Tag Archives: gluten-free

Cherry Tomato Tart

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…Or “Welcoming fall with an end of summer bounty…”

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I realize I’ve been M.I.A for the past month… I expected my blog posts would slow down as school started for me, but I certainly intended to keep posting at least weekly. This month has just kept me pretty busy… beginning with visits from my sister the first weekend (so much fun!), making up for those days at work the next weekend (less fun!), camping at Silver Falls (beautiful!), running in the Race for the Cure, school and school related workshops,  and again making up extra work days…

Not to mention our C.S.A. was cancelled due to pests destroying the crops. I was pretty upset about this as it was supposed to go from June to November and only ended up going until August. We were also not given the items we were told we would biweekly such as local eggs and cheese after the first month. Of course you pay for these ahead of time and cannot get a refund, so this was a big financial loss for us. We had budgeted for our grocery bills to be lower after that initial investment and it’s been tough to stick to the numbers we should be. So we’ve been eating a lot of beans… And I’m all about frugal cooking but it’s not as fun to share when every meal is focused on cheap rather than achieving it’s full potential.

Additionally, I’ve been channeling my creative energy previously being used for cooking into other ventures… namely painting, ink drawing, and jewelry making. I have even replaced a good portion of my blog reading with Etsy ogling… If it weren’t for my time commitments at work and school, I’d gladly make time for both creative cooking and art making, but I just don’t have that much time in my day!

For some reason I have  had tarts on my mind the last few days… I was thinking of making some with the fresh figs I bought, but have been eating so many fresh that I may run out. While trying to decide what to make for dinner, I decided to use the plethora of tomatoes available to us…

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These cherry tomatoes are from our neighbor. He is growing more than he can eat and we are helping as best we can! Real tomatoes are truly divine… I can eat them like candy. They are sweet and juicy and taste like.. well, a tomato.  During the winter, I hate fresh tomatoes- those mealy and bland imposters don’t fool me.  I only buy them because Andrew likes them, but otherwise I simply use canned tomatoes for my winter cooking.

Anyhow, I thought it would be yummy to try a savory tart with cherry tomatoes. And I am sooo glad I did… Why do I always forget how delicious savory pastries are? I love that they provide the visual appeal of a dessert, while being filling and nourishing enough for a main course.

This tart is made with a gluten free crust, which I found to be quite rich and delicious, but you can substitute your favorite pie crust if you want. I used ground sunflower seeds as an adaptation of a crust recipe made with almond flour because they are much cheaper and work just as well in most recipes.

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Cherry Tomato Tart:

adapted from Marla

Crust:

*1.5 cups ground almonds, sunflower seeds, or a combination of both

*1/2 teaspoon sea salt

*1/4 cup olive oil

*1 tablespoon water

*fresh or dried herbs if desired such as basil, rosemary, oregano, or thyme (I used rosemary and oregano)

Filling:

*1 cup cottage cheese (I used fat free)

*1 egg

*1 large clove garlic

*herbs as desired

*1/4 teaspoon salt

*1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Topping:

*1-2 cups cherry tomatoes

*2 ounces goat cheese (or try fresh mozzarella, feta, or even cheddar)

*2 tablespoons parmesan

Directions:

1.)Preheat oven to 350F. Combine ingredients for crust and mix until well combined. Press mixture into a 9 inch tart shell or pie pan. Bake for about 10 minutes and let cool while you prepare the filling.

2.) Combine filling ingredients in food processor or use an immersion blender like I did.  You could also use ricotta instead of cottage cheese and mince the garlic and get away without blending it at all. Spread this mixture onto prepared tart shell and top with tomatoes in a pretty pattern. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake for about 25-30 minutes. You may wish to broil for a minute at the end to brown the cheese also.

