Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Paleo Chicken Lumpia ( Fried Spring Rolls)



Somewhere around the mid-1980's, when football sized shoulder pads seemed like a good fashion choice for women and men were rolling up their white suit jacket sleeves (I'm looking at you Miami Vice); when we were all walking like Egyptians and the price of gasoline was a mere 89 cents a gallon... I was having my first nearly religious experience with lumpia. 

Lumpia is a Chinese-style spring roll that comes in a wide range of varieties and can be found most predominantly in the Philippines, which is where my family and I were living during the mid 80's. Generally speaking, lumpia is a mixture of veggies like cabbage and carrots, meat (usually pork, but I use chicken here), and/or seafood rolled into a thin wrapper (typically made from wheat flour). 

Why I Love Lumpia


Looking back, I'd say that my introduction to lumpia is probably one of the more influential and pivotal culinary experiences in my young life and is in many ways responsible for establishing my abiding love of cooking (and eating!) ethnic cuisine. 

But this wasn't just about it tasting so fabulous; for me, it was about experiencing the process...   

At the time, my family and I were living in the Philippines, running a refuge and recovery home for young women who had escaped the sex trade (see a little more about that here.) There were about 25 girls living in the home with us and we quite literally shared everything.

One day we were preparing for a big celebration and there was a room full of us sitting at long tables making wrappers, chopping veggies, filling...rolling....more chopping, filling, rolling and….well you get the idea. Things weren't moving too fast or too slow; the girls were laughing, telling stories and singing songs. Everyone was in sync, and right in the midst of this well choreographed chaos I had a moment. 

I realized in that moment what incredible power there is in "process." Power to share joy and teach about life; to heal brokenness and restore hope. There's just something mystical that happens when you gather with people to work on something, a common project, and in my experience, there's no more fertile ground for this kind of thing than cooking together.

It took us hours to roll enough lumpia for the large party that was planned and only a few short moments to eat the fruits of all that labor.....but it was worth every moment spent. Because when the lumpia was finally served, it wasn't just something to fill our bellies. We had history with it. We had those shared moments; the smells, stories, textures and laughs that now culminated with us sitting down to enjoy, finally.....the taste. And that taste was all the richer because of the process we had shared. 

Because of my dietary limitations I obviously don't make the traditional recipe that we used to make all those years ago, but the essence of that moment and the deliciousness of the recipe are alive and well and I'm so glad to be sharing it with you guys today.






Paleo Style Lumpia (fried spring rolls)

Grain or Gluten Free

Makes 9-10 rolls

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ghee or other oil
1/2 cup (60g) diced onion 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (60g) diced carrots
1/2 cup packed (50g) shredded cabbage
1/2 cup (40g) copped green onions
2 cups (8oz/225g) diced roasted chicken
1 tablespoon coconut amino's
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
10 round rice or tapioca spring roll wrappers (8 1/2"/22cm)
Preferred oil for frying (I like to use THIS one)

*Click on green links to find out where to buy select ingredients. Although tapioca and rice wraps can generally be found at an Asian market. 



Method:

Pre-heat a heavy bottomed frying pan with the 2 tablespoons of fat, over medium- high heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and cabbage and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring periodically. The veggies don't need to be cooked all the way through as they will be cooked again later when fried. 

Remove from heat and and transfer to a large bowl. Add the chopped chicken, green onions, coconut amino's, salt and pepper to the other veggetables and toss to combine. Set aside.

Rolling and frying the spring rolls:

Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water. Dip one wrapper into the water for a few seconds to soften it. Lay the wrapper flat on a clean, damp towel. 

Place about 2 rounded tablespoons of filling toward the one-third of the wrap nearest to you. Gently fold the top over the filling, tuck it under the filling and pull it snug. Fold the sides inward over the filling (but not all the way to touching, or your roll will be too fat; see pictues), then tightly roll up the wrap. Take your time at first. Getting a tight roll is key to them not bursting in the oil. Be sure the end seam is secure and place them seam side down on another damp clean towel or plate. Repeat until all the filling has been used. 

Note: Remember, You want these little guys to be skinnier than an egg roll (about 1 to 1 1/2 inch round) and tightly rolled so they will stay together once they hit the hot oil. 

Fill a medium sized pot or deep pan with about 3 inches of fat/oil and heat till the oil reaches about 350F/176C degrees on a candy thermometer. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil steady at this temperature. Carefully slip in one spring roll at a time into the hot oil, being sure the rolls do not touch each other or they will stick. I usually fry 2 rolls at a time in a 2.5 quart sauce pan, but you might fit more if using a larger frying pan. If they do stick together, it is best to leave them alone till they are done frying. Otherwise you will cause a tear in the wrap and the filling will burst out. They will separate once fried.

Fry for about 4 minutes, then remove with a metal tongs and drain on paper towels. If using a shallower pan, turn the spring rolls half way through the frying time or as needed to ensure even cooking.

Serve and enjoy!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomato-Less "Marinara" Sauce: Nightshade-Free, Tomato Style Sauce


Somewhere around 2005 I was deep in the middle of my advanced yoga teacher training. A natural, whole food approach to eating had already been a well established culture for our small little family but as a part of the training program I was encouraged to experiment with different perspectives and approaches to healthy living. We embraced this challenge with enthusiasm and as it has turned out, this "explorer" mentality is something that our family eventually just adopted as a general way of life.

This approach has led us through a number of amazing seasons. We've been vegetarians and vegans. We've embraced Ayurvedic cooking and medicine (learn more HERE) and explored all sorts of other fun and interesting choices. And as we've meandered down this path of discovery, we've found that some recipes just stuck with us, even when our journey evolved into another new phase. They've become our standards; the kind of beloved staples that one generation passes on to the next.

This blog was originally started as a way to share our journey, and the recipes we found along the way, with other people on this same path. For us, food has always been about community; about "breaking bread".....even if we are in a time when "bread" is off the menu.  

Even before I needed to be nightshade free for personal health reasons (learn more HERE), this tomato-less marinara was one of our family's most treasured staples. It's been in our family for over nine years. In fact, an earlier version of this recipe was the second post that I put up on here! It has evolved a bit over the years but I can honestly say that it is one of the greatest things that I have ever made. One of my favorite things being how packed with healthy vegetables it is. I'm super excited to be sharing it anew with you guys and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.....maybe this will become a favorite for your family as well. 






Tomato-less Marinara (No-mato sauce)
Makes about 1 US quart (4 cups/945ml)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (8oz/225g) 1" cubed carrots (about 2 medium)
3 cups (1lb/455g) peeled, 1" cubed Butternut squash (from a 1 1/2 lb/680g squash)
1 1/2 cup (8oz/225g) peeled, 1" cubed red beets 
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (9oz/250g) diced yellow onion (1 medium)
3 TBLS Ghee or other fat for frying 
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water 
1/2 (125ml) Merlot or Cabernet wine (see subs*)
2 tablespoons vinegar, like AC, coconut or other vinegar)
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice 
1-2 whole bay leaves
1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs*
2  teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, or more to taste
1/2 cup or more water/wine to desired consistency.

*A mix of Rosemary, thyme, basil, sage and oregano

*Sub options: You can sub water for the wine if necessary, but increase the vinegar to taste (balsamic is a delicous option in small amounts).

Since the wine plays a large role in mimicking the acidity and flavor of marinara, omitting the wine will change the flavor of this sauce as it is writren. But it will still taste fabulous. 

For results that are most representative of this recipe , I recommend making it by the weights listed instead of volume.


Method:

Prepare the first 5 ingredients as stated above (chopping, mincing, etc…), set the garlic and onions aside. Use a steamer or pressure cooker to cook the the carrots, butternut squash and beets together till soft (can be pierced with a skewer). This takes about 40 minutes with a stove top steamer, over a medium high heat.

While the veggie mixture is cooking, heat the ghee (or other fat) over medium heat till melted and hot. Add the prepared garlic and onions to the hot pan and cook until they are caramelized and soft (this adds extra savory flavor to the sauce and imparts flavor to the fat). Set aside until the rest of vegetables are ready.

Transfer the steamed vegetables, onion mixture, water, wine, vinegar and lemon juice to a medium sized sauce pan and blend till smooth. I like my immersion blender for this job. If you don't have an  immersion blender, use a regular blender, then transfer the puree to a medium sauce pan. 

Stir in the bay leaves, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat for 15-25 minutes. Stir periodically to keep the sauce from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan. Add more liquid to desired consistency. 

Remove from heat. Serve immediately or pour into mason jars and let cool to room temperature. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. The sauce will thicken some once chilled. When ready to use, reheat over medium heat first then add more wine or water if needed.

We love to pair this sauce with our favorite grain free pasta by Cappello's. It is delicious!

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cherry Cream Pies w/ Chocolate Macaroon Crust(Nut/Grain/Dairy/Egg Free)

These days it seems like waiting around every corner there's a profound and thought provoking new perspective anxiously coiled in anticipation for that bright, illuminating moment when our respective smartphones and tablets spring to life. Poised and ready, these new views seek to challenge us to think different and re-evaluate this thing called life and the vast and inexhaustible mysteries of the human experience. 

It's during times like these that I find myself drawn back to days gone by; to nobler times when the genteel overruled the grotesque and when dignity and propriety were the order of the day. It is from these revered times that I draw the sentiment which so aptly describes how I feel about this particular recipe. It is in the immortal words of the seminal and enduringly timeless rock band Warrant that I find my truth:  
She's my cherry pie, cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise. Tastes so good make a grown man cry....Sweet cherry pie, oh yea
In all seriousness though, I spent a number of my younger years in the "valentine's haters" club. Over the past 16 years of marriage, motherhood, working, sickness, recovery, life etc etc, I've realized that there are a whole lot of things out there that legitimately deserve to be on my 'dislike' list; and at the end of the day.....a holiday that celebrates love and appreciation for the people in my life just isn't one of those things.

And amazingly enough, once I let go of that particular bias, I found that my love of Valentine's day and everything surrounding it has just grown and grown with each passing February. So now I make no apologies for throwing my heart and soul into celebrating it each year. Mind you, I don't think shimmery balloons, teddy bears and cheap chocolates are ever a suitable demonstration of your feelings (unless you count that one year that I completely filled Ben's office with them while he was away at lunch....but that was different), however....I do believe that there is no greater time of year to throw yourself into extravagant, indulgent, luxurious desserts. I mean honestly...."love" always gets a pass right?! And so, in the name of love, I give you this year's offering......



Cherry Cream Pie (tarts) w/Chocolate Macaroon Crust

Makes 12 mini tarts

Ingredients:

Chocolate Macaroon Crust
1 1/2 cups unsweetened extra fine-shredded coconut (I recommend Let’s Do Organic* for my recipes)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon full fat coconut milk
 

Cherry Cream Filling:
1/2 cup (about one cans worth) of cold coconut cream (like found at the top of a chilled can of coconut milk)
4-5 tablespoons cherry jam (see recipe below, or use store bought)
added sweetener if needed

Whipped Cream Topping:
1/2 cup of cold coconut whip cream (as seen above)
Honey or maple syrup if desired, sweeten to taste (1 tablespoon is usually good)
Shaved bittersweet chocolate and/or whole cherries to garnish



Directions for the tarts:
All components can be made ahead of time and assembled when desired.

For the crust: 

Makes 12 mini (2 1/2 inch) tartlets, 4 small (3 1/2 inch) tart shells 

Preheat the oven to 345 degrees. Lightly grease your tart pan then combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix well. 

Press the macaroon dough evenly into the tart pans. About 1 rounded tablespoon per mini tart or 3 level tablespoons for the four small shells. Take your time pressing the dough firmly into the pan and shaping the sides for best results. If your house is super warm, chill the unbaked tart shells in the freezer for a few minutes.

Bake the mini shells for about 15 minutes (times will vary from oven to oven and size of pan). Check them half way through. Gently press down the center of each tart if it is rounding up, rotate the pan and continue to bake till done. They should be firm to the touch. Let cool completely in the pan or they will break apart. They will be much stronger once cooled.


For the Cherry Chiffon Cream:

Transfer the cold coconut cream to your standing mixer bowl (or medium sized bowl if using a hand mixer) and beat on high until thick and fluffy. This can take longer with a hand mixer. Slow the mixer as you add the jam one tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high again and beat the mixture for a few more minutes to get the lightest, most airy cream possible. You want the cherry cream to have the texture of softly whipped cream.

Clean the beaters and bowl to remove any residual cherry cream, then beat the rest of the coconut cream with the optional sweetener. Beat till light and airy. 

Assembling the tarts:

Carefully remove the cooled tart shells from the pan, I usually place a cookie sheet on top of the mini tart pan and flip the shells out onto the sheet. Sometimes they require a little tap to get them all out. Be gentle as the tart shell edges can be fragile.

Scoop mounds of the cherry cream into each tart. Using a piping bag fitted with a star tip (or whatever tip you like), pipe a small amount of plain coconut cream on top of the cherry cream. Garnish with shaved bittersweet chocolate and a whole cherry. Serve right away or chill for later use.



Cherry Jam** 
(make a few hours to 3 days in advance)
1 pound fresh or frozen pitted cherries 
1/4 cup Madeira wine or water
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (more if desired)
1 tablespoon lemon juice 


Directions for making the jam: Gently pulse the cherries in a blender or food processor. Do not puree them, just pulse until the cherries are coarsely ground, leaving some large pieces for texture

Transfer cherries and the rest of the ingredients to a small sauce pan, then bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken, 20-35 minutes. Stir often toward the end, pulling the spoon across the pan. You'll know it's about done when you pull the spoon through the jam and it takes a second for the juices to fill the space back in.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then chill. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. 




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Monday, October 28, 2013

Caramel Apple Coconut Macaroons (Grain/Dairy/Refined Sugar Free, Vegan)

Caramel Apple Coconut Macaroons

Makes 12-15 cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4  cup coconut milk 
1 1/2 cups finely shredded coconut (I use  "Let's Do Coconut")
1/2 cup super fine blanched almond flour (for best results use THESE brands)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Bare Fruit Crunchy Green Apple Chips, broken into tiny pieces (or homemade)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil

Get the caramel topping recipe HERE  


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, combine the maple syrup and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook till the liquid is reduced by about half (or 1/4 cup but no less). This takes between 5-7 minutes. You can check by pouring the sauce into a liquid measuring cup. If it's not quite there, just pour back into the pot and reduce some more.

While the sauce is cooking, combine the almond flour (scoop and sweep method), coconut*, cinnamon and crushed apple pieces in a medium sized bowl. Mix till well blended.

When the sauce is ready, add it, the vanilla and the oil to the mixture. Mix until well combined. Careful the sauce may still be quite hot.

Using a rounded measuring tablespoon, scoop up a spoonful of dough. Drag the spoon up the side of the bowl to gently press dough into the spoon. Tap the spoon with the open side facing down on the side of the bowl and allow the formed dough to fall into you hand. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till golden around the edges and a little on the tops. Times will vary from oven to oven.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Cookies will be fragile while they are still hot, but will hold well once cooled. 

Eat as is or drizzle with your favorite caramel recipe and allow to set. Get my caramel topping recipe HERE.  If desired, push a Popsicle stick in the tops of each cookie and serve.

Makes 12-15 cookies depending on how packed your dough was and how much dough you ate while working. :)


*If your coconut shreds are fairly thick, you may need to pulse the almond flour and coconut together in a food processor a few times to get the right texture.





Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vietnamese Inspired Chicken & Cabbage Salad (Paleo)



Once upon a time...long long ago, a little American girl packed up with her family and moved to Southeast Asia. As you might imagine this was quite an adventure!  It was filled with new smells, tastes, sounds, colors and many more things the girl had never experienced before.  
The open markets in Asia remind me of the farmers markets here, only on steroids.  They're bustling with hundreds of people selling, waving hands, yelling and negotiating prices for fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and much more! It was a beautiful thing!  My love for these new tastes and experiences was forever sealed.  I pretty much love all Asian styles of cooking now. 
This recipe is a light salad, reminiscent of Vietnamese and Cambodian cooking.  The Nước chm Sauce is modified to make it a little less fishy for my kids...and they LOVE it.  I also added olive oil for body and omitted the commonly used garlic and red chili's.  This makes for a very fresh salad taste that your whole family will love.

The Savoy Cabbage in this dish is a sweet, tender, light and crinkly cabbage.  Savoy is high in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber.  It's also a very good source of fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  If you have trouble finding it at your market you can also use Chinese cabbage, or a mixture of romaine and ice burg lettuce cut into very thin slices.

A word about fish sauce... it is important to buy a good fish sauce that is from the first pressing, with no added fillers, colors or chemicals. "Red Boat Fish Sauce" is a great fish sauce and is free of additives and sugar.


Vietnamese Style Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Serves 2-4 depending on if its a side or full meal

Ingredients:

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 small head Savoy Cabbage, thinly sliced (5 cups)
1 cup julienned carrots
6-7 green (spring) onions, thinly sliced long ways
1/4 cup  Mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup  Basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup  Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Nước chấm Inspired Salad Dressing

1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (to taste)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons honey (omit for 21DSD & Whole30 plans)
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons Olive Oil (optional)
1/2 red seeded chili, chopped (optional)

Directions:

To roast chicken breasts:  Place them in a baking dish with a cup of chicken broth and roast them at around 300 degrees for about 25 minutes or till cooked through (165 internal temp), baste a few times. Cool a bit then pull into thin strips or shred with a fork. Set aside.

Thinly slice the cabbage, carrots and spring onion tops(the green parts) into long strips.  Then roughly chop the herbs and place all the above ingredients into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl or mason jar, measure out all the dressing ingredients.  Shake or mix well. Pour the Dressing over the salad, toss and serve with Sriracha or other chili sauce.

Play with the salad dressing ratios to suit your taste.

This recipe is Paleo, Grain/Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Nut Free


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Cups w/ Maple Whipped Cream(Egg/Nut/Dairy/Refined Sugar Free)

 

There's a special place in my heart reserved for fall. I think that's true of most people as well, but even more than just a general fondness for fall, I'm specifically in love with the change......

It's not just the cool weather and moody skies that I love; it's feeling those unexpected shocks of cool air that cut through the last steamy remnants of summer. It's suddenly noticing that the leaves are now green in the middle and brown on the edges. It's never quite knowing what time it is because the waning light is changing so quickly. Fleeting as it is, there's just something magical about the whole process.

This recipe embodies the whole beautiful experience to me. The warm flavors of pumpkin and nutmeg, beckoning me to embrace the coming fall season; even as the chilled chiffon airiness and bright, fresh whipped cream cling to the memory of those long lingering last summer days.
We only have a few short weeks like this each year, and this special treat is one of the ways that our family revels in the subtle passing of another glorious summer and embraces the coming colder days. I hope that you all enjoy it as much as we do.


Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Cups w/ Maple Whipped Cream (revised)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of mousse

Ingredients:

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (I used Libby's organic or fresh pumpkin puree)
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon gelatin powder (I use Great Lakes grass fed beef gelatin)
1 tablespoon water
1 cup chilled coconut cream* (takes 1-2 cans)
Another 1/2 cup coconut cream for isis whipper (recipe below)

*To make whipped coconut cream for the mousse, chill 2 cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge at least overnight or longer. When ready to use, open the can and scoop out the cream leaving the liquid behind. 

Coconut cream Tips: 

Even if the coconut cream is not fully solid once chilled, it will whip up nicely. Just pour off the cold cream, leaving behind as much watery liquid as possible. I actually find this cream gives me smoothest and most voluminous "whipped" cream.

Due to the nature of coconut milk and it's cream, sometimes you can get a "grainy" batch. This happens when the fat particles separate from the liquid into tiny grainy bits. This kind of cream does not work well as "whipped" cream. It needs to be silky and smooth to start with in order to produce a silky smooth mousse. Try another can and transfer this milk/cream to a jar to save for other another use like smoothies or soup. You can also freeze it into ice cube trays. 



Directions:


For the mousse:

Set cream aside in a small bowl.

In a small metal measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over the tablespoon of water and allow to bloom for about 5 minutes. Gelatin needs to be sprinkled evenly with no lumps. Set aside to bloom.

Place the metal cup with the gelatin over a burner set to medium heat and gently melt the gelatin mixture till it becomes liquid with no sign of graininess. It must be completely melted and clear or you will get gelatin bits in your mousse. Do not let it boil. Let it cool slightly, but not so long that it sets. Alternatively you can use a small microwave safe container instead and and melt the gelatin in the microwave with a few short bursts. 

In a mixing bowl combine the to pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and spices. Using a standing or hand held mixer with whisk attachment, beat mixture till smooth. 

Pour the melted gelatin into the pumpkin mixture while whipping it. Continue beating till well combined. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the 1 cup of coconut cream till light and fluffy, about a minute. Then add the whipped cream to the pumpkin mixture and beat again till well combined.

Immediately transfer into cups or ramekins, cover and chill for 2-4 hours or until set.

To serve, top with the "isi whipper" cream or just regular whipped coconut cream and garnish with nutmeg.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups worth. How many servings.... I leave that up to you. But I find this recipe generally serves 2.




For the Vanilla Maple ISI Whipper Cream (Get an isi HERE)

1/2 cup liquid coconut cream, just the cream (I use Natures Forrest for my isi whipper
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour all ingredients into your isi whipper, swirl to mix, charge and shake 15-20 times. Chill for an hour or so unless the cream was already cold. You can test a little to make sure it's coming out nice and thick. If not, chill a little longer. 

If you've chilled it for a few hours or more, you will need to let it sit out for a few minutes on the counter before dispensing. (Coconut cream can get very thick as it chills, but it liquifies pretty quickly). If you have trouble dispensing, turn the canister upside down and give it a good shake or whack to help get the cream down toward the dispenser.

This recipe is Paleo, Dairy/Egg/Nut/Refined Sugar Free



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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Belly-Friendly, Cashew Cheesecake Bites (Grain/Casein/Refined Sugar Free)

Well as a lot of you might already know, with the help of a bunch of amazingly generous folks, our Kickstarter was a huge success. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about.....just watch this.)

Needless to say, after a crazy 17 day push I was more than a little bit worn out! In fact, it's taken me almost two weeks to sort out all my plans and get the "post-kickstarter" balls rolling. So as a thanks to all those who supported the Kickstarter (and a bit of a teaser as to what the book will be like) I'm going to go ahead and release the much anticipated (and promised) Cashew Cheesecake Bites! 

Obviously, since I'm posting this recipe for the world to see, I'm sharing this with more than just the Kickstarter supporters, but here's why.....

There's an old adage that says: 

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little 'extra'." 

This is a theme that runs through everything that I do and is something that I always try to come back to, not just in the kitchen, but in all of life. I strive to make everything I do be, in some way or another, unique, creative and always have that little extra. This will be especially true of the book. In fact, the whole concept of the book is more or less built on this one simple principle. 

So yes, there are any number of cashew cheesecake recipes out there. And they are all really great. But there's not a lot of ones using fermented cashew cheese as the base. 

Typically non-dairy cheesecakes use lemon juice to add the tartness that is associated with dairy based cheesecakes. By fermenting the cashew mixture we can get that wonderfully mingled tart and sweet flavor without having it taste distinctly like lemon. The fermenting process also takes out much of the "cashewy" flavor that so often dominates theses types of cakes. This gives us sooooo many more options when it comes to complimentary flavors and let's not forget about all those "belly friendly" probiotics too!

In truth, this recipe isn't that different from any other non-dairy cheesecake. It takes a few simple preparatory steps but other than that it's pretty basic. And there is the "little extra" that I was talking about. Just a few simple steps added to the "ordinary" and what you get is a treat that's nothing short of Extraordinary!!! It really does taste like cheesecake.






Belly-Friendly Cashew"Cheesecake" Bites

Grain/Gluten/Egg/Casein Free

Makes about 12  1 1/2 inch squares

Ingredients:

For the cashew "cheese" cake:
3 cups raw cashews (soaked for 2-4 hours)
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
40-45 billion probiotic strains*; amount of capsules will vary (what I use)

1 teaspoon gelatin powder plus 2 tablespoons water 
3/4 cup maple syrup 
3/4 cup softened or liquid ghee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Crust:
1 cup fine ground almond flour 
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup 
3 tablespoons melted ghee or coconut oil 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the chocolate coating (optional)
1 bag Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips or 10 oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon Ghee or coconut oil. 

*Probiotics are used to make a tart cashew cheese, much in the same way as making yogurt. HERE is a great probiotic that is often readily available in most health stores. I recommend 4 capsules of this particular brand.

Special Equipment:
1 standard  9" x 5" loaf pan
Food processor or high powered blender


Method:

For the "cream cheese"
To warm the oven, just turn the oven light in before you begin preperations. No other heat is needed. DO NOT turn your oven on to low or warm. Even the lowest temperature will kill the probiotics and and fermentation will not take place. 

Note: Don't have an oven light? Another option is to use a dehydrator set on low or a yogurt maker. Try one of THESE other options often used for making yogurt.

The night before, combine the cashews and coconut milk in a food processor/high powered blender and process until smooth. This could take unto 8-10 minutes to get the smoothness desired. Patience is a virtue here. (see pictures, first row). stop periodically to push down any cashew that creeps up the sides. Eventually it will move cleanly on it's own. 

Note: You will notice a change in texture and movement towards the end. It will become quite smooth and creamy in color and somewhat like the texture ricotta cheese. 

Once the mixture is ready, add the contents of the probiotic capsules to the mixture. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a clean medium sized bowl. Cover with a lid or a plate that fits and place in the oven (with the oven light turned on). 

Let sit in the warmth for at least 12-16 hours or overnight. It should be good and sour when it's ready. If it's not sour, let it sit linger. Times will vary depending on the environment and the quality of the probiotic. Old probiotics or ones that were left out of the fridge will have less fermenting power.


Method for the crust and filling: 

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line and grease the loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving long flaps hanging over the sides of the pan (for easy removal later). 

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt and cinnamon. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and beat till fully combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

While the crust is cooling, in a small bowl combine the gelatin with the water and let sit for 3-5 minutes to bloom. Melt the gelatin with short bursts 10 second bursts in a microwave  or warm over low heat until it is clear and all the graininess is gone. Do not let it boil or it will lose it's gelling power.

Put the "cream cheese" mixture, gelatin and the rest of the ingredients into a high peered blender and blend until smooth (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). If needed you can add 1-2 tablespoons more of coconut milk to keep the mixture moving through the container.

Pour the batter over the cookie crust in the prepared pan (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). Smooth the top if needed. Cover and chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours or till good and firm.


Cutting, Dipping & Serving:

In a dry bowl set over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and fat together, then stir till smooth and glossy. Remove from heat.

Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and run a knife along the sides of the cake to help it release from the pan. Using the parchment paper flaps, pull the cake out of the pan, placing it face down onto a cutting board with the "cookie side" facing up (as seen in the last row of pictures). Cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares with a sharp knife. If the cake is too hard, heat the knife in a glass of hot water and while dry before cutting.

Use a wood skewer or fondue dipper to peirce each cake piece, then dip and coat with chocolate (as seen in the last row of pictures). The chocolate ail begin to harden quickly.

Once fully coated, place them on a chilled parchment lined cookie sheet so that the bottoms firm quickly and don't spread out. Let the chocolate set completely then serve or transfer to a sealed container and store in the fridge. I prefer to not keep these bites frozen as the chocolate will accumulate condensation, bloom and look unpleasing. Chocolate coated bites can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Uncoated bites can be frozen up to 1 month and dipped before serving. 




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