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My Blog Has Moved!

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My Blog Has Moved!

I’m not done blogging, but am doing so now from my new website, ArianeCooks.com.  You’ll find all the blogs I’ve already posted here, plus new video blogs I’ve begun making recently.  Also, there is lots of background on me as well as info about the chef services I offer.

I’ve already added two how-to video blogs: one on how to make homemade beet dye that will turn food INCREDIBLE colors naturally, and one on how you can superfood up smoothies in a tasty way.  Thanks for having followed BaringFruit, and I look forward to hearing from you at the ArianeCooks blog!

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Spring Roll Secrets

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For the entire year of 2007, the only album I listened to was Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine.”  This past fall, Mexicola avocados were in season for two months, and every day for breakfast and lunch I ate two small avo’s and a Hachiya persimmon (both from the same heaven-sent farmer).  When I get an obsession going, I tend to just ride it out, and eventually it wanes.  Thank heavens I don’t tend to get hooked on anything too expensive…

I’ve always been a fan of making fresh spring rolls, but ever since I created the almond-tamarind sauce I blogged about here, ALL I WANT TO EAT IS KALE SALAD SPRING ROLLS.  I limit myself to two meals a day of them max.  In the last month or so, I’ve made no less than 1-2 dozen batches of spring rolls– enough that I have acquired a few good tips about working with those daunting yet delicious rice paper circles.

1. Soaking the rice paper sheets in warm water will expedite the time needed for prep.  Sure, 1-2 minutes isn’t forever to wait per sheet, but if you’re making a big batch, extra down time can slow your process.  Once you get a rhythm going, you can place a new sheet in the water as soon as you pull the ready one out, and it will be ready when you’ve finished filling the first.  Conversely, if you find you just can’t keep up, soak them in cold water to give yourself at least 3-4 minutes to construct each roll.   Either way, you will streamline the procedure by placing a new sheet in the water directly upon taking out the old.

2. If one meal is not enough– and if you make them well, it won’t be!– it’s easier than you think to make extra and have them not dry out.  When you pull the rice paper out of the water, don’t dry it on a paper towel as is generally recommended.  For one, it will be easier to work with and less inclined to tear during folding, and for another, they will keep without drying out for at least two days because of the additional moisture in the paper.  Store them in an airtight container, and if they do dry out after a couple days, wet your hands with cool water and rub them gently; they’ll soften right back up.

3. Punch up flavor by dressing some of the ingredients.  You can add a simple sauce to one ingredient, making sure to drain it well, or dress all ingredients.  Marinating porous foods like mushrooms (yes, you can totally put mushrooms in spring rolls) beforehand will lend additional flavors to the overall product.

4. If presentation is key, of course you want all ingredients julienned and placed in the wrappers individually.  However, if you just want to eat something very yummy and perfectly decent looking, make a salad of your ingredients, and pack a few spoonfuls of it into the wrappers.  I’ve been making this salad and just tossing 1/2 cup or so of it into each wrapper, while using extra dressing as the dipping sauce.  You don’t need to julienne anything, but everything should be fairly small, and you do want to avoid any sharp edges that might tear the rice paper.

5. The ingredient options for spring rolls are fairly endless, but fresh herbs are key.  If you simply can’t get a hold of any because the urge to make rolls strikes when you can’t get to the store, get creative with greens.  When I wanted them but had no herbs on hand, I used carrot fronds, and it worked perfectly.

6. Think outside the Asian box.  The spring rolls I made with carrot fronds had a main filling of a salad that consisted of sprouted chickpeas, dried sour cherries, and grass fed Greek yogurt.  They were hearty and filling and in no way authentic, but one bite of a unique combo like that will have you proudly calling yourself a fusion chef.

7. There’s no need for noodles in my book (I’m not a huge fan of carb filled carbs: rice in a burrito is madness to me), but should you prefer your spring rolls with something stringy, kelp noodles make a wonderful healthy option.  Simply soak them beforehand according to package directions.

8. For an extra pretty punch, place a mint, parsely, or cilantro leaf inside as you’re wrapping it up.  Wrap it most of the way, center a leaf or two on it, then fold over the final edge.  Make sure that the leaf doesn’t reach the edge of the wrapper, or it won’t stick properly to itself.

A moderately traditional vegan set up: cucumbers, red carrots, spinach leaves, Dave’s Gourmet tempeh, kelp noodles, mint

Decidedly untraditional vegetarian rolls: sprouted chickpeas mixed w/dried sour cherries and grass fed Greek yogurt, roasted sweet potatoes, carrot fronds, and Belgian endive

Magical Mulberry Squares (raw, vegan, gluten-free, low-glycemic, soy-free, grain-free, paleo friendly)

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Lately I’ve been wanting to make a fruity raw dessert that was neither chocolate nor overly nutty, but I’ve been uninspired by winter fruits.  Persimmons in fall are pretty much my last love until stone fruits return in spring– my winters are spent begrudgingly munching on Fuji apples that provide no groundbreaking dessert ideas.  So, I took the dried fruit route today and hit my cupboards up for inspiration, and thankfully, my cupboards (and freezer) did me right.  Here is a chewy, sweet, tangy and decadent treat that is packed with superfoods and contains very little added sweeteners.

