Sunday, April 17, 2011

chocolate coconut truffles!

I've been making these a lot lately...well, "a lot" as in today I made the the 4th batch in about two weeks.  So would you classify that as an addiction?  Not sure. :)  But anyway, they are loosely based off of Katie's Fudge Babies recipe(s), with a few personalized add-ins and subtractions.  So I can't quite take complete credit for this recipe (who can with anything, to be honest?), but that doesn't mean I love it any less!

Chocolate Coconut Truffles

(Disclaimer: The measurements given here are definitely not exact - I usually don't measure for this recipe and just go by what looks good.  Feel perfectly free to change the ratios (or the ingredients, for that matter) if it's not working out so well for you.)

4 or 5 Dates (soaked in a small amount of hot water for about 15 minutes)
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup cocoa powder (gluten free, if needed)
3 TB Coconut oil, melted (optional, could use another oil/liquid if necessary)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup unsweeted shredded coconut + about 1/8 cup
Optional: more sweetener - I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I like things a little "richer", but if you find that it's not sweet enough for you, you can add more dates or another type of sweetener, such as honey, stevia, coconut palm sugar, pure maple syrup or regular granulated sugar, if you're into that. :)

Basically, blend everything up together!

1. More specifically, I blend the cashews with the cocoa powder first, in a Magic Bullet (or Vitamix/food processor would would great) until they almost start to turn into chocolate-y cashew butter goodness, usually about a minute or so.  Set aside in a small-ish bowl.

2. Next, de-pit the dates and blend them with about 4 TB of the water used for soaking, the melted coconut oil, and the vanilla.

3. Pour this into the bowl with the dry mixture, and stir together, adding the shredded coconut until the mixture becomes less sticky.  If it's still too wet, add more coconut or place it in the freezer for about 20 minutes until it becomes harder.

4. Roll into balls, and then into more of the shredded coconut (about 1/8 cup or so).

A note about the shredded coconut: mine is in pretty small pieces, less shredded and more...ground up?  I got it from Tropical Traditions and I love it!

5. Enjoy!  I keep mine in the freezer because I like the way they melt slightly when de-thawing, but they would be great in the refrigerator or eaten right away.

Yield: about 10.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

dorm yogurt

So I am currently a senior attending a university in Southern California (though I am from Chicago), and much to my dismay, when I'm not at home I still live in the dorms.  This is torture for me, because I would much rather cook all of my own meals and have a cute little kitchen to myself...couldn't be farther from the truth.  But yesterday I was determined to make yogurt.  My mom makes this at home and I do too, so I knew what I was doing, but I lacked a candy thermometer and a way to keep the cultures at 110 degrees for 12 hours.  But I thought about it for something like 3 weeks until I came up with a solution: my roommate's regular "fever" thermometer and a large-ish tupperware container I keep my dishes in + a towel + hot water from our coffeemaker.  24 hours later = yogurt!  Amazingly, it worked.  This was especially shocking because I accidentally over boiled the milk (GAH what a mess, and it's definitely not supposed to reach 212 degrees) and scalded the bottom of the pot.  I was busy boiling the mason jars and forgot how fast a 1/2 gallon of milk heats up, when I am used to cooking 2 gallons at home.  Anyway, I am very excited because it worked and I now have 2 quarts of delicious probiotic-laden yogurt.  At this rate, I think I'll have to make more next weekend!

Here is roughly what I did.  I found a "recipe" where the person making it did not mention specific temperatures (I liked this because of my lack of thermometer) and then made it how I was taught. This might seem complicated at first, but once you do it you'll see its really quite simple.

You'll need organic milk and organic yogurt with active cultures to start - I used Fage Greek yogurt, because I wanted strong cultures, but you can use any plain yogurt, really.

1. Heat the milk until almost boiling point. Watch out! As you know the milk will boil over. So at the point of boiling, when you see the milk start rising and eager to mess up your stove, TURN THE HEAT OFF!  (Where I messed up...) Officially, the temperature should be 185 degrees.

2. Let it cool down but you want to work with it warm. So stick your finger in and if you can tolerate it for 10 seconds while still feeling the warmth, you're good to go.  AKA: 110 degrees.

3. Mix in about 1/4 cup of yogurt cultures (the Greek one I mentioned).

4. Pour into mason jars, cover, and keep at 110 degrees for 6-24 hours.  The longer you let it sit the less casein and milk sugar remains; at home we keep it in a dehydrator set at 110 for 24 hours.  But I believe it is considered yogurt after about 6 hours, if you really want to cut it short.  For me, I kept it at 110 for 12 hours (like I mentioned above), setting the jars in a covered container of water and wrapping it with a beach towel.  I checked it every 1 1/2 hours or so, adding hot water as needed.  It wasn't TOO big of a hassle, but it definitely made the hours of the day go by strangely fast...

5. After your desired amount of time as passed, place it in the refrigerator until chilled.

6. Enjoy!  I like to add just cut up apples, but any other fruit/granola (if you tolerate grains) would taste great, I'm sure.  Or even some vanilla, or some exotic things...the choices are endless.

(I am by no means a yogurt expert, but this is what has worked for me.  There are many other little variations out there, some more complex/simple than others.  Experiment and figure out what you like!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

chocolate chips (vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free)

If you're on a refined sugar-free diet like us (meaning no fake sugars either) it's a little difficult to find chocolate chips.  Even simply gluten free eaters have a little harder time finding them too, because most brands use wheat.  And if you do happen to find some, they are going to cost you, say, an arm and a leg, at the very least.  This was a problem, because I was really, really craving chocolate chip cookies.  Sure, I made chocolate cookies and chocolate peanut butter cookies, but those are just not the same.  When you want chocolate chips, you want chocolate chips.  So of course I had to make some!  (Unfortunately, I was not able to get a picture of the fabled chocolate chip cookies, because my camera battery was dead and I didn't have my charger.  I used Elana's recipe.)

Luckily, the first combination of ingredients I tried worked...and that's not usually the case.  It was just meant to be. :)  These are deliciously semi-sweet, with just the right amount of sweet to balance the cocoa.  They hold together when baked, but melt just enough to turn chocolately.

3 TB coconut oil (2 melted, 1 mostly melted)
2 TB gluten-free cocoa powder + 3 TB (or cinnamon for cinnamon chips!)
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB honey (or agave nectar to be vegan - if using agave, add 2 additional teaspoons tapioca starch)
1 TB tapioca starch

1. Add all ingredients to high-power blender (I use a VitaMix, with the dry container so that the ingredients don't get sucked into the bottom), but just the first 2 TB of cocoa powder.

2. Mix on medium for about 20 seconds, then increase to high for about 10 seconds.  Since there isn't much in the blender, it will look like it's not really mixing, but just keep it going.

3. Add the remaining 3 TB of cocoa powder, and blend on high for about 20 seconds.  The mixture should be tacky and sticky, and almost like caramel (but a little less so if using agave nectar).  Because the blender heats up the coconut oil, it will be melting a little in the bottom of the blender.  That's normal, and it begins to separate from the mixture.

Now comes the part where you get creative...there are a few options here.  The first time I made these, I just pulled apart the mixture bit by bit and made "chips".  That worked, but it took forever.  The next time I rolled it out in between two sheets of wax paper, which worked better.

Transfer to a cookie sheet, and freeze for about 30 minutes (or, you know, just put it outside if its anything like it is by me in Chicago).  After that, it will be a little more set, and cut into small squares/bits with a knife.  That method seemed to work best for me, but feel free to try anything else that you think might work.  Store in freezer.  They will never get completely as hard as a rock like "normal" chocolate chips (at least not with the honey), but I actually prefer that, personally.

Note: As much as a really dislike using starches, I think it is quite necessary in this recipe, in order to hold them together, and prevent melting everywhere - trust me, it's not a pretty sight.  I think it's a pretty good trade off, considering what's in (or not in!) commercial chips.  I find its best to just forget about that little aspect when savoring any number of delicious treats, which can only be made complete with chocolate chips.  Let's face it, its the truth!

(Hot chocolate whipped yogurt, topped with cocoa and chocolate chips, with a chocolate chip peanut butter brownie.)

Also, this recipe fits the guidelines for the SOS Kitchen Challenge...check it out!