Caramel Cranberry Bars {Vegan, Whole Grain, Sugar Free}

Caramel Cranberry Bars

It’s officially November, which can only mean one thing…cranberries!

What pumpkin spice is to basic white girls in October, cranberries are to me in November. They’re so good! And not just in sauce next to your turkey. And certainly not in that gloopy stuff that slithers out of the can next to your turkey.* In pies and breads and now bars. Get on it.

Like every year, I popped a raw cranberry in my mouth while making these, even though I know better, because it looked so plump and ruby red and delicious. And for the first time ever (!) it was actually kind of…good? Like, I’m not going to start eating raw cranberries or anything, but it didn’t make me immediately spit it out in the sink and I actually ate two more so it’s basically a super early holiday miracle.

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These bars are actually adapted from a reader recipe on My New Roots, which is what prompted my first ever use of brown rice syrup. Holy smokes! It’s basically natural, low-glycemic caramel! Why have I not been baking with this stuff forever and ever?

As a result, these bars are much simpler to make than you might think. No need to burn sugar for a traditional caramel, or even soak dates for a healthy caramel filling. Instead, those cranberries are stirred together with the brown rice syrup and a few other things, nestled on a straightforward oat crust that’s thrown together in the food processor, and sent off to the oven to magically bake down into a sweet, sticky, tart bar that’s the food equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold November night (sidenote: turns out nights are really cold in November in Wisconsin).

And the best part? These bars are vegan, sugar free, and whole grain. Unlike your upcoming Thanksgiving table.

*My family actually prefers this stuff to the real thing. They’re weirdos (@uncleangelo)

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Coconut Oil Chocolate Eclairs (Dairy Free)

Dairy Free Coconut Oil Chocolate Eclairs

A line from one of my all time favorite books: They took pleasure in seeing the eclairs they had chosen wheeled away by attendants, as if to a select nursing home, to be injected with fresh whipped cream. 

I’ve never eaten eclairs in a cafe in Vienna, where this scene takes place, but I’m fairly confident nothing I make in my kitchen could compare to the eclairs you would find there. I’m certainly not as precious with my baked goods. Then again, this is the land of sachertorte and the original Danish pastry dough…so it would be pointless to even try. But despite that handicap, and completely regardless of the lack of dairy, these eclairs are very, very good.

The base is my coconut oil pate a choux dough, first seen in cream puffs, but the real star is the pastry cream. It’s made primarily with coconut milk, so it’s as thick and rich as anything made with dairy. (Sidenote: mine was initially too thick because I used twice as much cornstarch as I needed. Whoops. Don’t be like me…stick to the recipe). You could go an easier route and just use coconut whipped cream to fill them instead. But the rich pastry cream is pretty spectacular.

Plus the chocolate! Don’t forget the chocolate. It takes all of two seconds and I shouldn’t have to tell you but…don’t forget the chocolate.

Dairy Free Coconut Oil Chocolate EclairsDairy Free Coconut Oil Chocolate Eclairs

Eclairs, like the ladyfingers I made recently, seem like something you just wouldn’t make in your home kitchen. Right? But they’re totally worth it, plus you can make them more high-vibe than anything you would buy. Not to mention, do any bakeries outside of Europe even sell eclairs? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen them.

Plus (best part) if you want, you can pretend to work in a special pastry nursing home when you carefully fill your shells with cream.

You’re right, never mind, it was less weird in the book quote.

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Super Simple Banana Pudding (Vegan)

Super Simple Vegan Banana Pudding

I’ve been watching a lot of Tom Hardy movies lately. 

No surprise to anyone, Tom Hardy is in a lot of violent movies. Like, a lot. With a few exceptions, they largely consist of punching, or shooting, or choking people to death with a rotary phone, or getting his neck cut open then casually chilling with a neck full of stitches for the next couple of scenes. 

These movies, it turns out, are not suited for playing idly in the background while you bake. You gotta be fully invested, full stop. Which is why the rotting bananas on my counter didn’t get turned into banana bread; I had way better things to do look at. 

Instead, they got thrown in the food processor with some tofu and other nice stuff, whizzed for a hot minute, then thrown into the fridge just in time for Tom Hardy to throw a grown ass man to the ground. 

Super Simple Vegan Banana Pudding
And the result was banana pudding! Play your cards right by sticking a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge at the same time you put in the pudding, and tomorrow you’ll be all set to go for a lovely little protein packed dessert. Or snack. Or breakfast. You know. 

A few things: make sure you use shelf-stable tofu (like the brand Mori-Nu). You can usually find it in the Asian or International section of the grocery store. Also, be sure to let your pudding chill for at least a few hours in the fridge, but preferably overnight. It’ll thicken much more and the banana and vanilla flavors will develop. Trust! 

Oh, and use fully ripened, mostly black bananas. Always. 

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Almond and Toasted Oat Jam Bars (Vegan)

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I frequently put baked goods in the freezer, less so because I’m being organized and planning for a later date, and more so because then I can’t eat them all at one time. 

Thankfully, this works well for certain things, including the giant bag of cheese curds my friend gave me the other day because #wisconsin. It does not, however, work well with others, most notably these oat and jam bars, which are maybe even more delicious cold. Just a pro-tip for you. 

There are three components of these bars. First is the base, a sort of almond-coconut oil shortbread situation that’s nutty and crumbly and tender. Then comes the jam. Pick whatever type you want! Something sweet, something tart, all depends on you/your pantry. Fun fact: the kind I used was a strawberry jam I made with beer in it, because now that I live in Milwaukee I have to put beer in everything or else they’ll kick me out. (In case you’re wondering it is super delicious and if you’re nice maybe I’ll give you some because I canned way too many jars of it.)

Last is the oat layer. The quirk here is that we’re using quick oats, not regular. That’s because this isn’t a crumble or streusel situation in which the oats make chunks. Instead, the oats make a flat, full layer that toasts on top of the jam and is oh-so-good. If all you’ve got are regular oats, just give them a quick whirl in the food processor and you’re good to go!

These bars, in my opinion, might be the perfect snack situation. Sweet without a ton of sugar, full of whole grains without being dense, and much more complex than regular granola bars, they’ve got everything you could want. Plus you can always eat them straight from the freezer.

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Oh! Also something important to remember, from my absolute favorite writer: Things Trump Hasn’t Ruined Yet because good golly do we need a reminder.

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Cacao Rye Cookies

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When I studied abroad in Copenhagen, I ate rye bread almost every day because ~cultural immersion~

Which should be the segue into this recipe, except let’s be real, these cookies don’t taste anything like rye bread. Rye bread is dense and sour and funky and chewy. 

These taste like brownies. 

So no, the inspiration for these cookies did not come from Denmark. More like the bag of rye flour in my cupboard that I found on the cheap at the store and decided to buy because maybe I should eat something that’s not wheat flour every meal. I don’t know. I’ll still eat all the bread. And because this is America, it isn’t rye. 

Much better to pair that stuff with chocolate (whoops, sorry, cacao) and call it a day. Obviously. 

Side note: Are you confused about the difference between cocoa and cacao like I was until a few minutes ago when I googled it? Let me save you a trip down the search engine rabbit hole and enlighten you: They both come from the cacao bean that’s used to make chocolate, but cacao is the raw, least processed form. Which means that its much higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (especially magnesium!). Cocoa, on the other hand, is heated to a higher temperature during processing, so it loses some of that good stuff. Which doesn’t meant that it’s not good for you! It’s just not as raw or full of nutrients as cacao. 

In other words, feel absolutely free to use cocoa here if you don’t have/can’t find cacao. Or if you don’t want to sound like a snob by calling these cacao cookies instead of regular old cocoa ones. 

Also, don’t be intimidated by the rye flour. Or be tempted to sub it out for all-purpose. It is, in my opinion, the very reason these cookies are so good and deep and flavorful and rich. Trust.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Meringues + Hi Again

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Hey. 

