Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Cookies

Fall is my favorite season (well…almost. Winter will always be my favorite, but just barely). I love the colors of the leaves, the gorgeous cool weather, rainstorms, spiced apple cider, and getting to wear coats again. Seriously, coats are fantastic. I have many of them ๐Ÿ˜€ Anyway, the one Fall trend I never really understood was “pumpkin everything.” It’s probably because my only experience with it was pumpkin pie, which I never really liked because the flavor is so strong, and the texture is so gelatinous. But The Boyfriend absolutelyย loves pumpkin, so I figured I should learn to give it a go…in a relatively healthy way, of course.

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Enter this recipe for pumpkin pie cookies! They looked absolutely phenomenal, and wait, they’re gluten-free AND vegan?! Count me in ๐Ÿ˜€ I made some pretty substantial changes to the recipe in the link, so I’ll give my version here.

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  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I didn’t sub it in equally for the almond butter because the flavor is so strong, it would overwhelm the pumpkin. Just use enough to bind everything together).
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP Truvia
  • 2 TSP pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 TSP Cinnamon
  • 1/2 TSP freshly ground ginger
  • a dash of sea salt
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 cup mini vegan dark chocolate chips (the cookies are just as good sans chocolate…but I am a chocolate junkie :D)

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Preheat the oven to 350. Mix everything but the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. I recommend using a spoon instead of an electric mixer, because you don’t want to over beat it. Make sure that the peanut butter is well blended. Check the consistency by holding a spoonful of the batter up over the bowl – if it doesn’t slide off the spoon, it’s thick enough ๐Ÿ™‚ If it’s still too thin, add more peanut butter a tablespoon at a time. You can also add more spices to your taste, but I find that this particular blend is the perfect balance for me. Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper, and drop small spoonfuls of the batter onto the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden. They will still be very soft, but that’s ok…these treats are basically a pumpkin pie in cookie form, so they should be gooey. Just make sure they hold together ๐Ÿ™‚ Best served warm!

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These little cookies are the perfect fall bite: soft, warm, fragrant, lightly chocolatey and perfectly spiced snacks with just the right amount of pumpkin. I made a triple batch of them, and they didn’t last through the work day. Everyone was asking for seconds, and I had a hard time not eating half of them myself ๐Ÿ˜‰ After trying these cookies, I am definitely a pumpkin convert. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go procure more pumpkin and make some more cookies…

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Cookies, Dessert, Gluten-free, Peanut Butter, Recipes, vegan | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Avocados are Awesome: Vegan Corn Chowder and Dark Chocolate Mousse

I discovered avocados when I started my healthier eating journey last summer. I’d always been put off by them before because of the texture, but after months of listening to people rave about the health benefits, I thought I’d give it a shot, so I made an avocado “mayonnaise” for my lettuce wraps. It was delicious, and from that moment I was hooked. I’ve been incorporated this gorgeous superfood into my diet ever since, and I started using it as a creamy substitute earlier this summer with my first attempt at vegan ice cream. After a long and stressful workday, I came home to see thatย I still had two avocados sitting in my fridge, just pleading to be eaten. So I decided to take a break to test out two incredible-looking recipes that utilized avocado: dinner and dessert.

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I love, love, LOVE chowder. The creamy base lends itself so well to a blend of various textures (and I am all about those textures, baby), and it’s so incredibly versatile. Of course, the problem for me now is that it tends to be unhealthy, full of dairy products that make me sick, and ridiculously time-consuming. So I went on a hunt for a vegan corn chowder recipe that would also be easy to make, and presto! This simple and easy recipe came along. When I looked at it, I loved the fact that it used avocado as the creamy base, and since it only has 5 ingredients, I had to try it.

My buddy the Dalek Chef decided to pay a visit.

My buddy the Dalek Chef decided to pay a visit.

