Warm Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

Winter is not a time of year when a cold smoothie will hit the spot. Tea, hot chocolate and hot cider are the comforting choices. Smoothies, however, do not have to be ice cold. Recently, I tried this delectable warm smoothie recipe found on Clean Cuisine.

Warm Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

I like smoothies to be simple. So instead of heating the ingredients in the microwave, I just put on my kettle while preparing the apples and poured steaming hot water into my Vitamix blender along with the cooler ingredients. Once blended the smoothie was nice and warm but not too hot. Here it is garnished and ready to enjoy on a cool March afternoon. I wished I had some cinnamon sticks to complete the garnishing. Yummy!

Ingredients

This is a doubled version of the original recipe. It makes one large mug as shown above.

2 apples, cored and cut into large chunks (leave the skin on)
1/2 cup black or yellow raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 – 4 tbs raw pecans
1 1/2 cups steaming hot water

Directions

Using non-glass blender, puree apples, raisins, cinnamon and pecans with one cup of the water. Add in remaining 1/2 cup of water, blending a little at a time, until preferred consistency is reached. Garnish as desired and serve.

Caution!

Use only non-glass blender containers designed for warm liquids such as those made by Vitamix. DO NOT try this in a glass blender as it could explode and cause serious injury.

If using a Vitamix you can opt to blend the mixture for 5 – 6 minutes which will warm the ingredients via friction. This is the standard method for making soups in this machine so it should work for warm smoothies too.

This smoothie is delicious! No sugar needed! A great breakfast appetizer or mid-afternoon treat. I did not have any raisins on hand so used dried black currants instead. My results were darker than the picture shown on Clean Cuisine. Perhaps their more yellow smoothie was from choosing yellow raisins instead of black. I used pecans, as called for, though walnuts would be another good choice. – Robin

Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake is so tasty it’s hard to believe it’s grain-free. The secret ingredient is eggs . . . and lots of them! Eggs create the good volume and texture in this recipe. Additionally, the eggs provide protein while the coconut flour provides fibre. Stevia reduces the sugar content. All in all this is a healthy and delicious cake for birthdays or other special occasions.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for for a family dinner celebrating my father’s birthday. Everyone loved it! The topping is whipped vanilla Greek yogurt garnished with seasonal fresh raspberries. You could also do a traditional frosting or a light chocolate glaze with fresh cherries.

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter or coconut oil
1 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
12 eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk or whole milk
1 cup sugar
Stevia powder or liquid
Follow pkg directions and use an
— amount of stevia equivalent to 1 1/4 cups
— sugar. If in doubt use a little bit less.

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Melt butter or coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Mix in cocoa powder. Remove from heat and set aside. In a bowl mix together eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. If using liquid stevia add to wet ingredients. If using powdered stevia add to dry mixture. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk into batter until there are no lumps. Pour batter into a greased 11x7x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool. Frost / decorate as desired.

Source: Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife N.D.

Notes

  • I used coconut sugar and powdered stevia in this recipe. If you do not wish to use stevia, then use 2 1/4 cups sugar.
  • Dutch processed cocoa powder is recommended in this reduced sugar version likely to improve flavour. If you prefer natural cocoa powder (ie: non-alkalized) that should be OK.
  • I recommend using a springform pan for easy cake removal.

This recipe was tested with Wilderness Family Coconut Flour, Heartland Gold Coconut Oil, Madhava Coconut Sugar, Earth’s Choice Coconut Milk and Purest Cocoa Powder.

Pineapple Wheatgrass Wakeup Smoothie

If you have frozen wheatgrass juice cubes that need to be used up, then a pineapple smoothie is a great way to do it. The flavours work well together and the colours blend to create this lovely fresh green. Not only does this smoothie look refreshing, it tastes refreshing too! Perfect for mornings when you need a little pick-me-up.Pineapple Wheatgrass Wakeup Smoothie

Ingredients

2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 fresh banana
5 frozen wheatgrass juice cubes

Directions

Blend all ingredients and serve. You should not need any additional liquids, but you can add a little water if your blender is labouring a bit. Makes one large or two small smoothies.

Lavender and Earl Grey Home Molded Chocolates

Another of the four home molded chocolates I made for the holiday season was this lavender and Earl Grey ganache in a 70% Valrhona shell.  I’d made lavender ganache chocolates before and decided to pump them up a bit with some Earl Grey, but the Earl Grey flavor was mostly overshadowed by the lavender.  The chocolates were still great, I think, but they didn’t taste a whole lot different than the lavender chocolates I’d made before.  In the end, I think Earl Grey is too delicate a flavor to share the stage with lavender.  But this ganache recipe can be made with or without the Earl Grey tea . . . and you could also increase the amount of Earl Grey and see if that works.  Here’s a link to an instructional post on how to mold chocolate.  This recipe makes enough ganache for about 80 pieces.

  • 260g heavy cream
  • whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea (about 4 tea bags)
  • 74g light corn syrup
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 376g dark chocolate, tempered at 90°F
  1. Combine the heavy cream, lavender and tea in a saucepan; bring to a boil; remove from heat; cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Strain out the lavender and tea using cheesecloth, wringing the cheesecloth to ensure maximum extraction.
  3. Return the cream to its original weight using whole milk.
  4. Add the corn syrup to the cream and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool to 105°F.
  5. Combine the butter and tempered chocolate, making sure no lumps remain.
  6. Gradually pour the cream into the butter/chocolate mixture stirring constantly to form an emulsified ganache.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature and then pipe into molded chocolates using a pastry bag as shown here.

Tapioca & Red Rice Pudding With Cayenne-Spiced Mango & Papaya

I was invited to dinner at friend of a friend’s home on Saturday night and the menu was Thai food.  I offered to bring a dessert and wanted to make something that worked with the rest of the meal, so I came up with this tapioca and red rice pudding, inspired largely by this recipe.  I’ve had tapioca puddings before and I’ve had sticky rice desserts before, but I’ve never had or seen the two of them combined.  I decided to try it, mainly for the varied texture and the visual effect of combining red rice with a dish that’s typically white/translucent.  I flavored it with Thai basil, cilantro, lemongrass, lime, cayenne and coconut milk.  I don’t have much experience cooking Southeast Asian cuisine, but this turned out really well, I think.  The flavors all worked and the textures were varied and fun.  This recipe makes about 10 servings.

  • 1 cup (uncooked) Bhutanese red rice
  • 2 cans (13.5 oz. each) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 sprigs of cilantro + more for garnish
  • 10 Thai basil leaves + more for garnish
  • grated peel of 1 lime + more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemongrass, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (uncooked) small pearl tapioca
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1 papaya
  • pinch of cayenne
  1. Cook the 1 cup of rice in 1.5 cups of water.  When it’s done, add 1 can (13.5 oz.) of coconut milk and set aside.
  2. Combine the ginger, cilantro, basil, lime peel and lemongrass in a food processor for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Combine the aforementioned, food-processed mixture with the remaining 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the solids from the water, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the water as possible.  Discard the solids and return the infused water to a clean saucepan.
  5. Add the 2 cups of milk and the sugar to the infused water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat stirring frequently; add the tapioca, stirring; return to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the tapioca softens and swells and the mixture thickens—about 35 minutes.
  6. Remove the tapioca mixture from the heat and combine in a large bowl with the cooked rice that’s been soaking in coconut milk.  Add the second can of coconut milk and stir thoroughly to combine and allow pudding to cool to room temperature.  When pudding has reached room temperature, either serve or cover and refrigerate until 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.  Regardless, the pudding should be brought to room temperature before serving because the many subtle flavors are muted by cold temperature.
  7. Combine the mango, papaya, juice of two limes and pinch of cayenne in a large bowl.
  8. Serve pudding as pictured above, topped with the mango-papaya mixture, cilantro, basil, and grated lime peel.

Veracruz-Style Tilapia

Tonight marks the launch of ArtSpace DC’s first cooking class, taught by yours truly.  I showed some of my photography at ArtSpace back in November and, in the course of setting that up, had conversations with ArtSpace’s director that led to me agreeing to teach a one-night-a-week for six weeks class focusing on simple, healthy meals suitable for weeknight preparation by people with busy schedules, not a lot of money and no special cooking equipment.  To this end, my goal is to come up with simple recipes that take no more than 30 minutes or so to make and that require nothing more than a knife, cutting board, pots and pans and, maybe, a blender.

Tonight we’ll be making this sort-of-Veracruz-style tilapia, along with some white rice and some radish greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic (not pictured).  Red snapper is typically used in this Veracruz-style dish, but red snapper is on Seafood Watch’s don’t eat list, while tilapia farmed in the U.S. and Central and South America is a more sustainable, less expensive alternative.  (Tilapia farmed in China and Taiwan are problematic due to pollution and general poor management).  Also, Veracruz-style fish is typically started on the stove top, where the sauce is made, but then transferred to the oven and baked when the fish is added.  For the sake of speed and simplicity, I cook this dish from start to finish on the stove top.  This recipe serves four.

  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or other large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté onions until translucent, stirring regularly, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, oregano and bay leaves and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, including juice, along with olives, raisins and capers and continue cooking over medium-high heat until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add tilapia fillets, covering them with the tomato sauce.  Cook over medium-high heat until the fish is flaky and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Season sauce with salt and pepper, then serve over rice.

Mushroom Risotto (with Italian Sausage Variation)

The third course for Saturday night’s dinner was this mushroom risotto.  I made the dish Saturday as a warm-up for the cooking class I’m teaching on Monday nights at ArtSpace DC.  My guests on Saturday night, as well as the folks in my class on Monday, all seemed to like it . . . and I thought it was great both times . . . so I’ll share the recipe here.  On Monday night, we made two batches in the class, one of which incorporated Italian sausage, so I’ll include that as a variation here.  Also, you can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock if you want to make this vegetarian . . . but I think homemade chicken stock does wonders for this dish.  (I used homemade stock at home and store-bought chicken stock in class.)  Enjoy the weekend, folks.

This recipe serves 6-8 as a side dish/small course or 4 as a main course.

  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want to skip the sausage and make this a vegetarian dish)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms (I used hedgehogs*)
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated
  • (for sausage variation, 1 lb. Italian sausage, casing removed)
  • 1 small onion*
  • 2 cloves garlic*, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (packed) grated Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf Italian parsley (or some other green herb), chopped
  1. Place the 4 cups of stock and 2 cups of water in a saucepan over med-low heat.  As soon as it begins to simmer, turn the heat down to the lowest setting to keep the liquid warm.  This is simply a step to reduce the cooking time of the risotto when you add these liquids.
  2. To prepare the dried porcini mushrooms: Combine ½ cup of dried porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of water and set aside to soak.
  3. To prepare the fresh mushrooms: Ideally, you want to time this to have the mushrooms done cooking at the same time as the risotto, so try to start it about 5 minutes before the risotto is done.  Another option is to cook the fresh mushrooms early and then stir them into the risotto at the very end to reheat them.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  When butter stops foaming, add the fresh mushrooms and cook until soft.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.  Serve them on top of the risotto, or set aside until the risotto is done.
  4. To prepare the risotto: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  (For the sausage variation, when the butter stops foaming, add the sausage and sauté until browned.)  When the butter stops foaming, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 or 7 minutes.
  5. Next, add the Arborio rice and cook until it is translucent around its edges, around 4 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the white wine and cook until the wine is fully absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add about 2 cups of the pre-heated stock/water mixture (don’t worry about measuring it).  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.
  9. Add the re-hydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid.  (If the porcinis are dirty, you may want to strain the liquid through cheesecloth.)
  10. When making risotto, you should at this stage begin checking grains of rice for doneness.  I prefer my risotto soft (not mushy) with a little bit of resistance from the center of the rice—al dente.  Some like it softer and soupy, some like it more firm.  Follow your heart and mouth on this one.
  11. Proceed by adding additional pre-heated stock/water by half-cup increments, stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed, testing for doneness, and adding another half-cup if necessary.  If you run out of stock/water before the risotto is done, don’t panic . . . just add some water.
  12. When the risotto is cooked to your preferred degree of doneness, add the cheese (and fresh mushrooms if they’re cold and you want to reheat them) to the risotto, stir, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.  Top with the sautéed fresh mushrooms and flat-leaf Italian parsley or something else fresh and green.

Tastes of Italy

GinoSorbello

Later edit:
I finally got it. It’s brain pattern disruption. Everywhere. Afternoon closing of stores. Crossing the street. Driving. When and what to eat. The sound of a different language. Finding a “petrol” station. Returning a rental car. Light switches that go on/off in the “wrong” way. No wonder I’ve been so weirded out.

Italian Design
Most of the Italians we have met have been charming, friendly and helpful, much more than we would have expected, Fellow FoodBeest. So not wanting to paint with too wide a brush, it is clear from our experience that the ancient Romans who designed things like aqueducts and in-house plumbing, as well as luminaries like Leonardo Da Vinci weren’t thinking quite like modern Italian designers.

I mean square toilet seats? Looks cool, but don’t Italians have round butts like the rest of us?

“You think we should test the toilet design, Giuseppe?”
“No, Luigi, it’s fine. It looks great. Let’s go get a café.”

“Should we mark the roads so they know where to turn, Angelo?”
“Ah, Giovanni, they’ll know what to do. Let’s go get a cafe.”

Modern Italians are very good at designing/engineering all kinds of things. Mostly those things that they are interested in: Shoes. Bicycles. Couture clothing. Kitchens. Food. They are not so good at designing roads, maps, street signs, or bathrooms. And not so good at giving directions or estimating time.
late edit: now that we are in the north, it is apparent that there are regionalisms, somewhat similar to that in the States. We’ve already come across some extraordinary and notable engineering feats, roads and architecture. So in the words of Roseanne Rosanna Danna: “Never Mind.”

Good Food/Bad Food in Italy
BigLemon

Italy has a much better shot at good food than we do in the U.S. GMOs are forbidden. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. We’ve seen lemons masquerading as melons (all the better for lemoncello). We had a lovely mozzarella and salumi sandwich at a little stand.

But it’s possible. It happens. We know. Because we are here for so long, we have been trying to find mostly locally frequented small, mom-and-pop restaurants, rather than the grande expensive establishments in featured in all the best guidebooks.

After much research before the trip at some of our favorite food and travel sites (Chowhound, Slow Food, Trip Advisor), and among friends, we have, in fact, had some very mediocre food. With Italian food being recognized and, indeed, vaunted for the elegant simplicity of its ingredients, it is not necessarily the norm. Chefs do get casual. We have seen microwaves in kitchens (Gordon Ramsey would be horrified!).

While a bite of perfect, freshly made ricotta or bufalo mozzarella can make my day and certainly my meal, a slice of half-cooked aubergine isn’t all that unusual on an antipasti plate (and trust me, you don’t want your eggplant crunchy).

Even places highly recommended by sources I trust have been disappointing. At a restaurant on the beach on the Amalfi Coast – glowingly recommended – I was actually served a limp zucchini blossom filled with ricotta cheese and sausage that tasted so off I couldn’t eat it.

Rules for Finding Restaurants

LeBadFud

1. It must be clean
2. It must have lots of customers
3. It is better to find some place that isn’t in the main piazza, but at least a bit off the beaten path.
4. Strangers can give you very good advice. Sometimes they are other Americans; sometimes they are locals. Besides, it can be the beginning of a wonderful relationship (or even just a great conversation and sense of the culture).
5. If someone is standing outside of the restaurant soliciting passers-by, walk on by.
6. Don’t count on hotels recommending the best places. They have their own agendas and even kickbacks.

Shocker News Flash: We Don’t Love Neapolitan Pizza
Pizza1

Naples is famous for its pizza. Classical Neapolitan pizza is cooked in a very hot wood-burning oven and has a thin, chewy crust and very simple toppings, such as just a margherita or pomadoro sauce. The afficanados warn against bufalo mozzarella (mozzarella made from the milk of buffalo) because it doesn’t melt properly. Cow’s milk or some combination is preferred.

So, for our first dinner in Naples, we headed for one of the most highly regarded pizza places in town, Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo. It is a two-story restaurant in the old city in a university area and is packed with tourists and students. They create and sell 400 pizzas a day here!

Then we ordered pizzas. Not the simple classical ones. Mine was topped with mushrooms and speck (an very lean Italian cured ham, much like proscuitto) and Mr. FB ordered one with artichokes and cherry tomatoes on a margherita sauce. We started sipping our beers, when 10 minutes later (ten!) the water returned with two pizzas, each at least the size of a steering wheel, the food overhanging the plates.

The balance and taste of crust and topping are superb, and the crust was perfectly caramelized, both chewy and crunchy, but the standard pizza in Naples is more like a New York-style pizza (soft and pliable in the center) so you can fold it to eat it while you walk down the street. Not, as they say, my particular cuppa tea.

Jon Stewart’s public preferences aside, I prefer my pizza crust crunchy all the way through. I like what is called a cracker crust for thin pizza. I guess that’s a Chicago-style thin crust (as opposed to our unique and world renowned deep dish).

Workability
Using our debit card at the bancomats here in Italy has been an ongoing challenge. Getting on the right street or the right train or to the airport on time has been a challenge bordering on a freaking miracle. Even getting baggage properly checked in at the airport is ridiculously hard. Just getting in and out of one of the hotel bathrooms has been interesting (the sink was WAY too big for the room and protruded into the doorway, making it necessary to squeeze awkwardly just to get through the door).

Never have we been clearer than we are at this moment that our performance is totally a function of workability and that workability only happens when something is whole, complete and perfect: when it has total integrity. In case you didn’t know, Fellow FoodBeest, it’s true: without integrity, nothing works.