2017: the tale of demanding, reincarnating bananas

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Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2017 treats everyone a little better than last year – 2016 was a rough one for many. But as they say, onward and upward! Preferably with cake, which is where I come in.

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The dead bananas are calling! I had a plethora lurking around my kitchen this weekend and they put me on notice that they really wanted to reincarnate into something amazing… not banana bread again, if you please (my bananas can get a little demanding sometimes…). That being said, I had a hankering for banana cake (fundamentally different from banana bread, you see), so THIS happened!

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Happily so. Have you ever had sautéed dates? No? Get into the kitchen immediately and make them! I love dates anyway, but they are mindblowingly good when given a little bath in some olive oil and sea salt. I’ve always been a salt monster, so salty-sweet desserts are absolutely my jam, and these little powerhouses deliver. Besides that, they’re full of good nutrients (dates are high in vit A & K, plus potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium & zinc. woohoo!).

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This cake is actually full of good things – you have healthy fats from almond flour, hazelnuts, and coconut, and all the good stuff in dates. And besides that, most critically: it’s delicious, which is good for your soul.

Let’s see, what else? Jessie says hello (this is her way of chatting me up during breakfast, adorable cat)

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More drawings, of course! New year, same series! This is the Havens Mansion, built 1884 on S. Van Ness in SF.

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My first activity of 2017! Shocked? Nope.

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More beautiful sky!

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Show your new and improved 2017 self some love with some sautéed dates atop your cake, and revel in all the possibilities of a new year. Onward!

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Banana Date Skillet Cake with Coconut Frosting, Maple Hazelnuts, and Sautéed Dates

Pretty freaking amazing, if I do say so! Lightly sweet banana cake with jewel-like date pieces, coconut frosting and OMG sautéed dates, please make them immediately. Serve with a bit of ice cream or non-dairy biz if that’s your jam! Can’t miss either way. Refined sugar free, grain free, gluten free, dairy free, pretty much paleo. Yield: 1 8″ skillet cake, enough frosting to frost the top (cake is served straight out of the skillet); extra hazelnuts because you’ll definitely want extras… and the amount of dates is up to you (make extra!). Skillet cake adapted from Confessions of a Confectionista, here!

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For the cake:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • heaping 1/8 c coconut oil, melted
  • 1.5 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • heaping 1.25 c almond flour
  • 1.5 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 4 medjool dates, chopped

For the maple hazelnuts (make ahead, if desired):

  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • pinch of sea salt
  • splash of vanilla

For the sautéed dates:

  • 1-2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 7-8 medjool dates, halved & pitted
  • pinch of sea salt

For the coconut frosting:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled upside-down overnight in the fridge
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

I usually make the hazelnuts ahead and store them in a jar until needed. Remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them together; it doesn’t matter if there are skins left, but I try to get rid of the majority. Heat an empty saute pan (not nonstick) over medium heat; once heated, add maple (it will bubble and fizz) and hazelnuts. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously until the maple has caramelized. The nuts will feel a little soft, which is fine. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet, pour out the nuts and spread them out a bit. They will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight jar at room temp for as long as they last which is realistically about five minutes.

To make the cake: preheat the oven to 350, and grease an 8″ cast iron skillet with coconut oil. In a large bowl, mash the bananas, then add eggs, melted coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, whisk together almond flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt. Pour dry into wet, and use an electric mixer to beat until combined. Stir in the chopped dates, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the top springs back when touched. The cake will brown because of the honey – if you feel it’s browning too fast, feel free to cover it with foil. Let cool completely before serving.

While the cake is cooling, make the sautéed dates! (good luck not eating them all straight out of the pan). In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the dates and sauté, stirring frequently, until they caramelize and are heated through, just about 2-3 minutes (the edges will start to get a little crispy). Watch them carefully, as they burn easily. When done, move them to a bowl to cool and sprinkle with sea salt (be sure to get all of the good oil out of the pan for drizzling!).

