Pistachio Smoothie [v.]

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The weeks are flying by at a terrifying pace. As a senior in college, right now is when I’m supposed to be figuring out my future by applying to graduate school or finding a job. Lately, every conversation I have seems to comes back around to, “so what are you planning to do after graduation?”

Meanwhile, I’m trying to remain calm, and continue on with my schoolwork and extracurriculars. Calmness is vibrant pistachio smoothies and warm bowls of oatmeal with blueberries and granola. It’s listening to my Discover Weekly playlist in the morning as I sip hot coffee. I hope that you try out this recipe, and it brings you the boost it brings me.

pistachio3The latest non-dairy milk I’ve been enjoying is pistachio milk. Oddly, rather than tasting like pistachios, it’s super almond-y, way more than any almond milk I’ve tried. For this reason, I’m willing to bet any nut milk plus a tiny dash of almond extract would produce the same overall taste.

This smoothie is perfectly sweet and creamy, has an extra nutritional punch thanks to leafy greens, and can be made in literally any blender (I use a 14 dollar blender from amazon). Feel free to add a little extra nut milk if the smoothie seems too thick, and if you’re a granola fiend like me, definitely sprinkle some on top and eat with a spoon.

Pistachio Smoothie

  • 1 cup pistachio milk or any nut milk + 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup packed spinach leaves (be generous, you won’t taste spinach I promise)
  • 1 sliced and frozen banana
  • 1 tbs coconut flour
  • optional: 2 tbs soy protein powder or 2 tbs cashew butter

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Enjoy! Oolala.

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Nutty Apricot Bars

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My latest food stint has been vegan cooking. It evolved out of my desire to reduce the stress of “ahhh what am I going to do with this quickly expiring milk” and “oh my god i have 16 kinds of cheese let me just eat nothing but cheese for the next week” (really, I make this seem like a bigger problem than it is, because cheese is delicious), and has led to a lotta stir fries, smoothies, and pasta dishes.

Despite my growing confidence in plant-based cooking, there are still times when I turn to my dear friend butter, and this, my friend, is one of them.

These bars are so good. Like, bring-to-a-fancy-dinner-and-watch-anxiously-as-people-take-that-first-bite good. The nutty shortbread base melts in your mouth, and the slight tartness of the apricots is a perfect complement to the lightly sweetened frangipane. And this is coming from someone who is way more of a chocolate than fruit dessert person. (On a side note, I believe there are two type of people: people who prefer fruit desserts and people who prefer chocolate. I refuse to believe that there are people who want neither.)

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They’re also incredibly easy to make. Seriously, if you have a food processor (and if you don’t, I highly recommend you get one, because it is one of the few things I am willing to lug across the country to college), all you have to do is throw two sets of ingredients in (at separate times) and whiz away. That, and chop a few apricots, but still, the prep for this recipe is incredibly quick.

My “secret” ingredient for this recipe is premium salted butter. It has a lower water content than regular butter, which makes it perfect for shortbread. Kerrygold butter should be easiest to find, but Trader Joe’s had another brand that was cheaper so I used that. If you can’t find premium butter, don’t worry, regular salted butter works as well.

Nutty Apricot Bars

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [60 g]
  • 1 cup flour [125 g]
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar [50 g]
  • 1/2 cup salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp salt [115 g]

Frangipane filling:

  • 1 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [120 g]
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour [10g]
  • 1/4 cup white sugar [50g]
  • 5 tablespoons salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt [70g]
  • 1 large egg

Toppings:

  • ~6 small apricots
  • 2 tbs sliced almonds

Preparation Process:

Begin by roasting the nuts. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Cut two ~15 inch long pieces of parchment so they are 8 inches wide. Drape one piece in the pan so that it lines 3 sides, and drape the other piece perpendicular so that all sides of the pan are covered.

Add to a food processor:

  • 1/2 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [60 g]
  • 1 cup flour [125 g]
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar [50 g]
  • 1/2 cup salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp salt [115 g], cut into 1 tbs piece

Blend until the mixture is beginning to form large clumps. Press the dough into the pan into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to darken, and then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. To speed up the process, put the pan in the freezer.

While the crust is cooling, grind in the food processor until sand consistency:

  • 1 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [120 g]
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour [10g]
  • 1/4 cup white sugar [50g]

Add to the food processor:

  • 5 tablespoons salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt [70g]

Mix until no butter chunks are visible, then while the food processor is still running, add in:

  • 1 large egg

Pulse until just combined.

When the crust has cooled (I recommend letting it cool fully, or else the butter in the filling will begin to melt), spread the frangipane filling over it.

Top with:

  • ~6 small apricots
  • 2 tbs sliced almonds

I cut the apricots in half, sliced each half into thin pieces, fanned out the slices, and then transferred them to the base on a butter knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the bars should come out clean, and the edges of the crust should be deep golden brown, but not burnt.

For the cleanest presentation, allow the bars to cool on the countertop until warm, and then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until cold. Remove the bars by pulling up the edges of the parchment.

Slice into 16* squares**, and serve at room temperature.

*The smaller the slices the more you can eat, right?

