July 30, 2012

Navitas Naturals Review & Giveaway

Last week, I celebrated my first blogiversary, and today I have another exciting event - my very first giveaway!

I was contacted a little while ago to try out some samples from a company that produces a range of healthy, organic, natural products: Navitas Naturals. If you've been a follower of my blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I rarely promote products that I've tried, and I've never done a product review because I like to keep this space about my own recipes.

But this time, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try these products and be able to share them with you - How could I not support a company whose mission is to provide the finest organic superfoods that increase energy and enhance health?

Navitas Naturals offers everything from powders to seeds, nuts, and dried fruit, and everything is organic and produced using methods that ensure maximum nutrition benefits. Check out all of their products on their website, and you can order them online too!

The package that was sent to me to try included three products: a trail mix, one of their power snacks, and dried mulberries:

The first product that I sampled was the Blueberry Hemp Superfood Power Snack.  This was designed to be a grab-and-go bite-sized snack, and that's exactly how I've been enjoying them! I divided up the bag so that I could have a supply in my office and a small ziplock bag in my purse - that way I always have a healthy, energizing snack on hand when hunger strikes!

The bites were soft and chewy overall, with bits of crunchiness from the seeds (chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds).  The dominant taste was the dried blueberries, with just enough extra sweetness from date paste.

These would be perfect to bring along the next time I travel, and I'd love to try the other two flavours of power snacks: cacao goji and citrus chia.

The next snack that I was excited to rip open was my 3-Berry Cacao Nib Cashew Trail Mix -  a mix of goji berries, mulberries, goldenberries, raw cashews and cacao nibs.

This superfood snack can be eaten on its own, but I preferred adding it to my breakfasts and lunches for a healthy boost of antioxidants and vitamins. Here are two examples of ways that I used the trail mix in breakfasts: overnight oats and a smoothie. 

For the oats, I followed my usual method of mixing equal amounts of rolled oats and almond milk with a bit of liquid sweetener. Then I added half of a banana, along with a couple tablespoons of trail mix to the oats and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

By morning, the dried berries had soaked up some of the moisture and became nice and plump and soft. The cashews and cacao nibs still retained their crunch, but if you want them to be extra crunchy, you could stir in the trail mix in the morning instead of leaving it in overnight.

This was a fun way to change up my oats, and I loved the combination of the dried fruits and nuts with the banana!

To make the smoothie, I blended a frozen banana with some almond milk and a touch of agave nectar. Then I added a handful of trail mix to the blender and processed on high until most of the trail mix had broken down. I also added another handful of trail mix to the top of the smoothie afterwards so that I had a mix of pureed and chunky trail mix.

I love the pretty specks of red that the goji berries gave the smoothie, and it had a unique flavour that I loved too!  This was another great way to get a boost of raw superfoods to start my day!

Other than smoothies and oats, you can also add the trail mix to leafy salads as a crunchy and chewy topping, or mix it into a grain-based salad.  I had a five-grain mix in my cupboard that I had been wanting to use, so I decided to try adding the trail mix to an apple & five-grain salad.

For two servings, I cooked 1/2 cup of dry grains, let it cool, then stirred in 1 small diced apple, 1/2 tbsp minced ginger, and 1/4 cup trail mix.  I also made a quick dressing out of 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 tsp honey mustard, 1/4 tsp agave, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper.

I loved the combination of textures in this salad, from the crispy apples to the chewy grains and dried berries, with a bit of crunch from the cashews and creaminess from the dressing. Overall, it was a light and healthy lunch that was also super easy to make!

Finally, the third snack that I was able to sample was the raw mulberries, which are sun-dried to preserve their natural flavour. Mulberries are one of the few fruits considered a protein source, and they're called "nature's candy" because of their natural sweetness, which reminded me of dates or raisins. I love their unique frilly shape and their crunchy yet chewy texture.

I liked snacking on the mulberries on their own, but I also wanted to try using them in a couple of recipes. First, I went to Navitas Naturals website, which has a lot of recipe ideas featuring many of the products.

I decided to make these mulberry balls, which combine mulberries, cashews, coconut, a bit of coconut oil and some other flavourings.  Everything gets broken down in a food processor to form a sticky mixture that you can then form into energy balls.

I made a small batch of these and the only change to the recipe that I made was to use lemon zest instead of orange zest. I also skipped the last step of rolling the balls in crushed cashews. The mulberries gave these balls a nice sweetness and a unique flavour that I think I prefer to dates.

They were an awesome little snack to store in the fridge for a quick energy boost, and I loved the way the mulberries became extra crispy when I ate them straight from the cold fridge!

The second recipe that I made with my mulberries were these oatmeal raisin breakfast cookies from Chocolate Covered Katie, except I replaced the raisins with mulberries to make oatmeal mulberry cookies instead!

I had to cook mine a bit longer than the original recipe, but they ended up being really tasty! The cookies were soft with bits of chewy mulberries throughout, and the cinnamon and almond butter gave them a subtle but warm flavour.  I shared these with my family, and even though they were a 'healthy cookie', everyone still loved them!


*UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  The winner is Ericka Hachmeister - Congrats!

Now that I've talked so much about these products and given you some ideas on ways that you can use them in recipes, I couldn't end this post without offering you the chance to try them yourselves!

Navitas Naturals was kind enough to offer one reader a prize package of two of the products featured in this post: The power snack and the trail mix. (Note that even though the mulberries are not included in this giveaway, they are still part of the 3-berry cacao-cashew trail mix, so the winner will get a chance to try them that way!)

This giveaway is open to both US and Canadian addresses. Here's how to enter:

Mandatory Entry:
1.  Leave a comment on this post telling me which Navitas Naturals product you would most like to try.

Bonus Entries (leave an extra comment for each one telling me you've done it):
1. Like Navitas Naturals on Facebook
2. Like Vanilla & Spice on Facebook

The giveaway is open from now until Thursday, August 2nd at midnight (Eastern time). I will then randomly choose a winner and post the winner on Friday, August 3rd.

And since my commenting system doesn't show me anyone's email addresses, be sure to check back on Friday to find out if you've won!  The winner will need to contact me with their address info, so if I don't hear from you by Monday August 6th, I will have to choose a new winner.

Good luck :)

July 25, 2012

My 1st Blogiversary (and a Single-Serving Blueberry Cupcake)!

Today is a special day here at Vanilla & Spice - the one-year anniversary of my blog!

It's hard to believe that a whole year has already gone by since I published my very first post, and at the same time I can't believe how much this blog has grown over the past year! What started as a hobby has truly grown into a passion for me, and I've loved every step - including interacting with other bloggers through various social networks, doing my first guest post, and participating in my first virtual potluck!

I also owe a huge thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, read my posts, left me a comment, followed me on Twitter or Facebook, or tried any of my recipes. I've loved getting to know you all, and it honestly makes me so happy when I hear from someone who tells me that they like my blog or enjoyed one of my recipes, and I appreciate every comment, pin, tweet, and share!  

To celebrate my first blogiversary, I thought it would be fitting to make a single cupcake.  Not just any cupcake of course, but a healthier and seasonal vegan cupcake! Before I get to the recipe though, I wanted to share some of my reflections from my first year of blogging...

I think one of the best parts about starting this blog has been the ways in which it has challenged me to improve my cooking, expand my horizons and try new things. A year ago, I had never tried ingredients like millet, spelt flour and cacao nibs, and now they've become part of my pantry essentials!  I've also ventured into cuisines of various countries and made my own versions of Indian, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes. 

In the past year, I've followed along with some of the popular blog trends and tried my hand at overnight oats, kale chips, roasted grapes, and single-ingredient banana ice cream.  But I've also experimented with some of my own creations (although some have been more successful than others!).

Some of my baking and cooking experiments that I'm most proud of from the past year include my mini raw beet cheesecake, my first sweet potato pie, a raw zucchini lasagna that was inspired by a restaurant dish, my cauliflower-stuffed artichoke (the first time I've cooked a whole artichoke!), and my birthday cake this year, which was a pina colada cake that I veganized.

Of course, I've had a lot of failures in the kitchen which haven't made it onto my blog. These include a strawberry mousse that I attempted to make with tofu (which sadly tasted exactly like tofu no matter how much I tweaked it), some beet cupcakes with a cashew frosting that were barely edible, and gluten-free coconut flour scones that crumbled to pieces. So it's safe to say that I still have plenty of room for improvement in the next year!

Now, back to the cupcake, since the food is what this blog is really about after all!

When I was deciding what to make for this occasion, I went to a reliable source for vegan single-serving dessert recipes, Chocolate Covered Katie, and used her Single-Lady Strawberries-n-Cream Cupcake as the basis for my own creation.

Instead of making a strawberry cupcake, I used blueberries because they're currently in season.  I used spelt flour and only a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in the cupcake itself.  Then I added a lemon glaze to the top for extra sweetness, which I made by mixing icing sugar with fresh lemon juice and a bit of lemon zest. Finally, I topped it off with a handful of sprinkles for more of a birthday theme!

I had to bake mine a bit longer than the recipe stated, but it turned out amazing! The cake was soft and moist and I loved the burst of berries. The glaze also added a nice sweetness and lemony flavour that paired well with the blueberries.  It was the perfect single serving treat to celebrate my blog's first anniversary!

 Thanks again for following along with me, and here's to another great year :)

July 23, 2012

Recipe Round-Up: Popsicle Ideas!

With the sweltering heat we've been having so far this summer in Ontario, I've been wishing more every day that I had a pool in my backyard to cool off in.  But since I'm not that lucky, a more affordable way for me to beat the heat is by making my own popsicles!

I finally bought my first popsicle mold at the start of the summer and I've already made good use of my purchase, having made five different kinds of popsicles for myself so far. I usually make small batches of 2-4 popsicles of each flavour, so that I can even have two different types of popsicles in my freezer at the same time.

Some of the flavours I've tried have been really simple and don't really require a "recipe", so I thought that instead of doing separate blog posts for each one, I'd combine them all into one post with ideas for five different kinds of popsicles you can easily make yourself at home if you have a mold.

1. Mango Lassi Popsicles

The first popsicles that I made were these mango lassi popsicles, and I've already made a second batch!  I found the recipe for these on Desserts for Breakfast and made a couple of minor changes, like using almond milk and honey instead of the sugar. If you ever have leftover mango, these popsicles are a great way to use it up! They were super creamy from the yogurt, and even though they didn't taste quite the same as an authentic mango lassi drink, I still loved them!

2. Cantaloupe & Mint Popsicles

Next up was these cantaloupe-mint popsicles.  I was inspired to make them with my leftover ingredients from this cold cantaloupe-mint soup, and it turned out those flavours worked just as well together in a popsicle!  They were very juicy, and more of an ice-pop texture as opposed to the creamy mango ones.  I will warn you, however, that these are more of a grown-up popsicle - I wouldn't recommend adding the mint if you plan on making these for kids.  You also have to like cantaloupe, since that's the dominant taste in these popsicles, and I know I lot of people have strong feelings against cantaloupe!

If you'd like to try these, here's the recipe I followed:

Cantaloupe-Mint Popsicles
2 cups chopped cantaloupe
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tsp honey
Dash of ginger

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour mixture into a popsicle mold and freeze until solid.

Makes 4 large popsicles 

3. Matcha Yogurt Popsicles

Another recipe that turned out better than I expected was these matcha yogurt popsicles, which I found on All Day I Dream About Food. I only made a third of the recipe, and I didn't have quite enough yogurt so I had to substitute some almond milk instead.  They still turned out nice and creamy, and I loved the way the green tea flavour came through without being too strong, and it was complemented well by the lemon juice, sweetener (I used powdered stevia), and vanilla yogurt. If you're a fan of matcha, you should definitely make these!

4. Chocolate Coconut Water Popsicles

Since I had seen popsicle recipes made from pretty much every type of drink or liquid, I started wondering whether I could just freeze coconut water into a popsicle mould to get the ultimate refreshing and hydrating frozen popsicle! I bought a bottle of my favourite kind of coconut water - Zico Chocolate - and poured some into a couple of my popsicle molds.  I also tried adding a splash of coconut milk beverage to the remaining molds (about 2 tbsp per 1/2 cup of coconut water), to see if adding coconut milk would improve the texture.

They came out just as I was hoping - they had all the taste of the chocolate coconut water, but in a solid icy form!  Both of my versions worked out well, but I preferred the ones that had the extra coconut milk added to them. I haven't tried making popsicles out of unflavoured coconut water, so if anyone has tried that, let me know how you like them!

5. Coconut Chai Popsicles

Finally, my favourite popsicles that I've made so far were these coconut chai popsicles.  All I did was heat equal amounts of So Delicious coconut milk beverage and canned coconut milk on the stove and once it was simmering, I whisked in some instant chai powdered beverage mix (1 tbsp of mix per 1/2 cup of liquid).  Once the powder is fully dissolved, let the mixture cool and then pour into popsicle molds.

