No-Fear Vegan Stevia Banana Bread

Running fuel is defined by how much energy it packs—usually in the form of sugars.  Quick acting sugars for an immediate boost, and slower-burning sugars to keep you going.

banana bread 2 300x225So while dates and agave nectar fit the energy food bill, what about the rest of your day?  When you’re looking for a snack to nibble on over coffee or a sweet bite after dinner, you probably aren’t looking to “fuel up.”

For times like these when you’re just sitting around, pro triathlete Brendan Brazier recommends swapping the agave for stevia. And he’s right—stevia is a great idea.  There’s no sucrose to cause an unnecessary spike in blood sugar, and no extra fructose hanging around to process into triglycerides.

So why, then, is there a very full jar of stevia staring me down from my pantry?

Three Hurdles of Baking with Stevia

Three things always intimidate me about using stevia. Let’s address each one head on, in hopes of making the stevia universe a heck of a lot less mysterious!

1.  How much stevia to use

I am only going to say this once: Do not follow the conversion chart on the back of the jar.  Repeat: Do. Not. Follow. Chart.  (Ok, that’s twice I said it, but it’s that important!)  Since there’s no standard potency from brand to brand or from liquids to powders, it’s up to you to use just as much stevia as you need.

Most of the time, the amount I am happy with is a 3 times less than what the chart recommends.  The best idea is to start with just a little—like 1/8 to a 1/4 teaspoon—and take it from there.  There are no eggs to worry about in the recipe below, so in this case you can taste as you go.

2.  Keep it from tasting bitter

In The Kind Diet (Amazon affiliate link), the biggest complaint Alicia Silverstone has about stevia is the taste.  Somehow, it’s so sweet that it ends up tasting bitter and harsh.  I prefer the less concentrated stevia that is mixed with the natural fiber inulin, like Sweetleaf SteviaPlus.  My solution to take the bitter edge off (besides not using too much, see #1) is choosing complementary flavors.

In the recipe below, the stevia enhances the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and coconut flakes for a much warmer flavor.  It’s also good paired with orange juice, like in my Orange Currant Brunch cake.  If nothing in the recipe has a sweet profile, I suggest adding just a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.

3. Fill the gap

When you take the sugar, agave, or dates out of your recipe, it’s important account for the volume of what’s missing.  In this recipe, the bananas work double-duty: first for flavor, and second for bulk.  Another great filler is cooked and pureed cauliflower, which has a creamy neutral flavor.  About a half cup of “filler” works in a standard size recipe.

So now there’s nothing left to be afraid of with stevia!  I hope you try my recipe for Coconut Banana Bread for sweet snacking anytime, and let me know what you think.

Vegan Coconut Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp stevia (I used SweetLeaf SteviaPlus)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (reserve 2 tbsp for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8×4 loaf pan with parchment paper and grease lightly with baking spray.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the oil, stevia, coconut milk, flaxseed, bananas, vanilla, and lime juice.  Beat until bananas are mashed and mixture is smooth.

In a seperate bowl, mix together the baking soda, salt, flour, and 1/2 cup of coconut.  Add dry ingredients to banana mixture, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate.

Spread batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake 20 minutes.  Carefully remove pan from oven and sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons of coconut.  Return to oven and bake 40-50 minutes more, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the coconut topping browns to quickly, tent the banana bread loosely with aluminum foil.  Let cool before removing from pan.


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How To Turn Starbucks Scones Into Fuel For Running

Post by Christine Frazier

lentil scone photo 300x225For just about a year now I have been the resident baker here at No Meat Athlete, filling your Fridays with healthy sweet treats.  And during that year, NMA has evolved into a resource for both people kick-starting a new vegetarian lifestyle and runners interested in more natural running fuel.

The response to the Sweet-Tooth Friday series has been wonderful and encouraging, but I started to wonder if I was putting unnecessary limits on what I could offer you.  I had the opportunity to really research baking-as-running-fuel while making the recipes for our book Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way. I also began dabbling in the savory side, bringing you recipes like five easy versions of rice and beans and grill-worthy smoky veggie burgers.

