Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are spending it with family and friends, fueling up on wholesome and nourishing food and conversation. In case you’re postponing your Thanksgiving celebration or looking for a last minute menu addition, I’ve got you covered today! We’re talking apples, specifically […]
Two years ago we had just moved into our second tiny apartment on Maui. Between unpacking the boxes, setting up the kitchen, and submitting job applications; my birthday also came around. At the time, I was working for a local food initiative connecting farmers upcountry to the coastal dwellers and tourist through weekly farmers markets in Napili and Kahului. They couldn’t pay me much- just a basic hourly wage plus tips- but every week I walked in the door to our little home with a box brimming with free fresh produce. It was a pretty sweet deal.
On the eve of my birthday that year, I decided to take the day off from job applications and refolding t-shirts. I decided to spend my day in the kitchen creating a birthday gift to myself: a healthier- but still delicious- chocolate cake recipe. Diving into my magic produce basket, I found my favorite giant avocados and fresh dates. I knew what I had to do.
If you’ve never had a Maui avocado, I’m sorry to say, you are missing out on something special. There are over two hundred types of avocados that grow naturally in Hawaii and all of them have varying textures and subtle flavors that will blow your mind. These particular avocados were the creamiest, dreamiest avocadoes of them all. They were also almost as big as my face.
I set about whipping up an avocado/cacao/maple frosting that set in the fridge while I moved on to the cake batter itself. Dates, oat flour, ginger, cinnamon, coconut, and cacao all found their way into my massive mixing bowl. Baked to fudgy perfection, I put my cake tins aside to cool and moved on to the piece de resistance: the cacao coconut ganache.
This chocolate cake of my dreams traveled in my lap to the other side of the island that evening where we spent the evening with the dearest of friends (and one too many lilikoi margaritas) and came with us to a quiet, sunny beach the next day where we snorkeled with sea turtles and sat together on a beach blanket eating cake with our hands and laughing uncontrollably at the messy pleasure of it all.
This cake will always remind me of that day. It will always bring back the laughter and comfort of being with some of our most tried and true friends.
Last year, I remade this cake for my birthday. It traveled from northwest Virginia down to another beach and to a different set of heart friends: this time on the Atlantic Ocean and some of my oldest and best friends. More great laughs and thoughtful conversations filled the air while we stuffed our faces with chocolate cake and bundled up against the chilly, salty air.
Now, November is here again which means another run around the sun has begun. And I’m still making this cake. This year I got to share it with my sisters. Also, I topped it with coconut macaroons this year because go big or go home guys.
It appears this cake has become my annual birthday tradition.
So happy my birthday to you! I hope you enjoy this rich, decadent cake as much as I do and that it lifts the winter doldrums out of your soul, even just for an afternoon.
Avocado, Date, Coconut + Cacao Birthday Cake
A decadent chocolate birthday cake made with whole food ingredients
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups date paste see method below
- 2/3 cups coconut oil melted
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup oat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups cacao powder
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1.5 tsps baking soda
- 1.5 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cups dates soaked in hot water for at least one hour
- 1/2 cup warm water
Coconut + Chocolate Ganache
- 1 cup Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
Avocado + Cacao Frosting
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 6 tbsp cacao powder
- 6-7 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- 1 cup almonds ground into a coarse flour
- 1.5 cup coconut flakes shredded
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray cake pans with nonstick cooking spray (I used coconut oil spray)
In a small bowl, mix together the coconut milk and apple cider vinegar, set aside for a few minutes.
Mix the date paste, almond milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Add the coconut milk mixture.
In a big bowl, combine the oat flour, all-purpose flour, cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until combined.
Divide batter into two pans. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Cook for 30 minutes or until an inserted fork comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
Once cooled, slide a knife around the edge of the cake and invert the cake onto a cooling rack to cool for another 45 minutes.
When the cakes are almost completely cool, begin making the ganache. Once both cakes are cool spread the ganache filling on one cake then sprinkle with Himalayan sea salt. Gently press the other half on top of the iced cake. Finish the cake with frosting and macaroons. Let chill in the fridge a few hours before serving to set. Once set, slice, serve, and enjoy!
Drain soaked dates and add them to a high-speed blender or food processor with 1/2 cup warm water. Pulse and use tamper until a smooth paste has formed. Add more water, in small increments, if necessary.
Coconut + Chocolate Ganache
Add the coconut cream, vanilla, and coconut sugar to a small saucepan over low heat and get it just warm enough but not hot. Take off heat and pour over chocolate chips in a small bowl. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted. Let cool in the fridge, stirring every 30 minutes for 1.5-2 hours until thick but still spreadable.
Avocado + Cacao Frosting
Add the avocados to the blender and blend until smooth + creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined. Scrape out into a small bowl and set in the fridge until ready to use
Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Combined all ingredients in a large bowl, it will be sticky but that is ok.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray then scoop out the macaroon mixture into small (2 tbsp) balls. Flatten one side and place the flat side down on the baking tray.
Once all macaroons have been formed, place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on the pan
I’ve been thinking a lot about creating and what it means to create: the various forms, mediums, styles, and expressions that creating can take. This past weekend, I went to see Cynthia Erivo sing at the Kennedy Center. Having seen her in the Color Purple […]
Plantains! Let’s talk about plantains (I almost went with “Let me explain plantains” here but you know *eye roll* cheesy). I was first introduced to plantains a number of years ago on a supremely epic surprise birthday trip to the Dominican Republic. The small, sleepy resort where we stayed is an all vegan/vegetarian resort that serves the most decadent- but healthy!- Caribean fare. We’d laze about on the beach reading novels until noon when, inevitably, we would find our stomachs grumbling. So, we’d make our way to the open air lunch restaurant and order a mountain of TOSTONES. If you’ve never had tostones before, you need to remedy that stat. It was here that my love affair with the mighty plantain began.
Plantains are slightly sweet when ripe and they are more starchy than their look alike, the banana. They’re super versatile and very healthy. You can make chips with plantains! You can make tortillas with plantains! You can also, it turns out, make puffy melt-in-your-mouth flatbreads with plantains.
I stumbled on these naan plantain flatbreads while mulling over what to do about my conflicting cravings one evening. They are the perfect vehicle for some black bean hummus and roasted vegetables with salsa. Last week, I served them with black bean hummus, cumin/lime roasted sweet potatoes, Mexican spiced pepitas, sauteed spinach with tomatoes & onion and some fresh salsa. All I can say is: do it.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Naan-like flatbreads made with plantains!
- 2 large (ripe) plantains
- 2 cups flour I used a mix of spelt and tapioca to make this gluten free
- 1 tsp sea salt
- squeeze of lime
- pinch of cumin
Peel plantains, slice plantains into 2-inch chunks. Toss plantain chunks, sea salt, lime juice and cumin into your blender and process until smooth. This will be sticky- that's ok!
Scrape out the plantain mixture into a large bowl. Slowly fold in the flour until sturdy dough forms.
Dust a clean surface with a bit of flour and drop small (~4 tbsp) amounts of the dough onto the surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out until dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat until you have used all the dough.
To cook: Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, coat the pan with a bit of oil (I used coconut). Once hot, add one or two flatbreads at a time (however many fit comfortably in your pan). Cook until crispy and browned on either side (~4 minutes each side). Continue until all flatbreads are cooked.
Serve immediately! Can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 4 days, though best when fresh
When I first started making green smoothies I would just throw anything and everything into the blender: turnip greens? sure! banana? you bet. basil? heck yeah. mango? most definitely. collard greens? gimme. No recipe or flavor profile to my madness, just kitchen sink smoothies. They were green, sometimes brown, and the satiety factor was hit or miss. Swamp drink smoothies.
It got kind of out of hand.
After we moved to Hawaii, I realized I had to up my smoothie game. The smoothie bowl is a Hawaiian breakfast staple– and not just the acai kind. Creamy, dreamy smoothie bowls filled with just the right amount of freshly picked fruit, crunchy greens and healthy fats served up roadside in food trucks all over Maui. Smoothies can pack both a nutritional and party-in-your-mouth punch! But to achieve this fine balance, a little thought is required.
I’ve recently become infatuated with using pears in my smoothies as an alternative to bananas and pineapple. I’ve been rotating between berry-based smoothies (strawberry, blueberry and blackberry most commonly) and tropical fruit smoothies (mango, kiwi, pitaya, pineapple) throughout the week. But recently I’ve been really craving those juicy, subtly sweet pear notes in everything. Pear, I’ve discovered, blends wonderfully well with herbs! Mint is my current favorite with pear. But I’m excited to try it with a little ginger or basil.
This smoothie is chock full of goodness to wake up your cells and energize your body:
Pears are excellent sources of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Blueberries provide you with your vitamin K, manganese, Vitamin C, fiber, and copper. Lemon is high in antibacterial properties, aids in digestion, detoxes and alkalizes, and is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Riboflavin. Virgin Coconut Oil, a metabolism booster, fights viruses, fungi, and bacteria and is a healthy MCT fat. Coconut water is high in Potassium and Electrolytes, making this smoothie a solid post workout snack! Lacinato Kale is a good source of Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. And, last but not least, Collard Greens are packed with Vitamin K, Vitamin A, manganese, vitamin C, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin E, copper, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B5, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B1, and potassium. Whew!
Load this baby up with your favorite add-ons. Don’t be afraid to be heavy handed with the nut butter, throw in your favorite protein powder, sprinkle on a dusting of chia or hemp seeds.
Let’s get to blending, shall we?
Sunshine Vibes Smoothie Bowl
A subtle, sweet smoothie bowl for high energy and positive vibes all day long.
- 1 pear, I used bosc but any pear will do
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1.5 cups frozen wild blueberries
- 3 tbsp unsweetened coconut flake
- 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 1.5 cups coconut water
- 1 handful fresh mint
- 1.5 cups mixed greens (I used lacinato kale and collard greens)
Add all of the ingredients to the container of a high powered blender. Blend until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. I use a Vitamix blender- the tamping wand is essential for blending to get a thick and smooth texture. Add more coconut water as needed until your smoothie is nice and smooth, don't add too much as you want to keep the smoothie nice and thick
Taste the smoothie and adjust to your liking (I tend to add a little more lemon juice and/or mint)
Add in any protein powder, nut butter, maca, matcha, spirulina, dates, etc. Blend again.
Pour smoothie into one large bowl (if you're hangry) or two respectable sized bowls (if you're feeling generous), swirl around with a spoon and top with granola, chia or hemp seeds, coconut flake, fresh blueberries or sliced fruit. Whatever is calling to you from your cabinet