A Quartet of Snack Bites: Cinnamon Raisin Bagel, Cranberry Raspberry, Chocolate Blueberry Chipotle, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

from left: chocolate blueberry chipotle, cranberry raspberry, chocolate chip cookie dough, cinnamon raisin bagel

Protein bars have become a ubiquitous part of snack time, handy for whenever blood sugar takes a dip. I like to eat them when my tummy begins to rumble, but they are too big to be considered a snack. Instead of eating a partial bar and tucking the rest away for the future (yes, I do this), I decided to make a smaller version that I call “snack bites.”

To come up with my one-bite nibbles, I thought about the basic formula for a whole food protein bar. They usually contain dried fruit, nuts, nut or seed butter, and spices or other flavorings. There are many choices in each category with substitutions galore, such as using sunflower seed butter in place of almond butter or cardamom instead of cinnamon. The possibilities are endless with an appeal for a variety of tastes.

Working with this template I made four combinations to suit any craving — there’s chocolate, sweet, tart, and spicy alongside a variety of fruit and nuts. So, grab whatever you have in the cupboard to mix and match for this quartet of tasty bites.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagel Snack Bites

2 dates
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
1 tablespoon maple sugar
for rolling in:
1 tablespoon vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the rolled oats in a food processor fitted with the S-blade and pulse to make a coarse flour. Add the drained dates, raisins, almond butter, and maple sugar to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more oats.

Combine the vegan sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed. When all the balls are formed, roll 2 or 3 at a time in the shallow bowl until each is coated with cinnamon sugar. Place them back on the lined baking sheet as you work.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 – 12 bite-sized snacks.

Cranberry Raspberry Snack Bites

1/8 cup dates
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1/8 cup almond meal
for garnish:
1/8 cup ground freeze dried raspberries

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the drained dates, dried cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, tahini, ground flaxseed, and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more almond meal.

Scatter a bit of almond meal on a cutting board and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Place the ground freeze dried raspberries in a shallow bowl and put it near the lined baking sheet. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place it on the cutting board. Scatter a bit more almond meal on top of the mixture and roll it out to 1/4-inch thick. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to portion the dough (my cutter made 12 hearts). Dip one side of a cut-out heart into the shallow bowl with the dried raspberry powder and place it on the lined baking sheet as you work to dip all of the hearts.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months.

Chocolate Blueberry Chipotle Snack Bites

1/4 cup dates
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon almond butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
generous pinch chipotle powder
for rolling in:
1/4 cup ground freeze dried blueberries

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the drained dates, dried blueberries, almonds, cocoa powder, almond butter, vanilla, and chipotle powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more cocoa powder.

Put the ground freeze dried blueberries in a shallow bowl and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed. When all the balls are formed, roll 2 or 3 at a time in the shallow bowl until each is coated with the blueberry powder. Place them back on the lined baking sheet as you work.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 – 12 bite-sized snacks.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Snack Bites

1 graham cracker sheet
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
4 teaspoons date paste or caramel
1 teaspoon chocolate tahini (I used Soom Chocolate Tahini) or chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the graham cracker in a food processor fitted with the S-blade and pulse to make small crumbs. Add the cashews, date paste, and chocolate tahini. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of chocolate tahini. If it is too wet, add more graham cracker crumbs.

Put the mixture in a bowl and stir in the mini chocolate chips. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 bite-sized snacks.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting to Celebrate Love

almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting
almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting

Today I was going to make an easy recipe for Valentine’s Day. A no bake treat or a quick cupcake sounded good. But, as I was scanning through my recipe files my sweetie leaned over my shoulder, peered at the computer screen, and said, “Yum, brownies.” So, today I have brownies. Not just any brownies for my favorite sweets tester. As a nod to the holiday I made brownies slathered in strawberry frosting because Cupid’s day often demands strawberries and chocolate.

The vegan brownie recipe my love ogled had peanut butter as an ingredient. He doesn’t do well with peanuts, so I used almond butter instead. You can choose any nut butter, but keep in mind that the amount of salt used in the brownies can change due to the salt content of your nut butter. I also added aquafaba to help give the brownies more rise that can be lost at high altitude. And, I added strawberry extract to ramp up the strawberry-ness. If you don’t have it, you can add more vanilla extract.

A search on Food Network offered me a recipe for the perfect frosting. To veganize it I used vegan margarine and shortening in place of butter, in addition to substituting the milk with a non-dairy variety. I also halved the recipe as it was plenty for one tray of brownies. The marriage of strawberries and chocolate is sublime, and these brownies are sure to be a hit with your Valentine.

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting adapted from My Quiet Kitchen and Food Network

Almond Butter Brownies

1 cup plus 2 TBS old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted almond butter
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS unsweetened almond milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1.75 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp strawberry extract
1 TBS aquafaba (bean water)
1/2 cup mini vegan chocolate chip

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper. Process the oats in a food processor until there are only a few little pieces. Add the cacao powder, baking soda, brown sugar, cardamom, and salt. Pulse to combine. Transfer the dry mixture to a bowl. To the now empty food processor add the almond butter, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, strawberry extract, and aquafaba. Process until smooth. Add the dry mixture to the food processor and pulse until all is combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, then spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 29-32 minutes. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center (but not into a chocolate chip) comes out with a few crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using the parchment paper excess, remove the brownies from the pan and place on a wire rack to fully cool. Once completely cooled, spread the brownies with strawberry frosting (recipe below) and cut into squares.

Strawberry Frosting

2 TBS vegan margarine, at room temperature
2 TBS shortening
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 TBS non-dairy milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS strawberry all-fruit spread

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the margarine and shortening until there are no lumps. Add half of the powdered sugar, along with the non-dairy milk and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining powdered sugar and the strawberry fruit spread, and beat until smooth.

Until next time, happy baking!

Granola Squares

Granola Squares

Granola Squares

So, yeah, that are lots of granola bar recipes out there on the internet. And, yes, most of them are probably vegan. But, I chose to make these granola squares because of the variety of textures and flavors they offered. I changed up the fruit and seeds recommended in the original recipe to use what I had in my cupboard, which is another bonus. Also, to satisfy my decadent tastebuds, I added mini chocolate chips. That was a no-brainer.

The recipe was already vegan, but you do have to be aware that many granola recipes contain honey which makes them non-vegan. I made a minor high altitude adjustment by adding almond butter to keep them moist. Most of my changes were purely a matter of taste, something I consider important nonetheless.

Granola Squares based on Chewy Granola Bars with Walnuts and Cranberries

1.5 cups walnuts
2.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried mixed berries
1 cup packed organic brown sugar, light or dark
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus extra to coat the foil sling
2 TBS almond butter
3 TBS water
1.5 cups puffed brown rice cereal
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F. Make a foil sling for a 13 x 9” pan by folding 2 long sheets of foil; the first sheet should be 13” wide and second sheet should be 9” wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over the edges of the pan. Push foil into corners and up the sides of the pan, smoothing the foil flush to pan. Lightly coat the foil with vegetable oil.

Pulse walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped, for 8 to 10 pulses. Spread walnuts, oats, and pumpkin seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through toasting. When done, set aside to cool and reduce oven temperature to 300F.

While oat mixture is toasting, process dried berries, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor for 10 seconds. Run processor again, adding oil, almond butter, and water. Continue to process until a homogeneous paste forms, about 1 minute longer.

Transfer paste to a large bowl. Add oat mixture to bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until well coated. Add cereal and chocolate chips and stir gently until ingredients are evenly mixed. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Press and smooth with the bottom of a measuring cup, especially at the edges, until granola is level and compact.

foil sling with granola

foil sling with granola

Bake granola until just beginning to brown around edges, about 25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Using foil sling, lift granola out of pan. Place on wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Discard foil and transfer granola to a cutting board to cut it into squares. Granola squares can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Until next time, happy baking!

Nanaimo Bites

nanaimo bitesWhile exploring gluten-free recipes, I came across Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook. The listing of gluten-free grains sounded mysterious and exciting. I especially liked the idea of cooking with amaranth because years ago I enjoyed a cereal with that grain in flaked form. The book mentioned popping amaranth like popcorn, and I was hooked.

There were many tasty sounding recipes, but the one that caught my eye was a take on the Canadian Nanaimo bar. It had chocolate; it had almond butter; it had popped amaranth. But what it didn’t have was the need to turn on an oven. Therefore, technically, the recipe was not baked. I mulled over whether or not it fell within the realm of this blog. Then I decided I was trying a gluten-free treat so I deserved to stretch the rules.

So, this has no high altitude changes because it’s not a baked treat. It is also based on a recipe that is vegan so there are no necessary substitutions. I made a couple of minor tweaks based on my tastes leaving the recipe with few changes. But it was fun and it is decadent. And my gluten-free friends can eat it.

Nanaimo Bites adapted from Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook
Bottom Layer
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups popped amaranth (see instructions below)
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Middle Layer
1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup almond milk
1 TBS coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Top Layer
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp coconut oil
Pop amaranth by heating a large dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 TBS amaranth and vigorously shake pan for 12-18 seconds or until seeds have popped (they should begin to pop within 1 to 2 seconds after being added to pan); watch closely, as the amaranth will burn quickly once it has finished popping. Immediately transfer popped seeds to a medium bowl to cool. Continue popping until desired amount is reached.
Prepare an 8×8” baking pan by lining it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang.
Bottom Layer: In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat. Whisk in cocoa powder and maple syrup until blended and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Stir in popped amaranth and chopped nuts until well coated. Press firmly into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Middle Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt together almond butter, almond milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir until smooth and spreadable. Spread over chilled bottom layer. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.
Top Layer: In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil, stirring until melted and smooth. Spread over chilled middle layer. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or until chocolate is set.
Using parchment paper overhang, lift from pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Until next time, happy baking?