Dairy free brownies

12 08 2013

I am on a dairy and soy free diet because Santiago has milk allergies, this has put me on the fast lane to weight loss, but also on a tight spot for indulging. Since we cook most everything from scratch it has been not too hard to come up with ways to replace dairy, but the lack of milk in my baked goods has made them somewhat dry and not as rich and unctuous, not so satisfying. That is until I decided I wanted brownies for my husband’s birthday, and since I do not have a lot of time or patience lately, I decided for a very simple recipe. My recipe uses coconut oil, whole wheat and, as usual, less sugar than regular recipes.


You will need:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 325°. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with foil. Coat foil with nonstick spray.
Whisk coconut oil, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.
These were very thick and chocolatey. If you use whole wheat flour you will get a drier end product than your usual brownie, so if you want it more fudgey bake for a little less time.
We loved them! I baked two sets to share, but never got to! Ignacio just devoured them in no time!

Halloween Pumpkin Muffins

25 10 2012

Ignacio is teething (again!), this time is molars, which are more painful than any other teeth. This makes feeding time a problem. Doctors say that teething does not affect appetite, and they might be right, but the discomfort in his mouth makes him not want to eat, so then he is hungry, he becomes crabby, does not want to go to sleep, etc. To short circuit this cycle, I try to find ways of tempting him to eat, these include softer foods and sweets. But hey, I am of those moms that don’t want to just give anything sweet to the baby and load him with sugar, I try my best to offer nutritive options and put fruits and vegetables in my baked goods. This is how I cam up with these Halloween Pumpkin Muffins (plus my husband got me a set of lovely cupcake liners and I really wanted to use them!)


These pumpkin muffins look so festive in the Halloween liners!

2 cups oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 c brown sugar

1 c pumpkin puree

1/4 c molasses

1 egg

1 c milk

1/2 c vegetable oil

Spices (suggested: cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger, all spice, coriander)


Preheat the oven at 400F. Mix all the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients and incorporate the dry ingredients mixing well. You will have a thick mixture. Remember that all flours are different and have different absorption, so play with the moisture you want by adding more milk. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

I like these muffins. They are mildly sweet, which I like, and thick in consistence. I wanted them to be loaded with nutrition, so I used a thicker lumpier batter, and I used whole wheat flour and oats, feel free to substitute for all white if you want. Also, as a decorative accent I garnished the tops with oats and brown sugar before putting in the oven.
I got 21 muffins out of this, I wanted to share with some friends, so I made a specially large batch. Remember, if you do like me, that I put the second batch in after the first one was out of the oven, your batter will be denser.

I hope you enjoy them!!

Avocado cake: two recipes that you will love!

22 10 2012

I know, everybody goes “Avocado cake!!?” And I don’t blame you, we relate avocados with Mexican food, as if it was the only way of using them. Growing up we ate them with mayonnaise or salsa golf (whatever the name for it is in US) and later, when I moved out, because I don’t really like mayonnaise I would just eat them plain or with salt and olive oil, make salads of different types, or mush them for guacamole. But I remember my dad always telling me that his dad used to eat them with sugar… and why not? If you think of it, avocado flavor can be defined as “buttery” but it is not definitely salty nor sweet. So I have been wanting to try it for a while, and since the awesome Bryan Street Market a few blocks from home has avocado sales regularly this time of the year, I thought I’d take advantage and buy a few avocados to try to make a cake.

What was my surprise to see that there are many options to make an avocado cake! So I just made one avocado pound like cake, and one chocolate avocado cake.

Chocolate Avocado cake with tropical avocado frosting.

The chocolate cake I got straight from Joy the Baker, it’s a vegan recipe, and that was a plus, because I’ve always wanted to know how vegans get the cake to work without eggs or anything animal. I followed the recipe as is, except that I reduced the sugar to half (only using one cup) because I figured that the frosting was going to make up for a lot of the sweetness. For the frosting I made my own recipe as follows:

Avocado frosting:

1 mashed avocado

2 cups confectionery sugar

3 teaspoons coconut milk

1 teaspoon orange blossom extract

The cake came out fluffy and moist, very palatable and the avocado flavor is very subtle, it is a light cake that does not feel heavy at all. The frosting has a very interesting flavor that I find complements the cake very well. My husband, who is very much not vegan or vegetarian, really liked this cake, as well as my toddler who does not like avocado. It’s a hit for sure!

The second recipe is also from Joy the Baker, though I modified it to my less rich taste. You can see the original recipe here. At home we like things less sweet than average and I use less butter than most, plus we really like whole grains and use white flour just for fluff. My recipe for one cake (not two) is as follows:

Avocado pound cake:

1.5 c whole wheat flour

Avocado pound cake. Very interesting texture indeed!

1/4 c white flour

1/4 c corn meal

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp butter

0.75 c sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 c milk

1 ripe mashed avocado

Preheat the oven at 350F.

Mix the dry ingredients, except the sugar.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the mashed avocado and mix until uniform. Add one egg at a time, mixing well. Incorporate the dry ingredients. The mixture will be lumpy.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry.

My thoughts on this cake: It is good and sweet as it is, I really like the unctuous feel of the avocado and how it contrasts with the rough texture of the whole wheat flour and the crunch of the corn meal. You do feel the avocado flavor but it is very different from eating it fresh, and my baby (who does not like avocado, remember?) kept asking for more. The cake disappeared faster than what I expected! In retrospect I would probably eliminate all the butter, the avocado itself is oily enough, and I think I would enjoy it better with some vegetable oil instead, for a lighter cake.

OK, here you have the recipes you asked me for with so much interest! I hope you can make them at home and have fun with them! Surprise your friends and family and enjoy them! And you know, if you do try them, let me know, I always like to know what results other people get!

Celebrating a new citizen.

1 10 2012

One of our friends from Germany got her American citizenship last week, and to honor her we wanted to have her over to dinner. Obtaining your US citizenship is harder than what most people think (“You are a citizen now, right? You married and American!” “You’ve been living here for such a long time, you must be a citizen!”), and it is the only way you can vote, which is what she wanted most. Because it is such a lengthy, time consuming and expensive process, I wanted to make a special dinner for her, and I decided on roast and potatoes, black bread and All American cupcakes (I just made that up).

For the roast I simply marinated the meat with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme. For the potatoes I marinated them with olive oil, salt, thyme and curry. Then cooked everything in the oven.

For the bread I followed this recipe by 101 cookbooks, which is really good and very recommendable. It is time consuming and quite involved, but it is totally worth it. I was not quite sure about the carrots, but the truth is that you do not feel the flavor (with the bread being so flavorful!) and they keep the moisture of the bread for days. The cocoa and the coffee make it very interesting, and I find that the flavors are more intense as the days go by, not that it lasts very long, it is so good that we just attack it!

Black bread.

Now, the cupcakes.

I started by staining the paper cups to get them more festive, I did not have time to go to the store to get special ones, so I only had white paper cups. I had seen this cute idea in Little Wren’s blog so I decided to try it. It is quite a simple method, just dilute some food coloring in water and then let dry. I went for blue and red rims.

Coloring cupcake cups

While the cups were drying I prepared my cupcakes. I found an easy recipe and modified it to our less sugary taste. I halved the sugar and the butter, compensating with apple sauce here it goes:

2 3/4 c all purpose white flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c butter, softened

1 c sugar

1/2 c applesauce

4 eggs

1 c milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Red food coloring

Blue food coloring

Cream cheese

Red and blue sprinkles

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and applesauce, milk, vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients. Once you have the batter unified, separate in three portions (I chose to have less red, but that is up to you) and add the food coloring.

Preheat the oven. Line your cupcake tray with the paper cups you prepared earlier and add one layer of blue batter, one layer of white batter and one layer of red batter, up to 3/4 of the cup.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Once they are cold, cover the surface with cream cheese and sprinkle with your decoration. Keep in air tight container until it is time to serve.

All American cupcakes.

The applesauce adds sweetness and moisture making the lessening of sugar and butter viable. They were moist and fluffy, and the yield was about 16 cupcakes. They look really pretty, but in retrospect I should probably have held on the vanilla extract to keep the white whiter. I didn’t use any of my usual whole grains because I wanted them to be white, and that made them a little blander than what I am used to, but everybody loved them and the look was a win. I also think I would use a larger red layer and only red rimmed cups, since the blue color from the batter shows really well through the cup paper.

Have you ever made colored cupcakes? How did they come up? Do you have any nice recipe to share?

Recipes: Okra Minestrone

13 08 2012

I went to the East Liberty farmer’s market to show my dad how many stands they have and the variety, and in the Blue Bird Organic Farm stand they had okra! My husband is from Louisiana, so I could not go home without some! Half of it I fried, which was delicious! And the other half I used to make a minestrone soup. The secret of this soup is the okra, it will give it a unique flavor, bur you have to make sure to denature all the slime. Let me pass you the recipe:

Okra- half a pint. Sliced thinly

Carrot- one medium

Celery- four stalks

Onion- one medium

Zucchini- one medium

Cooked red beans- two cups

Penne whole wheat pasta- Two cups dried

Chicken or vegetable broth- one cube

Spices- salt, pepper, two bay leaves, oregano, thyme, curry


Garlic- optional


First cook the beans in just water, or use a can of sugar free unsalted beans. Slice your vegetables, and reserve.

In a large pot add some olive oil and saute the onions and garlic, add the carrots and celery and let them cook until slightly tender. Add three cups of water and let it come to a boil, add the broth cube. Then add the okra and zucchini. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. The okra will release a lot of gooey slime and you will have to cook for a long time, about one hour, for it to break down. Once the soup stops looking sticky and gooey add the spices, then add two more cups of water up to six cups, add dry noodles and let them cook in the tasty broth you’ve just made. Two minutes before your pasta is done add the beans so the warm up.

Serves six.

Voila! You have a unique and delicious minestrone! Serve hot and enjoy!

Okra minestrone.

Resolution: reducing trash output

4 05 2012

Stock by eby at DeviantArt.com

I am highly disturbed by the huge amounts of trash that we produce. Yes, we do recycle, but the three arrows in the recyclable materials stand for: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; “recycle” is the last one for a reason. We are supposed to first reduce what we consume, then reuse what we have and only after that recycle what we cannot reuse; besides recycling is expensive and it is not the solution to our environmental woes.

So my new resolution when it comes to greening our lives is to reduce our amount of trash. We do cloth diaper, so that is a win, but still we do produce quite a bit of garbage. One thing that would help could be to compost, but we live in an apartment and we really have no room for an indoors compost bin, so that will have to sit in my to do list, as it has been doing since I am 14. So I am out to research what can we do within our means to make our contribution to the landfill less significant.

As for now, we just are starting to regularly make our own bread (no plastic bags being trashed), we are making our own yogurt (avoiding putting in the recyclables two big plastic pots per week) and this weekend we started to brew our own beer (no bottles discarded!). I also am making an effort to not forget the canvas totes when I go shopping.

Do you have any suggestion, please let me know! I am eager to implement as much as we can!

Of unicorns and calories. Or perpetrating myths.

1 12 2011

It seems to me that lately there is a new wave of paranoid articles about how poor people are forced to eat fast food because healthy food is so expensive. I find it really disturbing on many levels, especially the one that perpetrates the myth that people are forced to eat junk food, making people of lower incomes believe that they have no alternative.

Unicorn stock by RadioPooh

When I moved to US, I would hang around a lot with the people at the lab and they would often suggest to go have lunch at McDonald’s, I would tag along and soon I realized that I was going broke. It didn’t take long to see that eating out regularly was damaging my budget and that no matter how hard I tried there was no way I could keep up with their outings (besides how sick I was constantly feeling). I made a push for cooking at home, busy as I was in grad school, and keep things simple: some chicken, rice or noodles, some veggies and fruits. And it became very clear to me that there really was no way I could spend that much money cooking at home!

One of the things that I find very interesting about a lot of these articles is that they talk about “price per calorie”, as if the only thing you need in life was your calories, and packing up calories was a good thing. What about nutrients? What about vitamins and minerals? Who has determined that the unit of measurement for food has to be the calorie?

Because, you know, if what you want is to eat a bunch of cheap calories you can go buy a bag of sugar and eat it through the week. Empty calories are not a good choice, sure you can eat ~1,000 calories (or more!) in one meal at a fast food chain and feel satisfied…. for how long? a couple of hours? You will have to go back and eat some more sooner than you would if you would have eaten some whole grains and some meat with a serving of veggies (because complex carbohydrates and protein take longer to digest and make you feel fuller longer). That would make you come back for another purchase before the day is over, and again.

When you have eaten in two meals more calories than what you should have eaten in your whole day, you are going to start suffering health problems. These health problems will lead to spending money, more money you can imagine spending on food.

You can probably take a couple of hours a week and cook healthy meals in the weekend and mid-week, have the fridge stored and ready to go and eat well, feel satisfied for longer, and all this for much less than what it costs to eat fast food. Oh, yes, the calories will be less too… but that is a good thing in my book. The average American consumes more calories than what (s)he should, partially because there is a lack of understanding on how many calories a person with a certain level of activity should consume. I keep hearing 2000 per day. A woman my age, my size, with my level of activity should consume 1300-1500 calories per day to maintain her weight. That puts me 500 calories below the ‘standard’. And a lot of people are consuming much more than that! Especially because the serving sizes of a lot of our snack food are ridiculous (10 chips! really?)

Chicken thighs go for about $1 a pound where I live (it was awesome in Louisiana, with sales for $1 a pound of chicken breast!), a bag of rice is a bit more than $1 and will feed you several meals, add some frozen vegetables for $1 a bag when they are on special, and really, you cannot tell me that you would be better off eating at Wendy’s. It does take some extra work… no, wait… it doesn’t, I’m lying. It is faster to shove the chicken in the oven and let it sit there for two hours than driving to a fast food place, stand in line and order your meal. It just takes some planning. Give it a try. Your body will thank you.