CHOCOLATE MONTH: BANANA QUINOA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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It’s not often I choose recipes that require baking. I’ve grown comfortable with cooking and have gotten really good at eyeballing while doing so, adjusting and adding where I feel necessary. Baking, on the other hand, is a whole other beast. For me, exact measurements, precise oven temperatures, and strict directions often make for an overwhelming experience. Though, when one of my girlfriends, Stephanie, sent me this cookie recipe, I couldn’t shy away from it. I even purchased my first set of measuring cups {I know, I know… what took me so long?} to make the process more pleasurable. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free and according to Steph, it’s also boyfriend approved.

I must admit, when it came time to roll the banana dough into balls I was afraid it would simply fall flat in the oven as the mixture was a bit runny. Good news! It stuck together. You’ll know when the cookies are ready as the exterior will be hard to the touch and golden brown in colour. The bananas really provide a lovely gooey quality and offer a great amount of sweetness.

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To end chocolate month with a bang, I am giving away a couple goodies from Simplecare Products, including a Poached Chocolate Fig Scrub, to one lucky reader! Simplecare Products strives to create skincare products free of preservatives, fillers, chemicals and synthetics. Instead, you’ll find plant-based ingredients like cold-pressed oils and clays, fruits and veggies, as well as natural salts and citrus. To go that extra step, Simplecare also supports animal advocacy, fair trade, and sustainability by donating a portion of sales to non-profits and implementing reusable packaging. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Simplecare Products, available at notable retailers {soon to be announced} come Spring 2014!

For a chance to win, simply leave a comment below. Feel free to share your preference for using natural skincare products, your all-natural tips and tricks, or why you’d like to get your hands on the prize. Anything goes! You have until 3pm EST on Sunday, February 23rd to leave your comment for a chance to win. I will notify the winner by email the following day. Good luck! *This contest is now closed.

The Ingredients {Yield: 24 cookies Total Time: 35 minutes}

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup whole grain rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milled flax {optional}

The Directions

1. Cook quinoa as per package; 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water and bring to a boil, reduce to medium and simmer until cooked, about 12 minutes

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a stand mixer or fork, mash bananas until a globby mess like baby food {Steph’s words exactly}

3. Add quinoa, shredded coconut, and coconut sugar to banana mash and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, add oats, cacao nibs and chocolate chips, mix again. At this point you could add other ingredients like nuts, raisins, chia seeds etc.

4. Once you have your mixture complete, line a baking sheet with parchment paper

5. Form golf ball-sized balls with your mixture and place on baking sheet. If you wish, flatten cookies slightly using your fingers or the bottom of a drinking glass

6. Bake in oven for approx. 20-30 minutes or until tops of cookies are solid. If you can fight temptation, let cool to harden

CHOCOLATE MONTH: SWEET POTATO CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

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flux, n.

The natural state. Our moods change. Our lives change. Our feelings for each other change.  Our bearings change. The song changes. The air changes. The temperature of the shower changes.

Accept this. We must accept this.

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I always find myself coming back to those words when going through a period of ambiguity and confusion. I read the quote {as it is not so much an actual definition} ages ago and thought to write it down, not knowing how much it would serve me over the years. Whenever I feel uneasy, I read it over which I find to be quite grounding. We can plan ahead but nothing is truly certain and we must accept this. Once we do, many of our doubts and negative thoughts will dissipate.

My trip to Costa Rica was put on the back burner as a series of events unfolded the day of my departure. Instead of dwelling on disappointment and fear of missing out, I focused my energy on the positives. I had the chance to work on an upcoming opportunity, visit good friends, attend back-to-back yoga practices, check out Brendan Brazier‘s book launch, and of course, eat chocolate. Doesn’t chocolate always make things better? It does for me, at least a little bit.
If chocolate isn’t your go to for feel-good foods, perhaps the individual ingredients of this recipe are. Sweet potato and cacao both have tremendous health benefits and are packed full of nutrients.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and boast antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar regulating nutrients. The antioxidants found in sweet potatoes may even be able to lower the potential health risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. Like sweet potatoes, cacao also promotes cardiovascular health with its antioxidant power. It is also rich in fibre, stimulating the body’s production of digestive enzymes. And that makes things better for us all.

This recipe makes for one serving but can easily be adjusted to make two by doubling up on the ingredients. It’s the perfect dessert to serve if you’re hosting a dinner party, especially if, like me, baking isn’t your forte. To make things easier or if you’re in a rush, keep in mind you can also pre-bake your sweet potatoes so they’re ready to go. This will decrease your prep time by at least half an hour to which you can simply blend all ingredients and let set in the fridge until guests arrive.

The Ingredients {Yield: 1 serving Total Time: 45 minutes}

  • 1 sweet potato, baked
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon agave, honey, or maple syrup
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • dash cinnamon

The Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potato on cooking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender

2. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth

3. Scoop in to individual size serving bowl and place in fridge for approx. 15 minutes to set

4. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, add toppings! I opted for chia seeds, raspberries, and mint {other topping ideas include unsweetened shredded coconut, cacao nibs, whipped cashew cream… the list goes on}

*Should you find yourself without vanilla beans, use vanilla protein powder or pure vanilla extract in lieu

CHOCOLATE MONTH: RAW CHOCOLATE WITH ALMOND FILLING

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When asked the question “which do you prefer, sweet or savory?” my initial response is almost always savory, without a doubt. Yet a second later, I’m usually second guessing myself, wondering if I should have chosen sweet. I’ve tried to pick which I prefer but I’ve come to conclude I don’t need to pick favourites; I can love both equally, or I can even love one more than the other on any given day. On days that my sweet cravings are in full swing {which have gone down considerably since I have been more conscious of the foods I put in my body}, I feel as though I’d do just about anything to get my hands on some chocolate. I’ve even gone as far as eating previous years’ Christmas chocolate that had been hiding in the deepest, darkest corners of my kitchen cupboards. Thankfully, this chocolate recipe has less ingredients than I do fingers and is not at all difficult to make over and over again. This way, I won’t ever have to be without it.

Coconut oil has really exploded as a health staple over the last year or so, and as much as it is looked at as a fad {see also: kale, açaí, chia seeds, and quinoa}, it’s also what I would consider a superfood. It makes a great vegan substitute for spreads, is a source of lauric acid, and also contains antibacterial and antifungal properties. Looking for an all-natural way to moisturize your body and hair? It can do that too. It’s the key in making this chocolate extremely creamy, which is a super important quality for chocolate to have, in my opinion. It’s so good in fact, I’m eating it as I write this. Although I’m trying to be mindful of the fact that I’m leaving to the land of sun and sand, or better known as Costa Rica, in just a few days so I’m going to be bringing some – not all, of course – of my leftover chocolate to work as a sweet treat for my coworkers. Brownie points!

Speaking of Costa Rica, I am beyond happy to be escaping the polar vortex that has been the majority of winter here in Toronto. Next week’s chocolate post will be delayed by a few days while I recharge, reconnect, and most importantly, bask in vitamin D.

Show of hands, who would be interested in seeing a tropical Costa Rican inspired post?

The Ingredients {Yield: 150g Total Time: 45 minutes}

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 5 tablespoons agave, honey, or maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • dash coarse sea salt

The Directions

1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together, excluding almond butter and shredded coconut

2. Pour half the chocolate mixture in a pan and put in freezer for 10 minutes

3. Once chocolate is solid, remove from freezer and smear with almond butter and sprinkle shredded coconut, then pour remaining chocolate on top. If you wish, add extra shredded coconut and coarse salt on top for texture

4. Put back in freezer for 30 minutes. Once ready, cut chocolate into pieces and enjoy!

*Chocolate is best stored in fridge or freezer to prevent melting

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