Posts tagged nov2011
Coconut Tarts With Apple & Raspberry

Things are looking up!

On Sunday, following a few days of re-adjustment once all my kitchen equipment and baking boxes had found new homes, I started to feel more at ease. I began to look forward to baking again and I moreover I needed to cook up some snacks to keep me going throughout the coming week. 

So, I had to go for it. An afternoon of baking in a new environment and with a new perspective…  and it felt good.  I’d even go so far as to say it was a resounding success!

First up I tried a ‘safe’ recipe with few ingredients and minimal mess to test the waters… more on that in a later post (clue- it contained ginger!)

Second up, these apple and raspberry coconut tarts… indeed they are as good as they sound. Since I was feeling adventurous and surprisingly confident by that point I decided to go all out and put together a crazy gluten free pastry base to boot.  Feel free to use your own ‘tried and tested’ pastry recipe if you prefer (GF or not), but I felt this version turned out surprising well- see additional notes below. The ingredients and method might appear long winded- but please do not let this put you off, each step is pretty simple and there is really not too much to it. It will be worth it!

Do I really need say any more or does this picture speak for itself….mmmmm, crisp coconut flakes, sweet moist coconut buttery apple topping and drippy raspberry centres all wrapped up in a crisp pastry shell.

Recipe: Apple and raspberry coconut tarts

Makes 12 tarts

Ingredients

Pastry base:

  • 130g GF flour mix
  • 30g ground almonds
  • ¼ tsp xantham gum
  • 80g coconut butter
  • 40g banana puree (approx. ½ mashed banana)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Filling:

  • 1tsp sugar free raspberry  jam per tart case
  • 1 apple grated
  • 1tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbs agave
  • 50g coconut butter (partially melted)
  • 40g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 tsp stevia (or to taste)

Topping:

  • 1tbs ground flax plus 2 tbs hot water
  • Approx. ½ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Method

Prepare GF pastry base (as above or use own recipe) but combining all ingredients together and forming a ball of dough. Cover in cling film and let rest whilst you prep the remaining ingredients.

Mix the grated apple with the lemon juice and set aside. Mix the partially melted coconut butter with the agave, stevia and desiccated coconut then add the apple mixture.

Either roll the pastry and use a cutter to cut circles to lay in each tart case, or if the pastry is a little too crumbly (as in this case) put of sections of dough and press into each tart case with fingers tips ensuring the pastry is not too thick. Note- it is impotant that the pastry is pretty thin as otherwise it will dominate the tart and be too tough.

Mix the ground flax with hot water and allow to sit for a few minutes until gloopy.

Fill each tart with a tsp of jam and then top this with a ‘disc’ of apple/coconut mixture- I pulled off a piece the size of a walnut and then flattened this in my hands.

Lastly, using a pastry brush, cover the top surface of the tart with the flax mixture and sprinkle over a generous layer of desiccated coconut so that it sticks to the wet flax.

Bake at 180C for approx. 15 minutes until the top begins to turn golden.

First- add 1 tsp of jam per tart

Second- lay the apple/coconut 'pattie' over the jam (note I ran short of topping hence the lonely jam tart!)before adding the coconut sprinkles over the top.

Note: My pastry base was completely experimental, but I felt it worked quite well with a subtle sweetness of banana and coconut. I haven’t created a GF pastry before so have little experience to go on. It wasn’t at all flaking but neither was it too tough the next day (however it got tougher in the following couple of days so maybe still needs torefinement!) It had the characteristic of a more robust pastry shell with a substantial ‘bite’ as opposed to melt-in-your-mouth, so make sure you keep the pastry case very thin. I quite liked the robustness it gave it but I understand some people may prefer a more delicate flakier pastry. Any neutral pastry base would work well here so feel free to mix it up a bit and use your own pastry recipe.


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Happiness vs Satisfaction

I have often talked about a balance. A balance between being ‘happy’ and ‘satisfied’.

For me happiness is the day to day moments in life, our positive responses to the world around us. Satisfaction on the other hand is created deep inside, it is unique and personal, it is a knowledge and understanding within ourselves that we are on the right path, doing things that look set to make us happy in the long term. It is the overall sense of ease with ourselves. Satisfaction in the day to day does not always make us ‘happy’, its component parts are often tough and we question ourselves why we do it- but we still do, in the knowledge that it is for the greater good.

When our goals seem tough it is very easy to focus on the here and now- tick the ‘happiness’ box and push ‘satisfaction’ to the back of our minds. If we have enough ‘happiness’ in our lives we can sometimes do a very good job of avoiding dealing with our satisfaction for weeks, months or even years.

But, I strongly believe we cannot avoid it forever, the longer the bigger issues and the deep down unanswered questions are left unresolved the harder it becomes and the harder we have to work at maintaining ‘happiness’ to cover those up.

I am working hard at satisfaction, working hard to change the course of my life to become the person I want to be. The person I know that I am capable of being instead of the person society expects- one who is settled and ‘comfortable’ with her lot.

By no means do I lack gratitude; I am constantly grateful for the small things in life- and the fact that I have been given this opportunity at life at all. So by the same token I want to really ‘live my life’ and for me that means pushing boundaries to find out who I really am and only through that will I be able to fulfil the potential I have within me.

The silent natural world around us is full of wonder and magnificence, far greater than we could ever really conceive. Capturing these moments to reflect back on in times of quiet, times when change is all around and doubts creep into my mind is all the more important to me. It provides me with a sense of perspective, reminds me that my fears are not really fears at all and enables me to open my mind to the possibilities this world has to offer us all.

I want to share some of these captured moments, moments created on my doorstep, the moments in life that have made me smile and grow within.


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Struggling With Life

Ok, I’ll be honest… these last few days have been hard.  Everything is ‘up in the air’ and change is all around me right now.

Why?

The ‘Boy’ who has played a major guiding role in opening my eyes and redirecting my life over this past year, is no longer my boy. It was a mutual decision to call it a day. 

Food was always such a big part of our life together and I gained so much happiness in creating recipes for us to try and then seeing the joy on his face when I’d succeeded. For these last few days food has been the last thing on my mind. In actual fact, even if I’d wanted to get stuck into something I haven’t been able to since all my baking ingredients have only just moved out with me and are yet to be unpacked. The previous post on ‘peanut soup’ was a recently written back-up post that I kept in reserve for an emergency situation (this counts as an emergency-right?) 

It all just feels a little surreal at the moment, I guess my ‘reason’ for doing what I do suddenly seems somewhat meaningless when you’re not ‘in it together’. In the beginning the Boy gave me a reason for it all, the meals we shared together the naughty but healthy snacks I could make him, to nurture and look after him. He was a willing participant and allowed my happiness and skills to grow. That meaning is now gone.  My curiosity is still there, but I feel resentment and discord… why try and make the effort when there is no one else to really appreciate the outcomes? It just feels empty.

Oh poor me…sob sob sob!  NO!  

On a more serious note I know it will all be fine, this is far from a ‘sob story’ and I am not one to to dwell and mope for long. I am only writing about this to give you a greater understanding as to why there might be a few changes around here as I find my way on my own… or should I say on my own terms… it’s all down to me now!

So I guess I just need to suck it up and get a grip!!

I know it will settle in time and that I’ll have my ups and down just like the everyone else, I also know that I’ll find a new way to re-create this meaning in my life and for the people around me, and hopefully find more people like me and maybe enlighten a few of those closer to home. Most importantly I know full well that in order to have healthy treats I’ll have to make them myself… a life without treats… no thank you!!

 So, you see I can’t just stop even if I wanted to!!  Just watch this space…..

 

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‘Peanutty’ soup

I was a late starter with my ‘love for peanut butter’, actually make that a very late starter since it is only really in these last few months that I’ve begun to get on board with what all the fuss is about!

Growing up I just didn’t like the stuff. The ‘smoothness’ was too intense for me and the way it stuck to the roof of your mouth as you ate it – nope not for me! My perception of PB was also very limited…. a sandwich spread was all I knew… oh how wrong I was!

Moving to a largely vegan diet opened my eyes to the world of nuts and seeds in all forms and the idea of nut butters in all their many varieties came into view.  

Nuts have so much to offer, not just in terms of huge health benefits which I just hadn’t fully appreciated before, but in terms of their recipe potential. This revelation was kick started in part by the arrival of my Thermomix which made making your own nut butters a piece of cake (note- many other food processors can also be used!).  Strangely until these last few weeks I’d still not attempted to make my own PB even though I use PB in so many recipes. Along with cashew butter and coconut butter it is probably one of my key ingredients in many recipes… so I had to give it a go.

Not wanting to simply slather it on toast, I decided upon a recipe where it could take centre stage. This is based on a recipe by The Covent Garden Soup Co.

So here you have it… my little tribute to the good old faithful peanut butter.

Recipe: Peanut (and vegetable) soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion- finely chopped
  • 100g crunchy peanut butter (or smooth PB but throw in extra nuts if you want some texture)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 170g potatoes- peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper           
  • 175g carrots- chopped
  • Small handful of chopped jalapenos (to taste!)
  • 75ml soy milk
  • ½ - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½  - 1 tsp parika
  • Fresh coriander- to garnish (optional)

Method

Fry the onion with the peanut butter and 1 tbs of water in a large saucepan (or TM) for 5 minutes until soft. Add remaining ingredients except the soy milk and spices. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx. 20 mins until vegetables are tender. Stir in the soy milk and spices. Blend (to break down larger chunks) if preferred or leave chunky. Serve with a sprinkling of coriander.

I also ate a second portion or this soup the next day and to change it up a little topped it with some chickpeas and sliced kale- plus some homemade potato wedges on the side!


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‘Half-baked’ cookie dough balls

Well, I’d barely finished devouring the cookie dough dip when the urge to create a ‘half-baked cookie' version overwhelmed me!

My favourite flavour of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was always Half Baked, with its big globs of dense chewy cookie dough and chocolate chunks thrown into the mix….yummmm! I wanted to create a healthy vegan equally moreish ‘crispy round the edges’ but ‘soft in the centre’ half-baked cookie.

Eager to get on whilst the idea was fresh in my mind, out came my baking boxes filled full of goodies and inspiration. The final outcome was a fairly simple twist on the original recipe. By taking the principles of the cookie dough dip I combined this with some more robust flours and oatmeal to create a firmer dough ball ready for baking.

This recipe was very experimental and I wasn’t sure how long to bake the balls for. I allowed them to begin to go golden at the edges but you may well want to try taking them out even earlier than that. The chocolate chunks really add to experience so I’d suggest keeping the chunks quite large and the dough balls not too neatly scooped to get a few crispy whips around the edges.  I used an ice cream scoop that was approx. 3cm in diameter and scooped out balls so that they had a flattish bottom.

I can imagine further experiments in coming weeks- chocolate dough with white chocolate chips, fudgey varieties, fruit and nuts….. just think of a cookie dough recipe, scoop it and ‘half-bake’ it?

Has anyone tried this idea before? Let me know how it worked for you.

Recipe: ‘Half-baked’ cookie dough balls

Makes approx. 12 balls

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup ground oats
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 100g cooked or canned chickpeas
  • 1 tsp ground flax pus 1tbs hot water
  • 3 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 tbs coconut butter
  • ¼ cup agave syrup plus ¼ tsp stevia
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Approx. ¼ cup soy milk (more or less depending upon consistency of dough)
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chunks

Method

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Blend wet ingredients together until very smooth. Pour/spoon the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together well adding as much soy milk as needed (the dough should not be too sticky but hold together well). Add choc chucks last and ensure well mixed through. Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Scoop balls of dough usingan ice-cream scoop making sure the ‘scoop’s are not too perfect (and not too large) with some dough falling over the top to get uneven edges, carefully lift the ball out of the scoop and lay on the parchment placing balls  fairly close together as they won’t rise much at all. Bake at 180C for 12-15 minutes until only just going golden around the edges to ensure the ‘half-bakes’ centres.

For tips and info on recipe measurement conversions, ingredients, substitutions and the methods behind how I do things.... check out my 'baking tips' tab at the top of the page.


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Cookie dough dip

At the time I was experimenting with my bitter chocolate thins in sandwich form I also came across a recipe for a cookie dough dip on  Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog. It uses chickpeas as its main ingredient which had me intrigued since I’ve used chickpea here in my baking before. The principle of the recipe was so simple that I couldn’t help having a go myself. This is now the second time I’ve made this dip and in the process I added a few small changes to the original recipe.

In case you’re wondering I then als had to make some chocolate cookies to truly test the dip out. Cookies dipped in cookie dough …. Oh yes, double whammy! 

This dip would also be great used as a frosting (thin out with a little more soy milk as necessary), as the cream for a chocolate thins sandwich or dipped with fresh fruit. Feel free to throw in some chocolate chips or whatever you fancy if you eat it on its own as a dessert.

Oh and just one more thing… the notion of big globs of ‘cookie dough’ then triggered an idea for another yummy twist on this recipe… don’t worry I’ll be sharing all very soon!

Recipe: Cookie dough dip

Makes 1 small bowlful

Ingredients

  • 100g cooked or canned chickpeas
  • A pinch of salt
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • 2 tbs soy milk powder (optional but I think it helps give a more sweet-vanilla-milky edge)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs peanut butter (or other nut butters for a more ‘neutral’ taste)
  • Approx. 3 tbs soymilk
  • 3 tbs ground oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup agave plus ¼ tsp stevia
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon or nutmeg

Method

Blend everything together in a food processor until very smooth. If not eating straight away, store in the fridge with clingfilm pressing down on surface so a ‘skin’ doesn’t form.

P.S. You may have noted that my title bar has a new page added called ‘Baking tips’.  I’d had a few queries from readers regarding conversions for the recipes where I’ve used Metric instead of American standards.  For a while now I’d also been meaning to put together a summary of the basic principles that apply to my approach to baking as a whole. So, it was a good incentive to stop dithering and get it written… I hope you find it helps!

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Raspberry cheesecake single serve ‘rame-cake’

It was a busy morning for me. First stop swimming followed by pilates. I enjoy swimming as it is one of the only times I am able to truly switch off, maybe it’s the rhythmical pace gliding up and down the lanes or maybe it’s the submersion and notion of feeling ‘in your own little bubble’. It is also the time when I often feel most creative, my mind is quiet and thoughts come flooding in….

…. It can also be the most frustrating time to be creative, inspired thoughts in the middle of a pool with no way to write anything down is, well, rather annoying at times!

After my swim and a quick sauna, the pilates session is a nice compliment to round off the morning’s activities. I’m a bit of a pilates newbie but I’m finding I actually quite enjoy it. My usual activities involve more hard core cardio or flinging myself about- i.e around a squash court or a pole… (I teach pole dance classes), I was recently advised to take up pilates as I have had problems with my hips due to the fact my joints are hypermobile, and actually I think it may be helping. It also gives me an opportunity to sloooow down, something which I am notoriously very bad at! Thus, my Friday mornings have become a time to revive my mind and set me up for a productive weekend.

Once home I was in need of food and lots of it.…. The mug cakes were calling!!

The recipe for my first ever chocolate mug cake post was based on one large mug or two ramekins. Whilst that’s great for sharing (or if you are in need of a major cake hit!), I often simply want a little treat just for me, and a mug is too much. So here I have reworked the recipe amounts to create a ‘single serving ramekin’ aka the ‘rame-cake’ and believe me this is more than enough to hit the spot!

In putting together this recipe I was also keen to experiment with a GF version... um, so then one 'ramecake' became two... shhhh!  I have noted my GF alterations below, and in my opinion this version was perfectly yummy with barely a hint of any graininess so often typical with GF flours.  I did notice a slight difference in texture as I sampled each cake one after the other, but had this not been the case then I don't think I would have 'noticed' I was eating a GF sponge. 

 Recipe: Raspberry cheesecake single serve ‘rame-cake’

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs white spelt flour
  • (see GF version below)
  • 2 tsp rapadura 
  • Tiny pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • (increase to a heaped 1/4 tsp for GF)
  • 2 tbs soy milk
  • (add 1 extra tsp for GF)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp yoghurt
  • Few drops vanilla extract
  • Small handful of frozen raspberries broken up (I use frozen as they are easier to break, don’t colour the batter and are available all year round)
  • 1 tsp vegan cream cheese, 1tsp soy milk, tiny amount of agave (or any liquid sweetener) to make the ‘cheesecake’ (omit this if you just want a fruity sponge!)

Method:

Mix the ‘cheesecake’ ingredients- cream cheese, soy milk and agave together and set aside. Place coconut oil, vanilla and soy milk up in a small bowl and melt together until the coconut is melted.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix and keep mixing until there are no lumps or dry patches of unmixed flour. Lightly mix through the raspberry pieces and spoon the batter into a ramekin or mini bowl. Top the batter with the ‘cheesecake’ mix and mix in slightly with a toothpick if desired.

Cook on full power (based on 900W) in microwave for 30 seconds. Check with a cocktail stick until it comes out almost clean. Cook for up 20 seconds more if necessary until cooked.

NOTE: For the GF version I used GF flours to the equivalent of 2 tbs.  I used 1 tbs of Doves Farm GF mix (this is a UK brand consisting of rice, potato, tapicoca and buckwheat flours) plus 2 tsp almond meal.  I think the addition of nut meal really helps to prevent the sponge from becoming grainy or dry. I imagine any type of GF flour mix would be quite flexible for those that have their favourite combos.  Also note the slight increase to baking powder as I found that with a level 1/4 tsp the cake did not rise to the same degree as the spelt version so was a little more dense. I also added slightly more soy milk as in my experience GF flours are dryer.

Please let me know how you get on and any changes you make!

 P.S The pics are of the spelt version.

 P.S The pics are of the spelt version.


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Spelt Cinnamon Rolls

Hello! I’m feeling quite excited today as this last week I seem to have reached a bit of a turning point and people are beginning to ‘come and see’ what I’m getting up to!

I guess all new bloggers go through that stage of simply ‘talking to themselves’ and I wasn’t sure how long that would go on for or even if anyone would ever stop by and leave a little comment…but phew it looks like you’ve saved me from the madness (of talking to oneself!)

It’s makes me smile inside when I see someone has taken the time to have a little look… though at the moment I think that’s probably curiosity more than anything as I have yet to build up my archives! But hey, in time I will get there and I just hope you stick along for the ride and maybe drag a few others along with you!

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts and in my 'why including cake’ page what this thing is all about for me. I guess you could say quite literally I want to have my cake and eat it! It is very important to me that the food I make is as healthy as possible (when compared with its regular counterpart). All my recipes are vegan and minimise refined sugars, not all my recipes are currently gluten free but I am working towards that goal as I feel that even for those without gluten intolerances a diet lower in gluten would be beneficial to us all.

The recipe I have posted today is unfortunately not GF (it uses spelt flour), however I did a little research and found this recipe for a gluten free version that may offer some insight as to how my recipe could be adapted, I’m eager to try it out myself when I get the chance-  but in the meantime if anyone does try or has made their own in the past please be sure to let me know!

Recipe: Cinnamon rolls

Ingredients - Dough:

  • 3 tbs water plus 1 tbs ground flax
  • 4 ½ cups flour (mix of wholemeal and white spelt) see also GF link above
  • 2 ½ (1 sachet) teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup agave and ¼ tsp stevia
  • ½ cup coconut butter- melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients - Filling:

  • ½ cup rapadura
  • ½ tsp molasses
  • ½ cup coconut butter melted
  • 2 tbs maple syrup
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ cup walnuts chopped
  • ¼ cup dates chopped­

Method

In a small bowl mix the water and the flax and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the spelt flours and the yeast. In another medium mixing bowl add the water, agave, stevia, coconut butter and salt and whisk until well incorporated. Add the (now gummy) flax mixture to the bowl containing the wet ingredients and whisk until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to roughly combine. If the mixture is too sticky to handle add more flour- but only a little.

Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and knead to dough for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be firm and smooth. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover and place in a warm place for about 1 hour. After 1 hour has passed, knead the dough for about 30 seconds and let it rest for 10 more minutes.

Whilst the dough rests, in a small bowl, whisk together the rapadura, molasses, melted coconut butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. Set aside. Roll the dough into a flat 16 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the surface. Add a sprinkling of walnuts and dates also. Carefully roll up the dough lengthwise so it's 16 inches long. Cut it into 1 ½ inch sections with a sharp knife. Place the rolls close together, cut side up in a lightly greased 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish. This will ensure that the rolls don't unravel during baking. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and dates over them. Cover let the buns rise for one more hour.

Bake for about 15 minutes at 200C or until the tops are golden brown, rotating the dish halfway through. Drizzle a little more maple syrup to serve if you fancy.


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