Black Bean + Butternut Squash Swiss Chard Wraps

On Friday night my mom brought home a bunch of reduced-cost vegetables from our local grocery store, Sendiks. When I saw all the goodies she brought home I was giddy inside. Love me some produce, and love me a deal.

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Sendiks is awesome in that they put all this perfectly beautiful produce on their large “Reduced Produce” table far before most grocery stores would. If there’s a single bruise or a bag of lettuce is like, a week away from expiring, to the Reduced table it goes.

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I actually prefer to buy my bananas from the Reduced table. Because they’re just starting to speckle and get ripe and not green like regular store-bananas. I’m not into green bananas. I’m more into spotty browns.

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So in addition to a large bunch of dandelion greens for $0.56 and a batch of practically free potatoes, she snagged a large bunch of beautiful Swiss Chard for $0.46. Can you believe that?! Me either. What a #blessing.

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I forgot how much I like Swiss Chard. It’s such a lovely change of pace to the greens I eat regularly. I haven’t purchased it on my own in years because I tend to not like cooked greens, and typically associate Swiss Chard with being cooked. On Friday night, I had an epiphany: it can be eaten raw. This followed by realizing just how outstanding it is raw. It’s crunchy, tangy, and a bizarre mixture of earthy, sweet, and bitter. The texture is hearty and has a nice ___.

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Thus, I was inspired to make wraps with it, and this recipe was born. I used Target Brand’s Simply Balanced frozen Butternut Squash cubes that happened to be literally chillin’ in our freezer. This worked really well and saved a ton of time. Butternut squash cubes are one of the few vegetables I will eat frozen and not fresh. These would also be delightful with cubed sweet potatoes or any other winter squash you have on hand.

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Black beans add a nice heartiness and earthiness to the sweet squash. A blend of spicy, warm, umami flavors compliments both the squash and black beans, and really brings together the dish. I added a smudge of hummus for a creaming contrast, and some pomegranate seeds for a colorful pop of juicy tangy sweetness. It was blissful.

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This makes a wonderful light and energizing lunch, or could work well as a server or side to dinner. Make these wraps and make them your own. I encourage you to also listen to rap music while assembling your rap. It helps set the tone for your tastebuds and the whole rest of your day.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25-35 minutes
Level: Easy

makes 4 chard wraps, serves 2

Ingredients:

  • one 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cup cubed butternut squash or sweet potato (I used organic frozen pre-cubed butternut squash ~ but time saver and worked super well with this recipe!)
  • 4 large swiss chard leaves (or really any large leafy green will do)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 6-8 tablespoons hummus (optional)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate perils (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Cube butternut squash or sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until browned and crisp, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Transfer back to bowl.

2. Drain and rinse black beans. Add beans to bowl with squash cubes. Sprinkle cumin, turmeric, chili powder, curry powder, and toss until all black beans and squash are coated evenly.

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3. Wash and dry swiss chard leaves. Pat dry. Spread 1-2 tablespoons hummus on each. Add about 3/4 cup filling to each leaf.

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4. Add pomegranate seeds, hot sauce, or anything else you may desire. Roll up and enjoy! :-)

Easy Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Once upon a time I decided to try a 10 day vegan challenge. Although I’ve always hated the taste of milk, in some ways pre-experiment I considered myself  a Dairy Queen. I was a full fledged Greek yogurt and ice cream addict; I entered the challenge afraid I would be miserable without these foods.

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After a few days of adjusting and realizing there are delicious non-dairy versions of yogurt and ice cream and even cool-whip, I was fine. And as a result of this experiment, something miraculous happened: I gradually craved dairy products less and less. In fact, after a while, they tasted kind of funky to me.

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Another miracle came out of my dabbling with veganism: the IBS that has ailed me for years disappeared. Poof. Gone. Like magic. A thousand trips to GI doctors couldn’t tell me what this experiment did: my body is no good at processing dairy. I don’t know why I didn’t try this earlier, as when I was a kid I couldn’t digest it either and was raised on soymilk and was the weird kid that brought Gen Soy pudding packs to school instead of snack packs. Speaking of those, I need to get back on em. That cute lil panda guy makes the best darn packaged chocolate pudding I’ve ever laid my lips on.

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For a few months I had gradually reduced my dairy intake more and more, simply because I wasn’t craving it. Then, when I realized every time I did occasionally eat dairy, my IBS came back in full force, I had even less desire to eat it. eliminate dairy as an experiment.

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Additionally, I can honestly say, since switching to a primary vegan diet, I have not once felt sick or tired or gross or like I need to take a nap after eating, no matter what or how much I eat. I am full and satisfied, but also energized; I never get that “omg I need to lay down/why did I eat that” feeling ever anymore. And I can honestly say I don’t miss a darn thing. The whole vegan thing is easier and more accessible than ever and has forced me out of cooking ruts and turned me onto new flavors and products. I’m in a happy place.

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Along with vegan cooking and lifestyle came vegan baking. And I must say, every vegan baked good I make or eat isn’t sub-par to any non-vegan dessert. [Also if you live in NYC go check out the vegan desserts at Peacefood O.M.G] It’s been a fun challenge for me adapting recipes and coming up with new ideas. And no more IBS is truly the biggest blessing I’ve ever experienced after years of constant pain and suffering. This is what works for me, so if you want to think I’m weird for it that’s fine. I believe everyone should do what works best for their body and right now, this is what works for me.

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You know what else works for me? Cookies for breakfast. Like these Easy Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They’re vegan and they’re healthy: free of refined flour, sugar, and anything artificial. In fact, they’re only 7 ingredients and are made from whole grains and fruits. A perfect breakfast or snack cookie, they’re sweet but not overly so, and are a good energy boost when you’re on the go or need a study snack. Speaking of study, I should be doing that right now. Sigh.

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Chewy, sweet, feel-good cookies that take less than a half hour from start to finish. What could be better? Nothing. Except maybe figuring out my current mess of a life. If anyone has any tips on figuring out adulthood, HMU. Make these cookies today and have sweet nibbles for the next week. You can add whatever other dried fruits you have on hand, and/or nuts. Obviously I added nuts because I’m a nut.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 12-15 minutes
Level: Easy

makes 20-24 small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup oatflour (made from pulsing one cup rolled oats in food processor or blender; can also be substituted for whole-wheat flour, regular flour, or additional cup of rolled oats)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large ripe banana, mashed
  • 3/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins (more if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash salt

Directions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a small bowl, soak dates in water until soft, at least 10 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats and oat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. If making oat flour, pulse 1 cup oats in food processor or blender until a fine powder forms.
4. Place dates in a food processor or blender with water. Grind until a smooth paste forms. Add to bowl with oat mixture.
5. Mash banana and add to bowl. Add almond milk and raisins and nuts if desired. Mix well until a cookie dough forms. Scoop 1-tablespoon balls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet spaced at least one inch apart.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden, fragrant, and hollow if tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
7. Enjoy as a delightful breakfast, snack, or quick energy boost. I really like these as study snacks. :-). ENJOY!

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Spicy Apple Jicama Salad

Some of the best food inventions are a results of accidents. I stand by this theory. Like this Puppy Chow Granola that came about on a long day after a cookie fluke. I swear some of the craziest food combos are created when people drop things or try to make due with what they have around.

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This salad is no different. It’s a creation inspired by happenstance. Allow me to explain. My sister is obsessed with making this salad with roasted shredded Brussels sprouts, lemon juice, apples, and dried cranberries. When I was at her house last week, she was slicing some lemon for the dressing. I then used the same knife to cut the apple. Then I nibbled on some apple. And I realized how delicious citrus juice tastes on cold, crunchy apple slices. Tangy, sweet perfection.

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This lovely flavor combination inspired me to start rubbing leftover limes (I made a key lime pie for my bday on Saturday) on all my apple slices. Delicious. It’s a mash up that tastes refreshingly tropical.

While I was munchin on this for lunch a few days ago, I was also brainstorming what I should make for the January Recipe Redux challenge, which was “Start Smoking in 2015,” which is a pretty punny way to say we were encouraged to create dishes with smokey or spicy undertones. I decided to try the apple/lime combo with a variety of spices. I tried smoked paprika, spicy paprika, turmeric, curry, Sriracha and even taco sauce just to place with the whole spicy lime apple flavor palate (also, I’m weird and put hot sauce in many places it shouldn’t be). Anyways, chili powder was the standout winner. It adds an unexpected contrast to the sweet yet tangy Pink Lady apples. It’s kind of like those ladies who sell sliced mango with chili powder and hot sauce in Union Square. Except in the comfort of your own home and no hassle of carrying a zip-lock baggie of juicy drippy messy mangos down the street and/or awkwardly trying to consume them on the subway.

