Category Archives: Baking

Vegan Meringue for Mother’s Day

My mom was not a cook. I got that love from my dad. My mom did enjoy baking, however. Especially pies. I remember my mom always experimenting with different pie recipes. She even made a Mock Apple Pie once made from Ritz crackers instead of apples. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but it was rather tasty if I recall. Mom would mostly make pumpkin pies, but every now and then, although very rarely, she would whip up a lemon meringue pie.

Back then, I wasn’t the biggest fan of lemon meringue, but¬†I just discovered something this week that was kind of mind blowing. Chickpea meringue! If you follow food trends, this is a hot one right now. It’s one of those things that I heard about, but didn’t believe it could possibly be true. So I had to try it for myself. And it was so cool, that I wanted to share it with you.

If you google “Aquafaba” you’ll see a slew of videos and blog posts singing praise to this amazing discovery. A French man named Joel Roessel discovered that you can whip chickpea water (that’s the slimy stuff you get when you drain a can of chickpeas) into a fluffy cream, identical to the texture and firmness of whipped egg whites. WHAT?!?

whipped_aquafaba
Whipped Aquafaba

With Mother’s Day coming up and vegan meringue being the latest trend, I decided to start experimenting. This is just a teaser – I’m working on a healthier lemon meringue pie recipe in honor of mom. ūüôā¬†First run was okay. It tasted great, but the meringue fell when I took it out of the oven. Going to keep tweaking¬†it though!

Lemon_meringue_pie
Lemon meringue pie

In the course of experimentation, I also made (sugar based) meringue cookies, mostly following this recipe from Kelly Paloza (slightly adapted):

Meringue:
1 15 ounce can chickpeas
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Pour the liquid from the can of chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer, or use electric hand mixers. Add the cream of tartar. Whip the bean juice with the whisk attachment at high speed until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping. This process took me about 5-7 minutes, but it could take up to 15 or 20 minutes.

2. It’s done when the mixture reaches¬†the consistency of thick whipped cream, and stays on a spoon when you hold it upside down.

3. Pipe the cream onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 210 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until firm and very, very lightly browned on top.

meringue_cookies
Meringue Cookies

 

Now that you’re intrigued, start saving your chickpea water (aquafaba), dust off your stand mixer with whisk attachment, or your hand mixer, and get playing! ¬†I promise you’ll be as impressed as I was. ¬†I’m still experimenting and playing around with new recipes that I can’t wait to share.

If you do some playing of your own and come up with anything you’d love to share, email me and I’d love to feature your recipe in my blog and/or next newsletter!

 

Vegan Sweet Potato Kugel for Passover

Friday begins Passover, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

I grew up in a half Jewish household, on my dad’s side. What this pretty much means is that we didn’t really celebrate any of the religious aspects of holidays, but we sure embraced much of the food. When Passover rolled around, there were certain items we’d have on hand, as well as dishes that my dad liked to prepare.

For starters, we ALWAYS had Matzo on hand. My family loved Matzo so much, that my parents would even stock up on it when it went on sale after Passover. I don’t even know if I’d be exaggerating to say that we’d still be eating Matzo all the way through Hanukkah.

Another favorite Passover item that could be found in our pantry, (and in the pantry of my Catholic grandmother and great Aunt who were probably getting in touch with their formerly Jewish “Cohen” roots) was macaroons. Man, did I love eating those Manischewitz macaroons. The ones with the tiny chocolate chips were my favorite.

I also loved chugging on¬†Kedem Grape Juice. ¬†The flavor is so much richer and sweeter than any other grape juice I’ve ever had. It is¬†way too intense for me now to have any more than a sip, but as a kid, I couldn’t get enough of that stuff.

When I was in my 20s, I finally experienced my first (abbreviated)¬†seder. Having only minimal knowledge of what the celebration of Passover was all about¬†(in that I knew the story, but didn’t know what a seder entailed),¬†I was surprised by how important a role food played in the celebration. The seder includes a Seder Plate containing six symbolic foods that each hold special significance to the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

While we never went through the ritual of a seder growing up, I did enjoy a few key Passover dishes that dad cooked up.

With all the matzo hanging around the house, there also came lots of Matzo Brei, which is basically an omelet or scramble made with matzo that has been soaked in water until soft. He also made Matzo Ball Soup, which I’ve since veganized on multiple occasions and remains one of my favorite dishes.

