Tag Archives: sugar-free

Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

21 May

These things – omg omg omg – are the tastiest little morsels ever. Friends who’ve tried them have said

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted”

and

“Those cannot possibly be sugar-free”

and other things that were unintelligible.

Lately I’ve been making them to control my sugar cravings in the post-lunch lull at work. Dates and pure maple syrup provide benefits such as fiber, potassium, manganese, zinc, and other nutrients, and the fat and protein in the almond butter, walnuts, and almonds counteract their natural sugars, meaning I don’t have the spike (and crash) that I would with something like a cupcake. These are also very rich, so I’m satisfied with one or two. Win!

My only critique of this recipe is that it needs a better name. I had to put Alicia’s name in front of it to give it some credibility. As it is, whenever I say it out loud, I have to say it in a silly voice – because inside, I am a prepubescent. Raw balls. I digress.

I have made these two different ways. Originally, I used carob chips and processed them into a powder, because my closest health food store didn’t sell carob powder. These are sweetened with malted corn and barley. I also used toasted almond butter, which is sweetened with organic unrefined cane sugar. And, I suppose, not technically raw.

Then I wanted to make a truly refined-sugar-free version, so I processed a bar of unsweetened chocolate (100% pure cacao) and used raw almond butter, which is truly made from nothing but almonds.

Because of the fat and/or moisture content (?) in the chocolate, I wasn’t able to get a true powder consistency – it looked more like instant coffee that’s been hanging around too long – but it did the job.

The chocolate lent a bit more richness to this recipe than the carob, but I enjoy both. Of course, you could also sub unsweetened cocoa powder here. And you could use peanut butter or hazelnut butter instead of the almond… feel free to experiment!

Once all the ingredients are processed into a dough, roll it into 1″-2″ balls, then roll in a topping of your choice. I did half in unsweetened shredded coconut and half in a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon, and walnuts.

These get pretty mushy at room temperature, so I’d recommend eating them straight out of the fridge. And if transporting, be sure to do so in a hard, sealed container and not a Ziploc bag… not that you or I would ever make such a mushy mistake…

To your health!

RECIPE – Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

Adapted from The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone
Makes 10 to 12 balls.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raw carob powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup almond butter
Optional: shredded unsweetened coconut, cocoa powder, instant coffee powder, spices, nuts – for rolling

Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add the dates, and pulse until well combined with the nuts. Add the carob powder, syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add the almonds, and pulse a few times until combined; you want them to remain in crunchy chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in almond butter with a sturdy spoon.

Form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls with your hands. Roll the balls in the topping of your choice. Place in a sealed container in the freezer until hardened.

Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

15 Nov

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
~Jane Austen

French apple tart

Recipe source: David / Daniele

Today I want to share a very special recipe for classic French apple tart. This is a simple, elegant dessert where the fruit really shines – it has only a few ingredients, and little to no refined sugar. The basic recipe lends itself to a lot of creativity, with all kinds of options for jam and fruit. I really like apples because they’re not so juicy that they make the crust soggy. And since Fall is apple season, they’re plentiful!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But before we bake…

Besides the obvious – deliciousness – I have another reason to get your mind on pie: the Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale.

If you live in San Diego, this annual fundraiser is just the thing to round out your Thanksgiving meal! Skip the Vons bakery and help out a good cause.

Mama's Pie in the SkyFrom the press release:
Dozens of San Diego County top chefs, caterers and bakers will lovingly prepare thousands of pies to raise much-needed funds for Mama’s Kitchen. The Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale is a Thanksgiving tradition, and is considered to be the west coast’s largest bake sale. Each $20 pie provides more than six home-delivered meals to a neighbor struggling with a critical illness such as cancer or HIV/AIDS.

All proceeds from pie sales go directly into funding thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community.

Mama’s Kitchen hopes to sell more than 6,250 pies before Nov. 20, which will raise $125,000 and fund nearly 40,000 meals. With the rising cost of food purchased to prepare the meals delivered by volunteers to hundreds of men, women and children in San Diego County, the funds raised through the Mama’s Pie in the Sky fundraiser are needed more than ever.

Here’s how Mama’s Pie in the Sky works:

1. Visit www.mamaspies.org to purchase the Thanksgiving pies of your choice: apple, pumpkin, pecan, or no sugar added apple pies. If you have a friend or colleague selling pies, choose their name. Otherwise you can just purchase from Mama’s Kitchen directly.

2. Select a convenient pick-up location. The pies will be available for pick-up at one of 19 Wells Fargo Bank branches throughout San Diego County or at Mama’s Kitchen, located at 3960 Home Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92115.

3. Go to the location you selected on Wed., Nov. 23 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to pick up your pie(s) from one of our volunteers. When you open your pie, you’ll discover what baker prepared your pie.

4. To purchase a pie that will be hand-delivered to Mama’s Kitchen’s clients on Thanksgiving morning, select the “Love-A-Client” option. For every “Love-A-Client” pie purchased, the donor will receive an entry to win a 64MB iPad2.

There is still time to sell pies this year. Mama’s Kitchen is looking for individuals and groups to form teams to sell pies before Nov. 20. Volunteers also have opportunities to win prizes from generous sponsors. To sign up to sell pies, visit www.mamaspies.org.

But don’t just take my word for it! Here’s a little message from Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien and Elizabeth Harris of Elizabethan Desserts -

The last day to purchase the handcrafted pies is Nov. 20, 2011. Fifteen dollars from each $20 pie sale is tax-deductible. Pies can be purchased online at www.mamaspies.org or by calling (619) 233-6262.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

OK! Back to the blog…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I’m a big fan of homemade pastry crust. That is largely thanks to David, who taught me this recipe. So I thought it would be appropriate to pass on a few crust-making tips from the pro:

kitchen scaleThe scale! An essential kitchen item.

The perfect weights for this pastry dough are 200 grams of all-purpose flour, 100 grams of cold unsalted butter, and 100 grams of ice-cold water. This will make crust for an 11-inch tart. But if you insist on cheating, this was about 2 cups + 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon butter, and just under 1/2 cup of water.

Probably, the best way to make a pastry dough is the old-fashioned way: working the cold butter into the flour, rolling it until the butter turns into thin sheets of flaky pastry goodness, then carefully and gradually working in a bit of ice-cold water. But the fastest way is in the food processor.

However you bring your crust together (don’t worry, more help below), you’ll want to turn it out on a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a disc, and freeze for at least an hour. You can see here that chunks of butter are still intact – a good thing!

wrapped pastry dough

Skipping ahead (okay, so I’m not actually in the mood to give tips tonight – check out this earlier post for step-by-step instructions!)… once your crust is in the tart pan and pre-baked, it’s on to the fun part! The filling. The base of this tart is traditionally a fruit spread, and you can use any kind you like: apricot or blackberry, pumpkin butter, or maybe even Nutella.

confiture collage

This time, I used the Bonne Maman chestnut creme I brought back from a summer trip to France. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find in the U.S.

You only need a thin spread (about 2 tablespoons), then you will commence layering 5 peeled, cored, and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples in a pretty design, like so:

French apple tart

If you have an apple peeler corer slicer, lucky you! You’ll save the hand cramp I got after refusing to buy a fourth one. If not, just think positively about how slicing these uniformly is going to improve your knife skills.

Granny SmithLooks sweet and innocent, right?

It can be nice at this stage to sprinkle a layer of sugar over the top of the apples before baking. Or, you can brush a light coating of light-colored jam (such as apricot) or maple syrup over the top while it’s still hot from the oven.

sugared apples

Bake at 450 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

French apple tart

Recipe – Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

200 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams cold unsalted butter
100 grams ice-cold water
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fruit spread of your choice
5 Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, optional
1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional

To make the dough, sift and weigh 200 grams of all-purpose flour into a large bowl, stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and cut in 100 grams of cold butter. With your hands, gradually mix in 100 grams of ice-cold water until all is well combined. (This step can be done in a food processor, but be careful not to over-process the butter at this stage.) Turn the dough out onto a cold surface and with your hands, form into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a cold surface. Roll it to a thin round disc, fold in half and then into thirds, and wrap tightly in cling film; refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it one last time, as round as possible, leaving about 1″ to go up the sides of the pan. Fold the dough in quarters and place it in a 15″ tart pan with a removable base. Unfold and press the dough into all sides, using a rolling pin to trim excess dough from the top edges of the pan. Cover the top of the dough with cling film and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tart.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and core apples, slice into 1/4-inch rounds, then cut in half. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator and spread the bottom crust evenly with your preferred jam (apricot, boysenberry, or chestnut creme all work nicely).

Starting on the outer edge and moving inward, tightly overlap the apples until all slices are used. Sprinkle the entire surface with a light layer of sugar and nutmeg, if desired. (For those going sugar-free, you can brush a light layer of jam over the apples just before baking, and this will create a nice shine on the surface. I recommend St. Dalfour brand, which is only sweetened with grape juice concentrate.)

Bake immediately for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

-apple illustration-

http://www.inkart.com/pages/food/apple.html

VegWeek Day 6, Easy Banana Oat Bars

30 Sep

“None of us like to think that we can’t trust the institutions we’ve grown up with, but being a truly healthy person means exploring important issues deeply and thinking for yourself.”
-Alicia Silverstone, The Kind Diet

VegWeek_2011The Kind Diet is a book I happened upon at Borders a few years ago, but am just now getting around to reading. And so far, I love it. This is going to be a library-to-own book, for sure. I know some people feel that celebrity activists are annoying, that movie stars have no place talking about politics, or whatever. And to them I say, psshaw. Celebrities are people, too. (Yes, really!) If someone is passionate about a cause and can use his or her fame to make a significant impact in the world, I am all for it. Alicia Silverstone joins hundreds of celebrities in the vegan cause, people like Kelly Clarkson, Bill Clinton, Ellen Degeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Paul McCartney, Alanis Morisette, Kevin Nealon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler, Barry White, Kate Winslet, and many others. Her book is worth checking out, and here’s why.

kind-diet

The Kind Diet is a great intro for those who are new to vegetarianism. Silverstone presents the issues in a systematic and comprehensive way, while keeping the tone relatively light. She writes in the conversational, friendly way you might expect from her. Of course, the decision to go veg is a big deal and not to be taken lightly. It’s not a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle change, and I feel that concept honored throughout this book. Silverstone offers gentle advice for people at every stage, whether “flirting” with changing their diet, ready to go vegan, or onto the “superhero” lifestyle (macrobiotic). She also provides fab recipes for each stage, a breakdown of commercial vegan products, and a primer on natural sweeteners.

Alicia-Silverstone-cookieThis is the adorablest picture in the front of the book.
And yes, dessert recipes are included!

Silverstone describes her transition to veganism and then the macrobiotic diet this way:

“I noticed that my whole body felt lighter. I was more vibrant and spunky. I felt like my heart had sort of opened a bit and my shoulders could relax, as if an overall softening had taken place. I no longer carried heavy animal protein in my body, which takes tons of energy to digest. Plus, I didn’t have the heaviness of the suffering in me; frightened animals produce lots of cortisol and adrenaline right before slaughter, and we can become stressed from eating their meat.”
-What’s so kind about dieting?, p. 10

I’ve read about this heart-opening, compassion-growing experience in multiple places now, and I have to admit, the idea is incredibly alluring. Who doesn’t want to be a more peaceful, loving version of themselves? The thought of eating the pain and suffering of animals also resonates more than any excuse I can make for eating meat. Check this book out. Let me know what you think.

You can listen to Alicia talk about her inspiration for the book here:

Easy Banana Oat Bars

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Kitchn

When I came across this recipe last week, I knew I had to try it ASAP. It’s so ridiculously easy, and so natural, so good for you! There’s no added, refined sugar, but plenty of natural sweetness coming from dried dates and super-ripe bananas. And I was happy to discover, the two combine to create a really fantastic, slightly gritty chewiness and substance that is oh-so-satisfying.

ingredients

There aren’t too many ingredients, at least not for me, but you can add or subtract from these however you see fit. The recipe below is my adaptation of the Kitchn’s adaptation. It can be adapted further still!

banana-oat bars

These bars are great for breakfast-on-the-go, an after-school snack, a little fuel before a workout, or a not-too-guilty dessert.

Makes one 8×8-inch pan.

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Cinnamon and nutmeg

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 8×8-inch square baking dish with coconut oil or other fat.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid (a small food processor or hand-held blender works well for this). Mix in the vanilla extract and salt. Then stir in the oats, flax, dates, nuts, and coconut.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

VegWeek Day 3, Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

27 Sep

“The greatness of a nation… can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to Day 3 of VegWeek!

Yesterday, I defined the different types of vegetarians, and some of the reasons people choose to limit or eliminate animal products from their diet. Today I want to address the first reason, animal cruelty. All reasons for the vegetarian lifestyle are legitimate, but to me, learning about the horrors our animals endure has been the most powerful.

Racism, Sexism – and now Carnism.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, though, I want to share a thought-provoking article. Actually, it’s a review of a thought-provoking book that I haven’t read, but sounds interesting. The book is titled Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. It addresses our social norms about animals, and a “belief system that supports the idea that it is normal, natural, and necessary for human beings to consume the flesh of other animals.” Dietary habits, of course, are cultural and relative. As an individual living in a connected world, with a life that impacts others, and the ability to consciously evaluate our choices, I think it’s important to look closely at those choices – especially one as profound as eating, which we do daily. Although I don’t typically get political on this blog, eating is absolutely political, and these ideas are timely. You can read the full review, “Why carnism matters,” here.

my-balogna-had-a-first-nameImage courtesy of I Can Has Cheez Burger

According to Global Patriot, “today, 54% of US food animals are concentrated on only 5% of farms. As of 2000, four companies in the United States produced 81% of our cows, 73% of our sheep, 57% of our pigs and 50% of our chickens. Globally, 43% percent of the world’s beef is raised on factory feedlots, and over half of the world’s pork and poultry is raised on factory farms.” Here’s a look into those factory farms.

Pork.

Shortly after birth, pigs born on factory farms have their ears, teeth, and tails mutilated, and are castrated without painkillers. Some bleed excessively and are left to die, just hours or days old, from these botched procedures. As they grow, they are fed a high-protein diet including growth hormone and antibiotics, that causes them to become larger than their legs and bones can support. They often cannot walk. Pigs who do not grow fast enough are brutally killed by having their heads smashed against the floor.

During transport to the slaughterhouse, pigs are so overcrowded in trucks that their limbs break from the weight of each other, and some die by heat exhaustion or freezing before they arrive. If they do survive the journey, improper stunning can mean they are conscious while having their throats slit or being boiled alive.

Source: Alec Baldwin for Peta

Beef.

Cows raised for beef do not have it any better. They endure castration and hot-iron branding without painkillers, and are beaten and abused by factory workers. In states with severe weather conditions, cows are allowed to freeze to death or die from heat stroke. On feedlots, they are crammed together in mud and feces, overfed and pumped full of antibiotics, and forced to breathe toxic fumes from their own excrement and gas. At slaughter, their throats and limbs are cut open while they are fully awake and conscious. In an interview with The Washington Post, one slaughterhouse worker said, “They die piece by piece.”

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

Dairy.

Like virtually all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young. But the exclusively human habit of drinking another animal’s milk – and doing so into adulthood – has disrupted this natural life cycle. To satisfy the demand for dairy products, cows are impregnated by artificial insemination 2-3 months after giving birth, which makes them nearly constantly lactating and/or pregnant. And the normal amount of milk produced to feed a calf – roughly 16 lbs a day – has been increased to around 54 lbs a day through the use of genetic manipulation, antibiotics, and growth hormones, as well as a high-protein diet that includes other dead animals. Although a cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years, the stress and burden of this overproduction renders them useless to the industry after about 5 years, and they are slaughtered.

And what happens to the calves produced as a byproduct of this milk-manufacturing operation? They are killed or separated from their mothers at birth to be raised as beef, veal, or dairy producers. Those that keep their lives are raised on a diet that includes blood from other cows, a practice that has contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

cows milk is for baby cowsImage courtesy of Natural News

For those who are concerned about cow’s milk being unnatural for humans, never fear – science has created a solution. Genetically modified cows can now produce ‘human milk.’ Although this product hasn’t hit store shelves yet, I won’t be surprised if it does one day.

Source: Peta

Eggs.

Over 200,000,000 male chicks are killed each year in the United States. They are sorted from valuable, egg-laying female chicks within hours of hatching, and either thrown alive into a large grinding machine, or smothered/suffocated together in a large trash bin. Female chicks are routinely de-beaked to reduce pecking each other in the overcrowded cages where they are about to spend the rest of their lives. Lack of sunlight, fresh air, and room to move creates stress in the birds, who become ill and diseased, often experiencing open sores and feather loss. Like all factory farmed animals, egg-laying chickens are abused by workers.

Source: meatvideo.com

Poultry.

Chicken and turkeys raised for meat are selectively bred to increase the size of their breasts, well beyond what their bodies are designed to handle. As a result, they often become crippled and unable to walk under their own weight, or suffer heart attacks. When they become ill or are ready for transport, they are handled violently, often sustaining bruises and broken bones. At slaughter, they are strung up by their feet and paralyzed in an electrified vat of water, fully conscious. They they have their throats cut or are drowned and scalded.

Sources: Food Inc., meatvideo.com

peepsIronically, not even Peeps are vegetarian. Marshmallows contain gelatin, which is “derived from collagen, an insoluble fibrous protein that occurs in vertebrates and is the principal constituent of connective tissues and bones.” Yummy!

Foie Gras.

The term foie gras literally means “fatty liver,” and refers to a disease that causes the liver to enlarge 10 times its normal size. Ducks and geese raised for foie gras spend their lives confined to small cages where they are unable to move, and are “fed” multiple times a day by having long, metal pipes forced down their throats, depositing the food directly into their stomachs. The pipes scrape and sometimes puncture their throats. The birds’ disease and inability to move results in open sores that are fed upon by rats. Finally, the birds are slaughtered at 3 months old by having their throats cut while they are hung upside-down and conscious. Foie gras has been banned in the UK, Israel, and Switzerland. Many restaurant owners have removed it from their menus, although unfortunately, it is still considered a delicacy to many people.

Source: Roger Moore for Peta

Fish.

Over 6 billion fish are slaughtered annually in the United States. Approximately 4/5 of these are caught by trolley nets in the wild, while the other 1/5 are raised on fish farms. During ocean fishing, nets indiscriminately catch all kinds of fish and animals, including several unintended species such as dolphins, sharks, and seals. The quick ascent from deep waters causes fish to undergo painful decompression that can burst their organs and pop out their eyes. On the surface, they suffocate or are crushed under the weight of each other. Some fish are skinned or hacked to pieces on boat decks while they’re still alive. Fish farms, like factory farms, are crowded with animals and full of disease and excrement.

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

People.

In addition to being cruel to animals, factory farming is cruel to the people who work in them. Conditions on these farms are dirty and extremely dangerous, despite known and feasible measures that could be taken to improve them. The volume of meat, eggs and dairy these farms produce demands fast and physically demanding labor, and risk of injury is high. Factory workers are hurt, mutilated, and sometimes killed on the job, with very little protection or recourse. The bottom-line is the bottom-dollar in these establishments, and workers are commodities as much as the animals are. Many workers are poor and desperate to keep their jobs. Many are undocumented and afraid of deportation if they speak up and organize themselves. They are threatened and intimidated.

When it comes to factory farming footage, I’ve often been the most disturbed by seeing what people are capable of doing – the senseless acts, punching cows, breaking the wings of birds, hanging pigs to slowly strangle to death – and yet, the psychological toll of this cruel job is impossible to imagine. It makes the animals crazy, it makes the people crazy.

Source: Human Rights Watch. Also check out the film Fast Food Nation.

Seeing is believing.

I will warn you: This video is emotionally painful to watch. It contains graphic footage of abuse endured by pigs, cows, chickens, and fish in factory farms. I debated for a long time on posting it, but ultimately decided to include it here because it’s important. It is easy to disassociate the hamburger at a summer BBQ and the neatly wrapped chicken breast in a bright grocery store from living, breathing animals – intelligent beings that experience pain and fear, just as we do. But our disconnect from the food we eat is the single biggest factor in keeping these practices alive.

Today’s post was extremely difficult for me to write, and I thank you for reading it. I know it was heavy. It was as heavy as it’s going to get this week – and it’s out of the way now. I hope some of this information was thought-provoking for you.

To lighten the mood, I thought I’d share this article I came across a few weeks ago, about a cow that escaped a slaughterhouse in Germany. Since reading this one, I’ve seen a few others like it from years past. It’s touching to see people respond personally and emotionally to these animals – we all want our independence.
Slate: Not even the “George Clooney of cattle” could convince Yvonne to turn herself in.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

Recipe Source: Manifest Vegan

Further reward for all that heavy reading – chocolate! This is a cool recipe, yet another take on gluten-free baking that I hadn’t tried: the primary ingredient is dates. Allyson over at Manifest Vegan was not messing around when she described the batter as thick – the brownies come out a bit dense, so you’ll want to enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk. Er, almond milk ;)

brownie batter

The really nice thing about them is the lack of added sugar. Most of the sweetness in these brownies comes from dates, with just a little extra coming from semi-sweet chocolate chips. Sadly, I found this recipe right after cherry season ended, so I used frozen cherries. I’m not sure it made a huge difference in the flavor, though.

brownie batter

I also discovered, once I started mixing the batter, that my 8×8 baking dish had been loaned out. As a result, I ended up making “brownie pie.” Of course, my friends still gobbled them up without complaint! I found the texture of these brownies we even better after about two days. Because they are so rich and filling, I actually had the self-control to let them last that long.

brownies

12 medjool dates
1/2 cup almond milk
2 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch (I subbed corn starch)
1 cup finely chopped cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a glass  8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine pitted dates and non-dairy milk into food processor and puree until very smooth.

Over double boiler, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate into the date mixture and blend again until super smooth. Transfer to large mixing bowl and stir in vanilla extract and salt.

Add in brown rice flour and potato starch and mix until well combined. The batter will be very very very thick. Fold in cherries and remaining chocolate chips. I used clean hands to more or less knead the mix-ins into the batter.

Press batter into pan and spread as best you can to make a uniform surface on top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely and cut into small squares.

Eat!

Oranges with Lavender and Mint

24 Aug

Recipe Source: The Kitchn

oranges
I almost feel like I’m cheating to post this recipe, but I would never have thought of it, so maybe you haven’t, either! This really is the perfect dessert – quick, simple, fresh, and healthy. It makes a beautiful presentation and feels gourmet with hardly any work. It’s the kind of recipe that makes me want to get poetic about simplicity, the purity of ingredients, food in its natural form, maybe something about the earth’s bounty and, um, being earthy… but I’ll spare you.

The only catch to it is the orange flower water, which I couldn’t find. It’s a traditional Moroccan ingredient and has a lot of fascinating applications, but around here, somewhat exotic. While on the hunt I discovered Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters instead (thanks BevMo!), which has its own delightful possibilities… I’ve already had fun splashing it into gin-tonics!

The tartness of the oranges, sweetness of the orange water and honey, and freshness of the mint complement each other perfectly, with the lavender adding a layer of floral complexity. Light and refreshing, this dessert won’t weigh you down after a full meal.

Oranges with Lavender and Mint
Serves 2

2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender buds
3 medium Mandarin oranges
1-2 mint sprigs

Combine orange flower water, honey, and lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the honey. Remove from heat.

Peel and cut the oranges into 1/4-inch thick slices and remove any seeds. Arrange on a plate and drizzle the syrup on top.

Garnish with mint and serve.

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

2 May

Recipe source: The Kitchn

Promo! I got this recipe from a new favorite food and lifestyle site, The Kitchn (see link above). I love their recipes and tips, and the writing style is fun and down-to-earth. The design of their site is really unique in the way they use pictures, and some of the pictures themselves are inspiring ideas of things I’d like to do creatively. They also have tips and contests on home decorating, focusing on design for small spaces, and ways to be environmental with your living space, repurpose old items, make crafts, etc… sheesh, you’d think they’re paying me for this. Enough of my gushing review, just go check them out! :)

So I chose this recipe to share with friends on a picnic at Belle Marie Winery.  It fit my qualifications of late – combining several different flavors for a taste I wouldn’t be familiar with, being “gourmetish” (hellooo, vanilla bean!), and most
importantly for this occasion, cold, portable and healthy. I also learned a couple new things along the way.

oroblanco
Peeps, I had no idea what an oroblanco was before this recipe. For your information, it is a white grapefruit. And not easy to find. After baffling the produce staff of a few local markets, I finally found these and the lemongrass at Whole Foods. For whatever smack I may talk about Whole Foods (aka “Whole Paycheck”), God love ‘em for carrying some exotic sh*t.

I also learned what lemongrass looks like, and the various ways to process it. (See this article from The Kitchn for more info.) The recipe called for bruising the lemongrass, but I pretty much murdered it… I cracked it in about a bazillion places so I could really be sure the flavor would come out. Next time I think I’ll just grate it with a microplane.

Anyhoo, the basics of this recipe are a combination of oranges and red and white grapefruit, tossed with a syrup made of citrus juice, honey, lemongrass and vanilla bean, and garnished with lime zest and mint. The tart flavors in the syrup, combined with the creaminess of the vanilla bean was truly amazing. This salad got rave reviews from my friends, so I will definitely be making it again! Next time I’ll make extra syrup to mix in cocktails, ooh la la…

citrus salad with lemongrass syrup
RECIPE – Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

1/2 pink or red grapefruit per person, segmented, juice reserved
1/2 oroblanco per person, segmented, juice reserved
1/2 navel orange per person, segmented, juice reserved
1/2 cup honey
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, cut into 2-inch pieces and bruised
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Zest of 1 lime
Mint leaves for garnish

Combine the citrus segments in a bowl. Cover and chill.

In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup reserved citrus juice (top off with water if necessary) with honey, lemongrass, and vanilla pod and seeds. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Strain.

Divide citrus segments among serving dishes. Drizzle with syrup and garnish with lime zest and mint.

Notes:
Although pink or red grapefruit is highly recommended, feel free to make substitutions for this and the other citrus varieties and quantities.

This recipe makes enough syrup for about 8 servings. Store any leftover syrup in the refrigerator for up to a week and use it in soda water, mixed drinks, etc.

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