Pizza Bread

I have recently acquired two kitchen appliances that I’m obsessed with: an automatic bread maker and a food dehydrator. As you know, I like to bake my own bread. While the bread maker actually takes longer from start to finish than it takes me to crank out a loaf manually, I like being able to dump in my ingredients, push Start, and forget about it. My bread maker came with a recipe book that has inspired many variations on my standard bread formula.

Today’s variation incorporates tomatoes that I dehydrated with my other favorite new appliance, my dehydrator. I asked for one for Christmas mainly to make my own dried fruit. Buying it premade often means signing up for excess added sugar, oil, or salt. I’m happy that I can now control those ingredients myself. The dehydrator also makes veggie chips, all-natural fruit rollups, and all kinds of other yumminess!

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Ok, back to the bread. I played around with my bread formula to come up with a loaf that incorporates all of the flavors of pizza without the cheese. This rendition incorporates a bit of nutritional yeast flakes (also found in my last post, nacho “cheese”) that really do add that much-sought-after cheesy flavor.

You’ll notice that I’ve included the directions for making the bread by hand, should you not own a bread maker. Otherwise, follow the instructors on your appliance. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: YEAST BREAD

Makes 1 standard size loaf

  • 3-4 cups of flour, plus more for dusting your workspace–> I’m using 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 ¾ cups bread flour, and ¼ cup nutritional yeast (nooch is not flour, but has a similar dry consistency).
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed –> I’m using hulled hemp seeds instead.
  • ½ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil –> I’m using some of the extra virgin olive oil that my sundried tomatoes are packed in.
  • 1 ¾ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable) –> My bread machine requires less water, so I’m using only 1 ¼ cups, but I would maintain this amount for a manual loaf.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (optional) –> I’m using nearly ½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes + 1 tsp turbinado sugar, ½ tsp dried basil, and ½ tsp dried oregano.

Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can make the bread entirely by hand, but it will be a little workout!). Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with flour. Have any specialty ingredients of choice nearby to eventually knead into your bread dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and a loaf pan.

Combine 3 cups of flour (including nooch, in my case), salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add any additional spices or sweeteners, if using. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before starting the mixer. Start on low speed and increase the speed as the dry ingredients become incorporated into the wet.

Add all of the flaxseed (hemp seeds in my case) and then, additional flour gradually until your dough forms a minimally sticky ball on high speed. I can tell that the dough is ready for kneading if it is still somewhat sticky to the touch, but does not stick to the mixing bowl itself when whipping around on a high speed.

Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your floured countertop. Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball. If you are adding ingredients like sundried tomatoes, stretch the dough open 3 times throughout the kneading process to sprinkle in ingredients before folding over the dough and kneading again. Knead for 5-7 minutes total and then place the ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

This is what my assembly looks like just before starting the bread machine:

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After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, reform into a loaf shape, and transfer it into your oiled loaf pan. Cover the dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, your dough will rise again and then be ready for baking. Bake for 35 minutes. The bread should come out of the loaf pan fairly easily and onto a wire rack to cool.

Need more pictures of the bread making process? Check out my original bread post!

Guiltless Nacho Cheese

No, the title of this post is not a mistake: You CAN load up your nachos with gobs of ooey-gooeyness and NOT stress about what you’re eating. What is this orange slime that I poured all over my nachos? What is it made out of? How is it that orange? How much salt is in this? Those days are done.

I have concocted a number of formulas for vegan alternatives that are just as satisfying as dairy: creamy pasta sauce, mousse, frosting, whipped cream, etc. I have never, however, claimed that they are the same; vegan cheese just isn’t cheese. Period. What matters to me is that my vegan rendition is delicious, nutritious, and an adequate—if not superior—substitute for the real deal.

Today, I’m walking you through a vegan nacho cheese that is seriously going to blow your mind. The color is the same, the texture is the same, and the flavor is on point, as spicy as you’d like to make it. The best part? No guilt: This cheese sauce is potato-based. Who knew “nacho cheese” could be healthy?! (Remember, when not slathered with greasy, cholesterol-laden dairy products, potatoes—even white—are an extremely healthy source of fiber and vitamin C.)

Many of my formula ideas come from Instagram. I follow some amazing vegan bloggers that post a wide variety of sweet and savory drool-worthy pictures and recipes. Every time I’ve seen nacho cheese come up, I’ve scrolled past. There’s no way it’s anything like nacho cheese, I thought. I finally decided to match a batch and I was dead wrong. (Big thanks to @bestofvegan and @silviaryan for the inspiration!)

