baked sweets/ gluten free

Sunflower Seed Butter Blondies

This one is a mouthful; sunflower seed butter confetti cake blondies. Despite the convoluted name, these blondies are super easy (and cheap!) to make. 

For starters, you’ll need one big bag full of sunflower seeds. Nope, not to feed any birds (unless that’s your thing, of course). But to make a batch of thick and butterscotchy blondies!

At only ~$2-3 USD per pound, 3 1/2 cups of sunflower seeds (which weigh in at… *drumroll*… ~1 pound!) should only cost you ~$2-3 (that’s ~$3-4 AUD for just under half a kg, or ~450 g, of seeds).

Plus, if you’re lucky enough to have bulk-food bins at your local grocery store, you’ll probably be able to shave off a couple more dollars. Buying seeds (as well as nuts, flour, and dried fruit) in bulk at a wholesale marketplace is another way to save more $ in the long run. 

The fact that these tiny, inexpensive seeds compose the bulk of these flourless blondies makes this one exceptionally tight-budget-friendly dessert! 

No obscure, expensive ingredients needed. Just some good ol’ seeds, eggs, and sweetener, and you’re 99% there. (Seriously). 

There is no flour in these blondies, meaning they are paleo-low-carb-gluten-free-what-have-you friendly. However, more vital than the aforementioned labels, is the fact that they are actually taste-bud-friendly.

Sunflower seeds may seem like an odd ingredient to add to blondies, let alone to use as the bulk of the recipe, but, well,… to be totally honest, I don’t know how to provide satisfying closure to that thought. 

The truth is: yes, sunflower seed butter blondies has a strange ring to it. But just think of it as the close cousin of nut butter blondies, a similarly flourless baked treat that has been popping up everywhere on the Internet and Instagram. 

If you also have a monstrous sweet tooth, if fudgy brownies and slightly-undercooked, chewy chocolate chip cookies make you swoon, then these blondies will very likely definitely make you very, very happy. 

The seed butter acts as the structural cement (since there is no gluten or butter in the mix), while the two eggs help bind the ingredients together, and transform the rather dismal looking sheet of grey goo into a sufficiently puffed-up, blondie-esque treat!

The tiny price tag and unique, nutty (or should I say seedy?) flavor is not the only reason sunflower seeds are so super.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that they offer a powerful punch of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that is mainly found in foods rich in polyunsaturated fat (such as nuts, seeds and seed oils, and avocados). 

It’s estimated that 90% of American men and 96% of American women do not get adequate amounts of Vitamin E in their diets (!!). 

What’s more, according to a 2015 study carried out at the University of Oregon, one of the negative consequences of Vitamin E deficiency may be the inability to properly process Omega-3 DHA, an essential “building block” in the brain. 

In other words, keep eating fish, and popping fish oil or algae-based Omega-3 capsules, but also try to incorporate a few handfuls of nuts and seeds (or generous drizzles of their oils) into your daily meals.

Oh, and with ~5.73 mg Vitamin E per slice (that’s ~38% of an adult’s RDA), this blondie can easily help you rack up those much-needed Vitamin E points. 


Note: if you’re not a fan of edible confetti (i.e. sprinkles!), simply swap out the rainbow bits for chopped chocolate, chips, and/or salted caramel candies.  

sunflower seed butter blondies

Print Recipe
Serves: ~8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted sunflower seed butter (~3 1/2 cups hulled sunflower seeds)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 pasture-raised eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Scant 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup rainbow chocolates, chocolate chips, or roughly chopped semisweet chocolate (I used Unreal's naturally colored chocolate gems)
  • 2-3 tsps rainbow sprinkles!

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 350 F/176 C. If you're using store-bought sunflower butter, skip to step #3; otherwise, spread 3 1/2 cups of hulled-raw-unsalted sunflower seeds onto a baking tray and bake for ~10-12 minutes, stirring the seeds a couple of times in the process, until they take on a very slight golden hue, and a toasted scent emanates from your oven. Keep a watchful eye during this process as over-toasting them will dry them out, and ruin the final form and flavor of the blondies. Allow the seeds to fully cool (~15 min) before pouring them into your high-powered blender or food processor.

2

Blend on medium for ~3-6 minutes, using the tapering device to push down on the seeds; if using a food processor, you will have to stop it occasionally to scrape down around the sides. This process will feel long, but within ~6 minutes the seeds should spin into a creamy, luscious butter.

3

Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the sunbutter into a large bowl (there will be a little leftover if you went the homemade route). In a separate, small bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork until just combined; add the eggs to the sunbutter, along with the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Sprinkle in the baking soda and powder, and stir until combined. Lastly, mix in a little over half of chocolates, reserving the rest to sprinkle over top.

4

Scrape the mixture into a tin lined with parchment paper, spreading down the top until evenly distributed. Sprinkle over the remaining chocolate (and sprinkles!), and bake for 30-33 minutes, until noticeably puffed up and the top is no longer soft to the touch (an inserted toothpick will still come out a bit gooey, but that's ok!). Allow to cool for a solid 20-30 minutes. The humdrum waiting process is always a bore, but know that it in this case it is truly necessary to allow the blondies to fully set; otherwise, the cutting process is a gooey mess (trust me, my impatience got the best of me once). If it's not already obvious, know that these blondies pair prettily with a glass of crisp, cold milk!

Notes

I used a loaf pan (9x5 inch); know that using a square/brownie pan (~8x8 inch) will likely yield slightly thinner blondies than those pictured above!
I was inspired to put this recipe together after stumbling upon the the Almond Eater's birthday cake brownies (which also feature simplicity and colorful sprinkles!)

breakfast/ gluten free/ vegan

Chunky Monkey Granola

Things I’ve been thinking about lately:

What’s up with granola? It’s touted as a health food, or at least a *healthier* option than cereal, but, my findings have revealed, it’s still densely packed with sugar. Strangely, blatantly, paradoxical, isn’t it??

I have a deep love for granola; it is the perfect matrix of crunchy and sweet and savory. Sadly, granola is also a marriage of dessert and breakfast. I’ve looked long and hard, I’ve hunted every grocery store around me, and spent, collectively, let’s just say more than an hours time, perusing Amazon for a truthfully-lower-sugar granola brand. However, all of my expeditions have left me empty handed.

Sure, honey or coconut sugar make their way into many brands that tout themselves as *healthy*, but really, those words only serve to dress up the granola in a fancy facade, and make it’s consumer (i.e. me) feel better. At the end of the day, lesser processed sugar is still sugar (sad, I know). Is 2 tsps of maple syrup at breakfast such a big deal? Probably not, and I readily douse my pancakes in the golden syrup every chance I get, but I’ve also found that consuming sugar in what seem to be smaller increments throughout the day often adds up fast. What’s more, beginning my day with a towering bowl of granola that is layered with 4+ tsps of sugar only sets me up to crave more sweetness.

In my desperate search for gut-friendlier granola, I learned that the average amount of sugar per serving in store-bought granola (1 serving being 3/4 – 1 cup) was about  2 1/2 – 3 tsps, or 10 – 12 grams, of sugar! That’s already half of the recommended daily amount of sugar for adult women (which is 6 tsps, according to the USDA). I didn’t want to accept such dismal, pathetic information, and, feeling a little dismayed at the state of both physical and virtual granola aisles, decided to take matters into my own hands.

Alas, I stumbled upon this recipe, and a *ding* *ding* *ding* vibrated through my body; could this be the alternative to heavily sugar-laden granola that I’ve been searching for, but unable to conceptualize!? 

At first I was skeptical, but let me break it down for you: the mashed ripe banana helps to bind the granola, and, as it bakes at a lower temperature for longer, the waters from the fruit evaporate, leaving you with a sheet of golden (very much edible) puzzle pieces, and a lovely banana bread smell. Initially, I was not convinced that this recipe would be capable of producing anything close to traditional granola, but I was very, splendidly, wrong.

In answer to the foremost burning question of the day, yes, it has CRUNCH. It also has flavor that surpasses simply SWEET; the toasted, though subtle, banana bread flavor will shine through so long as you use heavily ripened bananas (i.e. so speckled that they are almost completely black. You may be a little frightened and think they are rotting, but trust me, they’re just developing more flavor and sugars).

Just like any other kind of granola, it can be altered to suit your fancy. Aside from the banana, which is essential for replacing the usual sweet binders, all of the other ingredients can be swapped out for similar alternatives! I was feeling extra childish and decided to fully embrace the presence of banana; what else is banana-friendly? Ah yes, that strange Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream flavor (i.e. the abominable one with fruit in it). I was never a fan of banana in my ice-cream, but I have always been a fan of chunks of chocolate (and more specifically, BROWNIE), but who isn’t??

