Fudgy Brownie Cookies (GF, Vegan, + Refined Sugar-Free)

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Have you ever dreamed of a scrumptious, decadent, warm brownie cookie that simply melts in your mouth? Paired with a cup of milk and it almost  suddenly feels as if the world is free of problems. I think about such chocolate-y goodness on a daily basis, but the sad reality of the poor nutritional value of a brownie cookie permits me to consume only a few in a month. However, a wave of excitement recently inundated my insides when I discovered that sweet potatoes make an incredibly convincing substitute for butter and sugar. Additionally, a simple swap of all purpose flour to oat flour lowers the glycemic index of the cookies and adds a boost of fiber to a diet. All natural ingredients packed in one cookie. Let’s stop blabbing and just get to the recipe…


Fudgy Brownie Cookies (GF, Vegan, + Refined Sugar-Free)

(Scroll below recipe for step pictures)

yield: 9 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. mashed sweet potato (yellow and purple yams work as well; I just a yellow yam)
  • 1/4 c. nut butter (I recommend almond or cashew butter; peanut butter will overpower the chocolate flavor) (Here is the recipe for 1 ingredient homemade almond butter)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. oat flour
  • 2 tbsp. non-dairy milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. liquid sweetener (i.e. agave or maple syrup)
  • 3 tbsp. dark chocolate chips
  • chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. In a blender, combine the sweet potato, nut butter, liquid sweetener, and milk for about 30 seconds until mixture is smooth and evenly incorporated.
  3. Add in the oat flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder until the mixture is the consistency of cookie dough. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Wet hands to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll the dough balls and pat down slightly to form cookies on a greased cookie sheet or non-stick pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for approximately 12 min.
  6. Remove from the oven and let them set for approx. 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy with a cup of milk!

The cookies will come out of the oven a little fudgy, but I like them best when they have set for a little, hardened a bit on the outside, and pipe hot steam when broken apart. These cookies are ideal for breakfast on to go or as a snack, and will fuel your day without a doubt. Fiber from the sweet potatoes and oats ensure lasting energy, and Vitamin E and monounsaturated fats from the almond butter helps maintain heart and brain health.

Whip these cookies up, give it a try, and I can guarantee you that you may not want to return to an original cookie recipe because of how delightful and nutritious these fudgy cookies are!

ingredients

Cookie ingredients

cooies

pre-baked cookies

cokie

baked cookies

Fudgy brownie cookies

-Jamie

 

 

Matcha Mochi Donut Holes (GF + Vegan)

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It is quite exhilarating to know that mochi has been exponentially gaining popularity among the Western population, especially as a frozen yogurt topping. But mochi is a fabulous ingredient that adds great texture to many foods, so a combination of a mochi and donut couldn’t possibly go wrong, right? Indeed, the addition of mochi upgrades the texture and interior appearance of these delicate and delightful desserts.

Today I made matcha flavored donut holes simply because I’ve had a large bag of matcha powder in my pantry that I don’t use enough of, but other flavor ideas include chocolate (cocoa powder), peanut butter (PB2 powdered peanut butter), almond (almond extract), and much more. The recipe makes approximately 40 donut holes, but I must warn you, you may only end with 30 donut holes due to excess “sampling” whilst frying. Or, at least, that is what my uncontrollable self did… I actually consumed 10 donut holes within a span of 10 minutes or so, but they were far too addicting!


Matcha Mochi Donut Holes (GF + Vegan)

(Scroll below recipe for step pictures)

yield: 40 donut holes

Ingredients:

Mochi filling:

  • 1/4 c. sweet rice flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened non-dairy milk

Donut dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. sweet rice flour
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil or margarine
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar

Optional: matcha glaze or sugar dust

  • glaze: 1/2 c. powdered sugar + 1 1/2 tsp. non-dairy milk (might need more or less; add slowly) + 1/2 tsp. matcha powder
  • sugar dust: 1/4 c. powdered sugar + 1 tsp. matcha powder

Directions:

  1. To make the mochi filling, combine the sweet rice flour and milk, and mix until well incorporated. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave, and microwave for another 15 until the dough has formed a sticky, clearer, bouncy dough. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sweet rice flour, baking powder, matcha powder, and sugar.
  3. Add in the milk and melted oil and fold in the mixture, until a solid dough forms. The dough should not stick to your hands. If the dough is too sticky, add some rice flour or if it is too dry, add some milk.
  4. Flour a work surface with sweet rice flour and knead the dough for approx. 30 seconds on the work surface. Roll the dough 1 in. thick log and cut approx. 3/4 in. wide pieces.
  5. Take the microwaved mochi dough and inch a small ball from the dough. Place the dough in the middle of the matcha 3/4 in. wide pieces and roll into a circular ball. Repeat for all other donut holes.
  6. Heat oil in a deep pot at 350 °F. Place a few donut holes in the pot and fry the donut holes until they are medium golden brown on the exterior. Place on a cooling rack.
  7. Test a donut hole by cutting open the middle and ensure that the interior dough is cooked all the way through. The dough on the inside should be nice and fluffy with a gooey, melty, cheese-like mochi filling.
  8. Top the donut holes with a matcha glaze or dust.
mochiko

Using Mochiko Rice Flour

dough

Rolled mochi dough log

cuts

Cut dough into desired size

rack

Cool holes on a cooling rack

 

The texture of these donut holes are a bit more firm as they form a crispier exterior and maintain a bright green fluffy interior, and I personally enjoy the texture over traditional donut holes. Traditional donut holes can often feel too oily and overglazed, so I highly recommend testing out these mochi donut holes!

-Jamie

 

 

Banana Carrot Cake Breakfast Bars (Vegan + GF)

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Packed with protein and fiber!

The best way to use up downright blackened bananas is to make desserts because they are far too soft to enjoy, yet they are the sweetest at this point. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been terrible at consuming my bananas at their peak aesthetic and have been forced to make banana bread from the charcoal-black colored bananas. However, I am shocked to find myself say that I’ve gotten tired from banana bread, since I’ve baked a surplus of loaves, but today two blackened bananas lay on my counter and I couldn’t stand tossing them in the compost bin. Making banana bread was obviously not an option, so I decided to make some banana carrot cake breakfast bars, which also helped me use up some carrots in my fridge! A win-win situation, and I know have scrumptious to-go breakfast bars!


 

Banana Carrot Cake Breakfast Bars

yield: 12 squares

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 c. almond meal
  • 3 tbsp. vegan sweetener (agave/ maple syrup)
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter (check out how to make homemade almond butter)
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 c. grated carrots
  • 1/4 c. flax seeds
  • 2 overly ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp. applesauce or flavorless oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. Place the rolled oats and almond meal into a food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes coarse crumbs, but has not completely turned into oat flour yet. Then add the cinnamon, ginger, and flax seeds and pulse until the flax seeds have become slightly chopped.
  3. Add in the sweetener, almond butter, bananas, and applesauce/oil and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together and is thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Pour in the grated carrots and pulse for about 10 seconds, or until the carrots are combined into the mixture.
  5. Pour into a square baking pan lined with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray. I also used a pan that cuts the bars before baking, which is convenient.
  6. Optional: Top your bars with walnuts, chocolate chips, or any toppings of your choice. I put dark chocolate chips on half of my bars.

These breakfast bars are perfect on the go and a great option for breakfast because they’re low in sugar and high in fiber and protein, certain to keep you full for your busy mornings!

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pre-baked bars

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baked bars

Power Smoothie Bowl (Vegan)

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Power Smoothie Bowl

To say that I love smoothie bowls would be honestly be an understatement. I enjoy having a smoothie bowl for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner to pack in potassium, fiber, and folic acid for the day! While I am more than happy to consume a bowl of sliced fruits topped with granola, there is something extremely refreshing about an icy, cold mixture that cools the body down during the sizzling summer days. The seemingly never ending list of smoothie bowl pro’s often conceals the fact that smoothie bowls are alarmingly high in sugar content (ahh!!), and I hate how my body feels lethargic when I consumer too much sugar. The fructose in fruit is all-natural, but consuming many grams of fructose does not benefit the body, and so I have concocted an flawless blend of fruits that keep the sugar content in a smoothie bowl relatively low. 🙂


 

Power Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. frozen spinach or kale
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/3 c. sliced frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 c. non-frozen mango
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened (vanilla) almond milk

Directions:

  1. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or powerful blender until smooth.
  2. Top with toppings of your choice! I used fresh dragon fruit, mango, pumpkin seeds, unfrosted bran flakes, and chia seeds.
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Blend all ingredients together

The major sweetener in this smoothie bowl was the non-frozen mango, and it’s important to use non-frozen because it’ll make the smoothie bowl sweeter since it’s really the only sweetener here. Although bananas and strawberries can be sweet, they lose sweetness once they are frozen so they don’t contribute much sweet flavor to the smoothie bowl.

This power smoothie bowl kept be full for 5 hours and I felt exceptionally energetic after consumption!

Strawberry Chia Jam

food, healthy
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Chia jam used on my nut and seeds bread

Jam and peanut butter make the quintessential combination, and although peanut butter provides health benefits such as protein and Vitamin E, jam is often straight up added sugars, packed with preservatives. Thus, I wasn’t too big of a fan of jam ever because the flavors felt all too sweet and artificial for me.

Luckily, health enthusiasts have been genius enough to conceive up a recipe called “Chia Jam” which I think is pure genius. By using chia’s nature to form a gel to make the jam without having to use any added corn syrup or sticky starches cuts calories drastically and actually makes the jam healthy! I attempted a strawberry chia jam recipe and it was an absolute success, and better yet, you are able to control the sweetness of your jam. Since I don’t have too big of a sweet tooth, I think that mine was perfectly sweet enough to my liking.

