Plummy Blueberry Cherry Cake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a while since I’ve made one of my famous raw cakes, much to the distress of my poor husband, who then has to resort to junk-food sweets to stave off his inner sugar-monster. Part of the problem has been my new blender. I was kind of dreading facing the reality of having swapped out a seriously mean machine for a pathetic piece of you know what.

It’s part of being a mum. When your son says how much he loves and misses the blender (after he moves out) and you know he probably won’t eat fruit otherwise, it’s hard not to resist giving him the mean machine. The things that love does. Sigh.

So I went shopping for a new blender/food-processor and was mildly traumatised to discover they no longer stock Ninjas. Honestly, what is wrong with these people?! The best they could come up with was a Nutribullet, and me, not knowing any better, bought it. To be fair, I LOVED the book and recipes that came with it, but that ‘thing’ is completely incapable of whizzing a frozen banana, even when you chop the banana into small pieces… which takes all the fun out of fruit smoothies for me.

Sauces, though, it can handle with fair aplomb, and I’m eternally grateful for the lemon tree in my back yard, which, when added to any nut, with a dash of salt and some water, makes for a delicious sauce, cream, dressing, liquid cheese, (whatever fancy name you want to give it) depending on the consistency, ratio of ingredients and what herbs you add. My favourite herb to add is basil (think pesto) but I made a pretty good pasta sauce the other night using tofu, macadamia nuts, lemon, salt and fresh mint.

Cakes. What about cakes? That was the big question and I wasn’t feeling confident. I told myself to try whizzing the dry ingredients first, but as usual I was multi-tasking and force of habit got the better of me. Before I knew it, all the ingredients were thrown in, which would have been a non-issue if I was using a Ninja (I really miss that thing).

Before I started, I raided my fridge, freezer and cupboards for possible ingredients. Then I sat down with pen and paper and mocked up a plan. I put my ideas in the left column and left space in the right column for the inevitable modifications. Impatient as I am, I’m a complete sucker for a three-layered raw cake. I decided to use less dates because even my sweet-tooth husband says my cakes are too sweet, and the end result has been a resounding success.

I was grumpy about the whizzer not being able to blend properly without me adding a lot more liquid than I’m used to using, but the resultant consistency was lovely. My cakes are usually freezer cakes, pulled out for 5-10 minutes to defrost slightly, but we’ve decided this one is best stored in the fridge, because the softness of the top layer is fantastic at that temperature. Obviously they won’t store as long in the fridge, but this will be polished off within days anyway!

Here’s the recipe below. If your blender is pathetic like mine, you might need to add more non-dairy milk if you want a smoother finish. My husband and I prefer a more chunky consistency because we enjoy the different textures and flavour surprises. A chunky base is particularly satisfying, so I never over-blend the base.

BOTTOM LAYER

1/4 cup of oats (skip this, obviously, if you are sensitive to oats!)

7 x medjool dates, pitted

1 cup of almonds

1/2 cup of walnuts

1 tablespoon of coconut or any other non-dairy milk, or water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlend your ingredients together. You can actually use any nut, these are just my favourites. If you have a brilliant whizzer-upperer, you don’t necessarily need any liquid, but if you do, using creamy liquids like coconut milk or nut-milks, often makes for a better consistency than adding water. I used coconut as my liquid throughout each layer. Decadent bliss!

Spread your blended mix into the bottom of a dish. If you want to, you can press whole blueberries into this later, like I did. It can help to put the dish in the freezer while you are making the next layer, to firm it up a little.

MIDDLE LAYER

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup of macadamia nuts

6 x medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup of coconut or any other non-dairy milk, or water

1/2 to 1 cup of blueberries

Blend everything up! Use more liquid if the consistency isn’t as smooth as you’d like it to be. An optional extra might be a dash of vanilla essence, or if you love vanilla beans like me, the inside of one vanilla pod.

Pop the dish back in the freezer while you make the last layer.

TOP LAYER

1/2 cup of walnuts

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

1 plum, chopped into pieces

1/2 cup of cherries

And however much liquid (non-dairy milk or water) you need to blend

In essence, I was just using the fruit I had available in my fridge and freezer! I also added a ‘secret’ ingredient which I felt really made a different to the flavour: 1 heaped teaspoon of dried hibiscus, rosella and rosehip petals from my dried herbal tea collection. As a herbalist, I LOVE adding dried herbal teas to my raw cakes! This ingredient isn’t imperative, but any one of these three herbs would be fine, if you can get hold of them.

