It snowed this morning in Dallas. I mean, it wasn’t the beautiful and amazing snowfall that we’ve had in years past, but those unique little flakes certainly fell from the sky and put a giant smile across my son’s face. That smile is what I live for.
My son says he feels very connected to the snow; he says it makes him feel at peace. He’s actually spent quite a bit of time outside this week, just playing in the ice and snow. I noticed as he gets older, he’s struggling with anxiety a bit. He comes by it honestly, as I have my own issues with it. (I actually had a full anxiety attack in bed the other night. That shit sucks.) My mantra over these past couple of weeks has been to simplify so that I can be more productive, less overwhelmed, and at ease with life in general. I’m trying to help him do the same. We both have very creative minds, bursting with ideas and daydreams, and we’re working together to learn how to focus all of that energy.
Yesterday we were iced in, as we were the day before. I decided that an art project would be therapeutic for the both of us, so we sat on the floor and painted together. As we listened to music and worked on our pieces, a lovely conversation developed about trusting the process, understanding that each decision you make has an effect on the overall picture, and realizing that only certain things are in our control. It took him quite some time to just let it all go and quit trying to do everything “perfectly.” He began to question where this idea of perfection comes anyway. As parents, we like to think that we have the most influence on our children, but that isn’t true. He has been greatly impacted by many people in his ten (almost eleven) years, positively AND negatively.
We spent a little time outside together earlier and I told him we could make Snow Ice Cream. Of course, he was intrigued. Living in Texas, this is a rare treat. So, we came inside and made a simple and tasty dairy-free, paleo, and aip-friendly vanilla treat! Next time you’ve got the opportunity, make this fun treat to enjoy with your little ones, or just yourself – I’m currently having some in my coffee :).
Dairy-Free Snow Ice Cream
4 cups clean snow (avoid the yellow or brown…….)
1/4 cup local honey, or more to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup additive-free canned coconut milk (My favorite is Golden Star, that I find at my local Wal-Mart for lest than $2/can!)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
Carefully retrieve snow from the cleanest possible area and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.
You can get creative and add additional flavorings and toppings! What is your favorite way to enjoy an icy treat?
We attended a lovely gathering of lovely people a week ago at Opening Bell Coffee in the form of an ever-enjoyable Rahim Quazi concert, featuring the soulful Leon Bridges as an opener. Earlier last week, and it was proposed that we should also plan to celebrate Thiago X. Nascimento’s birthday at this event. I immediately recognized an opportunity to push myself a little, while still doing something nice for a dear friend. I stalled for a few moments and even asked my husband if he thought it was a good idea. But, before he could answer, I had offered to bring a cake – which I viewed as a pretty big risk, not because I doubt my cooking abilities, but because I knew I was going to be bringing a grain-free, lactose-free, and casein-free, homemade dessert to a discerning group of artists. I hadn’t really cooked for anyone other than my family in quite some time, and have definitely had my food described as “weird” (predominantly because of the ingredients I abstain from using), so that left me a little discouraged. But, I knew I needed to quit questioning and just do. So I did. And dammit, I’m glad I did.
The cake was a hit, and I’m not saying this to brag, but simply to state how glad I am I took this risk. People came back for seconds, thirds, and one guy even kept forking bites off the cake platter. I was privileged to have conversations with people about the ingredients and process, and they were amazed that it was grain-free. The cake was referred to as “special” and “a masterpiece.” I was even asked if I cooked professionally and asked if I could be hired for private parties. I found comments on social media about it. Wow. I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude for those nice words and the connections I made all because I did what I love. How ’bout that?
After the concert was over and everyone had gone their separate ways, Rahim offered to reimburse me for the cake. I would have NEVER asked for it, but he insisted, so I accepted a small amount of money to offset the expense I had incurred. Though seemingly insignificant, that was a HUGE moment for me, but not because of the cash. I got paid for doing something I truly love. As we walked to our car, I looked at my husband, smiled, and said, “Hey, I got paid. Technically, now I’m a professional chef.”
