Deceptively Sinless Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Deceptively Sinless Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado PuddingI’ve always liked sweets, but pregnancy really amplifies this wicked taste of mine and I have been shamefully shoving junk food into my face like it’s the only thing that will keep me alive.

My lack of willpower and the attitude of “you deserve it, you’re pregnant!” have been a horrible combination. It has totally enabled me to satisfy this craving with whatever crap is handy (including but not limited to lots of chocolate bars) but I’ve started feeling guilty. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with indulging in moderation, but I guess I should probably be making sure I’m getting the right nutrients and all that blah blah blah.

My flawless logic also tells me that if I eat sweets that are more wholesome and nutritious, I can eat MORE of them.

I’m sticking to that theory, so don’t even try to talk me out of it. 

The easiest way to be healthier when in the clutches of a sugar jones is to stay away from packaged, processed sweets and eat things like fruit and yogurt, of course. When that doesn’t do the trick (i.e. most of the time, in my case), I can move on to sweets that are cut with nutritious ingredients, like a honey sweetened apple crisp, say, or chocolate quinoa brownies. Controlling these kinds of ingredients means making my own treats as much as I can, and now that I don’t feel like a hangover on a roadtrip in a stuffy car, I’m much more likely to do this.

However, I could have all the extra energy I’m capable of possessing and still not feel like putting in the effort to bake, so my credo (as always) is that simple is best. I want as few ingredients as possible with as few dishes as possible with as few steps as possible. That’s really not so much to ask, is it?

My ultimate go-to simple and healthy dessert, then, is chocolate avocado pudding.  It’s a bit of a no-brainer, really: avocados are really good for everyone, but as it turns out, they are extra good for us pregnant lassies. Avocados are high in potassium (which helps keep all that extra fluid in your swollen self at the right chemical balance), high in fibre (lowers blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of preeclampsia and also keeps you… you know, moving), and they are also a good source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. They are sometimes thought to be very fattening but the fat content we are looking at is unsaturated. The good kind. Unsaturated fat is crucial in brain and nervous system development, giving you another good reason to dig in while you’re growing a whole human (and also a good reason to feed avocados to your kids).

Chocolate, of course, has gotten a lot of positive attention in recent years as it is now thought to be a healthy choice when you are looking for something to file the edge off your sweet tooth. If you select a good quality dark chocolate (meaning at least 70% cocoa content, but the higher the better), you are enjoying a treat that is a source of antioxidant flavonoids which will not only help your body repair cell damage but can also help protect your cardiovascular system. It does have to be dark chocolate, though: milk chocolate and Dutch processed cocoa are both processed to remove some of the bitterness that raw cacao holds which strips them of much of their flavonoids. 

This being noted, I’m sure you’ve realized that this chocolate avocado pudding is on the dark side. If you’re not a huge dark chocolate fan, you can serve this dessert with whipped cream which cuts some of the bitterness. It may not keep the fat content down, but lemme tell ya, it definitely jacks up the delicious factor.

I have to give Tracy full credit for this chocolate avocado pudding recipe — she practically lived off the stuff when she was pregnant and introduced it to me then. I will give you two versions of this pudding: one uses mainly whole ingredients and is a little bit healthier than the second which uses chocolate chips. Both versions are smooth and silky beyond what you would have possibly imagined, and both are rich and chocolatey and decadent. The major difference between these two recipes is that the chocolate chip version sets into a ganache-like texture while the cocoa version stays a little softer and more like pudding. I usually make the chocolate chip version because it has less ingredients (see credo above) and because I like the firmer texture, but if you want to go guilt-free, you can make the cocoa version — which incidentally fits in with vegan and raw food diets, if that’s something you’re observing.

So now that I have you convinced that you should make it (and I do, don’t I??), here are the two recipes for…

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 ~Angelic Version~

 Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to large avocado, ripe
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey, agave syrup OR maple syrup (this depends entirely on your tastes. You can even go for raw sugar, if you want.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • optional: 1-2 Tbsp milk (coconut, almond, cow… whatever you have. This is only used as needed to thin the pudding should it be too thick to blend nicely)  

 Directions

  1. Peel avocado and remove pit. Place in food processor and blend until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides as needed. 
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely incorporated, again scraping sides as necessary. 
  3. Divide pudding into individual dishes and chill for at least an hour. 

 ~Slightly More Devilish Version~

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to large avocado, ripe
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk (or cream if you want to amp up the indulgence)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Combine chocolate chips and milk over medium heat and stir until chocolate begins to melt. Remove from heat and continue stir until smooth. Set aside. (Alternatively you can microwave the chocolate chips and milk together for 1 minute at a medium high power setting. I use 7 on my microwave if I’m using it for this purpose.)
  2. Peel avocado and remove pit. Place in food processor and blend until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides as needed. 
  3. Add vanilla, salt and chocolate mixture to food processor and blend until fully incorporated. 
  4. Divide pudding into individual dishes and chill for at least an hour.

When chilling is complete, you can serve either version with fresh fruit and whipped cream or you can top it with a sprinkling of your favorite kind of nuts. I like it best with bananas or strawberries and whipped cream. 

This is an enormous hit at our house –to the point that if Toby sees the food processor and an avocado on the counter at the same time, he does a little dance — and it’s also a great way to use up that avocado you forgot about in the fridge which needs to get eaten NOW. All things considered, this is definitely a dish you can eat time and again and enjoy without tarnishing your conscience at all.

Have you tried this before? What is your favorite wholesome (or, as I like to call them, sneaky) dessert? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and field any questions! 

– Joc

Quinoa Recipes: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Quinoa Recipes: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

 photo 4bcafbf1-3704-4275-a4aa-d35c38fb6ae0_zps020b4900.jpgYou know what’s really, really good for you? Quinoa. You know what I keep buying and then forgetting in the cupboard because I’m totally uninspired to use it? …Quinoa.

I have a few stock recipes for quinoa that I make frequently and that Scott and Toby will even eat (e.g.: quinoa lasagna, quinoa chili, quinoa pilaf), but lately I’ve become rather blasé about them. Since quinoa is still on the list of popular superfoods, being chock full of protein, iron, calcium and fibre, and since I have a huge unopened Costco bag of it that pleads with me every time I open my cupboard, I decided to go on a little recipe adventure. The internet is a neverending resource for recipes, right? There should be a multitude of quinoa recipes out there, right? And if someone takes the time to post a recipe on the internet, it must be a good one, right??

Oh, how very wrong that last sentence is.

Most of my quinoa dishes are savory, but currently I am experiencing what Scott calls my “pregnant sweet tooth”, so I decided to try dessert recipes. I gathered four of them which looked pretty good (and which didn’t have anything weirder than quinoa in the ingredients list. I found one recipe for cookies that had so many odd ingredients that quinoa was the only thing I recognized). One of the four was good, but the others… were not so much.

Behold the fruit of my trials:

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The first recipe I tried was one for quinoa raisin muffins. I procured this one from a website that I had complete faith in, being that of a lauded domestic diva who’s name I dare not mention because, frankly, she scares me. Once begun, I decided to nix the raisins as I thought the combo of quinoa and raisins would just be too much for my boys to handle, and I substituted chocolate chips instead. However, I forgot to cool the quinoa after I cooked it, like the directions told me to, and so when I mixed the chocolate chips into the batter, they melted throughout. Ok, I thought, chocolate muffins. That didn’t seem amiss to me so I forged ahead and served them after lunch. Scott and I took an expectant bite and chewed. And we chewed… and chewed… and chewed. Dear god. Scott said they were so dense they could have been mistaken for Kardashians. Toby ate a bite or two, which is negligible for him and something made out of chocolate and so, sadly, these muffins met their destiny in the compost bin.

A few days later, I tried a recipe for peanut butter quinoa cookies that I found on the website for a newspaper. This recipe was very similar to the simple, three-ingredient cookie recipe you’ll often find on a jar of peanut butter, except that half the sugar was replaced with quinoa flour and there was a dash of vanilla added in. I didn’t have quinoa flour, but I do have a coffee grinder, so I just ground up some quinoa which I’ve done before with oats and rice. It worked a treat, and the cookies looked adorable, each one bearing a pert crosshatch design. I popped them in the oven. A delicious aroma permeated my kitchen as I started the clean up and then… they burned. To be fair, I can’t really blame this failure on the quinoa (but I will blame it on my crappy oven). I think I might actually try this recipe again one day after I’ve collected the scraps of my shredded dignity and a new jar of peanut butter, but I will certainly be watching them obsessively in the oven when I do.

The final straw was Sunday morning’s attempt at quinoa pancakes, the recipe for which I found on the website of a trusted “doctor”. I mixed and blended as per the the instructions (despite my dubiousness of actually blending pancake batter) and poured them on the griddle. They began perfectly, bubbles rising nicely to the top, and I prematurely began to write a blog post in my head, detailing how at least half of my quinoa recipes were successful. Humming happily, I tried to turn the first cake… with calamitous results. You know how pancakes are supposed to be… I dunno… cohesive? Well, these guys were not. Even though the bottoms were browned and crispy, just as they should be, the insides were the disgusting consistency of a quinoa mousse. This meant all my endeavors to flip resulted in splattered lumps of squishy paste. I tried in complete futility to at least get a few decent pancakes out of this recipe, but even my silver dollar cakes were a total disaster. I tasted one just to see what I was missing and I can tell you it wasn’t much. There is no way anyone in my house would’ve tolerated even a mouthful of those bland, bitter pancakes. Scott came into the kitchen as I was pouting over the griddle and asked what happened. I opened my mouth to answer and before the words came out of my mouth, he said, “You put quinoa in them, didn’t you??” When I nodded sheepishly, he threw up his hands and cried, “Enough is enough, Joc!”

And he was right. I was cured.

However. I did mention that I had one good recipe, and that is the recipe I found for brownies. This recipe was the first I tried which is why I had any faith to continue on this misadventure in the first place. These brownies are rich and dark chocolate-y without being over-sweet, and although I am normally in the camp of chewy brownie lovers, I can attest that the soft and fudgy centers of these brownies are delectable. I ate three of them before they were even done cooling. On top of all this, they are easy and fast to mix up, which is always balm for my lazy soul.

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

 photo QuinoaBrownies2_zpsf245d3cd.jpg

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Rinse the quinoa in cold water. (As a side note, save that rinse water and you can then use it to wash your hair. I kid you not. Just scrub it in, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it out. Shiny, bouncy hair ensues. You are rinsing the quinoa to remove the saponin, the bitter coating which repels birds and insects and which also happens to be a natural surfactant. Interesting, no?) Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes, then let it sit, covered and off the heat, for 5 minutes. Cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8×8 baking dish. I used butter to grease mine because butter is just better.
  3. Place all ingredients into food processor or blender (if you have a blender big enough) and combine until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes clean.
  5. Cool on a cooling rack in the pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Serve with powdered sugar, if you want. Or with chocolate icing. Or with vanilla ice cream (which would be heartbreakingly good). Or just eat three of them right out of the pan.

And so, despite my misadventures, my faith in quinoa was not shaken. And don’t let them put you off! Quinoa is definitely worth the effort since the health benefits are strong with this little seed. But if quinoa pilaf or lasagna just isn’t your thing, then I urge you to try a batch of these brownies and think of them as vitamins. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Have you ever tried any of these recipes successfully? And what is your favorite way to cook with quinoa?

Happy cooking!

– Joc