{butter-free} Chewy Chia Brownies

I made these delectable treats yesterday afternoon – I had been reading about using chia seeds as a replacement in baking for butter due to their ability to gel.  I had never baked with chia seeds before and was, admittedly, a little nervous.  However, the results were pleasantly chewy and most of a 9×13″ pan of brownies are gone.


In order to use chia seeds as a butter or gluten replacement, they must be mixed with water.  It is only then that these little super seeds begin their gelling magic.

These lovely little seeds are from South America and were part of ancient Aztecs and Mayans diets.  They can be eaten as they are, sprinkled on oatmeal or in yogurt, added to smoothies, and used in baking.  They have are high in Omega-3 and fiber.  They are best kept in the refrigerator or freezer, once opened.  1 tablespoon of these little guys has 60 calories, 40 from fat, 5g of fiber, 2, 282 mg of Omega-3, 6% daily recommended calcium, and 4% daily recommended iron.  (Source: Bob’s Red Mill, chia seed label)

Now, let’s compare the 1/2 cup of butter needed to make brownies, which has 814 calories, 92.06 g of fat, 244 mg cholesterol, and 3% daily recommended calcium. (Source: Fatsecret, USDA calorie counter)

Not bad, not bad, little seed.

I simply soaked my chia seeds in water for an hour before using, and then combined them with the liquid ingredients.  My next steps are to try grinding the seeds before soaking to make a more even texture.  There is a little crunch to these brownies, which did not bother me one bit, I likened it to small nut pieces.

I opted for whole wheat pastry flour.  I have been using this as a swap for white all-purpose flour quite a bit lately and have been liking the results.  Next time I make these brownies they will be gluten-free.  I am sure the chia seeds will work wonders in gluten-free flour.
Note: I made a large batch, but the recipe below can easily be reduced by half to make a smaller batch, just simply use an 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan instead.
Butter-Free Chewy Chia Browniesadapted Better Homes & Gardens
1. In a small bowl combine: 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons chia seeds.  Allow to soak for 1-2 hours before using.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×12″ glass pan with margarine.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine: 1-1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 2 cups sugar, and 4 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder.
3.  In a medium mixing bowl combine: 4 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and the chia seed and water mixture.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients.  Pour in liquid ingredients, combine just till moistened.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Blossoms

I recently made these cookies for the holidays – the nice thing is I was able to share them with three sets of gluten-free people.  Having friends, family, and colleagues who are gluten-free means experimenting with different recipes and ingredients frequently.


For this recipe, I used the Bob’s Red Mill all purpose baking flour.  It’s made with garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.  
The suggestion on the bag of flour said to use xantham gum as a binding agent, however, with the use of eggs and peanut butter, it wasn’t necessary.  
Be sure and unwrap the chocolates before your cookies come out of the oven, you want to make sure the cookies are still warm when you press the chocolates into the center.  (I’m saving my foil wrappers for paper making projects!)
Gluten-free Peanut Butter Blossoms
1. In a large mixing bowl beat: 1/2 cup butter or margarine and 1/2 cup peanut butter on low for 30 seconds.  Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl.  Beat in 1 egg, 2 tablespoons milk or milk alternative, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of 1-3/4 cup gluten-free all purpose flour* as you can.  Any remaining flour stir in with wooden spoon.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll balls in the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are form and bottoms are lightly browned.  Immediately press a chocolate star or kiss into the center of each cookie.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Makes 54 cookies.
* Note: if you want to make this recipe without gluten-free flour, simply substitute regular all-purpose flour for the gluten-free flour.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake + Shrimp Boil

Getting an elementary art room ready has been consuming all my time here lately.  Case in point, this post deals with events 2 weekends ago.  We had a gathering at our house to celebrate family from afar, from from nearby, and a friend who will be moving back to her home afar.  

Cooking for 10 can be tricky, but I pulled out the trusty shrimp boil.  I used Martha Stewart’s shrimp boil because I love her spice bundle for this recipe.

The spices are laid out on cheesecloth and then rolled with a rolling pin.  I just thought they looked gorgeous. The flavor was complex and complemented the shrimp, potatoes, and Adel sweet corn well.  The spices were good enough I could have drank the broth for a meal.

 These two photos just make me smile.

It was so nice to see everyone together from the west coast to the Midwest to Japan – even 2 of the 3 goofy animals were included!

