Speculaas Chocolate Swirl Cream Cake

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The Dutch holiday season begins every November with the arrival of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa Claus). This bearded old guy arrives on a boat from Spain and hangs around the country for two weeks leaving small gifts in children’s shoes until the real celebration day (his alleged birthday) on December 5th when he leaves the big presents. After that, on December 6th he boards his boat back to Spain, making way for the rest of the celebrations, and just like in most other western countries the excitement continues to build to a frenzy culminating on December 31st. Part of the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition is baking with Speculaas. Speculaas is a mixture of pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg and it is usually added to special nickel size cookies called Pepernoten (pepernuts) as well as larger size cookies, similar to gingerbread cookies which only appear during the Sinterklaas celebration. Speculaas has a wonderful smell and I can understand why any native would become very nostalgic for the magic of childhood just by walking down the street and smelling the aroma coming out of bakeries and supermarkets.

This year I decided to break with tradition and do something else: not bake! Well at least not just yet! The idea of adding Speculaas to something creamy seemed really, really appealing, and combining it with chocolate magical. This cake is sublime and super easy!

Crust

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dates
a pinch of salt

Filling

2 1/2 cups of soaked cashews
1 2/3 cups of nut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1-1 1/2 tsp speculaas spice (or all spice or cinnamon for the non Dutchies who can’t find this anywhere)
1/4 cup cacao powder

-process all the crust ingredients
-press crust in a cake form and even it out well

-put all the filling ingredients in the blender and blend except for the cacao
-blend very well at high speed until totally creamy
-pour 3/4 of the filling on the prepared crust
-put the cacao powder in the blender with what is rest of the filling and blend well
-pour cacao filling on top of the other filling creating a swirly shape
-shape further with a chopstick or a knife so that the chocolate cream penetrates the speculaas cream
-cover with plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of hours until well set
-sprinkle with cacao nibs

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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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Sexy Lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A couple of days ago my 16 year old son Tim, who takes most of the pictures for this blog was in the mood to take a ” food picture”. He has been amazing at getting to know our new Cannon camera and definitely inspires me to make my dishes as beautiful as possible. We have developed a fun collaboration which pushes us both to be better at this. Looking around at the ingredients I had in the kitchen, a carrot cake seemed like a possibility. We decided on an elegant carrot cake, sort of like the refined, well dressed sexy lady who stands out at the party. We wanted the mystery and elegance to ooze from this cake and I think we managed, not only with the beautiful shots he took, but with the taste of the cake as well. To me carrot cake can be a wintery sort of cake, perfectly suitable to the weather and mood here in the Netherlands, due to the carrots and the warm spices. However this winter has been extremely mild and for a while now we have been experiencing symptoms of spring; its a matter of fact Easter feels around the corner. Well, this cake is dressed for Easter, while at the same time keeping the spiced wintery carrot cake feeling to it.

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Carrot Cake

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup neutral tasting organic oil
1 1/2 raisins
1/2 cup maple syrup
grated zest of 1 orange
11/2 grated carrots
2 tsp. grated ginger
2 cups flour(mix whole and white)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 salt
1 cup walnuts chopped
1/4 date syrup
1 can pineapple in juice

-Preheat oven 180* and prepare two 8 inch pans by covering the bottom with baking paper and greasing the sides.
-Put the water, oil 1/2 of the raisins, the syrup and the orange zest in the blender and blend well.
-Add the carrots and ginger and pulse a couple of times.
-Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
-Add the blended wet ingredients and briefly mix.
-Add the remaining cup of raisins and the nuts, stir
-Bake for about 35-40 minutes
-Let it cool off and then transfer to a wire rack to frost
-spread one of the cakes with date syrup, or another sweetener
-put the other cake on top and frost with the cashew orange frosting(below)
-garnish with pieces of pineapple and some more grated lemon zest
(adapted from a recipe by John Robbins)

 

Cashew Orange Frosting

2 cups of soaked cashews
1/2 cup rice syrup or maple syrup
vanilla
juice of 1 orange
the zest of 1/2 lemon
a pinch of salt
about 1 cup water
1/2 tsp. turmeric

-put everything in the blender and blend until creamy, silky and shiny.
-let the frosting rest a bit before using so that it thickens a bit more
-pour from the center of the cake outwards.

*The flower garnish on the picture are dried roses which I found in an Asian foods store

Tiramisu

 

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                                                                                                                                                                      “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Salvador Dali

At one point, about 16 years ago I chose to almost completely eliminate animal products from my diet. This decision brought about lots of positive things besides a healthier body. It brought my family and me awareness of the effect that our food choices can have on the environment, as well as a sharpened view of what the ethical and moral consequences of using animal lives wantonly can be. Nevertheless as a cook I found it difficult to ignore the traditional kitchens of most parts of the world in which animals had played a critical role. Not only did many past cultures thrive using animal products, but in much of the world’s cuisine animal products play a crucial part. While I haven’t felt the need to run out and buy a steak or a chicken in the last sixteen years, I have endlessly experimented with how to recreate some of the tastes and textures which characterize some of those traditional and maybe not so health or animal friendly dishes into plant based alternatives. I really, really believe that life is much more fun if we create a feeling of abundance and possibilities rather than limitations, and have never felt deprived by my choice to eat mostly plant foods. Veganizing dishes has been fun, not only because when successful I get to enjoy healthier and more compassionate versions of some of my favorite dishes, but also because in the process of veganizing a dish I feel I come to the essence of the dish and as a result get a deeper understanding of what cooking is about and what the actual role of the ingredients are. 

I veganized Tiramisu because it is a dessert I really enjoy and which brings me great memories of vacations in Tuscany and Umbria. Substituting the animal products in some dishes is a process. I have seen many vegan versions of Tiramisu which use tofu to substitute the mascarpone, and while I do understand why tofu seems like a logical choice(it’s white, low fat, neutral tasting…) I think the essence of tofu is opposite to that of mascarpone, which is high in fat. Using tofu to make Tiramisu defeats the purpose! And what about the eggs? They also play a role in this most decadent dish. I think that even though health should have priority in our food choices, substituting ingredients without regard for the role that they play in a dish leaves us dissatisfied and possibly with a sense of dullness regarding the particular dish. In creating art(which we all know cooking is) imitation and substitution of the components which create a particular work require understanding of the role is of these components. Superficially substituting notes or colors in a piece of music or art won’t create a comparable version to that original wonderfully, satisfying work of art. I chose cashews to substitute the mascarpone because they are high in fat and become very creamy when soaked and blended. In my experience cooked pumpkin doesn’t only add an eggy color, but also adds an eggy flavor, which I have often used in puddings and vegan flans to create the rich taste that eggs often add to a dish. I find this version of Tiramisu delicious and satisfying, but I still consider it work in progress since I will not be totally happy until I can make an authentic but vegan version of Lady Fingers.

I am really interested to hear from you about your experiences and ideas on veganizing dishes! I bet there most be some creative cooks out there with ideas as to how to create vegan like lady fingers? 

Tiramisu

Cake/cookie

1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
8 Tbs. sucanat
3 Tbs. almod flour
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

-combine the dry ingredients in a bowl
-add the combined wet ingredients
-spread batter on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper
-bake for about 10-15 minutes at 180* C
-when done cut in about 3 by 1 inch slices

Cream

2 cups soaked cashews
1 cup water or soy or nut milk
1 cup coconut milk
a pinch of sea salt
8 Tbs sucanat
a small piece of cooked pumpkin(about 3 Tb. pureed)

freshly made espresso coffee
brandy

-briefly soak each piece of cake in the coffee and make one layer on a broad and not too low form
-sprinkle with brandy
-spread the cashew cream evenly on top of the layer of cake
-proceed to repeat the process and after putting the second layer of cream sprinkle with cacao powder
-refrigerate for about 2 hours before cutting and serving

 

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The Cooking Angels

Sometimes one just has to let someone else do the cooking. Maybe that someone cooks so well that if one insists in doing all the cooking one would be terribly missing out on some major yumminess, or maybe the others are really good at preparing quick lunches with the ingredients that are around at moments when one has to spend hours at the computer preparing lesson plans for the impending and fast approaching school year. I will be starting a new job at a Waldorf School teaching English as a foreign language, and although I am really looking forward to it, in combination with my cooking activities it will be quite a handful. So I am very relieved to be able to count on these cooking angles with whom I share a home, to regularly lavish me with delicious wholesome treats and wonderful meals.

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Yesterday my husband made a wonderful rice dish for lunch, with fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. He made it in such a way that the vegetables remained colourful and vibrant, but at the same time were cooked long enough to impart loads of flavour to the dish; specially the whole cherry tomatoes were a special surprise.

Farmer’s Market Veggie Rice
about 3 cups of cooked brown rice(left over is perfect)
1 or 2 onions cubed
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 large carrot cut in small pieces
1 red bell pepper cubed small
1 cup of brad beans
1 leek cut fine
about a cup of cherry tomatoes
a bunch of black olive
sea salt
pepper
paprika
2 tbs.tamari
2 tbs. mirin

-sauté the onions and garlic in a broad cooking pan with a bit of olive oil(about 2 tbs) and a pinch of salt
-add the veggies one group at the time starting with the carrots
-add the red bell peppers, the broad beans and leeks and stir a bit
-add the paprika powder and the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and cook a bit, stirring but don’t bruise the tomatoes
-add the olives and the rice, stir a bit and add the mirin and tamari
-cook at low and medium fire stirring to make it cook evenly and prevent burning
-after about 10 minutes turn off the fire and served garnished with spring

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Chocolate Banana Nutcase
210 gram mixed ground nuts (about 3 cups)
1 small cup fine polenta
1 cup cacao powder
1 3/4 cup palm sugar
2 tablespoons maca
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 bananas well mashed
3 tablespoons coconut butter melted
1 1/2 tablespoon butter(substitute for melted coconut oil)
1/4 cup coconut milk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoon grated ginger

-combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl
-in another bowl combine all the wet ingredients including the banana
-mix the wet and dry
-prepare an oven try by covering it with baking paper
-spread the batter evenly on the tray and bake it for about 15 minutes at 180* C

My oldest daughter Ella took care of dessert today. She is a fantastic cook and great at just whipping something up out of thin air. Ella made some seriously rhapsodic brownie like things, that made us all desperate for a second piece and in some cases a third.
I got to finish my lesson plans and have a great dinner, as well as figure out what to put in my and my 12 year old daughter Anna’s lunch lunchbox, since we both have our first school day tomorrow albeit in different roles. While others were taking care of dinner I put a dish in the oven filled with sliced zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and bell pepper, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. I let them roast and tomorrow I will drizzle the veggies with a bit of balsamic vinegar, minced basil and some pine nuts to make delicious sandwiches.

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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

Carrot Cake Pudding with Ginger Syrup

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My oldest son plays the piano. He is not just a pianist, but a wonderful pianist, possibly one of the best of the younger generation in the Netherlands and tomorrow he is presenting his first cd, which of course is a festive occasion for our whole family. In the spirit of this festive occasion part of our family decided to spend some time in the kitchen, of course! My munchkin Anna and I decided to do some baking and Cyrille(husband) made a fantastic mushroom risotto for dinner. I will concentrate on my contribution since Anna baked amazing chocolate chip cookies from a Mooswood dessert cookbook and Cyrille doesn’t ever measure any ingredient so it is practically impossible to reproduce anything he makes and share it on a blog.

My cake came about as a result of my desire to create a carrot cake which would focus on the intensity and yumminess of the carrots rather than on the cakekiness of the cake, if you get what I am saying! One of the things I like about carrot cake is its moist comforting quality, which I wanted to emphasize by making my dessert more like a pudding than a cake; I don’t mean a cake that failed as a cake and resigned to being a pudding(we’ve all had some of those), but an elegant mixture of the two, cake and pudding.

At the moment I am also a bit taken by the wheat controversy and the possible negative effects that many seem to attribute to it(just read the book Wheat Belly and I am trying to process the information in it). So I was inspired to make a cake without wheat and with as little flour as possible, for which I think carrots lend themselves quite well. Besides the the fact that I didn’t use much flour(one cup of spelt) the other unusual things in this cake/pudding is the use of corn flour, coconut milk and thickly grated carrot as opposed to finely grated. But the funniest thing of all is that when I was making this dessert I forgot to add a sweetener to the batter, which I realized when the cake was already in the oven. At that point I decided to solve the problem with a ginger syrup which would go on the cake after it came out of the oven, this worked out great, in fact it seems like the perfect way to sweeten this dessert. Everyone at home loved the result including guests who are not used to putting up with my experiments, so I am confident that you will love it too!

Carrot Cake Pudding with Ginger Syrup

3 cups medium grated carrots
2 grated apples
1 1/4 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup corn flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
the juice of one orange
the peel of one orange
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 tbs flaxseeds
1 tbs chia seeds
a handful of raisins
2 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp clove powder

-put the grated carrots and grated apples in a large bowl
-in another bowl mix all the dry ingredients
-in a third bowl mix all the wet ingredients
-mix the wet ingredients with the grated ingredients and add the dry ingredients, mix well
-prepare a cake pan covering the bottom with wax paper and greasing the sides with oil
-pour the batter in the cake pan and bake at 180* C for about 30 minutes
-pour the ginger syrup evenly on top of the cake before taking it out of the cake pan and whilenit is still hot
-let the cake cool off a bit without cutting

Ginger Syrup

slices of fresh ginger(about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup rice syrup

-put everything in a pan and cook it for about 10 minutes until the ginger flavour is absorbed in the rice syrup
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Yum, Yum, Yum

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It feels like the summer is coming to an end, at least here in Amsterdam, where the gray days have started, the wind feels cooler and the fall jackets are starting to come out of the closets. I know it’s early but that is the nature of the this beast called the Netherlands. The weather may not be spectacular, but many other things are pretty wonderful here. Today I read a quote somewhere on FB which reminded me of the give and takes of life, which in the Netherlands you can interpret pretty literally: “If you want the rainbows, you’ve got to put up with the rain.” I am willing to embrace the rain in exchange for the beautiful canals, the mix and match of people and styles, the variety of foods and the typical down to earth Dutch attitude of which they seem so proud.
Yesterday in an attempt to hold on to the summer vegetables and dishes I came up with a delicious gazpacho which I have to share with you. Have you ever thought of combining roasted red peppers and a very ripe mango? Well it seems like a marriage made in heaven! The sweetness of the roasted peppers and the mango really complement each other, neither sticks out or tries to control the other, and even the colors don’t cancel each other out, they create a beautifully intense shade of orange. By the way orange is the national Dutch color and since I seem to be ranting on about the qualities of this adoptive country of mine, the color of this soup seems like a funny and appropriate bonus.
The basil pesto with roasted almonds adds that extra texture which makes this soup a notch chiquer. The super bonus is how easy it is to put together this bomb of color, texture and taste.

Roasted Red Pepper-Mango Gazpacho
5 roasted red bell peppers(I roasted the peppers in the oven until they turned pretty black, it took about 15 minutes, then I peeled and seeded them)
1 large mango peeled and cut in chuncks
1/2 -1 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt

-put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth and uniform

Roasted Almond Basil Pesto
a handful of basil leaves
1 clove of garlic crushed and minced
about 3 tbs roasted almonds
1/4 cup great quality olive oil
sea salt to taste
1 tsp of sumac (optional)

-make the pesto by hand with a mortar and pestle
-first crush the basil, garlic, oil and salt then add the almonds
-crush until you get a unified consistency, but the almonds still feel crunchy
-sprinkle with sumac if desired, for a tangy taste and mix well

Spoon the pesto in the individual soup servings

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.