Chocolate Granola Two Ways

chocolate granola two ways
chocolate granola two ways

Over the years, hubby and I have come to love granola. We eat it almost everyday with yogurt or, in the summer, with a smattering of fresh berries. A new favorite is chocolate granola, but the store nearby stopped carrying it. So, into the kitchen with me for a little experimentation.

Another reason to make DIY granola is that we prefer different types — he likes simple oats whereas I like nuts and seeds mixed in. The solution is to make a granola base and then portion it out for different add-ins. With little effort, hubby gets a decadent chocolate granola while I get the same with the addition of almonds, pumpkin seeds, and cocoa nibs.

Which would be more popular in your house — the simple chocolate granola or the chocolate granola with added nuts and seeds? Either way it makes a yummy breakfast.

Chocolate Granola Two Ways based on Lavender Granola

for granola base
1/4 cup vegan butter or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon loose-packed brown sugar
pinch sea salt
2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free, if preferred)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (and a bit of chili powder, if you like it spicy)
for nuts and seeds granola
1/4 cup unsalted almonds, or other nuts
1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds, or other seeds
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 250F. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, maple syrup, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, stir together oats and cinnamon. Pour the butter mixture over the oats and combine with a spatula.

Pour half of the mixture onto a small sheet pan and spread it out evenly. Add the nuts, seeds, and cocoa nibs to the remaining mixture and stir to combine. Pour this mixture onto a small sheet pan and spread it out evenly. Place both baking pans in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove both pans from the oven and transfer to wire racks to allow the granola to cool completely. Once cooled, transfer to airtight containers and store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.

Until next time, happy baking!

Apple Blueberry Streusel Pie — vegan and gluten-free

apple blueberry streusel pie
apple blueberry streusel pie

If you are working your way through Veganuary and it seems difficult, don’t worry. You’re half the way there (congratulations!). If you are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a challenge to try vegan throughout the month of January.

Eating vegan can be tough for some, especially when it comes to dessert. Many pastries include eggs and butter and can appear impossibly hard to make at high altitude. But, today I offer you sweet encouragement.

I wanted a recipe that wasn’t too complicated, so I decided to use a pre-made pie shell. Never having baked one, it was an experiment for me. In the vein of experimentation I decided to go with a gluten-free version as well. The results were surprisingly delicious.

The dessert recipe I found was vegan once I used the pre-made crust. No changes were needed for high altitude, but I did have to adjust filling quantities for the smaller ready-made shell.

After ingredient amounts were altered, I added blueberries because you can always use extra antioxidants, right? I then removed the nuts to make it very allergy-friendly. May this decadent treat get you through the rest of the month, and beyond.

Apple Blueberry Streusel Pie adapted from Apple Crumble Pie

for the pie
4 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/8” slices
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup gluten free flour
1.75 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1 store bought pie shell (I used a gluten free one by Wholly Gluten Free)
for the streusel topping
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup gluten free flour
1/3 cup unsalted vegan butter, melted and cooled slightly

Add the apples, blueberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/4 cup flour to a large bowl. Stir carefully with a spatula to coat the fruit. Place 1.75 teaspoons cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and sugar in small bowl. Stir to combine, then sprinkle over the fruit. Stir carefully with a spatula until the fruit is evenly coated with the spices. Set aside while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Take the pie shell out of the freezer to defrost per manufacturer’s instructions. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping.

Put the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3/4 cup flour in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter with a spatula. Break it up into small clumps using the spatula or your fingers. When the pie shell is defrosted, pile the fruit into it. Then sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Place the filled pie shell onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Leaving the pie in the oven, carefully place a pie crust shield over the crust. Close the oven door and reduce the heat to 375F. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Place the pie with the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 3 hours. Cover leftovers tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Until next time, happy baking!

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake Bites

vanilla chocolate chip cake bites
vanilla chocolate chip cake bites

It’s been one snowstorm after another where I live. With the cold, blustery days I just want to cozy up to a hot cup of tea and a sweet snack. The thing is I’m a little burnt out on cookies (see all of the cookie posts I did last month).

Making a cake seems like too much effort, and a bigger treat that I have in mind. What I need is a two-bite snack. Perhaps a cake bite?

My recipe search uncovered an easy, smaller cake that I could convert into mini cakes without much effort. I have a pan that makes individual brownies, which is a life-saver for high altitude bakers, and I realized it was ideal for my cakelets. So, I had the basics covered.

To adapt the recipe for high altitude, I decreased the baking powder and completely omitted the baking soda. The original recipe was for a cake and smaller versions often need quite a bit less leavening. I also added a smidge more liquid to account for dryness at altitude, and reduced baking time for the smaller pastries.

The final change was to add brown sugar. Seeing as I was no longer making a cake but veering into blondie territory, this ingredient was added for a slightly chewier texture. The result was a moist, delectable, and perfectly-sized nibble to chase away winter’s chill.

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake Bites inspired by Vegan Choc Chip Loaded Cake

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used Take Two Original Barley Milk)
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1.25 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the cups of a brownie pan. Alternatively, use a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Place the non-dairy milk, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Portion the batter into the sections of the prepared brownie pan (or into muffin liners). Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cake bite comes out clean. Note: It will take a few more minutes to bake cupcakes.

Move the baking pan to a wire rack and allow the bites to cool completely. Remove cake bites from the pan. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes 12 cake bites.

Until next time, happy baking!

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Krispie Rice Snacks

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Krispie Rice Snacks
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Krispie Rice Snacks

Ah, September. It may not be autumn yet, but it’s peeking around the corner. With the glimpse at future cool weather, we rush out to enjoy the last of summer’s sun. For me this means walks along the water, strolls at local farms, and outdoor cooking. And, with a weekend of sharing meals outdoors, there will be marshmallows. At least once.

Oftentimes I use marshmallows to make s’mores (with recipes here, here, and here), but my current inspiration was Rice Krispy Treats. Searching around I discovered that you can add jam to the melted marshmallows. Who knew?! With no baking required the recipe needed no high altitude changes, just a few vegan substitutions. I used vegan butter and margarine in place of the dairy versions. I also used seedless raspberry jam, as that is my preferred jam in desserts, and added mini chocolate chips to appease my chocolate craving hubby. These tasty treats can be enjoyed outside, before or after your dinner comes off of the grill.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Krispie Rice Snacks adapted from Strawberry Jam Rice Krispies Treats

2.5 Tablespoons margarine or vegan butter
5 ounces vegan mini marshmallows
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
3 cups brown rice cereal
1/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips, plus more for garnish

Grease an 8 x 8” baking pan and set aside. Be sure to have your ingredients measured and close at hand (called “mise en place”) because things go fast once the marshmallows have melted.

Melt the margarine in a large pan on a burner set to medium-low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until they melt. When melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the jam to the pan. Stir to combine. Add the cereal to the pan and stir to coat. Add the mini chocolate chips to the mixture and stir just to combine. (They will melt a bit, but the smears are tasty.)

Krispie Rice Snacks mise en place
Krispie Rice Snacks mise en place

Pour the cereal mixture into the greased baking pan. Smooth the top of the mixture with a spatula, pressing down firmly into the bottom and corners of the pan. Sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips over the top and press them in gently with your fingertips. Let the treats cool for 2 hours, then cut into squares.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Ice Cream Sunday

Hojicha Tea Ice Cream with Apricot Ribbons and Chocolate Crust
Hojicha Tea Ice Cream with Apricot Ribbons and Chocolate Crust

It’s so hot right now and I crave something deliciously satisfying to tickle my tastebuds. It’s Sunday and I need ice cream. And not just any run-of-the-mill ice cream, but a creamy delight with a chocolate crust. Luckily, I have a can of Twrl Hojicha Milk Tea that I’ve been wanting to use to make ice cream. The roasted green tea flavor will shine when complemented by a swirl of fruit jam and an earthy tasting cocoa crust.

I cobbled together two recipes to make my creation. The crust recipe was chosen for the earthy lucuma powder in it, although I reduced the amount so I could add cocoa powder in its place. If you don’t have lucuma, you could try another deep flavored dry sweetener, such as coconut sugar. The ice cream filling was altered to use the tea in place of water, with a little less sweetener so the green tea aroma could come through. The last feature of this dish was the apricot jam I swirled throughout the ice cream. Don’t leave it out — it’s a game changer for bringing the tastes together.

Thanks goes to the folks at Twrl Tea for providing the tea for my creative testing.

Hojicha Tea Ice Cream with Apricot Ribbons and Chocolate Crust adapted from Rouxbe Culinary School and VeganRicha

for the crust
3/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup lucuma powder
2.5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
for the ice cream
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 3 hours then drained
7.5 ounce can Twrl Hojicha Roasted Green Milk Tea
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons vegan sugar
3 Tablespoons refined coconut oil, in solid form
for the swirl
4 Tablespoons whole fruit apricot jam

Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving excess hanging over the sides. Set aside.

Place the almond flour, lucuma and cocoa powders, maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to combine into a fine crumble that just holds together when pressed between your fingers. Transfer this crust mixture to the lined loaf pan. Press it down firmly with your fingers, or the bottom of a glass, to create an even layer. Place the pan in the freezer while you make the ice cream.

Wipe out the food processor bowl, then add the cashews, Twrl tea, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, sugar, and coconut oil the bowl. (Note: if your food processor can’t handle this much liquid, then place the ingredients in a blender). Process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl down as needed. The mixture may look lumpy at first; keep going until it is creamy.

ice cream with Twrl Hojicha Tea
ice cream with Twrl Hojicha Tea

Take the pan from the freezer. Pour the ice cream over the crust and smooth it out. Return the pan to the freezer for 15 minutes for the ice cream to harden slightly. After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the freezer. Drizzle apricot jam over the ice cream and swirl it in with a toothpick. Return the pan to the freezer for two hours. When the ice cream is firm, take the pan from the freezer. Remove the ice cream by grabbing the parchment overhang to lift the loaf out. Place the loaf on a cutting board and cut slices with a warm knife.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cherry Bars

gluten free blueberry and cherry bars
gluten free blueberry and cherry bars

On a hot summer day, it’s nice to have an easy dessert recipe. Turning on the oven can take all of your energy, so slaving over a complicated treat is not welcome. Sometimes scooping out individual servings or cookies can be just too tiring. That’s when bar cookies come to the rescue. Mix, pour into a pan, bake, cool, and cut.

The bar cookie recipe I found was fruity (yay!), and I decided to make it gluten-free to share with friends (yay, again!). It was already vegan, and high altitude wasn’t much of an issue, so I subbed gluten-free ingredients, mixed up the fruit choices, and added a decadent icing. Now I had a dessert that was not only easy, but bursting with flavor and allergy-friendly goodness.

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cherry Bars adapted from Blueberry Crumble Bars

1.75 cups gluten-free flour blend
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup organic sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup vegan margarine, room temperature and cut into slices
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup + 4 teaspoons nondairy milk, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen cherries, chopped into quarters
1/4 cup organic sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup organic confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, including an overhang of a few inches on two opposite sides.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, oats, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the margarine, oil, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed but with a few small clumps.

dry ingredients for blueberry cherry bars
dry ingredients for blueberry cherry bars

In a small bowl, gently combine the blueberries, cherries, 1/4 cup sugar, potato starch, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Using your hands, press three-quarters of the dough mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the coated fruit evenly on top of the dough. Sprinkle the remaining dough over the fruit layer. Bake for 50 minutes, until the top is crisp and bubbly. Place pan on a wire rack to let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make an icing by whisking the confectioner’s sugar over a bowl. Stir in the 4 teaspoons milk until well combined. When the bars have cooled, drizzle the icing over the bars. Then use the parchment paper overhand to lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares, and store in an airtight container.

Until next time, happy baking!

Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies

gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies
gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies

Marshmallows and chocolate — what a yummy combination. Just thinking of them reminds me of summer parties with marshmallows made oooey gooey from time spent over a fire’s flame. Add a graham cracker or two with a chocolate square and you have s’mores. Or you can bake these cookies in the oven for a similar tasting but easier to make treat.

I discovered a vegan cookie recipe with these flavors that I could make gluten-free and adapt to my circumstances. Aquafaba was used to make a super flax egg for extra moisture and structure that is lacking at high altitude and in many gluten-free desserts. Also, I made sure to use baking powder to help activate the dutch-processed cocoa powder. The last change made to add extra rise was to use vegan butter that was not melted. The result was a chewy cookie with a crisp exterior.

My gluten-free testers raved about the cookie. One said that each bite was a different combination of tastes and flavors, while another said it was the best cookie she ever had. Not too shabby for a gluten-free and vegan treat baked at high altitude.

Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies adapted from Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons aquafaba
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup vegan sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup vegan marshmallows, chopped large or unchopped minis

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flaxseed and aquafaba and set aside to thicken.

In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place vegan butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and combine on medium-high speed. Add flax mixture, vanilla, and non-dairy milk, and combine on medium speed until the batter is soft and smooth. Add dry ingredients and beat to combine. Add chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir with a spoon to combine.

Scoop up 2 tablespoons of batter at a time and roll into a ball. Place each ball on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand. Bake for 12-13 minutes, one tray at a time, rotating halfway through bake time. Let cool on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. They may seem too soft, but will become firm and crisp as they cool. Do not store airtight or they will get soggy. Yield: 24-26 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking and happy 4th of July!

Brown Sugar Rice Krispie Treats

brown sugar rice krispie treats
brown sugar rice krispie treats

With temperatures hovering around 100F I vowed not to turn on the oven. That meant no baking of any kind, including that of tasty desserts. Still I was craving a yummy snack so I turned to the classic Rice Krispie Treats. After the ingredients spend a short time in a saucepan and then a mixing bowl, they transform into a cool and decadent pleasure.

I have offered various versions of this in the past, but I delved deep into my archives to find a brown sugar cereal bar. The website I retrieved it from is defunct, so I am glad to share my take on these Krispie Bars. The recipe was already vegan and needed no high altitude adjustments. The changes made were to adapt the ingredient amounts for my tastes, including the addition of chocolate chips. These cereal bars taste a bit caramely, a bit marshmallowy, a bit chocolatey, and a whole lot of delicious.

Brown Sugar Rice Krispie Treats

2.5 cups brown rice crisps cereal
2 TBS + 2.5 tsp light brown sugar, packed
1 TBS almond milk
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 TBS vegan margarine or coconut oil, plus extra to grease the pan
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (or 14 large) vegan marshmallows
1/4 cup mini vegan chocolate chips

Line and grease an 8 x 8” pan with foil, leaving an overhang to help lift the finished bars from the pan. Pour the cereal into a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, over medium-low, heat the brown sugar, milk, salt, and 1 TBS margarine. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously, until the mixture looks like caramel sauce. Add the vanilla and cook an additional minute. Whisk in the remaining 1 TBS margarine until completely combined. Remove from heat and immediately add the marshmallows, stirring until smooth. Pour marshmallow mixture over the cereal and stir until partially combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until well combined.

Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan. Allow to cool before removing from the pan and placing on a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, or maybe just 9 squares as I did.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

This time of year I get a little excited for Charoset, the classic Passover relish made from fruits, nuts, spice, and grape (in the form of juice or wine). The combined tastes of those food elements dance playfully on my tongue. Some traditions make charoset into a paste rather than a relish, so I thought it would be fun to make a food item that melded the two forms. That is how I decided on dessert bites. A little pureed and a little chunky, with all of the wonderful flavors that I love.

This recipe is raw so high altitude baking wasn’t an issue. I merely wanted to create my version of this treat and share it with you. These bites make an energetic afternoon snack, a quick breakfast, or a healthy dessert. They would be appreciated for Passover or Easter, or anytime you want to savor the combination of apples, nuts, and grape juice.

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites inspired by Haroset Balls

1 cup dried apple
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp powdered clove
2 TBS almond meal
powders to roll the bites in, optional

Line a tray or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place dried apples, apricots, dates, and raisins in a bowl and cover with grape juice. Let sit for 15 minutes so the juice can soak into the fruit.

Place walnuts and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are roughly chopped. To the food processor, add the soaked fruit and any juices from the bowl. Add the spices and pulse until everything is finely chopped and well combined. Add the almond meal and pulse a few times to evenly distribute. The mixture will form a large ball in the food processor bowl.

Transfer the large ball to a bowl. Remove small amounts at a time to form balls the size of walnuts. Place balls on the lined tray and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. When firm, roll each ball into powder, if desired. I used ground up freeze-dried blueberries, dried raspberry powder, cocoa powder, goji berry powder, and maca powder. (Can you tell in the picture which bite has which powder?)

charoset dessert bites and toppings

Store up to 3 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. Yields: 24 sweet treats

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl

apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl
apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl

Dried apricots and pistachios seem to be ending up in so much of my food lately. They were in my muffins last week, and my Moroccan stew the other night. And now they feel right at home in this chocolate bark. I started out with the idea of making a bark, and the two just showed up in my ingredient list. Luckily they pair well together, and they are complimented by a touch of tahini.

Admittedly, the idea of adding tahini to chocolate bark wasn’t mine. I borrowed it, but made a few alterations in the no-baking-needed recipe I found. Chocolate bark can really be any combination that sounds tasty to you, so feel free to borrow my recipe then modify it to suit your tastes. But keep the tahini swirl in. Trust me.

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl adapted from Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Tahini

1/3 cup chopped roasted pistachios
3 TBS chopped dried apricot
6 oz vegan chocolate (I used a bar with fruity notes to complement the other flavors)
2 tsp runny tahini, warmed (I used Soom Premium Tahini)

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine the pistachios and apricot in a bowl and set aside. Chop the chocolate and place it in a stainless steel bowl. Melt it gently over a double boiler. To do this, fill a saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the bowl of chocolate over the simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When it is almost fully melted, remove the bowl from atop the saucepan and gently stir the chocolate until it melts completely. Add the pistachios and apricot to the chocolate and mix it in with a spatula.

Pour the chocolate into the lined baking pan, spreading it out evenly. Drizzle warm tahini over top and swirl it with a toothpick. Place the pan of bark in the fridge until it hardens, 30-45 minutes. Break the bark up into pieces. Store bark in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!