Category Archives: recipes

Effortless Apple Cake

A slightly different version of this cake has appeared in these pages before, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to redo it with these pretty pictures. This is a gluten-free and veganized version of one of my mother’s recipes, which is different from most apple cakes I have eaten in that it really mostly consists of just apples. The original recipe is flavored mainly with cardamom, but here I use our magic ingredient of the moment – apple pie spice. It contains cinnamon, fenugreek, lemon peel, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and can take any oatmeal or apple dessert to a whole new level. Yum!

Gluten-free, vegan, effortless apple cake

  • 3 small/medium somewhat tart apples, chopped into smallish chunks (No need to peel, unless you really want to)
  • squish of lemon juice
  • 200 ml flour – I used half gluten-free flour blend and half sweet rice flour
  • 150 ml sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar (if using liquid, then mix it with the melted butter)
  • generous sprinkling of apple pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum (you can omit this if using a gluten-free flour blend which already contains some)
  • 60 ml melted butter/butter alternative
  • 3-4 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce, or as needed

Chop the apples into small-ish chunks. It should add up to approximately 1 liter of apple chunks. Squish some lemon over them to prevent browning.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add apples and stir to coat.

Melt “butter” and pour over the apples. Stir. Add apple sauce until you don’t see dry specks of flour anymore and you have a bowl full of apples coated in a relatively thin layer of smooth batter.

Spread into a square pan, flattening the apples into the pan with the back of the spoon. Bake for 45 min or so at 190C, until knife comes out clean and the cake is golden brown. Enjoy!

(sorry, by the time it was done the good natural light was gone..)

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Pumpkin seed butter.

I used to envy people who weren’t allergic to nuts for being able to eat almond butter. It seemed so satisfying. Then, in Toronto, I discovered that I need not pine for almond butter – I could eat pumpkin seed butter instead! Canadian health food stores stock pumpkin seed butter from a company called “Nuts to you”. It had a somewhat odd brownish-green color, but is totally addictive. When I served it to out-of-town guests, they invariably ended up bringing a jar home, and personally I went through literally a jar of this stuff every week, eating it for breakfast on rye bread, with honey on top, and eating it by the spoonful out of the fridge as a snack.

I’ve missed it sorely here in Norway, now that I have gone through the stash I brought from Canada. But no more need for that – because pumpkin seeds + food processor = pumpkin seed butter 🙂

Pumpkin seed butter

  • 350 g pumpkin seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • <1 tsp sea salt

I find that raw pumpkin seeds have a slightly unpleasant bitterness to them, so I prefer to toast them first. (The Nuts to You version that I used to buy was also made from pre-toasted seeds.) Thus, the first step is to spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking dish and toast them for 15 minutes or so at 150C. Then, you let them cool.

Once they have cooled, you put them in your food processor, and just let it run for a LONG time. First, they will turn into an increasingly fine powder. Then, the powder will start to clump. Around this time, I would add the coconut oil, while the food processor is running. Throughout, you will need to stop the food processor at regular intervals to push the stuff back down, as it tends to get pushed to the side and out of reach of the spinning blades. Eventually (maybe 7-10 minutes? I didn’t keep track), you will have pumpkin seed butter, which you can scoop into a container. It will initially be quite runny, but it will set in the fridge to a relatively solid, but still spreadable, texture.

Eat on bread, with honey on top (this picture features my home-made gluten-free bread):

Lentil butternut squash soup.

There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about this soup. I make variations over this kind of red lentil soup quite a bit in the winter, with carrots or whatever veg I have lying around. It quick and simple – lentils do not require presoaking, and the split red ones, like these, are the quickest to cook. But it’s been a while since I have made one now, and it came to mind as a good solution to my current problem.

I seem to be allergic to something, but I can’t quite figure out what it could be. I’ve gotten quite  unwell from eating the food in the cafeteria at work several times in the past few weeks. Typical food intolerance symptoms – fatigue, brain fog, upset stomach. Simple solution, while waiting for a more comprehensive solution involving a doctor and some investigative work: stop eating the food from said cafeteria and bring my own lunch.

Enter the soup – a quick, low-effort way for me to make three proper lunches I can bring this week! I took some shortcuts, taking advantage of the fact that I had frozen caramelized onion and garlic.

  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1 small butternut squash, diced
  • about 1 caramelized onion
  • 1 roasted elephant garlic
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or other oil
  • 1 tsp mild madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2oo ml coconut milk
  • water
  • 1 low-sodium stock cube
  • salt
  • pepper
  • some paprika

Defrost the pre-caramelized onion and garlic and add to pan with some coconut oil, or fry some fresh onion and garlic for several minutes. Add curry, paprika and garam masala and fry for a minute or two more.

Deglace the pan with the coconut milk and scrape off bits. Stir in the lentils and the butternut squash and the low sodium stock cube (crumbled). Add water to cover, approx. 2 cups. It should look like this:

Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer until all is tender, approx 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Voila!

 

Lemon rosemary beans.

Living in a country where groceries are really quite expensive, and temporarily living with a friend who now works for the Ministry of Environmental Protection, I have been thinking about some small ways to cut both food costs and waste.

So last week, when our pot of fresh rosemary was getting quite sad-looking, we did something neat instead of throwing it out – namely drying the rest of the still-green rosemary leaves in the microwave. Super easy! Instructions from The Kitchn. I will definitely start doing this when fresh herbs in my fridge or on my counter start to look sad, as it only takes a few minutes. The only dreary part is drying the rinsed leaves before zapping them in the microwave.

So what to do with this dried rosemary? I’ve also been thinking that I should cook my own beans, rather than using canned ones. It’s a pretty obvious thing to do – but I keep forgetting to pre-soak etc.. Yesterday I did remember, and I bought some organic dried white beans which I left to soak overnight. I took my cue from Affairs of Living and largely followed her recipe, but more or less halved it.

  • approx. 1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight
  • one onion
  • lots of garlic
  • dried rosemary
  • some dried “Fines Herbes” brought from France
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced thinly
  • water

The beans were left to soak overnight, approx 14 hours, which is less than she recommended, but quite standard for beans. This morning, I whizzed the onion and garlic in my food processor (why chop if you don’t have to?) and mixed in with the beans and some olive oil in my Dutch oven. I blended in some of the dried rosemary, and also added some dried herbs I had brought with me from France (Fines Herbes from Monoprix; parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil). I mixed in salt and pepper, and covered with thin lemon slices. Finally I added water until it almost reached the top of the beans.

The Dutch oven went into the oven at 350F/180C with the lid on. I checked it after an hour, and I realized why the recipe said to use tin foil with holes to let steam escape, because the beans were very wet at this point. I left the lid ajar on the Dutch oven and put it back for about another hour. At this point they were cooked through, but not mushy. Really tasty beans!

Coconut lĂșcuma “panna cotta” for two.

Two things have been on my mind lately. One, I feel sluggish and unhealthy after a hot summer of eating out too often. The kitchen has been so unappealing in 30+ degrees and I have eaten way too much junk. I want to make some changes to my diet once I get to Norway, which shouldn’t be so difficult as it is much more expensive to eat out, with less choice as to world cuisines.

But, here is the downside, I am about to move away from Toronto and my beloved Qi Natural Foods and Essence of Life. Health food stores in Norway charge truly exorbitant prices, so I have been looking into online shopping (many Norwegian raw foodists and such seem to swear by iherb.com). It’s almost absurd how much one can save, even factoring in shipping halfway across the world. Ordering from California seems a bit problematic to me, given that it must have a bit of a carbon footprint, so I’ve been looking for some UK based alternatives. I just placed an order from Raw Living, will report back.

All this browsing around online health food got me reading up on various “super foods”. I eat chia seeds and coconut oil, but otherwise I have not forayed much into this stuff. It often seems too expensive and somewhat faddish. We should be able to get all necessary nutrients from a normal diet anyway! But I did get curious about certain items. I am definitely going to try maca, which a lot of people recommend for extra energy. And I got very interested when I discovered that lĂșcuma, which I have seen sold as a powder in Qi Natural Foods, turned out to be made from a fruit closely related to the Salvadoran mamey. We ate ice cream and such made from this fruit in El Salvador, and it is really yummy. So I decided I had to get my hand on some to experiment with in recipes.

It seems to me a bit of an exaggeration to call lĂșcuma a super food. It has some fibre and some beta carotene, but as I saw someone remark online, so do carrots! However, it’s neat as flavoring and as a gentle sweetener – lĂșcuma powder is naturally sweet. The flavor is vaguely caramel-y, I think. Hard to describe.

For my first attempt, I made a simple riff on a panna cotta, but using agar agar (vegan, easy to work with) and coconut milk. As both the coconut and the lĂșcuma are naturally sweet, there is no need to add extra sweetener.

Coconut lĂșcuma “panna cotta” for two

  • 150 ml low-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lĂșcuma powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp agar agar powder

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan (it might be a good idea to sift in the lĂșcuma to prevent lumps). Stir constantly as you heat the mixture to break up any lumps. Boil for about 2-3 minutes to activate the agar agar. Pour into two small espresso cups and chill before serving. VoilĂ !

Coconut lime pie (raw, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free)

What to cook when it is too hot to cook? Toronto is scorching this week. And tomorrow will get worse – it looks like we might possibly set a July heat record with 38C. Plus humidity – the humidex will be around 48C. Ouch. We are being liberal with the airconditioning. Not looking forward to our next electricity bill.

So anyway, I was thinking raw. I am not particularly well versed in raw food, and I personally find it a little extreme to go raw altogether. I mean, vegetables taste so good when they caramelize! However, I was in no mood to turn on the oven, not even to boil anything on the stove top.

A lot of raw recipes rely on nuts I can’t actually eat. Another reason not to eat raw. Most raw pie crusts you find online use nuts and a food processor. Since I have no food processor and I can’t eat the nuts, I had to come up with my own crust, using shredded coconut. It is paired with a rather odd-sounding avocado-based “custard”, which I have seen in other recipes and also observed a friend enjoy at that raw place in St Lawrence Market. But don’t be fooled, it is delicious! Avocado is a fruit, after all, right?

This is not a low fat recipe. Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about. You get your fiber, your fruits and vegetables, some omega-3 from the chia. And we are talking mostly healthy fats here, though I realize for coconut it is up for debate. The color is amazingly green, the flavor bright and lime-y. Given the richness of this, a relatively humble serving will satisfy.

First, make the crust.

  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 heaped tbsp ground chia seed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • some water

Mix coconut and chia seed. Add coconut oil and stir. Add water by the tablespoon until the mix starts to clump consistently. Press into pie dish with your fingers.Chill in the fridge.

It should look something like this:

Then, make the filling.

  • about 2 avocados (I had 3/4 huge avocado and 1/2 normal size)
  • zest and juice of one large or two small limes
  • honey or other sweetener, to taste (I prefer it not too sweet, I think I only used about 2 tbsp, or not even. )
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil (should make it set firmer)

Put avocado and lime (zest and juice) in a blender, blend well. Add honey to taste. At the end, add coconut oil in slow stream while blending. You should end up with an incredibly smooth, incredibly green “custard”. Spoon into the pie shell and smooth out. Chill thoroughly in fridge. With the coconut oil in there, it should set well enough to be sliced easily.

VoilĂ , coconut lime pie!

Note: the color is different in the two pictures because a) they were taken at different times in the day with different light and b) even with all the lime, the avocado will eventually start to darken and eventually brown. If you are serving this to guests and want it to look pretty, be sure you make it the same day.

Avocado and a millet salmon patty bento.

This morning I took most of the left over millet from this weekend’s salad and made patties.They go into today’s lunch box, along with a strawberry agar agar dessert, some store bought mini pitas and a medium avocado.

Salmon millet patties

  • cooked millet (approx 1/2- 3/4 cup dry?)
  • one can salmon
  • some chopped cilantro
  • 1/3-1/2 shredded medium zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • salt
  • cayenne

Work the millet with your hands to break up lumps. Add the remaining ingredients (remove big bones from the fish if you see any), egg last (I use 1 egg here because I don’t think it would stick together otherwise. It only works out to a small fraction of an egg per portion, so I should be fine). Mix well. Form into small patties and fry until golden. Handle with care so that they don’t break. Freeze leftovers.