Saturday, October 26, 2013

Banana Streusel Muffins

When it's not apple, pear, or mandarin season, I like to keep a stash of muffins in the freezer to bring in to work for a mid-morning snack. Andy eats his with his lunch, but I'm usually starving by about 9.30am. I try to hold out till 10 or 10.30 so I don't get hungry for lunch too early, but regardless, I would be nowhere without my morning muffin.

Last weekend I decided, after some serious deliberation, on Banana Streusel Muffins - combining an adaptation of the streusel recipe from the 'Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake' in Urban Vegan with an adaptation of 'Wolffie's Banana Blueberry Muffins' from La Dolce Vegan.

But then, a hiccup. We didn't have enough flour. Andy offered to pick some up on his way home from Bunning's, the hardware store mega-chain.

But then, another hiccup. We remembered the grocery stores don't open till 11am on Sundays. This was at about 9am, and we had people coming over for lunch at 12. I decided to just go to the shop afterwards, but Andy saw my determination  to bake and called his friend Tom, who was coming for lunch, to borrow some flour.

Thanks again, Tom! (I repaid him in a muffin.)

I'm glad we did borrow the flour, because I wouldn't have felt like walking to the store in the afternoon. And these muffins were a delicious success, so it would have been tragic not to make them. Andy and Tom both thought they had apple in them - I guess because the flavours are all typically paired with apple. But just bananas here!

Banana Streusel Muffins

1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. flour
3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

2 c. flour (I used half white and half wholemeal, so I could call them muffins instead of cupcakes and feel like I eat healthy)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. non-dairy milk
2 lady finger bananas, or 1 large banana (I used bananas from our tree!!)
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp. molasses

To make the streusel, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Then preheat the oven to 190 (375F). Lightly oil a 12 cup muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar - make sure there are no lumps left. In a jug with a stick blender, or in a proper blender, combine the milk, banana, ginger, oil and molasses and blend until smooth. Add the banana milk to the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Drop spoonfuls of batter into the muffin cups, filling a bit less than half full. Then put a spoonful of streusel mix. Top with another spoonful of muffin batter.

Bake for 22 minutes, give or take a few, until they are golden and cooked through. Probably put your muffin pan on a baking tray, because when I made these, this happened.

Andy seemed to enjoy scraping the hot toffee off the pan and eating it, and after letting the muffins cool for about 20 minutes they came out pretty easily. My advice is to loosen the edges while they are fresh from the oven, but don't take them out until the streusel hardens up a bit - otherwise you will lose your tops!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bacon Cake with Satay Ice Cream

I recently made a batch of Peanut Butter Chai Ice Cream from Let them eat vegan! I thought the mix was really tasty before it went in to the ice cream maker. Andy said it tasted a little bit like satay sauce, but we both liked it in frozen form.

It's creamy and rich and you just need a scoop to feel satisfied.

Then the other day I made a coconut cake. I got home at 7.30 at night, and had to have a cake made before I left for a research trip at 6 the next morning - you see, cake is an important data collection tool. So I was in a bit of a rush, and out of cocoa powder. I threw together the Coconut Heaven Cupcake recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, in whole cake form - something I have done many times before. This time, though, I saw the coconut oil and thought it would be great. I let Andy lick the bowl as I put the cake in the oven, and he thought it tasted a bit.... bacon-y. I didn't want to admit it, but he was kind of right. The coconut oil gave the cake a strange aftertaste that really does taste a bit like bacon.

It wasn't overpowering or terribly unpleasant, so I brought the cake anyways, but had leftovers to bring home. To mask the bacon flavour a bit, we had a piece with ice cream.

Bacon cake with satay ice cream. Surprisingly delicious.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Produce - Big and Little

Andy and I have big appetites, so we love our veggies in giant proportions. Our favourite winter veggie in the garden is kale. It's getting to the time of year now that they are full of caterpillars. Andy is still happy to eat them, but I get a little grossed out at the idea. And on the weekend Andy cooked one, and it ended up in my bowl. That put my off my pasta.

But caterpillars aside, we prefer our kale to come in mountains, rather than the tiddly bunches you get in supermarkets.
Kale mountain.

Kale with cauliflower, jacket potatoes and corn cooked on the BBQ, and a tomato and cucumber salad

And when choosing a sweet potato at the market last week, Andy chose this gigantor. That's 2.4 kilos, or 5 pounds, of a single sweet potato.

