Vegan Apple Crisp

I have noticed that my 12-year-old son has been eating a lot more food lately. He seems to constantly be hungry and often comes home from school and tucks in to a pile of food and then is ready to eat again at dinner. AND he told me that I’m not packing enough food for his lunch – it must be a growth spurt! My husband reassures me that this is part and parcel of raising a pre-teen boy and he reminisced about how he and his older brother would come home from school as teenagers and devour foot-long hotdogs, sandwiches and frozen pizzas and then whip up a dessert of apples, brown sugar, oatmeal and mounds of butter in the microwave to top things off. And that was all before dinner!

I want to make sure that my children are eating as much healthy food as possible when they are at home (hotdogs- yuck!) so I try to keep fruits, veggies and nuts on hand for snacking. I also talk to them about food and the best choices for getting filling and nutritious protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

But that chat with my hubby got me thinking about a hearty dessert. So I set about veganizing his apple crisp recipe to retain the flavor, decrease the sugar and eliminate the butter (and skip the microwave). This apple crisp is filling, warm, gooey and comforting. I recommend eating it soon after it comes out of the oven and is still warm – perhaps with a scoop of vanilla coconut or almond milk ice cream. Just be quick – a growing boy might devour it before you even get a taste!

Vegan Apple Crisp (adapted from Vegan Lunch Box, Jennifer McCann)

apple crisp 1

1/2 cup golden brown sugar
2/3 cup spelt flour (plus 2 tbsp. for tossing with apples)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6 tbsp. melted coconut oil (plus a bit more for greasing the pan)
8-10 apples, peeled and sliced thin
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. maple sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9 x 9 square cake pan with coconut oil.

To make the topping – mix brown sugar, flour, oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Add the coconut oil and mix well until combined. Set aside.

Toss the sliced apples together with the lemon juice, maple sugar and 2 tbsp. of oat flour. Put the apples on the bottom of the cake pan.

Top evenly with the topping.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the apples are cooked and softened and the topping is golden brown.

Enjoy!

apple crisp 2

Chocolate Fondue Fun

We recently had our good friends and their 4 children stay with us for the weekend. There were 11 of us in total and I really wanted to cook a homemade meal for everyone to enjoy. Coming up with a delicious plant-based dinner to please the entire crowd took some serious thinking and planning – but the dessert was an absolute no-brainer. It had to be chocolate fondue!

corbin

Doesn’t that adorable face just say it all?! I guarantee you this dessert will elicit loads of giggles, squeals of delight and gobs of chocolate on hands, clothes, the floor and all over faces. What fun! And hey – everyone will be eating a ton of fruit and soaking in antioxidants from the chocolate. It’s win-win.

You can get fancy and purchase a proper chocolate fondue set but I just melt my chocolate in a saucepan and then transfer it to a bowl, put it in the middle of a fruit platter, hand out some forks or wooden skewers and let the good times begin.

7 children and 4 adults – CHAOS. Lifeguarding the kids in the pool – STRESSFUL. Trying to reminisce about university days over the cacophony – TRICKY. Losing a euchre tournament to the guys yet again – FRUSTRATING. Sipping wine and watching chocolate drip down our smiling kid’s faces- PRICELESS.

Chocolate Fondue

fondue 6

1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan or regular)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 bananas, chopped
1 container or strawberries, washed and stems removed
1/4 pineapple, cut into chunks
3 apples, sliced
Optional: marshmallows, plain cookies or cake cut into cubes, pretzels, orange slices, grapes, kiwi – or anything you love dipped in chocolate!

Cut up fruit and other dipping items and lay them out on a large tray or platter.
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Place in the middle of the fruit tray.
Hand out skewers or forks and enjoy!

Monster Cookies

These cookies are the delicious result of a few failed baking experiments of late. I have been trying my hand at vegan substitutions in some of my favourite recipes and I’ve made some real clunkers. Here are a just a few of the things I’ve learned:

1. Coconut oil as a straight butter replacement may make your berry muffins gummy and thin – yuck!

monster cookie 1

2. Apple sauce in place of eggs in a traditional chewy cookie recipe may result in cookies as thin and as full of holes as lace – weird!

monster cookie 2

3. Even the dog will turn his nose up at pancakes made with soy milk and ground white chia seeds – not good!

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But I am nothing if not determined and baking is my very favourite thing to do. So I forged on, whisk in hand and I eventually turned out a healthy, yummy and kid-friendly cookie that is packed with nutrient dense foods and actually resembles a bakery-worthy dessert.

