Birthday Cake(s)!!

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Usually by this time of year I am completely sick of birthday cake. Blasphemy, I know. It starts with Katie’s birthday mid July, in peak cherry season and our tradition of the homemade, from scratch, lattice top cherry pie. I call it the 3-day cherry pie since the cherries get picked and pitted one day, the dough gets made and put in the fridge in hard little butter lumps on the second day, and on the third the dough gets rolled out and the pie gets baked to perfection. I guess I could call it 4-day pie since we always save a slice for breakfast the next day. It’s a wonderful tradition and kicks birthday season off just right!

After that is my nephew Teagan’s birthday, Jasson’s is August 22nd, Titus’ starts off September, my nephew Gavin’s is a week later, then my brother-in-law’s and a few other extended friends celebrate over the next couple of weeks. So, by the end of September (especially if I’ve been in California with family) I’ve pretty much made or at least consumed more variations of cake, pie and other elaborate desserts over the previous 2 months than one should for the whole year. And it’s not even the holiday season yet! You’d be surprised how ready for a sugar detox I usually feel right about now.

This year has been different, however, for a variety of reasons. Some birthdays were missed. Friends were out of town. There were dual celebrations so the desserts were consolidated. I had all sorts of cake recipes saved up, excited to try them out, and birthday season was flying by without my test kitchen getting any consistent action. And then my birthday came along. Having just finished reading my favorite book for the third time (Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table) I couldn’t resist the temptation to make 2 cakes. That’s right! Her recipes for French Style Lemon Cake (to which she credits meeting her husband and kicking of their culinary love story) and Pistachio Cake (in which she cleverly hides ripe apricots and honey in her original version) both sounded so completely delectable I just couldn’t exclude either one from my birthday invitation. Since the flavors were complimentary, I doubled it into a 2-layer cake and it came out truly fantastic! Made with completely gluten-free ingredients, complete with a layer of lemon drizzle between the two moist crumply cakes, and topped with a cashew date frosting, it blew the original plan of chocolate cupcakes right out of the water! Good thing there was a smaller group than I had expected. There was plenty left over for breakfast! Enjoy!

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** I do realize that last picture could be much more aesthetically pleasing. It’s hideous really, but I like the two-toned cake presentation and wanted to share it with you. In my defense, I had about 20 hungry friends and children waiting to dig in and that’s the one photo I could capture before it got swept up for serving. Okay, carry on.**

—French Style Lemon Yogurt Cake—

1 ½ cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

½ cup full fat/ Greek yogurt

¾ cup sugar

3 large eggs

½ cup coconut oil

Lemon Drizzle

½ cup powdered sugar, sifted

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Instructions

1) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9” round cake pan with coconut oil

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add lemon zest and mix thoroughly.

3) In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar and eggs, stirring to mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the oil and stir well.

4) Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5) Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cake plate.

6) In a small bowl, combine the syrup ingredients. Drizzle over the cake.

—Pistachio Cake—

¾ cup shelled raw pistachios

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup coconut milk

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

1 stick of butter at room temperature

½ cup sugar

3 large eggs

Instructions

1) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9” round cake pan with coconut oil

2) In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt, pulse once or twice to mix

3) In a measuring cup, combine the coconut milk and vanilla

4) In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5) Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, mixing at low speed to just combine.

6) Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake 35-40 minutes

Cashew Date Frosting

1 ½ cups raw cashews

½ medjool dates, pitted

¾ cup water

¾ cup melted coconut oil

1 Tbls vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

1) Soak cashews and dates in water for 3 hours

2) Blend on high until very smooth. Add melted coconut oil, vanilla and salt. Blend for another 20-30 seconds to incorporate.

3) Smooth over yummy cake! (Or dip fresh strawberries into it.)

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Love and Marinara Sauce

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Taking the last swig of wine from my glass, I sit motionless at the kitchen table completely blissed out by the marinara sauce I just made from scratch. The aroma of basil and garlic linger heavy in the air. I strait up rocked those heirloom tomatoes and I’m feeling pretty accomplished!

It struck me some time ago, while having dinner with my good friend Mandy that I had never attempted to make tomato sauce from fresh whole tomatoes. We were standing at the stove of her new apartment catching up after a long stint away. Too long. Until recently she would spend months at a time travelling with her British beau. Three months here, three months in London, Six months in Thailand… chasing visas and loving love. Now they were newlyweds and settling in on American soil. I was thrilled. And I love calling them newlyweds, by the way! Mostly because not too long before the globetrotting, Mandy and I lived just a few blocks away from each other and spent many a single girl nights being silly 20-somethings. Pulling all-nighters to finish various deadlines, drinking French press coffee through the night, painting our nails black, laughing uncontrollably, and talking about boys. Mostly about how we would have gay boyfriends to take us out on the town and be super clean roommates and never marry. Well, times change, and we get swept up in the beauty and joy that comes into our lives. And when you’re living on a tropical island in the gulf of Thailand and fall in love with a truly wonderful yoga teacher with a sexy accent, you marry that boy!

So there we were, neighbors once again, a little more grown up and getting ready to sit down to a meal. I was extra impressed by the homemade tomato sauce she had just whipped up and trying to remember if I had ever seen anything come from her kitchen in the past besides granola and yogurt. I loved the domestic edge she had going on and I was truly inspired! This was the first thing Mandy had learned to make from her beloved and swore it was so easy, there would never be reason to purchase the jarred stuff ever again. And she was right. It was so much better than the store bought variety and from what I could tell, really just involved chopping a simmering. The wheels began to turn.

Back in my kitchen, I sit appreciating how many amazing people come into my life and inspire me to try all kinds of new things. And in this moment, I feel big gratitude for learning to love openly and blissfully, and to make marinara sauce from scratch.

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For this recipe I had a basket of gnarly, colorful, beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market. I also made this a veggie version (dedicated to Mandy and Harry, my vegetarian loves), but you can add any sort of meat and other varieties of vegetables also. The recipe below is how I made it but create your own, play with the flavors and seasonings. And lastly, I don’t eat pasta much. I will attempt zucchini pasta next time, but this go ‘round I used Trader Joe’s gluten-free, organic brown rice and quinoa pasta. It turned out really well! If you’re looking for a gluten free pasta, I’d give it a try. It kept its shape without getting mushy and had a really nice flavor.

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Fresh Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups brown rice/ quinoa pasta

1 Tbls. coarse salt

1 Tbls. olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

About 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped

2 medium zucchini

8 oz fresh crimini mushrooms

1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Pinch or 2 of hot chili flakes

1/2 cup chopped basil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Prepare pasta according to package, adding at least 1 Tbls. of salt. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water after cooking.

2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, then garlic one minute later.

3. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini, or any other vegetables being used. Cook until softened. 5-8 minutes.

4. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the sauce is reduced slightly and the veggies begin to break down. Another 3-5 minutes.

5. Remove from the heat, add the cheese (optional), red chili flakes, basil and black pepper. Add salt if needed.

Consider adding the following:

Splash of cream at the end for a creamier version

Asparagus, artichokes, olives, leeks, summer squash etc.

Cooked shrimp, chicken, lamp or beef

Thyme, bay leaf, extra garlic or other Italian seasonings to taste

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In the Vitamix: Ginger Peach Sorbet

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It was a dark and stormy night… the makings of so many tales of intrigue and adventure. On this particular Sunday evening, after an uncharacteristically warm and sunny Seattle summer, it struck me how black the sky had become by 7:30pm. And the heavy downpours were coupled with ferocious gusts of wind, lightening bolts that filled the sky with flashes of electricity and rolling, rumbling claps of thunder. Needless to say, no one at the Boyz Haus wanted to go on a snack run. Not even the ol’ ‘you fly I’ll buy’ deal was working its magic to persuade any of us to make a trip to the store.

And so, the kitchen adventure began. Titus, Katie, Jasson and I began to scour the cupboards and freezer for anything sweet and delicious. Nothing seemed to add up. Nuts, but no apples or pears to bake. Homemade nut butter, but no dates to fill. Gluten-free flours, but no eggs to bake with. We did however, have peaches. A whole ginormous bag of frozen goodies stocked for smoothies. We ultimately consulted the Vitamix cookbook and settled on tweaking the recipe for peach sorbet.

The whole process took literally 2 minutes and the result, out of this world! We added the ingredients to the blender, then Titus popped his head out of the fridge and suggested the last little bit of fresh ginger in the fruit drawer. About 2/3 the length of my thumb. Admittedly, I was skeptical at fist, trying to imagine the flavor combination, but that little addition really brightened up the whole dessert and gave it that wow factor. Another option is to add dried or candied ginger. I will sometimes add it to smoothies for an extra zing. Also, just about any frozen fruit will work in this recipe, and you can also use fresh fruit and add ice. Though, a word of warning, the couple of times I’ve tried it, the result is more of a sweet, berry shushy. I hope you Vitamixers out there give this one a try. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

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Ingredients

1 lb. frozen organic peaches

3/4 cup coconut or almond milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/8 cup raw honey or other sweetener to taste

Instructions

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in order listed

2. Turn machine on and quickly increase spped to variable 10, then to High.

3. Use tamper to press ingredients into blades.

4. Process about 30-60 seconds until smooth. Do not process more than 60 seconds as motor will heat up and melt the sorbet. Enjoy!

Stellar Supper: Fish en Papillote

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Living in the Pacific Northwest, my kitchen is fortunate enough to see the freshest and most delicious seafood of all kinds. And I do love all kinds of seafood. The snap of a plump shrimp being readied to grill. Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon with a simple lemon garlic sauté. The briny flavor of what my guy affectionately refers to as the bottom feeders… muscles, clams, oysters. It is all in regular rotation through my meal plans.

Tonight’s supper idea came from a local food writer Kathleen Flinn, and is a modified version from her memoir Kitchen Counter Cooking School. En Papillote is a French technique and simply means baked in paper. The preparation of this delicious and nutrient-packed meal is unbelievably quick and easy (It is more assembly than cooking, really.), involves very little clean up and the results are super fresh and flavorful. It really is a stellar way to enjoy fish.

And though I do recommend fish as an awesome source of nutrition, mainly packed full of Omega 3s, there is much controversy about the very real issue of overfishing, as well as the unfortunate health risks due to our ocean’s toxicity levels. I certainly do not want to be a buzz kill here, or detour you from eating fish, but I feel it is important to add a word on these challenges. It has been upheld by many health professionals that wild caught fish is the best overall for our consumption. These fish intake all of their natural nutrients, passing that awesome nutrition onto us, get adequate exercise doing what they do best, swimming, and live out their days in their natural state, being part of an interconnected ecosystem. Farmed fish on the other hand are often sectioned off in a coastal part of the ocean called offshore Aquaculture, which is detrimental to the oceans in those areas. Farmed fish, just like other livestock, live in overcrowded conditions and are fed antibiotics to combat the risk of infection. These drugs go into our oceans as well as our bodies when we consume them. In addition, the nutritional value is diminished greatly in farmed fish.

There has been a lot of research about farmed fishing, also known as Aquaculture, and is supported by many experts in the field including NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a way to ease the pressure of overfishing on our oceans. This is a concern since we are rapidly overfishing to the point of extinction in certain species. Though this argument doesn’t quite hold up since it requires at least 5 lbs. of wild caught fish to raise 1 lb. of farm fish. Meaning we are still catching 5 times more wild fish to feed to our farmed fish. Not very sustainable. And since there is a real danger of mercury in our oceans, not to mention the 300 tons of radioactive water that is still being leaked into the Pacific daily from the crippled Fukushima Plant in Japan, it is best to moderate the amount of fish consumed. My recommendation is twice a week. Also, consult the Seafood Watch guide and select varieties that are the best choices for your region. Finally, if you enjoy catching your own fish in alpine lakes, all the better!

Alright, back to the yummy stuff. Aside from all the controversy surrounding fish, let me say again that it is an excellent source of nutrients and should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet.

Following is the recipe for the Fish en Papillote. Enjoy!!

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Ingredients:

(Serves 2 individual packets)

1 ½ Tbls. olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Two 4 to 6 ounce cuts of fish (I used salmon)

Few springs of fresh herbs (dill, basil, thyme, rosemary) I used thyme and rosemary

3 thin slices of fresh lemon

¼ cup water or stock

½ to ¾ cup fresh vegetables (zucchini, shallots, onion, broccoli, leeks fennel, mushrooms, carrots)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Start with 2 pieces of parchment paper, 10×12 inches each, fold in half

3. On one side of the middle crease of each piece drizzle the olive oil and a dash of the alt and pepper. Add fish and turn over to coat.

4. Place the rest of the ingredients on top and around the fish

5. Fold the paper like a book and crimp the edges securely to avoid allowing any liquid or steam to escape. Here is a quick video tutorial.

6. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to sit at least 2 minutes after removing it from the oven.

7. Open carefully and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Make Your Own: Almond Milk

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One of the most simple and satisfying things you can create in your kitchen with a high-powered blender are nut milks. It’s easy, quick, saves money and is so delicious and creamy without those pesky preservatives. One additive that is found in nearly all store bought brands of almond milk is Carrageenan, a gumming agent derived from seaweed. Unfortunately, Carrageenan, found also in organic versions, is known to cause inflammation in the digestive tract and has been linked to irritable bowel disease and colon cancer by several peer-reviewed animal studies. It is a controversial additive found in many processed foods and best to avoid it when possible.

Which brings us to the simple task of making your own! One of the things I love about making almond milk (besides the base ingredients literally being almonds and water) is the flexibility of flavor and creaminess depending on what you’re using it for. The recipe below is for a moderately creamy version. I use it as a milk substitute in baking and to add to smoothies and coffee or tea. Also below find variations and flavors to add to truly make it your own.

I did not filter the almonds in my recipe, which I recommend if you want it to resemble a purely liquid consistency. I like to leave more of the protein and fiber in tact, so I leave the meal incorporated. If you do not have a Vitamix or high-powered blender, you will be left with some almond bits in the bottom of the pitcher and will want to run the milk through a milk bag or cheesecloth. Simply pour it through the cloth and squeeze, and I mean SQUEEZE, the liquid into jars to store in the fridge. Use the leftover meal in baked goods (I love it as part of a crumble topping for seasonal fruit) or add it to smoothies.

Also, I like to keep some pre-soaked nuts on hand so I can make milk on a whim without having to wait for them to soak overnight. It is a good idea to soak all nuts and seeds anyway, even the ones you eat in trail mix etc., and especially almonds and walnuts. The bitter tannins are released which adds to the smooth natural sweetness, and the sprouting process begins which increases the nutrient profile considerably. A certain enzyme is released which makes digestion easier for many people as well. Be sure to take nuts out of the shell before soaking and discard the leftover liquid; do not add it to recipes.

Almond milk is truly and delicious and nutritious alternative to cow’s dairy. Soak, blend, pour. It’s really that simple! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Enjoy!!

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Ingredients:

1 cup raw organic almonds

3 cups water

pinch of sea salt (optional but recommended)

Recipe:

1. Place almonds in a small bowl and cover with purified water. Soak at room temperature for 8-12 hours or overnight.

2. After the almonds have soaked, rinse them well and place in blender with water and salt.

3. Blend on high 2-3 minutes until you have a very smooth milk. If you have a Vitamix, blend only for about 1 minute as the liquid will start to warm up.

4. Pour liquid through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth into a container to filter.

5. Store in a covered glass jar or container for 3-4 days.

Variations:

1. Add 2 tsp. vanilla

2. Add 2 Tbls. maple syrup

3. Add 1-2 tsp cinnamon while blending

4. Add 3/4 cup of freshly squeezed OJ for a creamcicle-like beverage

5. Add 2 dates for sweetness

6. Use half almonds and half cashews for a variation on flavor and texture

7. Use 1/2 cup almonds for a more liquid consistency

8. Use 1 1/3 cup almonds for cream substitute

Lime Avocado Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust

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I’m feeling especially inspired today. On a visit with my family in California, I am celebrating my 30th birthday, my nephew Gavin’s 4thbirthday and my Dad’s wedding all at once this weekend. So many reasons for dessert! This time around, I have consulted one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Nourishing Meals. And as usual, it didn’t disappoint! The recipe that follows is a modified version, quick, simple, and deliciously satisfying.

A quick tip: it’s best to use perfectly ripe or slightly under avocados. I used one that was a little over and the earthy, strong flavor resulted in needing to increase the lime juice, zest and honey. The avocado provides lots of healthy fats and lends itself wonderfully to this smooth, creamy tart, but you should not taste the avocado, lest it resemble guacamole!

I would be fibbing if I said my family, accustomed to Costco sheet cakes with buttery sugar frosting, came running to the kitchen ready to scarf up every last crumb. They were hesitant at first. But each and every one of them tried it and loved it. Even going back for seconds! I have a feeling I will be requested to make this one again on future visits. Win!

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     Ingredients

Macadamia Nut Crust:

1 cup raw macadamia nuts

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

4 medjool dates, pitted

pinch sea seat

Filling:

4 small ripe avocados

6 Tbls. melted coconut oil

8 Tbls. freshly squeezed lime juice

5 Tbls. honey

3-4 tsp. lime zest

       Instructions

1. You will need a 9-inch spring form pan. Cut out a 9-inch circle of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom of the pan.

2. Place the macadamia nuts into a food processor with the S blade and process until finely ground. Be mindful nut to make nut butter!

3. Add shredded coconut, dates and salt. Process until combined.

4. Press an even layer in to the bottom of the pan.

5. Rinse out the food processor and add all of the ingredients for the filling. Process until smooth and creamy.

6. Pour into the pan with the crust and spread with a spatula or back of a spoon.

7. Freeze for 2 hours until set. Once it is frozen, remove from the freezer 30 minutes before you’d like to serve it. Garnish with lime zest or fresh berries. Enjoy!

Smoothies and Veggie Juice and The Vitamix, Oh My!!

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Today, I am on a mission to test out the new kitchen toy that is soon to revolutionize meal prep at the Boyz Haus. Behold! The Vitamix! If you’ve ever fired up one of these puppies, let’s just agree that going back to an average Oster blender after using one is simply not possible. The machine, er engine, is measured in horsepower. Enough said. It can boil water. Whaaaaaat?! And, my favorite part, when making smoothies/ veggie juice, you include the entire vegetable, skin, seeds and all. It get’s pulverized into liquid with all of the fiber and nutrients intact. That’s what I’m talking about!

So today, it’s test kitchen time. After a trip to the farmer’s market, I’m ready for a delicious, nutritious veggie juice. Beets, check. Kale from the garden, check. I also included apple, carrot, cucumber, fresh ginger, blackberries, blueberries, pre-soaked cashews and hemp seeds. The results…

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…are awesome! In 30 seconds on high (no kidding), this meal in a cup is ready. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness and zing from the ginger, and I especially love the color. If you ever want to get children to eat more veggies, this is the trick, conceal the flavor a bit with an apple and make it pink. Voila! They’re sucking down kale and spinach in no time!

I highly recommend incorporating fresh juice and smoothies into your diet to increase the enzymes and phytonutrients available in raw veggies. The average American doesn’t even get close to the recommended amount of vegetables required for optimal health. At a half cup serving size, a large smoothie can offer 6-8 servings in one yummy glass! I also suggest including raw nuts, a nut butter or a scoop of protein powder (whey, hemp or pea protein is best) to balance out the carbohydrate load with some protein and fat. You can also include a squeeze of lemon juice to lower the glycemic value and keep your blood sugar from spiking. I don’t tend to use a recipe when making things like this, but if you’re someone who likes a little guidance, Megan the Detoxinista gives some great recipes! Enjoy!

Restaurant Review: Jodee’s Desserts

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Jodee’s fresh and organic desserts embody everything to love about Seattle’s food culture. The clean, brightly lit Green Lake shop offers “treats that deliver all of the flavor and none of the guilt, to keep you and our community healthy and happy.” With pies, truffles and mousse cups made from scratch with quality ingredients, including wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-glycemic options, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Sweet and light, completely indulgent and remarkably delicious, Jodee’s kitchen serves exactly what dessert was intended to be.

The lovely little storefront smells of almond and coconut, and is welcoming in a way that only a place that truly believes in what they do can be.  Warm and friendly staff offer samples of treats in the case, and there are shelves of educative books and freshly packaged super food snacks.  The atmosphere is casual and mostly set up for taking your selection to go, though there are a few seats available and free wifi if you choose to hang out.

The smooth and rich Peppermint Patty, crisp and tangy Key Lime Pie and fluffy Tiramisu were enough to make Jodee’s my new favorite local dessert spot. It is worth, however, making a special trip for the liquid refreshments. Smoothies made from fresh organic fruits and veggies, sweetened with dates or agave, and French pressed coffee with just about every milk alternative available.  These nourishing and delicious beverages are an experience all their own and the perfect accompaniment to a Saturday morning walk around the lake.  Enjoy!

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Jodee’s

7214 Woodlawn Ave NE

Seattle, WA 98115

(206) 525-2900

http://www.jodeesdesserts.com