Raw Carrot Cake, for a birthday

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Dropping in super quick on this mid-summer day. The weather around here is finally reaching its appropriate (hot and summery) temperature  and The Recipe Redux is celebrating a birthday. I think you all know I prefer to celebrate birthdays with carrots, in the form of cake, so we’re going to be enjoying this weather-appropriate tiny Raw Carrot Cake.

It is tiny because I decided to make a little one to serve four to six and as you may know, raw desserts can pack a lot of nutrition in dense little (tasty!) bites. Savor them slowly and they are so worth it.

 

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Raw Carrot Cake, serves 4-6
I’ve been experimenting with this recipe for quite some time and nearly made it for my own birthday in lieu of a baked carrot cake. It’s super easy and can be made in any pan or container. If you’re going with a single layer, a 4×4 inch size would be best, or double the recipe for a crowd and it will fit easily into an 8×8. Otherwise, find your tiny flat-bottomed container of choice and layer it up, as I did. A couple more notes on ingredients: I tried a variety of flour ratios and really prefer a good base of oats as I don’t enjoy all nuts but this can be made with all almond flour to equal 1 cup in total. The addition of orange zest or essential oil in the cake and frosting is completely optional but brings a really nice flavor to finish so use only if you prefer or have on hand. 

Cake:
1/2 cup medjool dates, soaked for a few minutes
splash of water from soaked dates
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup oats, finely ground
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
zest of 1/4 of an orange, optional

Frosting:
1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
2-3 Tbs. reserved date water, as needed
1/2 Tbs. brown rice syrup or honey
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1/2 Tbs. melted coconut oil
zest of 1/8 an orange or one drop orange essential oil

  • Line two circular pans of choice or a 4-inch square dish with parchment paper, leaving some of the paper to come up the sides, and set aside.
  • In a food processor, puree the oats until they come into a fine flour. Then transfer them to a small bowl and pulse the dates in the processor with a splash or two of their soaking liquid until they come into a chunky paste. Add the vanilla and puree a little longer until almost smooth. Add the grated carrots and pulse a few more times so they are broken down a bit more but not completely smooth. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the oats. Add the almond flour, spices, salt, and orange zest if using. Mix it with a spatula or spoon until evenly mixed. Then, press this cake mixture into the parchment lined pans. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to frost.
  • For the frosting, in your food processor again, combine the soaked and drained cashews, 1-2 Tbs. reserved date water, brown rice syrup or honey, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Blend on high until you have a smooth and creamy consistency. Then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and drop of orange oil or zest and puree again, adding a little more date water as needed if it’s really thick. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for about an hour to firm it up.
  • To finish, lift the cake layers from their container, and frost using as much of the cashew frosting as you prefer. Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for about 5 days.

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toasted oat porridge with chamomile, walnuts + spiced apples

toasted oat porridge with chamomile, walnuts + spiced apples

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Everything is connected here…the soil feeds the plants that feed us. We are merely the walking, talking result of that connection.
– Lora Lea Misterly

 

I tend to share the same old stories here, I’m sure, but one of the big turning points in my relationship with food was marked by my visit to Quillasascut Farm School back in 2009. The week of cooking, harvesting, and gathering with like-minded young folk was put on as part of a Slow Food Youth workshop. I was the only “experienced” farm girl among the participants, and I was chosen in part because I come from a conventional agriculture background while the teachings and discussions were in line with Slow Food’s philosophy of food that is good, clean, and fair. At the time, I had just wrapped up spending 18 days straight working wheat harvest which entailed driving a combine for 12 hours a day across soil that was essentially devoid of life–save that wheat. The experience was a good one and I worked for a great family but I was beginning to put the pieces of our food and health systems together.

 

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I don’t think the week at Quillasascut changed any of my viewpoints on food necessarily, but through it I was able to move away from hyper-focusing on what any one food was doing to me individually and instead look at it from a broader lens, taking into consideration the communal and ecological connections to what I was eating. I was able to move away from thinking of myself as just an eater and realized I play a vital part in this connection within our vast food system. When I began to take into consideration and participate in more of the story behind my food, where did it grow, in what conditions, by who, were the people that grew it compensated fairly?, what role do I play?, I stopped worrying so much about the things that do not matter, i.e. exactly how many calories are in my meals, how I can control my body, etc., and just eat with joy, mindfully. To be sure, I’ve had a volatile last few years in terms of my relationship to food and body image, but each time I begin to overthink and hyper analyze, I’m usually brought back into better relationship by refocusing on the communal and broader connection aspects of eating.

 

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This month, The Recipe Redux challenged us to pull out one of our cookbooks and share a reduxed recipe. In similar, past challenges, I have shared recipes from my favorite blogger family. This year, I instead pulled down Quillasascut’s cookbook, Chefs on the Farm. 

The book is beautiful, and though many of the recipes bring back warm memories since they are ones myself and the workshop participants made there with chef Karen Jurgensen, the book contains much more than recipes. Each season is marked with a reflection by farmer Lora Lea or her husband Rick about life on the farm as well as knowledge of sustainability practices that can be incorporated, no matter the location, or lack of farm.

 

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Today’s recipe is adapted from a chamomile porridge in the Winter section of Chefs on the Farm. Both chamomile and oats have relaxing properties that soothe the nerves and set us up for a more grounded day. Chamomile is also useful for soothing an anxious, hyped-up, or perhaps overworked stomach and digestive system, which may be needed this time of year. Along with omega-3 rich toasted walnuts, the oats and chamomile combine to make a truly delightful and nourishing breakfast option during this holiday season. Enjoy the combination on its own, or if you’ve the mind, make a quick spiced apple compote to serve alongside. If unable to track down bulk chamomile, break open a packet of tea. Enjoy!

 

Toasted Oat Porridge with Chamomile, Walnuts + Spiced Apples, serves 1
1/2 cup old-fashioned or thick rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
1 cup water
1 Tbs. dried chamomile flowers
dash of sea salt
1 small apple, diced
dash of cinnamon and ginger
1-2 Tbs. walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • Toast the oats in a skillet over medium-high heat, just until they become fragrant. This step is optional but it will lead to a richer, toasty oat flavor.
  • Then, in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil and add in the toasted oats, chamomile, and a dash of sea salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the cut of your oats and desired consistency.
  • While the oats are cooking, combine the diced apple, spices, and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Bring them to a good simmer and cook just long enough for the apple to soften and the liquid to form a slight syrup.
  • Remove the oats to a bowl, pour over the spiced apples, and top with toasted and chopped walnuts.

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Pumpkin Pie + Holiday Thoughts

Pumpkin Pie + Holiday Thoughts

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The Recipe Redux theme for November is healthy holiday baking. If you’re new to this space, The Recipe Redux is a monthly recipe challenge, founded by three registered dietitians, which I participate in. The challenges are always focused on taking delicious dishes, keeping them delicious, but making them better for us.

 

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In light of this season, I’ve been doing a bit of reflection on where I stand in the interchange between decadent holiday foods and how I eat from day to day. Should I splurge and not worry about some of those really not healthy ingredients because it is the holidays, or should I try to capture the essence of health in enjoyable foods because it is the holidays –and we all tend to overeat and regret it later?

Additionally, as a result of all that I’ve been learning of health and nutrition and where I stand right now in aiming to maintain a healthy relationship with food, I’ve been returning to passages from Annemarie Colbin’s Food and Healing: 

With all the recent emphasis on “healthy” eating, it is important to remember one thing: Food does not make us healthy. The right kind of food will allow us to reach our maximum health potential, to become as healthy as our genes and constitution may permit. It will support what we are at our best. It will not interfere with our development, but it will also not make us more than what we can be. In short, good food is effective because it is passive. The wrong kind of food will act like a block or a dam, deflecting our growth and thwarting our unfolding. In other words, it will actively create trouble, and make us unhealthy…Good food will nourish us without causing stress, and thus allow our immune system to spend its energy in healing. Thus many different diets will have healing effects. Often it is not just what we eat, but also what we don’t eat that helps us become healthy again. 

So my theory right now? Stressing about eating the right kinds of food is not healthful. But neither is eating foods that overtax and/or stress our bodies, foods like highly refined sugars, refined flours/grains, and rancid oils, to name a few. Sure, they’re fine in small quantities infrequently. For the most part however, they’re best avoided, even (and maybe especially) during the holidays. Aren’t we all a little too stressed in this season? Don’t we deserve to feed ourselves and our loved ones foods that have healing qualities?

 

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My advice is to do what you can with what you have. But maybe as you venture into this holiday season, do so a little more mindfully, thinking to yourself, How do I want my body to feel after eating? What foods will nourish me best? 

 

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Pumpkin Pie, makes one 9-inch pie
Truthfully, I never liked pumpkin pie until I stopped eating dairy and enjoyed a vegan version of the classic. The creamy custard base always turned me off. Now I love pumpkin pie and count it as one of my favorite flavors. While there are innumerable versions swirling about this time of year, this is the one I make and enjoy. It is adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s pie in
Food52 Vegan and while I enjoy her version, I’ve changed it a bit so dates are the primary sweetener and, in my years-long quest to find a good gluten-free and vegan pie crust with no coconut oil (which I cannot stand in fat-heavy pastry doughs), I’ve finally come to a closer-to-whole-foods crust that tastes like what I think a pie crust should. It gets extra points for not needing to be rolled, chilled, or being difficult to work with. Enjoy!

filling:
2 1/2 cups baked + pureed pumpkin or winter squash, or canned puree
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1 cup medjool dates (about 10)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. tapioca starch
2 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
a couple good pinches of cloves

crust:
1 cup rolled oats
1/4  cup + 2 Tbs. almond meal/flour
3/4 cup millet flour
pinch of sea salt
4 1/2 Tbs. good quality canola oil
3 Tbs. maple syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla

  • Begin by baking the pumpkin or squash, if using, and soaking the cashews in water a few hours ahead of time.
  • Then, soak the dates in warm water for about an hour to soften up. Once the dates have soaked, keep 1/2 cup of their soaking liquid and put in a food processor along with the pitted dates, vanilla, and salt. Puree until completely smooth.
  • Into the food processor with the date puree, add the soaked and drained cashews, starch, molasses, and spices. Puree again, until completely smooth. Then add the pumpkin and puree once again until completely mixed. Then set aside to make the crust.
  • At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Finely grind the oats into a flour using either a food processor or coffee grinder.
  • Then, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, almond and millet flours and salt.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Then pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.
  • Dump the entire mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, and with your fingers, spread the dough across the bottom and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup, glass, or mini rolling pin helps smooth the bottom.
  • Crimp the edges, and then fill the crust with the pumpkin mixture.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is a golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.