Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream

This recipe was made possible by my future mother-in-law, who took a cue from my post about not having an ice cream maker and bought me one as a shower gift. I was so excited to get back to New York to start using it. There was one point in time where I thought ice cream makers were novelty items that collected dust in the cupboard. Then I developed a penchant for the vegan, agave-sweetened ice cream at Stogo and realized I couldn’t afford to keep up my delicious but expensive ice cream habit. That is, unless I learned to make my own.

It started with no machine ice cream — an icy yet creamy mango version was good enough to tide me over. But I knew that I couldn’t go machineless forever. So that’s where this gift came in handy. Sugar, whenever I use my new machine (which is sure to be often), I’ll think of you!

Of course, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing from there. The whole “vegan” part of it wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it might be. I’m still in search of a great soy-based recipe. But for now, another coconut-based version will do. The difference, I think, between the two is that coconut milk — even the light kind — has naturally more fat than soy milk. Next time I use a soy base I may try to fatten it up a bit. Plus, I’m not sure if this makes a difference or not, but the coconut milk I used was the Thai Kitchen variety, which contains guar gum as an emulsifier. Perhaps that helped create some of the creaminess of this version. I think some additional experimentation may answer some of these questions. But for tonight, I’m going to enjoy this mocha version without any further questioning as to why it turned out while the others didn’t. I’ll leave that for another day. What I am wondering is how this one turned out so creamy and rich when I used light coconut milk (which has only 45 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving) and no additional fats. I feared it would be too icy in texture, but I don’t think that’s the case. Good to know, at least, that loads of fat is not a prerequisuite for good ice cream. I did make up for the lighter ice cream by sprinkling with a few toasted pecans, as pictured.

For my next experiment, I’m curious as to some of your favorite flavors. Perhaps I could try to tackle one of those next. Growing up, I always liked “Blue Moon,” though I fear the novelty of blue ice cream has worn off with age. These days, I’m digging coffee (hence, the mocha) and simple flavors like vanilla bean and coconut with a simple fruit sauce to top it off. I’d love to know some of your favorites.

Mocha Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can lite coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchens)

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 tablespoon ground coffee

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients except agave. Pour into a medium-sized saucepan and heat over high heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, whisking occassionally. Remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar. Set aside to cool.

2. When mixture has cooled, pour into a glass bowl or glass, 1-qt. measuring cup. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.

3. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and proceed according to directions.*

* my machine is a countertop Cuisinart. If you’re using a countertop machine, be sure the mixing bowl is completely chilled in refrigerator — which can take up to 24 hours — until completely frozen through.  

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Chocolate Bark

I’ve been working on a recipe for chocolate bark that’s also low carb and grain free. For this recipe, I used Truvia instead of agave, which makes the bark technically not grain-free, since erythritol, which is used to make Truvia, is made with corn. Still, Truvia adds no additional calories and provides a nice, aftertaste-less sweetness that resembles sugar. Though I have tried agave in this recipe, it came out a bit “melty” with the agave, though I’m sure it would work if you enjoyed it straight from the fridge. See below for a grain-free version using agave nectar. The agave bark will stay hard if kept refrigerated. You might also try using a liquid stevia; I like the flavored ones best. Although the Truvia keeps the bark nice and crisp, it still tends to melt faster than regular chocolate when left at room temperature for more than 15 minutes or so. Even so, I made a version of this bark for one of my bridal showers on Saturday and received enough compliments on it to feel good enough about sharing it here.

As a chocolate fanatic myself, I’m looking forward to going back to my apartment in New York on Wednesday, where a good portion of this bark awaits in my fridge. Yum!  As the picture tends to show, this bark will whiten a bit at the top as it freezes. You can place a layer of plastic wrap over the chocolate to prevent this from happening, though this will create some wrinkles on the top of the bark. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it tastes good, right? This bark would also work with chopped, whole almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, or even some dried fruit. Experiment and let me know what’s been good!

Happy Passover for all those celebrating.

