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!

Pistachio Apricot Muffins

pistachio apricot muffins
pistachio apricot muffins

As the United States is in the midst of American Heart Month, I thought a heart-healthy recipe would be fitting. Muffins are usually a healthier option, and when they are loaded with fruit flavor they can be especially tasty. Then, when you accent them with nuts, you boost the nutrition. The combination of apricot and pistachio in these muffins makes them so delicious that you’ll forget they are good for your heart.

Several fruity recipes caught my eye while I was doing research, but I knew a vegan recipe with no oil would be a bonus. I found one and then altered it for altitude by reducing the leavener. I also amped up the apricot flavor by adding apricot jam and the apricot soaking water to the batter. Another change was to include non-dairy yogurt as part of the egg substitute, thereby reducing the sugar content. Yes, these muffins sound way too healthy. But I really enjoyed their flavor and I know you will, too.

Pistachio Apricot Muffins adapted from Healthy Vegan Cherry-Pistachio Muffins

1/3 cup diced dried apricots, packed
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, divided
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
up to 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 TBS apricot jam
2 TBS unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 14 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. Place diced dried apricots in a small bowl and cover with warm water to rehydrate. Meanwhile, place half of the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor. Process to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl. Stir in the pistachio crumbs.

Strain the apricots over a glass measuring cup, saving the liquid in the cup. Set the apricots aside. Fill the measuring cup with almond milk until it reaches 3/4 cup. Put this mixture into a large bowl along with the apricot jam, applesauce, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and maple syrup. Whisk to combine.

Roughly chop the remaining pistachios, reserving a small handful for decorating the tops of the muffins. Whisk the wet ingredients again, then add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Stir until no dry flour remains. Fold in the strained apricots and the larger amount of pistachios. Scoop batter into the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full. Sprinkle reserved handful of pistachios on top of each muffin. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes. Muffins are ready when the tops are firm to the touch. Place muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Store muffins in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Until next time, happy baking!

Almond Meal Date Muffins

almond meal date muffin
almond meal date muffin

Sometimes I look at an ingredient in my cupboard and wonder what to do with it. It may have been procured for a particular recipe, then got pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. Today I uncovered the almond meal and decided it needed to get used up soon. But, what to make? Since almond meal is heavier than flour, and it soaks up more liquid, I hoped that it would bake similar to bran. Bran muffins are always good for breakfast or a snack, so I scoured my recipe collection for a bran muffin.

Because the initial recipe was a bran muffin, it would need many changes to make it into my almond meal muffin. It was already vegan and adjusted for high altitude, so my adaptations were to give it the familiar texture of a bran muffin without being too heavy. I then added components for the flavor profile I desired. Above I referenced the fact that almond meal can be a sponge, so I added apple sauce and milk because they have more liquid. I also chose date syrup over molasses to ramp up the date flavor. (You can use molasses if that’s what you have.) The muffin then got a hefty dose of cinnamon and some raisins because, well, it was my muffin recipe now and I like cinnamon and raisins.

Almond Meal Date Muffins inspired by Vegan Molasses Bran Muffins

1 cup almond meal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup slightly ground oats (ground in a coffee grinder until no large flakes are visible)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon powder

1 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cup raisins

1 tsp grated orange zest

1 cup + 3 TBS plain dairy-free yogurt

2 TBS unsweetened apple sauce

1 TBS milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup date syrup ( I use the one from Soom Foods)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together almond meal, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dates, raisins, and orange zest. Toss lightly to coat the dates, breaking up large bits of date if needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, apple sauce, milk, oil, and date syrup until combined. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Let the batter sit for 15 minutes to fully absorb the liquid. Spoon batter into muffin cups until the cups are almost full. Bake for 20-23 minutes, rotating the muffin tins halfway through baking. Muffins are ready when they are firm to the touch. Place muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Until next time, happy baking!

Party Dips: Butternut Squash and Dessert Hummus

dessert hummus and butternut squash dips

dessert hummus and butternut squash dips

The holidays are near and people will soon gather to share a meal. Dinner is the star, but having something to nibble on before and after is important to maintaining a jovial atmosphere. A tasty dip or two makes a great snack, especially if there are savory and sweet choices. With that in mind I located a squash dip to serve as an appetizer, and a dessert hummus with chocolate.

The great thing about dips is the lack of high altitude challenges, so these dishes merely needed a bit of veganizing or a personal touch. The Butternut Squash Dip appetizer is a recipe by Carsen Snyder for New Hope Network. My changes altered it from vegetarian to vegan. With the Superfood Dessert Hummus I put my spin on it by using extra peanut butter, because chocolate loves peanut butter, and adding lucuma powder (a superfood, like cacao) for a smoothness and depth of flavor. Whether you offer these spreads before or after a big meal, they will be a big hit.

Butternut Squash Dip adapted from the article “New Ways with Winter Squash”

1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds), halved and seeded (or pumpkin)
1 TBS olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tahini
1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp allspice

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Drizzle olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt over cut side of squash halves. Place squash, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover squash loosely with foil, and bake for 1 hour. Once cooked, remove foil and let squash cool slightly.

Scoop flesh from cooked squash halves into a food processor. Add garlic, tahini, yogurt, vinegar, paprika, allspice and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; blend until creamy. Pause to push sides down if necessary. Scoop dip into a serving bowl, and chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Serve with dippers, such as veggies and crackers. Makes 5 ½ cups.

Superfood Dessert Hummus adapted from Chocolate Chickpea Spread
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 TBS creamy peanut butter
3 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
1/2 cup Navitas Organics coconut palm sugar
1.5 tsp Navitas Organics lucuma powder
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 – 4 TBS water

Put all but the water into a food processor and puree, scraping down the sides as needed. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the water until the desired consistency is reached. Serve with dried or fresh fruit.

Until next time, happy non-baking and Happy Holidays!

A portion of this post was provided by New Hope Network. I am a member of the New Hope Influencer Co-op, a network of health and wellness bloggers committed to spreading more health to more people.

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Sometimes I need breakfast (or a snack) on the run, but I don’t want it overly sweet. These breakfast cookies are a good way to satisfy your hunger without getting a huge sugar rush. Almond flour is the base so they don’t offer a blood sugar spike while also making the cookie gluten-free. Translating recipes to gluten-free is difficult at high altitudes so I prefer not to. But if I stumble upon a creation that is naturally without gluten, like this one, then it is a bonus.

To make the recipe vegan, I omitted the egg and incorporated baking soda. I also created a version of a flax egg with the flax in the recipe to help replace the egg and to add moisture needed in the dryness at high altitude. Enjoy this healthy snack.

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies based on Blueberry Almond Breakfast Cookies

1 TBS ground flaxseed
3 TBS warm water
1 banana, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk flaxseed into the warm water and set aside for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together banana, vanilla, and flaxseed mixture. Add almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and stir until combined. Gently fold in blueberries.
Spoon 12 rounded mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Move pan to a wire rack to allow cookies to cool.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Yogurt

chocolate chip cookies with yogurt

chocolate chip cookies with yogurt

Last week at the Vegan Dairy Fair, I was asked what egg substitutes I used in my baking. My reply was that I have tried them all, from packaged egg replacer to tofu. That question got me thinking about revisiting egg subs. I hadn’t used yogurt in awhile, and my hubby was craving chocolate chip cookies, so the following recipe was created.

The original recipe was a healthier rendition of a standard chocolate chip cookie. It used yogurt instead of eggs, but I veganized it by making the yogurt non-dairy. I also modified it with vegan versions of the other ingredients. No changes were needed for high altitude because cookies are forgiving that way. I just tweaked a few of the steps and the oven temperature, and came up with a very tasty cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Yogurt adapted from Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Eat Smart New York!

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup non-dairy vanilla yogurt
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine sugar, brown sugar, and margarine. Beat until light and fluffy. Add yogurt and vanilla and blend well. Sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Beat the flour mixture into the margarine mixture a cupful at a time. Stir the chocolate chips in by hand. Drop by rounded spoonfuls 2” apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets.

Until next time, happy baking!

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Have you ever wanted to make a quick cookie because guests were on their way? Or maybe you were craving something sweet now? These cookies fit both those requests, and they have very few ingredients so a swift run through the pantry and you are ready to bake. They come together so quickly that I had them ready before the oven came up to temp, and that never happens.

I didn’t have to make any changes for vegan or high altitude, so I let my creativity run with the ingredients. The original recipe contained dates but I used dried apricots, cherries and blueberries for more depth of flavor. You could try any dried fruit, such as cranberries or currants for a tart twist. To add even more layers of flavor, I added spices, but including spiced applesauce would make it simpler. So, not only are these treats easy but they are healthy and will satisfy my gluten free friends, too.

Fruit and Oat Cookies based on Banana-Oatmeal Snack Cookies
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, cherries and blueberries)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine bananas, applesauce, oats, walnuts, dried fruit and spices in a bowl until evenly blended. Using a 1 TBS scoop, scoop out cookies and place on prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with a spatula. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 18-20 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

Peach Streusel Muffins

Peach Streusel Muffins

Peach Streusel Muffins

This recipe was inspired by what I had in the cupboard and fridge. First I realized that I didn’t get blueberries at the store as planned for blueberry muffins. Then I saw that I had only a little non-dairy milk and vanilla. But the craziest thing was that I couldn’t find any flax seeds for a flax egg – they’ll probably fall at my feet tomorrow because I know they’re in there somewhere. I came across this recipe and saw that it could be adapted by what I had at hand and it gave me a chance to try chia egg as a replacer.

To make these vegan I used non-dairy milk, vegan margarine, and a chia egg for the non-vegan ingredients. For high altitude I added flour and milk and reduced baking powder. To make it healthier I used whole wheat instead of all purpose flour, and I made a streusel with dates instead of sugar. And, because I discovered I had frozen peaches, I used those for the fruit. The muffins turned out not too sweet and perfect for breakfast.

Peach Streusel Muffins adapted from Oatmeal Berry Streusel Muffins
for the streusel
1/4 cup oats
2 dates, pitted
1/8 cup walnuts
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
for the muffins
1 TBS chia seeds, ground
3 TBS warm water
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegan margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 TBS non-dairy milk
1 cup fresh or frozen chopped peaches
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 12 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together chia seeds and warm water to make a chia egg. Set aside for 10 minutes to gel. In a food processor, pulse oats, dates, walnuts, and cinnamon until you have a crumbly texture. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Beat in chia egg, vanilla and non-dairy milk, and mix well. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently fold peaches into batter.
Distribute batter evenly into muffin cups and top each with streusel. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Until next time, happy baking!

Raw Red, White and Blue Cheesecake

Raw Red, White and Blue Cheesecake

Raw Red, White and Blue Cheesecake

Lately it has been too hot to turn on the oven, but I had to make something patriotic for this week’s American Independence Day. My search came up with a no cook cheesecake with wonderful ripe summer fruit. It sounded like a perfect way to celebrate without heating up the kitchen or myself.

The recipe was already vegan, so that box was checked off. No bake meant no high altitude changes. So, to put my spin on the recipe, I made it a bit healthier by replacing white sugar with dates and agave syrup. I also made it multi-layer and added blueberries for the blue. I know they can look more purple than blue when blended, so I kept the blue holiday theme by arranging blueberries on top in the shape of a star.

Raw Red, White and Blue Cheesecake adapted from Raspberry Lemon Yogurt Cheesecake
2 cups plain, non-dairy yogurt
7 large dates
1.75 cups walnuts
1/4 cup agave syrup
1.5 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 10 fresh raspberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, with extras for garnish
Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl. Let drain in fridge for 10 hours or overnight. Discard the strained liquid. Pour boiling water over dates and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and remove pits. Place dates in a food processor with walnuts. Mix until they come together in a sticky ball. Press this mixture into the bottom of an 8” springform pan. Place in refrigerator. In a bowl, stir together strained yogurt, agave, lemon juice and vanilla. Divide yogurt mixture into 3 equal portions and put each portion in its own bowl. Crush 1/2 cup of raspberries and stir into one of the bowls. Leave one bowl as is. Take the final bowl and put its contents in a blender. Blend with 1/2 cup of blueberries.
Slice the 10 raspberries. Remove crust from refrigerator and spoon in raspberry yogurt mixture. Scatter sliced raspberries over the top. Place cake in freezer for 10 minutes to help to keep the layers from blending together. Spoon in the plain layer. Place cake in freezer for 10 minutes. On the top, spoon in blueberry layer. Place remaining blueberries on top of cheesecake in a star pattern. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Until next time, happy non-baking!