Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts

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Be willing to move forward and find out what happens next.                 – Frank Shorter

 

December. There have been dinner parties, holiday parties, office-gifting, coffee catch-ups, super big deal good news, all-day baking sessions, making food with 100+ teenagers with differing food tastes, several nights and days of not enough sleep and feeling too tired, and then news that is challenging, both personally and in the world. Last week was my last big work-related push of the year and each morning I woke feeling like I could sleep for another five hours. Then in my morning runs, I could tell my body was a little “down” in a way that is not depression or hard workout related. When the going gets tough and I’ve too many things on my plate, I tend to put my head down and stubbornly power through. Alone with myself in the dark and the cold and the rain, I could tell when I stopped powering through and listened that I really needed a break that involves not socializing or busy-bodying but genuine self-care, reading a good book, journaling, wearing slippers and workout tights all day, sleeping in, listening to good music, eating and drinking warm foods, and practicing “being gentle“.

 

Fortunately, I took the weekend and did some of the above. I’m banking those slow days now particularly, as there are giant changes looming ahead. Somehow, I’ve come to one of those transitory periods when all the big life things are shifting at the same time. I’ve only shared pieces of these changes with a few of my closest and I haven’t processed yet. Instead, I’m keeping my head by focusing on this step I’m in. The rest will figure itself out.

 

In the meantime, it’s Recipe Redux day, and like last year, we’re cooking from books. If you read regularly, it’ll be fairly obvious that I’m a mega-fan of David and Luise at Green Kitchen Stories. I love both their cookbooks and I’ve been cooking from their latest, Green Kitchen Travels, all year long. One of the recipes I’ve made several times is their super vegetable-heavy chili with dark chocolate and walnuts. I’m quite experimental with food and will gladly make something new every single day but I’ll periodically circle back to recipes if I find them particularly good. This chili is my absolute favorite and it is also infinitely variable. I’ve changed up the types of veggies used each batch depending on the season and what I’ve got. I tend to stuff it with more of the root vegetables this time of year like parsnips, celeriac, turnips, and rutabagas.

 

This is a chili to warm hearts and revive during this busy season of dark nights. William and I gobble it up when the need for chili strikes — and it is a great one to serve to a crowd.

 

Cheers. I hope your December is merry.

 

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Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts, adapted from Green Kitchen Travels

serves 6-8

2 Tbs. olive or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. cumin 
1  fresh chili, minced (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 celeriac (winter), peeled and chopped or 2 bell peppers, (summer) red & yellow, finely chopped 
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery with top greens, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried mixed beans (adzuki, kidney, black eye, borlotti), soaked and cooked or 3 14-oz. cans
2 14-oz. cans whole plum tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
1-2 ounces 80% dark chocolate, broken in pieces

  • Start by preparing all the vegetables.
  • Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili, paprika and oregano, and let fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices smell fragrant. Be careful so they don’t burn.
  • Add celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celery, and let cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped walnuts, beans, tomatoes, water and salt and let cook for 30 minutes or more.
  • Now add the chocolate, starting with a lesser amount and tasting as you go until it is “enough.” I usually use about 1 1/2 ounces. Stir the chocolate around carefully and let cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro, if desired, and homemade cornbread.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce and Hazelnut Ganache

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Closer to ‘Walden Pond’ than the ‘Joy of Cooking’, I read off the back of the book to Will as we drove from the library.

You do know ‘Walden’, yes? I asked.

No idea, he said.

It’s a great American classic! I astonished, the former English major in me kicking in. You should have read it in 11th grade along with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, and Jonathan Swift’s satire about eating Irish babies. Yes?

No idea. I hated English. I almost failed that year.

 

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Whoompf. Deflated, I let the conversation sink in.

No wonder I don’t get any poetry. 

 

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And then recalling all the frustrated exchanges about technology, the wireless button this, the computer gidget that, the tiny intricate parts on his truck I really should stop asking about, the movies I’ve never seen nor heard of, and his daily exasperated, why-don’t-you-stop-clicking-random-things-for-god’s-sake!?! 

 

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That year he lived and worked with my parents, they were incredulous he didn’t know a halter or a hoof-pick. Walter good-naturedly gave him a hard time for all the daily first time learnings. We don’t all grow up on a ranch, dad, I wanted to say when I learned of it.

 

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And then, the last we were home, Will gave the ribbing right back when he taught Walter about an iPhone, and we could all see the dawn of realization come across dad in knowing all those second nature morsels of truth in the ranching life were his and there he was being the one who didn’t know.

 

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We each have our knowings, interests, and talents. The divine interweaving of their chaos into our social network is a special kind of art; you like this and I like that, and we still love each other and are friends and can relate; the somehow perfectly messy order of it is beautiful and awe-inducing, don’t you think?

 

(and if you don’t and it’s just me then point in case!)

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce + Hazelnut Ganache

adapted from Dolly + Oatmeal

makes two 6-inch layers

gluten + dairy-free

The Recipe Redux February theme is chocolate pairings. Unlike most of the ladies I know, I generally choose chocolate last when given a choice of flavors. Chocolate, for me, is either a simple square of plain dark after dinner or super fancy special occasion layer cake. There’s no in between. I’m just not into chocolating-up granola bars and breakfast and smoothies and the like. Sorry not sorry. This cake is definitely in the special occasion category. It is intensely dark, and for a discerning chocolate snob, about the best damn chocolate cake I’ve had. William tends to like fluffy white cake-mix type cakes and is real particular about sweets. He gobbled this up day after day. Considering recipe testing, this is a stamp of approval in the truest sense! 

I haven’t mentioned it often, but I’m all over the eating locally lifestyle (an ongoing gradually-more-over-the-years change), so I paired the chocolate with the abundant locally grown hazelnuts and strawberries picked fresh from the farm last summer. They are the most insanely delicious strawberries. Mixed with chia seed to thicken up into a sauce, they require no additional sweetener. Add them between the layers with the ganache and serve them on the side. Depending on your berry availability, sweeten them up as necessary. As for the cake, I trialed it with and without eggs. The egg-free version is denser and more brownie-like than the version with eggs. We didn’t think it lived up to the egg version on the first day, but it won out as the days went on, so if you’re slow at eating sweets, perhaps give it a try with two tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 Tbs. warm water to form a flax slurry in lieu of the eggs.

for the cake

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground from toasted and shelled hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raw cacoa powder*
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (soft, not melted)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened hemp milk

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 4 Tbs. chia seeds

for the hazelnut ganache

  • 3/4- 1 cup unsweetened hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 275 grams (10 oz.) high quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal
  • chopped hazelnuts for garnish

for the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line the bottoms of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Then rub a little coconut oil up the sides of the pans and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil with a whisk and a strong arm until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated; then add the vanilla and milk; mix again until  it is combined.  Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients to the wet.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check after out 20 minutes so as not to over bake.
  • Transfer the layers to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove layers and rest them until completely cool.

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • place the strawberries and seeds in a food processor and puree until smooth or still slightly chunky (your choice). Then turn into a container and place in the fridge for firm up for an hour or more (this might depend on the water content of your berries).

for the hazelnut ganache

  • In a food processor, puree the hazelnut meal and chocolate together until finely ground. In either a small bowl in the microwave or a small pan over the stovetop, heat the milk to frothy and boiling. Next, with the food processor running, slowly pour in the hot milk to form a thin sauce. Pour into a bowl and leave to sit out at room temperature or if you’re impatient, put in the fridge for an hour or two. It should become quite thick, like buttercream frosting.

assemble

  • Level the cake layers, if necessary, with a long serrated bread knife.  Place one layer on the cake stand or plate, and using a cake spatula or thick knife, put about 2-3 tablespoons of ganache on one cake layer and spread evenly.  Spread roughly 2-3 tablespoons of the strawberry sauce over the frosting, leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the edge.  place the other cake layer on top and frost the rest of the cake.  Garnish with extra chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

If keeping the cake around for longer than a day or two, store in the fridge.

*for reasons to start using a little more raw cacoa instead of cocoa powder, Sara gives a great explanation.

 

The Fall Flavors Raw Brownie

 

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I loaded up on Italian plums at the farmers market last weekend. Their sign said “last of the season” and I sighed because we’ve moved so quickly into the autumn months. It was a game day and all the college students have arrived back in town. These past few days, the temperature still got uncharacteristically up into the ’90s ’round these parts, but the mornings and evenings say summer has ended. It’s dark until 7:00 am. It gets dark at 7:00pm. Blink and those last few plums will be missed. The remaining local peaches sold out early at the market a week ago and the melons are on their final hurrah.

 

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Well and truly, though I’m reluctant to transition at this time every year, I’m a sucker for each new seaon. There are new-again flavors to be savored and weather and beauty in the natural world to be appreciated. Fall is my MOST FAVORITE of all because of the crisp mornings, colorful leaves, and the natural bent of light that slants just so each afternoon. Plus, I like comfy sweaters, hugging my cuppa throughout the day, the return of the rain, and warming spices that mean more in this season than all the others.

 

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The Recipe Redux folks requested a recipe this month with dehydrated food. I don’t have the equipment or the space these days to go all DIY and and get my dehydration-station on, but I do have grandparents that have stocked my parents’ freezer with no small shortfall of prunes. My mom never uses them. I’m the only one who ever takes a random bag home, and even then, I’ve only developed one recipe over the years that I really like to eat prunes in. No longer. They go well with hazelnuts, chocolate, and spices. Plus, they can be enjoyed all season long, since you know, they’re dehydrated and all.

 
 
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This brownie really is lovely and boasts a huge plus: it’s nutrient-dense. I know all my friends and relatives roll their eyes because I make desserts that always have some form of health benefit, but raw desserts are simply the best. These brownies have all the good flavors, natural sugars from the fruit, and are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats from the raw cacao and hazelnuts.

 
 
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Fall Flavors Raw Brownies, adapted from Oh, Ladycakes
2 cups roasted hazelnuts
6 Tbs. cacao powder
pinch salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 medjool dates
1/2 cup prunes
1-2 Tbs. water
 
  • In a food processor, blend the nuts, cacao powder, salt, and spices until they are all finely chopped and incorporated.
  • Next, toss in the dates (pitted and halved), and the prunes. Process until a paste begins to form, and add 1-2 Tbs. water until the mixture just begins to form a dough, but isn’t too sticky.
  • Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and scoop the brownies in. Flatten them across the whole pan, and then stick in the freezer to harden up for about 30 minutes. They can then be removed and cut into square. If you’re not going to serve and eat them all right away, store them in the fridge or freezer in a covered container. This batch makes about 16 brownies.