Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs

 

Doesn’t that sound just dreamy? It is hard to believe that something so sexy as a chocolate tart with fresh figs can be grain, dairy and refined sugar free. You also wouldn’t guess that it is extremely easy to make, not very time consuming and requires no baking! This is such a no-brainer it could be a weeknight dessert, but you might want to leave it for the weekend so it feels more like an indulgence.

I based this tart on a recipe from a new cookbook called Paleo Indulgences. Like I said the Paleo Gods have been shining down on me and put me in the good graces of the folks over at Victory Belt Publishing who send me the latest and greatest in Paleo cookbooks for review. I have really been so fortunate to receive these books free of charge. The books may be free, but the opinions I have are all my own. The good thing is that I have not been disappointed yet. These books have all helped me to eat Paleo for the past three months and given me such a variety of wonderful recipes to use in my kitchen, I don’t feel like I am missing a thing!

For the first month and a half of going Paleo I hadn’t eaten any sugar outside of fresh delicious summer fruits. But my mom came to visit in mid-September and I wanted to make some treats while she was here. So we looked through Paleo Indulgences and decided on the chocolate tart, mainly because Roberto is such a fan of chocolate. After the sweetness of my palette had changed it was nice to have a dessert that serves 8, yet only has 2 TBSP of sweetener, and maple syrup at that! But I am sure it will satisfy any sweet tooth, especially if you are a chocolate lover.

Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs (adapted from Paleo Indulgences)

INGREDIENTS:

Tart Shell:
1 ½ cups almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS pure maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Filling:
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TBS pure maple syrup
1 can of coconut milk
1 TBS of Frangelico

Garnish:
Pint of fresh figs, sliced
Cinnamon for dusting

METHOD: Chill the can of coconut milk overnight or at least a few hours, this separates the fat from the water.

Place all tart shell ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well incorporated and starting to stick together. Place mixture into a tart pan (or you can use 4 mini tart pans). Press firmly along the bottom of the pan(s) and part of the way up the sides of the pan(s). Place on a baking sheet and chill for about an hour, or until firm.

Meanwhile, place the filling ingredients, except the coconut milk fat into the food processor and pulse until well mixed and smooth. In a separate bowl, whip the coconut milk fat and Frangelico together – scoop out the fat on the top of the can, leaving the watery part in the can and whip the fat and Frangelico just like you would whipped cream. Then fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour filling into the tart shell(s) and refrigerate for another hour. Serve with sliced figs on top.

Will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Entered into the Fig Love Blog Hop.

Homemade Pumpkin Coffee Spice and Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Do you enjoy pumpkin spice coffees but don’t want all the chemicals and corn syrup? You don’t have to miss out on this favorite seasonal treat; consider making your own spice blend!

I started this kick by accident two years ago when I was grinding a special spice blend for my Pfeffernusse Shortbread Cookies  in my coffee grinder and forgot to clean it out. Next time I made coffee it had this wonderful spice that brought me right back to Yuletide in Norway. So I started making more and putting a pinch in my coffee in the morning all winter long.

Just this morning I was lamenting the fact that I can no longer enjoy Pumpkin Spice coffee drinks when I go out (I have been lamenting this seasonally for years now), since the syrups are full of corn syrup and other artificial flavors. I love Autumn, I love pumpkins and I love pumpkin spice everything this time of year! So I decided to make my own spice blend!

I have been enjoying Teecino as an alternative to coffee, it is an herbal coffee comprised mostly of ground roasted roots, like chicory and dandelion and nuts as well as dates and carob. The one I get is called Dandelion Vanilla Nut and it is 100% gluten free (unlike some of their other flavors). This lends itself nicely to the spice blend that I created, making a delicious, warm and seasonal beverage!

Of course no gourmet coffee experience is the same without a nice delicious treat to go along side, so here is also another recipe from Practical Paleo for Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Cranberries! The perfect healthy Autumnal treat!

Pumpkin Coffee Spice Blend:

INGREDIENTS:

2 tsp whole cloves
2 allspice berries
½ star anise
2 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD: Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder and pulse until ground. Don’t worry about cleaning out the grinder!  Makes about 6 servings, use about ¼ tsp of spice blend per cup of coffee. Place spice mixture in the coffee filter with your coffee grounds for brewing.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins adapted from Practical Paleo

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs
¼ cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup butter or coconut oil melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 TBS pure maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut flour
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup fresh cranberries

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients (except cranberries) in a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer. Then gently fold in the cranberries. Scoop evenly into a muffin pan (line pan or use a silicon muffin pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serves 6.

