Before I launch into chocolate and nut butter heaven…I recently got some amazing, gratifying, totally out-of-the-blue news: An Unrefined Vegan has been nominated for a VegNews Bloggy Award. What the WHAT?! I did not see that coming. I would appreciate your vote ever so much! Go here to select your five favorite travel/food/lifestyle blogs from the list. Voting ends April 22 – names of the winning blogs will be published in the July/August issue of VegNews. Woohoo and thank you!
The (bitter) irony is not lost on me. The woman who devoted a whole month to peanut butter-themed recipes is no longer eating nut butters of any kind. It is not an allergy that stopped me in my nutty tracks, but the health and well-being of my husband, Kel. A heart calcium scan revealed that he likely has some plaque build-up in some of his arteries, so we made the decision to eliminate nuts, most seeds, avocados and added oils. It wasn’t a huge obstacle for us to eliminate oils – we were already about 99% there; avocados were more challenging because, dammit, they’re delicious and who wants rice and beans without them?! But time has passed and we don’t crave them anymore. Peanuts and peanut butter, almond butter, cashews and cashew cheezes and creams, and pecans…oh, the Oklahoma pecans! It’s been hard turning our backs on these old, trusted and tasty friends. I didn’t realize until I couldn’t use them how integral they all were to my baking and cooking.
When Angela invited me to participate in her annual blogger/foodie event (this year’s is called Nut Butter Bash), I hesitated. For about 30 seconds. This gave me an opportunity to just go (with my sincere apologies) a little nuts with ingredients that were verboten in our household. The recipe below is just about everything we no longer eat. And it is one decadent, devilishly delicious dessert. Coconut oil, chocolate chips, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and of course – the star of the show: almond butter. Creamy, luscious, rich, chocolatey. I ate one purely for testing purposes, you understand, and then quickly wrapped them up and gave them to a neighbor. I couldn’t be trusted with the whole batch.
So my thanks to Angela for giving me the chance to once again – if all too briefly – explore the versatility and deliciousness of nuts and seeds. For those of you who give this easy recipe a try – and you really should – think of me as you take bite after yummy bite.
By the way, the inspiration for this recipe came from a book that Angela sent me a while ago, Averie Sunshine’s cookbook, Peanut Butter Comfort. Not all of Averie’s recipes are vegan, but they’re adaptable and totally mouthwatering.
- 1/2 cup chopped dates soaked in water for 15-20 minutes, drained
- 1/2 cup natural almond butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. liquid stevia
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (I use unrefined because I like the coconut flavor)
- 1/4 pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
- 6 Tbsp. cocoa or cacao powder (I used NuNaturals Cocoa Dutch Process)
- 2 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
- 1/2 cup puffed quinoa
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted, your choice)
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup stevia-sweetened semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 Tbsp. cacao nibs
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
- Line a 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and set aside.
- In a food processor, pulse the dates, almond butter, vanilla, and stevia until fairly smooth. A few bits here and there won't diminish the final product, though.
- In a small saucepan, gently melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup, non-dairy milk, and cocoa powder. Whisk to combine and then remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the oats, puffed quinoa, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Scrape the date-almond butter mixture into the chocolate mixture and stir until the almond butter melts and the mixture is pretty smooth. Now pour into the bowl with the oats and seeds. Stir well to thoroughly coat the oats/seeds with the chocolate.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth so that it reaches the sides and corners. Now evenly sprinkle on the topping and gently pat so that the chips and seeds adhere. Place the pan in the refrigerator to firm before cutting into squares. Keep squares in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.