Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Three more days until Christmas! Joy is officially in the air. I can even smell it. It’s a combination of pine, bonfire, cold air, cloves and fresh baked sugar cookies. Christmas has a distinctive scent that can’t be bottled into a candle. I did try to replicate it in this cake though.

Fruit cake is the butt of every holiday joke. Typically weighing almost ten pounds, filled with every fruit and nut imaginable and said to last forever, they are loathed by most. This cake is my attempt to change that. How can dried fruits and chocolate in a cake not be delicious? I was inspired by watching Nigella Lawson bake her famous Christmas Cake. She makes the holiday magical and it’s easy to fall under her cooking spell. The tiny, twinkle lights covering her kitchen will entrance you. Nigella calls her cake a trifecta of aromas, with fruits, cinnamon and cloves. Fruit cake is edible Christmas.

The tart cherry juice in this recipe intensifies each dried fruit. You can substitute apple, orange or pineapple juice if cherry isn’t your favorite. Coconut flour can be crumbly so be extra careful when removing the finished cake from the pan.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Makes 1 9” cake.

1 cup tart cherry juice for soaking fruit – I used Cheribundi brand.
1 cup currants
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup dates – about 10 dates – chopped
½ cup dried peaches – chopped
½ cup dried apricots – chopped
2 ½ tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ cup coconut flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
4 tbsp cacao powder or good quality cocoa powder
1 cup mashed banana – overly-ripe
5 eggs
1 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil – melted

►Combine cherry juice, currants, blueberries, dates, peaches, apricots, lemon zest and ginger in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Then remove from heat and cover until all juice is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

►Grease a springform cake pan with coconut oil and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper too. Set aside.
►Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
►In a large mixing bowl, stir together coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and cacao powder. Set aside.
►In a separate mixing bowl, whisk eggs and banana with a hand mixer. Add in maple syrup and melted coconut oil.
►Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix well. Add in all fruit and stir until well combined.
►Bake 45 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
►Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

 

As pumpkin season comes to a close, I’m squeezing in all those recipes I ambitiously jotted down just as the leaves began to change. The leaves have found their way to the pavement and I’m soon calling it quits on fall flavors. Christmas decorations began creeping in weeks ago so Thanksgiving is the absolute cut-off.

At my Granny’s house, there is a tradition of dessert assortment that puts any extravagant cruise ship buffet to shame. Two tables covered in desserts. It’s not Thanksgiving without 14 pies – fruit, chess and creme topped with meringue, 3 cheese cakes, pralines and bread pudding with two sweet sauces. No wonder I had an eating disorder. It’s impossible to say no to all that sugar. Sugar is my worst best friend. If it’s in front of me, it taunts me, calling my name, causing a battle between my best intentions and desires. And sometimes you just have to eat the sugar. I find when I allow myself to give into the temptations I’m much happier and my body relaxes.Pumpkin Creme Brulee

So every year I indulge in the sugar. And I wanted to create a dessert that falls into my dietary guidelines. This creme brûlée is actually healthy, filled with eggs, coconut milk and pumpkin. You have a good mix of protein, carbs and fat. If you can bear to omit the maple syrup, this would be a great breakfast too. But that would be sinful on Thanksgiving.

Remember to save room for sugar.

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

Makes 4 servings.

4 egg yolks
½ cup pumpkin – canned or fresh
½ cup full fat canned coconut milk
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla
¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp orange zest
⅛ tsp salt
1 tbsp maple sugar – I use Coombs Family Farms brand

►Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
►Beat egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together well.
►Pour into 4 ramekins, evenly distributing.
►Place ramekins in a baking dish deep enough to meet the lip of the ramekins. Fill the dish halfway with warm water.
►Bake for 25 minutes, until just set in the middle but still jiggling a bit.
►Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
►Before serving, remove from fridge and let sit for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle maple sugar on top of each. Caramelize with a kitchen torch or under a broiler. Serve and dig in! I ate mine in .5 seconds.

This would be fabulous as a pie filling too!

Dairy Free & Nut Free Cheese

Dairy-Free Cheese

Cheese and I had a special bond for many years. It was my go-to quick afternoon snack that kept me going until dinner. At some point I’d even read an article that influenced me to eat a piece of cheese before dining out at a restaurant. That one piece was supposed to prevent me from over-eating. I stuck to this rule for years and I think all it did was make me constipated.

I gave up most dairy in 2007 and felt incredible. Until that year, my body had been inundated with lactose, which I did not have the ability to metabolize. Cheese was one of the last foods I completely eliminated though. I just couldn’t give up the cheesy goodness. I held onto it for as long as I could, then I had to face the facts. My body hates all dairy. I cut it out slowly, still eating goat cheese from time to time. I knew my body didn’t need it but I kept going back for more. Why couldn’t I break this habit?


Is Cheese Addictive?

Cheese is an addiction. It is actually a scientific fact. The compounds in cheese alter our brain chemistry. Seems crazy, right? Definitely, but you can’t argue with science. Compounds called casomorphins are concentrated in cheese and when they are broken down by digestion they have a drug-like response in the brain. Our brains on cheese is similar to a junkie looking for his next hit. If you want a more in-depth look at the effects of cheese on the brain, check out Steph’s post at StupidEasyPaleo.com.

And it’s important to note that these casomorphins are also shown to slow intestinal movements, which is why I was frequently challenged in the bathroom department after eating cheese.

I still miss cheese though. It’s so easy, so portable and easily enhances any recipe. There are cheese alternatives out there, although they are either made from soy protein or some kind of nut/seed. I keep these foods out of my diet and I didn’t think there was another option. Until I met Hayley via Instagram. Hayley made cheese out of vegetables! Now that’s something I can get into.

The secret ingredient in this vegetable cheese is the nutritional yeast.


What is Nutritional Yeast? 

It provides that cheesy flavor we all crave. Andrea Cespedes describes it as:

“Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for several days. The primary ingredient in the growth medium is glucose, often from either sugarcane or beet molasses. When the yeast is ready, it is killed (deactivated) with heat and then harvested, washed, dried and packaged.”
 

Just two tablespoons provides 9 grams of protein and is also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It is also a good source of selenium and potassium.

With Hayley’s recipe I’ll never have to long for cheese again. This is quick to make and can be sliced, grated, crumbled or melted.

Dairy-Free Cheese

Makes 12 slices.

1 cup zucchini – chopped
2 tbsp carrot – grated
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp gelatin  – I use Great Lakes brand

►Line a 9×9″ dish with parchment paper.
►Bring 1/4 cup water to boil. Add zucchini and carrot. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
►Drain water and veggies through a colander. Place veggies in a food processor with oil, lemon, salt and nutritional yeast. ►Pulse until fully combined then add the gelatin. Pulse to distribute the gelatin throughout.
►Pour into prepared dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and enjoy!