Chocolate Chickpea Truffles

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Chickpeas. Who doesn’t love a good chickpea? They’re the perfect addition to your next soup, salad, casserole, dessert…

“Whoa – wait! Hold the phone!” you rudely interrupt. “Dessert? What is wrong with you, woman? Have you gone quite mad?”

But hear me out. Chickpeas are actually a surprisingly useful ingredient in crafting tasty, yet unbelievably healthy, sweets. I’ve made Chickpea Brownies before, which were quite delicious, and my most recent creation was these yummy Chickpea Truffles! Just like chocolate truffles, minus the guilt.

Here’s the story. I was in the kitchen with my very first loaf of bread rising in the oven – yes, my very first loaf of bread! Hate to go off topic, but I kneaded to brag about that one because I’m super proud of myself – but I was very much in a “cook/bake all the things” kind of mood. I wanted to make something healthy, though, to counteract the carb-fest that was coming together in the over at the time.

I basically made this up as I went along. I knew it would include chickpeas, almond butter, cocoa powder, and honey for sweetness. I threw in some quick-cooking oats as well, to give it texture and hold it together. I chucked it all in the blender ‘til it was smooth, then I chopped up some chunks of dark chocolate for extra chocolately goodness and antioxidants and stirred them in.

After rolling them into balls, I decided to coat them in a blend of chia seeds and cocoa powder. This made them ridiculously chocolatey, which is great because everyone loves chocolate. The only downside is that anything rolled in cocoa powder tends to get a little bit messy… so maybe don’t eat these whilst all dolled up in your Sunday best.

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Chocolate Chickpea Truffles

170g canned chickpeas, drained weight (I used two x 125g cans)
6 tbsp quick-cooking oats
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp. cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix
2-3 squares of chopped dark chocolate (or 2-3 tbsp of dark chocolate chips)
1 tbsp honey
2-3 tbsp cocoa powder, extra (for coating)
2-3 tbsp chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except for chia seeds, choc chips, and the extra cocoa powder in the blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chocolate chips/chunks.

In another bowl, combine the chia seeds and extra cocoa powder. With dampened hands, roll the chickpea mixture into balls and coat in the cocoa/chia mix. Place balls on a plate or tray, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until firm.

Enjoy without guilt! :)

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Caramel, Banana & Walnut Parfaits

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It was my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary a little over a month ago! Exciting stuff, right? 25 years! <3

So I guess that would make this their “Silver” Wedding Anniversary. Overcome with curiosity while writing this post, I decided to look up what each year represents, since all I really remember is Silver for 25 years and Gold for 50 years.

Thanks to my good friend The Internet, I am now quite well-versed in the appropriate gifts for each year of marriage. According to Wikipedia, the first year of marriage denotes a gift of paper (U.S.) or cotton (U.K.) Personally I’d be pretty happy with a gift of paper… I’m a designer so paper fascinates me, especially if it has a really nice texture and I can just sit there feeling it all day long. Of course there is also a section for “suggested modern gifts” like clocks and silverware, for people who are not as passionate about paper as I.

Though the list refers to gifts that the couple gives each other, I enjoy the idea of gifting my parents with something on their special day. Most of the time, it’s a home-cooked two or three course meal for them. Back in 2012, my brother and I whipped up a grand feast: Broadbean & Pecorino Salad, Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi (as in, I made the actual pieces of gnocchi myself rather than just buying a packet… fun times!) and some sort of tropical fruit pudding for dessert. This took basically the entire day to prepare but needless to say it was a delicious lunch and they quite liked it, even though the gnocchi tasted a bit doughy.

This year, we didn’t really have an entire day to prepare as we were out during the day. But I managed to scrape together a bit of time and creativity to make individual Caramel, Walnut & Banana Parfaits for dessert!

I essentially just made it up as I went along; Greek yoghurt and cream cheese, sliced banana, cinnamon… and this stuff:

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I bought this earlier in the year whilst on a family holiday in Melbourne. We went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Farms and I picked this up in the gift shop. Even though it had nothing to do with strawberries I decided that it looked quite interesting, and I’d never heard of “Hazelnut Milk Jam” before… but basically it’s like caramel. So I brought it home and kind of just left it there, waiting for a worthy occasion to use it. Of course the likelihood of you owning this exact same jar is probably quite low, so you can probably just use any pre-made caramel or even make your own! Be creative! You can even add more layers like crushed biscuit crumbs, berries, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Once these parfaits have been refrigerated the banana flavor kind of permeates everything else a little (so if you’re planning to make this, hopefully you like bananas). They’re not sickly sweet and I can probably get away with saying they are even a bit on the “healthy” side. You can probably add sugar, honey or extra caramel if you wanted them sweeter.

Banana Caramel Walnut Parfaits

1 ½ cups Greek yoghurt
50g cream cheese
5-7 tablespoons Caramel
2 tbsp walnuts, crushed
½ tsp/ cinnamon
Extra caramel for drizzling on top
Extra walnuts for sprinkling
1 small banana, sliced

Beat the Greek yoghurt and cream cheese together until smooth, then stir in the caramel and cinnamon until combined.

Spoon a small amount of the mixture into four individual tall glasses, then top with a few slices of banana and a sprinkling of crushed walnuts (divide about a tablespoon amongst the glasses). Top with more of the yoghurt mixture, a few more slices of banana and the other tablespoon of walnuts. Finally, top with the remainder of the yoghurt mixture, the extra walnuts and a drizzle of extra caramel.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving and enjoy!

Date, Cocoa & Chia Balls

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Since I’m going to be talking about one of my “healthy” recipes in this post, I was going to begin this post with a statement like, “I’m a bit of a health-freak” or something along those lines.

But that would be a lie, at least most of the time.

I ain’t no gym junkie. I do go to the gym, but I mostly spend the time huffing and puffing away on whatever machines I feel like that day whilst daydreaming about all the nice clothes I can wear if I keep up my exercise routine ‘til bikini season rolls around, and at the end I’m like, “Yes! I burned 400 calories! That’s like, a whole slice of cake! Go me!” Then I go home and eat a whole slice of cake. No, I’m joking, that’s just gross.

I do like to eat healthily though – I may not live solely on kale smoothies and quinoa, but I like making healthy choices when it comes to what I shove in my cake-hole (or quinoa-hole… that sounds kinda weird, though, I don’t think I’ll use that saying anymore)

But cooking and baking is my weakness. I like to make sweets to share with my friends and family – cake, cookies, that kind of thing – but often what I bake ends up on my own plate too, negating the whole “being a health-freak” thing. Yet I love to bake, and I love to bake often. Dilemma.

Well, it’s not necessarily the biggest dilemma ever… because lately I’ve developed a fondness for cooking/baking/assembling guilt-free indulgences.

I decided to experiment a little in the kitchen the other day, and came up with a recipe for these delicious little balls of fun! Date, Cocoa and Chia Balls. No butter, no sugar, but lots of deliciousness!

The recipe is still kind of in the beta stage. Basically, I chopped up a bunch of dates and chucked them in the blender with the other ingredients, but I found that nothing was happening to the dates except for being shaken madly about in the blender… so I added more water to help them blend. It worked, but it made the mixture quite soft. They were fine once I rolled them into balls, coated them in Chia Seeds and put them in the fridge overnight, though I would have liked them a bit more chewy. I honestly didn’t regulate the amount of extra water I poured in there, but I guesstimated 1/3 cup when I wrote down the recipe… maybe a bit less would be better?

Why not try the recipe out yourself and have a bit of a play with the proportions? It’s a no-bake recipe, so you needn’t worry about the whole “Baking is a science and you need the exact measurements of everything” deal. You could also roll them in something else like desiccated coconut or cocoa powder if you’re not fond of using Chia Seeds.

Also, a word of warning: These taste a bit like brownies. Brownies are addictive. Therefore, you might possibly find these addictive. But they’re healthy, so it’s okay, right? Right?

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Date, Cocoa and Chia Seeds Balls

1 ½ cups dried dates, pitted, chopped
6 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee (I used Moccona Hazelnut infusions, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy) dissolved in about 1/3 cup of hot water (if you’re not a coffee fan, just use the water on its own)
A pinch of salt
Approx. half a cup Chia Seeds

Place all the ingredients except the Chia Seeds in a blender or food processor. Blend to a fairly smooth paste, adding extra water if necessary.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls (it might be a bit sticky… I recommend rinsing your hands before doing this, it makes it easier to handle) and roll in the Chia Seeds to coat. Place the completed balls onto a lined baking tray, and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oat Bars

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Muesli bars: the go-to snack when you’re on the go. They’re pretty healthy, right? Packed with oats and dried fruit? Well, kind of. I guess. But, I mean, have you ever looked at the ingredients list? I guess it depends on the brand, but most muesli bars I’ve seen are full of sugar and all manner of other things that make it seem less and less like a healthy snack.

Added to that, I find that muesli bars don’t really make me any less hungry. If anything, chowing down on a muesli bar will just make me even more peckish and have me demanding the nearest passer-by to whip up a three-course feast for me. So, in my case at least, they are not worth the sugar and calories.

This is what spurred me to try and concoct my own, homemade muesli bar in the comfort of my very own kitchen!

I threw in some rolled oats (because what’s a muesli bar without oats), some peanut butter and some manuka honey, to make it hold together. Then for extra nutrients and flavor I added some raisins, chia seeds and a dash of cinnamon. After mixing it all together I pressed it into the bottom of a square casserole dish and popped it in the fridge overnight.

So, um, a word of warning if you ever decide to make these. They are highly addictive. Every time I happened to walk past the kitchen, I’d see them just chillaxin’ in that plastic container on the table. I think the fact that they weren’t particularly solid, but actually rather crumbly, made it easier for me to just keep grabbing tiny little pieces without the guilt of “Oh, I just ate a whole slice!” Which certainly isn’t a good thing, because even though they’re healthier than something like a cookie or muffin, too much of a good thing can’t be good. So I think I’ll need to address that by making the bars less crumbly. Or maybe just work on my self-control. :P

The flavour of them, however, was delicious; so peanut-buttery! I am a huge fan of peanut butter so maybe this is why they were so irresistible. The cool thing about these is that you can pretty much just throw in anything; next time I make them, I plan to throw in some extra seeds and some dried blueberries… and perhaps adjust the balance of the ingredients so they hold together a bit better. More honey, perhaps? Or less oats? I guess it’s back to the kitchen for me; time for some experimentation! Here’s the recipe ; maybe you guys can do some experimenting of your own as well.

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Peanut Butter Oat Bars

1 cup Rolled Oats
1 tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
½ cup Peanut Butter
¼ cup Raisins
½ tsp Cinnamon

Melt the peanut butter in a Microwave (I had mine on Medium and melted it in 30-second intervals until quite runny) and combine it with the honey, chia, oats, raisins and cinnamon in a mixing bowl, and mix until well-combined.

Line a square dish with baking paper. Pour the mixture in and press it down very firmly. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, then slice into squares or bars with a knife and enjoy!

Gingerbread Snowballs

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Christmas is approaching fast, guys; two more sleeps! YAAAY! And I’m really enjoying the holiday break. Like, it’s Monday today, and it’s the first Monday in just about forever that I didn’t have to wake up at 6 in the morning. Oh sleep, how I have missed you.

So, remember my post from the other day – the Pepparkakor? Yeah, well, I made a lot of that stuff… perhaps even a bit too much. Sure, I’ve given it away to friends and family and work colleagues, but there was still so much left! I decided that it might be fun to find a way to up-cycle some of the excess cookies into something new.

I kept it quite simple – I just took a bunch of cookies, crushed them up and mixed them with condensed milk. Then I added some desiccated coconut for a bit of extra flavor, and coated them in it so that the final product was a bit less sticky to handle.

These little guys are quite sweet and the gingerbread flavour is still very prominent. They taste almost like bits of cookie dough. I’m fairly happy with how they turned out, and I hope you will be too. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

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Gingerbread Snowballs

About 350g crumbled gingerbread cookies
395g can of condensed milk
¼ cup desiccated coconut, plus extra for coating

Combine the crushed cookies, condensed milk and ¼ cup of the desiccated coconut in a large mixing bowl and stir until combined and smooth. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and roll them in some of the extra coconut. Place on a large tray lined with baking paper and store in the fridge for 3 hours or until firm.

Makes about 15 or so snowballs.

Alcohol-Free Rum Balls

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I hope everyone has had a fantastic Australia Day! I celebrated by heading down to the city with my nearest and dearest to watch a classical music concert under the stars, finished off by a spectacular fireworks display!

One of the most Aussie treats I can think of is Lamingtons – Soft airy sponge cake covered in creamy chocolate icing and coconut. Alas, I have never actually made Lamingtons – and although Australia Day seems like the perfect time to try them out, I’ve been a little too busy for such shenanigans. Also, it’s summer and we’ve been struck by yet another burst of seasonally warm weather during which I’d rather not use the oven too much.

But you know what’s sort of like Lamingtons, but not really? Rum Balls! I mean, seriously. They’ve got chocolate, and coconut, and… well, that’s really where the similarities end. But they’re still good! Perfect to take along on a picnic or something.

These Rum Balls are super easy, and require no actual baking (perfect for summer!) as they use crushed-up sweet biscuits – all you need is room in your fridge for them to set. The original recipe called for Irish Cream, but I wanted to make an alcohol-free version, so I substituted rum essence. I used one tablespoon but in hindsight I think I could have added a little more to make the flavour a tad stronger – it depends on your preference, really, and how strong or subtle you want the flavour to be.

The texture of these rum balls was soft and not too moist, perfect with a cup of coffee. I left in some larger chunks of the crushed biscuits for a bit of a crunch. I used Arnotts Milk Arrowroot, but use whatever’s in your pantry – it might vary the flavour and texture a little. I think Arnotts Scotch Fingers would be great as well, or even cake crumbs if you want them softer and spongier.

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Alcohol-Free Rum Balls
(adapted from Australia’s Sweet Baking Favourites)

250g plain sweet biscuits
395g condensed milk
1 cup desiccated coconut, plus extra to coat
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons rum essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Crush up the sweet biscuits into fine crumbs. Stir in all the ingredients except the extra coconut, and mix well to combine.

Fill a small bowl with the extra coconut. Roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls and roll each one in the extra coconut to coat them. Place the rum balls on a lined baking tray and refrigerate for a few hours to set.