Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Since I've missed the boat with most of my holiday recipes in the past, I've made a commitment to post something for Valentine's Day celebration before Valentine's Day. Actually, I'm cheating a bit...This is a recipe that I made a lot at Christmas time, but really it is suitable for a dessert any time of year. And it contains a lot of chocolate, so I figure it is especially suitable for Valentine's Day.

This has been voted by my family and friends as the best "Sheena Cucina" cake yet. I agree. This cake is so rich, fudgey, and moist, and although it is filling, it still often leaves you wanting more. To make this cake even more decadent I have created a chocolate-peppermint ganache to top it off. The cake itself is low in fat; most of its moisture comes from applesauce. You can serve the cake on its own, without the icing, it will still be delicious. However, I suggest that you indulge and serve the cake with this ganache.

This much-altered recipe was originally titled Peppermint Fudge Cake and it comes from Heather Van Vorous' book Eating For IBS. I have been making this cake for years directly from the recipe in this book. When I first realized that I had food allergies, I simply went without most of my old stand-by recipes. Because this cake is so delicious, I was determined to alter this recipe to suit my current diet, and yield a delicious cake. I have changed most of the ingredients and after many, many, many attempts I have finally perfected my version of this recipe. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peppermint Cake
1 1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup white bean flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (I prefer Navitas Naturals)
2 tbsps tapioca starch
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional, but delicious) (I prefer Enjoy Life)

2 cups applesauce 
1/4 cup sunflower oil, or oil of your choice
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp natural peppermint flavouring (I prefer Simply Organics)

Preheat oven to 325°/167°. In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together accept for chocolate chips. In a medium bowl combine wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and stir just until combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased non-stick bundt pan. Bake for approximately 55 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes, then remove from pan. Alternatively you can bake this into cupcakes - bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Serve cake/cupcakes warm or cold, topped with Chocolate Peppermint Ganache.

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsps vegan butter
3 tbsps rice milk, or milk of your choice
1-2 tsps peppermint extract
A few pinches of salt, to taste

Combine chocolate chips and vegan butter in a saucepan or double-boiler. Melt over low/medium-low heat. Once melted, add rice milk and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add peppermint extract and salt to taste. Pour over cake and serve. 


- If you are allergic to any of the flours mentioned above, you can use your favourite gluten-free flour blend. I have also made this cake with brown rice flour in place of the white bean. While this still made a delicious cake, it was very crumbly. If you chose to omit the bean flour, you may want to add in some xanthan gum (about 1 tsp) or a different gum to help bind the cake. If you do use a gum to bind, you would probably be able to omit the tapioca starch as well.

- If you are allergic to peppermint extract, simply omit it. You will still be left with a delicious chocolate cake. 

- If you are allergic to apples, try substituting applesauce for another fruit puree like plum or pear.  I do not suggest you use banana because the banana flavour will interfere with the chocolate and peppermint. 

- If you are serving this cake for Christmas, you may want to decorate it with some crushed-up candy canes. It looks so festive!

Oops, I forgot to mention this in my initial post: 

- If you are sugar-free try substituting the sugar in the cake for coconut sugar, date sugar, stevia, agave, or another sweetener of your choice. I have only made this with sugar, but I'm sure you would have comparable results. If your sweetener is in liquid form you may have to adjust the baking time slightly. If you are using something like stevia (which is way sweeter than sugar, and cannot be replaced cup-for-cup) use proper measurements to ensure that you do not over-sweeten the cake.

- If you are sugar-free make sure you buy unsweetened chocolate chips for the ganache, and add sweetener as needed.


- If your bundt pan sticks a little, you may want to grease your pan and then dust it with cocoa powder to prevent your cake from sticking. 

- I searched for months to find a cocoa powder that was guaranteed gluten and wheat-free. As mentioned above, I used Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder (certified organic, kosher, gluten-free, vegan, and raw). You may also want to try Now Foods Organic Cocoa Powder (free of sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, or preservatives) although I have not been able to purchase this anywhere in Canada.

I have linked this post to: Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Health 2day Wednesday, Allergy Friendly Friday. Check out the other great posts there!

*Please Note* These recipes are part of my personal allergy diet. Please remember that everyone's allergies are different.  If you are unsure about any ingredients listed in these recipes please check with your doctor before introducing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Herbed Goat Cheese Ball

Herbed Goat Cheese Ball
Over the Christmas holidays I got together with some of my girlfriends from high school. I brought a spread of finger foods food for everyone. I made some Rosemary Flatbread and served it with caramelized onions, garlic, and ginger, and roasted sweet potato - this was inspired by my Flatbread with Roasted Squash and Caramelized Onions, Garlic, and Ginger. We also had some smoked salmon (store-bought, I admit), a green olive tapenade (recipe to follow soon), and the favourite of the night - Herbed Goat Cheese Ball. It was a serve-yourself affair, all of the dishes laid out before us. This way everyone was free to take a bit of this, and a bit of that to make their own combination of flavours. A great combination is caramelized onions, garlic, and ginger alongside the Herbed Goat Cheese Ball on some Rosemary Flatbread. SO delicious!

Caramelized Onions, Garlic, and Ginger

I realize that my blog usually does not include recipes with casein, so I never use dairy, but I have just been able to re-introduce goat cheese and yogurt with some success. It is possible that goat milk is giving me migraines, but I am going to see if my holistic allergist can help with that. I have heard that some people with dairy sensitivity, or digestive problems, can tolerate some goat milk products, while they cannot tolerate cow's milk. I'm going to look into this further. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before introducing anything new into your diet. If you are casein or dairy-free, I'm sure this recipe would work well with any non-dairy cream cheese.

This recipe is dead simple, so I feel a little silly for posting it. BUT, my friends insisted that I include it on my blog, so that they could make it to impress company. I thought this was quite a compliment. I hope that you and your guests enjoy it too!

The Perfect Lunch: Apple Slices and Rice Crackers Topped with: Herbed Goat Cheese Ball, Caramelized Onions, Garlic, and Ginger
Herbed Goat Cheese Ball

This cheese ball takes only a minute to make. If you have time, try to make it the day before you wish to serve it, as this allows time for the flavours to meld nicely together. If you cannot make it in advance, it is also delicious served right away.

About 1/2 cup soft, unripened goat cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch of pepper

In a small or medium bowl mash goat cheese with a fork until it is a bit softer and broken up. Add the spices and pepper and mix thoroughly to combine. Once combined, take cheese in your hand and gently form into a ball.

You could serve this cheese ball as mentioned above, as an addition to a cheese plate, or with your favourite bread or crackers and some apple slices for the perfect lunch. Alternatively, instead of making this into a ball, you could crumble the goat cheese and herb mixture over a salad, pizza, or pasta. Yum!

Alterations: (updated, I forgot to include this in the original post)

- As mentioned above, if you are dairy or casein-free you can try making this recipe with dairy-free cream cheese. I haven't tried this, but I'm sure it would be equally as delicious.

- If you are allergic to any of the herbs in this recipe simply omit them, or create your own spice blend.  

I have linked this post to Allergy Friendly Friday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Health 2day Wednesdays. Check out the other great recipes there!

*Please Note* These recipes are part of my personal allergy diet. Please remember that everyone's allergies are different.  If you are unsure about any ingredients listed in these recipes please check with your doctor before introducing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Sunsational Sunflower Seed Milk

It was just this summer that I wondered to myself why no one had created a sunflower seed milk.  Lately I feel like the market of non-dairy milk is overwhelmed with soy, almond, and coconut milks, none of which I can have. Now I feel so lucky. I have had the opportunity to test out a new product on the market - Sunsational sunflower seed milk! I wasn't chosen to do this (I volunteered to post something on my blog) but I feel especially lucky because this product isn't available on Canadian store shelves yet, and has only recently launched in the US.  I first read about this milk on Vegansaurus and From Seed To Stomach.

I have had this milk for a couple of weeks already, but have only just been able to try it now. Because of the nature of my allergies I always have to be careful when introducing something, so I wanted to make sure that I only tested it once my schedule was clear.

Sunsational comes in two flavours, original and vanilla. My husband and I tried both of them. It has a delicious nutty flavour reminiscent of a mixture of soy, almond, and hemp seed milks (which I have not had in years, but this is how I remember them). The vanilla is not over-powering, but it has a delicious, subtle hint of this flavour. I like this because it does not overwhelm the sunflower nuttiness, which I think is a huge success. It has quite a pronounced flavour, which I enjoy, but it may not work for every recipe that requires milk. This milk would do well in a chocolate flavour, and I hope the company thinks about this for the future.

As I've said before, my diet is super limited right now which means that my options for non-dairy milk are slim-to-none. I generally drink President's Choice Organics Rice Milk and find it quite delicious. One of my pet-peeves of rice milk is the high sugar content. Although PC's rice milk does not have any added sugar, the natural sugars in the rice still make it sweeter than I would prefer. I was pleased that Sunsational has a much lower sugar content than rice milk - almost half as much! Sunsational is creamier than rice milk, having one gram more of fat per serving (than the PC Organics kind) which gives it a bit of a velvety texture, especially compared to rice milk. This milk is grey in colour, which is a little surprising. I got over it quickly, it's not a big deal, but it is a little shocking at first glance. The plus side of this strange colour is that they are not altering the natural colour.

From our experimentation, this milk is delicious on its own, on cereal, in tea, or in smoothies. I'm going to try it out in my Sunbutter Chicken Fingers, I think it will add to the delicious nuttiness. I'm also going to try it in my Chocolate Chip Pancake recipe, and think it will be delicious!

If you live in the US, I understand that Sunsational is available at Whole Foods Markets. You can also order it directly from the Sunsational website here. I hope that if given the chance, you try out this new, delicious milk.