Better for you Chocolate Cake

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I was just reading some fun facts about chocolate in the hope of getting some interesting content to grab your attention, dear readers. There is a lot of quirky facts like the one that says that Emperor Montezuma II drank 50 cups of chocolate a day (WOW) or the fact that Quaker Oats sponsored the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to promote their Wonka Chocolate Bar and that is the reason why the book and the movie have different names (The book is actually called Charlie and The Chocolate Factory).cake above

However the one that really caught my eye was this: A 2004 study in London found that 70% of people would reveal their passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar.

What the hell!! are we that stupid as a species? Apparently we have not evolved a lot since swapping mirrors for gold on the beaches of South America or getting distracted with bananas. It made me chuckle though… chocolate is pretty enticing as a prize and personal online security is surely over valued…isn’t it?

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Do not worry though, I am asking for nothing in exchange for this chocolate recipe and as per this blog’s custom, it has been stripped of all nasties and converted into something that you can serve at a children’s party and then take the leftovers to enjoy with a cup a of tea once everyone has left. Delicious, beautiful and wholesome, it is made with wholemeal flour, a couple of extra bits of fibre, low impact sugar and lower fat alternatives but just as delicious as it should be.

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I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g wholemeal flour

25g oat bran

200g  birch sugar/xylitol

85 g pure cocoa powder

1½ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 organic, happy eggs or 2 flax eggs

250ml oat milk (or any milk, to your tasting)

125ml sunflower oil

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

250ml hot water

For the icing:

200g dark sugar free chocolate

200ml reduced fat double cream

How to…

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

For the cake, mix all the ingredients into a mixing bowl except the boiling water. Beat the mixture until smooth and well combined. Now add the hot water to the mixture, little by  little until completely combines. The resulting batter will be quite liquid. Leave to set for 10 minutes.

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Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. You might have to cover the top with foil half way to avoid it from burning. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tins.

For the chocolate coverage, heat the chocolate and cream in a pan on low heat or au bain marie until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until smooth, glossy. Set aside to cool for 1 hour so it is not too liquid.

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Take the cake out of the tin, with a long round bladed knife cup it in half and separate the two carefully. Spread the icing over the top of the bottom half of the cake, then put the other one on top and pour the rest over the top. You can work on your drops to make it look more artistic. Leave to cool and the chocolate icing to harden and then decorate with fresh figs and mint leaves before serving. Edible flowers are always a plus.

Yum!

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Apple Galette: a healthy treat

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It is ironic how the language is sometimes a better historical trail than carbon 14 readings. I cannot get my head around the moment in which the human beings came up with the sentence “one apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

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Apples belong to the botanical genre Malus. Malus is the latin root that means “not good” and it gave origin to many wonderful words such as maleficent and malefic in English but also to the word mal (evil) in Spanish. It is in origin an Asian tree and as a fun fact for the day, it did not exist in America until the colonist took it there. There are many different varieties of apple trees and apple and its history is long and twisting, from being the forbidden tree to the inspiration for the original theory of Gravity by Sir Isaac Newton.

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It’s darker character made it the vessel for the poison in Snow White’s tale and the bright red color of some variants make it perfect to represent temptation. Granny Smith, an Australian old lady bred a particularly sour one. Golden Delicious lives up to its name and there are a myriad of wild unchartered types to be found in small orchards.

They are long lived fruits, they last months in a dry clean place and for that reason they were kept during the winter months in barrels, getting wrinkles and a bit drier with the weeks passing by and still sweet and full goodness. Malus, if you ask me, doesn’t quite make them justice.

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If like me, you have left your apples for too long and they start to be a bit wrinkly, this is what you can do with them.

Ingredients (makes 4 small galettes or 2 large ones)

For the crust:

  • 2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1 tbs coconut flour (optional for extra fibre, if not available, more normal flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil  or coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg or 2 flax egg replacements
  • pinch sea salt

For the filling

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond butter
  • 2 tbsps apple puree
  • 2 apples without the core, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar

How to…

For the dough, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead until you get a ball of dough that is a little sticky but you can work with. Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes. Take out and divide in 2 or 4 according to your plans. Form 4 discs of approximately half a centimetre thick.

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Preheat the over 180C.

Mix in a bowl the almond butter, the apple pure and the cinnamon and cover the base of the discs of dough leaving 2 cm to the end with no mixture. Then lay the thinly cut apple slices overlapping as in the picture. Sprinkle with coconut sugar and more cinnamon.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until it looks golden brown. Serve with a bit of low fat cream.

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Healthy home made Nutella

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I realised last week that some of you actually read what I write, so I am going to have to start measuring my words! Strange how we project our digital voice to the void and we listen carefully to what the wind brings in return.

I am one of those people that stick a finger in the bottle of Nutella. Cheeky and shameless I scoop as much as I possibly can and i rush it to my mouth to stop it from dripping (which I only succeed every now and then).  We all know it isn’t the best of snacks but it is so delicious… If like me, you would like to be able to stick your finger in the chocolate pot more often and feel good about it, you have come to the right place.

This Nutella is vegan, sugar free and high in fibre. It takes a bit of processing time but other than that is very simple to make and takes only 3 ingredients.

Ingredients 

150 gr. Hazelnuts

60 gr. birch sugar

50 gr. cocoa powder

20 gr. cocoa butter (optional) or 50 ml. oat milk

How to…

First toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes, without letting them get too toasted. Then mix everything else in a food processor until smooth and try.

You may need to add some more milk, or more cocoa depending on your taste.

If you have cocoa butter it will make the mix a little bit softer that if you don’t, without it, it will be more intense.

Once you have a smooth paste you can keep it in the fridge in an air tight container for 4 weeks.

You can also melt it au bain marie and pour as a sauce on top of pancakes like these:

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Smurf blue nice cream

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It’s been hot today, one of those rare, sunny spells of summer after a gloomy, dark and rainy spring that resembled winter more than anything.

In the midst of acclimatising to a new city, which is again new and lonely, I have been having ups and downs, and to be fair, maybe more downs that ups. It is what it is I suppose, hormones, social interaction, long distance relationships, expectations… those are the worst.  Alexander Pope once said that Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed, and he was not wrong.

On that note, if you expect nice cream to taste like Ben & jerry’s well you are in for a disappointment, but if you let it surprised you… it might actually shine for what it really is, an amazing, healthy alternative to ice cream.

It can be ready in 5 minutes and no one should be feeling guilty about having one more scoop of it. There are many flavours you can try, but today I bring you a post workout one. The vanilla protein flavour with blue spiral (for the colour, children will loooove it).

You will need frozen bananas. Buy too many bananas, let me get ripe, proper ripe, and then peel them and chop them. Freeze them for as long as you wish but no less that 3 hours. In a food processor, put some frozen bananas (about one banana per serving) then add 1/2 a tsp of blue majik/spirulina and 1 measure of vanilla protein powder. A dash of oat milk (or any milk to your tasting) and blend. The texture should be like soft ice cream. You can then pour on a metallic bowl and freeze for an hour before serving with a scoop, but I personally like the soft ice cream texture and I eat it straight away. Naughty me!

I hope you have lots of these this summer, and please let me know if you try it!

No sugar, no fat, no nasties… only good delicious ingredients and a great flavour. I will be bringing you other flavours in time but I am sure you can work out the mechanics yourselves!

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Healthy banana bread

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Not very popular where I come from, making cakes with things like banana and carrot is not something I did when growing up. Now that I have been living abroad for a while and I have been exposed to many other baking styles, carrot cake is absolute favourite cake.

Only a couple of years a loaf style cake caught my attention in a cafeteria, Banana bread said the sign. The bread part is a ruse, non english native speakers, it’s a proper cake. And a good one too! So I started to search for a good recipe and I ended up at the BBC good food site, which quite frankly has all the answers when it comes to culinary questions. I have since adapted it of course, to a sugar free wholegrain version that is a little bit healthier than the original and absolutely delicious.

This is my take on a traditional banana bread…

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Ingredients

  • 285g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter or coconut or sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 200 gr birch sugar (xylitol)
  • 2 happy chicken organic eggs
  • 4 very ripe mashed bananas
  • 85ml buttermilk (works as normal milk with 1½ tsp of vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to..

Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix he flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and birch sugar together until light and fluffy, bear in mind that if using xylitol this won’t happen as with sugar and it will keep being somewhat separated. Don’t worry, it will work out in the over when heated.

