calico brownies (gluten free, low sugar, vegan) + fair trade

100_2143Disclaimer: This is a post that starts out seriously but ends in chocolate.

My husband and I are reading the book, “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.” It’s written by an American journalist living in Haiti when the earthquake struck five years ago. However, it’s also a book which details Haiti’s volatile history, sometimes of their own making, but also from in the influence of foreign powers rocking their boat. With the earthquake that just happened in Nepal and more natural disasters of increasing intensity on their way, it’s a timely book to be reading.

But what does Haiti have to do with brownies?

calicobrowniesNot much. At least in the sense that Haiti isn’t a large producer of the world’s chocolate  or coconut oil (it does export some). However, many of the trade practices which adversely affect Haiti on other fronts (which Katz relates in the book), also are in place with countries that do produce the most of the chocolate and coconut oil we consume.

For those of us living in affluent nations, the sad truth is that certain imported foods we enjoy at low cost to us comes at a high cost to others. (If you are interested in learning more about the importance of fair trade, I’ve included some links at the end of this post following the recipe.)

But I believe this can change because every time I make a purchase decision, I am casting my vote not only for the product but also for the business practice that brought it to the shelf.

So when a recipe calls for an ingredient that largely is produced and exported from a developing nation, I cast my vote in favor of fair trade as much as possible.

(Here’s where the brownies come in!)

Unlike most brownies which carry a high sugar content, these Calico Brownies, which are adapted from the “Peanut Butter Brownie” recipe found in “Vegan Planet”* on page 508, derive most of their sweetness from dates. They also feature fair trade cocoa power and fair trade coconut oil…which I think makes them taste all the sweeter.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the calico brownies recipe

 calico brownies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

 Serves: 16 brownies

Ingredients

  • 2 flax eggs (2 T ground flax + 6 T water)
  • ½ cup fair trade coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 cup agave or other liquid sweetener
  • 1 cup date paste
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ¾ cup fair trade unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼-1/3 c. no sugar natural peanut butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In small bowl, combine the flax seed and water to make the flax eggs. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt oil, add in vanilla and agave, then turn off heat.

Break date paste into smaller pieces and stir into liquid mixture – using a potato masher works well to further break up the date paste.

Add in flax eggs and stir.

Add in dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine (the mixture will appear dense and crumble in large pieces.

Pour mixture into greased 8×8 glass baking dish and press down firmly with hands.

Pour peanut butter over batter and use a knife to work it in, then press down batter again (keeping your hands moistened with water helps prevent the batter from sticking to them.

Bake 20 minutes.

Let it cool completely before cutting.

Recipe Notes

Typically, I’ve purchased Equal Exchange’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa at my local health food store, but recently found Frontier’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa for less at Abe’s Market. (you can get free shipping on orders over $49.) I usually buy Br. Bronner’s brand of fair trade coconut oil.

Make sure the stevia you use is 100%, otherwise results will vary. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own scoop.

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 *I am an Amazon associate. If you purchase the cookbook through this link, it will provide a small credit to my account.

 

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sweet potato & lentil soup (vegan, oil-free)

2009-01-19 17.49.37The first vegan cookbook I ever purchased was Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson*. It was during the season in my life that my oldest son likes to refer to as “the time when we weren’t eating healthy.” I refer to it as the time when I didn’t realize the benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

But the Lord knew He would bring me to this place, so He gradually encouraged me to go meat-free on more than just Monday. I started by exploring vegan and vegetarian cookbooks in our local library until I stumbled upon Vegan Planet*.

One of my favorite recipes from the book is Robin’s “Indian-spiced Lentil Soup” on page 78.

Although soups are most often thought of in the fall and winter, I make them year round. Especially when spring shows its chillier side.
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100_1757And I think this soup is especially spring-like with the bright addition of cilantro, an herb that flourishes in cooler temperatures.

2009-01-19 17.12.30Spring, summer, fall, winter, here is my version of this sweet potato lentil soup.

swplentilsoup CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the sweet potato lentil soup recipe

sweet potato lentil soup

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 60-70 minutes

Ingredients (6-8)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled & diced
  • 1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ cups dried brown lentils
  • 6 cups water
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, minced
  • ½-3/4 tsp. salt
  • Dashes of pepper

Instructions

In a stock pot, sauté onions, celery and garlic in a little water until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes)

Add sweet potatoes and sauté 5 minutes more.

Add water, tomatoes and seasonings except the cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 50 to 55 minutes until the lentils and sweet potato are cooked through.

Add cilantro and cook 10 minutes more.

Recipe Notes

As with most soups, this one tastes even better the second day when the flavors have fully developed.

This soup freezes well, so make some extra and keep on hand when you need a meal in a pinch.

 *I am an Amazon associate. If you purchase the cookbook through this link, it will provide a small credit to my account.

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naturally salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya (vegan, nut-free/raw option)

100_1879Sometimes, I think the best recipes are those that are cobbled together…a little of this, a little of that, nothing measured. Just a few favorite ingredients in a bowl, in a cup, on a plate. Snacking especially lends itself to improv eating.

Although my go to snack often is enough to satisfy, sometimes, I’m looking for something a little bit more…

100_1883This snack is by no means intended to approximate the traditional Cajun jambalaya in the rice-veggies-meat sense, but it does mimic the dish’s mish mash approach to pulling ingredients together.

Peanut butter + banana have long been a favorite of mine. (In my white-bread eating days, it was especially satisfying eat the pb+b on a toasted plain bagel.)

Add in naturally sweet dried coconut and raisins and the hint of cinnamon and you have an unconventional, yet satisfying snack. I usually toss all these ingredients in a bowl, but for the pictures, I used a small canning jar, because it just looks prettier.

If you have a nut allergy, substitute in sunflower seed butter. And if you prefer eating raw, use a raw nut butter. I recommend using a salted nut/seed butter as it complements the delicate sweetness of the fruit.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya

 Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Banana Jumblelaya

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1 banana per person
Raisins
Unsweetened, shredded dried coconut
Cinnamon
Salted peanut butter or nut or seed butter of choice

1. Slice bananas into a bowl, jar or mug
2. Sprinkle on cinnamon
3. Add remaining ingredients in desired quantity
4. Enjoy!

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oven-baked sweet potato chips + guacamole (vegan, oil-free)

2009-01-18 19.13.25I grew up in a home where we ate quite a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. But somehow the avocado eluded us. And guacamole? The first time I tried it I was in my late twenties.

It was love-at-first-bite.

guacamole collage But chips, guac’s side kick, are rather low on the healthy eating spectrum, sprouted, organic, GMO-free or not. And despite their salty, crunchy tastiness, I’ve been looking beyond the vegan label to examine what I’m actually putting into my body.  Because eating a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily = a healthy diet.

So when I want a healthier compadre for my guacamole, I round up some sweet potatoes and put them to work. According to WebMD, sweet potatoes are full of calcium, potassium and vitamins A & C.sweet potato rounds collageBoth recipes are simple to prepare and contain a small handful of ingredients.

But before we get to the recipes, I wondered…are there any foods or dishes that somehow eluded you in childhood that you discovered as an adult?

CLICK TO PRINT A PDF of the guacamole recipe
CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the oven baked sweet potato chips recipe

oven baked sweet potato chips & guacamole (oil free, vegan)

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 45-60 minutes

Keywords: bake raw appetizer snack side gluten-free nut-free oil free paleo soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian garlic avocado cilantro sweet potato Cinco de Mayo Mexican

Ingredients

    For the Sweet Potato Chips

    • Sweet potatoes
    • Salt
    • Chili powder
    • Cumin

    For the Guacamole

    • 1 avocado
    • 1- 1½ tsp. fresh lime juice
    • 1-2 T cilantro
    • 1 small garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • Freshly ground pepper

    Instructions

    For the Sweet Potato Chips

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

    Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes, then slice into rounds about ¼” thick.

    Place rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with seasonings to your taste.

    Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hours, turning at least once until potatoes are cooked through.

    For the Guacamole

    Peel the avocado, remove pit and mash.

    Add remaining ingredients to the avocado and stir thoroughly.

    Best if served immediately.

    Recipe Notes

    Plan to prepare approximately 1-2 sweet potatoes per person depending on the size of the potato.

    Sweet potato chips are best when freshly cooked, but can be stored in the fridge and then reheated

    Avocados are ripe when their skins are black and they yield gently to the touch.

    A fork or potato masher work well to mash the avocado.

    Sometimes I add in diced onion and/or finely diced tomatoes to mix things up a bit.

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    oh-lay early spring salad

    2009-01-08 14.07.00It’s funny how much we talk about the weather, at least around these parts. Perhaps it’s because we’re all in it together, this waiting for spring to be spring.

    I check weather updates repeatedly as if somehow my multiple visits per day to our local weather station’s website will translate to warmer temperatures in the forecast. Even now my fingers are itching to check it once again. The calendar says it’s spring, but the temperatures seem reluctant to leave winter behind. I need to remind myself as I remind my children that it is the Lord who controls the weather and, thankfully, He is not bound by a calendar.

    spring inside
    lavender for our door :: wheatgrass courtesy of my youngest who bought it for my oldest :: a nod to another favorite past time

    At least I can bring spring inside our home and to our table. For our home, I’m switching out winter photographs, prints and decorations. (And if you’re looking for spring printables, here are a few free ones I found around the web: (Hello Spring by On Sutton Place; Hello Spring by Sandy Toes and Popsicles; Bicycles by Oh So Lovely blog)

    And for our table, I looking to grace it with recipes that incorporate springtime vegetables and my favorite minneola oranges which are only available for a short time in the stores where we live .

    early spring saladSo I was excited a few weeks back to have this recipe arrive in my inbox from Minimalist Baker.  I tried it out, but didn’t like the combination of the beans and quinoa with the lettuce, though I might have liked it better with kale (it’s a texture thing). So I made a few modifications to come up with the Oh-lay! Early Spring Salad featuring a pumpkin seed parmesan.

    CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the Oh-lay Early Spring Salad recipe

    oh-lay early spring salad

    Prep Time: 20-30 minutes

    Cook Time: 1-2 minutes

    Serves: 4 people

    Ingredients

      For the Salad

      • Spring greens mix
      • Asparagus, roughly chopped
      • ½ – 1 cup minced cilantro
      • Oranges, diced
      • Avocado, diced
      • Pumpkin seed parmesan
      • Optional toppings:
      • Cucumber, diced
      • Roasted red pepper, sliced (organic is best)
      • Corn (organic is best)
      • Plantain chips, crumbled

      For the Pumpkin Seed Parmesan

      • ½ c. pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted
      • 3 tsp. nutritional yeast
      • 1 ½ tsp. olive oil
      • 1/8 tsp. salt
      • ¼ tsp. (heaping) cumin

      For the Orange-Lime Dressing

      • ¼ c. lime juice
      • 1 T orange juice concentrate + 1 T water
      • 3 T olive or avocado oil
      • ½ scoop 100% pure stevia
      • ½ tsp. cumin
      • ¼ tsp. chili powder
      • 1/8 tsp. salt
      • Dash pepper
      • 1 T cilantro, minced

      Instructions

      1. If toasting pumpkin seeds, place in a pot over high heat and toast until you hear the seeds begin to “pop”, about 1-2 minutes.

      2. Combine all pumpkin seed parmesan ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until roughly crumbled.

      3. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well until emulsified.

      4. Prepare all salad ingredients, combine with dressing and parmesan and serve.

      Recipe Notes

      Use about one large handful of salad greens per person.

      If serving to a crowd, combine the greens, asparagus and cilantro in a large salad bowl, but serve the remaining toppings and dressing on the side for guests to add as desired. That way if you have leftovers, the greens will remain fresh.

      Pumpkin seed parmesan will keep for at least one week if refrigerated in a jar.

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