Add a salad for a well rounded meal!

xo/Nikita

“Ode to Oregon” Blackberry and Hazelnut Cake

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Andrew and I celebrated our 2 year “Oregoniversary” this week with a night out in downtown Portland dinner at Cafe Yumm and cocktails at The Original. (Psst, for locals and Yumm Sauce addicts- I just made a Yumm Sauce knock off and will share the recipe soon if Andrew approves it! ) We also celebrated with  this decadent tasting cake containing two of Oregon’s most abundant edibles : blackberries and hazelnuts.  I regretted turning on the oven for the rest of the evening, but the cake really was divine…
Our four day road trip from Illinois to Oregon was one of the most exciting adventures I’ve had, despite dreading it initially (I hate driving). It’s amazing to look back and see how much we have accomplished and how much has changed since we made that blind leap of faith. Honestly, I don’t know if I would make such a leap where I am in my life now. But two years ago I was a little younger, a little more desperate, and sporting some rosy, heart shaped lenses that made anything Andrew wanted to do seem like the best choice for me, too. I would have followed him anywhere. Really. I’m lucky he picked Portland :)
Anyway… that’s enough nostalgia for now! Wanna know how I made this gluten-free, reduced sugar, little gem?
Even though I used blackberries and hazelnuts, you could make this with lots of other combinations if these aren’t readily available to you. Cherry-Almond? Peach-Almond? Strawberry-Pistachio? The possiblities are endless.

Blackberry-Hazelnut Meringue Cake 

*4 egg whites

*1 cup raw hazelnuts

*1 cup sugar (or use 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup stevia baking mix like I did)

*pinch of salt

*1 cup fresh blackberries

*3/4 cup whipping cream

*1/2 cup greek yogurt

Directions:

1.) Toast hazelnuts in 350F oven for about 15 minutes, shaking pan every few minutes to ensure even cooking. This will make your house smell amazing by the way! Remove from the oven when fragrant and golden brown, transfer to a dish towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Don’t fuss if there are a few remaining, but do try to get most off. Let cool, then grind to a powder in a food processor or coffee grinder.

2.) Turn oven down to 300F and line to pans of equal size with parchment paper (I did two loaf pans, because that it the only size pan I have two of, but the original recipe used two 9 inch pie tins). Make your meringue by beating the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form (you will probably need an electric beater unless you have crazy strong and fast arms). Beat in two tablespoons of the sugar and then fold the rest of the sugar in, two tablespoons at a time. Fold in the ground hazelnuts.

3.) Divide mixture evenly between prepared pans and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering with foil if it browns too quickly. Let cool completely on wire racks before assembling cake.

4.) Meanwhile you can prepare the whipped filling by beating the whipping cream (again, bust out that electric mixer for this job) until thick and fluffy. Mix in the greek yogurt by hand and add a touch of sweetener if desired (I used stevia). If you don’t have greek yogurt, do NOT use regular yogurt- it will be too runny. You can use all whipping cream (1 1/4 cups) also, I used greek yogurt for the health benefits and slight tang it imparts.

5.) When cake is cool, lay one slice on a large plate and generously frost, then dot with berries. Lay the other half on top and frost and top with more berries. Isn’t it pretty? You can eat it now and it will be delicious, but it will be prettier, tastier, and much easier to cut if you let it sit a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

This cake was amazing, but I think if I made it again I would use hazelnut macaroon cookies for the crust and layer it like a berry-licious tiramisu. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Now I just need another excuse to make a fancy dessert…

Well I’m off to Mt. Hood with a couple of my clients for work now. It’s just a short trip (1 day and one night) and lets hope everything goes smoothly!

xo/Nikita

 

Lazy Day and Mexican Lasagna

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Hello lovelies! I apologize for taking so long to post again…I have been working a lot and generally feeling exhausted. I do have several posts I’m working on though!
What a long weekend it was for us! Andrew and I both work long hours on weekends, and this one especially full of… tedious and unpleasant extras. Riding my bike to work three days in a row was tiring, especially in the dark after working 12 hours. After attending a 60 year high school reunion. I was kinda excited, curious since I’ve only been out of high school 5 years. Andrew said “That sounds like it will be depressing and boring.” I said “It will be fun! I get to wear a dress!” And… it was boring and depressing. And I was overdressed. As if being in a room full of people 3 to 4 times my age didn’t make me feel out of place enough.
I don’t mean to complain. I am really lucky to be employed at all and generally enjoy my job. Sometimes it’s just lonely… I used to think I was such a loner. Not antisocial, but not especially social. But there’s nothing like moving to the other side of the country away from all your friends and family and then landing one of the few jobs in which you really don’t interact on a normal human level with anybody to make you realize how socially needy I am.
Monday I was completely taking it easy. I had some things that need to be done, such as returning books, mailing things, phone calls. I walked for my errands and did some light yoga. Otherwise I just did as much relaxing as possible. I worked on some jewelry and spent time with Andrew. We watched Breaking Bad and I made Mexican Lasagna. Good, lazy times. Just what we both needed!
I have made many incarnations of Mexican Lasagna and it is one of Andrew’s favorite dishes. This version is vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Mexican Lasagna:

Ingredients:

*12 6 inch corn torillas

*2 cups salsa (I use cheapo brands for this, save the fancy stuff for something else)

*1 8 oz can tomato sauce

*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 cup diced onion

*1/2 red bell pepper, diced

*1 green chile, minced (optional- leave out if you don’t like it hot!)

*1 clove garlic, minced

*1.5 cups cooked pinto or black beans

*2 cups lowfat or fat free cottage cheese

*1 egg
*1-2 cups shredded pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese
*minced fresh cilantro and green onion for garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Pour 1/2 cup salsa into a large casserole dish, spreading evenly. Combine the cottage cheese with the egg, mixing thoroughly, and set aside.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, bell and chile pepper, and garlic. Saute until softened. Add the beans, remaining 1.5 cups salsa, and tomato sauce and cook until heated through.

3. Now you are ready to begin layering! Lay 4 torillas on the bottom of your dish, overlapping slightly. Top with 2 cups bean-vegetable mixture, then 1 cup cottage cheese mixture, then 1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese. Repeat this layering, leaving out the shredded cheese (save it for the final topping). Layer on your last four tortillas, last bean-veggie mixture, and the remaining shredded cheese.

4. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting for best (neatest!) results! Top with cilantro and sliced green onion if desired.

We ate our fill of this, kept some in the fridge, and put some in the freezer. This weekend I had two freezer meals that I had made already waiting for me to just heat up after work and it was great! I don’t get home until 7:30- 7:45 pm and am covered in sweat after my uphill bike ride home. The last thing I feel like doing is cooking! This way I can get home and heat dinner up while I shower! So much better!

xo/Nikita

 


Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip and NuNaturals Giveaway

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Cookie dough dip!

