Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Wake up in the middle of the night. Where are my goggles? Find them under Thom’s elbow; lift it up, snatch them back, put them over my big head. Roll over to check the time. It’s 4:47. It’s always 4:47. Sit up. Go to rub my eyes and realize there are goggles in the way. Oh, and you’re not supposed to rub your eyes. Grab my shirt from the end of the bed. I got naked in my sleep again. I bet Thom liked that. Put on pants. A warm sweater. Tiptoe across the cold tile floor, into the bathroom. Sit on the toilet and empty the truckload of urine my bladder collected last night. Take off my goggles. Look at the container of soap sitting at the sink.

AROMATHERAPEUTIC Hand & Body Care Hard-working, naturally derived ingredients and essential oils provide a fresh and clean approach. Oh, how gentle LAVENDER has been valued for it’s wonderful scent that is soothing & believed to RELIEVE FATIGUE. All from an herb.

Wait a minute. You can read the soap label? From here? YOU CAN READ THE SOAP LABEL? Jump up off the toilet. Forget to wash my hands. Run out into the main living area and stand across the room from the bookshelf. I can read every title. Every subtitle. I can identify the books that were loved too much; their bindings are broken, their corners are worn. I can see the growth rings and knots in the woody frame. I can see everything. Clear as day.

Jump with joy. Literally. Do that weird kick/punch thing you do when you get excited. Maybe knock over a chair. You should probably pick it back up. Cry. Hard. For your new vision and ability to see every detail of this beautiful place. Every detail that not even glasses could help you see. Every detail of which you were robbed for the first 24 years of your life. Wash your hands. Give thanks to the man who corrected your 20/200 vision with that fancy laser machine. Think about kissing his face all over next time you see him. Run into the bedroom and kiss Thom’s face all over. Make waffles. Stuff your face with raw almond coconut cacao nib bites and ruin your appetite for waffles. Eat a waffle anyway because not eating a waffle just wouldn’t be right. Eat a waffle anyway because today we’re celebrating eyeballs that finally serve their purpose. All thanks to a man and his fancy laser machine.

Ground almonds + coconut
Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites
Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Notes: I’ve got to admit – it’s taken me almost a year (gasp!) to share this recipe with you guys. Kicking myself. Are you kicking me, too? The add-ins at the end are going to seem like a lot, but trust me on this – add 1/4 cup of each the chopped almonds and cacao nibs. I rolled a few of them in cacao powder to amp up the chocolate flavor, but it didn’t make too much of a difference. You can find the baked version here. And if you want real deal almond joy bites, go here. Or! If you’re not into the awesomeness that is almond + coconut + chocolate, might I interest you in raw brownie bites?
RAW ALMOND COCONUT CACAO NIB BITES

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds, divided
Pinch of Himalayan salt
8 medjool dates, pitted
3 tbsp raw almond milk (or water)
1/4 cup cacao nibs

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the coconut, 1/2 cup of the almonds, and sea salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse for 30-45 seconds. Add the nut milk; pulse until combined. Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the almonds then stir into the mixture, along with the cacao nibs. Using a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes then transfer to an air tight container. Will keep in freezer for several months but I doubt they’ll last that long.

Yield: about 55 bites

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Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Waiting in line at the post office the other day, an older lady with fire engine red lips and perfect platinum hair turned around, looked at me and said, You look tired. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business because WHO SAYS THAT TO A STRANGER? But instead I pulled down my sunglasses and said, I am. I’m really fucking tired.
Her eyes got wide, like she couldn’t believe I just said the f-word to a sweet, little lady such as herself. She gathered her packages, moved along the line and didn’t feel the need to make any other comments to the girl with the potty mouth who wears her sunglasses indoors.

But it’s true, I was tired. So. Incredibly. Tired. My inability to sleep past 5am is only matched by my inability to fall asleep before midnight (except for the other night when I fell asleep on the couch at 10:30) (that was rad), and it’s taking its toll. I have no appetite or energy to go the gym. My body aches all over. And all I want to do is sit on the couch, kick up my feet, and daydream about Thom feeding me chocolate for every meal. Daydream because I have no appetite, remember? And even if I did have an appetite, he wouldn’t ever let me get away with eating chocolate for every meal. He’s kind of a stickler for a well-rounded, vegetable heavy diet.

Sweet potato puree + hot waffle iron
Cacao nibs

I have access to pharmaceutical drugs. Lots of them. From that time I spent five months going back and forth between specialists who felt it necessary to write me prescriptions for things that would numb the pain. But I didn’t want to numb the pain. I wanted to feel better. Genuinely, not fictitiously. So these prescriptions, there’s about a dozen of them and they’re currently tucked into a pocket in a mailbag I never carry. Buried in a basket at the top of my closet that’s much too high for my five foot eight inch frame to reach. I hid them there just in case I ever wanted to forget the pain and have a day of normalcy. But if I really, truly wanted to take the easy way out, I’d have to work for it. And in the end, the effort of carrying a stool into my bedroom and rooting through a basket full of bags would be daunting enough for me to just deal with the current state of things. Which is feeling tired. And ache-y. But mostly really, really tired. I think some people use the term exhausted, but I reserve that for parents with small earthlings. Have you seen those people? They’re the definition of exhausted. I can’t compete with that.
Anyway, on my way home from the post office I cried. Not because I was sad, even though I was, and not because I had just reached my breaking point that I think if I had been home I would have taken a stool into my closet and gone to have every single one of those prescriptions filled – but because I felt bad for saying the f-word in front of a woman who was old enough to be my grandmother. Which only displayed my complete and utter lack of respect for a stranger who did nothing to deserve my unfortunate word choice, even if I was offended by the fact that she noticed the bags and dark circles beneath my eyes. Bags and circles I tried so very hard to conceal behind my sunglasses. But I digress, no one deserves to have a f-bomb dropped on them at the post office. And so I cried.

Sweet potato waffles in the making
Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs
Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Before I went home I made a pitstop to have unwanted hairs lasered off of my body. I only did it because I got a deal through Groupon and have always been fascinated by the seemingly magical process that is laser hair removal. I got zapped a few times and went on my way, but not before questioning the lady at the front desk about the fancy lip balm strategically placed at the checkout counter. She said uses them alllll the time and that they’re fantaaastic. She had chapped lips. So she was either lying about using them alllll the time or lying about them being fanataaastic. Either way, I passed up on the opportunity to have lips that taste like sex on the beach and made my way out the door.
Before I could take three steps I was nearly mauled over by a man who was in a hurry to feed the meter. I turned around with every intention of yelling something nasty at him (like, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, ASSWAD!), but then I spotted that lady across the street. The one with the red lips and platinum hair. I ran toward her as fast as I could yelling HEY LADY! WAIT UP! And she watched as I maneuvered across the street; disheveled, flinging my arms around in attempts to keep the contents of my unzipped backpack safe and sound as I tried my best to beat oncoming traffic. And when I got to her I blurted out how sorry I was for improperly using my words and before I could say anything else, before I could tell her how truly awful it made me feel, she grabbed me by the shoulders – hard enough that I let out a yelp – and said, Darling, don’t worry about it. Go home and get some fucking sleep.

Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Notes: Pumpkin, banana, apple, zucchini or any other puree will work in place of sweet potato. You can replace the gluten free flour with all purpose flour, but omit the xanthan gum. If you don’t have xanthan gum on hand, just leave it out – I’ve made them gluten free without it, and the texture difference wasn’t noticeable. If you’re not into cacao nibs you be crazy, feel free to replace them with chocolate chips. Sarah posted a recipe for coffee syrup and I think you should try it. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve eaten these waffles every day for the past two weeks. They’re good. That good.

Another favorite way to make these waffles: replace 1/2 cup of the flour blend with 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, swap the sweet potato puree with applesauce, and omit the cacao nibs. Top waffles with sliced bananas, a drizzle of full fat coconut milk, cinnamon, pecans, and shredded coconut. They’re perfect for those days that you’re looking for a satisfying breakfast without the sugar high.

SWEET POTATO WAFFLES WITH CACAO NIBS

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cacao nibs

Preheat waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sweet potato puree, almond milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk until combined. Stir in the cacao nibs.
When the waffle iron is heated, spray it with oil. Cook waffles according to the instruction for your iron. I added a scant 3/4 cup of batter to my iron that makes round 7″ waffles. Serve immideately, topped with with your favorite fruit and real maple syrup. If cooking for a group of people, keep waffles warm in a 225˚F oven – no need to place them on a cookie sheet, just put them straight on the oven racks. Cooked waffles can be kept frozen for up to one month. Break in half and reheat in toaster.

Yield: 5 waffles

Banana cream tartlets

Banana cream tartlets

I don’t know how I got here. To banana cream tartlets. What started out as chocolate stout cupcakes somehow turned into maple whiskey muffins, then roasted banana whiskey muffins, then raw banana cream pie, and now: banana cream tartlets. Quite an unusual (and downright frustrating) transition, but I’m thankful for it. Because it made me realize how much I enjoy making pies. No, seriously. If I had to pick one thing to bake for the rest of eternity, it’d be pie.

You’re confused; pie making is the bane of your existence. How could anyone enjoy it? For me, the entire process is theraputic. From pulverizing everything into tiny bits and rolling it out with a big, wooden pin, to vigorously whisking the shit out of some cream and carefully spooning it into each tartlet shell. This process, it calms the waves in my ocean and reminds me that sometimes I just need to get the countertops and space under my fingernails and hair and every saucepan in my kitchen completely filthy, just so I can have a reason to clean and make everything feel new again. And then, when the newness sets in, I’ll sink to the kitchen floor with a piece of pie in my lap – a pie that I crafted, from scratch, with my own two hands – and I’ll dig in and I’ll have never felt more happy or proud to be able to call this my thing. So proud that I want to open the windows and scream to the wanderers below HEY GUYS! I made banana cream tartlets! Without eggs! Or dairy! I WIN!!! But I was too busy shoveling pie into my face to bother with informing anyone of anything.

Pâte brisée in the making
Vanilla cream filling
Tartlet pans
Pâte brisée

Then the pie on my plate disappears, along with my pride. The real obstacle awaits: verification from the unofficial master of taste testing. He takes his first bite and I wait anxiously for the seal of approval; the one where he nods his head, mid chew, and attempts to hum an Uh huh with his lips closed tight. He chews and chews and chews and, finally, his eyes dart to mine and he gives me the nod. He swallows, opens his mouth and, without saying a word, takes another bite. And I breathe a sigh of relief because HALLELUJAH! approval from my biggest critic who really doesn’t like vegan versions of desserts that rely so heavily on eggs and dairy.

I win. You win. We all win. So, how about some banana cream pie in tartlet form?

Pâte brisée
Banana cream tartlets
Banana cream tartlets

Notes:  If you’d prefer to prepare all of the components early, knock yourself out. In fact, I highly recommend it. If you’re not down with using soy milk for the vanilla cream, use lite coconut milk – no rice or almond milk, please. Also, if you’re not using vanilla milk, add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 1 extra tablespoon of cane sugar. I added a bit of xanthan gum to the filling to give it a more pudding-like consistency – but if you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry about it. Same goes for the turmeric; I just added it to give the cream a light yellow tint. If you don’t have a food processor, you can prepare the dough by cutting the butter into the flour; just make sure you get it nice and crumbly. It’s important that the butter stays cold, so you may need to freeze the bowl several times while cutting. If you don’t have pie weights, be sure to follow the tip in the recipe. Your tartlet shells will shrink if you don’t weigh them down. Consider yourself warned.

BANANA CREAM TARTLETS

Pâte brisée
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
1/4 cup water, ice cold

Vanilla cream filling
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum, optional
Small pinch of turmeric, for color
1 1/3 cups vanilla soy milk

Topping
Coconut whipped cream
3-4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced

Prepare the dough by combining the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade; pulse several times to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the container; blend for about 15 seconds, until the dough looks like coarse meal. Add the water and process just until the dough forms large clumps. To test if the dough is properly combined, press two pieces of it between your fingers. If the pieces stick together, you’re good to go; if not, add an additional tablespoon (or two) of water. Roll the dough into a smooth ball and flatten. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until firm. If desired, you can refrigerate the dough for up to two days, or freeze it for up to one month. Thaw in fridge overnight before using.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the vanilla cream filling. Whisk the sugar, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and turmeric in a small saucepan. Add 1/3 cup of the milk and whisk until all clumps have dissolved. Set the saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining milk; stir to combine. It will take 5-6 minutes for the filling to start to thicken, so whisk every so often up until then. Once the cream starts to thicken, let it cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, whisking vigorously every 20 seconds or so. From the time you turn on the burner, do not let it cook any longer than 9 minutes. Remove from heat and let filling cool for 30 minutes. Whisk every 5-10 minutes to ensure the cream doesn’t form clumps. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use. If refrigerating for longer than 1 hour, you may need to whip it with a hand mixer before using. Cream can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to three days.

Once the dough is firm, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour.  Lightly oil five 4-5″ tartlet pans; set aside. Divide the dough into five even segments and roll them into round balls. Roll out one ball of dough until it is about 1/4″ thick. Fit it to one of the prepared pans, pressing it into the bottom and sides. Sweep the rolling pin over the top of the tartlet pan to crimp the excess dough, then prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Continue process with each ball of dough. Transfer the tartlet shells to a large baking sheet then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 375˚F. Once the tartlet shells have chilled, fill them with pie weights (or line with tin foil and fill with rice) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes, until the edges turn slightly golden. Transfer the baked shells to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
To assemble the tartlets, line each shell with just enough banana slices to cover the bottom (if you’re not going to consume them all immideately, skip this step). Top with vanilla cream then cover with more banana slices. Finish with whipped cream. And more banana slices. Or chocolate. Whatever your belly desires.
Yield: 5 tartlets

Chocolate hazelnut pots de crème

Chocolate hazelnut pots de crème

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.  – Neil Gaiman

Muscovado sugar
Cacao nibs
Chocolate hazelnut pots de crème
Chocolate hazelnut pots de crème

Notes: The hazelnut flavor of the custard is super subtle; if you prefer a stronger hazelnut tone, add an additional tablespoon of hazelnut liqueur. If you don’t have coconut milk, you can substitute equal amounts of soy cream. If using non-dairy milk (almond, soy, etc.) you’ll want to increase the the tapioca starch to 5-6 tablespoons. The best thickener for custards tend to be those of the root variety, so feel free to use potato or arrowroot in place of the tapioca. I used muscovado sugar because it’s super rich and helps to deepen the flavor of the custard, but feel free to use cane sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, etc. If you’d prefer to skip the baking step, knock yourself out. But you’ll still need to refrigerate the custard until set.

The consistency of canned coconut milk varies greatly. If using Thai Kitchen (one of the higher quality coconut milks, in my opinion), you’ll want to boil the mixture for only 5 minutes instead of 10. If using Native Forest, follow the instructions as laid out below. Unfortunately, I have not tested any other coconut milks.

Update: I tried making this with a cheaper variety of dark chocolate and it did not turn out properly. It is important that you use the best quality chocolate you can find – I’ve used Valrhona le Noir 61% chocolate and Whole Foods 56% cacao with great results.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT POTS DE CRÈME

4 oz good quality dark chocolate
1 3/4 cups full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tbsp hazelnut liqueur
3 tbsp tapioca starch

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line the bottom of a shallow baking pan with a small towel; set aside. Chop the chocolate and place it in a large mixing bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut milk, sugar, and hazelnut liqueur; bring to a boil and let rumble for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat, pour over chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes; whisk to combine. Sift in the tapioca starch and whisk vigorously until all clumps have disappeared. To reduce the number of air bubbles (or leftover starch clumps, if any), pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Divide the creme between four 4 ounce ramekins and place them in the prepared baking pan. Fill the pan with warm water, just until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. If you don’t want a thin layer of “skin” to form atop the custards, cover the pan with foil. However, covered custards will take considerably longer to set. Bake at 325˚F for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool (room temperature), then chill in fridge for at least 4 hours to set. Top with cacao powder, whipped cream, toasted hazelnuts, and cacao nibs, if desired.

Yield: 4 pots