Sweet-Tooth Friday: Two Flax Desserts

christine cookies photo 225x300Hi guys!  Christine here, checking in for your weekly dessert fix!  As you may know by now, I love a good baking challenge.  So when Matt did a review of some flaxseed from Flaxmatters.com and left a subtle hint for me to come up with a new flax recipe, I was totally in!  To be honest, he requested blueberrry flax energy bars, but since this week was my birthday I went ahead and made my favorite treat instead: oatmeal cookies!  And I didn’t stop there—I was so excited with the huge bags of flax I whipped up some homemade granola too.  With two recipes we have a lot to cover today, so let’s get started!

Vegan Oatmeal-Flax-Spelt Cookies

A cookie with some many healthy ingredients in its title may make you nervous, but these cookies are AMAZING!  They are now my ultimate favorite STF recipe to date!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried currants or other fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the spelt flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat the coconut oil with a whisk until smooth.  You may have to microwave it to soften the oil a bit.  Whisk in the sugars, then stir in the flax seed.  Add the applesauce and vanilla and mix until uniform.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.  Fold in the currants.

Using an ice cream scoop, place large mounds of cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet.  Flatten the cookies with your palm so they are about 3 inches across.

Bake for 16 minutes, turning the pan around about halfway through baking.  Makes 15 large bakery-style cookies.

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Part of the reason these cookies are so yummy is because I used coconut oil in place of the butter from the original recipe, so they still taste luxiously indulgent like a bakery cookie.  I reduced the sugar down to my liking, but my brother said he would have preferred them a little sweeter, so you may want to add about 2 tablespoons more of each sugar if you’d like.  Since these are vegan, there are no worries about tasting the dough as you go along!  Applesauce works well here in place of the eggs by adding just enough moisture without competing flavors.

Vegan Blueberry-Flax Granola

Granola is one of those “kitchen sink” style recipes where just about anything goes.  I based the ratios of my version from the ones in “Even Husband Likes it Granola.” I intentionally undercooked mine slightly because I don’t care for really hard granola that scratches my mouth.  I also used rice syrup here since I invested in some last week and it lent a subtle sweetness without overpowering the rest of the flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1 cup ground blueberry flax
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Stir together the oats, oat bran, flax, almonds, coconut, dried fruit, cinnamon, and salt.
Combine the canola oil and rice syrup together and microwave for about 30 seconds.  Stir to combine, then microwave another 30 seconds.  Pour the hot mixture over the dry and stir to combine.

Spread on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring up the mixture on the pan every 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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This granola was excellent!  Much fresher, softer, and made with fewer mystery ingredients than most store bought kinds.  My only complaint that it was a little too crumbly- it worked fine as cereal but there weren’t enough large clumps for straight up snacking.  I think next time I may try to increase the canola oil by half a cup to help unify it better.  And I will definitely be making this again!

First Tastes of 2010: Pomelo

In sticking with my resolution, I am still trying one new food per week.  This week at my regular supermarket I spotted pomelos, otherwise known as Citrus Maxima. And the name is no joke- this is a huge piece of fruit, almost as big as my head!  My pomelo was delicious- it had all the flavor of grapefruit, just without the sourness.  They are considered in China to bring about good fortune, but I felt happy just to have tried it.

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One more thing before I sign off—when researching flax recipes, I came across an interesting one for Banana Flax Pancakes.  I ran out of time to give it a whirl, but it is on my list for this weekend!

See you next week!

xoxo Christine

27 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Millet Crispy Treats

christine cooking photo 300x200Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday everybody!  It’s Christine and I am totally psyched to be back—I took a small break with the last two Friday’s falling on Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I had a lovely holiday but now that the hustle and bustle is through I am ready to get crackin’ on 2010!

A couple things to resolve

Like my big bro, I look forward to making New Year’s resolutions and changes.  I have two main goals this year, and both are continuations of things I started in 2009.  I think that getting these out here publicly will help me stay on track.

1.  Try 52 new foods in 2010, or one new food per week.

Since I started writing Sweet-Tooth Fridays, I have continually ventured out to natural markets and ethnic stores in search of ingredients. In the process, I have tried so many things I had never had before.  My list includes tamarind, yucca, choyute, rhubarb, kukicha twig tea, coconut water, kumquats, stevia, hemp milk, and almond butter.  I’ve noticed that when making my weekly menus I am often in repeating cycles of lentil sloppy joes and black bean burritos.  So this resolution demands that my menu stays exciting and my palate expands.  I’ll keep you guys posted at the end of my dessert posts about what I discover each week.

