The harvest in New England is here, and there's tons of amazing produce coming out of our farm fields and gardens. While there are numerous ways to prepare, cook, preserve, and maximize the bounty, baking with vegetables is a healthful* (*debatable...) way to get even more produce into your diet. If you're headed to a potluck, cooking or baking with kids, or just want a way to have a healthful-ish treat on hand, check out my go-to, simple baking with veggies recipes.
As they say, "Eat your veggies.” You’re welcome:
Recipe: Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
- 1 large or 2 medium cooked beets
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used coconut [carton, not in the can])
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup melted unrefined coconut oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 generous cup of flour (I used a gluten-free all-purpose blend, but white or whole spelt, or unbleached regular wheat flour will work too)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 2 Tbls or more of water, beet cooking liquid (if you boil them), or extra unsweetened milk
- Before you do anything, cook your beets! Roast or boil - it’s up to you. The goal: fully cooked/fork tender.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cupcake pan with baking cups and set aside.
- Once your beets are cooked and still slightly warmed, puree beets in a blender or food processor. You can add a little water, beet cooking liquid, or unsweetened milk by the tablespoon to thin out the cooked beets. You want a puree, not a smoothie. Scoop out or pour a 1/2 cup of the pureed beets and set aside.
- Whisk together the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup or bowl, and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle and make a sort of buttermilk.
- Add the coconut sugar, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup beets and carefully whisk or beat until combined and foamy.
- In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to remove any lumps.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Beat (by hand or with a mixer)/combine until no lumps remain.
- Pour batter into lined cupcake pan, filling each a 3/4 of the way full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
- Once cooled, frost or eat as is!
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting
- 1 large sweet potato, roasted
- 8-10 oz. of dark chocolate (chips or chopped bar chocolate - the darker the better)
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 Tbl vanilla extract
- Scoop out and slightly mash the roasted sweet potato from the skin and place in a small to medium sauce pan.
- Bring the sweet potato mash to a simmer (you can add a little bit of water or unsweetened non-dairy milk to thin out, but only 1-2 Tbls at most) and remove from heat.
- Add the dark chocolate, and stir until smooth. (If you want a super smooth texture, you can put the mixture in a food processor or use an immersion blender.)
- Let it cool, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is at room temperature and spread on your cupcakes/cake (or maybe transfer to a container and store in your refrigerator for up to a week and eat by the spoonful…)
I'm not a nutritionist or wellness expert, nor pretend to be. But, I do enjoy good food and I'm a staunch believer of eating well no matter your economic status - both from experience and simply as a point of principle. Even in the leanest of economic times, I refuse to eat like an idiot. It takes planning and it sounds so basic, but, put the time in once (Sundays are my meal-prep days) and you save time, money, superfluous plastic packaging and silly eating missteps later. My go-to, budget-conscious recommendation: energy bites!
My friend Kaitlin Clark, a certified nutrition and wellness consultant and the brains behind Integrative Healing Arts, first made these snacks for me in 2010, and I've made versions of them ever since. The brilliance of these snacks are that they are (1) no bake! (2) suited to whatever ingredients you have on hand (or can be acquired on a budget-friendly trip to the grocery store) and (3) adjusted or modified to your tastes.
The basic components:
- protein (in the form of nut or seed butters [tahini, almond, sunflower, etc.], ground or chopped nuts or seeds, and/or a scoop or two of your favorite [no to low sugar] protein powder)
- something sweet (local honey or maple syrup)
- add-ins (like cocoa/cacao, chia seeds, hemp hearts, a pinch of ground flax seeds, green powders/herbs, bee pollen, shredded coconut, mini-chocolate chips, dried or blended fruit like raisins, cranberries, dates or figs, etc.)
They are crunchy as hell, but they are delicious, no-bake, customizable, and totally worth it.
Have some time today to plan for the week ahead and start eating more mindfully? Check out the two recipes from Kaitlin - the expert - to get started, and check out my preferred combination below. (**Disclaimer: While you should experiment with ingredients in these recipes, please consult with a professional if you have never used certain powders or dried herbs to avoid any complications with medications or triggers to known allergies.**)
Recipe 2: Energy Bites (courtesy of Kaitlin Clark of Integrative Healing Arts)
- 2-3 parts (1/2-2/3 c.) ground pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds
- 1 part (1/2 c.) ginseng root powder
- 1 part (1/3-1/2 c.) part gingko or gotu kola
- 1/2 part (1/8 c.) spirulina, greens powder or chlorella
- 1 cup nut/seed butter (tahini, almond, sunflower, etc.)
