Vegan Chocolate Pudding

The first time I had vegan chocolate pudding was when I picked up a small container of it from Whole Foods.  I read the ingredient list which was not scary nor was it long, so I dumped into the cart.  It did use silken tofu as a base and while I don’t really dig on tofu, I decided to be open-minded and give it a try.

From that point we were hooked and would purchase it on occasion when making a Whole Foods trip.  However, like most things at Whole Foods, their pudding was overpriced and on the small side (sorry WF but you know it’s true).  I decided to look into making my own.  I checked a few recipes online just to get a basic idea of what is needed, reviewed the ingredient list of the Whole Foods version and started experimenting.

What I am currently doing takes no more than like five minutes prep time and uses only four ingredients.  It’s still a work in progress but so far it’s damn tasty and when your husband begs you to make him some Vegan Chocolate Pudding, it’s safe to assume you are on the right track.

Andrea’s Vegan Chocolate Pudding

  • 1 pkg. (1lb) of organic silken tofu
  • 4TBSP (heaping) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 4TBSP Maple Syrup
  • Pinch (1/2tsp) of Organic Unrefined Cane Sugar

Drain as much of the liquid off of the tofu that you can and dump into a blender.  Add in the other ingredients and blend until everything is well combined.  Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Allowing the tofu to set back up.  Spoon into dishes and enjoy!

P.S. Or just eat straight from the bowl like we do!

I’m trying to experiment with different tofu textures because while this is a great pudding, it isn’t quite as thick as I would like it to be.  The one from Whole Foods was extremely thick and decadent but they also used silken tofu so I’m not sure how they achieved that.  I tried straining the tofu to get as much liquid out as I could but that didn’t really help matters.  I think maybe I need to not use the silken and try a slightly firmer tofu.

The pinch of cane sugar gives it just the right amount of sweetness that you won’t get from only using maple syrup.  I tried using only cane sugar and the texture ends up being a little bit grainy.  This combo works out really well, if you like sweeter though, then by all means use more sugar to suit your tastes.

You can use a food processor to mix if you don’t have a blender.

I like the concept because it presented me with a different way to view tofu.  Like I mentioned, I’m not a huge tofu fan.  The texture is weird and even marinaded, it tastes bland to me.  Creating this pudding gave me a chance to work with tofu in a new way and I realized that tofu doesn’t just have to be baked or stir-fried.  It has loads of possibilities!

This is a great tasting treat!  A lovely dessert that you can feel good about eating.  Pair it with some red wine and you have a great dessert on your hands.

Enjoy! And remember, always play your food!

Reindeer Crunch

Reindeer Crunch by Off Her Cork I have come across a snack mix that is typically referred to as Puppy Chow.  It is a snack mix that is covered with tons of powdered sugar and is typically seen during the holiday season.  Has it made an appearance near you?

I have never eaten this snack mix before.  First of all it’s covered in powdered sugar which means it’s gonna be major sweet.  And secondly, it’s called Puppy Chow for frack’s sake.  I’m not eating that.  At the risk of sounding totally snotty, I don’t even feed my dog kibble, you think I’m gonna touch something that is named after some crappy dog food?

Fat chance.

I don’t know what prompted me to look into this snack mix a bit further but I did and realized that it’s pretty easy to make.

I decided to come up with my own recipe because most of the other recipes I saw used lots of butter or shortening.  Even the vegan versions used vegan shortening.

Totally unnecessary!  I knew I could come up with something better AND it’s not named after a really crappy dog food, it has a festive cute name instead.  If you don’t dig on Reindeer Crunch, feel free to call it “Stuff” or “Addicting” instead, I won’t be mad at ya.

Andrea’s Reindeer Crunch

  • 4C of Kashi Honey Heart to Heart Cereal
  • 2C Mini pretzels
  • 1C Unsweetened Banana Chips
  • 1.5C Dark chcolate chips
  • 1/2C All natural Peanut Butter
  • 1/2TBSP Coconut oil
  • 2.5C Powdered sugar

In a very large bowl mix the cereal, pretzels, and banana chips together.  In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, peanut butter, and coconut oil together until smooth and creamy.  Remove from heat and pour over top of the mixture in the bowl.  Stir to make sure everything is coated with the chocolate mixture.  Start adding in the powdered sugar until everything is white and covered in sugar.

Immediately start stuffing your face with your new snack mix.

I used coconut oil in place of the butter and shortening I saw in other recipes.  I also decreased the amount a great deal.  Using several tablespoons of butter or shortening is totally unnecessary and a bit excessive.  In fact I don’t even think the coconut oil is even required.  I bet this would work just as well without it.

I like Kashi cereals but if you want to use Honey Nut Cheerios instead, knock yourself out.  That would work just fine.

You probably could melt the chocolate, peanut butter, and coconut oil in the microwave but a double boiler is super easy to make and I think results in a creamier better tasting chocolate.  If you want to try the microwave, give it a shot, I’m not making any promises though!

