28 February 2011

A Peace Offering: Raw Dark Carob Truffle Tart on Living Coconut-Walnut Crust

Raw Dark Carob Truffle Tart on Living Coconut & Walnut Crust
(recipe way below!)

And so I'm back from yet another long hiatus. As much as it pains me to admit it, I don't think I can ever be a diligent blogger. I try though. I try.

And I'm not making excuses so please consider this post more of an explanation, or actually better yet, just a narration of what I've been up to lately and what's been keeping me insanely busy these past few weeks.

This February, the Mister and I actually made real one of our long-term dreams: an organic, sustainable cafe. :) We are so very blessed and lucky, and truly very, very grateful for this chance. We decided to call it the Earth Cafe because really, as cheesy as it might sound, the Earth Mother and all she gives us was really what inspired us to create and open this cafe.

We plan to make the Earth Cafe, not just a place to get good organic, healthy food, but also a venue for educating or showing more people that there are lots of sustainable dining options for us all, if only we made a bit more of an effort. It doesn't even have to be an extreme change in the way we all eat. If I had my way, I would serve only vegan or vegetarian dishes, but we didn't want to impose that on everybody so we'll be playing around with our menu a lot, offering lots of sustainable options: free-range chicken, fish, gourmet vegetarian dishes! We try to make everything from scratch: bread, pasta, all our sauces, etc etc.! And we try to make use of only organic, natural and local ingredients.

It was a lot of work (it still is and will continue to be!) but we are so happy with what we have created so far. :)

But anyway, so that's what we've been up to. So you see? I wasn't just being too lazy to blog. :p

our brand spankin' new "green" kitchen! <3

Oh and apart from the cafe, we've also been busy "greening up" our kitchen! With the help of my very talented sister (who's about to graduate with a degree in Interior Design -- I am such a proud sister hen!), we now have a brand spankin' new sunny little kitchen! It's very open with lots of windows and sky lights to let the light in (we never ever have to turn on the lights except at night!) and also to let the breeze in so it hardly ever gets too hot. We have little pots for herbs that always find its way into our meals and we now have more space to make breads, pasta, and all sorts of stuff in! Needless to say, the Mister (who's a chef!) and I have been having way too much fun in the kitchen lately!

He's been experimenting with all sorts of baked goods like whole wheat vegan cranberry orange muffins, whole wheat oatmeal raisin cookies, whole wheat bread, and lots lots more! I, on the other hand, have been going crazy, experimenting with all kinds of vegan, vegetarian and mostly living food recipes.

In the last week alone, our lunch and dinner menu at home have consisted of:
- Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms with Herbed Rice (vegan)
- Coconut- and Almond-crusted Tofu in Ginger Honey (vegetarian that's super easy to make vegan, just replace the honey with agave nectar!)
- Living Banana & Cacao Chip Ice Cream (raw, vegan)
- Spinach- and Feta Cheese-stuffed Mushrooms with Homemade Caesar Salad (vegetarian)
- Eggplant Tempura (vegan)
- Jicama, Papaya & Pomelo Salad in Citrus Mint Vinaigrette (vegan)
- Raw Buckwheat Crispies with Bananas & Blueberries in Carob-Almond Milk (raw, vegan)
- Spicy Potato Salad (vegan)
- Tofu Mexicali Scramble (vegan)
- Living Carob-Cashew Freezer Fudge (raw, vegan)
- Spinach in White Wine & Cream Sauce on Organic Penne (vegan)

homemade caesar salad with soy breadsticks,
spinach- and feta-stuffed mushrooms and
a glass of organic Chateau Guiot Rose

The reason I listed all the dishes down was definitely not to bore you all, but I do plan on using this post to remind me to post the recipes I used for all these dishes once I have the time. They all came out delicious and even the Mister is now considering going vegan -- still the single best thing we can all do to lessen our carbon footprints.

Most of the recipes I used came from Ani Phyo's Raw Food Kitchen and Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch -- books I considered my food bible these past few weeks! The thing was, since these books are written in the US, not all of the ingredients the recipes require were available (or in many cases, affordable) back here in the Philippines so I did have to tweak most of the recipes a bit.

jicama, papaya and pomelo salad with a citrus mint vinaigrette

And while all the dishes came out yummy, there's a living food recipe from Jennifer Cornbleet's Raw For Dessert that I tried that really stood out! I actually don't have much time to blog still and the only reason I'm putting off my errands for after this post, is really just to share this awesome recipe with you all! It is way too good to keep to myself!

The recipe in the book is actually for a Chocolate Truffle Tart. But I was running low on raw cacao powder and I had really fallen in love with the flavor of carob now so I made it a Carob Truffle Tart instead, just by replacing the cacao powder with carob.

Carob Truffle Tart
makes a 9-in. tart that serves about 8 to 12 slices (depending on how big your slices are!)

For the crust:
1 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1 cup raw walnuts (unsoaked)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 pitted medjool dates (I soak my dates for about 10-15 minutes to make it a bit softer and easier to process)

Process coconut, walnuts and salt until finely ground, then add the dates and continue to process until mixture begins to stick together. Press crust onto a 9-in. pie tart and pat down firmly.

