Gluten-free Chocolate Crêpe Cake

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Gluten-free chocolate crêpe cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Crêpes are great – and if you ever hear anyone say otherwise you can safely assume that they don’t know what they are talking about or perhaps did not have an opportunity to try some. Perhaps they don’t know that plant-based, 100% vegan crêpes are easy to make, or perhaps they don’t or can’t consume gluten and are unaware that gluten-free crêpes are within their reach. Or, and this is the final myth that I will dispel, they think that only highly skilled and trained chefs can embark on crêpe making, which is far from reality.

If you own a flat frying pan, and have a whisk that you are willing to use (or a blender!), you can make crêpes. These light, thin, flat pancakes are versatile and can be made into a savory dish, like these Scallion Crêpes, or topped with a range of sweet toppings for a quick and easy breakfast or dessert.

But, there is more to crêpes than that and I recently discovered that you can use them to make multilayered cakes! It usually takes 10-12 crêpes, nice, relatively firm filing, and topping of choice and you’ll have an impressive looking no-bake cake on your hands.

I wanted to make my crêpe cake gluten-free as well, so I followed a crêpe recipe that uses chickpea flour since that was the the type of flour I had on hand (I found the recipe in The Chickpea Flour Cookbook by Camilla Saulsbury and I recommend you check this cookbook out because it does offer lots of gluten-free recipes with helpful comments on how to make each recipe vegan!). The recipe below is a slight modification from the original as I added more almond milk and some vanilla extract, and you should feel free to customize the flavors further or replace some of the flour with cocoa powder if you want your cake to be all chocolate all the way. Additionally, if you prefer to omit oil you can do that as well – here is another excellent and very simple recipe.

The cake is easy to assemble and looks fantastic! If you are not sure you like chickpea flour you can use any gluten-free pancake mix and make a batter that is less dense than your standard pancakes. One way to test whether your batter is the way it’s supposed to be is to pour 1/2 cup in the middle of the pan and then swirl it around until the entire bottom is well covered. If your batter can do this you are all set, if not perhaps you need to add just a bit more water. Go slowly and test frequently, because you don’t want to end up with unusable slurry either.

If you would like to add some sweetness to the crêpes, feel free to add a bit of maple syrup, agave nectar, or other sweetener you like. The chocolate filling and the ganache are quite sweet so you may not need this extra sugar.

Making the chocolate filling is also simple – if you ever made pudding you will know what to do. The filling requires some simmering almond milk, starch and agar, as well we some dark cocoa and maple syrup, and needs to cook over low heat until dense. What  kicks the filling up a notch is orange zest which adds citrus tones to the entire cake.

You will need to let your crêpes cool then put the cake together by layering a crêpe then covering it with a tablespoon or two of the chocolate filling, then placing another crêpe on top, the the filling and so on and so forth until all the filling is used up.

The last touch is chocolate ganache which you can make in the microwave, and pour all over the cake to completely cover the layers. You can decorate the cake with freshly cut strawberries, blueberries, toasted almonds, or some whip cream. Use your imagination to make it unique and incredible!

 

Gluten-free Chocolate Crêpe Cake

What you’ll need:

FOR THE CREPES:

2 cups chickpea flour

6 tablespoons egg replacer (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Egg Replacer)

12 tablespoons water (to prep the egg replacer)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 cups almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vegetable oil for the pan

FOR THE FILLING:

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened, preferably vanilla flavor

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons dark cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (add more if using plain almond milk)

Zest of one orange

FOR DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

2 cups dark semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan, like Enjoy Life)

4 tablespoons vegan cream or half’n’half (I used ripple; you can also use any plant-based milk as well, but decrease the amount to 2-3 tablespoons)

4-5 large strawberries, sliced – for decoration (optional)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare egg replacer according to instructions. If using flax meal based egg replacer or similar the preparations may require soaking the flax meal in hot water for 5-10 minutes usually by mixing the dry ingredients with water in 1:2 ration (in this case 6 tablespoons egg replacer and 12 tablespoons water).
  2. Mix all the crêpe ingredients (except oil for the pan) using a blender, a mixer or a whisk. The batter should be smooth and clump free.
  3. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Use a brush to brush the oil across the hot surface of the frying pan, then pour in 1/3-1/2 cup of batter and twirl the pan around until all the bottom if covered with a uniform layer of the batter.
  4. Leave the pan over medium-high heat until the surface is completely dry, then flip the crêpe over and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes on the other side. Continue until all the batter is used up, and leave the crêpes to cool.
  5. For the filling start from cold ingredients and bring the almond milk to a gentle boil. Mix tapioca starch and agar powder into the hot milk and continue cooking over low hear until the mix firms up. Leave the mix to cool, which make take some time. You could make both the crêpes and the filling a day ahead and assemble the cake couple of hours before serving.
  6. To assemble this cake, please use a large plate or a cake stand and start by placing a crêpe on the bottom, then the filling (1-2 tablespoons), then another crêpe and more cake filling until no filling is left!
  7. To prepare a ganache, place the chocolate chips and milk, cream or half’n’ half into a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Mix and microwave again, check and repeat until chocolate is about 60% melted. Take the bowl out and start mixing to help finish the melting process.
  8. Pour the melted chocolate ganache over the top and spread as evenly as possible over the top and around the sides. Decorate with fresh strawberries, set aside for 2-3 hours then dive in!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

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Free and Beautiful – Flourless Double Chocolate Brownies with Chickpeas and Oats

Just how free and beautiful are these brownies? On the “free” side they are vegan, so dairy-free and egg-free, they are also gluten-free and nut-free, plus they are no-added sugar! So, what on Earth do they have? They have plenty of chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa nibs, which gives them their chocolate richness.

They are also full of ingredients that you will not find in your regular brownies, like a banana I use here for sweetness and a egg replacement, and oats and chickpeas, which I use as the key flour-like components. Chickpeas and the chickpea water – the miraculous aquafaba – are essential here. They add the protein needed to help give the brownies a bit of structure and texture. They combine well with oats so that the result is not chocolate oatmeal but a real double chocolate brownie with a bite and a chew.

For this and other baking projects, like my meatloaf and my marshmallow topping, I suggest you try making your own chickpeas. They do need some work – you soak them overnight in lots of water, then you rinse them and boil them in double the amount of water to get soft chickpeas and very useful aquafaba. I cook them in an electric pressure cooker on the “beans” setting. To help aquafaba along, I recommend letting the liquid that chickpeas were cooked in sit in the refrigerator for a day or so before using.

Other than cooking the chickpeas that’s a bit elaborate, everything else is smooth sailing. You will need a large food processor, pile everything in, and pulse to mix and combine. The baking is a standard deal, using a 350 F (175 C) oven and taking somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes. Let your brownies rest for at least 15 minutes before serving, then cut and plate. They’d be great with some vanilla nicecream, if you’d like to make them fancy. They are also great as is or with some orange zest on top.

Flourless Double Chocolate Brownies with Chickpeas and Oats

What you’ll need:

2 cups oats, gluten-free

2 cups chickpeas, cooked

1 banana

3/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks, vegan

2 tablespoons cocoa nibs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Place cooked chickpeas, oats, roughly chopped banana, and all the rest of the ingredients except chocolate chips and cocoa nibs into a food processor, and process until you form a dough.
  3. Add the cocoa nibs and chocolate chips and mix everything together.
  4. Pour the mix into a square, 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) baking dish and put your brownies to bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Take the brownies out and let them rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy with some vegan ice cream or as is!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Gluten-Free (and Vegan) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

Gluten-free and Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

If you are looking for a quick, fun, satisfying and irresistible dessert, well look no further. These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls are it!

They are no-bake dessert that you can whip up on a whim by using a handful of ingredients, most of which you can find in your local grocery store or easily make in a food processor. Some ingredients that you likely already have are almond flour, coconut flour, vegan chocolate chips (I recommend Enjoy Life brand, especially the mini chocolate chips!), almond milk, almond extract, agave nectar, and vanilla bean. Mixing all these together will give you lovely and yummy treats.

What kicks the flavor over the top for me is mesquite powder. Yup, you heard that right – mesquite! This is a new ingredient for me and I’ve been experimenting with its use. The powder comes from and can be used raw, so I’ve been adding it to smoothies. The powder has an earthy and nutty flavor, and that’s why it works really well in these treats.

One tip: add the almond milk gradually in small increments, 1/4 cup at a time. After each addition mix your ingredients well and let them rest for few second before adding more milk. This will help your cookie dough absorb the liquid and result in a moist dough that will come together well as you roll it.

And speaking of rolling, be gentle but not too gentle. The dough should not be crumbly – if it is you likely need a drop or two more almond milk or if you like to kick it up a notch in terms of calories you could add some almond butter which will help hold things together. Use the same technique you would when putting together meatballs: scoop a tablespoon or so of the dough into the palm of your hand and start rolling and squeezing at the same time until you have a nice little treat in your hand.

Since these cookie doughs are free of eggs, butter and flour, they are totally fine to snack on as you make them. Just remember to save a few for later!

Gluten-Free (and Vegan) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

What you’ll need:

1 cup almond flour

1 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup mesquite powder

1/4 cup agave nectar (maple syrup, or other sweetener of choice)

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 cup mini chocolate chips, vegan

3/4 – 1 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened (or another dairy-free alternative; if you are using a sweetened version just add less agave nectar; if you are using plain version add a bit more vanilla bean)

What you’ll do:

  1. In a large mixing combine all the ingredients except almond milk. Mix well and start adding the milk, 1/4 cup at a time. The final dough should be moist but not wet.
  2. Using your hands, take one tablespoon of the chocolate cookie dough mix and shape it into a tight ball. As you are shaping the ball, keep rolling and pressing. The ball should stick together, if not consider adding a tablespoon or two of almond milk.
  3. You can enjoy these chocolate cookie dough balls immediately. They are best freshly made, but they also keep ok, covered at room temperature for 2 days or so.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

10 Recipes I Could Enjoy Over and Over Again

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My favorite recipes of 2017, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

As 2017 was wrapping up, I took a look at the most popular posts on this blog, and the results were not really all that surprising. People liked Carrot Dogs, which continue to be popular, as well as jackfruit “crab” cakes, chicken-less tikka masala, a meaty veggie burger, and homemade ground beef substitute.

But, believe it or not, although I loved all of them, I loved some other recipes more. So, here is the list of 10 recipes I developed last year which I simply adore. I could make and enjoy each one of them over and over again, and I do make them every chance I have. The list below is organized from breakfast to dessert, and as you will see shows that I prefer things like soups and sandwiches, grilling and roasting, and really like the simplicity of a no-bake desserts. Simple, affordable, and delicious – these recipes really capture these three guiding principles of my cooking and eating style.

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  1. Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes – these pancakes are an easy weekend breakfast or brunch that get all their sweetness from the roasted sweet potatoes. No eggs, no butter, no milk required! Making pancakes is a fun activity for the entire family and one of the best ways to fill your kitchen with inviting aromas and signal to the whole household that weekend is off to a great start. You can make these with all purpose flour as well, and use any topping you like – for me it’s usually sliced bananas and a drizzle of nut butter softened in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.
  2. New England Clam-less Chowder – this chowder is simply amazing and with the flavor and texture that matches the original extremely well. I discovered that jackfruit works really well is some of the dishes that traditionally use seafood, and I used it for the Chowder, together with potatoes and a dash of potato starch to give it that chowder texture. My secret ingredient here? Some seaweed wraps which I soaked to create a seafood tasting broth! With a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning, there’s nothing better to put in your bowl except maybe…
  3. Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup. If the chowder is complex, this soup is simple yet incredibly creamy. It is my favorite soup I’ve made thus far! The soup is nothing more than fresh cauliflower, boiled and creamed using a blender until smooth and silky. What completes the soup is some peas and corn, which I always have on hand in the freezer. The entire pot of soup is inexpensive and filling, cozy and perfect for the winter month, thus the name.
  4. DIY Sushi – I’d never felt brave enough to make my own sushi before, but I finally gave it a go about 6 months ago, and I loved it. My favorite sushi fillers are carrots, avocado and cucumber with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds, so veggie rolls for the win! But you can as reactive as you like. For example, I made a batch with mushy peas and pickled red cabbage, as well as with Seaweed Pearls -aka vegan caviar -from IKEA (!), and tomato “tuna”, which I still need to work on to make it come out perfect
  5. Faux-lobster Rolls – My love of seafood and fish alternatives does not stop at sushi and chowder, as these faux-lobster rolls prove. Some of you who tried were sold on this idea, some though they don’t even come close to the real deal. They work for me with heart of palms or artichoke hearts, both are yummy. What gives these rolls their lobster-y flavor is the seasoning, and to me nothing says “seafood” as much as the already mentioned Old Bay Seasoning, but you can adjust to match your flavor expectations and make them truly your own.
  6. Grilled Tofu Sandwich – I love sandwiches, which explains my selection of both the faux-lobster rolls and the grilled tofu sandwich where a spicy coleslaw completes the ensemble. Plus both of these are light and summer-field recipes that can bring sunshine to your plate even in the dead of winter! For best results you do need to drain and press the tofu – you don’t need to go wild here but
  7. Grilled Portobello Steaks – Grilling is one of the most powerful ways to maximize the umami flavors, and these portobello steaks are a great example of what grilling can do! Although you could grill most of the heartier vegetables and mushrooms as is, I think that marinating in a rich marinade that hits all the main tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, umami (savory), and salty) is a great strategy to get the most of your grilling. It definitely makes these hefty portobellos a stand out!
  8. Simple Summer Pasta Salad – this is absolutely the favorite pasta salad I’ve ever tried. There’s really nothing special about the ingredients – pasta, toasted almonds, olive oil, onion powder and fresh basil get tossed together and that’s that. But I could eat this one by the bucketful. Unlike many pasta salads that can be overwhelming, this one is light yet elegant, and you can serve it warm or cold. It also makes a great contribution to any pot luck!
  9. Shepherd’s Pie – this is the only more serious meal on this list, which is telling. The food I enjoy most is the one that comes together quickly without much fuss, but once in a while there’s an occasion to go wild and elaborate. This Shepherd’s Pie is a fantastic meal to make for a large family gathering. It will be a hit with both herbivores and omnivores in your lives, and it makes a lovely looking centerpiece. The meat replacement strategy here is to combine brown lentils with mushrooms and cook them with lots of rosemary and thyme for that amazing flavor.
  10. Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups – no round-up of favorite dishes is complete without some chocolate, and these dark chocolate cups full of creamy almond butter are a perfect treat. They are no-bake, and hassle-free, yet look and taste amazing. If you are looking for a way to impress your guests, these will do the trick. The almond butter filling is super-complementary to the dark chocolate exterior and balances the crunchy chocolate shell out well. If you are trying to avoid nuts, you could try using a nut butter alternatives. Those will work as well.

I hope you enjoy this list, and give these recipes a try. As I said, they were my very favorite!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Vegan Zucchini Fruitcake

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Vegan Fruitcake with Zucchini, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Fruitcake has a bad reputation. Nobody loves it, yet puts up with it because of the tradition and whatnot. And although some of you may find it hard to believe, fruitcake can be really delicious!

In this veganized version of the milenia-old (oh, yes – fruitcake dates back to Ancient Rome) tradition, I skip the butter, extra sugar, and eggs and go really wild with dried fruits. I combined everything I could get my hands on – figs, dates, cranberries, apricots, prunes, and pineapple – with a nice selection of spices featuring orange and lime zest, as well as almond extract, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I also used some finely grated, almost sauced, zucchini as a binder, and roughly chopped walnuts and red maraschino cherries for some added texture.

The key to this cake is soaking the fruit and although you could soak the fruit in rum, as is the custom, I soaked mine in water to avoid being too over the top with the flavors and the kick to the system this cake delivers. Although most of the alcohol would evaporate as the cake bakes, I wanted to keep this one rated G so that both kids and adults can enjoy as much of it as they like and decided to skip the rum altogether. At the end, the most important thing is to let the fruit soak in liquid (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) because that will help keep the cake moist and soft.

This fruitcake is pretty rich and filling. It makes for a lovely treat, as well as an excellent breakfast choice. It is definitely one more thing to add to your list of vegan Holiday treats and traditions, like the Peppermint Bark and the Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes. If you are wondering whether this cake can be made gluten-free, the answer is yes, absolutely! Just use your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour and go for it.

 

 

Vegan Fruitcake with Zucchini

What you’ll need:

1 zucchini, small (1 1/2 cup grated)

5 medjool dates

15 dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2/3 cup dried pineapple

5 dried figs

1/3 cup prunes

1 cup maraschino cherries, drained and roughly chopped

1 cup flour

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon almond extract

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lime

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine all the dried fruits in a large bowl, cover with warm to hot water, and let soak for 30-60 minutes. Drain the fruit, pat dry to remove excess water, and chop to bits and pieces of different size. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  3. Grate the zucchini using a fine grater or a food processor. The finer the grating the better!
  4. Add the zucchini and the rest of the ingredients to the chopped fruit and mix well until everything is combined.
  5. Line the bread pan, or any other baking pan (I used a spring form pan because it makes getting the cake out a breeze), with some parchment paper. Pour in the fruitcake batter and spread around to form a 1.5 in (3-4 cm) thick layer. The cake will not rise much, and it will be quite moist, so don’t make it too thick as your surface will burn while you wait for your center to bake.
  6. Bake for 35 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes, ideally an hour, before cutting and serving. Serve with some vegan whip cream, ice cream, or with a glass of eggnog, and enjoy the season!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes

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Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

One thing that sweet potatoes have going for them is their amazing natural sweetness. Another thing they have going for them  is their price – they are super affordable. And, for those of you keeping a nutritional score, sweet potatoes are an amazing source of vitamins, fiber and even protein.

Speaking from a recipe developer’s perspective, sweet potatoes are a versatile ingredient that lends itself to a range of recipes, from main dishes to desserts. The very first recipe I shared on this blog was the Sweet Potato Butter. More recently, I used sweet potatoes as a key ingredient in a red curry. And now it’s time to introduce Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes.

The key ingredient for the Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes are the roasted sweet potatoes. Roasting sweet potatoes brings out their sweetness and adds nice caramelized overtones. Plus it makes the otherwise hard potatoes easy to mash. You could boil the sweet potatoes as well, or put them in the microwave for ten minutes to soften them up, but none of these methods will help the sweetness fully develop. So, unless you are in a super huge rush do take the time to roast your spuds. What I do is roast the whole pile of sweet potatoes at the same time and stash them into the refrigerator. Then I have a roasted sweet potato on hand to use for all sort of different applications, like these pancakes.

The pancake recipe asks for two large sweet potatoes, and I mean large. They should yield anywhere between cup and a half to two cups of sweet potato purée, so find some good, big specimens for this one. Roasting sweet potatoes could not be easier. You will need to wash the potatoes, pat them dry and place them on a baking sheet – I like to line mine with either parchment paper or aluminum foil to easy cleanup more than anything else. Put the baking sheet into a hot oven – I recommend 425 F (220 C) and roast the potatoes for about thirty to forty five minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely before handling. And thats’ why is handy to have a stockpile of roasted sweet potatoes in your fridge!

One note on the flour. This recipe is gluten-free and uses a combination of white rice flour and corn starch, but if you are not looking to restrict your gluten intake feel free to use all-purpose flour. In that case you can skip corn starch and you don’t need to replace it with anything else. Two cups of all-purpose flour should work well enough.

Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes

What you’ll need:

2 large sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled

2 cups rice flour

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons imitation maple syrup flavor (or vanilla extract)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups vanilla almond milk, unsweetened

Cooking spray (optional)

Topping suggestions: fresh fruit, powdered sugar, jam, maple syrup, vegan butter or cream cheese, nut butter, melted vegan chocolate…

What you’ll do:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large blender or a food processor. Blend untill a smooth, lump-free batter forms. Pour the batter into a large bowl – this will make it easier fo you to ladle out the pancakes. If you don’t a blender or a food processor, all this can be done by hand in an old fashioned, whisk-based sort of way. If you are doing everything by hand, do spend some time on mashing the sweet potatoes – the smoother you get them the better the pancakes. Let the batter rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place a large frying pan over high heat. You can also use a griddle if you have one. In both cases make sure your surface is nice and hot before using. You could spray with some cooking spray if needed – some pans have a lovely non-stick surface and you can definitely skip the oil.
  3. Pour out half a cup worth of the pancake batter per pancake. This should make 5 inch (12 cm) pancakes, and the amount of batter will be enough to serve 4 to 6 people. After the first 1-2 minutes lower the heat to medium-high and let the pancakes brown. You will know that it is time to flip them when the top surface becomes nice and bubbly and almost dry. Flip the pancakes, let them brown on the other side, which will take just a minute or two, them slide them to a serving plate. To keep the pancakes warm as you work you can keep the done batch in a warm oven or under some foil or a kitchen towel. To get the pan ready for a new batch increase the heat to high, let the pan come up to temperature again and repeat…
  4. Serve warm with any topping you like, fruit, maple syrup, powdered sugar, chocolate syrup… I used sliced banana and a drizzle of softened almond butter. Yummy!!!

Note: These pancakes freeze well, so if you do end up with leftovers, let them cool than place them into a freezer safe bag or container, and you’ll have great pancakes to enjoy on another day. One trick to prevent frozen pancakes for sticking to each other is to use wax paper to separate the pancakes. You can separate them one by one, two by two, three by three, whatever is you preferred serving size. Then, when you are in a need for a quick breakfast, snack or even dessert you can take the batch out with ease. I usually zap mine in a microwave for a minute or so and they are ready. You can also use a toaster oven to heat them up, just remember that the toaster oven will dry them out a bit, so they will come out a bit less soft.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Holiday Peppermint Bark – Vegan and Jolly!

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Holiday Peppermint Bark, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

There is something diabolically good about combining dark chocolate with some peppermint flavor. And adding some white chocolate to the mix makes it simply to wicked for words, and it also makes it into a winter holiday classic called Peppermint Bark. In a nutshell, peppermint bark is a layer of melted chocolate with some crushed peppermint candies mixed into it. The chocolate cools and sets with pieces of the peppermint candy poking out of it, giving it a tree bark sort of texture and appearance.

The fancy examples of the Peppermint Bark have two chocolate layers, one dark and the other white, and since it’s the Holidays I am going for the fancy here! Finding vegan dark chocolate these days is easy – even my large supermarket chain carries couple of different options. But, finding a vegan white chocolate is a bit trickier – read impossible at least in my ecosystem. So, I stepped up to the challenge and made my own perfectly silky vegan white chocolate. I suppose that makes me an accomplished chocolatier?

Well, that is to be determined, for now all I can say is that this Peppermint Bark will put a smile on your face. Best of all, no fancy baking required. All it takes is a microwave and lots of mixing because you’ll be melting the dark chocolate, then immediately afterwards the white chocolate, which is a mix of coconut butter, pea protein powder, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Finally, making of the Peppermint Bark comes with a tension and stress release valve, as it requires you to take a hammer to peppermint candy or candy canes, and give them some good whacking!!!

Other than that it’s all about waiting for the Bark to set, which may take couple of hours. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with one of the holiday season favorites that you can enjoy, or better still share with your family, friends, neighbors… Ho, ho, ho!

And if you are up to trying something slightly healthier this holiday season, my Pumpkin Truffles, Squash Pie, or Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups are a better option. The Peppermint Bark is pure indulgence.

Holiday Peppermint Bark

What you’ll need:

2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks, vegan

2 cups coconut oil, melted (unrefined if you like a slight hint of coconut or refined if you don’t)

2 scoops pea protein powder

1/3 cup vegan shortening

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cup smashed peppermint candy canes, divided (8 – 10 peppermint candy canes, unwrapped, placed into a ziplock bag, and smashed with a can, or another heavy implement until broken up into small chunks)

1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil or extract

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Line a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) pan or a baking dish with a piece of parchment paper that’s cut to fit. Set aside.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler. Microwave melting is straightforward but it does need hand holding an frequent checking on the chocolate. Keep an eye for any sign of overheating and stop immediately if chocolate starts to separate. Melt until 80% is smooth, then add the peppermint oil and continue mixing until everything is melted and smooth. Pour into the baking dish. Leave to set for 30 minutes on the kitchen counter or 5-10 minutes in a fridge.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the melted coconut oil – I left my jar in a pot of hot water for an hour and that did the trick – with pea protein powder, shortening, vanilla extract, sugar, and 1 cup of smashed candy canes. Mix well to combine and pour over the dark chocolate layer. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of smashed peppermint candy canes on top. They’ll sink in as the white chocolate solidifies and give this treat it’s bark.
  4. Leave the Peppermint Bark in a fridge for 1-2 hours then slide out of the dish, peel off the parchment paper and cut into pieces. If you are a skillful chocolatier, which I am not, you can make both dark and white chocolate layers very thin and then break the Bark into pieces by hand. Either way ’tis the season to be jolly, and this is one jolly treat!!!

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Buttercup Squash Pie with Cranberries, Walnuts and Marshmallow Topping

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Squash Pie with Cranberries, Walnuts and Marshmallow Topping, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Warning – making this pie is not easy as a pie! It takes quite a bit of fussing but the result is amazingly flavorful, completely healthy and entirely envy-inducing. The recipe starts with a lovely squash – buttercup squash. This is a winter squash variety that is really deliciously sweet so requires no additional sugar especially if you roast it first. The roasting part is super easy – all you need to do is split the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then flip the cut side down on the foil lined cookie sheet and put it into a hot oven (425 F; 220 C) for about 45 minutes. The squash will be soft and flaky. You can actually serve it just like that, and it would be great. But, if you are willing to go few steps further, the reward will be a multilayered pie that you can serve as a birthday cake!

What makes this a layered pie? Well, I sneak a cranberry layer into this pie by topping the squash with dried cranberries that have been soaked in warm water for at least half an hour, and then top the second buttercup squash layer with toasted walnuts. Finally, the pie-cake is topped with aquafaba marshmallow topping that’s just lightly broiled to get that perfect look, and a slightly caramelized sugar flavor.

Aquafaba probably deserves a post of its own. It is the liquid leftover after cooking the chickpeas, and most people use the canned version. I have used both the canned version and the leftover liquid from homemade chickpeas, and the canned one works better probably because it’s hard to get the content and consistency of the homemade one just right. You can use your aquafaba marshmallow topping as is and serve the pie immediately, or you can put it under a broiler for a minute or so. If you are venturing into broiling do keep an very close eye on your pie as it will burn if you don’t pull it after the first minute. Plus, you will lose some of the puffiness so if you want to skip it that’s fine – the pie will still be delicious and look amazing!

