Sunday, May 30, 2010
It might have been easy for me to go Paleo because I've never really liked baking. I did the whole homemade wholegrain bread thing and mountains of "healthy" muffins for play groups. I never liked it. Didn't like all the stirring, the messy flour everywhere and the sticky dough in the bowl that has to be washed out. Give me vegetables to chop and meat to roast and I'll cook all day, but baking? Nahh. At this point though, it is really important for my household to remain grain-free (and potato starch-free and rice flour-free and free of all the other crap in gluten-free mixes). I also like to keep my troops happy (when appropriate) and I love to use food to celebrate important moments in life, SO baking delicious things has a place in my world.
If you read advice on cooking for others or hosting dinners I think it is generally accepted that busting out an experimental concoction is not recommended. I do get the good sense in that, having made some pretty disgusting stuff in my time. But I feel like it is a test of your friends and families' character to use them as guinea pigs. I feel as though if you have someone in your life that seems like "good folks" then they will tolerate and perhaps, on occasion, benefit from kitchen experiments.
Last week it was Crandall's birthday. Crandall absolutely qualifies as good folks, so I though it was safe to experiment on a birthday cake. Plus I had extra insurance because I knew he'd be worn out from lifting a whole bunch of heavy weights beforehand, so there was a chance his judgement would be impaired. Plus, Crandall then qualifies as a Power Athlete so full-fat dairy is in his Paleo cupboard which makes desserts a reasonable undertaking.
Experimental, Chocolate-Coconut Birthday Cake
1/4c coconut oil
1/4c coconut butter (I use half oil and half butter to cut the noticeable after-taste of straight coconut oil)
1 1/2T vanilla
1 1/4c Rapadura (this is a specific sweetener. It is dehydrated crushed sugar cane. Sucanat is NOT THE SAME.)
3/8 cup RAW (I used Vivapura brand) cacao powder
1/4c coconut milk
scant 3/4c SIFTED coconut flour
3/4t aluminum-free baking powder
Melt coconut butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cacao powder, Rapadura and coconut milk and mix together. Remove from heat and set aside. In a bowl, mix together eggs and salt. Stir in cocoa mixture. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk into batter until there are no lumps. Pour batter into greased 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.
This time when I made the cake I topped it with hard-whipped heavy cream (I add 1T Dr. Bernard Jensen's gelatin dissolved in 2T hot water to the cream) mixed with shredded coconut, and 6T maple syrup. However, it turns out this cake, because of all the eggs and coconut flour, is like a firm sponge cake. It is a little bit on the dry side (sorry Crandall). It has a firm, even texture and is not at all crumbly like a cake. Next time I will make a hot cherry or raspberry fruit compote. Then I will slice the cake thinly and pour the hot fruit sauce over the cake and then put a little whipped cream on top. This will make it more like a traditional trifle and this cake recipe will hold up perfectly for it.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I LOVE to try new fruits and vegetables and yesterday at the farmer's market I tried and purchased some loquats. These are members of the rosaceae family (see my post on Jan 22 about the importance of these seeds). According to the citrus man at the farmer's market, loquats don't last long once picked and the season is short too. Ahhhh, the hallmark of a real paleo fruit! They also require a little bit of effort and mess to eat. They are about 1 1/2" in diameter with a slightly fuzzy skin like a peach. The skin is flavorless, but a bit tough so some people slip it off although I ate it. The flesh tastes like ripe apricots and their is a giant cluster of seeds in the middle. I chewed up and swallowed a couple of the seeds which had the characteristic almond-like flavor of the cyanide-bearing rosaceae family. I overheard one lady at the farmer's market who characterized the typical American approach to food. The citrus man was incredibly kind and tolerant, but I had to restrain myself from giving her an impromptu lecture! He gave her a loquat to taste after showing her how to slip the skin off and expose the flesh and the seeds. She said it tasted good, but was too much work to bother with and she didn't purchase any. This lady looked like she spent more time getting dressed to go to the farmer's market than me and my kids put together. I can guarantee her car is very clean, she has a well maintained yard (probably done by a staff) and probably sets the table each evening for dinner with matching table ware, but she can't be bothered with a 45second process so that she can eat a sweet, juicy, local, fresh fruit. Get your priorities straight people!! Do you want the farmer to wash, peel, and separate your food for you? Do you want him to cut it up into bite size pieces? Maybe you want him to hand feed you and then clean up afterwards?
The kids got loquats, turkey kielbasa, half an egg, cherries and bananas with pumpkin seeds and coconut for breakfast.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
My table is blessed this week with gifts of fruits and vegetables. First, from Mateo's client Daniel, came organic roma tomatoes, heirloom yellow and purple tomatoes, cucumbers and jalapenos. Later from Mike T. came fresh rosemary, mint and one of his last lemons. If you've never eaten any of the giant, lumpy, bumpy, strangely colored tomatoes you're missing out. They should just be sliced up (don't refrigerate them because the flavor gets reduced), sprinkled with a little sea salt and slurped. I had thawed some mahi mahi for the grill before Mike gifted me with the herbs and lemon, so I made a marinade/sauce for the fish. I put 1/4c balsamic vinegar, 1/2 oliveoil, leaves from the 10" stalk of rosemary and all the zest from the lemon (not the juice) into my blender and made a thick vinaigrette. I marinated the fish in it for about 20min before grilling it. While the fish was grilling I poured the leftover vinaigrette/marinade into a saucepan and brought it to a boil. I reduced it for about 7min while the fish was grilling. This takes care of the raw fish factor and makes the balsamic a little sweeter. You end up with a thick, lemony/sweet/herb sauce for your fish. Gratitude Mike and Daniel.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Mmmmm. A new Paleo delight. Crandall found it. A Pan de Higo Almendrado, from Spain. Translated as Fig Almond Cake. My kids said it was in no way a "cake", but that does not diminish it's deliciousness. It is basically mashed up figs pressed with whole almonds. The ingredients are: Pajarero Figs and Marcona Almonds. That is a good ingredient list.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
We have an abundant crop of swiss chard in my back yard and I bought a bunch of small beets at the Farmer's Market which came with greens, so I decided to add them to breakfast. I know A LOT of people who don't really like the dark leafy greens and I've been served dark leafy greens in many ways that make me appreciate why people wouldn't like them!! The first trick to make lovely greens is to not leave them whole with big thick stems. Gross. If the stem is very thick cut it out. You don't have to waste it. I then chop them up very small and add them back in. Slice the greens into ribbons, ACROSS the stems. Place the chopped stems into a frying pan with a little water and turn the heat on high. Once the stems soften a little then you can add the rest of the greens and just gently steam them in a very small amount of water that is mostly cooked away by the time the greens are refinished. This means you need to keep your eye on things so the pan doesn't dry out.
For the breakfast in the picture, I minced 4 cloves of garlic (I was cooking enough greens for 4 adults) and very gently sauteed them in about 5T of butter. I cooked the garlic just until it started to turn golden so it didn't have a burnt taste. When the greens were done I poured the garlic and melted butter into the pan with the greens and added a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
I'm always getting asked about Paleo desserts. Even more frequently than questions about Paleo desserts, are questions about Good Fats. One of the ways I approach desserts, especially in the land of kids, is to use them as a vehicle for good fat. There are the usual options, most frequently eggs, butter and coconut. There is one other MOST EXCELLENT option which has only recently become widely available in food grade form. Thanks to the Raw Food Movement, raw organic cacao butter can now be purchased in nearly all natural food stores. Sadly, I feel as though when I mention the Raw Foodists I must immediately distance myself at the same time. Vegan Raw Food activists are primarily a group of slightly to intensely flaky people pushing their own strange/hypocritical food morality, often with trust funds, who would benefit from a very good steak. They have some things really right about food, so I don't like to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I can't stand their preaching about how people who eat animals are not as spiritually "high", and yet most of these Raw people have adopted several spiritual traditions (drumming, sacred circles, chanting etc...) that originated with the world's HUNTER-gatherers. Uggh. Still, I'm not beyond acknowledging and thanking the Raw Food Folks for making raw cacao butter an option for me.
Cacao beans grow on a tree. A tree called Theobroma cacao. This, of course, translates to Food of the Gods. Cacao trees are originally a South and Central American equatorial shade tree. Nearly 50% of the cacao bean is fat. This fat is cacao butter. It is about half saturated and half unsaturated fat. Cacao butter is rich and delicious and provides you with a lovely variety of fats. All you hard gainers out there, if you are tired of olive, coconut and eggs, get some cacao butter. It comes in soapy-feeling chunks which need to be gently melted over a pot of hot water (double boiler). After that you can mix in anything you like including minced dried fruit or nuts. Here is an example:
1c unsweetened shredded coconut
1c finely chopped goji berries
1/4 raw honey
3 drops orange oil
3/4c melted cacao butter
Mix well, it will be very crumbly. Press into a pan in a layer and refrigerate. Once it has cooled you'll be able to cut squares out of it.