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Baking with Vegetables: Pumpkin Muffins and Sweet Potato Brownies

21 Nov

My original thought for making a vegetable-added brownie was to make a beet brownie.  I eventually will, but I had a sweet potato to use.
Sweet potatoes in particular add sweetness to the brownies such that less sugar is necessary.  I also had to make pumpkin muffins because I had yet to make them this fall, though they are one of the things I most look forward to making in the fall and winter.  The pumpkin muffins are inspired by the Yammy Muffins recipe from the Sustainable Food Center’s The Happy Kitchen cookbook, which I’m currently doing some recipe testing for.  I changed up that recipe quite a bit, reducing the amount of sugar, increasing the pumpkin, eliminating the oil, and using pumpkin in place of sweet potato.  Overall, using vegetables in baking adds moisture so that less oil and eggs are necessary, and in the case of beets and sweet potatoes, adds sweetness so that you don’t need to add so much sugar.  Of course, there’s also the added nutrition factor.

Pumpkin Muffins


1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinammon

1/2 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk will do)

1 15-oz. can pumpkin

2 T ground flax mixed with 6 T water, or 2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with papers, or dab some vegetable oil or butter in the cups to keep the muffins from sticking.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another smaller bowl combine the pumpkin, flax mixture or eggs, vanilla, barley malt, and almond milk.  Then, mix the dry and wet ingredients together, until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Evenly distribute muffin batter in the muffin pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

Sweet Potato Brownies


4 T (1/2 stick) butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (I think coconut oil would be good here too, though I haven’t tried it yet.)

1  4-ounce bar of 100% cacao chocolate (I used Ghiradelli brand)

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

About 1 cup mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)

1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T water, or 1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract


Peel the sweet potato, cut into chunks, and boil until tender.  (Another alternative is to cut a few slits in the potato and microwave until it’s cooked, usually about 10 minutes.)  Mash in a medium bowl.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt the butter with the chocolate bar in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium low heat until completely melted.  Stir during the process to facilitate the combining of the butter and chocolate.

Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt) together in a small bowl.  Mix the flax mixture or egg with the sweet potato, vanilla, and sugar.  Add the chocolate mixture, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Place in a square 8×8 pan, or a loaf pan for thicker brownies (that’s what I did).  Bake for about 25 minutes.  The brownies will be very fudgy, not cakey.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

6 Nov

This recipe is adapted from the Peanut Butter Cookies in The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld.  I love that these cookies are made with an “alternative” flour–chickpea, not wheat.  These cookies are great to freeze.  Just microwave them for about 30-45 seconds when ready to eat.


1/2 cup softened butter or vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)

1/4 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup organic peanut butter (chunky or smooth

1 egg (if you want to make these vegan, you can leave out the egg without any problem)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips (I used Sunspire brand)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Cream the butter, sugar, and barley malt together with a mixer until fluffy (2-3 minutes was enough for me).  Add the peanut butter and mix for another minute.  Beat in the egg and vanilla just until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together.  Mix the dry ingredients together into the wet in three batches, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets, with about 2 inches of space in between.  Bake 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are golden.

Raspberry Chocolate Spelt Scones

1 Nov

This post is dedicated to my good friend Amy.  These scones are my attempt to recreate a wonderful raspberry chocolate spelt scone we used to buy every Saturday at the farmers market.  The scones, along with strong cups of Katz coffee, was our Saturday morning breakfast.  After Amy moved away about three years ago, the bakery that made these great scones stopped coming to the market.  I’ve been thinking about those scones a lot lately, as I’ve been waxing nostalgic.  While the scones I made are not a precise replica, I have to say they come pretty darn close.  Breakfast this week of strong coffee paired with these scones will be good for my soul.