For the truffle filling:
1 1/2 cups raw carob powder
1 1/2 cups raw agave syrup (agave syrup here in Manila is so expensive! So I substituted 1/2 cup medjool dates for the extra 1/2 cup of agave syrup - came out fine!)
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil
a pinch salt

Process all truffle filling ingredients until smooth. Pour the truffle mixture into the crust and spread it evenly. It should have a toffee-like texture and a bit of a sheen from the coconut oil. Put the tart in the fridge for atleast 2 hours before serving!

I swear, this has been the best thing I have ever made, raw or cooked. Even my dad, who usually refuses to eat whatever I make since he knows it's mostly raw or vegan, loved it! The entire tart is supposed to keep for 5 days in the fridge but this one was wiped out in two days! (I ate most of it!). Do keep in mind though that it still is a very rich dessert (remember how much coconut oil you put?). The good news is that it's full of vitamins and enzymes that it's still much, much better than its cooked versions!

I love this recipe and can see myself making this every single week! It is THAT good and super easy to make! Probably the easiest raw recipe I have ever come across. It took me less than 30 minutes to make this, and only had to wait a couple of hours before we can eat it!

I'll be posting more yummy recipes soon! But for now, consider this a peace offering. I feel guilty for not having been able to post much lately but I do hope this recipe makes up for it. :)

07 January 2011

Writing from Paradise ...

This week, I get to check off one more thing on my list of places to visit before I die. :)

I have always wanted to see El Nido in Palawan. I have seen way too many photos of its picturesque bays and limestone cliffs and all the empty beaches and islands, heard so much about its super clear waters and friendly fishes which makes it a great spot for diving or even just snorkelling, and I was really drawn to its sleepy town and the kind of slow days we can have and spend there. So, since we owed the Little Boy a “holiday trip” because we were working on Christmas Day and worked through the rest of the holidays; and because our last two weeks became the busiest, most stressful week we have ever had and we were in dire need of a quiet break just to rest, recharge our batteries and spend time with the Little Boy, we decided (albeit last minute!) to finally go and visit El Nido.

So after a flight to Puerto Princesa, a night’s stopover in the city and a very long, very uncomfortable van ride (more on this later!), we are finally in paradise that is El Nido.

We're actually on Day 4 in Paradise now and we have been enjoying it so much that we’re already dreading the thought of leaving in a couple of days. We haven’t really done much these past few days except for very exhausting activities like feasting on seafood and fruit shakes and fresh coconuts all day, and staring at the water and the views that we never tire of, and listening to the waves, and laying out on the beach, reading a book in a hammock, and the occasional island visits to swim and snorkel and say hi to El Nido’s friendly fishes… and it’s bliss. Spending time in El Nido and having days of doing nothing is such a welcome respite after a very stressful year that I felt went by way too fast.

Our only setback with this trip so far was a fever the Little Boy developed when we got here. We were supposed to spend just 4 days in El Nido, but because we couldn’t really head out to the islands on our first couple of days since we had to let the Little Boy rest, we ended up extending and adding a couple more days to our itinerary and I think and feel that it was the best thing that could’ve happened (Not the fever, of course! Good thing Little Boy’s okay now. El Nido’s Dr. Reyes made a house visit to see him and said it was just a case of cold and fatigue – probably from the 7-hour van ride! And that he just needed to rest and breathe in some fresh sea air.) The thing is, the Mister and I are so used to the “let’s-see-and-do-as-much-as-we-can-possibly-fit-in-a-few-days” kind of travelling, that the concept of not having any set itinerary planned for each and every day of our trip seemed a bit alien to us. Our usual mindset is: since we’re here, let’s make the most out of it and see everything that we could possibly see. But when we were forced to stay in town and in our rooms because the Little Boy had to rest, it made us appreciate the “art of doing nothing”. To be able to wake up in the morning to the sound of waves and fresh sea air, with nothing to do but stare at the bay and not having to worry if you’re running late for island hopping or a breakfast reservation is just refreshing.

Today, the weather seems perfect. It’s 7am and the skies are clear, and with the Little Boy feeling so much better now, I think we’re finally going to head out for some island-hopping today. Today, we finally get to see the famous lagoons of Miniloc, and a few other islands for snorkelling and just lazing under the sun. But who knows? The view is perfect from across our room’s balcony again and that hammock by the beach looks pretty inviting right now so we might just end up doing absolutely nothing again today and the day will still be perfect.

P.S. I realize that in one of my last posts, I made a promise to blog more diligently. Obviously, I haven't made good on that promise. :( And I do apologize. I honestly don't know what made me think I would have the time to blog through the holidays especially since it turned out to be a complete whirlwind for us -- easily the busiest, craziest, most stressful month we had in 2010. It's over now though and while I won't be making any more promises that I might not be able to keep again, I will atleast try to blog as often as I can, every chance I get since I definitely have soooo much more to blog about!