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Healthier Holiday Cookie Box

December 16, 2017

I saw a holiday cookie box over at Half Baked Harvest a few days ago and thought hey, I could do that. This post is inspired by her cookie box, but with some healthier, dairy/egg-free options. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean we need headaches & bad skin for the next few weeks! But Tieghan is obviously some sort of food superhero and posts a beautifully photographed recipe every day, even though she just released a cookbook. How?! I made about 150 cookies in a day and photographed them the next day - and now we have way too many cookies for two people. Good thing we have a spare freezer. 

This is a plant based cookie box with healthy-ish recipes and a couple of gluten/grain-free options. The types I chose here were specifically because they're a bit more budget friendly than some others I have on the blog, and they're all great Christmas flavours. A few of the recipes call for honey but there are vegan guidelines included in the posts, and they're all refined sugar free. I've outlined the recipes you'll need if you want to make a grain-free box at the bottom of the post. 

Here are the cookies I used in the box:

Honey and Oat Cookies 

Lebukuchen (German Spiced Cookies) 

Orange Spice Shortbread

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

     - I made these in a mini version - 1 teaspoon for the dough, and halved the baking time. So cute!

Raw Caramel Chocolates

     - just make these into balls instead of eggs (they're like rolos) my favourite!

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies

Chocolate Orange Macaroons

A few other recipes on the blog would be great additions to a holiday cookie box:
     • Apple Crumble Bars
     • Winter Raw Chocolate Bar - you could make this with dark chocolate for snappy bark!
     • Mini Raw Bounty Bars - I'll be making these for one of my aunts

And to make a kickass grain-free (& very chocolatey!) version, consider making a box with just these:
     • Mini Raw Bounty Bars
     • Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie - this is my recipe, shared on Traci's blog

All of the cookies freeze spectacularly so you can make them all ahead of time and freeze them in well sealed containers, then assemble when you're ready to gift. You could ship them, but note that cookies tend to exchange moisture content and crispy cookies will get a lot less crispy the longer they're mixed with other higher-moisture cookies, like the macaroons. 

I have a few more holiday recipes coming up before Christmas, including an exciting vegan main - keep an eye out!

Let's connect! Tag me on instagram @occasionallyeggs and #occasionallyeggs so I can see what you're making, or stay in touch via facebook and pinterest.

Orange Spice Shortbread

December 14, 2017

If you're looking at this picture and thinking the icing looks a little messy, well. It is! Making only trees might have been a better decision in hindsight. I struggled a bit with the other shapes, hah. To make things even sillier, I used a syringe to pipe the icing because I don't have an icing bag, and we don't use plastic bags. It worked in a pinch but I don't recommend raiding your medicine cabinet to ice cookies! Instead of using icing, I chose melted (vegan) white chocolate because although I have a healthier icing recipe using coconut butter, it's a bit pricy. The white chocolate tastes great with these cookies and you could sub dark chocolate if you'd like. Chocolate is a million times easier than making icing and you know it'll harden up properly and not smear all over everything when you transport or pack up the cookies, win win. 

This recipe is adapted from my friend Traci's vegan dark chocolate shortbread cookies which was an absolute revelation for me. It ended up being a rather loose adaptation as I was going for a different flavour profile, but the method is straight from Vanilla and Bean. Her blog is a gem and she has such a wide breadth of knowledge. The really big difference with these cookies compared to others is that there's a significant amount of liquid (orange juice in this case), more than you think they'll need, and the dough has a higher moisture content than most. It'll seem like a mistake, but it isn't. Trust. You refrigerate the dough, much like normal shortbread, and the coconut oil firms everything up. It's a total miracle cookie. If anyone other than Traci had made this recipe I probably would have scoffed at it, hah, but I know how much she tests everything, so I tried it out - best vegan shortbread ever.  I've been meaning to do an adaptation ever since and lucked out that orange juice worked in place of water! The recipe might seem a little tricky but just read the directions carefully and they'll turn out perfectly. It's not more difficult than other cookies, just a bit different, and after the first time making them it'll make sense.

