Raw Chocolate Tahini Slice

Can we just take a moment to appreciate this beautiful sight. Isn't it breathtaking? Life and nature are simply amazing...
This was the view from my window this past weekend. The fam and I ventured up to the Lake District (a gorgeous area in the northern part of the UK filled with, well, lakes!) to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday. The weekend was splendid. We were apparently blessed with the best weather the Lake District ever sees, we embarked on two lovely hikes, we ate some really delicious food, we played croquet for the first time (and ended up then playing all three days we were there!) and best of all, we spent some real quality time together as a family.
Anyways, we're all here for the goodies, so let's get back to the food. I've been really into my raw treats lately (see these tahini date cups, bliss balls, mini vegan cheesecakes, raw brownies and chocolate peanut butter fudge slices). They're the perfect thing to have in my freezer when the sweet cravings hit, which is usually after dinner. It's rare that I don't want something sweet to end off my day. And rather than fight this, I realised it was much better to satisfy my sweet tooth. Life's too short to not have dessert! To be honest, I'm now of the mindset that it is totally okay to have small slice of cake or scoop of ice cream every night, but if I can replace this a couple of nights a week with a sweet treat made from more natural, whole-food ingredients, I'm not going to say no.
By no means are these raw treats low calorie. In fact, they're pretty high-calorie and high in healthy fats. They're made from nuts, seeds, dates, coconut oil and cacao powder. Some rather calorie dense ingredients. But they're good for you, give you energy and don't make you feel sluggish which, at times, a real sugary dessert will. This still means moderation is key - I'll often reach for a second (#noregrets), but after that, it's a good time to let my brain do the thinking and gauge whether I really need another.

Anyways, this is quite similar to these raw brownies, but with a little twist. I love the tahini coconut drizzle on top - it adds a nice subtle bitter contrast to the sweet date base and the rich, smooth chocolate ganache, almost amplifying the flavors of both. Basically, I love these and could come up with a gazillion reasons why I do.

If you're into these kind of date & nut-based raw treats, or up for trying them, I'd highly suggest you give these a go! They also happen to be vegan, if that's your jam.

For the brownie base/crust:
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts - I used pecans, walnuts, cashews and pistachios
1/4 unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cup pitted gooey dates
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup tahini

For the chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tbsp tahini
pinch of salt

For the tahini drizzle:
1/4 cup light tahini
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Line a 10" by 8 " brownie tin with baking paper and set aside.

Pulse the mixed nuts in a food processor until they are in pea-sized chunks. Do not over process - you don't want a nut flour!

Pour the pulsed nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning the food processor, put the dates and tahini in and process until a gooey, thick paste-like mixture forms.

Add back in the nuts, along with  the coconut, cacao powder and salt. Mix again until uniform.

Press the base mixture firmly into the prepared pan and place in freezer while you make the ganache.

Make the chocolate ganache by stirring together the respective ingredients. Using a fork will make this easier to break up any cacao powder clumps.

Remove the base from the freezer and pour the ganache on top. Smooth out to cover the base evenly. Place the tin back in the freezer for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the tahini drizzle by simply stirring together the tahini and coconut oil. Remove the tin from the freezer and drizzle this on top of the ganache layer. Working quickly, slice into squares (don't actually pull them apart yet). Place back in freezer for another hour to firm up and they are ready to serve!

I like to store mine in the freezer because they last long and I love the fudginess of them when they are super cold. I recommend storing in the freezer for lasting purposes, but if you prefer a softer brownie, I would take them out 15 minutes before eating.



Fruit and Nut Chewy Oat Bars

Oats are definitely a staple in my diet. Overnight oats, homemade granola, steaming bowls of porridge, bircher muesli, baked goods made with oat flour, you name it. There's one more main thing we can't forget - granola bars. I love 'em. Especially hearty, wholesome and delicious ones chock full of dried fruits, nuts and other goodness.
The great thing about making granola bars at home is that you know exactly what's going into them - you can customise the add-ins completely, you can control the amount of added sugar and oil, you can make them as chewy or crunchy as you'd like.

Not sure I need to go into the reasons I love granola bars, but to name a few: they're super portable, last pretty long, durable, filled with lots of your favorite things, hearty and deeelish.

These are great to make in a large batch, wrap individually and grab whenever the need arises or craving hits. These ones are particularly great because most of the sweetness comes from natural sources like dates, dried cranberries and unsweetened applesauce. These bars are coincidentally oil-free (I like my healthy fats, by the way!) and when baked, come out wonderfully crusty on the outside but almost soft and chewy on the inside. The chunks of dates, cranberries, pistachio and almonds add a great texture element to these wonderful bars!

1 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup baby porridge oats
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with baking paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 175 C.

In small bowl, stir together applesauce, honey, cinnamon and salt.

In a food processor, pulse the rolled oats, dried dates and cranberries until they reach an even, chunky consistency. You don't want this to turn into a paste. A crumbly mixture is perfect.

Place the pulsed mixture into a large bowl and add the cup of porridge oats, chopped almonds and pistachios. Pour the wet mixture on top and mix everything together.

Add the oat bar mixture to the prepared pan and bake for around 25 minutes until crusty and top is golden brown.

Let the bars cool in the pan for 10 minutes, slice into bars and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grab one when you're rushing out of the house, keep a stash in your drawer at work, pack them for a picnic. Just enjoy!


Chocolate Orange Swirl Bundt

Chocolate and orange is just one of those things - in general, you either love it or hate it. I went from the latter to the former (and am now almost mildly obsessed!).
There's just something about the brightness of orange combined with the richness of chocolate that makes the combination, well, impeccable, really. Yeah, okay, this is my twenty-year-old self talking. Fifteen-year-old Tanvi would tell you otherwise. But trust me.

Let's just look at how pretty this cake is. Swirls just have a soft spot in my heart. And do you see how nicely swirled the swirl is? #swirlfreakhere. I'll teach you a tip (#1): the way to get the swirls all stripey and perfect is to use a technique used to make "zebra swirls". Here's the low down. Once you have the two different batters - chocolate and orange - use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to pour two spoonfuls of orange mixture into the bundt pan. Next alternate and pour one spoonful of chocolate mixture on top of the orange mixture. Continue to alternate between orange and chocolate layers until bundt pan is filled, pouring each next layer directly on top of the previous and letting the batter spread in the pan itself.

The cake is moist, soft and has the perfect amount of crumb. It looks gorgeous both because of the swirls and the bundt shape. Tip #2 of this post: bundt pans are your secret to making any cake dessert- and crowd-worthy. They don't require frosting, a streusel topping or anything fancy. A simple dusting of powdered sugar will do the trick.

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
3/4 cup plain yogurt
5 tsp orange juice
4 tsp freshly grated orange zest
5 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk, divided

Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 175°C.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition.

Add the half the mixed dry ingredients and half the yogurt to the beaten butter mixture and use a large spoon to mix until just combined. Repeat again, using the remainder of the dry mixture and the yogurt. 

Divide the mixture into a 60:40 split.

Mix the cocoa powder into the milk and pour this mixture into the 40% split part. Gently mix until just combined.

Fold the orange rind and orange juice into the other split (60% one).

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt tin using the zebra swirl method described above. Alternatively, spoon the orange and chocolate batters alternately into the pan and use the normal swirling method of running the back of a spoon or knife to through the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then run a knife gently around the edges and tip the cake over into a plate.



Raw Chocolate Brownies

The weather is stunning today in London. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies and a vibrancy that this city has that's impossible to miss. It's 3 pm on Saturday afternoon and the weekend has definitely gotten off to a great start. It began with a quick 30 min walk in the park (was pretty exhausted after a long week of work to do a proper run), which was followed by breakfast at a nearby bakery - my picks for today were a dark chocolate muffin and fresh orange juice.
Yeah, the dark chocolate muffin was pretty much like eating full on cake for breakfast. It was super rich (but not in a heavy sense), uber chocolatey, filled to the brim with lots of chocolate chunk and had the perfect, and I mean perfect, crusty/chewy muffin top. I'm all about the eating well, but mostly because it makes me feel good. And, sometimes, cake for breakfast does just the trick. Long story short: had a bomb.com chocolate muffin (more like cake) for breakfast and no regrets.
Right, let's get back to happenings of the day. The sweet morning was followed by a few hours out with one of my best gal pals. We made the most of the gorgeous weather and walked along the Thames River from London Bridge to Big Ben. We talked, took some pics and had a great time.

I made it home just in time for a much-needed wholesome meal (after lots of eating out during the week because I barely make it home in time for dinner!). A long-overdue Skype call with one of my childhood friends followed. Which brings me to now - I'm currently snacking on some blueberries, a sliced banana and some peanut butter (i.e. my happy place!). I'm soon heading off to BBQ and then going for dinner with the sis to a place that specializes in 20 inch pizzas - yup, 20 inches, you read right. PS. That's massive if you haven't already got the point. In essence, it's turning out to be a pretty splendid Saturday. And I can only hope that Sunday is just as good!
These raw brownies are some of the densest, fudgiest, bestest (see they're even throwing my language skills off whack!) things that have ever entered my mouth. No, they're not a direct substitute for warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven chewy brownies that you can top with a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge. But YES, oh yes, they are a wonderful dessert that you can eat anytime to curb your sugar cravings and chocolate cravings. And... well... I have been eating them anytime (and everytime).

They're good. Trust me.  

For the brownie:
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios)
20 medjool dates, pitted
1//3 cup raw cacao powder
pinch of salt
For the frosting:
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Line a 8x8 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the mixed nuts together until crumbly. You don't want them to turn into a powder and definitely not nut butter, so don't over-pulse!

In the same food processor or blender (no cleaning required!), blend the dates until they form a sticky paste. Pour back in the pulsed nuts, add the cacao powder and salt and mix until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press down evenly.

Whisk together the coconut oil, cacao powder and maple syrup for frosting. Pour and spread on top of date nut brownie layer.

Place in the freezer to set for a couple of hours and slice into squares.

These can be stored in the fridge or freezer (I prefer the latter!).