Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes are packed full of rich chocolate, tangy strawberries, and creamy vanilla coconut buttercreamYou never need a reason for a cupcake, but, a birthday is a perfectly good one if you’re really looking for an excuse. We celebrated my mom’s birthday recently with a wonderful dinner at a new to me Indian restaurant, Indigma, which I highly recommend if you’re in or around the Baltimore area. They have a vegan and gluten free menu in addition to an extensive offering of traditional and modern Indian dishes.

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes are packed full of rich chocolate, tangy strawberries, and creamy vanilla coconut buttercreamDessert was, of course, cupcakes. More specifically, chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes. They are packed full of chocolate flavor with both cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Strawberry jam in mixed right into the batter, giving fruity flavor to every bite. The simple vanilla-spiked coconut oil buttercream rounds out these cupcakes, perfectly balancing the rich chocolate and tangy strawberry. Top with cacao nibs for a bit of crunch, or fresh strawberries for a lovely pop of color. Better yet, use both!

Strawberry jam, in addition to lending wonderful flavor and texture, takes place of a big portion of the oil that’s generally found in cupcake batter. Coconut oil makes for a beautiful looking, and even better tasting frosting. It is just as rich and creamy as a traditional buttercream. I promise nobody will miss the butter – in fact, they might be happier without it!

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes are packed full of rich chocolate, tangy strawberries, and creamy vanilla coconut buttercreamChocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream

Cupcakes

1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup strawberry jam*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips
12 teaspoons strawberry jam, divided*

Cacao nibs (optional)
Fresh Strawberries (optional)

Coconut Buttercream

1 cup coconut oil at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons almond milk, plus more if needed

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease or line with paper muffin liners and standard 12-cup muffin tin.

Combine almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl. combine coconut sugar, sunflower oil, strawberry jam, and vanilla extract. Pour in almond milk mixture and stir until incorporated.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour in wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each muffin liner about 3/4 full. Drop a teaspoon of strawberry jam into the center of each muffin liner.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Buttercream

In a medium bowl, beat coconut oil with a hand mixer until it begins to get fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well between additions. Add vanilla extract and almond milk and beat for another 3-5 minutes, until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

Once completely cooled, spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting over each cupcake. Garnish with cacao nibs or fresh strawberries, if desired.

Store in an airtight container, unrefrigerated (without strawberries), for up to 5 days.

*Notes:  Any flavor of jam or other fruit puree may be substituted for strawberry jam in an equal amount. Do not use Dutch processed cocoa powder, as the cupcakes will not rise properly.

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes are packed full of rich chocolate, tangy strawberries, and creamy vanilla coconut buttercream

Is cake a must for you on birthdays? I personally am not a cake fan (though frosting is a different story). I much prefer creamy, spoonable desserts like avocado chocolate mousse, or just a really good piece of chocolate. Clearly, chocolate is required. If cake isn’t for you, either, what are your favorite birthday treats?

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes are packed full of rich chocolate, tangy strawberries, and creamy vanilla coconut buttercream

Bakery Style Blueberry Muffins with Sunflower Streusel

IMG_4970Sometimes, you just need a good muffin. And as wonderful as homemade baked good are, there’s something about muffins from a bakery that homemade muffins rarely seem to capture. Do you ever miss that towering muffin top with its irresistibly crunchy edges? I sure do!  There is good news, though. I have a solution, and it’s much more simple than you might think.

The secret here is the baking temperature. Generally, when we bake muffins, the temperature of the oven is set to a steady 350°F -375°F for the entire baking period. If we set the oven temperature very high initially, say 450°F, and lower it after a few minutes, we’ll get that big, crunchy domed muffin top that the bakeries have been keeping for themselves all these years.

IMG_4967Bakery Style Blueberry Muffins with Sunflower Streusel

Makes 6 jumbo “bakery style” muffins, or 12 standard size muffins*

Blueberry Muffins
•3 cups all purpose flour
•1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•1/2 teaspoon baking soda
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
•3/4 cup coconut sugar
•2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
•1 1/2 cups vegan yogurt (I used vanilla coconut milk yogurt)
•1/2 tablespoon molasses
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1/4 cup almond milk
•1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries

Sunflower Streusel

•1/4 cup room temperature coconut oil
•1/3 cup coconut sugar
•1 cup rolled oats
•1/2 cup sunflower seeds
•1/4 cup whole wheat flour
•up to 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

For the streusel:

Combine coconut oil, coconut sugar, oats, sunflower seeds, and flour in a small bowl, and mix together with fingers until mixture is crumbly. Add non-dairy milk, as needed, until you achieve a sandy texture. Set aside while you prepare the muffin batter.

For the muffins: 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly grease or line with paper liners one jumbo muffin tin.

In  a large bowl, mix together flour baking powder, baking soda, and salt until everything is evenly distributed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, coconut sugar, flaxseed, yogurt, molasses, vanilla extract, and non-dairy milk until homogenous.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix by hand, with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter into prepared muffin tin of choice, filling almost to the top. Sprinkle streusel over the top of each muffin.

Bake at 450°F for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake another 26-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in muffin tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (or just to avoid burning your lips off).

Notes: For standard size muffins, bake at 450°F for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.

IMG_4965Are you a fan of the crunchy muffin top? Or do you prefer the bottom of the muffins? What about the flavor? I’ve always been a blueberry fan, though I wouldn’t refuse a muffin if there were chocolate present.

Chocolate Chia Brownie Bites

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesI. Love. Dates. Probably a little bit too much, but I suppose it’s better than going through bags full of Sour Patch Kids and gummy bears (childhood favorites) every day. Some people try to convince me that they don’t like dates, but I never believe them. Who doesn’t like creamy, caramelly, sometimes even butterscotchy morsels of goodness? Nobody. Unless they’re crazy. And even if, by some great anomaly, they don’t like dates in their naked form, then they’ll surely appreciate them when they’re morphed into rich, chocolatey brownies.

Chocolate Chia Brownie BItesWith powerhouse ingredients like dates, chia seeds, cocoa powder, lucuma powder, and coconut, these brownies are more than just dessert. I like to eat a couple of these before climbing, a workout, or a run. The natural sugars in the dates provide a quick burst of energy that’s ready to use right away, while the chia seeds, full of fiber and protein, give these bites a bit of staying power. The ancient Incan civilization, it is said, used chia seeds as one of its main sources of energy. Cacao powder is notoriously high in antioxidants, and lucuma, which comes from Peru (and is, apparently, more popular in ice cream form than chocolate or vanilla) provides us with plentiful beta carotene, and a rich maple flavor.

Trust me when I say that these bites will beat out any store bought energy bar, every time, at a fraction of the cost. You’ll want to eat the whole batch in one sitting (though they’re quite filling, so I doubt you’ll be able to).

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesChocolate Chia Brownie Bites

Ingredients

•2 cups packed pitted dates*
•1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
•1/4 cup chia seeds*
•1/4 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)*
•1/4 cup lucuma powder*
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
•2 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
•cocoa powder for dusting (optional)*

Place dates, coconut, chia seeds, cocoa powder, lucuma powder, and optional (though recommended) vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients come together in a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pulse in chocolate chips if desired.

Remove mixture from food processor a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Place onto parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder if desired. Alternatively, you can press the mixture into a parchment-lined pan, then cut into bars or squares.

Notes: Any moist variety of date will work here. I used a combination or Medjool, Barhi (my absolute favorite – they literally taste like butterscotch), and Deeglet Noor. Nuts.com has a large selection of dates with great descriptions for each. My chia seeds and cacao powder also come from Nuts.com. If you don’t have lucuma powder, you may use an additional 1/4 cup of cocoa powder in its place. I use Nativas Naturals lucuma powder, which can be found here. Other ideas for rolling your bites in: shredded coconut, hemp seeds, cacao nibs, and sesame seeds would all complement the brownie bites well.

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesAre dates a regular part of your diet (please say yes!)? What are your favorite power foods?