Monday, July 4, 2011

The taste of freedom

Happy Fourth of July! Hope you are enjoying your holiday.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me so far in the HOT RAW CHEF contest (if you haven't voted, stop by by July 15 to cast your vote for me, contestant No. 20 and get a free ebook full of the entered recipes; here's my post about making my video, in case you missed it).

I'm so excited, because I was asked to make a special dessert for someone new to our church family. She had a bunch of dietary restrictions that many of our other members didn't understand, so it was up to yours truly to whip up a raw vegan treat in her honor to serve alongside the usual cake.

At first, I wasn't sure what to bring. I'd never met her and with the exception of a list of some foods she could (nuts are okay, especially cashews) or couldn't have (no gluten, eggs, dairy, etc.), I didn't know much about her. I couldn't help but wonder (isn't that a line Carrie Bradshaw would say on just about every episode of "Sex and the City"?), if she even knew what raw was and whether or not she had any other restrictions not on my list.

Was she okay with agave? What other sweeteners would she use, if at all? And, most of all, does she like chocolate (Hayden sure does, if you remember from my raw n'ice cream sammie post; check out all the contenders on the vegan culinary crusade site)?

To start, I thought I should just make a simple raw brownie with chocolate icing and walnut crumbles on top, sort of like a raw version of those Little Debbie snacks. They always go over well.

But, what if she doesn't like chocolate?

I had already formed a raw brownie base (like in my Million Dollar Brownie recipe) in the bottom of a parchment-lined container (I like to save the ones from these organic greens), so I lined one more and filled it with a blondie version. Since cashews are her fave, I opted to top both the brownies and blondies with a basic cashew cream, made with maple syrup rather than agave (to my surprise, she was from Vermont; maple syrup was indeed the best choice).

In the process of making the creamy topping, I suddenly decided to continue with this neapolitan trend, tossing some strawberries into the blender, as well. I poured only half of the mixture onto the blondies (yes, I got to keep the rest for myself. Yum! But, I cut the original strawberry "cream" recipe in half when typing the recipe below) and placed both the naked brownies and strawberry-covered blondies in the fridge to firm and set.

When the cream was stable enough to support the weight of the brownies, I placed them on top. Then, I whipped up some chocolate topping, piped out some swirls on top and put the finish product in the freezer to ensure it would be chilled enough for the next day.

In the morning, I cut them into 12 squares before heading off to church. There, I arranged them in this cute stack and garnished with more strawberries. They stayed chill in the fridge until ready to eat ... and they did get eaten ... every last bite.

Luckily, I did get one for myself to try. It was delicious, and my new gluten-free friend agreed :-)

Here's my yummy square and how you can make your own:

Gluten-free, Raw

*makes 12 standard size brownies/blondies

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
Strawberry "cream"
  • 1/2 cup cashews (soaked overnight)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (coconut water mixed with the coconut meat)
  • 1/4 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • quick squeeze of lemon juice
  • dash of sea salt
Chocolate topping
  • 1/8 cup coconut butter
  • 1/8 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 cup pure maple syrup
  • touch of vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
Process all the ingredients for the blondies in a food processor until a ball of "dough" forms. Press the dough into a parchment lined 6" x 7" rectangular-shaped container (I use the ones these greens come in) and set aside while you make the brownie layer.

Process all the ingredients for the brownies in a food processor until a ball of "dough" forms. Press the dough into a parchment lined 6" x 7" rectangular-shaped container and chill in the refrigerator.

In a high speed blender, blend all the strawberry "cream" ingredients until smooth. Pour onto the top of the blondie layer and allow to set in the fridge.

When the strawberry "cream" is firm enough to support the weight of the brownies, carefully lift the brownies out of their container using the parchment to keep them intact. Then, transfer the brownie layer on top of the strawberry "cream" blondies (but don't forget to remove the parchment from the brownie layer first).

Place the brownie/blondies in the fridge while you make the chocolate topping.

In a personal size blender (I use my Magic Bullet blender), blend all the chocolate topping ingredients until smooth like a chocolate frosting. Then, either frost the top of the brownie/blondies with the topping or carefully pipe a swirly pattern on them. Allow to set in the fridge or freezer (works best if you are planning on transporting them somewhere) until ready to serve. Cut into 12 squares and garnish with fresh strawberries.


So, thanks again to everyone who's voted for me in the Living Light HOT RAW CHEF 5 in 5 contest. Hope you enjoyed my "thank you so far recipe" above. Keep those votes coming (for contestant No. 20, Shannon Marie's Rawdorable 5 in 5 Banana N'Ice Cream Split recipe) until July 15. Then, I'll owe you another recipe ;-)

In the meantime, Hayden and I need to snack on one of those raw frozen banana split pops, as it is really hot and humid here. Check out the hidden frozen cherry-topped banana on a stick inside. So cool :-)