Thursday, January 16, 2014

Healthy Sweets for My Peeps. The Epic Vegan and Mostly Whole Foods Dessert List.

Hello! Long time no blog post.

Yes, I know, it's so cliche. The blogger who apologizes for not blogging enough, but somehow I feel the need to do it. I'm so sorry.

I'm going to be saying that a lot this year. Shifting priorities, evolving realities. It is what it is.

I wish things could be different. And that's not b.s.

But here I am right now, working on this blog post that is months in the making. The one that I promised you so long ago and never finished. But suddenly I need to finish this. No other blog post is more important. LOL.

You see, on Facebook, I was putting out there my struggles with food, particularly with non-Vegan, highly caloric, sweets that are a regular part of my work environment. I'm sure that I'm not alone! And we were "discussing" strategies for resisting treats and developing a strong resistance muscle to tempting foods that are not a part of our plan.

My 2014 strategy is to remember that the eggs, butter and other animal derived ingredients are a product of systems that bring horrific pain to animals. That has helped me a lot in the last few weeks. My resistance muscle is slowly growing bigger again.

And then a few readers gave me  the greatest idea: Stock the work freezer with my own healthy Vegan treats and never have to feel like I want to indulge in the unhealthy/non-Vegan treats again. Eureka!

In addition, I have a friend Kelly, who months ago asked me what I eat for dessert. Incidentally, she just started rocking out an unprocessed diet for herself and her kids, so this is a really important question. Perhaps the most important ;)

Many thanks to Chef AJ, author of Unprocessed, for help with brainstorming this post and for some of her amazing recipes!

For most of you who have been reading Healthy Girl's Kitchen and other blogs for a while, this post is not going to be rocket science.I classified the Whole Food Plant Based diet desserts into 9 categories. Am I missing any?

Baked goods: Cakes, Cookies, Cobblers, Pies, Brownies, Muffins, Donuts and Cupcakes
Chia Puddings
Muesli (aka Overnight Oats)
"Nice Cream" (aka Frozen Banana Soft Serve and variations on that theme)
Truffles (think Date Nut Balls, but you are not limited to those ingredients)
Chocolate (or other flavored) Puddings/Mousses
Dessert Smoothies (aka Most Smoothies)
Miscellaneous: Fruit Leather, Caramel Apples, and Dessert Hummus

Below are tried and true recipes from each of the categories of Whole Food Plant Based desserts. These recipes are just the beginning Kelly. There is a whole world out there on the Internet of recipes that are basically spin offs of these ideas. It's a beautiful thing if you, like me, suffer from a sweet tooth!

(1) Baked Goods made with Whole Foods

Chef Aj's Just Banana Muffins
Get AJ's recipe here. These muffins are the bomb dot com! My experience is that they are best eaten right from the oven or within one day, so no need to make more than a dozen unless you are hosting a big event.

Cathy Fisher's Zucchini Bread
I've made this a few times and I highly recommend it. Come to think of it, all of Cathy's dessert recipes from Straight Up Food are worth scoping out--she uses no oil, so sugar and no salt--so it doesn't get any better than her baked goods. Cathy's Carrot Cake Donuts have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the Internet.

Personally, I need to be very careful in this category. I can easily overeat even "healthy" baked goods. But if you are looking for that once in a while special birthday treat, check out the following:

The Adonis Cake and Adonis Icing Recipe from My Beef with Meat by Rip Esselstyn. Gotta buy the book for this one folks, sorry!

Loads of the baked goods recipes from The Happy Herbivore's four cookbooks, particularly the Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Surprise Frosting from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean. Happy Herbivore recipes make ample use of white whole wheat flour and raw sugars, so if you are of the "dates are my only sweetener" camp (and I applaud you if you are) than these recipes are NOT for you.

For a truly special birthday cake, I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Chocolate Cake and icing. It's my favorite of all of the chocolate cakes because I feel the best about eating it. But you need to have like a half of a day free to make it!

Of course, any of the chocolate cake and icing combinations can be baked into, you guessed it, cupcake form. It doesn't get any lovelier than that.

Everyone loves brownies, right? That's probably why so many people are trying so hard to design something healthy that resembles the taste and texture of the brownies that we all know and adore. I'm not sure yet that we've struck gold, but here are some variations that exist:

Black Bean Brownies
We need a great recipe for these, as I have never had much success with em. But there sure are a lot of versions of these out there on the net. Some readers expressed their love of the Dr. Fuhrman Black Bean brownies from Eat to Live, but neither I nor my family have enjoyed them (and when I say "not enjoyed" what I am really saying is that we threw them in the trash). Edited to add: I will admit that Chef AJ's Black Bean Brownies are the least beany that I have ever tasted and lucky for us, that recipe is here.

Sweet Potato Brownies
Recipe here, but I can't vouch for it.

Zucchini Brownies
This recipe for Flourless Zucchini Brownies by Delighted Momma shows great promise. It's not a Vegan recipe, but all you would have to do is sub in maple or date syrup for the honey and a flax egg for the chicken egg and you might be good to go. I sure as heck am ready to give this one a try, especially since I have a bunch of leftover shredded zucchini that I had frozen over the summer.

Raw Brownies
Of course, you could always opt for a raw brownie, which NEVER fails to please. This one came highly recommended by one of my favorite people, Lindsay B. It's from the Minimalist Baker and goes under the name 5 Minute Espresso Walnut Brownies. The mixture would be insane rolled into balls, I'm sure of it.

Crumbles and Cobblers and Fruit Pies
By no means an exhaustive list, this grouping just scratches the surface of this category:
Cathy Fisher's Raw Apple Crumble
Raw Apple Pie
Nutmeg Notebook's Apple Cranberry Crisp
Dr. Fuhrman's Bluevado Pie

Edited to add: 

How on earth did I forget one of my all-time favorite, completely and totally healthy desserts? It's from the Dr. Fuhrman machine and the recipe can be found in his member center online and also in the new Eat to Live Cookbook. Seriously folks, if you want to feel good about eating dessert, this is your ticket. The name of this miracle? Cara's Apple Strudel.

I've had little to no success with healthy cookies, but these recipes were suggested. I just miss the crunch of an old fashioned cookie.

Debby from Happy Healthy Long Life blogged about these Hearty No-Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies from "I Like It Green" and raved about them online. I trust her, but I haven't had the time to make them yet. Edited on 1/19/14 to note: These cookies are outstanding! I made a double batch and stored them in my freezer. Unfortunately, that didn't prevent them from getting gobbled up. The first real crunchy Vegan cookie made without added fat and sugar, but, just sayin', they are nut and seed bombs. Very delicious nut and seed bombs!

You can try Hello Veggy's Easy Two Ingredient Oat Bundles, but they don't pass as cookies to anyone in my family. I've made something really similar in the past, and I do really like them. Don't expect ANY crunch though!

A similar banana and oats cookie idea comes from The Skinny Fork. These Healthy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies actually look reaaaallly good, even if they wouldn't be crunchy.

(2) Chia Puddings
Maybe an acquired taste, I'm not sure because I like them, but Chia Puddings can be an awesome treat. There's literally a bazillion chia pudding recipes out there on the net. Here are a few recipes and links to get an idea of what goes in to them:

Chef AJ's Banana Chia Pudding
see it here

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding
by Kim Lam via Kris Carr on Facebook
Yield: 1 serving

1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½-1 cup pumpkin puree
optional: ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: ¼ cup toasted walnuts

Soak chia seeds in almond milk. Use a fork to give it a quick stir or shake it vigorously!

Store in the refrigerator overnight. Chia seeds will expand. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and add to the chia mixture.