I have read so many chocolate cake recipes online, and tried several. This one is an amalgamation of the various recipes I’ve drooled over during my lifetime. I find that coconut flour imparts a specific flavor and texture I wanted to avoid here. And since I was using pecans, I didn’t want to use almond flour. I wanted this cake to be more like a cheesecake than a cake-cake. It is kind of a take on a German Chocolate cake, but sooooo much more decadent. The caramel base for this recipe is not mine, and while I adjusted the amounts of salt, vanilla, and coconut milk to better fit the flavor I was after, the inspiration came directly from Jenni’s recipe at The Urban Poser (link below).
NOTE: For the birthday cake, I doubled the cake recipe. Well, I technically made the cake twice. This is a pretty involved recipe if you try to do it layer cake style, and will take you more than one day depending on how many spring form pans you own (I have one and the cake pictured took me multiple days. I made the caramel and first layer on Wednesday evening, made the second layer on Thursday evening, and assembled it during the day on Friday). Alternatively, you could absolutely create it as a single layered cake with a caramel topping and save yourself some time and dishes… and probably a sugar coma.
for the cake: ingredients
18 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate (I used 2 bags of Enjoy Life soy-free dark chocolate morsels)
1 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup (adjust if you like a little sweeter cake)
2 tablespoons filtered water
Seeds of one vanilla bean (can use 1-2 tsp of good vanilla extract if you’d rather)
1/2 dozen eggs, separated, at room temperature
Hand mixer or stand mixer
9″ spring form pan
Double boiler (or you could simply put a large glass bowl over a small pot of simmering water, which is what I did)
Heat oven to 275 degrees.
Using the bottom of your spring form pan, trace a circle onto parchment paper and cut out. Assemble your spring form pan with the lip of the bottom turned outward, if possible. Grease pan, line with parchment circle, and dust with cocoa powder. Wrap sides of spring form pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in double boiler (or glass bowl), stirring often, being careful not to scorch the chocolate. As soon as the chocolate is fully melted, transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add in maple syrup, water, and vanilla seeds. Blend on low until fully incorporated.
While mixing, add in egg yolks one at a time.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold beaten egg whites into cake mixture.
Pour into spring form pan and set pan in a larger rectangular roasting pan. Add enough water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of your spring form pan, creating a water bath. Make sure no water gets in your spring form pan as this will create problems with moisture as your cake bakes.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cake is set. (Note: cake may still look wet, or shiny once baked. This is okay as long as the center is set.)
Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for an hour, then transfer to refrigerator to continue cooling for 6-8 hours before removing the side of the pan.
for the Coconut Pecan Caramel: ingredients
2 cups non-GMO pecan pieces
2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 tsp sea salt
A double batch (approx. 2 cups) of The Urban Poser’s 3 Step Honey Caramel
Begin making caramel, as this large of batch will take almost two hours to reduce and caramelize.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Spread pecan pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet, creating one layer. Roast for 5 minutes, stir, then continue roasting for about 4-5 more minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn your nuts (heh heh). Remove from tray to cool in a large bowl.
Repeat the above steps, but using the coconut. You can re-use the parchment paper if you’d like. Make sure to watch the coconut as it tends to cook a little faster.
Add sea salt to the bowl of pecan pieces and coconut flakes, and toss to coat. Set aside.
Once your caramel is finished, let it cool slightly then stir half of it into your salted pecan/coconut mixture. Reserve the remaining half for drizzling during cake assembly. Refrigerate the Coconut Pecan Caramel until ready to assemble. Allow it to come to room temperature before assembling the cake, as this will help it spread much more easily. You’ll need to warm the remaining caramel sauce slightly before drizzling.
To assemble your cake:
When you are ready to transfer your cake to a serving platter or cake pedestal, you should be able to easily stick a flat knife between the parchment lining and the bottom of the spring form pan. Once you’ve lifted your cake, simply slide it onto your platter. If you’d like to remove the parchment you can (I typically do). Alternatively, you could simply leave it on the spring form pan bottom and place the cake+bottom on a platter/stand to serve.
Once you’ve set your cake on the serving platter, spread a 1/2″ – 1″ thick layer of room-temperature Coconut Pecan Caramel on top using a large spoon, butter knife, or icing spreader. Take the remaining warmed caramel and lightly pour/drizzle on top, allowing it to slowly drip over the sides. Repeat these steps if you are adding a second layer.
To slice and serve, dip a large knife in a cup of hot water, dry knife, then slice. Do this before cutting each slice so you don’t end up with a mess.
This is great for a special occasion or anytime you feel the need to indulge! I hope you enjoy it.
My son likes to hang out in the kitchen with me. He’s pretty dern tall for his age, but he STILL likes to stand on a chair and watch me cook. He towers over me, casts a major shadow on my workspace, and is always asking if he can help. It’s awesome. He’s awesome.
He loves Granny Smith apples, so we picked up a few the other day. Once we got home, he asked if we could make applesauce. I told him of course we could, but HE had to develop the recipe and name it. I let him smell several spices to see what he might want to incorporate, and he also helped chop the apples. We had a great time and ended up with a super simple applesauce that I will probably make regularly from now on. There was a little bit of an argument about whether or not we should add ghee, but Mommy won that one (and later he agreed that it was a good move). The ghee added a little more depth and nuttiness to the finished product. This recipe yields about 3 cups, and I’ll be honest – it didn’t last very long in our house. In fact, I think Auron is finishing it as I type. Makes a nutritious after-school snack or dessert, even if you are following The 21 Day Sugar Detox (which I completed earlier this year and plan to do again soon – hopefully this time with my husband on board).
Auron’s [apple] AwesomeSauce makes approx. 3 cups
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp grass-fed ghee
Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until apples are soft. Mash mixture to desired consistency (we like ours a little chunkier, and this favorite tool of mine worked brilliantly!). Cool and store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.
My family and I had a fantastic play date in Dallas on Saturday. We finally checked out HG Sply Co. for a great paleo lunch, hung out for a while at Klyde Warren Park, then finished our day listening to great music by our friends Rahim and Thiago at Ascension Coffee in the Dallas Design District. It was one of those days that just makes me smile when I think about it.
A week or so ago, I was inspired by Vanessa at Plaid & Paleo, to finally try my hand at chia pudding. She posted a simple recipe for Paleo Cranberry Chia Cups that caught my attention. Since I have didn’t all the ingredients she used, I got creative with what I had on hand as I reminisced about my family’s sunny and smiley weekend together. I still definitely plan on trying Vanessa’s recipe since I LOVE cranberries, but for now, we have Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups. Topped with fresh strawberries and packed with calcium, vit C, antioxidants, omega 3’s, etc., they are a wonderful and healthful treat my son and I are enjoying together today.
Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups serves 4
13.5 oz. can of full-fat coconut milk
Zest and juice from 2 lemons, + 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 Tbsp local honey
2 cups organic strawberries, chopped
2 Tbsp filtered water
1 tsp grass-fed gelatin
1 cup organic strawberries, diced (optional)
Combine coconut milk, lemon zest and juice from two lemons, honey, and chia seeds in a bowl. Stir and pour into small containers (these worked great). Refrigerator 1 hour until set.
Once pudding is set, simmer chopped strawberries, water, and remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice in small pan for 20 minutes. Puree strawberries in blender or food processor then return to pan. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Let cool for a few minutes, then gently pour or spoon strawberry mixture atop each pudding cup. Refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight.
Top with diced strawberries to serve.
Since this is my first time experimenting with chia seeds, I’d love to know how others use them. What is your favorite way to use chia?