Vegan Apple Flax Muffins

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This week, I discovered the deliciousness of honeycrisp apples.  I had heard how wonderful honeycrisp apples were, but I never believed they could be better than another apple variety.  But I have to say, these apples are really, really good.  I actually had to restrain myself from just eating all of the apples plain instead of putting them in these muffins.  Seriously, I was chopping them up and eating the slices instead of adding them to the batter.  It was bad.  I have no self-control.

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Still, it was worth it to sacrifice one to this recipe.  Adam’s grandmother recommended that I try making these healthy (ish) muffins when we were in Michigan.  They were already filled with nutritious goodness like whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal, but to make them even healthier I also used coconut oil and almond milk.  On top of that, I replaced the egg in the recipe with apple sauce to make these babies vegan.  The result is a hearty, dense muffin with pops of apple and nut flavors that pair great with a morning cup of coffee.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you may even want to try making these with cinnamon applesauce.  In fact, maybe I’ll go make more right now.  Not like I’m looking for an excuse to buy more honeycrisp apples or anything.  Yeah, I know, I’m a bad liar.

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Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten OR 1/3 cup apple sauce (or cinnamon apple sauce!!)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples (skins on or off)
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Directions:

  • Blend dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • In separate bowl, combine applesauce (or egg), oil + milk
  • Add dry ingredients to applesauce mixture + stir until just blended
  • Fold in apples + nuts (batter will be thick!)
  • Fill well-greased muffin cups 2/3 full
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when touched

Chocolate Cherry Green Smoothie

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Cherries, chocolate + dates – what more could you want in a smoothie? This recipe comes from my friend, Rebecca, who is a smoothie master.  Seriously, her smoothies always taste 100 times better than mine, I don’t know what her secret is, but I am still working toward smoothie perfection.  This recipe is one of her chocolate smoothie staples.  When you’re craving sweets – and especially ice cream – this smoothie hits the spot.  The dates and cherries – both dried and frozen – give this recipe a dessert-like sweetness.  Then the ground up cacao nibs have the consistency of chocolate chips, like Ben + Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.  Yummmmmm.

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If you want to the cherry flavor to stand out, go for vanilla protein powder.  If you’re a chocolate lover, grab some chocolate powder and throw it in!  Experiment with the amounts of powder to see how much is needed – I found that only half a scoop of mine did the trick.  For these pictures, I used vanilla powder – you’ll notice that the chocolate powder will make your smoothie a brown color.  I know, that’s kind of obvious, but I don’t want anyone freaking out when their smoothie isn’t the same color as mine.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup frozen cherries (depending on size of cherries)
  • 1/3rd frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 2-3 dates, pitted + split in half
  • 1-2 cups spinach and/or kale (Depending on the size of your smoothie, it’s easiest just to fill the blender to the top with greens!)
  • ~1 cup nut milk or coconut water (or 3/4ths the amount of greens)
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder (we love Juice Plus Chocolate Complete Powder!)
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions:

  • Fill blender with spinach and fill blender 3/4 full with nut milk + blend
  • Add frozen cherries and frozen banana + blend
  • Add remaining ingredients + blend
  • Top with some cacao nibs if you want more chocolate (I mean, who doesn’t?)

No Bake Cacao Flax Bars

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I am so excited about these cacao bars!  One of my favorite cafés near us has a delicious cacao flax bar that tastes exactly like a brownie.  My goal has become to replicate this fluffy brown pseudo-brownie for myself.  So I found this recipe on Glowing Communications for “raw brownies” and thought I’d give it a shot.  It’s a pretty simple recipe and the ingredients require no baking.  While I have been downing these bars for a snack and dessert since I’ve made them, I will say that it does not make a fluffy brownie-quality cake, which is why I am calling it a “bar” instead of a “brownie.”  Instead, it has almost a Power Bar, fudge-like consistency.  But honestly, it is fine by me, because it is still delicious and also pretty healthy!  The dates give it a sweet, cherry-like flavor on top of the cacao.  If you want to be a little less healthy with these brownies, throw some chocolate chunks on top like I did for Adam.  Yum!

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I altered the original recipe I found based on what I had in my cupboards.  Mainly, I replaced walnuts with cashews because Adam is somewhat allergic to walnuts (unfortunately).  I also reduced the nut content from two cups to one cup because I am not a fan of super-nutty brownies.  If you love that nutty taste in your brownies, though, go crazy and double the nuts!

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What is great about these “brownies” is that they are totally customizable based on their toppings.  As you can see below, I created rows of different bars with different toppings.  I topped one set with dried cherries, one with chocolate chunks, and kept one plain.  You can even roll them into balls for a quick no-bake chocolate ball to go!  With a snack like this to give me an afternoon pick-me-up without the sugar crash later on, I will definitely be making these again.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews, walnuts or other nuts
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder (or ground down cacao nibs)
  • 1.5 cups pitted dates (about 14)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or 2 vanilla beans)
  • Topping Ideas: cacao nibs, chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts or nut butter

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Directions:

  • Line an 8×8 pan with wax paper.
  • Pit ~14 dates, placing dates in a small bowl and throwing pits in the trash.
  • Combine everything in the food processor except the dates.  
  • While food processor is running, drop dates into chute one at a time.
  • After it is all combined, take mixture and spread it into the pan.  It should be a chunky quality – take your hands and spread it evenly throughout the pan.  
  • Take the toppings of your choice and push them into the tops of the brownies.  If you’re using a nut butter, like almond butter, spread it on top.
  • Refrigerate or freeze until cooled and ready to cut and enjoy!  

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Patriotic Fruit Pops

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USA! USA! I believe that we will win!

Given our nation’s enhanced patriotism right now with the current World Cup and upcoming 4th of July, I figured I should make a red, white and blue recipe for my next blog post.  I know I recently made some coconut water fruit pops, but I think these are great for an easy, healthy and patriotic treat!

Plus, to be honest, these are a bit of a different beast than just plopping some fruit in coconut water.  This recipe requires some patience and blending skills.  But when those popsicles come out in red, white and blue stripes like a rocket pop, you’ll be super excited.  I know I was!

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All you need is a frozen banana, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries and coconut water.  The key to this recipe is getting the right consistency for each layer.  The mixture should be icy, but not so icy that it won’t connect to the other fruit layers.  After experimenting a lot, I found that the best consistency has a slushy quality that pours slowly.  You can get away with the top layer being a little more liquid, but it may leak down into other layers if they aren’t icy enough to hold it.  It’s very much a recipe that requires different amounts for different popsicle molds.  To be safe, I recommend making it pretty icy at first, and then slowly adding coconut water to make it a more slushy texture.

You definitely need a blender or food processor for this recipe.  I tried using both my Magic Bullet and my food processor and honestly, my Magic Bullet did a better job with blending the ingredients, especially when I used the smallest cup!  As long as you have something that will blend together the ingredients, though, you should be okay.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle coconut water
  • 1/2 bag frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 bag frozen blueberries
  • 1 frozen banana (or 2 frozen halves if you freeze them in 1/2 size like me)
  • 2 sets of 4 popsicle holders (for 8 popsicles total)

Directions:

  • Blend frozen strawberries with coconut water and continue blending until you get a firm but slushy quality.
  • Pour frozen strawberry mixture into popsicle mold.
  • Duplicate with frozen banana mixture.
  • Finish with frozen blueberry mixture on top.  If they’re all the similar consistency, they should just sit on top of each other rather than blending together.
  • Let freeze for about 10-15 minutes, then put popsicle mold into mixture and freeze overnight.
  • Pour warm water over them and serve at your World Cup or 4th of July party!

If you accidentally get the colors mixed together, just say that they’re “abstract” patriotic pops.  I used that excuse for some of my less pretty popsicles and my friends liked the mixed together ones just as much as the striped ones!

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Fruit + Coconut Water Popsicles

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It’s summertime and that means it’s popsicle season!  It’s been pretty hot here in southern California and I’ve been looking for a healthy snack to beat the heat.  Last week I bought a ton of fruit,  so I went searching for a recipe to use piles of blueberries, strawberries and kiwi.  I came across this recipe and decided to bust out our popsicle molds from the cabinet!

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I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of coconut water.  I’ve tried a few different brands in a few different flavors and I just don’t get how people love drinking it on its own.  I don’t mind it in smoothies, though, so I decided I would give some Zico Coconut Water a shot in this recipe.  Honestly, it tasted great in the popsicles!  The fruit masks the weird flavor of the coconut water and the water provides extra nutrients that you wouldn’t get from using regular water.  Can’t complain about having a snack that’s delicious and good for you!

I’ll give you the recipe, but if you hadn’t guessed yet, these popsicles are pretty easy to make.  Cut up fruit, put fruit and coconut water into popsicle mold, and freeze.  In a few hours, you have a great frozen dessert!  I definitely recommend using kiwis, they were my favorite part of the popsicle!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 liter bottle of Zico Coconut Water
  • 2-3 kiwi fruit, peeled & sliced
  • ~1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
  • ~1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 popsicle mold sets (for a total of 8 popsicles)

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Directions:

  • Slice strawberries and kiwi fruit.  If you don’t know how to cut up kiwi, you should check out this link.
  • Fill popsicle mold halfway with coconut water.
  • Drop kiwi, strawberries and blueberries into mold.  You can either insert the tops into the mold right away or wait about 20 minutes for the liquid to begin freezing.  I waited 15 minutes, but honestly I’m not sure if it makes a difference.
  • Freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.  I personally recommend letting them freeze overnight for the best result.
  • Pour slightly warm water over the mold to help them thaw before pulling the popsicle out.  Otherwise you might end up separating the popsicle stick with a popsicle stuck in the mold!

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Homemade Açai Bowl

IMG_3201If you haven’t had an açai bowl before, you may not understand how excited I am about this recipe.  You also may not know how to pronounce the word açai.  A-kay?  A-sigh?  Nope, it’s pronounced ah-sigh-ee.  Don’t worry, it’s a weird word and I didn’t know how to say it a few months ago.  But then I discovered a shop near us called Paradise Bowls that sells açai and pitaya bowls and now I’m totally addicted to these things.  Making an açai bowl only requires a few steps.  First, blend açai or pitaya (aka dragonfruit) with other fruit and a non-dairy milk – usually coconut or almond milk – creating a thick, icy smoothie as a base.  On top of that blend, you add granola and more fruit, and finally sprinkle some coconut and drizzle honey on top.  It’s heaven in a bowl, really.  If you live in South Bay and haven’t gone to Paradise Bowls, go as soon as you can.  Just look at this bowl.

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Is your mouth watering yet?  The best thing is you can eat it as breakfast, lunch, a snack or dessert!  All of the fruit does make it high in sugar, but on the upside you’re likely getting your daily requirement of fruit in one bowl.

So when I was at Whole Foods the other day I found some açai smoothie packs and thought I would make my own açai bowl.  The packs come in sets of 4 for $6.50, so it’s not the cheapest, but I personally think it’s worth it to make these little bowls of happiness.

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I swear, you guys, I was going to take better pictures of this recipe.  I was going to sprinkle coconut flakes and cacao nibs to frame the bowl and maybe even put some banana slices in the background.  But I went paddleboarding for an hour and a half before making this recipe and I was so hungry, and it looked so delicious, I just couldn’t wait.  Maybe another time I’ll take some prettier photos.  As for right now, I’ll just share the recipe with you.  You can mess with this recipe as much as you want, but I roughly modeled mine after my favorite bowl at Paradise Bowls.  If you’re looking for inspiration, check out their menu page.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 açai smoothie packet
  • ~1/4 cup of almond milk (or any other milk of your choice)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter
  • ~1/4 cup frozen blueberries and/or other frozen fruit of your choice
  • Coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs
  • Granola (optional)
  • Honey (optional)

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Instructions:

  • Put açai packet, almond milk, 1/2 of the banana, peanut butter and frozen blueberries in blender and blend until combined.  Add more ice or milk if needed to get the right, icy consistency.  I’d recommend starting off with less milk and working your way up!
  • Pour smoothie mixture into a bowl & then put other half of banana (and optional granola) on top of the liquid.
  • Sprinkle coconut and other toppings of your choice on top, drizzle some honey if you want, and then chow down!

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No-Bake Energy Bites

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These no-bake energy bites are probably the best beach bites around!  Easy to make and full of delicious ingredients, these bites only take a few minutes to make and taste like peanut butter cups.  They’re perfect for a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or mid-beach volleyball snack.  In addition, this recipe allows for a lot of substitutions based on what you have in your pantry.   For this batch, I used Earth Balance Creamy Coconut & Peanut Spread, which made them taste like an Almond Joy!   I also substituted in almond meal and sweetened coconut flakes.  You can find the original recipe and some more great variation ideas at Gimme Some Oven!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oatmeal (I used Trader Joe’s rolled oats)
  • 2/3rd cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or other variation of nut butter)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or wheat germ or flaxseed meal)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

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Directions:

  • Stir all dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • Add in peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract
  • Roll into balls – should make about 25 balls
  • Chill in refrigerator before eating (if you can wait that long!)

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