Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pudding (vegan + gluten and sugar free)

 Vegan, Gluten Free, and Refined Sugar Free

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It’s been a wild couple days in Sydney if you haven’t heard. Yesterday a cloud of thick red smoke settled over the entire city. At first some of the city kids at uni were saying it was just another dust storm, but it was clear to most of us who’d lived or spent time in the country what it must mean. Bush fire. The crazy winds and high temperatures sparked fires all over NSW and ran out of control through most of the day yesterday, and the cloud of smoke spread over thirty kilometres right across the harbour.  

Hearing of friends who have had to return home to absolutely nothing left, of families who had to leave their pets inside to escape in time, it’s just so sad. Thank goodness no lives have been lost so far, although the razed houses haven’t been searched until today. The smell of smoke in the air has only just seemed to fade in the last few hours. I always feel intensely the fire season of Australia because my aunt is a fire fighter, and my boyfriend and his family live in the Blue Mountains, which was one the places badly affected yesterday. This summer is predicted to be the hottest summer in over two decades, and it’s only the beginning of spring!Image

I made this pudding this morning while the air outside still smelled of smoke and charred wood. It’s very creamy and comforting, so it seemed like a good fit. You may think it sounds gross, but the creaminess comes from the avocado and blended up banana. Don’t hate before you try it though! I was very wary when I first made chocolate avocado mousse, but it actually tastes really good. And I don’t mean it tastes edible with the bonus of being slightly sweet and ‘naughty’ tasting. It really does have a creamy, mild and perfectly sweet flavour. 

So many puddings and mousses made of health ingredients like coconut and banana can taste kind of strange…sometimes a bit bitter from the raw cocoa, or watery from the fruit. This pudding doesn’t have any of that. It’s a decadent and creamy version of this strawberry chia pudding with a delicious addition of peanut butter. I rave about peanut butter too much. I know. I’ve already mentioned it this week in these cookies for goodness sake! But it’s so creamy and goooood I eat it every day, so talking about it twice a week is actually showing real restraint.  Image

You don’t have to follow this recipe exactly, you can mix and match it up depending on your tastes. There are some ground rules though. You have to use avocado! Don’t try and substitute more bananas or coconut cream or anything, unless you want a completely different mousse experience. Use a perfectly ripe and squishy avocado with not a hint of overripeness, but DEFINITELY not a hint of under-ripeness. If you don’t know if your avocado is ripe yet, leave it another day. Better to err on the side of squishy than watery and stiff. Believe me. I discovered this the hard way. 

The chia seeds make the pudding set thick and gooey like real mousse. If you want a softer, more spoonable mousse, leave them out. If you have a powerful blender, don’t let the lumpy photos scare you. Your mousse will turn out way smoother than mine. If you’re allergic to nuts, leave out the peanut butter completely. The pudding is still delicious without it. You could add almond butter, some coconut milk in place of the soy or almond milk, some chocolate chips, anything you feel like! 

Here are some other delicious looking healthy puddings I’ve been reading recently:

Foodie Fiasco’s Yogurt Chocolate Mousse looks amaaaze-baalls

Such an interesting looking Tofu Chocolate Mousse from Chocolate Covered Katie

Choosing Raw’s simple Vanilla Chia Pudding looks so delicious! 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding: Adapted from Treehugger’s recipe

1 large avocado

1-2 medium bananas depending on taste (if frozen, don’t defrost)

30ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup or agave nectar

2.5 tbsp cocoa powder

50ml (1/4 cup) soy, coconut, rice or almond milk

2 tbsp peanut butter

2 tbsp chia seeds

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Blend everything together in a powerful blender until smooth and completely combined. Spoon into serving bowls and chill for at least a few hours before serving, to give the chia a chance to thicken the mixture. 

Optional additions: you could stir in some chocolate chips, berries, desiccated coconut or nuts to the mix as well. You could add some vanilla extract or a pinch of cinnamon, or even some melted chocolate to be really fancy!

Makes 3-4 servings depending on how generous you are.

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Oat, Raisin and Chocolate Chunk Cookies (vegan and gluten free)

Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Low Fat and Vegan

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 This recipe was a long time coming. Don’t find this weird, but I often dreamt about these cookies, dancing around me in a little circle of deliciousness. Well, I mean I dreamt of what I imagined these cookies would be, if I had brought them into existence yet. After making ages ago Pastry Affair’s oat and sultana cookies I just couldn’t get them out of my head. They were seriously so good! So buttery and oaty and chocolatey. But they weren’t exactly healthy, despite what I tried to convince myself of with all those nutritious oats and chocolatey antioxidants.

I’m a firm believer in not making something taste bad for the sake of healthiness. It makes me mad when I see recipes for “birthday cake” which is actually a giant melon shaped as a cake covered in 99% reduced fat processed whip-cream sweetened with stevia. I mean come on people. What the actual *&#$. If someone presented me that on my birthday and I cut in to it expecting cake I would smash it on their head. 

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 So I really didn’t want to make these cookies until I could think of a way to recreate the buttery, flaky oat cookies in all their glory. What was the answer you wonder? Peanut Butter! Sweet and nutty food of the Gods. I referred to Gluten Free Vegan Girl’s recipe as well as Healthy Chef’s recipe and ended up combining features of both in what came out as exactly the perfect cookie that lived up to my memories. 

The cookies are sweetened with banana, dates and a tiny smidge of honey or maple syrup and they’re full of raisins and chocolate chunks. The quinoa flour makes them really flavoursome and adds heaps of health benefits as well, but you can substitute almond flour or hazelnut flour if you don’t have it. Similarly with the peanut butter, to make a nut-free version omit the butter and add in coconut butter or olive  or macadamia oil. Add an extra teaspoon of honey or syrup as well. They won’t have that yummy flavour of peanut butter but they’ll still taste great.
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These cookies are super healthy despite tasting as good as they do. The quinoa flour and oats have a much better protein content than plain flour, and the natural sweeteners take out all of the processed sugar and fats that normally go in to cookies. I love cookies, even giant ones full of chocolate and caramel, but I always feel a bit sick after eating them and still end up eating another one anyway…these aren’t like that. You could eat a couple for breakfast and feel fab, they have lots of slow-burning energy in them especially with the optional nuts and flax seeds. 

Each cookie is about 140-160 calories and don’t worry, this isn’t one of those recipes that says “makes thirty for each 100 calories” and you end up making eight. Twelve generous cookies easily comes out of this recipe. They do have a downfall, and that’s their appearance. Please forgive the very average photography today! Me and my camera were not having the best cohesion. Sometimes I feel really great about the photo aspect of the blog but sometimes I feel like a great big amateur struggling with every shot, stuck in awkward angles and lightings that are impossible to break out of. But they do taste great! And that’s all that matters hey? Hey??? So make sure you give them a go.

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Oat, Raisin and Chocolate Cookies: Inspired from here and here

130g (1 + 1/2 cups) rolled oats (not instant)

1 tsp cinnamon

60g (1/2 cup) quinoa flour or almond meal

60g (1/3 cup) raisins or sultanas

100g (4 ounces) vegan + sugar free dark chocolate chunks (or more dried fruit)

60g (2 + 1/2 tbsp) peanut butter

60g (1/2 cup) seeded medjool dates, soaked briefly in water

60g (3 tablespoons) honey or maple syrup

2 medium (1 cup mashed, 300g) bananas

1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional: 50g each (1/3 cup) flax seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds or walnuts

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  Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line two cookie trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, spices, flour, nuts and seeds, dried fruit and chocolate.

In a blender, combine the dates, peanut butter, honey or syrup, banana and vanilla and blend until smooth. Use a large spoon to mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Use an ice cream scoop or small ladle to grab even scoops of cookie dough and place them on the trays. Bake for 17-22 minutes, swapping the trays halfway through. The cookies are done when they are completely cooked on the outside but still slightly soft. They’ll firm up on the trays. 

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Coconut and Peanut Butter Granola Clusters

Vegan, Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free

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Peanut butter brings back so many great memories for me. One time, I was having dinner with some friend’s and my sister arrived really late from a party. At first we didn’t notice anything unusual, but it soon became apparent that she was a little, um…drunk. She just sat there trying to be subtle for about half an hour, not really daring to join in the conversation, and then…

She stood up, gathered everyones attention and said, ‘do you guys want to hear a song from family guy’? Then she violently started dancing and yelling “PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME.” For a really long time.

Oh my gosh. I think it might just be my funniest memory of her. Especially because she was meeting everyone there literally for the first time, that night. 

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 Good old peanut butter. It just makes life so much more rich and varied. I think it may be the most versatile spread, up there with jam. This peanut butter and coconut granola actually had it’s beginnings in what would probably be considered a kitchen failure. 

As it’s Father’s Day today (Happy Father’s Day Dad and Step-Dad!!) I wanted to make some chewy peanut butter and coconut granola bars, because my step-dad goes absolutely nuts for them. I didn’t want to use a whole heap of sugar and I was trying to squeeze in more protein, so the ratio’s were different to what I was used to. I also forgot to take them out of the oven. 

What resulted was granola bars that shattered into clumps as soon as you tried to pick one up. It was so sad! But then I took a bite of some of the crumbs and holla! It was the best granola cluster I’d ever tried. The peanut butter flavour is amazing! And the clusters are huge instead of tiny and impossible to preserve whilst you pour it in the bowl. 

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I am still pushing forward with my granola bar attempts but I had to share this granola cluster recipe as well, because it’s so easy and fuss-free. You can use a combination of fruits, seeds and nuts but the best granola always has a good balance of crunchy, sweet, sour, crumbly and salty. Granola is best if the seeds and nuts are toasted for 8-10 minutes before being cooked, so just toast the first 5 ingredients at 180C (350F) until golden brown. 

I added some things I hadn’t tried before, like pine nuts and cranberries, and both worked really well. The desiccated coconut adds a sweet toasty flavour to the granola that is especially good with soy milk. You can eat a bowl of this granola like you would cereal, but it’s also great sprinkled over yogurt and fruit, folded into a compote or even just as a snack for nibbling on. 

If you’re making it gluten free, be sure to check the oats and other seeds on the packet, because some time’s they’re packaged by the same machines that deal with products containing gluten and can become contaminated. 

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Coconut and Peanut Butter Granola Clusters:

50g (1/2 cup) each chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds

25g (1 heaped tbsp) each pine nuts, flaked or chopped almonds and desiccated coconut

75g (2/3 cup) each dried cranberries and dried apricots and sultanas

45g (1/3 cup + 1/2 tbsp) ground almonds

240g (2 + 2/3 cup) oats

125g (1 cup) coconut butter

100g (5 tbsp) raw honey

75g (1/2 cup) peanut butter

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Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line an 18cm x 40cm or similar baking dish. Soak the cranberries, apricots and sultanas in some water for 10-20 minutes, then drain well. Mix the chopped nuts, seeds, oats, coconuts and fruit together in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, coconut butter and peanut butter until melted and combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Press everything into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and crumbly. Leave to cool completely, and then crumble up and store in airtight jars or containers. Enjoy!

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