Easy Vegan Pumpkin and Chili infused oil Pretzels

I was supposed to have an autumn baby. Instead she arrived unexpectedly 2.5 months ahead of schedule. I wrote about it trying to capture the moments of fear, denial, confusion. I may even post it here one day but not today. My throat still tightens every time I think back to those first few hours, days, weeks after she was born. That experience broke me into a million tiny pieces and I am still slowly rebuilding myself. Making myself new and stronger. 

She was supposed to be a fall baby and my birthday present. Born only a few days after my own birthday I imagined planning her parties filled with pumpkins and squashes, orange hued maple leaves and apple cider. Instead her birthday is in July.

Today was her official due date and it seems fitting to resume blogging on this special day that didn't happen. 

Pumpkin and Chili oil infused Pretzels - easy, vegan, spicy and delicious pretzels, perfect for cozy fall weekends

With the onslaught of pumpkin recipes all over the food-blogosphere and my love for all things autumn, I couldn't forgo my own pumpkin creation. This recipe, like many bread recipes, is perfect for when you have a baby asking for food around the clock. There's a lot of waiting for the dough to rise, there's no long and complicated techniques. It takes a long time to make and requires breaks in between. So, it works great when you only have 20 minutes here and there during the day. 

Pumpkin adds moisture, fibre and colour to the dough. Chili infused oil is very subtle in this recipe. You can use just oil, you can add more chill, you can even use cayenne pepper. I like combination of pumpkin and spice, so I'd recommend adding even more chill. Paprika in the dough is optional, it adds a bit of colour and a savoury note. I sprinkled the pretzels with chili salt (don't even remember where I got it, but I love it), so there was a spicy kick from the topping as well. These pretzels taste really good with sharp vinegary mustard. I personally adore various Kozlik's mustards.

Pumpkin and Chili oil infused Pretzels - easy, vegan, spicy and delicious pretzels, perfect for cozy fall weekends

Easy Vegan Pumpkin and Chili infused oil Pretzels

Makes 16 medium size pretzels

Warm water - 1/2 cup
Dry yeast - 2 teaspoons
Sugar (white or brown) - 1 tablespoon
Pumpkin purée - 1 cup
Vegetable or olive oil - 1/4 cup
Red chili flakes - 1 teaspoon (or more to make the pretzels spicier)
Paprika - 1/2 teaspoons (optional)
Flour - 2-3 cups
Sea salt - 1 teaspoon

Water - 8 cups
Baking soda - 1/4 cup
Oil for brushing, coarse salt for sprinkling, mustard for serving
Pumpkin and Chili oil infused Pretzels - easy, vegan, spicy and delicious pretzels, perfect for cozy fall weekends
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes until the yeast dissolves and the mixture starts to foam.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a small pot with chili flakes to infuse the oil. Don't worry if the chili burns.
  • Strain the oil and cool.
  • Add pumpkin to the yeast mixture and mix.
  • Once oil is cool, add it to the pumpkin-yeast mixture. Add paprika if using.
  • Add a cup of flour and start mixing with a paddle. Add salt.
  • Switch to the hook attachment and add flour half cup at a time. I used 2.5 cups of flour. It depends on how humid it is that day and on the flour you are using. It could take up to 3 or even more cups of flour. The dough needs to be soft and it needs to gather into a ball around the hook.
  • Knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
  • Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about one or two hours until doubled in size.
  • Once the dough is risen, punch it, knead it for a couple of minutes and divide into 16 pieces. 
  • Roll each piece into a long rope (50-60 cm) and fold into pretzels.
  • Place the pretzels onto baking sheets covered with parchment paper, cover with kitchen towels and let rise for another hour or so. Note, I only let them rise for about 15 minutes this time and it was fine.
  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Once the pretzels doubled in size and became puffy, boil 8 cups of water with 1/4 of baking soda.
  • Drop pretzels into the boiling soda water one at a time a let them cook about 10 seconds on each side. Place them back onto parchment right after.
  • After all the pretzels are boiled, brush them with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15-20 minutes (if using two baking sheets, then switch them midway) until they are golden.
  • Cool and serve with mustard.
Pumpkin and Chili oil infused Pretzels - easy, vegan, spicy and delicious pretzels, perfect for cozy fall weekends
Pumpkin and Chili oil infused Pretzels - easy, vegan, spicy and delicious pretzels, perfect for cozy fall weekends
Posted on September 26, 2016 and filed under Personal, Recipe, Baby.

