[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
I first met Heather when she invited me to speak about candida at her Better Health Summit last year. I was delighted to be included with so many other bloggers and experts whose work I admire. . . and was thrilled to learn that Heather had also attended the same nutrition school that I did! After bonding over CSNN and how much we loved the program, we had a great time chatting at the Summit.
As I learned more about her site and the videos through which she provides nutrition information and recipes for her readers, I was so impressed with her knowledge and the work she does that I decided to become an affiliate for her cooking classes (one of which you can win in the giveaway at the bottom of the page!). Since then, Heather and I have even managed to meet up in person and solidify what was a budding online friendship.
I asked Heather a few questions about her online presence, her cooking classes, and her work as a nutritionist so you could learn a bit more about her, too. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing her easy and delicious recipe for Spicy Black Bean Burgers (HH-approved!).
And don’t forget to read to the end so you can enter the giveaway!
Tell us a bit about your career path and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve had a bit of a crazy career path to where I am now. In university, I studied business and aviation and trained to be a commercial pilot. Unfortunately, just as I was starting to work as a flight instructor, I started learning about environmental issues and decided that I just couldn’t continue a career that would require me to burn mass amounts of fuel every day.
My next career was as a financial adviser, but I was also disillusioned there because the job was more about sales than about what I wanted to do, which was help people set up a stable future. While I considered my next move, I worked as a candidate organizer for the Green Party during a provincial election in BC. It was exhilarating, but really stressful.
Having learned so much from my first jobs about what it was I wanted to put my time and energy into, I knew my next career had to fulfil some pretty big goals. I wanted to help people, I wanted to create positive energy in the world and I wanted to do something that would be in harmony with my beliefs on sustainability and ethics.
Somewhere along the way, my husband and I had first started eating healthier, then eating only plant foods. By the time I was looking for my next career, we were seeing the results of how great we felt, how much energy we had and how Phil’s lifelong acne had totally cleared off his face and shoulders.
I decided that I wanted to show people how easy and fun it can be to make delicious meals out of plant foods. I also wanted to have good nutritional background knowledge to motivate people to eat more good food and help people bring their body back into balance with the right nourishment.
I studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. The course was perfect for me, because I didn’t want to get into the reductionist style of scientific nutrition, where you look at each individual nutrient. Holistic nutrition is about how the body works as a whole, and how it interacts with foods as a whole.
So that was a bit of a long answer, but I feel like it’s been a long journey. I’ve learned so much, and it’s amazingly wonderful to be able to share that with others and help them on their journey. And I’m only 30 years old! I’m looking forward to all the amazing things that will happen in the future.
What do you love most about cooking with whole foods?
Well, my funny answer is that the dishes are SO much easier to clean! But my serious answer is that I just feel so much better eating whole plant foods. It’s funny how sometimes you don’t realize that you feel bad until something changes and you feel better. I didn’t realize that my lack of focus and energy was from what I was eating.
A lot of people ask me how I stay motivated to eat healthy foods all the time, and if I ever get cravings or just want to be ‘bad’. I have to say, the rewards of healthy eating are so fantastic that they are their own motivation. And if I feel like being ‘bad’, I know that true junk food will only make me feel worse so I have a lot of healthy treat ideas up my sleeve to indulge cravings in a way that still keeps me feeling awesome.
What is the most interesting new ingredient you’ve discovered?
Learning to cook with plant foods opened me up to all the wonderful spices and seasonings out there. I don’t know why I didn’t use them so much before, but I definitely would never go back!
I love the gingerbread-type spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves) and Indian spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cayenne). I always thought I didn’t like Indian food, but it’s just that I don’t like the hot spices. If I use all the wonderful Indian spices without much cayenne, I love it!
I also think onion and garlic powders can add a really nice savory flavor to things. Fresh is better nutritionally, but the flavor is so amazing for certain things. I always figure that if a good seasoning makes you eat more fresh veggies, then in the big scheme it’s helpful.
My most recent discovery is smoked paprika, which I’d been seeing for a while but wasn’t sure I’d like it. I’m not too into smoky flavors. It was Dreena Burton’s recipes in her cookbook Let Them Eat Vegan! that inspired me to finally give it a try. She was right, it’s amazing!! I now put it in dressings, dips and sauces all the time.
Why do you use videos exclusively to offer your information?
Videos are my way of connecting with people, and I wanted to show things rather than just talk about them. There are a million recipes out there, and people might look at them and say ‘oh, I can’t make that because I don’t know how to do it’, or ‘that’s going to be too hard to make’. What I wanted to do was visually show people how to do things, how easy it is, and also how it can be really fun. A lot of cooking videos are pretty dry, and don’t get me excited about cooking.
It’s funny, although I may seem very outgoing in my videos I’m actually incredibly shy and hate watching and listening to myself! I’ve been working at it over the years, trying to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. It’s definitely easier when it’s just me in my kitchen with a camera than trying to present to a big audience. So videos are the best way for me to put myself out there without dying of nerves.
If you could transform any food to make it suddenly good for you, which food would you choose?
This is a really difficult question because I already make most of the things I love in a healthy way… I’ve always been a fruitaholic, too, so I’m lucky that most of my biggest cravings are for fruit. I guess the one thing that I haven’t figured out how to make without eggs yet is lemon meringue pie. My Nana used to make the most amazing lemon meringue pie. I’ve made a fantastic coconut crust and a lemon filling set with agar for delicious and healthy lemon squares, but the meringue topping hasn’t happened yet.
What’s your favorite dish to serve to someone who’s never eaten vegan food?
Well, this kind of depends on the person eating. Some people go wild for stuff like shepherd’s pie (which I make with lentils and/or mushrooms but still call it shepherd’s pie because I don’t imagine the shepherds ate lamb all the time, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have any sheep left). Others really love a good tomato sauce drizzled over spaghetti and (buckwheat) meatballs. One thing I’m always conscious of doing for people who have never eating vegan and/or healthy food is to make a really good sauce or dressing.
I guess I do have a personal leaning on this. I love to make a nice savory and flavorful veggie burger (or loaf), served with spicy sweet potato fries and a creamy avocado dip. I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t loved that meal.
Thanks so much, Heather! I’m sure the DDD readers loved learning more about you, too! And now. . .
WIN THE ENTIRE SET OF HEATHER’S ONLINE COOKING CLASSES!
Heather is generously giving away an entire course–that’s 24 online classes of 45-60 minutes each–to one DDD reader!
The classes provide quick, easy meals that are made with nutritious whole foods, entirely plant-based–and are ready in 30 minutes or less. Recipes are divided into categories (eg, Soups, Salads, Dessert, etc.) and in each class, Heather demonstrates one recipe on video. I’ve been working my way through these over the past few weeks (come back tomorrow for Heather’s recipe for Spicy Black Bean Burgers!) and have really enjoyed her upbeat, approachable style, which I’m sure would set even a novice cook at ease in the kitchen.
As a Holistic Nutritionist, Heather also really knows her stuff. The videos are peppered (no pun intended) with useful information, tips and tricks about ingredients, cooking techniques and more; each video is accompanied by a print version of the same recipe if you’d like to print it out. There’s also a private members website where you can watch the videos any time, or as many times as you wish, or download them; see other tips and tricks with photos; or ask Heather questions directly about the recipes in a discussion forum. For a full list of all the recipes and all the bonus items you’ll receive in the course, go here.
Of course, if you don’t want to wait until the giveaway is over, you can head over now and purchase the entire series. Heather is offering a special price for DDD readers for one week, starting todayuntil Friday, December 28th at midnight EST! You can get the full course for just $67 (that’s $80 or 55% off–be sure to use the code RICKI at checkout). Heather provides a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not happy with them for any reason. Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas gift for a budding cook? Or, if you’re just curious to find out more, here’s a set of three free videos Heather has put together with some of her best kitchen tips as a little gift for DDD readers.
This giveaway is open worldwide. Contest will remain open until midnight on Monday, December 24th, after which I’ll choose a winner at random.
To enter the giveaway for a FULL SET OF COOKING CLASSES plus all the bonus materials, do any or all of the following using the Rafflecopter form, below:
Leave a comment telling me which recipe you think would make a great video demonstration;
It’s almost the holidays!! Are you as excited (and as yet unprepared) as I am?
This year, Hallie of Daily Bites had a great idea: host a progressive dinner party to provide you with some fabulous recipe ideas for your own holiday tables, making everyone’s life easier! Starting Monday, December 10th, a different blogger will offer up a fantastic recipe each day, moving from course to course one at a time. And you’re all invited!
Even better, each day the hosting blog will offer a cookbook to give away. Each day will feature a different book, so check them all out and be sure to enter to win!
Here’s the lineup (and can you guess which course I’m creating?):
Friday, December 14: Dessert from–moi, of course! (what else would I be making?).
I hope you’ll join us as we hop from “home” to home to partake of different delectable dishes, all gluten free! (Note: not every blog listed is entirely vegan, but most will offer lots of vegan options).
And to pique your interest, here’s a peek at what I’ll be serving up on December 14th (yes, Ricki actually got a blog post done in advance–don’t faint!):
“Mum, we love dinner parties–guests always drop food on the floor! And I bet we can even eat this dessert, too–no chocolate!”
Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls! Click here to subscribe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs via email. (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as we love treats!”)
Before I begin this review–and in the spirit of full disclosure–I must confess to you all that my opinions in this blog post are biased.
No, not because I was paid to do this review (which I wasn’t); not because I received a free copy of the book (which I did); and not because I was asked to write something specific by the publishers (which I wasn’t). No, it’s because my own personal views of the author and her work have undoubtedly influenced what I will write here.
You see, ever since I first discovered the cookbooks of Nava Atlas (classics like Vegetariana; or Vegan Express; or Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews) , I’ve been in love with her recipes. They tend to embody “my” kind of food: mostly whole foods, lots of comfort-food dishes, innovative and interesting combinations of flavors, textures, spices and herbs. Good, hearty fare.
And while we’re on the topic of true confessions, let me also admit that when I find myself with a bunch of unassigned broccoli in my fridge, or a few lone kiwis in the fruit bowl, or a butternut squash lingering on the counter, it’s to Atlas’s books that I turn first to see what she’ll offer. I have never made a Nava Atlas recipe that didn’t work according to directions; and I’ve never made a Nava Atlas recipe that I didn’t like.
So, with that declaration off my chest (whew!), and both Easter and Passover just around the corner, I’ll move right to my review of the book. And I’m sure it will be no surprise to learn that I think highly of this one, too.
As it turns out, most of us do judge a book by its cover, and Vegan Holiday Kitchenis a visually beautiful book. Warm, earthy tones and opulent gilt edging grace its cover (along with a show-stopping photo by Susan Voisin–she of Fat Free Vegan fame–whose photos also occupy the interior of the book). The exceptional production values are evident throughout, from paper that’s thick and sturdy, to text that’s easy to read, to additional tips and notes and winsome line drawings (which I assume are Atlas’s own–the woman is also a talented visual artist) on chapter headers. Recipes are written in an easy-to-follow, clear and concise style, each one indicating specific dietary restrictions for which it is suitable.
The introduction offers various useful tips on how to navigate the holiday season as a vegan who may be strapped for time, invited to an omnivorous celebration, hosting an event, or wishing to make certain dishes ahead of time (while not Atlas’s preference, she does include a few pointers nonetheless).
Chapters cover all major holidays such as Thanksgiving; Christmas (and the attendant holiday season in general); Jewish holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah); Independence Day and Summer Entertaining (applicable to any summer holiday); and an entire chapter on Brunches, Appetizers and Potluck Dishes (for which this brunch lover was very grateful). Each chapter begins with an entertaining and informative section that discusses the holiday and how it can be adapted as a vegan celebration.
The first recipe I made may well be the most famous from the book (at least, I keep seeing photos of it floating around the blogosphere): the Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn. Deceptively simple to put together, this is a filling, warming and satisfying dish highlighted by an unusual pairing of rosemary and cumin. I took Atlas’s advice and added beans to convert the side dish to a main meal. The smoky roasted peppers complemented the sweet, juicy pop of corn kernels and firm bite of kale in each mouthful. This would make a wonderful autumn or winter dish for any occasion.
Next up was the Squash, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder. Initially, I chose this soup as a vehicle to use up the rest the bag of organic corn I’d purchased for the pilaf (and since I love sweet potatoes beyond measure, I’m happy to eat themanywhichway). Upon reading the recipe (which combines butternut squash along with the sweet potato in a slightly sweet, slightly chunky soup), I was concerned that the spices might prove too strong for the delicate flavors of the vegetables. But once the soup simmered according to instructions, it softened and developed a perfectly smooth and subtle flavor with a great savory undertone. The HH had nothing but praise for this one and made me promise to make it again.
Finally, I turned to the Spectacular Spring Salad. With my recent decision to cut back a bit on grains, I’ve been enjoying a variety of salads, most of them featuring my favorite green, kale, as the base. Since we don’t regularly consume the bitter greens in this salad (watercress, arugula and radicchio), it seemed like a good choice. Combined with more common ingredients such as radishes, avocado and carrots, it was, indeed, a spectacular tangle with greens, sprouts and seeds. Tossed with a simple, fresh dressing, it created a perfect first course.
On my list of recipes still to try are Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives; Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce; Watermelon and Peach Gazpacho; White Bean and Sun-dried Tomato Pate; Sweet Potato-Poppyseed Coleslaw; and Rice and Pecan Stuffed Squash. But honestly, this list is bound only by my dietary restrictions; if I could eat mushrooms, or gluten (some of the recipes for desserts look divine), or maple syrup, well–I’d likely have tagged every single recipe in the book.
I may be biased, but if you’re heading into the holidays next week still looking for menu options; or if you’ve invited someone at your table to whom you’d like to give a worthwhile gift; or if you’re planning ahead for warm weather Bar-B-Q’s and brunches–well, get yourself to the closest bookstore buy Vegan Holiday Kitchen. I know that, like Atlas’s other books in my collection, this one is destined to be my go-to source any time I’m planning a special occasion meal.
[I should have just given up on the sticky notes, because I want to try Every. Single. Recipe. in this book!!]
Okay, so if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know that I am decidedly not the type of gal to attend a rave. (Read: too old. And even when I wasn’t too old, I was too health conscious. And, well, even when I wasn’t too old or too health conscious, I was too nerdy.). So when I say, “rave,” you probably know I’m referring to the verb rather than the noun; as in, “I simply can’t rave enough about this spectacular new cookbook that has quickly assumed a place among my all-time favorites!” (And believe me, with over 200 cookbooks cramming my shelves at the moment, that is saying a lot).
Full disclosure: as with most reviews I write here on DDD, this book was provided free of charge by Christy’s publishers and I was not required to write anything positive about it (or anything at all, for that matter). You may know Christy Morgan as “The Blissful Chef,” whose blog,ebooks and live cooking classes have been offering up healthy, delicious recipes to eager masses for several years now. Christy also chronicles her culinary adventures (from LA to Texas and elsewhere), on her Facebook page.
Before we begin, however, I feel I must be entirely honest and admit that I was already somewhat biased in favor of the book even before receiving it. You see, I had done a review of one of her previous ebooks, Cooking with the Seasons: Summer Edition, last year, so I already knew I had loved those recipes and suspected I’d like these as well. Perhaps even more important, I was aware that Christy’s focus on traditional plant-based diets (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, low fat and raw foods) jibed well with the ACD and I’d probably find lots of recipes I could eat within my dietary restrictions, with a minimum of adjustments to boot.
Well, let me tell you, this book is aptly titled. I was literally blissed out as I leafed through this gorgeous tome, which provides not only a full explanation of Christy’s approach to food and eating; a complete list of pantry basics and tools plus various chef’s techniques (now you’ll know just how to chiffonade–perfectly!); over 175 recipes organized by seasons (as well as “anytime”); but also a full resources section at the back and a metric conversion table. The full-color photos offer mouth-watering illustrations of many of the recipes, and the book’s pages are printed on thick, sturdy paper, an important detail when you plan to subject your book to repeated, regular usage (as I most definitely do!).
I literally couldn’t decide what to make first, there were so many recipes that appealed to me–and that I was permitted to have on the ACD! Should I try the Orange-Pumpkin-Ginger French Toast? Or perhaps the Asian Millet and Quinoa Pilaf? Maybe the Blissful Two-Bean Harvest Chili? Eventually, I settled on Kale Salad with Curry-Coconut Sauce, simply because I already had all the ingredients on hand.
[Damn these dark winter evenings. . . this photo totally does not do the dish justice!]
I’m going to preface this next comment by saying that the HH is a very picky omnivore. In other words, he has no trouble whatsoever eating hocks, haunches, brains, kidneys, hearts–even intestines of animals, but will balk at “veggie” foods I serve, such as grated daikon radish (“What is that? Anemic carrot?“), chia seeds (“Looks like fish droppings“) or spirulina (“Isn’t that the water you cleaned your brush in for your watercolor painting?”). Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about eating a salad with arame (seaweed) as a major player.
Well, we both swooned over this salad. When I first read the ingredient list, I was a bit concerned about the quantities in the sauce–it seemed like SO much spice–but mixed with the still-moist kale and arame, it was perfect. A spicy, creamy, slightly nutty coating on firm, toothsome kale with light marine influences. I simply loved it, and the HH even requested it again!
Next up was the Broccoli Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing. If you’re familiar with that once-ubiquitous broccoli salad from buffets a few years back, this dish will evoke memories of those times. . .but vastly improved. The piquant dijon is balanced by the sweet (I used stevia instead of the suggested maple syrup); the crispy, green and fresh with a creamy sauce and crunch of radishes. An aesthetically pleasing as well as flavorful mix of ingredients.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Wasabi Sweet Potato Salad, which had been beckoning me from the moment I first spied the recipe. I adore sweet potatoes, of course, and have had them spiced in sweet potato fries, but never with something quite so hot as wasabi. Again, I wondered at the proportions of the spice mix in the ingredients, but should have trusted Christy. The sum worked out to be greater than the parts, and I loved this salad as well (I had run out of the called-for cucumbers, so subbed radish instead; still worked wonderfully). I could have eaten the entire batch by myself!
[I swear, it's not tomato sauce! But even tastier.]
Next up was another ingenious, fantastic recipe: the Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce, ideal for those who are either allergic to tomatoes or can’t eat nightshade vegetables (eg, those with arthritis). I didn’t tell the HH that this sauce was tomato-free, and he had absolutely no idea. When I finally let the cat out of the bag, he was genuinely surprised and commented that this was “as good as any tomato-based pasta sauce we’ve ever had.” I concur. I loved it on pasta, of course, but also used it the next day on a grain-free pizza crust, and later, defrosted, with crumbled frozen tofu for a sloppy joe lunch. You’ll be amazed by this one!
And I just couldn’t resist one more. . . while I don’t eat many sandwiches (or much bread at all, for that matter), I have always made an exception for Reubens, one of the most satisfying combinations of protein, complex carbs and creamy dressing I can imagine in existence. I couldn’t resist giving Christy’s healthified version a try. The marinated tempeh and tangy Russian-style dressing complemented each other marvelously, and the use of avocado in lieu of standard melted cheese was a brilliant way to incorporate the smooth creaminess you’d expect without the dairy or any artificial ingredients. The HH actually ate two of these (as open-faced sandwiches). With leftovers the next day, I enjoyed mine à la raw, wrapped in a crisp collard leaf, like so:
I literally can’t wait to cook through this entire book (counting the days until I can use maple syrup again. . . ), there are so many appealing recipes in it.
If you’re looking for a cookbook filled with mouth watering, healthy and flavorful plant-based recipes that are also impressive to the eye, I’d recommend Blissful Bitesas your first choice. I love that Christy focuses on whole foods ingredients, low fat and low sweeteners (and when she does use sweeteners, they’re all natural, like maple syrup or brown rice syrup). If you’re on a restricted diet (as I am), this book will likely still offer up a plethora of recipes you can enjoy.
Now, go out and find your Bliss(ful Bites)! (PS. Just checked–if you order through amazon.com, you can still receive it in time for Christmas with 2-day shipping!).
And Happy Hanukkah to everyone who’s celebrating tonight!
This is a healthy plant-based take on salads you may have had at a salad bar or at potlucks. It is easy to make and will be a crowd-pleaser at get-togethers. It’s also a great way to use leftover beans. if you throw in some cooked quinoa, it makes a one-pot meal perfect to take to work for lunch.
1 large crown broccoli, cut into florets
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup (240 ml) cooked chickpeas, or 1 can (15 oz/500 ml) drained and rinsed
I’m delighted to be taking part in the Home for the Holidays event, organized by Shirley over at Gluten Free Easily. The event spans almost a month, with a new blogger each day (25 in all!) presenting to you the recipe that spells “home” to her or him: the one that sparks memories of family gatherings when you were a child, warms your insides, makes you smile and evokes love and community. The one you immediately think of when you think, “holidays“! And we hope you’ll join in on your own blog by posting the badge, below, and linking up to the event as well!
So what does this mean? Well, there are twenty five amazing recipes–AND twenty five amazing giveaways! Just as there will be a new recipe posted every day (mine’s at the end of the post), there will also be a new set of prizes each day (each blogger will be giving away 3 prizes, with some repeated, so if you don’t win a favorite book on one day, you can try again later!). In addition to the individual bloggers’ giveaways, Shirley is coordinating three incredible Grand Prizes–and you’re automatically entered for each of the grand prizes every time you enter any of the individual giveaways throughout the month (such as the one you’ll find below!). D
To enter to win these three prizes–or any of the others—leave a comment on any, or all, of the blogs presenting in the event. Every entry also counts toward the three grand prizes. The more you enter, the more chances you have to win! The three prizes above will be announced on Gluten Free Easily on Christmas.
Today, I’m giving away these two prizes: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!
TWO Copies of Living WithoutMagazine! This is a fantastic resource for anyone who has food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies. You’ll find great information and recipes for people who live without eating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, etc!
The giveaway will run until MIDNIGHT ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13.THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED! Shirley will announce the winners on her blog at the end of the week, and I’ll also announce them here thereafter.
For a complete list of all the prizes and their sponsors, see the end of this post (just after the recipe).
[Chocolate + peppermint + truffles = My kinda holiday food!]
When I thought about what foods evoke “holidays” for me, there was only one answer: chocolate. As an avowed chocaholic (okay, serious, recidivist, chocolate addict), pretty much any special occasion has to include the beloved blissful brown bite, but wintertime holidays in particular bring this confection to mind.
When I was a singleton living on my own, I rented the basement apartment of a fabulous Victorian home that had been converted into four flats. The woman on the top floor was a jetsetting, run- (and flirt)-with-the-wolves kind of gal, with a fashion sense that combined pixie-cute appeal with a definite siren-sexiness factor. (In the end, she nabbed the son of Canada’s richest billionaire as her husband. The marriage has since dissolved, but I have no doubt that the bank account is as healthy as ever).
One year, Ms. Jetsetter invited me to a Christmas party in her flat. Emerging from the bowels of the building, my eyes still squinting from the light, I was entirely entranced by the fantasty winter-wonderland theme of her party and the dreamy quality of the decorations in her apartment. It was as if she had smeared the camera lens with Vaseline and strung gauze all over the place, with everything slightly blurred, the edges softened, silver and white undertones to the light and shadows throughout the place. The antique tree decorations were illuminated in glimmering beams, reflecting off the glowing embers in the fireplace. Tabletops were crowded with plates of food and drink and small, flickering candles emitting a soft and sensuous glow. And there, in the bathroom (yes! the bathroom!) was a lovely bowl of individually wrapped chocolate truffles on the counter, so guests could sneak a little treat with them after checking their reflections, fixing their lipliner, or straightening a tie.
I was in love with the idea of offering truffles in virtually every room of the party, and since then, have blatantly copied the concept any time I throw a holiday bash. But the truffles themselves were easier to attain, since they came from Canada’s own President’s Choice line. Anyone who lives in Ontario (or has access to the brand) will likely be familiar with these rich little squares, covered in milk chocolate and concealing a mint-chocolate ganache filling.
Now that I can consume neither chocolate nor sugar, I just had to create an ACD friendly version of my own. I think you’ll find these incredibly reminiscent of milk chocolate, and just as irresistible. The insides are a blended-till-silky-smooth mix of coconut, cashews and chocolate (somebody save me), all covered in a thick and intense dark chocolate cloak. The contrast in flavors and textures is enough to make even the richest billionaire swoon.
The next time you throw a holiday party, you can proudly lay these treats out for your guests–in whichever room you choose.
[Didn't I tell you they look like milk chocolate? Rich, minty, smooth. . . heaven.]
“Milk Chocolate” Mint Truffles(ACD Stage 3 and beyond)
The coconut-chocolate combo in the filling really looks like milk chocolate and has a mouthfeel that is very reminiscent of the “real” thing. These truffles are rich and delectable enough to satisfy any chocolate lover in your life! I’m including a more labor-intensive version (my preferred) as well as a quicker and easier version; both are delicious and they are very close in texture.
Filling, Version I (a bit more work, but much more economical):
Make the Filling: Prepare a small square plastic container, single-serving loaf pan, or other small (around 2 cups/500 ml) square container by lining with plastic wrap. Alternately, you could use miniature silicone muffin cups (for round truffles). I used a small square plastic freezer container. Set aside.
For Filling Version One, Proceed as Follows: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot over lowest heat possible, melt the chocolate and coconut oil; set aside.
Place the coconut, cashews, sugar and salt in a high-powered blender (I use my VitaMix) and, using the wand, blend until you have a smooth and semi-liquid coconut-cashew “butter”. Keep blending until it is very smooth and pourable! (The mixture will be very warm at this point).
Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, stevia and peppermint extract and blend again just to combine.
For Filling Version II, Proceed as Follows: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the coconut butter, cashew butter, coconut sugar, salt and chocolate. Heat over lowest heat possible, stirring constantly, until melted and very smooth. Add the vanilla, stevia and peppermint extract and stir well. (For a glassy-smooth filling, at this point you can pour this mixture into a blender and blend for 30 seconds to smooth out any last remnants of graininess from the coconut sugar. . . but this is totally not necessary–still delicious without!).
For both Versions, Continue as Follows: Pour the mixture into the prepared container and refrigerate until solid, 40-60 minutes. Once solid, invert onto a cutting board lined with plastic and allow to sit for 5 minutes just to soften slightly (it will get soft fairly quickly, but if you cut it right away, it will splinter and crack). Using a very sharp knife, cut into desired number of squares (I made 16; some cracked or broke, so I ended up with about a dozen good squares).
Place the cutting board with the squares on it in the freezer until completely solid, about an hour.
About ten minutes before you will coat the truffles, make the coating.
For Coating Version I, Proceed as Follows: Bring about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water to a boil in a small pot; turn down to lowest heat. Set a glass or metal bowl over the pot (the bowl should be big enough that the bottom isn’t touching the water in the pot) and add the chocolate and coconut oil to the bowl. Allow to sit about 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts. Remove from the pot and whisk in the carob powder and stevia. Mix well to eliminate any lumps.
For Coating Version II, Proceed as Follows: Place the sugar, chocolate and coconut oil in a small, heavy-bottomed pot over lowest heat possible. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and add the stevia; stir until well combined.
To Coat the Truffles: Place the bowl of chocolate on the counter. Get yourself a big, wide-tined fork (I found a good one at the dollar store; any large fork should do).
Bring the board with the cut-out filling to the counter. Working quickly, grab each piece and dip the bottom in the chocolate; let it drip off a bit, then place chocolate side-down onto the board. When they’re all done, return the board to the freezer so the chocolate can firm up a bit (about 5 minutes).
One at a time, place each square chocolate side-down on the fork. Hold the truffle over the bowl and, using a spoon or spatula, spoon more chocolate over the top and sides, allowing excess to drip through the tines of the fork and back into the bowl. Tap the fork on the side of the bowl to remove any excess. At this point, it’s really important to ensure that the entire filling is coated, with no uncovered spots peeking through the chocolate! Slide each truffle off the fork one at a time by pushing it off with the tip of a knife or another fork, and replace them all on the cutting board.
Once all the truffles are coated, you can pop them the fridge to firm up (no need to go back in the freezer at this point).
Once the truffles are firm, you can drizzle any leftover chocolate coating over them to create pretty patterns, or dip a dried cranberry or goji berry in a bit of the leftover chocolate to “glue” it to the top of a truffle as decoration.
Store the truffles in a covered container in the refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the filling inside to soften up for a smoother, more ganache-like consistency. If you’ve covered the entire filling with chocolate, they should be fine at room temperature, as the coating is solid and will prevent any of the filling from oozing out. Makes 12-16 truffles.
Here’s the full lineup of participating sponsors and prizes for Home for the Holidays:
PRINT BOOKS (Cookbooks and Resource Books, or Combos):
–More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow and Totally Together Journal combos–by Stephanie O’Dea, three combos (3) –Simply … Gluten-Free Desserts by Carol Kicinski, 2 signed copies (2) each with a package of Carol’s Gluten-Free Flour mix –Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Pete and Kelli Bronski, one signed copy (1) –Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes by Pete and Kelly Bronski, one signed copy (1) –Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies by Jean Layton and Linda Larsen, one copy (1) (release date Dec. 6) –Gluten-Free on a Shoestring by Nicole Hunn — 2 copies (2) –Gluten-Free in 5 Minutes by Robin Ryberg — 2 copies (2) –Gluten-Free Makeovers by Beth Hillson – 2 copies (2) –The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam, six signed copies (6) –The Gluten-Free Cupcakes Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam, six signed copies (6) –The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen by Laura B. Russell, two copies (2) –The Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Kitchen by Denise Jardine, ONE EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE COPY (1) –The Pure Kitchen by Hallie Klecker, two copies (2) –Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone, three copies (3) –Free for All Cooking by Jules Shepard, one signed copy (1) –The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten Free: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Jules Shepard, one signed copy –Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen, three signed copies (3) –Sugar Nation by Jeffrey O’Connell, four copies (4) –Wheat Belly by William Davis, three copies (3) –Dangerous Grains by Ron Hoggan and Dr. James Braly, two copies (2) –The Food Allergy Kitchen by Amra Ibrismovic and Carmel Nelson, one copy (1) –The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen* by Lévana Kirschenbaum and Lisa R.Young –The Spunky Coconut Cookbook 2nd edition, by Kelly Brozyna, one signed copy (1) –Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts by Kelly Brozyna, one signed copy (1) –Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield, three copies (3) –Go Dairy Free* by Alisa Fleming, two signed copies (2) –Modern Spice by Monica Bhide, one copy (1) (in combo package with Monica’s app, iSPICE) –Perfect One-Dish Dinners* by Pam Anderson, one signed copy (1) –The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Ali Segersten and Tom Malterre, two signed copies (2) –The Steamy Kitchen* by Jaden Hair, one copy (1)
–100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster, one copy (1)
E-BOOKS (Cookbooks and Resource Books)
–Gluten-Free Goddess E-Book:Best Loved Recipes by Karina Allrich (1) –The Gluten-Free Diner Cookbook by Diane Eblin, one copy with tote bag (1) –7 Quick Start Tips for Living a Healthy Gluten-Free Fit Life, by Erin Elberson, five copies (5) –Sweet Freedom*, by Ricki Heller, one copy (1) –Combo Set of following: Good Morning Breakfasts, Desserts Without Compromise, and Anti-Candida Feast Book by Ricki Heller, one copy (1) of set
MAGAZINES–Easy Eats, three subscriptions–electronic (3) –Delight, two subscriptions–print (2) –Living Without, two subscriptions–print (2)
–Cook IT Allergy Free by Kim Wilson-Maes, three apps (3) –iSPICE by Monica Bhide, one app (in combo package with her cookbook, Modern Spice; already mentioned above) (1)
THIRD PRIZE—Caveman Cookies giveaway package ($89 value).One large bag of each of the current three flavors , Original, Tropical, and Alpine ($28.95 value) plus one large bag of the soon-to-be released new flavor, Rainforest ($9.95 value; will be shipped as soon as available; anticipated end of Dec); 1 large variety pack ($32.50 value), and 1 t-shirt ($17.50 value; your size, your color).
Please join me, Shirley, and 23 other gluten-free bloggers as we make the recipes that mean both “home” and “holidays” to us. I’m sure you know the ones: one smell or one bite, and you’re enveloped in all the warmth, love, and holiday wonder of the season. Perhaps they’re recipes that have been passed down through the generations, and now you’ve succeeded in making a gluten-free version. Or maybe they’re new, naturally gluten-free favorites. No matter what, they’re recipes you’ll enjoy sharing with family and friends.
I’ll be sharing my own “Home for the Holidays” recipe with you on Sunday, December 11th!
There’s A Giveaway Each Day–with a spectacular Grand Prize of a VitaMix Blender!
In addition to the recipes that say Home for the Holidays, we’ll also be hosting giveaways of the resources you value the most … cookbooks, reference books, apps, and much more.
This event will take place from Monday, November 28 through Friday, December 23. The daily giveaways will be announced each day (with a quick turnaround time to enter, so be sure to follow along so you won’t miss out!).
Every time you enter on any of the individual blogs, your entry is also eligible for each of the final prizes as well. In other words, if you enter each daily giveaway, you’ll end up with 26 entries for the final prizes!
Welcome to Week 3 of A Gluten Free Holiday 2011, the holiday event created by Amy and shared each week by yours truly (and four others–check below for all the participating blogs)! This week’s topic, Gifts of Good Taste, is hosted by Alta of Tasty Eats at Home. Hop on over to see what edible gifts Alta has to share, or to link up your own favorite gifts-of-food recipes (and be sure to enter the giveaway while you’re there!).
I thought this would be a perfect week to share some of my own favorite recipes on the blog that would also make fantastic homemade–and edible–gifts.
Before we get to the food, though, we’ve got another cookbook giveaway!
In my younger years, I made almost all of my gifts myself (edible or otherwise). Of course, the fact that I was a student living in penury (I won’t say I was a “starving” student, because with my love of dessert, that was never even a vague possibility) was one factor contributing to my motivation for making everything from scratch (unlike today, when the motivation is trying to remain free of the dreaded candida symptoms).
More importantly, though, I always believed that homemade gifts demonstrated how much you cared about someone, giving to them both your time and your thoughtfulness. Since time is at a premium for all of us these days, we have to choose wisely–both what we’ll make, and to whom we’ll be giving it!
For those very special people on your lists, you might want to mix up one of the following. (NOTE: Some of these recipes are made with spelt and/or higher glycemic sweeteners such as sucanat or maple syrup. Recipes with an asterisk * fall into that category; the rest are gluten free and lower glycemic.)
Before I get to today’s post, I wanted to thank everyone for your comments on yesterday’s “What I Eat” post. I am really loving the conversation that’s going on–please add your own two cents!
Can you believe it’s the last installment in the “A Gluten Free Holiday” series? It’s been great fun being part of the event that Amy dreamt up a few months ago. To wrap up the event, Amy is hosting this week, and focusing on desserts (pre-exam rush prevented me from adding my recipe to this post–I’ll post it this afternoon, though, I promise!). And she’s giving away a total of SIX cookbooks--and you’ll be getting pre-release copies, too!
So hop over to Amy’s blog to see her recipe for Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake, link up a holiday dessert recipe (or simply leave a comment) to enter the giveaway, and check out all the other delicious desserts while you’re there, too!
Then check back later today for my dessert recipe. Here’s what’s in store:
See you later on for some grain free, gluten free, vegan, sugar free dessert! [Update: It's posted! You can get the recipe here. ]
First, thanks to everyone who entered the Simply Bar giveaway and helped me contribute to Second Harvest! The giveaway received 87 entries, so I am going to upgrade the donation to $1 per entry and give $87 to the organization. I know they can use it and will happily put it toward food for the hungry!
I’m also just coming up for air after spending most of the past week marking student assignments in preparation for our exam (which has been deferred because of a fire on campus–yikes!). Speaking of deferrals, I am also going to defer my originally-scheduled giveaway for today. Instead, I’m going to share something that I think is imporant–my (current) philosophy of eating. I’ll explain why when I come back later on!
Seems we all focus on the “main event” meals during the holidays, poring over cookbooks or stressing about which dressing would be best with the tofurkey (okay, I know many of you don’t eat tofurkey–but it’s such a fun word to say, isn’t it?). But what about the meals after the big meals? What about breakfast or brunch? This week, Carrie will take care of all of that. First, she offers a fabulous recipe for. And she’s including a linky at the bottom of her post so that all of you can share your own breakfast and brunch favorites, too!
And by linking to Carrie’s post–or simply leaving a comment–you can enter to win one of these four fabulous cookbooks:
Years ago, I jumped at the chance to go on a date with a guy from England–his name even sounded dashing (something like “Darcy Bedford”). Well, it was clear from the start that Mister Bedford perceived me to be a Cretin for my want of proper etiquette or decorum (and the fact that I lacked a decent stereo, as he judged it). After all, back in the Queen’s homeland, everyone grows up saying “pleased to meet you,” and “by your leave,” and “cheerio”; they don’t speak with their mouths full; and they are all very proper in every circumstance, you understand.
In this particular case, my twenty-something self was overwhelmed (I didn’t realize I should have been insulted): first, that the guy even asked me out (not only was he British, but an actor; not only an actor, but a working actor; and, most important to me at the time, he was terribly good looking–what the heck did he want with me?); second, that we went to a very posh restaurant; and third, that the table was set with a plethora of silverware.
Like an erstwhile Pretty Woman (though I, of course, wasn’t as pretty, or as tall, and I had much less hair. . . oh–and, right, I wasn’t a hooker), I had no idea which fork to use, nor which knife to grip. I followed Mr. Brittania’s lead and the meal worked out fine . The remainder of the evening, sadly, wasn’t nearly as successful, what with the bloke leaving my place in a huff almost immediately upon arrival, clearly miffed that I was not, as it turned out, a real-life counterpart to the celluloid pretty woman.
Whenever I think of British society these days, I think of High Tea and the elaborate spreads of cucumber sandwiches, bread with the crust cut off, watercress, and miniature scones with clotted cream. Clotted cream! I’ve never had the stuff, but anything rich and creamy evokes the notion of gustatory satisfaction. But it’s the scones, of course, that take the spotlight.
My mother used to buy prepacked sweets that were labeled “Tea Biscuits” when I was a kid. Inside were hydrogenated shortening-heavy biscuits studded with brown raisins. I loved their heaviness and density and the occasional sweet surprise when I bit into a sultana. To me, those were “scones” until my late twenties, until my office mate at work baked up true scones, with butter and cream–and I was converted on the spot.
These days, there’s no butter and no cream, but I still love the morning sweet breads and try to bake them as often as I can. Since the ACD doesn’t advocate too many grains (even if they are gluten-free), I’ve made these grain free (since quinoa isn’t truly a grain). After several trials, I came up with a recipe that is at once light, tender, and flavorful. The fresh ginger adds a little kick while its dried counterpart confers a warming spice; together, the flavor mitigates the sometimes potent quinoa. And quinoa makes them high protein, too–perfect for a balanced breakfast.
These are great for anyone who wants a satisfying breakfast bread without piling on too many carbs. Jolly good!
Not too sweet, these scones are great slathered with fruit spread or a flavored nut butter. If you’re not a fan of ginger, you can certainly leave it out, or substitute another spice (such as cinnamon) instead.
3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) agave nectar (omit for Stage 1; use all stevia)
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
15-25 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
2 tsp (10 ml) freshly grated ginger root
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 ml) light buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried ginger
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) xanthan gum
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) quinoa flakes
additional oil (about 2 tsp/10 ml)
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vinegar, flax, oil, agave, vanilla, stevia and fresh ginger root. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the buckwheat flour, coconut flour, dried ginger, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.; whisk to blend. Add the quinoa flakes and stir them in.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and mix just to blend. Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, place mounds of the mixture on the cookie sheets 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Flatten the biscuits slightly and brush with additional oil.
Bake 20-24 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through, until the scones are deep golden brown on the bottom and browned on top. Cool before servings. Makes 6 scones. May be frozen.