Lastly, I could never resist the sweet smells of raisins and cinnamon that waft out of the oven whenever dad would have a kugel baking. Kugel is a pudding or casserole, traditionally made with egg and noodles. However, on Passover, the noodles are replaced by matzo or another starch.

When my client asked me to make a Passover dinner for his family, I knew that I needed to include a kugel. Scouring the internet for ideas on how to make a vegan, Passover friendly Kugel, I came across a recipe on About.com for a vegan sweet potato kugel that sounded just perfect.  I adapted it ever so slightly, and reduced the quantity of ingredients to make enough to feed a family of four, instead of a small army. Using my food processor to grate the potato and apple made this recipe super quick and easy to make.

Kugel_ready_for_oven

Sweet Potato Kugel 

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated (3 cups)

1 sweet apple, peeled and grated (I used a gala)

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup matzo meal

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (reserve some for the top)

1/2 cup water

Kugel_ingredients

Ingredients

Mix all the ingredients together. Press into a baking dish and bake at 375¬ļF until crisp on top, about 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the top with the reserved walnuts. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes to settle and cut into pieces more easily.

Sweet_Potato_Kugel

vanilla bean mousse tart

February is All About Heart

Our hearts don’t just pump blood to keep us alive. They also reflect our emotions, fluttering when we’re excited or nervous, skipping a beat or racing when we’re anxious or scared. Conversely, our emotions also affect the health of our heart.

According to Dr. Dean Ornish,¬†“Study after study has shown that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are many times more likely to get sick and die prematurely – not only of¬†heart disease¬†but from virtually all causes – than those who have a sense of connection, love and community.”

I guess it’s no surprise that February, the month in which we celebrate love, also happens to be the national month of heart health.

Join me this month in honoring our hearts by sharing a little extra love, especially with someone who really needs it.

Offer up a little self-love by incorporating more of these heart healthy foods into your diet.

Crucifers Рkale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, amongst others, are all part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which are rich in B vitamins, including folate, lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Nuts¬†‚Äď walnuts and almonds in particular are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, very high in vitamin E and contain heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Berries¬†‚Äď the darker the berry, the richer it is in heart protective anti-oxidants, and ability to increase levels of ‚Äúgood‚ÄĚ HDL cholesterol.

 

Beans¬†‚Äď we all know the old rhyme ‚Äúbeans, beans. Good for your heart. The more you eat the more you fart.‚ÄĚ Soak them for at least 8 hours and cook them with kombu (a sea vegetable), bay leaves, cumin or fennel seed and they‚Äôll be easier to digest.

And a little bit of indulgence…
Red Wine¬†‚Äď drinking in moderation decreases inflammation and thins the blood to prevent clots that can cause heart attack and stroke.

Dark Chocolate¬†‚Äď opt for raw cacao or a cocoa content of at least 70% for rich flavanol content and blood pressure reducing benefits.

Of course, it wouldn’t be February without some sweet treats. Here’s the round up of yummy, healthy desserts and snacks, that are conveniently heart healthy, and a great way to show your love.

Vanilla Bean Mousse 

Raw Sunflower Seed Truffles 

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Black Bean Brownies 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

I have a confession to make.

This is not easy to admit, but I think the time is right to come clean.

 

My name is Christine; and I am a chocoholic.

Raise your hand if you’re with me!

 

Today, December 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Yeah, apparently that’s a thing. I was surprised as you are when I first got wind of it. To be honest, though, chocolate usually gets a bad rap, so it’s nice to have a day nationally devoted to the awesomeness of chocolate.

Of course, because I am a natural foods chef and also a certified holistic health coach, I’m going to ruin this chocolate buzz a little by getting into the health stuff. But let’s look at it more as justifying. How’s that?

Cacao itself can be good for you. The little innocent cacao bean in its purest form comes with a ton of health benefits.

Why you should feel good about eating raw chocolate:

Alertness –¬†chocolate contains a chemical called¬†Anandamide, which causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, leading to feelings of excitement. This along with¬†low doses of caffeine,¬†has been shown to stimulate alertness and improve mental performance.

Lower Blood Pressure –¬†¬†the flavanol properties in dark chocolate soften the artery walls allowing expansion and a freer blood flow. This will in turn also lower the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Antioxidants Рthe antioxidants in cacao help to stabilize free radicals that roam your body and stop them from doing damage. If a free radical is formed in a cell and it is not neutralized, it can damage the DNA of the cell. Damaged cells lead to cancer and pretty much all other illness.

Antidepressant effects¬†– cacao triggers neurotransmitters¬†and may have the¬†ability to boost endorphins and serotonin, the natural happy chemicals in your brain. For that reason, it may¬†act as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant. Which, of course, most likely explains why chocolate is often one of the first things women gravitate towards when they are on their cycle or having a bad day; and one of the most common gifts given by men. ūüėČ

 

However, once you start heating, processing, adding all sorts of chemicals, including refined sugar, and calling cacao chocolate that it starts to lose its value.

That’s not to say all chocolate is bad. Organic dark chocolate, preferably with no added sugar, maintains some of its health benefits, as compared to commercially refined chocolate (think Hershey’s bar), which has none.

While organic dark chocolate is a better option than a commercial chocolate bar, the best option is raw cacao. This is chocolate in all its bitter glory. Enjoying raw cacao is the perfect way to feel good about eating chocolate – and not just because it’s triggering your neurotransmitters to release a feeling of utter joy and euphoria.

Some of my favorite dark chocolate and raw cacao products are Fearless Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Righteously Raw, Rawkin Raw and Choco Vivo, an LA based bean to bar company with an adorable store front where you can watch the chocolate get made. My favorite raw cacao powder is Navitas Naturals.

The raw chocolate bars are much pricier than the standard commercial bars, but the taste, texture and, of course the nutritional value, is far superior that it’s worth it. Plus, since it’s so rich, you’re likely to eat it a little slower and it will last longer.

If you’re transitioning from milk chocolate or processed chocolate, your palate will be used to high sugar content. I recommend starting at 55% cacao purity and working your way up until your taste buds have adjusted to the lack of sugar. ¬†At this point, 55% is way too sweet for me and I’m going for 80% and up!

 

Since it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, here are a handful of recipes for atypical things that are surprisingly delicious covered (or more accurately, combined) with chocolate.

 

Black Bean Brownies

Gluten Free Black Bean Fudge Brownies
Gluten Free Black Bean Fudge Brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

photo credit http://theveganpact.com/
Chocolate Avocado Mousse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower Seed Truffles

Raw Chocolate Truffles
Raw Chocolate Sunflower Seed Truffles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source (mousse): http://theveganpact.com/2013/06/raw-chocolate-avocado-mousse/

(cacao beans): https://blog.santabarbarachocolate.com

All other photos belong to Veggie Fixation.

Super Simple Autumn Apple Crisp

The smell of cinnamon combined with the sweet scent of apples baking could mean only one thing – AUTUMN!!!

It finally feels a bit like Fall in Santa Monica… at least for the next day or two when the temperatures are below 70 degrees.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the warm weather. Consistent 70+ degree days are the main reason I moved to Southern California to begin with. ¬†However, there’s the northeastern girl inside of me that really likes feeling cozy inside a fleece, or snuggly under a blanket.

When the air inside my apartment starts to get a little chilly, it excites me to turn on my oven and bring out the fall tastes and smells. There had been a few apples staring at me from my counter top and I knew that Jacques and I would soon be enjoying an apple crisp.

The great thing about any fruit crumble is that it is really simple to put together, doesn’t require a lot of prep, or a lot of ingredients. ¬†I tend to make fruit crisps with anything I have on hand.

Of course, there are the few pantry staples that are key to being able to make one on the spot : rolled oats, cinnamon, lemon.

It’s a fairly safe bet that even if you don’t cook extensively on a regular basis, these are things that I will find in your kitchen. ¬†Every client I’ve ever worked for has at least the oats and cinnamon, and 4 out of every 5 have lemons (some even with lemon trees in their yards, as it is, after all, So Cal).

The lemon juice enhances the flavor and keeps the apples from oxidizing, but you can still make an equally delicious fruit crisp without it, if need be.

To keep this as healthy as possible and accessible for all diets, I don’t use any form of sugar, or refined oils. It gets natural sweetness from the apples, and uses just a small amount of coconut oil for the topping.

Super Simple Autumn Apple Crisp 
Serves 4

Ingredients
3 medium sized apples of any variety
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 Tablespoons unfiltered apple juice (sub water if not available)
Juice of half a lemon, about 2 Tablespoons

For the topping
1 1/2 Cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 Cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350¬ļ.
2. Core and thinly slice the apples and toss them into an 8×8 baking dish, along with lemon juice. ¬† Stir in remaining ingredients and arrange apple slices evenly in the bottom of the dish.
3. In a medium size bowl, combine topping ingredients, using your fingers to well incorporate the oil. When it has come together into a crumbly texture, evenly spread onto the top of the apples.
4. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until apples are soft and topping is crispy.

I didn’t have any ice cream on hand to scoop on top, but if you do, go for it! ūüôā

Oh so Easy English Muffins

Vegan MoFo Theme: Healthy Vegan Brunch from A to Z
Today’s post is again a little bit attached to nostalgia. Although it really is just a coincidence, I feel like a subconscious bug was planted from Amey’s Noshtalgia theme.¬†
When I was a kid, one of my favorite breakfast foods was English Muffins. Actually, who am I kidding? It’s STILL one of my favorites. However, it wasn’t just one of my favorite breakfast foods, but also a favorite for lunch as well.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have caught on that my dad was the cook; he is the inspiration for how I came to love cooking, and my very first teacher. My mom, on the other hand, was more of a baker and never much into the cooking. I would say her meals were more assembly style, on a very simple scale. Well, there was one assembly that really just knocked it out of the park for me and my brother.

English Muffin Pizza. 
You toast the English Muffin, then spread it with tomato sauce, then top it with cheese – we usually had cheddar or American singles. Since we didn’t have a toaster oven back then, it would get placed face up in a covered frying pan. This would allow the cheese to melt and the muffin to get crispy on the bottom. There was just something about the way the sauce and cheese would fill into those nooks and crannies, and the crunch at the bottom, that just made this simple preparation almost out of this world.¬†
I didn’t think about the nostalgia that comes with English Muffins until I sat down to write this post, so unfortunately did not have the ingredients on hand to prepare a veganized version of that old family classic to show off.¬†
However, what I am sharing is my favorite recipe for homemade, gluten free English Muffins. Although they do contain yeast, the rise time is very quick and they are so ridiculously easy to make. Once I started making my own English Muffins, I started to question why I ever spent money on overpriced packaged ones that don’t even taste half as good as these do! ¬†Thanks goes to Tessa The Domestic Diva for posting this recipe, which I have adapted slightly and come to adore.¬†

Easy English Muffins 

Ingredients 

1 1/3 cups rice milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or preferred sugar for feeding your yeast)
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or 1 envelope)
2 tablespoons chia meal
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup brown rice
(Feel free to experiment with the flours, using different kinds, especially if you don’t have the ones mentioned available. Tessa recommends that you do not use all one flour, and I agree with her on this!)¬†
1/2 cup teff flour – or buckwheat if you can’t find teff
1/2 cup tapioca flour (potato flour or arrowroot can be substituted)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum

Directions

1. Heat your milk to warm, about 110 degrees, or easily place your finger in it. Any hotter than a temperature you can comfortably touch and you will kill the yeast!
2. Mix in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set aside for about 10 minutes to proof the yeast. It should have a creamy, puffy head on top of the liquid. If not, your yeast is dead and will not work.
While yeast proofs, whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, and set aside. 
3. Prepare muffin rings, or circular or fun shaped cookie cutters by greasing them well and setting them on a greased cookie sheet. I usually use an ungreased silicon tart pan and make muffins that are on the smaller side. 

4. When the yeast is proofed, stir in the chia meal and vinegar.  Pour wet into the dry and mix until you have a soft, muffin-like batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared muffin rings, or tart pan. Only fill about 2/3 full.
5. Set aside to rise in a warm place until they just start reaching the top edge. This only takes about 10-20 minutes, depending on temperature. Do not let the batter rise too high, or the muffins will overflow when they bake.
6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes, until just golden. Set aside and allow to cool. They are easier to remove once cooled and may break apart while still warm. Use a knife to cut in half and toast to get the insides crisp, if desired. Top with your favorite spread and enjoy! 
Store in refrigerator until ready to eat. You may also make ahead to freeze. Split in half before freezing and allow to thaw before popping in the toaster. 
Makes 12 Muffins that are 3 inches in diameter. 

Carrot Cake Muffins

Carrot cake has always been one of my favorite desserts, but they are often loaded with sugar and oil, then topped with even more sugar and fat in the form of cream cheese frosting. I wanted a way to enjoy the mildly spiced flavors of the cake, without all the bad ingredients, and muffins seemed a perfect answer.  These vegan carrot cake muffins are gluten free, soy free, oil free and sugar free. They are naturally sweetened with apple juice and just a touch of molasses (a little added iron!); apple sauce eliminates the need for butter or oil.

Carrot Cake Muffins 
Dry Ingredients
1 medium size carrot, peeled with top removed
1 1/2 Cups gluten free all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum*

Wet Ingredients 
1 Cup apple juice, or non dairy milk
1 Tablespoon chia or flax meal
1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon molasses

Directions
1. Shred the carrot using a hand grater/ microplane, food processor with shred attachment, or in a blender or vitamix. Set aside.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients into a large bowl; whisk.

3. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients, including chia; whisk well. Pour wet into dry mixing with a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula until well combined. Fold in carrots.

4. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and fill about 2/3 of the way. A cookie or ice cream scooper works really well for even sizes.

5. Bake for 18 Р22 minutes, until muffins are firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If desired, top with a sweet cashew cream or whipped coconut milk.  I enjoy mine just the way they are!

*Note: What is xanthan gum??
Many packaged foods have the ingredient xanthan gum listed on their labels. In general, I advise to stay away from ingredients that you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, so why am I using it in some of my recipes? In short, xanthan gum is a polysaccharide created as the result of a bacteria that forms during a fermentation process. This is the same bacteria that causes the black spots on broccoli or cauliflower. It forms as a slimy goo that is then dried and ground into a fine white powder. This powder is used as a food additive, acting as an emulsifier, a thickener, or a binding agent – usually to replace gluten, providing the stickiness that is missing. It is most often derived from corn, but sometimes from soy or wheat. ¬†Make sure to identify the source if you have an allergy. I don’t use it very often, but it is helpful in creating the structure needed for certain baked goods. You can leave it out, but may end up with flatter or flakier muffins.

Irish Soda Bread Biscuits

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day!

While others are spending the day on Sunday sucking down green beers (and probably regretting it later), I’ll be tucked away at the Radisson Hotel for yet another business conference. While the previous two weekends were spent at events where people were showcasing their new products or services, this one will be more of a two day workshop focused on my own personal business growth and development. I’m excited to dive in and learn how I can better serve my clients.

Hopefully there will be a green smoothie or two to keep my energy flowing!

In the meantime, I couldn’t let St. Patty’s Day sneak up without a post. Since I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick lately (truthfully, when am I not!?!) it seemed fitting to bake a traditional Irish Soda Bread. Irish Soda Bread is a simple quick bread, which in recent times has become associated with Saint Patrick’s Day, although historically it did not become popular in Ireland until after the Famine years in the 1930s. It is traditionally made of nothing more than flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk, although more modern takes include additional ingredients, and often even gets used as a dessert bread. ¬†For more on the history of soda bread, check out¬†¬†sodabread.info.

Of course, I had to take a little spin on the traditional, and whipped up a batch of Soda Bread Biscuits with raisins, that are also vegan and gluten free!

Irish Soda Bread Biscuits
Makes 8 biscuits.

Ingredients 
3/4 cup non dairy milk

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 cups gluten free flour mix*

2 teaspoons coconut sugar 
3/4 teaspoon each baking soda and 
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
1/2 cup raisins 
1 tablespoon caraway seeds** 
Directions 
1. Preheat oven to 375. 
2. Combine milk and apple cider vinegar and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it starts to curdle or turn sour to create “buttermilk” (soy milk will curdle the most, rice milk will not really form curdles.)¬†

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and kosher salt in a bowl. Work in coconut oil until pea sized pieces are formed. Add raisins and caraway seeds. Mix in “buttermilk” and stir using a spoon, until well combined.¬†

4. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut into four or eight wedges, depending on how big you want your biscuits. Form the wedges into balls and flatten slightly. Cut an “X” into the top of each biscuit. ¬†(Eight wedges will give you biscuits that are about 2 inches round.)¬†
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Biscuits should be lightly browned on top and bottom.  

*I used a gluten free flour mix of 1 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup tapioca flour and 1/4 cup quinoa flour. 
**Caraway seeds are not in my pantry as I don’t like them one bit! Instead I used 1 teaspoon cumin seeds. You may eliminate the seeds entirely, however.

Here’s a little round up of some of my green recipes:¬†

Wheatless Wednesday: Black Bean Brownies

Brownies are one of my favorite desserts. They are also a dessert that I have had a constant struggle with in trying to find or create a delicious vegan version of. There is a recipe for a gluten free version that we used when I was the lead baker at the now defunct Cafe Flourish that I love, but it is a little time consuming to make and requires a lot of different flours that aren’t always on hand. ¬†Hence, the search for healthier, moist, delicious, fudge-like vegan brownies has been ongoing. ¬†


I’ve seen images and recipes for black bean brownies (try saying that 5 times fast!) around¬†Pinterest boards¬†and the blogosphere but have hesitated to make them. Black beans? In brownies? with no oil? and no refined sugar? They can’t possibly be any good.

Then one day last week, I stumbled on an old post from¬†Happy Herbivore¬†and next thing I knew I found myself at the grocery store on the corner buying a can of black beans and bananas because I NEEDED to give these brownies a try RIGHT NOW! ¬†There’s a little baking demon inside of me that occasionally gets woken up for no reason whatsoever, but (s)he cannot be ignored. If (s)he says bake, I must bake immediately. ¬†Below is my adapted recipe.

Black Bean Brownies 

Ingredients 

15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
2 whole ripe bananas
1/3 – 1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like your brownies

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¬ľ cup instant gluten free oats

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 F. 
Grease an 8×8″ pan and set aside.¬†
Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scrapping sides as needed. 
Stir in the oats and pour batter into the pan, spreading evenly throughout. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing. 
Note: if you want your brownies a bit firmer or more cake-like, add an additional 1/4 cup oats or flour.
I topped my brownies with frozen blueberries that I’d thawed and the combination was incredible! Upon first bite, I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste of the brownies, but after refrigerating, the flavors really came together. ¬†While I usually love my brownies warm, these are definitely ones to be eaten cold. I also found that the more I ate, the more they really grew on me. YUM!¬†

Vegan MoFo: "Bloody Horror" Halloween Cake

It’s Halloween! ¬†My favorite holiday of the year. Why?

I love being scared. I have so much fun watching horror movies and going through cheesy haunted houses/mazes, even though I dread the thought of the heart palpitations that will surely ensue!  Also, I love getting dressed up in costume and I have a wicked sweet tooth.

In the spirit of Halloween, I’m deviating from the usual healthy theme of my blog and taking a walk on the sugary side. ¬†I could post healthier dessert alternatives for Halloween, but truth be told, I’d be lying if I said I eat healthy 100% of the time. On special occasions, I do indulge in cakes, cookies and cupcakes.

Right after cooking school, I took a job as the cold line chef and lead baker at an amazing (but now defunct) small cafe called Cafe Flourish, that many LA folks may remember. It was there that I further developed my baking skills and confirmed my love of making cupcakes.

Although the majority of the food I make is on the whole foods side, I do get requests from time to time for sugar laden, indulgent cakes and cupcakes. When these requests come in, I try to have as much fun with them as possible.

Recently for the boyfriend’s birthday, my friend Adriana (aka my cake making partner in crime) helped me to create creepy decorations for a layer cake I baked for him.

The cake was chocolate with cherry filling, decorated with cookie fingers and eyeballs; gory enough to be referred to as the “Bloody Horror” cake. ¬†We had so much fun putting it together and it was ridiculously delicious to boot!

The cake was so well received that I wanted to share it with all of you in honor of Halloween.

To make the cake, simply use your favorite cake and frosting recipe and spread each layer with a light coat of frosting, then spread evenly with cherry filling, reserving some for a pool of “blood” on the top of the cake.

(For my cakes, I often turn to recipes from¬†Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, pouring the batter into a 9″ round cake pan and increasing the baking time to 30 minutes, checking after 25 min and baking until a toothpick comes out clean.)

Cherry Filling
Ingredients
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen cherries, thawed
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon arrowroot
1/4 Cup water

Directions 
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries and their juice, and sugar. Stir until mixture starts to simmer, about 4 to 5 minutes. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, crush cherries until they break up and start to get more jam like.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together water and arrowroot until smooth, then pour into cherries, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring until mixture thickens, which will happen quickly. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Makes enough filling for a triple layer 9″ inch round cake.

For the fingers, Adriana was inspired by this recipe. To veganize it, sub butter for Earth Balance, decreasing salt by half, and replace egg with 1/4 cup non-dairy milk mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, allowing it to sit and curdle for 5 minutes before using.

The eyeballs were made of rolled fondant. Tiffany at LiveLearnLoveEat has a fun, easy recipe for making vegan fondant with Dandies marshmallows.

And for those that would like some recipes for healthier sweet alternatives that are great Halloween desserts for a party, or any day, here are some links to a few of my previous dessert posts:

Caramel Sauce for Apples

Chocolate Avocado Mousse 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

No Bake Sweet Potato Pie 

Pumpkin Pie Dip 

Me as a beat up Derby girl for Halloween 2010