Homemade Cashew Milk

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CASHEW MILK

Ingredients:

1 cup raw organic cashew pieces (soaked in water for approximately 6 hours, then drained)
6 cups filtered water
2 tsp liquid sunflower lecithin (optional—keeps milk from separating in fridge, makes it creamier, and has additional health benefits) (NOTE: the line in this photo is due to foam from a freshly poured batch, not separation of the nutmilk and water)

Instructions:

I am completely in love with this recipe, because it does not require any nut milk bags or straining of pulp!

The cashews just seem to disappear into the milk. Zero hassle! Effortless clean-up!

Just toss all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender, blend well, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. I love the one pictured above, which is hermetically sealed and is the perfect size for one batch of cashew milk—and no, I’m not affiliated in any way.

If you prefer a sweeter milk, you could add a bit of maple syrup or toss in some dates or use another sweetener of choice. You could also add a Tbsp or two of vanilla extract if you want. But my family loves it with just the three ingredients mentioned above.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

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It’s time to start thinking about the holidays! That is, if you’d like to surprise your friends, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, or loved ones with a gift of homemade vanilla extract.

Zander and I got a late start on this last year, and although we had planned to give these as holiday gifts (locally—I don’t think they’d ship well), the vanilla wasn’t quite ready in time. Then we moved from California to Oregon, which sort of threw a wrench into things, and I was too busy unpacking to even think about finding the labels or bottling the vanilla.

What’s really great about this situation (always a silver lining) is that we wound up with an extraordinary batch of scrumptious vanilla extract that had been infusing for 9 months. And now I am thinking of starting another batch. Immediately. Because it only made enough to fill 10 bottles, and we don’t want to give any of it away. That is how good this vanilla is. It makes you feel greedy.

Always my trusty helper in the kitchen, Zander helped me to make this super-simple recipe. He even went with me to the liquor store in search of organic vodka, which I will admit felt more than a little bit awkward (as I walked to the register with two huge bottles of vodka and my 4-year-old son, announcing loudly, repeatedly, and yes, somewhat defensively that this was for our homemade vanilla).

Anyway, here is how we made it:

HOMEMADE VANILLA EXTRACT

Ingredients:

2 (750 ml) bottles certified organic vodka
50 organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, ends trimmed

Optional Supplies:

10-12 (4 oz) amber bottles
Avery square Kraft Brown labels (#22846) (or another label of your choice)

Instructions:

  1. Trim the ends off of your vanilla beans (save them in an airtight jar to toss into smoothies, homemade ice creams, etc.). Enjoy the delicious smell!

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2. Place the vanilla beans into a 64 oz wide-mouth glass jar, then pour in both bottles of vodka and tightly secure the lid.

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3. Optional: Make note of your start date on the lid (or elsewhere on the jar).

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4. Shake vigorously.

5. Store in a cool, dark place (I kept mine in the kitchen cabinet).

6. Once a week, pull out the jar and give it a good shake. (I did this for the first month or two, but honestly, after that, I pretty much forgot all about the vanilla, and it just sat there, untouched).

7. Within a few months, your vodka will no longer be clear. It will look like… vanilla!

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8. After 3-4 months, or (ahem) slightly longer, your vanilla extract is ready to bottle!

9. I used the Avery online template to create my custom labels, printed a sample on plain paper first to be sure I liked them, and then printed a full sheet of labels.

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10. Use a funnel to ensure that you do not spill even one precious drop of your vanilla extract. I poured mine from the mason jar into a large glass measuring cup, and then from the measuring cup through the funnel, so that I would have better control of the process.

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11. When you are done, wipe the bottles with a dry towel just in case there were any spills you didn’t notice, then screw on the lids and apply your custom labels and maybe a bit of raffia or ribbon.

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As you can see, I couldn’t decide what kind of raffia/ribbon to use, and in the end, I think I may prefer just the clean, plain bottle with nothing attached. That’s probably because I’m not very good at tying pretty bows.

This batch wound up filling exactly 10 bottles, but I think it would have been more like 12 bottles if I hadn’t been sneaking vanilla straight from the jar for the last several weeks to make massive quantities of chia pudding

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If you get started by the end of this month, you’ll have a delicious batch ready in time for the 2015 holiday season. Or plenty of vanilla for your own consumption. Your choice. Either way, enjoy!

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Creamy Chia Breakfast Pudding

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It’s been months since I’ve even thought about posting anything online, having returned to full-time work earlier this year and feeling slightly overwhelmed. But this recipe is too exciting–and nutritious, and easy to make–not to share! Besides, I don’t want to forget the winning combination, so I need to memorialize it somewhere.

As usual, this is sort of a mash-up of a variety of recipes that exist for chia pudding. Lately, I’ve been drawing inspiration from Vani Hari’s book, The Food Babe Way, and that is what prompted me to tailor this recipe to suit the taste buds of my family.

I’ve been experimenting with it for about a week now, with several “OK” versions, but today I found a combination that had both my husband and my son going back for second helpings, claiming that it tasted more like dessert than breakfast. Mission accomplished!

The best part about this recipe is that when you wake up in the morning, which for me is always very hectic, your beautiful and healthy breakfast is waiting for you in the fridge!

Here’s how to make it:

CREAMY CHIA BREAKFAST PUDDING

Ingredients:

2 cups non-dairy milk (I used homemade cashew milk, my new favorite)
slightly more than 1/3 cup chia seeds
a generous pinch of cinnamon
2 Tbsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup

2 cups fresh peaches (peeled and chopped)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries (chopped)

Instructions:

Mix the first set of ingredients together in a bowl, then pour the mixture on top of the chopped fruit in a large container and give it another stir to combine. Place in the fridge overnight, then eat for breakfast! This would probably last for a couple of days and be just fine, but ours was gobbled up on the first day.

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Black Bean Brownie Bites (gluten-free)

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We are moving in a couple of weeks, and I am actively looking for ways to use up the canned goods in my pantry so we don’t have to pay to haul them 1,000 miles north.

At a recent Harvest Faire, we sampled some vegan black bean brownie bites that were really delicious. Ever since, I’ve been thinking that this would be a great way to use up a can of black beans from my pantry. So I googled a recipe, found one that looked great, and made a few minor adaptations. I am delighted by the results!

These brownie bites are decadent and gooey. You’d never in a million years guess that they are gluten-free and packed full of black beans!!

Here is the recipe:

BLACK BEAN BROWNIE BITES
*slightly adapted version of the yummy recipe by Dana Shultz of My Little Celebration
**makes exactly 2 dozen mini-muffin-sized bites

Ingredients:

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal + 6 Tbsp cold water)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
½ cup cocoa powder
pinch of Himalayan salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini-chips)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or use paper liners.
  2. Prepare flax eggs by combining flax meal and water in a small bowl and letting it rest for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips in a food processor and puree.
  4. Remove from food processor and stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop batter into mini-muffin tins.
  6. Bake for about 17 minutes, until tops are dry and starting to pull away from the sides.
  7. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan.

I bet these would be super-delicious with a tiny scoop of vegan ice cream on top. Enjoy! :)

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Zucchini Carrot Raisin Spelt Muffins

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Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Zucchini Spelt Muffins, from her Vegan Brunch cookbook, have long been a staple in our household. We make them almost weekly, and Zander eats them by the handful (we use a mini-muffin tin, because he loves the idea of eating five or six muffins at a time, rather than one or two). I affectionately refer to Zander as “The Muffin Thief,” because no matter where I put these muffins in the kitchen, he will find and eat half a dozen of them when I’m not looking. He absolutely loves this moniker, by the way. ;)

The other day, I only had one cup of grated zucchini (the recipe calls for two cups), but I wanted to make a full batch of muffins, so I decided to try tossing in a cup of grated carrots along with the zucchini. The result was fabulous!!! The Muffin Thief now prefers these to our old standby, and they’re even prettier, with the flecks of orange and green.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

ZUCCHINI CARROT RAISIN SPELT MUFFINS
*recipe oh-so-slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Zucchini Spelt Muffins in the Vegan Brunch cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup almond milk
3 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I have substituted other sweeteners in these muffins with good results, such as sucanat or coconut sugar, but I typically use plain old brown sugar, figuring they’re healthy enough as it is.)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup grated zucchini (approximately 1 medium-sized zucchini)
1 cup grated carrots (approximately 2 medium-sized carrots)
1 cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a muffin tin (or insert paper liners).

