Salted Caramel Fudge with Coconut Palm Sugar

October 30, 2014 in Desserts, Holidays

A decadent homemade candy for any time of year (Halloween is just the current excuse).

Salted Caramel Fudge

Salted Caramel Fudge, made with coconut palm sugar in the mix

Caramel is my kryptonite. I feel about caramel the way others describe their feelings about chocolate. I like chocolate well enough, don’t get me wrong, especially in brownie, Nutella, fudge, or chocolate chip cookie form, but I don’t love it, don’t crave it, am not overcome with a wistful thousand-year-stare at the thought of it. But caramel, oh caramel, that’s a different story. And in continuing our October family reunion anniversary theme, this particular taste appears to have been inherited from my biological dad, who wrote me in an early getting-to-know-you email, “I have a weakness for caramel.” The proverbial caramel apple didn’t fall far from that tree, did it?

Now, no one has been happier about the advent of salted caramel as a trend, and I’ll remain devoted to the form long after various food culture lists declare it Over (which may have happened already, for all I know). The best thing about salted caramel is that it tends to be offered all on its own, rather than in combination with chocolate, which, to me, completely ruins both components. Alas, many “caramel fudge” recipes I’ve encountered really mean regular chocolate fudge WITH caramel, not a fudgy version of caramel all on its pure, glorious, buttery own.

So I set about to make a caramel confection that would stand all on its own, and if I could reduce the refined sugar in the recipe a bit with the help of Wholesome Sweetener’s coconut palm sugar, all the better. (I also used their organic brown sugar and natural cane sugar.) Read the rest of this entry →

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: An Homage to a Blue Ribbon Original

October 23, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Raw Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes, and a moment of gratitude for the cheesecake recipe that started it all for Donna and Anne.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: vegan, raw and no refined sugar either.

The first page in my battered and spattered recipe binder is a printout of an email sent to me fifteen years ago, kept safe from the ravages of my cooking habits by a plastic sleeve.

“Hey, we wouldn’t be a family unless we exchanged recipes now and then, would we? So, here’s the cheesecake recipe I was telling you about. It’s pretty good, and I have the ribbon to prove it (somewhere in my attic, okay, trust me!). I have changed the recipe a lot over the years to improve it, and so I feel justified in giving it my name!”

The days are long, the years are short, as the parenting saying goes. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Donna and I first reunited, but the calendars don’t lie – it was in October of 1999 that I was lucky enough to have a reunion that many adopted children only daydream about. After months of anticipatory email, we met face to face in the San Diego airport, only two years before routinely meeting people at the gate would become a thing of the past. My stomach felt positively carbonated as she emerged from the runway. I watched her looking around for just a moment, searching, and then our eyes met and the moment truly arrived. The mother and child reunion really was only a motion away.

Since that first whirlwind San Diego weekend, we have had one adventure after another, slowly integrating each other into our lives, getting to know each other through out Hotmail accounts, introducing one another to our friends and families, traveling together, sharing holidays, and yes, cooking and eating and cooking some more, making up for at least a little of our lost time. Discovering that we had this passion in common was a revelation; in fact, we inspired each other to delve more deeply into culinary creativity than we ever had individually.  Our collaborations eventually moved on to cookbooks, CIA Boot Camp, and finally this very blog – yet I still look forward to the visits where we whip up a feast for our loved ones, just for the sheer joy of it.

When I made that emailed Blue Ribbon Cheesecake for the first time, I felt as though I was tapping into a tangible part of my own ancestral history, but even beyond that, it was like being able to have a hazy glimpse into an alternate universe where my mom (not my birthmom, but simply my mom) taught me to make it herself, in our kitchen, me licking the beaters, all the clichés that go with halcyon kitchen memories. What would that have been like? But despite occasionally wondering about that universe, I’m deeply grateful to have what we have now.

In honor of the recipe that started it all, I made a “daughter” version of her “mother” recipe, using raw ingredients to make an adaptation that lines up with the way I eat most of the time now, having undergone some valuable dietary changes over the last decade. I already love experimenting with raw/vegan/paleo desserts, but if you’ve never given them a shot, they’re well worth it and, as you can see, really quite simple.

Happy Reunion Anniversary to my first mom. May we spend many, MANY more hours in the kitchen together!

Love and eternal gratitude,

Anne

Read the rest of this entry →

Low Sugar Baked Apples with Coconut Walnut Stuffing

September 29, 2014 in Desserts, Healthy Fare

Baked Apples just scream out “Fall is here!”

Baked Apples

Low Sugar Baked Apples

I make baked apples every fall for two reasons: (1) they are soft and velvety and comforting and (2) they make my whole house smell delicious!

This version of Baked Apples (and, Yes, I do make a different version every time I make them, depending on my mood) has no added sugar except what is in the sweetened coconut. The sweetness level was just perfect in them, and so I plan on making these again and again this fall. Especially when my neighbors drop off excess apples on our doorstep.

When the air turns crisp and cool, I become a bit nostalgic. I grew up in southern Arizona, so fall leaves were a rarity for us kids. But, there was one place we could always find them: my great grandma’s house! We would load up in the station wagon and drive the 3 hours to her house. There was, of course some unpleasantness, as is expected when you load six siblings into a station wagon. ((Mom, she’s touching me! Mom, he’s looking at me! )) But, it was always worth the trip. You see, my grandma had about a dozen huge pecan trees in her back yard that made a crispy brown leaf ocean from fence to fence. We would rake them up into piles and then the fun would begin. We would jump into them over and over again, howling with laughter. Sort of an Old School ball pool, for you youngsters who can’t envision this scene. And then we would gather up all the leaves and hunt for the pecans. If there were pecans left on the trees, we would shake the trees until they fell off.

I used Braeburn apples for this recipe, which have the perfect sweetness and hold together well while cooking. If you want sweet baking apples, you could also use Jonagold or McIntosh.

Fall is here, y’all – so let’s embrace it! Find a pile of brown crispy leaves to fall over backwards into! Bust out the cardigans! Cook some stews and bake some apples!

– posted by Donna

Read the rest of this entry →

Strawberry Balsamic No-Churn Ice Cream

September 5, 2014 in Desserts

No churning necessary for this beloved flavor pairing in ice cream form.

Strawberry Balsamic No-Churn Gelato

Strawberry Balsamic No-Churn Ice Cream-slash-Gelato

Though I’m lucky to have an ice cream churn attachment, I still love to make this Grapefruit Gelato of ours from time to time; it’s especially great to bust out as a houseguest offering a treat to underapplianced hosts. Since the magic has to do with the way the acidity in the grapefruit juice (or lemon or lime) reacts with the fat in the cream, I decided to experiment with another sweet + acidity combination: strawberries and balsamic vinegar. If citrus juices produced the desired effect, then surely vinegar would as well.

Behold! No-Churn Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (or Gelato, as the texture reminds us a bit of that). I’m dying to try this with coconut milk sometime, too.  Read the rest of this entry →

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

August 7, 2014 in Breakfast, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Cheesecake for Breakfast? With this creamy vegan blueberry smoothie, YES.

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

As Donna is an intrepid go-getter who’s always on the move, I’ve never gotten the honor of helping take care of my inspirational blog partner and mentor before. But I recently had the opportunity to help out just a little last month, when she was in need of a non-chewing diet for a thankfully short spell. In my ensuing exploration of the latest in smoothies, from green to protein and everything in between, I encountered this great collection by The Blender Girl.   I only had a few days to fill Donna’s freezer with smoothie-stock (frozen into ice cube trays then cubes stored in ziploc bags) and gazpacho, but I’ll happily come back for another round of TLC someday.

Of all the fantastic, ridiculously healthy recipes in Blender Girl’s book, my personal favorite was the luscious Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake. The innovation, used here and in several other smoothies, is using soaked raw cashews for the creamy texture. Brilliant! I’ve made it for myself at several times since getting back hope, and experimented with variations, my favorite of which is the blueberry version here (in no small part thanks to it being berry-picking-with-kiddos-season in Portland). As with any smoothie, add probiotics, flax, or any other supplements you like.  Read the rest of this entry →

No Cook Blueberry Lime Curd Tarts

July 29, 2014 in Desserts

Blueberries and Limes – together at last!

Blueberry Lime Tart

Have you tried Blueberries and limes together?

Lemons and blueberries are a famous culinary pair – but I decided to switch it up and use blueberries and limes together. No, the fact that I had no lemons on hand had nothing to do with this innovation. Okay, a little.

And of course this meant making a lime curd. Making curd of any kind sounds really intimidating – until you make it. Punk Domestics has a catalogue of curds that shows how truly wondrous curds are – check it out. I love making lemon curd in my blender - so subbing lime juice and zest was all I needed to do.

I love no-cook desserts in the summer – and this one is creamy, tart, sweet and luscious. SO yummy. I love leaving the blueberries raw and whole – they add such a nice pop of freshness. This recipe makes six little tarts – and takes only about 20 minutes of prep time – plus you need to factor in at least 4 hours of chill time.

– posted by Donna

Read the rest of this entry →

Cherry Bomb Tarts

June 26, 2014 in Desserts

Little Cherry Tarts to light up your picnic – so easy with phyllo!

Cherry Bomb Tarts

Like edible firecrackers, these little cherry tarts will light up your fourth of July!

A sweet treat based on a firecracker to light up your Fourth of July picnic. Whodda thunk it?

I saw these Smoked Cherry Bombs in this month’s Cooking Light magazine – but I skipped the smoking step – which just seemed too complicated. I also doubled the filling amounts, because c’mon – almond paste whipped with cream cheese! They are fun to serve on a platter – and this recipe achieves the perfect balance of flavor and texture – creamy and crispy all in one bite.

Next to Christmas, the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the picnics, parades, fireworks – I love it all. And so, I am always on the hunt for recipes that are patriotic. Two from the past - Red White and Blueberry Cookie Tarts,   and American Flag Fruit Skewers.

Have fun on the Fourth!

– posted by Donna

Read the rest of this entry →

4 Ingredient Pina Colada Macaroons

June 23, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten Free, Snacks

A four-ingredient, easy, healthy dessert!

4 Ingredient Pina Colada Macaroons

4 Ingredient Pina Colada Macaroons

I see a lot of friends adjusting to new summer schedules with their kids – and along with that comes the neverending quest for healthy sweet treats. Plenty of frozen goodies to come, but if you don’t mind firing up the oven for 15 minutes, this 4 ingredient twist on a regular macaroon makes for a great little snack cookie.

3 dried pineapple rings (about 1/2 cup)great little treat.
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 325. Cut pineapple rings into 3 pieces, then pulse in  a food processor until very finely chopped (will clump together a bit). Beat egg whites with a whisk until frothy, then whisk in the honey. Stir in coconut and pineapple and mix until well distributed.

Using a cookie dough scoop, pack mixture firmly into balls and place on parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheet. (Mixture will be crumbly when raw; just shape with fingers as needed.) Bake for 14-16 minutes, until starting to become golden brown. Let cool completely before eating.

. — posted by Anne

Easy DIY Ice Cream Sandwiches

June 7, 2014 in Desserts

Turn any ice cream into an ice cream sandwich in minutes.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

If you have time to scoop ice cream into a bowl, you have time to make these.

So it turns out ice cream sandwiches are really, really easy to make with one shortcut: graham crackers.

The chocolate graham crackers are perfect for this – and so many ice cream possibilities exist. You can literally put these together in five minutes and then stash them in the freezer while you are eating dinner - and shazaaam! – ice cream sandwiches with your very favorite ice cream.

I found a cherry cobbler ice cream at the store and let it sit out on the counter for about 10 minutes to soften. Then I chopped up a few cherries and threw them in, too. Next, just layer chocolate graham crackers on a baking sheet so there are no gaps. Spread the ice cream about 2 inches thick, Press another layer of graham crackers on top, pressing to remove any air bubbles. Then, freeze for a while (I froze them about 20 minutes), until firm. Remove from freezer and cut into sandwich shapes.

Don’tcha love summer???

– posted by Donna

Read the rest of this entry →

Chocolate Hazelnut Berry Shortcakes

May 27, 2014 in Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake – with Nutella upgrade.

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortcakes

Berry Shortcake – Chocolate Hazelnut Edition

Two classic warm-weather desserts are weaknesses for me – one is peach cobbler and the other is strawberry shortcake. I could literally eat half of a 9 by 13 of peach cobbler by myself – and a whole tray of strawberry shortcakes. And since chocolate and strawberries are a match made in heaven, why not chocolate shortcakes?

Many of the recipes I found for chocolate shortcakes involved melting chocolate in double boilers, etc., but using a spread skips this step and makes this recipe so much simpler.

And I have now found out that adding chocolate hazelnut spread takes shortcake to a whole new level of deliciousness.

These shortcakes are like chocolate biscuits – just crispy enough to soak up the berry juices. And rich chocolate is the perfect match for sweet fresh berries.

The perfect summer dessert!

 — posted by Donna

Read the rest of this entry →