Yuba Noodle Salad with Crunchy vegetables

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The few things that I never allow to run out in the fridge are Hodo Soy tofu and yuba, along with milk, Fage and eggs.  In a household with two growing vegetarian teenagers, we cook tofu 4 times a week.  Tofu is versatile, nutritious and relatively easy to prepare.

Today, Peter called me around noon to say that he had a little time and could come home to have lunch with me.  “I am wrapping up a case and should be home in 15 minutes,” he said.  There was plenty of leftover in the fridge of course, but I wanted to serve him something fresh and tasty.  Since his office is only a 5-minute drive from home, I want to encourage him to come back for lunch more often now that I am home.

I went for the yuba noodles in the fridge after I hung up the phone with him.  It took me about 10 minutes to slice the carrots, cucumber, cilantro and green onion.  Toss them with the yuba and viola! you have a beautiful and healthy lunch.  I even had time to put a little make-up on for him.  Peter was very impressed with this delicious dish that seemed to have magically appeared in a matter of minutes. 

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Yuba Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

1 pack HodoSoy spicy yuba

1 cup julienned carrots

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 cup sweet snap peas, thinly sliced

1/4 cilantro leaves

1 red jalepeno, thinly sliced (optional)

1/4 red onion, slivered

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1/2 stock green onion, the white end, chopped

1/4 teaspoon finely ground Sichuan peppercorn (optional)

2 teaspoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice

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Preparation:

Prepare the vegetables.  Open the package and break up the yuba from the package.  Mix everything together in a salad bowl.  Top with chopped green onion and sesame seeds before serving.

Note:

You can sauté the whole Sichuan peppercorn with 2 teaspoon of and discard the peppers after they are brown and aromatic.  Save the oil for the salad.  Or you can simple finely grind the peppercorn and add to the salad. 

Add a little salt or soy sauce if you prefer your salad a little saltier.  I added no salt or soy sauce and the salad was perfect.

If you don’t have lime or lemon juice, just use more rice vinegar.

You can also use other crunchy vegetables of your choice such as radish and celery.

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You can also try my other 10-minute tofu salad by clicking on this link.

Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame ginger Dressing

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After pigging out for the past two days, I decided to eat light today.  Light, but very satisfying.  Our chef Duyen gave me a bag of fresh water chestnuts and a few packs of fresh baby corn so I could prepare the lotus root salad exactly the way she made it for me at lunch the other day — lotus root with snap sweet peas, baby corn and water chestnuts.  These four crunchy, refreshing and slightly sweet vegetables make a perfect combination.  If you have never tried these vegetables before, this dish will be a great way to introduce something new and exciting into your diet.

Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame Ginger Dressing

Ingredients:

2 cups thinly sliced and lightly blanched lotus root

1 cup baby corn, light blanched and diagonally sliced

1 cup lightly blanched, peeled and sliced water chestnuts

1 1/2 cup light blanched sweet snap peas

Green onion, chill flakes and sesame seeds for garnish

Ingredients for Dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice or rice vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon finely minced or grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped green onion

1 tablespoon 100 % pure black sesame oil

P1090199Preparation:

Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.  Set aside.

Boil a pot of water and when the water is boiling add washed water chestnuts.  When the water boils again.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside to cool.  Peel the water chestnuts when they are no longer hot.

Boil another pot of water and when it is boiling, add baby corn.  When the is boils again, use a slotted ladle to take them out.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.  Add the sweet snap peas into the same boiling water.  When the water boils again, drain and rinse the peas with cold water.  Set aside.  Slice the baby corn when it’s no longer hot.

Boil the last pot of water and when it’s boil, add thinly sliced lotus root.  Drain when the water boils again.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

Let the vegetables cool completely before serving.

Alternatively, if you want to prepare the salad ahead of time, you can mix the salad dressing without the sesame oil and set aside.  Mix the sesame oil with blanched and drained vegetables and leave it in a closed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.  Add the rest of the dressing before serving.P1090198

Lotus Root Salad

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A couple of days ago, Chef Duyen from our Marco Polo kitchen made me a crunchy and refreshing lotus root salad for lunch.   It was so delicious that I had to try and make my own version of it. Hers had sweet snap peas, fresh water chestnut and fresh baby corn, and it was absolutely perfect.  Since I’m trying to finish what I have in the fridge before my departure, mine had sweet snap peas and bell peppers.  I also added some pickled red onion to give the otherwise subtle tasting salad a little piquancy. 

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Lotus Root Salad  with Soy Sesame Dressing

Ingredients for Salad:

1 cup lotus root, very thinly sliced

3/4 cup sweet snap peas

3/4 cup sliced red and yellow bell peppers

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 to 2 red chili peppers, seeded and minced

2 packed tablespoons pickled onion (see recipe bellow)

Sesame seeds and minced chive for garnish (optional)

Ingredients for pickled onion:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/ 2 cup Thai red onion, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

2 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 to 2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon 100% pure black sesame oil

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Preparation:

Bring vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add onion, bring to boil again and then remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes; drain. Let pickled onion cool.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside.

Boil a pot of water to blanch the sweet snap peas.  When the water is boiling, add the sweet snap peas into the pot and when it boils again, drain the water and rinse the cooked peas in cold water for a minute or two.  Drain and set aside.

Blanch the thinly sliced the lotus root the same way.  

Toss together all the vegetables with the minced chili and garlic.  Add dressing and garnish before serving.

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Note:

You can prepare the salad ahead of time.  Pour the sesame oil into the salad without the rest of the dressing ingredients and leave it in the fridge.  Add the rest of the dressing before serving.

Avocado and Mango Salsa

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I’m beginning to pack for my trip to Budapest to start Marco Polo season 2.  Though I will be away from my kitchen, I will be exploring eastern European cuisine when I am in Hungary and Slovakia, and collecting recipes to try on weekends.  I will continue to share my travel and work experiences with you, with an emphasis on food, of course.

I found this delicious salsa recipe on one of my favorite cooking website skinnytaste.com and decided to try it since I had all the required ingredients at home.  I also had some tortillas that were getting a little stale in the fridge, so I cut them into wedges and toasted them in the toaster oven into chips to go with the salsa.  I didn’t add any oil or salt or flavor to the chips.  Those simple chips turned out to be perfect for the richly flavored salsa. 

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Avocado and Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

1 1/2 mango, peeled and diced

1 large avocado, peeled and diced

4 big grape tomatoes, diced

1 jalepeño, seeded and diced

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 tbsp olive oil

A few shakes of garlic powder

salt and fresh pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Combine all the ingredients and let it marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Gluten-free Vegan Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake

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Baked

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Microwaved, with crumbled pecan

Nothing is better than a leisurely breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning .  You start with your coffee or tea, then you peel some ripe fruit and contemplate what to cook while eating it.  You look at the Sunday paper or surf on your favorite food site until you feel inspired to move out of your chair and saunter into the kitchen. 

After my second cup of tea and a mango, I decided that I wanted to make something special, but not work too hard.  After all, it’s Sunday.  I found a mug cake recipe on skinnytaste.com and tweaked it.  These healthy vegan mug cakes were simple and quick to make — you can literally make them in five minutes.  And they are absolutely yummy!  

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Gluten-free Almond Apple Breakfast Mug Cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

3 tbsp almond flour

3tbsp oat bran

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

4 oz no sugar added apple sauce

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

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Ingredients for the topping:

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tsp brown sugar or xylitol

4 tsp apple sauce

Tiny pinch salt

4 tsp coconut oil

A pinch of corn starch

Crumbled pecans or walnuts (optional)

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Preparation:

Grease 2 small mug or 4 small ramekins and set aside. In a small bowl, combine all cake dry ingredients, then add all cake liquid ingredients and stir. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared mugs or ramekins, then spoon the streusel evenly on top.

Either bake at 350F for 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean OR cook in the microwave until a toothpick comes out clean. (Microwave times will vary depending on wattage.)

I nuked mine in the ramekins for 70 seconds each while Audrey baked hers in the toaster oven.  We tried each other’s cake and they taste quite the same.  If you use a small mug instead of a small ramekin, you will probably need 90 seconds to 100 seconds.  Start with a shorter time and poke a toothpick in the cake to see if it’s done.  If not, add another 10 seconds or so.

If you don’t want to eat the cake directly from the mug or dish, allow it to cool completely. Then run around the sides with a knife and it should pop right out! Eat plain or topped with sugar-free icing (see note).

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I enjoyed eating it piping hot right out of the ramekin.

Note:

I blended 1 cup of xylitol into powdered “sugar,” and used the powdered sugar with a tiny bit of milk to make the icing.  You can also use a little bit of plain yogurt to make a yogurt icing.

Store the powdered xylitol with a 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to prevent clumping.

Freekeh Pilaf and Coconut Macaroons

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There is a research study done by the scientists at Harvard School of Public Health that shows that people who consumed at least 10.22 grams of cereal fiber had a 19% lower risk of death.  If you can cheat death by eating delicious whole grains, then why not?

I reached for the bag of freekeh in the pantry immediately after I read the article because freekeh contains twice the amount of dietary fiber than comparable grains.  I made it with beets and chards and they turned out to be quite delectable.

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Freekeh and Beet Pilaf

Ingredients:

8.8 oz. (250g) cooked beets (I used 1 bag organic Love Beets)

1 bunch red chard, chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (to taste)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons caraway seeds, lightly crushed

3 cups cooked freekeh

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled or diced 1/2 cup (optional)

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Preparation:

Cook freekeh according to package instruction.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the caraway, chards, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir over medium heat for 2 minutes until the chard are nicely infused with the garlic and oil.

Add the beets and freekeh. Toss together until the ingredients are well combined and the freekeh is heated through and colored with beet juice. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Transfer to a wide serving bowl or platter, and sprinkle the goat cheese over the top. Serve hot.

Freekeh is also great in salads.

Adapted from: nytimes.com

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And for desert I made coconut macaroons.  There is simply no other confections with higher dietary fiber than macaroons.  And you don’t need a pastry course to achieve the sweet toasted crunch and pillowy center.  A 10-year-old can pull it off.  Seriously.  It’s that easy.

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Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (5 large) egg whites

1/4 cup xylitol

pinch of salt

10 oz sweetened coconut flakes (Baker’s)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

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Preparation:

In a heavy saucepan combine egg whites, sugar, salt and coconut flakes, sliced almonds and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until all the ingredients combine together, about 12 minutes.

The mixture should be sticky and moist, not dry. Remove from heat and stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Set aside on a dish and let it cool in the refrigerator about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Using a tablespoon, scoop tightly packed tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet covered with a silpat or parchment paper.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden.

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Adapted from: skinnytaste

Venetian Cauliflower

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In her book , Mary Oliver wrote about the peculiar life force that we call habit, and how it gives shape to our inner lives, “In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… The hours are appointed and named… Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real.”

Daily cooking has become a habit, a form of self realization, or an addiction.  Even on the days that I don’t have to cook, I will make something — a special after school snack, a healthy dessert or a fruit salad — just to mess around in the kitchen for a while. In the methodical preparation of food, life’s focus is simply on flavors, aromas and colors.  All other concerns fall away and turn into a haze of steams.  As I mix different spices, I conjure up faraway locales and the lives I could have lived in those places — some I have visited, and others I’ve only dreamed about. 

My need for daydreaming and quiet solitude, which used to be fulfilled only by reading, is now satisfied in the kitchen as well.  I can enjoy the pleasure of my alone time while being of service to my family.  I can have my cake and eat it too. 

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Venetian Cauliflower

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red onion, finely sliced

Pinch of saffron, crumbled

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A dash paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ heaping cup raisins

¼ cup almond slices

1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Note from Chef Chen: This may look like a long list of ingredients, but it is actually a very simple dish to make.  I just put a generous amount of my favorite spices together with caramelized onion and raisons to cook the cauliflower.

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Preparation:

Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom, then remove the core. With a paring knife, cut into very small florets of equal size. Blanch florets in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain.

Put olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add saffron, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, paprika and red pepper. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add lemon zest, raisins and cauliflower florets. Toss with wooden spoons to distribute. Add water or broth. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes more, until cauliflower is tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with almond slices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Adapted from:  cooking.nytimes.com

Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

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When Audrey visited me on the set of Marco Polo in Malaysia last year, she often rehearsed dialogue with Benny, the actor who played Kublai Khan.  Audrey would read all the other characters to help Benny memorize his lines. Did the acting bug bite her then?  I was surprised when Audrey expressed her interest in acting this week and sent in an audition tape to a young director who is shooting a short film in April.  I told her that she can do it if the shooting happens during spring break.  I have never wanted to involve my children in acting.  The profession can be a treacherous one because hard work doesn’t correlates with success.  There is too much uncertainty and not enough security in this business.  But I guess it’s no use telling her how acting is a bad profession when I do it myself.  I have long learned that you can’t teach your children by telling them things.  What you teach is what you are. 

We will find out in a few days if Audrey will do her debut role in Las Vegas during spring break.  Should I keep my fingers crossed for her?

If there is “beauty sleep,” is there beauty food?  I think the salad I made for dinner comes close to “beauty food” if there ever is one. 

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Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Ingredients:

3 small cooked beets

1 avocado

1 large pink grapefruit

Salt and Pepper to taste

This simple salad is it’s own dressing.  With the oil in the avocado and the citrusy juice from the grapefruit, all you need is a little salt and pepper if anything.  I used organic cooked beets from Love Beets.  It took me less than 10 minutes to make this delicious and satisfying salad.  Give it a vigorous toss before serving to mix the flavors of the three ingredients.

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Banana Snacking Cake with Cashew Coconut Cream

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When I went to the library to return a book for Audrey, I browsed the isles and chanced upon a book written by Maya Angelou, called Letter to My Daughter.  The first essay was titled Home.  I was immediately drawn to it because the word home is the most beautiful word that I have ever known. 

Home — not just a warm place where one can take off one’s stinky socks and plunk down without apology, but also where one feels completely free and unencumbered in a spiritual sense — is everything I have ever wanted.

No one has defined that sense of belonging more eloquently and poignantly as Angelou did in her essay: 

“Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors, are mysterious apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.

I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”

And home, of course, is also where we bake.

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This moist banana cake is gluten free, vegan and delicious.

BANANA SNACKING CAKE WITH CASHEW COCONUT CREAM

Ingredients:

1 Cup Almond Meal

1/2 Cup Spelt Flour

2 tbsp coconut flour

1/2 Cup Unsweetened, Shredded Coconut

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

2 packs Stevia

1/2 Cup blackstrap molasses

1/4-1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, plus extra for finishing

Few pinches of Fresh Grated Nutmeg

2 Large Extra Ripe Bananas

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, warmed to a liquid

2 Eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

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Ingredients for Cashew Cream:

1/2 Cup Raw Cashews, soaking in water for an hour

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

1 Tbsp. Honey or Maple

1 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

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Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350′.

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, smash the bananas really well, breaking down the chunks. Add the oil, eggs, vanilla and mix. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients.

Grease an 8×8 glass baking pan and pour in the mix. Bake on the middle rack for about 22-24 minutes. Being sure the center is just set.

Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, cover it with a dish towel and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour as it re-absorbs some of the steam.

For the cream, drain the cashews and put them in a food processor with the coconut milk, honey and lemon juice. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. It will have a bit of texture to it. The cream will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Add a bit of the cream to each piece of cake. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Adapted from: sproutedkitchen.com

1 Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

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Peter was on call on Wednesday night and got called in at 2:30am for an emergency.  And now he is on call again for the ER this weekend.  A little treat is called for.  He has a sweet tooth, but needs to watch his sugar intake.  This little guilt-free stress reducer and energy booster topped with chocolate frosting is just what the doctor ordered.  It looks and tastes so decadent that you wouldn’t believe it’s healthy, but it is.  The best part is that it takes only one minute to make.  Well, not exactly one minute, but no more than five. 

Give it a try tomorrow.  Impress someone!

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One Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

Ingredients:

1 tbsp plus 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tbsp spelt flour (or all purpose flour)

1/8 tsp salt

3 tsp sugar or xylitol

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons milk of choice (I used almond milk)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preparation:

Combine dry ingredients and mix very, very well. Add liquid, stir, then transfer to a little dish, ramekin, or even a coffee mug. Either microwave 30-40 seconds OR cook in a 350F oven for about 14 minutes. If you don’t want to eat it straight out of the dish, be sure to spray your dish first (and then wait for it to cool before trying to remove it).

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Ingredients For Chocolate Fudge:

1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter

4-8 tsp pure maple syrup (I used sugar free maple flavor syrup)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp milk of choice, or more for thinner frosting

3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

optional: handful of chocolate chips (the “pieces”)

Preparation:

Blend everything (including chips, if using) in a small food processor or Magic Bullet. If you have a bigger processor, it might be best to double the recipe so everything blends more smoothly. Best to store uneaten frosting covered in the fridge.

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Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie