Raw (aka Clean) Chocolate

I’ve never really been a choc-a-holic, but strangely that changed when I learnt that dark chocolate was considered to be somewhat healthy (in small amounts, of course). Oh, and when I realised how easy it is to make at home.

My initial¬†love affair with Lindt 70% and 80% chocolate gave way to instant gratification in the comfort of my own home, as well as feeling uneasy about the other 20-30% of the Lindt ingredients (one of which I’m dismayed to discover is palm oil) ūüė¶

food fervourRaw chocolate recipes weren’t as prolific a few years ago, but I found one on Lee Holmes’ site ‘Supercharged Food’ (link here)¬†and was super surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Luckily a friend had presented me with a packet of organic cacao powder, so I could instantly ditch the more processed-therefore-less-clean cocoa powder in favour of extra nutritional benefit in my ‘treat’.

My very first attempt at raw chocolate comprised cacao powder, coconut oil and dextrose (back in the day, I was seriously anti-fructose‚Ķ I’ve eased off that a bit now‚Ķ opting for less processed ingredients over fructose content.) In fact it was scary how quickly you could make it: almost less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the shop for the mass-produced,¬†sugar- (and god knows what else-)¬†laden crap.¬†I was so bloody excited about how easy it was to make that I posted a recipe on my first (other) blog,¬†A Life in Words.¬†Here’s¬†the direct link to that if you’d like to take a squizz…

I finally looked into the cacao butter Lee uses only a little of in her recipe: I’d previously thought it was just a body moisturiser. Well, it is the BOMB. Being cacao fat, it tastes like ‚Ķchocolate. Not coconut, surprise-surprise! And unlike coconut oil, cacao butter won’t liquify at 20 degrees, so you won’t have to drink the chocolate from your hands in summer.

It is seriously as easy as this: one part cacao butter to one part cacao powder. Then add your choice of sweetener to taste. In fact, I have found that if making “fruit’n’nut” chocolate, I don’t need any sweetener at all thanks to the natural sugar (& fibre) content of the sultanas.

Let’s start with ¬Ĺ cup of cacao butter and ¬Ĺ cup cacao powder (so if anything goes wrong, you don’t end up wasting too much of these quite costly ingredients). I now prefer to use maple syrup for a sweetener, finding honey¬†too viscous and coconut¬†sugar takes too long to dissolve.

food fervourHow do you know you have half a cup of cacao butter when it comes in ‘chunks’? I kind of solve this in the choice of equipment I use for the first part of the recipe method: Place a small saucepan of hot water (only about 2-3cms deep) on the stove over the lowest heat possible. Place the cacao chunks in a (tempered) glass measuring jug (I use ‘Pyrex’ brand) and sit the jug in¬†the saucepan. Wait for the butter to liquify.

Simply add the equivalent amount of cacao powder and your choice of sweetener, to taste, mixing well (I use a small spatula, to press out any lumps of cacao powder). If you want to add any flavours (spices like vanilla, or essential peppermint oil) you’d do that now as well. A lot of recipes ask you to whisk the ingredients‚Ķ I’ve been too lazy to try that!

The final step for ‘plain’ chocolate is to decide how you’d like to set it.¬†I sometimes use silicone ice cube tray moulds for individual chocolates or, if very lazy, I’ll lay baking paper down on a plate and just pour out the chocolate onto it so that it it will form one big block (that you can break into pieces once set). Once you’ve made your decision, pop the chocolate in the freezer for about half an hour, or the refrigerator if you¬†don’t’ need¬†it for a few hours‚Ķ.

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fruit’n’nut sticks and blueberry hearts

You can experiment to your heart’s content with this: here are some of my ¬†favourite¬†variations:

Blueberry Hearts: I pop some frozen organic blueberries into silicone heart moulds before pouring in the chocolate… same goes for whole Macadamias

Fruit’n’Nut: I put sultanas & peanuts in moulds before I add the chocolate mixture…

Chocolate Bark: I pour the chocolate onto baking paper on a plate, or into a dish ‘oiled’ with coconut oil then sprinkle anything and everything into it, like: chopped nuts, seeds, goji berries, shredded coconut, amaranth puffs‚Ķ go nuts!

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Chocolate ‘Bark’

Milk Chocolate: I recently decided to try adding (organic) milk powder to a chocolate mix and I thought it was so good that I¬†pretty much ate the whole test batch in one go! (This is not to say everyone will agree.)¬†Add approximately half the amount of milk powder to the fresh chocolate mix (so ¬ľ cup or two tablespoons per the measures I provided above, and mix VERY well (it will thicken quickly) to dissolve the powder as well as possible, then set or add stuff as you wish.

Please feel free to share any amazing combinations you concoct!

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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate

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Cacao Beetroot Cake

As far as I’m concerned, the more veggies you¬†can get in, the better. And this cake, well, unless you’re extremely picky, you wouldn’t know there’s a vegetable in it. I haven’t made it for ages and, true to form, I’ve altered the original recipe yet again.

I had leftover rice and almond milk pulp to use up, and for once I decided to go with spelt flour instead of the usual (heavier, gluten free) buckwheat. This recipe is almost fool-proof so if you wanted to use a plain gluten-free flour go for it; I can pretty much guarantee it will still turn out.

The biggest difference for me this time however was using raw beetroot. The recipes usually call for ‘cooked mashed beetroot’ but you see, apart from now owning a Thermomix that will virtually pulverise the tough root veggie, I concluded that it would cook during its 40-50 minute sojourn in the 180¬ļC oven environment. It seems to have worked.Food Fervour

So for this amazingly moist healthy ‘choccy’ cake, I used:¬†1 medium-large beetroot, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, ¬ĺ cup coconut sugar, ¬ĺ cup coconut oil, 2 eggs, 1¬ľ cups spelt flour (actually I used ¬Ĺ cup almond & rice milk pulp + ¬ĺ cup spelt, and it worked) 1 teaspoon baking powder (bicarb soda), ¬Ĺ cup (or a fraction more!) cacao powder, ¬Ĺ teaspoon sea salt and ¬Ĺ teaspoon ground nutmeg.

beetrootFirst you’ll need to grate your beetroot (I hope you’re not wearing white?!) unless you have a Thermomix or other very high powered blender or food processing appliance (because I buy organic beets I didn’t peel it). Thermie users, I chose speed 5-6 for about 15¬†seconds, stopped to scrape down the bowl & repeated once more.

For the manual cooks, you’ll need another bowl to thoroughly blend the moist ingredients¬†(vanilla, sugar, oil and eggs)¬†then add the beetroot to the mix (or vice versa). Thermomixers can add the ingredients directly to the bowl with the beetroot in it and blend for 20 secs at speed 5-6. Scrape down afterwards.

Now, I know most chefs & cooks prefer the dry goods to be pre-mixed but I usually never do this because I’m lazy: I hate creating more washing up (with extra bowls). I prefer to substitute this action with prolonged ‘elbow-grease’‚Ķ in other words, add all the ingredients individually then mix the crap out of that cake batter until it can’t possibly be anything but well-blended. With a wooden spoon this equates to a fair bit of energy consumption and perhaps some lactic acid build-up in the muscles of your stirring arm. With electric beaters (does anyone even own them anymore?) food processors or Thermomixes it’s a piece of cake (excuse the pun). Chuck in all the remaining ingredients (flour, bicarb, cacao powder, salt & nutmeg) then mix, mix, mix! (Thermies, a couple of 20 second hits around speed 5-6, with some scrape downs, should do fine).

Don’t panic if your batter seems too¬†liquescent (runny)‚Ķ that’s exactly how mine was. Believe me, it solidifies as it bakes but the result is ridiculously moist! Pour into a greased, lined loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven (180¬ļC) as previously mentioned, for 40-50 minutes. A knife or skewer inserted should come out cleanly when it’s done. Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out of the tin‚Ķ because its so moist you’ll risk it falling apart while hot.Food Fervour

Now this could be enjoyed on its own because it is so moist but I pimped mine up with some of my homemade chocolate ganache (find that recipe here) and shredded coconut.

Yarrrrrm!

 

3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was ‚Ķkind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because¬†I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in ¬† desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut‚Ķ. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!)¬†gluten free cake¬†that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations:¬†waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

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‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result‚Ķ Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so‚Ķ stay tuned for that!

Cacao Blueberry ‘Ice Cream’

food fervourIn case you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a bit of an ice cream fan.¬†I used to be crazy for it and, while I can still ‘slide’ back into the habit of buying commercial stuff (whether it be a small tub from the supermarket, or a few scoops from a gelati shop) on the odd occasion, I’ve become pretty well disciplined to experiment at home when the desire arises.

It’s actually quite surprising how easy it can be. If you have nuts (& a range of spices) in the pantry, a heap of ‘stuff’ in the freezer and a very powerful blender (mine’s a Thermomix) you can have ice cream in minutes;¬†ice cream will be¬†way better for you than any mass-produced product out there and that should easily satisfy a ‘craving’.

I’ve come across a wide variety of recipes for ‘alternative’ ice creams with the help of Google, so if you want to experiment further do a little research on the net. The most astonishing recipes I came across were for vegan ice creams made entirely from nuts… which really did work! Fat is the key to ice cream however, having said that, some fruits (particularly banana and mango) when frozen thicken beautifully¬†in the blending process.

Drawing on these ideas, along with some others I’ve gained through the Thermomix community, I created this no-added-sugar “ice cream” with a handful of all-natural – mostly frozen – foodstuffs.¬†I have an almost permanent store¬†of frozen fruit and yoghurt cubes in my freezer, which means I’m well prepared to make ice cream at the drop of a hat. Now, if you don’t like yoghurt you can try freezing cubes of coconut milk (vegan option) or perhaps even ordinary cow’s milk (I’ve never tried this), but creams (dairy especially) tend to split when frozen so they’ll affect the texture of your finished product.

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ready-to-freeze yoghurt

Forewarning:¬†don’t expect the smoothest ice cream texture (because of the extra, natural, ‘great-for-your-gut’ fibre in it) and it definitely isn’t as sweet as your commercial counterparts…

Armed with 20gm hazelnuts, 4 dates, 1 frozen banana (cut into chunks), ¬Ĺ cup frozen blueberries, 100gm frozen yoghurt cubes (approx 8) 1 heaped tablespoon of cacao powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional) I created a taste sensation that could have served 2 people‚Ķ but I ate the whole lot!

Place the hazelnuts and dates (try more than 4 if you are a real sweet tooth) in a high powered blender and blast until the nuts become ‘meal’ (Thermies: 10 seconds, speed 9-10)

Scrape down the sides of the jug/bowl then add the rest of the ingredients: banana, blueberries, yoghurt/milk cubes, cacao & (optional) vanilla. Blend until smooth. This may take 2-3 rounds: repeat blending, stopping, scraping down and mixing a little by hand. (Thermies: I started around Speed 5 and worked my way up to Speed 9 over a 30 second period, stopped, scraped down & mixed then hit it again at Speed 9 for another 30 seconds)

It should be solid enough to dish out in balls that look like huge scoops of ice cream. I topped mine with cacao nibs (coz I love chocolate chip ice cream) and devoured it in a matter of minutes.

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Believe it or not, this is a ‘kale’ (& mango) ice cream, I made from a green smoothie base. 10/10 for imagination?

Let me know how you go, and please feel free to share your variations or own personal experiments ūüôā

The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me.¬†Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years,¬†but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We¬†would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a¬†brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the¬†still-partially-frozen¬†Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)‚Ķ. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight!¬†ūüėČ

Coconut Chia Dairy Alternative

Breakfast on this fine Sunday morning has been both easy & decadent in the same breath. How good does this look?food fervour

While contemplating cooking a hot Sunday breakfast,¬†I came across a container of soaked chia seeds I had forgotten I’d prepped earlier in the week. Bang! Instant gratification.

I could forget about the frypan or Thermomix now: I had organic blueberries & strawberries, banana and the ultimate (rare) decadence – some fresh cream. (Clearly I’M not vegan, but I sometimes prefer vegan meals‚Ķ) That’s all it took to make my brekky. Minimal dish washing means more time to hang out my linen and wash my car. Yay :/

Had I not had the chia prepared, this breakfast wouldn’t’ve happened. Well, nowhere near as ‘instantly’. This is a perfect example of how a little bit of preparation can help you avoid “poor food choices” when you’re in a hurry, or simply just too impatient (“Need food NOW!”).

Chia seeds soaked in coconut cream (or milk) make a perfect vegan alternative to yoghurt or cream. And it’s ridiculously simple. The ratio is usually about 1 part chia seeds to 3 or 4 parts liquid, depending upon how ‘solid’ you like your yoghurts/creams. It’s as simple as mixing them together in a container (I always use glass) sealing and refrigerating for perhaps half an hour (or 2-3 days‚Ķhow hungry are ya?!) Bob’s your Uncle.

The calcium, protein, Omegas in chia seeds make this just as good, if not better than the dairy alternatives. You can also play with this basic concoction in numerous ways, adding spices (vanilla, cinnamon for example) cacao and added natural sweeteners (if you HAVE to!) For more ideas Google ‘Chia Pudding’ and you’ll find a whole host of recipes.

Vegan Hot Chocolate

I’ve been struggling finding hot winter drinks that aren’t full of caffeine, sugar or cow’s milk. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy. I’ve been playing around, mulling over what goes with what, and I reckon I’ve hit upon¬†some pretty cool ideas. The current¬†‘Bulletproof’ (butter) coffee fad has even come into play…

This particular version of my experimental ‘healthy’ hot chocolate drinks was inspired by Nutella. Most people know that Nutella is a hazelnut based chocolate spread. So I used hazelnut milk¬†(made¬†freshly in my Thermomix first, via recipe in¬†the new Quirky Cooking¬†cookbook)¬†and tied the ‘Bulletproof’ idea in via the inclusion of coconut oil and my choice of sweetener, coconut sugar. NB:¬†I’m actually sensitising my taste buds by eating so ‘cleanly’ so the¬†flavours here will be subtle, which means you may want to alter the amounts of cacao and sweetener to your liking.

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Unfortunately, I have to admit that if you don’t own a Thermomix I can’t offer you an alternative,¬†because this recipe involves a short burst of high speed blending of hot liquid – which is definitely not to be attempted in a normal blender. (If however, you’re adept in the kitchen, I’m confident you’ll discover alternative means to create something similar!)

For a single serve you will need: 250gm hazelnut milk, 3 tspns cacao powder, 3 tspns coconut sugar, 1 tspn coconut oil (optional).

Place all ingredients in the Thermomix, cooking for 8 minutes, at 70¬ļC on Speed 4. At the end of the cooking period, programme 30 seconds at Speed 8 to ‘froth’ the mixture. Serve immediately.

Let your imagination run wild. This recipe is really a basic formula for any number of creations. I have used¬†a variety of milks and come up with some amazing flavours, for example, a Spicy version¬†to which I added heaps of cinnamon, some nutmeg, vanilla, garam masala & chilli powder! ūüėÄ