no bake chocolate mint squares (vegan, no added sugar, paleo, gluten free)

 

There are three things I have to do before I start writing a blog post: get my pictures purdied up, make sure my nails are clipped short and fix my hair in a ponytail. The pictures are essential. The other two? Just a couple quirks that minimize distractions for me. LOL

Now that those are out of the way, let’s chat about these no bake chocolate mint squares.

They are a minty take on a couple of recipes I frequently use for desserts and are fast and simple to whip up. The only downside, perhaps, is waiting a couple of hours for them to set in the fridge. Which is why it’s always a good idea to leave a little bit of the mousse filling in the food processor bowl.

Here are the stats on these no bake chocolate mint squares:

  • chocolatey
  • minty
  • vegan
  • gluten free
  • paleo option
  • raw option
  • no added sugar
  • plant protein
  • higher in fat (thanks to the avocado, coconut milk and nuts)

 

I’m giving you two options for the finished look: naked…

 

 

 

…and fancy.

 

Truthfully, I often go the low-key route and let the taste of these squares do all the talking (especially if I’m in a hurry), but occasionally it’s fun to dress things up a little, especially if you’re bringing these along to a friend’s house or potluck.

To make the fancy version, be sure to follow the steps in the instructions carefully which will save you time and ingredients. Trust me on this one.

If you use peppermint essential oil (like I did), make sure it is a high quality one and approved for internal consumption. My favorite brand is by Young Living with the extra bonus of being able to support my friend in her business. If you use peppermint extract, you’ll need more than the EO since it isn’t as strong.

Now for the recipe, shall we?

 

No bake chocolate mint squares
Prep Time
10 mins
Chil Time
2 hrs
 

These vegan chocolately minty squares are easy to make, free of added sugars and can be suited to a gluten free and paleo diet.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Servings: 16 squares
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the base:
  • 1 cup almonds (raw if preferred)
  • 3/4 cup date paste*
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 scoops 100% pure powdered stevia
For the filling:
  • 1 just ripe avocado
  • 1 15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup date paste*
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 scoops 100% pure powdered stevia
  • 2 T peanut butter (or almond butter for paleo)
For the green drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup reserved avocado/coconut mixture (see instructions)
  • 2-3 pinches 100% pure powdered stevia
  • 1-2 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1/8-1/16 tsp matcha
For the chocolate drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup reserved chocolate mixture (see instructions)
  • 3 tsp unsweetened almond milk
  • cacoa nibs (optional)
Instructions
For the base:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until the nuts are chopped fine and the ingredients just hold together when pinched between your fingers. Be careful not to over mix as the nuts will release their oils.

  2. Pour into an 8x8 glass baking dish and press down firmly and evenly to form the base. Set aside.

For the filling:
  1. Add the coconut milk and avocado to a clean food processor bowl and mix until smooth. If making the fancy version of the squares remove 1/4 of the mixture, add to a clean jar and set aside.

  2. Add remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the bowl a couple of times. If making the fancy version, remove 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture, add to a clean jar and set aside.

  3. Pour filling over the base, cover with foil and chill in the fridge for at least two hours to set. Cut into 16 squares and serve. Store in the fridge for up to two days (if they last that long 😉 )

For the fancy version of the squares:
  1. Combine all green drizzle ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover the jar with the lid and chill until ready to decorate the squares.

  2. Thin the reserved 1/4 cup of chocolate mixture with almond milk. Cover the jar with the lid and chill until ready to decorate the squares.

  3. Once the squares are chilled and set, pour the green drizzle into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Alternatively, you can use a plastic sandwich bag by spooning in the mixture, sealing and cutting off a tiny corner of the bag. Drizzle over the squares in a loose zigzag pattern.

