Friday, December 24, 2010

Healthy Gooey Sticky Buns

Every Christmas morning, my mom would make this HUGE, elaborate breakfast, that was always WAY too much food for us to eat...but man was it good!  For the sake of my sanity, (and my figure) I do not carry on that tradition.  I do, however, crave her recipe for cinnamon rolls, and on special occasions, will make up a batch of these to share with my family!  Now, of course, I couldn't use her original recipe without some tweaking...so here's my healthy, vegan version of a cinnamon roll, that you would NEVER believe to be healthy or vegan!  Cinnabon, eat your heart out...I'd choose one of these any day over your sugar-laced, artery-clogging, heart attack-causing monstrosities!

In a bowl combine:

2 T. yeast
2 T. agave
1/4 c. warm water

-Mix and set aside until yeast becomes frothy and large!

In a pan, scald:

2 1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk

-Add:

1/2 c. coconut oil

-Set aside, stirring occasionally, to bring down to luke warm temp (if it's too hot, it will deactivate the yeast, and you will not have fluffy rolls...they will not rise)

-Once milk mixture has cooled to luke warm, add the yeast mixture to it, along with:

2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. agave
3 "eggs" (3 eggs worth of prepared egg replacer)
7-8 c. flour (I actually used a blend of 2 c. Bobs Red Mill 10 Grain Flour, and King Arthurs White Whole Wheat flour)...you could use either or and be fine.

-Mix thoroughly, and dump onto a well floured area.
-Knead the dough until you get tired (or about 3-5 minutes)
-Return to greased bowl, cover, and let rise until it has doubled in size.

-Note:  the warmer the room, the quicker this will happen...so keep it warm.  Also, don't move it around a lot, bumping it will cause it to deflate.

-Once doubled in size, punch down, cover, and let rise again until doubled.
-Once it has doubled in size for the second time, dump back onto your floured surface, punch down, and divide into 2 equal parts.

-Roll out into a fat rectangle, that's about 1/2" thick
-Spread generously with softened Earth Balance Buttery Spread
-Sprinkle generously with Cinnamon (I do it to where I can't even see the dough through the cinnamon)
-Drizzle with Agave or sprinkle Xylitol (Since this recipe makes 2 9x13 pans, for 1 pan, I did agave, and the other I did Xylitol...just to see if there was a difference in taste, texture...etc.  The only difference I found was that the agave, since it's runny, made a bigger mess when rolling out...other than that, same results).
-Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt

-Roll into a long log.  (Make sure you roll the longest sides together, or you'll get a fat, short log.)

-On the stove top, combine these ingredients and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes:

1/2 c. agave
1 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread

-Remove from heat and add:

1/2 t. sea salt
1 T. vanilla

-Measure out 1 c. of this mixture, and pour it into the bottom of each 9x13 (You'll need 2 of them).  If you have some left over...just divide it evenly between the 2 pans.

-To cut the "log", I actually used my bread knife.  Use a gentle, sawing motion, and don't apply a lot of pressure, or your log will not stay round!

-Start by cutting the log in half.  Now each half, cut that into halves.  Cut the new halves into halves...etc. until you have 15 even pieces.

-Lay swirly side up in the cream mixture, 3 deep, 5 wide.

-Preheat oven to 350

-Cover and let rise until they are about the size you want them to be (they will rise just a tiny bit more in the oven.

-Repeat for second 9x13 pan

-Bake for 20-25 minutes

The Frosting:

1/4 c. + 2 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 c. + 2 T. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

-Cream these two together until smooth, or else your frosting will be lumpy!

-Add:

1 T. + 1 t. vanilla
2 T. unsweetened almond milk
1/4 t. sea salt
2 t. cinnamon (optional)

-Beat together until well incorporated.
-Add:

2 c. Ideal brand low calorie Confectionery (this is the "powdered sugar" made from Xylitol)  I actually found this in my grocery store in the baking aisle...I shop at Meijer, don't know if that helps anyone else...but I think it's relatively new.



-Blend until a nice, smooth frosting emerges!

-You can either frost each cinnamon roll separately, right before serving, or just frost the whole pan when they're still warm!  Either way, this makes enough frosting to do both pans (IF you don't overdo it!!)

-This recipe definitely takes a little work...but you get 2 WHOLE PANS of healthy cinnamon rolls!  Portion them out and freeze the extras for future special occasions...it is WELL worth the work!  (and you don't get the sick, heavy feeling in your gut after you eat them!!)

Pesto Veggie Baguettes

You know how at most gatherings someone decides to bring a veggie pizza?  I'm always very thankful for that person!  It's one of my all time favorite things to eat at get togethers...the only problem is, almost every single ingredient used to make it (minus the veggies), is a huge no, no for vegans!  I find myself gazing longingly at it, knowing I can never have it, yet wanting it so bad!!  Tonight, I am heading to a family Christmas party that has promised to have veggie pizza on the menu...it got me thinking...why deny myself something I want so badly?  Why not create something like it, that I can eat (that coincidentally tastes better!)  This creation also saves me from having to tell my poor kids that there is yet another thing they can't eat, while all of the other kids get to!  I have replaced the crescent on the bottom with a whole grain french baguette, the cream cheese layer with my (to die for) Creamy Pesto Spread, and then topped it generously with so many gorgeously colored vegetables, that I'm pretty sure the "other" veggie pizza that shows up at the party won't even get touched!  Apologies in advance to whoever will be bringing "that" pizza!  Let's just say this...you'll never crave the "old" veggie pizza again!

The Creamy Pesto Spread:

1/2 c. pinenuts, toasted (look below for toasting instructions if you are unfamiliar!)
1/2 c. fresh basil (I have to admit, sometimes I've been known to cheat on this step and just buy a tube of fresh basil...I just use the whole thing instead of rinsing and chopping...shhhh, don't tell!)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. freshly smashed garlic (or again, cheat and use the tube!)
1 t. sea salt
1 t. lemon juice

-In a small saute pan toast 1/2 c. of pinenuts over medium heat.  Toss or stir frequently, because they'll burn quickly.  You'll know they're done when they're nicely browned, and you can smell them!
-Throw all these ingredients into a food processor, and mix until smooth and thick!

-Add:

1 container + 1/2 c. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese
1/2 c. Tofutti Better than Sour Cream

-Blend in the food processor until smooth!  That's it...SO easy!

The Baguette:

-I always buy the Arnie's brand Multigrain French Loaf, however, I am aware that it is not available in all grocery stores...so here's what you do:  Fine a multi grain french loaf that is nice and firm (but not tough) in texture.  You need it to hold up to all the veggies and spread, but not be too tough to bite into.  Also, try to get one that isn't too fat...they tend to be really soft in the middle, and, these are supposed to be nice, small servings.

-Slice the bread into rounds, about 1/8-1/4" thick (just depends on how much bread you want under there)

The Veggies:

-There are SO many amazing veggies you can use to top this, so here is what I typically try to do...think color variety.  Go for dark greens, bright yellows, reds, and oranges...and then think about taste variety.  Your typical veggie pizza has broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and sometimes radishes, but here are some other options:

chopped fresh spinach
broccoli
cauliflower
carrots
bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, green)
green onions
red onions
tomatoes
radishes
cucumbers
black olives
roasted red peppers

-Basically, any crunchy, satisfying veggie you love!  Now, since these single, serving portions are small, make sure your veggies are chopped up really small, so you can fit as many as you want to on there! 

The Assembly:

-I know this is a "no-brainer", but just in case...

-Take the baguette, spread liberally with Creamy Pesto Spread
-Top with all the veggies you can fit on there!  (The Pesto Spread has a nice strong (but not too strong) flavor, that will hold up to a lot of veggies, so load it up!!)


-Go ahead, try it...yeah...it's THAT good!  Bet you didn't think you could ever be so satisfied with whole grains and raw veggies, did you?!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Healthy Chewy Mint Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I LOVE oatmeal cookies.  It could be because I feel like I'm making a healthy choice by incorporating oatmeal with a cookie...or I could just love the hearty texture that goes along with them...maybe it's the versatility...who knows!  Whatever the reason, I love them...a little too much!  I had to come up with a healthy, nearly guilt-free recipe, and fast, before I gained more weight than Santa this holiday season!!  So here it is, these cookies definitely taste healthy, because I did everything within my power to make the cookie part as shameless as possible, so I could feel okay about adding plenty of cinnamon chips in them!  Don't worry, they still taste great!  As a matter of fact, I tested them out on my two daughters, just to be sure they were "taste worthy"...after the first bite, I told them they needed to eat dinner before having more...minutes later, my youngest, Lucianna, tentatively walks up to me, mouth PACKED full of cookie, which she had nabbed behind my back, and quickly shoved as much into her mouth as possible (3/4 of the whole cookie!)  So, are they good?  I'd say ask Lucianna, but her mouth is too full to answer you!

Preheat oven to 375

-Cream together:

3/4 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. applesauce (we've replaced half of the oil with applesauce, you know, to keep it figure friendly!!)
1 c. agave (the recipe is a double batch, yet I used only half the amount of sweetener you'd normally use)
3 "eggs" (3 eggs worth of egg replacer...also saving you 27g of fat by using an egg replacement)

-Add:

1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
3 t. vanilla
3/4 c. oat bran
1/4 c. whole flax seeds, ground in a coffee grinder
4 c. old fashioned oats
2 t. baking soda

-Mix until well incorporated.

-Fold in:

1 c. Andes Mints pieces (Never had them?  You are missing out on something AMAZING!)

-Bake for 7-9 minutes and cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes until they set up enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

-Note:  This is a double batch of cookies...what I like to do is split the dough up and make a variety of oatmeal cookies...here are some mix in ideas:

raisins
Herseys Cinnamon Chips
chocolate chips
butterscotch chips
walnut pieces
white chocolate chips
white chocolate chips and dried cranberries

-Just to name a few!!  Get creative and enjoy, knowing that you're getting a cookie that's lower in fat and sugars, as well as wheat free!!

Healthy Chewy Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I LOVE oatmeal cookies.  It could be because I feel like I'm making a healthy choice by incorporating oatmeal with a cookie...or I could just love the hearty texture that goes along with them...maybe it's the versatility...who knows!  Whatever the reason, I love them...a little too much!  I had to come up with a healthy, nearly guilt-free recipe, and fast, before I gained more weight than Santa this holiday season!!  So here it is, these cookies definitely taste healthy, because I did everything within my power to make the cookie part as shameless as possible, so I could feel okay about adding plenty of cinnamon chips in them!  Don't worry, they still taste great!  As a matter of fact, I tested them out on my two daughters, just to be sure they were "taste worthy"...after the first bite, I told them they needed to eat dinner before having more...minutes later, my youngest, Lucianna, tentatively walks up to me, mouth PACKED full of cookie, which she had nabbed behind my back, and quickly shoved as much into her mouth as possible (3/4 of the whole cookie!)  So, are they good?  I'd say ask Lucianna, but her mouth is too full to answer you!

Preheat oven to 375

-Cream together:

3/4 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. applesauce (we've replaced half of the oil with applesauce, you know, to keep it figure friendly!!)
1 c. agave (the recipe is a double batch, yet I used only half the amount of sweetener you'd normally use)
3 "eggs" (3 eggs worth of egg replacer...also saving you 27g of fat by using an egg replacement)

-Add:

1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
3 t. vanilla
3/4 c. oat bran
1/4 c. whole flax seeds, ground in a coffee grinder
4 c. old fashioned oats
2 t. baking soda

-Mix until well incorporated.

-Fold in:

1 c. Herseys Cinnamon Chips (Never had them?  You are missing out on something AMAZING!)

-Bake for 7-9 minutes and cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes until they set up enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

-Note:  This is a double batch of cookies...what I like to do is split the dough up and make a variety of oatmeal cookies...here are some mix in ideas:

raisens
Andes Mint pieces
chocolate chips
butterscotch chips
walnut pieces
white chocolate chips
white chocolate chips and dried cranberries

-Just to name a few!!  Get creative and enjoy, knowing that you're getting a cookie that's lower in fat and sugars, as well as wheat free!!

Triple Berry Jam (no cook!)

I'm always looking for good, healthy jam recipes.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between!  I found a no cook Acai Berry Jam on the Julie Morris website, that I featured in my blog a while back...and here is a variation on that, which incorporates fruit!  No longer do I have to deprive my kids of jam on their toast or sandwiches!  I can serve this to them with the sheer confidence that not only are they getting an extremely healthy jam, but it's loaded with super foods too!  This makes me very happy!!

Combine:

6 T. chia seeds (these will act as the gelling agent in the jam, AND they're a major super food!)  You'll probably only find this at a health food store.
1/2 c. pure apple juice (no sugar added)
1 T. fresh squeezed lime juice

-Mix together and let set for about 10 mins.

-In a separate bowl combine:

3 c. thawed triple berry mix (and combination of unsweetened berries will work)...keep the juice with them, don't drain it.  Mash with a potato masher.
5 T. Acai Berry powder (another super food.  You'll have to go to a health food store to get this.)
6 T. agave

-Mix together, and once the Chia and juice mixture has started to gel together, combine.

-Let it set up in the fridge for about 30 mins before serving!

-This makes a good amount of jam, and it's a good thing...your kids will eat it up like candy!

-Note:  this isn't a super sweet jam...so if you're kids are used to the really sweet jams and jellies, you could add more agave!

Xylitol Sweetened Frosting

The other day, I asked my 4 yr. old, Sofia, what she wanted to eat special for Christmas breakfast.  She thought about it, and said, "Um, maybe something that tastes really delicious, but that's a healthy choice too!"  Haha!  I guess I've driven the importance of making healthy choices home to her!  I proceeded to tell her that I was thinking about making cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but making them healthy, and with healthy frosting.  Boy did her big eyes just light up!  She asked if they would have sugar in them (knowing my extreme hatred for the stuff), and I said, "Well, honey, Mommy is going to try to come up with a recipe that has NO sugar in it, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to, so we'll see."  To which she replied, "Remember, Mom, (she's very mature and calls me mom), persevere...never give up!"  (Guess you could say we drove that principle home to her too!!)  So with all of that said, this recipe goes to my healthy choice-making, persevering 4 yr. old, who always keeps me on my toes!  Merry Christmas Sweetie!!

-Note:  this is not the type of frosting that you would want to use to frost sugar cookies or even a cake that wasn't in a 9x13...it's a softer frosting, that is perfect for glazing or filling or drizzling.  I bet if you added more of the "powdered sugar" it would be stiffer though...that's just not what I was looking for in this recipe!

-Let's talk about Xylitol for a second, because it's not a commonly known ingredient, but it's starting to get more publicity.  It's found naturally in some fruits, as well as tree barks (weird, I know).  It is a low calorie sweetener that is said to be safe for diabetics (now don't use my word on it, do some research if you're planning on using this for someone with diabetes!)  Some of the benefits include: no affect on weight gain, cavity prevention in teeth, naturally balances the body's ph, and aids in the absorption of calcium.  The one downside to it that has been documented is: until a tolerance is built up, bloating and gas can occur. (I personally have never experienced this with it, though.)  With all that said, I don't use the product a ton because I still don't feel like I've done enough research on it to use it all the time and feel good about it...HOWEVER, on paper, it looks almost too good to be true!!

1/4 c. + 2 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 c. + 2 T. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

-Cream these two together until smooth, or else your frosting will be lumpy!

-Add:

1 T. + 1 t. vanilla
2 T. unsweetened almond milk
1/4 t. sea salt

-Beat together until well incorporated.
-Add:

2 c. Ideal brand low calorie Confectionery (this is the "powdered sugar" made from Xylitol)  I actually found this in my grocery store in the baking aisle...I shop at Meijer, don't know if that helps anyone else...but I think it's relatively new.

-Blend until a nice, smooth frosting emerges!  I actually added 2 t. cinnamon to mine, since it will be used for cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning! 

-Enjoy...this frosting is amazing, and I'm SUPER excited to play around with this new product and see what else I can create!  Any feedback or alterations that made it better would be greatly appreciated!

Creamy Pesto Spread

Okay, so I make mistakes when I'm cooking...a lot of the time!  I just felt that I should get that out there for all of you who may be getting this impression of me in the kitchen, that everything is a success...FALSE!  This spread was developed as a desperate attempt to cover up a mistake that I made, when I didn't read one of my own recipes closely enough, and added 4 times too much salt!  Here's my point, though, instead of scrapping the whole thing, I got creative, and because of it, this little beauty was born...and boy is it amazing!!  If you love creamy, decadent, rich, pesto-y, things, you're going to thank your lucky stars for this recipe (and so will everyone else that tries it!)  Never in a MILLION years would anyone guess that this was vegan, so serve it with pride, and once everyone has had their fill (and has complimented you IMMENSELY), let them in on your little secret!

First, you'll start out by making my Pesto recipe:

1/2 c. pinenuts, toasted (look below for toasting instructions if you are unfamiliar!)
1/2 c. fresh basil (I have to admit, sometimes I've been known to cheat on this step and just buy a tube of fresh basil...I just use the whole thing instead of rinsing and chopping...shhhh, don't tell!)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. freshly smashed garlic (or again, cheat and use the tube!)
1 t. sea salt (this is where I made the mistake...the original recipe calls for 1/4 t.!)
1 t. lemon juice







-In a small saute pan toast 1/2 c. of pinenuts over medium heat.  Toss or stir frequently, because they'll burn quickly.  You'll know they're done when they're nicely browned, and you can smell them!
-Throw all these ingredients into a food processor, and mix until smooth and thick!

-Add:

1 container + 1/2 c. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (yeah I know...that's a LOT of cream cheese, but trust me...it was a LOT of salt!!)
1/2 c. Tofutti Better than Sour Cream

-Blend in the food processor until smooth!  That's it...SO easy!

-This actually makes quite a bit of the spread, so if you're worried you won't be able to find ways to use it, here are some helpful hints!

sandwich or wrap spread
on crackers topped with tomato and a balsamic reduction drizzled over it
on a toasted crostini
veggie dip
cracker dip
tossed with pasta and served cold (throw in some tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers!)

-Need I go on??  If you come up with some creative ideas, let me know!  I'd absolutely love to hear them!!

-Disclaimer:  If you should happen to love this so much that you eat it all the time on everything, there is almost a 100% chance that you will gain some poundage!  This is NOT my fault...I repeat...NOT my fault!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vegan Banana Cream Dessert

I LOVE Banana Cream Pie...it's a huge weakness of mine!  And it just so happens that my Grandma Sass makes the VERY BEST Banana Cream Pie that you will ever wrap your lips around!  Around Thanksgiving time, I was throwing myself a little pity party because I was missing my "old ways" (which included the aforementioned pie), so I decided to quit crying about it, and make up my own version!  So glad I did!  This dessert captures the essence of the sweet, creamy pie...minus the pie crust (which I've never been a fan of)!  Instead, I've replaced it with an irresistible cookie crumble, that even now, has my mouth watering!!

The Crumble:

1/2 c. coconut oil (slightly softened)
1/4 c. agave
3/4 t. sea salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
2 1/4 c. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour

-With the back of a fork, mix, while pressing against the side of the bowl to form a crumbled texture.

-Set aside until it's time to assemble.

The Filling:

1 c. mimicream (this is a nut-based cream that I found at my health food store...it's a GREAT substitute in creamy dishes!!)
1/2 c. coconut milk (from a can...not the watered down kind...we're talking full fat baby!!)
6 T. agave
2 T. nutritional yeast (super high in minerals and B vitamins...this will give it a "custardy" taste...you'll have to go to a health food store to find it)
2 T. egg replacer (usually I'm not picky about which brand you use, but in this case, go with Bob's Red Mill)
1 t. sea salt

-Over medium heat, bring this to a boil...stirring constantly, so as not to burn.

-Slowly, while whisking, sprinkle in 1/4-1/2 c. flour (King Arthur's White Whole Wheat)

-Let boil for about 3-5 minutes, until it thickens to a "custard-like" feel!

-Add:

1/2 t. cinnamon
5 T. vanilla (yes, 5)

-Now, there are a couple of ways you can do the assembly...do whatever you prefer:

-Slightly press crumble into a creme brulee dish, add banana slices, spoon "custard" over it, and top with more crumble, bake at 325 for 7 mins.

-Skip the cookie crumble on bottom, add banana slices, custard, and crumble to the top, and bake at 325 for 7 mins...

-Or press crumble lightly into an 8x8 pan, add 2-3 bananas (or more if you like), the custard, and then top with 1-2 c. of the crumble, and bake at 350 for around 20-25 minutes.

-It's really up to you, and what you prefer to do!  I did all of them, and got mixed feed back with each...the individual ones are nice because they're cute, and look, sophisticated, but they're a hassle!  The big one is easier, it just loses SOME of the "wow factor" when it's served.  Your choice...either way...it tastes amazing!!

-Oh yeah, I'd chill it before you serve it!

Sweet Potato Crisp

Sweet Potato Crisp?  Is this a dessert or a side dish?  Can't tell?  Well then I guess it could be both!  I developed this recipe because I was SO SICK of seeing that DISGUSTING display of sweet potatoes, smothered in marshmallows at every single Thanksgiving dinner...seriously, no offense, but what a terrible injustice to sweet potatoes!  (Who are, not to mention, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and are so delicious that you can eat them by themselves!!)  This is my healthy take on the dish that strips sweet potatoes of all of their dignity...I'm just trying to give them a chance to redeem themselves here, for crying out loud!

Preheat oven to 350

Wash, peel, chunk, and steam 2-3 really good-sized sweet potatoes until fork tender...around 20 minutes.

-Mash with a potato masher, or with the back of a large fork, and mix in:

2 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. agave
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 T. coconut oil
1 T. vanilla

-Place this mixture into an 8x8 pan and set aside.

The Crumb Topping:

1/2 c. coconut oil (slightly softened)
1/4 c. agave
3/4 t. sea salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
2 1/4 c. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour

-With the back of a fork, mix, while pressing against the side of the bowl to form a crumbled texture.

-Measure out 1 1/2 c. of the crumble, and spread over the top of the sweet potatoes

-Top the crumble with: (and this is optional for those who dislike nuts)

1/2 c. walnuts roughly chopped
1/4 c. slivered almonds

-Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.

-Serve warm or cold...either way...it's amazing!  You'll be a hero for bringing this for your dish to pass!!

-Note:  you'll probably have around 1 c. of the crumble left over...as a treat for your kids, toss some peeled apple slices in cinnamon, agave and a few tablespoons of flour, and make a little apple crisp for them!  Bake at 350 until the apples are soft (about 25 mins)

Granjan's Gingerbread Boys

Gingerbread cookies are one of my all time favorites, hands down!  This is a good, old-fashioned recipe that I got from my Granjan (my dad's mom), who used to make them every single Christmas!  They are full of flavor, great texture, and fond memories of my childhood...it's no wonder I have to make an extra big batch each time I make them!!  Already mostly healthy, I just had a tweak a few things in the original recipe to make them "up to my standards" of health!!  Otherwise, these are the same cookies that have been in my family for generations!

Preheat oven to 350

Mix thoroughly:

1/3 c. coconut oil (softened)
3/4 c. agave
1 1/2 c. dark molasses (I use blackstrapp because it's SUPER high in iron per serving...you'll use the whole jar.)

Stir in:

1/2 c. cold water

Sift together, then stir in:

6 c. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour
1 t. sea salt
1 t. allspice
1 t. ginger
1 t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon

Once everything is mixed together, prepare:

2 t. baking soda in 3 T. flour and 3 T. cold water

Mix into the batter and chill for 1-12 hours

-Note:  when it's time to roll out the dough, it will be very hard...this is where you get some exercise in!!  I actually split the dough into 2 separate balls to make it a bit easier!

-Roll out very thick...don't make it too thin...and use your favorite cookie cutters to make cut outs...I actually do a few cut outs with the kids, but then finish up the majority of the dough with a plain old circular cutter!

-Bake for 15-18 minutes (depending on the size of the cookies you've cut out)  You'll know when they're done when you touch in the center, and you don't leave a finger imprint.

-Cool completely before frosting.

The Frosting:

Ok, side note:  Frosting is one of those things that I NEVER measure out...I just get a good feel for taste and texture and go with it.  I found a recipe to use as a base, if you follow it correctly, it will work out for sure...I just can't guarantee you it will be the same thing that I did when I made the frosting pictured above!

3 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (do not soften)
3 T. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (do not soften)

-Cream together until smooth (or your frosting will be lumpy and unattractive!)

-Add:

2 1/4 c. powdered sugar (I cringe just writing this out...but honestly, I haven't been able to do a good piping frosting without it...PLEASE let me know if you find something!)
1/8 t. sea salt

-Beat until a very firm frosting begins to emerge, and add:

2-4 t. of almond milk (add very slowly, because you definitely want a firm frosting)
1 t. vanilla

-Taste the frosting...if it tastes good, but is runny, add more powdered sugar...if it tastes too sugary, add more butter (make sure you beat it up smoothly before you add it)

-Divide and add food coloring

-Top with your favorite sprinkles, or just eat them plain...either way...this recipe spells WINNER!  Enjoy!

-Note:  to make the intricate designs, I put some frosting into a plastic baggie, and cut the tip off of one of the corners (not too big...start small, and cut more if you need to).  Twist the bag to get rid of all the air, and squeeze frosting through the hole.  This is WAY cleaner than letting your kids use knives and bowls of frosting, and they think they are pretty cool doing it!  My 4 yr old LOVES piping, and is getting pretty good at it!!

Scrumptious "Sugar" Cookies

What's Christmas without a sugar cookie??  For a child, this is the best cookie to load up with as much frosting and as many sprinkles as possible, making the cut out shape almost non-recognizable!  (As well as unappetizing to any adult, yet strangely attractive to all children!!)  Because I didn't want to deprive my kids of this common holiday tradition (I can just see it, "no, honey, we're not going to decorate any cookies like all of the other children do for Christmas...instead, why do you see what you can do with that plate of broccoli and spinach over there!")...I came up with a much healthier alternative that won't have your kids flying high with a sugar buzz, only to come crashing down minutes later!

Now, I do have to point out that I said "healthier" and not completely healthy...it's really hard to come up with a frosting you can decorate with, that doesn't use powdered sugar...trust me, I've tried to figure it out...failed miserably!  I can promise you that the actual cookie is probably one of the most healthy (and good tasting) sugar cookies you'll eat...so if eaten in moderation, it's a very good compromise!

The Cookie:

Preheat oven to 375

-Sift then set aside:

3 c. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt

-Cream together:

1/2 c. coconut oil (coconut oil is WAY healthier than butter...but if you don't have any, you can use all vegan butter...the original recipe actually calls for 1 c. butter)
1/2 c. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3/4 c. agave (you can actually use a full c. of agave if you want...but I try to make the cookies just a little less sweet if they're going to be frosted...haven't had any complaints yet!)

-Add to the creamed mixture:

1 "egg" (1 eggs worth of prepared egg replacer)
1 T. unsweetened almond milk

-Add the flour mixture and mix.

-Pack into a ball and roll out the way you would sugar cookie dough.  Cut them out into simple circles, or let your kids go crazy and use their cookie cutters!!

-Bake for 7-9 minutes...I find that these harden up quite nicely, and they won't really brown in the oven, so DON'T over-bake them, because they'll be dry.

The Frosting:

Ok, side note:  Frosting is one of those things that I NEVER measure out...I just get a good feel for taste and texture and go with it.  I found a recipe to use as a base, if you follow it correctly, it will work out for sure...I just can't guarantee you it will be the same thing that I did when I made the frosting pictured above!

3 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (do not soften)
3 T. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (do not soften)

-Cream together until smooth (or your frosting will be lumpy and unattractive!)

-Add:

2 1/4 c. powdered sugar (I cringe just writing this out...but honestly, I haven't been able to do a good piping frosting without it...PLEASE let me know if you find something!)
1/8 t. sea salt

-Beat until a very firm frosting begins to emerge, and add:

2-4 t. of almond milk (add very slowly, because you definitely want a firm frosting)
1 t. vanilla

-Taste the frosting...if it tastes good, but is runny, add more powdered sugar...if it tastes too sugary, add more butter (make sure you beat it up smoothly before you add it)

-Divide and add food coloring

-Top with your favorite sprinkles, or just eat them plain...either way...this recipe spells WINNER!  Enjoy!

-Note:  to make the intricate designs, I put some frosting into a plastic baggie, and cut the tip off of one of the corners (not too big...start small, and cut more if you need to).  Twist the bag to get rid of all the air, and squeeze frosting through the hole.  This is WAY cleaner than letting your kids use knives and bowls of frosting, and they think they are pretty cool doing it!  My 4 yr old LOVES piping, and is getting pretty good at it!!

Lucious Lemon Cookies

Yup, as weird as you may think this is...my cookie list for Christmas ALWAYS includes lemon cookies!  I'm not sure if it's because it's the one time during the year that I do away with self-restraint and just indulge in whatever goody is out there...OR if it's because ever since childhood, my Grandma Sass (mom's mom...she's super sassy...hence the name!)  would put out an array of Christmas cookies that would make Santa drool...and the platter always included these TO DIE FOR lemon cookies!  Whatever the reason, Christmas cookies at our home ALWAYS include lemon cookies, and this year, we went healthy with them!!

Here's my holiday cookie disclaimer:  although I always try to stay within the realms of "healthy vegan" baking/cooking, the holidays are also about taste...so if I can't find an amazing alternative that's completely vegan or healthy, I WILL resort to using some ingredients that you normally wouldn't find in my recipes...in this recipe...it's powdered sugar for the frosting...go ahead, try making a piping frosting without it...I've tried...failed every time!

The Cookie:

Preheat oven to 375

-Sift then set aside:

3 c. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt

-Cream together:

1/2 c. coconut oil (coconut oil is WAY healthier than butter...but if you don't have any, you can use all vegan butter...the original recipe actually calls for 1 c. butter)
1/2 c. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3/4 c. agave (you can actually use a full c. of agave if you want...but I try to make the cookies just a little less sweet if they're going to be frosted...haven't had any complaints yet!)

-Add to the creamed mixture:

1 "egg" (1 eggs worth of prepared egg replacer)
1 T. unsweetened almond milk
1-2 T. lemon extract (taste the dough and see what fits your taste the best)

-Add the flour mixture and mix.

-Pack into a ball and roll out the way you would sugar cookie dough (minus the lemon extract, this is actually my sugar cookie recipe!)  Cut them out into simple circles (as shown above), or use your cookie cutters and get creative!

-Bake for 7-9 minutes...I find that these harden up quite nicely, and they won't really brown in the oven, so DON'T over-bake them, because they'll be dry.

The Frosting:

Ok, side note:  Frosting is one of those things that I NEVER measure out...I just get a good feel for taste and texture and go with it.  I found a recipe to use as a base, if you follow it correctly, it will work out for sure...I just can't guarantee you it will be the same thing that I did when I made the frosting pictured above!

3 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (do not soften)
3 T. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (do not soften)

-Cream together until smooth (or your frosting will be lumpy and unattractive!)

-Add:

2 1/4 c. powdered sugar (I cringe just writing this out...but honestly, I haven't been able to do a good piping frosting without it...PLEASE let me know if you find something!)
1/8 t. sea salt

-Beat until a very firm frosting begins to emerge, and add:

2-4 t. of almond milk (add very slowly, because you definitely want a firm frosting)
1 t. vanilla

-Taste the frosting...if it tastes good, but is runny, add more powdered sugar...if it tastes too sugary, add more butter (make sure you beat it up smoothly before you add it)

-I added a few drops of food coloring to some of the frosting for decorative purposes...not necessary, but it sure makes it pretty!

-Top with your favorite sprinkles, or just eat them plain...either way...this recipe spells WINNER!  Enjoy!  (I actually need to make another batch of them, because although I froze them so I'd have them for Christmas functions, SOMEHOW they got eaten still!!!)

Andes Mint Brownie Bites

Want to impress the multitudes at whatever Christmas function you'll be attending? Bring these little guys right here!  Not only are they gorgeous to look at, but they taste even better than they look, and they are pretty much a guilt-free Christmas treat!!!  Any way you look at it, these satisfying little bites are winners!!  Disclaimer: when baking for the holidays, you may find some ingredients in my recipes that I typically wouldn't use...some of the items may have trace amounts of dairy or sugar in them...if this freaks you out, read the labels of the products before you buy them, and see if you can find a better alternative (and if you do...let me know!!!)

The brownie:

Preheat oven to 350

Buy a package of Pamela's Products brand Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Mix
-prepare the "pamela's irresistible brownies" recipe, with these substitutions:

1/3 c. applesauce (we're cutting out a LOT of fat by taking away the oil...yet we're not forfeiting any of the flavor!)
1 "egg" (1 eggs worth of egg replacer...this is saving you a total of 9g of fat!)
1/4 c. water (the recipe calls for this already, but I just didn't want there to be any confusion)
2/3 c. Andes mints
1/2 t. peppermint extract

-Put in a greased 8x8, and bake according to the instructions!

-Once cooled, put in the freezer, until completely frozen (this will make them a lot easier to cut, dip, or roll into balls.

-Note:  I actually under-baked mine a little, because I like the texture of the hard chocolate on the outside, but the gooey brownie on the insides...great contrast!

-Once brownies are frozen, take them out, and cut them into even, bite-sized squares.  (The brownies should still be soft enough to roll some of them into balls at this point, if you wanted a little variety to the look.)

-While you're cutting, empty a bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chips into a microwave safe container, and microwave according to the instructions on the back of the package (for the bark recipe listed)...I do add the oil it calls for.

-Once melted, dip brownies one by one, with a fork, and scrap the excess chocolate off the bottom several times.  Place on wax paper (or aluminum foil) and top with whatever sprinkles (or crushed candy cane) you have on hand!

-When you get down to having not enough chocolate to dip the brownies in, I add a touch more oil to it, and with a spoon, drizzle (or fling) the chocolate over the bites that have already been dipped.  This makes them look just a little fancier...and now, you're not wasting the very last bits of chocolate!

-Note:  you'll probably have to keep reheating the chocolate for 10 second intervals, throughout the dipping process.  If the chocolate gets too thick, the coating on the bites is just a little too thick...we're going for perfection here, so let's do this right!!

-Once the chocolate has set, you can either serve right away, put in the fridge in an air tight container until you need them, or freeze them until you're ready for them...either way, this recipe is AMAZING, and you're going need to make a double batch!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mediterranean Stuffed Collards

Collard Greens?  Who eats Collard Greens, unless you're from the deep south?!  Who has even heard of them, or knows what they are, or where to find them??  I will admit that I too was "Collard illiterate" until my dad started doing a little research of foods he could eat that had extreme health benefits.  All of a sudden Collard Greens began ending up in all of his food, from omelets to sandwiches!  So, this blog goes out to my dad, whose obsession with Collard Greens helped me come up with the perfect lettuce to wrap with!

In a bowl combine:

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. crushed red peppers (this one is optional, but I love the little kick it adds!)
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 t. agave

-whisk together, and set aside while you prepare the rest.

-microwave 2 packages of Seeds of Change Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice (according to instructions)

-Note:  I buy these in bulk as Costco because I know they can be a little expensive elsewhere...but they make the cook time of this recipe so much faster, and you cannot beat the texture!  If you'd rather, add 4 cups of cooked rice and/or quinoa to make the equivalent.

-To the dressing mixture, add:

1/2 c. each, chopped:

roasted red peppers
kalamata olives
carrots
(you could also add sundried tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers...)

1/4 c. pinenuts
2 c. chopped fresh spinach

-mix everything together, rice, chopped veggies, dressing, and set aside while you prepare the Collards.

-You should be able to find a bunch of Collard Greens in the fresh produce section of your grocery store...by the beet greens and fresh lettuces.  They look like huge, dark green, hearty leaves, with thick stems.  You'll need just about the whole bunch for this recipe.

-To prepare, wash them each thoroughly, trim off the lower part with the thick stem, and set on a paper towel.  Now, you can either blanch the leaves (bring water to a boil, dip them in until they begin to soften, then let them rest in ice cold water until you're ready to use) or microwave each leaf for 10 seconds...which is what I did!  This makes the leaves a little less tough, and more pliable for wrapping.

-Spoon some of the rice mixture into the leaf, being careful not to over stuff!  Fold the two long sides together, then roll the rest of it up, tightly, burrito style!  Secure with a tooth pick!

-Repeat for the rest!

-These will keep for days in the fridge, so they make a nice little snack or lunch if you're in a rush and just need to grab something!

-They're also a gorgeous way to impress friends if you're having them over for a light lunch!  Serve with some Pesto Garlic Toast:

The Pesto:

1/2 c. pinenuts, toasted (look below for toasting instructions if you are unfamiliar!)
1/2 c. fresh basil (I have to admit, sometimes I've been known to cheat on this step and just buy a tube of fresh basil...I just use the whole thing instead of rinsing and chopping...shhhh, don't tell!)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. freshly smashed garlic (or again, cheat and use the tube!)
1/4 t. sea salt
1 t. lemon juice

-Throw all these ingredients into a food processor, and mix until smooth and thick!  Go ahead and taste it...you'll be SO impressed that you just made this!

-Here is my cheaters version if you're only making it for 1-2 people...

Take your favorite whole grain bread, throw it in the toaster.  When it's done, spread coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil on it, and then generously smear your fresh pesto over top.  Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, and put under the broiler until peso begins to bubble (around 1 minute)...DONE...easy...delicious!

If you're serving a large amount of guests...

Take a good loaf of whole grain french bread and cut horizontally into 2 long loaves.  Spread GENEROUSLY (and I mean slather) with coconut oil, then top with your pesto (again generously).  Sprinkle about 1/2 t. of sea salt on each half and bake at 350 for 5 minutes.  Finish under the broiler to crisp up the top.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Rum Frosting-Filled Cookie Sandwiches

If you think the name of these cookies is a mouthful...it's NOTHING compared to the mouthful of flavor you'll get each time you bite into one!  There are some amazing textures and tastes going on with these cookies, and although they aren't your "traditional" Christmas cookie, you won't want to skip making these guys!  I used absolutely NO SUGAR in the frosting or the cookie, and the flour is whole wheat...so if you're worried that you'll be too tempted to eat the whole batch before anyone even knows you made them, rest easy...these cookies are about as healthy as you can make them, and no flavor has been sacrificed!  Serve these to the toughest critic you know, and they'll be sure to give them an A+!

The Chewy Chocolate Cookie Recipe:

Preheat your oven to 350

1 c. soft coconut oil (SO many health benefits from this ingredient...go ahead and throw away all of your other oils and butters...this is the only guy you'll need from now on!)
1/4 c. applesauce (you could actually use another 1/4 c. coconut oil...but I thought, hey, why not spare the extra fat...because let's face it...oil, even healthy oil, is super fattening!)  Ps-if this batch makes around 36 cookies...you're saving yourself about 2 g of fat PER COOKIE just by using 1/4 c. applesauce! (oh, and one more thing...since these are sandwich cookies...that's 4 g of fat per serving!)
1 c. agave
1 c. coconut palm granules (or sucanat which is much easier to find)
2 "eggs" (2 servings worth of egg replacer, prepared according to instructions)  Side note: if each egg is 9 g of fat per, that makes a total of 18 g of fat...by using egg replacer, you're saving yourself an additional .5 g of fat per cookie...(which is actually 1 full gram since there are 2 cookies per sandwich!)
2 t. vanilla

-Cream together all these ingredients until the granules are pretty much dissolved.
-Add:

3/4 c. cocoa powder (I really love Hersey's Special Dark)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. sea salt
2 c. flour (I used King Arthurs White Whole Wheat)

-Mix until incorporated...batter will be thick enough to roll into a ball.
- Scoop out about a heaping teaspoon and roll into a ball.  Do this until all the batter is gone.
-Bake for 9-13 minutes (they'll begin to crack on top when they're done)
-When you take them out of the oven, you'll want to flatten them with a spatula, and move to a cooling rack.
-Fully cool before you begin to frost...it may even be best to chill them first.

The frosting:

Let me just say that this frosting is great for filling sandwich cookies...however, it's not like a royal icing that will harden, so don't use it as a piping frosting, as it will just make a big mess!

2/3 c. softened coconut oil
1/3 c. vegan butter (I love Earth Balance)
1/2 c. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (the kind in the yellow container, NOT the white, which has been hydrogenated...don't know why they even sell it!)

-Cream these ingredients together really well...if you don't, you'll end up with lumpy frosting...very unappetizing!
 -Add:

1/4 t. sea salt
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (warm)
1/2 c. agave (taste and add more if you want it sweeter)
1/3 c. King Arthurs White Whole Wheat Flour

-You're gonna mix this for a while on high until everything is really well incorporated.

-Note:  frosting is something that for me, changes every single time I make it...so I'm always tweaking it as I go...this is the best job I could to do record what I did!!

-Put in the refrigerator for a few hours, and it will firm up as the butter and oil get a chance to harden.

-For the rum flavor, I added 1 t. rum extract per cup of frosting (this recipe makes around 2 c.)

-If you want...split the cookie recipe up, as well as the frosting recipe, and use the other half for the Chewy Chocolate Andes Mint Sandwich Cookies!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spicy Sushi

Okay, so sushi is one of those "trend foods" that people are loving these days!  It's weird, but most people either love sushi or hate it...there aren't very many people who are indifferent...AND there aren't many people out there who have mastered the technique of the perfect sushi roll!  Now, I'm not calling myself a sushi expert by ANY means...however, I have managed to come up with an AMAZING sushi roll that has converted many sushi haters over to the dark side!!  It's crunchy, creamy, spicy, and so good, you don't even need the wasabi or soy sauce to go along with it (although the three together are like heaven to your taste buds!)  I actually developed this recipe for my husband, who has a strong love for the spicy mayo served at a lot of sushi places...this is one of his favorite vegan dishes that I make!  Master this, and you'll have people BEGGING you to bring it wherever you go...trust me, I know!

You will need:

-Sushi rice...this is a must.  No other rice is sticky enough, so make sure you get sushi rice...it's actually called that.  (Most grocery stores will have this in the Asian section)
-1 bag of organic broccoli slaw
-Match stick carrots
-Avocado
-Vegannaise mayo (probably have to venture to the health food store for this...but it's SO worth it)
-Low sodium soy sauce
-Sriracha (you should be able to find this at most any grocery store...Asian section)
-Nori (this is the "paper" seaweed that you wrap everything in...most regular grocery stores are carrying this product now...in the Asian section)
-Rice wine vinegar (in a pinch, I've used apple cider vinegar or white vinegar...both tasted fine)

-Prepare the sushi rice EXACTLY how the package says to.  (Each brand has different measurements and instructions as to how to prepare.)  I actually cut the rice recipe in half, so that there was only enough to make 2 rolls...which is plenty for 2 people, as a meal accompaniment...however, if you plan on having just the sushi as a meal, make the full amount of rice (I think mine ended up being 4 c. cooked for the full recipe)

-Once the rice is done, add the sushi vinegar, sugar (I use agave instead), and salt...according to the instructions on the rice, set aside to let cool for a minute or two, so you can work with it.

-Combine:
1 1/2 c. broccoli slaw (this is for the 2 roll recipe...if you're going to make more, double it)
1/4 c. matchstick carrots
1/2 c. vegan mayo (make sure you don't use nasoya...yuck!)
1 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 T. sriracha...ok, sriracha is this AMAZING chili-based hot sauce...kinda like an Asian ketchup, because they use it like we do ketchup!  It's up there on the spice scale, so if you're sensitive to spice, start out with 1 t. and try it...but in my opinion, the creaminess of the mayo balances out the heat of the sauce...no one typically complains about this ratio.

-Mix all of this together.

-Slice your avocado in long, even slices (I didn't have any avocado on hand tonight when I made this sushi, so you CAN skip this step if you're in a pinch...just know that the avocado makes this roll about 100 times better!)

-Now you're ready to assemble!  I got really intimidated the first time I thought about making my own sushi...actually my husband kept begging me to learn how to make it for about a year before I was brave enough to try it...and I only tried it because a friend brought it over as something fun for a group of us to do together!  Don't be intimidated...you don't need all the fancy rolling mats and wooden spoons...this is what I do:

-Nori, shiny side down, longest sides at the top and bottom

-Spoon half of your rice mixture into the nori and spread with the spoon, or with wet fingers (this rice sticks to EVERYTHING!)  Keep rice away from about 1/2" across the top, you'll need that nori naked so you can seal up the roll.

-Spoon half of the slaw mixture along the bottom of the rice covered nori...if your mixture got runny, don't worry...but do try to let some of the juices run off before putting it in the nori, or you'll get really sloppy looking sushi...(taste will be killer tho!)

-Line the slaw mixture withe the avocado slices (about 3-6 slices)

-Now it's time to roll...don't be scared!  Nori is surprisingly strong and flexible, so tuck everything in there tightly, gently squeezing things together as you roll.  When you've rolled to where the rice ends, get your fingers wet with water, and lightly wet the nori...this will act like glue.

-Finish rolling...gently squeezing everything together...don't worry...some stuff will come out the ends, that can't be avoided.  Just trim them off before you begin cutting, and enjoy them as a little extra bonus snack for all of your hard work!

-Having a good knife to cut this will make a big difference.  I actually use my bread knife...it's serrated, but not with sharp teeth.  You may have to experiment with your knives, but you shouldn't have to put a lot of pressure to cut through.

-And there you have it!  You can get about 8-10 pieces from each roll!!

-If you're still confused, (because this is actually very hard to explain in words!)...I googled "how to make sushi" and watched a few videos (are you allowed to tell people "just to google" when you blog??)

-Try this, trust me...it's SO worth it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cilantro Lime Tempeh Toss

Last spring, I was out in Minnesota at my sister's house, and she made this meal...let's just say it made a HUGE impression on me!  I've asked her repeatedly for the recipe, and had to venture out there again to finally get it!  This meal is full of fresh flavors and amazing textures, and is a really nice change up from our usual routine of: something Mexican, something Asian, or something Italian!  The original recipe was taken from the, How It All Vegan cookbook, but this is my twist on it in order to fit my family's tastes!  Give it a try!  If you love cilantro and lime, you're going to LOVE this comforting dish!

In a food processor combine:

1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. fresh garlic
1 c. diced tomatoes
1 t. powdered ginger (the recipe calls for fresh ginger, a 2" section...I didn't have fresh, so I improvised)
1 T. garlic chili sauce (can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store)

-Blend until all ingredients are incorporated, and let set while you prepare the rest.

-In a large saute pan combine:

1 T. coconut oil
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 brick of tempeh, cubed

-Brown the tempeh over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

-Add:
1 can coconut milk (I use organic...NOT the low fat)...this can usually be found in the Asian section of any grocery store
1 t. sea salt
1/4 t. turmeric (this will not only give it a gorgeous color, but the health benefits of turmeric are amazing!)
1/8 t. curry (this can be omitted if you really hate curry...but honestly, give it a try...you won't even notice it's there!)
3 c. broccoli (I used frozen organic...my family loves broccoli, and I would've even liked a little more! So add more if you want, or add less...do it to suite your taste)
1/2 c. organic frozen peas (again...add more or less to suite your taste)
2 zucchini, chopped

-Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the veggies are cooked, and the sauce has reduced a little.
-Remove from heat and add the mixture that's in the food processor.
-Toss together, and let set, covered for about 5 minutes to let the flavors "get to know each other!"

-Serve over brown rice, as shown, or quinoa, OR rice noodles!  The options are endless!
-Grab some vegetarian spring rolls or egg rolls from the freezer section of your grocery store, and you have an amazing meal that even kids and husbands will eat!

-PS...just so you know, this is one of those meals that tastes great the night you make it, but even better the next day, so if you're in a pinch, make it up ahead of time and you won't be sorry!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Ultimate Tempeh Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe, Slop-Sloppy Joes! (Adam Sandler anyone?!)  Sloppy Joes are about as American as the burger and Apple Pie...and I just couldn't view myself as a "proper" American if I didn't have some variation of this amazing comfort food in my diet!  Sweet, tangy, chewy, messy...this has all the components of a "real" Sloppy Joe...without a ton of fat, and without any animal parts in it...in my opinion, this is called a "no brainer"!  Even your meat-eating friends and family will fall in love with this...and instead of saying, "where's the beef"...they'll be saying, "who cares about the beef, just give me another one!"

The Tempeh:

Crumble 2 bricks of tempeh into a saute pan and add:

1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. liquid smoke (probably optional, but it sure adds some nice flavor!)
1 t. low sodium soy sauce
2 T. blackstrap molasses
1/2 c. ketchup (I use OrganicVille brand, because there's no added sugar in it...it's the ONLY ketchup I've found out there that doesn't have sugar in it)
1/2 c. water
1 T. coconut oil

-Simmer slowly to incorporate the flavors

-In a separate pot combine:

1 3/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
1/4 c. + 1 T. agave
1/4 c. water
1 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 t-1T. liquid smoke (depending on how smokey you want it)
2 T. yellow mustard
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. chili powder

-Simmer to incorporate flavors for 10-15 minutes

-Add tempeh, and simmer another 15 minutes at least...the longer you let it simmer, the better the flavor...just keep that in mind!

-Top toasted buns with Sloppy Joe Mix, and your favorite toppings...I LOVE banana peppers, and vegenaise mayo...but you could try lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, baked onion rings...be creative!

-Note:  if you leave out the tempeh...the sauce makes an AMAZING bbq sauce!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spicy Garlic Peanut Sauce w/ Sauted Veggies and Japanese Noodles

If you love garlicy, spicy, Asian-inspired food, this recipe is going to be a gold mine for you!  I was told about this recipe idea from my sister, whose friend, Leah made it for her one night...she said it was, "so good, that I literally ate it until I wanted to throw up"!  (Pardon the reference to vomit while talking about food, but I figure most of us have been there before!)  I quickly got the recipe from Leah, and of course, with my own variations, came up with this gorgeous dish that is a confusing mix of satisfying, yet keeping you wanting more!  It's loaded with fresh veggies, and don't worry, it's not too spicy!  (Leah is a self-proclaimed "spice baby" who can handle it!)

The Sauce:

2 c. peanut butter (obviously make sure there's no added sugar, and no hydrogenated oils)...I actually used a blend of chunky p.b. (which I bought on accident...no one in my family will eat it!) and creamy...but use what you have available.
1 1/2 c. water
2 t. cumin
2 T. fresh garlic (I used the tube kind, because if I chop garlic, my hands smell like it for days...unpleasant!)
1 T. garlic powder (if you don't love the taste of garlic like I do...you can skip this)
4 T. low sodium soy sauce (if you don't have low sodium on hand, just use 2-3 T. of regular)
2 T. chili garlic sauce (you can find this in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (if you're scared of the heat, bump this down to 1/4 t...or even 1/8 t. if you're REALLY scared!)
1/4 t. chili powder
3 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice

-Mix together in a food processor, or by hand, either way works (if you're doing it by hand, use warm water and heat the p.b., as it will be much easier to stir!)

-Let set for at least an hour in the fridge

-Note:  Mine ended up thickening quite a bit, so I added 1 c. of unsweetened almond milk to thin it back out!

-This makes a LOT of sauce, so portion it out and freeze it for next time!!

-One more thing:  you can use this recipe to marinate tofu and tempeh in!  Give it a good 3 hours to marinate, and then cook like you normally would!

The Veggies:

-In a saute pan combine over medium heat combine:

1/4-1/2 c. water (enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
1 T. garlic powder
2 T. low sodium soy sauce (or 1 T. of regular...gotta watch that sodium!)
1 T. garlic chili sauce
1 section of a red pepper (around 1/8 of the whole one), sliced
1/2 c. broccoli pieces
10 pea pods (unless you want more!)
1/4 c. matchstick carrots
1/8 c. water chestnuts (halved or chopped)

-Note:  These veggies are a suggestion, so if there are some that you don't like, omit them, and if there are others that you REALLY like, add more...some other things that may work are:
palm hearts
cauliflower
zucchini
yellow squash
peas (minus the pod)
celery

The Noodles:

-Bring water to a boil and add 1 bundle of Japanese style noodles (yaki soba, buckwheat, udon...whichever you like the best...or, just do it over regular spaghetti if you really want to!)

-Cook according to package directions for al dente (slightly firm, not mushy)

-Drain, rinse, place back into the pan, and add 1/2 c. Spicy Garlic Peanut Sauce per bundle of noodles, and cook just a few extra minutes to let the noodles absorb some of the flavors.

-You can toss your veggies right into the noodles, or serve them over top...it doesn't matter, except that it looks prettier if you serve them over top...so if you're trying to impress...on top...if not...toss in!

-Garnish with: (and these are optional suggestions...just use the ones you like)

mung bean sprouts (HIGHLY recommended)
cashews or peanuts (preferably not salted)...chopped or whole
fresh cilantro...not only is it really pretty for presentation, but it tastes SO fresh
a drizzle of sriracha (found in most Asian sections of the grocery store...very spicy)
sesame seeds
wedge of lime to squeeze over it

-There are so many options for changing this dish up to  make it your own, and to fit your family's tastes!  Have fun with it!!

-Note:  To complete the meal, go to the freezer section of your grocery store, and grab some vegan spring rolls!  Don't forget to eat with chop sticks, and if you're doing a dinner party, grab some fortune cookies for after dinner!  Success!

-Another Note:  1 bundle of noodles will serve roughly 2 people...so consider the amount of veggies and noodles with the 1/2 c. of sauce to be a serving for two.  (There is probably enough sauce to feed 8 people...if I had to guess!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bity Black Bean Browine Bites

That's right, you heard correctly, black bean brownies!  There is NOTHING easier than a 4 ingredient brownie, that has an extra protein and fiber kick!  From what I've heard, this is an old weight watchers secret...and I'll be honest...when I heard it, I was SUPER skeptical!  There's NO WAY you can put beans in brownies and have them taste good...right?!  It's absurd...or so I thought!  Give it a try, for real...these are the perfect little dessert-like something that you need, without being loaded with sugar and empty carbs!  AND you're going to freak out at how easy these are!

-Preheat oven to 350

What you'll need:

1 bag of Pamela's Products Chocolate Brownie Mix (bonus: fat free, gluten free, sugar free (white sugar), AND they have chocolate chunks in them!)
1 can low sodium, organic black beans
1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 c. unsweetened almond milk

-In a blender or food processor, dump in all the contents of the black beans (juice and all)...blend until no chunks are visible

-Combine all ingredients into a bowl, and mix...just so you know, batter will be really, really thick.

-Grease mini muffin tins (the really tiny ones), and fill with batter...batter will rise a little bit, so make them just about as big as you want them.

-Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until center comes clean when tested with a toothpick.

-Cool and eat! 

-This is an awesome recipe for kids to help with, because there are so few ingredients, and kids love things that are tiny!  My daughter gets so excited to help me with these, and even more excited to eat them!  These are a GREAT treat alternative, because they're high in protein, fiber, are void of processed flours and sugars, and have just the right amount of sweetness!

-Freeze half the batch for later, OR eat them all!!

-Ps- if you don't have mini muffin tins, put the batter in a 8x8 or 9x9 pan (greased) and bake...check at 12 minutes, but they may need to be in for longer.  You'll know when it's done by testing the center with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, it's done!

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls

Reeses Peanut Butter Cups are my Achilles heel...I simply CANNOT have them in the house or I will eat them until they are gone!  (Pathetic I know...you would think that as an adult, I would have overcome my childhood addiction to this candy, but I think it has gotten worse with age!!)  So today, as I was craving something chocolate, filled with something peanut butter...yet knowing I should be making much healthier choices...I decided to experiment, and this is what I came up with...DEFINITELY hit the spot!  They went straight to the freezer...however...they taste just as good frozen, so...

In a coffee grinder, grind:

3 T. raw almonds
3 T. raw sunflower seeds

-You'll probably have to do each of them separately.

-Place nuts and seeds in a bowl and add:

1/2 c. organic, unsweetened peanut butter (preferably raw)...warm it up first
1 T. agave (2 if you want them a little sweeter)
4 T. wheat germ (raw...not toasted)
a pinch of sea salt

-Mix all the ingredients together...it should be pretty stiff...stiff enough to roll into a ball.

-Roll into balls...however big you want...I got 10...but then again...I did keep eating it, so maybe I would've gotten 12 :)

-According to the directions on the bag, melt 1/2 bag of Ghirardelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

-Add 1 t. coconut oil and mix to incorporate.

-Dip balls in chocolate, scraping the bottom a few times to rid of excess chocolate.

-Set on a wax paper covered plate, and place in the refrigerator to harden chocolate!

-Note:  I took a few almonds, ground them in a coffee grinder, and sprinkled the tops of them (before putting them in the fridge), to "dress them up" a little bit!  You could also melt a few white chocolate chips and drizzle that over the top to make them extra fancy!  Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Unbelieveable 10 Grain Waffles w/ Raspberry-Mango Compote

You know how when you stay at a hotel that has a continental breakfast, you ALWAYS hope they have the waffle station?  I know I do!  Something about the crispy, light texture, and the sweet fruit topping that makes you feel like you've just gotten a GREAT deal!!  We all probably know how unhealthy those waffles are, with all that sugar from the fruit topping (not to mention the "whipped cream")...well, here's my take on that breakfast, minus all the sugar, oil, and unhealthy-ness...PLUS all of the flavor and sustaining nutrients that will keep you energized for your day!  P.s.-I'm actually eating these right now, as I blog this!! Yum!

-Prep your waffle maker so it's nice and hot for your batter

-In a bowl combine:

1 "egg" (an "eggs" worth of prepared egg replacer)
1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c. Bobs Red Mill 10 Grain Flour
1 c. King Arthurs White Whole Wheat Flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt
1 T. vanilla

-Mix all together to incorporate.

-With a 1/3 c. measuring cup, scoop onto hot, greased waffle maker.  Close, and wait until it indicates done-ness!  (I typically set mine to 4, and wait for the green light to come on!)

-Repeat until batter is gone.  I got around 6 with this recipe!

-Top with Raspberry-Mango Compote:

-In a small pot, combine:

1/2 c. raspberries (I used frozen)
1/2 c. mango (I used frozen)
3 T. water
1 t. fresh lime juice
2 T. agave

-Bring to a boil.  While you're waiting, combine:

1 t. whole wheat flour
1 t. water

-Whisk together until there are no lumps

-Once the fruit is boiling, add the flour and water mixture to thicken.  Stir quickly to avoid lumps.

-Using a potato masher, mash the fruit up (the raspberries won't really need it...it's mainly for the mangos)

-Done!  Drizzle on your waffles and enjoy!

-Note:  you can use pretty much any fruit for the compote...I've done blueberries, strawberries, raspberries...a combination of all mixed together...get creative!  Just make sure you get the unsweetened fruit!

Hearty, Healthy Blue Corn Waffles

Waffles are a fun way to begin your day!  For some reason, they just seem to have a little more of a "special" feel to them than pancakes...I don't know, maybe it's all those fun little squares that you can fill with delicious toppings!  I got this recipe from the back of the Bobs Red Mill Blue Cornmeal bag.  The recipe was intended for pancakes, so if you don't have a waffle maker, you can certainly make a successful pancake from it!  I, of course, altered the recipe to make it much healthier, by substituting healthy ingredients for the non-healthy ones!  Enjoy!!

-Plug in waffle maker

-In a small pot, boil 1 c. water

-In a bowl, combine:

1/2 t. sea salt
2 T. coconut palm granules (or sucanat)
3/4 c. Bobs Red Mill Blue Cornmeal

-Once water has come to a boil, put it in the bowl with the above, mix until incorporated, and cover while you prepare the other ingredients.

-In a separate bowl combine:

1 "egg" (egg replacer, prepared to make the equivalent of 1 egg)
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
2 T. coconut oil, melted

-Add to the covered mixture, stir until incorporated, and add:

3/4 c. Bobs Red Mill 10 Grain Flour (or King Arthurs White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 t. baking powder

-Stir until just incorporated

-Using 1/3 c. measuring cup, scoop a mildly heaping scoop into a greased, hot waffle iron, and wait until it indicates being ready!  (I set mine to 4, and wait until the light turns green)

-Repeat until the batter runs out...I got 5 waffles from this recipe!

-Spread with coconut oil, and drizzle with agave nectar, raw honey, or Grade B or better Maple Syrup!

-Or Spread with coconut oil and Acai Berry Jam (featured in a previous blog)

-OR make a fresh berry compote...how?  Well...just follow this quick and easy recipe!!

-In a small pot, combine:

1/2 c. raspberries (I used frozen)
1/2 c. mango (I used frozen)
3 T. water
1 t. fresh lime juice
2 T. agave

-Bring to a boil.  While you're waiting, combine:

1 t. whole wheat flour
1 t. water

-Whisk together until there are no lumps

-Once the fruit is boiling, add the flour and water mixture to thicken.  Stir quickly to avoid lumps.

-Using a potato masher, mash the fruit up (the raspberries won't really need it...it's mainly for the mangos)

-Done!  Drizzle on your waffles and enjoy!

-Note:  you can use pretty much any fruit for the compote...I've done blueberries, strawberries, raspberries...a combination of all mixed together...get creative!  Just make sure you get the unsweetened fruit!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quick and Easy Veggie Bean and Rice Soup

We eat soup nearly every single day in our family...the kids LOVE it, and actually get excited when I tell them we'll be eating soup!  (I have strange children, I know!)  Soup is the second best way to eat your veggies (aside from raw), because you're actually eating the broth that they are cooked in, so more vitamins, mineral, and enzymes are preserved!  Typically, I make up a HUGE batch of veggie soup, and I'll freeze portions of it, so it's readily available upon demand!  (Trust me, you don't want to be here when the soup runs out...it's pandemonium!)  This is the simplified recipe, utilizing organic, frozen veggies, as well as organic canned beans...no chopping, no soaking...barely any cooking!  I always have these ingredients on hand, in case of emergency!

In a pot, combine:

7 c. water
1 1/2 t. Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1/2 t. garlic powder
4 T. nutritional yeast (you'll have to go to the health food store to get this, but the benefits (besides flavor) are vital to making a nutritious soup!)
1/8 t. sea salt (optional)
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2-1 c. matchstick carrots (so you don't have to do any chopping!!)
1 zucchini, washed and chopped into smaller pieces (the smaller the pieces, the quicker the cook time!)
1 can organic kidney beans (or whichever bean your family likes best...garbanzo and black beans are amazing...and so are lentils!)

-Cook this long enough to soften the carrots and zucchini...maybe 10-15 minutes (remember that even once you remove it from the heat, the broth with be hot enough to continue cooking the veggies.)

-While the broth is cooking, take 1 pouch of Seeds of Change Organic Whole Grain Brown Basmati Rice, and cook according to package directions (90 seconds!)...this rice is precooked and amazing in texture!  (There is also a  rice and quinoa blend by Seeds of Change that is delicious and can be substituted)

-Remove from heat once veggies have been cooked in the broth, and pour into the container you will be storing the soup in.

-Add:

2-4 c. organic frozen broccoli
1 c. organic frozen petite peas (or regular, whichever you prefer)
Rice

-Stir, and let the frozen veggies thaw...it'll just take a couple of minutes...and the best part about using the frozen veggies (besides no chopping)...is that it cools the soup down enough so that eager mouths don't get burned, AND don't have to wait to eat it!!

-Note:  this soup is nowhere near as salty as canned soups, or typical soup recipes...I do that on purpose, in order to watch sodium intake.  The way my kids eat this (and me too) we'd be way over our sodium limits with just one bowl if it was as salty as traditional soups!!  Now, if you need to add a little more salt to it, to get your kids to eat it...feel free.  Another option is to serve it with some Kashi Fire Roasted Veggie crackers, or the Back to Nature (not sure exactly what they're called...but they're the oval ones with all the grains in them!)  The crackers will add just a little more salt, as well as something fun for the kids to dip into the soup!

-This soup is literally 20 mins from water in the pot, to soup in the bowl!  And it makes enough for a good amount of servings (maybe 7 servings that are a little more than a cup!)  Win win!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spinach-Broccoli "Ricotta" Stuffed Shells

This is one of those "impress 'um" meals that you could serve to non-suspecting meat-eaters, and they would never know the difference!  Packed with flavor and amazing textures, this is one of those comfort food meals that you'll want to make over and over again!  I like to make this meal to use up extra spaghetti sauce, but you could certainly use a jar of sauce and have it any night of the week!

Boil around 12-16 shells for the amount of time directed on the package.  (I use the Tikyada brand...it's gluten free)

The "Ricotta" Cheese:

2/3 of a block of organic tofu, drained and patted dry with some paper towel (You can use the whole block of tofu, but 2/3 of one was all I had!)

-Crumble with a fork in a bowl, so the consistency is that of ricotta cheese. 

-To that add:

1 t. garlic powder
1 t. oregano (dried)
1 t. basil (dried)
1/2 t. sea salt
pepper to taste
1/2-1 c. frozen organic spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 c. frozen organic broccoli, thawed, drained, and chopped into small pieces (but still leaving a few small chunks for texture)

-Mix everything together, and when noodles have cooked, drain and rinse, and stuff until full.

-Place in an 8x8 pan (I spray the pan so that the noodles don't stick to the bottom...that's so annoying!

The Sauce:

-I took the leftover Veggie Spaghetti Sauce, put it in the blender with 1/2 jar of Organicville Marinara and blended it to make it smooth.

-Note:  you can definitely just use sauce from a jar, or not blend the sauce and leave it chunky.  I like the smoother, thicker sauce, because it doesn't take away from the texture of the noodles and filling...but do whatever you prefer!

-Cover with aluminum foil and bake until sauce is heated through, about 20 minutes.

The "Parmesan Cheese" Topping:

-I personally, think this is the perfect way to finish off this dish!  It's everything that cheese should be (without being it) and more!  You're going to LOVE this!

1 c. of the Panko bread crumbs
1 T. each:
oregano
basil
garlic powder
1 t. salt
pepper to taste
1/8 c. nutritional yeast (optional)...you'll find this in a health food store, usually with the supplements or protein mixes...it's super high in B vitamins and minerals, and gives things a "cheesy" taste. I also use it in smoothies, vegan french toast, and the mac n "cheese" I make for the kids...so there are other applications for it if you choose to get it :)

-Put that all into a bowl, and drizzle with enough olive oil to get the spices to stick to the crumbs...taste them, if you like the flavor, leave them, if you think it needs more flavor, add more :)

-Uncover shells, and sprinkle "Parmesan Cheese" over top.  Return to oven and bake another 5-7 minutes to brown the top.

-Serve with homemade garlic toast:

If you can find the Arnie's brand Multigrain French Loaf, that's be your best bet...otherwise, any type of good multigrain french loaf will do!

Cut lengthwise, and spread generously with coconut oil.
Sprinkle 1 T. of the following on EACH half:
garlic powder
basil
oregano
italian seasonings (if you have it, if not, that's fine too)
And then 1 t of salt on each half

Bake for about 5 mins on 350, until the bottom is crispy, then finish under the low broiler until top is golden :)

Gooey Grilled PB&J

What kid (or adult for that matter!) doesn't like a nice, messy PB&J??  For the longest time I've kept this amazingly easy, essential meal away from my kids, because of all of the unhealthy-ness that goes along with them...until now!  In two of my previous blogs, I gave you some healthy bread and jam recipes...we'll be utilizing those to make these amazing sandwiches!  Ps-my sister gave me this idea...said her nanny kids LOVED when she made it!

You can either use the bread recipe from my previous blog, or your favorite whole grain bread.  (Keep in mind that the purpose of this sandwich is to give your kids the best nutrition from a fun meal...so make sure that the bread doesn't have any refined grains or white sugar).

-Spread one side of each piece with some coconut oil, flip them over, and spread the Acai Berry Jam (you can get the recipe from a previous blog post) on one side, and organic almond or sunbutter on the other (make sure you're getting "peanut butters" made without hydrogenated oils or sugars...and raw nuts are the absolute best)

-Press them together and grill in a panini maker, George Foreman Grill, or just in a saute pan until golden brown!

-Serve with a nice, big glass of unsweetened almond milk, a side of carrots or celery (with the Chocolate Banana PB Frosting Recipe mentioned in a previous blog), and a wet paper towel!

-Your kids are going to gobble up this warm, gooey, messy, HEALTHY sandwich, and never know that they're having something healthy for their bodies!!  Good work, Mom!!

-Note:  For a little extra fun...before grilling, get some fun shaped cookie cutters and cut the sandwiches into fun shapes, or letters to spell words...then grill!  Even the most skeptical eater can't resist a heart or dinosaur-shaped sandwich!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chewy Coconut Lime Bars

Bars are a staple in my house!  They're so nice to grab when you're in a rush, or if you just need a little snack throughout the day!  This is one bar you're going to LOVE having around...great texture, hearty and filling, nice balance of sweet and tart, and very healthy for you!  Can't go wrong with this recipe!

1 1/2 T. chia seeds (this is an incredible superfood, that also will help to bind your bars together....you'll definitely need to venture to the health food store for this one!)
3 T. fresh squeezed lime juice

-Mix the seeds with the lime juice and let set for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

-Preheat oven to 300

-These dry ingredients get mixed together in a bowl:

1 c. oat flour (if you don't have this, you can actually just grind oats in a coffee grinder or food processor!)
1/2 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 c. raw, shredded coconut

-In a food processor combine these wet ingredients:

2 T. melted coconut oil
2 T. applesauce
1/4 c. agave
1/2 c. (packed) dates, pitted

-Process until the dates are no longer chunky

-Once the chia seeds are done soaking, mix them together with the rest of the wet ingredients

-Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon

-Sprinkle the top with some more coconut and gently press to make sure they stick!

-Press into a greased 8x8 pan

-Bake for 25-28 minutes or until the edges begin to brown

-Note:  these bars are not supposed to be super sweet, so don't expect them to taste like a dessert bar!  If you WANT them sweeter, try putting an extra 1/2 c. of dates, and an extra 1/8 c. of agave! I got about 10 bars out of this recipe...you just might want to double it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Avocado Muffins w/ Fudgy Banana Peanut Butter Frosting

Who doesn't love a good muffin??  They're the PERFECT grab-n-go snack when you're in a crunch for time...we all know that...but who doesn't love a CHOCOLATE muffin?  You'd have to be crazy not to!  My mom is an awesome cook, and I get my passion for cooking/baking from her!  She's so good, that she, on a regular basis gets PAID to cook for someone...and not just any food...vegan food that has primarily no oil included in it!  AND she has to make it taste good!  The recipe for the Chocolate Avocado Muffins comes from her, with of course a few minor adjustments on my end!  Thanks Mom...we're LOVING this recipe over here!

In a food processor combine:

1 c. pitted dates
1/3 c. applesauce (unsweetened)
6 T. ground flax seed
2/3 c. water

-Blend until the dates are no longer chunky.  Empty into a mixing bowl and let set for about 5-7 minutes, or until thick.

-In the food processor combine:

1 1/2 avocado
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. cocoa powder (I love herseys special dark!)
1/2 t. sea salt

-Blend until the avocado is no longer chunky.  Add to the date mixture.

-Add:

1 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or King Arthurs White Whole Wheat Flour, OR Bobs Red Mill 10 Grain Flour)
1/4-1/2 c. chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life brand)

-Mix with a large spoon until everything is incorporated.  Batter will be very thick.  (You can add a splash of unsweetened almond milk to the batter if you're having a tough time mixing it).

-Spoon into greased muffin tins...these don't do much rising at all...so however big you want your muffins, put that much batter in the tin.  I usually get 9-12 muffins out of one batch.

-Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick to the center comes out clean!

-Note:  this is an amazingly healthy muffin, that's not too sweet!  You get a great dose of fiber from the whole grains, flax seed, and the avocado...not to mention the beneficial fats from the avocado too!  There's no added sweetener to it, just fruit...and no oils, eggs, or dairy!  Sounds too good to be true, like they couldn't ACTUALLY  taste good?  Well, let's just say the first batch I made, my kids ate them up in a matter of a few days!  (I think I was able to have 3 total!)

The "Frosting"...(Like they actually need it!)

Want to give yourself a little extra something special, without all the guilt of your typical frosting?  With no dairy, no powdered sugar, no lard or butter...this "frosting" is a sweet and delicious way to make something amazing, a little extra special!

-In a food processor combine:

2 ripe bananas
1 T. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (if you don't have this on hand, I bet you could omit it)
2 T. cacao nibs, ground in a coffee grinder (I put these in because of the antioxidants and the protein...helps to justify eating it don't you think??)
4 T. herseys special dark cocoa powder
2 T. flax seeds, ground in a coffee grinder (again, your omega fatty acids, fiber, DHA...who'd have every thought you'd get that in a frosting??)
2 T. (heaping) organic, non-hydrogenated peanut butter...or almond butter (check the label)
2 T. agave nectar

-Blend until smooth, for a couple of minutes, then transfer into a dish and refrigerate while the muffins bake.  This will help it to set up a bit.

-"Frost" when the muffins have cooled...or use this as a great dip for apples, strawberries, celery...get creative!