an occasional sweet treat

at the same time i was asked to come up with an original recipe for a cookie contest hosted by marx foods and the inspiring ashley rodriguez of 'not without salt' i was also asked to take over the @iquitsugar instagram feed for the weekend. you might think this is ironic. i'd agree with you. but it's also a reflection of my personal food philosophy! i believe in nourishing our bodies on a daily basis with a plant-based diet ... without depriving ourselves of simple joys like perfectly baked chocolate chip cookies. 

what i love about the 'not without salt' blog and ashley's cookbook is the balance between nourishing plant-based recipes and recipes for truly special sweet treats. there's a big difference between mindlessly noshing on peanut m&m's everyday while sitting at your desk vs. putting love and effort into creating something truly magical and indulgent to share with a loved one. not only will you appreciate that homemade treat 100x more, you'll also have the awareness of what all went in to that treat, which encourages mindful (not mindless) eating. and what i admire about the work of sarah wilson and her 'i quit sugar' program and wellness brand is their mission to help people who are addicted to sugar break that addiction and experience life without sugar. breaking free from the addictions that pull us away from our health and wellness goals is incredibly empowering and impactful! 

for myself, i crave vegetables. intensely so. my body knows how good it feels when it is porperly nourished with plants. my cravings for sugar are much less then when i was a kid snacking on candy bars after school everyday (read: when i was highly addicted to butterfingers)... that said, i enjoy fruit daily and treat myself to a sweet bite now and then... like the incredible habanero & orange chocolate chip cookies from hello robin, a bakery just a few doors down from my yoga studio. this combination of flavors inspired me to come up with a fun treat utilizing ashley's salted chocolate chip cookie mix, paired with a vegan habenero & orange chocolate ganache. 

you can read my interview with the team at i quit sugar here. the interview inspired a new hashtag for myself: #edgyveggie ... ha! and if you are in seattle check out the cookie mix throw down event happening june 30th at marx foods! i'm excited to attend even if i'm not selected as a finalist! there will be lots of free cookie samples to judge and some of my favorite seattle food bloggers in attendance! oh my! ok, now for the recipe...

chocolate chip cookie tarts with habanero & orange chocolate ganache 
*dairy free ~ makes 6 mini tarts

for the crust:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or 1/2 cup butter)
1 egg (or egg replacer if vegan) 
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

for the vegan ganache filling: 
2/3 cup raw cocoa powder
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup real maple syrup 
3 oranges
2 habeneros chili peppers

*a note about the cookie mix: i love that the ingredients are all packaged separately. you know exactly how much sugar and chocolate is being used. i wanted to experiment with using coconut oil, but you could follow ashley's directions to use butter if you prefer! also... you can easily freeze these tarts to be enjoyed at a later date, or scale down the ganache recipe by half and use half the cookie dough to bake salted chocolate chip cookies! i conveniently had a birthday party to attend that was the perfect excuse for gifting away the bulk of these treats!
*ashley discloses her recipe for the salted chocolate chip cookie dough here, in case you want to collect all the ingredients and make the dough from scratch too!

do ahead: use a vegetable peeler to zest two oranges. slice habaneros in half, carefully remove seeds and veins and add to bowl with the orange zest. muddle together the zest and chilies to release some of the essential oils. combine with 1/2 cup maple syrup. let rest while you prepare tart crusts, or ideally do it a day ahead to infuse even more flavor into the syrup! 

for the tart crusts: melt 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and add to large bowl. combine oil with 1 egg and the sugar from the cookie mix. use a whisk or electric hand mixer to whisk ingredients together until lightened in color. add the dry flour mix and a teaspoon of orange zest and whisk until flour is just combined. use hands or a spoon to stir in the chocolate chips. reserve the flake salt for topping the tarts! 

i used 6 x 4-3/4" mini tart pans. you could use other size tarts pans, or even simple muffin tins. oil whatever pans you are using with a bit of coconut oil and then spread equal portions of cookie dough into each pan to form a 1/4"-think crust. if using muffin tins, just work your crust 3/4" part way up the side of the tin. place the crust-filled tins onto on a cookie sheet and bake at 360-f degrees for 17-20 minutes (or less if using small muffin tins). when finished, the crust should be golden brown and slightly puffy. remove from oven and let cool in the tart pans. if the centers puffed up a lot, you can pat them down gently but leave the rim puffy! 

for the ganache: strain peels and chilis from syrup and transfer infused syrup to a blender. melt 2/3 cup coconut oil and add to blender along with 2/3 cup raw cocoa powder. blend on low speed until just combined and then poor or spoon the ganache into the cookie crusts. the ganache will be easier to spread smooth if the crusts are just slightly still warm. do not overfill tarts, if you have excess ganache eat it with a spoon or on a strawberry! set the filled tarts in the fridge for an hour or more until ganache is firm. when ready to serve, gently remove chilled tarts from pan and cut the tarts into quarters, sixths or eighths (whatever size you want!). top each piece with a sprinkling of the reserved flake salt and curls of orange zest from the remaining orange. they are best served slightly softened after sitting at room temp for 30 minutes or so, but they can also be enjoyed chilled!