Sweet potato chips with black bean burgers (recipe from Celebrate Vegan)
But sometimes we don't have as much success. We tried to grow a row of carrots, and they were pretty puny.
Tiddly carrots. We roasted them with Aloo Palak Pie.

And our corn grew really quickly and looked great, but was very small. Tasty, but tiny.

Not done yet. 

BBQ corn with pumpkin, potatoes and carrot, and Chickpea Pumpkin Seed Burgers (recipe from Let them eat vegan!)

The corn and carrots do prove that sometimes the smallest produce are the sweetest and tenderest. But we still love giants.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winners are grinners

We have a winner, folks. I listed all the eligible commenters in an Excel sheet. Then I used a random number generator to pick a winner. The tech-ish equivalent of choosing a number from a hat. 

And the winner is, Amy, aka Iron Chef Vegan! It appears that trash talking the competition on my Facebook page works - it must have convinced the universe to tell the random number generator to choo-choo-choose her. Amy - I'll facebook ya!

For those of you who didn't win, chin up! I bought the book from for pretty cheap. And you can go to the publisher's site for a free recipe - for Aloo Palak Pie. We made this pie the night I posted my giveaway post, and it was delicious. Potato and spinach and spicy Indian flavours - what's not to love? 

We ate the whole pie for dinner, just the two of us - if that doesn't tell you to go make this, I don't know what will!

Congratulations to Amy and thanks to everyone who commented and shared!
Note: I was not paid or perked in any way for the giveaway - my glowing reviews are all genuine!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Cookbook Review... and Giveaway!

In keeping with my recent posts about cookbooks, I have another new cookbook to tell you all about - and give you a copy of. This one, Pies and Tarts with Heart, is by Dynise Balcavage. You may know her as the Urban Vegan from her blog, twitter account, or Facebook page. I know her as my favourite cookbook author (maybe tied with Dreena Burton, though I'm basing my love of Dynise's work on three cookbooks compared to the one of Dreena's I have). She's also one of the two people who have read and commented on my blog since it's woeful early days back in 2006. And we met in Philadelphia in 2011, and she is even more wonderful in person than she is on-screen and in-print.

It is likely that my review of her newest book will be glowing. Because she is awesome. And also because pie is awesome.

But it is not inaccurate. The book is really good.  Here are two gems we've made so far:

I brought this Creamy Chocolate Tart to share with a gluten-free friend, so the base is made with GF chocolate biscuits. For the filling, I used Whittaker's Ghana Dark chocolate, which I love. It was rich and dark and sweet and everyone loved it.

When Andy's parents were visiting, I made the No-Bake Coconut Cream Pie. This was a last-minute rush job. I got home at 4pm on a Friday and they were coming to dinner that night, along with a friend of mine. I was expecting everyone to arrive by 4.30 or 5, so I madly rushed to blend up the crust, then the filling, and get it all together. Then I looked at the recipe properly and saw "refrigerate overnight before serving". Woops. Nevermind - I put it in the freezer for a few hours and it was fine by the time dessert rolled around. And I hadn't needed to rush - no one arrived until just before 6. But this was really easy to get together in a flash. And everyone really loved it, too.

Something that long-time blog readers may have noticed is that I have a tendency to tweak and alter recipes pretty regularly. Aware that I would be reviewing this cookbook, I followed the above recipes pretty much to the letter. But the wonderful thing about pie is how mix-and-match it is.

My new favourite crust is a mish-mash between Dynise's All-Purpose Cookie Crust and her Nutty Crust. Half cookie crumbs, half ground nuts makes for a sweet but not cloying base for pretty much any filling. We filled it with vanilla custard and strawberries on another night Andy's parents were visiting, and I think they would have married it, if marrying pie were legal and they weren't already married to each other. I posted already about my passion fruit mousse tart. I also made a variation on Dynise's Banana Cream Pie, blending two overripe bananas into the pudding, instead of layering slices.

Pies and Tarts with Heart gives you a good foundation in how to do things like crusts, and makes playing around with fillings much easier. One of the things I love about it is the pictorial, step-by-step guides to crust making and shaping and decorating. In the spirit of the cookbook, here is a step-by-step to my experience with Dynise's Pennsylvania Dutch Corn Pie.

This was a recipe I tried to follow to the letter, and involved making pastry from scratch - something I have been reluctant to do in steamy Townsville. But Dynise's gentle encouragement throughout the book gave me courage, so I stuck some vegan butter and water in the freezer and hoped for the best.

