Perfect Sunday Morning Chia Pudding

It feels like just yesterday I was racing against the clock in culinary school during our flourless and frozen desserts unit to get this ready along with chocolate almond pastry cream and ninety other things, sneaking laughs of desperateness as Holly, my culinary school BFF, pulled off the same feat of boiling her homemade almond milk and getting her batch ready for “presentation” (that’s culinary school fancy speak for everybody grabs a spoon and eats too much while the chef critiques it all). Now, here I am, swirling up a tupperware’s full alone on a Sunday morning. A little less hectic, for sure, but somehow not quite as comforting. And isn’t that what Sunday’s are all about? A cup of green tea and the Sunday New York Times Magazine didn’t quite make up for that lack of comfort (missing Holly), but gave me that soothing element I craved.

1/4 cup chia seeds + 2 cups (ish) almond milk + teaspoon cinnamon + teaspoon vanilla extract + lots of orange zest + 2 tablespoons maple syrup + whatever you need to taste (dark chocolate shavings are quite good, always; I topped mine with pomegranate seeds that looked better than they tasted and fresh berries) = lazy breakfst/dessert perfection.

Seal in a container and shake it up every twenty minutes or so (or whenever you remember) until mixture becomes gelatinous (give it at least two hours in your fridge).
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Our Final Culinary School Dinner: Put Some South in Yo’ Mouth

Nope, not your average meat and three or butter and cheese-loaded mac and cheese and cornbread-fest. Given my penchant for anything southern and involving glazed pecans, it’ll come as no surprise that my six-person culinary-cohort settled on a southern themed epicurean paradise.  And this past Friday night (times two because I wrote it two weeks ago and forgot) was the culmination of my chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute: a three course vegan meal for 100 people.

Also of note, my amazing boyfriend who could subsist (ew did I just say amazing boyfriend? I hate people who wax poetic about that kind of stuff) on eggs and lean chicken breast alone with a wild aversion to all things plant-based, offered rave reviews of the bean and mushroom stout pot pie (even more miraculously, he hates both beans and mushrooms) and probably tried about five new vegetables in the appetizer alone.

After countless hours of chiffonading greens (because, hey, I can kind of do that now), supreming oranges (which, hey, I can also do) and arguing for spiralized beet “noodles” over roasted pickled beets, we managed to pull it all off. Behold, a few favorite photos from the feast.

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Leftover Red Wine? Make This Chocolate Cake with Drunken Raspberries

I’ve always been a huge fan of Chef Chloe ever since she showed the world on Cupcake Wars that vegans do it better (oh, and cruelty and cholesterol-free). Her latest book Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen will have you salivating until the (vegan) cows come home. So it should come as no surprise that I was thrilled when the team at Chloe’s kitchen offered to share one of my favorite recipes from the book with me for my readers. In fancy speak, it’s called Torta Di Cioccolato Al Vino Rosso Con Lamponi “Umbriachi,” but you can just call it “Now, please.”

Didn’t quite finish that bottle of red wine last night? Use it to make chocolate cake! This rich and seductive chocolate cake is fudgy on the inside with a hint of red wine. Top it with wine-soaked “drunken” raspberries and a dollop of coconut whipped cream for the ultimate lovers’ dessert. 

Cake:
1½ cups all-purpose flour*
1 cup sugar
¹⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
 ½ teaspoon salt
 ¾ cup dry red wine
 ½ cup water
 ½ cup canola oil
 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 *For a gluten-free alternative, substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour plus ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum

Topping:
½ cup dry red wine
 ½ cup sugar
 1 small container raspberries (6 ounces)
 Powdered sugar
for serving Coconut Whipped Cream, like So Delicious Dairy Free Cocowhip Coconut Whipped Topping

Make-Ahead Tip: Cake layers can be made in advance and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw cakes before serving.

Makes one 9-inch round layer

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk wine, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill the prepared cake pan with batter. Bake for 28 to 30 min- utes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry with a few crumbs clinging to it. Be sure to rotate the cake halfway through baking time. Let the cake cool completely.

For the topping: In a small saucepan, combine wine and sugar and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Let boil for 1 to 2 minutes and remove from heat. Place raspberries in a bowl and pour the wine mixture over the raspberries.

Refrigerate and let soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Slice cake and dust each serving with powdered sugar. Then, top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream and spoonful of wine-soaked raspberries.

Copyright © 2014 by Chloe Coscarelli from CHLOE’S VEGAN ITALIAN KITCHEN published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
 Cover Photo: Photography by Miki Duisterhof,   Recipe Photo: Photography by Teri Lyn Fisher

No-Bake Chocolate Hemp Truffles Anyone Can Make

First off, a confession: These are just tasty, dessert-y, chocolate balls (that yes, I somehow . But Somehow, calling them Truffles instead of Balls or Balls of Deliciousness just sounded better. So yeah. Second off: It is impossible to eat just one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Ingredients
1/4 cup cocoa or raw cacao or carob powder
1/3 cup Hemp Pro70 Chocolate
1 cup nut or seed butter (stirred well, really well)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (you can use agave syrup if you’d like, or honey if you eat it!)
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp Hemp Hearts (I also throw these in shakes and salad dressings for an extra dose of “hey, I’m doing a good thing, body!”)

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl to create a uniform texture.
2. Fold in wet ingredients by hand.
3. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in Hemp Hearts.

Pro-tip: Make a double batch. Especially if you use them for post-workout recovery. Erm, or, just to fuel your bedroom dancing to the 48th Annual CMA Awards. Yeah, or that.

One-Step Cinnamon Apple Pie Pudding

Okay, fine. Two Step (OMG, DMB reference) if you count putting it in the fridge. If that’s too much effort for you, I don’t know what to say folks. And don’t let the recipe name above fool you into thinking this is just a swirl of calorie and sugar-loaded decadence. Quite the opposite: Fiber. Check. Whole grains. Check. Protein. Check.


Overnight Apple Pie Breakfast Pudding
•1 container (6 oz) plain Greek Style yogurt (such as So Delicious Greek Style Plain Almond Milk Yogurt)
•1/3 cup Grape Nuts Cereal
•¼ cup diced green apple
•½ cup vanilla almond milk
•2 Tablespoons slivered almonds
•2 teaspoons chia seeds
•¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Add all ingredients in a pint size mason jar. Secure lid and shake well. Store in refrigerator overnight. Enjoy chilled for breakfast the next morning.

Note: I adapted the original recipe slightly and added more cinnamon, a teaspoon of flax seeds and a drizzle of agave nectar. Feel free to play with the fruits (raspberries or blueberries would be a welcome swap for apples) and nuts (walnuts work well too).

Recipe and photography courtesy of Kristina VanniFor more great recipes check out www.Grape-Nuts.com or www.Facebook.com/GrapeNutsCereal.

Zoom Through Your Work Week with These Grape-Nuts Energy Bars

If you know anything about my eating habits, you probably know that it’s quite difficult to find me,  without a box, heck, an entire House of Cards season-worth stash of Grape-Nuts. I mix them into smoothies; sprinkle cinnamon and flaxseed over them with a handful of berries and call it breakfast; and I get weird looks when I drizzle a half cup over fried bananas as my go-to late night snack. Needless to say, when Post Cereal shared this recipe with me for my blog from Kristina Vanni, I knew my quest for the perfect snack bar had ended. Behold! Trust me when I say these energy bars will give you that jolt to make it through the morning grind or a pick-me-up come that 3:00pm hey-why-isn’t-it-nap-time o’clock. National Nutrition Month never tasted so good.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup Grape Nuts
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
 1 flax egg (combine three tablespoons water and one tablespoon flaxseed meal, stir and let sit for five minutes)
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup agave nectar or molasses
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounce package pitted prunes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips such as Enjoy Life
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with nonstick aluminum foil making extended edges, or can use regular foil and coat with cooking spray; set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, combine oats, Grape Nuts, flours, flaxseed, cinnamon, and salt; stir to combine.

Add flax egg, banana, honey, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla; mix well. Stir in chopped prunes, walnuts, chocolate chips, and sesame seeds. Mix well to combine; dough will be stiff.

Transfer to prepared baking pan and pat in mixture evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes until edges are browned.

Cool completely on wire rack in pan. Use edges of foil to pick up and flip out onto a cutting board and cut into 24 squares.

P.S. Hate prunes? Swap ’em for dried apricots! Got pumpkin seeds? Throw ’em in. How about some leftover shredded coconut you’re looking to kill? In they go! Feel free to experiment with your mix-ins and flavor the bars to your own personal taste.

For more great recipes check out www.Grape-Nuts.com or www.Facebook.com/GrapeNutsCereal.

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever…That Just Happens to Be Vegan and Gluten Free

I know what you’re thinking. The cake pictured above cannot be good for you. And there’s certainly no way it tastes good if it’s vegan and gluten free to boot. It simple cannot. Admittedly, that’s what I feared too. Fortunately, I thought very, very wrong. This practically healthy, fiber-rich cake from baking godsend, Vegan Divas even got my dessert-averse boyfriend and sugar-tooth lacking father sneaking seconds. Since I served the cake at a gathering to celebrate Robert Burns, known as Burns Supper, celebrating his January 25th (1759, folks) birthday, I adorned it with some crafty candles (dork alert). Fair warning: The decadent, dark chocolate-y smell of the fragrant cake might transform your guests into a must-eat-cake coma, so delay serving at your own risk.

Ingredients
6 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups organic coconut milk or vanilla soy milk, gently heated
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla
1 14-oz can organic pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cup organic golden brown sugar
1/2 cup GF almond flour 
2 tablespoons tapioca or potato starch
1 tablespoon dry Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger

Instructions:

Place the chocolate pieces in the Vita-Mix (or a high speed blender container); add the heated hemp milk. Cover tightly- use caution with hot liquids. Turn on the mixer to high. Blend until chocolate pieces are melted. Add the vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree. Cover. Blend a minute.

Add the brown sugar, almond flour, tapioca, egg replacer, xanthan gum, sea salt, baking powder, cinnamon or ginger. Cover. Blend on high for a minute. Turn it off (unplug it for safety if you have kids nearby). Open the top and using a plastic spatula scrape down the sides if any flour is sticking to the sides- if you’re using a food processor instead, do the same. Cover. Plug back in.

Blend for another minute or two until the batter is creamy and smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan (valentine’s tin can) ; scrape all the batter out with a smallish silicone spatula. Smooth the top evenly.
Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is firm- anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes. Check the cake sooner if your experience indicates that flourless cakes and pies bake up quicker than 50 minutes; also, if your experience is that these types of recipes bake longer- check at 50 to 55 minutes; and follow your instincts. The center will be the last to cook- it shouldn’t be wiggly.
Cool the cake on a wire rack. The top will collapse a bit- no worries. When the cake has cooled, cover and chill it at least two hours before serving. The longer the better. 

Chilling creates a dense fudgy cake.

Serve with chocolate sauce, a few ripe berries, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or a few fresh mint leaves.

Don’t think you can pull it off yourself? Fear not! Order the delectable cake here for Valentine’s Day, along with a wide variety of other Vegan Divas’ pastries and goodies.

Serves 8 to 10. (Or in my case, devoured by six with a side of So Delicious Dairy Free Almond Milk Ice Cream which I don’t think any of my guests would have been able to guess it was vegan, too)

Whoops, got the candles wrong…

Ah, there we go. Much better.