My New Kitchen Addition

Aside

My new 3 qt. casserole dish from Le Creuset was not only a coincidental find, but a great steal! We happened by a billboard for the Le Creuset outlet on the way home in South Carolina, and boy am I glad we stopped. Outlet prices are not only cheaper, but their sales make the stock even more worthwhile if you’re on a budget but love expensive cookware. We got this beautiful ombré-style dish for $50 in Cerise to match our kitchen. It’s lightweight enough to easily pull out of the oven, but its construction will last longer than our lifetime. I can’t wait to make some vegan mac n’ cheez or a nice veggie casserole in it!

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Mind Over Batter: Addictive Gluten-free, Vegan, Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Huge green tea = huge wake up or a giant’s regular wake up

What a night. I woke up with my partner at 5:30 this morning, and laid in bed until 6 before I got up to be productive. Then what did I do? I slept from 7:30 til noon after reading for a while on the couch! The sluggish, groggy feeling in my head and body means I turned immediately to my hilariously large mug and filled it to the brim with green tea brewed strong. With this and some Nature Valley Oats and Dark Chocolate under my belt (most indulgent processed second breakfast ever), I’ll be ready for the day.

So, chocolate. People who know me well know I have a huge soft spot for chocolate; no one knows this better than my husband, who is often my chocolate-go-getter. Besides Valentine’s Day indulgences (my first ever real box of chocolates!), we have become much more conscious of and dedicated to eating vegan chocolate. No more milk or white chocolate, though I never really liked them much to begin with anyway when compared to dark chocolate. Luckily for us, a city like Buffalo offers many places and opportunities to stray from “the norm,” and we frequent the Lexington Co-Op in Elmwood Village to satisfy our chocolate needs. I had been wanting to make a vegan, flourless chocolate cake for a while, and armed with a pound of vegan chocolate bits from our local co-op, I was ready to begin.

I wanted to create a flourless chocolate cake that was different than the other recipes I had found. Many recipes for vegan flourless chocolate cake utilize non-wheat flours like coconut flour, which I thought defeated the purpose of flourless! Wanting to stay true to the concept, the recipe I have here is an experiment and definitely a work-in-progress, but delicious nonetheless. The only real trouble is getting the cake to setup entirely; this cake is somewhere between a supremely stiff pudding and a dense cheesecake. I will include the recipe and my plans for altering next time so you can all follow along and make any recommendations!

First, melt your (vegan) chocolate bits in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can do what I do: heat about an inch of water to a consistent simmer in a small saucepan and place a stainless steel or glass bowl wide enough to cover the opening on top. Melt the chocolate in your double boiler slowly, stirring until completely melted. Then, add the canola oil and stir until well-blended. Why add the oil now? I simply find that the fats mix better when combined at the same time. And a little heat never hurts (a little!).

You can see my double boiler setup here under all that melty deliciousness!

You can see my double boiler setup here under all that melty deliciousness!

Since you’ll have a couple of minutes while the chocolate begins to warm, take the opportunity to cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your springform pan. You can either free-cut and hope for the best, like I did, or you can just trace the pan onto the paper with a pencil and cut inside the drawn circle.

Pretty close...

Pretty close…

Next, puree the black beans and banana, and stir in with the chocolate mix.

Mmmm getting there

Mmmm getting there

After you’ve dirtied the food processor by pureeing the black beans and banana, you can dirty it even further by whipping your silken tofu. Whipping the tofu helps add a bit of air and gives it a smooth texture.

Tofu! Eggs, be gone!

Tofu! Eggs, be gone!

Brew up your strong coffee…

Caff. Eine.

Caff. Eine.

…and add everything remaining to the chocolate mix: the coffee, sugar, vanilla, water, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. Pour into your pan, and bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes. And no, that’s not a joke: 40-50 minutes.

Yeah! Uncooked magic :D

Yeah! Uncooked magic 😀

Once out of the oven, freeze for 20 minutes to jump-start the setting process, and transfer to the fridge for at least 2 hours or until cool completely.

A friend who hates black beans ate the cake and had no idea. We all loved the cake. I would recommend having a pie server handy for getting your slices out, because this cake will be funny to get out.

