Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Lemon Bars

Hey everyone, it’s Matt.  I’ll hand it off to Christine in just a second, by I believe I owe you some shirt winners!

Ready?  The five winners of the No Meat Athlete t-shirts are: Bridget (from Pounding Pavement and Plants), sals, Larissa, Kelsey, and Shannon (from Tri 2 Cook).  Congratulations, and thank you again for all the encouraging comments about my blog birthday.

And speaking of shirts, I just got in a shipment of 72 new ones, including about 15 each of the coveted women’s small and medium technical shirts, which I just cannot seem to keep in stock.  So if you’ve been waiting for one, get it before they’re gone again!

And I always love when people send me photos, here are some of the recent NMA representers!

Blogger and veggie mom, Mama Pea:

Nicest commenter in the world, Erica from Itzy’s Kitchen:

Twitterer and homebrewer Andy, who sported the carrot pride in his first half marathon:

Casey, husband of Emily from the Front Burner, pounding a green monster:

My Daily Mile pal Meredith, who blogs at Sweat Every Day and is running her first 10K tomorrow:

Maria, from Real Fit Mama, and her daughter Linsey, who are running a half marathon to support ASPCA (which you can support, by the way):

And this guy, whose photo was snapped by Caroline of See Cat Run while they ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon (and he was wearing Vibram Five Fingers!):

Thanks for the photos everyone, keep ’em coming!

Ok, here’s Christine…

Vegan Lemon Bars from Veganomicon

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine, at your service with another healthy dessert!  Though I’m totally smitten with last week’s wholesome quinoa muffins, I couldn’t let the month of Veganomicon go by without exploring the more indulgent side of their recipes.  There are were so many yummy choices, but I finally decided on Vegan Lemon bars.

Agar agar: The final frontier

I think up until now I had tried almost every vegan trick in the book…except agar agar!  I got my agar powder from iHerb.com with Matt’s first time customer code so I pretty much just had to pay for the shipping.    Agar powder is a vegan alternative to gelatin —you’ve probably heard by now that your Easter Peeps and gummy bears are made with pork, cow and horse products.

Agar, on the other hand, is actually derived from red algae or seaweed.  It thickens when heated which makes it perfect for jellies and custard-style desserts (but makes me nervous that the ocean may gel over some particularly hot day!).  It also can be used as a vegan filtering agent in beers (remember when I learned that some beer wasn’t vegan?)

“Cafe-style lemon bars are here!”

I was a little skeptical of that claim, but healthy-bakers can rejoice!  These are indulgent and tangy just like the egg-yolk, gelatin, and butter versions.  For the vegan margarine, I used Earth Balance’s natural shortening, which only has four ingredients: expeller pressed palm fruit, soybean, canola, and olive oil.  I know these are called lemon bars, but my dad just got back from Key West so I actually used the key lime juice he brought me!  Even he was impressed how much these tasted like little key lime pies.

Vegan Lemon Bars

reprinted with permission, from Veganomicon


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus additional to decorate the finished bars
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine


  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3 tbsp agar flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Prepare the crust:
Pulse the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor.  Add the margarine in spoonfuls and blend 8 to 10 seconds, and then pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides, so that it can hold in the filling.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the unfilled crust for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling:
In a saucepot, soak the agar in the water for 15 minutes.  Use the time while it soaks to zest your lemons and squeeze your lemon juice.  Mix the arrowroot into the lemon juice to dissolve.
When the agar has been soaked for 15 minutes, turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes, or until the agar is completely dissolved.  Add the granulated sugar and turmeric, and boil until they have dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the arrowroot mixture, then add the lemon zest and soy milk.  Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  It should not be rapidly boiling, but low bubbling is okay.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.  Let cool for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and has set.  Use a sifter or a fine-mesh strainer to sprinkle the bars with confectioners’ sugar.  Slice in squares and serve.

Ta-da!  Perfect vegan lemon bars!  Using the turmeric to get that lemony-yolk color is genius, and you can’t taste that little bit at all.  Maybe next time I can use a pinch of matcha powder to help show off the key lime.   This recipe says it makes 12 bars, but those are definitely 12 huge cafe-sized bars.  If you’re serving them at a get-together, I think they could be cut into 24 or more pieces for easy snacking.

That’s it for this week!  Thanks again to Isa and Terry for letting us showcase some recipes this month.

Until next time, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Almond-Quinoa Muffins

Hi everybody!  This is Christine and welcome back to Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This week I made Vegan Almond-Quinoa muffins from the featured cookbook of the month, Veganomicon.

Vegan cupcakes fit for cupcake snobs

Before I was a vegan baker, I worked at a boutique-style cupcakery that does fabulously creative displays and towers of cupcakes without ever compromising on flavor.  When customers started requesting vegan cupcakes, I just wasn’t sure I could make them to the standards people had come to expect from the shop.

Just for fun, I picked up a copy of  Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and within days the cupcakery was able to offer vegan cupcakes on the menu.    Yes, the recipes are that inspired and that good.  In fact, I attribute my later decision to focus only on vegan baking, and eventually on food law, to that first positive experience.

So when I got my hands on Isa and Terry’s next creation, Veganomicon, you can imagine how excited I was to find three chapters on baking!  There are chapters for Desserts, Cookies and Bars, and Breads, Muffins and Scones.  Holy cannoli!

Who knew quinoa could be so cute?

After deep contemplation I chose Almond-Quinoa muffins to try because I was intrigued by the idea of baking with a new kind of whole grain.  Isa and Terry recommended red quinoa as particularly “charming” in these muffins, so I just cooked some up the night before with dinner and reserved an unseasoned portion.

Besides, when’s the last time you had quinoa for breakfast, sweetened only with agave nectar and dried apricots?  You will be blown away by how satisfying and yummy these healthy little suckers are!

Vegan Almond-Quinoa Muffins

Vegan Almond-Quinoa Muffins
Serves: 12 Muffins
(reprinted from Veganomicon with permission)
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup almond meal almond flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1¼ cups cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup finely chopped dried apricots or currants
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed. Allow to sit for 1 minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar and vanilla.
  3. In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa and the apricots and mix until only the large lumps are gone.
  4. Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

These almond-quinoa muffins are amazing! I didn’t make any substitutions besides using my silicone cupcake wrappers instead of greasing a tin. I can’t believe these muffins are quinoa-based and have so little sweetener. The almond flour lends a nice buttery taste, but without the heaviness of standard calorie-bomb muffins. Plus the cardamom makes them seem like an exotic treat.

I had great success with this recipe, and what’s cool is that if you have any questions about an ingredient or substitution, there is a forum for The Post Punk Kitchen where readers can post and exchange ideas.

I’m once again very impressed with the quality of Isa and Terry’s work— even my dad said, “Hey! these taste like real muffins!” Gee, thanks, dad! I’m not sure how I will survive until I order a copy of Vegan Cookies take over your Cookie Jar and a Show us your Mitts t-shirt.

Thanks and congrats

Before I go, I just wanted to say thanks for all the congrats you guys sent in about my first 5k. I had so much fun representing the NMA community, and competing in a race really lit that running spark again!

And congrats to Matt for the blog’s upcoming first year anniversary! On yesterday’s list of 75 ways going vegetarian has made life better, I really connected with #75, #69, #17, #15, and of course, #41. Thanks Matt, for the sweet opportunity to write a weekly post here!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!

xoxo Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Elizabeth Gordon interview

Hello dear healthy foodies!  It’s Christine here with a one-of-a-kind Sweet-Tooth Friday: my first interview!  Last week my world was rocked when I made gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and nut-free Pineapple Upside Down cake from Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Allergy-Free Desserts.  This week you get to listen in on my chat with Elizabeth herself!  How cool is that she checked in with us NMA-ers, especially when her next interview was on Sirius Radio’s Martha Stewart Everyday Food Show!

Elizabeth immediately got a lot of street-cred with me when I found out she interned for famed cake designer Elisa Strauss at Confetti Cakes.  Ok so maybe you aren’t a cake-dork like me, but surely, ladies, you remember Charlotte’s wedding cake on Sex in the City?  The clean and funky sculpted cake designs from The Confetti Cakes Cookbook have been a real inspiration to me in seeing how artful dessert can be.

I was excited to learn that Elizabeth is not just all about allergy-free baking, she also loves to run!  She ran competitively in high school and college and still pounds the pavement today.

Anyway we chatted for a bit, so I bolded some of her more important insights about gluten-free baking if you want to skip around.

Christine: Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book.  It’s really pretty, I love the photography.

Elizabeth: Thank you!

C: Yeah, it’s just gorgeous.  I did try out a recipe already- I did the cinnamon buns since you said those were your favorites.

E: Oh yeah?  How did they turn out?

C: They were great!  I was really impressed.

E: Oh good! Oh I’m so glad!

C: Yeah I’ve tried other gluten-free stuff before and it has always had that gritty essence.

E: Yeah that’s a real problem with rice flour which is why for this book I decided to stick with the bean flours.  But I have been playing around with a little bit with rice lately and I find that the secret is to use Chinese rice flour.

C: Oh really?  What is that, is it like sweeter?

E: It has a finer grind, it’s not as gritty.  In one of my recipes in the book I have a cookie crust (no bake crust) for pie and I do use regular rice flour for that because I feel if you’re making something that is supposed to mimic a graham crumb cracker crust it is supposed to be a little gritty, but for most things you don’t want grit in your cookies or cakes.

C: So I’m really excited to try out some more recipes.  Usually when I bake I do vegan, which is without the eggs and dairy of course, and I try to stay low on the sugar and use alternative flours.  I had never heard of the Lyle’s Golden Syrup before your book.  How did you find out about that?

E: One of my really good friends is British and my thinking in using that is that her husband is American and he’s a doctor, and he is very kind of laid back about foods and doesn’t really care what the children eat except for corn syrup.  So I wanted to make something that would was like a marshmallow and like a decorating icing, and to do those two things in traditional American baking you usually would use corn syrup, and I couldn’t get the agave to work because it’s a little thinner, I couldn’t get it to do what I needed it to do…And I was walking with my friend one day and she just said, “Oh you’ve never heard of Lyle’s?  In great Britain we use it for EVERYTHING.”  It’s just cooked down sugar.

C: Yeah I saw the only ingredient is cane syrup.  I recently got a big piece of cane sugar at the grocery store- I’ve never seen one before and was going to cook it down and see what happened.

E: Oh that’s interesting, let me know how that goes I’ve never done that before.

C: So, are you actually allergic to all the things that your book caters to?

E: I am allergic to wheat and eggs, and about the same time I found out I was allergic one of my closest friends had a baby who was diagnosed with severe soy and dairy allergies.  So she was nursing this baby which means she couldn’t eat any soy or dairy.  So I was like the more the merrier with all these food allergies, I’m going to give myself a challenge and see if I can make something for everyone.  You know also I have kids and it’s worked out well that I did this because it makes for great treats that you can bring into the schools.  (In NYC kids are not allowed to bring anything to school that has a nut in it.  And a lot of the kids have dairy and soy allergies.  This is a treat that you can bring to everyone’s classroom, (for the most part- you should still check with the teacher obviously) but it makes life a little easier for moms. I’m not sure if it’s a law in NYC, it’s just become an accepted norm and most schools have that requirement.

C: Do your daughters have your same allergies?

E: No they are very lucky they weren’t diagnosed with food allergies.  My youngest daughter had a hard time starting with solid foods, she had some intolerance at the beginning but she seems to have outgrown them.

C: So I have been hearing a lot more about gluten-free baking even without intolerance to it- do you think that the allergy to it is on the rise or just awareness is increasing?

E: I don’t know, you know people ask me that about autism all the time too because a lot of autistic kids aren’t allowed to eat gluten or dairy.  I think awareness is rising, because there are a lot of great charities out there now like the NFCA, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness who have a lot of famous spokespeople and are able to raise money for awareness and therefore are really spreading the word so they are making this disease more accepted mainstream.  And so there’s more food available for people like me who do have food allergies.  And as more and more people hear about it, they hear the symptoms and go “oh my gosh, that’s been happening to me and then they go get a test.”  So I don’t know if the awareness is increasing the diagnosis or the diagnosis is increasing awareness.

C: That makes sense.  So do you guys eat mostly gluten free at home or are you able to have some other types of food at home for your husband and kids?

E: My husband and kids do not eat gluten-free, I mean I cook every night for dinner and I try to make stuff all of us can eat, so you know I’ll make polenta for dinner instead of pasta or I’ll make risotto instead of pasta or rice.  But my kids are kids so they do love pasta, and I let them have it.  It’s only been recently that I’ve discovered corn and quinoa pasta which I think is great and has a much better consistency when cooked than rice pasta.

C: Oh yeah I love quinoa.  So what is your favorite dessert in the book to make for your family?

E: I think my favorite dessert to eat in the book is the one that you made, the cinnamon rolls.  My daughters love the red velvet cake.