I made a Basic Double-Crust Pastry, only I forgot to make it enough in advance to let it rest for 2 hours before rolling out. Freezer to the rescue again!

Tweaking my mum's practice of rolling out dough between two pieces of cling wrap, I put my pastry on  a silicon mat and put a sheet of non-stick baking paper on top. By not sprinkling with flour, it keeps the pastry moist and buttery. And then I can pick the whole mat up and flip it into the pie plate.
We have had the same wine bottle-rolling pin for years now.

Filled with sweet corn and potatoes, I then sprinkled some flour and other stuff on top before pouring over the milk. This is where things went slightly awry - I think I needed to mix the flour through, because at the end there were clumps of flour instead of a thick sauce.

 Topped, vented and trimmed, my corn pie was ready to go into the oven.

 Look, I made pastry! It wasn't a raging success, but it wasn't terrible either!

There are heaps more recipes in the book I want to try out, especially in the savoury section. I am quickly becoming the person who brings pie to things, but that's a persona I'm alright with.

Now, the part you have all been waiting for... the giveaway. Dynise's publishers have a copy of Pies and Tarts with Heart to give away to one lucky Australian! You have until Saturday, 12 October at 8am, QLD time to enter. I will choose the winner randomly and announce who you are in another post on Saturday. You can enter up to 2 times: (1) by leaving a comment on this post telling me your favourite kind of pie and (2) by popping over to my Facebook page and sharing one of my posts about the giveaway. Make sure you return here to leave a comment saying you have done so. And give me some way of contacting you so I can let you know you've won.

If you're not in Australia - sorry! There will be a few giveaways for North Americans this month - keep your eye on the blogosphere, or just get yourself a copy. It's cheap, and totally worth it. You're still welcome to comment, or to like me on Facebook - but let me know in the comment if you're not eligible!

Get commenting, and sharing, and make some pie!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Betty goes Troppo

Though I will undoubtedly ignore Andy's suggestion that we try every recipe in every cookbook we already have before buying any more, his comment did make me think. I always have stacks of recipes flagged that I want to try, but I don't always get around to it. So I resolved to get around to it. Here are a few of the recipes I've tried in the last two weeks from Betty Goes Vegan.

This cookbook has copped a lot of flak for relying so heavily on mock meats and cheeses. Of course that is a barrier to me trying a lot of the recipes straight away, but when I look at the cookbook I think about whether it would be better with seitan or tofu. I also think that a lot of the recipes are not intended for every day (though I'm sure Betty Crocker genuinely was). So while it's not my go-to cookbook, I appreciate it for what it is. Plus, the recipes I have tried so far have been good.

This one is a bit of a cheat - we had it months ago, not in the past two weeks. 
Curry Spinach and Lentil Pilaf, p.221. I followed the gist of the recipe, but cooked the brown rice and hte lentils together rather than coming to the recipe with both already done. Also (it looks like) I added some red capsicum and maybe zucchini, to up the veggie-quota. Topped with crunchy fried shallots. This was a good one-pot meal that had a gentle zing of curry flavour.

Zucchini Apple Bread, p. 326. Really this is more like cake, obviously. I cut the recipe in half and just made one loaf, but I wish I had done two. This made a great from-the-freezer morning tea to bring to work every day, but only saw us through till Wednesday.

Asian Tofu Steaks with Wasabi Aioli, p.255. Instead of thick steaks, I did nice thin ones. And instead of marinating it, taking it out of the sauce, and baking it separately, we put the whole thing on the BBQ. The sauce thickened up, and the seaweed had Nacho begging to have some plz. Unfortunately for her, we humans loved it too much to share (also soy sauce seems like it wouldn't be good for kittehs).

 Hawaiian Toast, p. 44. Like French toast, but with coconut milk and pineapple juice. We had ours with mango jam. As you can see, it turned out pretty well. I loved it. Andy is lukewarm about french toast, but he ate 4 pieces.

Toffee Bars, p.309. The photo of this one, in the shiny colour pages, grabbed my eye. The recipe was easy enough. So after finishing some writing this weekend well in advance of a deadline, I decided I deserved some slice. I thought they would be very peanutty, but the base tastes more like caramel. Andy didn't like it at room temperature - he thought it was too 'nougatty', whatever that is. But cold, when the base is firm, we both want to eat all the slice.

So I've tried these 5, plus one more when I first got the book, which just leaves me with 494 to go. I've got Vegan Bacon & Kale Scalloped Potatoes on the menu for tonight - 493. But who's counting?