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Lately Svara has been enjoying baking more.  But it can’t just be any baking – it has to be baking as much as possible BY HERSELF.

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At seven years old I certainly can’t let her have free range of the kitchen, so I help her get out the ingredients and materials needed.  She reads the recipe to find out everything she needs, and then she does all of the mixing, measuring, etc.   I help with the oven.  Maybe in another year or two I’ll take another step back and let her get out the ingredients, clean up, and even place things into the oven herself.

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For now it is enough ‘herself’ for her to proudly exclaim that she has made these goodies ALL BY HERSELF.  She couldn’t be more proud.  Neither could I.

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Svara’s favorite cookbook is Live Learn Love Eat (you can find it for sale here by the author).  This book is written by a vegan mother of three.  The recipes are very child friendly and family friendly.  It is both the fact that the book has children in it AND the fact that she can easily read and understand it herself that appeals to Svara.  I love this cookbook as well!

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The recipes Svara made on this particular day were the chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting.  Mmmm!  The recipe for both are here on her blog.  The only thing we did differently was that I put the raspberry puree into a sieve to get the seeds out.  I wanted a smooth frosting.

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Svara had a blast making these cupcakes, and of course eating them as well!

I’m sure it’ll be a matter of days before she’s in the kitchen again paging through the cookbook for another recipe to make 🙂

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I have a bunch of photos I wanted to share on mini blogposts, but I never seem to find the time!  I also wanted to share the giant peanut butter cups we made a few weeks ago for family movie night.  so first I’ll share our peanut butter cups and then do a catchup post.

I have been making peanut butter cups and/or balls for years.  Reeses peanut butter cups were always one of my favorite candies.  Not very healthy, though!  And definitely not dairy free.  I needed to learn how to make my own vegan peanut butter cups! One of the things I wanted to re-create is the sort of “mealy” texture of reeses peanut butter cups.  The filling isn’t super smooth, it kind of crumbles and then melts in your mouth.  Most recipes call for powdered sugar in the filling, but I didn’t want to add much (if any) sugar, but I wanted a kind of stiff filling.  I had a brilliant idea of adding ground flaxseeds and it worked perfectly!  So that is what I have been doing for several years.  I don’t have an exact recipe, but my method and ingredients are these:

Scoop some peanut butter in a bowl (less if you just want a few little balls/cups, more if you want… MORE!)

If the peanut butter is quite stiff, put it in the microwave for just a few seconds so it’s softer.

Add a pinch or two (or more, depending on how salty your peanut butter is and how salty you like your filling)

Add a little sweetener if you wish (I usually don’t and I use peanut butter that also has no sweetener in it)

Add enough ground flaxseeds to make a workable filling.  If you are making cups, it doesn’t need to be too stiff, but if you are making balls you’ll want it more stiff.  It can take a good amount of flax, an awesome and delicious way to get more ground flaxseeds into your diet for those omega 3s!

Melt some chocolate (I use non dairy dark chocolate chips or bars).   Either roll your filling into balls and dip into the chocolate, or make peanut butter cups.  For cups, I like to use the silicone cupcake liners (I have the mini and full size ones).  you can use paper ones, but it is MUCH harder to spread the chocolate in them.  The silicone ones make it a breeze and they pop off easily later.

For these giant ones I used the full size cupcake liners.  I spread a layer of chocolate on the bottom and up the sides, then let it chill in the freezer for about 5 minutes.  Fill it up with the peanut butter filling, and then top with more chocolate and smooth out.  Freeze for at least an hour.  The only sugar in these was in the dark chocolate.  I consider that to be a healthy indulgence!

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Naren prefers the smaller cups or the peanut butter balls, but Svara was utterly delighted at having a HUGE peanut butter cup (she ate half of it for the movie and saved half for the next day).

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Roselle Juice

I’ve posted before about some roselle jam that I made.  Yesterday we got some roselle in our weekly organic delivery box.  I still have some roselle plants growing, but they need to be trimmed and re-planted.  The roselle that we got this week is a different variety.  I’m going to try to plant the seeds to see if they’ll grow, as I much prefer it!  They are bigger, and aren’t covered with the prickly hairs like the ones we have are!  It was SO much easier to peel the roselle when I didn’t have to worry about my fingers!

One of my sisters said that she’s growing some roselle at her home (also called hibiscus), so I wanted to show how I make my juice!  I don’t have an actual recipe because I never know how much I’m going to get.  What I do is rinse the roselle a few times, and then peel off the outside layer, which is what you use.  Inside there is a seed pod, which you do not eat.  I put all the roselle bits into a pan and cover with water. I put quite a bit of water.  I think here I had approximately 4 cups of roselle pieces and I used about 7-8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5-20 minutes, it really doesn’t matter how long.  The water should turn a deep red and the roselle pieces should be wilted and soft.  Strain into another container, and add sugar to taste.  I made this as a concentrate, so after sugaring it to taste (just to balance out the sweet and tart as roselle is quite tart!) you can mix it with water/ice  50/50.

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I took about 2 cups of the concentrate and added a bunch of ice to cool it down and we took it out on a spontaneous evening picnic, yum!

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Chocolate Monster

I’ve created a chocolate monster!

Today was kitchen day for me, I was trying to get many things done in the kitchen at once, to last for at least a few days of snacks and a couple days of meals.  I did some of the work while Talisa was taking a nap, and when she was awake Naren kindly offered to play with her.  But he started not feeling well and needed to go lay down for awhile, so I had to take over.  Watching  a baby while trying to get things done in the kitchen always has a potential for things like this to happen:

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I had almost finished.  I had completed three types of date-based snacks, the homemade buns were out of the oven and cooling, the lentil balls were in the oven baking, and Talisa had been sitting in her high chair enjoying tidbits of the snacks I had made.  But she had had enough, and wanted out NOW!  So I picked her up.  But I still had to put a tray of chocolate-date fudge into the freezer to chill.  No problem, I can do things with one hand as I balance a baby on my hip, I’m a MOM.

So Talisa is on one hip while I carry the tray in the other hand.  I deftly open the freezer door with my pinky finger and aim to slide in the tray.  Oops, small problem, the freezer is a bit crowded.  There is ALMOST enough room at the top, but one container in the back is too tall.  No problem, some slight re-arranging needed.  Now, due to being a MOM, I also have a few loose brain cells due to sleep deprivation.  For some reason I am holding onto the tray with the hand of the arm that is holding Talisa.  Thinking (or not thinking) in my mind that this was going to be super quick.  And it almost was.  I was JUST about to be ready to take the tray back into my right hand and slide it into the freezer when Talisa notices the tray and SLAMS her hand into it and grabs a fistful of fudge.

oops.

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And what to do with a fistful of fudge except to smear it into your own face trying to eat as much as possible, right?  I mean, what would YOU do with a fistful of fudge?  Yeah, I thought so 😉

p.s. I didn’t mind TOO much because this is a HEALTHY fudge with only dates as sweetener.  It’s similar to THIS recipe which was my inspiration.

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One of the plants that I am growing here at our house is roselle.  I thought I had a post about some roselle juice that I made, but I guess not.  All I have is this photo of when our roselle plants first started growing, that was almost a year ago!  Since then we’ve had roselle juice a few times, and I have planted more roselle plants from the seeds of the first plant.

Usually I get 5-10 roselles, so just enough to make a few cups of juice.  But this time I had a bumper harvest, I had this medium saucepan full!

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I could have just made a bunch of juice (Naren would have preferred that), but I wanted to take the chance to make something different.  Who knows when I’d have so many roselle again!  So I used about 2/3 of the roselle to make some jam, and used the rest for juice.

When making things with roselle, you have to peel off the outer part.  The inside is the seed pod, which you do not want to use!  The toughest part of this job is that the roselle are covered in little tiny hairs.  They are not soft hairs, they can actually prick into your skin, it’s owy!!  I don’t know of all roselle varieties are like this.  I assume not because I haven’t seen comments about pokey roselle hairs anywhere else.  But mine have them, so I have to be careful!  I cut them off the plant with scissors. Then I hold one in my left and with with a small paring knife in my right hand I peel off the  outer part.  Here is what they look like when they are all prepped:

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There was a recipe in the book Joy of Cooking for roselle sauce, so I altered that (it had a TON of sugar in it) to make this.  I thought it would be more of a sauce but it was actually more jam-like in consistency.  Here is what I did:

Roselle Jam

2 1/2 cups prepped roselle

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1T cornstarch, tapioca starch, or other starch (optional, makes it more like  a jam than a sauce)

 

Add the roselle, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the roselle pieces are all softened.  If you want to use it as is, you can, just let it cool down.  A great substitute for cranberry sauce!   If you want more of a jam consistency, add the 1T of starch mixed in with a little water to dissolve, and simmer for 2 more minutes or until thickened.  let cool and refrigerate.  Ours was in the fridge for about a week and a half before we used it up, we used it as jam.  I think it would taste great mixed with applesauce as well!

 

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Roselle jam is So pretty!  It is a rich reddish-pink.  It is so strong colored that you’d be tempted to think there is food coloring in it.  But nope, it’s all natural!  I’m hoping to have another bumper crop of roselle sometime so I can make more jam.  I think it’d be great in some homemade danishes!

 

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Did you know that pumpkin leaves are edible?  I didn’t either.  Until, that is, a grass cutter came to our house several years ago. We asked him to pull out a pumpkin plant that had grown from our compost pile.  It was producing blossoms but no pumpkins, much to my dismay.  He asked if he could take the leaves home to cook and we let him, with pleasure!  I had no desire to try to cook them, much less eat them.

Fast forward about 5 years.  I threw a bunch of pumpkin seeds into my garden pots outside since I let them soak too long and didn’t want to roast them.  They almost all sprouted.  They grew, put out some blossoms, and just sat there straggling.  Talisa was born and I had no time or energy to put into my little garden pots.  My tomato plants died, as did most of my spinach.  But the pumpkins still straggled around.  Here is a photo of the pumpkin plants after I had already plucked some leaves for eating.

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For some reason it struck my mind this morning that those leaves were edible.  Free organic veggies are always welcome, so it was worth a try!  If they turned out to be nasty I’d only be out a bit of olive oil and garlic.  So I plucked half a colander full of leaves, and Svara helped me.  We both did not like how prickly the leaves were!  But the site that I looked at online said that once they were cooked they would not be prickly anymore.  So we soldiered on!  Here are the leaves we picked, ready for cooking!

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I chopped them up into small pieces, I do not like eating large pieces of sauteed greens.

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Then I sauteed them in about 2tsp of olive oil and a couple cloves of garlic, pressed.  As with most greens they shrank in size quite a bit after sauteeing.  They were still fuzzy looking and you could tell they were fuzzy when eating, but it wasn’t prickly at all.  The taste was pretty neutral.  We ate them as a side to some pasta.

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So would I eat/cook these again?  Definitely!  They are a great nutritious boost to any  meal!  Check out this site for more information about cooking pumpkin leaves.

If you have a garden, give this a try in the spring before or while the plant is blossoming, while the leaves are still tender.

 

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Ah, the elusive creamy chocolate frosting!  At least it’s been elusive for me for the past few years.  When I wanted creamy chocolate frosting I’d use my mother’s whipped buttercream frosting recipe, it never failed!  But a few years ago I stopped using real butter in baking because of Svara’s allergies.  I tried using the same recipe a few times, but it never turned out right.  Usually it turned out runny instead of fluffy since the non dairy  margarine I can get here (it’s from New Zealand I believe) is softer than butter, so melts faster.  It was always a disappointment.  So when I wanted frosting I’d have to go with a tofu/chocolate chip version (yummy, but it takes a lot of chocolate chips!), or some type of ganache.  Both are fine, but I missed the standby fluffy buttercream now and then!

For Svara’s birthday this year she asked for strawberry frosting.  So, I tried again with a buttercream whipped type frosting.  It worked except that I didn’t beat it long enough so there were sugar granules in it, not the best when you are eating cake!  But I was closer, at least it didn’t turn into a liquidy frosting!

So today is father’s day and I wanted to make a yummy cake for Naren as a treat.  But what to do for frosting… I didn’t even have enough chocolate around to make a ganache, but I did have a pretty full tub of the non dairy margarine.  So, it was time to risk buttercream again.

Just to make it clear, the type of buttercream I’m talking about here is the whipped, not as sweet, type.  The type where you make a roux with milk/butter/flour, let it cool, and then beat it with butter and granulated sugar until fluffy and smooth.  I’m not talking about the kind where you beat together butter and powdered sugar.  That style always seems too sweet for me, it uses a LOT more sugar than the other type!

After perusing some recipes online and doing some of my own thinking, I decided to do a few things to solve some problems:

Problem #1 – runny frosting

  • don’t use as much milk for the roux part of the frosting
  • don’t add any of the margarine to the roux part of the frosting
  • add the margarine the very last in the frosting
  • let roux cool fully before using

Problem #2 – granules of sugar in finished frosting

  • beat the sugar and roux together first for several minutes to start the dissolving of the sugar before adding the margarine

So with those goals in mind, I altered my recipe to this:

Creamy Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup nondairy milk (I used almond)

3T cocoa powder

2T flour

1tsp vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar (I used raw organic)

1 cup non dairy margarine

Directions:

First you need to make a roux.  Whisk together the nondairy milk, cocoa powder, and flour and heat over medium, whisking constantly, until thick.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.  It will be quite thick and gloppy once cooled.

Once the roux is cool, beat together the roux, sugar, and vanilla. It will quickly turn quite liquidy, this is fine.  Beat with an electric mixer for several minutes until the sugar crystals are almost or all the way dissolved (taste a little bit and see if you can feel any granules on your tongue).  Add the margarine (I add it directly from the fridge since it’s tub margarine and not that hard) and continue beating for several minutes until it is light and fluffy.  Taste (being careful not to eat the whole bowl full) to make sure all sugar granules are dissolved fully.  If not, beat until they are. Spread on cooled cake right away and store in fridge.  When in fridge the frosting will get hard.  I like it this way.  If you don’t, just let the cake sit out for a few minutes before serving.

Notes:

  • This makes a light chocolate frosting as you can see.  Feel free to double the amount of cocoa powder if you wish, though you may then want to halve the amount of flour since the cocoa powder makes the roux thicker.  You could just add the cocoa powder as you are beating the roux and sugar together, but I find that cooking the cocoa powder gives a deeper chocolate flavor.
  • This base works well for other flavors as well.  If you just want vanilla, eliminate the cocoa powder and use 3T of flour instead.  Add a bit more vanilla extract perhaps, or any other extracts you’d like!
  • To make a fruity frosting, use pureed fruits instead of all or part of the non dairy milk.  Strawberries and raspberries are especially yummy!

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