Vegan Brownies

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If I offered you this brownie, would you eat it? Who can resist this chocolatey goodness?

Now, if I had said, “Would you like to try my vegan brownie,” would you?

I bet you would, but maybe with a little hesitation, a little fear, a little trepidation, right? It’s okay…I probably would react that way too.

So what prompted me to make a vegan brownie in the first place? Truthfully, it was the lack of eggs in the house and a desire to bake one night. I had seen several vegan brownie recipes on the Web lately; what better time than now to bake some, I thought.  My curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to see if I could fool my family my family would like it.

So here’s what happened:  I offered it to two family members (identity not revealed for obvious reasons), and I said, “Would you like to try my VEGAN brownie?”

“WHAT’S THAT?” they said.

“It’s a brownie that has no egg and no butter in it.  It’s made with pumpkin!” I said enthusiastically.

They ate. They muttered something about liking the “other kind.”  The End.

My aspirations of offering low fat, healthy baking fell hard.  I shouldn’t have told them it was vegan. *sigh….

Later, I offered a piece to my 7 year old daughter.  I said, “Would you like to have a brownie?” Happily, she accepted.  I didn’t tell her it was VEGAN! She had no clue and took a bite right away.  Well, guess what…she liked it, ate the whole thing, and asked for another one later that evening. Ha! Life is so funny sometimes!

Variety is the spice of life that gives it all its flavor, so they say.  Try baking this for your family, and see who likes it, and who doesn’t! Just don’t say it’s VEGAN!!!!!

 VEGAN BROWNIES

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 tsp. flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8×8 baking tray with parchment paper. Spray lightly with Pam.

METHOD: In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, and vanilla.  Mix well.  In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the pumpkin mixture to this, and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour the mixture in the 8×8 pan and level with a spatula.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.  Dust with powdered sugar.

*NOTE: I added about 5 minutes of baking time (total of about 25 minutes) because the center was still pretty wet.  When I took it out, it only had a slight jiggle, which was fine when cooled completely.

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Peach Galette

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The free-form, unassuming look of a Galette can draw any baker to put good use of fresh summer stone fruit like peaches, apricots, cherries, plums and nectarines.  If you’re really adventurous, you can also use meat, fish, cheese, vegetables and apples.  So rustic and yet elegant, it’s the perfect addition to any meal whether you are cooking for the family or serving as an elegant dessert.

For my peach Galette, I started with 1-1/2 pounds of fresh peaches and sliced them into 1/2 inch thick pieces, added a little sugar, salt, cornstarch and lemon juice.

Next, in a separate bowl, I made what’s called Pate Brisee which is a slightly sweet pasty dough.  This recipe seems pretty standard for any galette.  You start with mixing flour, salt and sugar.

Then, with clean, washed hands I mixed 2 sticks cold butter until it resembled coarse meal.  It looked like this:

To this, I added 1/4 cup of ice water. It all came together so beautifully and it looked like this:

At this point, I cut it in half, covered it in plastic wrap, and let it cool in fridge for an hour.  Rolling out the dough was super easy. Remember, free form. No worries here. Pile on the fruit and the juices!

Fold, give it a little egg wash (an egg wash is just an egg that you scramble and apply to the dough using a pastry brush), and sanding sugar (a must have – gives it a little flare!)

In a little over an hour, you get this beautiful Peach Galette!

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream and you’re done.

The great thing about this pastry dough recipe is that it yields 2 disks.  I think I’ll try it next with cherries or even some roasted vegetables.  A Galette is rustic yet elegant and versatile for anyone.  So, what kind of Galette will you be making?

Pate Brisee – Yields 2

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

DIRECTIONS:

1. Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.  Add the butter and mix until it resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water (I used 1/4 cup) in a slow, steady stream until the dough holds together.

2.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.  Divide in 2.  Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten, and form 2 disks.  Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.

STONE FRUIT GALETTE – source: Martha Stewart

1-1/2 pounds peaches

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tablespoons cornstarch

1 disk Pate Brisee

All-purpose, for surface

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Sanding sugar (optional), for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Stir together fruit, granulated sugar, lemon juice, salt and cornstarch.

2.  Roll out pate brisee into a 13-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to baking sheet.  Arrange fruit in center, leaving a 2-inch border.  Fold over border to enclose fruit, leaving center open.  Brush crust with egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

3.  Bake until golden brown and bubbling in center, about 1 hour, 10 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet. Let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes.  Serve with ice cream.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

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Out of all the cupcake recipes available to me either on the Internet, cookbooks or magazines, I ended up baking Chocolate Zucchini with Cinnamon Buttercream for a church bake sale.  An unlikely choice for me, really, because I don’t care very much for chocolate. I’ll reach for caramel & vanilla first.  But there was something about the combination of chocolate, zucchini, and cinnamon that drew me to this recipe.  I took a chance and went with this recipe I found at yourcupofcake.  You should check out this site – there are so many recipes for cupcakes and other goodies.

I love the darkness of the cake, the pretty wrapper, and the flecks of cinnamon.  It just draws you in.

Who wouldn’t want to bite into one?

Chocolate Zucchini Cake:

Makes 26.

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup applesauce

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2-1/3 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghiradelli)

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups grated zucchini

Cinnamon Buttercream:

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 cup butter, softened

1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

3-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1-3 tablespoons milk (I used 1 Tbsp)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pans with cupcake liners.

Combine sugar, apple sauce, and oil.

On low speed, add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Sift if needed to get rid of lumps.

Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet.

Add grated zucchini.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream:  Beat cream cheese and butter together.  Add remaining ingredients and adjust as needed to reach desired consistency.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Apple Pancakes

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If you are tired of the same old pancakes or the same old waffles for breakfast, turn to these apple pancakes.  It’s quick and easy. Hopefully you have apples and an iron skillet.

And lots of eggs, 6 to be exact.

Don’t be alarmed about how much this puffs up when you bake it. It’s actually quite exciting the first time you make it.  But don’t worry, the pancake will fall by the time you serve it.

And don’t forget the butter and syrup!

Breakfast will be exciting once again 🙂

Apple Pancakes

Adapted from: A Taste of Palm Springs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

6 eggs

2 tsp. sugar

2 pinches of salt

3 large or 4 medium apples, peeled and sliced (I used Granny Smith)

1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. sugar, mixed

1 12-inch iron skillet (ovenproof)

Directions:

In a  bowl (do not use blender), combine milk, flour, eggs, sugar and salt.  Peel and slice apples and fry in 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch iron skillet for about 2 minutes.  Pour batter on top of fried apples.  Bake in 500 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. When nearly done, sprinkle with mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Dot with butter and return to oven until brown.  Remove and serve.

Malt Ball Cake

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The first time I saw a malt ball cake was on Pinterest, I was smitten.  Those malt balls looked so darn perfect and so…orderly.  Even better, no piping required!

My son turned 19 yesterday (Happy Birthday son!), and I asked him what kind of cake he wanted me to make and his usual reply was, “Whatever you want, mom!” (that’s him). It was time to make that malt ball cake.  So, Google search I did, and I found a recipe from Bakergirl.  She got hers from Paula Deen.  I read through the recipe: Sour cream, heavy cream, Paula Deen…I felt like I was on the right track and decided to try this one.

It was beyond my expectations!

It’s moist and sweet, and the frosting is a dream to put on. And hassle-free decorating, if you read on!

Happy Birthday, son!

Disclosure: The pink candles were put on by my 6 y/o daughter who insists they’re okay for her brother’s cake.  I still don’t know what happened to the other ones I bought the other day *Sigh

Banana Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

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Attention bakers, dessert lovers, diabetics, & dieters: You need this recipe. It delivers so much, it’s almost too good to be true!  It’s so moist and full of banana flavor and that’s not all. It has a surprise of coconut flavor in it and – it’s lower in fat. It has so much to offer!

Often times I am asked to bake diabetic desserts and I am skeptical that I will find something so delicious and satisfying.  I am thrilled that this cupcake delivers all that.

You can make this with or without an electric mixer with the same results – a moist flavorful cupcake.  Just don’t overmix when combining the wet and dry ingredients (that’s key to the moistness!).

You’ll notice in the pictures I’ve decorated it 2 ways. The sliced bananas looked pretty initially, but they turned brown so fast and I didn’t have a chance to sprinkle any lemon juice on them (I was in a hurry!).  I also sprinkled sweetened shredded coconut on top. I wouldn’t advise this because the sugar in the coconut melts and you get a gritty feeling in your mouth.

