Savory zucchini muffins

In my quest for a sugar-free zucchini muffin, I started thinking about getting away from sweet altogether. It doesn’t even have to be breakfast-y. In my search results for “savory zucchini bread,” one stood out–Namely Marly!

She is local to me and vegan. So of course I had to click on it and see if her recipe looked good.

It had no sugar, only a small amount of oil, and was already vegan! It did call for all-purpose flour rather than a whole grain. But I decided to give it a shot. Continue reading

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Zucchini muffins–no sugar, no grating

It’s August, and zucchini is quite prevalent this time of year. I can find a variety at almost every stand at my local farmer’s markets for pretty cheap. I love squashes prepared a variety of ways, but lately I have been on a quest for a good healthy breakfast muffin. I used to make these, then started replacing ingredients when I went vegan, but now I’m interested in less oil and sugar and more whole ingredients (like whole grain flour and fruit). I also always pureed the zucchini, rather than grating. I heard pureeing will change the texture, so I decided if I was going to find new recipes, I’d start with as few changes as possible (replacing oil and sugar).

I picked out some zucchinis that didn’t look too fat (and full of bitter seeds), and brought them home to my hand grater. It wasn’t really working for me. I could have gotten out my food processor and used the grating attachment, but it doesn’t work that well and I did not feel like washing all those dishes. So I got out my knife and minced. I had done so before, years ago, to make zucchini bread, and I felt like it did well. Fingers crossed, I put the minced squash into the fridge for the next morning’s baking experimentation.

Chocolate Covered Katie’s pancakes:

I went with the pinch stevia and the spelt flour options, and I added a few tablespoons extra milk; maybe even 1/4 cup. I skipped the chocolate chips on all these today–in the interest of a conservative food budget and phasing out sugar, they stay at the store these days. The pancakes were great dipped in sugar-free pancake syrup (I know it’s best to avoid the sweetener, but if I add a little on the side instead of mixing it in, it tastes so much sweeter, so I can use a lot less). The whole batch made 6 pancakes, although I could have easily made 7. I ate all of them, so no word on how they freeze.

Savory, gluten-free Zucchini Muffins:

I used flax not chia, and pureed avocado replaced half the coconut oil. I did need the almond milk. I made a half batch and due to the next batch of muffins, I turned the oven down to 350 degrees after they baked awhile (maybe 15 minutes). These were good dipped in syrup, too. They might have been a little underdone, but I had no problem eating one. Perhaps adding less almond milk would have been prudent. I froze the rest and Hunny Bunny and I ate one the next day. I think they are more at home alongside soup rather than breakfast, but they also work as a syrup-topped breakfast. The reheated one got homemade raisin syrup (raisins soaked in unsweetened almond milk, then pureed).

Vegan Zucchini Bread:

I initially made a half batch of these too. I used a combination of applesauce, coconut oil, and pureed avocado instead of the same amount of applesauce and coconut oil. No walnuts. I used the raw cacao nibs I had instead of roasted and a little extra milk in half of the batch. The half recipe filled 6 regular size muffin cups. I just skipped the sugar altogether and hoped it wouldn’t affect the texture or anything, as there were no instructions to cream the fat and sugar together. The muffins with added milk took longer to cook, although I forgot to time it.

I still had more zucchini and cacao nibs I wanted to use up, so I made it again to use the rest, this time pureeing the zucchini and cacao nibs (probably and extra tablespoon or two cacao) with the wet ingredients, and added raisins. I used homemade nut butter (just peanuts and almonds) rather than avocado. I made a full recipe and filled 10 regular size muffin cups. This batch was actually good enough to eat without syrup–the raisins added just enough sweetness to get by. I did not add any extra milk; just kept the batter really thick. I found they cooked very evenly this way and the texture was perfect. I couldn’t taste much chocolate, but maybe that’s due to lack of sweetener.

What’s your favorite way to bake with zucchini?

