Tag Archives: gluten free

Chocolate Chia Brownie Bites

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesI. Love. Dates. Probably a little bit too much, but I suppose it’s better than going through bags full of Sour Patch Kids and gummy bears (childhood favorites) every day. Some people try to convince me that they don’t like dates, but I never believe them. Who doesn’t like creamy, caramelly, sometimes even butterscotchy morsels of goodness? Nobody. Unless they’re crazy. And even if, by some great anomaly, they don’t like dates in their naked form, then they’ll surely appreciate them when they’re morphed into rich, chocolatey brownies.

Chocolate Chia Brownie BItesWith powerhouse ingredients like dates, chia seeds, cocoa powder, lucuma powder, and coconut, these brownies are more than just dessert. I like to eat a couple of these before climbing, a workout, or a run. The natural sugars in the dates provide a quick burst of energy that’s ready to use right away, while the chia seeds, full of fiber and protein, give these bites a bit of staying power. The ancient Incan civilization, it is said, used chia seeds as one of its main sources of energy. Cacao powder is notoriously high in antioxidants, and lucuma, which comes from Peru (and is, apparently, more popular in ice cream form than chocolate or vanilla) provides us with plentiful beta carotene, and a rich maple flavor.

Trust me when I say that these bites will beat out any store bought energy bar, every time, at a fraction of the cost. You’ll want to eat the whole batch in one sitting (though they’re quite filling, so I doubt you’ll be able to).

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesChocolate Chia Brownie Bites

Ingredients

•2 cups packed pitted dates*
•1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
•1/4 cup chia seeds*
•1/4 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)*
•1/4 cup lucuma powder*
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
•2 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
•cocoa powder for dusting (optional)*

Place dates, coconut, chia seeds, cocoa powder, lucuma powder, and optional (though recommended) vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients come together in a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pulse in chocolate chips if desired.

Remove mixture from food processor a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Place onto parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder if desired. Alternatively, you can press the mixture into a parchment-lined pan, then cut into bars or squares.

Notes: Any moist variety of date will work here. I used a combination or Medjool, Barhi (my absolute favorite – they literally taste like butterscotch), and Deeglet Noor. Nuts.com has a large selection of dates with great descriptions for each. My chia seeds and cacao powder also come from Nuts.com. If you don’t have lucuma powder, you may use an additional 1/4 cup of cocoa powder in its place. I use Nativas Naturals lucuma powder, which can be found here. Other ideas for rolling your bites in: shredded coconut, hemp seeds, cacao nibs, and sesame seeds would all complement the brownie bites well.

Chocolate Chia Brownie BitesAre dates a regular part of your diet (please say yes!)? What are your favorite power foods?

Cheesy Sun Dried Tomato White Bean Spread

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As you well know, we’re big fans of beans in this household. Whether roasted into crunchy snacks, mashed into burgers, baked into brownies, or blended into dips and spreads, beans are one of the most versatile kitchen staples I can think of. As such, they make a rather large appearance in my diet.

I am a condiment fanatic, and as such, I am always in search of something new to put on my condiment plate (yes, I have a dinner plate, and a condiment plate – it’s important). Hummus makes an appearance on quite a frequent basis, recently with a hefty dose of roasted garlic and carrots. I wanted something a bit creamier this time, though, and great northern beans were the perfect fit.

The sun dried tomatoes lend a slightly sweet element, while the garlic adds just enough heat.  A bit of nutritional yeast rounds out the flavor, making this spread not only cheesy, but quite savory.

I’ve only eaten it as a vegetable topper so far, but I can imagine this spread doing quite well as the base for a pizza, or even stirred into pasta and other grain dishes for an extra kick of flavor and creaminess.

