All the Vegan Brownies

Yesterday, as I made my third batch of brownies in only a couple weeks, I realized two things. First, that there is no such thing as too many brownies. Second, that it’d be fun to do a little vegan brownie comparison! These are the three recipes that I used:

  1. Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, by Minimalist Baker

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  1. Almond Butter Brownies, by Chocolate Covered Katie, with alterations by me (separate post on these brownies here)

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  1. Unbelievably Melty Gooey Brownies, by Chocolate Covered Katie

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One note about the Almond Butter Brownies: I tweaked the recipe, so all opinions expressed reflect my unique results and do not necessarily apply to the recipe as written by CCK. All the other recipes were made pretty much as written in the original recipe 😊 I’ll compare them in a few different categories: Texture, Taste, and The Healthiness Factor (oh so dramatic!).

Texture:

  1. The PB Swirl Brownies have a great texture! They are dense, chewy, and rich, with a smooth peanut butter swirl that contrasts somewhat with the brownie itself, though it all plays together very harmoniously. They grow moister and firmer as they sit in the refrigerator.
  2. The Almond Butter Brownies have a surprisingly traditional texture. They are nice and chewy, but they are a little more delicate than the PB Swirl brownies. They actually dry out in the fridge and do not become firmer as they sit.
  3. The Gooey Brownies have a very unique texture (as suggested by the title!). They are not chewy, nor are they firm… they are completely soft, like half-baked batter. They are also a bit gritty, because of the coconut flour. When they have first cooled after baking, you have to scoop out the brownies with a spoon to eat, but when they sit in the fridge overnight they do firm up to the point that you can cut them out and hold them. Even at that point, though, they are quite delicate. The texture is nice for a once-in-a-while thing, but I wouldn’t want to eat brownies like these all the time.

Taste:

  1. The PB Swirl brownies have a very rich, dark, chocolatey flavor. They do not taste like beans at all (praise the Lord!). The peanut butter swirl is super peanut-buttery and lightly sweet, and overall they are more rich/dark than sweet. Just sweet enough for a treat.
  2. The Almond Butter Brownies (again, as I made them, not as the recipe dictates… I think if you followed the recipe they’d taste quite different!) have a unique flavor, with lots of molasses and chocolate. You can also taste the mix of peanut butter and almond butter, without just one flavor overpowering the other. I love how much depth of flavor these brownies have.
  3. The Gooey Brownies are not as multi-dimensional as the others. Since I used coconut oil for the non-specified oil in the recipe, there’s a hint of coconut, but it’s mostly just chocolate. I like how these brownies taste, but they’re nothing sensational.

Healthiness:

  1. The PB Swirl brownies are actually pretty nutritious. They are also gluten free. Here’s the rundown of their ingredients: black beans, 2 flax eggs, coconut oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, maple syrup (or agave), raw sugar (I think I just used granulated), baking powder, baking soda, peanut butter, powdered sugar, chocolate chips (for dispersing throughout and sprinkling on top. I omitted them.) Honestly, you’re probably not going to get much healthier than that for a brownie. Especially given how indulgent these brownies taste, they are quite impressive health-wise!
  2. The Almond Butter brownies are fairly healthy as well, and are gluten free. They have cocoa powder, maple syrup (I used molasses), lots of nut butter, rolled oats, baking soda, and salt. I count that as a pretty healthy brownie. They are also oil-free!
  3. The Gooey Brownies are pretty darn healthy, too. And guess what? They’re gluten free as well! (I do still eat gluten though. I didn’t intentionally make only gluten free brownies for this post!) The basic recipe contains coconut flour, applesauce, water, vanilla, oil, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, coconut sugar, and a little stevia. You may also add flax meal, which I did.

I’m not going to name one recipe as the healthiest, as I’m not qualified for that. But I will say that I think they are all good choices for the health-conscious baker 😉

I think my overall favorite would have to be the almond butter brownies. I love that I can use molasses to sweeten them, and that they are composed primarily of nut butters. I think next time I make them I’ll add flax meal, too.

I hope you feel inspired to make some vegan brownies! You know, I kinda feel like a fourth batch….