Nyan Cat Birthday Cake and Other Vegan Party Snacks

My son Catboy turned 11 recently. He wanted a Nyan Cat cake. I don’t know what Nyan Cat is all about but you are welcome to google it.  I chose fruit kabobs as the rainbow trail behind the cat, and The Everything Vegan Cookbook has a simple vegan cake recipe I decided to make for the body.

On the day of the party, I followed the recipe for the Pineapple Cherry “Dump” Cake with my beautiful new extra-large rectangle cake pan. As I poured everything in, I had a sneaking suspicion it would not be the kind of cake I could frost, especially spread out in my stupid huge pan. I was right. Fortunately, it was delicious, so I decided to call it a cobbler and stick it in the fridge. Also fortunately, I had time to find a box of accidentally vegan cake mix and just follow directions. I actually got 2 so they’d fit and be big enough for Nyan’s pop-tart body.

I also made Chocolate Obsession Cake from Chocolate Covered Katie (already vegan, I used steamed carrots pureed with water instead of carrot juice) as the cat head, cupcakes tail, and cupcakes legs. The gray fur frosting was hand-crushed Oreos mixed into simple icing (powdered sugar + a little milk and vanilla extract). I smoothed it onto the cooled cakes right away, and it hardened quickly into a perfect fur effect.

The pop-tart body cake ended up being a “butter” cake. Vegan margarine stood in for the butter, and the “egg” was half pumpkin, half Ener-G. On top I did peanut butter frosting that I mixed in my stand mixer with paddles instead of in a blender. I just made sure to blend it for plenty of time and it got very smooth! I spread that on the sides and the edges of the top of the cake. The “pop tart’s strawberry icing” was accidentally vegan store-bought white frosting + ground freeze-dried strawberries. This gave the frosting a wonderfully strong strawberry flavor and bright pink hue. Fresh slivered strawberries acted as the “sprinkles”.

My mom offered to bring some food, so I suggested chips and salsa. I figured even without Mom making any effort whatsoever, they’d end up being vegan. My plan worked! Bwahahahah. I had carbonated water (cheap) and juice to mix instead of pop, plus homemade stevia-sweetened lemonade. There were also plenty of fruits leftover, even after I made plenty of kabobs. In rainbow order, I used: strawberry, orange, banana, kiwi, blueberry, grape.

All the cakes tasted moist and tender. The frostings were great, the fruit was fresh, the cobbler was sweet and buttery, and the salsa was slightly spicy (and provided a much-needed relief from all the sweets!). None of the partygoers were vegan or vegetarian, but no one had any complaints about the food and I got plenty of compliments.

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Do your prefer baking birthday cakes for your loved ones from scratch, from a box, or buying ready-made?

Muffins!

I had a collection of muffin recipes before I went vegan. They were pretty traditional, with all-purpose (AP) flour (which I’d haphazardly exchange for whole wheat as I felt like it/had it available), egg, and sometimes milk. I did like to use pumpkin puree or unsweetened applesauce, but they always included sugar and CHOCOLATE CHIPS. We lloooovvve chocolate chips!

More recently my baking efforts have been a little more sophisticated, in that I want to use a recipe that is specifically designed for the particular flour that I use. But I don’t like the idea of using AP flour–I seek out whole wheat recipes. I have found some good ones:

Dark chocolate banana bread: I’ve never been a fan of bananas. This includes smoothies that include bananas, banana flavored candies, and banana bread. But, I’m a vegan now, I eat plants, so I think I should try to get on board the banana train if I want to eat muffins. I made this quickbread as muffins, so it counts. I decided to try it because my kids like bananas and muffins, I had new star-shaped muffin molds, and chocolate (it can’t be that bad with all that chocolate, right?). It was ok. The kids liked them, but I had a hard time with the banana. The second time I made it, I had a cold and a stuffy nose, and couldn’t taste the banana. I loved them that day.

Sugar-free banana muffins: I used molasses instead of honey, vegan margarine as the butter, and some sort of egg replacer (I don’t remember–either pumpkin puree, aquafaba, or Ener-G, I’m guessing). I also left out the walnuts. These were super delicious, but unnecessarily sweet. Also, I get her point, but it irks me when people say “sugar free” when you just sub a liquid sweetener or xylitol for the sugar. Really, with overripe bananas, you can get by with very little sweetener.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread from Chocolate Covered Katie: This recipe was already vegan, so I didn’t make changes, other that omitting the additional sweetener. I went with canned pumpkin puree, sugar over xylitol, spelt flour over AP, and my milk of choice was unsweetened almond. I don’t have pumpkin pie spice; I just used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves (in ascending order) to make up the 1/2 teaspoon called for. I had to bake it for a little longer that the recipe specified. This doesn’t have any fat like butter or oil, but it was still pretty good for me and the kids. And chocolate chips are in it, so ya know…:-D

Those chocolate chips got me thinking…they are sweet enough that whatever I throw them into doesn’t need to be so sweet. Maybe I could find an “unsweetened” muffin recipe rather than “sugar free”. More on that later!

What attributes do you look for in a muffin recipe?

TVP-stuffed spaghetti squash

Have you ever been stuck paying for a library book because you accidentally ruined it?

Have you ever turned on the wrong burner on the stove and burnt an item that had no business being on the stove in the first place?

In other news, I bought a book recently….It’s called The Everything Vegan Cookbook. It has more processed ingredients than I care for, but there are many good recipes scattered throughout–in fact, I had checked it out from the library for the second time this year before my little “incident”.

I made TVP Stuffed Peppers because I still had TVP from making chili. I’m not all that big on bell peppers, and I thought spaghetti squash might be a good sub. So, I skipped the rice and salt, threw in a little extra celery, decreased the oil to only 1 tablespoon, and used a pound of fresh mushrooms rather than measuring by cup.

I used the whole recipe to top a whole spaghetti squash (cooked separately, strands scooped out to plate). It was delicious! Catboy enjoyed it, too. I put half of it in the freezer, reheating it another day at work for lunch. Perfection! Half of the whole thing was a very generous, but fairly low-calorie, serving.

30 minute pizza from scratch

Who doesn’t like pizza? I used the recipe from Fleischmann’s pizza crust yeast. I went with 1 cup whole wheat flour, and I accidentally added an extra 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

For the sauce, I used 1 can tomato paste mixed with 1 can water plus about a tablespoon total of oregano, marjoram, garlic powder, salt, and pepper (I had plenty left over). I oiled and preheated my pizza pan (metal with holes, not nonstick). First I flattened the dough into a circle holding it in my hands, then I spread it out as thin as I could onto the hot pan.

I topped it with sauce, chopped fresh asparagus, roasted minced garlic from a jar, and pieces of lightly seasoned Beyond Meat “chicken”. I placed in back into the oven until the crust was turning brown, then topped with nutritional yeast.

The crust was perfectly crispy on the bottom and the nutritional yeast was the only cheese we used. Catboy said he liked the yeast better than the other vegan cheeses we’ve tried. Hunny Bunny ate a whole piece without picking it to pieces, even though she was overdue for a nap.

This is not a low calorie meal, unfortunately–I enjoyed it thoroughly but next time I’ll need to prepare a very light, veggie-heavy side dish to eat with it!

How do you make pizza tastier and healthier?

Black Bean Veggie Burger

Ever since going vegetarian at age 13, I’ve thought of veggie burger patties as kind of a staple or veg*ns. My parents will grill them for me next to their chicken, and you can get creative using them in other recipes. Catboy even likes them. I was suprised (and my wallet was pleased) when I discovered I could make my own!

I have found Black Bean Veggie Burgers to be quite tasty. I’ve used leek instead of onion and roasted red pepper from a jar with good results. I have also substituted frozen pre-diced onion (chopping onions is the worst!). The tahini and soy sauce really makes for a great, savory flavor. Catboy requested a repeat meal on another day. I loved BBQ sauce and kale on mine instead of bun.

When I cooked them in my cast iron pan, I noticed they needed less than 10 minutes per side, maybe even just 5. They freeze well–I cook them per the recipe, then freeze, then reheat in the microwave to serve.

What do you like on your burger?

Mediterranean Vegan Lasagna for the freezer

I love the idea of spending one day cooking–perhaps following Once A Month Meals’ plans–and then just turning on the oven for the rest of the week/month with no worries about babysitting the stovetop, chopping veggies, or otherwise spending time in the kitchen. I haven’t been able to spend a whole day cooking, nor do I have a large freezer, so I just cook when I can and try to make enough for leftovers.

I tried the Mediterranean Vegan Lasagna because Catboy has been interested in Greek culture ever since he discovered the Percy Jackson book series. He usually doesn’t like bell peppers or onions, and to be honest, neither do I. But ever since I went vegan (rather than vegetarian) a few months ago, I’ve made a point to try new foods and really give them a fair chance. To get the flavor and texture I like best, I cooked the onions and peppers a little longer than it said and barely cooked the zucchini cubes. I ended up having to cook the pasta and veggies on one day, assemble it another and stick it in the fridge, then bake one after a couple hours of freezing.

I couldn’t find whole wheat lasagna noodles so I let Catboy choose his whole wheat pasta of choice: linguini. I used half a box for the recipe (rest for another dish). Instead of using an oily pesto and spending money on fresh basil, I went with dried basil and nutritional yeast. I think the nutritional yeast and the Daiya Mozzarella style shreds (I used 1.5 cups) went well together. For the marinara sauce, I with with my standby, Hunt’s Garlic and Herb pasta sauce.

The little ones haven’t tried it yet, but Catboy enjoyed his. I thought it was quite tasty, and would like to try it with a different pasta shape–if not lasagna noodles, perhaps bowties or shells. Maybe I could even do a stuffed shells-type casserole based on this recipe…

Do you have a dedicated day of the month for food prep?

Cookie Dough Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

So far I’ve made Chocolate Covered Katie‘s Cookie Dough Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal in a pan (like the recipe calls for) and muffin-style. In an effort to cut down on calories, at least from sugar, I skip the maple syrup and use sugar-free Torani syrup (hazelnut or caramel) instead, and just use a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips on top before baking.

For the oatmeal cups, I doubled the recipe and got about 17 muffins out of it. I freeze them while they are spread out on the baking sheet, then zip them together in a bag after they’re individually frozen, and microwave a few when I’m ready to serve them.

They are healthy and fun to eat, and all 4 kids (or at least all 3 that are able to speak well) request them! The breakfasts right out of the freezer are the best because it only takes seconds to heat them. You could even stick them in the fridge overnight and eat them cold the next morning if you want it instantly. They can also be eaten on the go!

What do you eat when you need something portable?

Vegan Overnight French Toast Bake

I like to eat breakfast as soon as I wake up. I am hungry before my eyes open, and breakfast is what drags me out of bed! Vegan Overnight French Toast Bake takes awhile to bake, but it is quite delicious fresh.

I used only a small amount of maple syrup, the almond flour rather than wheat, whole wheat mini bagels (left out for several hours) as the bread, and almond for the milk. It fit well into a 9×13 Pyrex dish, which was nice, because I have a lid for that pan for the overnight portion in the fridge. Catboy didn’t like the “mushy” parts, but the 3 little ones ate it up with some sugar free pancake syrup. I liked the bread pudding theme, crispy on top and a little gooey on bottom, and had some syrup on top too.

If you are like me, and like your breakfasts quick, this also kept well in the fridge for about 4 days, before I heated the leftovers in the microwave. I am tempted to try it in a crockpot, but I think the bread may fall apart that way.

Do you eat breakfast right away, or do you have to make an effort to eat breakfast at all?