These cookies are perfect for the holidays, with a lovely flavour from the orange and spices. If you're worried that they'll be too sticky, don't be. The method really is amazing and the cookies are so easy to cut and work with. I've even freehanded them before and didn't have any issues at all with ripping or sticking, even though they're made with coconut oil, spelt flour, and coconut sugar. A note about chilling the dough before baking - you don't really need to, as far as I can tell. I've included it in the instructions just in case it's the type of pan I have. I tested several times with freezing and several without and didn't have any problems at all with spreading. That being said, if you're concerned then definitely take the step to chill before baking. If you live in a cold area just stick them in the snow for a bit, that's what I always used to do! I've made these as slice and bake cookies before too and that worked, but it's the season for cutout cookies. 

This is the only cookie recipe I have planned before Christmas, but I will be sharing another excited cookie related post tomorrow! There's a very exciting holiday main coming your way this week too, keep your eyes peeled.

Let's connect! Tag me on instagram @occasionallyeggs and #occasionallyeggs so I can see what you're making, or stay in touch via facebook and pinterest.

Orange Spice Shortbread
Makes about 24 cookies, depending on size

1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup orange juice*
Zest of an orange
1 cup light spelt flour
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg*
1/2 vanilla powder
1 cardamom seed, crushed*
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, juice, and zest until the sugar is completely incorporated and no visible grains remain (fully hydrated). Sift in the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Stir until combined.

Shape the dough into a disc (it will be quite wet), and place onto a piece of parchment* paper. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. It should be just stiff enough to roll but not so hard that it can't be indented when pressed with a finger.

Generously flour a countertop and rolling pin. Place the chilled dough onto the counter and hit it a couple of times with the rolling pin, then roll, turning occasionally, to a 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness. Dip your cookie cutters in flour then cut the dough into your desired shapes. Gather the scraps, press them together, and roll again. Repeat until all the dough has been cut.

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 10 minutes. Remove from the freezer and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden but still soft to the touch. Remove and cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a rack.

To ice the cookies, melt a white chocolate bar with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Use a piping bag (or syringe) to pipe designs onto the cooled cookies. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate, then store in a sealed container for up to three days.

• The dough can be refrigerated longer, like overnight. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, make sure you wrap it very well before refrigerating and place it on the counter for half an hour to warm up a bit before trying to roll it out.
• The raw dough can be successfully frozen. Double wrap it before freezing, thaw it in the fridge, then follow the steps in the above tip when you're ready to bake.
• After three days, the cookies become quite soft. Keep them in the fridge or freeze them in a well-sealed container to preserve crispiness.

1. This was one orange for me. You can use bottled juice but you need orange zest in any case, so it might as well be fresh juice.
2. If you use ground nutmeg, increase it to 1/2 teaspoon.
3. For ground cardamom, use 1/4 teaspoon.
4. You can wrap the dough in plastic wrap, but it's not necessary. It won't dry out in 15 minutes and you don't need the plastic.

Roasted Cauliflower Grain Bowls

December 12, 2017

I have a rule at the grocery store that I don't buy anything that costs over 4€/kilogram. The great thing about that is that I rarely spend more than 20 bucks on groceries to fill my backpack, but the negative is that I don't get any of the exciting stuff. 4€/kilo is pretty generous and I usually keep it lower, except for things like broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy vegetables. We have a strict budget and we're lucky to have pretty good variety at our local shop so I'm not making the same thing over and over. In Canada we tried to only buy organic but it was so difficult, and we ate potatoes and broccoli almost every day in the winter months, just because there wasn't anything else available.

What I'm trying to get at here is that I know a lot of food bloggers buy foods just because they look pretty and I'm always a bit disappointed when I see other people who live in northern climates loading up on imported everything in the winter. There are plenty of inexpensive options and you can still eat well, and maybe add a bit of imported produce (like pomegranate, for example) for something extra without ignoring what's available locally. We live pretty far north and have access to a large array of produce - potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, apples, pumpkins, and onions, among others. I do buy oranges in the winter and don't feel bad about it, but it's all about balancing. I've been thinking a lot about how distance is relative depending on where you grew up. For me, a 3-4 hour drive isn't far to go, and we considered food from BC (to Manitoba) to be about as local as possible in the winter. Now, I question whether I should be buying something from Italy, even though it's likely less of a distance than it is to send food within Canada.

