Yummy Pumpkin Muffins

IMG_4234There’s nothing better than a warm pumpkin muffin, fresh out of the oven, with a nice bit of butter on it, melting as the muffin melts in your mouth with that first delectable bite. I love pumpkin and that is one of the many reasons I love this time of year. In the Fall, pumpkins and pumpkin recipes and dishes abound.

Whether it be preparing for the Thanksgiving feast or the events at Halloween there are pumpkins everywhere. And I am quite happy to take advantage of this and enjoy as much pumpkin as I can. There is so much you can do with pumpkin from soups to pies, cheesecakes, even drinks like martinis and lattes! (Who else can’t wait for Fall so we can experience once again the delectable flavors of a pumpkin spice latte)?

IMG_4224Muffins are one of the quickest and easiest ways to use pumpkin. They are great for snacks, to put in lunches and easy to freeze, if they last that long. My kids love muffins of any kind and will gladly gobble up the pumpkin ones just as quick as the strawberry rhubarb, apple, blueberry, etc. Of course I tend to make my favorites (or honestly what is in abundance at our house, for instance earlier in the Fall we had all the apples from our apple tree).

Over the past couple of years I have adjusted my pumpkin muffin recipe, passed down from my Mom to make it sugar free and dairy free, meeting our new dietary choices. I have IMG_4237also been experimenting with gluten free recipes as well and therefore have found some good gluten free pumpkin muffins as well. (Usually I still need to do a little adjusting with the sugar, but it has become second nature now and is a quick and easy substitution).

So I make both at times, as my kids will eat either, though I am finding I am moving more towards gluten free only because I am noticing how my body is feeling after gluten sometimes (which is not so good). And today I am sharing both recipes with you. Both are equally easy and delicious, so it is simply your preference or dietary needs to decide which one to try (You could, like me, make both).

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 c. tapioca flour

1/2 c. garbanzo flourIMG_4225

1/2 c. brown rice flour

1 c. coconut sugar

3 tbsp. flaxseed

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamonIMG_4220

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 c. pumpkin puree

1/2 c. safflower oil

2 eggs

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly (flours, coconut sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and spices). In another bowl, mix wet ingredients together (pumpkin puree, safflower oil, eggs). Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until just combined, then mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffins cups or grease with coconut oil. Fill each cup. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

1 3/4c. all purpose flourIMG_4223

1/2 c. coconut sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

pinch ginger

2/3 c. almond milkIMG_4233

1/2 c. pumpkin

1/3 c. olive oil

1 egg

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium sized bowl, beat together egg, pumpkin and oil. Add almond milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffin cup or grease with coconut oil. Fill muffin cup and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Do you have a favorite pumpkin muffin recipe?

Sugar Free Apple Crunch Muffins

IMG_0565Last week I was telling you about my discovery of apple butter and how delicious it is; and that I was going to explore making my own. With the amount of apples that we have been reaping off our tree I thought that this would be a quick and easy way to use them up. I have been looking at a large bowl full of apples for a week now and knew I had another crisper drawer full in the fridge. Some of them were starting to go soft and I knew that the time was now or never to use these babies up, or they would go to waste.

So last night I Googled an apple butter recipe, and finding one that I Iiked, went to work. This is when I realized that the recipe called for 9 quarts of applesauce. 9 quarts! I quickly converted this to cups and discovered it meant 36 cups of applesauce. Now I have a lot of apples but honestly I didn’t have enough to make 36 cups.

apple-butter-13b_thumbI knew I needed to use up these apples, and though pies and crumbles are yummy and being gobbled up, they were not using up the amount of apples I needed to fast enough. I had to do something with these apples fast or I was going to have a nice pile of brown mush for the compost. I decided to make applesauce regardless as it would use up the rest of the apples quickly. The twins love eating applesauce at breakfast, sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon and I had an apple muffin recipe in mind that required applesauce I was hoping to make.

So I did. I cored and cut them and put them in a pot to cook. Now I make applesauce all the time, but in my recent search for an apple butter recipe I discovered that there was a better way to make applesauce then what I had been doing previously.

baked-applesauceI used to cut and core the apples and put them in a pot, cover them with water and boil them til soft. Then I would drain the water and puree them in the blender. I found that though this was good, the applesauce tended to be a little watery. On this website it suggested a slightly different way. First of all they said to use only an inch of water in the bottom of your pot, as apples are 99% water and they will cook down making their own juices as they cook and soften. The second thing they recommended was that you mush the apples through a sieve, this way you get a nice thick, yet smooth applesauce. This was the method I tried.

I used only an inch of water and let them cook and soften. Then I drained whatever water was left, which wasn’t much, and strained and mushed it through a colander, leaving the peels (which I had left on) on top in the sieve and a nice thick applesauce in the container underneath. I was really impressed with how this turned out and will use this method to make applesauce going forward.

Luke and Chloe really like it too as they gobbled it up at breakfast asking for second and third helpings. I had to hide the rest in order to have enough left to make my muffins.

IMG_4146The recipe I had in mind using applesauce was for Apple Crunch muffins; one that my sister made in her home ec class in junior high. It became a favorite in our house, I think because of the yummy sweet topping, and one that was made often. I have since modified it to meet our dairy free and sugar free needs, but find it just as yummy and delicious. In fact I do not notice a difference between the original and the sugar free version.

When the muffins came out of the oven this morning, everyone was quickly asking for a taste. No one was disappointed when they took that first bite and enjoyed the sweet topping, yummy moist applesauce and fresh warm muffin. I really did find that the homemade applesauce did make them taste that much better. But isn’t that always the case with homemade? 🙂

So if you can, when you make these muffins I would recommend homemade applesauce if you have it. If not you can buy an unsweetened natural organic applesauce at Superstore, or your local natural food store.

Now I hope that this is finally the end of our apples (I don’t see anymore on the tree, but you never know…) So there will be no mad rush to use them up or create new recipes. Well… until next year that is…

Enjoy these delicious muffins and maybe double the batch, as they won’t last long. Ours certainly did not!

Apple Crunch Muffins

Topping:

3/4 c. coconut sugarIMG_4134

1/3 c. all purpose flour

2 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread

Muffin:

1 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

4 tbsp. coconut sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

3/4 c. almond milk

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. applesauce

Make topping by mixing coconut sugar, flour and Earth Balance; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, almond milk and olive oil. Add to dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Drop cupcake liners into muffin tin, or grease tin with Earth Balance. Fill each 2/3 full, then top with applesauce and topping.

Bake at 375 F for approximately 20 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean muffins are done. Place on a cooling rack, let cool 5 minutes in pan. After 5 minutes, remove muffins from tin and let completely cool. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins

What are some yummy recipes you have that use applesauce? Share them in the comments below.

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

IMG_4129I think I have finally rubbed off on my mother. All these years of me changing my eating (dairy free, sugar free and sometimes though now more often gluten free) and hanging out at her house. She was always very accommodating and ensured the meals met our needs.

But now she has gone off on her own! and is giving me all kinds of new recipes to try. It kick started when she and my Dad did a cleanse this past summer. Mum discovered some fabulous and tasty new recipes that they have now made part of their regular diet. So when they were here visiting recently Mum made a couple of her new favorite gluten free muffin recipes – pumpkin and a fruit one. I say a fruit one because we had yet to decide what kind of fruit it would be. This recipe (below) Mum uses as a base but has experimented using different fruit and nut combinations, like peach pecan, nectarine almond, etc.

strawberriespictureThe day she was making the muffins at our place, my daughter Chloe, suggested Mum use strawberries and rhubarb. We just happened to have some rhubarb in the the freezer left over from earlier in the summer when I made a sugar free strawberry rhubarb pie for the first time, and Mum bought some strawberries. Voila! We were set.

Mum was a little unsure how they would turn out but was willing to try the combination. For me, knowing how much I enjoy strawberry rhubarb pie had no doubt that it would be fabulous!

And of course, they were. Fresh and warm out of the oven, all the adults got to try them first, as the kids were all in bed (yay for us!). They were delicious! Moist, tasty and full of flavor. My Mum thought they could use a little more fruit but she prefers lots of fruit in her muffin. I thought it was fine, just our personal preferences.

What I also really like about this recipe is there are no eggs, you use chia seeds as the replacement and I think that is fabulous! Not only do you eliminate the eggs, but now you are adding a superfood. Fantastic!