Also while the cake is cooling, make the coconut frosting. Open the can of coconut milk rightside up, and scrape out the cream that has solidified at the top, leaving the coconut water at the bottom (save it and use it later!). Scoop the cream out into a bowl, add vanilla and coconut sugar, and use an electric mixer to beat into the consistency of whipped cream. Use immediately, or chill for later use.

For serving: Frost the cake with the coconut whip (make sure to frost the cake once it’s completely cool! otherwise a melty mess will ensue); top with sautéed dates and maple hazelnuts. Indulge responsibly (i.e., have another piece)!

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Tolkienesque Cake for Dessert and Elevenses!

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Welcome to the Shire!

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Happy circumstances dictated that a Tolkeinesque dessert was in the offing (sometimes, you just need themed desserts)… as such, this one was directly inspired by the Hobbit: besides Beorn’s honey cake being mentioned in the Hobbit itself, blackberries and hazelnuts just seem like they’d be something you’d stash in your knapsack during your travels, right? And hobbits seem like the type to have cast iron skillets. So there you go. ALSO this cake is not only dessert but also does double duty for Elevenses (I can attest. I actually ate it for elevenses / brunch / breakfast / lunch, as part of a very complete, Hobbity spread).

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In other news, I went to the opera on a random Tuesday the other week because, why not?

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More drawing!

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And more cake.

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It’s rainy and drizzly today and as such is perfect cake and indoor fun weather; I highly recommend this one. It’s somewhat like a light variation on pound cake, and the blackberries / hazelnuts make for a great textural pairing. Plus ice cream. Obviously. They may not have had ice cream in the Shire, but let’s face it: everything is better with a bit of cream, right?

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Yes, the blackberries in the pictures are frozen — they were subsequently thawed and honeyed and drizzled and got all juicy and delicious, but for ease of transportation, that happened after the photos.

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So! Cake! And a nice revisit to the land of the Shire; I was a little overdue. Be warned, the maple hazelnuts are supremely addictive…. don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)

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Honey Almond Cake with Honeyed Blackberries and Maple Glazed Hazelnuts

Lightly sweet cake that is somewhat akin to a lighter pound cake, topped with tart-sweet blackberries and crunchy hazelnuts. Hobbit-y dessert perfection that also happens to be gluten free, grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free, and arguably paleo (depends on what sweeteners are on your okay list). The cake is adapted from Cookie and Kate, here! One confession: I’m a crazy baking person and for Hobbit authenticity and size preferences I wanted to make this in my 8″ cast iron skillet, which meant that I made a 3/4 recipe of a a full 9″ pan. I will be posting my altered measurements here; if you bake it in a 9″, it will just be a slightly shorter cake (apologies for some of the funky measurements!)

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For the cake:

  • 1.5 c almond flour (not meal), firmly packed
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • scant 1/2 c runny honey
  • 1/8 + 1/16 c melted coconut oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease cast iron skillet or pan of choice with coconut oil. Toss a little almond flour in the bottom to finely coat. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together beaten eggs, honey, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour wet into dry, and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake on the center rack of the oven for about 38-40 minutes. I checked mine at 30 and put it back in for 8; it was perfect at 38. The top should be golden brown and firm to the touch, and the center shouldn’t jiggle when lightly shaken. Remove from the oven and let cool before topping and serving.

For the honeyed blackberries:

  • 1 bag frozen blackberries, or fresh if they’re in season
  • 1 tbsp runny honey

Thaw blackberries, if frozen, and toss with the honey…. and that’s it! Let sit for a few hours if you have time — they get extra juicy that way.

Maple Glazed Hazelnuts:

  • 1/4 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts
  • sprinkle of sea salt

Remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them together; it doesn’t matter if there are skins left, but I try to get rid of the majority. Heat an empty saute pan (not nonstick) over medium heat; once heated, add maple (it will bubble and fizz) and hazelnuts. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously until the maple has caramelized. The nuts will feel a little soft, which is fine. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet, pour out the nuts and spread them out a bit. They will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight jar at room temp for as long as they last which is realistically about five minutes.

