To quote T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, and Karen Campbell, Director of the Center for Nutrition Studies, “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook is great cookbook for treating and reversing heart disease as well as a wide variety of other ailments and diseases. Try these recipes and see for yourself what a fantastic difference they can make for your health. Dr. Esselstyn’s amazing accomplishments are backed up by Ann and Jane’s health enriching recipes.”
I had the pleasure several years ago to “work” with the awesome Esselstyn family after Dr. and Mrs. Esselstyn’s son, fireman and professional triathlete Rip Esselstyn called to inquire about getting the vegan Chocolate Cake to Live For, which he’d seen on the cover of my 2006 book, More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, for his upcoming wedding. I had just seen the New York Times front page feature about how Rip convinced his firemen brothers in Austin, TX to go vegan to one of their own lower his dangerously high cholesterol. I was not alone in being intrigued. So were publishers, and the result was Rip’s first book, the Engine 2 Diet. I recognized the Esselstyn name in the Times story. I’d presented at conferences where Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD, surgeon and author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, the patriarch of this remarkable plant-pushing family, was featured. If you’ve seen the award-winning film Forks Over Knives, you’ve met Dr. Esselstyn, Rip and Ann.
But back to the wedding: Rip said his mom Ann was in charge of the food and to expect her call. And so began what was remains for me to this day, one of the most delightful adventures of my vegan baking life. Ann is widely considered the Julia Child of plant-based cuisine and she is as much fun ans she is knowlegable. The same can be said of the entire family.
It was decided that each table of guests, at least 10 I think, would have its own single layer glazed chocolate cake (an early version of the Chocolate Torte to Live For, updated in Vegan Chocolate) and Rip and Jill would cut a layer cake. I finished the cakes onsite and was invited to the wedding, which was simply amazing. My cakes are made using unsweetened cocoa and at least 50% whole-wheat pastry flour. (I used 100% whole-wheat pastry flour for Rip and Jill’s cakes. The wedding buffet followed SOS (no salt, oil, sugar) as prescribed by Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and The Engine 2 Diet, other than the cake, which did contain some maple syrup, a small amount of fat, and teeny bit of vegan sugar. A caterer, non-vegan as I recall, prepared the food, from Ann and Rip’s recipes and the mostly non-vegan guests gobbled everything up — including, I am happy to say, the cakes. I made the rehearsal dinner treats too, as a gift, following SOS, which is to say, that recipes can be adapted. I did just that to make the Minty Frozen Chocolate Balls in Ann and daughter Jane’s enticing new cookbook.
Frankly, I didn’t expect the chocolate balls, which are made entirely with cocoa and not chocolate – no oil, no salt – to taste as good as they did, or to be as hard to resist as they were. I did make a few minor variations, which I have noted in the recipe. Whether you wish to follow the Esselstyn’s program absolutely, as many people do––former president Bill Clinton and actor Samuel Jackson, who endorsed the book, among them – or ‘lean in’ , the point is to eat more plants, whole foods, not fun foods. Then, you might have a once in a while treat, made to please your palate. The fact is, once you start eating clean, your taste changes. My personal mantra is to eat green and clean and then, assuming you are healthy and comfortable with doing so, save room for a once in a while treat. Rip included a recipe for my no sugar added, high percentage, no sugar or fat added Chocolate Truffles in his follow up cookbook: My Beef with Meat. These Minty Frozen Chocolate Balls are less indulgent, but no less yummy!
Minty Frozen Chocolate Balls
BALLS MAKES AROUND 40, DEPENDING ON HOW MANY YOU EAT AS YOU GO!
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup, to taste
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 ripe bananas
- ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 tablespoon chocolate balsamic vinegar or Mandarin Chocolate balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups oats
- 1 cup Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets or any Grape-Nuts-like cereal
- Blend all but the oats and cereal together in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add oats, and mix well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
- Put Kashi Nuggets in a small saucer with sides or a small bowl.
- Using the big end of a melon baller or a small spoon, scoop up little wet, sticky chocolate
- balls one by one. Drop them in the Kashi, and with a spoon or with your fingers, gently cover
- the surface of the ball with nuggets. Carefully place them on the parchment paper (you may
- find it easiest to use your fingers). Flatten the balls slightly with the back of a spoon. Freeze.
- Remember to serve frozen or when they are just beginning to thaw.
Reprinted from The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2014, Ann and Jane Esselstyn.
Here are my variations and notes:
I used mint oil, which is much stronger than the extract in the recipe. If you do the same, add it drop by drop so the mint does not overpower. Ditto, if you were to use orange oil, which I did for test two. (The orange flavored chocolate balls were my favorite.)
I did not have Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets or Grape Nuts in my pantry, but reasoned that if certified gluten-free oats were used and the wheat coating omitted, we’d have a gluten free recipe, easy peasy. The balls did need a coating though and a crunch. I used about 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, mixed with a teaspoon of good-for-us cinnamon to dust the chocolate-banana-oat mixture and then rolled them in heart healthy omega3 rich, crunchy chia seeds.
I ate quite a few while I was rolling the not-as-messy-as I expected balls. Maybe that was because I froze the mixture first, and then defrosted it in the refrigerator, just until it could be shaped. I suggest working with half at a time. The photo shows bigger rounds than I made. 30-35 is more like it for walnut shaped rounds.
I’m always interested in recipes that happen along the way to a finished recipe. Here I was excited to find the puree that binds the oats: cocoa, maple syrup, almond milk, banana, with a bit of the extract or oil, of your choosing, makes a WONDERFUL chocolate sauce to drizzle on fruit or a special Sunday brunch oatmeal. I am going to ask Ann and Jane what they think about this.
Today my freezer holds a bag of about 15 of naked Frozen Chocolate Balls. I’ll coat them in the crunchy cereal or cocoa powder and chia before serving. I like these semi-frozen best.
I’m really interested in hearing what you think about the recipe as written and any variations you may make. Why not freeze the mixture flat and cut squares. What ideas do you have?
The book has many photos – all full color – and clear advice on setting up, stocking your pantry, and many tips. It reads like Ann and Jane are coaching you in the kitchen. I learned that you can sauté, make hummus, and roast veggies without oil and still eat delicious satisfying food. The Esselstyn family members are healthy, happy, athletic and passionate. The cookbook’s subtitle: Over 125 Life-Saving Plant Based Recipes is worthy of consideration.
I have a copy of the The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook for one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. Good luck and good eating!