Coconut Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars

I have a lot of nanaimo bars in my arsenal, but these definitely deviate the most from the norm.  A twist on the traditional, these no-bake squares feature a sweet-tart, cranberry and coconut cocoa crust, a creamy pumpkin buttercream, and a smooth chocolate topping. My Cakes and Cookies book features one just like the original.

Coconut Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars


For the crust:
1 cup dried cranberries
1 3/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt

For the buttercream:
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread (not margarine)
6 tablespoons mashed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 to 2 tablespoons nondairy milk

For the topping:
6 ounces (170g) nondairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance

Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.

To make the crust, put the cranberries in a small bowl. Top with warm water, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Drain well.

Put the coconut, walnut pieces, ground flaxseed, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a food process. Pulse about 8 times to combine. Add the drained cranberries. Process until the mixture starts to stick together (you should be able to squeeze it in your hand and it stay together), about 1 minute. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Put in the freezer while preparing the buttercream.

To make the buttercream, put the vegan buttery spread, pumpkin, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a hand mixer or the stand mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, about 2 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch into the icing sugar. Add half of mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating well to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Turn the mixer to low speed. Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and the remaining icing sugar, a little at a time, until well combined. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture onto the crust, smoothing evenly. Return the pan to the freezer for at least 10 minutes while making the topping.

To make the topping, put the chocolate chips and vegan buttery spread in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the mixture is smooth and melted. (Alternatively, use a double boiler). Pour the mixture onto the buttercream layer. Spread evenly.

Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. Serve cold, and store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.


Popcorn Puppy Chow

If you haven’t had Puppy Chow (also known as Muddy Buddies), it’s pretty important that you do. I’ve made countless of variations from the original recipe — my favourites being the classic version (peanut butter and chocolate) and a mint chocolate version, using cashew butter for the peanut butter and adding mint extract.

Popcorn Puppy Chow
I’ve added various cereals, chopped nuts, dried cranberries and raisins. I’ve given it as gifts (an excuse to snack on it, really), made it for every occasion (and non-occasion), and love it straight from the freezer.

Two things remain the same: it’s likely my favourite snack ever and I always add more chocolate and peanut butter than the classic recipe, not really measuring either after I hit the recommended amounts (another spoonful of peanut butter? Sure. More chocolate chips? Yes, please.)

Popcorn Puppy Chow 4

This version uses popcorn, which I freshly pop on the stovetop with olive oil and salt. I like the Chex (well, Wegmans brand fake Chex) better — it has more of a crunch, but this is a close second that’ll make it back into the snack rotation for sure.

Popcorn Puppy Chow 3

Popcorn Puppy Chow

8 cups popped popcorn (plain)
1 1/2 cups nondairy semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup nondairy buttery spread
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

Put the popcorn into a large bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

Put the chocolate chips, peanut butter, nondairy buttery spread in a large microwavable bowl. Heat on high for 1 minute. Stir, and then microwave on 30 second intervals until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Let cool about 5 minutes, which will help the popcorn not get soggy.

Pour the mixture over the popcorn, carefully stirring until coated. Scrape the mixture into a large Ziploc bag (I do this in two batches).

Add icing sugar to the bag. Seal and shake until well coated. Spread on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Let stand at room temperature to firm, or speed up the process by putting the baking sheet into the freezer (recommended!)

This can be stored for awhile in the freezer in an airtight container.  

Banana Bread Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Raisins, and Pecans

really love banana anything — cakes, pie, bread, cookies, muffinspops, soft serve, splits, trifles, icings… You name it. Well, except for smoothies. But anyway… these cookies? They’re a cross between a cookie and a bread, so they have those slightly crisp edges, and a bit more density than a banana loaf, and house a mixture of chocolate and raisins and pecans that can be substituted with your favourite add-ins. In other words, make these your own, and enjoy them any time of day.
Banana Bread Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Raisins, and Pecans2

Banana Bread Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Raisins, and Pecans

  • Servings: 12 large cookies
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1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the sorghum flour, millet flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

Mix the baking soda into the mashed bananas. Set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the vegan buttery spread and brown sugar until combined. Add the vanilla extract and the banana mixture. Beat just until mixed. Add the flour mixture, and beat until combined. Stir in the walnuts, raisins, and chocolate chunks.

Spoon generous two tablespoonfuls (about 1/4 cup each) onto a baking sheet for each cookie. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool 5 minutes on directly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: If you make these smaller, you’ll want to reduce the baking time.

Banana Bread Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Raisins, and Pecans