My modifications to the chowder base were relatively few: extra corn and plenty of cracked black pepper. I gently pureed the soup in the Vitamix, then transferred it to a warm pan on the stove to heat it up. Once it was sufficiently hot, I put the mixture back in the Vitamix and blended it a little more. I left it chunkier than the recipe recommends…again, I am all about that texture ๐Ÿ™‚

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For an added depth of flavor, I took the left-over corn, and gently pan-roasted it. I heated up some olive oil, sprinkled the corn with paprika and a dash of cayenne, and then roasted it until it was a beautiful golden-brown color.

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I garnished the bowl of soup with that roasted corn and a dash of paprika, and I must say, it was a pretty sexy bowl of soup. I ate every last bite of it…it was the perfect balance (for me) of hot, creamy, and spicy, and the bits of corn in it really made it come alive. Definitely saved a bowl of it for lunch tomorrow, but the temptation to get seconds was hard to resist!

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Since this is a tough work week, I knew I needed more chocolate in my life. And avocado goes with chocolate almost as well as peanut butter does. Cue this recipe for an almost-vegan chocolate mousse. The only thing that prevents it from being vegan is the honey – I could have used maple syrup, but I’m saving it for a later recipe. So I just used organic local honey instead. Also, I absolutely am psyched that the recipe calls for chia seeds. I put those things in almost everything breakfast or dessert related. So much protein, and they’re so freakin’ versatile! Love it.

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I used coconut milk instead of raw milk to keep it as close to vegan (and good for my stomach!) as possible. I picked up some gorgeous raspberriesย this week, so I also blended those in with my mousse mixture, because raspberries go wonderfully with dark chocolate, and they have some great health benefits (potassium, calcium, and antioxidants) to this superfood-packed dessert.

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Look at those gorgeous colors! Only nature can produce something so beautiful ๐Ÿ™‚

I garnished my mousse with more fresh raspberries and a drizzle of local honey. Absolutely delicious…so good for you, and totally guilt-free! If you want it sweeter, you can add more honey or maple syrup, but I like it the way it is ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, time to brainstorm what else I can make with avocados….

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Posted in Chocolate, Dessert, Dinner, Gluten-free, Recipes, Soup, vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Who doesn’t love fudge? Seriously, that stuff is amazing. Every year at Christmas, I make a mint dark chocolate fudge for my family, and it rarely lasts for 24 hours. It’s thick, creamy, rich, and completely decadent. There’s two problems with it, though: it’s far too rich, and it’s made with dairy, so it’s not very good for my stomach. So when I found myself craving fudge this morning, I thought, “Why not look for a vegan recipe?” And then, voila! In the magical land of Pinterest appears this gorgeous easy recipe for peanut butter fudge.

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It’s ridiculously easy to make! I love peanut butter, so my mouth started watering as soon as I clicked on the recipe link. However, when I see a peanut butter dessert, the first thing I think is “This needs chocolate” ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, of course, I brought in my vegan cocoa powder (about 1 tsp) to make more of a Reese’s flavored fudge. Yum.

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The recipe calls for a double boiler, but ain’t nobody got money for that, so I had to get creative and make my own ๐Ÿ˜€ We have this huge metal stew pot in my kitchen (the previous tenants at my old house left it behind, and I was more than happy to claim it!), so I put about 4 inches of water in it and brought the water to a simmer. At that point, I put all my ingredients into a smaller metal pan, and suspended it above the simmering water. It worked just as well a store-bought double boiler, and there was no difference in the consistency of the mixture.

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This fudge is absolutely perfect – it’s creamy without being too rich, sweet without any added sugar or processed nonsense, and has a lovely velvety chocolate texture that practically melts in your mouth. There is a slight coconutty aftertaste because of the coconut butter, but I rather like it. If you want to mask the taste, just add an extra tsp of cocoa powder ๐Ÿ™‚ If I’m not careful, I may eat the whole batch tonight. Mmm. Vegan definitely doesn’t mean boring or bland, and this fudge proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt!

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Posted in Chocolate, Dessert, Gluten-free, Peanut Butter, Recipes, vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stress Baking: The Gluten-Free Cookie Edition

Fall officially started for me on August 12th. Yes, it was still hot outside (90+ degrees in the shade…gross) and pumpkin everything had yet to make its annual appearance, but it was still fall. Because school started! My university begins classes earlier than most (which means a longer Christmas break and early graduation, so I am totally fine with that), and on top of that, I had meetings and orientations galore for work. Once meetings started, my fall workload got crazy – this is my last year of graduate school, so I have a thesis to write on top of all my schoolwork – and I had no time to update this blog. I’ve still been cooking and experimenting with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free food, and now I finally have the time to sit down and talk about it!

