24 June, 2012

Coconut Chocolate Muffins

I am very proud to present you another muffin recipe today... I know, I know... yet another muffin. To my defense I am still in the process of optimizing previous muffin recipes. Several criteria have to be met:
  • it has to have chocolate in it to satisfy my chocolate cravings 
  • it has to be grain free
  • the sweetness should come from unprocessed sources
  • taking a few readers responses into account, I wanted them to be without bananas
  • they needs to be light, moist and fluffy
  • if my son wants to take them to school in his lunch box, they need to be nut free too
Quite a task? It's been a long journey, I must admit. Here is a list of chocolate muffins from this blog in historical order:
Today's muffin recipe is made with coconut flour only. It meets all the criteria above. I absolutely love them (please read: I eat most of them, but my kids love them all the same). I've been making them every other day for a week now, and another batch needs to be made today, as my son didn't have a chance to get one of these muffins in his lunch box today. I guess it's time to double the recipe.

1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquefied
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dates, pitted and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried cherries (optional)

Yields 5-6
Preheat oven to 180C. Line or grease muffin tin.

In a bowl, sift together coconut flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.
In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in honey and coconut oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients, and blend until all lumps have dissolved. Gently fold in The finely chopped dates and cherries.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Garnish by sprinkling with some desiccated coconut on top of each muffin. Best eaten warm.
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19 June, 2012

Potato Salad with Basil Pesto and Ginger

The raw food diet doesn't allow food to be heated over 42C as higher temperatures are being considered to kill the vitality and life force of the food. That's one fact. Now have you ever driven a car without air conditioner when it's 46C degrees outside? I have today, and will have to do so for another few days. Guess how I felt afterwards? Quite cooked, and not very vital, so to speak. My car A/C broke down last weekend, and the spare part to fix it will only arrive after 4 working days, I was told by the workshop. Very bad timing.

My garden is almost bare now that summer is here. Tomato and pepper plants have wilted in the heat long ago. Only the herbs are still hanging in there. My rosemary has become almost a bush, and if nothing else would grow in my garden, I will always have a green thumb with basil. Some of my basil plants have grown into shrubs. No summer temperatures can make them wilt. They need to be watered, sure. But other plants just wilt under the sun, no matter how much water they get.

My family loves to go and pick fresh basil leaves when they order a pizza, throwing out the pathetic looking dark green basil that's been delivered with the pizza, and replacing it with the fresh ones.

I made a big batch of pesto the other day. It can spice up almost everything. I thought it would be a nice change to use pesto instead of dairy-based dressing in a potato salad. To give it a bit more zing I added finely chopped fresh ginger. What a revelation! To me, the addition of ginger makes this salad. Spicy but not fiery, with a little extra crunch from the pine nuts. My new favorite potato salad.

4 cups new potatoes, scrubbed or peeled

4 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 tablespoons basil pesto (recipe below)

4 tablespoons pine nuts, roasted

Basil Pesto
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
3/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 6-8
Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, and steam or boil in lightly salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a food processor combine all ingredients for the pesto, except the olive oil. Pulse a few times, then add the olive oil in a thin steady stream while blending. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a serving bowl, combine cooled potatoes and pesto. Stir until well coated. Stir in the the finely chopped ginger (alternatively add it to the pesto before combining with potatoes). Sprinkle with roasted pine nuts. Let sit in an airtight container for 1-2 hours for the flavors to spread. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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13 June, 2012

Frozen Chocolate Nut Bars

Would you expect a dessert to be good for you? For many people, the conventional idea of a dessert is more like this: it's full of sugars, white flours and the wrong fats, it's bad for you. Only if a dish fulfills all these criteria, it can be called a dessert. It MUST be bad for you. That makes it a treat.

These chocolate nuts bars do not fulfill any of the criteria mentioned above. They are quite the opposite: gluten free, grain free, no added sugar and full of proteins, good fats and antioxidants. And yet, they I'd call them a dessert. The nutritional value of these bars make them good enough to serve as on-the-go snack during the day. In fact, I eat them at any time of the day: mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, as well as after dinner.
Perhaps I should give out a warning: They are barely sweet. Perhaps not sweet enough for people who are still have a good amount of refined sugars in their diet and usually eat regular sweets and treats. The few dates and prunes in these bars are merely there to make the chocolate, nuts and coconut stick together.

I am in love with its deep and dark flavor. No chances to get a sugar rush from these. Nevertheless these bars are deeply satisfying, mainly from all the good fats they contain. On top of that, prunes and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants and will have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. You would hardly expect a dessert to be good that for you? This one is. Enjoy!

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup chopped dates (or a date prune mixture for less sugary bars)

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 banana

30g/1oz cacao nibs or dark chocolate (85% cocoa), finely chopped

cocoa powder

Yields 8-10
In a food processor, finely chop the almonds. Add flax seed meal, coconut and dried fruit. Pulse until well combined. Add coconut oil and banana and pulse until mixture sticks together. At last, Add cacao nibs or finely chopped dark chocolate. Pulse again until well incorporated.

Lay out a 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
Transfer mixture to the pan and press it in as even as possible. Dust with cocoa powder. Keep in the freezer. Before serving, cut them into bars, squares or triangles. Keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
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07 June, 2012

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Mushrooms

Following a mostly grain free diet, requires a bigger refrigerator. I don't know yet how to sell this idea to my husband. The biggest obstacle is that there is no space for a bigger one in our open-plan kitchen. Unless we move it further into the dining and sitting area. But that cannot be a serious consideration and anyway, the distances to the kitchen counter and stove would be to far.

Without grains, I can eat mountains of vegetables just for lunch. Since we are a family of four, our fridge is usually packed to capacity after a trip to the grocery store, mainly vegetables and fruit. Yet, after one (!) day, it's empty. One weekday in food usually translates into breakfast for four (3 to 4 different ones), mid-morning snacks for three (usually three different ones), three lunches (usually three different ones), afternoon snacks for three, and dinner for four (usually two different ones). Needless to say, most of them are homemade or simply raw foods.
Now, that I am on it, I also need a bigger dishwasher, as the meals mentioned above produce a vast amount of dirty dishes. No, scrape that out, no bigger dishwasher needed. I do have a big one. I actually need someone to fill it and empty it on a more regular basis than I am able/willing to do.

My recent crush on roasted vegetables doesn't help solving the problem. In fact, it may have contributed to the problem of a crowded fridge that is miraculously empty the next day. But here is what's so good about roasted vegetables: You chop them up and season them, put them in the oven. While your lunch is cooking unattended in the oven, I can do a million other things. 20 minutes later I pull them out, sprinkle with some nuts, seeds or fresh herbs. Ready is my lunch.

I am getting more and more inventive now with the seasoning. My latest discovery is the Moroccan Spice Rub. It's a popular seasoning on starchy vegetables like regular or sweet potatoes. However, I love it on any veggies, and particularly mushrooms. The otherwise slightly watery vegetable gets a good kick out of the spice mixture. I love it as a "veggie only" lunch or as a side dish to grilled meat or fish. I would take those as a salad to a BBQ or potluck at any time.

4 cups mushrooms, cleaned
2 teaspoons Moroccan Spice Rub (recipe below), or to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper

Moroccan Spice Rub
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Serves 4
In a small bowl, combine all spices for the Moroccan Spice Rub. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 220C. Lightly grease or line roasting sheet.
Put the mushrooms in a bowl. Cut the big ones in halves or quarters. Drizzle over some olive oil. Then sprinkle with Moroccan spice rub, salt and pepper. Mix until well coated. Transfer mushrooms to prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to serving dish. Serve hot or at room temperature. 
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01 June, 2012

Lemon Frozen Yogurt

It's probably a known fact to you that I avoid refined sugar in my recipes. You might have even noticed that many of my recent recipes have been grain free, as I seem to do well without sugars and grain starches in my system.

However, dairy is still part of my daily diet. I have tried to go dairy-free every now and then for a few days, but didn't notice any changes in my well-being. If I had to, I guess I could give up cheeses and milk without much ado. The problem would be to give up yogurt. I have yogurt about everyday, although I have switched to goats yogurt wherever I can.

And then there is my secret weakness for ice cream. Which I only give in occasionally, when we go out and the kids want a scoop. In the grocery store, I can resist the family boxes as the contents and/or length of their ingredients list usually puts me off.

So why did it take me so long to discover homemade frozen yogurt? It kills two birds with one stone: control over the ingredients and satisfying my occasional cravings for ice cream. The ingredients list is amazingly short: yogurt, flavor, and sweetener. No ice cream maker needed. No cooking involved. If you have access to raw yogurt and raw honey, this dessert will even be raw.

It is important though to strain as much water out of the yogurt as possible. The less the water content, the creamier your frozen yogurt will be. I am in love with this. I even prefer it to ice creams, as I love the tangy flavor that the yogurt brings with it, instead of the pure creaminess that cream or milk in regular ice cream has. A truly refreshing and guilt-free simmer dessert.

2 cups whole milk yogurt (1 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 lemon, juice of
1/2 lemon, zest of

Serves 4-6
If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for two hours. Discard the whey. You will be left with about 1 1/2 cups strained yogurt.

Mix strained or Greek yogurt with honey and lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the lemon yogurt mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid, about 1-2 hours. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze until solid.
Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer frozen yogurt to airtight container and return to freezer until ready to serve.
Scoop into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh fruit. Serve immediately.
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