Raw fig cheesecake

Raw fig cheesecake

I feel compelled to write this, not because I care (about fat) that much, but because I feel like people are being misled. Lied to, in a sense. And although it appears to be unintentional, I think you deserve the right to know.

There’s this idea floating around the blogosphere that raw desserts are healthy. That you can eat them in large amounts and Hey! It’s alright, it’ll never go straight to your ass because good fats are healthy! I’m sorry friends, but this could not be further from the truth. Yes, good fats are better than bad fats, but that doesn’t make good fats healthy, in any sense. It just means good fats are better for you than bad fats.

Raw desserts are nutrient dense. Are they healthy in that respect? Sure. When you consider the amount of fat? Absolutely not. As far as your weight is concerned, fat is fat is fat. Obviously bad fats differ from good fats, but just because certain fats are deemed “good” doesn’t mean they can be eaten in excess. Just so we’re clear, raw desserts are not healthy, they’re just better for you than their baked counterparts (and even that is arguable). And they, like normal desserts, are meant to be consumed in moderation.

If you so desire, you can read all about good fats and bad fats here. This concludes my public service announcement for the day.

Raw fig cheesecake
Raw fig cheesecake
Raw fig cheesecake

Notes: This can be made in a larger spring form pan (or tart pan), if needed. You don’t have to add the beet juice; I only did because I wanted the cheesecake to be a pretty shade of pink. Blueberry juice would also be nice. If you don’t want to add any juice, add additional nut milk. Or water. If you can’t find dried figs for the crust, you can substitute 12-14 medjool dates. Same goes for the filling, but use 6-8 medjool dates. If you’re not using a high powered blender, it would probably be best to soak the calimyrna figs for upwards of 30 minutes. You may also need to add more liquid to the cashew mixture, to get it to blend properly.

RAW FIG CHEESECAKE

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw almonds
20 dried mission figs
8-10 dried calimyrna figs
6 tbsp raw nut milk (or water)
2 tbsp red beet juice
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup chopped raw nuts
4-6 fresh black figs

Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with water; let soak overnight, or for at least 4 hours (the longer you soak them, the better – especially if you don’t have a high powered blender). Line the bottom of a round 6″ spring form pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the walnuts, pecans and almonds into a coarse meal. Add the dried mission figs and pulse until combined. Press mixture into the prepared pan then cover with plastic and freeze until ready to use.
Once the cashews have soaked, discard the soaking water and add the cashews to the container of a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the dried calimyrna figs, nut milk, beet juice, lemon juice and vanilla bean; blend until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. If you have a Vitamix, you’ll want to use the tamper. If you don’t have a Vitamix, you’ll likely have to give the mixture a good stir every minute or so. Once blended, pour the cashew mixture over the crust and freeze overnight, or until solid.
When ready to serve, allow the tart to thaw for 15 minutes, then top with chopped nuts and fresh figs.

Yield: 12-16 servings

How to make peanut butter

Peanuts

A waning crescent greeted me as I got off of the bus at 5:30 yesterday morning, surrounded by a blanket of stars. I stood there in complete shock, jaw dropped, staring into the infinite darkness for what seemed like forever. You know, I don’t remember the last time I saw the sky covered in stars. Hell, I can’t even remember the last time I saw our natural satellite, and that thing’s visible despite the luminous glow from the city.

Then it happened again – our world stunned me with her beauty. I woke up this morning and that same crescent greeted me, perched right between the break in the tall buildings, surrounded by a hazy blue sky painted with patchy clouds. I gave it a half smile, then closed the blinds, turned on the twinkly lights (which were stripped from our pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree and currently adorn our bookshelves), and poured myself a cup of coffee. Moments later, light flooded my living room, painting every white surface an electric shade of pink. I walked to the blinds I had closed minutes before and opened them – the sky was on fire, burning brilliant hues of orange and red. I stared it, just like the sky full of stars, in complete shock and awe. It knocked the wind out of me; it took my breath away.

I know to some of you this may sound completely ridiculous, but living in the city – in the heart of downtown – you don’t get to experience these things often. It’s easy to bypass the beauty when you’re surrounded by tall buildings and the hustle and bustle of each day. And I imagine it’s just as easy to take for granted if you’re encompassed by the beauty on a regular basis (Iceland, I’m looking at you). But I urge you to stop for a moment and acknowledge how truly incredible our world is. I think you’ll find that her beauty is unparalleled, and that we are undeserving.

I wish I could stay here forever, don’t you?

Peanut butter in the making
Five minute peanut butter

Notes: Contrary to high prices indicating otherwise, making peanut butter is quite simple. You take some peanuts (dry roasted, oil roasted, whatever kind you like) and blend them in a food processor with a bit of salt. Bam, that’s it. If you want to get fancy, add a teaspoon of unsulphured molasses and a tablespoon of cane sugar. And no, this peanut butter is not like that hydrogenated junk you buy at the grocery. It has a fine, grainy texture and bursts with flavor, making it my peanut butter of choice.

PEANUT BUTTER

1 pound dry roasted peanuts
Pinch of fine sea salt

If your peanuts aren’t already shelled, do so and remove the skins (skin removal is optional). Blend the peanuts and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade for 4-5 minutes, or until the peanut butter becomes smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. Sometimes I’ll stop mixing mine at 3 1/2 minutes (when it’s still thick and dough-like), but lately I’ve preferred blending it for the full 5 minutes. Transfer to an air tight container and store in pantry or refrigerator.

Yield: 1 pound

Pumpkin pie sundaes

Pumpkin pie sundae

My mind is cluttered and full this week; bursting with lists of to-dos, to-mights and to-probably will nots. And for that, I am wordless. Leaving you with a beautiful, thought-provoking letter that Jack Kerouac wrote to his first wife, Edie. It sends feel-good chills up my spine. I hope it does the same for you, too.

• • •

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever.

Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.
The world you see is just a movie in your mind.”

Whipped coconut cream | Pie pieces
Cinnamon sugar pie pieces
Pumpkin pie sundae

Notes: To make the pie crust cookies gluten free, simply replace the flours with a gluten free flour blend and xanthan gum. If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Also, you don’t have to add the coconut water to the coconut whipped cream, but I like it to be slightly less dense than what it is without the addition of coconut water. So, do as you wish.

PUMPKIN PIE SUNDAES

6 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp cane sugar
1 small pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup vegan butter, cold
1-2 tbsp water, ice cold
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tbsp cinnamon sugar
Pumpkin spice ice cream

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, cane sugar and salt; stir until combined. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal with a few larger chunks. Add the water and mix the crumbles with your hands, just until a dough forms. Pat the dough into a round ball and set aside.

Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick. Using a small cookie cutter (I used leaf shaped cutters), cut the dough and transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 6-7 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet, then store in an air tight container until ready to use.

Remove the coconut milk from the fridge and scoop out the thick, white layer of fat on top. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the coconut water, then store the remainder for later use (in smoothies), if desired. Using a handheld electric mixer, cream the coconut milk fat, 2 teaspoons of coconut water, powdered sugar and vanilla bean on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. 
To assemble the sundaes, put a few scoops of ice cream into 4-6 bowls. Divide pie pieces between the bowls and top with coconut whipped cream. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon for good measure. Enjoy!

Yield: 4-6 sundaes

Pumpkin spice ice cream

Pumpkin spice ice cream

Since I over shared a few months back, I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking questions in regards to the current state of my health. Truth is, I figured you’d eventually forget about it and we could just go on like I never mentioned anything, but.. you didn’t. So I guess I should say sorry for keeping you in the dark.

SORRY!

After months of what seemed like handing over vial after vial of my precious blood for no apparent reason, my doctors “diagnosed” me with a condition called aplastic anemia – which is basically a fancy way of saying my bone marrow isn’t producing a sufficient amount of new blood cells. I put diagnosed in quotations because you can’t actually be diagnosed with aplastic anemia unless you have a bone marrow biopsy – I’ve put off having the procedure because the idea of someone jabbing me in the pelvis with a large needle, then extracting my marrow, is an extremely unsettling thought. So, due in part to my fear of needles, and in part to my aversion to medicine, we’re taking the holistic route to treat this thing; no bone marrow biopsy, no medication, no chemotherapy, no bone marrow transplant. I’m counting on nature, for this one.

Cinnamon sticks
Cinnamon sticks
Pumpkin pie spice

Despite it being potentially fatal if left untreated, aplastic anemia is reversible in young, healthy adults. Reversible! Reversible! But in order for the disorder to reverse itself, I have to allow my body to do it naturally; medication isn’t an option. Although I am technically not treating it (my doctors just love reminding me of that), my blood counts are being monitored closely – which makes my holistic approch pretty damn safe. And aside from following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, I’ve started boosting my system with vitamins galore and increasing the already enormous amount of produce I consume on a daily basis. So far, so good, as my once deteriorating health has been on a steady incline.

I feel better. So much better. I’m genuinely happy to be alive and (on the path to getting) well, grateful to have such incredibly supportive people in my life, and feeling pretty fortunate to have the capacity to treat this thing holistically. I’ve got one year to get better – fingers crossed and good vibes for higher blood counts, folks. Now, how about some ice cream?

Pumpkin spice ice cream

When this ice cream was still imaginary, Thom went on and on about how delicious it’d be to load it up with chunks of pie crust. I looked at him, rolled my eyes, and told him there wasn’t a chance in hell that would happen. Chunks of pie crust IN ice cream? Then there I was, standing in the kitchen in my underwear (a regular occurrence in our house), rolling out pie dough. So, in the very near future I’ll show you how to make a mean ass pumpkin pie sundae – and yes, it includes vanilla bean whipped cream.
Notes: The spice measurements below are equivalent to one tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice – so if you have that on hand, add that instead of each of the spices individually. Also, you might be able to get away with replacing the full fat coconut milk with equal amounts of light coconut milk, because the pumpkin puree makes this stuff super thick and creamy. If you don’t have sucanat, replace it with brown sugar. Or maple syrup. Psst, this is super delicious served over a warm brownie.

PUMPKIN SPICE ICE CREAM

1 3/4 cups full fat coconut milk
1 3/4 cups light coconut milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup sucanat
1 tbsp pure vanilla exract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 1 cup of the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, sucanat and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil and whisk vigorously to ensure the pumpkin mixture smoothes out. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of coconut milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves; whisk to combine. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, pour the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream machine and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat ice cream immideately (it will be somewhat soft) or transfer to a container and freeze until ready to consume. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 1.5 quarts