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Archive for the category “chocolate”

Fifth Blogiversary Protein Bombs

proteinbomb

You may notice it has been almost six months since I posted here. SIX MONTHS!!!!! For those of you first visiting, that is a long time. Way long. When I first started this blog I had a lot of momentum, posting every other day. As life trundled along, the frequency varied more, sometimes every third day, sometime once a week. Once during a move across the country, when we lived in a kitchenless hotel, it was a month.

I want to explain why I have not posted in a while, and share a new recipe while I am at it!

About six months ago (hmmm….maybe a pattern here?) Big D, Little B and I started welcoming foster children into our home. We are licensed to welcome up to five at a time. For the most part, our capacity has been full for six months. That is a lot of mouths to feed. Not only feed, but make available food they will actually eat. Each child has had their own eating idiosyncrasies – some healthy, some not so much. Everything from a vegetarian to a voracious carnivore to some who don’t like speckles (a.k.a. herbs) in their food.

To develop and support consistent eating habits for the kids, I have had to focus on many foods with which they are familiar, in addition to introducing foods new to them. This means I needed to deviate from my grain free cooking some of the time. A lot of the food the kids are used to eating include many types of ‘junk’ food, canned and boxed foods. We don’t do ramen or canned ravioli here,. Yuck flavor wise and nutrition wise. Although I have cooked some grains for them, mostly including rice and corn, I still do plenty of grain free dishes.

As a result of almost tripling the size of hour household, my creative juices committed to cooking have dropped significantly. It has been sucked up focusing on feeding the masses, and trying to keep up with the demands of my business, Grain Free Haven. I continue to make many of the dishes I posted in the past, while making new stuff with some grain ingredients. I have made some really good tasting dishes, but hesitated to post them, since they are inconsistent with how I wish they would eat. I sneak in grain free versions of ingredients when I can, but the kids are sharp cookies, and cannot always be ‘tricked’. Other people try to sneak vegetables into food for kids. I try to sneak out grains and sugar!

I mean, I own a business that promotes grain free eating. How absurd is it to continue a food blog that promotes eating grains? I refuse to frustrate the foster children by not providing them foods they like just because they include grains, but I also refuse to have a kitchen that makes Big D sick, since he is extremely sensitive to wheat and other grains that include gluten. I firmly believe that avoiding grains and sugar have helped me, Big D and Little B avoid illness, internal inflammation, gastrointestinal irritation and diabetes. I am not at all interested in abandoning those tenets. It takes a little more effort to provide meals with grain free foods alongside those with grains, but it is very much worth it.

As the sixth year of this blog begins, I have decided to resolve my cooking and blog posting conundrum. I intend to continue fulfilling my love of cooking and creating new dishes, using this blog as my conduit. I look forward to posting  what I cook, whether it is grain free or not. I also intend to share substitutions I would use if making the grainy dish grain free. I will also include what I serve to sate the appetites of those eating grain free.

To begin this new approach, I share with you some protein bombs. I like making these for the kids to appease their sweet tooth without added sugar, and fill them up between the school day ending and dinner beginning. The kids are growing like weeds and I need to get as much protein in them as I can. It is based on a no-bake cookie my mom has made for decades. For a grain free alternative you can make my Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies.

Fifth Blogiversary Protein Bombs

1 cup peanut butter (use natural to make the result sugar free)
1/2 cup butter (use your oil of choice to make dairy free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder (equivalent to 1/2 cup pure cane sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups gluten free oatmeal, uncooked

In a medium pot over medium heat add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and stevia. Stir until butter is melted and ingredients well combined.

Add the cocoa powder and stir, then fold in the oatmeal. Stir until all the oatmeal is coated.

With a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon drop portions onto parchment paper. The bombs can be made whatever size suits your needs. Let cool to room temperature and serve. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Makes 18-20 bombs.

 

Chocolate Chia Strawberries

chocolatechiastrawberriesIt is a rare person who dislikes the combination of strawberries and chocolate. Since summer calls for fresh, light desserts I wanted to come up with a healthy version of chocolate strawberries that would be easy to eat.

I knew that my chocolate chia pudding was very chocolaty and good for us, so I figured stuffing it into berries would only make it better. They were a hit, and they made me wonder what else could be filled with chocolate….hmm….

Chocolate Chia Strawberries

2 dozen large strawberries, cored
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia powder

In a blender (or a medium bowl with stick blender) combine the milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, cocoa powder and stevia.

Chill filling for about 30 minutes until it firms up.

Using a small spoon fill the strawberries, shape the top of the chocolate into a mound on top of each berry and arrange on a serving platter.

Chill until time to serve or store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Dessert Cashews

dessert cashews

In preparation for our recent visit my mom bought some cashews, for Little B loves them. Specifically, she likes roasted, salted cashews. The generous container of purchased cashews was very much not salted. I had to come to the rescue for all our sakes!

The need to ‘fix’ the cashews reminded me of festival nuts. They are often our diet downfall. As we walk through a festival all day it is easy to walk by the funnel cakes, cobbler, ice cream, pastries, battered pig on a stick…you know, sugary and wheaty stuff. There are two or three danger zones, and they are all roasted nut stands. They typically roast the nuts and coat them with cinnamon and sugar. You can smell them about 100 yards away, so when you finally come up to the booth the brain has gone through the battle of yes, no, yes, no, oh well hell why not. We usually rationalize the purchase by assuring ourselves that splitting a bag among six people is not the worst thing in the world, and it is not. What usually happens is everyone has a few, then one or two people absentmindedly nibble on the entire bottom half of the bag and they are suddenly gone. Oops! I blame the ambiance and my nose – if I could not smell I bet I would care less about those darned nuts.

I noticed the festival nut seasoning combination worked well on pecans and almonds, but not so well on the cashews. They seemed to not capture the flavors as well and were just sad. It was not the fault of the nuts – they are more gentle and softer flavor-wise than their almond and pecan kin. The cashews needed something more than cinnamon and sugar. My first inclination was to add some bite, maybe cayenne, but Little B is not a fan. Pondering mom’s pantry and keeping Little B in mind, my eyes fell upon a can of cocoa powder. Of course! I relied on the general process I figured out for savory nuts and came up with these lovely chocolate cashews. They are sweet and rich and satisfying – a handful makes for a great dessert or snack when the chocolate craving bug comes around. I love nipping a few now and then. My mom had some mixed with popcorn for dinner the other day. Oh yeah, Little B liked them too!

Dessert Cashews

1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp Stevita granular sweetener
1 tsp sea salt (discard if using salted nuts)
8 cups roasted, unsalted cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two medium sized shallow baking sheets with foil. In a large bowl melt the butter in a microwave. Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa, stevita and salt. Stir until combined. Add the nuts and toss until well coated. With a large slotted spoon drop nuts onto baking sheets and spread evenly into a single layer – additional liquid on the pan may result in a burning smell before the nuts are done baking, so reduce the ‘drizzle’ as much as possible. Place sheets into oven on different shelves. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove nuts from oven. Toss nuts and again spread evenly into single layer. Return to oven, making sure the sheets are switched from the first baking period. Bake for 5 – 8 more minutes, until nuts are sizzling a bit and barely beginning to brown. Note that the point of being brown and being burned are very close together, so stay nearby during the second baking period. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store at room temperature in air tight container.


						
					

Chocolate Cheesecake

chocolate cheesecakeSo the cheesecake saga continues. Our young friend Skinny D has been visiting with us on his first trip to Alaska. When I was making the limey cheesecake for Big D he got a similar ‘happy face like a kid with a new bike’ look as he requested a chocolate cheesecake. Of course I could not say no, and was curious how it would turn out, considering the smooth success from the first cheesecake attempt. I do wish to provide full disclosure here – I have made cheesecake before – it was a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. It was lovely and carby and wheaty. A healthier version may be in my future this fall, for I really liked the pumkiny goodness. Back to the here and now. This cheesecake was smooth like the last one, and Skinny D was very happy. So was Big D and Little B (although for some reason Little B did not like the crust). One piece of advice on cheesecake making – this cheesecake was smooth, but as you can see in the picture, there are little speckles. It is my fault. I did not ensure that the cream cheese was soft enough, nor did I take the time to do extra mixing, so little bitty pieces of cream cheese did not get thoroughly combined. Did not seem to have a negative impact on texture or flavor though. I bet I will take the time to do it right next time!

Crust
2 cups finely ground almond flour
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp Stevita granulated sweetener
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg white, lightly whisked

Filling
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk (retained from crust ingredients)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup Stevita, granular sweetener
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In 9″ pie dish cut a round of parchment paper that fits the bottom of the dish. In medium bowl stir together all dry crust ingredients. Add the butter and stir until the ingredients clump. Add the egg white, mix until well combined. Crust will still be crumbly. Press crust into dish until bottom and sides are covered. Filling: in large bowl combine cream cheese and sour cream. Melt chocolate in the microwave proof bowl – heat and stir in 10 second increments until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add chocolate to cream cheese and sour cream mixture. Whisk together until completely smooth. Add butter and stir again until smooth. Add eggs and yolk, stir to incorporate and until smooth. Add sweetener and vanilla. Beat until well combined and smooth. Pour filling into crust and gently smooth surface. Place in oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until filling sets. Turn off heat without opening oven door. Leave cake in oven until oven and cake are completely cooled, about two hours. Remove from oven  and chill for at least an hour. Serve plain or with fresh berries.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies

protein pb choco cookies

These cookies look ready for a picnic, don’t they?! First impressions may give the appearance of being just a regular cookie, tempting you to abandon your diet or require an additional 20 minutes on the treadmill. Not so! Look closely and you will see they are full of protein, and only have sugar if you choose for them to. We love our sugar free chocolate bars all chopped up and performing the role of topping. Our cookie treats have evolved from the wheaty, to the sugary but not wheaty, to this finale of non-wheaty and non-sugary. We are pretty impressed with ourselves, especially Big D who has become quite the consummate baker! I even changed the name per his request to put the protein after the peanut butter and chocolate chip – I am so proud! Enjoy these cookies on a Sunday picnic, or a Tuesday night – what a treat!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp butter
3 eggs
1 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp whey or hemp protein powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp Stevita
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or sugar free chocolate bar, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine peanut butter, butter, eggs and vinegar in medium bowl. In a separate bowl combine remaining dry ingredients except chips. Add dry mix to wet ingredients and stir until well blended. The dough will be stiff. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper – paper is optional if sheets are nonstick. For each cookie take 1 – 2 tablespoons in hand and shape a cookie, about  ¼ inch thick and place on cookie sheet. Leave approximately ½ inch between cookies. Gently press three to four chocolate chips into the top of each cookie. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until cookies begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before removing cookies from parchment paper.

Chocolate Bar And More

chocolate bar

Dark chocolate is one of my favorite things. It makes me very happy. Chocolate chips have eluded us in our sugar free world – if chips are available at the store they either have sugar or artificial sweeteners we don’t eat. Some recent failures resulted in chocolate that started melting right after removing it from the freezer, or the balance of chocolate and sweet was not quite right. The coconut butter seems to make a big difference in consistency and flavor. It is made from the meat of the coconut, but with a mild taste. It also stays nice and solid at room temperature, which helps these bars hold up to room temperature adversity. You still get a little meltiness on your fingers when handling it, but what good chocolate bar doesn’t? This chocolate bar recipe does not result in perfect little chips with curly peaks, but the resulting small bits that serve the same purpose are lovely. We joyfully toss them into our homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and cookies. Sweet levels can be adjusted to taste, and the bar also melts smoothly for home mocha lattes or dessert topping. I am continuing my quest for a curly topped chip, but what is life without a quest?

Chocolate Bar

3 ounces coconut butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ cup Stevita
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan add coconut butter and chocolate. Melt over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in Stevita, cocoa powder and vanilla. Continue stirring until smooth. Pour into molds or spread in a pan lined with aluminum foil. An 8×8 size pan makes for the thickness of a typical chocolate bar. Refrigerate until chocolate sets firm, about one hour. For chocolate chips use a sharp knife to chop into small pieces.

 

Nutty Chocolate Protein Bars

nutty chocolate protein bars

For months Little B took ballet lessons on Saturdays. They are now over, including the flashy, chaotic shows. It was quite an ‘experience’, but is now over. I will reserve my opinion about the experience, but suspect she has more enthusiasm for other activities. I personally am looking forward to getting back to more weekend hikes.  We have standard food we take on hikes and overnight trips – nuts, peanut butter, jerky, cheese, boiled eggs. They are convenient, energy-building and filling, but with all the summer hiking in our future I wanted to add some variety. The idea for these bars sprung from here. The chewiness and nuttiness reminds me of a candy bar you find at the store – rhymes with tickers. After sufficient bar chilling occured Little B tentatively took a small first bite, then proceeded to eat an entire bar and asked for some in her lunch the next day. Score! This is significant, because in her worldly 4 3/4 year old brain anything mommy suggests is immediately suspect. These bars are a tiny bit sticky at room temperature, but what protein bars aren’t? They hold together well when wrapped in foil or plastic wrap, so score again! It is easy to add them to the hiking food mix, and quite a treat when taking a break looking over water and mountains and whales. Yep. The whales are pretty spectacular. And so is everything else. I am going to experiment with less sticky bars, but these easy-to-make snacks are great for dealing with hunger when you want to spend your time focusing on life and love and nature. Even ballet.

Nutty Chocolate Protein Bars

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Da Vinci sugar free syrup, any flavor
1 Tbsp Nutiva Stevita
1 cup whey protein powder, vanilla flavor
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup mixed raw nuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with nonstick foil. In a medium microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate and butter on half power about 1 minute or until melting and softened. Stir until smooth and blended. Add in the cream, syrup, sweetener and protein powder.The mixture will be stiff and sticky when well blended. Stir in the nuts and coconut – you may need to use your hands to get it all mixed in, but then they would already be ready for putting it in the pan. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of the foil lined pan using the back of a spoon that is lightly coated with oil or butter, or just use your hands. Chill at least two hours or until firm. Cut into eight large bars or 16 snack squares. Store in refrigerator or freeze.

Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies

coconut treats 

When I was growing up my mom made what she called tangos – heat up sugar, chocolate, oatmeal and peanut butter in a pan, drop the hot stuff on wax paper, let it cool and you have instant treats. I have made them a lot myself – the chocolate and peanut butter with the chewiness of the oatmeal made for a great snack and had a richness that appeased the nibbling and snacking craving I get of an afternoon. I have been craving them lately and sought out a version that does not have sugar or oatmeal. I found what looked like a really close version with coconut. I relied on the traditional peanut butter instead of almond, and a few other tweaks, but the recipe made a great healthy snack for my family. Tall P really liked them to appease his sweet tooth cravings, too, but the guy that dips his strawberries in sugar said they were too sweet. Silly boy. Little B liked them so much she took them to her Valentine’s Day party to share with friends. Score!

Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies

3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp Stevita spoonable stevia
4 cups finely shredded coconut

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine the dark chocolate, butter and peanut butter. Cook until melted and thoroughly combine. Add the coconut milk, vanilla, salt, and sweetener and stir to combine. The heated mixture will thicken quickly, then needs to be taken off the heat. If it begins to separate it is okay, just keep stirring when off the heat. In a large bowl pour the chocolate mixture over the coconut. Stir to incorporate. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate until hardened.

German Chocolate Fusion Cake

german chocolate fusion cakeI woke up this morning with a plan to fulfill a birthday request. It sounded simple – a low carb, wheat free German Chocolate Cake for dessert. Now, I could have gone to a version I made before, but there were a few barriers to doing so: 1) in our little hotel kitchenette with not much room, 2) the absence of measuring cups, a mixer, blender, food processor or more than one mixing bowl (which was actually an ice bucket absconded from the ferry we floated to Juneau on), 3) time was not in abundance. To balance all these challenges I did some digging to come up with a simple recipe that kept the ingredients list of the cake short, allowed for minimal processing, and maximized the small kitchen and involvement of Little B. The results were wonderful, if I may say so myself, and achieved the German Chocolate Cake flavors, if not necessarily in a more traditional presentation. Why do I call it a fusion cake? Because I was inspired by a energy bar recipe. I got some inspiration from the recipe found here, then leaped off into a search for my own results. Big D and I talked recently about coming up with some low carb, portable snack or energy bars. Something we could throw in a backpack to nourish us during long hikes or camping trips, beyond the old reliable of mixed nuts or peanut butter. This cake is a step in that direction – I think with a few tweaks of the cake portion of the recipe we could have some good snack bars, but that is a different story. This cake gave Big D the nutty, coconutty, chocolaty birthday dessert flavors he wanted, which was most important to me. My initial hesitation in even trying to make the cake, what with everything else going on in our lives lately (under-supplied kitchen, new town, looking for permanent housing, furlough, new job, new everything), helped me get everything back into perspective. Cooking always has and still does calm me, and stressing about giving a gift is unnecessary if you create it from the heart. Happy Birthday Big D!

German Chocolate Fusion Cake

Cake
1 cup almond flour
2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
½ cup cocoa powder
2 cups Stevia in the Raw
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
3 tsp vanilla

Topping
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 cup Stevia in the Raw
½ cup unsweetened coconut
½ cup pecans, finely ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all dry cake ingredients into a large bowl. Stir until well combined. Add the eggs, cream, water, and vanilla. Stir again until batter is well combined. Pour into two greased (or lined with parchment paper) 9-inch baking rounds. Bake until solid firm in the middle. It will not rise very much. Baking time will be 35 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Remove rounds from pans and peel off parchment paper. Make the topping while the cake bakes and cools: combine cream cheese, heavy cream, coconut oil and Stevia in the Raw in sauce pan. Heat through and stir until smooth. Set aside and let cool about five minutes. Add coconut and pecans and stir again until well combined. Let topping cool completely. Place one cake round on a serving plate. Top round with half of the topping. Place second round on top of first, then finish the cake with remaining topping, spreading it on the sides if there is enough – the layers will be thin so you may not need to put on the sides at all. Chill to let the topping set. Serve cold or remove from refrigerator about one hour before serving.

Topped Oatmeal Cookies

oatmeal cookies no wheat

We made these for Santa last year, topped with blueberries. We decided our house was the only one in the whole wide world where he would get blueberry oatmeal cookies. In the morning the cookies and milk were all gone! He must have liked them. I forgot to take pictures then, but recently made a batch with Little B and she wanted to top them with sugar free chocolate chips instead of blueberries. Wheat free and sugar free, these went with Little B to her last day with her daycare group in Maryland before we moved. The group gets so excited just being around each without any stimulation, why the heck would I put wheat or sugar in the treats?! They were soft and chewy and seemed to be a hit. We may make them for Santa again this year, and try again to make them memorable. Involving Little B in deciding the topping and standing back so she can stir stir stir makes for a great opportunity to practice measuring, mixing and creativity. Go crazy with the toppings – she was so proud to share her creations. I got the original idea here, but tweaked to my liking. Thanks Alton!

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies (no wheat)

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated stevia in the raw
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup optional toppers (raisins, blueberries, sugar free chocolate chips, etc)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread oats in a single layer on half-sheet pans and bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove the oats from the oven and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Grind half the toasted oats in a food processor until they are the consistency of whole wheat flour. Add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa, stevia and salt, then pulse to combine. Combine the butter, egg and vanilla in a mixer and mix on medium speed for about a minute. Slowly add the oat mixture and the remaining oats until just combined. Let batter sit and thicken if it is soupy and will not hold shape if scooped. Using a teaspoon, scoop batter and drop onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If adding a topping gently push into the middle of each cookie. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes until they begin to brown around the edges. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pans for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack until cooled completely – they should remain soft and chewy. Store in airtight container.

 

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