Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

I was super excited when a raw foods cafe opened up in town. I decided to surprise my sweetie with a raw foods lunch recently, and let’s just say that was the first and last time that we experienced raw foods. I got this carrot, ginger, coconut soup and a Mexican kale “taco” salad, with a rocky road “fudge” for dessert. Interestingly, the woman who owned the cafe said that we should eat the rocky road fudge first to help “aid in digestion.” Hmm. Okay.

I got to my partner’s workplace to deliver lunch and mentioned briefly what the woman suggested about the rocky road fudge. Instead of following her advice, we dug right into the soup and salad. The soup was too gingery for my liking, but the salad was okay. The dehydrated chips were delicious. We followed the meal with the dessert which was amazing. Well, needless to say, we SHOULD have followed her suggestion because within a few minutes after eating we were immediately overcome with abdominal pain. And not just any abdominal pain, intense gas pains. OMG. I was fortunate to go home and curl up on the couch with a few swigs of Pepto-Bismol, but my partner still had to work.

We vowed never to eat raw foods again. Well, that vow didn’t last long. We’ve delved into some raw foods desserts and have come to really enjoy them, but haven’t quite been able to find some good savory recipes. So if you have any good savory recipes, please pass them along :)

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake (adapted from A Dash of Compassion)

For the crust:
2 cups raw almonds
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup date paste
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the lemon cheesecake:
2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

For the crust:
To make a date paste, soak 8 dates in 3/4 cup water for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the water the dates were soaked in. Process the dates with 2 tablespoons of the reserved water until a paste has formed. Store in air tight container in refrigerator for up to one month.

Process the almonds and coconut flakes in a food processor until coarse. Add the date paste, vanilla extract, and salt and process until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For the filling:
Using a food processor, blend the macadamia nuts, cashews, almond milk, lemon juice, agave nectar and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the cheesecake filling into the springform pan. Place the cheesecake in the freezer to set, about 3 hours, or until the cheesecake is firm to touch.

Remove from springform pan, and decorate with fresh blueberries.

Fudgy Vegan Brownie for My Valentine and a Pre-Valentine’s Day Dinner Bust

Sigh.  Our pre-Valentine’s Day dinner was a complete bust this year.  We wanted to have an intimate VD dinner a little earlier because we had plans for a double dinner date on the actual day.  So we got all dressed up and headed to our favorite “special occasions” restaurant.

The food and service was exceptional as always.  However, after the 3rd course of our 5-course prix fixe menu, I started to get clammy, diaphoretic (sweating perfusely), tachycardic (heart racing), dizzy, lightheaded, vision/hearing was fading.  I started to get anxious because I didn’t want to make a scene in a busy, full house restaurant.  So I decided to excuse myself from the table to get some fresh air.  Well, the next thing I remember was waking up on the floor of the dining room asking everyone hovered over me , “what happened?” to which they replied with, “you passed out.”  So much for not making a scene in a busy restaurant, right?

I was brought to the ED [while protesting the whole way there when my partner drove me], and ended up being admitted into the hospital.  I spent my entire weekend holed up on a hospital bed watching a marathon rerun of Law and Order: SVU (which I love!), waiting for more exams and exam results.  I was finally discharged yesterday, and have this new found appreciation for my bed, couch, and being able to shower whenever I want.

My partner stayed with me the entire time I was in the ED.  Before all this happened, she was planning to paint at her artist studio, but those plans were foiled when I just had to pass out in the middle of a restaurant.  She was extremely patient when I was being difficult, brought me things from home to keep me occupied, clean clothes to change into, and food so that I wouldn’t have to eat the hospital food.  As a way to show her how much I appreciate her, I baked her a vegan brownie for Valentine’s Day.  This may not seem like such a huge gesture, but let me just preface this by saying that I am, by no means, a baker.

Fudgy Vegan Brownie for My Valentine

1 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round pan with vegan butter or canola oil spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, sugar, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of the hot water.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseed with the remaining 1/4 cup of hot water. Add the flax egg to the large mixing bowl, and combine until well incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (for the most part, since this is supposed to be fudgy). Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Ecstasy Bars (aka, magic bars on crack or salted caramel magic bars)

It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m exhausted.  The caffeine is starting to wear off.  Do you ever feel nauseous when you are lacking in the sleep department?  Well, I just reached that point.  One more hour and I will have been awake for 24 hours.  I worked 13 hours today.  Thirteen!  It wasn’t really by choice either.  It was mandatory over time.  You may (or may) not be wondering why I am still up at this ridiculous hour of the morning.

I’m still up because I’m forcing myself to stay awake so that I can sleep soon.  I am working the graveyard shift the next two nights.  And guess what?  I have NEVER worked a graveyard shift before.  So my brilliant plan is to stay up as late as I can so that I can sleep until about 4:00 p.m., have dinner, and head off to work for my 12 hour shift that starts at 7:00 p.m.  I have another brilliant plan to take pseudoephedrine (i.e., the derivative to methamphetamine) and coffee to keep me awake through the wee hours of the night while I work tomorrow and the day after.  In fact, that used to be a favorite cocktail combination of mine while I was in pharmacy school trying to stay up for midterms and finals.  However, do as I say and not as I do, in that I do not advise anyone to take this drug combination.  It can really get your heart racing and blood pressure rising, which can be a no-no especially for those with a pre-existing (or even unknown) heart condition.  Therefore, avoid this.   Actually, just pretend you didn’t even read the last half of this paragraph.  Anyhow, I digress, as usual.

I was so anxious about not being able to stay up tonight that I bought a new movie and a new Nintendo Wii game to keep myself entertained/awake until I can go to sleep.  Well, instead of watching TV or playing video games (which I had every intention of doing), I entertained myself by concocting yummy things in the kitchen.  I’m making my version of magic bars (aka, seven layer bars), except that my magic bars are on crack.  They have been finished with a generous drizzle of my salted caramel sauce.  So they’re not just any magic bars… they’re magic bars on crack.  Actually, they’re even better than that.  They are ecstasy bars.

And as I sit here while blogging this post and listening to the snores of my sleeping dog, my brain is slowly shutting down and my eyes barely open.  I think it may be bedtime soon…

Ecstasy Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottoms of muffin tin.  Layer evenly with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips, followed by the shredded coconut.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from muffin tin.  Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.  Store covered at room temperature.

[If you don't want to go through the hassle of using a mini muffin pan, use a 13x9 inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil, coat with nonstick spray, and layer as directed above.  Allow to cool, and then simply lift up the foil up and out to remove from baking pan.  You're left with perfect magic bars.  Cut into squares and devour.]

Makes 36 servings (small, as these are very rich)

Rustic Pluot Galette

We scored on some deliciously sweet pluots at the local farmer’s market yesterday.  What not a better way to use the pluots, than to make a pluot galette.  I was so excited to bake this.  I heart baking.  It’s so therapeutic.  Okay, okay.  It’s a lie.  I wish I could take credit for this, but I’m not a baker whatsoever.  Not even close.  It was my partner who baked this.  She’s an incredible baker.  I just took the picture.

Butter Pie Crust (Pâte Brisée; from Simply Recipes)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar, pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again.

Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape into a disc. Do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These bits of butter are what will allow the result crust to be flaky. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Pluot Galette

1 pate brisee
6 firm pluots, sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss the pluots in a bowl with the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Stir thouroughly and set aside.

Pile the pluots on top of the chilled dough leaving a 2 inch border for the crust. Fold the sides up, creating the crust and pinch folds together to secure. Brush egg on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake pie in the oven for 1 hour until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool on the counter and serve.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie… you wouldn’t even know it was vegan!

My partner LOVES bananas and desserts involving bananas.  I wanted to make her something special to celebrate her completing an intense, four week summer arts workshop.  She was so immersed in her workshop that we saw very little of one another.  I’d leave for work while she was still sleeping, and she’d come home while I was sleeping.  It was the most backward schedule that we have ever had.  The week before she finished her program, we made a deal to have a “just us” weekend.  And to start off our weekend, I was originally going to surprise her with her favorite ice cream, roasted banana ice cream, but I couldn’t find the recipe I bookmarked and was too inpatient to find it while grocery shopping.  So instead, I made the next best banana dessert… vegan chocolate banana cream pie.

This was an amazing dessert that set up very nicely.  It reminded me of exactly what the real stuff tasted like, but only better and healthier and lighter!  What was also great about this recipe was that we were barely able to taste the silken tofu, unlike other silken tofu recipes that I’ve made before.  I can almost guarantee that non-vegans will like this recipe, too!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (adapted from Dairy Free Cooking)

1 (14 ounce) box of silken tofu, drained
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup raw cashews, finely ground
Your favorite vegan prepared pie crust or graham cracker crust

Prepare the vegan pie crust of your choice according to the recipe. Fit into a 9″ pie plate and bake according to the recipe’s instructions. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

In a blender or food processor, process the silken tofu until creamy. Add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and coconut oil and process until well combined and very creamy. Add the mashed bananas and finely ground cashews and process until smooth. Pour into the prepared pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

16 ounces good quality dark dairy-free chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light version)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the coarsely chopped dark chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut milk until bubbles just begin to appear around the edges and steam rises from the surface. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chopped chocolate and let stand without stirring for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir the chocolate-coconut milk mixture until glossy and smooth (this will take about 2 minutes of gentle stirring). Add the vanilla extract and stir until incorporated. Use warm or slightly cooled.

To finish the pie:

Prepare the Vegan Dark Chocolate Ganache according to the recipe. Pour immediately onto the set banana filling and allow to cool completely until set. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve cold.

My first attempt at baking in 15 years… frustrating, but rewarding.

My partner’s birthday is one week from tomorrow.  Her favorite cake to devour on her birthday is a german chocolate cake, and it’s been her one request for several years now.  So it’s become a tradition… a  home-cooked meal, and a german chocolate cake.  Except that I’ve always cheated and bought the cake from a bakery.  I always made excuses for why I was never able to bake her a cake… no time, had to work, her friends were not going to eat what I bake.  Those were the most common excuses.  I’m sure there were many more.  But in actuality, I was and still am intimidated by baking.  It’s too precise for me.  I like cooking savory dishes so much more because a little dash of this, and a little dash of that, and voila!… a tasty meal.  No measurements, no thing.  Just pure intuition.

I’m a horrible baker.  The last time I attempted to bake was fifteen years ago.  I was trying to bake chocolate chip cookies from store bought ready-made cookie dough.  The cookies looked nothing like the picture.  They were flat, and dry.  Ugh.  I mean, how can you mess up ready-made cookie dough?!  They are made to be fail proof.  You just drop dough onto a buttered cookie sheet, and wait 8 to 10 minutes for cookies!  Not me.  The cookies ended up in the garbage.  From then on, I swore to myself that I would never try to bake anything sweet ever again.  Ever.  Until this year.

I promised her a homemade german chocolate cake.  We were celebrating my partner’s birthday a little early this year with a group of friends, so today was the day.  The day to bake.  The day that I’ve avoided for a very long time.  It took me three hours to make, bake and assemble.  I don’t think it should have taken this long.  I also had many other revelations along the way of making this cake.  Firstly, I can’t believe that of all cakes I tried to bake, this was the one.  This was a very involved recipe!  Secondly, I had many horrible mishaps along the way of baking.  I think it was a sign that I was not meant to be a baker.  Lastly, I realized how important it is to have at least a hand-held electric mixer.  I hand-mixed and hand beat EVERYTHING in the recipe below.  My forearms were very sore by the end of the process.  And my eggs white didn’t quite have “stiff peaks,” but it worked out.  Why didn’t I just buy the hand-held electric mixer today when I was getting some accessories at Sur La Table?!  But with that being said, the mini cakes turned out very tasty.

I also had an epiphany after assembling the cakes… I’m not a baker.  I just don’t have the patience.  I plan on buying boxed cake mix, and will make the coconut filling from scratch.  It’ll be a hybrid homemade cake :)

Mini German Chocolate Cakes (adapted from Bakers Royale)

For the cake:
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans.

Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.

In the bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks.  Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.

Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.

Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers completely.  (This was a really important part of making this cake.  I think this steps allows for the cakes to be handled with more ease.  I made the mistake of handling the cake layers while they were still warm, and the cakes seemed to crumble a lot easier.  Things to learn along the way, I suppose :) )

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweetened coconut, toasted

Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.

Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

For the syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

For the chocolate ganache:
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate into a medium bowl.

Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot.  When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth.

Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward.

To assemble cakes:
Requires a 2.5 inch cake ring

Using a serrated knife, cut the two cakes in half leaving you four large, round disks. Using the cake ring, cut as many 2.5 inch diameter cakes from the four round cakes. Brush each layer with the sugar-rum syrup. Spread one teaspoonful of filling on the top of the bottom layer, then repeating with one more layer, until layer is filled except the top. Pour chocolate top, and top off with a little sprinkle of shredded coconut and a pecan to finish it.

Makes 14 individual cakes.

Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Chunky Chocolatey Chip Cookies with Mac Nuts

You know what’s best after a long day?  Cookies.  I came home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies after a very long, tragic, and exhausting day at work.  Work started out great, but it ended on such a sad note.  I hate those days.  It puts me in such a funk.  I usually come home looking forward to zoning out to endless, trashy, but oh so good reality TV shows to erase the day from my long-term memory.  Instead, I came home to my favorite chocolate chips cookies, and that made all the difference.

Ooey, Gooey, Chewy, Chunky Chocolatey Chip Cookies with Mac Nuts (lightly adapted from Wing-It Vegan)

Flax Egg
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons cold water

1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the flax seeds and water.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except for the chocolate chips and nuts. Beat for about 30 seconds or until a smooth dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and slightly flatten with the back of a spoon. Leave about an inch of space in between cookies.

Bake for 13-14 minutes. Let the cookies slightly cool on the baking sheet before you transfer them to a cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container or a paper bag.

Makes 14 cookies.

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