When WTTW’s cult restaurant review show Check, Please! announced they were looking for a new host, I knew I had to apply. My family has been watching the show for over 10 years and it’s how we were introduced to great Chicago restaurants like Noon O Kabab, Icosium Kafe, Coobah, and Kabul House. The show features a diverse, rotating cast of everyday Chicagoans sitting around a table and sharing their favorite restaurants with each other, in a way that’s both honest and accessible. In my audition video, I tried to showcase my hosting skills and culinary expertise by taste-testing the difference between wine and cough syrup, eating a salad and laughing in front of the mirror, and trying to shove as many sugary Italian cookies into my mouth as humanly possible. (It makes more sense if you watch the video below, I promise.)
While I love a fistful of sweet and crumbly Italian cookies as much as any other Chicago gal (whose parents met on Taylor Street, no less), this week I decided to mix it up by creating a satisfying raw treat to have on hand when I get the craving for something sweet. Made with just a handful of pantry ingredients, these Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds take only minutes to make and no baking or precise measuring is required. I’m a fan of savory breakfasts like dal, eggs, soup, or even leftovers, but these little bites have found their way into my early morning routine as well. Truth be told: “breakfast dessert” is a common phrase in our apartment.
These raw brownies are really just fruit and nut bars where dates and walnuts are pulverized in the food processor and cocoa powder is added to give them that chocolatey goodness. These could also be shaped into little balls and then rolled in hemp seeds to look like truffles. Either method is great to make with kids since eating the batter is strongly encouraged and hands are the preferred tool for mixing. You can eat them immediately, but they greatly improve in flavor and texture after an hour or two chilling in the fridge.
In addition to helping you avoid the food coma that traditional baked goods can induce (at least in the quantities I consume…see video), Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds are Omega 3 powerhouses since both walnuts and hemp seeds provide the essential good-for-you fats. Hemp seeds have become my little best friends when it comes to adding protein quickly to vegan and vegetarian dishes. They have a bit of a strong taste in smoothies, but the cocoa here masks it beautifully.
Check, Please! has narrowed down the pool of potential hosts from over 1000 to a list of 17 finalists–and I’m included! Now it’s up to the public to vote for their favorite candidate to help choose the next host to showcase great restaurants and interesting diners in this fabulous food city. Voting for the next host of Check, Please! continues through April 17. Check out the great applicants here, but you know, vote for me. In the meantime, I’ll be on the edge of my seat, snacking on mini brownies.
Raw Brownie Bites with Hemp Seeds
makes 25 mini brownies
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, divided
1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates (about 15 dates)
1/2 cup cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
1. In the food processor, pulse walnuts and 1/4 cup hemp seeds until finely ground, but not smooth. Add dates, cocoa/cacao powder and sea salt and blend until the dates are pulverized and a crumbly mixture forms.
2. Remove from food processor and press into a ball. Press mixture evenly into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish, using the bottom of a measuring cup to make the top smooth. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds on top and lightly press down. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours to let the brownies firm up. Cut into small squares and store in the fridge.