Archive for September, 2011

Creamy Choco-banana ice-cream

My good friend mentioned that she had tried Macadamia Chocolate Spread in her new Mini-Chopper. I was eager to hear how she had liked it, and was slightly crestfallen that she didn’t share my ardour. You see, I am always curious as to how people will enjoy some of the things I like. I always secretly wonder if they are actually delicious to other folk. I admit to enjoying things like dried cabbage Amazing Kale Chips and Garbanzo Bean Cookie Dough, which may not be everyones cup of tea (mines a herbal, thanks) Having said that, I think if people can get over their preconceptions (is that a word?) they may be surprised at what they will enjoy. My husband is a crisp fanatic and always pulled a bit of a face when I offered him a kale chip (I know. Strange!) but the other day he finally tucked in, and was rolling his eyes and stuffing them in a bit too fast for my liking (Hello?? I like them too!)

Anyway, I am 35 now and I can finally admit I need validation. So when I went home from Sarah’s I thought “Was that chocolate spread as nice as I remember it? Was it?” I felt duty bound to make it again. I never eat macadamias, as they are my hubbies healthy treat, and I only delve into the bag once in a while to create things, because they cost £2 a bag, and that aint cheap- it’s a small bag. But I was now on a mission.

I whipped up a batch of Macadamia chocolate spread in my mini chopper  (the recipe is here, but all you need is macadamia nuts, honey and cocoa) I added 2-3 Tablespoons of soy milk because there wasn’t quite enough nuts for the size of the  chopper to get a really smooth buttery consistency (Thanks Sarah, you were right) You could just add a handful more nuts though.

So as I contemplated – and taste-tested this mini chopper full of expensive, nurturing chocolatey fat, I concluded that it was as delicious as I remembered it and all that remained was to either eat it with a spoon, or try to eke it out a little. I still have my frugal hat on, so eke I did. I threw in about 30 slices of frozen banana and whizzed until it was totally creamy.

Oh goodness!  Delicious! I think I may have mentioned more than once how amazing Banana softserve ice-cream is. I was once asked “Are you sure you didn’t put any cream in this? Nope- just  bananas! It’s a miraculous transformation it undergoes when it is frozen, and whizzed. While this is a little richer, as it has the nuts, it is decidedly guilt free. I was so excited to share it with Alfredo because we had decided to have a bit of a campfire out back and if we ate my ice cream, he might not miss “smores”  🙂

He took a polite spoonfull, nodded, and handed it back to me. Wait! My validation! On the point of feeling crestfallen, I remembered he dislikes all chocolate ice-cream, even Haagen Dazs. And anyway? Whatever. I love it. Stoke that fire. And pass the ice-cream!

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Savoury smoothies

The first time I came across a recipe for a “raw soup” I couldn’t imagine anything wierder, or more unappetising.i pictured some kind of cold ditchwater with raw onion, rubbery mushrooms and dodgy looking sprouts a-floatin’. It didn’t take me longer than a few seconds, however, to remember  that my favourite ever summer “soup” is gazpacho– a raw soup!

Raw soup. Savoury smoothie. Blended salad. Whatever. It’s a raw veggie drink and I love raw veggies!

So, no photo…..but I just thought I would encourage you to think of different ways to enjoy nature’s bounty- blended. I find with a savoury smoothie, you have to be a bit more careful- with sweet delicious fruits, it’s very difficult to go wrong- with vegetables, you just have to take care to balance sweetness and “bite”. Tomatoes and red bell peppers are always a good way to go as a base.

The other day I did a simple one with:

  • 2 red bell peppers (small)
  • 2 large flavoursome tomatoes
  • 1 spring onion
  • a glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • a small avocado
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • a pinch of salt that was larger than I care to admit
  • Enough water to get your blender going. (perhaps 1/2 cup of water?)

If it is hard to blend at first, use the “pulse” button and pulse until it can ger going, then blend till totally smooth and creamy, and drink!

Here is an amazing one. Oh seriously, this is good!! It is a summer recipe, when tomatoes and red bell peppers are flavourful and abundant. Perhaps I am a little late with this? Personally I still find these really refreshing, and have not go into craving warm hearty stews yet. One word of warning: Tone down that garlic if you are not accustomed to raw garlic. The quantities are not for the faint-hearted, neither are they appropriate for anyone who will be in contact with…well…anyone, for…quite a long time. Unless you are sharing it with someone. And even then….I am doubtful!  I love it, I have to say, but I am not sure that is always an appropriate benchmark for everyone  🙂

So, here is the link. You need to blend it extremely well in a good liquidizer (not a handheld blender) to get that creaminess. It is almost free of fat, but for extra creaminess, and added nutrition, add a small avocado once everything is blended, and blend briefly until smooth. I am a firm believer that the addition of a small avocado to most salad dishes and salad-drinks is rarely, if ever wrong 🙂

RAW Smoky Roasted Garlic Red Pepper Soup     If you make this, add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika for extra smokiness, I do.

May I just reiterate once again, how amazing you feel inside when you feed your body all these plants and clean food?????  

Consider it reiterated, then.

Thank you 🙂

Goodbye Spinach leaves Header.

The previous formatting was  driving me a little batty. This one is much nicer, n’est-ce pas? Though it doesn’t let me put my little spinach leaves at the top, no matter! The clumps of grass and the natty green stripey background will have to suffice.

The dearth that wasn’t.

I was looking bleakly into my fridge this morning. I don’t know about seven years of famine, but the seven hours until I could do a big food shop seemed far,oh so far away. Should I try the old close-the-door-and-try-again-in-ten-minutes trick? Nah- we all know it doesn’t work.

The hundreds of pears proceeding from two friends pear trees were still unripe. My children had eaten every avocado. The 3p mangoes were no more.I was out of jumbo organic oats and home-made wholewheat bread, because basically, I have plenty of time and no organisation skills right now. I momentarily rued being so picky  selective about what I put into my body. What to do?? Suddenly I remembered my secondary secret resource- the freezer.

How could I have forgotten? I had frugally hoarded in times of previous plenty, oh jolly good for me! I pulled out a package of pre-chopped fresh pineapple, one of the many bags of  ready-chopped Braeburns (the 10p-a-bag Braeburns, purchased with the 3 p  mangoes) and a few other surprise finds.

I remembered, furthermore, that I had fortuitously had a baking frenzy last week- and had almost a whole drawerfull of different types of cupcakes and cookies, all at different points on the scale of alternativeness, to appeal to different members of the household. I pulled out some honey-sweetened Peanut butter and raisin cookies (for Alfredo) and some sugar free fig and banana cupcakes (wholewheat)  because I love to hear Isaac try to ask for cupcakes in Spanish (“magdalena”– does anyone know why they named fairy cakes after Mary Magdalene?)

Phew! All was well. I inserted the fruits of my frugality into the blender-  100 grams of fresh pineapple, 2 Braeburn apples, a small frozen banana, a few frozen strawberries, and half a small bag of organic spinach, and smugly blended.

Thus began our day. And now, having shared our smoothie, to restore some order to this house. I shall put Isaac to work too, those Mary Magdalenes need to be earnt, young man!

Tips for baking with honey / Amazing Cookies!

Okay, let me get to the point. You have got to make these cookies! They have no sugar in at all and it is almost certain that you have all the ingredients in your cupboard right now! For the recipe itself, I will direct you to the original post on the blog it is from, but let me just say, that it only contains: wholewheat flour, bicarbonate of soda, honey, peanut butter, sunflower oil, and chocolate chips (substitute for raisins for a healthier option).

But first! Baking with Honey 101.

Ask yourself why you want to bake with honey. If it is because you have this feeling “honey is good for you”- you are right, in the sense that unpasteurised honey has a lot of beneficial minerals, amino acids and enzymes which support the immune and digestive system.

However, when you bake with quality unpasteurised honey, the heat destroys quite a bit of that goodness. In terms of blood sugar, your body will treat it as a quick sugar like table sugar. However, “raw” or cooked, it is still a more natural choice than sugar- even the ones that say “unrefined”.  Personally I use unpasteurised honey in unbaked treats and if I am baking with it, I use everyday” honey, (aka cheap!)

Honey burns far more easily than sugar; I had almost written off baking with it until I discovered this website. (I will post the link with the recipe at the end again) She bakes lots of things only with honey, and not so much as a burnt bottom in sight.

So I decided to try again, and please allow me to furnish you with the tips I have discovered. Some may not be necessary for your oven, but here goes.

  • Test with 1/2 quantities, or even 1/4 quantities of a recipe first.
  • Drop the Oven Temperature?  Her recipe calls for 175 C, I dropped mine to as low as 160, as I think my oven is quite fierce.
  • Reduce cooking time? My cookies were ready at 160 C  after 7-8 minutes, seriously!
  • Cook nearer the front of the oven– the back of the oven is always hotter.
  • Check frequently. These are not a cake so feel free to check on them if in doubt. You do not want to stick honey-only cookies in the oven and then go and paint your nails. They are done in under ten minutes in most ovens, so seriously- just hover!
  • The tray. Since everything I had ever baked with honey ended up with a burnt bottom within (it felt like) seconds, I wondered if my tray was causing part of the problem? Different types of trays conduct heat differently (Nil points for that un-scientific explanation!) Which brings me to my next magic, slightly unorthodox cookie-baking tip:
  • Silicone muffin trays! I now spoon my cookie dough into the bottom of muffin cases and gently press into shape. I place them directly on the oven shelf, not onto a tray.  Once they are cool-ish (5-10 minutes after removing from oven) remove from the cases, and with the heel of your hand gently press down so you lose that “cupcake” edge at the bottom. Okay….you may not want to advertise that you do this with your cookies (whoops, I just did!)…..a fish-slice would work too  🙂
  • Do not over-cook! These cookies will harden considerably on cooling. If you leave them in even a little too long, they will turn quickly.  Once the tops of your cookies look ever so slightly dryish and a little cracked, and/or they start to brown slightly at the edges, take them out.

Here are some photos, followed by the magic link. Don’t forget my tips, now. Good luck!

In the muffin cases they look wierd. (Don't put too much dough in....)

 

but the advantages for those of us with issues are....perfectly round cookies!

 
By the way, her cookies look nothing like mine! But she seems to know what she is doing. I just shared some tips that are the fruits of my failures in case it helps anyone. (By the way, these ones are with raisins)
 
And here is the link:
 
 
Just doing my bit for all you cookie lovers out there who want a slightly better option. You’re welcome  🙂

3-ingredient “Caramel” Bites (free from sugar/dairy)

Hello heavenly morsel!  I won’t go on about how it’s free from harmful saturated fats and processed sugars. I shall barely touch upon the fact that this only has THREE ingredients and all of them are whole plant foods. The fibre? I shall not even mention it. The potassium, and other vitamins and trace minerals? My lips are sealed. And that it takes a question of seconds to whip up- I won’t even go there.  Let me just tell you one thing though- these are SO GOOD!

You need………(fill in the gap…okay I will….) a mini chopper or small food processor. This recipe may make about 20, or less if you go for bigger sized truffles.  Here are the magic three ingredients for your amazing, sweet and chewey caramel bites.

  • 1 cup of unroasted cashews
  • 1/4 cup date paste (follow this link for instructions) …..or 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • The seeds of half a vanilla bean
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

Process your cashews until they form a fine crumb, which should only take about 30 seconds. Add your date paste and vanilla seeds (and salt if desired) and pulse until it forms a sticky dough, with everything well incorporated.  Refridgerate until firm (about an hour) and then form into little balls. Goodness, I had forgotten how great cashews are for so many things.  

Notes:

  •  If possible, splurge on real vanilla beans over extract (Madagascan Vanilla sells them on ebay in the UK, but I cannot open Ebay for some reason, to post the link; they are affordable!)
  • Dates vs date paste  Truthfully, dates are probably better as date paste has a little more moisture in, and the ickle truffles will not end up quite as firm as when you use whole dates.  I had date paste made, and it does give a “neater” looking dough, but let’s face it, who cares if you have a little chunk of date in there, right? I assume if you make this recipe, it’s because you like dates. If they are fresh (Halawi, Medjool etc) they will incorporate in more easily. If your dried dates are very tough, soak them in warm water., but only very briefly- say, about 20 minutes.

Behold the flecks! Vanilla aroma packaged in sweet chewy goodness!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

And here, with the blessed component parts...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
PS. Using a food processor, you can try all sorts of energy-dense bites using an approximate ratio of 2 part ground nuts/seeds to 1 part dried fruits, (dates, raisins, dried apricots etc) and extra flavourings as desired (cinnamon, vanilla, cardamon, orange zest/extract, almond essence, lemon zest, carob/cocoa etc) Please feel free to inform me if you find a great combination!

Tropical Sorbet

I think I should call this blog “Adventures of a Mini Chopper”. BUT- no ice cream maker needed for this one-hooray! Remember my glut of 3p baby mangoes? (Previous post) Well Isaac and I have just found a great use for one of them. No precise recipe needed !!

I used:

  • 1 baby mango (which yielded 100grams flesh)
  • some fresh pineapple (100grams flesh)
  • 1 ripe speckled banana
  • the juice of half a large lemon

I do think the lemon juice is essential to give it a bit of delicious sharpness, and I used the banana so I could get an extra creamy texture (even though sorbets are technically not creamy. I am not one to get hung up on technicalities) NOTE: If you are going to use a regular sized food processor, you will need to use more fruit or it will never “get going” and process the fruit properly.

This is a two-part-mini-chopper-adventure, but nevertheless takes a question of minutes (not counting waiting time, but you can do it overnight and have it for breakfast!)  Read on.

1. Process your fruit in a food processor with the “S blade” or a mini chopper until you have a nice smooth mixture. Taste, and tweak appropriately.

2. Now. Take your mixture and spoon it into a ziploc bag; if you have lots of mixture you may possibly need two. You can do it in a regular sandwich bag, you just need to be more careful. The idea is, on a plate or small tray is to extend your mixture in the closed plastic bag so you have a large flat rectangular smoothie 🙂

3. Place your bag(s) in the freezer overnight, or for about 4-6  hours.

4. When your mixture is solid, you simply remove it from your plastic bag, and “snap” it into pieces into your mini chopper (you have washed it from the last use, right?)  You will notice ice crystals; that is what an ice cream maker prevents, but don’t worry- we are going to break them down now, and end up with a beautiful slushy sorbet with not an ice crystal in sight!

5. Now blitz your mixture in your chopper, until all lumps are gone and you have a creamy, dreamy frozen dessert!

Indulge alone or share with a friend.  I shared it with my little man  🙂

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