Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins : Sweet Freedom Saturdays

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Vegan)

My oh my…these are mighty amazing. In fact, these were the best Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins I’ve ever had, or made, ever. For reals. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they were probably the healthiest, too.

I brought some to work yesterday morning to share with my colleagues, and they disappeared in less than 5 minutes. If you’re looking for some delicious and healthy vegan propaganda to share with your entourage (that doesn’t taste like health food), these muffins are for you!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Vegan)

Have you made anything yummy from Sweet Freedom this week ? Go check out Diann’s Figaros – they are at the top of my list for things to make next! Stay tuned next Saturday for another installment of “Sweet Freedom Saturdays”. We’ve also got a brand new Sweet Freedom Flickr Group – come join us!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Killing you with cute…

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Looking for the Daring Bakers Post? Go here…

I thought I’d treat you to a little cute today…
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Remember when I made the bibs and this doll for my niece? Well, colour me thrilled because her official “doudou” is indeed the little dolly I made her.

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You know how you always hope it’ll be the one you made? I’m feeling very special, especially since I haven’t been able to give my little niece a squeeze or a kiss yet…darn Atlantic Ocean separating us!

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I sure can’t wait to meet my niece in person! But this little dolly is a great ambassadrice. Ok, enough proud auntie gushing…here’s a little sneak peak at a little something I’m working on :

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Teru's in progress

What have you been up to W.I.P.-wise? Whatever your works-in-progress may be, have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

Vegan Apple Strudel! It’s the May Daring Bakers Challenge!

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This was a very fun challenge to make. I must admit I was a hair daunted when I printed out the three pages of instructions, but once I saw that everything was broken down I knew it would be ok, plus I had help :

GuppykneadingGuppy kneading the dough.

I was prepared for a real struggle with the dough, but was amazed by how easily the dough rolled out to paper-thinness. It was a real pleasure to work with. There was a little tearing and a few holes did develop, but they were hidden once the strudel was rolled up.

Vegan Apple StrudleRolling was the best part!

We had a great time rolling the strudel up – Guppy was a giggle machine and kept trying to sneak apple slices.

Vegan Apple Strudel

Just out of the oven…

Strudel Cross-section

Look at those delicious apples!

Here’s the fine print before I forget :

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I must say I was a bit disappointed with the final product. As I was preparing the bread crumbs I found myself thinking that there were an awful lot of them…but not being a terribly experienced pastry chef I didn’t listen to my instincts (which told me to half them) and followed the recipe. The strudel’s crust was light and flaky and just what I’d hoped, but the apple filling was really quite dry. I think that the breadcrumbs soaked up all the goodness…that’s just my theory. It was edible, but not as fantastic as I’d hoped. My big lesson learned this month : follow your intuition and you’ll have nothing to regret!

Thanks so much to our hostesses this month for choosing this recipe! I’d never made anything like it before, and it was fun, educational and delicious! And don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers, too!

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

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Tangerine’s Kitchen is hosting this month’s Bread Baking Day, and the theme is Multigrain Breads. It’s been so long since I’ve participated in & BBD – Nearly a year! Here I am again, with a most delicious Multigrain loaf, appropriately called Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire, from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

This is the bread that almost wasn’t : A lovely, lazy Saturday afternoon and a beautifully shaped boule was proofing in the kitchen, when I heard my daughter crying in her bedroom. A nightmare had woken her up mid-nap so I calmed her down and I snuggled her…and fell asleep! When we woke up 2.5 hours later I found my boule looking more like a multigrain crêpe than anything else!

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire (Vegan)

Determined not to give up I formed a loaf and put it in a bread pan, hoping for the best… and let me tell you, it was indeed the best! The best bread I’ve made to date! I find myself saying that more and more frequently…I might be getting the hang of this bread baking thing, or The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is just brilliant. Or both.

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire (Vegan)

I used amaranth, oats, millet, wheat germ and brown rice, and I also subbed 1 cup Whole Wheat flour for bread flour. The crunchy, slightly-sweet crust and the moist, dense crumb made this an excellent bread for morning toast or sandwiches.

As always, thanks to Zorra for keeping the breads baking around the world! And be sure to check out Susan’s weekly Yeast Spotting for more beautiful baked goodness!

Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding : Sweet Freedom Saturdays

I have a love/hate relationship with breakfast. Breakfast foods are some of my very favourites – tofu scrambles, hasbrowns, pancakes…you get the idea. The problem is, I don’t really like eating breakfast when I get up. I’m not hungry, and I often need to get out the door for a run (well, that’s happening again, baby steps…) and when I get back I often don’t have time to prepare anything more complicated than fruit or cereal or a smoothie. I’m a mid-morning breakfast girl, or better yet a weekend brunch chica…give me yummy A.M. foods when I have both the time to make them and properly enjoy them.

Spiced Pumpkin Millet

Ok, it’s not a sexy picture…but sometimes life is more about fuzzy pajama pants and sweatshirts than bustiers, ok?

This creamy and delicious Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding is actually in the “Pudding” section of Sweet Freedom (hence the name), but as the recipe points out,

This pudding is rich and creamy enough to serve as a dessert, but nutritious enough to eat for breakfast as a cooked cereal.

Taking Ricki’s suggestion to heart, I thought Saturday morning breakfast would be both leisurely and delicious. Was it ever!

This was like eating pumpkin pie – I mean it. The taste replicated to a “T” the Pumpkin Pies I loved as a kid, but was nutritionally superior. I sometimes make plain Millet and add a little cinnamon for breakfast, but this blew my humble little peasant porridge out of the water. I actually subbed a sweet potato for the pumpkin (I need to wait for the Autumn to make a new batch of pumpkin purée – my stocks have been eaten), but with the addition of just the right spices, I’d have sworn it was pumpkin had I not made it myself. I also skipped the sweetener, because my sweet potato was so very sweet I didn’t need it. I did add raisins, and I tossed in some sesame seeds for a little calcium boost. I enjoyed my bowl with a splash of pain soy milk- yummy.

What I loved the most about this dish was that it tasted like a luscious, decadant week-end brekkie, but was full of delicious, healthy goodness.

Have you made anything yummy from Sweet Freedom this week ? Let me know! I’ll add a link to your post here. And stay tuned next Saturday for another installment of “Sweet Freedom Saturdays”.

And happy birthday Cheryl!

Help for a new, young vegan…and her sweet mum!

First a moment of thanks for three rockin’ women and their super-powers of generosity : My dear Jumblefriend at Jumbleberry Jam, mon amie Vegyogini of Hugger Food and Tara our sweet Snowy Vegan*. Your lovely gifts have been received by Mammafish and I can’t thank you enough – all of you 60-Day Project participants are just amazing! I’ve said it before, but it’s so true – I can’t get over the thoughtfulness and detail that has gone into each and every package sent to my mum. I can’t believe it’s almost over!

Now, onto the business of the day. I have come to know Sophie, a very talented seamstress and devoted mother to three lovely girls in Australia. Sophie’s eldest daughter, who just turned 13, has decided to go Vegan (insert applause here). Sophie and her family are omni, but Sophie is a very loving and supportive mum and is trying her best to create healthy vegan meals for her daughter. Her frustration is that sometimes she’s creating separate meals and that’s a great deal of work! I offered to give her some links or some cookbook suggestions for family-approved vegan meals, but thought I would call on you, my dear Vegan readers, to help me out. Well, to help me help Sophie help her daughter. Can you feel the love?

What are we looking for here? Family-friendly vegan recipes (she’s also got a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old…I think. Sorry if I got that mixed around). She’s been making the obvious things like vegan lasagna, etc. but what I’d like is to provide her with some links and/or cookbook suggestions to make meal planning a little easier. My initial suggestion was Veganomicon because of it’s large variety (everything from appies to desserts) and because the ingredients aren’t too obscure or difficult to find.

Do you have any suggestions? Please comment your suggestions  or email me and I’ll post a master list of URLs and cookbook suggestions for Sophie – who really is a rocking mum being so cool about her daughter’s decision.

And because I hate blogging without photos, here’s a random shot of the green smoothie action I’ve been getting here :

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2 kiwis, a small apple, a hunk of cucumber (my precise measurements are indicative of my detail-oriented nature…), a bit of soy protein powder, some water and/or a little fruit juice and about 3 or 4 big handfuls of spinach. Oh yeah.

* Tara The Snowy Vegan is running her very first half-Marathon (Go Tara!!!) to raise money for the Alaska Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Stop by her site and give her a little support – monetary or moral – or both!

W.I.P. Wednesday : One for you, and one for me…

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When we celebrated Guppy’s birthday earlier this month, we also celebrated the birthday of a very dear friend known around these parts as Tata Katy. They had a joint birthday party, and agreed on the dino theme because you’re never too old for dinos, right?

I was so busy with finishing up Katy’s gift (literally 5 minutes before we left for the party) I failed to take a picture, which was frustrating. Thankfully Katy was cool with taking a picture for me once she got home :

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She wrote her own caption for the photo, above.

This is just a brown cotton/linen blend tote bag with an embroidered accent. I just measured the size I thought she’d like and trimmed the corners on the bottom. Easy peasy. However, as often happens when you make something you find adorable for someone, you find yourself wishing for one, too.

Brown tote with embroidery

Wrinkled, because I’ve been using it all week!


Embroidery detail

Isn’t she sweet?

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Lovely floral lining from my stash. I found it vaguely Japanese.

I have to be honest, I’ve been loving up my new tote all week. It’s perfect for lugging lessons to and from work in style. I wish I had more of that chocolate coloured fabric, but it was just some left-over curtains in my stash…and it’s nearly gone now.

The embroidery pattern is a Sublime Stitching freebie that I found via Florista’s flickr stream…the morning of the birthday party! But like Florista, I just had to stitch it right away it’s so sweet. I have a feeling I’ll be using this embroidery pattern again…

I’ve got a 60-Day Project update coming soon, and don’t forget about Sweet Freedom Saturdays! You make anything you’d like from Sweet Freedom and then post it – couldn’t be easier!

What have you been up to W.I.P.-wise? Whatever your works-in-progress may be, have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

How muffins can save your marriage! Sweet Freedom Saturdays! (I know, it’s Tuesday…)

Anyone out there who has ever been in a relationship that lasted longer than 6 months knows that making them work can be a heap of work. The vast majority of my romantic entanglements had a shelf life rivaling a carton of soy milk – I lived for the thrill of the chase, basked in those magical first few weeks (or days, ahem) but when the cute little things started to lose their luster, I was usually off like a prom dress. So to speak.

What does this have to do with muffins you ask? A fair question. Because I was faster than Speedy Gonzales when it came to ending relationships, I also got to skip out on things like compromise and taking one for the team and shrugging off the really annoying things that seem to rear their ugly heads around the 13-month mark.

Like sleeping in on the weekend. One of Monsieur Fish’s favourite things ever.

I’m all for sleeping in, but I’m talking sleeping for hours longer then Guppy and I, both of us ready to get out and have some fun.

I try to be cool with it, but sometimes it just gets in the way of our day, or perhaps I should say my day…

Gingered Apple Muffins

Gingered Apple Muffins, sorta.

Rather than fight the currents of marital strife, I opted for the more tranquil waters one finds when going with the flow. Thanks to the muffins. These dense and delicious muffins are as delicious as they are good for you. They’re from Sweet Freedom which is full of healthier ways to eat the treats you love. I’m the only ginger fan chez nous so I swapped the candied ginger for diced dehydrated banana bits – and wow! The tender apple bits married just splendidly with the banana.

Mere moments before taking these delicious muffins out of the oven, a groggy Monsieur Fish fumbled into the kitchen declaring, “Ca sent trop bon ici. C’est quoi?”* and there he was, up before 10 a.m., eating muffins and drinking coffee. I was happy because we were together around the breakfast table (rather than finding myself fuming and looking at the clock) and he was happy because he got to eat these delicious apples à volonté. I admit it may be a light exaggeration to say that muffins can save your marriage, but they certainly can make it taste better!

So here’s the deal – I was a recipe tester for Sweet Freedom, but now that I have my copy I am biting at the bit to try all the recipes I didn’t get to test! I’m thinking of running a little series of “Sweet Freedom Saturdays” where I’ll try a new recipe from the book. Anyone want to join me?

*It smells too yummy in here, what is it?

If I can’t join your club I’ll start my own! Or baking “apprentice” style…

Andama Bread

Andama Bread

I noticed a new baking group forming, and it really caught my eye. This group, spear-headed by Pinch My Salt, is going to bake their way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. When I first saw Natalia post about the group I thought, “How cool! I want to join!” but after a quick glance at my “to-do” list I shook my head and said, “Yeah, because I need one more obligation to add to the list.” and brushed it off like a crumb from my lap.

It was but a few days later I found myself looking at my copy of Apprentice, wondering what I would like to bake…I mean, I’ve already made a few things from it, but I’ve spent the past 9 months doing so much testing for up-coming and newly-published cookbooks, it hasn’t gotten much attention. I’m not complaining mind you, it just wasn’t a priority.

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papa bread & mama bread

Needless to say, I had second thoughts, but by the time I got my tail over to sign up the “club” was closed to new members. Well, hump! I don’t need no stinking club to bake my way through Apprentice, so there!

This Andama bread was probably the best tasting bread I’ve baked to date. I’m still such a newbie when it comes to yeasted breads…but I’m starting to feel more like I have a tiny idea of what I’m doing. If you’re wondering about the different sizes, well, one of my pans is silicone and breads always poof out like that. Whatevah.

I have Natalie of Gluten A Go-go to thank for introducing me to Reinhart and his books. We were trying to think of a Daring Bakers challenge last summer and she mentioned his name. Since I was on holiday in the U.S. I decided to check out his books, and found myself sitting on the floor of the local bookshoppe devouring Apprentice with my eyes. As a novice baker, this looked like holy scripture sent from the gods to guide me through the valley of dead yeast.

I’ve submitted my lovely loaves to Yeast Spotting, your weekly rendez-vous for baked goodness, brought to you by the talented and kind Susan at Wild Yeast.

The Sweetest Thing…Sweet Freedom is here!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the exciting news…my friend Ricki who blogs at Diet, Dessert and Dogs wrote a smashing book of vegan sweets called Sweet Freedom and the waiting is over!

Last Autumn a very lucky group of foodbloggers and Ricki’s friends were able to test the recipes in this book and it was indeed a privilege to get a sneak peek at everything that Sweet Freedom has to offer. Using all natural ingredients and avoiding so many of the processed sweets that traditional desserts rely so heavily on, Sweet Freedom gives you all the goodness, without the “junk”. Here’s the book description from Ricki’s blog:

Ideal for anyone with dietary restrictions because of allergies or food sensitivities, for kids whose diets must be free of additives, chemicals or any other artificial ingredients; for vegans; and for anyone following a kosher diet (everything is parve). Sweet Freedom’s recipes are all lactose free, casein free, low gluten or gluten-free (about 25% of the total are entirely gluten free) and refined-sugar free.

I was able to “virtually” sit down with Ricki and ask her a few questions about her thoughts on Sweet Freedom. It’s not every day that I get to interview a famous, internationally-known cookbook writer, so I’m still feeling pretty special.

1. Do you have a favorite “alternative” ingredient for your baking? You know, one that most home bakers have never heard of – or wouldn’t think to use?

I’d have to say that my (current) favorite ingredient is agave nectar. It’s gaining popularity, especially since it’s low glycemic and suitable for Type II diabetics, but many people still don’t know about its charms. Agave is sweeter than sugar or even honey, it has a milder flavor than honey (so it won’t overpower subtle flavors in baking, like lemon or vanilla) and it never crystallizes the way honey does—a real plus for me. I love the flavor and texture it confers to baked goods and non-cakey desserts like the Spiced Millet Pudding in the book.

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Easiest Almond Cookies

2. Of all the recipes in SF, which one is your “go to” recipe when you need to make a tasty treat in a hurry?

Of course, my mind always goes to chocolate—so my most-baked recipe in the book is probably the Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. However, there are actually other recipes that are even quicker and easier, such as the Easiest Almond Cookies or the Orange Tea Cakes. Hmmm. . . I guess I like them all!

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Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

3. What led you to write Sweet Freedom?

The reason I wrote the book was twofold. First, I began to bake this way because of my own dietary issues, and was so happy with the results that I wanted to share. I already had a huge collection of recipes from my baking company, Bake It Healthy, so all I had to do with those was convert them for the home baker. But it wasn’t until Bake It Healthy closed and customers still kept asking me if I’d bake a birthday cake for them, or supply treats for a baby shower or anniversary party, even though I wasn’t technically doing catering any more, that I realized there was a real need for this type of recipe. I wanted all those people to be able to reproduce the desserts in their own homes.

4. If you were a dessert, what would you be and why?

That’s a tough one! Whatever it is, it will have to be yeast-free (and probably chocolate) ;)

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Glazed Almond Bars

5. When did you first start eating vegan? What were your motivations?

I became a vegetarian as an undergraduate living in residence. It was partially chance and partially personal preference. Having been raised by a father who was a butcher, I was fed meat at home almost every day. However, because of his occupation, my father was also quick to let my sisters and me know (whether true or not) that any meat we ever ate in restaurants or cafeterias was of the absolute worst quality (in fact, my family almost never ate in restaurants for that reason). When I saw the first “mystery meat” in the school cafeteria, I knew I couldn’t eat it. I have also naturally gravitated toward vegan food—I’ve honestly never tasted anything vegan that I didn’t like, but there were plenty of non-vegan foods I didn’t like. It was a natural progression. Then, when I was treated by a naturopath years later, she vetoed dairy and eggs for the first phase of my diet. Eventually, that just felt natural—and I felt so much better physically that I just continued to eat that way. So I guess my motivations were connected to improving my health—and eating food that tasted good to me!

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Butterscotch Blondies with chocolate chips and dried cherries

6. Is there a common cliché or stereotype you’d like to dispel concerning “healthier” baking and desserts?

When I used to sell my baked goods in health food stores, sometimes I’d do demos where I stood at a table with plates of my desserts and offered them to customers passing by. At first, I’d ask, “Would you like to try some healthy desserts?” The answer I got most often was, “Healthy?? NO WAY!” as if I were proffering lead-based paint to eat. For some reason, the general public still believes that “healthy” equals “tasteless.” After a while, I’d simply say, “Would you like to try a brownie?” or “Would you like to try a chocolate chip cookie?” Inevitably, once they tasted the baked goods, they were sold.

7. After so many years as a conventional baker, how did you manage the transition, and how difficult was it?

Learning to bake all my favorite desserts without the usual all-purpose wheat flour, eggs, butter, or milk was a huge challenge at first. I went through a lot of experimentation and many, many flops. But once I got a feel for the “new” ingredients, I was able to convert pretty much any of my older recipes (there’s a chapter in the book devoted to ingredients and conversions). After that, it was a natural step to begin creating my own, original, recipes.

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Vegan Butter Tarts

8. How do you know what substitutions to use in alternative baking?

I began by checking the types of substitutions used by other vegan bakers, whom I consider the experts in replacing eggs and dairy in baking. Once you know the basics, you can apply them to almost any recipe. I’ve discovered a few new ones along the way (avocado as an egg substitute, for instance). Nowadays, I don’t think of those ingredients as “substitutes” for something else any more, but rather as integral elements of each baked good in their own right.

9. Which recipe was tested the most?

By far, the gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free whipped cream is the most-tested recipe; I went through at least 60 attempts before I hit on the one I liked. I had a version on my blog that worked, but was really, really time-consuming and fussy. I streamlined the process for the cookbook and created something almost identical to the blog version with less time and effort. So far, it’s always been a hit with anyone who tries it, whether or not they normally eat dairy.

10. Are your desserts low-fat?

While many of the desserts would be considered low-fat, that is not the aim of Sweet Freedom. My goal was to create healthier desserts that contained real, whole, unprocessed and all-natural ingredients. Without eggs, dairy or refined sugar, they are also lower in allergens than most desserts out there. As a result, the desserts in Sweet Freedom actually provide healthy nutrition as well as great taste.

Thanks so much Ricki for taking a few moments to hang out at the Fishbowl! I’m sure you’re just biting at the bit for your very own copy of Sweet Freedom – and I can’t blame you! So where can you get your very own copy? Just click here to order.