Best Ever Healthy Banana Bread (Vegan, Oil-Free, GF)

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As I strolled around my kitchen, staring at the sad image of limited items in my pantry, I wondered if I should even attempt to make banana bread. The 3 limp and dark bananas laying on my counter top had an imminent death and I wanted to make use of them because all bananas deserve to turn into something beautiful rather than end up in my backyard’s soil. I’ve successfully made healthy banana bread in the past, but I had some source of fat replacement such as Greek yogurt or applesauce. But today, I had neither. However, my food science course has taught me a lot this year, making me more knowledgeable than ever on how I can ingeniously utilize my pantry staples. And with some playing around, I somehow created my BEST ever healthy banana bread. It was so surprisingly moist and flavorful versus an expected dense and dry bread. Well, science really does wonders…


Healthy Banana Bread (Oil-Free, GF, Vegan)

yield: 1 loaf OR 3 mini loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. oat flour (I made my own; instructions below)
  • 3 ripe medium bananas
  • 1/3 c. sweetened soymilk, unsweetened may also be used, just add more of the sugar source
  • 8 dates (medjool or regular) soaked in hot water for 5 min. (use 12 dates if you used unsweetened soymilk)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. ACV or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. To make oat flour (if necessary), blend 2 cups of oats in batches in a high speed blender. Blend until a fine flour is formed and sift all the flour! The sifting is necessary for the bread to be as flaky and smooth as possible. Discard any extra chunks left behind or blend until it’s able to sift through the sieve.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.
  4. Mix the soymilk with ACV or vinegar in a small bowl. It should curdle in a minute or two.
  5. In a blender or food processor, blend the dates until a caramel paste is formed. You can add a tsp. of the hot water to help the mixture blend as well.
  6. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas and add the curdled soymilk, date paste, and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  7. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mix and stir until the batter is completely homogeneous. OPTIONAL: Add in some nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips:)
  8. In a greased loaf pan or one lined with parchment paper, pour the batter in. If using a loaf pan, bake for 50 min. If using mini loaf pans, bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Remove loaves from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for a minimum of 5 minutes.
banana bread

baked loaves

I honestly cannot contain my excitement over how scrumptious this banana bread is. If you take a moment and consider what your are eating, you’re basically eating a bowl of oatmeal in solid form! All the fiber, antioxidants, and minerals from the oat flour, potassium from bananas, and Vitamin B6 and B12 from the soymilk help to keep your body full of energy without any ounce of fat! It’s hard to believe, but this banana bread is actually gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, and oil-free!! It’s a long pretentious list of “healthiness”, but why not make a delicious, moist cake-dessert healthy? It’s a win-win right here.

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moist and flaky

And thus, I sat at my table and feasted on the best-ever healthy banana bread with a cup of cold milk. As you could tell, it was a beautiful moment.

 

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

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pre-baked cookies

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baked cookies

Fudgy brownie cookies

-Jamie

 

 

Vegan Queso (No Cashews!)

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When Vegans say nutritional yeast “really does taste like cheese!” I always mutter mmhmm under my breath and roll my eyes a bit. Cheese is cheese. I may be the biggest cheese lover in the world, so I WILL know if I am eating fake cheese. So the thought of some orange flaky bits being able to replace the gooey goodness of cheese seems too good to be true, but was it too good to be true?

…………………

OK. Yes. It was too good to be true and the nutritional yeast vegan queso was simply not up to par as the traditional non-vegan queso, but I do have to say it comes in a close second and serves as a wonderful guilt-free snack. I’ll still relish on my favorite Torchy’s show-stopping queso here and there, but nutritional yeast queso is something I’m going to eat pretty regularly since it actually contains the good stuff. The good stuff, you know? The B-vitamins, folate, zinc, and all other immune-boosting nutrients that trump all the saturated fat in real cheese.


Vegan Cheese (No Cashews)

yield: approx. 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. potatoes diced
  • 1 c. carrots diced
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (opt.)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder (opt.)
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes

Instructions:

  1. Boil the potatoes and carrots together until soft and tender. I like to boil on high, turn the water off and let the remaining heat soften the vegetables to save energy!
  2. Drain the vegetables and let them cool a bit but not completely.
  3. Place the vegetables in a high-speed blender along with all other ingredients and blend until completely smooth and creamy.
  4. The texture should greatly resemble queso. It should be gooey and melty.
vegan cheese

look at that queso!

I’m not a food chemist so I don’t understand how this vegan queso gets its gooey consistency, but the resemblance with traditional queso is uncanny. Also, if you’d like to spice up your queso, by all means you may add a roasted pepper!! Now the holidays have rolled around, this is a great dip for parties so go ahead and deceive your friends!

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

Matcha Energy Bites (Vegan + GF)

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Matcha energy bites

Here I am, yet posting another matcha recipe because matcha is a gorgeous, dainty ingredient that provides antioxidants for the body. Today’s recipe is matcha energy bites, which I played around with by gradually adding ingredients I believed would accompany each other well. On first attempt, the result was divine: perfect consistency, not too sweet, and packed with flavor! Pleased and legitimately overjoyed, I devoured four energy bites in one sitting and uncontrollably reached for more. I really do hope you try this recipe out because these bites are delectable!


 

Matcha Energy Bites

yield: 16 balls (1 in. diameter)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2. tsp matcha powder
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 7 medjool dates soaked in hot water
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 20 almonds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds.
  • t tbsp. flax seeds

Directions:

  1. Remove the pits from the dates and soak in hot water for at least 10 minutes. This helps soften the dates, adding moisture, and making them easier to blend.
  2. Place rolled oats in a food processor and process until a fine oat flour is formed. Add in the matcha powder, almond flour, chia and flax seeds, and pulse until the flour is well incorporated.
  3. Add the soaked dates and pulse until a smooth, dough-consistency mixture forms.
  4. Place the mixture into a medium-sized bowl.
  5. Place the 20 almonds into the empty food processor and pulse until the almonds become “roughly chopped”. This will add crunchy texture to the energy bites and also cleans any leftover sticky mixture left in the food processor. Add the chopped almonds into the mixture in the bowl and thoroughly incorporate with a fork or spatula.
  6. Using clean hands, damp with a little bit of water, and roll the mixture into balls. You can also dust with a little bit of cocoa or matcha powder if you’d like!

These energy bites are great for a snack and can last in the fridge for up to two weeks!

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Soft and chewy

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Pulse the mixture

 

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!

1 Ingredient Almond Butter

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Homemade almond butter

If only almond butter were as cheap as peanut butter, I would have jars after jars of almond butter orderly lined up on my pantry shelves. But unfortunately, a typical 12 oz. jar costs at least $7 and at the rate that I consume almond butter, I’ll be exceptionally broke in no time. However, I recently whipped up a batch of homemade almond butter at home, resulting in a jar made at a fraction of the cost of store-bought AND the recipe requires 1 ingredient ONLY. You heard that right, 1 ingredient almond butter? I was utterly shocked as well, but through experimenting, I found that the natural oils in the almonds is enough to make the spread creamy. No added sweeteners, fats, or preservatives. Need I say more?


 

1 Ingredient Almond Butter

yield: 12 oz.

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. unsalted almonds ( roasted or raw, doesn’t matter)

Directions:

  1. Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake at 300°C for around 8 minutes. This activates the oils in the almonds and gives the almond butter a deep, decadent roasted flavor. Once baked, remove the almonds from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes to prevent heat from touching the plastic food processor.
  2. Pour the almonds into a food processor with a blade and process for 15-20 minutes. I used the “chop” mode and kept the processor running consistently. After every 2-3 minutes, I scraped down the sides with a spatula so that the mixture would all be on the bottom of the food processor. side note: the almonds will become a coarse texture, like almond butter. After more processing, the almonds start to look like a thick paste, and you’ll be tempted to add oil because it’ll look too dry, but DON’T, just continue to process for about 5 additional minutes. 
  3. After 20 minutes, the almonds should have become almond butter: thick and creamy, and your entire kitchen will smell like almond paradise.
  4. Store the almond in an airtight jar and store at room temperature. Because the almond butter is literally almonds, the butter can last for up to a year.

If you had enough patience to finally see the almonds transform to almond butter, I want to congratulate you!! It’ll be difficult for me to ever buy almond butter, knowing that I can save money by making it at home as well knowing that it is only made with 1 ingredient.

Enjoy you almond butter with toast, make cookies, or muffins, or simply eat it out of the jar!

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Processed almond butter after 20 minutes

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Store in an airtight container

Matcha Buns 2 Flavors: Taro and Adzuki Beans (Vegan)

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Taro matcha buns

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Adzuki matcha buns

Matcha has been around in East Asian cuisine for as long as I can think of, but the superfine green tea powder has recently gained mass popularity in the United States with dishes from matcha lattes to matcha croissants! This ingredient is high in antioxidants and provides a natural bright, luscious hue to foods. From seeing matcha ice cream, mochi, to lattes, I haven’t seen matcha baozi (buns) served at any cafe or restaurant and today I decided to put a unique twist on these buns by stuffing the buns with two typical Asian flavors: adzuki beans and taro, which both have deep colors that pair well with the earthy green color from the matcha. Not to mention, this recipe is vegan!!!


 

Steamed Matcha Buns

yield: 8 buns

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • 5 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. active yeast
  • 1 tsp. flavorless oil
  • 1 tsp. matcha powder
  • flavorless oil (for brushing)
  • red and purple food coloring for labeling the flavors(optional)

For Adzuki beans filling (yield 4; double if you want to yield 8):

  • 6 tbsp. canned adzuki beans

For taro filling, recipe can be found from my Sweet Soft Taro-Filled Flatbread recipe. However, I added 1-2 drops of purple food coloring to enhance the color so that the green bun and purple filling colors would contrast better.

Directions (step by step pictures down below):

  1. Pour lukewarm water into a medium-sized bowl, along with the sugar. Mix thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the liquid and mix thoroughly until dissolved. Then add the matcha powder until the liquid is completely mixed.
  3. Pour the flour in and knead with a fork or hands for 8 minutes. Add the oil and knead for an additional minute.
  4. Pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough for 5 min. Ball the dough up and cover with a bowl for 30 min. to let it rise.
  5. After 30 min, the dough should have risen a little bit. Punch the middle of the dough to release air bubbles; gently knead the dough for 30 sec. then ball it up and cover with a bowl for another 20 min.
  6. After 20 min, the dough should risen more and the dough should be soft and fluffy.
  7. Cut the dough into 8 even pieces and ball them up and place on the side.
  8. For each ball of dough, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out, making sure that the sides are thin and the middle is much thicker. The flattened dough should be about 2 1/2 in. in diameter. Place a heaping 1 1/2 tbsp. filling (taro or adzuki) in the middle and pinch the sides in, sealing tightly so that the filling does not come out.
  9. Use your hands to rotate the bun so that the top is completely smooth and the bun is perfectly round.
  10. Place in a steamer using muffin liners and brush the top of the buns with a little bit of oil.
  11. I then used a toothpick to put a tiny dot on the buns to indicate which flavor is which. I used purple food coloring for taro and red for adzuki beans.
  12. Cover the steamer with a lid and let the buns rise for at least 15 min.
  13. Place 1/2 c. water in a large wok or pot and steam the buns (covered) on high heat for 10 min.
  14. Then remove the lid and continue to steam on high heat for an additional 5 min.
  15. Remove the steamer and let the buns cool for 15 min. If you don’t cool the buns enough, the muffin liners will be difficult to remove.
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Matcha dough ball

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Cover with a bowl to let the dough rise

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I used canned adzuki beans from a Korean grocery store

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Portion dough into 8 even pieces

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Ball the dough up

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Stuff with a generous amount of adzuki beans

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Stuff with a generous amount of taro

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Seal the edges (this is the bottom of the bun)

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Place buns in the steamer

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I color coded the two flavors with food coloring

Cut open the buns carefully and mentally says “Oooh and Aaah” because the colors are just too gorgeous, and the buns taste just as good as it looks!

-Jamie

Strawberry Chia Jam

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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

A Glorious Loaf of Bread: Nut and Seed Bread Recipe (GF and Vegan)

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Topped with chia jam and avocado

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Nuts and seeds bread

Loitering among the miscellany of breads and baked goods in Central Market continuously induces contentment because wheat-infused air and the overwhelming display of intricately-crafted balls of gluten rings perfection. I’m a bread enthusiast, constantly exploring the art of bread-making. In front of my eyes was a glut of bread samples, and I shamelessly began the carb-adventure with a plain ciabatta bread, working through hatch pepper cheddar scones, lemon ricotta cookies, purple wheat bread, and ending with a “seed bread” packed with poppy and sunflower seeds. Instantly, I fell for the seed bread as I reached for seconds and thirds because seeds in bread provides an earthy taste and crunchy texture that I love.

However, stores rarely add enough seeds and nuts to my liking, and if they do, they loaf costs around a whopping $11. It only seemed sensible to make my own, packed with nuts and seeds, resulting in a high-protein, high-fiber, healthy loaf of bread. I formulated a vegan and gluten-free recipe, inspired by a Paleo, Stone-Age Nordic Bread Recipe, which comprises a variety of nuts and seeds.


 

Nut and Seed Bread

yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c. flax seeds
  • 1/2 c. nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts; any nuts work) I used raw almonds
  • 1 c. gluten-free rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp. ground flaxseeds
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. agave or maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. oil (I used coconut oil, but you can use olive oil if you would like an olive scented loaf)

Directions:

  1. Cut the nuts in half (I found this to be beneficial because whole almonds made the loaf a bit more difficult to slice). Then, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let the loaf sit for at least 5 hours.
  3. Bake the loaf in a pre-heated 350 °C oven for 25 minutes.
  4. Remove the loaf from the pan and bake on the wire rack for 30 minutes.
  5. Cool the loaf on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, which will allow the bread to firm up, making it easy to slice.

A little of this bread goes a long way because it is packed with protein, fiber, and OMEGA-3s that cause satiety for a long period of time. You can top your bread with any toppings you would like, but a couple ideas include avocado and strawberry chia jam, which I will post a recipe for tomorrow.

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Pre-baked loaf

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Baked loaf

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Two breakfast toast options

-Jamie