Sunday, August 31, 2008

Birthday Bash Weekend

It's that time of year again...summer is coming to an end, other things are beginning, and it's my birthday today - but I already had a very small celebration last weekend. Most of my friends a) don't live here anymore, b) just left town (most people leave at the end of summer), or c) couldn't make it, however, it was a wonderful day with family and a few close friends.

The day started with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to my door, from my hunny - the perfect centerpiece for dinner! Oh how I love flowers!
But no time to rest - it was time to get into the kitchen. One of my favourite things about any kind of entertaining is preparing the food (whats new?). My mom offered to "attempt a raw cake, if she got Carmella to walk her thought it", LOL, but I assured her that I really didn't mind making my own birthday cake. In fact, it was the perfect opportunity to re-test a few desserts that'll be in the book.

For appetizers I made: a batch of fresh salsa to go with raw crackers/ chips...


Cucumber rounds with cheese dip





Fruit skewers: dragon fruit, pineapple, watermelon balls, mango, raspberries, peach, orange





Guacamole stuffed tomatoes



We needed delicious drinks too, of course, so I made Strawberry/watermelon daquiris: watermelon, frozen strawberries, bit of pineapple, and vodka, blended together. Mmmm, these were so creamy, sweet and frosty!




Me and one of my best friends, Marcy. We ate dinner down on the dock - it was the most beautiful evening!

My hunny is a goofball - can you tell? ;)

Taking into account that not everyone wants just raw vegan food, for the main course there was bbq chicken, potatoes, garlic bread, salad, and eggplant as my "chicken". After all the appys, drinks, and dinner, we were pretty full...so let our food settle a bit before having cake.

I was showered with wonderful gifts, including new "goodies" for entertaining. Darwin knows me well! New serving platters in funky shapes, and these really neat circular rings made out of bone china, that can come apart or stay together for a huge serving platter. Yay, I'll have to host a dinner party soon!


Finally it was time for cake - despite the fact that our bellies were still full from dinner, we managed to chow down some more. I had a hard time deciding what to make, but ended up choosing a tropical cheesecake (a recipe that'll be in my dessert book), topped with kiwi, dragon fruit, mango, and pineapple, and is light/cooling which I thought was perfect for all the hot weather we've been having. Actually, you might remember having seen this cheesecake in a post quite a while back, and I've only made it twice since then, so this was the perfect opportunity. So a fruit dessert was all well and good...buuut...at the last minute I couldn't help myself - I had to make something chocolate too :) I made this dense chocolate nut cake, with a thick layer of rich chocolate cream, topped off with chocolate covered banana chunks. Yes, this was the ultimate in raw chocolate decadance.


Got all the candles in one shot!

Strawberry sauce with the cheesecake. Yum, it was good. Strawberries, dates, lemon juice, coconut oil, cashews.

After dessert, we had a bon fire - probably one of the last for the summer now, boo hoo!!

Marcy and her boyfriend, Andy tented in the yard (they live an hour away)! lol - I think he's happy to have a girl in each arm here. haha


Lots of goofing around! Good times!


Next morning, it was straight into the lake for some swim time! Whew, it was a scorcher! After that I made breakfast for everyone...and then we had fun painting each others toenails (well, just the girls) :D

Can you figure out who's foot is who's?

Wow, what a day - and what a great birthday weekend. I couldn't have asked for anything more. It was absolutely perfect!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Raspberry nIce Cream

Gotta love raspberries!
By now you know I'm on a berry kick - I've gotta take full advantage during the teeny weeny of window that we get up here. For any of you who are familiar with gardening zones (I really don't know much) - we are a zone 1 or 2 - the very lowest, meaning that it's a really cold climate and only the heartiest things will grow - actually, I'm always amazed that anything at all comes to life after a harsh winter! Ah, what an amazing universe we live in.

So with all the raspberries I've been picking, I really wanted to make an ice cream. This recipe requires a little time, but it's well worth the effort. If you are short on time (or lazy), then simply use strawberries instead and there is no need to strain the seeds. You can also use any other berries - bluberries...or blackberries (too bad those don't grow around here). I've added lucuma, but it's optional - it tastes just as great without!
Raspberry Ice Cream

4 cups raspberries
1 cup almond mylk
(I used 1 part almonds: 2 1/2 water)
1 cup macadamia nuts or cashews
1/2 cup agave
3 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp lucuma (opt)

-Puree the raspeberries until smooth.
-Strain the seeds through a fine mesh strainer (or whatever else you have - a nut mylk bag should do). I strained the puree twice, but you might not have to. This should yield 1 1/2 cups seedless raspberry puree.
-Add all ingredients (sans the seeds, of course) to the blender and mix until completely smooth and creamy.
-Chill the mixture and then process though an ice cream maker, or freeze in an ice cube tray - or make popsicles out of it!

This is a creamy, smooth, delicious ice cream, with a lightness at the same time. It's really nice.
You can see here, the colour is lighter than the above - the camera likes to do that. This pic was taken in the shade, vs. the other in the sun. I'd say the actual colour is a shade in between.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Berry-Licious


It's still berry madness around here, and if anything, it's only getting better! I've just had the most wonderful long weekend, on the lake, in the bush, and in the kitchen! Darwin and I canoed to a little cabin for a getaway, and guess what?! It just so happens that there is a blueberry patch nearby. After navigating over, under, and around lots of brush in a cutover, we managed to fill our blue pail with a breakfast of berries. Mmmm! Other than that, we enjoyed canoeing, sunbathing, a campfire, a lightening and thunder show (fortunately just after safely arriving at the camp), and having quiet time to ourselves.

We just love being out here, its so peaceful - and the weather was perfect!

Our little cabin in the woods

This was a little resting/swimming point along our journey.

The view from here is incredible!


By today I was back in the berry patch, where it was like picking grapes in some spots - I picked buckets and buckets, while gorging like a bear :)
Back to the kitchen, here's a very simple Blueberry Sorbet I whipped up the other day...I adore the colour.

2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 cups almond mylk

3/4 cup agave

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend until smooth. Chill and then process through an ice cream maker - OR freeze in ice cube trays.

Salads and fruit puddings also make great summertime food. Here are a few recent ones that have been at my dinner table.

We've had lots of butter leaf lettuce coming out of the garden, along with zucchini, basil, and parsley. I've used these ingredients as a base, along with cherry tomatoes, red/yellow peppers, avocado, and a sprinkling of lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil.


Tropical Fruit Pudding - It's nice to throw something other than local berries into the mix :)

I like to dump things into the blender in no specific quantity. Here, I've mixed: pineapple, banana, mango, macadamia nuts, water, and vanilla - topped with fresh raspberries.

I hope you're enjoying the abundance of fresh food around you this summer too!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Berry Heaven

In keeping with the theme from the last post...here is more on berries!

Fortunately, I am blessed with an abundance of wild berries every summer. In fact, I've recently visited the berry patch, returning home with heaps of blueberries and raspberries. I enjoy eating many (maybe TOO many, lol) of the berries in their natural state, but I also get a thrill out of creating delicious desserts with these beauties.

I have patiently been waiting to make the peach cobbler from the Purely Delicious calender, since it was given to me at Christmas. I finally made the cobbler last week with some beautiful fresh peaches, and the addition of raspberries. Oooh yumm! Is this ever a great recipe. So fresh and juicy! Simply peel and thinly slice peaches, adding berries (if desired). In a food processor, blend some fresh pineapple, dates, honey or agave, vanilla, pinch of sea salt, and lemon juice - until smooth. Fold into the peaches. Now process until crumbly: 1 1/2 cups nuts (I used pecans and walnuts) with 1/4 cup medjool dates, 1 tsp coconut oil, and 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract. Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. Eat it immediately or chill for a few hours to let the flavours marinate.

So back to the berry patch - I'd love to share with you, some pictures of what blueberry country looks like. This particular patch is almost an hour's drive from my house, but there are hundreds of spots - some closer, and some even further away. If you think it doesn't look like much, you're right! This is called a "cut over", where large plots of trees have been cut down (huge logging industry up here). The blueberries THRIVE in this sandy bedded environment!
Here's what a blueberry bush looks like - Aren't they gorgeous?! This year's crop is especially great, I think due to all the rain earlier this summer, and now the intense heat. By next weekend it should be absolutely insane berry picking!

I'm blissed out in the bluberries! You can get an idea of how big the bushes are. Pretty small! It's the squatting game the whole time, but some people bring little stools to sit on.


I was so inspired by the peach raspberry cobbler, that I decided to make a blue/raspberry crumble parfait. I layered the berries with a pecan/walnut/date crumble and a berry cream made of: blueberries, raspberries, mango, dates, walnuts, lemon juice, and agave.

Tonight I'll be searching out another spot and then it's back to the patch next weekend, for more picking to my heart's content :D

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blueberry Cardamom Cake


Eeks!! I know I've been totally MIA for a while. Ah, you know how it is with summer - busy busy busy, and who has time to sit in front of the computer for hours when it's hot and sunny outside?! Actually, I haven't had many creations for a while, with all the activity going on - but it's indeed a great time of year wi th all the goodies being pumped outta the garden. Today I was picking fresh sugarsnap peas and zucchinis, which got me thinking about the pasta primavera I made last summer...Mmmm. I also picked raspberries and will be picking mountains of blueberries next week! Anywho, that note brings me to the flavour of today...

Remember my ice cream post a while back when I made the blueberry cardamom ice cream??? It has since turned into a favourite of mine, and even made an appearance in Carmella's newest book, The Best of Raw Freedom Community. If you're looking for some great raw recipes and tips in the kitchen, paired with "outta this world" photography, then this is the book for you! A huge "Thank You" is officially in order to my dear friend Carmella who continues to give to the raw community and has put so much love, attention, time, and care into this book!

Ok, so onto some cake now. I realize that you've already seen the recipe if you've been following my blog, but I want to share it again anyway - nothin like a little refresher here and there, plus here's a bit of a twist on the original idea.

With company coming last weekend, it was time to whip up a summery dessert. Of course, I thought and thought about it, as I tried to come up with something that was cool, refreshing, and leaning towards the lighter side. I thought of ice cream right away, and then realized that with long hours at work, I just didn't have the time to get the ol' ice cream maker out for the whole process. Welcome, ice cream cake! Whip up a crust, pour the ice cream filling on top, and pop it into the freezer. Done!

Blueberry Cardamom Ice Cream Cake

Crust:
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used almonds)
4 pitted, medjool dates

In a food processor, grind the nuts a bit. Add the dates and continue processing until the mixture forms a dough.
Press into the bottom of a 6-8" springform pan.

Ice Cream Filling:

2 cups macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cup almond milk
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup agave
1/3 cup melted coconut butter
1 tbs + 1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

Blend all but the coconut butter, until smooth. Now add the butter and blend again. Pour over the nut crust. Freeze until set.

To Serve: Remove the cake from the freezer and let soften in the fridge for a few hours, or until it is just soft enough to slice. Garnish with bluberries and serve immediately.

Note: A blueberry sauce would also work well on the cake. Simply blend blueberries with lemon juice and agave, to taste.

Yummm, give it a try this summer while the berries are in season :) Enjoy!