Vegan Dairy Fair Offers Tempting Treats

Demo with The Doctor and The Chef

The Doctor and The Chef demo at Vegan Dairy Fair

Another Vegan Dairy Fair wrapped up yesterday in Boulder, Colorado. This tasty event, an educational project sponsored by Dale Ball and Bleating Hearts Sanctuary, offered the chance to sample plant-based dairy creations. While snacking on non-dairy ice cream, yogurts, and dips, I learned why these food choices are important to humans and animals.

The fair also provided cooking demos – my personal favorite part of the day (yes, I got new recipe ideas for the blog). First up were Mark Reinfield and Ashley Boudet, ND of The Doctor and The Chef. Mark regaled us with vegan jokes and demonstrated recipes from their new book, “The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan.” Mark showed how to make the delicious concoctions with Ashley reporting on the dishes’ nutritional highlights. Not only did I get to eat, but I was shown why the options chosen were good for my health. Win-Win!

Then it was time to check out the vendors with food selections from national companies as well as local businesses. From this showcase of sweet and savory snacks, I enjoyed cheese sauces, non-dairy milks, and caramels. But having tried and failed to make vegan donuts myself, my hat heartily goes off to Rustic Donut who bake a scrumptious donut that is not only vegan but also gluten-free.

Dale Ball introducing Kathy Peters

Dale Ball introducing Kathy Peters

The last cooking class was given by vegan mentor Kathy Peters, who made a versatile and yummy Vanilla Pastry Cream. She also gave instructions on how to use various non-dairy ingredients in vegan desserts. Her joy of vegan food preparation obviously spills out onto her family because they each had a part in her presentation. That seemed to be a thread that ran throughout the day – one of including friends and family while you honor your health and that of the animals and the earth.

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Apricot Nut Bars

Apricot Nut Bars

Apricot Nut Bars

Today’s recipe had quite the evolution. The initial idea was to make a no-bake bar, but then my hubby said the creation needed more chocolate. My mind wandered to chocolate bark as a topping, with a nod to Mediterranean flavors. What started out as a recipe with few ingredients morphed into a multi-step concoction. When I explained what I was about to construct, hubby’s response was that it didn’t sound simple. I said no-bake, I didn’t say simple …

The experiment began with a raw bar recipe. The changes I made were just from my imagination. I reduced the amount of tahini because the original crust was too oily. I added more chocolate to keep hubby happy. The additional ingredients borrowed loosely from baklava while adding a cardamom syrup for depth. The result was a delicious burst of flavor.

Apricot Nut Bars based on No-Bake Cashew Tahini Bars

1.5 cups raw cashews
1 cup soft, pitted dates, tightly packed
1/3 cup tahini
4.5 ounces vegan dark chocolate, divided
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
2 TBS Cardamom Syrup (recipe to follow)

Line an 8” square baking pan with 2 overlapping strips of parchment paper and set aside. Add cashews to a food processor and pulse until mostly broken down. Add dates and tahini and mix until it just comes together. With your hands, press the dough into the prepared pan and smooth it out.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate until smooth and creamy. Use a spatula to spread most of the chocolate over the bars. Sprinkle the apricots over the bars, then add the pistachios on top. Drizzle first the cardamom syrup and then the remaining chocolate over the top of the bars. Place in freezer for an hour. Lift out of the pan by the parchment sling, place on a cutting board, and cut into squares.

cardamom seeds for syrup

cardamom seeds for the syrup

Cardamom Syrup adapted from Spiced Simple Syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir in cardamom seeds. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store leftovers in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. You will have extra — I use mine to sweeten tea.

Happy non-baking!

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Are you wondering if you stumbled on a gardening blog? Well, you haven’t, but I couldn’t resist tying my cupcakes in with Earth Day by potting them. I slipped them into little terra cotta pots and stuck carrot greens into the little cakes. It makes a wonderful presentation for both Easter and Earth Day, both of which are happening now. To serve them, just take them out of the pots, remove the greenery, and slather with frosting. Now, on to the recipe so we can get to eating these cute and tasty cakes.

