The Real Food Journal

Kamut-Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney- Whole Grain Riot of Flavor

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

The ever-evolving tradition of bringing a basket of breads to the table at restaurants is often a quandary. The reason you are there is because you are hungry, so it’s very easy to dig into a basket of warm rolls and ruin your appetite. On the other hand, the breads offered are often so mediocre that it’s easy to say no. Not so with my Kamut-Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney. It’s made with freshly ground whole grains, for even more appeal.

Because the bread basket that I can’t pass up is the one at the Indian restaurant. Hot naan, paratha, poori, and kulcha are just too intoxicating for me to save my precious appetite. It’s a good thing curries make good leftovers, because I blow it on the breads every time.

So for a treat, sometimes I make naan at home. It’s so easy to use my Vitamix to make freshly ground whole grain flours, and then show off their flavor in a simple flatbread. It’s a bit of work to roll them out and griddle them, so I serve a simple chickpea curry or even dal alongside and call it a meal. The banana chutney is exciting enough to entice you to fill up on naan, I promise you.

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

A Riot of Flavor!

Whole grain naan are usually made with a special whole wheat flour called atta. It’s a finely ground, lower-gluten whole grain flour, also used for chapati. I’m so smitten with my freshly ground kamut flour that I wanted to buzz up some for this. Kamut is lower in gluten than hard wheat, but higher than soft pastry wheat. A cup of chickpea flour adds a protein boost and cuts the amount of gluten in the mix overall. Sweet potato gives the breads some sweetness, and a lovely orange tint.

They are not as fluffy and stretchy as the white flour naan at my favorite restaurant, but they more than make up for it with fresh whole grain flavor.

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney by Robin Asbell

Perfect for Dipping

The banana chutney is a riff on a more traditional one. I added crystallized ginger for a sweet and peppery kick, as well as the many magical things that ginger does for my body. Ginger is warming, aids in digestion, and boosts your immune system, so the fact that it tastes great only makes me love it more. Of course, I had to put fresh turmeric in, for even more color, flavor and anti-inflammatory punch.

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney by Robin Asbell

Spicy, Sweet and Sour Chutney and Flatbreads

Griddling the breads requires a heavy griddle or cast iron skillet. I happen to have a fantastic cast iron pizza pan from Lodge and I used that, slicked with a little coconut oil.

Kamut-Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney by Robin Asbell

After the first flip, on the Lodge Cast Iron Pan

You can also use whole wheat flour for these, just start with 2 1/2 cups of flour and adjust with more flour or more water, the dough should be soft enough to handle easily.

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

Warm, chewy bread with tangy bananas and crystallized ginger

For a bread basket that you won’t feel guilty about devouring, make these tasty whole grain naan. With the banana chutney on top, it’s like having a party in your mouth.

Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney
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Kamut-Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

Freshly griddled whole grain flatbreads are a treat, and with this sweet and spicy banana chutney, they are a spectacular appetizer or side dish.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 2 cup whole kamut or 2 1/2 cups kamut flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt dairy or non-dairy
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil plus more for griddling
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large scallion chopped, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 large jalapeno chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger chopped
  • 2 large ripe bananas sliced

Instructions

  1. For naan: Grind the kamut in the Vitamix dry grinding container, the pour into a large bowl to cool. Add the chickpea fllour, yeast, salt and sugar and mix well. In a cup, stir the sweet potatoes, yogurt and coconut oil. Stir into the flour mixture, switching to kneading when it gets hard to stir. Knead until smooth and well mixed. It should be soft and easy to handle, if necessary, add a little water to make it softer, or flour if it is sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover, let rise for an hour.
  2. While the dough rises, make the chutney. In a small pot, warm the canola oil over medium heat and add the white parts of the scallions, turmeric, mustard seeds and jalapeno and cook, stirring. Cook until the onions are softened the seeds pop and turn grey. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the salt, spices and ginger and stir for a a minute to soften the ginger, then add sliced bananas. Stir until the bananas are starting to dissolve but not completely mashed. Take off the heat and adjust seasonings.

  3. To finish the breads: Smear some coconut oil on the counter and dump out the dough, then divide in 8 pieces. Form each into a disk and put on the counter to rise, covered with a towel. Let rise for half an hour, then roll out on the oiled counter into 8 inch circles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pat to press them into the dough. Let them rise for another 15 minutes.
  4. Put a griddle or large cast iron pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer dough pieces to the hot pan, cooking for 1-2 minutes per side, flipping as they brown. Reduce the heat to medium as you go and the pan is fully heated. Transfer to a platter to cool.

    Serve hot naan with chutney.

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Throw a Spring Brunch, with Lemony Pear Cake

Lemony Pear Cake with Almonds by Robin Asbell

Go Ahead, Take a Bite!

Aaaah, Spring! Time to clear away the old and move forward with new growth. It’s also a good time to get social, and stop hibernating inside. A brunch, or even a tea party with some delectable, lemony pear cake is just the thing.

These days, I’m not staying up late and partying. In fact, I’m starting to think brunch is the best party to throw. It’s early, it’s easy, and all the busy, vital people you know can probably pop by for a cup of tea and a late breakfast, can’t they?

Back in my restaurant days, the brunch shift was it’s own little world. It was seen as an easy, kind of relaxed time, when the kitchen was full of slightly hungover people, serving equally hungover people out in the dining room. Somehow, delivering pancakes and coffee felt gentler than cranking out dinner. We turned the music down a little and served comforting, rejuvenating food.

Now, I just want to see my friends and share some tea and cake. The relaxing vibe can stay, and if anybody is hungover, well, so be it. Mimosas are optional, but if it works, go for it. They go well with the lemony pear cake, or even these scones.

You might even want to make these lemony cupcakes.

Lemony Pear Cake with Almonds

So Moist and Full of Goodies

The key to this cake is a sparkling jolt of lemony tartness, summoning up the sunshine that is starting to pour in from above. Peel off those wintry layers, physically and mentally, and clear your mind.

Of course, I see a cake like this as a way to eat some fruit and nuts, and even a little whole grain, all transformed into a decadent treat. You have the options of using aquafaba or eggs, depending on what you are into.

Lemony Pear Cake with Almonds

Drizzle with Caramel Sauce

It’s a dead simple easy cake, with no whipping or folding, just a simple stir and bake. Making the caramel sauce involves cooking sugar, but it’s really easy, too. Just boil it til it turns caramel colored, then get it off the heat before it burns. Add the coconut milk off the heat, gradually, so it doesn’t boil up and out of the pan. It’s a great little sauce, if you have leftovers you can pour it over ice cream or dip apple slices in it.

Lemony Pear Cake with Almonds by Robin Asbell

Tender Cake with Lots of Pears and Almonds

If I can inspire you to have a brunch with friends, or an afternoon tea, I hope you will make this cake. We all need the spiritual nourishment of spending time with people we enjoy. What could be better than serving them good food, good conversation, and a hot cup of tea?

Lemony Pear Bundt with Almonds
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Lemony Pear Cake with Almonds and Caramel Sauce

A moist, rich cake, studded with soft pears and crunchy almonds, and a drizzle of sweet and salty caramel sauce.

Servings 8 servings
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream from the top of the can
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs or 2/3 cup aquafaba
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup whole almonds coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped pears
  • powdered sugar for garnish

Instructions

  1. First, make the sauce. In a 2 quart saucepan combine the sugar and water. Stir over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to high and don't stir, just swirl the pan over the heat. Heat the mixture until the bubbling liquid turns from champagne colored to an amber-caramel tone. Take off the heat and immediately, carefully pour in coconut milk a bit at a time, being careful because it will boil right out of the pot if you rush. Put back over the heat, stirring, add salt and cook over medium heat to dissolve all the cooked sugar that formed lumps when the coconut milk went in. When smooth, take off heat and transfer to a pouring cup.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt pan.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, stirring to combine thoroughly. Stir in zest.

  4. In large bowl or a stand mixer, beat eggs or aquafaba, oil, vanilla and almond extract until well combined. Add to egg mixture and stir to blend. Stir in pears and nuts.
  5. Scrape batter into the bundt pan. Smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only moist crumbs attached. Cool 10 minutes on a rack before carefully covering with a cake plate and flipping to remove the pan.

    When cooled, dust with powdered sugar. Serve with sauce.

Bowl Food with Kale and Turmeric-Cashew Dressing

Kale Bowl with Quinoa and Turmeric Dressing by Robin Asbell

Lighten Up with Bowl Food

Spring is in the air, tantalizing us with the prospect of baring a little skin to the sunshine. If the thought of shedding those layers has you feeling self conscious, it may be time to commit to a bowl food re-set.

You see, while I never DIET, I do occasionally notice the scale inching a bit in the wrong direction. That’s when it’s time to double down on eating healthy bowls. Follow the bowl model, and pile up a bunch of filling whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and you’ll find it easier to pare down a little.

Add some exercise, and you’re on your way.

For this gorgeous bowl of food, I wanted to make put my fresh turmeric front and center. So, I tossed some in the cauliflower with smoked paprika and roasted it to tender perfection, and then I put some turmeric in the creamy cashew dressing.

I’ve written lots about the health benefits of turmeric, here with a recipe for dal, and here in a juice for healthy skin. Nourished skin will look better in a tank top, right?

Fresh Turmeric Roots

Beautiful Fresh Turmeric

To keep me interested in my bowl food, I went for lots of textures and flavors. The turmeric coated cauliflower is smoky and spicy and tender, as is the roasted sweet potato. Kale and red cabbage give us lots of crunch and color.

For a complete meal, you need some protein and fat, and cashews in the dressing as well as on the bowl have plenty. The creamy dressing and crunchy nuts add more textures and flavors.

Bowl of Cashews

Creamy or Crunchy, Cashews Rule

Of course, kale and quinoa are superfoods. Sliver the kale thinly, so it will be easier to chew. I used red quinoa, but you can use what is easiest for you, white, three-color blend, whatever is on hand. The protein and fiber are both perfect for keeping you full while you re-set the scales.

All the gorgeous color is not just enticing, but good for you. The pigments that make turmeric golden, kale green, red cabbage purple, and quinoa red are all antioxidants. As long as we are eating well, we might as well protect every cell from the inside out.

Kale Bowl with Quinoa and Turmeric Dressing by Robin Asbell

Feast On Color!

Welcome Spring, by feeding yourself tasty, invigorating bowl food. You’ll feel great!

Kale Bowl with Quinoa and Turmeric Dressing by Robin Asbell
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Kale Bowl with Quinoa, Spicy Cauliflower and Sunny Cashew Dressing

This is a big bowl of everything you need for dinner right now.

Servings 4 servings
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews soaked
  • 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 tablespoons fresh turmeric divided
  • 1 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt plus a pinch or two
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale stemmed and sliced
  • 1 wedge red cabbage slivered
  • 1 package enoki mushrooms trimmed
  • 1 cup roasted cashews unsalted
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. First, soak the cashews for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight, then drain and rinse.
  2. Heat the oven to 425 F. Spread the sweet potatoes on one sheet pan and the cauliflower on another. Drizzle about half a tablespoon of olive oil on each pan. On the cauliflower, sprinkle half of the turmeric, the paprika, and half of the salt. On the sweet potatoes, sprinkle the pepper and a pinch of salt. Toss each pan to mix well.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes, then test the cauliflower, it should be tender and browned, take out to cool. Test the sweet potato, it may need another 10 to become tender. Let cool.

  4. While the veggies roast, cook the quinoa.

  5. In a Vitamix or other blender, place the lime juice, water, garlic, drained cashews, the remaining tablespoon of turmeric, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Secure the lid and select Variable Speed 1, then gradually increase to 10, then high. Blend until creamy, scraping down as needed.
  6. In each wide, low bowl, arrange 1/4 of the kale, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, quinoa, red cabbage, enoki mushrooms, cashews and cilantro. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Happy Pistachio Day! Try My Pistachio Matcha Blondies on for Size

Pistachio-Matcha Blondies by Robin Asbell

Pistachio Butter and Matcha make these Bars irresistible

National Pistachio Day is February 26th

I remember the first pistachios I ever laid eyes on. They had bright red shells, and had arrived around the holidays. As a kid, the color of the shells drew me like a magnet, and I just had to get a handful of this new, exotic nut. Cracking open the hard shells with my teeth, I remember thinking that they were kind of sweet tasting, and not crunchy like other nuts. They were probably a little stale, to be truthful.

But I soldiered on, risking my dental health as I pried apart those technicolor shells. When it was all over, I noticed that my fingertips were tinted pink, stained by this magical red nut that was actually green inside. I wanted to do it again.

I now know that the red dye was a trick used by the nut sellers of that era, used to cover up their bruised, cracked and often rancid product. Back then, they were coming from Iran, and were the worse for the journey.

The Politics of Pistachios

In a strange, political twist of fate, Jimmy Carter stepped in. During the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, he put a ban on pistachios from Iran for one year. When that year ended, Iran dumped low cost pistachios on the US market, to keep the nascent American pistachio business from taking off. California growers persisted, until the Iraq war in ’87, when the US was suddenly willing to shut Iranian pistachios down again.

Fast forward to now, US growers harvested 830 million pounds of pistachios in 2016. Nobody is dyeing the shells anymore, and you can find shelled, raw, roasted and salted pistachios in most produce departments. It’s been an American success story.

A Healthy Indulgence

Little did I know, back in that red shell era, that pistachios are one of the most healthful foods you can eat. With more protein and less fat per calorie than most other nuts, they are full of fiber that keeps you full and satisfied. The fats or the good, monounsaturated kind, and pistachios lower bad cholesterol and raise the good. A small handful gives you all the Vitamin E you need for the day, and some B-vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Pistachio-Matcha Blondies by Robin Asbell

Bursting with pistachio flavor, these blondies will disappear quickly…

The green nut even has lutein and zeanthin, the antioxidants that protect your eyes from macular degeneration.

All the better for seeing these delicious blondies fly off the plate!

Pistachio-Matcha Blondies by Robin Asbell

Underbaked just enough to be soft and gooey

For these decadent bars, I used my Vitamix to make pistachio butter, then mixed it into the batter. You can always use a food processor, too, it will just take more stops to scrape down and grind again. I love the way that the pistachio and matcha combine to give it a really exotic, rich flavor. Matcha in the glaze lets the sweetness of green tea shine through.

Pistachio-Matcha Blondies by Robin Asbell

A stack of pistachio flavor

So celebrate National Pistachio Day with a lush, crunchy treat. You’ll be taking good care of yourself while you savor every bite!

Pistachio-Matcha Blondies by Robin Asbell
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Pistachio-Matcha Blondies

Pistachios Star in these crave-worthy bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon matcha tea
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup raw pistachios divided
  • 1-2 teaspoons oil for making nut butter
  • 4 ounces butter or buttery sticks margarine softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs or 2 Tbs ground flax whisked with 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • GLAZE
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk or almond milk to thin

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, letting the paper hang over the edges at two sides. Use a little of your butter or margarine to grease the pan and paper. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, matcha, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a Vitamix or food processor, grind half of the pistachios to butter, adding the canola oil as needed to make a thick paste. Scrape into a bowl and let cool.
  3. In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat the softened butter or margarine. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, scraping down a couple of times. Beat in the eggs or egg replacer and vanilla, and scrape again. Beat in the pistachio butter. Mix in the flour mixture, stopping to scrape the sides when it is mixed, then add the remaining pistachios and chocolate chips.
  4. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and crinkled, but the center is still a little raw. Cool on racks.
  5. Use the parchment to lift out the blondies and cut them 4 x 4 into 16 squares.

 

 

It’s Drink Wine Day! Here’s a Risotto with Pinot Noir to Help

Pinot Noir, Pink Rice and Mushroom Risotto by Robin Asbell

Meaty Mushrooms, Pink Rice and Pinot Noir

National Drink Wine Day

Do you really need an excuse to drink wine? Well, one has come along, it’s National Drink Wine Day today. To get into the spirit of things, I thought I would do a fantastic flavor pairing and create a bowl of umami-amped risotto, just by putting some pinot noir, a few kinds of mushrooms, and some Himalayan Pink Rice together.

The old rule of “red wine with beef, white with fish” is no longer in play, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. Pinot is lighter in weight and less tannic than the old school Cabernets and Barolos that sidle up to hunks of red meat. Besides, that old rule didn’t say anything about vegetables and grains!

Whole Grains Pair with Wine

So, to show off my delicious Pinot Noir, I started with a base of Madagascar Pink Rice. It’s a variety sold by Lotus Foods, and it’s pretty unique. The Madagasscar Red Rice has had 40% of its bran layer scraped off, making it a little less nutritious. Why do it? Because the exposed endosperm will absorb liquids more quickly, and even give up some of the starches that we celebrate in a bowl of creamy risotto.

As much as I love a 100% whole grain, the truth is, when a little bran is removed, it’s much more suited to risotto. I’ve been making risotto with whole grains for many years, and have gone so far as to add some steel cut oats, or even to give the cooked grain a quick spin in the food processor, just to get some of the creamy starches from inside the bran to merge into the stock. Farro, a hefty whole grain, is often sold “perlato,” or “semi-perlato,” which means that the bran layer has been removed to some degree. If you want to make a farro risotto, it will be much easier with a semi-perlato.

The remaining 60% makes a fine showing with the earthy, nutty flavors we love in a red rice, and those flavors go really well with Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir and Pink Rice Risotto with Mushrooms by Robin Asbell

Sip and Savor

Building Umami With Mushrooms

To really emphasize the umami of the mushrooms, I threw some dried shiitakes and sun-dried tomatoes in water to simmer for the stock. Dried mushrooms are rich in glutamates and guanylate, both of which create the meaty mouthfeel we associate with, well, meat. Sun-dried tomatoes are also a bonanza of umami-boosters. The wine itself has umami, too, thanks to fermentation.

To build the flavor, I used four kinds of mushrooms. The dried shiitakes in the stock, some common button mushrooms in the risotto, seared trumpets on top, and raw enokis for a delicate crunch.

If you want even more umami and are into dairy, Parmesan cheese can be stirred in at the end, too. But you might be amazed at how much flavor is in the risotto from plants alone. Definitely taste it first.

A few sprigs of rosemary cut all that meatiness with a piney herbal note, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes provides the occasional spark.

So stock up on Pinot Noir, Madagascar Pink Rice and mushrooms, so you can make this revelatory risotto for friends, family, and anyone else you might want to lift a glass with. Get two bottles, to make sure you have plenty after you add it to the risotto!

Pinot Noir, Pink Rice and Mushroom Risotto by Robin Asbell
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Pink Rice and Pinot Noir Risotto with Mushrooms

Use umami-rich ingredients to make a satisfyingly flavorful risotto. Madagascar Pink Rice gives it a beautiful red hue, and Pinot Noir tints the whole dish beautifully.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water plus more as needed
  • 6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary divided
  • 1 cup Madagascar Pink Rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pinot noir
  • 4 ounces trumpet oyster mushrooms or other large, meaty wild mushrooms, halved
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese optional
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • enoki mushrooms for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a 1 quart pot, heat the water, dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes over medium heat, just until they come to a simmer, then reduce to low.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute onion, mushrooms and a couple of sprigs of rosemary in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the mushrooms are browned and shrunken, about 5 minutes. Add the pink rice, stir to coat grains thoroughly. Add salt and wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Add the mushroom water a cup at a time, stirring often, adding more as it is absorbed. It will take abut 30 minutes to get a nice creamy texture. If you run out of mushroom stock, just add water. Test the rice by biting a grain, when soft, adjust the texture with a little water.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and swirl pan to coat. Add the trumpet mushrooms and sear on each side, about 3 minutes. Take off heat and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
  4. Serve risotto topped with seared mushrooms, raw enokis, and a sprig of rosemary, and a glass of Pinot Noir.


 

A Valentine’s Treat With Aphrodisiac Magic

Valentine's Day Cake and Mousse

Get in the mood with chocolate, pomegranates, and yes, beets!

Valentine’s Day Meets Aquafaba

Perhaps Valentine’s Day comes along in February for good reason. Winter has been with us a little past its welcome, and we need a little motivation to get convivial. Give the sweatpants and hoodie a rest and at least make an effort to look good for your mate, that sort of thing.

It’s always a good excuse to have a sensual dinner, and open a bottle of something special. For that, we thank good  ol’ Saint Valentine.

If you are looking for a little extra spark, you may want to pick some extra-sexy aphrodisiac foods for your special meal. Some of the historically lauded aphrodisiacs make the list on looks alone, such as the suggestive asparagus, avocado, and fig. Others, though, have a nutritional basis for being considered good for the boudoir.

Beets, the ruby red roots we eat in borscht, are actually one of the foods that does something for your sexual performance. I know, you are saying, “What? A vegetable that my husband hates, not oysters?” Beets, it turns out, are one of the foods highest in the Nitrates that convert to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes the walls of your circulatory system.

That is the same thing Viagra does.

Yup. Beets are the safe, natural version of all those pills they hawk on TV for ED.

Start the day with Beet Juice Aphrodisiacs

If you really want to take beets out for a spin on this issue, make this beet enhanced cake. Nobody will be the wiser. But for the real effect, juice some beets and drink it throughout the day of your romantic date. Try this recipe, for starters.

Because good circulation and overall health are at the heart of sexual health, let’s just keep going. This cake, in all its chocolate glory, is vegan, so it’s heart healthy from the jump. It has a beet puree, hidden in its moist, tender crumb. It’s made rich with coconut oil, the fat that energizes, while having the mouthfeel of butter.

Chocolate is An Aphrodisiac

If you take a look at the recipe, you’ll see that there are 12 ounces of dark chocolate in the cake and mousse, and some cocoa, as well. If you eat one slice, you are getting an ounce of chocolate and a teaspoon of cocoa. Chocolate, which we now classify as a health food for its antioxidants, is a classic aphrodisiac. It contains cannabinoids, which trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain as marijuana. It has a mellow form of caffeine, to give you a little boost.

It’s luscious and sensual in the mouth. It’s the essence of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's Chocolate Beet Cake with Aquafaba Mousse and Pomegranate Chili Sauce

Deep Dark Chocolate, with Brilliant Red Accents

For even more pulse pounding heart health, I went with pomegranate juice, and gave the sauce a little kick with cayenne. The hit of spice in the sweet, tangy sauce wakes up your palate on every bite, reminding you that you are alive. It’s also a circulatory stimulant, raising your metabolism just a bit.

Valentine's Chocolate Cake with Aquafaba Mousse and Pomegranate-Chili Sauce

Romance is in the Air

Aquafaba is hot!

The fun part of this dessert is the aquafaba. If you haven’t tried it yet, aquafaba is the water that you have left when you cook chickpeas. It’s a miraculous discovery, because it’s something we used to pour down the drain, which we can now use to replace egg whites in baking. You can use the aquafaba from canned, unsalted chickpeas- you’ll need to drain about 3 cans to get enough for this recipe, or make your own.

If you make your own, measure out 2 cups dried chickpeas, 6 cups water, then put in a pot and simmer on the stovetop (lid on) for at least 4 hours on low. Don’t rush it, you want the beans to be almost falling apart, and the liquid to be rich with beany proteins and starches. Cool the beans in the liquid before straining. Chill the liquid. I like to portion it into 1/2 cup containers and freeze it, so I have it handy.

Then you have plenty of chickpeas on hand to make hummus!

Valentine's Chocolate Cake with Beets and Aquafaba

You’ll have plenty of cake left for energizing pick me ups all week

Then, you can whip the aquafaba to make puffy, billowy clouds, just like the kind you can make with egg whites. A big bonus is that when you fold in melted chocolate to make mousse, there is no risk of food poisoning, as there is from raw eggs. And you are leaving the chickens alone, as you revel in the fluffy, light mousse.

Folding Chocolate into Whipped Aquafaba

Folding Chocolate into Whipped Aquafaba

 

Valentine's Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate-Chili Sauce and Mousse
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Valentine's Chocolate Beet Cake with Pomegranate Chile Sauce and Mousse

Three easy components, made with the magic of aquafaba, make a stunning Valentine's dessert.

Course Dessert
Servings 12
Author Robin Asbell

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups organic sugar, divided
  • 2 cups aquafaba, divided
  • 1 cup chopped beets 6 ounces
  • 1/2 cup vanilla non-dairy milk
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 70% cacao
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 te vanilla
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, divided
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup Superfruit jam
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • pomegranate seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment, then grease and dust with cocoa, shaking the pans and tapping on the counter to coat. Reserve.

  2. Use the Vitamix to grind 1 cup of the sugar for the cake, and reserve. Grind the 1/4 cup for the mousse, and reserve.

    Measure 1 1/4 cup aquafaba for the cake and put it in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if you are using an electric mixer. Save the remaining 3/4 cup aquafaba for the mousse.

  3. Steam the beets for about 15 minutes, until very tender. Melt half of the chocolate and let cool. Place the milk , coconut oil, melted chocolate and beets in the Vitamix and secure the lid. Select Variable Speed 1 and turn on the machine. Gradually increase the speed to 10 and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the unbleached flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in the beet mixture. It will be thick.

    In the stand mixer, put 1/2 teaspoon of the cream of tartar and mix on low for 1 minute, then increase to high. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and sprinkle in a tablespoon of the cup of organic sugar that you ground at the beginning every 30 seconds or so. At the end it will be billowy and glossy.

  5. Fold a third of the aquafaba mixture into the flour mixture, then when it is well mixed, gently fold in the remaining. When it's just combined but not deflated, scrape into the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of a layer comes out with only moist crumbs, transfer to racks to cool.
  6. For the sauce

    Pour the pomegranate juice and sugar into a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium low and simmer vigorously for about 10 minutes, to reduce to 3/4 cup. Whisk in cayenne and simmer briefly, then transfer to a pouring vessel.

  7. For the mousse

    Melt the remaining 6 ounces chocolate and let cool to room temp.Place the remaining 3/4 cup aquafaba and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix on low for a minute, then increase to high and beat for 10 minutes. Still on high, sprinkle in the remaining sugar over the course of 5 minutes, very gradually. Gently fold in the melted chocolate, then chill the mousse, covered.

