Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Okay so Pumpkin Pie isn’t really a ‘Thing’ in Australia. But when you’ve bought a butternut at the farmers markets that’s the size of a human baby, finding ways to use it all becomes a challenge. Especially when you discover that the one kilogram you require for a hefty batch of Thai red curry pumpkin soup leaves you still with two thirds of said vegetable to demolish!

Food Fervour

yep, that’s my big butternut!

A friend once told me that pumpkin should only ever be roasted because “it brings out the flavour”. I discovered he’s dead right: the natural sugars caramelise and boost the veggie’s flavour incredibly. So I always roast it now, and often in quantities over and above anything I happen to be making at the time. That is to say, I roast extra so I’m prepared.

So, with a decent quantity of ready-roasted pumpkin chillin’ in the fridge, I ruminated upon its sweetness and wondered, “Could I successfully make a no added sugar dessert with it?” I considered how sweet the frittatas I made with it were. Could I make a kind of pumpkin ‘dessert’ frittata? That’s when I really began thinking about pumpkin pie… but I certainly didn’t want to have to make pastry for a pie crust. (Hell no! That’s way too much work!) Surely a blend of eggs, cream, some spices & that sweet roasted pumpkin could work?

A Google search for ‘crustless pumpkin pie recipes’ revealed (apart from all of the results being American websites) that their ingredients were pretty much as simple as I’d envisioned. Most of them however use (ugh!) evaporated milk, egg ‘replacer’ or ‘substitute’ and of course, added sugar. God Bless America!

Except for the cooking times (roasting the pumpkin & the final bake) this recipe is ridiculously simple and very time efficient. If you pre-cook the pumpkin as I did, you’ll save even more time. (Really, roasting excess vege is a great, healthy habit to get into; it helps you to stay ‘prepared’. You can save time and expand your meals options for salads, frittatas, risottos …but they also make a better choice of snack if you’re a regular ‘fridge visitor’ like me!)

Now, if you haven’t pre-roasted your pumpkin, the basic method is to preheat your oven to 200ºC, line a tray with baking paper then arrange skinned and roughly cut chunks of lightly oiled pumpkin (EVOO is fine even though you’ll be making a dessert… you won’t even notice the flavour after the roasting) and bake them for 20-30 minutes (depending upon the speed of your oven). Don’t burn them! If a skewer slides in easily & the centre feels soft, you’re done. It’s probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before moving onto the pie recipe.Food Fervour

Here’s what I used for my pie:

430gms of roast pumpkin, 2 eggs, 200gm pure cream, the following spices: 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves & a pinch of salt, plus 50gm pecans (optional). What’s also optional is to keep some maple syrup handy to add later if you don’t think the batter is sweet enough for you. (But don’t go overboard; the more you add, the runnier the mix will be…)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease & line a baking dish/casserole dish or round cake tin with baking paper, then simply throw all of the ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and mix well. (Thermies: a couple of 10-20 second rounds on Speed 5-6, with some scrape-downs, should suffice.) Pour the ‘batter’ into your prepared receptacle and sprinkle with extra cinnamon, then cook for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Food FervourNB: Because I used a smaller (16x16cm) dish, my pie was thicker so I let it cook for almost an hour. Bear in mind that a thinner pie = potentially less cooking time.

Allow to cool a little before trying to remove from the dish. Slice and serve up with more cream …or just enjoy it undressed. 😛

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French Toast Sandwich aka Cheat’s Pancakes

I usually opt for pancakes for Sunday brunch but today I was feeling a tad lazy (hey, I’ve been up since 5am surfing, cleaning & gardening… I’m entitled!) so what to do if you feel like pancakes but you can’t be bothered to make the batter and cook them?

Grab two slices of bread and an egg. French toast is dead simple and much quicker and easier to create than pancakes. All I needed to add was some elements for extra flavour, nutrient density and excitement…

So this is how it came together:

Since I keep my (variety of) breads in the freezer (pre-sliced) I had to pop two pieces in the toaster to thaw for a few seconds, so in the meantime, I set the frying pan on the stove on a medium-low temp, adding a splash of coconut oil. Setting the bread slices aside I then created the French toast batter by whisking together an egg, a dash of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla paste and a decent sprinkling of cinnamon in a cup.

Placing the two bread slices in the pan, I carefully poured about half of the egg mixture (that’s a quarter for each slice of bread) as evenly within the bounds of the crust of both pieces as possible, and after about a minute, turned them over with an egg slide to cook. Note: this method is actually a tad more difficult than your typical French toast procedure: normally you’d empty the egg mix into a shallow dish and soak the bread pieces before putting them in the frypan. My fiddly method keeps your crusts ‘crunchier’…

Next I grabbed a handful of hazelnuts, a dash of maple syrup, some more (rice) milk and cacao powder to make my hazelnut choc sandwich filling. Some minutes in the Magic Bullet – stopping regularly to check consistency and scrape down the sides – and that was done. Ready.

