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A Healthy Hot Chocolate

26 Jan
© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

Winter has finally hit in the UK. Last week was absolutely freezing. Okay so perhaps not cold compared to Alaska or the Antarctic (or most of North America at present for that matter) but temperatures close to freezing are incredibly chilly, and came as quite the shock, compared to the balmy December we enjoyed (and moaned about at the time, daffodils blooming by the roadside in December? What has the world come to!).

What’s all this weather talk about? Well cold weather means only one thing in my mind…..hot chocolate baby!

I spent most of last week with the heating on max but still cold, wearing a scarf, quilt over my lap and fingerless gloves encasing my hands in order to sit and type. Yes really. It was VERY cold!

There are only so many cups of green tea one girl can drink in a day (and I definitely push it to the limit) in order to keep warm. And so enters hot chocolate.

Sometimes you need a sweet hit and you don’t have any cake or biscuits to hand – damn that January resolution of no cake for a month….(definitely not stuck to that one). Hello hot chocolate.

And sometimes you want a sweet treat without totally blowing your blood sugar; craving a hint of sweetness without endangering your health kick. Is this you? Well say hello to this little miss healthy hot chocolate.

She will satisfy your sweet tooth, warm you up and sate your appetite. All without blowing off your new years resolution to be more healthy.

The recipe below is for an au natural version. Simple, clean, pure hot chocolate. However, you could take things to the next level and pimp your delicious hot drink. Though I think if you go for the ‘enhanced’ version using some of the following suggestions (brandy, chocolate and marshmallows I’m looking at you…), we should perhaps tack the qualifier ‘ish‘ onto the title healthy – healthy-ish hot chocolate. But why not. It’s the last week of January, you deserve it.

So if you want to ‘enhance’ your drink, you could try:

  • Melting a handful – this isn’t an exact science, so much the better if you have big hands 🙂 – of 70% cocoa chocolate chips into the saucepan.
  • Top your drink with some coconut whip (I use this method to make whipped cream from coconut milk) and marshmallows and some chocolate shavings….oh boy that sounds good!
  • Toss a chai tea bag into the saucepan and allow to infuse with the milk for a hit of aromatics. Maybe throw in a cinnamon stick for extra measure.
  • Add some finely grated orange zest (that’s healthy… vitamin C anyone?) for a drink reminiscent of the ubiquitous orange shaped and flavoured chocolate.
  • Add a few drops of mint extract for an after dinner digestive aid (see healthy…maybe a stretch?)
  • If you like things chilli hot, then a sprinkling of cayenne pepper would spice things up nicely.
  • For an adult version, you could add some brandy or whiskey to taste (and blow dry January out of the water).
  • For a ‘Snickers’ inspired drink, sub the almond butter for peanut butter, adjusting the quantity to taste.

That said, simple is satisfying to me. I enjoyed the natural beauty of the hot chocolate recipe as set out below greatly and didn’t need any additions (though perhaps that’s because I hadn’t thought of them yet and didn’t have any marshmallows in the house….)

Here’s the recipe, hope it warms you up. Let me know if and how you enhance it, healthy or otherwise!

A Healthy Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gluten and dairy free, Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of gluten free oat milk (or other plant based milk of choice)
  • 2 rounded tsps of cacao powder
  • 2 scant tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk yoghurt

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Whisk well to dissolve the almond butter and yoghurt.
  3. Allow to simmer until just boiling (about 5 minutes) whisking every so often.
  4. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

A Very Special Chocolate Cake

23 Sep
© Jess Bruce 2015

My gluten and dairy free wedding cake © Jess Bruce 2015

Today I’m sharing a very special recipe: my gluten and dairy free wedding cake.

My Mum made both of our wedding cakes – yes we had two:

1) a normal gluten and dairy full naked vanilla sponge with homemade raspberry jam and marscapone cream filling; and

2) a Jess Friendly gluten and dairy free chocolate Genoise sponge filled with homemade raspberry jam and whipped coconut cream.

We settled almost instantly on the normal cake. We used this recipe from the Good HouseKeeping Insitute. We decided to do a ‘normal’ main cake to keep costs down (gluten and dairy free alternative ingredients are not cheap) and to ensure greater stability. We didn’t want a leaning tower of Pisa of a naked wedding cake and gluten free baking is generally not as robust as its gluten full foe. And by making a separate cake for me, it meant more cake, which is never a bad thing.

Two cakes, one gluten free, one normal, both delicious. © Jess Bruce 2015

Two cakes, one gluten free, one normal, both delicious. © Jess Bruce 2015

For my cake, we tried all sorts of different recipes before settling on this classic Genoise sponge. Chocolate fudge, egg-less, fat-less, flour-less almond, victoria, angel…. You name it we tried it! In the end we settled on a chocolate cake so that it was clearly distinct from the main normal cake in order to avoid confusion and cross-contamination.

© Jess Bruce 2015

© Jess Bruce 2015

And this Genoise Sponge recipe won because it was ‘simply the best…better than all the rest..!’

Tina Turner aside, this sponge is incredibly airy and so light and fluffy. The cocoa gives a rich chocolately flavour that’s irresistible – seriously irresistible, I had three slices immediately one after the other when Mum made the final trial of it (and yes then I slipped into a sugar coma! Soooo good!) I would say you would never know it was gluten and dairy free. Genuinely. I know I would say that but wedding guests ate it without realizing and really liked it. So take their word for it if you don’t believe me!

What is a Genoise sponge? It’s an Italian sponge cake made with hardly any fat, lots of whole eggs and by a whole lot of vigorous whisking. The whisking is important. My advice, use a good electric whisk otherwise your arm may drop off. But I tell you it is worth the effort. And with very little fat, you could perhaps say it is even good…for…you… Or rather with its hefty dose of sugar, perhaps not.

I can testify that this cake improves with age. Mr B and I had a few days ‘minimoon’ at the hotel in Cambridge after our wedding. The chef kindly kept my wedding cake in the hotel’s fridge and whenever I wanted a piece, I rang reception and they brought it up to our room, literally on a silver platter! Several days later the cake was still soft and moist and if anything the coconut cream becomes more dairy cream like as it sets in the cake in the fridge. So basically what I’m saying is, if somehow you don’t eat the whole cake in one sitting, have no fear, it will still taste amazing the day after (and the day after that if you’re really controlled!)

Enough preamble. Go forth and get whisking!

Chocolate Genoise Sponge

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 15 mins prep + 18 mins cooking time
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Gluten, dairy, nut and soya free

Ingredients

  •  5 eggs
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 55g gluten free plain flour
  • 55g rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp xanthum gum
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 30g melted dairy free fat (I used Pure olive oil based spread).

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC Fan Oven).
  2. Lightly grease and line two 9 inch (23 cm) sandwich tins (to make a 4 layer cake as pictured, double the recipe)
  3. Place eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk for 4-5 minutes until thick and very pale. You’re done when you lift the whisk out of the bowl and a trail is left behind
  4. Slowly drizzle the melted fat into the bowl and fold in gently
  5. Sift the flours, cocoa powder and xanthum gum together in a clean bowl and then fold these dry ingredients gently into the wet with a metal spoon
  6. Spoon the mixture into two cake tins, dividing evenly. Tap gently to settle (this removes any air bubbles)
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until risen and just firm to touch – you don’t want to overcook a Genoise sponge as it will become dry
  8. Remove from the oven and cool briefly in the tins before tipping out onto a cooling rack
  9. Once cold fill with your choice of filling, we used raspberry jam and whipped coconut cream (we used this recipe for the cream).

A Recipe for a Summer’s Day: Frozen Banana Pops!

14 Jul
Mr Banana Pop enjoying the sunshine out in the garden. Photo by Jess B.

Mr Banana Pop enjoying the sunshine out in the garden. Photo by Jess B.

Summer has finally arrived.

Yesterday the temperature outside hit a balmy 24°C – mid 70s Farenheit for all you non Brit readers! This is positively tropical for rural north east England!

Photo by Jess B.

Photo by Jess B.

Inside the house, well inside my compression stockings (that I’m now wearing to help with the dizziness and purple feet issues) at least, I swear the temperature hit 40°C / 100°F +. Oh my gosh July at the peak of British summer was not the time to need to start wearing compression stockings. I can not tell you how hot my little legs are! How you POTS readers living in far warmer climes than Britain cope, I have no idea!

With the temperature rising – “barometer’s getting low, according to all sources, the street’s the place to go…It’s raining men!”

Sorry, as I typed the start of that sentence The Weather Girls song popped into my head reminding me of my student days & nights out in cheesy clubs in Cambridge!

Song lyrics tangent aside – with the weather finally nice and hot, I decided it was time to make a frozen dessert. As previously mentioned, the list of Jess friendly foods has shrunk in the last few weeks, so buying ice cream that I can eat is now basically impossible.

Drum roll please….enter my new staple foods: bananas and dark chocolate! Yep that’s what it is people. A frozen dessert made from (amongst other things) bananas and dark chocolate. These are soooo quick and easy to make (who wants to be slaving away in a hot kitchen on a hot summer’s day? Not me in my compression stockings for starters!).

Fresh Fruit ready to go! Photo by Jess B.

Fresh Fruit ready to go! Photo by Jess B.

Lots of fresh fruit, a few nuts, some milk, throw it all in your blender and Bob’s your Uncle (what does that expression mean?!) you’re already half way to having a very happy, healthy and refreshing summer treat. What’s more, the bananas provide a nice high soluble fibre base to keep our digestions happy 🙂

Using the ingredients I list below, these babies are free from: gluten, dairy, eggs, soya, wheat, almonds, coconut, brazils, yeast. They are also very low refined sugar too – only refined sugar being that in the dark chocolate. I used 74% cocoa dark chocolate and general rule of thumb is the higher the cocoa content the lower the sugar (and dairy) content – at 74% there is no dairy. Not a drop.

Pop gets a close up! Photo by Jess B.

Mr Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Right enough waffling. Here’s the recipe. Make, chill, enjoy.

This quantity made me 18 pops.

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 a small whole fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of hazelnut milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp dairy free Pure sunflower spread
Naked Pops! Photo by Jess B.

Naked Pops! Photo by Jess B.

With their chocolate coats! Photo by Jess B.

With their chocolate coats! Photo by Jess B.

Method

  1. Place the bananas, pineapple and milk in the blender and blitz until smooth.
  2. Add the strawberries and walnuts to the blender and mix through with a spoon (don’t blend) in order to keep the pieces intact.
  3. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or silicone cake cases and freeze for a couple of hours until solid.
  4. After a couple of hours, place the chocolate and dairy free spread in a small bowl and microwave on medium power until melted, stopping the microwave and stirring the chocolate a couple of times as you go.
  5. Whilst the chocolate is melting place baking parchment on a couple of baking sheets.
  6. Once the chocolate is melted you’re ready to go! Time to get messy (or perhaps that’s just me)!
  7. Remove the frozen delights from the freezer and carefully relieve them of their cases/molds placing them on the baking parchment.
  8. Using a teaspoon drizzle the chocolate over the frozen pops and pop the pops back in the freezer for a few minutes to set the chocolate.
  9. Sit back in a deck chair in your garden and enjoy a nice and refreshing, happy and healthy Frozen Banana Pop! Delicious even if I do say so myself 🙂

Quick note on molds to freeze these bad boys in – if you’re using silicone cake cases  instead of proper popsicle / ice lolly molds, which don’t have sticks, remove your pops from the freezer about 30 mins before you want to eat them so that they soften enough to be able to get a spoon into them without sending poor old Mr Pop flying! I left mine on the kitchen side and after 20 – 30 mins they were soft enough to easily eat. You could also thaw them for longer in the fridge.

Eat me! Eat me! Frozen Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Eat me! Eat me! Frozen Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Recipe adapted from Pocketfuls food blog.

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