Chocolate Pot de Crème

Well well, look at that… it’s that cliché time of year again: Valentine’s Day. With the pressure to have a date, be a date or make a date with your mate, I say it’s bullshit. What is not bullshit however, is the need for chocolate. Regardless of the situation, chocolate will never disappoint.

I am all about no-bake desserts. I’ll say it again, I cannot bake. Also, I am obsessed with the combination of avocado and chocolate. Avocado is a healthy way to tap into that craving for something fatty, and chocolate – well, enough said.

Vegan-No Bake Pot de Crème – a.k.a. Avocado Fudge

Makes 3 portions, ⅓ of a cup each

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 6 tbsp cacao powder
  • 6 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tbsp mesquite powder or vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  If you do not have a food processor,  using a fork, mash the avocado until  you get a smooth texture. Using a whisk, alternatively adding the dry and wet ingredients, until well incorporated and smooth. Spoon into cups and garnish with seeds, nuts or berries.  Refrigerate  until it is time to serve.

Or just put on a movie and curl up with a spatula and the mixing bowl.

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A little side note. I was visiting with my friend K. this weekend and was lucky enough to get treated to some fantastic vegan cupcakes. She used this recipe from Vegetarian Times but substituted the all-pupose flour with spelt flour and the soymilk with homemade almond milk. I contributed to the recipe by making the icing, and I used this avocado fudge as the icing. So chocolatey, it was the perfect pick-me up after a long work-week.

[I have pictures to go with this post but I have temporarily misplaced my camera cable to download the pictures.]

Sweet and Salty Rosemary Pecans

These past few days I have been travelling and I hate being stuck on a plane, train or automobile with limited choices of what to eat. As addicted I am to those highly processed snacks, I avoid them as much as I can. If I can travel with my own homemade food and snacks, then I know I will feel better at the end of it. Travelling also means time away from my kitchen, so I don’t have a new creation of my own to share with you this week.

I always pack some fruit to snack on when travelling, but I  recently came accross a new recipe from 101 Cookbooks that I just couldn’t wait to try. For this particular recipe, Heidi talked about her own recent travels and travel snacks. If you have not yet read her fantastic vegeterian blog, then I highly recommend you do so right away! She has wonderful recipes, pictures, and more to offer.

Her Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts recipe is so simple to make, that I mixed it up in a flash and baked them while I finished packing. Luckily I had everything I needed on hand – the advantage of keeping a well stocked pantry.

Well, almost everything… I did not have walnuts but it was an easy switch-in the pecans I had on hand.

I packed up one box for the trip and had enough leftover to make a few small care-packages, perfect treats for Thanksgiving that is right around the corner or even as host/hostess gifts! Wherever you go, whomever you meet, homemade treats are the best way to share the love (with other or even just yourself).

Do you have any favorite travel snacks? share your eating travel tips in the comments here.

Cashew Cream Parfait

What better way to use seasonal berries and fruit than in a parfait. Once again we are keeping these fantastic ingredients in their simplest form possible. In today’s post, behold the tiny Quebec blueberry, ready to burst out their purple sweetness.

This parfait is raw and hits anyone’s sweet tooth. The first step and most complex step (if you can call it that), is to make the cashew cream. For this recipe you do need a blender that will be able to whip up the cashews and water into thick creamy mixture.

Cashew Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp of raw coconut nectar (or agave or honey or maple syrup work well, adjust quantities to taste)
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

Making cashew cream is much like making nut milk, without the straining and with less water. You can choose to soak the cashews from 2 to 8 hours in filtered water, but if you need a dessert quickly then this recipe works just as well without the soaking process and rinsing.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until you have a smooth, thick and creamy mixture. The pinch of salt is what helps balance out the flavours. Give the mixture a taste, and adjust sweetness as desired. I usually start with only one tablespoon of sweetener and add more if needed. The cashew cream keeps for up to 4 days in the fridge.

You can use this cashew cream in so many different ways. When I have some on hand, I add a spoonful to smoothies to add sweetness and a creamy texture. It is also my base for my raw pie filling, to which I add ½ of coconut oil for extra richness and a cup of fresh fruit. Most of the time I keep some in a jar in the fridge for easy to assemble desserts, and that is exactly what I’m going to show you now with this parfait made with local blueberries from Quebec.

I recently got the chance to play around with the Flip camera and I put together this little video here. Okay, there is some background noise, no fade in or fade out, and the flow isn’t perfect…. But, for my first ever self-recorded video I am pretty excited!!!

Let me know what you think and if you like it let me know! In which case there will be more to come. =)

Last but not least, here is how you assemble a Raw Cashew Cream Blueberry Parfait!

Week Four of my Living/Raw Food Detox – It’s Over! Now What?

Thirty days… boy, does time fly! It certainly did not feel like a month just rolled by, during which I was not consuming coffee, alcohol, gluten and embarked wholeheartedly into this raw/living food lifestyle. The first two weeks were though (Read about it here and here). I struggled to regain my appetite, to drink enough water, to find recipes, to feel happy and satisfied with every one of my meals.

All in all, I can count on two hands the amount of times I had a cooked product (such as rice or lentils), on one hand the amount of times I times I ate a dairy product, and on three fingers the times I ate meat. I stuck to it and I’m proud of it! Thanks to the workshop given by the very talented people at Crudessence, I opened up my mind and my body not only to a new experience but also to a better understanding of what it means to be thirsty, to be hungry, to crave something, to understand what I truly need, rather than what I desire. I am a foodist, and I will always desire all sorts of food. However, I have entered into a level of consciousness about what I am eating – as opposed to scarfing down a bag of chips without realizing it – and I think, that is my lesson learned through all this. To be conscious!

So here is the million dollar question: am I going to keep this up? The short answer is yes. I will keep my fruits and smoothies for breakfast. Salads are easy enough to put together and take with me to work for lunches. I will definitely keep the raw/living food lifestyle for two out of three meals a day. On the other hand, I will once again eat meat and fish – but much smaller portions than I used to. I will eat pasta, bread, dairy but in limited quantities. I want to enjoy food and life, but I also want to take care of myself and my body. I want to get back down to basics, explore basic ingredients, making things from scratch at home rather than purchasing processed food, and most importantly discover my local community and share its resources. I feel a paradigm shift in the making…can you sense it?

I am really excited to share this week’s recipes with you. They are fun, tasty, whimsical and best off all, taste-tested on skeptics. The skeptics loved it and were surprised at how filling the first recipe is and did not believe me when I listed the ingredients in the dessert. These recipes are best prepared in advance.

Curried Swiss Chard Rolls

  • 4 leaves of Swiss chard
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups of broccoli chopped into small florets
  • 1 ½ cups of cauliflower chopped into small florets
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced cabbage

For the Curried Dressing:

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp grape seed oil, or any other mild flavoured oil
  • Pinch of salt and cayenne to taste

 In a large salad bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Combine the vegetables and mix until well coated. Remove the stems of the Swiss chard leaves – assume one leaf per roll. Thinly slice the stems and combine with the other ingredients in the salad bowl. Let the salad sit for about an hour to allow for the vegetables and flavours to macerate.

To create the rolls begin by laying-out the leaf and using a roller or a glass or any other tool you have on hand, roll over each Swiss chard leaf to soften. Place about one cup of vegetable mixture onto the Swiss chard leaf towards one end and begin to roll. Once rolled-up, use two toothpick to fasten the roll toward the middle and slice the roll in between the toothpick. Repeat with remaining Swiss chard and curried vegetables. Serve with the Thaï Avocado Dip

Thaï Avocado Dip

  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste, a.k.a. Shiro Miso
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and germ core removed
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk

 Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more coconut milk or lime juice to taste or for softer texture.

This dip works super well with the Curried Swiss Chard Rolls but use it to serve with crudité, chips, anything!

Avocado Fudge

  • 2 large avocadoes
  • 1 cup agave nectar, or honey
  • 1 cup raw cocoa powder, or regular

Credit for the original recipe goes to Crudessence, but I have made noticeable changes to it. This recipe is surprisingly chocolaty and fudgy, and no one will be able to taste the avocadoes. You can fool anyone you know into eating vegetables for dessert. Although there is no added fat, avocadoes are still a fairly fatty compared to other vegetables; and although you are not using refined sugar in this recipe, sugar is sugar and should be consumed in moderation.

Now onto bliss… Combine the avocadoes and agave nectar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Agave nectar can be found in most health food stores but if you are not vegan then go ahead and use honey. Scoop out the sweet and creamy avocado mixture into a large mixing bowl and into it sift the cocoa powder (this avoids lumps). Using a spatula, mix in the cocoa powder until well combined. This fudge does not solidify in the fridge (as I later discovered), so I would suggest spooning or piping the fudge into individual servings, such as mini preserve jars always make for a nice presentation (or gift even?). I scooped it into mini silicone cupcake cups.

So that is the end of it folks. I hope you all enjoyed reading about my 30 day raw/living food detox. Thanks to each and every one of you for all of your support and encouragements. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with you and worry not, it may be the end of the detox but it is not an end to my consciousness.

Can’t go out… Must still celebrate St-Patty’s

March 17th is the day that the Irish and its diaspora celebrate St-Patrick’s Day worldwide. For the rest of us, it is the day we like to pretend we’re Irish. We wear green, indulge in Guinness and after a few too many beers, believe we have the best Irish accent in town.

As for me, I like drinking Guinness all year round and I usually do my part of celebrating on the day of the St-Patrick’s Day parade in Montreal, which is tipically held the Sunday closest to March 17th.

Today however, I’m staying in because I’m sick with a cold. Now, just because I’m staying in wrapped in a blanket doesn’t mean I can’t observe this glorious holiday.

Earlier this week, a fellow food blogger posted this recipe for a simple yogurt cake. I’m not muh of a baker so when a cake recipe states “simple”, I’ll give it a try. Given my ill-ish state and the inability to go out and celebrate, I asked myself: How can I turn that cake into a St-Patty’s celebration?

Now, here’s what I did…

Yogurt Cake

You can find her cake recipe and her original post here. She also kindly provided an English translation for me to use, so I’ve posted it for those who have limited skills in the langue française:

  • 1 individual plain yogurt (generally a 125 ml pot or slightly more, use the pot to measure the other ingredients)
  • 2/3 pots of oil
  • 2 pots of sugar
  • 3 pots of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (or more) and zest of 1 lemon (optional)

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the eggs, oil, lemon juice and its zest and mix until well blended. Pour the dough into a buttered cake pan or covered with parchment paper. Bake at 375° F for 30 minutes. Check for the baking with a knife or toothpick, which should come out dry and clean.

In her post she states that you can play around with a variety of different ingredients to make this cake your own. So in the spirit of St-Patrick’s Day, to her cake recipe I added 3 tbsp of Irish whisky and made a Guinness syrup to have with it.

Guinness Syrup

In a pot, bring one king-can of Guinness and 1/2 cup brown sugar to a simmer. Reduce the tempature to medium-low heat. Cook and reduce until syrupy, about 40 minutes. You should end up with a little less than one cup of syrup per kin-can of Guinness. To serve, drizzle over the cake. Any leftover syrup can also be used on top of icecream.

On that note, slainte everyone!

My First Dischcrawl – Delectable Desserts

What is a Dishcrawl you ask me? Think of it as a pub crawl, but instead if getting increasingly drunk as you stumble from one bar to another, you wander your way from one dish to the next, from one restaurant to another, discovering new foods, flavours and styles.

My first Dishcrawl was all about desserts. Granted I do not have the biggest sweet tooth but I really wanted to try the experience and didn’t want to wait until the next one (there is on average one event per month). The element of surprise here is that the locations are kept secret until the last moment. I did not know where I would be heading that evening until the first location was revealed a day or so prior.

Our evening started off at Patisserie Rhubarbe , a small pastry shop located in Montreal’s Plateau. We were greeted by the lovely Marcella from Dishcrawl who introduced us to the process but didn’t give us any hints as to the evening’s progression. The pastry chef then presented us with the evening’s sampling of desserts. From the top we had the choux with a light chestnut cream that was sublimely delicate, a peanut and caramel tart reminiscent of a gourmet Snickers bars but even more indulgent, and finally a lemon tart unlike any I had ever seen. It’s a given that the desserts were delicious, but it was their original visual and flavour composition that really set this patisserie apart from the many others.

  

Our second stop was at Byblos Le Petit Café, a restaurant that serves traditional family cuisine from the Middle-East. I had heard of Byblos for its weekend brunch  (which I’m planning on tasting soon). This evening we were presented with a wide variety of traditional Iranian desserts. These desserts were for the most part rice based and full of orange blossom, rose water, cardamom and pistachio flavours. I enjoyed a lovely traditional Iranian tea to accompany the desserts. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed rice-pudding type desserts so this was not exactly my cup of tea. However, I did enjoy the floral and exotic flavours, and most importantly the diversity of the location for the overall Dishcrawl experience.

Our final stop of the evening was at PyrusBistronomique, which was recently written up by Lesley Chesterman in the Montreal Gazette. Chef Renaud Poirier presented us with an apple tarte Tatin with salted caramel and cheddar ice cream. Well for me this dish hit the spot! It was a perfect balance of savory and sweet. The sweetness of the apple and caramel was perfectly complimented by the fleur de sel crunch hiding in the caramel and the sharpness of the cheddar ice cream. I was suggested to pair this with a glass of Calvados, but as a whisky fan I opted for a dram of Macallan 12. This dessert really honed in on my more savory palate.

The experience with Dishcrawl was fabulous and I would recommend it to anyone. I loved discovering new places, trying different dishes and meeting new and interesting people. It always amazes me how people connect differently when they are sharing food together, even if it is for the first time.

Next Dishcrawl in Montreal? Discover Montreal’s Downtown Core. To sign-up or find out more about it click here

On another note, I would like to raise a glass to Marcella and Dishcrawl Montreal not only for opening the door to new experiences but also for providing the amazing pictures you see here. Thank you!



Jinxed by the Baking Spirits

Every Fall my office hosts a fundraising bake sale for Centraide. However, unlike every other Fall, this year they suggested employees show off their culinary talents with a bake sale and sharing of recipes between the bakers and the eaters. Although baking is not one of my talents (every time it is more of a struggle than anything else), a couple of weeks ago I decided to step up to the challenge and showcase the only dessert that for me is fool-proof – me being the fool in this scenario. Since meringues are one of my favorite sweet treats, years ago I taught myself how to make them and they are always a hit. However, this time around the baking spirit jinxed me as you can see from the picture below. Something happened during the cooking process and the meringues resulted in a sticky caramel mess, as opposed to the light crunchy sweet bites they were supposed to be. This happened on Tuesday night, the bake sale was schedule for Thursday and with a dozen wasted eggs I was completely discouraged. The rest of that evening was spent frantically flipping through my many cookbooks trying to find another baking recipe I could replicate without too much difficulty.

 

At that point I remembered a dessert I had made a few times this summer which was a real hit and easy to make since it did not involve any baking per se. Chocolate pistachio cake – a refrigerator cake they call it since all you need to do is stick it in the fridge overnight to let it set. The recipe is inspired from Picnics, a recipe book published by Ryland Peters & Small. Here is my interpretation of it.

No Bake Chocolate Pistachio Cake

  • 2 ½ cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter or ½ cup margarine
  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom

Put the chocolate and butter (or margarine) in the top of a double boiler set over simmer but not boiling water, and melt gently. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, then spoon into a 9 inch tin pan (or springform pan) lined with plastic wrap. Press the mixture well into the bottom and sides of the pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night before unmolding. Serve in bite-size pieces or slices.

Worried that I wasn’t going to have enough bites to sell at the bake sale, I remembered that I had a large bag of fresh cranberries I had just picked from the market that weekend. I decided to do a Canadian twist to a classic French dessert that my mother made for me growing up. Clafouti is typically made with cherries but since I had cranberries I decided to give that a try. It turned out nicely for a first try, probably the only this to go well for me with this bake sale prep! 

Cranberry Clafouti

  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries
  • 4 eggs
  • 125g of granulated sugar
  • 80g all purpose flour
  • 80g butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven at 375°F and grease a round glass or porcelain pan, 25 to 30 cm in diameter.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs like you would for an omelet. Add the salt and sugar and mix until well incorporated. Sift the flour over the egg and sugar mixture. Melt the butter and allow it to cool a bit before adding it to the batter along with the milk.

Spread the cranberries in the dish and pour the batter over them. Place on the middle rack in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes or until the top puffs up and begins to brown. Using the tip of a knife, cut through the Clafouti to make sure it has cooked through evenly.

My baking mishaps did not end at the meringues. The morning of the bake sale, I woke up earlier than usual because I had to make individual portions and packages of my desserts. I cut my Clafouti into quarters and packaged them up in plastic wrap. I took out my chocolate pistachio cake from the refrigerator and tried to release it from its glass rectangular mold. Usually I use a metal cake pan for this recipe but since I was making a larger batch for the bake sale, I decided to spread the batter into one of my larger glass rectangular molds. The thing about glass is that, unlike the tin molds, they do not allow for any sort of bending of the pan to release its contents, and that is precisely what happened to me that morning. My chocolate pistachio cake was stuck in its mold and there was nothing I could do about it then. I figured I’d just take it to work as is and hopefully as its tempers it will be easier to release from its pan. A few hours later, it was still stuck. The bake sale was to start shortly and I still hadn’t prepared my individual portions. Eventually I decided to sacrifice part of the cake and cut out a side layer. After this ordeal, my chocolate pistachio cake was finally cut up into individual squares, presented on the Centraide table alongside my Clafouti quarters. Other than my two desserts there must have been about a dozen varieties of desserts for sale. The table was emptied under an hour… I guess you can say the event was a success!