23 December 2009

A Whole Different Kettle of Cranberries

From December 2009

As you can tell from my recent posts, I'm a bit up to my knees in cranberries. I love the tart snap of a fresh cranberry. When they pop, bursting their juices in these muffins, they add the most refreshing color to these oat-bran-heavy breakfast goodies.

This is another big alteration of an original recipe from the great new cookbook from the Moosewood folks, Cooking for Health. I'd almost begun reviewing the book again when I remembered that I already had on yet another cranberry-heavy recipe! My version of Moosewood's "Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates" is vegan, and substitutes agave nectar for molasses, apricots for dates, and cranberries for the apples. I've also added in a little fat in the form of 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil.

In my baking career, I've made a few cholesterol fighters in my time, but I think these will become part of my daily diet. Between all the oat bran, flaxmeal, and walnuts in these muffins, my numbers will be decreasing in no time. Overall, these oat-y, cranberry muffins go a long way toward making healthy taste good.

Here's the recipe as I made it.

Cranberry Oat Bran Muffins (Greatly inspired by "Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates" on page 52 of The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking For Health.)
Yield: 12


1/2 cup soy or coconut milk yogurt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons flax meal
3/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 cup oat bran
1/4 rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Baking Spice by Pensey's
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, vinegar, flax meal, apricots, vanilla, agave nectar, and oil until well combined.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat bran, oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are coated with the wet.
4. Fold in the cranberries and the walnuts.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin pan with paper liners.
6. Fill each liner to the top edge with the muffin batter. These won't puff up much at all, so don't worry about these being over filled.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until a bamboo tester comes out clean.
8. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then tip out the muffins and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze any that will not be eaten in the next 3 days.
9. Enjoy!

From December 2009

17 December 2009

Making Over Martha: Cranberry Tangerine Muffins

From December 2009

Catching up a bit from recent baking (and scholarly) triumphs, here is my latest Making-Over-Martha moment. The original recipe was called "Clementine-Vanilla Bean Quick Bread," from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. I wanted to noodle around with this recipe for several reasons:
1. I still have a few pounds of cranberries I froze right after Thanksgiving.
2. The recipe seemed "bendable" enough for me to be able to do some alterations with it.
3. I had several tangerines in the fridge that needed to be eaten.

From December 2009

The original recipes call for making a loaf of the batter and soaking it with a citrus simple syrup. I handled it a bit differently by making muffins glazed from a mixture of simmered agave nectar, tangerine juice, and tapioca flour. That worked very well and I've since applied the technique with other flavorings to different baked goods.

To my vegan friends, this recipe can be veganized by substituting 3 oz. of solid coconut butter for the dairy butter, increasing the baking powder and baking soda to 3/4 teaspoon each, and by using 2 teaspoons of flaxmeal in 2 tablespoons of water instead of the eggs. By the way, since my cholesterol came up high again this week, I'm with you. No more butter and eggs for me. So, you'll be seeing all veganized recipes after this one.

The resulting muffins are very cakelike in texture with a lovely fresh flavor from the tangerine segments. A note about that: removing the fruit from the bitter membrane and pith is very time consuming. Build in an extra hour when you make these and put on a David Sedaris CD for some good laughs while you're doing it.

The cranberries were the exact right foil for the richness of the muffin. They paired well with the tangerines, and made me think of adding cut halves of cranberries to my next fruit salad.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Cranberry Tangerine Muffins (greatly inspired by "Clementine-Vanilla Bean Quick Bread" on page 200 of the November 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living)

Yield: 12 large and 12 mini muffins

4 large tangerines
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup agave nectar
2 eggs
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup coconut flour (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soy creamer
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons tapioca flour

1. Zest and juice 2 of the tangerines.
2. Take the other 2 tangerines apart by separating the orange fruit from the white pith and membranes. It's an awful task, I know, but it will be worth it.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with 3/4 cup agave nectar until completely incorporated. Beat in the eggs (it will look terribly globby, but don't worry about it) for 2 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy creamer, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the tangerine juice.
5. In yet another bowl (I know, lots to clean, sorry), sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
6. In alternating turns, add the creamer and flour mixtures to the butter mixture. It should take about 2 minutes to add everything in and mix everything well.
7. Fold in the tangerines and cranberries.
8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 12 cups of a large muffin pan and 12 cups of a mini muffin pan.
9. Using scoops, fill the muffin cups to the top with the batter.
10. Bake for 30 minutes for the minis and 45 minutes for the large muffins (or until a bamboo tester comes out clean).
11. While the muffins bake, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, simmer the agave nectar, remaining tangerine juice, and tapioca flour. Whisk often until it thickens, then turn off the heat and let cool.
12. After the muffins cool for 10 minutes, take the muffins out of their pans and let them cool completely.
13. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze over the tops of the muffins. It will set up nicely.
14. Enjoy!

13 December 2009

Where Have I Been?

A bit chained to my desk, actually. I'm down to my last paper to be posted online on Tuesday, so please bear with me just a little bit longer.

Yesterday, after a full morning working on the paper, I enjoyed a fun Hannukah celebration at Mom and Dave's. As soon as I dig out from underneath all these papers on human computer interaction and user interface design, I'll find the very rich Noodle Kugel recipe I made for Mom's little party.

One last thing -- what I want for the holidays: Please donate or volunteer at your local food bank. Mine's Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Happy holidays!

02 December 2009

Updated Cookbook Review: Moosewood Restaurant, Cooking for Health

From November 2009 photos

That tasty vegan mix above is the topping for the crumble I made to test out the newest cookbook from the Moosewood folks, Cooking for Health. Actually, it was a blueberry, cranberry, and slightly apple crumble. I also made a few alterations to the recipe in terms of the directions and the ingredients because it seemed like the fruit would be a bit overcooked if I didn't.

From November 2009 photos

In this photo, it looks like it really shrunk down. But that's my fault. I used a very deep baking dish to test the recipe. It shrinks a bit, but not a huge amount. I'm sorry I didn't take a scoop-out shot, but this was one of the dishes I brought to Mom's for Thanksgiving last week, and I didn't want to dig into it prior to serving it to the folks. All that aside, it was a very good crumble. Healthy, full of great vitamin C from the berries and fiber from the oats and cornmeal (a surprise in crumble, but a welcome one), this is one recipe I'll use over again.

It's flexible enough to noodle with, so my gluten-free friends can easily enjoy it with gluten-free flours instead. What I liked most about this dessert (other than the flavors of the fruit and the crumble's crunch) was that it was super-easy to make and alter. I think the next time I make this, I'll use barley flour instead of the cornmeal. I really liked it in granola, and my version of the topping is much more like granola than not.

Here's the recipe as I made it. Greatly inspired by Apple-Blueberry Crumble on page 316 of Moosewood Restaurant, Cooking for Health (2009).