Pork Belly with Onion-Apple Marmalade

 

We have been getting flurries off and on all morning and I just finished an essay on why it is ethical to eat meat for a contest sponsored by The New York Times. I will likely be sharing that essay on the blog in a few weeks after they have chosen the winning essay(s). If you believe eating meat is ethical, you should weigh in as well. You can read some of my thoughts on this topic, here, on my homesteading blog Got Goats?

So in light of that and this cold weather we are having, I thought posting a comforting and warming recipe for pork belly would be good. This pork belly comes from another local producer, as we used the pork belly from our pig share this fall to make bacon!

I adore caramelized onions; I think they make everything taste better, however I decided to make them even better by adding apples, maple sugar and spices to them to make it more of a marmalade. The result was absolutely mouth-watering. Of course the pork belly itself is sweet and tender, melting in your mouth but covered in the spicy and aromatic spice blend and then smothered in the onion marmalade it was lip smacking good. A perfect transitional from winter to spring recipe.

This recipe is very easy, most of the labor in the caramelizing of the onions and making the marmalade, everything else is pretty hands off – just let your oven do the work.

INGREDIENTS:
1 pork belly

Pork Belly Rub:
2 TBS maple sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin and hot paprika
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ground all spice berry
Pinch of ground star anise
Pinch of ground nutmeg

For the Marmalade:
2 TBS olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small apple, sliced
Salt
¼ cup water
¼ cup maple sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

METHOD:
Rub the pork belly with all the spices and let it marinate overnight or at least for 4 hours.

When you are ready to cook the pork belly, preheat the oven to 350 F. When the oven is preheated, place the pork belly in an oven safe roasting pan, Dutch oven or oven vessel with a lid. I used my tagine. Cook for about 45 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes until nice and browned.

While the pork belly is cooking work on caramelizing the onions: place the olive oil, onions, apple and garlic in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stir often and allow the onions to sweat by adding some salt. Turn the heat down to low and add about ½ of the water. Put a lid on the skillet and let simmer over low heat for about 30-40 minutes. Stir periodically and add more water if it starts to dry out. You want to be sure that your onions don’t brown, but get soft and gooey. Once they are looking good, add the maple sugar and apple cider vinegar. Stir until well incorporated and the sugar has melted. Then remove from the heat and serve on top of the pork belly. We served this with roasted potatoes and a nice green salad. Serves 4.

Versatile Smoothie Recipe

This recipe is kitty approved!

I have been posting a lot recently on my Facebook Page about my post workout Pumpkin Smoothies and those posts have created quite a buzz! I am a huge pumpkin freak and I enjoy it all year long – seems like a lot of you are too! I don’t know what I enjoy better, my workouts or these smoothies afterwards- the best of both worlds! This smoothie is great way to get in some extra grain-free carbohydrates, fat and protein post workout.

That said, many times when I post a specific recipe, I get a lot of great comments like: “can I substitute Y ingredient for X ingredient?” or “I wish I could make that, but I don’t consume X ingredient” or “I wish I could make this but I don’t know where to get X ingredient” or simply “I don’t like X ingredient”. You get the gist…so although I will post my awesome pumpkin smoothie with options and add ins, I will also give you ideas for entirely different smoothie recipes. This is mix and match folks! :)

This is your smoothie recipe – easy to tailor to your tastes and needs. I give some suggestions, but feel free to improvise. Like chocolate? Add a TBS or two of fair trade cocoa powder (no sugar added). Don’t do sugar? Try stevia, or fruit sweetened smoothies – dried dates are great for this. Want to make it a greenie? Add a handful of spinach or kale. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some of my recent combinations:

raw milk, pumpkin, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a little stevia
raw milk, egg, pumpkin puree, almond butter, cinnamon and molasses
coconut milk, avocado, cocoa powder, cinnamon, maple
kefir, soaked almonds, dried dates/figs, frozen berries, vanilla extract

This smoothie recipe is so versatile you can enjoy it for breakfast, a snack, dessert or part of any meal when you need an extra boost.

INGREDIENTS: per smoothie (@ 16 oz)

Base liquid: 1 cup liquid – Kefir, Raw Milk, Coconut Milk are good choices
Thickener: 1 banana – I also like using instead 1/2 avocado
Nuts: 3 TBS almond butter – you can use any other nut butter or a handful of soaked nuts – I usually use almonds – click here to understand about the benefits of soaking nuts
Sweetener: 1 TBS 100% pure maple syrup, honey or molasses or 1/8 – ¼ tsp or one or two dried dates (optional)
Optional add ins: ¼ cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 yogurt, 1/4 berries, 2 TBS cocoa powder, kale or spinach, dash of cinnamon, 1 shot of espresso or ¼ cup of coffee, 1 TBS coconut oil, raw pastured raised chicken egg (do not use conventional eggs from the grocery store), vanilla extract, powdered ginger, nutmeg, etc.
Ice

METHOD:
Place all the liquids in your blender first. Then add the fruit, butters, oils and nuts and then the cinnamon. Process on medium speed until well mixed, then start adding ice, a handful at a time, gradually, until the smoothie is at your desired consistency. I usually turn up the speed to high during the ice process. Pour and enjoy!

Buckwheat Shortbread

I love shortbread.  I know some are less enamored with the dry, crumbly texture but when using great quality butter, the key ingredient; it brings this Scottish specialty to a new level.  Served with tea, its natural accompaniment, it is pure bliss.

I think now is a good time to discuss butter, we eat a lot of it in this house (and have very good cholesterol reports and excellent blood pressure), but it is of the highest quality – grassfed, organic, artisanal butter. Yes, it is more expensive, but if you spend the extra money, it turns into a virtual health food and you can eat more of it without getting sick!

I know some of you are probably shaking your heads right now in dis-belief, but you see, butter has gotten a bad rap over recent years because the quality of butter found in most grocery stores is dismal.  A lot of you may have seen the news that Paula Deen, known for her butter laden foods has finally come forward being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, many of you are probably not surprised and many of you might think butter is the culprit, or even fat for that matter. But really, it is all about quality. Just think about our great-grandparents who cooked with a lot of butter and were in good health.

Most “butter” these days has canola or other oils on the ingredient list, or “natural flavoring” (code word for MSG) – especially when you get into the realm of “light” “lowfat” or “spreadable butter”.  Just look at the ingredient list for Land O’ Lakes “light” butter: Ingredients: Butter (Cream, Salt), Water*, Buttermilk*, Contains Less Than 2% of Food Starch-Modified*, Tapioca Maltodextrin*, Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides*, Lactic Acid*, Potassium Sorbate* and Sodium Benzoate* (Preservatives), PGPR* (emulsifier), Natural Flavor*, Xanthan Gum*, Vitamin A Palmitate*, Beta Carotene* (color).  Sorry but that isn’t butter anymore, it is a chem lab.

Even if your butter just contains cream and salt, it is likely from cows fed on grain and pumped with hormones, probably living in terrible conditions and that really makes all the difference in terms of your health and your arteries. If you eat grassfed butter, you are basically eating a nutritious, body boosting food, made up of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats coming from healthy animals eating nutritious grass.

So please, use good quality, healthy butter when cooking. I recommend Kerrygold – which can actually be found in most grocery stores (usually in the gourmet cheese section, but ask your store’s customer service for more info). I also like Organic Valley’s Pasture butter (green package) and Vermont Butter & Cheese’s European style butter, in that order. In a pinch, go for Cabot – found in groceries all over the country! If you can’t afford good quality butter, use less of it and substitute in olive oil.

Now onto the shortbread- since we are celebrating all things Scottish in January , shortbread is a perfect addition to the subject. A traditional shortbread is nothing more than sugar, butter and flour- in a one to two to three ratio, respectively. That is it. Traditionally it was made with oat flour, but most modern versions are made with white flour.

This time I opted for buckwheat flour. I had some delicious buckwheat shortbread this past summer and decided to try my hand at making my own version! It is virtually the same taste as “normal” shortbread, although a bit nuttier – which just compliments the butter- and gives the shortbread a darker color.

 

 INGREDIENTS:

2 cups buckwheat flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (honey works also)

1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces

 

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then pour maple over top, using your hands, a pastry cutter or a fork, mix in the butter, a little at a time until you have a crumbly dough.

Press the dough into a prepared (greased with butter) 9-inch round pan. If you have a shortbread pan, even better! Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden in color. Let cool about 10 minutes, then flip pan over onto a dish and remove the shortbread. Cut into wedges while still warm. Serve with tea or coffee!

DIY Holiday Gift Series: Maple Popcorn

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends


Don’t you just love all these healthy treats I have been sharing in this series? I just love sharing all these goodies with you! I am amazed at how good, “good for you” treats can really taste. I gotta say, it makes me feel really good about giving them to my loved ones (and sampling them to make sure they are good enough to send!)

This past weekend I experimented with a batch of Maple Popcorn. I have an Uncle who got addicted to it when he and my Auntie came to visit us a year or so ago. I have to be honest, like delivery pizza I never liked popcorn. It was always stale tasting or covered in that nasty fake butter. But when I had it once, made on the stove top using real butter, I discovered how much I liked it! Since then, it has been a sometimes snack in our household and I really did enjoy the maple popcorn that my Uncle got hooked on.

So, I thought maple popcorn would be a great gift to send for the holidays – nothing says Vermont like maple and popcorn is so lightweight and easy to ship! When I saw a recipe for Healthy Caramel Corn on Cheeseslave’s blog, I thought it would be a good base for a maple version and was it ever! I nailed it on the first batch, just by modifying her recipe to include maple. It was so good and incredibly fast and easy to prepare!

I’ll share a little secret with you though…this is made even better by grating some parmesan cheese on top…I admit to having that weird taste bud that loves sweet and salty or sour together rather than one or the other alone. Recently I found out it could be genetic (which explains why so many people think it is weird) thanks to another blogger who also solved a genealogical mystery for me.

ANYWAY, before I go way off on a crazy genealogy tangent now (I probably will at a later date), let me share with you how I packed the maple popcorn. I decided it would be cute to package them in white paper bags, decorated with holiday stamps!

I found this adorable snowflake stamp set, but when I got the stamps, I was disappointed to find that the stamp pads did not work on white paper! So I had to rush order some colors that would work!

Don’t they look cute and festive?

So go on and enjoy a bowl this weekend! It is a really tasty treat that everyone can feel good about eating!

 

Maple Popcorn (based on Healthy Caramel Corn from Cheeseslave)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup un-popped organic popcorn
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup
¼ cup really good butter
Salt to taste

METHOD:

Put the popcorn and coconut oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and turn the heat up to high, put the lid on.

After a few minutes, you will hear the popcorn start to pop. I like to shake the pot around a few times to make sure the un-popped kernels go to the bottom to pop. After a few minutes, the popcorn will stop popping. Listen closely and when the pops slow down, remove the pot from the heat. Act quickly and pour the popped popcorn into a large bowl (you might need two bowls). If you leave it in the stockpot, the popcorn at the bottom will get burned.

Put the stockpot on low heat and add the maple and butter. Stir until blended and completely melted. Pour the butter/maple blend on the popped popcorn. Toss in a few pinches of sea salt and mix it all together until everything is well-incorporated. If you are crazy like me, grate some parm on top. If you have trouble getting it mixed together in the bowls, you can put it back into the stockpot to mix it. Makes about 6 cups of popcorn per batch.

Emma’s Vanilla Beet Cake (Gluten-Free)

 

You know how Red Velvet cakes have been all the rage these past few years? That bold red color certainly makes a statement and looks so inviting. When I realized it was only vanilla cake dyed with red food dye, it totally lost its luster for me. A cake filled with artificial dyes that can be harmful to some people just doesn’t get me all that excited, to tell you the truth, no matter how cute it is. In fact, now, every time I see a recipe for Red Velvet Cake, I get a little angry, now it makes me SEE red! So imagine how intrigued I was when I heard about this cake from a fellow CSA member. A red colored cake that was made with natural ingredients, and gives you the nutritional benefit of the beautiful beets as opposed to filling your body with a large dose of chemicals in every bite.

This is a beautiful, unique and delicious cake recipe that was created by one of our fabulous CSA farmers, Emma. Emma and Ben planted a wonderful CSA for us, their members, this year. Even though we grew our own garden, it wasn’t big enough to allow for extra to preserve and we all know how much I love preserving! This was their first year doing a CSA and they did a perfect job! If you are a local, please check out Hatch Brook Gardens for next year – this young and very talented couple would appreciate your support!

You can see Emma’s Original Recipe here, but I had to modify it a bit to make it gluten free. It is a wonderfully moist cake that I think would lend itself beautifully to a nice cream cheese frosting. You don’t taste the beets in it, if anything; the beets add an extra wonderful earthy sweetness. If you really want to wow your guests this holiday season, this cake will do it! :)

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:

2 C beet puree – I roasted the beets at 400 for about 40 minutes and then pureed, roasting brings out the natural sugars in the beets.
1 ½ C GF oat flour
1 C coconut flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups pure maple syrup
½ C melted butter or coconut oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
¼ tsp. cinnamon

For the Glaze:
¼ c melted butter
¼ c melted coconut oil
¼ c maple syrup
Maple confectioner’s sugar to dust

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix all the cake ingredients together in one bowl. Emma suggests you use your “batter intuition” if it looks loose, add more flour and baking powder to match. Then pour into a prepared cake pan (I used a traditional round). Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool a little bit. I didn’t and so my frosting just kind of sunk into the cake, which wasn’t too terrible of a thing to happen! :)

For the frosting, Emma mixes together 1/2 cup of butter, maple, and confectioners’ sugar and applies it when the cake is still warm so it melts in to a glaze. I liked the addition of a bit of coconut oil as well and I used maple confectioners’ sugar.
I think it would be wonderful to double the recipe and make a layer cake with cream cheese- maple frosting. At least that is what I am doing next! :)

Enjoy!

 

Every Day Chef Challenge – Pumpkin Pie Parfaits

Every year, I tell myself I should challenge myself and enter some recipe contests. There is nothing I enjoy more than spending a day, or more a week testing recipes in my kitchen. I see so many of my fellow food bloggers entering all kinds of cooking challenges, and it looks like so much fun! But I always find an excuse not to do it, usually it relates to not having time to test recipes in the kitchen. Last year, my friend Aggie, from Aggie’s Kitchen was part of the Every Day Chef Challenge created by Pacific Natural Foods. So this past weekend, I spent all day Sunday creating two recipes for the Every Day Chef Challenge!

The nice thing about Pacific, is that they have all natural, preservative free, some organic and some free range meat broths in their offerings. So it is a good brand for people who are moving over to healthier ways of eating, but still like the convenience of store bought stocks, broths and milk alternatives.

I entered two recipes, this dessert is based on the Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits I made a few weeks ago. They were such a hit at our dinner party, and I had so much fun making them, I wanted to try some other flavor combinations. Plus, everyone loves a dessert made from pumpkin over the holidays and I wanted to create a pumpkin pie alternative for people who might be facing a family or group dinner where guests might have food allergies. This dessert is delicious, dairy, gluten, soy and refined sugar free. If you skip the graham cracker layer, you can also make it grain free. But this is perfectly delicious for those not suffering from allergies as well! My husband loved them, and he doesn’t even like pumpkin!

Recipe ingredients:
For Pumpkin Puree Layers:

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup

For Panna Cotta:

2 ½ cups Pacific Hazelnut Non-Dairy Beverage
¼ cup 100 % pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
½ cup of graham crackers, crushed (I used gluten-free graham crackers)

Cooking instructions:
Looks long and complicated, but once you get the layering down, that is really all there is to it! It will be totally worth it!
1) Make the pumpkin puree layer. In a medium bowl mix well the pumpkin, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Set aside.
2) Pour the hazelnut beverage into a small pan and heat on the lowest setting until small bubbles form on the edges of the pan.
3) In the meantime, in a small bowl pour the quarter cup of water and add the gelatin, whisking briskly until thoroughly combined. Set aside until the hazelnut beverage has started to bubble.
4) Then add maple syrup, vanilla extract and spices to the hazelnut beverage once it has started to bubble slightly.
5) Remove the hazelnut beverage mixture from the heat and add a quarter cup of it to the gelatin whisking briskly to incorporate, making sure there are no lumps.
6) Add gelatin mixture back to the pan with the rest of the hazelnut beverage mixture, whisk to combine and then set pan on the lowest heat setting, so that it doesn’t start to cool and gel.
7) Using ½ pint mason jars, place about 1/3 cup of the hazelnut beverage mixture on the bottom.
8) Put the mason jars in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes, until softly set.
9) Remove jars from freezer and let the jars come to room temperature. You want to make sure that you aren’t adding hot liquid to frozen glass, as this will cause the glass to break.
10) Then add about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin puree and smooth over top as best you can with the spoon or your clean fingers.
11) Then add a little crumble of the graham crackers.
12) You will repeat this process until you have the following: 3 layers of hazelnut milk mixture, 2 layers of pumpkin puree and 2 layers of graham crackers. Always let the hazelnut beverage layer gel before adding the pumpkin puree, etc.
13) Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours before eating.
14) Serves 4.

Here is a link to the recipe! I feel really weird about self-promotion…but here I go. If you like it, please vote for it on The Every Day Chef  Challenge website! You don’t have to register to vote or anything, just check out the recipe, and vote!  AND, you can vote for it every day, up until November 14th.  I would very much like to win a kitchen aid mixer. Something that I have been dreaming about adding to my appliances for years. If you really love the recipe, please feel free to share the link on your social media outlets. Thanks so much for supporting this blog!