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…

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…

‘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…

Pour encourager les autres

Baking cakes is not yet one of my fortes…I can do a mean beetroot chocolate cake but I’m not really a chocolatey type – note to self: try it without the chocolate or significantly reducing it – and so what’s the point…The banana peel cake was OK but fairly bland and had enough sugar in it to excite a kindergarten of pre-schoolers…

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Toasted

I’m getting right into coconut as a core ingredient and bought some coconut flour from Hardy’s in Taupo to try it out as an alternative to wheat flour and because I like trying new things our.

I searched for cool things to do with coconut flour and found this recipe for a coconut cake + coconut icing that was dairy- and processed sugar-free. I also liked that it was a Kiwi website as well so there was no need to translate any ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup liquid honey
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Directions

  • Preheat oven 170C. Line and grease a 25cm springform cake tin.
  • In a small saucepan gently melt the coconut oil until liquid. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey. Add the eggs one at a time whisking well between additions, then add the vanilla and lemon juice.
  • Combine the coconut flour, baking soda, salt and desiccated coconut in a large bowl. Pour over the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to combine. The mixture will be quite wet but the coconut flour will absorb a lot of moisture as it bakes.
  • Pour into the tin and bake for 30-­35 minutes. Check with a skewer.
  • Remove from the tin and cool completely on a cake rack.

The cake itself was quite easy to make but came out a bit dry but I’ll take responsibility for that – got distracted with someone else and left it in the oven an extra five minutes or so. I also didn’t read into the comment about the coconut flour soaking up a lot of the liquid in the mix. I dallied before pouring it into the baking dish: it started to set in the bowl and didn’t lie smoothly in the dish.

It was the icing that destined this cake to be recycled. Because the top was so uneven, I caked the icing on thicker than was good, so thick that the taste and smooth texture of the icing overwhelmed the cake buried beneath. I should have delayed using this icing recipe until I had some more natural coconut i.e. other than the supermarket coconut that the recipe warned might be too dry and/or defatted. I couldn’t get it to breakdown into butter so I added more coconut oil which kinda worked – if it hadn’t been so thick.

I did try toasting the top of the iced cake to see if that lightened it up at all. It was a slight improvement and would have worked had the icing not been so damn thick.

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Ready to recycle

The cake and the icing are both largely coconut so, deeming this particular attempt sub-optimal, I recycled it through the blender into my growing stash of almond/coconut meal from my increasingly more frequent production of almond coconut milk. On the upside, I shared half the initial production with the taste team at the Ohakune I-Site, and catching up with them today – with some oatmeal pumpkin muffins, they were surprised that I’d thought this mix a failure.

That sub-optimal performance was largely down to me, and mainly in the icing. I bought some coconut chips today from the natural bulk shop in Taumarunui and will give this another go soon…

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Efficient use of energy: drying almond coconut meal (mixed with blended failed coconut cake) on top of the woodburner

 

 

Pure | The Daily Post

DSCF9555For this week’s challenge, share a photo of something pure — it can be a person, an object, or a moment.

Source: Pure | The Daily Post

Pure…strawberries…no additives…just naturally pure…sweet and tasty…

Thinking about pure got me on the thought path of purify and a chance to review when I am on my green journey. ‘They’ say that you need do something for six weeks before it becomes habit…I’m now six months in to the journey, taking its start from when I purged – in a most unhealthy manner – all the junk foods from the house. It’s now been six months since I had crisps/chips where I used to knock off a big bag at a time; and maybe three months since I last had a chocolate bar: those Whitaker’s L&P slabs are still just too good to walk away from entirely: who would ever have thought that anyone could successfully combine a chocolate bar and a fizzy drink to mindlessly well..?

The journey is pretty stable now: I’ve settled on the core elements and binned some the trial components. I never much liked the rice milk and so that’s gone and I don’t miss the coconut water even though there’s still a bottle in the pantry I need to polish off: for the most part, good old-fashioned filtered water does the trick – pure as well as it come straight off the roof. I’ve stocked up on bulk chia seed, black rice and sliced almonds from Happy and Healthy, and bulk coconut milk powder from Naturally Abundant. Fresh fruit and veges depend on what’s in season – with just a few out of season treats – bananas being the core staple for smoothies and sugar for baking.

I am becoming a creature of culinary habit – not necessarily a bad thing – starting with porridge and stewed apple mixed with a little coconut milk: the cocnut milk adds a great and unexpected sweet twist to the texture of the porridge and semi-tart apple. I follow this with a slab of homemade herby wholemeal toast with apple butter – a new addition to the pantry that is so tasty and simple, if time-consuming, to make; depending of my degree of personal organisation in the morning, toast may be consumed in the car on the way to work. My morning cuppa is evolving as well – it used to be simple Earl Grey with a little cow but now I am looking for a black tea that will blend well with the coconut milk that has replaced cow’s milk almost entirely now. I still keep some 250ml bottles of milk in the freezer for just in case visitors who still prefer something a little more conventional.

I think that I have finally mastered the coconut bannofee smoothie: the key was the coconut milk powder. I now dice a single banana (reduced from the original two) into the blender with a heaped teaspoon of Jed’s #5 coffee and a table spoon of coconut milk powder and zoom it all together for 30 seconds. It’s quick, it’s easy, it tastes great with competing hints of banana, coconut and coffee.

Lunch now is a bannofee smoothie and either a vege smoothie with cabbage or spinach, carrot (for its the ‘Kune carrot season), LSA or flaxseed, and water; or Jen’s pineapple, banana and tumeric smoothie mixed with a 50/50 combo of coconut milk (from the powder) and homemade almond coconut milk. Pre-assembling and freezing a couple of dozen smoothie bags – just add LAS and water – was a good move and, as I polish off the last of the first two batches, I run up some more – I just have to remember to take one out to thaw the night before…

If personal organisation in the morning trends towards zero, and I don’t the smoothies done, not too worry: the Pihanga Cafe in the side of the Chateau does a great and very filling kids menu (burger and chips, pasta, pizza or chicken tenders on a potato mash)for $8.00, $6.00 with a Whakapapa Village community card! Occasionally, I might supplement this with one or two apple oatmeal or almond coconut cookies – both very chewy and filling – or a couple of slices of my jalapeno or kumara bread – now that I have them sussed – toasted…

Dinner is where the variables come out – I am still slowly working to consume all the meat stockpiled in the big freezer. Items like chicken pieces that can be fried go into the air fryer with kumara and potato chips – just got given a big bag of spuds left over from teh ‘Kune Carrot Carnival so need to work on consuming these…watch this space for variations of potato soup themes. Other things that be can be diced or otherwise mixed in, go into one of my repertoire of stews and curries, to be eaten with rice – still currently white but switching to brown once the last of the white is finally gone. That’ll just leave a few small roasts to find something creative and healthy to do with…

So back to my ‘purify’ thought…yes, I think that I am slowly purifying my diet, reducing if not entirely eliminating processed foods and working more and more with the raw (literally) materials…I still get the munchies some evenings but an orange generally deals to these. I know there’s ice cream in the fridge and that I can make a dessert in a cup in minutes but I just can’t excite myself about that sort of food. Don’t panic though..!! I haven’t totally gone off either ice cream or dessert but I’m certainly not hanging out for or consuming either in anything like the quantities that I used to…watch this space for my crack at raindrop cake dessert with ice cream and a passion-fruit (or maybe tamarillo, I haven’t quite decided yet) coulis…

Is it actually achieving anything..? Well…yes…most definitely…although it’s getting into winter here and temperatures are dropping, I’m not eating more so my weight is holding around 87kg; I am sleeping less but way better, and I feel good…thanks Bubble...

