Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars (Vegan)

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Today, I had a bit of a milestone in my development as a food blogger: I successfully veganized the first recipe I ever posted here. I have cast off my shackles of dairy and eggs once and for all!

Dramatic descriptions aside, I’m pretty excited. I thought that my vegan baking would always be sub par compared to the creations I used to whip up; creations that had everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing and begging for more. I thought that my family, boyfriend, and friends would never be excited for my vegan food, always destined to elicit a resounding “well, they’re good for vegan food, I guess…” Not that I’d ever actually received that type of feedback, but I always feared it. I’m a perfectionist, you see.

However, after some wildly successful doughnuts, chocolate chip oat cookies, brownies, thin mints, cinnamon rolls, and now these turtle bars, I’ve finally found my vegan baking confidence. My fears of lukewarm responses are a thing of the past. I can now veganize recipes spontaneously and feel confident that they’ll turn out just as good as the dairy-filled versions!

I hope you guys will enjoy these bars as much as I did. Their familiar taste brought back happy memories of starting this blog–not to mention, they taste even better now because no animals were harmed to make them. (Okay, so the taste is pretty much exactly the same, but with the added psychological warm glow of not hurting cows.)

How ironic that my first post started with a silly disclaimer about not hurting turtles!

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Ingredients:

Dough and toppings:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1.75 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup earth balance butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips

Caramel ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup earth balance butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the chopped pecans on a tray and toast in the oven for 4-5 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and place in a heat-safe bowl with the chocolate chips when done (they’ll start to melt).

2. Prepare the crust: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, and oats. Add in the melted earth balance and stir until combined. Press 2/3 of the mixture evenly along the bottom of a 13×9″ pan, and bake for 10 minutes.

3. Prepare the caramel: combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup earth balance in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and let it bubble for about 5 minutes–it should turn darker brown. Then, pour it into the bowl with the pecans and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

4. Spread the caramel-chocolate-pecan mixture evenly over the crust you just baked–be careful not to dislodge any of the crust. Then sprinkle the rest of the flour-oat mixture evenly across the top, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.

5. Let cool, cut, and enjoy!

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 Recipe: Creamy Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

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Ever since I came to Berkeley three years ago, the biggest obstacle to being 100% vegan was an Indian restaurant called Biryani house. Berkeley is teeming with vegan options, but this place had the absolute best food I’d ever tasted in my life. And that’s a big deal for me, because I’ve had the good fortune of eating at a lot of great restaurants.

I used to go there with friends a couple of times a month to gorge myself on their freshly baked aloo naan, perfectly spiced vegetable biryani, and most importantly, their decadent paneer tikka masala. Unfortunately, my vegan aspirations were dashed due to the fact that their tikka masala not only sported paneer (cubes of Indian cottage cheese), but was also likely drowned in heavy cream.

(Fun fact: my weight seemed to fluctuate along with how often I went there.)

When I finally got more serious about being 100% vegan last year, I had to stop going there. And as if to enforce my self-discipline, it actually closed just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons. A bittersweet moment.

Anyways, getting to the point: I’ve been trying to recreate that tikka masala for quite awhile now. After a few tries–all of which were delicious, but not decadent like theirs–I finally came up with a recipe that tasted almost the same. It’s creamy, spicy, much healthier than its restaurant counterpart, and most importantly, vegan. And I’m pretty darn excited about it.

Now to work on aloo naan recipes!

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Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 400-500g super firm tofu (the kind that is vacuum sealed instead of water packed, and has the density of a block of cheese–I use Tofu Yu. If you can’t find that, try freezing an extra firm block then thawing it out and using it as you would super firm.)
  • 80g cashews (a little less than 3/4 cup), soaked overnight or for a few hours
  • 15oz can of plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1-2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 + cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk (as needed)
  • Handful cilantro
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (more as desired)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika (more as desired)
  • 2 pinches of amchur powder

Directions:

1. Cut up the onion and garlic, and combine them with the tomato sauce in a large pan over medium heat. Add in the cumin, cardamom, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, paprika, and amchur powder, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. While the sauce is simmering, cut your tofu into cubes, and fry until golden (I used a teaspoon of coconut oil, but you could also do it dry). Remove from heat once golden.

3. After 15 minutes, remove the sauce from heat. Allow to cool (if necessary; I didn’t have to for my vitamix) and blend with the drained cashews until smooth and creamy. Add unsweetened almond or cashew milk as needed to get it to your desired consistency.

4. Combine tofu with sauce in a serving bowl, and serve it with jasmine rice, naan, your preferred grain, or enjoy it solo!

Nutrition info: 

  • Calories per 1/5 of recipe: 230 calories
  • Carbs: 17g (3g fiber)| Protein: 15g | Fat: 13g

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Thanks for reading!

Michelle