Healthy Mojito Pops

It's already the second week of september and seems like everybody is saying goodbye to summer and the vacations...oh boy! How time flies! Feels like it was yesterday when I was making plans for the holidays and writting and endless list of things to do and new recipes to try during summer and, all of a sudden, my birthday is approaching (*insert dramatic-apocalyptic music*) and pumpkin season is right around the corner. Actually these days I've seen several food websites and blogs where they are already talking about Halloween, pumpkin pies and all-autumn things. 
Summer isn't officially over and it's still (super) humid and hot here in Barcelona. Thinking about coats, rain boots and chicken soup are the last things on my mind.
We're still in time to enjoy refreshing, sweet and yummy frozen desserts because summer ain't over, because these pops are healthy and because...Mojito!
My Healthy Mojito Pops are the frozen version of Jason Vale's (aka The Juice Master) Healthy Mojito Juice: it tastes literally like a mojito minus all the sugar and the alcohol, so delicious! I was so amazed after the first taste, you can really enjoy this classic cocktail with zero guilt.
I'm now a declared fan of Jason Vale's juices, they are all amazing and super delicious. I'd have never thought that celery, beetroot, spinachs and any veggie your mind can imagine could make such a perfect team with fruits!

Now let's seize the last days of summer! 
Healthy Mojito Pops
(yield: 6 pops approx.)

2 limes, peeled.
4 handfuls fresh mint leaves*.
8 handfuls green seedless grapes.

*Reserve a few mint leaves to decorate each pop.

Put grapes, lime and mint leaves into your juicer. Juice everything together. 
Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and alternate with some thin lime slices and a few fresh mint leaves.
Freeze and insert wooden pop sticks 30-40 minutes approximately after they have been transferred into the freezer.
Depending on the size of your popsicle mold you will get more or less pops. 
Do not forget to cover them with tin foil paper and keep them away from food with strong odor.


Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream

I knew I couldn't let August pass by without an ice cream recipe...and oh boy! ,this is not your average homemade ice cream, this is, my fellow chocoholics, THE ultimate ice cream recipe!
When I posted my Very Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies from the cookbook Vegan Chocolate, Fran Costigan (the author of this wonderful book) asked what would I try next and I had no doubt: "Ice cream!", I answered. My previous attempts at making homemade ice creams resulted in containers full of something looking more close to crushed ice than actual ice cream. But since every single recipe I tried from Fran's book has been a great success I knew this one wouldn't disappoint me.
This Vegan Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream has everything you could wish for in a scoop: extremely creamy, flavorful and delicious chocolate ice cream with chunks of very fudgy brownies and a generous drizzle of thick chocolate sauce. You want more? Okay, I bring you two additional add-ins: chopped pistachios and hazelnuts. It's seriously the best chocolate ice cream I've ever tasted, my family loved it and we all concurred in how creamy it was. It's amazing how good a homemade ice cream can taste. I'll make more this weekend cause it was gone in a flash and everybody is asking me for more.
Taking pictures of ice creams can be a bit of a challenge, specially if you live in a hot humid area like I do. Thankfully I had the best photo assistant that day (aka my sister) and I'm really happy with how the photographs came out...plus not a single scoop of ice cream went to waste! ;-)
Shake off the dust of your old ice cream maker and run to the kitchen, you're still in time to make an amazing ice cream at home before summer ends (but I guarantee you, this one's so good you'll want to make it even in winter).

I suggest you to plan ahead this recipe so you'll save time in the kitchen and enjoy this ice cream in less than you think.
1- Soak cashews overnight.
2- Make the brownies and the cashew cream. Once the brownie cake is cold freeze until you need to use it. Refrigerate the cashew cream (up to three days).
3- Don't forget to put the churning bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer. To make sure it's fully chilled I put mine at least 24 hours before using. This always depends on what type of ice cream maker you own.
4- Make the ice cream. While the ice cream hardens you can prepare a yummy chocolate sauce and some other toppings.

