Fruit-Sweetened Energy Balls

I used to constantly waver from wanting to indulge in highly processed junk food to absolutely detesting foods that were so far removed from their initial, whole form. Eventually, swinging from one absolute to another got to be too much; I felt frustrated and overwhelmed when what I wanted to eat (what I had an impulsive, seemingly uncontrollable desire for) and what I knew would actually be good for me, didn’t go hand in hand. Sugar is hard to give up. High fat foods are difficult to say no to. Unless you’re walking around blindfolded, chances are you come face to face with highly refined and processed ‘foods’ everyday; the stores you shop at, the vending machines you walk by, the cafe you enjoy spending your Sunday mornings in, and the people you surround yourself with; if you’re trying to adopt a more whole foods plant based eating style, all of the former situations can easily leave you wanting to tug on your hair and scream, ‘where are the fruit-sweetened muffins and cakes??!!!!’

I still nonsensically eye the treats sitting behind display windows at cafes and restaurants, hoping some likeminded person in the kitchen of said cafe/restaurant decided to replace the white sugar in the muffins with dates or ripe bananas or, at the very least, a sweetener not entirely void of nutrients, like maple syrup. The former rarely happens. In fact, it only happens when I do a little research and actively seek out health food stores and vegan eateries (vegan by no means = healthy, but there tends to be a larger pool of healthy, often times raw, snacks present in a vegan cafe than at a regular cafe). Sure, there is definitely a time for indulging and going to town with big dollops of whipped cream and the thickest slices of fudge, but that time is not most of the time (in fact, it should be never but we’ve let ourselves believe we can’t live without the devilish stuff), and I like to create yummy edible things most of the time, so I’ve had to find my own way to sweeten and fudge-ify food sans the conventional staples.

These energy balls belong behind the display window at a trendy cafe. Better yet, they should be on show at the untrendy, but lovable, mom n pop cafe in your neighborhood. These nutrient dense snacks shouldn’t have to cost a bucket load of cash and more to buy, but for some reason, they typically do. I’ve come across coconut, cashew, and date balls that costed 2-3 Australian dollars a pop (1.5-2.8 USD). I suppose the former ingredients run a bit on the pricy side compared to sugar and artificial sweeteners, so I’m not about to advocate relying on store-bought health balls to get you through your afternoon work slump or morning workout, but it is also true that we get what we pay for; we vote with our dollars, do we not? What you buy is what you are choosing to support and further the prevalence of, whether it be factory farmed chicken or corn syrup or fruit-sweetened energy balls void of the former two unpleasant things.

I’d like to see less salt-injected, lean chicken breast around me, but the truth is, a lot of people would like to continue spending their money on it, so the salty, naked chicken isn’t going away any time soon (at least until lab meat takes off…). Same goes for corn-syrup doused ‘foods’; is corn syrup really food? I don’t know, but I lean towards saying ‘no, it’s not food in the same way tomatoes and beans and rice are food’. Same goes for hydrogenated oil. And many other ‘foods’ lining the shelves at grocery stores and airport terminals and gas stations that present themselves as perfect; perfectly delicious, enjoyable, enlightening, the end-all to your life problems; you should be WANTING to stuff your face with said foods, or so you’re led to believe, by the crafty and intelligent marketers, sure, but maybe also by your friends and family, who insist that you must be out of your mind or maybe even on the road to an eating disorder because you choose baked fries over twice-fried fries and 90% cocoa chocolate over 40% cocoa milky chocolate.

A life without conventional donuts and cinnamon rolls (and every other doughy thing you can think of) used to make me cower in fear; What do you mean I can still have a happy, fulfilling life without glazed donuts and McDonald’s french fries and ice cream floats? At first, reducing the amount of bad stuff I ate felt restrictive and, quite simply put, NOT FUN. It took months and months to slowly gather the information that really jumpstarted my healthier approach to eating; when you know the facts, it’s hard to go back. It also helps if you learn how to make a truly fudgy batch of plant-based brownies and chocolate frosting sans the powdered sugar. For the longest time, I let myself believe that the unhealthy ‘foods’ I came across everywhere, even the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies I had been making since I was a kid, were permissible because life is short and a life without buttery cookies doesn’t sound like a very exciting, and, dare I say it, livable life. As I reiterate my former thought process now, I’m pretty appalled (to say the least). I had been conditioned to believe that highly refined foods were the epitome of enjoyment and happiness. Never in a million years would I have expected myself to be making the choices I am now.