We had dessert and naturally I continued my zucchini recipe binge.  I figured out a sweet and chocolately way to use up zucchini – Zucchini Chocolate Cake from King Arthur.  I did swap out and substitute a few things, see below for the less dairy & less sugar version.

I went for a dark chocolate version with no milk or butter and Truvia Stevia blend instead of refined white sugar.  

This cake was so moist and aside from that little white seed that is visible in the bottom left corner, you would never know that there is zucchini in this cake!

Zucchini Chocolate Cake 

1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) margarine1/2 cup vegetable oil, ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend, 1 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt until smooth.

3) Beat in 2 large eggs.

4) Stir in the ½ cup almond buttermilk (place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in measuring cup and fill to ½ cup with almond milk, allow to sit for a few minutesalternately with 2 ½ cups flour.

5) Add ¾ cup dark chocolate cocoa and 2 teaspoons espresso powder, mixing until smooth.

6) Fold in 3 cups shredded zucchini (about 1-10″ zucchini) and 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

7) Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set.

8) To ice the cake: Slide the cake out of the oven, sprinkle it evenly with the 1 cup dark chocolate chips, and return it to the oven for 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

9) Remove the cake from the oven, and use a cake spatula or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate chips into a smooth glaze. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 24 servings.

Ginger [sugar-free] Chocolate Cake

Yum to this cake.  This vegan cake recipe has proven to be a regular in this household.  It is so moist and fluffy without being at all complicated.  One would never know it is a vegan recipe, either.  

The idea came to me whilst shopping in my favorite local health grocery store, Earth Fare.  I was looking at the Jamaican Ginger Ale and wondering how I could make a cake with this Stevia Soda, er, I mean pop.  I have to get used to saying pop again, since the big move to Iowa is looming nearer now.

That reminds me, I wrote an e-mail to Earth Fare lamenting moving away from Greensboro and being unable to shop with them anymore.  I basically begged them to consider a store in Des Moines.  I know these kinds of e-mails are received all the time, but I thought it was worth a shot.  I got a reply!

Hello Chelsea,
Thank you for your interest and support!  We opened our newest store in Noblesville, IN late last year and we are currently working on opening stores in Solon, OH and Carmel, IN in 2013.
At Earth Fare we are always exploring new areas and will consider the Des Moines area for future possibilities.

Thank you again and please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
Best of luck with your move!

Erin S.
Earth Fare Customer Service

Anyhow, a girl can dream. 

This cake is a rich dark chocolate with a sprinkling of ginger.  I swapped sugar for a pop made with Stevia and coconut sugar.

It would truly be a lovely Halloween cake – this plate is proof.

Ginger [sugar-free] Chocolate Cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In an 8×8 inch square pan, mix 1-¼ cup flour, ½ cup coconut sugar, ⅓ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon baking soda with fork.  Mix very well. 

2. Mix 1 cup room temperature ginger ale made with Stevia, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar in a small bowl.  Add all at once to the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Use a spatula to scrape sides and bottoms to ensure adequate mixing.  Sprinkle a light dusting of ginger on top of batter. 

3. Bake 30 minutes or til knife comes out clean.  

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Sugar Free Cupcakes

I tried a variation on my original sugar-free banana peanut butter muffins – adding cocoa!  This addition and a one other, makes these dense, rich treats more cupcake-like than before.  I highly recommend you try this and some other swaps – you could switch the peanut butter for any nut butter.  You could switch the banana for applesauce or another pureed fruit.  Let your imagination run wild with this recipe.

I added ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder to the flour mix.  Be sure to check your peanut butter and almond milk if you want to truly keep this recipe sugar-free.  Those are two areas that sugar lurks – read your labels!

I added 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed – use a coffee grinder blender, or baby food processor to grind these.
I found a tip on Pinterest about cupcakes and decided to try it with this recipe.  It does not work as well as I think it would with other recipes, as this recipe lacks refined sugar.  Sugar is not just used for flavor – it also adds volume, tenderness, texture, color, and acts a preservative.  See information on sugar at the Joy of Cooking site here.  Knowing your ingredients and their job/role in each recipe is one of the most important aspects to cooking and baking effectively.  Knowing the function of a particular ingredient will also help you to make substitutions that work.  (Insert PSA about science in the classrooms and how every student should take science in every school, in every state, across the country here).

So, this time I filled the cups ¾ full, baked them at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.

Yum!  Two big ones for the adults in the house and 1 small one for the toddler.

Greta inhaled her muff-cake (that is what I called cupcakes the first time I tried them as a toddler).
We are off to the Banff Film Festival this evening, hosted by Greensboro REI.  I am looking forward to an evening full of short films about the the outdoors.  If you are able to catch this series, I highly recommend it.
One of my favorites from the 2010 year, is called Take a Seat, where Dominic Gill from the United Kingdom rides 32, 000 kilometers from the northern most tip of Alaska to the southern most tip of South America on a tandem bicycle.  The catch is, he must pick people up along the way to help him pedal.  The journey takes him two years to complete and is an amazing tale.
One of these years Eric and I talk about being in Banff for the actual film festival itself.  It would be a great way to celebrate an anniversary – since we went to Banff for our honeymoon.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins/Cupcakes – makes 16 -18 2 cakes, adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1974.
Have all ingredients at about 70 degrees.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease or line 16 -18 muffin tins, set aside.
1. Beat until soft: ⅓ cup margarine.  Add gradually: 1 cup mashed bananas (about 1 ½ bananas).  When these ingredients are light and fluffy, beat and blend in well: ½ cup peanut butter.  Combine and beat until  light: 2 eggs, ½ cup stevia, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 2 tablespoons ground flax seed.
2.  In a separate bowl, stir together: 2 cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  
3.  Beat the egg mixture into the margarine mixture.  Add the flour mixture to the batter in three parts with ¾ cup almond milk.
4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  Fill about ¾ of the way full.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan about 5 minutes, then remove to cool on wire baking racks.
All muffin pans should come with lids.  Seriously.


Happy Valentine’s Day + Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cake

It’s not too late to make this sweet treat for your Valentine.  It is fast, simple, and takes very minimal prep time.  

I spread out on the dining room table last night to make this cake for Eric, who actually requested a cake.  Usually if I start talking baking on a weeknight there is some eye rolling, because of course, there are other more important things I should be doing – lunch prep, coffee prep, walking the dog…

I mixed the cake up in a medium mixing bowl.  Normally for this recipe, you mix everything in the pan, but since I was using a layer of cherries on the bottom, a bowl was necessary. 

I made the same vegan cake I made for the Super Bowl last year, but added a twist with a layer of cherries on the bottom of the cake. 

Of course, I made the horrible mistake of reading the ingredients!  I think next time I will go with frozen or fresh cherries and a sprinkling of sugar and melted butter or margarine.  No more corn syrup and Red 40 for me. 
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with margarine and then pour the can of cherries on the bottom of the pan.  That Red 40 sure does look festive and Valentine-like though! 
Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Eric!  He got to enjoy his cake with an IPA. 

Here are the last of my Valentine Day cards for 2013.  I liked the ice skating design on this one.  I used pen and ink again to create the blue heart background and then sewed the image to the card.  My sewing line slipped a little on the ice.  :)

Eric and I always opt to stay home on Valentine’s Day, we are curmudgeons that way – it is just too busy in the restaurants, the wait staff is annoyed, and the “specials” are over priced.  We plan on staying in and making dinner tonight.  What are your plans?

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cake


1-1/4 c. flour

1 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch cake pan.  Open can of cherries, pour into bottom and smooth out.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with fork. Mix very well.
2. Mix water, vanilla, oil, and vinegar in a small bowl or glass mixing cup. Add all at once to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Use a spatula to scrape sides and bottoms to ensure adequate mixing.  Pour cake batter over the cherry mixture. 
3. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or til knife comes out clean.


Broiled Grapefruit + Chocolate Ice Cream

I wish I could come home to this as a snack every day after work.  It would be such a nice way to enjoy my afternoon.  Though, I know I would have some problems getting Greta to eat a healthier dinner with me chowing down on this dessert.  How many other moms out there are hiding in the kitchen eating something not as healthy to prevent child(ren) from wanting what you are eating instead of what you should be eating? Yeah.  Well, this dessert isn’t really all the bad.  I would share this with Greta, only thing is her palate consists of mac n cheese, yogurt, milk, bread, dried fruit, and food packets right now.

 Cut 1 grapefruit in half.  I made the mistake of cutting off all the rind.  I wish now that I had not, it was harder to eat – the rind would have given the spoon something to scoop the grapefruit flesh out.

Place grapefruit halves on a foil lined rimmed pan.  Drizzle vanilla and agave syrup on top, about 1 spoonful of each, per grapefruit half.  Allow to soak in about 10 minutes.  

Place grapefruit halves on rack just under broiler.  I used the toaster oven for this dessert.  Broil for 25 minutes.

 Do not worry – they will look blackened!

Serve with chocolate ice cream of your choice.  I served ours with chocolate dairy-free ice cream.  

The chocolate and the tart grapefruit were a perfect combination.  
Broiled Grapefruit with Chocolate Ice Cream – serves 2
1. Cut 1 grapefruit in half. Using paring knife, cut slits along membranes of fruit segments, from the center to the rind.  This will help to loosen the fruit and make it easier to eat.  Place grapefruit halves on a foil lined rimmed pan.  Drizzle 1 spoonful of vanilla and agave syrup on top, per grapefruit half.  Allow to soak in about 10 minutes.  
2. Place grapefruit halves on rack just under broiler.  Broil for 25 minutes. Serve with chocolate ice cream of your choice. 

Spiked Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

This evening, after a long day of school, conferences, and Greta eating and playing hard – she crashed hard and early.  Eric was still at said conferences, so I hit the kitchen to play the use it up game.  I had seen some interesting rice crispy treat recipes on Pinterest and decided to tweak them to fit what I had in my baking cupboards.  The outcome was not Pinterest pretty – but still rather tasty.

My mom taught me a wonderful quote last weekend: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”  I think that is my new mantra.  Though I would hardly call these Spiked Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats bad.  See so for yourself, though. 
These were my magical ingredients tonight.  

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pan over low heat or in a microwave safe bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons orange liqueur – I opted for Harlequin.  Add a 10 oz bag of marshmallows.  
At this point, I got frustrated.  I dumped them into a microwave safe dish and nuked em til they were big and about to explode (about 3 minutes).  The liqueur turned them an interesting golden color. 
Add 6 cups of rice crisp-like cereal.  
Stir very well.  At this point, Eric was home and he took over the stirring for me. 
Use a piece of parchment paper to press your gooey treats into a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. 
Last, for a topping, melt 5 oz of semi sweet chocolate.  Spread over the top.  
Allow to cool and set.  Slice and serve.  The orange flavor is perfectly paired with the chocolate and only gets better as it cools.  These would be perfect holiday treats or a perfect start to your weekend.  Happy (almost) Friday, everyone!
Spiked Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats
1. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pan over low heat or in a microwave safe bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons orange liqueur.  Add a 10 oz bag of marshmallows
2.  When the marshmallows have completely melted, add 6 cups of rice crisp-like cereal.  Stir well.  Use a piece of parchment paper to press your gooey treats into a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. 
3. For a topping, melt 5 oz of semi sweet chocolate.  Spread over the top.  Allow treats to cool and set.  Slice and serve. 

Super Bowl Surprise Cake

The surprise is that this chocolate cake is vegan. 
This recipe takes the cake on vegan desserts.  One would have no idea it is vegan unless told.  It is everything a cake should be – moist, dense, and so chocolately!  I doubled this recipe to that I would have a larger cake – just bump the baking time up to 40 minutes.  
Mix the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt directly in the pan.  This is the added bonus – less to clean up!

Mix dry ingredients very well with a fork. 
 Mix warm water, vegetable oil, vanilla, and vinegar.  

I am a fan of the pyrex measuring cup in lieu of a small mixing bowl.  Easier to pour, easier to clean. 
Mix dry and liquids.  Use a spatula to find any hidden pockets of dry ingredients.  
Chocolate Vegan Cake
1-1/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350.  In an 8×8 inch square pan, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with fork.  Mix very well. 
2. Mix water, vanilla, oil, and vinegar in a small bowl.  Add all at once to the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Use a spatula to scrape sides and bottoms to ensure adequate mixing.  
3. Bake 30 minutes or til knife comes out clean.  
Let it cool completely before frosting.  Sometimes I create a simple powdered sugar and almond milk glaze and sometimes I make a more complicated simmer on the stove glaze.  However, this time, I used a simple store-bought frosting in caramel flavor.  Check back tomorrow to see pics of the frosting and the eating of the cake.  
Happy Superbowl Sunday!  

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