Raspberry Oat Cake

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Last summer, we spent a day at a “Pick Your Own” farm. Ben had never been to one before and, I’ll be honest, went a little overboard. Every time I turned around he was in a different vegetable patch madly pulling at the ground. I found him in the cornfields with arms full of ears of corn or wielding a knife cutting cauliflowers like this was the last crop to ever grow. But when we got to the berries it was my turn to go crazy. I felt like I was on an episode of Supermarket Sweep! Running up and down the aisles, grabbing ripe berries before the timer went off, pushing small children out the way. I was in the zone.  Ben of course was gathering berries too, but when I came back he had about 15 berries in his bucket and red juice on his face.

I gathered buckets and buckets of raspberries.

We made jam, desserts and froze a bunch of them. So many so that we are STILL eating them now. Or we were.

This is the last of them.

Just in time to get to my war rooms and figure out my berry gathering strategy for this year.

This recipe is an adaptation from Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.

This book is so highly recommended. If you like to bake vegan desserts, you need to check out this book. I have tried a few recipes from here now and they have always turned out great! This one is a personal favourite. It’s not too sweet, it’s tasty enough for snack, dessert or a quick breakfast on the go.

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Raspberry Oat Cake
 
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Adapted from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too! By Kris Holechek
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (454 g) of frozen raspberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (100 g) all purpose (plain) flour
  • ½ cup ( 45 g) wholewheat flour
  • ½ cup (50 g) quick rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • ¼ cup (62.5 ml) melted vegan butter, or coconut oil
  • ⅔ cup (157 ml) soy milk or non dairy milk of your choice
  • ¼ tsp white vinegar
  • ⅔ cup (133 g) white sugar
  • ¼ cup (55 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
  2. Grease and line a loaf pan.
  3. Mix together flours, oats, baking powder, soda, salt and spices in a large bowl.
  4. In a smaller bowl, add melted butter, non dairy milk and vinegar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to curdle.
  5. Mix in sugars and vanilla extract.
  6. Toss frozen raspberries in frozen mixture to coat them in flour.
  7. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix until just combined, no longer.
  8. Pour in to loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool and serve!

 

 

carrot cake muffins

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You might not know it, but a few years ago I went to work as a nurse in Nepal (which is where Ben and I met, but that is a story for another post).

Every day when I would walk to work in Kathmandu, I was affronted by a variety of smells. Primarily diesel with notes of burning plastic, rotting garbage, and a little excrement thrown in for good measure.  Sometimes it would be so bad that I would be excited to see someone smoking in front of me because it meant not being able to smell anything but cigarettes for a few minutes.

I know you have probably never heard anyone exclaim how good a hospital smelled, but every day after 30 minutes of walking while trying to hold my breath, I would arrive at paradise… at least in the olfactory sense.

The really odd thing about the hospital I was working at is that it always smelled like carrot cake. The entire time I was there, I was never able to figure out what caused the smell. In the canteen , I never ate or drank anything remotely tasting of those spices…they didn’t even serve traditional Nepalese tea, which is similar to a chai.

But every day, no fail, when things got rough in the ICU, or I have having a bad day, I could stand in the hallway for a few minutes and inhale the scent of homemade carrot cake. It became somewhat of a reprieve for me.

I’ve always loved carrot cake. The first time I remember tasting it is when I was six years old at my mom and stepdad’s wedding.  While everyone else was celebrating the union of their love, I was having a love affair with this cake.  They had a giant tiered carrot cake as a wedding cake which was so dense that it collapsed on itself as the night went on. I remember pretending to go to the toilet or talk to someone, but actually sneaking over to eat pieces of it all night.

You can keep your fancy tiered cakes, your creme brûlées and your macarons. I’ll have the carrot cake, please. Dense, moist, spicy and not too sweet (and no raisins!), it’s heaven.  And, at least for me, forever tied to the memory of polluted air and the International Friendship Children’s Hospital in Kathmandu.

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Carrot Cake Muffins
 
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Moist, dense, perfectly spiced carrot cake muffins.
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (240ml) non-dairy milk (I used vanilla soy milk)
  • 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ¾ cups (210 g) whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
  • ½ cup (62) all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups (180 g) grated carrot
  • ¾ cup (170 g) crushed canned pineapple, drained
  • ½ cup (50 g) chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP molasses (treacle)
  • 2 tsp good vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 160 C (325 F).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for about 10 minutes so the non-dairy milk curdles like buttermilk .
  3. Whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt and walnuts (if using).
  4. In another large mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and add in the curdled non-dairy milk mixture.
  5. Add in grated carrots and crushed pineapple and mix well.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. The less you mix muffin batter, the better.
  7. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  8. Pour the batter into the muffin pan making sure the dough is filled up to the top of the pan and domed.
  9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

 

Trail Mix Cookies for Life Contemplation

_MG_7739 I have always been story teller by nature.

It brings me pure joy to hear or read a good story.

I also really appreciate the ability to tell a good story- a perfectly delivered punch line or twist in plot gives me chills.

Without getting too philosophical on you, my personal belief about the nature of human existence is that we are here to collect experiences, to share stories and to pass on knowledge.

According to that, I try to live my life according to what I call the Law of Anecdotal Value. That is to say that I try to do the thing that will create the best story in the long run. Not necessarily the happiest, or most fulfilling end results, but the most interesting.

And while this has been an amazing way to live, it has its own unique problems.

It seems that because I’ve opened myself up to experiencing life in its fullest, the most random and amazing things happen to me. Including some things that seem not so amazing at the time.

In fact, lately, it seems that the non-amazing experiences are collecting much more rapidly than I feel prepared for. Fortunately for me and my mental health, I gave up feeling comfortable a long time ago, which makes these things significantly easier to deal with.

From past experience, I also know that once these situations pass, they will magically be transformed into incredible experiences that I’ve lived through and will be the best fodder for stories. And some of the funniest stories, at that.

But for now, they aren’t funny.

They are tiring and trying and grinding.

And I am eating more raw cookie dough while thinking about them than I care to admit.

And for now, I don’t have much choice but to continue to practice living in this moment, and sitting with these experiences.

The least I can do is to welcome them.

To offer them cookies. Or dough. Or at least some crumbs.

To get to know them intimately and see what anecdotal value I get squeeze out of them.

Or at the very least a joke.

Knock Knock…

Trail Mix Cookies
 
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Trail mix cookies
Author:
Serves: 16 cookies
Ingredients
  • half cup of vegan butter (stick, not tub)
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP ground flax seed
  • 3 TBSP warm water
  • 110 g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 125 g (1¼ cup) rolled oats
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 100 g dark chocolate (or whatever kind you like)
  • 100 g raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) and line a baking sheet with parchment (baking) paper
  2. Mix ground flax and warm water in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy.
  4. Add flax mixture in and mix well.
  5. Add vanilla and mix well.
  6. In another bowl mix flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and salt.
  7. Add dry mixture to butter mixture.
  8. Mix until most of flour has been incorporated.
  9. Add chopped chocolate and raisins to batter.
  10. Mix gently until mixed through.
  11. Roll in to walnut sized balls and flatten slightly on baking tray.
  12. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until tops are getting lightly golden brown.
  13. Transfer to cooling rack/
  14. Enjoy!

 

Quick and Easy Jam

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As so many of my conversations go : I was just listening to this podcast about a man who has a very severe form of amnesia. After a virus caused his brain to swell he developed both anterograde AND retrograde amnesia. In basic terms he can’t remember his past and he has no ability to form new memories. Every few seconds his brain essentially resets and he has to start over again from scratch.

Let me give you a minute to process that.

Can you imagine not having any memories ever again?

And, not just memories but basic social norms to function in society.  He no longer understands why people sing Happy Birthday, shake hands or put lights on a tree to celebrate something.

We spend so much time talking about “living in the moment” and this guy has no ability to do anything but. Puts things in perspective.

My memories are so much tied in to food. It was a way to celebrate, recover, bond, relieve stress and almost everything in between. I honestly can’t imagine just walking away from all those associations. It seems something so fundamentally human- it spans across cultures, ages and all walks of life.

Take this jam for example. I can give you no less than 15 memories involving jam. I could tell you about the time we I was young and we picked little wild strawberries for my grandmother to make jam out of, I could tell you about eating giant spoonfuls of my grandmother’s strawberry rhubarb jam, I could tell you about the time my mom doubled the jam recipe and we ended up with gallons of strawberry “syrup” that suddenly appeared in all our desserts and breakfasts, I could even tell you about the time I went to a jam making course with my friends and we overcooked our jam and ended up with the most incredible jar of berry toffee that, cruelly, was so stiff that it wouldn’t come out of the jar. I could tell you all of these stories and more, but for your sanity, I won’t.

This is a quick and easy version of jam, a new one to share with new family members and begin to gather new memories but the smell is the same, the taste is the same and the memories are there in full effect.

Quick and Easy Jam
 
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Quick and Easy Jam using frozen berries
Author:
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 500g bag of mixed frozen berries (or your favourite kind!)
  • 440 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup of orange juice
Instructions
  1. Place berries, sugar, and orange juice in a large pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Increase heat until the mixture is at a slow boil.
  2. After 20 minutes at a slow boil, test to see if it has reached a set - place a spoonful of jam onto a chilled plate and push mixture with your finger. If it wrinkles and a skin forms, then it's ready. If not, continue to cook and try again in 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pour in to a jar of your choice (or you can proceed to bottle it in a sterilised jam jar).
  4. Allow to set and enjoy!