Blend everything up, and spread this mix over the existing two layers. Top with blueberries and sprinkle with chia seeds and dried flower petals, if you have any.

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Ta-dum! Keep your raw cake in the fridge, covered, and consume within days. If you aren’t going to gobble it all up this quickly, keep it in the freezer. We often like to freeze to a certain firmness where it’s easy to cut into portions which can later be removed and defrosted as needed.

 

 

 

 

Lavender Fudge Cheesecake

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1 cup macedamia nuts

1/4 cup toasted buckwheat groats

1 tablespoon of unhulled tahini

8 pitted medjool dates

Put all of these ingredients in your food processor and crush/blend until the mix looks like cooked cake crumble or fresh bread crumbs. To check whether you need more dates, pinch some of the mix between your fingers to see if it squeezes together and holds together if you roll it into a ball in your hand. A taste test at this stage helps too! Is it sweet enough for you?

“Why do they have to be medjool dates?” my husband asks.

“Because they are THE dates. Manna from heaven!”, I replied. They aren’t just sweet, they make everything stick together. It’s got to be sticky enough to firm a fairly firm base in the bottom of your dessert dish, without being too sweet. Add coconut oil or prunes for extra moisture if your food processor isn’t powerful enough to pull this off. Not water- that makes the cakes icy instead of creamy. These are freezer cakes, so keep in mind that they won’t shrink and pop neatly out of a cake tin when you turn it upside down, so be clever about the dish you choose to put your mix into.

MIDDLE

1/2 – 1 *banana

1 cup of walnuts

1 cup of cashews

12 pitted medjool dates

Vanilla essence or seeds (a splash or 1-2 seedpods)

*Bananas are surprisingly strong in aroma and taste, so their use needs to be careful, if you don’t want it to over-power other flavours, but they do give you more bulk without needing extra nuts. If you don’t like the taste of banana in this cake, replace the banana with another cup of nuts

Blend everything in the food processor. Keep going until it clumps together and becomes fairly smooth. I actually prefer texture in most of my meals/dishes, so I don’t make it completely smooth. More moisture does help with smoothness so if you prefer your cakes this way, add coconut oil or use cashew butter instead of cashews.

Remove 1/4 of the mix and put it aside (in the freezer) to use as the base for the ‘icing’ (the top layer).

Now add 1 tablespoon of cocoa or cacao powder to the remaining mix and blend again (Use even more if you really love chocolate and your food processor is tough!) Yum! Spread this mix over the base layer and put your dish into the freezer.

TOP

1 tablespoon of melted cacao butter

1 tablespoon or more of lavender flowers

You can adjust the lavender quantity and add more, but lavender is powerful, so a little bit goes a long way. Stir these ingredients into the 1/4 mix you had set aside in the freezer. If you want some more vibrant colour in this layer, mash/stir/blend in some blueberries.

Spread this mix over the middle layer of your cake and your cake is finished! Put your cake in the freezer over-night and serve the next day. These cakes can last months in the freezer, but do keep them covered.

My daughter (the tea-tasting expert) suggests having a cup of lavender or cocoa husk tea with this cake. We love cake with tea! The flavour balancing is so much fun!

Enjoy

Love Om

Agar Agar

IMG_0468Agar Agar (also known as agar, or kanten) is the mucilage content drawn from several seaweeds. As a herbalist, I’ve always been fascinated with mucilaginous herbs and foods. The action associated with mucilage content in an ingested herb or food is referred to as ‘demulcent’. If used topically on the skin, the action of mucilaginous herbs is referred to as ’emollient’. Emollients and demulcents are soothing, cooling, moistening and calming for body tissues they come in contact with.

This is a mechanical more so than a chemical action; mucilages are sticky, gooey, and almost mucous-like… hence the name! This consistency is what provides soothing to irritated tissues. The bit that always intrigued me during my naturopathic training was the idea that these mucilage-soothed tissues could send a kind of ‘calm and happy’ message to other mucous membranes in the body. Realistically, ingested demulcent herbs only come into contact with the digestive lining, and yet, their soothing effect can be felt in the lungs and the urinary system. No one knows for sure exactly how or why this is so, but it is possible that calmed nerve endings in in the gut-lining send a nerve-reflex ‘message’ to mucous membranes elsewhere. Continue reading

Almond and Banana Smoothie

I love delicious, therapeutic food, so I was delighted recently when a friend’s eczema cleared up after I taught her some new recipes. We aren’t exactly sure which ingredient or combination of ingredients worked it’s magic, but the common denominator throughout was almonds, so they are our primarily lead in this wonderful investigation. Having said that, they true champion may be the way certain foods and plant constituents are working together as a whole.

Why might almonds help eczema? Good question. Here are some thoughts:

*In eastern medicine, Almonds clears stagnant Qi from the lungs and lubricate the intestines. When elimination organs like the bowels and lungs are working more efficiently, this supports the health of the skin (another elimination organ).

*Almonds are high in calcium, and in the vegan cheese and dessert recipes I taught my friend, the calcium becomes very bio-available because the Almonds are being softened and moistened by the addition of water. Eczema is associated with calcium deficiency.

*Other potentially eczema-helpful nutrients in almonds include Vitamin E, EFA’s, zinc, B vitamins, biotin, flavonoids, methylquercetin, and catechin.

ALMOND & BANANA THICKSHAKE

*Soak a handful of almonds in water, in the fridge, overnight
*Peel and freeze 1-2 bananas overnight
The next morning, drain and rinse the almonds, and break the frozen banana into smaller pieces so they will fit in your blender.
Add both to the blender along with 1-2 pitted dates for extra sweetness as required, and a dash of vanilla essence to make it even more yummy.
Add soy/nut/oat milk, so that it covers all the ingredients. Soy milk is an excellent calcium choice.
Blend and drink!


(if you would prefer to have this drink towards the end of the day or for dessert/dinner, do the freezing and soaking in the morning rather than the evening)

For extra calcium in your shake:

*Replace the dates with dried figs. You could experiment with chopping and pre-soaking them to make them softer.
*Add 1/2 a teaspoon of powdered kale, which you can get from supermarkets (woolies?)
*Add a few spinach leaves

FB_IMG_1435203512238 Here is a photo from one of my friends, of a drink he made based on this recipe. He added a handful of mixed berries! This is how he describes his technique:

“1 handful of almonds soaked in water overnight. I banana chopped and and frozen. 1 handful of mixed berries. Add to blender, cover with liquid of choice, blend and enjoy. Add more liquid as needed.”




Snack foods high in calcium:

*Dried fruits, esp mango and figs, are very high in calcium, but keep in mind the effect of sticky, chewy sugar on teeth!
*Pink Grapefruit

Other foods high in calcium:

*Parsley and Basil can be grown in pots at home, chopped finely and added to salads, or sandwiches, soups, vegan cheeses/dips/salad dressings etc
*Garlic cloves
*Spinach
*Almond butter spread (instead of butter on sandwiches)
*Chia seeds (instead of muesli, or sprinkled over muesli for breakfast)
*Sesame seeds (try tahini paste an another alternative spread, or use multigrain bread with sesame seeds)
*Tofu
*Blackstrap molasses.

Flowers and Berries Ice-cream Cake

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Being a herbalist I often don’t see much distinction between food and herbs. They all contain the same phytochemicals and can have a therapeutic effect, they are simply used in different ways. Many herbs used in herbal medicine are also considered foods and visa versa, such as oats, nettles, dandelion leaves, artichoke, aniseed, rosemary, turmeric, alfalfa, fennel, ginger, garlic, kelp, tamarind, peppermint and so on. For me, the lines tend to blur between them at times. I delight in pondering the herbal actions of specific foods and exploring the food-like uses and qualities of herbs. And when I’m in the kitchen, this merging of herbs and food can be a lot of fun! Continue reading

Pineapple, pistachio and passionfruit cake

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Bottom Layer

3/4 cup of whole oats

1/4 cup of caramelised buckwheat groats

1/2 cup of pistachio nuts

3 figs

10 dates

Blend the first three ingredients until the oats are like a rough powder or flour. Add the dates and figs. Make sure the date pips and the stem of the figs are moved. Blend until the mixture becomes sticky and then press this into the bottom of a cake tin (the kind with clips on the side where you can loosen the walls away from the base after the cake has frozen and ready to eat). 

Middle Layer

2 cups of cashews

2 cups of chopped and frozen pineapple

5 pitted dates

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of lemon rind

Blend all ingredients until the mixture becomes smooth. I add the dates gradually throughout the blending process so that there are still some chunky dates pieces left in the final mix. I prefer some chunkiness in my cakes! Spoon this mixture into your cake tin. 

Top Layer

3-4 passionfruit

Cut the passion fruits open and spoon the mixture on to the top of the cake, then spread it evenly with a knife. Freeze and serve when the cake has hardened. 

FOOD MEDICINE

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pineapple is considered hot and damp. It’s used to balance heat patterns in the body/aura, improve digestion, reduce thirst, calm irritability and stop diarrhoea.

Lavender Cake

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Base layer

1/4 cup of caramelised buckwheat groats

1/4 cup of walnuts 1/2 cup of almonds

4 pitted dates

Process everything together in the food processor. If your mix isn’t sticky enough, add more dates! Press this mix into the bottom of a baking dish. This is your base layer.

Middle layer

5 pitted dates

2 tablespoons of almonds spread/paste

1/2 tablespoon of tahini paste

1/2 cup of cashews a pinch of salt

Blend everything together in food processor. Taste test and more dates if it isn’t sweet enough for you. Pour/spoon into your baking dish, and spread it evenly over the bottom layer. Put the baking dish in the freezer so this layer can firm up while you make the top layer.

Top layer

2 bananas (you can use peeled frozen bananas if you like)

1 cup of blueberries

1/3 of a cup of organic dried lavender flowers(or less if you want a more subtle flavour)

4 dates

1/2 cup of cashews

Process all ingredients. Taste test for sweetness and add more dates or blueberries as needed. Spoon this mixture over the middle layer and spread it out evenly. Put this back in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove from freezer, let it thaw out for a short time (e.g. 5-10 minutes), and then cut into squares and serve. 

The Therapeutic uses of Lavender

As a herbalist/naturopath, I find lavender particularly effective for relieving stress, anxiety and insomnia when there is a lot of anger involved, such as feelings of irritation and frustration. It can provide either a stimulating or sedative effect, depending on what the body needs.

ACTIONS

*Anti-inflammatory

*Antipyretic

*Analgesic

*Antiseptic

*Nervous Sedative

*Immunostimulant

*Relaxant

USES

*Agitated depression or depression mixed with anxiety.

*Restlessness, anxiety, frustration, irritation, insomnia, over-active mind.

*Low back pain, abdominal cramps, flatulence, aches and pains, headaches.

*Dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, cold limbs, chilliness.

*Fever, sore throat, sinusitis, asthma, cough, infections and inflammation in general.

*Nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, appetite loss, sore liver area.

*Topical for burns, sunburn, itching, bites, eczema, acne etc

Berry Bliss Cake

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This is an uncooked cake. It will store in the freezer. The only layer that will feel cold in your mouth might be the top layer because it’s water content could be higher. You could adjust this by adding nuts to the final layer if you wished!

PREPARE BASE

*1 and a half cups of nuts. (I used brazil nuts and walnuts)

*6 large medjool dates (pit them!)

Blend in food-processor. I left mine a bit chunky so that it will have more texture and a bit of crumble. You could also use oats, toasted buckwheat groats, pepita seeds, linseeds etc. Press this mix very firmly into the base of your storage dish.


MIDDLE LAYER

*1 cup of blueberries (Mine are frozen because I live in the tropics)

*1 banana

*1 cup of nuts (I used cashews)

*Scraped out insides of 1 vanilla pod

Blend together in food processor. This time, leave it on for longer so that the mix becomes really smooth. It helps to have a powerful blender if you (like me) aren’t going to add any extracted oils to liquidity the mix. You may need to stop it a few times and push the mix back down from the sides with a spatula. If it won’t mix, add some coconut oil e.g. 1 tablespoon.

Spread this layer over the base layer and scatter some blueberries over the top of this, pressing them so you can just see their tops.


TOP LAYER

*2 bananas

*At least 1 cup of raspberries

Blend in food processor. Spread over middle layer. Slice half a banana into pieces and press into the top layer for decoration.


Put the container in the freezer to set overnight. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then cut into slices and serve.


Caramel Icecream

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This is one of the quickest and easiest desserts you can make. I don’t measure things much so these are approximations: taste as you go!

*Peel and freeze 1 banana overnight

*Remove the banana from the freezer and put it in your blender/food processor. You can break it up into smaller pieces if you let it defrost slightly.

*Add 1-2 heaped tablespoons of nut butter… like tahini, almond, or cashew paste for example. I used brazil, cashew and almond spread in this one!

*Add 4 dates (pitted). If this isn’t sweet enough you can add a sprinkle of stevia (or extra dates!)

*Add a pinch of salt

*Blend everything together and abracadabra, you have caramel ice-cream!

Oh, and you can sprinkle it with cacao nibs to make it look pretty at the end, like I have. xxx