Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

Yes, another dessert smoothie, coming right up! Going on thirty-one weeks pregnant, I still can’t get enough of the sweet stuff. As always, healthy sweets are the goal, and this decadent treat is no exception.

Naturally, the star of strawberry shortcake is the strawberry. This super fruit is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. I recently stocked up on a bunch in my Bountiful Basket and froze them, as you can see below. Ready for smoothies any time!

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How will I achieve the shortcake portion of the equation? A very basic cake batter includes some type of flour, sugar, fat, liquid, and extract. For today’s shortcake-in-a-smoothie, I’m using rolled oats in lieu of flour (learn more about the health benefits of rolled oats by checking out my granola formula!), medjool dates for sugar, a variety of seeds for fat, almond milk for liquid, and homemade vanilla extract.

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Packed with nutrients, sweetness, and traditional strawberry shortcake flavors, this dessert will check all of your boxes…and you can drink it guilt-free, any time of the day. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice) –> Since my strawberries are frozen, I’m using fresh bananas today.
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> My whole, frozen strawberries equate to about a cup, but if they were chopped fresh, I’d use ¾ cup. I’m also using ¼ cup rolled oats.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz) –> I’m using almond.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.

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Let Everyone Eat Cake!

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Ok, so I don’t do dessert often, but I definitely have a sweet tooth now and then. Some desserts can be prepared more healthily than others; take my dessert smoothie, for example. Other “desserts” are really just a creative or eye-catching preparation of fruit, which I think is fantastic. When I really do dessert, however, I want to go beyond what I’m eating regularly—smoothies, fruit, dark chocolate—and create something that even those not following a plant-based lifestyle would love to eat.

When I think of a “special” dessert, as many people do, I think of cake. I’ve made cakes for myself and others for all sorts of reasons. Years ago, I once made a cake at 10:00 at night because I needed a break from grading essays. Any excuse is a good excuse. 🙂

The problem with cake, like many traditional desserts, is that it is loaded with sugar and fat. While my newly-developed cake formula does not eliminate these foes, I have found a way to make smart substitutions and reductions. I do not cook or bake with white flour, white granulated sugar, or white table salt…ever.

Additionally, because this a plant-based recipe, it is totally vegan and thus, includes no eggs. Gluten-free diet? No problem! You can make this cake gluten-free, too, as I am today. My mother-in-law has a gluten intolerance and is allergic to almonds as well, so I am substituting my favorite plant milk—almond—with flax.

With any dessert, I think it is crucial to incorporate and capitalize on natural sugars whenever possible. Thus, the frosting formula I’ve come up with utilizes fruit as one of its ingredients. In places where I need another type of sweetener, I’m calling upon one of my old standbys: raw turbinado sugar.

What is raw turbinado sugar? In a nutshell, it is cane sugar that has not been refined into what we commonly know as white granulated sugar. When sugar cane is pressed, it releases juice that evaporates into the crystals that are turbinado sugar. It is minimally processed with no chemicals. Turbinado sugar retains a rich molasses flavor that is lost in processing white sugar, as well as vitamins and minerals. It is lower in calories than white sugar and, it’s vegan.

DSC_1890White sugar isn’t vegan?! Bone char—from cows—is used to produce white sugar’s white color. Ew.

What do I substitute for the eggs? There are actually more egg substitutes out there than you may have imagined. I follow a mostly-raw vegan blogger that shared these popular switches, equivalent to one egg:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsps water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy protein powder + 3 tbsps water
  • 1 tbsp agar agar + 1 tbsp water
  • ½ mashed ripe banana
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tbsps peanut butter

Of course, some of these egg alternatives will affect the flavor profile of your dessert, so choose wisely!

Overall, cake isn’t your healthiest option for dessert, but if you must—and sometimes, you absolutely must—consider an alternative to the boxed variety. I promise, you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CAKE

For the cake:

  • 1 cup flour –>  I’m using brown rice.  (See my multi-grain salad post for the nutritional benefits of brown rice.)
  • 1-1 ½ cups plant milk (depending on the flour) –>  I’m using just over 1 cup of flax.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –>  I’m using raw turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –>  I’m using coconut (melted).
  • 1 “egg” –>  I’m using ½ of a mashed ripe banana.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –>  I’m using it (see below).

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  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –>  I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp salt –>  I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m not using any.

For the frosting**:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or steamed fruit (depending on the fruit) –>  I’m using raw strawberries.
  • ½ cup powdered sweetener –>  I’m using turbinado sugar, which I’ve turned into powdered sugar with the dry blade on my Vitamix.

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  • ¼ cup room temperature natural vegan butter –>  I don’t love to use a butter alternative very often since I’m not keen on every ingredient used to make it, but I tried making frosting with solid coconut oil and it just didn’t take.  It’s ok, it’s just a little…and it’s just this once. 🙂
  • 1 tsp citrus juice (to preserve the color of the fruit)*** –>  I’m using lemon.
  • ½-¼ tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –>  I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.

**If you’re like me, I’ll sometimes chow down on a cake without frosting! Add it or don’t. 🙂

***I would avoid food coloring unless you can find an all-natural variety containing plant pigments. Some varieties come from animals and others are made artificially with chemicals.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.

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Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, semi-pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.

DSC_1895Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!

Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge.

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While the cake is baking, make your frosting. First, puree the fruit, citrus juice, and extract to a smooth, pourable consistency. Beat together the sugar and butter/shortening, slowly incorporating the pureed fruit mixture until an icing-like consistency is achieved. You will probably have some fruit puree leftover. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour to stiffen it up, at which point it will be more spreadable and less pourable.

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When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost and decorate (if you want), and dig in!

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New Formula: Multi-Grain Salad

DSC_1635Remember that DIY veggie stock I made a few days back? Today, I’m putting it to good use making a salad that I love. My multi-grain salad, now housed under Square Meal Formulas, is filling, nutritious, and an easy way to combine a variety of great-for-you grains.

Pictured below are the grains that I’m using for my salad this go-around, with descriptions to follow.

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Clockwise, starting in the upper left corner:

SHORT GRAIN BROWN RICE: As I’m sure you know, brown rice boasts far more nutrients than the white variety. Brown rice is rich in fiber and selenium and can even lower bad cholesterol.

QUINOA: Often referred to as a super food, quinoa is mega rich in fiber, protein, and iron, among other minerals. ‘Nough said.

FARRO: Farro is also rich in fiber and minerals and in my opinion, maintains an appealing semi-crunchy texture after cooking. It pairs nicely with softer grains like rice and quinoa.

WHEAT BERRIES: Finally, wheat berries, like farro, are crunchy, and high in fiber and micronutrients. Sprouting wheat berries will result in wheat grass, which I use in all of my super smoothies. So, there’s that, too.

A little off-topic, but a quick word about balsamic vinegar, since I’m using it in today’s recipe. When I’m not in the mood to use fresh citrus juice or don’t have any on hand, I turn to balsamic vinegar as a dressing base. Besides being loaded with potassium and calcium, balsamic vinegar can normalize blood pressure, stabilize cholesterol, steady glucose levels, and even aid in weight loss. To say the least, I adore it. J Thus, it is important to me to have a high-quality variety in my pantry. Pictured below is a brand that I like, with a middle-of-the-road price tag. The more you pay, the better vinegar you’ll get.

DSC_1631Ok, back to the grains! I pair my multi-grain salad with fresh produce. Having made this salad many times, I prefer it sweet and savory. I use strawberries for the sweet and cook the grains in veggie stock for the savory. Find a balance that works for your taste buds and, as always, enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MULTI-GRAIN SALAD

  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock –> I’m using my homemade veggie stock.
  • 2 cups dry grains –> I’m using ½ cup each short grain brown rice, quinoa, farro, and wheat berries.
  • 2 cups chopped fruits and/or veggies –> I’m using nearly 1 lb of sliced strawberries.
  • Dressing of choice or a combination of herbs/spices and salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, which pairs classically with strawberries. I’m also adding a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking, a tablespoon of dried basil, and a pinch each of pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper.

Rinse your grains before cooking in order to remove any possible dirt or dust.

DSC_1623Because different grains have different cooking times, you may approach this in two ways: cook them all in the same pot, in stages, or cook them separately and combine them later. Having worked with my particular selection of grains before, I am opting for the former method. If you’re not sure about the grains you are using, research their cook times and even better, experiment in your kitchen. Or, make this salad with just one grain to start. Baby steps are a-ok.

I use a rice cooker because I find that it reduces sticking to the bottom of the pan with just a few occasional stirs, but you can certainly cook your grains in a pot on the stove top, stirring more regularly. First, add your veggie stock and wheat berries to kick off the cooking process. Wheat berries take longer to cook than any of the other grains I am using.

After 30 minutes, add your farro. 10 minutes later, add your rice. 10 minutes after that, add your final grain, quinoa, and cook for an additional 15-17 minutes, or until the last of your cooking liquid is absorbed. I usually leave the lid to my rice cooker off for the last few minutes to speed this process.

DSC_1627While your grains are cooking, chop your fruits/veggies and prepare your dressing and/or seasonings.

DSC_1626Cook your grains to completion and chill in your fridge, uncovered and stirring occasionally to allow heat to escape more easily, until at least room temperature (about 30 minutes). If the grains are hot, they will par-cook your produce, which we want to keep raw. When cool, combine the grains with your other ingredients. Consume cold and store in the fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the shelf life of the produce used.

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