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CCK Almond Butter Brownies

Hey guys! I’m real excited about these brownies. Want to know why? They are:

  1. Reasonably healthy, at least by my own standards.
  2. Gluten free!
  3. Easy to make, bake, and eat.
  4. Made of basic ingredients. No maca around here, much as I want to try it!

I got the basic recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie, but made some adjustments as always. For starters, I used both peanut butter and almond butter in the recipe, simply because I never seem to have enough of one nut butter for a recipe like this. I also used molasses to sweeten instead of maple syrup, which was a perfect healthier substitution! And finally, I reduced the amount of sweetener from 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons to just 1/2 cup. They are a little crumbly though, which was probably my fault for reducing the liquid and might be remedied by some aquafaba or a small flax egg. I’ll have to try that and report back!

I would only recommend these healthy brownies to people who like nuts and molasses, because you can definitely taste both of those ingredients. But, if you do like those ingredients, and if you also like rich, chewy, fragrant, hearty desserts… you might like these brownies 😉

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Blueberry Apple Pie Bars

Hold the phone because guess what?

  1. I made blueberry apple pie bars. They are good. Trust me.
  2. I got Photoshop and actually edited a photo!! Go, me!

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I’m really glad to have finally gotten that (buying Photoshop) out of the way. I am a big under-buyer, even when it comes to other people’s money. So, when my mom and dad gave me a card for Christmas saying that it was good for the purchase of Photoshop for my computer, I waited way too long to actually get it, even though I totally wanted it! It’s because downloading it involved decisions, such as choosing between packages and plans, and that just makes it hard. Does anybody else feel this way about buying things? I just seriously hate wasting money, especially when it’s not mine!

As far as these delicious blueberry and apple bars: consider them the cousins of these strawberry oat bars 😉 That’s because I used the recipe for the strawberry bars for reference, but adapted it according to which groceries we ran out of personal creative flair. It’s no longer free of refined sugar, but it does have an extra punch of protein thanks to the almond flour, and it tastes like a chewy, rich cookie. Also, blueberries are pretty and I love them. Here’s the recipe:

Apple Blueberry Pie Bars

adapted from the Healthy Strawberry Oat Bars by Sally’s Baking Addiction

Filling Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. brown sugar

pinch of salt

1 cup blueberries*

1 cup peeled and finely chopped apple (this was 1 small-ish apple for me)

2 tbsp. corn starch

2 tbsp. warm water

Crust/Crumble Ingredients:

1 cup plus 1/4 cup rolled oats

1 cup unblanched almond flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup of nut butter**

1/4 cup applesauce

a pinch of salt***

Filling Process:

Mix together the blueberries, sugar, chopped apple, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil  over medium heat, stirring consistently until the blueberries release their juice. You may want to smash a few to aid the process along. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and warm water until smooth. Once the blueberry mixture is boiling, remove from heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Set aside.

Crust Process:

Preheat oven to 325º F. Then, dump everything in a pan and mix! Mix really, really well. It’s pretty thick and sticky, so just consider it your arm workout for the day. Line an 8-by-8 inch pan with parchment paper and press the dough (leaving behind about 1/2 cup for the crumble) into the pan. Press really firmly! Once it’s even, pour the filling on top, and crumble the rest of the dough on top with your fingers. Bake for 29 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 12-16 bars

Notes:

* I used frozen blueberries. I haven’t made these with fresh, but I’m pretty sure it would be fine.

** I really like to use 1/2 cup almond butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter. It gives them a more complex flavor, and it keeps the peanut butter from being overwhelming.

***I actually did not use a pinch of salt in the dough, but my nut butters contained salt. Use according to your own preference.

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I love these bars, and my friends do, too. If you make these, please let me know what you think! Have an awesome Friday!

 

 

 

Healthy Strawberry Oat Squares

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I am writing this blog post from my first hour classroom at school! The class is Recent American History and we finished our notes early, so I figured I’d just go ahead and start my next blog post on my computer. Today is the first day of school after Christmas Break, and the mood at school is actually pretty good. People are glad to see each other, though nobody really wants to have to wake up early again. I guess I’m feeling the same way. Christmas Break was really nice, though very up-and-down emotionally. That’s kind of just how it feels to be me right now (#teenager!). But, break can’t last forever, so here I am!

Anyway, since I always bring a little mid-morning snack to school, I whipped up some snack bars to make going back to school a little easier. Don’t they look delicious?

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These are healthy strawberry oat bars, and they are so yummy! I veganized an almost-vegan recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (all it took was a flax egg instead of a chicken’s egg!), and they turned out perfectly. They are full of oats, almond butter, peanut butter, and strawberries, making them a wholesome snack that will keep you energized. I even had one of these as part of my dinner last night! And they are easy to make. Since I only made minor adjustments, I’m not going to write out the recipe for you (I think it’s important to respect those who actually come up with these recipes), but I’m linking the recipe below, and these were the adjustments I made:

  1. I replaced the chicken’s egg with a flax egg.
  2. Where almond butter is called for, I used half almond butter and half peanut butter. This makes them lightly peanut-buttery without being overwhelming.
  3. I used frozen strawberries. No problems there.
  4. I left out the 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar in the filling.
  5. I used a mixture of quick and rolled oats.
  6. I used applesauce instead of apple butter.
  7. I left out the sliced almonds in the crumble topping.
  8. I added just a pinch of salt to the filling.

Find the recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction 🙂

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Here’s to a great start to 2016. I’m determined to keep my resolutions, and I think these bars will help keep me revved up to do exactly that! 😉

Chocolate Covered Katie Gingerbread Banana Bread

Ok, so the title is a mouthful… but hey, I’m just trying to give you all the information 😆

I thought I’d show this Gingerbread Banana Bread from CCK off a little, because it turned out to be pretty delicious! I’m not really surprised though, because I’ve made Katie’s regular fat-free banana bread before as well, and that is definitely the best basic banana bread (alliteration? Yes indeed, I’m a scholar 😂) I’ve ever had.

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I felt good about making this recipe just 2 days after Christmas, because in fact it is pretty healthy. It contains Bob’s Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour instead of wheat flour (not that I’m against wheat, but all we had was AP white flour), a conservative amount of maple syrup, molasses, lots of ginger, coconut oil, and tons of banana. I used very ripe bananas, which contributed to the sweetness to the point that I didn’t need to add the optional sugar.

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I’m pretty happy with the texture of the bread. It’s a little tiny bit on the gummy side – nothing too bad at all though, and I’d personally prefer that over crumbly. Overall, it’s soft and cake-y, yet satisfying. I feel like, when I use Bob’s 1-to-1 mix, the texture always comes out as very melt-in-your-mouth, rather than chewy. It’s never bad, but sometimes I prefer the heartiness of wheat flour. Do you have any preferred GF baking mixes? I haven’t experimented too much, though I have fallen in love with almond flour!

Also, the flavor here is great. Total gingerbread, just with the addition of bananas! It’s mildly sweet, and I think that’s just right. No need for the optional sugar listed in the recipe if your bananas are ripe enough.

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By the way, I’m still on Christmas break for another week! That means we get to take a little family trip to Dallas, TX for a few days. I’ve never even been into Texas before, but now that we live in Oklahoma (which I hear is basically north Texas!) it’s time to explore the state. I’m really excited about this trip. Some of my favorite bloggers/social media presences (“presences”? Yes, we are going to that level of formality today) are from Texas or live there currently. For example, Katie from CCK and the McKnights from Cute Girls Hairstyles. I’m sure we’ll go to some vegan restaurants while we are there, so I’ll definitely post about it.

I hope you all have a great week! I’d have said “y’all”, but to be honest I’m not quite there yet. #michigander

 

Minimalist Baker PB & J Muffins

I really like Minimalist Baker – it’s such a fun space, with those beautiful photographs and creative recipes! I’m always interested to try Dana’s creations, and that’s how I found this recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins.

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These muffins are vegan and gluten free, and can be refined sugar free as well. They are very soft, rich, and moist, and in my opinion, they are almost more like cupcakes than muffins!

This is a one-bowl recipe, which is always appreciated, and doesn’t generate too many dishes. It also uses pretty standard ingredients, like almond flour, gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s 1:1 Baking Flour, which is recommended in the recipe), rolled oats, and maple syrup.

I think that the flavor of the muffins, while good, would benefit from a bit more salt to bring out the peanut butter in the batter. Also, some chopped peanuts would be great to make the actual muffin itself a little more interesting. All the same, though, the muffins taste pretty darn good.

I’d recommend that you add a little extra flour if your batter seems too wet. I didn’t, even though my batter was wetter than the description given in the recipe, and I think my muffins turned out just a little too soft because of it. Just a word of caution!

I made a mistake with this recipe: I didn’t swirl the peanut butter and jelly into the tops of the unbaked muffins before baking. I think that would have helped keep the jelly on top/inside the muffins, instead of sliding off while baking, and would have prevented the middle of the muffins from sinking (which they did, but not too badly. Again, more flour likely would have solved that problem!).

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Overall, I’d definitely recommend this recipe for some fun and dessert-y (is that a word?) muffins. Just make sure to swirl your peanut butter and jelly, and pay attention to the thickness of your batter! 😁

Slice ‘n’ Bake Pecan Cookies

Hey guys! I have a really fun recipe to share with you today. How do chocolate-covered slice ‘n’ bake pecan cookies sound??

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Have you ever made slice ‘n’ bakes before? I hadn’t, but when I saw this post by Sally’s Baking Addiction, I knew I had to try it! However, Sally’s Baking Addiction isn’t a vegan blog at all. So, I used her recipe as a base and tweaked a few things, such as:

  1. Replacing the chicken’s egg with a flax egg
  2. Replacing the dairy butter with Earth Balance
  3. Replacing the hazelnuts with pecans

The pecans are toasted before making the cookie dough, which makes them so flavorful. I chopped mine medium-size before putting them in the oven. IMG_2764.JPG

Then, when I added the pecan pieces to the cookie dough, my Kitchen Aid mixer broke them up even more, so that in the end, you have pretty small pieces of pecan in the cookies.

When first mixed up, the dough is just like your average cookie dough. It’s sticky and soft and almost oily (and super yummy. Obviously). But, once I rolled up the two logs of dough in some plastic wrap and let it chill for four hours, it was perfectly manageable. It makes sense that the original recipe says chilling is mandatory!

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Then, I just sliced the cookie logs so that they were a size that made sense to me. I ended up with 30 fairly small cookies.

Slice ‘n’ Bake Pecan Cookies

adapted from Toasted Hazelnut Slice ‘n’ Bake Cookies with Milk Chocolate by Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Earth Balance, cold

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal, 3 tablespoons warm water)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup roughly chopped pecans, divided

1 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate, if that’s what you have)

Process:

In an oven preheated to 300º F, toast the chopped pecans for 10 minutes. Mix together the flax meal and warm water for the flax egg and let stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Meanwhile, beat the Earth Balance for 1 minute in a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy and light, with no chunks of sugar or Earth Balance. Add the thickened flax egg and the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and cinnamon. Then, add the dry ingredients in small increments to the Earth Balance mixture. Finally, add 3/4 cup of the toasted pecan chunks to the dough, reserving the last 1/4 cup of pecan chunks for later.

Scoop out the cookie dough onto a floured surface. If the dough seems too sticky, you may add a bit more flour. I added about 1/4 cup. Divide in half, and tightly roll into two logs of cookie dough. Mine were about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. They will seem really soft and sticky until the end of the refrigeration period, and then they will suddenly firm up and become much more manageable.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap one log of cookie dough and slice into 15 or so cookies. Bake for 16 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned. Take the tray out of the oven, allow to cool for five minutes, then place the cookies on a cooling rack. Repeat the process with the other log of cookie dough. You also may bake all of the cookie slices from both logs at once if you have two cookie sheets that fit in your oven at the same time.

Once all of the cookies are cool, melt the chocolate chips on the stove or in the microwave. I melted mine in the microwave by putting them in for 20 seconds, then stirring, then 20 more seconds, then stirring again, and so on until they were completely melted and smooth. Dip one end of each cookie in the chocolate – I think generally about 1/3 or 1/4 of each cookie getting dipped in the chocolate is good. Place the dipped cookies on a sheet of parchment paper to allow the chocolate to set, and use the last 1/4 cup of toasted pecan pieces to press into the melted chocolate on each cookie. Allow the chocolate to set for a few hours, and then they are ready to eat! All uneaten cookies should be stored in a airtight container.

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