C: Oh I almost made that and I thought I’d just use natural food coloring, until I saw your little tip—

E: -oh yea don’t use natural [beet] food coloring it will taste so bad.

C: It’s so funny because one time for one of my Sweet-Tooth Friday posts I made red velvet beet cupcakes specifically with beets and I just never posted it because it was just so bad.  It was disappointing because they were really pretty but just tasted like dirt.

E: I was really excited the first time I tried the recipe and I was so excited because I had used natural food coloring, and I was like “Look at me, I’m so clever that I did something natural” and then I took a bite and my husband couldn’t even eat it- it was so disgusting.  But back to the recipes, they rice crispy treats are always a hit with my girls, they love to make those and I actually like to make those with them because they are pretty quick and easy and there’s a lot of stuff for them to pour in.

C: I saw you called for gluten-free rice crispies- aren’t regular rice crispies already gluten free?

E: No, regular rice crispies are not gluten-free, they do contain wheat.  The one mainstream cereal that I know of that has always been gluten-free is Rice Chex.

C: Oh yeah I love Chocolate Rice Chex, they say largely on the box “gluten-free” so I guess they are advertising it now.

E: Yeah so if you just go to the supermarket and want to grab something easy the Rice Chex are always gluten free but the rice crispies aren’t, so you have to look for the brand Erewhorn crisped rice, not puffed rice, which would be terrible.

C: What do you think would be one of the trickiest ingredients in store bought food that people wouldn’t realize contains gluten or nuts?

E: I think people who just decide you know that ‘everyone around me is trying to avoid wheat,’ or ‘I’ve got a loved one that I want to bake for,’ might be fooled by spelt.  They might go to the store and think oh it’s spelt, it’s not wheat but actually spelt is glutinous and is part of the wheat family.

C: One that I was surprised by was alcohol, like vanilla extract can be grain alcohol so I needed to get alcohol-free vanilla.

E: Well you can actually call the manufacturer and find out what kind of grain they use for the alcohol because a lot of times it’s corn.  At home I use Penzeys Double Vanilla Extract and it is gluten-free, I checked with the manufacturer.

C: Yeah anytime I’ve done an order for gluten-free I’ve had to spend so much time online, checking the food coloring and the sprinkles to see if there’s anything random in them.

E: Yeah the sprinkles, you think they are just sugar but sometimes they have soy in them, so I usually just use the colored sugar crystals.

C: Oh that makes sense!  So a lot of prepackaged food seems to randomly say ‘may contain traces of…’ or ‘shares processing equipment with…’ Do you think a lot of that food could be safe for people with celiac disease and [the label] is just put on there because of the liability issue?

E: That’s a really tricky question that I’m probably not qualified to answer.  Well I can tell you, for example, this I know this for sure, that Bob’s Red Mill, which I’m a big fan of their flours, they will say “manufactured in a plant that processes I think it’s almonds or something to that effect.”  So I called them, panicked, thinking ‘oh my god my food is contaminated.’  They said they had to say that because it’s segregated manufacturing but because the almond flour is on one side of the warehouse, and walls are up in between and there is another wall, and they do their flour on the other side, they are required by law to say that.  So that’s why that’s a tricky question because I don’t know what every manufacturing facility looks like.  I don’t know if they are co-packers and run things on the same line- then I would say very dangerous, or if it’s just semantics, I don’t know.  I guess the answer that I would like to see on your blog is that I’m not qualified to answer that and that you should always call the manufacturer.

C: So with your own baking company (Betsy and Claude) were there any issues like that, where you had to label your baked goods a certain way?

E: No, I got a new space, I got all new equipment.  Nothing with flour has ever entered that space or the oven.  All of the ingredients have been kept out.  And now I’ve switched to just doing private events rather than a pound of cookies here and there, so I am baking less and less and focusing more and more on really big projects like working on a wedding cake, or—

C: —more cookbooks!  I think I am going to make your pineapple upside down cake next.  So what is one thing that you’d like the NMA readers to take away knowing about your book?

E: That it is a labor of love, that I wrote it so my family and I could enjoy the desserts, but also so that no one would miss out on that part of childhood, or be forced to always have a separate dessert at birthday parties or at school.  I want everyone to know that they don’t have to forsake tasty desserts just because they have allergies.  Thanks again and so glad that you enjoyed the recipes!

C: Thank you so much for talking with me today!

It really is obvious that Allergy-Free Desserts is a labor of love for Elizabeth Gordon.  The book does a great job explaining what alternative ingredients you need for allergy-free baking and how they work to replicate the structure and taste of traditional desserts.  I really liked the tips and sidenotes throughout the book- especially when making these yeast-risen cinnamon buns.  The tips anticipated my troubles (gluten-free dough rises a lot differently than regular dough) and instructed me on how to handle obstacles.

Oh by the way, since picking up a bottle of Lyle’s golden syrup I’ve become so hooked on it!  It has that pleasant burnt caramelized taste, like the top of creme brulee.  I’ve been putting it in my tea, mixing it with balsamic vinegar and oil to roast brussel sprouts, and adding it with lime and coconut to my Thai curries.  Yum!

If you haven’t yet, check out the recipe for Allergy-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from last Sweet-Tooth Friday.  You can find the recipe for these AMAZING cinnamon buns (even my dad liked them, and he’s a toughie) in Elizabeth’s Gordon’s new book, Allergy-Free Desserts.  To hear more from Elizabeth, check out her blog My Allergy-Free Life.

Until next time, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Allergy-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Hey guys!  It’s Sweet-Tooth Friday, so this is Christine checking in with a new healthy dessert.  I am so excited for this week’s post— it’s a recipe from a brand-spankin’ new book by Elizabeth Gordon called Allergy-Free Desserts.

Matt and I were sent this book to review and I am pretty stoked because it is my first piece of “swag,” even though I probably would have run out and bought it anyway!  The focus of Allergy-Free Desserts is, you guessed it, food allergies.  Funny how healthy baking and allergy-free baking are so aligned; both styles avoid foods that make us sick in more ways than one.

Anyway, all the recipes in this book are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free.  What’s left, you ask?  Pure baking-physics-defying delectability.  Well, that and sugar.  Elizabeth is not ashamed of leaving the sugar in these desserts.  Agave nectar and other sugar substitutes can compromise the structure of cake, and gluten-free goodies already struggle to win the dense-as-bricks war.  And, as she explains, sugar is ok in moderation and better than processed fructose.

The book and the photography are laid out in gorgeous, chic photographs— it feels nothing like a dusty hippy compromise for dessert.  I have made vegan gluten-free desserts before with some success, like the carrot macaroonsBut to be honest, I have never tasted a vegan gluten-free dessert this good before. This pineapple-upside down cake is just divine.

The ingredient list may look intimidating at first, but once you have a few key ingredients on hand, the door to gluten-free baking is unlocked.  You’ll need to invest in some xanthan gum to help the cake rise.  Elizabeth provides an excellent recipe for your own gluten-free flour mix made of garbanzo flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour.  If you purchase a pre-made mix, look for a batch that is made with predominantly garbanzo bean flour instead of rice.  The rice is what gives gluten-free goodies their gritty stigma.

Here is the recipe from Elizabeth Gordon’s Allergy-Free desserts, (Wiley) reprinted with permission.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


  • 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup organic palm fruit oil shortening
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 14 oz can pineapple rings packed in syrup, drained
  • 7 maraschino cherries
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free vanilla rice milk
  • 3/4 tsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
  • 1 1/2 cups Betsy’s baking (gluten-free flour) mix
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Serves 6 to 8

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a heavy 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 10-inch round cake pan, melt 1/4 cup of the shortening over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted shortening.  Arrange the drained pineapple in a circular pattern over the bottom of the pan, placing 1 cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring.
In a small bowl, make “buttermilk” by combining the rice milk and cider vinegar.  In a small cup, comobine the water and flaxseed meal and allow to thicken for 3 to 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the baking mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum.  Add the remaining 1/3 cup shortening, the “buttermilk” mixture, granulated sugar, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flaxseed mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter on top of the pineapple in the cast-iron skillet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in teh center comes out clean.  Remove it form the oven and immediately turn the cake upside down on a serving platter, leaving the pan in place on top of the cake for a few minutes whilte the borwn sugar runs down the sides of trhe cake.  Allow the cake to cool complteely before serving.
Store the cooled cake, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Yum, yum, and yum again.  This was a hit at my house!  I can definitely see myself baking this one again, even for people who can have gluten!  Who wouldn’t prefer chickpea flour over empty carbs when it tastes this good? Plus, it was really cool to bake in a cast-iron skillet.  Hardcore!

Give this cake a shot, and come back next week when I’ll post the chat I had with the author, Elizabeth Gordon.  Yep, lil ol’ me did an interview!  Elizabeth is sweet as allergy-free pie, and I learned all about her unconventional culinary journey.

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!
xoxo, Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan White Bean Blondies

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday everybody!  It’s Christine again with your weekly fix of sweet animal-free goodness!  Yep, you asked for it and finally here it is: Vegan White Bean Blondies!

Out of darkness comes light

Well, that’s what the Mayans said, but they probably didn’t know they were predicting the future of my vegan brownies.  When I posted my recipe for Vegan Black Bean Brownies, I knew how much I loved them but had no idea how much you would enjoy them too!  The response to that recipe alone has been overwhelming and has provided me with a lot of encouragement to keep up with my vegan baking experiments.

Naturally, my next step was to explore the brownie’s lighter half, the blondie.  But I’ve been nervous about blondies from the beginning— could the beans taste good without the disguise of chocolate?   I think the exact words to describe my first trial run of white bean blondies were this: they totally sucked.

I had simply veganized a full-fat-butter-and-eggs version of blondies; after all, that had worked for the Black Bean Brownies.  What went wrong then?  Well, I hadn’t thought about what the true flavor of a blondie is.  See, a brownie’s flavor is deep chocolate along with richness from butter and eggs.  In the black bean version, the cocoa powder provides the same amount of chocolate, and the addition of coffee and hazelnuts brings the richness.

But what’s the flavor of a blondie?  The answer is more than just “not chocolate.”  I thought about it, and decided that blondies should have all the sweetness and saltiness of a chocolate chip cookie but with a denser, gooey-butterscotch flair. I analyzed my black bean brownie recipe and came up with some changes.

First, I knew I needed to add some more structure to the blondies to make up for the cocoa I was removing.  I chose to use dates for their thickness and to add a sense of dimension to the sweet flavor.  For the rest of the warm-sweetness I was imagining, I added brown sugar.  I also relied on the flavor of good quality dark rum to achieve some of the butterscotch tones, along with some extra salt to trick the tongue.  Finally, for that buttermilk-style tang, I threw in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

I had a tough time deciding on the stir-ins for the blondies— pecans?  coconut?  chocolate chips?  Pretty much anything goes, but after serious contemplation in the grocery store, I chose chopped macadmia nuts for their light buttery flavor, and a small amount of cacao nibs.  The sharp earthiness and crunch of the cacao nibs is a nice complement to the smooth and sweet blondie.

So, after many months in the making, Behold!  I give you Vegan White Bean Blondies!

Vegan White Bean Blondies


  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 15 oz can or 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 cup or about 10 large chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup dark rum, such as Myers’s
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped macadmia nuts
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar; set aside.

Rinse and drain the can of beans.  Process in a food processor with the chopped dates and rum.  Add the water and vinegar and process until a smooth puree forms.

Fold the bean puree into the dry ingredients.  Stir in the macadamia nuts and cacao nibs.

Grease a 9×13 baking dish with baking spray and spread the batter evenly into the pan.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning the pan around in the oven halfway through.  A knife stuck in the center should come out clean.  Mine took 28 minutes to get nice and  brown along the edges and golden on top.

Let cool, then slice into 24 squares.

These vegan white bean blondies are just DELISH!  They are everything I want out of a blondie, minus the guilt of eating empty carbs and animal products.  You’ll never believe how good your beans can taste until you try this recipe!  And if you haven’t yet, be sure to give the Vegan Black Bean Brownies a whirl too!

Thanks again for all your encouragement, feedback, and requests!  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday with a new healthy vegan treat!

xoxo Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Box of Chocolates

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine here with an extra special recipe for Valentine’s day.  Forget the roses this Sunday and whip up a box of my homemade vegan chocolates instead!  Don’t worry, there are no candy thermometers or boiling hot sugar—just simple stir-together ingredients.  I came up with four yummy fillings for a really gourmet experience.  No one will believe that these decadent little goodies are vegan!

Life is like a box of chocolates

…you never know what you’re gonna get. Unfortunately, ‘what you’re gonna get’ with your store-bought box is a most likely a belly full of corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, dehydrated milk powder, and preservatives.  Heck, you may even have a box of Halloween candy slapped into a new heart shaped box!