The success of these recipes has led me to the decision to develop a weekly vegetarian recipe for you No Meat Athletes, whether it be savory or sweet, with a focus on food fit for an athletic-training diet.  And by popular demand, the nutrition facts will be posted along with each recipe.

Now I just need to figure out what works for you so that you’ll have a chance to give these recipes a whirl.  What day of the week is best for a new vegetarian recipe? I was thinking of setting the day mid- to end-week so you’d have time before the weekend to plan, but I’d love to hear what you think.

The Elegant Side Of Energy Bars

This week’s Petite Lentil Scones are perfect for runners because they combine dates and agave nectar to get both the immediate boost of sugar to burn as well as a slower-releasing one to keep you going.  Plus, they’re portable so you can pack them along.

I made these with Starbucks Petite Vanilla Bean Scones in mind— so easy to pop in your mouth, but I wanted something less likely to leave you crashing later.  That’s why besides being animal-free, my version offers protein and fiber that the originals are lacking (as well as less sugar, fat, cholesterol and calories!)

If you’ve never baked with beans before, get ready to be blown away by how deliciously well they work in desserts— I promise, you’ll never guess these are made from lentils.  And I’m no stranger to sneaking beans into desserts; check out my popular black bean brownies, white bean blondies, and homemade energy bars for more I-can’t-believe-these-have-beans desserts.

Petite Lentil Scones

Scone Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry lentils (or 2 cups cooked)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or other dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 7 dates)
  • 6 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water or nondairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon white vinegar

For the Scones:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse 1 cup of dry lentils, then combine with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes, until tender.  Drain and let cool.
In a small bowl, mix the ground flaxseed with 1/4 cup of warm water.  Stir and set aside to thicken.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and currants.  Set aside.
In a food processor, process the lentils, dates, agave nectar, almond extract, and flaxseed paste until smooth.  Fold this lentil mixture into the dry ingredients.  Continue folding lightly with a spatula to combine.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten and pat with your hands into about a 10×10 inch square, around 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the dough into 16 equal squares.  Cut each square in half diagonally to make 32 triangles.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Place the cut triangles onto the sheet about an inch apart.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and firm.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Make the icing by mixing together the powdered sugar, water, vanilla extract, and vinegar.  Lightly drizzle the icing across the cooled scones just before serving.

Go ahead and add the glaze and then these energy scones are ready to outshine the Queen’s crumpets.   Just stick your pinkies in their air while eating these, and enjoy!

Don’t forget, let me know which day you’d prefer to have the weekly vegetarian recipe!

Nutrition Facts for 1 scone with glaze: Calories 89.8, Total Fat 0.6, Saturated Fat 0.1, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 119 mg, Potassium 107 mg, Total Carbohydrates 20 g (Fiber 2.6 g, Sugars 7.3 g), Protein 2.5 g.

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Two New (Sweet!) Ways to Enjoy Summer Corn and Cucumbers

Hi everybody!  This is Christine here with not one but two vegan recipes to get your summer started right!  Fresh corn in ice cream?  Savory herbs in a cocktail?  You betcha!  These unusual flavor combinations breathe new life into classic summer veggies.

The Sweetness of Corn, Minus the Corn Syrup

vegan sweet corn ice cream photo 300x254Ever eaten at a eco-friendly restaurant?  I was lucky enough to dine at Square 1682 in Philadelphia last weekend, and was really impressed by their environmental policies.  But what I really couldn’t stop gushing about was the Sweet Corn Ice Cream.  Imagine your childhood excitement surrounding a big bowl of frosted flakes or corn pops.  Now take that processed corn taste and transform it into fresh, buttery ice cream.  Amazing.

Most sweet corn ice cream recipes I discovered are fairly simple combinations of fresh-corn infused cream, egg yolks, and sugar.   I used coconut milk for the fattiness of the cream and cashew butter for the richness of egg yolks.  A touch of maple syrup, salt and vanilla lent a buttery taste to the animal-free substitutions.