I called them “Monster Cookies” because of the amount of goodness I was able to pack into these babies – spelt flour, freshly ground almond meal, oats, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit, flax meal and chocolate.

Unfortunately because of the nuts these are not school-friendly but they do make an awesome after-school snack. They are chewy, crunchy and chocolatey. Mmmmmm…who could ask for anything more from a cookie?

And yes (in case you were wondering)- even the dog liked them!

Monster Cookies

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3/4 cup of light spelt flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/4 cup almond meal (I ground raw almonds in my coffee grinder)
1 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (try Enjoy Life brand)
3 tbsp. of ground flax meal + 12 tbsp. water (flax eggs)
1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan margarine or organic butter, melted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add seeds, cranberries, nuts, raisins and chocolate chips and toss until covered in flour mixture.

Mix the flax and water and let sit for 5 minutes to get goopy.

Whisk together the margarine and oil. Add flax eggs and whisk for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Add maple sugar and agave and stir to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well combined.

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the parchment (approx. 1 tbsp. size) leaving space in between each cookie (I was able to put 12 on a regular sized baking sheet). Bake for 12 minutes.

Enjoy!

Delectable Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream “Cheeze” Icing

When I was a child we went out for dinner quite a bit. My dad likes to joke that my mom’s favourite thing to make for dinner is reservations…and it’s quite true.  And I can relate – the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case!

In our family we love our desserts and we were always excited to check out the dessert menu at our restaurant of choice. No matter how many chocolate brownies or pecan pies or caramel sundaes were on the menu, my mom was famous for consistently ordering the carrot cake.

“Huh?! Carrot cake?!” my sister and I would scoff. How on earth could something made with carrots ever be even remotely as yummy as piles of chocolate or a mountain of ice cream? But she was unwavering in her choice despite our good-natured ribbing.

carrot cake - carrot pic

I have to admit that as my taste buds matured I did develop an affinity for a good old-fashioned carrot cake every now and again. But don’t let the name fool you – despite a helping of nutritious carrots most conventional carrot cakes are made with tons of butter, refined sugar and eggs.

So I set out to veganize this dessert – cream cheese icing and all. And the end result was pretty darn awesome if I do say so myself. I subbed out the butter and eggs for coconut oil and unsweetened apple sauce, the refined sugar for maple sugar and I used gluten-free flour in place of regular AP flour and a ridiculously moist and delicious dessert was born.

The kids liked it plain but the frosting takes it to the next level (although I did use 2 cups of organic powdered sugar in the frosting so it’s not as nutritionally sound as the cake itself). You could also add raisins and/or nuts if you like additions to your cake but I made mine without to avoid watching the kids pick the “bits” out of their dessert.

So after all this time, I finally get it….carrot cake rocks! This one is for you mom!

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream “Cheeze” Frosting (adapted from Peas And Thank You, Sarah Matheny)

carrot cake on plate

Carrot Cake
8 carrots, steamed and pureed
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup soy milk
1  cup maple sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free AP Baking Flour
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins or chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 8 x 8 square cake pan with coconut oil.

In a large bowl, cream together pureed carrots, coconut oil, applesauce, milk, sugar and vanilla with an electric hand mixer on low until well blended.

In a smaller bowl, combine flour, xanthum gum, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Add a little at a time to the wet mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in raisins or nuts if desired.

Spread mixture in a pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

carrot cake in pan

Cream Cheeze Icing
3 tbsp coconut oil at room temperature
4 ounces of Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 cups organic powdered sugar (or icing sugar)

Whip ingredients together with a hand mixer. Frost cake when it is completely cool. Store any uneaten cake and frosting in the fridge. Enjoy!

carrot cake icing

Decadent Vegan Brownie Bites

I have to admit that I was feeling quite sorry for myself last week. It’s been a rough winter for colds and bugs in our house and my little guy was still battling a nagging cough, my husband plunked his extensive upcoming travel schedule in front of me for my (insert eye roll and loud sigh here) perusal, I was plotting out the kids spring activities on the calendar and it was not looking pretty AND I just finished probably the most heartbreakingly beautiful book I’ve read in ages and sobbed my way through the last 20 pages (The Fault In our Stars…in case you want to join me at the tissue box). There was only one thing to do – make something chocolatey. And fast!

