Friday, August 18, 2017

"Non-Dairy" Avocado Ice Cream (or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation")


avocado ice cream with slivered almonds
Serving 1: With slivered honey almonds
It has been an interesting summer. I took a break from my dance class to rest my knees, get much needed recovery time, and get a chance to clean up around the house. It really felt I had a vacation, even though I was still working. I loved the extra free time that I had to take walks, window shop and even read! I miss that.

An interesting side effect was I also ended up spending extra time in the kitchen. It is one of my creative outlets, although it is mostly due to the necessity of nourishment. Regardless, it gave me a chance to play with ingredients and be inspired. 

One of these experiments was making my own frozen desserts. I guess it started when I made Avocado “Ice Cream”. I’ve always wanted to make Avocado Ice Cream like my Dad did every summer. Avocado was one of his favorites (and still is) so he would take one or two avocados, mash them and mix them up with condensed milk and put it in the freezer and enjoy it for a week. Dad would be back at the fridge once or twice a day getting avocado ice cream while I had my normal Magnolia Chocolate Marble (Yeah!) or Mocha. Back then, I did not like avocado and preferred chocolate (well, I still do), so Dad enjoyed it all by himself.

bananas and avocado in blender
Frozen fruit in the (Ninja) Blender
Now, I love avocado. During the season, I may have an avocado or three every week – on toast, tacos, tamales, omelets, you name it. I am a “Californian” anyway, so I think its a law to have avocado (along with Kale). There was a time when I bought mini avocados. My Hubby was wondering why I bought them – but it was the perfect size for one serving.

Back to ice cream… With my making dairy-free banana “ice cream” last year, I was inspired to make a healthier and perhaps dairy free version of my Dad’s summer favorite. I am trying to minimize my dairy and condensed milk has tons of sugar, so that was my motivation. I had a vision of combining avocado with frozen bananas and getting the perfect scoop.

Freezing the avocado was also in my vision because I usually end up with half of an avocado after lunch. That was the other rationale for freezing. I thought freezing it will preserve the lovely green color.

Here’s what I have so far…


Mad Gourmet’s Healthier Dairy-free Avocado “Ice Cream”
Inspired by my childhood summers with Dad
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 avocado (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 banana (about 1/2 cup)
  • (Up to) 1/4 cup of coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp of agave syrup (add more to taste)
  • Almond slivers or coconut shavings for toppings.


Directions

  1. Peel and cut banana and avocado into one inch slices.
  2. Freeze (I usually do this overnight).
  3. Put avocado chunks and banana in a blender.
  4. Add coconut milk as needed (consistency should be like ice cream not a smoothie)
  5. Top with almonds or coconut shavings and enjoy.


Verdict

avocado ice cream with coconut shavings
Serving 2: With Coconut Shavings
I love the combination of avocado and bananas. The bananas provide the creaminess that you usually get with ice cream. The addition of coconut milk adds to the creaminess and makes it closer to the ice cream that Dad loved. It also makes for a delicious but healthy tropical treat.

As blended, it is a yummy dessert, but tricky to make a perfect scoop. It usually has a yogurt-like (or shall I say guacamole?) texture that may be a bit runny for the scooper. I find that putting the mixture in the freezer until it firms up (about 20-30 minutes) does the trick. As I am writing this, I am thinking that a quenelle may be a good alternative presentation.

After that experiment, I became encouraged to make my other frozen treats. (Hmmm... I feel another blog post coming). Think granitas and sorbets... some with summer fruit. I never thought that these would be so easy to make.

So, here’s my summer tribute to Dad. By the way, he loved Durian too… but I don’t think I’ll acquire a taste for that.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Small batch No-bake Date and Tahini Balls

date-tahini energy ballsIt’s in the middle of summer and it's been very hot! I really do not have any desire to turn on the oven, but I have a lingering to make something quick, relatively healthy and even a quick energy boost.

I figured it may be time to make no-bake something. I’ve been seeing these in Pinterest and Instagram and was waiting for an opportunity to make them. I guess these hot summers are the best time to make them.

Most of the recipes that I found have a lot of protein through nuts and sugar through honey. I wanted a better balance of carbs and protein since I often need the quick energy from carbs (and sugar) but need the long lasting replenishment that protein provides.

