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Category Archives: Bars & Brownies

Blueberry Cashew Bars

A vegan picnic calls for hummus, pita bread, veggies, sweet potato chips, guacamole, apples and peanut butter — but the missing link is the dessert. To add a sweet something to the menu, I made these blueberry cashew bars that were marketed as cheesecake bars but really take on their own nutty consistency. They are full of flavor and delicious to all, regardless of following a raw or vegan diet.

Blueberry cashew bars

The recipe was adapted from Choosing Raw.

~ 1 1/2 cups walnuts
~ 1 cup raisins
~ 1 cup apricots, cut into bites
~ 1 cup blueberries
~ 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours and drained
~ 1/3 cup maple syrup

1. To make the bottom layer, place the walnuts, raisins and apricots in a food processor and pulse to break the ingredients down. Process until the mixture is ground up and sticking together when you squeeze a little in your hand.

2. Press the bottom layer into a 9 x 9-inch pan that is lined with aluminum foil, and chill.

3. To make the top layer, process the blueberries, cashews and syrup in a food processor until they’re as smooth as possible, about two minutes. Pour the top layer over the bottom layer in the pan. Use a spatular to smooth the top layer evenly.

4. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15-20 bars.

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Vegan Almond Apricot Bites

With the new year come new resolutions and goals to live a healthier lifestyle. For many, that not only includes exercising more but also making more conscious decisions about what you’re putting in your body. Just because you promised to watch what you eat and reduce the sugar intake doesn’t mean you have to exclude all desserts. This raw and vegan dessert redefines dessert by providing healthy fats and nutrients that your body needs.

Vegan Almond Apricot Bites

The recipe was borrowed from FitSugar.

~ 1 cup raw almonds
~ 1 cup raisins
~ 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
~ 10 dried apricots, chopped
~ 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Place the almonds, raisins and cinnamon in a food processor. Process until mixed thoroughly into a thick almond paste, about three minutes. Add chopped apricots and pulse for 30 seconds. Add coconut and pulse for 10 seconds.

2. Remove the dough and place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Seal dough in 1/4″-thick rectangle. Place dough in freezer for 30 minutes to solidify.

3. Cut into small squares and store in fridge.

Makes 20 bite-size servings.

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

After a short hiatus from baking, I’ve lured myself back into the baking world. Usually my inspiration for a recipe comes from the flavors that I’m craving. This time it came from a  mistakenly purchased tub of Greek yogurt. While Greek yogurt is one of the many health foods that I spoil myself with every day, only the non-fat or low-fat varieties satisfy my stomach – the others proving to be too rich. Since I stick to the same brands of Fage and Chobani usually, I decided to give Oikos a try per a friend’s recommendation. With good intentions to try a new brand, I mistakenly bought the whole milk variety.

Instead of throwing away the tub of yogurt, I decided that perfect use of it would be in baking. So many baking recipes call for tons of butter or vegetable oil, when yogurt is a sufficient substitute. Hence, we get the cranberry oatmeal bars. They have a dense oatmeal base and a thick, rich yogurt topping. Friends commented that they are so delicious and rich that they couldn’t even consider having another piece, yet others came calling back to me for another piece the next day.

Ironically enough, the recipe was adapted from one taken from Chobani.com.

For the oat-based crust…

~ 1 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1 cup quick-cooking oats
~ 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
~ 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp baking soda
~ 1/4 tsp salt
~ 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
~ 3 tbsp vegetable oil
~ 3 tbsp orange juice

For the yogurt topping…

~ 3/4 cup Oikos plain whole milk Greek yogurt
~ 1/2 cup sugar
~ 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
~ 1 large egg white
~ 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
~ zest of 1/2 orange

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly coat an 11×7-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl whisk together the butter, vegetable oil and orange juice. Add the juice mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until crumbly.
4. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture for later. Press rest of mixture into pan and up sides, using bottom of a measuring cup to even out crust.
5. Whisk yogurt, sugar, flour and egg white in a medium bowl. Stir in cranberries and orange zest.
6. Spread over crust in even layer. Sprinkle reserved oat mixture on top.
7. Bake until edges are golden-brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely and slice into bars.

If you’re looking for a healthy yet rich recipe high in protein and calcium, these cranberry oatmeal bars are sure to please. They are quite sweet so if you’d like to reduce the amount of sugar in the yogurt topping, I would recommend adding only 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup. To give it a little more of a kick and flavor, you can add some sprinkle of cinnamon on top before baking.

Raw Brownies with a Twist

Every so often I come across a recipe that inspires me to do something different. I stray from the tried-and-tested recipe completely to give my own recipe a try. After making the raw brownies with avocado, dates, pecans and of course chocolate, I decided that I wanted to try making a different version of raw brownies. I loved the consistency from the sticky dates and crunchy pecans, but I wasn’t too sure about the flavor from the avocado.

To change it up but keep a similar consistency, I thought of ingredients of similar texture to the original ingredients. Banana replaced avocado, dried apricots replaced dates, walnuts replaced pecans and the chocolate stayed the same! Since I was trying something new and just wanted to get the ratios right, I made a small portion.

~ 1/2 banana
~ 7 dried apricots
~ 1/3 cup walnuts
~ 2 tbsp cocoa powder

1. In a food processor, mix all base ingredients.
2. Press down the mixture of base ingredients in a bowl.
3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

While the ingredients created a slightly different consistency, overall I liked the flavor of the raw brownies with a twist more. Anything with banana flavor is going to lure me in. If I were to try the recipe again, I would use dates instead of apricots because the apricots were too dry and didn’t have the adhesive sticky component as well as the sweetness that the dates added to the original recipe.

What do you think of the raw brownies with a twist? What ingredients would you try if you created your own version? Share in the comments section!

Raw Brownies

When you see the name raw brownies, what does that make you think of? I was initially drawn to this recipe when reading The Oprah Magazine because I love chocolate but also because these health movements are all the rage right now. The raw food diet is one of the most extreme in which you can’t eat foods cooked above 104 degrees. Other than the raw food diet, recently gluten-free diets have risen in popularity. Initially gluten-free eaters were only those who suffered from celiac disease. Now some people are choosing to eliminate anything with wheat in it, purely for health benefits.

So when I saw raw I knew it was going to have veggies in it. How do veggies and brownies go together? Simple. Lots of cookies and other baked goods incorporate veggies into their ingredient list such as cookies with zucchini and sweet potatoes. The raw brownies that I made have avocado as their vegetable ingredient.

The recipe was taken from The Oprah Magazine.

Base:
~ 2 cups pecans (or walnuts)
~ 13 oz pitted dates
~ 1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
~ 1/8 tsp orange zest
~ 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
~ 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
~ 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Frosting:
~ 2 avocados, pitted and peeled
~ 1/8 tsp sea salt
~ 1/2 cup cocoa powder
~ 1/2 cup agave nectar, plus more to taste

Note: The original recipe calls for 3 avocados in the frosting. I used two and there was a heaping amount of frosting to cover the brownie base.

1. In a food processor, mix all base ingredients.
2. Press down the mixture of base ingredients in an 8-inch square baking pan.
3. Puree all frosting ingredients in a food processor and spread on base.
4. Cover and freeze at least 3 hours. Cute into 2-inch squares and serve cold.

Because there is no liquid component in the base, mixing the ingredients in a food processor can prove difficult. Instead make sure that the pecans, dates and avocado and broken into small enough pieces to be integrated; then mix by hand in a bowl.

This recipe is good for those who want to have a decadent dessert to serve but don’t have time to prepare it right beforehand. Beware that if you tell people what is in the brownies, they may be resistant to eat them. In reality, the brownies don’t taste like they have avocados in them if the base mixture is integrated well enough. Also be sure to taste the frosting before covering the brownie mixture as extra agave nectar may be required to offset the avocado flavor.

On another note for those who love to eat healthy (even when you’re eating dessert), these are perfect for you. While dessert without fat is sometimes hard to avoid, these brownies have healthy fats from the nuts and the avocado. Indulge because you can feel good about what you’re eating.

Would you try these brownies if you knew the ingredient list? Comment with your answer below!

Peppermint Fudge

Looking for the perfectly decadent treat to share with guests or give as a gift this holiday season? Peppermint fudge is the perfect solution. Not only does it satisfy your sweet tooth, but it has a plethora of health benefits due to the peppermint. Peppermint is found to relieve stomach problems, tension headaches and nausea.

When you bite into this fudge, health is the last thing on your mind.

The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Foolproof Holiday Fudge. Depending on the desired intensity of peppermint flavor, the amounts can be adjusted accordingly.

~ non-stick cooking spray
~ 2 cups sugar
~ 1 teaspoon salt
~ 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
~ 1 cup milk
~ 2 cups marshmallows
~ 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
~ 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
~ 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
~ 1/2 cup crushed peppermint

1. Grease 9-by-13 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook sugar, salt, butter, milk and marshmallows over medium heat. Stir until butter and marshmallows are almost melted, about 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Boil mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips, vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is a smooth, even consistency.
4. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle fudge with crushed peppermint.
5. Let fudge cool in the pan at room temperature for approximately 3 hours. When cooled, remove bars from pan and cut into bars.

The fudge bars are ready to serve or gift. You’ll be sure to get many compliments for these tasty treats!

If fudge doesn’t seem settled after 3 hours, try putting it in the fridge to help it solidify.

Are you a white chocolate lover? If so, the same fudge can be made using white chocolate chips instead of semisweet chocolate chips.

Carrot Cake Bars

Carrot cake is one of those foods that is deceivingly unhealthy for you. At first glance, you may think I’m eating something high in vegetables so it’s got to be better than those chocolate chip cookies, right? Wrong! While carrots are high in beta-carotene which provides us with plenty of vitamin A, the culprit in most carrot cakes is scrumptious cream cheese frosting. No need to worry though because these carrot cake bars are sure to be less calories and fat content than previous carrot cakes you’ve indulged in. Not only are these bars healthy for you, but you can also make them anytime, rather than needing an occasion to bake a cake.

This recipe is an adaptation from Fitness Magazine.

~ 2 cups whole wheat flour
~ 1 cup packed brown sugar
~ 3/4 cup granulated sugar
~ 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
~ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
~ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
~ 8 slightly beaten egg whites
~ 1 cup applesauce
~ 1/2 cup canola oil
~ 3 cups finely shredded carrot
~ 2 cups powdered sugar
~ 8 ounces cottage cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 15-by-10 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the egg whites, applesauce and oil. Stir into the flour mixture thoroughly. Stir in the shredded carrot.
4. Spread batter in the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.
5. For the frosting, in a medium bowl, beat together the powdered sugar and cottage cheese until smooth.
6. Spread the frosting over the carrot cake; slice and serve.

Please note that the frosting had a consistency that was too  liquid-like. As a fix, I put the bars in the fridge to allow the frosting to cool and harden. Instead, more powdered sugar or less cottage cheese could be used in the frosting. Another possible adaptation is to use the classic cream cheese for the frosting. Cottage cheese is a healthier option, however cream cheese creates a thicker consistency.

To enhance the bars with more flavor, you can add 1/2 cup chocolate chips to the batter or on top of the bars; 1 cup cubed pineapple to the batter; or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the batter or the icing. I tried the adaptation of adding walnuts to the batter, which provided a nice crunch to the previously moist bars while enhancing the flavor.

Several tips that can be used in alternate recipes are found in these bars. First, applesauce is used instead of half of the amount of oil to slash the fat content. Second, when making frosting, often butter is used, but that can be omitted to slash calories and fat content; the consistency and flavor will still be delicious!

In case you’re curious, the provided nutrition facts from Fitness Magazine are as follows. Given that there are 36 bars, each bar has 125 calories, 2g protein, 21g carbohydrates and 4g fat.

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