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.)
[Perhaps imperfect, but recognizably egg-like in shape, right?]
One of my first paying jobs was working as a cashier at the local drugstore in a strip mall near my house, where, as it happened, three of my closest friends and I all got jobs. It wasn’t unusual for all four of us to work the same shift on a Saturday, two stationed on one side of the exit door, two on the other. We’d stand looking across at each other, our nonstop chatter filling the store like sound effects to rival the piped-in Muzak, as the sun streamed in through huge picture windows on the wall beside us.
We considered our boss, the Evil “Mr. M—r” (let’s just call him “Mr,” in a Color Purple sort of way), to be a veritable task master. If he caught us talking to each other–or simply standing idle for more than 30 seconds (even if no customers were in sight),–we’d be instantly reprimanded. “Go restock the toilet paper,” MR would bark, or “here, price this case of toothpaste tubes,” or “Face the antacid shelves.” If the store was really quiet, he’d have us do something even more demeaning, like mopping the floors in the back.
We had our own methods of entertaining ourselves, of course, to which MR was never privy. We’d assign code names to cute guys (“Rothmans,” the heavy-duty cigarettes smoked by steely blue-eyed cowboy types, was a favorite) or roll our eyes knowingly when the uppity girls from our high school sashayed into the store and stocked up on hair gel and mousses. Or we’d sing our favorite duets, like “I Got You, Babe,” or imitate MR’s nasal drawl (when he was out of the store, of course). Years later, Sterlin and I decided we’d write a screenplay about our experiences there called The Phunny Pharm (as in, “pharmacy,” get it? Oh, my, weren’t we just too hilarious!–I mean, phunny!).
Holiday weekends, with so many people off work, were notoriously unpredictable; they were either deadly boring or incredibly busy. One Easter Saturday, Sterlin and I were assigned opposite cashes. By 8:15 AM, we’d already tidied the countertops, re-folded newspapers into neat piles and straightened out the candy bars.
“MR will kill us if he comes in and sees that we’re not doing anything,” I mused. But then we noticed the recent shipment of chocolate Easter bunnies piled unceremoniously on the floor near our cashes. Even though there was a perfectly good display table at the end of the aisle, with a perfectly good tabletop on which they could have been stacked, most of the boxes had been strewn on the floor or worse, pushed right under it.
Each box housed a cute little brown or white molded rabbit, some with blue candy eyes or pink candy noses, some with perky ears pointing straight up, others with one ear up and one pressed back against their heads. They were all made of that high-gloss, waxy compound “chocolatey” substance that, truth be told, I just loved; I could have eaten an entire (3/4 pound/340 g), $12.99-a-box, confection all by myself. In fact, my love of chocolate bunnies was matched only by my love of Cadbury Creme Eggs, another Easter staple.
“Let’s fix the display!” Sterlin suggested. So we spent the good part of an hour (there were no customers that early–we barely served a single “Rothmans” the entire time) carefully stacking the boxes in neat rows, pyramid-style, taking care to alternate between dark and light bunnies or those looking to the left and those looking to the right so they’d present incoming customers with an interesting tableau of shapes and sizes.
We had just congratulated ourselves on our initiative when the hoards suddenly appeared. Our friends Babe and Angel were called into service as well, while I was deployed to the cosmetics department to help Claudette, the Parisian cosmetician who had immigrated to Montreal to be with her beau. Glamorous and exotic (at least, to me), Claudette wore thick false eyelashes and eyelids frosted in baby blue, her platinum blond hair slicked back to reveal her perfect, model-like features. For some reason, Claudette took a liking to me, so I was often gifted with samples of perfume, lipstick or eye shadow (actually intended for paying customers) to take home.
The hours flew by; by 8:30 PM when the store closed, we were all exhausted. I was relieved that I’d spent the day in cosmetics, which meant I didn’t have money to count (though I had managed to score a free lipstick and aluminum-lined pouch of hand lotion). While I waited for my friends to count up their tills, I wandered up and down the aisles. Should I bring home some newly-priced toothpaste, I wondered? Or maybe my parents were out of Kleenex. . . as I strolled over to the cash registers at the front, I my eyes glanced toward the Easter bunny display.
Only. . .
There was no bunny display any longer.
Oh, the boxes were still there, all right, still stacked in perfect rows, just as Sterlin and I had placed them that morning. But the little plastic windows appeared empty. On closer examination, I witnessed cwhat an only be described as “a bunny massacre.”
[The easier option: cubes instead of ovoids. Still delicious.]
All of the perkly little rabbits in their boxes appeared deformed, morphed into shapeless blobs with awkward lumps and bumps where their ears had once been. Others had completely lost their tails or their hind legs, flowing into puddles of muddy chocolate under them.
It took me a second to realize what had precipitated that scene of lupin carnage: the huge, ceiling-to-floor, all-glass picture windows! An entire day of brilliant sunshine! The sun had been shining for the better part of ten hours–directly on those boxes. The poor rabbits had all succumbed to the heat and melted, like Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West. No wonder all those boxes had previously been placed under the table–in the shade.
I must have shrieked, before I myself succumbed to hystrical laughter. By then, Sterlin had come running over and spied the scene, screeching her hilarity. Even Herbert, the normally staid pharmacist, couldn’t help but emit a snort and guffaw.
The entire front row of chocolate bunnies (those that Sterlin and I had so meticulously placed on the shelf that morning) were ruined. I mean, who would be willing to purchase a blob of shapeless melted chocolate for $12.99? And although the maneuver had been unintentional, Sterlin and I couldn’t help but smirk at the thought that this error in our judgment would, in the end, mean that the Evil MR received his just desserts (so to speak).
That night, I arrived home with three chocolate brnnnesss (that’s “Melted” for “bunnies.”) I didn’t mind that my rabbits were deformed, looking like rejects from a GMO product-development experiment. Later that evening, after dinner, everyone enjoyed a big blob of smooth, shapeless, waxy chocolate for dessert.
When I heard about Kelly’s Our Spunky Holiday event, in which readers were invited to submit a dessert for Easter or Passover, I immediately thought of those bunnies. Sure, I realize I could never concoct something similar in my own kitchen (let alone reproduce that favorite waxy texture). Instead, I opted for chocolate covered Easter eggs with a “cream cheese” filling, as close as I could get to the iconic Cadbury Creme eggs.
Unlike those unfortunate bunnies, these Easter Ovoids are only slightly misshapen, however. Because I don’t own egg molds (and because I am basically lazy), my “eggs” turned out, oh, just a wee bit lumpy and bumpy. But have no fear; just like the bunnies of yore, these confections still taste delicious. Housing a soft, smooth, lemony “cream cheese” filling, they are perfect Easter treats.
And–I promise you–no bunnies were harmed in the making of these eggs.
[Soft, creamy "cheesecake" interior. ]
[RECIPE UDATE, APRIL 20: Ack! I just noticed that I typed "orange juice' in the filling by mistake! While that's fine (it will taste great), for a more "cream cheese" like taste, use the lemon juice option (and if you're on the ACD, you're not allowed orange juice. What was I thinking?!]
Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Easter Eggs, suitable for ACD Stage 3 and beyond
If you don’t have egg molds or don’t feel like taking the trouble to make these egg-shaped, you can just pour the “cheese” filling into a square container, then cut in cubes and coat in chocolate, as I do in this recipe.
For the “Cheesecake” Filling:
1 heaping cup (160 g) raw natural cashews
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice (use lemon for ACD)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut sugar or agave nectar
10-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp (5 ml) lemon extract, optional
1/4 cup (60 ml) full-fat coconut milk (from a can–I use Thai Kitchen)
1 tsp (5 ml) whole chia seeds, ground in a coffee grinder to a fine powder (about 2 heaping tsp or 10 ml powder)
1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) lemon zest
For the Chocolate Coating**:
4 ounces (110 g) good quality unsweetened chocolate (I find Baker’s too bitter for this purpose)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin coconut oil, preferably organic (use refined if you want no coconut flavor)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) carob powder, sifted
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia, to your taste (don’t overdo the stevia–better to keep it bittersweet)
Make the filling: If you have egg-shaped silicone molds (or other shapes that would be easy to coat in chocolate), set them aside. Otherwise, line a small square container (about 2 cups/480 ml capacity) with plastic wrap and set aside.
In a glass or ceramic bowl, cover the cashews with room temperature water and soak for 6-10 hours; drain. (Alternately, pour boiling water over the cashews in the bowl and allow to soak for 30 minutes to an hour; drain).
Place the cashews and remaining cheesecake ingredients in a high-powered blender (such as a VitaMix) and blend until perfectly smooth. The mixture will be thick and you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the blender container repeatedly. Transfer to the molds or container, then freeze until just firm, 3-4 hours.
For eggs (if you don’t have molds), use a small ice cream scoop and scoop the firm mixture onto a cutting board or plastic-lined plate. Using your hands or two tablespoons, shape each ball into an oval and place back on the board; return to the freezer. Otherwise, invert the entire block of filling onto the cutting board and cut into small cubes; return the cubes to the freezer. Freeze the eggs or cubes until very hard, another 2-4 hours.
Make the coating: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil over very low heat. Whisk in the carob powder and stevia until smooth. Transfer to a small, deep bowl.
Finish the eggs: Have a clean, plastic-lined board or plate at the ready. Working quickly, take the eggs (or cubes) one at a time and dip the bottom in the chocolate. Then place the egg gently on the tines of a large fork over the bowl (chocolate dipped side down) and, using a teaspoon, spoon melted chocolate over the top of the egg so that it runs down the top and sides and coats the entire egg. Tap the handle of the fork against the side of the bowl so that excess chocolate drips into the bowl. Gently push the egg off the fork and onto the plastic-lined plate. Depending on how quickly you work, you may want to keep the uncoated eggs in the freezer and just take them out one at a time.
Once all the eggs are coated, use any extra chocolate in the bowl to touch up little holes or spots on the eggs that aren’t well-coated in chocolate (any cracks or white spots will allow the cheesecake filling to seep through the coating later, once it is no longer frozen). Place the plate with the coated eggs in the refrigerator to allow the filling inside to defrost. Once the middle is no longer frozen (several hours to overnight), the cheesecake interior will be soft, creamy and smooth when you bite into it. For frozen cheesecake treats, keep the eggs in the freezer rather than the refrigerator. Makes 6-8 eggs.
**NOTE: if you are not on the ACD or don’t mind sugar, you can just use chocolate chips melted with 1 tsp (5 ml) coconut oil for the coating.
[A sweet treat to celebrate the firsts: sunflower butter cups--recipe below]
I hope everyone here in Canada had a great Victoria Day weekend!
It seems as if this past week has been filled with a few exciting firsts for me (hmm, that sounds rather like a post-virginal confession, somehow, doesn’t it? True, I was what you’d call a late bloomer, but even I am too old for that kind of “first.”). No, the firsts to which I refer involved a high profile TV appearance; a meetup with a fellow blogger, and happening upon a new ACD-friendly restaurant–all within three days.
First Number One (aka ”First First”): Those of you who follow me on twitter already know that I appeared on Canada AMthis past Thursday morning (and thanks for all the good wishes, everyone!). The show is the Canuck equivalent of Good Morning America or the Today Show in the US(it bills itself as “Canada’s most watched national morning show”) so I was beyond excited to be a guest!
I chatted about healthy eating and a few items from Sweet Freedom. It was very gratifying to see the show’s host express genuine delight (and, perhaps, surprise) after tasting some of the goodies. The clip was available last week on the Canada AM main page, but it appears it’s been usurped by more recent ones now; I’ll try to get it up on YouTube if I can.
First Number Two (“Second First”): I’m sure many of you have experienced this: you relate an anecdote about a fellow blogger, or wax enthusiastic about a food blog recipe you tried, and before you know it your husband/ significant other / friend/ relative’s eyes glaze over. Their expression combines equal parts disdain and pity. And without a sound, they arre able to communicate that, in their world, blog friendships couldn’t possibly be “real.” Like the HH, most of my friends perceive blog buddies on par with imaginary BFFs, as if I were a five year-old child recounting her vacant-chair tea party, or Jimmy Stewart in Harvey.
Now, anyone who writes or reads a blog with any regularity, anyone who has enjoyed a lively exchange of ideas in a comments queue, anyone who has shared a series of friendly emails with another blogger, or anyone who has participated in a blog exchange will know just how misguided such judgments are.
[My remake of a favorite salad at a local haunt: Insalata Roma, with mesclun mix, roasted red peppers, walnuts and "goat cheese"]
Last week, I had the unique pleasure of meeting one of my favorite “blogging buddies” in person: Amanda (of Still Life in Southeast Asia) was in Toronto and we met up for lunch. What a total delight it was to meet with her! I’ve been following Amanda’s blog ever since she lived in Buenos Aires, and have always admired her poet, evocative writing style and enchanting photographs. I learned a lot about the different places in which she’s lived (and there have been many) and vicariously enjoyed some of the local attractions through her posts.
Although we’d never set eyes on each other before that moment, we hugged each other warmly and immediately began chattering like Saturday morning regulars at the local beauty salon. To onlookers, we must have appeared like old room mates or relatives reunited. Because of our blog connection, we were able to dispense with so much of the usual introductions; and I didn’t have to explain about my dietary restrictions or the need for an ACD-friendly restaurant.
Have I mentioned before how much I love eating in restaurants? I’m guessing my predilection is partly inherited from my mom (who felt the same way), and partly as a reaction against my dad, who abhorred any food that wasn’t cooked at home. In fact, when my sisters and I were growing up, our family unit would eat in a restaurant perhaps once a year. (No, that’s not a typo: ONCE a YEAR).
Why this aversion on his part? It may have had something to do with the fact that my dad grew up on a farm and was accustomed to made-from-scratch foods. Or perhaps it was a consequence of his discovery, on an early date with my mom in Montreal’s Chinatown, of a matchstick (previously unlit) sharing space with the bean sprouts in his eggroll. Possibly, it was related to his work as a butcher, as he’d regularly share stories about local restaurants purchasing meat for daily specials from his store ; the meat was, he noted, barely a step above (and sometimes, below) dog food. In fact, I was basically forbidden from ever ordering hamburger in a restaurant.
[My version of my regular order at our local Middle Eastern resto: Israeli salad, with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion and avocado (and my addition of mixed lentil sprouts) with lemon-olive oil dressing.]
As for me, I rebelled against my father’s restaurant reluctance as soon as I was able to pay for my own food. With my forays to eating establishments decidedly restricted over the past fourteen months (fourteen months on the ACD? What kind of insanity is that?), I’ve resigned myself to meals in the same three places, over and over, with very limited choices from each menu. So I wasn’t quite sure where Amanda and I would end up. Which leads me to. . .
First Number Three (“Third First”): Almost as soon as we started walking, however, Amanda pointed to a new café (I’d never seen it before) called Kale Organic Eatery. A small, quaint and cosy spot that exuded warmth and welcome, it offered a limited but varied buffet of both cold and hot dishes. And everything on the menu was vegan–with many ACD-friendly options! Whoo-hoo! There was also a terrific selection of homemade desserts (it’s okay; I averted my eyes).
Talking almost nonstop between bites of beets, steamed greens, tamari-marinated tempeh and brown rice with nori, we breezed through two hours of animated chatter and before we knew it, I had to leave for an appointment. The company, the chat, the serendipitous restaurant find–it was a positive, energizing and fun way to spend an afternoon. Thanks so much, Amanda!
By the time I got home, I’d been thinking quite a bit about those desserts I couldn’t eat. I decided to whip up these sunbutter cups, a sugar-free, allergen free, ACD-friendly version of the classic with peanut butter. Of course, you can use whatever nut or seed butter you like, but I thought the sunflower seed butter offered a nice change of pace. The recipe is fairly small–just enough to share with a friend, whether virtual or otherwise.
Crunchy Sunbutter Chocolate Cups (ACD friendly Phase II and beyond)
Of course, you can fill these cups with whatever filling you choose; almond butter is ACD-friendly and would compliment the chocolate beautifully, as would walnut-cacao butter. I chose sunbutter so that the cups would be allergy-friendly as well–and they tasted terrific!
about 1/4 cup (60 ml) crunchy sunflower seed butter (or use 3 Tbsp/45 ml smooth butter and stir in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coarsely ground sunflower seeds)
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15-25 drops stevia, to taste (or use about 1 Tbsp/15 ml agave nectar)
2 oz (60 g) good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) carob powder
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic
35-45 drops chocolate, vanilla, or plain stevia liquid (to taste)
Line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.
Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the sunflower butter, salt, vanilla and stevia to taste. Line a plate with plastic wrap and, using about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) for each, drop mounds of the mixture onto the plastic and place in the freezer until firm.
Prepare the chocolate cups: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the chocolate, carob powder and coconut oil. Stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the stevia and stir to combine well. Using about 2 tsp of the mixture for each cup, cover the bottom of the cups with chocolate. Place the cups in the freezer until firm, about 5 minutes.
Once the sunflower butter mixture is firm, shape each mound into a flat disk that is just smaller in diameter than the bottom of each chocolate cup. Place one disk in each cup (it should almost cover the surface of the chocolate, leaving a very thin border of chocolate showing all around the disk). Then, using about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of chocolate per cup, pour the melted chocolate over sunflower filling, allowing it to flow into the edges and cover the top, effectively effectively encasing the filling in chocolate.
Return the cups to the freezer until all the chocolate is firm. Peel off paper and enjoy. Makes 4 cups. May be stored, wrapped in plastic, in refrigerator up to one week.
One night when I was sixteen, I watched Marvin Hamlisch (composer of A Chorus Line, etc.) on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The previous guest was Adrienne Barbeau, the buxom actress who played Bea Arthur’s daughter on the sitcom Maude. I was appalled as I witnessed Hamlisch, seated on the couch beside her, stammer and fidget (eyes flitting repeatedly toward her massive chest) while more or less grovelling for a date on air. Despite his musical genius, despite his fame and fortune and an upcoming gig at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, it was painfully apparent that Hamlish reverted to a tongue-tied nerd when faced with a beautiful woman who, clearly, barely registered his existence.
As soon as I got up off the sofa and turned off the television (no remotes in those days), I went to my typewriter and typed a letter to Marvin. It said:
Dear Marvin Hamlisch,
Someone with your reputation shouldn’t have to lower himself to ask Adrienne Barbeau for a date. Obviously, she doesn’t appreciate your genius. If you ever come to Montreal, I would go on a date with you any time.
(Miss) Ricki Heller
I addressed it to “Marvin Hamlisch, c/o Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, USA” and popped it in the mail.
The following week, I received a handwritten letter on Marvin’s personal stationery. It said:
If I ever get to Montreal, you’re on.
Sometimes I think back on that letter and ask myself, “Wow, did I ever really have such audacity? Where did that starry-eyed insouciance go? And why didn’t Marvin ever call me for that date?”
Then I remember: oh, yeah. I was sixteen.
Well, dear readers, I’ve decided it’s time to dredge up my inner 16 year-old once again. And you can help!
Even at my advanced age, I’m still a pop culture groupie. I’ve been a fan of Ellen’s for as long as I can remember (almost as long as it’s been since I heard from Marvin). I love her even more now that she’s vegan and sugar-free–and I want to be on The Ellen Degeneres Showso I can bring her some amazing baked goods from my cookbook, Sweet Freedom!
[Elsie's definitely on board! (or is that a little board on Elsie?)]
Am I a little bit crazy? You betcha!
As someone who’s followed a whole foods diet for over decade, I know first hand how much a healthy diet can affect your well-being (just look at the impact of the ACD on me over this past year!). Based on the cookbook’s reviews and all your fabulous feedback (thank you! thank you! My blog readers are the best!), I’m confident others will agree that treats from the book are both healthy AND delicious. What better venue to spread the word than The Ellen Show, especially since the show’s star herself has adopted–and now promotes–this same way of eating?
["Here, Mum, you'll need this to dance on the show."]
Besides, I’d be a perfect guest for the show! We have so much in common, Ellen and I: She loves dogs; I love dogs. She eats a vegan diet; I eat a vegan diet. She’s sworn off sugar; I’ve sworn off sugar. She loves American Idol; I love American Idol. She’s gay; I’m—
She loves dogs; I love dogs!
And you can help! On April 2, 2010, I tweeted for an entire day nonstop, with every single tweet that day directed to @TheEllenShow–with NO laptop, NO BlackBerry, NO pre-scheduled tweets–just me sitting at my desktop computer, typing away (with the occasional bathroom break)! The major blitz is over, but I’d like to keep the campaign going!
["Mum, I know you named me Elsie, but I think I'd like to be called Ellen from now on."]
Together, we can make this happen! If you like my recipes and want to see me serve delicious, vegan and sugar free treats on The Ellen Show, please feel free to tweet Ellen at @TheEllenShow, or send an email in support byclicking here. You can also post a link to this page on your blog, Stumble this blog entry (just click on “I like this” at the top of the page if you see this on StumbleUpon), tell your local librarian, get a tattoo–whatever works!
And don’t forget tohop back here to leave a comment telling me you did so (so I can send you a free copy of the book if when I get onto the show)!
[But where's Mum?]
If I get invited on the show, every single commenter who participates in this blitz will win a FREE copy of Sweet Freedom, the ebook , which is identical to the paper copy! (And isn’t giving away free goodies very Ellen-like of me?).
And even if I don’t get asked to appear on the show, I’ll still choose 10 names at random on Sunday–three people will win hard copies of the book, and seven will win ebook. It’s my way of saying “thank you” for all your support!
I think it’s a win-win-win. If Ellen invites me to her show, she’ll have the opportunity to try some amazing, healthy baked goods. I’ll get to fulfill the dream of a starry-eyed teenager (and, more recently, a starry-eyed menopausal blogger). And you will get a FREE copy of my cookbook–everybody wins!
Let’s make it happen! Let’s show the world what “grassroots marketing” really means! Let’s prove to all the aloof, disinterested corporations that even the little guy (okay, technically I’m not quite “little” yet–but 45 pounds is nothing to sneeze at) can drum up support for an independent project without a huge marketing budget! Let’s help Ellen discover some truly delicious sweets to eat on her sugar cleanse–and share them with the world! And let’s all go try out one of these raw cookie dough truffles right now! (Well, you’ll need a good source of quick energy for all that typing, I figure).
As soon as I saw this recipe on Alicia’s blog, I knew I had to try it. The filling emulates a real raw cookie dough almost too well–gooey, sweet, chocolately. Except, um, it’s not bad for you! AND it’s ACD-friendly! Variations are endless, as well–in addition to the two provided, you could try banana cookie dough, gingersnap, or snickerdoodles–mmmm!
2 Tbsp (30 ml) raw cacao nibs or chocolate chips*
1/3 cup (80 ml) whole old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cook)
2/3 cup (160 ml) lightly toasted cashews*, walnuts, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
10-20 drops plain or vanilla flavored stevia liquid, to taste
1-2 Tbsp water or plain soy or almond milk, if needed
4 ounces (110 g) unsweetened chocolate
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil
2 Tbsp (30 ml) carob powder, sifted (it helps cut the bitterness when unsweetened chocolate is stevia-sweetened)
20-30 drops stevia liquid, to taste
In a small food processor or coffee grinder, pulse the cacao nibs 3-4 times to chop them up. Turn the chopped nibs into a small bowl.
In the same processor or grinder, whir the oats, cashews, cinnamon and salt together to form a fine flour. Take care not to process too much–it should still remain dry and floury.
In a very small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the yacon, vanilla, stevia, and 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water. Pour this over the mixture in the processor and process to form a soft “dough” (if you need more water, add it one teaspoon/5 ml at a time). Turn the dough into the bowl with the cacao nibs and stir to distribute the nibs throughout.
Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop the dough and place scoops on parchment-lined tray. Freeze until firm, then roll into balls; refreeze until solid.
Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate coating: In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil and carob, whisking to ensure that no lumps develop. Whisk in stevia until smooth.
Once cookie dough balls are solid, remove from freezer and quickly dip them in the chocolate; roll them around if necessary. The coating should harden almost immediately. Remove with a fork and tap the fork on the side of the pot to remove most of the excess coating. Place truffles on a tray and refrigerate until firm. Store truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Makes 10 truffles. May be frozen.
* Some anti-candida diets veto cashews. If you don’t eat cashews, use one of the other choices. For ACD Phase I, you can use unsweetened carob chips instead of cacao nibs; omit the coating and just roll the balls in carob powder.
Carrot Cookie Variation: use 2 Tbsp (30 ml) dried unsweetened coconut in place of cacao nibs, walnuts in place of cashews, and 2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely grated carrot in addition to other ingredients. Reduce initial water to 2 tsp (10 ml).
Post-Script: I realize this stunt may seem rather, well, adolescent to some of you (and to others, a clear indication that midlife crisis has struck with a vengeance). And after this post, I promise we’ll be back to business as usual here on DDD. But you know what? I still get a kick out of that letter from Hamlisch. So for now, I’ll once again channel that audacious sixteen year old, just for today. I figure, what have I got to lose? I’ll either be asked on the show; or I may be permanently banned from the show. Either way, the process will be fun.
And maybe–just maybe–that 16 year-old girl of yore will be surprised and delighted once more, with an opportunity of a lifetime. Here’s to healthy baked goods for all!
* that’s “bites” in the sense of, “little tidbits that can be eaten in one mouthful,” rather than the sense of, “really sucks” (as in, “reality bites”) or even “little nibbles on the flesh of the one you love” (though, to paraphrase our most famous Prime Minister, DDD has no business in the kitchens of the nation–go ahead and nibble your sweetie, if you so please!).
[Two ACD-friendly confections: chocolate fudge on the left, carob-speckled halvah on the right (halvah recipe adapted from the one inSweet Freedom)]
Well, it’s almost V-Day again. So, got any plans?
Over here in the DDD household, the HH and I long ago abandoned romance. Or perhaps I should rephrase that: the HH abandoned romance. I, on the other hand (nerd alert! nerd alert!) am the kind of gal who would swim in a river of romance if I could find one. I’d eat a triple-decker Banana Split of romance. I’d paint a billboard of romance. I’d crochet a three-piece suit of romance. I’d sleep on a duvet of romance. (“Mum, we’d sleep on a duvet of romance, too, you know. Except you won’t let us on the furniture.”)
I’d–well, you get the idea. Basically, I’m just a big blob of schmaltz (in the figurative sense, that is. I’m only a half blob of schmaltz in the literal sense, what will all that weight loss and everything).
In our house, my approach to Valentine’s Day goes something like this:
February 17, 2009: start thinking about ideas for next year’s V-Day.
July 12, 2009: while enjoying the outdoor jazz festival at the Beaches, surreptitiously write down all the HH’s favorite musicians so I can buy CDs for Valentine’s Day.
November 4, 2009: Stop at craft store to select yarn to knit a romantic scarf for the HH for V-Day. If I start knitting now, I’ll have it for Feb 14th.
January 15, 2010: So many cards for Valentine’s Day–which should I buy? Can’t decide. Buy two.
January 28, 2010: Browse through a plethora of blogs and magazines to find the perfect, romantic meal to cook up for Valentine’s Day. Consult existing list (alphabetized by course) to see which dishes would work best for the Big Feb One-Four.
February 2, 2010: Forget the groundhog! Must choose the perfect ribbon to wrap the HH’s Valentine’s Day gift!
February 9, 2010: Consider how best to deliver the HH’s gifts for the Day of Hearts–only five days away! Should I wrap each one separately, and hide them throughout the house in a kind of scavenger hunt? Should I put them all in the same box, and wrap it as one gift? Such decisions!
February 11, 2010: Pretend I’m baking for a TV spot when I am really secretly cooking up various kinds of chocolate truffles to include in my gift for the HH.
February 14, 2010: Fill a shoebox with mini teddy bear, hand-knit scarf, bag of cinnamon hearts, boxes of homemade truffles, key chain with “I heart You” on it, Miles Davis CD and Card #1 (the sappy one). Spend a couple of hours painstakingly drawing hearts and flowers plus line drawings of Ricki and the HH, in various shades of pink and red, on the outside of the shoebox, then wrapping with blue satin ribbon; stick Card #2 (the funny one) on the outside of the box. Set table with best linens (well, polyester made to look like linen, anyway), china, wine glasses and candlelight. Play something soft and romantic like Satie’s Petite Overture a Danser, and wait for the romance to unfold.
The HH’s approach? Goes something like this:
February 14, 2010: “So, is today one of those holidays where I have to get you a card or you get mad at me?”
Okay, I exaggerate. He usually asks me that question on February thirteenth.
Well, for anyone with similar romantic aspirations to mine, I present you with little bites of chocolate fudge–ACD friendly. These are an adaptation of the super-successful Fudge Two Ways I made a couple of years ago (and feel free to use that recipe if you can consume other sweeteners). The communion of unsweetened chocolate, yacon syrup and stevia creates an irresistible flavor, a bittersweet blend of cacao underscored with subtle hints of molasses.
Whether or not you’re hoping for romance this V-Day, these little bites will definitely bring some alluring chocolate into your life. In fact, you may just fall in love.
Love Bites (ACD-Friendly Chocolate Fudge–suitable for Phase I or II)
[Little white dots of cashew and macadamia nut are visible throughout, a result of my home-ground nut butters; the storebought kind won't have these same speckles.]
3/4 cup (130 g) chopped good-quality unsweetened chocolate (I used Cocoa Camino); or use unsweetened carob chips for ACD Phase I
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic (USE ONLY with carob option)
1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth cashew-macadamia butter (I just mixed together half cashew, half macadamia nut butter); or use all-macadamia for ACD Phase I
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) yacon syrup, vegetable glycerin, or a combination
10-20 drops plain, vanilla, or chocolate stevia liquid, depending on the brand and your desired sweetness level
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/4 cup (30 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, if desired
Lightly grease a 6 inch (15 cm) loaf pan, or line with plastic wrap.
In a large glass or metal bowl set over a smaller pot of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water), stir the chocolate (or chips and coconut oil, if using carob chips) until melted and completely smooth. Add the nut butter and salt and stir again until combined. Remove from the heat.
Add the yacon syrup, stevia, vanilla and nuts and stir well. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Chill until set, about an hour; then cover with more plastic wrap and chill until very firm, 2 hours to overnight. Turn out onto a cutting board, peel away the plastic wrap, and cut into small squares. Makes 12-20 love bites. Will keep, wrapped in the refrigerator, up to 2 weeks. May be frozen.
* Sorry, couldn’t resist. Please feel free to groan.
[A cuppa matcha, pure and straightforward. . . a warm, comforting, health-boosting sip to enjoy daily!]
* * * * For details and to enter the Matcha giveaway, see the end of this post! * * * *
You know, sometimes I actually forget it’s the 21st Century. After all, I’ve spent more of my life before 2000 than since. Yet there’s no doubt that we’ve already lost many 20th Century conventions–handkerchiefs, girdles, bank withdrawal forms. Still, the real changes have all emerged in the realm of communications. When’s the last time you heard of someone receiving a telegram? Or how about rotary telephones–remember how reviled those people were whose numbers contained too many zeroes? And who still writes letters–old-fashioned, pen-and-paper-walk-to-the-mailbox-to-mail-’em letters? They’re more or less obsolete, too.
I do miss letter writing, though. Over the years, I’ve exchanged letters with two devoted correspondents: one was my revered mentor, John Ditsky, whose missives seemed to arrive at my home practically before I’d returned from the mailbox to deposit my own letters to him. The other is my Japanese penpal, Masayo, whom I’ve known since we were both twelve years old.
Back in sixth grade, my school received letters from six Japanese girls seeking Canadian penpals. Ever the nerd (and always interested in writing), I responded to all six. Over the next year, all but one dropped away, and we continued to correspond, at the rate of 2-3 letters per month, for the next 30 years or so.
When we were about 18, Masayo wrote to tell me she had planned a summer vacation in Canada. Of course, I immediately invited her to stay for as long as she liked with me and my family in Montreal (fortunately, this was okay with my parents, too). She was landing in Vancouver on July 12, she wrote back, and would I be so kind as to pick her up at the airport? (for the non-Canadians among you, that’s tantamount to asking someone in New York City to pop over and pick you up at the airport in Los Angeles).
I explained that distances in North America were, perhaps, a tad greater than those on the islands of Japan. Astonished at the possibility, Mako nevertheless arranged for a second flight to Montreal.
[Matcha-Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles: a perfect healthy indulgence!]
On the eve of her arrival, I waited anxiously at the airport with my dad for the plane to disembark. Over the years, of course, I’d seen innumerable photos of Masayo and felt fairly confident I could recognize her in a crowd. My eyes trained on the exit stairs attached to the airplane, I’d stare with steely eyed intensity each time a petite, dark-haired woman emerged from the doors, only to be disappointed as she passed by.
Finally, I heard what seemed like a tiny, disembodied voice calling from somewhere above my field of vision. From within the throng of passengers there stood before me a petite young girl with a mop of wavy black hair, perfectly coiffed in the ultra-hip shag haircut of the day. She wore black Calvin Klein jeans and a screamingly vibrant Hawaiian shirt. As she glided toward us, her dainty feet seemingly floating along the stairs, she called out in her delicate, excited falsetto: “Ricki! It’s Masayo! Ricki!”
We hugged and immediately began to chatter as if we’d known each other our whole lives: How was Vancouver? How was the trip? Do you live far from here? How do you like Canada? Is everything here so big? Is all of Canada this beautiful? I love your shirt! I love yours, too! We continued the gabfest until well past 2:00 AM the next morning, giggling and squealing as we confirmed, in person, a friendship we’d established on paper over the previous six years.
The next day, I knocked on Mako’s door. What followed was a classic ”Who’s on First” exchange.
Me: [knocking on door]: Mako?
Me: Hi, good morning! Is it okay to come in?
Me: Er, hi. Did I wake you?
Me: Sorry. Is it okay if I open the door?
Me: Hi. Should I wait for you to get dressed?
Me: Okay. So should I meet you upstairs?
Me: [at a loss] Hi. . .
What I hadn’t realized, you see, was that Mako might still be suffering from jet lag, and too sleepy to remember to translate Japanese into English. And I didn’t know at the time that ”Hai” (sounding like “hi”) in Japanese means “yes” while “Eee-ya” (resembling “yeah”) means “No.”
The trip was, truly, a once in a lifetime experience, and we forged a bond that has lasted until this day. I was thrilled to discover that Mako was witty, upbeat, silly, smart, hip, and fun to be with–all the qualities I loved in my closest friends. She was also incredibly generous, toting a huge sack of gifts for everyone in the family.
[Frozen Matcha Latte--so simple, and so refreshing.]
I was given a purple and indigo kimono (which she helped me to tie in the traditional manner–so much excess cloth!) and a beautiful, delicate and hand-painted porcelain tea set along with a cannister of Japanese tea. I’d never seen tea like that before, light and loose and intensely green. Mako explained that this tea had amazing medicinal properties and that she was wont to drink an entire teapot of the stuff herself in an evening. The first time I brewed the tea for myself, I was surprised anew at how green it was, like a freshly mown lawn in summer. Eventually, I grew to appreciate the slightly bitter, astringent flavor of the matcha, and, before I knew it, the cannister was empty. And while I continued to use the tea service for years afterward (I searched, in vain, to find it for this post; sadly, it is buried under some of the other 57 boxes still unpacked in our basement), I never did buy more Japanese green tea.
This past week, I returned on a wave of sensory memory to that long-ago summer of Masayo’s visit. After receiving a sample pack of tea from Matcha Source, I’ve been once again imbibing the green stuff, as well as cooking with it. I love it as much as I did back then–and this time, I vowed, I won’t let three decades elapse before I buy more!
Pleased with the opportunity to play with some matcha recipes, I decided to use the tea for more than a simple brew (though I do adore the tea on its own). Here’s what I came up with.
If you’ve never experienced matcha green tea before, now’s your opportunity to try it!
A perfect treat for any chocolate lovers. The pairing of deep, dark bittersweet chocolate and slightly bitter, umami matcha is, unequivocally, one of the most heavenly taste combinations I’ve ever savored. Feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste–these are deliberately just barely sweet.
1 cup (240 ml) full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Sucanat (optional)
12 ounces (340 g) good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder, plus more for dusting
pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, place the coconut milk, maple syrup, Sucanat (if using), chocolate, 1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder, and sea salt. Cook over lowest heat possible, stirring constantly, until chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add vanilla and stir to blend well.
Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until just solid enough to hold its shape. Using a small scoop or teaspoon, roll mounds of dough into balls and place on a plate covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until solid.
Just before serving, sift a bit more matcha powder over the tops. Makes 30-40 truffles. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 5 days (good luck keeping them that long!).
ACD-Friendly Matcha Chocolate Truffles
10-1/2 ounces (300 g) chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used Cocoa Camino)
3/4 cup (180 ml) full fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-20 drops stevia liquid, to taste
Matcha powder, for dusting
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the chocolate, coconut milk, matcha powder, and salt over lowest heat possible until most of the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and stevia, and stir until all the chocolate melts and mixture is perfectly smooth. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill until set.
Using a small scoop or teaspoon, roll the mixture into balls (it will begin to melt on your hands). Once rolled, dust the truffles with additional matcha. Chill until ready to serve. Will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 5 days. Makes 12-20 truffles.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until the ice is completely incorporated. (If your blender isn’t strong enough to pulverize all the ice, then strain the mixture through a sieve before drinking). Pour into serving glasses and enjoy immediately. Makes 2 servings.
If you’ve never experienced matcha green tea before, now’s your opportunity to try it!
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. 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 easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
I heard an interview the other day on CBC radio (ie, home of the dreamy Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q and object of my major, make-me-squeal-like-a-tween-at-a-Jonas-Brothers-concert, crush) with a woman whose father had Huntington’s Disease. She had decided not to be tested to see if she had inherited the wayward gene because, as she observed, “We’re not meant to know the future” (or something like that).
Would you choose to be privy to your own fate if you could? Well, perhaps where deadly diseases are concerned, I’d say “yes”; but in day-to-day matters, it might make for total paralysis if we knew the outcome of our every move.
Take Vegan MoFo, for instance (from fatal illness to food blogging? How’s that for an original segue?). Ah, yes, I had such good intentions for Vegan MoFo. When I first heard about the event last October, it was too late to participate. I vowed I’d play along this year. But when the time came, I was overwhelmed by ongoing ACD woes and challenges at work; so I decided to sit it out this round as well. “No matter,” I reasoned, “I’ll simply read from the bounty of other vegan blogs (and there sure are enough from which to choose!), and comment instead.”
Or so I thought.
Was that REALLY 224 items in my Google Reader last weekend?? Yep.
And so, apologies to all the wonderful MoFo’ers out there. I’ve opted to read more and comment less. But please know that I am reading and enjoying all the amazing foods, ideas, and photos (so many cute pets, too!) that people are posting. Yay MoFo!
Similarly, when I started this ACD last March (March?!), it never occurred to me I’d still be on the diet this far into the game (perhaps if I’d foreseen the outcome, I would never have started). And while the weight is still moving downward (albeit at a much slower pace) and I do feel better overall, I have not yet reached my objective of “all candida symptoms eradicated,” nor my “goal weight” (still about 7 pounds away–though I may revise the number when I get there).
A major problem for many people following the ACD is the lack of sweeteners except for stevia, an herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. Now in Phase II of the program, I’m allowed one fruit per day and a few more grains (welcome, Oh Beloved Oats, back into my life!), but that still leaves me adrift when it comes to desserts.
Don’t get me wrong; stevia is great, and I use it in oatmeal, smoothies, salad dressings, and teas; but it is NOT great for baking.
And I dearly miss baking.
Worse, my few experiments in baking with stevia have resulted in, shall we say, less than fortunate outcomes.
“Mum, they’re fortunate for us! We love those new dog cookies you gave us yesterday!”
On the other hand, there are many other desserts that can be sweetened with stevia. In my earlier post, “Anti-Candida Desserts: What Can You Eat?” I wrote about Raw Key Lime Pie (with a secret ingredient!) and Carob-Coconut Sweeties, soft and creamy dessert tidbits made with carob, almond butter, and coconut. And yet, I felt that something was still missing.
Which brings me. . . FINALLY, to chocolate. (See what I mean about knowing the future? If you’d known I would ramble this long before getting to the recipe, you might have opted out of this blog post.).
If you were reading this blog before I started the ACD, you already know how much I love chocolate. Chocolate is my Romeo. Chocolate is my Mark Antony. Chocolate is my Edward. Sadly, chocolate is also my albatross, my Picture of Dorian Gray, my Great White Whale*, and a major reason why I found myself in this candida dilemma in the first place.
So what’s a gal to eat when she loves chocolate, but can’t indulge? Why, she makes up her own, stevia-sweetened substitute, that’s what!
Today’s recipe is for faux chocolate made with carob. I have tried it with cocoa powder as well, but find that so much stevia is required to sweeten the cocoa that the taste is rather unpleasant. However, if you can use agave, I’d recommend giving that a whirl instead. The recipe itself is so simple it’s outlandish. Equal parts carob powder, silken tofu, and coconut oil. A splash of vanilla, a few drops stevia, pinch of salt. That’s it! And yet the outcome is smooth, creamy, solid, chocolate-hued.
For those on soy-free diets, you can, certainly, omit the tofu. I tried the recipe this way initially and the flavor was fine, but the texture was much denser (in fact, brick-solid) when refrigerated. It also melted quickly at room temperature. I found that the addition of tofu rendered this smooth and creamy, much more like real chocolate (though slightly less dense than the real thing).
Maybe I can’t read the future, but I do know there will be more of this sweet treat in my life from now on.
“Mum, we see faux chocolate in our future, too! After all, carob is totally safe for dogs, you know.”
* Actually, with chocolate in my life, I myself am more like the Great White Whale.
With a hefty portion of coconut oil in the mix, all you need of this confection is a small square to satisfy your sweet cravings. But don’t feel guilty if you end up having more–organic coconut oil is heart-healthy, and carob contains a good amount of calcium!
4 Tbsp (15 ml x 4) extra firm silken tofu (such as Mori Nu)
1/4 cup (60 ml) organic coconut oil, firm at room temperature*
1/4 cup (30 g) carob powder
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-15 drops stevia liquid
pinch fine sea salt
If you have chocolate molds, keep them at the ready. Alternately, stretch a piece of plastic wrap across a dinner plate (to create a smooth, taut surface on the plastic) and set aside (this is what I did).
In a small food processor (I used a Mini Prep), measure out the tofu one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time (it’s true that 4 Tbsp/60 ml is the same as 1/4 cup, but I found that the tofu must be fairly firmly packed, and I achieved a more consistent result by measuring it one spoon at a time). Blend a few seconds to break up the tofu.
Add the coconut oil and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Don’t overblend at this stage; you don’t want the oil to melt!
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth and creamy and no tofu is visible. Scrape sides occasionally to incorporate all bits of tofu. The consistency should be like a smooth buttercream frosting (and, in fact, you can use it as such at room temperature).
Either fill the molds or spread the mixture in a rough square over the surface of the plastic wrap. Pull the sides of the wrap over the square one side at a time to enclose the faux chocolate in plastic. Refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours), then cut in small squares. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week. Makes 12-20 squares (depending on how big you cut them).
* If you room is warm enough that the coconut oil has begun to melt, place it in the refrigerator for a while until it firms up again. It should be solid when you begin the recipe.
Are you looking forward to V-Day next week? Seems most people either love it or hate it. Being from the “never too much schmaltz” school of romance, I love Valentine’s Day. Even during all those years before I met the HH, I’d always endeavor to celebrate somehow. I’d send cards to my friends or my sisters. I’d invite a gal pal for dinner so we could sip Shiraz together and muse about how few good men there were out there. One year, I think I even bought myself roses (must have been my “I am woman, hear me roar” phase).
The contest asks you to create a romantic dish using one or more vegetables of your choice. Last year, I came up with a Vegan Molten Chocolate Cake recipe using puréed zucchini and spinach. I loved the taste of the cakes, but the molten filling was temperamental–sometimes it formed a lovely, floating cloud of lava in the center of the cake, as it was supposed to do; other times, the filling got sucked up by the batter and all that remained was a tiny disk of tar-like chocolate at its core. You’d think I’d give up on sweets with veggies in them. But no. . .
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, sweet potatoes are my favorite vegetable. I love sweet potatoes in just about anything (or, as I’ve seen the phrase skipping around the blogosphere lately, I lurrrve sweet potatoes). When I was on the anti-candida diet several years ago, sweet potatoes became my favorite veggie (and my favorite brekkie). They’re a healthy vegetable. They’re orange. They’re sweet. And their name sounds like a term of endearment: “Oh, why so coy, my little Sweet Potato? Come on over here and let me help you out of that peel.” Why not use them as the basis for a sweet filling in a Valentine’s Day truffle, then?
This year’s recipe really should have made it into the cookbook–it’s that good. What you’ll end up with is an insanely creamy, smooth, rich-tasting truffle filling, vibrantly orange and steeped in citrus flavor. In fact, no one would ever guess it contained one of the world’s healthiest roots. I fed 0ne of these beauties to the HH, and he literally licked his fingers clean, enthusing, ”This tastes exactly like a really fine quality, high-end chocolate!” This from a guy who’d normally consume chocolates with cream, butter and white sugar. “There is no trace of sweet potato flavor in these,” he went on. “All you taste is the orange” (enhanced with a splash of Cointreau–though you can use orange juice if you prefer alcohol-free confections).
Even if you’re not into chocolates, the filling on its own makes a fabulous, versatile frosting. Rich and fluffy, sweetened with agave and boasting the added fiber of the sweet potato, I’m guessing that the total GI (glycemic index) of this frosting is fairly low and could be used successfully by those on a variety of restricted diets. (See instructions in the Variation, below).
I’ll definitely be making these again for V-Day (the half-batch I concocted is already long gone). Even if you don’t celebrate the Big V, it’s worth making a batch of these. Give yourself a little gift of Vegetable Love this year.
This is my submission to Susan’s contest. You have until tomorrow at midnight to enter if you’re so inclined!
Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles or Truffle Cups
1 cup (240 ml) packed sweet potato purée, from one very large sweet potato (see instructions)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) organic cornstarch, plus up to one more Tbsp (15 ml), if necessary (see instructions)
1/3 cup (80 g) refined organic coconut oil (or use unrefined if you don’t mind a coconut flavor) plus up to 2 more Tbsp (30 ml), if necessary to thicken the filling (see instructions)
finely grated zest of one large organic orange (I used a microplane grater)
1/4 cup (35 g) light spelt flour
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
1/3 cup (80 ml) light agave nectar
1/2 cup (120 ml) plain or vanilla rice milk
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Cointreau or liqueur of your choice (Frangelico also worked well in these), or substitute orange juice
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Coating or Cups:
1 cup (200 g) dairy free chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
1 tsp (5 ml) refined organic coconut oil (or use unrefined if you don’t mind a coconut flavor)
Make the sweet potato purée in advance: Preheat oven to 400F (200 C). Place unskinned sweet potato on a baking sheet and bake until very tender, about an hour. (You can boil the sweet potato instead of baking it, but I find the flavor is vastly inferior that way.) Allow to cool, then peel and purée the flesh in a food processor until very smooth.
Measure out 1 scant cup (230 ml) of the purée and reserve the rest for another use. Return the one cup purée to the processor along with the cornstarch and coconut oil, and blend until very smooth.
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the flour, salt and agave nectar until smooth. Add the rice milk slowly and whisk until incorporated; sttir in the orange zest. (Combining the flour and agave first before the milk helps to prevent lumps from forming).
Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble and thicken; lower heat to simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 more seconds. The mixture will thicken very suddenly and you’ll need some muscle power to keep stirring; it will end up like a very thick paste or glue. (A silicon spatula is useful when stirring, as you can scrape the sides and bottom of the pot to prevent scorching). Remove from heat and stir in the liqueur and vanilla until combined.
Turn the hot mixture directly into the processor bowl with the sweet potato and whir until the mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy. It should be soft, but stiff enough to hold a shape.
If the mixture is too thin to hold a shape, it may be that your sweet potatoes were moister than mine (the amount of moisture in the potatoes will vary from batch to batch). You can try one of these two things:
To thicken the filling (only if necessary): 1) Melt an additional 2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut oil. With the processor running, slowly add the oil to the mixture and blend it in. It should thicken up nicely. OR, 2) Add another 1 Tbsp (15 ml) cornstarch to the processor bowl, and blend it in to the mixture.
For truffles: Pour the filling into a deep bowl and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 3 hours. Then, using a melon baller, mini ice cream scoop or teaspoon, scoop balls of filling onto a cookie sheet that’s been lined with plastic wrap; place in the freezer until firm.
Once the truffle filling is frozen, proceed to dip the truffles: In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water (the bowl should be large enough that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), melt the chocolate and coconut oil together until smooth. Using two forks held facing each other, dip the truffles one at a time, tapping the forks on the edge of the bowl to release excess chocolate, and place them on the plastic. Allow to firm up in the refrigerator (they will actually begin to firm up fairly quickly because of the frozen filling) Using more melted chocolate, decorate tops with swirls or heart shapes if desired. Store in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature. Makes 12-15 truffles.
For chocolate truffle cups: Set the filling aside while you prepare the chocolate cups. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water (the bowl should be large enough that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), melt the chocolate and coconut oil together until smooth. Use about 3/4 tsp (3.5 ml) to coat the bottom and up the sides of 12-15 mini foil cups. Place the cups in the freezer for a couple of minutes to firm up.
Using 1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) of filling for each cup, fill the chocolate cups with the sweet potato mixture and smooth the top. Return to the freezer for another 5 minutes or so until the tops of the filling are firm.
Cover each cup with another 1 tsp (5 ml) chocolate, and spread it gently to cover, ensuring that the chocolate is sealed at the edges and no bits of sweet pototo show through. Keep refrigerated until firm, then remove from fridge , immediately peel off the paper cups, and allow to come to room temperature before serving (these are much better served at room temperature, but the cups will stick to them if you try to unwrap them once they’re no longer cold). Makes 12-15 truffle cups.
Frosting Variation: After the filling is prepared, turn it into a deep bowl and refrigerate until cold and very firm, at least 2 hours.
Using electric beaters, beat the mixture until it begins to lighten both in color and texture (it will become airy and fluffy). Use as desired to frost cupcakes, cakes, etc. Makes enough to frost a single 9″ (20 cm) round or square layer.
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 treats!”)
[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
[Dig those green threads of lime zest in there! Red and green--how festive!]
I bet you can tell from the title alone that this is a retro recipe. For me, the name “Tutti Fruiti” brings to mind Mrs. Cunningham’s kitchen on Happy Days, or Leave it to Beaver, or Doris Day. I mean, it just sounds so Barbie doll. . .so potroast-and-mashed-potatoes. . . so poodle skirts and bobbysocks. . . so 1950s Housewife. Or does it?
Maybe it’s just me, but just when did feminism get such a bad rap? (Oh oh–I’ve uttered the “F-Word”!! I can hear the roar of footsteps as droves of my readers hightail it for the exit). But seriously. I happened to grow up during a time of great social change for women, when being able to make our own choices and earn our own money was still a novelty, one that was both thrilling, and ground-breaking. (Hmm. Sort of reminds me of the excitement in the air over recent political developments, too).
These days, I’m sensing a backward shift in attitude all over the media. It makes me sad to think that young women today feel they can’t embrace independence and self-sufficiency without giving up everything old-fashioned at the same time. Claims of Grrrrrrl power from hyper-sexed, no-unmentionable-flaunting, party-hardy starlets who trumpet liberation but are really just craving male attention are just one facet of the problem. You know that social attitudes have really shifted when they hit your soap opera. As The World Turns (my own indulgence, as I may have mentioned before) may have one of the first gay story lines on daytime, but they seem to have abandoned their women back in the fifties.
Case in Point: Jack and Carly. Here’s a sample:
Carly [to her ex-husband, Jack]: What? You spent the $5000 intended for our son’s boarding school tuition on your new wife-to-be’s wedding dress??!!
Jack: Don’t worry, Carly, I will make sure our kids are taken care of.
Carly: I’m warning you, Jack, you’d better not squander your money on that woman. If our kids have to suffer because you can’t pay for them. . . well, I promise you, I will make your life a living hell.
Jack: I told you I’d take care of it, Carly, and I will! [storms off in a huff.]
Does anyone else read that dialogue and wonder, “Um, excuse me, but where is Carly’s portion of that tuition?” Why isn’t she also contributing to her son’s schooling? And before you hurl epithets at my insensitivity to the woman’s dilemma, consider that Carly’s character is supposedly a millionaire. That’s right: as a former high-flying fashion designer, she has way more money than her honest-cop ex-husband. Yet despite rolling in dough, she expects the man to pay for everything. Poor old Gloria Steinem (and I suppose she really is old, nowadays) is probably rolling over in her Playboy bunny suit.
I don’t see any conflict of interest in calling myself a feminist and still enjoying all the activities that take place in the kitchen (no, not those activities, people! I was referring to cooking, baking, eating and the like!) In fact, I’ve always been proud to use the title ”Ms.” (and no, it’s not just a title for divorced women). Another shock: I also retained my name when I got married (to the first one, not the HH). I mean, I’d had the name since I was born, didn’t I? I was pretty attached to it. My ex-husband argued that we were more of a coherent “team” with the same last name. Okay, I countered, then let “the team” carry my last name. (I’m afraid I can’t reprint what he said in response to that.)
And what does this sudden pro-feminist rant have to do with cookies, you may wonder?
Well, in high school, one of the greatest feminist role models I’ve ever known was Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. J was quite a powerhouse: she held a full-time job as a high school teacher; she was on various academic boards; she had a part-time freelance gig outside of school; and she was one all around tough cookie (no pun intended). Probably only about 10 years my senior at the time, Mrs. J certainly looked the part: she was rather strident in her manner, with a mile-high ‘do that bore a striking resemblance to a rusted Brillo pad. Her shoes were sensible, her suits stiff and straight-cut in that “must-emulate-male-businessmen” way, and her demeanor was always entirely humorless. At the same time, she showed us girls what could be accomplished by women who were smart and self-sufficient.
Oh, and she taught Home Economics.
Home Economics! Even the name sounds anachronistic. But it was in Mrs. J’s class that I learned how to measure dry ingedients in the metal cups and wet ingredients in the glass cups; how to level my baking powder with the back of a knife; how to roll dough from the center outward; how to distinguish between a selection of six different kinds of milk**; and how to make Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. That woman really could do it all! And she taught us it was okay to be a feminist and still love all the old-fashioned female virtues, too.
Of course, the original recipe wasn’t vegan (Mrs. J wasn’t that liberated). But I’ve retained it all these years because these were just the perfect holiday cookie in every way: they are delicious, they are incredibly easy to make (of course, any woman with all that going on had to find ways to save time in the kitchen), they travel well, and they seem to appeal to everyone. The original recipe also contained old-fashioned gumdrops, chopped up. Well, darned if I didn’t have the perfect substitute right on hand–the yummy gummies I got as a gift in my swap package from Neil! The lime zest is my own addition, to round out the Christmassy colors.
Of all the fancy, frosted, cookie-cut or filled cookies I make at the holiday season, these remain my very favorites (and they’re not even chocolate!!). Soft yet slightly crumbly with a light, citrus, almond-perfumed aroma and dotted throughout with brilliant bits of shiny color like fragments of stained glass, these cookies are a treat to eat.
And when you don the frilly apron to serve these to friends and family, hold up your feminist head with pride! Real women bake cookies, too.
“Mum, we love all the activities that go on in the kitchen, too. And we would love to be self-sufficient with free access to our food.”
On a Final Note: I’ve also been totally remiss about a lovely award I received a while back from Georgia. I meant to post about it then, and of course it slipped my mind until now (I may be a feminist, but my memory sucks). Thanks so much, Georgia, for this Proximity Award! Here are the award details:
“This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open this up to anyone who’s willing to proudly call herself (or himself) a feminist!
** That would be whole, 2%, 1%, skim, sweetened condensed, evaporated, and dried-reconstituted. Nobody had even heard of alternative milks back then!
1/2 cup (120 ml.) chopped candied fruit, gummy candies, chopped dried cranberries, or any other small chopped festive food of your choice
1-1/4 cups (175 g.) light spelt flour
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) fine sea salt
In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water, extracts and lime zest. Stir to dissolve the Sucanat as much as possible. Add the flax seeds and melted oil, then stir in the chopped fruit or candies.
Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over the liquid ingredients and stir to blend. You will have a soft dough.
Shape the dough into two logs about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Unwrap the cookie logs and cut them into disks about 3/8 inch (3/4 cm.) thick and place about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets.
Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, rotating the sheets once about halfway through, until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes on sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies. May be frozen.
[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
Back in the day (haven’t you always wondered about that expression? I mean, which day?), I used to bake entirely conventional, non-vegan, sweets and treats. As a graduate student with a job as a Teaching Assistant as well as a scholarship, I was lucky enough to have both a flexible schedule and sufficient finances to indulge my love of culinary invention. My favorites at the time were cheesecakes, light and fluffy (and, in particular, a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake–yep, studded with globs of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough), whipped cream-topped layer cakes or pavlovas, and thick, dense, decadent brownies of all spots and stripes (top contender there was an intensely dark chocolate brownie with hidden pockets of Caramilk chocolate bar strewn throughout–cut the brownie and be treated to surprising little bursts of oozy, gooey caramel, enveloped in creamy milk chocolate. . . there must be a way to do this in a [semi?] NAG-friendly version!).
In any case, what I really loved was baking for the holidays. Between studying for finals, I’d take breaks by whipping up assorted cookies and bars, and filling dainty, decorative tins with dozens of them as Christmas gifts for my friends and colleagues. It was a fun challenge to find 12-15 recipes for cookies in differing flavors, textures, shapes or colors, so that the varying hues and contours complemented each other visually when placed together like pieces of a mosaic in the tins. Most years, I went so far as to draw a legend on a circle of paper (placed atop the cookies before closing the tin), like the kind you get in boxes of mixed chocolates, illustrating each different flavor and shape so people would know in advance what they chose (can you say, “anal”?).
Even though my schedule isn’t nearly as flexible any more (not to mention my hip joints), I decided that this year, I really wanted to resurrect that tradition for the holidays. And while cookies are still on the list, I’m going to focus more on slightly less perishable items, so that I (and you) can send these goodies to loved ones far away, or as parting gifts with visitors who pop in over the next few weeks.
They say chocolate is better than sex, but really, chocolate fudge is even better than chocolate.
Still, I’m aware that no self-respecting holistic nutritionist or health-conscious foodie would foist fudge on friends (and no self-respecting writer would pen such an obviously hokey alliteration!) Craving all that is chocolate, smooth, and fondant-like, I sought out a healthier version–but one that would still embody the same indulgent, creamy, and, most importantly, chocolate–qualities of “real” fudge.
Well, I’ve found it! Today’s recipes are both based on a Carob Fudge I saw ages ago on Deb’s blog. I’ve been waiting to try it since then, and this seemed the perfect occasion. Of course, since I can’t even imagine a non-chocolate variety, I played with the recipes somewhat and created not one, but two cacao-flavored versions. The first is orange-scented, studded with tangy bits of chopped dried apricot, while the other is draped over clusters of mixed nuts and dropped into little truffle cups to serve as individual candies. I have no doubt that whomever you choose to bestow these upon, they will devour them most gratefully. Perhaps best of all, this is incredibly quick to make!
“Mum, we love the idea of food-based gifts for the holidays! But why did you take out the carob–now we can’t have any. . . ”
I’d also love to hear what you’re whipping up this year as gifts. Do you have any old favorites, or perhaps some newfound treasures? Leave a comment (or a link to a recipe) so we can all increase our gift-giving repertoire!
Smooth, rich and as dense as cream-based fudge, these squares are a perfect post-prandial sweet to help settle a meal (or, in my case, the final course of the meal itself).
1-1/2 cups (255 g.) dark chocolate chips (the barley-sweetened type work well here, too)
1/2 cup (120 ml.) all-natural cashew-macadamia nut butter (I just mixed half of each type together in a bowl)
1/3-1/2 cup (80-120 ml.) agave nectar, depending on desired level of sweetness (I used 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup ( g.) finely chopped dried apricots
Lightly grease a 9 x9 inch (20 cm.) square pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a glass or metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate chips. Mix in the nut butter until smooth; remove from heat. Add the agave, vanilla and orange zest, and stir until combined. The mixture should thicken up a bit as you stir.
Spread in prepared pan and smooth the top. Chill until set (2-3 hours), then cut into squares. Wrap in plastic before packaging as gifts. Makes 12-25 squares, depending on how small you cut them. Bonus: this may be frozen! Defrost in fridge overnight.
Fudge Nut Clusters (variation)
These little confections are perfect to serve at tea or on a dessert tray for a buffet celebration.
Line about 15-20 mini-muffin tins with foil liners.
Prepare chocolate fudge as above, omitting the apricots and orange zest. Place a small spoonful of mixed nuts (I used chopped almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts) in the bottom of each cup; drop spoonfuls of still-warm fudge mixture over each, and allow the fudge to sink down to the bottom of the cup to create a mound of nutty fudge candy. Top with extra fudge mixture if necessary to fill the cups and cover the nuts.