Surprise! Jam-filled bran muffins

vegan muffin
These little muffins are the perfect size for snacking.

Whenever he’s given the chance to choose his muffin, my little picky eater goes for the bran muffins over cookies or other kinds of muffins. And I sit there and watch in amazement as he happily gobbles it down. Vegan kids don’t necessarily need the extra fibre from the bran but why should we miss out on all the branny fun?

By definition, a vegan diet is high in fibre. Fibre comes from plant foods but isn’t present in animal products. Everything we eat is a source of fibre unless the fibre has been removed through processing (like white flour). Fruit is a great source of fibre – the little seeds in raspberries are a good example of a fibre-rich food.

I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that a clean colon is a healthy colon. When foods move through the body smoothly and waste is eliminated daily, we’re able to extract all the nutrients from the food we consume and the risk of many diseases are reduced.

Here’s a little muffin that will make you go and make you smile too. It’s loaded with fibre from bran, whole wheat flour, chia seeds and depending on the jam you choose to use, you may get fibre from that.

But the best thing about these muffins is the jam at the centre. I’ve used my favourite jam – it’s apple pie jam that I made from the apples we picked at a local farm in the fall. It contains all the goodness of pie in a form that I can use every day. Mmmm! The recipe is from this book: The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes.

This muffin recipe makes 24 small muffins. I like to bake huge batches of baked goods on the weekends so I can freeze some for snacks to pack in the kids’ lunches during the week. If I only make 12, they’ll be gone before I get to freeze some. These little muffins fit nicely in our reusable containers even when frozen solid (an important feature for me)!

The recipe is based on one from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The ingredients have been adapted based on what I had on hand and what my kids like to eat. They’re also nut-free so they can be sent to school.

Surprise! Jam-filled muffins

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups bran
  • 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose or regular whole wheat)
  •  1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cup vegan milk (I use soy)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 jar of jam

Preheat the oven to 425 and grease muffin tins for 24 muffins.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the chia seeds with water and put them aside to allow the seeds to absorb the water.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

Tip: Use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar.

Add the milk and the canola oil to the bowl with the chia seeds. Use the whisk to make sure you break up the large clumps of chia seeds.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine – don’t use a whisk because you don’t want to over mix the batter.

vegan jam muffins
Add one teaspoon of jam in the centre of each muffin.

Scoop 1/3 cup of batter for each muffin into the tins. Add a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each muffin. Then distribute the rest of the muffin batter to top each muffin. You want the jam in the middle of the muffin – if it sinks to the bottom, it will stick to the bottom of the tin. If it’s not covered with batter, the sugary jam would show and ruin the surprise.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool a few minutes before removing them from the tins.

vegan muffins for snacks
Not too little, not too big.

 

 

Gingersnaps and shortbread with chocolate ganache

It’s crunch time. Any Christmas favourites that don’t get made this week will have to wait until next year! So here’s what I’ve been up to. These are two of my family’s favourites: gingersnaps and shortbread cookies.

Gingersnaps may not be pretty but they are easy to whip up. They’re crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside with a real ginger kick. They are the best.

gingersnap cookies

For the shortbread, I opted for something a little more special. I made the cookie dough, piped it through my icing bag with a big tip and while they were baking, made some ganache to top the cookies with.

vegan shortbread

I used half of the cookie dough to make these spiral beauties and spread the rest in a round cake pan to make unadorned shortbread for my son. He’s not a big fan of chocolate.

The recipes come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats. If you like cookies or live with little ones who do, you’ll appreciate the variety of recipes in this book. There’s even a number of gluten-free options throughout.

I have a few more cookies on my list but I’ll be making them with the kids. We’ll need to make sugar cookies in Christmas shapes to decorate. We started our gingerbread houses this weekend but we haven’t decorated them yet.

The kids have school all week so it will be tight for us to fit in all the fun we want to do before Christmas. But I’m sure we’ll have time to make our cookies.

What kind of cookies do you make each Christmas?

Gingerbread with dried fruit

Christmas gingerbread
Gingerbread straight from the oven.

I often make muffins or a sweet bread on weekends to have on hand for making lunches throughout the week. They’re a healthier option than the store bought ones, which are often not vegan or if they are, they’re expensive. Making snacks at home is easy, cheap and allows for customization.

Since it’s December, I made a loaf of gingerbread and filled it with dried fruit. The result is moist, delicious and perfect for this time of year. When I cut it open, I grabbed a couple pieces for lunches because the rest almost disappeared in one sitting!

Gingerbread

Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed! For the fruit combination, I used what what I had in the cupboard. You can use whatever combination you have on hand: apples and raisins would work well.

A word about the chia seeds: this is what I used in place of an egg. You can use ground flax seeds or another method if you’d like but the chia seeds work well and aren’t noticeable in the finished bread. Other options would be a mashed banana or applesauce with baking powder – I’m sure they would be delicious substitutions.

Gingerbread with cranberries, apricots and currants.

Gingerbread with dried fruit

  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose flour or a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • 3 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or other vegan milk)
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the chia seeds and water and stir well. Put them aside to thicken.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, oil, molasses and soymilk. Mix well. Add the chia seed mixture and stir.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the dried fruit and mix.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased bread pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool slightly before removing it from the pan.

Enjoy!

Vegan gingerbread slices
The gingerbread is studded with cranberries, apricots and currants.

Gingerbread people and elves

 

Advent calendar
The advent calendar I made eight years ago.

For my daughter’s first Christmas, I made an advent calendar. On a poster-sized piece of red felt, I sewed white pockets numbered one to 25 in red. On 25 pieces of paper, I wrote Christmas activities that we could do together as a family and inserted them into the pockets of the calendar.

Some of the Christmas activities are simple like “read a Christmas story” and some are more involved like “make Christmas presents” or “make a gingerbread house.” I tried not to set the bar too high most days. Each year, I go through them and move the more complicated activities to the weekends and the quick ones to weeknights. I shifted all the snow-related activities to late December since there’s no sign of snow here.

The kids love going through the pockets and reading the activities so the pockets are showing some wear and tear. This year, I told them there’d be no snooping! We’ll see if they can manage to keep from exploring the pockets.

Each year, I consider making a nicer one because I took a lot of shortcuts when I originally made this and I could make something nicer but I don’t think the kids would let me change it.

Gingerelf cookies

Today’s Christmas activity was to bake gingerbread cookies. The recipe I use is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats.

I used three sizes of cookie cutters and put each size on its own sheet since they all require different baking times. The kids helped me with the cutting and placing on the cookie sheets.

vegan gingerbread
Little gingerbread people straight out of the oven.

We may decorate a few with icing but they’re tasty on their own – a little army of goodness. If we can find time, we’ll make sugar cookies too and decorate those ones with colourful icing.

gingerbread cookies
Big gingerbread cookies cooling.

What’s your favourite Christmas cookie?

Orange layered cake with vanilla buttercream icing

It’s my husband’s birthday today so I wanted to make an extra special cake in his favourite flavour – orange.

Vegan orange cake
Orange infused cake with vanilla buttercream icing.

He likes light, fresh flavours – nothing too complicated or fancy. This cake is based on the Light Lemon Bundt Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The original lemon is one of my favourites – I make it in the summer when I crave everything lemon. But this cake was not for me and I had a nice bowl full of juicy oranges begging to be used.

I paired the orange cake with the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from my trusty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. It’s a perfectly simple icing that I use all the time.

four layer cake

I wanted this cake to be extra special so I doubled the recipe to make four layers.

Orange layered cake

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons egg replacer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup freshly orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons orange extract
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together. In a stand mixer, mix the egg replacer with the water on medium speed. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well. Combine with the dry ingredients. Divide into four round cake pans and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vegan orange birthday cake

The orange flavour of the cake was divine. Juicing the oranges made all the difference to the flavour too, I think.

I’m not the most patient cake decorator and the cake and icing together are sweet enough so I prefer a fresh fruit topping. I sliced an orange thinly and arranged the rounds on the top of the cake.

