Chocolate Bliss Balls two ways (vegan and raw)

Vegan, Raw, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

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 It’s been one of those post-exam weeks where I have literally achieved nothing with my time. I spent the first day sitting in front of the heater eating sultanas and staring at the floor. I spent the second day sleeping and playing with my dogs ears. The rest of the week has gone much the same way. It has been awesome. 

I had grand plans to share a new zucchini noodle recipe with roast tomato sauce, but alas I ate all the zucchinis. I also ate all the tomatoes, and the avocado as well. I’m sorry! I have a good feeling that next week will be zucchini noodle week. So instead this week turned into bliss ball week because you can never have enough recipes for these protein balls, and also cafe’s these days are selling them for like, $3 a ball. That’s not cool guys. You could make twelve balls for that amount of money! (And it would taste better. Sshh). 

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 Something exciting did actually happen this week. I got a tattoo! It’s a little sun on my left shoulder drawn by my friend Lilli, who designed the title here and is an amazing artist as well. I’d wanted to get a little sun tattoo for a year at least and when my friend said she would get one too, I thought yolo! It’s tattoo time! 

It didn’t really hit me that I’d got it until a few days later, but I’m very happy with it. The sun as a symbol means a lot to me and now every time I look over my shoulder, there it is sitting there. A little ray of sunshine. There’s a picture of it on instagram if you want to see, although I have to warn you I am a little bit nakey in that photo. (Please don’t report me!)

Ok, bliss ball time. Also, I promise I will quit with the dark lighting after this post! I’m going through backgrounds in colour phases to learn about my camera settings, which is why things are looking strange and repetitive lately ❤ Have a great week! 

One Year Ago: Apple, Quince and Walnut Crumble Pie

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 Basic Bliss Ball Recipe:

1 cup dried fruit: either dates, apricots, sultanas or a mix

1.5 cups nuts: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or a mix 

Coconut and Vanilla:

Soak 1 cup sultanas in water for half an hour. Bash up 1.5 cups walnuts in a mortar and pestle. Add 3 tbsp desiccated coconut, and the seeds from half a vanilla bean. Blend everything together. Roll the balls in more coconut and store in the fridge. 

Chocolate and Cinnamon:

Soak 1 cup apricots in mandarin or orange juice for half an hour, and chop finely. Bash up your nuts in a mortar and pestle. Blend with the drained fruit, 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 tbsp raw cacao powder. 

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Apple and Pear Honey Crumble with Toasted Almonds

Optional Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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Ok, I’ve finally accepted it. It’s officially winter now in Sydney. I may or may not have attempted to hang on to Summer for a little too long this year. I may have bought a bikini yesterday. And a pair of shorts. But to be fair the warm weather lasted for ages! There were a few chilly nights, where I insisted on wearing summer clothes and ended up having to shelter under my taller friends’ armpits for warmth. But all in all this Autumn was rather balmy. 

It’s strange how in Sydney no one really accepts that it gets cold in Winter. All through Summer everyone’s super prepared with their chilled watermelon and beach trips, but come winter literally no one knows how to act. No one even owns proper coats, let alone umbrellas or *gasp* thermals. For the first time ever last night I actually used the heating in my room, thinking, “hmm. 28C seems like a pretty nice temperature.” One hour later I woke up sweaty and panicked, dopey from all the gas in my room. I had to crawl to the remote and turn the heat down. I had to crawl.

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So today this is my slightly better remedy for winter. Everyone knows the best part about winter is the dessert. It must be warm and it must be served with vanilla ice cream. Otherwise the criteria is pretty vague. We had a whole bunch of pears and apples sitting in the fruit bowl and at first I was going to make a pie, but who has time for that?! Also, I wanted to eat this particular dessert for breakfast. This was also why I made the crumble in individual bowls, so that no confused lost soul would accidentally think I made the crumble for sharing purposes. 

I decided to try some new flavours in the crumble as a little experiment, and they worked so well I knew I had to post the recipe. The cinnamon and honey go so well with the pears! I literally couldn’t stop eating it. But the flavour that worked best was the oranges I squeezed over the fruit to stop it going brown. We had heaps of oranges as well and I juiced a couple to stop the fruit going brown as I took photos. Holy moly! It made the filling so much better! I would possibly vote this crumble one of the best I’ve ever tasted. 

Remember to serve with ice cream. And you should probably wear woolly socks whilst you eat it, preferably whilst watching Brigitte Jones Diary. But it’s up to you 🙂

One Year Ago: Tangy Lemon Curd Frozen Yogurt

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 Apple Crumble with Honey and Almonds:

6 medium firm apples, peeled and sliced 

6 medium firm pears, peeled and sliced

juice of 2-3 medium oranges

1 heaped tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp runny honey, or maple syrup for vegan

For the fruit filling, combine everything in a heavy bottomed pan and cook, covered, on a low heat for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft but still holding its shape. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). 

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For the crumble:

50g butter (vegan butter or coconut butter can be substituted for vegan) chopped 

100g wholemeal flour (almond butter for gluten free)

100g gluten-free oats

40g toasted almonds, chopped roughly

2 tbsp raw sugar 

25ml almond milk

Rub the butter and flour together in a bowl between your fingers until the mixture is crumbly but not doughy. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients until combined. Pour over the almond milk and chop through the mixture with the spoon until everything is lightly crumbly. 

Spoon the fruit into an oven proof dish (or around 6-8 small ones). Cover with the crumble and bake for half an hour, until the top is toasty and golden and the fruit bubbling. Serve warm with ice cream.

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Natural Mango Scented Chocolates (raw and vegan)

Raw, Vegan, Sugar Free and Gluten Free

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 Last week of the uni semester is always so rough. This week I wrote two terrible essays for my final assignments, and waded through three hundred (literally three hundred I’m not even exaggerating) pages of notes trying to summarise for my exam next week. How did I manage to write so many pages of class notes? I don’t really know. Did I write down anything important? No. I can’t even understand myself from two weeks ago. In my mind when I take notes I always think “I’ll just abbreviate these words a bit to save time – future Lil will remember what I’m talking about”…

Future Lil never has any clue what I meant. In one of my law subjects this is one of the notes I wrote in class – “mention the dead baby case but the mum was mean so it didn’t work”. What. On. Earth. Was. I. On. About. “Sigh”. 

So instead of studying today I took a break to make chocolate. Because chocolate makes everything better! Especially when it is super good for you too and you don’t have to battle with assignments AND post-chocolate gorging regrets. 

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 My Step Dad very kindly bought my a huge block of cocoa butter a few weeks ago after he heard me raving about coconut butter (bless). I admit for the first couple days I just stared at it having no clue what to use it for. And then I realised there probably wasn’t a better possible way than just making real chocolate! 

So I got researching and it’s actually super easy to make at home. Raw cocoa butter and cocoa powder (usually called cacao) is actually really good for you. It is packed with antioxidants and has been heralded for its benefits to the skin and heart. When you heat it unfortunately you lose lots of those benefits, but you get a big difference in flavour as the chocolate essence transforms from quite a fruity, almost bitter flavour to a more nutty, dark, rich, smooth and complex flavour. (Never too many adjectives). 

I personally like the flavour of raw cacao so I used that exclusively here. If you get a good quality brand the chocolate flavour is still very sweet and strong. If you want the real dark chocolate experience, swap half the cocoa powder with Dutch-processed, or all of it if you prefer. 

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For the liquid sweetener, you can go with a few different alternatives. If you want to use real sugar, use icing sugar so that the texture isn’t grainy. For liquid sweeteners, you can use a scented honey like I have, or for a perfectly suitable vegan substitute you can use agave nectar (the light kind). I have heard of people using maple syrup, brown rice syrup and other fruit syrups as well all with great success. I kind of guessed the quantities from the back of a few chocolate bars and by reading some other recipes, and I think the equal parts method is quite standard. For darker chocolate feel free to increase the cocoa!

We had a jar of mango scented honey in the cupboard that I had been waiting to try out, so that’s what I used here. You can also stir through chopped nuts, dried fruit, coconut flakes or anything you wanted really before the chocolate sets. It sets completely hard like real chocolate but keep it in a relatively cool place to avoid it melting. And you can use it in place of recipes that call for melted chocolate for a sugar-free vegan alternative! Win Win 🙂 

One Year Ago: Carrot Muffins with Bush Honey Icing

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Natural Raw Chocolate: 

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cacao powder, well sifted

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cocoa butter, roughly chopped

100ml (3.5 fluid ounces) raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar

 Place a pot with a few inches of water over your lowest heat with a bowl placed on top. Heat the water until boiling, then turn off the heat. Put the cocoa butter in the bowl and allow to melt completely at a low temperature, to avoid killing the nutrients. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa, sweetener of choice and cocoa butter well. Whilst still warm and runny, pour your chocolate into little cupcake moulds or chocolate moulds. Silicone will be easiest to remove later! Allow to cool completely in the fridge and then keep at room temperature. The chocolate lasts well for ages and makes great presents. This amount made 30 tiny cupcake moulds of chocolate, and you can easily increase or decrease to suit. Enjoy!

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Raspberry, Burnt Butter and Coconut Friands (gluten free!)

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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 My favourite scene from Kath and Kim is when Kath and Kel are at a cafe having a cup of tea, and when Kel goes to pay Kath says “no we’re not paying Kel. My friand was dry.” My goodness, such good memories. Kath is right though! There is nothing, NOTHING worse than a dry friand. 

You may be wondering right now what a friand is. Otherwise known as a financier, it is a little French almond cake usually topped with a piece of fruit or two. I wonder if Australia is the only country to call them Friands. I think it might be a national habit to think up funny names for otherwise normal products. Why do we call granola bars muesli bars? I honestly don’t know. So whether you call them friands or financiers, that’s what I made today. But these ones are a little bit special!

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 When I made trifle a few weeks ago I used up twelve egg yolks. That’s a lotta yolks! The egg whites have been patiently staring at me from the freezer ever since, to the point that I can hear their little voices talking to me. “What are you waiting for Lillian? We’re ready to go!” CURSE YOU EGG WHITES. Joking…but seriously sometimes I feel my life is dedicated to thinking of what to do with leftover egg whites. 

Cue friands. Friands use egg whites, and they are made with almonds! So no gluten AND no more egg whites. Well I didn’t quite manage to use up all twelve of them, but I did make them gluten free! I ground up some finely desiccated coconut and replaced the plain flour with that. And it was awesoooome.

They came out tasting so coconutty and soft and just uuugh. Yum. And burnt butter people. Don’t pretend that ship has sailed yet. 

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When I was researching recipes I was surprised by how unhealthy friand recipes are. Like HEAPS of sugar and icing sugar at that! Whenever I see icing sugar I think of when my friend ate a mug of it with a spoon on holidays once because she was craving sugar so much. I decided to just take a risk and replaced the icing sugar with agave nectar and the white sugar with a few tablespoons of raw sugar. 

And guess whaaaat they still tasted amazing. Lil = 1, Icing Sugar = 0. The agave nectar actually kept the friands really moist so there was no worry of them drying out. The edges went deep golden because I left them in the oven a minute or two long and the filling was still super light and lovely. You could replace the raspberries with any berry or even a little piece of fruit if you like. I adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz and he mentions peaches, plums or blackberries could be nice. If you try them tell me how they go!

One Year Ago: Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge

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 Raspberry, Coconut and Burnt Butter Friands: Adapted from Ready for Dessert 

110g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

140g (1.5 cups) ground almonds

40g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut

100g (1 cup) raw sugar

4 large egg whites 

70ml (5 tbsp) agave nectar or honey

100g raspberries, enough for a few each

1 tsp almond extract

1 pinch of salt

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Preheat the oven to 200C (390F) and line 12 small or 6 big muffin tins with muffin liners. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Cook slowly stirring only occasionally until the butter starts to darken and smell nice and toasty. Turn it off when you start to see brown, it will continue to cook longer after the heat it off. Allow to cool. 

In a blender, pulse the almond meal, coconut and sugar until very finely ground. Pulse in the agave, egg whites, salt and almond extract. Stir in the butter and spoon into the muffin tins. Top with a couple of raspberries and cook for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are fluffy and golden and the raspberries have sunk down. They last well but taste best on the first day you made them. 

Enjoy!

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Chilli and Basil Mushrooms on Avocado Toast

Vegan and Gluten Free

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 I LOVE MUSHROOMS. 

I love them. I don’t know about any other vegetarians out there, but the only thing I kind of miss from eating meat is eating chewy food. Vegetables can be crunchy and tempeh and tofu can be crumbly, but there isn’t much chewy food in a vegetarian diet. (Unless you count chewy worms and jelly snakes, which I do…) So whenever I feel like all I’ve been eating is soft and mushy food and get scared my teeth are about to fall out,  I crave mushrooms. 

Last week the farmers market had the best mushrooms! We bought four boxes of them! I ate mushrooms in four different meals in a row. By the last one I will admit I was feeling a little over-mushroomed. We made mushroom stir fry, baked mushrooms, mushroom pasta sauce, and my favourite way; chilli basil mushrooms on toast. 

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 The number one crime when making mushrooms on toast is to only use one type of mushrooms. ESPECIALLY if you just use button mushrooms. Button mushrooms are great, but they aren’t very flavoursome by themselves. They need the help of their little mushroom friends enoki and oyster. I went to Bill’s Cafe with some friends recently and got the mushrooms on toast, and I think there must have been four different types used! It was incredible. This recipe is partially inspired by that breakfast because it was amazing!

The number two crime is overcrowding the pan. Don’t do that. Mushrooms release juices when they cook and your pan will fill with liquid and they will broil. You will be sad. They will be sad. Make sure there’s lots of room for them to get brown and crispy and soak up all the flavours you add. (Thank you Julia Child!)

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I’m so excited to keep posting savoury recipes on this blog. This recipe is so easy, even if I haven’t quite mastered the ‘how to take a photo of a hot pan without burning yourself’ skill yet.  But I’m hopeful for the future. I used sour dough bread as the base of choice but the recipe is really about the mushrooms, so you can use gluten free bread or serve it over pasta or rice if you want. 

For the chilli jam I used a homemade jar made by a friend, so you could either make your own or buy a good quality one from a deli or market. I wouldn’t recommend a commercial brand just because they’re so much sweeter and less spicy than homemade, but if that’s all you have I’m sure it will taste fine. If you don’t like spice, you can also leave it out. 

You can put a poached egg on top too if you eat eggs. That’s what my sister did this morning, after I finally let her have the plate when I was finished photographing it. And it did look pretty good! Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Wholemeal Brown Sugar Strawberry Cake

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 Chilli and Basil Mushrooms on Avocado Toast:

For 2 people – 

30 ml (1.5 tbsp) olive oil 

2 small cloves of garlic, chopped 

2 big handfuls chopped field mushrooms

1 handful oyster mushrooms

2 handfuls mixed other mushrooms like enoki, button, flat etc

2 tsp chilli jam

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 handful torn basil leaves, split in half

2-4 pieces of bread (gluten free fine)

1/2 an avocado

Optional: poached egg, grilled tomato, lemon juice to serve

salt and pepper, to serve

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 Fry the garlic in the oil in a large pan on a gentle heat until soft. Increase the heat to medium and add in the mushrooms, chilli, and vinegar and sauté. Fry the mushrooms so that they become crispy and brown. Taste to check the seasoning. Grill your toast and spread with avocado. Squeeze on some lemon juice if you want and spoon over the mushrooms. Top with salt and pepper and extras, if you want. Serve hot!

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Tropical Fruits and Coconut Granola Bars (vegan and gluten free!)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Sugar Free

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 At the end of my two month holiday a few months ago, for the first time in my whole trip I had two days by myself. I left my sister and friend at a bus stop in Sukhotai, Thailand and began the seven hour journey back to Bangkok on my own. I shed a little tear watching my friends getting smaller through the window, knowing I wouldn’t see them for a whole month. It’s strange spending every waking minute with someone for so long, and then suddenly not at all. 

By the time I arrived in Bangkok the sun was setting. By the time I got to my hotel and checked in, it was well and truly dark. I had told myself I would get my last street food meal for dinner that night, but I confess I got a veggie subway and a bag of fresh fruit instead. Sitting in my hotel room eating mango slices, watching reruns of The Texas Bachelorette, I felt homesick for the first time. I missed my dog, I missed my family and the friends who I hadn’t seen in weeks. But mainly I just missed talking to people I knew. 

In the airport (which I accidentally arrived at 6 hours before my flight…curse you 24 hour time!) I spent all my remaining money on presents for my family, including two huge bags of dried fruit for my Step Dad. My plans were to make him some tropical granola bars as soon as I got home, because he love granola bars. 

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 My grand plans got sidetracked by a number of other exciting dishes that had to come first, and somehow three months passed before I could get around to it! Better late than never right?

These granola bars are packed full of tropical flavours and they’re the best I’ve ever made, hands down! I have so many issues with granola bars. I hate when they crumble. I HATE IT. I hate when they’re overly sweet or so chewy your teeth almost fall out. Granola bars aren’t something I wanted to settle with, they had to be juuust right. 

It’s hard to get a balance between making a super healthy bar, which is so easy considering how much goodness you can pack in, as well as making them taste as good as a cafe-bought bar. These bars have found a happy compromise. They are rich from a maple syrup and coconut butter caramel, but also bursting with superfoods like goji, sunflower seeds, coconut and mango. 

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 I’m sad that the granola bars were oh so good, but the photos came out oh so bad! Sometimes I just can’t even deal with my photos. I mean, please. There needs to be an intervention. Someone needs to come and sit me down and explain everything there ever is to know about anything to do with my camera because my brain has turned to mush after all the uni work I did this week and I can’t improve by myself. I JUST CAN’T. 

You’re just going to have to trust me with this one. It’s such a great recipe, I know I’ll be using it from now on when the need for granola bars arises. You don’t have to take it down the tropical road if you don’t want to, that’s just an idea I had while I was waiting in Bangkok airport for my lonely flight home. 

I also ate four scoops of banana and chocolate ice cream while I was there, but that’s another story. 

If you try adding different flavours, let me know how it goes! And happy May! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate and Caramel Banana Muffins

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Tropical Granola Bars: Adapted from Ottolenghi

45g each hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and desiccated coconut

190g rolled oats

30g ground almonds 

50g dried mango

50g dried pineapple

50g dried goji berries

1 ripe banana

 

For the caramel:

75g raw sugar

85g coconut butter, or oil I think would work too

85g maple syrup (or honey for non-vegan)

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Method:

Preheat oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 x 23cm tin with baking paper. Soak the fruit briefly in water to soften a bit. Cut into small chunks, about the size of the goji berries. Roughly chop up the nuts. Stir together all the ingredients except the caramel and the banana in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut butter and syrup and sugar and stir well so that everything is combined. Cook for a minute, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir well. Mash the banana and stir through the mix. Pour into the lined tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before chopping with a serrated knife. 

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Chocolate and Coconut Tarts (using Coyo!)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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I hope you’re all ready for part two of the coconut appreciation week! The Coyo train continues. If you aren’t up to date, this week I am experimenting with coconut yogurt in a few of my favourite desserts. Coconut yogurt is thick and tangy like milk yogurt, with a pleasantly sweet flavour of coconut. It works perfectly in desserts because it’s naturally so rich and versatile. (Plus it’s super healthy- check out the benefits here). 

I have a habit of making something that tastes perfect as it is, and then adding a butt-load of chocolate to it. In my mind there’s not a dessert that can’t be made better with chocolate. I’m thinking…I’m thinking….nope. Well, possibly carrot cake would taste weird with chocolate. But then again now that I’ve said that…chocolate chunk carrot muffins? Anybody?!

With these tarts I was so happy with the first tarts I made, my mind naturally came to the conclusion that a chocolate version would be even more amazing. And I was right! These are possibly even easier to make than their fruity friends. The base is a raw walnut, chia and apricot crust with cacao and the filling is plain coyo flavoured with cacao, maple and a pinch of cinnamon. Possibly the best coconut dessert known to humans. (I don’t brag.) 

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I put them in the freezer to make them easier to photograph, and discovered how good they taste almost frozen! The base becomes so chewy and the middle is like a chocolate mousse ice cream, if that’s a thing. PS sorry if the above photo is kind of strange, I had major cabin fever when I was taking these photos and I started to imagine the tarts were my little friends. I had to stop myself talking to this one telling him he was the king tart sitting on his tart castle. 

I made these tarts mini sized, but I think it would work even better as a larger single sized tart. I didn’t want to make a big one because I promised my friend I would give her some, and making a whole tart would imply that I would be giving her that whole tart…without leaving any for me. But a bigger size would be easier to get the ratios right I think. Also I was planning on topping each tart with a cascade of beautiful red raspberries, but have you seen the prices of berries in Sydney lately?! $8.99 a punnet would break the bank! If you are blessed and live in a land of plentiful berries I think raspberries would be really nice as a topping. 

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With Easter right around the corner these would be a pretty epic Easter dessert. I can picture them with cute little dark chocolate easter eggs on top, or oh my gosh marzipan carrots! How cute would little marzipan carrots be! I saw a photo on pinterest the other day of a baby bunny pushing a mini shopping cart of baby carrots. It was so cute I almost cried. I almost cried! Anyway back to the tarts at hand…

Coyo is a completely natural product with no preservatives, so I would suggest not filling the tart until the day you want to eat it. It will last up to 2 or 3 days, especially if you keep them in the freezer. But it will definitely be best on the first day. Start the crust the night before if you want them to be super easy to handle from being in the fridge. Have a great week everybody 🙂 

One Year Ago: Ottolenghi Orange Syrup Cake

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 Vegan Chocolate Coconut Tarts: 

For the base:

1 cup dried organic apricots (use dates if you don’t have organic apricots) soaked in water

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup walnuts

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1/3 cup raw cacao

Crush the walnuts and chia seeds together briefly in a mortar and pestle. Drain and chop the apricots. Put everything in a blender and blend until a smooth dough forms. Line one tart tin, or 6-8 mini tart tins, with paper or plastic. Use your fingers to press the base along the bottom and up the sides, making sure the bottom is thick enough to be sturdy. Place in the freezer until you’re ready to freeze it (this will make it much easier to remove). 

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 For the Filling:

1 tub plain COYO or 750ml coconut yogurt

3-4 tbsp raw cacao, depending how chocolatey you want it

4 tbsp maple syrup (or honey) 

1 tsp cinnamon

Optional: raspberries or other fresh berries, to top

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Taste and adjust the cocoa or sweetener until you have the flavour you’re after. Fill the tart with the coconut mix and leave in the fridge to set before slicing. Top with the berries just before serving, to prevent them going soggy. 

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