Bananas with Dark Chocolate, Toasted Coconut and Peanuts

29 Jul

If you have been reading my posts for the last year or so, you know that I am doing a lot with raw foods and trying to make treats more healthy. It is July in Seattle and though we don’t get the scorching temps of many other places (thank goodness), it does get hot enough here to want ice cream bars on just about a daily basis. How to satisfy the desire for something cold, creamy, and sweet and good? Voila! This treat.

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Bananas are super sweet on their own so they don’t need much else, but dipped in good dark chocolate, rolled in toasted coconut flakes and whichever nuts you like, this is a pretty killer treat. I keep mine in the freezer so they are the prefect refreshing treat that I need on hot afternoons here. My husband also really loves these, so they go fast and I make all kinds of variations. I have used hazlenuts, pecans, walnuts and pistachios (all of which were amazing), and it is a great way to use up bananas that are slowly dying on your countertop.

Bananas with Dark Chocolate, Toasted Coconut and Peanuts
From LaFemmeCooks

6 Bananas cut in half
1 cup dark chocolate chips1 tbs coconut oil
1 cup toasted coconut
1 cup nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
*sea salt, optional for topping

Melt the chocolate  and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat when melted. Dip the banana in the chocolate to coat thoroughly. Then roll the banana in coconut shavings, then in the nuts. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt if you like. When all 6 are finished, place in freezer to harden. When they have hardened enough to move easily off the sheet, put into a container of your choice and store in freezer.  If you have any melted chocolate and nuts leftover I like to mix them together and pour onto the parchment, top with sea salt and then freeze for a super easy (and delish) bark.

Raw & Vegan: Peach and Candied-Ginger Pie

17 Jul

I challenged myself to make over a recipe for an incredible-looking nectarine and ginger pie, because it included butter, cream cheese, mascarpone *and* sour cream. Yikes! That is a lot of dairy for someone who is allergic, and a lot of decadence that could probably be skipped with good result. I am finding that it is really easy to turn a lot of recipes into healthier versions that taste just as good as the original, and this pie is no exception.

Now, the original is undoubtedly amazing, because my friend Dana only makes things that are amazing. So for those of you who don’t have a problem with dairy, I have included the original recipe in case you want to try it. But, for those of us who can’t partake, this is a pretty great substitute.

First, I made a raw crust from hazelnuts, candied ginger, coconut and dates. Pressed it into the pan and let it sit in the fridge to harden a bit.

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Then, I made the filling from cashews, more candied ginger, maple syrup and vanilla. It is amazing what you can do with those nuts! You can make “cheese” out of them, and just about anything sweet you can imagine. They are probably the most versatile item in a vegan kitchen.

Finally, the sliced peaches on top (I used peaches because I had some from the farmer’s market that needed using, but nectarines are fab too).

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And viola! Raw, vegan, healthy and super delish too.

Peach and Candied-Ginger Pie
From LaFemmeCooks

Crust:
1/2 cup raw hazlenuts
1/2 cup dried finely shredded coconut
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
10-12 soft medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tbs candied ginger
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Filling:
1 cup organic raw cashews soaked for 2 hours
1/4-1/2 cup filtered water depending on desired thickness
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup or more to taste
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract, or a little more to taste
3 tbs candied ginger
a pinch of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt
To prepare the crust, process nuts, coconut, buckwheat and sea salt in a food processor until the nuts are fine crumbs, then add the dates and process until the mixture holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Spread into a pie pan and press firmly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
For the filling, throw everything into your high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix) and puree until thick and creamy.It is a good idea to start with ¼ cup of water, and then gradually thin it out in order to achieve the desired thickness. Pour into crust and freeze until firm.  Top with sliced peaches.
Keep the pie in the fridge or freezer, which is perfect for these hot summer days. Enjoy without guilt!

What’s Brewing Chez Moi?

23 May

I often have trouble deciding what to order when we go out for drinks with our friends. Beer can be refreshing, but it is pretty heavy and after one I need a nap. I like cocktails, but I am a lightweight and I would prefer something with less alcohol so that I can have more than one.  Wine is great, but it gives me migraines and I haven’t been able to drink it for a while now… enter: hard cider. It is the perfect drink for me because it is light and refreshing, gluten-free, and low in alcohol. I have really fallen in love with it.

I first had hard cider in France while on a visit to Normandy. The region is famous for it, and with good reason. We would drive around the bucolic countryside, through miles of apple orchards, and pull over at one of the many “degustations” offering tastes. I have actually been to the town of Calvados, where apple brandy is made, and wished that someone here was making a product of equal quality.