Combine the almond milk and ground flax seeds in a measuring cup and mix vigorously with a fork. Mix in the vinegar and set aside to curdle.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the milk mixture, canola oil, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Fold in the zucchini, carrots, and raisins.

Use an ice cream scoop to pour the batter into the muffin tin (NOTE: I use a mini-scoop for my mini-muffins); it should almost fill the entire tin. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes for regular-sized muffins or 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins, until the muffin tops are firm. A knife or toothpick inserted through a muffin may still come out steamy, because of the zucchini, but it’s still worth testing to make sure no batter is sticking.

Zucchini makes these muffins so moist, be sure to let them cool in the tins for at least 20  minutes before removing them so that the tops don’t break off. (NOTE: I’d like to see someone try to convince The Muffin Thief to wait this long for his muffins. I have always removed my muffins from the tin promptly without any problem.) Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: These muffins freeze really well. I know this because freezing half a batch as soon as they’ve cooled is the only way to make them last longer than a day or two in my household. Zander will find and eat them if they’re on the counter or in the fridge, but for whatever reason, he leaves the freezer alone. You can pull a couple (or more) muffins out of the freezer the night before for breakfast, or pack them in a lunchbox first thing in the morning and they’ve thawed by lunchtime. 15 seconds in the microwave will also do the trick. :)

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Chia Seed Jam Oat Bars

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These subtly sweet gluten-free oat bars may be the most popular baked good I have made all year, and they’re incredibly easy–not to mention healthy enough to feel good about serving for breakfast!

I love that the bottom and top layers are exactly the same mixture. This is the only recipe I know of with a crumble topping that does not require different mixtures for the base layer and the crumble.

For the past 24 hours, Zander has consistently requested these bars for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. He is completely obsessed. We took some to the garden this morning to share with our friends, and I had to hold Zander’s hands back to keep him from shoveling them all into his mouth before anyone else could take one.

My favorite question was, “Mom, how did you make the purple stuff taste sooooo good???” The purple stuff, of course, is the chia seed jam, which I have decided is good enough to replace store-bought jam moving forward. I can’t wait to experiment with some other flavors!

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

CHIA SEED JAM OAT BARS
* recipe by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

Chia Seed Jam (makes 1 cup)

  • 3 cups frozen or fresh raspberries (I used 3 cups of frozen organic antioxidant blend from Costco–it’s a mix of raspberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds)
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Oat Bars

  • 1 chia egg = 1 Tbsp chia seeds + 4 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup (used for its binding powers)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour
  • 1 cup almond flour (this is a great use for leftover almond meal after making homemade almond milk)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the jam: In a medium pot, stir together the berries, maple syrup, and chia seeds until well combined. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries break down and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and into the freezer for about 15-20 minutes, until cool.
  3. For the oat bars: In a small mug, mix together the chia seeds and water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until thickened.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the melted oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. When the chia egg has thickened, stir that in too.
  5. One by one, stir in the rolled oats, almond flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt until the mixture comes together. It will be quite sticky, but this is normal.
  6. Spoon 2/3 of the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and press it down to spread it out evenly. Use a pastry roller to roll it out smooth into the corners. I repeat: the dough will be very sticky!
  7. When the chia seed jam has thickened and cooled, pour all of it on top of the oat mixture and spread it out evenly.
  8. Take the remaining 1/3 of the oat dough and crumble it evenly on top of the chia seed jam.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, uncovered, until the topping is lightly golden. Check after 20 minutes and if it’s starting to brown, cover the top with tin foil for the remaining 5-10 minutes of baking.
  10. Place pan on a cooling rack for 20-30 minutes and then carefully lift out the square and place directly onto the cooling rack until completely cooled. Slice into squares.
  11. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

Cheaters’ Minestrone Soup

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Last night’s dinner was yet another idea found in a Whole Foods Market coupon booklet–a quick and easy way to make minestrone soup. I chopped up the fresh veggies for our soup the night before and stored them in the fridge, but you could “cheat” even more if you wanted to dump in a bag of frozen veggies instead.

CHEATERS’ MINESTRONE SOUP
* makes approx. 8 large servings; slightly adapted from Whole Foods Market recipe

Ingredients:

approx. 2 cups cooked pasta
1 jar pasta sauce (I used Muir Glen Organic Garlic Roasted Garlic)
1 can (28 oz) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
5 cups water
3 carrots, chopped (I would have used more carrots, but this was all I had)
1 bag fresh green beans from the farmers’ market, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
a drizzle of olive oil (optional)
Himalayan salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

If using fresh veggies, wash and chop your veggies (to save prep time on a busy weeknight, you can do this the night before and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use).

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Rinse and drain kidney beans, and dump them into the container with your veggies.

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While boiling your pasta according to the instructions on the package, dump all of the other ingredients into a separate large pot and cook (covered) on medium-high until the veggies are tender. Depending on how thick they’re sliced, this will take about 15-20 minutes for fresh veggies, and probably a lot less time for frozen, pre-cooked veggies.

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When your pasta is done cooking, drain it and set it aside until the veggies are tender. Mix  the pasta into your soup at the last minute, just before serving. Such an easy weeknight meal!

We enjoyed ours with whole wheat sweet potato biscuits. I also cooked twice as much pasta as was needed for the soup so that I could use the rest to make mac ‘n cheese bites!

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Mac ‘n Cheese Bites

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A few days ago, I mentioned that I was going to try and veganize a Whole Foods Market recipe for mac ‘n cheese “lunch muffins.” As it turns out, I didn’t have to, because someone else had done all of the work for me! I found a great recipe by Your Vegan Mom and gave it a trial run tonight after dinner. Success!

I made minestrone soup for dinner tonight, so I started by simply cooking some extra pasta and setting aside 2 cups of it for the mac ‘n cheese. This dish was so easy to make that I was able to whip it all together and pop it into the oven while Zander was still in the bathtub. He is going to be over the moon tomorrow when he finds these in his snackbox for preschool!

Here’s how to make them:

MAC ‘N CHEESE BITES
* fills 12 regular-sized muffin cups; adapted slightly from recipe by Your Vegan Mom

Ingredients:

2 cups pasta, cooked and drained
1 bag Daiya shredded vegan cheddar cheese

Eggy Mixture:

1 package (16 oz) firm silken tofu (I didn’t have any silken tofu, so I used organic sprouted super firm tofu and added about 3/4 cup of water to balance out the moisture)
1/4 cup soy milk (I used homemade almond milk)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I also added 3 Tbsp of Leahey Gardens Cheese-Flavored Sauce Mix, but if you don’t have this, you could just put in more nutritional yeast, to taste)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt

Optional Add-Ins:

Now that I know how wonderfully this recipe works, I intend to play around with it a bit in the future, adding yummy extras like chopped broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, green peas, carrots, veggie meat, etc. Not all of these ingredients at once, of course. ;)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin pan, or line with unbleached paper liners.

Combine all of the ingredients for the Eggy Mixture in a high-speed blender until smooth.

Pour the Eggy Mixture into a large bowl on top of the pasta and shredded cheese and stir until well-combined.

Spoon into prepared muffin pan and bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are nicely browned and the middles are firm.

I’m banking on the fact that these will freeze well and have transferred half of them directly to the freezer. If for some reason, they do not thaw/reheat well after freezing, I will update this post to let you know.

Below is a picture of the super-bland-looking mixture in the muffin pan before baking. At this point, I found myself wishing I had some panko bread crumbs to sprinkle on top with melted vegan butter for a little crunch and color. Then I realized how funny that was, given that I had used gluten-free pasta. ;)

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The good news is that in the end, they don’t look bland at all! They have a nice rich color, and if anything, after only 20 minutes in the oven, I think I could have left them in for the full 25 to brown a bit more on top. Maybe next time.

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Next time, I’m not even going to bother with the paper liners, as they slid right off of the mac ‘n cheese bites when I pulled them from the muffin pan. I love how perfectly these little bites held their form!

