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.  🙂

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Raw (aka Clean) Chocolate

I’ve never really been a choc-a-holic, but strangely that changed when I learnt that dark chocolate was considered to be somewhat healthy (in small amounts, of course). Oh, and when I realised how easy it is to make at home.

My initial love affair with Lindt 70% and 80% chocolate gave way to instant gratification in the comfort of my own home, as well as feeling uneasy about the other 20-30% of the Lindt ingredients (one of which I’m dismayed to discover is palm oil) 😦

food fervourRaw chocolate recipes weren’t as prolific a few years ago, but I found one on Lee Holmes’ site ‘Supercharged Food’ (link here) and was super surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Luckily a friend had presented me with a packet of organic cacao powder, so I could instantly ditch the more processed-therefore-less-clean cocoa powder in favour of extra nutritional benefit in my ‘treat’.

My very first attempt at raw chocolate comprised cacao powder, coconut oil and dextrose (back in the day, I was seriously anti-fructose… I’ve eased off that a bit now… opting for less processed ingredients over fructose content.) In fact it was scary how quickly you could make it: almost less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the shop for the mass-produced, sugar- (and god knows what else-) laden crap. I was so bloody excited about how easy it was to make that I posted a recipe on my first (other) blog, A Life in WordsHere’s the direct link to that if you’d like to take a squizz…

I finally looked into the cacao butter Lee uses only a little of in her recipe: I’d previously thought it was just a body moisturiser. Well, it is the BOMB. Being cacao fat, it tastes like …chocolate. Not coconut, surprise-surprise! And unlike coconut oil, cacao butter won’t liquify at 20 degrees, so you won’t have to drink the chocolate from your hands in summer.

It is seriously as easy as this: one part cacao butter to one part cacao powder. Then add your choice of sweetener to taste. In fact, I have found that if making “fruit’n’nut” chocolate, I don’t need any sweetener at all thanks to the natural sugar (& fibre) content of the sultanas.

Let’s start with ½ cup of cacao butter and ½ cup cacao powder (so if anything goes wrong, you don’t end up wasting too much of these quite costly ingredients). I now prefer to use maple syrup for a sweetener, finding honey too viscous and coconut sugar takes too long to dissolve.

food fervourHow do you know you have half a cup of cacao butter when it comes in ‘chunks’? I kind of solve this in the choice of equipment I use for the first part of the recipe method: Place a small saucepan of hot water (only about 2-3cms deep) on the stove over the lowest heat possible. Place the cacao chunks in a (tempered) glass measuring jug (I use ‘Pyrex’ brand) and sit the jug in the saucepan. Wait for the butter to liquify.

Simply add the equivalent amount of cacao powder and your choice of sweetener, to taste, mixing well (I use a small spatula, to press out any lumps of cacao powder). If you want to add any flavours (spices like vanilla, or essential peppermint oil) you’d do that now as well. A lot of recipes ask you to whisk the ingredients… I’ve been too lazy to try that!

The final step for ‘plain’ chocolate is to decide how you’d like to set it. I sometimes use silicone ice cube tray moulds for individual chocolates or, if very lazy, I’ll lay baking paper down on a plate and just pour out the chocolate onto it so that it it will form one big block (that you can break into pieces once set). Once you’ve made your decision, pop the chocolate in the freezer for about half an hour, or the refrigerator if you don’t’ need it for a few hours….

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fruit’n’nut sticks and blueberry hearts

You can experiment to your heart’s content with this: here are some of my  favourite variations:

Blueberry Hearts: I pop some frozen organic blueberries into silicone heart moulds before pouring in the chocolate… same goes for whole Macadamias

Fruit’n’Nut: I put sultanas & peanuts in moulds before I add the chocolate mixture…

Chocolate Bark: I pour the chocolate onto baking paper on a plate, or into a dish ‘oiled’ with coconut oil then sprinkle anything and everything into it, like: chopped nuts, seeds, goji berries, shredded coconut, amaranth puffs… go nuts!

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Chocolate ‘Bark’

Milk Chocolate: I recently decided to try adding (organic) milk powder to a chocolate mix and I thought it was so good that I pretty much ate the whole test batch in one go! (This is not to say everyone will agree.) Add approximately half the amount of milk powder to the fresh chocolate mix (so ¼ cup or two tablespoons per the measures I provided above, and mix VERY well (it will thicken quickly) to dissolve the powder as well as possible, then set or add stuff as you wish.

Please feel free to share any amazing combinations you concoct!

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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate

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?

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‘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!

Orange Almond Smoothie

Eden Health Retreat has a number of citrus trees scattered around the grounds so in winter there is quite a bountiful supply of oranges, grapefruit & lemons at our disposal.

With a couple of these oranges hanging around in my fridge, I decided to make a liquid version of a gluten free favourite: the orange almond cake. I had had lunch, and was hankering for a little dessert.

Thinking about an amazing green chai coconut smoothie recipe created by Jo Whitton (Quirky Cooking), I pulled together an idea for a rich drink that didn’t require ANY added sugars. And it worked. Warning: it’s very rich so you won’t need much. The following makes approximately 500mls; enough for two people. (Unlike this one, who guzzled it all down herself…and is paying the price!)food fervour

You’ll need: 50gm almonds, 1 orange (navel oranges are naturally sweeter) with all skin and pith removed, 60-80gm coconut cream, a pinch each of nutmeg & cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla essence/paste, 200gm coconut water.

In a blender or Thermomix, mill the almonds into meal (Thermies 10 seconds, speed 9) then add all the remaining ingredients blending thoroughly (Thermies 1½ minutes, speed 9). Serve & consume immediately!

Since it’s winter here on the Gold Coast, I didn’t want to add ice, but in summer it would be an ideal addition. If need be, you could substitute the coconut cream & water with just coconut milk, but you’ll lose all the added goodness in the coconut water (higher concentration of minerals in that, than in the flesh, which is what the milks and creams are made from). You could also throw in a little fresh ginger for added nutrient value!

Mum’s Kifflitzers Re-Invented

I have an admission to make: until I got my Thermomix, I’d never made real custard. I’d either bought it ready-made or, worse, cooked up the powdered stuff. Yes, shocking I know. But, I learnt from my mum….monkey see, monkey do…

So when cleaning out my pantry one Sunday recently, I found a container of custard powder hiding at the back, and pulled it out to throw away. But then I had a ‘Moment’.

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I love my Mum’s handwriting…

I recalled some biscuits mum used to make that I loved: “Kifflitzers”. Custard powder was a ‘key’ ingredient. She’d given me the recipe (hand written of course) so as a tribute to her, I decided to make some before I ditched the processed rubbish for good. It’s kind of poetic and yet ironic: I’ll never see my mum again, and I’ll never buy custard powder again, so I’ll actually never make these biscuits according to this recipe again either. Even though they tasted SO GOOD…

My ‘obligatory’ changes to her original recipe, included opting for gluten free flour and vegan-friendly coconut oil instead of butter, and they turned out entirely different to Mum’s biccies, but still ridiculously more-ish. I have to add however, that some custard powders are NOT gluten free so check the ingredient list on the product packaging carefully.

My ingredient list included ⅔ cup Buckwheat flour, 125gm almond meal, ½ cup coconut sugar, 2 tablespoons custard powder, 90gms coconut oil (liquefied), 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used my homemade essence), approx 45gm almond milk.

The method is VERY simple. It takes less time than the oven takes to pre-heat (to 180ºC, by the way)! Because I’m a (proud) Thermomix owner, I freshly milled most of the dry ingredients first: placing the (⅔ cup) Buckwheat seeds and coconut sugar in together (approximately 10 seconds, Speed 9) then setting aside, so I could mill the (125gm) almonds into meal. I added the buckwheat & sugar mix back in to the Thermomix bowl, with the custard powder and mixed on speed 4 for a few seconds. For Non-Thermies, basically all you have to do is (sift &) mix all your dry ingredients together.food fervour

Add the vanilla, coconut oil & milk and mix well (Thermies 30 seconds, Speed 4-5) then mould spoonfuls onto oven trays lined with baking paper, with a little space between as they will flatten & spread during the cooking process. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending upon your oven. Because of the high oil content, they will remain soft & ‘chewy’ even after cooling. Deeelish!

 

Baby Kale & Custard Apple Smoothie

Feeling like a green smoothie just now, I opened up the fridge and found half of a custard apple staring back at me. “Hmmm” I thought, “I haven’t tried anything with one of these little fellows yet”.

food fervourWell-ripened custard apples are pretty sweet, so chances are you won’t need to add sweeteners to this smoothie. Well, I didn’t.

I threw a big handful of some baby kale leaves (a first time purchase at the farmer’s markets last week) in my Magic Bullet, peeled and de-seeded the custard apple half and added it with one super-heaped teaspoon of my homemade vanilla bean paste, a good dash of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and about a cup of unsweetened almond milk.

Because custard apple has a slightly grainy texture I made sure I blended it well. Still a trace of ‘graininess’ but the taste trumped that. Quick, easy, yum.

Vanilla Brazil Nut Cream

Mmmm, this stuff goood! I’ve only discovered nut creams recently (thanks to a fellow food blogger’s amazing creations) and they are ridiculously easy to make…why did it take me so long?!

This particular version is the one I used in the Cinnamon Buckwheat Pancakes I  suggested might make a great Mother’s Day breakfast treat. I’ve made a few varieties in the past, and the simplest way to enjoy them is with fresh fruit. I’ve used them as ‘dips’ at parties and smeared them on fruit for afternoon tea (see pic). food fervourWhat I haven’t yet tried is a savoury version (well, I AM a sweet tooth!)… apparently cashew nut cream is the best: I’ve seen it used to replace sour cream in mexican meals, for example.

Brazil nuts are another ‘cumbersome’ nut in that they don’t taste great and some people even object to their size (!) but again, they are extremely nutritious – right up there with the almonds and walnuts – so I usually opt for them for that reason.

My basic ratio for nut creams is 2:1, nuts to water. The amount of water simply varies the thickness of the cream. If you want ‘whipped’ cream – or a ‘spread’ –  use a little less water. Simple!Food Fervour

For this Vanilla Brazil Nut Cream I used:

1½ cups Brazil nuts (approx 220gms), ¾ cup water, 1 tspn natural vanilla essence, 6 drops stevia liquid

Pulverise the nuts in your blender (approx 20 seconds, Speed 7 for Thermies) to create meal, then add the remainder of ingredients and blend & scrape as many times as you feel you need to, to create the consistency you desire. I don’t mind my cream a little ‘grainy’ so I didn’t spend a heap of time on that.

Pop it in the fridge as soon as possible to prevent (slow down the process of) nut fat rancidity, unless you are ready to spread it on your pancakes!

NB: I have yet to make my own vanilla paste so I can ditch the processed sugar- & preservative- laden essence product AND I’ve read something recently about stevia NOT being as great a sugar substitute as we all thought (if I can find the article again I’ll post a link to it) so eventually (on my journey to ‘Re-sensitise my Taste Buds’) I’d like to drop all added sweeteners…