These came out so soft and creamy, similar to a fudgsicle texture, and I loved the sweet coconut and chai flavours. If you don't have instant chai mix, you could try just adding a mixture of actual chai spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, but I haven't tried this myself so I'm not sure if the spices would be too strong this way.

I can't wait to try out more flavors of popsicles before the summer ends! I've already started thinking of ways to incorporate some of my other favourite ingredients like bananas, avocado and nut butter, and now that local peaches are in season, I'll definitely have to make some peach popsicles!

Hope you're all staying cool too!

July 20, 2012

Black Bean, Corn & Plantain Tortillas with Mango Jicama Salsa

As promised, I finally have a new recipe to share! Today's post is actually more like two recipes in one, since each of the components can be made and eaten either separately or together. 

I started out with the intention of making quesadillas filled with a black bean, corn and plantain mixture, and topped with a fresh and fruity salsa. I decided not to add any cheese to the filling because I wanted to keep them light, and I didn't think that cheese would really go with the plantains. 

The preparation part went smoothly, but it wasn't until I had baked them, photographed them, and started eating them that I realized what a crucial mistake I had made....it turns out that a quesadilla really isn't a quesdailla unless it has cheese.  Otherwise, there's nothing to bind everything together and you end up with just two tortillas and a filling that spills out every time you try to take a bite!

I still loved the taste of my "quesadillas" though, so I wasn't ready to give up on them yet! I repurposed my leftovers and turned them into a simple tortilla wrap instead, which was much easier to eat and just as delicious!

I loved the combination of sweet and spicy flavors in the filling - plantains pair so well with black beans, and the corn added a nice crunchy dimension. Even though there were a lot of ingredients between the filling and the salsa, I thought everything worked really well together! The mango-jicama salsa was so light and refreshing, which was a nice change from the usual sour cream and tomato salsa that is served with Mexican dishes.

I thought this was such a fun and tasty meal for summer, and I like that you can use the components in different ways. For example, I think the salsa would be good on its own with chips, or on top of veggie burgers, chicken or fish.  The filling could also be eaten on its own, or used for tacos, wraps, burritos or quesadillas - just make sure you add some cheese if you want it to stick together!

Black Bean, Corn & Plantain Tortillas with Mango Jicama Salsa

1 cup diced jicama
1 small mango, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup diced cucumber
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1/2 a jalapeno, minced
Juice of half a lime
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt and chili powder to taste

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 a small red onion, diced
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black spots), peeled and chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 a jalapeno, minced
1/2 can (1 cup) black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
shredded cheese (optional - I left it out)
6 small whole wheat or corn tortillas

To make salsa:
Place the jicama, mango, cucumber, red onion and jalapeno in a small bowl and toss to combine. Add the lime juice and cilantro and stir. Sprinkle with salt and chili powder to taste.  Refrigerate until serving time.

To make filling:
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, plantain and corn kernels and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes (until the plantain has softened and starting to brown).  Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring.  Stir in the black beans, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the beans are heated through. Stir in the cilantro and remove from heat.

Oven option for quesadillas:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lay out three tortillas on a baking sheet. Divide the filling mixture on top of each of the three tortillas and sprinkle shredded cheese on top if desired. Press the remaining three tortillas over top of the filling for each quesadilla.

Place quesadillas in the preheated oven and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tortillas are starting to turn crisp and golden.

Remove from oven and slice into wedges.

Serve with jicama salsa.

Tortilla option for wraps:
Lay out three to four tortilla shells (you may want to warm them in the microwave first). Divide filling mixture on top of each tortillas. Top with a couple spoonfuls of the salsa. Roll up each tortilla to make a wrap. Serve with extra salsa on the side.  

Makes 3-4 tortillas (you may have extra salsa leftover).

This was submitted to the Healthy Vegan Fridays blog hop.

July 17, 2012

What I Ate in Zambia

First off, sorry for my absenteeism over the past week and a half!  As I mentioned in my last post, I was at a workshop in Lusaka, Zambia which kept me very busy.  It was fun being able to try some new foods and not having to clean up after myself while I was there, but I'm happy to be back home now where I can make my own meals! The first thing I did when I got back was to go grocery shopping to stock up on produce and pantry supplies, and I spent some time in the kitchen yesterday trying out a couple of recipes. 

Before I get back to my regular recipe posts though, I thought I would share some of the highlights of the food I ate in Zambia.

I was actually surprised to find that the majority of the restaurants and food options in the city were Western foods.  It wasn't difficult to find things like french fries, burgers, and cake or ice cream for dessert, and I found that many of the dishes didn't have that much spice to them. Although I should add that due to our busy schedule, most of our meals were just eaten at our hotel buffet, so I didn't get much of an opportunity to try the traditional local foods.

The one local food that I did get to eat a lot of was called nshima. Nshima is the staple food of certain African countries including Zambia, and its basically a thick, fluffy cornmeal mixture that is eaten with a gravy sauce and either a meat or vegetable side dish.

It wasn't very photogenic, but here's a picture of the nshima with red tomato gravy and an okra side dish (I've always avoided okra, but I actually really liked it prepared this way!), and I also ate versions of it with cooked cabbage.  It's a good thing I liked nshima so much because it was often the only vegetarian option for me, so I ate it at least once or twice a day while I was there!

Besides the nshima, some of the other Zambian specialties that were often served included more corn-based dishes like a plain maize porridge and whole hominy kernels (one of my favourite dishes that I tried was hominy in peanut sauce), and other vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato - which was quite different than the sweet potatoes we have here at home (theirs are a bit firmer and more yellow in colour, with a slightly different taste).

For breakfast, I would sometimes mix the pumpkin with my oats, which was very filling!

Other than the oats, my breakfast would usually consist of toast (which I would spread with a tasty gooseberry jam), yogurt, lots of fresh fruit, and sometimes rice or noodles - whichever was available that day.

I usually just added muesli to my yogurt, but the cereal bar had lots of other options, including different kinds of nuts, seeds and dried fruit:

They also had a couple of salads featured daily.  Here are two that I tried - a pumpkin salad with a strange flavour that I wasn't too fond of, and a nice halloumi salad (I was suprised to find halloumi cheese there!).

There were also plenty of non-vegetarian options available for breakfast - most of which were standard Western breakfast fare like bacon and sausages. One day there was a more unusual dish that I definitely steered clear of - crocodile patties!

Even though I didn't try the crocodile meat, my favourite thing at our daily breakfast buffet was a crocodile in another form - this cute little guy made out of bread and toothpicks!  (Don't worry, he was for display only so nobody could eat him!)

Along with our breakfast, we also ate most of our dinners at the same hotel buffet. My typical meal would consist of a salad course, soup course, and whichever vegetarian main dishes were offered.

Here's a selection of appetizers and salads that I had one night - a halloumi and chili salad on the left, avocado spring rolls, and a Greek feta salad:

And of course, I couldn't help sampling some of the desserts that were on offer each night.  There was usually a selection of cakes, cheesecake, and puddings, as well as fruit salad. Here's a sample of some of my choices during the week - on the left is a baked cheesecake with a honey mousse, and on the right is a caramelized banana and a custard cup:

We did manage to eat outside of our hotel on one night, when we went to one of the nearby shopping areas and chose an Afghani restaurant to eat at.  I ordered a creamy paneer and vegetable dish that had some unique spices which made it different from the Indian paneer dishes I am used to. It was a nice change from the buffet!

Our lunches every day were served at a small hotel where our workshop was held.  They were served buffet style, including a mixture of vegetable and meat dishes.  Since I was the only vegetarian out of the 60 or so people there, the chef would prepare a special plate just for me!

Here's an example of what most of my lunches looked like - either rice or nshima with a vegetable medley and a side salad:

And lastly, I had to share this locally produced drink that I tried - a non-alcoholic ginger beer.  I'm not a big soda drinker, but I loved this drink! It had a nice bite from the ginger and was very refreshing after being out in the hot sun.  I'll have to get my hands on some more ginger beer in Canada - if anyone has a brand that they recommend, please let me know!

Overall, it was a busy but successful week!  The people that we met were all so friendly and welcoming, and the city was actually pretty modern, which made it easier to settle into. It's too bad that I didn't get any extra time to see more of the country, but now that I've had a small taste of Africa, I'd love to go back again!

I'll be back again in a few days with a new recipe!

July 05, 2012

Cold Cantaloupe-Mint Soup

I have a short and simple post for you today, because I've got a lot of packing and preparing to do before I head to the airport for another trip!  Tonight I'll be on my way to a continent that I've never been to before: Africa!  More specifically, I'm going to Zambia, where I'll be participating in a week-long workshop held in the capital city of Lusaka.  I know I won't have much (if any) free time while I'm there, but I'm still really excited to visit a new country and experience new cultures.  Although I am a bit worried about the food options there - hopefully there will be enough vegetarian food for me!  And if anybody has any tips about what to eat in Zambia, please feel free to share them with me!