Blueberry-Cranberry Apple Crumble
Serves 10

4 cups cored apples chopped into 1/2 pieces (peel if you wish, but I didn't)
4 cups blueberries (I used frozen because they are not in season)
3 cups fresh cranberries (because they are in season, but frozen will do if not in season where you are)
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 cup (or less, depending on your taste) agave nectar
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)
3/4 cup cornmeal (or alternate flour, such as brown rice or barley)
1 cup chopped raw pecans
3/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds, although you could just as easily use sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
2 teaspoons apple pie spice (I use Pensey's because it has great flavor)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup olive oil (make sure it's a nice, fruity oil, otherwise, you could use grapeseed or some other lightly flavored oil)
1/2 cup agave nectar


1. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 in. glass baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the fruit, tapioca flour, and first agave nectar measurement until well coated with the flour.
3. In another large bowl, stir together the oats, cornmeal, nuts, seeds, spices, and salt.
4. Add the oil and agave nectar to the dry ingredients and stir until you start seeing large crumbs (1/4 in.) form.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Add the fruit to the baking dish and top with the crumbs. Spread the crumbs evenly over the fruit. Cover with foil.
7. Bake the fruit crumble for 20 minutes with the foil, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping has become golden brown. Don't be concerned if you hear popping noises -- those are just the cranberries. They don't explode, just break their skins. You can avoid this by lightly chopping them prior to adding them to the mix.
8. This is best served warm, so only cool it for about 10 minutes before serving. However, you can make this ahead and re-heat it. It stays well in the fridge for a couple of days.
9. Enjoy!

It occurred to me that I hadn't actually given a review of the book when I wrote the entry above. So, here it is! There is a lot to like about the newest Moosewood cookbook. For starters, the authors took care with the design of the book so that it is very easy to use. For instance, most of the recipes appear on one page, the nutritional facts (calories, fat, etc.) are included with each recipe, the ingredients are ordered well and highlighted in a shaded box for easy reading, and between chapters there is a great deal of interesting information about ingredients.

The majority of the recipes are savory, although the one above is a good example of the Moosewood dessert style (simple, not overly sweet, and fruit-centric). The recipes are easily alterable for special diets and food sensitivities, which is such a gift. Overall, I really liked paging through the book and look forward to working my way through the savory recipes (more than likely on Here and There).

25 November 2009

Cookbook Review: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

From November 2009 photos

I've been a big fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero's cookbooks since I first read (and began to cook from) Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance back in 2005. Now, they've released Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and I couldn't wait to read the gems they came up with for this one.

I love all their tips and comical ways of explaining things. One of the most thoughtful things they did was to include a "Gluten Frida Mix" for our gluten-free friends. (I haven't tried it, but I have the ingredients, so I will make something with it soon.)

Another funny bit was the "Shopping with pants: off-line shopping" title to their brick-and-mortar resources list. Per usual, the ladies and I have loads of fun with their cookbooks.

From November 2009 photos

The cookies I made for this review were the super-easy-to-make Chocolate Agave Trailmixers on page 96. I made a few small changes to the recipe, but the main alteration is that I used carob instead of chocolate in the cases of the cocoa powder and the chips. I also substituted almonds for the other suggested nuts, and split the cherries with dried gogi berries. Finally, I omitted the almond extract since I was using almonds in the mix, and I never preheat my oven until the cookies are ready to be scooped out onto prepped sheets. It wastes energy, and my new oven heats very quickly.

The resulting cookies were very tasty. Cooled for about 20 minutes, yet still warm, these reminded me of cakey, nutty brownies (with some dried fruit) when I tried a couple. I quickly brought the remaining cookies with me to the co-op where they were scooped up and enjoyed by the staff and volunteers. I would definitely make these again and underbake them a bit so they get that fudgey brownie feeling.

So, because I didn't stray far at all from the original, I'm reprinting (with permission) the recipe as it is in the book.

Chocolate Agave Trailmixers (From the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.)

Makes 2 dozen cookies.


1/4 cup nondairy milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
A generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup whole roasted peanuts, toasted walnuts, or roasted cashews
1/2 cup dried cherries or raisins


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together nondairy milk, flax seeds, oil, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract until combined, about 2 minutes. Sift in all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and mix to form a soft dough. Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruit.
3. For each cookie drop about 2 tablespoons of dough, 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheets. If the dough is sticking spray the spoon or dough scoop with nonstick spray. If desired, lightly flatten cookies with the back of a measuring cup sprayed with nonstick spray.
4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until firm. Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container.

From November 2009 photos

Oh, one last thing -- I know this is Thanksgiving time, so here's a link to one of the dishes I'll be bringing to Mom's this year. Hope you enjoy the how-to videos. I watched them again this morning and reminded of yet another thing I'm grateful for this year: my new kitchen.

15 November 2009

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes Your Cookies Spread Too Much

I wish I could be posting about the wonderful new recipe I'm working out for some highly seasonal, cranberry walnut oatmeal cookies. But I can't. Well, technically, that is what I'm doing, albeit not in the originally intended way.

Normally, you'd see a photo up here showing the results of some new kitchen surprise I've reworked from someone's fine recipe to accommodate agave nectar and/or veganizing, but not today. Today, I'm writing about what happens when you bake in a hurry. A hurry necessitated by too long a list of to-dos and too short a time for doing them. Yes, I know. Join the club.

All that to say, a very kind fellow from Princeton sent me a bunch of marvelous recipes, one of which I made earlier on a break between reading for tomorrow's classes and working on an extensive (read: way too long, yet pretty darn useful) annotated bibliography for my independent study work.

Because I noodled with the recipe while my mind was elsewhere, I neglected to take some needed precautions (chill the dough for 2 hours prior to baking -- my direction, not his). The resulting cookies spread so much that they became very thin, very large facsimiles of oatmeal cookies. On the other hand, they are very tasty. The combination of fresh cranberries with crunchy walnuts and rich oats is right on the money. I also used coconut oil instead of butter (you know I have mixed feeling about the stuff -- scary that it's so solid at room temperature), but the next time I rework these, I will use less. They don't end up tasting coconutty at all. Just buttery.

Oh well. Only a few more weeks left in the semester and many decisions about what to make for Thanksgiving at Mom's. My intention is to perfect a vegan version of these cookies as my contribution, but they will definitely take more noodling before they are ready for prime time.

One thing I may do next year, if I have time, is work on an agave-sweetened cranberry sauce. I've thought about it a lot over the years and just haven't gotten to it yet. There might be agar involved (to get the right "straight out of the can" rigidity to appeal to the kids who don't like the more authentic stuff), and I need more practice with that.

In the meantime, I encourage you to get some of the fantastic fresh cranberries from New Jersey. The crop I sampled is amazing.

::Continuing to chant "I love a challenge. I love a challenge. I love a challenge."::

08 November 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Cornbread

From October 2009 Photos

Yep, that's me sneaking a piece of this incredibly delectable, moist cornbread. The original recipe (pre-Altered Plates version shown above) comes from the fabulous Debbie McDuffee's site CliqueClack Food. I made all kinds of changes to the recipe in order to veganize it and make it Deb-friendly. But the result was wonderful.

