24 de abr. de 2015

No-Bake Granola Bars

The other day while I was having my breakfast (overnight chia oat pudding, btw) I suddenly craved for homemade granola. Toasted nuts with a sweet touch of maple syrup, dried fruits, puffed grains...so good!
But then I started thinking what's the difference between granola and muesli because, honestly, sometimes it's really hard to see that difference. You see those so called 'healthy' bars at the store and they all look the same to me. So I googled 'granola vs muesli' and now I think I can finally say what are the main ingredients of each one.
Okay so...granola and muesli are both oat-based. Muesli is consumed raw and contains oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Granola is made with oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits like muesli but the mixture also includes grains like quinoa (wait, quinoa is actually a seed but whatever), rice and everything is tossed with some kind of fat (oil, butter, etc), and sweetened with sugar or honey. Then it's baked until it forms crunchy clusters.
I've heard that granola is the fat sister of muesli because it usually is higher in sugars, fats and calories; but that's not true: if you make your own granola at home you can always choose to add less fat (or not fat at all) and zero sugar by using maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar and dried fruits that add natural sweetness.
These granola bars I bring you today are my latest obsession because they are not only delicious and packed with lots of healthy energy, fiber and nutrients; it's also a super easy recipe that allows you to add your favorite nuts, try with different kind of puffed grains (my fave is quinoa!) and make as many combinations as you wish! Plus you won't need to turn on the oven. Play with ingredients, try different types of natural sweeteners, nut butters and choose your favorite bar.
The addition of natural peanut butter gives the ultimate touch of deliciousness to my bars and they are officially my favorite on-the-go snack; perfect for those days that seem to be endless and you need to boost your energy levels with something yummy yet good for you.

Receta en español aquí!

No-Bake Granola Bars
(yield: 12 bars)

1 cup medjool dates.
1/4 cup pure maple syrup.
1/4 cup homemade natural peanut butter.
1 1/4 cups rolled oats.
1/4 cup puffed quinoa.
1 cup mix of nuts, coarsely chopped.*
1/4 cup dried cranberries.
Dash of cinnamon.
Optional: a small handful of cacao nibs to decorate on top.

* I used the following mix of raw nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios.
Play with proportions and use your favorite nuts.
I saved some extra chunks of pistachios, cranberries and cacao nibs to decorate the top of the dough once it's placed inside the pan and right before pressing it down.

Place dates inside the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the dates are completely processed and form a sticky paste-like dough. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat stir together maple syrup and peanut butter until it becomes pourable.
In a large mixing bowl place oats, puffed quinoa, nuts and dried cranberries; stir together. Add in date 'dough'.
Pour over the warm maple/peanut butter mixture and mix with a spatula (because the mixture could still be a bit too hot to touch with your hands). I recommend to work the dough with your hands to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the date dough makes the stick together.
Transfer the dough to an 8x8-inch brownie pan (20x20cm) lined with parchment paper; leaving an extra inch overhanging each end so you can use this extra piece of paper as handles to easily lift the dough out of the pan.
Firmly press down the dough until it's flattened and add some extra chunks of pistachios, dried cranberries and cacao nibs, also pressing them down.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it hardens, around 30 minutes.
Lift out the dough and divide it into 12 bars.
Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to one week.

14 de abr. de 2015

Nutty Mocha Cookies

Some days I feel like I need more than 24 hours in a day, seriously! I'm so behind on recipe testing, organizing my folders (I have, literally, thousands of files to organize), cleaning out my e-mail inbox...and a large etcetera. Maybe it's just that I wanna do too many things and am too demanding on myself and when I can't sort all those things out I get really angry and grumpy. Being a food blogger and staying up-to-date on family and friends is no easy job, kiddos. *sigh*
I'm (slowly) learning that every single thing can't be perfect the whole time and that I should stop worrying so much. Sometimes, saying 'no' and putting yourself first really helps but I fail at this a lot.
Well, enough with the complaining! Cookies to the rescue!
Freshly homemade cookies are the best thing ever. I love to bake cookies, don't know exactly why because baking in general makes me feel better; maybe it's that almost instant pleasure that cookies give you. They don't take up a lot of time to be ready and it's easier to change up a cookie recipe. Follow my advice: if you've had a bad day go grab your apron, bake some cookies and challenge your inner Betty Crocker. Your belly will be happy, you will suddenly become a happier person and your house will smell amazing! Note: if there's some chocolate involved the level of happiness will be considerably higher. ;-)
Agave-sweetened cookies have a pleasantly cakey texture that I adore (and I hope you too) and these ones are perfect for when you want to use all those leftovers of nuts or other add-ins that you have lying around the pantry. I mixed walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and even some cashews too, you can also add some dark chocolate chips but I ommitted them to keep this recipe completely sugar-free. I used cacao nibs to decorate some of them.
The addition of instant espresso powder gives a subtle coffee aroma and enhance the chocolate flavor. When I'm baking these cookies the whole house smells amazingly crazy good and everybody suddenly show up in the kitchen.

Receta en español próximamente disponible en El Granero Integral.

Nutty Mocha Cookies
(yield: 2 dozen cookies)

1/4 cup soy milk.
2/3 cup mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil.
1 tbsp flaxmeal (ground flax seeds).
3/4 cup agave syrup.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
1 tbsp instant espresso powder.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.
3/4 cup whole wheat flour.
1/2 cup cocoa powder.
3/4 tsp baking soda.
1/4 tsp fine sea salt.
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped.
1/4 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped.*
1/4 cup dried cranberries.

*Or a mix of your favorite nuts.

· To make these cookies even more chocolatey replace 1/4 cup of the 3/4 cup of agave syrup with chocolate-flavored agave syrup.
· Not a fan of dried cranberries? Try with finely chopped dates or raisins.

Preheat oven to 325 ºF (170 ºC) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together soy milk, oil, flaxmeal, agave and vanilla until all ingredients are well combined.
Sift in flours, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Mix with a silicone spatula to form a soft dough.
Fold in almonds, the rest of the other nuts and the dried cranberries. Reserve some nuts for decorating the top of the cookies.
Scoop out 1 generous tablespoon of dough for each cookie and make sure you leave enough space between them cause they will spread a little while baking. Decorate with remaining nuts.
Bake for 14 minutes, until cookies edges are firm to touch yet tops are still soft.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.

9 de abr. de 2015

Hummingbird Cake

Pineapple, coconut, banana...is there anything more tropical than these ingredients? I don't think so!
This sweet combination is what makes the Hummingbird Cake so special, a bakery classic and one of my favorite cakes ever. Every year for my birthday I get a Hummingbird cake from my favorite bakery...yes, I do deserve a break from baking and being in the kitchen at least once a year and, let me tell ya: even if you are as picky and perfectionist as I am, it's good to let others do the hard work for you from time to time, hehe. A few days ago I thought it was about time to bake one for the blog but somehow different, with a more rustic look: one tall layer glazed with a soft coconut cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with chopped walnuts.
I made this cake to celebrate the last day of the Easter holidays (here in Spain is Easter Monday) and it was the perfect ending to these days of relax, finding new fresh ideas and doing girly things with my sister which, by the way, is one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world, nothing beats that!
I hope you like this cake as much as I do, I honestly think it's the perfect one for spring time and it has a lovely homemade look with an irresistible combination of flavors. Just picture yourself surrounded by friends and family, enjoying a nice lunch at your garden, patio or rooftop feeling the warm spring breeze, smelling the flowers in full bloom and putting this gorgeous cake in the center of the table. Even the ones that say their tummies are full will make some room for a slice.
By the way, I've added some useful tips right at the end of the recipe to help you nail this recipe!

Receta en español aquí!

Hummingbird Cake
(makes one 23 cm/9-inch diameter cake)

- For the cake:
1/2 cup pineapple (fresh or canned), crushed and well-drained.
1 1/4 cup flour.
2/4 cup self-raising flour.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.
1/4 tsp nutmeg.
1/2 tsp ground ginger.
1/4 cup walnuts or pecan nuts.
1 cup brown sugar.
1/3 cup shredded coconut.
1/2 cup very ripe banana, mashed.
2 free-range eggs.
3/4 cup sunflower oil.
- For the coconut cream cheese frosting:
1 1/2 cup organic cream cheese.
1/2 cup powdered sugar.
1/4 cup shredded coconut.
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (to sprinkle on top).

Preheat oven to 350 ºF (180ºC) and adjust the rack to the middle position.
Lightly grease the pan with cooking spray and line the base with parchment paper.
Crush the pineapple with your food processor (it doesn't need to be completely crushed and/or blended) and drain very well all the excess liquid. Too much liquid will give you a heavy cake.
Chop the walnuts into small pieces, I don't recommend using a food processor cause they can turn into flour in just a few seconds. If you have a powerful processor be careful not to break them into tiny pieces, pulse just for two seconds, stop and check.
Mash bananas with a fork until puréed.
Lightly beat the eggs.
In a large mixing bowl sift together flours, baking soda, spices and sugar, stir with a hand whisk to aerate the mixture. Add in pineapple, coconut, walnuts, banana, eggs and oil.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. 
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes and then remove from the pan and cool completely top-side up.

- To make the coconut cream cheese frosting:
In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, coconut and sugar. Mix with a silicone spatula just until the sugar is incorporated.
Beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes until the frosting looks fluffy and all the ingredients are well blended.
Let it set in the fridge, this way the frosting will get thicker.

Spread frosting on top of the cake using an offset spatula or a spoon and sprinkle chopped walnuts.
Cake will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Frosted or unfrosted, the cake can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Tips and notes:
· I wanted to go for a more rustic version of the classic Hummingbird so don't expect this cake to be very moist. It's rather crumbly but if you want it to be more wet increase the mashed banana to 1 cup and add 1/4 cup of the pineapple syrup to the batter.
· Make sure the pineapple is well drained, otherwise the cake will be too dense and probably won't rise properly. Place pineapple in a fine mesh strainer and press firmly using the back of a spoon.
· Use very ripe or overripe bananas, this will help develop a more complex flavor and enhance the sweetness.
· This frosting is not as thicker as regular cream cheese frosting. I wanted the cake to have a more simple look and made a single layer so I didn't frost the entire cake; that's why I chose to use a softer (thus not pipeable) cream cheese: organic and with reduced fats.  
· Always use unsweetened shredded coconut, otherwise the cake will be overwhelmingly sweet.

3 de abr. de 2015

Raw Energy Squares

We finally have a long weekend ahead: time to sit back, unwind, prepare a cocktail and watch my favorite tv series...and also do my nails, a facial (I've been a slacker and my poor skin needs some serious pampering!), read all my e-mails, visit my favorite food blogs, read this month's fashion mags, prepare a new recipe for next week, transplant my little gold raspberry bush, do some grocery shopping oh! and planning all my recipes for April. Damn, as always I make endless to-do lists; I'm pretty sure I won't be able to check all these things off my list! Plus I must squeeze in my workouts to burn off the Easter extra calories. Hehehe.
Well, first thing's first so I'm gonna focus right now on the recipe I bring you today: healthy and delicious raw squares packed with good fats and energy. They also have a yummy crunchy top to make them more irresistible. I love having these kind of energy bites or bars waiting for me in the fridge after a training session, they are my favorite on the go snack plus it's a great way to satisfy my sweet tooth at any time. I usually make them while there's something baking in the oven and I have to wait, even though that means I'll have more dishes to wash later but it's all worth it.
The crumble top is totally optional, these squares will still taste super good even if you don't want to make the topping cause you're short on time or just want simple squares.

Receta elaborada para El Granero Integral, próximamente en su web.

Raw Energy Squares
(yield: 8 squares)

1/2 cup medjool dates.
1/2 cup dried figs.
3/4 cup almonds.
1/2 cup walnuts.
1/4 cup hazelnuts.
2 tbsp chia seeds.
2 tbsp flaxmeal.
1/2 tbsp coconut oil.
1 tbsp raw cacao powder.
1 tbsp pea protein powder.
2 tbsp pecan nuts (for the crumble topping).

Pit the dates and cut them in half. Chop the dried figs too.
In the bowl of a food processor place all the nuts, flaxmeal and chia seeds and pluse until all the nuts have crumbled and the mixture looks like a coarse flour.

Add the rest of the ingredients: dates, figs, coconut oil, cacao powder and protein powder. Blend for a couple of minutes or until the mixture forms a sticky dough.
Scoop out around 1/2 a tablespoon of dough and set aside (you will use it later for the crumble topping).

Dump the mixture into a brownie dish or a rectangular pan (it shouldn't be too big, otherwise your squares will be too thin), press down firmly with your hands. Remember to line the dish with parchment paper to easily lift the squares out of the pan.
Note: If you don't have a square or rectangular pan don't worry, just place the dough over a sheet of parchment paper and roll it out to flatten it a bit. Use your hands to give a rectangular shape and gently roll out the edges when you're done. It should measure around 16 cm x 13 cm.
Place the 1/2 tbsp of dough in your food processor again and add in 2 tablespoons of raw pecan nuts. Process until the nuts are roughly chopped, sprinkle on top of the dough and press down so it sticks.
Chill in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes before slicing into 8 even squares.
Store refrigerated.

30 de mar. de 2015

Vanilla Cupcakes with Avocado Dark Chocolate Frosting

Who said you can't enjoy eating a delicious cupcake made with healthy, wholesome ingredients? Some people automatically think about 'tons of refined sugar' when they hear the word cupcake but oh! boy they were so wrong...or maybe they just didn't taste the luscious cuppies I made today to celebrate Easter.
These beautifully golden vanilla cupcakes frosted with my healthy avocado chocolate frosting will make you think "why didn't I try this before??", yep, they are seriously good and you won't have to feel much guilty at all. They have sugar and chocolate, so don't expect these to be 100% guilt-free if you're on a strict diet; but I used coconut sugar (a healthy one) and 70% cacao-dark chocolate, plus organic whole wheat flour and organic spelt flour. No refined sugars, no refined grains and dairy free...see? You really can have your cupcake and eat it too!
When it comes to desserts Easter is all about chocolate, chocolate and...more chocolate! Well, at least to me since we have a strong tradition here in Catalonia to celebrate Easter eating chocolate treats and chocolate cakes (I talked about this tradition last year). So obviously I knew I had to prepare something chocolatey, tempting but on the healthy side.
Maybe you'd frown upon the idea of using avocados to make a chocolate frosting but trust me, you won't notice the avocado flavor at all. This is a thick, rich frosting that will remind you of a chocolate mousse. It's so delicious! I've been adjusting the quantities until my taste buds were completely satisfied but you can try with more or less dark chocolate or a little bit more of milk and a different sweetener. I find this frosting the perfect one to fill and cover a cake so you will see it again in the near future! ;-)

- You will have plenty of frosting to fill a big pastry bag and decorate your cupcakes with big swirls or whatever form your desire.
- If you make the frosting the day before decorating the cupcakes and it has firmed up too much, I'd suggest you to let it soften a bit at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes depending on how warm your house is. Mine was a tad bit too cold and I ended up breaking the last of my piping bags! So, after a couple minutes of cursing and yelling, I had to use a small plastic bag and tried my best to pipe the frosting using a Wilton 2D tip.

Receta en español aquí!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Avocado Dark Chocolate Frosting
(makes 12 cupcakes)

- Cupcakes:
3/4 cup almond milk.
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar.
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp white spelt flour.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour.
1/2 cup coconut sugar.
1 tsp baking powder.
1/4 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp fine sea salt.
1/4 cup sunflower oil.
1 tbsp vanilla extract.

2 ripe avocados.
1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (70 % cacao).
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
1/4 cup agave syrup.
1/4 cup almond milk.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
A pinch of salt.

- To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350º F (180ºC) and line your cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a small mixing bowl whisk together milk and vinegar until foamy. Let it sit for 10 minutes until the milk curdles.
In a large mixing bowl sift together all the dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well with a hand whisk.
Pour the oil and vanilla extract into the curdled milk bowl, mix just until combined. Add in to the dry mixture and whisk until there are no lumps in the batter.
Fill each cupcake liner half full and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. After that, remove from pan and let cool completely.
Remember that cupcakes must be cold before piping the frosting on their tops. I'd suggest to refrigerate them for a couple of hours (or overnight) and make the frosting while they are cooling.

- To make the chocolate avocado frosting:
Melt the dark chocolate using the double boiler method: place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and make sure the hot water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir chocolate a few times as it softens. When almost all chunks are melted remove from the heat and, with the residual heat, stir a bit until smooth. Let it cool a bit before incorporating into the bowl of the food processor.
Mash the avocado using a fork and place it in your food processor with the rest of the ingredients: cocoa powder, agave syrup, vanilla extract, almond milk, salt and melted chocolate.
Process until well blended, no small chunks of avocado are visible and the mixture looks like a thick mousse.
I like my chocolate frosting to taste not too sweet and with a strong chocolate presence; however if you want it sweeter simply taste and add more agave syrup.
Transfer to an airtight container and let it chill in the fridge for 15 minutes approximately.

Here are more Easter recipes for you!
- Chocolate Easter Cake.

- Easter Cupcakes.

- Millionaire's Banoffee Tarts.