Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

Fall desserts often involve pumpkin and warming spices, but who says you can’t work a little chocolate into the mix? These Green & Black’s Organic chocolate brownies topped with pumpkin almond butter are the perfect blend of two favourite desserts, pumpkin pie and brownies. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, there’s no better time to try them out than for your holiday meal!

*Recipe courtesy of Regina Braun in collaboration with Green & Black’s

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies
 
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate
  • ⅓ cup butter or coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 cups coconut sugar or unrefined sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pumpkin Almond Butter Frosting:
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-3 tablespoons almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a sauce pan melt Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate and butter/coconut oil on low heat while stirring regularly.
  3. Once melted, stir in the sugar and pumpkin puree, then eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and sea salt. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and fold in without over mixing.
  5. Pour the brownie batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. For fudgy brownies a toothpick inserted into the centre should come out with just a few wet crumbs attached.
  6. Let the brownies cool before frosting and cutting.
  7. For the frosting, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk to achieve desired consistency. Thicker frosting has to be spread, while thinner icing can be drizzled.

 

5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

As the holidays approach, it’s time to start thinking about what to get all of the special people in your life. Here are 5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers (or anyone really), because what’s a better gift than chocolate? Nothing? That’s what I thought.

Pana

1. Pana Chocolate

If you are looking for raw, organic, handmade chocolate, Pana has got you covered. They offer creative flavours from hemp and cacao nibs, to rose, to fig and wild orange. Or for the chocolate purists out there, they also make both 60% and 80% unflavoured raw chocolate. Also, all of their bars are made with coconut oil so they melt on the tip of your like no other.

Chaleur 2

2. Chaleur B Chocolat

This artisanal chocolate producer operates out of Quebec, Canada, producing single origin bars from Uganda and Madagascar to name a few. Their Ugandan milk chocolate is creamy and caramely beyond belief. If you can stop without eating the entire bar, power to you.

Sirene 2

3. Sirene Chocolate

Sirene’s bright yellow packaging alone is enough to perk up anyways day as we enter the wintery months. Sourcing beans primarily from Madagascar and Ecuador, this Canadian company produces a variety of single origin, bean-to-bar, award-winning chocolate. You could buy it for someone else, but I won’t judge if you save it for yourself.

Spencer 3

4. Spencer Cocoa 

Spencer offers only 2 bars; 42% milk chocolate and 72% dark chocolate, but it is a classic example of producing a limited amount of product and producing it really, really well. All of their beans are sourced from Vanuatu, a collection of islands in the South Pacific, so if you’ve got someone in your life that appreciates the unique, this is the chocolate for them.

Montezuma

5. Montezuma’s

This UK company is making flavoured chocolates that are well worth crossing the pond for (or if you can’t do that, order them online). From British flavours like eton mess, and treacle tart, to citrusy offerings like sea salt and lime, and white chocolate with lemon and sour cherry, Montezuma’s makes eating chocolate even more fun than it already is.

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

No time of year warrants sticking to a budget quite like the holidays, yet December is probably the most difficult month to be a penny-pincher; especially when it comes to food. First you’ve got the turkey. A good one will set you back at least $60-70. Then you’ve got to figure out what sides to pair with it. Everyone has their favourites so there really aren’t any you can eliminate. You can’t forget dessert either. Christmas chocolates? Yes please. But $15 for a box of Quality Street or Turtles, say what?

Thankfully good food doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 3 dishes you can prepare to serve up to 6 people, for less than $30. If I did my math correctly, that’s less than $5 per person.

Your friends and family may throw a fit if you don’t have turkey for the holidays, so instead of cooking a whole bird, try opting for legs instead. They are dirt cheap – between $2.50 to $3 per leg – and braising them ensures they stay moist and tender, unlike that dry breast meat that no one likes.

For a side, try making a chickpea salad. Beans and legumes are a great way to add bulk to your meal and are a blank canvas to add a plethora of other flavours. The red and green colours of pomegranate and brussels sprouts scream “holidays” to me!

Finally, dessert is required at all holiday meals, regardless of how full you are. Grandma’s coconut snowballs are the easiest treats you will ever make in your life. You don’t even have to turn the oven on. Still they are a crowd favourite year after year.

