Fudgy Feel-Good Squares

Sweet, sticky, chewy, gooey... these little caramel-y squares are my new favorite indulgent treat! Great to have in the fridge to offer friends* or, of course, to sink your teeth into whenever you feel like a little pick-me-up 😉 You get the caramel-like flavor of the dates and maple syrup, which, with the hint of vanilla and cacao, is utterly irresistible. The walnut butter adds to the luxurious texture, enhancing without competing against the flavors.

Consisting of nourishing, wholesome ingredients, these sumptuous squares do more than just taste great – they provide a steady source of energy, which won’t cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket and crash, like more processed, refined options. A treat for your the tastebuds and a pretty nutritious, fueling snack… win-win situation, right?

*Side note: I tested this on a friend who is highly allergic to peanuts. Even though I used no peanuts in this recipe I was suddenly gripped by the fear that traces of the lethal legume had somehow gotten into into the mix, as, let’s face it, my place is a peanut allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare. Luckily I was just being overly paranoid and she was perfectly fine, giving them the thumbs up without landing in the emergency room 😉

Makes: 12 small squares

Ingredients

  • 10 Medjool Dates (ca. 200 g); pitted
  • 1 tbsp walnut butter**
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • some ground vanilla bean (or a drop or two of vanilla extract)

** If you don’t have this on hand, the recipe should definitely work with other nut butters, but the flavor will, of course, vary. Walnut butter is very subtle, so it blends in well with the other ingredients. I like to use the raw organic 100% walnut one by Sun and Seed.

Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp walnut butter
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp unsweetened almond milk
  • optional: crushed walnuts to sprinkle on top

 

Method

Once you’ve pitted the dates, process them in the food processor and mix together with the other ingredients (I like to do this by hand, as it easily forms a really nice, sticky, but perfectly workable, play-doh-type mix). Press down onto a plate with your hands and shape into a rectangle (a knife works well to smooth the top and clean up the edges), cover and place in the fridge while making the frosting.

For the frosting, simply mix together the ingredients and then spread onto the date base. At this point you can decorate by sprinkling some crushed walnuts and raw cacao powder, or whatever else you fancy, on top.

Now, either place back in the fridge or in the freezer to fully harden up. [I didn’t have any space in my minuscule freezer, which is bursting with berries, so I had to just pop the plate back into the fridge. The frosting stayed soft, but, surprisingly, I was able to cut squares without making a mess. If you do freeze before slicing, I’d store them in the fridge after, to get the best, stickiest, fudgiest consistency 🙂 ]. They should last a few days (or longer in the freezer) if you can keep them that long!

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

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Chocolate Tahini Pancakes

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Now, you may be thinking this is an odd combination, but if you’re looking to step up your pancake game then look no further! While it’s no secret that cacao and any nut butter under the sun are a match made in heaven, using tahini instead is a great way to switch things up. It adds a slight hint of bitterness that contrasts wonderfully with the sweetness of the chocolatey pancake, giving it a slightly more sophisticated edge. Don’t worry, the tahini isn’t at all overpowering, though, and, while it maybe gives a bit more of a “grown up” flavor, this is still a chocolate pancake at heart and, essentially, a way to have dessert for breakfast and feel like a kid again.

The idea for the chocolate-tahini combo came about while on holiday in Greece with my boyfriend this past summer. Up until then, tahini to me had simply been something I had to make sure never to run out of, so I could make hummus at all times – or something to spoon out of the jar on occasion. But it was unquestionably a savory ingredient. That changed for good when, on our second morning in Greece, I discovered halva – a sweet, dense sesame confection with swirls of cacao running through it – at the buffet. I bought a tub back home with me, but soon sobered up to the fact that it was basically just sesame and (a lot of!) sugar, and that eating it too much just didn’t make me feel great. That’s when I started trying to recreate the taste in a more nourishing way, mixing tahini with raw cacao powder and maple syrup or honey and eating it by the spoonful or spreading it on dates (do try this at home), and I haven’t looked back since. When deciding to make a new pancake recipe there was therefore no doubt in my mind that this combo would be a winner.

Now that I’ve hopefully sold you on why this is a good idea, let’s get right to it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 2 tbsp brown rice milk (or water)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp/ ca. 60 g finely ground oats (or oat flour)
  • 1 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder
  • pinch of salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1.5 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1.5 tbsp brown rice milk

 

Method:

First, combine the ground flaxseeds with the 2 tablespoons of liquid, stir and set aside while assembling the other ingredients.

Mix together the mashed banana, tahini, honey and vanilla extract till well combined. Next, stir in the flax mixture, oat flour, cacao and salt until a thick batter results. Don’t worry if it looks slightly dense and lumpy – that’s exactly how it should be to get a super satisfying texture!

Heat up some coconut oil in a non-stick pan and spoon in some of the mix, shaping it into circles. It should make 2 medium pancakes or 6 mini ones.

While they are cooking, make the sauce by simply combining all the ingredients (don’t bother melting the coconut oil if it already has a spreadable consistency – it doesn’t need to be completely liquid). When the pancakes are cooked (after about 1-2 minutes on each side), serve with the chocolate tahini sauce and whatever else you like. I like having them with berries, chia jam and a bit more honey or maple syrup if I’m really feeling indulgent 😉

Enjoy!

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Feel Good Fact #1: Tahini is rich in essential minerals such cooper, manganese, calcium, magnesium and iron, which the body needs to function at its best.

Feel Good Fact #2: Raw cacao is extremely high in antioxidants, which combat cell damage caused by free radicals and decrease inflammation. In this way it can help protect against cancer and other diseases.

Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl (& Mousse)

This bowl of goodness came about by accident. I was up the other night and couldn’t sleep, so I started dreaming about breakfast the next day (doesn’t everyone?) What I’d actually cooked up in my head was pancakes, but the next morning the batter tasted so good and I was so impatient that I just poured the mix into a bowl, topped it with some sliced banana and cacao nibs and my new favorite smoothie (big statement but I stick by it!) was born.

Inspiration behind this whole pancake-turned-smoothie bowl was the  Blissful Brown Rice and Raw Cacao Super Protein from That Protein that I’d bought on a whim during a “buy one get one half off” sale at Holland & Barrett yet had barely used. (For my usual breakfast smoothie I always use hemp- check out the recipe here.)

The protein powder along with the peanut butter and banana make this breakfast an excellent source of plant protein (1 serving has almost 20g).

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 heaped tbsp (ca. 30g) brown rice and raw cacao protein powder*
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter); I use the 100% one from Meridian
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1/3 cup brown rice milk (I use Rude Health, which has a wonderful natural sweetness)
  • optional: cacao nibs, to decorate

*My blend is made up of 60% brown rice protein powder and 40% organic raw cacao, so you can easily make your own mix, using a different protein source as well if you’d like – although the taste may vary (brown rice protein is great because it’s quite neutral and doesn’t interfere with the chocolatey taste).

Blend all this together (you probably don’t even need a blender if you mash the banana well), pour into a bowl and I dare you to eat this without a big smile on your face! It’s so beautifully indulgent and keeps you full and fueled for a long time. I find the ripe banana and the brown rice milk make this perfectly sweet, but you can always add a bit of maple syrup, honey or even a date if you’d like.

Variation: Chocolate Protein Mousse 

If, like me, you are always in search of more indulgence, then this is a way to take the “dessert for breakfast” element of this smoothie bowl to the next level. By omitting the brown rice milk (or adding just enough so it all comes together) you end up with a lusciously thick and luxurious mousse that honestly tastes like dessert. No joke, this stuff is amazing. Without exaggeration, it is the most indulgent healthy breakfast I’ve ever had. Enjoy!

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Feel Good Fact #1: Cacao is high in essential minerals, including magnesium and iron (did you know it has a much higher iron content per 100g than meat?) and chock-full of antioxidants, which can protect against cancer and other disease by preventing cell damage.

Feel Good Fact #2: Peanut butter is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (make sure you buy the most natural version possible or make your own using just peanuts) and peanuts have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter Oats

This bowl of oats embodies what whole plant-based eating is all about for me: getting to eat something scrumptious, filling and even sinfully sweet, that’s also incredibly good for you! No compromise either on health or taste – it’s a beautiful win-win situation leaving you feeling excited, satisfied (physically and emotionally) and almost a bit smug!

The recipe for this all came about about because I wanted to prepare breakfast for my boyfriend. My boyfriend is vegetarian and likes his dairy, so at my place he’ll usually go for muesli and milk. One particular Sunday afternoon before he came over I realized that we were out of milk. Since he’s not exactly a fan of plant-based milks I started thinking about what I could dish up for him. He’s always been very accommodating to my special needs and desires and I always appreciated the rice milk and oat puffs he’d buy specifically for me, before I switched to bringing my own breakfast along (It’s so easy to bring a smoothie or chia pudding the night before and leave it in the fridge.) While thinking about what he would enjoy I remembered that I used to sometimes prepare a Bircher muesli for him the night before, soaking oats in orange juice, then mixing in Greek yogurt, grated apple, ground hazelnuts, whatever dried fruit was around and drizzling some honey on top. He always loved that. From there I started thinking about what I could make that we could enjoy together. A dairy-free version. Hmm… and then it clicked. Coconut milk! It also had to contain a banana, since my overnight oats always have mashed banana in them – they create such a great texture and wonderful subtle sweetness. And from there the other flavors just fell into place. Here’s how I made it:

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 40g oats
  • rice milk (/any plant-based milk)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk (the kind you use for cooking)
  • 1 heaped tsp cacao powder
  • 1 generous tbsp peanut butter
  • (optional: cacao nibs to decorate and honey or maple syrup for extra sweetness)

Place the oats in a small bowl and cover with just enough rice milk to make everything wet – the oats shouldn’t be swimming in it or anything. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning mash a banana and add it to the oats along with the coconut milk, cacao and peanut butter. The first time I made it I added some honey, but that made it almost too sweet – it felt too much like dessert, my boyfriend said. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, he added… But we both found that it’s perfectly sweet enough without the honey. I’d suggest trying it without any sweetener and then adding some honey or maple syrup if desired. It’ll still be so much better for you than sugary cereal 😉

Variation: If you’re out of peanut butter (a misfortune I try to protect myself against and hope never happens to you!) or just want to switch things up, try this with tahini instead of peanut butter. My boyfriend actually prefers this version. Here I added a tiny bit of maple syrup though, to combat any potential bitterness from the tahini – feel free to try without though. (See the tahini version below – unfortunately I didn’t have time to decorate properly, as I had a flight to catch!)

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Feel Good Fact #1: Oats protect against heart disease, thanks to their high fiber content and unique compounds, while also stabilizing blood sugar and reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Feel Good Fact #2: Cacao is incredibly high in antioxidants, which neutralize free radical damage and it can also enhance our mood, making us feel good. What better way to start the day?