Vegan & Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares

One of my favourite food combinations in the world is peanut butter and chocolate.  The taste is simply delectably divine!

I made these decadently rich peanut butter chocolate squares and gave them to a few people to try. They loved it so much that they want the recipe, so I decided to put it here. 🙂

For all you peanut butter and chocolate lovers out there, this easy delicious no-bake recipe is made for you.  Enjoy!!

peanutbutterchocolatesquare

Makes: 9

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes

Total Time: about 20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan margarine

1 cup organic icing sugar

1 cup organic peanut butter

1/2 cup crushed gluten-free crackers

1 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional: If you don’t like that “crunchy” texture for your squares, you can leave out the crackers.

 

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter into medium saucepan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add icing sugar, 1/2 cup of peanut butter and cracker crumbs, and mix well.
  3. Spread mixture in a 8 x 6 inch rectangular glass baking pan, or a dish of a similar size.
  4. Melt chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of peanut butter into another saucepan on medium-high heat.
  5. Pour chocolate chips and peanut butter mixture over the filling and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6. Let pan sit out for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

 

Special Notes:

-For vegan margarine, I used Earth Balance’s Original: http://www.earthbalancenatural.com/product/original-buttery-spread

-For organic icing sugar, I used Wholesome Sweeteners’ Organic Powdered/Icing Sugar: http://wholesomesweeteners.com/Products/productdetail/tabid/170/PId/10/Organic-Powdered-Sugar.aspx

-For gluten-free crackers, I used Mary’s Organic Crackershttp://www.marysorganiccrackers.com/your-products/crackers/original-seed-crackers

-For vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, I used Enjoy Life’s mini chips: http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/chocolate-for-baking/mini-chips

Healthy Holiday Baking Recipe #1: Candy Cane Breton Brittle

Dear readers,

I’m thrilled that my holidays has officially begun, despite the ice storm raging outside, and I can finally relax and enjoy this time with family and friends, and have some personal me time as well. 🙂  It’s been a crazy past two weeks trying to balance everything from Christmas shopping, personal appointments and commitments to work demands  etc.

During these past two intense weeks I also began my holiday baking.  In fact, I have been baking daily for about a week now.  I have decided that this year I just want to bake for family and friends as gifts. While it is time- consuming, it is also very pleasurable and rewarding!

I’m super excited to share with you two easy and quick yummy recipes that was a big hit with my family and friends, and these baked goods also look very festive as part of a dessert platter for any party this holiday season!

Here’s recipe #1: Candy  Cane Breton Brittle

*I got this Breton Brittle recipe from a classmate in my cooking class; I altered it slightly to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and “Christmas-y” too!

CandyCaneBretonBrittle

Makes: 1 pan

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: about 20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Crackers (I used Glutino’s Gluten Free Crackers, see: http://www.glutino.com/products/crackers/)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar

1 cup vegan margarine

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used this one that is dairy-free and gluten-free: http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/chocolate-for-baking/mini-chips/)

1/2 cup crushed candy canes

 

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (instead of crushed candy canes)

 

Instructions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Arrange a layer of crackers on the foil/parchment paper.  Fill in spaces with broken crackers.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and margarine.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil and appears “frothy”.  Keep stirring and don’t let the mixture burn!
  4. Pour the mixture evenly over the crackers.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 6 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  When the chips become soft, spread evenly over the cracker mixtures.
  7. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
  8. Chill until chocolate is set.
  9. Break into pieces to serve.
  10. Enjoy!! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-The longer you let the sugar/butter mixture “froth”, the harder the caramel will be.  If you like a softer caramel, pour it on the crackers right after it comes to a boil.

Here’s a picture of how the caramel should look when it is frothy:

frothycaramel

-I used 1/2 cup of organic coconut palm sugar instead of an entire cup of brown sugar because I like the fact that the organic coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index (this holiday treat is so sweet already so trying to look for a way to “lower” a bit of the sugar level and make it slightly “healthier”).  Plus, it has a richer caramel and/or butterscotch flavour than brown sugar.  I wish an entire cup of organic coconut palm sugar could have been used to make the caramel.  Unfortunately while experimenting with only a cup of coconut palm sugar, I discovered it wasn’t combining well with the margarine, so a little bit of brown sugar had to be added in order for the caramel to form.

 

Recipe #2 for healthy holiday baking is on its way soon so stay tuned! 🙂

Happy Baking!!

 

Cheers, Violet

 

BretonBrittleSanta

Freshly-Baked Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread Photo

 

So I was on a pumpkin baking frenzy, trying to finish up the pumpkin puree I had stored.  Unfortunately I ran out of gluten-free flour, but had some whole wheat flour left from before I became gluten-free. Therefore, I decided to use it to make some pumpkin bread for my classmates from my cooking class and even had extra to share with a friend.

According to everyone, the pumpkin bread is very healthy, fresh and tastes “organic”.

Here’s the recipe to this high fibre and low sugar pumpkin bread that will go nicely with your cup of milk/tea/coffee in the morning! 🙂

 

Makes: 1 loaf

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

 

Special Note:

-To make it sugar-free, you can choose not to add in the honey.

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

 

Wet Ingredients

2 large eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree

 

Optional:

If you have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins, mix them together and you can sprinkle a handful of them on top of the loaf.

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Make a hole in the centre and put in eggs, coconut oil, honey and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Fold in the pumpkin puree and mix.
  5. Pour batter into a well-greased large loaf pan.
  6. Sprinkle sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins on top (if you have).
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes; check if it’s completely done by inserting a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.
  8. Let bread cool completely, or wait about 10-15 minutes to eat it freshly hot/warm. :)

 

Healthy Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

Life has been very crazy busy lately.  For example, within one week (last week), I witnessed 3 beautiful weddings, new beginnings for 3 amazing couples, and experienced the passing of a loved one.  Such is the circle of life, and the joys and sorrows that is all part of living.  The only thing we can do is enjoy and appreciate every moment, including the ups and downs of life, and just go with the flow; and cherish memories.

Today I finally have a chance to really sit back, and reflect upon what happened the past week, also take comfort and joy in baking on this rainy day. 🙂

Fortunately my father still has an appetite and a sweet tooth, despite his disease.  I know he secretly craves his Tim Hortons’ muffins but he is no longer allowed to eat “outside” or processed food, so homemade food is the way to go.

Using only natural ingredients such as pumpkins, bananas and raisins, I dedicate this Fall-inspired gluten-free and dairy-free muffin recipe to him.  He really liked eating these muffins that I made especially for him!

I hope you enjoy making and eating these yummy, light and moist muffins with your loved ones! 🙂

 

PumpkinRaisinMuffins

 

Makes: 24

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it sugar-free, you can choose not to add in the maple syrup.  I added it, because my father does have a sweet tooth, and I think maple syrup is a healthy natural sweetener.  See: health and nutritional benefits of eating maple syrup: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan buttery spread, melted

4-5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 cup raisins

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  5. Slowly add raisins into batter.
  6. Fill each baking cup evenly with the batter.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Let the muffins cool completely, or eat one while still warm. 🙂

 

 

A Festive Fall Dessert: Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cake

When Fall arrives, all I think about is PUMPKINS!!  I really like the smell, taste and texture of the ripe pumpkins during this season.

I love this time of year when the leaves change into beautiful colours, and fruits and vegetables are ready to be picked and eaten; and it’s always fun to have a hot cup of apple cider after a nice outdoor hike or walk!  Another special reason that I love Fall is that many of my dearest family members and friends are born during this season, so it’s one joyful celebration after another.  Plus, Thanksgiving is one of my most favourite celebrations as it’s a time to gather with our loved ones and be thankful for all the wonderful things we have in our lives. 🙂

In honour of my favourite season and a few special friends, who have been with me through thick and thin, I made the following cake for their joint birthday party.

This scrumptious cake is gluten-free, dairy-free and is naturally sweet!

After a bite, one of my friends said that it reminds her of pumpkin pie.  If you’re looking for something different this year, I think this cake is the perfect replacement for the pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving meal! 🙂

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

Makes: 1 cake

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it nut-free, you can skip the walnuts as topping.

-If you like, you can eat cake without icing, and that means you can eat it fresh and warm immediately! 🙂

-It’s best to refrigerate leftovers and consume within 3 days for best taste and texture.

 

For Cake

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (you can also make your own, see: http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/make-your-own-gluten-free-baking-powder)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup honey

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin; or you can make your own fresh pumpkin purée, see: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/cooking_school/how_to_make_pumpkin_puree_from_fresh_pumpkins.php)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 large egg, whisked

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 cup dark chocolate chunks

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray a round cake pan or Bundt pan.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  6. Slowly add chocolate chunks into batter.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared cake/Bundt pan.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost crumb free.

 

For Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (I used Daiya’s Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread)

4 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, softened (I used Earth Balance’s Soy Free Buttery Spread)

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups organic icing sugar

10 whole walnuts, semi-crushed or coarsely chopped

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix cream cheese, buttery spread, maple syrup, and vanilla into a blender/food processor.
  2. Add in the icing sugar one cup at a time into blender/food processor, until smooth.
  3. When the cake is cool, frost with the icing.
  4. Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours before serving.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

 

*I give credit to the following sites for helping me in creating this delightful festive Fall cake:

~Original Recipe for Cake: http://www.familyfreshcooking.com/2013/09/30/gluten-free-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cake-recipe/#.UlNf79IQbmc

~Original Recipe for Icing: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca/2005/12/maple-frosted-pumpkin-cake.html

 

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing upcoming time with your family and friends! 🙂

 

xoxo, Violet

 

P.S. Love this quote for this season: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”—Melody Beattie

Quinoa for Breakfast!

Quinoa Breakfast

I first tasted quinoa when I was travelling throughout Peru in 2011 and learned that it was a staple to the Peruvian diet.  While I was in Peru, I really enjoyed quinoa in a variety of culinary ways, from hearty soups to delicious desserts.  In fact, my favourite memory of eating quinoa was having it as a scrumptious strawberry quinoa pudding for dessert after dinner on top of a mountain, as we settle in for the night, eagerly awaiting to see Machu Picchu at sunrise the next day. 🙂

Fast forward 2 years later, quinoa seems to be the new health buzz word in North America.  Everywhere I go, it is on restaurants’ menus and in grocery stores.  It is even included in all the health books and magazines I’m hungrily reading to learn more about healthy food and diet.

To sum it up: Quinoa is a seed (many people assume it is a grain, but it isn’t!!) that comes in white, red or black.  It is a superfood because it is a good source of protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamins B and E.  It is also gluten-free!  Therefore, it is perfect for vegetarians, vegans and people with gluten sensitivity or celiacs.

As I’m now gluten-free and also trying to cut down on my meat consumption, quinoa is another great alternative I can turn to for protein, and substitute for rice or pasta.  I am by no means an expert in cooking quinoa, and have been reading books and websites to learn how to cook it well, and getting some more recipe ideas.

Anyways, I got really excited when I was chatting with my vegetarian friend Mythili and she mentioned she eats quinoa for breakfast!  I thought what a wonderful way to start off the day with energy and happiness!!

I will now share with you a recipe Mythili passed on to me, and I tweaked it a bit with whatever I found in my kitchen, and as you know, I like to experiment with some of the ingredients in recipes.  After all, creativity in the kitchen is so much fun!! 😀

 

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Total TIme: about 25 minutes

 

Special notes:

-Turmeric- has health and beauty properties, mostly anti-inflammatory effects and helps increase blood circulation thus contributing to healthier and radiant looking skin!

Milk- you can replace the unsweetened almond milk with any other type of non-dairy milk you like!  For example, Mythili used rice milk for this recipe.

-Spice- instead of turmeric, you can replace it with cinnamon if you prefer a more flavourful tang, as turmeric is slightly bitter to taste

-Fruit toppings- you can put any fruits you like on top!  Mythili put blueberries in hers.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup unsweetend almond milk

1/2 cup filtered water

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 banana, sliced

handful of sliced strawberries

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix the quinoa, almond milk, water and ground turmeric into a pan at medium heat.
  2. Mix contents once in a while.
  3. Add sliced banana into the pan.  When the quinoa is cooked, take the pan off the stove.
  4. Plate the food and add a handful of strawberries.
  5. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Resources I used on learning about and how to cook quinoa:

The Power of Food: 100 Essential Recipes for Abundant Health and Happiness by Adam Hart, page 111

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-quinoa-63344

http://lowfatveganchef.com/how-to-cook-quinoa-perfectly-every-time/

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101/kitchen_tips_techniques/how_to_cook_quinoa

http://www.queenofquinoa.me/get-to-know-quinoa/

Spicy & Sweet Purple Potato Fries

I have a confession to make, and I guess if you know me very well you know that, I’m obsessed with the colour PURPLE!!  As long as something is purple, I love it!  Therefore, it’s no surprise that even when it comes to food, I get excited about purple too. 😛  I’m totally in love with purple sweet potatoes!

Here are some healthy facts I found out about this beautiful and sweet vegetable that may entice you to love it as well! 🙂  They…

-are a good source of calcium, iron, manganese, copper, vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (this is the kind of carbohydrates that are recommended for us to include a lot of to be healthy and have sustained energy throughout the day)

-have anti-aging properties; makes skin glowing and radiant!

-have anti-cancer properties; the purple pigment (anthocyanin) is an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and actually the antioxidant level of a purple sweet potato is 150% more than blueberries!

-help protect against cardiovascular problems and inflammation-related health issues

-are diabetic friendly as they are low in sugar; help maintain and regulate stable blood sugar level

-are low in fat and sodium

 

Now that you know the nutritional benefits of eating purple sweet potatoes, why don’t you try making the following easy, quick and healthy recipe?

If you’re craving for something spicy and sweet at the same time, this recipe can satisfy both too. 🙂

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer!  They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer! They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 12-15 minutes

Total TIme: about 25 minutes

 

Special notes:

-Purple Sweet Potatoes- they have a natural sweetness already 🙂

-Nutritional Yeast- it is gluten-free and a great substitute for cheese (it tastes cheesy!); plus 3 tablespoons of it supply 9 grams of complete protein (has the 18 amino acids); because it is rich in B-complex vitamins, and along with the protein, it keeps the hair strong, shiny and healthy!

-Cinnamon- regulates blood sugar, improves colon health and protects against heart disease (see under “Resources” section for links if you want to know more health benefits)

-Sea Salt- helps with digestion, builds a strong immune system, prevents cardiovascular-related health problems, and helps maintain consistent sugar level (see below in “Resources” section to learn more)

-Olive Oil- builds a strong immune system, and fights against disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis etc.

 

Ingredients:

2 large purple sweet potatoes, peeled

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Slice sweet potatoes into thin pieces like french fries.

3. Mix nutritional yeast, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt in a big bowl.

4. Add the sweet potatoes and mix using a spoon or spatula, until all the pieces are well coated, and place them on baking tray.

5. Drizzle fries with olive oil on baking tray.

6. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked.

7. Enjoy! 😀

 

Resources on Purple Sweet Potatoes, Nutritional Yeast, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Olive Oil:

http://cancer.vg/en/ipomoea-batatas-purple-sweet-potato

http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/okinawan-sweet-potato-purple-powerhouse-nutrition

http://www.livestrong.com/article/286212-purple-sweet-potato-nutrition/

http://herbalacup.blogspot.ca/2013/05/purple-sweet-potato-eating-can-increase.html

The Beauty Detox Foods: Discover the Top 50 Beauty Foods that Will Transform Your Body and Reveal a More Beautiful You by Kimberly Snyder, pages 117-118 on Nutritional Yeast

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html?page=1

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68

http://www.seasalthealth.com/2012/04/11/health-benefits-of-sea-salt/

http://readynutrition.com/resources/10-health-benefits-of-sea-salt_15092011/

http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-benefits

http://www.naturalnews.com/041521_olive_oil_heart_health_skin_and_hair.html