Improv Challenge: Zucchini and Brown Sugar

I’m excited to be participating in another Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! Each month I strive to come up with something a bit more exciting or creative than the last. So far, I’ve shared:

This month, the challenge ingredients are zucchini and brown sugar.

My recipe this month isn’t exactly creative. Instead, I opted for something much more sentimental… my Nana’s Zucchini Bread recipe (with a slight modification). The original recipe calls for white sugar, I’ve substituted brown sugar for the purpose of the challenge, and it worked out great!

Nana’s not sure where the recipe comes from anymore. She thinks she might have got it from one of her sisters, who possibly got it from my Great Grandmother. Either way, it’s been in the family for a while and I enjoyed many many pieces of zucchini bread as a child, especially in the fall when Nana picked the zucchini fresh from the garden.

Growing up, I thought zucchini bread was one of the healthiest treats. Why? Because it’s got vegetable pieces in it. Therefore, it must be healthy. Right? I was a bit surprised going through the recipe when I saw how much sugar it calls for. Not exactly healthy. It won’t kill you to enjoy the bread once in a while either though. Just something I will likely choose to enjoy in moderation instead of abundance, like I did as a child.

I’ll likely experiment with making a healthier version of the recipe at some point. Substituting the white flour for whole wheat, or maybe a gluten-free flour. Try cutting out some of the sugar. But that’s for another day when I’m not scrambling to make something delicious for the Improv Challenge.

Excuse me while I got enjoy some fresh from the oven zucchini bread for breakfast. I just baked it this morning!

Nana’s Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs – approximate cost $0.60
  • 2 cups white sugar (I used brown sugar for the purpose of the Improv Challenge) – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini, skin included – approximate cost $1.25
  • 1 cup oil (I used canola oil) – approximate cost $0.40
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla – approximate cost $0.30
  • 3 cups flour – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 teaspoons salt – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1 cup walnuts – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, and grated zucchini in a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix until well combined and set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Mix until well combined.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  7. Pour the bread mixture into two (greased) loaf pans.
  8. Bake for 1 hour (or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean).
  9. Allow to cool before serving.

Makes 2 loaves, about 16 slices (approximate cost: $3.30 per loaf or $0.41 per slice).


Great suggestions for healthy additions to salads. Yum! Check out the full post at http://kimmiluu.me/

Raw Apple Pie in Cupcake Tins

I’ve been making a lot of raw apple desserts lately, so when Chef Renee said we were going to make a raw apple pie I was excited to learn a few things about how I could improve the desserts I was already preparing. And the answer was obvious… play with the ingredients! I was using walnuts exclusively for many of the desserts, including the raw apple crisp and the raw apple cobbler. I hadn’t thought of including dried coconut flakes, pecans, or any other type of nuts.

Raw apple pie

Renee’s apple pie was fantastic! Although when I made this again myself I left the dates out of the filling to tone down the sweetness of the dessert. Just a personal preference.

B and I both enjoyed this pie. For his, I heated the apple mixture before serving and prepared my own at room temperature. Because you don’t put the crust and the filling together until you are just about to serve the pie,  it is easy to cater to various preferences.

Raw Apple Pie in Cupcake Tins

Recipe by RAW food chef Renee Shaidle

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts – approximate cost $2.25
  • 1 cup pecans – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/2 cup dried coconut (optional) – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 cup raisins – approximate cost $1.00
  • 10 medjool or honey dates – approximate cost $2.75

Crust

Filling

  • 6 apples – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 lemon, juiced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup raisins – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 medjool dates, pitted  – approximate cost $0.80
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – approximate cost $0.05
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup – approximate cost $0.75

Filling

Method

  1. Soak the raisins and dates in warm water for at least 20 minutes, this will make them more sticky. This step is optional. You will likely need to use more raisins and dates if you do not have time to soak them first.
  2. Prepare the crust
    1. Blend the walnuts, pecans, dried coconut, cinnamon and sea salt in a food processor until coarsely ground.
    2. Add raisins and dates until mixture begins to stick together.
    3. Reserve half of the crumble (to sprinkle on top of pie).
    4. Press the remaining half of the crust mixture into muffin tins lined with plastic wrap (Or a 9” pie pan)

      crust

  3. Prepare the filling
    1. Peel, core, and thinly slice 2 apples.
    2. Coat sliced apples with 2 tablespoons lemon juice (this will keep them from turning brown) and set aside.
    3. Peel, slice, and core 4 apples and blend in the food processor with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
    4. Add dates, cinnamon, and maple syrup and continue to process until smooth.
    5. Remove mixture from processor and combine with the sliced apples.
  4. Putting it together
    1. Pour the apple mixture into the prepared muffin cups or pie plate.
    2. Top with remaining crumble.

Crust

Note: Raw apple pies will keep in fridge for approximately 5 days. However, you might want to keep the crust and filling separate until you are about ready to serve the dessert.

Makes about 12 servings (approximate cost: $1.08 per serving).

Raw apple pie

Chocolate Power Balls

I’m not a huge fan of chocolate. Yes, I realize this is shocking to many. I preface with this comment so you won’t be surprised when I confess that I haven’t re-made this dish after the Raw Desserts Workshop. And it will probably be a few more months before I decide to try this again. Don’t get me wrong, it very tasty and a healthy enough treat that you could eat it for breakfast! It’s just too chocolatey for my tastes.

These chocolate power balls are very similar to the Raw Chocolate Truffles with Cashew Kream that Janne and I prepared at the Raw Food Workshop in October (image is from that workshop).

You can make a batch of this chocolatey dessert in about 10-15 minutes!

Chocolate Power Balls

Recipe by RAW food chef Renee Shaidle

chocolate power balls

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almonds – approximate cost $1.25
  • 1/2 cup walnuts – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/4 cup cacao – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 tsp salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 avocado – approximate cost $1.00
  • 8-10 dates – approximate cost $2.75

Method

  1. In a food processor, blend walnuts and almonds for about 30 seconds.
  2. With the food processor still running, add coconut, cacao, salt, and avocado.
  3. When the ingredients are well mixed, add the dates to create a sticky consistency. Continue to process until all ingredients are mixed well.
  4. Divide the mixture into 1 tsp portions.
  5. Roll each portion into a ball.

Makes about 15 servings (approximate cost: $0.50 per serving).

If you want, roll the power balls in nut pieces for a variation on this recipe. At the workshop, I coated mine in raw cashew pieces.

Raw Banana Coconut Cream Cake

This was my favourite dessert that we/Renee prepared at the workshop. It’s sweet, as most desserts tend to be. But it isn’t overly sweet. The tartness of the lime adds just enough sour flavour to counter the sweetness of the dates and the agave nectar.

When I made this cake at home, I was so happy with the outcome that I decided to share it with my family. However, I didn’t tell them that the dessert was raw/vegan. The cake had become so frozen that I wasn’t able to cut it. So we had to wait almost an hour after dinner before we were able to enjoy the dessert.

Their reaction? Everyone ate their cake without complaint and the dogs begged for the cake. My stepmother shared her last two bites, one for each dog (this is not unusual). My dad, brother, and I enjoyed our cake, but didn’t share. Everyone said thank you and we went about our night. All of the plates were clean. I think they liked it too!

Raw Banana Coconut Cream Cake

Recipe by RAW food chef Renee Shaidle

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup walnuts nuts (the original recipe calls for macadamia nuts, I substituted walnuts to helps keep down the cost) – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 cup cashews – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/2 cup shredded dry coconut – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil – approximate cost $0.10
  • 10 dates (or ⅓ cup raisins) – approximate cost $2.75
  • Pinch of sea salt – approximate cost $0.05

Banana layer

  • 3-4 bananas – approximate cost $1.50

Filling

  • 1 cup fresh coconut meat (or 1/2 cup coconut cream and 1/2 cup cashews) – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 1/2 cups cashews – approximate cost $4.50
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 tablespoon agave nectar – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 lime – juiced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 bananas, sliced – approximate cost $0.75

