Archive for Treats and Snacks

Vanilla Mint Smoothie

I want to share my new favorite smoothie, because it’s so perfectly Summer I have to get it in before Labor Day! I usually save smoothies for snacks and this is perfect for a post-hike or after school snack, but with the heat this Summer, it also worked great for me for breakfast. There is a secret ingredient too, with kind of a fun twist…instead of using questionable methods to get the green color that you find in many mint products, spinach and fresh mint each serve the dual purpose of a great nutritional boost and a brilliant green color! If you don’t have fresh mint, which I do recommend, you can put a drop or two of peppermint or spearmint oil in the water before pouring it into the blender. I keep frozen bananas in the freezer at all times in case the need for a smoothie arises. Outside of smoothie season, they are good for banana bread too.

If you are worried about the ice watering the smoothie down, no need to fret. We are essentially making our nut or seed milk and smoothie in the same step, so the ice (plus the water) serves as the liquid for the seed milk and it keeps everything nice and cold which is a critical element to keeping the bananas from getting gummy. Plus, the higher the hydration to sweet ratio the better, in my opinion, especially in a cooling mint smoothie! If you do want it a little sweeter, you can add a pitted date with the hemp seeds for an extra potassium boost!

  • 3/4 cup cold water, plus a little more depending on the consistency you want
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds (I sometimes use raw soaked almonds instead)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 cup spinach, or more if you like
  • 1/2-1 cup fresh mint (depending on your level of mintophelia)
  • 1 large frozen banana, cut into smaller chunks
  • teeny pinch of salt

Pour the vanilla in the water and set aside; if you are using mint oil instead of fresh mint, add it to the water too. Put the hemp seeds, ice cubes, spinach, mint, and salt in the blender, then pour the water over it. Putting the hemp seeds in first keeps them from flying around before they are blended and sticking to the side of the blender. Blend on low to get it going, then turn to high and blend until smooth, adding small amounts of cold water if needed to allow your smoothie to process. Blend it just as long as necessary, as you want to avoid heating up the smoothie in order to keep a perfect smooth, thick consistency. I like it thick enough to eat with a spoon, but it’s good anywhere between there and milkshake consistency. Sit down, take a deep breath, be grateful, and enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Holiday Cutout Cookies and Royal Icing

Here’s an easy cookie recipe to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  Whether you are making them in the shape of Christmas trees, Hanukkah dreidels, Solstice stars, Kwanzaa candles, or all of the above, time with family or friends making and decorating festive cookies is a great holiday project that is fun for people of all ages!

I had a request to come up with an alternative cut out cookie and so these were my project last night.  I was surprised at how workable the dough was and how sturdy the cookies.  It’s easy to roll out and cut, then once you’ve cut out the shapes, you can put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit and you should have no problem transferring the cut cookies onto a baking sheet.

Of course, as soon as my kids saw cutout cookies, they tasted them, declared them yummy, then asked for icing to go on top.  Since coconut butter is my go-to for easy frosting, I just spooned out a bit of that and sweetened it very lightly with the powdered coconut sugar left in the blender from the cookies.  It came out with a beautiful sheen, nice and spreadable when warm, then firm and shiny when cool, just like royal icing.  It’s really best for spreading on the cookies, but we did pipe some onto some stars and gingerbread men and that worked for simple designs (sorry, no frosting roses:).  It stays firm at about 70 degrees and below, which most houses and offices are.  Be sure not to store the frosted cookies too near a heat source!  Other options are to decorate with a dusting of cinnamon-coconut sugar, dried fruit pieces, chocolate chips, or if you really want to get crazy, the colored decorating sugar from Whole Foods.

For the Cookies:

  • 2/3 cups coconut oil, softened
  • 2/3 cups coconut sugar, powdered
  • 2 Tablespoon of ground flax
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½-2 cups flour (I used sprouted buckwheat, but a combo of amaranth and quinoa would be great, or any gf mix you love!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Measure the coconut oil, then soften it by placing the measuring cup in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Measure the coconut sugar and process in a blender to powder it.  Set aside.
  3.  In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the softened coconut oil and powdered coconut sugar.
  5. Mix in the flax, water, and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture about a third at a time and mix until incorporated.  Add additional flour if needed until you have a smooth dough that you can knead lightly with your hands without sticking.
  7. Divide the dough in 2 and roll each half out between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper or on a silicone mat to about ¼ inch thick.
  8. Place into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Lightly oil 3-4 cookie sheets.
  11.  When the rolled dough has firmed up a bit, cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes and place on prepared trays.
  12. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until just lightly browned on the edges.
  13. Allow to firm up for a few minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack.
  14.  Decorate as you wish and enjoy!

For the icing:

  • 1 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered coconut sugar, or more to taste
  1. Measure the coconut butter into a glass measuring cup.
  2. Place measuring cup in a pot of warm water and stir until it’s creamy and spreadable.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and remove from heat.
  4. Spread or pipe as desired.
  5. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

(Mostly) Raw Candy Bars

Last year on Halloween, my eldest son reflected that, while he didn’t want the downside of the candy he got from Trick-or-Treating, he was pretty sure that it must taste really good.  I steeled myself and told him that if he was really curious about how they taste and really wanted to try them, he should.  He chose not to, at least in front of me, at least in that moment, but not without lamenting that he’d REALLY like to know what they taste like.  Hence, the raw candy bar post for today.

The thing about food is that it’s all about giving our body the fuel it needs, by nature.  However, by habit and ritual, in our society, it’s often about so many different things, none of which is giving our body the fuel it needs.  It can be comforting, nostalgic, etc, etc, etc.  I could go into that aspect of eating for hours, but I guess my point here is that there are ways to satisfy those psychological desires with food that nourishes our body.  I would argue that the decadence of a candy bars is often just as much, or even more, about texture and contrast (think nuts and chewy caramel, or rich, smooth chocolate with crispy rice) as it is about the actual taste of the food (or not-food, depending on how you look at it).

So, I got inspired to re-create some of those texture and taste contrasts using whole food ingredients.  My kids woke up the next morning to mock candy bars from the candy fairy and they could not have been more excited.  Especially since they got to try their treats before breakfast because, frankly, they are healthier than the average breakfast in this country.  I know this might seem a little over-the-top, but it’s really pretty easy and once you make the main components, you can experiment with all kinds of candy concoctions.  Making up candy bars is a super fun cooking lesson for kids.  And, while I’m giving recipes for making these completely from scratch, you can certainly take shortcuts like melting carob or chocolate chips instead of making your own carob/chocolate coating, or mixing brown rice syrup and coconut sugar for your caramel filling.  You can also modify them – use chocolate, make them sweeter or less sweet; make them perfect for your taste.  Then, just have fun with it!

For me, this recipe made 2 loaf pans full of layered candy bars.  If you want to coat your candy bars in the carob/chocolate coating like regular candy bars, double the coating recipe.  Since coconut oil melts at 70 degrees, it’s best to keep these candy bars in the refrigerator or freezer.  I like to make them bite-sized so they don’t need to stay in the hands very long.

Carob Candy Coating:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar, maple syrup, yacon syrup, or raw honey, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon raw vanilla powder, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tablespoons nut butter, seed butter, or coconut butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup carob powder, or cocoa powder

Notes: you can certainly use cocoa powder or raw cacao powder instead of carob powder.  Just keep in mind that chocolate is much more bitter than carob, so you will either end up with a bittersweet chocolate, or will need to add a bit more sweetener.  I used coconut sugar and, while it was grainy when it was in liquid form, it tasted smooth to me when it firmed up.  Also, if you’d like a fudge filling for any of your candy bars, or just for fun, use this recipes, but increase the nut butter to 1/4 cup, use 3 dates instead of the coconut sugar, and replace 1/2 the coconut oil with coconut butter.

Heat a small saucepan to medium low, then turn it off.  Put the coconut oil in the pan and allow it to melt completely.  Whisk in the sweetener, vanilla, nut butter, cinnamon and salt until it is thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the carob powder until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Set pan aside while you prepare your filling ingredients.

Raw Caramel: 

  • 1/2 cup pecans (can use other nuts, nut butter, or tahini)
  • 1 cup of pitted medjool dates, softened in warm water if needed
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut butter, or coconut oil if you don’t have coconut butter
  • pinch salt
  • water, as needed

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth, adding water as necessary.  If you don’t have a blender, use a food processor; it won’t be as smooth and creamy, but it will still be delicious and will be totally great in your candy bars!  Taste and adjust as necessary, then set aside.

Raw Nougat:

  • 1 cup almonds (or other nut, nut butter, or seed butter of your choice)
  • 6 dates
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, optional

Place almonds, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Fold in optional ingredients if desired.

Filling Options:

  • Snickers: layer carob candy coating, nougat, caramel. and chopped raw cashews
  • 100 Grand Bar: layer carob candy coating, caramel, and something crispy; my favorite option is dried sprouted buckwheat groats, but I also use crumble Adaba Bars; crispy rice cereal is an option too.
  • Twix: layer carob candy coating, graham crackers, and caramel; could also make/use a raw crispy cookie to keep it raw.
  • Kit Kat: layer carob candy coating and graham crackers/wafer cookies; could also make/use a raw wafer cookie to keep it raw.
  • Peppermint Patty: add just a little sweetener (honey will keep it white) and some peppermint oil or extract (or fresh mint) to coconut butter and stir vigorously until smooth; layer carob candy coating and peppermint filling
  • Mounds/Almond Joy: see peppermint patty filling, but add vanilla, skip the mint, and stir in some shredded coconut
  • Crunch Bar: mix something crispy into the chocolate (sprouted, dried buckwheat, Adaba Crumbles, or crispy rice cereal)
  • Need other ideas or options – just send me an email and I’ll help you come up with something!

Assembling the candy bars:

Have 1-3 loaf pans, or equivalent, available.  How many you need will depend on the type/thickness of your candy bars.  Don’t forget to reserve some of the carob candy coating if you want a final layer on top!

1.  Spread the carob candy coating evenly over the bottom of the each loaf pan; should be 1/4 inch thick or more.

For Single-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. Kit Kat, Crunch Bars, Nut Bars): Put your optional additions, such as graham crackers/wafers, crunchies, or chopped nuts directly onto the carob layer.  They will sink in a bit automatically.  Freeze until solid and enjoy!

For Double/Triple-Layer Candy Bars (e.g. snickers, 100 Grand Bars, Peppermint Patties, etc): Freeze the carob layer for a few minutes to firm up.  Continue on to next steps…

2.  Once the carob layer is firm to the touch, spread your next layer on.  If you are planning multiple layers, use your thickest layer (such as nougat) now.  If you want optional additions incorporated into this layer, sprinkle them on now.  This layer may be firm enough to allow you to spread your next layer on, or may need to be frozen for a few minutes to firm up.

3.  Continue to add layers/optional additions as desired.  Freeze to firm as needed.

4.  To finish the candy bars, you have a couple options.  The simplest is to spread another layer of the carob coating over the top, freeze the pan, then cut into bars.  If you want it so look more like a traditional candy bar, you can cut the frozen bars, then individually spread them with the carob coating.  Freeze on a sheet pan, then store in fridge or freezer once firm.  Enjoy!

Comments (3)

Hot Spiced Cashew-Coconut Milk

I was recently asked by a friend to make biscotti for a memorial service for her father.  Of course, I was more than happy to do that for her.  The only problem was that I had never had biscotti, let alone made it, let alone made it vegan and gluten free and with a reasonable amount of sweetener.  I have certainly seen biscotti here and there on periodic visits to coffee shops, but my impression was that it was a dry, maybe slightly bland cookie that one dips in coffee, which I do not drink.  Well, how wrong I was!  While I still have not tasted a traditional biscotti, I do have a new appreciation for something I am sure is delicious, because I found the alternative sprouted grain, lightly sweet version to be quite yummy.  Of course, once I had a few biscotti and the Fall weather started to set in, I wanted to join the crowd and have something to dip it in.  Not coffee.  No.  Yuck.  I know you all probably love it, but my parents both drank multiple cups of black coffee per day when I was growing up (still do, as a matter of fact).  Much like my first drag on a cigarette at age 8ish (disgusting to let an 8 year old try a cigarette, but it sure did do the trick), my first taste of black coffee completely dispelled any thoughts I ever had of becoming a coffee drinker.  For my personal biscotti-dipping pleasure, I visualized a creamy, hot, spicy and totally satisfying drink.  Coconut came to mind.  And cashews, ginger, cardamom…here is the recipe.  Give it a try and see what you think!  This recipe makes enough for two, because you should really invite a friend over to enjoy it with you.

  • 2 cups coconut milk (I use reconstituted creamed coconut – from Let’s Do Organic)
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional*
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger, according to taste (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • 2 dashes of nutmeg
  • one dash of cloves
  • one dash cayenne pepper, optional
  • coconut sugar, yacon sugar, maple syrup, or honey to taste, or you could blend a date with the drink – all optional

*chia seeds will thicken up your drink so it’s more creamy.  My intuition told me this drink would benefit from them, but I was skeptical, but then pleasantly surprised.  They created a nice texture, not a weird one as I was sort of expecting.  If you add them then let the drink sit, you may need to add a bit of hot water to thin it down.

Put it all in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  I use a Vitamix and don’t find there is any need to strain, but it’s possible you’ll need to strain it if your blender can’t quite get it perfectly smooth.  If you have to strain it, throw the pulp in the freezer and put it in cookies or gingerbread or whatever you bake next.  If you aren’t a baker, you could add it to hot cereal too.  Gently warm your drink in a pot on the stove.  Taste; you might not need any sweetener, as the coconut and cashew milk, plus the spices are sweet on their own.  If you’d like, add just a bit of something sweet.   Enjoy on its own or with a special dipping treat!

Comments (3)

Refreshing Mint Lemonade

I feel like Summer is finally kicking in – the days are hot, the kids just had a week of camp, and produce is abundant.  We are spending the day catching up on things long past due, so it will be nice to take a break and enjoy a refreshing glass of lemonade.  I am a water drinker, for the most part, and I tend to guzzle it on the run, but sometimes it’s nice to sit down and really enjoy a drink.  While today is a perfect day for cooling herbs like mint, there are many other options for flavoring this drink – it could blended with fresh berries along with the mint, rosemary or basil could replace the mint, limes would replace the lemons for limeade, it could be ginger or ginger-mint lemonade, and I’m sure you can come up with many of your own delicious options.

The sweetener in this recipe is stevia, which is a sweet herb.  I buy it here in Boulder at Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in dried form, though you can certainly grow your own stevia if you choose.  I choose stevia in this dried herb form rather than concentrated or extracted forms because I think it’s best to keep our ingredients as close to their natural state as possible; and because those other forms tend to have a bitter or unpleasant aftertaste which has not been my experience with the herb form.  I like to use a variety of low impact sweeteners and stevia herb is often my choice when I want to sweeten a drink.  This herb has become known by some as one of those miracle ingredients, in this case one that has been used safely for hundreds of years in other countries and will give you a sweet taste without affecting your blood sugar or adding empty calories.  In other camps, stevia is dangerous, untested, and questionable at best (that’s the FDA stance).  I’m not convinced it’s a miracle, but I’m also not convinced that it’s bad, so I like to use stevia herb periodically in unprocessed form and, of course, in moderation.

You will to filter out the stevia leaves and lemon peel before drinking the tea.  If you have a tea ball (a wire mesh strainer that encases the herbs), you can use that or a piece of cheesecloth tied with twine to encase them while they infuse their flavor into the drink.  If neither of those is available, you can make the lemonade in one container and pour it through a strainer into your pitcher or jar.

  • 4 whole, fresh lemons
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried stevia leaf
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • optional: 1/2 cup blended fresh berries, extra mint, lemon slices, and fresh berries for garnishing

With a sharp knife, slice the yellow part of the lemon peel off your lemons and set aside, then juice lemons into a large measuring cup.  Add the water.  Crumble the dried stevia between your fingers and put it and the lemon peels in a tea ball or tie them into a piece of cheesecloth and add that to the lemon water.  Stir in the julienned mint and blended berries, if using.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes before removing the tea ball/cheesecloth.  Pour into glasses and garnish with fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and fresh berries if you went the berry route.  Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Banana-Cherry-Cardamom Bread Pudding with Chai-Spiced Whipped Nut Cream

I just finished cooking for a three day event; there are so many things I love  about cooking like this – the creativity of menu-planning, melding the likes and dislikes of 25 different people, the fact that I am finally doing something that I really love…But what I’m thinking of now is that last day, when there are leftovers and extra ingredients here and there, leaving me with the challenge of concocting something new, delicious, and unexpected.  In this particular case, it’s also something simple, homey, and versatile.

I have actually never had bread pudding, at least according to my slightly faulty childhood memory.  My Dad is a big fan of bread pudding, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, flan, but for some reason I always stayed away from all things custardy.  My point is that maybe this is like traditional bread pudding, maybe (probably) not, but it’s delicious either way and I hope you enjoy it.

Whatever it is or isn’t, it is a fabulous use for leftover cut bread, which I had in abundance.  I used a sourdough multi-sprouted-grain molasses poppyseed bread in combination with a little fennel seed bread, but you could use any bread that doesn’t have flavors contrary to or that will overpower sweet, coconutty, chai-type spices (read garlic bread, sundried tomato bread, and the like).  This particular recipe is not overly-sweet and if you want, you could even look at it as a decadent breakfast.

