Strawberry-Mint Sandwich (p. 121)

We were at a cafe working on this very cookbook, minding our own business, when we overheard someone order a savory sandwich. Of course, I had to ask the question: “What would a sweet sandwich look like?” As it happened, strawberries were in season, so we went home and tested our theory. This strawberry-mint sandwich is delicious and we recommend making it with fresh, thinly-sliced rye bread.

Makes one sandwich
Takes 10 minutes

3 medium strawberries
2 slices of bread
2 tablespoons grated chocolate
Mint leaves to cover a slice of bread
2 teaspoons cocoa butter, divided

Slice the strawberries and lay them out in a single layer on one slice of bread. Sprinkle the grated chocolate over the strawberries, cover everything with a layer of mint leaves, and close your sandwich with the second slice of bread.

Place half of the cocoa butter in a skillet over medium heat. Put the sandwich on top of the pat of cocoa butter so that the fat will soak into the bread rather than spreading around the pan. Cover the skillet and cook the sandwich for about two minutes, or until the bottom of the sandwich begins to turn golden-brown. Flip the sandwich, placing the remaining cocoa butter under the sandwich, and cook for another two minutes, covered.

Serve while it’s hot from the pan.


Nana’s Carrot Cake for Birthdays, Double Chocolate Style (p. 63)

Nana’s Carrot Cake has been the Wick family birthday cake for a couple generations. Darin grew up on it and his father before him. This a cake so special it has even been known to turn up in the mail. I have been granted special permission from Darin to turn it into a chocolate carrot cake—as long as I promise not to call it a birthday cake, because the birthday version doesn’t contain any chocolate. I always make substitutions in recipes, and I never get to play with Nana’s Carrot Cake for Birthdays, so I enjoyed finally getting permission to alter this well-loved recipe.

Makes one 11 x 7-inch cake
Takes 45 minutes prep plus 60–65 minutes baking

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants (or more raisins)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons cocoa liqueur (optional)
2 large carrots (about 2 1/2 cups grated)
1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Mix the raisins, currants, and chopped pecans with the cocoa liqueur and set the mixture aside. Grate the carrots and set them aside, too.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, baking soda, and salt. Mix it well and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat in the applesauce, white sugar, cocoa powder, oil, vanilla, and ginger. Stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the carrots, dried fruit, and nuts. Mix thoroughly.

Grease and flour the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch cake pan. Pour the mixture into the pan. Bake for 60–65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out fairly dry. Frost the cake with Goose’s frosting (page 48) and cool it in the pan.

Chocolate-curry carrot cake with cardamom frosting: A friend gave this variation a rave review, so we felt compelled to mention it. Substitute curry spices for the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom. Add cardamom to your favorite basic vanilla frosting, and frost the cake.

Mexican Chile Seasoning (p. 79)

Here is a theobrominated spin on a traditional Mexican treat. Sprinkle this powder on fruits and vegetables, add it to beans… the possibilities are endless.

Makes 1/2 cup
Takes 5 minutes

2 tablespoons sumac powder
2 tablespoons ground chile pepper
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon salt

Mix together all ingredients. Store in a jar and sprinkle on everything as needed.

Fresh lime: During lime season, you can replace the sumac with the juice of a lime. This version must be refrigerated and should last for several days in the refrigerator.

Drinking Chocolate, Bicerin, & Mini Fudgesicles (p.38)

We used to work at a shop that offered bike tours of our city, and one of their stops was at a chocolate shop called “Cacao” that offers flights of three different shots of the richest drinking chocolate ever. We loved their drinking chocolate so much, we learned to make it at home. Here’s our plant-based version:

Fills 3–4 espresso cups
Takes 15 minutes

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 3 ounce dark chocolate bar

Chop up the chocolate bar. Pour the coconut milk and soy milk into a small pot and mix it all up with a fork until you’ve de-lumped the coconut fat.

Heat the combined milks on low, stirring frequently. Keep a close eye on them, and when the first sign of steam shows up, immediately reduce the temperature to low. Stir in the chocolate until it’s melted. Serve immediately in espresso cups.

Bicerin: An Italian layered beverage so intensely rich that its very name means “small glass.” In a small glass, pour a shot of espresso. Add the drinking chocolate and top it all off with an aquafaba-based whipped cream.

Mini fudgesicles: Distribute leftovers evenly in an ice cube tray and store them in the freezer. If you want to be all fancy about serving them, put 1–2 cubes on a small plate, top with a little raspberry sauce and garnish with mint. We just eat them straight from the freezer any time we open up the freezer to look for something.

Chocolate Cardamom Mangoes (p. 57)

I spent a summer working on a mango farm in tropical north Queensland, so we had access to more mangoes than we could eat. When I think of these chocolate cardamom mangoes, they remind me of so many tropical memories. Serve this over rice for breakfast or over ice cream and brownies for a sweet dessert.

Makes 2 half-mango servings
Takes 20 minutes

1 mango (slightly firm is good)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cocoa nibs, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut mango into halves and remove the seed. Slice a 1/2 inch grid into the meat of the mango halves, leaving the skin intact.

Sprinkle one teaspoon of cardamom and the cocoa powder over the gridded mango halves.

Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the nibs, sugar, and the remaining cardamom to the pan. Scrape any flesh off the mango seed, mince it, and add it to the pan.

Put the mango halves in the pan flesh-side down and press down into the pan. Cook uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes, until they are heated through.

Turn off the heat and remove the mango halves from the pan to cool. When they have cooled enough to handle, invert the skins and scrape free any flesh that doesn’t fall off. Drizzle the sauce from the pan over the mangoes and serve them while they’re still warm.

Chocolate cardamom pears: If you don’t have access to tropical fruit, substitute a pear for the mango. Cut the pear into 1/4 inch cubes. Toss them in a bowl with cocoa powder and one teaspoon of cardamom, then proceed with the recipe. Instead of pressing them into the pan, stir occasionally while cooking. Once they are hot and coated with the sugar mixture, transfer them directly to a bowl and drizzle them with sauce from the pan.

Date balls #2 (p. 61)

I invented these while I was working on the original date balls, which were inspired by the coconut-date rolls found in the bulk section at our food co-op. You can make these in no time, and they look lovely in a glass jar. They get eaten so fast I wonder if I ever really made them.

Makes 15–20 bite-sized balls
Takes 15 minutes

1 cup minced dates
1 tablespoon minced sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon minced hazelnut
1 tablespoon minced cocoa nibs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one orange (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (for coating)

In a bowl, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients except cocoa powder.

A spoonful at a time, roll them into balls. We recommend tablespoon-sized balls, but this is not an exact science.

Sprinkle the balls with cocoa powder or drop them into a small bowl of cocoa powder and roll them around. The cocoa powder makes the balls less sticky, easier to handle, and prettier.

Store them in a container that keeps its shape; in a bag they’ll get squished but still taste great.

Thrilling date balls: Find a chili powder with a super-high heat unit and make a few extra-spicy date balls. Share them with friends who are always seeking the hottest of spicy foods and they’ll be thrilled.

Trail mix date balls: You can make these date balls with all sorts of minced trail mix ingredients in place of the sunflower seeds and hazelnuts. Experiment! If you add too many nuts and you’ve run out of dates, sprinkle the extra mixture over oatmeal.

Date Balls (p. 60)

Recipe update from the tropics: you can substitute banana & tamarind for the dates. Then you have tamarind balls.  Also excellent.

Add these date balls to a platter along with other finger foods and all of a sudden your platter is extra fancy. The more finely you mince, the more elegant these date balls will look in the end—and the better they’ll hold together.


half a coconut, bowl-side up, no coconut water inside, still has its hair on the outside.

Makes 12 date balls
Takes 15 minutes

1 cup dates, pitted
1 tablespoon nibs
1 tablespoon shredded coconut (optional)
About 20 pistachios (12 whole plus 1 tablespoon minced)

Mince all the ingredients except a dozen of the pistachios. Combine the minced pistachios, nibs, and coconut.

One tablespoon at a time, roll the dates into cylinders or balls. Press a pistachio into the center, and work the nut and nib mixture into your ball like you’re breading it. That’s all! Voila! Date balls!

Sweet Nibs by Janet Straub (p. 123)

Janet, the official “Chocolate Doodler” of Creo Chocolate, suggests using nibs anywhere you’d use nuts or seeds. The parchment paper in this recipe is handy because it makes cleanup straightforward. These candied nibs go great on salads!

Makes 1 1/2 cups
Takes 10 minutes

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups cacao nibs

Over medium low heat, stir the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly. This takes less than 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the nibs until evenly coated. Pour onto parchment paper to cool and dry out. Store in an airtight container.

Use these sweet nibs as a snack, in salads, and creatively topping food.

Crockpot Mole Negro (p. 80)

This smoky, nutty chocolate-based sauce is a relatively quick version of the real deal, which can take an entire day to prepare. I love crockpots for recipes like this. On the stovetop, it takes nearly an hour of supervised cooking. With an electric crockpot, I just need to prep a few hours earlier, and I can walk away until the mole is ready.

If you haven’t bought chipotles en adobo before, look for them at a Mexican market or in the international aisle of the grocery store—they’re smoked chili peppers in sauce, usually sold in a small can. Mole is traditionally drizzled over burritos, enchiladas, or a variety of meats or meat-substitutes. It’s like a complex, spicy barbecue sauce.

Makes 2 cups
Takes 1 hour prep plus 3 hours cooking (unattended)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 chipotles en adobo, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chili powder or flakes
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups vegetable broth
1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped (or about 1/4 cup grated chocolate)

Put a pan on medium heat and add the oil. When the pan is hot, add the onion and garlic and sweat them for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, and cook them for another minute while stirring constantly.

Move the contents of the pan to a crockpot. Add the chipotles, peanut butter, chili powder, cornmeal, and salt. Stir in the broth and add the chocolate.

Cook in the crockpot on high heat for three hours. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmer on medium heat for 50 minutes.

For a smooth texture, let the mole cool and blend it before serving. The mole can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, or kept frozen for several months. The oil separates out as it cools, but you can reheat the mole and stir it back in before serving.

simple illustration of an onion both above and below ground

Bulk cocoa beans at the market in León, Nicaragua

Bulk cocoa beans and rice
Beans in a basket. Like $5 a pound, fair trade status unknown

Friendly vendor sells bulk cocoa beans (along with bulk rice & beans, ketchup, dog food, and so forth) in the central market here in León.

I’ve been visiting this market nearly every day for a month! Never saw this stall til my friend visiting from out of town wandered down a vendor hallway filled with plastic products that I’d never bothered to explore before! There’s a metaphor in that, somewhere….