This recipe is adapted from Erin McKenna’s Raspberry Scones.  I added the chocolate, changed the sweetener, used coconut oil instead of canola, and added more liquid.  I also wrote the instructions in my own words.  I found the recipe on several different recipe sites and blogs, but here is one link:


2 cups whole spelt flour

1 T baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup virgin coconut oil

1/3 cup barley malt syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 -3/4 cup hot water (I increased this amount from the recipe–the dough was just too dry with the 1/4 cup the recipe called for)

2/3 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries, thawed and drained if frozen (you can thaw them in the microwave, or if you think about it ahead of time you can thaw them in the refrigerator)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the oil, barley malt syrup, and vanilla together.  Add to the spelt flour mixture.  The mixture will be dry.  Add the water, and mix completely.  Fold in the raspberries and chocolate chips, being careful not to overmix.  Mix only until the raspberries and chocolate chips are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Spoon out the batter onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet using about 1/3 cup of batter per scone.  Place about 1-1 1/2 inches apart.  All the scones should fit on one sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.   Allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving.

Chocolate Double Buckwheat Muffins

13 Oct

I love buckwheat.  It may be an acquired taste for some, but it didn’t take me long to become a devotee.  Most buckwheat muffins or other baked goods recipes I’ve seen use a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour, though this muffin I made a few days ago contains not only buckwheat flour, but also cooked buckwheat.  I’ve seen recipes for muffins with cooked quinoa, so I thought buckwheat couldn’t be far behind, right?  These muffins make a very respectable breakfast food–very little sugar and completely whole grain, with cooked buckwheat, buckwheat flour, and whole wheat pastry flour.  I thought chocolate would make a nice flavor pairing with the buckwheat, so I added some good quality cocoa powder in addition to some grain-sweetened chocolate chips.  They turned out yummy!


1 cup toasted buckwheat (aka “kasha”)

2 cups water

Pinch salt

1 cup almond milk (I used almond milk because I had it on hand, but any nut milk, dairy milk, rice milk, etc. will do)

2 tsp ground flax

1/4 cup safflower oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)

1/2 cup barley malt syrup (honey or brown rice syrup would also work)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried cranberries


Bring the 2 cups of water and salt to a boil and add the buckwheat.  Turn down to medium low, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the grain is tender.  Set aside.  (This step can be done ahead.  You will have extra buckwheat you won’t need for the muffins–I ate mine as a breakfast cereal with dried fruit, almond milk, walnuts, and brown sugar.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and place muffin papers in a 12-cup muffin pan.  Alternatively, grease the muffin pan if you don’t have papers.  Mix the almond milk with the flax and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients in a medium or large bowl.  Then, mix the oil, barley malt, and vanilla with the almond milk/flax mixtures.  Mix the dry and wet mixtures together, adding the cooked buckwheat.  Once combined, fold in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries until evenly distributed through the batter.  The batter will be thick.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean when you test a muffin.

My Take on Heidi Swanson’s Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

18 Sep

Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks is one of my favorite sources for cooking inspiration.  I had seen this carrot oatmeal cookie recipe several months earlier, but like with many things, I see it, file it away in my mind, and later it pops back up when the right moment arrives.  That’s what happened with these cookies.  One day I decided it was time.  Also, the only ingredient I didn’t have was the coconut oil, which I had been meaning to experiment with.  Be sure to use virgin coconut oil, because it still smells and tastes like coconut.  Making these cookies was a great sensory experience.  The smell of the coconut oil permeates the air, and the oil gives these cookies a creamy sort of quality that I just love.  Extra virgin or virgin coconut oil can be on the pricey side, but it’s totally worth it.  I adjusted the ingredients of these cookies slightly from Heidi’s recipe. I used brown rice syrup to sweeten them, while she uses an equal amount of maple syrup.  One of the great qualities of this cookie is that it’s not too sweet–it’s just sweet enough to be a nice treat, but it’s not too much.  Heidi also uses whole wheat pastry flour, while I used white whole wheat flour.    It’s the same concept–white whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour have a lighter texture than whole wheat flour, making them more appropriate for baking.  Otherwise, I used the recipe exactly.  I do paraphrase a lot in the recipe below–this is not exact verbiage from Heidi’s recipe.  I also add a lot of my own commentary.

Ingredients (includes my substitutions)

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

About 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded carrots (this ended up being about 2 medium carrots)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup (I think honey would work as a substitute as well, as would the maple syrup Heidi uses in the original recipe)

1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil warmed until just melted-it should  be about  the consistency of softened butter  (you’ll know it’s unrefined if it smells like coconut!)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (to make it easier on myself, I used a teaspoon of the jarred grated ginger I keep in my refrigerator, but go ahead and use fresh is you have it and you so desire)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal.  Add the carrots and walnuts.  In smaller bowl, mix together the coconut oil, brown rice syrup, and ginger. Add wet mixture to the flour mixture until just combined.

Roll into balls of more or less equal size and place onto the cookie sheets.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are golden brown on top and around the edges.

Chocolate Lovers’ Brownies

13 May

This brownie recipe is my new favorite, and from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld.  What I love about it is that it’s so incredibly chocolaty, and is made with oat flour instead of wheat.  Who doesn’t love oats and chocolate together?  If you crave chocolate, this is the brownie for you.  My recipe is not a word for word copy of Myra’s, but it’s pretty close.  I put my own twists on this recipe…for example, I use 100 percent cocoa chocolate instead of bittersweet, and I use brown rice syrup instead of maple syrup.


4 ounce bar of Ghiradelli or similar bittersweet chocolate, or 100 percent cocoa chocolate (found in the baking section of good stores)

1 stick unsalted butter

3 eggs

2 tsps. vanilla extract

1 cup evaporated cane sugar

1/4 cup brown rice syrup or maple syrup

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup oat flour (can be purchased as flour, but you can also grind oats yourself using a blender or food processor)

1 cup chopped walnuts (I did not use walnuts this time, but I usually do)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a pie plate or 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

If making oat flour, place about 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats in a food processor or blender.  Process until they have a flour-like consistency.  The oat flour can be a little coarser than wheat flour–that’s fine.  No need to be too fine.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the chocolate melts.  Stir the combine the butter and chocolate with a whisk to combine.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl, and then whisk in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Combine thoroughly.  Add the brown rice syrup, cane sugar, salt, flour, and walnuts.  Mix with a wooden spoon or large metal spoon.

Pour the batter into the pie plate or baking pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center is still soft (fork comes out with batter on it) but the sides are completely done.  Don’t over-bake, or you’ll have dry brownies.

Banana-Date Scones

3 Jan

Scones are a love of mine.  They’re great with my morning coffee, and make a great afternoon snack.  Most scone recipes involve quite a lot of butter, but this recipe is an exception.  It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Veganomicon (page 224), and has very little oil in it.  I am not a vegan, but I do enjoy experimenting with vegan cooking.  Veganomicon has so many interesting and creative recipes, and has helped me expand my culinary horizons.

One of the things I also love about this recipe is that it gives me yet another way to use overripe bananas that never fail to make an appearance on my kitchen counter.  I buy bananas with the intention of eating them that way, but they always beat me to the punch and get too ripe.  Even a few spots make a banana unappealing to me.  I almost never waste them, though, and use them to make banana bread, muffins, scones, or pancakes.  I also love, love, LOVE dates and walnuts, and aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you want a natural air freshener for your home, just bake something containing those spices.  I enjoy making a batch of scones and freezing them.  That way, I can pull them out one at a time and microwave them for breakfast.

I made some changes to the original recipe.  I used entirely white whole wheat flour, which you can usually substitute pretty well for white flour.  I also used soy milk instead of rice milk.  Other than that, I pretty closely followed the original recipe.


8 ounces of dates

1 T all-purpose flour

3-4 overripe, mashed bananas

2 T ground flax seed

1/3 cup soy milk or rice milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup brown rice syrup (in a pinch, you could also use 1/4 cup sugar)

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour, or 1 cup white and 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Mash the bananas using a fork or a pastry blender.  Chop the dates (watch out for the pits), and mix in a small bowl with 1 T flour to prevent the dates from sticking together.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flax seed with the soy or rice milk.  Then, add in the mashed banana, canola oil, and the brown rice syrup.   Set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix the flour mixture with the banana mixture.  Then, fold in the dates and walnuts.

Oil a 1/2 cup measuring cup.  Get out a large cookie sheet.  You can either spray or grease the cookie sheet to prevent sticking.  Scoop out dough using the measuring cup onto the cookie sheet, leaving around 3 inches between scones.

Bake the scones for about 30 minutes.  Because ovens differ, check on the scones after about 20 minutes.  They should be browned on the outside.