Roasted Maple Butter Pecans

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Roasted nuts are powerful and simple all in one bite. I sprinkle mine in salads with a nice vinaigrette or I just eat them by the handful at an alarming rate.

Two things here. Well, three. One, you can use whatever kind of nuts you want in the recipe. Two, remind yourself when you’re taste testing them that the nuts will be chewy when really hot. As they cool, they’ll become crunchy again.

…and three, it’s really hard to talk about nuts like this without laughing like I’m 12 years old again.

Roasted Nuts:

2 egg yolks

1/4 c. melted unsalted butter

3 T. pure maple syrup

1/4 c. caster sugar

1 t. salt

18 oz. raw pecans

250 F / 120 C

-Beat the egg whites on high in a bowl until frothy and white (about 20 seconds).

-Add melted butter and continue to beat. Then add maple syrup, sugar and salt. Beat until fully combined.

– Add the pecans to the mixture and fold them into the egg mixture with a spatula until they’re fully coated and there is no puddle of unused mixture sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

-Bake in 4 15-minute increments, stirring each time until the egg white mixture has hardened over the nuts entirely.  They’ll also be fragrant and be giving off a crackling sound.

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Cocoa & Black Cherry Brownies

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3/4 c. unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. caster sugar

A pinch of salt

3/4 c. dutch process cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 c. AP flour

large handful of pitted and halved black cherries

350 F / 180 C

-In a bain-marie, melt butter and add sugar, salt, and cocoa until you have a grainy mushy mixture.

-Remove from the heat and stir quickly for 2-3 minutes to cool the mixture down. Stir in the eggs one by one. Then add vanilla.

-Once you’ve added the wet ingredients, stir in the flour and pour half into a lined 9″ tin.

-Place half of the cherries on top and then add the second half of the brownie mix over them. Add the rest of the cherries over top and bake for 20-25 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean.

-Serve with 10 tons of vanilla ice cream over the top until you feel your heart shutting down.

 

Sticky Toffee Banana Cake

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When I lived in Thailand I missed a few Christmases. It was sad and a little weird, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. You learn a thing or two when you’re making Christmas dinner in a tropical country of 104-degrees. For one, I learned that no dinner is worth that amount of sweat ever again, and two, I learned that whether it be one mile or three-thousand miles, love still exists between people. We had a table of about 10 friends that year, and though we all felt the void of our parents, grandparents and cousins, we still found comfort in the presence of each other.

Anyway, before all that warm-hearted stuff, you have to actually cook the big meal. When you love someone (a.ka. Jay) who comes from another far away land other than your own, it takes a little collaboration to get the combination of traditions just right. Our result? We had sticky toffee pudding for dessert on the day and bubble and squeak on Boxing Day. That series of words had never left my mouth before so, it took Google and some serious Great British Bake Off watching to get to the bottom of it all.

Essentially, all of that was just my long way of telling you that this recipe was inspired by the sticky toffee pudding I made that year. It’s gooey, dense, and smells like caramel banana covered bliss. Just think that if banana bread and sticky toffee pudding had a baby, this would be it.

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For the caramel top:

3/4 c. brown sugar

7 T. salted butter

2 ripe bananas

  1. Melt the butter and sugar together and pour into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan.
  2. Peel and slice the bananas in half so that you have two stubs, not two long slices. then, slice the banana halves into thin slices and place them in a fan shape in the caramel. Refer to the picture if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
  3. Set aside.

For the cake:

1 1/2 c. AP flour

1/2 c. almond flour

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. soft butter

3/4 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe mashed bananas

1 t. almond extract (you can use vanilla if you don’t have this)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs, bananas, and extract until fully combined.
  3. Once combined, add the dry ingredients you had set aside just until the batter is moistened and without lumps.
  4. Pour it on top of the caramel and banana design you made beforehand and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back up when you push the middle of it. **
  5. Once done, flip onto a cake plate after about 5 minutes.

**Depending on your pan depth, you may not need all of your batter. Your pan should be 3/4 of the way full with batter.

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Strawberry Lentil Salad w/ White Wine Honey Mustard Dressing

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Strawberries have become a daily ritual these days, like brushing your teeth or making the bed. Wake up, eat strawberries, continue on with day. So far, I’ve made 3 crumbles, 2 batches of jam, strawberry shortcake, strawberry cordial, and now, this salad.

I’ll admit, it’s not the most ambitious recipe out there, but this is my blog, and I’ll do what I want. Besides, summer equals salads in my world.

I could eat mustard from a spoon or perhaps drink it from a bucket. I haven’t yet reached that point but, just so you know, it’s not out of the question. That combined with the timeless blend of sweet and savory makes this salad a winner.

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Salad: I tried to quantify the ingredients in the salad, but it’s really more about putting as much or as little as you’d like in there.

1 1/2 c. spring or spinach greens

2 T. blue cheese (or more because, why the heck not?)

1/2 c. cooked and cooled lentils (although it’s still good if they’re warm too!)

Sliced onion

Sliced strawberries

Whole raw pecans

dried cranberries

Dressing: Makes about 2 cups worth of dressing. It stores in the fridge like a gem.

1/2 c. honey

1/2 c. mustard (I used normal yellow)

1/2 c. white wine vinegar

2 t. salt

*2/3 c. olive oil

-Combine the ingredients with a whisk and continue to whisk quickly until your dressing emulsifies (forcing the fats and acids together). You’ll know you’re there when it appears almost creamy and there is no separation of oil on the surface.

*The vinegar I used was quite strong. You may have to adjust your oil amount based on the acidity of your vinegar.

 

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Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Jam

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Strawberries are here! I’m not talking store-bought, either. I’m talking the hand-picked kind. After three years of being in a Asia, I have missed the juicy unbeatable taste of a handpicked strawberry. There is NOTHING like it. NOTHING. Just try and prove me wrong.

So, if you live in an area where strawberries are in season right now, and you are not bound to your house for whatever reason, you have no excuse to not be out at a u-pick patch right now. Just consider the sweat that drips down your back and between your boobs (oh, yea) a small price to pay for what’s to come when you’re out there picking. What is it that is so worth having swoobs for, you say?

Jam.

I think, or at least I hope, that those of you that have made your own jam before know what I’m talking about. There is nothing more satisfying than sustaining yourself with hand harvested produce that magically turns into preserves of any kind, frozen or canned. You just can’t beat it, folks. There is infinite beauty in having a true connection with your food, and there is no closer connection you can have beyond understanding what it means to nurture, harvest and make it yourself.

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If there is anything you need to know before making jam, just know this: it is a process, but it is a simple process once you’ve done it a couple times. If you respect the process, you will be eating jam for months to come with a smug look on your face because you’ll know that you made that jam, damn it. Yes, you did!

Also. You’re going to get burned at one point or another. It may be from water, spitting strawberry goo or hot metal/glass. Exciting, right? It’s a dangerous sport for those brave enough to get involved. Once you’ve finished the process and you hear the little pings from the lids sealing themselves after you’ve canned the jam, you will then have a real appreciation for what you just did. That is the true glory of canning food to me.  In fact, it is one of life’s greatest yet simplest pleasures, and it will never get old.

Okay, if that didn’t pump you up for the sport that is canning, channel the warrior within and begin!

This recipe won’t be as straight-forward as others so, stick with me. It was passed down to me via my grandmother, and to avoid confusion, I’ll do my best to break it down.

**** If you’re not into canning, you could easily just skip the hot water bath and send your jam straight to the freezer. ****

 

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This is the foam that I skimmed off the top and put in a little jar in the fridge.

 

What you’ll need:

10 c. washed and halved fresh strawberries

6 T. no sugar added pectin (the pink box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

2 T. normal pectin (the yellow box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

4 c. caster sugar

1/4 c. lemon juice (from the bottle)

1 T. vanilla paste (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)

Equipment (you can buy most of this as a kit in the store.)

Canning forceps

canning funnel

9   8 oz. jars with new lids and rings (rings don’t have to be new)

1 large sturdy pot (16 – 20 quart)

1 medium size stew pot (about half the size of your large pot)

A round cooking rack that fits inside pot (or your pot may come with something that you can use to help elevate the jars from direct heat)


 

Got that? Good.

Step 1: wash, hull and halve your strawberries until you reach 10 c. worth. Then, blitz them in a food processor in batches until they are mashed, but chunky. I tend to just pulse it lightly until they’re just right. You’re not looking for them to be liquidy per say. When you’re done, you should end up with 6 c. mashed berries. Now add the berries to your medium pot.

Step 2: Sterilize your jars. It doesn’t matter if your jars are old or new, wash them with soap and water very well. Place them on a baking sheet with a lid so they don’t slide off, and keep them in the over at 200 F until you’re ready to use them.

Step 3: Fill your big pot with risen rack at the bottom about 3/4 of the way and bring water to boil. This can be done while you work. It does not have to be boiling before you begin.

Step 4: Measure out your sugar and set aside. Take 1/8 c. of the measured sugar and set aside.

Step 5: Combine the 1/8 c. of sugar with the pectin in a small bowl and then add to the berries in the medium pot. Stir and bring to a strong boil (can’t be stirred away). This should take about 10 minutes.

Step 6: Add the lids to a small pan and heat the water to very hot, but don’t boil. Let them sit until you’re ready to use them.

Step 7: Once your initial berry mixture comes to a boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. When your mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Step 8: Skim any foam that formed during the boil and put it in the fridge. This can be your test to ensure the jam will set or you can eat it right away. Once you’ve skimmed the top, stir in the vanilla.

Step 9: Transfer the hot liquid to a large measuring cup. You can do it in two batches if you want. Remove the jars from the oven and place your canning funnel in the first jar. Fill until you reach the bottom of the funnel. Go to the next jar. Once you’ve filled your jars, wipe the edges if you’ve dripped any, take your lids out of the hot water and place them on top of the jars. With an oven mitt or balls of steel, grab the now smoldering jars and place the rings over the lids and seal them tight enough that you cannot twist them anymore.

Step 10: By this time, your water should be really boiling. Take your canning tongs and place half the jars in the pot, cover and boil for 10 minutes (If you live at an average medium altitude. If you are lower, it will take less time, about 5 minutes. If you are higher, it will take more time, about 15 minutes.). When they’re done, remove them and place them on a baking sheet in a flat place and wait for the ping! You’ll hear it, most likely, within a couple hours or less.

Step 11: High-five yourself for being awesome and motivated.


 

Okay, there are a few questions that you may have, and hopefully, this might help!

Can you reuse lids you already have?

Yes and no. It’s always best to get new lids because once they’ve been sealed they tend not to lose the impression for the next batch. That said, you can boil them to help loosen the impression and make the rim ‘gummy’ again. If you do, ensure that your jars are truly sealed once you’ve finished.

Can I use regular pectin instead of a combination?

I don’t mess with a good thing, but if you use all regular, you will have to up your sugar amount to about 6 or 7 c.

Do I have to sanitize my jars?

Uh, yes!!!! The rule of thumb is to add hot into hot. So, that’s why it’s important to heat your jars before you add hot jam. If you don’t sterilize, you risk bacteria and mold. Need I say more?

What if I don’t hear a ping from my jars or my jam turns out runny?

There are ways of fixing this, and a quick google will solve it for you. Don’t worry. If your jam is still runny, it could be because a number of things, but most likely because you’ve overcooked your pectin. It’s a moody ingredient and doesn’t like to surpass that 1 minutes boil point.

Why bottled lemon juice?

My grandmother always told me that the ph level is more reliable than fresh. Again, I’m not messing with a good thing.

 

 

 

 

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Coconut Butter

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This one is plain and simple, and I love it. Like, love love it. I wanna marry it. If you buy this stuff in the stores you end up paying a hefty price for a 15-ounce jar. Something like $13! If you’re Midwestern like me, you might have a Meijer, and they sell their True Goodness Brand unsweetened organic shredded coconut for $2.39/bag. If you do the math, about 1 full bag makes 15 oz. of butter, which means you save over $10 a jar! Say what?!

Some people may not be familiar with coconut butter, but that ends right here, people. It’s relatively the same process that peanuts take to become peanut butter. Basically, you just grind the crap out of unsweetened coconut flakes until you can grind no more.

I eat it on bananas, in oatmeal, on toast, by the spoonful, with mangos, on crackers, with chocolate bars, on cake…you get the point.

The only note of caution is that coconut butter behaves much like coconut oil does (not to mention there’s a small amount of that in there too). The cooler the temperature it is, the harder it gets. So, if you live in a cold climate or intend to keep it in the refrigerator, plan on letting it sit in a bowl of hot water to let the oils soften a bit until it’s spreadable again.

I’ve not yet tried it, but adding melted chocolate to the mixture could be a genius idea. You can also do this with toasted coconut, but expect your butter to have a crunchier texture.

If you’ve been living under a rock during the past 5 years, you just need to do a quick google search session to know that coconut is a superfood in all forms as long as it stays in its natural state (sans sugar and additives). So, if you can get it in, and I know you can, do it!

COCONUT BUTTER:

2 c. coconut pulp, unsweetened

1 pinch of salt

1 heaping T. coconut oil

  1. In a good quality food processor, grind coconut pulp and oil for 10-15 minutes. It will go crumbly, to looking like paste and then to a smooth and buttery texture, which is what you want.
  2. Just when you think it won’t work, it will meld into butter. The heat from the machine might make it look like a liquid, but don’t worry. Once the temperature of the butter drops, it will come to.
  3. Add a pinch of salt, pulse the machine once more to mix it in, and voila!
  4. Store in a tub, preferably at room temperature or hotter.

Gluten & Diary Free Chocolate Strawberry Cake

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Before you start wondering to yourself if this is some kind of sick joke, it’s not! And before you start wondering whether it tastes like cardboard or wet shoes, it doesn’t! It tastes like….well, like chocolate cake!

Turns out, after months of stomach aches and bloating, I’m allergic to wheat and dairy.

Great.

My solution is that I eat gluten free. Being wheat intolerant isn’t mutually exclusive with being gluten intolerant, but one eliminates the other in my case.

Anyway, this cake is my saving grace. I took a page from another bloggers book with it, and will gladly give her credit where it’s due right here. I made only a couple changes based on what I had already in the cupboard but have made it her way as well. They’re both great. Honestly.

The only thing I would further recommend is topping it with avocado chocolate frosting. Or, you know, real chocolate frosting works too. Guess my options are a bit limited these days and an avocado frosting seems to suffice.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE (Again, with my VERY slight alteration from her recipe.)

150 ml coconut oil (melted)

50 g organic & fair trade cocoa powder

125 ml boiling water

2 t vanilla

3 medium organic eggs

140 g good quality organic brown sugar

150 g ground almonds (almond flour)

½ t baking soda

a pinch of salt

350 F/ 170 C

  1. Grease and line a 9-inch cake pan
  2. Put the cocoa powder in a bowl, and whisk in the boiling water and oil until it forms a smooth paste. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl crack in the eggs, then add the sugar and coconut oil. Using an electric whisk, whisk the ingredients together for 1-2 minutes, the mix will thicken slightly. As noted on her site, doing this by hand will cause the cake to lose height.
  4. Pour the chocolate mix into the egg mixture and combine.
  5. In a separate bowl combine the almonds with the bicarb of soda and salt till the ingredients are well distributed.
  6. Pour into your cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake springs back when you push it.
  7. Top with fruit or cream

 

The Casual Hippy

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I hate to do it, but I’m going to do it anyway. It’s a little external promotion for myself. In addition to doing a lot of baking for people to help pay for my school this Fall, I also make these! Now that I’ve finished a few more of them, I can be a bit more forthcoming about it.

So, here it is!

I have an Etsy shop that I lovingly call, The Casual Hippy. Everything in the shop is handmade by me and any money from this shop or markets goes directly towards my tuition. You can find them all here if you’re interested.

Vanilla Rhubarb Meringue Pie

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Summer is upon us and our rhubarb bush is the size of a small bus. It’s time to get to work.

First up: pie.

For anyone who has their own garden or goes to a u-pick patch for their summer fruits, you know just as well as I do that sometimes you can get carried away. What do you do when you’ve taken your fruit intake one step too far? You make pies. Lots of pies.

When I saw one of my favorite Instagram accounts, Delicious Mag , post their version of this made with coconut, I tackled the bus sized bush.

FOR THE SHELL:

1/4 c. shortening or lard

1/4 c. cold unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. flour

pinch of salt

1/8 – 1/4 c. ice cold water

425 F / 220 C

  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, butter and shortening until combined and crumbly looking.
  2. Slowly add the water until a dough forms that when pinched sticks together.
  3. Pat into a disk and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out into an 11-inch disk. The dough sill be crumbly and you may have to do some patchwork once it’s in the pie tin.
  5. Place the disk into the tin and crimp around the edges.
  6. Place the prepared pie tin in the freezer for about 15 minutes unti lthe dough is rock hard.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Set aside once baked.

FOR THE FILLING: large stalks of rhubarb

7-8 large stalks of rhubarb

3/4 c. caster sugar

a splash of lemon juice

4 T. cornflour

4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)

1 T. vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean

3.5 T. room temperature butter

375 F / 190F

  1. Dice rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and toss in 1/2c. of the sugar. Dump them out onto a lined sheet pan and roast for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once roasted, blend until smooth in a blender and transfer to a sauce pan.
  3. Take a small scoop out and combine it with the cornflour and the remaining sugar and transfer back to the sauce pan.
  4. On medium heat whisk the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil and it has thickened to almost a paste like texture.
  5. Add the butter, vanilla and egg yolks and whisk quickly making sure to not let the eggs scramble. To ensure preventing this add a small amount of the hot curd into the eggs and stir before adding them to the mixture.
  6. Set aside to cool and to room temperature.
  7. Once both the pie crust and the curd are at room temperature, add the curd filling to the crust and bake for 20 minutes to set the curd.
  8. Once baked, set asie to cool to room temperature again.

FOR THE MERINGUE:

4 egg white

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. vanilla paste or 1/2 vanilla bean

425 F / 220 C

  1. in a stand mixer whisk the whites on high until they become frothy. Slowly add the sugar and beat into stiff peaks. Add vanilla.
  2. The meringue should be glossy and when rubbed between your fingers doesn’t feel grainy.
  3. Dallop in big swooshy piles over the curd until the curd is fully covered.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the meringue is golden but NOT dark brown. It can happen quickly so keep an eye one it. It may take a couple minutes more or less depending on your oven.

**When everything is assembled, baked and ready to go, let the pie chill as to not distrub the meringue. If cut when hot, it may weep.

 

 

Classic Soft Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m not feeling so chatty these days so, I’ll get you right to the point. Make these. Eat these. Thank me later!

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COOKIES:

3/4 c. melted butter

1 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. caster sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 t. vanilla

1 3/4 c. flour

1/4 c. dark cocoa powder

1/2 t. sea salt

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 c. white chocolate chips

1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

350 F / 180 F

  1. Combine sugar and butter in stand mixer. Add eggs and beat until mixture lightens in color. Add vanilla.
  2. Sift in dry ingedients and combine until a dough forms.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. With a large ice-cream scoop, scoop balls of dough onto a lined cookie sheet closely together. When the dough is finished, freeze the balls of dough on the trays until they’re rock hard.
  5. Store the ones you’re not going to bake right away in a freezer safe bag and bake the rest for 15 minutes. The cookies should be a bit raw still. As they cool, the dough will cook further and become a soft cookie in the end.