Reese's Cups in cookie form.

Reese’s Cups in cookie form.

Such sea salt. Very chocolate. Wow.

Such sea salt. Very chocolate. Wow.

Earlier this week, I was exhausted and completely stressed out. Few things will make you panic more than being confronted with having to write a 100 page paper, let me tell you! On Tuesday night, I just kind of snapped. I couldn’t handle the thought of doing any more work. So I decided to take a break and do some “stress baking”…what better way to relax and unwind than making some delicious cookies? ๐Ÿ˜‰ After going through all my recipes, I couldn’t settle on one, so I went with two: a peanut butter chocolate chip version, and a dark chocolate chip sea salt one. It made for a fantastic and delicious night, let me tell you.

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So first off: the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Imagine the softest, fluffiest peanut butter cookies you’ve ever eaten (think peanut butter cloud). Now add in some smooth dark chocolate, and voila! You have the best peanut butter chocolate chip cookie ever, and it’s gluten-free!

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Of course, me being me, I made my own tweaks to the recipe ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve been loving my experimentations with vegan baking, so I decided to test out an egg substitute on these cookies. I used 1 TBSP of freshly milled flaxseed and 3 TBSP of water, and I didn’t miss the egg at all. Unfortunately, vegan chocolate chips are hard to get around here (still looking), so I went for mini-chips with the highest percent of cacao possible, in order to minimize any dairy in the chocolate. Still, they turned out fantastic.

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These cookies, like pretty much any others, are best served warm and with a glass of organic milk (or even almond milk if you’re full vegan). So much peanut buttery deliciousness, and these cookies are so incredibly easy to make! They’ll definitely be a go-to staple in my house during stressful weeks.

For recipe two, I went for a recipe that had been created vegan. I LOVE dark chocolate, and I love sea salt, and the two of them together make my taste buds dance. So when I found this recipeย for dark chocolate sea salt cookies, I knew I had to give it a try ASAP.

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Again, I couldn’t find vegan chocolate chips, but I did my best to work with what I had. I used my gluten-free flour, too, and the texture wasn’t affected at all (and my stomach was very happy). I also substituted my trusty Truvia baking blend in place of sugar. The result was far less guilt ๐Ÿ˜‰ These changes made for some delicious gluten-free (and almost vegan) results, let me tell you.

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My roommate had some local organic milk, and she was kind enough to give me a class to complement my cookies, and I was one happy baker ๐Ÿ™‚ The stress dissipated in a cloud of cookies, and I got back to work the next day feeling much more relaxed. Amazing how cooking does that for you! Stay tuned for more posts this week as I try to get caught up on writing about the recipes I’ve tried this past month!

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Posted in Baking, Cookies, Dessert, Gluten-free | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tortilla that Wasn’t

You don’t realize how much you miss burritos and quesadillas until you go gluten-free. I’ve been craving a breakfast burrito (with scrambled eggs, goat cheese, and spinach) for a couple months now, but the gluten-free tortillas you can buy from the store either crumble to pieces when you touch them or they have the taste and texture of rubber ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I foundย this recipeย for gluten-free flour tortillas yesterday, and I figured that I would give them a try this morning! They didn’t turn out *exactly* how I wanted them to, but more on that later. They were still yummy!

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My new favorite gluten-free flour is “Cup 4 Cup,” which has no bean flour (it tastes funny) and already has xanthum gum added. It tastes and acts exactly like regular all-purpose flour, so I’m going to keep this permanently on hand in my pantry. For baking powder, I use Clabber Girl, because it’s certified gluten-free and is actually pretty cheap.ย 

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The dough was a little stickier than I expected, but I dusted the rolling pin, my hands, and the board, and I was able to roll out the dough pretty easily. I rolled them out as thin as I could without breaking the dough.

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I put about 2 tsp of olive oil into a small pan, and then turned the stove on. When the pan was hot, I put the first “tortilla” in and let it get nice and bubbly and brown.

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Even as thin as they were when I put them in the pan, they puffed up really high and fast. When I took them out of the pan, they had the texture and consistency of Naan bread. They even tasted like Naan! Not that I’m complaining, mind you – I love Naan. It was delicious. I spread one with cream cheese and that lovely peach-lavender jam I got from the farmer’s market, and then cooked an egg sunny-side up with black pepper and paprika, and put it on top of another piece with some sharp cheddar. Yummy! I’ve missed sunny-side up eggs over toast, so I was happy to have this for breakfast this morning.

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For lunch later, I’m going to turn some of the Naan into PB&J with creamy peanut butter and homemade blackberry jam. You wouldn’t think you’d miss eating PB&J, but 5 months without it has me craving it, so I am very excited! And now, I must continue my quest for gluten-free tortilla that is actually a tortilla ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you like Naan, though, I recommend this recipe!

Posted in Breakfast, Cheese, farmer's market, Gluten-free, Recipes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Foray into Vegan Baking: Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I LOVE cupcakes. Who doesn’t? A well-crafted cupcake is a little piece of Heaven: light, fluffy, with a creamy and sweet frosting. When I get married, I want to have cupcakes at my wedding instead of a cake, I love them that much. When I was in college, my favorite days were always the ones when I would walk into the dining hall and see the dessert cart (which they always placed prominently near the entrance) full of chocolate cupcakes. I would wrap one up in a napkin, put it in my purse, and sneak it back to my dorm for a study-time snack. I always had to scrape off half the frosting, though, because it was far too sweet and there was too much of it, and sometimes I wouldn’t feel well afterwards. So when I discovered all my food allergies, I knew one of my first orders of business HAD to be finding a good cupcake recipe ๐Ÿ˜€

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Cue this wonderful recipeย for vegan Salted Caramel Cupcakes! When I found this page, I was absolutely thrilled. I love sea salt and caramel, and I was excited to find a recipe full of all the things I love but without all the things that make me sick. So, I just had to give it a shot. Yesterday, I rolled up my hypothetical sleeves, and set out to make cupcakes (my first time making them from scratch, too!). My lovely friend McCracken volunteered to take pictures of the process, and the photos turned out fantastic!

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Of course, I had to put my own spin on this recipe! I used Red Mill gluten-free baking flour with 1/2 tsp of Xanthum gum to keep the consistency right. I also used Truvia vegan sweetener instead of sugar, because I try to avoid processed sugar whenever possible. I also used coconut milk instead of soy milk, since that’s what I had in my fridge ๐Ÿ˜€ I also mixed in a dash of cinnamon into the batter for just a hint of spice. For the caramel frosting, I used the coconut version of vegan margarine. It was actually really delicious! I’m going to use it for the majority of my baking needs now, I think.

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The cupcake mixture itself was extremely easy to make! I blended everything by hand, and the mixture came out really smooth. The only problem I had with the recipe was thatย her baking directions are in Celsius, and it converts to 356 in Fahrenheit…so I just rounded it down to 350 and baked them for a few minutes longer.

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cupcake tinsSidenote: I absolutely adore these muffin tins. Metal ones require the use of liners to keep the batter from sticking, but with these, I just had to lightly grease them (with a vegan oil), and the cupcakes came out without a fight.

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The caramel was amazing. It took a few tries with different blenders to get it right, but it was worth it. I was skeptical of a date-based frosting, but after tasting it, I am definitely a convert! It was sweet without being overpowering because of the sea salt and the coconut butter, and it tasted just like a caramel from a restaurant. I love that it’s fruit-based and has no processed sugar!! Mmmm. This will be a go-to frosting for me from now on.

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I was worried that the frosting would be too thick and would tear up the cupcakes, but it went on smooth and creamy ๐Ÿ™‚ I sprinkled some sea salt on top, and voila! I can’t talk enough about how good these cupcakes were. They were the lightest, fluffiest cupcakes I have ever eaten, and the caramel frosting was divine. My friends gobbled them up! It was wonderful to have a guilt-free cupcake that didn’t make me sick ๐Ÿ™‚ I will be making these quite frequently, methinks.

