Text overload after the jump, so please just take a moment to soak in the super deliciousness!
I’ve learnt so much over the past year or so through blogging – how to structure my thoughts a tad more coherently, how to set up little photo-shoots for one’s food (with still varying success), and to not be shy to ask questions and give hearty praise where it is sprung from the sheer joy of what other people have created. I’ve signed up for so many blogs in the last few months, much like a hoarder, simply because there is no end to the beautiful, inspiring and shockingly artistic ways in which people express themselves. I’ve been trying to be a bit braver in my photos, my choice of food and what I actually end up writing, much of which seems very personal to me. Then again, food is personal as well. It is something that I spend a lot of time on; researching, adapting, creating, planning… It really is a full-time passion! I always just hope that whomever I share my dishes with also sees it as more than just consumable items – that there’s a story behind every meal, every morsel. Sometimes what one makes, despite hours of prep and thought, comes out so normal, so essentially bland that it truly feels as if “edible” is no longer an acceptable term. I can’t simply eat a sandwich anymore without deconstructing its form, function and flavour, and I always dread and hope in equal measure that whoever makes a recipe I’ve jotted down or munches on a corner of some grub is the same.
Part of this journey of learning is sharing! As in my last post, I’ve been busy submitting recipes to various places, and I’ve now gotten onto Foodgawker for the second time with my spicy pumpkin, nut butter and bean pastry, as well as onto the shiny Finding Vegan with the tikka bean and zucchini cauliflower pizza of the other day. W00t! I love these sites with a passion – I spend so many hours a week trolling up and down discovering the most amazing dishes and photographs, so I’m super excited to be partaking in my small way 😀
Another aspect of the journey is learning how to make food for my family. I’m blessed to have a family (on both sides) that cooks and bakes wonderfully, and as such there are very high standards for any newcomer in the generation to try and meet, especially if one is a vegan to boot. My family is rather tolerant (though they will give me grief occasionally), and are very gracious when it comes to trying out my food, but I am still working towards making them roll their eyes in absolute decadent pleasure at a vegan meal or dish. Approving nods is a good sign, but I am a secret (or not so secret) perfectionist. There must be swooning! And so we march on!
In anticipation of a get-together today with the in-laws as an early birthday party for my FIL before the parents set sail on a Mediterranean cruise next week, I decided to offer up my efforts at making dessert. Usually my in-laws are very sweet about the things I make, even though I’m sure they’d rather just have a custard pastry or milk tart instead of bizarre raw cakes and very, very unsweet efforts (by South African standards). I suspect I take my FIL’s diabetes much more seriously than I should, but I usually refuse to go wild, because I know I will also suffer ill-effects. I am happy about my latest blood tests that show my sugar levels are well within the norms, after years of skating on very thin ice between “watch yourself” and “inject yourself”. My body tells me immediately if it’s not happy with my choices. Sugar-saturated dessert with cream and big, luscious canned fruit? Nap for an hour or two with what feels like sugar seeping out all my pores. Ugh!
Nevertheless, there come moments where one just goes so wild in the kitchen, jumping around from idea to another, all the while thinking “this is INSANE!” This dish integrates incredibly dense and moist chocolate and zucchini muffins with the tricks and sly glamour of the bread pudding. Oh yes. I couldn’t stop at the muffins, so I simply had to jazz it up even more!
Chocolate-zucchini fudge muffins: ingredients:
I made a modified version of Yvette’s deliriously decadent chocolate fudge cakes and nom! I love their recipes because they are low on sugar but are always so very much to my tastes.
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 soy milk
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1.5 TBSP agave syrup
- 1/2 cup pureed zucchini
- 3 TBSP cocoa powder
- splashes of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup ice water
- Preheat to 180C, and prepare 6 depressions in a muffin pan with non-stick.
- In a cup, let the milk and apple cider vinegar curdle for a few minutes after mixing.
- In a medium-large bowl, mix your dry ingredients then add wet, including the zucchini puree. Add in 1/4 chilled water and fold everything together.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly crispy and brown.
- Take out of oven and wait for next steps. I would recommending baking something else in the meanwhile, so as to let the muffins have an opportunity to cool down.
“Bread pudding” ingredients: (adapted from all over the internet – a pretty straight forward mix!)
- 2 cups soy/non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup light sugar/raw sugar/coconut sugar
- 1 TBSP cornstarch (gluten-free)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Lots of cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- Prepare a 8″ square or so dish and set aside.
- Decrease the temperature to 170C
- Whisk together the liquid ingredients with the cornstarch.
- Cut the muffins into little cubes and fill the bottom of your baking dish with them.
- Pour the mixture over it and let it sit for 10 or so minutes.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the middle is no longer soggy and the muffins have absorbed most of the liquid.
Oh heck yes! But wait, it didn’t end there! I decided to up the ante and add some delicious and uber naughty date syrup on top for the in-laws. The idea was to warm up the pudding with the date syrup, a glorious fusion of heavenly nom for the individual servings…yissss please! *swoon* I got the date syrup recipe directly from Oh Lady Cakes, and I’ve been making variations of this for a rather long while (espresso choco date syrup you’re on my hit list!).
The bread pudding, freshly made, is still squishy and forgiving in the middle, so poke some holes all round with a toothpick and make sure the date syrup can truly sink into the hot pudding…so divine! It may not be traditional in the sake of being stale bread, thus more porous and all that, and I didn’t bother to toast the bits, but I’m sure if I had patience and willpower I could make an actual muffin pudding to 100% replicate the texture and feel of the so-called original, even throwing in some raisins (though it’s honestly so sweet for me (and neutrally so I suspect for others) that I would have a true sugar overload!
When we got to the in-laws there were guests that we hadn’t been told were coming (though these people are great, so I’m not sad we got more people). My carefully portioned dessert wouldn’t work, so we slyly texted my SIL to stop somewhere and quickly buy a pudding or so. One usually should always make more than enough for seconds or what not, but sometimes there’s always leftovers so one doesn’t feel like that battle of “no, you take it home” vs “oh, no, I insist!” Either way, I’m not fussed! I left a share each for my SIL and her man, Foxtrot, as well as for my in-laws, with one little portion for myself to take home (since Man-thing already stuffed himself at the party).
Sometimes it’s good, after all the efforts, to actually sit back and eat one’s own food and smile in utter contentment, and realize that one can’t make everyone else happy or always induce the same feelings that you yourself experience. Going vegan and learning about what it means on an ethical, moral and practical level means that any food I make is more than just sustenance or something to bring along to an event; it is a conscious choice about saying “yes” to life (against ill-health, diabetes and other dangers) and also “yes” to being positive. What I eat or make for others is never about what I can’t do or have or consume; it’s about the plethora of choice, and the opportunities for decision. Before going vegan I never made anything to take with to parties or get-togethers. I would show up, eat as much as I could in front of people, and only offer to help “wash up” with the idea of licking bowls clean and making myself look pathetic enough to warrant a take-away. Now I’m happy to make something, even if I know only one out of twenty will eat it, because it’s my small way of showing trust, love and happiness. 🙂