Travis is always skeptical when I create a formula that is meant to replace a perfectly palatable animal-based version. He figures, why not just eat real cheese if that’s what you’re craving, but at the same time, realizes that doing so is not the most sensible choice for the body. Thus, he keeps an open mind. I can say with confidence that Travis’s perspective on nacho cheese is now forever changed – he said that all my vegan rendition needed was a pinch of salt and it was legit. He can be quite critical (in a helpful way), so if he approved, it’s gotta be good.

Some tips: The type of potato/carrot you use will certainly influence the flavor and color of your nacho cheese. Point being, I wouldn’t use purple. 🙂 The sweetness from either a yam, sweet potato, or carrot balances out the spices…or extreme spiciness if you like it hot. I have only made this cheese with a russet and carrot combo and the sauce was not at all sweet. It would certainly be a bit sweeter with a sweet potato or yam, but even then, I don’t foresee this sauce tasting even close to dessert-like. Finally, you can easily transform this into a queso dip by adding fresh diced tomatoes and peppers.

I promise that you won’t be disappointed with this formula. Pour this nacho cheese over organic, all-natural, low-sodium chips or layer in a burrito bowl and dig in. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: NACHO CHEESE

  • 1 medium potato (or the equivalent in fingerlings or another small potato variety) OR 1 large sweet potato or yam –> I’m using 1 russet.
  • 1 large carrot (if you’re NOT using sweet potato/yam) –> I’m using it.
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • Salt and Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste –> I’m using about ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Put your cashews in water and soak for at least four hours (I usually do overnight).

Peel your potato(es) and carrot, if using. Cook using the method of your choice (steam, boil, bake, etc.).

Drain and rinse your cashews. Place in a blender with cooked potato(es) and carrot (if using) and all remaining ingredients. If necessary, add more milk until you’ve reach the desired consistency, keeping in mind that you then may need to adjust your seasonings to prevent the sauce from becoming bland.

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Use immediately or store in the fridge (does keep well!). May require more milk when reheating.

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Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Power Bars

Nolan has decided that his favorite food is chocolate. “Chocolate is a good snack, Mom.” Nolan wants chocolate on or with almost everything he eats. Thankfully, his mama is hip to the word on dark chocolate, which is all he’s ever had. Like a lot of people, I grew up on milk chocolate, which I think most would agree is richer and more palatable. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but now that it’s all I eat, the rare instances when I have milk, my tastes buds are blown away by how cloyingly sweet it is.

Why make the switch from milk to dark? Many milk chocolate treats contain sugar and milk as their primary ingredients when it is the cacao bean that contains the powerhouse nutrients. Once you get past the slightly bitter and certainly less sweet taste of dark, you can now consume chocolate that provides true health benefits. Dark chocolate that is 72% cacoa or greater is jam-packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. It is heart healthy and can boost brain power, too. YUM!

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Of course, like all sweets, we can’t overdo it with even dark chocolate. Cacoa does contain fat and when made into a chocolate bar, for instance, also contains added sugar. Point is, a little bit of dark chocolate every day—yes, I eat it every day folks!—is not only not going to hurt you, but will provide you with powerful nutrients. Opt for fair trade whenever possible.

What do I say when Nolan wants chocolate? I give it to him. Not in unlimited quantities and only after or in conjunction with another snack or meal, but like me, he eats it every day. (For the parents out there who may be wondering about amount, if the average dark chocolate bar is three ounces, he has half an ounce or less in a day. Hopefully that helps you to visualize the quantity!)

Today’s rendition of my power bars also incorporates a touch of pink Himalayan sea salt, which is loaded with minerals. A little bit is ok. 🙂 If I didn’t sell you enough on giving dark chocolate a try, Travis said that these power bars are one of the best things I’ve ever made. So, there’s that. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POWER BARS

Yields 9 square bars*

For the dough:

  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –> I’m using ¾ cup wheat berries (learn about wheat berries by checking out my multi-grain salad formula) and ¼ cup ground flaxseed.**
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –> I’m using pitted medjool dates.
  • ½ cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –> I’m using sunflower.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • Extract and/or spices to taste (optional) –> I’m using 1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt.

Garnish ideas (up to ½ cup):

  • Raw seeds
  • Raw finely chopped nuts
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Melted dark chocolate to pour over the top (which will re-solidify after chilling) –> I’m using 3 ounces of 72% cacoa + a sprinkle of pink Himalayan sea salt.

*Double the recipe to make double the bars, or, to achieve thicker bars.

**Yes, I know that flaxseed is not a whole grain. Just wanted to add a little texture and different nutrients to the bars today. 🙂

Turn your whole grains into flour using your food processor or blender (my Vitamix has a dry blade pitcher).

Then, combine the flour and your remaining ingredients, except the garnish. Run until a thick, pliable dough forms. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula at least once.

Turn the dough out into a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine half of your garnish (unless it’s melted chocolate) and to break up any clumps of dried fruit and/or butter. Firmly press the dough into an 8 x 8 pan lined with wax paper.

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Evenly distribute the remaining garnish, pressing into/pouring onto the top of the bars.

To melt dark chocolate: Use a double boiler (not the microwave). Fill a sauce pan with about an inch of water and turn it up to medium high heat. Place a glass bowl containing your chocolate on top of the pan. Stir chocolate occasionally until it completely melts. BE CAREFUL OF ANY STEAM COMING UP FROM THE SAUCE PAN.

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Chill the bars for at least 2 hours before cutting into the desired size and shape. Store in the refrigerator.

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Garden Update II

I’ve written a few times now about how maintaining your own garden can save you tons of money on fresh produce and also allow you to control how your produce is grown (i.e. organic). Our backyard garden has seen its ups and downs as Travis and I continue to learn about making it work in arid Arizona, but most of our plants are going strong. My last update included tomatoes galore and wonderberries!

Winter in Arizona means success for entirely different crops. It’s citrus season here. We recently planted a baby lemon tree which we didn’t expect to produce for several years. Here at only a couple of feet tall, we already have one lemon. Woo!

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Another impressive plant in our garden that has been thriving in both summer and winter is this awkward basil tree. We bought a standard basil plant from Trader Joe’s two years ago and planted what was left of it after nearly picking it clean. There is something about where we decided to plant it in our backyard that is apparently the perfect year-round climate and moisture level for basil. We harvest from this plant rain or shine, cold or hot.

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As you know, we also have a potted herb garden in the front of our house. Some of our herbs have not survived winter, but a few are still green, including this bright parsley plant. Up until recently, I was also regularly harvesting various types of mint leaves for holiday desserts (check out my peppermint cookies and mint chocolate chip brownies, both made with real fresh mint leaves).

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Next, we have a lemongrass plant that just won’t quit. Like the small basil tree, we planted lemongrass years ago and it is nearly the size of a shrub now. We’ve harvested leaves to flavor food and make tea, but I’m thinking I may need to venture into the natural soap and candle worlds. Anyone have tips for DIY bath, body, and home fragrance products?!

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Finally, I’m excited to show you our purple potato plants (excuse the slight blur…I was taking pictures with two-year-old Nolan running around the yard!). The potatoes themselves are, of course, growing underground, but what you see on the surface indicates the progress beneath. Travis says that once flowers appear on these plants and then they die off, that it’s time to dig up the potatoes – I can’t wait. Let me add that growing potatoes couldn’t be easier. Have an old-looking potato with spuds blossoming? Bury it in the backyard and you’re well on your way to more potatoes.

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One of the easiest ways to be healthier (and save money!) is to DIY. Happy gardening!

Happy New Year!

Yea, I know – I’m a few weeks late in wishing you a Happy New Year.  🙂  January (and the holidays in general) has been a hectic month for me.  My sister and her husband visited from Tokyo and my maternity leave officially ended.  Now that the dust is settling a bit, I am able to catch you up on what’s been going on in my world.

First of all, The Fresh Formula turned one on New Year’s Day.  This blog was born from recipe requests from my Facebook friends.  Several of them encouraged me to put all of my recipes (formulas) and budding knowledge in one place so that others could learn, too.  As I am not a nutritionist, professional chef, or food expert of any kind, I was flattered.  What started as a hobby for me has turned into a way to help and inspire people everywhere.

THANK YOU – The Fresh Formula continues to be a passion of mine because of YOU.  What can you expect from the blog in 2016?

I will, of course, continue to share formulas and recipes.  In addition, I am going to write a bit more about me, my family, and our life.  My readers have expressed a great interest in reading more about my plant-based journey—particularly since I’ve recently given birth to my second child—in addition to the regular meal, snack, and dessert ideas.

Let’s start with an update.  When I last checked in with you regarding my post-partum progress, I was a pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight, fresh off of a one-week raw food challenge, and continuing to work on getting back into shape.  I am happy to report that I officially reached my pre-pregnancy weight just before Christmas and successfully maintained that weight throughout the holiday season!  (Plant-based living makes weight maintenance effortless for me.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been as dedicated to exercise and toning up as I had originally planned.  Without going into too much detail, as pregnancy and the aftermath are not the true focus of this blog, I have been experiencing bleeding, cramping, and other signs of my body’s inability to heal from childbirth.  Yes, this is still happening nearly three months post-partum and seems to be triggered by strenuous physical activities like working out, lifting, etc.

I went to my doctor and my bloodwork came back normal, although more testing may be needed.  I am awaiting the official results of an ultrasound, but what I have been told so far is not terribly worrisome.  I am potentially looking at a hormonal imbalance, among other contributing factors.

The bad news is that while I have kept up with getting outside to walk and doing a little light toning with weights at home, I have not picked up the pace with any cardio since every time I have tried I have experienced a setback in my healing.  The good news is that now that my test results are showing that my issues aren’t likely serious, I can power through and really, finally, now get back into getting in shape.

I look forward to sharing more of my progress with you.  For now, check out my latest pic!  My abs don’t have much definition yet, but that tummy is damn near flat, less than three months post-baby.  I’ll take it!

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Sprouted Beans and More from AZVFF

I’ve recently been reading at length about raw vegan diets. As you know, I aim to consume 60-70% raw plant foods daily, but I recently upped that amount to 90% in my one-week raw food challenge. I generally feel better than I ever did when eating a traditional American omnivorous diet, but during the challenge, I felt even more energized and satisfied with my appearance.

As a result of my piqued interest in raw eating, I went to this year’s Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival looking to learn more about the lifestyle. While I don’t believe I have the willpower—or interest, for that matter—to go completely raw, I’d like to try and consume even more raw plant foods. Uncooked food is easier on the body; there’s no disputing science.

Again, not looking to go 100%…just interested in living better, which I believe all of us can do, no matter what our lifestyle or food preferences. While at the AZVFF, I made a beeline straight for a booth advertising raw, sprouted hummus. I love beans, but they are inedible raw (or so I thought), so I had to see this for myself.

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When I think of “sprouts,” I imagine tiny green sprigs with delicate little leaves, grown from whole grains or seeds. Sprouts are delicious and make for an aesthetically pleasing addition to salads and raw veggie wraps. Sprouted beans? I couldn’t wrap my head around it…

Turns out, in the raw vegan world, “sprouted” can also refer to a plant food that has ballooned in size as a result of extensive soaking in water. This allows an item like a dried bean to take on a cooked consistency, while still being technically raw. The soaked bean is never boiled, sautéed, roasted, or otherwise nuked with heat and is palatable enough to make into a salad sandwich or blend into a creamy hummus. The nutrition nerd that I am, my mind was blown. 🙂 Why didn’t I think of this before?! I’ve always soaked dried beans and then boiled them, or purchased them already cooked in a can.

This learning led me to look into sprouting other seemingly inedible raw foods to avoid the cooking process. A vegan writer that I love operates a blog called Oh She Glows. She soaks rolled oats overnight—recipe is aptly titled “Vegan Overnight Oats”—and they are ready to consume for breakfast the next morning with no cooking required.

I am now working on revising some of my formulas to incorporate sprouted beans, lentils, or grains where I think they would work just as well as cooked – stay tuned!

Below, enjoy other sights from the 2016 AZVFF. 🙂

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Baby Oliver’s first time at the fest (with Daddy).

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My sister, Petra (in town from Tokyo), with Nolan. A gloomy day, but a pretty park.

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Last year’s vegan pretzel truck made a return!

Tried some vegan eats from a new place – delicious!

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

I love barbecue. I realize that seems awkward, coming from a mostly vegan. What use could I possibly have for BBQ sauce if I’m not slathering it on ribs or chicken? While I think that BBQ sauce has many applications, it is one of my favorite pizza sauces. Back in my meat-eating days, BBQ chicken pizza was one of my favs. Now, I sub tofu for chicken and forgo the cheese and am still completely satisfied…

…especially now that I’ve developed my own sauce! Store-bought BBQ sauces certainly promise flavor, but they are overloaded with sugar and salt. My version includes very little added sweetener and is so robust, doesn’t even need much salt.

The key to creating a sauce that outdoes the premade versions is using fresh ingredients. My BBQ sauce comes together with whole plump tomatoes and sweet golden pineapple. That’s right: pineapple is my not-so-secret-anymore ingredient. I’ve seen it used for natural sweetness in teriyaki, so I thought I’d give it a try in another sauce. Depending on how sweet, tangy, and/or spicy you like your BBQ sauce, you may not even need any added sweetener after the addition of the pineapple. Taste as you go!

(SIDE NOTE: If you don’t have one of these handy kitchen scales, I would highly recommend buying one.)

So, I realize that some of you are, in fact, going to use this deliciousness to coat an animal carcass. I’m happy to get you one step closer to living a healthier life by forgoing that bottle in the grocery store. No matter what, do, absolutely, use this sauce to make my pizza some time. 🙂 Enjoy!

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FORMULA BASE: BARBECUE SAUCE

  • 1 pound tomatoes –> I’m using romas.
  • ½ pound ripe pineapple
  • ½ of a small onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic –> I’m using 2.
  • ¼ cup acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, etc.) –> I’m using whole grain mustard.
  • ¼ cup + 1/8 cup sweetener –> I’m using ¼ cup unsulfured molasses and 1/8 cup agave syrup.
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using 4 grounds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste (optional) –> Definitely not for this wimp. 🙂

Coarsely chop your tomatoes, pineapple, and onion into large chunks. Place in a blender with your garlic cloves (peeled and whole). Puree until smooth.

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Pour into a sauce pan and add all other ingredients. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until sauce has reached desired consistency. Use immediately or store in the fridge.

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Blackberry Nice Cream

Our last Bountiful Basket included sixteen clamshells of delicious blackberries. We ate some of them fresh and froze the majority to use in smoothies. Since they are already frozen, I figured they would do well in a quick batch of nice cream.

If you remember my pistachio nice cream, you know that this non-dairy version of easily THE most popular frozen treat is just as satisfying and pretty darn healthy. It’s essentially a thicker version of a smoothie, into which you can add endless crunch factors like chocolate chips, nuts, or pretzels…just like “real” ice cream!

Blackberries not only make nice cream look rich and vibrant, they are extremely nutritious. One serving of blackberries provides approximately one third of your daily recommended fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C intake. They are the perfect balance of sweet and tart and really compliment salads, smoothies, and desserts.

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Another feature of today’s nice cream rendition is cacao nibs, which I’m using to top my treat. Raw cacao nibs are bits of cacao beans, which are used to make the chocolate that we are used to eating. The raw nibs have all of the health benefits of chocolate without the added sugar, salt, and fat. They are most notably jam-packed with flavonoids, cell-improving antioxidants also found in tea and berries. You’re getting a double dose of antioxidants with this dessert!

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Not ready to let go of holiday sweets? Indulge in a dessert that will help you to bounce back from the holidays madness and reach your fitness goals. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: NICE CREAM

Serves 3-4

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ¾-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using 1 heaping cup of partially-thawed blackberries.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with just a splash) –> I’m not using any (the juice from the blackberries is enough to puree my ingredients).
  • ¼ cup extras for mixing in by hand (optional) – think nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. –> I’m topping my nice cream with raw cacao nibs and raw chopped almonds.

Combine all ingredients (except the extras) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Ready to enjoy immediately, or place in the freezer while you prepare any desired sauces or toppings.

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Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

Need one more dessert for your holiday parties? These brownies are easy to throw together, delicious, and festive. I had such amazing unexpected success with my mint chocolate chip cookies that I had to try out the mint milk concept with brownies. If you’re a fan of the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookies, you will LOVE these. And…this particular rendition is gluten-free, too. 🙂

When I made my mint chip cookies, I used traditional peppermint in lieu of incorporating processed candy canes. All out of peppermint, these brownies include another mint I have growing at my house: spearmint. Like peppermint, spearmint can assist with gastrointestinal issues and can also help to remedy nausea. As I mentioned before, these desserts with real mint are the ultimate post-dinner dessert!

