Chocolate cookie ice-box cake

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It’s always fun when something is even better tasting than you imagined. This was one of them. I made it as a celebration cake for a loved one using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (minuse the peanut butter). I didn’t bother making it look perfect, so the shape was more modern art than “bakery case ready,” but that didn’t affect our enjoyment of it one bit. I did top with chocolate curls and cocoa nibs, so that made up for the shape a little.

While it was a lot of work to roll out and bake each layer individually, it was fun to have the layered look when cutting into it. I might not bother in the future, just rolling out random shapes and then layering them up as best I can like a triffle. Either way, super delicous.

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Rhubarb, apple, strawberry crumble

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Our CSA share came with rhubarb this week, and I couldn’t resist making a crumble. With my family visiting (including a loved one who can’t eat milk but can have yogurt), I also whipped up some easy frozen yogurt to go with it for a special treat.

There were only 4 stalks of rhubarb in the share, so I bulked up the crumble with strawberries and apples. The apples didn’t cook down as much as the other fruit (not surprising), so they had more of a bite to them. Not a bad thing, but I might cook them a bit on their own before adding to the crumble next time. I always make a double batch of topping, because everyone loves extra topping. I don’t use a recipe anymore, so if you want precision, I am not the place. I think if you have the general ratios, you’ll be fine. Just taste it before you bake it to make sure it has enough sugar, spice, salt, etc.

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, leaves trimmed away (they’re poisonous) and diced (bright red is best)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled, quartered if large
  • juice and grated zest of 1/2 lime or lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Mix all above ingredients together in a large bowl to blend. Place them into a buttered pie or tart pan. I like to use a wide, shallow dish to allow for the extra topping to get crispy.

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  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (can use gluten free flour)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (be sure they are gluten free if you making this gluten free, not all oats are)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place flour, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon into a food processor and mix to combine. Pulse in the diced butter until mixture looks like coarse pebbles. Add the walnuts and vanilla and pulse to combine. Take handful of the mixture and squeeze together, crumbling over the fruit filling. Cover fruit evenly with topping.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, crispy and bubbling around the edges. Let cool slightly before serving. This is also yummy room temp or cold.

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I served mine with some strawberry-raspberry fro yo. Take your favorite full-fat fruit yogurt and sweeten a little bit more. I used maple syrup. Sweetness is dulled by the cold temperature of fro yo or ice cream, so you want the starting mixture to be slightly sweeter than what the final product will taste like. I also added some lime zest and a dash of salt. Process in your ice cream maker and serve right away for soft-serve style or freeze until hard for scoop-able fro yo.

Toasted coconut cashews

There is a certain store where I get very weak-willed stepping into the snack aisle. You probably know where I mean (trader joe’s…uh-em). They have chocolate covered everything, bite sized brownies, and these toasted coconut cashews.

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I thought they’d be delicious in homemade granola (or just out of a bag at my desk at work), but the price point is a bit high to just toss these around. So I decided to make them myself!

  • 2 c “raw” cashews (did you know that no cashews are truly raw since the process of removing their poisonous skins actually cooks them? They are still labeled “raw” though vs. “roasted”)
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (small flakes so they stick better)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of cinnamon (if you like)

Toss the cashews, sugar and egg white together in a large bowl to coat. The egg white will turn into a crispy coating and make the coconut stick better. You can skip it if you like, just use a bit of coconut oil or water, or flax seed “egg” (1 tablespoon ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons water, let sit 5 min). Add the coconut, salt and cinnamon and toss to coat.

Bake in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, check and turn gently to evenly brown. They are done when they have a pale brown color – too dark and they taste bitter. They will crisp up as they cool down, but do make sure they are dry and cool before storing in an air tight container. Also very good on ice cream or in a curried-chicken salad.

Kabocha Squash, 3 Ways

I know I recently said that delicata was my favorite squash, but I also have to sing the praises of kabocha. I love it in spicy coconut curries, roasted in a bit of olive oil, pureed into soup, and especially when I get slices of it in a bento box lunch, all crispy tempura.IMG_1703

The farmer’s market has so many beautiful varieties of winter squash right now, and my most recent kabocha ended up with three different destinies: roasted seeds, slices for Korean kimbap, and pureed into kabocha ginger ice cream.

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For the seeds, I cleaned them off in a strainer to remove the fleshy string bits and then tossed them with olive oil and a sprinkle of espresso chili rub that I often use for steak. I toasted them in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning once, at 300. Full confession, these weren’t my favorite roasted pumpkin seeds. The hull to “meat” ratio is not the best, so they’re quite chewy. With the chili rub, they were still delicious though, and we ate them all.

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For the kimbap, I sliced crescent moons, tossed them in olive oil and roasted till tender (about 20 minutes at 300). You can see some of the other fillings pictured below.

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To make the kimbap, we covered sheets of seaweed (“gim” in Korean) with a thin layer of sticky rice and then rolled our toppings up inside. The slices were served with a lot of kimchi and beer.

My vision for the kabocha ginger ice cream was inspired by classic pumpkin pie. I roasted half of the squash until very tender and scooped out the bright orange flesh. The skin was so tender and delicious that we ate that as a snack, sprinkled with sea salt. I just figured that the green and orange blended together would not be pretty in the ice cream.

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I then pureed the flesh with whole milk, 2 egg yolks, fresh grated ginger, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and sea salt. I let my vitamix run on the hot soup setting to cook the custard and then chilled it overnight (ok, I also ate quite a bit of it straight out of the blender). After freezing it in my ice cream maker, I topped it with candied walnuts and coconut milk caramel sauce!

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Chocolate Mousse (it’s made with avocados, and it’s raw and vegan!)

My best friend growing up has a brilliant little sis that keeps coming up with recipes I have to try. This chocolate mousse is some of the best I’ve had, and it’s vegan! It couldn’t be easier to make. Check her out at Lychee Therapeutics. This tastes like dark chocolate truffle filling. I served it with sliced peaches, blueberries and whipped coconut milk (did you know you can whip the cream that solidifies at the top of a can of coconut milk? Take that top layer of cream and sweeten with a little maple syrup and some vanilla and whip with an electric mixer. It doesn’t get as voluminous as whipped cream, but the texture is spot on.)

Avocado chocolate mousse

– 2 ripe avocados
– 1 cup raw cacao powder
– 2 tablespoons coconut oil
– 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1/2 cup maple syrup (can use other sweetener, add more or less depending on your taste)
– pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Chill for 20 minutes and then enjoy!

Here’s all the ingredients turning into luscious mousse…

Cacao powder, avocados, coconut oil, maple syrup blending in a food processor

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Spicy Ginger Chews

I am not generally a sweet candy type of person, but these spicy ginger chews are so addictive. Next time, I would up the ginger content even more. I want them to burn!

Spicy Ginger Chew Candies

– 2 cups sugar
– 1 cup corn syrup (I used dark corn syrup, next time I’ll try molasses or honey for a more interesting flavor)
– 2 tablespoons corn starch
– 5-6 ounces of fresh ginger root, or enough to make ¼ cup juice
– 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger root
– dash of sea salt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Combine the sugar, syrup and corn starch in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Let simmer until a candy thermometer reaches 265F. Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger juice, grated ginger, salt, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. The mixture will sputter, so be careful. Stir to combine and then pour into candy molds, onto parchment paper or non-stick baking mats dusted with corn starch or tapioca flour. Let cool and dust with more flour to keep from sticking. Store in an airtight container or wrap individually in waxed paper.

Spicy Ginger Chews in the Molds

Summer Fruit Crumble (raw, vegan and gf)

Making dessert for loved ones that don’t eat gluten or processed sugar can seem like a bore, but it can also be a fun challenge with really rewarding results. I like food where the main point is deliciousness, and it’s a happy coincidence that it might be vegan or gf. This summer fruit crumble fits the bill. It also happens to be super simple, and not needing to turn on the oven is a bonus.

Crust:
1/3 cup pecans (or walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon coconut oil
dash of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or whatever you like (If you don’t have raw vanilla, you may want to leave it out if you are concerned with this being truly raw. Most extract contains alcohol which is not raw)

Filling:
2 cups ripe peaches, diced (or berries, pitted cherries, plums, etc)
dash of vanilla
dash of salt

For the crust: Pulse the nuts and salt in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the dates, coconut oil and any other flavorings you like. Pulse the machine until a sticky and crumbly mixture forms. If it is too sticky, add more nuts; too crumbly add another date or a bit more coconut oil.

Toss the fruit with the vanilla and salt (the salt enhances the flavor of the fruit, but you should not add so much that it actually tastes salty).

I like to assemble this right before serving to maintain the crunch of the nut topping, and so the fruit doesn’t get too juicy. You can make one large dish or individual portions, layering the fruit on the bottom and the crust on top. If you want to get extra fancy, top with some whipped coconut cream.

Sour Cherry Pie Filling (aka – tastes amazing on anything!)

Sour cherries have arrived at our neighborhood farmer’s market – bright red, glowing globes of possibility. I get two quarts each time to ensure I’ll have some to play with (otherwise they will be polished off immediately, barely time to wash them).

Last year, I waited too long to buy extra to freeze, so this year, I did it immediately. After carefully pitting them all (an actual cherry pitter is pretty essential for this), I made a lightly sweet pie filling situation and froze half of it.

Sour Cherries

To up the cherry factor, I made a simple syrup using the pits. A lot of cherry flavor is inside the pits, so I cracked some of them open, inside a plastic bag, using a hammer.

Metal saucepan full of cherry pits

It smelled immediately like a bottle of kirsch! I then simmered the pits with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.

Ruby colored cherry syrup

I used this simple syrup to sweeten the cherries. I added 1 cup of cherries, the syrup, a pinch of salt, dash of vanilla and some cornstarch dissolved in water (to thicken) to a clean saucepan and simmered until thick. I didn’t want to cook all of the cherries, so I just added the thickened cherries and syrup to the raw, pitted cherries and folded together. I have used this as a topping for vegan cheesecake, yogurt for breakfast, and of course just straight from a spoon!

Sour cherry pie filling

Challah French Toast with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I am a huge fan of chocolate hazelnut spread, but was crushed when I learned years ago that the company (that shall not be named) who makes the most common brand is responsible for some major deforestation. Also, homemade is generally more delicious and better for you. The best part of this version is that you can make it as chocolate-y as you like. My version is more like bitter-sweet dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, but you could make yours sweeter if you like.

I used it recently as a topping for challah french toast. I won’t post the recipe for the toast, since french toast recipes abound, but the chocolate hazelnut spread is really a must try (and the photo may inspire you!).

Challah french toast

Challah french toast

– 3 cups toasted hazelnuts
– 2/3 cups chopped dark chocolate, melted
– pinch of sea salt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend the hazelnuts until smooth, add the melted chocolate, salt and vanilla and blend until smooth. You can add a dash of maple syrup or agave if it is not sweet enough for you. This recipe would be yummy with toasted almonds, walnuts or macadamia nuts as well.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Barnyard Latte

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A little experimentation led to some icy latte bliss. A little funky from the goat’s milk, a little sweet and grassy from the fennel.

– 1 cup strong cold brew coffee
– 1/2 cup whole goats milk
– 1 oz fennel simple syrup

Stir and serve over ice.

Fennel simple syrup

– 1 cup water
– 1 cup sugar
– chopped fennel fronds from 1-2 bulbs

Combine into a medium sized pot and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You may want to add a pinch of salt to bring out the fennel flavor. Strain the liquid into a glass bottle and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.