Easy, Delicious, and Sneakily Healthy Cinnamon Rolls! Vegan and Gluten-Free “Cinna-bonzos”

cinnabonzoMMMMM.  Warm cinnamon rolls …

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Soft, warm, gooey- in-the-middle, cinnamon rolls.

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Can you even STAND it??

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Have you ever been haunted by the image of a certain food?  For the past few days, I have seen cinnamon rolls EVERYWHERE. Recipes popping up all over the internets, stacks of boxed cinnamon rolls in the supermarket bakery, glossy magazine covers showcasing rolls with thick icing dripping over the sides.  When those sweet, cinnamon-y, rolls of delight weren’t physically in my view, they were swinging slowly back and forth in my mind’s eye like a hypnotist’s pendulum.  It didn’t help that it was that certain week in the month where I can not resist carbs and sweets.  My cravings during this weak week (hehe) usually fall inside one of two categories: chocolate everything and baked goods.  This month, it was the latter.  After being bombarded for days by cinnamon rolls, I finally held my hands up and surrendered!  If you can’t beat ’em, join bake ’em.

I fully believe in giving in to my cravings, so long as I can create something with a little less negative impact on my health.  While having a real, bakery cinnamon roll isn’t going to unravel anyone’s well-being or good looks (and indulging on occasion certainly shouldn’t be grounds for self-punishment and guilt), I still like having some healthier versions of my favorite sweet treats on hand.  Because sometimes I want more than one.  And for another thing, traditional cinnamon rolls take so long to make!  Especially when I’ve already endured what feels like years staring at delicious-looking cinnamon buns.  I don’t want to wait for the dough to rise, I want it NOW.  Or at the very least, within the hour.

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So, I endeavored to make a healthy and relatively quick cinnamon roll.  I knew I wanted it to be free of refined flours, as well as gluten-free, so everyone could partake.  After perusing all of the cinnamon roll recipes in my cookbooks and favorite websites, I knew I wanted to reduce the oil as much as possible and cut back on sweeteners, while still maintaining a delicious taste and texture. I had this crazy idea to include an unconventional ingredient, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.  Perhaps you’ve guessed the secret, sneaky, ingredient?  There’s a clue in the name for these little creations, “Cinna-bonzos.”  To make a moist dough without much oil,  I took a page out of some of my favorite bloggers books, and used pureed chickpeas, or garbanzos!  I just love the idea of using beans in desserts, and especially love Chocolate Covered Katie’s deep dish cookie pie, and Hummusapien’s chickpea blondies!  I’ve made brownies, cookies, blondies, dips, and pies with beans, but cinnamon rolls?  Hmm… I thought it just might be crazy enough to be good!

I’ve played around with using other vegetable purees to mix up healthier dough, like in my pumpkin empanadas, so I thought why not a garbanzo bean puree?  Although I came across a few recipes using chickpea flour, I couldn’t find any in which the whole bean was used.  So I had to experiment a bit.  To my surprise, it worked on my first try!  I made some tweaks in subsequent batches, because I really wanted the rolls to have a soft texture with a nice crumb, with that beloved gooey middle piece.  I think the results were spot on!  Even after tasting cinnamon roll after cinnamon roll, and claiming to be “done” with cinnamon rolls for a while, I woke up this morning wanting one for breakfast!

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My picky 18-month-old daughter approves!  She took one bite and said “MMMM!” followed by “what? what?” Which is her way of saying “I want more!”  I had my husband try one, although he wasn’t thrilled about being a guinea pig.  He said, “It’s good, tastes like a cinnamon roll.”   I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he knows me and my penchant for attempting unconventional methods and ingredients in the kitchen.  “Do you detect any… legume-ish flavors?” I asked carefully.  He raised an eyebrow, “No, should I?”  I smiled, “Nope!”  This was a good sign. Despite cleaning up his diet a great deal the last few years, my husband is not, by any stretch of the mind, a health-foodie.  He loves Mt. Dew, and eats Lifesaver Mints like they’re going out of style. Ironically, he is the perfect tester for my creations!  You know if he likes it, it can’t taste too “healthy.”

So there you have it, the stamp of approval from a choosy toddler and refined-sugar-lovin’ husband.  Oh, and a crazy lady driven by pms cravings!  HA-HA.  All joking aside, these are a tasty alternative to the butter, white sugar, and white flour-laden traditional rolls.  These cinnamon rolls won’t leave you with a yucky belly, nor will it send your blood sugar spiking and crashing.  They feature whole, plant-based foods (oats, beans, flaxseeds, dates, applesauce) and just a bit of coconut oil and coconut sugar.  If you’ve had cinnamon rolls on your mind, don’t fight the cravings, give these Cinna-bonzos a try!

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Cinna-bonzos (vegan, gluten-free)

Makes 6-7 rolls

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, ground into flour

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed extremely well (only 1/2 cup bean puree is used in the recipe but put them all in the food processor for easier blending)

1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana

1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds – this is optional but I would recommend it for the best texture

2 tsp baking powder

scant 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt, or sea salt

Filling:

1/2 cup soft dates, I used Medjool

2-3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp cinnamon

handful of raisins, optional

handful of chopped walnuts, optional

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper.

1.  Rinse your garbanzo beans very very well.  I can’t stress it enough!  It will make the chickpeas undetectable in your cinnamon rolls.  Once drained, add the whole can of beans to your food processor.  Process for a few minutes, until a smooth puree is attained. You may need to add a tablespoon of water to get it very smooth.  Portion out a half cup and set aside.

2. Place your dates in a small bowl and add hot water to cover.  Allow to soften while you mix the other ingredients.

3. Mix your dry ingredients in a large bowl:  ground oats, coconut sugar, baking powder, flaxseed, and salt.  In a separate medium sized bowl, mix the chickpeas, applesauce, and coconut oil, use a fork to blend it together well.  Add this bean mixture to the dry ingredients.  I used a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour into the puree, then used my hands to sort of “knead” it together.  You can always put it all in a large zip-loc bag and smoosh it together that way as well.  Let the dough rest for a moment while you prepare the filling.

4.  Drain the water off of the dates and use a fork to mash the dates. (I also tried this in my mini-food processor, adding the applesauce and cinnamon, and that works too)  Then add in the applesauce and cinnamon and mix well.

5.  Flour a flat surface, like a large cutting board, and place your dough on top.  Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and flour a rolling pin.  Roll out the dough into a large square, about a 1/4 inch thick. Spread the date filling evenly over the dough using a rubber spatula or back of a spoon.  Sprinkle on raisins and/or walnuts if using.  Carefully roll the dough, gently squeezing it together as you go, to minimize cracking.  It will crack a little, but it’ll turn out fine!  Once rolled, use a knife to slice into 6-7 pieces.

6.  Place the slices in the prepared baking pan, grouping them together.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until the outer edges feel firm and dry and the rolls are golden.  Allow to cool.  Top with drizzle of choice.

Topping ideas!

Make a cashew cream cheese drizzle by soaking 1 cup of raw cashews with water for 2 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse.  Blend the cashews with 1/2 cup of water in a blender until smooth.  Scoop out 1/3 cup and add 1 Tbsp lemon juice, tiny pinch of salt, and 2 Tbsp maple syrup.  Adjust lemon juice and maple syrup to taste.

You can make a slightly less healthy but more traditional cream cheese frosting by combining equal amounts of dairy-free cream cheese and powdered sugar and thinning it out slightly with a splash of almond milk.

Easiest and fastest:  Top with dairy-free vanilla yogurt, coconut butter, or just a dab of coconut oil.

Notes:

You’ll have leftover chickpea puree.  Enough to double the recipe.  Or mix in a little lemon juice, cumin, and tahini and you have yourself some yummy hummus!

If making the cashew cream cheese drizzle described above, you’ll also have leftover cashew cream.  So many things you can do with this.  Leave out the sweetener and add lemon juice and salt and you have a delicious sour cream.  Or keep adding spices like dill, parsley, onion powder and garlic powder, and you’ve got a delicious veggie dip!

Tell me, have any foods been haunting you lately??

 

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