Frozen Bananas

I already watched the entire fourth season of Arrested Development.  What’s the perfect snack for a Netflix marathon?  No, not popcorn.  Not when it’s almost 90 degrees outside and in.  No, for that you gotta have frozen bananas.  Chocolate dipped.  With peanut butter (you know, for protein.)

Start by peeling a ripe banana or two, and put a stick in it.  I used chopsticks.  Place the bananas on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Freeze overnight or until solid.

Melt some dark chocolate and a glob of peanut butter in a bowl in the microwave and swirl it together.  Take your bananas out of the freezer and spread the goodness on them.  You may need to do one side at a time, refreezing for a few minutes in between.  Freeze again on the waxed paper until the chocolate is solid.

Now you’re ready for a long hot day of laughing.  Enjoy!

Surviving Sandy

I just got home to my apartment after spending the last two days holed up in a high rise with some dear friends.  My place isn’t in a flood zone, but we don’t have a television, so we sought greener pastures.  Our apartment was fortunately unscathed, but there’s no subway service (ie nowhere to go).  What’s a gal to do when she’s tired of TV?  Bake cookies, courtesy of Oh She Glows!

Here’s her recipe: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/09/08/vegan-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I used regular whole-wheat flour in place of the pastry flour, and margarine instead of Earth Balance.

Be sure to space your vegan chocolate chip cookies further apart than I did, or you get conjoined cookies.

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Quince and Apple Pie

When I was a child in rural Pennsylvania, we had many ancient apple trees on our property.  They yielded countless small, hard, green, sour, buggy apples every fall.  We children picked and picked them so our mom could can delicious homemade applesauce and apple butter.

My tree in bloom

Next to an enormous tree close to the house, there was a small bush that bloomed in coral pink every spring and seldom put forth any fruit.  I claimed this beauty as my own from an early age.  The big apple tree is long gone, but my little tree is still there, blooming every spring and occasionally making a fruit or two.  My mother told me it was a quince and ever since then, I’ve wanted to try one.

Quince flower

Much to my delight, I saw some quince for sale at my local farmers’ market last saturday, and I had to have them. I bought four large fruits, the size of a big apple.  They were pale yellow-green and covered with soft white fuzz.  After doing a little research, I discovered that they were borderline inedible raw, but could be made into jellies and pies.  I’m happy to leave the jelly making to my dear mommy, but man I love pie.

Here’s what I came up with.  You could also make this with only apples, or with a combo of apples and pears.  This pie is healthy enough that you could eat it for breakfast!  No oils, flour, or processed sugar.

For the crust:

1.5 c nuts and seeds (any combination will do: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflowers, etc)

1.5 c dates or other dried fruit (I used dates and apricots)

Pulse the nuts/seeds in the food processor until they are finely ground, but not so much that they turn into butter.  Add the dates or other fruit one at a time, pulsing until it forms a sticky mixture.  You’ll have to touch it to know it’s done; you should be able to roll a bit into a soft ball.  You might not use all of the fruit specified, it’s just a guideline.

Press a little more than half the mixture into a pie plate, including up the sides.  Set aside the rest for topping your pie.

For the filling: 

3 medium/large quince, peeled, cored, and sliced (sharpen your knife, these babies are like rocks!)

2-3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/2 c liquid sweetener (I used 1/4 c honey and 1/4 c maple syrup)

1/2 c water

juice from about half a lemon

1 Tbls cornstarch

3/4 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder (a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, and black pepper)

1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Combine the quince, water, honey, and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins.  Add the apples and cook for 5 more minutes.  The fruit should be tender but not mushy.

2.  Transfer the mixture to a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Allow to cool.  (This is a great time to make your crust!).  Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400F.

3.  When the fruit is cool, dump it into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the top and pat it together with your hands.  It might not cover the whole thing, but it will taste good just the same!

4.  Bake for 15mins at 400F.  Turn the oven down to 375F and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the fruit is tender and before the crust starts to burn.  Watch it closely if you don’t think it’s done after 20mins.  The crust will be really nasty if you burn it!

5.  Cool on a wire rack for 30mins.  Slice and serve warm to lots of friends.  It might fall apart when you take it out of the pan, but it will be tasty in a crumbly pile too.

Mmmm blurry pie (don’t worry, I shared)

Healthy Indulgences

I love peanut butter.  I love chocolate.  I love peanut butter and chocolate together!  So today when the craving hit, I had to come up with something that didn’t involve making an oreo run.  This is what I came up with:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (No-Bake!)

1/2 c rolled oats

3/4 c natural peanut butter, at room temperature

2 Tbls cocoa powder

2 Tbls ground flax seed

2-3 Tbls liquid sweetener (I used half honey, half maple syrup)

chocolate chips (optional)

pinch of salt, if using unsalted PB

1.  Put everything but the chocolate chips in the food processor and pulse until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips and pulse a few more times until they’re incorporated but not chopped up too much.  You could also mix this by hand.  The texture will be a little different but they’ll taste about the same.

2.  Roll the mixture into balls about 1 Tbls each, and place them in your mouth on waxed paper.

3.  Try not to eat them all at once!

Just Desserts

I have a dear, wonderful friend who is allergic to just about everything.  So when I find a recipe that is nut-, gluten-, dairy-, and yeast- free, I get excited.  When it’s dessert, I get really excited!  Recently I came across a wonderful blog about healthy desserts:  chocolatecoveredkatie.com.  While drooling over the chocolatey goodness, I found these Blondies.  Secret ingredient: beans.  What?!?  Gross!!!  Yet, so crazy they just might work.  I knew immediately that I needed to make them for my friend.  They turned out so good that I doubled the recipe and baked up a batch the next day for my boyfriend’s birthday party, where they were an instant hit!  You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that beans can make some fabulous cookies.  Or, you could break out the food processor and make them yourself.  (Use a food processor.  It will save you both time and a lot of swearing.)

While I was doing all that baking, I needed to make a birthday cake, of course!  The BF had requested something chocolate, but he is a peanut butter fiend like me, so I decided on chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.  My first attempt at the cake involved vegan-izing my mom’s devil’s food recipe.  I replaced the eggs with Ener-G egg replacer and ended up with a small, flat-ish cake that left its bottom on the pan.  It tasted good, so I decided it wasn’t a total loss.  But after I looked at its skinny layers for a few hours, I knew I needed another layer.  I whipped up the easy chocolate cupcake recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  You should buy this book, so I’m not giving you the recipe (copyright infringement?).  Just know that when you buy it, you can use the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe to make a single 8″ round cake layer.  Double it for two layers or a 9″x13″.

As for the sticking to the pan problem: My genius mother had the solution.  First, spray the pan with oil.  Then, trace the pan on parchment paper, cut to fit the pan, and stick it down.  It might not be necessary to grease the bottom if you do this, but the oil helps the circle to stick, since parchment has tendency to curl up.  I successfully dumped Layer #3 out of the pan, and after letting it steam off for a few minutes, I carefully removed the paper.  Perfect.  Thanks Mom!

Although I’m not willing to divulge the cake recipe for fear of being sued, I will give you the icing recipe.  My mom makes a non-vegan version of this that is also divine.  This makes enough for a layer cake, a 9″x13″ cake, or two dozen cupcakes.

Peanut Buttercream

1/2 c margarine

2 T shortening

2/3 c creamy peanut butter

3 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c powdered sugar

2-4 T plant milk

1.  With an electric mixer, cream together the marg and shortening until smooth.  Add PB and vanilla, beat until very smooth, 2-3 mins.

2.  Beat in sugar; mixture will be very stiff.  Dribble in milk a little at a time until frosting is pale tan and very fluffy.  Add more sugar or milk in small increments to adjust the thickness.  (I found that I need a little more milk than called for.)

3. Frost your completely cooled cake and revel in the peanut buttery deliciousness!

Hooray for blurry cell phone pics and sprinkles!