The winter holidays just aren’t the same without shortbread. After the successful outcome of my last few walnut recipes, it only made sense that my next kitchen experiment would involve a holiday favourite.
Traditional shortbread recipes are based on the soft, buttery flavour we all know and love. I rarely make use of vegan buttery sticks for baking, but as my husband said to me as he took his first bite of this shortbread, “sometimes you just gotta live a little!”
I initially envisioned something a little different than plain shortbread. Instead, this recipe makes use of toasted walnuts, kamut flour and some pure maple syrup, which give these cookies lots of character. Soft and buttery and oh-so delicious, you’d be crazy not to add them to your holiday baking list.
The best part is they’re fairly easy to whip together because they require just a few ingredients. This made me think they would be perfect to gift to my cookie-loving family and friends. But instead of baking them myself, I simply layered the dry ingredients (toasted walnut meal, kamut flour, all-purpose flour and sugar, and then top with chopped walnuts for garnish) in 1-litre mason jars and added a recipe card and a pretty bow. All the gift recipient has to do is add their own vegan butter and maple syrup. It’s a simple and thoughtful gift that is perfect for Christmas. Enjoy!
The announcement of the impending sale or closure of all Northern California locations of Cafe Gratitude as well as Gracias Madre feels like a huge blow to the vegan food scene. I have to admit, I was shocked and almost teared up when I read the news on Huffington Post on Tuesday.
The news took me back to my California trip with Lisa back in August, where we toured the many vegan restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Both Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre were top priorities. While the notice on Cafe Gratitude’s website says they will still be open for a few more months, I’m sad that I won’t be able to make it back there for one last meal (unless I go to LA).
Both restaurants share similar values of love, nourishment and celebration, and my experience was nothing less. At Cafe Gratitude, the menu is organic, mostly raw and all vegan. Knowing their two cookbooks, I am Grateful and Sweet Gratitude, are full of inspiring, high quality recipes, I was eager to browse through similar selections on their menu and had a hard time selecting just one meal to try. I was particularly impressed after spotting their I am Grateful dish, which was created so that people in need could have access to nourishing vegan food.
After much debate, I decided on the I am Complete, a Mediterranean plate with raw almond hummus, olive tapenade, live falafel, cucumber tzatziki salad and flax crackers. While the falafel were slightly dry, the sauces and dips were superb and I couldn’t help but finish the entire plate.
It’s barely the beginning of December and I can already smell the familiar aroma of the holiday season. Cinnamon candles, candy canes, mulled wine and hot cocoa are on everyone’s mind once again.
And then there’s the warming scent of holiday baking. As one unapologetic Canadian treat, Nanaimo bars have been making their way into kitchens all over the world. These three-layer bars are famous for a reason: they start with a graham cracker crumb base, followed by a layer of light custard buttercream, and the crowning glory is a smooth, glossy layer of chocolate. Traditionally loaded with powdered sugar, butter, eggs and chocolate, they are as sweet as sweet can be. I made a vegan version of these indulgent treats last year but this year I’m in the mood for something a little different.
Enter my raw mint-chocolate Nanaimo bars. I am head-over-heels in love with this new raw version, made with simple whole foods like nuts, dates, avocado, fresh mint and raw cacao. My love affair with the mint filling first began when I created my raw ice cream sandwich cookies last spring, and so I knew a Nanaimo bar recipe wouldn’t be a far stretch.
Please note I made these bars using a loaf pan instead of a typical square pan because the density of most raw treats means you only need a small serving to fulfill your dessert cravings. Even still, this recipe makes enough for 12 small squares. Also, be sure to store them in an air-tight container in the freezer (not the fridge) to keep their beautiful green hue. Enjoy!
I’m having trouble finding words to describe how much I love this dessert. Had I known it was going to look and taste this good, I would have made two! Better still, it’s one of those desserts that can be added to your not-so-guilty pleasures of the holiday season. Why? Because it requires no flour, no sugar, no baking…and yet it’s super delicious!
First, I have to admit: I’ve never been a big fan of pie or tarts. I would much prefer a serving of pie filling, minus the heavy, buttery crust. So when I started dreaming about this idea for an alternative no-bake apple pie, I imagined a soft apple filling spiked with cinnamon and complementing spices, as well as my favourite alternative to a pastry crust, which is a simple blend of nuts and dates and a pinch of salt.
This is my first time making a crust with just walnuts, and dare of say I like them much better than my usual almond-based recipe. The raw walnuts provide a soft, buttery flavour and pair perfectly with the caramel flavour of the dates. The apple filling is made simply by simmering apples with apple cider and spices, and then layering it with a simple date cream. I used Granny Smith apples here, but feel free to mix it up if you wish. Enjoy!
Baking is known to be an exact science. Many recipes are able to accomodate some slight variations, but if you’ve ever wondered why a recipe turned out great one time and not so great another time, variation in your measurements could be a leading culprit.
Perhaps the recipe in question called for one cup of spelt flour, but exactly how much is in a cup of flour? This is where things can get tricky.
The majority of the recipes I develop make use of a variety of whole grain flours, gluten-free flours, nut flours as well as unbleached all-purpose flour, and they are all different in both weight and volume. There are two common methods for measuring flour, the first of which is to spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and then scrape the flour to level using a knife. The other method is to scoop your measuring cup directly into the flour bag and then scrape the flour to level. But consider this: the difference in weight between one cup of flour using the first method, and one cup using the scooping method can be up to 20 grams. While this may not seem significant, in the baking world it is. If a recipe calls for two cups of spelt flour and it is measured differently, you could end up with 40 grams of extra flour—which is about 1/4 cup.
For all recipes on my blog, I use the scoop-and-level method.
For even more consistent results, I’ve started to weigh my flour. Most professional bakers measure their ingredients by weight. This is particularly helpful when you have found that perfect recipe and know you’ll be using it over and over again. You want perfect results every time, right? So, I often convert the flour called for in a recipe to grams before beginning. The following reference document can be used for converting cups to grams and ounces of flour so you can weigh it with a scale. Different flours have different weights for the same volume, so I’ve included a variety of regular and gluten-free flours I use most often in my kitchen. I recommend buying a good digital food scale that includes a tare function that allows you to weigh multiple items in the same bowl by reverting back to zero for each additional item (I own one like this). Once you find a brand of flour and conversion ratio that works for you, stick with it.