Chef AJ's Almost Instant Pumpkin Pudding
see recipe here

Oh She Glows Chocolate Chia Pudding
see recipe here

(3) Overnight Oats-they're not just for breakfast!
Just as there are a ton of recipes out there for chia puddings, there are even more recipes out there for something called Overnight Oats. They are truly dessert-like, so I see no need to limit these healthy treats to breakfast time, just because they have oatmeal in them. A quick perusal of the Oh She Glows website will get you up to speed on just how dessert like these things can be! Making a parfait of Overnight Oats and Banana Soft serve (see below) is, like, the BOMB DOT COMB, okay? It's a little time consuming, but totally worth it.

Healthy Girl's Overnight Oats with Apple and Banana
serves 3-4

1/4 cup chopped dried apple
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp chia seed
ripe bananas

Place all ingredients into a medium sized bowl (except bananas, and a bowl one with a lid would be helpful), stir, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, stir again. Using a total of 1/4--1/3 of the mixture and one ripe banana cut into chunks, layer ingredients into a bowl or jar and enjoy. Refrigerate the remaining overnight oat mixture and enjoy again over the next few days.

Chef AJ's Overnight Muesli

1/2 cup gluten-free oats (old fashioned, rolled)
2 Tbsp currants (or goji berries)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 apple, grated (or pear)
1 Tbsp chia seed
1/2 tsp apple pie spice or roasted (or regular) cinnamon
1/2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla

Place all ingredients into a bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir before serving. Enjoy cold or warmed in the microwave.

Grasshopper Overnight Oats Parfait
check out that recipe here

Chocolate Cherry Overnight Oats Parfait
get it here

(4) Nice Cream
All of those cookbook writers and bloggers out there pretending like Frozen Banana Soft Serve was their original creation are cracked in the head. The first I ever got wind of it was on Gena's blog, Choosing Raw in 2009. I'm not sure she was the inventor of it though. Gena, if you are reading this, I'd LOVE to know! This concept has revolutionized dessert for healthy Vegans, so we owe a giant debt of gratitude to whoever figured it out.

Basic Banana Soft Serve
Required for Banana Soft Serve are frozen ripe bananas. That means that you need to let a bunch of bananas ripen on your counter until they have a lot of black spots all over. Peel those bananas and place them into a Zip lock bag. Freeze. Use as needed. I keep frozen bananas in my freezer at all times now. You can cut the bananas up before freezing them if you are so inclined, like in this video (I let my bananas get a lot blacker before freezing than the chick in this video does).

To make banana soft serve, all you need is frozen ripe bananas and some type of alternative milk (almond, soy, rice, etc.). Simply chunk up the frozen bananas (with a knife or your hands) and place them into the canister of a high speed blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pour in a little bit of alternative milk.

If using the blender, blend the ingredients and tamp them down until the mixture is even and creamy. If using a food processor, process and stop to scrape down the sides often until the mixture is even and creamy. Serve immediately.

If this isn't making sense to you, check out these videos:

Chocolate Cherry Banana Soft Serve
1 large frozen banana or 1 1/2 small frozen bananas, broken or cut into large chunks
1/2 cup frozen cherries
up to 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder or high quality cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
splash of alternative milk (almond, soy, rice, etc.)

Place all of the ingredients into the canister of a high speed blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade. If using the blender, blend the ingredients and tamp them down until the mixture is even and creamy. If using a food processor, process and stop to scrape down the sides often until the mixture is even and creamy. Serve immediately.

(5) Truffles/Balls

This just might be my favorite category of wholesome dessert. They are easy to make, require no baking, and store beautifully in the freezer. My kids adore them and so do I. Again, you will find endless recipes for truffles (aka "balls") made with a combination of dried fruit, nuts, oats and other fun add-ins out there on the net. You just have to make a few to figure out which ones are your absolute favorites.

You can find lots of recipes for Vegan whole food truffles in Chef AJ's book Unprocessed.

Emily from Triumph Wellness' Raw Brownies are amazing!