So whether you are gluten free or not these are an excellent muffin. Give them a try and comment below, letting me know what you think.

Gluten Free Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

2 c. brown rice flourRhubarb-timperley-early1-300x300

1/2 c. arrowroot powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. chia seeds

3/4 c. warm water

1 c. strawberries

1 c. rhubarb

1/3 c. coconut oil, melted

1/3 c. coconut sugar

1-2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. walnuts

In a large bowl combine brown rice flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another medium sized bowl, whisk together chia seeds and water. Mix in strawberries and rhubarb, coconut oil, coconut sugar and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients over dry and gently mix. Do not over mix. Fold in walnuts.

Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease tin with coconut oil. Spoon batter into each cup. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy!

Makes 12-15 moist delicious muffins

The Perfect Dill Pickle – How to Make your Own

IMG_1871My mother has always made the best dill pickles! Ever since I was little I remember having homemade pickles. I remember going out to the valley in the summertime and picking mountains of cucumbers and how Mom always said I was a ‘good picker’ (which meant I would get in there and pick well and for hours until we were done).

I always enjoyed going up to the farmer at the end of our day and weighing the cukes to see how many pounds we had picked. Then we would head home and Mum would get to work pickling the cukes for the yummy pickles that were to come.

IMG_1917She made jars and jars of them. At least 80-100 each time, as we would go through a jar of pickles a week in our family. The kitchen was set up industriously, or it seemed so, while my Mum completed all the steps for making pickles. We often had sandwiches or leftovers for dinner during this time as Mum did not want to stop to make dinner! But we didn’t mind and it was what we expected at that time of year.

When I first moved away I asked my Mum to make me pickles and send them to me. I had become a pickle snob and I would only eat my Mum’s homemade. I would refuse to buy the ones in the store! She lovingly did this for a while, but when my parents moved to the Okanagan, it was then the perfect time for her to teach me the art of making the perfect dill pickle.

IMG_1867When the pickling cukes were ready she called and I packed up the family and went out to BC to make pickles. The first time I did it I don’t think I was paying that close attention – (ha ha sorry Mum), but I think I was just so excited to be making my own that the information on what I was doing didn’t stick. Last summer, when we were out of pickles and I headed to BC once more, was the time that it stuck on what to do.

I remember commenting to my mother how many steps there were and I didn’t realize that there were so many. Now I more fully understand why she was in the kitchen for days doing the cucumbers.

I had bought 40 lbs of cucumbers, which usually works out to about 40 jars of pickles; and some fresh dill from a local farm in Kelowna. With everything ready to go we set to work. We had soaked the cucumbers during the day so by the evening after supper we were ready to go.

Matthew assisted with the cleaning and scrubbing of the cucumbers as that night he was given the option of going to bed or scrubbing cucumbers. He chose the cukes! which I thought was a hilarious way to avoid going to sleep but enjoyed his company and appreciated his help nonetheless.

IMG_1913We moved through all the steps and in only a few hours had finished all the jars and were ready to put our feet up and relax. Now the traditional dill pickle recipe does call for a tablespoon of brown sugar, which due to living sugar free I had to make a decision. I decided to leave it as I loved these pickles so much. But what I did do was an experiment. I made a number of jars using coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar, then I marked those jars so I would be able to tell which ones were which. I have yet to open a jar in which we used the coconut sugar, but I am very interested to see how they taste. I am hoping of course that it works, then we can also make our dill pickles sugar free and just as delicious! Of course, once we open them and give them a taste I will definitely share the result!

In the meantime, here is the traditional recipe for fabulous homemade dill pickles. One of the things I really enjoy about making them is doing it together with my Mum (and Matthew when he’s wanting to help). Not only does it make the job go by faster but it is a great bonding experience, where we can chat and connect, while completing the task at hand.