Vegan Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or rice milk
  • 2 cups fresh sweet corn, shucked from about 3 ears
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, soy milk, sugar, and corn.  Gently heat to boiling.  Turn off heat and let for about an hour to let the flavors combine.  Puree the corn into the mixture until smooth, and strain out any chunks.
In a small bowl, mix together the flaxseed and water and let sit until thickened slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, vanilla, maple syrup, and flax mixture.  Slowly pour in the warm corn mixture and whisk to combine.
Return to saucepan, and heat on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened.  Add a pinch of salt to taste.  Let the mixture come to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours.  I am usually pretty loose with chill times, but here it is important that it is as cold as possible before putting into the ice cream maker.  Follow the directions in your ice cream maker, then freeze again before serving.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try following the directions here.

Move Over, Bloody Mary

cucumber thyme cocktail 300x225There’s a new veggie cocktail in town.  I was inspired by the delicious “Hendricks and Honeydew” I had at James on 8th in Philadelphia, not to be confused with Jim’s Cheesesteaks, where our cab driver first took us!

At James, the drink was made with candied thyme as a garnish.  Since Hendrick’s gin is traditionally served with cucumber, my version includes a whole fresh cucumber pureed with honeydew, lime and thyme-infused simple syrup.  With a shot of liquor and a splash of soda water, you’ve got yourself a spa-worthy summer cocktail.

Cucumber-Thyme Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6-8 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honeydew melon
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 12 oz liquor of your choice, preferably gin or rum
  • 24 oz club soda or seltzer

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine water and sugar until dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Add the sprigs of thyme and simmer for 7 more minutes, or until the syrup reduces to about 1/4 cup.  Remove the thyme sprigs.
In a blender, combine the thyme-syrup, cucumber, melon, and lime.  Puree until smooth.
For each glass, add 1.5 oz (1 shot) of liquor, 1.5 oz puree, and 3 oz soda.  Top with ice and fresh thyme sprigs to garnish. Makes 8 cocktails.  I only actually served 4 drinks, so I froze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray to use for smoothies.

New Harvest Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway Winner

The winner of last week’s New Harvest contest is Heather!  She is a new vegetarian herself, so hopefully a new vegetarian source of EPA omega-3’s will start her off on the right foot!  Don’t fret if you didn’t win, because you can still use this secret coupon for $2.00 off the supplement at GNC stores.

You know you had a great trip when two weeks later you’re still talking about the food!  Thanks again to New Harvest for the Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway and delicious weekend.

xoxo Christine

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How to Bake Gluten-Free Vegan Treats Your Friends Will Actually Eat

Hello No Meat Athletes!  It’s Christine here for Sweet-Tooth Friday, and this week’s edition is totally gluten-free.

I’ll start with a step-by-step intro on how to take the gluten (and animal products) out of your favorite baked goods, and then we’ll give it a whirl with some fabulous chocolate chip cookies!

The Gluten-Free Invasion

vegan gluten free chocolate chip cookie photo 300x225

That's almond milk, by the way.

By now you’re probably aware of the multitude of gluten-free products creeping into the health section of your grocery store.  Celiac disease affects about 3 million Americans, and though many go undiagnosed, it means this condition is just as common as peanut allergies.

Celiacs have a hereditary autoimmune digestive disorder that lets gluten, a protein, into the bloodstream without first breaking it down.  This has a toxic effect that can seriously damage the small intestines and lead to a zillion other problems from malnourishment to cancer.

So what? I don’t suffer from Celiac disease.  What’s this doing on NMA?

Well, take a glimpse through the ‘Staple Foods’ section of Brendan Brazier’s Thrive: You’ll notice that many of his recommended foods, from brown rice to chickpeas and almonds to quinoa, are the same foods that replace wheat in gluten-free baking.  So while gluten itself may not be bothering you, this is a way to exchange your empty carbs with nutrient-dense versions.

These high protein flours have a lower glycemic load, which will teach your body to run on your stored fat instead of relying on the less efficient sugar rush from what you just ate.

Finding gluten-free recipes that are yummy is hard enough; finding gluten-free recipes that don’t rely on animal products is even tougher.  I’m here to show you how to get great tasting desserts by reworking recipes yourself to remove the gluten and animal products.

