Deliciously Decadent Vegan Truffles

by Angela Stanford

Vegan Truffles

Vegans and non-vegans rave about these delicious chocolate truffles!  Make them for your holiday party and watch them disappear faster than you can say “Happy New Year!” These decadent morsels are a great example of how dessert doesn’t have to be filled with empty calories.  These truffles are made with cashews and bittersweet chocolate (vegan), rolled in unsweetened cocoa powder and raw, toasted coconut.  They are very low in sugar, and packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants.   Simple to make by yourself our with your family.  Enjoy!


    • 3/4 cup raw cashews
    • 3/4 cup cold water
    • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate
    • cocoa powder


  1. Put cashews and cold water in a blender and blend at high speed for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Scrape the sides down and blend again until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream.
  3. Meanwhile, in a double boiler heat the chocolate until it’s all melted.
  4. Cool the chocolate until it’s comfortable to work with (about 5 minutes) and fold in the cashew cream (making sure not to stir too fast or you’ll create bubbles).
  5. Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours to set.
  6. Using a teaspoon, scoop out a small ball and roll in cocoa powder. Repeat until all has been formed into balls.
  7. If not eating right away, store truffles covered in refrigerator.  Remove about 20 minutes before ready to serve to bring to room temperature.

Yield: 50 truffles

Inspired by a recipe I found on the internet by Zeke Koch.


Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread

by Angela Stanford

This delicious spread is easy to make and gets rave reviews at holiday parties. Tastes great on whole grain crackers or romaine lettuce leaves.  It also makes for a great sandwich spread with veggies and 2oz of lean turkey or chicken or layer the spread on thicker, skip the meat on stack up more veggies between slices of whole grain bread.    Packed with protein, healthy fats, omega 3’s, and micro-nutrients not found in commercially processed ketchup or mayo.

1-12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and patted dry with paper towel
1/4 cup whole wheat cracker crumbs
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), toasted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red-wine or balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor in order listed
2. Puree until smooth.

Yields 3 cups

Cooks’ notes:

  • Spread is delicious on whole grain crackers, romaine lettuce leaves toasts or used as a veggie dip
  • Spread can be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Use organic ingredients when possible
  • For gluten free option, toast a slice of gluten free bread, cool and crush into small breadcrumbs or crush up gluten free crackers between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin.

Almond Banana Smoothie

by Angela Stanford

Here is a recipe that will give you something to do with all those black-spotted bananas on your counter, rather than putting them into yet another loaf of banana break.  With only 7 simple ingredients, it is a quick and easy way to start the day!

 It is a good source of vitamin E, fiber, protein and potassium. Plus it is packed with energy from healthy fats (from the almonds) and high quality carbohydrates (from the bananas, natural sweetener and non-dairy milk). Choose a fortified non-dairy milk and you should be getting some healthy, essential vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Plus those bananas are easy on your tummy, for some quickly digested energy.


2 cups non-dairy milk, vanilla flavor
2 frozen bananas, ripe
2 Tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
1 cup ice
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more if you’re a big fan)
optional: a few dashes of cayenne
garnish: roasted almonds

1. Place all ingredients in a high power blender. Blend on high until smooth and thick.
2. Pour into glasses and garnish with roasted almonds.

Drink and enjoy!

Cooks Notes:

  • jarred almond butter works find also, but fresh tastes even better
  • peel and cut each banana into 4 pieces and store in container in freezer, so they are ready whenever you want to make your smoothie.  4 pieces = 1 banana

Inspired by Kathy at

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

by Angela Stanford

These moist and delicious, flourless fudgy brownies are vegan and gluten free. Kids love them as much as adults.  You would never know they are made with black beans!


One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 tbsp warm water = 3 eggs
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips, divided


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8 X 8-inch baking pan or dish set aside.

2. Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the egg replacer, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, peppermint extract as desired, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth.  Add ¼ cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.

4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

Yield: 16 Servings
Serving Size: One brownie (2” by 2”)

I modified this now vegan recipe from a recipe by Liz Weiss and Janice Newell.

Carmelized Butternut Squash

by Angela Stanford

As we transition into fall, here is simply delicious recipe for one of my seasonal favorites from the garden – butternut squash. Acorn squash will also give you the same tasty results. Enjoy!

Caramelized Butternut Squash

2 medium Butternut Squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
6 Tbsp Earth Balance or Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
3 Tbsp Maple Syrup
½ tsp Kosher Salt
1/2-1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut off the ends of each butternut squash and discard.
  3. Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise.
  4. Using a spoon, remove the seeds.
  5. Cut the squash into 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ cubes (large and uniform is best), and place them on a baking sheet.
  6. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper.
  7. With clean hands, toss all of the ingredients together and spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  8. Roast for 45 minutes to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize.
  9. Turn the squash while roasting a few times with a spatula to be sure it browns evenly.
  10. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  11. Serve hot.

