No cheese cheesecake #4

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If I stopped looking at Facebook, I’d stop getting these inspirations…I thought I was done with the ‘ no cheese’ cheesecake thing (#1, #2, #3) but this one just looked too good not to try…It’s another Nadia Lim creation, a bit pricier than the others only because avos area  little pricey at the moment: not a problem in season or if you are lucky enough to have your own tree…

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I need some more practice building a  level base as it always seems to build up unevenly around the edges, giving this untidy appearance of more base than filling: it is actually, more filling than base, just doesn’t look it…

My base was simply the meal left over from a batch of almond/coconut milk (a litre of milk gives up exactly the right amount of meal for the base). The avocado gives the filling a silky smooth texture and the lime zest and juice adds a real zing to the flavour – or it would if the only limes at New World that week weren’t nasty little dried up things with nary a drop of juice….and if my back bottle of lime juice had more than half the required cup of lime juice.

I’m tempted to try this again this week with the full charge of lime to see how much zingier it is…it was OK this time but I felt the lost zing potential…

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I did make the berry coulis recommended in the recipe but tossed in the last of the coconut milk just to expend it…tasted OK but the milk neutered the sharp crisp berry taste…should have just used water like last time…

Still…it went very nicely with ice cream down at the station…

 

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…

 

 

If I could…

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On the trail to Oturere Hut

…what would I say to any one venturing into Tongariro National Park for a day walk or an overnighter..? I had been thinking about writing something like this after my Brutal post yesterday but this comment on my Carry a Big Stick post from my last excursion up Mt Ngauruhoe pretty much made the decision for me (thanks, Rob!)…

I would start with the weather. I would say to only check the Metservice forecast for Tongariro National Park. There may be other sites and apps that may tell you want to want to hear but only Metservice has trained meteorologists in the analytical loop. The Metservice forecast for the park is only for five days: three in detail for Whakapapa Village at 1135m and Red Crater at 1868m; the last two days in outline.

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Snow in December

Updates are issued each day around 7-30AM and around midday: each update may be quite different from the forecast it replaces. Do not expect the actual weather to always conform to the letter of the forecast. In the end it is your decision to carry on: if you think the conditions are taking you outside your comfort zone (perhaps too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too slippery i.e. icy, too cloudy, etc) stop and think about what you are doing and review your options…

The weather here is very changeable so sometimes even the five day forecast is subject the swings of extreme: unlike the South Island which has long mountain ranges that keep the weather pattern relatively stable, our weather can not only switch just like that but can also manifest itself as radically different micro-climates in close proximity to each other..a couple of years back, two inches of hail were dumped at Mangatepopo without even darkening the blue skies over Whakapapa Village…

Regardless of the forecast, be prepared for four season in one day: a good thermal layer and a good wind- and rain-proof layer, gloves and beanie but also sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock; good walking shoes or boots – not jandals or heels; enough water, at least 1.5 litres, for the day and enough food for the day: good snacky energy food…

So what if something happens…?

In New Zealand, cell phone coverage generally follows the highways : Tongariro National Park is sandwiched between four highways and enjoys reasonable but NOT PERFECT coverage – a lot may depend on the specific model of phone and your service provider – if you need assistance, for example, you are lost, injured or assisting someone else, dial 111 and ask for Police – in New Zealand, the Police are responsible for all off-road rescues. Even if it is an injury: if you are off the road, ask for the Police!!

Three safety questions

Regardless of whether you are going out for a day or overnight, there are three questions you need to ask yourself:

Does someone I trust know what my detailed plans are? Contrary to some myths, this does not have to be someone in New Zealand. It is better that it is someone you trust at home than some bloke you met the night before in the backpackers.

Does this person know when I will contact them after the walk to say I am OK? Ideally this would be no later than the night you finish the walk. If your trusted person is overseas, be very clear about whose time zone it is that you will contact them.

Does this person know who to call if I do not return? If they are in New Zealand, they should dial 111, ask for police and say that they have  a friend or family member in Tongariro National Park on the XXXX walk, that you did not contact them when expected and that they are unable to contact them. Information that it is good for your trusted person to have ready to pass onto the Police:

Your DOC booking number if you are booked into one of the huts or campsites. If you are just on a day walk, where are you staying that night?

Your car registration number. This allows Police to check cars parked around the Park and also to check to see if you may have left the Park and then been involved in an accident somewhere else.

Your cell number – written out not just as a number in an address book: for when the Police ask for the number.

Your Personal Locator Beacon ID number, if you have one. If you do not, especially if travelling on your own, a PLB can be rented for about $10 from various locations around the Park.

Any medical history you or anyone in your group may have that may affect your ability to complete the walk and/or that may be useful for a search party to know.

It is quite important that your trusted person does not fall into the trap of ‘Oh, I’ll just give it another couple of hours’ or ‘I’m sure they’re OK, I’ll call in the morning‘. If they do not hear from you when they expect to and cannot contact you they should make the call.

If your trusted person does not speak good English, it is a good idea for you or them to write down what they want to say in English so they can just read it out (www.translate.com is your friend)

If you are the trusted person for someone, don’t waste time playing amateur detective trying to find someone. Under New Zealand law, companies and agencies cannot release information on who may be booked with them or not. All you are doing is wasting time – call the Police and let them do this.

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New Zealand is a beautiful place and we all want everyone to come here to enjoy it but…

We don’t close things if they might be unsafe: we rely on visitors to make informed decisions against their own experience and equipment. If in doubt don’t…

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook or hear in the backpackers about what is or is not doable…

Take responsibility for your safety and that of your friends and family…

Have a Plan B…and C and probably D…

There is no view worth a free helicopter ride…

Brutal

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My temporary office/shelter at Soda Springs, about 1200m ASL

A few weeks back, work was pretty slow, so i decided to go for a walk up to Red Crater to check the ground conditions: even though the rest of the country might have been enjoying Spring, Tongariro weather is always changeable  and even now, almost into December, the forecast promises gale force winds and snow to low levels…

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The original forecast for my day in the Park looked quite nice but turned for the worse overnight…I almost gave it a miss but decided to go up to see how many people also decided to ventured into the mess…I’m always interested to learn where our visitors get their information from and what decision process they apply (or perhaps not) when deciding to venture out into the Park when the weather is less than its best.

The first leg up to Soda Springs was quite pleasant, drizzly but not really cold and just a light wind. I made good time as they were only a very few people on the trail – a stark change from the ant farm of a decent weather day…a few hundred metres short of the Springs, there was a distinct temperature gradient and the light drizzle changed into a quite brutal sleet shower: not pleasant at all. It was clearly snowing further up and I didn’t see much point pressing on…

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A guided group preparing to head further up the trail – going with a guide in these conditions adds an extra layer of safety

A group of three that I had passed on my way up stopped for a chat. They had checked the forecast before departing but were unaware that the first morning update comes though about 7-30. The previous forecast had been for nicer weather and improving as the day progressed: the guy leading them had fixated on this improvement and was expecting this ti happen as they worked their way up the Crossing. One of the girls only had a light jacket and was only wearing tight-fitting track pants: it wasn’t hard to see the early signs of hypothermia…dragging feet, slurred speech, diminished motor control…. I suggested that perhaps they might to turn back and get her dried off and warmed up…

I walked back with them to make sure they made it back alright. The guy, Eric, was quite a good bloke and we chatted on that walk back: Chinese he had attended high School in Hamilton and had considered himself reasonably experienced in the New Zealand bush: many weekends he and his fellow boarders had been dispatched  on bush tramps and walks. He was quite annoyed that no one at the lodge they were staying at had warned them about the weather or told them to wait until the morning update before checking the weather.

As we descended towards Mangatepopo car park, and away from tat temperature gradient, the weather warmed up and Eric’s friend improved along the way. Misinformation about conditions and hazards in Tongariro National Park is common. Where information does exist it is more often of a tourism promotion ‘ happy happy joy joy’nature and less of the simple easy to understand bullet points that should be shaping visitor expectations from the time they first consider visiting New Zealand.

All’s well that ends well and Eric and his friends came in the next day to say thank you for the assist.That notwithstanding, there have been some gnarly rescues in this area of the Park, most of of which have been caused by the rescuees aspirations getting a head of their capabilities…

Come visit but be safe…