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Baked Apple Cider Donuts - Vegan + Gluten Free

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Baked Apple Cider Donuts - Vegan + Gluten Free

gluten-free-vegan-apple-cider-donuts

Finally, its fall! I haven't had a 'proper' fall in over four years and I am so happy to be here in New England to really 'do the damn thing' - that's right, leaves, pumpkin spice, orchards, boots, all of it. Even though it's still nearly 100*F today here in Connecticut, I am not going to let a minute of this season pass me by and you shouldn't either! This recipe is a healthy, fast, fall-fix that can be made year round - the recipe works well as muffins but if you haven't gotten yourself a pair of donut pans yet, well, what are you waiting for?!

gluten-free-vegan-apple-cider-donuts
gluten-free-vegan-apple-cider-donuts

This recipe is made in just a few minutes with nearly all whole food ingredients. Gluten free baking can be a bit of a mess but I think I've cracked the code with the combination of brown rice flour and quinoa flour here - it creates a soft, light and crisp cake-like consistency which compliments the warming flavors of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg. This little recipe is the answer to "can a donut be healthy?". YES - High protein, low glycemic, sugar stabilizing, nutrient dense. It is also the answer to "can a healthy donut taste good?!" - absolutely! 

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I first became obsessed with apple cider donuts (you know, the ol' fried-in-oil kind) when living in NYC's Union Square as a college freshman and seeing them served up fresh to lines of hungry city dwellers from my bedroom window. 

It's funny, at the time I had no idea how iconic and special the Union Square farmer's market was. I feel that way about a lot of my NYC Art School experiences but I suppose that is a story for another day. Anyway, I would stop every week to get a glass of warm cider and a few donuts, I ate them without guilt (because I was totally unaware that they were a "bad" food) but I do remember never feeling great afterwards. Once the make-your-own cake donut craze took off a few years ago I dreamed of recreating the warming, rich flavors of that apple cider donut I enjoyed so many years ago. Finally, I've gotten around to it! 

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gluten-free-vegan-apple-cider-donuts

If you want to go a step or two further (especially if you are making these in the fall), you can make your own delicious roasted apple sauce by cubing up some apples and roasting them in a cast iron pan with a little water til they caramelize - then mash them down and allow to cool before adding to the wet ingredients. 

I am truly proud of this recipe and I hope you try it out - share with friends and watch their smiles as they enjoy!

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Makes: 12 donuts • Prep Time: 10 min • Bake Time: 12 min


DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups brown rice flour

  • 1 cup quinoa flour (I use my high-speed blender to pulverize whole quinoa into a flour)

  • 2 tbsp. ground flax

  • 3 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1 tsp. five spice powder (or pumpkin pie spice)

  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 pure maple syrup

  • 2/3 cup apple cider OR apple juice

  • 1/2 cup no sugar added apple sauce

  • 1/4 coconut oil, melted

  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

CINNAMON SUGAR TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar OR coconut sugar

  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon/five spice powder


Preheat your oven to 350*F and coat your donut pans with some coconut oil spray. 

In a large bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. 

In another small bowl combine all of the wet ingredients and whisk them together as well. 

Add the wet to the dry and use a large spoon to mix until a smooth, fairy thick batter is achieved.

Use a spoon to scoop portions of the batter into each donut hole, spreading it around with your finger or the back of the spoon to ensure even distribution. The batter should fill 3/4 of the donut hole well, as they will rise as they bake. 

Add the pans to the oven and bake for 12 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow the donut to cool for a few minutes before flipping them out onto a cooling rack while still warm. Be delicate here as the donuts can be a bit crumbly when hot.

To ensure the cinnamon sugar coating sticks, coat the top and bottom of the donuts with coconut oil spray and then dip each one in the topping. 

Serve warm or room temp with warm, spiced apple cider or a cup of coffee with almond milk.

 

LOVE THROUGH FOOD, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Triple Chocolate Sour Cherry Cookies - Gluten Free + Vegan

vegantriplechocolatecherrycookies

Vegan baking goes like this: complete failure or complete success. When struck with the inspiration for this cookie the first try was a true win and  nothing gets me more revved up than when that happens! The flavor combo is SO GOOD! Tart, sour cherries combined with rich, dark chocolate. Fudgey, dense, delicious! Give these a try today.

vegantriplechocolatecherrycookies
vegantriplechocolatecherrycookies
vegantriplechocolatecherrycookies

Makes: Apx. 18-20 cookies • Prep Time: 10 min • Cook Time: 20 min


WET INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips + 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce (or sub mashed banana)
  • 1/4 nut butter of choice (I used almond)
  • 2-3 tbsp. plant milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. brown rice flour (OR sub another gluten free flour with varied results)
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. whole chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. instant coffee powder (optional, enhances the chocolate flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

MIX INS

I used 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips and 1 cup sour dried cherries. You could also add your favorite nuts, cacao nibs or practically anything else!


Preheat the oven to 350*F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil over simmering water until smooth. Alternatively, you can do this in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between. 

