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).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sunflower Maple Ice Cream


I am a running shoes type of girl...but recently I fell in love with a pair of heels at the store.  They were calling my name with their shiny silver and snake print!  I had to try them on...and I decided that I needed to have them, justified by the fact that they match a lot of my clothes and were on sale at Macy's! 


When I wear them, I can't help but feel confident and beautiful (not that I don't when not wearing them because I do) but they make me stand a bit taller...which is nice since I have not been blessed with the gift of height. I can't believe I went so crazy for a pair of shoes, but hey, stranger things have happened.  Now, delicious ice cream, that is something I always go crazy for! 


I recently made some delicious sunflower maple ice cream, which oddly enough was a simliar color to my new shoes!  I often make ice cream with peanut butter because I love the texture, and so I thought why not sunflower butter?  I decided to add maple as well, because I hadn't made maple anything in a while. 


I used my vegan ice cream base sweetened with maple syrup, added the roasted sunflower seed butter, some maple extract (to make sure the maple was extra fragrant), and some vanilla extract for good measure.  the base tasted amazing, and I could have drank it with a straw, but instead of course froze it.  


I folded some toasted sunflower seeds in for some texture and placed it in the freezer to firm up (wanting to eat a bowl, but waiting until it was scoopable...still had a taste though).  Once it was ready, I was ready to dive in!  It was delectable...creamy, silky nutty goodness with a hint of maple and the occasional crunch of sunflower seeds!  


I can honestly say I have not tasted any ice cream like this...and it was lovely!  If you would like to taste it for yourself, I have included the recipe! 


Sunflower Maple Ice Cream
makes about 4 cups

ice cream base:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1 cup organic sunflower seed butter (unsweetened)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup toasted sunflower seeds

To make ice cream, combine all ice cream base ingredients in a food processor (except seeds), and process until well blended. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Stir seeds into the ice cream, pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream


One of my favorite things about running in the spring is the lavender bushes I get to enjoy along the way.  The aroma hits you far before you are running past them...the floral beautiful sweet fragrance that makes me happy and want to stop and smell the lilacs.  Although I never stop, I do admire their beautiful hues of purple as I stride past.  The varieties of deep purple, light lavender and white making my run just a bit more scenic and colorful.  This moring I couldn't help but notice that the lilac buds are out once again, which makes it officially spring in my mind...I look forward to when they are in full bloom next week!  The color of lilacs brings to mind an ice cream I recently made, blueberry lavender.  It was a bright shade of purple remeniscent of the beautiful spring flowers! 


I had decided to make ice cream, and needed a flavor. The first thing that came to mind was lavender since I haven't used it in ice cream in a while, and I am in love with lavender anything in desserts these days. But not plain lavender, with something fruity.  I had frozen blueberries, and I know they are lovely with the fragrant little flowers...so that is how the combination came to be! 


I wanted to infuse the coconut milk for my ice cream base with the lavander so the flavor carried throughout, so I did that, but also stirred some in at the end so the flowers would be visible.  I lightly sweetened the base with agave as well, since berries are sweet already.  I also added a bit of vanilla since I couldn't resist. 


The base was delicious, and so I knew the finished product would be as well, once it ripened in the freezer overnight to be scoopable.  I dished myself up a large bowl, and topped it with a bit of blueberry lavender jam I happened to have on hand...how perfect!


It was amazing!  It was silky and melt in my mouth, sweet from the berries, fragrant and almost herbal with lavender!  So refreshing and delicious, it would be wonderful in the summer when I have access to fresh berries!  I will definately be making it again. 


If you would like to make some as well, it is easy as long as you have an ice cream maker!  I have included the recipe for you so you can.  Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend! 


Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream
Makes 6 cups
Ice Cream:
1 cup lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp dried lavender, divided
2 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar
12 oz fresh organic blueberries or 12 oz bag frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup lite coconut milk to a simmer and remove from heat.  Add 1 Tbsp dried lavender flowers and stir in.  Let cool, then chill in the fridge until very cold to let lavender infuse.  Strain coconut milk, discarding lavender then add chilled milk to a blender, along with all other ingredients (except remaining 1 Tbsp dried lavender) in a blender, and process until well blended. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Once processed, stir in remaining Tbsp lavender and pour into a freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!


Today was my Mom's Birthday!  In her honor, I thought I would share a couple of her favorite recipes with you all, because I know she would like you to enjoy them as well! 


First off, she never has been a big fan of Birthday cake, so every year she usually requests a caramelized nut tart.   It's alright with me if I don't have to make a cake, I make so many the rest of the year...tarts are a nice change! 


I have made many types, all of them delicious, but her favorite of which is pine nut (which is pictured at the topof the page). I can see why because the pine nuts are so buttery and they are so wonderful enrobed in the coconut milk based caramel that I make it with.  The filling sits atop a lemon scented buttery crust and it is altogether delicious! 


Her other favorite recipe that I needed to share with you is Italian mushroom walnut "meatballs".  I created it because she had a favorite meatball recipe, and I wanted a meatball that we could both eat so the vegan mushroom walnut ones were born.  She ended up liking it better than the meat version, and now it is the recipe that she raves about saying I should make them more often!  They are delicious, the mushrooms and walnuts make them substantial and flavorful...much more so than any meat!  We serve them with bread sometimes instead of pasta. I love these two recipes as well, my Mom has good tastes!  She is my recipe taster, and sometimes recipe inspirer, throwing ideas at me...so I must thank her for that!  I love her very much, and I couldn't ask for a better Mom or best friend!  So, Happy Birthday Mom, Love you!  



 Here are the recipes if you would like to see how delicious they are for yourself! 

 
Carmelized Pine Nut Tart with Lemon Crust
Makes one 10 inch tart

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
zest one lemon

Filling:

1 cup organic full fat coconut milk (from the top of the can where it is thick) 
3/4 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange flower water
2 1/2 cups toasted pine nuts

In a bowl, combine flour, almond flour, salt, and lemon zest. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Squish together with hands until dough comes together to form a cohesive dough ball. Lightly flour a surface, and roll dough out to fit a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough into pan, and place in the freezer. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 until golden brown.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, place coconut milk, sugar, and agave nectar and heat on medium high until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Let boil 4 minutes, while stirring, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla, orange flower water, and pine nuts. Pour into crust, and bake on the middle rack of the oven on a sheet pan lined with foil (to catch any spillage) about 35-38 minutes until browned and bubbling. Cool on rack completely, then refrigerate overnight.
 
Italian Mushroom Walnut "Meatballs"Serves 3-4

Meatballs:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
2 cups dried whole wheat bread crumbs, or as needed
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp each dried basil, parsley, and oregano
freshly ground pepper to taste

Sauce:
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp red wine
1 15 oz can crushed organic tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp sea salt or to taste
Bread:
4 large slices hearty peasant bread
olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
sea salt
vegan parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 475. To make meatballs, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute until fragrant, then remove from heat. Place mixture in a food processor along with walnuts, breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, sea salt, herbs and pepper. Process until smooth. Add a little more breadcrumbs if too sticky, then shape into 16 little balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until heated through, and starting to brown.
Meanwhile to make sauce, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes, herbs, and sea salt, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the flavors have blended. Keep warm.
To prepare bread, brush with olive oil, and rub with garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt and vegan parmesan and place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until crispy and browned at the edges. To serve, place a piece of bread on a plate, place a few meatballs on top of it and ladle the sauce over. Enjoy!
 

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.