Check out this great cookbook!

I love books – and I’ll confess, cookbooks are a particular obsession of mine.  It’s one indulgence I have that my husband never seems to have a problem with!  In fact, next to bicycling – food is a shared passion in our marriage and the kitchen is a hub of activity in our home.

I think that one way to become a cook – or become a better cook! – is to read cookbooks.  I get so inspired and excited when I come across something new – a blending of tastes I hadn’t tried, a shortcut in preparation, a simple little flair to add to the presentation of a dish….it’s all available for you to adapt and modify.  I spend a few minutes everytime I’m shopping at my natural foods store to peruse the book shelf, flipping through colorful pictures and getting a quick feel of what the author is offering.  Often I find that cookbooks can be a lot like buying a CD – one or two good songs, or recipes, and the rest I can do without.  Especially in the arena of “allergy-free” cooking – the recipes frequently disappoint in flavor and ingredients.

Recently, I came across a book on the shelf that I got pretty excited about – it’s called “Clean Start” by Terry Walters, the author of “Clean Food.”  This new book has 100 recipes that really will inspire you to “eat clean and live well.”  The book itself is lovely to look at, gorgeous photos and a unique cover design – the recipes are a single one per page (I love that) – and each one is simple, delicious and completely do-able for the reluctant chef.  She encourages farm-fresh, local and seasonal – and offers easy, uncomplicated advice on how to get started with a “clean” pantry and a “clean kitchen.”  The best part of all – each recipe is dairy, egg and gluten free!   Heaven!

Check it out – I bought my copy at New Seasons Market.  You can always take a few minutes out of your shopping time to peruse their bookshelf and get some great ideas.

To health!

Coconut Cream Pie that’s good for you!

A few years ago my husband and I were on a vacation down in California, cycling around Sonoma and Napa Valley.  Of course, the food in that area is extraordinary as a complement to the wines and choosing a restauarant is more about deciding on what you’re willing to miss out on rather than what you want!  It’s all good.  There is a “chain” of raw/vegan cafes (limited to California) called Cafe Gratitude that we love to go to for their amazing desserts.  Anyone with food allergies will know how hard it is to find yummy treats that don’t contain eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten or sugar.  And after riding 50 to 80 miles in the surrounding hills of the valley – I always deserve a treat!  My favorite pie on their menu is a lovely, live coconut cream pie that is so simple to make and delightful in it’s flavors – you won’t believe that it’s actually good for you.  Here is my adapted recipe that was inspired from this delightful restaurant.

I love fresh so when there’s time I start with a whole young coconut with the husk on.  I shake it to see how fresh it is – if there is a sloshing sound it is beginning to dry out.  Buy the one that makes no sound.  (This adaptation is totally optional – so if you don’t want to go through this process you can skip to the recipe below!)

First, drill the coconut with an electric drill – 3 holes in the top – and drain all the water out.  Then (with the help of my husband and a good strong knife – the natives use machetes for this) hack off the top of the coconut.  When the coconut is open, scrape all the meat out using a metal spoon.  It should peel off smoothly and easily.  Put the meat in a measuring cup (there should be about 1 cup) and save for the filling. 

So, to begin let’s make the crust.  you will need:

2 and 1/2 cups dried organic coconut flakes
1 and 1/2 cup raw pecans
1 cup pitted medjool dates (pressed into the measuring cup)
1 tsp pure organic vanilla extract
Small amount of sea salt

Process these ingredients in a food processor until crumbly (resembles graham cracker crust).  If mixture is too dry – add dates, if it is too wet – add pecans.  Transfer mixture to a pie plate and press your crust evenly on the bottom and up the sides, forming a ridge along the top as you would a regular pie crust.  You won’t be able to make a fancy edge because of the crumbly texture – but you can pinch it into a bit of a shape.  Set aside.

Now for the filling – you will need:

2 and 1/4 cups organic coconut milk (use the non-lite version for best flavor)
1 cup coconut meat, either the fresh mentioned above or dried flakes are fine too
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and pressed into the measuring cup
2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lecithin granules
1/2 cup organic, extra-virgin, unrefined coconut oil
Few pinches of sea salt

Put all ingredients into a vita-mix, high-powered blender or food processor.  (The Vita-mix makes it crazy creamy!)  Blend until smooth.  Pour blended mixture into the prepared pie crust and put into the refrigerator.  The filling will set up nicely in about an hour. 

I like to serve with fresh berries ands sprigs of mint.   Enjoy!