I recently walked into (almost) heaven. Grocery heaven that is. Thrifty Foods officially opened their doors pretty much across the street from our apartment, and I am – and apparently the rest of the Sapperton area is – thrilled. It’s especially exciting for me because I now don’t have to take the train or walk more than I really want to get groceries anymore. (It’s almost like living in the West End again – the market was literally around the corner from where we lived and Capers was just down the way.)
Thrifty Foods is a BC owned and operated company that likes to stock beautiful and mostly local and organic produce. As someone said to me the other day, it’s totally in my wheel house. (Such an odd expression…) I walked in there last week on opening day evening and the grocery angels sang. It’s a beautiful and well laid out store, and the best part? It’s a 24 HOUR store, which is awesome for staff, patients, visitors of the hospital across the way, people who work wonky shifts (like Sean), and those who reallize they need something when it’s 9pm (like me).
My favourite part of the store is the bulk foods aisle. Have I ever mentioned how much I love, love, love the bulk foods aisle of a store? The stock is always good and it’s always cheap. I bake a lot, so I often have to replenish my ingredients. Bulk is the way to go.
A favourite store of mine (and a great place to shop for bulk ingredients – organic or regular) is Galloway’s in Richmond. They are a specialty foods store that has anything and everything you could ever want – herbs, spices, grains, flours, canned goods – anything you could ever want for cooking and baking. It is another place where I walk in and the angels sing. Definitely one of my happy places. Even if I go there to buy just one thing, I go through every aisle and walk out with at least three more things than I had intended to buy.
Last week, I went in to buy ingredients for the vegan chocolate cupcakes I had found a recipe for. We were meant to go to a Halloween party Saturday night and a dinner party the next night, but Saturday ended up being a complete wash. Neither Sean nor I were anywhere near party mode so we stayed in, watched the last few episodes of season 1 of “Heroes” (I’d never seen it – hello, addictive) on Netflix and I baked up a storm for the dinner party (hosted by our friends Richard and Mike at their fantastic apartment).
There is a great vegan blog called “Oh She Glows” written by a Canadian woman in Ontario. Her name is Angela Liddona and she has a really inspiring story a bout self image and healthy eating. But thats something for another blog. This is the first recipe I have had a chance to try from her site and I was really excited. Unfortunately, these ended up being only almost vegan – I couldn’t find vegan butter for the icing (and I was NOT going to use margarine, vegan or not) and my chocolate chips probably probably aren’t vegan, but at that point, I was home and not going anywhere.
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
(Adapted from the recipe found here at “Oh She Glows”)
Yield: 12 cupcakes
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 1 cup honey
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (new ingredient for me)
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp pure almond extract (optional, but I agree with Angela: AWESOME)
- 1.5 cups all purpose spelt flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. With an electric mixer, beat together the following ingredients in a large bowl (non-dairy milk, oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, almond extract). Beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
2. Now sift in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt). Mix well, until the clumps are gone.
3. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Spoon the batter into prepared cupcake pan, about two thirds full for each. Bake for about 22 minutes at 350F, or until the cupcake slowly springs back when pressed with a finger. Allow to completely cool before frosting.
5. Make frosting (recipe below) and enjoy! 🙂
My first batch, I mistakenly put baking powder, not baking soda in the dry ingredients. It wasn’t a disaster, but the cupcakes weren’t as big and fluffy (and as you can see, though fully baked, they refused to fully rise). The second batch turned out much better.
Almond ‘Buttercream’ Frosting
Yield: ~2 cups
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery stick or equivalent, room temperature (I couldn’t find vegan butter when I popped into Superstore, so I had to settle for real butter. I’m trying the vegan butter with the next batch I make and will report back.)
- 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp pure almond extract
- 1.5-2 tbsp non-dairy milk, to achieve your desired consistency (I used unsweetened almond milk)
In a mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup of Earth Balance (or equivalent) with an electric mixer. Add in the milk, extract, and salt. Mix. Now gradually add in the sifted icing sugar, starting with 1 cup and mixing slowly until fully combined. Mix in a stand mixer for 5-10 minutes or with a hand mixer for at least 4-5 minutes to achieve nice and fluffy icing.
(Funny story: I was making the icing and clearly was off in my own little world when I read the recipe for how much almond milk to put in. Instead of 1.5 tbsp, I put 1.5 cups. So when my trusty Kitchenaid was mixing and all I saw was what looked liked chopped garlic in oil, I was very confused.)
And of course with making icing comes the inevitable taste monster: my husband. I swear he hovered for 10 minutes.
Once Sean got his taste fix, I pulled out my Wilton piping kit – it was my first time using it, so it was a big deal for me. My cupcakes don’t look perfect, but they tasted fantastic. Because quality control is important – you can’t bring something to a dinner party if you haven’t tasted it… 😉 – we each had one. Bliss. Almost heaven. They were awesome. Sigh.
Much to Sean’s chagrin, this occasion called for the first use of my cupcake carrier. When I asked him to hold it on the bus while I unzipped my jacket on the way to Richard and Mike’s, he looked quite pained. It was pretty funny. He’ll hold my purse for me without complaint, but the cupcake carrier was a bit much for him. Poor guy. You can see the lid to the right in the below photo and the trays. (Notice the conspicuous empty slots. I told you, quality control is important.)
It was a great dinner party. Fun people and everyone brought something to make up what turned into a fantastic meal. The salmon was to die for and for some, the cupcakes turned into a pre-dinner snack. Ah, boys…