Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, Two Ways

“But pie….”

After posting the black bean-kale soup recipe, I received a question about pies. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving tends to be about the pies. Pumpkin, apple, cranberry-pear, and mince meat tend to be the more traditional pies associated with Thanksgiving, but I have seen people put out other types like lemon meringue and chocolate pies as well. For today’s post, I’ll focus on the question asked which was for a vegan pumpkin pie, but below are links to other pies I’ve posted about in the past.

Apple Pies

Struesel Cranberry Pear Pies

Peach Pies

Chocolate Pies

Making a pumpkin pie vegan is easy. For the crust, folks can simply substitute vegan butter, vegan shortening or coconut oil for the butter or shortening in any pie crust recipe without anything else needing to be done to the recipe.

For the pumpkin filling, the first ingredient which makes pumpkin pie non-vegan is the eggs, and in pumpkin pie, the eggs simply act as a binder, which is simple to replace. To make a pumpkin pie which is just like regular egg-filled pumpkin pie, the easiest substitute for the eggs is a flour or a starch. Most recipes you’ll find use cornstarch. Many folks, however, are allergic to corn, and I personally like to add protein and/or fiber if possible when I can, so I opt to use a gluten free flour like oat or millet or sorghum.

The other ingredient in pumpkin pie which is dairy is the milk, whether it’s evaporated milk or heavy cream which is used. To substitute for milk in a pumpkin pie, one can choose a plant based “milk” like almond or soy or hemp or flax or any other type on the market which you prefer.  Usually 1 1/2 cups of a “milk” is equivalent to a can of evaporated milk.

For folks who might want a slightly different pumpkin pie and who are not allergic to soy, I also make a pie using tofu which tends to be a heartier, more protein filled pie. Pureed tofu then acts as the binder which eliminates the need for flour, and the pie also does not require any “milk” at all.

For both types of pumpkin pie, I reduce the “sugar” amount substantially and use an alternative to refined white sugar – coconut sugar for the more traditional type of pumpkin pie and agave for the tofu pumpkin pie. Folks who have eaten my pies never say it’s not sweet enough and always comment on how the pumpkin flavor really shines.

Below are recipes for both versions.

Pumpkin Pie Recipes

Ingredients:

Pie crusts (click the link for tips on making Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts)

Version 1 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works, too)

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

I 1/2 cup plant based “milk” (I prefer to use flax or soy milk)

1/4 to 1/2 cup gluten free flour (use the lower amount for a more silky pie; the higher amount for a sturdier pie; I like to use millet or sorghum or GF oat flour to add some protein and fiber)

Version 2 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works too)

1/2 cup agave (I like to use the maple flavor agave for this pie; if you can’t find it, you can mix 2 tbsp of maple syrup with enough agave to make 1/2 cup – this gives you the flavor but substantially reduces the amount of calories you’d get from using 1/2 cup of maple syrup)

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

16 oz silken tofu, pureed to be smooth and creamy

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the pie crust and put into a 9.5 inch glass pie pan. Set aside.
  3. Choose which pumpkin pie filling to make, and mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  4. Pour into the prepared pie crust.
  5. Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminium foil, leaving the center of the pie uncovered.
  6. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes until the pie is set and the center only jiggles a bit.
  7. Put into the fridge to completely cool. Best to cool overnight but at the very least, several hours. Without the eggs, the cooling is what solidifies the pie.

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Black Bean Kale Soup

“It is wonderful that she can see other people eat like this….”

I had a workshop last weekend where a mother brought her entire family. She explained that she wanted her daughter to see that they were not the only family who had to eat the way they did – meaning allergy friendly. Over the course of the two hour workshop, I watched the daughter enjoy treat after treat, surprised that her mother had told her she could eat anything she wanted from the table.

Too often the holidays are difficult for folks with health and/or food allergies because we know that much of what is on the table we can’t eat. At Thanksgiving, this can be especially depressing since Thanksgiving is celebrated largely through food.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to post Thanksgiving ideas which are not as traditional, just to give folks something new to consider. From the emails I’ve received, it seems folks liked the the notion of vegan, gluten free cornbread stuffing and vegan, gluten free butternut squash swirled cheesecake. Today I’m going to suggest a hearty soup for folks who like to serve a soup course for Thanksgiving.

For any traditionalists who may have people with food allergies or health needs coming to dinner, making a roasted vegetable soup is a good way to go. The Roasting Vegetables post shares how to roast vegetables in a quick and easy way. To make what you’ve roasted into a soup, simply add to the roasted vegetables your favorite no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth, herbs, garlic and onions and puree to the consistency of your choice. Then on Thanksgiving day, just put it into your crockpot and let it cook until your guests arrive. Serve with allergy friendly crushed croutons, “cheese”, “sour cream”, and/or sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Anyone who may be looking for something a bit heartier and different, though, I offer a black bean, kale soup, just as easy to prepare as the roasted vegetable soup but which adds not just another flavor to the meal, but which can be a more “filling” soup for vegans who have come for dinner.

Black Bean-Kale Soup 

(serves 6 to 8, depending on size of bowls)

Ingredients:

14 oz can no salt, no sugar added lentils

one tsp olive oil

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

crushed thyme leaves to taste

ground cumin to taste

black pepper to taste

one to two cups frozen or fresh finely chopped kale

1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced yellow pepper

14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup finely diced vegan ham

32 oz no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth

salsa to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, empty the contents of the can of lentils and puree/blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large-width pan shallower (not a narrow soup pot) which has at least 2 inch sides, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, thyme, cumin and black pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for a minute to release the flavors, stirring so nothing burns.
  3. Add the kale and yellow pepper and saute for another couple of minutes to release the water from the vegetables.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed black beans and vegan ham bits, and saute for a minute, mixing them well with the herbs and vegetables.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and salsa to taste, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over low heat until the soup has reduced a bit and is thicker.
  6. Serve with allergy friendly sour cream and “cheese”, if desired.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirl Cheesecake

“Why not?”

A few years back, a cousin of Tim’s brought chocolate cupcakes to a Thanksgiving dinner, and when asked, “Why?”, she responded, “Why not?” Since we knew her fondness for chocolate it made sense, but of course the traditionalists of the family thought it was odd to not bring pie. As someone who is not fond of making pies, I was silently in her camp about a different type of Thanksgiving dessert being okay.

Where I did differ, though, is that I felt if you’re going to upset the apple cart, so to speak, then you might want to keep the “new” dessert in line with Thanksgiving flavors. With that in mind, I looked around for different types of desserts folks tended to make for Thanksgiving and noticed that cheesecake was actually the number one “non-pie” dessert eaten. I found many recipes for swirled cheesecakes using pumpkin which seemed interesting.

I picked one to use as a base and immediately realized that it needed work. The original recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs for the crust, mixed with 1/2 cup of butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tsp molasses. The filling was 3 packages of cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 3 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 eggs, 2 cups sour cream, 1 tsp spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger), and 1 cup of pumpkin. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know how I reacted to all that “sugar” in the recipe and that I was figuring out how I could cut the fat to at least some degree.

To revamp the crust, I cut the sugar and molasses completely from it. All graham crackers, whether they are wheat based, gluten free and/or sugar free, have sweeteners of some sort in them. There is no need to add any more. I also reduced the butter to 5 tbsp and swapped a vegan butter because you just need enough to moisten the crumbs so they’ll stick when baking. For the flavoring, which is what I presumed the extra molasses was for, I added 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.

For the cheesecake filling, I swapped Tofutti dairy free cream cheese for the regular, and for the sweetener, I mixed 1/4 cup agave with 1/4 cup maple syrup. This kept the maple taste but with much less calories and sugars. I cut the white sugar out completely and reduced the molasses to 1 tbsp which would keep the molasses flavor but also reduce the sugars. To do something about the fat, I reduced the sour cream to 1 1/2 cups (a 12 oz container) and eliminated the eggs entirely so vegan folks could eat it, using instead 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch. Instead of the vanilla I opted to use 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice plus 1/4 tsp cloves which tend to be the flavors of Thanksgiving pies.

My final swap was to use roasted, pureed butternut squash but that simply was because I didn’t want to make a pumpkin cheesecake when there was going to be pumpkin pie, but folks can always choose to make it a pumpkin cheesecake, should you desire to do so.

Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirled Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For Crust:

2 1/2 cups gluten free crushed graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

5 tbsp melted vegan butter

For the Filling:

Three 8 oz dairy free cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup agave

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

12 oz (1 1/2 cup) dairy sour cream

1 tbsp molasses

1/4 cup arrowroot starch

1 cup pureed roasted butternut squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)

Baking Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap aluminum foil around the base of a 10 inch spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

  1. Mix together the graham crumbs and pumpkin pie spice. Mix in the melted vegan butter. Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the spring form pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is puffed and golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a mixer, blend the dairy free cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Mix the maple syrup with the agave and slowly pour it into the cream cheese mixture while the mixer is on low, until all is incorporated into the cream cheese.
  4. Add the pumpkin pie spice and ground cloves and mix.
  5. Add the dairy free sour cream and molasses and mix.
  6. Add the arrowroot starch and mix until it is fully incorporated and the filling is smooth.
  7. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cheesecake filling and mix that with the pureed butternut squash.
  8. Dot the top of the crust with half of the cheesecake filling, using a spoon to drop spoonfuls onto the crust. Then using another spoon, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling to fill in the holes of the cheesecake filling.
  9. Using the second half of each of the fillings, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling on top of the first layer of cheesecake filling, and drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake filling on top of the layer of squash filling.
  10. Once both batters are completely in the pan, use a knife to swirl through the layers and then smooth down the top of the cheesecake to make sure the batter is even.
  11. Put the spring form pan into a larger pan, pour hot water in the pan until it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the spring form pan.
  12. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm and just jiggles a bit in the center.
  13. Turn off the heat, open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to cool for an hour and a half, before removing to the fridge to cool overnight.
  14. Before you are going to serve it, run a knife around the edges to loosen it. If you want to garnish it, to make it prettier, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon or decorate with dairy free whipped cream or do both as I did in the picture.

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Gluten Free Cornbread (to eat or for Stuffing)

“It just requires a bit of planning….”

I was chatting with friends this week about Thanksgiving and the fact that I am making Thanksgiving dinner for folks who are vegan in addition to the folks with all the food allergies in our family. As someone who enjoys hosting and creating menus, this fact doesn’t overwhelm me, but I realized as I chatted with a person in line at the grocery store yesterday, that for some, cooking for folks with food restrictions seems daunting.

I explained to the woman in line that it doesn’t have to be. It just requires a bit of planning. And with that in mind, I thought I’d take the initiative over the next couple of weeks to post some recipes and thoughts which might be helpful for folks who need to think about family members with food sensitivities.

As it happens, I promised my mother-in-law that I’d make cornbread for a gathering this weekend, and I thought it would be a good chance to talk about stuffing. Many folks believe Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without stuffing. I am inclined to agree. If you are wheat or gluten sensitive, though, traditional stuffing won’t work for you. The nice thing about today’s world, though, is that you can choose from a variety of ready-made whole grain gluten free breads which you can simply substitute for regular bread in any stuffing recipe.

If you’re looking for something a little different, though, cornbread stuffing is a nice addition to any Thanksgiving meal. If there are food allergies, though, it is not as easy to find cornbread “stuffing” bread which is gluten, dairy, nut, and egg free. There are certainly gluten free mixes which you can swap out vegan alternatives for the butter, eggs and milk the box will tell you add, but if you’re going to take the time to do that, you may as well make your own from scratch which won’t take you any longer to do.

The recipe below is one I created for making a vegan, gluten free cornbread. You can make it as bread to eat or turn into corn muffins. You can also turn them into cubes for using in stuffing recipes.

Vegan, Gluten Free Cornbread

Ingredients:

2 tbsp ground golden flax seed

6 tbsp hot water

1/4 cup agave (optional) or additional 1/4 cup cold water

3 tbsp vegan butter

2 tbsp agave

1 1/2 cup dairy free milk of choice (I usually use soy milk)

2 cups favorite whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 cup gluten free cornmeal

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp chives

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp other herb of choice (like rosemary, sage, marjoram, or a mixture of all three)

1/2 tsp ground onion powder

1 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare pan with parchment paper or favorite method of greasing the pan.**
  2. Mix the ground flax seed with the water and allow it to thicken. If you are used to “regular” cornbread, once the flax seed mixture has thickened add the agave. If you prefer a more savory cornbread, use water in place of the agave.
  3. Melt the vegan butter and add 2 tbsp of agave (regardless of whether you added the above 1/4 or not). Set aside.
  4. Measure out the milk and set aside.
  5. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chives, thyme, herb choice, and onion powder.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, mix into the dry ingredients the flax seed mixture until you have a mixture which looks like coarse crumbs.
  7. Add the butter mixture, the milk and the vinegar and whisk together quickly just until incorporated and somewhat smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until puffed and golden and a finger pressed into the top reveals that the cornbread is firm to the touch.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

** If you’d prefer making cornbread muffins for Thanksgiving dinner, you can spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and bake until the muffins have puffed and are golden and firm to the touch. Usually the muffins will only need about 15 minutes, if using a traditional sized muffin tin.

To make cornbread crouton cubes for stuffing: To turn them into cubes for making stuffing from it, you simply cut the cooled cornbread into the size cubes you desire, lightly coat the cubes with a neutral tasting plant oil such as extra light olive oil, place the cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven until they have dried into a crouton-texture. Most recipes for croutons will tell you to use higher temps like 400 degrees. I prefer to use a lower temp of 250 degrees, and I shake or turn the cubes over a couple of times during the process. It’s up to you what you choose, but what’s important is to definitely check on them every ten minutes or so and pull them out as soon as they dry out. You don’t want to brown or burn them. Once you have the cornbread croutons, then you can substitute those into any of your favorite cornbread stuffing recipe.

Creative Cooking: Vegan Gluten Free Lasagna

“It’s what you choose….”

Last week, a woman starting walking across the space I was going to pull into at the grocery store parking lot. Having been raised to be both courteous and safe, I put my blinker on to let people behind me know what I was doing and then patiently waited for the woman to finish crossing. Just as she finished making her way across, a car came from the other direction and pulled into the spot, narrowly missing hitting the front fender of my car.  As you can imagine, I was a bit perturbed, but the spot was taken, and I chose to believe that maybe the gentleman hadn’t seen me waiting for the spot. After all, no good would come of doing anything other than moving on.

As I put my car into drive and started to move forward, though, I noticed that several of the folks who had witnessed what happened were shaking their heads at the driver in the other car and giving me sympathetic looks, which seemed to annoy the gentleman based upon the look he had on his face. One man who had apparently been walking to his car, pointed to me, to himself, and then to a car in the next row to my right, as if to say that I should follow him and take his spot. I smiled at him and waved, “Thank you,” but indicated that I had seen a spot which was already open in the row to my left and would be taking that.  He nodded at me, and we both continued on our paths.

We make decisions every day about how we are going to react to any given situation. Sometimes we act in manners which we may not want to admit in public to; other times we are proud of how we behaved. At times, life situations weight us down; at other times, we are able to rise above them.  When it comes to food allergies, it is easy, I think, to sometimes be upset about the foods we can’t eat or the ways restaurants may not be accommodating or how extended families may forget that we can’t eat certain foods or about recipes which simply don’t work.

I had dinner with friends the other night, and we talked about my constant reworking of a vegan, gluten free lasagna recipe. For years I have been trying to figure out how to make nondairy cheese crust up the way that mozzarella does on top of a lasagna. It was so disappointing to bite into a lasagna and not have that crispy, gooey top layer. Another friend had recently used the word “bulldog-ish” to describe me. I’d choose tenacious, but either way, my tenacity finally paid off, and my friends told me I should write a cookbook. Since I don’t want to write a cookbook but have this blog, I’m going to share my recipe with you instead.

Vegan, Gluten Free Lasagna

Ingredients:

Topping:

8 oz vegan mozzarella (I use the Daiya brand)

4 oz vegan parmesan (I use the Follow Your Heart brand)

4 oz nutritional yeast (I use the Bragg brand)

finely chopped onions to taste

finely mince garlic to taste

herbs to taste (I use basil, oregano, and thyme)

2 to 3 tsp extra light olive oil

Filling (Homemade Vegan Ricotta):

8 oz extra firm tofu

herbs and seasonings to taste (I use black pepper, basil and oregano)

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp white miso paste

1/2 to 1 cup vegan mozzarella (depends on how “cheesy” you want the filling; I use the Daiya brand)

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup vegan parmesan (depends on how “cheesy” you want the filling; I use the Follow Your Heart brand)

Tomato Sauce:

one eggplant, finely diced

two zucchini, finely diced

one small jar roasted red peppers, finely chopped (depending on the brand, 8 to 12 oz size)

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

black pepper to taste

herbs to taste (I usually use oregano, basil and marjoram)

14 oz can petite diced tomatoes

8 oz of your favorite chorizo style vegan sausage (I usually just buy whatever is on sale)

two jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce, reserving about a cup for the bottom of your lasagna pan (24 oz size jars will usually do)

Pasta:

1 to 2 boxes of your favorite gluten free no boil lasagna noodles (how much you use depends on the size of your pan and number of layers you make; I usually use the Barilla brand oven ready gluten free noodles because they’re flat and smaller, so much easier to layer and use)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Ready the topping by mixing the mozzarella, parmesan, nutritional yeast, onions, garlic and herbs together in a bowl. Add the olive oil and mix until all ingredients are sufficiently covered with the olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Ready the ricotta filling by pureeing in a blender or food processor the tofu, herbs and seasonings, garlic, onions, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and miso paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the mozzarella and parmesan. Set aside.
  3. Ready the tomato sauce by sauteing the eggplant and zucchini with a little bit of olive oil over medium-low heat. Just as they are softening add the roasted red peppers, garlic, onion, black pepper, and herbs. Cook for a minute and add the diced tomatoes. Let the mixture cook for several minutes until the tomato juice has evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the chorizo and the spaghetti sauce (minus the cup you are reserving).
  4. Preheat your oven to the temperature your no boil noodle package says it needs.
  5. In a large, deep pan, spread the reserved spaghetti sauce to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Lay down one layer of noodles. Completely cover every inch of the noodles with some of your tomato sauce.
  6. Lay down another set of noodles, going in a different direction from the previous layer of noodles and again, completely cover the noodles with some of your tomato sauce.
  7. Carefully drop spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture all around on top of the sauce and then spread the ricotta filling to cover the noodles. (If your pan isn’t deep but large in width, use all the ricotta in this layer. If your pan is deep and small in width, use half here and do another layer of noodles, sauce and ricotta before moving on to the next step.)
  8.  Lay down another set of noodles, going in a different direction from the previous layer of noodles and again, completely cover the noodles with the rest of your tomato sauce. (If your pan isn’t deep but large in width, this will be your last layer of noodles. If your pan is deep and small in width, you may need to add another layer of noodles and sauce before moving on to the next step.)
  9. Sprinkle the mozzarella topping mixture over the top of the sauce to completely cover the noodles. Use all of the mixture.
  10. Cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Be sure to spray or grease the first layer of foil before laying it down or your cheese will stick
  11. Bake the lasagna with the foil on for the time indicated on the pasta box. After the allotted time, regardless of what the box says, remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 10 to 20 minutes until the topping has bubbled up, browned and is crusty.
  12. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before serving so it can set completely.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Habits: Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies

“You’d have to do the impossible….”

As a child my father told me that I could do anything I set my mind to, and I believed him. His words served me well as I grew, helping me to succeed at things folks were quick to say I could not, to endure difficult situations I felt ill-equipped to handle, and to learn how do things I might not have otherwise tried.

I did learn that simply setting one’s mind isn’t always enough, of course, but at the end of the day, having confidence that you can achieve does tend to open up possibilities which are closed to folks who don’t even make the attempt.

So, when a friend who is allergic to wheat, dairy, soy, rice, apples, nuts, peanuts, coconut, flax seed, eggs, and bananas told me she hadn’t had a brownie in 15 years, I took up the challenge. How could I not? What did it matter that I couldn’t use any of the usual substitutions for traditional ingredients in brownies? I was determined to make a brownie my friend could eat.

My friend wasn’t convinced I could make a brownie from “nothing” as she said, and especially not one that would taste like a brownie, but it helped that she wasn’t allergic to avocados and that she wanted a fudgy brownie as opposed to a cakey or chewy one.

The beauty of avocados is that they can substitute for eggs and the fat as one item so both eggs and butter could be substituted for in the traditional brownie recipe. Most nontraditional recipes would then use a dairy free milk but my friend is allergic to most versions. I opted to use water but I needed the water to be thick. Using unsweetened chocolate as part of my flavoring added the thickness I needed to the water. Then, I only needed to refine the chocolate-ly taste by adding unsweetened special dark cocoa powder, Enjoy life mini chocolate chips, and cinnamon.

I tried the brownies out on a group before taking them to my friend, and the reviews were positive, and one person commented, “The whole piece tastes like the inside of a brownie, which is the best part!”

When I took a pan to my friend, she couldn’t believe I had done it – made a brownie she could eat. I, of course, had trusted that once again my father’s words would be true!

Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup mashed ripe avocado (usually two avocados)

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup agave

2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

3/4 cup Hershey special dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 11 x 15 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mash the avocado in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the unsweetened chocolate into a measuring cup or bowl which can sustain heat and pour the boiling water over it. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the liquid is slightly thick.
  4. Add the chocolate water mixture to the avocados, along with the vanilla and agave.
  5. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour with the unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until moistened.
  7. Add the chocolate chips and stir until the batter is well mixed.
  8. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until the brownies are slightly puffed and just a slight indent remains in the center when you touch it.
  9. Allow the brownies to cool in the pan on top of a cooling rack.
  10. Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the parchment paper, and slice the brownies into squares to enjoy.

Healthy Habits: Blueberry Oatmeal Cake

“How do I….?”

My oldest has been in Germany since the beginning of August, and if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have cried so much when she left! Though she is across an ocean, I have heard from her every single day. The reason? To pepper me with questions about how to cook this or prepare that. Now that she is on her own for the first time in an apartment, she has to cook for herself, and every evening, as she prepares her dinner, she texts or calls with several questions.

So, not only am I not missing her because we speak more than we did while she was in college, but I have been happy to note that she is doing all she can on a limited budget with little cooking supplies to still try to eat as healthy as she can. In fact, she has an app she uses to help her make sure she gets all the nutrients and vitamins she needs from the food she eats. I am pleased that some of the lessons I imparted actually took root!

In the past couple of weeks, I have been working on those same lessons for healthy eating and revamped a couple of cake recipes for an uncle who is diabetic. He likes his sweets but white flour and sugar products don’t like him! Since dessert is something he often looks for, though, I put my hand to creating a couple of cakes which might be slightly better for him to consume.

To make a healthier cake, I chose to begin with whole grain, whole rolled oats because they contain a lot of fiber and protein. Then, I removed the sugar, opting instead to use smaller amounts of coconut sugar and/or agave and fruit like blueberries and chunky applesauce which contain fiber as well. My last change was to reduce the fat by swapping a reduced amount of oil for the usual butter and to use egg whites instead of whole eggs.  And of course, I made them gluten, dairy and tree nut free so I could eat them as well!

Below is the blueberry oatmeal cake recipe.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten free, whole grain, whole rolled oats

2 cups boiling water

1 cup gluten free flour blend

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup agave

1/2 cup extra light olive oil

1/2 cup liquid egg whites (or two whole eggs if you’d prefer or 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water if you want it vegan)

1 cup to 2 cups fresh blueberries (depends on the ratio of cake to berries you want and the size of your berries)

Optional Topping:

In a pan, melt 2 tbsp of vegan butter, add 1 cup of whole rolled oats with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 tbsp agave or coconut sugar. Mix well and cook for another minute. Sprinkle on top of the cake before putting it into the oven to bake.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper or grease as you prefer.
  2. In a bowl mix the oats with the boiling water and let them sit until the oats have absorbed all the water. Usually only takes about five minutes.
  3. In another bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl with the oats, add the agave, olive oil and egg whites and mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well.
  6. Fold in the blueberries.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan (adding the optional topping if you’d like now), and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy!