gluten free/ no-bake treats/ snacks/ vegan

chocolate coconut date fudge bites

Do you like chocolate? And cake? I’ll answer those questions for you with a resounding YES, yes, very much so. Chances are you also like fudge. If so, I’d say we’re off to a fabulous start. In fact, we’re most certainly well on our way to becoming lifelong buddies; bffs who are fudge connoisseurs together, stick together.

Perhaps you simply don’t have a massive sweet tooth. Or maybe you don’t have a “sweet” tooth at all (*gasp*). If that’s the case, I’m incredibly flattered that you’re perusing my self-diagnosed sweet as (in the literal sense) blog. I also want to let you in on the magic of these fudge bites.

Although they may *scream* dessert, they are not like any ordinary sweet treat. If you consider yourself a savoury snacker, if you reach for salty chips at a party instead of chocolate-studded cookies or brownies, then these flax crackers may very well better float your snack boat.

Having said that, I also want to disclose some possibly paradigm-shifting information: although these fudge bites reside on the sweeter end of the snack spectrum, the taste of sugar will not tyrannize your taste buds. Instead, coconut and dates run the show (and it’s truly a standing-ovation-worthy show).

In other words, these chocolatey bites are proof that you can have your cake fudge and eat it too. Densely packed with coconut flour, cacao powder, and dates, they are chock full of whole-foods-derived healthy fats and minerals. Did you know that 1/4 cup of cacao powder delivers a whopping ~16%, ~26%, and ~41% of your daily recommended amounts of iron, magnesium, and manganese, respectively?*

The raw, chocolatey magic powder is also rich in flavanols, an antioxidant which, as recent randomized controlled trials suggest, works to protect the brain and improve cognition.

Despite being demonized by some individuals because of its saturated fat content, coconut actually delivers ~50% of its fat in the form of mcts, or medium chain triglycerides. These shorter fatty acids are more immediately converted into energy compared to long chain fatty acid fats, which compromise 98% of all dietary fat! More simply put, these snack bites offer a source of truly quick-bursting energy.

In addition to providing a readily available source of mitochondrial fuel, these unassuming little guys also feature an extraordinarily high amount of fiber (aka your gut’s best friend) thanks to the coconut flour. If you’re celiac or happen to lean towards more low-carb eating, know that coconut flour is squeaky clean of gluten!

Behold: a healthy, whole-foods-based “treat” that gives the impression of bold indulgence. Shall we say goodbye to post-snacking guilty remorse forever?

coconut date fudge bites

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Serves: ~8

Ingredients

  • 1 packed cup pitted dates (~12-14 medjool dates)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsps maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
  • 1 tbsp water (or sub more syrup if you'd like a bit more sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch salt
  • Glaze:
  • 2 tbsps unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup, honey, or other liquid sweetener
  • ~1/3 cup shredded coconut to top!

Notes

*Cacao powder nutrition information sourced from nutrition data .
*Recipe loosely adapted from Minimalist Baker's chocolate cake bites !

gluten free/ no-bake treats/ snacks/ vegan

chocolate black bean mousse bars: a wonderful oddity

These mousse bars feature one whole can of black beans. Yes, you read that right. Beans. In dessert? Oh yes. Please bear with me, and try not to totally denounce the concept just yet. These mousse bars are here to mess up any and all pre-conceived notions you may have about sweets/desserts and, most relevantly, MOUSSE.

Mousse is likely that luscious stuff you’ve been served at the end of a fancy Italian meal, topped with curls of grated chocolate. Or maybe it’s that light and airy, shaving-cream-esque, dessert you make at home on special occasions using heavy whipping cream. Although both forms of mousse are divine, from this day forward I think I’ll be predominantly bathing my taste buds in dark chocolate black bean mousse. It’s quite the mouthful, and, I admit, sounds a little ridiculous, but the final product is no laughing matter (unless we’re talking laughs of joyful befuddlement, of course).

Without being too hyperbolic, let me simply stress how unfathomably rich and creamy (and healthy!) this mousse is. Have I already mentioned that it’s 100% sweetened with dates? Dates! Which are a fruit! Which means this mousse contains fiber, which, I might add, is also the least noteworthy and fabulous thing packed into dates (here are some links to help you justify indulging your sweet tooth in nature’s candy: 1, 2). Also, to all the pregnant ladies out there, dates have apparently proven themselves to be fruitful friends in the late stages of pregnancy.

Behold: a profoundly chocolatey dessert that doesn’t scream “healthy” or “full-of-beans” or “I’m only sweetened with FRUIT,” despite being all of those things (and more).

Although it may sound like a chore to make (i.e. be honest, Meg, how hard did you have to work to cover up the healthy, earthy-flavored ingredients?), the irony is that the mousse actually gains a whopping amount of it’s desired creaminess from the beans and dates.

