Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cardamom Apple Cookie Crumble

For as long as I can recall, apple crumble (also known as apple brown betty and apple crisp) has been one of my favorite desserts. For years as a child (when I still followed cookbook recipes) I would make the New York Times Cookbook's apple brown betty recipe. That cookbook is still kicking around in my childhood home, hanging together by a few threads and some duck tape. That book opened me to up the world of baking and pastry. I learned to make everything from pie crust to meringue, amazingly with no illustrations or images (which is almost unheard of today)! It is a classic book I recommend to anyone.

I created this unusually delicious crumble recipe as part of my involvement with the Recipe Redux challenge. Each month, member bloggers are challenged with a theme. They are asked to create new recipes that are in line with that theme that also happen to be nutritious and healthier than the average dessert. This month the challenge involved cooking or baking with unusual spices found in your spice cabinet. You know, the spices you have but don't necessarily use...So for me, the obvious spice to choose to feature was cardamom.

I love East Indian food, and East Indians love to cook and bake with cardamom. This incredibly healthy and fragrant spice can be quite overpowering if used in excess but quite subtle and delightful if used in moderation in the company of other warming spices like ginger and cinnamon. If you are unfamiliar with cardamom on its own, you may have tried it in Chai tea, another personal favorite. 

In addition to currently living in a multi-cultural city in Canada where Indian food is wholeheartedly embraced, I also lived abroad in the UK for some time where Indian cuisine is adored. There are many East Indian bakeries and restaurants in London where delicate aromas of cardamom and cinnamon waft through the surrounding streets all day long. I once followed the smell of freshly baked cardamon-laced Indian sweets for two blocks until I discovered one of London's most popular Indian bakeries. 

I love Chai spice combinations and I really love the versatility of cardamom which is used in both sweet and savory recipes in Indian cuisine. I have for a long time had a large amount of cardamom in my spice cupboard just waiting to be used. I RARELY use it at all because, well, it scares me a little! I have RUINED many dishes by adding far too much of it without other spices to balance it out properly. I have also created many dishes with it to brilliant success but it nevertheless remains in the back of my mind when it comes to baking. This is actually the first sweet recipe besides homemade chai tea that I have added cardamom to! I'm very glad I gave it a go though as this is a very unique and delicious apple crumble recipe. 

If you plan on making this recipe, I encourage you to make it exactly if possible. Ginger and cinnamon are essential to the balance of flavors of this crumble so don't leave them out! Without them the cardamom is way too strong. If you would rather use a traditional crumble topping of your own creation, the recipe will still taste delightful and unusually spiced for apple crumble so go ahead and play with it. I personally enjoy this cookie-like topping as the sweet crunchy chewiness of the topping balances the soft sweetness of the apples underneath perfectly. 

I hope you give this crumble a go! It's a refreshing take on a classic.

Cardamom Apple Cookie Crumble

Spiced Apples:
  • 3-4 average sized apples, ripe if possible (I used gala and ambrosia apples)
  • 1.5 tbsp unsweetened apple butter
  • 0.5 tsp cardamom powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.25 cup water
  • liquid stevia, to taste
  • pinch pink salt
Core and slice your apples very thin and then cut each slice evenly in three so you have lots of small thin pieces. I left the skins of the apples on. Add to a dish along with the lemon juice, spices and apple butter. Toss with a fork to coat the apples as evenly as possible. 

Heat the coconut oil in a medium sized pot or pan over medium high heat. Once melted, add the apple mixture and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed by the fruit. Add the maple syrup and the water and bring to a simmer, letting most but not all of the liquid absorb. Add the salt and stir. Taste you apples. Add stevia if you want them sweeter, stirring to incorporate it well. Once satisfied by the sweetness of the apples. transfer them to a small ovenproof baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F and set the dish aside.

