Cranberry lovin’

I love sour fruits, and cranberries may be my favorite. Growing up, our Thanksgiving table included two or three cranberry dishes as part of the main course, and often cranberries in a pie, too! This Thanksgiving, I’m excited to introduce my girlfriend’s family to my dad’s family recipe for cranberry-orange relish, a mix of shredded cranberries, oranges, and sugar that explodes with sweet-tartness after the flavors have blended for a day.

If you’re not a huge fan of the tartness of cranberries but still want to include them in your Thanksgiving dinner, these muffins are coming to your rescue! They showcase both corn and cranberries, two foods native to North America. The muffins are savory and would be lovely with a pat of vegan margarine on top.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Cranberry Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c (175 g) cornmeal
  • ½ c almond milk
  • 1 c (140 g) white whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp (3 g) baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 c orange juice
  • ¼ c vegan margarine, melted
  • ½ c sweetened dried cranberries (Craisins), chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Mix cornmeal and almond milk in a medium bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice.

After the cornmeal has soaked, combine the cornmeal mixture with the orange juice and melted margarine. Stir well so there are no lumps of cornmeal remaining.

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix gently, just until all ingredients are combined. Add the cranberries and mix gently to distribute them through the batter.

Scoop the batter into the wells of the muffin tin. Bake the muffins for about 18 minutes or until the tops are firm and slightly golden.

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The case of the disappearing squash

Whether you’re going out to eat or just sitting at home browsing the web, it’s all about the pumpkin and the butternut squash recipes this time of year. I love pumpkin and butternut squash of course, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on the many other delicious varieties of winter squash! Spaghetti squash is a fun alternative to pasta, delicata squash is beautiful when roasted in little rings with its edible skin left on, and kabocha squash makes a great stew.

Today, I’m bringing you a recipe that uses a common variety of winter squash rarely used in baking: acorn squash. If you’re looking for a recipe that makes acorn squash shine, this is sadly not it: the roasted squash disappears quietly into the background of this bread loaf, adding sweetness and moisture but little squash-y flavor. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get more vegetables into some picky eaters, they will never guess your game when you serve them this bread! 😉

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Acorn Squash Bread

Makes one 8 ½ x 4” loaf.

Note: If you are new to baking yeast bread, King Arthur Flour has many great resources for learning the techniques!

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • olive oil for brushing on squash
  • ¾ c almond milk, divided
  • 1 Tbsp vegan margarine, melted
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ tsp; 7 g) active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 ½ – 3 c (350 – 450g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil onto the flesh of the squash and place cut side-down on a baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

In a blender, puree ½ c (~120 g) squash flesh with ¼ c almond milk and the melted margarine. Set aside the remaining squash for another use.

Warm the remaining ½ c almond milk to 100-115 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, liquid at this temperature should feel warm but not hot if applied to the inside of your wrist (don’t test with your fingers because they are less sensitive to heat). Pour the warm almond milk into a large bowl and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let the yeast and milk sit for about five minutes, until you see brown bubbles from the yeast blooming on the surface of the milk.

Add the maple syrup and squash puree to the bowl, and mix well. Next, add about 2 cups of flour along with the nutmeg and salt. Stir the ingredients together into a dough. Add additional flour in small increments until the dough is firm enough to knead. Knead the dough for several minutes, incorporating more flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and springy but not sticky.

Oil a large bowl, place the kneaded dough inside, and cover with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside in a draft-free location to rise for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. The actual rise time will depend on ambient temperature: setting the dough to rise in a warm oven will make it rise more quickly, but the flavor of the dough will be better developed at slightly cooler temperatures.

Grease an 8 ½ x 4” loaf pan. With greased or lightly floured hands, remove the dough from the bowl and fold it over on itself a couple of times, reshaping it into a log that will fit into the loaf pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. The rise is finished when the top of the dough is level with the top of the loaf pan.

When the dough is nearing the end of its rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. When the dough has finished rising, bake for about 35 minutes. The loaf is done when the top is browned, knocking on the bottom of the loaf produces a hollow sound, and (if you have an instant-read thermometer available) the internal temperature of the loaf is 190-195 degrees F.

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How to veganize a baking recipe

Do you have traditional family recipes that you would like to veganize? Have you seen a delicious-looking recipe online or in a cookbook that you would like to make, but think you can’t because it’s not vegan? Here are my tips on vegan substitutions for eggs, dairy, and chocolate in your baking recipes. Many recipes will veganize well, so do some experimenting and have fun!

eggsFollow Your Heart may have just hatched a vegan egg, but you don’t have to order online or go to a specialty foods store to find good vegan substitutes for eggs in baking! The functions of eggs in baking include binding ingredients together, adding structure, and leavening. The binding function of eggs is easiest to replicate with vegan ingredients. The trick with vegan egg replacements is to know which substitutes to use in which kinds of baked goods.

Applesauce

Substitution: 1/4 cup applesauce = 1 egg

Best in: Muffins, Quickbreads, Yeast Breads

Not recommended for: Cookies with high fat content (they may come out too soft)

Notes: You can also use other types of pureed fruit, such as banana or pear, as long as you’re aware of how these fruits’ flavors might influence the flavor of your final product. Mashed banana can be an awesome addition to a batch of chocolate chip muffins!

Ground Flaxseed

Substitution: 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water, whisked = 1 egg

Best in: Cookies

Not recommended for: Cakes (they will be crumbly)

Notes: Ground flaxseed is easy to find in the baking aisle of mainstream grocery stores and keeps well in the freezer. Most recipes say to let this mixture sit for a few minutes before combining with other ingredients in the recipe, but I usually skip this step and haven’t noticed any ill effects. 🙂

Ground Chia Seed

Substitution: 1 Tbsp ground chia seed + 3 Tbsp water, whisked = 1 egg

Best in: Cookies

Notes: I don’t use chia seed often, but I think it works great for those situations when flaxseed may not be a strong enough binder. If you let the chia-water mixture sit for a couple of minutes, you will see it form a thick, sticky gel.