IMG_6676Cheesy Sun Dried Tomato White Bean Spread

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

•1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes and drained*
•1/4 cup unsweetened, unsalted sunflower seed butter*
•2 tablespoons warm water
•1/2 teaspoon sea salt
•1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
•1 1/2 cups great northern beans (rinsed and drained, if canned)
•3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

In the bowl of a food processor combine the sunflower seed butter and warm water. Process until a creamy mixture forms.  Add the rest of the ingredients and process until a homogenous mixture forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Notes: Save the tomato soaking water to use as a base for soups, to cook grains in, etc. If you only have salted sunflower seed butter on hand, begin by adding just 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and adjust as necessary.  An equal amount of cashew butter or tahini may be substituted for the sunflower seed butter.

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Looking for other cheesy ideas? If you haven’t had Gena’s “Pizza Cheese” yet, I highly recommend giving it a try.

In more of a saucy mood? Angela’s “Quick and Dirty 5 Ingredient Vegan Cheeze Sauce” is just what you’re looking for.

What are your favorite ways to add a cheesy flavor to your meals? Any other favorite “cheese” recipes out there?

Roasted Garlic and Carrot Hummus

IMG_6520Everybody has staples in their diet – there are certain things that we just cannot seem to survive without. One of my most important staple items is hummus, or some other bean-based spread. Really, if dinner time is looming and I’ve somehow overlooked a lack of hummus in my refrigerator, then I’ll have to search the depths of my kitchen for a can of beans sitting lonely on a shelf, or some lentils ready to be cooked. In a moment of complete despair, I once mashed together with a fork (because my food processor was broken) lentils, sunflower seed butter (because I’d run out of tahini), cumin, and some lemon juice. It actually turned out quite well, and the evening was saved.

This hummus is a different story. I had about a day’s worth of hummus left, and needed to add something new to my rotation. The market I usually shop at sells a roasted garlic hummus, which tastes unlike any hummus I’ve ever eaten, but at $5.99 for a small tub, I can’t seem to justify the purchase. Which led me to make my own. With the added bonus of roasted carrots.

Two head of garlic may seem like a lot, but the flavor becomes sweet and subtle when roasted. The carrots caramelize slightly, and maintain a nice, earthy flavor when combined with nutty tahini and warming cumin. Other roasted root vegetables would work here as well (imagine a roasted beet hummus)!

I’m known for eating hummus by the spoonful, but this is a wonderful appetizer served with raw or blanched vegetables, toasted pita bread, etc. It also makes a great protein-rich alternative to salad dressing.

IMG_6466Roasted Garlic and Carrot Hummus

Ingredients

•2 medium heads garlic
•6 medium carrots, roughly chopped
•3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

•2 tablespoons tahini*
•2 tablespoons water
•1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
•1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
•1 teaspoon sea salt
•1/2 teaspoon paprika
•3 cups cooked chickpeas*
•Water to thin, as needed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line with parchment paper or lightly grease a baking sheet.

1. Peel away the loose outer layers of skin on each head of garlic, then cut off the top 1/4 inch to expose the tops of each clove of garlic. drizzle one teaspoon of olive oil over each head of garlic, being sure to coat the top of each clove. Wrap each head of garlic in aluminum foil and place of baking sheet.

2. On the same baking sheet, toss the chopped carrots with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and spread in an even layer. Bake the carrots and garlic for 35-40 minutes, until the garlic and carrots can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.

3. Remove baking sheet from oven, unwrap the garlic, and allow to cool at least fifteen minutes.

4. Once the carrots and garlic have cooled, squeeze the cloves of garlic into the bowl of a food processor along with the carrots, tahini, water, cumin, pepper, salt, and paprika. Process until a homogenous mixture forms.

5. Pour in chickpeas and process again until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. You may need to add up to three tablespoons more of water to reach your desired consistency.

6. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Notes: Be sure to stir the tahini before adding it to the food processor, as it tends to separate. For a chunkier hummus, reserve 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the chickpeas and pulse in at the end until just incorporated.

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Are you a fan of hummus, and do you make it yourself? Have you made any interesting variations?

Here are a few of my other favorite hummus variations:

•Angela of Oh She Glows made hummus soup that you can really eat by the spoonful!

•Ashley of Edible Perspective made pumpkin spice hummus, perfect for fall.

•Kristy of The WIcked Noodle put a spicy twist on hummus with this cilantro jalapeño variation.

