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 #2: Mint Chocolate Chip Christmas Cookies (Gluten-Free)

When I went shopping for baking ingredients, I got inspired by the mint chocolate chips and Christmas-coloured chocolate chips (red, green and white) at the store.  Therefore, I couldn’t resist buying both to create these yummylicious and fun Christmas cookies!

As promised, here’s the second recipe to my healthy holiday baking.  These gluten-free and light cookies are perfect for anyone who is health conscious but loves chocolate, or the combination of mint and chocolate!  My sister-in-law, who is one of the fittest person I’ve ever known, came over last night and ate about ten of these.  Trust me, you eat about 6 of these, and you won’t feel bloated or guilty overindulging! 😉

XmasMintCookies

Makes: 24 cookies

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 13 minutes

Total Time: about 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups gluten-free all purpose baking flour (I used Robin Hood’s Nutri Flour Blend Gluten Free: http://www.robinhood.ca/Products/Nutri-Flour-Blend-Gluten-Free)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Wet Ingredients

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup organic coconut palm sugar

2 organic eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

Extra

1/2 cup mint chocolate chips

1/2 cup Christmas chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix olive oil and sugar until well combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add vanilla.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  7. Slowly add chocolate chips into batter, making sure both mint and Christmas chocolate chips are evenly distributed.
  8. With damp hands, roll 1 tablespoon of the batter into a ball, place it on the baking sheet and flatten it slightly.  Continue until batter is gone, spacing the flattened balls 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes.
  10. Enjoy! :)

 

Special Notes:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  used in replacement of butter/margarine because it’s not only healthier (cuts back on cholesterol and saturated fat content) and dairy-free, it also makes the baked goods lighter and moister!

Here’s a good site for more information and it even has a butter/margarine to olive oil conversion chart for baking: http://thepassionateolive.com/wp/baking-with-olive-oil-instead-of-butter/

Organic Coconut Palm Sugar: I’m really loving this new natural sweetener I discovered recently for baking.  As mentioned in my previous post, this natural sugar has a low glycemic index; it also has a high nutrient profile (to name a few: iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium).  To learn more about it, read this very informative article about it: http://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/

-To reduce the sugar, you can decrease amount of sugar and chocolate chips to your liking.  Also, you can replace chocolate chips with same amount of dried cranberries, raisins and/or nuts.  Be creative! 🙂

-If you don’t have mint chocolate chips, you can replace it with crushed candy canes to give it a minty taste.

 

Wishing you all love, peace, joy, hope and light this wondrous holiday season with your family and friends! 😀

xoxo, Violet 

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

Raw Mango Chocado Mousse

A few days ago I went grocery shopping for some much needed greens and local produce.  As I passed by the front of the store, I couldn’t help but notice the mangoes from Brazil were on sale.  The reason they were on sale, in my opinion, was because they were quite ripe.  Usually I would stay away from overly ripe fruits unless I really want to eat them immediately.  From previous experiences, I also know that sometimes an overly ripe fruit may be more rotten than you think.  When you peel it off, perhaps you can only eat 10-20% of it!  However, I also learned a very handy trick from my mom on how to tell when a mango is ready to be eaten, so I decided to give it a test (for some reason that day the mangoes were calling out to me, and I couldn’t step away from it! lol).  Thanks to my mom’s wise trick, I brought home a few of these perfectly ripe sweet mangoes! 🙂

Anyways,  I was planning to eat one on its own today as an afternoon snack, but then I  saw the ripe avocado and I was suddenly craving for something chocolatey as well.  Therefore, I thought about mixing all of them together.  Below, you will find the recipe to my successful Raw Mango Chocado Mousse, a refreshing twist to my Avo-Banana-Chocolate Mousse! (see https://violetseverydayadventure.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/avo-banana-chocolate-mousse/)

Whether you have it for a snack or dessert, on your own or served to your loved ones and/or friends, I hope you will enjoy its flavours as much as I did! 🙂

A perfect blend of tangy and sweet healthiness using only 6 ingredients !

A perfect blend of tangy and sweet healthiness using only 7 raw ingredients!  Plus, the combination of avocado, mango and flaxseeds contributes to beautiful glowing skin! 🙂

 

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Blending Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: about 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 small ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, diced

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, diced

2 tablespoons flaxseeds

1 tablespoon cacao powder

2-3 tablespoons natural maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup filtered water

Optional: use a few remaining mango cubes and a handful of raw cacao nibs as topping

 

Special Notes: 

Sweetness- You can control the degree of sweetness by reducing the amount of maple syrup to your preference.

Avocado- It is filled with fiber and healthy fats, lowers cholesterol,  and keeps skin smooth and youthful.  It helps protect the body from heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye and brain diseases. (info taken from my Avocado, Blueberry & Kale Salad Recipe: https://violetseverydayadventure.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/a-scrumptious-simple-satisfying-superfoods-salad/)

Mango- Eating this nutritionally rich fruit is good for you in so many ways!   To name a few health benefits from eating it: it is anti-cancer, alkalizing and has a low glycemic index (regulates blood sugar level).  Also, it aids in digestion and clears the skin!

Flaxseeds-  I love adding them into almost anything! 🙂  They are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids (good fats), lignans and fibre.  In fact, they have among the highest level of fibre in any food.  They help stabilize blood sugar, promoting cleansing.  Also, including them into your diet will help in having radiant and youthful skin.  However, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid consuming them. (info taken from my Super Bite-Sized Peanut Butter Balls Recipe: https://violetseverydayadventure.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/super-bite-sized-peanut-butter-balls/)

 

Instructions:

  1. Put avocado, mango, flaxseeds, cacao powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a blender.
  2. Add water slowly, one tablespoon of water at a time to achieve creamy consistency.
  3. Sprinkle a handful of raw cacao nibs (along with remaining mango if you like) at the top.
  4. Enjoy immediately! 🙂

Storage: can be refrigerated up to 2 hours, then must be consumed.

 

*To find out more about nutritional and health benefits of mangoes, read:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-mangos.html

http://healthmeup.com/photogallery-healthy-living/mango-health-benefits-15-healthy-reasons-to-eat-mangoes/20986

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

Avo-Banana-Chocolate Mousse

It’s back to school and it means packing energizing healthy snacks for the day! 🙂

I’m determined to continue to eat natural whole foods and stay away from processed food, so usually I will bring some fruits and/or veggies for snacks.  However, sometimes I do crave for something sweeter than a fruit but not as heavy as a muffin.  I used to bring a bowl of yogurt with fruits and raw cacao nibs as my morning snack back in the days when I was still eating dairy.  As I’m now dairy-free, I’m trying to find new healthy snacks to satisfy my sometimes sweet tooth.

I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered this awesome website http://thenourishedself.ca (The Nourished Self) that is totally right up my alley: nourishing and nurturing one’s health and well-being through natural whole foods and yoga.

Anyways, I learned from this site how to make a “sensible snack”.  A sensible snack needs to have all 3 macro nutrients: good fat, clean protein and unrefined carbohydrates.  According to The Nourished Self, having these macro nutrients in a snack will help to:

  • maintain balanced blood sugar levels
  • absorb vitamins and nutrients
  • satisfy hunger
  • maintain weight
  • maintain energy levels

(taken from http://thenourishedself.ca/index.php?page=sensible-snacks)

 

Here’s a delicious and sensible snack that I’ve been bringing to school on days I feel I need some natural sweetness and chocolate; it definitely satisfies my sweet tooth and energizes me until lunch time!

The recipe is inspired by The Nourished Self (original recipe is found here:  http://thenourishedself.ca/index.php?page=super-food-snacking-recipes) and I slightly adjusted it according to my own dietary needs and preference. 🙂

 

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Blending Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: about 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1/2 banana

4 tablespoons natural maple syrup

1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt (to taste)

a handful of (or 1-2 tablespoons) raw cacao nibs

Optional: use the remaining half of the banana (sliced) as topping, along with the raw cacao nibs

 

Instructions:

  1. Put avocado, banana, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt in a blender.
  2. Add water slowly, one tablespoon of water at a time to achieve creamy consistency.
  3. Sprinkle a handful of raw cacao nibs (along with sliced bananas if you like) at the top.
  4. Enjoy immediately! 🙂

 

Storage: can be refrigerated up to 2 hours, then must be consumed.

 

This healthy and yummy mousse can also be a delightful dessert!  I have divided 1 serving (bowl) of this mousse into my 3 tiny dessert cups. :)

This healthy and yummy mousse can also be a delightful dessert! I have divided 1 serving (bowl) of this mousse into my 3 tiny dessert cups. 🙂