In the photo below, I had time to pipe my frosting, and I decorated it with some toasted fresh coconut.  The toasted coconut added a depth of flavor.

I have a few more diabetic recipes to share with you in the future. I can assure you, only the ones that taste great will be on my blog. Honest!

You’ll find the recipe to these wonderful banana cupcakes here

Coconut Layer Cake

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Beautiful, huh? Dreamy coconut cake.  I finally made one!

Confession time:  I am not that great at making cakes.  It’s always a challenge for me to get it right, and often times when I bake a cake it’s my family who is the Guinea pig.  So, if I get a “Mmmm!” when someone tastes my cake, I know I’m on the right track.  When my father (who is a retired baker) complements me on my cake, I’m very happy.  Well, for Mother’s Day this year, I baked my #ExtraordinaryMom a Coconut Layer Cake.

Guess what? I got lots of “Mmmm’s,” and my father said it was good.

Seal of approval. I should be happy.

I’m not.  I’m just a little…indifferent about this cake.  It has good coconut flavor, but it’s a little too dense for me, and I’m not sure if I like the cream cheese in the frosting.At first I wasn’t going to share it with you, but since I got so many good reviews from my family, I thought I should share it just as well.  If I find a better coconut cake recipe in the future, I’ll let you know.  Maybe my family was just being nice. Ha!

I got the recipe from the book, The Bon Appetit Cookbook. If you visit their website, for some reason you will not be able to find this particular recipe, although they do have others.

Coconut Layer Cake – 12 servings

Cake:

3 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1-3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. imitation coconut extract

1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk, divided

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Frosting:

6 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1-pound box powdered sugar, sifted

1 7-oz. package sweetened shredded coconut

Fresh pansies or violets or candied violets (optional)

For cake:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line bottom of two 9-inch diameter cake pans with 2-inch high sides with waxed paper.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until smooth.  Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in vanilla coconut extracts.  Reserve 1/4 cup coconut milk for frosting.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternatively with remaining coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just combined.  Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl until medium-firm peaks form.  Fold 1/3 of whites into cake batter to lighten, ten fold in remaining egg whites.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans; smooth tops.  Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Transfer cakes to racks.  Cook in pans 15 minutes.  Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen.  Turn cakes out onto racks; peel off waxed paper.  Cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature).

For Frosting:  Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth.  Gradually sift powdered sugar over, mixing until well combined.  Gradually add enough of reserved 1/4 cup coconut milk by tablespoonfuls to make frosting spreadable.

Place 1 cake layer on platter.  Tuck waxed paper strips under cake to protect platter.  Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup coconut over.  Top with second cake layer.  Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, covering completely.  Remove waxed paper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.  Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.)   Decorate cake with pansies or fresh or candied violets, if desired.

Strawberry Squares

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Kitchen Drama.  Does anyone know what I’m talking about?  You have a recipe all planned out and for some reason, it doesn’t go your way.  I take it all in stride now.  You have to adapt, use your baking skills and move on with confidence that you can pull it off and everything will be okay.  If it doesn’t turn out, that’s okay too because every baking adventure is a learning experience, good or bad!

Take these strawberry bars, for example.  The original recipe called for fresh raspberries (original recipe found here, but I could not use them because my raspberries that I bought the day before were rotten (I’m still mad at that store, lol!) I was feeling the pressure because I had a lot of other desserts to make that night, and there was no time to jump in the car and exchange them.  Thank God I had fresh strawberries in my fridge and I just substituted this ingredient and made a few other changes.  More drama:  It was also a new, untested recipe for me.  I was taking my chances, but really I had no choice.  In the end, it turned out fabulous and I got rave reviews! I can confidently add this recipe to my “tried and true” Diabetic Desserts File.

I must warn you though, as I post this recipe, the changes that I made in the recipe are from memory. I did not write down the changes as I went along, but I’m 99.9% positive.  Do not expect a dessert bar like a brownie; it’s more like one of those light gelatin pies that are cut into squares. Try these, but I’m warning you…

are you ready for some drama?

Strawberry Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1-2 teaspoons Splenda Blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling:

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 4 tablespoons nonfat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar

1.  To prepare crust:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Food processor method:  Place flour, pecans, Splenda, and salt in a food processor; process until the nuts are finely ground.  Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until incorporated.  Add ice water and vanilla and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.  Transfer to prepared pan.  Press evenly and firmly into the pan to form a bottom crust.

