Dessert

It’s National Chocolate Mousse Day! How About a Healthy, Vegan Version?

rp_Vegan-Chocolate-Mousse-1024x1024.jpgApril 3rd is a noteworthy day for a few reasons. For one, it is the birthday of the woman who created the food-obsessed individual who is writing these words (love you, Mom).

But April 3rd is also remarkable because it is National Chocolate Mousse Day.

Yep, that’s a thing.

So I guuuuueeess we’ve gotta eat some!

With two cups of heavy cream, traditional chocolate mousse is obviously not something to indulge in on the regular. But what if we waved our wellness wand at the recipe and gave our mousse a makeover? Filled it with heart-healthy fats and ditched the refined sugar? How about if we made it dairy- and egg-free too for our food-sensitive friends? Then we all could eat it often.

Every day, even.

Maybe it won’t come as a surprise that avocado is the base for this rich rendition of the classic. Avocado is used in a lot of healthy desserts because it’s so creamy and its mild flavor goes virtually undetected. I’ve made this for clients whose minds were blown when I told them what they were eating. And the ultimate test: kids! My favorite “little” had just finished devouring a bowl when I told her what it was made out of.

“But I hate avocado,” she insisted.

“Not anymore,” I replied, tap dancing just a little.

Score one for the grown ups.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse (Dairy/Egg/Refined Sugar-Free)
This luscious dessert is so rich, no one will ever guess it’s healthy. Serve small portions (1/3 to 1/2 cup) at room temperature for maximum fluffiness, and garnish with unsweetened, whipped coconut cream and fresh berries.
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate ***check that it’s dairy free for vegan
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 can coconut cream, chilled
  1. Using a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate and coconut milk. Stir until smooth.
  2. Place avocado, vanilla paste, maple syrup and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Add chocolate mixture. Process until combined.
  4. Open coconut cream. Spoon thick cream cream off the top and reserve the coconut water for making smoothies. With a handheld mixer, beat the coconut cream on med-high until creamy.
  5. Gently fold chocolate mixture into whipped coconut cream.
  6. Spoon into dessert dishes and garnish as desired.

Print

 

Now that you know, I hope you’ll use them to make something delicious!

 

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)

 

fruit-tartI love ANYTHING that has that many words in parentheses and still tastes as good as this does. I’ve got some stubborn eaters in my extended family, and this stunning dessert satisfied them all. If I hadn’t already made it for her this season, I would shape the crust like a heart and serve it to mom for Mother’s Day brunch. Awww…

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-9″ tart
Ingredients
  • 1 can coconut milk (without guar gum)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal or flour
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 cups 100% all fruit apricot preserves
  • 2 T water
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of 5 lemons (about 1 cup)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1-2 T organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Mango, peeled and sliced thin
  • Pineapple, peeled and sliced thin
  • Kiwi, peeled and sliced thin
  • Clementines, peeled and separated
  • Assorted berries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. To prep the whipped coconut cream, pour coconut milk into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. To make the crust, stir together the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the vanilla, oil, maple syrup and 1 T water. Add the oil mix to the flour and combine well.
  5. Turn the dough onto a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers or a rubber spatula to spread it towards the edges of the pan, making sure to press it all the way up the sides of the pan. Try to make the dough a uniform thickness across the bottom and edges.
  6. Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown. Don’t overbake!
  7. While the crust is baking, make the glaze by heating the preserves and 2 T water to boiling in small sauce pan.
  8. Strain through a sieve to remove lumps.
  9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature before brushing with glaze.
  10. In the meantime, make the lemon curd. Heat agave nectar, arrowroot, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice In a small saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency.
  12. Whisk in coconut oil.
  13. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Curd will get very thick the longer it sits. Still tastes great spread on toast though!
  14. Once crust is cool, use a pastry brush to lightly brush interior of tart shell with thinned preserves. Let “dry” for 15 minutes.
  15. In the meantime, make whipped coconut cream. Drain off liquid (should look like thin coconut milk) and reserve for another use.
  16. Whip cream with a mixer on high until thick and frothy.
  17. Fold 1/2 c coconut cream into chilled lemon curd.
  18. To remaining whipped cream, add 1 tsp vanilla bean paste and organic powdered sugar, to taste. I like mine not too sweet. Reserve to use as garnish.
  19. Fill crust with lemon cream, spreading in an even layer.
  20. Channel your inner artist and layer slices of fruit and berries in whatever pattern makes you happiest.
  21. With remaining apricot glaze, brush fruit lightly until evenly coated and shiny. This will keep your tart looking beautiful for days—not that it will last that long!
  22. Serve with big spoonfuls of whipped coconut cream.

