If you've been following me on Instagram or Twitter, you'll know that we have a new (temporary) addition to our family. We have chosen to raise a Guide Dog puppy for 14 months. The deal is pretty sweet - we get to have a puppy with no associated costs, apart from treats and toys; the Guide Dog center pays for food, vet bills, vaccinations and all medicines and preventative treatments. Sounds perfect, right? Well, there's always a catch. We have to make sure the puppy gets socialized, take her to special Guide Dog preschools, house-train her, teach her basic commands. Okay, that sounds easy enough, too, I suppose. However, as you may know, I already have 4 children from ages 0-7 years.
It wasn't my choice to raise a puppy at this time in our lives. I love dogs, but as the primary carer for our children (my husband works full-time), I don't have time to also be the primary carer for a puppy who needs even more attention than a non-Guide Dog puppy. I informed my husband of what it was like to raise a puppy, but he's one of those men that you just can't get through to. I couldn't stop him, so now we have this puppy.
Within 2 days, he was already wondering if we could give the puppy back!
The first afternoon with our puppy was dreadful. Sure, the puppy's cute and all, but my kids are frightened of animals and spent the next two days almost constantly on top of the kitchen table. Yes, I said "on top" of the kitchen table.
Which brings me to the sole reason we probably need a dog. I have no idea why, but my two older children, aged 5 and 7, are literally insanely afraid of dogs (and cats). They have no had bad experience whatsoever with a dog or cat, so I haven't the slightest idea why they are so frightened. It's quite serious, to be honest, because both of them are so scared they actually blindly and wildly try to run away from any animal within a certain radius of them, including into oncoming traffic. Nothing I have said or done has calmed them down from this irrational fear.
My husband thought that a puppy wouldn't be scary, so we'd try out this Guide Dog thing (which mostly anyone in Australia can do). However, I disagreed from the very start that this was a good idea at this particular time in our lives. We've had the puppy for 9 days now, and while my 7-year-old has calmed down only slightly, my 5-year-old still panics every time he's in the same room with her. And it feels like all I've been doing is looking after the puppy, while I should be preparing lunch or dinner or reading with the children or helping them with homework.
Life at our house right now is hectic, to say the least. At this point, we have asked the Guide Dog center if it is okay to bring the puppy back; they replied that they'd like to come out to the house again to offer suggestions on how to make things easier, although they implied that it wouldn't be a problem if it didn't end up working out. They're happy to take the puppy back and re-home her. Which is certainly my vote!
Well, somehow in the past week of madness, I became obsessed with a new recipe that I found at my current favorite food blog, Minimalist Baker. The recipe? A simple and easy peanut butter patty. The duo at Minimalist Baker have used this recipe a number of times, in different ways, in the past few months. Now, it's my turn!
I first made copycat Reese's peanut butter eggs last Sunday.
Healthier than Reese's? Yes! More delicious than Reese's? Without a single doubt! Double-coated in pure Lindt 70% chocolate, these eggs were absolutely irresistible and just about guilt-free! Funnily enough, two days later, Dana, half of the duo from Minimalist Baker, had the same idea and posted a recipe for exactly this same thing on her blog!
But I wanted more of these peanut butter patties and more chocolate. You know what I've been wanting to make for ages, but just couldn't handle the idea of all the sugar? These chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache and peanut butter frosting shaped like a cookie (recipe at Annie's Eats). I love how they look, and I'm sure they taste great. But, I'm on a refined sugar reduction kick, so I wanted to healthify Annie's version as much as I could, as well as make them vegan.
And, so I did!
All vegan and slightly healthier than the original. You wouldn't want to indulge in these every day, of course, but at least with my version, you get all the yumminess and a little less bad sugar, plus some extra nutrients.
So what exactly am I talking about? I'm talking about a soft and tender vegan cupcake that is topped with a frilly layer of vegan chocolate ganache which is made with coconut milk and 70% chocolate. Okay, here I'll admit I'm not a vegan so I used Lindt 70% chocolate, but if you happen to be vegan, choose an appropriate chocolate to suit your needs. Both the cupcake and ganache recipes comes from another favorite blog of mine, Pastry Affair.
The coconut milk ganache? Oh my goodness, I didn't think anything could be better than chocolate ganache made with just heavy cream and chocolate, but replacing the cream with coconut milk is a good thing because it is so delicious! It still tastes like chocolate, but with a hint of coconut. In fact, this ganache is so wondrous that I plan on writing a post dedicated only to coconut milk ganache!
Lastly, that peanut butter cookie frosting? That's not frosting, that's a healthy little Minimalist Baker peanut butter patty made with dates, almonds, peanuts and homemade peanut butter. That's it. Nothing else. It's super peanutty and tastes brilliant on top of the chocolate cupcake and coconut milk ganache. Absolutely brilliant.
(sorry this photo is a little blurry; I had a baby trying to crawl up my leg as I was trying to take these pictures!)
I am super thankful to the Minimalist Baker team for such divine inspiration with their peanut butter patty recipe. Without any doubt, I'll be using this recipe over and over again to satisfy my chocolate-peanut butter cravings. Goodbye, Reese's, I've found a new love!
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes With Coconut Milk Ganache
- For Cupcakes:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- For Ganache:
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate finely chopped (use dairy-free to keep vegan)
- ½ cup coconut milk
- For cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the vanilla extract, vinegar, oil, and water. Using a spatula, mix the batter until smooth.
- Divide batter evenly between 12 baking cups (about ¾ full). Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from baking pan and allow to cool to room temperature.
- For Ganache:
- Place chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
- On medium-high heat, bring coconut milk to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching. Pour milk over the chocolate, making sure that the milk covers the chocolate. Allow to sit for several minutes before stirring until smooth. Allow frosting to rest on the counter until it cools down and thickens to a pipe-able consistency (anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes).
- Beat the frosting for several minutes until it incorporates air and feels lighter.
- Place frosting in a pastry bag (or plastic bag with the corner cut out) and pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.
Peanut Butter Cookie Patties
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 2 pitted dates
- ½ cup almond meal
- ½ cup roasted salted peanuts
- ½ cup roasted salted natural peanut butter
- Place oats into a food processor and process until small pieces remain. Add the dates and and process again until only small bits remain. Remove from processor and set aside.
- Place almond meal and peanuts into the food processor and mix until only small bits of peanuts remain.
- Add peanut butter to the nut mixture and pulse until well combined, then add dates/oats and process until the mixture forms a loose dough. If it seems too wet to handle, add more oats. If it seems too dry, add a few more dates.
- Scoop out chunks of the dough (the size depends on whether you want a smaller "cookie" or a larger one) and roll into balls. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and press down on each ball with a fork to flatten it and imprint the classic peanut butter cookie design.
- Place a "cookie" on top of frosted cupcakes and press down lightly to make it stick.