Healthy Chocolate Coconut Truffles

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To give you an idea of how good these are, this is possibly the most-requested recipe I’ve had in a long time. Seriously, these things are insanely good!! Who knew you could put just three healthy ingredients together and end up with such a bundle of yumminess?? I didn’t even know that I like dates… but even if you’re not sure about them, it’s the intense chocolate that makes these scream “EAT ME!!!”. :D

Speaking of which, I remember when I was a kid, my two sisters and I would buy our dad a pack of “Eat Me” dates for Christmas every year. (Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? Are they just a UK thing?) He was the only date-eater in our house, and I think Christmas was the only time he had that privilege. If only I’d known back then what these things could be turned into!!

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Peet and I have been trying to eat healthy for this past wee while… which has been easier to do with actual meals than it has with snackies. There’s only so much hummus and veggies a person can eat, right? And what happens when you have that sweet craving, and you desperately try to pretend cookie dough doesn’t exist in the world?

Cue the little round balls of deliciousness that are about to enter the stage of your life!! (I’m trying to give them a dramatic entrance, but I don’t think it’s working.)

Anyway, these things have to be tasted to be believed. Pleeeeeeeeease don’t disregard this recipe simply because it has dates in it (as I would’ve done in my former life). If you like chocolate and coconut, these are gonna change your snacking world… and your body will thank you. Or me. You’re welcome.

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Healthy Chocolate Coconut Truffles
(Makes 20)
(From Alida’s Kitchen, with a very minor tweak…)

8oz pitted dates (approx 1 ½ cups)
3 tbs Dutch-processed cocoa powder (or regular cocoa powder works fine, too)
3 tbs unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut, plus extra for rolling

  1. Put dates, cocoa and 3 tbs coconut in a food processor and blitz it until everything is pulverized and blended together.
  2. The mixture should be sticky enough to easily roll into balls, but not so sticky that it’s wet. If it’s too dry and crumbly, add water by the teaspoon while blitzing (I generally need 2-3 tsp). If it’s too wet (or if you added too much water!!) add some extra coconut.
  3. Grab tablespoonfuls of the mixture and roll them into balls (a cookie scoop works great).
  4. Roll the balls in the extra coconut, pressing gently if it needs some help sticking to the outside.
  5. Chill in the fridge until you’re ready to indulge.

Enjoy!!

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Best Flippin’ Vegan Brownies

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So, after a long break from blogging… I’m back. And what is it, I hear you ask, that had the ability to pull me out of my deep, dark cave of procrastination? The humble brownie. Well, I say “humble”… but this version would fit better in the “rich”, “decadent”, “noble”, “exalted” categories. Oh, and did I mention that they’re gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free?? That’s right: they’re healthy!! That little fact alone justifies me having made a double batch of these puppies not once, not twice, but thrice in the past week!! Usually, I’d simply wave my “research” flag while making such a confession… but they’re so good (and sooooo healthy!!), I don’t even care if you judge me for my week of over-the-top-brownieness!!

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I’ve had this recipe saved on my computer for a while, but it’s taken me until now to make them. I found it on a blog by Meg Kat, but I think she’s stopped her food blog now. (I found the page here when I was looking for the original post.) In her recipe, she says to use “oil”. The first time I made these, I used canola oil. Seemed like a common brownie ingredient. But I wanted the texture of the finished product to have a little more density… it needed some oomf!! So, the second time I made these, I used coconut oil. (Peet softened it in the microwave for me before adding it to the rest of the ingredients, just to make sure it blended in evenly). Bingo!! The brownies were still moist, but had a whole new level of gooey fudginess. (Excuse me while I mop up my drool!!)

I must admit, I was surprised to see cornstarch in the ingredients. I was nervous this would make them turn out a little too cakey… so I substituted half the cornstarch for extra cocoa. The major benefit of doing this? They came out really dark and chocolatey!!

The only other change is that I used brown rice flour instead of white rice flour, simply because that’s what I had in the house.

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Oh, and whose idea was it to set the standard pan size for brownies as 8 x 8?? Who makes brownies in such a small pan with a view to sharing them?? Maybe that’s the point… maybe all you 8 x 8 brownie pan peeps are secretly eating them when you’re home alone, destroying all the evidence before family, roomies and/or house guests come home!! All that to say, the quantities below are double the original recipe and baked in a 7 x 11 pan. They come out pretty shallow. I tend to double the quantities here and make them in a 9 x 13 pan (I still bake those for the same amount of time).

Anyway, enough with the kitchen commentary… go make the best vegan, gluten-free brownies you may ever eat… and if you need any more convincing, just talk to my friends Ben, Matt, Phil, Bernie or Heather… or, needless to say, Peet!!

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Best Flippin’ Vegan Brownies
(Serves 2-12 people, depending on how generous you’re feeling!!)
(From Meg Kat, with some tweakings…)

2/3 cup brown rice flour (or whatever your fave gluten-free flour might be)
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli semi-sweet)

vegan brownie 61.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease/line a 7 x 11 pan.
2.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda and salt, making sure to get rid of any lumps.
3.  Add the applesauce, oil and vanilla, and stir until everything is combined into a lovely, yummy, gooey mass of brownie batter. Taste, just to make sure it’s OK.
4.  Stir in the chocolate chips, taste to make sure it’s still OK, then transfer it all to your pan.
5.  Bake for 30-40 mins, depending on how well you like your brownies to be cooked through.
6.  While they’re baking, use the time to clean your bowl and utensils… with your tongue!!

These taste great while still warm… they taste great at room temperature… gosh, they even taste great straight out the fridge!! Enjoy…

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Nut-Free Chewy Granola

Um… OK. I’m trying not to be too frustrated with myself right now. Believe it or not, I had drafted this post back in February – I just hadn’t got around to finishing it and posting it (what the blazes have I been doing for the past 6 months to justify that??!!!). I finally sat down just now to upload the photos and post it… and in the process, poof!! Everything vanished. I have no idea what happened. I didn’t delete anything… I didn’t type over anything. But all my text was gone. Not happy. Not happy one bit.

So…  as I try to laugh this off as “one of those things”, let’s try this again. Oi oi oi…

I never used to be much of a granola fan. It always felt like I had a mouthful of cardboard crumbles in my mouth that tasted of nothing other than… well, cardboard. But in my constant pursuit to find healthy snacks that both Peet and I enjoy to make and eat, I thought I’d revisit the “granola” idea. It seems like such a versatile food item. If you have a great version of the final product, it’s wonderful eaten on its own as a snack… especially on road trips… although it’s helpful to wear one of those pelican bibs to catch all the bits that miss your mouth as you drive over bumps and sink holes!! It’s also great with ice cold milk poured over it for breakfast or a late night snack. Or how about sprinkled on top of applesauce or my Slow-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries (shameless plug!!), with a dollop of Greek yogurt for a healthy dessert? Gosh – I’m getting hungry!!

So, since the options to dress it up or down seemed limitless, I started looking for a granola recipe that might inspire me.

Enter Sylvie from Gourmande in the Kitchen. I’ll spare you the countless less-than-average recipes that I tried, and will simply say that Sylvie is a genius!! She deconstructed granola and came up with a wonderful list of ingredients that gives you the best granola I’ve ever eaten!! I don’t want to steal her thunder, so pop on over to her site to read why you should use two different kinds of oats, why it’s good to include fruit puree, what the benefits are of using both a liquid and a sugar sweetener, blah blah blah… It’s worth the read!!

To make things a little more challenging when it comes to me finding a granola recipe I like, I have a nut allergy. Most nut-free recipes make up for it by adding seeds of all shapes and sizes… but there are some seeds I can’t eat, and the rest of them I don’t like!! (Can I hear “high maintenance” coming from the chorus line??!!) However, the beautiful thing about granola is that you can find the base recipe that works for you, and then you can add whatever the heck you want to after that!!  Well, folks, without further ado, let me present to you my favorite base recipe…

Nut-Free Chewy Granola (makes approx 1 gallon)
(From Gourmande in the Kitchen, with some tweakings…)

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups Rice Krispies (if you can get the brown rice variety, do it!!)
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp kosher salt or sea salt, divided
2 cups dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
2 cups sultanas or golden raisins
1 cup coconut, shredded or flaked, sweetened or not, toasted or not (there are no rules!!)

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF and move racks to upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (not foil or wax paper – ask me how I know!!) and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the two oats and Rice Krispies.
  4. In a smaller bowl, mix together the applesauce, agave, sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended.
  5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix thoroughly to ensure that all the dry ingredients are coated.
  6. Sprinkle 1 pinch of salt over the mixture and stir to combine. Repeat twice more.
  7. Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking sheets. At this point you can either squeeze small clumps of the granola together and space them apart on the cookie sheet to allow air to circulate around them… or you can spread the mixture out in a thin layer and use a scrap of parchment paper to lightly press it down with your hand (this is what I do).
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the granola is dry and turning golden. (It will continue to crisp up once it comes out of the oven.)
  9. Allow to cool for 5 minutes… and then tip into a large bowl. Add the chopped chocolate, raisins and coconut and gently turn everything over to evenly distribute the add-ins, breaking up the large chunks of granola as you go. (The raisins tend to soften the granola over time, so feel free to add those later if you prefer.)
  10. Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Enjoy on its own, drenched in milk, or sprinkled on fruit, yogurt or ice cream. Yum!!