Returning to the pan, I divided the remaining egg mixture carefully again over the (other sides) of the bread slices, spreading the dregs of the mix (chunks of vanilla bean at the bottom of the cup) over the toast as well (waste not want not and …extra fibre!) before turning them for the last time.

While the second side cooked I grabbed my plate, then the tub of greek yogurt  and some fresh blueberries from the fridge…. ready to rumble! Once the toast was browned enough on the second side, I popped it on the plate, smearing a nice thick layer of the hazelnut choc mix onto one piece before topping it with the other slice. Dropping a couple of large dollops of yoghurt on top of the ‘sandwich’, I scooped the rest of the hazelnut spread on top and swirled them together with the end of the fork. Then it was simply time to pile on the blueberries, and get stuck in! Mmm, craving satisfied.Food Fervour

It was so rich that I know I won’t be able to eat again for many hours. To be honest, I think coconut cream (even though it may melt due to the meal’s warmth) may taste better than the yoghurt: while it’s good for some tartness (and probiotic qualities!) it’s somehow not quite complementary. If you decide to give this creation a go, let me know what you used and how it turned out 🙂

 

Bulletproof Turmeric

You’re probably thinking “What the..?” But I didn’t know what else to call this amazing warm bevvy. It’s possibly an acquired taste, but given it is loaded to the hilt with health-giving properties, I’ve fallen in love with it…

Food FervourMost people know by now how good turmeric is for you. It’s classified as a “Superfood” (if there is such a thing) because its active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant and has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties. I’ve often wondered how to get more of it into my diet …without having to eat curries …daily. This drink is my answer.

I’ve seen many references to hot turmeric drink recipes, but most of them involve milk of some kind (which kind of stands to reason if they happen to be named ‘Golden Milk’). Now, whilst I don’t have an issue with milk per se, I definitely find heating water much quicker, easier & cleaner than heating milk. (And what the heck; there’s also the calorie argument if it really matters to you!)

So when I read the recipe for ‘Turmeric Tea’ on Russell James’ website the Raw Chef I was keen to try it, and then I realised its similarity to the Bulletproof coffee phenomenon: black coffee blended with ‘healthy’ fat is supposed to increase satiety, reduce caffeine reactions (like jitters) and improve mental clarity. But when I tried it, I just liked the way it made the coffee creamy. And this is pretty much what happens in this drink. But the oil also, more importantly, aids in the absorption of the star ingredient, as curcumin is fat soluble.

So vegans, lactose-intolerants and lazy people rejoice: this is a super-easy, delicious, caffeine-free health-giving concoction! Just a few words of warning, however: turmeric stains. I haven’t really had a huge issue with this (maybe I’m lucky) but be prepared for some yellowing of your equipment. Secondly, and more importantly, blending warm or hot liquids can be dangerous. Never use boiling water in an airtight blender: pressure build up can cause serious injury. Thermomixes are designed to handle this kind of use so they are the best option. Hand-held (stick) blenders obviously allow airflow, but I’m not sure how effective they will be for the entire process (the first step involves pulverising the turmeric). I have made the tea successfully in my Magic Bullet, but I ensured the water temperature was below 70º and opened the container slowly (there was still the hiss of a pressure release). Whatever you opt for, please take care.

Food FervourYou only need five ingredients for this brilliant beverage: water, turmeric, coconut oil, honey or maple and black pepper (apparently a substance in this called ‘piperine’ aids curcumin absorption by 2000% Reference: Authority Nutrition)

1 cup hot water (I used ½ cup boiling water + ½ room temp, but vary according to your blender option)

1 finger fresh turmeric, (approx 4-5cm long) peeled and roughly chopped (apparently ½ teaspoon of powdered turmeric is an acceptable substitute but I’d urge you to avoid processed foods where possible!)

1-2 teaspoons honey (or maple syrup for vegans)

1 tablespoon coconut oil (my aim is to try butter and even macadamia oil myself, in future. Let me know if you do and how it goes!)

a good pinch of black pepper

and perhaps ground cinnamon for dusting

Simply add the turmeric to the hot water and blend at high speed for approximately one minute. If you’re particular about ‘bits’ in the bottom of your cup, you could strain the fluid through a fine sieve (like a tea strainer or infuser) but I actually didn’t find there was much left …so save on your washing up and just consume the ‘wholefood’.

Add the honey, oil, pepper and wazz it up again for anywhere between 15-30 seconds. Pour into your teacup or mug immediately and watch the ‘froth’ form as you dust with cinnamon. Enjoy every golden sip.

 

 

Latte Cocktail

Alright, so every now and then I don’t mind a drink. Since espresso martinis are the ‘In Thing’ at the moment ….and I happen to like ’em ….and I happen to have a bit of Kahlua and vodka in the house (the vodka was an intentional purchase to make vanilla essence; the Kahlua ….not so) I figured …Why Not?!

Since I don’t actually buy coffee (the essential ingredient) concocting the authentic martini wasn’t possible. Besides, it’s winter. I wanted something warm.

My usual Google search didn’t bring up much other than actual coffee – or chocolate – based warm drinks, so I just had to go it alone. It really wasn’t hard. And wow, it tasted goooood.

food fervourWhat’d I do? Well, I chucked 30gms (one shot) of Kahlua, one shot (30gms) vodka and 150gms milk in my Thermomix and set it to cook for 6 minutes at 80º on Speed 3. Once it was done, I aerated it for 30 seconds on Speed 8. That’s IT.

I poured it immediately into a latte glass, sprinkled it with cinnamon, and downed it with much pleasure (after taking a pic, of course). Deeelish!

Caffeine-Free Spicy Chai Latte

I am totally addicted to the Chai I’ve begun making since owning a Thermomix.  I hesitate to say, I crave it more than coffee now! The problem is, it’s still relatively similar to espresso in terms of caffeine content and I’m not keen on consuming too much of that stuff. Why? Well, apart from a ‘negative’ genetic predisposition to it, I’m not fussed on the idea of ingesting too many stimulants on a regular basis.food fervour

So what to do when you’re craving a chai – or at least, a hot drink – late in the day?

Simply… leave out the black tea.

I didn’t know how it’d turn out, but… it certainly satisfied me. And being a little heavy-handed with particular spices, there was no question that it set a fire in my belly (and mouth!) and warmed me right up.

To give it a red hot go, gather together the following:

4-5 black peppercorns, 5-6 cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon garam masala, 1 heaped teaspoon vanilla paste (or essence), 1 heaped teaspoon raw honey, 300gm milk of choice (I used rice milk)

Place the peppercorns & cloves in the bowl and mill 6 seconds, Speed 9. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 7 minutes @ 70 degrees, Speed 4.

Strain and enjoy immediately. It will warm you to your toes and you’ll still get to sleep later on!

Can you guess which spices I went too hard with? Please feel free to share any variations you might stumble upon as well.  🙂

3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was …kind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in   desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut…. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!) gluten free cake that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations: waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

Food Fervour

‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result… Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so… stay tuned for that!

Nutrient Dense Porridge

Let me start out by saying my motivation for this post was not the great breakfast I just had. It was the thought behind it; my general philosophy about food. If we are meant to be eating less (portion control) how are we meant to get all the nutrients in? By thinking. And being creative. Yes, you need a little education, but it’s really NOT hard. Here’s my example…

I’m not necessarily a porridge fan. I have found I usually digest it too quickly and can feel hungry again within 3 hours. This I put down to the fact that in cooking the oats, I’m removing some of the workload that my digestive system would otherwise be lumbered with, in breaking down the food. Now, in Winter it gets pretty hard chowing down on my usual bircher brekky: eating or drinking cold makes me cold from the inside, so I turn back to porridge (it’s the quickest thing to make before I start work, especially in the Thermomix). The question is, how to make it last longer?

Simple: add protein and/or healthy fats and/or fibre. Most of us know – or have surely heard by now – that fibre, protein & fats are satiating. Fibre & protein usually because of their ‘complexity’, fats because of their density. So my go-to porridge recipe is now a mix of oats and protein rich quinoa flakes & chia seeds, with whatever milk I’m feeling on the day. It has made a huge difference.

So my point is: get a little educated & be creative. Learn something about REAL foods and the nutrients they contain, especially those with the highest quantities (this is why I believe vegetables should be the base of the Food Pyramid: no other food group contains same the array & density as this plant matter) and it will be easy to find ways to slot them into your meals without having to eat them in ‘excess’. (And for the record, even though I don’t throw the word into my recipes, ‘organic’ choices are definitely first option.)food fervour

So with that, here’s the recipe for a (sizeable) single serve of this morning’s apple cinnamon & chia porridge:

½ grated apple, 35gm oats, 5-10gms quinoa flakes, 5gms (1 head teaspoon chia) seeds, 90gm water, 150gm milk of choice (today I used almond) 1 teaspoon cinnamon, coconut sugar to taste.

Stovetop cooks place apple, oats, quinoa & chia, water & milk into saucepan over a medium-low heat, reducing to simmer as the mixture begins to bubble. you’ll need to stir continuously. I honestly have forgotten how long it takes to make porridge on the stove top, but I would think it would be about 8-10 minutes, similar to the Thermomix cooking time.

Thermomixers you can ‘grate’ your apple in the bowl for 5 secs speed 5, or Turbo a couple of times. Then add the oats, quinoa, chia, water & milk, cooking for 8 mins, 90ºC reverse speed 2.

Serve immediately, stirring through the cinnamon with any extra milk you may or may not like to add and top with coconut sugar to taste *not TOO much*!

Coeliacs would evidently replace oats altogether, using 40-45gm quinoa flakes however since quinoa (& especially chia) will require more fluid you may need to almost double the fluid quantities. Stove-top cooks will be able to gauge the mixture thickening, Thermomix users won’t. Trial & error. That’s what it’s all about!