**A little tip is to slice off the outer edges of the bars before cutting into squares. The crisp edges are perfect for eating like biscotti, and the squares look more uniform sans edges.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Flour Peanut Butter Frosting

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My motto for this cake was “go big or go home”. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to add zucchini and applesauce to the cake, but I resisted because some times call for copious amounts of peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache, and 21st birthdays are one of those times.

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My favorite component of this is the peanut butter frosting, which I created with a technique that I’ve been using for the past five or so years. The frosting uses a flour, milk, and sugar roux which is cooled and then whipped with butter to create an incredibly fluffy and flavorful frosting.

I prefer this technique over traditional buttercream frostings which I find to be overly sweet, and swiss meringue frostings which I find to be overly buttery. Flour frosting combines the best aspects of both. I’m normally pretty iffy about frosting, but I could eat this frosting by the spoonfuls. It’s that good.

Chocolate cake recipe: this chocolate cake recipe

Ganache recipe: this recipe for ganache

Peanut Butter Flour Frosting 

Makes enough to frost 1 small 5 inch cake. Double the recipe for full-sized cakes.

In a medium saucepan combine:

  • 2 tbs flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup 2% or whole milk

Bring the mixture to a bowl, stirring constantly, and then cook for 1 minute. The mixture should be thick and slightly translucent. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap to the surface of the roux.

Place the bowl in the fridge until cold.

In a medium bowl, cream with an electric mixer:

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Add the frosting roux and continue whipping until a thick and fluffy frosting forms.

Add:

  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (I used processed peanut butter because that’s the smoothest kind that exists. I’m not sure how natural peanut butter would fair.)

Whip until the peanut butter is fully whipped in. Now, eat a giant spoonful to “quality test”. Continue “quality testing” periodically.

Vegan Peanut Butter Crumble Bars, Two Ways

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Two years ago I posted a recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly bars.

At the end of the post I wrote: “If you’re gluten free or vegan, I’ll post a similar recipe that you can enjoy soon!”

Tada! It’s here.

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I’ve made these bars three times to work out little kinks in the recipe, and can say that for someone who generally doesn’t love peanut butter cakes or cookies, these bars are good.

One of my latest baking goal is making health(ier) desserts that are good enough to share, and not just something I can enjoy–looking at you super avocado-flavored brownies.–and these fit that criteria.

They’re soft, super peanut butter-y, and melt in your mouth…kind of like a cross between blondies and shortbread. I brought them to a fourth of july gathering with friends and they were all eaten, so that qualifies as a success to me!

Peanut Butter Bars (Vegan)

In a medium bowl combine:

  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup spelt flour (replace with oat flour to make gluten free)
  • 2 tbs sugar or erythritol
  • 1 tbs ground flax seeds
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs peanut flour (optional–can replace with 2 tbs almond flour)

In a small bowl, microwave for 20 seconds and then stir until smooth:

  • 2 tbs maple syrup
  • 3 tbs peanut butter (decrease to 2 tbs if you added peanut flour)
  • 1 tbs melted coconut oil

Stir in:

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until combined. They should form a crumbly, but cohesive dough.

PB&J Option: 

Set aside ¼ cup of dough and press the rest of the dough into a small cake pan (about 6″ diameter) or ramekins.

Meanwhile combine in a microwave safe bowl:

  • 1 tbs strawberry jam
  • ½ cup frozen or fresh berries

Microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until thick and gooey. It should take around 3-5 minutes. Spread on top of the dough, and then sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes. The very top of the bars should be lightly golden, but the bars shouldn’t appear totally baked through.

Chocolate Fudge Option:

Add to the dough:

  •  2 tbs chocolate chips

Set ¼ cup of the dough aside, and press the rest of the dough into a small cake pan (about 6″ diameter) or ramekins.

On top of the bars spread:

  • 3 tbs chocolate fudge sauce (I used this sugar free, fat free fudge sauce, but if you’re aiming for a purely vegan recipe, feel free to use otherwise)

Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of dough on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes. The very top of the bars should be lightly golden, but the bars shouldn’t appear totally baked through.

Malawi Peanut Balls (Mtedza)

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I’ve never really liked peanut butter. Peanut butter is just so rich and sticky, and only really tastes good when paired with lots and lots of jelly and bread. However, these cookies are crumbly and buttery and just taste so good. They remind me of peanut shortbread.

I originally intended for this post to go with “Alphabet Around the World,” but these were too good to wait until the letter “M”. They’re cute bite-sized treats – perfect for a tea party or the like.

Malawai Peanut Balls

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Powdered Sugar
  1. Chop the roasted peanuts into fine pieces. (I think a food processor might work for this, however be careful not to over-process, or you will end up with peanut butter.)
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Stir in the vanilla, salt, and crushed peanuts.
  4. Stir in the flour.
  5. Divide into 2 tablespoon sized portions (easiest with a small ice cream scooper) and roll into balls.
  6. Bake at 350, for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. While they are hot, roll in powdered sugar.
  8. Place on a rack and allow to cool completely.
  9. If desired, roll in powdered sugar again.