Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Yes, you read that right. Vegan macaroni & cheese! Who doesn’t love macaroni & cheese? It was one of the staples in our house before going vegan. And I don’t mean that nasty instant junk from a box! So I was ecstatic when one of my Instagram friends sent me the link for the recipe of vegan macaroni & cheese that they use. We made it and, guess what? It’s so delicious!! I will go so far as to say that, even if I decided not to be vegan any more, I would prefer this vegan macaroni & cheese to the traditional one made with cheese, butter and milk!

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

If you read my blog regularly or know how I cook, you know I’m not good at following a recipe as it is written. I tried to follow the original recipe as closely as possible the first time I made it. Especially since this vegan thing is still relatively new to me. If you want to see the VegNews recipe, click here. We liked it, but decided we would change a few things the next time we made it. I don’t usually have shallots on hand, nor are they easy to find, so something else would have to be used. We have also never been the baked macaroni & cheese people. Why waste time and electricity baking when you can just eat it warm from the pot?

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

The following recipe is a variation of the original. I decided to use things that I always have on hand and to leave out the breadcrumb topping that causes it to require baking. I think pasta with breadcrumb topping is a bit redundant with the carbs. While I’m not a carb-o-phobe, I was always taught that you don’t eat pasta, rice, bread or potatoes together in the same meal. The breadcrumb topping also adds extra fat with the margarine. So just skip it and make your vegan macaroni & cheese healthier and less complicated. And you’ll notice that there are no cheese alternatives used in the VegNews recipe or mine.

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

For the macaroni:

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 1 pound of organic macaroni noodles

To cook in a saucepan:

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 small organic yellow potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 2 organic carrots, washed and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 of an organic red bell pepper cut into small cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups water

To blend in a food processor

  • 1/2 cup raw organic cashews
  • 4 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon organic lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces, 140 grams) vegan non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance Organic Vegan Buttery Spread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon organic turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (A.K.A. nooch, which is also optional, but we love it, so we use it. If you don’t use the nooch, reduce the water to cook the vegetables in the saucepan to 2 cups)
     

What You Do:

Make the macaroni first. In a large pot, bring the 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Next, in a saucepan, add red onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

In a food processor, process the cashews, salt, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne and nutritional yeast, if using. This will be really thick. Once the vegetables are ready in the saucepan, add them to the food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Pour the sauce into the pot you boiled the macaroni noodles in and add the macaroni noodles and stir until all of the noodles are covered in the sauce. Serve and enjoy!!

We love eating our vegan macaroni & cheese with steamed broccoli. What’s your favorite pair to macaroni & cheese? I’m thinking about making this again and subbing some of the potato or carrot for sweet potato. I have also been thinking about throwing some fresh baby spinach in the food processor part. Always looking for ways to add more nutrition, while keeping it delicious. Let me know if you make this recipe. I would love to know your thoughts and if you changed anything. You may leave a comment below or tag me on your photos by following Organic Andrea on:

Facebook: @organicandrea1

Instagram: @organicandrea

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Do you frequently have bananas that are past their prime? Tired of the same old banana bread? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins is the solution! They are healthy enough to eat for breakfast, but delicious enough to eat for a snack, dessert or any time of day. I tend to think that making muffins is better than making a loaf, because they 1) take about half the time to bake as a loaf, and 2) are easy to portion, no slicing required.

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

This recipe comes together quickly and easily. The best part is that you can mix it all in one bowl, so you don’t have much to clean up. These vegan peanut butter banana muffins call for millet, which you probably do not have on hand. Yes, millet looks like bird seed, but it really adds a nice crunch to your muffins and makes them look prettier too. So don’t leave them out. Make the extra effort to get your hands on some. You won’t regret it. I have found that I like millet so much that I am trying to figure out ways to incorporate it into other recipes. You’ll probably be seeing it here again in the future.

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

These vegan peanut butter banana muffins also call for that powdered peanut butter stuff. I avoided this stuff for quite a while, because it just seemed weird to me. But one day, while on Instagram, I saw a recipe where someone used the powdered peanut butter, and I knew I needed to get some. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. PB Fit works great in this recipe, and I have also used it for a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie. If you don’t want to commit to powdered peanut butter, you can try using regular peanut butter, but I’m not sure what your results will be. Please let me know how it worked in the comments below, if you do decide to use regular peanut butter.

I am giving you weights for a lot of the ingredients in this recipe. If you haven’t bought a decent cheap kitchen scale yet, what are you waiting for? Do it! You dirty a lot less dishes when you weigh your ingredients. That alone should be incentive enough. I have been through a few kitchen scales already and really like my current one, which I bought from Amazon. It is the Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen & Food Scale, and currently costs $13.95. It weighs in grams, milliliters, pounds and ounces. The best part is that it takes regular batteries. All of the scales that I had in the past used the same type of batteries that wrist watches use. Those batteries are expensive, come in many different sizes and are a pain to find. So, please, if you haven’t already, get yourself a kitchen scale.

