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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Vegan, Healthy Chocolate Mousse Pie

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Please excuse the ugly, blob-like excuse for a pie–I was lacking a pan. Thankfully it tasted better than it looked!

I am currently on a diet. It’s a sad time for me.

My brother is getting married in two weeks, and I’m going to be a bridesmaid–my goal is to undo most of my “freshman fifteen” by then. (I’m almost halfway done!) Because of this, any opportunity to eat food makes me unnecessarily excited; I keep finding myself spending much of the day dreaming up new recipes I can try and fit into my diet plan to make myself feel like I’m still eating all the gourmet food I want.

This time, I dreamt up a pie. A paleo, gluten free, mostly raw, vegan chocolate mousse pie, to be exact. So I woke up and I fiddled around in the kitchen until that pie-dream became a reality. And it ended up not only being one of the most nutritious breakfasts of all time, but one that tasted like a decadent, explosively calorific dessert.

But it wasn’t all that calorific at all, considering it was filling enough to be both my breakfast and lunch. And it may have earned the title of the best breakfast I’ve ever had. (Though that could just be the diet talking.) Not to mention it has 20 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of protein!

Sadly, my cute mini pans are all back at college, so I couldn’t make the crusts continue up the sides like a normal pie–so these photos weren’t very pretty. But, the experience did prompt me to go buy a mini pan today to keep at home!

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Makes one 6″ pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 tbsp almond flour
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (I used golden)
  • 1 tbsp protein powder (can replace with any of the above ingredients)
  • 1 tbsp chocolate hazelnut butter, or almond butter
  • 1 tbsp or more of coconut, almond, or soymilk
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • **You could also add dates if desired

For the filling:

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 cold avocado
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8-1/4 cup coconut, almond, or soymilk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 pinches cinnamon
  • Sweetener and/or salt (optional)
  • Add-ins & topping options: espresso powder, sea salt, coconut shreds, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dates

Directions

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the flours, flax seed, protein powder, and salt if desired. Add the nut butter and mix until evenly combined. Add non-dairy milk of your choice until it turns into a dough like consistency; the amount will vary depending on your protein powder.

2. Press crust into a small pie or springform pan, and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until it begins to crisp up and turn golden at the edges.* You can either press the crust just into the bottom of the pan (like I had to for these photos), or have it continue up the sides like a normal pie. Remove from the oven to cool.

3. Make the filling: Place all the filling ingredients (except for toppings) into a food processor and blend until smooth.

4. Once the crust has cooled, spoon the filling into it. Eat it on the spot, or store it in your fridge or freezer. Serve chilled!

*If you want to make it raw, freeze the crust instead.

Calories per pie: ~450

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My makeshift crust, since I didn’t have a proper pan!

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Vegan Baked Gingerbread Donuts

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Prepare yourselves, everyone. The vegan baked vanilla doughnuts are about to get fancier.

Back when I posted the original recipe, I said I’d post with more flavors. People seemed excited about it, so I decided it (hopefully) wouldn’t be too repetitive for you guys. Here’s the first one: the gingerbread variety, probably my favorite of the bunch! I don’t care if it’s summer right now–the taste of fall is always welcome. Something about gingerbread flavors are always so comforting to me. These are one of my best selling pastries, so I guess I’m not the only one who feels that way!

Also, I can’t seem to decide which form of the word doughnuts (versus donuts) to use; guess I’ll keep mixing it up, because why not?

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups vegan white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (can sub in applesauce)
  • 3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 + 1/4 cup water
  • Maple syrup + powdered sugar for glaze

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 6-hole doughnut pans.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

3. In another small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet. Mix just until lumps are gone. Add more water if necessary to get a batter consistency.

5. Pour batter into doughnut cups until about 2/3-3/4 full.

6. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Vegan Nutty Chocolate Coconut Bars

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Every time I open the fridge, there is a lonely little can of coconut milk waiting for me to finish it up. I love making Thai coconut curries, but I have a serious problem making enough curry to use up those monstrous 14oz cans of coconut milk before they go bad. All too often I end up sadly throwing one out, with only a quarter of it used. Whose idea was it to make those cans so big, anyway? You’d have to be some kind of superhuman coconut milk drinker—and I’m talking the thick kind, not the deliciously drinkable diluted ones in cartons—or a curry-loving family of 5 to use those things up in time. But I’m getting off topic here.

