The Girls having a little wrestle-fest in the back yard.
For someone who’s been without her mother for quite a long time (my mum died in 1991), I tend to think about her rather a lot.
Maybe it’s the little photo of her perched on my bedside table that I see every morning and evening. Maybe it’s the increasing resemblance to her face I spy in the mirror every day. Maybe it’s the way I still automatically scream out, “Maaa!!” whenever a stray bee or spider surprises me with its presence. Whatever the reason, nary a day goes by when I don’t think about my mom.
As I’ve observed my friends-who-are-mothers raising their children, I’ve come to appreciate more and more what my mother offered in the time we were together.
For the first few years after she died, I refused to acknowledge Mother’s Day. I’d deliberately make other plans that would divert my attention, such as going to a movie, attending a workout class (ah, the days of attending workout classes. . . !), or cleaning out the kitchen cupboards (ah, the days of cleaning out. . . anything).
More recently, though, I’ve learned to embrace the day wholeheartedly. After all, I’ve realized, anyone can celebrate mothers today, whether it be their own biological moms or moms of the heart.
I may not have children, but I have certainly felt the yanking of the maternal heartstrings any time one of my beloved Girls has been sick or injured. I’ve lived through vicarious motherhood, experiencing the traumas and frustrations of raising toddlers to youngsters to teens to young adults alongside my best friends who have children. And I’ve felt something akin to the love of a daughter, directed at dear relatives and friends who’ve shown me the affection and care much like that my own mom did way back when.
“Mum, sorry about that yanking of the heartstrings stuff. I hope it didn’t hurt.”
And so, for any of you who are mothers today, who have or had mothers, or who are close to a mother–here’s wishing you a very happy, loving, and joyful day. And don’t forget to let that mom know just how much she means to you, while she’s still around to hear it.
“Mum, you know how much YOU mean to us, right? I mean, who else can I poke with my wet nose every morning? And who would throw the Frisbee for me? And who would give me endless handfuls of treats if you weren’t here. . . . GULP! Mum, you’re not planning on going anywhere any time soon, are you? ARE YOU?”
When I was an undergrad, I submitted a short story to the university literary journal, which was edited by my beloved mentor, John Ditsky (I guess on some level, since we’d already become friends by then and he’d always encouraged my writing, I kind of “knew” he’d publish the story). It was a tale about a 20-something university student who arrives home for the holidays, only to find that her parents don’t recognize her. She meanders through the house, frantically seeking signs that she’d once lived there, only to find none. No matter which childhood stories she relates, or which personal items she describes, her parents don’t seem to recognize her. Eventually, confused and hysterical, she crumples to the ground, pounding her fist on the floor like Charlton Heston at the end ofPlanet of the Apes, wailing, “But I’m your daughter! It’s ME, your daughter!! I’m your daughter. . . you know me. . . Oh, my God. . . ” and runs from the house, clearly having lost her sanity. In the last scene of the story, the mother turns to the father and asks, “Who was that young woman?” To which the father intones, “I have no idea.”
[Seems to be "dessert week" on DDD! Here's another healthy recipe for you today, the second in a trio of "good for you" desserts that can all be served up to those you love for Valentine's Day: the first was Butterscotch Pudding that can improve heart health; and the final installment is coming up on Thursday with a beautiful, decdadent, traditional V-Day treat revamped to be super-quick and healthier. Be sure to come back and check that one out, too!]
I’ve never really understood the expression, “easy as pie.” In the home of my childhood, it was more like “almost-unheard-of-plus-totally frustrating-and-usually-botched-results” as pie. Although my mom was a superlative baker, the one thing she almost never made (and when she did, it wasn’t very good) was pie. Give her a cookie dough, and she could nail it; a chiffon cake was her speciality; and cheesecake–no problem. But pie crust somehow eluded her.
As a result, neither one of my sisters nor I excel at pie or pie crust. In fact, the only pie my mother ever baked was called “Chocolate Dream Pie,” and as I recall, and it consisted of one ready-made storebought crust filled with chocolate cake batter and baked. In other words, the only pie in her repertoire was actually a cake.
My mom’s sister, Auntie M, on the other hand, a former caterer who excelled in the kitchen well into until her final years-well, she could bake anything.
Like so many pairs of sisters, my mother and aunt were more dissimilar than alike. Mom was softspoken, with a quiet, murmuring voice and (despite her hefty weight) a delicate frame, with tiny ankles and wrists. Her thin, fine hair was the color of wax beans. Auntie M, in contrast, was taller and broad, with sturdy legs thick as telephone poles. Her height was enhanced by the towering beehive of coarse, mahogany hair; her gravelly voice was both commanding and insistent, paired with an easy laugh and an equally easy tendency to criticize. My mother, the younger, was also “the pretty one,” while Auntie M was more what used to be described as a “Handsome” woman (think Mrs. Doubtfire with dark hair). Tough on the outside, she rarely revealed an inner softness, like a cautious turtle peeking out of its shell only when every possible threat is removed.
At once assertive and strong, Auntie M embodied the concept of pure domesticity, yet without even a whiff of the usual sense in which women are considered domestic. She was an archetypal feminist, one who encouraged independence, intelligence, strength and self-sufficiency all within the realm of marriage–and I believed she could accomplish anything. I idolized her, and in many ways wanted to be her (well, minus the shapeless legs).
When I was about 16, I spent a couple of weeks living at my aunt's house after she had broken her arm. While ostensibly there to help her keep up with housework, my role as her personal assistant quickly morphed into culinary protégé as well. It was under her tutelage that I first learned aboutmis en place (though of course she didn't call it that), which I had never encountered before; she also taught me about professional wash-up technique, filling one sink with soapy water, the other with clear and washing the least-dirtied dishes and utensils (such as glasses or cutlery) first, reusing the water for the more grimy pots and pans at the end. I discovered how rotating your baking pans halfway through the cooking time helps to compensate for uneven oven heat, allowing for a smooth, even top to cakes and breads; how sifting flours helps to aerate and separate out impurities like pebbles or bran; and how using an ice cream scoop creates perfectly measured, uniformly sized cookies.
The one thing that Auntie M never got round to teaching me, unfortunately, was how to bake a pie (though I have no doubt that, if she had, it would have been stellar). After years of promising myself that I'd tackle the skill on my own, I suddenly switched to gluten-free baking a few years back, which means that most of my crusts are now "pat-in" versus "roll-out." (Though if you're looking for a good rollable GF pie crust, you must try the one I used in this tortière, which I found on Maggie's blog). As a result, I still have a bit of an irrational aversion to making pie crust (though I did manage to create two fabulous crusts for the upcoming cookbook).
So you can see why I was elated to come across this recipe for Granola Topped Blueberry Pie Bars in Hallie's latest cookbook, Super Healthy Cookies: They're just like pie--without the pie! If you haven't checked out the book yet, I'd highly recommend it: with 50 recipes for healthy cookies from fruity to chocolate to bars to special occasion and more, it also provides a great glossary of ingredients, a resource guide, tips and tricks throughout, and a fantastic appendix of all the recipes listed by different diet type (eg, vegan and egg-free, grain-free, nut-free) plus a list according to taste prefernces (eg, sweet and salty, chocolatey, warm and toasty spices, etc.). All in all, it's full of the healthy, delicious recipes and useful information I've come to expect from Hallie's work!
This recipe is actually not even listed in the "vegan" section, but it was a snap to adapt to my ACD diet. I used The Vegg (vegan yolk) instead of the egg yolk listed, and subbed coconut nectar for maple syrup (obviously, you could make the recipe exactly as written if it jibes with your own diet). I also loved the "sweetness scale" next to each recipe (this was a "two spoon" treat, right in the middle of the scale).
These bars came together incredibly easily. In less than 45 minutes, the HH and I had a fruity, crumbly, warm and inviting pie-like dessert. To make the bars a bit more indulgent for the HH (he does love his creamy desserts), I topped his with a dollop of coconut whipped cream. These do, indeed, taste very pie-like and indulgent--and the HH consumed nearly half the pan in only 2 days! You should have no qualms at all serving these bars as Valentine's Day treats; they live up to a special occasion with the bursting-with-berries filling and yet are made with whole, healthy ingredients. They also fall into my very favorite dessert category: those that can be eaten as breakfast!
Despite the ease of preparation, I'd never call them "easy as pie," though. Unless, of course, we're talking about eating them.
Hallie says: "I took one bite of these bars and my taste buds shouted, 'Hello, Blueberry Pie!' The moist crust and crunchy topping of these bars paired with the juicy blueberry filling is just sublime. Don't let the rather long list of ingredients scare you. They're very easy to make." I agree! And equally easy to adapt to my diet. I've included my changes in square brackets, below.
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease an 8 x 8 inch (20 cm) baking dish with coconut oil.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the oats, brown rice flour, coconut sugar, psyllium husks, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for 20 seconds. Add the coconut oil, applesauce, and egg yolk. Process to combine. Using moist hands, pat half of the dough firmly and evenly into the greased baking dish. Crumble the remaining dough into a bowl and mix in the the pecans and raisins. Set aside.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together the blueberries, honey, lemon juice, and arrowroot starch. Spoon the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the blueberry layer nd press gently to adhere.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely at room temperture, then refrigerate fro 1-2 hours before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 16 bars.
[Random Broadway photo. Can you spy the person in the crowd wearing a squirrel costume?]
So, where the heck have I been this past week? It feels like a long time since I last posted on this blog. In reality, it’s only been since last Thursday’s Wellness Weekend. Even though Wellness Weekend does occur each week–and I do LOVE all your incredible, healthy, sugar-free recipes, so please keep ‘em coming–I’ve been itching to post a new recipe of my own for a while, but, as sometimes happens, life intervened.
In a nutshell, here’s what’s been going on:
Visit to New York (aka, birthday extended!)
Cold/flu bug (also mine; aka, why do I tend to get sick on vacation?)
It all started with that darned birthday. . . .The HH and I decided to skip over to one of my fave places on the planet, New York City, for a quick junket and meetups with friends. As it turned out, our two days there preceded Hurricane Sandy by one day–we literally flew out of the city the night before they began preparations, a weird coincidence that left us feeling lucky and, at the same time, devastated for those we left behind.
And, like so many of you, I’ve been riveted to the TV, twitter, etc. following the aftermath of the hurricane and feeling heartsick for the poor people who’ve been ravaged by it, thinking about the city and environs since we left. And while I’ve heard from friends and family (and thankfully, they’re all safe), there are still so many others left without power or supplies who need help. If you’d like to help, here’s one list of ways to support the New York area and New Jersey, and a more general list here. Angela from Oh She Glows has created a Disaster Fundraiser (and an amazing giveaway at the same time) through which you can donate. I’m sure there are many others, too–please add any other ways to help that you know of in the comments!
So it feels a bit odd to be recapping a trip to New York when it’s currently so different from the place we saw last week, but I will cherish these memories all the more now.
As you might expect, most of our adventures involved. . . food! Mealtimes were spectacular, both because The HH totally indulged me and ate every meal (save for one, which was his choice) at one or another of the incredible vegan haunts in the city, but also because we met up with so many friends, online or otherwise, while there.
Unfortunately, my highly portable point-and-shoot camera is not great at taking photos in semi-darkness. . . so most of the shots came out sort of like this:
Do you feel dizzy yet? No, it’s not you. But that is kind of how I felt once the flu bug hit (bed, tea, tea, bed). Oh, and that’s a blurry image of the amazing Ruby Red juice I had on our last morning: brunch at Cafe Blossom.
In other words, please forgive the photos here . . . I really do need an iPhone for those instagram ones, don’t I?
Our first dinner was a return visit to Candle 79 (we loved it so much last time, we just had to go back there again), where I savored the Pomegranate-Chipotle Grilled Tempeh while the HH went for the Baby Arugula Salad (after scarfing down a huge bowl of meaty pasta for lunch). Dinner was followed by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfon Broadway (for which we scored half price tickets–yeah!). We were joined by my friend Babe, who also just happened to be in New York for business! The play, what was likely one of the most spectacular productions of it ever mounted, kept us entranced for the full three hours. If you’ve seen the movie or read the play, you know that this is not a light entertainment, and I could only marvel at the energy required by the actors to remain so focused for the duration.
[My Green Spice juice; the HH's Strawberry Blonde shake.]
Friday was a food-and-fun-filled day of meetups! We started at One Lucky Duck, where I finally met my colleague Andrea Nakayama, the genius behind Replenish PDX and with whom I’ve taught the Sweet Victory detox, in person. It was like meeting an old friend as we sampled some of the famous raw goodness at One Lucky Duck (that’s my kale juice on the left; The HH’s shake on the right).
After wandering a bit in the East Village, we strolled over to Caravan of Dreams to meet up with JL and her hubby for a farewell lunch before they move across the country to Colorado. JL writes the fabulous blog, JL Goes Vegan, as well as the blog Stop Chasing Skinny. As she tells it on her blog, “I am proof that you are never too old to change!” JL ran a marathon, became a triathlete, and transitioned to a vegan diet. . . all in her 40s. Now she practices as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and lives as a fabulous role model for all women who want to achieve their dreams. Go, JL! It was so great to see her and Dave again, and gab over great food!
[JL and me in the cavernous Caravan of Dreams. Did we plan our matching all-black T-shirts and sweaters? Our mirror-image pixie cuts with bangs swept in opposite directions? Our same-shape glasses? Ah, we'll never tell.]
Dinner took place at one of my dream destinations: Pure Food and Wine. I’ve read so many great reviews of this place, and after my friend Gena recommended it as a favorite, I knew there was no other choice for the evening. And what an evening it was! I met with one of my favorite bloggers with whom I’ve had an online friendship since I bought her first cookbook, My Sweet Vegan, back in 2008–the incomparable and amazingly talented Hannah from Bittersweet! Hannah was just as lovely in person as she is on her blog, and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up–in person.
We were joined later by Tess, The Blender Girl, and her partner for a raucous, rollicking evening. If you don’t know Tess yet, you should–head over to her blog asap! It’s filled with amazing, mostly quick-and-easy recipes that can be made in a blender, food processor, or mixer. And she hosts some pretty awesome giveaways, too! I met Tess for the first time last April at the Nourished conference, and immediately felt as if I’d known her for years. Not only is Tess one of the most hardworking bloggers I know, she’s also one of the most generous–and fun! It’s impossible not to spend an evening filled with laughter when you’re with Tess.
[Dr. Cow Cheese Plate.]
And the food! We began by sharing the Plate of Assorted Cultured Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses and Rosemary Crisps. Oh. My. Goodness. Having never tasted fermented raw nut cheese before, I couldn’t have imagined the buttery soft yet firm and even slightly gritty texture of the cheddar–just like dairy cheese. Next up, I ordered Alfredo Noodles made with raw salsify (yep, I even learned something new at Pure Food!). Finally, the meal was capped off with what may very well be the most decadent chocolate-mint sundae I’ve ever tasted. Behold:
[No, it didn't really glow with a thousand tiny diamonds, as appears in the this flash-enhanced photo. But I did have a bit of an afterglow when I ate it.]
After staying up too late despite that nasty flu bug, the HH and I ended the trip with a brunch at Cafe Blossom, where I indulged in raw nachos and an incomparable Farinata Puttanesca (chickpea crepe with caramelized onions, capers, olives–hold the mushrooms).
[Raw nachos and guacamole]
It all ended far too quickly, but as chance would have it, just in time: we flew out of the city literally hours before the city shut down. As I write this, many in the region are still without power or full utilities. It’s bizarre to me that many of the places we visited were flooded a couple of days later.
And what about the week since our return? Well, once I finally kicked that nasty flu bug, I got to the kitchen and testing recipes for the cookbook! Here’s a glimpse of what my testers have been cooking up (everything gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan!):
Sunshine Breakfast Loaf
Dalmatian Cheesecake Brownies
High Protein Waffles
. . . and much more! To get a peek at all of the testers’ own photos of what they’ve been baking, check out the cookbook Pinterest board.
Now that I’ve whetted your appetite. . . it’s time for a new recipe. I promise to bring one along later in the week.
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!”)
[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
I swear, if my father had been born a Canadian (rather than a poor farmer’s son in Depression-era Europe), he would have been a lawyer instead of a butcher.* You see, in our house growing up, every request from me or one of my sisters for pretty much anything from a new notebook to a new bicycle, required us to present my dad with an argument so compelling and airtight that we could have put Atticus Finch to shame.
When it was time to submit my opening statements, I’d approach the bench my dad with great trepidation as I attempted to memorize the logic that would win him over. I’d stammer through the reasons why I needed that bicycle (or Easy Bake oven, or new bell-bottoms, or troll doll), beads of sweat forming on my brow like morning dew on spring leaves:
“Well, Gemini I’s mom got her a new sweater and it’s–”
“You have enough sweaters. You already don’t wear half of them.”
“But this one is made from special yarn that’s extra soft–”
“So it’s probably thin, then, and it will wear out too quickly.”
“But I don’t have anything that’s blue, I want to wear it with my blue pants–”
“What? So now green doesn’t go with blue any more? Wear your green one.”
–and so on.
My dad would sit at the kitchen table, his intractable expression evaporating my confidence with each grimace as he tacitly challenged me to prove him wrong. (The only other stare I’ve experienced with that same intensity of purpose is when Elsie’s border collie genes assert themselves each day at dinnertime and her gaze bores into my back, willing me to get up and feed her.)
After the ordeal of The Presentation, inevitably my dad would wave me away like a mosquito at a picnic, and pronounce his answer. It was almost always the same:
The implied message was very clear: if something was too easy, it wasn’t worth very much. (I guess someone really should have told that to my friend LM, who managed to parlay “easy” into three very lucrative marriages–and divorces–within 10 years.).
Well, the same principles apply to food, I reckon. Do y’all know the story of how cake mixes came to be so popular in the late 1950s? Trying to save all those newly-liberated women time in the kitchen, an industrious male entrepreneur created a powdered mix that was all-inclusive: it contained all the necessary ingredients, including dehydrated milk and whole egg powder, for a complete cake. All the overworked housewife had to do was add water, pour, and bake. So easy! So convenient! Such a timesaver!
And–a total flop.
Turns out that even though the mix removed 95% of the work and hassle, housewives didn’t embrace the new cakes. You see, despite going out and working alongside their male counterparts (for 55% of the male’s paycheck, mind you), and despite being in charge of the kiddoes and pets, and despite bearing responsibility for the housework and the laundry–well, these devoted women’s libbers couldn’t relinquish supremacy in the kitchen. They felt too guilty, as if they hadn’t “really” baked anything when the only ingredient they had to add was water!
So Betty and Duncan did what any smart businessperson would do–they made the mixes less convenient and harder to prepare: after a new formula was introduced that required women to add their own fresh eggs to the powder, the boxed mixes flew off the shelves. It was no longer “too easy.”
With my own crazy-making schedule these days (okay, fine, I was that way before the new schedule), I think I’d leap over the moon if I found a mix that could re-create one of my own (whole-foods) cakes by just adding water. For now, though, I’ll have to make do with a slew of “flash in the pan” recipes that are quick and easy, albeit not extravagant.
This porridge provides a creamy, warming and filling base (courtesy squash), with the textural nubbiness of coconut, hemp seeds and nut butter, ideal for these chilly autumn mornings. The classic flavor melding of squash and cinnamon tickles the tastebuds, too.
But hey, feel free to make this more complicated if you wish. You could add a cooked grain, I suppose, or grind some of your own flour, or grow your own hemp seeds if it makes you feel better. But really, in this case, “easy” is perfect just as it is.
*Yes, I know, my father was a butcher. I talk about this irony more on my About page.
** Don’t feel too sorry for me. It’s true that my dad’s most frequent response to requests was “no,” but invariably, our mother would later sneak us downtown and buy us something fun and frivolous instead, like blue suede shoes (how I loved those), or a buffet lunch at House of Chan, or a winter coat with white faux fur collar and cuffs. It would be brought home and blend into the daily routine as if it had always been there. If he noticed, Dad never said a word.
This “porridge” is a fabulous way to use up leftover baked squash or pumpkin to mimic the thick, grainy texture of oat-based porridge perfectly. Warming, thick, creamy and very filling, it’s a perfect way to start the morning, whether you normally eat grains or not.
1/2 cup (120 ml) squash purée (or for a chunkier texture, just mash with a fork)–Kabocha is my favorite, but Butternut and even Sugar Pumpkin work nicely
So here’s a scenario from my an imaginary 20-something woman’s life:
Let’s say this woman just got a job teaching as a sessional instructor at a large college in a large North American city. She’s very keen to do well on the job and practice all she’s learned about pedagogy.
Her office, as it turns out, is down the hall from the Computer Help Desk (where students and teachers alike go when their computer is on the fritz, the printer won’t work, or they can’t access emails, etc.). Each morning as she scurries by the desk toward her office, she spies a super-cute guy working behind the counter. After a few weeks, they’re smiling and nodding at each other as she rushes past to her office.
Eventually, she decides that she’d really, really like to get to know this guy. But here’s her conundrum: she’s too shy to ask him out–or even to just stop and chat with him for no apparent reason (ie, she sucks at flirting).
And then. . . she has a brilliant idea about how to get to know him better!
What do you suppose she does? (Note: you may choose more than one answer. No marks deducted for incorrect choices):
(a) Begs her office mate, who is much more outgoing than she is, to chat him up and find out if he is interested.
(b) Dons her shortest miniskirt, fishnet stockings and clingy sweater and prances about the hallway between his desk and her office, hoping he will notice her.
(c) Deliberately shoves her computer off the desk so that it comes crashing to the floor, summoning Mr. Cute Guy to her office in a hurry.
(d) Throws an end-of-semester Christmas party at her tiny apartment and invites the entire English faculty plus the Computer Help Desk staff (70+ people), just so it won’t appear too obvious that he’s invited, too.
So, which one did I–I mean, that woman–do?
Let’s just say. . . it was a really good party.
But I’m not writing this post today to tell you about how I met my Starter Husband (oh, wait, no, I mean–to tell you how Imaginary 20-Something Torontonian College English Teacher met her Starter Husband).
No, the reason I mention the Party to End All Parties is rather to relate to you how I became enamored of a computer helpdesk geek these cheesecake-filled morsels of chocolately deliciousness.* (And, how I forged a reputation among English professors as “that gal who bakes.”).
I remember well the reaction after I posted an open invitation in our faculty lounge (“End of Term Christmas Party–All Are Welcome! Snacks and sweets provided. BYOB. Hope to see you there!”). One of the senior profs at the time–let’s call her Professor Yenta–glanced at the notice and spun around to face me.
“Wow, that’s brave–or maybe crazy,” she said. Since I had no idea what she was talking about, I likely appeared somewhat nonplussed.
“To issue an open invitation,” she explained. “To everyone. In this department? I mean, you never know who will show up. What if Professor Misanthrope decides to show? Or if Ms. Ball Breaker spends the evening at your place? I mean, that could really ruin a party.” Professor Misanthrope was well known in the deparment for the high-watt sheen on his bald head, the force of which was second only to his disdain for students. Ms. Ball Breaker, on the other hand, with her dime store hair dye, lips perpetually lemon-puckered and eyes that never smiled even when she forced the corners of her mouth upward, was disdainful of everyone. Hmm. I had just assumed that only people who knew me–or, at least, liked me–would attend.
After I’d impulsively invited 70 people into my home, it suddenly occurred to me that I’d better provide some really memorable food to compensate for the fact that we’d be crammed into the living room and hallway of a one-bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen, the entire space no more than 600 square feet.
I decided to do what I did best: bake. The final menu featured an assortment of holiday cookies like shortbreads (I think I made the original version of these), Surprise Crackles, your basic Chocolate Chip Cookies, and perhaps a few bars and brownies. But the pièce de résistance was going to be a recipe I’d found in Gourmet magazine. Individual chocolate cupcakes called Farm Cakes were each filled with a hefty dollop of cream cheese filling, the filling itself studded with chocolate chips. The cake eveloped the cheesecake inside so that unsuspecting diners bit into it to discover a hidden creamy, cool, sweet center. I knew I wanted to impress my colleagues, but felt I had to impress Mr. Computer Cutie.
I ended up baking seven dozen Farm Cakes over the course of two days, using the same 6-cup muffin tin (the only one I had at the time) over and over. The tiny sink could barely accommodate the dishes I washed, and by the time I was done, the walls were splattered with bits of cheesecake that had flown from the beaters on my hand mixer as I whipped up the cream cheese filling. But I was fairly confident the cakes would impress. After all, I might have been too shy to spend five minutes chatting at the computer Help Desk, but I had supreme confidence in my prowess in the kitchen (no, silly, not that kind! I meant baking up sweet treats. Sheesh!).
In the end, the party was a huge success. Dr. Misanthrope made a brief appearance, but he actually enjoyed himself for once (and Ms. BB never did show). Professor Yenta enjoyed herself immensely, I met quite a few of the other teachers, and even forged a couple of friendships that continue to this day. I was thrilled when people lingered until the wee hours of the morning, eventually snaking their way to the tiny bedroom where they fished through the hillock of coats and jackets to retrieve their own outwear before wishing me a Happy Holiday and heading out on their way.
The last guest to leave, though, was Computer Cutie.
Sadly, the marriage only lasted a few short years. But colleagues requested those Farm Cakes at every faculty event for many Christmases to follow.
I still had the original recipe tucked away in my recipe folder. And why toss a great recipe, just because it led to a failed marriage? When Beth Hillson posted about the ACDA’s “Cupcakes for a Cause” event (which asks you to bake one cupcake for each year you’ve been gluten-free) on her Facebook page, I decided I’d enter with these Farm Cakes.
My version, of course, is vegan, anti-candida friendly, gluten-free and low glycemic. But you know what? They tasted just as good to me as the original ones, way back when. And even though I’ve been gluten-free for four years, I still baked a dozen cupcakes. What to do with the extras? I know: maybe I’ll throw a party. (Naw. . . . ).
[EDIT: If you printed the original recipe as it was first posted, please note that it was posted incorrectly, as it was transcribed from an earlier version of the recipe. I've made a couple of changes to correct the errors.]
These sweet cakes look like special occasion food, but they’re actually very easy to make. And who doesn’t love cheesecake inside of chocolate cupcakes? Note that the recipe here contains some non anti-candida diet ingredients. To make it ACD compliant, see notes at the end of the recipe.
For the Filling:
1 cup (240 ml) raw cashews, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
Preheat oven to 350 F (190 C). Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.
Make the filling: In a high-speed blender, blend all the filling ingredients except carob chips until perfectly smooth and velvety. Divide in half, reserving one half for another use (see below). Pour the remaining half into a small bowl and stir in the chips.
Make the cupcakes: In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vanilla, Dandy Blend, coconut sugar, stevia, almond milk and apple cider vinegar until the sugar begins to dissolve. Add the oil and whisk once more. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum. Stir together until ingredients are well combined. Pour the wet mixture over the dry in the bowl and whisk just to blend–do not overmix!
Fill six cupcake liners half full. Using about 2 tsp (10 ml) of the filling for each, put a dollop of the cream cheese on top of the center of the cupcake batter, taking care that it doesn’t touch the sides of the liners. Top with about a Tbsp (15 ml) more batter, to completely cover the cheesecake filling. If you find you have enough batter to make more cupcakes, repeat the process until all the batter is used (depending on the size of your cupcake pan, you should get 6-9 cupcakes from this recipe).
Bake the cupcakes in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the cake portion comes out clean. They should be slightly puffed and domed on top (they may sink a little in the center as they cool; this is fine).
Allow to cool completely and refrigerate before consuming. These are best cold from the refrigerator. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. May be frozen.
NOTES: You may have some cheesecake filling left over; it’s great over pancakes or as a sweet dip for apple slices, or as a base for ice cream.
To make the cupcakes ACD-friendly, use 1 Tbsp lemon juice plus enough water to make 1/3 cup (80 ml) instead of the orange juice; add 5 drops more stevia; and use Dandy Blend instead of instant coffee. If desired, substitute orange flavored stevia for the stevia in the cupcake batter.
I’m so glad it’s ice cream season again, aren’t you? Not because it coincides with climbing temperatures (though the 25C (78F) and sunny days are certainly welcome). Not because it means the HH and I can bring The Girls down to the Beaches for lakeside walks (“We love that about summer, Mum!”). Not because I can spend the entire weekend wearing nothing more than my bathing suit. (Kidding. Like that’s going to happen).
No, I’m glad it’s ice cream season because. . . well, I get to eat ice cream more often, silly!
When I was a child, the only ice cream we ever had in our home came in square cardboard cartons. I loved it when my mom bought Chocolate Ripple or Chocolate Chip or (later) Heavenly Hash, but when she catered to my father’s tastes and brought home a brick of Neapolitan, well, a little ingenuity was required to work around the dreaded strawberry stripe (which was my dad’s favorite). With the precision of a surgeon, I’d scrape around and under the pink section to snare more chocolate and vanilla while ensuring that, on the surface, all three flavors still appeared in equal proportions. (Now if only I’d applied that same concentration to my geography class. . . ).
Apart from the shrinking blocks of ice cream at home, my favorite dairy-based treats appeared when our family moved to the country for the summer months. To my sisters and me, living in a wooden shack without a TV, electric stove or reliable hot water was a true adventure (I can only imagine, these days, how my mom managed with three young children).
We girls would spend the daylight hours entirely outdoors, playing hide-and-seek with the neighbors’ kids in the nearby woods, carving our names into the dirt by the side of the road with sticks, selecting perfect stones from those that washed up on the beach or helping Mom with the laundry by first drenching our clothes in the lake, then peeling them off before tossing them into the ringer washer that stood like a totem on the wooden porch. By the end of August, the grey dust from the side of the road had worked its way permanently into the creases in the back of my neck, my tank top was traced in reverse by tan lines, and my hair, stringy from being drenched repeatedly in sandy beach water, was two or three shades lighter than it had been at the beginning of the season.
One of the highlights of our days was hearing the distinctive jangling melody of the ice cream truck. Like church bells on helium, the clanging sounds to tunes like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” drew children out from behind bushes, from beaches, from within wooden cottages or away from frolicking with beloved pets. We came running from all corners of the street, coins clasped tightly in our fists, to swarm around the tiny trucks like paparazzi surrounding Brad and Angelina. Then came the negotiations:
“A lime Sno-cone, please.”
“I’ll have a small chocolate soft serve.”
“Medium vanilla cone, dipped.”
[Or, for really special occasions]: “Banana Split.”
The man behind the sliding window would reach down and magically withdraw whatever it was we’d ordered.
I always chose a vanilla-chocolate twist, dipped. This was a combination of soft-serve vanilla and chocolate ice creams intertwined in a spiral, the top of which ended in a curved peak. The ice-cream man inverted it into a vat of warm, melted chocolate (or what would be called “chocolatey coating” today), turned it back upright, and let it sit for just a few seconds for the chocolate to set before proffering it to the salivating customer. My tactic was to begin at the tip, eating the barely-solid coating right away before it firmed up, moving down to where it met the cone (at which point the chocolate was entirely solid and would split into brown shards, which I caught eagerly with my tongue before licking up any spills of melted ice cream beneath it).
Whichever type of cone we got that day, whether flat-bottomed or pointed, we’d poke a hole in the bottom and suck the softened ice cream through it before consuming the remainder of the treat.
Funny how the lens of childhood seems to paint items like ice cream trucks or soft-serve cones just a little more brightly, with colors a little more intense, than they appear in adulthood. When we moved to our current neighborhood, I was delighted to discover that a similar truck began to make its rounds through the streets in late May, summoning local crowds of children from the area. When we first heard it, the HH and I sauntered over, waited amid the group of children, and each ordered a cone. Somehow, my usual medium twist, dipped, had lost its allure; the ice cream was flavorless as frozen glue, the coating a sheen of dark brown wax. I came home disappointed, the memory of childhood shattered like the hardened chocolate on the cone.
These days, I’d much prefer a bowl of this dairy-free, sugar-free, low glycemic Chai Ice cream that I’m sharing today. I whipped up a batch the other night, and we’ve enjoyed it twice more since then (the last time with a homemade chocolate shell that far outshone the chocolatey coating of my youth). And even though I do own an ice cream maker, I always tend to use my processor method, which to me seems quicker and easier.
Nowadays, when we hear the distinctive chimes making their way along the street, Elsie runs to the front door and peers out the window with her hackles up, emitting a low, stifled growl from the back of her throat.
I like to imagine that she’s assessing the quality of the treats in that truck.
Good Girl, I say.
“Yes, Mum, I’m what you’d call a connoisseur of treats. And if you’d kindly let me lick that bowl of ice cream once you’re done, I promise to keep growling at strange men in trucks for you.”
Although I’m not a fan of actual Chai tea, I adore this combination of spices in other desserts–like this ice cream. Of course, you could use any tea flavor you prefer, as long as it’s robust and flavorful.
1 cup (240 ml) plain or vanilla rice milk
2 chai tea bags (I used herbal, but regular black Chai would work, too)
If you have an ice cream maker, set it up according to manufacturer’s directions. Otherwise, set 8 silicone muffin cups in a muffin pan, or set out two silicone ice cube trays.
Pour the rice milk into a small pot and add the teabags. Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes; turn off heat. Press the teabags with the back of a spoon to bring out as much flavor as possible, then remove the teabags from the liquid.
Place the milk and remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until perfectly smooth.
With an ice cream maker: Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions for ice cream. Serve.
With a food processor: Pour the mixture into the silicone muffin cups or silicone ice cube tray and freeze until firm; pop out of the cups or tray and into ziploc bags. Store in the freezer until ready to use.
When you’re ready to make ice cream, use 1 muffin-sized disk or 4 ice cubes per serving. Chop the muffin disk into 4 pieces. Place in the food processor and process until it resembles crumbs. Press down with a rubber spatula, then continue to process just until the mixture begins to come together in a ball. Scoop and serve. Makes 6-8 servings. Store frozen.
Recently, a friend emailed me a link to this interview with Bel Kaufman (author of the legendary novel Up the Down Staircase). What struck me most about Kaufman (apart from the fact that she’s still vibrant and joking at 100), was her comment about growing up in Russia during the revolution. At the time, she said, ”Dead bodies were frozen in peculiar positions on the street. . . . But a child has no basis for comparison. Doesn’t every child step over dead bodies? I didn’t know any different.”
In the home where I grew up, my father’s near-ascetic approach to life (after surviving both the Depression and World War II) colored everything we did; we kids just accepted it as part of life. Our family feasted daily on odd cuts of meat (sweetbreads, anyone?), the hard ends of cheese blocks and other atypical fare (my mother became adept at baking with dozens of cracked eggs at one time) because those were the foods that his butcher-shop customers rejected, and of course “food can’t just go to waste.” My sisters and I learned quickly to amass factual evidence and then present a detailed, point-by-point argument to support every request we had because Dad would not permit any new purchases if we couldn’t first convince him that they were absolutely necessary (new boots: yes; bicycle: no; pencil case, yes; Spirograph set: unequivocally no).**
Sunday was established as “family time,” since it was the only day my father didn’t work. Ironically, on those days (after we all had brunch), he chose to drive back to his butcher shop where he’d spent the previous six days, toting all three of us kids, so that our mother could conduct her weekly grocery shopping (in addition to meat, dairy and eggs, his store also carried a few European canned or packaged goods, which made up the bulk of our meals during the week. We grew up snacking on Kosher dill pickles, munching on dense, dark rye bread, spooning out cherries in light syrup straight from the jar or eating chunks of polenta for breakfast).
On the way home from the store, we’d invariably drive through the Town of Mount Royal (one of the nouveau riche areas of town) to admire the houses and then stop at the Mount Royal Cemetery, the three of us wedged into the station wagon’s back seat (the cargo area was, by then, replete with groceries), for our gratis entertainment. My father would inch along so that we could leisurely admire the myriad floral arrangements, stopping occasionally so we could exit the car and examine various headstones (“Hey, look, Mom, this guy’s last name is ‘Outhouse’!!”–”Ricki, this one is called ‘Vowels! Eh, Eeee! Aye, Oh, You. . . ha ha ha!“) or inhale the chaotic perfume from the variegated mounds of blossoms piled here and there. When I was seven or eight, I once plucked a tulip from the mass of petals and leaves, thinking I’d preserve it in a vase once we got home. One of the groundskeepers suddenly appeared, arms flailing, to warn me, “No touch! Belong to family! Big family!” and I immediately understood that we had been impinging on a private plot, and dropped the stem back down as if it had bitten me.
What? Doesn’t every child wander through the cemetery for fun on Sunday afternoons?
[Porridge, fully loaded: here topped with spiced almond butter and goji berries.]
Despite my best efforts, it seems I’ve either inherited or adopted some of my father’s parsimonious ways. When shopping, I can rarely bring myself to spend money on what I consider frivolous expenses (why pay for prepared foods when you can usually make your own? Why pay for patterns on your paper napkins when white ones are perfectly serviceable? Why pay for brand name plastic wrap when generic is just as good?).
As a result, even small indulgences feel really big to me, and what I consider “indulgent” doesn’t necessarily require spending money. To me,”indulgent” is buying canned beans (for the occasional bean butter) rather than soaking my own; or jarred organic applesauce for baking rather than cooking up a homemade batch. It means purchasing a copy of a novel rather than borrowing it from the library. It means lounging in PJs on a Sunday morning to read the paper with the HH–while sipping on Matcha Tea (huge indulgence!) instead of getting to work at the computer.
And it means taking time to bake my porridge rather than simmering it on the stovetop.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed several forms of grain-free porridge, after spying this recipe on Brittany’s site and then this one on Gretchen’s. Both dishes rely on squash or pumpkin as their base. I loved the idea, but wanted to include grains (especially when I landed on Day Two of the Fab Detox, focusing on whole, gluten-free grains). My version here used acorn squash, but any kind will do; and more often than not, I enlist my beloved kabocha for the task. Of course, my baked porridge is no longer grain-free, but its luxurious, coconut milk richness and nubby texture works perfectly in tandem with the fragrant spices, and the natural sweetness of the squash makes it a perfect sugar-free treat. Eating a bowlful of this will make you feel very spoiled indeed.
So go ahead, indulge. (What? Doesn’t everyone eat squash-based porridge for breakfast?).
(“Mum, we’d be happy to eat a bowlful of this porridge for breakfast–or any time! And I don’t know about you, but romping through a cemetery sounds pretty normal to us.”)
** Whenever we have an argument (shocking, I know–but it does happen), the HH inevitably tells me I should have been a lawyer given how I can debate an issue to the bitter end. Thanks, Dad.
Millet is one of the healthiest gluten-free grains, possessing alkalizing qualities as well as whole-grain fiber and antioxidants. Combined with squash, the result is a winning combination both in the taste and health-promoting categories. This would make a lovely warm pudding for dessert, too.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a covered casserole dish with coconut oil or spray with nonstick spray.
Place the millet, rice milk and water in a medium pot and bring to the boil. Turn off heat and add the squash, then whisk to combine well. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Turn into the prepared casserole dish.
Cover the casserole and bake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, stirring once every 20 minutes or so, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the millet is very soft (if the mixture appears too dry before the millet is cooked, add a bit more rice milk and return to the oven). Stir again before serving. Makes four servings. May be frozen.
I was one of those students who always did pretty well in math even though I didn’t understand most of it. In other words, I was a good memorizer. These days, I rejoice if I can remember what I ate for breakfast, but back then, even multiplication tables didn’t pose a challenge. The more advanced types of computation, however, were a complete mystery to me (which is why I dropped out of Calculus in CEGEP. Yes, I altered my entire career path, from Psychology to English Literature, based solely on my fear of statistics).
These days, the “new math” leaves me both breathless and hyperventilating (sometimes simultaneously). My friend Babe’s eleven year-old daughter conducts problems in long division using a multi-step process that involves drawing little lines, circles and boxes, seemingly much more complicated than the old-fashioned dividend/divisor (with remainders) method I learned in school. And even with all these new approaches, when the computer is down at our local video store, the cashier still has no idea how to make change for a cash purchase.
It’s times like those (when I can’t rent Bridesmaids, dammit) that I wish everyone could have a teacher like my eighth-grade functions instructor, Mrs. Klein. Well, that was her actual name, but we all affectionately called her Mrs. Clown. (No, she didn’t have a bulbous red nose and electro-shock hairstyle–though her hair was suspiciously white–but she did offer boundless energy, sweeping arm gestures, and a hilarious delivery that made us guffaw–at functions!).
Unlike most math teachers, Mrs. Clown actually made learning about algorithms, formulas, cosines and exponents fun. When she wrote an equation on the board and asked for volunteers to come up and solve it in front of the class, everyone’s hand shot up. When she explained images and sets, we sat entranced, as she peppered her explanation with anecdotes about her husband fixing the car engine over the weekend, or compared variables in a math problem to specific student personalities in the class. We students never sat through a single period in which we didn’t laugh out loud at least once or twice (and how many people can say that about their math class?). When the bell rang, we were genuinely surprised that the hour was up.
Mrs. Clown wrote notes on the board in huge, clear, print so that everyone–even spectacle-clad Norman at the back–could see it clearly; and she provided tips and tricks to ensure that we’d remember the rules. One of her favorite ways to point out a potential problem in a formula was by writing the word “SNAG” in all-caps and enclosing it in a box outline, like this:
When we spied those “SNAG” boxes, we knew we were in for an extra-lengthy anecdote. In fact, we’d sometimes deliberately attempt to create a “SNAG” situation in one of her problems, just so we could listen to another story about Mr. Clown.
Last week, when the HH and I received an organic cob of corn in our CSA, I decided to mix up these pancakes as an antidote to the overly greasy, heavy griddle cakes I ate a few weeks ago in New York City. I’d been thinking about corn pancakes since then, and when I spied this recipe on Jess’s blog, I knew I had to give it a try. Using her recipe as a template, I added two more types of corn (two corn “variables,” you might say) and was delighted with the results. And while the pancakes themselves were delectable, they introduced a mathematical conundrum of their own: what to call them? Are they “triple corn” pancakes? Or, perhaps, “corn cubed pancakes”? Sadly, I never truly mastered exponents despite Mrs. Clown’s tutelage, so that’s one formula that shall remain unsolved.
Whatever you call them, they were fantastic. The HH proclaimed these “the best pancakes you’ve made yet.” They’re incredibly fluffy, with a cakelike interior punctuated by a smattering of plump corn kernels (and do feel free to substitute blueberries if you prefer) and a subtle texture from the cornmeal. I had never used corn flour before and found it imparted a lovely, delicate crumb and mild flavor.
Next time you’re in the mood for pancakes, go ahead and have a couple of these, or three. Okay, maybe not, since five is a lot of pancakes. Oh, wait–SNAG–two PLUS three is five, not two OR three; I shouldn’t have added the numbers but rather divided the total batch of 12 into the single divisor of each serving instead (or was that “mulitply each serving”?). . . . which would have ultimately made a total of 1746 calories per batch, which works out to how many per person?
Whatever. The only equation you need to remember is: pancakes + topping = delicious.
Perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch or a light dinner, these pancakes are airy and just barely sweet on their own. If you have fresh corn kernels, this is a great place to use them, but frozen will do nicely, too. Note that most conventional corn these days is genetically modified, so organic is a much better choice if you can get it.
1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened soy, almond or coconut milk (from a carton)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
2 tsp (10 ml) extra virgin olive or avocado oil, preferably organic
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
5 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen corn kernels (preferably organic)
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the milk, vinegar, oil, vanilla and stevia. Stir in the lemon zest and corn kernels and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir just to blend (do not overmix–it’s okay if there are a few dry spots here and there).
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan, spreading the pancakes slightly with a silicone spatula or back of a spoon.
Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the pancakes begin to rise and puff up and the tops look almost completely dry (the bottom should be lightly browned). Gently flip the pancakes and cook another 3-4 minutes. Keep the prepared pancakes warm as you continue to use all the batter in this way. Makes 6-8 pancakes. May be frozen.
Years ago, I saw a cartoon in a women’s magazine. In the frame were two girls aged about 5 or 6, facing each other.
Girl One (self-satisfied smile on her face): My mommy lets me eat candy every day.
Girl Two: (scowling): That’s not candy, stupid. That’s broccoli.
Girl One (crushed): You mean. . . broccoli isn’t candy?
I remember thinking, Ah, if only parents could convince their kids to eat broccoli that easily!
Even though I don’t have kids of my own (“What do you mean, Mum? Aren’t we your kids?”), I’ve come to realize from being with my cousins’ and friends’ children that kids can have some pretty idiosyncratic eating habits indeed.
Way back in high school biology class, we learned that children’s taste buds are much more attuned to sweet tastes than are adult’s taste buds. So flavors that appeal to a child (I’m thinking Froot Loops, Jawbreakers, chocolate-covered marshmallows) can be cringe-inducing and lip-puckeringly sweet to a grown-up. In addition, we tend to develop tastes for things as adults that we wouldn’t get close to as kids (artichokes, anyone? Or how about avocados? And I’m still amazed that I could have ever hated coconut!).
I’ll never forget visiting with my friend T’s family when I was around six. Every weekend in the summer, T’s parents would lug me along with their brood to their country house up in the Laurentians. It was basically a big box made out of wood with a stove on one end and a sofa on the other; T and I slept up in the attic, which we loved, as if afforded us our own private bunkhouse where we’d occasionally retreat during the day as well, to escape T’s bratty younger brother, M.
One morning as we made our way down the ladder for breakfast, I spied T’s mother carrying out what looked like contorted performance art, flapping her elbow as she swirled a butter knife inside the peanut butter jar. When I asked what she was doing, she replied, “Well, M will only eat peanut butter from a new jar, with a smooth, fresh surface on top. So before he wakes up every morning,” (and with this, she smiled at me conspiratorially), I smooth it out for him so he’ll think it’s new.” Even at age six, I remember thinking, “Wow, that is an awful lot of work just to convince a snotty-nosed four year-old to eat peanut butter.”
My friend Babe’s daughter, on the other hand, refuses to consume any kind of pasta dish but one: a specialty they call ”Aunty K’s Pasta,” a basic butter-and-cheese macaroni that her aunt prepares at home and delivers to Babe’s house once a week. Babe then rewarms the pasta and serves it alongside whatever she’s made for dinner that night.
My own peculiar childhood culinary proclivities ran the gamut from cutting my mom’s homemade hamburgers into tiny, bite-sized pieces, then burying them in the accompanying mound of mashed potatoes before I’d scoop up the whole mess, forkful by forkful (even back then, it seems, I didn’t want to see meat on my plate!); to casting out coconut (see above), to eschewing cheese cake (crazy, I know), to filling my chicken soup with so many crushed soda crackers that it resembled gruel more than soup; to spurning strawberry ice cream.
In fact, I hated any kind of fruit at all in ice cream in those days, but strawberry was by far the worst offender. Chocolate was my one and only flavor of choice, and it was all I ever ordered when we were lucky enough to be taken to the local ice cream parlor. As the years went by, I broadened my scope a wee bit and would occasionally ask for Double Chocolate Chip (chocolate with a side of chocolate chips); Chocolate Swirl (chocolate with a side of chocolate sauce); or Heavenly Hash (chocolate with a side of chocolate chips, chocolate sauce and chocolate brownie bits). Basically, it was all chocolate, all the time.
As it turned out, my dad’s favorite ice cream was Neapolitan, with its equal stripes of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry; I had to make do. My tactic was to remove the entire box from the freezer, allow it to soften somewhat, then scrape along the outside edges of the chocolate and vanilla stripes, leaving the pink pariah virtually untouched. Eventually, I’d eat almost all of the other two flavors, leaving a slightly melty mound of strawberry in the center surrounded by a kind of moat all around it, like those abandoned sand castles you see on the beach that were washed over by the tide a few times.
I’m glad to say that these days, my tastes in ice cream range far and wide (though a quick glance at this blog’s Recipe Index does suggest a heavy emphasis on chocolate-basedice creams). Today’s recipe is one I developed for the Sweet Victory cleanse, and it’s been a huge hit here in the DDD household. Of its dense, creamy texture, The HH remarked, ”It’s like a really good quality ice cream.” And one of the Sweet Victory participants wrote, “I loved the caramel ice cream (sort of like magic…I can’t figure how that combination turns into caramel, but it does). ”
In other words, don’t let the odd mix of ingredients here deter you. This really does taste like caramel! And topped with the warm cinnamon-apple mix, it’s like pure comfort in a bowl. Of course, if you prefer not to combine your caramel with apples (or if you happen to have some fussy kids at home), just leave it off and have the ice cream on its own. Or add a handful of chocolate chips, or some chocolate sauce, or brownie bits. . . you know you just can’t go wrong with chocolate.
“Mum, that ice cream sounds great and all, but what do you mean, broccoli isn’t candy? Next thing you’ll be telling us is that sweet potatoes aren’t meat!”
Caramel Ice Cream with Apple-Cinnamon Topping (No Ice Cream Maker Required!)
Adorned with a swirl of cinnamony-apple filling, this ice cream is a perfect melding of caramel and fruit. If you prefer to leave out the apple, this is delicious on its own, too, or stir in some coarsely chopped chocolate or carob chips just before serving.
For the Caramel Ice Cream:
1 cup (155 g or 5.5 oz) raw cashews
1 cup (240 ml) sweet potato purée (I use homemade, from baked sweet potatoes, but I’m sure canned would be fine)
1 cup (240 ml) full-fat coconut milk (I use organic Thai Kitchen )
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
Prepare the ice cream: Set 9 silicone liners in a muffin pan and set aside, or line an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan with waxed paper and set aside.
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times. Divide evenly among the muffin liners or pour into the pan. [Note: if you'd rather use an ice cream maker, simply pour the mixture into it at this point and follow manufacturer's directions.]
If using the muffin liners, freeze until firm, 5-6 hours, then peel off the silicone cups and place the disks in a sealed plastic bag or container in the freezer. Pour into silicone cupcake liners and freeze; peel away liners and store the disks in a ziploc bag in the freezer. If using the pan, freeze just until firm, 2-3 hours. Invert on a cutting board, peel off the waxed paper, and cut the square into 9 equal pieces. Place the pieces in a sealed plastic bag or container in the freezer.
Make the apple topping: Place all ingredients in a small pot over medium-low heat. Once the water is bubbling, lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until apples are completely soft and all the liquid is absorbed, 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the desired texture is achieved, remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes enough for 4-6 servings of ice cream.
When ready to make the ice cream, remove one disk or square per person. Cut each disk or square into 3-4 smaller pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth (the pieces will break up and resemble crumbs before they start to come together in a ball), then press down with a rubber spatula and process briefly once more until smooth. Scoop out into serving dishe and top with desired amount of apple topping. Makes a total of 9 small or 6 large servings (for large servings, use 1-1/2 disks or squares per serving). Will keep, frozen, for up to 3 months.