Everyone likes blueberry muffins, almost as much as they do banana chocolate muffins. So combining the two seems like a bit of a no brainer. Banana chocolate blueberry muffins you say? It’s may be a mouthful, but a ridiculously delicious one at that. Complete with not just any blueberries, or any chocolate, but rather Marich chocolate covered blueberries, they’ve got just enough fruit in them to qualify as breakfast, and just enough chocolate to make for a satisfying dessert. That’s all the convincing you need right there.
I’m not a vegan personally but I love challenging myself to make recipes for various dietary restrictions, vegan or otherwise. For whatever reason, people always assume that the “vegan” version of something must taste worse than its non-vegan counterpart, thus I usually reframe from telling people that whatever I made is vegan until after they have tasted it and proclaimed how good it is. Take that butter and eggs, we don’t need you after all! Unless of course you are making brownies, in which case I have yet to find a vegan recipe that replicates the fudginess produced by butter and eggs.
Anyways, let’s talk about these vegan roasted strawberry coconut muffins for a bit. I will walk you through the process so you can try your hand at veganizing some of your own baking recipes. The #1 thing is that you have to know what purpose eggs and dairy serve in your recipe so that you can replace them with something that still manages to accomplish this. Say you take out the eggs from a soufflé – they are what cause the soufflé to rise. In order to do so successfully, you are going to have to find another ingredient that soufflés up like eggs do. It’s an awful example really because I am not sure I have ever seen a successful vegan soufflé before.
Never fear though, muffins are much easier! 99% of the time muffins involve a very basic process of mixing together wet ingredients, mixing together dry ingredients and then combining the wet with the dry. Usually there is nothing in the dry ingredients that is not vegan, so we are good there. Moving over to the wet ingredients, the 3 top culprits would be milk, eggs and melted butter. Melted butter is the easiest to replace, simply swap it out for equal parts oil. Milk is pretty simple too. It’s basically just providing moisture so swapping it with a non-dairy alternative, like almond milk, is no big deal. Eggs are a little bit trickier but only marginally. In muffins eggs serve two purposes; they add some leavening power and they act as a glue to hold everything together. By taking them out, you have to compensate for both of these factors elsewhere. In terms of leavening, I just add a bit extra baking powder (not much, if the recipe called for 1.5 tsp, up it to 2) and call it a day. As for the structural aspect of eggs, you can always use flax eggs in their place to prevent things from crumbling apart. The thing about most muffins is that they are wet enough that this never becomes an issue. Once that flour combines with the wet ingredients it should get gluey enough, for lack of a better word, to hold everything together. In other words, you can remove the egg(s) with little to no negative repercussions.
Then of course you have to make sure not to throw in any non-vegan additions. So sorry, no non-vegan chocolate chips or cream cheese filling. Although that should not be a probably when you can still use roasted strawberries and coconut. Combine that with a crunchy coconut oat streusel on top and no one will ever know your little secret. Vegan baking is not half as daunting as you would think, in fact cutting out ingredients makes it even easier than many traditional recipes. Let’s bake some muffins!
By now you have probably seen this chocolate banana bread. It has made it’s rounds throughout the blogosphere, starting with Smitten Kitchen, before others like Poires au Chocolat jumped on board. In my defence, I think I made this sometime back in March but am finally getting around to posting it now (so despite how it looks, I am not the last one to get on the bandwagon). Let me tell you, it is definitely worth spreading the word about. It’s not often that I claim something to be the best thing I have ever made. But this is the BEST banana bread I have ever made. Seriously. Well if you hate chocolate (weirdo) then you might dislike it. However if you are even remotely normal/sane/chocolate-appreciating, you are going to fall in love. I even healthified (my new word of the day, a neologism as my GRE word lists have taught me) it with yogurt and olive oil. You cannot tell a difference. I hope you have some bananas on hand because you are going to need some, stat! I cannot think of a better way to kick off the long weekend, can you? Plus apparently it is Chocolate Chip Day (that even exists?) so this fits the bill perfectly. Make it NOW. I promise, you will have no regrets. Do it.
Holy moly what a week. It probably would not have been so bad had I actually studied for my midterms during “Reading” Week but I opted to watch the Olympics 24/7 instead which I guess is my own fault. Then the Blacklist returned Monday night which meant that another hour of potential studying was shot. Did I mention that my new life goal is to be Agent Keen when I grow up? I’m not kidding. My stress levels definitely were not helped by the fact that the steering went in my car either. Seriously, you do not realize how important power steering is until it is gone. Every time I drove it was actually an arm work-out just trying to turn the wheel. But, I can happily say that I managed to overcome all of the aforementioned obstacles and successfully (well I guess we will see about that when I get my marks) completed all of my midterms. I think some chocolate is in order.
Funny how quickly things change. At the beginning of this week I was ready to ditch sugar. I seem to go through these cycles where I get really down on my eating habits and decide to overhaul them. This time it didn’t last very long. Within 12 hours I had already decided that it was not worth it and went reaching for a caramel. The thing is, when you look at the big picture, my diet is not unhealthy. I eat a ton of fruit and vegetables, especially as a vegetarian. The problem is that I have this habit of sucking on candy. It may only be 5 or 10 pieces a day, but over the course of a week, or even a month, that is a lot of sugar. So I make up my mind that it has got to go, only to find myself re-incorporating it into my diet. Somehow I was able to give up meat without any issues but when it comes to even just the slightest amount of sugar, my will power is virtually non-existent. Then I ask myself the basic question, “What would I gain if I gave it up?” I would probably drop a couple of pounds eventually (apparently changing your caloric intake by only 100 calories per day can lead to weight loss), not that I am trying to accomplish that. I always find myself validating the habit via what I call the “enjoyment principle”. I ask myself if I am happier with sugar than without it and the answer is invariably “yes”. Thus having determined that the pros outweigh the cons, I continue on with my candy-eating ways.
It still rides me though because otherwise, my diet is the picture of health. No pop, chips, french fries, none of that. I have not eaten it in years. More than anything, I think it bugs me because it is contradictory to everything I believe in (can you say high-fructose corn syrup?). And I still do it. But if you don’t enjoy life, what’s the point? It really reinforces my mantra that as humans, we don’t just eat to satisfy hunger. If that was the case, none of this would be a problem. Food is both social and pleasurable – or at least I think it should be. As long as I have that mentality, I don’t think my habits will be changing anytime soon.
Since I am staying on the sugar bandwagon, let’s make some vegan chocolate muffins for a little weekend treat. They are super moist and stay that way for a couple of days, thanks to the addition of mashed banana (although it does not obviously contribute to the flavour). Not that they are going to last for a couple of days. Actually I hate that cliche. Doesn’t everyone say that? “Oh it makes x amount and keeps for this long but that won’t be a problem because it will be consumed almost instantaneously.” It makes us sound like we are all malnourished and starving. So scrap the first part, let’s take the time to savour these muffins. Let them last for as long as you want to. Until they start to grow mold that is, then I would recommend trashing them.
¼ cup neutral flavoured oil (vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.)
½ cup cold water
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cider or white vinegar
½ cup vegan chocolate chips
turbinado sugar, as needed
Heat your oven to 350F.
Line 10-12 muffin cups with liners.
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. In a separate bowl whisk the oil, water, banana, vanilla, brown sugar and vinegar until it is as smooth as you can get it (there will probably still be some lumps from the mashed banana, no worries).
Mix together the wet and dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth, you don't want any lumps of flour or cocoa. The original recipe calls to pass it through a strainer if there are still lumps but I feel that this is a bit extreme. If you want to, all the power to you though.
Portion the batter into the lined muffin tins. Leave them about ¾ full, you want some room for them to rise. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar, if desired.
Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and eat!
Woo it’s Friday everyone! Well unless you’re in like Tokyo or someplace, then I guess it’s technically Saturday already. Which perhaps is even better because that means it’s officially the weekend!
For me weekends mean actually having the opportunity to cook/bake to my heart’s content. Really I should be studying for the finals that I have beginning in only a weeks time, but who cares when you can make food instead? I could argue that baking is simply the application of the chemistry I am supposed to be learning. And eating and digesting it applies to biology. The potential guilt that comes afterward, see that’s all psychology. Specifically what I’m eating is cultural so there you have it, we’ve covered off anthropology too. Then I’ll go work out to burn it off – sports psychology in action! There’s my semester in a nutshell. Isn’t it fascinating what university teaches you?
So for your Saturday morning breakfast, try upgrading your everyday bran muffins to camelina and hemp bran muffins.
I was first introduced to camelina oil this summer working at Boxwood Cafe. Right off the bat, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, but I have come to love it’s nutty, fragrant qualities, which meld perfectly with the wheaty bran. It’s also loaded with omega-3’s, omega-6’s and Vitamin E. And even better, it’s pretty darn local in this part of the country – one of the few good things our friends over in Saskatchewan have to offer. Of course if you can’t get your hands on camelina, feel free to use veg/canola oil instead. It just won’t have the same perfumey-ness.
Did I mention that with the applesauce in the recipe, these muffins have a mere 1/4 cup of fat in the entire recipe? Ya, they’re healthy too. How can you go wrong?
Heat your oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with muffin cups (I am loving these parchment ones, they don’t stick at all!). Now as I have mentioned before, if you don’t want stale, dry bran muffins, be sure to soak your bran! By allowing it to rehydrate and soak up all of the moisture before hand, they will be more moist (and stay this way longer) once they are baked. The easiest thing to do is just mix together everything but your dry ingredients (these being the flour, salt, baking powder and sodas). Stir them up, set them aside and let them sit for 10-15 minutes. Then all you have to do is add in the remaining ingredients mentioned above, stir just to combine, portion and bake. For me this batch made exactly 12 muffins. After about 20 minutes in a 400F they’re ready to go! Cool slightly before removing them from the muffin tin and then allow them to cool fully to room temperature before storing in an airtight container, all ready for your consumption!