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Archive for the tag “Cooking”

Decadent Date and Maple Slice

It’s a Sunday, how about some slice?

Recently I have been busy most Sundays making myself some healthy slices for the coming week to keep me away from those pesky chocolate bars. Upon informing my international flatmates of what I have been making I have realized that a “slice” as we say back home in New Zealand is quite a vague and nondescript name for these little treats that accompany our coffee on an afternoon at our favorite cafe. “A slice of what?” they say, well it’s a date slice of course a deliciously decadent raw date slice that will be fueling my busy week of activities.

All of the good stuff:

For the base:

2 C of oats (or a mix of nuts and oats)       – 1 T Cocoa

1/2 C of desiccated coconut                      – 2 T Honey

– 1 T coconut oil

The top layer:

– 3/4 C coconut milk                                      – 2 T maple syrup

– 1/2 C chopped dates                                  – 1/2 C cashews

The steps:

1. Simmer the coconut milk, maple syrup and the dates in a saucepan over a low heat.

2. In a food processor, finely blend the oats, cocoa, coconut, honey and coconut oil until you have a moldable consistency. If the mixture is too dry, add some more coconut oil.

3. Press the oaty base mixture in to the bottom of a non-stick square cake pan or in to a loaf tin (makes a thicker slice) and place in the freezer whilst you prepare the top layer.

4. Take the coconut milk mixture off the heat and let it cool slightly. Place the cashews in the food processor and add the coconut milk mixture to blend. The consistency should be similar to caramel.

5. Remove your base from the freezer and pour the top layer evenly over the base. Freeze overnight until the slice is set then cut the slice in to slices (of course!) Store in the freezer ready for snack time!

Rewarded with Risotto

Today was my very first rainy run here in Vancouver. Which is a surprise really since it’s raining more often than not. This morning I packed my little running backpack to take with me to work which gave me only one option to get back home again, by going for a run. Even though I have been here for almost 3 months now, I am still never prepared for the rain. Maybe it’s because when there happens to be a fresh beautiful BC sunny day I am lured in to this false sense of summer paradise where I think it surely can’t ever rain again. Until the next day when I am out in the middle of the street, waiting for the bus, soaked to the bone because I neither carried my umbrella nor wore my rain jacket. Always the same. Hopefully I learn before the winter is out.

Luckily for me there are some absolutely stunning running paths in this city and it makes getting out there in the rain a lot easier to do. When you are striding along the waterfront with the mountains in sight, the beach around the corner and the city lights burning in your peripheral it’s easy to get lost in your rhythm and it seems like you are experiencing several different locations all in one great place. I pounded the pavement and the beach feeling the freshness of just fallen icy cold rain and wound up at home an hour later (good practice for my New Years resolution of doing a marathon!) After exercising in the elements I needed a dinner that would not only warm me up but make me feel all homely and cosy inside. For me that meal is often a creamy risotto, I love the simplicity of a good risotto it’s an elegant meal that doesn’t require too much effort and really hits the spot on a rainy evening.

So tonight I had a buckwheat aborio mix with this pumpkin and caramelised onion risotto, you could use either just buckwheat or just aborio but I love the texture of the aborio rice and the nuttiness of the buckwheat so the mix is a great balance, check it out…

WHAT”S IN IT:

Caramelised onions:

– 1 Red Onion                  – 1 T Balsamic Vinegar

– 1 T Brown Sugar           – 1 T Olive Oil

The Rice:

1/2 C Buckwheat

1/2 C Aborio rice

2 – 3 C Vegetable stock

1/2 C Dry white wine (optional)

2 Garlic Cloves (crushed)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 C diced/cubed pumpkin or squash

1 T Olive Oil

1 T Butter

Finely shaved parmesan

HOW IT”S PUT TOGETHER:

1. Prepare the caramelised onions (can be done a few days in advance) by slicing the onion and mixing it with the sugar, vinegar and oil.

2. Cook the onions in a fry pan over medium to low heat for around 40 minutes until nicely cooked to caramelisation.

3. Prepare your stock in a pot and keep hot over the stove whilst you prepare your risotto.

4. Fry the garlic, oil, paprika and pumpkin in a pan over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and soft. Add both the buckwheat and aborio rice and turn the heat up high.

5. When the rice looks translucent and the buckwheat is giving of a nutty flavour, pour over the white wine and listen to the beautiful sizzle as the alcohol burns off. Turn the heat back down to low.

6. Continuously add your stock, 1/2 C at a time, making sure that the liquid is completely absorbed before adding the next lot of stock. Do this until the rice and buckwheat is no longer crunchy.

7. Add your caramelised onions and butter and stir in to the risotto. Top with shaved parmesan and serve with fresh steamed greens. Get cosy and enjoy!

* It takes around 30-40 minutes for the pumpkin to be cooked and the rice to be creamy and cooked through.

** Serves 3

Little Seeds of Goodness

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine came to me with a small and humble packet of little helpers bursting with trendy super food goodness and asked me “what the hell do I do with these?”. Her sister had apparently told her that she should start eating chia seeds because they are good for her and she needs to take better care of herself. I myself have used chia seeds in the past mainly for desserts and to add to smoothies and I am vaguely aware of their rising super star status in the world of healthy super foods. I like the idea of trying to incorporate some health foods here and there in to my normally balanced diet and I like the idea of antioxidants and omega 3s of which chia seeds harbor many in their tiny little bodies. And I actually enjoy the gelatinous texture they take on when they expand their chia colonies when submerged in liquid. So I really do enjoy the unassuming little chia seed, I don’t however enjoy the price tag, but a small packet does actually go quite a long way when used as a health boost to another recipe or a super sprinkle on a smoothie. So what to do with my friend’s chia seeds……

At this point in time I was going through a biscuit phase, or a cookie phase if I was living in America. So I put the chia to use in an oaty biscuit recipe where it actually works really well to bind all of the ingredients together. Of course I was also going through a chocolatey dessert phase, a phase I seem to have been stuck in for the last 20 years, so I made us some chia dessert cups which I love because the texture is so unique, almost like chocolate mousse but not. And the best thing about this dessert is it also seems like a viable breakfast option which is always a plus! So with chia as my kitchen sidekick I put together Spiced Chia Oaty Biscuits and Chia Choc Banana pudding cups and we were chia cheerful!

SPICED CHIA OATY BISCUITS

2 Mature mashed bananas
3/4 C Oats
1-2 T Chia seeds
1/4 C Milk
1/4 C Desiccated coconut
1/4 C raisins
1 T Butter (melted) or Coconut oil
1 T honey
1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 C crushed nuts (optional)

1. Mix the chia seeds with the milk in a cup and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the chia have
worked their magic and created a gel consistency.

2. Mash the bananas and add all ingredients in to a bowl and mix together, add the chia seeds
once they have expanded. the mixture should be quite wet but it should roll in to a ball.

3. Roll about balls of the mixture in to biscuit size and put on a lined baking tray and flatten
the tops slightly to better resemble a biscuit.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees until slightly golden. They won’t brown up like
normal biscuits but a sprinkling of gold is a good indication. Let sit to cool and enjoy a
healthy bikkie with your cup of tea!

* Makes about 12 biscuits*

CHIA CHOC BANANA PUDDING CUPS

1 Mature Banana
1/2 C Milk
1/4 C Chia seeds
1 T Cocoa
1 T Honey
Desiccated coconut to sprinkle

1. Mash the banana and mix in the cocoa and honey until the cocoa is completely combined and the
mixture is smooth.

2. In a bowl mix the chia seeds and the milk with the banana mixture until the chia seeds are
distributed evenly through the mixture. Pour in to small glasses and top with coconut.

3. Refrigerate until set. I like to make this in the morning so I have dessert waiting for me
that evening, this is so easy. Dessert in less than 5 minutes? Can’t complain with that!

* Makes 2 serves*

Shackled by Sugar

When I see that the purple packaging is empty except for the surviving crumbs hiding themselves and quivering away in the corners of the now vast and vacant wrapper, I think to myself “Whose been eating my deliciously creamy Milka chocolate??!” I swear there was some left. I deliberately bought the 300g block as it would be cheaper in the long run, I would eat it slowly over a week or two as I know I have exceptional chocolate will power. Alas it lasted barely a day. And no matter what I tell myself, deep down I know that if I look directly in to the mirror I will see the deviant chocolate thief staring straight back at me. I have become a slave to a master of denial, deception and the slogan “just one more won’t hurt”. I have become enslaved by sugar.

The thing is, before I started travelling I really wasn’t this bad (honest) I could buy a block of chocolate and nibble on it for two weeks, eating just enough to satisfy any sugary cravings, sometimes a little more if I was reaching the “I swear I’m going to strangle somebody if I don’t get a chocolate fix right this instant” level. When I was in the comfort of my own routine back in NZ I had the ability to keep regular eating habits. I could make my spirulina smoothie every morning, I had access to things like coconut oil and quinoa and time to make good lunch choices like salads and wraps. Travelling and being on the road means it’s hard to keep routine and structure which sometimes is the best part about travelling, being homeless and structureless. For me I have found that my whole routine has been turned upside down, thrown in the washing machine and set on spin cycle for far too long. Living in Spain I am eating lunch at 2 or 3 o’clock and dinner at 9 or 10. I believe that this alone has kept me running back to sugar like an old comforting childhood memory.

So I have decided that I will be a slave no more! I have started to slowly chip away at the sugary sweet shackles that bind me to this processed drug, I’ve tried my very best not to eat away at them (: Since I have settled here in Sevilla for a short time I have managed to get my hands on some coconut oil and I have started making some sweet healthy delights to carry me through the withdrawals and get my sugar intake back to normal. I have always loved coconut oil, mainly for taming my unruly and rebellious tresses or for trying to smell like what I imagine a beautiful Island princess to smell like, but mostly I love the versatility of this oil so I try to use it in small amounts in different ways in my diet as well. The main treats I have been whipping up for myself are coconut rough and cool coconut and banana bites both are extremely simple and don’t require much time, equipment or effort.

Coconut Rough

This is one of my favourite chocolate flavours so I absolutely love this version, coconut, coconut and more coconut! What’s not to love?!

4 Tbsp Coconut oil
2 Tbsp Cocoa
¼ C shredded or desiccated coconut (use desired amount, I like more rough in my chocolate so I use a lot)
1 Tbsp Honey or Maple syrup (adjust to taste)

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together until smooth.
2. Pour the mixture in to a small tin lined with baking paper.
3. Set in the freezer and break in to pieces like chocolate bark.
4. Keep stored in the fridge and enjoy!

Cool Coconut and Banana Bites

These are so tasty and great for hot days as they are eaten straight from the freezer.

2 Tbsp Coconut oil
1 Tbsp Cocoa
1 Tbsp Honey or Maple Syrup
1 Banana
Desiccated coconut to cover

1. Mix the coconut oil, cocoa and honey until smooth.
2. Slice a banana in to 1cm thick slices and dip in the chocolate mixture.
3. Roll in coconut and put in a container to store in the freezer.
4. Eat straight from the freezer; try not to eat them all at once!

Of course there is always room for some real chocolate, which I refuse to give up completely, but these definitely keep the sugar cravings at bay and keep those shackles loose. And for the record next time I’m buying chocolate it won’t be the large block, you’re not in charge today sugar, not today!

Back Where I Belong

As I watch my deliciously golden mixture bubble away on the stove stop I hum to myself that tune by some rapper whose name I cant remember but whose song contains the words that express how I’m feeling at this moment, “ back where I belong, something about being strong, there’s nothing that I cant tryyyy, so put your hands in the skkkkyyy” (along those lines anyway) After being on the road for a good 3-4 months I have finally been able to get back in the kitchen. Where I belong (and no I’m not saying that just because I am a woman). One of the things that makes me happiest in this world apart from travelling, apart from working out to tunes by Beyonce and apart from eating (just eating in general) is cooking.

Since I have been staying in Sevilla in a real house I have been able to get a little creative again in the kitchen. There’s just one problem. This real house, it has no oven. What??! I know who doesn’t have an oven?! I was so shocked to discover this fact that I almost just turned right around, walked out the door and hopped on the next bus out of there. But what I realised is that it just means I have to be more creative. A challenge. So when I attended my first couch surfing cooking meeting I was racking my brains with what to make, I wanted to make the obvious and always moreish NZ (not Australian ☺) dessert, Pavlova, but I didn’t have an oven! So with a little help from my Grandad’s recipe and a little kiwi influence I came up with this velvety hokey pokey chocolate slice.

My Grandad uses ginger and apricots in his version and I always remember loving devouring this sweet delight whenever we visited him. His recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, something else I have fond memories about. I remember loving when my Mum would make her caramel slice because I would get to lick the spoon after she had used the sweetened condensed milk. I had a really bad realisaton making this slice as it dawned on me that I am in fact an adult now and if I want to eat sweetened condensed milk straight from the can then I can sure as hell do it and no one can stop me! Unfortunately I have now had to ban myself from buying sweetened condensed milk, add to that list Nutella as I had the same realisation the week before about this, my all time favourite flavor combination, and needless to stay the jar didn’t last long!

So with my slice I decided that I needed to incorporate a little kiwi in to it as it would be my dessert for the International couch surfing dinner, I thought hokey pokey would make a great addition to this slice because I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love hokey pokey! This recipe is great as you can add almost anything you like and it’s so simple. And the best thing, I didn’t need to use an oven! So the recipe…….

Velvety Chocolate and Almond Hokey Pokey Slice

Start with the Hokey Pokey

IMG_4041

50gms Sugar
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or Honey (I used honey as Golden Syrup doesn’t exist in Spain, it has a slightly different flavor but is still just as tasty)
1 Teaspoon Baking soda

1. Lightly mix the sugar and the honey together in a pot and boil over a medium heat on the stove. DO NOT stir once the mixture is on the stove top.
2. Let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes or so, the important thing is to watch it carefully and watch for a change in colour. You want the whole mixture to darken in colour to a nice golden brown.
3. When the mixture has darkened, the bubbles are bubbling and it looks as though it’s close to burning, remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda.
4. The mixture will foam and double in size and you can then pour the mixture quickly on to a piece of baking paper. Let sit until it has cooled.

*If the Hokey Pokey is chewy and sticky then it wasn’t hot enough when you added the baking soda, next time it needs to be left longer to bubble.
** This makes a small batch, double the quantities if you would like to have some left overs!

Chocolate Slice

200gms Best quality dark chocolate (This is important, I have tried it with cheap milk chocolate and the flavor just isn’t as good)
½ C sweetened condensed milk
50 gms Butter
1 portion of crushed Hokey Pokey
¾ C Chopped almonds
¾ C Dried cranberries

1. Melt the chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and butter over a low heat and let your mouth drool at the sight of this delightful mixture!
2. Crush your pre-prepared hokey pokey (which should have beautiful fluffy air bubbles throughout it) into small pieces with your hands or a blunt kitchen object.
3. Add hokey pokey, almonds and cranberries to the chocolate mixture and pour in to a small tin lined with baking paper. I used a loaf tin but you can use a cake tin if you prefer. Cover and put in the fridge to set. And there you have chocolate hokey pokey perfection!
4. Cut in to slices and enjoy straight from the fridge.

I love how simple this recipe is, it’s rich so you don’t need a lot. This recipe makes a small batch to enjoy as dessert or with coffee.

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