Monday, August 4, 2014

You made brownies out of *what*? – GF/vegan black bean brownies and peanut butter-chickpea squares

Legumes (i.e. beans and peas, as well as peanuts) are one of the major sources of protein in my diet. So when I discovered that I could make desserts out of legumes, I was thrilled: not only was this an easy way to make a gluten-free dessert, but it also came with a protein hit that made me feel less guilty about the amount of dessert I was eating. Once I add in ground flax seed (instead of eggs), they're practically health food! And usually they are "throw everything in the food processor" recipes, which are my favourite - less effort, fewer dishes - what's not to love?

The classic legume-based dessert are black bean brownies, which have been a staple of gluten-free desserts for a long time, in part because they are so easy to make: instead of having to buy fancy gluten-free flours, one only needs to puree a can of black beans (usually available for <$2 in Canadian supermarkets). However, traditionally black bean brownies depend on a lot of eggs to hold them together. I rarely buy eggs and so I try to find recipes that don't use them, both for allergy reasons and also just convenience, but it's taken me a number of years to track down a vegan black bean brownie recipe that works. But never fear - I have succeeded!

Shortly after, I was introduced to a recipe for peanut butter-chocolate chip squares. They are sweetened with maple syrup, and thus are fairly low sugar (unless you buy overly-sweetened chocolate chips, like I did by mistake). But definitely an awesome high-protein snack when the sweet tooth kicks in.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Oil-Free Chocolate Layer Cake - Yes, It's Actually Good!

As I've recently mentioned extensively, I've been busy learning how to cook and bake for someone who doesn't want any added oil in their food. They're also vegan, gluten-free, and allergic to almonds. Add in my soy allergy, and this is a whole ridiculous can of specialty-baking worms. But it was a special occasion, and I wanted to make sure that he got to have his birthday cake and eat it too. So I turned to three of my trustiest sources: my Forks Over Knives Cookbook for an oil-free cake recipe, Gluten-Free Goddess for a tried-and-true gluten-free flour blend, and my trusty repertoire of cooking tips picked up from years of watching Food Network.

This recipe took a few tries to get right, and is a bit more finicky than my usual go-to gluten-free/vegan mocha cake recipe. I initially made this new recipe in cupcake form, and while the cupcakes turned out ok, the outsides were a bit tough and separated from the insides. The second time round, when I was baking the cake pictured above, I tweaked the flour blend (originally I'd used a store-bought GF flour mix) and was more careful with the melted chocolate to make sure it didn't seize. This turned out much better. The recipe as written makes for quite a flat cake, though, so for prettier presentation (and to feed more people), I turned it into a layer cake. Add a strawberry vanilla filling and sugar-and-oil-free fudgy frosting, and I had myself a cake that was popular with even the non-diet-restricted party goers. Plus, it looks pretty damn gorgeous, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rockin' Moroccan Stew: Variations on a Theme

The best part of the Looneyspoons cookbook series is definitely the recipe names.  The cookbooks are by Janet & Greta Podleski, and other titles in the series include Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink & Be Merry. The books feature easy, low-fat recipes, although I have issues with the amount of sugar that's used in many of the recipes to replace the fat. Despite this unfortunate tendancy, several of their recipes are definitely winners, and Rockin' Moroccan Stew is definitely one of them. (I'm also a big fan of On Golden Prawns, a curried shrimp dish.)

I first made this recipe as a teenager, when I still lived at home and was still learning to cook things more complicated than grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna salad - although, believe you me, I made a mean tuna salad. Anyway, I made the stew, thought it was tasty, and then forgot about it for years, until a family reunion last year when one my cousins busted out the recipe to feed a vegan relative.  Having been reminded how incredibly delicious this recipe actually is, it's become a staple of my kitchen.
However, the recipe didn't stop there. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a relative who has gone not only vegan, but completely fat-free as well. That means no cooking things in oil, no adding in any nuts or oily ingredients for flavour, etc. As it turns out, with some modifications, this recipe converts very well to an oil-free form. The flavour is a bit different - it's less creamy and tastes a bit more like chili - but it's still an extremely delicious option for anyone needing to cut fat out of their diet. We've served it alongside catered food at parties, to rave reviews. And this recipe also works very well in the crock pot, for easy preparation.

So here I present Rockin' Moroccan Stew, three ways: the original recipe, my modifications (for taste), and a fat-free alternative option.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fat-Free, Refined-Sugar-Free, Super-Rich Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Fudgy frosting on top of my favourite mocha cake recipe
Imagine a rich, decadent chocolate cake frosting, which incidentally also tastes great on ice cream (or substitute of choice), and makes a great base for chocolate milk. Now imagine I told you that this frosting was completely fat-free, and also didn't use any icing sugar - in fact, it only has 1 tbsp of maple syrup, and the rest of the sweetness comes from fruit.  That's right: the whole frosting is based around dried dates.

Well, if you're like me, you're probably pretty skeptical. I certainly was when I first came across the recipe. But the end result won me over completely. This is now my go-to frosting recipe. It's safe to feed to all my friends and family with food restrictions, and better yet, it's easy to make, keeps in the fridge for weeks, spreads better than any chocolate icing I've made before, and I feel almost completely guilt-free when eating it.  And I have fed it to at least 50 people, all of whom thought it was delicious, and none of whom noticed it wasn't full of a million calories.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tahini Salad Dressing

I am a huge fan of tahini. (This isn't surprising, as I am a fan of anything sesame based - spinach gomae salads, sesame mochi desserts, the sesame-sugar wafers sold 3/$1 at grocery stores, etc.)  Originally brought into my kitchen for the purpose of making hummus, which I used to do a lot, it has since because a key component of my vegan bechamel sauce, and a handy replacement for peanut or nut butter when I want toast but haven't been to the store in awhile. For a Greek-themed party earlier this year, I even made a gluten-free version of tahinopita (a vegan cake that uses tahini to replace the oil, dairy and eggs).  But over the past couple of years, I have started to obsess over tahini in a new form - as a sauce/salad dressing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Muffins and Cupcakes

Recently, I have been going to a lot of parties - specifically, brunch parties.  Now, most brunch foods aren't especially portable to begin with (pancakes, French toast and waffles all tend to go soggy), and those that are (e.g. quiche, cinnamon buns) don't tend to work very well with a gluten-free, dairy-free, low-egg diet.  So, I decided it was time to start experimenting with muffins. And once I pulled out the muffin tin (and my mini muffin tin, i.e. my newest kitchen baby), well, there was no stopping me.

The beauty of muffins and cupcakes are that they are portable. The beauty of a mini-muffin tin is the ability to make party-sized muffins (there are lots to go around). And because muffins and cupcakes are baked in the same tins, there is a nice continuum between "healthy muffins" and "totally decadent cupcakes" (banana cupcakes fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum).

So I thought I would share two of my new favourite recipes. One is a hearty muffin recipe, perfect for breakfast or brunch; the other is a luscious mocha cupcake recipe, perfect for dessert for all parties. Both have the added benefit of being gluten-free and vegan!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Most Heavenly Soup Ever to Come Out of My Kitchen

So last weekend I was in Victoria, home of some of the best gluten-free and vegan eats in the province (although with places like Bandidas and The Wallflower, Vancouver is still definitely in the race). But anyway, I was at Santé Gluten-Free café (which is on Quadra near Hillside, and I recommend it to anyone gluten-free in Victoria - lots of dairy-free options too!), and I noticed that in their frozen soup section, they had a coconut-kale blended soup.  Well, this sounded like pretty much the greatest thing ever, so I made a mental note to try making it as soon as I had a chance.  I did a bit of googling for recipe suggestions, but mostly put together a soup with what I already had on hand.  The end result was a creamy, rich deliciousness that I haven't experienced since I could have potato-leek soup with real cream.  I am in soup heaven.  (And to think that two years ago I was convinced that I could never make a decent pot of soup.) Plus, in addition to two bunches of kale, the soup is also full of red lentils, for protein and fiber, and sweet potatoes, which have a shockingly high number of nutrients.  So it's delicious AND healthy!  (Except for the coconut cream, anyway...)