NOTE: one recipe of the Very Fudgy Brownies makes more chunks than you'll need for this ice cream. Keep the leftovers in the freezer until you need them to make more ice cream (I'm pretty sure you'll have enough brownies to make 3 ice creams).

Receta en español aquí!

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream
(recipe from 'Vegan Chocolate' by Fran Costigan)

1 1/2 cups cashew cream.
1/2 cup almond milk.
1/4 cup organic granulated sugar.
2 tbsp pure maple syrup.
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder.
1/8 tsp xanthan gum.
One pinch of fine sea salt.
3 ounces/85g frozen brownies.

- For the Basic Cashew Cream:
1 cup whole raw cashews, rinsed and soaked overnight.
2/3 cup water, room temperature.
1/4 cup pure maple syrup.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
1/4 tsp xanthan gum.

Chocolate sauce.
Chopped pistachios and hazelnuts.

Cashew Cream:
This basic cashew cream is very easy to make. You just need to put the rinsed cashews into a blender, add the water, maple syrup and vanilla and blend. Gradually increasing the speed, blend for 1 minute until the cream is smooth and no small bits of nuts remain unblended.
Add the xanthan gum with caution, making sure it doesn't touch the sides of the blender. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds and increase the speed to high to blend for 1 more minute. Refrigerate until needed.

Ice Cream:
Blend together cashew cream, almond milk, sugar, maple syrup and cocoa powder on high speed until all ingredients are completely combined and the batter is smooth. If you use a blender this will take you only 1 minute.
Sprinkle the xanthan gum directly onto the mixture. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds to avoid the xanthan gum to go all the way to the sides of the blender and then increase the speed to high. Blend for 1 minute and finally add a small pinch of salt.
Pour the ice cream base into a wide flat container (it is important to store it in a flat container to prevent ice crystals from forming, avoid any kind of pints). Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours approximately until it's completely chilled before churning. The colder (NOT frozen) your base is, the creamier your ice cream will be.
Pour the cold mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. I churned mine for 30 minutes.
Cut the cold brownies into small pieces and refrigerate again until needed.
Add the brownies at the very last minute of churning, this way the chunks won't break.
Transfer the ice cream using a silicone spatula to the flat container. Cover and freeze for 1 to 2 hours until the ice cream is hard enough to scoop.

While the ice cream is in the freezer we can prepare some delicious toppings like a thick chocolate sauce to pour over. I made the Thick Fudge Sauce also from the same book (for those of you who have it, the recipe for this chocolate sauce is in the page 277).
If you want to make this ice cream look super fancy, chop a small handful of your favorite nuts and sprinkle on top. I chopped raw pistachios and hazelnuts.


Lemon Macadamia Cookies

Can't believe I haven't posted any recipe since late July, hmmm...I guess when you're having fun (and a lazy ass too), enjoying summer holidays and spending some quality time with your loved ones time flies! 
I know I said this blog would remain 'open' during the summer holidays but I felt like I really needed a little break from social media and spending hours in front of my laptop writing recipes and editing food pictures. Instead of blogging till late at night I've been chilling at home, watching funny movies (I so needed some good laughs!), drinking fresh homemade lemonade made by my sister and eating yummy mangoes like there's no tomorrow, yep, they are my ultimate obsession.
My oven hasn't been on vacation though, in fact I have quite a lot of pending recipes to publish and I can't wait to show them all to you. 
Summer calls for fruity recipes and I love anything lemon/lime-based. These Lemon Macadamia Cookies have everything to make them the perfect summer cookies: a lively touch of fresh lemon, soft chunks of macadamia nuts and a nice lightly-cakey texture, soft in the center but firm along the edges. Plus they are healthy and guilt-free! These cookies are vegan (which means dairy-free), sugar-free and contains a good proportion of whole-wheat flour. 
Let's begin with the recipe!

Click aquí para la receta en español!

