Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (vegan)

an homage to the favorited ice cream flavor

There's something incredible about the combination fresh mint leaves, creamy coconut milk, and crunchy chocolate chips that make mint chocolate chip ice cream so dreamy.

And unlike chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, this flavor is pretty much only found in the freezer. Yes, there may be mint chocolate lattes and girl scout cookies, but without the contrast of bright green  freckled with chips, the integrity is missing. Mint chocolate mint chocolate chip.

If I didn't box away my ice cream maker for the winter, I would have frozen over by now. Never fear, these chewy, gooey bars will hold you over until summer. These Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are very fudgy. So don't be fooled by the beans and oats - you will feel indulged!

Mint chocolate chip for all seasons

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Yields a full 13x9x2 pan

1 bunch mint leaves, blanched and shocked
1/4 cup coconut milk

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground demerara sugar (or any vegan sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup light olive oil (or any baking oil)
1 tablespoon mint extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup white wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup nondairy chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a brownie sheet tray and dust with flour.

To blanch and shock the mint, plunge the leaves into a small pot of rapidly boiling, salted water. Remove five seconds later and shock them in an ice water bath until cold. In a high speed blender, combine mint leaves with the coconut milk until smooth.

In a food processor, puree the beans with the agave nectar. Transfer to a large bowl and add in your coconut milk/mint leave mixture, sugar, applesauce, oil, mint extract, and vanilla extract. Stir well.

In a medium bowl whisk flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. (If you want the chocolate chips to be on the inside of the bars, like I did, add chips to dry ingredients.) Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients and combine well. (If you want the chocolate chips to stud the outside of the bars, add chips at this stage.)

Spread dough evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden and an inserted toothpick removes clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in tray before cutting up into bars.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf - Vegan + Gluten Free

It's a new year, and I think it's time to be completely honest with you.We all deserve the truth:

I do not actually live out of the cookie jar. Believe it or not, I cook legitimate meals.

But there is a sweetness to be found outside of the bakery.  Of course, fruit can do the trick. Almonds and cinnamon are helpful too. But I'm also talking about squash, onions, beets, carrots, parsnips: vegetables with a relatively-high sugar amount.

Before calling me a "wack-a-doo hippie" and snapping open a leftover candy cane, try caramelizing onions or roasting carrots - the brown color they turn, that's the sugar visibly releasing.

A balanced meal contains all five flavors: sweet, spicy/sharp, bitter, salty, and sour. When there's no sweet on that dinner plate, guess who going to be caught munching on chocolate or cereal an hour later?

When the amount of naturally-sweet and nourishing foods in the diet increases, the white-sugar addiction will diminish and eventually vanish as added sugars are eliminated. And, being post-holiday season, this is a great time to start.

I would pick the naturally-sweet yams and apricots over sugary pastries any day of the week. The ginger, cayenne, and soy sauce in this Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf give it a nice boost to help you power through those resolutions. And did I mention there's no fat?

Millet and Sweet Potato Pilaf
Serves 2-4

3/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 cup vegetable stock (or 1 1/4 cup water with 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
1/2 cup dry millet
1 large sweet potato, medium-dice
5 dried apricot slices, slivered
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Bring stock/water to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Add millet, sweet potato, apricot, garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cover and simmer over low flame for 20 minutes, until sweet potato is soft and all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, let stand covered for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley.