Fudge-Filled Chocolate Heart Cakes for Valentine’s Day

5 02 2012

Mmm, So Decadent....

This weekend, while everybody else is making Superbowl food, I am looking ahead to the next big food event. Valentine’s Day. It’s been a while since I made a new romantic chocolate treat, and it’s time. I’ve been slacking off, resorting to boxed chocolates or candy for a couple of years.

It has been, and continues to be a good excuse to go out to eat. But this year, I may save room for my own dessert, waiting at home.

Valentine’s is a chocolate holiday. Champagne is good, too, but I’m sure that just about everyone in a relationship will be sharing something chocolate  on the big day. If you haven’t heard, chocolate is the healthy food that tickles the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, supposedly giving you a high in the same way that marijuana does. They also say it creates some chemistry that is similar to falling in love. It’s also full of antioxidants and heart-healthy phytochemicals, so we can feel good about eating some on a special occasion.

For this tasty cake, I wanted to try out my latest fun food, chia seeds. I have been remiss in not trying them in baking sooner, and have been playing with them for a while. Like ground flax, they have a magical ability to replace eggs. Just grind them in a spice or coffee grinder, then mix with water. Then, the rest of the time, add them to smoothies, hot cereal, and puddings. If you don’t have chia, just use flax.

Fudge Filled Chocolate Hearts

I have heart shaped ramekins that hold a little more than a large muffin cup, so you could make 6 cupcakes with this recipe. I made five cakes. Depending on how much time you have, you can either eat them warm, right out of the oven, and they will be like molten chocolate cakes, or you can chill them , trim them, and coat them with ganache or glaze for a showy presentation. If you want to use edible red flowers, like nasturtiums, or raspberries or strawberries, put them on the ganache while still fluid.

FILLING:

1/2 box mori-nu firm silken tofu (6 ounces)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup1 tablespoon arrowroot

vegan chocolate chips, melted

CAKE:

1 tablespoon chia seeds, ground

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup extra dark cocoa (you can use regular cocoa, too)

1 pinch salt 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

oil for ramekins

GANACHE AND GLAZE

1 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

5 tablespoons non-dairy milk

1/2 cup vegan powdered sugar

milk, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make the filling. In a food processor, puree the tofu until smooth, scraping down repeatedly. Once it is pureed, add the rice syrup, vanilla and starch and process until well mixed, scraping down a few times. Melt the chocolate, and add it quickly to the puree, then process to incorporate smoothly. Transfer to a piping bag of a large zip-top bag. Reserve.

2.  In a cup, stir the ground chia with the first measure of non-dairy milk, then let stand. It will thicken. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda. Whisk to mix. In a medium bowl , mix the oil, maple, vanilla, vinegar, and remaining non-dairy milk. Stir the chia mixture into that and then add it all to the dry mixture. Stir until well-mixed but don’t over-stir.

3. Use a heaping 1/4 cup of batter in each ramekin, and use your wet finger to push it out to the edges. Then, cut the corner off of the plastic bag of filling, and stick the tip into the center of the ramekin, pushing it almost to the bottom. Squeeze the bag to pipe the filling into the center of the batter. Do this with each cake, there will be plenty of filling, and you can pipe more in if there is some left over.

Piping in the Fudgy Filling

4. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the cake and filling puff up, and a toothpick inserted in the cake part comes out dry. Cool on racks. If you want to eat them now, just dust with powdered sugar and dive in.

5. For ganache, melt chocoalte and non-dairy milk together, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly as you flip the cakes out of their ramekins and trim the cake flush with the filling with a serrated knife. Place upside down on serving plates and coat with ganache. Mix powdered sugar with enough non-dairy milk to make a drizzle, then decorate the cakes on the plates.

Warm Out of the Oven, MMMM

Heart Full of Fudge





Chain Restaurants Mainstream The Veg Option

3 04 2011

Home of the Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta

Veggie Diners have always had challenges in getting a good meal in a restaurant, especially a mainstream chain restaurant. Things got markedly better when salad bars became popular, if you can remember back that far. My meatless life used to mean choosing between fries or a shake, back in the late 70’s in a small town. Even now, a social event at a chain restaurant may mean politely noshing on a few onion rings or a side salad just to enjoy the company.

But according to Restaurant News, casual dining chains are making the bold move of offering a vegetarian option. Places like the Hard Rock Cafe, Stonefire Grill and California Pizza Kitchen are now putting a few meatless dishes on their menus, in response to customer requests.

We can thank the Meatless Mondays campaign, which has given flexitarian dining a hook.

