Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

Makes 18-20 truffles

chocolate nut butter truffles

These have waited a while to make it to the blog and my apologies for those who have been waiting!  My first excuse is that they’ve hardly lasted long enough for me to get a decent picture. My second excuse is that kombucha had been waiting a while, too. Lastly, we left the desert for the summer and since arriving back in the Hudson Valley we’ve been enjoying family time and the region’s summer bounty.

But, we’re here now and these delicious morsels are getting impatient to make their debut!

This recipe comes in handy in 2 major ways for me. They are a quick and easy yet presentable goody I can whip up for play dates and other gatherings.  More importantly, they’re a great, homemade sweet that I feel good enough about to give to Claire.  I am well aware that I will not be able to control everything that goes into her mouth and little body, especially as she gets older, bolder, and sees what her peers are up to.  For the time being however, I can control bit by bit the sweets and treats she chooses and therefore minimize as much as possible her exposure to unrefined products, dyes and other chemicals and worse yet, GMOs.

So, what is it about these truffles that make me feel so good?  There are 3 short, sweet and simple answers:  Cacao, Coconut, and Nut Butter (here, cashew butter, but almond butter and peanut butter have been equally, deliciously successful).

Cacao – Its history stems from South America and Mexico and their ancient cultures knew then what science is now confirming.  Raw cacao is an incredible source of antioxidants.  It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc and manganese and in Vitamins A, C, E, and some B vitamins.  As if that weren’t enough, the theobromine in cacao, a diuretic that aids in expelling toxins, is also a mood enhancer.  That’s why you feel happy after you eat chocolate.  Seratonin gets a boost, you get the happies.  Oh, and in some circles it is considered an anti-aging food and a smart food¹.  I’m personally not going to argue with that.

Coconut –  Shredded coconut is the actual meat of the coconut and it is full of fiber (gut health galore), and minerals such as potassium, iron, manganese, and selenium.  These all serve different functions of the body ranging from bone development, nerve and muscle function and regulating blood pressure.  Coconut’s true claim to fame however, is its medium chain fatty acids (MCT). Fat, as you may now know, is a friend and the saturated fat in coconut is actually GOOD for you and your brain.  It’s good for joint and nerve function and may even reduce triglyceride levels.  We’ve been taught fat is bad, but not all fat is created equal and this fat is one of those good ones.

Cashew Butter – Cashews’ fatty acids (most of which are unsaturated) contain oleic acid, the same found in olive oil, and is good, good, good for cardiovascular health.  Cashews also contain minerals such as copper and magnesium and are also particularly high in antioxidants.  And if you’re looking to lose inches (or centimeters…however you roll) adding nuts and their butters to your diet would be a big help.

Aren’t you impressed with the über health benefits of this little truffle?  That’s only the half of it…wait till you taste it!

Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

*adapted from Food 52 contributor (It’s a great site with great ideas and once I saw this one I had to try it!)

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 C dark chocolate (the darker the better)
  • 1/2 C nut butter (I used Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter)
  • 1/4 C + 1 T brown rice syrup OR maple syrup OR honey
  • 1 T coconut butter (optional)
  • 2 T cacao powder
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t sea salt (I used Himalayan Rock Salt because it was all I had.)
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 C finely chopped nuts (for rolling truffles)

To make:

  1. Combine all ingredients, except shredded coconut, in a sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat, stir to blend well.
  2. When the mixture is melted, remove from heat and mix in 1 C of shredded coconut. Let mixture cool completely.
  3. When mixture is cooled, form tablespoon size balls and place on baking sheet. You should get 18-20 truffles.  Roll the truffles in remaining 1/2 C shredded coconut and/or nuts, if using.  Alternatively, you could fill mini-muffin cups with the cacao/coconut mixture and top with nuts or shredded coconut.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  5. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.enjoydarkchocolate.com/dark-chocolate/what-is-cacao.html

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Yogurt

Makes about 10 (1/4c) pancakes

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

I get excited about food.  Back in the States, the days we got our CSA boxes were happy days.  My husband and I would go through the box, checking out our goods while talking about this meal or that for each beautiful piece of produce we touched.  Here in the UAE, that excitement has doubled…at least doubled!  We don’t get the exotic, heirloom treasures that the Hudson Valley has given us over the years but then again, we do live in the desert.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  We actually live in a desert.  So, any produce (and so far we’ve gotten arugula (aka rocket), strawberries, peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, celery, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, a whole bunch of fresh herbs, organic eggs, organic, low-heat pasteurized milk, to name a few) we get that is local AND organic is amazing!  What really doubles our excitement is that Claire is now very much a part of our conversation and investigation of our beloved farm fresh boxes.

This week she went straight for the blueberries.   Like mother, like daughter.  They were like blue little pearls peeking up at us underneath all that glorious green.  They were irresistible.  While Claire got through one box, I managed to put another away for a special breakfast.  Little did I know how special it would turn out.

Berries in general are super stars (and why you should always go organic when buying some).  When you hear about blueberries especially, and their amazing health promoting properties, the first word to come to mind is likely, antioxidants.  And, rightfully so! Blueberries are not messing around when it comes to its antioxidant power.  What’s special about it is that the antioxidants in blueberries offer whole body support.  Each and every system in our bodies, from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system to the digestive system, benefits from the antioxidants in blueberries.

Another word that should come to mind is, phytonutrients.  While anthocyanins are the most popular, given that the berries get their blue from them, there are a myriad of other phytonutrients that work together to make this berry the super star it is.  Got cholesterol issues to deal with?  Eat blueberries.  Need a cognitive boost (as in memory, especially)?  Eat blueberries.  Got insulin issues to contend with?  Eat blueberries.  Want general protection from cancer?  Eat blueberries.

I’m sure by now you’re getting my drift.

More good news.  If you find yourself having to freeze blueberries, or buying frozen blueberries, you won’t be compromising much of the antioxidants at all!  Buy out your farmer’s blueberries and make a home in your freezer for them.  This way you can enjoy this super berry all year long!

On to the recipe now.  It became this on its own.  I’m not sure what I even had in mind anymore, but this one is a winner.  If you’re a GF eater, opt out the spelt for GF all-purpose flour OR GF oat flour.  My new favorite topping for pancakes is yogurt and I can get some pretty decadent yogurt here!  Next time I may try putting the yogurt into the actual batter to see how that goes, but if you get to it first, please let me know how it goes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 C organic spelt flour*
  • 1/4 C organic coconut flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (or dessicated coconut for my new UK and AUS friends 🙂 )
  • 2 T coconut (or date) sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 medium eggs (I used farm fresh eggs which are typically smaller, so 2 large eggs would probably be OK, too)
  • 1 1/4 C organic whole milk
  • 1/2 C coconut oil or melted butter (organic of course!)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C organic blueberries + more for garnish

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flours, shredded coconut, sugar and baking powder.  Combine well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry (make a little well in the dry ingredients to incorporate evenly and prevent too many lumps) and mix just to combine.  Resist the urge to over mix!  The batter will be slightly thicker than you’re used to because of the coconut flour.  Don’t worry.  It’ll even out when cooking.
  4. Add blueberries and stir again, gently.
  5. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat and melt some butter.  Using a 1/4C measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake over, gently!  Resist the urge to press on the pancake!  It will cook evenly and quickly without any tampering. 😉
  6. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, a few fresh blueberries and your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, date syrup or honey.
  8. Enjoy!

Fruit Tart Confessions

with coconut sabayon

Makes 24 mini tarts

Let’s start with the sabayon.  Anything French is basically gourmet by default.  This sabayon, or French custard, came about by mistake.  I had intended this to be tarts filled with fruit and topped with whipped coconut cream.  But, when my cream wasn’t behaving I was forced to fix it.  I heated then refrigerated it and the sabayon was born!  Love when that happens!  I guess that was confession #1.  The list goes on.

Confession #2: I tried this recipe with brown rice flour and it came out a bit too crisp.  I swapped it out for oat flour and yummy, tender tart shells were the result.  Yes, this is a gluten-free goody!

The main ingredient and quite frankly the understated star of the show, is the almond…in this case, almond meal.  Almonds are a special nut.  They are a cousin of stone fruit such as peaches, plums and apricots.¹  Almonds contain cyanidelike substances that are medicinally powerful, so much so they inhibit cancer growth.  Its phytosterols contribute to this incredible anti-cancer powerhouse and also reduce cholesterol.¹  Its Vitamin E content and monosaturated fats (holy fats again!) also contribute to reducing LDL cholesterol and improving conditions for the heart.  Magnesium, a special mineral that almonds contain, is responsible for clearing the arteries of any calcium build-up.²  Your heart is smiling if Mg is present!  They also lower the glycemic index of the meal you’re eating.  Good news for our blood sugar.  Great news for diabetics.  One interesting tidbit is that eating almonds with their skins actually makes them work harder than they already do.  So, heart is happy, blood sugar is happy, cholesterol is in check, cancer cells won’t even think of setting up shop…I’d say almonds are great addition to everyone’s diet.  Good thing I had almonds and not pecans which were the nuts I had intended for this tart…confession #3!

They are extremely versatile, too.  Enjoy them chopped on salads or sautéed with greens.  Have some almond butter on that toast or with crudite.  Trail mix and energy bars are other goodies, too.

Finally, for the last confession:  My husband, not a fruit tart lover at all, confessed that this was one of his favorite desserts yet!  Bon Appetit!

You’ll need:

1 C almond meal

1/2 C coconut flour

1/2 C oat flour

1/4 t ginger

1/4 C maple syrup

1/4 C coconut oil + more as needed and for brushing tart pan

1 recipe Whipped Coconut Cream (but make sure to read below, too)

2 C mixed berries of choice (I used blueberries, raspberries and strawberries which I cut to fit in the tart shells.)

To make:

Tart shells:

1. Pulse the almond meal and flours together in a food processor.  Add the ginger, maple syrup and coconut oil and pulse until a dough is formed and you can squeeze it together in your hands.

2. Form the dough into a ball and then pinch off about a T or so to start pressing into the (oiled) tart pan.  Press evenly so that all the sides are about the same thickness and it bakes evenly.

3. Refrigerate tart shells in pans for 30 mins.  (Confession #4: Claire’s bedtime coincided with this and I left the tart shells in there for closer to 1.5hrs.  They were completely fine:)

4. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake tart shells for about 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Coconut Sabayon:

Before preparing the whipped coconut cream as per the recipe, please read to see how my mistake turned out to be a great surprise.  I had forgotten to refrigerate the coconut milk which means I attempted to make the cream without separation of water and cream/fat.  Obviously this didn’t work.  I added the kudzu (as per the recipe) and while it thickened, it wasn’t exactly rich and dreamy.  I added another T of kudzu just for kicks.  From here:

1. Add the coconut milk mixture to a saucepan over low-medium heat and bring to an almost simmer (just bubbling at the edges).  Stir often to keep it even.  Keep it over low heat for 15-20 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let cool before storing in an airtight container in the fridge.  Chill for at least 2 hours before assembling tarts.

Assemble your tarts:

1. Measure about a teaspoon of sabayon to fill each tart shell and top with your desired fruit.

2. Enjoy!

*Assembled, the tarts will last overnight in an airtight container.  Otherwise, the tart shells will last 2-3 days and still be fresh if kept in an airtight container in the fridge.  Ditto the sabayon.

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20