7 Steps to Gluten-Free Vegan Baking

1.  Mix and match alternative flours

My favorite flours for gluten-free baking are chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour for its creaminess and almond flour for its richness.  Brown rice flour is also popular, but as I learned from Allergy-Free Desserts, its gritty texture works best in things like graham cracker-style pie crusts instead of fluffy cakes.  Some other nice flours are millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and fava bean.  You can even whiz some unsweetened coconut in the processor for coconut flour!

Be sure to mix different types of flour so that no taste or texture dominates; for example, amaranth should only be about 1/4 of your total flour because of its strong flavor.  Also, when using bean flours remember that the taste of raw beans is pretty gross— the batter won’t taste too yummy until it is fully cooked.

2.  Take the edge off with some starch

Gluten-free baked goods are known for their weird textures—save yours by working with tapioca and potato starch.  As I learned from The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook, tapioca is a little sweet and helps your treats brown in the oven, while potato starch contributes a “delicate crumb.”

From all the recipes and mixes I’ve researched, recipes work best when the starch-style flours are mixed with other alternative flours in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. So for every cup or two of mixed alternative flours you use, you need at least 1 cup of mixed starches.

Every fifties housewife knows that to make cake flour in a pinch at home you just sub in 2 tablespoons of corn starch to your cup of flour and sift, sift, sift! This works in the gluten-free world too, so when a recipe calls for cake flour increase the ratio of starches to alternative flours by throwing in corn starch as well.

3.  Stick together!

You took the gluten out, now you need to put some chew back in.  The most important ingredient in gluten-free baking is the gum. Xanthan gum and guar gum are used for both their volumizing and thickening effects.

I always see guar gum mentioned, but have yet to see it called for in a recipe, so stick with the xanthan gum.  If you’re curious, it’s a microorganism that is found feeding on corn or soybeans plants, but I have no idea how it gets a cookie so chewy.  Use 1/3 to 1/4 of a teaspoon for every cup of flour.

4.  Don’t undermine the structure

So many gluten-free recipes rely on eggs and fat for their richness and structure.  When transforming recipes yourself, be careful not to substitute too much.  Leave in most of the fat that’s called for; this isn’t the place to use a can of black beans in place of the eggs and butter.  For shortening and butter, go with a palm oil shortening and coconut oil, or canola oil if the recipe calls for melted butter.

When it comes to eggs, flaxseed is a good exchange because of its fat content. Mix a ‘flax egg’ by stirring together 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2 tablespoons of liquid.  Coconut milk and almond milk work well in place of whole milk.  Check out my post on how to veganize and healthify your baking for more ideas.

Remember not to mess too much with the sugar either.  You might get away with maple syrup and agave when there is a gluten framework in place, but this time you need the real deal so your cookies don’t end up like pancakes.  However, it is okay to reduce the amount of sugar by a quarter to account for the sweetness of tapioca flour.

5.  Do your research on secret gluten key words

Just because something is labeled wheat-free doesn’t mean it’s gluten free.  Gluten is also in barley, rye, malt flavoring, and triticale.  Look out for modified food starch and grain alcohol.

Oats are another trouble ingredient— they are technically gluten-free but are often contaminated during processing.  Even if uncontaminated, the protein in oats is very similar to gluten, and still effects some Celiacs.

Remember, not every specialty flour is gluten-free—spelt flour is a reduced-gluten ancestor of wheat, but it definitely still contains gluten.  Baking sprays made just for baking usually contain flour to prevent sticking, so choose a plain version.

6. Ask the package, ask the manufacturer, ask yourself

Ask the package by looking for a “certified gluten-free” label.  The FDA is in the process of setting up a gluten-free standard label, but for now it is up to the company. Double check ingredients lists because some tricky foods with gluten-free main ingredients, like Rice Krispies, are not actually gluten-free.

If something isn’t labeled gluten-free, ask the manufacturer by calling to see how it is processed.  For example, maybe flour is sprinkled on a conveyor belt to prevent sticking.  The internet is full of lists of safe and unsafe ingredients.

Finally, ask yourself about cross-contamination.  The last time you used your sugar bowl, did you dip your measuring cup in wheat flour first?  What about that brown build up on the corners of your glass brownie pan?  Start with new ingredients and clean equipment.

