Lite Raspberry Sorbet

The stevia streak continues, this time with a little flavor boost: vanilla. I’ve tried stevia in ice cream before with not so great results, so this raspberry ice cream — sorbet? sherbert? — came as a pleasant surprise to me. It had just the right amount of sweetness, no bitter aftertaste (my toughest dessert critic, Gennaro, can back me up on this) and a nice texture — if you eat it right away, that is. The longer this ice cream is left to set in the freezer, the more icy and flaky it becomes. Not inedible (and I imagine a good addition to a smoothie) but it’s annoying to wait for it to thaw back to a creamy consistency, which takes a bit of time.

So, it’s not perfect (re: the freezing-too-long issues mentioned above), but this ice cream is quite unexpectedly good considering it’s sugar-free, low calorie, vegan, and super simple to prepare. It’s an especially nice after-dinner sweet for when you’re — ahem — looking to fit into your wedding dress in August…

Stevia Raspberry Ice Cream:

2 cups frozen raspberries

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 13.5-oz. can lite (or light) coconut milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavored liquid stevia

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, toss raspberries with arrowroot and heat over medium heat, stirring occassionally, until raspberries break down into a sauce-like texture. Set aside to cool.

2. Combine raspberry sauce with coconut milk and remaining ingredients in ice cream machine and prepare according to your machine’s directions.

Told you this one was simple!

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Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream

This recipe was made possible by my future mother-in-law, who took a cue from my post about not having an ice cream maker and bought me one as a shower gift. I was so excited to get back to New York to start using it. There was one point in time where I thought ice cream makers were novelty items that collected dust in the cupboard. Then I developed a penchant for the vegan, agave-sweetened ice cream at Stogo and realized I couldn’t afford to keep up my delicious but expensive ice cream habit. That is, unless I learned to make my own.

It started with no machine ice cream — an icy yet creamy mango version was good enough to tide me over. But I knew that I couldn’t go machineless forever. So that’s where this gift came in handy. Sugar, whenever I use my new machine (which is sure to be often), I’ll think of you!

Of course, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing from there. The whole “vegan” part of it wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it might be. I’m still in search of a great soy-based recipe. But for now, another coconut-based version will do. The difference, I think, between the two is that coconut milk — even the light kind — has naturally more fat than soy milk. Next time I use a soy base I may try to fatten it up a bit. Plus, I’m not sure if this makes a difference or not, but the coconut milk I used was the Thai Kitchen variety, which contains guar gum as an emulsifier. Perhaps that helped create some of the creaminess of this version. I think some additional experimentation may answer some of these questions. But for tonight, I’m going to enjoy this mocha version without any further questioning as to why it turned out while the others didn’t. I’ll leave that for another day. What I am wondering is how this one turned out so creamy and rich when I used light coconut milk (which has only 45 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving) and no additional fats. I feared it would be too icy in texture, but I don’t think that’s the case. Good to know, at least, that loads of fat is not a prerequisuite for good ice cream. I did make up for the lighter ice cream by sprinkling with a few toasted pecans, as pictured.

For my next experiment, I’m curious as to some of your favorite flavors. Perhaps I could try to tackle one of those next. Growing up, I always liked “Blue Moon,” though I fear the novelty of blue ice cream has worn off with age. These days, I’m digging coffee (hence, the mocha) and simple flavors like vanilla bean and coconut with a simple fruit sauce to top it off. I’d love to know some of your favorites.

Mocha Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can lite coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchens)

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 tablespoon ground coffee

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients except agave. Pour into a medium-sized saucepan and heat over high heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, whisking occassionally. Remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar. Set aside to cool.

2. When mixture has cooled, pour into a glass bowl or glass, 1-qt. measuring cup. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.

3. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and proceed according to directions.*

* my machine is a countertop Cuisinart. If you’re using a countertop machine, be sure the mixing bowl is completely chilled in refrigerator — which can take up to 24 hours — until completely frozen through.  

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Roasted Carrot Salad

It’s been a busier-than-expected week for me, from traveling back to Michigan for my bridal showers to returning to New York to reorganize the apartment to accommodate my new shower “swag.” The past few days have involved several trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond, The Salvation Army for drop-offs and a complete overhaul of our kitchen and two messy storage closets. Why is it that “vacations” can, at times, seem busier than everyday life? I guess that’s somewhat of a byproduct of living in a 700 square foot apartment — seemingly every free moment is spent figuring out how to best utilize your tiny space.

We did get in a few moment of relaxation while my mom was here visiting. Last night, we saw Next to Normal, which was pretty awesome. I would recommend it for anyone looking to see a good Broadway show, whether you’re visiting or live in New York. I was either crying, laughing or grinning from ear-to-ear at any given moment during the two-and-a-half hour runtime. My mom loved the show as well, having already fallen in love with the music after hearing it on her Sirius Broadway station.

Before the show, we did dinner at Saravanaas. I’ve wanted to go there for the past three years, though I somehow never got around to it until last night. That’s one of the many nice things about having visitors (or your mom) coming into town: you have an excuse to get out of your apartment and actually enjoy the city around you.

Saravanaas was just as good as expected. The paper masala dosa was delicious with two different kinds of chutney, curry and sambar, as was the idli. For $23.00 we had those two dishes and a vegetable curry dish, plus tea. Not a bad price for NYC…

idli

dosaToday, we stayed in and I made this roasted carrot salad. I didn’t write down the recipe, but the ingredients and process is simple enough that I figured it might be nice to post a no-recipe “recipe” here. This is where your inner chef takes over…Heck, you don’t even need an inner chef. Just use this recipe as a base and let your taste buds guide you from there.

Roasted Carrot Salad:

Serves: 4-5 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 425. Toss strips of  fresh carrot (about 6-8) in a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and just a drizzle of agave nectar.  Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, tossing halway through. Add chopped, flat-leaf Italian parsley, drained and sliced kalamata olives and capers. If desired, add  garbanzo beans, or drained and chopped artichoke hearts. Toss with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Citrus Jicama Salad

Ironically, while I was in the midst of testing my 4th batch of streusel bars, I actually got hungry. I was craving something light and clean to contrast the sweet and buttery bars. I usually make a jicama salad with mango and mint. But grapefruit is in season and mango is a little harder to find these days. Plus, I just read somewhere (or maybe I saw it on The Dr. Oz Show, though I’m a little ashamed to admit this) that grapefruit can speed up your metabolism. It is also quite low on the glycemic index and is high in fiber. This salad is one of those rare combinations of super-healthy and low calorie while still being sort of addictingly good. You can adjust the dressing according to your taste — more or less agave, more salt, less oil, etc. Be sure to get really juicy lemons and limes for the dressing. I didn’t measure exactly when I made mine, but I know that the lemons and limes I used yielded a lot of juice. If yours are slightly less juicy, just adjust the rest of the ingredients proportionately.

Cirtus Jicama Salad:

1 jicama, peeled and diced

1 grapefruit, segmented (membranes removed using hands)

1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffoned or minced

Dressing:

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)

Directions:

Combine jicama, grapefruit and mint in a salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.

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Vegan Caesar Salad

vegan caesar saladCaesar salad is one of those ubiquitous menu items. It ranges anywhere from a pre-packaged container of stale croutons and wilted lettuce at the airport to the real good stuff that’s tossed tableside, to order, at the best Italian restaurants. As a result, the legitimacy of any given Caesar is sometimes questioned, let alone a vegan Caesar.

I’m always hesitant to put together a recipe that seeks to omit an inherent ingredient in a classic dish. Look at any Caesar recipe. It may be eggless. There may or may not be anchovies. Some include mustard. But there is almost always going to be parmesan cheese. That’s what makes it so good.

I’m sorry to inform anyone that I haven’t found the magical vegan substitute for parmesan. For many vegans, a popular alternative is nutritional yeast, which I used in this recipe. It’s nutty — and, by definition, nutritious — but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re looking for an exact match. That said, I invite you to suspend your notion of what a “Caesar” salad should or should not taste like — or include. This is just a good, creamy, salty, nutty, tangy dressing with the spirit of a classic Caesar and without the eggs or anchovies. Or the parmesan cheese.

In lieu of croutons, I sometimes use chickpeas for a bit of texture and a touch of protein. I also like to use my focaccia recipe for croutons. I toss cubed focaccia in a little bit of olive oil and baking them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Use 1 head of chopped, crisp romaine lettuce for this salad. This will serve about 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as an entree salad. The dressing recipe makes plenty of dressing, so store any remaining dressing in a glass jar in refrigerator. It will definitely keep for a few days, if not longer (it’s never lasted long enough in my fridge for me to find out). 

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

1 clove raw garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 scallion, white part only

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Blend all ingredients  for dressing in a blender until smooth. Toss romaine with just enough dressing to coat lettuce. Serve right away.

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Cran-Raspberry Tart

I love this recipe because it’s the perfect mix of tart and sweeet. I originally tried this recipe with blueberries, then with cherries, but ultimately, the tart mix of cranberry and sweet, unmistakable flavor of raspberry is the best combination. Add the earthy, spicy cinnamon in the crust, and you’re in tart heaven. I would also consider inverting the recipe and using the crust mixture as a topping in a cran-raspberry crisp. This would certainly be a less fussy way to use these ingredients. But alas, I am always partial to a pretty tart, which can oftentimes be deceptively quite simple to prepare.

If you like this recipe, try Elana‘s recipe for Tart and Tangy Cranberry Bars, which inspired this recipe.

Gluten Free Tart Crust:

2 cups raw walnuts

6 dates, pitted

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a food processor, using a sharp blade, puree ingredients for crust until crumbly and malleable, resembling the texture of wet sand.

3. Turn contents into a pre-greased tart pan. You can either use 4, 3-inch tart pans or 1 9-inch pan. Using fingers and the bottom of a measuring cup, press crust into bottom of pan and up sides until evenly distributed and smooth.

4. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust. Bake tart crust in preheated oven — 12-15 minutes for smaller tarts and about 17 minutes if using a larger tart pan.  Watch carefully toward the end of baking to make sure the edges don’t burn. To prevent burning, you can wrap your edges in foil.

5. When crust is crisp around the edges, remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.

Cran-Raspberry Filling:

3 cups frozen cranberries

1 cup frozen raspberries

1/3 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine frozen berries and agave nectar and simmer, stirring occassionally, until bubbly and cranberries begin to pop, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir occassionally until filling mixture begins to thicken. Set aside to cool.

2. When filling has substantialy cooled, pour into pre-baked crust and chill in the refrigerator for another hour. Serve.

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Raw, Grain-free, Vegan Sushi Rolls

Let me first apologize to those sushi purists out there who object to anything rice-free being called sushi (which literally means “vinegared rice,” not “ground nut and vegetable thing”). I am sincerely sorry. Second, let me apologize to those raw purists for calling this dish “raw” even though the recipe calls for a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and nori, which is lightly toasted as well. I thought I could sneak it past everyone, but in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would just come out with it (any true raw purists out there who know whether either of these ingredients is actually forbidden? I would actually love to know). I have to confess as well that this was not my genius idea, but a treat I have enjoyed several times at the Living Zen Organics Cafe at the Detroit Zen Center — a place I’ve praised here before, and one I’ve included in my “Delectably Free Faves.” Being a frequent visitor of the cafe whenever I am back in Michigan, I have had the privilege of being able to study their raw sushi enough to pay homage to it with a version that is somewhat distinct in flavor and texture, but still quite good. In fact, Gennaro, my harshest taste-tester (by default, really, because he is the only person who samples all the meals I make before posting them here), gave this dish a “very good,” which translates to two thumbs up from him (I’ve learned to decode his comments after years of experience, being that he is un-critical by nature, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse).

This dish also seems like an appropriate continuation of the holiday detox theme. This is a carb-free sushi that provides several health benefits from walnuts, which are high in fiber (a must for any successful detox), vitamin E (good for the brain and the immune system) and omega-3 fatty acids (also good for brain health and immune function, as well as well as beneficial for cardiovascular health). Sunflower seeds, as well, are a great source of vitamin E. They are also high in magnesium (good for bone health and for regulating nerves) and selenium, which contains cancer-fighting and detoxifying properties. Add vegetables and nori, which is rich in potassium and iron, and you have one delicious, super-healthy meal, appetizer or snack. This sushi is also a great way to get a picky eater to eat nuts, I might add, as they are ground up and seasoned, making them virtually unidentifiable in the dish.

Raw Vegan Sushi:

Yield: 4 rolls

4 sheets sushi nori

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup raw walnuts, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon reduced sodium wheat free tamari or coconut amino

3 scallions, chopped, white part only (use rest for garnish)

3 tablespoons – 1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 large carrot, julienned

1/2 large cucumber, julienned

1 avocado, sliced

1 teaspoon wasabi paste, plus more for serving

Directions:

1. In a blender, combine sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame oil, tamari, scallions, water and sea salt until fairly smooth, but with some texture remaining (but not large chunks). This process may take some coaxing with a spoon, and you may add more water as needed.

2. Spread about 1/4 of the nut mixture over 3/4 of the sheet of nori, leaving open space at the end of one side of the sheet. Using your fingers, spread about a 1/4 teaspoon of the wasabi paste about 1/4 inch away from the edge of the clean end, making a thin layer which will be used to seal the end of the nori after the sushi has been rolled. Place some julienned vegetables and sliced avocado on the end with the nut mixture, and, tucking the vegetables in with your fingers, tightly roll the sushi (special sushi tools, I’ve found, are handy for this but not necessary), pressing down on the nori as you go. When rolled, press the end of the nori down slightly with finger to seal.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with remaining nori, nuts and vegetables.

4. Cut sushi into equal-sized pieces using a sharp knife (serrated is best). Serve with additional wasabi, pickled ginger and wheat-free tamari sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

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