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.

11 July 2009

Kitchen Project: After Photos

Remember all that stuff about the kitchen, well, here are the "after" photos:
Here and There.

I didn't include everything, like John's custom spice cabinet, but at this point, it's a period at the end of a very long paragraph. Just thought you might want to see.

Cobbleriffic -- Vegan Blueberry Apricot Cobbler

From July_2009_Photos

Oh my friends, if you're a fan of blueberries, you must make this cobbler for yourselves. I was inspired (as always) by Elise's Apricot Berry Cobbler, but wanted to veganize it to bring down the fat and make it healthier. I made a lot of changes from the flour to using apple cider vinegar and almond milk instead of buttermilk, so it's now an entirely different recipe.

From July_2009_Photos

This is the most luscious and rich-tasting cobbler you will ever taste (not tooting my own horn, folks -- it was a big surprise to me too). Because I added almond meal to the whole wheat pastry flour, the cobbler topping became cookie/pie crust-like, and less biscuit-like (which was the best part of the surprise). I also wasn't sure if the olive oil would work instead of the butter, but it has now become my fat champion for its performance here. That would be an excellent slogan: "Olive Oil, My Fat Champion."

From July_2009_Photos

The filling is a good mix between quartered apricots and blueberries, but I'd bet anything that it would work just as well with raspberries, strawberries and peaches. In fact, I'd venture a guess that cranberries and apples would be winners as well. And, as always, I used agave nectar for the sweetener in the topping as well as the filling, but added a bit more flour to the filling to thicken it up.

As you can see from the photo above, the filling gets very pie-like. It is a dream to scoop up when serving, keeping together very nicely. You might want to keep some vanilla frozen dessert or topping handy. It makes a nice foil for all that blueberry, although I enjoyed it thoroughly with just a cup of my favorite herbal tea.

Finally, before I launch into the recipe, I wanted to share with you a bit of food chemistry fun. If you've been veganizing recipes for a while, you probably already know this, but you can make vegan buttermilk by adding apple cider vinegar to non-dairy milk to get the same effect. Not only does it tenderize dough, it gives it nice rise.

Just an ingredient/direction note -- when I write a recipe, the ingredients are listed in the order in which they are used. It's a pet peeve of mine when folks don't do that, and then I have to scramble to make sense of a recipe. So, if the list below looks a little weird, that's why. It's for your own good. :)

Ok, here's what you've been waiting for...

Vegan Blueberry Apricot Cobbler (inspired by Elise's Apricot Berry Cobbler)

Yields 12 servings (or 10 large servings)


5 cups fresh apricots, pre-pitted and sliced
4 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup agave nectar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used vanilla unsweetened almond milk for mine)
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (makes all the difference)
1/2 teaspoon Pensey's baking spice (or cinnamon, if you don't have it, but you might want to consider ordering some because it's really great stuff, and they don't pay me to say that)
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons good, fruity olive oil (or experiment with another good oil you enjoy)


1. Lightly oil a glass 9x13x2 in. baking dish.
2. Gently mix together the fruit, agave nectar, whole wheat pastry flour, and pinch of salt in a large bowl and let rest.
3. In a large glass measuring cup, mix together the apple cider vinegar and non-dairy milk. Let this rest as well.
4. In a large bowl, mix together the almond meal, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the spices.
5. Retrieve the vinegar/milk mixture and whisk in the remaining agave nectar, vanilla, and olive oil. Give it at least a minute of whisking.
6. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry mixture and combine until just mixed. Do not over-mix this because it won't create a nice topping if you do.
7. Give the fruit filling one more mix before pouring it into the prepared baking dish.
8. Take out your small scoop and scoop the topping on top of the filling. You'll probably need to spread it around a bit.
9. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F while the topping rises. It won't rise a lot, but it will poof up a bit.
10. Bake the cobbler for 40 minutes, then check to see if it isn't getting too brown on top. You're looking for a nice golden brown. The filling should be good and bubbly.
11. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before serving. It's best warm, but just as good from the fridge 4 days later.

The cobbler will keep at room temperature for 3 days. After that, if there is any left, and my guess is that there won't be, keep it refrigerated until it's gone.

From July_2009_Photos

04 July 2009

Book Review: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

From July_2009_Photos

These delicious and highly healthy pumpkin bran muffins are an Altered Plates version of Isa's Pumpkin Bran Muffins on page 167 of Vegan Brunch. I made 12 large and 12 mini muffins in my version of her recipe, and will undoubtably make them again with other fun modifications.

First, let me tell you a bit about the book. The photos are lovely, and there are many of them. The layout is very effective in that you don't often need to turn pages during a recipe (one of my major pet peeves in cookbooks). And, most importantly, the recipes are fantastic.

You must get this to add to your collection, even if you aren't vegan (which I'm not anymore, but eat veganly most days anyway). The recipes are easy to make for the most part, and like her other books, don't require a lot of hard-to-find or expensive ingredients.

And, if you are like me and have to noodle around with recipes because you have dietary restrictions, be comforted by the fact that her recipes (as in in her previous books) are so flexible that you can tune them quite easily without losing the integrity of the recipe.

From July_2009_Photos

That said, here's the recipe as I made it a few weeks ago (prior to the big fall).

Pumpkin Bran Muffins (greatly inspired by Isa's Pumpkin Bran Muffins on page 167 of Vegan Brunch.


1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vanilla flavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup agave nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup wheat bran flakes (you could also use oat bran, and I will next time)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used Pensey's)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 to 1/2 cup pepitas or shelled pumpkin seeds (depending upon how you decorate)


1. In a large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together until well blended.
2. Add the bran flakes and mix until well blended.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients except the walnuts, raisins, and seeds.
4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix by hand for about 30 seconds.
5. Gently fold in the nuts, raisins, and seeds, then mix for another 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest.
6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and line 1 standard muffin pan with cupcake cups, and 1 mini muffin pan with mini cupcake cups.
7. Use a standard ice cream scoop to scoop out 12 servings into the lined standard pan, and a mini scoop to scoop out 12 mini servings into the mini muffin pan. Place in the heated oven on different levels.
8. Bake for 12 minutes before turning each pan 180 degrees and switching levels. Bake for another 10 minutes before testing with a bamboo skewer for doneness. When only a few moist crumbs stick to the skewer, take them out of the oven.
9. Let them cool in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.
10. Enjoy!

These will keep for about a week in an airtight container. Since it's been hot out, I've kept mine in the fridge.

01 July 2009

Crutching Around

Just thought I'd stop in and give you fine folks an update on how things are. Also, I'd like to formally thank everyone for their kind thoughts and wishes. You people are just lovely.

Yesterday, I finally went back into the non-doctor-visit world and made my way to the museum for the internship. My supervisor and all the folks in the Registrar's office were super-helpful and very understanding. They even set me up at a low table so I could stay off my feet and handle the smaller artworks at the same time. So far, I've been focusing on condition reporting, but when I'm up and about, I'll be packing these pieces up to send to the N.J. Historical Society.

I felt very badly because I had promised to bring in some vegan muffins for the folks at the Zimmerli, but was injured before I had the chance. Well, as Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my witness, they will get their muffins as soon as I'm able.

Everything at the internship went well until someone made a space out of the non-space next to the handicapped spot where had I parked (with my temp. handicapped permit, courtesy of Franklin Township and the foot doc). The guilty party did not have handicapped parking permits nor a handicapped license plate, and had parked so close to me that I had to walk on my injured foot to squeeze into my car. I should have left an angry note.

All that to say, one inconsiderate person out of many, many truly kind and thoughtful people isn't bad odds at all. When I say many, I mean the professors, students, and museum personnel who have gone way out of their way to help me get through doors, carry my back pack, and generally keep me company while I crutch my way along. Not to mention my dear Art Librarianship professor who sent me a very artistic "Get Well Soon" card.

In the meantime, I have two more new cookbooks to review (one I made a recipe from prior to the sidewalk swallowing my foot, so that will be coming soon, I promise!) and a stack of fiction to review for Amazon Vine (free books, friends, free books -- just review like mad on Amazon and they'll ask you to participate).

I'm still very sore and can't be on my left foot for long just yet (perhaps next week), but I'm trying to heal up because we're going out to visit John's parents in Utah at the end of this month. If you ever plan to get out to Utah, you must use this guide I saw last night. There's even a pizza joint that sells zeppoles with agave nectar!

Well, my friends, stay tuned for a review of Isa's new book, Vegan Brunch.