Adapted from a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa

Cook’s Notes:


For DAIRY FREE variation, use Earth Balance instead of butter

Amazing Apple Crisp Recipe

by Angela Stanford

Here is a recipe I wrote for the October issue of Natural Awakenings magazine. It is a new take on an old favorite that I’ve been making since I was 10 years old from my 4-H cookbook. Enjoy!

Amazing Apple Crisp

A delicious, fall treat packed with fiber and seasonal fruit. A great, all-natural alternative to store-bought pies that are often higher in fat and added sugar and may contain artificial colors and flavors.


Use organic ingredients when possible

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup butter or Earth Balance
8 cups apples (about 12 medium to large apples), diced into bite-sized chunks (Granny Smith and Fuji work well) **if apples are not organic, peel them to remove pesticide residues


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rolled oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and blend. Add soft butter (or Earth Balance) and blend well with a fork or pastry blender. Cut each apple into 10 slices and each slice into 3 pieces. Arrange diced apples in lightly buttered 9”x13” baking dish. Spread oatmeal mixture on top of apples and press lightly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is brown and apples are tender. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Delicious served warm by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Seasonal Variations:

  • Spring: strawberry/ rhubarb
  • Summer: peaches
  • Fall: pears

Cook’s Notes:

GLUTEN FREE OPTION:  make with gluten free flour and gluten free oats.

DAIRY FREE OPTION:  Make with Earth Balance instead of butter.

Recipe by Angela Stanford, registered dietitian and owner of Vital Nutrition and Wellness. She offers personal consultation and classes about nutrition, health and environmental awareness. For more information, call Vital Nutrition and Wellness at 925-389-7107 or visit

Garden Club – Harvesting and Eating

by Angela Stanford

(Originally posted on November 9th, 2011)

Garden Club Week 7 – Eating the Fruits of Our Labor

Today our 5th grade gardeners enjoyed learning how to prepare and eat the spinach and radishes they grew in the Earthboxes. Here I am with the kids serving up Spinach and Radish Salad after demonstrating how to make it, so when the kids take there veggies home, they can make the same salad for their families.

Angela serving up Spinach and Radish Salad to Garden Club

The salad was a big hit! Most kids asked for seconds! Here is the recipe. I have scaled it down from the original recipe to feed 30 from the Earthbox website and tweeked it by adding more radishes and reducing the salt. It still makes enough to feed10 people a plate full. I also cut the dressing recipe in half. Use as much or as little as you like and save the rest for next time.

Spinach and Radish Salad

2/3 cup olive oil

3 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 Tbsp grainy mustard (not spicy mustard. kids don’t like spicy)

2 small cloves garlic minced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 lb torn spinach leaves

10 radishes sliced thinly

1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese


Whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Wash and spin dry torn spinach leaves and toss with dressing. Add Swiss cheese and toss again. Serve.

The kids also tried the Spinach and Radish dip I made on gluten-free rice crackers. They liked it, but raved more about the salad. I think it was the dressing that did it. I’ve made it again at home because it is to versatile tossed with any veggies I happen to have in the fridge to make a delicious and nutritious salad! (By the way, it also makes a great marinade for beef.)

Thumbs up for the Spinach and Radish Dip

Here is the recipe for the Spinach and Radish Dip.

Spinach and Radish Dip

2.5 lb spinach, coarse stems discarded and leaves washed

1 1/2 cup plain organic yogurt

3/4 cup finely chopped radish

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/2 clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp white wine vinegar

Serve on whole grain mini toasts or gluten-free whole grain crackers


In a large heavy saucepan, cook the spinach in the water clinging to the leaves, covered over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes stirring once or twice or until spinach is wilted. Refresh spinach under cold water and drain in colander. Squeeze spinach dry by handfuls and chop it fine. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and serve on crackers or toasts. If you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two, flavors will meld for an even better taste.

Note: If fresh spinach is not available, you can substitute a 1 lb box of frozen spinach. Once defrosted, remember to squeeze out the moisture before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.


Garden Club at Sycamore Elementary will start up again in the Spring with a 7 week session of 4rth graders who will be planting veggies in the Earthboxes, preparing and planting an herb garden in the Living Wall, learning about water conservation, continuing the worm composting and teaming up with the Green Team on campus to tackle waste in the lunchroom.

A shout out to Mr. Lawrence, Sycamore’s Science Specialist and my partner in this effort to help kids learn about where there food comes from and how the choices they make about food affect their health and the health of the environment.

Kim Lawrence & Angela Stanford

Kim Lawrence and Angela Stanford

See you next February as we start up our Spring session of Garden Club. Until then….