2.  Make an exercise plan and commit.

EssentialsJacketIsn’t it funny how a small thing like the wrong playlist on your iPod can keep you from hitting the gym for weeks?  No matter how much I enjoy exercise while I am doing it, it’s always so easy for me to trail off and procrastinate it again.  For the first half of 2010, I have committed to 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week and 30 minutes of Core Performance Essentials stretching 3 times a week.  I’ll keep the cardio off the pavement to avoid another stress fracture and reevaluate the plan as needed.

The new bakesale staple

This week for my healthy dessert I decided to try an update for the classic Rice Krispie treat.  I got the idea from a book I checked out of the library called Sweet Alternative, by Ariana Bundy.  All of the recipes are made without gluten, dairy, and soy.  Alas, if they only had nixed eggs as well I would be one happy baker.  The book is more geared toward allergies than lifestyle choices, but at least many of the recipes happen to be vegan without my sworn enemy soy margarine.

The recipe in the book calls for puffed quinoa, but at the natural store I could only find puffed kamut and millet, so I went with the latter.  Millet is chock full of vitamin B and has some protein too.

This recipe also includes rice syrup, and I reluctantly picked up a jar of organic brown rice syrup for around 9 dollars.  I say reluctantly, because I would like your opinion on this- why is brown rice syrup preferred over corn syrup? Besides the organic bit, they are both sugars taken from grains.  I see rice syrup recommended all the time in healthy desserts, but it makes me wonder if it is being glorified only on the basis that corn syrup is associated with junk food and sodas.  I’d love to hear your opinion before coughing up over double the cost again.

Vegan Millet Crispy Treats

millet krispies ingredients 300x200Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rice syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups puffed millet
  • 1/2 cup neutral-flavored dried fruits, like apricots and apples, finely chopped

Combine the peanut butter, vanilla, salt, and rice syrup in a saucepan and heat until boiling.   Remove from heat and immediately stir in the puffed millet and dried fruits.

Spoon mixture into a greased 8 inch square pan.  Press evenly to fill in entire pan.  Allow to cool, then cut into 16 squares.

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These millet crispies smelled amazing and were really good- but they were just short of being awesome.  I think to have the ooey-gooey goodness of the classic treats these bars need more liquid or less millet.  Next time I will increase the peanut butter and rice syrup by 2 tablespoons each, but that’s just my preference.  I definitely recommend giving these bars a shot—try substituting puffed kamut, different nut butters or different dried fruits!

First Tastes of 2010: Pomegranate

Before I sign off, I just wanted to share my first experiment with my New Year’s resolution!  This week I tried a fresh pomegranate.  I have had this flavor in juices and tea, but I never cut up and and dug out all the juicy seeds for myself.  WOW!  No wonder this fruit is included in Greek mythology—I was in absolute ecstasy eating the seeds by the spoonful and enjoying the tiny crunch.  I can’t wait to include pomegranate in a cool dessert or an avocado salad.  A wonderful start to my new year of new tastes.

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See you next week!
xoxo Christine

21 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

christine with pie photo 300x200Hi everybody!  It’s Christine here for Sweet-Tooth Friday, and I can’t believe how quickly December is flying by!  While enjoying this last week before Christmas, give this Vegan Chocolate Cream pie a whirl. It’s so festive with its peppermint and marshmallows, no one will guess it’s made from avocados!

A little look back

Not only has December flown by, but so has the entire year!  In fact, this week’s post marks a mini anniversary for me- six months of Sweet-Tooth Fridays.  So much has happened since the day I introduced myself to you as the NMA’s little sister.  I’ve definitely made some healthier changes to my lifestyle, from cutting meat out from my home cooking to joining a Camogie team!

I’ve also learned much more about animal- and soy-free baking, alternative sweeteners and flours, and the environmental and even legal issues surrounding the food industry.  Believe me, these past six months have been full of trial and error!