All the folks at the George Street Co-op who tried the cornbread were very happy with the moistness and the flavors that paired so well -- mainly the corn and the pumpkin. It was a karmic return for the organic pumpkin which I had bought at the co-op while it was on sale. For those of you who may think that organic doesn't make a difference, try organic pumpkin. It's a completely different experience. You can actually smell and taste how squash-y it is. It also has a very realistic color. I ate the leftover pumpkin with some pumpkin pie spice and just a 1/2 teaspoon of agave. It was delightful.

From October 2009 Photos

Just like a typical cornbread, this one is made in a cast-iron skillet. I prepped the pan by oiling it with some grapessed oil and then letting it heat in the oven while it preheated to 375 degrees F. I recommend making it this way because it does two things: 1. It give the crust a nice crunch, and 2. you can't beat how nicely the bread comes out of the pan. Here, I'll show you:

From October 2009 Photos

From October 2009 Photos

Just a note about sweetness, I like my cornbread on the sweet side, unless it features savory ingredients like green onions (heaven!). So, if you're like Debbie and want it to be less sweet, cut the amount of agave nectar.

Finally, sometimes baked good improve over time in a tightly sealed container. The spices take their time melding with the other ingredients, the moisture changes, etc. I wish I could say that I knew for sure that this is one of those recipes, but the batch only lasted two days. You'll let me know, won't you?

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Pumpkin Cornbread (greatly inspired by Debbie McDuffee's recipe of the same name)

Yields 18 wedges


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup cornmeal (next time, I'm using corn flour for a smoother finish)
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon flaxmeal
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice.
2. Mix the cornmeal into the dry ingredients until well blended.
3. In a medium bowl or a very big measuring cup (10 cups or more), beat together the pumpkin, agave nectar, flaxmeal, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar until well incorporated.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and mix until well blended. It will be very thick.
5. Let the batter rest while you oil your cast iron pan and let it heat up with the oven to 375 degrees F.
6. Once the oven is hot, using potholders, take the pan out of the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface. Scoop the batter into the hot pan (please be careful!) and spread it evenly across the pan. It won't fill the pan. It also won't rise much.
7. Bake the cornbread for 20 minutes or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.
8. Let the cornbread cool in the pan until the pan cools down. Turn it out by placing a flat surface on top of the pan and inverting both. The cornbread should come out cleanly.
9. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

From October 2009 Photos

02 November 2009

Off Topic: Deb Goes to an Archivists' Conference

Yep, this is WAY off topic, so I won't take up much space about it at all. Some of you very wonderful readers have been super-supportive of me during my library schooling, so I thought I'd give you a link to my report of the recent MARAC in Jersey City. (MARAC is a regional conference for archivists and archival librarians.)

If you're interested in reading about my experience there (pretty awesome on the whole), please visit my Here and There blog to read about it.

Next time, I'll be sharing about pumpkin cornbread -- a surprisingly yummy combination.

28 October 2009

Ah, the Miracle of Coconut Oil -- Veganized Anzac Biscuits

From October 2009 Photos

I'm very fond of many of my cookbooks, but few are written with such care as The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. It's really a great book for beginners because it explains so much of the food chemistry that goes into baking. It's even better for those of us a bit more practiced who like to tinker with recipes.

One of the recipes in the Cookie Companion that I've had tagged for a few years without trying is "Anzac Biscuits." Traditional Australian cookies, crisp and buttery, these yummy bits are usually made with golden syrup and sugar. I knew they would be a challenge, and not quite authentic made with agave nectar, but I pushed forward. The big issue is that agave nectar just doesn't crystalize. Add in coconut oil instead of butter, and you get a cookie that's moist, not crispy.

From October 2009 Photos

All that aside, these are really great, habit-forming cookies. Even though the recipe calls for no spices or flavorings, these still have plenty of flavor from the caramelized agave nectar, the oats, and all that coconut.

From October 2009 Photos

The interesting step of mixing a slurry of baking soda and boiling water with the agave nectar and coconut oil does something fizzy and magical to the cookies. It makes them light and indescribably snackable. I couldn't keep my mitts off them. Luckily, I brought the majority of the batch to Mom and Dave as well as some friends on Monday night. They were quite the success. No one thought they weren't made with butter. And, that my friends, is the miracle of coconut oil. Solid at room temperature, the stuff frightens me with all its saturated fat. However, it's supposed to be good fat, so I'm not going to worry (OK, I worry a little and only eat two cookies -- please send me links to research that will set my mind at ease!) too much.

All that to say, I'm happy to be able to veganize classic recipes and make them agave nectar friendly. One last thing -- when I make these again, I'm adding vanilla and ginger. Mom thought they would be excellent as well (and we know that she knows what she's talking about). Here's the recipe as I made it.

Anzac Biscuits (greatly inspired by the recipe of the same name on page 83 of The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)

Yields 3 dozen cookies.


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour (sifted)
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut oil (measured solid)
2/3 cup agave nectar (you'll want amber for this)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water


1. Mix together the oats, flours, coconut, and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil in the agave nectar over low heat. This will take about 10 minutes of stirring often. If you need to turn up the heat a little, you'll need to keep a close eye on it. Just make sure it doesn't boil.
3. While the oil is melting, boil the water and make the baking soda slurry. Add the boiling water to the baking soda and stir well.
4. Take the oil/agave nectar mixture off the heat and stir in the baking soda slurry. This will foam up in a lovely caramel color. It won't foam over, so don't worry about that.
5. Gently mix the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until everything is well combined. Let rest.
6. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and prepare three baking sheets with parchment paper liners.
7. Using a medium cookie scoop (or two spoons), scoop the dough in even measures with lots of spreading room (because these guys spread a LOT) onto the cookie sheets.
8. Bake for a total of 12 minutes, turning and switching the positions of the sheets at 6 minutes.
9. Let the cookies sit on their sheets for 10 minutes before delicately moving them to racks to cool completely. They crisp up a bit, but will always have a nice moistness to them.
10. Enjoy!

18 October 2009

Heavenly Banana Apple Walnut Muffins

From October 2009 Photos

I'm a big fan of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. You might remember the very buttery and delicious Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints I made the last time I wrote about the book.

This recipe is greatly inspired the book's recipe "Mom's Banana Apple Bread," especially when it comes to the wonderful apple element. I noticed that I've been having trouble making successful recipes that require the use of a loaf pan (the original bread recipe was to be a loaf), so I noodled around with the recipe a bit and made muffins from it. The resulting muffins were fantastic. And, for my vegan friends, I have included ingredient swaps and directions.

From October 2009 Photos

The neat thing about this recipe is that the directions call for sauteing the apples in butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar prior to adding them to the batter. Of course, I used agave nectar in my saute and substituted the most gorgeous Gala apples I've ever seen for the Granny Smiths. By the way, if you wanted a very simple dessert or topping, you could easily just make the apple portion of this recipe. I'd also recommend making this with pears. If you use apples instead of pears, increase the amount of nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon. It just tastes better that way.

From October 2009 Photos

This is a close-up shot of the muffin's interior. As you can see, these are moist muffins with plenty of walnuts and apples. The original recipe does not call for walnuts, but if you're going to make banana bread, in my book you need walnuts.

From October 2009 Photos

The original recipe calls for a baking time of around an hour. So, if you're successful with loaf pans, that's your wait time. These little fellas took only 35 minutes in my oven.

I know the yield is weird (16 muffins) because I wound up putting muffin cups into ramekins and putting those in a pan filled about 1/2 in. with water next to the pan with the other muffins. That worked to keep them very moist, I'm sure. It also made them take a bit longer to bake than the others. In the future, I'd probably just fill a pan of mini muffins instead.

I also know that this is the second apple recipe in a row, but it's such a good season for apples. And, the Galas at the co-op have been especially tasty and crisp this year. Must be because we've finally had a real fall for a change.

OK, here's the recipe as I made it.

Heavenly Banana Apple Walnut Muffins (greatly inspired by The Sweet Melissa Baking Book recipe Mom's Banana Apple Bread)

Yields 16 standard muffins.


2 tablespoons butter (vegans: walnut or non-flavored oil)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
3 Gala apples, cored and cut into 1/2 in. pieces (I peeled mine and ate the peels, but you can leave the peels on.)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rough chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, softened (vegans: equivalent amount of non-dairy spread)
2/3 cup agave nectar (you'll want amber for this recipe)
2 eggs (vegans: add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the wet ingredients)
1/4 cup pineapple juice (the original calls for orange, but pineapple works fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 very ripe bananas, mushed


1. In a cast-iron pan, melt the butter until just pooling, then stir in the agave nectar until combined. Be careful here because you don't want to burn the agave nectar.
2. Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, stirring until the apples are completely coated with the mixture. Saute for about 3-5 minutes until the apples just begin to soften their edges.
3. Remove the apple mixture from the pan and set it aside while you make the batter.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, spices, salt, and walnuts until the dry ingredients are well mixed. This should take about 2 minutes.
5. Beat the butter and agave nectar until well combined. Add the eggs, juice, vanilla, and bananas.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until just combined.
7. Fold in the apples, making sure they are evenly distributed.
8. Let the mixture rest while you line your muffin tins with paper cups and heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
9. Load up your muffin cups to the tops with the batter. They won't overflow much at all.
10. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, then check with a bamboo skewer. They are done when the tester comes out with only 1 or two moist crumbs attached.
11. Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes in the pan before tilting the muffins in the pan (so that the underside cools) for another 30 minutes before eating.

These are best served warm and will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container. They freeze very well if individually wrapped and bagged.

11 October 2009

Off Topic

Hello Friends!

Here in New Jersey the weather couldn't be finer for a crisp fall day. But, I wish I were in Washington, D.C. standing with my friends who marched for equality today. I'm not going to get up on my soap box here because that's what my other blog, Here and There is for. So, if you want to know more about why I'm wishing I was in D.C. today, please read about it here.

Back on topic, I'll be posting a very tasty (albeit non-vegan -- sorry friends) recipe for apple banana bread at some point this week.

Enjoy the weather!

04 October 2009

Book Review: Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds -- Veganized Apple Spice Cake

From October 2009 Photos

I'm quite enjoying the quest to veganize as many Altered Plates dishes as possible. This delicious apple spice cake inspired by the one in Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds was a lesson in food chemistry for me. As a result, I'm a full convert to the use of apple cider vinegar with baking powder to create an awesome egg substitute. Additionally, the original recipe calls for dark brown and granulated sugars, and molasses, all of which I don't use, so I called on my creative muse to help me on my journey with this cake.

From October 2009 Photos

I wasn't too worried once I tasted the batter, but I did become concerned when as it cooled, the cake part started separating from the apples a bit.

From October 2009 Photos

But, I carved out a small chunk and was so happily surprised that it took a lot of strength not to eat more of it before I took it to Mom's for her annual family party yesterday. Even though I made my cake with whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour, as well as a nice amount of flax meal just to be on the safe side in the veganing, no one complained about it being "too healthy" at all.

From October 2009 Photos

I received rave reviews on the cake, especially it's flavor and texture. I'd say it's about half apples and half cake. That makes for interesting serving, but I eventually was able to cut nice squares while my cousin Alan handed out the plates and forks. It's a very most cake with a wonderful spiced flavor and fluffy texture. I would definitely make this one again. Maybe for Thanksgiving.

About the book, while it's really not for vegetarians and vegans (or, very importantly, for folks who do not drink or cook with wine), there are plenty of worthwhile dishes to try and lively stories to read. If rough language also turns you off, you probably will have to exercise tolerance at turns, but generally it's written in a very informal way that is immediately approachable. I prefer more photos, especially of the finished dishes, but the book is targeted at those who want to throw fun dinner parties like the authors, so I supposed they are appropriate. All that aside, making a vegan version of the authors' apple spice cake was a fun thing to do for a dinner party of sorts at Mom's.

Here's the recipe for my version so you can try it for yourself.

Apple Spice Cake (inspired by the one of the same name on page 118 of Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds

Easily serves 20.


1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour + a little extra for the baking dish
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 teaspoon Cake Spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup oil (I used a mix of olive and canola oils) + a little extra for the baking dish
1 1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 Gala apples, cut into 1/2 in. chunks (keep the peels on the fruit)
1 cup walnuts chopped roughly


1. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the walnuts until very well combined.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except the apples until very well combined.
3. Oil and flour a 9 x 13 in. baking dish (I used a glass one)
4. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Fold in the apples and walnuts and mix until just combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and let it rest for 15 minute before baking.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
8. Bake the cake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then tent lightly with foil and bake at 325 for another 30 minutes (or until a tester emerges with moist crumbs attached, but you don't want it to be gooey).
9. Cool for an hour before serving. It's wonderful warm, but will be just as wonderful for the next two days. It won't last longer than that.

Just some procedural notes: once you mix the wet with the dry, the vinegar immediately starts reacting. You'll have to act quickly to get it into the pan and spread it evenly before it becomes challenging to do. Don't worry if you see air bubbles, it all works out fine.

I'm also sure that you could make a chocolate or carob version of this by substituting cocoa or carob for some of the flour. If you try it that way, please let me know how it goes!

25 September 2009

Making Over Martha Month: Veganized Raspberry Tart (nee Linzertorte)

From September 2009 photos

This Linzertorte, inspired by Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (p. 171), is probably the most time-consuming recipe I've ever made. It also is one of my proudest achievements as far as veganizing challenges go. Why? Well, translating 3/4 of a cup of butter (read: 1.5 sticks) and 1 cup of granulated sugar into appropriate amounts of olive oil (yep, it's olive oil alright) and agave nectar that would mesh with a nut-based crust was almost as rough as my shortbread Everest. Oh, and did I mention an egg? Yes, I had to work out the egg issue too. What I do for my vegan friends.

From September 2009 photos

This cutaway shows just how jammy (or rather, no sugar added spread-y) this luscious linzertorte is. Boy, this is rich stuff. Between the toasted hazelnuts and almonds in the crust, and the thick layer of jam between, a small portion is all you'll need for a great agave-sweetened, vegan fancy dessert. It's really quite the show-stopper for a gathering.

From September 2009 photos

When I served it to my pal Teresa, she almost didn't believe that it was vegan. That says a lot. She's a big fan of butter, so she would know.

OK. I know. You've waited long enough. Here's the recipe as I made it -- a very far cry from Martha's, which is fitting since it's the last of the month. Hope you've enjoyed my Making Over Martha Month. By the way, for you linguists, I know I'm completely misusing nee in the title, but it's the closest I could come to saying that the thing is so completely changed that its previous incarnation was a linzertorte.

Caveat: This takes FOREVER to make due to all the chilling involved. Believe me, you can do it. Just plan to make it on a day when you have lots of small, short-term tasks to accomplish. Like cleaning. Or laundry. Or repotting plants.

Sorry, one last thing -- Martha's original says it's best eaten the day it's baked. Mine improves over time, although eating it the first day is certainly a good thing.

Veganized Raspberry Tart (inspired by the Linzertorte in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook; p. 171; 2005.


1/2 cup toasted and rubbed clean of skin hazelnuts
1 cup blanched almond flour (it's OK if you don't have this, just run a cup of blanched almonds through your coffee grinder or food processor until they are powdery)
1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Pensey's Baking Spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil (use your best light oil)
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon flax meal

Nearly 2 10-oz jars of no-sugar-added raspberry spread (I used the 365 brand from Whole Foods, and it was lovely.)

2 tablespoons no-sugar-added apricot spread
1 teaspoon filtered water


1. In a food processor, blend together the hazelnuts, almond flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, Baking Spice, and salt.
2. In a mixer, beat together the olive oil, agave nectar, and flax meal.
3. Add the dry to the wet ingredients above and mix until well incorporated. Expect that it will be wet. Split the dough in two uneven halves (one should be slightly larger than the other -- that will be the bottom crust). Wrap each individually and refrigerate the crust dough for 1 hour.
4. Using the slightly larger half, press the dough into the bottom and sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don't have one, you could definitely use a springform pan (in fact, next time I make this, that's what I'll use), but only go 3/4 of an inch up the sides with your dough. Cover with plastic and freeze for 2 hours.
5. Meanwhile, between two sheets of parchment paper (and with a LOT of flour on both sides of the dough), roll out the other half of the dough until it is about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Wrap this up in plastic and freeze it for 2 hours.
6. Spread the raspberry spread onto the bottom crust, re-wrap and freeze it again while you work on your top crust cut-outs. (This can take from 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon how well you do keeping your crust from sticking. As it warms, it gets very sticky. And, like any good crust, you don't want to handle it much at all.)
7. Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut out enough pieces of the rolled out crust to cover the top of your tart while leaving air holes (they also provide nice contrast against your crust).
8. Take the bottom of the tart out of the freezer and top the tart with your lovely little cut-outs. Wrap the whole thing up and freeze it until you complete the glaze step.
9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
10. Whisk the apricot spread with the water until well combined. Then, take your tart from the freezer.
11. Using a pastry brush, quickly spread the glaze on the top of the tart, place the whole thing on top of a rimmed baking sheet topped with parchment paper, and place it in the center of your hot oven.
12. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, then check to see how quickly the edges are browning. Cover any parts that are browning too quickly with foil, then bake it for another 15 minutes or until completely golden brown and bubbling.
13. Let it cool completely before removing the sides of the pan to show off your amazing veganized raspberry tart!

Take some photos and show me how yours turns out!

24 September 2009

Quick Update

No, my friends, I have not fallen off the edge of the earth. I've been a bit over-scheduled between school and associated activities and the Jewish New Year. Regardless, I did make my final MOMM dish, a veganized Linzertorte which came out so much better than I had imagined. I promise to post photos and the recipe very soon because my Linzertorte is a grand departure from Martha Stewart's original and will bring very happy faces to my vegan friends and their tasters everywhere. So, until then, may the new year bring you much "naches". A sweet one to you!

17 September 2009

Making Over Martha Month: Turning Galette into Pie, Altered Plates Style

From September 2009 photos

Oh Martha, you are wonderful, but your Pate Brisee does not hold a candle to Elise's All-Butter Crust as I make it with agave nectar and whole wheat pastry flour. On the other hand, your fillings are killer (at least with the alterations I've listed below).

The original recipe was for Martha Stewart's Apricot-Blackberry Galette, Baking Handbook (2005), pg. 266. but I reworked it with the double-crust (my version) and significantly tarted it up with fresh raspberries. I also changed up the rest of the ingredients a bit, so I've included the recipe as I made it below.

The raspberries make the filling very tart, but it calms down after the first day. I highly recommend enjoying the pie with some delightful vanilla frozen dessert. Also, if you are vegan and wish to make this veganly, you could use a combination of oils, including almond oil, measuring 3/4 cup total, and omit the egg wash on thee crust. Instead, you could brush the top with a jam wash (a few tablespoons of apricot jam and an equal amount of water, whisked together). It will have a nice, glossy finish. Oh, and the crust will give the whole pie the best that almonds can give. I can't think of a better way to eat apricots and raspberries.

Killer Apricot-Raspberry Pie


1 awesome almond-y double-crust recipe
15 fresh apricots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 fresh apples, peeled and cut into similarly sized pieces
2 cups fresh raspberries
4 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 cup agave nectar
pinch of salt


1. Press 1/2 the crust recipe into your best pie dish, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge. Roll out the rest of the crust, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge.
2. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Make sure that the arrowroot is completely dissolved.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Pour the fruit mixture into your chilled crust in the pie dish. Wrap back in plastic and chill in the fridge.
5. Take the rolled-out crust out of the fridge and use some fun cookie cutters to cut out enough pieces to cover the top. Take the filled pie dish back out of the fridge and place your top pieces on top of the fruit until you have a decorative top crust. Remember to leave air/juice holes. This is very important.
6. Bake your pie for 20 minutes, then tent with foil to prevent the top and edges from browning too quickly. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the juice is bubbling and the top has become evenly light brown.
7. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

09 September 2009

Making Over Martha Month: Banana Walnut Cookies

From September 2009 photos

Last month, my friend Tanya (the lovely hand model and professional massage therapist above) came to visit and we baked all day long, using up all the black bananas in my freezer. We made banana bread, banana muffins, and these amazing banana-walnut cookies that were originally Martha Stewart's Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies from her Sept. 2006 issue of Living.

I'm sorry to say to my vegan friends that I did not veganize this recipe, but you can easily do it with margarine or oil (but cut the amount by 1/3, if you use oil). And, the egg is easily disposed of with either 1/2 teaspoon baking powder or the flaxmeal trick.

My substitutions were:

1. Agave nectar (amber variety) for the granulated and brown sugars. This gave it a very molasses-y flavor.
2. Whole wheat pastry flour for the whole wheat flour. It lightened up the cookies tremendously.
3. Dried dark sweet cherries for the chocolate chunks, softened first in hot water and drained.
4. The addition of two tablespoons of coconut flour to compensate for the moisture in the agave nectar.

The results of our hard work were wonderful. They were definitely my favorite out of all the banana recipes we made that day. They weren't too sweet or dry at all. In fact, these cookies come out rather cakey in texture and very banana-y in flavor. None of the flavors overpowered the others. And, soaking the dried cherries first is key. Tanya captured that best when she said, "The cherries aren't overly chewey. I'm not trying to chew them down."

What you really can't tell from the photo is that these cookies have oats in them. I love the richness of the walnuts against the oats and the banana in these cookies. I also think that you could definitely use carob or chocolate and they would be winners.

Since I've linked to the original recipe, I'll just include the two exact measurements that are missing:

1. 3/4 cup agave nectar
2. 2 tablespoons sifted coconut flour

I'll have to make them again soon because I'm starting to collect bananas in my freezer again! Any other banana recipe suggestions?

01 September 2009

Making Over Martha Month Begins!

From September 2009 photos

And, what a beginning it is! To kick off Making Over Martha Month here on Altered Plates, I've veganized and spiced up Martha's Oatmeal-Raisin Bars. The original version was printed on page 103 of Everyday Food, Issue 53, June 2008. I made a boatload of changes to this recipe, i.e., it's a actually a new recipe at this point. Some of the highlights include agave nectar (of course!) for granulated sugar, olive oil for butter, whole wheat pastry flour for AP flour, Pensey's Baking Spice for half the amount of cinnamon, and the wonderful addition of walnuts. How she could have made oatmeal raisin cookies without walnuts is beyond me... but I've corrected that here.

The thing about Baking Spice is that it imbues everything with a wonderful anise, cinnamon, and cardamom mix of flavors. And, in this case, it works marvelously with the Fiore di Sicilia, which is itself a magical ingredient. If I ever decide to make a fruitcake, I would definitely use Baking Spice and Fiore di Sicilia in it.

From September 2009 photos

This rather in-your-face close-up of a bar slice shows the texture of this fragrant treat. Mine was a tiny bit dry because I did not let it cool completely in the pan. (That's a lesson for you -- leave it alone!) My pal Teresa suggested that it would make an excellent crumble over ice cream. We each had a bar with some vegan coconut milk ice cream on top. It was a highly satisfying dessert.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Bars
Yield: 16 bars


1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon Fiore di Sicilia (if you don't have it, just use vanilla)
1 teaspoon Pensey's Baking Spice (if you don't have it, make a mixture of cinnamon, mace, anise, and cardamom -- 1/4 teaspoon each)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Beat the oil with the agave nectar and Fiore di Sicilia until very well blended.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients except for the raisins and walnuts, until very well combined. Add in the raisins and walnuts and mix with a big spoon until well combined.
3. Give the wet ingredients one more beating, then add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just moistened.
4. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F, and line an 8 in. square baking dish with two lengths (horizontal and vertical) of parchment paper.
5. Spread the batter into the dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a bamboo tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
6. Let cool completely in the dish, on top of a wire rack, then slice into bars.
7. These will keep in an airtight container for about 5 days, but they certainly won't last that long. They smell and taste terrific!

Overall, this was probably the most fun I've had veganizing a recipe of Martha's. I didn't veganize the other Making Over Martha Month Recipes for September, but if you take the plunge to veganize them, please let me know how it goes. Thanks! Hope you enjoy this recipe.

23 August 2009

A Vacation to Recover from a Vacation

I hope you all are doing very well and enjoying the remains of the summer. Here in Central Jersey, it's hot and HUMID. Well, it's actually wet. I'm sure that's affected some of my baking results, but the new AC has been helping.

Speaking of baking, I'm gearing up for September's Making Over Martha Month. Tanya helped with one recipe, and 2 days ago, Dawn (my Tennessee pal) helped me make another. Because I'm also gearing up for the fall semester, I'll try to get two more done before the end of the month to blog about in September, but it might be a bit of a squeeze.

We dropped Dawn off at the airport at 4 am this morning for her return flight to Nashville, after a week of fun. Well, not all of it was fun. The day she arrived, we had to drive the 5 hrs to the northern tip of Lake George to attend a funeral service for her recently departed Aunt Joy. The lake was lovely, as were the homes of her brothers on the lake. If you go to Lake George, stay in Ticonderoga and eat breakfast at the Hot Biscuit. The biscuits are HUGE. Easily the size of both my fists together. I recommend not eating the night before in order to finish one of them. Excellent with agave nectar.

All that to say, we had a very full week, and now I have a long to-do list to accomplish before settling down with a routine for school. However, I will be back in September, blogging away for Making Over Martha Month. Enjoy your week!

17 August 2009

Guest Blogger: Teresa and Her Magic Banana Muffins

From Aug. 2009 photos

This recipe comes from my pal Teresa, who is studying to become a librarian with me at Rutgers. Originally, I was going to veganize them, but just for fun, I tried them just as she outlines below (except that I didn't make mine in a food processor or process the nuts -- just whacked 'em with a mallet. I also used walnuts, and instead of the cinnamon, I used 1 teaspoon Pensey's Baking Spice.). I made these yesterday with another friend, Tanya, who baked with me all day. We used up all the black bananas in my fridge and freezer. More of those recipes to come.

Tanya had some lovely things to say about these particular muffins -- "A great breakfast muffin with a spinach and feta omelet." I thought that 1. they don't taste like whole wheat muffins at all (thank the stick o' butter for that one), 2. they are very light in texture, and 3. I prefer them with walnuts over cashews. Overall, they are very fine muffins which, if I had a cafe, I would serve them in my muffinry repetoire.

But, for now, please enjoy these delicious banana muffins from Teresa.

From Aug. 2009 photos

Delicious Banana Nut Muffins

I suppose I should start with a little introduction as it is not Deb writing this entry.
My name is Teresa, I go to grad school with Deb, and I am a baker who refuses to follow recipes. The general public may find this shocking, but you, loyal readers of Altered Plates, by now realize that recipes are not set in stone. I bake a good amount, usually at least one breakfasty treat and one desserty treat a week. My father is a processed food addict that seems to hate all sources of fiber, so I constantly struggle to hide good things in yummy tasting snacks. As such, I grind up all sorts of things and use alternative sweeteners a good amount in my baking.

This is a recipe for banana nut muffins. I don't know about everyone else's household, but mine often finds that it buys one or two bananas too many before they are over ripe for eating. Luckily, overripe for eating equals perfectly ripe for baking. Furthermore, if you ever find yourself in such a situation and do not have time to bake, just disrobe your banana, place him in a plastic bag or freezable container, and pop him in the freezer. You can throw chunks in a blender with berries and yogurt for a delicious smoothie, or defrost them to use in any baking recipe.

This recipe is extremely loosely based on a banana nut bread recipe from an old (1980, which is before I was born) food processor bread cook book. I changed the nuts (and ground them to hide from my father), used agave nectar instead of cane sugar, used whole wheat flour instead of white, got rid of the milk, and baked them as muffins because who can wait the 50 minutes for a loaf when you can be eating a yummy muffin in 25?

