Cranberry-Orange Muffins

There is not a much better way to spend an afternoon than playing bridge with good friends, as I did this past Wednesday. I made these beautiful Cranberry Orange Muffins to take along with me to share with my bridge ladies (and one man).

These are not gigantic muffins: on the contrary they are quite small, just the size of a muffin tin and not much larger, and that’s ok.

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It’s ok because those huge commercial muffins are loaded with fat and sugar. These muffins on the other hand have approximately a third of the sugar of a McDonald’s muffin and about one eighth of the fat.

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I’m a fine one to talk – I love foods that are high in fat and sugar, but we pay the price for those foods in poor health, and if scientists are to be believed, diminished life expectancy. So I will take a smaller muffin any day.

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These little gems are easy and quick to bake – just 20 minutes in a 375 F oven. If you prefer to have a Cranberry-Orange Loaf, you just turn down the oven to 350 F and cook them for 60 to 75 minutes.

 

 

Ingredients

2 Cups of All-purpose flour
3/4 Cup of sugar – use fair trade!
1.5 rounded teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup of vegan margarine, well-chilled (I used Earth Balance)
Zest of two oranges – choose oranges with bright, tight peels – I find they grate better

Egg replacer to the equivalent of one egg – I used Ener-G Egg Replacer but feel free to use your favourite egg replacer
3/4 cup of orange juice
1 cup of chopped dried cranberries, or chopped fresh cranberries
1 cup of chopped walnuts
Directions

First things first – for muffins, pre-heat the oven to 375 F. If you are making a loaf, pre-heat to 350 F

  • Add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and orange zest to a large mixing bowl or to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk or stir until all of these ingredients are well-blended
  • Using a pastry cutter or two knives, blend the vegan margarine into the flour until it is evenly distributed
  • Add orange juice and egg replacer and stir until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients. Try to make sure there are no dry bits left at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Stir in the cranberries and the walnuts.
  • Prepare a muffin pan in your preferred way – I use muffin papers.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the twelve muffin cups in the pan. I find that a large size cookie scoop is perfect for this purpose – it gives me uniformly-sized muffins and saves me from getting batter all over the pan.
  • Put your muffins in the oven and set your timer for 17 – 22 minutes. My muffins were perfect at 20 minutes. I tested at 17 and they were not fully cooked. Of course ovens vary.
  • If you are making a loaf cook your loaf in a prepared pan for 60 to 75 minutes, but test first at 60 minute, and then every five minutes afterwards.
  • Variations on a theme: try blueberries in place of cranberries.

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Is Veganism a Religion?

Veganism is not like a religion, but it is an ethos and way of life, and those of us who are ethical vegans are sincere and steadfast in our adherence to veganism’s tenets. And in Ontario, where I live, it is now, perhaps accidentally, recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a creed by that body. While it was not perhaps the intention of the OHRC to specifically include veganism under its umbrella protection, it is clear that, using the OHRC’s definition of a creed, veganism fits the bill. To determine whether or not a belief is a creed, you must consider the following questions:

Is the belief:
-sincerely, freely and deeply held
-integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition and fulfilment
-a particular and comprehensive, overarching system of belief that governs one’s conduct and practices
-addresses ultimate questions of human existence, including ideas about life, purpose, death and the existence or non-existence of a creator and/or a higher or different order of existence
-has some connection to an organization or a community that professes a shared system of belief

It is very clear to me, that using these criteria, veganism is a creed. And should some court in Ontario eventually decide that veganism is not in fact a creed to be protected in this province, I can state with certainty that it is definitely a creed and ethos for me. This is not a position I take lightly, or adjust from time to time or from place to place to appease certain people and not hurt their feelings – this is a deeply held belief. My only regret is that I did not wake up and become a vegan earlier in my life.

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/response-claims-ethical-veganism-now-creed

“Honey” and Oatmeal Scones

I recently found a brand of vegan honey that is not made by bees at all, rather it is made from concentrated apple juice. It’s called Bee-Free Honee and it although it does not taste exactly like honey, it is a close approximation, and what’s more, it behaves like honey in recipes.

My last two blog entries were about scones, and today’s will be about yet another type of scone, a vegan Honey Oatmeal Scone.

