Vegan Food Nerd


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3 layer chocolate bars

20140918_195343Chocolate has always been my vice. I was never much of a candy fan and still don’t seek out vegan gummies or candies in that sense. However, when I went vegan I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy chocolate in the same way again and was worried that would make it difficult for me to stick with it. I was wrong though! I discovered that dark chocolate has such a richer flavour and I have really come to enjoy the higher cocoa percentage that milk chocolate lacks. That and it helps knowing that the more cocoa bean present, the better the chocolate is for you as it is a greater source of flavonoids (a special class of antioxidants). The great thing is, you really only need a square or two to be satisfied too!

(There are still companies that add milk ingredients to their dark chocolate products, so please be sure to look at the label before consuming.)

I know this says chocolate bar in the title, but they are much healthier than purchasing the store bought sugar filled variety! By controlling the sweetener and choosing some healthier ingredients, you can feel much less guilty enjoying one of these. They are not completely enrobed in chocolate but they aren’t lacking chocolate flavour at all. I ate one of these and then immediately shared a second one and I am pretty sure I could eat the whole batch at once, so please be warned that these are super yummy! The crust adds almost like a cookie base, while the middle layer is fudgey and soft, with a perfect coconutty chocolate coating. And if you are concerned about gluten, these can easily be made gluten free (see notes). I just happened to have gluten free versions of ingredients so I went with it.

I adapted this recipe from Oh She Glows. Original recipe here.

Notes:

  • I made some changes to the recipe based more on my pantry than anything else.
  • I also used a 9 inch square pan instead of 8 inch – use an 8 inch pan if you want thicker layers and add a few minutes to the crust’s baking time.
  • If you use gluten free oats, this is a gluten free recipe. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand. I also used gluten free whole grain brown rice crisp cereal.

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  • Feel free to garnish with chopped, toasted nuts or toasted coconut when you’ve added the melted chocolate layer. I simply forgot to.

Ingredients

Bottom Layer

3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup oat flour (I made mine. See step 2)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp maple syrup or agave
pinch of sea salt
1 cup rolled oats

Middle Layer

1 cup all natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup rice crisp cereal

Top Layer

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet but dark chocolate would also work great)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

Bottom Layer

1) Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9 inch square pan with two pieces of parchment paper (going each way in the pan) for easy removal of your bars later.

2) If making oat flour, put 1/2 cup of rolled oats into your food processor and process until ground.

3) Add almond flour, coconut oil, liquid sweetener and sea salt and process until combined.

4) Add the rolled oats and process to form a dough – the oats should not be completely chopped up and it should stick together when you press between your fingers.

5) Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan using wet hands to prevent sticking. I just used my fingers to press it out but you can use a pastry roller if you have one.

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6) Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork and pop in the oven for 11 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before adding the second layer.

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Middle Layer

7) In a medium saucepan, add peanut butter, coconut oil, liquid sweetener, vanilla and salt and heat over medium heat. Add cocoa powder here if also using. If you leave it out your middle layer will have a slightly different colour/taste. Stir until the coconut oil is melted and the mixture has a nice smooth texture.

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8) Remove from heat and when the crust has cooled pour the peanut butter mixture over top of your bottom layer.

9) Smooth with a rubber spatula and place in the freezer for at least 40-45 minutes to set completely.

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Top Layer

10) In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and coconut oil over medium heat.

11) Remove from heat and stir in shredded coconut.

12) Remove bars from the freezer and pour over melted chocolate, spreading evening with a rubber spatula.

13) Return to freezer to set the chocolate. When it is solid, cut into bars by slicing into 6 rows vertically and 3 rows horizontally.

14) Store in the fridge or freezer as they melt quickly. Serve before they have a chance to melt!

Makes 18 bars.

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Peanut Butter Pie!

20140626_190927Peanut butter and chocolate and pie. I already knew I loved peanut butter and chocolate together, but putting them into a pie?! Oh man. This is a game changer. This recipe from the Minimalist Baker tastes pretty much like one giant peanut butter cup. The filling is fairly light, while the chocolate is a bit rich so it’s a great combination. I made this for a birthday boy who really loved it. I used some coconut and toasted pecans to top the pie with, but you can use any chopped nut or just leave it ungarnished if you wish (but the crunchy texture from the nuts is lovely).

Recipe adapted from Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Pie over at the Minimalist Baker.

Notes:

  • The Mustard Seed co-op sells vegan graham pie crusts so I used one for this recipe since it was ready to go in my freezer. You might be able to find something similar at your own local store. You can easily make your own pie crust though with vegan graham crackers pulsed in your food processor, mix in some melted earth balance or coconut oil and press into a pie dish.
  • The coconut milk must be chilled to make your whipped cream as this separates the fat portion from the liquid portion and you only want the solid stuff.
  • I actually preferred to slice the pie while it was still frozen, then allowing it to defrost before serving. It can be a bit tricky to slice otherwise. Just remove from the freezer and let it sit for about 5 minutes to make this easier to do.

Ingredients

1 vegan graham pie crust
1 12-14oz package firm silken tofu (I use Mori-Nu)
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge at least overnight

Chocolate Ganache Topping
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli brand will give a nice rich topping)
1/3 cup non-dairy milk (coconut milk preferred, but almond milk works too)
1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil

Garnish (optional)

1/3 cup chopped, roasted nuts (peanuts or pecans would work)
1-2 tbsp unsweetened coconut

1) Preheat oven to 375 F.

2) Bake pie crust for 10 minutes, and allow to cool completely. In the meantime make your filling.

3) Add tofu, peanut butter and maple syrup to a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if needed. If your peanut butter is unsalted you may want to taste and add a pinch of salt to your liking.

4) Whip your coconut milk into coconut whipped cream using my previous post for instructions.

5) Once nice and fluffy, gently fold your peanut butter mixture into the coconut whipped cream.

6) Pour filling into crust and smooth with a rubber spatula. Pop into the freezer for about 1 hour to chill.

7) Prepare ganache topping by adding chocolate chips, non dairy milk and coconut oil into a pan on low-medium heat. Stir gently and a smooth ganache should form.

8) Pour the ganache over the pie filling and use a rubber spatula to spread if necessary. Top with chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut or a mixture of both and pop back into the freezer to allow to set.

9) When ready to serve, remove from freezer and allow to defrost slightly before slicing and serving. Keep covered with plastic wrap and store in the freezer if there are leftovers.

Makes 1 super delicious pie!


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Chocolate Cherry Muffins

20140805_181734I didn’t see any cherries at the market this week, so even though their season may have ended I had to post this delicious muffin recipe that I used when they were available. Maybe you were smart enough to get some extra cherries and freeze them? They would work perfectly here! Or maybe you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer climate so local cherries are still abundant. For my fellow Ontario bakers, I’m sorry for not posting this sooner! I haven’t tried it myself, but some other fruit would probably work well too.

I adapted this recipe from the Minimalist Baker. The original recipe was for 9 muffins, but I doubled it and made a few small changes. 

Notes:

  • The flour mixture I used here gave a really nice crumb to the muffin, but I’m sure using just all purpose, or just whole wheat pastry flour will work just fine.
  • Same goes for the sugars – all brown sugar or all coconut sugar should work fine here.

Ingredients

2/3 cup almond flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups almond milk (unsweetened and unflavoured)
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fresh, pitted cherries – chopped
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips or mini chips

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1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare muffin tins with liners or grease with coconut oil.

2. Combine flours, baking powder, salt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.

3. Measure out almond milk in a large measuring cup, add applesauce, oil, vanilla and almond extract and stir. If using coconut oil it may start to firm up again – microwave to heat and melt again.

4. Add wet to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in cherries and the chocolate until just combined. Save some chocolate to top the muffins with when they are in the tins if you please.

5. Spoon into muffin tins – fill them most of the way!

6. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let rest in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 18 muffins.


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Zucchini Banana Bread with Pumpkin Seeds

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Last summer I could not keep up with the zucchini that was coming out of my garden. I baked with it, cooked with it, ate it raw, and gave it away. This year for some reason I thought planting two zucchini plants would be a good idea despite the overload last year. We have actually had a strange growing season this summer due to the inconsistent weather and frequent colder temperatures so we actually got a smaller yield despite the extra plant. Regardless, looking for different ways to use the zucchini can be a challenge. Luckily, Isa over at theppk.com has a wonderful Zucchini Banana Bread recipe that I adapted the other night to suit my pantry. It came out so wonderfully moist and delicious! If you have the following ingredients at the moment, you should probably stop what you’re doing and bake away!

Notes:

  • We made two loaves, so halve the ingredients if you only want to make one. But you should probably make two.
  • We used coconut oil spray to grease the loaf pans and they popped right out! You could also line the pans with parchment paper to pull the loaves out easily if you prefer.

Ingredients

2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 8×4 metal bread pans with coconut oil spray or a little earth balance.

2) In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork or potato masher. Add the apple sauce,  oil, sugar, and vanilla and use a strong fork to mix well. Mix in the grated zucchini.

3) Mix together the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt – in a measuring cup or medium sized bowl. Add two cups of the flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix to combine.

4) Add the nuts and chocolate chips and the rest of the flour mixture, and mix just until no visible flour is left.

5) Divide the batter evenly in your two prepared pans – I just did this by eye. Sprinkle some more chocolate chips and nuts on top if you like as this will give your loaves a nice presentation.

6) Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick or knife. If it needs more time, turn heat down to 325 F and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

7) Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves

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S’mores cookies

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s’mores cookies

In the last few months I have discovered a few new vegan food products that I either hadn’t tried before or it didn’t exist. Marshmallows were never something I really missed eating over the last 8 years or so, but when I decided to finally pick up a bag of vegan marshmallows I was incredibly surprised. Who knew that they would actually have the taste and texture of the original, gelatin filled product?! And they even melt?!

I decided to try making a s’mores cookie with the marshmallows and they are best eaten warm and gooey. To re-heat just quickly zap them in the microwave, or let it rest on your tea or coffee mug while it’s still steaming hot (which is what I have done a number of times and it works perfectly).

Notes:

  • I used Dandies mini marshmallows for this recipe which you can find at The Mustard Seed Co-op 
  • The first time I made these without the graham crumbs on top and instead mixed them in with the flour – I much preferred them with the graham crumbs on top. (This is also why you can’t see them in the picture)
  • I haven’t tried freezing them yet so I don’t know if they freeze well – let me know if you try it! Just keep in mind they might get eaten before you get a chance..
  • These were inspired by a recipe by Dreena Burton – if you want a plain chocolate chip cookie, or a gluten free option, see her recipe!

Ingredients:

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all purpose, or mixture of the two)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
2⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
1⁄2 tsp blackstrap molasses (add a touch more maple syrup if you don’t have molasses)
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup coconut oil, melted (or canola/veg oil)
2⁄3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
2/3 cup mini marshmallows or chopped marshmallows (Dandies or Sweet and Sara’s)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper

2) In a large bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and stir until well combined.

3) In a separate medium bowl or mixing cup, combine maple syrup, molasses and vanilla. Stir in the oil until well combined.

4) Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, along with the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Stir until just combined (do not overmix).

5) Place a large spoonful of the batter on the baking sheet and sprinkle generously with graham crumbs. Leave at least 2 inches between cookies as these do spread quite a bit as they bake.

6) Bake for 10-11 minutes, until just golden. Let cool on the cookie sheet for no more than 1 minute to prevent them from drying out – transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 18-20 cookies.