30-second vegan chocolate chip peanut butter ice cream

imageBecause today, my uterus demands it!

Makes one large serving:
2 frozen bananas
1 rounded tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter
1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips, plus more for garnish

Slice the frozen bananas and add them to a Vitamix with the peanut butter. Run on high, using the tamper to push the frozen banana into the blades. After about 15 seconds, stop the motor and add in the chocolate chips. Continue blending and pressing until the “ice cream” is smooth but still frozen, maybe 8-10 seconds. Serve topped with additional chocolate chips, if desired (and why wouldn’t it be desired?!).

Vegan Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut butter-chocolate base topped with a layer of chocolate ganache. Do I even need to say anything else? 🙂

fudge

This makes about 3 dozen 1” squares.

16oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used four 4oz bars), chopped into small-ish chunks
1 cup smooth, unsweetened peanut butter
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of plant-based milk
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides a little. You’ll need to be able to lift the fudge up and out of the pan once it has set.

Heat a double boiler over medium until the water is just simmering. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can bring 2 inches or so of water to a simmer in a saucepan and place a metal or glass bowl over the top of the pan. Add 1 cup of the chocolate chunks and stir until melted and smooth. Keep stirring to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat (but keep the water simmering because you’ll be using the double boiler again). Stir in the peanut butter, maple syrup, and salt until well mixed. It will be relatively thick. Add the mixture into prepared pan and press down well, so that you have an even bottom layer.

Now for the ganache! Heat the rest of the chocolate chunks (there should be about 1 ½ cups left, maybe a little more) in your double boiler, along with the coconut oil and milk. Keep stirring to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn. Once everything is melted and the chocolate has a shiny look (this should take about 3 minutes), pour over your peanut butter layer and let cool for about 30 minutes. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Lift the fudge up out of the pan using the edges of the foil or parchment paper and cut it into squares using a large knife (a bread knife works well). Store in a cool, dry place, preferably the fridge. This fudge will hold up well at room temperature at a party, but it’s best to store it in the fridge when not “in use.” 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Vegan Popcorn Balls

I’ve never made popcorn balls, but since it’s Halloween, I decided to give it a try.
popcorn balls

My mother always tells stories of how people would make homemade popcorn balls and give them out at Halloween when she was a kid, but now everyone’s too afraid to take anything that isn’t wrapped and factory sealed.

I try to make healthy versions of recipes for sweets, but some things are just going to be those once-in-a-while treats that aren’t that great for you. It helps if you use organic corn syrup and organic popcorn seed. Unless it’s organic, corn is genetically modified and sprayed with more chemicals than I care to think about. I’d like to think that raw sugar and vegan butter make this a little better as well. All in all, they’re popcorn balls. They’re sugary, salty, and delicious. I’ve seen recipes that use agave nectar, but I haven’t tried those yet. I read it doesn’t yield the same flavor. Just don’t eat the whole recipe and you’ll be fine. 🙂

To pop the corn kernels, I like to air pop them in the microwave. This is really easy. Just take a brown paper bag (like the ones kids used to take their lunches to school in, back in the day when it was safe to eat popcorn balls from your neighbor), add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, and roll the top of the bag up twice (small folds). Place in the microwave for 2 minutes. You don’t need oil or anything! Just the paper bag and popcorn!

I do this twice and that gives me enough popcorn for this recipe. Make sure to toss out any un-popped kernels so that no one has to take a trip to the dentist!

Makes about 1 dozen baseball-sized popcorn balls

Ingredients:
9 cups popcorn (popped)
1/3 cup organic light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (or so) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 cup add-ins like dark chocolate chips, peanuts, or dried fruit (optional)

Spray a big bowl with cooking spray and place your popped corn in the bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the corn syrup, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted and then turn the heat up to medium-high. You want the mixture to boil, but you don’t want to burn it. My stove dial goes from 1-10 and I leave it on 8.

