Tag Archives: chocolate

Sugar-free chocolate banana pie

Anyone who’s seen me cook from a recipe can attest that I am always making substitutions. Especially when I get it into my head that I want to make something now. So it was with this chocolate banana pie. I had just gotten a copy of the Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook and was flipping through it. A picture of chocolate hazelnut mini-tarts caught my eye and I just had to make them. Except that I was out of hazelnuts, I wasn’t quite sure where to find coconut butter locally, and (perhaps most crucially), there was no chocolate in the studio. Cocoa powder only. And a bowl of bananas. Not to be denied my desire for a chocolate dessert, I started experimenting.

In the end, the crust in this pie is a fairly close copy of the one used in the inspiration recipe, a mix of walnuts and coconut flour. I used a fresh apple instead of applesauce, and added a little orange zest to brighten things up. This crust is a little finer and lighter than the coarse ground almond crust I have used for tarts in the past (such as last summer’s recurring peach and blackberry), it tastes less obviously “alternative”, which may or may not matter to you. I was initially a little concerned about using walnuts in the crust–I thought there might be a bit of an aftertaste. However, multiple rounds of baking have laid my fears to rest.

The filling for this pie is incredibly easy: just dump everything in the food processor and go. The result is creamy, dark, and chocolatey. It sets up very quickly also, making this a great semi-last minute dessert (assuming, of course, that you have all the ingredients to hand!).

Chocolate Banana Pie
Makes 1 10″ tart, enough for 6-8

Crust
1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 apple, cored and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
grated zest of 1 orange

Filling
4 bananas, peeled and cut into 1-2″ pieces
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 1/4 c. almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a food processor, combine the walnuts and coconut flour. Process to a fine meal. Add the apple, coconut oil, and orange zest, and process until the mixture has reached a uniform consistency. The result should be a slightly moist dough.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Press crust into a 10″ tart pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the banana filling.

3. Combine all filling ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Depending on the size of your bananas, you may wish to add up to 1/4 c. additional almond milk.

4. Pour the filling into the crust and spread evenly. Place in refrigerator and leave for at least 15 minutes to allow filling to firm up.

Chocolate hazelnut truffles (vegan)

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This past weekend I felt like a big “Christmas is coming!” light finally went on. Sure, the retail sector has been pushing Christmas for the past month, but I’ve managed to remain fairly oblivious. On Sunday, things conspired to remind me: it was the beginning of Advent, Trader Joe’s positioned a huge display of peppermint hot chocolate prominently by their front door, and both of my parents demanded that I provide them with flight information for our planned visit back East later this month.

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Anyway. One thing I love to do each December is to make a few edible treats to gift to friends or just bring to parties as needed. For a long time, I stuck with my mother’s trusted ginger cutout recipe (which I think I’ll be trotting out again this year for a cookie exchange). There was also the year of the church window candy (cute, but a little ho-hum), the year my German teacher assigned me the task of making pfeffernusse and I turned our hand mixer into a hot smoky mess (never again), and the year of the custom hot cocoa mixes (which was a major hit).

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This year, one of my projects is these little vegan “truffles”. Technically they aren’t really truffles, since they’re vegan and don’t involve a cream-based ganache, but they are rich and intensely chocolatey, which to me are two of the essential qualities of any chocolate truffle. Loaded with cocoa powder, spiked with hazelnut liquer, and of course, finished off with a chocolate shell coating. These are absolutely a treat to be savored. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a health food, they’re fairly low in sugar compared to a lot of traditional holiday treats.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
makes 24 small truffles

Ingredients
1 1/4 c. hazelnuts
1 tsp hazelnut extract or liqueur, such as Frangelico
1/2 tsp coffee extract, or strong espresso
2 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

For the chocolate coating
2 oz dark chocolate
2 tsp coconut oil

Method

1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Place the hazelnuts in the pan and toast, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, until the skins have turned a very dark brown. Remove nuts from heat and transfer them to a clean cloth. Fold the cloth up to make a bag around the nuts and shake vigorously. This step should remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts. Set 12 hazelnuts aside (these will be used for decorating, so try to pick nice looking ones).

2. In a metal food processor fitted with the s-blade, grind the remaining hazelnuts into a rough butter. This step will likely take ~10 minutes.

3. Add the extracts, dates, and cocoa powder to the nut butter. Process until smooth, pausing once or twice to scrap down the sides of the processor.

4. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Roll the truffle mix into 24 balls. Each ball should be slightly over 1 tsp of the truffle mixture. Place in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.

5. While the truffles are cooling, cut each of the 12 reserved hazelnuts in half. Then make the chocolate coating: place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and continue melting in 30 second increments if needed. When chocolate is melted, stir in the coconut oil.

6. Dip the truffles in chocolate. I used a small wooden skewer to spear each truffle and dip it, then let the chocolate coating drip off for a few seconds. Place each dipped truffle back on the parchment paper and top with a hazelnut half. When all truffles are dipped, return to the refrigerator and cool until chocolate has hardened.

Store in a cool location.

Un-recipe: Chocolate almond milk, with optional banana

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A not uncommon evening exchange in our household:

M: What’s for dessert?
Me: (blank look) uhhhhh…

It’s not that I’m somehow a healthier or more “virtuous” eater (whatever that even means these days), but I tend to overlook the dessert component when putting together the evening meal. There’s always fruit around, and most of the time, that’s plenty. There’s usually a bar of dark chocolate stashed in the kitchen too. But on the evening when neither of those are quite enough, and I haven’t got anything fancier laid in from a weekend baking session, this little concoction is our no-fuss ace in the hole.

We just refer to it as “chocolate almond milk”, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same as anything coming out of a carton of chocolate-flavored almond milk you buy at the store. It’s thicker, creamier, more chocolatey, and generally a little more luxurious on the tongue. If you want it to be, it’s also much lower in sugar. I feel a little silly calling something this simple a recipe (so I’m not), but still, there is some technique involved. The next time you’re craving a chocolate dessert and can’t be bothered with anything involving heat, measurements, mixers, or bowls, try this.

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Ingredients
-Almond milk (we use the unsweetened refrigerated vanilla variety from Trader Joe’s)
-Unsweetened cocoa powder (plan on 2-3 heaping spoonfuls per glass):

Optional ingredients:
-1/2 ripe banana (optional)
-sweetener of your choice to taste (M is hardcore and eschews all sugar in his, regardless of whether or not a banana is involved. I like either banana or a little pinch of sugar, though I’m starting to come around to the totally unsweetened version).
-a few walnut halves, broken into pieces

Method
Spoon cocoa powder into a large glass or mug. Pour in a small amount of almond milk (probably <1/4 c.). Begin stirring, pressing the cocoa into the sides of the glass (or mug) using the back of the spoon. Eventually the cocoa will mix with the milk, keep stirring until a thick paste is formed. Add a little more milk, keep stirring until the mixture is thick and smooth. A few lumps won't kill you, but the fewer the better–your final milk will be more creamy. Fill the glass about halfway with almond milk and stir again. At this point, you can either add more almond milk to make a full glass, or start slicing in that banana. If you are skipping the banana, give the mixture a taste and add sweetener as desired. If you are using the banana, start slicing it in. Stir around every few slices to make sure you're getting in as much banana as possible. When the banana is all sliced up or the glass is full (whichever comes first), stop adding banana (if you have leftover banana, save it and dunk into the glass once the fill level descends to something safe). If you are adding nuts, now's the time for those to go in as well.

The best way to eat this dessert is with a spoon, fishing out pieces of chocolate coated banana, or just slurping up mouthfuls of thick chocolate milk. Be sure to scrape out all that extra-thick chocolate sludge at the bottom too, it's the best part:

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Weekend in food

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A few women I met through an East Coast fellowship program several years ago have now settled themselves around the Bay Area. We try to get together every few months ago to catch up on each other (with varying degrees of success). Over the summer, someone devised the idea of having a baking day: we pick a recipe or two, somebody volunteers to host, and on the appointed day we all get together and bake the chosen item(s). This past Saturday, I volunteered for hosting duties. We selected this chocolate babka recipe as baked good number one, and I exercised my hostessing rights and declared that the second item should be a ginger pear tart (because I needed to give the another test drive before letting it loose here on the blog). We wound up being a party of just two (see what I mean about success and its varying degrees?), but went full steam ahead with the baking program as planned. Some highlights:

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Weighing out the chocolate to make sure we get the full 8oz

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This recipe is not joking around: whole milk, eggs, mascarpone

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Finished products

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Chocolate swirls

My thoughts? The babka recipe was incredibly rich, and fresh out of the oven it was amazing and needed no smear of butter, jam, or preserves. However…by Sunday afternoon the remaining babka had gotten quite firm, and my Monday morning slice was bordering on greasy. I’ll concede some of the problems may have been our own fault for opting to rush the rising process a little. If I use this recipe again, I’ll make myself wait until the dough has really, truly doubled in volume. I’ll probably also cut back on the 1/2 cup of sugar that’s mixed with the chocolate, as some of it definitely retained its granularity post-baking. Finally, I might cut the butter content by a tiny bit, maybe down to an even stick rather than the 1 1/4 sticks called for in the recipe.

As for the tart, it’s about 99% right, but there’s one more tweak I want to try still. The ingredients are now all balanced, but the baking time needs some work. So, sorry, no recipe just yet.

Despite the slight room for improvement, we still managed quite the afternoon tea, adding some banana cinnamon soft serve into the mix:

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Enjoying the fruits of our labors

So that was Saturday. On Sunday, I spent a far more pedestrian few hours chopping up vegetables, making a batch of chili, and generally getting a head start on food for the week. Check out our stocked fridge on Sunday night:

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The goal here is to spend less time on meal prep and (more importantly) much less time on clean up during the week. I’m really trying to get into a habit on this and also figure out which tasks are most time saving when they’re grouped together. I’ll probably post a few updates as I figure things out, so if dinner amidst weeknight time crunches is a problem for you too, feel free to follow along (or leave a comment with your strategies!).

For reference, this week’s prep session included:
1. making a medium sized batch of chocolate chili (~8 servings, plan to eat 6 this week and freeze the other two)
2. slicing and salting two eggplants (for making balsamic eggplant later in the week)
3. peeling and dicing two heads of garlic (I think weaning ourselves down to a lower level of garlic might be a big timesaver!)
4. filling several containers with sliced carrots (for afternoon snacking at work)
5. grating two heads of cauliflower. One was immediately made into Spanish “rice”, the other’s in the fridge to be cooked into cauliflower rice pilaf
6. slicing a head of red cabbage and two bunches of kale. Half sauteed on Sunday, half in the fridge to be cooked later. Some of this will be eaten plain, some will be getting mixed with spicy peanut sauce.
7. chopping and cooking a mix of onions/bell peppers/zucchini, part for M. to take to work during the week, part to serve as an all purpose vegetable side at dinners.

If all goes according to plan, I won’t have to do any major food prep again until Friday, and I’ll only have to do any serious cooking on Wednesday (microwaving does not count as cooking, and neither does anything that requires less than five minutes of stove time, like fried eggs). Phew!

Recipe: Double chocolate cake in a cup (gluten/grain free)

microwave chocolate cake with coconut ganache frosting
Oh, hello. What’s this?
 
I realized last week that although this blog is called Chocolate & Vegetables, I haven’t done a single post about chocolate yet. Unbelievable. First, I would like to clarify that the absence of chocolate on the blog does not mean I dislike or that I don’t eat chocolate. I eat an embarrassing amount of it (and not always of the highest quality, as the crumpled M&M’s wrapper in the back pocket of my backpack is currently attesting).
 
Next, I would like to rectify this oversight with a chocolate recipe! Chocolate cake, specifically. Gluten/grain free chocolate cake, even more specifically. That can be cooked in a minute or less in the microwave.
 
The cake in a cup phenomenon is not new, but of course I wanted something with a lot less sugar than most recipes seem to call for. I had just gotten my hands on a bag of coconut flour, so it seemed like a good time to test that out, too. This recipe is very low in sugar and very chocolatey: if you sometimes find yourself thinking that the 72% dark chocolate that’s commonly available is too sweet, this cake is for you.
 
For an extra rich option, add a little coconut chocolate ganache for frosting.
 
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A few of the tasty ingredients
 
Double Chocolate Cake in a Cup
 
Ingredients
 
0.43 oz 72% dark chocolate (0.43 oz is equivalent to one square of a Trader Joe’s pound plus bar. If you don’t have a TJ’s, half an ounce of dark baking chocolate will also work. Your cake will just be even more chocolatey. The horror.)
2 tbsp coconut cream (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)
1 tbsp butter
1 egg
drop vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp coconut flour (I used Let’s Do…Organic coconut flour)
 
For coconut chocolate ganache:
1 tbsp coconut cream
0.43 oz 72% dark chocolate
 
Method
1. In a mug that holds at least 8 oz., melt together butter and chocolate using the microwave. I found that microwaving on high for 1 minute and then stirring to finish melting the chocolate worked best.
 
2. Stir coconut cream into mixture.
 
3. Add egg and beat with a fork for ~1 minute.
 
4. Add coconut flour, stir to combine.
 
5. Add cocoa powder, stir until until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
 
6. Microwave on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute. It is better to under than to overcook, so if in doubt, stop.
 
7. If making ganache, melt chocolate (I found 1 minute at 50% power in the microwave to work best), then stir in coconut cream until mixture is thoroughly combined. Slide the cake out of the cup and frost it. Or, leave the cake in the mug and add an extra teaspoon of coconut cream to the ganache. Poke holes in the cake and pour ganache over the top.
 
However you choose to finish it off, I found the cake is best if enjoyed with a cold glass of almond milk:
 
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Ahhhhhh