Anyway enough chatting, you are here for a recipe!

Banana Nut Muffins

Yields 12 regular muffins.


2 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup nuts (I used raw cashews, but any nut you find yummy will do the job)
2 eggs
1/2 cup room-temp unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I never measure such spices when baking... so this is just a general guess of how much it was)


Note: I used a food processor for this to grind up the nuts, but it is easy to do by hand if you like more chunks. I would not use beaters, however, because over beating the flour will make the muffin texture more like pucks and less like light fluffy muffins.

1. Mash the bananas and mix with lemon juice.
2. Add the nuts, eggs, butter, agave nectar, and vanilla. Mix until completely combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients until homogenous.
4. Add the dry to the wet in 3 or 4 stages, pulsing or mixing until just combined.
5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
6. Grease a muffin pan or line with paper liners.
7. Dole out the batter evenly. The batter should be a little short of the top.
8. Bake in a hot oven 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Remove from pan when you can touch them (I have crazy baker hands that amaze friends and family with their ability to touch hot things) and finish cooling on a rack.

These muffins can be enjoyed as soon as they are cool enough to eat. Let leftovers cool to room temperature completely before placing them in an airtight container for keeping.

13 August 2009

Vegan Lemmmmmmmon Poppy Seed Muffins

From Aug. 2009 photos

The pre-Altered Plates version of these vegan lemon poppy seed muffins originates in Vegan Brunch. I made quite a few changes to the recipe to make it agave-nectar friendly. I also doubled the recipe because I made "Thank You" muffins for my supervisor at the Zimmerli Museum, and sesame seed (instead of poppy seed) muffins from the same batch for some friends who don't eat poppy seeds.

From Aug. 2009 photos

These muffins definitely improve over time. I had one just after they had cooled enough to split open and try, and immediately had doubts about whether to give them to anyone. So, my advice to you: Let these cool completely and don't cover or refrigerate them overnight. The magic that happens is amazing.

I'm also not sure I'd use AP flour again. When I use whole wheat pastry flour in my baking recipes, they tend to turn out better. I'm not sure why, but they just do. Next time, I'm also going to make these with dried cranberries and pistachios instead of lemon and poppy seeds. I'd bet they would be great.

Here's the recipe as I made it.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Yields 12 large muffins and 24 mini muffins


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (feel free to use whatever suits you here)
scant 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup agave nectar
4 tablespoons lemon zest
4 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons each of poppy seed and sesame seeds, separated


1. Line your muffin pans with paper liners.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together the almond milk, lemon juice, canola oil, agave nectar, lemon zest, and vanilla until very well combined.
4. Mix the wet with the dry ingredients for 1 minute, maximum, until just combined.
5. Split the mix in two parts, and add the poppy seeds to one half and the sesame seeds to the other. Just fold the seeds in, and don't mix a lot.
6. Begin preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Using a medium scoop, fill your large muffin cups to the edge of the paper. Using a small scoop, do the same with the mini muffins.
8. Bake the muffins 10 minutes for the minis and 20 minutes for the large muffins, or until a tester comes out clean.
9. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pans before releasing them onto wire racks to cool completely. Very important: Do not cover or wrap these for at least 12 hours. It will make a huge difference in the outcome of the muffins. Trust me on this.


07 August 2009

Travelogue: Salt Lake City and Park City on Here and There

If you happened to be interested in the rest of my trip to Salt Lake City, please feel free to visit my other blog, Here and There for the complete travelogue. Otherwise, next week, I'll be back to baking as usual. Enjoy the weekend!

04 August 2009

Altered Plates On Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Este Pizzeria in downtown Salt Lake City is a very busy spot at 12:30 pm on a weekday. It was even busier than usual on the day Connie (my mom-in-law) and I went. It was a heck of a day, in fact. But I'll get to that later. You did come here for the food.

Above are little puffs of fried dough called zeppoles that are normally sprinkled with granulated sugar and cinnamon. I got gypped on the cinnamon when I asked for no sugar, but the cool thing was that the zeppoles come with a little container of agave nectar in which to dip them. When I say little, I mean this:

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Just a few milliliters, but it turned out to be just enough for the whole box. The box, by the way isn't styrofoam, it's some biodegradable corn container. So was the water cup.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

OK, back to the food.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

These tiny doughnut bites were yummy. I'm sure they would have been a bit crisper and not as chewy if we hadn't such a long walk back to the car and the wee drive to Connie's office. But, we were running out of time on the meter and needed to move the car.

Being able to have another option besides sugar for a dippable dessert is wonderful. And, Este pizza isn't bad either. Well, let me clarify that. For SLC, the pizza is great. Tastes a lot like East Coast pizza. For New Jersey or New York pie, it's pretty average.

Are you still curious about the heck of a day we had? Well, you asked for it. Connie and I saw two people get hit by a train! But, before that happened, we witnessed (in separate instances) a pretty large, and strangely quiet protest at the courthouse.

First, on my way to the main branch of the Salt Lake City Library (I will be blogging about that at length -- as well as much more of the trip -- on Here and There later), Connie called me to say that there was a big gathering of Fundamentalist LDS (read: Mormon for LDS) protesters gathered in front of the City and County Building, and that I shouldn't miss the opportunity to see such a thing. I wasn't sure what this meant until I drove past the building and saw what appeared to be costumed women with poofy hair and men in long-sleeved shirts (in 90 degree F sun) and jeans milling about under the trees and by the steps of the courthouse.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

There were probably around 500 folks (although the paper said there were at least 1000 -- they exaggerated) quietly waiting for news inside the historic building. I did what I always do in these situations, and told the the friendly police bikers that I was a visitor from New Jersey and was curious about what was going on.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

The kind officer on the left told me that the fuss was about a land dispute. He also recommended going to see the cannons fire in Park City that Saturday night during the 1812 Overture. Moving on...

After leaving the protest (mind you, they didn't quite resolve the dispute after all.), I went to the library. I won't blog about the wonderful and gorgeous library here (because that's what Here and There is for), but what I will tell you is important to the rest of the story.

In the atrium of the library is the library store. I know! I'd never heard of a library store before. Next to the library store is a lovely little plant and fancy bits store where I bought my step-father Dave a great gift for his upcoming birthday in September. I can't say what it is because he just might read this.

Connie met me in the atrium and we walked to my rental car to put the gift in the trunk before hoofing it to Este for pizza and agave nectar zeppoles. On our way back from the car, just about to the library, we heard a huge commotion by the Trax station. Trax is the city train that runs along the streets, kind of like the trolleys of San Francisco. People were shouting "Walk! Run!" and some other things that didn't sound good at all. As we approached the Trax station (which looks just like a bus stop, with a plexiglas enclosure), things did not look good at all.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

I know, it was creepy of me to have taken a photo, but I was there before the reporters around the corner at the courthouse came over, so I snapped one. Just one. Turns out, there were two boys (although Connie saw a third running from the scene) slugging it out by the stop, and they ended up in front of the train as it came to a stop. One boy was bumped by the train, and the other was run over. When we had walked up to the front of the library (directly across the street from where the accident happened), someone was taking off his shirt in order to get under the train to pull out the second boy. And, when I say "boy," I should really say "man," because the paper said they were two 20-year-old-men. Seems people get hit by these trains all the time. Just two weeks earlier, a 50-something-year-old man was hit and was in critical condition as a result. These two young guys were pretty cut up, but hardly in critical condition.