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

  • 300 grams (about 3) very ripe banana, mashed
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) organic sugar, (natural, light brown or dark brown, whichever you have on hand & want to use)
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) sunflower oil
  • 2 Tablespoons organic flax seeds, ground (measure them whole and then grind them)
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) organic oat flour (I buy organic whole rolled oats and then grind them in my coffee grinder, usually at the same time as the flax seeds)
  • 150 grams (1 cup) organic whole wheat flour
  • 48 grams (1/2 cup) organic PB Fit (powdered peanut butter)
  • 1/4 cup of organic raw millet (I buy mine dirt cheap in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together mashed banana, sugar and oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well combined.

Scoop your batter out evenly between the 12 muffin cups. It should take about 1/3 cup for each one. If you have a 1/3 cup portion scoop, it makes life easier. I don’t. I have a 1/4 cup scoop, so I use that but scoop a little extra each time. Just do what you can to make them as much the same size as possible. They will bake more evenly that way and all finish baking at the same time.

Pop them into the oven. They will take anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes to bake. You will know when they are done with the old toothpick test. Take a toothpick and insert it in the center of the center-most muffin. If it comes out clean, then they are done. Make sure you rotate the muffins halfway through bake time. When they are finished, allow to cool in the pan for 5 or 10 minutes. Then remove them from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy them any time!

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Everyone loves pancakes, right?! What about fluffy vegan pancakes? As long as you don’t tell, no one will ever know!

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Peanut butter and jelly pancakes topped with raspberries

Since going vegan, I have been working on several recipes to keep everybody happy. Because I’m the one who decides these things, my kids have gone vegan with me. The little one doesn’t really have a clue and is adapting just fine. The older one though has made it known that she isn’t exactly excited about it. She’s a foodie, so I get it. Fortunately, she has tried out some of my other food avoidance adventures (think no dairy, grains or sugar) and has decided that this is actually much easier. Maybe she also thinks that this won’t be long term, but I have no intention of ever giving this one up.

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes with berries and dusted with powdered sugar

That said, I knew I was going to have to come up with recipes that would be healthy, delicious and satisfying. We love making pancakes on the weekends, so a recipe for fluffy vegan pancakes is a must. I did a lot of recipe testing. Just check out my Instagram (@organicandrea) account, and you will see several photos with lots of different sauce options. Also, on my Snapchat (organicandrea), I usually have short video clips that show the fluffy vegan pancake making in action, as well as other recipes I’m working on. So if you want a heads up about what kind of things you will be seeing here in the future, just look me up on Instagram and Snapchat.

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

You should really give this recipe a try. It’s amazing how good fluffy vegan pancakes can be. If you don’t have a couple of the ingredients, do yourself a favor and pick them up next time you are at the store so you can make these. Once you try these pancakes, this will be your go-to pancake recipe. Don’t forget to use as many organic ingredients as you can. So let’s get on with the recipe!

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Organic Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (4.25 ounces or 120 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (5.75 ounces or 165 grams) fine semolina flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of golden flax seeds (measure and then grind in coffee grinder)
  • 2 cups Soy or Flax milk (I haven’t tried other types of milk, but if you prefer almond, coconut, cashew or some other non-dairy milk, give it a shot)
  • 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup, agave or honey (I have used maple syrup and honey)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground flax seeds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Leave the batter to sit for 10 minutes while your pancake griddle or non-stick pan heats up to about 350 degrees (175 C). After the 10 minutes, scoop 1/4 cup per pancake onto your cooking surface. As with most regular pancakes, you will see bubbles form on the surface of the pancake. When the pancakes start to dry on the sides a little bit, flip them over. The other side will take about half as long to cook as the first side. To keep the pancakes warm until all of the pancakes are cooked, place a plate or cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat in the oven and turn the oven on to the lowest heat setting. Place the pancakes in the oven until all are finished cooking. If you stack them in the oven, they may not be as fluffy when they are ready to serve as the weight will have smashed them down a bit. Serve with your favorite toppings. We used the organic vegan whipped Earth Balance spread for a butter alternative. This recipe makes 12 to 16 pancakes.

If you make this recipe or have any questions, please comment below. We will certainly be making these on a regular basis!

 

The Neophyte Vegan

Neophyte Vegan

That’s me –> the Neophyte Vegan! That’s right, I have taken the plunge. You’re probably thinking, “What?!” Yeah, believe me, I know. I fought this for a long time. Or maybe you’re confused about what a vegan is. A vegan is a person who does not consume any animal products. No meat, eggs or dairy products.

The Neophyte Vegan

Let me tell you how this all came about. For the last several years, I have been reading and listening to audiobooks to learn more about all kinds of things. Knowledge is power, right?! The types of books that I actually read are usually religious or spiritual type of books. I usually binge on audiobooks during the summer when my workload drops considerably and I am stuck working by myself all day. Most of the books I read or listen to are the non-fiction sort. I think I only listened to 2 and read 1 fiction book in the past three years. All the rest have been non-fiction. After going through all of the books that my library had on Christian and Islamic religion, I started on Buddhism. In that, I found that I really enjoyed the books by Thich Nhat Hanh who is a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, but lives in France. It was one of his books that talked about the health benefits of veganism and also about the consequences of animal product consumption on the environment. The environmental impact statistics that he quoted made quite an impact on me. He said that if you could not give up eating meat, then maybe you could cut back to maybe one meal a day or one meal a week. Any movement in that direction helps. So that’s what I did. I wasn’t ready to give up meat and dairy products. I reduced that amount that I was consuming.

The Neophyte Vegan

Next, I got active on Instagram. Lo and behold, for some reason, I started following all of these vegan people with their beautiful smoothie bowls and colorful plates of fruits and vegetables. I don’t know how this happened, to tell you the truth. Serendipity? Kismet? Whatever the case, I suddenly had daily inspiration. And then I started trying to make my own vegan smoothies. But I still wasn’t vegan. And after a couple of months, I started having serious digestive troubles. I had to quit eating avocados, chia seeds and cashews. They seemed to really be bothering my digestive abilities. Plus, I was feeling fat and bloated. The whole fat and bloated thing had been going on for a while, but this exacerbated the situation. In December of 2014 and May of 2015, I had miscarriages. In the pregnancy of late 2014, I had been pregnant with twins and had gained a considerable amount of weight rather quickly. I was in the process of trying to lose the extra weight when I found out I was pregnant again in the Spring of 2015. After that miscarriage, the extra weight would not budge, no matter how much I cleaned up my eating habits.

With all of these health issues, bad digestion and weight frustration, I started looking for health related books. I stumbled across How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D. Greger is also the creator of nutritionfacts.org, which is a great online resource. I decided to check out the audiobook from my library on the Overdrive app on my phone. That’s how I listen to all audiobooks. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Greger does his research and quotes study after study. And he tells you if it is a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study or some other type of study. He gives you the facts. Maybe it’s my journalism background talking, but I really appreciate that. After finishing the audiobook, I decided that I needed to have a hard copy of the book for future reference. I ordered it from Amazon for about $16.50. The following weekend, I saw it at Costco for about a dollar cheaper. Whatever the case, you should get this book. It may end up saving your life. But it was this book that put me over the edge and, for health’s sake, made me decide that it was time to give up the meat and dairy and go vegan.

The Neophyte Vegan

Since my reading and listening options are limited to what my library has available, I listened to The Happy Vegan by Russell Simmons. I figured I needed some help in how to go about this and to point me in the right direction. I was really glad that this was the only other vegan audiobook available at the time I was looking. All the others were already checked out and had a waiting list. Simmons has been vegan since the mid-90s. The parts of the book that made the most impact on me, for good reasons to be a vegan, had to do with the environmental statistics and the way that factory farms, known by the US Environmental Protection Agency as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFO, treats, processes and slaughters animals. I enjoyed the book. If you don’t know who Russell Simmons is, look him up on Google. He made it a fun and interesting read.

The Neophyte Vegan

The Neophyte Vegan

I started the neophyte vegan voyage at the end of May. I’m only really a few weeks into this whole thing, but I have noticed some positive changes. My digestion is back to normal. I can eat avocados and cashews again without any problems. I have switched from chia seeds to flax seeds, so I don’t know about those yet. I feel like I have a lot more energy. Nothing that I have ever done before in my entire life has made me feel like I have more energy, so that is saying a lot. The fat and bloated feeling has gone away. I still have some weight to lose, but it seems to be coming off gradually. What does one eat as a vegan? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, etc. Being vegan is actually a whole lot less restrictive than many of the popular diets these days. There are vegan meat, milk, cheese and ice cream alternatives available, but I would limit the amount of many of these items, because they are processed foods. I am not starving. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m satisfied, I’m done. And I don’t have to worry about what I’m eating, because everything is healthy. Now, there are a lot of things that are vegan that aren’t healthy, but I’m not eating those. I’m limiting anything that is processed, meaning anything that comes in a package, box, bag, can, etc. Unless it’s a box or bag of salad greens or other fruit or vegetable. And, probably the most amazing thing of all, I don’t crave sugar. I consider that a miracle.

The Neophyte Vegan

What does this mean for Organic Andrea? I am going to have to start coming up with ways to make healthy, delicious and organic vegan food. Being the neophyte vegan that I am, I will probably be scouting the major vegan blogs for recipes that I want to try. We have already been making up some of our own stuff around here. I will bring you the best of all of our vegan experimentation. I hope you will come back and see what it’s all about and try out the things I will be bringing you in the future. In the meantime, check out the books and authors I have talked about here. Until next time…

Organically yours,

Andrea

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

I’ve been running around like a cat on a hot tin roof and just haven’t had time to sit down to give you this recipe. Even if you are a Yankee, or not even from the United States, you too can make Southern Buttermilk Biscuits as good as or even better than a real-life Southern grandma. My family is from the South. My family lineage goes back to Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. It was my great-grandparents who relocated to Florida. Southern buttermilk biscuits are a staple of the Southern diet. I grew up eating buttermilk biscuits. My grandmother never measured anything. I remember watching her make biscuits. She didn’t make hers with butter, like I do. She used Crisco. I shutter to think of all the hydrogenated fat I ate growing up in the form of biscuits.

Twenty years ago, more or less, I decided I needed to learn how to make a decent buttermilk biscuit. First, I bought a good 10-inch iron skillet. All respectable Southern cooks have at least one of these. I opted for buying the less expensive unseasoned iron skillets and seasoned it myself. Hopefully you have an iron skillet. If not, go get one, now. I mean it. If you need to season it, click here for a great way to do it. I’m in the process of re-seasoning mine, because my husband isn’t from these parts, and he ruined my finish on them. Let’s just say that this isn’t a fun process, so you should make sure you know how to care of your well-seasoned cast iron pans, and never let anyone clean them who doesn’t know what they are doing. You have been warned.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. These biscuits are so good that they will make you want to slap yo mama. Don’t ask me what that means. Southerners have a lot of expressions that just don’t make any sense. I will try to explain it like this. My grandmother has been ticked off about the fact that everyone else in the family thinks I make better biscuits than her for years. We went to visit her this past Mother’s Day, and I made this recipe of biscuits. She finally let it go and admitted that my biscuits are good. That’s actually a huge compliment coming from her. I’ll take it.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups (12.75 oz. or 361 grams) of All-Purpose Flour (In the South, it is traditional to use White Lily brand, but it’s not organic, nor is it available everywhere. Whatever brand of organic AP flour you have will be fine.)
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) very cold organic butter cut into 8 to 12 pieces (I used salted butter, but if you have unsalted, that works.)
  • 1 Tablespoon of non-GMO baking powder (I use Rumford brand)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 Cup (8 oz. or 237 ml) organic, grass-fed buttermilk (I used Natural by Nature brand)
  • extra buttermilk for brushing

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (260 C). Make sure there is a rack in the center of the oven.

In a large ceramic or glass bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cut up pieces of butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers. I wear latex gloves when I do this, because I can’t stand the texture or having this stuff under my fingernails. Do this until all of the butter is rubbed into the flour and the flour resembles course meal. At this point, put the bowl into the freezer.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda and pink salt

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

This is what the flour looks like after rubbing in all of the butter.

Grease your 10-inch cast iron skillet with organic extra-virgin coconut oil.

After the flour has been in the freezer for about 10 minutes, take it out. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk in the well of the flour mixture.

Stir with a large-sized dinner fork just until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated. The key is to do this with the least amount of stirring possible. The more you stir, the tougher your biscuits will turn out. You want tender biscuits, not tough ones.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

All stirred up.

At this point, you have a couple of options. The way I think they turn out best is to pat and cut them. If you choose this option, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it to the thickness you want. Use a round cutter, sharp knife or floured drinking glass turned upside-down to cut out the biscuits.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Dough lighted patted out on a floured surface ready to cut.

Place each biscuit barely touching the next around the perimeter of the skillet, making concentric circles as you go, until you have the pan full. You will have a very full pan, but you should be able to fit all of the dough into the pan. Make as many biscuits as possible, cutting as close as possible to the edges. Pull the remaining dough together gently, working it as little as possible. Cut again. If there is any remaining dough, form it into a biscuit. The biscuit in the center of picture below is not cut, but just formed from the scraps.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

All cut biscuits in the skillet. These are really thick, very large biscuits.

The other option is to use a 1/4 cup scoop and scoop the dough and roll into balls in your hand and then place them in the skillet. If you are going to do this, after you are finished stirring, leave the dough to rest for a couple of minutes. This cuts down on the dough sticking to your hands. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see a pan of baked biscuits using this method. Whichever option you choose, once you are finished and have all the biscuits in the skillet, brush them lightly with buttermilk.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Lightly brushing biscuits with buttermilk. This is a regular paint brush from the hardware department.

Put the skillet on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the pan, and continue to bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. They are ready when they are a light to dark golden brown, depending on your preference. Invert the pan onto a kitchen towel, releasing the biscuits. Put the towel holding the biscuits into whatever serving device you are going to use and serve with softened organic butter, homemade jam, bacon and sharp cheddar cheese… the options are only limited by your imagination.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Golden Brown Southern Buttermilk Biscuits fresh from the oven.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuit open and waiting for butter.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Half buttered biscuit and half with butter and homemade peach preserves.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

This is a pan of biscuits done by scooping and hand rolling. As you see, it makes a lot of smaller biscuits.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

As you might be able to see, I am currently experimenting with some vegan recipes. It’s really easy to make some super yummy sweet treat out of ingredients that aren’t necessarily that great for your health. Even if all of those ingredients are organic. I have taken it as a sort of challenge to see if I can make sweet treats that are not only healthy and packed with nutrients, but are also really delicious. This raw vegan dark chocolate pudding is a definite winner when it comes to healthy, nutrient-dense and, above all, delicious!

I have a lot of people on Instagram who inspire me. One of those inspirational people is Lisa at www.chocolatemeetsstrawberry.com. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote a post called “Healthy Chocolate Pudding for One.” Both of our recipes have ingredients that will surprise you. I had heard of this type of chocolate pudding nearly a decade ago. When I read Lisa’s post, I decided to give it a shot. But since I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to put a little different spin on it. I think it might also be a little more acceptable to people who are just testing the waters of a more healthy lifestyle.

Chocolate pudding made with avocado? What?! There, it’s out in the open now. Yes, avocado is the mystery ingredient. For those of you new to this, take a deep breath. I promise you that it is really delicious, and no one will ever know that it’s made with avocado. I challenge you to try it out. As with a few of my recipes, this is best made and refrigerated at least eight hours before eating. I think the ingredients need time to chill and get to know each other.

This raw vegan dark chocolate pudding is so packed with nutrients, that it would be perfectly acceptable to eat it for breakfast. Avocados are loaded with several vitamins, B5, B6, C, E, K and folate and have more potassium than bananas. They also contain plenty of heart-healthy fat in the form of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. If you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard how good avocados are for you, just Google “health benefits of avocados.” There is really no reason you shouldn’t be eating this delicious fruit! If you don’t know the health benefits of the ingredients in this pudding, do the same thing for all of the ingredients. I promise you, I’m giving you a recipe for something super healthy and super delicious at the same time. Who wouldn’t want to eat chocolate pudding for dessert? And even better, who wouldn’t want to eat chocolate pudding for breakfast? Guilt free!!

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Here’s a shot of all of the ingredients that I used. If you have any questions about where I get any of my ingredients, please ask in the comments below.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 30 grams of organic honey
  • 2 packets (or 6 grams) of granular stevia
  • 28 grams (5 Tablespoons) raw organic cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon organic Ceylon cinnamon
  • 14 grams (2 Tablespoons) organic virgin coconut oil
  • 65 grams (about 2 Tablespoons) organic light canned coconut milk
  • a pinch or two of pink Himalayan salt
Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

This is a happy dessert!

You could do this in a blender or a food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender. I’m giving instructions for an immersion blender since that is what I used. Put all ingredients into a glass 4-cup measuring cup. Insert an immersion blender and pulse on high until things get a bit mixed.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Blending up the ingredients

Then blend on high, moving the stick around and up and down a bit until it reaches a creamy consistency. This takes 30 seconds to one minute. Spoon about a half of a cup (about 125 ml) into similar sized dessert ramekins or dessert cups. You should be able to get 3 to 4 servings out of this recipe. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. Top with unsweetened, shredded coconut, a light dusting of cinnamon, sliced strawberries, cacao nibs, chopped nuts, or other such yummy topping. Enjoy and know that even though it tastes decadent and sinful that it is really good for you!!

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

I know what you’re thinking already. How can anything with “vegan” in the name taste good? “Vegans only eat beans, kale and alfalfa sprouts,” I can hear you saying. Well, I’m here to fix that thinking for you. These vegan peanut cacao bliss balls really do taste good, and none of the ingredients are beans, kale or alfalfa sprouts. I promise.

Besides being super yummy, these little bites of deliciousness are also healthy and really easy to make. You only need five ingredients, and there is no cooking or baking required. And each ingredient has a myriad of health benefits. Let’s go through some of them before we get to the recipe, shall we?

Peanuts, which have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to peanut allergies, are first. Peanuts are delicious, and I feel sorry for anyone who has a peanut allergy. They are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is the heart-healthy fat found in the Mediterranean diet. Peanuts also contain vitamin E, niacin, folate, resveratrol, oleic acid and antioxidants. And roasting peanuts actually boosts their antioxidant content. If you would like to read more about the health benefits of peanuts, please click here.

Cacao is next. Cacao is not cocoa, so please don’t confuse the two. Cocoa is that bitter, processed powder that you have probably used to make hot chocolate or chocolate cake and/or frosting. You can actually use raw cacao powder in the same recipes, but the difference is notable. Since I found raw, organic cacao powder on Amazon, I haven’t even considered ever using cocoa again. If you would like to know, I buy Healthworks Raw Certified Organic Cacao Powder on Amazon. It’s a fantastic deal! This stuff is truly a superfood. Cacao contains high levels of powerful antioxidants that have numerous health benefits. If you would like to read more about the health benefits of cacao, please click here.

Dates are used in this recipe as a binder and a sweetener instead of sugar. Plus, dates have the added benefit of having significant health benefits with which sugar just can’t compete. Dates contain a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and have a long history of traditional uses. Modern research has backed up long standing beliefs about the fruit. If you would like to learn more about the health history and benefits of dates, please click here.

Honey is also used as a sweetener in this recipe. You have probably used honey to sweeten tea or lemon water when you have a sore throat. Besides as a sweetener, do you have any idea why you do that? It’s not just to sweeten your beverage or to coat your throat. Honey actually has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Honey also contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you would like to read more about the health benefits of honey, please click here.

The last ingredient is vanilla extract, which, I have read, contains antioxidants and can boost mood and enhance mental performance. If you would like to read more about this, please click here.

See! I told you there would be no beans, kale or alfalfa sprouts!

Enough with how good it is for you. Let’s get on with the recipe so you can find out how good they taste in your mouth!

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

  • 120 grams of roasted, salted peanuts
  • 120 grams of pitted medjool dates
  • 15 grams (2.5 tablespoons) of raw organic cacao powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw organic honey
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Here’s a shot of the ingredients that I used in this recipe.

Put peanuts, dates and cacao powder in the bowl of your food processor. Process for a few seconds to chop and mix everything up a bit. Add the vanilla extract and a tablespoon of the honey. Process on high for about a minute. Everything should be well chopped, combined and a loose dough should form. Pinch a bit into a ball and see if it will hold together. Have a taste and see if you want to add more honey or leave it the way it is. If it’s not holding together, process it until you can get it to hold together.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

This is not a lovely picture, but it’s to show you what your dough should look like when it’s ready.

Scrape everything out into a bowl and use a small cookie scoop to make equal sized portions.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Scooping dough with a cookie scoop is the most effective way to get equally sized bliss balls.

Roll together in the palm of your hand to form a firm ball.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

This is how your bliss balls should look after rolling them in the palm of your hand. Your hand will also be greasy. Think of it as moisturizer.

Once you have done this with all of the dough, for best flavor, refrigerate overnight. For some reason, these taste better after they have had a chance for the ingredients to blend together. So they actually taste better the day after you make them than right away. Eat and enjoy.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls ready to eat!

Keep any uneaten bliss balls in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. With the size I made, this recipe yielded about 25.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

I put the bliss balls onto a flat-bottomed bowl and covered with plastic wrap to refrigerate.

If you make this recipe, please let me know. Follow me @organicandrea on Instagram and tag me in your recipe photos. Also be sure to like the Organic Andrea Facebook page.

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Vegan Peanut Cacao Bliss Balls

Strawberry Cupcakes From Scratch

It is strawberry season again. Strawberry season actually starts here around the new year. No matter what time of year it is, these strawberry cupcakes from scratch are sure to be a favorite!

Back in the days when I really didn’t understand what kind of horrible things were in processed food, I had a recipe for strawberry cupcakes that called for a boxed cake mix and a box of strawberry Jell-O. My grandmother gave me this recipe. She had been using this recipe, I think, since the advent of boxed cake mixes and Jell-O. Everyone loved this strawberry cake. I used to get many requests to make it. I can’t tell you how many times I made this recipe. If you have been my friend or worked with me in the past 10 years, chances are you have eaten it.

About four or five years ago, I started learning about the health risks of the ingredients in most processed foods here in the United States. I started reading labels and ingredients differently. I cleared out my kitchen and pantry. I converted a lot of my old recipes to fit the new, healthier lifestyle. The strawberry cake recipe was one that I had never been able to convert successfully. I refused to eat a boxed cake mix or Jell-O, not even for a treat.

Recently they were reading the book Pinkalicious in my youngest daughters preschool class. In this book, the main character turns pink from eating pink muffins. I imagine it was because she was eating the ones made with the artificial food dyes, but I digress. Anyway, they were going to have a Pinkalicious party on Friday. I didn’t want my daughter eating anything artificially colored or any GMO garbage that I work so hard to keep out of our diets. Plus I didn’t want her to miss out on the party fun. So I volunteered to make strawberry cupcakes for the party.

I had to make the cupcakes with the thing I already had on hand in my house. I didn’t want to use a homemade cake that called for butter, because 1. it’s expensive and 2. I didn’t have much and I wasn’t going to go to the grocery store to get any. So I had to look for a recipe for a homemade cake that uses oil instead of butter. I did an internet search and found a recipe on Rachel Ray’s website for The Cake Boss’ Vanilla Cake. Of course I can never leave well enough alone. I couldn’t just use the vanilla cake recipe and just put strawberry frosting on top. Nooooo. I had never made this recipe without changing a thing to see if it actually turned out right or not. So I was keeping my fingers crossed that this would all work out.

I happened to have a box of Swan’s Down cake flour that had been sitting around unopened and unused for what seemed like an eternity. I checked the date on the bottom of the box, and low and behold, it was coming up very soon. Now, I know that Swan’s Down isn’t organic. But this website is about realistic organic living. I could have used organic all-purpose flour, because I always have it in my pantry. But, I also didn’t want to be wasteful and let the Swan’s Down just get chucked in the trash. It only has one ingredient on the box, which is enriched cake flour. I figured it’s not so bad. The Cake Boss’ recipe actually calls for all-purpose flour, but I think cake flour turns out a more delicate crumb for your cake. You can use either one, if you don’t have cake flour.

Strawberries had to somehow be added to the cake batter. Since puréed strawberries add more liquid to the recipe, I had to figure out how to subtract from the liquids that the Cake Boss’ recipe called for and add in the strawberries. In all, my final recipe ended up having a 1/4 cup more liquid that the Cake Boss’ recipe. But the cupcakes turned out really moist. Who likes a dry cake?

I won’t bore you with any more of my mad scientist cupcake nonsense. Let’s get on to the recipe, shall we.

Strawberry Cupcakes From Scratch

Strawberry Cake From Scratch

For the cake:

2 cups (14 oz. or 400 grams) organic sugar

4 organic eggs

2 1/2 cups (10 oz. or 283 grams) cake flour, organic if you have it

3/4 cup (6 oz. or 175 ml) organic whole milk

3/4 cup (6 oz. or 175 ml) sunflower oil, organic if you have it

1/2 cup (4 oz. or 120 ml) organic strawberry purée

2 1/4 teaspoons (11 ml) baking powder, non-GMO, like Rumford brand

1 teaspoon (5 ml) organic vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). If you are making cupcakes, this recipe makes about 30 regular sized cupcakes, so you will need enough cupcake papers and pans for that amount. If you are going to make cake, you can butter or oil and flour whatever size pan or pans you are going to use. You can make one 9X13-inch pan or two 8- or 9-inch round or square pans. Make sure when you grease your pans, don’t miss a single little spot, because I promise you that it will stick right in that spot.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together at medium to medium-high speed until it starts to thicken, anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. While you are doing that, sift together your cake flour and your baking powder into separate bowl. Also prep your liquid ingredients. You can use one 2-cup measuring cup for all of your liquids. Once your sugar mixture has thickened up, add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed while adding half of the liquid mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape from the bottom and down the sides of the bowl. Add the other half of the flour mixture, mixing on low speed. While still mixing on low speed, add the remaining half of your liquid mixture. Mix until combined. Don’t overmix. Make sure you scrape the bowl up from the bottom and down the sides to make sure everything is well combined and mixed. Your batter will be rather on the liquid side.

For regular-sized cupcakes, scoop 1/4 cup (2 oz. or 60 ml) into each of the cupcake papers. Bake for 9 minutes, rotate pans and bake for an additional 9 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle with your index finger.

If you are making cake, pour the batter into your pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, rotate pans and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle with your index finger.

For the frosting:

1 stick (4 oz. or 113 grams) organic butter, mine is salted

1 to 1 1/2 pounds (16 to 24 oz. or 450 to 680 grams) of organic powdered sugar

1/2 cup (4 oz. or 120 ml) organic strawberry purée

Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add one pound of powdered sugar and beat on low until it’s obvious you need to add the strawberries, because it’s too dry to do anything else. This won’t take long. Go ahead and add the strawberries. Here’s where the other half pound of sugar comes into play. If you want to make your frosting stiff enough to pipe onto the cupcakes a la swirly soft-serve ice cream cones, you’ll be adding more powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar a half of a cup at a time. This process takes time. To make creamy frosting, you need to beat it longer than you think you should. And the thing about the strawberry frosting is that the more you beat it, the more liquid it becomes. Thus the necessity of adding more sugar. You might even use more than a pound and a half to reach the right consistency for piping cupcake frosting swirls. For the picture of my cupcake, I could have definitely added more sugar. My swirls kind of melted. But I’m also kind of appalled at eating that much sugar at one time, so I opted for less sugar. You decide how much you want to add. Once you have reached the consistency you want for your frosting, go ahead and frost your cake or cupcakes.

Keep your finished cake or cupcakes in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator. They are good cold or at room temperature. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week, if they stick around that long.

If you make this recipe, or any of my recipes, I would love to hear your experience. Please leave a comment below. Also, if you have any suggestions about what you would like me to write about, let me know.

Vanilla Flan

Easy Organic Vanilla Flan

Happy New Year everyone! This has been an unseasonably warm winter, even for Florida. I think new record high temperatures were set for December. It was a bit hard to get into the holiday spirit with such warm weather. So instead, in the spirit of the milder temperatures, I decided to go tropical and make a creamy, delicious and easy organic vanilla flan! My husband lived for many years in Madrid, and he says that this is the best flan he has ever eaten.
I should tell you that this is not a make it and eat it the same day kind of dessert. You should definitely make it the day before you want to serve it. If you have never made flan before, what are you waiting for? It is really easy. I promise. The most challenging part is making the caramel sauce, but that really isn’t difficult either. And all you need are six ingredients! Are you ready? Let’s make flan!

Easy Organic Vanilla Flan

Easy Organic Vanilla Flan after inversion onto a plate.

Easy Organic Vanilla Flan
2/3 cup organic sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed organic orange juice
1 14 ounce can organic sweetened condensed milk
1 12 ounce can organic evaporated milk
5 large organic eggs
1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get a small to medium sized heavy saucepan. Add your sugar and orange juice. Cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and the mixture turns a golden-amber color. You don’t want it to get too dark or it will taste burnt. Remove from heat and pour directly into an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. With oven mitts on, quickly move around cake pan to cover the bottom with the caramel sauce. The caramel sauce will cool and set up into a hard-candy mass in a very short time. Plus, the temperature of the sauce will make the pan very hot also, so be sure to wear oven mitts.

This next step can be done a variety of different ways. You can use a blender, immersion blender, a bowl and whisk, whatever. Choose your method. I prefer the immersion blender method. Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla and blend well. Pour this mixture into the cake pan on top of the caramel sauce. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. Take the cake pan and set it inside of a larger (and equally deep, but not deeper) pan. Put this into the oven add hot water to the larger, outer pan to halfway up the side of the cake pan holding the flan mixture. This is a water bath, what the French call a Bain Marie. It helps cook the flan to a creamy consistency instead of a scrambled egg consistency. Believe me, you don’t want to do this without the water bath. Bake the flan in the water bath for 50 minutes to an hour. Remove it from the oven and from the water bath and place into the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to serve the flan, remove it from the refrigerator. Run a clean knife around the outside edge of the cake pan to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Place your serving plate upside-down onto the cake pan. Hold on to the plate and the pan and invert. The flan should fall cleanly out of the pan onto your plate with the sauce, which has turned back into a sauce. There will be a little bit of hard caramel stuck to the pan, but hot water and soap should take that right off. Cut your flan with a sharp knife like you would cut a pie. Serve with the sauce and enjoy!!

Vanilla Flan

Sweet Potato Pie

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

If you are a last-minute kind of person and you haven’t yet made your Thanksgiving pie, I’m here to help you out with my organic sweet potato pie recipe! There are all kinds of pies that people make for this American holiday. Most traditional is the pumpkin pie, but there are also apple pie, pecan pie and the Southern favorite, sweet potato pie. Yes, I love pumpkin pie. I’m a huge fan of all things “pumpkin spice” from September until January, but this year, try something new.

For many years I have experimented with sweet potato pie recipes. There was a wonderful little soul food restaurant in downtown Orlando called Johnson’s Diner, that is now closed. They had real Southern food and when they were in their original restaurant space, the combination of the food and the decor reminded me of family reunions at my great-grandmother’s house when I was a kid. Johnson’s also had the best sweet potato pie. Over the past ten years or so, I have tried many different sweet potato pie recipes in an attempt to recreate the one from Johnson’s Diner, and failed. What I have done, at last, is create my own organic sweet potato pie recipe that would make any Southerner happy to serve.

If you aren’t a Southerner and have never tried sweet potato pie, give this a try. If you’re what we Southerners call a Yankee, then you will probably call them yams. No matter whether you call them sweet potatoes or yams, they are all the same thing. But yam pie just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Now, if you haven’t made your pie for Thanksgiving yet, you had better get on it!!

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 organic 8- or 9-inch pie shell, unbaked (I used Wholly Wholesome from the freezer section in Whole Foods)
  • 1 pound cooked, cooled, peeled sweet potatoes (or use canned that have been drained and rinsed)
  • 2 organic large eggs
  • 1- 12 oz. can organic sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons organic ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoons organic ground nutmeg (or grate your own on a Microplane)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put all ingredients, except pie shell, into a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until all ingredients are well combined. Then blend with and immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Pour into pie shell and smooth the top. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to bake for another 35 minutes. Don’t forget to rotate the pie in the oven halfway through baking so that it bakes evenly. Once it finishes baking, cool the pie completely. You can eat it at room temperature or your can wrap it and refrigerate it and eat it cold. Try it both ways to see how you like it best. You can eat it like it is or you can top it with fresh organic whipped cream or organic vanilla ice cream.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

Baked, cooked, peeled and cut sweet potatoes.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

Sweetened condensed milk, nutmeg and cinnamon that I used.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

All of the ingredients in the bowl ready for mixing.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

After mixing and immersion blending. Ready to go into pie shell.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

Ready for the oven.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

The pie rises a lot when hot then comes back down when cool, which causes cracking.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

The finished sweet potato pie with Microplane and whole nutmeg.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

The finished sweet potato pie with whole nutmeg.

Organic Sweet Potato Pie

A slice of sweet potato pie, ready to eat.