After a long enough time of toying with the idea of being ‘healthier’ and truly caring about what I was putting into my body (maybe it will push away my anxiety and instrusive thoughts, maybe it will help me effortlessly lose weight, maybe I will even want to go outside and meet new people again), I finally made the leap. Sure, I still occasionally eat white flour and deep fried fries, but notice the OCCASIONal; when the unordinary occasion presents itself, I might have some fries, but for most of the seven days a week, I’m ‘indulging’ in crisp, baked potato fries and awe-inducing creamy coconut curries. My attention to calories and monitoring every high-carb morsel I eat has melted away. Eating more plant based means eating more high-carb whole foods, foods that ought to make you ‘fat’ by conventional wisdom, and yet, when coupled with moderate exercise, have repeatedly shown to aid in weight loss (I’m not touting an entirely plant based or vegan diet by any means, I don’t always eat that way).

It’s no surprise that I have a sweet tooth, so in an effort to combat the impending sweet cravings before they could take the reigns to my life, I replaced the refined sugar with fruit, allowing myself to eat three or four frozen bananas blended into ice cream for breakfast some mornings. If I have a bowl of it in front of me, topped with shredded coconut and a dollop of nut butter in an ideal world, I won’t even flinch when you tell me I can’t taste Haagan Daz ever again. The truth is, I could very well eat Haagan Daz again, I CAN if I WANT to; the only person stopping me is myself, but I am not keeping myself captive or deprived of exciting, sweet flavors; so long as blended frozen bananas are within arms reach I won’t feel doubtful of my newfound concern for health. The trick when giving up one bad habit is to replace it with another, obviously more thought through and healthy, habit. Simply removing the sugary processed foods from my diet would have left me hanging and hungry, and I would have most likely fallen off the wagon by binging on sweets in secret to compensate for ‘depriving’ myself. Four bananas in one sitting may frighten you; they contain a lot of sugar, don’t they? Yeah, they do, but bananas are bananas and white sugar is white sugar; while bananas slowly travel to your gut with their friends fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, and B6 in tow, white sugar races there and wrecks havoc for the fun of it.

What really enabled me to fully embrace conscientious eating as a lifestyle and not a diet, was learning about the ins and outs of healthy cooking and baking. Once I learned that it wasn’t about giving up the childhood favorites (namely chocolate chip cookies and brownies with ice cream), but rather, that it was about remodeling them so that they could still be appetizing and yummy, but also be unexpectedly healthy, I felt more switched on and ready to jump into this world of food. My chocolate chip cookies now contain whole wheat flour and oats instead of all-purpose flour, and they don’t need help from a cup of sugar because they’ve got applesauce, dates, spotty bananas, and pumpkin/sweet potato puree to choose from. I kid you not, cookies made with sweet potato puree are delicious. And what about these energy balls? Well, they certainly don’t put up a fancy facade like the supposedly healthy snacks you come across at the grocery store. They are simple and simply good for you, packed with oats, natural peanut butter, tahini, dates, chia seeds, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and some spices to taste. No troubleshooting or second guessing, just plain ol’ whole foods.

Ingredients~
Each version makes 7 balls

Oat & date version:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp natural peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
2 medjool dates
2 tsps chia seeds
1 tsp maca powder*
1-2 tsps apple juice (or sub with water)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of salt

Fudge version:
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tbsp cocoa butter*
1 tbsp tahini
1 medjool date
2 tsps chia seeds
Pinch of salt

*if you don’t have maca powder on hand, you can simply swap it with hemp/protein powder or oat flour (for a possible different flavor)
*you can substitute the cocoa butter with coconut oil, but know that the balls will begin melting if left too long out of the fridge; cocoa butter has a very high melting point and stays incredibly hard at even slightly warm temperatures (hence why it’s used in chocolate)

Instructions~

Oat & date:

Fudge:

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Vegan Cinnamon Doughnuts (oil-free & date-sweetened)

Ingredients~
Makes 6 small doughnuts and 6-8 doughnut holes

113.5 g whole wheat pastry flour (plus 1 tsp for dusting)
50 ml vegan buttermilk*
3 medjool dates (72-74 g), mashed/pureed
0.87 g instant yeast (just under 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of table salt

Cinnamon sugar topping:
2 tsps rice malt syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
1 tbsp fine raw sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

*to make vegan buttermilk, simply add 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and pour in unflavored soy/nut milk until the mixture reaches the 50 ml line; allow it to rest for 10 minutes until noticeably curdled

Instructions~

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A Simple Fruit Crisp

Ingredients~
Serves 4; makes a heaped amount for one 7-inch pie pan 

Filling:
1 medium-large red apple
1/2 cup fresh cherries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries*
2 medjool dates, mashed
2 tsps fresh grapefruit juice, including the pulp (or sub with orange)
1 tbsp potato starch
2 tsps chia seeds
Pinch of table salt (scant 1/8 tsp)

Topping:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 packed cup whole wheat pastry flour*
2 tbsps mild olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup
1/4 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp table salt

* using fresh berries is fine, but know that they may contribute e a tad less liquid to the filling as they cook
* you can substitute the whole wheat pastry flour with half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose

Instructions~

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the topping takes on a deep golden/light brown color. Check on the crisp after 2o minutes to ensure it’s not browning too fast; if it is, loosely cover it with foil.

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Vegan Radish Cakes (luó bo gāo)

Ingredients~
Serves 2-4

Radish cake batter:
1/2 pound (226.8 g) daikon/Japanese radish, shredded
2/3 cup white rice flour
1 1/2 tbsps potato starch
1/3 cup & 2 tbsps water
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 heaped tbsp white onion, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped (reserve green bits for garnish)
1/4 tsp chili paste (I used dou ban jiang)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp table salt (add up to 1/4 tsp if your chili paste isn’t very salty)
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Dipping sauce:
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
2 tsps water
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp spicy chili paste (optional)

Important note: this recipe was loosely adapted from the Woks of Life’s turnip cake recipe!

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Healthier Graham Crackers

I found a way to make a good thing still good without the bad stuff. Hmm? Let me paraphrase: I made graham crackers without the heaps of sugar, oil, more sugar (but this time in liquid form), and other not-whole-food ingredients, and they turned out highly recommendable!!!

For some reason, store-bought graham crackers connote healthiness. Maybe in comparison to Oreo’s and Chips Ahoy they’re good for you, but wholesome and healthy? Not really. I realize that it’s very difficult, perhaps oxymoronic, to try and connote actual healthiness with a cookie, but if there is a way, and I think there is, these graham crackers cookies would be it. While store-bought graham crackers contain a little over 4 grams of refined sugar per cracker, these ones contain less than 2 (and a less refined, blood-spiking one at that). I also switched the standard ratio of white flour (more) to whole grain graham flour (less), resulting in a far more fiber-packed cracker. These graham crackers prove that healthier substitutes don’t have to be gut-wrenching to make, and that they can go a long way, quite literally, in providing you with more plentiful energy throughout the day. I had three of these crackers at 3 PM and didn’t find myself eager for dinner until 8 PM, which is very, very, unusual for me.

I remember Honey Maid’s graham crackers fondly; they were crucial in sealing together the best part of a summer spent on the Oregon coast: hot, gooey marshmallows and dribbling milk chocolate. At the traditional family camp fire by the beach, hot dogs and baked beans were passed around and devoured, but not indulged in, because everyone knew (well, the kids at least) that the best part was saved for last: s’mores to sing songs about and pray to God that you get the chance to eat again before you’re old and mature and reply ‘no thank you, I no longer eat sugary, processed fake food’ when someone offers you a free s’more. The notoriously American s’mores of my childhood definitely spoiled me. Every other s’more I’ve had since I was 10 or 11 hasn’t been the same. Even my healthier ones. Surprised? Probably not, and neither was I. Obviously, the above pictured s’mores aren’t quite as mind-blowing as the one’s I enjoyed as a kid on the beach. Maybe I’m recalling the childhood memories with a bit too much pleasant nostalgia, but I think it was probably the insane amount of sugar added to Honey Maid’s graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey’s chocolate, that made said s’mores as memorable as they are. With that mind, if you’re not looking to fill your body and mind with:

(the ingredients from Honey Maid’s graham crackers)
UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), GRAHAM FLOUR (WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR), SUGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, HONEY, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN, 

then good on you, but don’t seal the warm and fuzzy childhood memory of s’mores away forever; instead, color it in with a new shade, i.e. homemade graham crackers that are full of fiber, slow-releasing sugar, and fat sans the hydrogenated part. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a thick layer of dark chocolate and ooey gooey marshmallows will sketch themselves into the picture. Maybe.

Ingredients~
Makes eight 3-inch long crackers

3/4 cup graham flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (plus 2-4 tbsps for dusting)
2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
3 tbsps rice malt syrup (sub with maple syrup or honey)
1 tbsp applesauce or banana puree*
1 tsp molasses
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp table salt

Topping:
2-3 tsps fine raw sugar or brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

* You can substitute the fruit puree with more oil if you’d like a slightly less puffy cracker that’s more in line with the store-bought kind.

Note: These crackers are sweet enough in my opinion (especially when made into a s’more sandwich), but definitely subtly sweet compared to standard graham crackers (hence the appropriate ‘healthier’ label), so, if you’re after a slightly sweeter cracker, simply add 1-2 tsps of sugar (fine raw or brown) along with the rest of the dry ingredients; doing so won’t greatly alter the batter, though you may have to adjust it by adding 1/2-1 tsp water.

Instructions~

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Homemade Fig Newtons

Ingredients~
Makes 6-7 large fig newtons

Dough:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsps coconut oil
2 tsps fine raw sugar (sub with light brown sugar or coconut sugar)
2 tsps rice malt syrup or honey
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsps fresh orange juice
1 egg yolk
1/2 scant tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1 cup (149 g) dried figs (I used Turkish, but any kind will work)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Optional: 1-2 tsps liquid sweetener or applesauce (I omitted this and found the filling to be sufficiently sweet)

Instructions~

1. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolk before adding the rest of the wet ingredients (including the orange zest). Once combined, sift in the flour, along with the baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients together before fully combining them with the wet. Dollop the dough onto the center of a sheet of parchment paper and fold it up, shaping/patting it along the edges to create a wheel (more or less). Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 4.
2. As the dough chills, begin making the filling by pouring hot (just boiled) water over the bowl of figs. Allow the figs to sit for 15 minutes until tender and easy to mash. Use a food processor/immersion blender if you own one or simply mash them with a fork (and a great deal of eagerness, as I did). Stir the cinnamon into the fig mash, along with 1-2 tsps of liquid sweetener/applesauce if you’d like a sweeter, less chunky filling. Set aside the filling as you roll out the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 170 C/338 F. Once an hour is up, unwrap the wheel of dough and leave it in the center of the parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll it into a roughly 6 by 9 inch long rectangle. Feel free to roll the dough out a bit thinner if you’d like to get more newtons out of it, but don’t stretch it by more than 1-2 inches or the dough may not be able to hold the filling.
4. Once rolled, create a log down the center (2 inches wide) using the fig filling. Take the left side of exposed dough and fold it over the filling. Next, take the right side of dough and fold it over the center. There should be a bit of overlap so that you can lightly pinch the flaps of dough together, ensuring the filling is sealed in. Gently turn the log over so that the overlapped/sealed side is resting on the bottom. Use your hands to lightly pat down the sides of the log, giving it more of a dome shape (as fig newtons so famously have). Bake the newtons for 14-17 minutes or until the dough is light golden and not squishy or wet to the touch. Allow them to cool for a couple of minutes on a rack until warm but not too hot to hold, before transferring to a sealed container. You’ll obviously snag a couple as they cool, but allow the rest to sit in a closed container for a couple of hours or overnight to achieve a truly fig newtony exterior, i.e. soft and cakey, but still a cookie. Either way they will be delicious! 

Important note: this recipe was loosely adapted from Bravetart’s homemade fig newtons!

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Hearty Rye Pie Crust

A hearty rye pie crust; a pie crust made with heart, for the heart. “Rye Pie” is fun to say. It’s also fun to make because it’s a little out of the ordinary. To be honest, I thought I had purchased spelt flour, not rye, so upon combining the ingredients and beginning to knead the dough, I realized that kneading wouldn’t be possible and that my spelt flour was definitely some other guy. I found the receipt from my flour purchase, did a little online translating, and discovered that the spelt dough I was excitedly anticipating in pie crust form was actually an imposter called rye. I wasn’t sure if the crust was going to work out, given that I knew nothing about baking with rye (other than: DELICIOUS DARK GERMAN BREAD), but I proceeded with the crust-making anyway.

So, how did it go? How did sly rye fair in a pie? Simply put: do it. Make the same, but hopefully for you, conscious and purposeful, mistake and bake with rye. Make a loaf of bread, okay, sure, yummy no doubt, but everybody knows rye is for bread. Instead, get a little jiggy with it, go a little ham (only in metaphors, of course), and press it into a pie pan. Bake it until firmer and noticeably darker and fill it up with sage mushrooms and mashed potatoes or, better yet, a sweet and tangy cherry filling. There’s definitely a cherry rye pie on my horizon. This crust may sound unusually good for you, but it’s far, far from tasting like cardboard. Sure, it’s not a standard, white and buttery, flaky crust, but that’s the beauty of it. This rye pie is different and a whole lot better for you. Do I sound like your mom? Good, that means I’m probably saying the right things.

Rye is a powerhouse grain. One cup of rye flour contains 11 g of protein, 12 g of dietary fiber, 16% of your rda of magnesium, 15% of vitamin B-6, 14% of iron, and 10% of potassium. For the same serving, white flour offers 10 g of protein, 2.7 g of fiber, 5% of your rda of magnesium, 0% of B-6, 6% of iron, and 3% of potassium. It’s clear who comes out on top. I’m not anti white flour, but I am all for swapping it out with more nutritious and flavorful flours when the opportunity presents itself. Luckily for me, white flour can almost always be replaced. This pie crust would probably accompany the word ‘rustic’ in a visual dictionary; there are no fancy ingredients and no heaps of butter or sugar. Instead, there is rye flour, olive oil, salt, water, and a dark, texturally pleasing, biscuit-esque pie crust as a result. I used whole grain rye flour, which is very coarse and contains the bran, germ, and endosperm of the rye kernal. Finer rye flours, such as light or medium rye, probably wouldn’t churn out the same pie crust, seeing as they lack the deep flavor and rough texture offered by the whole grain, but nonetheless, slightly more refined rye would still be a step above plain ol’ all-purpose in the creativity and health departments.

Looking at this crust awakens the cow girl in me; I want to swing onto a horse and ride through prairies with a wagon full of rye pie tugging along behind me.

Ingredients~
Makes enough dough for one 7-inch pie crust 

3/4 cup whole grain rye flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsps olive oil (chilled in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until sludgy)
1/2 scant tsp rice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 scant tsp table salt
1-3 tbsps ice cold water

Instructions~

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Dark Chocolate Orange Truffles

Chocolate is kind of like pizza, the bad stuff is still pretty good and the good stuff is a godsend. Then there’s the really good stuff, the silky, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that offers the perfect dose of bitter and sweet. You know when you’ve had a taste of the really good stuff; you’re so focused on the flavors and textures it offers that you don’t even think about stuffing your face with more. You eventually do (stuff your face with more), but you do so gradually, one truffle at a time, because hastily consuming something so delicious would be a tragedy.

These truffles are a chocolate fudge hybrid. They get their fudginess from the cocoa butter, which, when combined with the other ingredients and chilled in the fridge for a bit, hardens up the truffles enough to create the ultimate soft and creamy filling. I’ve tried subbing coconut oil for the cocoa butter, and while it does satisfy my chocolate craving, it’s just.. not quite as ridiculously good. The cocoa butter may be a bit of a hassle to find, I had to purchase mine on Amazon and wait a couple of days for it to arrive, but it will carry your chocolate making/eating to new, far more favorable, heights (heights you will never want to step down from). Also, thanks to the cocoa butter, these truffles can last more than 5 minutes out of the fridge/freezer without melting. They may soften up a little after the 10 minute mark (depending on how warm your environment is), but they won’t turn into a brown puddle like coconut oil chocolate will.

These truffles don’t ask a lot of you. Simply stir together cocoa powder, cocoa butter, orange juice and zest, and one mashed medjool date (or sweetener of your choice), pop the resulting mixture into the fridge for 30 minutes, roll the mixture into balls, coat the balls in a cocoa powder + cocoa butter + orange juice sauce (or omit this and suffer no consequences), allow the balls to chill for a liiiittle bit longer, and voila, there you go, there you have it, FUDGY chocolate TRUFFLES sans the unpleasant refined sugar and heavy cream and butter. You won’t find any chocolate wax here. Only velvet. And silk. And thick waves of healthy chocolate cream.

Ingredients~
Makes 6 truffles

Truffles:
3 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tsps cocoa butter
4 tsps fresh orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 medjool date, pitted and mashed

Chocolate coating:
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp cocoa butter
1 tsp fresh orange juice

Instructions~

1. In a nonstick saucepan on low-medium heat, melt the 2 tsps of cocoa butter. Whisk in the cocoa butter, whisking until no lumps remain. Stir in the orange juice, zest, and date mash, until the mixture is combined and quite thick and sticky. You will have to let it chill in the fridge, covered, for about 30 minutes before handling it.
2. As the mixture chills, make the chocolate coating. In a nonstick saucepan, melt the cocoa butter until completely liquid. Whisk in the cocoa powder until no lumps remain before whisking in the orange juice. The consistency will be similar to a liquidy ganache. If you’d like it to be a bit runnier, add another tsp of orange juice or liquid sweetener (rice malt syrup, maple syrup, etc.) Set aside as you form the truffles.
3. Once the truffle mixture has finished hardening, use your hands to roll together 6 balls. If you’d like them to be quite larger, you’ll probably get 4 out of this recipe. Once shaped, poke them with a fork and dunk them into the chocolate sauce, turning the handle of the fork to ensure that the entire truffle is coated (the area with the fork holes might be difficult to completely coat but that’s okay). Gently slide each truffle off the fork so that the punctured part is on the bottom and out of view. If you have any leftover sauce, dollop it on top of the truffles or pour it onto parchment paper and chill it in the fridge to enjoy later. Allow the freshly coated truffles to sit in the fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour until the outer shell is hard and your finger doesn’t leave a noticeable indent upon touching it. Enjoy!!!

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Healthy Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (gf/vegan)

Ingredients~
Makes 5-6 pop-tarts

Pastry:
1/3 cup & 1 tbsp white rice flour
1/3 cup & 1 tbsp buckwheat flour
3 tbsps & 1 tsp cornstarch or potato starch
3 1/2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp agar agar powder (you can probably sub with 1/4 tsp xanthan gum)
2 tsps fine raw sugar (or sub with 1 tsp white and 1 tsp brown)
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1-2 tbsps ice water

Filling:
5-6 medjool dates or about 1/3 cup date puree
1 1/2 tsps coconut oil, melted
1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon

Instructions~

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Rich & Fudgy Vegan Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Tried to make a lemon tart. Failed to make a lemon tart.

Tried to make a lemon meringue pie. Failed to make a lemon meringue pie (or rather, failed to make meringue out of chickpea brine).

Threw a self-pity party that lasted a few too many hours. Eventually got bored of feeling sorry for myself and decided that pity should leave the party to make room for a very special guest: chocolate. Chocolate ended up staying the night, laaate, late into the night, if you know what I mean (because chocolate contains cocoa and sugar, two energizing ingredients, duh.)

