Chocolate Date Bars (Larabars)

Credit here goes to my good friend Katie, who showed me this recipe. She found it while browsing Pinterest, and the link for the original recipe is here. Katie kept raving about these Larabars, so I just had to try making them.

Larabars are a brand of fruit and nut bars that use natural ingredients and come in a variety of flavours. I have tried several of them, but not the peanutbutter chocolate chip ones because I am allergic to peanuts. With some modifications, I made a peanut-free version of these Larabars, inspired by Katie and the blog I mentioned above.

Ingredients
1 lb medjool dates (I get mine at Costco. I also only had 15, but the recipe called for 30)
1/2 cup raw or roasted almonds (no salt, preferably)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp feaux peanut butter (I used Wow Butter. Another nut butter would work well too)
1 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (ie. dark, no milk powder)

I put the almonds in a food processor and processed lightly, until the almonds crushed into small pieces. I took them out and put all the other ingredients except the chocolate chips into the food processor and food processed the mixture. (My tiny one-litre food processor couldn’t handle the dough, so when I make them again I will process the dough in smaller batches.) Lastly, I processed the mixture again with the chocolate chips added.

I formed the dough into a ball, placed it between two sheets of wax paper (parchment paper works too), and flattened the dough into a 1/2 inch-tall rectangle, using my finger tips (a rolling pin would work too). I refrigerated the dough for about an hour and then cut the dough into bars, around 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches. I wrapped the bars in small pieces of waxed paper and kept them in the fridge until I wanted to eat them.

20150325_171841These made an excellent snack for an extra boost of energy. I need all the energy I can get these days to get through my last three weeks of school!

Everything Salad

Two common comments I hear about a vegan diet is that cooking vegan takes more time than carnivorous meals, and that it is hard to get enough protein. In my opinion these things are not true. In the past few month Tom and I have discovered some recipes that have become staples in our diet for quick meals, and they just so happen to be packed with protein. Here is one of the recipes, which I am going to call an Eveything Salad because there are so many possibilities for what you can put in it.

Ingredients
1 or 2 cups quinoa, cooked with 2 or 4 cups water or vegetable broth, and cooled (I ate this salad warm too, and it was delicious)
x amount shredded carrots
x amount roughly chopped spinach, kale, or arugula
x amount corn (canned, or stripped from a cooked ear of corn)
amount red onion
amount toasted almonds*

Maple Dijon Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

Basically, just toss all the veggies together with the quinoa, mix the dressing in a container and toss with the salad, and you’ve got yourself a delicious lunch or dinner (especially good on a hot day). The amount of dressing needed may vary on your taste buds; there may be too much dressing depending on how big the salad is.

I also really enjoy adding about 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast to add a cheesy flavour  and some extra nutrition (1/4 cup of nutritional yeast is 300% of your daily intake of vitamin B12, which is most commonly found in animal products).

Suggestions for other add-ons: raisins, dried cranberries, other toasted nuts, cucumber, tomato, cooked and cubed sweet potatoes, and fried tofu for the warm salad. You can also substitute other salad dressings, or just use olive oil and salt. The possibilities are endless.

Cooking quinoa takes 20 minutes, and chopping the veggies can be done during this time. If you eat the salad warm, it could take you 20 minutes to make. Furthermore, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa (which is the minimum amount in this recipe) has 24g of protein, and 1 cup of almonds has 30g of protein. Enough protein for you?!

* To toast almonds, place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a smell comes from the oven, about 10 minutes. Let them cool completely before eating.

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Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese has been my favorite food pretty much since I was able to eat solid food. As such, I was pretty excited to try making a vegan version of my favorite dish. One of the people I am living with right now has been vegan for two years, and has a cookbook called Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton. I decided to make the recipe called “Mac-oh-geez”.

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups elbow macaroni (don’t use much more than that)
Sauce:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk (I used soy milk)
3/4 cups cashews
1/2 cups almonds
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
2 tsp arrowroot powder (my vegan housemate had this in her pantry and let me use it, but I think cornstarch would work too)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 cup water
2 tbsp oil (I used grape seed oil)

Bread Crumb Topping:
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp oil

I preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly greased an 8 by 12 inch baking dish.

I cooked the pasta in slightly salted boiling water for 6-8 minutes, until al dente. It is important to remember that the pasta will keep cooking in the oven.

I put all the sauce ingredients in a blender, but reserved 1 cup of the soy milk. I blended the mixture until smooth, then added  the rest of the soy milk and blended it some more.

I put the cooked noodles into the prepared baking dish, and poured the sauce on top. It looked very saucy, but it really thickened up in the oven.

I mixed the bread crumbs and oil together and poured on top of the casserole, then covered it in tinfoil and baked it for 17 minutes. Then, I removed the tinfoil and baked it for another 7 minutes, until the top started to turn golden brown.

Overall, the mac and cheese looked exactly like the casserole I make with cheese, butter, and milk, and it tasted similar, but of course, not bang on. There was a slight sweetness to it that I am trying to understand; maybe the soy milk is responsible for this, even though it was unsweetened. But, with a little bit of pepper on top, and this dish can definitely satisfy the mac and cheese craving.

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Funny side note: with my peanut allergy, it can be very difficult to find nuts that were not processed on the same equipment as peanuts. Usually pistachios are easy to find in the grocery store, but not much else. Thankfully, Costco sells a brand called Kirkland that has many different options that are not processed with peanuts. I was able to buy a bag of almonds, but the bag of cashews had the “may contain” label on it. However, I found a bag of mixed nuts and fruit that were safe and had cashews in it! So, for this mac and cheese recipe, I picked out the cashews one by one. Yes, these are the lengths I will go to to try out a new recipe.