chocolate

Vegan Hot Cocao with Clementine

The best hot chocolate I've ever had was on a class trip to Madrid, Spain back in 2004. The trip was a whirl-wind experience, soaking up as much culture, and visiting as many sites as we could see in the 10 days we were there. One very found memory I have was the night one of our teachers took our group to a small little cafe, tucked in the winding streets of Madrid. Oh, how I wish I could remember that name of place; I'd be sure to go back if I visit Spain again.

Their specialty was churro con chocolaté. The warm chocolate drink was nothing of the thin, watery hot chocolate of my childhood; this was a thick, dark and bitter concoction, essentially a drinkable ganache you could dunk the churros in. It was amazing. It was likely what turned me into a dark chocolate lover. For me, the darker the better; I love the rich and complex flavor of bitter dark chocolate.

My Hot Cocao with Clementine recipe is an homage to the flavors of that Spanish treat. My version is much lighter; not the ganache-like consistency I had, but it does have that complex and bitter chocolate flavor which I brighten up with a squeeze of clementine. Perfect for vegans, or anyone trying to avoid dairy; it's topped up with a whipped coconut cream.

Today is Day 2 of my little snow-day vacation. Framingham, MA got HAMMERED by Winter Storm Juno. The news reported my hometown got 33.5" of snow between late Monday night and early Wednesday morning. This blizzard is sure to be one I tell our children about one day. I got lucky; my office has been shut down for the second day in a row. I'm happy I had the time to kick back yesterday, because today was dedicated to the clean up. My car was buried in snow, and the task of unearthing it made me miserable. Our house has a garage, but it is so full of tools and junk there is no room for my car, which means, of course, a ton of work for me.

It was grueling, annoying, and a workout; but I did it. I dug out my car, cleaned it off and it'll be ready to hit the road to work tomorrow morning. After being in the cold for so long my bones were aching for something warm. My 2nd favorite hot beverage, after coffee, is hot chocolate. When I was little, making a good hot chocolate was all about adding some Swiss Miss into warmed milk (instead of water) for a creamy and comforting treat. In the past couple of years, I've reduced the amount of dairy I consume. I first made the decision to drink more dairy-free milks, like almond milk, because I was looking for a way to cut calories, but I eventually realized, when I'd drink regular milk, the dairy free versions were much gentler on my stomach. It seemed to make a lot of sense, considering my parents switched me to soy formula as a baby, because I was quite colicey. Anyway, happy with my dairy-free milk, its proven to be a great base for hot chocolate.

Now, I must call attention to the fact this is hot "cocao" not hot "cocoa". Raw cacao powder is unadulterated and contains many more nutrients than traditional cocoa powder. Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder tastes very bitter and rich, which is why it is most often used in sweets and confections. For more differences check out One Green Plant's article. I wouldn't say cocoa powder is worse than cocao, but the raw cocao powder was going to give me the flavor profile I wanted.

To get my hot treat going I added 1 1/2 tbs of the cocao powder to the almond milk along with a tbs of honey and a dash of cinnamon. I use cinnamon all the time, I love the flavor and how it adds extra warmth to a dish. Cocao powder doesn't dissolve as easily as the powder from a hot chocolate mix, so you need to whisk the mixture as it warms over the stove top. The thing that takes this next level is clementine. Orange and dark chocolate have long been a classic combination (one I've usually hated). There was nothing worse, as a kid, to bit into a piece of chocolate to realize it was orange flavored. What I've come to realize, is that it wasn't so much the fruit mixed with the chocolate as much as it was the artificiality of the orange flavor... it always overpowered the chocolate in the candies I had. With orange being a classic flavor in churros, and a big box of clementines sitting on my counter tops, I sliced one in half and squeezed in the juice at the very end of my hot chocolate being ready. Come to think of it Grand Marnier would be fantastic in this, but I'm still committed to #DryJanuary.

The best part of any hot chocolate is, of course the whipped topping. I love whipped cream. Any excuse I have to make it, I will. Nothing impresses people more as when I take out a chilled bowl, my biggest whisk, and whip it up by hand. Great upper body workout. I've seen and heard great things about whipped coconut cream, and had to try it for myself. I can attest that it is every bit as satisfying as the "real" stuff.

To make the coconut whipped cream, you have to chill a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for at least an hour. This will ensure the cream separates from the liquid. After that, you prepare just as you would a standard whipped cream. Place the coconut cream in your stand mixer with a sweetener like coconut sugar or honey along with the vanilla extract. With the whisk attachment beat on high until it is whipped. Because coconut cream is more dense than dairy cream, it won't be as airy, but it will certainly be as creamy and delicious.

Before assembling, I blitzed my hot cocao mix in my blender with two or three pulses. With the whisking I did, it probably didn't need it but I wanted to ensure that all the ingredients were incorporated and the drink was frothy. Feel free to omit that step in interest of getting to drink it. Fill your favorite mug and top off with a heaping helping of whipped coconut cream and sprinkle on some extra cinnamon and clementine zest for good measure.

