A Festive Fall Dessert: Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cake

When Fall arrives, all I think about is PUMPKINS!!  I really like the smell, taste and texture of the ripe pumpkins during this season.

I love this time of year when the leaves change into beautiful colours, and fruits and vegetables are ready to be picked and eaten; and it’s always fun to have a hot cup of apple cider after a nice outdoor hike or walk!  Another special reason that I love Fall is that many of my dearest family members and friends are born during this season, so it’s one joyful celebration after another.  Plus, Thanksgiving is one of my most favourite celebrations as it’s a time to gather with our loved ones and be thankful for all the wonderful things we have in our lives. 🙂

In honour of my favourite season and a few special friends, who have been with me through thick and thin, I made the following cake for their joint birthday party.

This scrumptious cake is gluten-free, dairy-free and is naturally sweet!

After a bite, one of my friends said that it reminds her of pumpkin pie.  If you’re looking for something different this year, I think this cake is the perfect replacement for the pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving meal! 🙂

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

Makes: 1 cake

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it nut-free, you can skip the walnuts as topping.

-If you like, you can eat cake without icing, and that means you can eat it fresh and warm immediately! 🙂

-It’s best to refrigerate leftovers and consume within 3 days for best taste and texture.

 

For Cake

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (you can also make your own, see: http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/make-your-own-gluten-free-baking-powder)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup honey

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin; or you can make your own fresh pumpkin purée, see: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/cooking_school/how_to_make_pumpkin_puree_from_fresh_pumpkins.php)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 large egg, whisked

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 cup dark chocolate chunks

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray a round cake pan or Bundt pan.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  6. Slowly add chocolate chunks into batter.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared cake/Bundt pan.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost crumb free.

 

For Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (I used Daiya’s Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread)

4 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, softened (I used Earth Balance’s Soy Free Buttery Spread)

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups organic icing sugar

10 whole walnuts, semi-crushed or coarsely chopped

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix cream cheese, buttery spread, maple syrup, and vanilla into a blender/food processor.
  2. Add in the icing sugar one cup at a time into blender/food processor, until smooth.
  3. When the cake is cool, frost with the icing.
  4. Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours before serving.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

 

*I give credit to the following sites for helping me in creating this delightful festive Fall cake:

~Original Recipe for Cake: http://www.familyfreshcooking.com/2013/09/30/gluten-free-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cake-recipe/#.UlNf79IQbmc

~Original Recipe for Icing: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca/2005/12/maple-frosted-pumpkin-cake.html

 

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing upcoming time with your family and friends! 🙂

 

xoxo, Violet

 

P.S. Love this quote for this season: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”—Melody Beattie

A Summer-Inspired Salad!

Simple and healthy ingredients: baby spinach, strawberries, walnuts, black sesame seeds and apple cider vinegar.

Simple and healthy ingredients: baby spinach, strawberries, walnuts, black sesame seeds and apple cider vinegar.

Since strawberries are in abundance during this summer season, and it was Canada Day yesterday, I really wanted to make a healthy and light salad to go with the red patriotic theme (minus white!) for my guests.  It was so simple to make and quick, and it was a hit at the party! 🙂

Here’s the recipe:

VIOLET’S STRAWBERRY, WALNUT & BABY SPINACH SALAD

Serves: 8-10 people

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: about 1 minute

Ingredients:

1 package/bag organic baby spinach

1 cup sliced organic strawberries

1 cup chopped walnuts (you can also get raw walnuts in a package that are already in pieces)

4 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. Wash, drain and dry baby spinach and strawberries.
  2. Slice strawberries into quarters.
  3. Chop walnuts if you need to.
  4. Toss baby spinach, strawberries and walnuts in a salad bowl with the apple cider vinegar.
  5. Sprinkle black sesame seeds into the salad as garnish.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Special healthy and important facts I learned from the following food:

Strawberries- One serving of strawberries provides 51.5 mg of Vitamin C, about half of our daily requirements.  They are also good for our eyes and prevent wrinkles!

Walnuts- They are high in protein, vitamin E (helps protect dry skin from environment), fibre, some B vitamins, magnesium, calcium and potassium.  Also, they contain melatonin, a hormone that helps ensure good sleep (good sleep = radiant, supple skin) and increases antioxidant activity.

Baby Spinach- It is low in calories and high in water content.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program, it is among the top 12 foods where pesticide residues are found, which is detrimental to our health.  Therefore, it’s best to buy and eat only organically grown baby spinach!

Apple Cider Vinegar (raw)- It helps promote the growth of probiotics (good bacteria in our intestines that aid in digestion) and helps balance the yeasts and bacteria in our bodies that feed off sugar.  According to Kimberly Snyder, eating it may help alleviate sugar cravings.  You have to buy a brand labelled “raw” and “unfiltered” to reap the many health benefits of it.

Black Sesame Seeds-They benefit us in increased energy and longevity!

 

If you like to learn more about any of the food, please check out where I got the information:

http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/healthy-eating/10-health-benefits-of-strawberries

The Beauty Detox Foods: Discover the Top 50 Beauty Foods that Will Transform Your Body and Reveal a More Beautiful You by Kimberly Snyder

http://www.livestrong.com/article/258415-what-is-the-nutritional-value-of-baby-spinach/

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5875/15-Reasons-to-Use-Apple-Cider-Vinegar-Every-Day.html

http://krisheeter.hubpages.com/hub/Black-Sesame-Seeds-a-fountain-of-youth

 

Happy Summer!! 😀

Cheers, Violet

Craving for Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Even though I’m a chocoholic at heart and have a sweet tooth, I have cut down on my sugar intake greatly (through eating chocolates and baked goods) in the past 6 months.  After I began seeing my naturopathic doctor, I am now more aware of the importance of eating right, and how it is connected to my overall health and wellness.  Healthy eating is truly a reflection on how you feel.  In the past 6 months, at the advice of my naturopathic doctor, I have reduced sugar and dairy from my diet, and increased my fruit and vegetable consumption.  I also tried my best to cut down on eating processed food.  The wondrous discovery from eating healthier is that I find my energy level has increased and I no longer feel bloated or sluggish anymore!

However, about 2 months ago, I had this craving for my favourite chocolate chip cookies.  I knew clearly that I shouldn’t buy them from a package as I used to, since it’s processed food, and the thought of eating homemade chocolate chip cookies made from butter and white/brown sugar seemed unappetizing.  Suddenly, I was inspired to google and see if there was such a thing as a healthy homemade chocolate chip cookie out there!  To my joy, I found this website (see below), and realized that I can eat my chocolate chip cookie without feeling yucky.  After experimenting with and baking a successful batch of cookies, using healthier ingredient substitutions, I learned that “balance” is the key to sweetness in life, even when it pertains to baking and eating!

Below you will find my version of healthy chocolate chip cookies, inspired by http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/kitchen_tips_techniques/how_to_make_chocolate_chip_cookies_healthier.  It is a very big hit with my health-conscious family!

VIOLET’S HEALTHY OATMEAL PEANUT BUTTER WALNUT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

My Version of Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Makes: 24 cookies

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: about 1 hour

Special Note: This version tastes less sweet than the classic chocolate chip cookie, but still tastes delicious with a nutty flavour, and is a healthy source of fiber, protein, omega-3, and calcium!

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats (I like using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup tahini

2 tablespoons organic creamy peanut butter (replaces butter)

2/3 cup manuka honey (replaces sugar)

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½  cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

½ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Mix oats, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Blend tahini and peanut butter in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add manuka honey, and continue mixing until well combined.
  5. Beat in egg, then egg white, and then vanilla.
  6. Stir in the oat mixture until just moistened.
  7. Finally, stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  8. With damp hands, roll 1 tablespoon of the batter into a ball, place it on the baking sheet and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick; don’t let the sides crack.  Continue until batter is gone, spacing the flattened balls 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Let the cookies cool completely or if you can’t resist the freshly baked cookies while it’s still warm, wait about 10-15 minutes to eat it.  Bon appétit!!

What is your version of the healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie?  I would love to hear from you and try out your recipe!

Thanks & Love, Violet