Spiced Maple Pumpkin Muffins

IMG_2743When it came time for my daughter’s recent first birthday, I wasn’t sure how to handle the cake. I couldn’t see ordering a traditional birthday cake. You always end up with a bunch leftover and it just has so, so much sugar. J had never had actual sugar before her birthday. I’m not trying to keep her sheltered forever, but I just thought there must be some kind of compromise — something I could make that the masses might enjoy and our family could eat for days to come if there are lots of leftovers and wouldn’t keep my baby up all night.

The fact is — she didn’t know the difference. And i bet she liked this even more than she would have liked cake. Once we helped her get to the actual muffin, she loved it. She seems to love anything with a lot of flavor. We had pies and these muffins (“cupcakes”) topped with traditional cream cheese frosting (laden with tons of powdered sugar. I’m not a total fuddy-duddy).

Use eggs for the traditional recipe or flax eggs to veganize them. Thanks to Cookie + Kate for the original recipe!

Ingredients
• 1/3 c. melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (I went with coconut)
• 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey (I went with maple syrup)
• 2 eggs at room temperature or 2 flax eggs
• 1 c. pumpkin puree
• 1/4 c. milk (I went with almond milk)
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. allspice or cloves
• 1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
• 1/3 c. old-fashioned oats

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Because I only have 1 set of silicone muffin cups, I used paper muffin cups so I could bake more than one pan at once. For my daughter’s giant muffin, I lightly greased a large muffin tin with coconut oil.

2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add eggs, and beat well. Mix in the pumpkin purée and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice or cloves.

3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the ten muffin cups. For these muffins, it’s ok to fill the cups a little higher than you normally would. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats if you like, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon (I skipped this since I was going to be frosting them).

5. Bake muffins for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool completely before removing from pan (if not using paper liners) or removing paper from them. I actually wish I would not have frosted ALL of them, so I just had some pumpkin muffins to eat after the party. I look forward to making these again soon!

Cardamom Spiced Granola

I haven’t made granola in quite some time and a brunch with friends tomorrow is all the inspiration I needed. Best part — I was able to pull it together in about 10 minutes with things I had on hand. There were a couple of things I didn’t have on hand — thus sunflower seeds and pistachios from The Kitchn‘s original recipe are M.I.A. but that’s OK. I just added more almonds, pumpkin seeds and oats to make up the difference.

This recipe couldn’t be easier and it’s delicious. My favorite local granola (or granola of any kind anywhere) also has cardamom in it so I knew I would like this. I’ll definitely be making it again soon, probably with walnuts in the mix I think. That’s what I love about recipes like this — you can really make them your own.

Ingredients
• 2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if needed)
• 3/4 c. shredded coconut
• 1/2 c. sliced, raw almonds
• 1/2 c. raw pistachios, shelled
• 1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
• 2 tsp. ground cardamom
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• A good pinch of salt
• 3/4 c. maple syrup
• 1/3 c. coconut oil, softened (I imagine you could easily sub this with another oil if you don’t have coconut on hand)
• 1/4 c. tahini paste  (Tahini gives it a mild nutty flavor in the background. If you don’t have any, try almond butter!)
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, shredded coconut, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and salt together. Drizzle in the maple syrup, coconut oil, tahini paste and vanilla extract — I whisked them all together then drizzled them in. Toss to coat.

2. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a baking sheet — no need to oil the pan or anything. The oil, etc. in the granola should take care of that. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The granola is done when deeply golden and toasted. Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for several weeks.

General Tso’s Tofu

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I had enough energy before falling asleep one night just long enough to crack open the latest Vegetarian Times magazine that arrived that day, show a picture of this dish to my husband and say “I think I have everything I need to make this.” I say stuff like that all the time. This time, I actually made it happen.

His review? “Officially put this on the list of the ‘hits’ ” — his favorite things that I’ve made over the years. It’s on my list of hits too. Nobody loves fried tofu more than me, but this recipe was a nice reminder that there are other ways to get tofu crispy and delicious without all of that frying. We both devoured this — I came awfully close to licking my plate. (Note: the original recipe says it serves 4. The two of us polished off the whole thing!)

I only did two things differently than the original VT recipe. I like things saucy, so I did 1 1/2 times the recipe for the sauce. I’ll post the original recipe here and you can decide. I also steamed purple cabbage with the broccoli simply because I had some I needed to use up. Looking forward to making General Tso’s Tofu again this week!

Crispy Tofu
• 1 16 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
• 2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce•
• 2 tsp. rice vinegar
• 1 tsp. mirin (rice wine)
• 1 tsp. vegetable oil
• 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
• 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Sauce
• 1/2 c. low sodium vegetable broth
• 2 Tbsp. sugar
• 1 2/ Tbsp low sodium soy sauce•
• 4 tsp. mirin
• 2 tsp. rice vinegar
• 2 tsp. sesame oil
• 2 tsp. cornstarch
• 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
• 1/2 tsp. samal oelek chili paste, optional (I didn’t have this, so I put a few chili flakes in there)
• 2 tsp. vegetable oil
• 4 green onions, green parts chopped (about 1/3 of a cup — I used white parts too)
• 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
• 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Accompaniments
• 2 c. steamed broccoli and/or other vegetables
• 2 c. brown rice

First, make the Crispy Tofu.
This is how I regularly make tofu, minus the marinade. I just drain, cut, sprinkle with cornstarch and bake. But here are the details:

1. I put entire block into my tofu press for 15 minutes or so. If you don’t have one, cut tofu block into two broad slabs. Wrap slabs in paper towels and place between two cutting boards. Weight top board with soup cans and press 30 minutes. Unwrap tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.

2. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, oil, garlic, and ginger in a resealable container. Add tofu and toss to coat. Marinate 30 minutes or overnight. The tofu should absorb all of the liquid.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sift cornstarch over tofu and turn to coat evenly. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until firm and crispy, turning regularly to brown all sides.

Next up, the sauce:
1. Whisk together broth, sugar, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, cornstarch, tomato paste and chili paste (if using) or chili flakes in a small bowl (Again, I did 1 1/2 times the listed amounts. Next time I might double because it’s sooooooo good).

2. Heat vegetable oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry one minute, being careful not to burn. Add the sauce and cook one minute, or until thickened. Stir in tofu. Serve with vegetables and rice

* Use gluten-free Tamari instead and the whole dish becomes gluten-free!

Roasted Beets with Toasted Walnuts and Dill Vinaigrette

IMG_3979I’ve been cooking up a lot of warm and cozy comfort food at work lately and popular every winter with clients are root vegetables of all kinds. Today I made this easy, versatile beet side dish. It’s super flavorful and would be good with different menus year-round. Try it with warm, freshly roasted beets or room temp at a BBQ in the summer.

Ingredients:
• 4 large beets, about 1 pound
• 1/2 to 1 c. walnuts, chopped
• 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 2 tsp. lemon juice
• 1 medium shallot, minced
• 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced
• 6 Tbsp. olive oil
• salt and pepper
• gloves, unless you want purple hands for the next few hours

1. First order of business is roasting your beets. Preheat the oven to 400. I roast them this way all the time — to put on salads, to eat plain or with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper and for other recipes. Rinse beets. Cut off tops and tails and wrap individually in foil. If the beets are really large (bigger than a baseball) I usually cut them in half and wrap each half in foil.

Place a sheet of foil on the middle oven rack. As the beets roast, they will leak juice (especially if they are cut in half).  Do yourself a favor with the foil — nobody wants to spend the night scrubbing burnt beet juice from the bottom of the oven.

Arrange beets on foil and roast for 1 hour. Leave wrapped when they come out of the oven. I usually leave them until I’m ready to wrap up everything else that I’m cooking (so they might sit there on the counter for another hour sometimes). More on that later.

2. Place walnuts in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they become fragrant (about 4 minutes).

3. Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, dill and oil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Time to get back to the beets. By the time you unwrap them when you’re ready to put things together the peel will usually slide right off. If they don’t, grab your trusty vegetable peeler. Slice or dice or rough chop them — what you feel like. I often go for 1-inch cubes.

5. Toss dressing, beets and walnuts together in a medium bowl and dig in!

Vegan Chocolate Pudding Pie

IMG_3668I have made this pie three times in the last couple of weeks and it has been universally loved by everyone from vegans to meat-eaters. Full disclosure: I actually don’t like chocolate. I know, I know. But even I had a small slice that I enjoyed. I won’t be revisiting chocolate again soon, probably, but I see the appeal… :)

This recipe is really, really fast and easy (especially if you buy a store-bought crust). Once you buy the ingredients the first time, you should have enough on hand (except for almond milk) to make several pies. I got the recipe from the lovely ladies at The Post Punk Kitchen, to whom I first turned when I started eating vegetarian about a decade ago.

This is the perfect thing to make this weekend if you want a little homemade something special for your valentine. And, really, it’s mostly almond milk — it’s practically health food! Since my Valentine has had this quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, tonight I’ll be dipping back into the archives and making what I made last year for V-Day — vegan coconut cream pie.

I took the photos the first time I made it and didn’t have any whipped cream or berries or anything on hand. It got good reviews on another night topped with strawberries.

Enjoy!

Ingredients
•  1 9-inch cookie crust, store-bought or homemade (instructions below)
• 3 c. almond milk, divided
• 1/4 c. cornstarch
• 1/3 c. sugar
• 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
• pinch salt
• 3 Tbsp. dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Though they don’t always have the best ingredients, it turns out store-bought crusts happen to be vegan. I’ve used a chocolate cookie crust and a graham cracker crust, as well as made my own crust. You can use any type of cookie you like. (Side note: Did you know Oreos are vegan?)

To make your own crust, use 1 3/4 c. cookie crumbs, add 4 Tbsp. oil or melted vegan butter (my preferred is Earth Balance), 3 Tbsp. sugar and 1+ almond (or other non-dairy) milk until it’s just moist enough to press into the pie plate. Pop into the oven for the 10 minutes and proceed with the recipe!

2. In a small (2-quart) saucepan, combine 1 c. almond milk with cornstarch and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved — it doesn’t take long. Whisk in remaining milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. It’s OK if it’s a little clumpy at first. It will all work out eventually. At first it will have the color of chocolate milk.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Keep a close eye because once boiling you want to lower it to a slow rolling boil. If you have an electric stove, you may want to switch it to another burner you have on low or lift it off the burner for a minute as it cools so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Whisk consistently until the mixture is thickened and pudding like, 7 to 10 minutes.

IMG_3644_24. By the end it should be a darker, classic chocolate pudding shade of brown. Add chocolate chips and whisk to melt. Stir in vanilla. Pour the pudding into the pie shell and let cool for about 15 minutes on the counter, until it stops steaming like crazy.

5. To keep a skin from forming, place a circle of parchment paper over the filling. (I do this by inverting the pie plate before I start, or using the lid to the store-bought crust and tracing, then cutting). Refrigerate and let set for at least 3 hours. If you don’t have quite that much time, use a bigger pie plate/crust and it won’t be as thick and should set up a little faster.

Spotlight On: Drought Juice

I first met various James sisters at a health expo a few years ago, where I was tabling for my personal chef business, Fresh Chef Detroit and their big logo mirror for Drought struck me from across the way. Relatively new to juicing at the time, I made it a point to head over and have a chat.  We’ve continued to cross paths in the years since and they have done nothing but impress me — as sisters (who clearly work well together), women and entrepreneurs. They’re doing it right.

My family cannot get enough of their juice. We moved dangerously close to Drought’s Royal Oak location right about the time it opened.

They released a video today. Check it out, then check out their juice. (And when you do, post a picture on Instagram, tag them and hashtag it #DROUGHTout for a chance to win a free juice every Friday!)

Here’s the video, produced by Gentlemen.

Spotlight On: Door to Door Organics

IMG_2264A few years back I attended a screening of the movie May I Be Frank and Door to Door Organics had a table there. I had heard of them but never used them — the discount code I was given that night made me give it a try. I’ve used them on and off since (you can suspend your order anytime — one of the many bonuses to using them).  I’ve recently started up the service again and I’m so glad I did — it makes my Mondays so much easier!

If you’ve never heard of Door to Door, you should visit their site to see if they deliver to your area. You pick what size box you want, whether you want fruits, vegetables or a mix and how often you would like to receive a box. I used to get a small mixed box every other week. Now I get a “bitty” mixed box every week.

Here’s how it works. A few days before your delivery day, you get an e-mail with your weekly order. If there are things on there you don’t like or know you won’t use, you can swap them out! You can also add all kinds of things to your order in addition to produce, including items from local bakeries and businesses, meats (if you’re into that kind of thing), fish, dairy, crackers,  Almond milk and so much more.

The website has recipes that are really helpful and they regularly have little coloring contests for kids and other fun things they do. Customer service is amazing. When I was pregnant I went through a mango phase. My box showed up and my mangoes were all brown and funky inside. Not only did they immediately e-mail me back when I contacted them, they threw an extra mango in my next box for good measure.

I know it sounds like they must be paying me, so I must say I have zero affiliation with them other than being a customer. It’s just a solid business that makes my life so, so much easier. My box comes on Monday. I have until noon Sunday to add to or change my order so I just try to brainstorm about what I want to make for dinner before then. I scrape by eating whatever we have at home on Saturday and Sunday (and avoid the dreaded weekend grocery store trip!) knowing I can get any essentials I need on Monday from Door to Door. So, tomorrow I will put out last week’s empty box and wait for it to get swapped out with a full one.

I mention them often in my posts and photos so I thought I would explain for anyone who may not be familiar. As a current customer, I can send you a code for $15 off your first box! Send me a message via my Facebook page (HERE) with your e-mail address and I’ll have a code sent to you ASAP. Have a good week!