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.]

Quisotto Primavera

After all the food, get-togethers, parties, and too much indulging overall during the holiday season, it is not surprising that come January, the biggest trend for New Years’ Resolutions has to do with realigning our lifestyle habits such as eating and exercising.  In this part of the world, January is also synonymous with snow and below freezing temperatures, which makes it difficult to stick to those salad regimes we fantasize settling into with little effort. It is easy to succumb to some of our favorite comfort foods that may not be kind to our bodies or our resolutions. Cravings for hot stews, roasts, braised meats, butter, breads, pasta and all those hearty dishes are inevitable. Just because you want to eat better and feel better to start off the New Year, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore your cravings. It’s all about finding the right balance between satisfying your need for comfort in these cold months and choosing the right foods to make you feel better.

This recipe is inspired by this risotto recipe that appeared in Bon Appétit. I have since made my own version over and over again, and even turned it into a quisotto (quinoa, cooked risotto style).The quinoa provides more nutrition than the white starchy Arborio rice, the egg is the touch of comfort and vegetables are simply good for you. Try using different vegetables, keeping in mind that depending on cook time you may need to stagger adding your various veggies. For an even lighter version, poach the egg or skip it altogether and top the quisotto with roasted tomato slices. Ingredients make two hearty portions (or two smaller ones, with some leftovers for lunch).

Quisotto Primavera

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 mushrooms, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 zucchini, diced (about ½ cup)
  • ½ bell pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I like using the Provence blend)
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup white wine (optional, replace white wine with broth)
  • 1 ½ cup broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

In a small pot, heat up the broth and keep warm while cooking the quisotto. The reason you want to keep the broth warm is because you want to avoid slowing down the cooking process when adding ladles of cold or room temperature broth to the quinoa/vegetable mixture. This applies to any risotto as well.

In a pot on medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the herbs and sauté the garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper until soft but not browned. Add the carrots, mushrooms and quinoa, stir for about a minute to coat well and toast the grains. Add the white wine, stir the mixture while simmering until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and add a ladle of broth. Add the zucchini and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed all the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you find you do not have enough broth, you can easily add a touch of water at a time until everything is cooked through. The consistent stirring adds “creaminess” but unlike Arborio rice, it is not fussy and does not risk becoming sticky.

In a pan, fry the eggs as desired and serve atop of the quisotto dish.

For those of you detoxing or doing a cleanse, why not try making a raw version of this quisotto with some sprouted quinoa, combining it with the raw diced vegetables and just barely covering with warm miso broth. Of course, skip the wine and the egg.  😉

For information on sprouting quinoa, click here.

And last but not least, a very happy belated New Years to everyone, thanks for reading and I wish you all health and happiness for 2012!

Salsa as easy as 1-2-3

In the last two, maybe even three years, I haven’t bought a single jar of pre-made salsa. Nothing tastes better than a homemade version and it is the simplest snack to put together. No cooking required, homemade salsa never ceases to impress and the combinations are endless.

At this time of year I always have tomatoes on hand. They are simply irresistible with their heirloom shapes, golden yellow and oranges, bright and captivating reds, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My heart skips a beat whenever I see them on display at the market, isles and bushels lining the rows of vendors. During the off season, I like using the small grape variety because they remain sweeter than the larger counterparts.

My basic salsa recipe is another way for me to use up some leftover vegetables in my fridge. Use this as a guide and have fun with it!

Fresh Tomato Salsa

  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes
  • ½ diced cucumber, zucchini works well too
  • 1 tbsp to ¼ cup pepper, hot or sweet, or both
  • ¼ cup onions, use any variety you have on hand
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon juiced, or a vinegar of your choice
  • Something spicy like chilli flakes or hot sauce to taste
  • Some chopped fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley, basil, or dried if in dire straights
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Spices
  • Salt and pepper

Begin by chopping, dicing and mincing all you fresh ingredients and combining them in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt to help draw out some of the juices from the vegetables. Add your chosen chilli flavour, herbs, spices and olive oil. Mix well, taste and adjust your seasonings.

There is tons of room to pay around here, but here are some of my favourite spices and herbs combinations.

  • A classic salsa that reminds you ofMexico: cilantro, cumin and hot smoked paprika
  • Try mixing in different nuts and seeds: parsley, chopped pistachios or pumpkin seeds, hot chilli flakes
  • Or add extra sweetness with fresh fruit: mango, pineapple, kiwis, grapes, apples… all work well!

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!

Got Nut Milk?

For many of us, milk is reminiscent of our childhood. A glass of milk is what was served with meals and warmed up when the sandman is nowhere to be found. Then we grow up, move on to coffee and lattés instead, but it still remains a household staple. Over recent years, I have tried other kinds of non-dairy milk but overall found that their taste lacked some kind of richness comparable to that of the cow’s milk I grew up on.

I recently starting making my own nut milks and I will never go back to the processed kind. Homemade nut milks taste just the way you want them because you can tweak as you please. The best part is that you have a non-dairy milk beverage, that is also free of preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients.

Here are the nut milk making basics:

  • 1 cup raw nuts
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ tbsp. spices of choice
  • 1-2 dates soaked and/or 1 tbsp of sweetener of choice

The first step is to soak your nuts for about 8 hours. Put them in a contained filled with enough filtered water to allow the nuts to expand (some may double in size!!). You can do this before going to bed or before heading out for your workday, and by the time you wake up or come home, you are ready to start milking! This is an easy way to fit it into a routine if you want to have fresh nut milk readily available.

Why soak nuts you ask? I wondered the same thing for a long time, but the difference in taste between an unsoaked nut and one that is plumped up is quite surprising. With brown nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts…) you do not get that bitterness you usually taste. Aside from taste, soaking nuts helps remove the enzyme inhibitors and bring the nuts back to life. What this essentially means is that the nuts become more easily digestible and the nutrients more readily available to your body. (Reference: Uncooking101, a great raw food ressource!)

So now that your nuts have been soaking for about 8 hours, rinse them thoroughly and place in a blender with 3 cups of water, pinch of salt, spices of choice, soaked dates and/or sweetener if desired. Blend until smooth and strain with a sieve, cheese cloth, or a nut milk bag (can be found in health food stores, are reusable and are fairly inexpensive). Some nuts milks don’t need to be strained, such as cashews and macadamia.

Now here is how you can play around with this basic recipe: For a creamier texture, use less water. Try different spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or even cacao powder to make some chocolate milk. For a little sweetness, try different types and amounts of sweeteners to find the right balance that works with your palate –  honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.

Making your own nut milks at home is so simple and taste better than anything that comes in a carton that it is definitely worth incorporating into your routine.  The leftover nut meal can be reused for a variety of recipes: You can mix it with chopped dried nuts and make some raw energy rolls. You can also use it to make a raw pie crust… but more on that later.

Eat Your Turnips…Raw!

Sorry folks, this week is a hectic one and therefore this post (and recipe) is a quick one. I am getting ready head up to Tremblant for my Half-Marathon and amidst the countless other things I have going on im my life, I still choose to make time to cook (or uncook in this case).

One week to go before the race, I decided that I would be very diligent about my nutrition and try to stick to 90% rawfood, see how I feel and evaluate how my training goes. Honestly though, I haven’t been very good lately. With lots of social events it is easy to get off track and indulge a little too much when eating out in all the fabulous restaurants Montreal has to offer… Icehouse, Kazu, Arepera and Qing Hua just to name a few…

Monday rolled around – 7 days until game day- and a plentiful CSA delivery that remained almost untouched. In that basket came a few turnips that I had no idea what to do with. I usually toss them into stews and soups, but this summer has been way too hot to even contemplate making soup.

Raw turnip? As if! but I had to try it. Out came the peeler. Out came the grater and I started shredding. I stuffed a little bunch of grated turnip in my mouth and discovered a surprisingly fresh, crisp peppery-ness that goes right up your nose the same way wasabi or some strong mustards do. Lots of character but in a good way – who would have thought that a humble turnip would have so much character! Attitude aside, dinner was served in no time flat .

Here’s the recipe for shredded turnip. I served it on top of a simple green salad with quinoa, but would be so nice on top of burgers or hot dogs for something different to try during these last BBQs of the summer.

Shredded Raw Turnip Salad

  • 1 raw turnip
  • 1/2 of a red onion
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and honey until smooth. For these ingredients to be raw they need to be unpasterized and cold pressed in the case of the oil. These are fairly common to find, just make sure you read the labels carefully.

Peel the turnip and grate it. Thinly slice the red onion. Toss these ingredients with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve! You can aslo toss in some herbs to add some greenery to your salad, such as parsley or cilantro would work nicely. One turnip makes enough as a main ingredient to serve 4 people, or more if using it as a side or condiment.

Raw Cacao-Nut Energy Rolls

There is so much talk these days about the best nutrition plan for achieving optimal physical performance. Recently the Globe and Mail published an article about the McRunner.  So, some dude ran a personal best and finished in the top 30 at the LA Marathon, while sustaining himself only on a diet of processed food from McDonalds.  The thought of this started to make my stomach churn but it did get me to thinking about the so-called “optimal” diet for all athletes at all levels and from all walks of life.

There are all sorts of diet books, performance formulas, gels and protein shakes out there, that it seems that we are playing a game of cat and mouse with our body and our nutrition. We constantly exchange tips, try other others’ winning recipes but ultimately the only thing that matters is what works for you and your body chemistry.

All I can say for myself is that I would much rather toy with natural ingredients and whole foods to come up with something that works for me. That is how these energy rolls came to be. So far I have only tried these pre and post training, but they are tasty, easy to eat and don’t require any prep before I run out the door. I hope you give these a try and if they don’t fit your training ritual then that’s okay too, At least at the end of the day you have a tasty treat to munch on!

Cacao-Nut Energy Roll

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 16-18 dates (depending on size and freshness)
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
  • ¼ cup raw nut of choice, chopped (I used cashews)
  • 3-4 tbsp raw nut butter of choice (I used cashew butter)
  • Pinch of salt

In a food processor, finely grind the almonds and set aside in a mixing bowl. Combine the dates with 1 tbsp water and process until smooth. If your dates are a dry you may need to add another tablespoon water to help form a paste. Careful not to add too much water or else you will end up with a roll that is too soft to cut into discs.

Using a spatula, add the date paste to the ground almonds in the mixing bowl. Add the cacao powder, nibs and pinch of salt. Stir to blend well and ingredients should combine to form a stiff dough of sorts.

Place the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper and using a pastry roll (or a bottle), flatten out the mixture into a rectangular shape. Spread the nut butter and sprinkle the chopped nuts.

Using the parchment paper, roll over the dough to create a log. Tuck in the ends and press down to remove any potential air bubbles. Freeze for about an hour before slicing into discs about 1.5 cm thick.

I usually make this in large quantities, slice and keep in the freezer, so that I always have some ready to go – they only take a couple minutes to defrost.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you have any homemade training recipes, please share!