I’ve only made this once, but I see many variations in my future.  I actually did make two versions – apple-blueberry with egg and banana-cherry without and, as often is the case, I preferred the eggless version.  I find that eggs, though clearly invaluable in certain dishes, can overpower the simple tastes of other foods, so when something can be made without eggs, I always go that route.  That goes along with my personal belief in the minimal use of animal products – love when things line up like that.

  • 4-5 cups of bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 Tablespoons ghee or unrefined coconut oil
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas (depending on size), divided
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 cups frozen cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 11×7 baking dish, or equivilant.  Have a slightly larger baking pan or tray available so you can create a water bath for your baking dish.  Put the bread cubes in the dish and put it in the preheating oven to dry out the bread.  Put the coconut milk, ghee or coconut oil, salt, 1/2 the total quantity of banana, coconut sugar, and spices in the blender and process until smooth.  Remove the bread cubes from the oven and add the frozen cherries, then pour the coconut milk mixture over the bread and fruit and gently shake the dish a few times to coat all of the bread.  Thinly slice the remaining banana and arrange it on top, then sprinkle the whole thing with cinnamon.  Put the baking dish inside the larger dish and fill the larger one about 3/4 full with water.  Carefully place them in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the bread underneath is soft and moist and the bread on top is crispy.

Chai-Spiced Whipped Nut Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours, then drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut butter (or 2 teaspoons coconut oil), optional
  • 3/4-1 cup water, or as needed for consistency
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth, using additional water as necessary for proper blending and to get the consistency you want.  It can be thick to be spooned on top, or thinned a bit to be used as a drizzle.  This topping is also delicious on baked fruit, cakes, cookies, pancakes, etc.  Enjoy!

Comments (1)

Roasted Winter Fruit

This is a simple and delicious recipe that could be spiced up and varied in so many ways, and also one that could be used in many different recipes.  Roasting brings out the sweetness in both fruits and veggies, so roasted fruit relies on its own self for it’s yummy flavor.  Here in my house, half of the fruit went in our mouths before it even made it through the roasting process and the rest didn’t last 5 minutes, but if you have more will power than we did, you could use your roasted fruit as a topping for pancakes or waffles or a filling for crepes, you could eat it over ice cream in the warmer months or under nut cream in the colder months, you could bake it in to muffins or cakes for a rich, sweet treat.  I’m sure there are so many other options, but I’ll let you use your imagination.  This fruit is about Winter Fruits because, well, it’s Winter.  So far, I’ve done bananas on their own and apples and pears together, but I think that many fruits would lend themselves well to roasting – pineapple, mango, peaches, cherries, blueberries, plums, apricots…I haven’t tried, but I would probably keep other berries and grapes for eating fresh.  I used fruit that was getting a little too ripe and that was just fine.  It gets very soft along the way, but if you let it go just a bit longer, it will caramelize and become just a little bit chewy and it will be an absolute treat.

  • 1 piece of fruit per person, sliced or cut into bite-sized chunks
  • coconut oil or ghee to generously coat the bottom of your pan
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • optional – other warming spices such as ginger, cardamom, even cloves, a sprinkling of citrus juice, mint to garnish (or thyme or rosemary for a little contrast)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Find a skillet or oven proof dish with sides that will allow you fit all of the fruit in one layer.  Warm a large skillet over low heat on the stove, so your coconut oil or ghee will melt.  It should easily cover the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle some cinnamon and vanilla directly over the oil and give it a stir, then add the fruit and stir it again so that it’s coated in the oil.  Now put it in the oven and do not disturb it for 20 minutes.  Take a look, when you can see that it’s starting to brown on the bottoms and any juice that’s left (though there may not be any) has thickened, you can take them out.  Or, if you want them browned on both sides, turn on the broiler and leave them in for another minute or two.  Once removed from the oven, allow the fruit to sit for 10 minutes or so to continue to cook.  Alternatively, you can leave it in the oven after you have turned it off if you want it a little chewier.  Of course, every fruit has a different moisture content, so keep an eye throughout the entire process for sticking.  If the fruit appears to be sticking, try to just loosen it with a spatula and, as a last resort, deglaze the pan with water or a little citrus or other fruit juice.  Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »