Paleo Chocolate & Cardamom Cake

It felt like Spring outside, despite being mid December. That's typical for central Chile, where it feels like Spring most of the year. I was on the Island of Chiloé, which is dotted with brightly colored houses built on stilts, adding to the springy feel. The hostel I stayed at had a big kitchen which was shared among the nine other guests. Something about that kitchen brought us together, a group of seemingly random people, and with in a few days we were planning a "family" Christmas dinner. 

The spread included dishes inspired from everyone's home: English Sausages, bacon wrapped dates, Chilean-style salads, and mushroom risotto. There was mulled wine, a lot of it, followed by a trivia game and this Chocolate Cardamom Cake. 

Cardamom is a spice that offers both fragrance and warmth. It adds an aromatic touch to this bread that makes it fitting for springtime, and a coziness that makes it work amongst other rich dishes. This bread has a soft crumb but is not crumbly--a necessary distinction when talking about grain-free loaves. Drizzled with chocolate icing, it's more like cake than bread. It's rich and suitable as a decadent dessert, but also easy to make and works for casual last-minute gatherings. Ever since that Chilean Holiday, I've had this cake in the back of my mind. 

Paleo Chocolate & Cardamom Cake

 

1 cup almond flour (4.5 ounces) 

2 tablespoons arrowroot flour 

1/4 cup coconut flour (4 ounces) 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoon cocoa  

1/2 teaspoon cardamom 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

2 teaspoons honey 

3 eggs 

1/3 cup coconut milk 

Paleo Chocolate Icing

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

  • 1 tablespoon cocoa butter (coconut oil will also work) 

  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional) 

  • 2 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk 

  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cardamom). Ensure that all of the coconut flour is mixed in, and no clumps remain. 

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, eggs, coconut milk, and vanilla until fully incorporated. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, working with a spatula until a batter forms. 

4. Grease a glass bread pan with a bit of coconut oil or avocado oil. Spread the batter in an even layer on the pan. Place in center of the oven, and bake for 35-40 minute, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

5. Remove the loaf from the oven and set on a rack to cool. While it cools, melt the ingredients for the icing together in a small sauce pan or bowl, whisking until fully incorporated. Once mixed, allow to cool for a few minutes. Drizzle icing over cooled cake. Slice and serve. 

Paleo Cashew Chicken Cabbage Cups

There's a small Asian grocer not far from where I work. It's a landmark for me--it's been in that same spot for as long as I can remember. Even before I cared enough to read the street signs, I knew where I was when I saw the Asian market. It family owned shop, with over-stuffed aisles and at least ten different types of coconut milk, more than seven colors of curry paste, and a case of vegetables that can't be found anywhere else in town. (Edit: when my Dad read this post, he reminded me that there's a whole wall of different types of rice noodles, and buckets of live crabs). When I was young, the shop owners ran a restaurant next door. It was cheap, saucy, full of umami, and felt like the real-deal. I didn't recognize half of the things on the menu (that added to the effect) and ordered the same thing every week for the first decade of my life: Cashew Chicken. 

Then one day, when I was still in elementary school, I asked for my usual, and the shop owner refused to take my order. He threw down his pen. "Look kid," he said in a thick accent, "you order the same thing every time! This time, you must try something different". My dad looked at me, and nodded in agreement. I was instantly stressed. How could I choose anything other than Cashew Chicken?! I looked at the rest of the menu for the first time in my life. That was the day a new era began. (That new era was the era of the Spring Roll, and for the next decade of my life, I only ordered Spring Rolls from that little restaurant). (They were really good Spring Rolls). (And that was really good Cashew Chicken). 

In recent years, the little shop and restaurant have changed hands. I don't visit it regularly anymore, unless I need something special, and that familiar man who made my Cashew Chicken from scratch for years is just a memory now. This recipe brings that memory to life in full swing: the vegetables are crisp and lightly blanched, the cashews are toasted and crunchy, and it's all smothered in a nutty savory sauce. Instead of serving this over rice, I serve it in cabbage cups, making it a grain-free meal. In place of store-bought hoisin sauce, I make my own paleo version. This recipe only uses 1 skillet, and goes from chopping board to fork in no more than 30 minutes. 

Paleo Cashew Chicken Cabbage Cups

1 pound chicken breast, cubed (Tip: ask your butcher to do this for you!)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small white onion, diced

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

2 cups snow peas

1 cup carrots, julienned

1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips

1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, strained

1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, strained

2 teapoons arrowroot powder

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 teaspoon fish sauce OR Worcestershire Sauce

Paleo Hoisin Sauce

• 1/4 cup soy sauce OR coconut aminos

• 1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter

• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar OR rice vinegar

• 1 teaspoon honey

• 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce (make your own!

1/3 cup whole unsalted cashews

1 small head savory cabbage

 

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger.

2. When the ginger is fragrant and starting to brown, add the chicken. Allow the chicken to brown on each side, stirring only occasionally. While the chicken cooks, stir together the the ingredients for the hoisin sauce. 

3. Sprinkle the arrowroot powder into the skillet and stir so that is coats the chicken. Add the vegetables, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to the skillet, along with the fish sauce/Worcestershire Sauce and Paleo Hoisin Sauce, and cover. Stir well, so sauce is well distributed. Cook for 3-5 minutes, just until the vegetables are tender. 

4. Sprinkle in the cashews, and red chili flakes. Carefully peal individual leaves from the head of cabbage. Wash and pat dry. Arrange the cabbage cups on serving plates and fill with a scoop of cashew chicken. Serve with a drizzle of Sriracha and chopsticks.

Paleo Toasted Coconut Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa has always been there for me. In the cold, it's warmed me up. In the summer, it's satisfied my most stubborn chocolate cravings. In middle school, it was the first thing I wanted when I woke up, and my favorite late-night snack during sleep overs. My best friend and I would camp out in the living room, building a fort or watching a movie, and after everyone else had gone to bed, we would break out the chocolate syrup and milk. This was such an important tradition to us, that I even bought her a "moo mixer" for her birthday. (I instantly envied her ability to make the frothiest, creamiest cocoa).

Here's the thing about cocoa: it's really simply to make. It essentially takes two steps. Warm. Stir. Even two giggly sixth graders can handle that. This recipe for Paleo Toasted Coconut Hot Cocoa ups the ante a bit, but it's still easy enough for a sixth grader to follow. This is good, because the winter wonderland we've been living in has left me craving few things more than hot cocoa, and when I crave cocoa, I don't want to fuss over it. I just want my fill of chocolate. 

What happens when you put almond milk, toasted coconut and chocolate together in the same mug? Something halfway between hot cocoa and an Almond Joy.  

This recipe is for a true "hot cocoa," meaning it uses cocoa rather than chocolate to give it that chocolatey flavor. For a richer, sweeter "hot chocolate", replace the cocoa and the honey with 1 to 2 ounces ground semi-sweet chocolate chips (grind them in your food processor until they produce a sticky flour). 

Paleo Toasted Coconut Hot Cocoa - yields 1 mug

3/4 cup non-dairy coconut or almond milk beverage

1 tablespoon full-fat canned coconut milk

1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey or other liquid sweetener

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon toasted desiccated coconut

 

1. In a small pot, combine the milks and honey. Bring them just to a simmer, stirring until the honey dissolves. Pour it into your mug. (Optional: use a milk aerator at this point to add froth. If you do not own an aerator, you can also use a blender, or pour the milk into a french press, moving the press up an down to create bubbles).  

2. Bring the water to a simmer and whisk in the cocoa. Pour the cocoa mixture into your mug of frothed milk. 

3. Top with toasted coconut an serve!