Method

  1. Prepare the crust
    1. Blend the macadamia nuts, cashews, coconut, coconut oil, and sea salt in a food processor until finely chopped.
    2. Add dates slowly to mixture until the crust becomes sticky (use more or less than recommended depending on your crust).
    3. Line a cake or pie pan with plastic wrap.
    4. Press crust mixture into an even layer in the pan.
    5. Place crust in freezer and chill for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the filling
    1. Blend the cashews and sea salt in a food processor until finely chopped.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time (coconut or coconut cream, coconut oil, agave nectar, lime juice, vanilla, and banana slices)
    3. Blend all ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Prepare the banana layer
    1. Slice the bananas into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Put it all together
    1. Take crust out of the freezer and place the bananas slices evenly on top of the crust.
    2. Pour the filling on top of bananas and spread into an even layer.
    3. Place assembled cake into the freezer for 3-4 hours to set.
    4. Remove from freezer.
    5. Decorate with coconut flakes.
    6. Serve immediately.


Makes about 9 servings (approximate cost: $1.88 per serving).

Raw Apple Cobbler

I’m not one for sweets. Yet, you’ll notice that lately I’ve been writing more about desserts such as Raw Apple Crumble, and Raw Chocolate Truffles with Cashew Kream. I’m sure you’ve already noticed a theme: these desserts are raw. I usually skip desserts because they taste too sweet for my liking. Raw desserts, on the other hand, I enjoy. They use natural sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar. And I find that there’s more flexibility to tone down the sweetness than with traditional baked desserts where, if you cut down on sugar, you could potentially ruin the dish (e.g. a pastry doesn’t thicken).

This Raw Apple Cobbler is only slightly different from the Raw Apple Crumble. I really like the added apple sauce, which I find distributes the flavours well throughout the dish. Whereas, with the apple crisp, the apple filling and the crust are distinct.

apple cobbler

As I mentioned in my post about Raw seaweed wraps with vegetables and herbs, B isn’t fond of raw foods, so I heated his portion in the microwave to soften the apples a bit. While he still prefers a traditional baked apple cobbler, heating this dish allowed him to enjoy it as well.

Raw Apple Cobbler

Adapted from Loving it Raw

Ingredients

Filling

  • 6 medium Macintosh or Cortland apples (or any other type of apple that you prefer) – approximate cost $2.50
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked for at least two hours – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 lemon cut into slices – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey) – approximate cost $0.50

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/2 cup almonds – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3/4 cup (approximately 9-10) medjool dates, soaked and pitted – approximate cost $1.50

apple cobbler

Method

  1. Soak raisins and medjool dates in separate bowls for at least two hours. (I tend to start soaking in the morning and prepare the dish when I get home in the evening.)
  2. Prepare the crust.
    1. Combine walnuts and almonds in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped.
    2. Add coconut oil and medjool dates (ensure they are pitted) and process until the mixture starts to become sticky and is well blended.
    3. Press the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and drizzle with agave nectar (or honey).
    4. Place crust in the fridge to harden while you prepare the filling.
  3. Prepare the filling.
    1. Core all of the apples and set three aside.
    2. Slice 3 apples in the food processor and place in a large mixing bowl.
    3. Squeeze half of the lemon, covering as many of the apples as possible with the juice.
      Note: Add the lemon juice before any other ingredients to prevent the apples from turning brown.
    1. Sprinkle apples with ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon and raisins.
    2. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of agave nectar (or honey).
    3. Toss the apple mixture until it is well coated and set aside.
    4. Add remaining 3 apples, ½ teaspoon of vanilla, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to the food processor and process until mixture becomes a sauce.
  1. Put the cobbler together.
    1. Pour the apple slices on top of the crust. Move the slices as needed to create a mostly even layer.
    2. Pour the apple sauce mixture over top of the apple slices.

Serve immediately or put in the fridge and save for later. I find it tastes best when served at room temperature

Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost: $1.15 per serving).

Raw Apple Crumble

I’ll be participating in a bake sale tomorrow, with the proceeds being donated to a local charity. You might have noticed from the nature of my posts, I don’t often bake sweets. Honestly, because I rarely follow a recipe step-by-step the result usually isn’t quite right. At first, I thought it might be nice to prepare some finger foods such as dumplings or other such appetizers. Being that I would have to prepare this on a weeknight, I ruled out that option as too time consuming.

Then, I looked to the Raw Cooking Workshop that I attended at the beginning of the month. I sifted through the recipe book that Renee prepared for us, but nothing was quite what I was looking for. As my mind drifted and I began looking forward to a weekend shopping trip at the market, I found my inspiration: it’s apple season! I will make something with apples. What can I make with apples? Apple pie, apple sauce, apple crumble, baked apples, candied apples… the options seemed endless. However, I still liked the idea of making a raw dish.

Apple crumble seemed like the least intensive item to prepare on a weeknight. I searched the Internet for “raw apple crumble” and found two recipes that seemed appropriate: Raw Apple Crisp from Raw Food Passion and RAW Vegan Apple Crisp from A Taste of Raw. I ended up taking suggestions from both recipes and came up with the following recipe for apple crumble.

Raw Apple Crumble

Adapted from Raw Food Passion and A Taste of Raw

apple crumble

Ingredients

Crumble

  • 2 cups raw nuts (any combination, 1 used ½ cup walnuts, 1 cup almonds, ½ cup cashews, could also include pecans, sunflower seeds, etc.) – approximate cost $4.00
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut flakes – approximate cost $1.00
  • 8 (about a ½ cup) medjool dates, soaked and pitted – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 tablespoons of agave nectar – approximate cost $0.25

Filling

  • 4-6 apples (I used Macintosh), cored and thinly sliced – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1 lemon, squeezed/juiced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon – approximate cost $0.10
  • ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 tablespoons of agave nectar – approximate cost $0.25

apple crumble

Method

Preparing to make this dish

  1. Soak the medjool dates and raisins for 2-3 hours or until softened.
  2. Core and slice apples into thin pieces. (This can be done with a paring knife and a lot of patience, or much more quickly using a food processor).

Prepare the filling

  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice and agave nectar, then set aside.
  2. Let the mixture marinate on the counter for 1-2 hours.
  3. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins to the apple mixture and mix well.

Prepare the crumble

  1. Place nuts and coconut in a food processor (or blender) and process until coarsely ground.
  2. Add dates and process until the mixture begins to stick together.

Assembling the dish

  1. Press the crumble into 8″ square glass baking dish to make an even and solid crust.
  2. Drizzle the crust with 2 tablespoons of agave nectar.
  3. Pour the apple filling mixture over the crumble and arrange into a mostly even layer.

Enjoy immediately or chill and save later. Serve at room temperature or warm it slightly in an oven turned to its lowest temperature with the door propped open.

Makes 9 servings (approximate cost: $1.29 per serving).

apple crumble

Raw Chocolate Truffles with Cashew Kream

At the raw cooking workshop, we prepared raw chocolate truffles with cashew kream. I’m usually note a huge fan of sweets, but the tartness of the lemon in the sauce made it taste refreshing. This was very enjoyable!

Raw Chocolate Truffles with Cashew Kream

Recipe by RAW food chef Renee Shaidle

Chocolate truffles with cashew kream

Ingredients

  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup almonds (soaked and dried)
  • 1 cup of dates
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 lemon, squeeze
  • 2-3 tbsp agave

Method

Truffles

  1. In a food processor, blend walnuts and almonds for about 30 seconds.
  2. With the food processor still running, add coconut, cacao, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  3. When the ingredients are well mixed, add the dates to create a sticky consistency. Continue to process until all ingredients are mixed well.
  4. Divide the mixture into 1 tsp portions. Roll each portion into a ball.

Cashew kream

  1. Blend the cashews, lemon, and agave until it forms a smooth icing-like consistency.

Putting it all together

  1. Serve the truffles with the cashew kream drizzled on top.

If you’re interested in Renee’s raw food cooking class, see her website: http://beliveonline.com/events or, if you want raw cooking without the work, check out Marbles restaurant in Uptown Waterloo.

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