Magical Mulberry Squares

Base:
1 cup dried mulberries, ground in food processor or blender
1/2 cup whole dried mulberries
1/2 cup cashews, ground as above
1/4 cup dried raisins and/or cherries, ground as above
1/2 cup lucuma powder
3 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tbls coconut nectar or honey
1 tsp camu camu powder
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt

Grind fruits and cashews, then mix together with all other ingredients. Mixture will be malleable and slightly sticky. Press into a 8″ baking pan and refrigerate.

Topping:
3 tbls almond butter
3 tbls coconut oil, melted
2 tbls coconut nectar or honey
1 tbls lecithin powder
1 tsp Longevity Power “Maca Bliss”*
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

Mix all ingredients together and pour over base layer. Once firm, dust with lucuma powder and cut into squares of any desired size.
*Maca bliss is a unique maca product; it is extracted at low heat, has had the starch and fiber removed, and unlike regular maca, has no overly malty flavor. It is available online here.

My SuperSauce of the Moment

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When it comes to dressings and sauces, I typically maintain a close and strong relationship with mustard.  Any savory food + mustard = better tasting food, I feel, and I usually construct my salad dressings and dipping sauces around it.  However, just because I have monomaniacal tendencies doesn’t mean I’m a total bore, and lately I’ve been very into tamarind.  In the past I’ve bought whole dried beans and soaked them, but I’m often unsatisfied with the flavor and texture of that, so I tend to get jars of tamarind paste instead (which has no other ingredients, just the fruit).

Tamarind, in all its goodness, doesn’t particularly get along with mustard, so my sauce experiments of late have had different bases.  Through the trial and error of fridge and cupboard random ingredient exploration, I have come up with a salad dressing/dipping sauce/stir fry sauce, aka SuperSauce, that is rich, creamy, sour, sweet, salty and spicy.  The only thing we’re missing here is bitter, and I pretty much hate bitter, so this to me is a perfect combo of flavors that I have been using in everything from salad to spring rolls. It also works for basting veggies or proteins with before baking, or as a sauce for noodles (kelp, brown rice, soba, or if you’re totally retro, flour) or other grains, and can be thinned with water if desired.

Tamarind SuperSauce: (makes enough for 6-8 servings)
1/2 cup almond butter
3 tbls coconut nectar or honey
3 tbls tamari or nama shoyu
1 1/2 tbls tamarind paste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
5-8 drops liquid stevia

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Ratios can be changed depending on your preference, though too much more tamarind will make it unpalatably sour.  (As is, the tamarind flavor is quite prominent.)  For a more typical Asian-sauce flavor, you could substitute almond butter with peanut butter.

Tamarind SuperSauce dressing a winter salad of dino kale, shaved carrots, apples, and radishes.

 

Cantaloupe Pudding in Any Season (raw, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

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This weekend we went to visit my parents, and my mother gave us an enormous and wonderful array of fruit she’d dried to take home. We’ve got gallon size bags of raisins, bananas, cantaloupe, and pineapple, all of which are dried to just chewy, not firm/shelf-stable and will stay fresh indefinitely in the fridge.

I’m known to be a little bit kooky when it comes to finishing things; I’ll often ask Ace to slow down on eating something special so that we don’t run out too fast, and it’s been on more than one occasion that  perishables have gone bad because I didn’t want them to be gone and so, didn’t finish them.  It is in this frame of mind that I told Ace after we last were gifted dried cantaloupe to not go through it so quickly, only these days I am a wee bit forgetful… so I didn’t realize there was still a bag of dried cantaloupe left in until we brought home everything from our trip last night and I reorganized the fridge’s dried fruit area.  Having no idea what to do with it, since now we have a lot more and there is only so much dried cantaloupe that people can eat, I decided this afternoon to reconstitute it and make it into a pudding.  Thankfully, my experiment turned out quite nicely! You could follow this same process for any other mild-flavored dried fruit that you have an excess of.

Dried Cantaloupe Pudding:
3 cups sliced dried cantaloupe
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup soaking water
12 frozen raspberries
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbls lecithin powder
zest of 1/4 lemon
3/4 tsp lemon extract
a few drops of stevia, if needed

Soak dried melon in warm water for about half an hour until soft, then drain (reserve 1/4 cup soaking water). Add all ingredients into a high-powered blender, and blend until creamy and smooth. The raspberries were purely for color, as without them the pudding is rather beige; they help it obtain a more yellow tone. You could also add turmeric, which I didn’t because I have a new VitaMix pitcher and don’t want to discolor it.

Chessie was sitting in the fruit bowl while the melon soaked, and found it quite intriguing.

Blog-Worthy Beans (gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan)

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These beans were totally worth blogging about.

I’ve been out of the blog-habit lately; I hadn’t made any new and interesting food, my CO recovery hasn’t made any new leaps or bounds, and I’ve been outside enjoying the summer as much as I can.  My only news, really, is that I started swimming again after a many year hiatus, and within about three weeks, am just about up to a mile!  Monday I swam 1400 meters, and tomorrow I’m going for the full 1600.

I’ve also been still sticking to the Wahls’ Diet, which is why I haven’t made anything too terribly thrilling– I never thought I could get tired of vegetables, but my goodness, I am pretty damn veggied out!  That said, tonight I made some haricot verts that are AWESOME TASTING.  They are gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan, but not soy-free because I used Bragg’s liquid aminos.  You could switch out coconut aminos, which I have but didn’t use because I didn’t want to impart any sweet flavor.  The soy isn’t Wahls’ compliant, but with a daily consumption of nine cups of produce, you kinda have to let a condiment slide by here and there.   There are definitely more condiments in this dish than I’ve been using on my veggies lately, but these also taste better than any veggies I’ve made in weeks, so there is something to be said for that.

Fan-freaking-tastic Easy Stir Fried Green (or Purple) Beans
1 lb haricot verts or regular size beans; I had purple ones on hand from the market
4 cloves garlic
1/2-1 chopped jalapeno
1-2 tbls Braggs
2-3 tbls So Delicious plain coconut kefir
1 1/2 tbls chile powder; I used Frontier Herbs, which I think is the absolute tastiest
1/2-1 tbls oil (grapeseed, olive, etc.) Feel free to omit if you’re low-fat, and saute in water instead.

Take stems off beans. If using full-sized green beans, feel free to cut into manageable pieces. Heat a pan on medium high heat, and add oil, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for a minute or so, then add green/purple beans and chile powder. Stir frequently for about five minutes, then deglaze pan with Braggs. Cook another five minutes or less, until beans are tender-crisp. Remove from heat and stir in coconut kefir. Note that purple beans, which are a little sweeter and gorgeous when raw, will turn plain old greenish brown when cooked.

There’s no need for salt or pepper, seeing as Braggs is salty and jalapenos are spicy. The coconut kefir adds a richness to balance out the strong flavors of those, while also adding a unique tang.

Ridiculously Delicious Sweet Potatoes (Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan)

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Dessert has a different meaning in my world currently than it used to… though I ate a lot of raw and vegan desserts anyway, on the Wahls’ Diet (which I’ve been doing to heal from CO poisoning) there aren’t too many dessert-friendly ingredients allowed.  I’m still square with avocado pudding, thank heavens, and have eaten that pretty damn regularly, as evidenced by previous blogs.  However, before I also baked somewhat regularly, and even when I made gluten-free stuff there was usually some sort of grain SOMETHING involved.  When I decided to do the diet I did so fully (I went free of everything suggested), meaning that for now, with the exception of one small serving of a cheat food every 1-2 weeks, I am pretty much all Wahls-compliant food all the time.

And that means that in order to switch things up with the avocados, I’ve been rethinking sweet potatoes.  Though not normally allowed on a Paleo-based diet, Wahls allows both beets and sweet potatoes in the “brightly colored” category because of their high nutrient content.  Rather than a side dish, I’ve been treating them as dessert, and they work very well as one.  Inspired first by Erewhon’s deli-counter sweet potato puree with coconut milk and vanilla, then by a blog about using sweet potatoes as a basis for a peanut butter pie, I’ve come up with a pretty freaking tasty version of sweet potatoes.  There’s no butter, no sugar, no soy, and no need for any of it.  It’s rich, it’s decadent, and it will satisfy your dessert tooth, I promise.  Amounts given are basic guidelines so that you can make as small or large a batch as desired.

 

Ridiculously Delicious Everything-Free Sweet Potatoes:

Garnet sweet potatoes, aka yams, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices then rough chopped into 3/4 inch squares and triangles. I do enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish, which is about half a dozen medium ones.
Put chopped sweet potatoes into a dish, and preheat oven to 375.

Add:
enough unsweetened coconut milk to go 1 inch up the pan– not so much that it will boil over.

Sprinkle liberally with:
Himalayan salt
cinnamon
ginger
a touch of cloves
vanilla

Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, and adding more milk as needed– don’t let them dry out. They should take about an hour to bake.

Stir every few minutes as they cool, adding 1/2 cup coconut milk at a time until they stop absorbing it. I use at least 2 additional cups over what I used when they cooked.

Once cooled, throw the whole lot into a blender.

Add:
1-2 droppers each toffee and hazelnut stevia
1/3 cup (or more) almond butter
more salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and/or ginger to taste

Blend until mostly smooth, with some chunks remaining if you prefer (I do). Eat as is, or layer with additional almond butter, avo pudding, or anything else. The coconut milk is rich enough that you won’t even notice the lack of butter, but if you are used to super decadent sweet potatoes you could add some coconut oil, or more almond butter. The stevia alone makes them more than sweet enough, since they are very sweet to begin with.

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