I don’t know about you but that’s one tasty sounding budget meal right there. It will have everyone at your table saying “Merry Christmas”, your wallet included!

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BRAISED TURKEY LEGS

Serves 4-6 – costs $14.50

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper and brown them in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You are just looking to sear them, not cook them through.
  2. Remove the browned turkey from the skillet and place it in a large, oven-proof dish.
  3. Add the vegetables and dried herbs to the same skillet you browned the turkey in. Deglaze with chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour the vegetables and stock over the turkey legs. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 3-3.5h, or until tender. You can then use the braising liquid to make a gravy if you like, or you can serve the turkey as is. The turkey can also be braised a day ahead of time and just warmed up when you are ready to serve.

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CHICKPEA SALAD WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND POMEGRANATE

Serves 4-6 – costs $5 total

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2-3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and honey until smooth. Whisk in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine the chickpeas, pomegranate, and brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour in the dressing and stir to combine.
  3. This salad is best eaten after a couple of hours because it allows the dressing to marinate the chickpeas and brussels sprouts. You can ever make ahead of time to serve the next day.

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COCONUT SNOWBALLS

Makes 20 balls – costs $7.50 total

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6-8 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/2 of a typical 350g package)
  • shredded coconut, as needed (about 1-1 1/2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Stir together all ingredients except the shredded coconut.
  2. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and coat each with coconut.
  3. Refrigerate if not eaten immediately.
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A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

Why hello there! What’s happening? I figured since I have a couple days off school it would be a good time to catch up over here on this blog that I seem to forget about 99% of the time. Oops. So what’s going on? Well the November issue of Culinaire is out and I’ve got my usual Tips and Tricks article in it. This month is all about working with spices and you can read about it here (pages 16-17). I’ve also written another food/psychology piece for Eat North, which can be found here. Oh and if you missed all of my exciting ramblings on Facebook, I was on the news! I did a short segment on baking and cooking with apples which was a ton of fun and something I would love to do again. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys public speaking in any and all forms. Well as long as I know what I am talking about that is. There is nothing worse than giving a presentation on a topic you aren’t comfortable and confident speaking about. That being said, when it comes to cooking, I could go on forever.

Outside of food writing, I’m being kept well occupied with grad school applications. It’s a daunting process planning this next phase of my life, especially when the admission rates for clinical psychology are somewhere around 5%. That’s right, it’s easier to get into med school than it is to gain acceptance into a clinical psyc program. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

School itself is good as well. I’m plugging away at my Honours thesis and recently ran participant #19. Only 41 more to go between now and April! It’s hard to believe that after this semester, I only have 3 courses left before I’m finished my degree. Time flies.

Despite all of my food writing, I actually haven’t spent much time experimenting in the kitchen lately. So when Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate sent me some  holiday recipes to share, I was pretty happy to use them as an excuse not to come up with my own material. Sad, I know. But seriously though, how good does this chocolate pecan pie look? Too good not to share, that’s for sure. With the Christmas fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to end a holiday meal. I’m in the midst of helping to plan a work Christmas party and this pie is definitely going on the menu.

That’s it from me for now. Have fun out there! PS. if you bake this chocolate pecan pie, let me know how it turns out. It’s on my to-do list to try it in the very near future!

Chocolate pecan pie
Photo courtesy of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Chocolate Pecan Pie
 
Take your pecan pie to the next level with this chocolate pecan pie, perfect for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 255g (9 oz) Ready-made sweet short crust pastry
  • 85g (3 oz) Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 5 tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large free-range eggs
  • ⅓ cup Superfine sugar (white granulated sugar will work if you cannot find superfine)
  • ½ cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecans (finely chopped)
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecan halves (to decorate)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the shortcrust pastry to the thickness of a quarter. Use it to line an eight inch loose-bottomed quiche pan with 1 ¼ inch straight-edged sides but do not trim off the excess. Chill until needed.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cool slightly.
  4. Place the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl and beat together until smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans, then pour into the pastry. Trim the pastry to ½ an inch above the filling. Decorate the surface with the pecan halves.
  5. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until just set.

 

Maple Marinated Beets and a recipe for Cranberry Vinaigrette

Maple Marinated Beets
Did you all survive Christmas? Cooking up a storm, then cleaning up a storm? You should have seen the bottom of my roaster from the pomegranate molasses glaze I tried to put on the ham. It honestly looked volcanic. I let it soak, then I scrubbed. Soaked some more, scrubbed some more. I did the baking soda and vinegar thing at least 3 times to try to lift off the hardened lava. There are still a few black flecks at the bottom but I think I did pretty well short of just throwing it in the garbage.
Ok so that was the one direction I was not planning on going in. Story of my life. Get it? I make myself laugh. Sometimes I’m the only one but that’s the fun of it. Clearly I need more sleep after going to bed past midnight and waking up at the crack of dawn to take my sister Boxing Day shopping (that was yesterday, I’ve gotten some more sleep now). Thanks bud, thanks.
Anyways what were we talking about? Christmas cooking, my burned pan, One Direction, ahh yes now for some post Christmas recipes. To be truthful, I made both of these dishes for Christmas dinner. But they are healthy. I compensate for the amount of dessert I know is coming by making sides that are actually good for you. I think ahead, I know.
First we’ve got some maple marinated beets. Super simple, super quick. Other than the fact that beets take forever to cook but that time is almost entirely unattended so we’re good. In my family, we are all beet-aholics. We eat them raw, pickled, cooked, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to beets. I love to bring out their inherent sweetness by pairing them with honey or in this case, good old Canadian maple syrup. Like I said, simple, simple, simple.
Next up, cranberry vinaigrette. Why I cooked 2 full bags of cranberries to make sauce for this, I have no frickin’ idea. All I know now is that I have to find a way to use up about 15 hundred cups of cranberry sauce. Well probably only 3 cups but that’s virtually the same thing. My recipe for the vinaigrette really morphed into the entire salad recipe I made, although I never keep track of measurements so I have given you the rough estimates. It’s all about the techniques really. That being said, feel free to add whatever fruits/vegetables/garnishes your little heart desires. Actually the beets would be really good tossed in the vinaigrette too.
Did I mention my mom got us all an ice cream maker for Christmas? Oh by the way, I have also clearly developed ADHD. No but seriously, there will be ice cream coming. How soon, I don’t know. But it is in the works! And before we go back to eating more sugar, let’s indulge in some salads, shall we?
Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Maple Marinated Beets
Maple Marinated Beets
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
Ingredients
5-7 medium to large beets
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
pumpkin seeds, to garnish

Instructions:

1. Start by roasting off your beets. Depending on how big they are, slice them in half or in quarters (leave the skin on). Wrap them in tin foil, put them on a sheet and stick them in the oven at 350-400F for at least an hour. They are done when you can easily insert a knife into them with little resistance. Allow them to cool slightly before peeling and cutting the beets into bite-sized chunks.
2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard and maple syrup in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss the cooked beets in the vinaigrette, allowing them to marinate for at least an hour or two, but preferably overnight. Garnish with pumpkin seeds before serving chilled or at room temperature.

Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Cranberry Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup
Ingredients
1/4 cup cooked and cooled homemade cranberry sauce
2 tbsp. grainy mustard
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey (if your cranberry sauce is really sweet, feel free to omit this)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
1. Using an immersion blender (or normal blender/food processor), puree the cranberry sauce, grainy mustard, dijon mustard and honey.
2. Once it is relatively smooth, blend in the vinegar and then the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Because the dressing is thicker, I suggest serving it with a heartier green like romaine. Arugula or spring mix would be too delicate. I garnished the salad with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese (which I flavoured with some poppy seeds and good balsamic vinegar) and cashew brittle.
The brittle isn’t as much a recipe as it is a technique. All you have to do is caramelize about 1 cup of sugar (I start it with a splash of water to help the sugar dissolve), swirling occasionally to promote even browning. Once it is golden, add roughly 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Do this off the heat as it will foam up and make sure you stir so that it gets evenly incorporated. Then throw in a couple handfuls of cashews or whatever nuts you like. Pour it onto a parchment lined pan and garnish with finishing salt (I used a Hawaiian black lava salt). Let it cool before chopping. There you have it, a gorgeous winter salad.