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Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Am I dreaming here, or is is just Earth Cafe's creamy vegan cheesecakes? They're very real and delicious, I assure you. They're, get this: RAW, gluten free, light on soy, and totally vegan. Find them here: http://earthcafetogo.com/onlinestore/


I said this would be an Almost Wordless Wednesday ;-) . This is I just have to share:  my friend Marisa, a budding professional photographer and former model, took some headshots of me yesterday. So far, this one below is my fave. Of course everyone has a different opinion on which shot they like best, and sometimes those opinions vary wildly from my own. Interesting, isn’t it? Ok, here”s my pick:

My current fave. Like most people, I'm rarely satisfying with pictures of myself, but my friend Marisa did a lovely job of getting several snaps I dug. If anyone wants to hit her up for photography jobs, contact me and I'll connect you to her. Whooo hooo!

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Eka Pada Koundiyanasana. I love arm balances!

Today’s post is gonna be a bit self-indulgent. I have the right, though. Birthday Girl’s Privilege. Yep, my bday is this coming Sunday. It falls on Easter this year, which I think is pretty cool, because it’s a time of rebirth and renewal.  No matter what creed or religion we follow (or don’t follow), the concepts of  renewal and rebirth are potent and hopeful.

In years past, I’ve been all about partying it up for my birthday, but lately I’m feeling more of the chill-out vibe. Not only that, I like to take my birthday as a time to reflect, renew, and just be good to myself.

Yoga always makes me feel brand new, so I’m including a few snaps of me in some funky poses. The first one is one of my favorite arm balances, Eka Pada Koundiyanasna. From there, we can go to the chin balance and then add more of a backbending element to the chin balance:

A chin balance. Anyone know the Sanskrit name for this one? I forgot.

Chin balance progression. Notice the unassuming and unimpressed cat lounging in the background. You'd better believe he can bend his back much more deeply than I can.

Another thing that makes me happy? Raw, gluten free,  dairy free, VEGAN cheesecake. Like these lovely samples sent to me by Earth Cafe. Yum yum! What a way to kick off my birthday weekend :-) . I’ll post more about them soon, but for now, let me just say that the flavors are poppin’, and they taste every bit as good as a traditional cheesecake, with the added bonus of not feeling like you’ve swallowed a brick after eating. Good times!

Finally, I can enjoy cheesecake again. Earth Cafe's are gluten-free, vegan, raw, and have no refined sugar. They taste amazing!

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Chin up, darling, and no tears over that messed up cake. A broken chocolate cake shouldn't be tossed into the trash, or even to the birds. Make a gorgeous and delicious chocolate trifle instead. Ok, guys, stop laughing at the oh-so-professional studio background I've got goin' here ;-)

Oh dear. A kitchen mishap. Big plans to bake a chocolatey, decadent, gorgeous birthday cake for a loved one. Said cake recipe was new to me and untested in my kitchen.

A vertical view of this layered beauty. Layers of goodies abound.

Plus, I was having a bit of a trying day. Not to get all “Like Water for Chocolate” on you guys here, but I find cooking when I’m sad often leads to mishaps. Long story short, the cake fell to pieces when I tried to invert the layers out of the pans. Whoops.

In the back of my mind, I’ve always said that if something like this were ever to happen to me, I’d salvage the situation by making a trifle. And part of me has longed to make a trifle, but not yet found quite the right occasion/excuse to do so.

Quickie behind-the-scenes self portrait. Ooops, kept the flash on. Well, today's entry is all about mistakes, right?

Now, apparently that day had come, whether I was ready for it or not. Had I willed this into being? Obviously, all of my preaching to my Yoga students about going with the flow was coming home to roost with yours truly. This just might have been a test. Okay, let’s do this, then!

Luckily, no one was expecting a picture perfect cake anyways, so the incident wasn’t a big deal, except in my mind. The trifle was creamy, fun and festive dessert, and crisis was averted. No tears were shed.

The lesson here? I think it’s don’t cry over  broken cakes, my friends. It’s generally not worth it. And there’s always tomorrow, or some alternative iteration of a recipe to save the day right now.

Here's another behind-the-scenes self-portrait. Hee hee, I'm feeling silly now.

Accidental Chocolate Cherry Trifle

Ingredients:

1 to 2 layers of chocolate cake, cut into large chunks (or one small pound cake loaf, in chunks)

1/2 cup of sour cherry jam

1/4 cup dried sour cherries

6 ounces chocolate chips or chunks (bittersweet or semisweet)

3/4 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon each vanilla extract and almond extract

2 tablespoons almond slivers (toasting optional)

For garnish: white chocolate bits and dark chocolate bits

Directions:

1. Make vegan ganache. Warm coconut milk over low heat. Don’t boil. As milk heats, place chocolate bits in a heat resistant bowl. Slowly pour warmed milk over chocolate chunks, stirring frequently until smooth. Add in vanilla and almond extracts and stir again. Allow ganache to cool and thicken slightly.

2. In a see through dessert glass or jar, spoon in some cherry jam. Top with a layer of cake, then a layer of chocolate ganache, then some dried cherries. Repeat layers, ending with a dollop of ganache. Garnish this with white and dark chocolate curls (Make the curls with a veggie peeler). Put some dried sour cherries on top if you want.

3. Enjoy, and no tears, love. Act like this was the dessert you meant to make, and no one will be any the wiser ;-)

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Easy Turksih Coffee Pudding. No cooking required. Find the recipe here: http://westofpersia.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/easy-turkish-coffee-pudding/ Photo by Stacey Young.

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Did you know the cookie was actually invented in ancient Persia (now Iran) in the 7th century, A.D.? My Vegan Biscotti with a Persian twist are a much more recent addition to the cookie lexicon.

Up until a few days ago, I’d never made biscotti at home. I don’t know what switch got flipped in my brain, but suddenly it seemed like a great idea. Plus, adding a Persian twist (Persianizing, as my friend My Persian Kitchen says)  would be a way to get creative. What if I upped the ante and tried to make them vegan? Hmmm, now that’s a thought.

By the way, did you know that the cookie dates back to Ancient Persia? From WikiAnswers:

The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th century Persia A.D. (now Iran), one of the first countries to cultivate sugar (luxurious cakes and pastries in large and small versions were well known in the Persian empire). According to historians, sugar originated either in the lowlands of Bengal or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean.

With centuries of culinary history behind me, you’d have thought my cookies would be perfect on Take One. Ehhh, not so much. My first attempt looked promising, but ultimately ended up overbaked. It was totally due to miscalculations and wrong assumptions on my part.  I thought the cookies weren’t done, so I kept baking them. I swear they looked undercooked. Almost raw in spots.

Thankfully they didn’t burn, and still tasted fine when dunked in tea and allowed to soak, but unless soaked a bit, they were a hazard to my dental work, and that of anyone else who ate them. Lesson learned.

The very next morning, I made another attempt. Humbled, I learned from past mistakes, followed the recipe to the letter, and got perfect biscotti:

Biscotti jazzed up with pistachios, cardamom, and dried cranberries. Sour cherries would work well, too!

I made two types– for half of the biscotti I added pistachios, cardamom powder, and dried cranberries to the dough. For the other half, I did sour (tart) cherries, almond extract, and slivered almonds. Tart cherries were on offer at my local Trader Joe’s this week, by the way. Love that, because they’re not always there, and their dried bing cherries get a thumbs down from me. Sorry, TJ’s. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

The Cherry Almond Biscotti were, taste-wise, my favorites. They're in the foreground, on the the plate. The Pistachio Cardamom Cranberry biscotti were quite good as well, and more photogenic.

Taste-wise, the sour cherry biscotti were my favorites. But the pistachio cranberry cookies, while no slouch in the taste department either,  were notably more photogenic. This is probably due to the interplay of the green pistachios against the dough and in contrast to the jewel-toned dried cranberries.

So yes, while the combo of tart/sour cherries and almonds was my personal favorite, the cool thing about biscotti is how easy it is to customize them to fit your own tastes and pantry. Next time, by the way, I think I might just have to dip these biscotti in chocolate. And/or add in some vegan chocolate chips. That would be awesome. But I’ll make sure to stay true to the recipe’s general directions! Wouldn’t want to disappoint my ancestors too much, after all. ;-)

Persian Biscotti

Adapted from a recipe on RecipeZaar.com  http://www.recipezaar.com/Vegan-Almond-Biscotti-32416

Makes 30-40 biscotti

Ingredients:

3 cups of flour (I used equal amounts of organic pastry flour and all purpose flour)

1 Tablespoon baking powder (Yes, a Tablespoon!)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup of agave necar OR 3/4 cup of granulated sugar

3/4 cup of smooth unsweetened applesauce or apple butter

1-3 Tablespoons neutral tasting oil of choice (I used coconut oil; Use more oil for softer biscotti, less oil for crunchier biscotti)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

For Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti: 1/2 cup tart (sour) cherries AND 1/2 cup almonds

For Cranberry Pistachio and Cardamom Biscotti: 1/2 cup cranberries AND 1/2 cup pistachios AND 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 325 F and lightly oil one large or two smaller cookie sheets.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, and cardamom powder if using.

3.  In another bowl, mix together the agave or sugar, applesauce, oil, and extracts. (Use more oil for a softer biscotti, less oil for a crunchier biscotti)

4.  In thirds, gently add and stir sugar mixture into the flour mixture. Batter will be very thick. Add the nuts and fruits. Finish the mixing with your hands.

5. With floured hands, shape the dough into two 3-inch wide “logs” about 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. (Measure if you have to; I did!)

6.  Bake the logs for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. As they cool, drop the oven temp to 300 F.

7.  Cool the logs on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs carefully with a sharp knife straight across into 1/2 inch wide slices.

8.  Place the slices cut side down on the cookie sheets and bake for 5-10 minutes more.

9.  Turn the slices over and cook 5-10 minutes more, or until golden on bottom. NOTE: The biscotti might look under-cooked. They almost certainly are not. They will harden up as they sit.

10.  Cool on racks, then store in an  airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Biscotti with a Persian flair. Pistachios, dried cranberries, and cardamom. Recipe to follow later this week.

In the foreground is another Persianized biscotti flavor: Sour Cherry and Almond biscotti. Both recipes are vegan and will be posted soon :-)

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First a rose, then scroll down for a video of me showing you how to make chocolate dipped figs and dates. Easy, quick, and on the healthy side.

The Grand Finale is to our West of Persia Chocolate Week is finally here. My gift to you? Video!

Yep, it’s video of today’s recipe, Chocolate Dipped Dates and Figs. Of all of the chocolate recipes I’ve featured this week, this is the easiest, fastest, and perhaps the healthiest. Please note that while I do use the microwave in this video, and am indeed squatting by it in the screen shot below (LOL!) I no longer use it at home. (This video was shot a while back). Why do I now skip the micro? Health reasons. Plus, I wanted more room for my tea collection ;-) I’ll write  in detail about all of  that at another time.

For now, just know that melting the chocolate over low heat in a non-reactive saucepan should work just fine, as long as you don’t walk away and keep that spatula or spoon moving.

I figured posting this on Friday would be perfect for those of you who might have waiting until the last minute ;-) to gather ingredients for any Valentine’s Day sweets you might be making. You may very well have the ingredients on hand for this recipe. For now, let’s roll that tape. I mean, video ;-)

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