Molasses Pumpkin Muffins

I know it’s not fall anymore but pumpkin is good especially in muffin form anytime of the year!  After scanning through this recipe, I found myself searching the internet to answer a few questions that came up regarding the ingredients I would need:

1) What is the difference between sulphured and unsulphured molasses and are their any health benefits/risks between the two?

2) Are pumpkin seeds and pepitas the same thing?

After some googling (seriously what would I do without the internet), here are the answers, in case you have also been wondering the same thing!

Sulfured Molasses Vs. Unsulfured Molasses

The best answer I found was from The World’s Healthiest Foods.  To summarize…

– Sulfur dioxide is usually used to lighten the color of molasses and help extend shelf life.  It is also used to process the sugar cane when it has been harvested at an early stage.
– While there are no studies that show direct benefits or risks in connection with the sulfuring of molasses, we can gather that sugar cane allowed to sun-ripen and develop would make for a more natural food product than a sugar cane that is harvested too early.
– Sulfur dioxide has been identified as a key problematic substance involved with allergic reaction to sulfite in foods.
– On the environmental side, sulfur dioxide is a primary component in the production of acid rain and is a pollutant that raises much concern to environmental scientists.  The idea that a sugar can processing facility releasing more sulfer dioxide into the air does not sound like a plus for our environment (and there are already so many environmental issues- let’s not add to the problems!)

Natural whole foods that do not need to be additionally processed are always the best way to go in my opinion so using unsulfured molasses seems to be the better option for us as well as for the environment.

Pumpkin Seeds Vs. Pepitas


When I searched for “Pepita” and “Pumpkin Seed”, the same wikipedia result turned up:
“Pepita (from Mexican Spanishpepita de calabaza, “little seed of squash”) is a Spanish culinary term for the pumpkin seed, the edible seed of a pumpkin or other cultivar of squash (genus Cucurbita).”

Also from The World’s Healthiest Foods:
“Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds”

So the final answer is, pumpkin seeds are the same as pepitas, although pepitas don’t always have to come from a pumpkin squash, they can come from other types of squash as well.  Since I can’t tell the difference/don’t mind a difference, I will be able to use the two seeds interchangeably and not wonder whether I am using the right thing or not!

With all THAT out of the way, let’s proceed to our very delicious, light and fluffy, nonsulfered, pepita sprinkled muffin recipe!

Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s recipe found on TheFoodNetwork.com.

In a medium bowl place the following ingredients:
– 1 cup AP flour
– 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (if you want more recipes to use up your whole grain pastry flour, you can try these pecan cinnamon wafers or these pecan bars)
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
–  1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large mixing bowl make:
– 2 egg replacers

You will also need:
– 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
– 3 TBS unsulfered molasses
– 1/4 cup canola oil
– 1 cup canned pumpkin
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 3/4 vegan buttermilk (click here for the simple recipe)
– 1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin/pepitas seeds

Preheat oven to 400F.  Lin a muffin pan with cups, set aside.

Whisk all of your dry ingredients in the medium bowl together, set aside.

To the egg replacers you have in your large mixing bowl, whisk in the sugar, molasses, and oil.  Mix well, then whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the vegan buttermilk.

Mix until just combined; do not over mix.

Fill the muffin cups up 3/4 full and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds/pepitas.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack then eat!

Banana + Raisin Bread Pudding

I have never made or had bread pudding before…it never sounded that appetizing to me because I just imagined soggy bread.  But this recipe from Martha Stewart looked like deliciously baked comfort that I had to give it a go.  Glad I did because I ate half the dish all by myself!  Instead of using an egg-based bread like the recipe suggests, I used an artisan flaxseed loaf that worked really well.

Banana + Raisin Bread Pudding

This recipe is adapted from MarthaStewart.com‘s Banana-Raisin Bread Pudding recipe.

Serves about 4-6

– 12 oz of bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks– you can use any type of artisan loaf or Italian sandwich bread
– 2 egg replacers
– 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup plus 1 TBS sugar
– 2 1/2 cups non-dairy milk, I used vanilla almond milk
– 3 bananas, sliced diagonally into 1″ thick pieces
– 1/2 cup raisins
– vegan butter or margarine, to coat dish with

Coat your baking dish with a thin layer of vegan butter or margarine; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg replacers, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar until combined.  Whisk in milk.

Add the bread, bananas, and raisins.  Toss gently to combine and coat the bread with the liquid mixture.  Set aside so the bread can absorb the liquid, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Transfer the bread and liquid mixture into your prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining TBS of sugar.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread pudding comes out clean, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Let cool a bit before serving.  I served the pudding with dollops of vegan whipped cream that I had on hand.  Sooo good!

A Chocolate-y Mad Libs Cake

If you know anyone who reaaaally loves Mad Libs, you should totally make them a Mad Libs cake!  As a friend of mine said, “It’s an activity…then you can eat it!”

I also think this would be a fun theme for a little kid’s birthday party or even a groom’s cake!  Check out these Mad Lib themed guestbook and Mad Lib themed thank you cards for weddings!

So below are instructions for a very easy chocolate cake as well as tips on decorating the cake.  You may want to read through it first to gather all the tools you may need and also don’t forget to pick up some edible markers to fill in the Mad Libs with (you can purchase at Michael’s or Joann’s.)

Enjoy!

PS:  For those of you who didn’t know Mad Libs still existed, you can find Mad Libs at the bookstore (I went to Barnes + Nobles) in the kids section, or you can order online from Amazon or Target if you have more time.  There are soooo many different themes from slumber parties to zombies to animals.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

This recipe is a veganized version of shirleyo’s recipe posted on allrecipes.com.

For the filling, I used non-dairy whipped cream, such as Soyatoo (found at Whole Food’s) or Pastry Pride (found at Smart and Final) as well as fresh strawberries.  For a super chocolate-y cake, you can make a chocolate ganache filling.

I used a 9×13″ pan for the Mad Libs cake.  This recipe should also fill two 9″ rounds.

You will need an electric mixer for this recipe.

– 2 cups white sugar
– 1 cup AP flour
– 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the higher quality, the better)
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 egg replacers
– 1 cup non-dairy milk
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup boiling water

To Make the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.  If using the rectangle pan, lay a sheet of parchment paper across the wide side of the pan to line the bottom/sides and grease remaining unlined sides.  If using a round pan, line bottom with parchment and grease sides.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the egg replacers, non-dairy milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes until everything is well mixed.  Stir in the boiling water.

The batter will be thin.  (I tried to take a picture of the beaters to show consistency– right after I lifted the whisks out of the bowl basically all the batter came off besides a very thin coat.)

Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake is firm and toothpick pricked in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan, then remove from pan, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze (do not remove parchment paper).  This helps lock in the moisture and once the cake is frozen or half way defrosted, it is much easier to slice in half to fill.  If you are making a carved shaped cake, this will also help when you are carving it into the desired shape.

Assembling the Cake:

After the cake has partially defrosted but still firm, remove plastic wrap and place on a turn table with the parchment side down.

Using a knife, score the sides of the cake at the center to make a guideline.  Then go back and make the cut so you split the cake in half lengthwise.

Put some frosting on your cake board to help the cake stick and place the top layer of the cake (the side without the parchment) on your cake board with the cut side up.

Fill the cake.

If my filling/frosting is the same, I skip making a dam around the edges.  But if you are using something different (like vegan buttercream frosting on the outside and vegan cream cheese filling on the inside) I would make a dam with the frosting you are coating the outside with.  All you need to do is fill a piping bag with a round tip and pipe a line of frosting  on around the edge.  Then add your filling(s) inside the dam.

Place the second layer of the cake on top with the parchment side up, then remove the parchment paper.  Usually this is the flattest and smoothest side so I recommend putting this side up on top to be the face of the cake.

Frost the outside of the cake.

Now you can start decorating!

Decorating the Cake:

Here are the steps I took to make the Mad Libs Cake.

Before you start, figure out what you want to write on it (you can take a page from an actual Mad Libs or make your own) and also who/what you want to put in the little image box.

First, roll out fondant to be the Mad Libs “page”.  This can be 1/4″ to 1/2″ larger rectangle than your cake.  (It’s better to be a little bit bigger vs. a little smaller because you can use the edge of the fondant as a guide to add more frosting and make smooth sides by resting your spatula against it when you frost the sides.)

It should be about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.  Cut the fondant into a rectangle.  A pizza roller is my favorite tool and you can use a ruler as a guide or you can eyeball it if you are good at that. It’s good to let this dry a little so while it is doing that, you can make the item that will go in the box with the image.

I decided to make the birthday boy and basically used the Mad Libs people as a guide.

Start with a ball of colored (whatever the skin color you want is) fondant. (I use Wilton’s gel food coloring– there are no animal products in that and a toothpick to get a little bit of color at a time onto the fondant.  You don’t need a lot because you aren’t working with a large amount.)  Roll into a disk about 1/8″ thick.  That’s your head.  Make 2 smaller white circles for the eyes, then colored dots for the eyeballs.  Roll out a thin snake shape for the mouth.  Depending on what your person looks like, make the hair accordingly.

{ A Mad Libs man! }

Once you have these shapes, brush a little bit of water to the areas you will be sticking together.  To the head, add the eyes, eyeballs, and the mouth; curve the mouth as you stick it on into a smiley– using the back end of the brush to help can make it easier.  The hair sticks to the fondant “page”, so you will be putting that on last.

Now make anything else you want to add for the image– for me, it was the Birthday Boy’s cat, and a balloon.  Set all these pieces aside to dry.

Now back to your page.  Using a thin bamboo skewer, make indentations for the horizontal and vertical line at the top of the page.  Place it on and make sure it’s straight, then press lightly into the fondant until you feel it sinking a little.  Remove the skewer.

The next step is to get all that writing onto the “page”.  OK, I am not going to lie, this part is hard and it’s key to not smear anything!  I did that a few times and had to use q-tips and water to clean up.  You will need a paintbrush with a good tip (cut the brush with scissors to shape the tip if needed) and food coloring with water added to it for the “ink”.  Test on some fondant scraps first, to get an idea of how much water you need to add to the ink.  Have 2 small bowls of water ready by you– one to clean the brush and one with clean water to help wipe any mistakes.  Also keep some q-tips and small pieces of paper towl by you.

*I didn’t write “adjective” or “noun” etc. below the empty spaces because that was just too much lol.  If you are doing the same, make sure you have a sheet that lists what you need to call out when filling out the cake.

You can do everything freehand, or you can use a toothpick to write out everything first so you have an indented guide.  The top part I did not use a toothpick, just eyed it.

{ Investing in a Mad Libs book is a must for this project!}

But for the actual “page” I did freehand it with a toothpick first.  After every few letters I would stop to make sure it was straight and not slowly starting to go up or down.

After making the indentations, go back over them with your brush and “ink”.

When you are done, pat yourself on the back because that part was pretty tedious and hard!  Take a break too if needed lol.

Then add your image to the page, and stick everything on, including the hair, with a little bit of water.

Fill in the lines you made with the bamboo skewer with black ink.

Place the fondant “page” on top of your frosted cake.  Add frosting to the sides and smooth out if needed.

Don’t forget your food pens, candles, your sheet to help fill out the Mad Libs, and have a fun party! Yay!

{ Yes, the candles are on the side because 1) It wouldn’t go through the fondant 2) We didn’t want to ruin the Mad Libs with wax since we didn’t fill it out yet! }

Almond Graham Brittle

Here’s a very easy 4 ingredient dessert recipe for you courtesy of my friend Faith.  It’s a sweet treat that doesn’t have any chocolate in it, so it’s perfect for those who can’t have any or don’t like it.

Almond Graham Brittle

I used a 9″ x 13″ cake pan for this recipe.

– about 12 squares of graham crackers, or 6 double graham crackers (you can buy some without honey or make some yourself)
– about 4 oz of slivered/sliced almonds
– 1 stick of vegan butter/margarine, such as Earth Balance
– 1/4 cup sugar

Line your cake pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Lay the graham crackers side by side onto the foil.

Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top of the crackers.  Set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt the vegan butter/margarine then add the sugar.  Heat the mixture over med/low heat and bring it to a boil.  Stir the mixture continuously while it boils for about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and drizzle syrup over the almonds and crackers.

When I did this some of the almonds floated away so I added a little more to make it more even.

Bake at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes.  Note that the syrup will still be very liquid-y, so don’t worry, just take remove from oven and allow to cool.

Let the brittle cool thoroughly, about 1 to 2 hours.  Break into pieces and serve.  Store the extra pieces in an airtight container to munch on later.

“Cheese”cake + Chocolate Crust + Strawberry Topping

I have to start off by saying that the presentation of this cheesecake may not be the best but it is really really delicious.  I promise.

A few things happened during the making of this.  First, the cheesecake rose a LOT while it was baking then sank back down…I don’t know if it’s suppose to do that or not (the texture of the cake was good though).  But in the process of rising and falling it got some crust on the cake and there’s a chocolate ring around the cake now and some of the cheesecake is on top of the crust.  Secondly, I put too much of the strawberry sauce on top so it’s looking a little too red to me (but it tastes so much better than anything store bought).  There’s nothing wrong with the taste but the visual presentation is not my finest work.  Even my mom said, in more or less words, “This looks a mess but it’s really good.”  I will definitely have to remake this and take some prettier pics!

The other issue I seem to have is that when I bake things that are chocolate, I am never sure when it’s done or not.  I can’t tell if it’s burning or what so I feel like the crust was a little bit over baked.  Next time I will try regular graham crackers but they didn’t have any without honey at TJ’s so I ended up using chocolate chip cookies and adding cocoa to that.  But it is a good way to use left over too crispy cookies.

I definitely have a bunch of notes from trying to make this and there’s nothing like learning by doing, so hopefully with some more practice the better I will get at making cheesecake and baking chocolate pie crusts!  I hope you will give this recipe a shot and I will get back to you on better photos!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie Crust

Based on the Dairy Free Graham Cracker Crust by Ashley Skabar on about.com‘s dairy free cooking section.

You will need a food processor or blender for this recipe.

This recipe yields one 9-10″ crust.

– 2 cups finely ground chocolate chip cookies or dairy/honey-free graham crackers
– 1/3 cup agave nectar
– 1/3 cup canola oil
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 2-3 tsp cocoa
– pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly oil your pie pan or baking dish; set aside.

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until ingredients just start to come together.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan/dish with your hands.  I like to put a large piece of plastic wrap on top of the crumb mixture while I am pressing into the pan so that it’s a little more sanitary and my hands don’t get dirty.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before using.

Vegan Cheesecake

This was the easiest recipe I could find!  It is from Food.com by smallstream and was adapted from invinciblemuffin.org.

This recipe yields enough for 8 servings.

You will need a food processor or blender for this recipe.

– 2 containers of plain vegan cream cheese, I like TJ’s brand or Tofutti
– 2/3 cup of sugar
– 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 TBS extra firm tofu, drained

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is smooth and well combined.

Spoon into prepared pie crust.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the tops of the cake becomes a golden brown.  Check often while you are baking.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Eat as is or top with fresh berries or the strawberry sauce below.

Strawberry Sauce

This recipe is from Food.com by evelyn/athens.

This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.

– 1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled or 1 pound frozen strawberries if you want to save some prep time
– 1/4 cup sugar, or less/more depending on sweetness of berries
– 1 tsp cornstarch
– a squeeze of lemon juice
– a pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Cook over medium love heat until sugar dissolves and berries are soft. about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool.  It will become thicker as it cools.

Pour over individual slices of cheesecake.

Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I have been craving pineapple upside down cake for the past 2 months now.  I have never made it before and I am pretty sure I have never even had a piece of it in my life so none of this makes sense until I tell you that 2 months ago I came across elephantine, a beautiful blog by Rachel and her drool-inducing video on how to make a pineapple upside down cake.

I love everything about this video from the music to the easy-to-follow directions to the editing to the font–  you must watch!!

Now tell me you don’t want some of this brown sugary goodness?

Here is a lighter version of a pineapple upside down cake that is vegan and still tastes just as good!

Since I can’t stop making things into hearts this month, I made a heart pineapple upside down cake…

…but I also made a regular one that’s striped based on the Martha Stewart recipe.

Mmmm there is nothing like satisfying a 2 month craving lol.  I’m not waiting this long next time another one hits, that’s for sure.

Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Based on the MarthaStewart.com recipe, just switched out some ingredients to make it vegan.

This recipe fits a 9″ round pan or two 6″ square pans (which is what I used.)

– 1 cup flour
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
– 2 egg substitutes
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil
– pineapple slices (I just got a box of the pre-cut pineapple from Trader Joe’s)

Pre-heat oven at 350F.

Line your pan(s) with parchment paper and grease the sides with vegetable oil.  If using a square pan, lay the parchment so that it covers two sides plus the bottom, the remaining parchment can hang over the sides like in the pictures.  Set aside.

Prepare your pineapple.  Decide what design you want to make– just make sure the slices are about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.  Depending on the design you’d like, cut the pineapple accordingly, lay it out to make sure it works, then set aside.

Sprinkle the bottoms of the pan with a 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  If you are using two pans, split the 1/4 cup between the two.

Arrange your pineapple slices at the bottom of the pans on top of the brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, egg substitutes, vanilla, oil, and remaining brown sugar.

To that add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix until all ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter over the pineapple.  If using 2 pans, split the batter evenly between the pans.  Make sure the batter is evenly distributed and smooth; if not, use a spatula to smooth it out.

Bake until cake has risen and batter has firmed, about 40-50 minutes for the 9″ round or about 20 minutes for the two 6″ square pans.  Test with a toothpick.

Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes, then invert onto serving platter.

Enjoy!

Note to self: I need to get some square plates– I didn’t have any and didn’t want to put them on a round plate because they all have dents and the cake wouldn’t be laying flat.  I ended up inverting the cakes onto an upside down square baking pan covered with parchment paper which works too!