Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine Chocolates with Caramel and Coconut Filling

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and I have a super easy and delicious treat for you to make for yourself or for someone else ;) Yes, you have time - don't worry! I have been meaning to make homemade raw chocolate for so long and for some reason I’ve always hesitated because I figured the ingredients for something so decadent and awesome would cost a fortune! I mean have you seen the going rate for a chocolate bar these days? Upwards of $5-6! Holy smokes! After seeing this post from My New Roots', Sarah Britton, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I decided to go for it!

To my surprise (pleasant surprise!) raw cacao butter is not that expensive! For $10, I was able to get this entire bag of organic cacao butter. You only use a couple tablespoons at a time, so it will last a while (even if you are a raw chocoholic). If you cannot get your paws on cacao butter, just use coconut oil instead. The chocolates won’t have the same super creamy melt-in-your-mouth consistency but it’ll do the job.

I followed Sarah’s recipe for the raw chocolate and caramel (a.k.a. Rollo’s) but then I also created a coconut filling (think Mounds candy bar!) for half of them. Both versions are so incredibly delicious that I cannot put my finger on which I prefer. The answer is both!!! “Life is like a box of chocolates right? You never know which one you’re gonna get.” And in my life I like to have variety when it comes to chocolate.

*Note, you will want a silicon candy mold to make these chocolates (any shape will do!)

Raw Chocolate

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1 ½ tablespoons cacao butter, melted

2 ½ tablespoons raw honey (or maple syrup)

4 ½ tablespoons raw cacao powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup pitted dates (soak dates in warm water if they are firm, then drain)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Sea salt to taste

¼ cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons of coconut butter
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of raw honey (or maple syrup)

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a simmering saucepan of water, melt cacao butter and coconut oil. Remove from heat and whisk in honey until incorporated. Sift in cacao powder and salt (to avoid lumps) and whisk to combine until smooth.

In each chocolate mold, spoon in some of the liquid chocolate. Tilt the mold so that it coats the sides. Place in the freezer to set for about 10 minutes.

In a food processor blend dates and maple syrup until smooth. Add as much salt as desired, blend and taste.
Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Rinse out the bowl to the food processor so you can make the coconut filling.

In a clean food processor blend the coconut, coconut butter, coconut oil and honey until smooth.

Remove the chocolates from the freezer. Spoon a little of the caramel or coconut (or maybe both!) into each mold on top of the set chocolate. Spoon remaining liquid chocolate over top, covering the filling completely. Place it back in the freezer to set. Wait until the chocolate is totally firm before taking it out of the mold, at least 1 hour. Remove from mold and place chocolates in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for one month (or store them in the mold and remove just before serving). Do not store chocolates at room temperature for more than 1 hour.

The creamy caramel in the inside was just the right texture and consistency - perfectly gooey! AHmazing!

* Optional, sift raw cacao powder over the top of the caramel filled chocolates or garnish with sea salt. Sprinkle coconut on top of the coconut filled chocolates. Plus this way you’ll be able to tell what filling is hiding inside of the chocolates (if you don’t like surprises J).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Over the past few days my mind has been racing through recipe ideas for Valentine’s Day treats and decadence. Color, flavor, texture, aromatics and spices, accessibility due to food sensitivities and diet restrictions – these are just a handful of things that I’ve considered. After all the brainstorming and numerous ideas I shot down, I am happy to reveal this light, velvety vegan chocolate mousse that is sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you begging for more.

If the thought of chocolate mousse typically turns your stomach into knots, fret no more. This dessert is super easy to make and free from dairy and eggs. I topped it with raw cacao nibs because that’s what I had in my pantry. However, fresh strawberries or raspberries would be a beautiful pop of color and a delicious accompaniment to the rich dark chocolate. 

If an amazing, quick and simple Valentine's Day recipe hasn't made your day yet, then click here to learn about the health benefits of raw cacao and why you should be eating more chocolate! Any excuse to eat more chocolate definitely makes my day! 

1 - 12 oz. can of coconut cream (I used Trader Joe’s Extra Thick & Rich – Thai Kitchen brand works well too!)
8 oz. of dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s chips – they are dairy free!)
2 tablespoons of coconut water (from the can of coconut cream)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 tablespoons of raw organic maple syrup
* cacao chips for garnish - optional

Place the can of coconut cream in the refrigerator overnight (the night before you plan to make this recipe).

Remove the can of coconut cream from the fridge – do not shake it. Carefully remove the lid and scoop all of thick cream into a large bowl. Leave behind the coconut water. If you’re using the Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream there will be very little coconut water. That’s fine! You want as much of the thick cream as possible.

Place the bowl with coconut cream back in the fridge while you melt the chocolate.

Create a double boiler. I used a small saucepan and placed a glass bowl, slightly bigger than the saucepan, over the top. Add enough water to the saucepan to cover the bottom of the pan but not too much - you don’t want your glass (or metal) bowl sitting in the water but rather resting over top. Begin heating the water.

Add two tablespoons of coconut water, from the reserved water in the can, to the bowl (sitting on top of the saucepan). Next, pour in the chocolate chips. Stir continuously until the chocolate chips have melted completely and the consistency is smooth and creamy. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Using a hand mixer, begin to whip the coconut cream until it starts to thicken. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and continue to beat until it thickens even more and increases in volume. 

Transfer about ¼ cup of the coconut cream mixture to a jar or bowl, cover and place in the fridge. Use this as your whipped topping when you serve the mousse.

Next, slowly fold the chocolate mixture in with the coconut whipped cream. Beat for another 30 seconds making sure it stays nice and fluffy. Spoon the mousse into individual jars, bowls, martini glasses or other fancy cups, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours (it will get thicker the longer it chills).

When you’re ready to serve, remove the mousse and whipped topping from the fridge. Add a dollup of whipped topping to each bowl of chocolate mousse, sprinkle with raw cacao nibs or cacao powder (optional) or top with fresh raspberries or strawberries. Enjoy by the spoonful!!!

* makes four small servings

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chive + Basil Cashew Cheese

I’m from Wisconsin, America’s dairy land, home of cheddar cheese and all things cheese related – including “cheese heads." Let’s face it I love cheese. And while I do have an undying love for cheese, every kind of cheese, I make a personal choice to limit my dairy intake. Why you may ask?

Did you know that 70% people have trouble digesting dairy? True statement. Humans produce an enzyme in the body called lactase which allows us to break down lactose the sugar found in dairy. As we get older our body stops producing this enzyme, or produces much less, which is why many adults are lactose intolerant and experience a host of negative symptoms (that we won't discuss right now J). This is the body’s inability to break down lactose. Crazy, right? Did you also know that people can have difficulty digesting casein and whey, the proteins found in dairy? Sometimes lactose takes the blame when really the problem is the protein! Oh yeah, and many cows are pumped with hormones and antibiotics which leads to a plethora of other problems. Lastly, did you know dairy is one of the most addicting foods and also high in saturated fat? No wonder many of us crave cheese!

* Is all dairy bad? No.
* Should you eat it in moderation? Sure.
* Do I still eat dairy products from time to time? Yes!

But...when I do eat cheese, yogurt and other dairy products I buy the best quality I can afford - organic, hormone and antibiotic free - you should too!

No cheese you say? Hardly! Cashew “cheese” is like a rebound from my breakup with dairy. The consistency is similar to ricotta or cream cheese and can be used in lasagna, on crackers, sandwiches, with raw veggies…or by the spoonful! The best part – guilt free! In this recipe I chose to add in fresh herbs to give it a delightful boost for my zucchini pinwheels. Don’t like zucchini? Cucumbers are equally delicious!

* Makes one heaping cup of cashew cheese

1 cup of raw unsalted cashews, soaked in cold water for 1-2 hours
1/3 cup of fresh cold water
Juice of one small lemon
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
1 heaping tablespoon of sliced green onion
1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
Sea Salt to taste

* 1 large zucchini if you’re making the pinwheels

Drain the raw cashews and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a food processor or high-speed blender (I used a Vitamix).

Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, basil, green onion, apple cider vinegar and sea salt to the blender. Slowly add the water as you blend the ingredients. Continue to blend and process until smooth and creamy.

Place the “cheese” into a glass jar or container, add the garlic and stir.

* If you are using a Vitamix it is important not to add the garlic to the blender. Wait until it is processed and then add. I have found that the speed of the blender transforms the garlic into the spiciest thing ever!

Store the cashew cheese in your refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to thicken. I let mine sit overnight before serving J.

Pinwheel Directions
Using a large vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice the zucchini or cucumber into very thin long strips. Spread the veggie strips with cashew cheese and tightly roll up. Secure with a toothpick. 

Sprinkle with basil, sesame seeds, chili powder or anything else you’d like to make them look pretty! Enjoy!