hazelnut, cacao + buckwheat ‘cacao pops’ – a healthy take on the childhood favourite

I’d hate it when I would get to the end of my bowl of coco-pops and they’d be a soggy, dripping mess. Yes, it was like a chocolate milkshake, but one with the equivalent of about 100 tiny wet socks floating throughout. Alas, not only have I solved that problem, and not only is this granola about a billion times more healthful, but it tastes bloody ace! And you’ll have the comfort of knowing exactly what went into it – always a plus. Coco Pops are a whopping 36% sugar, being only second on the ingredient list after white rice. And don’t let the added vitamins and minerals fool you – you are still far, far away from a wholefood. I mean, it’s not even on the map.

The most important meal of the day is breakfast (yes, it’s true). You are literally ‘breaking the fast’, replenishing glucose levels and setting your metabolism up for the day. Eat an inadequate breakfast, or one high in simple sugars like the many breakfast cereals on offer, and you’re more likely to make poor food choices for the remainder of the day, more than likely remaining in a constant ‘energy slump’. And don’t be fooled into thinking skipping breakfast will help you shed those extra kilos; eating even a small handful of nuts or a piece of fruit is important for your body to produce those fat-metabolising enzymes. It’s the beginning of a new day, new experiences and new challenges…how else can you face it without breakfast? I’d like to see you try.

hazelnut cacao buckwheat cacao pops

This recipe is fabulous; it’s crunchy, chocolatey, and ever-so-slightly-maple-syrupy. It’s gluten free too, with protein-rich buckwheat (a complete protein) taking centre stage. Next up, we have vitamin E-rich hazelnuts, pepitas for your zinc, and good fats from your chia and flaxseeds. I’ve coated it in a tiny bit of coconut oil and maple syrup, giving it a lovely crunch. The mixture even pops as it cools down on the bench, truly living up to its namesake. I have a few friends who just can’t stomach the thought of food when they roll out of bed. If you’re one of them, you don’t need a 7-course degustation complete with matching fruit juices ready to go, but a snack of almonds or a banana within 30-45 minutes of waking will do you wonders. Or there’s always this sweet little recipe I’ve got right here, with your name on it. Just a few spoonfuls of granola with a splash of milk and you’re on your way. On the go, chuck it in a container and eat it as is, or tuck into it at morning tea time for a little pep. I even love topping my healthy desserts with it, like I did here. It’ll keep really well in your cupboard, and never loses its crunch no matter how long you leave it in the milk. Because really, who likes wet socks?

hazelnut cacao buckwheat cacao pops

hazelnut, cacao + buckwheat ‘cacao pops’ – gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free; makes approx 750g; I’ve played down the sweetness of the granola to allow for fresh fruit to be added when serving, but if this isn’t your thing or you’d prefer it sweeter, simply add more maple syrup when making or drizzle finished product with it.

you’ll need…

  • 500g buckwheat, activated (see notes below)
  • 1/2 cup activated pepitas (see notes)
  • 3/4 cup activated hazelnuts, chopped roughly (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/1 vanilla pod scraped)
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 70ml maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (fan forced).
  2. Place all ingredients except for maple syrup and coconut oil into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Heat maple syrup and coconut oil gently until warm, then mix in with the rest of the ingredients, making sure you coat the granola evenly.
  4. Spread mixture onto a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, tossing mixture after 15 minutes. The mixture may still seem wet once its finished cooking, but it will dry and harden into beautiful shards of deliciousness as it cools down. Store in an airtight container, and serve with fresh fruit (I love it with banana) your favourite milk, and a dollop of yoghurt.

Notes: When it comes to consuming nuts and seeds, it’s important they are ‘activated’ to reduce phytic acid content, something that can bind with the important minerals in the food and prevent their absorption in the body. Lessening the phytic acid also makes the digestion process a lot easier on the body. To prep the buckwheat and the nuts/seeds for this recipe, I soak them both overnight in filtered water, the buckwheat separate from the nuts/seeds which are in the same bowl, and then place the buckwheat on one baking tray, and the nuts/seeds on another. I then put my oven on the lowest temperature, being 70C, and let them dehydrate for around 8-10 hours, or until the buckwheat is dry. If you have a dehydrator, even better, otherwise use your oven. I then pick off the hazelnuts and chop them coarsely. It may seem like a lot of work, but your body will thank you for it. If you have run out of time, simply use un-soaked ingredients – it’s still better than the coco-pops you buy from the shops!

dairy-free spiced choc-banana mousse + a little on fermented foods

Whilst I adore the creamy goodness those plump bovines produce, non-fermented dairy isn’t something I like to overdo. I strongly believe good quality, fermented or cultured dairy has an important place in the diet, as not only does it contain gut-loving healthy bacteria and yeasts, a large part of the lactose (the sugar part) has been consumed by the thriving bacteria, making it much gentler on the digestive system. A small study undertaken with 15 lactose-intolerant adults showed negligible symptoms of flatulence and abdominal discomfort after consuming kefir – that’s great news for those who can’t drink the regular white stuff! The gut plays such a large role in immune function so it’s crucial we maintain its integrity, and fermented foods are a great start. Miso, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and yoghurt are all easily accessible and provide a great deal of beneficial bacteria responsible for vitamin synthesis, digestion of fibre and the regulation of the inflammatory response in the body. Long term, low level inflammation in the body is often touted as the ‘silent killer’, leading to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer – so don’t overlook these foods as they are crucial in the upkeep of your immune system.

dairy free spiced choc banana mousseA bad habit I often see is food being labelled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, creating a sense of guilt and turmoil when we might eat a food thats negatively viewed in our minds. As long as we are aware of the foods we should be consuming at least 80% of the time, such as fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds, good-quality animal proteins + fats and wholegrains, we know that anything that falls out of this category should be considered a ‘treat’, and treats can be good for the soul, an important part of nutrition. Nourishing your soul with homemade, preferably wholefood desserts is a positive thing, so don’t beat yourself up for making (and eating) that chocolate brownie – you probably deserved it. If you’re looking for some beautiful, wholefood sweets and treats, check out Jude Blereau’s Wholefood Baking, a fabulous read.

Alas, this little number is super quick to whip up, and is creamy, chocolatey, and spicy, all at once. Oh, and it’s good for you. You’ve got good fats from the avo, heart-healthy potassium + B-Vitamins from the bananas and mineral-rich cacao. You can play around with the proportions, especially if you like it a touch on the sweeter side. It also depends on the ripeness of your bananas, so you might need to add more maple syrup if they haven’t quite reached that sugary softness that turns them into smoothie material. Here, I’ve topped the mousse with my cacao and hazelnut buckwheat granola for crunch factor, a healthy take on the sugary ‘coco pops’ that kids love. I’ll post the recipe for those tomorrow. For now, have a treat – you know you deserve it.

dairy free spiced choc banana moussedairy-free spiced choc-banana mousse – serves 2 – gluten free, dairy free and refined-sugar free

you’ll need…

  • 2 (preferably) frozen, medium sized bananas (if using non-frozen, you probably won’t need the water)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/1 vanilla bean scraped/1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • water, if having trouble blending

here’s what you do…

  1. Chuck everything into your blender and…blend! Add water 1tbsp at a time to get things moving, just until its blending smoothly.