Choco Shake

October 21, 2010

Choco Froth

I am thrilled about this shake. I concocted it the other day when I was hungry and yearning for chocolate ice cream. The trick is to use a frozen banana, it makes it cold, of course, and gives it a rich thickness. It reminds me of when I was a kid and for a chocolate-y treat I would scoop out a soup bowl of ice cream and dump lumpy spoonfuls of cocoa over top. Then, in front of an episode or two of Scooby Doo, I would mash together the melty ice cream with cocoa. The end treat was a cross between a mall malted and chocolate ice cream. Little did I know then that cocoa was rich in antioxidants and minerals. I probably wouldn’t have cared but I do now.

Makes 1 yummy glassful

1 date, soaked briefly to soften in boiling water

1 frozen banana

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 heaping tablespoon good quality cocoa powder

2 tablespoons protein powder, I like this one in vanilla almond

The method is elementary: drain the water from the date and discard and put everything into a blender. Blend for two minutes, pour into a tall glass and try not to guzzle. Or stick a straw in for a soda fountain effect.



September 2, 2010

Cocoa and Adzuki Bean Cake

Last weekend I decided to rearrange our kitchen. And it’s still undone. Once drawers were emptied I pondered the value of useful versus stupid. For example, a Starfrit apple cutter and corer. There’s a slim possibility that I might use it, but I would first have to remember that I own it. And that begs the question, why do I own it? I think someone gave it to me, unloaded it from their own crowded kitchen drawers. Should I remember that I have a stupid Starfrit gadget in my possession, I would have to find it. It dawned on me that drawer organizers and dividers would improve my life. So I went shopping. While I was out and about I decided to visit the lovely new Chanel khaki nail polishes. Yes, you’re right, the Chanel boutique is nowhere near the drawer organizer store. Never mind my upside down kitchen, I’m now on the waiting list for all three shades of polish – vert, rose and brun. I can’t decide. I also found a new pair of rubber rain boots and I love them. My last pair are several years old and it was time to update. I’m wearing my new boots now. And I’m going to create and bake a new chocolate banana bean cake while wearing them. Which is simply another form of procrastination. You might think that I would put my kitchen back together first, but you’d be wrong. My thinking is this: I will organize while the cake is in the oven. That’s the most efficient use of time, isn’t it? Once I tuck the kitchen neatly away I’m going to move on to my clothes closet. I am one of those people who puts away spring and summer and lovingly unfolds fall and winter. I love knits and wool and cozy coziness, and I’m looking forward to fall and shades of glossy khaki polish. And oceans of rain so that I can wear my new boots.

Cocoa and Adzuki Bean Cake – Makes two little 3″ x 5″ loaves or 24 – 2″cupcakes

1 1/2 cups of cooked adzuki or black beans, or use canned

2 ripe bananas

3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 cup ground almonds

2 pinches of sea salt

3 tablespoons agave

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Place cooked or canned and drained beans into the bowl of your food processor and whir until they’re blitzed into a smaller size. Add ripe bananas and whir a little more. Add everything else and process to a not-too-smooth batter. Scrape into prepared pans, fill more than 3/4 full, and bake for approximately 45 minutes for loaves or 25 minutes for small cakes. Tops will spring back a bit when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool before unmoulding. These cakes are dense and super moist, I think you’ll be pleased. If you like, for a little refined sugar, melt some dark chocolate, about 1/4 of a cup. Stir really well and glaze cakes, either by spreading the loaves with an offset spatula or dipping the tops of the small cakes.

Ispahan for Breakfast

July 22, 2010

Petit Dejeuner

When in Paris, this counts as breakfast. It’s perfect. Not clean eating but delicious eating! Raspberries and lychee on a rose macaroon. Thanks Pierre Herme!

Galettes de Sarrasin

October 8, 2009

Buckwheat Crêpe

Buckwheat Crêpe

Crêpes were one of the first things I learned to make as a child. I would spend many a Sunday morning blending up double and triple batches of batter and proceed to make crêpe after crêpe. Back in those halcyon days of the early 1970’s I would serve my foot-high stack of artificial lemon-extract flavoured crêpes with two pounds of crispy bacon, Roger’s Golden Syrup, bowls of my mom’s lovely preserves and half a litre of cream, whipped loose and thick and barely sweetened. And Woodward’s coffee. I didn’t drink coffee then, but I loved to make it for my parents – the ritual of measuring the grinds, the gorgeous rich smell as it brewed while I crêped. Impressively, or perhaps horrifyingly, the four of us would finish most of the crêpes, all of the bacon and usually all of the whipped cream. My skinny little brother had (has) a shark-like stealth, and could quietly and efficiently inhale way more than his fair share. He is still skinny and stealthy.

I know my family will balk at the idea of a healthy crêpe, but times have changed and so have my recipes. Buckwheat is excellent for savoury crêpes, and even serves well for a dessert crêpe. Buckwheat makes a nutty, almost hearty crêpe, and is a delicious gluten-free treat. They can be filled with any number of things – from egg or smoked salmon, to sliced tomatoes with basil, leftover ratatouille, or sweet fall pears with fresh lemon.

Makes about 10 – 9″ crêpes

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup almond milk

5 tablespoons water

1 large whole egg + 1 large egg white (save yolk to add to tomorrow’s omelette)

1 tablespoon coconut oil + more for pan

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1/8 teaspoon stevia

Measure all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend or process until thoroughly combined. Pour into a measuring cup and let rest at room temperature for about an hour or overnight, covered, in the fridge. Heat a 10″ non-stick pan over medium-low heat, coat lightly with a tiny bit of coconut oil. Stir batter and pour about 3 tablespoons into pan, pick up pan and quickly swirl the batter so that it covers entire surface, return to heat. Let cook for a couple of minutes, the edges will turn a pretty, delicate gold as the rest of the crêpe sets. Sometimes you need to discard (eat) the first crêpe as it is prone to being far too thin and lacy from the bubbles on the surface of the batter. I used to make my crêpes one after another until all my batter was used up, and sometimes I still do this. Or, you can make one at a time. If you choose the latter you can fill and finish them as you go. For example, as your first crêpe is almost done, crack a fresh egg right on top, season with sea salt and pepper and add fresh herbs. Leave the egg whole or gently break the yolk and tilt the pan so that it coats the crêpe. When the egg is done to your liking, fold the crêpe in half or quarters and turn onto a plate. Et voilá – galettes de sarrasin! So good your whole picky and opinionated family might like them. Especially if you serve them with an entire bowl of whipped cream and a fresh pot of coffee.

With Pears

With Pears

Note: cooked crêpes keep well, stacked one on top of the other, covered and refrigerated. Filled with jam they make a great snack in the evening for one little brother, or anyone else who’s not clean-eating.

A final note: the lovely linen napkin is from the superb Provide home accessories shop!

What August Brings

August 7, 2009

Blackberry Celebration

Blackberry Celebration

I had a really lovely afternoon with my friend Jen E. the other day. She made us a pot of rose tea and afterwards we picked blackberries from unruly brambles in her back yard. Oh my, wild blackberries are ripe. They are extraordinarily fragrant in the afternoon heat, and they smell almost as good as they taste. They are more than worth the little scrapes and inky stains that you suffer from picking them. Wild blackberries, to me, smack of August – sweet, warm and deeply flavoured. This year they are extremely plump, near to bursting. Jen herself is near to bursting, she is that pregnant and due any moment. Jen mentioned how good the blackberries would be in a crumble and I couldn’t agree more. Texturally I like to mix blackberries with other fruits, in this case cherries and apricots. Wild blackberries are so rich and amazing, their taste seeps out and overtakes the other fruit in a very, very good way. Now the month of August will not only mean beautiful, wild blackberries, but also the birth month of Jen and Reg’s beautiful baby. Blackberry desserts are perfect for celebrating a birthday!

Makes one 8″ x 8″ pan, or 4 little 5″ pie dishes

About 8 cups of fresh berries and fruit, pitted and sliced if necessary

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon organic stevia extract

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 cup sliced almonds

This fruit dessert is not so much a crumble and not really a cobbler, it’s a combination. And may I point out that it’s full of good for you stuff and scant on the bad for you stuff? Pre-heat oven to 350º. Maybe put a piece of tinfoil with the sides folded up on the lowest rack to catch inevitable juicy drips. Fill baking pan with fresh berries and fruit, set aside. In a small to medium-sized bowl combine all ingredients except for the sliced almonds. Using a fork, mix and mash coconut oil through – a rough, crumbly mixture will result. Scatter almonds over top of this crumbly mixture and gently combine, try to keep the almonds as intact as possible. Pile crumble topping on top of fruit, spread about. Now, into the oven on a middle rack and bake, about 40 minutes for the large one, and about 30 minutes for the individuals. Check it, though. You want the crumble to bubble hot lava-like syrup, then it’s done.

August Heat

August Heat

Freaking! Fudgesicles!

July 30, 2009

A Freaking Fudgesicle

Reason to Freak

You need to make these. Like, now. Or at least today. You will thank me. They’re close to being nutritious. This icy cold frozen scrumptious chocolate-y treat is just a freeze away. I’ve been meaning to make these for a while now, but I cannot find my super awesome Tupperware popsicle molds that my favourite sister* Colé gave to me. I gave up and used mini silicone muffin moulds, which were a gift from my charming and generous friend Ellis. Evidently, I’m always accepting gifts. The mini size is probably better. They are a perfect two-bite fudgesicle that will whip you back to your childhood, lickety-split. They have just the right chocolate flavour, a bit of creaminess and that sort of low-quality but desirable iciness that is usually only found in cheap fudgsicles made with crap ingredients. They are also a perfect pop-the-entire-puck-in-your-mouth-size, too. If you’re the childish and piggish sort.

Makes 24 mini fudgesicles

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup water

4 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons agave

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

teensy pinch of sea salt

Pour the almond milk and water into a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a medium-sized bowl, set on top of a damp cloth to keep it from moving, whisk eggs yolks together with agave, cocoa and sea salt. Remove hot almond milk from heat and whisk a ladleful into the yolk mixture, whisk immediately and efficiently so that you don’t end up with bright yellow bits of cooked yolk. Then pour in the rest, whisking to combine. Turn custard back into the pot and place over low heat. Stir constantly, custard will thicken as it heats. It won’t take long. As soon as it’s thick, better to err on not-quite rather than scrambled, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl, or a large-enough measuring cup. I should tell you to cool and chill overnight before freezing. Whatever. Cool slightly and then pour into whatever sort of mould that you want to use. If you use a flexible mould make sure you place it on a tray before filling. (Duh, but I’ve done it). Now into your freezer, don’t mind the wafts of steam that are coming from the fudgesicles-to-be. Be patient. If you haven’t used proper moulds you will need to insert some sort of stick into your fudgesicles when they’re semi-frozen – set enough to hold the stick upright but not so frozen solid that you need to chisel in a stick. Are they ready now? Have you tried one yet? Are you freaking?

Chocolate-y Cold

Chocolate-y Cold

* Colé is my husband Michael’s sister, Nicole. His other sister is Marina, or Meenie. She’s also my favourite sister. I have another favourite sister named Cheryl, she will love these because she loves ice cream more than anyone I’ve ever met.

Blueberry Buckle

July 14, 2009

Blueberry Buckle

Fully Loaded

I like to think that this cake is called Blueberry Buckle because it is so laden with blueberries that it is close to buckling from the weight of them. Whatever its name, this old-fashioned coffee cake is moist, and has just the right amount of crunch from the nut and crumb topping. Of course, this cake is in my hot new fashion of being wheat-gluten-sugar-and dairy-free. It’s easy, breezy, cover-worthy Blueberry Buckle, and it’s a cinch to mix together. Once it’s in the oven your kitchen will fill with the fragrance of warm vanilla cake and cinnamon, and there’s almost nothing better than that smell. One more thing, each of these little half-cup cakes contains a quarter cup of blueberries – they are fully loaded.

Makes 6 – 3″ cakes

1 – 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, for pans

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 large egg

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Prepare six little cake pans, or ceramic ramekins, by greasing with a little olive oil in each and placing on a half-sheet pan. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients, and then turn in the blueberries. Set aside, and in a smaller bowl whisk egg with melted coconut oil first, then whisk in almond milk and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and blueberries, and use a rubber spatula to stir and combine together. Drop batter by spoonfuls into your prepared pans or ramekins. If necessary, use dampened fingertips to press the batter evenly into the pans. Set aside while you mix together the crumb topping.

Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons old-fashioned, large flake oatmeal

1 tablespoon virgin coconut flour

1 tablespoon coconut oil, room temperature

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Maldon Salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Measure all crumb ingredients except for the pecans into a small bowl. Use your hands or a fork to blend coconut oil and agave into the dry ingredients, then toss in the chopped pecans. This crumb topping is a bit clumpy and damp, not really crumb-like. Anyway, do your best to scatter these clumpy, nutty crumbs over your little cakes. It crisps up and becomes crumbly with the heat of the oven. Bake cakes for about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure they all bake up evenly. Check one for doneness with a bamboo skewer – it should emerge batter-free but stained purply-blue. Let cakes sit on a rack until they’ve cooled enough to handle. Run a small knife around the edge of one, upend and knock the little cake out into your hand. Now you could do one of two things – set freshly released cake down and repeat, or eat now, still very warm and jammy, out of your hand.

Navy Blue

Navy Blue

Black Bean Brownie

Black Bean Brownie

Wait – keep reading, these are so good. I swear. You should know this about me – I am extremely fussy about desserts and sweets, especially chocolate. Especially chocolate. When I started baking with alternative ingredients, I began to hear whisperings of cakes and brownies made with black beans. Of course, like you, I was skeptical. And then I became intrigued. And then I started to experiment. I have a number of guinea pigs friends who, I’m certain, would be willing to give sworn testimonials on the deliciousness of these brownies. But you can trust me, I’m a professional. These are even moister the next day, if stored in a tight-lidded container. If you would like to make these entirely refined sugar-free, then refrain from glazing with ganache.

Makes 24 bite-size brownies

Pre-heat oven to 350º. I bake these in a mini muffin silpat pan, so there’s no need to prep pan or line with papers. If you’re baking these in tins, line with mini paper baking cups.

1 cup cooked or canned black beans

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 tablespoon almond flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Put black beans into the bowl of a food processor and whir for several seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Process for a few moments, scrape down the bowl again. Now, inspect your batter: you should see smaller-than-pea-sized bits of black bean. Are your black bean bits larger? Then pulse a few times, that should do it. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into your pan, batter will almost fill the cup. Other than a slight rise from the eggs, there’s no other leavener in this batter, so they won’t puff too much. Slide onto the middle rack of your oven, and bake for 13 – 15 minutes, brownies will spring back when gently pressed. Allow to cool, or not. Try one now. Really good, right? If you would like to glaze with ganache, allow them to cool completely.

Ganache, optional

Yield: enough to glaze 24 mini brownies, plus some for taste-testing

2 tablespoons excellent quality dark chocolate*, finely chopped

2 tablespoons boiling water

Pour boiling water over dark chocolate. Let sit for about two minutes, the hot water water will thoroughly melt the chocolate. Stir minimally – too much enthusiasm will create bubbles or, worse, split your fine chocolate and cause it to curdle. Stir until the chocolate and water just come together into a shiny, sexy-sleek glaze. Set aside. You can taste it, if you wish, there’s more than enough. Just don’t get carried away – warm, melty ganache is irresistible. Once your ganache has cooled somewhat, gently pick up your brownie, turn it upside down, and dip the top in. Quickly flip it right side up and set it onto a cake plate. Serve to amazed guinea pigs friends.

* Excellent quality dark chocolate is easy to find. I use a number of different brands, and suggest a 60% to 70%. The darker, more bittersweet the chocolate, the less refined sugar it contains. Since this recipe requires very little chocolate, you can really treat yourself and others – seek out an organic, fair trade one.