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I reasoned that jicama would make a *~*delightful*~* crunchy companion to the apples. Next I threw in a little arugula for a pop of color, and some roasted sunflower seeds for an earthy flavor to balance the other taste elements going on, and and because in general I love nuts in salads (and everything). #nutcrazy. The salad ended up being a delicious, sweet, tangy, crunchy, spicy, and intriguing side dish that is totally addicting. It’s one of those things you want to just keep eating to try to figure it out. It’s a bit infatuating. Much like scrolling through pictures of your puppy on your cell phone.

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I highly encourage you to step outside of your usual side-dish / salad comfort zone and give this recipe a go. It’s the ultimate combination of flavorful fruit, vegetables, seeds, and spices, and the flavor combination will inspire you to try new things. Enjoy!

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Prep Time: 12 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Level: Easy

serves 2-4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup jicama, cut into matchsticks (1 small or 1/2 a large jicama)
  • 1 1/2 cup pink lady apples (about 2 apples)
  • 1 cup arugula or baby kale
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

1. Chop jicama and apples into match-stick pieces of roughly even size. Place in a bowl. Juice limes and add lime juice. Sprinkle with chili powder and toss until all pieces of jicama and apple are evenly coated with lime juice.

2. Add arugula and sunflower seeds. Toss again. Sprinkle with dried cranberries if desired. You can also drizzle a bit of honey, agave, or maple syrup if you want to bump up the sweetness a bit.

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3. EAT ! :-D

For more smoky, spicy dishes to heat up your January, click around below !

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Puppy Chow Granola

Wednesday was not my day this week. Someone hit me while driving, then drove away quickly before I could get any of their information. Yay nice humans! This occurred on my way to a doctor’s appointment where I found I have something quite creepy that I think most people would have no appetite after reading about, so I might refrain from details. Let’s just say, I’ve been eating for many…your dog may have had the same thing. They’re common in dogs. Which makes the title of this post a lil bit ironic. Moving on.

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After my appointment, I went to the police station and filed a report about the hit’n’run. Then I went to Walgreens and tried to get my prescription but my insurance card wasn’t working and then I learned the prescription I needed was $3800 without insurance. Basically pocket change. Anyways, I was *done* with the day before 9am.

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Then I worked all day. And it was -34 with windchill. And then my mom’s car died so I had to go pick her up. By the time I ate dinner around 8, I was so wound up by the day that I wasn’t tired.

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So I decided to use my energy and soothe my grumpy pants by making cookies. And then I messed up the cookies. Ugh. Not what I needed.

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Luckily, ruining the cookies ended up being the best part of my day, because through this experience, I ended up trying to morph what I was using for said cookies into something edible. And then one thing lead to another, and suddenly I had created Puppy Chow Granola. This was certainly the highlight of my day.

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I ate the Puppy Chow Granola. For a moment, the world felt safe. I shared with my mom. She totally dug it, and she’s not very into peanut butter. We agreed that the stuff is INCREDIBLY addicting. And thus, I made another batch the very next day.

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So here is the result of my poopy humpday this week. It is peanut buttery and chocolately and sweet and oath and crunchy yet slightly chewy in all the right ways. It also has the word “Puppy” in the title, which is an automatic win.

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Make this stuff. Eat it. Try to practice self-control. Fail, eat it all, and make another batch. No one is judging you. Let it make you happy no matter what you find out is living in your intestines. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Bake Time: 20-30 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
  • 3/4-1 cup  (depending on how chocolatey you like it) dark chocolate chips or approximately 6 ounces Baker’s or other dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (optional, but helps to the granola form clusters & clumps)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (optional, I left em out, but they would be a nice crunchy addition)

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

2. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine peanut butter and chocolate. Melt in the microwave using 30 second intervals, stirring between each.

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3. Pour rolled oats into bowl with chocolate/peanut butter mixture. Add syrup or honey. Mix (a wooden spoon works well for this)until oats are evenly coated with chocolate/peanut butter.

4. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, until slightly hardened. If desired, turn granola with a spoon halfway through bake time.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Transfer back to bowl and add powdered sugar. Mix well until all granola is coated lightly with powdered sugar. EAT!

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Coconut Cranberry Bliss Bars [vegan and gluten-free]

Mmmm Starbucks. Even the mention of the house of that blessed green goddess gives me the warm fuzzies. Nothing frosts my cookie more than their iced coffee with soy milk or their soy lattes. They just have the best soy milk there. Anyone else agree with me? Love it. It’s perfect.

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Another Starbucks menu fav is the Cranberry Bliss Bar that makes its delicious carby sugary appearance during the holiday seasons. Red cups and holiday themed baked goods? You better believe I buy into that. I’m a sucker for all things holiday and festive and cozy. Turns out despite all my sarcasm and outward angst, deep down I’m secretly a softie easily persuaded by good marketing.

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I’ve had a desire to make Cranberry Bliss Bars for a few weeks, ever since I had a bad day at work and stopped at Starbucks after (SOML) and saw them sitting there in all their million-ingredient-$2.45-per-bar-glory.

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Mmm. Cranberries. Cakieness. Cream-cheesy icing. A genius flavor combo that my body wants and needs. And the baker inside me just lives to recreate in my own kitchen.

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So on the last day of the year, I set out to make my very own Cranberry Bliss Bars. I added coconut because I’m cray cray for coconuts, but you can leave all the coconut ingredients out if you desire, by nixing the shredded coconut, and subbing coconut flour for oat flour and coconut oil/butter for nondairy spread. I think the coconut was a lovely addition though, and encourage you give it a whirl.

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What really ties these babies all together is the wee bit of orange zest in the frosting. I highly recommend you do NOT skip this addition. It adds such a brightness and tanginess to the cream cheese frosting; it is truly the mystery element that seals the deal and the reason behind the addictive nature of these babies.

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Make and enjoy a whole pan of unknowingly vegan and gluten-free Coconut Cranberry Bliss Bars for yourself and/or your loved ones. Wishing you a sweet and delicious 2015, xoxo, K-Bakes.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Level: Easy

makes one 9×9″ pan; serves about 12

Ingredients – Bars:

  • 1/2 cup coconut butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (or sub additional oat flour)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax + 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

Ingredients – Frosting:

  • 6 ounces non-dairy cream cheese (I use Trader Joe’s; I find it better than several expensive brands!)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • zest of half an orange (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9″ baking sheet with parchment paper and/or grease lightly. Set aside. Remove cream cheese substitute from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature by setting aside for later. Place chia or flax in a small bowl with water, and allow to congeal, at least 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 cup coconut oil in a large microwave safe bowl. Add sugar and brown sugar and mix well.

3. In a food processor or blender, pulse oats until a fine flour is formed. Add to bowl with coconut oil and sugar. Add coconut flour if using, as well as baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add chia/water mixture. Mix gently until just combined and a batter is formed.

4. Fold in cranberries and shredded coconut. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden, fragrant, and/or the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and/or a toothpick comes out clean upon removal from the center of the cake.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. You can speed this up in the fridge or freezer if you desire. Meanwhile, prep frosting. Take softened cream cheese and place in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons solid (unmelted) coconut oil. Add vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well with an electric beater between each addition. Fold in orange zest and coconut shreds.

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6. Once cake has cooled completely, cover with frosting using a spatula. Sprinkle additional dried cranberries and coconut shreds if desired. Cut into bars and EAT with a nice latte or cup of tea and feel just like you’re at Starbucks. :-)

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Happy 2015 !

Top 10 Posts According to Stats vs. My Top 10 && Check Out My New Facebook Page !

In June I revamped a food blog I started a year earlier, and created what is now the kbaked.com you see today. Blogging has not only been a fun outlet for me, but helped me find my voice and has given me a place to stretch and push myself because we all know how much I hate not having “real” homework right now.

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It’s also been a way for me to share my recipes and ideas, which has been fun. As a side note, you may or may not have noticed that I’ve transitioned from vegetarianism to mostly-veganisms for a variety of reasons, a large part of which has to do with long-standing digestive health issues. I plan to write a full post on this soon, but thanks for staying tuned with me through this; I feel SO MUCH BETTER now. Anyways, I plan to keep posting a variety of recipes with different options for different dietary restrictions, vegan, vegetarian, and/or gluten-free, etc.

I can’t go any further without saying a big thanks to all my readers for visiting! I love every single comment and share and appreciate you all!

In other news, you should *~* LIKE KBAKED ON FACEBOOK! *~* :

I started a new Facebook page for fans to “Like” if you’re heart desires. Invite all your friends, too! #shamelessselfpromotion

Today I look back and reflect on the past year [read: I am procrastinating a bunch of stuff I really should be doing]. Anyways, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers I follow do a round-up of recipes that were the most popular in the past year. Since I’ve never done a recipe round-up myself, I thought this could be fun. So here we have it. The Top 10 most popular recipes according to my statistics pages (based on pageviews) vs. my favorite posts form the past year. Enjoy !

Top 10 According to Stats:

1. Lemon Olive Oil Coconut Cake

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One of my first recipes on kbaked.com. I originally made it for my sister’s bridal shower…#tear #nostologia. An example of an oldie, but a goodie. ;-)

2. Shortcut Mini Vegan Banana Cake Donuts with Almond-Coconut Glaze.

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Easy. Delicious. Cute.

3. Pumpkin-Apple Spice Fruit Roll-Ups! 

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Fall all rolled up without the junk.

4. Homemade Vegan Cheetos

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I never posted this recipe on Facebook or Instagram or twitter. But for some reason, it still gets lots of hits. Might be the wtf factor. Who knows?

5. 5 Ingredient No-Bake Peanut Butter + Chocolate Teddy Bear Cheesecake Bites

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Yummy, cute, and easy for the win, once again.

6. Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding

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NOM.

7. Funfetti Cookies with Birthday Cake M&Ms

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*~*make it like your birthday everrryyydayyyyy*~*

8. Recap: The Seed Experience NYC – Cooking Demo with Guy Vankin of Beyond Sushi

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My favorite restaurant’s chef cooking demo recap. I have Beyond Sushi to thank for re-blogging this.

9. Soft Baked Breakfast Bars with Date-Raisin Filling

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Alright.

10. Candy Corn Inspired Veggie Tart: Corn Crust, Roasted Peppers Sauce with Roasted Onions, Sweet Potatoes and Peppers

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As featured on Today.com’s food website !

My Favorites [in No Particular Order !]

1. Vegan Animal Crackers with Coconut & Strawberry Icing

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These were really fun to make and look oh, so wonderful if I do say so myself. They also tasted like a dream. I still have two in my freezer. Sometimes I save a few of my prettier baked goods and freeze them. I usually don’t actually eat them. I just admire them, like art work. Is that weird? Anyways the rest of them were f**cking delicious.

2. Spicy Sunflower Infused Waffle’d Falafel

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Because I love a hybrid and these were SO GOOD. And now I want to make them again.

3. Vegan Chocolate Silk Pie with Coconut-Almond Whipped Topping

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This pie changed me. And it is oh so easy to make.

4. 5 Ingredient No-Bake Peanut Butter + Chocolate Teddy Bear Cheesecake Bites [Vegan]

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A moment of need-for-something-comforting-and-kiddie-like as I made a very difficult transition out of my dream apartment

5. Autumn Black Rice Salad with Pomegranate, Coconut, and Sweet Potatoes

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Essentially a perfect, colorful, filling, tasty lunch.

6. Blackberry Cornmeal Pancakes [Vegan]

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Because these are truly light and fluffy and delicious.

7. Sweet Potato, Parsnip & Sweet Pea Samosas

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Incredible, earthy pockets of joy.

8. Christmas Avocado Toast [Pomegranate and Chili Pepper Flakes]

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So pretty. SO TASTEY. Literally eat this regularly still. Not just good for Christmas !

9. Everyday Vegan Hot Chocolate

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Because this is a daily ritual I never plan to give up. #lovehotchocolate

10. Rainbow Black Rice Salad

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Still a favorite; definitely a game-changer and go-to party food for me. Everyone loves it and it’s easy to pull together!

So there’s my round-up. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you again to every single reader for every single view, comment, feedback, or share. Blogging is a really weird thing to start, and it’s very nerve wracking at first, but thanks to my nice readers I’ve kept going and am really enjoying the ride!

Happy 2015 ! :-)

Nutty Gingerbread Granola

Hello my name is Katherine Baker and I LOVE granola bars. A close second is, obviously, my love for granola. And granola is easier to make, and cuter to put in mason jars as gifts for the holidays. So yesterday, while making some DIY gifts, I decided granola would be a delicious, adorable treat to fill up mason jars in and give as gifts. Along with some of these Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Larabars and some of this Bark.

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I just realized these posts are a total #spoileralert for my friends and family. Oops. Oh well. Get excited friends and family, you’ve got some yummies coming your way!

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And what could be more festive and delicious than all of these holiday-flavored treats that are delicious and also not horrible for you? Maybe adding some hot chocolate to your day. They say “do it if you bad”, and I know you’re on the naughty list.

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When I set out to make granola, I knew I wanted something full of nuts. I love nuts. And I like them in excess. Nothing unfrosts my cupcake more than getting a granola bar or bag of granola or trail mix that has like, one nut every six bites. Thus, my granolas and granola bars are always very generous with nuts. In this particular granola, I kept most of them whole. I liked this a lot. It feels special and luxurious. Like the bathrobe I’m currently wearing while sitting with a towel-turban and Millie on my lap in my bed as I write this post.

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In addition to lots and lots of nuts, I wanted a themed granola. And I had a TON of molasses left over from this Gingerbread cake thing I made the other night. So Gingerbread Granola it was!

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I packed this stuff into mason jars to be trendy and cute and give as gifts, but you can probably house the whole pan by yourself if it’s sitting in front of you. Make and enjoy this wonderful stuff with yogurt, milk, smoothies, or plain as a snack. Nom nom. Nibble nibble.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Level: Easy

makes about 6 cups granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups nuts (I used a mixture of whole pecans, whole almonds, and some chopped walnuts because we only had chopped walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dates, or both
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well.

3. In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, molasses, brown sugar, and maple syrup or honey. Mix well.

4. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and mix until well combine. The oats should all be a little wet. Transfer to a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Place into the oven for 30-35 minutes until nuts and oats have browned. Mix once about 15 minutes into baking. When it is done, it will still be sticky. Take it out of the oven anyways. It will harden as it cools.

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5. Allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Enjoy! :-D

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Homemade Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Larabars

Two non-related thoughts: 1) The holidays are here! 2) Larabars are delicious, but can be expensive. What do these thoughts lead someone like myself to do?! DIY, of course.

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Tis both the season of giving and eating. I knew I wanted to have an excuse to bake or create something in my kitchen, and thought it would be nice to gift something that’s not super-overly-indulgent, figuring that with the holidays as they are, everyone is drowning in plenty of gluttony and may actually be lusting for a healthy snack in the next few days.

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So I made some homemade Larabars. Actually, what also inspired me to make these bars is my sister. She LOVES Larabars. So does a toddler I know, who calls them “Spongy Cakes” which is so cute that I almost pass out every time I hear it. Anyways, I’ve wanted to try making homemade Larabars for my sis for a while, and since last night I was angsty and bored and didn’t feel like sitting still, I took pantry inventory and decided to make some and add them to the other food gifts I’m giving. I’m also giving some Chocolate Bark with Figs, Nuts and Sea Salt very similar to this recipe. And some Gingerbread Granola, which I’m planning to also post the recipe for within the hour.

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I’d like to say I chose to copy the Chocolate Coconut Macaroon flavor of Larabars because it fits so well with the holidays like Haunnukah and blah blah blah and honestly that was a partial deciding factor but if I’m honest, they are kind of a result of what was in the pantry, per usual.

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These babies have 4 ingredients: Cashews. Dates. Coconut Shreds. Dark Chocolate. That’s it. Plain and simple just like the OG Larabars themselves. They turned out really well and quite similar to a Larabar in texture, flavor, and yumminess. The key is not over-pulsing the nuts or chocolate in your food processor. Leave them a little crumby, just like the real ones.

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You can even use holiday cookie cutters, and/or wrap them up like wee little gifts if you’d like:

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Make these babies, customize them as you’d like, gift them, or keep them. They’re a perfect yummy high-energy sweet treat to keep your blood sugar stable through the holidays and beyond. Happy holidays and happy eating!

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes (but require at least 20 minutes to set in fridge)

Level: Easy

makes 8 mini-Larabars or 6 regular sized bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips or 2 oz dark chocolate

Directions:

1. Pulse cashews in food processor until a fine, crumby powder. Make sure you don’t overdo the processing, you don’t want a nutbutter, rather a fine sticky dust. Set aside in a bowl.

2. Pulse chocolate in food processor until chocolate is a similar crumb to the nuts. Add chocolate to bowl with nuts.

3. Place dates and coconut in food processor. Puree until mixture reaches a fine paste. If it’s lumpy, add a small bit of water, 1-3 tablespoons, 1 tablespoon at a time.

4. Take date/coconut paste and add to bowl with nuts and chocolate. Mix with a wooden spoon and/or knead until well combined into a cookie-dough-like ball.

5. Line a small baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Transfer Larabar mixture onto sheet and spread until about 1/4th inch thick. Press with hands to create a smooth surface.

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6. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, preferably an hour. Slice and enjoy! :-)

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Walnut Butter Brownies with Cherries

The other day I took a first attempt at the brownies that #broketheinternet: The Black Bean Brownie. I made mine Almond Joy-ish. They were good, but I still prefer my brownies bean-less. That said, they were still nommy, I scratched something off my enormous baking bucket list, and now I’m on a brownie kick. Giddy up.

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So less than a week since then, I have another biggg yummy batch of brownies at my disposal. This batch was inspired by two things: 1) The December Recipe Redux Challenge. 2) My favorite brownie combo of all times (chocolate + cherry + walnuts).

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This month The Recipe Redux turns 42 months old. Congrats ! So their challenge was to “Grab a book and Cook,” meaning grab the closest cookbook, open to page 42 or 142 and redux the recipe. Pretty fun, huh?! Well, while searching for ornaments from the depths of my basement, I came across some of my grandma’s ancient cookbooks. I was also lucky enough to uncover some of her notebooks full of her own recipes, which are so invaluable I could cry. She was a brilliant innovator, cook, and creator, with ideas and food hunches far beyond her time. More on this in another post. Anyways, I picked up and was immediately amused by her yellowing, original Betty Crocker Cookbook. Oh my gosh, it has all the classic, unhealthy butter old-school desserts you could ever want as well as some comments that would probably offend most working women of this generation. When I hit page page 42, a recipe for “Cocoa Brownies with Walnuts” stared me back in the face.

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I have to admit I was thrilled to have an excuse to make another batch of brownies. Making them the other day really reminded me how much I love them. The brownies in the Betty Crocker Recipe were full of butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and refined white flour. Mine are a bit revamped and given a modern, semi-sophisticated twist by using walnut butter as a fat, which I made by pureeing walnuts into a nut butter in my food processor to avoid spending $14 on a jar of walnut butter. #win #DIY.

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The walnut butter provides healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, as well as all the Omega’s you could ever want or need from a brownie. You know how much I love those #MUFAs and #PUFAs baby. I also reduced all the eggs/excess sugar/refined flour in the original recipe, replacing white flour with oat flour, and lowering the sugar without loosing flavor. Melting Baker’s chocolate is the KEY to delicious brownies, and adds a ton of flavor and a delicious fudginess that simply can’t be beat, so I added that to the original recipe, kept the cocoa powder (because as I discuss here, it’s practically a superfood), and added chocolate chips for more chocolate goodness and texture, and more walnuts and dried cherries, for flavor, texture, and simply because chocolate + cherry = one of my all-time favorite combinations.

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The end result was a fudgy, delicious, gluten-free and vegan brownie that could satisfy any chocolate craving in a single square, but won’t leave you feeling icky or gross. I really ended up loving the walnut butter as the fat, as it gave it a nice, nutty flavor that made the brownies intriguing to the palate, and feel super grown-up and fancy without tasting like it was trying too hard.

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These wonderful chocolate nuggets are perfect for the holidays, or really anyday. Because Katy Perry says you should make it like your birthday *~*everyday*~* and I have to say I totally agree with her. My mantra as of late has been “be as nice to yourself as you would to your friend.” So #treatyoself with yummy, healthy food every day, and do things that make you happy. Today for me this means, brownies, hot chocolate, my pups, and watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay on YouTube. Hope your day is as awesome as mine. Happy holidays and happy eating!

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Level: Easy

makes on 9″ square pan of brownies, roughly 12 servings 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts, divided into 1 1/4 cup to make butter and additional 1/4 cup to mix in
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4-6 ounces Baker’s chocolate (depending on desired chocolate-y-ness)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 cup oat flour or other flour (I make oat flour by processing one cup rolled oats in a food processor until a powder forms)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 1 1/4 cup walnuts and a tablespoon of water in a food processor or blender and puree until a thick nut butter forms. When it looks like peanut butter, it’s done. Transfer to a large bowl and add brown sugar. Mix well.

2. Cut Baker’s chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave by heating in 30 second increments, mixing between each increment, roughly 1-2 minutes total, until smooth and melted. Set aside and allow to cool to cool slightly.

3. Place almond milk and chia seeds or flax in a cup and allow to thicken, at least 10 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together well.

5. Once chocolate has cooled slightly (lukewarm is fine), pour into the walnut butter and brown sugar mix and mix well until chocolate is well combine. Add flour/cocoa mixture to the bowl and slowly add the almond milk mixture. Mix gently until well combine into a batter.

6. Add chocolate chips, dried cherries, and additional 1/4 cup walnuts. Pour into a lightly oiled or parchment lined 9″ baking pan.  Top with even more walnuts if you’re as walnut crazy as I am.

7. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted and removed in the center of the pan. EAT.

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For more Page 42 challenge posts from fellow members of The Recipe Redux, click around below !

Christmas Avocado Toast [with Pomegranate Seeds + Red Pepper Flakes]

Avocado toast is the epitome of what’s #trendy for food. I remember being surprised when I first moved to NYC, seeing it on cafe menus. I thought for some reason that I was a genius and had invented this snack. I didn’t. lol. It’s been around 5ever.

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I also remember being a little surprised by how much it cost. It’s like, $8 in a lot of cool cafes. And now it’s like a thing. Who has the best avocado toast? Is your bread homemade? What’s on top of it? The finest sea salt? The highest quality cracked pepper? Single origin olive oil?

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The one I had at LPQ this summer was amazing with some pickled vegetables and Tuscan olive oil and such. Other than that, I usually make avocado toast at home. Because it’s easy, fast, and costs about $7 less than when it’s purchased at a cafe.

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The other day I happened to be eating a pomegranate while making avocado toast. I decided adding some pomegranate seeds would make a nice color pop. My toast already had crushed red pepper flakes and sea salt on it, because that’s my go-to for avocado toast, so I kept all those babies in place with the pomegranate.

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when hunger happens while taking photos…

I was a bit shocked at how delicious the tangy sweet pomegranate seeds played off the spicy pepper flakes and the creamy avocado. The sea salt, per usual, tied it all together, making the avocado flavor pop a bit. The first bite was like a discovery journey: “What’s happening in my mouth right now? so many different flavors and textures, but somehow they all work!! THIS IS AMAZING. MUST EAT MORE.” 

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So I did. This was my go-to lunch and/or snack all weekend long. I ate like 6 pieces of this exact. Toast. I then realized how festive and beautiful it looks for the holiday season and realized this would make a lovely and gorgeous appetizer on a party spread. It comes together quite quickly and with minimal prep, and who doesn’t love avocado toast? It’s such a win for the appetizer world. Just cut it into fancy triangles or something and you’d be good to go.

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Otherwise just make it like a holiday party every day in your mouth and make a slice for yourself. You will not regret this toast. Plus, think of how cool it’ll look on Instagram. #justsayin. Enjoy this energizing, nutrient packed toast for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or a snack. Eat up homies!

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Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 1 minute (to toast bread)

Level: easy

Yield: one piece of avocado toast, can easily be doubled, tripled, or multiplied by 10 and cut into triangles for a party

Ingredients:

  • one slice whole grain bread or bread of choice
  • 1/4th medium avocado
  • 1/2  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (a shake or two straight out of the shaker will do the trick)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds
  • dash sea salt

Directions:

1. Place bread in toaster. Allow to toast until desired toastiness is achieved.

2. Meanwhile, mash 1/4th avocado in a small bowl with a fork.

3. Remove toast from toaster. Sprinkle red chili pepper flakes and sea salt. Sprinkle and/or artistically decorate with pomegranate seeds.

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4. EAT. :)