The only downside is we have to wait a few months before we can eat them! as they are not instantly ready. But trust me, it is worth the wait – and you to will become a dill pickle snob 🙂

Dill Pickles  

freshly picked cucumbers in a variety of sizes (choose the size of pickles you like but it is also nice to have some small ones to fit the ‘holes’ in the jars)  1 lb cucumbers yields approx one quart jar

fresh dillIMG_1869

pickling salt

brown sugar (coconut sugar)

pickling vinegar

fresh garlic

water

1 quart jars

Prepare the Cucumbers:

IMG_1916Soak freshly picked cucumbers in ice water overnight or at least, six hours. (This aids in removing the prickles off the cucumber as well as cleansing them).   Add more ice, at least once, as water begins to cool.  Scrub each cucumber with a vegetable brush, and return to cold water.

Wash and sterilize the jars:

Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well.  Then add a bit of water, just to cover the bottom, in each jar.  Place the jars on the rack in the oven, heated to 200 F.  This will sterilze them and make them hot, which is what you want because you will be pouring hot brine into them.  Option:  jars can also be heated in the microwave, again bit of water in the bottom of each jar and heat on high for 2-3 minutes; time varies depending on the number of jars you do at one time.

Sterilize and heat lids:

Place the lids and tops of the jars in a pot filled with water to cover them and heat to the boiling point.  Turn down heat, but keep them hot to pack the jars.

Prepare the Brine:

water

pickling vinegar

For each 4 cups of water, add 3/4 cups of pickling vinegar. The total amount  you make will depend on how many jars of pickles you are making. Using a large dutch oven pot you can make a triple batch, and then more as needed.

Mix water and pickling vinegar together and bring to a boil.  Keep hot until ready to pour into packed jars.

Pack the Jars:

IMG_1915

Fresh Dill

Put about 3 medium size pieces of garlic in bottom of jar. Add fresh dill, approx 2-3 “sprays” including the stalk.  Bend and arrange to fit in jar. Pack cucumbers in jar, quite tightly, using smaller cucumbers to fill the top space.  Add 1 tbsp of pickling salt and 1 tbsp of brown sugar or coconut sugar on top of packed cucumbers.  Pour hot brine over everything in jar to just below the rim of jar.

Seal the Jars:

Wipe the top of the jar with a cloth to make sure there are no particles of anything to interfere with the seal.  Place hot lid on top.  Add screw top.  Press down on lid as you are turning the screw top to seal.  Tighten securely.

Cool and Store:

Let stand, away from drafts until jar cools completely.  Label and store in cool, dark place.  It will be approx eight weeks minimum before pickles will be ready to eat.  Best if left for 3-4 months.

Camping Desserts – Cinnamon Apple

sugar free cinnamon apple

I love the variety of neat camping recipes there are. Especially ones that you can do over the fire that are yummy, sweet and delicious. Usually done over hot coals and in tin foil it makes for even less dishes and a delicious treat or meal.

Our family camping trips always involved TFD’s, or Tin Foil Dinners, which my father usually requested that we have at least twice. But I often enjoyed the dessert options, like s’mores, banana boats and cinnamon apples. Cinnamon apples have always been my favorite, as the brown sugar would melt and make a nice sticky syrup over the apples and raisins, so much that I would often lick the tin foil to make sure I did not miss one drop! Until recently, these camping desserts were something that I had to forgo – until I figured out how to do it sugar and dairy free.

Matthew enjoying his Cinnamon Apple

Matthew enjoying his Cinnamon Apple

As with any recipe I am ‘transforming’, my goal is to figure out how to make so that it is the same as the original, or only a slight difference in taste. My Mum was actually the one who figured this one out. A couple of summers ago she bought coconut sugar and tried it out with the cinnamon apple. It worked perfectly! (Coconut sugar is an excellent natural substitute for brown sugar. It melts just like brown sugar and gives you the syrupy juice.)

I have also figured out how to do banana boats sugar free, also very good, but have yet to try it out on the campfire. (Will post it once I do! )I believe though that it will turn out just as yummy.

Cinnamon apples are easy to make sugar free without compromising the taste! Worth a try on your next camping trip this summer.

Sugar Free Cinnamon Apple

1 apple

cinnamon

coconut sugar

raisins

spoon of Earth Balance vegan buttery spread

heavy duty tin foil

Tear off a large square of heavy duty tin foil. With the shiny side up do the following:

Using Earth Balance, butter middle of tin foil, spreading evenly around. A spoonful is good but if you like you can use more. Slice and core apple, put apple on top of buttered area spreading out slices so they are not on top of each other. Best to slice apples thinly as opposed to in chunks as they soften and cook more quickly. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste, add raisins. Sprinkle a couple of spoonfuls of coconut sugar over apple mixture. The more coconut sugar you use the more juice you will create. You may add a few dollops of Earth Balance on top also to create more juices.IMG_3357

Close foil by matching the edges and folding it down until it is tight.IMG_3361

Then fold over and close each side.IMG_3362

Place foil packet on top of hot coals. Important – ensure that there is no flame amongst your coals otherwise it will burn. Let cook for 5 minutes, then flip over using tongs. You’ll hear the apple sizzling. Check after a few more minutes. Apple should be soft and coconut sugar and butter melted. If it’s not ready wrap it back up and put it back onto the coals and cook for a few more minutes.Bed-Of-Hot-Coals

Once ready unwrap and enjoy! Caution Cinnamon Apple will be very hot. If giving it to small children unwrap and let it cool some before they enjoy.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

IMG_2676Well I’ve finally decided to take the plunge! This is the year, the one where I go big or go home! For the last couple of years a number of people have been suggesting to me that I write a recipe book. There are lots of books out there on eating gluten free and some dairy free, but very few sugar free and often if they are dairy or gluten free there may still be sugar present.

For a number of reasons I delayed and delayed in doing this, even though I was confident that it would many people would be interested in it and likely be a success. For whatever reason I have decided it’s time and am diligently outlining and creating.

Part of the fun in creating is that I am taking my old tried and true family recipes and methodically, one by one, making the appropriate adjustments and trying it out. I am a big believer in making sure it works out before actually sharing it and publishing it for others. It only makes sense to me. Besides my family is enjoying being my guinea pigs and making sure that it tastes good 🙂

IMG_2674On the weekend I tried out my Mum’s coffee cake recipe, which I have always loved, making the appropriate adjustments. I was pleased that it turned out fabulously and to be honest if you had tasted the original and the sugar free one side by side you would not know the difference. I guess that is one advantage I have growing up with these recipes as I know what the originals taste like, so I can compare as to whether the new versions measure up.

Everyone gobbled it up and is now asking for more. But I am onto the next recipe to try…which I have not decided which one yet, but I am sure it’ll come to me soon enough. In the meantime if you are looking for a sugar and dairy free coffee cake, I would definitely give this one a try.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Batter:

1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spreadIMG_2672

3/4 c. coconut sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3 eggs

1 c. vegan sour cream

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Topping:

1/2 c. coconut sugar

1/2 c. walnuts, finely chopped

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread

Mix Earth Balance, coconut sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add vegan sour cream. Mix separately flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients into sour cream mixture.

Spon half batter into well greased bundt pan. Sprinkle half topping over batter. Spoon in rest of batter. Pat firmly with remaining topping.

Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

IMG_2489One of the many things I have always enjoyed about the holidays is all the treats and goodies that come with the season. Yummy cookies and squares, family favorites and traditions that I grew up with.

Slowly I have been adjusting these favorites, such as Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Squares, Candy Cane cookies and Isch Tartlets, to name a few, to a sugar and dairy free version for us to enjoy. But I love it when  I find a new recipe that I think fits the ‘holiday bill’, that requires no adjusting. This was the case with the Sweet Potato Pecan Pie which I found in Clean Eating magazine. The picture alone looked scrumptious so I knew I had to try it!

I have to admit I did make some adjustments to the original recipe, not because it was not fine as it was, but because I decided to make some different choices. For instance it called for olive oil in the crust and though I am sure it would have turned out fine, the thought of it made my stomach roll, so I used coconut oil instead.

The pie was a hit with everyone, all the kids loved it and my Mum, as she was visiting (though she loves sweet potatoes so it wasn’t a hard sell). Of course it is super good for you too!

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and choppedIMG_2487

1 ¼ c. rolled oats

¾ c. pecan halves

1/3 c. almond flour

¾ c. coconut sugar

2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. coconut oil

1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/8 tsp. plus ¼ tsp. sea salt

1 cup organic firm silken tofu

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

½ c. unsweetened golden raisins

2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

Place potatoes in medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Transfer to fridge and chill completely about 30 minutes.

Prepare crust by putting rolled oats and ¼ c. of pecans into food processor. Puree until in a fine powder. Add almond flour, ¼ c. coconut sugar, 2 tbsp. coconut oil, ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1/8 tsp. sea salt. Pulse until combined. Gently press mixture evenly into the bottom of a non stick 9 inch spring form pan. Place pan in oven and bake for 18-120 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let crust cool completely.

Pecan topping

Pecan topping

Prepare filling by pureeing tofu, remaining ½ c. coconut sugar, vanilla, remaining 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice and remaining ¼ tsp. salt until smooth.

Add chilled potato puree and pulse until just combined and smooth. Pour into cooled pie crust and smooth top with spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until filling is just firm in the center, light golden on top and cracks begin to form in the center of the filling. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 2 hours.

While pie cools, prepare pecan topping.  In a small saucepan on high, heat remaining ½ c. pecans, raisins, maple syrup, 2 tsp. coconut oil and 2 tbsp. water until simmering. Reduce heat to medium and simmer stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until no liquid remains in pan. Transfer mixture to bowl and let cool completely.

To serve run a sharp paring knife around the outside of pie to loosen from sides. Remove sides from spring form pan. Sprinkle pecan topping over top of pie and slice.

Serves 10

Pumpkin Cheesecake – Absolutely to die for!

It’s coming… Thanksgiving and all things pumpkin! Big feasts, meals with friends and did I mention pumpkin? I love pumpkin and all things related to it, especially pumpkin pie. And Thanksgiving seems to be the only time of year that I make or get some.

Of course with any pie you can make any kind any time you want. But I seem to fall into the  times of the year when they are most prominent, as I imagine do many of us. So though I love pumpkin pie and it is my favorite, I do only get it once a year.

Every year at Thanksgiving I decide I am going to try a new pumpkin recipe, as my sister often makes things like pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin tarts and pumpkin cheesecake. And though I love to branch out and try new things I tend to fall back to my pie. What can I say? It seems just wrong to not have it.

This year I truly did branch out and I made a pumpkin cheesecake for the first time. Not specifically for Thanksgiving, because of course I will make pie, but around the right time 🙂 I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good and thought that I would try it.

Being dairy free I thought that I would just have to avoid cheesecake altogether. During the summer my friend decided to try a tofu chocolate cheesecake, which gave me hope. I thought that it would prove to be quite good. Not so much. Though not terrible we both agreed that we would not make it again. Then, I remembered that they make non dairy cream cheese and I had tried it before and liked it, so why not just substitute that into a regular cheesecake recipe? This got me very excited so I went to work.

After I got over just how much cream cheese this recipe called for; I went out got the ingredients and looked at what other substitutions I needed to make. The crust was a bit of a challenge as it called for graham wafers, but I came up with a solution using almond mash leftover from making almond milk, as I had done something similar making a pie before. I substituted coconut sugar for the sugar and then of course the non dairy cream cheese and sour cream (yes this recipe called for sour cream which was another reason why this particular cheesecake recipe intrigued me).

Now this recipe is not one that you can just whip up and have ready in an hour. In fact when I finally went to make it I looked at the recipe, and in reading it more closely almost aborted the whole idea. It was a lot of time, a number of steps and would not be fully ready until the next day (as when it was finished baking you had to let it sit in the fridge overnight).

Let me tell you it is totally worth it! This cheescake is absolutely fabulous, moist, creamy and flavourful. All the kids asked for a second piece and D’Wayne looked like he was in heaven. It was absolutely delicious! I think Matthew even licked his plate and then asked for a third piece of cheesecake (to which of course I said no).

So if you are a fan of cheesecake and even a remote fan of pumpkin this recipe is worth the time and effort put into it. And the nice thing is, dairy free, sugar free, gluten free all equals guilt free and will impress every one of your guests this Thanksgiving.

Or you could just go with plain old pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust:

12 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan spread

2 1/2 c. almond mash (leftover from making almond milk)

1/4 c. coconut sugar

dash of salt

Cheesecake:

4 – 8 oz. vegan cream cheese

1/4 c. vegan sour cream

2 1/2 c. coconut sugar

15 oz. canned pumpkin

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbsp. vanilla

1 tsp. sea salt

2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

Postion rack in center of oven. Preheat to 325 F.

