Monday, November 30, 2015

Balls of Carob

I used to really love sweets. But as I read more and more how toxic sugar is to us, my body just started wanting less and less of it.

That said, every once in a while, I do want just a little bite of something, just a bite! For a long time now, when the craving hits, I'd get my sweets and fair trade organic dark chocolate from the health food store.

But I am usually disappointed with much of what’s on the market, even at the health food store. Everything still has so much sugar (in one form or another) in it!

As usual, I wondered if I couldn’t concoct something healthier for myself at home.

I wanted something made with whole foods, nothing processed. I wanted healthy sweet things, like fruits, in there. I remembered that I hadn’t eaten carob in a long time. I headed to the health food store and started shopping. I got myself carob, dried plums and apricots, unsweetened shredded coconut, and some raw sunflower seeds.

I thought to add some other things I already had in the pantry, like raisins, dried cranberries, walnuts and honey and decided to mash it all together and roll it into a ball. A healthy “truffle” of sorts.

Now, I don’t list exact quantities because it’s really not that important. Just throw in what you think will work. It’s not an exact science.

Here’s what I did. 

Carob Balls


6-7 dried Plums (prunes): 3 soaked overnight in water and 3-4 regular dried (see note below)*
6-7 dried Apricots - same as above
A Tbsp or 2 Carob Powder
About a Tbsp or two of Honey or Maple Syrup
A good handful of Nuts (whatever you’ve got) - walnuts, pecans, almonds
A Tbsp. of raw Sunflower Seeds
A Tbsp or 2 dried Cranberries or a combination of those and Raisins
A Tbsp or 2 unsweetened dried shredded Coconut (optional)


Get out your food processor and fit it with the chopping blade.
Add the prunes and apricots and pulse until you’ve mashed them down.
Add the carob powder and pulse.
Add the sweetener (honey or maple syrup)
Then add the nuts and seeds and pulse again, but not too finely. You still want a little chunk.

If the mass seems wet, add a little coconut. Pulse until just blended.

Take the blade out of food processor bowl and add the dried cranberries. Give it a good stir. Form into balls like in the photo and roll in a little coconut.

Place balls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator until solid.

*NOTE: I’ve made this twice. The first time I used regular dried prunes and apricots but found the balls a little dry. The second time, I soaked the prunes and apricots in water overnight but then found the balls didn’t stick together well. Next time I do this, I’m going to do 50/50. I suggest you start with this and then experiment to your liking.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Carrot and Coriander Soup

At last, the weather is cooling off a bit in the evenings (even though we are still in the 70’s during the day). Close enough - it’s “soup weather” as far as I’m concerned. Anything below 60 and I’m there. Time to start firing up the soup pot!

In my last post I mentioned a soup I had made the same evening as the Thai curry. It was very tasty and it works nicely served before Thai or perhaps Indian dishes, but this soup could really be eaten with just about anything. It’s pretty versatile.

The orange from the carrots makes it visually interesting and the addition of coriander, not just the ground spice but the fresh variety called cilantro, make for a nice combination of sweet and savory, one of my favorite.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Serves 4-6.

1 lb. carrots, preferably young and tender
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced, plus 2-3 pale leafy celery tops
2 small potatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the carrots, peel if necessary and cut into chunks. Heat oil together with 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the onion over low heat for 3-4 min. until slightly softened but not browned.

Cut the celery stalk into slices. Add the celery and potato to the onion in the pan, cook for a few minutes and add the carrots. Fry over low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, and then cover. Reduce heat even further and sweat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom.

Add the stock, bring to a boil and then partially cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender.

Remove 6-8 tiny celery leaves for garnish and finely chop the rest (about 1 Tbsp. once chopped). Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan and fry the coriander for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, add the chopped celery tops and fresh cilantro and fry for about a minute. Set aside.

Process the soup in either a food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender right in your saucepan, until the soup is smooth. Stir in the milk, coriander mixture and seasoning. Heat gently, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve garnished with the reserved celery leaves.

For a bit of extra zing, add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thai Tofu Curry

Hi there. Miss me? 

I’m sorry. A lot has happened in the last few months. I started a new job in August (there’s so much to learn); my dog became sick and I had to put her to sleep; I came down with a case of digestive un-wellness that was the worst I have experienced to date; and in between all that I had family visiting for 5 weeks. 

I hope you was the last thing on my mind.

But I have been feeling better this week and I’ve regained a bit of my appetite. For weeks though I was eating minuscule portions and sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes just some bone broth or fresh pressed juice. But when I was ready for some food again, I craved something NOT bland for a change, something with some flavor, but that wouldn’t send me over the edge back into un-wellness. I was thinking Thai.

Thai food is some of my favorite stuff. In my opinion, their flavor combinations and the way they use different spices, herbs and coconut milk are heavenly. 

So while I was perusing my cookbooks I came across this recipe and modified it a bit. I didn’t use the whole berries and seeds when it came to the spices. I was too lazy for that. Plus, I have them ground, so why be wasteful? But if you don’t have them and want an even more extraordinary flavor, I do suggest you get the whole spice and first toast them in a pan, and then grind them yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Make sure to fry the tofu. Getting a bit of a brown crust on at least 2 sides gives it a little more texture but you don’t have to do this if you prefer it softer.

What I really like about this dish is the green paste. It should look like the photo on the left. It has a little tang from the citrus and cilantro and  just a tad heat from the jalapeño and together they make otherwise super-boring tofu a little less boring. And if you don't care for tofu, you could easily serve this sauce over chicken or shrimp. This paste is worth making! In fact, I was licking the food processor bowl with my fingers, so as not to waste a single drop.

We started our meal off with a Carrot and Coriander Soup. That was a good soup. I’ll post that recipe soon. But in the meantime, do try this dish sometime.

Thai Tofu Curry

Serves about 3-4.

2 packages firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
2 Tbsp. peanut oil or coconut oil

For the paste:
1 small onion (I use green onion)
2 green jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. grated lime rind (use an organic lime)
2 tsp. coriander berries, crushed (or ground coriander)
2 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed (or ground cumin)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup boiling water

For the garnish:
thin slices of fresh red chili or red pepper
fresh cilantro leaves

1. Toss the tofu cubes in soy sauce and leave to marinate for 15 minutes or so while you prepare the paste.
2. Put all the paste ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth.
3. To cook, heat the oil in a wok or large skillet until quite hot. Drain the tofu cubes and stir-fry at high temperature until well browned on all sides and just firm. Drain on paper towels. 
4. Wipe wok clean. Pour in the paste and stir well. Return the tofu to the wok and mix it into the paste, reheating the ingredients as you stir.
5. Serve this dish over bowls of fragrant Thai or jasmine rice. The sauce will flavor the rice as well and be very tasty.


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