Cookie Topping:
  • 5-7 pitted medjool dates
  • 0.25 cups buckwheat flour
  • 0.75-1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1 tsp or 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a few dashes liquid stevia
  • 1 heaping tbsp unsweetened apple sauce (optional)
  • tiny pinch pink salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the buckwheat flour, apple sauce, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil and dates to a food processor. Pulse to mix them into a rough paste. Add the oats and vanilla and a few drops liquid stevia (not too much and pulse to make a rough crunchy dough. Using your hands, grab little balls of the dough and arrange over top of the apples in their baking dish. Arrange the dough evenly in blobs over the apples to cover them. Place the baking dish in the hot oven and bake until the topping is crisp but not overcooked (burnt). Allow to cool slightly. Enjoy by itself or a la mode (with vanilla ice cream on top).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plant fuel: brownies

I like brownies. My husband LOVES brownies. There are about a million things I would rather make first but it must be love because I found myself baking brownies tonight. And he didn't even ask...

My philosophy on brownies goes something like this -- make them as healthy as possible. Why? Because I'm not a brownie die hard so if I am going to eat them I'd rather they not be 80% butter and 20% sugar.

Enter these gorgeous brownies. Just look at them, glimmering in the glow of my stove light. They look so...decadent. So inviting. And yet they're about 99% healthy plant food.

Sweet potatoes, avocado, buckwheat flour, raw cacao and virgin coconut oil. Who knew that those superstar ingredients could create these! No grains, no gluten, vegan and loaded with nutrients. Sweetened with stevia and a tiny bit of maple syrup. Oh and they're dead simple to make. Blitz, spread, bake, eat.

 If you don't try these you're crazy!

Healthy Brownies
  • 1 cup steamed, peeled sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 cup ripe avocado
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5-2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Liquid stevia, (lots!) to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut water 
Preheat oven to 350F.

Blend all ingredients together till smooth in food processor. Adjust sweetness. Bake in parchment lined cake pan until semi firm on top. Enjoy warm or after cooling on the stovetop.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pleasantly surprised by pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

OK so I'm just going to say it...I'm not a huge pumpkin fan. I like it fine, it doesn't bother me, but its not my favourite. I imagine I've just lost all my followers. Sigh. For those of you who haven't slammed your laptop shut in rage, its growing on me. I bought a can last week and tried to bake with it but was...dissatisfied. But so many posts on Instagram and Pinterest  are celebrating pumpkin that I had to give it another go. Lucky I did because these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are not only light and healthy, but also totally delicious. You need to make these. Even you pumpkin skeptics need to.

Chickpeas, buckwheat flour, pumpkin puree... Sounds more like a vegan burger than cookies but trust me these are great! And did I mention easy to make? Blitz in a food processor and you're nearly in business.

These cookies are a lighter and softer version of my recently posted chocolate chip cookies. They are very different flavour and texture wise. The pumpkin in these make this recipe scream Fall, and the soft cake like texture screams cosy comfort. Healthy enough to enjoy for breakfast, these grain free, high fibre, protein rich cookies will hit the spot anytime. Use vegan chocolate chips to make this recipe totally vegan.

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup stoneground buckwheat flour
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4-5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3-4 tsps virgin coconut oil
  • Many drops of liquid stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 (or more) cup mini chocolate chips or chunks

In a food processor, blend all ingredients except chocolate chips until very smooth. Taste. Add as much stevia as you want, blending, until you achieve your desired sweetness (the batter should be as sweet as you want your cookies to be).

Once satisfied with the level of sweetness, add your chocolate and pulse to distribute the chocolate chips through the batter evenly. 

Using either a teaspoon or tablespoon, scoop the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet in spoon sized blobs, well spaced out in rows on the tray. I used two trays. Bake in oven preheated to 350F until golden brown on the edges. Remove and cool slightly before eating.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Perfect afternoon baking: grain-free chocolate chip cookies (super healthy!)

Its getting very chilly -- Fall is definitely here and in full swing. Since today was my rest day and was too cold for crazy walking adventures, I decided to spend some time baking. Little did I know I would stumble onto the best gluten free chocolate chip cookies I've ever made!

You may have noticed that I bake cookies a lot, especially chocolate chip cookies. I started to think about why I do that so frequently since they actually aren't much of a childhood favorite for me. When I was a wee baker, I did bake chocolate chip cookies often...and often was nonplussed by the result. My Oma (grandma) was a fabulous baker so I used her recipe but it was never great-- way too sweet and almost undercooked. I ended up almost exclusively buying chocolate chip cookies out after that and developed a passion for the well made dense and buttery chocolate chip cookies I found in cafes. Sweet but not crazy sweet, salty, buttery, vanilla scented, dense and chewy. To me that's a perfect chocolate chip cookie! So, for the past year or so I became fascinated with the idea of creating a healthy variation that lived up to my cookie wish list.

Today's recipe is pretty damn good and pretty damn close to my favorite cafe-style sinful cookies. You would not believe how innocent these decadent tasting cookies are. Low in sugar, refined sugar free, high in protein, low in fat, grain free, gluten free, nut free, soy free, fructose free and vegan. Eat as many as you like whenever you like!


My Favourite Grain Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I use BioItalia brand because they are delicious)
  • 2/3-3/4 cup stone ground buckwheat flour
  • big pinch pink salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • liquid stevia (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp (or more if desired) virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup mini vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Add the chickpeas to a food processor and blend well until crumbly. Add the buckwheat flour and blend until well combined. Add the oil, maple, baking soda and vanilla and blend until well combined. Taste the batter and add as much stevia as you think you need to achieve your desired sweetness. Blend in the stevia and taste again to ensure the dough is sweet enough. Once satisfied with the taste of your dough, add the chocolate chips and pulse to mix them through the dough evenly.
Using a teaspoon or a tablespoon, spoon blobs of the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them out evenly as you would for any cookie recipe. Shape the blobs into disks or flatten with the back of a fork for ridges. I sprinkled a tiny amount of pink salt over the whole batch for that salty sweet flavour profile.

Bake in the hot oven until semi firm to the touch. Enjoy warm or cold.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Perfected Raw Chocolate Avocado Mousse

There are no words for how amazingly delicious this avocado chocolate mousse is. I have made this dessert for years and this is the first time I can say I'm really proud of this version. For years I made the mistake of using bananas or only avocado in my raw chocolate mousse. I was consistently disappointed by the results. They were always too banana-y or too avocado-y. I have finally found the solution: pears.

Why it took me so long to throw pears in my raw chocolate mousse is beyond me. They are sinfully sweet, velvety smooth when blended and totally affordable. Not to mention avocados are known as alligator pears! It seems like a no-brainer in hindsight. 

Today's recipe is a new favourite and is so so good for you. I had it for brunch in fact! Oh, and it's ridiculously easy. Like "chop, blend, eat" easy. So really what's not to love about that! This recipe will nourish your body with vitamins, minerals, good fat, protein and fiber! If you are a woman, avocados and pears are two of your best friends as they are amazing foods for regulating your hormones and digestion -- not to mention flattening your stomach! Using stevia in this recipe is something I highly recommend as avocado mousse needs a lot of added sweetness to veil the underlying avocado flavour. If you are anti-stevia because of it's super saccharin flavour, take a tip from me as I used to feel the same way -- mix it with a touch of a real sweetener (maple syrup, agave, honey) and the alcohol-y taste will be well concealed in pretty much any dessert. I rarely use stevia solo as the flavour can be off putting but use it regularly in concert with liquid sweeteners to lower the amount of sugar in my baking. 

This is a great recipe for date night. It's indulgent, rich and creamy without any of the decadence that ordinarily saps your energy and upsets your stomach. It also doesn't hurt that pears and avocados are aphrodisiacs! This recipe is also a good one for kids and picky eaters. There is so much goodness hidden in here but it tastes like really delicious chocolate mousse or pudding. If you're single and don't have other mouths to feed, congratulations, you've got three or four servings of this mousse just for you!

I hope you give this one a try!

My Perfected Raw Chocolate Avocado Mousse:
  • 1.5-2 very large ripe avocados
  • 1 very large ripe red pear
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4-5 taps maple syrup
  • 2 big pinches pink salt
  • Liquid stevia
  • 3-4 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1.5 tsps vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp raw vanilla bean powder
Add all ingredients except stevia to a high speed blender. Blend until totally smooth and creamy, stopping to stir by hand to ensure everything gets blended as this mousse is quite thick. Taste! Add stevia to sweeten the mousse to your preferred level of sweetness, blending it in thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container until ready to serve. Stir through if refrigerating before serving.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My juice habit

Juice. Sometimes you've just gotta have it.

I'm not talking orange juice, or apple juice, my cravings are for "green" juices. Frrshly pressed organic vegetable juices to be exact. If you haven't tried them you may be imagining green slime, but you're wrong! I mean, just look at that beautiful red juice up there! Its so vibrant you'd think it was as a blueberry smoothie! But you'd be so wrong! That, my friends, is a homemade beet, carrot, cucumber, celery, spinach, lemon, ginger and pear juice. Its also divine.

For those of you who do indulge in juice out but haven't opted to buy your own vegetable juicer, this juice was made by me without a juicer! And as a person who tends to buy a crazy expensive pressed green juice once a week, this homemade one is just as good and better because I could add whatever ingredients I wanted without a huge bill! Woo. No more $8 Saturday juice trips for this girl.

To make this juice, or any other vegetable juice without a juicer all you need is a blender, a cheese, a strainer if you prefer fibre free juices and a little patience. The work is totally worth the reward.

I like to enjoy a big veggie juice on weekends because it gives me a burst of clean energy and keeps my healthy eating on track. I used to pay way too much for juice on weekends, justifying it because I rarely eat out or buy coffees etc. But I think I just broke that habit and found a new ritual!

No-juicer Bloody Good Juice

  • 1/2 large red beet, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1 carrot, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1 baby cucumber
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 large ripe pear
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • Liquid stevia, to taste 
Add all ingredients except stevia to a high speed blender and blend for several minutes until totally smooth. Taste. Add as much stevia to your taste and blend.

Serve immediately or strain and serve using a fine mesh sieve for a fibre-free juice (to absorb the nutrients more quickly).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Raw Vegan Cookie Bites

It's that time of the no, not that time of the month. It's the 22nd which means it's Recipe Redux time! 

Today's theme is dehydrated, meaning either showing yo all how to dehydrate something or how I love to use dehydrated foods in a recipe. Luckily I've been on a bit of a raw food bender so this theme was easy! I love dehydrated foods, especially dried fruits like raisins and dates. I eat them daily in fact. I use dried fruit in so many recipes instead of sweeteners and sugar. Dates make a great substitute for brown sugar, I recommend organic Medjool dates as for me they offer the most indulgent texture and flavour. 

For today's challenge I decided to create some chocolate chip style cookies using nuts and dehydrated fruit. I think of these as "cookie dough cookies" because they have a doughy rather than firm or crisp consistency. If you prefer a firmer snack you can actually dehydrate the cookies themselves for a sturdier texture. I prefer the soft and buttery texture of these cookies though so I don't bother with that step. If you don't have a dehydrator you can throw these babies in the oven on the lowest setting for a few hours or simply add a little coconut oil to the mix and freeze them to get a remarkable sturdiness. 

I often make cookies like these ones either using nuts or shredded coconut. I make a large batch, roll them into balls, flatten them and freeze them for quick snack attacks. If you've never tried making raw cookies, take the plunge! They are some of the easiest desserts around and are as nutritious as they are delicious!

Raw Vegan Cookie Bites
  • 2-3 tbsp jumbo raisins
  • 5 Medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw pecans
  • 1/4 cup +2 tbsp raw cashews
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil (for firm cookies)
  • large handful vegan chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life as they are vegan and gluten-free) or cacao nibs (to keep things raw)
Add all ingredients except the chocolate chips to a food processor an blend on high until they are finely ground. Add less than 1 tbsp of water and blend well until the mixture turns into dough. Add the chocolate chips and pulse to distribute evenly. Roll into little balls and place on  a parchment lined baking sheet. 

**Freeze to firm up or dehydrate for a firmer texture. These cookies will be doughy even if frozen if you do not use the coconut oil. If you do use the oil than they will freeze semi solid. **