Dark, Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Dark Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cake   serves 12 to 15
by Maria Middlestead, Registered Clinical Nutritionist, author of
The Shape Diet

Paleo – with no gluten, grain, dairy or cane sugar; options for soy

Yes, you can have your cake and your high-protein, high-fibre diet too. Several times I have served this to acclaim by conservative types, keener on Edmonds Cookery-style tradition than health-factors. My grandchildren loved it too.

This keeps wonderfully well, even when refrigerated during hot weather. It is substantial, so serve in small slices. The chopped chocolate on top adds an extra taste-hit and pleasing texture.

Quinoa is technically a high protein seed, but gets cooked and used like a grain. I cook extra for this cake. Then use the rest for lunch with salad and nuts. Or mix with egg, herbs and onion and cook as patties. Cooked quinoa is also delicious for breakfast. Mix with linseed, coconut, cinnamon, almonds and raisins. Add enough Milk Option to cover and chill for one hour or overnight. Serve with fresh fruit, or top with date syrup.

1 ½ cups cooked quinoa*
¾ cup rinsed dates
3 large free-range eggs
6 Tbsp (90 ml) coconut oil*
6 Tbsp honey (90 ml) or maple syrup
¼ cup Milk Option*
3 Tbsp cold-pressed oil, such as extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract*
6 Tbsp cocoa powder*
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins, or chopped prunes

Chocolate Icing
½ cup rinsed dates
½ cup mild nut butter such as almond butter, or hulled tahini, or use half and half
6 Tbsp Milk Option*
6 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract*
3 Tbsp chopped vegan chocolate bar such as Wellington Coconut-Milk Chocolate* (no cane sugar)

Oil a deep 23 cm cake pan. Purchase pre-cooked quinoa, or prepare as below*. This can be done days in advance. Cooking ¾ cup dry quinoa will provide enough for the cake plus about 1 cup extra for lunch, breakfast or other uses.

In a food processor, place the quinoa, eggs, dates (rinse to soften), oils, honey, milk and vanilla. Whizz until mostly smooth. Add the dry ingredients: cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whizz until well mixed (no need to clean the food processor).

Add the raisins and chopped walnuts. Either stir in or pulse briefly to retain their textures. Pour batter into the oiled pan. Bake at 180°C for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer in the centre tests dry. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack before icing.

In the food processor place the dates (rinse to soften), nut butter/tahini option, Milk Option, maple syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla. Whizz until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

  • Chocolate: that is dairy/gluten-free is available in supermarkets, but does contain cane sugar (eg Whittaker’s Dark Ghana). Also at supermarkets is vegan and cane sugar-free, artificial sweetener- and additive-free chocolate (eg Panna, Wellington, Zimt); usually sweetened with coconut sugar.
  • Coconut oil: white, solid and available in jars from health stores and most supermarkets. Best quality is virgin or cold-pressed and organic, such as Ceres brand. Flavour and aroma should be mild. Less prone to oxidation and damage by heat than most other cooking oils. Can use to replace oil or butter in many recipes.
  • Milk Options: organic cow, goat, soy, oat, almond or hazelnut milk is available in supermarkets. Or use rice milk – to each cup add 1 Tbsp coconut cream or mild cold-pressed oil for more body. Use options in same quantity as regular milk called for. Check packets for added sugar; ensure soy milk is made from the whole bean (less processed). Pure Harvest is a good organic brand.
  • Quinoa: (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed from Peru: high protein and fibre, low-starch; good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, flavonoids, some Omega 3 and other anti-inflammatory factors. It has a mild nutty taste; resembles and is used like a grain such as rice. Many people who are grain-sensitive can do well on quinoa as it is not a member of the grass family. Whole quinoa (looks like millet) is in most supermarkets, as is pre-cooked. Use 1 part rinsed quinoa to 2 parts water (or stock for savoury dishes). Cover, boil and cook like rice for 12-15 minutes.
  • Tahini: is a paste – like runny peanut butter – made from ground sesame seeds and possibly added oil. It is available in jars in supermarkets. Referring to the processing of the seeds, it may be labelled ‘unhulled’ which has a bitter taste (traditionally for East Asian cooking), or ‘hulled’ which has slightly lower nutrient levels but a milder flavour (this is a Middle Eastern staple such as used in hummus). Try on crackers, toast and baked vegetables. As with nut butters, store in the refrigerator.
  • Vanilla and other Extracts: use top quality vanilla without artificial additives; it and other real flavours such as almond are often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’). Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.