Lemon Macadamia Cookies
(makes 2 dozen cookies)

2/3 cup agave nectar.
2/3 cup sunflower oil.
2 tbsp nondairy milk.
1 tbsp ground flax seeds.
Grated zest of one lemon.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
1 cup whole-wheat flour.
3/4 tsp baking soda.
A rounded 1/4 tsp fine sea salt.
1 cup roughly chopped macadamia nuts.

Preheat oven to 325ºF (163ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together agave nectar, oil, nondairy milk, flax seeds and lemon zest until smooth. Sift in the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda and salt and mix to form a soft dough. Fold in the macadamia chunks.
Scoop generously rounded tablespoons of dough (remember to leave enough space between cookies as they will spread a bit) onto the baking sheets. 
Bake cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges are golden. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in a tightly covered container.


Blueberry Lime Vegan Cheesecake

If you search for cheesecake recipes on this blog you will find NONE. Yeah, I know. How come I've never published any cheesecake recipe before?! Ridiculous, shameful, weird...and if you wanna make me feel even more guilty feel free to add more negative adjectives, hehe.
Now, seriously, since I started to develop this passion for baking I have baked several cheesecakes (and let me add, with great success) but for some strange reason I haven't shared any of my recipes with you, until now! 
I guess the reason behind this cheesecake-less blog is that since I started to take care of my cholesterol levels some years ago I cut back on butter, full-fat cream cheese and dairy products in general (nowadays I removed butter and almost all dairy from my diet). As you know traditional cheesecakes contain butter, cream cheese, heavy cream...etc. and I can't (well, I should not) eat them, that's why I stopped baking cheesecakes.
I always try to make healthier food choices and use natural, organic, wholesome ingredients for each recipe I share with all my readers. I love to cook everything from scratch, give a healthier twist to my favorite classic bakery recipes and replace certain ingredients for others with more benefits for our bodies. 
I hope you forgive me for not posting a cheesecake recipe before, I'm sure you will after you see (and try!) this Blueberry Lime Vegan Cheesecake. It's by far, and I kid you not, the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. My mom is not a fan of cheesecakes (she's quite picky when it comes to cheese-based desserts) and she loved this one! The cake was gone in less than two days and not a single crumb was left! 
It's extremely creamy, not overwhelmingly sweet or tangy, with a nice stay-in-place crumb that will let you cut beautiful slices. It was so good I couldn't stop tasting the batter, it was like having a yummy and refreshing milkshake that you could drink with a straw. 
You can come up with as many variations as you wish and replace the blueberries for your favorite fruits, use a different jam, make a chocolatey crust and substitute the lime zest and juice for orange, lemon...try different versions and find your favorite one!

PS: this blog will remain open during the summer holidays! Because beach, fun and bakery are totally compatible. ;-) 

Blueberry Lime Vegan Cheesecake

(Makes one 8-inch/20 cm cheesecake)
1/2 cup unroasted cashews, soaked in water overnight.
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana.
14 ounces (400g) silken tofu, drained.
2 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature.
2/3 cup sugar.
4 tsp cornstarch.
1/4 tsp fine sea salt.
4 tbsp lime juice.
Grated zest of 1 lime.

1 1/4 cups finely ground graham cracker or any vegan cookie crumbs.
3 tbsp sugar.
4 tbsp melted coconut oil.
2 tbsp soy milk.

Wild berry jam.
Fresh blueberries.

- To make the cookie crust:
Preheat oven to 350 ºF (180 ºC) and lightly spray a 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the cookies in your food processor and pulse until you get fine crumbs.
In a medium mizing bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix well to ensure the crumbs are moist. Pour in the soy milk and stir again to combine all ingredients and form a crumbly dough. You might need to use your hands to blend the mixture and get a crumbly dough.
Pour the crumbs into the springform pan and press them very firmly into the sides of the pan first and pat into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes until firm. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Let the crust cool before filling.
Leave the oven on at the same temperature because you'll be baking the cheesecake just a few minutes after.
- To make the filling:
Drain the soaked cashews and tofu. In a blender place the cashews, mashed banana, tofu, coconut oil, sugar, cornstarch, sea salt, lime juice and lime zest. Blend all ingredients together until completely smooth and you don't see any small bit of cashews.
Pour the batter over the crust and tap it lightly on the counter to get rid of the large air bubbles.
Bake the cheesecake for 50 minutes approximately, until the edges are golden and the top is lightly puffed and still looks a bit 'wet'. 
Let the cake cool before adding the topping. 
- To decorate:
Scoop out the desired amount of jam and spread evenly on the top of the cake working from the center and spreading it to the edges.
Sprinkle fresh blueberries over the cheesecake.
Move the cake to the fridge and let it cool overnight for best results.


Very Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies

Ladies and gents, I bring you today the most delicious brownies you will ever stuff your face with! Yes, they are THAT good. So rich, so fudgy, so soft...and filled with chunks of mixed nuts and dark chocolate.
No one (and I mean NO ONE) will ever guess these are vegan. In fact, wether you follow a vegan/vegetarian diet or not once you try this recipe there's no turning back, this has become my absolute favorite brownie recipe and as I'm typing these words I've just remembered there are still a few squares left in the fridge...so you can guess what I'm gonna do at the end of this post, right?! ;-)
It's almost Friday, the weekend's right around the corner and we suddenly feel happier (and relieved, as if the weekend would last forever) so why don't you indulge yourself with some real chocolatey goodness. Bake these brownies and melt of pleasure, trust me...you won't regret it, plus you won't need any super fancy or where-the-heck-do-I-find-this ingredients. 
I've said that before but I'll never get tired of saying it over and over again, 'Vegan Chocolate' by the super nice and mega-talented vegan chef Fran Costigan is the best cookbook gracing my bookshelf. Like I told to one of my Instagram followers when she asked me where I got the recipe for my vegan Sachertorte: "this book it's full of drool-worthy recipes", all the recipes are amazing and I can assure you that you'll always get picture-perfect desserts*.

Receta en español aquí!

Very Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies
(Recipe from the book 'Vegan Chocolate' by Fran Costigan)

(makes one 8x8-inch (20x20-cm) square pan)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour.
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
1/2 cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder.
1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar.
1/4 cup whole cane sugar, ground in a blender until powdered.
2 tbsp cornstarch.
1 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp fine sea salt.
1/4 cup plsu 2 tbsp mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil.
1/2 cup maple syrup.
1/4 cup soy milk (or any nondairy milk).
2 tsp pure vanilla extract.
Heaping 1/2 cup dark chocolate mini chunks.
1/3 cup mix of walnuts, pecan and macadamia nuts, lightly toasted.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease an 8x8-inch/20x20-cm square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl sift together the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, whole cane sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and stir with a whisk to aerate the mixture. If any small bits remain in the sifter, add them to the mixture.
Whisk the oil, maple syrup, soy milk, and vanilla in a separate mixing bowl until completely combined and lightly foamy. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until the batter (which should be thick) is smooth. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
Stir in the chocolate chunks, macadamia and pecan nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and spread into an even layer with an angled metal spatula.
Bake for 23 minutes approximately until the top is set but not too dry (although it has to look dry) and the sides have started to pull away from the pan. If you're not really sure if the brownie is already cooked I highly recommend you to insert a wooden tester diagonally into the brownies. If the tester comes out coated with butter but not wet that means the brownie is perfectly baked! 
Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack. 
Let it cool completely at room temperature. Don't panic if the middle of the cake sinks a bit as it cools, that usually happens with very fudgy brownies but once it's cold you can push the sides down to level the cake if you like. Mine just sinked a tiny bit in the middle but naturally leveled by itself as it was cooling.
Keep the brownies in the refrigerator (inside a covered container), these brownies will stay fudgy even if you freeze them (they make the perfect cake for ice cream sandwiches and awesome chunks too!). 
It's very important that you wait until they are very cold to cut them into squares.

*Check out the following recipes I've already published from Fran's cookbook: