Tag Archives: Walnuts

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Coconut Cream Frosting (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Good day, everyone! I hope that this blog finds you well. I am truly appreciating the weather today, such a bright and sunny day, which is a welcome relief from all of the wind and rain we had this past week. The apples I have been purchasing at the local farm have been outstanding, so much so that I have not baked with apples yet this season because SensitiveHusband and I keep eating them before there is any chance of making a muffin or sauce. The carrots, however, I managed to snag for a cake (more on that in a moment). carrot cake cupcakes

Speaking of cake, have you ever eaten “too many slices of suboptimal, day-old cake,” which then inspired you to figure out how best to slice a cake so as not to expose the remains to the air and get dried out? No? To tell you the truth, I hadn’t thought much of it either. Yet this issue has been pondered for well over a century. In 1906 Sir Francis Galton, a British mathematician, discussed the scientific principles of cutting a cake in a letter written to the journal Nature. Galton, who was a first cousin to Charles Darwin, notes that instead of cutting a cake into wedges, you should cut the cake down the middle and remove a thin slice, then push the cake back together, which seals the cake back up. Galton goes a step further and suggests wrapping a rubber band around the outside of the cake to guarantee that no air dries out the baked good. He, who discovered regression to the mean, perhaps only ate cakes with fondant frosting – because I fear the effects of a rubber band wrapped around a luscious buttercream.

Need to see this to believe it? There is an excellent video demonstration by Alex Bellos – check it out here. And see if it convinces you that a wedge slice may not be the only option for parsing out dessert.

Since I continue to think of cake, I will share with you a recipe I made recently for my SIL’s (sister-in-law) birthday. This carrot cake was inspired by a fabulous recipe found in Elana’s Pantry. I chose to sweeten the cake with honey and I used grapeseed oil for the fat. I also crushed the walnuts and baked them into cupcakes. My notes are included in the recipe below. And then I topped them off with a maple coconut cream frosting! I again was inspired by Elana’s Pantry, although I sweetened the frosting with maple syrup, which paired so nicely with the flavors.

Still not sure how you want to slice a cake? No worries, just bake cupcakes!!

CARROT CAKE – INGREDIENTS
3 cups blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup honey (or agave nectar)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

PREPARATION
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey (or agave nectar) and oil
Stir carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients
Stir wet ingredients into dry
Place batter into 24 cupcake tins with liners (or 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans)
Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes (35 minutes for cakes)
Cool to room temperature and spread with frosting

MAPLE COCONUT CREAM FROSTING – INGREDIENTS
1 cup coconut milk (in a can)
1 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
5 teaspoons arrowroot powder
3-5 tablespoons water
1¼ cup coconut oil

PREPARATION
In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, maple syrup and salt, simmer for 10 minutes
In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and water to form a smooth paste
Pour arrowroot mixture into saucepan
Whisk vigorously to combine, then bring to a boil, briefly, until shiny
Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil with a hand blender (or mixer)
Allow pot to cool for 10 minutes
Place pot in refrigerator for 45-120 minutes, until frosting solidifies
Remove from refrigerator and blend again with a hand blender (or mixer), until fluffy
Spread over cake or cupcakes

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I Dig Fresh Fig Dessert Bars

I dig figs. As a kid, I enjoyed snacking on Fig Newtons, which had a nice combination of crunchy filling and smooth cake. Or were the outer crusts actually cookies? It was always hard to tell.

About one year ago, while at my friend’s parents’ house, I sampled a fresh fig just picked from their fig tree. At first I was a little apprehensive because I did not know how to eat it. However they showed me how to break off the stem, peel the fruit and eat the center. The fruit was so good – sweet, juicy and fragrant. So I tried another and another…and when I went home that evening, I had a bundle of figs under my arm to enjoy over the next few days.

Not only are figs delicious, but they are nutritious too! According to Nutrition-and-you.com, figs are low in calories and high in soluble fiber. They are also good sources of vitamins A, E, and K; and minerals such as calcium and iron. So what’s not to love about this fabulous fruit?

This past summer, whenever I saw fresh figs on sale at the grocery store, I purchased them. The figs usually come six to a package and I would eat them two at a time. I never dreamed that I would ever have enough figs in my possession to use them in a recipe – since I just enjoy eating them as is. Well last week, I had a lovely visit with my friend’s parents…and they gave me about 80 figs to take home! For the past few days SensitiveHusband and I have been enjoying an ongoing fig feast!

And guess what other wonderfulness was bestowed on me? They gave me a small fig tree, grown from a piece of their own. It is now adorning my deck and has a few figs ripening on it. We will bring it in for the winter and intend to plant it in the springtime. I hope to experiment with fig recipes in the years to come. That is, if I don’t eat them all as I pick them!

Below is my first ever fresh fig recipe…the result is a fabulous dessert bar mixed with oats and walnuts. I started with a recipe from Simple Daily Recipes that used fresh figs (rather than dried) as the main ingredient. I substituted the cane sugar with honey and reduced the overall amount of sweetener used. I also played with the amount of water in the filling and added some chopped walnuts to the top for an extra flavor boost and crunch. These bars are so delicious; thanks to Tony and Sylvia for their hospitality and for sharing their figs and tree with me!

Ingredients:

Filling
*3 cups fresh figs, chopped and without stems (may be peeled or unpeeled)
*3/4 cup water
*1/2 cup honey
*pinch of salt
*2 tablespoons lemon peel, finely grated
*2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
*1 tablespoon water
*2 tablespoons lemon juice
*1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Crust
*1 cup butter
*1/2 cup honey
*2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
*pinch of salt
*3 cups oats
*1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preparation:
Heat Oven to 350ºF.

For Filling: Combine figs, water, honey, salt and lemon peel in saucepan and simmer 1 hour or until dark and thickened, stirring occasionally. Combine flour and water and stir into fig mixture. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and walnuts.

For Crust: Mix butter with honey until light and fluffy. Combine flour, salt, and oats into creamed mixture. Divide mixture in half and place half into the bottom of a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Spread the fig filling evenly over bottom layer. Sprinkle remaining half of crust mixture on top, along with the remaining walnuts, and press with fork.

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cut into squares while still warm. Cool completely before removing from pan.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

For the Holidays: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes

An easy vegetable dish for your next holiday menu is this one for roasted brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts. You can prepare the dish ahead of time and then roast while your turkey or other entree is out of the oven and being carved. I saw this recipe in the November 2011 issue of Whole Living magazine and tweaked it a bit. I removed the vinegar so it would be free from yeast and added the walnuts into the mixture from the beginning so they would toast at the same time as the other ingredients. The next time I make them, I will prepare a bigger batch because there were hardly any leftovers. The sprouts are in the pink bowl on the far side of the table. We will get to the other delicious dishes on the table in future posts.

Ingredients:
24 oz brussels sprouts, halved
24 oz red seedless grapes
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation:
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a 9×13 glass baking dish, toss brussels sprouts and grapes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss walnuts on top. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage and Food Trip Friday.

Nuts About Fudge Brownies and Walnut Statistics

I could not resist baking these fudgy brownies that I found in the September 2011 issue of Cooking Light. Could I change the recipe so it did not have sugar but still had that fudge quality? I was willing to give it a try.

Walnuts, of the tree nut family, are optional in this recipe. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, walnuts are a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Almost 40% of the world’s walnuts are grown in the U.S., mostly in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 485,000 tons of walnuts will be harvested in California in 2011, down 4% from the previous year. The crop is supposed to be of high quality because of the mild temperatures during the growing season. The price per ton of the harvested walnuts is not yet confirmed for 2011 although last year’s price of $2,110 per ton was the second highest price in the past 20 years. During those 20 years, the highest price per ton was $2,290 in 2007, and the lowest price was $886 in 1999.

All of this talk about walnuts is leading me to think about these delicious brownies…and my successful attempt at creating this dessert without refined sugar. Hooray! Enjoy the dessert!

Refined-Sugar Free Walnut Fudge Brownies

Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips
1/3 cup fat-free milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, divided

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate and milk in a small saucepan; melt chips on low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture, 1/4 cup chocolate, and 1/4 cup nuts to flour mixture; stir to combine.
3. Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup nuts. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares.

I am sharing this recipe with Joy of Desserts, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Beauty and Bedlam, Lady Behind the Curtain, This Chick Cooks, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday, Sweet as Sugar Cookies and Something Swanky.