- 1/2 cup local honey (more or less for taste)
- Add ons: 1/2 cup crushed almonds, mini vegan chocolate chips, raising, goji berries, etc.
Recipe 1: Brain Bites (courtesy of Kaitlin Clark of Integrative Healing Arts)
- 1 cup nut/seed butter (tahini, almond, sunflower, etc.)
- 1 part (1/2 cup) ginkgo leaf (powder)
- 1/2 cup local honey (more or less for taste)
- 1 part (1/2 cup) ginseng root powder
- 1 part (1/2 cup) Brahmi Powder
- vegan chocolate chips (mini!)
- unsweetened cocoa powder, cacao, or cocoa nibs
- Add ons: finely chopped walnuts, almonds, shredded coconuts, raisins, hemp seeds, etc.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix the seed/nut butters with honey/maple syrup.
- Blend in powdered herbs, chips, add-ons (Pro-tip: Finely chop by using a coffee grinder or small food processor)
- Roll into tablespoon-size balls. (Pro-tip: I use a small ice cream scooper - even less work!)
- In a shallow bowl or plate, roll into coconut shreds, hemp seeds, etc.
- Place on plate or lined-cookie sheet and place in the freezer.
- Once frozen, you can wrap them up in a bag, plate or container of your choice.
Recipe/Variation 3: Al's Combo
Not to be confused with a bad Italian sandwich, but, in fact, this is my preferred combination of ingredients for energy bites, following Kaitlin's proportions and instructions from above. My go-to combo: almond butter, local honey/local maple syrup, unsweetened vegan protein powder, cocoa/cacoa powder, unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, ground walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin/sunflower seeds.
We all come from somewhere. But, I think about this, like, a lot, when I'm in the kitchen...and much more as of late. I owe my existence to my family members who immigrated from Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. I'm sure there are more places, instances of happenstance and migration that I do not yet know. My brothers and I are a mix of all of these cultures and predominately two religions, Catholicism and Judaism, and, even a little bit of Quaker. Among other things, this smorgasbord of ethnicities and traditions have always influenced and informed our family's approach to food and our cooking philosophy. And, on Purim, we make hamantaschen, a tasty, pocket-filled cookie or pastry recognized for its triangular shape.
I wasn't raised Jewish, but I do know that today is Purim. Purim is a holiday of both celebration and commemoration, as it recognizes "the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman's plot 'to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,'" according to Chabad.org. Survival is something that should and needs to be celebrated! And, for me, food is how I show my appreciation.
I'd like to think that I’m making my paternal ancestors - who fled Austria during WWII - proud by baking these delicious gems. I’m keenly aware that without their courage, I wouldn’t be here. So, baking hamataschen is my small gesture and ode to embracing their culture, faith, and their struggle to survive. With each corner fold of the pastry, dollop of jam, and zest of lemon, I'm reminded to always cook with intention and gratitude. L’chaim! (translation: to life!)
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Recipe: Lemon-Raspberry Hamantaschen
I wish I could say that this recipe was passed down from generation to generation, but, alas, it wasn't. I need to give credit where credit is due - I owe inspiration and thanks to the real masters like Tori Avey, Molly Yeh of My Name is Yeh, Liz Rueven's Kosher Like Me, and Whitney Fisch of Jew Hungry. I encourage you to follow these women and read their work!
Here's my approach and how I got the end result:
Dough: The recipe I used is from Liz's Kosher Like Me: The Perfect Hamantaschen Dough. This one uses coconut oil and gives the dough an amazing texture.
My adaptations to this recipe: Instead of wheat flour, I used Pamela's All Purpose Flour blend. (Not sponsored, I swear.) I do not advocate for substituting with random non-gluten flours (almond, buckwheat, coconut, etc.), especially if this is your first attempt. Baking is chemistry, after all. But, you should be fine if you use or have a preferred 1:1 flour blend that you use.
Filling: organic, low sugar raspberry jam. Do a quick search for fillings, or search on one of the above sites that inspired me for more ideas (chocolate hazelnut, poppyseed, halva, apricot, date and honey, etc.).
Shaping & forming: I followed the rolling and folding tips from Tori Avey. Click here for her instructions. The basics: You want to pinch or fold the dough to make a pocket or triangle.
My cooking cutter pro-tip: Most recipes suggest making circular rounds with a 3" cooking cutter. Skip that - use a wide-mouth mason jar lid and a small paring knife. For real. So simple!