Quick and Easy Brownies with Xylitol

I was recently treated to complimentary bags of Xylitol and Erythritol. These natural sweeteners, which are safe for diabetics and reportedly good for dental health, are produced from corn cobs or the bark of hardwood trees such as birch. Xylitol actively promotes their products in the US and Canada. They only use North American hardwood for their natural sugarless sweetener. Apart from the "sugar", this company offers an array of delightful products, including candy, chocolate, jam, syrup, ketchup, honey and some delightful mints that are rather addictive and most refreshing. This company also offers generous discounts.
xylitol brownies

As I prefer natural products, I was most excited to learn about Xylitol. I decided to try it with some brownies that are based on my recipe for Quick and Easy Fudgy Brownies. My husband and my best friend Basil wanted a treat and so I tried out the sweetener. It is as good as refined sugar and I would say even better. Chewy and moist — a perfect late night snack and you don't even have to feel guilty about indulging in a few.

More expensive, but worth the price. There are a few tips to follow when baking with this sweetener. It can be substituted for any recipe calling for sugar, though it does not work well with yeast meaning your bread won't rise as you wish. As for baking, like these brownies, you may need to add a bit more liquid or butter to maintain moisture because Xylitol does not caramelize when baking.

Verdict: just perfect and even more enjoyable than the original recipe I based it on.

Quick and Easy Brownies with XylitolQuick and Easy Brownies with Xylitol
Recipe by
Adapted from Quick and Easy Fudgy Brownies
Published on October 30, 2011

These quick and easy-to-make brownies are moist, chewy, fudgy and sweetened with all-natural Xylitol for a guilt-free treat

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Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Xylitol
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons plain or Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)
Instructions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan or line with parchment paper.

  • In a medium sized bowl, combine the Xylitol, cocoa and yogurt.

  • Add the beaten egg and vanilla and mix well.

  • Stir in the flour and then transfer the batter to the buttered pan.

  • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Makes sixteen 2-inch brownies
xylitol brownies

More brownie recipes you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chocolate Icing
Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies with Carob Chips
Chocolate Cocoa Brownies with Dried Cranberries and Chickpea Flour

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Arvo Part

Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Goda Masala


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
homemade goda masala

As I have noted before, fresh homemade spice blends are always superior to store-bought blends. For example, I whipped up a batch of goda masala for a tangy red lentil curry and was struck by the heavenly fragrance. The goda masala spice blend is a specialty of Maharashtrian cooking, adding a hot, earthy and dry seasoning to foods of the region, like dals, rice dishes, vegetable curries and khichadis. A pinch of goda masala would be an excellent choice for homemade flatbreads. The recipe for the blend comes from Sukham Ayu: Cooking at Home With Ayurvedic Insights by Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain, who included it as a tribute to the hills of Maharashtra. A big thanks again to these ladies for sending me a copy of their book.

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Huevos Rancheros Con Frijoles

A dear friend who moved up here from Arizona a couple of years ago has returned there this fall. I'll miss her very much, but she left me with a renewed appreciation for southwestern cooking and the inspiration for my own version of huevos rancheros con frijoles — a Mexican breakfast classic that translates as "ranch eggs with beans". I much prefer the Mexican name. Consisting of hot fried corn tortillas loaded with cheese, beans, salsa and topped with eggs, "rancheros" are hearty, zesty and delicious, and will warm you up and fill you up on a cool fall morning. You'll want them again and again.

Huevos Rancheros Con Frijoles

The eggs can be prepared in any style or in any number as you prefer (the rancheros are so filling, I have just one egg per tortilla). But I recommend cooking the eggs sunny side up or over easy for a soft center — the warm yolk running down through the salsa and beans is a delicious gooey treat! I also recommend making your own fresh uncooked salsa for an especially vibrant taste — you can try Basic Fresh Salsa or my Simple Salsa for ideas.

I used dried pinto beans in this recipe, but a 19-oz. can be substituted for faster results, though I find that if you take a few minutes to soak your beans the night before and boil them while you are preparing the rest of the steps for your dish, you won't really find that you save much time opening a can of beans instead of boiling up a batch. My palate prefers split and whole beans in their dried form because I find the canned varieties rather oily. I want control over how my legumes are cooked and I can only do that if I cook them myself. Certainly the dried variety is more economical too.

This is my submission to My Legume Love Affair, a popular monthly event started by lovely Susan of the The Well Seasoned Cook. Every month a generous and gorgeous array of recipes is featured consisting of one of the most nourishing foods that is especially suitable for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The host for the October edition is Suma of Veggie Platter.


Huevos Rancheros Con Frijoles RefritosHuevos Rancheros Con Frijoles Refritos
Recipe by
Cuisine: Mexican
Published on October 25, 2011

A Mexican breakfast classic! Melted cheese sandwiched between soft fried corn tortillas and topped with homemade refried beans, fresh salsa and runny eggs!

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Frijoles:
  • 2/3 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • *Note: black beans or red kidney beans can be substituted for pinto beans
Rancheros:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 7-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 or 8 large eggs, to preference
  • 2 cups fresh salsa
Instructions:
  • Rinse the pinto beans under cold running water and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Drain and gently mash with a fork or potato masher. Set aside.

  • To make the frijoles, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, wait a few seconds, then swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the garlic and jalapeños and stir for a minute or until the garlic is browned. Stir in the beans, corn, salt and chili powder and add a 1/4 cup of water. Heat for a few minutes until the beans and corn are warmed throughout, then reduce the temperature to medium-low. Keep warm, stirring occasionally, adding extra water if necessary to keep the beans moist.

  • To make the rancheros, preheat an oven to 150° and warm an oven-safe plate. Heat a small non-stick or cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Brush with a little olive oil and add a corn tortilla. Heat the tortilla for a minute or two on each side until the tortilla is soft and golden brown. Remove the tortilla and set aside. Add another tortilla to the pan and cook the first side. After flipping the second tortilla, scatter 1/4 of the shredded cheese over top and cover with the first tortilla. Cook for a minute, then remove to the oven. Repeat the process for every pair of tortillas, brushing the pan occasionally with more olive oil.

  • Keeping the tortillas warm in the oven, return the frying pan to the stove and use to fry the eggs according to taste and consistency.

  • To serve the huevos rancheros con frijoles, place the cheese-filled tortilla pairs on four serving plates. Spread a quarter of the frijole mixture over each tortilla pair, then top with a layer of salsa and one or two eggs according to preference. Garnish with a sprinkle of chili powder and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings
ranch eggs with beans

Other Mexican-style breakfast ideas you may enjoy:
Black and Green Bean Corn Hash
Jalapeño Breakfast Burritos
Chili Tortilla Scramble
Nigella's Mexican Scrambled Eggs
Vegetarian Stove-Top Calabacitas

On the top of the reading stack: The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

Audio Accompaniment: Fennesz

Rudi's Organic Bread and a Giveaway

A staple in any pantry is fine quality bread and I was recently treated to two loaves of organic bread from Rudi's Organic Bakery. Founded 35 years ago, for nearly 20 years the company has been using organic ingredients for their breads and baked goods. In the October issue of Vegetarian Times, Rudi's Rocky Mountain Sourdough bread was voted one of the top foods for vegetarians and non-vegetarians; you are sure to enjoy their offerings.

I was treated to some Spelt Bread (ingredients: organic spelt flour, water, organic whole spelt flour, organic evaporated cane juice, organic high oleic sunflower and/or safflower oil, sea salt, organic oat fiber, organic vinegar, organic potato flour, organic oat flour, cultured organic whole spelt flour, organic molasses, yeast, lactic acid, ascorbic acid, natural enzymes)


and Harvest Seeded Bread (ingredients: water, organic whole wheat flour, organic wheat flour, organic evaporated cane juice, yeast, organic pumpkin seeds, organic wheat gluten, organic sunflower seeds, organic high oleic sunflower/safflower oil, organic honey, organic oat bran, organic cornmeal, organic flaxseed, organic potato flour, organic rolled oats, organic poppy seeds, sea salt, organic vinegar, organic oat flour, organic cultured wheat starch, ascorbic acid, natural enzymes).

This seeded bread was also named one of the healthiest foods by Health Magazine.

Easy to digest and just plain good for you, their products include not only bread, but bagels, buns and rolls, english muffins and tortillas and wraps. They also offer gluten-free alternatives. Their website is lovely and I have been enjoying the harvest seeded bread toasted with peanut butter and jam. Perfect for sandwiches, especially considering all the simple organic ingredients that contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or trans-fat.

And now the fun part for my readers. I am offering a giveaway to residents of Canada and the US. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post noting your favorite bread, and please do follow Rudi's Bakery on Facebook. If you don't have a blog, please do include your email address so I know how to contact you should you be one of the two lucky winners. The prize is a free voucher from Rudi's Bakery and a lunch box. The contest will run until November 6th and then I will choose two random winners.

Dried Mushroom Curry


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
My cast iron skillet always turns out excellent results. I didn't have fresh mushrooms on hand, but I did have a good variety of dried mushrooms in my cupboard. I wish I had a pantry as my cupboards are packed full. I have a difficult time finding necessary ingredients and what an avalanche of spice jars and such falling out of the cupboard when I am searching for a desired ingredient. The trials and tribulations of having a packed kitchen, but I can't resist having staples on hand and then, all my spices — roughly 40 different ground spices, seeds and homemade blends.

Morels were my choice for a light lunch. Spices make this a most tantalizing light meal and the chewy texture of the mushrooms are just right. If you want to serve this alongside dinner, consider serving it with rice, a fresh salad and some baked potatoes and a dal soup.

dried mushrooms curry morels

Dried Mushroom CurryDried Mushroom Curry
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on October 21, 2011

A quick and easy spicy curry featuring the intense earthiness of dried mushrooms — great for a light lunch or side dish

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Ingredients:
  • 1/2 oz. dried mushrooms (I used morels)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil for frying
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • dash of asafoetida
  • 3 - 5 fresh green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions:
  • Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and chop coarsely. Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. When hot, add the mustard seeds and stir and fry until they turn grey and pop.

  • Immediately add the onion and cook until the onion turns translucent. Toss in the spices and chilies and stir and fry for a minute, then add the mushrooms. Stir and fry for five minutes and then add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until you achieve your desired consistency.

Makes 2 servings

More mushroom recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Scalloped Potatoes with Best Ever Mushroom Sauce
Best Ever Mushroom Sauce
Mushroom Marinara Sauce with Quinoa Pasta
Pasta with Goat Cheese and Mixed Mushrooms
Wild Mushroom and Paneer Pilaf with Urad Dal
Wild Rice Chowder with Fresh Coconut and Dried Mushrooms

Audio accompaniment: Pearl by Brian Eno and Harold Budd

On the top of the reading stack: The Siberian Curse by Fiona Hill

Curry-Laced Pumpkin and Potato Soup

pumpkin soup

Laced with just a hint of curry spice, this pumpkin and potato soup will invite your diners with a pleasing fragrance and the warm golden hues of autumn. Filled with anti-oxidants and vitamins and gentle on the tummy, this is a warming soup that helps strengthen your immune system. Simple but delicious, this is a perfect soup to serve on a cold fall day, and it's also a great way to use up any pumpkins that aren't turned into jack-o-lanterns.

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Jalapeño Frittata

My jalapeño crop is growing like crazy this year and what better way to use up a bunch than to a make a nourishing and filling frittata. Perfect for breakfast and a good dinner too. I know 12 peppers sounds crazy, but when they are baked with eggs and cheese, the heat is not unbearable. This is an easy frittata to make because you cook it in the oven and don't have to worry about flipping it onto a plate from the frying pan. Stress free. I do so love my cast iron skillet and consider it an essential cookery item for a well stocked kitchen. Now, if only I could find more room for all my staple food stuff and cookery.

jalapeno frittata

Fall is setting in, and I don't like it one bit, especially considering there has been nothing but days and days of constant rain and high winds here in Ontario. I much prefer warm sunshine and fresh air without having to bundle up. Let us hope winter holds off for a good few months at least, or maybe "global warming" or "climate change" will fix the problem of all the snow we get here in Ontario. I suppose more cooking will be going on to warm me up.

eggs breakfast

Jalapeño FrittataJalapeño Frittata
Recipe by
Published on October 16, 2011

An easy oven-baked fresh jalapeño and tomato frittata — great for breakfast or for dinner

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Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 large eggs
  • 12 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced into rounds
  • 1 1/2 cups extra old grated Cheddar cheese
Instructions:
  • Heat a large wok over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, wait a few seconds, then swirl around to coat the pan. Toss in the grape tomatoes and stir for just 30 seconds or so to blister the skins. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  • Add the onions to the hot oil and sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Toss in the basil, stir quickly, and remove the pan from heat.

  • Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat well with a whisk. Add the grape tomatoes, onions, basil, jalapeños, and 1 cup of the grated Cheddar cheese. Mix until combined.

  • Preheat an oven to 350°. Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or oven-safe frying pan with straight sides over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, wait a few seconds, then swirl around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour in the egg mixture and let cook undisturbed for 4 minutes to let the bottom set.

  • Transfer the frying pan to the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are set in the centre, which you can test with a cake tester. As soon as the frittata is set, turn on the broiler and move the oven rack up to the top level. Remove the frittata from the oven, sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of Cheddar cheese over the top, and return the pan under the broiler for another couple of minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the top is nicely browned.

  • Remove the pan from the oven. Run a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the sides, then slide onto a large serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot.

  • Wrap any leftovers in aluminum foil and reheat later at 350° for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 4 - 6 servings
Jalapeño Frittata

More egg recipes from Lisa's Kitchen:
Fiery Deviled Eggs
Eggs in a Mulligatawny Sauce
Korean-style Poached Eggs
Indian-Style Baked Eggs Florentine

Curried Quinoa Salad with Lentils and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Inspired by Valerie of City Life Eats who was one the winners of the August No Croutons Required Challenge featuring lentils, I adapted this recipe based on her Curried Quinoa Salad with Lentils. I just couldn't wait to try it as it contains some of my favorite ingredients and I never can resist the goodness and nutty flavor of quinoa. Known to the ancient Incans as the "mother of all grains," quinoa is not really a cereal grass but is used just like a grain, with the important difference that is contains a food value that no grain can match. With an almost perfect balance of essential amino acids, quinoa is an unusually complete source of proteins in the plant kingdom, and is also a very good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E.

curry quinoa and lentil salad

This tantalizing salad is perfect for a summer meal. I served it to my family along with a leafy green salad. A crowd pleaser for sure. An interesting range of textures and flavors all in one dish, the crunch of the vegetables, the nutty fluffiness of the quinoa combined with lentils, the flavors all come together with the spices and cashew dressing. Refreshing, perfectly balanced, making this dish an excellent choice for vegetarians.

Instead of the curry powder and other spices, you can use 2 teaspoons of garam masala and 2 teaspoons of a fresh curry blend made up of the following: a dash of asafoetida, a 1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard, a 1/2 teaspoon of ground fennel seeds, 1 - 2 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped, a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom, a pinch of saffron, fresh cracked black pepper to taste, and 3 tablespoons of dried crumbled fenugreek leaves.

Feel free to reduce the recipe for a smaller serving and do increase the spices if you like it hot like I do. I was a bit more modest with the spicing than usual as I was serving it to my family who are not used to the heat like I am.

Curried Quinoa Salad with Lentils and Sun-Dried TomatoesCurried Quinoa Salad with Lentils and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Recipe by
Adapted from City Life Eats
Published on October 12, 2011

Packed with flavor and nutrition, this quinoa and lentil salad is perfect for summer meals

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Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dried quinoa
  • 1 cup green or brown lentils
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews, broken into pieces
  • juice from two lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • dash of mustard powder
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 - 3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup of scallions, both green parts and white parts, finely chopped
Instructions:
  • Rinse the quinoa under cold running water and soak overnight in 2 cups of water. Bring the quinoa to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

  • Rinse the lentils, transfer to a medium pot, and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain off any excess water. Combine the cooked quinoa and lentils in a large bowl, and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and chop finely. Dry roast the cashew pieces over medium-low heat until golden brown, and set aside.

  • To make the dressing, blend the roasted cashews, mustard powder, black pepper, spices, salt, water and honey in a blender or food processor until creamy. Add some of the dressing to the quinoa and lentils and toss. Now add the red pepper, jalapeños, scallions and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the rest of the dressing and stir well to combine.

  • Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 6 - 8 servings
Other quinoa dishes you are sure to enjoy:
Spicy Lentil Quinoa Nut Loaf
Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Breakfast Quinoa Porridge
Quinoa Soup with Corn

Popovers

popovers

Hot popovers slathered with butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper fresh out of the oven have long been among my favourite late-night treats — provided I've got the patience to wait the half hour that they take to bake, time that's usually spent gazing through the oven door with anticipation. But any patience exhausted by waiting on baking time is compensated for by a quick and easy preparation, and rewarded by light and fluffy treats with a delicious egg-y flavor. A perfect treat to go along with your meal at holidays.

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Mixed Lentil Dal


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mixed Lentil Dal

A proper and nourishing vegetarian diet must consist of a balance of legumes, grains and vegetables for complete proteins. This dal is easy to prepare and just right with a dressed up rice dish on the side such as Indian Lemon Brown Rice. A creamy blend of split dals, and a most delectable blend of spices along with the paste that makes the dish full of flavor and just right.

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Blue Grape Pancakes

Blue Grape Pancakes

Those of us living in Ontario or the northeastern United States have always been fortunate to be able to enjoy baskets of fresh Concord grapes every fall. Even more fortunate has been the arrival several years ago of a seedless variety known locally as "Coronation" or "Ontario Blue Grapes". Bursting with an unmistakeable sweet and tangy juice, I snack on these deep-blue-skinned grapes almost compulsively at this time of year, and both Concords and Coronations are great for jams, jellies, preserves, and even pies.

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