27 July 2014

Fig Bars + A Review & Giveaway of Choosing Raw

When I started reading blogs, back before I began my own, there were only a handful that I knew of and loved.  Gena's blog Choosing Raw was one of them.  It was one of my favourite reads then, and continues to be one my favourites now.  Aside from the simple, delicious recipes she shares, Gena always offers thoughtful posts and meaningful dialogue on nutrition and wellness.  Also, she brought banana soft serve to light for us all which pretty much gives her saint status in my books.

Choosing Raw the book was obviously a labour of love and has been getting rave reviews since its release earlier this month.  It is a beautiful book with plenty of full page images to drool over thanks to the talented Hannah Kaminsky and there are 125 amazing recipes within.  But not only that, the first half of the book covers everything from Gena's food history and how she came to embrace raw foods, to the ingredients that make up a kitchen supportive of raw foods, to the tools needed.  It also covers some common myths surrounding the raw food movement (No, you don't have to combine foods in certain ways to reap their benefits and No, there is not a lot of foundation to the enzyme theory), and there is also a 21-day meal plan for those who need a bit more help laying it all out.

The recipes are split up into several sections covering The Essentials, Juices, Snacks, Sauces & Dressings and Meal-sized Salads.  Following that you'll the remaining recipes are divided into 3 levels (Tried and True, Something New and Brave New World) to help ease you into expanding your raw horizons.

The first dish I made was the Quick Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Cilantro Vinaigrette.  I was all out of quinoa (how does that even happen?!) so I made it instead with farro and it was great.  I portioned out a little bit for myself and packed the rest up to deliver to a friend that had just welcomed a new baby.  She and her family, including her 2-year old, loved it.

Next I made the Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing and Chives.  It was so delicious - I don't think I've ever combined sweet potatoes and miso but I will be doing it again because their sweetness is such a good partner to miso's tangy umami flavour.  I also added a big tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds to the dish and really enjoyed the little crunch they imparted.

The Mango Coconut Chia Pudding was perfect for lazy cottage breakfasts overlooking the lake and the No-Bake Sunflower Oat Bars were great for a weekend of camping and music festivaling.  Woodrow loved them and kept asking for more "cookies".  And then the Fig Bars.  They are so yummy and rich and... figgy!  They are so good that I find I'm satisfied with only a small bar and so I got 20 bars instead of the 9 the recipe calls for.  Bonus!  They are so easy and a great raw dessert, snack or even breakfast for those unsure where to start.

And that's the beauty of this book: it is the perfect starting place for everyone.  It makes raw foods accessible and exciting.  And I love that so many cooked recipes are incorporated too, because it's all about balance. 

I am thrilled to share the recipe for the Fig Bars with you today, and also to be giving away a copy of Choosing Raw to one lucky reader!  But I hope you are all able to pick up a copy of the book soon because it is a wonderful book.  Congratulations Gena, on what I hope to be the first of many!

It’s amazing to me that a dessert this good can be free of refined flour or refined sugar. These fig bars have all of the chewiness and sweetness of traditional Fig Newton cookies, but they’re made with wholesome almonds, oats, and real dried figs.


Filling Ingredients:
3 cups water
2 cups dried figs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Base Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup almonds
1 1⁄2 cups rolled oats
1⁄8 teaspoon sea salt
6 pitted Medjool dates
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Topping Ingredients:
3⁄4 cup sliced almonds

1. Bring the water to a boil, and pour it over the figs. Let the figs soak for at least 1 hour (or for as long as 6).

2. Grind the almonds in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade until they’re relatively smooth. Add the oats and continue grinding until both are quite finely ground. Pulse in the sea salt.

3. Add the Medjool dates to the food processor, along with the maple syrup and coconut oil. Process until the mixture is evenly incorporated. Press into an 8–inch square baking dish.

4. Drain the figs, reserving the water they soaked in, and transfer them to a clean food processor. Process them with the vanilla. Add the soak water as needed, until you have the consistency of a fig jam. 

5. Spread the fig mixture over the oat/almond mixture. The fig layer should be 1⁄4 inch thick, or a little thicker. Reserve extra fig mixture to use in place of jam on your favorite toast.

6. Top the fig layer with almonds. Refrigerate the bars for a few hours, until they set. Cut into nine squares, and enjoy.
Store the fig bars in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for up to 2 weeks this way.

From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014

Please use the widgit below to enter the cookbook giveaway.  The contest will remain open until midnight on Monday August 5th and is open to Canadian and US residents.  

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the Choosing Raw book to review, but all opinions are my own. 

17 July 2014

Artichoke & White Bean Hummus

Once something acheives hashtag status, it means it must be true, right?  Okay, this maybe is not the case in all circumstances, but when it comes to hummus I don't think there is much argument.  Because in my books at least, #HUMMUSISAFOODGROUP.  It's true.  If you don't believe me, you can look it up yourself.

I'm usually guilty of making the same hummus everytime, because you just can't beat an amazing version of classic chickpea hummus.  But do you know what else you can't beat?  Artichoke & White Bean Hummus.  White beans are so much softer than chickpeas so they make for a really creamy dip.  Plus the addition of tangy, marinated artichokes make for bites of bursting flavour.  And there's even a little cheezy nooch in there too.  Because if there is one thing truer than hummus being its own food group, it's that #ALLYOUNEEDISNOOCH.

This hummus is the perfect little dip to whip up for your weekend.  Eat it with veggies.  Eat it with chips.  Spread it on toast and top it with sprouts.  Take it on a picnic, take it to the beach.  Heck - take it dancing.  No judgement here.

Artichoke & White Bean Hummus
makes 2 cups

1 15oz can white beans (cannellini or white kidney), rinsed and drained
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (aka nooch)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1 170ml jar marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Combine the beans, tahini, olive oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice.  Add the artichokes and basil and pulse 4-5 times to combine.  If you prefer a smooth hummus without any "chunks" of artichoke, run the food processor for another minute to break them down and incorporate them.  Serve immediately, or cover and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to enjoy it. 

Also, many thanks to my friend (and recipe tester extraordinaire) for the gorgeous pottery.  Her work is amazing.

02 July 2014

Hockey Pucks (aka Coconut Whip Frozen Sandwiches)

Midweek holidays are kind of great.  I can't say I'm big on Canada Day festivities, as I don't care much for crowds and I can't stand fireworks now that I have a baby who's uninterrupted sleep I value above all else.  But, an excuse to get together with friends, have a barbeque and eat ice cream sandwiches?  Count me in.

Growing up, every July 1st was spent at a backyard party with a big crew of my parents' friends.  There were lots of kids, swimming, badminton, a lot of eating and fireworks to end the night.  But the highlight above all else for the kids (maybe some adults too?) was dessert.  That's when our hosts would bust out frozen treats they called hockey pucks.  How Canadian is that?  They were simple, little frozen treats made up of chocolate whipped cream sandwiched between chocolate cookies. 

They were the BEST.

This year with a small little get together of our own to attend, I decided I wanted to recreate the hockey pucks of my youth for us all to enjoy.  Creamy, coconut whipped cream decadently filled our frozen ice cream sandwiches.  Although I had originally intended on adding some cocoa, I couldn't bring myself to add anything to the pure coconut whip and instead we enjoyed them with fresh field strawberries to keep things looking patriotic in red & white.

Mmmmm... they were so good.  And better yet, SO easy.  So much so, I feel a little silly even sharing the "recipe".  But I will anyway because, LOOK AT THEM.

I can't keep something this good to myself.  I repeat, Mmmmmmmm.

You could definitely make your own cookies for these, but with Mr. Christie's Chocolate Wafers being accidentally vegan and readily available at the grocery store, why bother?

These shall not be saved for Canada Day every year.  No, instead they will be made often, and enjoyed by many with coconut cream dripping down our chins.  For you 4th of July 'ers - serve these up with some strawberries and blueberries later this week and I guarantee you'll be the life of the party. 

Hockey Pucks  (aka Coconut Whip Frozen Sandwiches)
makes 10 sandwiches

1 can full fat coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
20 chocolate wafer cookies
fresh seasonal berries

Chill a can of full fat coconut milk overnight in the fridge.  To make the coconut whip, remove the can from the fridge and turn upside down.  Open it from the new "top".  You will see a clear to murky liquid on top (the coconut water).  Pour this off into a cup and return it to the fridge to be used for something else.  Scoop the remaining thick coconut cream from the can into a chilled metal mixing bowl and add the sugar.  Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the coconut cream and sugar on high for 3-4 minutes until it's whipped up into a thick whipped cream.

Scoop 2 - 3 tablespoons of whipped cream onto a chocolate wafer.  Top with a second wafer and press them together ever so gently.  Use a palate knife or the back of a spoon to smooth the edges.  Place the sandwich on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining wafers.  Place the cookie sheet in the freezer to chill and set for at least an hour before serving.  Serve with fresh, seasonal berries or gobble them up as is.

Store any leftovers (HA!) in a covered container in the freezer for up to 5 days.

24 June 2014

Rhubarb Bliss Bars + 3 years of blogging

To say things have been busy around here is a bit of an understatement.  The bakeshop is in full swing, the garden has begun to bloom and the book is ready for final edits.  Mark was away for a week recently too and after 7 days without my co-parent, I have a whole other level of appreciation for him, and so much respect for anyone solo parenting.  The days get to be really long without someone to share the load, not to mention having someone to sit down with at the end of the day, share a drink and maybe something sweet and talk.

Now that he's home, and with my crisper full of fresh rhubarb that I harvested from a friend's mammoth patch, I made these bars twice on the weekend: Once to bring to a potluck and again by request for Mark.  We enjoyed them last night after dinner at his mum's and we all went back for seconds. 

As it happens, I've been so busy that I didn't even notice that the blog's 3rd anniversary has come and gone!  I never in my wildest dreams thought that my little summer hobby a few years back would become a blog with such lovely readers, that I would become part of an amazing online community, and that it would even lead to a cookbook.  I love Cupcakes and Kale for giving me the opportunity to share and connect.  It truly brings me so much joy.

And so I thought it appropriate to share this recipe again as I've tweaked it a bit since it was first published in what was my 1st week of blogging.  This version is just a bit more wholesome with the addition of whole wheat flour instead of sifted spelt flour and a little less sugar.  Either way you really can't go wrong with tang of fresh rhubarb, the crunch of walnuts and coconut piled on top of a buttery shortbread. 

Rhubarb Bliss Bars (a revamp of these)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, divided
1/3 cup confectioners/powdered sugar
1/2 cup cold earth balance
2/3 cup unrefined cane sugar or sucanat
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flaxmeal+ 6 tbsp water)
3 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tbsp corn starch

Preheat your oven to 350f.  Lightly grease an 8x8 pan or line it with parchment and set aside.  In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the confectioners sugar.  Using 2 forks, cut in the earth balance until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press this into your dish and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, make the topping.  Combine the flaxmeal and water in a small dish and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.  Add the cane sugar, remaining 1/4 cup of flour & corn starch in a bowl and stir to combine.  Mix in the flax eggs and then fold in the rhubarb, nuts & coconut.  Pour this over the crust and spread it out evenly to the edges.  Return to the oven for 35-40 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven to cool fully, before slicing.

17 June 2014

Adzuki Brownie Bites

I am a girl who loves her beans.  Beans and rice.  Mexican refried beansLentil soup in all its many forms.  Noodles with beans.  Heck, some of my best friends are beans!  Okay - maybe not that last part is true.  I tell you what though, aside from my much loved chickpea blondies that I bake up for Oh My, I really haven't done much in the way of sweet baking with beans. But given my love of chocolate and the full case of adzuki beans in my pantry, I figured some bean brownies were in order.

I love recipes that require only one bowl (in this case the bowl of my food processor) and take less than 5 minutes to get in the oven.  Plus they are so dense and delicious and the beans keep the middles nice and fudgey.

Man oh man, you do not want to pass up trying this recipe.  Leave them plain or top them with nuts or anything else you can dream up.  I have my heart set on trying them with some Dandie's marshmallows next!

These brownies remind me of those addictively yummy grocery store bags of two-bite brownies from my pre-vegan days.

Adzuki Brownie Bites
makes 1.5 dozen

1 14 or 15oz can adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 c unrefined cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxmeal + 3 tbsp warm water)
optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350f.  Lightly grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin and set aside.  Add the flax and water to the bowl of a food processor, stir and allow it to sit for a couple minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients (except for the walnuts!) to the food processor and mix until completely smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if you need to along the way. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter for each brownie into the prepared pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let them cool in their pan for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days.  (Not that they will last that long.)

Notes: Adzuki beans are really soft, with a sweet undertone which is why they lend themselves so nicely to desserts.  Word on the street is that they also tend to cause less gassiness.  If unavailable I'd try kidneys beans in their place, or old reliable black beans.