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These cupcakes prove that desserts don’t have to be full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients! I encourage you to give them a try ๐Ÿ™‚ You won’t be disappointed.

Posted in Dessert, Gluten-free, Recipes, Uncategorized, vegan | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Summer Fruits and Veggies are the Best

Summer can be awful. I hate the bugs, heat, sunburn, and the asthma attacks. This summer was so muggy, that most days, just stepping outside was enough to send me gasping for my inhaler. I’m thankful that fall is just around the corner and cooler weather is finally starting to breeze in. The one thing I do love about summer, though, is the abundance and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that you can get anywhere for ridiculously low prices (especially the bounty at the Farmer’s Market – see yesterday’s post ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I can eat most of them on their own as snacks or sides, but I also love finding new ways to blend them into my meals and snacks! So I tried two different recipes recently, one focusing on fruit and one with veggies to use up all that gorgeous produce in my fridge.

I’ve mentioned before that I love oatmeal, and I was getting a little tired of my normal peanut butter and honey combo. So I figured I could jazz it up with some fresh fruit! I chopped up a whole cup of strawberries and an entire peach for about 3 servings of fruit. I cooked my oatmeal in almond milk and cinnamon, with a dash of sea salt, and then mixed in the fruit and a teaspoon of local honey. I usually add goat cheese for protein, but I was out, and the local market didn’t have any ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So I improvised and tossed in some cream cheese instead. The whole thing made for a light, creamy, and sweet meal that gave me almost all of my daily servings of fruit plus plenty of protein that kept me satisfied until lunchtime.

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New favorite breakfast! I might add in some mango next time :)

New favorite breakfast! I might add in some mango next time ๐Ÿ™‚

After a breakfast with all of those gorgeous colors and fresh fruits, I knew I needed to go for a dinner with some bright vegetables to balance it out ๐Ÿ™‚ I do love a good quinoa salad, so I figured I’d go from there, but jazz it up a bit. I even decided to try a yellow pepper – my mom would call it a miracle, since I’ve ALWAYS hated peppers. But the color was too beautiful to resist. So here’s the vegan recipe I came up with (it makes about 2-3 servings, depending on your portion size):

  • 1/2 cup of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup purple lettuce
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (I use organic Swanson’s, which is also gluten-free)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • cayenne pepper, paprika, and garlic powder to taste

Rinse the quinoa to remove any powdery residue. Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook for about 15 minutes. You may want to strain it to remove any leftover broth.

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Chop up kale, cucumbers, romaine, and purple lettuce – combine and set aside. Dice the yellow pepper and carrots, and put off to the side.

Aren't they gorgeous? Nature has the most beautiful colors.

Aren’t they gorgeous? Nature has the most beautiful colors.

Put the olive oil in a small pan over low heat, and add sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. When the oil starts to sizzle, add in the yellow pepper and carrot mixture. If you like spicy (like I do!) sprinkle some paprika and cayenne over the whole thing. Sautee the mixture to desired texture. I like to keep mine crunchy, so I cook the veggies just long enough to absorb the flavor of the spices and soften up just a little.

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Add the quinoa to your lettuce mixture, then when the peppers/carrots have cooled, spoon them into the bowl. Mix well, then sprinkle with salt and pepper if needed. The wonderful part about sauteeing your veggies in olive oil is that you don’t need any salad dressing or anything, which is great, because it’s extra calories youย really don’t need (and I hate salad dressing anyway). You end up with a salad that has plenty of protein, about 4 full servings of veggies, and an absolutely gorgeous array of colors. Who says salads have to be boring?! Spoiler warning: I loved the pepper ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mmmm. Gorgeous.

Mmmm. Gorgeous.

So thank you, summer, for this beautiful (and healthy) bounty! My stomach is quite content tonight ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, farmer's market, Gluten-free, Recipes, Uncategorized, vegan | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment