Vegan Morning Glory Muffins

I never met a muffin I didn’t like. I especially love Morning Glory Muffins, however I find most to be very dense and filling. So I was intrigued when I found a recipe for Vegan Morning Glory Muffins on Food 52 recently. They don’t contain any eggs and are sweetened with Date Paste which I was glad about because I have had a package of dates in my freezer for a while that I wanted to use. Since my husband is diabetic, I am also looking for alternative sweeteners that are natural. The first batch I made tasted great and we ate them all in about a week. They were so good I made another batch. What makes them so wonderful is that they are nice and light but still substantial like a good Morning Glory Muffin should be.

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Vegan Morning Glory Muffins
(From Food 52) Makes 1 dozen
•1 1/2 tablespoon flax meal
•1/4 cup warm water
•2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
•2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
•2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup raisins
•1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
•1 tablespoon grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon ginger, ground)
•1 cup date paste (See Recipe Below)
•1/2 cup organic sugar
•1 cup soy or almond milk
•6 tablespoons canola oil
•1 1/2 cup grated carrot
•1 small apple, grated

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line 12 muffin tins with liners, or oil them lightly.
Mix the flax meal and warm water together; set the mixture aside to let it “gel.”
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the raisins, walnuts, and ginger.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the date paste, sugar if desired, non-dairy milk, and oil. Stir in the flax mixture.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones until everything is well incorporated, and then fold in the carrot and apple.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Allow them to cool before enjoying.

Date Paste
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1 cup medjool dates, pitted and packed
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) salt

Place the dates into a large bowl. Bring the water to a gentle boil, then pour it over the dates. Allow them to soak for 20 minutes (or up to an hour).
Drain the dates, reserving 1/2 cup of the soak water. Add them to a blender with the reserved water, the vanilla, and the salt. Blend till the mixture is totally smooth.
Date paste can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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This is my favorite way to cook brussel sprouts. It brings out the flavor of the sprouts without being mushy. The secret to getting perfectly roasted brussel sprouts however is to blanch them for 30 seconds before roasting. This sets the color and results in beautiful little orbs of goodness.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ bacon onion jam

1 lb. of brussel sprouts (rinse and pull off outer leaves)
4 qts. of boiling water
Blanch the brussel sprouts for 30 seconds and then plunge into a bowl of ice water to set the color, let cool.
Cut large brussel sprouts in half, leave small ones whole
Put brussel sprouts onto roasting pan
Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, use your hands to get olive oil all over the sprouts and make sure they are cut side down on the pan.
Roast in 400 degree oven until golden brown.
When done put in serving bowl and mix in bacon onion jam
Can be served warm or at room temperature

Bacon Onion Jam

INGREDIENTS

¾ pound slab bacon, diced into cubes
4 medium-size white or Spanish onions, peeled and diced
1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed
2 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

Set a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat, and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is completely rendered and the bacon has started to crisp, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, and add the onions, mustard seed, brown sugar, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine, then cover the pot, lower the heat and allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the top, stir again and then partly cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cook until most of the liquid is gone and the onions have achieved a dark brown jamminess, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. (Add a little more water as needed.)
Taste the jam, and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Remove mixture from heat, and allow to cool slightly. Spoon the jam into a jar or bowl, then allow to cool completely. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

It’s Soup Time

Last week it rained in Los Angeles. A rare occurrence since we are in the throes of a severe drought. I love the rain and I love to make soups when it rains. So I made two soups I have never made before from my favorite cooking resource America’s Test Kitchen. The first one is a creamy cauliflower soup made without cream. A very simple soup with a few ingredients, low in calories and low Weight Watcher points. The second one was a wild rice and mushroom soup. A flavorful and filling soup that is great with crusty bread.

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 head cauliflower (2 pounds)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Salt and pepper
4 1/2 – 5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; thinly slice core and reserve. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium-high; add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower; and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, 15 to 20 minutes longer.

4. While soup simmers, melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and imparts nutty aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer florets to small bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste. Pour browned butter in skillet into small bowl and reserve for garnishing.

5. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Rinse out pan. Return pureed soup to pan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, and chives and seasoning with pepper to taste.

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Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

INGREDIENTS

1/4 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
4 1/4 cups water
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled, plus 4 cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup wild rice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grind shiitake mushrooms in spice grinder until finely ground (you should have about 3 tablespoons).

2. Bring 4 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, garlic clove, ¾ teaspoon salt, and baking soda to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Add rice and return to boil. Cover saucepan, transfer to oven, and bake until rice is tender, 35 to 50 minutes. Strain rice through fine-mesh strainer set in 4-cup liquid measuring cup; discard thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Add enough water to reserved cooking liquid to measure 3 cups.

3. Melt butter in Dutch oven over high heat. Add cremini mushrooms, onion, minced garlic, tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and dark fond develops on bottom of pot, 15 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until reduced and pot is almost dry, about 2 minutes. Add ground shiitake mushrooms, reserved rice cooking liquid, broth, and soy sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until onion and mushrooms are tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Whisk cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup water in small bowl. Stir cornstarch slurry into soup, return to simmer, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in cooked rice, cream, chives, and lemon zest. At this point should be fairly thick so thin it out with some additional hot water until it is a soup consistency. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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Spicy Pumpkin Loaves

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When Halloween gets close, it reminds me every year to make my favorite pumpkin bread. This is a recipe I have tweaked over many years to get just right. It’s moist and delicious with spice and sweetness that screams “FALL IS HERE!” I make many mini-loaves to share with friends and family and it’s a huge hit. It also freezes extremely well so it’s a perfect holiday baking treat.

6 eggs

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups canola oil

1 large can (29 oz) solid pack pumpkin

5 1/4 cups AP flour (I use King Arthur’s unbleached white whole wheat flour)

1 1/2 t salt

1 T each of baking soda, ground allspice and ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

3/4 cup raisins (optional)

Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar, oil and pumpkin. Mix well. In another bowl, mix the flour, salt and spices using a whisk to get good distribution. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir until just blended. If using, stir in the nuts and raisins.

Grease and flour 12 mini-loaf pans (3 1/2 x 5”). You can instead spray the pans with Pam Baking Spray with Flour though you will get a slightly better result doing it the old fashioned way. Allow 1 cup of batter per pan. Note: if you eliminate the nuts and raisins like I do for my kids, you will end up with less batter. Bake in a 350 degree oven until a wooden pick comes out clean from the center, about 40 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes and then remove from pan to cool on racks completely.

Wrap airtight in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for longer. To freeze, place plastic wrapped loaves in sealed bags for best results. Enjoy!