Gluten-free, Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake
1 lb. vegan chocolate bits
1 c. canola oil
1 banana
1 c. silken tofu
1/2 c. black bean puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. strong coffee
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. baking powder

Now, for next time, I think I’m going to change up the recipe a bit. First, the moisture content needs to come down. Second, the banana flavor needs to come down. Third, I think the cake needs to actually try to rise less in order to get the correct dense texture of a flourless chocolate cake. So, this is my proposed NEW recipe:

1 lb. vegan chocolate bits
1 c. canola oil OR vegan margarine (my new favorite thing)
1/2 banana
1 c. silken tofu
1 c. black bean puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. strong coffee

Fewer ingredients, but who knows how it will come out? It’s untested. I’ll do an update once it’s completed! But for now, the tested, gluten-free, vegan flourless chocolate cake is a pretty damn good substitute! With a side of unsweetened almond milk, it’s just heaven. One small slice is enough to send you into a health coma!

 

 

Do You Kiss Your Mother with That Mouth?

Now you can, because you’ll be brushing with natural homemade toothpaste.

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There are a number of reasons why I’m not in love with your traditional toothpaste: 1) It, like many other cosmetics, bath products, and toiletries is home to many unpronounceable, unrecognizable chemicals that you can’t find in the backyard (anyone’s backyard, anywhere); 2) One can’t be positive if it is vegetarian/vegan because ingredients like glycerin can be sourced from plant or animal sources, and it frequently depends on such variables as market values; 3) It’s full of sugar, which I feel is counter-intuitive to good dental health, particularly when we’re supposed to cut processed sugars out of our diet in the first place; and 4) It’s friggin’ expensive and often gross.

I have teeth that are chipped, teeth with deeper-than-normal grooves, teeth that have been stained with countless coffees and wines, teeth that have gone years without seeing a single professional, teeth that have often gone without flossing (save your negative commentary for someone who has bad plaque buildup), teeth that are sensitive to too-cold and too-warm and sometimes even the very toothpastes intended to help them, teeth that are worn down from night grinding and clenching.

Of course, I can’t pretend I’m some sort of expert on dental health. And I haven’t yet been to a dentist to test how well my homemade toothpastes have worked on my mouth (I will certainly update once I go!). But I have been doing my research, and many dentists support the efficacy, safety, and benefits of using simpler, natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, unsweetened cranberry juice, and oils (essential and otherwise) in our mouths. These everyday kitchen ingredients (and everyday ingredients for “crunchers” like me, like the 54 oz. of coconut oil in my cabinet) keep our teeth and gums healthy and strong, the risk of gingivitis down, any incidence of the strep virus low to nonexistent, and most importantly, our bodies remain chemical-free.

My first adventure with homemade toothpaste was somewhat difficult. The paste itself was great–thick and pasty, easy-to-use–but the recipe was absolutely repulsive to have to taste. As someone who was forced to gargle with salt water after lost teeth as a child, one can imagine how gag-worthy a toothpaste made of only baking soda, sea salt, water, and tea tree oil might be to me. I got choked up more than a few times, and not because I was so proud of my accomplishment as a “homemaker.” Why did I keep using it? Because I knew it was the healthier option, and, well, let me tell you: I could eat a ton of garlic, brush my teeth with this toothpaste five minutes later, and have absolutely no trace of my indulgence at work or play! That’s one effective toothpaste right there.

All my ducks in a row so I can get cookin'!

All my ducks in a row so I can get cookin’!

I haven’t had the chance to perform the garlic test with my new toothpaste recipe; however, my mouth definitely feels clean when I’m done brushing, and the taste is far easier on the tongue. It may be tough for some of you to get used to; the coconut oil is fairly solid at room temperature, so you scrape the paste onto your brush and then wait as it melts in your mouth, which can be mildly disconcerting at first. However, the coconutty, fresh taste and clean feeling that you are left with when you are done are worth the getting-to-know-you period.

It’s pretty easy to make this toothpaste. First, gather your ingredients together: coconut oil, tea tree oil, and baking soda. It’s just easier if they’re all together. And make sure you have your measuring spoons and other “ware” at hand, as well as the container you’re going to put the toothpaste in! I use a simple jar (in fact, I haven’t even removed the original label yet).

Just 3 ingredients! Couldn't be easier.

Next, you’ll measure out the coconut oil and melt it in the microwave until mostly melted. If your microwave has heat settings, I would set it in the middle, around level 5 in our microwave.

Coconut oilFinally, measure your baking soda and add the tea tree oil if you desire to the coconut oil and stir thoroughly. The tea tree oil is nice because it is antibacterial, and will kill the germs while leaving you with a pleasant (in my opinion) feeling and smell. Once incorporated, transfer the toothpaste to your jar. The consistency will be thicker, but more fluid than conventional toothpaste and far less stiff than the final product. You can see that in the picture below.

IMG_0353Once it sets fully, your toothpaste will stiffen. If you have the time and want to make the extra effort, you can warm it up before use it so it’s not solid. However, it’s fun to scrape it up with your toothbrush and wait for it to melt in your mouth! Here’s the exact recipe, but you can always adjust the measurements to suit your tastes (literally!):

Homemade Toothpaste
4 tbsp. coconut oil
7 tbsp. baking soda
dash of tea tree oil

If you are feeling daring and, perhaps, eat a lot of garlic to the detriment of your love life or working relationships, here is my original toothpaste recipe:

Homemade “Raw” Toothpaste
1/2 c. baking soda
2 tsp. sea salt
dash of tea tree oil
1-2 tsp. water

When using either toothpaste, I would recommend rinsing your mouth very thoroughly after brushing; this gets the leftover baking soda out of your mouth. You can also make your own natural mouthwash with half-strength vinegar or unsweetened cranberry juice (I prefer the unsweetened cranberry juice).

I can’t recommend making the transition highly enough, particularly if you have children. Why keep a toothpaste in the house that, once in your mouth, you should worry about swallowing?!  Why keep a toothpaste in the house that you have to keep away from your children?! Getting them to brush in the first place can be tough enough without making it seem like a necessary parent-assisted activity.

But even more important for dental health is cutting out processed sugars and foods. And honestly, my mouth never felt cleaner and healthier than when we switched to a vegan diet. No one has to go vegan to have a cleaner mouth, but putting an end to mornings of sugary cereal, followed by lunches and snacks of chips and flavored crackers and desserts of store-bought cookies and cakes will certainly make your teeth less grimy. When I read at the age of 20 in Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food that people in other lands don’t do anything (or do very little) for “dental health” besides eat only “clean” foods as is consistent with their culture, I almost didn’t believe it. But I’ve lived to tell the tale of how disgusting those processed foods really made my mouth feel, compared to how wonderful my teeth and cheeks feel now! This, of course, doesn’t mean I haven’t had ANY indulgences–of course I’ve had a couple–but overall, my mouth and diet get pretty high scores 🙂

What are your thoughts on mouth health? Does anyone do oil pulling with success? Write in and let me know, or share your recipes/experiences with natural toothpastes! And of course, write in with any questions 🙂

Surprisingly Delicious Lunch

Aside

Wheat bread, vegan Boca “chicken” patty, fresh spinach, cucumber slices, peanut butter, hot sauce, and vegan mayonnaise. Awesome vegan sandwich!

The Way Stuff Piles

Mmmmm. Topped with garlic croutons: epic.

Cake. Cake, cake, cake. I didn’t know what to expect when I plunged my fork into the soft depths of Panarao’s tiramisu cake, but oh, cake. I’ve never had one like this! It was so interesting to taste a cake that is actually supposed to be another dessert and try to match the flavors, feel the different textures, and re-write the memories of flavors past. The cake was moist, the homemade buttercream was somehow thick, rich, and light at once, and the filling? Yum. They even said we can use the chocolate-covered espresso beans for decoration on the cake. Perfection. We may have a winner! The cake selection from Muscoreil’s was also impressive, but the family feel and great service we got from Tony at Panaro’s really makes them the top contender for us personally. I do highly recommend Muscoreil’s as well, though; they do beautiful work and their white almond raspberry cake was delicious, packed with the perfect balance of sweet & tart. Mmmmm.

And even with all the cake tasting, the cinnamon rolls from Five Points Bakery, and the restaurant meals with my brother this past week, I still lost 1 pound! I know it’s not much, but it also means that I’m still on track. I didn’t have much time to exercise, and all 5 nights of work last week my stomach was growling and begging by 2 AM, but I made good food choices at home and out to eat. Plus, on Sunday, Jonmark and I finally made it to the rock gym!! I not only climbed higher on more difficult courses, but I hung in the air like Spiderman! I didn’t get more than 10 feet off the ground on the inclined walls, but I still made it. Worth being proud of for sure.

Tonight for dinner (lunch)? Potato leek soup. It wasn’t a recipe I made up, really – you can use one of any from Food Network or another site. Mine was delicious, and only 216 calories per serving. It’s a great way to end a chilly winter day, and a perfect low-cal, low-fat meal.