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With visitors in town and the daily grind of a newborn and a two-year-old, it’s been slower than usual on The Fresh Formula. After the holidays, I’ll resume posting progress reports on my journey to my pre-baby body and of course, sharing formulas and recipes. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

BROWNIES

Fills a 9 x 13 pan with approximately ¾-inch thick brownies

  • 2 cups flour –> I used 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup white rice flour.
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I used ¾ cup almond.*
  • 1 cup sweetener –> I used ½ cup turbinado sugar and ½ cup agave syrup.
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup oil –> I used coconut.
  • 1 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds + 3 tbsp hot water (“egg”) –> I used flax.
  • 1 tsp extract –> I used vanilla.
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • OPTIONAL:  ½-1 cup chips –> I used ½ cup packed spearmint leaves and ½ cup mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan).

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*Because they are raw plants, the peppermint leaves themselves contain additional moisture, so I am using less milk to ensure that the dough/batter is the right consistency.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the mint leaves and milk in the blender and set aside. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients, sans sweetener.  In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients (including mint milk), plus sweetener.  This includes your “egg,” which should be prepared separately before adding it to the rest of the wet ingredients. Slowly mix your wet ingredients into your dry until a dough or thick batter forms; different sweeteners and oils will change the consistency.  Point is, don’t be concerned if what you expected to be a drippy batter turns out thick.  🙂 Mix in your chips (if using) or save them to sprinkle on top.

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Lightly grease a 9 x 13 backing pan or dish (I prefer glass).  Spread your dough evenly throughout and top with chips, if you’d like. Bake for 20-22 minutes for a fudgy brownie or 23-25 minutes for a cakey brownie.  Using gluten-free flour and/or liquid sweetener? Baking time will likely be longer. These went for 27 minutes for fudgy. Enjoy!

 

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Leftover Cranberry Sauce?

Today’s formula presents a way to use up another popular holiday meal leftover: cranberry sauce. I don’t write “popular” because most people love it…It’s just incredibly common around the Thanksgiving table and you either love it or hate it. Chances are, there will be leftovers.

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What better way to breathe new life into tired cranberry sauce than to make it into a not-too-sweet dessert. If you forewent this loved and loathed preserve-like holiday side dish, you could use jam (check out my jam formula). We will be dolloping our fruit filling into a thumbprint cookie base.

Before adding the cranberry sauce (or jam), you will have the opportunity to garnish your thumbprint dough. Today, I’m using unsweetened shredded coconut. To me, the shreds aren’t overwhelming in coconut flavor and add a nice bit of texture. Shredded coconut is also high in fiber, manganese, and copper, so there’s that, too. 🙂

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Another wonder food that I’m including in my thumbprint cookies is sunflower butter. Sunflower seeds are most definitely a super food and excellent source of protein, folate, vitamin E, and selenium. Sunflower butter is more of a blank slate than say, peanut butter, which has a very distinctive flavor. Thus, I can use it in an application like this one or to make a creamy salad dressing without overpowering the other flavors.

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Whenever possible, look for nut and seed butters that contain only raw nuts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find raw sunflower butter and this one also contains salt, so I am choosing not to add salt to the cookie dough. Use your judgement to keep dessert as healthy—or at least, as minimally unhealthy—as possible. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Makes 24-28 cookies

  • 2 cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • ¾ cup homemade preserves (jam, cranberry sauce, etc.)* –> I’m using cranberry orange sauce.
  • ½ cup nut/seed butter –> I’m using sunflower.
  • ½ cup liquid sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 2 tbsps chia or ground flax seeds –> I’m using chia.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ½ tsp almond.
  • ¼ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (optional) –> I’m not using any.
  • 2-4 tbsps garnish (cocoa powder, raw nuts/seeds, coconut flakes, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using unsweetened shredded coconut.

*Homemade is best so that you can control the quantity and quality of ingredients.

Mix your butter, sweetener, extract, and milk, ideally using an electric stand mixer. Slowly incorporate your dry ingredients until a thick, pliable dough forms.

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out a heaping teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball with your hands. Place the ball in the center of your palm and press your thumb into it to create a well for your filling. The “walls” of the well will be approximately ¼ inch high and the well itself about half the height. Gently coat the dough in your garnish, if using.

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Line the wells up on a baking sheet that is lightly greased or lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad. The cookies will not expand much, so they can be fairly close together. Dollop approximately a teaspoon of filling into each well. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and lightly browned.

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