The Defeat of Cook’s Block

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I have successfully freed myself from the evil clutches of cook’s block with the help of an elightenting dinner and an end to my 2-hour-every-night gymnastics season. Now with a tad more leisure time to devote to kitchen activities, I hope to brainstorm a couple fun recipes of my own, cross off a couple tantalizing recipes idling on my “Recipes to Try” Word document, and scribe a couple new posts.

This past Sunday, I dedicated the better part of three afternoon hours to a rather intensive bout of recipe experimentation, every recipe of which yielded absolutely stellar results. The Chocolate Quinoa Protein Bars from VGANJAR and the Coconut Muffins from Cucina Libera replenished the wholesome-baked-good-shaped hole in my heart (I hadn’t baked anything for a good long while!), while the Curried Kabocha Squash and Flax Flatbread from Choosing Raw and the Popcorn Cauliflower from VegObsession prepared my lunch box for an inspired week of midday deliciousness.

Recipe One: Carob Quinoa Fig Bars—Adapted from VGANJAR.

Tweaks:

  • Replaced the 2-3 tbsp agave with 1 tbsp yacon syrup.
  • Used 1/2 cup almond pulp and 1/4 cup hazelnut pulp (frozen after making nut milk kefir) in place of the almonds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Substituted carob powder for the cacao.
  • Omitted the optional maca powder.

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • Frankly, I’d probably stick to this exact same adaptation if I make this recipe again! Not overly sweet, as my tastebuds have come to prefer in baked goods and desserts, the bars’ flavor teemed with a pleasant nuttiness from both the quinoa and…well, the nuts (obviously), as well as a yummy bittersweetness from the carob and cacao nibs. The quinoa also offered a unique pop-in-your-mouth texture accentuated by the crunchy cacao nibs.
  • I’d love to experiment with the addition of maca powder…though first I’ll have to actually obtain said powder. Perhaps another order from the Raw Food World is in order?
  •  Would another grain instead of quinoa lend itself to this recipe? Millet or amaranth, maybe?

Recipe Two: Coconut Muffins—Adapted from Cucina Libera.

Tweaks:

  • In place of the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch, I used 1/4 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup arrowroot, and 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp chickpea flour.
  • Substituted 2 tbsp yacon syrup for the coconut nectar.
  • Reduced the total amount of oil to 2 tbsp olive oil, omitting the coconut oil.
  • Used canned organic light coconut milk instead of So Delicious brand.
  • Miniaturized the recipe with my favorite mini muffin tin!

 

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • While I adored the muffins’ intense coconut flavor, I suspect from their slight dryness that they spent a bit too long in the oven. While the original recipe called for 17-20 minutes at 350°F for regular-sized muffins, it completely slipped my mind to reduce the baking time to accommodate my mini versions. Next time, I’m checking at 15 minutes.
  • I realize that the fat in this recipe actually benefits your health more than hinders it, though I could certainly not deem this recipe low fat. I’d like to try replacing the oil with a mashed banana to lower the fat content a smidge.

Recipe Three: Berbere-Spiced Kabocha Squash and Flax Flatbread—Adapted from Choosing Raw.

Tweaks:

  • Replaced the curry powder and cinnamon with homemade berbere seasoning (an Ethiopian spice mix).
  • Baked at 300°F instead of 325°F.
  • Cut into 16 pieces instead of 8.

 

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • Playing around with the seasonings works well with these flatbreads (I mean, what on earth DOESN’T taste good with Kabocha squash?), so I’d have a bunch of fun swapping them out to create subtle flavor nuances in this already impeccably scrumptious recipe.
  • I baked the flatbreads at the same time as my quinoa bars above, which called for an oven temperature of 300°F, for the same amount of time as called for in the recipe. They turned out perfectly textured—soft and chewy yet still firm enough to adequately support a generous amount of toppings. I suspect that if I had added the extra 25°, the texture would have been crunchier than I prefer, perhaps overbaked.

I also attempted the Popcorn Cauliflower from VegObsession, but don’t think it merits a full-blown recipe experimentation since I forgot to snap a photo and followed the recipe almost exactly, merely substituting coconut aminos for the Braggs. The recipe proved to have a wonderful savory flavor, surprisingly redolent of actual cheesy popcorn (but without the negative health or animal rights implications!), and effectively tenderized the raw cauliflower—a potential worry for me since I usually find raw brassicas off-putting.

Stay tuned for this week’s What I Ate Wednesday to see my implementations of these culinary creations (hey, a rhyme!).

Comment Provoking Questions: To what extent to you tend to tweak recipes to suit your personal preferences–a lot or do you usually stick to the instructions exactly? What kind of things to you change?

Until next time, Ali.

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5 thoughts on “The Defeat of Cook’s Block

  1. Hey Ali, Yay for getting out of your cooking funk! I have had Gena’s flatbread bookmarked, too, so I am eager to try it with one of my kabochas. :)

    When I change recipes, I usually go less with oil or try to simplify the ingredients to what I already have on hand. I will admit that I still love recipes as a guidance instead of completely winging things. ;)

    • Thanks, Janet!
      I can guarantee that you’ll absolutely love it when you try the recipe–it’s definitely a winner.
      I also try to reduce the amount of oil and actually much prefer working off of recipes, too. Though lately I’ve been relying on good old intuition with some pretty tasty results.

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