Remember that time I went almost a whole year without posting? 

That was super fun, right? Kind of mysterious. 

You’re right. Mainly neglectful and lazy. And mainly the result of prioritizing senior year of college over, you know, basically anything else. 

But hey! Now I’m graduated and have moved to Wisconsin for a year, a wild northern land where people say “bag” weird and I don’t know anyone else. Which means my lack of a social life will result in a whole lot of baking. So might as well start sharing it here again. 

(Lord knows if this will become a regular thing again, so let’s just take things slow, shall we?)

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Anywayyyyyyy…

Meringues are always my go-to when I want to bake but have no ingredients/motivation/internet to look up recipes. We’ve already added nut butter to them…so why not nut butter powder?! 

These are made with peanut butter powder, an actual terrible substitute for real peanut butter when mixed with water, but a great way of adding peanut flavor when mixed with anything else! Here, it gives all the nutty goodness without messing with the delicate balance of the meringue by adding a ton of fat. 

I also added chocolate chips, because obviously.

So to recap…we took already great meringues and added PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE. 

Yup, done. 

By the way, yes I did eat the entire batch of these meringues, so that should tell you how good they are ~slash~ how much social anxiety I have about meeting my new neighbors and dumping baked goods on them. All in good time, right?

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

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This recipe started not with the cupcakes, as a matter of fact, but with the frosting. A while ago I was in charge of bringing a dessert to a big family dinner. I was planning on making a strawberry tart…except the pastry cream didn’t set. It didn’t set. And with approximately five minutes until I had to leave the house, I had an empty (and still slightly warm) tart shell, a handful of strawberries, and a bowlful of soupy milk that was definitely not pastry cream.

It was at this point that I remembered this instant chocolate mousse, and with some very enthusiastic yelling from my sister, whisked enough cocoa powder, sugar, and milk together to make a pretty decent tart filling. And then it occurred to me the next day…this might make a pretty decent cupcake frosting too.

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Turns out it makes an even better than decent cupcake frosting; in fact, it’s thick and smooth and rich enough to be pretty similar to chocolate ganache, except a whole lot easier to make and probably better for you too.

As for the cupcakes, the only giveaway that they’re any healthier than most is that slightly darker coloring from the coconut sugar. Otherwise they’re just as light and fluffy and moist as any regular recipe, but much more high vibe.

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I don’t make a lot of cupcakes, much less over the top ones like so many others, and I’m definitely not too skilled at decorating them. These aren’t “Strawberry Margarita Cinco De Mayo” cupcakes or “Death by Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl with Cinnamon Cookie Crumb” cupcakes either. They’re just a plain vanilla cupcake with a dreamy chocolate frosting, and I’m just gonna stop there.

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Straight Up Blueberry Pie

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During the Olympics one year, my 1st grade class had a little competition. Every student picked a country, hung a construction paper version of their flag from the ceiling, and each time that country won a medal, they got to glue a little gold, silver, or bronze circle onto the back. Naturally, I picked Greece as my country. The only problem?

It was the Winter Olympics.

My poor little flag hung bare for the entire two weeks. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure the lucky little punk who wound up with the USA had to start putting medals on the front of their flag because they ran out of room.

This Olympics is much more fun. I hope you’re watching. Are you watching? You better be watching.

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I’m trying to think about how to tie in blueberry pie to the most famous international sports competition in the world, and as I type this I realize I absolutely should have added strawberries for some hard core red-white-and-blue action. Dammit.

Even with just blueberries, though, this pie is stellar.

(But if you make this in the next week and a half, you really should add the strawberries)

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It’s a pretty standard fruit pie recipe: berries, sugar to taste, cornstarch to thicken, some lemon for brightness, and a pinch of cinnamon for a little something extra. Nothing unnecessary, or any funky ingredient to throw you off. It’s just a straight up blueberry pie, and it’s a classic.

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