This scone is a little heartier than regular scones, and I think would be a good accompaniement to a good thick fall soup if it was made with a little less sugar and no walnuts. In the form that I made them today, they are a nice side addition to a hot cup of tea.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F

Ingredients

1/3 cup of quick cooking oatmeal

1 2/3 Cups of all purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup of sugar

1 rounded tablespoon of baking powder

1/2 cup of margarine – I used earth balance brand – and it has to be really cold. Measure it out and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes so that it gets good and hard

3/4 cup of almond milk or soy milk (or your cruelty-free milk of choice)

Instructions

Place the oats, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are blended.

Using a pastry cutter, cut in the marg until the mixture resembles coarse sand, but you should still be able to see little bits of marg in with the flour.

Add the non-dairy milk and stir until the the dry ingredients are incorporated into the liquid.

At this point if you want to add nuts or dried fruit, you can.

Turn your batter out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and shape into a circle or rectangle, as you prefer. Using a bench knife, cut your shaped batter into wedges or rectangles, as you prefer.

Sprinkle a bit of sugar on the top of the scones and place them into the oven. Set your time for 20 to 25 minutes. I find, with my oven, that the scones are perfect at 22 minutes.

Maple-Walnut Scones

 

I’m on a roll with scones. Easy to make, practically fool-proof, these are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea on any afternoon.

After making the orange-cranberry scones that were posted earlier today, I was thinking of a different flavour of scones. I had both walnuts and a good supply of maple syrup at hand so I thought i would try my hand at making maple-walnut scones. They turned out beautifully!

Pre-heat your oven to 350F
Spread one cup of chopped walnuts (or pecans) on a parchment-lined baking tray, and bake for about 6 or 7 minutes to toast them. Set them aside until they cool completely.

Increase the heat on your oven to 400F

Ingredients

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of sugar

3 teaspoons of baking powder

A pinch of salt

1/2 cup of vegan margarine – this has to be very firm – I measure out 1/2 and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes until it is good and hard. This makes it easier to cut in with a pastry cutter

1/4 cup of good quality maple syrup

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of plain almond milk (will also work with soy milk)

1 cup of toasted and cooled chopped walnuts


Instructions

1. Whisk together in a large mixing bowl, the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. Cut in the margarine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles small crumbs. You should be able to see little bits of margarine in the flour.

3. Stir the maple syrup and the almond milk together and stir into the flour mixture.

4. When all of the flour is fully incorporated into the dough, add 3/4 of a cup of the cooled, toasted walnuts, and stir them into the dough.

5. Dump the dough out onto a parchment lined baking tray and shape into a round or rectangle, as you prefer, and using a bench knife, cut the shaped dough into wedges or squares, as you prefer.

6. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the dough and pat them down slightly into the dough.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the scones are golden. In my oven, the scones are perfect after 22 minutes.

8. Using your bench knife, separate the scones along the lines that were made in the dough before you put the pan in the oven.

These are fantastic with a cup of tea or coffee.

Cranberry-Orange Scones

 

If you are looking for a nice scone to have along side a cup of tea, look no farther than this recipe. These scones are light and tasty with a burst of orange flavour that is both surprising and delightful. I took these scones to a bridge game and they were very well received!

 

 

First: Pre-heat your oven to 400F

Ingredients

2 cups + 1/8 cup of all purpose flour (1/8 cup is two tablespoons)

1/2 cup of sugar plus more for sprinkling

3/4 Cup of plain almond milk

1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried cranberries

Zest of 2 naval oranges

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of margarine – I used earth balance brand – and it has to be really cold. Measure it out and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes so that it gets good and hard


Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 400
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add solid margarine and a pastry cutter, and cut in the marg until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.
3. Add cranberries and orange zest and the almond milk and stir until all the dry ingredients are mixed in and a soft, slightly sticky dough is formed.
4. Dump the dough out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. If you like wedge-shaped scones, shape the dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and cut into eight wedges with a bench knife. The dough will be too sticky to separate the wedges, but that’s ok because you will have to cut them again later. If you find that your dough is firm enough to separate the wedges, you can do that before you put the pan in the oven. If you prefer smaller scones you can shape the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches x 4 inches and cut it into squares.
5. Before you place the scones in the oven, sprinkle sugar over the top. It will make them look slightly sparkly when they are all done.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the scone is golden and the edges begin to brown.
If you were not able to separate the individual scones when you put them in the oven you will notice that they have baked into one large round scone. You should still be able to see the marks from where you cut the dough into wedges – use your bench knife to cut along these lines and separate the wedges to allow the scone to allow them to cool faster.
These are great with tea.

