For Valentine’s Day I wanted to give you a box of chocolates. The recipe here includes ginger and cinnamon for spiciness and rose petals for romance. When you add in the chocolate you have an additional superfood to inspire passion and stamina.
The recipe I found was already vegan, but I switched out some of the flavorings to accent heat and passion. It isn’t a baked treat, but instead it is made with chocolate molds so you can choose your favorite meaningful shapes. I found an adorable love birds mold and also added extra rose petals to a floral mold. With love …
Valentine’s Day Chocolates adapted from The Herbal Academy
6 ounces vegan dark chocolate, broken up
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 TBS crushed dried rose petals
1 TBS chopped candied ginger
Melt chocolate in a double boiler ensuring that no water gets into the pot with the chocolate. Once chocolate has melted, fold in cardamom, cinnamon, rose petals, and candied ginger. Stir well and remove bowl with chocolate. Pour chocolate mixture into molds, adding extra crushed rose petals to mold first, if desired. Smooth out with a spatula. Keep in fridge until hardened. Once chocolate has set, remove from molds.
It’s almost Halloween and that means … candy! I know it’s not baking but I had never successfully made candy before and I like a challenge. I found a recipe using simple, natural ingredients (read – no corn syrup) so I gave it a whirl.
A few tips about candy making: 1) Set aside some time to make this and be patient. The process of heating the sugar mixture seems slow but it will happen. 2) Do not leave the pot unattended. I attempted candy making once years ago, but each time I did I got distracted and ruined it. My recent attempt at Halloween candy met with the phone ringing and then the door ringing seconds later. I was mere degrees from the correct temperature so I wisely ignored both. Shortly thereafter the honey smell became very strong and then instantly I hit the right temp. A few seconds later and it would have burned. 3) Wash the pot and utensils immediately after pouring the mixture into the molds. I washed the pot and thermometer quickly after pouring but I forgot the spoon for a few minutes. Getting the now-hard candy off of the spoon was more difficult than you would imagine. 4) This recipe makes 20 round lollipops, but molds vary. I had a tray with parchment paper at the ready for pouring out the overage. Do not use the extra to overfill the molds. Overly full molds are a pain to unmold.
In case you’re still wondering about cooking candy and not baking, I can let you know that my chocoholic taster was very enthused with the finished product in spite of the lack of chocolate.
Ginger Lollipops adapted from achs.edu
vegetable oil, to grease molds
candied ginger, chopped very fine
2 cups organic sugar
2/3 cups agave nectar
3/4 cup water
10 drops organic ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil
Use oil to grease lollipop molds. Drop a few pieces of candied ginger into each mold. Insert lollipop sticks and set aside. In a heavy-duty saucepan, combine sugar, agave and water. Insert candy thermometer, making sure not to touch bottom of pan. Cook at medium heat, stirring until ingredients are dissolved. Check pan occasionally to make sure mixture is not bubbling over.
Once thermometer reaches 300F, remove from stove. Once bubbling subsides, add ginger essential oil. Stir well. Pour mixture carefully into molds, making sure sticks remain secure. Let cool before removing from molds. (If lollipops are difficult to remove, briefly run hot water over back of mold tray.) Place in plastic bags or plastic wrap.
I became a victim of an overabundance of zucchini. I also became a victim (or hero) of my baking science geekiness and picked up “Naturally Sweet” by America’s Test Kitchen. The cookbook analyzed familiar recipes and devised ways to make them with less sugar. One recipe in the book required baking with zucchini so I jumped at a chance to try it.
For high altitude I added more flour and less baking powder. I opted for applesauce as my vegan egg substitute because it would add in some moisture needed at high altitude. For a flavor boost I swapped the spices with ginger and the nuts with chocolate chips. The bread is loaded with zucchini but also low in sugar, so it’s good for you. Right?
Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips adapted from Naturally Sweet
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, shredded
3/4 cups coconut sugar, plus 1 TBS for sprinkling
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F. Grease a four-cavity mini loaf pan. Place zucchini in center of a dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible. Discard liquid. In a medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cups sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla together. Stir in zucchini until combined.
In a large bowl, whisk both flours, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Using rubber spatula, stir in zucchini mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scrape batter evenly into cavities of prepared pan, smooth tops, and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of a loaf comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 28-32 minutes. Let loaves cool in pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool 30 minutes more.
To embrace a new year of healthier baking, I thought I’d start with a muffin. Homemade muffins are generally lower in sugar and fat so I had a lot of options. My search found a very healthy muffin – it had nutrient-rich molasses as one of the sweeteners as well as the addition of whole wheat flour. It also contained anti-inflammatory ginger and superfood cacao nibs. Healthy, here I come.
To make adaptations for high altitude, I added flour and almond milk while reducing baking powder. I also added cardamon along with the other spices because, well, I like cardamom. The result was muffins with a flavor reminiscent of gingerbread cookies. They were light and airy but dried out a bit after two days because I didn’t store them in an airtight container. It’s okay – they weren’t around long enough to dry out completely.
Gingerbread Spice Muffins adapted from a recipe on deliciousliving.com
3/4 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 TBS almond milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS molasses
2 1/2 TBS canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tsp cacao nibs
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in oven middle. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Whisk lightly to aerate. In another medium bowl, whisk milk, maple syrup, molasses, oil, and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly among 10 muffin cups. Scatter cacao nibs over tops. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out muffins and cool completely on rack. Makes 10 muffins.