Enter oatmeal. Oatmeal is usually my go-to breakfast. I love the fiber content and I usually have it in our pantry.


Now, what to mix it with.

Date spread and tahini
This looks like trouble... good trouble.

I happen to have Date Spread and Tahini handy. The date spread is from my “Try the World” subscription. I have not worked with date spread before and I think this would be a good recipe to try it on.

I usually have tahini during the summer because I love making tahini sauce and using it in my tuna salads since (I think) tahini lasts a bit longer than mayo in the summer heat. I have also been thinking about making cookies, but again, it’s been too hot. I guess this would be a good substitute.

I started with a small batch because I am not sure if Hubby or I will enjoy them. I have not envisioned myself getting satisfied with a couple of energy balls. In fact, I am afraid that I may end up eating all of it. Also, I want to save some of that date spread for other stuff. That said, since a number of folks seem to love these no-bake balls, I am willing to give them a try and see if I like them.

Here's what I have so far...


Mad Gourmet's No-Bake Date and Tahini Balls

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp date spread
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cocoa nibs


Directions
  1. Toast oats on a pan (Optional - to give it some additional texture)
  2. Combine tahini and date spread in a bowl until it is thoroughly mixed.
  3. Add oats and cocoa nibs. (I added them gradually to ensure an even mix)
  4. Roll into balls about an inch in diameter.
  5. Cover and put dough in the freezer or refrigerator until firm.


Verdict

I love this recipe. With the combination of dates and tahini, each bite can transport you to Turkey or somewhere in the Middle East.

This is the perfect snack after my martial arts class. Two balls are surprisingly filling for a snack. The blend of carbs and protein are a great post-workout recovery snack. The addition of the date sauce give it a natural sweetness and cocoa nibs the additional crunch. I am not sure if toasting the oats is needed, since it softens once its mixed in.

I love that its quick and relatively easy to make. I think it took me about 20 minutes to make the first batch, because I was thinking of what to do next. I can imagine that this will take me half that time once I get the recipe down.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. My next step – try it with Peanut Butter. Oh my!



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Vegetarian Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps


It’s potluck season.

Tofu Mushroom Lettuce Wraps
Ready for Potluck
Nowadays, however, our martial arts group potlucks can be challenging for me to prepare for. We have a bunch of vegetarians, and a number of folks are opting for gluten-free options. Our crew usually brings spicy lentil or chickpea dishes, Indian style rice, veggie gluten-free pastas, chili and gluten-free cornbread. Occasionally, there is still the omnivore who brings chicken adobo (and no, that is not me – although I do eat meat and I am Filipino).

On top of it all, I was the designated baker until Sempai B joined the group. Desserts are his specialties. In the last few potlucks, he made a gorgeous and moist chocolate cakes, light chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream. So good… I love Sempai B’s desserts. They are delicious, decadent, and gives me much inspiration and something to strive for. However, since someone usually brings cookies, I suspect that I am out of the job – for desserts at least.

So, what to do…

My other expertise are salads, so that remains an option. I also make a mean salad, most likely because it’s has been default lunch in the summer. Because of that, I have also become an expert in disguising my salads and changing the presentation a bit. I do get tired of eating the same thing so I have to trick myself. My salads are very healthy too – no heavy dressings and low sodium.  I usually pick vinegar-based (apple cider has been my recent favorite) dressings with EVOO and lots of aromatics and herbs. OK - Maybe it's too healthy.

For our last potluck, I decided to bring vegetarian lettuce wraps. This dish was actually inspired by my Hubby. He initially suggested chicken wraps. One problem: chicken - it has to be vegetarian.   That said, it was an excellent idea and I used his Vietnamese Chicken Wrap recipe as a base, but tweaked it.

What I have is below… let me know what you think.


Mad Gourmet’s Vegetarian Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps
Based on Hubby’s Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap

Ingredients

Filling and Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/2 package of tofu, Firm, lightly mashed
  • 1 portabella mushroom, finely diced (almost minced)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil (if using fresh, use about 3/4 - 1 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 cup shallots minced
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)

Wraps and Garnish
  • 6 leaves butter lettuce
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro sprigs

Directions
  1. Ahead of time, chill the lettuce, cucumber, carrots and herbs (recommend to put it in a leak proof glass or stainless steel container)
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the lime juice, sugar, and sriracha. Set aside.
  3. Saute shallots, tofu, and portabella mushrooms. Add ginger powder and basil. (Turn off heat after saute)
  4. Add sriracha mixture and scallions to tofu mixture. Toss to combine and chill for 1/2 hour.
  5. To serve, put tofu mixture in lettuce leaves and garnish with the cucumbers, carrots, or cilantro.



Verdict

This was a hit in the party. The biggest compliment, I think, was when my friend (who is an excellent cook) wanted the recipe. Incidentally, that is why I initially wrote this recipe down.

The original recipe did use fish sauce, but I cannot add that because it is supposed to be a vegetarian dish. I was going to substitute something else for it, but the combination of lime juice, Sriracha and sugar was tasty enough. The tanginess of the lime juice combined with the sweetness of the sugar and heat – BAM!  Remember, if you want it to be vegan, do not use honey. I think this recipe is close enough to be vegan, but I am not sure of the tofu.

I love the addition of mushrooms in this dish. I have become a big fan of mushrooms since they have a texture similar to meat. It’s rich in Vitamin D as well.

Next time, I may serve it with peanut butter sauce. Also, I was thinking of doing a quick pickle on the cucumbers and carrots (think Banh Mi, folks).  I may add quinoa or rice for a heartier dish. In fact, my other buddy and I were doing Rice Pulao and Tofu wraps, and it works! Ah, the possibilities.

Hope you enjoy!


P.S. I am still going to find a way to bring my low-fat banana brownies. Those are awesome! It's a slightly modified version of my basic brownie recipe and I am working on making it gluten-free.

Friday, March 31, 2017

HELP WANTED: Kona Coffee-Spiked Banana Muffins


Yes, I made it! I pledged to write one blog post per month… at least the first three. This was to match my record last year. Now, I need to beat it... but it may need to wait until May.

Coffee-spiked banana muffins
This post really is a call for help. During our last trip to Kona, I was inspired to make Kona coffee banana bread or muffins. I think I was inspired after indulging in way too much Kona and Ka’u coffee. Oh, that magical Hawaiian elixir is so ono and so mild that it did not upset my tummy. It did not help that Kona coffee was all over the place in Kona (duh). There were several cool coffee places overlooking the ocean (again, duh). Oh yes, there was that trip to the coffee plantation too.  Needless to say, that trip was #caffeinated.

The banana bread part comes from the upcountry in the Big Island. Banana bread is a standard treat in Hawaii. When you go Captain Cook or coffee country, there is no lack of stores that sell banana bread. I always get a slice or three when we’re up there so I have provisions for the rest of trip.

Once we came back home, I looked for a recipe as a starter. I think the most promising one was an old recipe from the Washington Post on a coffee-spiked banana bread. I healthified and Maddified it with tropical ingredients like coconut oil and macadamia nuts. Since the weather is getting warmer, I muffinized it to cut down on baking time. 

Sheesh, who am I kidding... I LOVE MUFFINS!

Here’s the call for help: I baked it twice but the coffee flavor does not pop. Don’t get me wrong – the muffins were delicious, but it seems to me that the coffee should be more prominent. I tried to add coffee grounds in it (I don't think that helped with flavor, but it did on caffeine content). I even consulted the original recipe in the Mosswood Cookbook (Yes, It happened to be in my collection).

So... Here’s what I have so far.  Does it need more coffee or am I getting too caffeinated? Or perhaps Kona coffee is just too mellow.  Anyways, as the Hawaiian’s would say… Please kokua. Mahalo nui.


Mad Gourmet’s (In Progress) Kona Coffee Spiked Banana Muffins

Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed black Kona coffee
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 Tbsp ground Kona coffee (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line them with liners. 
  2. Whisk together the flour, the salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir together the mashed bananas and coffee in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
  4. Combine the oil and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well blended, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Gradually and alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture to the beaten egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour one. Do not overmix, or the batter will be tough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  6. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pans.



P.S. I'm thinking of renaming these to Caffeinated Muffins. What do you think?