Saturday, April 28, 2012

Strawberry Hibiscus Margarita


Yesterday I was overjoyed when 4:00 rolled around...it meant the week was over and I would have a bit of me time...at least until Monday returned.  It had been quite the crazy day at work for me.  Crazy buzy that is... lots of food to make in the deli and things tripping me up and keeping me from getting it done.  The worst of which was chicken broth almost spilling into the 20 lbs of sweet potatoes I had just cubed for a salad.  I would have cried had it happened as I would have had to toss it and start all over.  But oh well, the salad got finished and I survived and got all I needed to done.  I could tell I had a long day when I was shopping for my groceries before leaving work and I accidentally grabbed another woman's cart and started walking away with it.  Luckilly she noticed because my groceries were much better than hers!  I decided I needed a margarita...so I made one! 


A Strawberry Hibiscus Margarita...since I had just bought some fresh strawberries on sale!  I already had hibiscus syrup on hand and I thought it would give the margarita a lovely color along with the red berries plus contribute a floral note. 


I opted for lemon juice instead of lime to be a little different.  Afterall, I wasn't going for a classic margarita but rather an Amy style one...with my own spin.  I was not in the type of mood to follow a recipe. 


It was delicious and refreshing!  The strawberries were sweet, the tequila smooth and the hibiscus fragrant...it went down quick and I could only wish I had another to enjoy!  If you would like one for yourself, I have included the recipe.  I hope you all are having a lovely weekend!


Strawberry Hibiscus Margarita
Makes 1
kosher salt for rim
Drink:
6 large ice cubes
4 oz tequila blanco
2 oz strawberry puree
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 oz hibiscus syrup*

To garnish rim, place some salt on a plate, then rub lemon juice around half your glass rim. Dip your glass into the salt where the lemon has been so it sticks. Set aside in the freezer while you make the drink.
To make drink, in a martini shaker add the ice, tequila, strawberries, lemon juice, hibiscus syrup, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink through a strainer into the prepared glass (with some ice in it if you prefer your drink on the rocks), and serve!


*Hibiscus syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup filtered water
2 Tbsp dried hibiscus flowers*

Combine all ingredients in a jar, put the lid on and shake to dissolve agave nectar. Let sit at least a day to infuse, then strain to remove flowers. Store in the fridge for up to a month.

*You can find dried hibiscus flowers at your local natural food store in the bulk section by the spices and teas.  If you live in the Twin Cities area, they are available at Fresh and Natural Foods in Shoreview, or at the Wedge Coop in Uptown (where I have bought them).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vegan Strawberry Beet Love Brownies


Beets are sexy.  I mean, really you can't deny it.  Their beautiful deep red color, their earthy sweetness, the way they make you feel wonderful when you eat them...alright, so you may not necessarily agree with me but I think they are!  Well, if you don't think beets are, I am sure you are not going to argue with me that strawberries are sexy.  And so this last weekend I thought I would combine the two sexy produce items in an irresistible dessert...fudgy brownies!  Because I believe that chocolate, beets and strawberries are a match made in heaven!  And if you are skeptical on this one, I know you would not be if you had a bite of one of these brownies. 


For the base, I used beet puree combined with my usual vegan brownie recipe with coconut oil, dark chocolate and a bit of agave nectar...the batter was delicious!  Yes, I did enjoy some, afterall no risk of salmonella with vegan batter and it is one of the joys of making brownies, licking the bowl!


I folded in fresh strawberries, poured it into the pan and couldn't wait to see how they baked up!  They smelled so heavenly, my kitchen filled with the scent of dark chocolate! 
Once they had cooled I glazed them with a luscious ganache made from coconut milk and dark chocolate.  They needed some strawberries on top as well I decided to be pretty, so I topped them off with some sliced ones, which almost looked like hearts! 


They were deliciously fudgy...they didn't taste like beets, but instead decadent dark chocolate deliciousness studded with sweet berries and topped off with gooey chocolate ganache!  They were some of the sexiest looking brownies I have seen, and they certainly tasted that way as well! 


There is no denyint beets are sexy especially when used in a dessert like this!  If you would like to experience these delicious brownies for yourself, here is the recipe! 


Vegan Strawberry Beet Love Brownies
makes 24

Brownies:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup coconut oil
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup pureed cooked beet puree
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups organic strawberries, thinly sliced
Ganache Glaze:
5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp full fat coconut milk

Sliced strawberries for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, place chocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in agave nectar, along with vanilla, beet puree, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. fold in berries until well incorporated, and pour into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then lift foil out by the edges and cool on a rack. Let set for at least an hour.
To make the ganache, heat coconut milk until very hot and whisk in chopped dark chocolate until smooth.  Spread over brownies, and place in the fridge until set, then cut into 24 bars (or larger if you are like me). Top each with a strawberry if desired.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Savory Roasted Beet and Green Garlic Almond Tart


It is not a secret that I love beets...I eat them almost every day and try and sneak them into everything including desserts.  But there was no hiding them with the tart I made last weekend, they were one of the stars!  I got the idea from one of my favorite restaurants Sapor Cafe in Minneapolis who has featured "Beetza" (beet pizza) on their menu for quite some time and it is delicious!  However, I wasn't making a pizza here, just a savory tart with lovely beets atop it. 


I wasn't going to include any cheese however, because I decided to go the vegan route this time.  I had picked up some green garlic at the store and I thought it would make a delicious almond cream to go beneath the beets on the tart. 