 

Buttercup Squash Pie with Cranberries, Walnuts and Marshmallow Topping

What you’ll need:

2 winter squashes, I recommend buttercup but any sweeter variety will work

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cloves

10 oz dried cranberries

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup aquafaba

6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. Slice the squash in two, scoop out the seeds, and place the squash halves cut side down flat on the baking sheet that’s been lined with some parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  3. Place the squash into the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until completely soft and done. Let the squash cool for at least half an hour before handling.
  4. To get the dried cranberries ready, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes or more. Drain them and rinse them before use.
  5. Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Place it in a large mixing bowl, then add the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves), and blend everything together with a stick blender. You can also do this in a food processor.
  6. Pour the blended squash into a 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) deep dish and level it out. Top the squash with the cranberries, and chopped walnuts that have been toasted for couple of minutes.
  7. Using a hand or a stand mixer start mixing the aquafaba with sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla bean. It may take anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes for stiff peaks to form.
  8. Top the pie with your aquafaba marshmallows and serve as is or broil for a minute to caramelize the top. The pie is great served at room temperature!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Chestnut and Mushroom Stuffing for the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever

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Chestnut and Mushroom Stuffing, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

If you think you can’t live without the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the roasted turkey, mashed potatoes full of butter, the stuffing made with rich sausage, gravy made from turkey fat, sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, corn bread with cheese, pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, and so on and so forth, let me reassure you – you can give this all up, and replace it with an amazing and creative plant-based feast that celebrates the season and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest, our friends and families, and our beautiful and extraordinary planet.

I put together this menu as a testament that food can be colorful, flavorful, aromatic, and delicious without major time and money investment. This entire menu will cost you far less than the regular Thanksgiving feast, and instead of leaving you tired and sluggish, it will leave you filling energized and elevated… and ready for whatever Black Friday may bring!

Joking aside, this menu is meant for entertaining and for making a huge impression. As any well-structure feast, my Thanksgiving offerings begin with appetizers. And since the meal is supposed to go on for an hour or more, and includes two dessert options, I am going light with the appetizer spread. My tray includes couple of different types of olives, Roasted Beets Hummus, Baked Almond Feta Cheese, and pita chips. You can make the pita chips by slicing some pita bread into wedges, spraying them with some oil or cooking spray and letting them toast for couple of minutes until golden-brown. Or you can get them at a supermarket, like I did on this occasion.

Do remind your guests to take it easy with the appetizers, because what’s coming next is the most amazing soup ever, the Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup that owes it’s creaminess entirely to puréed cauliflower. The soup is white with slight gold overtones, which in my view frames the season perfectly. Plus corn and peas give this soup some substance and fresh thyme sets the stage for herbs to come.

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Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Main course is a real harvest celebration, with fireworks of flavors and all the trimmings working together to feed the bodies and the souls. The main dish is a lovely Harvest Roast with cubed sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, apples and squash, lightly oiled and flavored with herbs of the season. Complementing the Harvest Roast is the Chesnut and Mushroom Stuffing (recipe below). Add to that a protein rich Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios and you have your self an amazing feast!

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Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Last but not the least, the meal ends with a glass of Fizzy Cranberry Mocktail, and two desserts that pay homage to the traditionally served pies, pumpkin and apple. The desserts I feature are Pumpkin Truffles, inspired by the traditional pumpkin pie recipe and spices that go into it, and Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, which combines the best of pecan and apple pies into one ultra scrumptious dessert.

Have a thankful, wonderful, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving feast!!!

 

 

Chestnut and Mushroom Stuffing

What you’ll need:

1 yellow onion, finely diced

6 stalks celery, finely diced

2 Granny Smith (or another variety of tart) apples, diced

10 oz. (285 g) mushrooms, finely chopped (white, oyster, shiitake, baby bella – any combination of these will work)

10 oz. (285 g) chestnuts, boiled and chopped

4-6 slices of hearty sourdough bread (depending on the size of the slices)

Fresh sage, 4 leaves, chopped

Fresh thyme, 8 springs, pulled

Fresh rosemary, 2 springs, whole

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. One day prior to making the stuffing cut the bread into medium sized cubes, and leave them uncovered to dry. If you forget to do this a day ahead, don’t worry – you can cube the bread and put it in the oven to roast/toast. 10 minutes at 350 F (175 C) should be enough.
  2. Next day, place a large skillet over the medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, celery and apple. Mix well and let it sauté with occasional stirring for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and two whole springs of rosemary (no need to chop, you’ll pull them out at the end), and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped chestnuts, mix well to incorporate, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add chopped sage and thyme, mix in the bread cubes, and once everything is incorporated well transfer the stuffing to a large baking dish.
  6. Cover the stuffing with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 F (175 C), then remove the foil, bring the temperature to 400 F (190 C) and bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Let the stuffing cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. The leftover stuffing, if you have any, can be an easy lunch on its own!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

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Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A bite of baklava is a shock to the system, but once you have recovered from that first bite you won’t be able to stop eating, usually until your teeth start feeling like they may just fall out from all the sugar. Baklava is a dessert from Middle East that has made its way to Greece and beyond. It is made with thin sheets of dough, the phyllo dough, and it is usually layered, although some recipes do ask that you roll up the sheets into a strudel.

The most commonly used filling for baklava are ground walnuts. And the signature feature of baklava is the super sweet syrup that is poured over the hot baklava immediately after it comes out the oven. The baklava is then allowed to soak up all the syrup, which usually takes a day or so. At the end of that process you end up with a super sweet and very rich piece of dessert on your plate that is very often an acquired taste.

I personally have a bit of love/hate relationship with baklava. It’s been on my mother’s holiday dessert list for as long as I can remember, and I was not a huge fan until she started using apples to break up the heaviness of walnuts and the syrup, and lighten things up.

In this recipe I wanted to combine that insight into what makes a perfect baklava with what makes a great pecan pie, the apple in the eye of every Southern cook, the amazing creaminess combined with the crunch of pecans.

Neither baklava nor pecan pie is actually good for you. They are both full of high amounts of sugar and fat, so my challenge for this Pecan Apple Baklava was to flip the dessert into something much healthier without sacrificing any flavor. I used lots of apples, some pecans, and to sweeten things up a good amount of maple syrup. But, instead of drowning your baklava in pure maple syrup I recommend combining maple syrup with some orange juice, cooking it down a bit, and pouring it over your baked baklava while both the syrup and the baklava are still hot.

There’s not much in putting baklava together. Traditionally, you would use melted butter on each sheet of phyllo dough but you can achieve the same thing with spreading just a bit of water or water mixed with a drop of lemon juice, or a a bit of oil. It’s up to you to decide how much oil you want to use. Here, I use only some cooking spray on my dish, to make sure the baklava slices come out smoothly at the end. For the rest I use plain water. So you will layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush very lightly with water, layer another one, put your ground pecans on, layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush lightly with water, lay another sheet, pour pecans, another layer of phyllo dough, then apples, and so on and so forth until you run out of things to layer. One trick for getting the perfect baklava is to slice before you bake. And don’t forget that a bit of oil mist will help brown the top!

Final touch? Make baklava one day ahead. It will be rich, delicious and ready to serve, and you can feel good about serving your friends and family a dessert that is actually full of good for them stuff!!!

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

What you’ll need:

8 oz (225 g) pecans, ground into a rough meal

4 apples, grated and drained of excess liquid

1 lbs (450 g) phyllo dough

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cup orange juice

Cooking spray or oil

Fresh orange slices, for decoration and presentation

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Using a food processor grind the pecans into a rough meal. You want the pecans to be almost a meal but having few bigger pieces would add some interesting texture, so keep that in mind. Place pecans into a bowl, mix in cinnamon, allspice and ground nutmeg, and set aside.
  3. Using the same food processor with a grater blade, grate the apples. You don’t need to peel them unless you really want to. But you to have to squeeze the excess moisture out using your hands, and set aside. (Keep the squeezed out juice – it’s delicious as a freshly pressed cider which you can enjoy as you are making you baklava!)
  4. Spray the bottom of 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) baking pan with cooking spray and start layering the baklava. Place one sheet of phyllo dough at the bottom, and brush couple of water drops across. Layer the next sheet, sprinkle pecans, layer another two sheets one at a time spreading a drop or two of water in between, sprinkle pecans, then repeat with two more phyllo sheets, spread a batch of apples, 1/2 cup or so, then continue layering following the same pattern until you use up all the ingredients.
  5. Cut the baklava into pieces, spray the top with a bit of oil, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. You want the baklava to be nicely golden brown.
  6. While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup by combining maple syrup and orange juice into a saucepan and reducing the volume down to about 1 1/2 cup or so.
  7. Once the syrup and baklava are ready and still hot, pour the syrup over the pastry one 1/2 cup at the time, starting with pouring along the cut sites so that the syrup can penetrate to the bottom of the baklava, and then what ever you have leftover you can pour right over the top. Place the cut orange pieces over the top, cover with foil and let the baklava sit for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
  8. Serve with a cup of strong coffee – and get ready to dance the night away!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Pumpkin Truffles – Two Ways

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Pumpkin Truffles, Traditional and Dark Chocolate, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Thanksgiving desserts are all about pies, most often pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, or pecan. Those are the big four, with pumpkin pie being the gold standard. I am not a baker – I mean I do bake, and I have made pies, including the pumpkin variety, in the past, but these pies are a bit too much for me to handle if I am making a big holiday feast.

So, this year I am trying out a no-bake route to a dessert offering that captures the spirit of winter holidays but does not require any oven real estate or lengthy prep work. With this in mind I developed these Spicy Pumpkin Truffles and I did them two ways – Dark Chocolate Covered and the Traditional, which means rolled in cocoa powder.

No baking, a handful of simple ingredients, and your holidays feast will be complete! The only trick, which by the way I am yet to master, is getting an even coat of chocolate. This batch turned out just a bit too irregular but that did not make them any less irresistible – the treats disappeared in a blink of an eye.

The truffles themselves are very easy to mix together and they are inspired by the pumpkin pie recipes. I used some canned pumpkin and mixed it with almond meal, almost flour, and coconut flour. I added some maple syrup to sweeten things up because the pumpkin I was using was not sweet at all. But before you add the sweetener of your choice do try your mix and adjust to taste. Keep in mind that your chocolate is sweet as well, unless you are using bitter kind, so you may need to play around a bit to achieve the right level of sweetness for your taste.