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I think that a lof of Americans are afraid of cider because they think it is too sweet. The few brands we have been able to get here are overly sweetened and (to my palate) undrinkable. But, recently there has been a cider renaissance in Washington State, and now there are quite a few good (and great) ones to choose from. But, you know me, I love to make everything from scratch and so why not cider? I mean, our forefathers made it themselves (John Adams was known to drink a tankard of it a day, lucky man), so I know it can’t be that hard.

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And you know what? It isn’t hard at all. Actually, the apple juice we started with had a warning label on the bottle that said to keep it in the fridge else it could turn alcoholic. So really, it just simply could not be easier to make this stuff. We now have our first batch fermenting down in the basement, and for this batch we are experimenting with two different yeasts to see which we prefer. Once we get our baseline taste profile then we can add fun things to the cider, like ginger or lemon or whatever we decide would be fun. If you want to be involved in some of the tastings we will do send me a message and I will put you on the list.

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My latest adventure: Staging

30 Apr

If you aren’t familiar with the culinary definition of the term staging, it is working briefly and without pay in another chef’s kitchen to learn new techniques and cuisines. Come next week, this is what I will be doing at a fantastic restaurant located in the Lake Chelan area. (I will leave more specific details for a future post, so stay tuned.)

Why in the world would I want to leave husband and kitties behind for a week of hard work and no pay? Because Dave and I have some ideas brewing in our heads about what we might want to do in the next few years, and opening a small restaurant in Walla Walla is one of  them.  We have been contemplating a move to Walla for years now, and something about the timing feels right these days.

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Yes, I know restaurants usually fail. Yes, I know they are incredibly hard work. But, we have been running a successful small business for over a decade now and for some reason we just aren’t afraid to try something new.  But I’m also the kind of person who does her homework, and I am lucky enough to have friends with successful restaurants who are willing to let me try it out. This is my first stage but it won’t be my last; I plan to spend a good amount of time trying out different experiences to really get a feel of whether we can do this as a business for ourselves. Maybe we can, maybe we can’t. All I know is I’m planning to have a lot of fun figuring it out.

Stay tuned for updates from my latest adventure! And wish me luck.

 

 

Raw Banana Macadamia Coconut Dream Pie

21 Mar

Dave and I did a raw food cleanse last month that we really loved, and I have to say it really changed my palette. I haven’t been able to eat meat since we quit the cleanse (about a month ago), and I don’t tolerate alcohol at all. Which is kind of a bummer for someone who likes to have a nice glass of wine once in a while. C’est la vie.

In the meantime, I have become totally addicted to raw desserts. We have banished sugar completely from our diet, and to the delight of my super-sweet-tooth, have found plenty of delicious but healthy treats. Like this one.

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Who knew that soaking some cashews could give you all kinds of amazing dessert options? You can make whipped cream with them, and I recently made a vegan mayo with cashews and coconuts that was surprisingly believable.

Raw Banana Madacamia Coconut Dream Pie
From: Fragrant Vanilla Cake

Crust:
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cups shredded, dried coconut
1/2 cup sprouted, dried buckwheat (or additional coconut
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
8 soft medjool dates, pitted and chopped

Filling:
2 cups sliced bananas
1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours in filtered water and drained)
1 1/2 cups young coconut meat or soaked cashews (drained)
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp raw agave nectar or raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract and seeds from half a vanilla bean (other half reserved for topping)
1/3 cup raw coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
2 sliced bananas
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
Cream topping:
3/4 cup raw cashew pieces (preferably soaked overnight)
1/4 cup coconut water
1 cups fresh young coconut meat (or additional soaked cashews if not available)
3 Tbsp raw agave nectar or raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 teaspoons vanilla and seeds of half a vanilla bean
1/4 cup raw coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup large flake coconut
large pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp honey
For the crust, combine the nuts, coconut, and buckwheat in a food processor and process until crumbs. Add the sea salt and dates and process until the mixture starts to come together when squeezed. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan, sprayed with non-stick coconut oil spray. Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, combine 2 cups bananas, coconut, coconut water, agave, sea salt, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the coconut oil and process for a minute. Divide the mixture into 2 bowls, then place one back in the food processor and add cacao powder.  Process until combined. Pour the chocolate filling mixture over the prepared crust, then top with sliced bananas, then the plain filling, then more bananas.  Place in the freezer to set for about an hour.

Meanwhile, to make the topping, combine the cashews, coconut water, sea salt, agave nectar, and vanilla and process until smooth. Add the coconut oil slowly with the motor running (If the mixture starts to separate and clump, the filling is too cold to emulsify the oil, so warm some of it and process again). Place the topping in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes until it firms up to whipped cream  consistency. Once frosting consistency, move to the fridge until ready to use.
Once the filling has set,spread over the tart.
In a food processor, place macadamia nuts, coconut, sea salt, and honey and pulse until chopped.  Sprinkle over tart, and serve! Store extra in the fridge.

Belizean Dreams

29 Jan

We just got back from Belize, and I think I am feeling the most well-rested and happy that I can remember. What an amazing place!! We stayed at a small resort in a little coastal village, and everything was perfect… except the food. In an attempt to cater to American tourists, our resort and all of the others in our little strip of coastline served things like burgers, nachos, and wings, instead of the local cuisine. Dave and I managed to corner every local we encountered and grilled them about their local food culture, and soon found some other dining options more suited to our desire to experience real Belizean food.

Belize is comprised of many different cultures and cultural influences, from Mayan to African to Amish. The main culture of the region we visited is Garifuna, descendants of Carib Indians and Black Africans originally from the island of St. Vincent. This dish, pictured below, is called Hudut and is their most popular. The fish is caught fresh each day, and is simmered in a coconut “gravy” with aromatics. It is served with mashed plantains and sweet potatoes and is really delicious.

Hudut

We also spent lots of time staring at the sea and drinking tropical concoctions, like this blended pineapple drink:

On our way to visit the Mayan ruins of Xunatunich, near the Guatemalan border, we stopped in a town called St. Ignacio. This town is second in size only to Belize City, and is a mix of Creole, Mestizo, Chinese, Mennonite and more. Their most famous local dish is called beansandricechickenandsalad (said like it is one word), and we stopped at a great place called Benny’s to enjoy ours.

It came with this watermelon drink, which is simply watermelon thrown into the blender. It was perfectly refreshing, and such a welcome change from the idea of sugary sodas popular here.  We couldn’t get enough of it.

I would definitely recommend Belize if you haven’t already been. It is simply beautiful, and rich with cultural and natural beauties.  There are jungle preserves to explore, caves to spelunker, coastline to enjoy and of course the best scuba and snorkeling in the world. Or, if you are like me and want to stare into the blue sea for an entire day, that works too.  Just pack LOTS of sunscreen, and don’t trust your husband when he tells you that you can’t get burned in the shade!

Quince and Sweet Gorgonzola Salad

4 Jan

Happy New Year! I hope you said a proper goodbye to 2011, and thank you for continuing to read my blog. I know I only post sporadically, but perhaps in 2012 I will be better about it. I don’t make resolutions (mostly because I never keep them), but if I did I am sure blogging more would be at the top of the list. The good news is that I’m not cooking any less, just really busy with my day job and finding less and less time in my day. But, since I own my own small business I guess being busy is a good thing, especially in this economy.

Since I saw you last I have been cooking up a storm from Plenty, the latest cookbook from London chef Ottolenghi. The recipes are all vegetarian, but they are designed to be filling and hearty and attractive to carnivores as well.  This salad would be an excellent accompaniment to anything, from fish to chicken to beef and pork. Quince are my new favorite fruit, and though they require some cooking time to make them easily edible, they are such a fragrant, delightful treat that I can’t resist any recipe that contains them.

One caveat: quince are only in season through February, and may be hard to find if your grocery store doesn’t have them. We get ours from our CSA, and I just got these last week so I know there are still some out there. Many people actually have quince trees and don’t have any idea what to do with the fruit. Friend one of these people, and “help” take some off their hands.

Quince and Sweet Gorgonzola Salad
From Plenty
Serves 4

1 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 black peppercorns
4 strips orange zest
2 bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup red wine
2 medium quinces
1 tsp grainy mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar
4 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups mixed greens
4-5 ounces sweet gorgonzola
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted, some whole and some roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 275. Take a medium-sized heavy pan that can go in the oven and for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Place inside the water, sugar, peppercorns, orange zest, bay leaves, lemon juice and red wine. Set on the stove and bring to a light simmer. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat.

Meanwhile, peel the quinces; keep the skin. Cut the fruit vertically into quarters and remove the core; keep this too. Cut each quarter into two segments. Place the quince segments, plus the skin and cores, in the sugar syrup. Cover the pan and put it into the over to cook for about two hours. After this time the quince should be completely tender. Remove from over and leave to cool, uncovered.

Whisk together until smooth the mustard, vinegar, 4tbs of the quince cooking liquid, 1/2 tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper.

To finish the salad, place some salad leaves on 4 serving plates. Arrange four quince sergments per portion and some hand-broken pieces of gorgonzola on the leaves. Try to build the salad up. Place a few more leaves on top. Spoon the dressing over and scatter over the pistachios. Finish with a light drizzle of olive oil. Alternatively, arrange similarly in a large central mixing bowl and bring to the table.

 


 

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