Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patties

Thirty years ago in the town of York, Pennsylvania, my dear wife was born. Fitting then I should choose to celebrate this milestone by making Peppermint Patties.

I found an amazing recipe on Elena's Pantry, which instantly appealed to me. It used only four ingredients and had no refined sugar.  I also knew it would go over well with Swati and her friends.

And the verdict? They were delicious and the hit of the party. I even had some leftover melted chocolate which I then used to dip strawberries, cherries and walnuts.  Yum!

Note though this recipe requires Peppermint Oil (and not extract!). Extract contains oil, which can ruin this recipe, causing the chocolate to break apart. Peppermint oil gives this dish a nice strong flavor and should be diluted with another oil (such as coconut) for consumption.

Makes 12 patties

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil
1/2 to 1 cup dark chocolate chips, 73% cacao

In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, agave nectar and peppermint oil. Freeze mixture for about 10 minutes, until the mixture begins to harden. Use a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon to measure out balls on a parchment lined plate. Place in freezer until balls begin to firm up (another 5-10 minutes).

Meanwhile melt chocolate chips using a double boiler (I assembled a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water). Remove from heat.

Remove firm mint balls from freezer and flatten into patties using spoon. Quickly dip mint patties into melted chocolate using spoon. Cover patties completely with chocolate and place on parchment lined plate. Leave out for about 10 minutes until patties harden or return to freezer if making on a hot summer day.

See original recipe from Elena's Pantry

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The battle over raw foods

Every time I visit San Francisco, I make it a point to visit Cafe Gratitude, a raw vegan restaurant that is one-of-its kind.  With few of its exceptions, none of the items has been heated over 188 degrees Fahrenheit.  And it boasts its menu is gluten and soy free.

If you've never been you might be surprised to see things like "live" nachos and enchiladas on its menu. And lots of great desserts (check out the recipe for the I Am Inviting Banana Creme Pie).  The restaurant is a huge success and now counts seven locations, fueled by interest in omnivores eager to try something new and different.

While it's true this approach has interested more folks in the raw foods diet, it has also angered some raw food purists. These individuals believe the food being served up at "gourmet" establishments like Cafe Gratitude and Pure Food and Wine in NYC are heavily processed and full of excess calories, contrary to the "healthy" experience they claim to delivering.  Author Lessley Anderson does a great job at highlighting the schism in her article The Raw Deal.  The individuals she interviews feel that a true raw diet should consist of nothing more than fruits and vegetables in their natural state.

I'm curious where you, dear reader, might align yourself in this debate.  Please share your comments. 

Note to reader: this article can be found among other hot button food topics in The Best Food Writing 2009.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe: Polenta Breakfast Triangles

I was really proud of myself this morning. I wanted to make something sweet and different from my usual steel cut oats or oatmeal pancakes, so I decided to get creative with polenta, which had been sitting in my pantry for quite some time.

Making polenta is similar to preparing any whole grain. It's often served savory, but it also works great as a sweet dish. When cooked it will appear like a porridge, but given a few minutes it will harden and form the shape of any baking pan or bowl. I chose to serve mine with toasted walnuts, ground flaxseed and maple syrup. It also would be great with strawberries and blueberries. Oh summer, can't you come a bit sooner?

Here is my recipe. Enjoy!

Serves 3

3 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp of butter
1 cup dried polenta (finely ground cornmeal)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
3 tsp ground flaxseeds
maple syrup to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and salt to a boil. Add 1 tbsp of butter until melted.  Then slowly add polenta and reduce heat to medium low. Make sure to stir frequently for about 20 minutes, watching carefully. If left unattended, polenta will splatter! When it stops bubbling taste to ensure doneness.

2. Remove from heat and transfer to a small square 8x8 baking pan. Let sit here for 5-10 minutes until it hardens. Then cut into 8 triangles.

3. In a cast iron or frying pan use the remaining butter to slightly brown polenta triangles, 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve on plate with toasted walnuts, ground flaxseeds and maple syrup. Yum!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recipe: Raw Chocolate Avocado Pudding

The secret is out! Yes, this delicious, rich chocolate pudding was made with avocados!

Swati and I shared this Valentine's friendly recipe with our friends Joan and Adam on Sunday. After many guesses over the secret ingredient (bananas being the closest) they were shocked to learn this pudding was made from the very same fruit used in guacamole. Did I also mention it is dairy free?

Truth is the avocado is a great substitute for dairy, providing the fat and rich smooth flavor you'd expect from a chocolate pudding recipe. It's also a pretty neutral tasting fruit that easily takes on the flavors of other ingredients.
You'll also find no sugar in this recipe - it's sweetened using dates and maple syrup. And yes, it can all be made rather effortlessly in a food processor. No cooking required.

Okay, enough talk already. Show me the chocolate.

Serves 6

1/2 cup pitted mejdool dates, soaked
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup water

Place the dates, maple syrup, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocados and cocoa powder and process until creamy. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the water and process briefly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

The pudding will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recipe: Chipotle Navy Beans & Kale

If you haven't noticed yet, I like my rice and beans. There is something about this dear legume and grain that is encoded in my DNA.

Fortunately (for my wife), Heidi Swanson's great blog 101 Cookbooks has given new life to this combination, with her recipe for Giant Chipotle White Beans, the inspiration for this dish.
We've simplified the recipe so that it can be made in one pot with relative ease. We've also taken out the feta, but feel free to add it back in.  It's delicious either way.  Cooks in 30 minutes.


Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Chipotle Peppers
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 pinches of salt
1 15 oz can navy beans (or cooked beans from 1 cup dry)
1 bunch of kale, chopped with stems removed
A few dashes Chipotle Tabasco sauce (to taste)
2 cups basmati brown rice, cooked

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and stir for less than a minute. Next, add canned tomatoes, oregano, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes. Combine beans and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Stir. Add chopped kale and 1/4 cup water to help cook down. Cover and heat another five minutes. Add tabasco sauce to achieve desired spice level. Check for salt. Serve over basmati brown rice.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Recipe: Coconut Squash Curry

This dish, known as Olan, is from in the coastal state of Kerala in India. Swati and I first came across this dish while planning the menu for our wedding.

I love this dish and we've made it several times since our wedding. The coconut milk gives this dish a rich, creamy taste, while also being completely dairy-free! It's also refreshing to find an Indian recipe that uses winter squash and is free of the usual nightshade vegetables. I never thought I'd find a seasonal Indian dish for winter time. But now I have!

We used butternut squash for this dish, but you could easily substitute any winter squash or even sweet potatoes. Traditionally, this dish uses chili peppers instead of Thai curry paste, but sometimes one has to improvise! This dish should be enjoyed over rice. Enjoy.

Serves 4-5

1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp brown mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves 
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Thai Kitchen red curry paste
15 oz coconut milk (1 can)
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (from 3/4 cup dry or 1 can)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add mustard seeds to oil. Wait until seeds start to pop, then add the curry leaves. Add the onions and cook a 2-3 minutes until translucent.

Next, add the butternut squash, coriander, salt, and Thai curry paste. Saute for a minute or two until spices coat the squash. Add 1/2 cup of water to help the squash cook. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until squash is somewhat soft and water has boiled off.

Add coconut milk and the cooked black-eyed peas. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Check for salt. Remove from heat. Serve over brown rice.

Integrative Nutrition