Is there such a thing as a healthy snack”? I am not talking about fruit and vegetables, more like a granola bar type of snack. They are so convenient to have for traveling, or just when you are on the go. Recently, I set out on a mission to discover recipes for homemade snack bars that taste great, are nutritious, and low in refined sugar. Not a snack bar that is as heavy as a door stop and tastes like cardboard, (the vegetarian baked goods of the early 70’s still haunt me), but something lighter for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
This all started because I made a pledge several years ago. I promised to myself that if there was a dessert or treat I really wanted to eat, like cookies, I would make it and not buy it. Store bought cookies are not allowed in the house. I do this to control my snacking binges and it really works. Phase two, of my pledge is to add more items on my list, like snack bars. Honestly, I haven’t bought them since I made the pledge, so I am not eating them. However, we need a better stock of snacks in our pantry, so I don’t binge on crackers or chips.
Over the past two weeks I have scoured the internet looking for solid recipes in the granola bar category. Each one had large amounts of sugar and they were all in “soft” snack bar variety. Don’t people want crunchy snack bars? Don’t people crave that crunchy texture and is one of the reasons why chips are so damn good? I like crunchy granola bars so I will table this quest for another day.
One recipe caught my attention from the cookbook “Life In Balance”, by Donna Hay. The cookbook features several snack recipes all made with whole foods and good health in mind. It is not a crunchy granola bar, but all the ingredients are nutritious and foods I enjoy. I choose the Cacao, Banana, Date, and Cashew Bars recipe to test today, because it meets all my requirements, except being crunchy. Another bonus, I had all the ingredients except the cashews. However, I did have a bag of walnuts for an easy substitution. Also, this recipe allowed me to use up some bananas that were getting too ripe.
What I like about this snack bar is there is no refined sugar, no flour, and no dairy. It is filled with natural cocoa powder, bananas, fresh dates, walnuts, and a little vegetable oil. The 4 wholesome ingredients get puréed in a food processor then baked until firm. They taste like a bittersweet fudgy chocolate brownie. The cocoa flavor stands out, but it is not as bitter because of the dates, bananas, and walnuts. I would like them to be a little denser with more variation in texture, but the taste is very pleasing. If you crave a sweet fix for your snacks and love dark chocolate, this is the snack for you.
More snack foods for a light meal or picnic
All the ingredients are nutritious in their own right, but mixed together they make a nutritious snack bar that won’t weight you down with extra fat and sugar. According to My Calorie Counter from Fitness Pal, each snack bar has 228 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, and 4 g fiber.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
In the gentle quiet I hear, “Love and happiness… Yeahhhh. Something, make you want to do wrong. Make you do right. Yeahhhh. Loooooooove……” Then comes an anticipatory thump, thump, thump, thump priming me for his melody of syncopated guitar licks. bass, and swooning. The song is not so quiet anymore. Al Green guides me along with his lyrics and invites me to sing out loud and dance. He is generous that way and knows how to get the romantic heart pumping.
At the stove, wooden spoon in hand, I stir, sway, and sing “Love and Happiness,” while creating a love song with dark chocolate and Nutella. The name of my love song is, Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, a silky custard that could easily compete against any love song. This dessert has the right amount of everything; silky smooth custard for the base line, rich dark chocolate mixed with Nutella for the rhythm notes, Sriracha for the added syncopation and palpitations, then finishes with flaky sea salt to tie it all together. A pure love melody.
Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme is a recipe from Aarti Sequeira. I first saw it a few years ago while watching, The Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocoholics on Food Network. Lucky for me I stumbled upon this episode because I have created this chocolate love song ever since.
Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, could be one of the best things I have ever had, period. Not just the best chocolate dessert, or the best dessert. It tops the charts in all categories. I would be lying if I told you it is a cinch to make. It is and it isn’t. All the steps are not complicated to perform, but methodic actions and attentive observations are necessary for success. If you have never made a custard base before, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to start. No pressure. Aren’t we supposed to take chances with the ones we love?
Want more chocolate dessert recipes? Chocolate Bark Recipe
Clues for Success making Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme
The only challenging part is getting the custard cooked to just the right consistency without scrambling the eggs.
Cook the custard slowly and stir constantly. The stirring will prevent the custard and eggs from sticking to the pan and solidifying.
The finished custard will have the consistency of thick paint. It will coat the back of a wooden spoon with an even layer. Swipe your finger across the back of the custard covered spoon, if the edges run it needs more time to cook. If the lines stay formed, and the custard is thick, the custard is finished. The temperature for the finished custard will be between 175F and 180F. Above 185F the eggs will scramble.
There have been several times that my custard has reached 175F, but was not thick enough. Keep stirring and control the heat of the pan by turning down the heat, or taking the pan off the heat for a minute then place it back on the heat. Keep stirring.
Trust your judgement.
For Your Listening Pleasure
Here is a link to my unfinished play list of love songs on Spotify. It is an eclectic list of music, with an R & B foundation. Enjoy it while you are creating Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme or a love song of your own. Enjoy!
What is your favorite Love Song? Let me know in the comments section below.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A thank you. A greeting. An introduction. A small gesture… A homemade gift can be all those things. Homemade treats do not have to be fancy or time consuming to make, a simple gift will do. They are always appreciated. I like making gifts, but I do not get around to making them as much as I would like. I usually think of an idea for a homemade gift too late and eventually buy something along the way. When I found this recipe for chocolate bark, I had an ah ha moment. I can do this. This recipe for chocolate bark is unusual, simple to make, beautiful to look at, and satisfies all chocolate cravings.
I have been a fan of chocolate bark for some time now and must admit to be a total dark chocolate fanatic. A day does not go by without a chocolate snack. My dessert choice usually has chocolate as the main attraction. I can’t help myself and totally find chocolate irresistible. I discovered this recipe while reading, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, by Deborah Madison. Yes I see the perplexed expression on your face: a chocolate bark recipe in a fruit dessert cookbook? Yes, Deborah Madison is no dummy and included this recipe in her dried fruit and nuts chapter. There is something for everyone in all of her cookbooks.
Her chocolate bark recipes are different, which was the main attraction for me. Laden in her chocolate bark are dried fruit, nuts, rose petals, citrus zest, and other floral attractions, reminding me that chocolate bark can be whatever I want it to be. The add-ins do not need to be limited to pretzels, peppermint and coconut. It can hold up to any variety of flavors that compliment chocolate, like citrus, chili, cinnamon, coffee, sea salt, ginger, and all nuts, just to name a few. One could go crazy with add-ins for chocolate bark and have a surprise in every bite. I do not recommend going too crazy, the flavors do need to get along and marry with each-other and the type of chocolate.
Chocolate bark is a welcome dessert by itself or with fruit, nuts, cookies, or sorbet. You can keep it in your refrigerator to have on hand to serve for an impromptu dinner party. Chocolate bark will also make a lovely hostess gift, or a small gift to the chocolate lover(s) in your life. A homemade gift that can easily fit into anyone’s busy schedule.
© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.