The inspiration for today’s recipe came from my very first Sweet-Tooth Friday when I made Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse from avocados.  At the end of that post I wrote:

I was particularly stoked about how well it firmed up in the fridge overnight- I’m thinking with a few alterations it has potential for delicious (and healthy) icebox pie filling!  But that’s for another post…

Well, better late than never!  I’m finally giving  that icebox pie its chance.  I think originally in the back of my mind I was envisioning a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie with lots of fresh sliced bananas between the filling and a graham cracker crust.  But with the holidays quickly approaching, I took the flavors in a different (merrier) direction.

I swapped the peanut butter with almond butter to give a more neutral background that wouldn’t compete with the peppermint.  The almond butter unfortunately did not completely wash out the taste of avocados, so I threw in some dashes of mint liqueur to seal the deal.

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At Whole Foods I picked up some organic natural candy canes and vegan marshmallows.  Although pricey, I was thoroughly impressed with both products.  The Pure Fun candy canes are swirled red with fruit juice.  They had a nice refreshing taste without any sticky mouth-coating aftertaste.  And the Dandies vegan marshmallows are amazing!  They were squishy without that mystery gumminess- much better than regular marshmallows in my opinion.

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Finally, I picked up a vegan chocolate pie crust at Whole Foods as well.  I know, I know, I should be making my own, but I am in the middle of another of this year’s big changes- I’m moving!  So my excuse this week is that currently all my pie plates are packed away.

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So without further ado, here is the six-month-in-the-making avocado pie.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:1 prebaked vegan chocolate pie crust
4 small avocados, about 2 cups mashed
1 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond butter
2 tbsp creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps
10 oz vegan marshmallows
12 natural candy canes

Optional garnish: chocolate syrup, cherry on top

Mash the avocados and then beat as smooth as possible with a whisk.  Stir together the chocolate chips and canola oil, then melt in the microwave, about 1 minute, until smooth.  Stir the chocolate into the avocados, as well as the agave nectar, salt, and mint liqueur.  Press mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.  Stir in almond butter.

Chop most of the marshmallows into pieces, leaving some whole to make a decorative border.  Fold into batter.

Unwrap the candy canes and put in a large ziplock bag.  Beat with a heavy mallet or rolling pin until broken into very small pieces.  Reserve a handful to garnish the top of the pie, then fold the rest in the batter.

Spread the mixture into the pie crust.  Line the border with reserved marshmallows and sprinkle candy cane crumble in the center.  Drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with a cherry if desired.  Refrigerate until firm enough to slice.

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This pie is delicious!  It has really fun rocky road type texture.  The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was my store-bought pie crust.  Next time I’ll smash my own vegan ‘oreo’ style cookies.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas, especially when you see the look on your family’s faces when you tell them this week’s secret ingredient!

Here’s to another great six months!  Thanks for all of your comments and support!

xoxo Christine

6 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Jubilee Bars

jubilee bars on plate photo 300x200Merry Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine here with another holiday dessert.  This week I made vegan jubilee bars, which are like miniature versions of the classic Christmas fruitcake.  But don’t freak out— fruitcake doesn’t have to live up to it’s rock-hard reputation— these are a soft and delightfully chewy combination of fruit, nuts, and chocolate.  They’re good for you too!

Happiness is a Warm Cookie

christine and recipe photo 225x300“Woe is me!  I made White Bean Blondies for this week’s post and they totally sucked!  Now what do I do?”  This was my cry on Wednesday evening while at my dad’s house.  My stepmom Margaret said she had an idea and pulled out an old yellowed newspaper clipping.  Her mom had originally cut out this article entitled Happiness is a Warm Cookie, and Margaret’s family has been baking with the recipes for years.

And even though the author Mrs. Roeder has a hairdo that is a bit old-fashioned, her advice is still pretty sound.  She writes “Don’t worry about cookies spoiling appetites and not being good for children.  Select recipes that use liberal amounts of cereals and fruits for ‘anytime’ snacking.”  It’s true— your desserts don’t have to be unhealthy!

In the spirit of her advice, I made some updates to the recipe that I’m sure Mrs. Roeder wouldn’t mind.  In the past, shortening made sense because of butter rations, but now that we know the harmful effects of trans fat, I figured canola oil would make a better choice.  And I updated to whole wheat pastry flour (in the recipe it calls for ‘flower’) and organic sugar.  For the eggs, I made flax eggs by mixing ground flax seed with water.

This recipe calls for finely chopped mixed candied fruit.  Those are the neon green cherries that may come to mind when you think of fruitcakes, but traditionally it also includes pineapple, citron, and orange peel.  At the natural market I found some maraschino cherries that are colored with fruit and vegetable juice instead of red dye. They are made by The Silver Palate and they are delicious!  A lot of times I can’t tell too much of a difference when eating natural products besides the peace of mind, but I really recommend these cherries- no bitter aftertaste at all!  To stay true to the traditional taste of the mixed candied fruit, I added a tablespoon each of dried orange and lemon peel.

Vegan Jubilee Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp flax seed, ground
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp if using salted nuts)
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips (half a 12 oz bag)
  • 1 cup chopped mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit


Optional garnish: extra powdered sugar and melted chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Grind the flax seeds and mix with the water, set aside to become gummy.  In the  meantime, if using dried orange and lemon peel, soak in maraschino cherry juice for a couple minutes.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  Combine the dates, chocolate chips, nuts, and candied fruit, set aside.

Beat the flax mixture with a whisk until about the consistency of eggs, then whisk in powdered sugar and oil.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Fold in fruit and nut mixture.  The batter here is very very thick, but work hard to fold the ingredients in evenly.

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Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and spread batter into pan.  I had to wash my hands and actually press the batter in because it is so thick.  Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating around in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Quick, before anyone realizes these are healthy: dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with melted chocolate.

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I have to confess that since making these bars yesterday I’ve singlehandedly polished off about half of them!  They have an amazing old-fashioned Christmas taste from the combination of citrus, nuts, and chocolate.  I imagine them fitting right into a Victorian Christmas like in The Nutcracker Ballet.

I hope you give these healthy bars a try and help let fruitcake enjoy the spotlight that at one time it deserved!  Thanks to Margaret for the vintage recipe.  See you next Friday!

Until then, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine

8 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Baked Ornaments

fruit photo 1 300x200Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine here, and this week I’ve got a fun baking project that makes a great Christmas gift!  These glittery citrus and apple slices look so nice on a tree or formed together into a wreath.  Best of all, these ornaments are inexpensive and totally easy!

Making Spirits Bright

Making and receiving homemade gifts is my favorite part of the holidays.  I’m lucky because my whole family gets into it!  Over the years I’ve bottled up and gifted organic limoncello, homemade vegetable broth, and even marshmallow fluff.  Last year my dad made everyone homemade jars of barbecue sauce.  For my birthday, Matt made me some running mix cds and a batch of frozen gnochhi.  My mom is an awesome sewer- she’s made some lavish lounging pillows for Matt’s dogs, and this year I think I’ve convinced her to sew me some frilly aprons.  And Erin bakes and packages up the yummiest biscotti ever.

dried fruit ornaments photo 300x200I don’t want to come off too sappy, but the time and thought put into homemade gifts really does make them extra special.  If you haven’t made a gift by hand since that kindergarten macaroni necklace, fret not!  These decorations are pretty much fool proof.  I used edible glitter because that’s what I had on hand, but regular clear or opal glitter (not silver) will look nice too.

I baked the citrus pieces directly on the oven racks, but the apples needed more support to keep from curling, so those I placed on a smaller wire rack I usually use for cooling baked goods. When making the apple ornaments, I found that I could only get about 4 attractive slices from each apple that included the seeds. With the leftover apple, toss some chunks in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.  Baking up the spiced apple chips makes a delicious snack and will smell amazing.

Dried Fruit Ornaments

Supplies:

  • assortment of apples, grapefruit, oranges, and lemons
  • bay leaves
  • mod podge or any decoupage glue
  • paint brush
  • hot glue gun
  • ribbon
  • glitter
  • sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, optional

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Slice the fruits into 1/4 inch slices.  Lay on paper towels and pat dry as much as you can.  Use the leftover lemon ends and squeeze lemon juice over the apple slices to prevent browning.  Sprinkle extra apple pieces with spices.

Lay the citrus pieces directly on the oven rack and the apple pieces on a smaller wire rack.  Bake for 2 to 3 hours until dry and firm, but not blackened.  The apples and lemons will be done before the grapefruits and oranges.  Turn the pieces over at least once during baking to keep the sides even and flat.  The spiced apple pieces that you want to eat need much less time, just about an hour.

When the slices are cool, brush them with mod podge and sprinkle with glitter while the glue is still wet.  (Obviously, don’t eat anything you put glue and glitter on).  If you want you can glaze the backs too once the fronts are dry.  Brush the bay leaves with mod podge and dip in glitter.  Attach ribbon loops to the backs of the slices with the hot glue gun, and bows if you want.  Use the hot glue to attach the bay leaves to the fruit and add little tags on the back of the ornaments.

If you want to make a wreath, glue the glittered pieces either on a cardboard circle or an actual wreath base.

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I had a nice time making these and was really pleased with the professional results!  Plus it was so nice to have my home smelling Christmasy.  So skip those couple hours you otherwise would have spent at the mall and get down with your crafty self!  See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday for more holiday ideas!

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xoxo Christine

P.S. Don’t tell my fam what I’m making this year!

34 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Cranberry Spinach Bars

christine with cranberry bars photo 300x200Hey guys, it’s Christine here wishing you a happy Sweet-Tooth Black Friday!  I hope you had a nice veggie filled Thanksgiving yesterday.  If you are taking a break from shopping and noshing on leftovers already, be sure to set some cranberry sauce aside for today’s recipe, Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars, made with a secret helping of spinach!

The Sweet Side

Now you may be tired of cooking after yesterday’s big meal, but this Cranberry Crumble will carry you all the way to Christmas.  The tart flavor adds a nice contrast to both savory dishes and desserts.   Best of all, this berry packs a powerful nutritional punch.  Besides being filled with vitamin C, cranberries also have phytochemicals that act as antioxidants.  Cranberries can even fight bacteria, like the ones that cause gum disease and urinary tract infections.  Their bright red skin adds a splash to any holiday table, but more importantly, that red color comes from anthocyanins, another super powerful antioxidant.

Environmentally speaking, cranberry bogs offer a couple of benefits as well.  Cranberry bogs need quite of bit of surrounding land to support the wetland, which provides homes for other wildlife.  These wetlands help prevent the spread of urban sprawl.  With some pressure from the EPA, cranberry farmers are starting to use natural methods for controlling pests and weeds.  For example, instead of pesticides, they apply a thin layer of sand to the cranberry vines which buries insect eggs, fungus spores, and seeds that may compete with the cranberries.

The Sour Side

Unfortunately, the enviromental effects of cranberry bogs aren’t all so sweet.  Farmers still use pesticides directly in the fresh water that covers the cranberries, and this water runs off into other streams and river.  Even when chemicals aren’t used, cranberries bogs can still affect local water.  Farmers need to keep running water over the vines to keep them from freezing.  The addition of this running warmer water heats up other local water sources, which can harm species that need cold water for survival, like trout.  Finally, cranberry bogs are rarely constructed from scratch.  They are usually built on top of natural wetlands, an already endangered environment.  Check out this cool article from TLC and How Stuff Works for more information.

On the baking side, although there are many benefits to cranberries, there is always one prevailing problem: sugar.  Cranberries need a lot of sweetening to be palatable in desserts.  But with the increasing availabilty of stevia and agave nectar, there are lower sugar ways of solving the tart issue.

Vegan Cranberry Crumble Bars

For my first cranberry dessert of the season, I decided to rework an old favorite: Vegan Blueberry Crumble Bars.  When I first made that recipe, I liked it so much I vowed to make another variation of it.  This time, instead of the blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, I used a can of Organic Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce.  If you are using fresh homemade cranberry sauce, you may need to increase the arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken it up.  To make a more seasonal dessert, I substituted a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice for the teaspoon of cinnamon, and used pecans instead of almonds.  Finally, instead of almond extract, I added a teaspoon of orange liqueur to better complement the cranberries.  I went for “bars” this time instead of “wedges,” and found that in the 8 inch square pan I used needed another 5-10 minutes of baking.

The result?  A delicious and healthy dessert that definitely got me in the holiday spirit!  The darkness of the cranberries worked well with the spinach, and just like last time, the spinach was totally undetectable in both taste and appearance.  These Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars would be a super way to introduce something healthier to your cookie exchange!

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Ok that’s it for this week!  I just wanted to say thanks to Matt and Erin for the delicious and healthy Thanksgiving dinner; I know they worked really hard preparing it.  The Spicy Curried Pumpkin Soup and the Pecan Brussel Sprouts were just to die for.  Thanks guys!!

