Banana Bread and Old Book Review

Last night I had a baking attack. The cause of my attack was partly restlessness and impatience because I can’t wait to get The Food Press going, partly gluttony and partly trying to avoid doing yoga (yes I have a problem….). But don’t judge me too quickly because baking late at night when nobody is around was almost as zen as my Kundalini session would have been, plus the way I whizzed around the kitchen at an ungodly hour was a total physical workout. I ended up baking late because I got caught looking through my cookbooks, which for me is more than just looking through recipes, it is more like going through some sort of of nostalgic memory lane. In my recent explorations of my very large cookbook collection (in preparation for The Food Press) I have rediscovered quite a few books. Some of these books I bought more than 20 years ago when I first came to the Netherlands, trying to recapture what I experience as a “cinnamon muffin” sort of coziness which I associate so much with the neck of the woods where I partly grew up(the East coast). I guess creating The Food Press is partially a way of recreating those feelings, smells  and sense of community that I find so particularly American. Among the books that I rediscovered was Laurel’s Kitchen , from which I had never cooked anything until recently when I tried a couple of things that turned out very nicely. Although a bit outdated the book has nice common sense recipes, maybe too simple for the me of 21 years ago, but just earthy enough for the present me, and with lots of room to change things around. Nevertheless the introduction is still my favorite part of this book which gives me a fuzzy warm hippy feeling to which I easily allow myself to succumb.  Another gem I came across was Wake up and Smell the Coffee by Laura Zahn. This book has a unique All-American character and many of the recipes are very veganizable, like the Coffee Cake Muffins I made last night in which I substituted an egg for 3 tbsp of chia seeds soaked in a bit of water. But my all time favorite old cookbook is the Kripalu cookbook. Again, it may be partly nostalgia or maybe some mild form of homesickness, but I love this book, and unlike the other two books mentioned earlier I have used this book throughout the years to the point that it has no cover anymore and many of its pages are loose. This is the book from which I have made my Banana Bread all these years. It is a vegan recipe and I have done nothing  except follow the instructions, knowing that by the time it comes out of the oven I will have a deliciously moist, guilt-free loaf.

At about 11:30, after I had made the Banana Bread and the Coffee Cake Muffins I felt a second wind coming and a feeling that I was just beginning, so I proceeded to go ahead and make a Rye-Poppyseed-Pulp Cake. I really would share this recipe with you but unfortunately I forgot to write it down (I guess the late hour did take its toll on me after all). But since it turned out so delicious I will recommend to not forget that bag of rye flour that’s been sitting around your pantry and use it in baking cakes, it works really well (in combination with other flours). I also used the pulp from my morning pumpkin-carrot-sweetpotato juice as well as some of the pulp of the morning’s nut milk and added chia and linseed as “eggs”. Anyway I am afraid that this post is as endless last night’s baking adventure, so I will stop here and leave you with the best Banana Bread recipe ever.

 

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Banana Bread

2 3/4 cups sliced banana
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup rice syrup
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp all spice
pinch of cardamom
2/3 cups chopped walnuts

-blend bananas and oil
-stir syrup into banana mix and combine with a spatula
-in another bowl mix all dry ingredients except walnuts
-add dry ingredients to the banana mixture
-mix with a spoon until well combined and add walnuts and mix again
-pour batter into a bread form and bake in a preheated oven at 375* F for about 40-50 minutes

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Blueberry Crumble


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I sometimes forget how it was that I jumped into this (healthy, plant based)cooking boat. The other day someone asked me and it brought back a bunch of memories. Although I’ve always enjoy cooking and since my teenage years toyed with the idea of not eating meat, it wasn’t until I first expected a baby that began to read about foods and health. Back in 1992 in Holland vegetarianism and health foods was still in quite a primitive state, but when visiting the American Book Center in Amsterdam I would always come home with a book related to foods in some way(Diet for a New Planet by Robbins and Diet for a Small Planet by Francis More Lappe among others). As I remember before switching definitively to plant foods I used to make a killer (no pun intended) lamb masala which my husband loved. One day after having decided to not eat meat I had the brilliant idea to go ahead and substitute the lamb for tofu…..and what a sad disaster that was! It really did taste horrible or worse yet completely bland. My husband politely ate it all and proceeded to ask (almost cry): “can we just eat meat again?” Insecurity overcame me, but didn’t completely beat me. Lo and behold the next day I received a package from the U.S from a dear friend Ellen who lived in Ithaca, the home of the Moosewood restaurants, containing almost all the Moosewood books available at the time. These books opened up a new world for me, they were my bible, security blanket as well as a key to freeing me up to learn how to cook with vegetables without feeling like a boring freak. After those books came the Kripalu cookbook and many others, over 275 to be precise. I don’t seem to get done collecting cooking books, and don’t have any plans to stop in the near future since it seems that cooking plants is becoming more and more delicious, beautiful and creative by the day and I can’t just walk into a book shop without yet another beautiful book. By this point I don’t usually follow recipes anymore (sometimes I do), but I read them like novels and admire the pictures just like I look at the great Dutch painting masters (okay almost).

This Blueberry Crumble was inspired by one of those beautiful books which I just couldn’t leave in the shop: Green Kitchen Stories. On page 37 of that lovely book (oh, I have the Dutch version so in English it will probably be on another page) you can find the original recipe. My crumble was a result of a quick scanning of the recipe and my pantry and it worked beautifully.

 

My Crumble

3 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen)
2 cups oat flakes
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 cups of the milk of your choice (I had hazelnut/pecan homemade milk)
3 tbs chia seeds
2 tbs linseeds
vanilla
1/4 cup liquid sweetener (I had honey)
1 tbs coconut oil
1 cup hazelnuts
1/2 pecan

-mix oat flakes and baking powder
-in another bowl mix milk, seeds and vanilla
-in another small bowl mix nuts, coconut oil and sweetener
-put the blueberries in a baking pan and cover with the oat flake mix
-pour the milk and seed mix on top of oats and berries
-spread the nut, oil and sweetener mix on top of everything
-bake in a preheated oven at 190* for about 30 minutes

drizzle with coconut milk and a bit more sweetener if desired!

 

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The Bowl


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In a perfect world all autumn Sunday mornings would be like this one. After doing a session of Ashtanga, taking a shower and walking the dog in this beautiful golden autumn day I got to do one of my favorite Sunday morning meditations: doing the dishes. This is an activity that I truly enjoy doing as long as the rest of the loved ones are happily snoring away in their beds on the rooms above me. It is an almost sacred moment where I can empty my mind and just enjoy how the soapy warm water gently cleans each dish and then feel the warm running water wash everything away. While doing dishes I sometimes engage in planning out my day, or try to apply my yoga postures and breathing to my dishwashing movements. It may sound silly, but it really brings my yoga practice into actual practical activities. In doing the dishes I become aware of the beauty and inner peace that can be found in the mundane tasks of our daily lives.

While doing the dishes I had this overwhelming feeling of making a nutritious and delicious Sunday morning breakfast for my lovely Zen moment interruptors, who were about to pop-up into the kitchen any moment now. I had soaked hazelnuts and brazil nuts for nut milk and I had plenty of fruit around, including a large bowl of berries to make a nice breakfast bowl. I decided to make some oat flake muesli and some patties from yesterday’s leftover quinoa and buckwheat. By the time my dear creatures began appearing in the kitchen the nut milk was done and the muesli was in the oven. I continued with my preparations for the healthiest ever breakfast while all of a sudden realizing that one of my dearest creatures had made his own plan and had a cast iron pan on the fire with 3 eggs and several slices of bacon! Okay now was a good moment to put my yoga breathing into practice…… nevertheless a beautiful Sunday morning.

Breakfast Bowl

2 cups of berries (a mixture or one sort is fine)
1 cup of soy yogurt
1 cup of nut milk
2 dates

-but everything in the blender and blend.
-put about a cup of the fruit blend in a bowl
-add some chopped fresh fruit
-add about 1/2 cup of muesli or granola
-sprinkle with maca and some hemp powder if you like and pour a bit more nut milk on top for a more subtle flavor

 

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Oshawa Cake from the Food Press

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It has been a while since I last made time to write stuff down, but I certainly haven’t been sitting around. I have been cooking and experimenting more than ever and that is because as of November we will be the happy owners of a juice bar/cafe/catering in the center of my town. This is a little dream that has been developing in different ways for the last 20 years and it seems that for some strange reason providence decided that this was the right time for this dream to materialize! In the coming time (if time permits) I hope to be posting about this new baby of mine. We came to live in Almere, a city about 30 minutes from Amsterdam . Almere is an interesting phenomenon since it is a true  example of Dutch ingenuity. It is a city which was created from land gained from the sea. As a result it is nothing like the images that most of us associate with Holland: old, gingerbread style houses, canals, gable stones, small scale coziness and wooden shoes. Almere is new, the architecture here is mostly very geometric, houses are slightly bigger(for Dutch standards) and the citizens keep more to themselves, often commuting to and from Amsterdam for work. Coming to live here eight years ago was a great shock for me, since this futuristic city didn’t feed my imagination and to be blunt I found it quite ugly. But, just like everything in life things, cities and people change and Almere has taken a change for the better. The architecture has become more interesting. Newer trendier shops are appearing and most importantly (to me) I have changed how I see this town. Where I saw lack, I began to see possibilities and that has made all the difference. One of the things that made Almere so unattractive and futuristic to me was what I experienced as a lack of community. Here there have been no tiny cafes or quirky shops, just the “normal” things to satisfy your basic needs (okay, with maybe a tiny bit extra!), for the fun inspirational stuff one has had to go to Amsterdam. Well that’s changing and I am proud to say that our Juice bar-Cafe will a part of the change. Our shop is tiny, just big enough for 5 tables, and big enough to serve as setting for all those like minded souls who are craving for that cozy, trendy, organic, delicious, homemade, healthy hangout. We will be working with local produce and farmers and hope to serve as a source of inspiration and warmth for all those out there who feel the need for a smile and good food. Our baby is called The Food Press  and just like with any regular baby the preparations before its actual physical arrival has been intense. As of now the contractors are running somewhat behind which has made us postpone our opening day, but our goal remains sometime in November.

One of the most important aspects of The Food Press is that we want to only sell stuff that we make ourselves. That means juices, smoothies (made with our own sprouted nut milks), bowls with fresh products from our salad bar, cakes, muffins etc as well as French Press and cold pressed coffee. In the process of preparing our menu I have gone back to look for recipes which are delicious, economically feasible and healthy. I remember that years ago (in my macro period) I often made and eat Oshawa cake. I had a great recipe somewhere from a macrobiotic study I once followed. I used this recipe many times, but it was not part of a cooking book, it was just a lose sheet. Every time I used it I thought: next time I need this I won’t be able to find it. Well yesterday I couldn’t find it, but I remembered the basics, which are extremely simple. Funny enough I happened to look through Rens Kroe’s trendy new book Power Foods and found a recipe for this very old fashion recipe. This helped me with some quantities, but in reality a recipe is hardly necessary. So, enjoy your left over brown rice!

 

Oshawa Cake

4 cups of cooked brown rice
1/2 cup rice syrup
1 cup roasted hazelnuts
1 cup raisins or chopped dates
zest od 1/2 orange
1/2 sesame seeds roasted
1/2 cup spelt flour
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
vanilla
2 Tbs neutral tasting vegetable oil
100 gram (about 11/4 cup) oat flakes

-preheat oven to 325*
-oil a cake form spread three quarter of the sesame seeds on the cake form to cover bottom and cover sides and bottom with three quarter of the sesame seeds
-mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl and put mixture in the prepared form
-press it with your wet hands so that it fills the form well
-bake for about 45 minutes
-let it cool before taking it out of the form

 

 

 

Brunchner


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Easter brunch is a tradition in our family. Usually the Easter bread with almond filling is made the day before and early on Sunday morning I’ll get up to make the rest which I shouldn’t really call brunch but Brunchner, since I truly fill up the table so that we can be continually eating from breakfast till dinner non-stop. Beside the standard stuff like tea, juice, bread, soy yogurt and some non vegan stuff for the less stricter or non veganlly oriented among us, we always have granola and tofu scramble. The rest of the menu usually depends on how creative I (or my kids) are feeling on that weekend. This year my daughter Ella took care of the Easter bread and the cinnamon rolls, which also have become part of our Brunchner tradition. I made the tofu scramble, which I thought came out finger linking due to a spontaneous brilliant idea I had due to some left over cashew nuts I had soaking on the counter. I also found a fantastic recipe for vegetable rolls rapped with rice paper from My New Roots blog(one of the most inspirational healthy cooking blogs I have seen so far), and concocted a fresh tomato salsa, potato pancakes and chocolate mousse. Daughter Anna took care of setting the table and making tea and coffee and Tim is our house photographer who makes most of the pictures on this blog. Cyrille usually is our D.J. and mostly concentrates on making sure that we get to hear the best possible recording of St. Matthew’s passion. This year however Ella took over the music with a beautiful recording of a Mendelssohn string quartet and Cyrille dug in the garden until the food was ready.Our oldest son didn’t show up until later in the afternoon since he had slept in after having had a recital the night before.

Granola

3 cups of oat flakes
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup of melted coconut oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 coconut (that’s those white little cubes you see in the picture which I got from the farmer’s market, but regular desiccated coconut will due)
any other nuts or dried fruits you like

preheat oven at 180* c

– mix oat flakes, cinnamon, maple syrup and coconut oil in a bowl.
– add seeds and nuts
– put the mixture in an oven tray
– bake stirring regular to prevent burning
– when the flakes are golden brown remove from the tray from the oven and add the coconut and raisins and the optional fruits.
– serve with almond milk or (soy) yogurt

 

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Tofu Scramble

1 block of tofu
1 onion in cubes
2 cloves of garlic minced
about a cup of corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper in small cubes
1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. majoram
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tbs. dijon mustard
1 cup of soaked cashews blended with a cup of water and 2 tsp. umesu vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup minced parsley

– crumble the tofu with your hands into a bowl
– in a broad heavy pan heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes
– add the bell peppers and corn and saute for a couple of more minutes
– add the grated carrots
– add the tofu and the herbs
– cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly
– add the mustard, and salt
– pour the cashew cream and saute a couple of minutes
– turn off the fire and add the parsley

Serve with salsa

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Vegetable Rolls

I would say to just look at this link and while you’re at it look through the whole amazing blog.

 

 

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Chocolate Mousse

For this I mostly just improvised with the following ingredients in the blender:

1 cup soaked cashew nuts
1 cup almond milk
3 dates
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/4 chia seeds

– blend everything until very smooth
– put in individual serving dishes and refrigerate until ready to serve

Sweetness

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I had promised myself and my Facebook page to post this post today and it is now tomorrow! But if going to bed late counts as today then I’m all right.
These are two recipes I made this week.The brownies I’ve made millions of times and they work really well(arrowroot being the magic ingredient).  Muffins were part of today’s breakfast. My twelve year old daughter will not eat another bowl of porridge, which seems to be a tradition with twelve year old girls in this family. For years our family was totally happy eating nice large bowls of porridge of all sorts for breakfast, but as the kids got older they began to reject this tradition for something less “bulky”. This has made breakfast a bit more complicated for me since the old trusted bowl of porridge has been boycotted. Specially on cold, rainy Dutch school mornings it’s not always easy to magically create a nutritious breakfast out of the blue, which will sustain everyone until noon. However on lazy Saturdays or Sundays mornings a healthy muffin and a nice cup of tea can be a nice way to start off the day. The parsnip-carrot idea came about because I didn’t have enough carrots in the house this morning(what kind of nut has more parsnip the carrots in the fridge?). It turned out to give the muffins a nice natural sweetness, and as a result 8 tablespoons of sucanat were enough. Great breakfast muffins!

Fudgy Brownies

1 whole wheat or spelt cup flour(you can try substituting 4 tbs of the flour with coconut flour)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup arrowroot
1-11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 water
1/3 light olive oil
1/2 chopped nuts

-mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl
-mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl
-beat the dry ingredients into the wet
-cover a square baking pan with wax paper and pour in the batter
-bake for about 25 minutes at 180* C

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Carrot Parsnip Muffins

2 cups flour(1/2 whole and 1/2 white)
1/4 coconut flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs maca
3 tbs. flax seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
8 tbs. sucanat
1 cup soy milk
cinnamon
1 cup grated carrot and 1 cup grated parsnip

-in a bowl mix all the dry ingredients
-in another bowl mix all the wet ingredients
-mix wet and dry ingredients together and add the grated veggies

-pour batter in muffin tins and bake at 180* C for about 20 minutes

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From Bach to Vegan Mozzarella

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Last night I saw my life as a collage, you know like those of Picasso or Braque, with bits of newspapers, musical instruments, funny faces etc. Maybe the awareness came as a result of the realisation that life is a collage. Our lives are canvasses where the bits and pieces are glued on, usually with a basic theme connecting them, overlapping, sometimes making lot of sense, sometimes seemingly arbitrary, but all in all they create some sort of cohesive and even beautiful whole.
I made dinner for a couple of friends, Claire from my time in Boston, where we played Brahms clarinet quintet together, before we had partners, children, work, vegan cooking obsessions and a whole bunch of other things. The other friend was her partner Valentina, who lives in the Netherlands and with whom I coincidentally share the vegan cooking bug.
The conversation went from Bach to vegan mozzarella(which Valentina had deliciously made) and back. We enjoyed a dinner of fried polenta with what I now call a Mushroom Nightshade Fantasy(Shady Sauce for short)as well as braised carrots, blanched spinach with pine nuts, Valentina’s mozzarella with tomato and basil and a funky dessert with smoked chipotle! I often couldn’t quite figure out where I was since I was experiencing people and things from different periods of my life in my kitchen in the Netherlands. It all became even more wacky when my now grown up cellist daughter played two movements of Bach fourth cello suite for our visitors (which I also played for my conservatory exam for my Bachelors diploma). Throughout the whole evening food was the glue for this collage; or was it music?

Shady Sauce
8 tomatoes cut in half
2 eggplants cut in small cubes and sprinkled with salt to release the water
about 6 cups of different sorts of mushrooms sliced
6 cloves of chopped garlic
olive oil
sea salt
1 tbs of Vitamix mushroom paste(or a vegetable bouillon cube)
1tbs balsamic vinegar

-first cook the tomatoes in a pan with 4 tbs. olive oil, with the cut down facing down, sprinkle with a bit of chopped garlic
-cook the tomatoes until they begin to darken and the liquid starts to get syrupy
-in a separate pan cook the eggplant in 4 tbs olive oil until they are completely soft and cooked
-in a separate pan sauté the mushrooms in 2 tbs oil and a bit of crushed garlic, until they loose their liquid
-when the vegetables are all cooked mix them in the pan with the tomato, add a bit more crushed garlic and sea salt and the tablespoon of the mushroom paste or bouillon cube. Cook until the paste is integrated into the sauce and add the balsamic vinegar
-serve warm with the polenta or rice or put on bread or on pasta or…….

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In the morning I made almond milk and saved the pulp, for which I didn’t have any particular plan. However before starting dinner I got the idea of making some kind of flat bread with it, as a sort of appetizer. It turned out really well, although if I made it again as an appetizer I would put half of the sweetener.

Almond Pulp Spelt Flat Bread
-mix the dry ingredients
-mix wet ingredients
-combine wet ingredients with the almond pulp
-combine almond pulp mixture with wet ingredients and add seeds or nuts of choice, I chose hemp seeds this time, but you can also add anise seeds
-mix well and pat it down evenly on a cookie sheet that has been covered with wax paper
-bake for about 15 min. in a preheated oven at 180* C

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Mango Coconut Chia Pudding with Smoked Chipotle
11/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup almond milk
2 mangoes cut in small pieces
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup chia seeds
liquid sweetener to taste(I use honey)
cardamon, cinnamon to taste
1 tsp turmeric
a tiny bit smoked chipotle (or chilli pepper)
tomato jam (or any other jam you have around)
minced mint

-blend the milks with the mango and orange juice
-add the spices and sweetener and blend again(I used a hand blender)
-add the chia seeds and mix well
-add the chipotle
-put into 6 individual serving cups and place a tsp of tomato jam on top of each pudding cup
-garnish wit freshly minced mint
-put it in the freezer for about one hour
-serve

The Cycle of Jam

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Today while shopping with my daughter for school supplies in Amsterdam I caught myself regularly looking at my reflection on store windows, or inadvertently staring into every mirror I came across. This masochistic behaviour is not something I have indulged in for the last 32 years(yes I am 50), but somehow it popped up again, and I wondered why.
Having two teenage daughters with beautiful figures, who look great on anything they wear is of course no great confidence booster for my 50 year old ego, although I am extremely pleased to see how lovely they have turned out. When I looked for my reflection on those shop windows I was also looking for that teenager of 32 years ago, but what was the teenager looking for way back then anyway, when she repeatedly looked at her reflection on the store windows?

That search for perfection! Funny enough art is much kinder; perfection often lies in the beauty of the imperfect. Although creating art is more often than not a painstaking process, the product mostly has the ease of something that has always existed, something that couldn’t and shouldn’t be any other way. The artist often uses his skill to portray perfection and beauty in the imperfection and vulnerability of life. When we look at the curves in those plump Botticelli women or at the dark, wrinkled images of the characters in Rembrandt’s paintings, we don’t turn away thinking that those women really should have been thinner or less wrinkled, on the contrary we look into their souls and embrace the beauty, pain, and life that they portray.

We people are also works of art, and if I remind myself to look at my window reflection with the same wonder for life that I look at Rembrandt’s characters, the ones looking back at me from the walls of the Rijksmuseum I will see myself in all my perfectly imperfect glory and enjoy!

The food I love is also not about perfection. I love to cook foods that don’t look perfect, foods that happen from the messy interaction with life. I love foods that cook in one large pan, in which ingredients are measured by handfuls or pinches and not by grams. I don’t feel tempted by those large plates with a couple of creamy drops of something in the centre. I love the beauty of the big pot with stuff in it.

Today I made a big pot of tomato jam, and it was fun to go from the plump juicy tomatoes to the concentrated, reduced, sweet, spicy gooey jam; a whole cycle in 11/2 hour.

Tomato Jam
about 2.5 kilo of tomatoes
11/2 cups honey
1 cup of sucanat(granulated cane juice)
the juice of one lemon
the peel of 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp clove powder
4 cardamon pods
a pinch of salt

-cut the tomatoes in medium size pieces(I cut them in pieces of 4)
-put all the ingredients in a large pan and let them cook until the whole thing becomes jam, about an hour and a half
-stir occasionally, and don’t let it get super thick since it will thicken when it cools off
-when the jam is done put it in glass jars, let it cool off and refrigerated for up to a couple of weeks.
-you can also can it in sterilized jars(which is what I did this time, since I want to practice to get really good at canning and preserving), in this case you can store your jam outside the fridge for several months.

if you want to can your jam:
-have a large pan of boiling water where you can boil your already cleaned jars and lids(use new lids, since they are safer against bacteria) while the jam is cooking
-when the jam is almost ready boil the empty jars and lids
-take them out after they have boiled for about 10 minutes, use kitchen tangs to get them out, and place the jars and lids on a clean kitchen towel
-fill the jars with jam, but leave a bit of a space on top, and wipe the jars well with a clean towel
-close the jars well and put them in the pan with boiling water again to boil for about 10 minutes, make sure that the pots are completely under water
-take the jam pots out carefully and place them on a kitchen towel and let them cool off
-you know that your pots are properly sealed when you push the center of the lid and the lid doesn’t bounce back. The lids should be flat, rather sinking than bulging.
-if the pots are not well sealed put them in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage

BTW Tomato Jam is delicious!

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

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.