Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

Once upon a time I made these chocolate banana penguin things for my Vegan Bites bit on Spoon University’s Insta stories. They were fun. Putsy, but fun.

Loaf Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

In an ideal world, the feet and noses were to be made with orange candies. But I didn’t have any and wasn’t motivated to spend money on a bag of them only to use a few (Spoon doesn’t pay me for VB for the record, and I buy all the materials for cooking with my own money…and as a grad student I have about $40 a week to feed, water and caffeinate myself…so I gotta be selective with where my money goes) so I improvised and used cut carrots.

While eating them and being like wow bananas and carrots frozen together is rather awkward, I had an epiphany that perhaps baked together they’d be delightful. And so, the incident inspired this Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

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So a few weeks later, I made some. And now I’m going to share it with you. I ended up enjoying the loaf. I think I like carrot cake as dessert with lots of icing and banana bread the regular way the best, but this was a really fun way to mix it up. Truly, if you like carrot cake and/or banana bread, you will probably enjoy this recipe. If you want, you can add a vegan cream cheese icing on top.

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Personally, I wanted it as a not-too-sweet snacking/breakfast loaf, so this is the frosting-less route I went. But you do you. Live your best life.

I made this recipe with shredded coconut, too, and eventually decided it distracted too much from the rest of it and have concluded it is better without it. If you want dem coconut shreds tho, add in about 1/4 cup unsweetened.

Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

Cheers to 2018, baking new things, and of course, BANANAS!

For regular banana bread, click here.

For dog banana bread, click here.

Vegan Carrot Cake Bread

Prep Time:  1 hour

Bake Time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 large very-ripe mashed bananas (or 2.5 small)
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, softened (or sub neutral oil like canola or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup brown or coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (can sub regular whole-wheat, all-purpose or additional oat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (made by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor or blender until a flour forms)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax (can sub chia seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or golden raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a banana loaf pan with softened non-dairy butter or oil.
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Shred carrots, or pulse into small pieces in a food processor. Set carrots aside
  3. Add melted butter or oil, sugar, non-dairy milk, and vanilla to bananas. Whisk together.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine whole wheat flour, almond meal, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, rolled oats and flax in a bowl. Whisk together until combined.
  5. Add half of dry mixture to wet. Fold together. Add remaining dry ingredients, and fold again.
  6. Add walnuts, pecans, and raisins to the mixture. Fold until combined.
  7. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes until fragrant, lightly golden, and a toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out clean upon insertion and removal.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice and enjoy.

Vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

I did the damn thing! I made a vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie! Yippee!

Vegan Cookie Levain Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Yum

I have spent time living on the Upper West Side of New York City, and UWSers and tourists alike are all familiar with the famous Levain Bakery.

Vegan Cookies Delicious Dough Levain Style

They have these ginormous, cookies that are unbelievable delicious, with a perfectly crisp exterior, and a gooey almost underbaked center.

Vegan Cookie Levain Bakery Style Chocolate Chip

I remember my first Levain Bakery experience. My mom was visiting me while I was at NYU and I had heard of this place called Peacefood on the Upper West Side (yup, before they had a downtown location!) that I really wanted to try. So I dragged her from the East Village to the Upper West and we had a delightful lunch at Peacefood. I got the Asian Greens salad and Chickpea fries (still two of my favs on the menu). And then I said, “hey, since we’re over here, we should go to this famous cookie bakery.” And she agreed.

Vegan Cookie Dough Scoop

We got one chocolate chip walnut, and one double chocolate. The OG stood out to me. It was almost like the double chocolate was so chocolately it didn’t let the other elements of the cookie shine. Anyways, I digress, that cookie stayed in my mind for a very long time.

Cookie Dough Vegan

Back in my NYU days, I rarely trekked up to the UWS, but during my MS at Columbia, I ended up reluctantly relocating there. And I ended up loving it. To this day, it is still one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC.

Cookies Vegan Levain Bakery

But since my NYU days, I have gone vegan. Which means my options at Levain bakery include their whole wheat raisin walnut rolls (which TBH ARE SO GOOD), and a few other bread products.

Delicious Vegan Levain Style Bakery Cookies

So here we are. I veganized the Levain Bakery Cookie. And I’m pumped about it.

Vegan Levain Style Bakery Cookies Delicious

These vegan Levain Bakery style chocolate chip cookies are delicious. Full of chocolate chips and whole chunks of walnuts, they are a texture junkie’s dream. They also have that gooey middle thing going on in the best way possible. Paired with a glass of almond milk these are utter perfection. Now let’s get on to how I did the damn thing.

Vegan Levain Bakery Cookies

After doing some research online, I decided to play around and give them a whirl. A common characteristic I noticed in copycat Levain recipes was the use of cold butter. If you’re a baker, you know that typically cookies are made with room temperature butter. Yet all Levain cookies had this in common, so I went with it.

Vegan Cookie Dough Scoop on Baking SHeet

I also used half cake flour and half all-purpose. You can use all AP if you want. I also tried half bread flour with a pretty good result. Do you, honey. Use what ya got (with varied results).

Vegan LEvain Bakery Style Cookies

I highly reccomend chilling the dough before baking. I think it helps them maintain that gooey middle quite a bit. If you’re low on time, pop them in the freezer for a bit.

Levain Bakery Style Vegan Cookies

Anyways, these are wonderful plant-based nuggets of joy and I really hope you make these vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies! If you do, please let me know! Gimme an @ on InstaGimme an @ on Insta or comment on this post. I love to see when people make my recipes!

Vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes
Servings: 10 giant cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold vegan butter (I used Earth Balance baking sticks)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (can sub additional all-purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water or unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 2 cups semisweet non-dairy chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups whole untoasted walnuts

Method:

  1. Cube butter and place in a bowl. Add sugars and beat using an electric mixer on low speed for about 3-4 minutes until creamy.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk together well.
  3. Add half of flour mixture and water or non-dairy milk to butter and mix by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until just barely combined.
  4. Add remaining flour mixture and water and repeat.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  6. Using an ice-cream scooper, scoop dough onto a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with a generous amount of space between each.
  7. Place cookies in the refrigerator for 40 minutes to an hour until dough is chilled. This will help the cookies maintain their shape in the oven, and give you that gooey gooey middle. If you’re short on time, pop in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  9. Remove cookie dough balls from the refrigerator/freezer and place directly in hot oven.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just brown on the outside, but still gooey on the inside.
  11. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes. This is essential! They must have time to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack.
  12. Enjoy with almond milk. 🙂

Simple Seed Bars

All I really want in life is NUTS and SEEDS. Do you feel me?

 Simple Seed Bars. Vegan && Gluten-free. Four ingredients!

There are so many puns that can be made when it comes to one of my favorite categories of foods, but for real I really am obsessed with nuts of all kinds. I always start to say my favorite and it results in me being like, “Probably cashew. And walnuts. Oh and obviously almonds. Peanuts for the peanut butter reasons. Did I mention that I love pistachios? Wait, also….” etc.

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan and Gluten-free. Four ingredients.

So when it comes to favorites, I can’t choose one. But I can almost guarantee I’m down to put nuts in my face any time of day any day of the week. They have always been and forever will be a staple snack in my diet, as well as a lovely accompaniment to chocolate, and of course, the breadth of my beloved nut butters.

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan & Gluten-free. Four ingredients.

Whenever I’m looking for a snack bar, I always look for ones with tons of nuts. This is why Kind Bars are my favorite snack bars. What makes me sad is that Kind Bars are expensive. Yes, I buy them anyway, and no I don’t think they are bad for you despite the drama going on with them right now.

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan and Gluten-free. Four ingredients!

Moving on. Last night I set out to make my own nut bars. Except then I burst open my bag of Sunflower Seeds. There was about a cup or so left in the bag that just went all over the place. This was when I decided I should just use the rest of them before they went to poop, salvaged what I could, and set out to make Simple Seed Bars.

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan and Gluten-free. Four ingredients!

The fun thing about these bars is that you can make them two ways: baked or frozen. If you like your nuts raw, simply store them in the freezer. If you like your nuts toasty and want the bars to hold together a bit better for traveling, bake them up for 10-15 minutes. I tried both methods and honestly enjoyed them both. Make a batch and try it both ways if you dare. Or don’t. Do you.

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan & Gluten-free. Four ingredients!

Baked or frozen these babies are crunchy, nutty, and full of satisfying seedy goodness. Sweetened only with dates, they have just enough glucosey goodness to keep your sweet tooth happy without horrifying it the way Quaker Chewy Bars do to mine. These are the perfect, easy, simple snack and when paired with fruit make a brilliant breakfast. And with only four ingredients and minimal prep, they couldn’t be easier. I truly hope you make them. That’s all for now folks, hope to SEE(d) you soon. #punny

Simple Seed Bars. Vegan && Gluten-free. Four ingredients!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes if using freezing method, but need at least 30 minutes if freezing; 10-12 minutes if using baking method
Level: easy makes one 9″ inch pan of Seed Bars, serving about 6 as a snack

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) dried pitted dates, soaked in 2 tablespoons water for 10 minutes
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup nuts of choice (I used a mixture of cashews and pecans, any will work)
  • 3/4 cup raisins (and/or other dried fruit – I added some dried cranberries and cherries as well)

Directions:

1. Soak dates in water until tender, about 10 minutes. If using baking method to prepare, preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, grind dates until a paste is formed.

3. In a large bowl, combine sunflower seeds, nuts, and dried fruit, Mix well. Add date puree and mix well again until a sticky dough has formed. Press dough into a parchment paper-lined 9″ inch square baking sheet.

4. Cover with an additional piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap and if using freezing method, place in the freezer to set, at least 30 minutes. If baking, place in oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool before enjoying.

If using freezer method, keeps best if stored in freezer or refrigerator; if baking, store in an airtight bag or container.

Chocolate Nut Clusters with Sea Salt & Raw Sugar

Chocolate with nuts is my absolute favorite chocolate combination EVER. As both a chocolate addict and a nut lover, when they collide, I am euphoric. You may as well call me powerless before a bag of dark chocolate covered almonds. Specifically the ones from Trader Joe’s.

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And as far as sweet treats go, chocolate and nuts aren’t such a bad thing. Nuts are full of healthy fats essential for brain function and dark chocolate has all sorts of antioxidants, as well as more fiber, protein and iron than you’d expect, which is why I feel no remorse enjoying a daily cup of hot cocoa.

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That’s why when the Recipe Redux challenge for February was to share a recipe involving your favorite chocolate pairing, while I could think of a million chocolate combinations I enjoy, none could trump chocolate and nuts.

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Take that a step further with chocolate covered nuts with salt. That extra punch brings out the best of both worlds, and you can bet your bottom dollar I will buy anything with the words “chocolate” “nuts” and “salt” in the title. Done. Sold. Gimme.

Here I add another element of crunch and intrigue with some raw sugar. It has the same gritty yet pleasant textural appeal as salt, but adds another depth of flavor to the treat.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s 72% Pound Plus chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cup nuts of choice (I used a mix of equal parts pecan and walnut)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (can also use butter)
  • 2  tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt

Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Chop nuts and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, microwave coconut oil until melted. Add maple syrup and sti. Pour onto nuts and mix until nuts are evenly coated. Sprinkle raw sugar and mix again. Allow to sit until coconut oil has cooled and sugar is sticking to nuts, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, microwave chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until melted. Allow to cool slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Pour chocolate over nut mixture and mix well until nuts are covered with chocolate.

3. Using two spoons or a small ice cream scooper, transfer small amounts of nut mixture onto baking sheets in clusters of desired size. Before chocolate has set, sprinkle more raw sugar and raw sea salt over the top of the clusters.

4. Place clusters in the fridge and allow chocolate to set, at least 15-20 minutes. Remove from fridge and enjoy!

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For more Chocolate Goodness from other members of the Recipe Redux, click around below!

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 !

Almond Joy Black Bean Brownies [vegan + gluten free]

Black bean brownies have been going viral on the blogosphere for quite a while. It seems like every time I turn around I see them re-pinned or re-blogged or re-attempted or talked about by a foodie friends. And for the last year or so, I have been curious. Skeptical, but curious nonetheless.

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Last night my curiosity finally got the better of me and I finally set out to give them a whirl. Here are my thoughts: you really can’t taste the black beans. Like at all. I was very skeptical that they’d have a strong bean-y flavor. They don’t.

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Texture wise they’re my ideal brownie: FUDGY. I’m team-fudgy when it comes to brownie. Not team cake-y. This is a personal preference. Taste wise they’re pretty darn chocolately I must say. The coconut oil adds a nice mild coconut undertone to the chocolate, but you can use vegetable oil if you’d like.

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I added almonds and coconut and decided they were Almond Joy themed but truly this was a result of what was on hand in the house (per usual).Also I adore nuts and chocolate and coconut together, but you can twist and turn these babies with whatever mix-ins you desire. Dried fruit would be lovely too. I also added dark chocolate chips. Don’t skip this. They’re basically essential. #texture #morechocolate

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The secret, in my humble opinion, to black bean brownies, is patience. I KNOW. The worst. Especially when you’re me and you’re hungry and/or things smell good and they’re chocolate-related. But trust me. Wait until these are fully chilled to enjoy. In fact, they taste best frozen. And they taste best if let sit overnight. This gives the chocolate flavor a chance to develop and really sink in and take over. The longer they #chill the chocolatelier they are. So I’d highly recommend cooling or even freezing these babies for maximum enjoyment.

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So here is my first attempt at/experience with black bean brownies. They’re better than I expected, for sure. But personally I do tend to enjoy black bean-less brownies over black bean brownies, but I’m happy I tried to make these, as they certainly are delicious, healthy, full of fiber, and were fun and super easy and fast to make, and most importantly they’ve put me on a brownie kick, and I’m now fully amped to share a bunch of my favorite brownie recipes ever on kbaked.com. Stay tuned, stay full of gas, and stay chocolatey. 😉

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Stay tuned, stay full of gas, and stay chocolatey. 😉 xoxo, kbakes.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

Level: Easy

Yield: one 9″ square pan of brownies, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans (approx 1 1/2 cups), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce or 1/2 mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, plus more for top (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1/4 cup coconut shreds (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients besides chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut shreds. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut shreds.

3. Grease or line a 9″ square baking tray with parchment paper. Pour batter into the baking tray and smooth it around with a spatula. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the brownies comes out clean upon removal.

4. Allow to cool completely before you even attempt to slice them (I know, I know, it’s basically torture). I recommend letting them cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and slicing them and storing them in the freezer and enjoy :-). #fudgy

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Chocolate Bark with Anise, Figs, Pistachio & Sea Salt

Chocolate is a food group. Or so says my mother. I tend to agree.

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And in addition to being a welcome addition to your tastebuds and mental sanity, chocolate can be a healthy addition to your lifestyle if you head on over to the dark side and select one that doesn’t have too much added sugar or icky preservatives. I believe that once you get into dark chocolate you don’t go back. It’s just richer and more satisfying. Maximum “mmm” per bite sort of thing. My favorite chocolate EVER is Mast Brothers. That stuff is on another level. It’s $8-9 a bar. And before I tried it I wondered why people would spend that much on one bar of chocolate. After a single bite I instantly understood why they did such a thing and became one of them.

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I don’t think I go a single day without eating chocolate. I always need a fix after dinner. And dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants and has even been shown to improve blood flow and circulation. Which is important as the weather gets colder and colder around these parts.

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Not to mention that chocolate goes well with basically everything. My favorite is with nuts. And dried fruit. But sometimes it’s also fun to do something a little different with chocolate and taste and appreciate it in a new light. So when presented with the October challenge for Recipe Redux to create a recipe that incorporate a spice that tends to sit around in cabnets without frequent use, I instantly thought of this chocolate-anise bark that my mom made around the holidays last year. It was epic; not so epic is when Sasha tried to eat it. Luckily she survived, as did the legend of the marriage of chocolate + anise.

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Anise is plain awesome in my opinion. I feel like it’s one of those flavors you either love or you don’t. I’m on team love. It tends to show up here and there around the holidays, but it’s licorsey, spicy/sweet taste is really one to be celebrated all year long. I encourage you to peer all the way back into your spice cabinet, blow the dust off your anise shaker, and make this bark. It’s incredible.

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The anise adds the most terrific flavor pop to dark chocolate, and the figs bring an element of chewiness and sweetness, not to mention some fiber, vitamin B6, and potassium. Yay nutrients! If you know me, you know I’m crazy about textures in my foods. The more interesting textures going on the better. Which is why the crunchy pistachios are an amazing contrast to the gooey figs. Ugh. It’s so perfect. Not only do they add a burst of bright green color, they provide some protein, healthy fats, and even more fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. And then there’s the anise, which adds a fragrant spicy note of tongue, that keeps you going back for more, along with a dose of antioxidants, calcium and copper. So yeah. Basically this bark is almost health food. ;-).

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Truly though, this bark is extremely satisfying for a sweet/chocolate tooth, a lot less junky than a candy bar, and makes an awesome and beautiful gift or addition to a party spread. Not to mention, it’s super easy to make. Just chop the toppings, melt the chocolate, pour and cool, and just like that you have a beautiful tablet of bark before you. Break into squares as large or small as your heart desires and share as gifts or simply gift it all to yourself. Because you’re worth it. 🙂

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes (but needs at least 30 minutes to chill)

Level: Easy!

Ingredients:

  • 24 ounces high quality dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips, chopped {2 bags chocolate chips}
  • 3/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 3/4 cup figs, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon anise
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Chop pistachios, figs, and anise.

2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler on the stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave by placing chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, heating in 30 second increments and stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted.

3. Sprinkle about half the pistachio/fig/anise mix into the melted chocolate and mix gently. Pour melted chocolate into baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula.

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4. Evenly sprinkle remaining pistachio, figs, and anise over the melted chocolate. Gently pat down toppings into chocolate. Sprinkle with sea salt.

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5. Place bark into the fridge until chocolate sets and is solid, at least 30 minutes.

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6. Break bark into pieces using your hands or a knife and enjoy. 🙂

To check out more creative uses for neglected spices, click around here!:

Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache Buttercream

It’s like deconstructed Nutella in a cake form. Yes, you heard right. Hazelnut + Chocolate. One of my favorite classic combinations, along with bananas + peanut butter and iced coffee + soymilk. Some things are just made for each other, ya feel me?

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I made this cake for my mom’s birthday. For a long time she’s continuously spoken of this one hazelnut cake her aunt made. She said she would grate the hazelnuts by hand and make this nutty, slightly dry cake and serve it with whipped cream. Can you imagine grating that many hazelnuts? Me either. Thank goodness for food processors.

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Back to mom’s birthday: I wanted to make a cake because I love reasons to make a big cake and bake something that feels special that I normally wouldn’t make. I mean, I could bake big grand cakes all the time, but then I’d just constantly have giant cakes around they’d feel like special. Also, fancy baking ingredients like hazelnut and high quality baking chocolate can get expen$ive.

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So I love to pull them out for a special occasion, like Pita’s day of birth. I wanted the cake to be a surprise, but then she found hazelnut shells on the floor and knew what they were. Fail boat on my behalf. Also, epic nut shell identification skills on her end.

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I was a wee bit nervous about making this cake because I’ve never made it before and kind of made the recipe up as I went. Lucky for me, it turned out epicly. The cake is very nutty and has the slightest nutty grainy texture that works really with with the buttercream and ganache.

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The cake itself is not too sweet, and had a substantial texture that all worked well with the frosting. I choose chocolate frosting/filling because mommy loves chocolate and so do I. Duh. I actually used ganache for the filling instead of buttercream, but honestly it kind of got outshined by everything else. I’d skip this step and just use frosting for the middle layer if I made it again. But if you want ganache for the filling, I am not going to stop you.

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But truly, this frosting is kind of thick and really chocolately/rich/dense the way a ganache would be. Except it’s lighter and fluffier still, like buttacream. #bestofbothworld, always

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So here is the recipe. It’s perfect for a sophisticated Nutella lover or lover of anything chocolatey and nutty that tastes awesome. I included instructions/ingredients for both a vegan and non-vegan version. Make whichever you want. Both will be delicious.

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Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Servings: 8-10 [2 layer cake with single layer filling and frosting]

Level: Medium

Ingredients – Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or butter substitute [Earth Balance or coconut oil] at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs or 2/3 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup soy yogurt and/or 3 tablespoons chia or flax + 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk (i used almond)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients – Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or butter substitute [Earth Balance or coconut oil] at room temperature
  • 8 ounces baker’s chocolate, melted and allowed to come to room temperature
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond or regular milk (no exact measure – something you just gotta eyeball as you go until you get the consistency you want!)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, chopped (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a large baking sheet and toast 10-15 minutes until browned and fragrant. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and cover them for about a minute, allowing them to steam. Next, rub the skins of with the towel or your fingers. This is putsy and a bit messy. But just remember: cake is your reward.

2. Allow hazelnuts to cool. Meanwhile, place almond, soy, or regular milk in a cup with vinegar and allow to curdle for at least 10 minutes (it’ll be good to go by the time you’re ready to use it). This is your pseudo-buttermilk.

3. Cream room-temperature butter or butter substitute until fluffy, about 2-4 minutes. Slowly add sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add eggs one at a time, or slowly add egg substitute [2/3 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup soy yogurt and/or 3 tablespoons chia or flax + 1/2 cup non-dairy milk]. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

4. Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well combine.

5. Place cooled shelled hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until a semi-fine powder. It won’t be a super fine powder, so don’t aim for that. If you over-pulse, it will turn to nut butter, so use cation. Pulse slowly. If it gets nut-buttery, scoop out the nut-buttery bottom, and continue to pulse remaining nuts.

6. Add pulsed nuts (lol?) into the flour mixture and whisk until nut powder is evenly distributed. It will be a little grainy. That’s okay.

7. Add 1/3 the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Add half of the pseuedo-buttermilk. Mix gently with a spatula. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and the rest of the buttermilk and mix again. Dump remaining 1/3rd of flour mixture into the bowl and continue to mix gently until just combined.

8. Pour batter into 2 greased round 9-inch cake pans. Pop into the oven on a middle shelf for 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden, fragrant, and a toothpick inserted into the center is clean upon removal.

9. Allow cakes to cool completely. Meanwhile, make your buttercream. Take 1 cup room temperature butter or butter substitute and beat with an electric mixer or kitchen-aide mixer until fluffy.

10. Chop baker’s chocolate and melt in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each increment, until just melted. Pop into the fridge until cooled slightly, about 5 minutes.

11. Add 2 cups powdered sugar to the butter and whip until well combined. Add cocoa powder and a tablespoon or two of milk or milk substitute.

12. Once chocolate is no longer hot (lukewarm will work), add to the buttercream mixture and continue to mix. Add an additional 2 cups powdered sugar and continue to mix until well combined. From here, add up to 2 more cups powdered sugar and a few tablespoons milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

13. Once cake has completely cooked, frost as desired. I placed a layer of frosting on one layer, placed the second on top of it, then frosted the whole top and sides.

14.  Chop hazelnuts and garnish as desired. I sprinkled allll over the top and sides because I love the added crunch of nuts on frosting. Yummies.

15. Enjoy !! (It’s impossible not to 😉 )

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Bow Ties with Pears, Spinach, Walnuts, & Cherries in Rosemary Garlic Sauce

[Disclosure:] “By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Once upon a time I went out to dinner in New York with my friend Michelle. She really wanted a hearty bowl of pasta and we were both too tired to travel far, so after some yelping, we ended up at this adorable Italian restaurant a few blocks from my apartment called Spina. It was candlelight and had a charming server with an accent and for reasons beyond my explanation we were the only two at the restaurant. This has never happened to me anywhere, let alone New York City. It would have been totally romantic if it was a date. But instead we cracked terrible jokes and girl chatted and probably audibly burped a lot.

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Anyways, I got this one ravioli dish that was had handmade ravoili stuffed with some sweet pear filling and covered in rosemary sauce. I almost didn’t order it, but as if the server read my mind when I was debating about it aloud, he said (in an Italian accent): “Miss, if you are worried about the dish being too sweet, do not worry. It is not. It is perfect.”

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I looked back up into his beautiful eyes, and ordered in blind faith. He was absolutely correct. I still think about it all that ravioli all the time. It was one of those dishes so unusual you just want to keep eating it. So I did. I finished it all. I was so full I didn’t even want to get dessert after (!!).

Anywho, this is one prime example of pasta being what dreams are made of. I love me some good pasta. Nothing will ever be as good as my grandma’s (I will share my closest recipe to hers at some future time), but in the meantime, there are plenty of other creative ways to play with pasta.

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There’s also this misconception that pasta is an auto-fail for being healthy. This is false. In Italy, it’s often a small portion, served with salad and other vegetables, either incorporated into the pasta or on the side. And pasta is full of energy-providing carbohydrates and has a solid amount of plant-based protein (extra points if you use whole wheat varieties!). So when enjoyed with veggies, or in this case fruits AND veggies, pasta is certainly part of a healthy meal. It’s also cheap and filling, which is a double win for pretty much everyone. Carbs are wonderful, aren’t they? You all probably know my favorite hashtag already: #carbs5ever

This dish was inspired by the one I had in New York. It would also be really great with linguine noodles. I just had bowties on hand and bowties are fun. Anyways, it’s a relatively light, sweet, intriguing pasta dish with fruits AND veggies. The pears and cherries are intriguing and sweet, and the rosemary sauce provides a balancing bite. The spinach adds color, umami flavors, and a boatload of nutrients, while the walnuts provide protein, omega-3s, and crunch. It’s also vegan, so it appeals to those with dietary preferences and dairy intolerances. The mash up of different flavors and textures makes this pasta dish fun and interesting to just. keep. eating.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Level: easy

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked pasta (I used bowties)
  • 1 large pear
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 1/4 cup almond, soy, or regular milk
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, dried or fresh
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup crushed or chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

1. Bring 6 cups water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

2. Mince garlic. In a sauté pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottle of the pan and warm over medium heat. Add minced garlic and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

3. Slowly add almond milk and rosemary, and increase to medium-high heat. Allow the sauce to cook down and thicken, until about 1/3 its original volume. Add salt and pepper, more to taste if desired.

4. Thinly slice pear. Place pear slices into simmering sauce and cook until pears are tender, about 4 minutes.

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5. Add spinach and cooked pasta to the pan and toss with a spoon or tongs until pasta is coated with sauce. Spinach should wilt slightly in the process. Top with crushed walnuts and dried cherries, and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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 6. Enjoy!

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