Toasted Almond & Sea Salt Chocolate Bark

Toasted Almond and Sea Salt Vegan Chocolate BarkSince my first chocolate testing experience using cacao butter, I’ve created quite an extensive repertoire of delicious treats. I mean, what can’t you cover in chocolate? But of all my creations, the toasted almond and sea salt bark is my favorite. The salt adds another dimension by enhancing the sweetness, and toasting the almonds brings out their natural oils, which adds more flavor. The first time I made it, I didn’t add enough toasted almonds (in my opinion), and so I would break off the pieces without almonds and put them back in the container for Justin. Ha! So the next time I made this, I was sure to cover every inch of the bark in toasted almonds. This chocolate is smooth, rich, and nutrient dense. It rivals chocolate sold in lavish boutiques, because after all, the handful of ingredients used to make this are of the finest quality. No artificial or processed fillers here! Continue reading “Toasted Almond & Sea Salt Chocolate Bark”

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Vegan Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

vegan fudgy black bean browniesI’ve made these brownies now about a gazillion times, and every time people are shocked to learn that they’re made from beans. When I make them and sell them at festivals, curious passersby will always stop and sample them. There are usually three groups of people I encounter when this happens. The Yes, I’ve heard of bean brownies before but I’ve never…; then there is the Beans? Oh wow I’ve gotta try these group; and then there is the third group, those who have tried them in the past and wave somebody new over to try them. Those people are my homies. They know a good thing when they taste it. Continue reading “Vegan Fudgy Black Bean Brownies”

Banana Nut Muffins

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It’s the last day of 2016 and what a crazy year it has been. There have been some highs and lows; the highs would have to include the birth of our baby boy and buying our first home together, and the lows have been learning experiences which have only strengthened me and my family. I used to always say this next year Is going to be the best yet! However, now I am taking it day by day, with the confidence of knowing that life will have many more highs and lows. It’s all about the attitude one chooses to have towards them. On our refrigerator we have a short piece titled ATTITUDE, and it states: The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people say or do. It is more than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company…a house of religion…a home. The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable…The only thing we can do is play on the one thing we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…because YOU are in charge of your attitude.  Continue reading “Banana Nut Muffins”

Snickers Ice Cream Squares and a Balanced Bella Baby – Oh Boy!

img_3444It’s been a beautiful fall and winter and we’re super excited for the spring when we get to meet our beautiful balanced baby! Knock on wood, it’s been a very smooth pregnancy thus far. There were a couple of weeks of slight queasiness, the sixth to eighth week mark to be exact, but luckily it happened in the later afternoon, once I was home from work. See? Smart baby already. However, even that wasn’t too severe – I lost my appetite and just couldn’t stand the smell of certain foods, mainly, whatever Justin was cooking!

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We also found out the sex and we’re having a boy! Coming up with names has been…interesting. I have my favorites…Justin says things like Homer and Archimedes, so there are still a few kinks in that department…

All those baby websites were right on the money; the first trimester was definitely filled with exhaustion and plenty of extra early bedtimes. We went to Barbados in September, during my sixth week of pregnancy, and I was asleep by 8:00 every night. (And that was considered late, but I was on vacation…) Now that I just entered my sixth month, my energy is back and I love feeling all of those kicks and movements. When I lay down at night, and I’m sure most of you who’ve experienced this can agree, the baby thinks he’s on a bouncy castle having the time of his life – and it’s the best feeling ever.

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In Barbados : )

I’m still working out about 3-5 times a week, but at a more moderate pace. I’ve substituted running with walking on a high (10-15) resistance, and I’m still doing the bike and elliptical with a 14-17 resistance. I’ve noticed that I’m not sweating as much as I used to, but it still feels good to move my body, and it definitely helps with the whole digestion process!

Preparing Roscoe ; )
Preparing Roscoe ; )

Even before pregnancy, I’ve been mindful of the chemicals in beauty products thanks to my friend Krsitina and her company Beautycounter. You can read the article I posted about such toxins here. One study that has stuck with me is the finding of hundreds of chemicals found in a baby’s umbilical cord blood. I try to use as many natural products as possible. A favorite of mine is jojoba oil! This stuff is awesome. I use it as a moisturizer, but it’s also excellent for hair treatments. You can read more about its benefits here. I’m not always able to use natural, from the earth ingredients, but I at least always make sure the things I put on my body, face, and hair are free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates (and are not tested on animals!).  Some products I order online, but others, like Alba Botanica, can be found in places like Target and Whole Foods.

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I recently left my gynecologist for a midwifery group in Brooklyn. I’m very happy with them and their philosophy, so I’ll make sure to keep you posted on that! How about you? I’m very interested in hearing about your pregnancy journey and/or tips, stories, or comments you may have, so please do share!

But enough about me. Let’s talk chocolate. And peanuts. And cashew nougat. And ooey gooey caramel. These snicker-esque squares are made of all-natural ingredients and are completely raw (except for mine – because I used roasted peanuts!). I’ve made “caramel” in the past, but not like this. I finally tried soaking the dates before blending them, which did make them creamier, but adding a splash of almond milk took this caramel to a whole new level. Like many layered desserts, these took some time, but I highly recommend trying them out.

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Ingredients:

Nougat 

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • optional: 1 tsp maca root powder (for extra malt-iness flavor!)

Caramel

  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk

Topping

  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 2/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Cover the cashews with filtered water and soak for 3-4 hours.
  2. Cover the dates with filtered water and soak for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the cashews. In a blender, mix the nougat ingredients together. Smooth the mixture onto the bottom of a pan (8″x5″). Freeze for at least an hour.
  4. Add the dates to a food processor, peeling off any additional flaky skin that may have accumulated. Slowly mix in the water and almond milk. Continue blending until creamy; you may need to push down the mixture with a spoon and continue blending.
  5. Sprinkle on the peanuts into a single layer.
  6. Place back in freezer while you prepare the chocolate topping.
  7. When ready, pour the chocolate mixture on the top, smoothing everything out.
  8. Freeze for at least an hour.

 

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Pumpkin Nut Raisin Bread

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Last time I went food shopping, I went a little pumpkin crazy and bought almost a dozen cans of pumpkin, so please do expect to find a few pumpkin recipes on here soon.  I’m thinking pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, and thanks to a picture Justin’s cousin Samantha posted the other day, pumpkin smoothies too!

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There is something lovely and quaint about farmers’ markets and festivals where local, small businesses can display their crafts/skills and connect with the community. Whenever I travel, I always try to find at least one market where I can ogle over the displays and peruse the handmade soaps, custom jewelry, and of course, vegan delicacies. This past Wednesday, the Bungalow Bar (a local bar/restaurant/catering hall) held a fall festival where I had the opportunity to be a first-time vendor, and I LOVED it. I was totally in my element. I am not a good salesperson.  If I owned a clothing boutique, I would be the person to say, “Oh you’re totally right – that sweater makes you look huge.  There’s a store across the street that sells the most ADORABLE little sweaters, why don’t you go try one of them on?” But when I’m selling treats that I know taste unreal, coupled with the fact that they’re healthy and made of all natural ingredients, it’s hard for me not to gush over the products – because I truly believe in them, as was the case the other night. So, long story short, I had a great time and I will definitely be doing that again!

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I knew this pumpkin nut and raisin bread would turn out good, meaning it wouldn’t fall apart, because I adapted my banana nut bread recipe to create it. I included molasses since it adds a rich taste and a chewy texture. Because I don’t use brown sugar, (which is refined sugar and molasses), I thought this would be a nice substitute. Aaand, did I mention that it is totally oil free? Because of the pumpkin and apple sauce, this bread is incredibly moist (and sweet). There’s really no down side; it’s filling, delicious, and unbelievably healthy for you. Wrap this up in clear wrap and you have a beautiful gift to give somebody this holiday season! That’s a hint to all my family and friends – because this is what you’re getting – like it or not 😉

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • optional: Coconut Oil for greasing pan

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Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the walnuts and raisins.

3. Once blended, scoop mixture into a large bowl and mix in walnuts and raisins.

4. Grease the bread pan (9 x 5 x 3) with coconut oil (or omit this step to make it completely free of oil). Pour in the batter and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. After 5-10 minutes, remove and place on a cooling rack.  Bon Appétit!

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