So maybe it’s better to imagine that life is like a box of vegan chocolates.  I like the idea of uncompromising quality and controlling my own destiny much better than just accepting whatever society doles out as the norm.  Besides, how impressed will your Valentine be that you made these yourself?!  Making homemade gifts is one of my genuine pleasures and these chocolates would even be fun to make together!

This recipe makes about three dozen mini-cupcake sized chocolates—that’s pretty big, so this is perfect for dividing between friends or just keeping a little extra for yourself!  I started making the fillings based on two good fats, nut butter and coconut oil, and just added brown rice syrup and other flavors little by little.  In the end I came up with a luscious vegan peanut butter, raspberry almond, cherry-coconut, and Kahlua cocoa filling.  I fullheartedly recommend tweaking these flavors to your preference—maybe a chopped pistachio filling instead of coconut or Grand Marnier instead of Kahlua!  Let the vegan creative juices flow!

Vegan Box of Chocolates

For all:

  • two 10 oz bags of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 3 cups
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

For the peanut butter cups:

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the almond raspberry cups:

  • 1/4 cup natural almond butter
  • 2 tbsp organic raspberry jam
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

For the cherry coconut cups:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped natural maraschino cherries, about 7 cherries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut, chopped fine
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Kahlua cocoa cups:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp natural almond butter
  • 1 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua or strong brewed coffee
  • 1 tbsp extra dark unsweetened cocoa powder

For each filling, stir the ingredients together.  Because nut butters vary in flavor, add a pinch of salt to each filling to taste.  Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, the coconut oil may need to be melted first in the microwave in order to mix smoothly.  Place the fillings in the fridge while you work on the chocolate cups.

Line a mini cupcake tin with mini papers and spray thoroughly with cooking spray, taking care to get the sides of the cups.  Combine 1 bag of chocolate chips with 1 tbsp of the canola oil and place in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Remove and stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds.  You can do the next bag of chocolate and oil the same way when you run out, it’s just easier to keep warm by doing it twice.

Spoon a about 1 tsp of chocolate into the bottom of each cup.  Use the back of a spoon or a small spatula to push the chocolate up the sides of each cup.  It’s ok if it’s not perfect because more chocolate will be poured in later.

Refrigerate the cups for about 10 minutes.  When the chocolate is hard, add a small amount of filling to each cup using a mini ice cream scoop or melon baller.  You want the filling to be lower than the level of the cup so that the tops will be smooth.

Spoon chocolate over the fillings and spread smooth.  If your chocolate is too cold, just stick it back in the microwave.  If you’d like, add different colored sprinkles to the tops to help you identify the fillings.  Do this while the chocolate is still wet.

Refrigerate the chocolates for 10 more minutes or until firm.  Keep the chocolates in the fridge until you are ready to serve them, then let come to room temperature.

And that is how you make a kick-ass vegan box of chocolates!  These are honestly so amazingly rich and delicious.  They the perfect decadent treat to celebrate Valentine’s day; that is, if you can even make it to Sunday without polishing them off first!  Come to think of it, these would be excellent paired with my vegan merlot-berry sorbet—what a romantic combination!

Hope you have a lovely snowy weekend!

XOXO Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Raw Chia-Carrot Cake

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine with a very special dessert this week—one that is not only vegan but also gluten-free and raw!  I’ve never made a raw cake before so I was pretty skeptical, but this cake was packed with amazing fresh flavor!


Ok my apologies, but there has been a lot of talk about chia here on NMA and apparently my brain is hard-wired to sing that jingle every time I hear the word.  Matt had a post about chia seeds where he talked about their history as warrior-fuel for tribes of amazing runners, and then he got some more from his iHerb.com shopping spree.  My interest was sparked by the chia seed’s gelling ability- I am excited to see their potential in vegan baking.  And as an added bonus, the seeds are full of omega-3’s, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.

Last week I promised to work on a chia energy bar, but I’ve been feeling a little bit burnt out on bars and cookies and was in the mood for cake.  I found an interesting recipe for No-Bake Carrot cake in the book Sweet Alternatives by Ariana Bundy.  If you remember from my post on Vegan Rice Krispie Treats, her book is filled with dessert recipes made without gluten, dairy and soy.  I thought a raw cake would be the perfect venue to try out the gelling nature of the chia seed and let its nutty flavor shine through.  Here’s my adaptation of the recipe, with chia seeds added.

Vegan Raw Chia-Carrot Cake


  • 1 3/4 lbs grated carrots (eye ball this from a 2 lb bag of whole carrots and chop in a food processor, or get pre-grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried mangoes
  • 1 cup packed chopped dates
  • zest and juice of 1 orange (just under 1/2 a cup of oj)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

If starting with whole carrots, process to very small pieces or if you have the energy grate them by hand.  Stir together the carrots, walnuts, the 1/2 cup of chia seeds, mangoes, and orange zest.  In a food processor, puree the chopped dates, orange juice, 2 tbsp of chia seeds, vanilla extract, agave nectar, cinnamon and salt.  Mix the puree into the carrot mixture- you may need to wash your hands and get in there to get the job done!

Line a 8 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap.  It doesn’t have to be perfect because the weight of the batter will weigh the plastic down into the corners.  Refrigerate the cake overnight.  I didn’t plan the timing correctly so I just stuck it in the freezer for a couple hours, which turned out fine but I imagine overnight is slightly more solid. Turn the cake over on to a plate, and garnish with orange slices and extra carrot peel.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results of this raw cake!  It was super super moist, and the chia seeds added a nice crunch.  While it was very different than carrot cake made with oil and flour, I won’t deny that I went back for seconds!  It was a lot of fun to make together with my dad this afternoon.  By the way, I think this recipe would be excellent as cupcakes.  I skipped making the orange-cashew-agave icing that went along with the original recipe but it’d be nice on the cupcake version.

I hope you give this recipe a whirl and reap the benefits of both the chia seeds and the joy of a healthy sweet snack!

Until next time, stay sweet!
xoxo, Christine



Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet

Hi everybody!  Sweet-Tooth Friday is finally here, so this is Christine with your healthy dessert of the week.  Sorry for the late start today- I wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to register for Matt’s $50 shopping spree giveaway from iHerb.com.  Ok that would be a good reason, but honestly I just needed a little post-work nap today!

For this week’s dessert I made Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet, made with organic merlot and blackberries.  When my dad got an ice cream maker for Christmas, I knew I had to try it out.  I picked up a book from the library called Ice Cream! by Cuthbert and Wilson.  The title may be straightforward but the recipes are anything but!  They offer some really interesting ‘happens-to-be-vegan’ flavor combos like Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar Sorbet, Melon and Chile Sorbet, and Pear and Bay Leaf Sorbet.

With a lot of deliberation, I thought a red wine sorbet would be the most daring—sure to impress my foodie friends.  The original recipe called for cabernet, but my favorite is malbec.  I found a $10 bottle of organic malbec called Vida Organica that was just delicious!  So good, in fact, that it never made it into my sorbet.  Oops!

I ended up using organic merlot, but if you have another preference or have just seen Sideways too many times, you can choose any red wine you like.  I was excited to tell you about all the heart-healthy resveratrol found in red wine but guess what—those antioxidants are oxygen sensitive, meaning that by the time this sorbet is prepared all those antioxidants are most likely out the window!  No matter, this is still a delightful no-fat vegan treat.

This is my version of the Ice Cream! recipe:

Vegan Merlot-Berry Sorbet


  • 1 cup turbinado sugar, ground fine in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups organic merlot
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Combine the fine sugar, water, and vanilla in a sauce pan.  Heat to boiling and then simmer without stirring until the color darkens to golden.  (This is a little hard to judge because of the vanilla extract, but about 5-7 minutes should be good.)

Pour in a splash of the wine.  If there aren’t lots of bubbles, heat the sugar mixture a little longer.  Pour in the rest of the wine, and stir until uniform.

Add the blackberries and lime juice and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You want this time to both cook off the alcohol and get all the juice from the berries, so every now and then smoosh the berries with a spatula to release more juice.  Strain.

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.

Wow!  This sorbet was really yummy!  Very intense and  elegant flavors, but not overwhelming.  I was pretty sure I cooked all the alcohol off but I swear I felt a little loopy after a dish.  It would be great served for a dinner party or maybe just for your sweetie this Valentine’s day.

New Tastes of 2010: persimmon

This week I tried a persimmon for the first time.  I got the Sharon variety, which are sweet and seedless and come all the way from Israel.  They look like firm bright orange tomatoes, but taste like a mellow papaya or even honeydew.  I ate some with the skin on but preferred it peeled.  They made a super exotic addition to my salad!  Yum!

See you next week when hopefully I will successfully concoct a chia seed energy bar…

xoxo, Christine