(6) Puddings and Mousses

HGK's Choco Pumpkin Mousse
get that recipe here

Recipes are everywhere for Chocolate Mousse made with avocados. Here's one example. They are outstanding.

Less common is Chocolate Mousse made with silken tofu. Here's a recipe that is sure to work well from Chocolate Covered Katie. If my memory is correct, there's a wonderful recipe for this in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Love chocolate mousse? Make a chocolate mousse pie! Here's a winner from Dreena Burton's Plant Powered Kitchen.

Eat to Live Mango Pudding
I absolutely adore this fruit pudding. Just writing this blog post is inspiring me to make it again. The recipe is in the new Eat to Live Cookbook.

(7) Granola/Granola-type Bars

I got turned on to oil-free, nut-free and sugar-free granola when I was blessed with a care package from Chef AJ of this heavenly SOS free granola (see photo above) that she has perfected. I don't have the recipe (yet!), so until then, have a look at this: Poppies and Papaya's Oil-Free, Sugar-Free, and Vegan Sesame Granola.

Chef AJ has told me repeatedly that her overnight oats recipe (which I love, and which goes under the name Muesli) is amazing dried and dehydrated as a granola. I don't own a dehydrator yet, but since trying Chef AJ's granola I am seriously considering investing in one. Here's that recipe again if you are interested:

Chef AJ's Muesli

1/2 cup gluten-free oats
2 Tablespoons currants
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
2 ounces apple juice
2 ounces unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla (optional)
1 fresh apple, grated

Place gluten-free oats, currants, chia seeds and apple pie spice into a mixing bowl. Add apple juice and unsweetened almond milk. Add alcohol-free vanilla (optional) if using. Grate fresh apple over the top of the bowl. Mix. To make granola from Chef AJ's Overnight Muesli: Spread a thin layer of muesli on a Teflex sheet. Dehydrate for 12 hours, flip and dehydrate for another 12 hours or until crisp.

Eaturveggies oil-free granola recipe is here, and I'd bet it would be a winner if you substituted date paste for the maple syrup and replaced the nuts with more oats. You might even approximate the secret recipe for Chef AJ's granola?

There is a world out there of granola bar recipes, so I'll just whet your appetite with these two:
From Carrie on Vegan--Chocolate Banana Oat Bars

(8) Dessert Smoothies
I'm not even going to link to one recipe in this category. Anything made with fresh fruit and/or dates and/or nut butter and/or cocoa can be classified as a dessert. What makes a dessert? It's sweet and most likely calorie rich. So, by that standard, most smoothies out there should be classified as a dessert (I'm not talking about the smoothies that are made from kale, parsley, celery and half an apple. I'm talking about all the rest of them.). So for most of us who are very familiar with just how to make a delicious smoothie, go to town when it's time for dessert and enjoy!

(9) Miscellaneous

Fruit Leathers
I've never made a homemade fruit leather, and personally, this just doesn't sound like it would be a satisfying dessert, but Chef AJ said to list it, and list it I will! If you have a rockin' fruit leather recipe, please feel free to link to it in the comments.

Caramel Apples
I've never made wholesome Caramel Apples, but I'm certainly intrigued. You can check out Chef AJ's recipe and Dreena Burton's recipe.

Dessert Hummus
Yes, believe it or not, there is a whole category for dessert hummus. This recipe for No Sugar Brownie Batter Dip is beloved by our friend Sharon McRae. I made this Snickerdoodle Dessert Hummus years ago and I distinctly remember my kids freaking out about it, even though it tasted really good!

edited on 1/19/14 to add:
Jane Esselstyn's Unbelievable Unnamed Dessert
Inspired by a Chef AJ recipe, this dessert is a huge hit whenever I have made it for a crowd. Kids and adults love it. It defies explanation. You are just going to have to check out this frozen concoction for yourself, but I am warning you, it's rich.

Well, how did I do? What did I miss? I'd love to see more links to your favorite "healthy" desserts in the comments section below!
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