Cocoa Chia Date Balls

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Of all the desserts I make, this is the simplest one to put together and one of the most popular ones too, especially if you are gluten free. Actually, this is more than a dessert, it’s an energy ball.
You know those energy bars that your trainer tries to sell you or your local natural food store carries, stating how healthy it is and natural they are. Well, these Cocoa Chia Date Balls beat those energy bars, hands down!

The key ingredient here is medjool dates. That’s right…. that dried fruit that grows indigenously across the Middle East and North Africa and is one of the seven blessed species that God blessed. There must be a reason, from all the fruits we have in this world, God decided that this is the one He’s blessing. For good reason, Medjool dates only contain about 66 calories each – so that’s ideal if you are concerned about your shvelt body. They are a good source of fiber and contain high levels of the essential minerals potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. In other words, it’s good for you. Dates were commonly eaten by nomadic travelers as they provide a lot of energy and healthful nutrients with the added benefit of being readily available. So if a nomad can survive on dates in an arid desert, you certainly can thrive on these as well. Although, right now in NY, it feels as hot as a blow dryer blowing on me.

Now about the taste of these delightful energy balls. They are raw!! That means, no baking. Just throw into a food processor and presto. The combination of cocoa and dates suggests a taste of a rum liqueur. Many people have asked me if I use rum, and somehow the cocoa just extracts the taste of rum when combined with dates. Each bite is like a cookie that is moist and a bit nutty. I added chia seeds, because it expands in your belly and makes you feel full. Plus there is a lot of talk about chia as a protein source. Important for us vegetarians. I originally made a version of these for my Silk Road Vegetarian cookbook called Orange Blossom Date Balls. For that recipe, you will need to purchase my book. As you can imagine by the name, it’s a fragrant date ball, more reminiscent of the Silk Road.

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Cocoa Chia Date Balls

Makes 16

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons filtered water
10 medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon raw coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, soaked and dried, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups shredded dried coconut
Directions

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let seeds absorb water. Once absorbed, place in the food processor with the dates and coconut oil, and process until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add the sea salt and cacao powder, and process until smooth and well combined.
  4. Add the walnuts and process until evenly distributed, then remove from the processor and stir in the coconut (the mixture will be very thick, and you may need to use your hands).
  5.  Form the mixture into 16 balls, and enjoy!  Store extra in the fridge.

Indian Carrot Pudding ~ Gajar Halvah



A very popular and traditional Indian dessert that is served on festivals- Halvah, which means sweet in arabic. Gajar halva is typically made with sautéing fresh carrots in ghee and cream, however this dessert is made with vegan butter and coconut milk, reducing the calories and making it dairy free. Carrots are naturally sweet and have been used for thousands of years along the Silk Route, as a sweetener is desserts in lieu of sugar. This halva is adorned with chopped pistachios and jeweled raisins with just a hint of cardamom. A little of this densely decadent pudding goes a long way, since it is so rich and flavorful. Can be served warm or cold with a dollop of ice cream after a spicy meal.

Serves 6

Ingredients


¼ cup vegan butter

6 medium carrots, shredded

2 cups coconut milk

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup golden raisins

4 cardamom pods, bruised

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted pistachios, crushed (garnish)



Instructions

                      1      Melt butter in a skillet and then add carrots. Reduce heat to medium low and coat carrots in butter.

                      2      Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered on low heat for 45 minutes; stirring occasionally.

                      3      Stir in the brown sugar, raisins, cardamom, and salt. Stir constantly until all the sugar is dissolved into a pudding like consistency; about 15 minutes.

                     4      Wait until slightly cool to transfer to small dessert bowls. Store in the fridge and when ready to serve, invert onto a dessert plate and garnish with pistachios.




Banana Coconut 5 Spice Muffins

With winter upon us, it’s easy to picture oneself on a tropical island, under the shade of a coconut palm. But even if the mercury does eventually head north, a taste of the tropics remains as close as these bite size banana coconut muffins laced with Chinese 5 Spice. Quick to throw together and under 30 minutes to bake, these individually sized muffins will dreamily take you to the sunny isles.


It might seem like an odd combination, but actually- banana, coconut and Chinese 5 Spice all originate from the Southeastern part of Asia. Marrying them together into these intoxicatingly sweet and nutty morsels made sense.


In Sanskrit (ancient Hindu language), the coconut is viewed as the kalpa vriksha (“the tree which provides all the necessities of life”). Virtually every part of the coconut palm can be utilized in some manner. Such is the case with these muffins- the coconut milk is used in place of regular milk;  coconut oil for baking;  and the white coconut meat is used as a confection. It’s wonderful when you can create something that utilizes all parts of a plant, and nothing goes to waste.


Chinese 5 Spice was originally used to make perfumes, but now is used in avant garde savory desserts. The formula is based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in foods. The most common combination in 5 Spice is bajiao (star anise), clovescinnamonhuajiao (Sichuan pepper) and ground fennel seeds.


To finish off the muffins I sprinkled them with coconut flakes, because I love the crunchy texture it gives to baked goods.  The coconut flavor permeated the entire muffin and gave a subtle sweet note that you don’t normally find in a banana muffin, while the 5 spice gave them a warmth, and the bananas themselves allowed the muffins to be nice and moist. 



Makes 14

Ingredients
2/3 cup organic coconut milk 
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
2 1/2 All Purpose Gluten Free Flour 
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1 teaspoon 5 spice Asian powder 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed slightly so liquified 
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
2 large organic eggs 
3 very ripe medium bananas, mashed well 


Instructions
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Line 14 muffin tins with paper liners.
  3. Whisk together flour, shredded coconut, spices, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  4. Whisk together coconut oil and sugar until well combined, then whisk in vanilla, eggs and then bananas until well blended.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk and lime juice, then the flour until just combined.
  6. Drop batter into prepared muffin pan until each has an equal amount, and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake muffins until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, and they are lightly brown about 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach and Raspberry Crumble

Call back the summer with an old fashioned summer dessert that relies on seasonal fruits for most of its flavors. While peach and raspberry are not in season now, I actually froze them during the summer when I had an overflow of these juicy fruits.

In my cookbook that I am in process of editing, I write about the importance of seasonal eating, but I also write about how you can capture the bounty and freeze it into a time capsule for later use.


Freezing is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time consuming ways to store fruits of the season. The extreme cold slows down the changes that affect quality or cause spoilage. Freezing fruits is ideal when you will be using it for a dessert, because the texture changes and becomes softer- better for cooking than eating thawed fruits.

These little fruit jewels naturally contain a high amount of fiber, but a crumble topping with nuts add a sprinkling of whole grains and protein. The smattering of raspberries adds a bit of color and tartness to the peaches. If you don’t care for tart then use blueberries in lieu of raspberries. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yoghurt garnished with a spring of mint for added freshness.


Serves 6


Ingredients

¾ cup brown rice flour

4 tablespoons vegan butter

½ cup buckwheat flakes (or millet flakes)

¼ cup almond meal

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and cubed

1-1/3 cup raspberries

4 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons tapioca starch




Instructions


  1      Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish
    2   In a medium size bowl, place the rice flour and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the buckwheat flakes, almond meal, ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
    3      In the pie dish, combine the peaches, raspberries, orange juice, 2- tablespoons sugar and tapioca starch together. Sprinkle the crumble over the top, pressing it down lightly.

    4      Bake for 40 minutes or until the crumble is lightly browned. Serve warm or cold paired with your favorite ice cream. 



Cranberry Coconut Munchies (Gluten Free)

I am in need of warmth. Winter in the Northeast has been relentlessly cold. Yes, I know I should not complain, considering world events and natural disasters that have taken place recently. In truth, I am very grateful for all that I have, and have learned to create pleasant substitutions for things that I miss. 

So what foods do you associate with warmth? If I had a magic wand, I would wave away and magically appear in the tropics, slurping away on a straw with a giant coconut in hand. Nothing like coconut to quench your thirst.
Since I am not a fairy princess- much to my dismay, I figured let me bake something that will induce the feeling of warmth. Cranberry coconut munchies, adapted from the eclectic Vegetarian cookbook by Nicola Graimes, is just that. I love recipes that combine ingredients from different regions that just work. These cookies are a mix of the traditional American cranberries with the tropical coconut. It’s amazing how these two ingredients come together to form an alchemy in taste- like they were meant to be together.
These coconut cookies speckled with orange zest and cranberries have a tart-sweet crunch lending to an exotic flavor. Such a simple dessert, that is ready in no time for afternoon tea or coffee.  Can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week.

Serves 20


ingredients

2 egg whites

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup almond meal

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Zest of 1 small orange

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1   Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.
2   In a medium size bowl, with an electric mixer beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. This should take a few minutes.
3   With a spatula, fold the sugar, almond meal, coconut, orange zest, vanilla extract, almond extract into egg whites to form a sticky dough. Then gently fold in the cranberries.
4   Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown at the top.
5   Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

Cherry Almond Cookies (vegan, gluten free)

Cherry and almond are one of those made-in-heaven combinations that you can truly never go wrong with. I made sure to source some really good quality organic dried cherries (Trader Joe’s) for these cookies. I tend to think that,  the quality of your dried fruit and nuts can make or break your sweet delights.

Delicious, with a tender chewy crumb. These cookies are subtly flavored with multiple layers flavors of interest– the more you eat, the more your taste buds happily discover the s

weet, sassy, nutty, and rich with love hugs and kisses cookies.

This recipe has been inspired from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar….
Yields 24 cookies
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup All Purpose Gluten Free flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup dried cherries



DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven 350F  degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest.  Sift in flours, shredded coconut, baking soda, and salt and mix.  When ingredients are mostly combined, add almonds and cherries and mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Drop cookies by generous tablespoons onto baking sheets–about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake for 10 –  12  minutes until edges begin to brown.
  5. Let the cookies rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely…

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever (Gluten Free)

This is not one of those multi layered frosted cakes… I don’t have the patience to make a day of baking a cake. I know that when it comes to chocolate cake, many people would disagree with that since most of the fun in baking a chocolate cake is tasting and licking away the batter and frosting. That would send me into a serious sugar high. No, this cake is not a whole day affair, but the taste is like it came from a gourmet patisserie.


This chocolate cake, is a moist, chocolaty no fuss cake that is soft, fluffy and GLUTEN FREE. You could also make it vegan with an egg replacer, but I did use two eggs for this cake. You will have to refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes before baking to improve its texture.


When baked, you can store this cake in the fridge, as it keeps well, however I like to warm it up before I eat into it again. As a cold cake it takes on more of a truffle texture, warming it up brings it back to a moist and bouncy cake.


Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Basic Chocolate Cake recipe.





Ingredients

1 cup brown rice flour

         1 cup sorghum flour
         1/2 cup coconut flour 

3/4 cup non-alkaline cocoa powder (I use Trader Joes)
1 tablespoon baking powder (look for non-aluminum type)
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup barely melted vegan butter (Earth’s Balance)
1 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk, room temperature
4 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
  1. Grease an 8×8 square cake pan.
  2. Sift the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the melted butter and maple syrup until it looks like caramel.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and then the coconut milk. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined. 
  4. Add the chocolate and stir until everything comes together and is no longer dusty looking – avoid over-mixing.
  5. Refrigerate batter for up to 30 minutes, but no longer than 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 325F degrees with a rack in the middle. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake in preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes. 
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Orange Almond Cake (Vegan, Gluten Free)

This is the most amazing and simple fool- proof cake that never fails. You can use lemons instead, but make sure it has the same weight as the oranges. A little note about this cake, you have to like the flavor of marmalade, since this has a tinge of bitterness to it because it’s made with the pith and rind. That is why I added as an option bittersweet chocolate chips to add in the batter for more sweetness, if you prefer, however I like it the way that it is. If trying this out, please leave your comments. Especially delightful when served with vanilla ice cream, yoghurt or crème fraiche.
ingredients

3 large oranges

2 cups brown sugar

½ cup soymilk

2 cups almond meal

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)

Serves 10




Directions

1 Bring a pot of water to boil, add the oranges, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
2 Strain off the water, and let the oranges cool.
3 In the meantime, food process the sugar and soymilk until dissolved and pour into large bowl.
4 When oranges are cool. Cut in half and de-seed them and put the oranges with peel and pith into the food processor until reasonably smooth.
5 Pour the pulp into the sugar and soymilk mixture. Then add the almond meal, baking powder and chocolate chips (optional) gently mix together.
6 Spray cooking spray into 9X11 baking dish. Bake at 375F for 1 hour.
7 Leave the cake to stand for 10 minutes, then turn it out on a cooling rack and allow cooling for an hour.