Chocolate IS Love… Vegan Valentine Recipes with Raw Cacao

Chocolate is Love.

At least that’s what our brains think.

See, when we eat chocolate, a whole cascade of happy chemicals and hormones get triggered, making us feel a bit high, happy, relaxed and excited all at the same time.

 

Kinda like love.

Raw Cacao Truffle Recipe

Phenylethylamine is often called the “love drug,” a unique caffeine with stimulating physiological effects, fatty acids called cannabinoids (yes, relatives of those found in pot), which make you feel relaxed and intoxicated, and all of this leads to a release of the pleasure-producing hormones dopamine and serotonin.

 

Top it all off with a dose of sugar normally found in our cocoa treats, and you’ve got a world-class super drug.

 

With all of these happy high chemicals coming in legal, cheap, bite-sized nuggets, it’s amazing we aren’t all on the streets collecting pop bottles and turning tricks to get another fix! (Too much? Ok, maybe just collecting pop bottles…)

 

Luckily, the amounts of these mind-altering chemicals found in chocolate are relatively small compared with other drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, and morphine. Our modern brains are used to the amounts and effects of the pleasure-inducing chemicals released by our coffee, tea, cocoa, and energy drinks, and we can only produce so much dopamine. When we eat a ton of chocolate and release a bunch of dopamine, our bodies immediately seek balance by shutting down the hormone production. This leads to desensitization to both dopamine and chocolate’s effects over time.

 

Which makes me think we should all be living slightly cleaner lives with less caffeine, sugar and other “happy drugs” so that we can really enjoy the effects of chocolate more!

Cacao pod, Costa Rica, Alex Jamieson, raw cacao recipes

Cacao pod

HISTORY OF CACAO

Cacao flowers, Costa Rica, Alex Jamieson, raw cacao recipes

Cacao flowers, Costa Rica

Humans weren’t the first culinary smarties to figure out that cacao seeds were edible. They learned it from watching monkeys. Found in pods growing in South American rain forests, cacao seeds are covered with a slimy, slightly-sweet gel, sort of like leechee fruit.

 

Monkeys and people first cracked open the pods, sucked on the fruit and spat out the seeds. The raw seeds inside were bitter and pretty gross, so few animals or humans ate them, even though they were high in fat.

 

Carrying these seeds along their migrations caused the cacao trees to spread throughout South America and Central America.

 

But what happened next in chocolate’s history took a stroke of luck: someone realized that when you fermented and then roasted those seeds before eating them, the bitter flavor diminished and the ambrosia-like aroma of chocolate began to tickle their noses.

 

Once fermented and roasted, those bitter cacao beans begin to smell like melting chocolate. Grind the seeds, add some sugar, cinnamon, and chili pepper, and you’ve got a Water of the Gods, or cacao agua.

 

I recently visited a rainforest cacao plantation in Costa Rica and watched the traditional methods for making cacao agua, as well as tasting the fruits, and learning about the lifecycle of this magical food.

Raw Cacao Fruit, Costa Rica, Alex Jamieson, raw cacao recipes

Raw Cacao Fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until you can get yourself down to Central America to experience this for yourself, I’ve created a few healthy, delicious cacao (raw cocoa bean) recipes to enjoy with your Valentine, or any time!

 

Hot Chocolate of the Gods

Hot Chocolate of the Gods: Vegan Valentine's Hot Cocoa | Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate of the Gods: Vegan Valentine’s Hot Cocoa | Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate

I know, that’s a bold statement – really, Alex? Chocolate of the Gods? That’s quite a boast for a cup of hot cocoa. I’m telling you! I first drank something like this recipe in Costa Rica on a chocolate plantation in the jungle, and had my first out-of-body experience. In short, I think I saw God. At least I saw chocolate, and for me, that’s pretty good.

2 pitted Medjool dates

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup water

1/8 tsp cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons raw cacao powder

pinch sea salt

*1/8 tsp cayenne powder (optional – this is how the ancients did it)

* ¼ tsp peppermint extract (optional – don’t combine if using cayenne)

 

Directions:

 

Combine all in a blender and blend until super smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until heated through.  Pour into mugs, cozy up under a blanket, turn on Cousins, Diva, or Downton Abbey (or any other romantic movie) and enjoy!

 

 

Date Night: Cacao Nibs in Dates

Date Night: Raw Cacao and Medjool Dates, Raw Cacao Recipe, Alex Jamieson

Date Night: Raw Cacao, Almond Butter and Medjool Dates

Medjool Dates, Date Night, Raw Cacao Recipe, Alex Jamieson

Medjool Dates, Date Night, Raw Cacao Recipe

 

4 Medjool dates, pitted and halved

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

1 tablespoon almond butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

 

Scoop ½ teaspoon into each half of the pitted dates. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and gently press in with your finger so the nibs stick. Serve to your loved one on Date Night!

Goddess Truffles

Goddess Truffles: Raw Cacao Recipe, Alex Jamieson

Goddess Truffles: Raw Cacao Recipe

Whether you’re serving them to a Goddess, or you ARE a goddess, these raw cacao truffles are super easy, delicious, and won’t tax your culinary skills. In short, you can show off in the kitchen without trying too hard.

 

2 cups raw nuts (I used 1 cup each almonds and cashews)

½ cup pitted Medjool dates

pinch sea salt

4 tablespoons raw cacao powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon honey

optional: coconut flour, cacao powder, cinnamon for rolling truffles

 

 

Directions:

Combine all (except optional coconut flour, etc) in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are well ground and mixed with the dates.

Using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scooper, scoop the mixture into your hand and form into truffle balls.

You can now roll in coconut flour or other decorations, or eat raw.

Goddess Truffles: Raw Cacao Recipe, Alex Jamieson, Valentine's Day Recipe, Vegan Valentine

Goddess Truffles: Raw Cacao Recipe

 

 

Serve as is, on top of ice cream, or crumbled on banana slices.

 

 

WHY I USE RAW CACAO

As you may have noticed, these recipes call for raw cacao, which is different from baking chocolate, chocolate chips, and all products made with dutched or processed chocolate. The health benefits of raw cacao are pretty awesome, and you can make a lot of easy treats with it.

 

And for me, healthy + delicious = perfect.

Why Raw Cacao is the best Chocolate

Why Raw Cacao is the best Chocolate

 

BUT, you have to buy the right kind of cacao to get the most benefits and avoid the toxins found in conventional cacao production. Certified Organic Raw Cacao is an excellent source of antioxidants. It it’s NOT Certified Organic Raw Cacao, then you are also eating a lot of chemicals from irradiation and spraying of chemicals which are standard practice in growing cacao beans.

All of my recipes use organic raw cacao powder and raw cacao nibs.

In case you’re wondering, here are some of the health benefits of using raw cacao:

 

Magnesium: Cacao beans are a great source of this mineral (270 milligrams per 100 grams), which is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies, including muscle and nerve function, and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness.

Sulphur: Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps grow strong nails and hair.

 

Fiber: A chocolate bar doesn’t offer any fiber, but if you eat raw cacao, you’ll get 9 grams per ounce!

 

Iron: An ounce of the raw cacao beans or nibs (crushed beans) contains six per cent of your recommended daily iron intake.

 

Antioxidants: Raw cocoa powder tops the antioxidant list with almost four times the amount of antioxidants as Goji Berries. But be careful! You may be sensitive to the caffeine effects on your nervous system, so take it easy on this stimulant.

 

Now there are 2 compounds in cacao that you might want to be careful of:

 

Theobromine, which makes up 1-2% of the cacao bean and, like caffeine, is a nervous system stimulant that dilates the blood vessels — much like caffeine. This is what makes chocolate unsafe for dogs, and causes uncomfortable sensations for sensitive humans.

 

Phenylethylamine (PEA): While our bodies also produce PEA (an adrenal-related chemical) when we’re excited, it causes our pulse to quicken. While this makes some of us feel alert and excited, it can have an uncomfortable effect on people who are sensitive and wanting to lower their heart rate.