  8. To assemble

    Run a knife around each layer of cake and loosen the layers. Place a cake plate over one, and flip onto the plate. Peel off the paper. Spread with the jam. Repeat with the second layer. Use a fine sieve to dust with powdered sugar.

    Slice in 12 pieces. Serve each slice with a tablespoon or so of sauce and a scoop of mousse, garnish with pomegranate seeds.


The Herbivorous Butcher Takes Over The World! And My Banh Mie.

The Herbivorous Butcher

Aubry and Kale Walch at the Herbivorous Butcher

Minneapolis may be famous for the Twins, for Mary Tyler Moore (RIP) and for its Chain of Lakes. But these days, in the world of food, we are now famous for the Herbivorous Butchers.

Yes, the brother and sister team of Aubry and Kale Walch have captured the imaginations of press the world over, with their inspired renditions of mock meats and cheeses. In just a year, they went from spending their days giving away samples at the Farmer’s Markets to selling 3,627 pounds of faux meat and 516 pounds of non-dairy cheese in December ’16, and they can’t keep up with demand.

They have been written up in the Guardian, Time, Zagat, Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Vogue, and a list too long to repeat. Diner’s, Drive ins and Dives paid a visit, and put the charming pair and their unique shop on food tv.

Vegan Banh Mie

#1 Selling Korean Ribs in a Banh Mie

So how, exactly, have the ‘Butchers taken seitan, a food made since the 6th Century in China, and made it so hot?

First, they didn’t like the products out there, and became obsessed with making new, better tasting versions of the ancient seitan we know as mock duck, or wheat meat.

“We thought we would have a little lifestyle business, just us making making it. We didn’t think about all this when we were at the Farmer’s Market. Now we have seven employees in the kitchen, and twenty in the store.”  said Aubry. “Now we want to put our butcher shops in other cities.”

From where I stand, the sampling was where the ‘Butchers created a new market. The two charismatic vegans managed to surprise all the shoppers who came to the market for watermelons and sweet corn, by offering them a taste of something they would never, ever seek out in a grocery store.

“Just try it, I’d say. Most are skeptical until they taste it. Everyone will taste it, if only to confirm their love of meat. But we surprise them” said Kale, or as Aubry called him, “The Sample Master.”

Once the meat was winning hearts and stomachs at the market, the duo launched a kickstarter, knocked it out of the park, and then opened the quirky, warm little storefront they now run in North East Minneapolis.

Herbivorous Butcher

The Big Cleaver Really Draws Your Eye!

interiorhb

There’s a Cleaver Motif in the Shop

The shop, nestled in between a number of meat-centric restaurants, presents itself like the kind of butcher shop you might find in Mayberry RFD – with a touch of hipness. “It feels like an old-fashioned butcher shop, maybe it’s a familiar feeling for people who have been there. You can order by the pound, you can taste the sliced meats.” said Kale.

The meats are designed to appeal to omnivores crossing over, not die hard vegans, who may find their resemblance to animal foods off-putting. “60% of our customers are omnivores coming in to either try to switch, or because a friend or family member who’s vegan is coming over. Then they try it and like it.” Said Kale. “They’re not for vegans who don’t want it.”

Because the meats are seasoned, sauced and completely cooked, all you have to do is insert them into your familiar foods,as I did with my Banh Mie recipe. “For the most part you can directly swap them out for your favorite meat. And never worry about cooking the bacteria out of your food.” said Aubry.

The ‘Butchers also make non-dairy cheeses, and they sell the Punk Rawk cashewmilk cheeses made in Minneapolis, I wrote about here. They sell a few select sandwiches, all modeled on the kind of over the top deli sandwiches you’d see in a Dagwood cartoon. Stacked with sliced meats, cheeses,and delectable toppings, the sandwiches made Guy Fieri roll his eyes with bliss, and he’s eaten a few big fat sandwiches in his day.

Korean Ribs

Korean Ribs in The Case (Pardon the reflections)

Behind the case is the kitchen, where the happy sausage makers mix, form and cook all the meats.Here’s a glimpse of some roasts being shaped:

makingmeat

Wrapping Mock Meats in Cheesecloth Before Cooking

The ‘Butchers call themselves a “savory bakery,” because they are basically kneading doughs and then baking or steaming them. They have branched out into some jackfruit-based products too, which can meet the needs of the gluten free vegans as well as the curious omnivores who miss pulled pork.

So, if you don’t live in Minneapolis and want to give the HB products a try, order them here. If you do live nearby, the shop is worth a trip.

And you can bet that there will be more outposts of the Herbivorous Butcher, coming soon.

Vegan Banh Mie

Savory, Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Herbal and Full of Crunch

Vegan Banh Mie

Makes 2 sandwiches

1 small baguette
vegan mayonnaise
1/2 medium daikon, finely julienned
1/2 large carrot, finely julienned
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 HB Korean Ribs, sliced
1/2 medium cucumbe, peeled and sliced
1 small red Fresno chili, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, whole
2 small scallion, sliced on a diagonal

Preheat the broiler. Split the baguette into halves and then slice each for a sandwich. Open the baguette piece and spread with mayo. Wait to broil until the rest of the sandwich parts are ready to go.
In a small bowl, combine the daikon, carrot, sugar, rice vinegar and salt. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Slice the “ribs” into thin pieces and warm them in a pan on the stove, or microwave.
Slice the chilis, pluck the cilantro leaves, and sliver the scallions.
When all is ready, broil the baguettes until the may is bubbly and browned in spots. Place each on a plate and layer on cucumber, ribs, some of the daikon mixture, the cilantro, chilis and scallions. Put the top slice of bread on and serve immediately.

 

 

Chocolatey-Crispy Energy Cookies and Yes, Win a Vitamix!

No Sugar in these Chocolate Crispy Energy Cookies

Chocolatey Crispy Energy Cookies, Made with Dates

Sometimes, you just want a cookie. Comfort me with chocolate, if you want me to keep on keeping on. There are times for rich desserts, surely. But I like to have a little energy cookie on hand that I can nibble before a workout. Those times when you don’t need a full meal, but you need a little something to keep your blood sugar up.

That’s where my easy energy cookies come in. These Chocolatey Crispy Energy Cookies are perfect for tucking in my gym bag, so I can grab one after about an hour of hard cardio. When you are active, you don’t need to eat much, but if you want to keep going, you need some calories.

Rich, chocolatey cookies in my gym bag? They call my name, urging me on.

To make these, I relied on the old baker’s trick of a date puree. Sweet, fiber rich dates, steeped in boiling water, are blended into a smooth paste, and some coconut oil and flax seeds are whipped in. The resulting mixture replaces the sugar, butter and eggs of a conventional cookie.

Dates and Coconut Oil for Fitness

Dates are the preferred base for energy balls, bars and other snacks, because they are full of sweetness, to be sure, but also fiber and nutrients. The sugars are mixed in with slower digesting fiber, so it’s not the same kind of jolt that refined sugar would give you. Then coconut oil, the favorite fat of body builders, boosts metabolism and helps keep you satiated longer. It’s a wonderful fat for baking, because it is a form of saturated fat, which solidifies to a buttery texture once the cookies are cooled. Flax seeds are there to create a gel that helps bind the cookie, as well as deliver essential fatty acids and more fiber.

Use the Vitamix to blend a sweet date paste

Puree of Dates, Flax, Coconut Oil

Energy cookies and other fruit based snacks are easy to make in the Vitamix. Whether you want to make a date puree, or use another fruit, like prunes or even raisins, you can rely on the powerful blender to make a smooth fruit sweetener. Then you can use it in all sorts of baking.

Of course, I threw in some mini-chips to add melty chocolate appeal. You can also chop some unsweetened chocolate if you really want to go sugar free, and experience the bitter side of chocolate.

I’ll be counting on these cookies to power me through my workouts this month. It’s the dark and cold time of year that makes you want to stay in a warm bed and skip the gym. So these cookies are just one of my motivating, energizing tricks to keep myself on track.

And yes, scroll to the bottom of the post and enter to win a Vitamix!

Chocolatey Crispy Energy Cookies

Quick to Bake, Too

Chocolatey-Crispy Energy Cookies

Makes 18 cookies

1 cup pitted dates
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup rice crisps
1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet pan with a light coating of oil or parchment. In the Vitamix Container, pour the boiling water over the dates, let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the water into a cup, then add back 6 tablespoons of the soaking water to the dates. Add the flax, coconut oil and vanilla and process to mix. In a large bowl, mix the cocoa, flour, and baking soda. Stir in the date mixture, and mix. Fold in the rice crispies and chocolate chips. Scoop heaping tablespoons and roll into balls. Place 2 inches apart on the sheet pan and flatten to 1/2 inch thickness.

2. Bake for 6 minutes, then reverse the pan and bake for 6 minutes. Cool on racks.

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