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Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Vanilla Salt

There are all kinds of fancy salts out there for you to blow your paycheck on. Confession: I own many of them

Thankfully, one of my favorite salts is one that I make at home. Vanilla salt couldn't be easier to prepare, and the end result is lovely. I have two methods for creating vanilla salt, yielding different yet equally delightful results. I am sharing both methods with you; try each one and see which fits you best. I use my vanilla salt in baked goods, with fruit, over roasted sweet potatoes or squash, sprinkled over chocolaty desserts, or with roasted or grilled meats (helloooooo pork and chicken). I think you'll like it too. If you decorate the jar with a cute label and a bit of ribbon, you have a wonderful homemade gift. 

Vanilla beans are über-expensive if you buy them one-by-one or in small quantities. The trick is to buy a big bag and split the cost with a friend. A fellow foodie and I split the cost of this 1/2 pound bag of vanilla beans. We each ended up with about 30 beans for only about $13 per person. Sweet deal, right? 

Recipe: Cabbage Apple Slaw (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, ACD)

Recipe: Cabbage Apple Slaw (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, ACD)

Cabbage-Apple Slaw

Simple slaws are ideal for every season of the year. They are crunchy and light, yet satisfying and filling, and endlessly adaptable to a variety of seasonal produce. Despite this, my favorite time of year for slaws is late summer and fall, when farmers markets are bursting with fresh, crisp cabbages. The sweet, glistening, unblemished leaves tempt me from every vendor table, and inevitably, I go home with a weighty cabbage in my market basket.

I was inspired to combine my beloved green cabbage with another locally grown favorite, the spectacular Honeycrisp apple. The Honeycrisp was developed by the University of Minnesota's Horicultural Research Center in the 1970s, and has won a devoted following of fans. There are a number of wonderful orchards in the Minnesota and Western Wisconsin that grow this apple, and every year I anticipate the arrival of locally grown Honeycrisps at my farmers market and co-op. The flavor is sweet like honey and slightly tart, and it has a marvelously crisp, juicy texture that is, in my opinion, the sign of a perfect apple. Equally good for eating raw or baking, Honeycrisp is one of my favorite apples, hands down. 

The combination of sweet, fresh cabbage, sweet and tart apple, plump golden raisins, toasted caraway, and a hint of nutmeg in this slaw is magic. It only takes minutes to prepare, and it holds up in the fridge for 2 days without becoming soggy. 

Oh me oh my, autumn tastes so good. 

Recipe: Minted Papaya Avocado Salad (gluten-free, vegan, raw)

Recipe: Minted Papaya Avocado Salad (gluten-free, vegan, raw)

Minted Papaya Avocado Salad

It is so hot in Minneapolis. We have a heat index of 115º F and a dewpoint that is higher than the Amazon. I'm not kidding. Our dewpoint was 86 on Sunday. The only other place in the Western Hemisphere with a dewpoint over 80 at the time was the Amazon, and that was in the low 80s. Take that, Brazil, ha!

Why do I live in a place that tortures residents with windchills of -30º F in the winter and then does this in the summer? Am I insane?

To add insult to injury, the power went out on my street last night. I was out picking up an air conditioner from my friend, and returned home about 10:30 pm to find my block powerless. So, I left the air conditioner in my car, and I spent the evening sweating my brains out. The air was still, heavy, and hot, and had it not been 11:30 by the time I was ready to get to bed, I would have sought refuge at someone else's house! It was awful. I kept waking through the night, only to find myself drenched in sweat and feeling faint. At 5 am I gave up, took another shower, gathered my stuff, and went to work, which is where I sit now, basking in the air conditioning. The power on my street may not be fixed until 6 pm tonight, and I'm imagining that all the food in my fridge is going bad as I write this. Ugh. Being without electricity is fine when you are living in a situation that doesn't require it, like when you're camping or at a cabin. But when everything you need to live your daily life is dependent on electricity, it sure is a pain to not have it.

Easy Grilled Tuna and Vegan Grapefruit-Fennel Salad (gluten-free, ACD)

Easy Grilled Tuna and Vegan Grapefruit-Fennel Salad (gluten-free, ACD)

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I grew up in the heart of Wisconsin and now live in Minnesota, both unique places where people grill outside all year long. Even in the coldest temperatures, a true upper Midwesterner shovels a path through the snow to their grill, throws on a hat and a flannel shirt, and drinks a beer or brandy to stay warm while flipping burgers and tending racks of ribs.  

But for the fair-weather grillers of the world (people most everywhere else, I think), the warmer temperatures finally gracing the Northern Hemisphere officially kicks off grilling season. 

My dad has been known to stand outside in a blizzard for the perfect grilled shrimp, but thankfully, the whether on my trip back home over Mother's Day weekend was far from blizzardlike. It was in the mid-60s, sunny and lovely. Perfect for grilling! We found beautiful wild-caught sashimi-grade tuna steaks at Festival Foods for only $9.99/pound. The meat was bright pink and dense, and each steak was nearly 2 inches thick! We seasoned them simply and grilled them over pecan wood for a sweet, lightly smoky flavor. 

The tuna was perfect. We served it with baked sweet potatoes, pan-seared asparagus, and a light and crunchy salad of grapefruit, fennel, and onion.. The meal was so easy to prepare and so delicious, I knew I wanted to share some of it with you. And thus, here are two recipes: Easy Grilled Tuna and Grapefruit-Fennel Salad.

Whip out that grill, and get cooking!

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Raw Coconut Cacao Bites and a Tropical Traditions Giveaway

Raw Coconut Cacao Bites and a Tropical Traditions Giveaway

Raw Coconut Cacao Fudge

 It's no secret I love everything from Tropical Traditions. Their coconut products are made from fresh organic coconuts, grown by dedicated family farms in the Phillipines. Everything is produced small batches and tested for quality, ensuring that we receive the freshest, highest quality coconut oil possible.  I feel confident that when I'm using their products, I'm supporting a good manufacturing practices and getting the most nutrition possible for my money.

One of my favorite products is their Coconut Cream Concentrate, a delightful product that goes by the name of coconut butter by other brands and in the blogosphere. I've made my own coconut butter before (shredded coconut + food processor + patience), but the texture is always a little gritty. While the dollar amount is much friendlier on homemade coconut butter, I really prefer the creamy smooth texture of the storebought. So, sometimes I splurge and buy a jar. Or, I agree to do a giveaway and take part in a little complimentary coconut goodness.

Coconut Cream Concentrate is made from the flesh and fat of raw coconuts. It is white, thick, and fragrant, full of coconut goodness. When chilled, it is very firm, almost like candy. When softened, it is creamy and smooth, like a delectable spread. It can also be mixed with hot water to create a natural coconut milk or used in soups, stews, and daals to create a wonderfully rich coconut broth. Because it is naturally sweet, Coconut Cream Concentrate is also the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth on a sugar-free diet. A little chunk on its own is a wonderfully satisfying treat, and it is brilliant included in sweet treats from pie to truffles, cookies to smoothies. Because it hardens at cool temperatures, it is great to use when you want a firm consistency in raw desserts.  

In addition to being delicious, Coconut Cream Concentrate offers all the awesome nutrition of raw coconut, including fiber, protein, medium-chain fatty acids, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and lauric acid (a naturally occurring acid with potentially antimicrobial and antiviral properties).

Please note that Coconut Cream Concentrate or coconut butter is different than coconut oil. Coconut Cream Concentrate contains fiber and fat, while coconut oil is just oil.  Since they have very different properties, the two cannot be used interchangeably. Coconut Cream Concentrate should never be used as a cooking oil, and cannot substitute coconut oil in any recipe.

Inspired by my love for Coconut Cream Concentrate, I made a recipe for you. It is kind of like fudge, kind of like candy, and totally delicious. Even better, I'm giving away a 32-oz. jar of Coconut Cream Concentrate to one lucky reader!