The weirdest thing was that three separate people, on three separate occasions during our walk from the car to Estes and back, felt compelled to tell us what had happened, what we, in fact, had witnessed. I'd never experienced that before, nor had Connie nor I felt compelled to share with a stranger what we had seen. On the other hand, we did feel compelled to tell John's sister and Connie's other co-workers the moment we walked into her building.

Anyway, it was a heck of a day -- all before lunch!

26 July 2009

Re-run: Veganized Cranberry-Zucchini Muffins

This isn't my usual M.O., but due to our impending voyage to Utah, here's a re-run of one of my favorite recipes (originally published here during Making Over Martha Month, on Sept. 7, 2008:

From Making Over Martha

As you may know, during the month of September, I am making over a selection of Martha Stewart's recipes to make them suitable for Altered Plates (my dietary restrictions). This lovely recipe comes from her legendary Baking Handbook. It's one of my favorite cookbooks for a number of reasons:

1. Loads of photos.
2. Great tips and advice.
3. Well-tested (and flexible) recipes.
4. Classic as well as uncommon recipes.

Martha's original recipe for Cranberry-Zucchini Muffins is not vegan, however it didn't take much to rework it to make it super-healthy and vegan. The resulting agave-sweetened muffin is excellent. I received high marks from friends who tried these today, just one day after baking. Right out of the oven (OK, about 20 minutes out of the oven), I couldn't resist trying one since they smelled and looked divine. I was not disappointed.

From Making Over Martha

I could see plenty of green flecks from the fresh, organic zucchini as well as the oozing cranberries that had burst while baking. I could definitely taste the vanilla and nutmeg, while the tangy cranberries and rich, crunchy walnuts made these muffins worth munching.

You really can't ask for a more tender crumb. I'm going to blame it on the olive oil (which you can't taste at all in these, as well as the whole wheat pastry flour). Overall, I'd probably give these an A for sneaky healthiness in a truly tasty muffin.

I made a few changes not only to the ingredients, but also to the instructions. Please bear in mind that I doubled the recipe because I had to feed a room full of friendly faces. So here is my version.

Cranberry-Zucchini Muffins
(based somewhat loosely on Martha Stewart's recipe in her Baking Handbook).

Makes 42 mini muffins and 12 regular-sized muffins.


3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups agave nectar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (I used 2 1/2 small ones)
1 cup frozen whole cranberries


1. Line all your muffin pans with nice paper liners.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If you're just making large muffins, set your oven to 345 degrees F. The mini muffins take much less time to bake, so the lower temperature helps prevent burning.
3. Sift together dry ingredients (except walnuts) into a large bowl with a lip or a very large measuring cup.
4. Fold in the walnuts making sure to mix them in well. They also help to better distribute all the dry ingredients.
5. In a separate, large bowl, mix together the agave nectar, olive oil, and vanilla until well blended.
6. With a big spoon or silicone spatula, mix in the zucchini.
7. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until just blended.
8. Fold in the cranberries for about a minute.
9. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out even amounts into your prepped mini muffin pans. Use a regular ice cream scoop for the large muffin pans. Your muffins will rise a bit, so make sure not to over-fill the cups. You're looking for about 3/4 full.
10. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake another 20 minutes, or until a bamboo tester comes out clean.
11. Let the muffins rest in their pans for 10 minutes, no more. Then remove them from the pans to cool completely on wire racks.
12. Break 'em open and enjoy!

19 July 2009

Book Review: The 30-Minute Vegan

Yay! Another great resource for vegans, vegetarians, and the folks who love them. Usually 30-minute recipe books tend to be on the slim side, but The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray is a hefty volume, packed with a wide range of recipes that don't require a lot of special ingredients that vegans will find tough to locate in their local health food store. While there aren't that many desserts included in the book, I was able to select a very tasty one to try out for you using agave nectar here on Altered Plates.

From July_2009_Photos

For my trial recipe, I selected Macadamia Nut-Chocolate Chip Cookies (although I made mine into carob chip cookies). They are a snap to make, and I could easily substitute agave nectar for the maple syrup (although I'm sure they would be just as good with the syrup). Because I used agave nectar, I had to drop the temperature down to 325 degrees F, and that increased the baking time by a few minutes.

Even though they look a little on the light side, trust me, these cookies are done. I tried one about 20 minutes after they had finished cooling and was very pleased with the result. The carob chips make a nice foil for the sweet cookie and rich macadamias. They don't spread, so you can easily make nearly 40 cookies using a tablespoon scoop on three cookie sheets (just stagger your rows). Overall, they remind me of what great chocolate chip cookies should taste like without the 1/2 pound of butter, brown sugar, and bendable chewiness. Best of all, they were a hit with the folks at the museum, when I brought in a bag of them yesterday.

I'm not sure I'd be able to make these in 30 minutes, even if I wasn't trying out the recipe for the first time, but they definitely can be done and on your cooling racks in under an hour. Getting all the ingredients together and preparing the cookies took longer than 15 minutes (chopping the nuts, measuring, etc.), and I just don't like rushing when I'm baking. That's when things tend to go wrong for me. Terribly wrong.

However, most of the recipes in the book are for beverages, meals, and snacks that are very time-friendly. I'm looking forward to making my way through all the recipes that I've already tagged with post-it tags.

And now, here's the recipe. Excerpted from the book The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray published by Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com

My changes are in bold.

Macadamia Nut-Chocolate (Carob) Chip Cookies

Makes 24 3-in. cookies (My yield was 38, from tablespoon-sized scoops)


1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour (whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (mine were salted and roasted)
1 cup vegan chocolate (carob) chips
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (agave nectar)
2/3 cup safflower oil (canola oil, although I'm sure a light olive oil would be fine as well)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (OK, my oven does not take much time to preheat at all, so I actually don't do this until I begin scooping out the cookies. And, most importantly, my oven is set to 325 degrees F.) Sift the spelt flour, tapioca flour, basking soda, salt, and cinnamon through a fine-mesh strainer or sifter. (I didn't do this; I just whisked my dry ingredients together very well.) Whisk well and add the oats, macadamia nuts, and chocolate chips, stirring again.
2. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine the maple syrup, safflower oil, water, and vanilla, and whisk together. Add to the flour mixture and stir well.
3. If you aren't using a nonstick cookie sheet or baking tray, you will have to lightly oil the tray or lay down aluminum foil (neither, in my case, I'm a big fan of parchment paper, so I used it). Use a spoon to scoop out your preferred size of cookie, leaving enough space in between them to allow the hot air to circulate and the cookie to spread out (at least 2 inches). It will take at least two trays. Bake them for 10 minutes (mine took about 13), until the bottom edges start to brown; do not over bake. Allow them to cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack.