Thursday, March 29, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes from the Babycakes Cookbook

My friend Sarah and I got together at her house for a cupcake baking day. We decided on two recipes - Carrot Cupcakes from the Babycakes cookbook, and the Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcakes from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World cookbook (not pictured). We've made the chocolate ones in the past and since they were such a success, we just had to bake them again. This time, we added some shredded coconut to the batter as we both love coconut! I'm going to focus more on the carrot cupcakes as it was my first time baking anything from the Babycakes cookbook, even though I've had it on my bookshelf for some time now.

All of the cupcakes we baked were both gluten-free and vegan. It was very interesting for me to combine all of these new flours - rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, and others! Both kinds of cupcake ended up being light and fluffy and tasted very similar to a wheat-based cupcake. I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference unless someone pointed out the cupcakes were gluten-free. In the carrot cupcake recipe, gluten-free all-purpose flour is used, as well as xanthan gum, rice milk, coconut oil and agave nectar. You should be able to find most of these ingredients in the natural section of your local grocery store.

For the frosting, we decided to make a vegan cream cheese frosting using a recipe found in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. It was very easy to whip up and tastes fantastic on these carrot cupcakes! In the cookbook, they recommend making vanilla frosting which could work great, too. These cupcakes taste amazing!

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes:
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup agave nectar
1 cup rice milk (we used soy milk instead)
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
3 cups shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line two 12-cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
Add the oil, agave nectar, milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until a thick batter is formed.  Fold in the carrots with a rubber spatula so they are evenly distributed.
Pour approximately a 1/3 cup of batter into each prepared cup.  Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes on the center rack, rotating the pans 180 degrees after 14 minutes.  Cupcakes are done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes rest in the pans for at least 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting: 
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup vegan cream cheese , softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar , sifted 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together margarine and cream cheese until just combined. Use a handheld mixer to whip while adding the confectioners' sugar in 1/2 cup batches. Mix until smooth and creamy, then mix in the vanilla. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sundried Tomato Pasta

This is one of Paul's specialties that he made for me back when we first started dating. Now, we make it all the time at home when we're looking for a quick and easy dinner.  Although we love cooking together, sometimes he will make dinner for me and will prepare this one on his own, which is a nice treat for me! (Thank you, sweetie!)

This is a wonderful pasta creation with pesto-like sauce made from sundried tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and red pepper flakes. Can be made with your favorite pasta, but we usually use macaroni. A great alternative to the same boring pasta with tomato sauce!

1 package whole wheat spaghetti (375g) 
1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil 
3 tbsp olive oil, if needed 
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes 
2 tbsp granulated sugar 
1/2 tsp salt 
3 leaves fresh basil

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once the water boils, cook the pasta until al dente, about 9 minutes.

2. While the water boils, prepare the sun-dried tomato sauce. Put sun-dried tomatoes into a food processor, keeping most of the oil separate and reserved for later. Add garlic, basil, red pepper flakes to the food processor. Puree until blended together into a smooth paste, about 1 minute.

3. Put the reserved oil into a frying pan, about 3tbsp (add additional olive oil if needed). Add sun-dried tomato mixture to the pan. Add salt, sugar, balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Mix the ingredients together and spread the mixture across the pan evenly to flatten. Heat the mixture on medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, being careful not to burn or overcook.

4. Drain pasta, mix sun-dried tomato sauce with the pasta thoroughly, and serve.

Serves four people, or for two people with some leftovers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Veggies, Tempeh and Noodles with Sesame-Ginger Dressing

I was inspired to create this meal after enjoying a delicious dinner this past Saturday at The Naked Sprout in Burlington, Ontario. Paul and I celebrated our seven-year anniversary by going out for dinner at what has become one of our new favourite restaurants. After going here for lunch one day last week with a friend, Paul was dying to try it out and I definitely didn't mind going back twice in one week!  One of the main dishes we tried was the Soba Noodle Bowl with "100% Buckwheat soba noodle, grilled tempeh, red peppers, onions, massaged kale, cremini mushroom, steamed broccoli, sesame ginger sauce".  It was delicious and I thought that I could probably try to make this at home!

Here is my version of the Naked Sprouts' Soba Noodle Bowl! Of course, it is a bit different as I used whole wheat spaghettini noodles (we ran out of soba and just had the regular pasta noodles in the house), plus we added some veggies.

Soba noodles, or whole wheat spaghetti noodles
Broccoli, cut into florets
Kale, cut into pieces
Diced pepper, onion, green onion, snow peas, or whatever other veggies you'd like
Tempeh (I used the Tofurky brand Sesame-Garlic Tempeh strips)
Toasted sesame seeds

Sesame-Ginger Dressing:
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp water
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside. Cook your noodles in boiling water. Saute the tempeh in a bit of oil. Steam the broccoli and the kale together. All of the other veggies can be added fresh without any cooking required. Put all of the ingredients (pasta, vegetables) into a large bowl and toss with the sesame-ginger dressing. Serve, top with the tempeh, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

I must also add that before this weekend, Paul hated kale with a passion! I served him raw kale a while back in a salad and the raw kale totally turned him off this super healthy veggie. However, he really enjoyed the steamed kale! I am very happy that both of these dishes won him over and he now likes kale! I now know that most people don't like raw kale as it is quite bitter; I guess I'm just one of those strange people who will eat it raw in a salad!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lunch at The Naked Sprout in Burlington, Ontario

First of all, Happy 2012 everyone! I am so sorry that I have not posted for months! It seems as though I started posting nearly every day and was so excited to have my brand new vegan & healthy foods blog, and then life got a bit hectic and I just stopped posting all together! I have learned from this rookie mistake as I am sure so many people out there start blogs and quit writing in them quickly after - I need to pace myself a little bit better. I don't need to write in my blog every single day, but update it as often as I'd like!

Today, I went to the Naked Sprout with a friend of mine for lunch. It is a Vegan/Gluten-free restaurant in Burlington, Ontario with an extensive raw menu. In fact, about 2/3rds of the menu is raw with a selection of cooked items.  You can view their full menu at their website.  The Naked Sprout serves a selection of appetizers, pasta, wraps, salads, quinoa and rice bowls, pizza, and much more! From the website:

At The Naked Sprout, we aim to provide delicious, nutritious, vegan, plant-based meals (cooked and raw) to everyone. We aim to be organic wherever possible, support local farmers, protect our animals and our Mother Earth. By spreading the love of healthy eating and the vegan lifestyle, we hope to inspire everyone to transform themselves, their life and the world around them.
Of course, this is a mission statement that I fully support! For lunch, I got the "Twisted Tacos" made with soft shell carrot flax taco, guacamole, salsa fresco, sunflower taco meat, and cashew sour cream.  I also got the "Tropical Twist" smoothie with freshly squeezed orange juice, pineapple, mango, strawberry and raspberry.

Everything was absolutely delicious! You could tell that everything was freshly prepared with love and care. I will definitely be back...perhaps this weekend! Paul and I will be celebrating our seven-year anniversary on Saturday and he was quite jealous that I was going to this restaurant today. I brought him home some pasta from the restaurant as a treat! But, I think we will have to go to The Naked Sprout very soon together! It would be the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary since I quite enjoyed my meal today! Plus, it is easier to eat meat-free/dairy-free/egg-free at a restaurant that has an entirely vegan menu!