Because banana pairs so perfectly with another one of my favorites, peanut butter, I decided to incorporate the nut butter into the mix, while cutting down on some of the usual oil in the process. If you’re not a likewise nutty PB fan, fear not; simply replace it with a nut butter of your choice, or use a couple tbsps more oil to make up for the lost fat (in other words, don’t drastically cut down on the fats! Fat makes things taste very good, especially when there isn’t as much sugar in the picture).

On a last, and arguably most important note, know that there are enough brownie bits to ensure no fighting will ensue over the distribution of the granola (backup context: I am the middle child of 5)!

chunky monkey granola

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats 
  • 2 very ripe & spotty bananas, mashed (~3/4 cup)
  • 3 heaping tbsps salted peanut butter (if yours is unsalted, simply add an extra pinch or two salt)
  • 2 tbsps coconut oil, melted (or other neutral-flavored veggie oil!)
  • 2-3 tbsps maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch salt (yes, in addition to the salted PB!)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped in half
  • 2-3 chopped "brownie" bars (I used Luna "chocolate cupcake" protein bars, but any heavily-chocolate bar will do; alternatively, chop up a bar of chocolate or throw in some chocolate chips!)

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 left. Whisk in (you can simply use a fork) the peanut butter, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, until well combined. Next, add the oats, cinnamon, and salt directly to the bowl of wet ingredients (it will resemble a little mound). Lightly mix together the small 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) for 30-40 minutes, stirring every ~10 minutes, and removing from the oven once the oats are mostly golden brown (but not yet burnt! Be sure to check on them at the 30 minute mark, as oven efficiency can vary greatly).

3

Allow to fully cool on baking sheet (i.e. forget about it for at least 30 minutes) so that it can further gain crunch before transferring to a resealable container for safe keeping (until breakfast that is).

Notes

This banana-sweetened granola idea was inspired by/loosely adapted from Youtuber Nina Montagne's recipe, which is featured in this video!

baked sweets/ gluten free

quinoa & almond flour streusel cake

When quinoa flour is 50% off at my local grocery store, I buy it. On any other day, when it’s 100% not off, and costs a whooping $14 for 22 oz/623 g, I definitely do not buy it.

Having said that, however, I’m now feeling the quinoa flour itch… I’ve ventured into the strange land of quinoa baked goods and, I’m surprised to say, I’d like to stay here a while.

Maybe you also got lucky and found quinoa flour on sale, or maybe you’re a bit more financially sound than me; or perhaps you’re neither, but you still manage to allot a sliver of your monthly budget pie chart to quinoa flour. In any case, after impulsively buying the clearance quinoa flour I began to wonder, now what? Is this flour going to render my baked goods the flavor of dirt, or regular cooked quinoa (which is arguably not much better)?

Suffice to say I was feeling a little cynical about the flavor outcome of adding quinoa flour to chocolate chip cookies or brownies. However, since I was already on a roll venturing into uncharted territory (I’m truly a thrill-seeker), I took another leap and made a cake.

To be frank, the streusel topping is the product of mere impulse. I had just finished combining my wet and dry ingredients, when it occurred to me (translation: panic-stricken, it flashed across my mind) that the cake was going to need an extra oomph of sweetness.

I wasn’t taking chances with the earthen flour, and certainly didn’t want such a novel ingredient going to waste, so I sought the help of sugar, spice, and a little bit of melted butter. As my friend said after taking a few bites of a slice, this is so yummy, really moist, definitely a hit, but it wouldn’t be the same without the streusel. 

I didn’t set out to make a coffee cake, and I didn’t set out to buy quinoa flour, but… here we are? There is probably some worthwhile moral tucked away in that sentence. I’ll let it be for now.

All in all, this is not your typical Starbucks-esque knee-jerkingly-sweet coffee cake; no, no, this cake is sweet, and it is wonderfully (can I say perfectly?) soft and moist, but it’s also not entirely gut-destroying (let’s be honest here).

It holds a crumb so lovely that I was genuinely, and ever so happily, shocked (this recipe was not supposed to work out so well), and I will henceforth never underestimate the combined, culminating powers of quinoa and almond flour. And on that note, consider yourself warned; once you get a taste of quinoa streusel cake you may have to get a little creative with your excel financial pie chart.

quinoa & almond flour streusel cake

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (not to be confused with almond meal)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 6 tbsps unrefined coconut oil, melted (for quick measuring: 1/4 cup + 2 tbsps)
  • 2 pasture-raised eggs
  • 2 tsps ground ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • Generous pinch salt
  • Streusel topping:
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 tbsps fine raw cane sugar (or light brown sugar, or regular white sugar)
  • 1 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt 

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 350 F. First, make the streusel topping. Stir together the almond flour, sugar, cinnamon, and pinch salt; pour over the tbsp of ghee/butter, and combine until a crumbly mixture forms. Set aside.

2

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs; add the melted oil and maple syrup, and whisk until just combined. Add the almond flour, quinoa flour, spices, baking powder, and pinch salt, creating a little mound with the dry ingredients. Lightly combine the mound of dry ingredients before fully incorporating into the wet mixture.

3

Oil the sides and bottom of an 8-9 inch cake tin before lining the bottom with parchment paper (or skip the paper if your tin is a trustworthy non-stick pan). Pour in the batter, and evenly sprinkle over the streusel. Bake for 28-35 min, until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (mine took ~30 min). The cake is quite fragile when hot, so allow to fully cool before removing from pan, and serving alongside a cup of warm coffee or tea!

gluten free/ vegan

raw blackberry cashew cheesecake

I’ve recently fallen head-over-heels in awe with raw desserts. Have you ever been under this spell? I’ve been trying to rationalize my newfound excitement for unbaked treats, but I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it… the magic is elusive.

Part of my wonderment can probably be explained by the unbelievable simplicity of raw desserts (most of them, anyway). The required ingredients are often whole foods (cashews, dates, blackberries) and, even when they aren’t (coconut oil, maple syrup), the latter don’t take center stage. Whole foods are able to shine in the spotlight.

This is by no means a dig at “processed” foods; I will never renounce my love for flour and oil and cheese, but I am also currently welcoming in this new, somewhat bizarre, way of approaching “dessert” with wide open arms.

Cashews are the cement of this cake; they are the perfect, fun-shaped package of creaminess + sweetness. In addition to the heaping cup of cashews, this “cheese” cake calls for a generous amount of ripe blackberries and gooey dates. Next, a little bit of coconut oil, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla extract for a more complex matrix of flavors.

Of course, a raw cake is essentially naked without a granola-esque crust of some kind (I’m not the only one that feels this way, right?). The chewy, caramely crust that carries this cake is brought together by the simplest ingredients, all of which you likely already have on hand: oats, nuts (whichever are sitting in your pantry!), shredded coconut, and dates (or another dried fruit of choice).

Ultimately, this cake is malleable and forgiving. Happen to be out of oats, but have another grain on hand? Simply swap out the former for the latter. No shredded coconut in the pantry? Add more nuts or seeds, or even a little bit of nut butter to make up for the creamy fat found in coconut. Making this cashew cake has left me spellbound by the capabilities of whole foods, and the myriad ways something as unassuming as a nut (a wee cashew!) can be transformed into a beautiful, fairy-esque cake (with the help of a handful of other ingredients, of course).

raw blackberry cashew cheesecake

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Crust:
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 heaped cup cashews and walnuts (or other nut mixture of choice)
  • 1/3 packed cup pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 2-3 tsps maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener
  • Pinch salt
  • Filling:
  • 1 1/4 cups soaked raw cashews
  • 2/3 cup ripe blackberries
  • 1/2 packed cup pitted dates
  • 3 tbsps unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsps milk of choice (I use almond as it's light in flavor)
  • 2 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

1

First, soak your cashews if you haven't already; you can either speed-soak them in hot water for 30 minutes to an hour, or soak them in room-temperature water overnight. Once done soaking, drain them and set aside.

2

To make the crust, add the nuts to a food processor and pulse a few times until a coarse meal forms. Add the oats, coconut, and pinch salt, pulsing 1-2 times until slightly more ground, but not until the oats resemble a fine flour. Scrape out the dry mixture and add the dates, blending along with the oil and maple syrup, until a thick, gooey mixture forms (make sure there aren't any inordinate chunks of date left). Add the dry ingredients back to the date mixture and blend to incorporate.

3

Line cake tin(s) with parchment paper before pressing the crust mixture into the bottom of the pans with your fingers. Set in the fridge to chill and slightly harden while you make the filling.

4

Add all of the filling ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor, and blend on low-medium until a smooth, creamy mixture forms. There shouldn't be any noticeably large chunks of cashew or date left. Pour the filling into the prepared crusts and return to the fridge for ~3 hours, or until your finger doesn't leave an indent when lightly touched (preferably overnight if you can wait that long). You can speed up the process by putting it in the freezer, but if you forget about it for too long you will have to let it defrost at room temperature for a bit before slicing (the flavors also become blunted when the cake is too frozen!)