Although I am neither vegan nor a total raw foodist, I value a plant-based diet and fully appreciate the effect that eating vegan can have on our planet’s resources and inhabitants. Interestingly, my body makes antibodies to eggs and dairy (and almonds), so I find it necessary to specifically prepare meals and treats that exclude these items. When it comes to baked goods and sweet treats, I use vegan recipes or simply modify recipes to be vegan. If a recipe calls for butter, I use raw coconut oil instead. If it calls for eggs, I use 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds (mixed with one tablespoon of water to make a gelatinous paste) as an egg substitute. If it calls for almond butter (or almonds), I replace this nut with other nut/seed butters (or nuts/seeds).
Very recently, I made Natilla for a friend who grew up in Colombia and enjoyed this special treat during the holidays. When my friend discovered that he should avoid all forms of dairy, he thought this custard-like dessert became off-limits. I, instead, viewed his new dietary restriction as an opportunity to make some recipe conversions (and as an opportunity to present him with a treat just as delicious as he remembered but without the adverse effects to his health!). While the original recipe called for milk and butter, I used coconut milk and coconut oil in their place. These coconut products, along with coconut sugar, cornstarch (or arrowroot), cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda, sea salt and nutmeg resulted in a slightly sweet treat, which was a huge hit with my friend, his wife, (and their Puerto Rican house guest). In fact, they all begged for the recipe since they said the Natilla disappeared far too quickly for their taste!
Many other popular holiday sweet recipes can also be easily altered. My neighbor brings us a huge can of what she calls, Peanut Butter Buckeyes, every year at the holidays. While very delicious, I always find myself with gastrointestinal distress if I eat them. This year, I decided to try to make a small batch, using raw coconut oil instead of butter and 72% chocolate instead of the milk chocolate and paraffin (yes…paraffin, “food-grade” wax of petroleum origin- no thanks!). My vegan Buckeyes turned out beautifully- I actually enjoyed them more than the original as I was able to modify them to not be so sickeningly sweet!
While both of the treats I mentioned above can be modified to include more enzymes and to be vegan-friendly, they are not necessarily enzyme-rich (Natilla is cooked and devoid of enzymes while Peanut Butter Buckeyes only contains some from the raw coconut oil). Because I value high-quality foods, especially those which are enzyme-rich, I will share a recipe for raw, vegan truffles. For me, feeling good about the product (and ingredients within) is every bit as important as the flavor. The following recipe may be great for those of you who wish to indulge a bit this season but who also want to feel good about what you are bringing to share (or what you are savoring all to yourself!).
Vegan Raw Truffles
- 1 cup raw coconut oil
- 1/3 cup raw agave (or raw honey if you prefer it over agave)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use sea or mined salt)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup raw cacoa powder (unsweetened cocoa powder works too but raw cacoa often offers far more nutrients)
- 3 tablespoons carob powder (may use this amount of cacao if you have no carob)
- Blend all ingredients in food processor.
- Roll into balls (approximately one tablespoon per truffle) until all truffle mix is used up.