This is a good, simple grain bowl made with local winter vegetables. Roasted cauliflower, pumpkin, and garlic are mixed with chickpeas and spices, then served over a herby bulgur and greens. I topped it off with my main lemon and dijon dressing, this time with the addition of roasted garlic. The garlic is roasted with the other vegetables. If you want to switch things up a bit, I'd try subbing out the bulgur for something like quinoa, which would also make this gluten free, using your favourite dressing, or changing up the greens. I like it the way it is but grain bowls are inherently adaptable, so go nuts. I love using roasted cauliflower as it just makes everything a bit cozier.

Let's connect! Tag me on instagram @occasionallyeggs and #occasionallyeggs so I can see what you're making, or stay in touch via facebook and pinterest.

Roasted Cauliflower Grain Bowls
Serves 2

1 small head cauliflower
1 small pumpkin*
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 small yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, skin on*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sumac

Roasted Garlic & Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of a lemon
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

To build your bowl:
1 cup cooked bulgur*
1/2 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (oregano, mint, parsley)
2 cups greens*
Sunflower or other seeds for topping

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F. Cut the cauliflower and pumpkin into chunks of approximately the same size, and place them along with the chickpeas, onion, garlic, and spices onto a large baking sheet. Add the olive oil and spices, then mix, using your hands, until the vegetables are fully coated. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

To make the dressing, place the garlic into a small bowl and use a fork to mash it. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until fully combined.

To serve, combine the bulgur and herbs. Place half of the lettuce in each bowl, add the herbed bulgur, and the roasted vegetables. Top with the dressing and seeds, and serve warm.

1. I've used a hokkaido pumpkin, which doesn't need to be peeled. Butternut can be used instead.
2. Just pop the individual cloves of garlic out of their skins after roasting.
3. To cook bulgur, simply place 1 part bulgur to 2 parts boiling water into a heatproof bowl, stir with a fork, and place a lid overtop. The bulgur will steam within about 10 minutes, no cooking required.
4. I chose mâche lettuce because it's cheap, local, and readily available. Rucola or baby spinach would both be excellent substitutions.

Cozy Sunflower Seed Banana Bread

December 06, 2017

Hi! We're getting right into the holiday swing of things now and I've been working my butt off to get all my jewellery gifts made in time to send to Canada (fingers crossed). After that I'll be making the gifts for family and friends over here, and then it'll be time to make some food gifts. I'm thinking truffles for sure, cookies, and bread. I love giving this easy dark rye and there are several holiday cookie recipes on the blog, plus more coming soon. I'll be sharing a few recipes for gifting in the next couple of weeks, and let me know in the comments if there's something you'd love to see!

This is a recipe for the chillier days arriving with winter, something to bake on a rainy day. It'll heat your home as it bakes and give it a cozy scent of cinnamon and nutmeg. I make this type of whole grain, higher protein banana bread about once a week during autumn and winter and leave a loaf on the counter for quick breakfasts or snacks. Top it with extra nut or seed butter to make it even more filling, and add a little honey or maple syrup if you like a touch more sweetness.

The banana bread can easily be adapted to suit your tastes. Try using a mix of chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews) instead of the seeds, sub sesame or hemp for the seeds that are used, or switch out the tahini for another nut/seed spread, or mix in a little dark chocolate to the batter. You can also use a different dried fruit instead of dates, like blueberries or cherries. That being said, I really love the combination of the seeds, dates, and slightly bitter olive oil and tahini. It's a bit of an adult, luxury banana bread and perfectly suitable to eat throughout the day. The loaf itself isn't very sweet but the dates add little bites of sweetness - don't leave them out. You could use other dried fruit like raisins or cranberries if you prefer. Topping with the sunflower seeds adds visual interest and a nice flavour and texture.

Don't be turned off by the long ingredient list, it's mostly seeds and spices. You can use the seeds you have in your pantry, but the ingredients in this recipe are easy to find. Make sure to wait until your bananas are turning brown and spotty before using them as you need the natural sweetness from the overripe fruit. This loaf is quite sturdy and it makes a nice food gift during the holidays. I've gifted this to several people here in Germany and they always go nuts for it, because banana bread is a bit of a rarity over here. We like to have it around for snacking and it's a nice healthier option if you're craving something sweet.

Let's connect! Tag me on instagram @occasionallyeggs and #occasionallyeggs so I can see what you're making, or stay in touch via facebook and pinterest

Cozy Sunflower Seed Banana Bread
Makes one loaf

2 cups / 230 grams whole spelt flour
1/2 cup / 80 grams raw sunflower seeds, plus extra for topping
1/4 cup / 40 grams pepitas
1/4 cup / 50 grams chia seeds
1/4 cup / 60 grams semi-dried dates, chopped
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg*
3 medium / 400 grams overripe bananas, mashed
1/2  cup / 125 ml non-dairy milk (oat or nut)
1/4 cup / 60 ml olive oil
1/4 cup / 60 ml maple syrup or honey
3 tablespoons tahini

Preheat your oven to 350F / 180C and grease* a standard loaf tin (I use coconut oil). 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the chopped dates and stir to coat them in the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients.

In a shallow bowl, mash the bananas. Add the milk, olive oil, maple syrup, and tahini. Use a fork to gently mix the wet ingredients together until incorporated.

Add the banana mixture to the large bowl and use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and gently tap the tin on the counter to settle it. Leave the centre higher than the edges. Top the batter with another handful of sunflower seeds.

Place in on the middle rack in your oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the loaf is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If your oven runs a little hot then make sure to check the bread at about the 40 minute mark.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin on a cooling rack for ten minutes, then gently remove it and let it cool completely before storing. Eat at least one slice warm if you can. It keeps for 3-5 days on the counter, wrapped well, and may be frozen.

1. Use 1/2 teaspoon of pre-ground nutmeg if you don't have whole.
2. It tastes better with a greased pan (extra fat, maybe?) but you can also line it if you prefer.

Coconut, Orange, and Chocolate Birthday Cake

November 26, 2017

Happy birthday to me! Hi, I'm 26 now, but still think I'm 20 when people ask. White hairs are coming in at an exponential rate now and I'm planning on becoming a full-blown witch by the time I'm 40. I've entered into the second half of my 20s, probably the second quarter of my life, and I'm good with that. If I had stuck to my original career path I'd be halfway through a PhD by now and I'm pretty thrilled to have avoided that. Thanks you so much to all of you for being here for the past couple of years (and newer readers, too!), your support means the world to me, and it's because of you that I'm able to make this into my job.

Some really wonderful things have happened this year. I got off antidepressants, improved my German, started making this blog into a real career, and really learned how to live minimally after a year of very uncertain and unreliable income. Last year at my birthday we had just moved to Germany. I wouldn't say that I'm ecstatically happy here, and we certainly miss our friends and surroundings back home (I need to see a proper lake and some snow very soon please) but it's been a worthwhile experience and overall I've enjoyed our time here so far. Connecting with my family has been wonderful and I've made some lovely friends, plus learned to live in a city with a completely different system than I was used to, including not driving a car for over a year now. We're staying in Germany for a few more months before we're off to another country in Europe for a year or so, but I'm not yet sure where. Fingers crossed for somewhere with snow, forests, and big lakes!

This is birthday cake number four for my blog, and it really is the best one so far. I asked on instagram which flavour combination I should do and got some excellent suggestions, which I squirrelled away for later, but ended up brainstorming with my sister and eventually stuck on chocolate, orange, and coconut. Three of my all-time favourite things together in one cake, and I love it. I made a test cake earlier this week and we had finished by the next day, so I ended up giving about half of this cake away to friends. We had my birthday coffee with family on the weekend so I made another cake and cinnamon rolls, which are apparently my thing now. (Let me know if you want a recipe!)

The trick with this cake is to make the elements the day before and then assemble everything the following day. You could hypothetically made it early in the morning but I think it really helps to reduce any stress if you do it all beforehand. The cake itself is very forgiving and won't dry out overnight if it's in a sealed container, and has to cool in any case, as does the ganache. But it's a simple cake to make and the whipped ganache is certainly easier than whipped coconut cream in my books, because coco cream can be a bit fiddly depending on the brand you're using. Plus, chocolate is always better, especially in this case. This whipped ganache is out of this world. I was inspired by my dear friend Traci from Vanilla and Bean who posted a recipe a while back including whipped ganache, and it's become my go-to vegan frosting ever since. The cake base here is spelt flour and added sugar (maple syrup in this case) is kept to a minimum - 1/2 cup in the entire cake! - but the coconut makes it sweet enough. I found that I needed the dark chocolate icing to keep it from being too sweet for me despite that.

It's a bit tricky not to go totally overboard with different flavour combinations with a recipe like this. I felt like a puppy being distracted by too many toys - I can add ginger! Or nutmeg! Pomegranate! And while I think you could add different extras to make the cake a little more varied, I think this is best as is. I see a chocolate, orange, and ginger dessert somewhere in my future. Nutmeg is usually added to coconut bread (which I love, & need to post a better recipe for) and my mind keeps going there as this cake reminds me of the coconut bread I grew up eating. The cake itself is a triple coconut cake with with orange zest and juice to add brightness and a seasonal twist. This cake was a hit with everyone who tried it and I can see it being a bit of an interesting holiday cake instead of your standard cranberry or spice cake, just in case you don't have a birthday coming up.

Let's connect! Tag me on instagram @occasionallyeggs and #occasionallyeggs so I can see what you're making, or stay in touch via facebook and pinterest. Happy baking!

Coconut, Orange, and Chocolate Birthday Cake
Makes one layer cake, serves several

Coconut and Orange Cake

2 1/2 cups / 250 grams light spelt flour
1 1/2 cups / 150 grams shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder*
1 cup / 250ml coconut milk
1 cup / 250ml orange juice*
1/2 cup maple syrup*
1/2 cup / 140 grams coconut oil, melted
Zest of 4 organic oranges 

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and grease two 20cm / 8 inch springform pans* with coconut oil. In a large bowl, sift together* the spelt flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla powder. Stir in the shredded coconut and make a well in the centre.

In another bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, orange juice, maple syrup, and orange zest. Slowly add the coconut oil in a steady stream, whisking, until incorporated. Doing this keeps the coconut oil from solidifying into large chunks as it's added.

Pour the orange juice mixture into the dry ingredients and gently whisk until just combined. Don't over mix. Pour half of the batter into one prepared pan and the other half into the second pan. Shake gently to level the batter and then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and pulling away from the edges of the pans. If you're not sure, do a toothpick test. 

Place the cakes onto a cooling rack and cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing the sides. Cool for another 30 minutes before carefully flipping and removing the base of the pan. Cool completely before placing into a sealed container to keep before icing and serving.

Chocolate Orange Whipped Ganache

2 cups / 500 ml coconut cream, from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk
150 grams (1 1/2 bars) dark chocolate, 70% cocoa or higher
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
Zest of an organic orange
Pinch salt

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl, then set aside. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium to a simmer. Pour the milk over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds, then whisk to combine. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and salt, then whisk again. Cool in the refrigerator overnight or for at least four hours.

When you're ready to assemble the cake, take the ganache out of the fridge. Use a hand-mixer to whip on high for 2-3 minutes or until fluffy. It will seem too hard at first but the beaters will manage. Place one cake onto your serving dish or board, add about 1/3 of the ganache, and spread it out in an even layer. Place the second cake on top and use the remaining ganache to coat the top and sides of the cake. Top with melted chocolate (I chose dark orange chocolate), orange zest, and some shaved or grated chocolate. Serve immediately. The cake keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but it will have a denser texture after being refrigerated.

1. You can use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in place of the vanilla powder in the cake. Just add it to the wet ingredients.
2. I squeezed the four oranges I used for the zest and it was exactly a cup (lucky!) and I recommend using fresh juice if you can. If your oranges aren't very juicy then top it off with juice from the fridge.
3. I have tested this with runny honey and it works as well. I personally find it a bit too sweet with honey but it's a fine substitution.
4. There's a good chance that regular cake pans would work, but I haven't tried it.
5. Spelt flour tends to be a bit lumpy, so sifting is quite important. I just use a fine sieve and bang on the side to get it to go through.
6. If you let it sit the icing will become more solid instead of retaining the fluffy texture, so it's best to eat it right away if you can.