7.  Showcase the glory of gluten-free, not the pitfalls

Cookies and bars are a lot easier to pull off in their gluten-free versions than fluffy, sky-high layer cakes.  You don’t need to make only copies of wheat-filled desserts.  For easy success, whip-up some naturally low-gluten desserts like fruit tarts, bananas foster, rice pudding, and poached pears that will only need minimal substitutions.

Got it?  Let’s get those ovens revvin’!

Just so you know my steps aren’t complete hogwash, I did an experiment to remove the gluten and animal products from a standard recipe.  And guess what?  I gave these Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies the NMA treatment and they were amazing!

If you compare the recipes, you’ll see that instead of 3 cups of wheat flour, I added 1 1/2 cups of alternative flours (chickpea and almond) along with 1 1/4 cups of starches (potato and tapioca).   I added a 1/3 teaspoon of xanthan gum for each cup, making 1 teaspoon total.  I reduced the fat slightly by subbing in a banana, but used palm and coconut oil based shortening for the rest.  I increased the salt a little bit to trick the tongue into tasting butter.  With the sweetness of the banana and the tapioca flour, I nixed the 1/2 cup of white sugar all together. The almond milk and flaxseeds stand in the for the eggs, and the double dose of extract and dash of cinnamon provide some flavor insurance.  See for yourself how yummy these turned out!

NMA Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup warm almond milk or water
  • 3/4 cup palm oil based shortening, like Earth Balance or Spectrum
  • 1 very ripe banana (just over 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 3/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 oz package (about 1 3/4 cups) of gluten-free vegan semisweet chocolate chips, like Tropical Source

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the flaxseed and almond milk and set aside to thicken.
Mix together the dry ingredients: the chickpea flour, almond meal, potato starch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
With a mixer, beat together the shortening, banana, and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides, then beat in the vanilla extract and flax mixture.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Scrape down the sides, and stir in the chocolate chips.

Line an insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the sheet a few inches apart (I fit a dozen on each cookie sheet) and bake for about 15 minutes, turning around halfway through.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

gluten free chocolate chip cookies photo 1024x768These cookies are fantastic!  Nobody will miss the gluten or animal products– heck, nobody will even notice!  Give them a try to get the ball rolling on your new gluten-free vegan baking skills.  As you experiment, I’d love to hear what recipes you have made your own.  And feel free to shoot me any questions too!

Stay Sweet!
xoxo, Christine

19 Comments

 

Eat Like a Gatherer, Bake Like a Rockstar

Hello everybody!  It’s Friday, so this is Christine with another healthy dessert recipe!  Today’s recipe for Fresh Fruit Tart with Almond Crust is an unlikely cross between primitive and elegant—but all your tastebuds will say is “wow!”

Does your body crave caveman ingredients?

whole vegan fruit tart photo 300x227The paleolithic diet craze seems extreme, and definitely fudges some historical details, but I get the underlying principle.  Our bodies had finished evolving their digestive systems before the birth of agriculture, so our stomachs aren’t really prepared for the wheat, legumes, and refined sugars we force it to process.

It makes me think of cows who just want to chew on grass all day, but instead get their seven stomachs loaded up with antibiotics so they can fatten up on a cheap corn diet.  Shouldn’t my body get as much care as grass-fed beef?

Of course, progress and technology are part of what makes us human.  Now that we don’t have to spend all day foraging for food, we have time to think about food philosophies and compassion for animals, and even develop fad diets.  Besides, didn’t the caveman only live to be like 30?  If I only have 3 good years left, and can’t even eat peanut butter, well I just don’t think it’s worth it.

What would Betty Rubble do?i love cartoons.com clipart 300x300

Luckily, this month’s featured cookbook Clean Food offers a good compromise.  Lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, artfully paired with beans and grains.  This minimally-processed approach takes the good notions of the paleo diet without the Flintstone-fervor.  Like all the recipes in Clean Food, you don’t get that classic food-coma feeling after finishing this meal; instead, you’re left feeling satisfied and full of energy.

I also really appreciate the focus on seasonality in this book: Each of the four seasons has its own table of contents, and get this—its own dessert section! Finally, a way to sweetly showcase each season’s unique offerings, from rhubarb to butternut squash.

