Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan ‘Cheese Cake’

I have to confess…until a few months ago I did not know that there were an increasing number of folks in the world who were following a totally ‘raw foods’ diet!  My first reaction was – wow, that’s great – so healthy and ‘no need to cook’!  I looked over a lot of raw food bloggers’ websites  and saw how creative they were getting with their raw food recipes!  Gosh, it is mind boggling! Personally for me I don’t think I can manage a complete raw food diet since I would crave for warm food from time to time!  However, hats off to those who can pull it off and doing well with it.

So anyways as I have started following more raw food bloggers on my instagram, I continue to get inspired by their creations. One of these was the ‘raw cheese cake’ which is only made using nuts, dried fruits and other fruits! Watching numerous such vegan ‘cheese’ cakes and reading their recipes, I have been meaning to try making one for a few weeks now. The fact that I am currently on a AIP (autoimmune protocol) version of the Paleo diet was one reason – cos I am not allowed to eat nuts on this diet :(.  However, last week was hubby dear’s birthday. Him being a lover of cashew nuts , I thought why not give this raw cheese cake a try?

I looked for recipes and found that the basic recipe was pretty much same – nuts and dates for the crust or the base. And then a cashew nut cream filling. Then you can use your imagination for flavors – I decided to use mixed berries to create a two layer cake. And then topped it with a lot of fresh berries.  I also decided to do the crust only with shredded coconut and dates. I was so proud of my creation!  Our rhododendron had just blossomed too and the color of the topping of the cake perfectly matched with the light purple flowers! What a beautiful evening it was – my husband absolutely loved the taste of the cake!  He said it was better than any dairy cheese cake that he had before! The kids also loved it. I also had a couple bites – I had to see the result of my efforts, you see? 🙂  – Creamy, mildly sweet filling combined with the wonderful coconut crust  made for a delectable dessert! Simply superb is my verdict.

Btw, I would like to mention here a few of the bloggers who have inspired me to make this cake and whom I love to follow:

Edgar raw: https://www.instagram.com/edgarraw/?hl=en

Olivia from Lovehealthok : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCEQG-JcqA

Sophie from A squirrel in the kitchen : http://asquirrelinthekitchen.com

Bringing this raw, vegan cake to the Plant based Potluck party this week.

Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan 'Cheese Cake'
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, sugar free dessert
Cuisine: Vegan raw cake
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 9 dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
  • Pinch sea salt
For the Filling:
  • 2 cups cashew nuts soaked overnight
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup mixed berries
Instructions
  1. Soak cashew nuts in warm water and let sit for at least 24 hours.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. For making the crust, in a food processor blend all the crust ingredients except the shredded coconut. Then mix this with the shredded coconut in a bowl to form a thick mixture. Press this mixture to the bottom of the pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling by blending all the filling ingredients (without adding any water) except the berries to get a thick creamy filling.
  5. Pour ¾ of the this filling mixture onto the pan after the base has set. Then to the rest of the filling mixture, add the berries and again blend to get a creamy smooth mixture. Pour this over the top of the white filling layer. Place pan back in freezer for at least 5-6 hours.
  6. Remove pan from freezer about 30 mins before serving the cake.

Coconut Calamari (Paleo)

OK so ever since I made those beef cutlets with a coconut crust, I have been thinking of using that technique to make other crispy coatings! I got my chance to try it again when hubby picked up squid last weekend while picking up seafood.

I usually cook squid(calamari) Kerala Style which is to sauté it with onion and red chillies and with coconut. I have posted that recipe before. Have also tried frying it using chickpea batter which is a great gluten free alternative. However now since I am on a paleo diet, chickpea batter wouldn’t do and so I thought why not give my tapioca flour batter and coconut crust technique a try?  The ‘paleo version’ of the beef cutlets was very well received in my house. It tasted even better than the breaded version!

So considering that I was pretty confident that the fried calamari with coconut crust would work. And I wasn’t disappointed!  The fried coconut calamari came out so nice and crispy plus the shredded coconut topping imparted such great flavor.  I also ended up shallow frying it using coconut oil vs deep frying. It still came out nice and crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. Perfecto 🙂

I added a bit of cayenne pepper (Kashmiri red chili powder) but you can skip that for an AIP compliant recipe.

Coconut Calamari (Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, main course, seafood
Cuisine: American, Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
A Paleo version of the 'Fried Calamari' - Crispy coconut crusted Calamari fried in coconut oil!
Ingredients
  • ½ lb squid, cleaned and cut into ¼ inch rounds
  • ¼ tsp kashmiri chilli powder (skip for AIP version)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
For the crust
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (I used 'Let's do Organic' brand)
For frying
  • About 2 tbsp coconut oil
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, add the cleaned calamari and dab dry with paper towels. Add the chills powder(if adding) and salt and mix well. Keep aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the tapioca flour with water to from a slurry. (This settles down very fast so again stir before using)
  3. Place the shredded coconut in a separate plate.
  4. Heat a small frying pan and add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Keep on medium heat and when hot, dip the squid pieces one by one in the tapioca slurry and then dip them in the coconut to coat completely and drop these one by one into the frying pan. Fry these in batches and serve hot!
Notes
For AIP version, skip the red chili powder

Easy ‘No Bake’ Breakfast Bars (Sugar free, Vegan)

Healthy snacks are a big thing for me. I am constantly trying to make snacks that are nutritious and wholesome and that will satisfy two growing kids. One of whom is a teenager!  The hunger pangs start as soon as they get home from school although I make it a point to pack a healthy lunch and a snack for them. So the pantry is constantly being raided. I make them a healthy fruit smoothie and then try to stock up on lots of fruits so that they can eat those first before loading up on the crackers, bread etc.  I bake most weekends so that I can create goodies with less sugar or even make them sugar free (by using honey or maple syrup). That way there is always a stock of something homemade and healthy for that huge mid-day hunger attack!

Last week I decided to make something with oats since I had a huge bag of them leftover in my pantry.  Before I started on a Paleo diet 3 months ago, I used to eat oats regularly for my breakfast. And after I stopped eating them it was lying there unused since my husband is sensitive to oats and the kids just didn’t want to change from their regular cereal. So I was determined to use them up – I was thinking of making just some granola  like I posted before. But then suddenly I remembered seeing some recipes of oats bars on  pinterest. So I looked for those recipes and I ended up making a version of my own based on what I had on hand – I added pecans for nuts since that was the only nut I had in my pantry that day and used peanut butter for the base. I also used the food processor to puree the dates and to coarsely chop the nuts and the oats since I knew that would give them a better texture. I have been making a version of these bars – My healthy breakfast bars for quite sometime now and I always felt like chopping the nuts in a food processor gives the bars a better texture.

My experiment was very successful – thanks to all the other bloggers out there with their different recipes which makes it easier to innovate and come up with your own version. The kids as well as the hubby love these bars and considering these are much easier to make than my old version, I know these are going to be a ‘regular’ in my house going forward 🙂

Easy 'No Bake' Breakfast Bars (Oat and nut bars)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 bars
 
Healthy 'breakfast bars' or 'anytime snack' with oats and nuts; No Baking needed!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (or any other nuts)
  • 1½ cups rolled oats (NOT quick cooking)
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup unsalted organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. In a large baking tray lined with parchment paper, spread the oats and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the oats to a plate.
  3. To the same tray add the pecans or walnuts (or other nuts if raw) and toast for about 5 minutes.
  4. In a food processor or chopper, pulse the oats and the nuts together for about 20-30 seconds until the nuts get crushed (big chunks) and oats also get chopped a bit. Keep aside.
  5. In a food processor, add the dates along with the hot water and blend until you get a thick pasty consistency.
  6. In a cooking pot, add this date mixture, the maple syrup(or honey), salt and the peanut butter (or almond butter) and heat for about 2-3 minutes until everything blends together. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and the oats and the nuts mixture. Mix well using a large wooden spoon/spatula.
  8. Dump this mixture into a square brownie pan lined with parchment paper with an overhang. Pat the mixture using the back of a small bowl (or use another sheet of parchment to press on the top).
  9. Place pan in the freezer for an hour (or refrigerator for about 2 hours)
  10. Take out the pan from the freezer/refrigerator and slide the parchment with the bar onto a cutting board and cut the block into bars of desired size using a large knife.
Notes
You can toast the oats and nuts in a pan on the stove too instead of toasting them in the oven.
Once set, bars can be stored at room temperature (65-75 deg F) for about 5 days or in the refrigerator for unto 2 weeks.

 

Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

dsc_0137dsc_0140Happy New Year folks! Let’s start the New Year with something sweet and delicious!  Which also looks very pretty!  Yeah I made this chocolate bark for our New Year’s Eve party and everyone both adults and kids loved it.!

And the best part is – its a breeze to make! All you have to do is melt some chocolate and spread it thin on a tray. Slice up some strawberries and some pistachios and place them on top. Melt some more dark chocolate and drizzle on top.  Refrigerate for a couple hours to set and then cut it up into pieces or barks 🙂 Now isn’t this just what you need? Best part is since the bark is very thin, you are technically not going to be eating too many calories (unless of course you gobble up all of it 🙂 ) It’s a great party pleaser too and oh so easy to make 🙂

dsc_0138Wishing all of you folks a wonderful new year that is filled with everything your heart desires. May all your wishes and dreams come true and may you be blessed with good health and happiness.  May peace prevail everywhere.

Isaiah 40:31

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

  • Servings: Makes about 12-16 small pieces
  • Time: 15 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes refrigeration time
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

3 Milk Chocolate bars , 4.4 ounce bars (about 360 grams)

1 Dark Chocolate bar – 70% cocoa, about 2 ounces (180 grams)

4-6 strawberries, sliced thinly

1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped

Method:

Take a small baking tray (12 inches by 9 inches) and line it with parchment paper. Keep aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, place the milk chocolate bars and  melt the chocolate by heating bowl between 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals. Meaning heat first for 30 seconds, get it out, stir with a spatula and again put it back in microwave and heat for another 30 seconds. Do this 3-4 times or until the chocolate is almost melted and then just stir with a spatula to form a smooth creamy liquid.

Immediately pour this melted chocolate onto the tray and spread slowly using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate over entire length of tray or atleast 3/4 th the length of the tray.

Place the strawberry slices and the pistachios randomly over the chocolate.

Next melt the dark chocolate similarly in the microwave and drizzle it slowly over the tray.

Place tray in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

When you get it out, the bark will come off easily from the parchment. Cut into thin slices/barks and enjoy! Refrigerate until serving time!

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Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

dsc_1726-1Now this is a cake that I have been meaning to make for ever. I have looked at several recipes over the past few years and saved a few too. But somehow not got around baking it.

Growing up in Mumbai, Plum Cake was a common pantry item. Yes I am serious – you would find store bought Plum cake anytime in our kitchen. It was probably related to my dad’s love for this cake I guess. As a result, whenever we had unexpected guests, they were promptly served some plum cake with tea 🙂  We sisters for some reason over the years began to not like this cake as much – I think it was  a consequence of it being available 12 months of the year I guess 🙂 But now after several years, memories of the moist cake filled with the delicious flavors of dried plums soaked in rum, made me want to try baking it. Plus the fact that I could load it with a ton of healthy ingredients – dried fruits and nuts made it even more attractive.

Early this year I came across a wonderful recipe on Pinterest which specifically had the recipe for Kerala Christmas Cake.  Looking over the recipe and seeing the huge amount of dry fruits it asked for , I knew this was the one I wanted to make. I also made a note that I would replace the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  However, in our mad baking frenzy yesterday, I forgot to use whole wheat flour. I did use a wide mix of dry fruits – dried plums(prunes), dates,dried figs,dried cherries, dark raisins and dried cranberries.  img_0014I soaked the dry fruits only 24 hours in advance vs the 1 month in advance that the recipe called for.  I also did not use rum as the recipe called for but used a dash of cherry flavored brandy that I had lying around in my pantry along with some apple juice. I also reduced the quantity of sugar since I was adding so much dried fruit. My kids don’t like too strong orange flavor so I replaced the orange marmalade in the recipe with honey. And just used a dash of orange juice to give a citrusy flavor. Finally I also added pumpkin spice since everyone in my family loves that particular blend of spices.

dsc_1745-1The mixing of the batter was some work and I am glad I had my kiddos helping me. The egg yolks and whites have to be beaten separately etc.  All the hard work paid off and the cake came out simply fabulous.  So flavorful and moist.  And so so rich and delicious. ! The only one downside was that I had not chopped the dry fruits very fine so it was hard to get thin slices of the cake. But that’s after all not such a bad problem to have I guess 🙂

This recipe makes two large cakes and we are bringing these to our Christmas gathering with friends. I am sure these will be devoured in no time!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

  • Servings: Makes 2 large round 8-9 inch cakes
  • Time: 60 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes baking time
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Recipe adapted from Lifescoops

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup  – granulated Sugar plus 1 tbsp water
    5 Cups – Dry Fruits(I used mix of dark Raisins, dried Cranberries, dried Cherries, dried Figs, Prunes and Dates)
    1 Cup – Water
    1/4 Cup – Cherry flavored brandy
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

    Ingredients for Cake
    2 1/2 Cups- All Purpose Flour (Maida)
    1 ½ Tsp – Baking powder
    ½ Tsp – Baking Soda
    1/2 Tsp – sea salt
    1 /2 tsp – Allspice
    1/2 Tsp – Cinnamon
    1 Tsp – Pumpkin spice
    —-
    2 and 3/4 sticks (approx 310 gms) – unsalted Butter
    2 cups- granulated Sugar or raw cane sugar
    5 – Egg Yolks
    —-
    1 Tsp- Vanilla essence
    3Tbsp – Honey
    2 tbsp orange juice
    —-
    5 – Egg Whites

    —-
    1 Cup – Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Directions

Soaking the dried fruits:

  • At least a day or two in advance,  soak the dry fruits. (You can do weeks in advance too)
  • Finely chop the dry fruits and keep aside. In a non-stick sauce pan, add the 2/3 cups sugar along with the tbsp of water and let it heat on medium so that it starts to caramelize. Once the sugar caramelizes or turns into brown color (will take about 10-12 minutes), stir occasionally to mix the sugar to avoid burning. Once all the sugar is caramelized – i.e. turned into brown liquid, take the sauce pan off the heat and carefully add the 1 cup water little by little. Be very careful to avoid splashes as the caramelized sugar would be extremely hot. Stir well.
  • Now Add the chopped dry fruits and reheat mixture until it starts boiling.
  • Take it off the heat and add 1/4 Cup Brandy and 1/4 cup apple juice
  • Let the mixture cool completely; cover the container and keep at room temperature until you bake the cake.

Baking the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C
  • Grease 2 cake pans (I used an angel pan and a round 8 inch pan) and line it with parchment paper. Lightly brush with butter. Keep aside.
  • Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices and keep it aside.
  • Mix the butter and sugar together in  stand mixer (or an electric mixer) and add the egg yolk one by one until everything is incorporated.
  • Add the soaked dry fruits along with any liquid and mix.
  • Stir in the flour mixture in batches and mix.
  • Add Vanilla extract, honey, Orange juice
  • In a big bowl, beat the egg white using an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks(for about 5 minutes).
  • Fold the egg whites into the cake batter slowly little at a time.
  • Pour the cake batter into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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