David’s Diet

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We are still in Italy enjoying the beauty of this amazing country. It has been a bit more than a week since we left Holland for this sunny part of the world. We have been camping the whole time and because I truly dislike cooking in camping situations Cyrille has been doing most of the cooking. I don’t need a fancy kitchen to prepare a decent meal, but I really dislike cutting vegetables on a cutting board on my lap, or having to look for that bag of rice that’s in one of those plastic bags somewhere either in the car or in some corner of the tent. I don’t come from a generation of campers, like Cyrille and many other Dutch people do, and I sense that there is probably some hidden pleasure in these camping rituals(like the pleasure of constantly having to go down to where the water is to fill our bottles) which still escapes me. Nevertheless I do see the advantages of sleeping in the open air, visiting countries at a fraction of the price of renting a house or hotel, having the freedom to pack up your tent and a set it up somewhere else whenever you like, and even of cooking using simple ingredients and simple techniques to prepare nice meals. Having said that I do think that if I were more of a camping creature I would have done more cooking and cut down on some of the expenses and other disadvantages of eating out regularly.
The problem with eating out regularly here in Italy has to do with the amount of oil and salt that seems to go into the restaurant food, the unlimited and exclusive use of refined flour in almost every dish and as a result the feeling of lack of true nourishment that I feel after one to many meals at a restaurant.
However, the temptation to participate in the eating culture of this country is great. The Italians seem to be passionate and have great pride in their food, which makes the restaurant scene have a seductive and competitive edge to it which is hard to resist.
Walking through the streets of Rome or Florence as well as through the hidden narrow streets of small medieval villages it’s impossible to escape the power that the food has on the identity of this country. Streets here often seem like museum galleries in which one restaurant after the other exhibits foods rather than paintings and offers its personal interpretation there of. Food here is beautiful, the smells, presentation, colours, seasonings and freshness all contribute to more than the sum of its parts, nevertheless I do ask myself how can a culture survive in good health with so much refined flour and grains, and such amount of oil and salt in their diet. It seems hard to believe that the beautifully sculpted body of Michelangelo’s David would be result of the modern day Italian diet.

This morning I got up early and put on a pan of wholesome unrefined barley on the fire. Its light brown colour may not be as exciting and glamorous and may not even be picture worthy, as the Italian creations, but I am so looking forward to it!

Breakfast Barley
2 cups of soaked barley
6 cups water
a pinch of salt
a bit of rice milk
a drizzle of rice syrup, maple syrup or honey

-put barley and water in a pan and bring to a boil, then lower the fire cover the pan and use a flame deflector
-cook until barley is soft
-served drizzled with syrup and with a bit of your favourite milk(I had rice)

of course you can enrich this porridge with your favourite nuts and raisins. I opted for simplicity because I didn’t have nuts or raisins and because simplicity is what my body was craving

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La Dolce Vita

Dear people,

Part of my crew and I are having a vacation in Italy. It is beautiful here, the food is full of colors taste and happiness. Italians seem to be addicted to their food, and who can blame them!
After a tour of the Colosseum today, I got some great idea for a delicious drink with white wine, which the gladiators drank before they went out into the ring; I will be sharing the recipe sometime soon. I have had a great rice salad which I am eager to reproduce, as well as sinful gelato of pine nuts, which I am sure can be made in a healthier way without compromising the taste.
These days I have been looking through Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules again, and my motto for this vacation in this country full of delicious foods is : Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants, although the “not too much” remains a bit of a challenge!
Anyway I am looking forward to posting more recipes and pictures soon.

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Orange Marmalade and More

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Our vacation expedition is on its way and this year we are heading towards Florence. I am totally ready to visit this great renaissance city, where I hope to feel da Vinci’s spirit and experience the legacy of Catherine de Medici’s adventures in art and foods. On our way to Florence we will make a short two night stop in Verbier, a village in the Swiss Alps right under Mont Blanc, with breath taking landscapes. In the winter Verbier is a chique ski village and in the summers besides being a wonderful place for hiking, it houses one of Europe’s most prestigious classical music festivals. Our oldest daughter is participating in the festival this summer and we hope to arrive at the right time to hear her play her cello.
At 11.45 last night we got into our fully loaded car and began driving south east. In previous years when the kids were younger I would prepare for these trips by making large amounts of foods to take with us in the car(sushi, sandwiches, home made musli, salads and desserts), but as the years went by constantly eating in the car became less and less appealing. Now we stop at a reasonably looking highway restaurant, which in Germany and Switzerland are really not so bad, and always manage to find a fairly decent vegan alternatives and a pretty good cup of coffee.

However I did make a couple of things which got devoured before leaving the house. Lately I have been getting attracted to the idea of making preserves and pickles, possibly inspired by my husbands enthusiasm with beer making, so decided to make some marmalade. I was inspired by Ken Albala’s book The Lost Art of Cooking, from which I loosely followed his recipe for citrus marmalade. It’s super easy and very rewarding to make beautiful pots of delicious natural jam without preservatives, refined sugar or pectins. This time I used honey for fear that the natural sugar in rice syrup wouldn’t be strong enough to gel the jam, but next time I am pretty confident that rice syrup or succanat will work as well.

I also have been experimenting with making cakes and although I have been making “standard” vegan cakes for a really long time, I am trying to develop my own voice in this matter by using different kinds of flour, seeds, sweeteners and toppings. After years of following cake recipes for fear(geez this is the second time I use the word fear on this post) of playing around with the chemistry of baking, I realized that there is nothing to be afraid of, a bit of concentration and common sense will do.

Orange Marmalade
4 oranges
1 lemon
4 cups water
1 1/2 cup of honey, but I think rice syrup would work too
2 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pint canning jars sterilized(boiled for 5 minutes

-the day before making the jam cut the oranges and lemon in thin slices and save the seeds
-put everything in a bowl and including the seeds tied in a cheese cloth and add the water
-leave it to soak over night
-the next day throw the seeds away and add the honey
-boil rapidly until a syrup forms which coats a spoon(the consistency of honey)
-put jam in the sterilized jars and add the cloves and cinnamon sticks
-cover and sterilize the jam again to be able to save it for a long time outside the refrigerator, by boiling the filled jars for 5 minutes
-take out of the water and let it cool off, the jam should be ready and sterilized to be saved outside the fridge.

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Syrup Seed Cake with Orange Marmalade
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbs baking soda
3 tbs chia seeds
3 tbs linseed
3 tbs coconut sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil melted
3/4 cup rice syrup or maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup soy yogurt or regular yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

-mix all the dry ingredients in bowl
-in another bowl mix the wet ingredients
-mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients
-bake in a cake pan with wax paper on the bottom and oiled sides
-bake at 190*c for about 20 minutes or when a inserted clean knife comes out clean
-let it cool
-cover with home made orange marmalade

Buckwheat Orange Cake

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I made this cake because I love challenges, I am really stubborn and I truly believe that limitations can do great things for creativity. After my almond obsession of the last weeks I am having to take a step back since I am pretty sure I have over done it. A year ago I took an allergy blood test, which I completely ignored and the results showed an allergy to chicken protein, cow milk, peanuts, soy and almonds. In general I never eat any chicken products or drink cow milk and the occasional peanut butter sandwich never seemed to affect me. I have been eating soy consistently for the last 25 years without noticing any problems and almonds were never a problem until these last couple of weeks when I did some serious experimenting making different sorts of almond milk, almond pie crusts, almond pastes and anything else I could imagine. The result was that I began to feel itchy all over, I asked the doctor about this and she said that allergies are like a bucket, you can deal with a certain food until you have reached your maximum and your bucket is full and then the body will react.
Well my bucket is full, and after I detox from this almond attack I will take a more moderate approach to this delicious nut.

This evening I took on the challenge of creating a allergy free cake for myself(others were also allowed moderate pieces if they begged) and I really enjoyed the process of working with limitations. But you know, I didn’t feel limited, in the process of creating this cake I felt a sense of structure and order. I was reminded of my harmony exercises at the conservatory where I had to write a musical progression or phrase using only certain chords and using these chords only in a certain way in order to follow and understand the rules of composition of a certain musical period.
I usually enjoyed writing these progression because although there were some very strict limitations as to what was allowed and how long the phrases should be, because of these limitations the process of creation was clean and beautiful, and when the ingredients where used properly the result had a sense of balance and a feeling that one was hearing or creating something new which at the same time felt as if it had always existed. Making my buckwheat cake felt like that, although I had never made a buckwheat cake with orange glaze, the inner peace that I had in the process of using the ingredients I had chosen, the texture of the batter, the look and smell of the cake when it came out of the oven and the conviction that I had to frost it or glaze it with orange flavor was something that just seemed inevitable.

2 cups buckwheat flakes made into flour by putting in the food processor till fine
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp baking soda5 tbs chia flakes
1 tbs maca
1/2 cup coconut flakes
the juice of one orange and the grated orange peel
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbs succanat
1/2 cup water

-mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
-in another bowl mix the wet ingredients including the orange peel
-mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients
-pour the batter into a prepared round cake pan with wax paper on the bottom and oiled sides
-bake in a pre warmed oven at 190* for about 25 minutes(but check after 15 minutes by inserting a clean knife in the center of the cake and it comes out clean)
-after the cake is done let it cool before un molding it

Frosting
1 cup of water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbs agar powder
1tbs arrowroot dissolved in a couple tsps water
the juice of 3 oranges
4tbs succanat
3 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs chia seeds
1 tbs black sesame seeds

-heat the water and the maple syrup in a small pan
-whisk in the agar and bring to boiling point and add the dissolved arrowroot
-stir until the arrowroot is cooked and the liquid is thick and shiny
-add the orange juice and stir well
-put mixture in a wide container and put it in the freezer until it sets
-while the mixture sets mix the succanat and coconut oil with a hand blender
-blend the set agar with the coconut oil and succanat mixture
-stir the chia seeds and frost the cake
-sprinkle with black sesame seeds

I decorated the cake with dried tiny roses I bought in an Asian food store in Amsterdam

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Gone Nuts

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I have definitely gone nuts! Ever since I discovered the possibility of making my own nut milks I have pushed my soy milk maker aside. Not only does nut milk have a delicious, nutty, fatty, satisfying taste to it, but nuts, and therefore lovingly homemade nut milks have a high nutritional value. For example almonds are nutrient-dense and moderately alkaline-forming, they provide more calcium than any other nut, this high calcium content coupled with a high magnesium content makes almonds and almond milk fantastic food. Of course I haven’t discovered anything new, the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians enjoyed their almonds in all sorts of ways, specially in the form of milk. It is even said that the Romans used almonds to counteract the effect of too much alcohol(I guess due to the almond’s alkalizing properties).

This morning I also made roasted hazelnut milk, and let me tell you that it was just like drinking a healthier version of my favorite Italian gelato, nocciola. These milks will do wonders for all sorts of baked goods and desserts, although until now I have continued to use soy milk for baking, since it is much cheaper and for cooking because it has a neutral taste.

Drinking raw nut milks on a regular basis is not something that my body can deal with very well(I sense some hidden sensitivity somewhere), but I have discovered that if I make milk with roasted nuts, or if I boil the milk before drinking It I have no problems.

Always soak your nuts at least over night, it makes for a more digestible and tastier milk.

Raw Nut Milk

2 cups of soaked nuts
1 liter of water
vanilla
2 dates or 2 tbs rice syrup

-put the nuts in the blender and blend for about 2 minutes
-pass the milk through a cheesecloth
-put milk back in the blender, at this point you may add more water if you think it’s too concentrated
-blend with a tsp. vanilla and the dates or rice syrup(for a mildly sweet flavour)
-consider other flavours, like cinnamon, chocolate, nutmeg etc….

Roasted Nut Milk
For roasted nut milk follow the above recipe but instead of soaking the nuts lightly roast them.

Today’s Breakfast Ideas

Today is Anna’s birthday. She was born on a sunny northern evening in Utrecht 12 years ago on friday the 13th. At 6.30 a.m. This morning I went down to the kitchen to hang op the flags and make the kitchen look a bit festive for breakfast. Breakfast was simple, because she likes simple: miso soup, rice porridge, freshly made almond milk, a fruit compote which was actually nothing else than the leftover filling from yesterday’s Fruit Bag, blanched Chinese cabbage and some extra stuff like Nori and gomasio which some of us put on the porridge and crunchy muffins with millet.
After sitting around the table for a couple of hours talking about a newspaper interview with philosopher Alain de Botton about the purpose of art and not agreeing on anything we made our way to Amsterdam to sit around in the Vondelpark with more food of course! This time I didn’t make anything, sometimes it is physically impossible to have time and desire to do everything…. We bought ourselves a picnic. In Amsterdam there are some great places where it is pretty easy to collect stuff for a wholesome and delicious picnic. First we went to Marqt, a supermarket started by a Dutch man who was inspired by the American Whole Food stores. There they have fantastic sourdough bread(the crunchy, soft not sour type!), spreads and great organic fruit and veggies. Then we got some excellent burritos at Tomatillo, my favorite Mexican place in Amsterdam. Everything was organic, fresh and a big treat.

20130713-193439.jpgThis recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

2 cups spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
11/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 mashed banana or 1/4 cup applesauce to replace 1 egg
1 tbs. chia seeds
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup uncooked millet
1/3 coconut sugar or succanat
1 cup soy milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs melted coconut oil

-combine all the dry ingredients
-mix the soy milk with the banana pure or applesauce
-pour milk mixture along with the coconut oil into the flour mixture
-stir well and pour into a greased muffin tins
-bake in a preheated oven at 190* for about 20 to 25 minutes
-cool before taking out of tin

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This is a very simple version of miso soup, very convenient for mornings when there is rush. It feels good to drink and it can be a good way to start the day.

4 cups of water
1/2 carrot cut in matchsticks
1 small onion cut in half moons
1 tbs instant(dried) wakame
1 tbs rice miso
-boil water
-add vegetables
-when the veggies are cooked dissolve the miso in some of the broth in a separate cup
-pour dissolved miso into the pan
-simmer but don’t let it boil
-garnish with thinly sliced spring onions or chopped parsley

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For this recipe look at the recipe of the filling of the Fruit Bag, just cook this filling at very low heat, maybe using a flame deflector for a long time, maybe an hour,checking regularly to make sure is not burning and that it has enough liquid.

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Blanch the cabbage and sprinkle it with Umesu or umeboshi vinegar

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“Art helps us to live and to die.”

Works of art can make our life better, partly because we recognize the emotions and partly because we get reacquainted with emotions that we had lost. We are so often forced to be strong, that we become worse at being soft and kind. Art invites us to be kind again.

my translation from an article in today’s Volkskrant newspaper

Fruit Bag

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Yesterday I went with Ella, Anna and Cyrille(most of my crew)to the Rijksmuseum. It was the first time I visited since the reopening after their major 10 year renovation, and what a place it is! Walking in there is like standing in front of a buffet table with all of my favorite foods, knowing that putting them all on my plate and eating them will not allow me to appreciate their full value. I opted to enter into the Middle Ages and make my way up, aware that it would be hard to continue past the Dutch Renaissance or the Golden Age because I just love that period so much; I knew that continuing to look around past this period would be like putting more food on my plate after having eaten my most favorite dessert.
I have grown to really enjoy the art of Middle Ages, their wacky sense of perspective is something that I find totally puzzling as well as humorous. I find it hard to believe that they really saw the world the way they portrayed it: baby Jesuses with muscular bodies, or very skinny and not at all baby-like, vacant facial expressions and landscapes with no realistic sense of perspective. I know that there are different theories as to why Medieval artist didn’t make use of 3D, but the fact that most people believed that the world was flat makes sense to me given their one dimensional depiction of the world. Nevertheless I find their pious representations, their use of colors(specially gold) and the child like depictions very beautiful and touching, specially knowing the horrors that society was enduring at the time where rampant diseases like the plague, extreme poverty and starvation must have been causing unbearable suffering.

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For Dutch 16th century art I have no words, and I will not try to describe its beauty and skills and the emotions and insight which it invokes. One thing that I have noticed in the Dutch Renaissance paintings is the relationship to foods, how detailed and prominent foods are depicted and the emotions around it. These are some of amazing paintings I saw yesterday which left me with a sense of awe for humanity.

Once back home we had a simple dinner which we finished with a quick and simple dessert, something which one of the characters in one of those old paintings could have made. The Fruit Bag doesn’t use pie forms or anything else besides fruit and a dough, and yes in the Dutch Renaissance they would have used butter and not coconut oil.
Anyway, if you come to Holland you may not leave without paying the Rijksmuseum a visit, and who knows, if you come in october you may be right on time for Pop-up Restaurant Amsterdam’s Oktoberfest.
20130712-211325.jpgWillem Claeszoon Heda-Still life with Gilt Goblet-(notice the light almost refined color of the bread)

20130712-211905.jpgNicolas Maes-Old Woman in Prayer-

Bag
2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs arrowroot
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4-1/2 cup cold water
cinnamon
4 tbs coconut sugar

-mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
-add coconut oil and work with a fork until it looks sandy
-add the water little by little until the dough forms into a ball
-wrap it in plastic and refrigerate while making the filling

Fruit
5-6 apples cored and cut in small cubes
1 cup frozen cherries
cinnamon
4 tbs coconut sugar
1tsp arrowroot
grated lemon peel from one lemon
1/4 cup roasted almonds

-mix everything in a bowl
-roll out the dough into a flat circle
-place filling starting in the center of the circle
-fold the sides leaving some of the filling showing in the center
-bake at 180* C until the pastry is done(about 20 minutes)

Demonstration in Amsterdam

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On Sunday afternoon, september 29th we will be presenting a demonstration at the Museum Kromhout in Amsterdam. This is a terrific place which also hosts the Pop-up Restaurant Amsterdam, which will be presenting an Oktoberfest dinner on Saturday october 5th for which you are all invited to sign up as soon as all the details are organized, so keep an eye on the website for more details.

During the demonstration we will be showing you the simple art of making delicious basic healthy staples without complicated machines and extravagant ingredients. There will also be a beer making demo, plenty of opportunity to taste everything and to enjoy live music while tasting.
In the next days we will be posting the program, price and exact time, so stay tuned; we would love to welcome you there if you are in Amsterdam around that time.

Scones

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It’s summer, and for most of you living in countries with clearly defined seasons saying that it’s summer on july 8th may sound like duh! But here in the Netherlands is different, summer often doesn’t seem like a season but like a snapshot, or like an adjective describing the weather at a particular moment; it is summer now, but will it be summer tomorrow? As a result these summery days have a special quality for me, not only are the days sunny, but waking up to a sunny warm day in the Netherlands gives me a feeling of exhilaration, of creativity and possibilities. A summer day is not a normal day here in Holland. As a result I feel a readiness to participate fully in all the stages of the day, from very early morning to late at night. Of course the fact that it is vacation time helps, no alarm clocks and quick breakfasts to get to school on time, no scraping ingredients to make a sandwich to take away to work, or thinking that between 12 and 1 lunch has to be ready for the school lunch break……all those things don’t belong to the summer. Consequently summer time for me in the Netherlands feels like a wonderful meditation, making space for creativity and for enjoying the moment.

Receiving the gift of summer inspires me to reciprocate, this morning I made scones in the welcoming silence of the early hours, garden door opened and peace all around me.

2 cups spelt flour(mix white and whole)
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 tbs coconut sugar
5 tbs coconut oil
1 cup soy milk with the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs chia seeds
1/4 cup pecan nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins

-in a bowl mix all dry ingredients except nuts and chia seeds
-add soy milk lemon mixture and mix
-add chia seeds and nuts
-make dived the dough in two balls and make two circles
-refrigerate for a couple of minutes(make sure it’s covered with plastic wrap)
-cut in wedges and sprinkle with a bit of extra coconut sugar
-bake in a preheated oven at 190* for about 15 minutes.

BBQ

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Do you ever feel as if you spend your whole day in the kitchen? I do. Sometimes that feeling is a drag, a part of the endless days, weeks and months of routine in a sometimes seemingly meaningless existence, but sometimes those kitchen days can be inspiring, creative escapes from the daily grind, when I get to feel like a cross between a mad scientist, an inspired artist, or the perfect homemaker.
Yesterday was one of those days in which upon jumping out of bed I felt catapulted to my kitchen where I began to experiment with breakfast and didn’t stop my frenzy with foods until late in the evening when I finished writing down some recipes. In between shopping for food, cooking food, eating food, feeding children food, washing dishes and writing about food, I also got to take out the dog and watch a movie.
The funny thing is that at 12.54, when I finished writing my last recipe I wasn’t tired because the work that I had done didn’t feel like grueling routine, or duty. Tapping into creativity is an invigorating process and even though it would be unrealistic to expect a constant state of euphoria while performing routine daily tasks, there is something magical about the creative act which I believe is a way of connecting to the most important things in life. Being aware and working from our creative potential may be the most powerful quality we posses as human beings.

Mango Salsa
1/2 cup diced fresh mango
1 onion cut in small cubes
1-2 inch piece of ginger grated
1 tsp light miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbs rice syrup
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup light olive oil
sea salt and pepper

-mix all the ingredients in a bowl
-set aside until ready to use

Marinade for Tempeh
2 tbs light olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
splash of tamari
4 green onions, rough chopped
1 hot pepper chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 inch piece of ginger grated
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 tbs rice syrup
1/2 tsp ground allspice
sea salt and pepper
tempeh cut in thin strips
vegetables of choice

-put everything in the blender and blend well
-place tempeh strips in a bowl and cover it with the marinade
-refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour
-soak bamboo sate sticks in water for about 1/2 hour
-roll a strip of tempeh and pierce it through the stick alternating with a piece of another veggie, brushed in a mixture of olive oil and tamari(I used cauliflower and zucchini cut in large pieces)
-place tempeh sticks on the BBQ or on a hot grill oven
-serve with mango salsa and or Chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri Sauce
11/2 cup parsley
6 basil leaves
3 oregano sprigs
3 tbs rice vinegar
6 tbs light olive oil
1 piece of a dried chili
sea salt and pepper

-blend everything in the blender, if too thick add a bit more oil or water
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Heavenly Mud with Mint Pesto
2 cups soaked cashew nuts
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
Vanilla extract
1/2 cup rice syrup
1 tbs honey
2 tbs agar agar powder(cooked in a 1/2 cup of water)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 cups frozen cherries
3 tbs cocoa
6 tbs chia seeds
2 tbs coconut sugar

-blend the first 8 ingredients in the blender for several minutes until very smooth
-divide the batter in 2 equal parts, leave one half in the blender and blend in 1 1/2 cups of the cherries and blend well
-add 3 tbs of the chia seeds and blend again
-pour the cherry mixture into the prepared pie pan
-place the left over cherries in the cherry mixture
-blend the other half of the cashew mixture with the cocoa the rest of the chia seeds and the coconut sugar
-pour the chocolate mixture on top of the cherry mixture in the pie shell, but wait until the cherry mixture is a bit set so that the two mixture won’t fuse into each other
-place the pie in the freezer until it is well set or frozen
-sprinkle with mint pesto before slicing

Crust
2 cups roasted almonds
3 dates
1 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs of water
2 tbs coconut sugar

-mix all the ingredients in a food processor, the water should be added at the only if necessary to make it stick together
-spread the crust on a pie pan

Mint Pesto
a bunch of fresh mint
3 tbs of blanched almonds
3 tbs rice syrup
-stamp the ingredients in a mortar or use a hand blender to make a pesto