Sugar Free Chocolate Bark (Truvia version):

2/3 cup coconut oil (liquified)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

12 packets Truvia

1/2 cup pepitas, unsalted

1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Grain Free Chocolate Bark (agave version):

1/2 cup liquified coconut oil

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup pepitas/nuts

1/3 cup flaked coconut

Directions:

1. Over a double boiler on medium heat, whisk coconut oil, chocolate and Truvia/agave together for about 4-5 minutes, or until mixture begins to bubble.

2. If making Truvia version, transfer mixture to a blender and blend until smooth (this is to help dissolve the Truvia into the mixture).

3. Add in pepitas and coconut and stir.

4. Pour mixture into a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper. Spread smooth with a spatula or spoon. Cover with plastic wrap, foil or a fitted top and freeze for 15-20 minutes, or until chocolate sets. You may break up chocolate and store the rest in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There was a period of time that I thought I would never enjoy chocolate chip cookies again. The vegan chocolate chips contained sugar. The sugar-free chips contained dairy. The grain sweetened chips contained gluten and just about every chocolate bar contained sugar or was sweetened with something that hurt my stomach. So I gave up on the idea of chocolate chip cookies.

Then one day I started brainstorming. What if I turned the chocolate coating I like to use on cookies into chocolate chunks to bake inside the cookies. The first few batches turned into melty messes, but I think I finally got a good recipe down. And even though, unlike regular chocolate chip cookies, you actually have to make the chocolate chunks yourself, these cookies are surprisingly easy to make.

chocolate chunk cookies

Since it’s just the two of us here (plus Woodley, who can’t really eat chocolate), I tend to write cookie recipes that don’t yield 5 dozen cookies. It’s not that we would have any trouble finishing them off, it’s that we would likely have little trouble, and don’t really need the temptation. But, if you’re looking to make a large batch, you can easily double or triple the recipe as you see fit. The chocolate chunks are bittersweet — reminiscent of semi-sweet chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar. Feel free to add nuts or dried fruit to the batter as you wish.

Note: This batter will seem much more thin that a normal cookie batter — this is the way you want it! Don’t refrigerate batter. You want to prepare it just prior to baking these cookies. For a less cakey, crispier, slightly more naughty cookie, omit the coconut milk and increase the shortening to 1/2 cup, the agave to 2/3 cup, and xanthan gum to 1/2 teaspoon. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown on the edges. Cookies will firm up as they cool — remove to a cooling rack when still somewhat soft.

I tend to like to find ways to reduce the fat in my baked goods. But sometimes, you just gotta let loose a little. I understand.

Yield: about a dozen cookies

Agave Sweetened Chocolate “Chip” Recipe:

1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified (warm jar in a bowl of hot water if oil is solid)

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Using a double boiler (or a small saucepan, filled about 1″ with water, using a glass bowl over it), melt coconut oil, cocoa powder and agave together, whisking until chocolate is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Pour chocolate into a small dish or baking dish lined with wax paper. You can either leave chocolate thick, or spread, depending on how large you would like your chocolate chunks. Cover with lid and freeze until set, about 1 1/2 hours. When ready to use, strip wax paper from chocolate and cut chocolate block into chunks.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup light coconut milk

1 recipe chocolate chunks (above)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, potato starch, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat toghether agave, shortening and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add flours and beat on a low speed. Add coconut milk and beat until smooth. Fold in chocolate chunks.

4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoon onto a large, ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (depending on whether you like your cookies more chewy or more crisp) or until slightly golden brown around the edges. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for a few minutes after removing from the oven before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Mole Black Bean Tostadas

mole black bean tostadasI make black beans often. They make a great, cheap dinner and are quite versatile. I recently saw a recipe for black bean tostasas in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking. The recipe looked quite intriguing, but it called for beer. I decided to make a version of it tonight, and in the spirit of a true budget-conscious meal, I decided to use what I had on hand rather than go out and buy ingredients for the recipe. While a recipe that calls for chocolate, peanut butter, black beans, green chiles and wine might sound a little strange  — scary, even — it all comes together quite nicely for this robust, mole-inspired bean dish.

One of my favorite bloggers, Karina Allrich, has a great page on her site about going gluten free. In it, she talks about gluten-free wines. It might be a good reference point for those concerned about buying wine that is safe for their diet.

The green sauce on top of the tostadas is my aunt’s  jalapeno salsa, which I’ve been making incessantly ever since she shared the recipe with me. It is the perfect, fresh accompaniment to the more earthy beans. In keeping with the healthiness of the beans, I used sprouted corn tortillas and baked them in the oven. They still get nice and crisp. You can also slice the tortillas and use the same method for making homemade, baked tortilla chips. I do this often and they are great. Just sprinkle with a little pinch of salt right when they come out of the oven.

I’m watching the Oscars as I write this. Is it just me, or are they dragging a bit this year? Maybe it’s just because while last year I made a point to see all the nominated films, I was a little too busy (and broke) to make my rounds this year. I guess I am just out of the loop. And, as a former musical theatre geek, I don’t think anything will top Hugh Jackman’s opening number from last year’s show — for me, at least.

Mole Black Beans:

1 lb. dry black beans

8 cups water, divided plus more for quick soaking

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 4-oz. can mild green chiles

1 plum tomato, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon chile powder

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons creamy, roasted peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Baked, Crisp Tortillas:

6-8 corn tortillas

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

1. To quick soak black beans: in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, cover black beans completely with water and bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and let sit, covered for an hour and a half to two hours. Drain and rinse.

2. Add black beans back to pot, along with 5 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, onion and garlic. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until beans absorb water, about 30-40 minutes, stirring occassionally. When water has been absorbed, add another 2 cups water, and 1/2 cup wine. Cover and simmer until the beans absorb the water again, stirring occassionally (about 20 minutes).

3. Taste beans to make sure they’re soft. If they need to be cooked a little more, add a bit more water and cook, covered, for 10-15 more minutes, watching to make sure they don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. When beans are soft, removed from heat. While still hot, add green chiles, tomato, cumin, chile powder, peanut butter, unsweetened cocoa, smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons white wine. Adjust salt to taste.

4. Serve beans over toasted tortillas: preheat oven to 400. Brush a large, flat baking sheet with olive oil. Lay tortillas flat on baking sheet and brush the tops of each tortilla. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet once, until edges are golden brown. Let cool slightly on a wire rack that’s covered in paper towel to absorb extra oil.

5. To serve, top crisp tortillas with about 1/4 cup black beans, jalapeno salsa, and whatever else you think you might enjoy: chopped tomato, avocado, lettuce, olives or peppers.

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Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries

There are few things I love more than a new food discovery. Whether it be a new restaurant, a new product (I almost died and went to heaven when I discovered Purely Decadent ice cream in Whole Foods one hot summer day), or a new ingredient, it’s always exciting bringing some variety into your food world. So imagine my excitement when I found coconut amino at my local health food store when I went to re-up on my bottle of wheat-free tamari. There, in the section where it seemed only fermented soy products were destined to reside, was this soy-free, dairy-free, vegan product. I turned around the label. I must have been missing something. Would there be some disclaimer on the back — some small print concession that this product contains a trace amount of soy? Nope. Just more to make me want to buy the stuff. It was high in healthy amino acids. Lower in sodium than soy sauce or liquid amino and very low on the glycemic index. Plus, it was relatively inexpensive. Here is my inaugural recipe using coconut aminos: a simple, satisfying kale salad with quinoa for protein (an homage to the cafe at the Detroit Zen Center, a Delectably Free fave), and dried cranberries for a tart, sweet addition.

Kale Salad:

1 bunch kale, washed, chopped and tough ribs removed

1 cup cooked quinoa, kept warm

1/2 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries

Dressing:

3 tablespoons coconut aminos

3 tablespoons sesame tahini

3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

1. Prepare dressing in a blender or, alternately, combine ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.

2. Toss salad ingredients with dressing in a large bowl until kale is covered. Some dressing may be left over.

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Mint Brownies

These brownies are rich and fudgey —  just the way I like them! In fact, I would consider them more a fudge-bar than a brownie. Sound good? Then whip these babies up! They’re simple to prepare. The accompaniment of mint, while not necessary, is the perfect addition. In order to get a really intense chocolate flavor, I added brewed coffee to the batter. There are several possible additions to these brownies. Walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips would be great here. As I sit and type this, I’m watching Iron Chef America, with an eye on the Vikings-Saints game as well. These brownies are the perfect, indulgent treat to round out an anti-Sunday-feeling kind of night! The best part about it is that, while indulgent, the use of high-fiber, high-protein garbanzo bean flour and coconut oil, which is heart-healthy, makes these brownies not quite so indulgent as they seem.

Gluten Free, Vegan Mint Brownies:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup hot water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brewed coffee

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 1/2 cup (better mint-chocolate balance) fresh mint leaves, minced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together garbanzo bean flour, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in coconut oil, agave nectar, water, vanilla and coffee. Fold in applesauce and mint.

3. Pour batter into a greased, 9×9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

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Veggie Burgers

These delightfully yummy patties also happen to be healthy; they’re a good source of protein, fiber and antioxidants. Sunflower seeds also lend a daily dose of vitamin E and nearly half a daily dose of magensium. I have been expertimenting with veggie burgers for quite some time. I was on a bean-burger trial period for awhile, but most of them ended up quite dry and tasteless, to my dismay. Next there were the nut burgers, which had quite the tendency of hardening-up a little too much when they were even slightly overcooked. Seeking a soy-free recipe for veggie burgers, I was beginning to fear a decent recipe was far out-of-reach, until my cousin requested suggestions for what to do with the extra nut paste she had made for my Raw Vegan Sushi Rolls, I finally had the idea of some sort of burger made with the walnut, sunflower seed paste, brown rice, carrots, ginger and a little cilantro — an Asian veggie burger!

Below is a recipe based on that original idea, but scaled way down time-wise so that anyone coming home late can throw together a decent meal. There are a few ways to do this: 1) prepare everything, including rice, process it and cook on-the-spot, 2) buy some pre-cooked brown rice from trader joes and have sunflower seeds soaked and ready to go so that you can puree the ingredients whenever you want to make these, or 3) process the mixture in a food processor and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make into patties to order — whenver you’re in the mood for a quick meal or snack.

Yield: 5-6 patties

Vegan, Soy Free Veggie Burgers:

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, minced

3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

olive oil for cooking

Directions:

1. Puree the above ingredients in a food processor, using a sharp blade, until there are no large chunks and mixture can easily be formed into patties with hands.

2. Form into patties about 1/2 inch thick.

3. Heat a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet and add a few teaspoons to a tablespoon of oil. When skillet is hot, add patties. Cook on high until browned, about 3 minutes per side.

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Cran-Raspberry Tart

I love this recipe because it’s the perfect mix of tart and sweeet. I originally tried this recipe with blueberries, then with cherries, but ultimately, the tart mix of cranberry and sweet, unmistakable flavor of raspberry is the best combination. Add the earthy, spicy cinnamon in the crust, and you’re in tart heaven. I would also consider inverting the recipe and using the crust mixture as a topping in a cran-raspberry crisp. This would certainly be a less fussy way to use these ingredients. But alas, I am always partial to a pretty tart, which can oftentimes be deceptively quite simple to prepare.

If you like this recipe, try Elana‘s recipe for Tart and Tangy Cranberry Bars, which inspired this recipe.

Gluten Free Tart Crust:

2 cups raw walnuts

6 dates, pitted

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a food processor, using a sharp blade, puree ingredients for crust until crumbly and malleable, resembling the texture of wet sand.

3. Turn contents into a pre-greased tart pan. You can either use 4, 3-inch tart pans or 1 9-inch pan. Using fingers and the bottom of a measuring cup, press crust into bottom of pan and up sides until evenly distributed and smooth.

4. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust. Bake tart crust in preheated oven — 12-15 minutes for smaller tarts and about 17 minutes if using a larger tart pan.  Watch carefully toward the end of baking to make sure the edges don’t burn. To prevent burning, you can wrap your edges in foil.

5. When crust is crisp around the edges, remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.

Cran-Raspberry Filling:

3 cups frozen cranberries

1 cup frozen raspberries

1/3 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine frozen berries and agave nectar and simmer, stirring occassionally, until bubbly and cranberries begin to pop, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir occassionally until filling mixture begins to thicken. Set aside to cool.

2. When filling has substantialy cooled, pour into pre-baked crust and chill in the refrigerator for another hour. Serve.

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Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Bread

breadFor those who celebrate Christmas, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I’m back in Michigan, enjoying some quality family time in the midwest before heading back to the Big Apple to start off what will certainly be a busy year. I’m studying for, then taking, the New York Bar Exam, getting married, and will continue the process of looking for a job. Of course, I can’t neglect this blog, as it has been a theraupeutic challenge for me — one that has been a welcome diversion from some of my more stressful, perhaps less enjoyable, everyday tasks.

In between watching chick flicks with the fam (we took in The Proposal last night — a must-see for chick-flick enthusiasts like myself), sleeping in, and post-holiday shopping, I’ve managed to find some time to test out a few new recipes today. This apple cinnamon bread turned out to be a hit. This was much to the relief of my parents, who were quite the skeptics after two failed blueberry cinnamon bread attempts. The apple flavor comes through pretty assertively in this bread. The trifecta of apple juice, applesauce and sliced apple probably had a lot to do with that. Expect an old-fashioned flavor, a soft, moist center and a more crumbly, somewhat drier crust. It’s reminiscent of a coffee cake with a cinnamon crumble topping.

I’m hoping to post again before then, but just in case: Happy New Year everyone!

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Apple Cinnamon Bread:

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/4 cup hot water

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 medium-sized apple, peeled and sliced thin

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together apple juice, grapeseed oil, agave and vanilla. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. Add applesauce and hot water and continue to stir until incorporated. Fold in sliced apples.

3. Pour batter into a greased 9x4x3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and spread evenly with the back of a spoon or spatula (it’s ok if the topping mixes in with some of the batter underneath). Bake in preheated oven  for 50-55 minutes.

4. Cool in pan for 45 minutes. Carefully remove bread from loaf pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

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Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Due to the fact that I’m heading into the home stretch of two grueling weeks of finals (not to mention entering the home stretch of my last year of law school), the fatigue has set in in multiple ways. Namely, I’m feeling like I want to make this post short and sweet, since my poor hands are beginning to bear the brunt of ruthless race-against-the-clock exams. That said, the fact that I was able to make these scones after a craving for something sweet to go with my second pot of coffee of the day (o.k., I’m exaggerating…but only a little bit) is a testament to how simple these scones are to whip up. Because believe me, I would not be baking anything at this point that wasn’t easy. Plus, their sweet aroma is quite comforting as they bake in the oven, which I very much appreciated.

With the impending holidays, stress is understandably abundant for many this season — and not just those studying for exams! With another year of economic woes behind us, and a degree of uncertainty still ahead, it’s easy to become annoyed with having to deal with the everyday stresses that remain a constant in our lives. Sometimes the little things — a meal with family, a homemade gift from a friend — will remind us what’s really important this season, and always.

I hope you bake these scones and share them with someone you love. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did (but I know you will).

Yield: 8-10 scones

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones:

1 2/3 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup Spectrum organic shortening

1/2 cup light coconut milk (shaken), plus more for brushing

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries (if you can’t find them, you can substitute raisins)

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, halved

zest of one orange

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add shortening and crumble into dry mixture with hands until small clumps form. Add coconut milk, agave and vanilla extract and stir until everything is incorporated. Add fresh and dried cranberries and orange zest and fold until evenly distributed.

3. Drop heaping 1/4 cup-sized drops onto a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with coconut milk. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

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