Check back in next week for some “sweet” homemade Christmas gift ideas!

xoxo Christine

AG logo OGSFAmazing Grass Sale

Hey everybody, it’s Matt.  Just wanted to let you know that the nice folks at Amazing Grass, who did a giveaway on this blog a few weeks back, asked me to pass along the message that they’re having a Black Friday sale today.  30% off anything except combos and sale packs, today (11/27) only.  Just use the coupon code “greenfriday” at checkout.  A lot of you said that the price of Amazing Grass was the only thing you didn’t like about it, so here’s your opportunity.  And if you go there right from my site, I’ll get credit for the referral, so by all means, do that!

7 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Pumpkin Pie

christine pumpkin pie photo 300x200Hey everyone!  It’s Christine here for Sweet-Tooth Friday!  There’s no denying it now, Thanksgiving is just around the corner so I have an amazingly easy and delicious recipe for No-Bake Vegan Pumpkin Pie!

Tofu, or not tofu

…that is the question.  Classic pumpkin pie is just another version of custard pie, so it is hard to pull off without the use of eggs.  Many vegan bakers solve this problem by using tofu.  And it works: tofu mimics the structure of the eggs while still adding fat and creaminess.

But as you know by now, I am not interested in simply making soy copies of desserts.  Plus, I was hoping for a no-bake recipe to ease your stress around Thanksgiving preparation, and I’m not into uncooked tofu!

vegan pumpkin pie ingredients photo 300x200I came across a raw recipe for pumpkin pie which was a great inspiration.  The real eureka with this recipe was the use of two ingredients: cashews and coconut oil.  Problem solved for fat, creaminess, and structure!  Both are sources of good fat, cashews have a yummy creamy taste, and the coconut oil can stay in a solid state!

Interestingly enough, the recipe I liked used carrot juice in place of pumpkin, I guess because the pumpkin rind always needs to be cooked down to be enjoyable.  I wanted the real deal, but since I’m out of my homemade puree I went with canned pumpkin instead.

The raw recipe also required the pie to be kept frozen.  To avoid this, I mixed everything on the stovetop with some arrowroot until it thickened up, and then just spread it into my crust.

Oh yes, the crust!  My gingerbread cookies from last week went the extra mile- I threw the leftovers into the food processor and turned them into a delicious press-in-the-pan cookie crust!  The version I made was just a little too crumbly for that perfect clean slice, so I have added a flaxseed paste to the recipe here to help keep things together.

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The gingerbread cookies have a hearty spiciness to them so I didn’t add much spice to the pie filling itself.  If you end up using another kind of cookie, I would recommend adding a teaspoon or two of pumpkin pie spice.

No-Bake Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

For the filling:

  • 2 cups (1 can) pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot

Mix the ground flax seed with 2 tbsp water and stir until thick.
Combine the cookie crumbs, salt, oil, and maple syrup.  Stir in flax mixture.  Press into a greased pie plate firmly on the bottom and up the sides.  Store in freezer to chill.

vegan pumpkin pie filling photo 300x200In a saucepan, set the heat on low and whisk together the pumpkin, cashew butter, maple syrup, and coconut oil.  Once the coconut oil is melted, stir in the spices, salt and arrowroot.  Continue stirring until the mixture thickens and sticks to the whisk when lifted.  It should be about the consistency of peanut butter.

Spread the pumpkin filling into the chilled crust.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm.  If you are storing overnight, wait for the pie to cool all the way down, then cover with plastic wrap.

YUM!  This pie is unbelievably rich and creamy!  The cashew butter is just awesome.  For vegans and non-vegans alike this will be the star on your Thanksgiving table.  I hope you enjoy this animal-free way to sweeten up your big meal!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!
xoxo Christine

17 Comments

 

Vegan Gingerbread Stout Cookies

Beer Isn’t Vegan?

gingerbread family photo 300x295Yippee, it’s Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine here with the first “festive” dessert of the season!  I wanted to make a vegan version of my famous Guinness gingerbread, but boy was I in for a surprise when I typed the words ‘vegan’ and ‘Guinness’ together in my search engine – instead of yummy recipes I found lots of discussions on how Guinness (and other cask beers) are not vegetarian friendly!

Really?  Beer isn’t naturally vegan?  Turns out, many use a fish product called isinglass to filter cask beers.  I can’t believe I had been in the dark about this.  Shouldn’t that kind of information be on the label?

