Brownie Bites

FullSizeRender-1My neighbor Diane sent me this recipe for brownie fake-outs after she heard I was doing the Whole30 cleanse, knowing that giving up chocolate for a month might be a bit of a challenge. (That’s the understatement of the year…) Looking at the short ingredient list, you wouldn’t think you could possibly get a chocolate fix out of these morsels, but they do taste surprisingly rich and fudge-like. I found I needed a ½ cup more dates than the author of the recipe on used in order to get the ingredients to stick together. I also felt more salt was needed for flavor, so doubled the amount.

The oil from the walnuts makes these pretty slippery when you are shaping them, so I rolled half of mine in toasted coconut to see if that absorbed some of the oil, and made them look like truffles. Then I tested the recipe on my book club babes, and they liked the fudge bites both with, and without the coconut. These were best served within 24 hours, as they started drying out and getting crumbly after a day in the frig. If I make these again, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to wrap each one in plastic wrap to keep them moist. I’m also thinking I really, really, REALLY want an honest-to-goodness brownie made with flour and butter and sugar. But this is a nutritious alternative, one loaded with omega-3 fats from the walnuts. If you want something loaded with the other stuff, keep on lookin’. It ain’t here.

Makes 1 dozen

1½ cups raw walnut halves
1½ cups soft, pitted dates
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon water
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, toasted *

I food processor fitted with “S” blade, grind walnuts into a fine meal. Add dates, cocoa, vanilla, and salt, and process until ingredients stick together and start to form a dough. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls, and place in parchment-lined container. Cover and place in frig to set. Once firm, wrap each brownie bite in plastic wrap. Return to frig to keep until serving or grabbing for lunches or snacks.

*NOTE: Toasting coconut brings out the natural sugars, and enhances flavor. Preheat oven to 375°. Place shredded coconut on baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, then stir and toast for additional 5 minutes, or until coconut is golden brown. Cool before rolling brownie bites in toasted coconut.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus

FullSizeRenderWith the holidays in full swing, you can’t leave your house without a plate of something to share at a gathering, and most often it’s an appetizer involving a brick or two of cream cheese. Here’s a recipe that strays from that formula, yet tastes rich and creamy sans the cheese. This sweet potato hummus was posted on Yummly, sent in by (a food blogger who gives top billing to her dog…go figure!). I made several adjustments to her spice amounts, most notably to the cayenne pepper. The 1½ teaspoon suggested seemed excessive. I preferred to up the smoked paprika and cumin, so there were other flavors and less heat. 

Now let’s talk about the blessed sweet potato we’re all so obsessed with, and give credit where credit is due! Admit it. We’re all guilty of it. Lumping yams in with sweet potatoes, that is. Truth be told, most of us have never even tasted a yam, but since our grocery stores use the names interchangeably, we think yams are darker orange versions of the sweet potato. But true yams have black or dark brown skin, white flesh, and are drier and starchier. You have to go to a specialty grocery store to find them, if they can be found at all in the USA. Sweet potatoes come in two categories: firm sweet potatoes (with golden skin and paler flesh, sometimes even close to white), and soft sweet potatoes (with red or copper skin and orange flesh). We tend to prefer the soft sweet potato, which cooks up moist and creamy. The soft sweet potato that’s prevalent in our stores closely resembles the true yam, so that’s why they are often labeled as such in the bins. 

Enough with the food source education! Let’s get back to this delicious dip! It’s awesome with Simply Naked pita chips, corn chips, or the gluten-free “Food Should be Good” brand cracker-chips (sold at Costco and other stores). I made this for a couple parties over the weekend, and was told it was quite tasty. I myself have yet to verify that, as I’ve got a nasty cold and can’t taste a dang thing. But I trust my taste-testers. They wouldn’t lie to me. Although one of my taste-testers (and son) Justin said there was zero heat in the dip. The guy who practically puts Sriracha sauce on his Cheerios thinks I’d say mayonnaise has “kick.” So consider the source.

Serves 8-12

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans (aka: chickpeas), rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled, and quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used ½ teaspoon. Add ¼ first and taste!)

Preheat oven to 375° or 400°. Place 2 potatoes on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender when pressed. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop sweet potatoes out of the skins, and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add garbanzo beans, olive oil, tahini paste, garlic, lemon juice, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and cayenne. Process until smooth. Serve with chips or cucumber slices and carrot sticks. Store in airtight container and refrigerate any leftovers.