Creamy Chocolate-Coffee Tart with an Almond Crust.

Yogurt is good. Chocolate is good. Coffee is good. Almonds are good. Chocolate is really good. So naturally, this recipe is good. The buttery almond crust is like the delicious nutty cousin of your standard graham cracker crust, but it’s much easier on us carb-avoiders and any gluten-free peeps among us. And the creamy chocolate-coffee filling is just sweet and decadent enough, without going sugar-overboard. It’s a quick and easy road to creamy nutty goodness. I like to give it a sprinkling of chocolate chips, but it would be pretty groovy to drizzle some melted chocolate over the top and really up that glamor factor.

NOTE: This isn’t a good dessert to make far in advance. It will last in the fridge about 36 hours before the yogurt starts to dry out from air exposure. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to make, but if you need to do some prep ahead of time, make and bake the crust and keep it in the fridge. Then, a few hours before you’ll need it, mix up the filling and assemble the tart.

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

for filling:
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (I use Fage because it’s SUBLIME)
2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee granules (not coffee grounds!)
2 tbsp hot water (the point of the hot water plus instant coffee granules is to get 2 tbsp coffee, so if you want, skip the granules and hot water step and just use 2 tbsp coffee)
2 tbsp brown sugar
chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Stir honey into melted butter. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and honey with almonds, salt, and cinnamon. Press into a tart shell or pie dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until it’s a medium brown color. I would tell you to wait for it to be “golden brown,” but it’s pretty much golden brown before it even starts cooking. If it starts to brown too quickly (mine did), tent the crust with tinfoil to protect it from burning. When the crust is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool at least half an hour.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling. Dissolve the coffee granules in the hot water. Stir together the Greek yogurt, coffee, cocoa powder, and brown sugar. Keep it in the fridge until the crust has cooled.

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Once the crust is cooled, spread the yogurt filling evenly over it. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and dig in!

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Sweet Coconut Milk Bars.

“Healthy desserts.” Let’s be honest for a second: I’ve tried making a lot of healthy and healthy-esque dessert recipes at this point, and I’m convinced that they’ll just never be as good as the really decadent stuff they’re supposed to replace. Because, surprise! other fats don’t taste as good as butter, other sweeteners don’t cut it when compared to sugar, etc. Since I do have a sweet tooth, but don’t want to “splurge” every time I crave something sweet, I try to work with what I’ve got by making something that hits the spot without sabotaging my otherwise healthy day. So if you’re looking for a recipe that rivals key lime pie or chocolate chip cookies in its delectable sweet treat power, I’ll level with you—this is probably not gonna be it. But if you’re looking for a really good low-sugar, low-carb dessert option, then I highly highly recommend these Sweet Coconut Milk Bars! Inspired by a recipe from a great blog called Living Healthy with Chocolate, these are creamy and rich and just sweet enough to do the trick, with a bunch of nuts and very little added sugars. Good stuff. I’m looking at you, New Years Resolution-Makers!

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INGREDIENTS

1 can full-fat coconut milk (this is a different type of coconut milk than the stuff you get in a carton – do not substitute)
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted in a pan and ground to a fine meal in a food processor
3/4 cup ground almond meal
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, melted (or use coconut oil)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Just the Recipe link: Sweet Coconut Milk Bars

DIRECTIONS

First, get the sweetened condensed coconut milk going. Empty the can of coconut milk into a sauce pan and stir in the honey. Bring to a boil, stirring pretty consistently, and then reduce to a mellow simmer. Stir occasionally and cook for about an hour and 15 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by half and has darkened slightly in color. It should coat a spoon thickly and be the consistency of gently whipped cream.

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To prepare the crust, first preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together ground walnuts, almond meal, vanilla extract, butter, and cocoa powder. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper and transfer the crust mixture to the dish. Use your fingers to press the crust into a thin layer that covers the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes.

To assemble the filling, mix together the almonds, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips. Spread the condensed coconut milk over the crust and sprinkle the chocolate chip mixture over the top. Bake for 15 minutes.

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Take the bars out of the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper up and out of the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for one hour. Then transfer to the refrigerator. Let them set in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting into squares. To make sure the squares hold their shape and don’t fall apart, keep them refrigerated.

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Eternally-Fresh Berries and Greek Yogurt.

This is definitely not a “recipe” in my usual sense. It’s more of a favorite technique, and I’m sharing it with you because ever since I started doing it, I’ve saved money by not letting fruit go to waste and I’ve made my breakfasts a lot healthier and better-tasting. I used to eat those single-serve yogurts that come with a layer of sugary fruit to stir in, which is of course delicious and convenient, but not such a great way to start the morning. Then I started doing fruit and yogurt this way instead, and man is it ever good! Here’s the basics of why this method rocks:

  • the berries last longer because I wash and dry them before they go in the fridge/freezer, which helps fend off mold/mushiness
  • my berries are washed and ready to go whenever I need them, so I never have to eat wet and drippy berries
  • I freeze half, so I have gorgeous berries on hand all the time
  • The fresh berries are (obviously) delicious, and the frozen berries break up easily when stirred into yogurt (just like the sugary stuff, only healthier!)

Convinced? Because I love this stuff berry much. Now orange you laughing at my fruit jokes?

INGREDIENTS

2 packets of fresh berries – raspberries are my favorite, and blackberries are great too, but any berry you like should work
Greek yogurt (let me HEARTILY suggest Fage brand yogurt. I’ve reached the point where if it isn’t Fage, I don’t even want it. Seriously unbeatable stuff)

DIRECTIONS

As soon as you get home with your berries, rinse them under cold water. Then turn them out onto a towel and flip each one upside-down; if you’re using raspberries, for example, turn them so that they’re standing up on their hollow end. This helps them dry completely, which is what we’re going for. Leave the berries for an hour or two, until dry.

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When the berries are dry, put them back in their little plastic basket or other similar container (which should also be dry).

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Put one of the containers in the fridge and use within 2-3 days. Not only can you eat these on the go, without stopping to rinse them and then have them wet and drippy, but they also last a lot longer when they’ve gotten a chance to dry before they get piled on top of each other in the fridge.

Put the other container of berries in the freezer. Because they are dry, the berries will freeze individually, without sticking to one another, and they’ll keep their perfect picturesque berry shape.

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Here’s how I use the frozen berries: before I leave for work, I spoon a portion of Fage Greek yogurt into a tupperware and toss in 8 or so of these frozen gems. By the time I get to work and dig into the yogurt, the berries have defrosted and gone a little bit soft. They’re the perfect consistency to crush up with my spoon and stir into the creamy yogurt. I LOVE this because it’s just as delicious as one of those yogurt-and-fruit single serving cups, but it’s so pure and healthy!

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Here’s what it looks like once I get it to the office and stir everything up. Best easy workday breakfast ever!

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Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip.

After a month hiatus from blogging, I’m back! It’s been a very busy, fun month which included a fantastic ten day vacation in Paris! Hopefully this Europe-trip-in-the-Fall thing is starting to become an annual habit for me – at about the same time last year, I was heading off to Scotland for 10 days of Highland hijinks. Paris was so lovely, and it was wonderful to get to spend a full ten days in the city. We were really able to combine sightseeing with relaxation in the best possible way, while sprinkling in lots of amazing eating! Here are some highlights of the trip, before we get into recipe-land.

One of many, many patisserie visits, we had kick-butt hot chocolate and baba au rhum at Angelina, near the Tuileries:

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A big culinary highlight of the trip was dinner at the art nouveau dreamworld Brasserie Julien. I was lucky enough to discover this place on a previous visit to Paris, and I couldn’t wait to bring my friends back to enjoy it this time. We enjoyed plate after amazing plate of their beautiful food—Julien delivered again. For my main course, I had this shrimp and salmon dish in a light lime cream sauce:

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I love the ubiquity of Paris cafes – they mean instant peace and a full tummy, with a side of people-watching. The intermittent Fall rain was a great excuse to drop in.

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Probably my favorite pastry of all time is the buttery, chocolate-filled croissant-like bun known as pain au chocolat. Pair it with a cup of black tea and you’ve got a breakfast of champions right here. SO GOOD.

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And not pictured: a HEFTY daily dose of macaroons that would rival the excesses of Versailles. Nothing beats a chocolate macaroon. Except 5 chocolate macaroons.

And now, folks, for the recipe: a creamy, spicy, delicious black bean and goat cheese dip.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil or bacon grease
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock (chicken stock or even water would work here, too)
1 (4 oz) can green chiles, chopped
2/3 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream will do)
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz goat cheese
sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
tortilla chips, pita bread, or carrot and cucumber slices for dipping

Just the Recipe link: Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bigger saucepan than the inexplicably small one I chose to use for this, heat olive oil or bacon grease over medium flame. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook another minute, and then pour in the first can of black beans. Mash with a potato masher.

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Stir in the vegetable stock and green chiles. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

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Then add the second can of beans and mash again, a little more coarsely this time. Remove from heat.

Stir in the Greek yogurt, oregano, salt, and pepper. Transfer the bean mixture to a baking dish.

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Break up the goat cheese into small pieces and press them into the dip, speckling the top with the little white gems. Drizzle sriracha or other hot sauce over the top.

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Bake for 20 minutes. As the dip bubbles, it might bubble over, so make sure you have a pan or a sheet of foil to catch any drips. When the 20 minutes are up, remove from the oven.

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This stuff is great both hot and room temperature. Just before you serve it, sprinkle with chopped green onion. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread, or do what I did and cut up some carrots and cucumber for dippin’.

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Nutty Cinnamon Cream of No-Wheat, a.k.a. “Faux-tmeal”

Cream of No-Wheat: a hot cereal made with nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and cinnamon – but with no wheat and no oats. Considering how I’ve altered the way I eat pretty dramatically over the past few months, moving away from processed grains and sugar and toward protein, fruits, veggies, and the like, this recipe is the answer to my breakfast dreams! That’s because, while I really haven’t looked back following these big changes, I have to admit that there are a few things I have truly, truly missed, and one of those things is my morning oatmeal.  When I saw a recipe from A Girl Worth Saving via salixisme that looked like a great hot cereal compromise, I had to give it a try. And it is absolutely delicious: creamy, nutty, with just enough sweetness from the dates, and a slightly chewier consistency from the nuts and seeds. It’s a very flexible recipe, and you can swap various ingredients in or out as you like: pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, pecans, dried apples, or brown sugar would all do a little something special if you wanted to try them out in here. And because this recipe makes about 8 servings, you can prep the “oatmeal” dry mix ahead of time, and just cook however many servings you need that morning. I calculated it out, just to see what this dish looks like from a protein perspective: each 3/4 cup serving has about 8g of protein, plus about 10g from the milk, making this a breakfast with about 18g of protein. Yay for hot breakfast!

UPDATE: I recently made another version of this – I was out of sunflower seeds, so instead of the 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, I used about 3 tbsp of chia seeds and an additional 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts. The chia seeds were awesome here, thickening the consistency to that it more closely resembled cream of wheat. I’m definitely adding chia seeds to this every time I make it from now on!

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INGREDIENTS:

the dry mix*:
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds, chopped
1/2 cup flaxseed meal (or use whole flax seeds and grind them)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, slivered
1/2 lb pitted dates, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*NOTE: chop your ingredients finer if you want a smoother, more cream-of-wheat-esque finished product, or leave them bigger for a chunkier consistency. I tried to opt for a middle ground.

to cook the oatmeal:
3/4 cups of dry mix per person
1 1/4 cup milk per person (dairy milk, almond milk, whatever you like)

Just the Recipe link: Nutty Cinnamon Cream of No-Wheat, a.k.a. “Faux-tmeal”

DIRECTIONS

Combine all the dry mix ingredients in a bowl and stir together.

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Measure out the amount you’d like to make now (about 3/4 cups per person should do it), and store the rest in an air-tight container in the fridge, for future use.

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To cook the oatmeal, bring the milk to a gentle bubble on the stove and stir in the dry mix.

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Stirring occasionally, simmer gently until thickened to your liking (mine took about 10 minutes, give or take). Remove from heat.

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Spoon the good stuff into a bowl and stir in any extras you like – more milk, fruit, nuts, whatever! Then dig in.

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Green Taco Burger Wraps.

I love lettuce wraps – I think I even prefer when things are wrapped in lettuce to any tortilla or bun (excluding hot dogs, of course). The cool crunch and the light freshness of the lettuce just seems to pair well with a lot of the foods that we think of as bun-worthy. This recipe for what I’m calling “green taco burger wraps” combines the best of cheeseburgers and tacos and wraps the whole thing in nice crunchy lettuce. The burger meat is spiced with cumin and oregano to give it a bit of Mexican flavor, and the toppings are all my taco favorites (especially avocado….mmmm). They’re easy and healthy and so delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

about 3/4 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
red onion, diced
cheese, sliced (I used cheddar)
cilantro, rough chop
tomato, chopped
red pepper, raw or lightly sauteed
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
avocado, sliced
green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Just the Recipe link: Green Taco Burger Wraps

DIRECTIONS

First, season the burger meat. In a large bowl, add meat, egg, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and red onion to taste. I set the rest of the red onion aside in a little ramekin to top the burgers with later. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

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That’s the only cooking prep you’ll do in this recipe. At this point, I set the meat aside to let the flavors hang out a bit while I chopped up everything else and put all the amazing toppings into their own little bowls.

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When everything else is ready to go, cook the burgers. First, use your hands to form them into small patties (we made two little patties per person). I cooked them on my beautiful new Le Creuset grill pan from Williams-Sonoma, but a regular grill or a pan can do the trick as well. Put your pan over medium high heat and lightly grease before adding the burgers. Cook until browned on each side and medium-rare in the middle (or however you like your burgers cooked!). Set aside for 5 minutes to let the meat rest.

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The next step is just assembly!

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I started with the lettuce wrapper, then laid the burger on top and placed the cheese on top of that, so it would get a little melty. Then it’s only a matter of topping to your heart’s content – cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onion, avocado, and a finishing squeeze of lime make these a perfect fresh and healthy lunch. Before you take a bite, just wrap the lettuce around your taco-topped burger. Then dig right in!

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