Healthy and Natural Pecan Pie (Raw, Vegan, No Bake)

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Food Cookture – Healthy and Natural Pecan Pie

For the past two years I’ve been on a health(ier) kick researching and experimenting with natural recipes, raw foods, and vegan cooking. I’ve been drinking green smoothies almost every morning and have been trying to eat more plant-based foods whenever possible. I have not become a vegetarian or a vegan; nor have I adopted the macrobiotic, raw, or plant based diets. I have simply been more open to experimenting with recipes I would never have looked twice before. We have always eaten healthy foods at home, but ever since watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, my husband and I have been trying to eat more vegetables and plant-based foods. I have incorporated ingredients I had never tasted or heard of before, and I love this new discovery.

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Food Cookture – Healthy and Natural Pecan Pie

Taste should never be compromised.
To me, how food tastes is just as important as how nutritious it is, because if something is super healthy but tastes bad, you won’t eat it anyway. So might as well make nutritious food taste good for you to continue eating it. However, keep in mind that your taste buds will eventually adapt to certain flavors, so don’t be quick to discard certain healthy ingredients or “power foods” based on taste alone.

About this recipe
Last Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a traditional pecan pie; one of the highlights of Thanksgiving for me. But when I read the many recipes and saw the list of ingredients, and saw how much sugar, corn syrup, and butter they require, suddenly I didn’t want to make the pie anymore, or ever eat it again. Fortunately, I found this recipe on Food52 that is a raw, vegan and no bake pecan pie that will make you smile. All the ingredients listed are healthy and naturally sweet. If you follow a raw or vegan diet, I guarantee you already have these ingredients in your pantry. If you don’t, I highly recommend having them for healthy snacking. The natural sweetener in this recipe is the Medjool date, which is considered the best and tastiest dates from the Middle East and North Africa. They are typically larger, fleshier, and sweeter than other dates. I substituted a mix of almonds and cashews instead of walnuts for the crust, but any combination of nuts works well. There’s no need to bake the crust or the pie itself, and it can be made ahead of time. I served it last year for Thanksgiving dessert and it was a success, so I’m repeating it this year. The best part is that the filling tastes just like the traditional pie (without the butter, sugar and corn syrup) and the crust is sweetly addictive on its own. You can leave this pie in your fridge for days… but I’m sure it won’t last that long. Likewise, you can make this recipe into pecan bars, or substitute the pecans for other nuts such as walnut.

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Food Cookture – Healthy and Natural Pecan Pie

 

Healthy and Natural Pecan Pie
Recipe adapted from Food 52: Raw Vegan Pecan Pie
Serves 10-12
Prep time: 1 hour to soak dates, 10-15 min to prepare crust and filling, 2 hours to chill pie
Cook time: None

Ingredients – Crust

  • 3/4 cup (90g) raw pecans*
  • 1/3 cup (60g) raw almonds* and 1/2 cup (60g) raw cashews*
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (20g) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup (200g) pitted Medjool dates, packed

Ingredients – Pie Filling

  • 1 ¼ cups (250g) Medjool dates, pitted, tightly packed and soaked in warm water for at least an hour
  • 1/2 cup (60g) raw pecans* for the filling (plus 3/4 cup (90g) raw pecans* to decorate)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) melted coconut oil (organic, virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch sea salt

* Note: pecans, almonds, and cashews need to be raw which means they are not roasted or salted

Directions

For the crust:

  1. Put the pecans and any combination of nuts you choose (walnuts, almonds, cashews), shredded coconut, and salt in a food processor and grind (until coarsely ground, consistency of wet sand) Note: Careful not to over grind or the mixture may turn to nut butter! Use the pulse button of your food processor.
  2. Add the pitted dates and continue processing until the mixture begins to stick together.
  3. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of a pie plate or springform pan.

For the pie filling:

  1. Drain the soaked dates (reserve the water). Transfer to a high speed blender or food processor. Add the 1/2 cup (60g) of pecans, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and approximately 1/4 cup (60ml) of the water from soaking the dates. Blend until mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour the filling over the crust. Smooth the top and place in the fridge for at least 2-4 hours to set.
  3. Decorate with 3/4 cup (90g) of pecans and continue to chill until ready to serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I already know you won’t miss the traditional pecan pie anymore, I know I don’t! :-)  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Posted in Brunch/Breakfast, Cakes, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Cookture, Raw, Snacks, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Cake (Low Fat)

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Food Cookture just celebrated its 1st birthday!!!!

I’m so happy to share my passion for cooking with you through this blog and thank you all for your appreciation and support! For this occasion, I chose to bake a cake I always turn to when I crave chocolate (but don’t want to feel guilty for eating more than one piece): my low-fat chocolate cake. It’s a much lighter version of my good old chocolate cake that was accidently created when forgetting to add butter while I was multi-tasking in the kitchen.

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About this recipe
I have been making a lighter version of my chocolate cake for years; each time tweaking the recipe a little to make it less caloric and lower in fat. I keep playing with the recipe and changing the amounts of sugar, butter, and milk to make it lighter. For this recipe, I accidently forgot to add the butter to the cake (what can happen when you cook four things at once!) and I only realized it after I put the cake in the oven…and that’s how my new low-fat version was created. The sugar has been decreased substantially; there is no butter or oil, instead I use skim milk (no fat) and eggs to moisten the cake. I mix unsweetened cocoa and low-sugar chocolate drinking powder to give a balance of intense chocolate and sweet flavors. I like to pour a light chocolate ganache glaze over it, but you can serve it with powdered sugar on top. No one has noticed that this cake is low-fat. For this recipe I baked the cake on a large baking sheet and cut out circles using a cookie cutter. I used the glaze in between layers (allowed it to set) and on top of the cake to achieve the cake pictured here.

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Chocolate Cake (Low-fat)
Serves 8-10 (cutting 2 circles per serving; using rectangular 12×9 inch (30x23cm) pan)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes (depending on oven and baking dish used)
Cooking temperature: 350°F (180°C)

Ingredients – Chocolate Cake

  • 4 large eggs (separated)
  • 1 cup (140g) flour (you can always substitute for whole wheat flour)
  • ¼ cup (50g) sugar
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup (30g) chocolate drinking powder
  • 1 cup (250ml) skim (no fat) milk
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder

Ingredients – Chocolate Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) butter
  • 5.5 ounces (150 g) of chopped chocolate (I used 72% cocoa, you can use 85% or 60% chocolate of your choice)
  • ¾ cup (165ml) skim (no fat) milk
  • 3 Tablespoons of heavy whipping cream (click here to see different types of cream) (you can skip the cream if you would like the recipe to be lighter; however the cream gives it a thicker consistency to the glaze).

Directions

  1. Beat the egg whites until fluffy; reserve.
  2. Beat egg yolks with sugar. Add flour, cocoa and chocolate powders, and milk until well combined. Gently fold in egg whites and baking powder.
  3. Butter and flour a baking dish (you may want to use wax or parchment paper –butter and flour it as well- depending on the dish, since this recipe has no butter or oil, it may stick to the surface of the dish). Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes (until an inserted toothpick comes out clean from center); if needed, bake for another 5-10 minutes.
  4. For the glaze: Constantly mix the milk, cream and butter in a sauce pan over low-heat until it steams but does not reach a boiling point. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate pieces and whisk until completely dissolved. Once the cake is cooled, pour chocolate glaze over the cake and decorate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Thank you once again for following Food Cookture for the past year! I look forward to sharing many more recipes with you for many more years!

Posted in Brunch/Breakfast, Cakes, Desserts, Healthy Cookture, Snacks, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Honor of Parmigiano Reggiano Night: Risotto Cacio e Pepe!

October 27, 2012 at 8pm at the “Salone del Gusto” in Turin, Italy, was the webcasted event “Parmigiano Reggiano Night.” This occasion was to celebrate one of Italy’s most beloved cheeses and an opportunity to virtually share the table with all who supported the local cheese farmers and companies that produce the almighty Parmigiano Reggiano!

The Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna was greatly affected by the earthquakes of May 20th and 29th. Well-known for its traditional regional cuisine and infamous local products (such as Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, to name just a few), the region has hundreds of regional farmers that were affected and many small artisan companies that were damaged during the earthquakes. Many people bought stranded wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano online that would otherwise have no home to age in. To thank people for their support, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium created the “Parmigiano Reggiano Night” which invited homes around Italy to take part in the webcasted dinner event that shared a recipe by Modena native and world-renowned Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of the Three Michelin “Osteria Francescana” restaurant in Modena, Italy. Chef Bottura created a risotto recipe to be shared at the “Parmigiano Reggiano Night.’ His “Risotto Cacio e Pepe” (cheese and pepper risotto) uses Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as the highlight ingredient, instead of the traditional Pecorino Romano for the “cacio” (see my previous recipe for “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” for more information). Click here to see a brief interview with Chef Bottura explaining the inspiration for his dish.

About this recipe
The recipe I share with you is from Chef Massimo Bottura. I only changed the amount of risotto made (4 servings instead of 6 servings) and I simplified the “pepe” element to include a mix of black, white, green and pink peppercorns instead of his more exotic mix of white, Szechuan, Jamaican, Sarawak, and wild peppers. I strongly encourage you to follow his recipe if you can find this wonderful blend for your risotto.

A word of advice: don’t be intimidated by the risotto! As long as you know how you like your risotto, you will know how to cook it. Since the liquid element (usually broth) is slowly added ladle by ladle and stirred until the rice absorbs it before adding more liquid, you will be able to moderate how your rice cooks to your taste. Yes, it is that simple, even if risotto disguises itself as a sophisticated dish, it is not complicated to make.

Chef Bottura’s recipe fascinated me because he obtains the liquid element for the risotto from the aged parmesan cheese! The recipe calls for heating the freshly grated aged parmesan with water, until the cheese separates into threads. Allowing the liquid to cool and be refrigerated overnight creates a separation of “Parmigiano Reggiano water” used to cook the rice, and a “Parmigiano Reggiano cream” that is used towards the end to cream the risotto. The result… Brilliant! The flavor… mmm…Divine! I will certainly be using this “Bottura technique” very often!

Risotto Cacio e Pepe
Recipe from Chef Massimo Bottura for “Parmigiano Reggiano Night”
Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes to make the Parmigiano Reggiano Water (to be made the day before)
Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients – Parmigiano Reggiano Water:

  • 35 ounces (992g) of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (ideally one that has been aged for 30 months)
  • 2 2/3 liters of water

Ingredients – Risotto:

  • 12 oz (330g) of Arborio rice (Chef Bottura uses “Vialone Nano rice”)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Freshly cracked pepper mix*

Recipe Note: For the pepper, I used a mixed of black, white, green, and pink peppercorns. Chef Bottura uses a mix of white, Szechuan, Jamaican, Sarawak, and wild peppers.

Directions for the Parmigiano Reggiano Water

  1. Mix freshly grated cheese with water.
  2. In a pan, at low heat stir cheese and water mixture (if you have a thermometer, heat it up to 176°F (80°C). Note: do not go over 194°F (90°C). According to the original recipe “when the Parmigiano Reggiano starts to go into threads at the bottom, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool down to room temperature.”
  3. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave overnight in the fridge.
  4. The mixture will separate into a creamy solid and water parts. You will use the Parmigiano Reggiano water to cook the risotto, and the cream part towards the end to make the risotto creamy.

Directions for the Risotto

  1. In a medium sized pan, heat the olive oil (at low heat) and add the Arborio rice and stir the rice to get an even coating of the oil. Sauté the rice in the oil for a minute.
  2. Add some of the Parmigiano Reggiano water (enough just to cover the rice), and stir frequently until the water is absorbed (but the rice is not dry).
  3. Keep adding the Parmigiano Reggiano water until the rice develops a softer consistency by taste. When it is nearly cooked, add some of the Parmigiano Reggiano cream and stir thoroughly.
  4. If needed, add more of the Parmigiano Reggiano water, until the rice reaches your desired consistency in texture.
  5. Remove from heat and add the remainder of the Parmigiano Reggiano cream.
  6. Plate the risotto and sprinkle freshly cracked pepper on top.
  7. Serve immediately.

I hope you give this recipe a try, and share the love for one of Italy’s favorite cheeses at your dinner table! Enjoy!

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Cucumber & Smoked Salmon Canapé with Wasabi Cream

Smoked salmon is wonderful over bread, toast or crackers; but when served over cucumber, it creates a lighter and gluten-free alternative to the standard canapé. Cream cheese also pairs well with smoked salmon and in the US this duo is often served with bagels and even in sushi (as in the famous Philadelphia roll). Combining cucumber and smoked salmon in a canapé gives a fun twist and a healthier alternative to serving a carb-based appetizer.

A little nutrition
Smoked salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids; however, for health reasons, it is best consumed in small quantities (such as in this appetizer) since smoked salmon has approximately 222 milligrams of sodium per ounce compared to approximately 17 milligrams of sodium per ounce in fresh, baked salmon. “Lox” which is sold in the US and often mistaken to be the same as smoked salmon has 567 milligrams of sodium per ounce. That is because lox is salmon cured in salt for several weeks while smoked salmon is cured and cold-smoked. (For more information please see The New York Times – Dining & Wine article: “Smoked Salmon Any Way You Slice It”).

About this recipe 
The first time I made this recipe I was having guests over and didn’t want to use the same crackers for the smoked salmon as for another appetizer I was serving. I had cucumbers in the fridge and decided to use them since I like the combination of cucumbers and salmon in sushi. I was undecided as to whether put cream cheese or wasabi to add a dash of flavor, and experimented with different combinations to achieve the recipe below (I even tried adding a few drops of soy sauce to which I got mixed reviews, so I am adding it as an optional item for you to try). Feel free to modify the wasabi cream; it was merely a last minute invention to bring this canapé closer to a sushi base than the usual “bagels and cream cheese’ combination. I used wasabi powder which is what I use at home when making sushi, but you can use ready-made wasabi paste. I also used the Asian cucumber as they are thinner and more delicate portion-size for the canapé.  However, you can use the standard-sized cucumber.  Make sure to use a mandolin to cut the cucumber slices equally thin for a prettier presentation. The chives are not only decorative but also add to the flavorful combination of this elegant canapé.

Cucumber & Smoked Salmon Canapé with Wasabi Cream
Serves 4
Prep time: 5-8 minutes
Cook time: none

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz (120g) Asian cucumber (or any other cucumber)
  • 3.5 oz (100g) smoked salmon (sliced)
  • 1 Tablespoon cream cheese
  • 2 pea-size amounts of wasabi (can use wasabi paste or wasabi powder mixed with water)
  • 1-2 drops of soy sauce (low sodium preferred); optional  
  • Fresh chives, cut into 1 inch (2cm) portions

Directions

  1. Make wasabi cream by mixing the cream cheese with the wasabi paste.
    1. Note: You can make your own wasabi paste by mixing wasabi powder with water (approximately 1 part water to 2 parts powder).
  2. Slice cucumbers using a mandolin for even slices. Pat dry and plate them.
  3. Cut the fresh chives into 1 inch (2cm) portions, reserve.
  4. Cut pieces of smoked salmon slices and form small rolls. Place salmon rolls on top of the cucumber slices.
  5. Place a little bit of the wasabi cream on top of the salmon (you can pipe it on top for a prettier appearance). Finish by decorating with the fresh chives.

Enjoy this simple and delicious appetizer that will surely impress your guests!

 

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Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese, Rosemary & Honey Spread

When in season, fresh figs are one of my favorite fruits. They are delicate and mildly sweet, which pairs well with savory flavors such as cheese, cured meats, and vegetables.  I just returned from Brazil where my cousin Daniela served wonderful fresh figs brought from a local organic farm; I miss them! The figs in Brazil are three times bigger than the ones I find in the US, juicier and more flavorful. Figs are delicious on their own, in salads, as an appetizer with cheese or prosciutto, as dessert with honey or in tarts, or as jam spread on bread. It has always been a dream of mine to have my own fig tree to pick from… though I may need to have more than just one tree!

Figs are a good source of fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K according to the USDA.  They also contain many antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols.

About this recipe
I first ate figs with goat cheese at my friend Halle’s house years ago. She taught me this simple recipe and I fell in love at first bite; never thinking to combine all of these wonderful ingredients together. The combination of the tart goat cheese with the slightly sweet flesh of the figs are enhanced with the spicy note of the pepper, extra sweetness from the honey and sweet earthy tone of the rosemary to bring it all together. You can serve this as an appetizer, or as a snack. You can try with dried figs if you cannot find fresh figs or when fresh figs are not in season. For this recipe, I used fresh California black figs.

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese, Rosemary & Honey Spread
Serves 6-8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: none

Ingredients:

  • 16oz (450g) of fresh figs, cut in quarters if large or in half if small
  • 6 oz (160g) of goat cheese
  • 2 branches of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon of honey (or agave nectar)
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Carefully wash and pat dry figs and cut them in half (if using small figs such as pictured above) or in quarters (if using large figs), set aside.
  2. Finely chop rosemary and combine with goat cheese, honey (or agave) and freshly ground black pepper. Use a fork to break the goat cheese and combine all ingredients. Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  3. When ready to serve; spread the mixture on the figs or serve the cheese mixture on the side as pictured above.

Enjoy this wonderful appetizer or snack with a glass of wine anytime!

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