Simmer the mixture on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. You want it to reach the hard ball candy stage. You can test this by letting a small drop fall off your spatula into a bowl of water. If the drop forms a ball, it’s ready.

Add in the cinnamon. I didn’t measure; I just lightly shook a layer of cinnamon over the surface of the sugar mixture. Now stir in the butter and vanilla until smooth and then immediately pour over the popcorn. This is where you’ll want to add in any extras like fruit or nuts. Start folding the popcorn over in the bowl, mixing well until everything is coated. As the sugar cools, this will become a little difficult, but just keep at it. After about 3 minutes, the mixture will still be warm, but not too hot to handle.

Rub a little butter on your hands and take handfuls of popcorn and press them into balls with your hands. I found that I had to re-butter my hands every 2 balls or so. Place on lightly oiled foil or wax paper to cool for about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap or cute gift bags.

NOTE: When you’ve reached the bottom of the popcorn bowl, the sugar will basically be cooled into a nice hard cement! Just put the bowl in the sink and fill with hot water. The sugar will re-melt so that you can rinse and wash the bowl clean.

Fresh Fruit Smoothie Pops (with a hidden ingredient!)

Spring has been peeking its head in and out for the last few weeks, unsure if it wants to stay or not (Please stay!!). It’s been in the 70’s and 80’s for the past week, and we have been craving popsicles. Store-bought vegan popsicles are crazy expensive, so I got a cute set of popsicle molds for $6.99 at TJ Maxx and was excited to try them out. As soon as I got home, I immediately washed them and put my Vitamix to work. I’ve been sneaking greens into everything lately, so I thought why not popsicles?!

smoothie pops

I used 1 can of coconut milk, about 8 fresh strawberries (with the green tops), about a cup of pineapple chunks, 1 banana, and about a cup of baby spinach. Blend until super creamy, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze for 4 hours.

I know it will be hard, but wait the full 4 hours. We took one out at 3 hours and 40 minutes and the popsicle broke in half coming out of the mold and was more of a sorbet consistency. That extra 20 minutes made a difference!

I had to hold the popsicle mold in my hands to warm it for a minute or so before the popsicle would pull out, but you can also run it under warm water for a few seconds.

Another idea I’m going to try out soon is my favorite chocolate banana peanut butter smoothie (1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 4 dates, and 1/4 cup cocoa) made into popsicles!

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

I keep hearing bakers on Cupcake Wars (I *heart* that show) say that red velvet cake is “Southern.” I’ve never attributed a regional quality to red velvet cake, but according to my research (reading 1/8th of a Wikipedia article), the original recipe, colored red with beet root, was made popular by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In 1989, the film Steel Magnolias revived the cake’s popularity. Apparently in the movie, someone makes a red velvet groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo?! I see plenty of those here in Alabama!

Animal-shaped cakes and regional origins of sugary foodstuffs aside, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like red velvet cake. To be honest, I can’t understand why it was ever made red in the first place (perhaps I should have read the whole Wiki article!). And what’s up with the negligible amount of cocoa powder? If you’re going to make a chocolate cake, make it CHOCOLATE! Two tablespoons feels like a lazy chocolate cake. Or maybe the original baker ran out of cocoa?

Nevertheless, my sister adores this dessert, so I made her red velvet cupcakes for her birthday and died the cream cheese frosting lavender (or should I say “lazy purple”?). This is a slightly adapted version from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
2 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons chocolate extract

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with paper liners (I always end up with 14 cupcakes when I use this recipe, so I line an entire cupcake pan and then line an additional 2 cups of a second pan.)

Mix the milk and vinegar together and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the rest of the wet ingredients together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients (including the milk mixture) and mix until just combined and most of the lumps are gone.

Fill your cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
¼ cup Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
¼ cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE: Do not microwave vegan butter or cream cheese to soften it! The easiest, quickest way I’ve found is to place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl on top of the stove and let it soften from the heat of the oven while the cupcakes bake. You don’t want the butter to start melting though, so just check it every few minutes.

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating well in between each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl as you mix.

Once you’ve added the last bit of powdered sugar, your mixture will be very thick. Add the vanilla and beat until it’s incorporated and your frosting is creamy and smooth. Fill a pastry bag and pipe the frosting in pretty swirls onto completely cooled cupcakes.

Or… if you’re like me and can’t wait, slap a bit of frosting on a cupcake with a butter knife and cram it into your face while it’s still warm…. Then, proceed calmly and make the rest of them pretty for other folks to enjoy. : )

cupcakes

cupcake

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

pudding
So apparently yesterday was National Chocolate Mousse Day? It sounded like an awesome excuse to make my first dessert in my Vitamix. This turned out so thick, rich, and creamy! It was way better than the stuff sold in plastic cups in the grocery store (plus way healthier!) and it didn’t taste like avocado at all.

This makes 2 generous servings.

Ingredients:
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup almond milk
1 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, then drained
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put everything into the blender or food processor and blend until creamy. Chill for 1 hour and then enjoy. Top with chopped nuts, sliced strawberries, or coconut whipped cream, if desired.

PS – If you’re using a Vitamix, you can probably skip soaking the dates, but if you are using a food processor or another blender, you definitely want to soak them to ensure your final result is completely creamy. I soaked mine for 30 minutes even though I used a Vitamix.

Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes

You take the lime and the coconut…. and put them in a cupcake!!!

I want to be like the woman on the Julie and Julia movie, except I want to cook my way through Isa Moskowitz’s cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  I’ve made the crimson velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, the cookies and cream cupcakes with cookies and cream buttercream frosting, the carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and now these, perhaps my ultimate favorite so far.  The tangy lime butter cream and sweet coconut cake (PACKED with coconut) make a glorious pair.

My tip for this recipe is to use fresh squeezed lime juice.  If you go for that bottled crap, Isa and I will personally arrive at your house to slap your face!  You need limes for the zest anyway, so just hush up and zest/juice 3 limes.

Coconut Lime Cupcakes:
1/3 cup coconut oil (I used canola)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk (I used the light kind in the can)
1/4 cup soy milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tbsp lightly packed, finely grated lime zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.

Melt the coconut oil (if using) in a small saucepan over very low heat until melted.  Mix the oil and sugar in a medium bowl, then add the coconut milk, soy milk, vanilla, coconut extract, and lime zest and mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.  Fold in the coconut flakes and fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full.  (I’ll make a note here: it doesn’t look like you’re going to get a dozen once you start filling the cups.  I actually only filled my cupcake liners 1/2 full and I barely got enough batter to make a dozen.  Trust me, fill all 12 liners evenly and you will get full-sized cupcakes when they are done baking.)

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until the cupcake top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before icing.

Lime Buttercream Frosting:
NOTE: Below is the FULL recipe. I halved this recipe and still had enough to generously pipe frosting onto a dozen cupcakes.  If you make the full recipe you’re going to have a TON of frosting!

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Earth Balance – I beg you, don’t use Crisco!)
1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

You want to make sure the shortening and margarine are softened before you start this, otherwise it’s just going to get stuck in the beaters of your electric mixer and cause you a lot of frustration.  I DO NOT recommend putting them in the microwave or you’re going to end up with a mess.  I slice both into tablespoon-sized blocks (if you buy the margarine and shortening sticks by Earth Balance, the wrappers are marked by tablespoons) and let them set in the bowl on top of the oven (while the cupcakes are baking) and the heat will slowly soften the margarine and shortening.  You want them soft enough to beat, NOT melty.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until combined well and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes (it will get thick, but keep the  mixer going). Add the vanilla and lime juice, beat for another 5 minutes or so until fluffy. Add the zest and mix to distribute. Chill until ready to use.

Now pipe your icing onto the cooled cupcakes and top with lime slices.  So cute!