  4. Repeat for the chocolate drizzle using a clean bag. If desired, sprinkle cacao nibs over the squares.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping

rainbow brownie pizza (vegan, no added sugar, gluten free)

 

Rainbows and bright colors have been on my mind lately because here in Ohio, this time of year can be really hard. Those of you living in northern and cloudy climates who struggle with winter blues will know what I mean. #wink

Which is why the more color I see on my plate the better, like this recipe I shared last week. And this rainbow brownie pizza? It’s like a sweet reminder of the promise that summer is coming.

 

So let’s dig in, shall we?

 

To make the rainbow brownie pizza, I started with a base made from my favorite brownie recipe and spread on a generous helping of date caramel. Both recipes are free of added sugar and gluten free.

If you’re wondering why date caramel instead of the cream cheese often used on fruit pizzas, it’s because I try to avoid processed vegan products which often contain ingredients that are just as unhealthy as animal-based products. And I have yet to find a homemade cream cheese recipe that I’m happy with.

 

 

We could stop right there and I would be perfectly happy, but since this is a pizza, we need some toppings, right?

For this rainbow, I chose strawberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries and blackberries. Of course, if these aren’t your favorites, simply swap them out with a fruit of the same color. Easy peasy.

Regardless of the fruit you choose, I highly recommend going organic for the berries because of the high pesticide content conventional berries contain. The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list is my favorite resource for verifying which foods I want to prioritize buying organic. And since this recipe requires only a small amount of each fruit, it won’t break the bank to make this switch.

Since we don’t have a traditional round pizza pan, I chose to make the brownie base in a 9″ cake pan, filling it only half way. If you do the same thing, either make only half the brownie batter or fill two 9″ cake pans. I personally recommend the second.

To keep things simple and added sugar free, I thinned a little of the date caramel with more unsweetened almond milk for the drizzle and sprinkled cacao nibs on top. I’m working on a chocolate sauce recipe and once it’s ready, you can bet I’ll be updating this recipe to include chocolate drizzle too!

 

Rainbow Brownie Pizza
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Cooling Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

Chocolate, fruit and date caramel come together in this easy to assemble dessert, snack or even breakfast recipe that gets rave reviews and pleases a crowd.

Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1 Rockier Road Brownie recipe (without the topping)
  • 1 Date Caramel recipe
  • 1 package organic strawberries
  • 6-7 mandarin oranges, peeled
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled and cored
  • 5-6 kiwi, peeled
  • 1 package blueberries
  • 1 package blackberries
Instructions
  1. Make the brownie recipe and either press onto a well-greased round pizza pan or spread batter into two 9" round cake pans well greased and lined with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Baking time 5-7 minutes less if spreading batter onto a pizza pan.

  2. While the base is baking, make the date caramel and prepare the fruit. Rinse the strawberries and slice in half, peel the oranges and pull apart each section. For the pineapple, cut into bite-sized wedges. Peel the kiwi and slice into rounds. Rinse the blueberries and blackberries and gently pat dry.

  3. When the base is done cooking, let it cool before spreading on the date caramel. To speed up the cooling, you can place it in the fridge.

  4. Arrange the fruit in a rainbow pattern starting with the strawberries around the outside and working your way inward with each color of fruit. Let the orange, pineapple and kiwi slices overlap slightly.

  5. For the caramel drizzle, take 1-2 tablespoons of date caramel and thin slightly with unsweetened non-dairy milk of your choice. It should be just runny enough to pour easily off a spoon and over the fruit. If desired, sprinkle with cacao nibs.

 

 

 

mini pumpkin pie-lets …updated (vegan, dairy free)

As I was cooking for Thanksgiving last week, I discovered a bit of an oops in this recipe for mini pumpkin pie-lets. Originally, I posted that the recipe made 12 pie-lets, when really, it makes about 36. I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote up the original. Total face palm.

Hint: if you want more than a little pastry leftover to make these, then make two dozen mini pumpkin pie-lets and eat the leftover filling like pumpkin mousse.

I updated the recipe in the original post plus made a slight tweak to the spices because I can’t help it…I’m always experimenting! I found that I liked a little more of each spice compared to the portions I initially wrote down. I’m re-sharing the updated recipe here too.

If you want a little more behind-the-scenes details on how my Thanksgiving prep went (including why I felt like a total failure), I’m sharing that with my newsletter insider crew. If you want to get on that list so you never miss a recipe and have direct access to tips and stories I only share there, you can do that by signing up here.

Now for that updates mini pumpkin pies recipe…

 

pumpkin pie-lets with maple coconut whip
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
42 mins
 

Made mostly added-sugar free, these mini pumpkin pies are a vegan twist on a traditional holiday recipe.

Course: Dessert
Servings: 36 mini pumpkin pies
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 2.5 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan buttery spread, chilled
  • 1/2-2/3 cup ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup date paste
  • 1/2 small just ripe banana
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • scant 1/2 tsp ginger
  • scant 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 4 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the maple coconut whip:
  • 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup or 1/2 scoop stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Instructions
For the crust:
  1. For best results, chill the bowl, pastry blender, utensils and all ingredients for at least 30 minutes.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt, then use the pastry blender to cut in the butter until tiny pea-sized balls begin to form. Gradually stir in a 1/2 cup of the ice water using a metal spoon. Add more water as needed until the pastry begins to form the shape of a ball.

  3. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Before rolling out, divide the dough in half.

  4. Remove half of the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8"-1"4 thickness. Use the lid of a wide-mouth mason jar to trace out circles for the individual pie crusts. It's best to start around the edges of the crust and then trace out the circles on the inside to maximize the use of your crust. Put scraps aside in the fridge and roll out the other half of the dough, then use remaining scraps and re-roll.

  5. Place each crust into a mini cupcake/tart pan and gently form the crust to the inside of each cup. Prick the bottom of each pie crust several times with a fork, then line top of pan with a double thickness of foil before placing in a 450 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

  6. Remove from oven and remove each shell to cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze in a sturdy freezer-friendly container until ready to use.

For the filling:
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined. I find it helps to blend for several minutes, let it rest for a few minutes and then give it a final blending for an additional 1-2 minutes.

  2. If not filling the mini pie shells immediately, store filling in an air tight container in the fridge.

For the maple coconut whip:
  1. Chill the can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight to have the cream set. Open the can and carefully drain off the liquid/remove the cream from the can.

  2. Place the cream in mixing bowl and add the maple syrup or stevia and the vanilla. Use a set of beaters or hand whisk to whip up the cream. The coconut whip can be made one day ahead of time, but you'll need to repeat the whipping process before serving.

To assemble the pie-lets:
  1. Spoon the pumpkin pie filling into each pie shell. Top with a dollop of maple coconut whip and a dash of nutmeg.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I’ve found the full-fat coconut milk at Whole Foods doesn’t set well and not all brands do. Thai Kitchen is one brand, however, that has pretty reliably set for me. You can get it here if you can’t find it in the Asian section of your local grocery store.

apple pumpkin granola fall parfait (vegan, no added sugar, gluten free option)

Last week, I shared one apple-based recipe and one with pumpkin – both bonus recipes in my Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition recipe ebook.

Today, I’m ending the debate and bringing both flavors together with one snack-tastic recipe…the apple pumpkin granola fall parfait.

When I created Perk Up Your Pantry, my thought was to include recipes that could be enjoyed by themselves, but also easily combined in new ways so your meal plans feel fresh and fun. Which is exactly what I love about this pumpkin harvest granola!

 

 

 

You could make this for breakfast or as a snack – even one on the go. To re-create your parfait as I did, you’ll need your favorite variety of fresh apple, my date caramel recipe and the pumpkin harvest granola which can only be found in the Perk Up Your Pantry recipe ebook.

The other thing I love is that it shows how easily you can create an indulgent-looking snack (or breakfast!) without any added sugars or dairy products. It’s food that loves you back!

I will add, however, that it’s still wise to eat a well balanced diet – one filled with leafy greens especially. If you go crazy on the carbs – especially added sugars, plant-based fats, processed vegan foods and fruits and veggies with a high naturally-occurring sugar profile, you might not experience the health benefits you’re looking for.

That’s also what you’ll find in the Perk Up Your Pantry recipe ebook – a good balance of recipes with sensible, but fun, vegan eating in mind. The recipe ebook also includes:

  • 5 essential sauce recipes
  • 5 essential snack recipes
  • 5 easy main dish recipes
  • 3 fall-inspired bonus recipes
  • A shopping list of all ingredients

PLUS you’ll receive two bonus items: a meal prep tip sheet and a meal plan tip sheet which includes a suggested meal plan featuring the recipe in the Fall Perk Up Your Pantry recipe book. All for only $8! Click here to buy it now.

 

snack to school week: apples + date caramel (vegan, no added sugar)

(Subscribe to my newsletter here so you don’t miss a Snack to School Week – or any – recipe!)

 

The other week I shared this recipe for date caramel. This week, I’m sharing it again; this time with the quintessential back to school fruit: apples.

My personal favorites are granny smiths because their tartness is a perfect complement to the natural sweetness of the date caramel. Organic apples are best since conventional apples rank #4 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. (Hint: to have quick access to this list, download their Dirty Dozen app to your phone!)

And on that sweetness…there is no added sugar in this date caramel. It’s sweetened entirely by the sugars which naturally occur in the dried Medjool dates (which are the best choice for this recipe).

Funnily enough though, my youngest thought it was “too sweet.” I’m still scratching my head over this one since he happily eats candy and drinks pop whenever he can despite my best efforts to squash that. LOL Which just goes to show even “kid friendly” recipes aren’t foolproof as I shared on Day One of Snack to School Week.

I love this recipe because its:

  • easy to prepare
  • fun
  • packed full of nutrients
  • smooth and creamy
  • a better way to appease that sweet tooth
  • versatile

If you’re sending the apples to school, try squeezing a little lemon juice over them to keep them from turning brown.

Only one more day to go in the 2017 edition of Snack to School Week. Come back tomorrow for my roundup of other amazing school snack ideas!

Date Caramel
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Rich and creamy and loaded with nutrients and plant-protein, this date caramel easily comes together to satisfy your sweet tooth, but without giving you a sugar crash.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 6-8 Medjool dates
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp (scant) salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Instructions
  1. Pit the dates and then add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy, adjusting salt to taste. For a thinner sauce, add more almond milk.

Recipe Notes

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.

 

date caramel (vegan, gluten free, no added sugar)

One of the hardest things I ever did was take on a three-month sugar detox several years ago. It took me more than a year to work up the courage to see it through, but once I finished it, I knew I never wanted to go back to my sugar-seeking ways.

Except the thought of not enjoying desserts again, especially for special occasions, was a bit of downer. Thankfully, I’ve learned that kicking the added sugar habit does not mean you can never treat yo’self.

In fact, it’s the opposite with recipes like this date caramel!

This no-added sugar alternative to traditional caramel sauce has the extra benefit of plant-protein (from the almonds) and copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin found in the dates. So rich and creamy but without the empty calories and energy rush…or crash. I could happily eat an entire jar in one sitting.

The key to this recipe is buying Medjool dates with the pits still in them (you’ll remove the pits before blending, of course). You may need to adjust the salt content depending on whether you’re using salted or unsalted almond butter and your personal preference (I used salted).

 

(contains affiliate links)

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.

 

 

Date Caramel
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Rich and creamy and loaded with nutrients and plant-protein, this date caramel easily comes together to satisfy your sweet tooth, but without giving you a sugar crash.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 6-8 Medjool dates
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp (scant) salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Instructions
  1. Pit the dates and then add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy, adjusting salt to taste. For a thinner sauce, add more almond milk.

Recipe Notes

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.