In all seriousness, chocolate can heal emotional wounds. It fills voids left behind by awful lemon tarts and is capable of mending broken hearts. That being said, pure chocolate is too often muddled with it’s antithesis, namely the highly refined and processed, sugar and vegetable fat. There are definitely more nasty common add-ins, but I’ll go easy on the chocolate of my childhood. It’s true that some commercial chocolate contains the magical stuff, cocoa and cocoa butter, but rarely do you find a grocery store chocolate bar that lists them first, side by side. Instead, sugar usually comes out on top, followed by milk solids, and, if you’re unlucky, some vague vegetable fat will be used to replace cocoa butter. My findings have taught me that not all chocolate has been created equal. And so, in an effort to bypass the too sweet or to eat dilemma (i.e. is this chocolate going to be too shockingly sweet and shitty to eat or has it passed the test and can I eat it?), I got down to the basics and purchased some cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

I’m a big chocolate person. Big as in the thickest swabs of chocolate ganache on, uhm, everything, please. And another handful or two of chocolate chips in that cookie batter, please. And, uhm, heaps more cocoa powder dumped into that brownie batter, okay? I mean please. Please and thank you. Unsurprisingly, my excitement for chocolate translated into me consuming a lot of it, which, in turn, translated into me thinking more about it while still eating a lot of it, until, thankfully, I started to think about what was actually in the chocolate I was eating; is this really as healthy of a snack as I’ve let myself believe it is? It may be 60% cocoa but that means it’s close to 40% sugar. Hmm.

Once upon a time, I was hooked on the 50% and lower milky stuff and, dare I say it, even enjoyed the occasional bar of fake stuff (also known as white chocolate). I somehow thought that so long as chocolate was brown, it was healthier than the other, devilish sweets that lined grocery store aisles and airport terminals and school cafeterias and hospitals. Sugar shows up everywhere and it’s a little weird. It also shows up, in big percentages, in chocolate. And so, with that disconcerting fact in mind, and with a strong inclination to deliver as much goodness to my body and mind as I could, I decided to make more of my bites of chocolate count.

Gone are the days of tooth shocking, nap inducing, sugar laden chocolate. Dark chocolate is the new black and it’s cool to care about what you’re feeding yourself. Cue these super fudgy brownies with dark chocolate ganache. Definitely don’t forget about the ganache. And definitely don’t skimp on the cocoa powder or cocoa butter. If you can’t get your hands on cocoa butter, coconut oil would be the next best thing, but know that the brownies won’t harden up as much as true fudge as they cool. These brownies are packed with wound healing and spirit lifting properties (in simple speak that means lots of beneficial antioxidants, as well as energy-inducing magnesium and electrolytes. And that’s just provided by the cocoa powder). If you’re like me, a lover of chocolate and all things baked with chocolate, then show yourself a little love by combining a handful of ingredients in a bowl and baking them until a rich, rich smell emanates from your oven.


Ingredients~
Makes one small batch or about 10-12 small pieces  

Brownies:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 1/2 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 tbsps smooth peanut butter or nut butter of your choice
2 tbsps cocoa butter, melted (or sub with coconut oil)
3 tbsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup
1 chia egg*
Scant 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
Optional: 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Ganache:
2 tbsps cocoa butter
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1-2 tsps unsweetened soy/nut milk
Optional: 1-2 tsps powdered sugar (for a less bitter ganache)

*1 tbsp chia seeds combined with 3 tbsps water, left to congeal for a few minutes

Instructions~

Preheat the oven to 180 C/356 F
1. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, melted cocoa butter/coconut oil, syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir in the chia egg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet and stir well until a thick and goopy batter forms.
2. Line a pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter. Bake for 19-25 minutes or until a toothpick is mostly clean when removed from the brownies (the brownies should be very tender/fragile to touch and may seem a little undercooked and wobbly, but this is what we want for optimal fudginess).
3. As the brownies cool, make the ganache. In a saucepan (preferably nonstick), melt the cocoa butter. Once the butter is completely liquid, turn off the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until no lumps remain. Whisk in powdered sugar if using before whisking in 1 tsp of milk to start. If the consistency isn’t quite thin and silky enough for your liking, add another 1/2-1 tsp milk. Once the brownies have thoroughly cooled and set, gently spread on the ganache and dig in!! Know that these brownies get extra fudgy when left in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, as the cocoa butter (if using) will very slightly harden, resulting in a brownie that’s WAY closer to rich chocolatey fudge than cake. Try it!!

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