Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread

Carrot cake is such a timeless classic. It's homely and comforting, spicy and sweet, naughty yet nice. It's great when wrapped in a gorgeous cream cheese frosting (best saved for those indulgent occasions!), drizzled in a simple glaze or even just studded with toasted nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.
Let's start with the backstory. As usual, the weekend comes around and I'm ever ready to bake something. As usual, in wondering what I should make next and as usual (see the trend here?) I'm planning to turn to the fam for some suggestions/inspirations if they haven't already hit yet. Because, let's be honest, what's the good in baking if no one's going to eat it?


My sister preempted this by asking for carrot cake. This was rather rare, as although she's usually one of the first takers of my baked goods, she's usually the last to actually request something be made. There was no further thinking - carrot cake it would be! And the addition of chocolate? Well, that simply goes without saying.

The combination is unbeatable. Sweet, moist, warm carrot cake with small chunks of dark chocolate chunks with a whole lotta personality.

I may have (I did) eaten this for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack and even late at night when the midnight munchies hit. I've spent the past five weeks (and will be doing so for the next five!) interning and often get home pretty late at night. It's been a couple of hours since I've had dinner and my body and mind are craving a small sweet treat before bed that'll satisfy the sugar needs, yet not make me feel too sluggish or heavy to go to bed. And this definitely fits the bill (as do these chocolate peanut butter fudge slices and some raw brownies that are coming to the blog soon!). Basically this carrot cake is so good and versatile it's hard not to like it. Both die-hard dessert fans (depending on how hardcore) and people who like an ever-so-slightly sweet treat here and there will love this. What are you waiting for?

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup baby oats
4 tbsp coconut oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (chocolate chips or chocolate chunks would work too)
Optional: chopped toasted walnuts, raisins

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours,  baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the baby oats and sugar.

In a separate, smaller bowl, beat together the coconut oil and eggs. Add the milk and vanilla and beat again.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in the grated carrot. Finally, gently fold in the chocolate chips (and nuts and raisins, if using).

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cut into thick slices and serve. Grab your favorite book (or movie), a cup of coffee or tea (or iced coffee if you're me) and enjoy!


Raspberry Blueberry Oatbake

Berries are just freakishly beautiful. They take any slice of cake, bowl of oatmeal, stack of pancakes, fruit salad, you name it (within reason!) to the next level. As a rule of thumb, if you can add berries, add them. Profound, huh? They pack a punch of nutrients, freshness, color and of course, flavor!
This creation was yet again inspired by something I ate for breakfast in a cafe recently - a very rustic, no frills cafe to be exact. And that's exactly how the delicious goodies on offer were too - rustic, no frills, no fancy ingredients and not overly sweet. And to be honest, that's exactly what I want at breakfast. Too often, I find myself eating a muffin or the like that almost feels too sugary by the end of it so early on in the day. Problem is (or not?), my body needs the sugar kick in the morning so eggs don't usually cut it. Eggs for lunch, though? I'm a fan. As for breakfast, I'm a muesli, overnight oats, peanut butter toast, granola, smoothie bowl or baked goods kinda gal. 
This berry oatbake is extremely easy to throw together and totally adaptable to your preference of berries. I went with raspberries and blueberries as this is what I had in the cafe and loved the combo. I can imagine blackberries, cherries, sliced strawberries or even plums and peaches would work well too!

It's great at breakfast, tea-time, or even as a beautiful summer dessert! And guess what? It's definitely pretty enough (and yummy enough!) to serve to guests or bring to a party. 

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup hot milk
3 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
4 tbsp unrefined sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Start by pouring the hot milk over the oats and letting them soak for a while to absorb the milk and cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 175 C. 

Beat the coconut oil and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg, and beat well. 

Sift the baking powder and flour into the wet ingredients and fold to combine. 

Pour out any remaining milk from the soaked oat mixture, then fold the soaked oats into the batter.

Lightly brush a square baking tin with coconut oil, then pour in the prepared batter. Sprinkle the blueberries and raspberries on top.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until nicely golden brown, some berries have burst and until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the oatbake cool in the tin for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

For extra fanciness, dust with powdered sugar before serving (but totally unnecessary and better avoided because the extra sugar is really unnecessary!). I'm more than sure you will, but... Enjoy!


Raw Chocolate Peanut Fudge Slices

I recently went to a simple, yet very chic and homely, health food cafe and was introduced to the wonderful word of raw peanut fudge slices. One bite and I knew I needed them in my life on a regular basis. I came home craving for another and more importantly, determined to recreate the amazing-ness. The story began with dates, nuts, peanut butter, coconut oil and cacao powder. Who am I kidding? Let's just get to the end already. It ends like this: they came out 99% perfect and the missing 1% was fixed by adding more of just one ingredient (hint: this is the key ingredient in making the ganache layer chocolate-y).
Oh and did I mention they're raw, vegan and refined-sugar-free? In terms of my own diet, no, I'm not any of those things, but thought it good to highlight this to people who may be. It's also worth noting that treats as delicious as these can be made to fit most dietary requirements. 

These fudge slices are crunchy, ooey, gooey, chewy, dense, rich, naturally sweet and are simply spot on in all aspects. And the best thing? They don't make you feel heavy or give you a sugar high straight after. I've been reaching for them at least once, if not twice, a day and invariably find myself reaching for seconds (and thirds). I'm slightly addicted and it may be a problem... Not. 

If you're feeling extremely generous, you could even make these in larger batches, as these treats are fantastic to make when having friends friends over for coffee or to a picnic (be sure to pack them in a cooler!). 

Can we also just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of that cross section?

I could keep on rambling, but if I were you I wouldn't bother reading the rest. I'd probably have already scrolled down to get the recipe and start making this, so kudos to those of you still reading, but I'm going to do you a favor and end the mumbo jumbo here and leave you with three words. Go. Make. These.

1 1/4 cup pitted Medjool dates
1 cup mixed nuts of choice*
*I used walnuts, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts. To keep the flavor traditional and emphasize the peanutty-ness, you could stick to 1/2 cup peanuts and 1/2 cup almonds. However, I decided to mix it up to get a variety of nutrients (and tastes!) as this recipe already has a peanut element and I eat lots of almonds on a regular basis.

Peanut butter fudge layer:
1 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
generous pinch of salt

Chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp smooth natural peanut butter

For the base layer, put the mixed nuts into a food processor and pulse until they are in small chunks. Pour into a bowl and set aside. In the same food processor - no cleaning or such required - blend the dates until a thick, sticky mix forms. Place the nuts back in with the dates and blend until combined. If your dates are not gooey enough, you could add a tablespoon or two warm water to help the blending process. Press the date nut mixture into a square tin (sides 8-9 inches) - lined with parchment paper to make removal easier - and set aside. 

Onto the next layer - combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. TIP: again, there's definitely no need to clean your food processor before doing this! The mixture will be quite thick and sticky. Spread evenly on top of prepared crust and set aside. 

For the chocolate ganache, combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Pour on top of peanut butter caramel layer. 

Place the tin in the freezer for an hour or two to set, then cut into squares (quick tip: dip a knife in warm water between cuts and this will be so much easier). Store in either the fridge or freezer (freezer is my preference because I love things extremely cold, hard and fudgy) and eat whenever the cravings hit. For me, this means pretty much all. the. time. As always, enjoy!


Bliss Balls

I know, I know. Bliss balls are now everywhere. But that doesn't stop me from posting about them, because they are simply blissful. Call them whatever you wish - bliss balls, energy balls, raw truffles, date truffles... All I know is that they're magical.
They taste beyond amazing, make you feel even better, give you lots of energy and look pretty darn fantastic as well. They're also sneaky in the sense that they make you want just one bite more, but then when you stop and think about it, you'll realize after having one that you're actually satisfied and very content. The bliss balls are packed with lots of nutrition - healthy fats and vitamins from the nuts, necessary carbohydrates and iron from the dates and the perfect amount of coconut-y goodness. They're satisfying enough to tide you over for a while, yet light enough to be a quick snack. They're sweet enough to curb any sweet cravings, yet naturally, so this still appeal to people who aren't sugar-crazy.

And the best thing (other than all the other best things about them) is: they're totally customizable! Don't like dates? How could you?! Just kidding. Swap them for your favorite combination of dried fruit - prunes, dried apricots, raisins, dried cranberries. Just remember that the bliss balls rely on your dried fruit being soft enough to blend and form a sticky mixture, so if that's not the case, do make sure to soak them in water overnight or in hot water a couple of hours beforehand.

With the nuts, feel free to use whatever you wish - walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts, hemp seeds. Finally for some added texture and visual prettiness, cover them in a topping - chia seeds, sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, cacao nibs, cacao/cocoa powder. This step is totally option.

And to make them even more gourmet (not that they aren't already), you can even add in things like cacao nibs, cacao powder, orange zest, lemon zest, maca powder, coconut oil, oats, maple syrup, nut butter, chia seeds... I could probably go on for a while longer, but I think I'll leave it here.

Ultimately, the combination is completely up to your own imagination, taste preference, and nutrition goals/requirements. My personal preference is simple and sweet: dates and an assortment of nuts pulsed together and rolled into a ball and covered in desiccated coconut.

Make these. Once you've made them once, you'll never stop.

600g Medjool dates, pitted (soak overnight or in warm water beforehand if your dates are qui
1 1/2 cups of mixed nuts - I used a mix of pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and sesame seeds
pinch of salt (DO NOT OMIT THIS - it makes a world of difference!)
1/3 cup dessicated coconut

In a food processor or high speed blender, pulse the nuts until they are small bits. It is essential that you don't over-pulse to the point where the nuts turn into powder, or even worse, nut butter!

Pour the pulsed nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning/washing/doing anything to your blender, add the dates and blend until a sticky paste forms.

Once almost smooth, pour in the nuts again, add the salt and pulse/process until the nuts and dates and well combined. The mixture should be sticky enough to form into balls.

Pour the desiccated coconut into a small flat plate and set aside.

Roll the nut/date mixture tightly into balls of desired size. After rolling each ball, roll it in the plate of desiccated coconut, pressing down with the slightest amount of pressure so the coconut sticks. Once all the mixture has been used up, place the balls in an airtight container and leave in a cool place or in the fridge. Don't forget to leave one out for you to taste right now! Enjoy!