Silken Tofu

Substitution: 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu = 1 egg

Best in: Dense items like puddings or fudgy brownies

Not recommended for: Muffins, Quickbreads, Breads, Cakes

Notes: Silken tofu has a relatively narrow range of uses for egg replacement, but for those uses, it is indispensable. Pureed silken tofu can imitate the creamy texture of a custard or a cream pie that would normally come partly from eggs. However, it will weigh down lighter baked goods, so stick to using it for products that are intended to be dense.

Other substitutes: I have never used commercial egg replacers, so I can’t comment on how they work in comparison to the egg substitutes listed above. One other new egg substitute that intrigues me is chickpea liquid. If you’ve tried using it, let me know what you thought in the comments!

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Vegan egg substitutes

dairyThere are a number of widely-available vegan alternatives to dairy, and you can generally substitute them for dairy products in a 1:1 ratio.

Substitutes for Dairy Milk: My go-to vegan milk is almond milk because it has a similar consistency to dairy milk and can be purchased unsweetened so that it doesn’t alter the sweetness of your final product. The other most common non-dairy milks are soy, rice, and coconut (in a carton, not a can). Soymilk is usually sweetened, so I tend to avoid it. However, soymilk has more protein than other non-dairy milks, so for recipes that rely on milk protein to enhance structure, it would be worthwhile to hunt down some unsweetened soymilk. Rice milk has a thinner consistency than dairy milk. Coconut milk may add some coconut flavor to your baked goods, which is a fabulous choice for some items and a much less fabulous choice for others. 😉

Substitutes for Buttermilk: To make 1 cup of buttermilk, I simply pour 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (cider or white) into a 1-cup measure and add enough non-dairy milk to make a full cup of liquid (this ratio can also be used to make buttermilk from dairy milk). You want to let this mixture sit until it curdles or splits. For almond milk, this seems to happen almost instantly. Again, if the protein in the buttermilk is important to the recipe (e.g., to give structure to buttermilk biscuits), unsweetened soymilk will be the best choice for the non-dairy milk component of the buttermilk mixture.

Substitutes for Cream: I like canned coconut milk as a substitute for cream. It is thick and rich, but it may impart some coconut flavor to your baked goods if there aren’t other strong flavors to mask it. Commercial alternatives also exist.

Substitutes for Butter: My go-to substitute for butter is Earth Balance buttery spread, which is typically available in mainstream grocery stores. Earth Balance also makes buttery sticks which add convenience for measurement, but the spread works quite well for baking. I also use canola oil as a substitute for butter in some baked goods. Because of the differences in chemistry between oil and butter, I don’t recommend using oil if a product is supposed to have a flaky texture or if the recipe calls for working with the dough or fat when it is cold (e.g., biscuits, scones, pie crusts, and some cookies). However, I find oil to be a perfectly adequate substitute for butter in muffins, quick breads, and lower-fat drop cookies.

Substitutes for Sour Cream/Yogurt: Pureed silken tofu can be quickly transformed into a good substitute for sour cream (puree a couple tablespoons of lemon juice with a carton of tofu) or yogurt (just add non-dairy milk as needed to achieve a yogurt-like consistency). I have had trouble finding unsweetened non-dairy yogurt even at specialty grocery stores, so I prefer making a tofu substitute over having to mess around with the other sweeteners in a recipe to compensate for using sweetened yogurt.

chocolateNow for what I consider the best baking ingredient of all: chocolate! We all could guess that milk chocolate is not vegan; unfortunately, many brands of dark and semi-sweet chocolate also contain some milk products, so make sure to check the label! My favorite brands of vegan chocolate chips are Costco’s Kirkland brand and Trader Joe’s brand. Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips are also commonly available in supermarkets and are free of many common allergens. I haven’t tried them, as the first two brands mentioned tend to be considerably less expensive.

If you’re baking with cocoa powder or 100% baking chocolate, then no worries! These products are always vegan.

Thanks for sticking with me through all that! I hope these tips have been useful. Happy baking! 🙂

Peanut butter and banana energy boost!

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I grew up doing a lot of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, mostly with my brother and my dad. If you’re not familiar with this part of the U.S., the White Mountains are relatively small–only seven peaks are over 5000 feet–but they are rocky, rugged, and a challenge to climb! Long ago, we figured out that lots of good snacks, a silly attitude (bring on the fart jokes!), and loud, off-key singing are excellent ways to fuel a grueling hike. GORP is a must-pack snack, but if you’re climbing hard, sometimes those raisins and peanuts sit in your stomach like a rock. I find that muffins are a great alternative in those situations, as well as for fueling more mundane exercise like going for a run around town. The first iteration of today’s muffin recipe fueled my brother and me as we hiked 6288-foot Mount Washington with my dad a couple summers ago. The banana and peanut butter flavor is a classic energy-rich combination, supplying carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and these muffins save you from the gooey mess you’d get in your backpack if you tried to pack a fresh banana and peanut butter! 😛

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PB & B Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

  • 1 c mashed banana (2 – 3 ripe bananas, depending on their size)
  • ½ c honey (not for strict vegans) or maple syrup
  • ½ c crunchy salted peanut butter
  • ¾ c (105g) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c (105g) traditional whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • optional add-ins: chocolate chips, chopped peanuts, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line the cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana, honey or maple syrup, and peanut butter. Stir well.

Combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. If you want to add in chocolate chips or chopped peanuts, stir those into the flour mixture as well. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden-brown and springy. You can also test for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of a muffin; when you take the toothpick out, it should not have batter on it.

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