Dairy-free (almost) trifle

I volunteered part of the dessert for the National Park Village Fire Brigade Christmas dinner – we opted to eat in over going out as we’re a pretty foodie brigade and there’s none of the logistic hassles…

In our family, Christmas dessert can be many things but it’s not what it is unless there’s pavlova and trifle on the table – and the trifle should be strong enough to strip paint or sedate small children at ten paces…I wanted to keep it fairly green so this is a combination of a number of recipes that kept it as natural and as free of dairy and processed ingredients as possible.

The sponge

This was nice and simple: I just used my coconut flour pumpkin muffin recipe and baked it as a sponge instead of as individual muffins. I did cheat a little and bought a back-up sponge from New World just in case that mix didn’t work or if I needed more sponge than the original mix provided.

The jelly

I’ve always found packet jellies to to be rather weak and unnatural flavour-wise and one of the themes of my Green Journey has been to reduce the amount of processed food in my diet, or at least, reduce the number of processing steps between me and the raw material.A bit of Googling found me a good recipe for real fruit jelly. I opted for orange juice instead of the apple in the recipe and also used fresh-squeezed juice not stuff from a bottle.

Let me tell, you, a litre of fresh-squeezed orange juice takes a lot of squeezing!! I don’t think I have squeezed that many oranges since winning a bottle of vanilla Galliano and kicking of the great Harvey Wallbanger craze of 2012…the pithy problem with oranges and such is that you can’t just drop them in the juicer…still a good arm workout!

I don’t think that I mixed the gelatin in properly as the jelly never ‘jelled’ even after a full overnight in the fridge. It tasted awesome and very fruity though and the sponge soaked up enough of it that the trifle didn’t turn into a big slush bowl.

The custard

I wasn’t sure if a non-dairy custard would behave the same as a traditional milk-based one so I bought a litre of cows milk, just in case. I needn’t have worried as Cast Iron Cookie’s recipe for dairy-free custard performed as advertised. When you get down to step 10, don’t wait start pouring…I hesitated and the custard almost set in the pot. Knowing this, next time, I’ll pour as soon as the first bubble appears AND have the final fruit topping layer ready to place on/in it as soon as the custard is poured.

I used a layer of whipped cream – lightened with Greek yoghurt (100 ml cream to 200 grams of yoghurt)- just to hold the Kiwifruit topping in place.

The other

As I mentioned above, trifle in my family should be able to strip paint or sedate small children at ten paces. To achieve this result, you need to add some quantity of alcohol. The recipe I consulted recommended a half-cup 50/50 mix of brandy and sherry: NOT nearly enough: this provided scarcely a hint of the desired effect and would probably need to be be doubled at least…

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Pretty stink photo, sorry, snapped it just coming out of the fridge for seconds…

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix i n accordance with the recipe on line but next time I thin l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I foud that the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…

No Cheese Cheesecake #3

Continuing my cheeseless cheesecake theme from before Christmas – yes, it has been a while since I did some writing! – this was the third (#1, #2)recipe that I wanted to try: not only cheeseless but also raw…it is from The Awesome Green and, apart from increasing the mix for a bigger dish, it is pretty much out of the box…

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The base is the simplest of the three: all you need is:

  • 2 cups of dry pitted dates, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup of raw almonds

Placed them in a food processor and blend them until you get a sticky mix: spread this evenly across the base of your pan – I used a 9″ spring form, lined with baking paper just in case the base needed some support when lifted out of the pan – needn’t have worried: it was sturdy as and easily popped out and on to a plate.

For the filling you need:

  • 4 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 1 cup of coconut milk*
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor  with the lemon juice,
coconut milk and raw honey.Process into a smooth cream.

Pour the cashew mixture in the pan on top of the crust, and spread evenly.

Because I doubled the mix for a larger pan, I made the filling in two batches. My plan was to add some blueberries to the second batch for a layered result but I my haste to get it done, I forgot to check whether the first batch had set before pouring in the second, hence the inner/outer effect you can see below…

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Done properly, it would have looked quite good but adding blueberries to both batches would have been even better.

To top off the topping – as a last minute addition to the plan – I tossed some semi-frozen strawberries, raspberries and blackberries into the blender for a berry coulis to pour over the top.

Happy with the final product but next time, I think I’ll add some vanilla ice cream…

* The recipe said “...use homemade for the raw version or full fat for the vegan one...” I used homemade coconut milk (well, 3:1 coconut/almond) and I don’t see how this could upset any vegan sensibilities as all it is is coconut, almond and water…

Coconut Flour Muffins

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I had a pumpkin that was rapidly approaching its ‘best by’ date so I pureed it through the food mill and then looked for recipes to consume the product (being – allegedly – summer, I wasn’t leaning towards soups) I also had a bag of coconut that was had yet to contribute meaningfully to my Green Journey. This recipe from Small Footprint Family helped solve part of my problem…

The Makin’s

  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace or pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of sifted coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

The Making

Blend together the eggs, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, sweetener, cinnamon, mace, salt and vanilla.

Add the coconut flour and baking powder and blend into a batter until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into greased muffin cups.

Decorate the muffin tops with a pecan or shredded coconut. I skipped this because I was in a hurry.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Insights

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Tasted OK.

Would have tasted better with a topping.

A bit heavy for my liking but my last exploration with coconut flour had a similar effect – I’m not sure if that is inherent in that sort of flour of if it’s just me..

No Cheese Cheese Cake #2

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My original intention for the ‘welcome back, firefighter‘ dessert had been to create two different ones but the logistics of that just didn’t pan out that Tuesday bake night…The filling had left me with quite an amount of greek yogurt and condensed milk _ which I don’t normally use that often – still to consume…

My selection for my second no cheese cheesecake was the New World Raw Blueberry Cheesecake slice but it didn’t use any of the greek yogurt of condensed milk that I still needed to burn up. I thought that this mousse from La Cocina Mexicana de Pily woulld make a good topping.

The base

  • ¾ cup (100 g) raw cashews
  • 1 cup (100 g) ground almonds
  • ½ cup (70 g) raisins
  • 2 cups (160 g) desiccated coconut
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Grease a 20 cm x 30 cm slice tin and line with non-stick baking paper.I couldn’t find a slice tin and hand to make do with this:

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I worried all day that the base would disintegrate into a crumbly disaster when we served it up but it set hard and strong.

Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse in bursts until they turn into a fine, sandy, flour-like consistency, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

When ready, add the ground almonds and pulse to combine. Add the raisins and pulse until lightly blended. Add the desiccated coconut and pulse again.

Lastly, add the coconut oil, blending until well combined.

Press the mixture into the prepared tin in an even layer.

Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up.

The filling

  • ¼ cup (35 g) raw cashews
  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup (70 g) frozen blueberries, defrosted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted

 

Place the cashews in the food processor. Pulse in bursts until the nuts turn into a fine, sandy, flour-like consistency.

Add all the remaining ingredients except the coconut oil, and pulse again until combined.

Add the coconut oil and blend until well combined. Pour the mixture over the base.

The topping

  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cups hot water
  • 300mls of greek yoghurt
  • 100 grams condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Puree the yogurt, condensed milk, and vanilla extract in a blender until smooth. I reduced the quantities of these items proportion to the amount of yogurt that was leftover.
Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water. I forgot to reduce these ingredients as I did the others so the amount of gelatin was about four times what it should have been. The topping was thus a tab rubbery but still tasted alright.
Add this to the blender and puree again.

Place in the refrigerator overnight to set. Once set, it will keep for 4–5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cut into slices when ready to serve.

The topping not used

The mousse recipe included a berry topping to be poured over the top but I was a bit rushed on Wednesday afternoon before fire training and didn’t get it done…next time…

  • 300 grams mixed berries
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • water (as needed)

Puree the berries, sugar, and water in the blender until smooth.

Pour over the top just before serving…

‘No Cheese’ Cheese Cake #1

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Our brigade is a foodie brigade. A couple of weeks ago one of our firefighters returned from her (successful) recruit firefighter course.  Dessert was my contribution to her welcome back .

I’m more savoury that sweet and while I like traditional cheesecake, only in small amounts: the overall cream cheese effect is too heavy and cloying for my taste…I also like the idea of a base that is a little closer to the raw materials  than ground up biscuits…that’s just like a bit of a Green Journey principle…

Googling provide a range of opportunities for a less cheesy cheesecake but nothing quite what I was after in a single recipe so this is a combination from two sources: the base is the coconut macaroon crust from Two Peas and Their Pod, and the filling is from A Baking Girl.

The base

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Spray a 10 inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. I heavily greased the tray, especially the base and still the base stuck quite a bit. Next I will line it with oven paper.

Stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.

Add in the coconut and mix well. I bought a single bag of desiccated coconut – don’t normally have this in the pantry as I tend towards threaded and chunked coconut – but didn’t quite get the maths right and had to top this up with the meal leftover from my almond coconut milk.

Press coconut mixture into prepared pie pan. I was aiming for about a 5mm thickness and this left about a cup of base mix leftover – I knocked this into the sink and that was the end of that but next time I would press any leftover base into cookies and bake alongside the cheesecake.

One of the recipes I looked at during my research phase recommended prebaking the base for 5 minutes before adding the filling so I did this.

The filling

  • 2 cups fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used ‘bad’ white sugar to eat into the remaining stock in the pantry)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean (seeds scraped out) or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Combine the eggs, sugar, yogurt and vanilla in a food processor. I think that this is where the leftover yolk from the base went as well.

Blend until smooth, then add the cornstarch and salt and blend again.

Pour the filling over the base and bake for 35 minutes.

When the cheesecake is done, it will still be jiggly in the centre but will have a “done” look to it. The edges of the cake will start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Make sure you don’t over-bake.

Let it cool then chill for 2-3 hours in the fridge before releasing the springform.

The topping

  • 1/2 cup of cream, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar (this worked to edge the edge off the cream taste but next time I would probably double it and/or add half a vanilla bean to add more of a flavour counterpoint to the filling and the base.

The filling set to a degree that the sliced strawberry topping would not stick to it. The sole purpose of the cream was to provide a layer for the strawberries to sink into slightly.

I’m keen to try this again with non-dairy yogurt to further de-dairy-ise it; it is wheat-free for those who have a genuine gluten issue; and, of course, to use an alternate sugar source once the last of the white is gone…

DIY Butter

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Part of my Green Journey has been working to reduce the number of processing steps between me and the raw materials of my diet…In many on my experiments, I have been using alternatives to staples like butter but, sometimes, nothing butters like butter…

Growing up, strawberries and cream was a Sunday dinner treat but the risk always was that we would be a little too enthusiastic with the beating and the cream would become butter. This was the first time that I set out deliberately to take cream as far as it would go…like many such ventures, the doing was a lot easier than the thinking about the doing prior…

The recipe I used I found, like most, via Google, this one on Stuff, it is so simple. I bought a litre of cream because I thought that there would be more loss than there was – that litre made me a good 250 grams of butter and, if I hadn’t accidentally spilled it all, an easy 250mls of buttermilk (know you know where that comes from)  .

As you can see from the Stuff article, the process is dead easy: beat the cream with an electric mixer – a hand one won’t cut it once it starts to thicken up – until it is thick and lumpy, then beat it some more. Drain off the buttermilk – without spilling it! – and, using your hands knead some fresh chilled water through the butter to rinse out the rest of the buttermilk. Strain the water out through some cheese cloth or voile et voila, your own homemade butter…

I actually made way too much for my needs, I just wanted to try it in my stock [insert your vege here] cake recipe but had made so much that I had to keep using it before it went off…next time I’ll probably only use a quarter litre of cream and just make enough for a the menu at hand…

Looks like butter, tastes butter, butters like butter, can’t beat it, it is butter…

 

 

Banana Peel Cake Take #2

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It was so good, it was all gone before I thought to take a photo…

A couple of months back, I experimented with cake from banana peel. It didn’t come out as well as I would have liked…a little solid and quite dry…Challenged to feed the troops at work, I had another crack at it.

I’ve done some learning since that first attempt and have two knew tricks to keep my cakes nice and moist: the first is to remove the cake from the oven when it is still a little underdone. The normal wisdom is that the cake is done when a skewer comes out clean: the truth is that it is already well done by this stage: the time to remove it from the oven is when just a few crumbs still stick to the skewer. The second trick is to store your cakes in a proper sealable cake tin i.e. not just on a plate on a shelf or in the fridge where it will quickly dry out.

My experiment with blending banana whole i.e. skinned has been going well: the only hiccup has been that fresh banana skins are a little too fibrous to blend smoothly. Ripe and frozen bananas go through the blades no problem. If in doubt, I place any under-ripe peels in a container in the freezer where they start to break down. They only seem to semi-freeze which is probably why they still ripen while ‘frozen’ and only need 30 minutes if that, before they are soft enough to puree. the thawing process can be hastened by soaking the skins in water.

Unimpressed with the original banana peel recipe that was hideously over-sugared, I decide to use Nadia Lim’s base recipe for kumara cake and just sub out the three cups of kumara with three cups of pureed banana peel.I added some water – maybe a half cup – to the peels when pureeing them and this made that task and lot simpler and easier. I ‘greened’ up the recipe a tad by using 50/50 raw sugar and coconut sugar, and a 25/75 mix of home-ground wholemeal flour and store-bought high grade flour.

What came out of the oven was a lush rich uber-tasty cake that everybody thinks is ‘normal’ banana cake. They are amazed at the actual key ingredient. I like this recipe because a. it taste good and b. it reduces waste in the kitchen – sure, I’d only be composting the peels anyway but using banana peels in baking reduces the waste from a banana to just the very ends.

But wait!! It gets better. I reprised the healthy coffee icing I used on my colourful beetroot cake. To stretch the cashews I subbed in one third walnuts, soaked these overnight and followed the same recipe. I upped the coffee by half a teaspoon and it really kicks butt – an even healthier coffee hit. I can’t do too much about the sugar but will reduce it by half next time as the coffee flavour dominates and the base cake is pretty sweet anyway…

 

DIY Almond Coconut Milk

My green journey began after the reducing dairy conversation with Bubble…my initial resistance was based on the impossibility of life without cheese, yogurt or ice cream, all of which quickly found dairy-free alternatives for…”Plus think I have mastered the bannoffee breakfast drink now and must have milk for that!!” The comeback “Sometimes milk is needed (e.g. nice cafe latte) other times vanilla almond milk is great (smoothies, cereal and instant coffee!)” set me on the path of alternative milks.

Until this point, I had only associated alternative milks with soy which I never much liked: that there might be other options out there was total news to me…I always pushed obliviously past those shelves at the supermarket. I started out with prepacked almond and coconut from the supermarket but was never that comfortable with all the big words in the ingredients panel on each package plus each empty package = waste…

It didn’t take much Googling to learn that making my own almond, coconut or almond coconut is actually quite easy, actually so easy that I wonder why anyone would bother with the store-bought packs..? I’ve expounded the benefits to a lot of people online and in real life and I thought that it’s probably past time for a bit of a tutorial…

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I have a dedicated blender for milk making…it was only $24, heavily discounted at Briscoes…the advantages it brings to the game is that it has the capacity to hold the nut and 1.2 litres of water, and I can pulse the mix every ‘while’ as it sits.I used to use my bullet blender but had to amalgamate the mix in a separate bowl.

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The raw materials: I buy the chopped almonds in 3kg lots from Happy and Healthy, and the coconut chips in 1kg lots from Bin Inn or similar bulk stockists. I add a cup (approx 100 grams) of each to the blender and cover it with boiling filtered water – our water here is all rain water, but we’re well into the filtering habit and it doesn’t do any harm…

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Pulse the mix of nuts and boiling water for a minute or so…I think that the boiling water helps bring out the oils and flavours from the nuts…

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It’ll look something like this..DSCF0453

Top it up to the Max mark with cold filtered water – you could use more boiling water but I don’t thing it adds anything and you would need to be a lot more careful pulsing the mix until it cools down…

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Let the mix sit for a few hours or preferably overnight, giving it a quick pulse stir up every time you walk by or get bored…

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After sitting overnight, the milk has separated into the meal at the bottom and the oils and good stuff has risen to the top…the same happens in the bottle hence the good shake before use…

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Spread your filter cloth over the target bowl. My filter cloth is polyester voile I bought as a bulk end lot from Spotlight ($12 for 5+ metres)…I just sliced off a half metre square and find this much easier to use than nut milk bags which are also more expensive and harder to clean.

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Pour the mix into the centre of the cloth…

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Draw in the edges and let the bulk of the liquid drain through into the bowl…

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Hold the top of the filter cloth and twist the ball of meal so that the tightening cloth squeezes the remaining liquid into the bowl…

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Voila! one litre of almond coconut milk, fresh as with no big words or other additives. This will last in the fridge for a week. It will settle and will need a shake before you use it. I use this any place I would previously have used milk except for cheesemaking where it probably will not work (haven’t actually tried that) but may still be doable for dairy-free cheese (also not tried yet – with this milk)

I save the leftover almond coconut meal to use in baking. I generate a lot of it and so dry it over the fire or in the oven after baking (I switch the oven off and let the residual heat do the drying) and store it in a sealed container until I need it.

I use the meal in bread (1/2 a cup into every mix), almond coconut cookies, as a substitute for flour-heavy recipes and also recently used it to absorb the additional fluid when I put too much milk in the mix for my roast baby armadillo recipe

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Orange Walnut Cake

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I forgot to photograph the process and this little bit was the last remaining piece by the time I remembered…good texture, just a little overcooked…

I’m always looking for new ways to reduce waste and to make the most use of each ingredient. After the success of my lemon icing experiment last month, I thought I’d try the same with orange zest. I looked at a lot of recipes but I liked this one for orange walnut cake from Don’t Forget Delicious as it wasn’t too sugar heavy…

I changed the recipe slightly using half and half combinations of raw sugar and coconut sugar, high-grade flour and home-milled whole flour, and manuka honey and coconut syrup.I didn’t read the instructions properly and baked it in a loaf dish which was too deep to allow the centre to cook at the same rate as the outside: it needs to be baked in a flat pan (I realised this just now as I was checking the recipe). It took three small oranges to around a tablespoon of orange zest…I might aim for a little more next time

Because I used the wrong baking dish, I had to leave it in the oven longer to bake the whole way through and so the final result was a little scorched on top and generally dry inside. Lesson learned for next time.

I wanted a Greek yogurt icing recipe as I had a lot leftover after our beets, feta and rice dinner the other night  and found this one:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of icing, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest – maybe a little more next time for a stronger orange flavour – I only had quite small oranges (took one to contribute about a teaspoon of zest) so using bigger ones next time should sort this

Instructions

  • Whisk all ingredients until they become a bit thick.
  • Place in the fridge to thicken even more (at least 30 minutes).
  • Spread on cupcakes.

This tasted really good but the recipe calls for way too much yogurt: even after a night in the fridge to thicken it as per the instructions it was still really fluid, too much so to effectively spread…next time I will drop the yogurt down to half a cup and see how that goes…

I was only able to smear a little of the icing over the top without it running off the sides but it did it help conceal the slightly scorched crust. I took it into work and it still disappeared pretty quickly so it wasn’t a total flop…

Orange zest is now a proven ingredient and I am keen to see if I can make a workable orange curd spread in the same way you can with lemons…

We can make and enjoy nice treat and stay true to our green journey…