The uniquely creamy “mousse” texture that is usually attained by whipping together inordinate amounts of heavy cream and butter has been successfully supplanted by beans and dates. How delightfully simple and strange, huh? :~)

I also added a few tbsps of melted coconut oil for good measure; this mousse may be far lower in fat than traditional mousse, but it is by no means a poster dessert for an anti-fat diet movement (give me real butter or don’t, but please, do not give me margarine!). Also, the tad bit of oil helps harden up the mousse ever so slightly in the fridge. Leaving out the oil or replacing it with nut butter or milk will likely result in a mousse that doesn’t hold it’s shape as a bar (in other words, go for it if you’d rather eat this mousse with a spoon than slice it up into squares!).

chocolate black bean mousse bars

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Ingredients

  • Mousse:
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 packed cup pitted dates, softened* (deglet noor or medjool will work!)
  • 1/2 cup cacao or cocoa powder (I used an equal mix of both)
  • 3 tbsps coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsps date water* (or maple syrup if you'd prefer more sweetness)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch or two salt (~1/8 tsp kosher salt)
  • Dark chocolate layer: 
  • 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa
  • 2 heaping tbsps unsalted almond butter (or other nut butter of choice)
  • 2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
  • 1-2 tbsps maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener (add to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Notes

*I find that store-bought deglet noor dates (and sometimes also medjool) are usually quite dry and tough to blend, so I recommend covering them with hot water for ~10-15 minutes, until noticeably more soft to the touch! Be sure to reserve the date water for blending.
*If your dates are already divinely soft and gooey, simply use water or a liquid sweetener in place of the date water (it won't make any difference!).
*Made with a standard loaf pan (9x5 inch); if using an ~8x8 inch square pan (or larger) the batter will spread a little out more, so you may want to double the recipe if you're after especially thick bars.

gluten free/ snacks/ vegan

5 seed pepita butter

 As you’ve probably gleaned from the title, this is not a nut butter, nor is it a single-seed butter; it’s a super seedy butter concoction. There are a total of 5 seeds in the mix, and, if you’re more daring than me, that number could definitely be amped up to include more (though I personally will be leaving the concept of poppy seed butter on the burner, at least for now…)

Pumpkin seeds make up the bulk of this butter, but you can definitely switch and swap the amounts of the other seeds to suit your fancy (think sunflower seeds are for birds? No offense taken, you can simply swap them out for more sesame or hemp seeds).

I realize that the thought of “pumpkin seed butter” may seem a little frightening. It’s green and, perhaps for that reason alone, automatically conveys strangeness. The idea of doing anything other than apathetically sprinkling the seeds on top of your bowl of morning oatmeal may sound bizarre (trust me, I’ve been there), but I’d like to convince you why you’re missing out if that’s all you think they’re good for.


To start: why seed butter? And why these seeds, in particular? Well, the odd truth is that I was beginning to feel a little strange about the inordinate amounts of almond butter I was consuming; almonds are a delicious, nutritious, all around amazing nut, but they also require a disproportionate amount of water to grow compared to other nuts and seeds. Also, my daily heaping-spoonfuls-of-almond-butter habit was beginning to wear down on it’s rightful novelty (which is never a good thing when a product is pricey, both in terms of $ and resources).

I tried, and failed, to hop on the tahini-over-oatmeal bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s a viable nut-butter replacement (but, as you’re probably thinking, why listen to me anyway? Tahini over oatmeal may in fact be your jam). Before re-resorting to my childhood obsession with peanut butter, I realized, in a moment of underwhelming epiphany, how much I like pumpkin seeds, how much I like butter, and how well those two things theoretically go together.

Suffice to say the transition to a seedier life has been smooth; this seed butter ticks all the boxes (creamy, tight-budget-friendly, healthy, not-gross). Having said that, however, there may be one caveat; it’s no new fact that the taste of “sweet” has to pervade nearly everything we Americans eat, but this seed butter will not deliver on that desire (unless, of course, you add a few pinches of sugar to the mix).

The lack of naturally occurring sugars in these seeds (at least compared to almonds/cashews, which are very sweet relatively speaking), may come as a surprise, especially if you’re used to sweetened nut butter. Nonetheless, as murky colored as this butter may be, the resulting flavor is far from lake-water. In fact, it’s rich and delicious, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a healthy change to their daily breakfast/snack/margarine-on-toast routine. I hope you enjoy this somewhat wacky concoction as much as I do; and let’s say goodbye to palm-oil-laden store-bought butters forever (or at least until we’re in a pinch and really need some).

5 seed pepita butter

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups raw shelled pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 1 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsps chia seeds (or hemp seeds)
  • 2-4 tbsps flax oil* (add based on desired consistency)
  • Pinch or two salt (optional; add to taste)
  • Granulated sugar to taste* (optional; I prefer to omit this, but if you'd like a bit more sweetness simply add it gradually by the tsp)

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 350 F. Measure out flax seeds and grind in a food processor or spice grinder until they resemble a powdery meal. Set aside.

2

Spread the pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and sesame seeds out on a baking tray (if using hemp seeds omit them from this step), and bake for ~10 minutes, until a faint toasted smell emanates from your oven and the seeds have taken on a slight golden hue (be very watchful, as over-baking them even slightly will cause them to emit too much of their precious oil, resulting in a dry butter). Allow to cool for ~15 minutes before pouring into your high-powered blender or food processor.

