Chocolate Protein Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate SmoothieYes, I’ve fallen into the “pumpkin everything” trap. I told myself I wouldn’t succumb to those sneaky marketing ploys from the big chains and ignore the fact that it’s already September, and we’re supposed to be falling in line (no pun intended) with the fall-themed script: pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin. I wasn’t going to do it. Wasn’t ready. Wasn’t feeling the pumpkin everything vibe.

But then, you know, this funny thing called pregnancy got the best of me. I saw a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie somewhere and suddenly my mind could not stop thinking about making one. Maybe all the stealthy marketing campaigns got to me. But suddenly, my mind was all pumpkin, and there was no stopping me until I had my fix.

But still another thing happened this week to lead to the creation of this smoothie — another thing that I can definitively blame on my pregnancy. I got my results back for my 1-hour glucose screening test — something I thought I would pass with flying colors, given my pre-pregnancy history of actually having low glucose levels on all my blood tests — and the results were not as I planned. My glucose levels were high. Now, I realize that a lot of women actually have this happen and they do end up passing their 3-hour test when all is said and done, without a diagnosis of gestational diabetes (I take my follow-up test next week, just to be sure). But the initial realization that my glucose was fairly high, along with even the possibility of having gestational diabetes looming in my mind, had me really re-thinking my diet and trying to re-imagine a diet plan if a gestational diabetes diagnosis were in my future.

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Triple Chocolate Brownie Doughnuts

gluten-free, vegan triple chocolate doughnutsI read an article around New Years last year that had food experts predicting the next food trends of 2014. One expert pegged 2014 as the year of hybrid desserts, in light of the recent cronut craze of 2013.

In our home, if we had to predict what sort of surprises 2014 would bring, I don’t think either of us would have predicted that this would be the year we’d find raccoons living in our attic. But that’s exactly what we were presented with a week ago yesterday. Had it not been for that little fly – er, raccoon – in the ointment, so to speak, last Sunday would have been a wonderful day. It was Easter Sunday, so we packed up our car bright and early, Woodley in tow, to attend church and then a day of festivities and vegan feasting at my parents’ home. It was a beautiful outside – in the 70s and sunny. Once we got home for the evening, we took a long family walk through the neighborhood, enjoying the warm and peaceful evening. As we rounded the corner of the street back to our house for the night, it became apparent that there was some sort of creature up on our rooftop, staring at us as we approached our home. That creature, it turns out, was a quite large raccoon. We locked eyes for a moment before she quickly darted back into, well, our home. From the roof. I was too creeped out to keep watching her, but Gennaro stayed outside only to learn there was another adult raccoon with her as well. The “baby daddy”, if you will (side note: when raccoons take up residence in the attic, they are almost always preparing for babies to come, which would explain why the raccoon who greeted us when we came home last Sunday night was nearly the size of our 45 lb. dog, and why there was a second adult raccoon with her).

A frantic Google search later, we learned that homes like ours – bungalows with dormer rooms built out over the roof – provide the perfect entryway for raccoons into an attic. Did you know raccoons can fit into holes only 4” wide? Yup, neither did we. Keep in mind that, as we were doing this Google search, we could clearly hear the unsettling pitter-patter and thumping of our house guests above us.

Instinctively, without a second thought, I began searching the internet for ways to get them the hell out. This, in turn, presented a rather interesting vegan dilemma that would have me losing sleep in the week that followed.

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Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Gluten-Free, Vegan Double Chocolate Chip PancakesI learned many things in college. As is the case with many a college grad, the biggest lessons were learned outside of the classroom (though not to fear, Mom and Dad, your tuition money was well-spent).

I learned that pulling all-nighters will not make you do better on a test or write a better paper. A little sleep, when it’s needed most, can go a long way. I learned how important it was to eat breakfast, and especially to eat breakfast before downing a triple espresso latte to compensate for those aforementioned all-nighters. And finally, in one of the most jarring revelations of my time in college, I learned that not everyone calls the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Paczki day (pronounced POONCH-KEY), nor do they eat Paczkis on this day or even know what a Paczki is. With that revelation,  my little metro Detroit bubble had burst, and I realized I was no longer in Kansas Grosse Pointe anymore.

vegan, gluten-free double chocolate chip pancakesAt first, people thought I was making this weird jelly doughnut holiday up, or that it was a family tradition that I had somehow deluded myself into thinking was a national holiday. It was before the days of the iPhone, so I went home to Google the holiday only to discover that it was, in fact, a holiday confined to the Midwest. And since most of my friends were from the East or West Coasts, I suddenly felt so small in this great big world that had never unitarily celebrated a day with Paczkis.