 

Now that’s the definition of doing something delicious!

 

Three Reasons To Eat More Chocolate (That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)

chocolate-968457_1280Perhaps justifying our lust for chocolate is the reason scientists have spent so much time studying it. After all, we like to be told that dark chocolate improves blood flow, lowers bad cholesterols, and elevates mood while reducing stress.  But it turns out there are more reasons why you should help yourself to some of the good stuff.

Throw Out Your Cough Drops

Seriously, I’ll take a creamy truffle over a menthol-flavored cough drop any day. And now it sounds as if you can. In a small British study conducted in 2005, participants were asked to inhale capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili peppers their sting. A variety of proposed remedies were tested, and the most effective one turned out to be hot chocolate. Researchers found that theobromine, a compound found in cacoa seeds that acts like caffeine in the human body, was more effective than codeine to stop coughing. So next time you’re under the weather, test this theory by taking two (squares of chocolate, that is) and calling the doc in the morning.

chocolate-1402017_1280Leave the Sunscreen At Home

Just kidding. Although scientists in Germany discovered that ingesting the cocoa solids and flavonoids present in dark chocolate can defend our skin against the effects of UV rays, effectively staving off skin cancer. Not only that, but the study participants receiving cocoa every day noted smoother, moister skin with fewer rough patches. This caused researchers to speculate that there might be benefit to adding the ingredient to beauty products. So if you’ve ever eaten a death-by-chocolate dessert and thought, “I could absolutely bathe in this,” it sounds like maybe you should.

Add Chocolate to Your Diet Plan

Now the founders of Weight Watchers might not agree with us on this one, but research conducted by an associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego suggests that healthy adults who eat chocolate more frequently tend to have lower body mass indexes than those who snack on it less often. This result occurred despite the fact that those who ate chocolate more often did not eat fewer calories or exercise more than other participants. The theory is that the metabolic benefits of eating modest amounts of chocolate might lead to reduced fat deposits and potentially offset the added calories. Are you excited yet?

Develop X-Ray Vision

That would be cool, wouldn’t it? But chocolate won’t make that happen. What it will do, however, is improve your ability to read light-colored words on a light-colored background, called “visual contrast sensitivity.” Furthermore, it an improve your ability to detect moving dots on a moving background, known as “motion sensitivity.” Study participants ate both white and dark chocolate at separate times and then took similar vision tests. Relative to white chocolate, testing the dark resulted in higher performance in both categories, as well as improved spacial memory. Think about it like this: driving at night is low-contrast, and images are hard to distinguish from one another. Increasing your ability to make out those objects also increases your safety, so we think what we’re hearing here is that chocolate can save your life.

chocolate-1202606_1280And Did You Know…

Sixty percent of women in a recent British poll ranked chocolate as the most smile-worthy experience, ranking higher than the sight of other smiling people and even loved ones!

Tips for Finding the Chocolate That’s Actually Good for You
  • Pick the chocolate containing the fewest ingredients possible.
  • Cocoa solids or cocoa mass should be first one listed.
  • Sugar should not be. Nor the second.
  • Choose one that’s both 72 percent cacao or above.
  • Buy organic, since chocolate is a heavily-sprayed crop. In fact, seek out fair-trade, and locally-sourced dark chocolate to get maximum health benefits.
  • Dutch processed cocoas have alkalized the chocolate, removing some of the beneficial flavonols. It’s fine for baking but not as good for sipping.
  • It sounds as if soy lecithin in chocolate is not so scary. Unless you’re allergic to soy, that is. We’ll talk about this more soon.
 Oh, and FYI

Portion control is paramount to making a chocolate obsession work for you, so aim for half to one ounce per day, which is about a two-inch square of most chocolate bars.

Now aren’t you just dying to go do something delicious with chocolate?

 

End of the World Cake

end-of-the-world-cakeOnce I was invited to an End of the World Party. Guests were encouraged to partake in whatever sorts of activities they’d want to spend their last hours on earth doing. I showed up with ingredients for four different recipes, a bottle of good champagne, and some great tequila. To me, these “last hours on earth” were all about indulging in the finest food and spirits. For others at the party, like Kenneth* who wore nothing but a speedo and red high heels, they were about (cough) something else.

Oddly enough, someone at the party accused me of using cooking as a way to resist “connecting” with others. I wanted to hold his face in my hands and look into his glitter-lined eyes and say, “Oh sweetie, don’t you realize that a chef is never lonely?” A kitchen can be the size of a kleenex box and if something delicious is happening, everyone will be standing in it.

But maybe he was calling me out on something: Food mattered more to me than the dance party or the guided-meditation-slash-jam-session with well-meaning strangers–and it was evident to others. I spent only a very modest amount of time worrying about it, however, because the celebration I had with myself, Don Julio and this cake was all I needed to sail into eternity with a smile. Stay tuned for the gluten-free version, as this post was originally published before the realization that changed my life.

End of the World Cake (Refined Sugar-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Almond Soufflé Cake with Lemon Curd and Berries, adapted from Cooking Light
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp. matzo cake meal (I use finely ground matzo meal since I’ve never found matzo “cake” meal. It works like a charm. Or sub almond meal, available at Trader Joes, very finely ground)
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 1/4 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup almonds, coarsely ground
  • 1 cup [url href=”http://thedeliciousthings.com/lemon-curd/” target=”_blank”]lemon curd[/url]
  • 2 cups of your favorite fresh berries (why not try raspberry, blackberry and blueberries mixed?)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan by rubbing with a paper towel dipped in grapeseed oil. Dust pan with 2 teaspoons matzo cake meal.
  3. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until thick and pale (about 1 minute). Add 1/4 cup matzo cake meal, water, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, and salt; beat just until blended. Fold in the almonds.
  4. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into egg yolk mixture; fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Run a knife around edge of cake. Remove cake from pan. Cool completely. (Cake will sink in center as it cools.) Spread 1 cup Lemon Curd in center of cake, and top with berries. Cut cake into wedges using a serrated knife.
  6. Serve right away, as this cake is delicious fresh, but gets too moist from the curd when it sits for a long time.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the wicked and the naughty. I’ll bet they wouldn’t hesitate to go do something delicious right this minute!

 

Lighter Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-Free, Plus a Vegan Variation)

lemon-curdHave you ever noticed that kids don’t seem to like lemon-flavored things? I didn’t as a wee lass, and my favorite little (who’s eleven now) won’t even eat a sugar cookie if it has lemon zest in it. It’s a funny thing, because when you fast forward to grown up me, I simply can’t get enough of the stuff. Lemon sorbet, lemon pound cake, lemon poppyseed muffins, lemon in my cocktails. It’s simply my favorite! Maybe in weaning myself off chocolate, I found sour to be a way to get my dessert fix without dying in the clutches of cloying.

Lemon curd might be my favorite way to enjoy my obsession. I’ll spread it on gluten-free toast or muffins, fill tarts and layer cakes with it, or mix it with fluffy coconut whipped cream and dollop it atop fresh berries.

The thing about lemon curd is people freak out about the fat content. While I no longer demonize fat (you can read all about why here), I’m always game for healthifying a recipe if it’s still going to taste great. And this recipe does just that. It’s basic lemon curd, except it uses whole eggs instead of just yolks to keep it copacetic for the folks in the world who still crunch the nutritional numbers. And it also makes use of an all-natural sweetener, maple sugar–which is my favorite replacement for table sugar in recipes with light-colored ingredients and delicate flavors.

And I even took it a step further: I found a vegan variation! Made egg and butter-free, obviously, but maintaining the pudding-esque consistency like a champ, and tasting every bit as good as the carnivore variation. I’ve included both recipes here so that no matter what your preference, you can do this deliciousness STAT!

Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Makes 2 cups. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a week.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Place sugar and eggs in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended.
  2. Gradually beat in rind and juice. Spoon mixture into a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add butter to pan; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly (do not boil).
  4. Spoon mixture into a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.
Lighter Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-free & Vegan)
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 1/2 cups
For your loved ones who are vegan, and all who aren’t but will never know the difference!
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup maple sugar
  • 2 T lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T coconut milk
  • 3 T [url href=”http://” target=”_blank”]cornstarch[/url] dissolved in 3 T cold water
  • 2 T dairy-free margarine, divided
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest and salt, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
  2. After the sugar is dissolved, add the corn starch mixture and the coconut milk.
  3. Stirring constantly, cook until the mixture begins to thicken and bubbles gently, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the margarine, and continuing to stir constantly, cook for several minutes more or until mixture resembles thick pudding.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a heat proof dish, cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and let cool completely before placing in the refrigerator.
  6. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Photo credit: French Tart via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Wine and Truffles: An Affair to Remember

Cakebread Merlot

Recently the boyfriend celebrated his 40th birthday, and his boss gave him a bottle of Cakebread Merlot and a box of Lindor chocolate truffles, with the strictest instructions to share them with me. I love his boss!

So we’re sitting on the couch soaking in the atmosphere of our new apartment, and it just seems like the right time to celebrate. I’ve never tried the Cakebread Merlot, but at around $50 a bottle (I looked it up, nosy thing), I know we’re in for a treat.  We decant it for 30 minutes to let the fruit and roasted herb aromas develop. We are very serious.

Lindor truffles come in dark, milk, and white chocolate and have a ganache center the consistency of butter. I’m not a big “chocolate-on-top-of-chocolate-decadence” girl (who would be, after working in a shop during college that sold every possible variant of the stuff), but these little babies are showstoppers. I’ve long since outgrown the over-sweet taste of most white chocolate but for some reason, white Lindor truffles hold the key to my heart. Basically, they defy everything I feel about the confection; about its decadence and tooth-pain inducing sweetness. And the buttery quality of the ganache gives such a silky mouth feel that it perfectly complements the velvety texture of the wine.

A tiny, creamy bite. A ripe, berry-filled sip.

The chocolate marries with the jammy flavor of the merlot, full of punchy plum and cherry notes, evoking Black Forest cake. Boyfriend compares the softness on the palate to sucking on a silk tie. It is marvelously balanced; there is just enough tannin to leave my palate cleansed and ready to taste all the nuances of flavor in the next sip and each one after that. Is that toasted oak that I detect?

Now this is certainly not the first time I have consumed chocolate and wine together. But it is the first time someone has given the combination to me (or Boyfriend) as a gift. Accompanied by the instruction to share this experience with someone awesome. Making this more than just a gift of wine and candy—making this a gift of time.  Making it a memory. A moment in my crazy life to stop and smell the roses. And plums. And cherries. And oak.

Doesn’t that just make you want to go and do something delicious?

 

Cakebread Cellars by James Lee is licensed under CC BY 2.0/ Brightness increased from original