3

Blend the seeds on low-medium speed for 4-6 minutes, frequently pushing down on the seed butter with the tampering device if you're using a blender; if using a food processor, you will probably have to stop it a few times to scrape down the sides with a spoon. Add 2 tbsps flax oil and continue to blend, adding 1-3 more tbsps as you go in order to achieve your desired consistency. It may feel like eternity, but eventually the fats in the seeds will break down and spin into a creamy, luscious butter.

4

Finally, add a pinch or two of salt and/or granulated sugar to make things pop a bit more. It's as simple as that~ and now it's time to drizzle/spread it on (nearly) everything! I especially like this butter with sliced apples and pears, and dolloped over granola and oatmeal.

Notes

* Flax seeds are difficult to absorb in their whole form, plus they sometimes have trouble breaking down once added to a blender full of other, particularly creamy/liquid, ingredients, so pre-grinding them a bit will help ensure you absorb the most of their rich, omega-3 profile.
* You could also use coconut/macadamia/walnut/etc. oil, but know that the flavor may vary slightly; I definitely wouldn't recommend sesame oil because of it's strong savory flavor.
*Granulated sugars are preferable here because liquid sweeteners have the tendency to make butters seize up and lose their creamy, flowing consistency.

baked sweets/ breakfast/ gluten free/ vegan

sesame banana bread granola

When it comes to granola, I like to eat my cake and have it too. Let me explain. I have an affinity for granola that puts it on par with ice-cream, donuts, and other chocolate-sugar-icing-covered things. In other words, I’m more excited walking through the granola aisle in the grocery store than I am walking through the candy aisle, or even the ice-cream aisle. Do I sound like an 8 year old child, or is this a sentiment that other adults can get behind? (Although, to be honest, at 24 I’m hardly on the cusp of real “adulthood”).

As with any long-term love story, my love for granola hasn’t been squeaky free of drama; my other love, for whole-foods-based eating, always clashed with, well, the very nature of granola. In short, I found myself wanting to change the very essence of granola (the high sugar/highly-processed oils), and was frustrated when I couldn’t. I tried applesauce granola, and reduced-oil granola, but neither sufficed in crunchiness and tastiness. As is evident from this post, however, my slightly melodramatic (and obviously metaphorical) love story with granola has a happy ending.

This sesame banana bread granola is a granola I can wholeheartedly get behind every.single.day. It is truly an everyday kind of granola, healthy enough to fill to the brim of your cereal bowl every morning, without inducing a knee-jerking sugar hit (a true rarity in this day and age of highly-processed, packaged breakfast foods).

So, Meg, you might be thinking, can you get to the point about what makes this recipe so special?

1. Tahini! (translation: ground sesame seed paste)
2. Ripe, spotty bananas! (translation: so very ripe and speckled you couldn’t be enticed to eat them whole)

Those are the real winners in this recipe, but they don’t stand alone; add some oats (of course), whole sesame seeds, sunflower seeds (or another seed of choice), as well as a tad of maple syrup (or honey, rice syrup, etc.), and you’ve got a big ol’ batch of granola-in-waiting!

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or would simply rather keep the sugar level to the bare minimum, simply omit the syrup with no adverse effects! I’ve tried both versions, and can say that the standalone banana-sweetened version still offers up a noticeably subtle sweetness. Happy crunching, everyone!

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or would simply rather keep the sugar level to the bare minimum, simply omit the syrup with no adverse effects! I’ve tried both versions, and can say that the standalone banana-sweetened version still offers up a noticeably subtle sweetness. Happy crunching, everyone!

sesame banana bread granola

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats 
  • 2 very ripe & spotty bananas, mashed (~3/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup tahini (preferably a runny kind)
  • 3 tbsps maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener, though the flavor may vary slightly)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ~1/4 tsp kosher salt (add to taste)
  • 1/2 cup goji berries, sliced dates, chopped dried banana, or other dried fruit(s) of choice! (to stir in post-baking)

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 320 F. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until there aren't any inordinately large chunks. Stir in the tahini, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Next, add the oats, both seeds, spices, and salt directly to the bowl of wet ingredients (creating a little mound). Lightly mix together the heap of dry ingredients before fully incorporating into the wet mixture.

2

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and use a spatula to spread out the granola into a sheet of relatively even thickness. Bake on a lower rack in the oven (bottom third), carefully flipping once at the ~20 minute mark (at this point you can also break up the sheet of oats into pieces of your desired size). Return to a middle rack in the oven for a further 12-17 minutes; once many of the pieces are noticeably deep golden around the edges, remove the pan and allow to cool, untouched, for a good 3o-ish minutes to ensure optimum crunchiness! Store in a glass container for 1-2 weeks until future noms.

Notes

This recipe was inspired by both Nina Montagne's banana-sweetened granola & Caitlin Shoemaker's tahini granola (@Frommybowl)!