Before I share the cupcake directions, I need to let you in on some of the changes that occurred before they could take shape. The original vegan recipe was for a cake, so I chose to go with regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour. Pastry flour will give the delicate crumb you look for in a cake, but I wanted more hand-held sturdiness for cupcakes. I also scaled back on both the baking soda and baking powder because the smaller size didn’t need that much oomph, especially in high altitude baking.

Normally I add moisture at high altitude, but this cake had loads more moisture than the other carrot cake recipes that I found. I knew that it would be great at high altitude, which is what led me to base my cupcake creations on the original recipe. Also, many recipes used carrot juice, which can be a difficult to obtain, but this one used orange juice which is readily available. And, I’m not one who likes raisins in her carrot cake so instead I used raw walnuts and lightly toasted them to bring out their nutty flavor. The combination was a winner. My taster and I polished off three cupcakes before I even had a chance to make the frosting!

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day inspired by 24 Karrot Cake

1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 TBS orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, shredded carrots, loosely packed (optional: save carrot greens for decoration)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly oil the top of a 12-muffin tin, then line with paper cups. Set aside. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet. When the oven is ready, lightly toast the walnuts until they become fragrant.

Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and vanilla until well blended. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir grated carrots into the batter with a rubber spatula.

carrots with their decorative greenery

carrots with their decorative greenery

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a thin knife between the cupcake tops and the pan. Remove cupcakes and cool completely. When cooled, drizzle with the frosting below.

Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

8 oz vegan cream cheese, cold
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Keep chilled.

Until next time, happy baking!

What to do when your brown sugar is hard as a rock

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

Occasionally I will replace the type of sugar used in a recipe with something else I have on hand. The choice may be because the alternate sugar is healthier, but sometimes it is because brown sugar is required but I have none that is useable. The sugar I have often turns into a hard clump (thank you, dry climate). If you are plagued by this same problem, then this post is here to save the day.

For the issue of brown sugar resembling a door stop, I looked to The Spruce Eats. First off, they explained that “(t)he moisture in brown sugar evaporates much faster than in other similar products and causes the sugar to harden. To remedy this problem, you … can either restore the moisture content or prevent it from evaporating in the first place.”

One of their tricks confronts the problem when you need soft brown sugar right now. They recommend that you “place the brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave the sugar in 20-second increments until it is soft. You can use your fingers or a fork to soften any clumps that remain.” I cannot do this fix because I do not have a microwave. (I see you nodding as you realize why my recipes never talk about using a microwave to heat things up.)

Another suggestion from The Spruce Eats is for when you have thought ahead and do not need soft brown sugar this second. I have never tried this technique either because thinking ahead is not my strong suit when it comes to food. But, here goes: “place a few apple slices (or a slice of bread) in an air-tight container with the brown sugar. Then remove the apple slices or bread when the sugar has softened. You can also place the brown sugar in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it sit overnight.”

My solution to this circumstance is to include a brown sugar saver with my sugar. I tried various methods of doing this, including sticking one of the damp terra cotta stones in the zipper bag of sugar, but had no success until a helpful Sur La Table salesman told me I was using the saver incorrectly. The new instructions involved thoroughly soaking the stone for a whole 10 minutes in a bowl of water, then lightly patting it off before inserting it into the sugar. I took it a step further and poured the sugar out of the bag into a (recycled) jar before I put the brown sugar saver in.

I approached the situation by bringing moisture back to the sugar while also attempting to stave off moisture loss. Now I always have soft brown sugar.

Caramel Brownies

Caramel Brownies

Caramel Brownies

Since I moved to high altitude, I have had a love-hate relationship with brownies. I love to eat them, but I hate to bake them because vegan brownies up higher are difficult to get right. I decided to take a different approach to succeeding at this task. Generally, I had been looking at non-vegan, low altitude recipes and then making a few guesses at how to adjust them. This time I looked at a non-traditional vegan blondie recipe, and when I made my changes it worked. No soggy center and lack of any evidence that they had risen! Now I can go back to loving brownies.

First off, to get them from a blondie to a brownie I added cacao powder. I also added chocolate chips because you can never get too much chocolate. I deleted the almonds to help the chocolate and caramel tastes come to the forefront. Then, for altitude, I added liquids. I also added baking powder which is unusual at altitude, but it helped the wetter brownies to rise.

Caramel Brownies inspired by Caramel-Almond Blondies

3.5 TBS warm water
1/2 tsp Navitas Organics chia seeds
6 TBS almond butter
1/4 cup organic light brown sugar, lightly packed
1.5 TBS agave nectar
1.5 tsp almond milk
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
2 tsp Navitas Organics maca powder
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1-2 TBS vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 4 x 2” loaf pan with two pieces of parchment paper, overlapping the pieces to create a sling that hangs over the sides of the pan slightly. Put 1.5 TBS water in a small bowl with the chia seeds and stir to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.

Add the remaining 2 TBS water to a large bowl along with the almond butter, brown sugar, agave nectar, milk, and vanilla extract. Add in the chia gel. Stir until the mixture is well combined. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cacao powder, maca powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Navitas Organics maca, chia, cacao

Navitas Organics maca, chia, cacao

Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and push it out to the edges. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the top feels dry. Take the pan out of the oven and scatter the chocolate chips over the hot brownies. When slightly melted, run a fork through the chocolate to spread it over the top. Let them cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use the paper sling to remove to a wire rack to cool. Cut into 6 pieces when fully cooled.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Bread with Coffee Glaze

chocolate chip bread with coffee glaze

chocolate chip bread with coffee glaze

This week I was inspired by my hubby’s favorite Sunday breakfast — maple syrup dotted chocolate chip pancakes accompanied by an espresso drink. So for his tastebuds, and for yours, I sought out a chocolate chip quick bread to easily recreate the experience. The recipe I found was sweetened with maple syrup that echoes his syrupy pancakes. Then I decided that a coffee drizzle would really elevate the bread by combining chocolate and coffee. Hubby’s favorite flavor after chocolate is coffee, so the bread was a success.

To account for high altitude I made several changes. For better structure boosted by the extra protein in all purpose flour, I chose that type of flour instead of the pastry flour called for in the recipe. I also added a bit more flour for altitude. Next I reduced the baking powder and increased the baking soda for a bread that never fell, despite the high altitude. The original recipe was for a fruit bread so I easily exchanged chocolate chips for the fruit. I also added vanilla extract to enhance the chocolate chip taste and add moisture. This tea bread turned out beautiful and delicious.

Chocolate Chip Bread with Coffee Glaze inspired by Sweet and Natural by Meredith McCarty

for the bread
1.5 cups + 1 TBS all purpose flour
1.25 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels)
for the coffee glaze
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
1 TBS non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp coffee extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the inside of two of the four sections of a mini loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, 1/2 cup milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk together until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to the two mini loaf sections. Bake for 32-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool the loaves on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then allow them to fully cool. Once cool remove the bread by running a knife around the sides of the bread and inverting the pan onto a wire rack. Next flip the bread right-side up onto a plate.

For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and coffee extract in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the bread once the bread is completely cooled.

Enjoy Life morsels with chocolate chip bread

Enjoy Life morsels with chocolate chip bread

Until next time, happy baking!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

A few years ago I attended a workshop on chocolate making. It was interesting to learn how to create chocolate from scratch and the technique for making it snap when breaking it up into pieces. As much fun as the class was, that process is a bit time consuming and you have to be diligent while your creation is on the stove. More recently I have discovered healthier fudge recipes that are less demanding and produce treats that have less impact on blood sugar balance.

Because the recipe I modified was vegan and did not need baking, it required no adjustments for those. Instead, I decided to change up the recipe and create a classic peanut butter and jelly combo. You can use any nut butter and jelly you prefer, but the texture may change. I added extra (yummy smelling) Navitas Organic cacao butter to help thicken up my fudge,

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge adapted from Double Chocolate Salted Freezer Fudge

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 cup + 1 TBS Navitas Organics cacao butter
1/4 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt

Prepare a mini muffin tin with small paper liners. In a medium pan over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and smooth, working to incorporate any lumps. Spoon into the lined muffin tin and place tin in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Let candies sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

Note: When making chocolate, choose a food-grade cocoa butter such as Navitas Organics cacao butter. Some products are used for making toiletries and may not be pure cocoa butter.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Lucky St. Pat’s Cupcakes

Lucky St. Pat's Cupcakes

Lucky St. Pat’s Cupcakes

Today commemorates Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In the U.S. that means we break out anything green. For a baker that means food coloring will play a role in what we create. I have shared very few vanilla cupcakes and wished to produce one, but I didn’t want a green cake. So, green frosting was a must.

The recipe I found in my cookbook collection was vegan. I added chocolate chips because hubby needs his chocolate fix. Another change was to remove the cornstarch due to allergies. The cornstarch was used in the recipe to help create a light texture, but I did fine with adding a bit more baking soda. For high altitude I added flour and water and reduced the baking powder. Now you can raise a cupcake and toast a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lucky St. Pat’s Cupcakes adapted from Golden Vanilla Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

For the cupcakes:
1 cup + 1 TBS vanilla non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 + 1 TBS cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
generous 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup organic sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
For the frosting:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup vegan margarine
3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
1/4 – 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
3 TBS non-dairy milk
vegan food coloring (see Note below)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cupcake pan with paper liners. Whisk the milk and vinegar in a cup and set aside a few minutes to curdle. Whisk together the milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until no large lumps remain. Blend in the chocolate chips. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 22 to 24 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely while you make the frosting.

Color Garden green food color

Color Garden green food color

For the frosting, beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, and beat for 3 more minutes. Add the peppermint extract, milk, and food coloring, and beat for another 5 minutes until fluffy. Frost the cooled cupcakes, adding chocolate coins for decoration and a bit o’ luck.

Note: I used Color Garden natural food coloring. Per their instructions, I used half a packet. Please check the instructions of the brand that you use.

Until next time, happy baking!

Coffee Shop Muffins

Coffee Shop Muffins

Coffee Shop Muffins

On some Sundays I just want to sit around and enjoy a cup of tea and a delicious muffin, or two, or three. (But, who’s counting.) For this Sunday, I decided to find a recipe for a muffin that went well with coffee. With a little espresso powder and cinnamon, these muffins would complement a cup of coffee, or even tea or non-dairy milk. And if you eat half a batch, it will just be our secret.

For high altitude, I reduced the baking powder but found I lost some lift. To fix this problem I included some baking soda with the baking powder. I also added a little more milk to counteract dryness. For a little health boost, and so I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating a few extra muffins, I used whole wheat flour along with the all purpose variety.

Coffee Shop Muffins adapted from “Vegan: 100 Everyday Recipes” edited by Love Food

1.25 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1.75 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 TBS espresso powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup vegan sugar
1 cup + 1.5 tsp almond milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 TBS vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners. In a large bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and cinnamon. Whisk in sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in walnuts. Mix until just combined.

Divide batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan.

Until next time, happy baking!

Spicy Gluten-free Pumpkin Cookies

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies

Spicy Gluten-free Pumpkin Cookies

You may be thinking that pumpkin season is long gone. And you would be right. This batch of cookies was made several months ago and then frozen. I wanted a back-up cookie that would do well from the freezer. They performed marvelously, or I probably wouldn’t have shared them with you. But now you know that you can make these and stash them away in the freezer for future decadent snacking.

The original vegan recipe had tips for using coconut sugar instead of light brown sugar. I opted for coconut sugar, because I was out of light brown sugar, so I heeded the advice and measured it out and then ground it up. Also, I would have used less vegan margarine for the dryness at altitude, but I used more due to the recommendation with the sugar swap. To further combat dryness, I added extra pumpkin puree. So enjoy these immediately, or freeze them for when you get an attack of the munchies any time of year.

Spicy Gluten-free Pumpkin Cookies based on Chewy Pumpkin Spice Molasses Cookies


2 cups gluten free flour blend
1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
pinch of powdered cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup vegan cane sugar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/8 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tsp pumpkin puree
sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Measure out coconut sugar, then grind it in a coffee grinder that is not used for coffee. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place vegan margarine and both sugars and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, vanilla, and pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients to stand mixer a little at a time while mixing on low speed. Mix until just combined.

Pour a few tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Form 1” balls of dough and roll in sugar. Place balls on lined cookie sheets and flatten them slightly with the heel of your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.

frozen pumpkin cookies

frozen pumpkin cookies

To freeze, scoop sugared dough balls onto a cookie sheet and freeze for one hour. Place dough balls in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Until next time, happy baking (and freezing)!