Tag Archives: Chocolate

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Tres Leches Cake

Cinco de Mayo 2015

Today would be a good day to be a high-school Spanish student. Today all the French and German students would watch you tote chips and salsa to class with jealousy (or Latin, Japanese & Arabic students if you went to a very privileged school with an eye toward the growing global economy). Today is Cinco de Mayo, and even if the historical connotations are fuzzy (you did read them in Spanish after all), one thing is clear: today is a Spanish class party day!

Cinco de Mayo by With The Grains 19

In thinking back to my own high school, Spanish class, cultural “immersions,” I recall one very late night, when months of procrastination hit me like a prickly cactus. I scoured the then very basic pages of the world wide web and attempted to finish a major report on Spain, taking the necessary breaks to lament my woes over AOL chat and catch the latest gossip to emerge in the hours since the end of the school day. The massive report would have been enough to bear for one night, but I also had to make tortilla bowls for the class.

The level of procrastination hedged on teaching me the error of my last-minute ways, but as always, everything somehow came together, i.e.: Mom enabled my habits and helped me with the tortilla bowls but not without her routine, “If you had only planned ahead…”  I barely slept, scraped together my report and still managed to be the number one Spanish student. Like an alcoholic deluded into believing she is still in control, I failed to hit rock bottom and truly learn my lesson. At least I knew (and know) I have a problem. The next steps though…

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Far from high school halls and Spanish class celebrations, I did manage to commemorate Cinco de Mayo in a timely manner with this festive themed brunch. This Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Tres Leches Cake was the sweet conclusion of the gathering, and though I should have shared this recipe with you sooner (my apologies), I hope you have a chance to indulge in a decadent, chocolaty bite and make a small nod to today’s festivities, even if you are late. Holidays are really flexible in my book anyway [spoken like a true procrastinator].


¡Buen Provecho!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Tres Leches Cake

About This Recipe: Plan to bake this cake the day before you intend to serve it, since it needs to set overnight and soak up the chocolate liquid. My recipe begins with a spongey, chocolate, banana cake. Traditionally, the namesake three milks include evaporated milk, but I substituted coconut milk for a healthier twist. The chocolate mixture is poured over the cake right after baking, and the chocolate forms a rich pudding-like layer after setting overnight. The banana taste is subtle, and the coconut milk is indistinguishable, so if you don’t like coconut, you’ll still enjoy this version.

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Spelt Flour Churros with Dark Chocolate Chile Sauce

May 2015

Join me on this wandering train of thought…

I know about as much about Cinco de Mayo as I do about St. Patrick’s Day, i.e.: I celebrate both thematically, and not very historically, through food. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday. Churros, though probably of Portuguese origin, are common throughout Central and South America. Inspired by my love of chocolate and Mexican spice levels, my Spelt Flour Churro recipe includes a spicy, Dark Chocolate Chile Sauce, which leads me to the history of one South American chocolate hero and one South American chocolate heretic.

In reality, I’m talking about one, polarizing man.

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

Half a century ago, Ecuador was world famous for its cocoa, and the cocoa farmers were kings, but like all gambles with nature, no throne is ever safe from nature’s fury. A fungus called Witch’s Broom sucked the life from the cocoa trees and threatened world’s chocolate cravings. However, a short man, fondly and diminutively called Homerito, i.e.: little Homer, was intent on solving the crisis. Homero Castro was a plant scientist set on creating a new cocoa tree, one that would be highly productive and immune to Witch’s Broom. His enviable chocolate quest took him to Africa, the Caribbean and the Amazon, to collect different kinds of cocoa plants and crossbreed them (a modern-day Customs nightmare).

For twelve years, the entire life of a tween, he diligently crossed variety after variety, until finally, he believed he had succeeded. He arrived at a cocoa tree that was immune to the very fungus that threatened happiness itself. Castro named the new plant after himself and the city where he lived – Coleccion Castro Naranjal– CCN. He added the number 51 because of how many attempts it took to get it right- CCN-51. Cocoa farmers responded quickly and planted it by the acre. Chocolate tycoons arrived from all over the globe, and the cocoa crisis seemed to be averted except for one glaring detail: the taste!

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gary Guittard, owner of the company behind my recommendation for dark chocolate baking, likened the taste to “rusty nails.” These are not the fine palate notes or terroir adjectives you want from a cocoa bean description. The cocoa tycoons panned the product, the farmers were once again in dire straits, and Homero died tragically in a car accident, thinking his life’s ode was an utter failure.

However, the resourceful farmers determined a way to ferment the harvested beans, by sunning them in burlap sacks. The process eliminated the “rusty nails” quality, and CCN-51 was back in business! At this point in the historical tale, Homerito seems like an indisputable hero, but chocolate puritans scoff at the fermented CCN-51’s bland flavor. Gone are the nuances of these heritage cocoa beans, but as the chocolate industry discovered, the masses didn’t notice. We all want to think our tongue is God’s gift to rich flavors, but in reality, most of us never knew there was a switch.

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a chocolate lover, I mourn for the rips and tears in the ecosystem that put the sacred cocoa trees in danger and threatened the traditional farmers’ livelihood. However, as a chocolate lover who wants to keep eating chocolate, I see Homero as a hero. Like a true artist or tragic hero, he died without knowing the mark he left, so let’s all eat a spicy churro in honor of such culinary and botanical passion. Here’s to Homerito!


¡Buen Provecho!

p.s: I first learned of this chocolate history through this great episode of Planet Money on NPR and this pertinent article.

Spelt Churros with Dark Chocolate Chile Dipping Sauce

About This Recipe: Made with wholesome spelt flour and fried in a non-gmo safflower oil, these churros are far healthier than their street food inspiration, but they’re equally crowd pleasing. The dark chocolate chile sauce starts with a homemade cinnamon simple syrup. If you want to skip this step, substitute pure maple syrup, agave or honey. I used a dried Morita chile, which I found at a local Mexican grocer. They had several varieties available, so follow your senses and see what smell  and spice level inspires you. If you have extra chocolate sauce, it makes a great cake or ice cream topping.

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Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream

April 2015

The movement of the spoon filled his eyes with wonder, and his mouth opened as wide as possible. Mashed beets surrounded his precious lips like a first attempt at applying lipstick in a moving vehicle. His chubby fingers curled and tightened, and the bright green of a prematurely cut avocado squeezed through the opening of his tiny fist. The enterprising dog waited under the table patiently, hoping for fallen splatters of purée. “Now you’re just playing,” she scolded in jest, pushing the plate beyond his stubby reach.

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I first met The Urban Farmer’s future farmhand, aka his nephew, he was a mere string bean tucked in a pod, living off milk alone. Now he’s a chubby, little, army-crawling sweetpea eating yams, avocados, spinach, pears, apples, beets and even caviar on a very special occasion! Think about that leap, from liquid to colors, textures, and tastes. No wonder we approach food playfully when we are young!

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Food is exciting, but eventually, even the most supportive mama has to intervene. Her desire to wear a shirt without spit-up stains or Gerber greens surpasses the amusement of a baby discovering his hands and how they clumsily wrap around this thing called a spoon. On our epic journey from milk to solid foods, there comes a point when the all-knowing adults reprimand, “don’t play with your food.”

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I may not have a beet-stained face or squish avocado through my fist, but there is a sense of play I find in baking. A cake is like a blank page, and nature has given us so many ways to color. Why cheat and resort to artificial dyes and sugars? Just looking at a baby’s dinner, I saw so many inspirational hues. His “dessert” was spoonfuls of avocado, which led me to thinking, what other vegetables can we eat for dessert? Sure, there’s carrot cake, but what about carrot frosting?

Now we are playing with our food!


Happy Playing!

Flourless Chocolate Cardamom Torte with Roasted Carrot Cream Cheese Frosting

About This Recipe: Whipping egg whites into stiff peaks for the cake will take a long time, (i.e.: the length of a classic Bob Dylan folk anthem), but don’t lose heart. Fluffy egg whites make all the difference in this torte. The frosting starts by roasting carrots (follow this recipe but stick to the orange, red & yellow carrots for color purposes). Then simply puree the roasted carrots until smooth. For the frosting application, I used a #32 pastry tip. Have some piping fun, or simply spread with an offset spatula.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies

March 2015

There are times that call for impressively stacked cakes with fluffy frostings, meticulous preparation methods and elaborate settings. There are other times that call for something more spontaneous, something simple and sweet to cap off a night and satisfy a craving.

For those times, there are these cookies!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cookies can be sweet, round reminders to appreciate the simplest of pleasures. When I need to refocus on these little joys, I find it’s worth putting pen to paper, making a list and reminding myself to be grateful and content.

Slow down. Calm down. Inhale. Exhale. Bake. Share. Repeat.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

From pen to paper, from paper to web, from frenzies to thoughtful focus, these are the joys I jotted down recently:

Puppy sighs.
Grape hyacinths and the first scents of spring.
The faded ink of aged journal entries.
The many places a camera can take you.
Discovering humility in the midsts of great talent. 
Observing and appreciating the growth of a friendship through so many phases of life.
Loving someone so much, my heart bursts at the seams!
Staying up too late petting Julep because she curled next to me in the most precious wheel, and no matter how much I snuggle her, it’s never enough.
Baking my roundest, softest, gooiest cookies to date!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Dogs and cookies. Cookies and dogs. This may be my new mantra for savoring the simple things in life!


Here’s to the chocolatey, gooey, round reminders!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies

About this Recipe: Made with Bob’s Red Mill organic whole wheat pastry flour, these cookies are so soft and chewy with big bites of cashews. I recommend a high quality, dark chocolate chip such as Guittard, which I recommend for their use of all natural, non-gmo ingredients. For the cashews, either chop them coarsely, or simply use your fingers to break them in half.

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Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola & A Book Recommendation

March 2015

“You mean I don’t have to be dumb anymore?” was the quote that tugged at my heartstrings and like so many TED talks, it made my eyes blur with inspired tears and a renewed faith in humanity.

We all know the type of kid who would utter such a line. In my first grade class, he repeatedly would have earned “Red Lights” on our traffic themed disciplinary system. Perhaps in your class, he held the time-out record, or he routinely sat in the corner like a sinner indeterminately condemned to purgatory. There he lurked, stuck in labels, categorized as bad, troublesome, and uninterested in learning. Teachers merely tolerated him. Principals expected him, and parents were exasperated by him.

But this type of kid, when equipped with the right mindset, could be the next influential mathematician, the next Nobel Peace Prize winner, the next Michael Phelps…or the next Next. Mindset is that powerful.


This is the encouraging premise of Carol Dweck’s TED talk entitled The Power of Believing That You Can Improve. I looked back on my own mindset as a kid. I feared a wrong answer like wallflowers fear contact with the opposite sex. I excelled in the arts, where concepts were less likely to be labeled wrong. Biology and Algebra stressed me to the point of nausea. In my mind, working harder in these subjects meant I wasn’t smart anymore. This is exactly what Dweck calls the Fixed Mindset. Wanting to understand her concepts on a deeper level, I dove into her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Dweck proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset (and sometimes both). In a fixed mindset, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. With a growth mindset, you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness. Which mindset do you possess?


The book changed my life, and I want it to change everyone’s lives. From coaches, to parents, to teachers, to spouses, to all of us as individuals, we all stand to achieve more of our potential when we approach life with a growth mentality. Once you read this book, you will overwhelmingly observe how we praise success and “natural talent.” Spend one moment around a baby, and you’ll hear adults swoon with the best of intentions, “You’re a genius! You’re so brilliant,” but you’ll be hard pressed to hear, “I’m so proud of how you persevered with that block set. You really put in the effort!”

Malcom Gladwell, the author and New Yorker writer, has suggested that,  “As a society, we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort. We endow our heroes with superhuman abilities that led them inevitably toward greatness. It’s as if Midori popped out of the womb fiddling, Michael Jordan dribbling, and Picasso doodling.”


These ideas of growth, progress and transparency resonate with me deeply. Occasionally, I look back on old blog posts, and I cringe. I want to hide these inferior attempts at styling, storytelling and photography in the dark recesses of some internet closet, but I resist that urge for perfection. This blog is a journal of my life through food, and that life is one of exploration, progress and growth. It’s also a life with the occasional brick of a cookie or failed dough, but we learn, and we grow. It takes effort to apply this growth mentality to all aspects of our lives, which is why I recommend reading Dweck’s guide to improving your mindset. I like to read while eating breakfast, so I also recommend baking this batch of granola to accompany you as you embark on this journey.


Happy Reading!

About This Recipe: Granola is surprisingly simple to make and simplifies your morning breakfast routine. The use of almond butter and cocoa yields thick clusters with layers of flavor. The unsweetened coconut adds a light hint of coconut flavor, and the coconut oil adds lots of healthy fats to your breakfast bowl. Serve with raw milk if available, or homemade almond milk. Those last sips of chocolatey milk after your last bite are a bonus treat!

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Whole Wheat Cinnamon Spice Layer Cake with Chile Chocolate Sauce

March 2015

The first sensation to hit me was the smell of soil, then the warmth embraced me, and then the color consumed my vision. The color green seemed so foreign to my eyes and nearly forgotten. I had left the muddy, murky, chilly outdoors and stepped inside a greenhouse, where fat, fluffy rabbits nestled in an enviable way, and the chickens were surely squawking the latest gossip. The downy chicks, the paper-thin seedlings, the climbing kale, the pop of pepper color in the corner, all of it seemed to say, “It’s time to emerge from hibernation!” It’s amazing what a dose of plants can do to your spirits!

Cinnamon Cake by With The Grains

This cake, like an early spring wander in a greenhouse, will tease your senses and bring you to life. Cinnamon, when used more robustly, adds quite a spiciness. Top that with a spicy chocolate, and you’ll start the feel the warmth that looms just around the corner.


Spice Up Your Spring!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Spice Layer Cake with Chile Chocolate Sauce

About This Recipe: 
This recipe has three main components- a cinnamon simple syrup, a chile chocolate sauce and the cake itself- but none of them are very difficult. For the chili chocolate sauce, I used a dried Morita chile from my local Mexican grocer. You could also try the international section at your grocery store. You could use a variety of dried chiles, just do your research to prevent unwanted heat levels (whatever your heat level preferences may be). Cinnamon itself adds quite a kick to the cake too, so this is a very flavorful, spicy combination.   

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What To Make With Almond Milk Pulp: Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

March 2015

If I were Catholic, I’m not, but if I were Catholic, I have this nagging guilt I would attempt to assuage through confession. The dialogue would transpire as follows:

Priest: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been never since my last confession.

Priest: Proceed my child.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains

The remains of making homemade almond milk: chopped almonds, dates and vanilla bean.

Penitent/Me: Father, what I did was so reprehensible, so inconceivable, I shudder to say it out loud to another human being. My sin happened about a month or two ago. With glazes and preparation methods whirling in my head, I removed two salmon filets from the freezer to thaw. By nightfall, they were ready to be savored, but the Urban Farmer had already eaten, so I saved them. The next night, the bright, orange and coral fish filled my vision every time I opened the refrigerator. “I must cook those soon,” I thought to myself, but for one reason after another, day after day, the fish never made it to our dinner plates. One week later, I held the fish package in my hand and evaluated how willing I was to risk food poisoning- not very. I had to throw away the fish. I had to throw away the salmon! The wastefulness haunts me to this day, father [voice screeching by this point. Some tears forming].

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Priest: I see. You must say an Act of Contrition [that came straight from my Google search to this “priest’s” monologue], and you must find ways to make amends [is that a Catholic thing?].

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Salmon. Of all the foods to squander, salmon! Images flashed in my head of starving children, over-fished waterways, questionable fish farming practices and the price tag on the fish itself. The guilt ran deep, but I tried to channel this negligence into something more productive, something more chocolaty!

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This brings me to a brand new category I am introducing here on my blog, “Waste Not, Want Not.” Though this series of blog posts will never undo the fish I have wasted, it will challenge me, and hopefully inspire you, to waste less and enjoy more.

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I recently shared a recipe for homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk, which I recommend for its simplicity and purity. The potential downside to this process is the remaining almond pulp. There’s nothing wrong with this almond mixture, but using it instead of pitching it does require a little creativity. Being the chocolate lover I am, I combined the remaining almond meal with almond butter and a touch of pure maple syrup, then dunked the combination in dark chocolate. These chocolate balls are difficult to name, but they’re rewarding to eat.

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 01

Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

About This Recipe: Landing somewhere between a peanut butter cup and a buckeye, this recipe starts with the leftovers of making Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk. Mixing the chopped almonds with organic almond butter and just a touch of maple syrup yields a high protein, healthy treat that’s low in sugar. Use a high quality chocolate to keep this treat as wholesome as possible. I recently started using Guittard’s Extra Dark Chocolate Chips because they are 63% cacao, all natural, GMO-free, and they use sunflower lecithin instead of soy. They are the best chips I have found to date.


Bless me friends, for I have tried to make amends!

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