I decided that the best way to do that coconut milk justice was to turn it into a pastry. I ended up going with my own version of Ohsheglows’ lightened up coconut bars, because, as I’m sure we all know, she is the guru of all things vegan cooking. The condensed coconut milk idea she uses in the recipe is absolute genius–I’m not sure if it was a common thing that I just happened to discover through her, but it’s seriously amazing! I’ll definitely be using that trick more often to use up those pesky coconut milk cans–I bet it would make a fabulous ice cream base too. But that recipe will have to wait til summer.

Never again will I have to forgo recipes calling for condensed milk!

Also, about the bars: warning, they’re extremely addictive. I ate way too many, but my tastebuds are happy campers.

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Makes about 20 small bars.

Ingredients

Shortbread crust:

  • 1 + 1/3 cups flour
  • 6 tbsp earth balance, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup

Topping:

  • 1 can light coconut milk (15oz?)
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup pecans or almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • Sea salt to sprinkle on top

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.

2. Prepare the crust: mix together the flour and brown sugar. Stir in the earth balance and maple syrup until the mixture clumps up and is evenly combined. Press crust into the bottom of the pan to form a somewhat compact layer.

3. Prepare the condensed coconut milk: combine the coconut milk and coconut sugar in a pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until it’s thickened up significantly.

4. Remove from heat, and pour in the chocolate chips, maple syrup. Stir until the chocolate chips have melted and combined. Pour this mixture on top of the crust. Sprinkle the chopped nuts, shredded coconut, and sea salt on top.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees, until it looks set and the coconut shreds are beginning to brown. Put in the freezer for a few hours, or in the fridge overnight. Once set, cut into bars, and serve!

– Serving size: 1/20 of recipe. Calories per serving: 190

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Vegan Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

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“WHAT? Vegans eat this well?!”

That’s one of the responses these cookies got. One of the mildly annoying things about veganism is that truly palatable dairy and egg-free baked goods are hard to come by. Luckily, through a lot of trial and error (emphasis on the error thanks to the finicky nature of vegan baking), I’m gradually building up my own arsenal of delicious vegan recipes so I’ll never feel deprived again. This particular recipe comes from a friend of mine: she veganized the original egg-and-dairy recipe amazingly! Not to mention, the strong almond flavors are just irresistible–I’m a bit of an almond addict.

I only modified it a little bit from the one she shared, and these cookies were an absolute hit. I brought a batch to the store I bake for, and they sold out really quickly!

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Makes 2 dozen cookies (~3″ diameter)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup earth balance (or sub in equal part applesauce to make it lower fat)
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed with 6 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Salt to sprinkle on top

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare flax egg by mixing the flaxseed and water in a small bowl. Set it aside, stirring occasionally, until fully combined and gelatinous. (yum!)

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl: vegetable oil, earth balance, flax mixture, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until combined. Fold in almonds and chocolate chips.

3. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour, then form into balls on a cookie sheet, leaving about a 2″ space between them. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top of each one.

4. Bake at 350 degrees, or until the tops have crisped up. Transfer to cooling rack until set, and enjoy!

Serving size: 1 cookie. Calories per serving: 210 (using earth balance), 180 (using applesauce)

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Recipe: Hazelnut Butter [Vegan]

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Something about being home from college makes me want to spend all my time experimenting in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s the free time, perhaps it’s the availability of actual cooking equipment like food processors and stand mixers; either way, I keep coming up with all sorts of concoctions.

One of my favorites from this spring break was homemade hazelnut butter–I’m a huge nut butter fanatic. I usually stick to almond and peanut butters, but saw a packet of hazelnut butter at the store and had to go home and try it for myself. A few toasted hazelnuts later and I was in nut butter heaven: it was rich, creamy, bursting with flavor, and like nothing I’ve had before. It’s also a great base for your own homemade vegan nutella: just add cocoa and sweetener!

I then proceeded to come up with a hazelnut-butter cinnamon roll recipe, but I’ll save that one for another post.

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Makes about a cup of butter.

Ingredients

  • 2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2/3 cup soy, almond, or coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • Optional: cinnamon, cocoa powder, maple, or other flavorings

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread hazelnuts on baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes.

2. Place nuts between 2 paper towels and rub together to remove the shells. You may have to take off a few stragglers by hand.

3. Put de-shelled nuts (leaving a few on is fine, but the shells are bitter) into a food processor, and process for about 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and liquid. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the processor every minute or so. If you’re having trouble getting it to go from fine powder to liquid, add the milk and continue processing until smooth.

4. Add the coconut sugar, flavorings, and milk if you haven’t already, and process until combined.

5. Optional: Add 1 part milk to 1 part almond butter, and blend until combined. You’ll essentially be halving the calories if you use a low-cal milk!

Enjoy it on fruit, bread, in pastries, or by the spoonful!

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Thanks for reading,

Michelle

Recipe: Baked Vegan Vanilla Doughnuts

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People always look at me like I’m a wizard whenever they hear I make doughnuts. They tend to respond as if they’re some rare species of baked good that only Krispy Kreme holds the sacred knowledge to. But those of us who’ve made them know how simple they really are.

A few weeks ago, I brought a batch of chocolate peppermint ones (they tasted like thin mints!) to a vegan bakesale hosted at a local grocery store, which also happens to be one of my favorite stores in town. When they saw that I’d made doughnuts and I mentioned that I’m currently doing freelance catering, they offered me a job baking for the store. Now, three times a week, I deliver batches of vegan gingerbread doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts, pumpkin muffins, and brownies to them. Thanks to the aforementioned awe that doughnuts seem to elicit from people, I was able to get more routine baking work (compared to my more chaotic catering) that fits perfectly into my busy student’s schedule!

I hope these doughnuts will bring you as much luck as they’ve brought me. The recipe only took a few rounds of testing to come up with, and the best part is that it’s a simple vanilla base, that you can add just about anything to. I’ll be sharing my recipes for peppermint, chocolate, and gingerbread varieties in other posts, too!

They’re soft, pillowy, and almost impossible to resist!

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Makes a dozen 5-6″ diameter doughnuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups vegan white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (can sub in applesauce)
  • 3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 + 1/2 cup water

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 6-hole doughnut pans.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

3. In another small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet. Mix just until lumps are gone. Add more water if needed to get a batter consistency–it should pour easily.

5. Pour batter into doughnut cups until about 2/3-3/4 full.

6. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Recipe: Skinny Mocha Banana Coconut Shake [Vegan]

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Sometimes, my chocolate cravings turn me into a bit of an animal, stuffing chocolate covered almonds and homemade haystacks into my face like I haven’t eaten in days. Okay, I exaggerate, but still; as you can probably imagine, my serial chocolate snacking never ends well for me or my stomach.

So I’ve been coming up with new, healthier strategies to satisfy my chocolate quotas. This low-calorie “shake” is definitely a winner, as it gets me my caffeine and chocolate fixes at the same time, using fruit as a base. I also incorporated my new favorite teavana tea, My Morning Mate, in place of coffee, as the latter tends to give me the jitters. Any black tea or coffee would work wonderfully, though! Also, if you’re not into caffeine, you can use your favorite kind of milk as the liquid, or even just water.

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Ingredients

  • 1 banana, sliced and frozen
  • About 2 tbs shredded coconut – sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1/2-3/4 cup black tea or coffee
  • Soy, coconut, or almond milk to thin it out if you need to
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 2-3 tbs cocoa powder
  • Handful of walnuts (optional)
  • Chocolate or vanilla flavored protein powder (optional)
  • Sweetener if desired (I found it unnecessary)

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Directions

1. Slice bananas into a bowl and store in freezer until frozen.

2. Combine ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. Add more liquid (milk or tea/coffee) or solids (walnuts, cocoa powded, banana, coconut) until it is at your desired consistency.

3. Pour into a glass or jar, garnish with coconut or banana slices, and enjoy!

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Thanks for reading,

Michelle

Recipe: Vegan Fudge Brownies

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In case it wasn’t already obvious, I’m a huge fan of animals. After some time here at Berkeley, I finally found a club for animal activism, and joined as soon as I discovered it. A few times each semester, the group sponsors a vegan bakesale at our local student food collective, which is essentially a place for all things locally produced, organic, and green, and one of my favorite places to buy groceries. Naturally, I always have to contribute something to the bakesale when I have time.

Being relatively new to vegan baking by the time the first bakesale rolled around, I decided to make something I thought would be simple: vegan brownies. Scouring the internet, however, seemed to produce only fat-filled, bland recipes. So I came up with my own… and I sure am glad I did.

They’re dense, fudgy, only moderately fatty, and flavor-packed; it’s hard to tell they’re free of eggs and dairy. Which satisfies my vegan baking goal: making things that taste so good that my non-vegan friends can’t even tell they’re animal-friendly. They got rave reviews at the bakesale, and I’ll certainly be making them again!

Bonus: apparently my neighbors could all smell the chocolately goodness for hours after the baking was done!

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Makes a 13×9″ pan.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 + 1/2 cup white sugar (make sure it’s vegan! Brands like C&H use bone char to process their sugars.)
  • 3/4c cocoa powder
  • 1 + 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3c applesauce (about  1 small snack-pack worth)
  • 6 tbs vegan margarine, melted
  • About 1 + 1/2c water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp coffee grounds
  • 1/3-1/2c vegan chocolate chips plus more for the top

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a 9×13″ pan.

2.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cocoa powder, and coffee.

3. In a 2-cup measure, melt the butter. Add the applesauce. Then, add enough water so that it fills up to the 2 cup mark. Add vanilla.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in desired amount of chocolate chips. Spread evenly in pan.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven, or until the top is clearly set. The toothpick test can also work, although you have to make sure you aren’t just getting melted chocolate chips out. If it’s batter, it’ll have a more crumbly appearance.

6. Remove from oven, and spread additional chocolate chips on top. I usually use about 1/4 – 1/2 cup, but it all depends on how much frosting you want. Once they’ve melted, spread them around to form a ganache frosting. Once it sets, it’ll add a wonderful texture and extra chocolate punch to the top, as well as lock in moisture.

7. Put in fridge to speed cooling/setting of frosting. Once completely cooled, cut into bars.

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Happy baking!

Michelle

Recipe: Classic Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

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Although I’m usually into making healthier foods these days, there are always occasions that call for a splurge. This time, it was New Year’s eve. I wanted to make something fun and festive, and had just happened to pick up blue and red cupcake holders–so naturally I had to make cupcakes! This recipe gives fluffy, moist cupcakes that taste just like their non-vegan equivalents I’ve made.

As I always say, my ultimate test for vegan recipes is whether or not one can actually taste the lack of eggs and dairy. If nonvegans can’t tell that it’s cruelty free and end up coming back for seconds–and thirds, and fourths, as happened with these cupcakes–then the recipe passes the test!

I used this recipe, and for once, I only had to change one thing! (as it called for non-vegan sugar)

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Makes a dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar or vegan white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (may sub 1/3c applesauce for lower fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional: Chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup) for a simple chocolate frosting/coating

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. If you want to make a cake instead, just use a cakepan–you will have to bake it for longer, though.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: vegetable oil, vanilla, white vinegar, and water.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until smooth. Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 full, or in such a way that all 12 are filled evenly.

5. Bake for 15-25 minutes, using a toothpick to test for how done they are once they looked puffed up and dry. (If the toothpick comes out with batter on it, they need more time.)

6. Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

7. Optional: Prepare chocolate topping by melting chocolate chips in a bowl, and spreading it on the cupcakes. It should harden to form a nice shell, making these cupcakes easily portable and mess-free!

Hope your New Years was fun (and delicious)!

Michelle

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