Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies

As promised in my last post, peppermint cookies are here! When I originally conceived this recipe—a holiday take on my classic chip cookies—I imagined it would come together with candy canes to really signify the spirit of the season. I was willing to incorporate an ingredient so heavily processed because I was including only a small amount of it…and I love candy canes. 🙂 The more I thought about it, however, I realized that there was a way I could get a purer peppermint flavor in my cookies, free of Red #40 and refined sugars.

Here you see my peppermint plant (I also grow spearmint). What better place to start with obtaining a peppermint flavor than with the plant itself?! Peppermint is truly a super food. Most notably, peppermint can relieve indigestion. The plant’s oil is even sold on its own for this and other medicinal purposes.

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I figured I would just throw the leaves right into my cookies, making these treats the ultimate post-dinner dessert: Help soothe your upset tummy after that filling holiday meal and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  CHIP COOKIES

Makes 24-30 small cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • ¾ cup unsweetened plant milk –> I’m using ½ cup oat.*
  • 2/3 cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ½ cup oil or nut/seed butter –> I’m using coconut oil (room temperature, not melted).
  • 2 tbsps flax or chia seeds –> I’m using flax.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract.
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 2/3 cup chips –> I’m using 1/3 cup mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan) and 1/3 cup packed peppermint leaves.

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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 is the right consistency.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the mint leaves and milk in the blender and set aside.

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With an electric hand mixer, cream together the coconut oil, extract, and sugar. Add the dry ingredients and stir by hand to combine. Stir in the mint milk and finally, the chocolate chips.

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Grease 2-3 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.  Place heaping spoonfuls of cookie dough into your palm and form a loose ball (doesn’t need to be perfect). Space approximately a 1.5 inches apart. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the cookie edges are slightly golden brown.

 

 

 

 

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‘Tis the Season for Cherries

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR CHERRIES

While I’m not enjoying Phoenix’s 100 degree+ summer temperatures, I am loving that some of my favorite fruits are in season:  berries, stone fruits, melons, and cherries.  I’ve capitalized on numerous opportunities to stock up on these for cheap through our Bountiful Basket co-op.  This past weekend, I scored eighteen pounds of cherries for $1.59/pound – a smokin’ deal!

While I will surely eat most of these in salads, snacks, and breakfasts, I know I won’t get to all of them before they spoil, so I need to get creative.  I’m making a good portion of the cherries into jam (see my jam formula), am dehydrating a bunch to chop and add to my granola, and today, have even attempted a totally vegan cherry pie.  As with all of my formulas, this pie is lower in fat, sodium, and sugar than many (if not most) typical animal-product versions and of course, cholesterol-free.

What I came to discover in researching making a pie from scratch is that there are actually very few ingredients involved.  Of course, the fruit is the star and the crust is a close second.  I prefer to consume fruit raw and for the most part, under-ripe; in other words, I prefer fruit rock hard and crunchy.  So, the fruit preparation in pie kind of goes against how I prefer to eat it, thus making a crisp crust essential to balance out what to me, is “mushy” fruit.

Pie crust needs something to make it rich and dense.  In an ordinary pie, this is usually butter or some other form of fat.  My crust incorporates a little fat—from coconut oil—but achieves the bulk of its density from the garnet yam.  What?!  In my pie crust research, I came across a vegan blogger who uses banana in lieu of most of the typical fat.  In creating my formula, I thought that I would do the same, but didn’t have any ripe bananas on hand (for like the first time ever in my life!).  True to my Fresh Formula concept, I got creative and decided to substitute a garnet yam I had sitting on the counter.

As I explained while introducing you to my curry formula, yams are not sweet potatoes.  Although similar in taste and texture, sweet potatoes—often pale yellow inside—boast greater nutritional benefits, not that the yam is a poor choice whatsoever!  Many people use what they think are sweet potatoes in Thanksgiving dishes because of the appealing bright orange color.  With that said, beyond an attractive appearance, yams are also loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamins A and C.

DSC_2222I’m proud to have developed a formula that combines the flavors and textures I love while packing a ton of nutrients.  Cherries, in particular, have a number of amazing health benefits.  The most significant reason to chow down on cherries, in my opinion, is that they can help boost your melatonin production, thus resulting in better sleep.  Now five months pregnant with a babe that is constantly on the move and a bladder that has been squished to what seems like the size of a thimble, sleep is becoming more difficult; cherry season couldn’t have come at a better time!

DSC_2224Take this pie to your next summer barbeque and see if anyone even notices that it’s vegan.  🙂  Depending on how many cherries you have on hand, you can also make multiple pies and freeze them for when cherry season has long passed.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  FRUIT PIE

Makes 1 pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups flour (+ ½ cup for dusting your work surface)  –>  I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup mashed fruit or vegetable (e.g. banana, potato, applesauce, etc.)  –>  I’m using garnet yam, peeled and boiled.
  • ¼ cup chilled oil (+ 1 tbsp for greasing the pie plate)  –>  I’m using coconut.
  • ¼ ice cold water (literally, float ice in it while you’re prepping other ingredients)
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (+ 1 tbsp for topping the crust once the pie is assembled) –>  I’m using 100% pure maple syrup.
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tsp spices (optional)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and ¼ tsp cardamom.
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened plant milk  –>  I’m using hazelnut.

If necessary, peel and steam or boil your fruit/vegetable of choice and cool completely in the fridge or freezer.  Place this fruit/vegetable in your food processor first to puree.  Next, add all remaining ingredients except the water and plant milk.  Start the food processor and stream in the cold water (sans ice) from the top as the ingredients come together.  You should end up with a semi-sticky dough (similar to that of my bread formula).

DSC_2225Sprinkle ¼ cup of the remaining flour onto your preferred work surface.  Empty the dough onto the surface and knead with your hands just until the flour is incorporated and the dough is less sticky.  Place in a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Pit cherries while you’re waiting or complete any necessary fruit prep (i.e. peeling and steaming, etc.).

DSC_2229For the filling:

  • 4 cups raw cherries, berries, or another peeled and chopped fruit (e.g. apples, pears, peaches, etc.)  –>  I’m using sweet red cherries.
  • ½ cup sweetener  –>  I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or arrow root  –>  I’m using cornstarch.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp almond.
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt

If you’re using them, pit your cherries.  This is a long process!  While your dough is chilling, pop down in front of the TV with your cherries and get pittin’!

By the time you’re done preparing those cherries, it’ll be time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Retrieve your chilled dough and separate into two balls:  one is approximately 2/3 of the dough and the other 1/3.  Use remaining flour to dust your work surface and roll out the larger ball.  It should be approximately an 1/8 of an inch thick and in as much of a circle shape as possible – perfection isn’t necessary.

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Grease your pie plate.  Carefully lift your smooth, flat circle into your pie plate and press down to coat the entire inside of the plate.  Make sure that this is as even in coverage and thickness as possible.  Again, perfection isn’t necessary.  Pinch the edges of the dough (if that’s your thing!) and mix up your glaze (plant milk + remaining sweetener from crust formula above).  Use a kitchen brush to glaze your crust and poke holes in the bottom to vent.  Set aside remaining glaze.

DSC_2231Pre-bake the crust—without the filling—for 10 minutes.  During baking time, roll out the smaller dough ball to the same thickness as the base and cut into your shape of choice.  Want to keep things simple?  Make a nice, smooth circle that you can use to cover the filling completely (slice vents on top).  If you’re feeling adventurous, use a pizza cutter to create strips for a traditional lattice pattern, or use a sharp knife to cut out other shapes.

DSC_2234Once the bottom crust is out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Combine all filling ingredients and pour into the pre-baked crust.  Gently top your filling with the remaining dough, pinching the edges to connect it with the bottom crust.  Glaze the top crust and vent if necessary.

DSC_2236 DSC_2239Place the pie back into the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top crust is golden brown and crisp.  Let cool before serving.

NOTE:  The edges of the crust on my pie are a little overdone.  🙂  Travis said that next time I can prevent this by covering just the circumference of the pie with foil.  Just a tip!

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Feel the No-Bake Power!

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When it comes to natural sources of protein and energy, the health-conscious are turning to homemade bars, balls, and bites. From what I’ve seen, creators are calling on dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains to put them together. My power ball formula also includes a classic crowd pleaser, chocolate!

I am not a fan of or advocate for protein powders or shakes. They are expensive, overly processed, and while some taste decent, many have a chalky aftertaste. I follow a blogger that is a dietician by day and athlete by night. She follows a mostly raw vegan diet, is totally opposed to powders and shakes, and is able to gain plenty of lean muscle mass (if that’s what you’re going for) using plant-based sources of protein and energy.

Her posts and my commitment to a minimally-processed, DIY plant-based lifestyle inspired me to create a power ball that my whole family will eat. Because they are dense, rich in flavor and consistency, and somewhat expensive to make, I only eat one or two a day when I have them in my fridge.

The base of any solid bar, ball, or bite is whole grains (often oats) and something sticky and gooey to hold the whole thing together. Creating the dough is quick and easy; rolling it into easy-to-grab-and-eat balls is a little more time-consuming, but yields you the perfect portion.

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Pop a power ball as a snack, eat one or two with fresh fruit for breakfast, or treat yourself to a super healthy mock dessert. You could even serve them at a party because they are just so darn cute…power lollipop anyone?! 🙂 In general, these remind me of truffles, without the animal fat, cholesterol, and excessive sugar. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POWER BALLS

Makes 12-14 small balls

For the dough:

  • 1 cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –>  I’m using peanut.
  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –>  I’m using rolled oats.
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –>  I’m using 6 small pitted medjool dates.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –>  I’m using pure maple syrup.
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Garnish ideas (approximately 4 tbsps):

  • Raw seeds*
  • Raw finely chopped nuts
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Finely chopped unsweetened dried fruit bits (without added oil)
  • Melted dark chocolate (which will re-solidify after dipping)

*Today, I’m using a combo of sunflower, chia, and hulled hemp.

Turn your whole grains into flour using your food processor or blender. You could also use rolled oats as is. The texture of the balls will be different, but rolled oats are one of few grains soft enough to be palatable without becoming flour.

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Combine the flour and your remaining ingredients in a food processor. 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.

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Shape the dough into 1-1 ½ inch balls and roll in garnish.

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Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge.

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New (And Surely Long-Awaited) Formula: Pizza

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I’m excited to report that Travis and I have found a way to make cheese-less pizza totally delicious. We’ve always known it was damn good, but the proof was in my meat-and-dairy-loving father’s approval; when he comes to Phoenix to visit, he always requests that we make our vegan pizza.

What’s especially wonderful about pizza meets The Fresh Formula is that the creation of this American favorite is already formulaic in nature: dough + sauce + toppings in endless combinations. I’m here today to help you with ideas, quantity, and process…the rest is up to your taste buds and creativity.

Great news: If you’ve already mastered my yeast bread formula, you can make pizza dough! Woo! Below, you’ll see my bread formula with a few slight changes, suggestions, and optional ingredients that you may want to consider. The key is determining the type of crust you want—chewy or crunchy—and going from there.

Next, you’ll want to think about sauce. We most often use a homemade marinara (another post, another day), but have also made pizzas with barbeque sauce, pesto, and curry at the base. While I haven’t yet done a post about BBQ, I have written about how you can make pesto and curry, if you want to go an atypical route. I also have a formula for a “cheesy” sauce similar to an alfredo if you’re looking for what some restaurants call a “white” pizza.

Finally, toppings. Earlier this week, I made my first homemade vegan sausage (pictured below) and used that to top the pizza in this post. If you’re after a protein punch, you could use something similar (homemade, of course), or add tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, or seeds. Wait…beans on a pizza?! Yessir, I wouldn’t make my BBQ “chicken” (tofu) pizza without black beans…

DSC_1857You might also consider adding fruits or vegetables. Most fruits don’t hold up to the high heat that pizza requires for baking, but a classic such as pineapple or a hearty fruit like pears will. Determining which vegetables to add comes down to preference of flavor and texture. Cooked vegetables will maintain fewer nutrients and be higher in calories, but will have a softer texture and richer flavor. Raw vegetables, will then, be higher in nutrients, lower in calories, crunchier, and a little less flavorful. Since I’m in the business of eating as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible, I do not typically pre-cook them before they top the pizza; they will par-cook a little in the fifteen or so minutes that the pizza is in the oven.

Here are a few combinations that we love:

  • “Sausage,” fennel, and leek atop marinara sauce (featured today)
  • Ground “chicken” (crumbled tofu), black beans, corn, onions, and bell peppers atop BBQ sauce
  • Zucchini, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, and cashews atop curry sauce
  • Pears (or apples), pistachios, and rosemary atop pesto

NOTE: Plan pizza night well in advance. 🙂 I always have yeast in my pantry, but you may not if you haven’t—until now!—made your own bread or dough. You also need a number of ingredients for a sauce and toppings, so don’t wait until you’re starving to start a pizza adventure.

Also, this is a formula best executed as a team. You can do it alone, but with a dough and sauce to make from scratch, a whole bunch of toppings to chop, and an intricate prep and baking process, having an extra set of hands would help. Man, I can’t wait until Nolan is old enough to pitch in!

FINALLY (imagine chorus singing): Pizza you can feel good about! No grease, no cholesterol, and tons of nutrients. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: PIZZA

For the dough*:

  • 3-4 cups of flour –> Travis recommends all whole wheat flour for a chewy crust, all bread flour for a crunchy crust, or half and half to achieve both textures.
  • ½ tsp salt –> We use pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 ¾ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable)
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (optional) –> Trav usually adds turbinado sugar to “feed” the yeast.
  • Spices or herbs to taste (optional)
  • Cornmeal and additional flour for dusting your workspace –> This prevents the dough from sticking to the pan later. Trav keeps cornmeal in a food storage container premixed with spices, flour, and a little salt to add even more flavor to the dough.

*If you need to see step-by-step pictures in making the dough, check out my bread post

For the sauce:

See my pesto, curry, or alfredo formulas for unique inspiration, or use your own recipe for BBQ or marinara sauce. If you’re concerned about biting off more than you can chew your first time making pizza, use a high quality premade jarred or bottle sauce (just this once!) or ask Mom to make a little extra of her secret recipe for you to take home in a food storage container. 🙂 No matter your decision, you’ll need about 2 cups. I’ll do a more extensive post about homemade marinara sauces at a later date, but if you want to try making mine, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ pounds tomatoes –> I’m using about 7 medium to large romas.
  • ½ of a small yellow or white onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • 1 ½ tbsp dried fennel fronds
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the toppings:

  • 1 tbsp oil (for rubbing on the crust) –> I’m using olive.
  • 2 cups chopped/sliced raw or cooked protein and/or produce –> I’m using 1 cup homemade vegan sausage and ½ cup each thinly sliced raw fennel and leek.
  • Approximately 1-2 tbsps nutritional yeast (nooch)
  • Homemade vegan cheese (optional) –> I’m new to this world, so I’m not using it today…another post, another day. 🙂
  • Spices, herbs*, salt, and pepper to taste (optional)

*If you want to use fresh herbs, use these to garnish the pizza after it is cooked.

If you are making a sauce from scratch, get that started first. To make a homemade marinara, for example, as I’m doing today, very coarsely chop the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and puree them together in a blender or food processor. Pour into a sauce pan, add the remaining ingredients, and simmer on medium-low heat for 1-2 hours, or until the sauce has reduced by at least one third. Remove the bay leaf at this point.

DSC_1862If you’re not making sauce from scratch, have it on standby to top your dough when it’s ready.

Next, attach a dough hook to your stand mixer. Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Lightly oil a large bowl.

Combine 3 cups of flour, salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add the sugar and any additional spices or herbs, 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 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.  (See my bread post for more pictures.)  Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your dusted countertop.

Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball.  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.

After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, and separate into two smaller balls of dough.  Leave sitting uncovered on your workspace for about 15 minutes.  About 10 minutes into this second rise, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, you will roll out and top your dough.

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Just to keep the pizzas simple, albeit not the prettiest, we roll each of our dough balls into oval-ish shapes that fit perfectly on the BACK side of a cookie sheet (don’t want the lip of the sheet interfering with sliding the pizza off later).  After you roll out each ball, make sure that the bottom has been freshly dusted with cornmeal and place the cornmealed side down on the back of your cookie sheet. Brush the crust with oil to keep some of the moisture in, sprinkle the entire middle with nutritional yeast, and top with sauce, etc. as you see fit.

DSC_1859 DSC_1861One at a time, your pizzas go into the oven atop the cookie sheet for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, gently slide the pizza onto a pizza stone for an additional 6.  The stone assists you in achieving a crunch to the bottom of the pizza, even if you are going for chewy inside.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, bake the pizza atop the cookie sheet for approximately 15 minutes total.  Either way, when the pizza is cooked, slide onto a large cutting board and slice.  This shape won’t give you typical pie-shaped pieces, but it doesn’t matter how they look as long as they taste fantastic!

DSC_1865Store in the fridge for 2-3 days, keeping in mind that without a thick layer of cheese on top to lock in moisture that the pizza will slowly dry out the longer that it sits.

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