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And finally, here is what they look like on the inside–ooey, gooey, cheezy goodness that is a cross between quiche and baked mac ‘n cheese. Alex gobbled one up before they had a chance to cool and gave it a thumbs up. Yay!!

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Tuscan White Bean Hummus

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Years ago, before Zander was born, Alex and I fell in love with the Tuscan Hummus at California Pizza Kitchen. Alex searched online and found a great copycat recipe by CD Kitchen, and we have been making it for ourselves at home ever since.

For tonight’s dinner, I’ll be serving this hummus along with oven-warmed whole-wheat pita bread triangles and the most gorgeous fresh organic corn-on-the-cob from the farmers’ market. I sent some hummus with Zander to pre-school this morning along with a sliced organic cucumber for his snack, and he pretty much licked the container clean.

This is such a delicious and simple dish, and I love that you can make it quickly with canned beans/tomatoes and a jar of tahini, or you can make a “slow” version like I did for this batch.

First, I cooked about 1 1/2 cups of organic dried cannellini beans in 6 cups of water in the crock pot on high for 5 hours, then drained and put the beans in the fridge overnight. When the time came to make the actual hummus, I discovered that we were out of tahini–gasp! So I googled how to make tahini from scratch (so easy!) and made my own by combining 1 cup of raw organic sesame seeds (you can use toasted if you prefer) with about 2 Tbsp olive oil and a bit of water in the blender. Once I had achieved the right consistency, I simply poured the rest of the ingredients into the blender, and voila, hummus!

One final note: it’s better if you let the hummus sit for at least a few hours before eating; I like to make it the night before.

TUSCAN WHITE BEAN HUMMUS
*slightly adapted from this California Pizza Kitchen copycat recipe

Ingredients:

12 cloves garlic
30 ounce can (or approximately 3.75-4 cups cooked from dry) cannellini beans (drained)
½ cup sesame tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp tamari
1½ tsp Himalayan salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup cold water

Toppings:
5-8 roma tomatoes, diced
fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped (we prefer basil)

Instructions:

Combine hummus ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until creamy. Spoon into a bowl or storage container and drizzle with olive oil. Top with diced tomatoes and herbs.

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

Carrot Raisin Oatmeal Bites

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Last week, while perusing the Whole Foods coupon booklet, I saw an idea for miniature mac ‘n cheese bites that sounds like a great use for leftover mac ‘n cheese. I plan to try and veganize that one later, but while on the Whole Foods Market recipe page, I came across another adorable idea–oatmeal-on-the-go–and I decided to try that one right away.

The original recipe doesn’t call for any sweetener whatsoever, but I added some maple syrup, which gave it just a touch of sweetness in addition to the carrots and raisins. Zander has been gobbling these up 5 or 6 at a time. He really enjoys them!

Any time I make mini-muffins (we make at least one batch per week, usually zucchini raisin spelt muffins) or in this case, something resembling a mini-muffin, I automatically store half of them in the freezer. If I didn’t, one of two things would happen. Zander would either eat them all in one day, or if I managed to prevent that, half of the muffins would get stale before they could be eaten. This way, Zander can eat the first half while they are fresh, and I can pull out a few for a snack as needed and either let them thaw on the counter or warm them up for 15-30 seconds in the microwave.

Here is the recipe:

CARROT RAISIN OATMEAL BITES
*original recipe by Whole Foods Market; adapted slightly to veganize and based on what was in my pantry

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1 cup almond milk
2 “flax eggs” = 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds + 6 Tbsp cold water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Grade B maple syrup
1 cup shredded carrots
*next time, I will try adding a tablespoon or two of chia or hemp seeds, which we always include in Zander’s oatmeal; I just didn’t think of it in time for this batch

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with spray oil, or use muffin liners.

Mix ground flax seeds with cold water and let it sit to congeal.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, walnuts, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup until evenly blended. Add “flax eggs” to the liquid mixture, then stir in carrots. Add carrot mixture to oat mixture and stir until evenly blended.

Spoon into muffin cups using a small ice cream scoop. Bake until firm and golden brown on top, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Here’s a photo taken before baking:

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And here’s a photo from after:

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