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!

How to Make Non-Dairy Buttermilk

Don’t be deterred by a recipe that calls for buttermilk– you can make a lactose-free version in 10 minutes!  This is perfect for vegans and those with milk allergies who love to bake.

Non-Dairy Buttermilk

– 1 cup of non-dairy milk (do not use rice milk!)
– 1 TBS vinegar or lemon juice

*Note that you can use any type of non-dairy milk EXCEPT for rice milk because it does not have enough protein in it.

Place the vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup.  Fill up to the 1 cup marker with the non-dairy milk.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then it’s ready to use!

{ Adorable cows who will live a long + happy life at the The Gentle Barn .  Read about it here. }

Garfield’s Gluten Free Lasagna

Lasagna always reminds me of that funny orange cat named Garfield, because that was his favorite food!  I love lasagna almost as much as he does and this vegan version is satisfying, filling, and easy to put together.

It’s also great for the gluten-free people in your life.  I found this rice lasagna by DeBoles which worked out very well and honestly, the taste and texture was the same to me as regular pasta.  You don’t even have to pre-cook it– but make sure you cover it very well with tomato sauce and use a covered casserole dish to bake this, or else the top layer will dry up (and yes, I speak from experience).

Here is a basic recipe to follow, named in honor of the only cat in the world who eats lasagna, but feel free to add/replace any of the veggies or if you want to use your own tomato sauce recipe.

If you decide to use regular lasagna pasta, just make sure to pre-cook it as directed on the box.

I think Garfield would gobble this up like I did.

Garfield’s Gluten Free Lasagna

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this recipe only.

I used a 9×13 casserole dish.  Remember to use a dish with a lid!

For the pasta:
– 1 package of rice lasagna pasta

For the sauce:
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
– 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 can of tomato sauce
– 1 can of chopped tomatoes (if you can find one mixed with Italian spices already, you can get that)
– a few TBS of fresh basil, chopped, or dried basil
– salt and pepper, to taste
– vegetable oil, for cooking

For the filling:
– 1 package of firm tofu
– 2 medium zucchinis or yellow squash, or one of each, cut into thin slices
– 1 package of mushrooms, sliced (or you can buy the sliced packs if you are running low on time)
– 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
– dried herbs of your choice, to taste– I used Herbes de Provence since it is a mixture of a bunch of spices all in one
– salt and pepper, to taste

Start with the sauce.  In a medium saucepan heat up some oil.  Add the garlic and onions.  Cook until onions start to brown.  Add the tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add basil, salt, and pepper.  Taste test, adjust seasonings if needed, and remove from heat.

Take the block of tofu, add generous amounts of herbs, salt, and pepper, and begin to crumble and smash the herbs into the tofu with a fork.  Crumble all the tofu and make sure herbs, salt, and pepper are evenly distributed.

Preheat oven to 350F.

The next step is to assemble the lasagna. (Remember if you are using regular pasta instead of rice pasta, cook it first according to the package.)

*Here is a quick cheat sheet for the order, starting at the bottom: tomato sauce, pasta, tofu, veggies, then start again with the tomato sauce, followed by the pasta, then the tofu, etc.

Begin by covering the bottom of your dish with a generous amount of tomato sauce.  Place the lasagna pasta in a single layer covering the bottom of the dish on top of the sauce.  Add a layer of the crumbled tofu, followed by a layer of each of the veggies.  Cover the veggies with a layer of the tomato sauce, then start again with the pasta.  Repeat until you have filled up your dish and finish with a layer of pasta on top.

Make sure to generously cover the top layer of your pasta with sauce, so that no pasta is left untouched with sauce!

Cover your dish and bake at 350F until pasta is soft, it took me about 45 min to an hour.

Once cooked, cut into big squares and serve!

PS: If you have leftover veggies, they make for a great hash brown scramble the next morning!  Just chop into smaller bite sized pieces, add to a heated pan with oil, throw in a couple of chopped hash brown patties or tater tots, add garlic/onion powder, salt, and pepper, stir, and eat!  I made that this morning and my mom said she gives it 5 stars haha.  Thanks mom!  Another plus is that you get rid of leftover veggies quickly while they are still fresh.

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.