Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vegan baking: Banana Walnut Muffins

Banana walnut muffin in an antique muffin top pan

This is the final day of me participating in the 10-day Fed Up Challenge (eliminating all processed sugars, sweeteners and substitutes - goodbye agave nectar, maple syrup and stevia).  Even though I eat a fairly healthy mostly whole food diet, it took a little getting used to.  My inherited from my dad sweet tooth adjusted in a few days after the initial shock.  While I was making a pot of vegetable soup one day, I thought that a nice muffin would be just the thing to serve with a steaming bowl...until I remembered the challenge.  I began to think, would it be possible to make a healthy, vegan, sugar free muffin that didn't taste like a rock?  Would it even be a muffin if it met all those criteria?  I figured, what have I got to lose...the worst thing that would happen is my compost pile would have a few muffin rocks in it if all went wrong.

My starting inspiration was a recipe for Vegan Banana Walnut muffins for Two on the Chocolate and Carrots website.  I doubled the recipe because I needed to feed three.  I made a few changes to make it whole grain, added an extra super-ripe banana and softened dates to replace the processed sugar in the recipe and added cinnamon for more natural sweetness.  After a suspenseful 20 minutes in the oven, they came out looking like chocolate chip cookies (a good start) and smelling wonderful - but how did they taste?  They turned out to be tender and delicious.  They were sweet enough for my newly adjusted palate and I'll certainly be making these again even long after I'm done with the challenge.

Vegan banana walnut muffins

makes 4 large or 6-8 regular size muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon baking powder
3 medium bananas, smashed (about 1/3 cup smashed banana)
2 tablespoons olive oil (you can use dairy or non-dairy butter or other oil)
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pitted chopped medjool dates

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.Warm the milk and stir in the chopped dates, let them soften while you prep everything.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside.  
  • In a smaller bowl, stir the banana,oil, milk and date mixture and vanilla together.
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.Stir in the walnuts and raisins.
  • Evenly distribute the batter into 4-6 sections of a muffin pan that has been sprayed with a baking spray. 
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan and cooling on a rack.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Today's harvest - the first of the 2014 garden

I'm very excited to be able to share the first still life of a daily harvest from my 2014 garden.  I'm so amazed at how beautiful just picked produce can be. Right now there are mostly greens and lettuces, but soon there will be more to share.  This harvest is:  butter lettuce, mesclun, spinach, bunching onions, oregano and tarragon along with a ragusa rose and some peonies.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

BBQ Jerk Marinade

BBQ jerk marinated tofu and portobello with roasted potatoes and salad with berries and pecans

It was unexpectedly hot for a day, and I had to fire up the grill in honor of the preview of summer.  I was inspired by this video for BBQ jerk chicken by Bondi Harvest to make jerk marinade for my tofu and portobello mushrooms.  (language alert - there a couple words in the video not suitable for sensitive ears).  I didn't make my version as fiery as theirs, but used just a touch of chili pepper and threw in a handful of chopped fresh herbs from the garden (tarragon, cilantro and oregano).  I cracked open my next to last jar of BBQ sauce made from last year's tomatoes and substituted maple syrup for the sugar in the recipe.  The smoke wafting from the grill was scented with spices - yummy anticipation!  I served the BBQ goodness up with a side of roasted potatoes and a spinach and berry salad, this marinade is sure to be a repeat this summer.  If you like barbecue like I do, I think you're going to like this recipe.  Bondi Harvest focuses on using fresh ingredients and making things as easy as possible so check out their other videos for more recipes.

Jerk marinade (original recipe by Bondi Harvest)

Coriander root (I used about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro instead)
1 x brown onion (yellow onion)
4 x garlic cloves
5cm x ginger (I used a thumb sized piece)
3 x fresh chili  (I omitted it because I like it mild)
100ml x bbq sauce  (I used 3/4 cup homemade sauce)
Pinch Dried chili (I used the tiniest pinch)
1 x tsp cinnamon powder 
1 ½ x tsp all spice
½ cup spiced rum (I used 1/4 coconut rum that I had from a holiday baking project)
1 ½ x tbs brown sugar (I used maple syrup)
1 ½ x tbs sugar (omitted)

juice of 1 lime
(added a small handful of fresh tarragon)
(add 2 tablespoons olive oil)

Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree. Let the tofu and mushrooms (or protein of choice) marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight before grilling.  Baste with marinade while cooking.

Thanks for reading!

Buds on a blueberry bush

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fashion file: Can your comfy casual wear find a place in your office wardrobe?

Over the last few years, leisure and yoga wear has become much more street worthy.  The lines have blurred and it's no longer a must to make a complete change after your exercise class before heading out for the rest of your day.  But, can these super comfy pieces find a place in your business wardrobe?   Inspired by Jennifer L. Scott's Ten-Item Wardrobe concept from her book Lessons from Madame Chic, I've been playing with reducing my wardrobe and making pieces pull double duty.  So let's take a look to see how these casual pieces can fit into an office setting.

A soft draped shrug or jacket substitutes for a blazer with tailored pieces for a pulled together, yet feminine look.  Here I've paired a wool herringbone patterned pencil skirt with a cashmere turtleneck sweater (thrifted) and topped it with a tranquiliT cocoon jacket (similar here).

A monochrome palette from head to toe makes casual pieces seem more elegant.  I've paired a tranquiliT Parisian skirt and turtleneck and added a patterned scarf (thrifted vintage find) and more structured jacket like this double breasted sweater to make it a little more tailored.

slip dress gets an office makeover by layering a long sleeved tee underneath for more coverage, topping a tailored peplum jacket and adding tights and pumps to finish the look.

A ruched pencil skirt is paired with a t-shirt and topped with a peplum sweater jacket.  A pretty scarf to add some color and a belt (both thrifted) complete the look.

For more wardrobe inspiration, see the 10-item wardrobe in action:

Thanks for reading!

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Thrift store adventure
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