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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegan Truffles

This month's issue of Bon Appetit had an article by Sarah Britton about natural sweeteners. Yes, I'm hopping on the bandwagon to cut down on refined sugar. If not for health reasons, for vanity--I like the skinny jeans! On the top of Britton's list of favorite sweeteners are dates. Oh yeah, I forgot about those guys. My husband bought me a big tub from Costco. I've been chopping them up and adding them to my morning yogurt. It's a nice change from my usual sweetener, a ripe banana. I only need about four dates though. What do I do with the rest?

Here's a recipe from Britton that's pretty good. Just to be clear, these don't have the creaminess of real truffles but the cocoa does add a nice chocolate flavor. These are great for my dairy-free Phoebe. Also, good for me seeing as skinny jeans aren't going out of style anytime soon.

from Bon Appetit magazine

1-1/2 c chopped almonds (or pistachios)
1-1/2 c dates
3 T cocoa
3 T quick-cooking oats*
pinch of Kosher salt
1 T water
zest of 1 orange

*If you don't have quick-cooking oats, just puree regular rolled oats in the food processor.

Chop nuts in food processor. Set aside. Puree dates, cocoa, oats, and salt in food processor. Add water and pulse until "dough" clumps together. Stir in orange zest.

Use small cookie scoop to portion out a truffle. (Or you can use your 1 T measuring spoon.)

Roll into a ball in the palm of your hands.

Coat ball with chopped nuts.

Makes about a 12 to 20, depending on size of your scoop.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Nondairy Lime Bars

My husband brought home a big bag of limes on his last trip to Costco. I probably should have refrigerated them but I dropped the ball. Today I noticed the skin of some of them were looking dry and yellow. I use limes for guacamole, dressings, and marinades but I wondered if I could make a dessert. Key lime pie immediately comes to mind. Too bad it usually involves condensed milk and cream cheese, which Phoebe can't have. I decided to adapt a great lemon bar recipe from joyofbaking.com and make lime bars. The filling is custard (or egg based) instead of cream-cheese based. I was conservative with the lime juice because my husband cannot handle super-tart food. His face turns red and he starts to sweat. I used a graham cracker crust instead of a shortbread crust because A) we have graham crackers, and B) key lime pie usually has a graham cracker crust.

9 sheets of graham crackers
3 T grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
3 eggs
3/4 c sugar
zest of 2 limes
1/3 c lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 T flour

Make crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Break graham cracker along perforated lines and break each of those in half. Grind crackers into fine crumbs in a food processor. Add oil and pulse until crumbs look like wet sand. (I'm afraid I failed to take a picture of this step. I'll take one next time I make a graham cracker crust.) Empty crumb mixture into foil-lined 8" x 8" square pan. Spread out crumbs evenly across bottom of pan. Press into pan with the back of a spoon. Then press again with your fingers. Your crust should be tightly packed. Bake for about 10 min. Let cool completely on rack.

Make filling: Turn oven temperature up to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs with sugar. Whisk in lime zest and juice.

Sift in flour and whisk.

Pour filling over graham cracker crust. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack.

Makes 16 small squares. Dust with powdered sugar.

As you can see the result is more firm than a custard, because of the flour. Not at all like key lime pie but we'll suffer through this batch and experiment with soy cream cheese next. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIY Popsicles

It all started when I discovered that the peaches--a whole case from Costco--were suddenly all ripe. It was too hot to turn on the oven, so I decided to make popsicles. I pureed the peaches, poured them in the mold, and threw in some blueberries for visual interest. The result? Delicious frozen treats without artificial ingredients. Next thing I knew, I was making popsicles out of watermelon, strawberries, mangos, even applesauce.

I found that I liked the texture of the pureed-fruit popsicles better than when I simply poured orange or mango juice into the mold. My favorite store-bought popsicle is Edy's Real Fruit strawberry. It tastes like pureed strawberries, not icy like frozen fruit juice. They add carob bean gum and guar gum to make a more stable, smoother texture. Unless you add these ingredients to your popsicles, they will still have an icy texture.

The last time I bought Edy's Real Fruit popsicles, they cost about $5 for a package of twelve 1.5 oz pops. And if the price doesn't bother me, I have to consider the packaging: individually wrapped in cellophane. In addition to reducing packaging, I usually make good use of ripe fruit that may otherwise end up in the compost bin. Not only am I making wholesome treats for my family, I'm saving the planet!

Although I could have scraped by with my popsicle mold from the dollar store, I quickly realized that the design required me to unmold four popsicles--even when I didn't have four popsicle consumers. Enter the Tovolo Star Ice Pop mold. The mold comes with a set of six sleeves that can be removed individually. This means you can freeze different flavors at the same time and consume them one at a time. This feature is especially important to me, because my daughter is allergic to dairy. When I make Mango Lassi popsicles, I can use soy yogurt in some of them.

Here are some easy recipes to start you off. Soon you'll be coming up with your own. The method is really the same. Puree the fruit and balance with some citrus and sweetener. You may find that fruits that are ripe and in season, such as white peaches in the summer, don't need anything. However, no matter how sweet your strawberries seem, you will probably have to add some sugar. Next, think about adding healthy thickening ingredients, such as yogurt and banana. The key is to taste your puree before you pour it into the mold. Have fun experimenting!

Special equipment:
Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender (or standing blender)
Tovolo Star Ice Pop Mold (or other mold with 1/3-cup sleeves)

Watermelon Popsicles
4 c watermelon, cut into 1" cubes
zest of 1 lime
1 t lime juice
Agave syrup (optional)

Puree the watermelon until you have 2 cups of juice. Add lime zest and juice. If your watermelon is not very sweet, add agave to taste. Pour into popsicle mold and freeze for 3 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Strawberry Popsicles
2 pints strawberries
2 to 3 t sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 t guar gum (optional)

Blend strawberries until you have 2 cups of puree. Add 2 t sugar. Taste. If it's too tart, add remaining sugar. While whisking, sprinkle guar gum slowly to avoid clumping. Pour into mold and freeze for 3 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Mango Lassi Popsicles
1-1/2 c pure mango juice
1/2 c plain Greek yogurt

Whisk mango juice and yogurt together. Pour into mold and freeze for 3 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Vegan Fudgesicles
1 c Silk chocolate soy milk
1 pint strawberries

Blend strawberries until you have 1 cup of puree. Blend in soy milk. Pour into mold and freeze for 3 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Orange "Cream"sicles
2 medium ripe bananas
1 c orange juice

Blend the banana until you have 2 cups of puree. Blend in orange juice. Pour into mold and freeze for 3 hours. Makes 6 servings.