Strawberry Chia Jam


 

Ingredients:

yield: 1/2 c. jam

  • 9 medium-sized strawberries
  • 1 tsp. honey (use agave or maple syrup if vegan); this part is totally up to your tastebuds, so keep adding sweetener to your liking
  • 4 tbsp. chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Place the strawberries and sweetener in a food processor and pulse for about 20 seconds, or until the jam has become a puree.
  2. Place the puree in an airtight container and add the chia seeds. Combine the mixture and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
  3. The jam should be a thick, spreadable texture.

I am still extremely amazed at how genius this recipe is and I enjoyed it on toast, in a peanut butter sandwich, and even made thumbprint cookies using the jam!

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pulse the strawberries in a food processor

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Chia seed and fruit puree

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chia and puree before the fridge

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chia jam

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 13: My Luck to Visit Bayan Village (Now Closed to Outsiders)

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Crisp reflection at Bayan Village

A delicate layer of stratus clouds shrouded the skies above and reflected its image on the stagnant waters beneath, as subtle smoke piped continuously from the few homes in the quiet and unassuming village. Bayan village, indisputably beautiful, was an unknown gem in the Yangmingshan territory, distinct for its terraced fields running alongside mountains and its unique natural hot springs and waterfalls that provide so-called healing elements to the human skin. When word got out of the area, the village’s popularity grew and unpleasant hordes of tourists poured in daily, overwhelming the 20 inhabitants who were once accustomed to merely the sounds of nature.  We are all too familiar with the consequences of tourism, and indeed the inhabitants agreed to prohibit visitors to their village for issues reached unacceptable levels, including destruction of crops and use of the paths as restrooms. Despite my streak of misfortune in life, I fortunately experienced Bayan village 3 months before its unforeseen closure, and when I returned to the states, I spoke non-stop of Bayan, promising my brother that I would take him soon, only to hear it had closed….


My Experience: 

Access to the village was highly challenging for it is located in a conspicuous area in Yangmingshan, with few signs indicating its location and limited parking spaces nearby. Billy parked his sedan in a desolate spot and we were prepared to cross the street when an old man with a white undershirt and blue massage sandals approached us, requesting money in exchange for the parking spot. Turned out if the villagers were to be disturbed, they might as well make a little profit. We gave the man 30 NT and walked past a couple homes with washboards in a creek, food laid out drying in the sun, and vegetables growing profusely in garden patches. There was a miniature path of stone, hand-laid out over running waters and another local man simply sitting on a boulder, collecting an entrance fee in a bowl for the terraced fields/ sky reflection view. Imposing mountains fringed our surrounding and a murky body of water situated amid was an optimum canvas for the sky’s reflection. The sight was a thing of wonder, and luckily I had come on an unpopular day and time where masses of tourists were nowhere to be found, so all was far too serene.

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Smoke from a chimney

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View

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Large boulders in the water

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Intense reflection

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Not a model at all

Nearby the exit, an elderly woman sat underneath a rickety straw roof, showing off her vegetables and fruit, freshly picked this morning and grown traditionally by hand. Billy told me that her food was phenomenal and home-y, so we strolled over and bought two steamed corn and tea eggs, both scalding hot as I juggled them between my hands. Piping hot juice splattered all over as I bit into the sweet, succulent corn, and I rapidly continued to eat because the pain was worth each decadent bite. As we nibbled on the flavorsome tea egg to prevent mouth burns, we walked along steep, zig-zagged paths, enclosed by towering bamboo stalks and shrubs on either sides that forbid any breeze. The demanding trek to the hot springs required great stamina and at the half-way point, I wondered if I’d ever make it as I slowly but surely progressed down winding and deteriorating stone steps. But then my eyes glistened at the sight of flat land ahead of us (a huge relief from the prior tedious path) that was accompanied by a behemoth fumarole, filling the atmosphere with pastel yellow, sulfuric clouds. Based on intuition, it seemed we were approaching our destination soon, and indeed there was only an additional half mile descending down a serpentine path until the hot springs.

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Within the mountains

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Smoke from underground

Very highly likely there was an easier access to the hot springs, but Billy and I entered from a threatening path as we nimbly hopped from jagged stone to stone down hill, avoiding the steaming, cloudy water beneath us. Masses of steam engorged our bodies, obscuring our view ahead, and we weren’t sure if we could withstand the fumes, but a miracle occurred when we reached the bottom and regained our sights.

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Our dangerous path to enter the springs

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Clear water from the waterfalls

I witnessed a fictitious image with varieties of different sized natural springs and melanin-rich individuals bathing in the streaming water, soaking in the sun’s and water’s nutrients. The pale blue, almost grey, hot spring water was too hot for comfort, but it came in contact with crystal clear water from a waterfall nearby to form the optimal temperature for humans to enjoy a dip. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a swimsuit so I was semi- crestfallen, but I got to dip most of my legs into the pools and relish the setting, the people, and the sounds. And since Bayan village is no longer open, all that occurred on this day remains in my memories and in my photos. And I know I’ll read back on this blog whenever I need to recall the allure of this place.

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Cooling down next to a waterfall

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Cloudy hot spring waters

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Venturing

 

-Jamie