Let them eat cake…

Impressed with the therapeutic effects of my Wednesday night bake-athon, I lined myself up for another the following night…

I’m much more a savoury (un- some may say…) character than a sweet…so I don’t cook a great amount of sweet items, even less so now that I am withdrawing from the attractions of sugar and processed foods…however, in the interests of science, and interested to see how some of my hoovered recipes might turn out…I dallied with the sweet side of the Force…

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…and that’s where this image came from…googling for a header image took me to I Quit Sugar and then to some very (chocolatey) dark recipes…watch this space…

So anyways…baking cakes…I had two targets in sight…one driven by a preponderance of feijoas in the fridge (’tis the season) and the other by a ‘waste not’ recipe for banana peels that flicked across my radar on Facebook…

I found a good mix of feijoa recipes at the Waikato Times and intended (and still do) to make something from here but the absence of sour cream in the pantry for the chocolate feijoa cake nudged me towards this one from Melanie Khan. It’s pretty simple  and i made it as writ, less using three-quarters of a cup of raw sugar instead of the directed full cup of white processed sugar (white is bad).

It was quite solid when it came out of the oven: cooked but it didn’t rise as well as I think it was meant to…I’m attributing this to the moist mass of feijoa being disproportionate to the quantity of flour…it had a good strong feijoa flavour so next time – if there is one: so many feijoa recipes and only so much time – I might reduce the amount of fruit and/or reduce it before adding it to the mix so that it is least moist…

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Banana peel cake on the left, spicy feijoa on the right

The main appeal of the banana peel cake was its ‘no waste’ theme – we go through a lot of bananas here on the Green Journey and the peels go directly into the compost to nourish future generations of food – and as we make more and more of our own food, an additional benefit is the reduction in waste, especially packaging for things like pre-packaged products like not-milk milks…so in for a penny…

Although punted around on Facebook, the actual recipe lives at Love Food Hate Waste which has some other interesting recipes for food items that may be approaching their final best by date…as we hit the Central Plateau carrot season (through til October), one that has a real appeal up here is the carrot cake cookies.

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The ‘Kune Carrot Shop

Fair warning though, even though it is great that people are publishing  recipes that promote using and not dumping food, these recipes are on the Dark side of healthy with a very high sugar component. I’d be looking at reducing some of that using maybe a couple of bananas perhaps..?

You do have to peel bananas for the banana peel cake…and, if necessary, can save peels in the freezer until you have enough…making sure that you allow time for them to thaw before blending them. I forgot and waiting to the peels to go from rigid to gooey is the main reason the spicy feijoa cake hit the oven first – normally I would do the more complex recipe first: just in case it all goes horribly wrong, at least, I already have something cooking…

Again, I made the recipe as writ with no major issues once I was able to get the skins mushed in the blender…one tip for young players would be to not tutu with the tensioning clip on the cake tin once the cake mix is in: very messy trying to refit the base and close the tension clip again…

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The cake rose nicely but I probably left it in a little long as it was a tad dry inside…tasted OK but you’d expect with the amount of sugar in it. I don’t think that the banana peels added anything that could not have been achieved using the normal part of the banana, or even a handful of caraway seeds or something similar…

The creamy substance around the edges is my attempt at a lemon icing and possibly evidence that you can’t believe everything that you read online. My second choice for a feijoa cake recipe was this Lemon Iced Feijoa Cake from the Chelsea site (which sole purpose is the promotion of sugar!) but I had no milk, forgetting that I now have a large bag of coconut milk powder for just this contingency, nudging me towards Door #3…

I did, however, like the sound of the lemon icing as a finishing touch for the banana peel cake, and made this as writ but there is simply too much fluid for the dry content and even after three days, the icing still hadn’t set and most of it drizzled off the sides and soaked into the base – which was not unpleasant…

This chealsea icing versus  not chelsea icing

Comparing the Chelsea recipe on the left with this lemon icing one from All Recipes, you can see that  it has only a quarter the dry content of the other one…an interesting experiment and one that I will file away from when I need a super-sweet lemon effect to soak into a target dessert…

Just for the record though, if I had made the banana peel cake as writ plus the lemon icing recipe on the right, the total sugar content would be 5 1/2 cups of sugar…HOLY MALLOLY!!!! My butterscotch pudding only has a half cup (reduced from a full cup in the original recipe) plus two tablespoons of syrup for the sauce and I thought that was sweet..!!

Not being overly-sweet oriented, I kept the lemonised half of the banana peel cake (all gone now! #sugarcraving ) and gave the other half and the feijoa cake, less a couple of taste-testing slices, to my flue-ey friend to maintain energy levels until a full recovery is in effect…

Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

After successfully making my first batch of almond coconut milk,  I was left with about two cups of moist almond and coconut meal…what to do with it? Apparently there are many things that can be done with this by-product of DIY almond milk so I opted for the almond coconut chocolate chip cookies from Minimalist Baker and originally from Sprouted Kitchen’s book The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods. I took a quick peek at the online recipe list at Sprouted Kitchen and I think that I will be paying them a few more visits…

So about 10-30 on Saturday night, between movies, I decided to have a crack at these cookies, not so much because I had the munchies – certainly nothing that an apple didn’t take care of – but just to see how they came out…I did modify the recipe around the meal that I had to hand but you can see the original on the link above…

What you need:

Two cups of ground almond coconut meal

A quarter cup of dark chocolate chips

Three tablespoons of coconut oil

One egg

A third of a cup of brown sugar

Half a teaspoon of baking powder

A quarter teaspoon of salt

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

I left out the half cup of coconut because I already had this blended in with the almond. One of the attractions of this recipe was that it called for the expenditure of dark chocolate chips: I have some that I bought for a chocolate bread puddings but found I much much preferred this with white chocolate so the Minimalist Baker recipe offered an opportunity to expend an item that had been sitting around the pantry for some time, unused…

What you do:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond meal, dark chocolate chips, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, beat egg until uniform in colour and doubled in volume.

Whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla, then add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or even overnight.

Preheat oven to 190 C.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, place on baking sheet with 1-1/2 inch space in between each. Press down slightly to flatten a bit.

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Ready to bake…

Bake until edges begin to brown, 7-10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Insights

Less some scorching around the edges where excess oil leaked from the cookies and didn’t like direct exposure to the heat of the oven, these first time cookies came out really well. They are firm although soft in the middle and very chewy due to the high content of almonds and coconut, undiluted by flour as in a ‘normal’ cookie.

These would be a great snack for a days walk in the Park.

Next time I will:

Warm the coconut oil so that it will, in its liquid form, blend better with the egg. I don’t think that chunky oil affects the outcome but it looks better and ensures an more even spread across the individual cookies on the tray.

Only use two spoons of coconut oil: the original recipe may be based on an assumption that the meal is dry however mine was still moist from the wringing process. As a result the cookies were quite moist and ‘bleed’ oil on to the baking tray in the oven where it scorched under the heat of the elements.

Reduce the heat by about 20 degrees to reduce any incidence of the coconut oil scorching and also to allow the cookies to bake through.

Plan on baking the cookies longer. The stated baking time in the recipe was only 7-10 minutes: 20-30 minutes was my experience. Aggravating this is the fact that, being of the male persuasion and not advantaged for multi-tasking, when they weren’t ready in the advertised 7-10 minutes, I started doing something else and kinda forgot about them for a while.

Dispense with the chocolate chips: the taste is lost between the flavour of the almonds and coconut. I may use them one time more just to expend them and then that’s it.

Leave the mix overnight in the fridge to gel. I’m not sure that it will make any difference and the recommended minimum 30 minutes worked out OK this time, but it may allow for a firmer cookie.

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Voila, albeit a little crispied around the edges

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DIY Almond Coconut Milk

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As I’ve progressed along my green journey, I have started to become more discerning about my healthy alternatives.

One of the themes in Damon Gameau’s That Sugar Story/Movie (depending on whether you are reading the book or watching the movie) is that much of what is pitched at us as ‘healthy’ isn’t really. There are the obvious villains like sugars concealed in health bars and even in meats as I found with my little adventures with the pre-crumbed chicken cutlets from New World.

One learns to become quite discerning even amongst the apparently acceptable healthy alternatives. I’ve been quite happy with my change from dairy milk to almond or coconut milk (from the supermarket) but when I looked at the label recently (see above), it has just a few too many big words on the ingredients label for my liking…an alternative milk is not naturally the same colour or texture (something I know a lot about because optimum consistency for airbrush paints is that close to milk!) as real milk: that it is when poured from the carton is a marketing decision, not a natural process.

Something I like about opting for a more healthy lifestyle, apart from the obvious benefits, is that most alternatives are quite easy to prepare…yes, making your own almond milk will never attain the same level of convenience as dropping a few containers of milk into the shopping trolley and, yes, you do need to be just a little more organised in terms of ingredients and preparation…but neither the decision, its sustainment or the work are that difficult…

Locating a suitable recipe for DIY almond coconut milk – I’ve always been a sucker for coconut – Google is your friend and, after sifting through a dozen or so variations of the theme, I came back to this one from Ethical Foods. My driver for this journey is one of health more than philosophy and when I look at a recipe, I consider it more from a practical perspective. However, I did like that the author lists some pretty good reasons for having a crack at making your own alternate milk, especially the one about the packaging.

There’s not much waste here from the foil-lined cardboard containers that these products come in from the supermarket: the plastic cap gets cut out and goes into the rubbish and the container gets sliced up and goes into the landfill on the back lawn (just filling holes). Even the foil lining breaks down and any plastic liner that might survives works its way to the surface for collection and disposal (there’s not much of it). But why deal with the waste products at all if you don’t have to…?

I’m not so sure about the ‘advantage’ of DIY almond milk being “…beautifully creamy white…” because almond milk is not naturally white: look at the inside of an almond: at best, it’s an off-white…

This is so simple to make:

Place a cup of almonds and a cup of shredded coconut in the blender and run it up to the maximum speed for a couple of minutes.

Empty the ground product into a bowl and add a litre of water.

Cover the bowl and let it sit overnight.

The next day, pour the content of the bowl in some double layered cheesecloth and wring the heck out of it into a clean bowl, ideally one with a pouring lip.

Once you have wrung all the liquid from the meal, pour it into a sealable bottle and store it in the fridge for  use.

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Easy!

The jury seems to still be out on the shelf life for this ‘milk’ so just keep an eye on it…anything over a week is probably pushing it…

The only down side to DIYing your own almond milk is that it does cost more: probably about twice as much compared to the store-bought stuff in the cardboard cartons.A cup of almonds is about 200 grams (@around $4 per 100 grams at the supermarket) plus about $1.50 for the coconut. The water here is free, coming directly off the roof, through a filter system and then being filtered again in the kitchen: this last step is probably unnecessary but the filter is right there so why not use it?

Buying almonds, especially sliced almonds, in bulk will close the cost gap and I will also experiment with using less almonds: some recipes only call for 100 grams but I’m not sure how strong they would be. I am also going to try blending the almond and coconut with the water to see if that strengthens the flavour…

The finished product has both an aroma and a flavour that blend the almond and coconut together so taste-wise this is a winner…give it a go…

Edit 24 May 2016

I’m not so sure about the ‘advantage’ of DIY almond milk being “…beautifully creamy white…” because almond milk is not naturally white: look at the inside of an almond: at best, it’s an off-white…

I got this wrong because I didn’t read the instructions properly. On my second go round making my own almond coconut milk, I blended the almonds and coconut with the water before letting it sit for the day.

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Not only did I get a fraction more milk, maybe another 100 mls but what I did get had a very (cow) milk-like texture and colour.Like the commercial variety it also separates in the fridge but reconstitutes with a quick shake. My version version deposited a lot of sediment at the bottom of the bottle and needed vigorous shaking to mix in and didn’t separates into layers like this. teh flavours are also a lot stronger on this second attempt.

So the secret to good homemade almond coconut milk is to blend the solids with the water…I’ve identified a good source of less expensive almonds so will be making this every few nights from now on. Savings in the kitchen budget to offset the cost of DIYing will come drop dropping rice milk and reducing coconut water to an occasional.

My Green Journey – one quarter in…

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A much healthier-looking top shelf

In Happy Endings, really a post about beginning than ending, I described the conversation that was the origin of my green journey. The theme of that particular WordPress challenge was “Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?

I was giving up an unhealthier way of eating and I am pleased to report at the end of the journey’s first quarter, it is working. It may well be working because many of the changes that I have made have been small in nature but large in effect.

Reduced caffeine

I used to churn through a half dozen or more cups of coffee a day. I’m now down to one coffee a day. True, it is the bannofee described here that fills a 700ml smoothie mug I only have one a day, the coffee component is just one normal cup of coffee, the remainder being two bananas and a cup of almond milk, usually unsweetened. So I’m saving in coffee consumption and I am sleeping way better – not as long now but the sleep I get is sooooo much better.

The only time when I will have a coffee that’s not from home is when I am with someone socially – that is really no change from pre-Journey – but I am more likely to consider, if the option is available, a non-diary option…or I might just say “Starbucks, do your worst…” the nearest Starbucks is at least two hours driving from here so it’s not a big risk…

Reduced dairy

I’ve dropped my milk intake right back. It would be down to zero but I had a few litres, quite a few litres, of milk stored in the freezer that I am disposing of the traditional way. Once that is gone, the only cow milk, I’ll have here will be frozen in small bottles, about 250ml each, for cooking and any other circumstance where an alternate milk type won’t cut it. Those bottles will be the smoothie bottles above: they were reduced to $1.99 and, even full, were cheaper than any empty bottle the same size that I could find. I could have done the same with cream bottles but disposing of the original contents may have been defeating the purpose.

I’ve also got a few kilograms of cheese in the freezer and am slower disposing of that in the traditional manner. I am keeping a small quantity of mozzarella and parmesan around as I have yet to identify a suitably tasty non-dairy substitute for these specialist cheeses.One of my original objections in Happy Endings was that there was no life without cheese but I did find and make with relative ease a non-dairy cheese recipe that not only met the requirement but which is easier and less messy to make than dairy cheese (note to self: write up and share notes from non-dairy cheese experiment).

Cream remains a necessary staple for desserts although my sugar not-quite-craving has reduced substantially and so thus has the numbers of desserts prepared.  Beyond an occasional (less than once a week) non-dairy ice cream in a cone, I hardly ever have dessert now unless I am entertaining (well, I am always entertaining: what I mean is when we have guests for dinner). But you cannot have butterscotch pudding or brandy cream on waffles without real cream from a real cow.

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I didn’t notice any real change when I swapped almond milk for cow milk but I definitely felt slower and heavier as soon as I went back to cow milk and dairy cheese. I don’t need much more incentive than that to stay my healthy course so far as dairy is concerned.I used to have an off-the-shelf iced coffee with my emergency breakfast i.e. those mornings when coordination and organisation are sub-optimal,  from the garage in National Park but it made me feel the same way so I’ve dropped that as well.

I mainly use almond milk in cups of tea and coffee and in my pretty-much-daily bannofees; and rice milk for bulk applications like on my breakfast muesli. The rice milk is cheaper than the almond milk and useful when the main purpose of the ‘milk’ is to soak. Drinks taste slightly different with almond milk, not better or worse, just different, and I notice that the original taste of the drink remains more distinct than with cow milk. After an awesome coconut coffee at Eat in Ohakune a couple of weeks ago, I am going to try using coconut milk for those (now) rare occasions, mainly when we have guests, that I have a normal coffee, like, with no bananas. After my pretty-much successful pumpkin spice latte, I am confident that I can froth up coconut milk much the same way as normal milk…

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I had more to say on this than I thought…to be continued…