One Cake Mix – Two Ways

Here’s an interesting bit of info about boxed cake mixes: many of them can be prepared in ways that have nothing to do with the instructions on the package. This blog post will give you two delightful recipes that can be whipped up in less than five minutes and that produce wonderful, tasty results.

Both of these two recipes use Duncan Hines Spice cake, which is easy to find in Loblaws, Metro, and Highland Farms. I am certain that it is available in other stores as well.

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Pumpkin Spice Muffins

For this recipe you will need one box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix, and one can of pumpkin purée. Make sure you purchase pumpkin purée NOT pumpkin pie filling.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F

Empty the box of cake mix into the bowl of your stand mixer (or into a bowl if you use a hand mixer). If you purchased a small can of purée, empty the entire can into the bowl, and if you purchased the large can of purée, scoop out about half of it into the bowl and mix on medium speed until the mix is completely blended with the pumpkin.

If you want to add any nuts or dried fruit to the mix do that now, and stir them into the batter.

Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin tin, or use paper liners.

Place the muffin pan in the oven on the middle rack and set your timer for twenty minutes. At the end of twenty minutes, check for done-ness using a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, your muffins are done. If the toothpick does not come out clean, bake your muffins for another five minutes.

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Spice Cake

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

For this spice cake, you will need one box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix, and one can of ginger ale. I used Canada Dry Ginger ale when I made the cake. I imagine other brands of ginger ale would work just as well.

For this recipe you should not use a stand mixer or hand mixer – you will be mixing this cake by hand.

Empty the box of cake mix into a mixing bowl. Open a can of ginger ale and pour it into the bowl. Using a spoon or spatula, mix these two ingredients together until they are well blended.

Prepare two 8″x8″ cake pans and divide the batter between the two pans. Place the pans onto the middle rack of your oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. Test for done-ness at 25 minutes and cook it for five more minutes if the cakes are not done.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for a five minutes, then put the pans on a rack to let the cakes cool completely.

If you are going to put icing on the cake, wait until the cakes are completely cool before spreading icing on them. I put plain vanilla icing on my cake and sprinkled toasted coconut on top.

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Sunny Lemon Strawberry Pie

I’m dreaming of spring and summer – anything but the mounds of snow that we have outside today. It has been snowing off and on for three days now, and driving today was especially treacherous.

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This past fall I was in England and made a trip to Tesco, a UK grocery store, specifically to take a look at their vegan offerings. I am a follower of Fat Gay Vegan, and he has posted about vegan finds in Tesco, as well as other mainstream UK shops, so I thought I’d do some exploring of my own. I did find all sorts of interesting vegan items on the shelves.

In the magazine section there was a vegetarian Christmas food magazine that was published by Tesco. I looked through it in the store before I purchased it to see if there were any vegan recipes in it because if it didn’t have any vegan recipes, I would not have bought it: I have no interest in a vegetarian cookbook.

There were a number of amazing vegan recipes in it, including a wonderful nut roast that my sister made for Christmas dinner.

Tucked away in the magazine was a vegan dessert called Creamy Lemon Fruit Squares. At the time I thought it looked like a summertime dessert, and I set the recipe aside so I could make it for an outside dinner on the deck. Nevertheless, I decided to make it today, while the snow builds up outside my door.

Although this recipe was originally published by Tesco, I’ve made a number of changes to it, so I have changed the name of the recipe to reflect my changes.

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Crust

Option A: Use a purchased ready-made vegan graham cracker pie crust. This is what I did.

Option B: Use any slightly sweet, press-in pie crust of your choice, and either place it into an 8 inch pie plate, or into an 8 x 8 in baking dish.

Filling

1 398 ml can of pears packed in water
1 349 g or 12.3 oz box of extra firm silken tofu. I used Mori-Nu brand but I imagine any extra firm silken tofu will work
1/2 cup of apricot jam
2 table spoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from two whole medium-large lemons

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Sliced fresh or frozen strawberries for the topping.  Today I sliced fresh strawberries into a bowl, then sprinkled two tablespoons of sugar over them and let them sit for a while. This way, they will be nice and juicy when I spoon them over the pie.

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Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 F

Put all of the ingredients for the filling in a food processor, a blender, or in a medium bowl using an immersion blender, and blend all of the filling ingredients until they are smooth.

Pour the mixture into your prepared or purchased crust, and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.

Allow the pie to floor before putting sliced strawberries on top. Alternatively, you could slice the strawberries, and put them in a bowl, and then scoop them onto slices of the pie after you have placed them on individual dishes for serving.

Here it is with its strawberry topping – it’s like sunshine on a plate!

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