vegan dark-chocolate + salted caramel cheesecake

Deception is a funny thing. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan, especially when at my own expense, and surely I speak for the majority of the human race here. However, deception is most welcome in one particular instance: dessert. Deceive me all you like. Tell me that dessert is going to be flowing with caramel, studded with crunchy, chocolatey pieces. Brag about its creamy texture and how it can wash my tears away. Tell me its deceptively wholesome – two harmoniously, co-existing words. I’m a big fan.

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Deception describes this very recipe which I’m passing onto you, one that will seem naughty, indulgent, decadent, and believe me, it is, but for all the right reasons. You’ve got cashews and coconut cream lending to the filling’s creamy texture; there’s unrefined rapadura in the silky caramel topping. Oh, and that crunchy base? Heart-healthy nuts and magnesium-rich cocoa. You can’t go wrong. This rich little number is so silky, so smooth, so filling that you’ll only need a little piece to make the world a better place. All the while, you’ll be deceiving yourself.

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vegan dark-chocolate + salted caramel cheesecakeย – gluten free, vegan + almost raw (caramel topping is cooked) – makes 1×7″ cheesecake – loosely adapted from Deliciously Raw and Bojon Gourmet

you’ll need…

for the caramel topping:

  • 3/4 cup coconut cream (what’s remaining of a 270ml Ayam-brand can after removing 1/4 cup for the filling below)
  • 1/2 cup rapadura sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • cocoa nibs and sea salt flakes, for presentation

for the base – adapted from Deliciously Raw:

  • 1/2 cup macadamias
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1.5 tsp dark cocoa (increase to 3 or so tsp if using regular/raw cocoa)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 3 Medjool dates, pitted
  • pinch of salt

for the filling – adapted from Bojon Gourmet:

  • 300g cashews, soaked for 8 hours or overnight, drained
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tblsp dark cocoa (increase to 6 is using regular/raw cocoa)
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (I use Ayam brand – the remainder is used in the caramel above)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted cocoa butter

here’s what you do…

  1. Begin the caramel by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan and bringing to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir occasionally for 20 or so minutes until the caramel has reduced and thickened, then set aside to cool.
  2. While the caramel is cooking, prepare the base. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until mixture is finely chopped and begins to come together. You want the mix to stick together when pressed between your fingers – add another date or two if this does not happen. Press the mix into the bottom of a lined 7-inch springform tin and freeze for now.
  3. For the filling, combine all ingredients except the cocoa butter and blend until smooth. Quickly add the cocoa butter and continue to blend until no more lumps remain (you may need a tamp to keep the mixture moving). Pour the mixture over the base and refrigerate until set (4 hours) or place into the freezer to hasten the process. Keep in the fridge once set.
  4. Spread the cooled caramel over the set cheesecake and sprinkle with cocoa nibs and sea salt upon serving. Lasts 4 or so days in the fridge – if you can keep it that long!
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fig, hazelnut + cocoa granola spiked with espresso

I have a torrid love-hate affair with coffee. Love the taste, loathe the after-effects: racing heart, sweaty palms, inability to sit still. It’s never agreed with me, despite my love for everything coffee. It marries beautifully with cocoa, cardamom and vanilla, to say the least. It’s the epitome of social catch-ups. It makes sleepless nights (and the unavoidable morning to follow) that much more bearable. I watch my Italian family knock back espresso’s like water, while I slip slowly on my chamomile tea, because Italians think you’re a martian if you ask for decaf. But luckily, in the safety of my kitchen walls, away from confused barista’s glances, I can use decaf freely, and it works a treat.

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I mentioned espresso pairs so well with cocoa, and this is key in this recipe. With both having a rich and earthy flavour, they play off each other wonderfully. You can’t taste the espresso explicitly as it more so lends an intensity to the overall chocolate flavour, and the figs lend the sweetness that roasted, dried fruit brings. The hazelnuts and nut butter give it a Nutella-esque feel, while also giving you a great hit of protein and good fats. A little goes a long way with this batch, so top a handful with fresh fruit, creamy yoghurt and your favourite milk to give you a deliciously naughty but nutritious breakfast (or midnight snack).

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fig, hazelnut + cocoa granola spiked with espresso – vegan, gluten-free (if using certified oats) – loosely adapted from the kitchn

you’ll need…

  • 120g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1/2 cups finely chopped dried figs
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (70% cocoa content – sub cacao nibs or omit if you don’t have)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp dark cocoa (I use Cacao Barry Brute – sub 2 tsp regular cocoa if you don’t have)
  • 2 tblsp hazelnut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh espresso shots (60ml – I use 2x decaf pods – if you prefer a less intense bitterness, use only 1x30ml shot)

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 160C (fan-forced). Place hazelnuts, oats, buckwheat, figs, pepitas, chia and choc chips in a large bowl, stirring to combine.
  2. Place remaining ingredients into a small saucepan and heat on medium, stirring just until mixture comes together. Pour contents of pan into the bowl of oat mixture, stirring to coat thoroughly.
  3. Spread mixture onto a lined baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until mixture starts to dry out slightly and brown up. Allow to cool on the tray before storing in an airtight container.

Note: I’m not a fan of super sweet granola, preferring to add sweetness in the form of fruit (this pairs wonderfully with fresh strawberries and banana). If you prefer it sweeter, up the maple syrup content during prep, tasting as you go.

oat + choc chip cookies

I want to blame my pregnancy cravings for my need to have freshly baked cookies within reach at all times, but I know this desire exists equally as much when I am not with child. The making, the baking, the dipping in the milk…it’s all a fantasy of the cookie process that is often lingering in the forefront of my mind.

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But as you know, one cannot snack on sugary, so-calorie-high-it’ll-make-you-hallucinate cookies all the time for the simple fact it’s not good for you (and one’s teeth might fall out). Good for your soul, yes. Good for your insulin levels and general health, maybe not. So, I’m always trawling for recipes that allow me to bend the rules about just how many cookies I can ingest before I head steadily into a sugar coma. And of course, I’m always conscious about the nutrition side of things. Well, ladies and gents, these are my perfect little morsels of heaven.

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I’m truly not a fan of the super-sweet cookie, preferring a much more substantial kind, one that could double as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk, and keep me going ’til dinner. These oat cookies are sweet enough to satisfy your cravings, yet wholesome enough and not likely to spike your sugar levels. Oh, and you don’t even need stirring utensils! All you need is the one bowl and your two hands. I’ve amended the recipe from The Healthy Chef, simply to suit my own tastes and because I can’t leave well enough alone. I’m certain you’ll love these, especially when dunked into a tall glass of milk. If you prefer a more chewy cookie, decrease the sugar to 1/3 cup, although they’ll be slightly less sweet of course. I often make them with the lesser amount of sugar during the week for the kids and make a cheeky batch for the hubby and I with that just touch more sugar. We deserve it.

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oat + choc chip cookies – adapted from The Healthy Chef – makes 12 – wheat free (can be gluten free if oats are certified)

you’ll need…

  • 2 cups/200g rolled oats (traditional style)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup rapadura sugar (decrease to 1/3 cup for a more chewy, less sweet cookie)
  • 60g melted butter
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g 70% cocoa choc chips

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 150C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Combine all ingredients except the choc chips, mixing and squishing with your hands until the oats start to stick together. Let mixture rest for a few minutes to allow oats to soften.
  2. Add in the choc chips and mix through. Using an ice-cream or cookie scoop (or simply your hands) form into little mounds and place on the tray. You should have around 11 or 12. I use this OXO Cookie Scoop – it’s a lifesaver.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, checking half way through. Allow to cool on the tray. Serve with a tall glass of milk, at any time of the day you see fit.

graham-cracker carrot cakes, cream cheese swirl + nutty seed praline

There are 2 reasons why I love carrot cake: it can be wholesome enough to be considered part of your daily veggie intake (ahem) and its cake. Cake! And these aren’t so tooth-achingly sweet that you’ll be speed dialing your dentist for a check up. Plus it has your daily fat intake (cream cheese) and even a little protein in there too (cream cheese) so really, with the carrots, we’re looking at a complete meal right here. All your food groups, wrapped up in one neat, little package. But all that aside, these just taste really good. IMG_20150401_152103 It’s got an interesting addition of graham crackers (or granita biscuits, as we call them down under) which I’ve never tried in a cake mixture before, and while they aren’t overpowering in taste, they definitely add a little something. You won’t need any large equipment for this recipe either (unless you’d like to grate the carrots in your food processor) so it’s super simple. I’ve topped them with my favourite cream-cheese icing, a never-fail, pipeable, not-too-sweet mix which pairs well with the cakes’ earthy tones. Top it with crunchy nut and seed praline, and you’re onto a winner. Now, you just have to find your 4 other daily servings of vegetables, and you can call it a day. 2015-05-05 16.24.47 graham-cracker carrot cakes, cream cheese swirl + toffee praline – makes 9-10 cupcakes – can be made dairy free you’ll need… graham-cracker carrot cakes – adapted from smitten kitchen

  • 1/2 cup plain spelt flour
  • 50g granita or digestive biscuits, finely ground
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup rapadura sugar
  • 100g melted butter (or oil to make dairy-free)
  • 2 small, free-range eggs
  • 180g finely grated carrots (peeled)

cream cheese icing – adapted from annie’s eats

  • 140g cream cheese icing, chilled
  • 45g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 205g icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt

praline

  • 40g pepitas
  • 40g almonds
  • 40g macadamias
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 90g caster sugar

here’s what you do…

  1. For the cakes, preheat your oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Line your cupcake tin with papers, or grease well.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, biscuit crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar butter and eggs until smooth, then add carrots. Pour wet ingredients into dry and fold in until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly between 9-10 cupcake cases (I use this cookie scoop to ensure consistent sizing of my cupcakes). Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Remove immediately onto a wire cooling rack
  5. For the praline, line a baking tray with baking paper. Toast the pepitas and nuts in a dry frying pan until slightly coloured and set aside.
  6. Put the sugar in the a small saucepan and place over medium heat (the pan must be big enough so the sugar is one fine layer instead of a thick one). Swirl the pan without stirring the sugar, and allow it to melt and become a mahogany-caramel colour.
  7. Pour the nuts into the saucepan, and working quickly, coat the nuts in the caramel and pour onto the baking tray. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until hardened. Briefly pulse the praline in a food processor to break up into small pieces, or simply chop with a knife. Set aside.
  8. For the icing, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix on low for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high for 3 minutes.
  9. To assemble, pipe swirls onto the cakes and top with the praline.

pear, berry + rose breakfast crumble

Here’s an idea: dessert for breakfast (you’re welcome). I urge you to read on and discover a recipe that can be a straight-laced midweek breakfast, or given a touch of naughty to transform it into the sweetest weekend dessert. It will truly warm you from the inside out. Either way, you’ll be getting a healthy dose of nuts, seeds, fruit and heart-loving oats! Neat, huh?

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Between the screaming children demanding their morning cereal, my voracious appetite and my eyes that insist on staying closed, some mornings leave me little (peaceful) time to organise a healthy breakfast before my blood sugar goes way underground. Enter this pre-prepared crumble which can be made 4-5 days ahead, and reheated as you need. I often make this in the evening, when its (you guessed it) peaceful, and sneak in a little taste tester. You’ll find, though, that the juices will thicken and soak more into the ruby-tinged fruit if left to cool down overnight then reheated in the morning.

It only takes 15 or so minutes to reheat in the oven (or microwave it in seconds flat – I do not have this time luxury) and you can do all this whilst having a shower, mopping up cornflakes or realising you’ve no clean clothes to wear to work. Time efficient breakfast – check. Feel free to leave out the rosewater if it’s not your thing, but it does add a beautiful floral note to the fruit. Serve with natural yoghurt, vanilla labne or organic cream.

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pear, berry + rose breakfast crumble – serves 4-5 – wheat free, refined sugar free

you’ll need…

  • 1 large pear, or 2 small ones, sliced thinly
  • 3 cups fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp rapadura or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp rosewater or to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup macadamias, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp melted ghee or butter/coconut oil

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Toss the fruit with 1 tbsp of rapadura sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla powder, rosewater and a pinch of salt. Place into a 6 cup baking dish and spread out evenly. Alternatively, you could divide mixture between 4-5 baking dishes, baking fresh with the topping upon serving.
  2. Combine the nuts, pepitas, oats, coconut, ghee, remaining vanilla and sugar with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle over fruit in baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, or until topping is golden and filling is bubbling up the sides a little. To allow juices to soak into mixture, let it cool down overnight and in the morning, take out a serving and reheat, serving with yoghurt or labne.

coconut, banana + spelt bread

You know those soft, spotty bananas sitting in your fruit bowl? They’re crying out. Literally, crying out to be mashed, folded, and baked into this recipe. I know it’s a fine line between calling it a ‘bread’ and calling it ‘cake’, but this sits somewhere in the middle – pleasantly sweet but not overly, with the wholesome goodness of wholemeal spelt flour and rapadura sugar. It’s also dairy free, with coconut cream providing the lovely moistness and rich coconut flavour. Sold?

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Your bananas really need to be close their death though. None of those firm, yellow guys. The longer they linger on your bench, the sweeter and more satisfying this loaf will be. Spread it with almond butter, yoghurt or labne or for a little indulgence, team it with a maple butter. Surely, you’re sold by now.

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coconut, banana + spelt bread – adapted from taste

you’ll need…

  • 1.5 cups wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/2 cup rapadura sugar
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I use the leftover, dehydrated meal from making almond milk)
  • 270ml can Ayam coconut cream (It’s the only brand I’m yet to find that is pure coconut extract – no additives!)
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1 cup super-ripe, mashed banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan forced. Lightly grease and line a 1L loaf pan.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb soda into a bowl. Add the sugar, coconut and almond meal, stirring to break up lumps.
  3. Place coconut cream, eggs, banana and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Fold into flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 50 min/1 hour or until skewer comes out clean.
  5. Stand in the pan or 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Slather in whichever toppings tickle your fancy, or eat straight from the oven as is.

choc almond mylk

I often get a craving for nesquik-esque choc milk, the stuff from my childhood. Or even a carton of choc milk from the deli. But once I glance at the ingredients list, I run away scared like a mouse that’s seen a cat-shaped ghost. Alas, when you are pregnant, cravings need sorting out, am I right? I’m 100% right.

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This choc almond mylk is way more nutritious and delicious than the contents of those edible memories shoved all the way in the back of your head, amongst the dust and cobwebs. Healthy monounsaturated fats, magnesium boost from the cacao and naturally sweetened with dates, what can go wrong? Perfectly plant based, making it perfect for vegans. Bottoms up!

choc almond mylk – serves 1

you’ll need…

  • 1 cup almond milk (preferably homemade – soak 1 cup of almonds for 8-12 hours, rinse then blend with 3 cups of filtered water and strain through cheesecloth, saving the meal for baking)
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao (or cocoa)
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean/1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
  • pinch of sea salt

here’s what you do…

  1. Place all ingredients into your blender, and blend until smooth. Serve immediately, or keep in the fridge for up to 4 days (providing your almond milk is fresh – it has a 4 day lifespan so work it out!). You might need to give it a shake if you’ve stored it in the fridge, as contents will settle.