Maple Cookie Butter Granola

maple cookie butter granola - smells amazing and #vegan to boot! click through for the recipe.

This morning, I kept up my habit of cracking the studio window to see if it's cool enough to turn off the air conditioning. Our building has steam heat pipes running through it and there's noheat control, so in the winter we have to open the windows and after the first day it hits 50°F or higher, put in the air conditioning. I've been itching to get a breeze in here for months, and in general I just always wish summer wouldn't exist. (Teen hermit here.) SO, today, I finally felt a cool breeze come through the open window. The air conditioner got turned off, and all of the windows came open.

What's the best way to celebrate this beautiful day and this beautiful breeze? Something fragrant, first of all, because I want the scent of it to blow through the room and into the hallway and make my neighbors jealous. Something fall-inspired. Something easy as heck. Something sweet, because I don't often make desserts and I want it to be special.

maple cookie butter granola - smells amazing and #vegan to boot! click through for the recipe.

I ended up putting together this tasty, sweet, special, easy granola. The secret ingredient, if you couldn't tell by the title, is cookie butter, aka speculoos cookie butter. It's one of those accidentally vegan foods that's totally addictive and strange and can add so much to simple recipes. If you've never tried it, it basically tastes kind of like a spreadable gingerbread. It has the texture of peanut butter but the taste of cookies. You can get it at Trader Joe's, I found this kind pretty easily at Wegmans, or you can get the original online.

The cookie butter made my kitchen smell like I was baking Christmas cookies, without all the work. The inclusion of all sorts of nuts and seeds made this feel healthier than it probably is ;) Adding in chocolate chunks & dried fruit at the end makes it a meal in itself. (Breakfast? Dessert? Snack? Up to you.) Try this out for a sweet quick fix!

maple cookie butter granola - smells amazing and #vegan to boot! click through for the recipe.

This makes about 4-6 cups of granola, or about 6 servings.

Ingredients

You can certainly add in any nuts & seeds you'd like here, this is just what I used. If you decide to add extra dry ingredients, increase the amount of maple & cookie butter accordingly. 

  • 1 1/2-2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup each slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup creamy cookie butter
  • heaping pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch each ground anise, ground cloves, ground nutmeg

Instructions

If you want to add chocolate or dried fruit, add them in after the granola has baked and cooled, to prevent melting & burning.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, cookie butter, and spices. Pour in the rest of the ingredients and stir until everything is coated and glistening. Make sure that the cookie butter is evenly distributed by breaking apart big clumps.
  3. Pour into a baking pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes to prevent burning. (My tiny oven burns easily in the back, hence the burned pieces on the one side.) Everything should be golden brown when done.
  4. Let cool and add any additional ingredients you'd like - dried cranberries, cherries, and chocolate chunks would be great in this. Store in an airtight container and eat within a week or two. I like to put mine in the fridge, especially with chocolate, to keep everything fresh. Enjoy!
maple cookie butter granola - smells amazing and #vegan to boot! click through for the recipe.

PS. Don't forget to check out the other participants of the Vegan Month of Food!

How To Make Your Vegan Banana Ice Cream The Best It Can Be

how to make your #vegan banana ice cream the best it can be!

First, a primer for those who have never heard of this: basically, you peel, slice, freeze, then blend bananas into a whipped, semi-solid consistency that is very close in texture and flavor to soft serve ice cream.

I know you've heard about this trick a million times over. Or, maybe you have yet to try it. The ole frozen banana trick - it's classic yet it seems that no one knows about it yet. Every Instagram feed I follow at some point posts something in the vein that they're dumbfounded how they didn't know about it before. But when I hear people talk about it, they make it seem as easy as "one ingredient, takes less than 20 seconds, tastes so yummie!" And I guess you could say that's pretty true. It's incredibly simple, easy, quick, cheap, etc. The perfect dessert. No question!

But after making this for several years now, there's a little more nuance than just "freeze, blend, and eat." I've made terrible bowls of this, and some amazing ones. Here are my tips, that in my experience, make this legendary vegan creation the best it can possibly be.

how to make your #vegan banana ice cream the best it can be!

Buy bananas in bulk when they're super cheap. 

We buy bananas once a year specifically to freeze, that way we have ice cream and smoothie ingredients for several months. And if you like the ripe texture/flavor, buying cheaper extra-ripe bananas will save you even more money. Buying them all at once makes for a much more streamlined prep assembly line, as well.

The ripeness of the banana completely matters.

  • Green ones are a definite no-go for me - they taste too grassy and the texture is way too stiff, making it harder to blend later.
  • Unblemished yellow are good if you aren't crazy about the whole "banana" flavor - they're a more subtle banana taste and have a good texture.
  • Spotty bananas are my favorite; they have a pronounced banana flavor, they're sweeter-tasting than the yellow, and have great texture.
  • Completely brown bananas are not good for ice cream, in my opinion, because they have a very overpowering flavor, the texture is mushy and breaks down quickly, and the color doesn't look as nice when blended. Use those for banana bread instead!

Prep thoughtfully.

  • Make sure you peel your bananas. It's way harder to peel them frozen when you're ready to blend.
  • Slice the banana into small pieces, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. If you make the pieces too big you may end up with an inconsistent blend.
  • If you care about portion control, separate your haul into 1-2 bananas per freezer bag. Just one banana is enough to make a serving for one person, and it's harder to tell that if you put them all in one storage container.
  • We use a vaccuum-pack food sealer when freezing large quantities for a long period of time. It's not necessary but saves a lot of potential waste from freezer burn.

Don't overblend.

I first make sure all of my frozen banana pieces are separated, then pulse my blender until they've turned to small pebble-like pieces. From there, I blend until just combined and the right texture. Not only does this technique save your blender from breaking, it prevents the banana from becoming too soupy and liquid.

Perfect your flavors.

I personally think that this banana ice cream should be kept simple - no real fancy recipes. Let it be banana, and add flavors that complement it. I always, always add a dash of vanilla extract and a tiny pinch of salt before blending - it helps cut the banana taste a bit and just adds more dimension. Other flavors that work really well are cocoa, peanut butter, walnut, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. I also like adding chocolate sauce and candied nuts on top, after blending.

how to make your #vegan banana ice cream the best it can be!

Any other banana ice cream tips and tricks? I'd love to know what works well for you!

This post is a part of our Vegan Month of Food series this year. Check out what everyone else is doing for Vegan MoFo here!

Acorn Squash Pasta

vegan acorn squash pasta

As soon as September hits, I'm so ready for fall that it hurts. (Really, as soon as January hits, I'm ready for fall. But that's my own problem.) When my parents brought over a tiny portion of their gigantic garden haul for me, I started to feel incredibly inspired. Their basket included summer squashes, plump tomatoes, enough banana and jalapeño peppers to feed an army, crookneck squash, and one of my favorites - acorn squash. These sometimes take a backseat to the more popular butternut or spaghetti squash (and don't even start on pumpkin!) but they have just as much flavor as any other gorgeous autumn squash.

I'm a big proponent of roasting - it's super easy, it warms the kitchen during cold days, and there's essentially no active cooking time. Many of my meals are just tossing ingredients on a pan, roasting them, and eating them all together. Fall foods are no exception, in fact they're the prime target for my addiction to oven roasting. 

So for this I paired together roasted acorn squash, toasted slivered almonds, and a beautiful cracked pepper fettuccine made locally here at Flour City Pasta.  Serve with some olive oil, salt and pepper and you're ready to eat!

vegan acorn squash pasta recipe

(Sigh, I love that high contrast look of acorn squash. You can't get that with butternut!)

Recipe serves about 4

Ingredients

  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • dried basil & oregano
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • slivered almonds
  • pasta of your choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut the acorn squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Brush with the olive oil, place on a pan and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until browned and tender.
  2. When the squash begins to brown, put a pot of water on to boil with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, toss your pasta in and cook until al dente.
  3. Once the squash is done, scoop out the flesh and toss into a blender. (I reserved 1/4 of it to serve directly with the pasta, because I like the texture.) Blend with the almond milk, basil and oregano until smooth. Add in the salt and pepper to taste, blending in as you go.
  4. Toast a couple handfuls of slivered almonds, on low heat and stirring often to prevent burning.
  5. Serve the pasta with the sauce, toasted almonds, and whole pieces of squash if desired. Enjoy!
vegan acorn squash pasta recipe

PS. The month of September is the Vegan Month of Food! We'll be participating, along with many, many others here. (We'll also be doing a giveaway with them later this month!) Follow along for so, so much amazing vegan food.