Vegan orange birthday cake

I could use some fresh cake decorating ideas – any ideas? Let me know how you decorate your cakes.

Fresh rye baguettes

vegan rye baguettes
Delicious with vegan butter or peanut butter and jam.

Making bread from scratch is simple as long as you have time and patience. Old techniques of kneading and shaping are over-rated. This bread took five minutes of mixing, a minute to shape and the rest was down time – letting the bread do its own thing. The result is a light, airy loaf.

I learned this technique for making artisan bread in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. No kneading required, just mix the ingredients and avoid over handling it.

The first rise is much longer – this is when the flavour develops. When it’s time to bake the loaves, you have to be careful not to disturb the air pockets that have developed as it was rising. Simply shape the dough into the desired shape (long baguettes or oval loaves) and let it rest while the oven warms.

My kids haven’t had many opportunities to eat white bread – so they don’t expect it. And when I make bread from scratch, it’s an opportunity to enrich it. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, oatmeal and anything along those lines will make it into the dough.

Enriched loaves are great. The only sandwich my son will eat at school is hummus and cucumber so it’s nice to have some variety in the bread I use.

But sometimes I want to make loaves that are super light and full of air pockets. Not quite white bread but very close. These loaves turned out perfectly.

Light rye baguettes

Patience is required. I made the dough for this bread yesterday and let it sit undisturbed for almost 24 hours.

  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon traditional yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water

Mix the dry ingredients together and add the water. Once all the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough, cover the bowl loosely and leave it to rise at room temperature.

About 24 hours later, pulled the dough out onto a floured surface, divide it in half and gently shape them into two long loaves being careful not to puncture any air pockets that had formed.

Preheat a pizza stone in the oven at 450. Give it about an hour to ensure it is heated through. Once the oven and pizza stone are nice and hot, gently transfer the two loaves onto the stone, brush the top with water and bake them for a half an hour.

Rye Baguette
The baguette has a crispy crust and plenty of air pockets.

The loaves have a tough, crunchy crust and a soft interior. Because they were left on the counter for a day, they developed a mildly sour flavour to it. Bread like this doesn’t last long, which is a good thing because it doesn’t take long to get hard. It’s best if it’s eaten in a day.

If, by any chance, it lasts longer than a day or two, use the leftovers to make breadcrumbs.

Oatmeal raisin cookies with friends

The kids had friends over this afternoon and when hunger hit, I fuelled the fun with an easy classic – oatmeal raisin cookies. The whole batch was gobbled down in no time.

vegan oatmeal raisin cookies
These cookies are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside and packed with oatmeal and raisins.

These cookies are based on the Banana Everything Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats. The original cookies have a banana base with plenty of chocolate chips, oatmeal and walnuts – they cook up gooey and irresistible.

I make oatmeal cookies regularly since the oatmeal makes for a hearty cookie packed with extra nutrition to back up the sugar kick. If there’s a little something healthy, like oatmeal, nuts or dried fruit in the cookies, I’m okay with the kids indulging.

I went to make these trusty Banana Everything Cookies today when the kids asked for a snack and I realized I didn’t have anything on hand for the crew. But we were out of chocolate chips and the kids weren’t so keen on walnuts so I decided to swap the chocolate chips for raisins and leave out the walnuts completely (something I have to do regularly since the kids’ school is nut free). Sometimes I’ll swap the nuts for seeds since there’s no allergies in the school to pumpkin seeds and they provide the extra protein and fat the kids need at snack time but when I’m cooking for other people’s kids, I stick to the basics to ensure they go over well.

Vegan oatmeal raisin cookie
Very gooey oatmeal cookie held together with banana goodness.

I knew the chocolate chips would go over well with the kids – but I’m glad to say the raisins were a hit too. They were crispy on the outside with a gooey banana-flavoured interior and a classic raisin pairing. Like most oatmeal raisin recipes, there was a sprinkling of cinnamon included.

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

This recipe book includes 100 cookies from brownies to chocolate chip and everything in-between. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a special book with lots of cookies options. It includes gluten-free cookies as well.

What’s your go-to playdate snack?