Vegan Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

peanut butter balls

I love peanut butter… I could exist on peanut butter alone… I eat a jar a week (sometimes more, let’s be real).

peanut butter

Around the holidays every year, I love to make chocolate covered peanut butter balls. I posted the secret family recipe last year. However, they contain a fair amount of butter and milk chocolate… so I revamped it and made it vegan! I gave some to Mark and my coworkers… (they didn’t even know they were vegan… win.)

ready for dipping

Vegan Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

makes 28-30 balls

1/2 cup of Earth Balance buttery spread, or other vegan butter
8 oz or about 2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cups of graham cracker crumbs (gf if need be, Nabisco Original Graham Crackers are Vegan)
6 oz of chunky peanut butter (scant 3/4 cup)
vegan chocolate chips (I used a little less than one 9 oz bag of Sunspire Bittersweet)
1/4 block of paraffin wax (in baking aisle, fret not it’s fine to eat, in small quantities) 

chocolate

Mix the first 3 ingredients together then add in the graham crackers and peanut butter and mix until combined completely. Form into 1 inch balls with your hands. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Take a small sauce pot and fill it with an inch or 2 of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, not boiling. In a microwave-safe, heat proof bowl, microwave the wax so it melts, add in the chocolate chips. Place the bowl over the simmering pot of water, it should rest on the rim of the pot without touching the water below, otherwise you’ll scald the chocolate. The steam form the water will melt the chocolate without scalding it. Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and melted. Dip each ball in the chocolate, coating it evenly, remove it with a slotted spoon to let the excess chocolate drip off. Place the coated peanut butter ball on the waxed paper. Once all the balls are covered, place in fridge for a couple of hours so the chocolate coating can harden.

waiting for them to dry... so I can eat them

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Spinach “Meat” Balls and Spaghetti (Squash)

spinach "meat" ball Spaghetti and Meatballs… a classic. When I was a kid, this was one of my favorites. Before I converted to vegetarianism as a defiant 11 year old, I was all about Sunday Night Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs. The smells of a simmering pot of sauce gently cooking little orbs of deliciousness are deeply ingrained in my mind. So last Sunday, when I asked Mark if he wanted spaghetti and meatballs for dinner he looked at me with disbelief. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made him spaghetti and meatballs in the past 4 years. Since I no longer eat meat, I go lighter on the pasta and I’m lactose intolerant, this recipe differs from that of my childhood. The spinach balls sit atop spaghetti squash, a vegetable Mark and I have been obsessed with for the last 6 months.spaghetti squash with roasted veggies and cauliflower tomato sauce

Top those squash noodles with some balls of spinach and I’m in vegetable heaven! The “meat” balls are made of spinach, a bit of bread crumbs (gf if need be), quinoa, a binder (egg or flax egg,) onions, garlic and spices… you won’t even miss the meat. But because I’m a nice girlfriend I made Mark some pork and turkey meatballs.

Spinach “Meat” Balls over Spaghetti Squash

makes about 10-12 balls and enough spaghetti for 2-3 people

Quinoa

1 teaspoon of oil

1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa

1 1/4 cups of water

Spinach Dumplings (makes about 10)

1 tablespoon of oil

1 12 oz package of frozen spinach, defrosted and all excess water squeezed out with an old kitchen towel

1/4 cup of bread crumbs (gf if need be)

1 egg or flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and allowed to sit in the fridge for 15 minutes.)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 of an onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spice)

1/4 cup of cooked quinoa (from above)

1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup of water

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise

Start by cooking the quinoa. Add the oil to the bottom of a small pot. Let it heat up for a minute over medium high heat then add in the quinoa and water, stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, put a lid on the pot and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

While the quinoa is cooking, start to prepare the spinach balls…take a medium sized bowl and add in the spinach, bread crumbs, egg, spices, garlic and onion. When the quinoa is cooked add 1/4 cup to the spinach mixture, and stir it to combine all of the ingredients. Heat a mediums size pan over medium heat and add in about a tablespoon of olive oil. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F for your squash.

Form the spinach mixture into 10-12 balls with your hands. Place the spinach balls in the pan and brown on all sides. Once nicely browned, add in the sauce and water and cover the pan with a lid, let it simmer gently for at least 45 minutes, but I think the longer the better. Stir it around occasionally

While the spinach balls are bubbling away, line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the spaghetti squash, cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is ready when the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork. When it is done let it cool a little bit, then scrape a fork along the inside, from stem to stern. The squash should come apart in strings that resemble spaghetti (hence the name). Plate up your squash and top with spinach balls and sauce.

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Spinach, Mushroom and Egg Bake

spinach, mushroom and egg bake

Sometimes around the holidays, with the parties, the cookies, the excess alcohol, and the comfort foods, you start to feel like you need a reboot. I’m at that point… gimme a plate of kale and a large glass of lemon water, please!

Nothing sets me back on track like heaps of vegetables and a few Nalgene’s of water, and maybe a multi-vitamin. My 7 mile dreadmill treadmill run yesterday couldn’t hurt either, right?

This egg bake is just the thing… it’s loaded with spinach and packs some serious protein. Top with some spicy sriracha to speed up your metabolism and you’ll be better in no time.

spicy, healthy breakfast

Spinach, Mushroom and Egg Bake

Serves 1

1 cup of frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water squeezed out with an old dish towel.

2-3 baby portabella mushrooms or white button mushrooms, washed and cut into a small dice

2/3 cup of egg whites, about the white of 3 eggs

Black Pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350. Liberally grease a ramekin. Defrost spinach; I nuked mine in the microwave for about a minute and thirty seconds. Let the spinach cool slightly, Gather it in an old dish towel or some paper towels and wring it over the sink to squeeze out the excess water. Wash and chop your mushrooms into a small dice. Add the spinach and mushrooms to the ramekin and pour the egg whites over the top and top with freshly ground black pepper. Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the eggs have set up and air firm. Finish with a minute under the broiler. Remove from the oven and to with your favorite condiment… mines sriracha!

 

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Cranberry, Orange & Almond Coffee Cake

coffee cake

How is it already December? Life seems to be in hyper drive. But December means it’s time to get festive!

festive candle

Sadly, no Christmas tree for us, but I do have my 88 cent poinsettia. Now, all we need is the snow!

pointsettiabw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw this recipe and it reminded me so much of my childhood around the holidays. Every year when I was little, my mom and I would make cranberry, orange, walnut bread for my teachers. Then we’d wrap it up in cellophane and tie it with a fancy bow and attach a home-made Christmas ornament.

I was a crafty kid.

Though the recipe is different, the flavors are the same.

ready to eat

Cranberry, Orange and Almond Coffee Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 1 loaf
 
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
Dash of salt
1/4 cup of butter, I used earth balance
1 egg or 1 flax egg
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup of chopped almonds
 
Topping
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup of flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of chopped almonds
 
Drizzle
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
Dash of cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons of almond milk
 

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, and line it with a piece of parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides, for easy removal later. Grease the parchment paper and lightly sprinkle flour over the entire inside of the pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cube up the butter and mix it into the flour with your fingers until it is well incorporate. It should be a coarse meal.

In a medium size bowl combine the egg/ flax egg, orange juice, zest, vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and almonds. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon and almonds with your fingers. Once combined, sprinkle the mixture over the top of the loaf. Place in the center of your preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Once a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, remove from the oven. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan, using the parchment handles and cool it on a wire rack.

To make the drizzle, whisk powdered sugar, cinnamon and almond milk in a small bowl. Drizzle over the top of the cooled loaf. Slice and enjoy.

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Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

I celebrated Thanksgiving with Mark’s family this year. With only 6 of us at the table, it was a little more subdued than my family’s usual 20 person feast. Not that a small Thanksgiving is a bad thing. We watched a lot of football, played soccer with Reggie, Mark’s Family’s dog, and I went for a nice 5.5 mile run outside. Sadly, I had to work on Black Friday, but unlike everywhere else open, work was painfully slow.

This was also the first year I had a lactose-free meal… it was a little hard to accept that my 22nd Thanksgiving would not include butter, cheese or cream. What is Thanksgiving without those things?

It actually ended up being pretty dang good… I ate a ton of Brussels sprouts, cornbread stuffing made with veggie stock and acorn squash roasted in maple syrup. AND vegan pumpkin pie with gluten free crust! (Mark’s dad is gluten free).

The condensed milk was swapped with coconut milk and thickened with agar agar instead of eggs. Agar agar is basically ground up red algae and when heated and mixed with water it becomes a gelatinous substance. Oh the wonders of biology. I picked up some agar agar and the other necessary ingredients (vegetable shortening and tapioca flour) at the local coop, in bulk.

I also picked up King Arthur’s new gluten free multi-purpose flour… It was the best gluten free flour I’ve worked with and I was supporting local! As an added bonus, it doesn’t contain xanthan gum like some other gf flours… xanthan gum can cause upset stomachs in some people.

Source

The crust was kind of labor intensive, there are many crucial steps and some tips that I picked up from Simply Gluten Free.

  • make sure everything is cold… put ice in your water and put shortening in the freezer for 30 minutes before using it
  • use a food processor to incorporate the shortening.. it will make the crust flakier
  • skimp on the water… the dough should only stick together when pressed with your fingers
  • let the dough rest for 1/2 an hour before rolling… it lets the moisture distribute evenly
  • don’t try to roll the dough out…. extrude it by placing it between two floured sheets of wax paper.
  • use the highest quality ingredients you can afford… it really does make a difference, especially the flour

Since gluten-free baking is a tricky beast, I didn’t really stray from the original recipe. The dough had the consistency of shortbread cookie dough, and was pretty prone to cracking which can be frustrating to a perfectionist like me. I think next time I’d just buy a pre-made gluten free crust, but it was defiantly worth the experience. Plus, I wanted to use my festive little leaf cookie cutters before fall ends.

For the Crust,  from Simply Gluten Free

1/2 cup of organic vegetable shortening (I used spectrum brand)
2-4 tablespoons of water (I used 3)
1 1/4 cups of gluten free multi-purpose flour, such as King Arthur
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Follow the tips and directions here, a lot of the steps are crucial so follow it closely… it’s also a long process. Don’t start it at 9 pm like I did.

For the Pie, from the Blender, a William Sonoma Blog

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of maple syrup (look for kosher label to ensure its vegan, if need be)
1 can of coconut milk (14oz)
2 tablespoons of tapioca flour (found in bulk section)
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
splash of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of water
2 teaspoon of agar agar powder, (not flakes or bars, found in bulk section)
 

Blend together the pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut milk, tapioca flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla extract, in a large bowl and set aside.

In a sauce pot bring the 3/4 cup of water and agar agar to a boil, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes then stir in the pumpkin mixture and return to a boil. Let thicken for 2 to 3 more minutes, stirring it constantly.

Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell. Refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours, until set and firm. Serve chilled or at room temp.

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Spice Drawer Organization

My schedule at work has changed, on Wednesdays I have to go in early, which means I get out at 3:00. This past Wednesday, I worked on a little project with my extra 2 and half hours of free afternoon. I reorganized my spice drawer.

I know, totally cool thing to do with your afternoon, but it looks awesome. We buy our spices in bulk at City Market Coop, which I love because I can buy as much or as little as I need. The one pitfall is that unless you bring your own containers, you have to use the little baggies provided. So needless to say, I had a whole draw full of unlabeled baggies of various spices… I often relied on the smell test to identify the difference between smoked paprika, cayenne and Cajun spice… all a crimson color. Not to mention it’s not good for the environment… all that plastic.

I bought a 12-pack of 4 oz mason jars and printed up some labels with a cute little font. With the labels placed on the lids, I can quickly pull open the drawer and identify my spice of choice. The sealed jars will also keep my spices fresher and more flavorful than the bags do. At some point in the future, I plan to purchase another set of jars to house my growing spice collection.

When a spice runs out, I can bring the jar to the coop, weigh it, record the tare weight (weight of the jar) and fill it up. At the register they can subtract the weight of the jar, so you’re just paying for the spice. Buying in bulk is so much cheaper than buying the pre-bottled stuff and there are more options available…

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Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

The weekend before last, my dad threw my mom a surprise milestone birthday party. 75 people, fabulous food and an open bar… my dad sure pulled off a party, and my mom was completely surprised… what a good man!

Sadly, I couldn’t make it home for the Sunday afternoon bash, so I went home this past weekend for a long weekend. One perk of my job is that when the Federal Reserve is closed, I get the day off. And they like their holidays!

It was a gorgeous weekend. On Saturday, I went for a walk down along the water with my parents and the dog. It was great to feel that salty, sea breeze on my face; I’m a beach kid, what can I say. Later on, we had my cousins over for dinner. On Sunday, I went for a long hilly run, met my best friend for breakfast and then went for a hike up Bluffs Head with my parents.

Sunday night, I went to meet my cousins’ new puppy, Scout, he’s so cute. On Monday, I volunteered at the Branford Community Dining Room, the soup kitchen where I used to volunteer at though high school and my summers home from college. It was great to see the CDR Ladies! Then I headed back up to Vermont.

It was an awesome weekend home and just what I needed! I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with their family and this sleepy puppy… 14 years young! Love that Dexter dog.

The other morning I made this curry recipe in my slow cooker. I just threw everything in, turned it on low and left it while I went to work. 5 minutes before we were ready to eat dinner, I added a few splashes of coconut milk and a few handfuls of chopped baby spinach and that was it! While I waited for the spinach to wilt, I cooked up some whole wheat couscous. It was pretty darn good and so easy!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup baby carrots, sliced 1/4 in thick
2 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Serrano chili, minced fine
1 can of chickpeas
1 russet potato cubed, peel if you want, I didn’t
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1 cup of water
3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup light coconut milk
 

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, add in onions and cook for 1 minute, then add in carrots and sauté for 4 more minutes. Add in curry powder through Serrano chili, and sauté for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker and add in the remaining ingredients through the water. Stir and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6, stirring occasionally. Five minutes before serving, stir in chopped spinach and coconut milk. Serve over rice, couscous, or your desired grain.

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