I do have two sticking points.

1. Don’t use crap chocolate, get good chocolate.  This means bypass the Hershey’s or store brand chips and get yourself some nice chocolate.  I used Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips.

2. When I say all natural peanut butter, I mean it.  No Jif, or Skippy, or anything like that.  I am talking peanut butter where the ingredients consist of two items: peanuts and salt.  That’s it.  The kind of peanut butter you have to stir first and then store in the fridge.  Trust me, your body and your friends will thank you for this choice.

This is a recipe that is easy and can be done in like 5 minutes.  It’s also a recipe that can make a ton if you need it for parties or perhaps for some gift giving. :)

Happy Holidays!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Zucchini LoafNot that long ago I had a hankering for some chocolate zucchini bread.  Or at least I assumed this was the case, as I had never actually had chocolate zucchini bread.

Zucchini bread, yes.  But it was always the same way, spicy and more along the lines of like a carrot cake, spice cake kind of taste.  Lots of cinnamon, clove, and allspice in the mix.

That wasn’t exactly what I envisioned.  I wanted a dense chocolate quick bread with some zucchini in it.  I started looking around for recipes to see what I could find.  There were loads out there!

But they all had tons of sugar, white flour, and a load of eggs in them.

This is where my knack to never follow a recipe comes in handy.  I looked at the recipes to get an idea of the basic ingredients and then I created my own chocolate zucchini bread recipe.

Andrea’s Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2C shredded zucchini
  • 1/3C light olive oil
  • 1 egg white (or 3 TBSP of egg whites from a carton)
  • 1C soymilk (plus a few extra splashes at the end)

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2C Whole Wheat Pastry flour (or regular WW flour is fine)
  • 1C Unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2tsp Baking soda
  • 2tsp Baking powder
  • 1/4C Cane sugar
  • 4TBSP Unsweetened Dark Chocolate Powder
  • 2TBSP Ground flax
  • 2tsp Ground cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2tsp)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (just a small, very wee pinch)
  • Pinch kosher salt (very small amount)
  • 1.5C Dark chocolate chips (can use milk if prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients, making sure everything is incorporated.  Then slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring gently to combine everything.  You want to fold everything together, easily as possible.  This is a very thick and dense mixture.  You may need to add a few splashes of soymilk in to help the ingredients combine and move along.  However do not add more than an extra 1/3C.  Add in the extra amount a tablespoon at a time.  This will help keep the mixture thick and dense.

Once everything is combined, place mixture in a loaf pan (I used a 9x5x3 loaf glass pan) that was sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes.  Or until a toothpick inserted in the center (highest peak) comes out clean.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes or so, then slice and enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread slice Let me state right up front that this is not a very sweet bread.  You can see from the ingredients, I’m only adding in 1/4C of cane sugar.  I don’t care for sweets much and most recipes called for something like 2C or so of sugar.  Holy crap that’s a lot of sugar!  Not for this sister!  A quarter cup of sugar is plenty.  This is a decedent and rich chocolate zucchini bread and beyond amazing.  I was so pleased with the way this came out and both Scott and I adore it.

Now let’s talk about the ingredients a bit.  To me, this is a very healthy snack.  I like to snack every so often and I like to indulge my wild side but at the same time, I like keeping things healthy.  It’s how I prefer to be, and this bread makes for a nice healthy treat.

Do you have to use whole wheat flour?  No, if you want to use all purpose for the whole thing, knock your socks off!  If you want to add more sugar, go for it. If you don’t have ground flax, don’t sweat it!  You can also use regular milk too if you like.

I like organic cane sugar because it’s healthier but if you have white sugar on hand, you can use that.

I also use olive oil because if I have to add oil to a recipe, it’s going to be a good oil.  If you have vegetable or canola, feel free to use that.  I like olive because of it’s added health benefits.

This is my vision of what a perfect chocolate zucchini bread is like.  The beauty of recipes is that we can play around with ingredients!  So you can do whatever your little heart desires.

I encourage you to not forget the cayenne though because it adds such a nice warmth to the flavor.  Cinnamon is very spicy and provides a nice heat.  The addition of cayenne takes that heat a little bit further and gives it some depth as well.  Trust me on this, go for the cayenne!

I have used vanilla and plain soymilk in this recipe and both work very well.  I also have used milk and dark chocolate chips, and again, both work really well.  My preferred chocolate powder is Ghirardelli but use whatever you have on hand.

chocolate zucchini muffin I’ve also made this into muffins instead of a loaf, and they also came out great!  Makes just shy of 24 muffins.  Cook time is reduced to about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

This also makes for a great prerun snack the night before a morning run. :D  It’s carblicious and dense so it sticks with you.  I can also tell you that the chocolate zucchini bread goes great with red wine, white wine, and beer.  Pumpkin beer is a fabbo accompaniment!

If you’re craving some chocolate, give this bread a try and tell me what you think!

ETA: I also wanted to mention that this bread freezes very well.  Stick in a freezer bag and forget about it till you need a little chocolaty snack. :)

Remember guys, have fun and always play with your food!  Enjoy!

Cocoa-Chili Rubbed Chicken Thighs

Cocoa-Chili Rub

Cocoa-Chili Rub

I have seen people use cocoa powder before in savory recipes and it always interested me.  However, I’ve never been inspired enough nor had that spark of creativity to come up with a use for it till now.  I was watching some Food TV one Sunday morning and at the same time thinking about what I can make for dinner that evening.  I like to create sort of traditional Sunday Suppers for us and when the warm weather arrives, both of us love when Sunday Supper includes grilling.

I started going through the inventory sheet in my mind of things I had on hand that I could use with cocoa powder.  One of my favorite combinations is dark chocolate and dried cranberries.  Normally I’m not much of a fruit + chocolate person but there is just something about the slight bitterness of dark chocolate paired with the sweet tartness of cranberry that makes me sigh with delight.

I decided to work with this combo and create a grilled chicken dish around those flavors.  I knew this would be perfect to try out on some chicken thighs and bringing out poultry means making a brine.  That’s where the cranberry comes in.  Ready to cook with chocolate?

Andrea’s Cocoa-Chili Rubbed Chicken Thighs

For the Brine:

  • 1.5C Unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 2C Water
  • 1/3C Kosher salt
  • 3TBSP Packed brown sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 Medium onion, chunked
  • 2 stalks celery, chunked
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2tsp Ground Black pepper
  • 1tsp Garlic powder
  • 2tsp Chili Powder
  • 1tsp Smoked paprika
  • Pinch Cayenne pepper
  • Pinch Red pepper flakes
  • 5-6 Bone-in chicken thighs

For the Rub:

  • 1tsp Dark Cocoa powder
  • 2tsp Chili powder
  • 1/2tsp Garlic powder
  • 1tsp Grill Seasoning (salt free)

The brine gets created first.  In a large deep bowl combine the cranberry juice, salt, sugar, and water.  Stir everything together until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Then add in the onions, celery, and remaining seasonings, stir to combine.  Add in the chicken, and then add more water so that the chicken is completely covered and submerged in the brine.  Place bowl in the fridge and allow the chicken to brine for at least 6 hours.

About an hour before you are going to grill the chicken, remove the chicken from the brine.  Give a quick rinse and pat dry, placing chicken on a plate.  Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl.  Then rub down the chicken with the cocoa chili rub making sure that the entire thigh is covered.  Allow the chicken thighs to sit in the rub for at least 1/2 an hour.

Heat grill and cook the thighs until cooked through, about five minutes each side.  Remove from grill, allow thighs to rest for about 2 minutes and then serve.

This recipe turned out so much better than I expected.  Admittedly I was a little nervous working with cocoa powder in a savory dish because I had never done that before.  We’re always afraid of the unknown, right?  As it was grilling, the chicken smelled amazing.  Which made Scott and I both very excited to try this new dish!  We kept pacing around the deck watching the clock so we could eat already.

The thing that stood out the most was the visual presentation, the chicken having a nice dark color from the rub.  Chili powder is a deep color on it’s own, by adding the cocoa powder, not only does it add another depth to the flavor but it also brings more richness to the color of the chicken as it cooks.

Grilled Chicken Thighs

Grilled Chicken Thighs

The flavor of the chicken was beyond what I was expecting.  Chili powder has a spicy heat to it which is enhanced by the sweet yet slightly bitterness of the cocoa powder.  It provides a rich deep flavor that I wasn’t quite expecting and ended up loving.

I don’t eat meat all that much and when I make something like chicken, I prefer bone-in skin on pieces.  The chicken is more moist as it cooks because of the skin and usually bone-in pieces are larger providing you with more for your money because they are also cheaper cuts of meat.  I don’t eat the skin, I take it off.  It’s purpose is to provide flavor and keep the chicken from drying out.  However, this does not mean you have to do the same.  If you prefer boneless, skinless, by all means use that.

I used unsweetened cranberry juice because it was going into a brine and I wanted to control the sugar amount.  Plus unsweetened juice is much better for you and there’s no worry of fake or chemical additives.

Cocoa-Chili Rubbed Grilled Chicken Thighs

Cocoa-Chili Rubbed Grilled Chicken Thighs

I started with 1tsp of cocoa powder since this was my first attempt using it in a savory dish.  Next time I make this, I’m going to try adding a bit more cocoa and see what happens.  I’ll probably go up to 1.5tsp.  If you make this and want to pump up the cocoa amount, go for it!

This was a great intro recipe for using cocoa powder in savory dishes.  I can’t wait to start experimenting more and seeing what I can do!

Enjoy guys! And remember, always play with your food!