Blender method: If you do not have a food processor, use a blender (like I did):  Place flour, pecans, Splenda and salt into a blender.  Mix until nuts are finely ground.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or clean washed hands, add butter and mix until it forms a coarse meal consistency.  Add ice water and vanilla and mix until dough starts to come together.  Transfer to the prepared pan.  Press firmly into the pan to form a bottom crust).

3.  Bake the crust until it looks set, but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack.

4.  To prepare the strawberry filling:  Wash strawberries.  Smash strawberries in a medium bowl with a potato masher.  Transfer to a medium saucepan and to this add gelatin packet, 2 tbsp. water, and 1/4 cup Splenda Blend.  Stir.  Cook over medium heat until bubbling.

6.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Pour the strawberry mixture into a medium bowl and set it in the bowl of ice water.  Refrigerate, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of loose jam and is beginning to set around the edges, about 30 minutes.

7.  Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, milk, and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixture until smooth. Add strawberry mixture and mix until well incorporated.  Dollop then spread over cooled crust.  Refrigerate until the bars are completely set, about 3 hours.  Cut into 16 bars.  Serve in a muffin size paper cup.

 

Classic Apple Pie

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Something wonderful is happening around here.  There’s a new baker in the house! My husband, Mi Amor.  What has he baked, you ask? So far: Chocolate chip cookies, brownie mixes, and cakes from a mix.  Pretty awesome, isn’t it? Humble beginnings with cake mixes and cookies – that’s how it starts, remember?  Never would I have imagined that in our middle-aged years (yes, I finally said it…), my husband would be baking, and sometimes right along side me.  Like the other night when I was baking this classic apple pie, and he was baking chocolate chip cookies (his second time in one week!). Yes, life is BEAUTIFUL.

I think part of the reason why I love to bake is the discovery.  I normally don’t make apple pie because frankly I think it’s too labor intensive – peeling the apples, making the crust, waiting 60 minutes for it to bake!  But, I had a special request for an apple pie from my mother-in-law.  I will do anything for my mother-in-law.  Quickly I pored through my cookbooks and settled for Martha Stewart’s Classic Apple Pie.  I trust Martha.  And, I trust my instincts – 2 sticks of butter means a great pie crust.  But, being that it’s been a while since I baked my last apple pie and the fact that it’s for my mother-in-law, I was still a little nervous about how it would turn out.

Well, thank God the apple pie turned out –  She loved it.  Life is BEAUTIFUL.

Classic Apple Pie – adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Makes one double crust 9-inch pie

FOR THE CRUST:

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup ice water, more if needed.

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Then cut in the butter with a pastry blender (I also used my clean, washed hands).  Add the ice water a little bit at a time.  Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together.  If it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface.  Divide in half, place one half disk in a piece of plastic wrap.  Cool in the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other half into a 12-inch round.  With a dry pastry brush, sweep off the excess flour; fit dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate, pressing it into the edges.  Trim to a 1/2 inch thick overhang all around.  Place into the refrigerator.

At this point, you have one dough disk chilling in the refrigerator, and the other disk rolled out and chilling in the pie plate.

Next, prepare apples:

3 pounds apples (I used Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar, depending on tartness of apples

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Sanding sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:  In a large bowl, toss together the peeled and sliced apples, lemon juice and granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Arrange in the chilled pie shell.  Dot with butter.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the remaining chilled dough disk into a 12-inch round.

Brush the rim of the pie plate shell with an egg wash, then place the second piece of dough on top, and gently place over the apples (I actually forgot to do this step and I was still able to seal the 2 pie doughs).   Gently press the top and bottom pieces of dough together to seal.  Using kitchen scissors, trim the top piece of dough into a 1 inch overhang all around.  (I didn’t have an overhang of dough, but I kept pressing and tucking).  Tuck dough under, and crimp edge as desired.  Brush the entire surface of the pie with egg wash, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar.  Cut 3 vents in the top to allow steam to escape.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, with the rack in the lower third of oven.  Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake until the crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Continue baking, rotating sheet halfway through, until the crust is a deep golden brown and the juice are bubbling and have thickened, 40-50 minutes more.  Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely.