! There’s nothing I want more than a comforting, healthy, sweet snack to eat with tea or coffee while I study and write final papers, so I took the plunge and started baking with these simple delicious treats. Of course, I got seriously distracted, and completely caught up in the pre-holiday baking whirlwind, and made a dozen or so other truly sinful sweets. Unfortunately my papers won’t seem to write themselves, as much as I hope that will magically happen overnight, so I’m going to have to wait a few days to post the photos and recipes till I actually write more and can cross things off my finals to-do list. Most of the other cookies are intensely rich and buttery, with dark chocolate, rum, sugared ginger, and icing – just what you’d expect (and want!) from holiday baking sessions. Please check back soon to see these exciting morsels! But for now, I hope you enjoy these healthier cookies which are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, protein-packed, chewy delights.

Apricot Almond Quinoa Chews

Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk
2 Tblsp. ground flax seeds
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3-1/2 cup dark agave, depending how sweet you want the cookies to be
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
2 Tblsp. arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup quick-cooking quinoa flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
Additional chopped almonds and apricots for decorating cookies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mizing bowl, whisk together the almond milk and flax seeds and let sit for 1 minute.
Then, stir in the agave and vanilla until smooth.
Sift in the quinoa flour, brown rice flour, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and salt.
Mix to form a thick batter, then fold in the quinoa flakes, apricots, and almonds.
For each cookie, scoop 1 rounded tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet, keeping the cookies about 2 inches apart.
Sprinkle the cookie tops with a few chopped almonds and apricots, and flatten the tops with the back of a measuring cup.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and just starting to brown on the edges.
Remove the cookies form the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.
Transfer them to wire racks to cool completely and store in a tightly covered container.
These cookies are best eaten the day they are made.

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.

IMG_2050

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.


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