24 February 2008

Biscotti Three Ways

I'm still catching up on some recipes I made prior to the surgery (nearly a month ago!), but luckily, I'll be working on some new bits very soon.

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy this 10-minute long feature on how I made three different types of biscotti using the same basic recipe, but with some slight changes.

The original "Italian-Style Biscotti" recipe is found in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, although I made a few alterations. These alterations include agave for sugar, coconut flour for a portion of the all-purpose flour, and some key additions (carob powder, toasted almonds and toasted hazelnuts).

By the way, if you're interested in seeing how the kitchen looks since I've made a few changes, please visit my other blog for the updates.

19 February 2008

My Newest Favorite Cookie Ever -- Speculaas

Oh, these are buttery, spicy, crunchy, nutty cookies that greatly surpass the crisp, windmill-shaped cookies known as Speculaas. They are what I've been searching for all my life in a cookie. They'd also be ideal for ice cream sandwiches.

I started making a film of how to make these prior to my surgery, but it appears that I left out a few steps, so I'll just have to write it for you here for the moment. John has something up his sleeve regarding the little cooking videos, so I'm going to keep those to a minimum for a bit.

In the meantime, I invite you to try making these incredible cookies. They are truly some of the best I've ever tasted, if I do say so myself. ;D

Speculaas (adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)


1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg (I used freshly grated nutmeg)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking powder (I always sift mine)
2 to 4 tablespoons milk


1. Cream together the butter, agave, vanilla, spices and salt.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reserving the milk to use as a way to smooth out the dough if it is too dry.
3. Make the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
4. While you preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, take the dough out of the fridge. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Flour your rolling surface and your rolling pin well. Keep a little (a tablespoon's worth) pile of flour to the side to dip your cookie cutters in before you use them.
6. Roll out the dough to 1/4 in. thick and start cutting your shapes. Get as much as you can out of the dough because it will get tougher with each roll out. I used the little flower shapes shown in the photo, and it made about 4 dozen of them.
7. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, then turn the pans and bake them again for 8-10 minutes, until they are medium brown, but not too dark.
8. Let cool completely. They should really snap when you break them!
9. Enjoy!

15 February 2008

I've Joined the Great Cooks

Jill at Simply Daily Recipes has started a new Great Cooks blogroll. If you're not sure what a blogroll is, allow me to explain. Remember the term "roll call?" Well, it's sort of like that, except it exists on a blog.

Jill's blogroll lists the names of great cooking blogs that may or may not be in the general foodie blog-reading publics' conscious. Ricki, from Diet, Dessert and Dogs, whose blog I read loyally, mentioned Great Cooks today, so I thought I'd go check it out. I liked Jill's blog as well as the idea of getting a bit more exposure. Didn't take much effort to join either.

The best part is, I get to learn more about new food blogs and their bloggers. Go pay Jill a visit, and join up if you're a Great Cook, too!

14 February 2008

Hey, If It Works for LeAnn Rimes...

How to know when you've hit the big time -- LeAnn Rimes mentions you in Fitness magazine and it ends up in People magazine. No, she isn't endorsing me or Altered Plates, much as I would be delighted if she visited and tried a recipe or two. LeAnn shares her very sensible diet, which includes using agave nectar to sweeten her breakfast oatmeal.

Now, I bet you'll see a much greater demand for agave.

Good for you, LeAnn Rimes! You look mighty fit.

12 February 2008

Product Review and Yummy Vegan Cupcake Recipe

Back in December, John's mom and I had a very nice shopping day together, during which, she took me to her local, enormous Spoons 'n Spice store. In addition to finding many handy tools, I purchased this great decorative Nordic Ware tea cake pan. A week or so before my recent surgery, I decided to test this lovely pan with a recipe I hadn't tried previously from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Cashew Butter Cardamom Cupcakes was the recipe I chose for the new tea cake pan. I had no idea I'd chosen such a winner because these tiny cakes were so moist and tasty that they didn't need any frosting. However, next time, I'll make the batter a tiny bit thinner because the pan has so many detailed depressions that didn't make it into many of the cakes. Other than that, I can tell you that the Nordic Ware pan worked terrifically. The cakes were evenly colored and very pretty. Next time, I'm trying a brownie tea cake in the pan.

The recipe made enough for the entire new pan and 24 traditional mini cupcakes.

As you can see, the resulting tea cakes were tiny. These light and airy treats were a huge hit with my friends (and with me!). The cardamom was fantastic -- an ideal pairing for the cashew butter.

I made a few big changes to the recipe, so here's how it worked for me:

Cashew Butter Cardamom Tea Cakes


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond milk (I used vanilla unsweetened)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons flaxseed meal
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup crunchy cashew butter
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease tea cake pan, making sure there are no big drops of oil in the depressions. Use cupcake cups in your cupcake pans, if you're using them.
2. Whisk together the almond milk, orange juice and zest, and flax meal until very well blended and frothy.
3. Mix in the oil, agave and cashew butter. Beat until well blended.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients for 1 minute.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and beat only until just mixed.
6. Fill the cake pan depressions 2/3 full with the batter (do the same for mini cupcakes).
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until a tester poked into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean.

These won't take long to bake as minis. If you decide to make them full size, it may take up to 25 minutes to bake them.

Overall, I'd rate the Nordic Ware pan a 9 out of 10 (it's a bit heavy, but only because it's well made) and the recipe an 11+ for it's flexibility and deliciousness.

08 February 2008

Product Review -- Wholemato Organic Agave Ketchup

While this may seem a bit off topic, I just had to share with you a fantastic new agave-sweetened product -- ketchup from Wholemato. This really tasty stuff is the first I've seen of its kind.

Last night, when the sample bottle arrived, I baked some Tater Puffs (under the Whole Foods 365 brand) to test the new ketchup.

By the way, Tater Puffs are sweetened with apple juice concentrate, so you can try this at home!

After I'd shaken the Wholemato bottle a bit, I poured some out onto a plate. Actually, it doesn't truly pour, it kind of plops. Although that turned John off to it (because he's loyal to Heinz 57), I didn't rule out anything until I'd tasted it.

The texture, while not smooth like Heinz, made me think of it more like a sauce. However, upon tasting Wholemato on my first Tater Puff, I was utterly convinced it was ketchup. Tangy, fresh, and tomato-y, Wholemato was flavorful and not noticeably sweet in the least. More importantly, it was far superior to Westbrae Natural Vegetarian Unsweetened Ketchup, the brand I normally buy.

I'm really looking forward to adding some horseradish to it for shrimp dipping.

My rating: 9 out of 10, but only because I think I'd like a slightly smoother texture . The flavor was great.

07 February 2008

A Great Excuse to Alter a Quick Bread Recipe

As you can see, I've acquired another fun kitchen tool, a Microplane nutmeg grater. As an excuse to use the grater, I decided to rework a recipe from "The Baking Sheet" newsletter from the King Arthur Flour folks. The recipe I altered, "Cranberry Apricot Quick Bread," is a pretty standard quick bread, but with some tasty dried fruit.

I added even more variety by also adding dates and dried cherries to my version. My main alterations were the dried fruits, coconut flour for a portion of the all-purpose flour, almond milk for the cow's milk, and agave nectar for the sugar. My vegan friends can easily veganize this by adding baking soda, flaxseed meal, and apple cider vinegar for the three eggs, although you may need to noodle around with the amounts to get it right, and vegetable shortening for the butter.

After I'd waited until the loaf had cooled, I sliced it and tried some. It was very fruity, with a nice tangy flavor from the dried cranberries and sour cherries. It would be excellent with some whipped cream cheese or thick jam. I probably wouldn't change much, if I made it again, except maybe try it veganized. It's a nice quick bread and makes a fine hostess gift.

Here's the recipe according to my alterations:

Fruity Quick Bread


1 stick softened butter
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried cranberries (I used fruit-sweetened ones)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup walnuts


1. Lightly grease a standard sized loaf pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cream together the butter, agave nectar, orange zest, salt, baking powder, and spices until well blended.
3. Add the eggs and mix well.
4. Mix in the flour until just blended.
5. Add the almond milk and stir well.
6. Fold in all the dried fruits and nuts.
7. Using a silicone spatula, scoop the mixture into your loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and a tester comes out with the barest minimum of crumbs.
8. Let the loaf cool in the pan, on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning it out and letting it cool completely on the rack.
9. Slice and enjoy!

Here's a short film of my loaf right before I popped it into the oven and after it had finished baking.

03 February 2008

On the Mend

Greetings Friends!

I know it's been a while since the last update, but I had surgery on 29 Jan. and have been pretty much confined to my bed for the past five days. Don't worry, though. It was minor surgery -- bunion repair on my left foot. The surgeon is very pro-active, and yesterday I was already putting a little pressure on the foot while it was protected in this giant ski-boot-looking device.

That said, prior to the procedure, I baked and cooked like mad to prepare for when I wouldn't be able to stand for any length of time. I also didn't want to stress out my dear husband who has been such a saint taking care of me.

While I baked, I filmed nearly all the recipes, so now I have a small stockpile of them to share with you while I'm recuperating. While most of them come from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, there is one for cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. So far, my favorites are the Speculaas from KAFCC. But, I will extol their virtues when I post about the recipe and my alterations to it.

I'll be posting the new recipes here and there in the coming weeks. I hope you'll enjoy them!

Aside from tasting a cookie or two here and there, I've been on a very strict, low-calorie, low-fat, high-fiber diet to keep my weight steady (and possibly lose a pound or two) while I'm not active at all. So far, so good.

Last, but not least, go Giants! I'm not a big sports fan (although I very happily watched a fencing tournament from my bed a few days ago), but I do root for the underdog. Hope you enjoy your Superbowl Sunday.