Actually, the FDA requires food and beverage labeling, but alcohol is governed by a different agency.  Right now, alcohol companies really only need to back up their product with the facts if they make certain claims, like the beer is organic or low-calorie.  I read one comment against labeling alcohol that was particularly hilarious: “Wine fined with isinglass labeled ‘Contains: Fish’ would wreak havoc on consumer perceptions.”  Um, yeah, it would!  But is the right response to that just keep the offensive ingredient a secret?

I understand that transparency is not a black and white issue.  Among many problems is that it is expensive, especially for the smaller companies.  But if it is for something I put into my body, and the economics have worked out over on the FDA side, it seems like it should be worth it.  I don’t think I’ve heard any of the low-cal beers feeling the hardships of their labels (though most are from large companies).  My impression is that it would be a competitive advantage to let consumers have the information to choose.

After all, lots of people are concerned about calories and carbs.  And the sugar content would be great for diabetics to access.  But you know what’s totally frustrating?  While reading the official 26 page proposal on labeling, I could not find one petition for vegetarians.  With all these health concerns, the use of isinglass, egg whites, bone charcoal, or any other animal product in alcoholic beverages somehow was not an issue.  Luckily, Guinness has confirmed that their Extra Stout is in fact vegan.

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies with Guinness Stout

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So, without further ado, I give you truly vegan gingerbread cookies, made with Guinness Extra Stout.  I modified this recipe from one on the wonderful site The Post Punk Kitchen, where vegan really does rawk.  My main change was adding the Guinness as the liquid.  I simmered it down to concentrate the flavor and get rid of the alcohol.  I also wanted a really super thin and crisp cookie, so I switched to powdered sugar instead of granulated, a trick I picked up from a certain cookie guru.  Then I made up my own Guinness flavored royal icing!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Guinness Extra Stout [Update: Guinness Extra Stout is no longer vegan or vegetarian-friendly icon sad Choose a different stout.]
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (the brand Wholesome Sweeteners does not filter through animal products)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp each baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • optional tsp grated fresh ginger

gingerbread ingredients photo 300x200Simmer the cup of Guinness Extra stout uncovered on the stovetop until it is reduced by half, which took me about 25 minutes.  Let cool.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, set aside.
Mix together the oil and sugar, then add the molasses and 1/4 cup of the Guinness. (Save the rest of the Guinness for the icing).
Stir in the grated ginger if using, and gradually fold in the dry ingredients until it makes a nice coherent dough.  Mine was too dry at first and needed an additional tablespoon of the Guinness to get it to a workable consistency.
Divide the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour (up to a couple days).

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a large piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray.  Place one ball of dough on it, smoosh with your hand into a disk, and then roll out until very thin.  It’s ok if the edges crack a little, but if they are seriously ripping then let the dough warm up for about 10 minutes, then try again.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Gently peel up the excess dough, leaving the cut out shapes on the foil.  This way you don’t need to handle the shapes and risk breaking them.  Move aluminum foil onto a cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant.  Gather the dough scraps into a ball and repeat on a new piece of foil.  When the first round of cookies are done, wait a minute to cool, then transfer cookies to wire rack.  You can keep using the same two pieces of foil, just re-spray with Pam each time.

Vegan Guinness Royal icing ingredients:

  • 2 tsp egg replacer
  • 2 tbsp reduced Guinness extra stout
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Whisk together egg replacer and Guinness until quite frothy and thick.  Add the extract and powdered sugar.  Place icing in a pastry bag or plastic bag with just a snip of the corner cut off.  Wait until the cookies are completely cool to decorate.  The icing dries quickly, so this amount will ice one half of the cookie recipe.  Make another batch of icing if you are baking both balls of dough at once. (I made one half and froze the other ball of dough for later.)  Once the icing is dry, keep the cookies in an airtight container.

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Now this is my kind of cookie: thin and crisp, without being too crunchy, plus a big dose of spiciness!  The Guinness adds an elegant malty bitterness that totally compliments the gingerbread flavor!  Best of all, these are simple to make and the whole process is a lot of fun.  I think if you use autumn cookie cutters like leaves, acorns, and turkeys, these would be super cute for Thanksgiving.  (For some reason I have only compiled the most random and seasonally-useless collection of cookie cutters, like motorcycles and flamingos!)  You could even ice names on the cookies and use them as place cards!

Be sure to stop by next week for more yummy and healthy ways to veganize your holiday desserts!
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.

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