This fresh fruit tart is from the summer section, but since it’s a little early I was unable to get the peaches and used black plums instead.  The natural geometric patterns of the overlapping sliced fruit take the panic out of decorating and provide a no-fail Betty-and-Wilma-approved elegance.

Here’s the recipe posted with permission, copyright CLEAN FOOD, copyright 2009, Terry Walters, Sterling Publishing, Co, Inc.

Fresh Fruit Tart with Almond Crust

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Filling Ingredients:

  • 4 kiwis, peeled and thinkly sliced
  • 3 peaches, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups berries of choice
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup fruit nectar or juice of  choice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon agar powder or flakes
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or kudzu
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparing crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place nuts in food processor and pulse to chop coarsely.  Add rolled oats, oat bran and salt and process until mixture resembles coarse meal.  In small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil and almond extract.  Add to almond-oat mixture and process to combine.  Transfer to 9-inch oiled tart pan or springform pan and press down to form crust.  Pierce several times with fork and bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and set aside on wire rack to cool.

Assembling Tart:

Arranged sliced kiwis and peaches around outside edge of tart and fill center with berries.  In medium pot over no heat, combine apple juice, fruit nectar, syrup, agar, and arrowroot.  Turn the heat to medium-high and whisk continuously until agar dissolves and mixture thickens.  Add vanilla, remove from heat and set aside to cool 5 minutes.  Spoon evenly over tart and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.vegan fruit tart with almond crust photo 1024x768

I really enjoyed this tart; the ease of assembly, the presentation, and the taste make it a winner for me, especially for bringing to parties or potlucks.  When you walk in with this vegan tart that looks as fancy as a Parisian patisserie, you’re gonna feel like a baking rockstar.

It’s an easy introduction to animal-free food for those less-enthusiastic guests, so go ahead and try it out!  Even cavemen like nuts and berries.

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!

xoxo,
Christine

About the Author: Christine Frazier writes vegan recipes through lots of research, trial, and error … now she is applying the same theory to her other passion, writing stories. Follow along as she deconstructs bestsellers and learns how to write a novel.

24 Comments

 

Pretend Peanut Butter Cookies with Real Taste

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday everybody!  This is Christine, and things sure have changed around the NMA house since I last checked in with you.  Of course you know by now that I am a proud aunt, ready to spoil the crap out of my new nephew with healthy treats.  That is, as soon as he’s ready to chew…

Cookies fit for 3,000,000 of your closest friendsclose up of cookie photo 300x225

In the meantime, these sunflower butter cookies will satisfy the rest of our palates.  In fact, everybody can enjoy these, even the 3 million people in this country with peanut-allergies.  Yep, there are no nuts here, and no gluten, eggs, soy, or dairy either.

Since receiving the Allergy-Free Desserts cookbook, I’ve had my eye on these so-called “Pretend Peanut Butter Cookies.”  Obviously I am not allergic to peanuts— peanut butter made its debut in my first Sweet-Tooth Friday recipe for chocolate avocado mousse, and has popped up in everything from my vegan chocolates to rice krispie treats to chickpea granola bars.

So with a love of peanut butter this strong, what would tempt me to make pretend peanut butter cookies?

The secret is sunflower seeds

I had never tried sunflower seed butter or any seed butter except for tahini before seeing this recipe.  On its own, sunflower seed butter is a delicate and creamy spread that tastes very similar to actual sunflower seeds.  But in the oven, the taste  magically transforms to something very similar to good ol’ peanut butter.  Plus, sunflower seeds are loaded with protein and vitamin E.

As for the gluten, eggs, and dairy, you’ll never miss them here either.  Again, I’m not allergic to gluten, but I enjoy a dessert more knowing that I am eating mainly ground chickpeas instead of just white flour.  If you’re curious about gluten-free baking, check out my interview with author Elizabeth Gordon as well as my post on Allergy-Free Pineapple Upside Down cake.

Here is the recipe from Elizabeth Gordon’s Allergy-Free Desserts (Wiley), reprinted with permission.criss cross cookie photo 300x225

Pretend Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
  • 1 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup organic palm fruit oil shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a cup or small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed meal and allow to thicken for 3 to 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the shortening, sugars, and sunflower seed butter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the flaxseed mixture and the vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.  Stir in the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop, drop the dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared sheets.  Press the cookies down with the tines of a fork (dipped in sugar) in the criss-cross pattern characteristic of peanut butter cookies.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are golden and the tops no longer look wet.  Transfer the baking sheets from the oven to cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies directly onto the racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.  Makes about 20 small cookies.pretend peanut butter cookies photo 1024x768

These cookies are really great, and will give any traditional peanut butter cookie a run for its money!  You’ll immediately reap the benefits of baking these goodies, especially if you happen to live with a breastfeeding mother with an insatiable craving for cookies…yep, you’ll get an extra 5 minutes of snuggling with the baby while everyone else chows down!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!

xoxo,
(Aunt) Christine

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Oh Baby! A Vegan Cookie Worth Celebrating

Hi guys!  It’s Christine here for Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This week I have a crowd-pleasing recipe for Vegan Cut-Out cookies that are perfect for personalizing and decorating for any occasion.  These are yummy enough to pass off as regular cookies to friends and family, and at Matt and Erin’s baby shower I did just that!Christine holding vegan cookie 300x224

Surprise…you don’t need eggs and butter!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s a whole world of baking outside of the standard butter and egg set.  But even if you’re in the healthy-baking know, chances are your aunts, cousins, and friends of friends are still unenlightened about the joys of animal-free baking.

That’s where this recipe comes in—it’s the perfect introduction for a non-vegan crowd!  So while the raw chia carrot cake may seem a little too foreign for your grandma to enjoy, these pretty cookies are plenty sweet, “buttery,” and dare I say, decadent.  It’s really fun to watch people’s astonishment when you tell them these cookies are vegan.

Instead of egg-white based royal icing to decorate, I made an icing with a super-fine sugar called dry or candy fondant.  I actually like it better than royal icing because it doesn’t dry as teeth-breakingly rock hard.  You could also use a variation of the icing I used on my vegan gingerbread cookies.  The shortbread-style dough here is less sweet than a normal cookie, which is a must for frosted cookies.

Cookie cutters: not just for Christmas anymore!

No Meat Athlete Organic Baby Bodysuit1 300x300If you only enter the cookie-zone around the holidays, you’re missing out on a whole year’s worth of cookie-worthy celebrations.  I like to call these “party cookies” because they are always such a hit!

Unlike many of my recipes, these cookie aren’t seasonally flavored, which lets the fun shapes and decorating be totally adaptable, and inevitably the real focus!

Maybe you remember my eclectic collection of cookie cutters…with most designs being under $2, it really is easy to impulse-buy whenever the mood strikes.  For the baby shower I decided on a baby onesie cutter like this one, which was inspired by the No Meat Athlete onesie Matt and Erin got for the baby.

Let’s break out the cookie cutters and rolling pins and get ready to celebrate with these Vegan Cut-Out Cookies!

vegan cut out cookie dough1 1024x682

Vegan Cut-Out Party Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups palm oil shortening, or 3 sticks palm oil based vegan shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Icing Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dry fondant sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (or any flavor you like!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the cookies, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  With a mixer, beat the palm oil with the sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.  Stir in the dry ingredients until a cohesive dough starts to form.  If it is too crumbly, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.

At this point you can chill the dough for an hour to make it easier to work with, but you don’t have to.  Line a insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with baking spray.  Dust with confectioners sugar.  Take a small amount of dough, about the size of a tennis ball and flatten it with your palm right on the baking sheet.  Dust your rolling pin with confectioners sugar, and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out shapes with the cookie cutter, and remove excess dough, leaving cut-outs on pan.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes- this ensures the cookies will keep their shape and not spread.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until just barely starting to brown.  While different trays of cookies are baking or chilling, you can keep working on pieces of parchment paper and then just transfer to pans when ready.   It’s ok to re-roll the same dough twice, but try not to do it more than that so the flour doesn’t get tough.  Allow baked cookies to chill thoroughly on wire racks.  Makes about 3 dozen large cookies.

For the icing, stir together the dry fondant, water, and extract.  Check the consistency and add more dry fondant or water as needed; you want it pretty thick at first for outlining cookies, and then you can thin it out later for filling in color.  Using a pastry bag or a baggie with a small hole clipped from the corner, outline the borders of your cooled cookies.  Once the icing is sturdy, fill in the background of the cookie with a thinner icing, letting it “flood” into the borders.  Once the background is dry, add colored icing to make carrots or any design, or sprinkle with colored sugars.  Allow to dry uncovered overnight.Vegan baby shower cookies 1024x682

Whether you serve these cookies for a baby shower, birthday, or just keep them frozen for midnight snacking, they really are a great way to indulge with animal-free style.  Plus, they are a lot of fun to make and decorate!

I absolutely can’t wait to meet the reason for these celebration cookies…the long anticipated Baby Fraz!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday, possibly with a brand spankin’ new NMA baby niece or nephew in tow!

xoxo Christine

15 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut-Ganache

matt chris easter photo

Matt and Christine, Easter 1988

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine, and it’s time to celebrate Spring the best way I know how…with vegan cupcakes!  Topped with a luscious coconut-ganache, these chocolate cupcakes will outshine everything in your Easter basket.

My dark (chocolate) secret

Easter cupcakes photo 300x225You and I have had this dessert relationship going on for almost a year now, so I think I’m ready to give up one of my baking secrets.  Ready?

I have one “master” vegan chocolate cake recipe that I use for everything.

Cupcakes, bundts, cakes…you name it.  I just swap a few flavor elements and each time it’s like a whole new dessert.  It’s easy and reliable without sacrificing creativity.  The swappable flavor hotspots in this recipe are the types of milk, hot liquid, and the extracts.

For a springy Peter-Cottontail effect, I knew I wanted this batch of cupcakes to involve coconut.  (Funny how around the winter time coconut signifies ‘snow’ instead).  I ended up using coconut milk in the cupcakes and organic coconut oil and unsweetened flakes in the ganache— that trifecta of natural coconut flavors results in a lot more satisfying dessert than the cloyingly sweet and artificial coconut flavor you may be used to.

As for the hot liquid, though I usually favor brewed coffee, this time I chose vanilla rooibos tea.  You can use any herbal tea that complements the flavors of chocolate and coconut (though chai may taste out of season).

Finally, for the extract I went with a touch of almond.  The combination of chocolate, almond, and coconut has Easter written all over it.

Christine frosting cupcakes photo 300x281When making the ganache, if you want to use color,  just add a dab of gel food coloring for a pretty pastel shade— there’s nothing more unappetizing than a neon-frosted dessert.  And remember that the ganache is very rich so it doesn’t need to be mounded on top like buttercream; a little swirl with a knife goes a long way.

I’m scared to finally give it up, but here’s one variation of my top-secret vegan chocolate all-purpose-batter…

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut-Ganache

Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup vanilla-rooibos or any herbal tea
  • Coconut Ganache Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut milk, about the remainder of the can

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together the flour, flaxseed, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk in the coconut milk, applesauce, canola oil, and almond extract until smooth.  Slowly pour in the hot tea and whisk until uniform.
Line a mini cupcake tin with cups and spray lightly with baking spray.  Pour in the batter about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the pans around the oven when half way through.  Let cool thoroughly before frosting (the coconut oil melts easily).For the ganache, microwave the coconut oil for 10-20 seconds, just to get it soft enough to be able to whisk out the lumps– you don’t want it to be completely liquid.  Whisk in the powdered sugar and coconut milk until smooth.  Separate into smaller bowls to add food coloring if you want.  Spread a small amount of coconut ganache on each cupcake and then sprinkle with the flaked coconut.

cupcakes close up photo 1024x638This makes about 6 dozen little cupcakes.  They freeze well in ziplock bags if you only want to serve half this weekend, though don’t be surprised by how quickly they get gobbled up!

Have a lovely spring weekend!  I’ll keep you updated on other variations of this “master” recipe I try out—and let me know what you come up with too!

Stay sweet,
xoxo Christine

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