Saturday, 11 May 2013

Say It With Ice Cream

I don't always know the right things to say.  I get tongue-tied.  I embarrass myself.  Foot-in-mouth disease.  You get the picture.  So sometimes I rely on my actions to get across what I'm thinking.  Tomorrow, I'm hoping to say it with ice cream.  I know friends of mine are going through a hard time.  While others will be bringing by casseroles and saying just the right thing, I'll be bringing along this avocado ice cream.  Sounds like a strange thing, no?  But last year, we walked around the lake on a gorgeously sunny day and spent a little time afterward at my place (which just so happened to be clean).  I served them a new ice cream that I tried and still wasn't sure about, it was such a new taste for me.  They loved it.  I even got a request for seconds!  So perhaps this gift isn't going to be so strange, perhaps it will be just the right thing to say, "I'm thinking about you."  As it turns out, the ice cream has caught the attention of a few other friends and for that, I want to say, "I'm thinking about you too!" and am posting this recipe.  Perhaps you'll like it!

Avocado Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Adapted from

1 1/2 cups coconut milk (about one can, regular fat preferred but light will be okay too)
1/2-3/4 cup coconut sugar (or if it's not a concern, white sugar)
2 lbs avocados, ripe (I used about 5 medium sized, that felt like they had a good weight)
2 tbsp passionfruit juice (if you're not allergic to citrus, you can use fresh lime juice)
unsweetened coconut flakes, to be toasted for garnish

In a small saucepan, heat your coconut milk and sugar on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved (not hot).  Set aside to cool while you ready the other ingredients.  Place the avocados and juice in a blender.  Once cool, add the sugar-milk mixture and blend.  It's a pretty thick mixture.  If you prefer a thinner consistency, add a little bit more coconut milk that is probably leftover in your can.  Bring out your ice cream maker and set it up.  Most frozen-bowl ice cream makers shouldn't be left out for very long before being used so I brought it out at the last moment.  Then I turned it on, poured in my mix and in about 15 minutes it was frozen!  Pour into your container and place in freezer.

Frozen deliciousness.

In an ungreased fry pan heat on medium heat and toast your coconut flakes.  Watch out, they can suddenly toast before you've realized it.  Keep tossing and turning them and you'll see the progress very quickly.  Garnish on top of your ice cream and enjoy!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Brownie Bliss

I can't believe I haven't posted this before.  I apologize for sitting on this recipe for so long and not sharing it with you.  It's good.  It's very good.  I'm normally a fudgey brownie person, but I will make an exception for these cakey carob brownies that are free of wheat, eggs, dairy, and refined sugar.  So without any further delay, here's the recipe:

Carob Brownie Bliss Bars
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

1/2 cup  carob powder
1 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
6 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
4 tbsp light coconut milk
2 droppers worth (about 50 drops) vanilla creme stevia (or 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x12" pan with parchment (or use a non-stick pan)
2.  Combine the carob powder, rye flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.
3.  Puree with a stick blender the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (or cup that may be provided with your stick blender).

Mmm delicious?  Not yet, but it will be. 

Apres puree.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and before you know it, you have your brownie batter!

5.  Pour batter into the pan and spread it evenly within.

6.  Bake about 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Leave in pan at least 10 minutes before cutting up into 24 squares, or when I am PMS-ing or just too darn emotional it makes 3-4 brownies, hahahaha. 

Killing me to take pictures before digging in!
Tada!  Now go make your yourself some and enjoy your Friday night!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Escaping From Winter

When my friends told me they were moving to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia I thought I would never see them again.  It is so far away from home, after all.  Much to my surprise, they invited me out to see them.  I booked my airfare, and prepared to depart. Life always seems to get busier when you are about to leave on a trip.  Those rye pockets I wanted to make?  Waaaaaaay too busy to make them.  Instead I decided I would just make my Tropical Oat Bars, and pack as many raisins and crackers as I could fit in my suitcase and carry on.  All these were carefully sealed in ziploc bags to keep them fresh and bug free.  I also made sure to pack my wipes to clean off my area on the airplane.  I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

After more than 16 hours of air travel and layovers I arrived in St. Lucia to a balmy 34 degrees celsius.  My friend greeted me at the tiny little airport and our first order of business!  What can I eat?  We go to a grocery store and my adventurous friend picks up stuff off the shelves and turns to me to approve or not.  Much of the basic food was very familiar, we had no problems finding raw materials to work with.  I just couldn't help feel like my allergies were looming over my head...

Any other peanut-allergic people surprised to see this? 

I'm so glad my friends live in an actual house with an actual kitchen, it alleviated a lot of my concerns about food ingredients when it's all controlled.  They even got rid of all the peanuts (ate them) before I arrived.  It was really considerate of them.

We spent one day at the opposite end of the island, in Rodney Bay, and there was a fantastic supermarket in the Baywalk Shopping Mall called GL Foodmarket.  It had a lot more things that I could eat and some specialty diet related goods too (for those with slightly less restricted diets).  I even managed to get Terra Sweet Potato Chips there.  Fancy that!  The hotel's buffet breakfast allowed me to eat bacon and fruit until my heart's content.  We also had a late lunch out at a great restaurant, Spice Of India.  The chef knows my friends and came out to chat and take our order.  He was incredibly accommodating with my allergies, which is better than most experiences I have had with chefs who appear nervous when we have the same conversation. 

One of the coolest experiences was going to a produce market near her place in Choiseul, which looked like it was in someone's garage, but was full of locally grown treasures.

Inside, there was plastic crates everywhere filled with familiar though non-conforming fruits and vegetables, and a few curiosities that native to the Caribbean. 

Squashes, cinnamon bark (it's a thicker shave than we're used to), and taro root.

Stumpy carrots, citrus and something I can't  remember the name to.

There was a bit of a wrench on the way home.  I did forget my last two granola bars in the fridge back at my friend's house.  I realized at the airport in St. Lucia, pondering my 24 hour journey home.  A wave of panic washed over me.  I had previously looked at the restaurants and the stores in all the airports I was flying through, there wasn't much but dried fruit available to eat, unless I was able to pick off half of my allergens off a packaged "garden salad."  Luckily, I saw a little box calling out to me from the bottom shelf at a Hudson News in LAX that I hadn't been to yet.  This mini meal to go was perfect.  I cheated a little in some of my allergens (I never compromise in the life threatening department though), but I was close enough to home that any stomach troubles could be tolerated and any eczema that might appear would be days away.  I was so happy I didn't mind paying airport-prices for it.  I wish there was more stuff out there like this! 

Yum, sunbutter with sugar is so good!!!  That was a treat!

I am so happy to have had such a good experience on this trip.  It gives me greater confidence for future trips, and a better knowledge base for how to handle food on-the-go.  New vacations?  Bring them on!  Work trips?  Negotiable with a kitchen!  Now, it's time to get back to baking and cooking.  Looking forward to blogging more.....

Friday, 11 January 2013

Have Pockets, Will Travel

Best.  Afternoon.  Snack.  Ever.

An impending trip this spring is making me think more about what to bring for food (airport food is generally not compatible with my allergies, not to mention the food at my destination).  The Kitchn's recipe really intrigued me so I had to try my own version while I was home on my staycation, and the sweet success of it means I needed to share it with you. It's for a pocket filled with spiced lentils, roasted sweet potatoes and the closest I could get to caramelized onions.  The original recipe called for a wheat pocket dough, but I subbed an altered version of my rye pretzel dough.  Now, I'll be the first to admit, this isn't a quick recipe, it takes some time to make.  The good news is 6 pockets lasts you awhile.  The better news is that the recipe is easily doubled, so for just about the same amount of time as it takes to prep 6 you can prep 12.  I've tried to take a few shortcuts, to see if I can get the same or similar results, but it just doesn't really turn out as good as the original, so set aside a few hours one evening and you will be able to reap the benefits for days to come. 

Spiced Lentil, Sweet Potato & Kale in Rye Pockets

For the dough:
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups rye flour (dark rye is going to make it heavier but will still work, finely milled rye flour is probably better)
1 1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:
2 small sweet potatoes, (or one large) scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 bunch kale, tough ribs and stems removed
1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt

Combine the warm water, coconut sugar and yeast in a small bowl and let it sit, as the yeast proofs.  I think this is key to maybe why the yeast still seemed intact the last time I made my pretzels (though the recipe still worked, I wonder if they would have risen better had I proofed the yeast).  Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed. Knead for 7-10 minutes until dough is smooth. Place the dough in a greased (could be with olive oil) bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours in a warm spot while you prepare everything else.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Stab all over the top of the sweet potatoes with a fork (good time to get out some aggression, just don't get carried away and stab your hand) and place on a baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until very soft to the touch. Set aside to cool.

Cut the onion in half, thinly slicing one half to caramelize and dice the other half.  Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. While that's cooking, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the diced onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the cumin, cinnamon and allspice to the saucepan, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the kale into bite-size pieces. Add kale and salt to the lentils. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more, until lentils are soft but not mushy. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Strain out what's left of the liquid and set aside to cool. 

Increase the oven heat to 450°F. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Slice open the sweet potatoes and spoon out the insides. Mash with a fork until smooth and add a sprinkle of salt, if needed.

On a well-floured cutting board, roll a piece of the dough into an 8 or 9" oval.  Spread a few tablespoons of sweet potato over half the dough, leaving room at the edges to seal the pocket closed. Cover that with lentils and kale. Top with a small amount of caramelized onions. Fold top half of the dough over, and pinch and fold edges to seal shut securely, you may have to wet the edges with a small amount of water on your finger.  Place on baking sheet, repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Brush tops with olive oil and cut 2 or 3 small slits in each pocket to allow steam to be released while baking.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned. If you are are enjoying the fruits of your labour right away, wait 5-10 minutes for the contents to cool enough to not burn your mouth. To freeze, let the pockets cool completely and wrap each pocket in foil and place inside a plastic bag and freeze.  When thawing it's best to do so in the fridge overnight first, rather than in the microwave from frozen which can make the dough a little tough to chew.

Well, I feel more prepared for my upcoming vacation!  ...And perhaps a few pangs of hunger in between!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Time for Chili When it's Chilly

Baby, it's cold outside!  The West Coast feels like winter now.  We may not have a lot of snow here in Vancouver, in fact, we barely get any snow at all.  A couple of weeks ago we got a few inches, and despite the downpour of rain since, there are still a few select piles of debris-filled snow pushed up against the edges of driveways and sidewalks.  This morning I had to scrape my windows free of a strange form of frost, the regular angle of the scraper didn't quite cut through it.  Though our winters pale in comparison to the rest of the country's, cold weather leaves me with a craving for soups and stews.  It's only when you go on a search for a soup or stew recipe without tomatoes or chicken, that you can feel like no safe recipe exists.  Do not fret if you too have experienced this.  During a daily hunting session of Tastespotting, I came across this awesome recipe for white bean chili.  It required only a minor dairy-substitution.  I do have a healthy appetite so I really think that this recipe makes only 4-6 servings but they are delicious servings nonetheless!  And guess what, fellow singles?  This recipe can easily be halved and make about 2 generous servings (1 for now, 1 for later, I like doing that a lot).

White Bean Chili

3 yellow onions, diced
2 poblanos, seeds removed and diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of grapeseed (or another high-heat oil)
1/3 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 19oz cans of white kidney beans (I know, my kidney beans are red in this picture, it was one of those moments where you look in the cupboard and go, 'I thought I had one more can...?"), drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon of oregano
½ teaspoon of cayenne
½ teaspoon of cumin
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of canned coconut milk (I used full fat, to help thicken)
diced avocado to top

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and poblanos. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the beans, cilantro and spices. Stir and cook for about 1 minute.  Then add the vegetable broth and milk. Stir, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. The chili should start to reduce and thicken.  Serve with diced avocado and enjoy!

Easy as pie!....Or chili....

This recipe was just the right thickness and heat for me.   I may still have a problem with the nightshade family in general (potato and tomato allergy, bad experiences with eggplant, so peppers may not be the best foods for me to consume but so far I haven't noticed any bad reactions of any sort), so I'm going to keep this recipe to enjoy in moderation.  My extra servings goes into the freezer to be enjoyed another day when the cold temperatures outside bring on another craving for this delicious chili. 

"The List"

I was determined to use my staycation to the full.  As I mentioned earlier, I had made out my recipe list (as you see here), printed out my recipes, shopped in advance and started chipping away at the recipes one by one.  I usually do this on a weekly basis on a smaller scale, so this one was exciting and overwhelming all at the same time.  I have to say, apart from a few recipes even now, I managed to get through the bulk of it!  All the successes you will hear about, don't worry!   What this undertaking has done has fueled my baking fire.  Isn't that exciting???  I'm excited.  I could also be super excited because I've been watching little else but Season 2 of Hawai'i Five-O while I wait for the current season to return from the holiday hiatus.  My beloved Hawai'i and delicious food?  AWESOME. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Let the Good Times Roll

 I may be an impatient baker (I want to make my dough, bake it and eat it in no time flat) but rolled cookies have always had a special place in my heart due to their fun factor.  Cutting out silly shapes, playing with the finished product and remembering lines from Shrek (Gingerbread Man: "Ok, I'll tell you know...the Muffin Man?").  I haven't tried a spelt test yet, so I've shied away from recipes containing it until one day I thought, "What about rye?"  What about rye, indeed!  It seemed like the perfect flavour combination with molasses, ginger and cinnamon, no?  I found this recipe that I had saved a little while ago and gave it a whirl.  After doing that, I figured a few tweaks and I would be super happy with it.  It's not quite what gingerbread is with wheat and dairy, but it certainly hits the spot for me.  To be without so much and still have these guys?  My winter is saved!

Gingerbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups sifted rye flour, plus more for rolling and cutting out dough
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup Earth Balance Butter, softened (corn allergy alert! Natural flavours are derived from corn, according to their website, coconut oil would be your next best bet).
1/4 cup coconut sugar (aka-palm sugar)
1 tablespoon flax meal  in 3 Tablespoons applesauce
1/3 cup unsulfered organic molasses

In a small bowl, combine the flax meal with the applesauce and set aside. Cream butter and coconut sugar in a large bowl. Add the molasses and flax mixture and mix until well combined. In another small bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour. 

A wet enough dough to withstand the drying effects of being rolled out on a floured board.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out thin, 1/8-3/16", on a floured surface.  Any thicker and the texture doesn't seem quite right. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on parchment lined baking sheets with a couple centimeters between them. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, they will puff up a bit but seem a little golden at the edges.  Solid cookies, like gingerbread men, will take a wee bit longer than cookies with cutouts (like my snowflakes here).  I found that my snowflakes turned out crispier baked at the same time as the gingerbread men.  I suppose something from high school stuck because I think it has something to do with the heat being able to cover more surface area of the snowflake cookies. Still yummy, but crispy, and I prefer a tender cookie.  Remove from pan immediately if you are satisfied with the doneness of your cookie.   If you pulled your cookies out a wee bit shy of what you like it to be, let it sit on the pan for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Once cooled, enjoy plain or with icing.
Let the good times roll!

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