I hope to stay in touch while I'm away, but in case I don't get a chance to blog from Africa then I'll be back online in about 10 days - and hopefully I'll have some stories and pictures to share with you from my trip!

And since it's the cooler season in Zambia right now, I'm actually a bit relieved to be leaving the heatwave we're having here in Ontario.  When it's this hot out, my idea of the perfect meal is a cold soup made from fresh summer produce.

I really got into chilled soups last summer, when I made a couple versions of avocado soups, and a mango gazpacho that I loved.  This summer, the first chilled soup that I made was this cantaloupe-mint soup.

I like the idea of pureeing fruit into a soup, but it's easy to end up with something that tastes more like a smoothie than a dinner.  This soup definitely didn't taste anything like breakfast though - the cantaloupe was contrasted with lots of fresh herbs and spices, giving the soup a powerful punch of flavour.

I really liked the clean, refreshing note of the mint, and the lime and chili pepper added extra dimensions of their own.  (Note: I used a really hot chili pepper in my soup, but next time I would use something a bit milder like a jalapeno because I found the chili a bit too overpowering).

I'll be at the airport by dinnertime, but this cold, spicy and refreshing soup would definitely hit the spot on a hot night like tonight!

Cold Cantaloupe-Mint Soup
Adapted from Natural Noshing

~4 cups chopped cantaloupe
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 small chili pepper or jalapeno, minced (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1-2 tsp palm sugar or other sweetener
Pinch of sea salt
Ground pepper
Plain yogurt for serving (optional)

Place the first seven ingredients (cantaloupe to sugar) in a blender and puree until smooth.  You may need to blend the ingredients in batches (ie. blend half of the cantaloupe, then pour it out into a bowl, then puree the rest.  Then pour everything back into the blender to finish blending). Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, then blend again to mix.

Transfer soup to a large bowl or container and keep the soup in the fridge for at least one hour before serving to chill.

To serve, pour soup into bowls and stir in a spoonful or two of plain yogurt.

Makes about 3.5 cups

July 02, 2012

Strawberry Banana Snack Cake

I mentioned last week that I still had another strawberry recipe coming up, and I couldn't wait any longer to share it with you!

I love making healthy snack cakes because they're usually so easy to put together - just mix the batter and pour it all into one pan.  I also like that you can eat them whenever and however you like - I enjoyed these as part of my breakfast, as morning and afternoon snacks, and for dessert!

I was inspired to make this snack cake by a recipe I had bookmarked from Sweet & Natural for banana coconut bars.  Since I also had some local strawberries that I wanted to incorporate into some kind of baked treat, I decided to modify the recipe by adding chopped strawberries to the cake.

I made a few other changes to the recipe as well, like substituting spelt flour for half of the whole wheat flour,  adding vanilla extract, replacing the molasses with cane sugar, and eliminating the agave syrup because I thought the cake would be sweet enough already.  I also added some chopped pecans for extra texture and crunch.

I have to say, this may be one of my favourite snack cakes I've made yet! The texture turned out the way a lot of low-fat baked goods tend to be, which I happen to love - dense and slightly chewy, and super moist.

I thought the strawberry, banana and coconut flavors all came through in just the right balance, and it had just the right amount of sweetness too (I actually would have preferred it a bit less sweet, but I think my sweet tooth is lacking a bit - my sister assured me it was perfect the way it was!)

I shared some of this cake with my family, and they all loved it too. It's a nice treat to have around for snacking, especially because it's pretty healthy and light, so you can eat a couple pieces without feeling stuffed. It also keeps well for a few days in a container, although it might not last that long!

This would be a great way to use up any strawberries you might still have, but don't worry if you can't get local ones anymore - I think the store-bought ones would work well in this recipe too.  Or you could try the recipe with another summer fruit - I think blueberries would taste amazing with the banana and coconut!

Low-Fat Strawberry Banana Snack Cake
Adapted from Sweet and Natural 

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup light spelt flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened but next time I would try unsweetened)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsbp cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flours through to salt). In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients (mashed banana through to vanilla extract).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Gently fold in the strawberries and pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 35-45 minutes, until the sides start to pull away from the pan, the top feels firm, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling before cutting into squares.

Makes about 16 squares. 


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