01.22.2018

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Nick turned 36 last week and, per his request, I made him a Classic Yellow Birthday Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream frosting. The cake smelled, looked, and tasted delicious (I made it while the boys were at school so I had the frosting covered spatulas all to myself…). There was just one problem – I recently challenged myself not to eat sugar, dairy, or gluten during the week (I’m not sweating the frosting licks) as a simple way to recover from our holiday overload. Nick’s beautiful birthday cake had serious doses of all three.

This Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake saved the day for me and was the perfect thing to have as a healthier option alongside the classic birthday cake. I love tropical, tart desserts, especially during the dark winter months – they remind me of sun, sand, and heat! This dessert is also a great party alternative for guests who have food sensitivities.

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Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake is incredibly simple to make – you don’t actually cook anything. The most challenging step for me is to remember to soak the raw cashews overnight. The crust, cheesecake filling, and fruit topping are all whizzed up using a food processor then layered into a springform pan and chilled.

While some sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are made with tofu or processed vegan foods, I like that this treat is full of recognizable ingredients like nuts, unsweetened coconut, and fresh fruit.

For all of you staying among snow and darkness this winter, give this cake a try. I promise it’ll make you feel like you’re lounging under a palm tree somewhere, however far off that actually may be.

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Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake

Makes 1 9-inch cake – serves 12 to 16

 

Crust:

1 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Juice and zest from 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

10 Dole pitted dates

1 tablespoon flour of your choice (all purpose or gluten-free)

Pinch of kosher salt

 

Cheesecake:

3 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Dole cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Juice and zest from 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 cup water

 

Pineapple Topping:

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 1/2 cups Dole frozen pineapple chunks, thawed

1 ½ cups Dole frozen mango chunks, thawed

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  1. Start by making the crust. Place all the crust ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and run the motor until the mix forms into a dough. Turn the ball of dough out into a spring form pan and, using your fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.  
  1. Next, make the cheesecake filling. Add all the cheesecake ingredients to the rinsed food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for sweetness. This is not a sweet cake so if you prefer more sweetener, add in a tablespoon of agave syrup or other liquid sweetener. Pour the cheesecake batter over the pressed crust.
  1. Lastly, make the fruit layer by blending the melted coconut oil and thawed fruit in the food processor until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake. Set the cake in the freezer to set up. After an hour in the freezer you can remove the springform ring and serve or place the cake in the fridge to serve at a later time. Raw Pineapple Cheesecake is good chilled or at room temperature.

This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods.

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12.04.2017

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My latest food column for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine is here and it has my new favorite slow cooker dinner recipe inside. Here is a bit of it…

“Have you ever had a slow-cooker fantasy? You know the one, where you imagine walking into your house after a long day at work, push open the door, and are immediately hit by the smell of a homemade meal simmering away? Maybe it’s beef stew, a vegetable curry, pulled pork, or butternut squash soup? Me, too, and I don’t think we’re alone. There is something magical about a nutritious, affordable, warm, home-cooked dinner ready and waiting for you. Even if you did all the dinner planning, preparation, and filled that slow cooker mere hours before, the reality that dinner cooked itself is never anything less than extraordinary…”

Click here to read more of the story from Martha’s Vineyard Magazine – Slow & Steady and get the recipe for Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato.

This recipe really is a winner – it looks like it took blood, sweat, and tears, but your slow-cooker secret is safe with me. Another benefit, Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato tastes exotic but calls for a short list of easy-to-find ingredients. I like to serve it over couscous, though any grain or vegetable makes a suitable bed. Don’t skip the toppings – the fresh cilantro, squirt of bright lemon, and crunchy almonds make a big difference.

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11.17.2017

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I hit the library cookbook shelf pretty hard this week. After flipping through a dozen cookbooks, old and new, I brought two home – Christopher Kimball’s new book Milk Street: The New Home Cooking and Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. I picked Milk Street because, without cable TV at home, Nick and I end up watching public television’s cooking shows often and both feel like we know Christopher Kimball personally. Taste of Persia is our cookbook club’s new book and I was psyched to see an entire chapter dedicated to flatbreads.

I made two recipes from Milk Street this week – this kale salad and a lentil salad. I have the ingredients for a cauliflower-tahini dish from the book in our fridge that I hope to try today. This kale salad is really good – here is what Christopher Kimball has to say about it:

Kale can make a flavorful and seasonal winter salad, but to be eaten raw it needs to be treated right. Otherwise, the greens can be unpleasantly tough. We started with lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale. Its long blue-green leaves are sweeter and more tender than curly kale. Slicing the greens thinly was the first step to making them more salad-friendly. Then, to soften them further, we borrowed a Japanese technique used on raw cabbage – massaging the leaves. In this case, we do it with ground smoked almonds, which help tenderize the kale and add crunch and flavor to the finished salad. An acidic shallot-sherry vinaigrette also helped soften and brighten the kale (look for a sherry vinegar aged at least 3 years). Intensely flavorful paprika breadcrumbs, inspired by the Catalan sauce cicada, tied everything together. 

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Kale Salad with Smoked Almonds and Picada Crumbs

Start to finish: 15 minutes / Servings: 6. From Milk Street: The New Home Cooking

2 shallots, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons honey

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Ground black pepper

1 cup smoked almonds *I used regular roasted and salted almonds, not smoked

4 ounces chewy white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed, washed, spun dry and thinly sliced crosswise (10 cups)

1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, chopped *I left out the mint

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the honey, 5 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds until coarsely chopped, about 8 pulses; transfer to a large bowl. Add the bread to the processor and process to rough crumbs, about 20 seconds. Add the thyme, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Process until incorporated, about 10 seconds.

3. Transfer the crumb mixture to a large skillet over medium and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

4. Add the kale and mint to the bowl with the almonds and massage the greens until the kale softens and darkens, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the dressing and crumbs and toss to combine. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

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02.14.2017

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day I made my loves a lemon tart while watching Beyonce’s grammy performance over and over and over again. Now I’m tearing up looking at these amazing pictures my pal Becca snapped of me and the boys in the fall. I love you Waldman boys – so very very much.

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Lemon Tart from My Kitchen Year

makes 1 9-inch tart

1/2 cup cashews (or unsalted almonds or hazelnuts)

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup flour

Salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 large eggs, separated

4 large lemons

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

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Begin by making a tart shell. Toast the cashews then grind them in a food processor with the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add in 4 tablespoons of butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Stir in the olive oil and 1 egg yolk.

Form the dough into a disk, put it between two pieces of plastic wrap, and roll it out to an 11-inch round. Press dough gently into a 9-inch tart shell with a removable bottom, and chill for half an hour. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

To make the filling, grate the zest from 1 lemon. Squeeze all 4 lemons and mix the juice with the zest. Put the lemon mixture into a heavy-bottomed pot and whisk in the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in 2 eggs plus 2 additional yolks.

Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil, then keep whisking for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Remove from the heat, add 6 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces), and whisk the mixture until the butter has vanished. Spread into the tart shell and allow to cool. Put the tart in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

I sliced a few kumquats for the top and served slices with whipped cream.

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02.10.2017

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I know weather talk is really boring most of the time but this has been a wild weather week for us so, forgive me. It was 55 degrees on Wednesday. We stayed late after school playing soccer, football, and sliding down the slide 1,000 times. Nobody had a jacket on. Then came Thursday. A storm blew in and dumped wet, heavy snow all across the island. Most houses lost power, the ferries stopped running, and school was canceled. Today, the island looks pretty and sparkly with its fresh coat of white but it hasn’t gotten warmer than 25 degrees and I do prefer those jacket-less winter days, however abnormal they are.

If you’re looking for an easy cooking project this weekend or simply want a new snack to toss into lunch boxes next week give these Popcorn “Granola” Bars a try. The list of ingredients is completely adaptable to your tastes and your pantry.

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Popcorn “Granola” Bars slightly adapted from Food52

Makes 1 9-inch by 13-inch pan of bars

cup almond or peanut butter

1/3 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or fruit compote 

Olive oil, as needed

4 to 6 cups popcorn

1 1/2 cups whole walnuts or almonds or a combination

1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds (I used raw sesame seeds) 

1/3 cup ground flax seed

 

1. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with parchment or wax paper so that you have overhang.

2. In a small pot over low heat, warm the nut butter, honey, and applesauce until melted. You want a sauce that is loose enough to cover the popcorn kernels and become evenly distributed amongst them. You may need to whisk in some olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) to achieve this consistency.

3. In a large bowl, mix together popcorn, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, sunflower seeds, and flax seed. Pour over the nut butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.

4. Dump into the prepared pan, then use plastic wrap to mush the mixture down evenly. Freeze overnight, then slice into bars! Store in the freezer.

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