For serving: Top cake with honeyed blackberries & glazed hazelnuts, and preferably ice cream.

Store leftover cake in the fridge; covered with foil in the original pan is just fine. I’m here to attest that this cake is fabulous the next morning for breakfast!

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Some desserts are actually breakfast in disguise

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It’s September, my favorite month ever! I love fall. So even though the days start getting shorter again and that’s kind of a bummer, I do love the lead up to fall…. and boots! and scarves! and apples! and pumpkin!

But… before we get there! It’s still arguably berry season, and I see no reason to end that prematurely unless I have to (which I don’t!). Which means… raspberries! Which pair oh so well with hazelnuts and dark chocolate. And then…

BREAD.

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Because, sometimes you just need some bread pudding. Besides that, I am spoiled to live near Acme Baking, which makes some of the best bread around: all the more reason to get on the bread pudding train. Furthermore, bread pudding is one of those glorious things that only gets better and better the longer it sits, which means breakfast this morning was FANTASTIC. Eggs & cholula + kale + bread pudding? Sign me up. Oh. And obviously caramel. Because bread pudding should ALWAYS have a sauce, no matter if you eat it with ice cream anyway (also recommended; talenti coconut gelato was a spot-on choice). Enter the five second blender caramel with heavy hazelnut overtones… and so full of good things it’s practically a health food. Don’t get me started ;)

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Apologies for the lack of pictures; bread pudding isn’t the most photogenic of all the desserts and also it pretty much got annihilated before I could get in there with a camera for some in situ shots of plated dessert… Sorry not sorry.

Happy September, enjoy the beautiful days of Indian summer!

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Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Bread Pudding with Hazelnut Caramel

This is neither gluten free, vegan, or paleo. Sorry not sorry! Sometimes, you just need some bread. It is, however, dairy free and refined sugar free. It is also extremely easy to throw together, using whatever you have on hand. Yield: one 9 by 9 pan. Like many things I’ve made lately, this does double duty as breakfast and is even better the next day, so the serving sizes are contingent on how hungry you happen to be… A Wait are those Cookies original!

Bread Pudding:

  • 1 loaf of (stale!*) bread, cubed (I used Acme Pain au Levain)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 c coconut milk (mine happened to be light; use whatever you like)
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 runneth-over shot of Fra Angelico
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 c roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 c extra dark chocolate chips
  • 1 c fresh raspberries (frozen is fine; thaw and drain first!)

Caramel:

  • 1/3 c roasted unsalted almond butter
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp Fra Angelico
  • scant 1/4 tsp sea salt

* You can either cube it ahead of time and let it sit out, like I did, or slice and toast in the oven to stale it day of, if you’re short on time

You can make the caramel ahead of time, or while the pudding is baking (it comes together in about five seconds):

In a vitamix or a food processor, blend almond butter, maple, melted coconut oil, vanilla, Fra Anglico, and sea salt until smooth and incorporated. Adjust taste to suit your preferences!

Butter or use coconut oil to grease a 9 by 9 pan. Sprinkle coconut sugar over the inside of the pan if desired; this gives the bottom a little somethin’ extra…

Put the cubed bread into a large bowl. In a slightly smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, maple, Fra Angelica, vanilla, and sea salt. Pour this goodness over the bread cubes, using your hands to evenly distribute everything. Toss in hazelnuts, chocolate chips, and raspberries (reserve a few raspberries for topping if you’re feeling fancy). Let this sit for about a half hour so the bread can absorb the custard.

Preheat the oven to 350, and once the custard and bread have sat for a bit, bake for 30-40 minutes, until there is no visible liquid at the bottom when you separate it with a fork (you don’t want it dry though, so just look for pooling liquid). Mine was perfect at 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then refrigerate if you’re like me and like cold bread pudding! Or serve warm, it’s awesome either way. Store leftovers in the fridge and eat them for breakfast — highly recommended.

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Nutty shenanigans involving chocolate

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Hello!!

Happy Rainy Wednesday, wheee!!! I LOVE rain. So does my cat, apparently, since he spent the majority of the morning outside in it, little furry twit. And now he’s sitting on me and purring, all pleased with himself. And damp. I am apparently a fab kitty towel… (not that I mind. He’s adorable).

But anyway.

This morning I skinned hazelnuts and listened to really loud opera and the rain. The opera was L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti, one of my favorites. What did you do, invisible internet friends??

Why did I skin hazelnuts, you ask? Funny you should ask…

Because, THIS.

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And then THIS.

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And then all of this will become COOKIES as of tomorrow and well… it just obviously doesn’t get much better than that (Don’t fret. I will also share the cookies).

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And also. Can I just say refined sugar free?! Yep. This is nutella. Except it isn’t, because it’s unprocessed and refined sugar free! Boomshakalaka. I just blew your mind, right? It’s okay, five minutes ago I blew mine too by tasting this. Just sit down for a minute, you’ll be fine. Deep breaths… Right. See? Now you feel recovered enough to trot into the kitchen and whip this up for yourself. Just be sure to hang onto at least a cup so you can have your mind blown all over again when I share the cookies for tomorrow.

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You know what’s funny about hazelnuts? I absolutely love them, but the taste takes me back immediately to my trip to Europe when I was 10. At some point in Austria, I was given a couple of Mozart Balls (I kid you not, that’s what they’re called), which are these chocolate-hazelnut truffle thingies. And guess what. I disliked them with great intensity. Apparently, something about the nuts in chocolate combo really turned off my 10 year old self. But oddly enough, that prejudice didn’t stick around (thank goodness), and now I love hazelnuts with reckless abandon. ESPECIALLY when paired with chocolate. But that smell and taste totally takes me back to Europe. Not saying that’s a bad thing in the slightest..

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But anyway. Hazelnuts!!! In CHOCOLATE!! Doesn’t get much better.

Also ps. The weather is doing that crazy spring thing where it’s SUNNY!!! and then it’s RAINING!!! and then it’s SUNNYYYY!! RAININGGGG!!! SUN! RAIN!SUNRAINSUNRAINSUNRAIN! You know exactly what I’m talking about… it really reminds me of the weather in Salem. I remember one particular day where it rained, was sunny, hailed, and I think probably snowed. All in one day. Don’t even ask. An umbrella becomes exceedingly useless at a certain point…

So anyway. Enjoy the nutty springtime weather and some homemade, garbage-free chocolatey hazelnutty goodness.

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Recipe loosely adapted from Living Healthy with Chocolate, here! My batch yielded about a cup and half. Vegan (sub maple for honey), gluten free, refined sugar free, and paleo! Winner, winner. Also, if you’re allergic to/can’t have chocolate, this could be done with carob powder/carob chips.

  • 2 c hazelnuts, dry roasted
  • 3.5 tbsp dark chocolate, chopped (choose something above 70%–mine was 73%)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1.5 tsp unrefined coconut oil*
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk

*hate coconut? (though I’m not sure we can be friends if that’s the case…)(just kidding!) Use olive, avocado, hazelnut–whatever oil floats your boat.

Rub the skin off the hazelnuts using your palms. You can buy pre roasted ones, and most of the time the skin is already off 3/4ths of them, or you can roast your own for about 10 minutes at 350, then rub the skins off while they’re still warm. Either way, make sure almost all of the skin is removed. Toss the two cups of skinned hazelnuts into a food processor (or a vitamix, if you’re lucky), and process until they start to form a buttery consistency. You’ll probably have to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times. This should yield a cup of nut butter—do try not to eat it all in advance since you need it later…

Using a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate until it’s completely melty. Take the double boiler off the heat, and stir in the hazelnut butter, cocoa powder, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, sea salt, and almond milk until smooth. Adjusting to your personal taste preferences is obviously totally acceptable.

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. Mine will be going into cookies tomorrow (get ready for epicness in the next post), but I would assume it would stay good in the fridge for a week or two.

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