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.

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.