Delectable Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream “Cheeze” Icing

When I was a child we went out for dinner quite a bit. My dad likes to joke that my mom’s favourite thing to make for dinner is reservations…and it’s quite true.  And I can relate – the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case!

In our family we love our desserts and we were always excited to check out the dessert menu at our restaurant of choice. No matter how many chocolate brownies or pecan pies or caramel sundaes were on the menu, my mom was famous for consistently ordering the carrot cake.

“Huh?! Carrot cake?!” my sister and I would scoff. How on earth could something made with carrots ever be even remotely as yummy as piles of chocolate or a mountain of ice cream? But she was unwavering in her choice despite our good-natured ribbing.

carrot cake - carrot pic

I have to admit that as my taste buds matured I did develop an affinity for a good old-fashioned carrot cake every now and again. But don’t let the name fool you – despite a helping of nutritious carrots most conventional carrot cakes are made with tons of butter, refined sugar and eggs.

So I set out to veganize this dessert – cream cheese icing and all. And the end result was pretty darn awesome if I do say so myself. I subbed out the butter and eggs for coconut oil and unsweetened apple sauce, the refined sugar for maple sugar and I used gluten-free flour in place of regular AP flour and a ridiculously moist and delicious dessert was born.

The kids liked it plain but the frosting takes it to the next level (although I did use 2 cups of organic powdered sugar in the frosting so it’s not as nutritionally sound as the cake itself). You could also add raisins and/or nuts if you like additions to your cake but I made mine without to avoid watching the kids pick the “bits” out of their dessert.

So after all this time, I finally get it….carrot cake rocks! This one is for you mom!

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream “Cheeze” Frosting (adapted from Peas And Thank You, Sarah Matheny)

carrot cake on plate

Carrot Cake
8 carrots, steamed and pureed
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup soy milk
1  cup maple sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free AP Baking Flour
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins or chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 8 x 8 square cake pan with coconut oil.

In a large bowl, cream together pureed carrots, coconut oil, applesauce, milk, sugar and vanilla with an electric hand mixer on low until well blended.

In a smaller bowl, combine flour, xanthum gum, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Add a little at a time to the wet mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in raisins or nuts if desired.

Spread mixture in a pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

carrot cake in pan

Cream Cheeze Icing
3 tbsp coconut oil at room temperature
4 ounces of Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 cups organic powdered sugar (or icing sugar)

Whip ingredients together with a hand mixer. Frost cake when it is completely cool. Store any uneaten cake and frosting in the fridge. Enjoy!

carrot cake icing

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Decadent Vegan Brownie Bites

I have to admit that I was feeling quite sorry for myself last week. It’s been a rough winter for colds and bugs in our house and my little guy was still battling a nagging cough, my husband plunked his extensive upcoming travel schedule in front of me for my (insert eye roll and loud sigh here) perusal, I was plotting out the kids spring activities on the calendar and it was not looking pretty AND I just finished probably the most heartbreakingly beautiful book I’ve read in ages and sobbed my way through the last 20 pages (The Fault In our Stars…in case you want to join me at the tissue box). There was only one thing to do – make something chocolatey. And fast!

These little brownie gems are the perfect size for a small indulgence. They are rich, fudgey and decadent without being full eggs, butter and unhealthy fats. Don’t get me wrong – they are definitely not health food but they are much healthier than your average store-bought brownie and they’re gluten-free to boot. And heck sometimes we all need a little treat!

The smell of chocolate wafted through the house and the whole family could barely wait for them to cool before we all tucked in to one or two of these little brownies. Mmmmm…chocolate. Things are definitely looking up!

Vegan Brownie Bites (adapted from BabyCakes, Erin McKenna)

brownie on plate

1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp salt
½ cup melted coconut oil (plus more for greasing muffin tins)
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup hot water
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease mini muffin tins with coconut oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthum gum and salt with a wire whisk to remove any lumps.

Add the applesauce, oil, vanilla and hot water and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins until they are 2/3 full.

brownie in pan

Bake on the center rack for 12-14 minutes – rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow the  brownies to cook in the pans until ready to serve. Enjoy!

