Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dirt Cake

 
I'm not a cake person.  I never really wanted a cake for my birthday, growing up as a kid.  Actually I usually had a huge bowl of ice cream and a small icing-less piece of cake.  (Even as a child I was an icing snob.  No grocery store icing would do :).

So at some point, in middle or high school, I had "dirt dessert" at a local cafe.  It was a cute mini flower pot full of creamy goodness and Oreo cookies.  My mom graciously found a recipe for it and made for my next birthday, and most since!  Then I found out about my dairy intolerance and the original dirt dessert recipe (mostly dairy-based- cool whip, cream cheese, etc.) was not for me.  But since my big Three-O is coming up, I tried to revive the recipe in a gluten and dairy-free version for my family to eat.  We tried it out at the beach for my Grandpa's b-day which is the fourth of July, and it got rave reviews- mostly from the kids ;)

Although not pictured, this is a layered pudding dessert and is oh so creamy and addictive!  And this recipe does have sugar in it because of the brand of Oreo-like cookies; however, see recipe at the bottom for a refined-sugar-free cookie crumble option.  But if any day is OK for eating sugar, a birthday should be one!

Dirt Cake
This recipe yields enough to fill a gallon sized flower pot 2/3 full- for presentation (see photo above- but make sure there are no drain holes in your pot!), and can easily serve 15 people with a cup-sized serving.  But you can half the recipe and fill in individual layered mugs or ramekins. Decorate with gummy worms or flowers- depending on your audience :)
Ingredients
  • 2 bags of chocolate vanilla creme sandwich cookies like this one, which is gluten/egg/dairy free
  • 200 grams cashews (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 575 grams non-dairy milk of choice (2 1/2 cups)
  • 126 grams honey, divided (1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp agar agar powder*
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 6 pastured egg yolks
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • a 6 oz carton of non-dairy plain Greek Yogurt
  • Coconut Cream from 3 cans of full-fat organic coconut milk, about 530 grams total**
  • 60 grams powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup)- note: for sugar free, use powdered coconut sugar
  • another 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
* for the agar powder, you can substitue gelatin, according to package directions for amount of liquid in this recipe. 
**refrigerate the cans of coconut milk overnight and the cream will rise to the top (of most major brands)
Method
  • Soak the cashews in filtered water the night before or several hours ahead of time, then drain and rinse when ready to make your dirt dessert.
  • Crumble the bags of chocolate creme cookies with a food processor (or hammer:) until they resemble moist dirt, and set aside.
  • Then beat the egg yolks and half the honey in a heat safe bowl (also, if your counter is slippery- place that bowl over a towel or something with a grip on it).
  • Heat the non-dairy milk, agar agar powder**, vanilla, and rest of  honey and bring to a scald (just before boiling where there are bubbles around the edge of sauce pan.
  • Then slowly temper the heated milk mixture with your eggs while pouring it into the heat-safe bowl and whisking fervently.
  • Transfer the whole mixture back into the sauce pan and stir with a spatula over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of your spoon/ spatula and you can swipe a finger down the back of spoon/ spatula and it makes a clear finger mark without running back over where you swiped your finger.
  • Transfer to a blender, you may have to pass it through a strainer first if you forgot to stir for a while and there are lumps.
  • Add the cashews, the lemon juice, and the vinegar to the mixture in the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  • Then blend in the non-dairy yogurt.
  • Place in the refrigerator for about 10-20 minutes- just so it cools down to about room temperature.  Cover with something touching the pudding mixture so it doesn't get a thick skin.
  • While that cools down, blend the coconut cream (thick part that rises to the top of can when the can is refrigerated overnight), the 1/2 Tbsp of vanilla and the powdered sugar until combined. (NOTE: this step can be done any time- up to a couple days ahead of time.)
  • Then add the coconut cream mixture to the other pudding mixture and set back in the refrigerator to cool another 10 minutes-until it's slightly set.  You don't want it to set all the way until you assemble the whole dessert.  You just want it to thicken up a bit.
For Assembly
  • Start with a layer of the cookies (see below for refined-sugar-free "cookie" crumble recipe), then a layer of the refrigerated pudding mixture. 
  • Repeat.
  • Each cookie layer should be just enough to cover the previous pudding-type layer and the pudding-type layer should be set just enough to not let the cookies fall back down into it.
  • Finish with a cookie (dirt) layer and decorate as desired.
  • If you use a real flower, be sure to wrap foil or plastic wrap around the bottom of the flower (the part that will be inserted into the dirt cake) to avoid bugs or contaminants getting in your dessert!  You won't want it to actually taste like dirt :) 
Sugar-Free Cookie Crumble
I adapted this recipe from a cookie crumble of mine  from this post but I cannot attest that it will be enough for the flower pot-sized pudding proportions above, as I have not made the sugar-free version.  You may have to double it. 
Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 54 grams pitted dates (about 18 regular or 9 medjool)
  • 1 1/2 cup nuts, like almonds
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil or dairy-free butter spread
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Method
  • Pulse all in a food processor until just combined.  This dirt is a little lighter in color- but still can pass for dirt ;)
This post has been linked up to:
Sugar-Free Sunday @ Flip Cookbook
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Allergy-Free Wednesdays

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cauliflower Cheesy Spread

Made this the other night as a last minute addition to our beef tacos.  It made a great healthy non-dairy addition to our meal.  Can also be good for a vegan dinner with bean-based tacos, which is what I made the kiddos since I added way, way too much spice to our taco meat (even I was crying a little when I ate them :)  This cheesy mixture mellowed it out some though!

Cheesy Cauliflower Spread
Vegan, Dairy/ Gluten/ Soy/ Grain/ and Egg Free
Makes about 1 1/2 cups 

Ingredients
  • 1 10 oz. bag frozen cauliflower or 255 grams of fresh cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (from a jar, or roast the pepper with the cauliflower in the oven, see note*)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • small handful of cilantro leaves (optional)
Method
  • Roast the cauliflower on a parchment-lined pan in the oven @ 400 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes until slightly browned.  *Note: if not using canned roasted peppers, you can roast the pepper in some foil along with the cauliflower.
  • Then add all ingredients to a blender and puree.  Add a little olive oil if needed to thin it out some.
  • You might could make this raw as well, although I haven't tried it.  It would be similar to my raw pimento "cheese" spread.

This Post Has Been Linked Up To:
Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Wellness Weekend @ Diet, Dessert, & Dogs



Friday, June 8, 2012

A Quick Yummy Post

Our family has decided that we are going to start observing the Sabbath.  We had the Friday night meal (which you can read about here), and I wanted to post our dessert even though it's not my original recipe- but was too good not to share :)



I used this crust recipe from The Spunky Coconut and this lovely mousse recipe from Lexie's Kitchen (two of my fav blogs).  After the crust baked I spread sliced bananas over the crust, then poured the mousse over that (stopped just before the step of putting the mousse into an ice cream maker- just poured it warm).  Then I let it set up in the freezer for about 30 min and put it in the fridge until dinner time.  We loved it!  It was light and satisfying all at the same time.  This would probably be great with any fruit- especially since summer berries are in season!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cherry Cola Cake




Cola.  Soda.  Pop.  Here in the South, we mostly call everything a "coke".  Maybe that's because the popular soda company is based here in Atlanta and they have brainwashed us all :)

Now, don't think I am advocating the drinking of high fructose corn syrup fizzy drinks by this post!  This cake recipe is near and dear to my heart.  My first baking experiment ever was in high school with a Coke-a-Cola cake.  I probably made various versions of it at least ten times for my family.  And while I would never be caught making a cake like that now, I was inspired and thought an interpretation of it would be nice for Iris' birthday.

Sidebar:  If you have not checked out the talentedly thorough Iris who co-wrote The Essential Gluten Free Baking Guide (Part 1 and Part 2) and blogs at The Daily Dietribe, please give her work a look see right now!

It was also my neighbor's birthday, so me and my daughter made this cake together.  It was neat to teach her some basic baking lessons, let her hold the hand mixer all by herself and smile at her accomplishment, make messes :), all while creating a healthier version of a nostalgic recipe.

And yes, this cake does have coke (or soda/pop/cola) in it; however, there are healthier versions like this, this, and this one.  I like using sugar-free, artificial sweetener-free Zevia.**

Cherry Cola Cake
This recipe makes a 2 layer 9" x 13" cake or a four layered 8" torte-style cake


Ingredients
For the Cake
  • 3 cups gluten free all purpose flour mix (I make my own with 2 parts sorghum, 1 part chickpea flour, and 1 part starch in weight)* 375 grams flour mix
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (20 grams)
  • 1 cup palm shortening (155 grams)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use sifted coconut sugar- 100 grams after sifting)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup cola**see above (200 grams )
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup "buttermilk" (coconut or almond milk with 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar) 125 grams + 10 grams ACV- 135 grams total
  • Vanilla Crème Stevia to taste- I use 20 drops
*Note: make sure your AP flour mix is not one with salt added as the cola you choose will most likely contain sodium
For the Marshmallow Icing
  • 2 egg whites (70 grams)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar (50 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp cola (45 grams)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 ¼ cup mini marshmallows (135 grams)***
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cherries, chopped fine (120 grams)
***Note: for a certified gluten-free marshmallow brand try this one , which I buy from Whole Foods.  And yes, this is a bit indulgent, but you can also make your own healthier versions from The Norishing Gourmet or this one @ Ginger Lemon Girl.
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • First, sift all dry ingredients for the cake together in a bowl and set aside.
  • Cream the room temp palm shortening and the granulated sugar together until light and fluffy with either a hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
  • Then slowly add the eggs (important that they are room temp) one at a time, beating until fully emulsified and scraping down the bowl between eggs.
  • Add the vanilla to the cola and have the vanilla cola mixture ready as well as the buttermilk and flour mixture nearby to add alternately to the egg/sugar/shortening mixture.
  • Start by adding about 1/4 of the flour, then add 1/2 the coke, 1/4 flour, the rest of the cola, 1/4 flour, the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing in between each addition.  You do this so that each addition does not deflate the batter too much and the structure of the cake will not be compromised.  It seems fussy, but if you follow this exactly you will have a lighter fluffier (and sturdier) cake :)
  • Taste the batter and fold in some Vanilla Creme Stevia to taste.
  • Then pour into prepared cake pans- two 9x13 for a sheet cake or four 8" rounds for a torte cake.  Tip: if you spin the pan around on the counter a couple of times, they will turn out flatter with less of a rounded middle and will be easier to ice.
  • Bake at 350 for 22-30 minutes, depending on the size pan you use.
While the cakes are baking make your Marshmallow Creme Icing and Cherry filling.
  • Over a double boiler (or a small pan with 1" simmering water and a larger heat safe bowl over it), heat the whites, sugar, tartar, and cola while whisking constantly.
  • Whisk them over the heat until soft peaks form.
  • Then add the marshmallows and vanilla.  
  • Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes, then whisk until all the lumps are gone.
  • Divide out about 1/3 of the marshmallow icing and mix in a bowl with the chopped cherries.  This will be used to fill the cake.  The rest of the 2/3 marshmallow icing will be used to top the cake.
For assembly
  • Not necessary, but a nice touch is to make a simple syrup out of the cola by boiling it until it reduces half in size (if using a sugar-free cola, you can add granulated sugar if desired).  Then brush this on the layers of your cake before assembly.
  • Once the layers have cooled completely you can assemble as desired.
  • I prefer to alternate the cherry filling with the plain and top it with a dusting of cocoa powder.


Check out the following links for other yummy ideas:
Allergy Free Wednesdays
The Daily Dietribe 2nd Annual Birthday Cake Challenge
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


Sunday, April 29, 2012

All Natural Food Dyes Made @ Home: Pink

My three year old's birthday cupcakes with naturally dyed pink icing using this cream cheese icing recipe
Food dye has been reported to contribute to a number of known behavioral conditions (ADHD, for example- source), and also digestive issues for me and my loved ones.  So I started thinking about ways to develop healthier food dyes that I could make at home for things like dying icing and Easter eggs.

Well, sorry that I'm too late for your Easter festivities, but I thought I would share anyways because this is helpful stuff! 
If you have tried to find a natural alternative to the food dyes that come from the grocery store or a Hobby Lobby/ Michael's type craft store, you most likely were met with a pretty steep price.  I think I once paid $20+ dollars for natural versions of a 3-pack of red, blue, and yellow.

Formerly having decorated cakes professionally, with the "bad" dyes that worked so well, I also never found any natural dyes that fit the bill for my dying needs.

Until now, that is- and I made them myself so even better!  Here is my recipe for pink icing and a couple of tips and how-tos for home dye used for icings.

Home-made Icing/ Food Dyes: Pink (see below for other color possibilities)
This recipe ends up yielding about 3-4 Tbsp of concentrate (depending on how concentrated you make it), which I used to dye about 4 cups of icing for a light pink color.  Use more beet and honey if you want it to be more fuchsia or dark pink.

The slightly tan icing on the right is what I started with before adding this dye recipe
 Ingredients:
  • Beet, shaved or grated with a microplane (a microplane is particularly helpful if you don't have a high powered blender)
  • Honey
  • Water
Method:
  • I used equal parts grated beet and honey- 2 Tbsp of each, and filled the bottom of a pot with water- just enough to cover.  The main part is to have equal parts honey and equal parts grated food you are using for color.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer until most of the water has evaporated off.  You can let it simmer for up to 30 minutes if you want it to be really concentrated- which will emulsify better with an icing or frosting.
  • When it has reached desired consistency- like a thick sauce, puree, preferably in a high powered blender, but you can also use a food processor or a magic bullet type blender.
  • When you blend with icing or frosting (or ice cream base, etc. the possibilities are endless :), make sure all parts are at room temperature so they will emulsify better.  Add concentrate one tsp at a time for easier emulsification.
  • And pipe, prepare, eat. etc.- that's it!
 Tips and Tricks:
  • The trick to a good dye is for it to be viscous (very thick) and concentrated.   You want it to emulsify well with the icings or frostings since your they will most likely contain a good amount of fat (water- or runny icing dye and fat would not mix well together).
  • You will want to also have a thick sweetener handy.  Honey, I believe, would be best here.  But you could also use glucose (although somewhat hard to come by), coconut nectar, and perhaps maple syrup.  I have had the best results with honey.
  • The honey neutralizes the beet flavor so no, there is no funky beet taste :).
  • If you have found that your color is too bright or bold, and you want to make it more muted, then try adding a color from the opposite of the color wheel, which you can find here.  For example, if I wanted more of a salmon color- like a muted pink, I could have used a pinch of spinach or mint added to the beet dye to mute the pinkness some.  If you notice that the icing above seems somewhat muted anyways because I started with a brownish (because of the coconut sugar) icing.  Brown mutes everything- all colors interact with each other so experiment, experiment!
  • There are many colors found in nature; however, when it comes to food dying I believe the lower the water content of the food, the better.  Also avoid foods that oxidize easily (like bananas- they turn brown) when heated.
  • Possible other foods that could be used with this recipe formula:
    • Red/ pink foods- raspberries (although higher in water content), beets, red cabbage.  I would not recommend using strawberries- even if ripe because they are extremely high in water content.
    • Orange/ Yellow foods- turmeric (one tsp of this goes a long way without adding any kind of funky taste), lemon or orange zest.
    • Green Foods- spinach, even though it has a high water content is the best I have found for turning things green, also mint.
    • Brown- dates and prunes are a great source for brown
    • I'm still trying to come up with ideas for bluePurple is easier- blueberries I'm sure could do the trick. 
This post has been linked up to:
Sugar Free Sunday @ Flip Cookbook
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday's @ Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Allergy Free Wednesdays , a wide variety of allergen-free recipes hosted by six different bloggers

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cocoa Macaroons


Here's a quick and easy recipe for Easter.  These can be made as fancy as you like by piping them through a wide star tip with a piping bag or you can just roll them by hand into small 1" balls.  I also used a small brownie mold with some and they would be great like that dipped in chocolate!

And as I posted here, these little cookies are fitting my diet these days (if I only have a couple :) because of the high fiber, high protein, and low sugar content!  They are also great as a carob treat.

Cocoa Macaroons
Soy/ Dairy/ Gluten/ Grain/ Nut/ and White Sugar-free
Yields about 42 1" macaroons, more or less depending on how you size them

Ingredients
  • 9 oz shredded coconut, unsweetened, unsulfured (appx. 3 cups)
  • 1/2 oz coconut oil (1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 oz vanilla (1Tbsp)
  • 10 grams cocoa or carob powder (2 Tbsp)
  • 45 grams coconut sugar (rounded 1/4 cup)
  • 6.5 oz egg whites (or the whites from 5 large eggs)
Method 
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until just combined, or blend in Vitamix- but put the whites in first- on speed 5-6 until combined.
  • The dough will be somewhat sticky, but you can roll them out into 1" sized balls or you can pipe them onto a cookie sheet.  If you need to, you can add up to 2 Tbsp of water to make piping easier- but increase baking time by a couple of minutes.  They will not rise much, so you can pipe closely together.
  • Bake at 325 F for 12-15 minutes.
This post has been linked up to:
Sugar-Free Sunday @ Flip Cookbook
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How I threw a From-Scratch 5th Birthday Extravaganza



This weekend I threw my very first big birthday party for our Baby Girl who just turned 5. As far as she knew she had not had a birthday party that she could remember. In fact, when she first came to us, she thought a "birthday" was a cake. She had little concept of a birthday party.

So I was bound and determined to let her have a fun shindig that she would remember!

But going to the local fast food joint and ordering a tray of chicken nuggets and a grocery store cake is out of the question for my family. There is something in my genetic make-up that feels like I just want to make everything myself anyways, so I set out a couple weeks ago to plan so I wouldn't get too overwhelmed the day of the party.

A few things that helped me do it:
  1. I used Velvet Aroma to store all the recipes I would need in a birthday cookbook so everything would be in one place. This made grocery shopping super-easy. (menu below)
  2. I did some make-ahead preparations. Most baked goods can be frozen for a few weeks with little taste compromised. They just need to be stored in an air-tight container or plastic freezer bags with most of the air removed. (see menu below for what I did ahead)
  3. Family! My mom came down for the week and helped me plan and cook. She along with my grandparents and MIL and FIL helped with a lot of the details- like picking up baloons, mopping my floor!, etc. Without them I could not have done all of this, for sure!
  4. I picked one thing that I wanted to highlight: the cake (shown below). And the rest I tried to keep simple.
  5. For all the non-edibles, I tried to keep decorations and activities down to a minimal effort for me since I knew that I would spend so much time on the food. So I relied on Hobby Lobby (a Michaels type store) because they have good prices and good sales. And a huge variety, from decor to serving pieces.
  6. Some Costco and Sams stores have good deals on the things I would normally not buy. But after all, a birthday party is a special celebration, right? I bought these Izze drinks (concentrated fruit juice and carbonated water) and this brand of juice boxes (which we rarely give the kids juice boxes, but these are a fruit and veg mix, and very low in naturally occurring sugars). I also splurged on some non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, MSG-free potato chips as pictured above near the cake. My kids thought they were in heaven getting to eat as many chips as they wanted :) (I promise they get other kinds of treats in my home). These stores also have bulk fruit items that can be bought non-organic, like pineapple, already cut up or cored, saving time and not for much more money.

Here's the Menu for the Spread seen above:

  • Make-ahead Meatballs from Food Renegade- These were super easy to make ahead and freeze, and I made them GF by using Udi's bread heels I had saved up for bread crumbs! It helped too that I had some deer meat from by awesome brother who graciously gave us several pounds of spicy deer sausage and regular burger meat.
  • Organic Chicken Salad made using this egg-free recipe from Oh She Glows (originally for vegan chickpea salad- but worked really well with some freshly cooked chicken off the bone), with carrots and apples added in for extra umph.
  • Buffalo Chickpea Dip from Gluten Free in the City- this was the hit of the party. Everyone raved over it and had no idea it was dairy-free :) It also could be mixed together in my blender in advanced and baked off right before the party.
  • My Broccoli Mango Salad- I felt I needed a raw veggie side dish for some balance :)
  • Fruit, mostly bought pre-prepped and cut
  • Veggies for dipping
  • Chips and a bowl of nuts
  • And the coup de'gra, The Caramel Cake that I made with this recipe for chocolate swiss buttercream (which can be made a head a couple days and left at room temp). I will be posting the recipe later :)