Healthy lush chocolate mousse

As a child I never had that much of a sweet tooth, but I’ve found as I get older I enjoy a little sweet treat after dinner. Perhaps it’s because I head to the gym straight after work and in the evenings my body feels it has earned a little indulgence… Whatever the reason, this decadent chocolate mousse that showcases the natural creaminess of avocado, needs no excuse.

You’ll be amazed at how rich and satiating this recipe is, and trust me it’s sure to curb any late night chocolate cravings. Not to mention it’s actually good for you. But shhh, let’s not dwell on that. Although this recipe is not a massive portion, this mousse is very rich so it’s perfect for two, if you are willing to share…

Ingredients

40 grams 70% dark chocolate melted
Small pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon cacao powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Melt chocolate over a water bath or in the microwave (approx 2 mins), stirring as it melts. Add a small pinch of chilli flakes to the melted chocolate.
  • In a food processor add the avocado, chocolate, vanilla and cacao powder.
  • Blend until smooth and creamy.
  • Transfer the oozy chocolate mixture into two pretty glasses.
  • Refrigerate for half an hour before serving (if you can wait).
  • To serve you could sprinkle crushed coffee beans, grated chocolate, seasonal or frozen berries or any fruit of your choice.

* I made some crunchy and super easy almond praline to top my mousse with. 

** You could flavour your mousse with coffee, liqueur or any flavourings you can think of – but try to keep it healthy!

** If you’re vegan just leave out the melted chocolate and add extra cacao.

Avocado

Avocado is a delicious antioxidant that is most commonly used in savoury dishes but thanks to its mild creamy nuttiness it can also be used to thicken desserts. Avocado can help lower cholesterol and they are high in Vitamin E and healthy unsaturated fats and Omega 3. They aide in keeping your heart healthy and also help slow down the ageing process. Can’t argue with that.

Chocolate crackle slice

I subscribe to health and fitness magazines, I love them. I also devour cooking books and scour the web for ‘healthy’ recipes to inspire my kitchen experiments. When it comes to ‘healthy’ treats like ‘energy’ bars or chocolate slices I’m often shocked at the high sugar content, especially with the overload of added dried fruit in most recipes.

I created this chocolate crackle slice when trying to emulate the traditional chocolate crackles that many Australian children have grown up enjoying at kids parties. The traditional version uses butter, milk chocolate and other not so healthy ingredients. My slice on the other hand, is nutritious, crunchy and coconutty and it makes you feel like you’re eating something naughty from your childhood. You can play with the ingredient variations but the key is to ensure that your mixture is wet enough to set. This recipe makes 24 squares and pleases both kiddies and ‘adult-children’ alike.

Wet ingredients

10 dried dates
1 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 tablespoon brown rice malt syrup or honey
8-10 tablespoon water

Dry ingredients

1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup puffed rice
¼ cup pepitas
¼ cup craisins (dried cranberries)
¼ cup cacao nibs (optional)
3 tablespoons coconut butter, melted

  • Place the wet ingredients in a hand held mixer and blend until well combined. The mixture needs to be moist (think chocolate crackle consistency).
  • Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, including the melted coconut butter and stir well ensuring that all of the ingredients are well coated.
  • Spoon the chunky mixture in a brownie dish lined with baking paper, press the mixture down firmly with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting into squares.

 

* Once the slice has solidified you could decorate your squares by drizzling with melted chocolate. Try using white chocolate for a cheeky treat as the contrast between the rich dark slice and the white chocolate looks beautiful.

** This slice freezes well. Cut into squares and wrap in cling film and freeze for up to 2 weeks. The slice also tastes great semi-frozen.

Craving busting chocolate cookies

Sometimes I need chocolate, and I need it fast. A piece of dark chocolate can do the trick but when I’m feeling sorry for myself my inner child craves a cookie with a glass of cold milk. We all have days like that don’t we?

This recipe is fantastic because from start to finish you could be enjoying fresh homemade cookies in just 15-minutes. The cocoa nibs help elevate your mood, the coconut butter assists in stabilising your metabolism and almond meal is gluten free and also gives you a steady does of energy. All good things on days when you don’t feel so great. These crunchy cookies with their chewy centre are a winner with kids of all ages.

Dry ingredients

1 cup almond meal
¼ cup cocoa nibs
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
Dash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic cocoa

Wet ingredients

1 heaped teaspoon peanut butter (optional)
3 tablespoons melted coconut butter
2 tablespoons honey or rice malt syrup

  • Preheat oven to 170c
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients and stir well.
  • Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll into balls placing them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  • Press the tops of the balls lightly to gently flatten them and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool completely before enjoying. Pop the cookies in the freezer to cool faster if you’re impatient like me.

* These cookies will keep for up to a week in a sealed container. I like to keep them chilled in the fridge for extra crunch.
* You can add some coconut or dried fruit to the mixture but I like to keep these cookies as chocolatey as possible for extra craving busting results.

Lush hot chocolate

A work colleague of mine recently said he was on a mission to quit drinking coffee for 2 weeks. Complaining that caffeine no longer had an effect on him he wanted to look for substitutes that provided comfort on a wintery morning or afternoon. His motives were questionable but when I told him I had pretty much been caffeine-free my entire life, bar a bit of experimental dabbling, shocked is downplaying his reaction. The interesting thing is, when I do happen to have a casual latte, my body goes into shock and I can’t sleep a wink that night – even if I’ve had a coffee as early as 11am! Makes you think….

I concur that coffee does also have some health benefits like boosting you metabolism, and I definitely agree with the mantra ‘everything in moderation’, but I assured my colleague there were other warm drinks that satisfied me just fine. On a daily basis, I love my mammoth sized cups of peppermint tea or warm lemon water, whereas I try to avoid too much green tea in the evening as it’s also high in caffeine. For something a bit lush and special to replace your afternoon caffeine hit, why not try my guilt-free and super chocolately alternatives.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder
½ teaspoon honey or rice malt syrup (to taste)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Pinch of cinnamon
½ cup warm milk
½  cup boiling water

  • Place cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and honey or rice malt syrup in a mug. Splash in some cold milk and stir to form a thick paste.
  • Top with hot water or warm milk. I like to use 50/50 hot water and warm milk.
  • You can use any milk you like: soy, almond, rice milk…

* I like to use the Loving Earth brand of organic cocoa. http://thelovingcook.com.au/loving-earth-raw-organic-cocoa-powder/

** Check out my Products page for the T2’s White White Cocoa blend. Another guilt-free and delicious chocolate-tasting alternative to coffee. http://thelovingcook.com.au/t2-white-white-cocoa/

Milk

As the staple of many people’s diets, milk is such a highly debatable ingredient. While many people suffer from intolerances, cows milk still remains a good source of calcium and protein. Nevertheless milk is not  equally beneficial to everyone. It’s definitely worth trying rice milk if you prefer a lighter tasting milk or creamy soy or almond milk for a unique nutty and lactose free alternative. Low fat, reduced-fat, calcium added, full fat… with so many choices out there it can be hard to decide what the healthiest and most nutritious choice should be for you. Through my studies I realised that less fat does not always equal ‘better for you’ when it comes to milk as low-fat often equates to added sugar. Reduced-fat is a far better choice in my opinion but I always read the labels. Personally, I find it hard to digest large quantities of milk so I reserve cows milk for things like hot chocolate or a light splash on my muesli in the morning. The key is to work out what’s best for your body.

Healthy chocolate truffles

In between breakfast, lunch and dinner I always ensure I have healthy snacks to keep my metabolism working effectively which is why many of my recipes are created for this purpose. You may have heard of protein balls that are all the rage these days but they often use a protein powder whereas I prefer to use more wholesome ingredients that I can blend and mix myself without additives that I can’t control.

This recipe for my fruit and nut chocolate truffles is a healthy source of energy that offers you a steady energy hit as well as a good dose of protein and omega-3 fats from the nuts. They are so easy to make and they are a healthy twist on buttery and fattening chocolate truffles.

Ingredients

½ cup (125g) toasted almonds
½ cup (125g) toasted walnuts, pepitas or sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon peanut butter or tahini paste
1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder
10 dried apricots
10 dried dates (or prunes)
1 teaspoon flaxseeds
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional as you can use water instead)

  • Soak the dried fruits by covering with a small amount of boiling water and leave for 20 mins.
  • Add all of the ingredients and the soaked fruit (reserve the water the fruit soaked in) and blend with a hand-held blender.
  • Add one tablespoon of fruit water (or plain water) at a time to achieve a thick and sticky consistency. Make sure you don’t add too much water as the truffles will become too wet to shape.
  • Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll into balls and roll through some organic cocoa powder, desiccated coconut or coffee.
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour before enjoying.

* Try using a coffee or spice grinder to blend dried pepitas or goji berries to create a terrific colourful powder to roll these truffle balls through, the green and red looks especially festive at Christmas time.

** Store these truffles in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for up to 5 days. I personally love eating them straight from the freezer as an after dinner treat with a big mug of tea.

*** These truffles make an excellent gift so get creative with your decorating; consider drizzling the truffles with dark chocolate and sprinkling with dry strawberry powder.

Choc banana berry smoothie

I’m not a big fan of drinking my calories as you can often find yourself consuming more calories than you would if you were eating a proper meal. This recipe should be treated as a small meal because it provides protein (almonds and cocoa), calcium (yoghurt and milk) as well as a good dose of antioxidants (berries) and potassium (bananas). This smoothie is a very nutrient dense ‘liquid meal’ that doesn’t add sweet ingredients for the sake of it.

Ingredients

½ cup mixed frozen berries
1 ripe frozen banana
1 cup milk
2 heaped tablespoons Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon organic cocoa powder
Pinch of cinnamon
6 almonds

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

* You can add your own frozen fruit to this recipe. I personally like to buy fruit when it’s in season, like berries, bananas or mangoes and then freeze them to use in smoothies throughout winter. That way your smoothies are naturally sweet from the ripe fruit and you don’t need to add any extra sweeteners.

** Almond or rice milk or any milk of your choice works well in this recipe. In summer sometimes I use water instead of milk to make this smoothie even lighter.

Chocolate pudding (microwaved & guilt free)

You know those nights when you crave something chocolatey but you want something more substantial than just a hot chocolate? Your mind starts thinking I’d love a warm choc brownie right now, or just a small slice of mud cake… Well I invented this super quick and easy concoction using organic cocoa when I was in a great need of such desperation but had no time or ingredients to ‘bake’. Not only is this recipe fool-proof, it’s also healthy and satisfying. And trust me the coconut oil makes all the difference. So here it is, the recipe that all my friends have been requesting!

Wet ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil melted
3 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey

Dry ingredients

3 tablespoons self raising flour
1 ½ tablespoons organic cocoa
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup frozen berries
Tiny pinch of salt

  • In a ramekin mix together the wet ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients and mix very well.
  • Microwave for 45 seconds or until cooked and enjoy.

* You can add coffee or any flavourings to the uncooked chocolate mixture. Frozen berries work beautifully as do sour cherries in syrup – Black Forrest anyone?

Cocoa

Organic cocoa is derived from the bean of the cacao tree and is most well known to be the source of chocolate. Nevertheless the chocolate many of us binge on has lots of added fats and sugars and is often highly processed. The high sugar content in cheaper commercial chocolate is also what causes us to crave it so much. Cocoa in its natural state however, is very high in magnesium which relaxes your body and also helps alleviate stress. It is also high in iron and chromium that helps your body metabolise efficiently. This guilt free recipe is ideal for anyone wanting a pick me up chocolate hit that will really improve your mood and health.

Cooper and Milla’s

1094 High Street, Armadale, 9500 8127
531 Malvern Road, Toorak, 9827 9002

Walking into the Cooper and Milla’s Armadale store (they also have one in Toorak) the abundant display of pretty desserts and savouries is breathtaking. My eyes didn’t know where to begin. The piles of pillowy meringues…the flourless fig cake that looked like a piece of art…? My willpower being tested is an understatement.

So when in doubt, I sampled a few things. The hard-to-resist chocolate brownie was rich in flavour and suitably gooey. The lemon curd in the raspberry slice was genius in keeping the slice light and tangy. And the pretty mini-carrot cake was moist and light, not overly sweet or oily as some carrot cakes can be. Tick.

I don’t often review such decadent sweets as I like to search for healthier alternatives, but given my first impressions and Sofia’s warm hospitality (FYI-all staff were gorgeous to all customers) I had to share this find with you all.
Cooper and Milla’s is a gorgeous place when you feel like indulging with a good friend or lover. If you’re going to treat yourself, do it well.
They make all their goodies in-house, including some of the most sensational cakes made to order.

Touché Hombre

233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne
9663 0811 &
15 Claremont Street South Yarra
03 9827 0399
www.touchehombre.com.au/

If you’ve ever eaten in Melbourne you’ll know this beautiful city of mine is Mexican crazy. I actually think we have pretty great Mexican too, and I’m not talking florescent yellow cheese-from-a-can type Mexican. I think it’s because in Australia we have amazingly fresh produce that lends itself to the non-fussy Mexican cooking methods and techniques.

Enough food chat, let me introduce Touché Hombre. Cool is an understatement. Situated in the CBD (and South Yarra) most wait staff are tattooed and the walls are artistically graffitied. Not at all pretentious or stuffy, this place is…well….cool.

But the food is what I’m about. Sharing a small starter of tangy guacamole and tortilla chips I was impressed by the toasted pepitas used as a garnish. The caramelised nuttiness is a little trick I’ll now use at home for my weekly batch of quac. Washed down with a creamy and buttery tasting Bohemia cerveza (beer), this place seems like a winner.

For our main meal a friend and I shared the Platos de Califa: grilled sirloin steak marinated in tequila and lime served with salsa negra (a spicy and smoky flavoured sauce), red rice, pico de gallo (tomato-based salsa), half an avocado and six warmed tortillas. The steak was succulent and generous in size and the accompanying salsa negra sauce was outstandingly memorable – I wanted more of it! This section of the menu offers a few sharing options showcasing pork, chicken and a vegetarian option. I personally think the ‘Platos’ option is a great way to a share meal without over-ordering or overpaying on too many starters that sometimes leave you hungry and bankrupt at the end of a meal. When ordering make sure you also check out the extensive tequila menu.

For dessert we shared a cold crunchy choc-chilli biscuit lovingly welded together by a delicious peanut parfait. The parfait was intensely nutty – in a great way, and the chocolate cookie had the best kick. I was so glad to end my meal with the chilli tinge lingering in my mouth. Overall, loved this place and can’t wait to go again and pretend to be cool.

Cuda Bar

82-84 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne, Victoria
03 5289 5006
www.cudabar.com.au
*Closed from 10 June until early September 2013

The menu at Cuda Bar reads beautifully, and the ambiance, added to by the outstanding customer service, made for a memorable evening on the night I visited.

My house-made gnocchi with braised beef cheeks was a standout – the sauce was plate-lickingly delicious. The flavours were superb in this dish and the care taken with the tender gnocchi was apparent. I also adored the creaminess of the house-made ice cream that accompanied out lush chocolate brownie, which I am sure would curb any chocoholic’s cravings. The drinks list and cocktails were also fantastic – where to start?! The Grape Expectations cocktail in particular was light and refreshing, my kinda drink.

I think that Cuda Bar creates a friendly warmth from the moment you arrive, the staff are well versed on the menu and adding factors like the live band on the weekend is a great touch. Situated right on the main beach strip in Lorne, I genuinely enjoyed having dinner at Cuda Bar and it’s definitely one of the standout dining options in this area.