cookies, for sister.

I was in the mood for cookies the other day. Well, truth be told, I’m always in the mood for cookies. The other day I gave in. But which cookies to make? There were so many delectable possibilities from my sizable stack of vegan cookbooks to choose from. I started to flip through the pages of the mighty Veganomicon. Hmmm. Lots of tasty treats deserving of a test run in there. Then I spied it – near the back of that respected tome: Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. Perfect.

My sister was recently diagnosed with gluten and dairy allergies – which means she has invariably been left out of even just tasting my sweet foray into vegan desserts of late. I knew I had to make these cookies for her. I would satisfy my craving with a good few, share some with hubby, and pass the rest on to my sis. Sounded like a plan.

Firstly, these cookies were incredibly easy to make. I mean easy. And fast. They came together in a veritable blink while I was barely paying attention as I chatted with hubby who was assembling a new wooden chair for the kitchen across the room.

More importantly, these cookies are delicious. I love how they kind of collapse down in the middle – crispy on the outside and super chewy on the inside. And the oat flour, used in lieu of wheat flour, gives the cookies an awesome flavour.

It was super hard to keep both myself and hubby from eating them all before I had a chance to snap a few pics and save some for my sister.

I will most definitely be making these again soon. Very soon.

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Mmm…Canada, sweet: nanaimo bars.

In my last post I wrote about my Mmm…Canada, savoury submission, Montreal Bagels. Today it’s all about the sweet things in life.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I received an invitation from Jasmine, The Cardamom Addict to take part in a blogging event that she is co-hosting with The Domestic Goddess called Mmm…Canada.

The Mmmm…Canada event is being held to coincide with Canada Day on July 1st. I am both a Canuck and a lover of food so there was no arm twisting required to get me to take part. The Cardamom Addict is handling all things savoury while The Domestic Goddess is looking after the sweet side of Canadian life. The idea behind the event is for a bunch of Canucks, and honourary Canucks, to present delectable submissions of either the sweet or savoury variety that are quintessentially Canadian. Given my love of food I decided to do both. Yesterday it was all about Montreal Bagels for my savoury submission. Today, it’s all about the sweet stuff: Nanaimo Bars.

The history that I remember about Nanaimo Bars is that they were the winning submission made by a Nanaimo (British Columbia) housewife in the 50’s, in response to a dessert bar contest. Or something along those lines. They are ubiquitous in Canada. There isn’t a single grocery store that doesn’t carry a mass-produced version – homemade is always best, of course. They are so popular in fact that I’d be surprised if mine were the only submission in this event. Nanaimo Bars are a three layer bar style dessert. The bottom layer is a chocolatey, nutty, coconut graham crumb base. This is topped with a vanilla custard-like buttercream layer. Finally, it is topped with a chocolate glaze layer. Voila, Nanaimo Bars.

Since I was really short on time, Nanaimo Bars were the perfect choice for this project. They are e-a-s-y to make, no baking required. All they need is a little chilling and before you know it you’re enjoying a diabolically sweet treat. And I mean diabolical. If you have a sweet tooth, this is your dream come true.

Warning: Nanaimo Bars are dangerous to have around. Resistance is futile.

Actually, I was rather cross with hubby yesterday. I had given him very specific instructions to take the entire batch of Nanaimo Bars to work with him for sharing. Imagine my chagrin when I opened the fridge and found them all there. Calling me. What ensued was a torturous exercise in temptation and will power. I was most displeased.

I found a recipe that had originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun newspaper and set about veganizing it. Nanaimo Bars are a cinch to veganize. Earth Balance (vegan buttery margarine) replaces butter, flax meal and water replace egg, plain soy milk replaces milk. This is my adapted recipe:

Nanaimo Bars:

Bottom layer

1/2 cup earth balance (or other vegan margarine)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp flax meal
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups crushed graham crackers or crumbs
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Middle layer

1/4 cup earth balance (or other vegan margarine)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder *
3 tbsp plain soy milk

* easy to find in Canada but sometimes difficult to find in the U.S. – instant vanilla pudding powder can be substituted.

Top layer

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp earth balance (or other vegan margarine)

Assembly:

  • To make bottom layer: Grease a 9-inch square cake pan. I lined the bottom with parchment that stuck out the top so I could lift everything out after – this makes cutting the bars easier (I didn’t want to scratch up my nice pan)
  • In a small bowl, beat flax meal and water together until frothy, set aside.
  • In a sauce pan over low heat, combine 1/2 cup earth balance, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla . Add flax mixture and stir constantly until mixture thickens.
  • Add graham crackers crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts, stirring to combine.
  • Press the mixture into the greased pan.

  • To make middle layer: In a large bowl, beat together 1/4 cup earth balance, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla custard powder, and soy milk until creamy.
  • Spread custard mixture over graham cracker base in pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

  • To make top layer: Melt semi-sweet chocolate and 1 tbsp earth balance. Pour over chilled bars and spread over top. Return to refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 1 hour).

  • I recommend checking in on the squares after maybe ten minutes of this final chilling phase – or as soon as the chocolate topping begins to set a bit enough to score. While it’s still soft, score just the top chocolate layer with the lines you will cut along later. This way you will be able to cut the squares cleanly afterward when the chocolate is fully set, without cracking the tops (like I did).
  • Serves 9-16, depending on how you divide them.
Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Here’s to wishing you a sweet Canada Day!

Since we’re a bit early, promise to check back on July 1st and click on the Mmm…Canada logo at the top of this post which will take you to The Domestic Goddess’ sweet Canadian roundup.

french toast, and a cake masterpiece.

Today’s breakfast is brought to you by, you guessed it, My Sweet Vegan – yes, I’m on a roll with this book. All the other cookbooks are probably feeling very lonely and left out just about now.

Ah, french toast. Breakfast foods most definitely comprise some of my favourite culinary delights – pancakes, crepes, waffles, and french toast are all held in very high esteem in this house and heart. When I first went vegan I wrote about how I went into mourning for these hallowed breakfast treats but soon realized that there was a new world of alternative ways to create them awaiting me. I have already made awesome pancakes and crepes galore with delicious success. Today would be my first foray into french toast. All I can say is it was about time, and yum.

There are probably a million and one ways to make french toast – it’s a personal thing. Depending on what you like, you’ll use different spices or different bread. You may completely soak your slices, or merely coat the surface, etc, etc. When I used to make french toast in the past, no two batches were ever the same. For my first vegan batch I thought I’d defer to the judgment of someone who clearly knows more than I do, which brings me to Hannah’s version in My Sweet Vegan. After all, I’ve made several things from her book with a 100% success rate so I had faith that this would be a good place to start in the world of vegan french toast.

The beautiful aroma that wafted up from the mixture as I was putting it together kind of made me want to drink it straight up, I kid you not. It was that good. A little patience, albeit difficult, and 15 minutes later I was eating a lovely batch of french toast. It would have been marvelous with maple syrup but I opted for a lighter presentation with a small bit of powdered sugar.

I’m on a powdered sugar kick lately.

So I’m fairly green at the blogging thing and there are still many firsts being experienced along the way. I’ve come into contact with many interesting, talented, and creative people which is awesome. I joined the Daring Bakers which is forcing me to stretch my culinary muscle in the best creative way. I’ve come across my blog on the blogroll of some truly talented and accomplished bloggers which is an incredible honour and makes me smile huge and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Well today I came across another first, and a great one at that. The culinary creative genius behind Speedbump Kitchen, and fellow Daring Baker, has done me the honour of using one of my recipes in the creation of what I can only describe as a cake masterpiece. We had both recently undertaken the Daring Baker challenge to make Opera Cake. When I saw the Speedbump Kitchen entry I just thought it was a thing of beauty – it was garnished with whimsical little marzipan bees, need I say more? Just gorgeous and incredibly inspiring. The creator of that marvelous cake visited my blog, came across my recent rustic coconut cake, and thought of incorporating it into an Opera cake for her adorable egg and dairy-sensitive kids.

Well that cake is made and all I can say is wow. And it has bees. So awesome. Well that’s it, my day is made. Look at the cake and bask in its glory.