Have you ever thought about baking with asparagus? As in grating it up and throwing it in a batch of muffins? Well, that’s what I did yesterday, without hesitation, because these are the kinds of crazy things I do for the SOS Kitchen Challenge.
And boy, was I pleased with the outcome: light, flavourful, herb-scented muffins that are coloured with flecks of red sundried tomatoes and bright green asparagus. And the best part (I know you’ll love this!) is that they’re completely free of all sugars and sugar subsitutes. Yep, no sugar. None. Nadda. Zero. Zilch.
I wouldn’t suggest trying to grate asparagus by hand, unless you want to grate off your finger in the process. It’s much easier to put the grating disc on your food processor and feed the stalks through the feed tube while the processor is running. I used about half a batch of asparagus to get one grated cup full. After they’ve baked and cooled, you can enjoy these colourful treats alongside a big bowl of soup or salad.
Ever since discovering the wonders of raw dessert-making, I’ve been having fun playing with raw cacao in its different forms, including powder, beans and nibs. Yet I’ve been hesitant to play with butter and paste because of the cost and inconvenience—both usually have to be ordered online and cost anywhere from $20 to $40 for a small chunk.
My curiosity got the best of me recently, so I took the plunge and ordered a boxful of raw ingredients from Canadian whole foods distributor Real Raw Food. One area I had yet to experiment in was raw chocolate candy, and so when my parcel arrived last week, I took a deep breath and dove right in.
I have no doubt that raw chocolate candy-making can be just as intricate a process as any other, but I am in all respects still a toddler in the realm of a chocolatier. Most of the basic recipes I have come across seem to call for equal parts cacao butter, cacao powder and sweetener. From there, you can experiment with different sweeteners and flavour additions in order to achieve the taste and consistency you’re after.
Cacao butter is the pure oil (or fat) of the cacao bean. It melts at approximately 90 degrees, which means it is even firmer than coconut oil at room temperature. The cost is definitely worth it because this stuff took my desserts to a whole new level. I came up with the cutest little mini Easter cream eggs with a vanilla cashew cream filling, which were inspired by Bitt’s raw Cadbury cream eggs from last year. This was such a fun-filled creation, and I’m so happy with the outcome. Enjoy!
It seems we all love a good challenge. Lisa and I have decided our idea for a raw cake pop challenge is a go! I hope you’re as excited as we are to create a raw vegan version of the ever-popular cake pop, because you’ve got four weeks to get creative and enter to win some amazing prizes.
How to enter: [This contest is over. Thanks to everyone who entered!]
1. Create your own version of a cake pop, using only raw vegan ingredients (this can include pure maple syrup). Your cake pop should include a “cake” filling as well as a coating. The flavours are totally up to you so feel free to be creative! You can pick up the little sticks at bulk stores, craft stores or specialty baking stores.
2. Blog about your cake pop creation, including the full recipe and photos, and then come back and let me know via the comment section below. Remember to leave a link back to your post, which Lisa and I will check out and judge. We will also grab one of your photos to include in the entries roundup post at the end of the challenge.
3. To be entered in the challenge you need to post your entry by Friday, April 29, 2011 at midnight. Lisa and I will look through all the entries and narrow them down, using the criteria below, to three finalists. We will recreate the three finalist recipes, host a tasting party with friends and select a winner.
Move over stevia, we’ve got a new non-glycemic, raw, natural, low-calorie, organic sweetener in the house! Yacon powder, a sugar substitute made from the root of the South American yacon plant, might just have a chance at becoming my new friend. Coined the “apple of the earth,” it seems yacon’s greatest attribute is its naturally high content of inulin, a complex sugar that isn’t digestible and simply passes through the body. It also promotes the production of healthy probiotics within the body, which contribute to better digestion and colon health, and help with the absorption of calcuim and minerals. Because of these benefits, yacon is being promoted as a valuable health food and alternative sweetener.
Yacon powder is lighter in taste than the more popular syrup form, which has a flavour that is often described as a cross between an apple and molasses. Much like brown rice flour in texture, with a yellowish colour reminiscent of the desert, the powder form tastes sweet and starchy, with a fruity undertone. I picked up a box in Kensington market a few weeks ago and it sat on my shelf until I figured out what to do with it (sometimes my inspiration is a slow process). Then I had a revelation: the sweet, fruity flavour of yacon and the richness of dark chocolate chips practically beg for a marriage via cookie combination!
In this recipe, oats and almond meal add a wonderful flavour complexity and the coconut oil gives them a shortbread-like texture, making these a truly remarkable treat. Because yacon is found in the desert, it likes to absorb moisture, so you may notice it clumps very easily once opened. I just run it through my spice grinder before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. I also made my own oat flour and almond meal by grinding whole oats into flour and whole almonds to a fine meal. I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!
I’m constantly amazed by the ripple effect of inspiration that comes from the food blog world. When one blogger tries something new and presents it to the world with positive energy and excitement, everyone feels that energy, and before too long they’re making their own daring creations and inspiring others around them, too.
Fellow blogger and friend Lisa recently spent four weeks at 105degrees Academy in Oklahoma City expanding on her raw cuisine expertise through the Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine course. She dutifully chronicled her learning adventure with inspiring blog posts and gorgeous photos, and I know more than a few of us followed along and felt as if we were right there with her.
Last weekend, Lisa and I spent an amazing Saturday together in my kitchen, practising and recreating some of the techniques and processes she learned at 105. The hours seemed to go by quickly as we soaked, chopped, measured and blended our way through some fantastic recipes. Before we knew it, my dehydrator was packed and my kitchen filled with the sweet and savoury scents of garlic buns, pizza crust and chocolate chips.