Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Before I went through pastry school, I had never made a tart. I don’t know why but tarts never got my attention. Then, part of my training was to make everything and, in doing so, I discovered something. I love making tarts! The art of pressing the crust ingredients into a shell can be very meditative. There is also the flexibility of making the crust raw or baked. And don’t get me started on fillings or toppings — there are so many to choose from!

For this recipe I began with a vanilla pastry cream filling. Then I chose to roast pears to put on top, as I had pears that needed to get eaten. Next I opted for a raw crust that began as a basic recipe but then got a bit crazy with the inclusion of some Kibo chickpea chips. (It was a creative dare, and they worked beautifully.) I threw in a bit of raspberry jam and fresh raspberries and my creation turned heavenly, although hubby said it needed some chocolate. He can be predictable.

Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
(This recipe is separated into components as any or all of the parts may be made ahead and the tart assembled later.)

Vanilla Pastry Cream adapted from Rouxbe Online Culinary School
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 3-4 hours to soften
3 ounces unsweetened almond milk
1 ounce agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Place cashews, milk, agave, vanilla, and salt in a high speed blender. Process on high until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the jar as needed. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts. (There will be extra, but it keeps in the refrigerator for a week.)

Tart Crusts
1 mini bag Kibo Himalayan Salt Chickpea Chips
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 tsp water, as needed
Lightly spray four mini tart pans with vegetable oil spray. Set aside. Place the chickpea chips into a food processor and process into a coarse meal. Pour the meal out into a bowl. (You will only need 1/8 cup of this meal). Put the walnuts and almonds into the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Put 1/8 cup chickpea chip meal into the food processor. Add the dates a spoonful at a time, pulsing between additions, until the dates are incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Add the water, a little at a time, and pulse until the mixture just holds together when pressed with your fingers. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add another date. If the mixture seems a bit too wet, add a few more nuts. Spread the mixture among the prepared tart pans. Press the mixture thinly, firmly, and evenly onto the sides and bottom of the pans. (You can use a small glass or measuring cup to press down with). Put the pans in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts.

Roasted Pears
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 pear, sliced thin
Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the maple syrup and balsamic in a bowl. Add the pear slices and toss to coat. Pour the pears along with the liquid into a baking pan, arranging in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. Use immediately to assemble the tarts, or store in the refrigerator for up to several days.

ready for tart assembly
ready for tart assembly

To Assemble Tarts
4 mini tart crusts still in their pans
3-4 TBS seedless raspberry jam
Vanilla pastry cream
Roasted pear slices
12 fresh raspberries
For each tart, spread a thin layer of jam over the bottom of the crust. Spoon the pastry cream on top of the jam almost to the height of the crust. Lay several pear slices and a few fresh berries over the pastry cream. To serve, carefully remove the tart from the tart pan. For tips on how to remove a tart from a pan with a removable bottom, see this article.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites and matcha tea

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites and matcha tea

The seasons are starting to change, often a time that ushers in new colds and flus. It’s a good idea now to keep up immune health, and I have a tasty way for you to do just that. These nuggets of sweetness can be beneficial to your immune system, all the while disguising themselves as dessert.

Over the years I have collected many recipes for what are called Energy Bites. The recipe here is a mashup of those, with an accent on herbs to keep you well. It’s raw and vegan so there are no high altitude tips and no veganizing was necessary. You can substitute your favorite sweetener and nut or seed butter, but please do not consider this medical advice. Seek out your healthcare provider if you have serious health issues.

Chocolate Immune Boost Bites

2 TBS astragalus root powder
1 tsp maca powder
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
6 TBS date paste (see my post on how to make date paste, or use Soom Silan Date Syrup)
1 cup tahini or nut butter (I used Soom Premium Tahini)
walnut pieces, for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk the powders together. In a medium bowl, combine the date paste and tahini or nut butter. Stir the powders into the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes for the powders to better absorb. Roll teaspoon-sized balls in the palms of your hands. Press walnut pieces in the tops of the bites. Store in an airtight container on the counter. Eat 2-3 daily. Makes 10 Immune Boost Bites.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!

This post was a collaboration with Soom Foods, however my opinions are my own.

Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

Peach season is just starting where I live in Colorado. I have waited very patiently for this, so I am now gobbling up peaches in a frenzy. They are too few and too precious to do anything other than eat raw with their juices running down my arm. Using them in baking will have to wait until my tummy’s desire for fruit salad has been quenched. Until then I have a supply of dried peaches.

If properly soaked, dried fruit can often be a replacement in baked goods for their fresh counterparts. Cookie recipes are the perfect place to try dried fruit, so use any dried gems that you have. Just remember to soak them first so they get moist and plump. The amount of water and time this takes will depend on your fruit’s moisture content.

My recipe is loosely taken from one on Organic India’s blog. It was already vegan, with no changes required for altitude, and it allowed me to test their fiber supplement as an egg substitute. I tweaked it to accommodate my dried peaches and their soaking water. (Here’s a tip: never discard soaking water from fruit — it’s delicious). Next I made many other radical changes that suited my eating habits and pantry supplies. Cookies are forgiving that way, and they turned out wonderful.

Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies loosely adapted from Organic India

3/4 cup soaked and chopped dried peaches
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp Organic India Cinnamon Spice Pre & Probiotic Fiber Supplement
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup soaking water from the peaches
1/3 cup + 1 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 3 TBS maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

soaked and dried peaches

soaked peaches and dried peaches

Several hours prior to making the cookies, soak the dried peaches in plenty of water. Strain and save the soaking water. Chop the peaches into small bits.

Heat oven to 375F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift in flour, fiber supplement, baking soda, cardamom, and ginger. Add rolled oats. To a medium bowl, add soaking water, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Whisk together, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir to combine until a dough forms. It will be slightly sticky. Fold in chopped peaches.

Set the bowl of cookie batter aside for 15 minutes. This will make the dough easier to handle. Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, making 30 cookies. Bake for 19-20 minutes, or until the undersides are lightly brown. Let cool slightly before removing onto a wire rack to fully cool.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Make the Perfect Date Paste

the perfect date paste

the perfect date paste

The first time I made date paste I found the results to be less than desirable. I had followed the directions, as minimal as they were, but it looked more like I was making a smoothie. Paste wouldn’t describe what was in my blender. Later, after poring over many recipes, I discovered that the key was the water. Too much made a runny mess, while too little seemed to tax the blender. It was like the fairy tale in which the middle was “just right.”

The success of the paste starts with the dates. The moisture content in them varies greatly depending on how old they are and how they are stored. My guess was that my dates were very old so I added lots of extra water at the start. But the trick is to add water a little at a time; this helps to create the perfect consistency. Another trick is to use the soaking water as it has a hint of date flavor. These tips will help you create the perfect date paste to add to baked goods, such as Baked Oatmeal with Peaches.

Date Paste adapted from Fruit Paste from Rouxbe Culinary School’s Essential Vegan Desserts

1/2 cup pitted dates
1 cup water (or as needed)

Soak the dates for 1 to 2 hours or until quite soft. Strain in a colander set over a bowl in order to save the soaking water. Transfer the dates to a high-speed blender with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the soaking water. Process until smooth. Add more water as needed to create the desired consistency. If using the paste in baked recipes, use as little water as possible. The paste will keep for over a week in a jar in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for several months.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Baked Oatmeal with Peaches

baked oatmeal with peaches

baked oatmeal with peaches

With my husband working from home now, he has time for more than cereal for breakfast. I concluded that if I made a large dish of baked oatmeal on the weekend, then it could be reheated on many mornings. This meal would be hearty enough to keep his hunger at bay while he toiled at the computer. Another bonus was that I adapted the recipe to use up what I found in the backs of my cupboard and freezer. Feel free to use whatever you find in your pantry — the recipe is very flexible.

This dish is by nature vegan and not one that requires adjustments for high altitude, so I didn’t need to make those modifications. You can choose the fruit and oats you include, and the thickeners and sweeteners. Ultimately, I ended up with a sweet treat that was gluten-free and refined sugar free. Here is my healthy, pantry staple version of baked oatmeal.

Baked Oatmeal with Peaches adapted from Peach Crisp

5 large peaches, peeled and sliced (or 10 cups frozen)
2-3 TBS chia seeds (or tapioca starch)
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if desired)
1/8 cup brown rice flour (or oat flour)
1/8 cup date paste*
1/8 cup smooth almond butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 350F. Put peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with chia seeds, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Depending on how much juice the peaches give off, you may need to vary the amount of chia seeds. Let peaches stand for 15 minutes to thicken up and release some of their juices. Put peaches into a baking dish (mine was 10 x 10” but you can use a similar size).

In the same large bowl, add oats, brown rice flour, date paste, almond butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until it forms a crumbly texture that is neither too wet nor too dry. Sprinkle the mixture over the peaches. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

*If you don’t know how to make date paste, or even what it is, keep an eye out for my post next week.

Until next time, happy baking!

Easy Naan Bread

easy naan bread

easy naan bread

After going through months of intensive baking in pastry school, I swore off baking for a bit. I needed a breather, yet I still heard the siren call of my all purpose flour. What could I make with flour that didn’t require baking in the oven? And was there something easy enough to create that wouldn’t burden my overtaxed baking skills?

My search first uncovered recipes for bread that could be made in a skillet. (Technically still baking, but not in the oven). But I didn’t want to fuss, so that omitted yeast and repeated kneading. Then I discovered a recipe for naan that is leavened with baking powder so it is easier to make than your average bread.

I should back up here for a minute. Admittedly, before going to school I never would have used “easy” when describing bread making. I’m not the type that considers kneading or rolling dough out to be fun or relaxing. So I was quite surprised with myself when I became interested in making bread. Going through school gave me the confidence to attempt anything baked, and I found that naan can be easy. In the end it was very rewarding to make my own bread, and veganizing it was only a matter of using vegan yogurt instead of traditional. Now I can add “bread making” to my list of accomplishments.

Easy Naan Bread adapted from Masala & Meatballs

1/4 cup plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 TBS baking powder
1.75 cups lukewarm water, divided
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
optional: seeds for topping

In a small bowl, place yogurt, baking powder, and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir and set aside for a few minutes. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Add yogurt mixture and remaining water. Knead to make a semi-soft dough. Once everything comes together to form a smooth dough, place it in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Transfer it to the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Place a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and get it really hot. Divide the dough into nine pieces. Using one piece of dough at a time, while the rest remains in the bowl covered with the damp towel, roll it out to 10” on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a few seeds, if desired, and roll again so they stick to the dough. Put naan on hot griddle and let it cook for about 1 minute. When you see a few bubbles on top, turn naan over and cook the other side, 2-3 minutes total. Makes 9 naan.

Until next time, happy baking!

Party Dips: Butternut Squash and Dessert Hummus

dessert hummus and butternut squash dips

dessert hummus and butternut squash dips

The holidays are near and people will soon gather to share a meal. Dinner is the star, but having something to nibble on before and after is important to maintaining a jovial atmosphere. A tasty dip or two makes a great snack, especially if there are savory and sweet choices. With that in mind I located a squash dip to serve as an appetizer, and a dessert hummus with chocolate.

The great thing about dips is the lack of high altitude challenges, so these dishes merely needed a bit of veganizing or a personal touch. The Butternut Squash Dip appetizer is a recipe by Carsen Snyder for New Hope Network. My changes altered it from vegetarian to vegan. With the Superfood Dessert Hummus I put my spin on it by using extra peanut butter, because chocolate loves peanut butter, and adding lucuma powder (a superfood, like cacao) for a smoothness and depth of flavor. Whether you offer these spreads before or after a big meal, they will be a big hit.

Butternut Squash Dip adapted from the article “New Ways with Winter Squash”

1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds), halved and seeded (or pumpkin)
1 TBS olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tahini
1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp allspice

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Drizzle olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt over cut side of squash halves. Place squash, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover squash loosely with foil, and bake for 1 hour. Once cooked, remove foil and let squash cool slightly.

Scoop flesh from cooked squash halves into a food processor. Add garlic, tahini, yogurt, vinegar, paprika, allspice and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; blend until creamy. Pause to push sides down if necessary. Scoop dip into a serving bowl, and chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Serve with dippers, such as veggies and crackers. Makes 5 ½ cups.

Superfood Dessert Hummus adapted from Chocolate Chickpea Spread
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 TBS creamy peanut butter
3 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
1/2 cup Navitas Organics coconut palm sugar
1.5 tsp Navitas Organics lucuma powder
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 – 4 TBS water

Put all but the water into a food processor and puree, scraping down the sides as needed. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the water until the desired consistency is reached. Serve with dried or fresh fruit.

Until next time, happy non-baking and Happy Holidays!

A portion of this post was provided by New Hope Network. I am a member of the New Hope Influencer Co-op, a network of health and wellness bloggers committed to spreading more health to more people.

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Are you wondering if you stumbled on a gardening blog? Well, you haven’t, but I couldn’t resist tying my cupcakes in with Earth Day by potting them. I slipped them into little terra cotta pots and stuck carrot greens into the little cakes. It makes a wonderful presentation for both Easter and Earth Day, both of which are happening now. To serve them, just take them out of the pots, remove the greenery, and slather with frosting. Now, on to the recipe so we can get to eating these cute and tasty cakes.

Before I share the cupcake directions, I need to let you in on some of the changes that occurred before they could take shape. The original vegan recipe was for a cake, so I chose to go with regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour. Pastry flour will give the delicate crumb you look for in a cake, but I wanted more hand-held sturdiness for cupcakes. I also scaled back on both the baking soda and baking powder because the smaller size didn’t need that much oomph, especially in high altitude baking.

Normally I add moisture at high altitude, but this cake had loads more moisture than the other carrot cake recipes that I found. I knew that it would be great at high altitude, which is what led me to base my cupcake creations on the original recipe. Also, many recipes used carrot juice, which can be a difficult to obtain, but this one used orange juice which is readily available. And, I’m not one who likes raisins in her carrot cake so instead I used raw walnuts and lightly toasted them to bring out their nutty flavor. The combination was a winner. My taster and I polished off three cupcakes before I even had a chance to make the frosting!

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day inspired by 24 Karrot Cake

1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 TBS orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, shredded carrots, loosely packed (optional: save carrot greens for decoration)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly oil the top of a 12-muffin tin, then line with paper cups. Set aside. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet. When the oven is ready, lightly toast the walnuts until they become fragrant.

Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and vanilla until well blended. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir grated carrots into the batter with a rubber spatula.

carrots with their decorative greenery

carrots with their decorative greenery

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a thin knife between the cupcake tops and the pan. Remove cupcakes and cool completely. When cooled, drizzle with the frosting below.

Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

8 oz vegan cream cheese, cold
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Keep chilled.

Until next time, happy baking!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

A few years ago I attended a workshop on chocolate making. It was interesting to learn how to create chocolate from scratch and the technique for making it snap when breaking it up into pieces. As much fun as the class was, that process is a bit time consuming and you have to be diligent while your creation is on the stove. More recently I have discovered healthier fudge recipes that are less demanding and produce treats that have less impact on blood sugar balance.

Because the recipe I modified was vegan and did not need baking, it required no adjustments for those. Instead, I decided to change up the recipe and create a classic peanut butter and jelly combo. You can use any nut butter and jelly you prefer, but the texture may change. I added extra (yummy smelling) Navitas Organic cacao butter to help thicken up my fudge,

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge adapted from Double Chocolate Salted Freezer Fudge

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 cup + 1 TBS Navitas Organics cacao butter
1/4 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt

Prepare a mini muffin tin with small paper liners. In a medium pan over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and smooth, working to incorporate any lumps. Spoon into the lined muffin tin and place tin in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Let candies sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

Note: When making chocolate, choose a food-grade cocoa butter such as Navitas Organics cacao butter. Some products are used for making toiletries and may not be pure cocoa butter.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Fruit and Oat Cookies

Have you ever wanted to make a quick cookie because guests were on their way? Or maybe you were craving something sweet now? These cookies fit both those requests, and they have very few ingredients so a swift run through the pantry and you are ready to bake. They come together so quickly that I had them ready before the oven came up to temp, and that never happens.

I didn’t have to make any changes for vegan or high altitude, so I let my creativity run with the ingredients. The original recipe contained dates but I used dried apricots, cherries and blueberries for more depth of flavor. You could try any dried fruit, such as cranberries or currants for a tart twist. To add even more layers of flavor, I added spices, but including spiced applesauce would make it simpler. So, not only are these treats easy but they are healthy and will satisfy my gluten free friends, too.

Fruit and Oat Cookies based on Banana-Oatmeal Snack Cookies
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, cherries and blueberries)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine bananas, applesauce, oats, walnuts, dried fruit and spices in a bowl until evenly blended. Using a 1 TBS scoop, scoop out cookies and place on prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with a spatula. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 18-20 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!