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Ganache Strawberries

chocolate ganache strawberriesI mentioned in my last post how inspired I was by Chef Fran, whose book Vegan Chocolate dazzled and delighted me once I got the chance to fully peruse its pages upon my return from New York. I was mesmerized, particularly, but the beautiful photo of chocolate ganache, which was just simply a big bowl of glorious, shiny, deep and rich chocolate. No need to get fancy, there. A bowl of chocolate sauce was enough to pique my curiosity and had me testing things in the kitchen very shortly after my return, as tired as I was feeling… Did I mention that I do not do well on less than 8 hours of sleep?

Anyways, I headed to Whole Foods to see if I could find an unsweetened Bakers Chocolate so that I could start testing recipes for a low-sugar ganache using alternative sweeteners. But once I got to Whole Foods, I found something better: vegan chocolate chips sweetened with…

Stevia!

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Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding

banana-omega-chia puddingI am approaching this first post of the new year with a bit of trepidation, as this would normally be the obligatory resolutions and reflections post, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2013 went by so fast. Resolutions? I’m not there yet. I’m still wondering where all the time went. This has me thinking. By the time I’ve figured out my resolutions for this year, it will probably be 2015.

Time passes quickly. I learn that more and more each year. As my dad says, it’s because the older we become, each year is a smaller proportion of our lives thus far.

What I have learned is that, the older I become, the more keenly aware I am of the importance of caring for my body. I marvel at the things I seemingly got away with doing to my body while in college. All-nighters cramming for tests or writing papers, diet sodas, beer at tailgates and 2 a.m. pizza delivery were not uncommon occurrences in my college days. And judging from the number of people still in the school computer lab at 4 a.m. or by the crowds at tailgates and bars over the weekends (and sometimes during the week), I am pretty sure I was not alone.

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Zero-Calorie Lemonade

People  often ask me what’s the one thing I miss from the past that I can’t/don’t eat today. As time has gone on, this questions has become much more difficult to answer. I’ve adapted to my new life so much that I really don’t remember at this point what I once did eat and what I once enjoyed. I find more so that I tend to miss the idea of things rather than certain things themselves. I miss the idea of being able to get filled up off the bread basket at dinner, even though I usually regretted it those times I did. I miss the idea of going to a ballpark and being able to order something to snack on while watching the game (even though I wouldn’t touch most ballpark food items “with a ten-foot pole,” as my mom would say). I miss the idea of being able to share in a pitcher of beer while watching the game at a local sports bar, or being able to share a pizza at a pizza shop with friends. It’s not that I miss the pizza or the beer itself, but more that I like being part of the group. Sometimes, having a different diet can make you feel like an outsider looking in.

I felt this way recently when my parents threw a party for my brother, who recently returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq. We had his welcome-home party outdoors on a hot summer day, and I watched with envy as others quenched their thirst with the large pitcher of lemonade that looked so refreshing. I was tempted to risk whatever illness I might have to endure (and illness is almost inevitable when I start adding sugar back into my diet) just to partake. Lemonade on a hot summer day. Is there anything more refreshing? Yes, I definitely missed the idea of that.

Luckily, I figured out that it’s not too hard to replicate this one. If you can put up with the juicing, which is really the only semi time-consuming aspect of this recipe, the rest is a simple as stirring and adding ice, pretty much.

And O.K., maybe I miss tuna melts. Just a little bit.

Zero-Calorie Lemonade:

1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6-7 lemons worth)

1 tablespoon lemon pulp, plus more if desired

8 cups water

5 handfuls of ice

1 1/2 -2 droppers Nunaturals liquid stevia*

lemon slices

Directions:

In a large pitcher, stir everything together and adjust stevia and/or pulp to taste. For variations, add strawberry slices or minced fresh mint leaves. Replace water with fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea for a healthy twist on the Arnold Palmer.

* Add less first, then adjust to taste

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Sugar-Free Berry Cobbler

Forgive me, as this is far from the most refined photo I’ve taken. It seems to have slipped my mind lately that I have a blog that might benefit from an updated post every now and then. When my mom asked me if I could make a dessert with the frozen blueberries she was looking to get rid of, my mind didn’t immediately go to blog recipe. I baked what I thought would be an adequate, but not memorable, cobbler. But halfway through eating it, I had an idea. Hey, Beth, why don’t you post this recipe to your blog? You know, that website you used to update on a somewhat regular basis with new recipes? And so, I ran to get my camera (which has been gathering dust in my bedroom as of late) and snapped a few shots of this half-eaten cobbler as if it would be gone if I waited any longer (which it almost was).

In the spirit of my upcoming trip to L.A. for my nephew’s baptism (!!!), I made this cobbler entirely with stevia (a zero calorie sweetener), used only 2 tablespoons of oil, and made this with whole grain brown rice flour. Not to mention this dessert is, by definition, comprised mostly of fruit. I know it’s a little early for fresh berries (not to mention STILL too cold around here to begin even dreaming of such a thing), but I love the fact that frozen berries mean never having to wait until July to make a good cobbler.

Berry Cobbler:

I’ll remind those looking to make this dessert that NuNaturals stevia is sort of one of those non-negotiables. If substitutions with the stevia are made, it’s highly likely the end product will taste much different than it should. This recipe was inspired by Susan O’Brien’s Blackberry Cobbler recipe in Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking.

Berry Filling:

4 cups frozen blueberries

3 cups frozen raspberries

1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

zest of one lemon

2 1/2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

Topping:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Ener-G egg replacer

1/2 cup Wholesoy & Co. plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a 9×13″ baking dish, toss ingredients for berry filling and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, egg replacer and baking soda. Add remaining ingredients and stir until incorporated. Add dollops of batter evenly over top of berries.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until very bubbly and top is golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving, so berry filling can set. Serve with your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream for an especially delicious treat!

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Caramel Corn

I based this recipe off of a “crazy corn” recipe my aunt made over the holidays. Hers was sticky and sweet and utterly addicting — this version is crisp and crunchy, but just as dangerously good. Seriously, don’t make this unless you have loads of friends over to help you finish it off, or serious willpower (alas, I most definitely do not possess the latter).

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Ours was spent in Michigan, where Woodley spent the first extended period of his life outside of New York since he was born, and was thoroughly excited to play in a real backyard and run through an actual home (not an apartment). We hosted Christmas Eve at my parents’ house. It was as all-vegetarian affair (vegan if not for a Greek salad with feta, which I admittedly cheated on). I took a picture of my cousin’s plate at her request, which only includes about half of what we had to offer. There was also crushed lentil soup, quinoa tabbouli, and vegan spinach dip.

I could really go on all night about our Christmas Eve menu (seriously, I could…) but we are heading back to New York tomorrow and have 10 hours of driving ahead of us, which means I should probably sleep at some point tonight. Therefore, without further ado, here’s the recipe for my new favorite addicting treat. This recipe is anti-candida diet friendly, if you’re on a diet that allows corn products. While the yacon can be quite expensive, I think it’s worth it here in terms of taste and texture.

Caramel Corn:

2/3 cup yacon syrup

4 1/2 tablespoons Sweetleaf Stevia Plus powder*

5 tablespoons soy-free Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 quarts popped popcorn

3/4 cup pecan pieces (optional)

Directions:

1. Bring first 5 ingredients to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Drizzle over popcorn and pecans and toss to combine until popcorn is evenly coated.

2. Lay popcorn flat on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 250 degree oven for 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes. Let cool for about 20-30 minutes before serving, or until popcorn is crisp.

* Note that this amount will need to be adjusted if you’re using a different brand. See comments.

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Sweet Potato Muffins

When I think of sweet potato in desserts, I usually think cloying and sweet and heavy. I think pumpkin pie spices, or maybe marshmallow if we’re going the casserole route. Maybe it’s this association that has had me hesitant to bake with sweet potato until now (I’ve never been the biggest fan of pumpkin pie, let alone sweet potato pie). My change-of-heart can be attributed to a few things: 1) I learned that the lining of many canned goods contains BPA, which is a no-no if you’re at all concerned about carcinogens. To me, sweet potato is simply much easier to cook from scratch (and available more often) than is pumpkin, my usual canned go-to. 2) I might as well give pumpkin a break as it is, since it’s appeared in quite a few of my recipes as of late. 3) I saw a recipe — and unfortunately, I can’t remember where or for what — that called for sweet potato with orange zest, and I thought “yes. I like that idea.” And so I tried it. I’m glad I did.

I know I promised my red lentil kibbeh recipe, but I’m not happy with the individual photos I took of it, so it’s gonna have to wait until I can make it again. In the meantime, please enjoy these easy, healthy, moist and yummy muffins. My new barometer for a good health muffin is whether you realize it’s healthy when eating it. I had two (and a half) today and (unfortunately, perhaps instinctively) began calculating the caloric damage. Remembering that these are all whole grain, contain flax, and are sweetened with stevia helped to put my mind at ease, at least a little. Still, I had to remind myself of all the benefits. They’re not apparent upon conspumption — which is a good thing, no?

Yield: 12 muffins

Sweet Potato Muffins:

While the perfectionist in me cringed at the sight of jagged muffins tops, don’t let their exterior fool you — these are moist and spongey on the inside. The sweet potato helps them to retain their moisture well after they’ve been ziplocked away and refrigerated. I mashed my sweet potato with a little texture — mostly smooth, but enough so that every once-in-awhile you bite into an actual piece of it. It creates a pretty speckled effect with the dried cranberry as well.

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

¼ cup flax seed meal

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups unsweetened soy milk

2 tablespoons canola oil (plus more for greasing tins, if needed)

1 teaspoon Nunaturals vanilla liquid stevia (or two teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus 1 teaspoon NuNaturals stevia)

1 ½ cups mashed cooked sweet potato (I boiled mine until fork tender, then drained)

1/2 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberry

Zest of 1 organic orange, washed (use a good, microplane zester for best results)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk together flour, flax, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk in soy milk, stevia and oil until incorporated into the dry ingredients. Add orange zest, cranberry and sweet potato and fold into batter until evenly distributed.

3. Using an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measure, drop batter into greased or lined muffin tins. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in tins for about 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cranberry Apple Crisp

Fall seems to have finally unpacked her bags and made herself at home here in New York, after weeks and months of t-shirt weather interspersed with a random, single chilly day. So when fall-inspired desserts were popping up on many a food blog, my mind was still craving ice cream and summery things. But now I’ve caught up, and fall is on my mind.

I don’t know about everyone else, but my body is still adjusting to this shorter days thing, though I’ve always had a bit of a slow internal adjustment system. While websites informed me that jet lag was no more than a few day occurrence, I went two weeks after our Spain trip feeling tired and slightly “off.” Of course, that could have been the aftermath of the virtual triathalon that was my bar taking (and studying), wedding planning (and getting married), and then my honeymoon. But I have nothing to blame my tiredness and lack of energy on this time around — nothing except my system, that is.

It was in my foggy, sleepy, post dark-at-4 p.m. state that I contemplated cranberry muffins. Then I thought about an apple pie. But there was something exhausting about just thinking about tedious measuring, precise baking times, and the always-sensitive nature of gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan baked goods that had me reconsidering my dessert options. Logically, I settled on a crisp — one of those dessert items that lends itself to some imprecision; it can be dressed down and put together lazily, but still manage to taste great.

I hope you all enjoy this easy, simply fall dessert as much as I did.

Cranberry Apple Filling:

2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through

3 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons orange juice (fresh squeezed or not)

1 tablespoon Sweetleaf stevia powder

1 tablesspoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch

Crisp Topping:

6 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill almond flour

6 tablespoons brown rice flour

4 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, cold and tightly packed

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Sweetleaf stevia powder (depending on desired sweetness)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Prepare filling: toss together all ingredients for filling and turn out into a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or other, similar-sized baking dish. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, add all ingredients for crisp topping. Break buttery spread into mixture with fingers until small pieces form and are evenly distrubuted throughout the topping. Sprinkle evenly over filling.

4. Bake crisp in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until filling is bubbly around the edges and top is slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

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