Tag Archives: chocolate

Truly Healthy Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

3 May

“Healthy” and “Cookie” are two words that rarely belong together.  No matter how hard we try, nutritious cookies most often resemble muffins in texture: cakey and soft, not crisp or chewy.

Most of the better-for-you cookie recipes that I’ve stumbled cross use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter and contain oats for added fibre.  These are admirable steps in the right direction, but unfortunately do not address the sugar issue.  Cookies are so delectable because they are SWEET.  Reducing the amount of sugar to the point where the cookie still tastes good is no easy feat.

That being said, I did a double-take when I stumbled across this recipe for oatmeal cookies in my Moosewood ‘Cooking for Health’ cookbook.  For two dozen cookies, it called for 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, as a comparison, uses ½ cup butter and ¾ cup sugar for the same number of cookies.  As an added bonus, the Moosewood cookie was void of white flour.  It was replaced by a bit of whole wheat flour and a whole lot of rolled oats.  Something must be fishy here, I thought.

My skepticism was replaced with awe when the cookies emerged from the oven.  For the first time, a legitimately healthy cookie that was crisp, not cakey.  And they were sweet!  Thanks in part to the addition of chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Oatmeal Cookie 2

The only downside to these cookies is the very loose “dough” that results from very little butter and a lot of oats.  You might wonder to yourself “how will these things ever stay together?” as your stare at the gloppy mess in your hands.  Miraculously, the cookies manage to firm up when baked.  To help them take shape, press the dough together as best as you can once it’s on the cookie sheet.  Dipping your fingers in a bit of water works well.

Oatmeal Cookie 3

Tonight I wanted to see whether this recipe could be used as a versatile oatmeal cookie base for a variety of mix’ins.  The cranberries were replaced with banana chips and I omitted the nuts.  The cookies turned out wonderfully, and actually held together a bit better than on previous attempts.  I now know that the possibilities are endless!  Any ingredient suggestions for my next cookie endeavour?

Oatmeal Cookie 1


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Cranberries, and Walnuts
(from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable, olive, canola, walnut, or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat flour works just as well)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-½ cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts (or any other nut, e.g. pecan, cashew, almond, hazelnut)

  1. In a bowl with an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the butter and oil until well blended and smooth.  Beat in the sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add the egg and beat until creamy and smooth.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and stir until well blended.  Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, and nuts.  The batter will be chunky.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop a dozen rounded tablespoons of the dough, evenly spaced, on each sheet.  You may need to use your fingers to clump the dough together.  Press each spoonful of dough down with a fork dipped in water.  The cookies will not spread so flatten well!
  3. Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are light brown around the edges.  Remove the cookies and place them on a wire rack to cool.  Store in a covered container.

Makes 24 cookies.  Per cookie: 98 kcal, 12 g CHO, 1 g fibre, 5 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g protein, 69 mg sodium.

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FlourLESS (but FlavourFUL) Black Bean Brownies

7 Mar

Although it never truly disappeared, my sweet tooth is back with a vengeance.  For the past month or so, I’ve been keeping my chocolate cravings under control by turning to frozen berries.  They’ve consistently been on sale as of late, making this otherwise expensive habit a little bit more affordable.

Tonight I had the pleasure of going out for a lovely dinner with my fellow interns and our mentors.  Naturally, the discussion revolved around food and eating– two of our favourite pastimes.  As we discussed our preferred desserts, I was overcome with the desire to bake something chocolately and delicious.  I was in the kitchen within minutes of arriving home, measuring cups in hand and cocoa powder on the counter.

Flipping through my clipped recipes, I came across a recipe for Black Bean Brownies that I had not yet attempted.  Chocolately?  Check.  Easy?  Very.  Minimal dishes to wash?  Perfect!

Last year I went through a major black bean brownie baking phase.  I had one recipe that I continually tweaked in an attempt to make it as healthy as possible.  Unfortunately, the taste suffered and the brownies were never palatable enough to share with others.  Thankfully, E claimed to enjoy said brownies and he had no problem finishing off my less-than-successful batches.  I’m pretty sure he was just saying this to make me feel better… what a good boyfriend!

Tonight’s recipe was much more successful.  The texture is hard to describe but certainly different from your typical brownie.  Moist yet crumbly (is that an oxymoron?), full of chocolately flavour, and perhaps even a TOUCH too sweet.  This brownie is definitely more nutritious than the average, although the amount of sugar in this recipe moves them to the “borderline healthy” category.  Either way, these chocolately treats are worth sharing!  (Unlike my previous attempts).

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownie

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies (from somewhere on the Internet…)

Make sure you wait until the brownies have fully cooled before removing them from the pan.  They tend to stick, so be sure to use a sturdy spatula!

1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed well
3 eggs
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee (optional) – I didn’t have any on hand but wished I did!
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)  – I omitted these– might have made the brownies overly sweet?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the black beans, eggs, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, and instant coffee (if using) until smooth.
  3. Add baking powder and process briefly to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  If using, evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.
  5. Bake until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 16 brownies.  Per brownie:  104 kcal, 4 g fat, 1.5 g fibre.

Tofu: the Culinary Chameleon

5 Feb

Tofu seems to be gaining a little bit more respect from the masses than it used to garner.  Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still considered to be bland and unappealing by most.

One of the beautiful things about tofu is that it easily takes on the flavour of other ingredients.  It’s truly a bona-fide culinary chameleon.  After a conversation about protein with a couple of friends several weeks back (you know– a usual Saturday night topic of discussion!), I went looking for a hummus recipe that incorporates silken tofu.  I thought this might lend a nice creamy texture to hummus while adding protein of a higher biological value.

The recipe I found was titled “The Most Awesome Hummus Ever.”  While tasty, I still think “my” spicy roasted red pepper hummus is the most awesome. Ever. No question about it.

Tofu and Chickpea Hummus

The tofu-hummus was a milder, creamier version of traditional hummus.  Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan– the chickpea flavour wasn’t nearly as potent as I’m used to– but over time I really came to enjoy its subtleness.  This hummus is also a lot creamier than usual (thanks to the tofu), making it ideal for dipping.  Like a fine wine, this hummus gets better with age.  Wait at least one hour to taste this hummus, particularly if you’re weary of tofu in the first place.  The tofu flavour is just barely noticeable at first but vanishes with time.

With the extra tofu, I decided to make silken chocolate pudding.  A true testament to the chameleon nature of tofu: the same ingredient was used in both a garlicky hummus and a rich chocolately dessert!  Believe it or not, the tofu was virtually undetectable in the pudding (again, providing you allow the pudding to sit for at least one hour).  If you can’t resist the temptation to lick the bowl/spatula/any other surface that comes in contact with the chocolate pudding… be warned: you will taste the tofu, and you’ll probably be turned off of the entire dessert.  However, if you’re patient the result is an incredibly rich, chocolately mousse-like pudding… that also happens to be high in protein for a dessert.  It’s particularly amazing topped with sliced bananas. Yum!

Silken Chocolate Pudding

 

Chickpea and Tofu Hummus  (from Circle B Kitchen)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup silken/soft tofu  (approx a third of a package)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Blend ingredients in food processor until very smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Makes approximately 2.5 cups.  Per 1/3 cup serving: 110 kcal, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 2.5 g fibre, 175 mg sodium.

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Silken Chocolate Pudding
(from Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking for Health cookbook)

This is the scaled down version of the recipe, which will allow you to use up all of the tofu leftover from the hummus.

2/3rds of a 16oz package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons icing sugar
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (I’ve used as little as 3 ounces and it still tastes sufficiently chocolately)
4 tablespoons water (or milk)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. In a food processor, whirl the tofu and icing sugar until well blended.  In the microwave, warm the chocolate, water/milk, cocoa, and vanilla until the chocolate melts.  Stir until thoroughly mixed. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
  2. Pour the chocolate sauce into the food processor with the tofu mixture.  Whirl again until smooth and silky.
  3. Spoon into 4 serving cups and chill for at least one hour.  Tastes best if left to sit overnight.

Per 1/3 cup serving (of 4): 245 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g protein, 3 g fibre, 9 mg sodium.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! Pudding

10 Jul

Remember Chia pets?  I never owned one but the commercials always gave me a little chuckle. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here to take a peek)

The seeds used to grow the Chia pet’s “fur” are– you guessed it– chia seeds, and they just so happen to be a nutritional powerhouse.  One serving (2 tablespoons) contains 5 grams of fibre and 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (approximately double the recommended minimum intake).  In addition, chia seeds are a source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium.

Chia Seeds

How to eat chia seeds, you ask?  They are neutral in flavour and can be eaten raw so the sky’s the limit.  The brilliant thing about them is that they absorb liquid readily, forming an interesting gel-like consistency.  For this reason, they’ve become popular as a thickening agent in smoothies and as an egg substitute in vegan baked goods.

I tried eating them raw but I wasn’t thrilled with their crunchy texture (it was like eating a mouthful of poppy seeds), not to mention the fact that I ended up with most of the seeds lodged between my teeth.  Unwilling to give up, I did some Googling and stumbled across my new favourite (healthy) dessert: chia pudding.

The concept sounds odd, the pudding itself looks even more bizarre (check out the photo below), but there’s something about this chia pudding that has me hooked!  It perfectly satisfies my post-dinner chocolate craving and the fibre makes it rather filling.

Note: Chia seeds can be purchased at bulk food stores.  There are two varieties: black chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) and white chia seeds (Salba), with both varieties considered to be equally nutritious.

Chocolate Chia Pudding


Chocolate Chia Pudding
(adapted from OhSheGlows.com)

2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water + 3/4 cup cold or room temperature water
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 cups soy milk (or cow’s milk, or almond milk, etc.)
2 tbsp maple syrup/honey/sweetener of your choice

  1. Mix cocoa powder with hot water in a large bowl.  Stir with a fork until cocoa clumps disappear.  Add cold water and stir.
  2. Add chia seeds and soy milk.  Stir continuously for 1 minute, ensuring that all seeds have come into contact with the liquid.
  3. Add sweetener of your choice.  Stir pudding every 10 minutes, for 30 minutes.  Serve immediately, if desired, or divide pudding into 4 bowls and refrigerate.  Note: Pudding will thicken as it sits.  For best results, let sit overnight.  This gives you an extra-thick pudding.   

Makes 4 servings, approximately 1 cup each.  Per serving: 130 kcal, 6 g fat, 6 g fibre