Vegan Cookie Pie

Recently I was looking for a nice dessert to make for my vegan friend – as well as one I could adapt for a friend with an even more restrictive diet (which I may post once I tweak and test it a little more). Normally I don’t like vegan desserts – I find they often leave a weird aftertaste in my mouth. However, I stumbled across this amazing blog with all sorts of healthy recipes – Chocolate Covered Katie – I highly recommend you check it out. I tried a recipe she developed – Vegan, Gluten Free Deep Dish Cookie Pie. It was fantastic. I tested it on my parents before telling them what was in it and they never would have guessed! You can find the link on her website here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/05/31/deep-dish-cookie-pie/

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Deep Dish Cookie Pie

• 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (500g total, once drained)
• 1 cup quick oats (or certified-gf quick oats)
• 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 3 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
• 1 cup chocolate chips

1. Blend everything (except the chips) very well in a strong food processor. Mix in chips, and pour into an oiled pan, I used a 10-inch springform pan. Cook at 350F for around 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

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St Patrick’s

Happy belated everyone-gets-to-be-Irish day!

st patty

I know this is late but we had a great St Patty’s day party at work which included a potluck and these were the cupcakes I made!

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Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F Grease 24-30 cupcake cups, or fill with paper liners.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the butter, Guinness, cocoa and brown sugar, whisking often, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Sift together salt, flour, white sugar and baking soda. Add the cooled Guinness mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add eggs and sour cream and beat for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cups. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 4-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons Irish cream

Directions

  1. Cream butter until very light and fluffy. Add salt, and slowly add confectioners sugar. Add Bailey’s and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.

Recipe adapted from one on food.com: http://www.food.com/recipe/guinness-cupcakes-with-baileys-frosting-360499/photo

 

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Thai Broiled Eggplant

This recipe I adapted from an old favoured cookbook of mine – Moosewood Lowfat Favourites. This recipe definitely does not taste ‘healthy’ and its delicious. It makes an excellent vegetarian main and normally I serve with with a rice pilaf or salad and some other vegetables or side. Its spicy and creamy and tastes very exotic!

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Thai Broiled Eggplant
  • 1lb eggplant, cut into lengthwise slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • juice from 1/2 of a lime, or a little more
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 of a chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  1. Preheat broiler. Score a diamond pattern into the eggplant, cutting about halfway through the slices.
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Press the garlic into the eggplant, and drizzle with the soy sauce. Broil for about 5 minutes on each side or until tender. The eggplant will be browned.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and drizzle over the eggplant before serving.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins with Crumble Topping

I love banana muffins and I always find myself drawn back to experimenting with new banana recipes. What could be better than moist, chocolaty banana muffins with a buttery crumb topping? Absolutely nothing, that’s what! This particular recipe was adapted from my Betty Crocker cookbook.

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Banana muffins
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper baking cups. 
  2. In a large bowl beat together milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Add banana and mix well.  Stir in flour, sugar, cinnamon baking powder, and salt, just until mixed. Add chocolate chips.  
  3. Divide evenly among muffin cups.  To make crumb topping, cut butter into flour, cinnamon and sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle on batter.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. 

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Valentines Cupcakes

Its Valentines Day! Admittedly not one of my favourite holidays but any day that encourages more love is pretty good in my books. Sweets are traditional for Valentines day and who doesn’t want to spread the love with delicious treats? For Valentines I wanted a sweet cupcake with some traditional pink colouring so I went with a white chocolate cupcake with strawberry buttercream. This cupcake is moist and buttery with a smooth clean chocolate flavour and the strawberry buttercream is sweet and fluffy (plus a pretty pink without any artificial colourings!)

White chocolate and Strawberry

White chocolate and Strawberry

White Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325’F. Line a cupcake pan, I recommend using liners on the small side because these cupcakes do shrink as the cool and may pull away from the liners. I used Valentines ones with hearts!
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light & fluffy, usually takes a couple of minutes!
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time and then stir in the chocolate and vanilla, mixing well. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk. Mix well after each addition. Divide batter evenly into prepared cupcake pan (fill slightly more than usual).
  6. Bake 20-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back.
Strawberry Buttercream
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6-8 strawberries pureed till smooth
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb icing sugar (as needed)
  1. Cream butter until very soft, add strawberries and vanilla and beat in.
  2. Slowly add icing sugar about a cup at a time until the consistency and taste seem right.
  3. Turn up the mixer and beat for a couple of minutes until fluffy.

 

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North to Belfast: County Antrim Part 1

Janice and I headed north across the border into Northern Ireland and into the heart of Belfast city. It was pouring. We walked the 15 minutes to our hostel in the rain and were delighted to find a charming converted Georgian in the university district. The hostel definitely had a family feel – completely the opposite of the huge hostel were we stayed in Dublin. We stayed in a four bed dorm that was tiny and a bit eccentrically put together. Our roommates were a mother and son – in their sixties and forties respectively – who have been travelling the world for over a year vaguely searching for a new home. We had many discussions late into the night about travel and the world and for our five day stint they turned out to be excellent roommates. I love that while travelling you can find such fascinating people around you, if only you open your eyes. This is not a feature unique to travel by any means, but I think I (and surely others) are more conscious of those around them as well as more open to letting them in while on the road.

The university

The university

We had a cup of tea and dried off a bit by the fire and then decided we couldn’t let the rest of the afternoon go to waste so we headed back out into the rain. As we wandered through the university district, heading towards the Ulster museum, we headed into the botanical gardens. Its a beautiful park and the Victorian greenhouse called the Palm House is one of the earliest examples of a glasshouse made from curved iron and glass. I love early greenhouses and the advances in technology that they represent. We also wandered into the Victorian Tropical Ravine which features a sunken plant-filled glen and contains some of the oldest seed plants in the UK. After the greenhouses we made it to the Ulster museum and spent our time learning about Irish history from the prehistoric to the modern times. The museum has a great exhibit on the Troubles (although at that point we were still a bit confused over which groups were which and who was on what side – the problems with complicated conflicts!) The gold collars and other artifacts from the Bronze age were beautiful and the information on the Spanish armada and its Irish connections was fascinating.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Inside the Glasshouse

Inside the Glasshouse

In the Tropical Ravine

In the Tropical Ravine

By this point the rain had let up a bit and we were famished, but we had a recommendation to eat at a very unique bar in the city centre, so off we went to the Crown Liquor Saloon – Belfast’s most famous bar! Its an absolutely outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace and while the lower floor remains a typical bar, the upper floor has been converted into a beautiful restaurant. Janice and I had a fantastic meal in an incredible environment. The tin ceiling was particularly spectacular and our Eton mess sundae for dessert was definitely the best I’ve ever had.

The Crown

The Crown

We intended to have an early night but we got talking to our new roommates and stayed up well into the night! The next morning we had breakfast at a fantastic café by our hostel and had a traditional Irish breakfast before heading out on a tour to the northern coast – our very own Giant’s Causeway experience! This was one of the central reasons for our trip and it didn’t disappoint. Our tour guide was funny and sweet – very willing to answer questions and share some interesting history but also allowed us enough freedom to do our own thing and explore. We began the day at Carrickfergus with a quick stop by the castle and the bay – a beautiful setting for a sunny morning. We then continued our scenic drive up the Irish coast on our way to Carnlough.

Our favourite breakfast place!

Our favourite breakfast place!

Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

The Irish Coast

The Irish Coast

At Carnlough we had some time for a coffee break and to explore the main street of the town and the pretty little bay. Its an incredible postcard perfect town that looks exactly like you would imagine an Irish town should look.

Carnlough

Carnlough

North to the Glens

North to the Glens

We drove through some of the famous Glens of Antrim on our way to Carrick-a-rede and its famous wild coast and even wilder bridge! The weather was clouding over a bit but still beautiful and the wind picked up as we neared the coast. We decided to brave the rope bridge which dangles almost 100 feet above the rocks below and connects the tiny island of Carrickarede with the mainland. Its terrifying to cross – even though I’m not particularly afraid of heights. On the way over I almost lost my purse to the rocks and ocean below so on the way back I tied the purse to my scarf and secured it under my jacket. Janice and I tried to stop for pictures (like everybody else) in the middle of the bridge but with the wind blowing our photos turned out wacky at best!

One of the Glens

One of the Glens

At Carrick-a-rede

At Carrick-a-rede

The coastline

The coastline

Coastline

Coastline

Rope bridge

Rope bridge

On carrick-a-rede island

On carrick-a-rede island

The rope bridge

The rope bridge

After our adventures with bridges we continued north to Dunluce castle – the picturesque ruins of a medieval castle on the edge of an outcropping. The castle looks as though at any moment it could topple into the sea and I found its a pointed reminder of the passage of time. Then we had a quick stop at Bushmills distillery – one of the oldest in the country – before heading on to the main attraction!

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce

Dunluce

Bushmills

Bushmills

The Giant’s Causeway is an area of interlocking basalt columns created by a volcanic eruption and is a World Heritage Site. The Irish folk tradition has an interesting legend to explain the formation of the causeway. The warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill built a stone bridge to Scotland. After the bridge was completed, Fionn was challenged to a battle by a Scottish giant called Benandonner.  Fionn was a large warrior but he couldn’t fight Benandonner because of the difference in their size so he asked his wife, Oonagh, for help. She came up with the ingenious idea to disguise Fionn as a baby and put him in a cradle. When Benandonner came looking for him, Oonagh told him that Fionn was out, but he should be back soon. She showed him her baby (Fionn in disguise)  and when Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he had no desire to see the father so he fled home in terror. As he went he ripped up the bridge so that Fionn couldn’t follow him, forming the causeway as we know it!

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We had a couple hours to explore the Causeway and we used our time to the fullest – I love clambering around in places like this. The columns are really something, its hard to explain their bizarre-ness and their effect on the people who visit. I wish not so many people knew about this place, but its popularity is what makes it relatively easy to access. As the sun set we drove back to Belfast and had dinner before heading back to watch Red Dwarf and crash at our hostel.

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

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Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut is so summery and tropical. I find even when its the dark of winter one of these cupcakes can cheer almost anyone. I made these for a friend’s birthday as coconut is her favourite and I can rarely make them without her requiring one for herself! I love this combination of coconut and white chocolate – almost like a bounty bar! If the buttercream was changed to a milk or dark chocolate then I would certainly call these Bounty Cupcakes. The cupcake would also be well-suited by a fruit or a coconut frosting.

Coconut Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups  flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (or reduced coconut milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add vanilla to coconut milk and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluff. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add flour mixture and coconut milk mixture in 3 additions, beating after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl so batter is evenly mixed. Fold in shredded coconut.
  6. Fill muffin cups evenly, about 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes until cakes gently spring back when touched, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Let cupcakes rest in pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely before frosting.
White Chocolate Buttercream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • a couple tbsp milk or cream 
  • 6 oz. good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Cream the butter and salt together, adding sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beating until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and a tbsp of milk or cream at time mixing until fully incorporated.
  2. Stir in the melted white chocolate gently.
  3. Beat frosting for an additional 3 minutes until fluffy. Add more sugar or milk if needed.
  4. Ice cupcakes and sprinkle with toasted coconut if desired.

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