Who doesn’t love free things? Free samples, free gifts, free coffee and  food during finals week at school… I can’t lie, my ears perk up when I here the word “free” mentioned.
But what about sugar-free? Gluten-free? Dairy and egg-free? Some seek these labels out of necessity, always longing for products that will indeed not taste as though they are free from, or lacking, the ingredient in question. Those who don’t seek these labels tend to be turned off by them, assuming they are simply an inferior product. Simply removing the offending ingredient would produce an inferior product. But a little creativity can go a long way…
I was invited to a party in where I knew the hostess was trying to cut sugar and refined carbs out of her diet. Having a mouth full of sweet teeth myself, I felt that I should create a dish to bring that would be sweet and decadent tasting, but fit into the guidelines of her diet as well as my own views on healthy eating. As I mentioned before, I recently was lucky enough to be a winner in Laura’s blog giveaway for a package of NuNatural Stevia products, and used stevia to sweeten without adding calories or sugar. This dip is sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free!
And while we are on the subject of FREE,  I’m happy to announce that you all have a chance to win a package of NuNatural’s Stevia products as well! NuNaturals is letting me give away packages to four lucky readers- those are pretty good odds, since my  young blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic! See the end of this post for details on how to enter!
First, I have to share this recipe… All I can say is you have to trust me. No, you have to try it. The ingredient list sounds weird, I know. I saw some similar recipes circulating around the blog-world months ago and was intrigued but not convinced enough to try it out. This dip is basically like a sweet hummus. Sweet hummus? You say. Why would anyone do such a thing to such a wonderful food? Umm, because it tastes like cookie dough and has the nutritional profile of hummus! You can even eat it by the spoonful and won’t get sick! Not that I’ve ever made myself sick from eating too much cookie dough…
If you aren’t a fan of peanut butter, or are allergic, try using almond, sunflower seed, or cashew butter for a milder but equally delicious variation!
Peanut Butter-Cookie Dough Dip:
*1.5 cup cooked white beans
*1/3 cup peanut butter (I use natural)
*2 teaspoons vanilla
*1 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
*1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals Clear Liquid Stevia ( If not using stevia, try 2-3 tablespoon agave nectar and omit milk)
*1 dropper full NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia
*1 dropper full NuNaturals Cocoa Extract (optional)
*1-2 tablespoons nondairy milk
*1/4 cup cacao nibs (for completely sugar-free dip) or 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Directions:
1.)Simply combine all ingredients except nondairy milk and cacao nibs or chocolate chips in the bowl of food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Add the milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.
2.) Add the cacao nibs or chocolate chips and pulse briefly, just enough to combine.
3.) If you can resist eating it by the spoonful, serve with crackers and sliced fresh fruit such as bananas and apples. Also makes a great substitute for peanut butter in a peanut-butter-banana sandwich!
Now for the giveaway details:

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Each of the four winners will receive a bottle of Vanilla Stevia Liquid (so good!)

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and a box of 50 stevia packets (great for travel!)

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To enter, simply leave a comment in the comment section telling me what you would like to use stevia for!  (U.S. residents only) If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave your email address so that I may contact you if you win.
Note: I’m not getting anything for advertising these products, I just was honestly quite impressed with their quality and want to share this with others who are looking for a natural sugar alternative. Some stevia products can have a bitter aftertaste, but I have found these to be truly superior in flavor!
If you aren’t chosen to receive a package, you can still get free samples! (sorry, only for U.S. residents) Go to www.nunaturals.com for more information. Also, if you decide to purchase anything from their website, you can get a  15% discount on your order by entering the promo code BLG930. You even get free shipping to the continental U.S. if you spend $35 or more.
This contest will be open until Thursday at midnight, PST, and I will announce the winner Friday morning. I will notify you by email. What a great way to start the weekend!
Best of luck!
xo/ Nikita

Almond Cherry Bomb Muffins

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I’m just finishing up a long stretch at work and feeling drained. On the plus side, I am feeling much stronger (and faster!) when I ride my bike to work now. Not only that, but I’m actually  enjoying it. When I first started, I knew it was good for me, the earth, and my checkbook, but I just didn’t like it. It was hard. Sometimes you have to “fake it till you make it.” Maybe it’s the much awaited sunshine, but I couldn’t help myself from just smiling every time I got on the bike! The down side? I’m so exhausted that I took an extra “rest day” off from working out today. I usually only take one day off a week, but today I thought I was going for a run and ended up mostly walking. My legs are sore and my energy is low. I hate messing up my schedule, but I have to respect my body.

Other exciting news? My bestie, Michelle, arrived in Portland Sunday! We are now about a 25 minute walk away- much easier than a 4 day car ride or 4.5 hour plane ride. As I mentioned, she is newly gluten-free and I have been making lots of gluten-free treats. I don’t follow a strictly gluten-free diet, but I do enjoy trying new grains and grain alternatives. I feel best when I eat a variety of grains such as rice, quinoa, oats, kasha, and millet instead of just all wheat.

These muffins are actually made with almond flour and are low carb, high protein (a whopping 9 grams per muffin!), and packed with nutrients. I don’t buy almond flour as it is quite expensive. I simply grind whole almonds in my coffee grinder and…voila! Almond flour.  Almonds are high in protein, fiber, vitamin e, calcium, and magnesium. The best part? They taste amazing! Andrew wrote me a love letter after eating one when he came home the night I made them. The phrase “most delicious muffins I have EVER tasted” was used.

But it gets better! They are also ridiculously simple and easy to make. I slightly adapted a genius recipe from Elana for a simple almond flour muffin that she created as part of the “Gluten-free Ratio Rally.” Her basic recipe has just five ingredients, though I changed it up slightly with the additions I made. The “bomb” is the homemade cherry jam surprise inside, and I also stirred some chopped cherries into the batter, as well as chocolate chips in half of the muffins.

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 Almond Cherry Bomb Muffins:

*8 oz almond flour (about 2 cups if you don’t have a scale)

*4 large eggs (I know it sounds like a lot, they act as leavening and binding agents in gluten’s absence)

* 2 tablespoons agave nectar

*1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (Elana uses apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t have any on hand)

*1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

*1/2 cup pitted and chopped fresh or frozen cherries

*8 tablespoons cherry jam

*1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1. Line 8 standard muffin tins with paper cups, or grease them. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Combine wet ingredients (eggs, agave, vinegar, almond extract). Stir in almond flour and baking soda. Fold in chopped cherries and chocolate chips if using.

3. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, only about half full. Spoon 1 tablespoon of cherry jam into each, then cover with the remaining batter.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cool and enjoy!


I’m off to enjoy some much needed sunshine! Have a beautiful day!

xo/ Nikita

Pupusas De Queso- My Accidental Salvadoran Treat

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The theme when planning our meals this week was “use up what we have.” While I need fresh produce on a weekly basis, pantry staples like beans and grains have a much longer shelf life, and also a tendency to be forgotten once their role in a particular recipe is over.

I was brainstorming ways to use up some pinto beans, which I had purchased a very large quantity of when my grocery store was selling them for $0.30/lb (!), and some masa harina, the type of flour used to make tortillas and tamales. I had a bag of this from when I made tamales back in May. I was thinking I could make tortillas with it and turn these into quesadillas to serve with some refried beans. Simple and easy, right? Maybe too simple for me- it sounded boring. What if I stuff the tortillas with cheese before cooking them? Now that sounds more like a fun dish!

I sauteed a diced jalepeno with some sliced green onion, mixed it with some chevre, tucked this inside two uncooked tortillas, and cooked this on a pan with a little olive oil. What a fun new twist on Mexican food!

Well it turns out, I was only half way right about that. They are fun (and oh so tasty), but a quick google search of “stuffed tortillas” prior to writing this proved that this little snack was not my own invention, but rather a variation on a popular Salvadoran dish called “Pupusas de Queso.” That being said, keep in mind that my recipe doesn’t attempt to be faithful to tradition. (The recipe that I found from my search my from a site called Herbavoracious, and the recipe can be found here if you want to check it out- it’s a pretty awesome site!)

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Spiced Tortillas Stuffed with Queso-Chile Filling:

(Vegetarian and gluten-free as is. For a vegan version fill with vegan cheese or refried beans)

Makes 4-6 stuffed tortillas

For the dough:

*1 cup masa harina (a flour of gound corn treated with lime that can be found in the ethnic founds section of most supermarkets)

*1 teaspoon each: ground cumin and smoked paprika

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*1 teaspoon baking powder

*1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the pan

*1 cup hot water

For the filling:

*1 jalepeno, minced

*3-4 green onions, sliced

*1 teaspoon olive oil

*1/2 cup crumbled chevre, queso fresco, grated cheddar, or a mixture of these. (I used chevre in mine, a mixture of chevre and cheddar in Andrew’s.)

Directions:

1. To make the dough, combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a fork. Pour in the 3/4 cup of the hot water and olive oil and mix with the fork. The dough should hold together but not be too sticky. You should be able to form a little ball in your hand with out it crumbling too much or sticking. If it crumbles, add a little more water, slowly, until the desired consistency is achieved. Divide mixture into 8,10, or 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Cover these with a damp cloth while you prepare the filling.

2. Saute the minced jalepeno and the white part of the green onion (reserve the green parts) in the olive oil until softened. Tranfer to a small dish and stir in the green parts.

3. On a sheet of waxed paper, flatten the balls of masa dough into disks, about 1/4 inch thick. You can use you hands to do this, but if you own a tortilla press, you could use this too, just be sure not to flatten them as thin as a traditional tortilla. Divide the chile-onion mixture equally among half of the masa disks, then top with about 1.5- 2 tablespoons cheese each. Cover the filled halves with a plain masa disk and press the edges to seal.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray or a teaspoon of olive oil. Transfer 2-3 filled tortillas to the skillet (depending on how large your skillet in and how large your tortillas are) and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel while you cook the second batch.

Serve with salsa, cilantro pesto, guacamole or sour cream. Round out the meal with a side of pinto or black beans and a fresh green salad.

I served mine with salsa, but used some of my leftover pesto to make a salad dressing by thinning in down with fresh lime juice! The salad consisted of organic greens from our CSA, avocado, green onion, and these beautiful heirloom tomatoes I found:

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Look at that color! If you haven’t tried heirloom tomatoes, they are worth seeking out! I think they tend to be more flavorful than many conventional tomatoes today, and they are definitely nicer to look at!

Enjoy!

xo/ Nikita

Mythical, Magical Figs and Chevre Cheescake

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I went to the grocery store a couple days ago for a bit of lettuce. When I saw these, I stopped in my tracks!

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I hadn’t tried fresh figs until a couple years ago. You can only get them fresh a few months out of the year, which adds to their appeal. They are a rare treat and a delicate fruit. They bruise easily and don’t last long, but that only makes them seem more precious. They are a great source of fiber, and a good source of potassium, manganese, and calcium. But I would eat them even if they weren’t!

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There is something so seductive about figs. Its not surprising they have been the subject of so many myths. Figs trees are in many depictions of the Garden of Eden, and the leaves were what Adam and Eve were said to have used to cover themselves. Romans held the fig tree to be sacred because the she-wolf who suckled Romulous and Remus did so under a fig tree. Figs are associated with Dionysus, the God of wine, and Priapus, a satyr who symbolizes sexual desire. Even the bodhi tree which Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under is a type of fig tree.

As luscious, sweet and juicy as these gems are on their own, I felt like the first figs of the year deserved a little special presentation. Enter the Honeyed Fig and Chevre Cheesecake Bites with Walnut Crust…

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These combine two of my favorite things: Figs and goat cheese, which incidentally are a lovely combination! I made them in muffin tins because mini things are just cuter and it also helps with portion control! They are even gluten free, utilizing a simple crust of walnuts and dates. I tried to drizzle them with honey before baking, but I’m going to recommend not doing that because it made them very sticky and difficult to get out of the muffin tins!

Honeyed Fig and Chevre Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

makes 6 muffin sized servings

Crust:

*heaping 1/2 cup walnuts

*heaping 1/2 cup dates

* 2 tablespoons rolled oats

pinch on salt

Filling:

*3.5 oz plain soft chevre (goat cheese)

*4 oz low fat cream cheese

*1 large egg

*1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 2-4 tablespoons sugar (I used 2, plus a little stevia. You could probably replace all or most with stevia, but my husband hates it so I have to be sneaky!)

*1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

*1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Garnish:

*4 large fresh figs

* 2 tablespoons honey

cinnamon for sprinkling
Directions:

1. Preheat your over to 350F and prepare 6 muffin cups by either greasing them or placing paper muffin cups inside. Make the crust by pulsing the walnuts, oats, dates, and salt in a food processor until a crumbly mixture forms that will hold together if you roll it into a ball. Divide the mixture equally among the muffin cups, pressing against the bottom and up the sides to form a crust.

2. Make the filling by combining all filling ingredients in the food processor until well mixed. Spoon this mixture into the prepared muffin cups. Try not to eat it all before it gets there.

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3. Now prepare the figs: Slice the figs into 4-6 pieces each. Heat the honey up on the stove or in a microwave until hot and completely liquid. Toss the figs in the honey and let marinate for a few minutes. When they have soaked up that honey goodness, spoon them over your prepared mini cheesecakes, careful not to drip a lot of honey down the sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then broil for just a minute to ensure caramelization of the figs. Cool for 3 hours or more before serving.

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Enlightenment is not guaranteed, but they do pair well with Harry Potter Fever! Anyone seen the last Harry Potter yet? I did! Loved it!

xo/ Nikita

Super Easy Vegan Pistachio Pudding

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Pistachios make me feel fancy. They are also a great source of protein and fiber as well as vitamin E, folate, copper, and many other vitamins and minerals. A few months ago Andrew and I were at the grocery store together and he saw some Jello mix pistachio pudding and excitedly told me how much he looooved pistachio putting. I looked at the ingredients on the box:

Ewwwww...

Sorry, honey, things like this just aren’t allowed in my cart! However, I do love pistachios and promised him I would make a more wholesome homemade version. After looking at a few more traditional pistachio pudding recipes using egg yolks and whole milk to thicken, I remembered that when I was vegan I used to make the simplest pudding with silken tofu and decided to use that as a base. I swirled some pistachios with agave and vanilla, added a bit of coconut oil to replace the richness of the milk fat and egg yolk, and added that to a creamy silken tofu base. Garnished with a few pistachios and an extra agave swirl, it didn’t need anything else. Andrew was in heaven and proclaimed it “better than Jell-O’s pistachio pudding.” I didn’t think that was much competition… that stuff is scary! But really, this is so delicious and easy to make!

 5 ingredient Vegan Pistachio Pudding:

serves 2-3

*1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachios (I used salted)

*2 tablespoons Agave nectar (or more depending on how sweet you like it. Stevia can be substituted also), plus more for serving

*1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil

*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*1 box Mori Nu firm silken tofu (12.3 oz), chilled

Directions:

1. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the pistachios for garnish. Add the rest of the pistachios, the agave, coconut oil, and vanilla to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the tofu and process until smooth again.

2. Spoon into dishes, garnish with whole or coarsely chopped pistachios and an agave drizzle and serve immediately. The ungarnished pudding will keep in the refrigerator for several days as well.

PS: Recognize the bowls? They are the ones we made during our Eugene trip! They make perfect desert dishes.

Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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Forgetting that we were going to have more company this week ( this means going out more and eating less meals at home), I bought too many groceries. Between our CSA and my excitement about all the fresh, cheap produce available at the grocery store, I found myself with an excess of perishables. Yesterday I noticed my zucchinis were looking… well wrinkled. I had hoped to put them on a pizza or stir fry, but decided to take immediate action and turn them into muffins. Chocolate muffins, because I can’t seem to shake the desire for chocolate lately!

I came across a recipe on Elana’s site that used coconut flour- a gluten free flour that I bought on impulse and have been trying to become acquainted with.

I tweaked the recipe only slightly, and they turned out so good. They are moist (sorry to use the m word, Erica, but they are!) and yet fluffy and not too sweet. The texture is more cake like than muffin like, and I think for a more indulgent treat they would be amazing with frosting or icing, but I haven’t been wanting overly sweet things lately so I left them as is. They taste way better when cooled. I had one warm and it didn’t compare to the cooled ones.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins:

Dry:

1/4 cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Wet:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup grated zucchini, not packed

Mix ins:

1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and grease two mini muffin tins or fill with paper muffin cups.

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl, set aside. Combine wet ingredients in large bowl, slowly beat in dry ingredients, then fold in chocolate chips. Ladle into muffin tins, using a tablespoon for each. Bake 18-22 minutes. Makes about 20.

Enjoy!

xoxo/Nikita

Rawlicious indulgence

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As the weather finally begins to warm up around here, my body naturally starts to crave more fresh and raw foods. While looking online for some raw inspiration last week, I came across Ani Phyo‘s site and saw that she was coming to Portland for a talk and book signing Thursday! The timing couldn’t have been better. Ani was great! I think her gorgeous looks alone sell a lot of people on eating raw foods- I can’t believe she’s 42! She talked about the benefits of raw foods, and answered questions about eating raw on-the-go or while traveling, eating raw in colder climates, and more. She was promoting her new book, Ani’s Raw Food Asia, but I purchased her Ani’s Raw Food Essentials book because I wanted a more basic book to start. I try to eat a lot of big salads and smoothies (especially smoothies with spinach or kale- my husband thinks I’m disgusting, but it’s such a yummy way to get your greens!) but as far as the more complex raw foods preparation, I really have little experience. I also don’t have a dehydrator yet, which many raw recipes call for.

Raw food, which Ani considers food that is not heated above 104F,  is great because it is unprocessed and retains all the beneficial nutrients and enzymes that nature intended it to have. I personally don’t believe that it’s healthy for me to eat too much raw foods during the colder months because when I do I get very chilled. I have a rather cold constitution. When I did my yoga training we had a class on Ayurveda and I am predominantly Vata with a bit of Kapha.  I try to consume warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne, but even that isn’t enough to warm me! So it’s hard for me to imagine living a completely raw lifestyle while living in Portland, but once it warms up I like to a much higher ratio of raw to cooked foods in my diet.

While raw food diets should be based mostly on vegetables, they also lend themselves well to some amazing desserts! Raw food desserts are generally not low calorie, but they are packed with nutrients and satisfying. Yesterday was my last day of clinicals this semester (!) and so we brought in some treats. I wanted to bring something gluten-free, because a friend of mine in the group is allergic to gluten and I also wanted to bring something raw so I adapted a recipe from Angela‘s no bake date bars to make some amazing chocolate coconut date bars. These were a big hit! I always worry when I bring my “healthy treats” that people will turn up their noses at them, but my class mates gobbled them up!

Raw Coconut Chocolate Date Bars:

Crust:

1.5 cups almonds

1.5 cups dried unsweetened coconut (Angela uses oats and I have used these too with yummy results, but I didn’t have any gluten free oats)

10 pitted and chopped dates

2-4 tablespoons coconut oil (you can use another kind of oil, but the flavor of coconut oil is worth seeking out!)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:

2.5 cups pitted dates

2 tablespoons raw cacao or regular cocoa powder

2 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)

1 teaspoon maca powder (optional but gives a delicious malty flavor)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup pure water as needed

Directions:

Line a 9×9 in square baking pan with parchment paper. Pulse ingredients for crust in food processor until a crumbly and slightly sticky mixture forms. Start with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and add more if your mixture is still too dry. Press 3/4 of this mixture into your prepared pan. Reserve the rest for topping.

Now wipe out the food processor (it doesn’t need to be washed) and add your filling ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup water and adding more as needed to form a thick, spreadable paste. Spread the filling over the first layer and top with the reserved crust, pressing down lightly. Top with a few more cacao nibs if desired. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate for a few hours to set up before slicing into 16 squares. Store in the fridge or freezer for longest shelf life.

Have a beautiful day! I get to take it easy today because tomorrow I’m running my first 10k! :D

xo/Nikita