Superfood Earth Day Pudding

Earth Day pudding

Earth Day pudding

Earth Day is a fun day – not only do you get to honor the earth, but you can do so with whimsy. I combined cute ideas from a few blogs to come up with my celebration dessert. It wasn’t baked but it was filled with superfoods (cacao and hemp are superfoods) so I honored myself as well.

Because the already vegan dessert wasn’t baked it had no required changes. The alterations I made were to add baking extracts and more cacao to deepen the pudding flavor. Also, the pudding recipe called for cocoa powder but I used raw cacao powder instead to up the nutritional value. I grabbed ideas from a few websites to make my version of a dessert worthy of Earth Day.

Superfood Earth Day Pudding adapted from lovemefeedme.net and godairyfree.org
For the pudding:
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ripe medium banana
4-5 TBS maple syrup, to taste
1/2 tsp coffee extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 TBS Navitas Naturals raw cacao powder
2 TBS arrowroot
For the dirt topping:
2 TBS Navitas Naturals raw hulled hemp seeds
1 TBS Navitas Naturals raw cacao powder
1 TBS Navitas Naturals sweet cacao nibs
Put almond milk, banana, maple syrup, extracts, and cocoa powder in a blender and blend until smooth. Put 1/4 cup of the mixture aside and pour the remainder into a small pot. Heat over medium heat until it begins to boil. Whisk arrowroot into mixture you set aside. Slowly pour this mixture into the pot on the stove and whisk it in. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into 3 or 4 small containers. Let cool for 15 minutes before placing in fridge to cool completely.
While the pudding cools, mix topping ingredients together. Once pudding has cooled, top with a generous sprinkle of dirt topping. You can add an herb sprig or edible flower to your creation. Note: If using a flower pot with a drainage hole in the bottom, line it with foil prior to adding the pudding.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

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Banana Chocolate Cookies

Banana Chocolate Cookies

Banana Chocolate Cookies

A friend once told me that my Valentine’s Day treats weren’t sweet enough. She thought that the holiday deserved something really sweet, not really healthy. Thus began my search for the decadently sweet. The cookie I found was based on a very ripe banana to produce a sweet chocolatey goodness. In this cookie that overly ripe banana is as much a star as the chocolate. The two combine to make sweets for my sweetie.

For high altitude I used fewer oats because they soak up moisture and could leave a dry cookie. I looked to add more liquid but there wasn’t one in the original recipe so I included vanilla extract. I then swapped out the oat flour and used all purpose because oat flour is best used when a doughy-type of chew is desired, such as in my Cinnamon Roll Muffins.

Banana Chocolate Cookies based on Chocolate Chunky Monkey Cookies
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup Navitas cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
generous 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup quick oats
3/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350F. Place flour, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. Add sugar, banana, oil, and vanilla to a stand mixer bowl and mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Pour dry ingredients into wet and blend until smooth. Blend in quick oats. Stir in chocolate chunks with a spoon.
Scoop dough by the large spoonful and place on baking sheets. Bake for 19 to 21 minutes, or until they appear just baked. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 22 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

Superfood Energy Bites

energy bitesAnother hot day, another no-bake recipe. Besides making a tasty treat without turning on the oven, I wanted something that my athletic husband could take on the go. I added superfoods for quality energy along with coffee and chocolate for a mocha tasting breakfast bite. Healthy mocha goodness was a good choice because they are yummy enough for dessert.

I have been collecting “energy balls” recipes for years, so this is an amalgamation of all of them with no nod to a particular author. I did choose ingredients that would not require refrigeration to make them an easy, anywhere snack. And, of course, there was no baking involved so no consideration was taken for high altitude.

Superfood Energy Bites
10 large, soft dates, pitted
1 cup unsalted, raw almonds
2 TBS Navitas Naturals cacao nibs
Dash salt
1/4 cup Navitas Naturals dried mulberries
2 tsp Navitas Naturals cocoa powder
¼ tsp coffee extract
Soak dates in warm water for 5-10 minutes, depending on the dryness of the dates. Save the date soaking water. Grind almonds and cacao nibs to a coarse powder in a food processor. Add salt, mulberries, and cocoa powder and pulse a few times. Add dates in batches. Add coffee extract. Squeeze mixture into balls. If too dry to form balls, then add a bit of the saved date water. Store in an airtight container. Will keep for one week.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Note: I do not make any money by mentioning products by Navitas Naturals – I just like them.

Gingerbread Spice Muffins

gingerbread spice muffinsTo embrace a new year of healthier baking, I thought I’d start with a muffin. Homemade muffins are generally lower in sugar and fat so I had a lot of options. My search found a very healthy muffin – it had nutrient-rich molasses as one of the sweeteners as well as the addition of whole wheat flour. It also contained anti-inflammatory ginger and superfood cacao nibs. Healthy, here I come.

To make adaptations for high altitude, I added flour and almond milk while reducing baking powder. I also added cardamon along with the other spices because, well, I like cardamom. The result was muffins with a flavor reminiscent of gingerbread cookies. They were light and airy but dried out a bit after two days because I didn’t store them in an airtight container. It’s okay – they weren’t around long enough to dry out completely.

Gingerbread Spice Muffins adapted from a recipe on deliciousliving.com
3/4 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 TBS almond milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS molasses
2 1/2 TBS canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tsp cacao nibs
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in oven middle. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Whisk lightly to aerate. In another medium bowl, whisk milk, maple syrup, molasses, oil, and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly among 10 muffin cups. Scatter cacao nibs over tops. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out muffins and cool completely on rack. Makes 10 muffins.

Until next time, happy baking!

Different Types of Chocolate Powder

Cocoa Powder

Image courtesy of Lisa Brewster on flickr.com

Chocolate is good for you. Lucky for us bakers! Where baking recipes are involved, chocolate can be added in the form of chips, bars, nibs or powder. Generally it’s easy to figure out which form to use, but on a trip down the baking aisle you can find the powdered version as cocoa and cacao. What’s the difference?

Julie Morris, Navitas Naturals Executive Chef, explains on their blog. “Cacao is the raw form of chocolate. It comes directly from the cacao tree, which fruits colorful pods that are filled with large cacao seeds, called cacao beans. When these beans are ground up finely, cacao powder is the result…Cacao powder is unadulterated pure chocolate (while) cocoa refers to processed cacao… (Both) taste similar: like unsweetened chocolate.”

Because the taste is similar, I choose cacao for its health benefits. Cacao is minimally processed so it retains its beneficial antioxidants. Also, it “may be packed with brain-boosting compounds” called flavonols. So, eating that second piece of cake will make me smarter.

After eating more chocolate, my brain was spurred to gain other knowledge. You’ll see some recipes calling for cocoa powder that specify “Dutch-process.” Is this the same as “natural” cocoa powder? Food52 explained: “Natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder is pure roasted cocoa beans — with most of the fat removed — ground to a fine powder. With all of the flavor but a fraction of the fat, cocoa powder is … bitter and strong. Dutch-process or alkalized cocoa is chemically processed to reduce the acidity and harshness of natural cocoa (which then) alters the flavor of the cocoa and darkens the color.”

Research on Wikipedia revealed that taste isn’t the only difference between the cocoa powders. Dutch process cocoa is not acidic like natural cocoa so “it cannot be used in recipes that use baking soda as the leavening agent, which relies on the acidity of the cocoa to activate it. Rather, Dutch process cocoa can be used in recipes that use baking powder (instead of baking soda) for leavening.” I also learned that the Dutch processing was, indeed, invented by a Dutchman. In case you were wondering.

All this talk of chocolate is making me hungry. I’m going to go snack on a few squares of healthy dark chocolate. I’ll worry about baking later.