Brush a 10 inch springform pan with 1 tbsp. of Earth Balance. In a bowl, stir the remaining Earth Balance in with almond mash, coconut sugar and a pinch of salt. Press mixture into bottom of pan and up the sides. Bake until golden brown about 15-20 minutes.

Cool on a rack, then wrap outside of pan in tin foil and place in a roasting pan.

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add coconut sugar and beat until just light. Add sour cream, then pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 tsp. sea salt and spices and until just combined. Pour into cooled crust.

Gently place roasting pan into oven (do not pull the rack out). Pour boiling water into roaster until water is about half way up springform pan. Bake until the outside of cheesecake is set but the center is still loose, about 1 h 45 min. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat.

Close oven door and let cheesecake sit for 1 more hour. Carefully remove from roasting pan and let cool on rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

 

Tis the Season for Apples (and yummy Crumb Cake)

Fall is a great time of year. Not only with the warm sunny days and crisp fall mornings, but the fall harvest and abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits that are available.

We have an apple tree in our backyard so each Fall we have an abundance of apples. So many that I don’t always know what to do with them. And with each year the amount of apples increases as the tree grows. We usually end up with an apple crumble every other day, apple pie, as well as I make homemade applesauce and apple juice from them. The kids will also eat them right off the tree but there is no way that they can eat them fast enough.

This year I decided that I wanted to try some new things with our apples, as though pie and crumble are good, well you can only have so much (can’t you?). I have been trying various apple cake and apple muffin recipes; and though good were only using 2 apples at a time. Then I remembered, when I was growing up my Mum used to make this crumb cake which is originally a recipe from my Oma. I remembered that sometimes she put apples or plums in the cake, which made this delicious cake even better! Perfect I thought that this would use up some apples for sure! So I decided to pull out the recipe and make apple crumb cake.

Apple Cake Muffins

I was surprised at how much sugar was in it! I knew it took a lot for the crumbs, but I didn’t think there was that much in the cake. I knew though that I could make the adjustments. Deciding on coconut sugar as the substitute, I set out making the cake, in hopes that it would not only turn out but that I could use a good amount of apples in it as well.

Only 4 apples and a short time later, I had the cake in the oven. Matthew had taste tested the dough by licking a beater, and informed me that it was yummy. (I always find that if the dough tastes good that is a good indication that your cake/ cookies will be). Things were looking good.

As it started to bake and the smells were wafting through the house, Chloe wandered into the kitchen saying “Oh something smells good!” Another excellent indicator.

It looked good too, looking like I remembered when my Mom used to make it. Now it was just the taste test. The timer beeped indicating it was done, everyone’s mouths watering in anticipation. I let it sit for about 20 minutes to cool (and to have supper) before we cut into it.

Everyone devoured their cake and quickly asked for seconds. Luke’s mouth still full as he asked for more. I found that it tasted very close to the original and was pleased with how it turned out. The only change I would make would have been to add another layer of apples on the cake before putting the crumbs on top. I like to be able to taste the fruit and though you could, a few more apples would do the trick.

I think next time, I will try using honey in the actual cake, still using coconut sugar for the crumbs, just to see what the difference, if any would be. I am always curious and like to see which sugar substitute is the best. Though sometimes the one I choose is good, another choice is much better. Regardless I know that coconut sugar works and is a very good choice as the twins have been going on about apple cake. Matthew even said that he would be the envy of all his friends at school when he has some in his lunch today, because it is so delicious!

Though it did not use as many apples as I would have liked the cake was a hit and like my aunt said, “That’s 4 less apples than you had before” which is true. My quest for using up my apples continues, looking for unique and delicious ways to do so. (So if you have some good apple recipes to share please send them my way!) The baking frenzy continues…

I know I can slice and freeze the apples, the trouble is I tend to forget about them down there in the freezer…maybe I should get into dehydrating?

Apple Crumb Cake (sugar free and dairy free)

Dough:

apple crumb cake

Crumb Cake

1 c. coconut sugar

3 1/2 c. flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

juice from half a lemon

1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

4 eggs

2/3 c. rice milk

Crumbs:

1/2 c. Earth Balance Vegan spread

1 1/4 c. coconut sugar

1 3/4 c. flour

Dough: Cream Earth Balance, coconut sugar and eggs. Add flour and baking powder, mix well. Then add rice milk and lemon juice creating a soft dough. Press or roll dough into a cookie sheet sized pan.