 

With all this in mind, choose the healthiest chocolate for you and your loved ones, and enjoy the natural high of the food of the gods.

 

I want to hear from you! Share your pictures of favorite chocolate recipes, or your version of these recipes here!

Post your pictures to my Facebook or Pinterest page, and leave a comment below about your chocolate discoveries!

Xo,

Alex

How to make Green Smoothies for Fall & Winter

A reader asked how she can continue drinking green smoothies for breakfast in the colder seasons.
Here’s my quick video answer!

I know adding healthy fats and good protein, as well as the right produce are important for a breakfast that keeps me going.

My favorite Green & Protein Chai recipe

1 scoop vegan gluten-free Chai protein powder 
1 large or 2 small seeded pears
½ cup blueberries (thawed overnight if frozen)
2 cups unsweetened coconut/almond milk
1 tablespoon raw coconut oil
2 large leaves of kale
Blend and enjoy!
Hope this helps you stay on track!

Use it at room temp, or if it’s cold, warm it up on the stove top.
If you use unfrozen berries (room temp fruit) it shouldn’t seize up.

Please share this video with your friends! Just click below to Tweet it!

How to make #green smoothies for fall & winter – @deliciousalex made a quick video! http://bit.ly/18RHmuP

 

 

 

My Good Mood Food Recipes with Joe Cross!

Ever see the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead?

I joined Joe Cross, the subject and filmmaker from the inspiring documentary,

on the third episode of The Joe Show to share two of my favorite mood-boosting recipes.

Watch as we make the recipes on Good Mood Foods!

Gluten-Free Scones: Delicious & Easy? Bake on!

I love gluten-free recipes.

Orange Hazelnut Gluten-Free Scones

Orange Hazelnut Gluten-Free Scones

I’m not celiac myself, but many of my friends are, and I like cooking for people I love.

I like cooking easy recipes that can feed all my peeps in one fell swoop – and this gluten-free recipe satisfies a diverse crowd.

Because I love connecting with people. We host brunch once a month to bring our diverse group of friends together and share time and our home.

Food holds such emotion for us because sharing food & eating together is the most intimate thing we do with other people – in public.

(Like that idea? Tweet it here!) 

And I want to share the deepest intimacy with my friends as possible – to make them all feel welcome.

This recipe is one of the best for welcoming everyone’s dietary leanings and food rules to the table. Not only can gluten-free people dig in, but they welcome the vegans, the paleo-leaning (ok, there is maple syrup, but it’s pretty close).

Orange Hazelnut Scones with Raisins, Almond & Coconut Flour

Ingredients:

 

1 1/2 cups of almond flour

½ cup unsweetened coconut flour

1/4 tsp of sea salt

1 tsp of baking soda

1 egg replacer

2 tbs of maple syrup

2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest from one organic orange

1/3 – 1/2 cup unsweetened almond, coconut, rice or other plant-based milk

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (pecans are a great substitute, especially if you’re from Texas like my grandma)

½ cup raisins

 

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. This makes it easier to lift the cooked scones as they won’t stick to the sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, coconut flour, sea salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg replacer, maple syrup, orange juice, zest, and milk.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until blended together. If the dough seems too dry and isn’t sticking together, use another tablespoon or two of milk.
  5. Add the hazelnuts and raisins and use your hands or rubber spatula to evenly distribute through the dough.
  6. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out evenly sized scones and place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and gently press down to flatten to 1/2 in thick with palm.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

This Celiac Was Hungry On Her Gluten-Free Diet

This Celiac was Hungry, Then She Ate My Pizza

Her eyes closed in total bliss, as she tasted the hot slice. Then she groaned in total ecstasy.

No, this isn’t an excerpt from 50 Shades of Grey.

This is a small look behind the scenes at a private cooking class I gave last Monday night.

 

Easy Gluten Free Vegan Pizza Recipe

Easy Gluten-Free Pizza Recipe

It all started when I donated a private cooking class to my son’s preschool in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Even though we were leaving that year for kindergarten, I had fallen in love with the staff and mission of the school and wanted to support their growth one last time.

Jennifer, another mom, bought my private class, and last week we got together to cook – but there was one big request she had of our time together -

“Can you please teach me some filling gluten-free recipes?”

See, Jennifer was diagnosed as celiac last year, and has been avoiding all foods that contain gluten. While her body was recovering from the digestive hell she had suffered while eating gluten, Jenn felt unsatisfied and hungry most of the time from her new diet.

I brought over several recipes to teach her, and the hands-down favorite was this gluten-free, polenta crust pizza. We made the original recipe with egg and cow’s cheese, since her family eats dairy and keeps chickens, but the dairy free recipe below is really delicious:

 

Polenta Pizza Recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil

18-oz. pkg. precooked polenta

2 -4 Tbs. water

2 Tbs. flax seed meal (flax meal)

2 Tbs. gluten-free oats

1 tsp powdered garlic

½ cup plus ⅓ cup vegan Parmesan cheese

2 cups tomato sauce

1 recipe shitake bacon*

½ medium red bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips

1-2 scallions, greens thinly sliced

 

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly oil baking sheet lined with foil.
  2. Slice polenta, and place in food processor. Process polenta, and add water, flax meal, oats, garlic and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth. Spread polenta evenly on pizza pan.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove polenta from oven, and spread 2 cups sauce evenly over polenta crust. Top with sliced soy bacon, bell peppers, scallions and remaining 1/3 cup soy Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Shiitake Bacon

2 cups shiitake mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

 

  1. Wash and stem mushrooms. Slice caps evenly into ¼ inch slices.
  2. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast at 450 for 12-15 minutes, until crispy.

What to do with all that eggplant…

If your CSA produce is taking over your kitchen, break out the food processor and whip it into shape!

 

A little bit of cooking now will save the savory goodness of the summer eggplant,

zucchini and tomatoes for fall and winter snacks long after this season is over.

Easy Eggplant Spread

 

1 large eggplant

2 red bell peppers (organic preferred), seeded

1 red onion, peeled

2 garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

*Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, oregano or thyme or a combination of all 3

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into even sized chunks.

Toss the veggies in a mixing bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and any herbs.

Spread them on a baking sheet.

Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, stirring with a wooden spoon on the tray once during cooking.

Cool slightly.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, fitted with the metal s-blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse to combine to a smooth paste.

 

Storage:

Keep that delicious spread good for up to 6 months: freeze 1-2 cup portions in freezer-safe containers.

To thaw, refrigerate overnight.

Shredded Sweet Sprouts! Brussels Sprouts for the whole family

A simple side dish of Brussels Sprouts makes any meal healthier – but what if your kid won’t eat them?

Add a hint of sweetness with sautéed apples and a touch of maple syrup – they’ll be begging for more!

*A touch of maple syrup won’t degrade the overall healthy benefits of these powerful cancer-fighting sprouts, and 1 serving has 8-12 grams of fiber, which is more than many Americans get in a day! (You should aim for at least 30 grams a day, BTW)

Shredded & Sweet Brussels Sprouts Salad

Shredded & Sweet Brussels Sprouts Salad

Shredded & Sweet Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, dried and sliced into thin strips

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large tart apple, cubed and unpeeled

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons real maple syrup

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt and sauté for 8 minutes.

2. When the sprouts begin to brighten and turn a nice light green, add the apple, garlic, red pepper flakes, and maple syrup. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Once everything is heated through, but not too soft or mushy, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pecans, and pepper.

Serves 2-4 people

Inspired by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s recipe in Color Me Vegan

Greek Salad, Non-Dairy Style

Summer salads are the best way I can think of to eat and beat the heat – and avoid sweating over a hot stove in an already hot kitchen.

I whipped up this vegan Greek Salad this weekend for a BBQ, and watched as the mixed crowd (some vegan, some vegetarians, some omnivores) devoured the whole bowl – glad I helped myself first!

Vegan Greek Salad

Vegan Greek Salad

* Make the tofu “feta” a day ahead for super flavor saturation and throw it all together right before leaving for the party.

Tofu Feta 

Ingredients:

1 block firm tofu, drained and blotted dry with a clean towel

1 cup chickpea or blond miso paste

Tofu Feta Cheese with Miso Recipe

Tofu Feta Cheese with Miso Recipe

Directions:

1. Spread a thin layer of miso on a dinner plate, about the same size as the largest flat side of the tofu square.

2. Cut the block of tofu in half, horizontally. Lay 1/2 of the block of tofu on the miso on plate and spread a 1/4 inch layer of miso on the top side of the tofu, making sure to cover every bit.

3. Place the final piece of tofu on top, flat. Now cover every last bit of the tofu with a thin layer of miso.

4. Wrap the entire block in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to overnight.

5. Remove the tofu from the refrigerator and gently scrape the miso off the tofu. Sorry, I wouldn’t use the miso again.

6. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.

Vegan Greek Salad

2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and dried

2 cups cucumbers, washed, dried and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 cup pitted Greek olives (kalamata are perfect)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

1. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and cubed tofu into a large salad bowl.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Pour over the salad mix and gently toss with a large wooden spoon or your hands.

3. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow all the flavors to combine.

Enjoy!

 

5 Minute "Flat-Belly Lunch" Recipe

If you’re like me, lunch can be an after-thought…

Oh! It’s 1 o’clock, I’m hungry, and I need to keep my energy up to tackle my to-do list!

Most of my clients and Reboot & Refresh members are super busy, mostly moms with a ton on their plates, and they want healthy recipes that give them energy while being easy and delicious. That’s my speciality!

I’ve created the perfect lunch that’s filled with foods for energy, takes 5 minutes to make, and helps keep my tummy in a happy state (read: no gluten bloating, protein rich, and filled with gut-supportive greens):

Collard Wrap “Sandwich”

Ingredients:

2 big collard leaves

1/2 cup hummus

1/2 avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons olive paste (or chopped kalamata olives)

2 tablespoons raw sauerkraut

2 teaspoons hemp seed oil

Directions:

Wash and dry the collard leaves. Remove the thick stem sticking out below the leaf.

With the shiny, “front side” of the leaf facing up, spread half the hummus on the center of each leaf.

Top with the remaining ingredients and wrap, burrito style.

Serve and eat raw ~

 

Making Pumpkin Pancakes Gluten-Free: A Friend Asks

My friend Claire, a gluten-free girl, filmmaker and amazing nurse, wrote:

“I found your pumpkin pancakes recipe in your Vegan Cooking For Dummies book and thought YUM!
Now I’m in major pumpkin craving mode, but I have a  couple of questions for the celiacs out there:
1. I have a few GF flour mixes at home but judging from the recipes I’ve looked at I’ll probably have to go buy some xanthan gum and add a little bit of that. Not sure exactly what it does but it’s in all the GF recipes I’ve looked at –  I used to have a collection of flours but they all expired – I don’t bake often enough to make those purchases worthwhile, and there are some good GF flour mixes available (expensive, but available).
2. I have recently switched to almond milk from rice milk (tried hemp milk, not for me; I steer clear of soy milk).
Not sure if I’d still have to curdle it with apple cider vinegar, but I have that in the refrig too…
What should I do?”
Alex Answers: Really – pancakes are really forgiving, so I don’t think you’ll need the xanthan gum. I would try it with a  straight 1-to-1 switch for Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten free mix.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, try 1 cup of Gluten-free mix.
If the batter looks normal after you’ve mixed everything together in this way, go for it. If it looks too thin, add a bit more flour. If it looks too thick or too dry, add a little more rice milk.
I would go ahead and curdle the rice milk with the vinegar ahead of time anyway. I’m not sure it will have the exact same effect as curdling soy milk because there is so much more protein in soy milk, but it can’t hurt. The vinegar is also in the recipe to give the pancakes “lift.”
Let me know how they turn out!