Christmas Recap

It is so hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone! I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or holidays) filled with family, friends, and lots of delicious vegan food!

With a Christmas tree upstairs, I don’t do a tree in my place, but I did do a bit of decorating for the first time.ย 

IMG_3431

IMG_3425

So glad I remembered where I’d tucked away these snowflakes that my late Grandma made years ago! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m officially done one third of my Natural Nutrition program and enjoying a nice break from my studies. Which gave me time to sneak in a couple days of baking before Christmas Day. The week before, I’d made these Peppermint Bark Raw Brownies to share at work.

IMG_3500

Monday, Jem and I had our annual Christmas Baking Day. We like to turn on some Christmas music and make a few different goodies at once, mostly to share with family and friends over the holidays. Since I made the switch to vegan, Jem is lovely enough to let all our choices be vegan. This year we choose to make Thin Mint Cookies, Pumpkin Blondies, ย Chocolate Chai Shortbread, and Coconut Sugar Cookies (from Vegan Food Gifts). (The links will take you to the original recipe, but I did make some changes, which I will share with you in later posts.)

IMG_3543

IMG_3541

IMG_3548

IMG_3545

(Please ignore the non-vegan red sprinkles on Jem’s cookies.)

And Christmas Eve I baked a Cranberry Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (this one, but with fresh cranberries added), and Christmas morning I baked fresh Herb Drop Biscuits. These were my contribution to my family’s Christmas brunch.

IMG_3555

I’m feeling completely spoiled from Christmas! This is all the vegan/cooking/baking-related stuff I was lucky enough to receive.

IMG_3558

IMG_3561

IMG_3562

Can you detect any themes? Seems as though my family has figured out that if I get kitchen stuff and Lush stuff, I will be a super happy camper!

Not sure if I’ll have another post for you before the end of 2013, so just in case I miss it: have a very Happy New Year! See you in 2014!

P.S. – I am so excited about my new Crockpot, but have never used one before. Does anyone have any favourite or tried-and-true vegan slow-cooker recipes they’d like to share?

Also, I’d love to hear about your favourite moment or favourite gift from this year’s holidays!

Advertisements

Chocolate and Almonds: Two Ways

In the past week, without even realizing it, I have made two different things which both focus on the flavours of chocolate and almonds.

First up is Chocolate Almond Porridge. You’d never know it from the two chocolate and nut-butter porridges on this blog (check out my Peanut Butter Porridge), but for a long time the only oatmeal I ever made was totally focused on dates, apples, and almonds (I will post this recipe next time I make it). I made this one morning when I was in need of a treat. It is rich and chocolatey, not too sweet, and has three incarnations of almond. Its hard not to love a breakfast that feels like dessert, but is actually really good for you. I was more than happy to eat this 3 mornings in a row.

Chocolate Almond Porridge
1 cup large flake oats
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup ground flax
1/8 cup wheat bran
1/8 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut (or brown) sugar (depending on your prefered sweetness level)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp carob powder
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Combine all ingredients, except the last four, to a medium-sized pot. Heat on medium until water has started to absorb and mixture is starting to bubble. Now stir in the sliced almonds, sugar, cocoa, and carob powders until well combined. Turn heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is fully absorbed and the oats are cooked, about 10 minutes longer. Enjoy!

I like mine with some non-dairy milk poured over.

Next up are Almond Joy Cookie Bars from Peas and Thank You. I used the recipe from the book, which is a little different from this version online, doubled it, and altered it a bit. To minimize confusion I’m going to write my version here.

Almond Joy Cookie Bars
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1 cup large flake oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup vegan mini dark chocolate chips
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 cup natural almond butter (the only ingredient is almonds)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ยฐ and lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine flours, oats, coconut, almonds, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the sugars, almond butter (you might need to heat it up a bit to soften it), milk, and extracts.

Pour wet mixture into dry and stir until just combined. Spread batter into your prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Crazy for Coconut: Blueberry Coconut Crumble Bars

Blueberries are definitely one of my most used fruits. In the summer I like to buy large quantities of fresh local blueberries and freeze them for the fall and winter months. Having this supply has meant that I’ve learned to love blueberries in almost everything I bake: muffins, breads, cakes, and crisps. They almost always make an appearance in my smoothies as well.

The inspiration for these bars came when I saw this recipe for Blackberry Coconut Bars. I liked the idea of making fruit bars, which I’ve never actually done before, but I knew I wanted oats in my bars as well. After looking at a few different recipes I ended up using the base/topping from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Date Bars (page 128) in The Joy of Vegan Baking, adding coconut (shredded, sugar, and oil) and making other changes to make itย healthier than the original. For the filling I tossed frozen blueberries with some cornstarch, agave, and vanilla, as I’d seen done in a few different recipes.

These bars are moist, crumbly, and only slightly sweet. They are quick and simple to make, and I really loved the combination of blueberries and coconut. The coconut craze seems to be in full swing and, as you can probably tell by the use of 3 forms of coconut in the following recipe, I have become a willing participant.

Blueberry Coconut Crumble Bars
Base/Topping:
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
4 tsp ground flax
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C coconut sugar (sucanat or brown sugar would work)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/4-1/2 cup water
Filling:
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 cup agave
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350ยฐF (180ยฐC) and lightly grease a 9-inch (23cm) square or 9×13-inch (23x33cm) pan. For the base/topping, in a large bowl thoroughly combine the oats, coconut, ground flax, salt, sugar, and flour. Heat the coconut oil (I use the microwave) until it is mostly liquid. Pour into bowl with dry ingredients, and add 1/4 cup of water. Stir together until totally combined. It should be moist but not wet, and will form little clumps. Add more water if needed. Press half of this mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. For the filling, combine the blueberries, vanilla, and agave in a small bowl. Add the cornstarch and stir until coated. Spread this mixture out on top of the base (it might not look like enough filling, but when cooked it will be). Crumble the remaining half of the base/topping mixture over top of the blueberries. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is slightly browned. Let cool 5 minutes, then cut into bars. Enjoy!

Sorry, for the bad picture, but you get the idea! I love that deep purple blueberry colour!

When you cut these bars you will probably end up with quite a bit of crumbles left in the dish. My suggestion: add them to your next bowl of oatmeal, cereal, or granola for a nice breakfast treat. That is if you can stop yourself from eating them right out of the pan!

Questions:
Have you joined the recent coconut craze? Do you have a favourite form of coconut to bake/cook with?
I’ve started baking with coconut oil and I really like the results so far. I love using coconut milk to make creamy sauces, and I really enjoy the brown sugar-like flavour of coconut sugar.

Do you have a favourite recipe that showcases coconut (in any form)? Please share.
I love this Pineapple Coconut Bread, but these bars are a close second.