Thanksgiving is over. December is here.
It is all about the holidays now, no?
Well, you know me, I kind of beat to the tune of my own drum. My forthcoming recipes may not necessarily be holiday-driven, but they will definitely be highly recommended. For yourself and others. And if that is not holiday-themed, I do not know what is.
This is a black bean soup I shared with my parents while they were in town. I had some lofty meals planned, but ended up working late and being on call, so things did not work as originally scheduled. I turned to this soup from The 30 Minute Vegan’s latest cookbook: Soup’s On! This is my favourite book of his so far, possibly because I love soups.
Mark’s latest book proves that complex soups do not need to take hours over the stove. With tricks like foregoing a slow saute for onions and prepping your vegetables as you cook your soup, a proficient cook should be able to make most of these soups quickly. Separated into chapters for basic broths, vegetable-dominant soups, heartier soups with whole grains, legumes and pasta, creamy blended soups, raw soups and desserts soups (plus garnishes and sides), this a comprehensive vegan soup compendium. His recipes highlight whole foods: vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and flavourful herbs. In addition to being entirely vegan, this cookbook caters to many special requests: no/low-oil, gluten-free (almost all), and mostly soy-free, too, and every recipe has variations to help you craft your best brew.
This black bean soup was no exception: lots of colourful vegetables superimposed on top of jet black black beans (Rancho Gordo’s Negro de Arbol beans). Bell pepper, carrots and corn with a dash of orange juice, cloves and liquid smoke for a Brazilian flare. The original soup was no-oil, but I opted for the oil-sautéed onion variation. I made the soup first and waited until dinnertime to make the plantain chips. The nuances of the maple-orange-cinnamon marinade for the baked plantain chips may have been lost on us, though. They also took twice as long to bake, but after Hannah’s recent gush of love for oven-baked plantain chips, I figured they may take longer.
With the plantain chips (unpictured), this would have been a stretch for a 30-minute meal, but it was quick. And the soup was delicious. Mark said it would serve 6-8, but the four of us devoured it in one sitting. (Sadly no leftovers for me). I was actually impressed that my Dad thought I had served this to him before. I assured him that this was a new recipe but two years ago, yes, I shared a (different) Brazilian soup with him. It was more stew-like with sweet potato and kale amidst the vegetable choice. I think I liked this one more. RG’s black beans were a hit: a bit smaller than your typical black bean while keeping their shape nicely.
I have been easily cooking my way through this delicious cookbook and can also recommend the Jamaican Jerk Plantain Soup, Holy Moley Soup, Himalayan Dal with Curried Chickpeas, Fire-Roasted Tomato and Rice Soup with Spinach, and Polish Vegan Sausage and Sauerkraut Stew. There are plenty more I will be trying out later.
I really want to share this cookbook with you and thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite recipe by The 30 Minute Vegan. If you haven’t made anything by Mark yet, have a look through the table of contents of The 30 Minute Vegan Soup’s On! on amazon (or my list above or below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 20, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Other recipes from Soup’s On:
PPS. Other recipes I have shared by Mark Reinfeld:
PPPS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for 365 Vegan Smoothies here.
I noticed this when the weather dipped to cooler temperatures. With the recent swing back to Houston’s humid summer temperatures, I noticed it again.
My kitchen barometer is the coconut oil.
During the summer it was a liquid and during the cooler days, it becomes solid.
Other things that melt in Houston: massage bars, solid hair conditioner and chocolate. Those warnings about using expedited shipping so that your items don’t spoil? Well, let it be known: chocolate will melt en route to my home. Thank goodness it still tasted great. That massage bar, unfortunately, could not be salvaged.
Wipe away your tears with these fantastic raw peppermint patties. They were delicious and you would never have known they were raw. A buttery mint filling courtesy of ground cashews and coconut flour with a touch of coconut oil is enveloped by a thick chocolate coating.
They may look like lumps of coal, but they certainly did not taste like it.
I don’t know whether it was the temperature or the humidity, but I had a bit of trouble making these homemade peppermint patties. I have made chocolate truffles before - classic lemon bittersweet chocolate truffles, chocolate peanut butter truffles and even raw maca chocolates - but this was the first time my chocolate turned out more like play dough instead of a thinner liquid! This meant I had a much thicker coating for my peppermint patties which I wrapped around with my hands. Double the chocolate, which was great, since they tasted fantastic.
Also a note about coconut flour (again): it is defatted ground coconut so it lends a different texture. It also absorbs a lot of liquid, which is why it is so different than regular dried coconut. I am also convinced that different brands absorb more, so adjust the recipe as you go. I ended up adding more coconut flour since it was too liquidy with the original recipe. If you don’t have coconut flour, try these recipes that use dried coconut instead.
This recipe is courtesy of The Simply Raw Kitchen. The cookbook is from a raw restaurant in Ottawa, Simply Raw Express, and features both cooked and raw recipes (despite what the title may suggest otherwise). All vegan and whole-foods based. All gluten-free. With a bit of Austrian in her background, some of her Eastern European-inspired dishes really called to me: Austrian Blaukraut, Krautfleckerl, Lovage (Chickpea) Dumplings, Mushroom Goulash as well as Lemon Dill Cheeze and Aged Peppercorn Cheeze. However, it was her collection of (mostly raw) desserts that I could not shake from my mind: Better Pecan Pie with Shortbread Crust, Austrian Linzer Squares, Cloud Lime Pie, Orange Chocolate Blossom Tart, Holiday Nut Nog.
I know I say it all the time, but I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me which recipe you’d like to try the most (or if you have a recipe from Natasha that you recommend). Have a look through the index of The Simply Raw Kitchen on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her website and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 7, 2013. Good luck!
Other recipes shared from The Simply Raw Kitchen:
What is better than a potluck with delicious vegan food? A potluck with delicious vegan food, complete with recipes!
Recently, some new friends invited me over for a Ripe-themed supper. Stephanie, the mastermind behind Ripe Cuisine, serves vegan eats at a few farmer’s markets in Houston but also has a recipe blog. I have gushed about her homemade coconut-almond ice cream before and since I knew her recipe for brownies was good, I was excited to see how her other recipes fared.
Broccoli “cream” soup with polenta croutons, baked zucchini chips, tahini mustard carrots, and cauliflower piccata were on the menu. Veggie extraveganza! Everything was delicious. I really enjoyed the carrots and polenta croutons.
My small contribution to the menu that evening was this cheesecake. I say small due to its size, not its taste. For my birthday, Rob surprised me with a smaller 6″ springform pan. I left my larger one in Toronto and brought this one so I could make smaller versions of dessert.
I love raw/no-bake cheesecakes. I have made them with cashews as well as tofu, but this time, I used them together. And I baked it. Both for synergistic results.
This cheesecake is a combination of a few recipes and both are knock-outs. The filling is courtesy of Ricki Heller‘s new cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. Since these recipes are all gluten-free and sugar-free, they employ ingredients I don’t have in my (mostly) minimalist pantry. I tried to stay mostly true to her recipe, though, even scoping out lemon extract. I realized that having a concentrated lemon flavour without the sourness would be a good way to reduce the amount of sweetener needed, without resorting to Meyer lemons.
This was a delicious cheesecake. Possibly our favourite vegan cheesecake of all time. Very rich in a non-heavy sense, which can happen with raw cheesecakes, relying on cashews and coconut oil. However, sadly, after chilling in the fridge, it was no longer a lemon cheesecake; it morphed into a creamy, rich, vanilla cheesecake. Equally as good, just a different flavour. The lemon flavour disappeared considerably. I really like the tang from lemon juice, so next time I would add more lemon juice in addition to more lemon extract. It was a very nice cheesecake, though. I also liked how I had the height to really get a good size piece on my fork with the smaller pan. You’ll understand when you look at my (much more flat) lemon cheesecake squares. Rob agreed, and we both thought this was the best, most “real” vegan cheesecake we have eaten (albeit a fluffier European-style cheesecake, which is our preference).
And the crust? A perfect foil for the rich, more mellow filling. A salty-sweet cinnamon pecan crust with oat flour that I snagged from Angela’s pumpkin pie adventures. She tasted a few crusts and proclaimed this the winner. Definitely one of my favourite crusts, too. I liked that it was sweet and salty (no dates) and the cinnamon spike brought it over the edge. I was worried the crust was a bit crumbly but it held together well when serving from the fridge.
I try to keep this blog real, and yes, this cheesecake was utterly delicious. However, it also cracked. This could be due to a few things, but next time, I will add a basin of water in the oven. I did that with the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares, and it worked well. With some strategic slicing, you could hide the cracks. Or find a saucy topping. (Ricki suggested a blueberry compote which I think would have been divine!) But really, it doesn’t matter unless you are photographing it because it still tasted delicious. Do you have any other tricks for cracked cheesecakes? What is your favourite vegan cheesecake recipe?
Ricki has been travelling the interwebs with her blog tour and I have been enjoying seeing her recipes all over the place. With all the thoughtful Q&As, I feel like I am really getting to know Ricki, the chef/baker, but most importantly, the person behind her recipes. A trained chef with a former catering company, watching her on video is like a fun cooking class, with so many tips about ingredients and techniques. I also recommend these recipes from Ricki’s new cookbook:
Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:
PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.
You may not have noticed, but I snuck away last week. An absolutely epic road trip, starting at Portland, the vegan mecca, meandering through lakes and mountains, including Crater Lake, reaching our ultimate destination: Burning Man. I hope to summarize our adventures and if I don’t I’ll be sure to share if Rob posts anything on his website. He is much better at looking through photos afterwards. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my food photos.
Before we left, I tried to cook through our pile of produce. Serendipitously, I had everything for this delicious Caribbean Stew. It is from Moosewood’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites. Through their collective, they run a restaurant in Ithica, New York, and have written many cookbooks over the past few decades. Most of my Moosewood cookbooks were bought/discovered at used book sales, although they are still keeping up with the times. Their latest cookbook, while not entirely vegan (they still use cheese, although less than before) and not even vegetarian (they have recipes for fish), includes updates from their restaurant favourites. Between their section dedicated to Soups (Thai Butternut Squash Soup, Texas Barbecue Bean Soup, Red Lentil Soup), to Main Dish Salads (Peruvian Quinoa and Vegetable Salad), to Curries and Stews (Lentil-Vegetable Sambar, Navajo Stew), a section dedicated to Beans (Basque Beans, Caribbean Red Beans, Creole Red Beans), and sides (Lentil Dhal), I was very pleased with their vegan recipes.
And this Caribbean Stew? It did not disappoint. A delicious medley of sweet potato, red bell pepper, tomato, cabbage and kale in a flavourful (not too) spicy broth made with ginger and green chiles. The dash of nutmeg and lime finish kept this special. As part of their growing process, Moosewood recommends more fresh herbs than before (I learned that lesson, too!) and this included fresh ginger, thyme and cilantro. They also recommended freshly grated nutmeg which is definitely more potent than pre-bought powdered. I modified the original recipe slightly, noted below. I decreased the ginger, although I probably didn’t need to be scared of the bit of heat it would impart. I also found the directions to cook everything on low to be too slow, so I increased my heat to medium-low and eventually medium. In the end, though, it was a fabulous soup. Tons of veggies with a delicious broth. A bit lacking in the protein department, I served it with the suggested brown rice. I bet you could easily sneak in some beans or tofu in there, too.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give away a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Moosewood dish. If you haven’t made anything by Moosewood yet, have a look through the table of contents of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on September 15, 2013. Good luck!
Other Moosewood recipes I have shared:
French Barley Salad
Chinese Cabbage and Fermented Black Beans
Spanish Green Bean and Lime Bean Stew
Japanese Winter Stew
African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew
Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas
Thyme-Spiced Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.
I have already mentioned some of the delicious flora (ok, the fruit) in Texas (local oranges, grapefruits and avocados! We’ve even seen a papaya tree here!) but what about the fauna?
1. Mosquitoes. I am well acquainted with mosquitoes, thankyouverymuch, but they are simply merciless here. Worse of all, they target me (not Rob), and they leave large welts. In Canada, I would rarely be targetted and it was a mild reaction. I had a lot of bites in Colombia, but still none were as large and bothersome. Judging by my co-workers (n=6), all new females have been scourged with the same problem. Thankfully, they have abated somewhat but sometimes they still catch me in my front yard. I blame all my sweating in this Texan heat.
2. Ants. Talking about bug bites, you have to be careful around ants here. I don’t know if they were fire ants or crazy ants (I did not make that up), but they are vicious and will bite and leave pus-filled lesions. Not nice. They caught me once as I was sitting on a sidewalk, helping to fix Rob’s flat tire. Hopefully it will be the last.
3. Frogs. I also know what frogs are.. although I haven’t really hung out with them too much. While we don’t live near a swamp, after a rain, frogs have been known to hang out ALL NIGHT LONG, CROAKING. I haven’t seen them, but that is who I am blaming for my sleepless nights.
4. Lizards. This is a new one for me (I had to ask what it was – someone thought it was a gecko but we don’t think so. salamander? small iguana?) It is a small guy and there is one right outside our home. I hear they eat bugs, so I am not worried. Eat those mosquitoes, yo!
5. Armadillos. Apparently armadillos can be found in Texas, but I have yet to see any. Judging by the presence of a Houston Armadillo Removal service, they must be found locally.
6. Snails. OK, we have snails in Toronto, too, but I rarely see them in my garden. I used to see them squashed on the bicycle trails, actually. I haven’t seen wild snails here either, though. Although, what I found most amusing is that I had snails in my kale from Rawfully Organic. Organic kale, indeed. My homegrown organic kale gets massacred by aphids in Toronto, but here, there are snails!
And every time I say snails in the kale, I think of bananas in pyjamas! For the record, pajamas is the American spelling. My blog is my spelling refuge. I add extra u’s as I see fit.
This was my long-winded interlude to tell you all about a super simple dish: cheezy chickpeas and kale. A cooked version of my Easy Cheezy Chickpea Salad, this is nearly as simple, although it does require dirtying a skillet. The combination of coconut oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic create a lovely nude sauce. The chickpeas soak it up but become nicely cheezy afterwards. I liked this warm, straight from the stovetop and they were very nice cold as leftovers the next day.
Do you have any fun local animals? I imagine raccoons could also be seen as weird creatures for the uninitiated. This fun video of a raccoon walking on a utility wire was shot very close to where I used to live in Toronto.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.
We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.
I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there. Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.
Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.
Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries
Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors
They are here!
I thought Alphonso mango season was still a few weeks away but it turns out now is the time! They are here from India!
Alphonso mangoes, one of our favourite mangoes, have a short season. Juicy, sweet and less stringy, the Alphonso mango is a treat. We eat them fresh, dripping their juices over the sink.
Thankfully, I am not going to tell you to use Alphonso mangoes in this curry (we actually haven’t bought any yet, although that’s on the agenda for the weekend). Unless you happen to be a very lucky person, overflowing with so many mangoes you do not know what to do. In a stir fry, ones that keep them shape are the best kind. Since you pair them with other vegetables, you do not need to use expensive, sweet mangoes. As such, I used frozen mango chunks. And I could not tell you what kind of mango those are… but I know they are not Alphonso.
Crispy tofu mixed with a medley of vegetables – tender crisp broccoli, carrot and bell peppers – coupled with chunks of sweet mango. Frozen mango worked well as it is cheaper and moreso, they are firm, cubed and sweet, keeping their shape in the skillet. Tossed with a light, orange-based sauce flavoured with garlic and ginger and a heavy dash of red pepper flakes, there are a lot of bold flavours. The sweet balanced nicely with the heat, without being too overwhelming, even for my own heat-sensitive palate.
Reminiscent of my Toasted Sesame Orange Teriyaki Vegetable and Quinoa Bowl, although that one is a bit more involved with flavoured tofu and a more complex orange sauce. I kept the tofu simple here to let the vegetables shine.
Have you tried Alphonso mangoes yet?
I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too.
I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.
I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made
some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.
After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.
In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.
PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?
PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?
Variety is the spice of life. It is possibly the best spice in the kitchen, too.
You can probably tell I like to experiment in my kitchen… so many great recipes to try and share. So many new things to explore.
You’d think I’d run out of repertoire. Me, too. Not yet, at least.
Case in point. I made yet another new hummus. This time I shunned the chickpea and traded it for roasted carrots. I kept my favourite hummus classics: fresh lemon juice (with a strong flavour from the zest, too), garlic and tahini. Smoked paprika and cumin for more depth of flavour. This is a very creamy dip. Lip-smacking good.
Faced with some leftover hummus after a party, I decided to turn it into a thick dressing for my salad. My last carrot (ginger sesame) dressing was paired with quinoa, avocado and tomato. This time, I juxtaposed it against black rice, tomatoes, baby greens and fresh herbs.
A note on black rice, possibly one of my favourite rices to date. When I cut fruit out on my sweetener-free challenge, I knew I was going to miss some of the many benefits from eating whole fruits: fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This was how I stumbled upon black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. It has a lovely short-grain rice feel similar to my favourite medium-grain brown rice with the added bonus of more protein and more anti-oxidants. Turns out that colourful is better for you, especially when talking about rice. I liked that the black rice wasn’t too sticky and had great flavour naked. As such, it was fun to throw it into this salad.
I ended up tossing it with an herbed spring mix (a mix of baby greens that includes dill, cilantro and parsley), which I thought brought this to the next level. Not the greens, but the herbs. I keep forgetting how simple herbs can totally elevate a dish from ho-hum to hoo-ya! Just a dash of fresh herbs was enough and in truth, the herb that stood out and complemented the salad best was the dill.
After I ate this salad, I had a bit of tummy rumblings. My Mom asked me what new foods I had eaten lately. Everything I eat is new. (Actually, at first I said nothing. Nothing crazy new) Except for the leftover hummus, everything else was new. It was my first time trying black rice and the herbed lettuce greens. Furthermore, I drank a mamey shake, too. Exciting times at the beginning of the week!
Pinpointing culprits when eating fresh foods can be a challenge for me without a lot of sleuthing. Mostly free of FODMAPs other than the garlic, I don’t think that’s the problem. A repeat salad had no problems so who knows what it was. Perhaps the chocolate walnut dessert from the night before? Probably. Too many walnuts? Who knows… it isn’t a problem now.
Here’s to more black rice. Have you tried it yet?
Being known as a healthy eater has its drawbacks.
My meals have now become suspicious. Suspicious for healthy ingredients. What have I hidden in the meal this time?
Trust me, I cater to my audience. If baking for myself, I’d easily experiment with squash carob brownies, cauliflower chocolate cake, chocolate chip chickpea blondies or chocolate mint black bean cookies. I have even gambled with (oh so good) chocolate tofu mousse pie with my family for Easter.
But for the harshest critics, I go all out.
Thus when Rob’s family came over for a birthday celebration and I offered to supply dessert, I had to determine my plan of attack.
Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie? I knew it was a winner, but I had no tofu.
Rob suggested my Carrot Cake Cupcakes since he really liked them, but I thought they might be a bit “out there”. Carrots for a birthday dessert? (Only mine..)
Experiment with a new recipe? I considered Terry’s Italian Cashewcotta Cheesecake or Ethiopian Chocolate Flourless Torte, but still had the issue of missing ingredients.
Then I worked backwards. What do I have in my pantry? Coconut oil, nuts and cocoa powder. Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Sounded delicious already. I peered around the corner of the cabinet and pulled out hazelnut butter. Eureka! A raw chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.
I like raw desserts because I can sample the batter and can easily gauge how it will turn out. Licking the batter from the blender, I knew this was going to be good. The next afternoon, I brought out the cheesecake to thaw. I cut a piece before everyone arrived. You know, for blogging photography purposes. But I sliced off a tiny sliver so I could do some tasting research, too.
I know I said my last raw cheesecake was utterly sinful, but how can a key lime pie compete with a chocolate cheesecake? A chocolate hazelnut cheesecake? It can’t. This my friends, was pure cocoa bliss.
Better than Nutella filling in a cheesecake form, on a cocoa-hazelnut-date crust. Decadent but not too rich and not too sweet. Perfect.
Trust me, I was very confident with this dessert.
Before I served it, I was pummeled with questions, though. “What IS this?” I was asked. Ingredients or the name of the dish? Ingredients, tell me. Nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave, dates… Avocados? I hate avocados.. No avocados…
Thank goodness it was a resounding success. Definitely my best dessert yet.
If coconut doesn’t bring you out of a winter rut, how about mango? Mango cupcakes with a mango coconut oil buttercream frosting, anyone?
February is a busy month for me and Rob.
Valentine’s Day, followed by Rob’s birthday and also our anniversary. We tend to go all out for Rob’s birthday, but this year, we kept it simple by meeting with friends at Rob’s favourite resto in our neighbourhood. No jackfruit “pulled pork” wraps or pineapple and cucumber guacamole this year. While The Beet has possibly my favourite desserts in the city (the best raw cheesecakes), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Rob a birthday treat.
The trick? Keeping it a surprise.
At least I knew Rob wouldn’t be privy to my dessert brainstorm on Pinterest. (ChefTap totally wins in that regard). One benefit of his birthday being after Valentine’s Day is that I could peruse all the lovely Valentine’s Day-inspired treats. Raw chocolate cheesecake with zucchini? If I was going to take over a resto, I figured it would be easier to eat something with our hands and plus, I had no zucchini. Raw coconut cardamom cheesecakes? They could melt before we made it to dessert at the resto. Raw chocolate tartelettes with chocolate ganache? No tartelette containers here.. Mango Cupcakes with a Coconut Chocolate Ganache? No chocolate nor full-fat coconut milk here. Chloe’s winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes? I really think I was onto something with the mango and this calls for full-fat coconut milk, too…. Mango Cupcakes with a Mango Buttercream Frosting? We have a winner… with just a few (minor) substitutions.
I made the cupcakes the night before, as Rob was out late for a work gathering. I had an hour before he came home so I whipped together the cupcakes. No baking expert at all, I called my mom to ask how long I had to let the cupcakes cool before I could frost them. At least half an hour, she told me. How long have they been out of the oven? Uh, I still have 15 minutes left in the oven and he’s due back in 45 minutes. She laughed. No frosting tonight. I hid the cupcakes.. and ran the dishwasher with all the dirty dishes.
As I went to bed, I determined the perfect time to make the frosting: the next morning while Rob went to the gym. For some reason, Rob picks his gym day the same day as my rest day. Thursdays. However, this Thursday he decided NOT to go to the gym. GAH!! So, I rushed off to work early so I could leave earlier, too. To frost my cupcakes before dinner.
So that’s my rambly preamble…. but I should not be keeping you in suspense because these cupcakes were winners. We shunned the desserts at the resto in lieu of cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes. Mango cupcakes with a mango buttercream frosting. Booyah! Vegan cupcakes, of course. Whole wheat, no problem (actually you wouldn’t know it, unlike my chocolate avocado cake).
Mango cupcakes sound revolutionary but it isn’t unusual to substitute apple or banana into baked goods. Here, I used mango puree. You could blend your own, or pick up a can of puree of Alphonso mangoes (the sweetest King of Mangoes) to make them moist and sweet. The cupcake base is also spiced with cardamom for an Indian twist. For the frosting, I will admit that I cracked and bought some icing sugar (everything else was from our pantry, including the mango puree). I contemplated making my own icing sugar from coconut sugar but decided against it at the last moment. My substitutions were mainly by using coconut oil. Because if there is one thing that I have a lot of (after beans and kelp noodles), it is coconut oil. Making coconut oil frosting is no new feat, but this was heightened by adding mango puree to it. The solid nature of coconut oil means that you don’t need to add as much icing sugar to achieve a stiff consistency. It was also super easy to pipe. Way easier than when my Mom and I made the royal icing for my bathbomb cupcakes.
A few notes about the recipe: my cupcakes were flat-topped. Nothing the frosting couldn’t
fixhide, but I am not sure if that was because I used coconut oil in the batter. Or the spelt? Or the bit of whole wheat pastry flour I finished off? Or the supplemental brown sugar I needed to top off the sugar? (Yes, it was a great pantry emptying cupcake). Who knows but I think it could be the coconut oil. Just thought I’d let you know. Not that anyone noticed. They were definitely a resounding success. I heard them say Best. Cupcakes. Ever. (Thanks, Matt). The magic ingredient wasn’t mango, it was love.
Did you catch this post yet? Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six.
It struck a chord with me, as I stopped cycling for the winter. More is not always better.
I found it to be a well-designed study. While it investigated older aged exercise-naive women, I found it fascinating that the women doing 6 work-outs a week spent less energy overall throughout the day because they were tired and stressed form their work-outs. Instead of being invigorated by exercise, too much exercise caused them to feel like they were short on time, and became more sedentary during the day. Interestingly enough, this was shared shortly after another article talked about how models slim down for their work. Lots of intense exercise but nothing that gives them muscle definition. Egad. My advice: if you are doing a lot of exercise, eat. Fuel your work-outs properly.
In any case, let me know if you enjoy these interesting news and tidbits, even if non-food related.
For those that are here for the food: I tried something new. Roasted oranges. I often roast vegetables but not fruit (I’ve tried roasted strawberries which were very good, though). I was intrigued. I tried them but prefer juicy oranges au naturel. They had a deeper more caramelized flavour but I missed the juiciness. Try it and let me know what you think.
I paired them with roasted Brussels sprouts (which I adore) as well as red bell peppers. A creamy orange ginger dressing, a bit heavy on the vinegar, worked well with the kelp noodles (the vinegar tenderizes them nicely). Feel free to use your favourite noodle. Or try it more like my Crunchy Cabbage Salad with a similar tahini-orange dressing, my orange teriyaki vegetable quinoa bowl or a brown rice salad with roasted beets and oranges with an orange-sesame vinaigrette.
Hold up. The squashes have been stored but I have not forgotten about the lovely end of summer vegetables.
Thankfully, the frost is still at bay and I continue to harvest green beans. My greens (kale and collards) will only improve after a frost, so I am letting them continue to grow before I harvest them. Rob is planning a kale chip-a-thon once we do a mass harvest. The dehydrator will be baking up a storm!
I didn’t grow tomatoes this year and my dill died, but my aunt and Rob’s parents had much better success than me. Last weekend, they graciously shared with me some of the garden bounty: fresh, ripe (local and organic!) tomatoes and dill. This was my salad the following week and I was happy as a peach.
It is such a simple salad, but capitalizes on summer’s fresh bounty. You could even whip this one out in the middle of winter with green-house tomatoes and nobody would be the wiser. Roasting the tomatoes, leeks and garlic makes a delicious base for this salad. Coated in a touch of coconut oil, it permeates into the juicy tomatoes and silky leeks. I combined them with flageolet beans, perfect for salads with their creamy texture yet firm shape. No need for a dressing, the vegetable juices embrace the beans. Dust with dill, if you wish, for a delicious twist. Divine as a warm salad from the oven, this was just as nice as a cold salad as leftovers. I served my bean salad overtop salad greens.
Flageolet beans are one of my favourite beans and I held onto the last of my batch until this salad. I also recommend using them in this warm bean salad with leeks in a mustard dressing as well as this warm bean and carrot salad with dill. With less time in the kitchen, I may try Gena’s recipe next time I get some leeks. Don’t have flageolet beans? Try this with any small white bean, including white kidney beans.
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right?
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.
Doesn’t everything look pretty in a Mason jar?
We don’t have many clear containers in our house, actually. Rob has oodles of beer glasses, but they all have logos on them! Hmmpht… Anyways, as I was saying, things all look better in Mason jars…
I don’t make granola that often, but recently became intrigued by granolas made with pureed fruits instead of gobs of sugar. Rob has willingly become my granola guinea pig. It is all for the better good of granola, right?
This was definitely not your typical granola. Not very sweet and not over-the-top chocolatey, either. The sweetness from the dried cherries and coconut hit your palate one by one as you savour the granola. Its prowess was born once it was paired with creamy yogurt and sweet bananas. I heard horror stories about soy yogurt, but it isn’t so bad!
I used millet again for a nice crunch along with toasted almonds. In this parfait, I tried to separate the granola from the yogurt but it does become a bit messy. It doesn’t travel as nicely as the Salad in a Jar, unfortunately. Oh well, make it fresh and then savour it on a relaxing weekend.