(P.S. my daughter just made the blue rainbow cupcake plate at Crock-A-Doodle and wanted to show it off. Cute eh?)

brownie 1

Family Meetings and Chocolate Cake

I knew shortly after my daughter was born and my oldest son was 2 that I needed some help with parenting strategies. I was a frazzled young mom and the whining, pouting and crying had to stop (and that was just from my husband). Instead of going straight to freaking out I wanted to find something that was respectful to both me and the kids and luckily a friend introduced me to Democratic Parenting and some wonderful teachers who offer classes in our area. I have participated in many courses with Alyson Schafer and also with the Parenting Network’s Beverly Cathcart-Ross and Georgine Nash over the past several years and I will be forever grateful for their interpretations of the brilliant teachings of Alfred Adler. These amazing ladies equipped both my husband and me with mutually respectful and empowering strategies for tacking even the toughest of parenting challenges. And of course that is also why our kids are the perfect little angels that they are today ; )

One of the most amazing tools we regularly use from the Adlerian parenting model is family meetings. This weekly forum allows all of the members of our family to feel heard and appreciated and we often plan out family fun days, discuss things that aren’t working, lobby for things like allowance increases and cell phones or simply chat about things that are happening in our lives. I encourage you to give it a try and see how it works for your family. I’ve outlined our meeting plan below for you to check out:

agenda 2

Step 1:
Get organized. Take out the family meeting book, a pen and a talking stick (you’ll need to nominate a secretary to take notes and pass the talking stick around fairly).

Step 2:
Appreciations. Take turns going around the table and say one thing you appreciate about each person. Be specific. Instead of saying “I appreciate dad because he is nice” try “I appreciate dad because he took the time to sit down and play dolls with me today for an hour”.

Step 3:
Discuss agenda items. These can be things brought to the meeting or issues that have come up during the course of the week. You can put a piece of blank paper on your fridge with the title “Family Meeting Agenda” and then if something comes up like “Mom, Callum keeps spitting his toothpaste goop in the sink and not rinsing it out” or something more serious like “I feel like I’m not important in this family” and you are frantically making dinner right before hockey and dance practice you can say “I really want to hear all about this but I’m in the middle of something right now. Let’s put it on the agenda for the next family meeting.” Make sure that all items are resolved if possible and remember that you can simply try out a solution out for 1 week and then revisit how it’s been going at the next meeting. It’s also important that all family members agree on the solutions suggested.

Step 4:
End with a cheer. In our family every one puts their hands in and we say 1, 2,3 Family! (or 1,2,3, Burp or another silly word the kids throw in).

It was wisely suggested to me that family meetings be saved until after dinner in case things become contentious and someone storms off which can sometimes happen. We do our meetings on Sunday nights and I always try to have some tempting dessert to serve after dinner that will add extra incentive for the kids to sit and at least get through the appreciations which is sometimes as far as we get and that’s just fine.

This moist and delicious chocolate cake is decadent, a crowd pleaser and even manages to sneak in a serving of nutrient dense beetroots. A big glass of cold almond milk, a slice of chocolate cake and you can call this meeting to order!

Family Meeting Night Chocolate Cake with Beets (adapted from The Savvy Sister)

1 cup cooked chopped beets (approx 2 beets)
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
½ tsp xanthum gum
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp gluten-free baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup coconut milk
½ cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ tsp coconut oil for greasing the pan
¼ cup icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Scrub beets and cut into bite sized pieces. Place in a shallow baking dish with enough water just to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and cook for one hour until beets are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely. (you can do this step the day before and pop the cooked beets in the fridge)
Grease a square cake pan with coconut oil.
Place cooked beets, syrup and vanilla in a food processor and whir for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides a couple of times.

beet cake beets in processor
Whisk together flour, xanthum gum, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add beet mixture and coconut milk and stir to combine.
Add in sunflower oil and stir well. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

beet cake in pan
Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or non-dairy ice cream of choice.

beet cake on plate
I appreciate mom because she makes the yummiest chocolate cake ever!