Afterall, why not feature some spring veg that is only in season a short time!  I am a lover of all things garlic so I couldn't resist!  I made a simple almond crust which I knew would be buttery but not overpower the ingredients that topped it.  For the almond cream, (I know it is not exactly cream, but it was rich and delicious so that is what I am calling it) I used toasted almonds combined with the green garlic, olive oil, some almond milk to make it silky and a little sea salt for good measure.  It was delicious, and it is a wonder it made it into the tart shell, because I couldn't stop tasting it! 


I topped the almond cream with beets I had roasted earlier, and simply drizzled them with a little olive oil and sprinkled them with a touch of sea salt.  When the tart came out of the oven, it was beautiful and a sight to behold.  


I sprinkled it with thyme, and was about to carry it over to the table to photograph it when....SPLAT!  It slipped out of my hands and onto my kitchen floor.  I admit some choice words may have escaped my mouth...and as I fought off crying, all I could think of was I just put a lot of love into this pile on the floor...But since I am not one to give up, and I wanted to share the recipe with you all, photos and all, because I knew it was delicious (I tasted some that wasn't touching the floor), I remade it.  No use crying over dropped tart afterall, and it was worth it! 


The second one was just as delicious...the crust was buttery, the nutty almond cream was savory with green garlic and rich on the tongue, and the beets were sweet as they should be!  It was wonderful and heavenly to this beet lover!  If you would like to experience it for yourself, I have included the recipe! 


Savory Roasted Beet and Green Garlic Almond Tart
Makes 1 8 inch tart

Almond Cream:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 green garlic stalks, sliced
1 cup toasted whole almonds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup almond milk

Crust:
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp cold Earth Balance butter
1 large beet, roasted*, halved and sliced thinly
To make almond cream, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a non-stick pan and add garlic and sautee until tender, a few minutes.  Add to a food processor along with almonds, sea salt and 1/4 cup almond milk and puree until very smooth.  Set aside. 
To make the crust, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands until it starts to come together into a ball.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 8 inch tart pan.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, and remove from oven.  Spread almond cream over the bottom of the tart, then top with beet slices in a decorative circle.  Spread beets with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for 40 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack before serving.   
*For roasted beets, preheat oven to 475 degrees and wrap beet in foil. Roast until tender, about an hour or more.  Let cool, and peel off skin.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rockin' Road Tart


I have never actually eaten anything "rocky road".  Sad, I know...and it is about time since I am 26 years old.  I have to admit, it is probably because I am not a big fan of marshmallows in things unless they are toasted like in a s'more.  But just plain doesn't do it for me.  Or, at least the mini marshmallows of my childhood. I remember my Dad used to buy bags of the colored ones and I was never a big fan.  They didn't taste like much, and I had no desire to eat them as an adult...partly because of the gelatin, which isn't vegetarian.  That is until I was given a bag of vegan marshmallows...


They tasted amazing and actually like real vanilla, not the fake stuff!  I wanted to keep eating them plain, but I decided they needed to be made into a delicious dessert!  I thought about possible recipes to make with them, and decided on something "rocky road" since I have never had it!  I wanted to make a rocky road ganache tart, chalk full of goodies!


Now, I am not one to leave things as they are in terms of the classics...and I know that classic rocky road is marshmallows, almonds and chocolate.  But I wanted to put my own twist on it...so no almonds.  I would however be throwing in coconut, cashews, pecans and walnuts!  This tart would be rockin'! 


For the crust, I decided it needed to be melt in your mouth buttery and chocolaty.  So I used a combination of hazelnut meal and flour along with a bit of cocoa powder with some earth balance for a mixture that when baked tasted like chocolate shortbread. 


The ganache filling was quite simple...just good quality dark chocolate, coconut milk and a smidge of earth balance.  It was like a truffle, only there was more of it.  I folded all of the goodies into it and I admit that not all of the filling made it into the tart crust because I had to try it to make sure it was good (and it was amazing). 


Once the tart had set and was ready to sample I was quite excited!  It was quite lovely the dark ganache filled with nuts and marshallows almost like a mosaic!


The first bite was wonderful...melt in your mouth rich dark chocolate studded with crunchy toasty nuts and soft marshmallows in a buttery chocolate crust!  It was heavenly!  I think I like rocky road!  It was rockin'! 


If you would like to enjoy some for yourself, I have included the recipe...and it is simple to make so you have no excuse!  Hope you all are having a wonderful week!


Rockin' Road Tart
Makes one 9 inch tart
Crust:
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup hazelnut meal, or other ground nut meal
1/3 cup maple sugar or packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
5 Tbsp Earth Balance

Filling:
1 cup full fat coconut milk
12 oz vegan bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp Earth Balance
1 cup vegan mini marshmallows
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup toasted cashews

For the crust, in a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, hazelnut meal, maple sugar, and sea salt.  Add melted butter and work in with your hands until the mixture starts to hold together when squeezed.  Press the mixture into a 10 inch tart pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool. 
To make the filling, heat coconut milk until very hot and pour over the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.  Whisk until chocolate has melted and is smooth, and whisk in butter until melted.  Fold in most of the marshmallows, coconut and nuts, reserving some for topping.  Spread chocolate mixture into the cooled crust, and smooth out with a spatula.  Top with reserved nuts, and press in. Place in the fridge until set, a few hours before serving.