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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

 

We’ve been experimenting just a bit with raw desserts these days, both in an effort to maintain our healthy streak and to minimize the amount of  heat we’re contributing to our already-toasty apartment this summer. The raw desserts we’ve had the most of lately are the usual suspects like popsicles and banana milkshakes, but we also just recently tested out a raw chocolate coconut banana pie.

The basic gist of the raw food diet is to eat uncooked, unprocessed foods as the majority of one’s diet, with the assumption that raw foods typically have higher nutrient values and healthy micro-organisms. This diet is typically vegan, though sashimi and carpaccio are not strictly excluded. We’re not big proponents of this diet, primarily because it doesn’t seem to be a way to eat in balance–plus we love cooking–but we will say that the raw dessert recipes we’ve seen are incredibly creative and will likely grace the pages of this blog in the near future.

Raw Coconut-Chocolate-Banana Cream Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 c whole nuts (we used almonds)
1 1/2 c pitted dates (we used dried plums)

For the filling:
1 c whole almonds, soaked overnight
1/2 c water
1 banana
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1 T vanilla extract
2 T agave

Make pie crust: Coarsely chop nuts and salt in a food processor. Add dates, pulse until thoroughly combined, 15-20 seconds. Press nut mixture firmly and evenly into a 9-inch pie plate, wetting fingers as needed. Set aside in refrigerator. (See photo above.)

Make filling: Toast coconut flakes in a hot pan until slightly brown and fragrant. Set aside. Grind nuts to a coarse paste in a blender. Add water, agave, and vanilla extract; blend until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping sides as needed. Mixture should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add cocoa powder and banana, and process to combine. Pour into prepared shell, spreading evenly. Sprinkle toasted coconut flakes on top. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Original recipe here.

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Barely one week into September, and it already feels like fall. Connecticut was hit with some dicey weather over the weekend, resulting in some gusty breezes, fallen branches, and comfortably cool weather to start off the week. Taking advantage of the coolness on Sunday, Greg and I decided to head out for a little jaunt through the woods of Haddam, CT. Little did we know this excursion would end up in an emergency roadside assistance call placed to the local police when we lost our trail and found ourselves wandering alongside an unmarked road. Thankfully, the local authorities came to our rescue and we were able to make it back to our car with little incident. Good reminder to pack a GPS or Eagle Scout along with you on your next hiking trip!

We’ve been experimenting with some raw desserts recently and have hit upon a few successes (more on those to come). This one in particular has an excellent, flavorful, aromatic crust that we’re excited to use again in future recipes. Cashew “cream” is a pretty common filling in raw desserts, and though it’s not quite the same as fluffy layers of dairy, it approximates cream closely enough and is a completely guilt-free substitute. Enjoy!

Triple-Citrus Raw Bar

Coconut Almond Crust:

1/2 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c almonds
2 t coconut butter
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 c liquid used for soaking dates*

In a food processor, pulse the almonds with coconut flakes until it is pebbly, like almond meal. Combine other ingredients and blend until you have a sticky mess.

Place the mixture in a 9″ pie pan and press down and against the sides until even. Freeze until ready to use.

Lemon Cashew Filling:

1 c raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
5 dates, soaked overnight*
5 clementines, juice and zest
2 T lemon juice
1 T coconut butter
1/4 c mandarin preserves

Place the cashews in the food processor and blend until “creamy”. These will likely still have a few clumps but process until the consistency of a wet peanut butter. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth.

Once the crust is ready, spread an even layer of the mandarin preserves on the bottom of the crust. Pour the lemon cashew mixture on top and evenly spread. Sprinkle toasted coconut flakes on top (optional).

Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm. Serve cold.

* Soaking dates in water can soften them and make them easier to blend. The soaking liquid can then also be used as a flavored “simple syrup” to moisten the coconut-almond crust.

Photo and original recipe found here.

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Chocolate avocado mousse is one of the hottest recipes to hit the raw foods, vegan, health foods circuit as of late. It’s a luscious, creamy, and remarkably guilt-free dessert, chock full of antioxidants from the chocolate and healthy fats from the avocado. And though it may sound a bit kooky and unconventional, trust us on this one…

And just in case you need some extra evidence to back up your chocolate habit — chocolate may lead to reduced risk of heart attack, lower blood pressure, and improved arterial blood flow, says WebMD. And, it keeps your wife happy, and you know what they say — happy wife, happy life!

Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Rich Version

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1/2 c dark chocolate

Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, until completely soft and no chunks remain. Tips for melting chocolate found here.

Combine avocado and melted dark chocolate in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Light Version

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1 T peanut butter
1 T vanilla extract
3 T cocoa powder
agave nectar to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Chill until  ready to serve. Garnish with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.

I can also envision this being delicious with a bit of coconut oil or a splash of coconut milk. The texture is infinitely forgiving, so try it out and let me know what you find!

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It’s the beginning of blueberry season here in Connecticut, and we spent the morning picking our own at Lyman’s Orchards. Lyman’s has made many an appearance on this blog, as it is one of the largest (>1,000 acres!) family farms in Connecticut. Lyman’s is one of the primary reasons we’re contemplating the possibility of staying in Connecticut past Greg’s graduation. The pizza here is great, Yale is okay, and having the best orchard in the world a mere half hour drive away certainly doesn’t hurt. (Actually, having our group of friends here is really the key reason we’d stay… but more on that two years from now.)

Blueberries are terrifically healthy, high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (also known as ORACs) which can prevent brain aging and cancer! Blueberries are also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. The only catch is that due to their thin skins, they can easily absorb pesticides (if used), so be sure to wash carefully with water and a splash of vinegar to kill most bacteria and any mold spores.

We’ve been snacking on blueberries straight from the container since we got them, and have also enjoyed them with a splash of vanilla soy milk, and blended into a post-workout smoothie with some frozen strawberries and orange juice. And since we’re technically on a diet with a strict baking restriction imposed on me, we made just a mini-portion of following recipe. Enjoy!

Blueberry Tartlets*

1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 T confectioners’ sugar
3 T butter
1 T ice water

1 c blueberries, washed
1/8 c sugar
1/2 T cornstarch
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 T lemon zest

Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With processor running, add cold water gradually until a dough forms.

Shape dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day. Cut 1 disk into 6 pieces; on a lightly floured work surface, flatten each piece into a 2-inch round. Press a round onto bottom and up sides of each cup of a 6-cup nonstick muffin tin. Freeze 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add berries; toss to coat. Add lemon juice. Fill shells with berry mixture. Bake until crusts are brown and filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in tins. Run a rubber spatula around tarts; remove from tins. Let cool completely on rack.

*This recipe has been halved to make six cupcake-sized tartlets (of which we gave away two!)

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So here’s a small confession: I have not yet revealed to the husband that his opinion that this banana “ice cream” is just as good as true ice cream is wrong. It’s not. I’ve had more ice cream than you’d probably dare to imagine in my twenty-something years of life, and a frozen banana substitute doesn’t quite cut it.

WHAT???? (Husband cutting in here.)  This is news to me.  Okay, if by “not as good” you mean “doesn’t taste like heavy, fatty, cream and sugar,” then, yeah, it doesn’t.  But frappe-ed frozen banana is silky and sweet and light and smooth, and an excellent canvass for subtle and not-so-subtle flavors.  It’s taking gelato one step further.  Because, honestly, who ever had a rich butter-cream ice cream that tasted like mint or basil?

Controversy aside, frozen banana is a delightful dessert.  And after our summer roll party, we had plenty of basil and mint to go through.  So why not mint-basil ice cream?

Banana “ice cream”
2-3 frozen bananas (broken into smaller pieces if possible)
1/4-1/2 cup of milk (add as you go)
splash vanilla
flavorings as desired

You’ll need a food processor or a blender (former preferred).  If you are using leaves that you want blended down, add these first.  Add frozen banana and blend until broken down.  Turn off, add a splash of milk (and any other ingredients you want), continue blending.  Repeat, slowly adding milk, until you get the desired consistency.  Other good flavors would be cinnamon or nutmeg; stirring chocolate (melted or in chip form) at the end is nice, too.

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They did it! They tied the knot! Two of our favorite people, joined together in joyous, holy matrimony. It was one of the most beautiful, most fun weddings we’ve been to in a while (excluding our own, of course!), and very much a testament to the value of community that both Andy and Marcella have come to share.

A few highlights:

  • Marcella walked down the aisle with her father, who had suffered a stroke a few years ago, and made a difficult journey out to Connecticut from Phoenix.
  • Both Andy and his father gave endearing, thoughtful toasts to the guests (as is English tradition). Afterwards, Andy’s father beamed rays of fatherly pride at how well Andy has grown up.
  • The bridal party and friends fully rearranged international trips home, housing decor and guest space availability, and work schedules in order to pitch in and contribute to the finishing details of the wedding week.
  • Our friend GH officiated his very first wedding, and his delightful wife, JH, catered her very first wedding.
And we, as you may know, made our very first wedding cake. It was a vanilla cardamom cake, three tiers each with two layers, with a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The tiers were 12″, 8″, and 6″, decorated with some miscellaneous flowers and eucalyptus branches pilfered from the Sharps’ dining room arrangement in a last-minute flurry the morning of the wedding. Despite it being slotted to feed 120 at least, it fed about 80. (What can we do when guests come back for seconds and thirds and fourths?)
This cake may be a game-changer. I’m now reconsidering my career trajectory. Goodbye, Columbia; hello, socialist bakery! (If you have seen Stranger Than Fiction, a certain baker lady in that movie has been providing some inspiration for these upcoming plans.) Seriously, this cake was such a success that I’m reevaluating my gifts and my interests and wondering whether a small local bakery with an emphasis on job skills training for underprivileged women may instead be a better alternative than my current track. The million muffin movement? Cookies for the community?

Onto the frosting… If you’ll remember, the first frosting attempt over Easter weekend turned into a curdled disaster. Since then we’ve experimented quite a bit and have been thrilled with the following recipe. This recipe yields the most spreadable frosting I’ve ever experimented with, and the egg whites add a lot of structure that would ordinarily be replaced with by extraneous sugar. It holds up remarkably well for 24 hours (not that we had it out for that long, but an earlier trial version did withstand that duration) without any discoloration or melting. Of course if you were attempting your own wedding cake, I highly recommend you give this a couple tries. It’s not the easiest frosting I’ve ever made, but once you’re familiar enough with how it works, it is worth the effort.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

4 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature

In a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Whisk continually in order to keep egg whites from cooking, until egg whites are frothy and warm. (If you don’t have a double boiler, a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water is fine.) Warming the egg whites allows them to stiffen up more in the next step.

Remove egg white mixture from heat. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This should take about two minutes on medium speed first, then another two or three minutes on high speed. Remove egg whites from stand mixer and set aside.

In stand mixer, beat butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar until fluffy. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the butter. Mix thoroughly by hand. Do not use a stand mixture for this portion — the egg whites are very delicate at this stage and can curdle if beaten too hard into the butter.

At this stage, the frosting can be spread onto the cake immediately or kept refrigerated for a few days. If refrigerated, the frosting will harden. To bring it back to a spreadable texture, microwave for 30 seconds or keep it at room temperature for a few hours.

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