Friday, October 24, 2014

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

This pasta recipe from Minimalist Baker really rocks. I loved the creamy sauce that happened to be vegan, so I’ll be making this dish again. I made it with macaroni, because small pasta shapes are easier to feed to the Little Prince! I used a bit too much pepper, but nonetheless, this was a big hit for all family members.

2 red bell peppers
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk (or other vegan milk, or lactose-free milk)
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder (or other thickener of choice)
pinch red pepper flake (optional, for heat)
16 oz. linguini or spaghetti noodles (or other pasta of choice, including gluten-free)
vegan parmesan cheese (optional, for serving)
fresh parsley or basil (optional, for serving)

Heat oven to 500 °F and roast red peppers on a baking sheet until charred, about 25-30 minutesQuickly put them in a metal bowl and cover it for 10 minutes to steam, then remove (peel away) charred skin, seeds and stems. Set aside. (I did this ahead of time because I was afraid I’d get flustered with the timing of all the steps otherwise. You also don’t want the cooked pasta hanging around too long before mixing it with the sauce, so roasting the pepper ahead of time made sense to me.)

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

While the red peppers are roasting, bring a large skillet over medium heat and sauté shallot and garlic in 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil until golden brown and soft, about 4-5 minutes. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.

Transfer sautéed shallot and garlic to blender with roasted peppers, almond milk, red pepper flake, nutritional yeast and cornstarch. Blend until creamy and smooth, taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper or nutritional yeast for flavor. You want the flavor to be pretty robust and strong since the noodles don't have much flavor, so be generous with your seasonings (though I went too heavy on the pepper here).

Once blended, place sauce back in the skillet over medium heat to thicken. Once it reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and continue simmering.

Once sauce is thickened to desired consistency, add the cooked, drained pasta and toss to coat. Serve with vegan parmesan, red pepper flake and fresh chopped parsley or basil.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cherries and Chocolate

In the past few weeks, I made a few dessert recipes using maraschino cherries and cherry preserves, to check a few things off my to-make list while keeping a theme going. I had eschewed maraschino cherries over the past several years, because of all the artificial crap they contain. The Engineer, however, brought home a new-to-me brand, Cherry Man Farm to Market Maraschinos, which do not contain high-fructose corn syrup and only use vegetable juice for color (but they’re still a really bright red). They are widely available, too, though if you don’t mind looking a bit, there are other brands worth seeking out. I liked them and might start using them to make myself Shirley Temples again, for old time’s sake!

The two recipes that I tried with them were white chocolate and cherry shortbread and cherry dark chocolate kisses. In both cases, I used red gel food coloring for the dough. I’m not showing any pictures of the shortbread, because it really looked like salami, but the second kisses turned out pretty enough. However, I felt that neither was good enough to make again.

It was the cherry preserves that really did it for me. I started with Nutella cherry hand pies (with an off-brand chocolate spread, and of course you can make your own lactose-free spread). I used store-bought dough to save time, but your favorite dough recipe would be fine here. Note that I wouldn’t bother with the glaze next time, but if I did, I would make it thicker by using less water.

For the pies
1 package of Pillsbury Pie Crusts (2 crusts)
2-3 Tbsp. Nutella
2-3 Tbsp. cherry preserves
1 egg

For the glaze
½ cup powdered sugar
2 or 3 tsp. hot water (or less, see note)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Let both pie crusts sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Unroll crusts and cut out circles. (I used a glass that was the size I wanted.) Reroll dough and cut out more circles.

Transfer half of the circles to a greased cookie sheet.

Spread about 1 tsp. of Nutella on the pie crust circles that are on the cookie sheet. Do not spread all the way to the edges.

Top Nutella with 1 tsp. cherry preserves. Feel free to add a little extra filling, but don't go overboard or the pies will burst while cooking.

Make an egg wash by using a fork to mix the egg with 1 tsp. water until combined. Brush inside edges of the circles with the egg wash. Top the filled crusts with the remaining pie crust circles. (You can use a small shape cutter to decorate these.) Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Brush the top of each pie with egg wash.

Bake for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown. Allow pies to cool for at least 5 minutes before glazing.

Add the hot water to the powdered sugar 1 tsp. at a time and mix with fork, until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle glaze over hand pies.