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Add the eggs one by one mixing well each before adding another, then the mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sweetener mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture carefully.

Grease a 20cm long loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into it, then put in the oven and bake for about an hour, for the last 20 minutes you might need to cover it with tin foil to stop the cake from darkening in excess. Insert a pick in the middle to know if it’s properly cooked. It should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

If you like the bananas on top as decoration, cut one in half alongside and place before putting in the oven.

Enjoy!

French Onion Soup

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Warming hands and bellies since time inmemorial, I have had an inconsistent love-hate relationship with soups. It has been a few years now that is gone to the love side and I think it will stay there forever.

You see my mother used to feed us the same vegetable soup every day from Monday to Thursday while growing up. Every day, the same thing. Followed by some fish, meat or poultry but the same starter, that is when the hate phase started. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that soups were indeed a whole wide world in themselves and I started being more open minded.

Living in Switzerland for a few years and starting to get into skiing, I got the chance to try this Onion Soup, one of the many Gruyere containing specialities of Valais, and it was love at first sip. It is rich, sweet, sour and salty with those subtle herb flavours from the thyme that made me realise what a great addition to my collection this would be.

So after a trip to the slopes of the Mont Blanc, I trialed it at home and I can say with no doubt that is is an easy one to crack. The key to be honest, is patience. Since I don’t like to use sugar in my recipes unless is absolutely necessary, I stripped my recipe from it and made it for it in time.

The main effect of the sugar in this recipe is to make the onion go dark quickly and facilitate that caramelisation, which to be completely honest, you can achieve but cooking it for 30 minutes instead of 15. Also I find that the longer you cook it the more flavour it will have. My recommendation, this is a real crowd pleaser, so if you have people over, is a great way of impressing them, with a good fresh out of the oven presentation.

If you keep the amount of cheese under control, this is actually a pretty light soup, for an even lighter take, skip the bread or use a rovira type of cracker._XT19943

Ingredients (serves 5)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

3 very large onions finely sliced top to bottom

2 sprigs of thyme 

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml dry white wine

1 heaped tbsp wholegrain flour

50ml brandy/sherry wine

1 litre vegetable stock

5 thick slices of bread, 100% wholegrain sourdough

5 tbsps grated Gruyere cheese

How to…

In a large frying pan heat up the olive oil, when hot, add the chopped onions, the thyme and the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over a medium to low heat, until they are cooked and have a dark brown hue, stir often so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and keep cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the white wine and then let boil until it has reduced by half. Add the brandy or sherry, then add in the stock and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours mix. Pick out the thyme and then pre heat the grill in the oven. Toast the bread on one side and set aside.

Before serving the soup, taste it for salt and correct if needed. Pour the soup into the bowls, top with a slice of bread and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Low Carb Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

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Abrupt mountain slopes rise up to the sky as if trying to touch it. Clean cold air, open lungs, sore muscles, step step step up to the top.

The sun is ruthless, blisters, sweat, the view, the silence. It’s a different world up there.

We forget that traditional food was designed to fit traditional ways of living. Sheep and cows in the high fields, men and women up with the sun and walking with the animals, to the pastures. Small wonder things like a full english breakfast and the shepherd’s pie came about.  For me, sort of small, sort of sitting on my ass half of the day and vegetarian, not such a great option, nutritionally speaking, so I have this new vegan way of cooking one that turned out absolutely delicious, and so easy!

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Ingredients (serves 3)

1 medium cauliflower

250 gr. seitan mince false meat

1/2 red onion

1 carrot

1 glass vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp flour

Salt & Pepper

Pinch of cumin

1 dash of non dairy cream

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 glass of white wine

Nutmeg

How to…

In a pan, cook the onion and the carrot in a bit of olive oil, until tender and transparent. Add the mince and mix well, then add the flour and let stick to the ingredients for half a minute and then add the wine and the cumin. Let it run dry and then add the vegetable stock, let it cook until the water is gone and there is a thick sauce instead. Correct the salt and pepper and distribute in three ramekin or oven proof dishes.

Boil the clean cauliflower until soft. Drain all the water and blend with the cream, the nutmeg a a pinch of salt. Taste to make sure is creamy and top your ramekins with it. If you are not vegan, you can sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheese. If vegan, with a bit of breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!