Aqua Fava Carob Pieces (Vegan, Gluten and Oil Free)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on May 17, 2016

carob pieces 1

Though I’ve gotten a lot less fussy (or maybe lazy) in my cooking habits, from time to time I still can’t resist my proclivity for vegan adaptations of things I know I should never eat in their original form. This experiment is that a couple times over, since most of you can eat a few chocolate chips in your cookies or pancakes or banana bread now and then, even if it is gluten or fat free. But for me, the theobromine in chocolate is just not worth it, unless I am willing to find myself with the nerves in my legs twitching away into the wee hours of the morning when I’d rather be sleeping and just dreaming of eating chocolate without the side effects.

As most of you know, I actually love carob. So why not just buy carob chips? Because they, too, are manufactured with yet another ingredient Dr. Swank advised those of us with MS to avoid: palm oil.  While palm oil doesn’t give me twitchy legs, it does give me–ahem–GAS. Like it or not, I’ve had to learn to heed the reasons why it’s on Dr. Swank’s “forbidden” list.

Now I know some folks may think the science behind Dr. Swank’s diet is outdated, but for me, any significant foray into coconut oil, palm oil, or chocolate does all the things he says it might do to those of us with MS–it slows down my already sluggish circulation, and I feel weak and generally terrible. Keep at it long enough and my MS symptoms become more pronounced. Those symptoms remind me I am setting the stage to allow oxidization where my circulatory system doesn’t need it and from there potential further deterioration of the myelin on my nerve sheaths I am trying to preserve.

(On a wider wackier note, I also feel a certain solidarity with Lily Tomlin’s character Frankie of Grace and Frankie in her tirade on the environmental evils of palm oil;  it’s a serious issue, despite the comedy, and I get to be automatically righteous simply because I personally can’t tolerate it.)

Thus, I live in a world with no baking chips–chocolate or carob–and once in a while I feel kind of sad about that, kind of sorry for myself, which then always makes me laugh, it’s such a ridiculous thing to feel sorry for myself about, privileged that I am to still be walking around, talking, swallowing and even drawing and writing now and then after 20+ years of living with MS.

That’s when the mad alchemist-cook in me rises up, determined to find a way to make a baking chip or carob piece that will hold together just long enough to get into some cookie batter and melt there. And, I am pleased to say, my mad alchemist-cook aspect has achieved just exactly that.

Before I go on, let me warn all you chocolate chip-eating readers out there that these do not have that ultimate creamy texture that a calorie and oil-based chocolate chip has, or even a carob one made with palm oil. Instead, they are made rich with ground hemp seeds, and thus have a very rich brownie-fudge texture. But it is luscious in its own right and imitates a baking chip just enough to call it delicious and add another flavor dimension to my old stand-by versions of oatmeal-millet-raisin cookies.

The other ingredient that helps with the fudgy creamy mouth feel is now a trendy one, but it takes me back to my Italian peasant roots: the cooking liquid from chickpeas known as aqua fava. It is so popular these days it even has its own facebook page of dishes posted using vegan meringue made from it. In my family of origin, though, chickpeas are called “cecis” (say “checheese”), and aqua fava would more likely be pronounced “agua fav” in the languid dialect of my ancestors. But it’s the same thick magical liquid that gives these pieces more body and rich mouthfeel than they get only using water.

You have to blend, cook, and then freeze these babies before you can break them up with a knife and then quickly usher them into your cookie dough with a fork before popping the cookies onto the baking sheet and into the oven. The window is narrow, but it works. I even could see the corners sticking out of cookies melt into goo through that little window in the oven door I almost never clean. By the time they come out of the oven they are harder and as dark as the raisins, but when you bite into the cookie, you still get a bit of gooey fudgey texture and a rich taste from the marriage of the ingredients.

My son, who eats his share of vegan chocolate chips right out of the bag, vetted my pronouncement about these carob pieces when he was over helping me with painting a new patch of drywall. I had some cooling on the kitchen table, and if Mike is willing to help me match paint over new drywall like the great son he is, then the least I can do is be willing to share my cookies. But I did so with a disclaimer that he might not like the “fake” chocolate chips.

However, I got the best reception from a chocolate lover I could hope for: the bite into, the raised eyebrow, the exclamation–“these are really good!” And then the best part; “can I have another one?”

So if you are adventurous, here is the recipe to try your own hand at some low fat vegan oil and gluten free kitchen alchemy. I put them in cookie batter which is a hybrid between classic oatmeal millet raisin cookies and crunchy millet cookies. Even without measuring, it is a great background for these “chips.”

I have a confession to make though. I really liked these, but when I put them in the cookies without the raisins, I missed the raisins. I know most people would rather walk a mile for a chocolate chip cookie and throw a raisin oatmeal cookie to the wind (not to the dog, because raisins are poisonous to them), but I REALLY love my oatmeal raisin cookies. I never get tired of them. Still, if I want to take them up to the next notch, adding these pieces makes it sort of like having raisinets in the cookies. And that makes me feel like watching an old movie. And having another cookie.

Maria (moonwatcher)

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ruth Black @ The Plant-Based Pantry May 18, 2016 at 7:17 am

How innovative! I have yet to experiment with aqua fava, but your success is encouraging. I love reading your words. I aspire to write like you! And those cookies sound delicious 🙂

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi May 18, 2016 at 7:47 am

Thank you, Ruth! What a lovely compliment about my writing–I am honored! And happy you are encouraged to experiment, and that the cookies sound delicious–they are my favorites!

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3 Debra Maslov May 18, 2016 at 9:22 am

Thank you Maria for your super clever recipe for healthy Aqua Fava Carob pieces! Oh the possibilities! I also appreciate your comments as to how the theobromine in chocolate affects you. All this time I thought it was the caffeine in chocolate that kept me up for nights on end & got my anxiety going like crazy. After a little research I see it is much more sinister than that & will now avoid chocolate like the plague!
Of all the many blogs I follow, yours is by far my favorite & the only one I look forward to. I am always touched by your poetic words & cheered by your strength. I love reading how you view everyday life in your own unique way, & am awed by your beautiful art. Thank you again for sharing slices of your life with us!

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4 Maria Theresa Maggi May 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Debra, my first thought after reading your lovely comment was “lucky me!!”–I have such great and supportive readers! Thanks for being one of them. I’m glad the information about the theobromine in chocolate is helpful to you in some way. It’s not commonly held information, but it can be significant, at least for some of us. And finally, I am thrilled and honored to know you look forward to my posts. That makes my day. 🙂

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5 Aquafaba May 19, 2016 at 8:23 am

Love it!!

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6 Veronica May 19, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Brilliant! Your creativity in finding new ways of old things is always delightful. 🙂 I’ve just started experimenting with aquafaba, too! I have about a 1/4C of it in the fridge waiting for something…
And I’ll forgive you for preferring raisins in your cookies. I guess. 😉 xoxo

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7 Maria Theresa Maggi May 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Thanks Veronica! 🙂 I’m sure you are going to come up with some really cool things to do with aquafaba. And thank you for forgiving me my love of raisins in my cookies! 🙂 You are funny, and a dear, too. 🙂 xoxo

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8 Gena May 20, 2016 at 10:25 am

I think I am one of the few vegans who has not yet experimented with the magic of chickpea water! But this is all the more reason to feel inspired.

I really like how you’ve responded to knowledge about what does and does not work for your own body with ingenuity. Yes, it can be tough to recognize that certain foods simply can’t work for us anymore, for whatever reason, but I agree that it’s really an invitation to think creatively. And these tasty pieces are creative indeed 🙂

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9 Maria Theresa Maggi May 20, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Thank you Gena! I so appreciate your support for my responding to knowledge of what does and doesn’t work for my body with ingenuity. It keeps me happy! When you get around to experimenting with chickpea water I know you are going to come up with something splendid! 🙂

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10 Lee May 24, 2016 at 7:53 am

Hi Maria, these carob chips sound tasty! And having theobromine give you twitchy legs all night long is the best. reason. ever. to NOT eat chocolate. 😉 Luckily I’m with you–I like carob on its own merits, too! In fact, I’ve switched to hot carob milk before bed most nights–as a result of your suggestion on my insomnia post long ago–and have found that I sleep more easily as a result. (Thank you for the tip!)

Also, I don’t know of any research contradicting Dr. Swank’s findings. Has he been debunked in some way? I know Dr. McDougall published a study with relatively null findings recently, but I think that Dr. Swank’s data still stands, even if it is older? If not, let me know so I can read up!

And kudos to your son for helping out with the house. You’re a great mom to make him cookies in return–with homemade “fake” chocolate chips, no less. (Which I really can’t wait to try–love the hempseed idea!)

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11 Maria Theresa Maggi May 24, 2016 at 8:39 am

Thanks Lee! And wow, I’m really happy to hear that switching to carob helps you with insomnia-another score for carob! 🙂 To clarify about Dr. Swank, I was just generally referring to newer approaches like that of Dr. Terry Wahls, who also advocates a whole foods diet, so there is some overlap, but she also eats organ meats and other high fat foods that would slow me down in a hurry. She herself has MS and has written books about her approach and her recovery. People often tell me about her, as if I should try her program, so maybe I was heading that off at the pass.

In defense of my position, I was also referring to Dr. George Jelinek’s excellent overview of the research about diet and MS in his first book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. He was an editor for a medical journal as well as being still a practicing medical doctor himself, and also has MS (and so did his mother), and his own diet is a more strict version of Dr. Swank’s. He details how double blind randomized controlled studies are now done, and how when Dr. Swank started his study this technique was not in use, and thus has allowed other medical folks to debunk its amazing results over time. (Amazingly, venues like the MS Society do not endorse Dr. Swank’s work, or any dietary approach. I was also obliquely addressing that.) But Dr. Jelinek defends the veracity of the findings nonetheless in expert fashion. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it. Ultimately, I’m with him and with Dr. Swank on how to best manage the MS–with the added stubbornness that I take no meds. And yes, you are correct, the study at OHSU done with the McDougall program showed no reduction in lesions or progression, though patients reported having more energy, less fatigue, and feeling better overall. There may have been some design flaws in that study and it didn’t go on for very long either. So that’s why, even though I feel better when I don’t use oil, and so I don’t use it, I DO make sure I have some vegan form of the healthy fats recommended in small amounts every day, which is something Dr. McDougall doesn’t really emphasize or say is necessary. As you know, the hemp hearts are a naturally perfectly balanced and easily assimiliated source of omega 3s and 6s and that really seems to work for me, so I have some every day. Wow, that was a mouthful, so to speak!! Hahaha. Hope it helps in some way. 🙂 xo

ps: rather easy to be a great mom when I have such a great son 🙂 thanks 🙂

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12 Lee May 31, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Hi Maria, thank you for the thoughtful response! I will definitely check out Dr. Terry Wahls online, as well as Dr. George Jelinek’s book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. (I may pass it along to a friend of mine with MS, too, although knowing her, she already owns it!)

And yes, getting the omega-3/omega-6 balance right is crucial, but often overlooked. Glad you’re on top of it! (And yet not at all surprised.) 🙂 Let’s hear it for hemp seeds!

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13 Lee May 31, 2016 at 6:04 pm

PS – Just bought Jelinek’s book on Amazon. Can’t wait to read it; I so love learning about resources that might be helpful to clients down the road!

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14 Maria Theresa Maggi May 31, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Great! Let me know what you think. 🙂

15 Martina October 16, 2016 at 10:27 am

My 2-year-old and I loved these! Thank you for the recipe!

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16 Maria Theresa Maggi October 16, 2016 at 11:11 am

OMG Martina–thank you for letting me know! This really brought a smile to my face. You are most welcome! 🙂

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