Ingredients

Hot Cocao

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or another dairy-free substitute like light coconut milk, hemp or soy milk)
  • 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocao powder (not cocao powder)
  • 1 tbs honey (I'm aware that some vegans wouldn't consider honey vegan, so you can substitute that easily with agave nectar or maple syrup)
  • Juice of half clementine
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Coconut Whip Cream

  • 1 16oz can of coconut milk, chilled (you must use the full fat version)
  • 1 tbs sweetener such as coconut sugar, agave or honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Hot Cocao

  • Pour almond milk into sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add cocao powder, honey (or other sweetener) and cinnamon.
  • Use a whisk to incorporate the cocao powder with almond milk. It will take some time, as it doesn't instantly dissolve.
  • You want to get the hot cocao up to approximately 112 degrees, carefully not to let come to a boil. You don't want to scald the almond milk.
  • Right before taking cocao off the heat, squeeze in the juice of half a clementine (you can add the juice of a whole clementine if you'd like, or just snack on it on the side).
  • (optional) Blitz mixture in a blender for a few seconds to get frothier and ensure all flavors are incorporated. You can also achieve this if you whisked the mixture on the stove.

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • Allow can of coconut milk to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • After opening, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the thick coconut cream off the top. Below this layer is a clear/slightly cloudy liquid you can reserve for other purposes (like a smoothie)
  • Add coconut cream to a stand mixture with whisk attachment and beat as you would with regular cream.
  • Add vanilla extract and coconut sugar (or some other sugar substitute).
  • Continue to mix on high until you get a whipped cream texture.

Notes

*I've made a lot of true whipped creams in my time and found the coconut cream, because it is more dense to begin with, does not become as light and airy as your standard, dairy based whipped cream.

That said, it had excellent flavor and the texture (while thicker) was the perfect touch to this hot chocolate.

Fudgey Flourless Avocado Brownies

If you made it this far then congratulations! I know the idea of avocados in baked goods sounds crazy but trust me you may never go back to your old brownie recipe! The avocado makes these super moist and fudgey, and I promise you cannot taste the avocado.

There are several substitute ingredients in this recipe. I try to eat as well as I can, but every once and a while you need to indulge. Even when I indulge I like to try to be somewhat "healthy". You know, have your cake and eat it too (a foodies favorite cliche).

The first obvious substitute is avocado. Most brownie recipes call for canola oil or butter. This recipe uses avocado as the fat...but it's a healthy fat! Seriously though, over the last few months I've found myself removing canola and vegetable oil from my kitchen. I also use a lot less butter. We are so used to using ingredients because of the flavor it gives food, but you won't miss it here.

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The next substitute is almond flour for regular white wheat. Almond flour is used in many gluten free recipes. I'm not gluten free, but I thought it would be good to add a few gluten free recipes to my repertoire. I don't have anything against regular all purpose flour, but it also doesn't have any nutritional value.

Nut flour on the contrary, has healthy fats and plenty of Vitamin E. It also has a low glycemic index as it is high in protein and low in carbs and sugar.

Just so you are aware, almond flour is very calorie dense, so just because there are some healthy benefits with this alternative, doesn't mean you should eat a half a sheet of brownies in one sitting.

The last substitute I used was coconut sugar. I had seen this in the baking aisle of one of my favorite stores and it sparked my curiosity. With further research I've found there a few notable benefits of swapping out your standard sugar for coconut sugar. First, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35) and doesn't cause blood sugar levels to spike as would traditional sugar. Secondly, regular sugar doesn't contain any vital nutrients and therefore is consider empty calories. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, retains quite a bit of nutrients such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium.

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Now, calorie for calorie coconut sugar is the same as regular sugar. Although I find it to be a better choice, on a day to day basis I keep added sugars out of my diet - regardless of the type of sweetener. Now to get these brownies started!

First you need to melt your chocolate chips. You can either do so in a microwave or over a double boiler. Pay close attention so that the chocolate doesn't seize. If you use the microwave method, heat for 20-30 seconds at a time, and stir. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.

Next, crack your 4 eggs into a mixing bowl along with the coconut sugar. Use a hand mixer or whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together. I'd let the hand mixer go for about a minute to help incorporate air into the eggs and sugar.

To the egg and sugar mixture add the flesh of two ripe avocados. Use the hand mixer again to make sure the avocado gets really incorporated into the mix. Once you know the avocado is blended in, slowly add in the melted chocolate.

Once combined, stir in the almond flour and cocoa powder. When I made mine I also added a tbs of instant espresso powder. Its a trick I use whenever I bake anything chocolate - it adds a really nice depth to the chocolate flavor. Unlike most baking recipes, you won't need to worry about over mixing since the almond flour is gluten free.

The avocado brownie batter is ready to be poured in the pan. One last thing before I put my batch in the oven was to stud the top with a small handful of chocolate chips.

The original recipe said to bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees but I found I needed 30-35 minutes. I'd check at the 25 minute mark and keep a close eye on it.

When they are ready they will fill your kitchen with the aroma of chocolate. It's hard to keep your hands off these but it's EXTREMELY important to let them cool completely (at least 20 minutes). The longer the better. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers. To be honest, I thought they tasted better the next day being chilled.

I took the batch into work the next day because I knew I'd eat them all if I left them at home. People LOVED them!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Bread

Before reading any further, please note there is nothing healthy about this recipe. If there is any time to indulge, its certainly on a holiday, so I baked Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Chip Bread and Muffins.  The original recipe was for bread, but is also the perfect batter for muffins. Pumpkin puree was a great addition to the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for its nutritional value, but here, pumpkin puree serves as an ingredient that will make the bread (or muffins) incredibly moist.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Muffins and Bread from Mindful Glutton
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Latte Muffins and Bread from Mindful Glutton

The first time I made the recipe was in preparation of our annual camping trip to Lake Winnepesauke. My husband, along with the other couple we go with are a little picky so I wasn't sure how they'd like "pumpkin" bread. I warmed a few of the muffins up by the camp fire so when you broke them apart the chocolate chips were gooey again. They were a huge hit. Unfortunately we had an accident with the loaf of bread, and it got soaked with water in the cooler and we had to throw it away.

I've been baking a lot less this year. Its one of the ways I've been watching what I eat. So when I do bake, I invest in the best quality ingredients. The last time I made this recipe we were still getting fresh local organic eggs from our farm share. The taste and quality rival what you can find in a grocery store. With that, I've decided to stick with organic eggs.

I'm also using organic flour, sugar and pumpkin puree. I read and hear a lot of dialog about the pros/cons (or more so contesting of the cons) of organic. Those against organic usually say its too expensive and that any "risks" of non-organic are minimal or over exaggerated. I don't exclusively buy organic, but when I'm presented both options, I usually go towards organic. I'd like to address the argument that organic "is too expensive", it isn't necessarily. I find Trader Joe's has a lot of great organic products at reasonable prices. I also buy little, if any,8 packaged or junk food. If you want to save money at the grocery store, shop the perimeter (fruits, veggies, dairy) - its also healthier. I'm glad to sacrifice the 10 for $10 dollar special on Cheeze-Its for a bag of organic flour. Secondly, even if the pesticides and chemicals in non-organic are so trace to present a threat, why would I want to eat just a little of it? All I know, is that between having a better diet, which consists of more organic food, and working out, my body feels great.

This recipe has been slightly adapted from one I saw on a blog called Two Peas In a Pod. I've tweaked the recipe ever so slightly. I substituted some of the white sugar for brown sugar (just a half of a cup), and I've also substitute water for coffee to get that "latte" flavor.

The original also calls for a cup of canola oil. Canola oil is extremely processed and goes rancid really easy and can act as a carcinogen. I'm still learning ways to substitute out icky products like these with other ingredients so I wasn't able to get rid of it completely. However I found a way to use Greek yogurt to replace some of it. You can use the following method in any of your baking. First, cut the amount of oil in half. Then replace each cup of oil you remove with 3/4 cup greek yogurt. There is only a cup of oil in this recipe, so if I cut that in half, I'd add 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of the yogurt.

 The recipe itself comes together very quickly. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients plus sugar in another. Combine, and stir in the chocolate chips. The original recipe says the batter is enough for 3 loafs of bread, but I believe it would most likely make 2. Today I used the batter to make a dozen muffins plus one good size loaf of bread. I can't decide which one I like better. Fresh out of the oven the muffins develop a beautiful caramelized crust (thanks to the brown sugar) and are perfect with a cup of coffee. But the loaf of bread seems to retain its moistness a bit longer than the muffins and can be enjoyed throughout the week (if it lasts that long). I like baking this, having a slice or two, and leaving it at work or with friends so I'm not tempted to eat the entire loaf. Its truly a favorite of mine.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • .5 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs non fat greek yogurt (if you dont have greek yogurt, just use a full cup of canola oil)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1.5 11oz bags of milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spray the inside of your bread pan with cooking spray and sprinkle some flour on the inside. Shake to distribute the flour (so it sticks to the bottom and sides) and shake out the excess. If you are making muffins you can do the same thing with your muffin tin or line with paper cups.
  • In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin puree, canola oil, water, coffee, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until smooth.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet, being careful not to over mix. Fold in the entire bag of chocolate chips :)
  • For a loaf of bread, bake 55-60 mins, or until its browned and a toothpick comes out clean. For muffins, bake time is 30-35 mins.
  • Let rest for at least 15 mins before removing from the bread pan.

Nutritional Information

One serving (either one muffin or about a 1-inch slice of the bread): Calories: 301, Carbs: 50, Fat: 11g, Proteins 5g, Sugars: 35g

*Calculated with MyFitnessPal - I weighed a single muffin and slice and determined between the muffins and bread loaf I had 22 servings and divided total calories by that.