The other recipe I made with cherry preserves was these delicious vegan cherry cupcakes. I had assumed that they would be a riff on Black Forest cupcakes, but I was wrong. The cake part is just chocolate, though it is incredibly moist and flavorful; it’s the frosting that is cherry-flavored, thanks to the preserves. I absolutely loved this flavor, and the Engineer agreed. I ended up with too much frosting, though, and it was too good to throw away, so I ended up freezing the leftovers – I’ll let you know if that was a good idea once I use it on something else! To garnish, I used the afore-mentioned maraschino cherries.

For the cupcakes
1 ½ cups cake flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cups water

For the frosting
1 cup vegan margarine (at room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cherry preserves
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract (omit if baking nut-free)
2-3 Tbsp. almond milk (or whichever non-dairy, nut-free milk you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

In a big bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, mix together vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water.

Whisk the wet ingredients into dry. Whisk until everything is combined. This batter is really runny.

Put the batter into the muffin tin lined (reminder: I like to use an ice cream scoop for this, as it is relatively mess-free). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together the margarine and powdered sugar. Add the cherry preserves, vanilla, and almond extracts. Beat until light and creamy. Add almond milk as needed to get the right consistency.

Frost and garnish with a cherry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pistachio Granola with Fresh Fruit

This pistachio granola recipe is from Real Simple, where it is referred to as muesli. However, the oat flakes are mixed with sweetener and baked, so it’s really granola. That being said, it’s not very sweet, so it definitely benefits from the addition of fresh fruit. I tried it with fresh figs and Envy apples, which was good, but also loved it with nectarines (though not with strawberries). My mother, who enjoys less sugar than I do, liked it plain with milk.

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shelled roasted pistachios (mine were raw)
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup poppy seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. fine salt
lactose-free milk, almond milk, or plain yogurt, for serving
sliced apples, for serving (see note)
sliced figs, for serving (see note)
chopped nectarines or peaches, for serving (see note)

Heat oven to 300 °F (the original recipe said 350 °F, but that really seems too high for granola). Combine the oats, pistachios, maple syrup, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, vanilla, ginger, and the salt in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 greased, rimmed baking sheets (or a roasting pan). Bake, stirring and rotating the pans every 10 minutes, until golden brown, 20 to 40 minutes.

Serve the granola with milk, almond milk, or plain yogurt, topped with sliced apple and fig or a chopped nectarine.

Lasagne de crêpes ricotta et épinards

Je voulais vous parler d’une lasagne de crêpes ricotta et épinards, tirée du site Un déjeuner de soleil. C’est un peu élaboré comme recette, dans le sens où il faut préparer ça en trois étapes avant d’assembler le tout, mais ce n’est pas compliqué. Par contre, mes résultats n’ont pas été aussi beaux que sur le site d’origine, on s’en doute : mes crêpes sont toujours un peu plus épaisses que dans les recettes, alors j’ai fini avec neuf crêpes d’environ 6 ou 7 pouces de diamètre, tandis que la recette promettait plutôt 10 crêpes de 9 pouces de diamètre. La lasagne était délicieuse, et excellente, mais cela faisait de petites portions, alors ne comptez pas sur ça pour vous faire des restes! (Malgré que, s’il en reste un peu, les crêpes seront bien moelleuses le lendemain!) Tout le monde ici a adoré, et l’Ingénieur a tout de suite dit que c’était un plat très joli. J’ai adapté les quantités ci-dessous pour l’Amérique du Nord et j’ai remis les ingrédients en ordre pour que ce soit plus facile à suivre.

[À noter que j’ai utilisé du parmesan quasi-végétalien de Go Veggie, que j’avais reçu gratuitement de l’entreprise. Je vous en parlerai davantage dans un futur billet.]

Pour la pâte à crêpes
100 g. de farine tout usage (j’ai pris 50 g de farine tout usage et 50 g de farine de blé blond)
20 g. de farine d'épeautre
2 œufs
1 tasse de lait entier sans lactose
1 c. à soupe d'huile d'olive
1 pincée de sel
1 c. à soupe de parmesan
quelques feuilles de persil ou 1 c. à soupe de pesto (facultatif, je n’ai rien utilisé)

Pour la sauce
1 gousse d'ail, coupée en deux
400 g de sauce tomate en boîte (de bonne qualité)
sel et poivre

Pour la farce
500 g. de pousses d'épinards (j’ai pris 450 g d’épinards surgelés, bien égouttés)
250 g. de ricotta, idéalement sans lactose
1 œuf
80 g de parmesan râpé
1 soupçon de muscade
sel et poivre
3 ou 4 c. à soupe de lait sans lactose

Préparer la pâte à crêpes (même la veille). Mixer la moitié de la farine avec les œufs et le lait, puis ajouter le reste de farine, l'huile, une pincée de sel, le parmesan et les herbes. Couvrir et laisser reposer au moins deux heures (plus si possible).

Cuire les crêpes dans une poêle bien plate et bien chaude. Les superposer, couvrir et garder au chaud.

Préparer la sauce (même à l'avance). Faire revenir l'ail avec 2 c. à soupe d'huile d'olive. Dès qu'il colore à peine, ajouter la sauce tomate, une pincée d'origan, du sel et du poivre. Cuire la sauce pendant un quart d'heure environ, le temps qu'elle devienne plus dense et goûteuse. Éteindre et mettre de côté.

Pendant ce temps, préparer la farce. Faire sauter les pousses d'épinards dans une poêle avec 1 c. à soupe d'eau quelques minutes. (Puisque j’ai utilisé des épinards surgelés, je me suis simplement assuré qu’ils soient bien à la température de la pièce, puis je les ai égouttées en les serrant très fort.) Les hacher au couteau, puis les mélanger à la ricotta. (Pour ma part, je les ai simplement mis dans le robot culinaire avec le reste des ingrédients pour faire la farce, c’est plus simple.) Incorporer l'œuf, ajouter le parmesan, une pincée de muscade, saler et poivrer. (J’ai ajouté un peu de lait sans lactose de façon à ce que la farce ait une texture lui permettant d’être étendue plus facilement.)

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F.

Procéder au montage des lasagnes : beurrer un cercle posé sur une plaque ou un moule rond assez haut (à charnière par exemple). Étendre tout d’abord 1 c. à soupe de sauce tomate, puis par couches une crêpe, un peu de farce et un peu de parmesan... et ainsi de suite. À mi-hauteur, mettre uniquement de la sauce tomate sur une crêpe puis procéder comme avant avec uniquement de la farce. (Moi avec mes neufs crêpes, j’ai mis de la sauce tomate entre la 4e et la 5e, mais la prochaine fois, je ferais plutôt deux étages de sauce, après les 3e et 6e crêpes.) Terminer avec une crêpe et le reste de sauce tomate. Saupoudrer le dessus avec du parmesan et quelques morceaux de beurre. Cuire pendant une vingtaine de minutes. Servir chaud-tiède.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Angel Food Cupcakes with Pink Meringue Frosting

I’d been looking forward to this recipe by Faith Durand for a while now! I even bought the beet powder earlier this year, but never got around to making this recipe… I’m glad I finally found the time, though. I like angel food cake, though I did find this one slightly eggier than my usual version. I loved these cupcakes, especially the taste of the frosting! The twist here is that the frosting is dyed pink naturally, with beet powder! It does give a slightly earthy taste, which I enjoyed mixed with the sugar, though in fairness I should say that the Engineer liked the cupcakes themselves, but not the frosting. You could achieve similar results with something like raspberry powder, if you can get your hands on it (I had to order the beet powder online as it is).

The downside to this recipe, I have to admit, is that meringue frostings generally don’t hold up very well. I had trouble getting mine to the right consistency, though putting in the fridge helped. But even then it separated, and there was a puddle of pink liquid at the bottom of the bowl. These cupcakes should definitely be frosted right before serving. If you make the frosting in advance, keep the bowl in the fridge and mix it again before using it. I don’t recall having had the same problem with seven-minute frosting, though, for what it’s worth. Of course, you could just make a regular lactose-free buttercream frosting and use the beet powder in that! I’ll probably try that next, or add beet powder to waffles or pancakes.

For the cupcakes
½ cup confectioners’ sugar (I calculated this to be 1.8 oz.)
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted (I calculated this to be 2.7 oz.)
¼ tsp. salt
8 egg whites from large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
½ cup granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 325 °F. Prepare a muffin pan – the recipe should make 12-18 cupcakes. (I do not recommend greasing it, as the original recipe did, because that’s usually a big no-no for angel food cake! I made 12 cupcakes in paper liners, and while they shrank a lot, the paper came off easily. I made the remaining 5 directly in the nonstick cups, and they were flatter than the paper-lined cupcakes, but came out relatively easily with a knife. Next time, I plan on using paper liners for all of them.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, cake flour, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer mix the egg whites, water, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. (You can also do this in a large bowl, using a hand mixer.) Mix on low speed until foamy, then turn the speed to medium and begin to add the granulated sugar in 1-tablespoon increments. Add the sugar very gradually over a period of three to four minutes. When all the sugar has been added, turn the speed to high and beat for an additional three to five minutes, or until the mixture forms medium peaks. (Don't beat until the mixture is extremely glossy and stiff; it should be modestly glossy, but the very tips of the peaks formed when you dip your finger in should flop over just a bit.)

Add the dry ingredients in two installments. Sift the dry ingredients through a fine mesh strainer, tapping them through and into the egg whites. Fold them in carefully, not overmixing. Fold in the second half of the dry ingredients.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before removing and icing.

For the frosting
2 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. beet powder

Place the egg whites with the vanilla in the clean bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the water and sugar together in a small, high-sided saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for four to eight minutes, or until the syrup reaches 234 °F on a candy thermometer.

While the sugar syrup is boiling, whip the egg whites on low speed until they form foamy peaks. When the syrup has reached the correct temperature, slowly drizzle it into the egg whites, turning the speed to medium-high as you do so. Continue to whip until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks.

Beat in the salt and beet powder until the mixture is an even, consistent shade of pink.

Fill a piping bag and frost cupcakes. If desired, toast the top of the meringue with a kitchen torch (which I obviously skipped, as I do not own a kitchen torch).

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Macaroni au fromage végétalien

Je me suis laissée tenter par une autre recette de macaroni au fromage végétalien. Parce que le macaroni au fromage, l’Ingénieur aime ça, le Petit Prince aime ça, et moi, j’aime surtout ça quand il n’y a pas de lactose! J’avais aussi deux blocs de fromage quasi-végétalien que je voulais utiliser (un faux cheddar et un faux mozzarella), et selon moi, il faut que ce soit fondu pour être bon. J’avais d’abord pensé faire la recette de Mitaine écarlate, mais j’avais peur que ce soit un peu fade. Je me suis donc rabattue sur la recette de Snarky Chickpea, qui suit le même principe, mais contient davantage d’ingrédients pour la saveur, comme la levure alimentaire par exemple. J’en ai fait le double, parce que je voulais des restes, mais en fait, je n’aime pas vraiment la texture de ces pâtes une fois réchauffées – alors que le soir-même, c’est excellent! J’ai aussi ajouté une tasse de petits pois surgelés, pour avoir un peu de vert dans l’assiette, mais j’aurais dû en mettre le double pour 1 livre de pâtes. Je vous donne la recette double ci-dessous, parce que je trouve qu’une « vraie » recette, ça doit nourrir au moins 4 personnes, mais vous pouvez donc diviser en deux pour un seul repas si votre famille est plus petite.

[À noter que j’ai utilisé du fromage quasi-végétalien de Go Veggie, que j’avais reçu gratuitement de l’entreprise. Je vous en parlerai davantage dans un futur billet.]

1 lb. de fusilli (ou vos pâtes courtes préférées)
1 tasse + 1 c. à soupe de lait sans lactose (ou végétalien, même)
4 c. à soupe de margarine
1 c. à thé de farine
1 1/3 tasse de faux cheddar râpé
1 tasse de faux mozzarella râpé
2 c. à thé de moutarde en poudre
1-2 c. à thé d’ail en poudre
½ c. à thé d’oignon en poudre
2 c. à soupe de levure alimentaire
½ c. à thé de poivre
½ c. à thé de sel
1 pincée de piment coréen
2 tasses de petits pois surgelés (facultatif)

Faire bouillir les pâtes dans de l’eau salée, selon les instructions sur le paquet. Égoutter et mettre de côté.

Pendant que les pâtes cuisent, mettre un autre chaudron sur un feu moyen. Y verser 1 tasse de lait et la margarine. Ajouter la farine et les épices et mélanger avec un fouet. Amener à ébullition lentement, jusqu’à ce que la sauce épaississe un peu, tout en brassant continuellement.

Baisser le feu et ajouter le fromage. Continuer à mélanger avec le fouet jusqu’à ce que le fromage soit entièrement fondu. Au besoin, ajouter la dernière cuillérée de lait.

Ajouter les pâtes au fromage (ainsi que les petits pois, si vous les utilisez) et bien mélanger. Ajuster l’assaisonnement et servir.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sour Cream Ice Cream

This is a recipe I got from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. I only recently started cooking from it, but so far, it’s really up my alley: dessert recipes that aren’t too sweet and that showcase one or two flavors very well. In this case, it’s sour cream, which has an unmistakable tang not present in vegan substitutes. Since I can get Green Valley Organics lactose-free ice cream at Whole Foods, though, I can actually make this one lactose-free. I really loved the result, but what took it over the edge for me was adding warm, homemade chocolate sauce – divine! I think it’s also the kind of thing that would be great with pie.

2 cups lactose-free sour cream
2/3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup lactose-free whole milk

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in a little of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the remaining milk. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture is warm and foamy. Continue to whisk as the foam subsides and the mixture thickens and begins to boil. Whisking and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly to prevent scorching, boil steadily but not furiously for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until the mixture thins slightly and becomes a bit more translucent. (Alice Medrich warns that it is important to cook the base adequately, or you will taste and feel the raw cornstarch on your palate and the flavor of the sour cream in the finished ice cream will not be clear and bright.)

Remove the pan from the stove and whisk for a few seconds to release some heat. A little at a time, whisk the hot mixture into the sour cream. Let cool, then cover tightly and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 but preferably 12 hours. Freeze the ice cream according to the instructions for your machine. (You can eat the ice cream right away, but if it sits in the freezer for several hours, it will be too hard to scoop. Soften it slightly by transferring the container to the refrigerator for 10 minutes before serving, or just leave it out at room temperature for a few minutes.)

Salt-and-Vinegar Potatoes with Tomato Meatballs

It’s funny how this meal came together. I was completely uninspired when making the menu for that week, so I asked the Engineer what he would feel like eating, and he said meatloaf. So I immediately thought of my grandmother’s recipe, and when I couldn’t find it easily by flipping through my notebooks, I decided to make my mother-in-law’s sweet-and-sour meatballs instead, because they taste very similar. To my astonishment, I hadn’t blogged about them yet, so I pulled out Second Helpings, Please! from which it is taken (again, easier than flipping through my notebooks, and it was a lazy evening). I found the sweet-and-sour meatball recipe on page 46, and the ingredients were familiar. I settled on Bon Appétit’s salt-and-vinegar potatoes as a side, just to go full-throttle on flavors. And once I had made everything, I was forced to admit that this meatball recipe, while delicious, is not the one my mother-in-law makes. Her meatballs float in an orange sauce, and they taste like my grandmother’s meatloaf (which I realize is not helpful to 99% of you, but take my word for it). The meatballs I made this time, though, were definitely more tomato-y than sweet or sour, and the sauce was unmistakably red. In any event, we all liked the meal very much. The first evening, the Little Prince was all about the potatoes and wouldn’t touch the meatballs, but the second evening, it was the opposite. He wouldn’t even have one bite of potato, but ate meatball after meatball, and same thing at lunch. I’ll be making these again! He liked them so much that that is actually why I’m blogging about the meatballs, in addition to the potatoes. (Also note that I’m using the vegan and gluten-free tags because of the side, not the meatballs, obviously.)

Salt-and-Vinegar Potatoes
2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Combine potatoes, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. kosher salt in a medium saucepan; add water to cover by 1”. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes; drain and pat dry.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. vinegar. Serve topped with chives and sea salt.

Tomato Meatballs
2 lbs. minced meat (I used ground beef)
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
salt & pepper, to taste
¼ cup sugar
20-oz. can of tomato juice
6-oz. can of tomato paste
20-oz. can of tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes)
¼ cup ketchup
1 tsp. oregano
½ cup sugar

Combine minced meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup sugar and mix well (though over-mixing might result in tougher meatballs). Make tiny balls. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Drop meatballs in boiling sauce and cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours (I brought the pan to a simmer).

Sweet Potato Muffins

It’s officially fall, so I think it’s alright if I post these. They aren’t fall muffins per se, but they sure tasted like fall to me! It’s another great recipe from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. What I wanted were definitely muffins, and these delivered, but if you are interested, they have been made into frosted cakelets on The Kitchn. I loved how moist they were, not to mention nutritious! I’ve loved everything I’ve made from this cookbook. I also, for the first time, got my dates in bulk at Whole Foods, so I was able to get only 6 and not have any leftovers – win! Note that I used 2 cups of white whole wheat flour instead of a mix if white and whole wheat.

¾ lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 small or 1 medium)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon (I used Ceylon cinnamon and reduced the amount a bit)
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or vegan margarine
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (i.e., lactose-free milk with a splash of lemon juice)
½ cup lactose-free plain yogurt
6 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and wrap in tin foil. Bake for about 1 to 1 ½ hours, depending on their size, until they are tender when pierced with a fork. (The bottoms should be dark, even burnt-looking, and the juices beginning to caramelize.) Set aside to cool.

Peel and discard the skins, loosely mash up the potatoes in a bowl, and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 °F. Grease a standard muffin tin.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and half of the sweet potatoes and continue to beat for another minute or so. Next, on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until partly combined. Add the buttermilk and yogurt and mix until combined. Add the chopped dates, separating them over the surface of the batter so they don’t clump together. Ass the remaining sweet potatoes and mix until barely combined; there should be pockets of sweet potato in the batter.
Scoop batter into prepared tins (the recipe says 10, but I got 12) and bake for 35-40 minutes (mine were done after 30 minutes). Test with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. The bottoms of the muffins should be dark golden in color (twist a muffin out of the pan to check). Take the tin out of the oven, twist each muffin out, and place it on its side in the cup to cool – this ensures that the muffin stays crusty instead of soggy.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


A month and a half ago, I thought that our dog (who was recovering from surgery on his lower jaw) would be fine. But in late August, we realized that the wound wasn’t healing properly. A tissue analysis revealed, on September 4th, that it was cancer, most probably fibrosarcoma. A subsequent visit with an oncologist confirmed that even IF surgery were possible (to remove roughly ¾ of Darwin’s lower jaw), this would only prolong his life by about 12 months, and it’s rough recovering from that kind of surgery. There was no guarantee he’d learn how to eat by himself again, and obviously he wouldn’t have been able to play fetch or anything like that. So because there was no way to “cure” him or give him a decent lifespan, and his quality of life was compromised, we decided that the most humane thing to do was to wait it out, with pain meds and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics to make him more comfortable, until the time came that euthanasia was best. Darwin got treats daily and lots of visits to the dog park and doggie day care (his favorite activity was playing with other dogs). In a month, his tumor went from marble-sized to tennis-ball-sized, and it became bad enough that it was time. He passed away last Saturday, October 4th, peacefully. A wise friend of mine, who happens to be a veterinarian (and who was also consulted via email about Darwin’s condition) said that this is always a difficult decision, and that no matter what moment the owners choose to euthanize their pet, it will always seem like both too early and too late. We are of course saddened to have lost such a wonderful dog, especially one only 4.5 years old, but at the same time, we know how lucky we were to have him in our lives.

While we obviously profoundly miss Darwin, and I definitely get emotional when I let myself think about him, I notice his absence more at certain times of the day. Like when the Little Prince inquires as to his whereabouts (“Da! Oof, oof!”). Like after lunch, when Darwin is no longer there to clean up the floor underneath the high chair. Like when the Engineer comes home from work and the pitter-patter of little hands and knees is his only boisterous greeting committee, with nary a wagging tail or lolling tongue in sight. It’s so quiet those times. I’m considering getting a recording of a dog shaking himself and making his tags jingle, just to keep hearing that sound periodically! I admit I almost dread the next thunderstorm, when for once we will not have a dog trying to hide in the bathtub or the closet or behind our bed’s headboard (as annoying as that always was). We will most probably get another dog eventually, but not for a while. The silver lining is that next time we make our annual pilgrimage up to Canada, we’ll be able to make more stops on the way to visit places and *gasp!* eat lunch in sit-down restaurants. Also, I’ll no longer have tumbleweeds of dog hair lurking on the floor at the back of the pantry. It’s the little things I miss most often, and it’s fitting that it’s also the little things I can make myself look forward to.