Healthier Vegan Baking Tips

‘Tis the season for desserts, right? I don’t know about you but I’ve got a major sweet tooth. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day (and I hate savory breakfasts), I can’t live without dark chocolate and I could eat fruit all day every day.

It might seem like vegan baking is always healthier than traditional baking that incorporates eggs, butter, etc. That’s partly true, but not always the case. Some vegan dessert recipes call for tons of white flour, dairy replacements and lots of sugar and oil. Not exactly the healthiest thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more indulgent desserts but I’d rather save those for special occasions when I happen to find an amazing vegan baked good at Whole Foods or a restaurant that might not match up to my normal nutritional standards but it looks/sounds so good that I’ve just gotta try it once. Even those are a little more healthified, but when I make desserts at home, I like to make sure I’ll feel good eating them. With that being said, I’ve got a few tips just in time for the holiday baking rush. This is all about vegan baking, because that’s what I have the most experience with, but I think even non-vegans can appreciate these!

1. Coconut oil > vegan “butter”

I used to be deathly afraid of coconut products. Why? Because they’re loaded with saturated fats! Of course, now I’ve learned a lot more about coconut nutrition, and they are really good for you. Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use for cooking and baking and if you buy the refined kind, it doesn’t add any coconut flavor. I prefer unrefined for a little extra taste but even unrefined isn’t too coconutty. Vegan “butter”, on the other hand, is filled with lots of unnatural oils and other unnecessary ingredients. It may be lower in fat than coconut oil, but a bit of natural fats are healthy!

2. Go for whole food subs

If you are a vegan, you’ve likely tried or at least seen some popular subs for meat-and-dairy filled products. Things like vegan cream cheese, soy yogurt and egg replacer powder aren’t hard to find anymore, but they aren’t as good for you as whole food-based options. If you want to make vegan cheesecake, try cashew cream instead of vegan cream cheese. If the fudge recipe you found calls for soy creamer, try using full-fat canned coconut milk instead. Again, whole food subs may have a bit more fat but at least you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.

A raw vegan cheesecake made with whole foods: cashews, dates and almonds!

A raw vegan cheesecake made with whole foods: cashews, dates and almonds!

3. Try out gluten free flours

I’m not strictly gluten free, but I like to use gluten free flours instead of whole wheat because they can add an interesting taste and texture and I feel better when I limit wheat. My personal favorites are almond flour and buckwheat flour. Both are higher in protein and fiber than whole wheat and all purpose flour and they’re great to use in recipes that call for a bit more chew and a stronger flavor. I used almond flour in my Pumpkin Chip MuffinsĀ and I used buckwheat flour in my Festive Garland Bars Take Two. I would suggest searching for vegan gluten free recipes so you know they’ll work without eggs (GF flours sometimes work better with an egg but they can be made into vegan treats).

4. Stick with natural sweeteners

I typically use pure maple syrup in most of my dessert recipes because I love the subtle taste it adds and it’s also one of the most healthful sugar sources. Stevia is a good option if you want to cut down on sugar and calories, but I usually use it combined with maple syrup to make the texture of the baked good more like a typical dessert. Coconut nectar/sugar is another healthier option, as is raw honey (if you aren’t a strict vegan). Dates and bananas are a great way to sweeten desserts without any added (non-fruit) sugars but remember that they have a stronger taste than other sweeteners.

5. Experiment and have fun

I’ve veganized my fair share of dessert recipes and that can be a lot more fun than following a vegan recipe ingredient-for-ingredient. When I want to make a dessert, I usually search for a vegan (and gluten free) option first and sometimes combine multiple recipes into one to make my own. And don’t let these guidelines make you feel like you can’t enjoy dessert. If you want to enjoy a more indulgent vegan dessert, go ahead. But you may be surprised by how tasty a healthified vegan dessert can be too!

A less healthy (but still delicious) vegan ice cream pie.

A less healthy (but still delicious) vegan ice cream pie.

Do you like to healthify the desserts you make yourself? Have you ever enjoyed a healthy vegan dessert?

I’ll be back after the 25th to share some recipes and all the Christmas festivities I’ve been enjoying! If you celebrate, I hope you have a very merry Christmas šŸ˜€

WIAW: Dead Week Staples

Well, guys, I’m in the midst of dead week here, and it’s kind of hitting me hard. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but I’m definitely a lot busier than normal and last-minute assignments are still pouring in. Side note: doesn’t the term ‘dead week’ just sound so much more awful than it is? Don’t get me wrong, it is a stressful time but I have yet to die in the 5 dead weeks I’ve experienced so far in college. Just sayin’.

Anyways, here are some of the things that have been keeping me sane during this crazy week full of papers, presentations, class evals and finals.

Looks weird, tastes good.

Looks weird, tastes good.

This week, I’ve been loving on the crepes more than the waffles. Errr…well…my attempt at crepes. I’m calling them ‘pancrepes’ because they’re not quite as thick as pancakes, but thicker than crepes. Either way, they’re really good and easy to make. Basically I just take 3 tbsp of buckwheat flour and mix it with stevia, then add enough almond milk to thin it out, swirl it around in a pan, cook and then stuff with lots of fillings, fold over and eat. Who knew crepes were so easy to make?

Lovin' on the raw kale salads.

Lovin’ on the raw kale salads.

A raw kale salad has been my lunch staple for the past few days and it’s not changing anytime soon…except when I run out of kale. I bought a new salad dressing over the weekend, a no-oil tangerine dressing that’s sweet and sour and perfect for mixing with kale, dried fruit, nuts, lentils, whatever other weird things I decide to throw in my salad.

I'm usually a sucker for seasonal things, but this was not good.

I’m usually a sucker for seasonal things, but this was not good.

I had such high hopes for this bar. I’ve been looking for it since last year, with no luck until a week or so ago. I haven’t had a Clif bar in probably a year because I just don’t care for the flavor anymore, and they’ve got too many ingredients for me, but I really wanted to try this. Unfortunately, it disappointed this peppermint-loving girl’sĀ taste buds. It was not peppermint-y at all and I couldn’t even swallow the one bite I took. Sorry, Clif, but I just can’t do your products anymore.

Another variation on the classic stir-fry: orange-glazed tempeh, kale, cauliflower, quinoa, pineapple, pumpkin seeds.

Another variation on the classic stir-fry: orange-glazed tempeh, kale, cauliflower, quinoa, pineapple, pumpkin seeds.

Another thing I can’t really stomach anymore? Tempeh. I blame it on a few instances of stomach bugs over the summer that for some reason turned me off tempeh. I used to prefer it over tofu and ate it regularly, but I just can’t stand the taste of it anymore. I tried an orange-glazed version but only liked it when I ate it with the other parts of the stir-fry and not by itself. I’m thinking of going back to (organic) tofu again–I seem to really love it at the Whole Foods salad bars.

A delicious new breakfast: sprouted grain French toast topped with fresh fig and raw vanilla chai protein powder.

A delicious new breakfast: sprouted grain French toast topped with fresh fig and raw vanilla chai protein powder.

Up until this summer, I’d never had French toast. For real. Then I made this recipe, loved it and then forgot about it. Until I bought a new brand of sprouted bread. And I loved this version even more than the original one. I cut a slice of the sprouted bread down the middle (the slices are pretty big), toasted it first, soaked it in a mix of almond milk and raw vanilla chai protein powder, cooked it up and topped it with almond butter and a fresh fig. The key was definitely toasting the bread first–it made the French toast less soggy. Plus the flavor combo was totally winning. You can’t go wrong with fresh figs.

I just love Christmas trees!

I just love Christmas trees!

I couldn’t ignore Christmas, even amidst all the studying and stress! Decorating my mini tree and listening to Christmas music all day long have really helped me get through the past week and it’s reminded me how close I am to being home for Christmas. I think the season’s even more special now that I actually get to go homeĀ for Christmas.

A cheap girl's answer to pumpkin butter.

A cheap girl’s answer to pumpkin butter.

So I was always jealous of the bloggers who slathered their food with pumpkin butter. I craved that fall-ish spread but didn’t want to shell out $6 or more for a teeny jar. So I got creative, invested in this much cheaper (and larger) can of organic pumpkin pie mix that’s basically just pumpkin, cane juice and spices and realized that it’s exactly like pumpkin butter. But it’s better for your wallet and it lasts longer too. Win win!

Now this was a winner of a dinner: creamy kale enchiladas roja.

Now this was a winner of a dinner: creamy kale enchiladas rojas.

I haven’t been having too much success with recipe experimentation lately. But this dinner discovery definitely made up for it! I found the recipe for cashew kale enchiladas on this great vegan recipe blogĀ but as per usual, I made a few changes to it and well, it’s a keeper.

Creamy Kale Enchiladas Rojas (vegan, gluten-free)

1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

sea salt and pepper, to taste

cayenne pepper, to tastes

kale, rinsed and shredded

4 gluten-free tortillas (I used Rudi’s gf spinach tortillas)

1 cup canned lentils, drained and rinsed

red vegan enchilada sauce (I used the Frontera brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large glass oven-safe cooking dish with nonstick spray and set aside. In a food processor, blend soaked cashews, nooch and spices with enough water to smooth out. Place tortillas in the cooking dish and fill with cashew cheese, shredded kale and lentils. Roll each tortilla tightly and place side by side. Pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas to cover them. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until sauce starts to soak into the tortillas. Serve with extra cashew cheese, fresh guacamole and salsa. Makes 4 enchiladas.

Have you ever had a crepe? What’s one thing you used to love that you just can’t stand to eat anymore?