Vegan Walnut Mushroom Pate

Vegan Walnut and Mushroom Pâté      makes 1 ½ cups

Paleo, vegan; no grain, dairy, nightshades – with options for soy

Super convincing colour, flavour and texture and popular when entertaining. Serve with small crisp crackers or toast triangles. Accompany with cornichons, radishes, pickled artichokes and baby carrots.

Or serve this for dinner with soup (eg vegetable and lentil) and toast. Or as part of a fun assemble-your-own wrap/container meal. Offer nori sheets or taco shells as a holder, or large rice crackers as a base. For more protein provide tinned fish, chopped boiled eggs, falafel, or grated tofu. For crunch, bowls of grated carrot, shredded lettuce and sliced cucumber. Offer mayo and Dijon mustard as condiments, or mix tahini with lemon juice and tamari for drizzling. Yum. All the herbs and spices, nuts and veg provide protective antioxidants, fats and fibre.

Healthy, fun and delicious.

1 cup walnuts
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
220 grams Swiss Browns or portobella mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp sweet smoky paprika*
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme)
1 tsp sea salt with kelp*
about 25 twists of black pepper
2 Tbsp dry sherry or Port
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp tamari* or other naturally fermented soy sauce; or use Coconut Aminos*
chopped parsley or chives to garnish

In a medium cast iron fry pan, toast the walnuts over low-medium heat (no need for oil) about 5 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from pan.

In the same pan place the oil, onion, garlic. Cook over low heat until soft and sweet, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and additional oil. Cook about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add the rosemary, sage, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes.

Add the sherry or Port, tamari and vinegar. Cook 1 minute.

In a food processor, place the walnuts and everything else except the parsley. Briefly pulse until well chopped and combined, but not completely smooth. Pat into a small serving dish until the top is smooth. Cover and chill; keeps one week. Before serving, top with finely chopped parsley or chives. Serve at room temperature.

Shopping & Preparation Tips*

  • Coconut aminos: looks and tastes similar to soy sauce. Made instead from fermented coconut sap. In most supermarkets. Matakana brand is plain. Some brands such as Ceres add herbs, spices and a hint of chili.
  • Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my TIPS article: The Fats of Life.
  • Paprika: only use top quality smoky, sweet Spanish paprika such as La Chinata. This is sold in small decorative tins in the supermarket. Ordinary paprika is usually stale, pale and without the punchy vigour this product contributes.
  • Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed or kelp (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. NOTE these are less salty in taste than other brands. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.
  • Soy sauce/Tamari: can be a fake, unfermented concoction of caramel colouring, artificial additives, wheat and cheap salt. True soy sauce contains nothing artificial and is naturally brewed for two to three years. It is made by fermenting soybeans with a healthful mould (similar to making yoghurt or cheese); roasted grain – usually wheat or barley – for flavour and fermentation, plus salt. ‘Shoyu’ is the Japanese word for true fermented soy sauce. ‘Tamari’ describes naturally brewed soy sauce which does not contain wheat or other grain. In the supermarket look for organic Ceres brand, or plain only Kikkoman (their other varieties often contain artificial additives including MSG: TIPS).

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Slice

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Slice   24-30 tiny pieces

Paleo and vegan; no gluten, grain, dairy, cane sugar or soy

A dense, moist, coconut and cherry filling is sandwiched between thin layers of chocolate. A bit like a Bounty Bar in looks, taste and texture – with the pretty red dotting of dried cherries. Keeps well refrigerated.

There are 3 options for the chocolate base and topping: melt vegan chocolate (no dairy and usually sweetened with coconut sugar); melt dark chocolate (such as Whittaker’s Dark Ghana – dairy-free, but it has cane sugar and a little soy lecithin); or make ½ my easy Chocolate Ganache from another recipe.

175 grams vegan or dark, dairy-free chocolate*, or make ½ my Chocolate Ganache
2 Tbsps coconut oil*
2 cups desiccated coconut
¾ cup dried cherries (from specialty and health stores and some supermarkets), finely chopped
½ cup almond meal*
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract*

Chop the chocolate. Place in a small metal or heat-resistant bowl. Then place the bowl in the top of a steamer or double boiler. Place 5 – 10 centimetres of water in the bottom saucepan and bring to a boil then turn to a brisk simmer. DO NOT cover with a lid and DO NOT allow water to touch the base of the top saucepan (any water that gets into any melting chocolate will make it seize and stiffen). Remove from the heat when soft. With a fork stir the 2 Tbsps of coconut oil into the melted chocolate until smooth. Or make ½ recipe of Chocolate Ganache. Keep either option warm.

Line a square 20 cm pan with baking paper. Pour a little less than half the chocolate (or ganache) onto the base. Mixture will be very thin (it is more important visually to have sufficient chocolate for the topping). Use a spatula to spread it evenly. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes or more to harden. Keep the remaining chocolate over the hot water, so it stays warm and melted while you prepare the filling.

Melt the 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a small to medium saucepan. Turn off the heat. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Next stir in the coconut, cherries and almond meal. Mixture will be thick and moist. Cool to room temperature – if the mixture is warm it can melt the chocolate base, mingle with it and then the pretty separate layers will be lost.

Place the cooled coconut mixture over the chocolate base and press firmly. Cover with the remaining chocolate. Use the spatula to spread it evenly. Chill in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours to firm completely. Use a sharp knife and slice into 5 rows by 5 or 6 rows to create about 3 cm squares. Keep chilled, especially in hot weather. Stores well in fridge or freezer.

 Shopping and Preparation Tips*

  • Almond flour: very finely ground from dried, blanched, skinless almonds will give the best result. This makes it act and bind more like flour than just ground nuts or almond meal (which gives a crumbly texture). Purchase from health stores, some supermarkets or online, such as www.naturalgrocer.co.nz 

  • Chocolate: that is dairy/gluten-free is available in supermarkets, but does contain cane sugar (eg Whittaker’s Dark Ghana). Also at supermarkets is vegan and cane sugar-free, artificial sweetener- and additive-free chocolate (eg Panna, Wellington, Zimt); usually sweetened with coconut sugar.

  • Coconut oil: white, solid and available in jars from health stores and most supermarkets. Best quality is virgin or cold-pressed and organic, such as Ceres brand. Flavour and aroma should be mild. Less prone to oxidation and damage by heat than most other cooking oils. High in medium-chain fatty acids such as lauric acid, which can enhance immunity through antiviral and antibacterial benefits. Most oils and fats contain long chain fatty acids that are harder to break down and more readily stored as fat. Use to replace oil or butter in recipes.

  • Vanilla and other Extracts: use top quality vanilla without artificial additives. It and other real flavours such as almond are termed “extract” (as opposed to fake essence, often labelled “vanillin”). Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.

Paleo Spice Cookies

Makes 2 ½ dozen

Paleo; no gluten, grain, dairy, cane sugar or soy; with option for peanuts

Dark, moist and chewy. Rich with spicy flavours – and spices are high antioxidant achievers. Low starch and high protein helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Lovely as a snack, for lunch boxes, or as a morsel of dessert on a platter with fresh fruit. Or for sharp colour contrast, sprinkle a platter of Paleo Spice Cookies with whole freeze-dried raspberries. They and the coconut products listed are all in most supermarkets. Or serve a cookie beside a small parfait glass of Chia Pudding (see my 4 recipe options), or my Vegan Caramel Nut Ice Cream. Read more

Beetroot and Dill Dip

Beetroot and Dill Dip/Topping/Spread   makes 1 ¼ cups

Paleo; no gluten, dairy, legumes, onion, garlic or nightshades; with option for vegan

Fabulous colour that shouts nutritious good looks.

Excellent dip with sliced carrot, kumara chips or corn chips. Or for a hearty Chef Salad, you can toss pasta, quinoa or rice, cubed tofu  or back beans, or steamed veg – or a mixture – with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a platter. Make a depression in the middle and fill with the beetroot topping. Sprinkle with fresh dill or parsley. Surround with leafy greens. Read more

Vege Nachos

Serves 4

No gluten, dairy, cane sugar; with options for tomato, potato, legumes, vegan and Paleo

A fiesta of bright colours and flavours. Serve as a big Mexican-style platter. This can be an easy, popular dinner served with a salad or mixed steamed veg such as carrot, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Add rice or bread for heartier appetites. Small amounts of plant protein from different sources, or mixed with a small amount of animal protein can upgrade satiety and nutrients. Learn more about your protein needs here.

Colours can indicate a specific range of antioxidants and other supportive micronutrients. Eat 5 helpings from the 5 colours of fruit and veg daily to get the best array of health helpers.
Here crisply coated vege slices are used as a base instead of corn chips. These are topped with tomato or pumpkin sauce and protein options; a flutter of leafy greens then creamy aioli or guacamole. Ole! Read more

Vegan Caramel Nut Ice Cream

Makes about 3 cups

Paleo, vegan; no gluten, dairy, soy or cane sugar

Keep frozen fruit on hand and this can be made in 5 minutes. Cool, creamy, crunchy and naturally sweet. Thanks to the combination of fruit, nuts and legume (peanut) it is also a good source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Unlike most frozen banana mixtures, this one stays creamy when frozen and stored, rather than becoming rock-like. Read more