These little brownie gems are the perfect size for a small indulgence. They are rich, fudgey and decadent without being full eggs, butter and unhealthy fats. Don’t get me wrong – they are definitely not health food but they are much healthier than your average store-bought brownie and they’re gluten-free to boot. And heck sometimes we all need a little treat!

The smell of chocolate wafted through the house and the whole family could barely wait for them to cool before we all tucked in to one or two of these little brownies. Mmmmm…chocolate. Things are definitely looking up!

Vegan Brownie Bites (adapted from BabyCakes, Erin McKenna)

brownie on plate

1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp salt
½ cup melted coconut oil (plus more for greasing muffin tins)
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup hot water
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease mini muffin tins with coconut oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthum gum and salt with a wire whisk to remove any lumps.

Add the applesauce, oil, vanilla and hot water and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins until they are 2/3 full.

brownie in pan

Bake on the center rack for 12-14 minutes – rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow the  brownies to cook in the pans until ready to serve. Enjoy!

(P.S. my daughter just made the blue rainbow cupcake plate at Crock-A-Doodle and wanted to show it off. Cute eh?)

brownie 1

Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Caramels

If I am going to indulge in something sweet (and this of course happens on a daily basis) I think my favourite treat on the planet is caramel. This is a tricky one being a vegan and a health nut because most of the truly yummy caramel is made with loads of butter, corn syrup, sugar and cream.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of recipes for “vegan caramel” only to come up short and be left craving a good old-fashioned Turtle or Rolo.

So you can imagine my delight when I came upon this brilliant Vegan Rolo recipe from fellow blogger Angela Liddon over at Oh She Glows. These little gems are vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, super easy to make and best of all they are delicious!

I always (and I mean always) have a batch of these in the freezer for when one of my many sugar cravings hits and they never fail to satisfy my sweet tooth. And the kids love them too – I ask them if they want a chocolate caramel, don’t tell them what’s in them and watch them gobble them down. I just don’t let them have too many because these little babies are mostly for mom!

I’ve made a few minor modifications but the credit for these delectable treats belongs to Oh She Glows. You can check out her awesome site and the original recipe here.

Vegan No Bake Caramels (adapted from Angela Liddon, OhSheGlows.com)
Makes 18-24 caramels

12 organic medjool dates (make sure they are fresh and soft)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tbsp agave nectar
½ tbsp organic cold-pressed coconut oil (plus 1 tsp for use in chocolate)
Pinch of fine sea salt
½ tbsp organic peanut butter (or sunflower butter in case of nut allergies)
1 cup semi-sweet or dark vegan chocolate chips (you can use regular dark or semi-sweet chocolate if you prefer)

Combine dates, vanilla, agave, 1 tbsp coconut oil, salt and peanut butter in your food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together into a sticky ball. You may have to scrape down the sides to help the ball come together. Put the ball into the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier to work with.

rolos in processorrolos in bowl

Melt the chocolate and 1 tsp of coconut oil in a small saucepan on low heat on the stove top. Line a plate with parchment paper. Remove the caramel ball from the freezer and using your fingers pinch pieces off and roll into smaller balls – approx the size of a cherry.

uncoated rolos

Working quickly, dip each ball into the chocolate to coat using a spoon to save your fingers and place on the parchment lined plate. Once finished – put the plate in the freezer for 20 minutest to ½ an hour to let the balls harden. When they have hardened you can store them in a glass freezer-safe container. They are best eaten cold straight from the freezer.

coated rolosfreezer rolos

I like these chocolate caramels plain but you could doll them up by rolling them in finely chopped nuts, coconut, cinnamon or cacao powder after you dip them in chocolate for a completely different taste experience. Trust me these are wonderful and addictive. Enjoy!