Next add the rest of the wet ingredients to the melted chocolate and combine. In another bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together (save the "mix ins"). Add the dry to the wet until a thick dough forms - then stir in your mix-ins. 

Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of the batter out onto the cookie sheet, using your hands to press it down and spread it out a bit (these cookies will not spread on their own much). Repeat this process until all of the batter is distributed on the sheet pan. 

Before adding the cookies to the oven drop the temp. down to 300*. Place them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the cookies from the oven but don't touch them until they FULLY cool. Due to the use of melted chocolate in the batter, these cookies need to cool and firm up to ensure the rich texture - I like to put them in the fridge for at least an hour.

Serve with a glass of almond milk! They store well in the fridge for up to a week.  

 

LOVE THROUGH FOOD, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Summer Shortbread Cookies with Edible Flowers

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I believe in eating well ...but that doesn't always mean the same thing. With the exception of no animal products ever (I just don't see them as food), sometimes 'eating well' can look like a marcobiotic bowl full of kale, fermented veggies and seaweed and other times 'eating well' is an entire of plant-based pizza if that's what I am really craving - I try to avoid the distinction between 'bad' and 'good' and instead focus on what feels right in my body at the time. 'Eating well'  means caring for yourself, and that looks very different from day to day. I believe in trying to strike balance through food and I don't think you achieve that my making hard and fast rules because, well, rules are for breaking. Despite my moniker, I don't believe in limiting yourself to 'clean' foods all the time - for me, 'clean' is a feeling of peace and clarity not eliminating carbs or sugar or fat. This is important for me to stress because as I dive deeper into my business I never want to be about one particular way of eating or living as 'the answer' for all - we all have our own path, or own past and our own preferences. Balance, tolerance and loving acceptance are huge in my life. 

I never want anyone to feel bad about food. Food is to be enjoyed. To me, its divine, its alchemy, its magic. Food can heal ... and I'm not just talking about kale, I think a cupcake or a fried mac and cheeze ball can be just as healing as a steamed bowl of greens - it all depends on what you need - physically, emotionally, psychologically - at that point in time.  I don't believe in shaming yourself for eating an entire chocolate bar if it's what you really want. I don't believe in limiting yourself if you're in tune with what you want. Just like movement (I teach yoga if you didn't know), I believe in food as a tool of exploration - a way to observe what feels good, what does not, a way to find joy in the simple things, a way to nourish and grow. 

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With all of that said, here is a recipe that may not be thought of as healthy but the process of making these cookies was healing for me and exactly what I needed. I'd seen this concept bouncing around the internet recently and this morning I got hit with the sudden urge to test it out and these turned out perfectly. Well, perfectly imperfect and exactly what shortbread cookies should be -light, crumbly, crisp and slightly sweet. Perfumed with rose water, lemon juice and edible flowers these are not only visually stunning but taste divine as well. I've been really struggling lately, if I am being honest, but the process of making food (especially for others) gets me fully present, grateful and back on my path.

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Give these simple, easy cookies a try and let me know how you like them.


Makes: 16 cookies • Prep Time: 10 min • Cook Time: 20-22 minutes


  • 2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour (you could use GF flour, spelt or whole wheat with mixed results)
  • 1/4 cup stevia/sugar baking blend (use 1/2 cup regular sugar, if substituting) 
  • 1 cup + apx. 2 tbsp vegan butter or margarine (you could sub room temp. coconut oil but I have not tested this)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 tsp. lemom juice
  • 1 tsp. rose water extract *optional
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup edible flowers

PRO TIP: I bought my edible flowers through a food distributor but you can find small packages at health food stores or forage your own. There's plenty of edible flower varieties - here's some suggestions.


Preheat the oven to 350*F. 

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt together using a whisk. Measure out 1 cup of slightly cold to room temp. vegan butter and use your fingers to evenly work it into the flour - it should resemble a course meal or sand after about a minute or so. Add in the lemon juice, rose water and vanilla. Use your hands to once again bring the dough together - it will feel very crumbly but should press into a ball when squeezed in your fist. If this is not the case, add another tablespoon or two of vegan butter, being careful not to over work the dough - it should still be very dry and not sticky in any way. 

Note: You could also mix in a variety of different flavorings and superfoods into your dough - lemon zest, blood orange, chia, turmeric powder, ginger powder, cacao powder, maca, cortaceps - make it your own!

Transfer your dough onto a well floured surface and form it into  rough circular mound. Use a rolling pin (I don't have one, I use a clean glass jar) to press and roll the dough out into an even 1/2" round. As you are working, sprinkle over your edible flowers and use the rolling pin to gently press them into the surface of the dough. 

Working delicately, use a small circular cutter (I used a small glass juice cup that was apx. 2.5" in diameter) to press out your cookies. Add them to a parchment lined and coconut oil sprayed baking sheet. You don't have to worry about how far you place them apart because these cookies have no spread and no rise! Once you've cut as many cookies as you can from the first round of dough, gather it back up and roll it back out with more flowers - continue cutting out cookies and continuing this process until there's little to no dough left. 

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes and then give them a turn in the oven to ensure even baking. Cook for a total of 20-22 minutes - you should be able to pick the cookies up without them crumbling and they should be slightly golden brown on the bottom. Allow to cool fully before enjoying. They store well in the fridge for up to a week! 

Note: Due to the drying nature of the oven, these cookies do look better prior to baking so take a photo or two (lol) but I love the light perfume the flowers give the finished product - you can always garnish with a little more flower petals right before you're ready to serve. 

 

LOVE THROUGH FOOD, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Matcha Coconut Sponge Cake with Chocolate Ganache

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Matcha Coconut Sponge Cake with Chocolate Ganache

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Light, fluffy, moist and just the slightest bit sweet. A double entendre of sorts - a tea cake, made of good-for-you green tea! This traditional Brit-inspired springy, spongey cake is perfect with your 'cuppa' - enjoyed morning, noon, or night and it get's it special texture from a super unique ingredient! The thinnest layer of chocolate ganache and earthy green tea make the flavor profile light, earthy and refreshing.

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This is the vegan cake for people who don't like vegan cake. For people like my dad - who usually has an initially adverse reaction to anything I bake. He often takes a bite and says "it's nice, but you can tell it's vegan.", to which I usually reply, "good!"...I mean, that's kinda the point. But I know what he means, vegan baked goods tend be to slightly dense and more moist due to the omission of eggs. But, no sir, not this cake! This cake is light and fluffy and rises pretty high thanks to the use of baking soda, baking powder, self rising flour AND whipped aquafaba - the magical liquid found in your lowly can of chic peas. If you want to know more about this wonder-liquid, just give it a quick google - truly fascinating stuff that mimics the addition of whipped egg whites in a traditional sponge cake.

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I know I said it above but I LOVE the addition of matcha here - not only for what it adds in color and flavor but for the clean boost of energy this superfood provides. Paired with coconut and vanilla extract and the light, spongey texture this cake is truly something unique that will impress vegans and non-vegans alike!

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My mom and I had a similar dessert served to us on a recent trip to Mexico and I was blown away by the fact that a vegan cake could get so light and spongey so I set out to recreate it, first by doing a ton of research. The final recipe I settled on was a mash up of two or three I found online and it is simple, quick and totally do-able even for a novice vegan baker. PLUS I only had to test it once to get the perfect result so the measurements and method is pretty fool proof - be sure to use self rising flour or it will not turn out the same! You can of course leave off the chocolate ganache but I do love the extra sweetness it gives this delicate cake. It would be interesting to omit the green tea powder from the recipe, opting for a different flavor instead - perhaps raspberry, cacao or chai spice! I also could see this batter working well as cupcakes - just be sure to cut your cooking time by half to start. 

In case you were wondering, some benefits of matcha include:

  1. A clean boost of energy. A less jitter effect compared to coffee.
  2. Aids in natural weight loss
  3. Aids in natural detoxification
  4. Loaded with disease fighting antioxidants
  5. Boosts memory and concentration

Want to know more about the benefits of matcha before you invest in this somewhat-pricey superfood? Read on, here!

Will you try this cake? Let me know in the comments below! Now onto the recipe...


Serves: 12 even pieces • Prep Time: 15 minutes • Cook Time: 25-35 minutes


FOR THE CAKE

  • 1 cup unsweetened, plain coconut yogurt (I used the So Delicious brand)
  • 3/4 sugar OR 1/4 + 2tbsp. stevia/sugar baking blend (I used Truvia brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. coconut flavor extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp. high quality matcha powder (I found mine here on Amazon)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1+1/2 cup self rising flour
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (aka chic pea juice), whipped to soft peaks

FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350*F. 

In a large bowl, combine the coconut yogurt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder - whisk to combine. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until small bubbles start to form. In the meantime, drain a can of chick peas and use an electric whisk to beat the canned liquid til it forms soft, white peaks (be patient, this can take 5-10 minutes). 

Once you see small bubbles in the yogurt mixture, whisk in the oil, vanilla, coconut extract, matcha and salt until well combined. Then sift in the flour. Fold it gently into the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula - do not over mix. The batter should be somewhat stiff. Take 1/2 cup of the aquafaba and fold it into the batter - the aquafaba will deflate some as you do this, but again, do not over mix. 

Transfer the batter to a parchment-lined, well-oiled oven-safe pan or tin (I used a 6x9" glass dish). Spread evenly across the bottom of the pan - note it may seem a bit flat now but don't worry, the cake rises quite a bit. Bake for 25 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. Test for doneness using a toothpick - if it comes out clean the cake is ready - if it does not, bake for 5-10 minutes more. Once done, take the cake out of the oven and transfer it to a wire cooling rack.

To make the ganache - melt all of the ingredients listed above together in a small sauce pan (oven low heat) or in the microwave - stirring frequently. The recipe makes far more ganache than you need to garnish the cake but it's a good thing to have on hand to up-level your fruit, ice cream or morning crepes - store in your fridge and re-heat gently anytime you need a little chocolate love. 

Allow the cake to cool almost fully before pouring the ganache over in a very thin, even layer. Serve the cake at room temperature.. Garnish with a sprinkle of matcha powder or a dollop of coconut whipped cream. Wonderful with a cup of green tea! 

 

 

LOVE THROUGH FOOD, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Crisp + Chewy Orange Vanilla Granola Bars - Chocolate Covered!

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Does the smell of fresh oranges remind anyone else of the holidays? Growing up my mom...I mean, Santa, would always top our stocking with a fresh, juicy orange, and we had to eat it before we could open any gifts. That unmistakable citrusy scent takes me directly to Christmas morning, especially when paired with sweet spices like vanilla and cardamom. So when planning recipes for the holidays I knew orange had to be involved... but I wanted it to be something totally unique.

Now, I make your standard, pour-and-go granola at home pretty often - it's cheaper than store bought, super quick and I can make any flavor I want. But when I recently went make a fresh batch I realized I haven't EVER made a granola bar recipe on the blog! That had to change. While regular granola is great for a quick breakfast or snack these are even more on-the-go efficient and better for gifting (food makes the best gifts, right?). Naturally sweetened, filled with healthy ingredients and scented with the elegant combination of vanilla and orange - these granola bars will leave your sweet tooth satisfied anytime. They are the perfect mid-point between crispy and chewy so they will satisfy everyone's preference and if the texture doesn't do it, the chocolate coating certainly will.

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This recipe also makes a great base for different flavors - once you get the hang of the method and proportions you can easily omit and sub in the nuts, buckwheat, orange zest and vanilla and mix in your favorite flavors - like coconut, chocolate, cinnamon, etc. 

Let me know if you give them a try!

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Serves: 12 large granola bars/24 small • Total Time: 45 minutes 


Dry Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups oats
  • 1/4 cut buckwheat groats (or sub more oats)
  • 1 cup slivered raw almonds
  • 1 cup packed and pitted dates, dried apricots or any combination of the two

Wet Ingredients

  • Rounded 1/4 cup almond butter or other neutral nut/seed butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave 
  • 1 tsp. fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (using the seeds from a vanilla bean would be INCREDIBLE here)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds

Chocolate Coating (optional)

  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil 

Toppings: sea salt, orange zest, almonds, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, etc.


1. Preheat your oven to 350*F. On a parchment lined sheet pan, mix together the oats, buckwheat and silvered almonds - add to the oven and toast dry for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Check often and toss with a spatula to make sure no over browning occurs. 

NOTE: If your almonds are already toasted, add them in after this step.

2. While the mixture is toasting, use a food processor to puree together the dates/apricots until there are no more large chunks of fruit and it forms into a mass. 

NOTE: I used a combination of dates and apricots for this recipe. If you do plan to use all apricots or another dried fruit (raisins and figs should work quite well), make sure they are quite moist. If you notice that they are a bit dry you can soak your fruit in boiling water for about an hour and drain before adding to the food processor - that should do the trick. 

3. In a small sauce pan on low heat combine the wet ingredients - almond butter, maple syrup and pureed dried fruit. Break up the dried fruit and stir with a whisk or spatula until the entire mixture becomes well blended. Turn off the heat and add orange zest, vanilla, salt and cardamom. 

4. When the oat mixture comes out of the oven, let it cool slightly before transferring to a bowl and add in the wet ingredients. Stir until well combined, then add the chia and flax seeds, stirring once more.

5. Re-line your sheet pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with coconut oil spray. Dump the granola mixture onto the pan and press it into a thin, compact, even layer with a spatula or your hands.

TIP: To prevent a huge mess you can dampen your palms and fingers with water or coconut oil when pressing the granola into the pan - it will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.

6. For a toasted taste and crisp yet chewy texture, add the granola back into the oven for 15 minutes, checking often. When you remove the granola from the oven you want it to be golden brown and slightly darker at the edges. 

7. Allow the granola to come to room temperature before moving the entire sheet pan to the freezer for at least a half hour (or overnight) to firm up. 

8. When you're ready to slice and coat your granola in chocolate remove the pan from the freezer and use a sharp knife to cut the granola into the shape and size of your choosing (I opted for 12 large squares here). 

9. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a small sauce pan on low heat or in the microwave in 20 second intervals. Once you have a smooth mixture, coat half or all of each granola square with the hot chocolate and place them on another parchment lined plate or sheet pan.

10. Sprinkle the chocolate coating with toppings if desired and then add the bars back into the freezer to set up for at least 10 minutes. 

These bars store well in the fridge or freezer for up to two weeks! 

 

LIMITLESS LOVE,  LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

 

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Healthy & Delicious Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Whole foods, plant based, gluten free, no oil, no refined sugar and just-like-the-original chocolate chip cookies. I swear, if you love crispy yet chewy chocolate chip cookies these will leave you 100% satisfied and if  they don't then, well, I don't know what to do for you!

I've probably only had plant based cookies once or twice since going vegan but I had always wanted to come up with my own recipe for chocolate chip cookies I wouldn't feel bad about eating - and now that I've done it, I'm just stuck wondering ...what was I waiting for?! 

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This recipe was a total experiment and I didn't know if it was going to work out. I used no guidelines except for the classic tollhouse cookie recipe I know by heart (I make 8 dozen every week at my day job). My main inspiration was that I finally wanted to use aquafaba in a recipe as an egg replacer and wooo-weeee that stuff is magic! I also love the texture that the combination of oat, quinoa, chia and almond flour gives the cookie - crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside chocolate chip cookie that you can eat the whole batch of and not feel bad about. Enjoy!

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P.S - As with most batters, It's worth noting that the raw cookie dough is just as good as the baked cookies themselves and it's totally safe to eat because there's no eggs! 


Serves: Apx. 18 cookies • Prep Time: 10 min • Cook Time: 12 min


  • 1.5 cups GF oats, blended into flour
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, blended into flour
  • 1/4 cup almonds, blended into flour
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup/other liquid sweetener
  • 1.5 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (aka the liquid from a can of chic peas)
  • 3-4 tbsp. plant milk
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, vanilla extract and cinnamon (all optional)
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used the mini's from the brand Enjoy Life)

1. Preheat your oven to 375*F. Add oats, quinoa, almond and chia seeds in a high speed blender and blend until a fine, flour like consistency is reached. Pour the flour mixture into a large bowl.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

NOTE: Start with one or two tablespoons of plant milk and increase in tbsp. increments till you reach a stiff classic-cookie-dough consistency. 

NOTE: You don't have to worry about over-mixing because there's no gluten!

3. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet sprayed with a teensy bit of coconut oil. Before baking, flatten out the cookies slightly and leave about a 1" diameter around each cookie.

4. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark. 

5. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before enjoying. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Vegan Nutella - Plant Based Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

You've seen me post about it incessantly for the past few months and FINALLY my better-than-the-real-thing + easy-as-pie vegan Nutella has been perfected and I really can't remember EVER being more excited to share a recipe!

I recall the minute I found out nutella wasn't vegan - reading the label in a lonely grocery store aisle I was understandingly surprised and disappointed. I guess I always knew Nutella wasn't great for you I just never assumed it use dairy as the base because it's so shelf stable. But yes, its true - brand name Nutella uses dairy, a ton of processed sugar, loads of oil and just a little kiss of hazelnut and chocolate to make up it's ingredient list - HOW RUDE?! 

Although I dreamed of it forever, It wasn't until this year that I got around to testing this recipe and let me tell you, it was a serious touch and go mind-game the first few times around. With a tired arm (from continuously using the Vitamix tamper) and a gloppy, oily mess in the blender I wanted to give up so many times but something inside told me *KEEP GOING*. I played with the near-disastrous spread for what felt like hours, switching between Vitamix and food processor and back again, tinkering with tablespoons of coconut oil, maple syrup and almond milk - and then somehow, like magic, the mass came together to form the most glorious spread! The consistency was perfect, the flavor was spot on, the scent was intoxicating but now, I had to see if I could re-create it. I knew there had to be an easier way than praying and swearing loudly for two hours in my kitchen so I bought a bulk batch of raw hazelnuts and got to testing (much to my boyfriends delight, who literally ate his weight in the stuff).  It took me another few tries but I finally developed the proper method for making light-as-air, deeply chocolatey, nutty and creamy vegan Nutella - and surprisingly, it's much easier than I ever could have imagined! 

Unlike store-bought Nutella, this version is full of real, whole food ingredients. I use a blend of freshly roasted nuts as the base, then employ maple syrup to sweeten, cacao to give a chocolate boost, plant milk to make it creamy and melted coconut oil to give it body. Although my version is light and almost "whipped" in appearance it is still very rich and calorically dense so a little goes a long way there, guys! 

Perhaps the thing I love most about this spread is it's rich and varied possible uses - spread on warm toast, or enveloped by vegan crepes, dolloped onto fresh strawberries, stirred into breakfast bowls, and my personal favorite, by the spoonful, right out of the jar. And please don't be intimidated by my heroic struggle above, it is super easy to make as long as you follow the details below and have a high-speed blender! Give it a whirl and I can promise you, you will never, ever, want store-bought Nutella again!


Serves: 20, 2 tbsp. servings • Prep Time: 20 minutes • Blender Time: 10 minutes


  • 1.5 cups blanched hazelnuts - I used these so you don't have to worry about removing the skins!
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, cashews or brazil nuts (I've used all three with great results)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup cacao powder or unsweetened good quality coco powder
  • 2.5-3 cups plant milk, total, added in 1/2 cup increments (add more for thinner consistency)
  • 1 scant tsp. pink salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp. coconut oil *OPTIONAL, but recommended for consistencies sake*

PRO TIP: For optimal consistency, it is essential that you do not half or reduce the recipe by any amount. The blender requires a good amount of ingredients to grab onto so it is really able to combine them effectively. PLUS who really wants to make a *little* bit of vegan Nutella, common?!


1. Preheat your oven to 350* F. Spread the hazelnuts onto a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, give them a gentle shake and toast for another 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool just slightly on the stovetop.

2. Add your toasted hazelnuts to a high-speed blender with the raw nuts of your choosing plus the maple syrup and first 1/2 cup of plant milk - blend on low speed, gradually turning it up to high. 

3. Once you reach high speed, go in with your tamper and stir, helping the mixture to blend - it will be grainy and thick at this point (it will also be quite hot, so use caution). Continue adding milk in 1/2 cup increments until the mixture begins to look more smooth. 

4. At this point, add in the rest of your ingredients and another 1/2 cup of almond milk - blend using the tamper again. In total, you will be blending and using the tamper for 3-5 minutes. It may look rough there for a minute or two -just keep going -scrape down the sides if needed and BELIEVE!

5. Once you've reached a totally smooth and creamy consistency, add a few tablespoons of coconut oil to a sauce pan and melt on low heat until it is totally liquified. Then, turn your blender on low speed and stream in the liquid coconut oil until well combined - THIS is the key to getting the best, most spreadable texture!

NOTE: You WANT the spread to look a little bit runny at this point, it will firm up in the fridge as the ingredients cool!

6. Transfer to mason jars or other airtight containers. Store in the fridge for up to ten days!


LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Easy Layered Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

At the risk of you doubting the deliciousness of this recipe I do want to say that this is the first time I went all out on testing a cashew 'cheese'cake recipe of my own. Maybe it's that I thought it would be too much work (it isn't, just takes some patience) or that I didn't trust myself with *that* much dessert just laying around (I shouldn't have) but I made this extra creamy, chocolatey, layered dream for very good reason - my mom's 60th birthday! She is also vegan and I really wanted to surprise her with something truly special for such a momentous occasion and lets just say that neither she, nor our omnivore family members were disappointed. This is a 'cheese'cake to suit everyone - rich flavor, crunchy crust, creamy filling, chocolatey, tangy, ultra indulgent and fairly healthy. Best part? No one will know it's good for you! It is the perfect thing to bring to a summer party or a birthday event - the presentation is alone gets people all worked up in a chocolate tizzy! 

My Mom always loved chocolate and she used to make a crazy mousse cake topped with whipped cream and fresh berries in the summer months that people would go nuts for. I used her favorite flavor and texture profiles to inform this recipe because the day was about her, after all. In the weeks approaching my Mom's big day, I researched and tested - looking at different methods and recipes for vegan 'cheese'cakes. I even bought cashews in bulk. I was ultimately most informed by Minimalist Baker's killer 'cheese'cake recipes but I took notes from a few other sources as well finding the perfect blend of ingredients to make for a truly decadent dessert.

I should warn that this cheesecake does take some time to prepare - so plan to make it in advance. Upside: It stores in the freezer wonderfully. I topped mine with raspberries (mainly for presentations sake) but next time I'd love to try adding a layer of coconut, a drizzle of peanut butter sauce or even some vegan whipped cream - it will be great any way you 'slice' it (that pun is for you Mom). Happy birthday, I love you.


Serves: 16 small pieces • Prep Time: 30 minutes • Chill Time: 6 hrs - Overnight


EQUIPMENT

  • Spring form pan (8-10" will work best)
  • Food processor
  • High Speed Blender

Crust

  • 20 Medjool dates, pitted (apx. 1.5 cups, packed tightly)
  • 1 cup nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts but almost any nut will do)
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Filling

  • 3 cups raw cashews soaked overnight
  • the juice of two large lemons (scant 2/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1, 14 oz. can full fat coconut milk (add both the solid and liquid)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cacao/coco powder, divided and added to half the mixture to make the chocolate layer
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Ganache

  • 1/2, 14 oz. can coconut cream (not coconut milk, can be found at Trader Joe's)
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao/coco powder
  • 2-4 tbsp. maple syrup, to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Topping (optional)

  • 1 large carton raspberries

1. A day or two before you want to serve the cake make the crust and filling to ensure ample chill time so the layers can set up. To make the crust combine dates, oats and nuts in a high speed blender on high power till you reach an even, crumbly consistency. Add in vanilla and salt, pulse again. The mixture should come together when pressed between your fingers - if it is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.

2. Press crust into the bottom of a springform pan that is sprayed lightly with oil (to make sure the cake doesn't stick). Work your way up the sides slightly with the crust to make a lip. Set in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling.

3. To make the cheesecake layers add all of the filling ingredients listed above (excluding the coco powder if you want a chocolate and vanilla layer) to a high speed blender. Blend on high till fully combined. The mixture will look thin, but not to worry, it will set in the freezer.

4. Pour half of the cheesecake mixture into a storage vessel and hold in the fridge. This will serve as your "plain" or vanilla layer. Blend the cacao powder into the remainder for your chocolate layer.

5. Remove the springform pan from the freezer and pour the chocolate layer over the crust. Put back in the freezer to set for at least one hour before pouring over the vanilla layer. 

6. Cover the springform pan with plastic wrap and put the whole cheesecake back the freezer to set for at least three hours or ideally overnight.

7. Once the cheesecake is completely solid it's time to make the ganache. Simply combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan on low-medium heat - whisk till just fully melted and combined. You can also do this ahead of time and store in a glass vessel - reheat to a pourable consistency simply place the jar in simmering water for a few minutes stirring occasionally. 

8. Pour the hot ganache evenly over the cheesecake while still in the springform pan. Decorate with raspberries and set in the fridge for at least an hour or until the ganache is fully set. 

9. About 20-30 minutes before you're ready to serve remove from the fridge and release the springform mold. Slice into pieces and plate it up!

Leftovers: Stores great in the freezer for a week or two - just be sure to keep it covered with some plastic wrap or transfer to a storage container. Allow the slices to defrost for a half hour or so before enjoying!

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Vegan Apricot Ginger Scones

Pastry lovers this one is for you!

Cravings are a strange, strange thing. Not to talk about gross stuff in a recipe post (here I go) but I've gotta give you a little background - I recently came down with food poisoning and once the sickness had subsided all I could think about were scones (weird, right?). I hadn't thrown up since I was 12, so this latest episode was a super big deal for me. Needless to say, it sort of threw me into a funny mood. The day after I recovered, I went to the grocery store on my still empty stomach - as I deliriously walked the aisles, I couldn't stop thinking about ... scones .... so I b-lined it for the bulk aisle for some inspiration. Ginger was a no-brainer as it would further help to settle my stomach and the fresh apricots around the corner looked so ripe and delicious I couldn't resist. I came home with some straaaange stuff from the grocery store that day.

In spite of the strange craving, this recipe is a true winner. In fact - I enjoyed two scones for dinner that night and the next morning when I went to the fridge to grab one for breakfast - only crumbs were left - my boyfriend had devoured the rest. They are truly addictive, as he can vouch. But don't worry, if this happens to you, they are so easy to make that you can whip up another batch in no time.

This recipe is inspired by the blueberry & rosemary vegan scones posted by the truly incredible Dana of Minimalist Baker - I had made her variation last year and always wanted to experiment with my own flavors. Prior to her post I thought scones were something I had to give up as a vegan (scones=butter, right?) - but coconut oil works wonders here and these sweet beauties come together so easily.

Now, depending on your definition they aren't 100% healthy but they are everything a scone should be - light, flaky, sweet, tender. The tartness from the apricot and the spice from the ginger make a truly special combination but feel free to add in any variation of fruit and aromatics - berries, citrus, apples, even savory flavors would work wonderfully here. Enjoy hot or room-temp - they store well in the fridge and re-heat nicely.

I used truvia blended baking sweetener because it happened to be on sale and I had always wanted to try it - it's pretty good and worked well as I would imagine any natural sweetener would - just remember to double the measurement if you are using regular sugar - stevia is sweeeeet. I used a whole wheat pastry flour (which is finer than regular flour) for this recipe because I happened upon it in the bulk aisle - I think it really contributed to the tenderness of these scones and I would highly recommend finding yourself some but with that said I've used regular flour before (or a blend of regular and spelt flour as Minimalist baker suggests) and that batch was just as delicious.


Makes: 8 scones • Prep Time: 15 min • Cook Time: 26 minutes


  • 2 cups whole wheat pasty flour (sub regular flour or gluten free flour with varied results)
  • 1/4 cup truvia baking-blend sweetener (sub 1/2 cup cane or coconut sugar)
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax or chia seed + 2.5 water)
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. room temp. coconut oil OR cold vegan butter
  • 2/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 3-4 small fresh apricots, pitted and finely chopped - apx. 1 cup (or sub peaches)
  • 1 tsp. coconut sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 400*F.

2. In a medium sized bowl first prepare your flax egg and let it set-up for at least 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, sugar and salt.

4. Scoop your room-temp coconut oil into the bowl and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or fork till only small lumps of coconut oil remain. Note that the mixture will still look rather dry -not quite a sand-like texture.

5. At this point, gently mix in your chopped apricot and ginger pieces into the flour mixture - this ensures the pieces are distributed evenly - if you mix them in after the wet ingredients are combined you have a tendency to over-work the dough.

5. In the bowl with flax egg whisk in almond milk, ACV and vanilla extract till well combined.

6. Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry, stirring gently to combine all the while. Once all the liquid is mostly incorporated you may have to go in with your hands to quickly work in all of the flour. 

7. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a large 1" tall disk shape. Cut into eight equal pieces and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with coconut sugar.

8. Bake for 24-26 minutes or until golden brown. 

9. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet and enjoying!

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Hormone Balancing Energy Bites

Remember those chewable Flintstone multivitamins? How about the grape flavored children's Tylenol? I LOVED them both and actually looked forward to my daily vitamin. In fact, I loved chewable Tylenol so much that three year old Jill snuck into the medicine cabinet and consumed the contents of an entire bottle - which resulted in a trip to the hospital and a round of ipecac. Fun!

Anyway, the reason I am telling you this is because it seems as though I still love to eat my vitamins but I am pretty sure these powerfully magical beauties will never result in vomiting! I am pumped to share this recipe with you, especially if you are a woman!

For months I have been on a quest to naturally balance my hormones - I have been struggling with irregular periods for the past few years and as an otherwise thriving 29 year old honestly, enough is enough. I have upped my fat to carb to protein ratio (yes, I was on the 80-10-10 train for a while and I think it may have done a little damage), altered my exercise routine and have been *trying* to stress less. In addition to these things I have also been eating the most delicious hormone-balancing "vitamin" daily - a cacao sprinkled  date wrapped in a brazil nut. I learned all about the hormone balancing powers of dates, brazil nuts and cacao in the book 'How Not To Die' by the wonderful Dr. Michael Greger - which the bible for anyone interested in the intrinsic link between good health and diet. One day, I shared my magic bullet of healing on Instagram and the photo got such a reaction that a light bulb went off, "this would make a really great energy bite", I thought. Any excuse for another energy bite recipe, AM I RIGHT?

One of the most wonderful things about Dr. Greger's book is that he makes actual suggestions of foods you can eat to improve specific health conditions - and he goes further still by suggesting combinations of foods that enhance one another's healing effects. For instance, I now always make sure to add pepper to any dish containing turmeric because the anti inflammatory properties are greatly magnified when you do. Dr. Gregor cautions against supplementation and urges us to consume whole foods as much as possible as the complexity of minerals, vitamins and fatty acids in our foods work together, in unison. We are designed to benefit from the delivery of these nutrients through food! They rarely benefit us quarantined in a bottle, as suggested by the supplement industry. 'How Not to Die' is a super dense read and I actually got a lot more from it by listening to it on tape - which is a great thing to do during any tedious task - driving, walking, cleaning, *rolling out energy bites*. 

The way the compounds in these energy bites work together is fascinating. Here's a quick break down - Brazil nuts are SUPER high in selenium, an important trace mineral supporting thyroid function. Selenium's power is magnified when combined with vitamin E, found abundantly in cacao along with antioxidants and other stress reducing compounds like magnesium. Dates further amplify this blend by providing a healthy dose of potassium and manganese - which play a part in regulating sex hormones, energy and metabolism. Although dates are high in sugar the manganese also helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and regulates brain and nerve function. 

I went further still adding maca powder - the hormone balancer of hormone balancers and ashwaganda which acts more gently to lower cortizol levels. 

Most days, I enjoy these as a pre-workout pick me up and I am happy to report I am beginning to feel more balanced. I have gotten a period since starting this daily practice and gained a little weight, which I am trying my best to embrace as I course correct my healing journey...NOT easy!  

But the whole reason I am sharing these babies with you is because they are also GOD DAMMED DELICIOUS. I mean - dates, chocolate, nuts - how could you go wrong? I love how the maca powder adds a malted-honey note! My boyfriend - aka my official taste tester - who had no idea about the "medicinal" element, said these are the BEST energy bites I have ever made. Woah, thats big coming from a guy who makes anything I create disappear! 

So, if you're like me, and you're looking for a whole foods solution to your hormonal struggle - give these a try, I am so interested to know if they help. OR, if you aren't struggling with hormones but just want a delicious pre-workout delight let me know how these babies stack up!


Serves: Apx. 24 1.5" Bites • Prep Time: 10 minutes • Total Time: 30 minutes


 

  • 24 Medjool dates
  • 1 cup gluten free oats, ground into flour
  • 1 cup brazil nuts, pulsed into a meal 
  • 3 tbsp. cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp. maca powder *optional
  • 2 tbsp. ashwaganda powder *optional
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Pit all of your dates, place them in a bowl and pour hot water to cover - allow them to soak for 3-4 minutes and then drain well, removing all excess water

NOTE: Skip this step if your dates are super moist

2. Measure out the oats into a food processor and wiz them up till the consistency is that of a coarse flour. Pour oat flour into a bowl.

3. Measure out the brazil nuts into the food processor and pulse in 5 second bursts until you reach the texture of coarse sand. Pour the nuts into the bowl with the oats.

NOTE: Be sure to not over blend your brazil nuts, they are quite oily and can turn into brazil nut butter very easily...not that that would be bad, but its just not what we're going for here, we still want little bits of nuts detectable in the final product

4. Now add the soaked and drained dates to the food processor along with the cacao powder, maca powder, ashwaganda powder, salt and vanilla - blend until your mixture is that of a thick paste. 

5. Add the oat flour and crushed brazil nuts back into the food processor and pulse till the entire mixture begins to come together - you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to ensure an even mix. You want the dough to appear slightly crumbly but to stick together when squeezed between your fingers. 

6. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow the chill in the fridge for 15 minutes - you can skip this step but it will help the dough set up and stick to your hands less when rolling out the balls.

7. Use a rounded tablespoon to measure out the balls and roll the mixture between your hands - repeat this process till all the dough is gone. 

8. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks - but they will be gone long before then. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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