Lemon-leek fusilli with shrimp & fresh herbs

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Who doesn’t love Tuesday night pasta?

Remember when you were a kid and food themes were a big deal? Those golden days when you could go to bed and sleep soundly knowing your next big meal would involve some form of macaroni enveloped in a thick layer of phosphorescent powder and topped with salty but weirdly addictive bacon bits and ketchup? I do. It was called Tuesday night pasta, and I loved it.

Of course, my tastes have changed since then. I no longer eat macaroni and cheese from a box (most of the time) and I’d rather eat real provolone and brie than mix strange powders with milk and hope it makes cheese (I still don’t know what KD is made of and I’d rather not know, now that I think about it). Habits however, die hard. Being honest, I’m glad my parents had a set weekly regimen when I was younger because I’d rather know what I’m eating in advance then get home and stare blankly into a refrigerator stocked with only two potatoes, condiments and a liter of soda. This is why meal planning is so useful. Instead of buying ingredients on a whim, you only buy what you need and save the big spending for a single day of the week. Instead of being recipe-stumped, you think up seven days of possible meals in one day and stick to it. Pasta Tuesday? It’s still pretty awesome.

This recipe is so quick to make! All you really need is pasta, some kind of onion/leek/root, butter, a lemon, parsley, frozen shrimp and a sharp cheese. Anything else you put on just adds Pizazz. I love leeks but be careful when preparing them because they often have dirt in odd places and need a thorough washing before you add them to the pan. The shrimp I used were Jumbo deveined and although I assume you could buy fresh shrimp somewhere (Not in No Frills you can’t!), frozen work fine. Just take them out of the freezer earlier that day and they’ll be ready to go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 small leek, cleaned thoroughly and thinly sliced (or a few green onions/1 regular white onion)
  • 1 bag jumbo shrimp, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped very finely
  • 1/3 cup  grated parmesan/ firm goat cheese/ feta
  • Salt and pepper

How to:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, a little oil and pasta. Cook  according to package instructions or until al dente (slightly chewy but cooked through), drain (reserving 1/4 cup cooking water!) and set aside

  2. Heat butter over medium heat in a pan, swirling pan and watching closely until butter starts to caramelize. Once butter is slightly nutty and golden, take your pan off the heat for a minute. Add thinly sliced leeks and return pan to heat, cooking until translucent

  3. Add shrimp, and cook for a few minutes until both sides are pink and shrimp is slightly springy (so cooked through, if you’re not sure slice into one!) Stir in lemon zest and juice and season with pepper and salt.  Add 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, turn up heat and cook about 1 minute more until sauce thickens slightly. Add your cheese, parsley  and mix. Transfer to a large bowl

  4. Serve while still hot, adding more cheese and/or butter as desired

Cherry Coffeecake

How do you eat your layered desserts? do you try to get every component in one bite or do you dissect the layers, choosing, for example, to first eat the meringue and then the crust from a lemon meringue pie? If you’re one of the many people who like to go top-down, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I too, belong to the muffin-top-association-of-impatient-eaters. Coffeecakes are no exception and more often then not I find myself in the kitchen helplessly stealing (side-note: is it really stealing if you made it yourself?) pieces of crumbly goodness from desserts like this cherry cake I made Tuesday night.  Non-withstanding the slightly long ingredients list, this fruity cake is incredibly easy to make and because of it’s healthy components can be eaten both as dessert and breakfast. If you’re feeling especially virtuous, you could remove the crumble topping completely and just eat the cake as is, but really, why would you?  I like the cherries+dark chocolate combination but i can also imagine using cranberries and white chocolate, blueberries and whole almond pieces or raspberries and pistachios, every combination of course bettered by a final dollop of freshly whipped cream.

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Ingredients:

1 egg

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

1/2 cup yogurt

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 cup 1/4 cup almond flour

1 cup all purpose flour

3 tsp cinnamon

zest of one orange

1/4 tsp salt

1 heaping tbsp baking powder

1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped roughly (substitute white chocolate chunks or chopped nuts)

1 cup cherries, sliced in fours (or any other berry)

for streusel:

1/4 cup almond flour

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp cold butter

How to:

-Preheat oven to 180 c and line a large rectangular 8×10 pan with parchment and butter along the sides (really I just eyeballed the size of my pan by looking at how much batter I had)

  1. Combine first 6 (wet) ingredients in a large bowl and whisk by hand until airy
  2. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients, including cherries, until cherries and chocolate chunks are thoroughly covered in flour (this is to prevent excess water coming out of the fruit during baking)
  3. Mix dry into wet, folding mixture until completely homogonized
  4. Spread mixture into prepared pan, making sure the batter is level so it bakes evenly
  5. Make streusel in what was once the dry bowl, combing the almond flour, brown sugar and cold butter with your hands (or with a pastry cutter) quickly, until you achieve a crumbly, lumpy mixture
  6. Spread over batter in pan evenly
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes (start checking at the 40 min mark)
  8. Let cool and enjoy with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Almond sponge cake with vanilla whipped cream

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Unexpected deliciousness happens, it really does. Yesterday my family was having a few guests over and five minutes into grocery shopping for salad ingredients and fawning over ready made black forest cakes, my mother says, we haven’t even opened the almond flour I bought a month ago, why don’t we just make a cake ourselves? and before you could say presto-chango, we were back home hulling organic strawberries and melting chocolate in the microwave. We didn’t have any specific cake in mind so we decided to go with the classic eastern-European nut sponge that so many Balkan women know by heart.  Sort a few eggwhites, add as many tablespoons of sugar as there are eggs, whip until stiff and fold in ground nuts. Boom. I think it goes against family tradition to closely adhere to baking guidelines anyway, especially as most of our family recipes don’t exactly explain things very well (bake until done? heat oven until hot? what?) so exact quantities are usually left to interpretation.  Once the sponges were baked, we spread both cakes with melted chocolate, covered them with vanilla whipped cream and threw in a few strawberries. Simple, but overwhelmingly delicious. Too delicious in fact, to not share  with the world. This recipe is rough around the edges, so feel free to change it up. We used strawberries but I’m sure it would be even more delicious with fresh raspberries. I used lactose-free whipped cream (#thereisagod) and Ikea dark chocolate (I kid you not, it’s super yum) as well as ready made almond flour from Costco. Give it a go! nobody will never know it only took an hour start-to-finish.

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar (to stiffen the egg-whites)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate melted
  • 1 cup strawberries (or other fruit), sliced into fours.
  • 1 carton whipping cream (lactose-free or no), whipped
  • 1 vanilla pod

How to:

– Pre-heat oven to 350. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and butter sides

  • Separate eggs, keeping egg yolks for another recipe.
  • Whip egg-whites with sugar and cream of tartar until mixture is so thick, you can lift your bowl upside down and egg-whites won’t budge (aka, stiff peaks).
  • Carefully fold in almonds until thoroughly combined and divide between pans.
  • Bake until cakes are golden, set and a toothpick comes out easily (about 20 minutes, but different for every oven).
  • Cool.
  • Spread sponges with melted dark chocolate and let cool in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
  • Whip cream with the vanilla until stiff.
  • Cover one of the sponges with 1/3 of the whipped cream, add strawberry slices, another 1/3 of the whipped cream and cover with other sponge.
  • Add a final layer whipped cream, decorate with strawberries and more chocolate drizzle.
  • Let sit in the fridge until dinner is served.
  • Enjoy!

 

Mostly Raw & vegan Christmas Fruitcake

I remember the first time I tried fruit cake. I was in grade 6 and my class was having a holiday potluck. Like any child, I was curious. Fruit cake? cream cheese? maraschino cherry? that sounds fancy! Can I have a slice? I thought it would be moist and fluffy and taste like Christmas. I remember how large the piece seemed on my poor little plastic plate and how heavy the bite of fruitcake lay on my fork. I stared at it for a bit, unsure of what to expect and then brought it up to my mouth. First came the hit of dried fruit, which was all stale and bitter and didn’t taste like Christmas at all!  Next was the fruitcake itself, which was so hard I could barely get it down my throat. Literally, it just stuck there for a couple minutes while I ran around looking for water. I think it tasted like cardboard. The icing, which threw me off cupcakes forever, was the absolute worst part. So sweet it made my stomach turn and my tongue go numb. I discretely threw the rest of my piece away and went straight for the fruit platter. Real food to the rescue!

Like every elementary school trauma, my fruitcake episode was eventually forgotten. I ate fruitcake several times after that and actually loved it, the version I liked the most coming from a German market that actually used good ingredients, plenty of booze and real cream cheese. I learned that homemade fruitcake was delicious and that fruitcake, much to my delight, even came in chocolate format. I never learned to like that icing though. To this day, I’d rather do wheat-grass shots than eat the sickly white stuff.

This recipe, which I turned into a Yule Log for Christmas, is my absolute favorite version of the classic cake. It uses mostly raw ingredients (so no flour, eggs or butter) except for the toasted nuts and booze, and instead of cream cheese, it has a coconut cashew cream frosting. Nothing in the cake is unnatural and none withstanding the kirsch, which you could easily replace with fresh fruit juice, the cake is completely refined sugar free. The recipe isn’t too complicated either, is just takes a bit of time and planning and because it’s raw, you don’t even need an oven. The flavor, most importantly, is incredible – just as spicy and sweet as the German version but with much healthier ingredients. Instead of being heavy like most fruitcakes, this one is light and refreshing, perfect for after a light meal or even for breakfast.

– Make the fruit filling an hour before making the rest of the cake as the fruit and nuts need a while to properly soak absorb the kirsch

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Soaked Filling:

3/4 cup raisins and prunes

1/4 cup kirsch

2/3 cup walnuts, toasted in a pan or in the oven

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a little bowl and set aside for about an hour

Fruit cake dough:

1 cup almonds

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup cashews

3/4 cup dates

1 orange, juiced

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp orange zest (from the juiced orange)

2 tsp coconut extract

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

2 tbsp honey (or agave)

How to:

  1. Grind the cashews, coconut and almonds in a food processor until mixture is completely ground
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until a dough forms
  3. Take a large rectangular piece of plastic wrap and place on an empty work surface
  4. Empty out the dough and using hands, spread evenly onto plastic wrap forming a square
  5. Take soaked filling and spread over complete surface of dough as you would cinnamon sugar for cinnamon buns
  6. Away from yourself, and using the plastic wrap to help, roll the dough into a log shape
  7. Cover with whipped coconut cashew cream, decorate with fruit and orange peel and chill in fridge until ready to be served

Coconut Cashew Cream Ingredients:

1 cup coconut milk

3/4 cup unsalted cashews, roasted lightly

4 tbsp agave nectar

2 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup melted coconut oil (cooled to room temp)

2 – 4 tbsp almond milk (For whipping)

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How to:

  1. Blend all but the coconut oil until smooth in a high speed blender or using an immersion blender
  2. Add the oil and blend again
  3. Chill in the fridge overnight (or in the freezer for an hour) until completely solid
  4. Scoop cashew cream into a small bowl and whip using a hand mixer until light and fluffy, adding the almond milk as you go.
  5. Use for any recipe that requires cream cheese or Chantilly cream

Best Ever Rum Raisin Banana Bread

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Today I woke up with a major craving for banana bread. Scratch that, for bananas in general. I must have had some kind of weird vitamin deficiency going on because ripe, speckled bananas were all I could think about until I finally caved and walked to superstore with my mom to get me some nanas. Did you know that if you buy a bag of ripe bananas from superstore they only cost about a dollar? and they’re not even overripe, they’re perfect! miles away from their sad, green counterparts. They’re adorable and come in a little white paper baggie that says “eat me” on it. So cute in fact, that they sat in my lap during the taxi-ride home while the rest of our groceries got put in the trunk. Yes, I am that devoted. That much devotion deserved a very good banana bread recipe and because I wasn’t fully satisfied with my own, I referred to a couple different cookbook recipes and in typical Maja fashion added chia seeds, pecans and alcohol. Completely contradictory? maybe so, but in my books, if it has raisins in it, it’s gotta have rum too. In any case, what turned out is probably the best banana bread I’ve ever made. It’s delectably moist, crunchy from all the pecans and perfectly sweet and salty. You could easily replace the raisins with chocolate, the pecans with other nuts and the butter with coconut oil. If you do and can eat butter however, I highly recommend using one with a higher butterfat ratio such as one of the polish butters from the Italian center. I drizzled mine with smooth natural peanut butter. I totally encourage that too.

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Ingredients

    1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

    ¼ cup wheat bran

    3 tbsp chia seeds

    1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

    3/4 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   3/4 cup brown sugar

   100 grams butter (7 tbsp), softened

    2 large eggs

    2 tablespoons milk

    3 ripe bananas

    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    1/4 cup white sultanas

     ½ tsp rum or 6 drops rum extract

 How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line a standard issue loaf pan with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.
  3. Using a hand mixer, in a medium bowl cream brown sugar, rum and butter until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl often, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and then the milk, beating until smooth
  5. Add flour mixture and mashed banana  to creamed mixture and fold in nuts and sultanas.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in oven for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.