What pulls these truffles over the top are actually the spices. I used ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground cloves. Those three spices blended well with the pumpkin, maple syrup and the almond/coconut flour mix and gave these yummy treats a real winter holidays flair. Bite in, and you’ll forget all about baking and enjoy the no-bake holiday desserts!!!

Pumpkin Truffles

What you’ll need:

1 15 oz. (425 g) can pumpkin

1 1/2 cup almond meal

1 1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

12 oz (g) vegan dark chocolate (chunks, chips, or blocks)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

What you’ll do:

  1. In a large mixing ball combine all your ingredients except cocoa powder and the chocolate – those will come later.
  2. Mix everything well and using your hands for the dough into balls that are approximately 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. Place the preformed truffle balls on a platter and set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate using either a microwave oven or a double boiler.
  4. Dip half of your truffles into the melted chocolate and place on the platter or a plate that’s lined up with wax paper.
  5. Put your chocolate covered pumpkin truffles in a refrigerator so that the chocolate coating hardens.
  6. Pour the cocoa powder in a flat dish and roll the rest of the pumpkin truffles in cocoa powder.
  7. Arrange the two kinds of Pumpkin Truffles any way you like. You may want to place couple of pieces of cloves in the bottom of your serving dish, or line your serving dish with some finely pulled orange peel. None of this will change the fantastic flavor of the truffles but it will make your dessert tray more festive! Enjoy!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

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Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Halloween is almost upon us, which means that piles and piles of candy are everywhere!!! Most of the store bought stuff is, of course, not very good for you. Don’t get me wrong – sweets and candy have their time and place, and a little bit of chocolate at the right moment can go a long way towards restoring harmony in the universe. But finding a vegan-friendly treat that’s rich in flavor yet light in calories, that’s healthy yet decadent, is not easy.

Since transitioning into plant-based, low fat, salt and sugar eating and cooking, I’ve been satisfying my sweet tooth with lots of fruit and lots of smoothiescookies, apple crumbles, muffins, and even chocolate cake that use tons of fruits and sweet veggies (like carrots, bananas, apples, raisins…) to build sweetness without extra sugar. But, there comes a point in everyone’s life when chocolate becomes a necessity, and here’s my answer for those cravings – Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups.

These treats are no-bake and super easy to make. You will need some specialized equipment, like a mini muffin pan, the one with 24 muffin holes, and some mini muffin liners, the same kind you would use to line the pan if you were baking muffins. The liners help hold the cups as well as give them the traditional shapes edges.

When it comes to chocolate, you can use any kind you like. My recipe does not use any additional sweeteners, so all the sweetness comes from the chocolate and from the natural sweetness of the almond butter. That’s why I recommend using semi-sweet dark chocolate that does have some sugar added to it. Alternatively, you can add some maple syrup to the almond butter filling and that will elevate the sweetness level. Having said that, I hope you give my original recipe a try before making adjustments because I thought these Dark Chocolate Almond Butter cups turned out just right!

The recipe could not be simpler. You will need to line the mini muffin pan with liners, melt the chocolate using either a double boiler, which you can make yourself, or a microwave, soften the almond butter and mix it with almond meal and maple syrup extract and then work fast to place a tablespoon of melted chocolate in each mini muffin cup, then place a half tablespoon of almond butter filling, which you will need to shape with your fingers into a tiny patty, on top of each chocolate layer, and finally top the almond butter filling with more melted chocolate.

Assembling these Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups is a bit of a mad dash but it’s also a lot of fun, with melted chocolate dripping and the aroma of almond butter filling. If you are wondering why I decided to add artificial maple syrup flavor instead of the real thing the answer is simple: calories! The flavoring agent adds just enough warmth to the filling and contributes no calories to the final treat. If you bothered by the idea of an artificial ingredient, skip it or replace it with a dash of cinnamon and/or splash of vanilla extract.

Once filled, Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups go into a refrigerator for 30 minutes or so, which will help them firm up. You should leave them out at room temperature for about the same amount of time before serving and you’ll have melt-in-your-mouth, rich and decadent, yet good for you, treat to share (or not!).

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

What you’ll need:

2 cups dark chocolate chips or baking dark chocolate chip chunks

1 cup almond butter (unsalted, smooth)

3/4 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon imitation maple syrup (or cinnamon, and/or vanilla extract)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Line the 24-hole mini muffin pan with baking liners.
  2. Put your chocolate chunks, pieces or chips, into either a double boiler or a microwave safe dish. If you are using a double boiler make sure you start mixing the chocolate continusouly until melted and smooth. If you are using a microwave I recommend going at 50% power and letting the chocolate go for 1-2 minutes at first and then check it at 30 second intervals. It is usually a good idea to pull the chocolate out when it is about 80% melted and then mix for a minute or two and use the heat of the chocolate to melt the rest.
  3. Place the almond butter in a different bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds. The almond butter should be soft but not runny. Add the almond meal and the flavoring agent of choice. Mix well.
  4. Pour a tablespoon of melted chocolate in each muffin hole.
  5. Use half a tablespoon of the almond butter filling and make a small patty with your fingers. Place the patty on top of the chocolate.
  6. Pour another half a tablespoon to a tablespoon of melted chocolate on top of the almond butter filling.
  7. Place the Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups into a refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm and solid.
  8. Take the cups out of the mini muffin pan, and let them come to room temperature before enjoying. You can leave the paper liner on, or remove it – it’s up to you. Those  liners come in many different designs so you can have lots of fun with those as well.
  9. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017