Vegan and Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Blondies

My friends started having kids a few years ago. At first, during our Girlie Brunches there was no talk of babies. Then gradually as more friends had sons and daughters, the talk over waffles and bacon turned from heart-breaks and gossip to diapers and child-rearing. Last December, during my 8th Annual Xmas Brunch I barely got to talk about anything not kid related. I was annoyed.

Couple of weeks ago we had another brunch at my girlfriend's place. This time I could not stop talking about babies. 

So, today I wanted to write about food and pregnancy. I know it's not really in the style of this blog, but it's something that is close to my heart. And there's a delicious, easy, and healthy recipe as a bonus at the end.

Back in the day didn't think that eating healthy would be a problem for me if I ever got pregnant. I used to eat pretty healthy (-ish), at least that's what I thought. I liked how I felt, I liked my body, I knew exactly what clothes would fit me. Of course, I wanted to be 10 pounds smaller, but not enough to do something about it. Over the past 5-7 years my weight stayed the same, maybe 2-3 pounds more or sometimes even less, but on average it was stable. 

I didn't use pre-made foods in my cooking most of the time. On occasion I bought organic pancake or scone mix, but not those hydrogenated fat laden cake mix boxes. I cooked almost every day. I had lunch out maybe 2-3 times a month and we'd go out for dinner very rarely. Breakfast during work week was usually plain greek yogurt or small oatmeal. I had leftovers for lunch or a sandwich with some veggies on the side. Dinner was easy and fast - roast chicken, meatballs, sausages with veggies and some side. If I had heavy pasta one day, then the next would be a vegetarian meal. I didn't shy away from empty carbs like white pasta, rice or sugar, but I tried to use less of all the "bad" foods - less sugar than the recipe called for, less oil, less butter, less cheese.

These Vegan and Gluten-free Blondies are not only delicious, but also healthy. Made with dates, maple syrup, peanut butter and chickpeas

And then I got pregnant. And then the morning (I mean all day) sickness started. First I couldn't eat or drink anything. Then it turned out that I had to eat every 1.5-2 hours or I felt horrible. The foods that I was able to consume were... carbs... Not good carbs, but those bad-try-to-avoid-eat-in-moderation carbs. I ate pasta with butter, potatoes, bread, rice, and more potatoes. I could not stomach any meat, I could barely eat any fruits or vegetables. I gained 10 pounds within six weeks.

It's much better now. I can eat everything, but my body still has crazy cravings when nothing but a bagel would suffice. 

The reason for this post is because I see articles that proclaim "5 easy ways to keep your figure during pregnancy" or "10 foods to enjoy for healthy pregnancy" or many more that make me feel angry and sad. I was one of those people who thought that eating right during pregnancy would be easy - just use common sense and your normal self-control. Yet, this is not how it turned out. So, maybe this blog post would help someone. Someone who didn't expect the kind of morning sickness that leaves you empty and drained; the kind where you don't care about what you eat as long as it makes you stop hurting. It's ok. It happens. It will get better! Don't stress about food when your body and mind is already under stress. If you can eat healthy - it's great! And if not, then just know that you are not alone. 

These Vegan and Gluten-free Blondies are not only delicious, but also healthy. Made with dates, maple syrup, peanut butter and chickpeas

This recipe is me desperately trying to eat at least a tiny bit healthier. I was thinking a couple of weeks ago that if brownies can be made with black beans, then why can't blondies be made with... chickpeas! I quickly googled to make sure that I wasn't completely crazy and it turned out that people actually do it. I used a lot of maple syrup in the first version that I tried and although it was good, I felt bad using all this delicious golden goodness for baking. I buy my Dark Amber Maple Syrup at the One of a Kind Show once a year and treasure it like gold, so using half a cup in a recipe seemed preposterous. This version uses dates and maple syrup for sweetness. The first time I tried it I also used ground oats, but I found that I didn't like the after taste as much, so I omitted them in this recipe. However, my husband didn't taste the difference. So, if you'd like to boost the fiber content, then you can add 1/4 or 1/2 cup of oats to the recipe too.

The batter comes together really quickly. Drained chickpeas, peanut butter, dates, apple sauce, and maple syrup get processed until smooth in a food processor. Then chocolate chips are added and this concoction is baked for about 1.5-2 hours. Easy-peasy!

These Vegan and Gluten-free Blondies are not only delicious, but also healthy. Made with dates, maple syrup, peanut butter and chickpeas

Vegan and Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Blondies

makes 1 8x8 square pan

Chickpeas, drained - 1 cup (540 ml)
Dates, pitted - 1/2 cup (about 8)
Peanut butter - 1/2 cup
Apple sauce - 1/4 cup
Maple syrup - 1/4 cup
Baking powder - 1 1/2 teaspoons
Chocolate chips - 1/2 cup
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  • Drain the chickpeas. Save the chickpea liquid for a delicious and unusual recipe that will follow shortly.
  • Add the chickpeas and the pitted dates to the food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • Add the peanut butter, apple sauce, maple syrup, and baking powder and process until smooth.
  • Add the chocolate chips and mix in with a spatula.
  • Line a square 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
  • Pour the batter in and smooth the top.
  • Bake for about 1.5-2 hours depending on your oven. The batter is pretty liquid, so it'll take a long time to cook. Check after an hour, depending on your oven it could be cooked already. If it's still too soft and the top is starting to burn, then cover with foil.

Comments

  • These blondies are delicious, but don't expect them to taste like the ones full of butter, sugar, and flour. 
  • As mentioned earlier, you can add 1/4-1/2 cup of oats to boost fiber content and process until smooth.
  • I used regular Kraft peanut butter, and it has some sugar in it already. If you are using natural peanut butter, then you might add a bit more maple syrup or more chocolate chips.
  • My oven takes longer to bake, so I had them in the oven for more than 2 hours, but I'm pretty sure that regular oven would be done faster.
These Vegan and Gluten-free Blondies are not only delicious, but also healthy. Made with dates, maple syrup, peanut butter and chickpeas
These Vegan and Gluten-free Blondies are not only delicious, but also healthy. Made with dates, maple syrup, peanut butter and chickpeas
Posted on June 14, 2016 and filed under Personal, Recipe, Baby.

Real explanation and Kefir Yeast Pancakes

I've been writing this post in my head for weeks now. You see, I was supposed to glow for the past few months, but apparently my body didn't get the memo. That's not entirely true, I glowed a few times in the middle of the night, changing yet another t-shirt, glistening and glowing with excess perspiration - glorious and unknown at that time to me side effect of pregnancy.

Other unexpected bonuses included terrible vivid nightmares, so bright and colourful that my husband had to wake me up because I was screaming in the night. Once I woke up from a particularly scary dream where I was fighting someone and used everything that I could to get away from the person including biting. I woke up because I bit myself, my arm bore red bite marks and I couldn't fall back asleep for a few hours. 

The glowing skin that I expected delighted me with angry little red spots over my face that still keep popping up every time I look at the mirror, just like mushrooms after a long summer rain. And hunger, oh hunger! So intense that I didn't think it was possible to ever be this hungry half an hour after eating breakfast. The moment this hunger strikes I can't wait for half an hour, 20 or even 10 minutes - I have to eat now, right this second. I think I'll be able to survive for weeks just eating all the food I have in my drawers at work and in my purse. 

Baby-licious is coming in September

And all this is coupled with nausea. At 5 months, I am still experiencing morning sickness. And by the way, whoever called this "morning" sickness needs to be punished. For me it's a 24-hour sickness. It's not as bad as it was in February when I couldn't move or think. But it's still there. Two weeks ago I decided to try and go off my special anti-nausea pregnancy pills. I got sick right on the street in front of Roy Thompson Hall - how classy! Well, there was a choice between a concert hall and a church, I chose the former. So, I'm back on the pills now.

It's much better than before. I'm almost back to normal, although I doubt I'll ever go back to the pre-pregnancy me. I'm tired a lot (where is that 2nd trimester energy?), I have little interest in food. I eat all the time, but I'm not thinking about food like I used to before. I hear rumours that it'll only get worse and I won't be able to sleep well or cook or blog or do anything for the next five years. I hope not.

Kefir Yeast Pancakes - extra fluffy from yeast, slightly tangy from kefir. Perfect for a lazy weekend.

These Kefir Yeast Pancakes were one of the first recipes I made since I got better this month. I started cooking occasionally back in April, but mostly just eggs, vegetable salads, and french toast (thankfully my husband stepped up and fed us over the past few months!). Yeast pancakes are for long lazy weekends as they need time to ferment and rise. They remind me of my childhood. My mom rarely used yeast, so yeast pancakes were always a special treat for me. I modified the recipe a little bit, reduced the amount of sugar and used Kefir instead of milk, just because I had kefir in my fridge. Yeast and kefir give these pancakes a characteristic sour, tangy flavour that pairs really well with thick maple syrup. 

Kefir is a Russian fermented milk drink, similar to drinking yogurt, but still different. It used to be sold only at specialty Russian stores, but now it can be found at any regular grocery store (at least here, in Greater Toronto Area). I tried many different brands, but Liberté is my favourite. I've been buying their product for at least 10 years. Many also make their own Kefir, which is supposed to be really easy but I've never tried it. If you are interested to make it yourself, then Lily from Gastrosenses has a good recipe with lots of explanations on how to make it.

Kefir Yeast Pancakes

Kefir Yeast Pancakes - extra fluffy from yeast, slightly tangy from kefir. Perfect for a lazy weekend.

Kefir Yeast Pancakes

14-16 pancakes, depending on size

Kefir - 2 cups
Brown sugar - 1/4 cup
Egg - 1
Yeast (dry) - 2 1/4 teaspoon
Flour - 1 1/2 cup
Salt - a pinch
Oil for pan frying
  • Add kefir to a large bowl and warm it to slightly above room temperature. I used a warm oven since I don't have a microwave, but microwave would be easier. Just make sure not to overheat the kefir, otherwise it'll curdle and turn into Farmers Cheese.
  • Once kefir is warm, add brown sugar, mix in an egg, then add yeast. Mix well.
  • Add flour, salt, mix until the flour disappears, but mixture is still lumpy. Do not over mix.
  • Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for an hour or until the mixture rises, almost doubling in size and gets airy. I sometimes place the bowl in a sink filled with warm water or on top of the stove with the oven on.
  • After an hour the batter should be ready.
  • Brush the frying pan with a little bit of oil, place heaping spoons of batter and fry for 3-4 minutes on medium (or low-medium) heat on each side. Since the pancakes are yeasty, the batter will be thick, so the pancakes take longer to cook through.
  • I usually make about four pancakes at a time and I keep the rest in a warm oven.
Kefir Yeast Pancakes - extra fluffy from yeast, slightly tangy from kefir. Perfect for a lazy weekend.

This post is NOT sponsored by Liberté, I had a couple of coupons for their product and I just genuinely love their kefir. Interestingly enough, I've never tried their yogurt.

Kefir Yeast Pancakes - extra fluffy from yeast, slightly tangy from kefir. Perfect for a lazy weekend.
Posted on May 24, 2016 and filed under Personal, Recipe, Baby.