Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Blondies

I’ve never had a blondie since I’ve always preferred bars made with chocolate. Now that I no longer can have chocolate, it seems like a good time to check out blondies. I understand from watching people make them on TV that they should be very dense and moist, almost fudgy, rather than cake-like. This recipe, adapted from thebigmansworld.com, doesn’t have any flour and can be made without any sweetener as well. I opted for some date sugar which I think pumpkin really needs and added some vanilla to the mixture as well but if you want to intensify the pumpkin or sweet potato flavor, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices would go well. Be sure to chill them thoroughly before slicing and removing from the pan. And, the smaller the pan, the thicker the blondies will be (I used an 8″ square pan for the pumpkin and an 8″ round for the sweet potato.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, a small baking pan (8″ or less). Put into a medium sized, microwave safe mixing bowl:

1/2 cup pumpkin seed butter (or any other butter your family likes)

Heat for about 1 minute which should thin it out a little. If you’re using roasted (brown) pumpkin seed butter or a thicker butter such as sunflower, this may take longer to melt. Add to the butter:

1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree

2 tablespoons carob powder

1/4 cup fine date sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes depending on the size of your baking dish – the 8″ pans took the full 20 minutes in my oven. They will puff up slightly when they are cooked. Cool on the counter for 15-20 minutes and then refrigerate and chill completely before slicing and serving. Number of pieces will also depend on the size of the pan you used – I got 9 pieces from the square pan.

Oatmeal Cookies

My husband’s favorite cookie was oatmeal raisin. These are very easy to make (if you have a food processor) and very tasty. And they don’t have very many ingredients, also a pretty good thing. If you have dried dates which most of us do since fresh dates are not always available, soak them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to soften them before using them in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread a medium size cookie sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor, add:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats, preferably organic

1/2 cup seed butter like sunflower or pumpkin butter or tahini

10-12 softened dates, medium sized

1/4 cup date syrup (or if you don’t have date syrup, use some of the water from soaking the dates just increase the number of dates if you want a sweeter cookie)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Blend until combined and the oatmeal is partly ground and a dough forms. This should take only about a minute. Remove from the food processor to a bowl and stir in:

1/2 cup carob chips (optional)

1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Scoop out several tablespoons (to a 1/4 cup depending on how large you’d like the cookies) of the dough and form into a flat, round disc. Repeat with the remaining dough. The recipe should make approximately 12 cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

Vegan Carob Soufflé

I would never have thought I could make a soufflé without eggs but here it is! And delicious although perhaps not quite as fluffy as an egg soufflé. Very easy to make, just be sure it’s coming out of the oven immediately before you want to serve it because it does fall quite quickly as it cools off. Impress your vegan friends with this one! And of course, you can use chocolate instead of carob.

First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. This makes only 3 soufflés but is easy enough to double. Prepare the ramekins but spraying with a non-stick spray and then dusting them with a mixture of:

1 teaspoon carob powder

2 teaspoons date sugar

This allows the soufflé mixture to rise without being gripped by the ramekins surface. Next, mix together:

1 tablespoon psyllium husk (I used flaked)

3 tablespoons cold water

Whisk together to mix and set aside. The next step is to melt together:

1/2 cup unsweetened carob chips (or chocolate chips)

1/4 cup vegan margarine or butter (I used 1/4 cup of avocado oil)

Melt in either a double boiler over (not in) water over low heat or place a metal bowl on top of a pot of simmering water. Keep over low heat so that there isn’t a lot of steam emerging which could break the carob or chocolate. While this melts, in a medium sized bowl beat:

1/2 cup cold water

2 teaspoons aquafaba powder*

3 tablespoons date sugar

1/4 teaspoon guar gum

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

If you don’t have any aquafaba powder, use a cup of liquid aquafaba that you’ve reduced over heat to 1/2 cup. This requires a stronger mix of aquafaba so the powder is the easiest way to go. [It’s readily available online.]

Start beating the mixture on the lowest speed of your hand or stand mixer. Beat on low for 2-3 minutes then increase the speed to medium, again beating 2-3 minutes before finally increasing the speed to the highest setting and again beating 2-3 minutes. Trust me, you’ll say after the second stage that the mixture looks like stiff peaks but don’t stop there! This needs the third stage of the beating to keep it’s fluffy texture when folded into the carob mixture.

Once the chips are melted, remove from the heat and whisk together the fat and carob before adding:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons date sugar (optional depending on your family’s sweet tooth!)

1 tablespoon all purpose gluten-free flour

2 tablespoons carob powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

the psyllium mixture you set aside earlier

Whisk together to combine and then spoon in the aquafaba mixture. Carefully fold in the whipped aquafaba (it’s okay if a few streaks remain). Spoon into the prepared ramekins. Mixture should reach almost to the top of the ramekin. Bake for 20 minutes – DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN WHILE COOKING – the mixture should reach the top of the ramekin. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

This is a very simple recipe although it’s not quick because of the need to chill the dough before forming the balls. I can’t tell you how delicious these are since I couldn’t eat them – all the non-dairy cream cheeses on the market contain either soy, coconut or are made from a nut milk, none of which I can eat. However, my daughter-in-law tells me they are scrumptious.

In the bowl of a food processor:

22-24 gluten-free pseudo graham crackers (see recipe under Appetizers and Snacks)

Pulse until the crackers are nothing but crumbs. Remove and measure them. The crumbs should measure about 2 cups. Add to the food processor:

8 ounces non-dairy cream cheese (I used the Kite brand and it’s quite soft so I needed to add the full 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup fine date sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)

1 1/2-2 cups pseudo graham cracker crumbs (depending on the softness of the non-dairy cream cheese you use)

Pulse until well blended. The mixture should come together into a cookie dough like consistency. It may be slightly sticky. If so, add a little more cracker crumbs. Remove from the food processor into a medium bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Line a medium baking tray with parchment or waxed paper and drop dough by tablespoons onto the paper. If the dough is firm enough, just chill again until set. If the dough is still very soft, freeze for 1/2 to 1 hour. At this point, these can be just rolled in ground nuts or seeds or covered with carob or chocolate.

In a double boiler, over not in hot water, melt 16 ounces carob chips (or if chocolate is possible, use whatever brand of chocolate chips you like). I know that many people now use the microwave to melt chocolate but I find it makes it grainy so I don’t recommend it. When the balls are firm and the chips melted, spoon the melted carob over each ball to cover and then sprinkle with ground nuts or seeds (pumpkin seeds would work very well here). Chill again until the carob sets. Place in an airtight tin and keep in the refrigerator (it is after all cheesecake!). Makes 30-36 balls.

FYI: Since my daughter-in-law loves milk chocolate, I used milk chocolate chips when I made these for her. I also tried dipping the balls into the chocolate but found that they began melting into the hot chocolate so I suggested pouring the carob or chocolate over the balls instead of dipping them.

Rice Crispy Bars

This is a rice bar that is carob rather than marshmallow based so it’s much simpler to make. Quick and easy it makes a tasty treat. I cut them, put several into a baggie and put them in the freezer so I can take one out when I really need something sweet.

Prepare an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. Into a medium size bowl place:

1/3 cup avocado oil

2/3 cup tahini (thicker rather than thinner tahini) or pumpkin butter (or any seed or nut butter you like)

1/4 cup agave or coconut nectar, date or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 teaspoon mint extract if a minty flavor is desired)

Whisk together until smooth. Add:

1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa if you can have it)

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or any other seed or nut chopped that your family enjoys)

1 1/4 cup puffed rice cereal (or any puffed cereal your family likes)*

Stir to combine. (*More or less cereal may be needed depending on the consistency of the butter added.) Spread in the prepared dish and put in the freezer for 1 hour or until it is solid when you lift the parchment paper out of the dish. Slice and enjoy!

Coffee Energy Bites

In a medium to large bowl combine:

Ever look for something, not much, you just need a little something to lift you up in the middle or towards the end of your day? These will work – full of energy (and carbs), these bites will get you going and the whole grain oats and flax will sustain your energy for awhile. Easy to make, variable by your taste, and chock full of flavor, can’t beat the combination!

1 cup whole grain gluten-free oats (organic if possible)

1/2 cup ground flax

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules*

1/4 cup dried berries (small pieces work best but not powder)

1/4 cup carob chips (or chocolate if you can have them)

Mix to combine evenly. In a small bowl stir together:

1/2 cup tahini (slightly thick better than runny)**

1/4 cup honey, agave or coconut nectar, or maple syrup depending on taste

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the oat mixture and stir with a large fork to combine. Mixture will be slightly sticky but shouldn’t be too sticky. It should easily stick together when pressed into your hand. With DRY hands, form into roughly 1″ balls. I found I had to rinse off my hands every 2-3 balls to keep the mixture from sticking to me instead of itself! Should make 20-24 balls. Store in airtight container.

*I used 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules and after eating several of these bites, I’ve decided it was a little too much coffee – they taste a little bitter to me so depending on your love for coffee, add 1 or 2 tablespoons.

**I used tahini because of my nut allergy but feel free to use any seed or nut butter you like. But if you use a really thick butter, add a little water or liquid sweetener to it to thin it slightly. If your tahini is too thin, add a little more of the dry ingredients.

Carob Zucchini Cake

So much zucchini, what to do with it all! Not a bad dilemma to have. Here’s a way to use some.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 9×13″ baking dish or line it with parchment paper with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. In a large (and I mean large!) bowl, mix together:

2 cups date sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Add and mix well:

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (1 smallish medium sized unpeeled)

In a smaller bowl, using an electric mixer, beat:

6 tablespoons aquafaba

Until double in volume, then add:

1/4 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form – the mixture shouldn’t move when you move the bowl on its side.

In another small bowl combine:

1/2 cup unsweetened fruit sauce: pear, apple, peach, plum etc.

1 cup avocado oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup oat milk

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Whisk to combine thoroughly. Make a hollow in the middle of the dry zucchini mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly making sure all the dry mixture is combined. Add the whipped aquafaba and carefully fold it into the rest of the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

This is a very dense, moist (if not overbaked) rich cake so once cooled, cut into small squares. Freezes well. If more decadence is wanted, top with carob ganache and serve with non-dairy whip or vanilla frozen dessert of choice. I served mine with some plum coolee.

TIP: It would be more like zucchini brownies if baked in a roll cake pan (this is a large “cookie” sheet like pan except it has higher sides). Baking time should reflect size of pan so the larger and shallower the mixture, the less baking time needed.

Carob Chip Zucchini Bars

Grate the zucchini and put in a colander for about an hour before starting these bars to get out some of the liquid out of it or the bars will be too wet and get gummy. I weighted the grated zucchini down with a plate and a large can of tomatoes. Then blot between some paper towels. Makes 16 bars.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice (or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)

In another medium sized bowl combine:

3/4 cup pear sauce (or apple sauce) unsweetened

3/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/2 cup agave or coconut nectar)

1/3 cup avocado oil (or other light oil)

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (2 small zucchini)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well with a large spoon. Stir in:

3/4 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips)

1/2 cup hemp hulls (or chopped walnuts if nuts are possible)

Pour or spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading as evenly as possible so that the batter cooks evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Carob Orange Tapioca Pudding

Used to love vanilla tapioca pudding as a child. Hadn’t thought of it in years. You know the kind, with the nutmeg on top, all creamy with the little balls of tapioca. There was a restaurant in Derry, New Hampshire, when my husband and I lived there that still served it. Don’t know if they’ve survived the pandemic. So anyway, I wondered about other possible flavors for tapioca pudding and happened upon a recipe for orange and changed it up a bit, obviously replacing the whole milk and white sugar. Pretty easy to make, but not something you can walk away from!

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:

1 cup water

Stir in:

1/4 cup small tapioca pearls

Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the water is gone and the tapioca pearls are swollen and translucent. Add to the pot:

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob chips

the tapioca pearls just cooked

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (it will still be fairly loose), about 3-5 minutes. Stir in:

juice and zest from 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Let cool slightly before spooning into individual serving bowls or glasses. Cover and chill. Makes four servings. It can be eaten warm but is much better after it’s sits overnight and firms up.

Brown Rice Crispy Squares

The brown refers both to the color of the squares and the type of rice cereal. I’ve gotten out of the habit of recommending specific brands in my recipes but I’m making an exception here. The 365 brand from Whole Foods of Brown Rice Crisps contains only 2 gms of sugar per 1 1/3 cup serving which is about as great as we can get with any brand or type of cereal. Since there’s no sugar added in this recipe, just a couple of dates, that’s a fairly good ratio. And these squares are actually healthy, full of fiber, and a serving of fruit to boot. Never mind that they are also tasty.

You’ll need:

1 cup (8 ounces) of dried prunes, figs, or other dried fruit that your family likes

2-5 medjool dates depending on how sweet your family likes their snacks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

sufficient hot water to cover the dried fruit

2 tablespoons carob (or cocoa) powder

1 cup nut or seed butter

6 cups brown rice cereal

In a medium bowl soak the dates and dried fruit in the hot water at least 20 minutes or until they are rehydrated and soft. Line an 8″ square baking dish with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Place the dried fruit, dates, and vanilla extract along with 1/2 cup of the fruit water and the carob powder into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Heat the nut or seed butter in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted. Add the pureed fruit and heat an additional 20-30 seconds. Put the cereal into a large bowl and pour the nut/seed butter mixture over it. Stir to combine and coat all the cereal. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press the cereal down, spreading it out to cover the entire dish, until smooth and even in the baking dish. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

TIPS: Add some carob or chocolate chips, minced dried cherries, freeze dried strawberries or bananas, etc. to enhance the taste and add more deliciousness to the squares. Spices would work as well, perhaps some cinnamon, allspice or cardamom.