Crumbs: Mix flour and coconut sugar in a medium sized bowl. Cut Earth Balance into sugar/ flour mixture. Form large crumbs and spread over dough.

Thinly slice apples and place on top of cake, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle cinnamon, coconut sugar and a little Earth Balance on top of fruit, then add crumbs on top. You can use other fruit such as plums for this cake. If choosing plums omit cinnamon.

Bake at 350 C for 1 hour.

Banana Muffins, Coconuts and Play Doh

Yesterday was a blissful day at home. Monday, it was snowy, we didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. It was lovely.

I had just had a fabulous weekend to myself “sans kids”, enjoying some great social time an amazing day at work and some time for me. By Sunday night I was singing!

It nicely carried over to Monday morning, so when they day started with the twins crying for one reason or the other from the time they got up, it really didn’t phase me. I just got them what they needed and carried on. I didn’t “buy in” to the drama and by the time breakfast was over they were both content and playing on their own. And I mean separately on their own, which is unusual as they are usually playing (or fighting) together. Chloe was content in the kitchen organizing markers into plastic cups, pretending to do the dishes in our Fisher Price sink, Luke was in the living room builiding a train track with his Thomas the Wooden Railway. Both totally content and happy to be where they were.

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

I was happy to putz around in the kitchen, cleaning up from breakfast, enjoying my green smoothie and experimenting with new recipes. I had even put dinner into the slow cooker and was basically ‘free’ for the day (ha ha). I had decided to bake, intending to try out a gluten free banana muffin recipe as well as making ginger cookies.

We are not completely gluten free at our house but I have been experimenting a little. I have found that though we are now sugar and dairy free that after eating a homemade muffin I become immediately tired. Deducing that the only thing left was gluten I decided to try out a gluten free muffin recipe. So I made some gluten free pumpkin muffins, had one and did not feel tired. Ah ha I was onto something here.

I buy rice pasta as much as possible and don’t consume a lot of bread. I have found that a little gluten is ok but have to be careful if I have too much. I would say that I am likely sensitive to it as opposed to intolerant. I have a sneaky suspicion though that my youngest son is intolerant to gluten. Just from various things that I have observed when he has it.

Vanilla Bean Cake

Besides everyone benefits; as when I do things like that I do them across the board. I am not making 4 different meals  and I find that we all feel better overall. So I have slowly started to gather a number of gluten free recipes such as Vanilla Bean Cake, Chocolate Dream Pie, Pumpkin muffins, Blueberry muffins and the Banana muffins I tried yesterday.

A fantastic website for gluten free recipes is Karina Allrich’s Gluten Free Goddess. All of her recipes are her own, tried and true. Many of them are dairy free as well but not necessarily sugar free, but I am familiar enough with what to do I simply make the sugar substitution and we are off to the races! This was the Banana muffin recipe I used yesterday and it was delicious. Moist and yummy! The kids loved them. In fact Luke and Chloe were hanging over the counter while I was making the batter, liking the bowl and waiting for them to bake.

I used coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar and boy were they yummy! I did not have any chocolate to add in or her other suggestions but it did not make a difference (and I might do that next time).

All in all it turned out well, even surviving Chloe putting Playdoh in her nose, and having to pause the baking to tend to that. (Yes seriously she did, and she screamed for 10 minutes, reminded me of the time my sister put a tiny doll shoe up her nose – what is it with children and putting small items where they shouldn’t be?)

So if you’re venturing into the world of gluten free try out some of these recipes. Many of them are dairy and sugar free too, yet you wouldn’t know it. (I have a friend who is salivating over the Chocolate Dream Pie and patiently waiting for me to make some so he can have a piece). I have found that there are enough resources and options out there these days to easily live gluten free, etc. without having to sacrifice taste or the treats that we love. True it is a bit of an adjustment but once you get your head around it, it is easy. And I have found that more and more people are going these routes for one reason or another.

Chocolate Dream Pie

If you have found any great gluten free recipes please share them by commenting below. I love to try new things and I am sure other people will benefit as well!