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Berry and Nut Butter Smoothie

August 05, 2017

It's berry season, folks. Graham and I have been picking wild blueberries for about a month now, and the blackberries are starting to hit their stride. He wants me to tell you that he found the wild blueberries in a nearby bog and that they're much better than farmed blueberries (they are, and he did). It was a really cold July, closer to 15C than 30C most days, so everything is a little later than it should be. It's such a luxury to be able to cross the street and pick blackberries growing wild along the water, or walk a few hundred metres to gather enough to last days. They're a little tricky to pick, so luckily for us, they're left alone in large part and there are always lots. 

What do you think of vegetable gardens in front yards? We have ours in front of our house because the back garden is all stones and carefully enclosed gardens with bushes, trees, and flowers. There isn't much space for vegetables, so we ripped up half the lawn in the front and planted food. We live in a fancy neighbourhood just a few minutes from the downtown core (we don't fit in & it's painfully obvious, hah) and strangers walking along the street come into our yard and just stand there gawking at the garden. It's so weird. I can see you, jerks. It doesn't seem so strange to grow vegetables in the front yard, but I've had people come into the house and tell me it's a 'poor person garden' or 'how yards looked during the war' or that they simply don't like it, so I guess rich people don't grow their own food? 

Anyway, the reason I really have trouble wrapping my head around it is because if you have space, why wouldn't you use it to grow food?! Lawns are the fucking worst and not only pointless, but also a huge drain on resources. Even the tiniest spaces can grow food, and that's about as local as you can get. It's going to taste a lot better than anything you can buy, your footprint is a lot lower, and growing your own costs virtually nothing. We planted about 30 kohlrabi plants, and each kohlrabi at the store costs €1,50. That's 45 bucks right there. I know a lot of people live in apartments and can't have gardens, but if you have a yard, you should grow something to eat! Maybe you hate gardens - but I can't think of a real argument against having one. There's significant and increasing evidence that gardening has a positive impact on mental and physical health. Here's an excellent and very recent study on it.

I didn't mean to talk so much about urban gardening, but it's so important, and I regret nothing. This is a simple, straightforward recipe for a smoothie using the best of the season with lots of berries. It's a variation of a smoothie I've been making a lot because we haven't been buying any frozen berries, but  it's a million times better with than without. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all great choices, so use what you have on hand. Nut butter adds protein and even though it's a minimal number of ingredients, it's a great combination. The smoothies in the pictures are made with blueberries and I think they make the prettiest colour.

Berry & Nut Butter Smoothie
Serves 2

1 cup non-dairy milk (oat or nut)
1 large overripe banana
3/4 cup berries
2 tablespoons nut or seed butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 soft dates or 1 teaspoon honey (optional, see tip)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and mix at high speed until smooth. Serve chilled and add a teaspoon of chia if you'd like.

• Using a frozen banana will result in a creamier, more milkshake-like smoothie. I recommend using either frozen banana or frozen berries to make sure it's cold enough, unless you want it to be room temperature.
• Try mixed berries, or raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries.
• I use peanut butter but any nut or seed butter would be great.
• Only use the sweetener if you have to use a less ripe banana. Otherwise it's sweet enough without.
• This makes a really great chia pudding. Just stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds, mix, and let it set in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

Keep in touch! Follow @occasionallyeggs on instagram and tag me in your recreations, I love to see what you're making!

Strawberry Tahini Freezer Fudge

July 20, 2017

I'm a little late with this post, and the strawberry season has passed here. I'm waiting on blackberries and tomatoes now, which should be ready in the next week or so. My mom has been strawberry picking in Manitoba, though, so I know they're going strong in colder climates, and I don't want to wait until next year to share this recipe. 

I haven't been as present lately here because I've been working on a cookbook proposal - I know a lot of bloggers keep books tightly under wraps but I'm just sending it into agents and publishers, so I don't see why I shouldn't tell you about it! I don't have an offer (yet?!). I started it about a year ago but then it got pushed to the side because I was moving around, and then I wasn't happy with the pictures anymore, but I started re-working it a couple of weeks ago. Keep your fingers crossed! (By the way, the German version of that is 'hold onto your thumb' and my omi thinks that the english version is just hilarious. She tried to cross her fingers and just fell apart laughing. According to her, it's physically impossible.) 

On to the recipe. This is a raw freezer fudge made with simple, wholesome ingredients. I was a little skeptical after my first taste but I ended up demolishing it, despite cutting into tiny bite size pieces to try to control myself. If you don't like tahini very much you can replace it with almond butter, and if you want to give it to kids I recommend that. The tahini adds a little bitterness that I liked, but Graham found a little overpowering. I think he was unimpressed by my calling it fudge when it's obviously not actual fudge, hah. Depending on how mild your tahini is, you might not have much or any bitterness coming through, so use your discretion. The coconut milk in the recipe makes the texture more like ice cream pieces than fudge, like tiny squares of ice cream cake. It's freezer fudge. And it only has five ingredients.

Strawberry Tahini Freezer Fudge
Makes about 30 squares

1 cup ripe strawberries
1/2 cup coconut cream*
1/4 cup tahini or almond butter
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder

1/4 cup melted dark chocolate, for topping 

Line a small pan with parchment paper (I used a 20cm / 8 inch pan). Place the strawberries, coconut cream, tahini, honey, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Blend at high speed until completely smooth. Taste for sweetness, and add additional honey if necessary. Pour into the prepared pan and place it in the freezer for at least two hours or overnight.

Take the fudge out of the freezer and cut into 3cm / 1 inch squares. Drizzle the melted chocolate over top and add some shredded coconut if you'd like. Keep the fudge in the freezer and eat immediately after taking it out as it will melt quickly. 

It should keep for at least a couple of weeks, but it hasn't lasted past a couple of days in my house!

• It really doesn't matter what size of pan you use as you're not baking anything. The squares were a couple of centimetres high for me but they could be thicker if you have a smaller container.
• If you want to do some snacking, keeping them in the cold container while you eat helps a bit. They lasted a solid half hour for me before starting to really melt if I kept them in the freezer container.
• For a fully raw option, use raw chocolate for the topping. 

1. This is scooped from the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk.
2. Honey will result in a softer texture, but maple syrup is a fine substitute if you don't eat honey.

Keep in touch! Follow @occasionallyeggs on instagram and tag me in your recreations, I love to see what you're making! 

Vegan Crêpes

July 01, 2017

It's finally sunny this evening after a solid week of rain. Graham said today that we had rain all winter, and it's not supposed to rain in the summer! He's very much a prairie boy and we're used to very hot, sunny summers with thunderstorms at night and very little rain during the day. I don't mind the cooler weather but the rain has been a little much. We were supposed to go to Sweden this week but didn't make it due to train issues, so we took a week at home instead. I've been working all week photographing recipes for a project so I was stuck inside most of the time anyway.

I've had more vegan crêpe failures over the past few years than I care to count. I've tried using chia, flax, banana, nut butter, agar, potato... they either didn't work or tasted like the bottom of a shoe. I had been regularly making them with eggs but my egg consumption is virtually nil these days and I needed an egg-free version. Turns out the easiest, foolproof way to make vegan crêpes is with a little arrowroot flour! I also find the vegan recipe to be a little lighter than making them with eggs, and they sit easier in my stomach. These are, of course, not the very fatty and buttery crêpes I grew up with (my mom loves butter) but I definitely prefer them this way. Sorry mama.

This is a sweet recipe, but I often cut the sugar down to a pinch and fill them with vegetables for a quick and easy dinner. I've included some sweet topping ideas at the bottom of the recipe if you don't want to use strawberries or if they're out of season. You can just have them very simply with a little maple syrup if you'd like, but it makes it a little special to add something extra. The actual crêpes are not extremely sweet on their own.

Vegan Crêpes
Makes about four, but can be doubled

1 cup light spelt flour*
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup oat or almond milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus extra for cooking*

Place the flour, coconut sugar, arrowroot, vanilla, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre and pour the milk and oil into the dry ingredients. Gently whisk until just mixed.

Heat a large, flat bottomed pan on medium heat with a teaspoon of oil. Make sure the pan is hot before adding your first crépe, and then ladle in about a quarter of the batter (I use a smaller ladle) and rotate the pan to coat the base of the pan in batter. Cook for about a minute and 30 seconds, then flip and cook for another minute on the other side. Repeat for the remaining batter and serve hot.

The crêpes pictured were served with coconut whipped cream, strawberries, and lemon zest.

1. You can use whole spelt flour as well, and I generally do. For a more traditional crêpe use light spelt, and if you're serving them for breakfast definitely use whole-grain.
2. I've also made this recipe with nut oils like hazelnut and walnut, and they were delicious alternatives to coconut oil.
3. Flip confidently! If they break it may be either that your pan was too cold, or that you flipped too slowly, or that they didn't cook long enough before flipping - they'll still taste good if they break, but you might want to try making them once before showing off to your friends.

Suggested toppings:
Any type of berries
Applesauce and cinnamon
Raw chocolate (and marzipan, why not)
Chopped nuts
Coconut whipped cream
Lemon curd
Roasted fruits (peaches, rhubarb, etc.)
Maple syrup

Colourful Early Summer Salad

June 13, 2017

The title for this recipe could easily stretch for miles - salad with roasted rhubarb, garlic rye sourdough croutons, vegan labneh balls, blueberries, lemon dressing, and so on. They're all important players in this major meal of a salad. You know it's good when you want to steal all the bits and pieces before they reach the salad (those croutons). Graham and I happily ate the whole bowl-full for lunch, and normally he only grudgingly eats salad. It is a bit of work to make all the different elements, but it's mostly a bit of chopping which you'd be doing for any other salad anyway. And you're going to want those croutons. We were both sneaking all the end bits of croutons right off the pan when I was trying to take pictures, they're so good.

I chose mâche lettuce (feldsalat in German) for this recipe mostly because it's my favourite type of salad green, but I also think it holds up well in the salad despite the delicate nature of the leaves. You should be able to find it at this time of year. Here in Germany and elsewhere in northwestern Europe, it's available through the winter and spring as a colder-weather green. Mâche has three times as much vitamin C as regular lettuce, and it's higher in other nutrients as well. But really, this salad is all about the toppings. If you don't want to make and roll the labneh balls from scratch, you can use a soft goat cheese (if you eat cheese) or substitute dollops of your favourite thick yogurt. The creaminess they add takes everything over the top so I recommend taking the extra time to make them, and you'll have leftover labneh to use elsewhere. You can also use a gluten-free bread instead of rye if you're intolerant but all in all this is a pretty allergy friendly dish. I used this bread recipe (my go-to bread, but I sub 1/2 cup sourdough starter for the yeast now) but you can use a store-bought dark rye or other type of sourdough.

Salad should never be boring, and this is proof! Give me hearty, exciting salads every day of the week and I'm a happy camper. And, I mean, bread. In salad.

Colourful Late Spring Salad
Serves 2-4, as a meal or side

Base Salad

125 grams (about 4 cups) mâche lettuce

1 cup cooked french lentils
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Place all of the ingredients into a large serving bowl, in the order listed. Top with the roasted rhubarb, croutons, and labneh, then finish with the lemon dressing. Serve immediately.

Honey Roasted Rhubarb

2 stalks rhubarb, sliced

1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix to coat the rhubarb with honey, and then bake for about ten minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and beginning to caramelise.

Garlic Rye Croutons

2 thick slices (3 cm) rye sourdough, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the bread onto the pan and then add the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Use your hands to work the oil into the bread, squeezing as you mix the ingredients. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Labneh Balls

To make the labneh, follow this recipe (it will take at least a day to thicken). Take small spoonfuls from the finished product and gently roll them with your hands into balls. Make as many as you like for the salad, but I recommend between 10-15.

Honey Lemon Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of one lemon, about 1/4-1/3 cup
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place all of the ingredients into a small jar and shake until fully combined. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week, but you shouldn't have leftovers.

Strawberry Elderflower Scone Cake

June 09, 2017

I didn't really plan to post this recipe. We try to go on walks or bike rides every evening when the weather is nice, and we were biking through a park near our house when I found what I thought was elderflower. I asked to make sure that I wasn't picking some horribly poisonous plant (Sophie's advice was to look for bugs collecting around the flowers and a strong sweet scent), then went back the next evening to pick some more to use in a recipe. Turns out elderflower should be used right after it's picked. Most of it wilted completely overnight, so I cut some more from a tree across the street, hah. If you've ever eaten lilacs, elderflower has a similar citrus/floral flavour. It's pleasant in small amounts but I think it could easily become overpowering.

In this case, some elderflower is used in the giant scone that makes up the cake, and a little more is sprinkled on each layer for a subtle floral taste. I loved it, and I recommend seeking some out to try in this recipe (just make sure you don't pick the wrong plant). It's not absolutely necessary if you can't find it, and the cake will be delicious without it, but perhaps not quite as pretty. White lilac blossoms would be beautiful and just as tasty if you don't have elderflower.

I was thinking that I'd make little strawberry shortcake scones with elderflower, but remembered that I still haven't made a damn biscuit cutter, so I shaped one big scone to see how it'd turn out. Turns out a giant scone cake is 1. much easier than cutting scones, and 2. very, very pretty. I imagined serving it at a baby shower or spring dinner party (as if I ever have dinner parties), but it's also so simple that you can make it any time. The dough is made mostly in a food processor, the ingredient list is short and sweet, and since you don't have to cut individual scones, it comes together quickly. You don't need to roll or fold anything either. In terms of prep time, just remember that a can of coconut milk needs to go in the fridge the day before making the coconut whipped cream. There's just a small amount of (coconut) sugar in the whole cake, but using fresh seasonal strawberries makes it sweet enough without being cloying. 

If you'd like, you can make the different elements of the cake a day in advance, and then assemble it right before serving. If you assemble it too early it won't be as good - the cream may soak into the scone and make it too soft, and it's not as nice after it's been sitting in the fridge, even for a few hours.  It's a snap to assemble in just a few minutes as it doesn't need to look perfect. Don't let the fancy picture styling fool you, I put this cake together in about five minutes. It's all the junk around it that took time.

Strawberry Elderflower Scone Cake
Makes a 20cm cake, or serves 8-10 people

Elderflower Lemon Scone

2 cups light spelt flour, or a combination of light and whole spelt*
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup solid coconut oil*
3/4 cup coconut milk*
2 tablespoons elderflower blossoms*
Zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, arrowroot, vanilla, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Blend to combine, and then add the coconut oil. Pulse until the coconut oil is cut into small pieces and the mixture looks slightly sandy. 

Move the flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, elderflower blossoms, and lemon zest. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. The dough will be a little wetter than scone dough usually is, but that's normal. 

Take the dough out of the bowl and use your hands to form a rough ball, then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Press down with your hands to make a circle of dough that's about 5cm high. Use a light hand to keep the coconut oil from melting.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden in colour. Let the scone cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before gently placing it on a rack to cool completely. It will be delicate while it's still warm. 

Once it's cool, cut it in half with a serrated knife. Use about half of the whipped cream and 1 cup of strawberries as filling in the centre, and sprinkle some more elderflower blossoms over it. Place the other half of the scone on top and then add the remaining cream and strawberries. Top with extra blossoms, and serve right away.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full-fat coconut milk (355 ml), chilled for at least 24 hours
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder

Scoop the hardened cream from the can, leaving any remaining water (use this in smoothies). Add it to a mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla, then whip with an electric beater at a high speed until peaks form and it looks like whipped cream. Use immediately (it can harden again if refrigerated for longer than about half an hour). 

Strawberry Topping

500 grams ripe strawberries (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

Wash the strawberries and remove the greens. Cut them in halves or quarters, depending on how big they are. Place the berries in a bowl with the honey and stir until they're coated. 

1. Since this is a dessert, I wouldn't use more than half whole spelt flour. I use a similar base recipe for biscuits with whole spelt, but it will be a little tougher than if you just use light spelt.
2. If your kitchen is very warm and your coconut oil has melted, measure out the 1/4 cup and spread it out onto parchment and pop it in the freezer for about ten minutes.
3. Mix a little bit of the water from the canned coconut milk in with the cream to get the same consistency of whipping cream for your coconut milk in this recipe. 
4. I used one head of elderflower blossoms to get 2 tablespoons. 

• If you don't have a food processor, you can cut the coconut oil in with a pastry cutter or two knives, but using knives is deeply frustrating.
• Make sure to use a type of coconut milk that doesn't have added thickeners for the best results (in both the scone and the whipped cream). Some people swear by aroy-d brand, and I generally find that less expensive varieties work better. I use the denns brand here in Germany and it always works perfectly.
• Always look for small, deep red strawberries. Smaller ones are sweeter than their large counterparts.