Many of the chain restaurants cite the Meatless Mondays campaign, and are now offering more meat free dishes for customers who want to have that flexitarian choice. Customers have also made their voices heard by requesting gluten free and lower fat options as well.

It’s high time. Those of us who live in metropolitan areas may forget how hard it is to eat healthfully in the chains and small town restaurants that the other half of America has to choose from. These changes didn’t come about to serve 1% of the population that call themselves vegetarian. These menu items are for the crossover crowd.

It marks a shift in thinking, which has been a hard one to achieve. The idea of going out and not eating meat is really hard to get people to accept. Even people who might not eat it every single meal at home see a trip to a restaurant as a splurge. Triple-stacked burgers with all kinds of bacon, cheese and mayo are way more than most people would make at home, and that is their appeal.

So what are the new menu items, designed to tempt the flexitarians on Mondays? Don’t expect anything less mainstream than the rest of the menu, with veggie burgers, grilled veggies, veggie pizzas and lasagnas and simple tomato bruschetta. Pasta is always easy to make veg friendly. Vegan, well, there is another story. You might be able to get some of these with no cheese, no mayo and see what happens.

Still, it’s a good step in the right direction. Maybe if these things keep selling, we will see some more creative, more vegan-friendly choices in casual dining. And don’t forget, these changes come about because customers ask for them. Ask for whole grains, and meatless options, and who knows, the menu may change for the better.

A Link to the Restaurant News Article:

http://www.nrn.com/article/vegetarian-dishes-crop-menus?utm_source=streamsend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=13619321&utm_campaign=Food%20News%20Wednesday%2C%20March%2023





Artificial Colors, Why Are These Still Here?

13 02 2011

What Price for Visual Appeal?

Bright blue snow cones and psychedelic sprinkles have a big appeal with kids. And yellow lemonade, brown granola bars and beige salad dressings seem natural, but are often artificially colored, too. Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that amping up the look of foods with artificial colors is a bad thing. Especially for kids.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2010 report “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” the use of food dyes has increased fivefold since 1955. Most of them are derived from petroleum, although one red, cochineal, is made from ground up beetles, a big no for vegans.

The report makes clear that there is really no benefit to adding these carcinogenic, mutagenic, neurotoxic chemicals to our food supply, especially when there are natural alternatives, like red derived from beets. It also states definitively that artificial colors do promote hyperactivity and ADHD in both children and adults.

In fact, European countries have been requiring warning labels on artificially colored foods since last year, stating:  “consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Many American companies make versions of artificially colored food they sell here with natural alternatives to sell in Europe, so it’s not like they can’t make the switch.

Now I don’t know about you, but it seems like plenty of adults I know are suffering from various levels of ADHD, and can’t pay attention to anything for very long. You can blame twitter and television, but when we know that these additives are promoting this, maybe we are looking at mass brain intoxication.

All those energy drinks aren’t naturally yellow, you know.

On CSPI’s Definitely Avoid list, the top offenders are Blue #2, Green #3, Orange B, Red #3, and Yellows #5 and #6. They all go by aliases, as well, so if you see erythrosine on an ingredient list, that is a red dye.

As a consumer, avoiding artificial colors can be tricky. Citrus Red, a known carcinogen, is used to color the skins of oranges. As a zest user, I find that reprehensible, but since I buy organic, I am avoiding it. Red 40 is implicated in immune system tumors and hyperactivity, and is the most commonly used color in the food supply. Most of the colors are implicated in asthma, rhinitis and hives.

Just skipping the snow cones is no guarantee, believe it or not, Smart Start Cereal and Nature Granola Bars can contain colors, as do almost all Kraft salad dressings. You would think that getting granola to be brown would be a no brainer, but who knows what goes on in the packaging process or while it sits on the shelf.

Read labels, buy all-natural foods and go organic to avoid food dyes. That neon sports drink or baby blue frosted cupcake may seem innocuous, but why add to your toxic load? Just avoiding unnaturally neon foods is not enough, either, as they slip these things into natural looking foods, like canned fruit, that might get a little too pale in the preservation process. Look for foods that use natural food coloring, such as annatto extract, beta-carotene, beet powder, caramel color, fruit or vegetable juice, paprika, saffron and turmeric.

There are enough things that we ingest and breathe that we can’t control, and if we know that these are harmful why put them in our bodies? Maybe if we stop buying this junk they will take a hint.

And if you need to color a frosting, try this natural coloring, I’ve used it and it works just fine.India Tree Natural Decorating Colors 3-Count








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