Salted Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

chocolate sunflower seed butter cutting board

Growing up, I was never the greatest fan of nut butters. While all of my friends gladly ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, ants on a log for snacks (one of Justin’s favorites), and spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the spoon, I preferred other things. Things like hummus, olives, and mustard, usually with pretzels or pita, for every meal and snack (besides breakfast). I just didn’t get peanut butter. Things have changed over the years, and I slowly began to realize the greatness not just of peanut butter, but of all nut butters. In fact, it wasn’t until I became vegan that nut butters became a regular part of my diet (not out of necessity, but because I truly began to enjoy them).

The real epiphany came when I discovered Peanut Butter and Co., which produces many wonderful varieties of peanut butter such as Mighty Maple (my personal favorite), Dark Chocolate Dreams, and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl. Around the same time, I also found Justin’s Nut Butter, which helped me develop an obsession with maple almond butter (do we see a theme here)?

chocolate sunflower seed butter cutting board

These nut butters, while quite irresistible, are also quite pricy. Which is why I began to make my own. There are endless flavor combinations, and they can be made at the fraction of the cost of store-bought brands. I now only buy the above-mentioned nut butters as a special treat, but make my own on a regular basis. I’ve tried countless variations, and at this point it’s hard to choose one absolute favorite. But, I think I can safely say that this is my favorite sunflower seed butter.

If you’ve never tried sunflower seed butter, you’re in for a real treat. Roasted sunflower seeds transform into a very creamy and satisfying butter by themselves, but the addition of chocolate, sea salt, and just a touch of coconut sugar here make this feel decadent and dessert-like. I have been known to enjoy a spoonful or two straight from the jar before it ever hits my intended delivery vehicle. Why waste a perfectly good apple when what you really want is the dreamy chocolate sunflower seed butter on top? Another plus? If you’re allergic to tree nuts, or know someone else who is, this sunflower seed butter is perfect for you (or to share, but you probably won’t want to).

chocolate sunflower seed butter jar

Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Ingredients

•1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
•2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used 82% cacao content)
•1/2 teaspoon sea salt
•1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•2 teaspoons coconut sugar, plus more if desired*

1. Place sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

2. Add chocolate, sea salt, vanilla, and coconut sugar, and process until the chocolate is completely incorporated.

3. Taste, and adjust sweetener according to your preference.

Notes: Any granulated sugar can be substituted for the coconut sugar, but I do not recommend using any liquid sweetener, as it affects the texture of the finished product.

chocolate sunflower seed butter knifeHave your snack preferences changed over the years, or have your tastebuds remained unchanged? Any other favorite homemade or store-bought nut butters? What is your favorite way to enjoy nut/seed butters?

Garlic and Mustard Seed Gomasio

_MG_7989Condiments are extremely important. It’s a fact that can’t be denied. Mustard (which I adore) and ketchup (which I cannot stand – anyone else?) have their places, but sometimes you need a bit of a change. It’s not that food tastes bad without condiments, it just tastes better with them. Now, most condiments are of the saucy variety – aside from mustard and ketchup, the American classics, there is barbecue sauce (which we’ll get to another day), salsa, and countless varieties of hot sauce. These served me perfectly well, that is, until I discovered gomasio.

If you aren’t familiar with gomasio, it is  a traditional Japanese condiment comprised of toasted sesame seeds and salt. It doesn’t sound like much, but let me assure you, you need to try this recipe because once you do, you’ll never want to be without it. It helps that you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now, just waiting to be put to good use.

I’ve seen several varieties of gomasio in stores – from garlic to seaweed, but I decided to come up with my own variation. The homemade version is much more cost effective, and you can customize it however you like.

Lately, I’ve been sprinkling gomasio over just about everything. It goes wonderfully with grains and steamed or roasted vegetables, which are a part of my dinner every night. Sometimes I can’t wait for dinner though, and I do admit, I’m guilty of taking a few pinches straight from the jar. It’s that good! I’ve made several versions of gomasio, and here I decided to include mustard seeds and garlic powder. If you aren’t a fan of either, you could leave them out completely, or substitute with your own favorite herbs and spices.

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Garlic and Mustard Seed Gomasio

Ingredients

•1/3 cup sesame seeds (you can use any variety; I used a combination of black and white)
•2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
•1 tbsp sea salt
•1 tbsp garlic powder

1. Combine the sesame seeds and mustard seeds in a skillet and toast over low heat, stirring often, until the seeds become golden and fragrant.  You will hear some popping; don’t worry, this is normal.

2. Remove the seeds from heat, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then pour into the bowl of a mortar and pestle (my choice) or spice grinder along with the sea salt and garlic powder.  Grind until most of the seeds are broken apart.  Do not grind the seeds to a powder; you are looking for a bit of variety in texture.

3. Store in an airtight container and sprinkle over anything and everything.

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Have you tried gomasio yet, or even made it yourself? If not, what are your favorite condiments?

Sweet and Salty Roasted Coconut Chips

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Are you guilty of picking the best parts out of the granola? I know, so am I. For some, myself included, it’s usually those nice big chunks of granola that go first, while the crumbs fall to the bottom of the bag and are eventually forgotten. We’ll talk about granola chunks another time, though. Today I want to talk about coconut. In the last batch of granola I made, there were irresistibly crunchy flakes of coconut strewn throughout, that I couldn’t help but pick out. Forget the chocolate, dates, and pecans. It was the coconut that I wanted. So much so, that I decided to roast up a batch of pure coconut goodness. Some of you may have experienced the recent phenomenon that is Trader Joe’s roasted coconut chips (I know Chelsey is in on the secret). My version is a bit different, but just as delicious (not to mention cheaper)!

I kept it simple here, with a basic sweet and salty combination, but I imagine that an addition of cinnamon, cocoa powder, or any other warming spice would be delicious. I can envision adding a dash of cayenne or chili powder to the mix and using the chips as a salad topping in place of croutons. Let me know if you try this out!

Roasted Coconut ChipsRoasted Coconut Chips

I generally buy my coconut from Nuts.com, but the brand Let’s Do Organic, which is available in most health food stores, as well as Whole Foods (at least where I live) also sells coconut flakes. 

Ingredients
•2 1/2 cups coconut flakes (not shredded coconut)
•3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
•2 tablespoons maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
•1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. Heat the applesauce, maple syrup, and salt in a small saucepan until just warm.

2. Pour applesauce mixture over coconut flakes in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly coated.

3. Spread mixture evenly onto baking sheet, in as thin a layer as possible.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring every five minutes until coconut is golden.

5. Let coconut cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Roasted Coconut ChipsWhat are your favorite simple snacks? Lately, I’ve been making little snack plates full of these roasted coconut chips, dates, toasted pecans, and fresh fruit (I finally found Cara Cara and Blood oranges in my market!).

Brussels Sprouts with Sesame Vinaigrette

IMG_5917As a child I absolutely despised brussels sprouts, or at least that’s what I’d have you think. The truth is, however, that I never even ate a brussels sprout until several years ago. It was at this point that I had an epiphany: I was lead to believe that I hated brussels sprouts because children are supposed to hate brussels sprouts. I never even gave them a chance! My first experience cooking brussels sprouts was with a recipe from the wildly talented Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. Her recipe for Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apples truly converted me, and I’ve been a great fan ever since.

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Brussels Sprouts with Sesame Vinaigrette

for the brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
2 large cloves garlic, minced
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons raw sesame seeds

for the dressing

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (optional)*
1 teaspoon coconut aminos*
2 teaspoons maple syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of salt

In a large pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat until melted, then add cleaned and quartered brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until brussels sprouts are beginning to brown, then stir in garlic, salt, and sesame seeds, and cook another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and golden. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid (I like to use old mustard or jam jars), and shake vigorously to emulsify. This makes a good deal of dressing, so you will have some extra

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing over the brussels sprouts and stir to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

*Notes: Leave the worcestershire sauce out for a gluten and soy free dressing, as most are made with soy sauce. Coconut Secret brand coconut aminos are gluten and soy free. If you do not need the dressing to be gluten free or soy free, tamari or soy sauce may be substituted in equal amounts.

IMG_5920Are you a fan of brussels sprouts? If not, I certainly hope I can convert you. Are there any other foods you love now, but couldn’t stomach in the past? What made you change your mind?

Chocolate Chunk Maple Granola with Coconut and Dates

IMG_5936Granola is a staple in my kitchen, and I cycled through recipe after recipe, with many failures and simply mediocre recipes along the way. That is, until I found this gem of a recipe from David Lebovitz (who originally found it from self-proclaimed domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson). While I do really enjoy big chunks of granola from time to time, this recipe produces a lighter result, thanks first, to the crisp rice cereal, and second, to the slow, gentle baking.

This granola is full of flavor and texture thanks to the crunchy pecans, flaky coconut, chewy dates, and rich chocolate that melts with each bite. Of course, you can substitute your favorite dried fruits and nuts for the pecans and dates, but I must say that this is a winning combination.

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Chocolate Chunk Maple Granola with Coconut and Dates

Inspired by this recipe from David Lebovitz.

Ingredients
•4 cups rolled oats*
•1 cup crisp rice cereal (not puffed rice)*
•1 cup chopped pecans
•1 cup sesame seeds
•1 cup large coconut flakes
•1/4 cup packed brown sugar
•1 teaspoon sea salt

•3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or other fruit puree)
•1/3 cup brown rice syrup
•1/4 cup maple syrup
•2 tablespoons coconut oil
•1 teaspoon maple extract (or vanilla extract)

•1 cup chopped dates
•1/2 cup dark chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets (preferably jelly roll pans) with parchment.

1. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, crisp rice cereal, pecans, sesame seeds, coconut, brown sugar, and sea salt.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the applesauce, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, coconut oil, and maple extract until warm.

3. Pour the fruit mixture over the dry mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the mixture and spread evenly onto prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake the granola for approximately 45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is deeply golden.

5. Remove granola from the oven, stir in dates, and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in the chocolate chips. You can stir in half of the chocolate chips while the granola is still warm, if you prefer that they melt into the mixture.

The granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.

*Notes: For a gluten free version, be sure your rolled oats, crisp rice cereal, and chocolate chips are gluten free.

IMG_5931What is your favorite granola recipe? Or, if you don’t have one, what would your perfect bowl include?

Coconut Vanilla Date Butter

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I’m sure that by now, most everyone reading this has heard of the magical substance that is coconut butter. It is so versatile, and most importantly, quite delicious. Perhaps even more versatile, though, are dates. Just as simply as dried coconut can be ground into coconut butter, so, too, can dates be whirred around to form date paste, a wonderful, complex, and rich natural sweetener for anything from savory sauces to the sweetest of treats. Now, we know that both coconut and dates are wonderful on their own, but what if we were to combine the two? And perhaps add a dash of vanilla to the mix? We would be left with an utterly heavenly combination, perfect for spreading on toast, dolloping on warm oatmeal (or overnight oats!) or simply eating straight from the spoon. I do imagine that this spread would be equally, if not more lovely with the addition of a bit of cocoa powder, or even melted chocolate. Of course, I’ve not yet tried that variation, but I’ll report back just as soon as I do.

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I tend to buy my dates and coconut in bulk from Nuts.com. They have a wonderful variety of dried organic fruits, nuts, and nearly every other specialty baking item I ever find myself in need of.

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 Coconut Vanilla Date Butter

Ingredients

•1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
•1 cup packed pitted dates (I used a combination of Barhi and Medjool, but any variety will work)
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Soak dates in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Process coconut in a food processor until it forms a buttery paste.

3. Remove dates from soaking water and add to food processor along with the vanilla. Continue to process until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

IMG_5752Apparently, cats are fans of dates, too!

What are your favorite homemade spreads? This coconut date butter is a close second to my favorite, chocolate sunflower butter.