Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cherry Paleo Cake for Two

To be honest, I had sort of resigned myself to not having a birthday cake this year. Unfortunate, yes, I know. 

In my three months on the Autoimmune Protocol/AIP (which you can read about here), I’ve only “cheated” a couple of times (mostly while on vacation in May), but the results were not so fun. Thus, I’ve made the difficult decision that eating something I’m not supposed to, even for a special occasion, is not worth the resulting pain & frustrations later....  Not everyone may need to be as strict, but that’s the decision I’ve made for now. 

an iPhone outtake from making the first cake

A couple weeks before my birthday, I started searching for potential birthday treats. I have successfully reintroduced a couple of items, like almonds & egg yolks & coffee, so that did help my search. But still, I really couldn’t find a good AIP cake option. (I should mention also that plantains, typically a staple of any AIP “baking,” and I do not get along...)

I had nearly given up hope of finding anything, when, on my birthday, I came across this berries & cream breakfast cake that contained all ingredients I could tolerate. While it may not be a traditional birthday cake with frosting etc., it was perfect for where I am in life right now. I made only a couple of changes, deciding to use the gorgeous cherries that are in season right now (instead of raspberries), and baking a single small cake in a rectangular baking dish (instead of dividing it into two ramekins). This cake was actually the first baking project I’ve done since APRIL--I had really missed baking, so actually making a cake seemed like an extra birthday blessing.

The cake might have been different than any other birthday cake I’ve had in the past, but adding a couple scoops of coconut milk ice cream and a candle made it feel just as special. Husband and I ate it straight from the baking dish while watching the Veronica Mars movie. The edges were similar to a sponge cake & the middle was similar to a pudding cake. What a special treat, perfect for two.

an iPhone outtake from making the first cake

an iPhone outtake from making the first cake

Cherry Paleo Cake for Two
adapted from Paleo Parents

5 large Organic Egg Yolks (pastured eggs, if possible)
56 g (1/4 c) Organic Coconut Oil, melted (plus additional for the baking dish)
63 g (3 Tbl) Organic Honey
2 Tbl Organic Coconut Milk, room temp
2 tsp Organic Lemon Juice, room temp

28 g (1/4 c) Organic Coconut Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Sea Salt

100 g (approx 1/2 c) Cherries, pitted and quartered

Coconut Ice Cream or Coconut Whipped Cream for serving
  1. While the eggs are still cold, separate the yolks from the whites. Refrigerate the whites for a future recipe, if desired. Cover the yolks & allow them to come to room temperature. Measure the remaining ingredients and allow them, too, to come to room temperature. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush one small baking dish (or two small ramekins) with a little coconut oil. Stir together the dry ingredients. 
  3. Beat the room temperature yolks with an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Blend in the oil, honey, milk, and lemon juice.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined & there are no lumps. 
  4. Scatter approximately half the cherries into the baking dish. Top with the cake batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. 
  5. After 15 minutes, top with the remaining cherries (pressing them into the top of the cake), rotate the pan & bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cake are springy & the top is golden brown. The center may not be completely done.
  6. Remove from the oven & allow to cool slightly. 
  7. Serve with two forks and a couple scoops of coconut ice cream or coconut whipped cream. Best eaten sooner rather than later.
This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Honey Roasted Plums (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

I had intended to make coconut ice cream, rippled with roasted plums, but I seem to have turned into a crazy paleo person with a freezer so full of meat, veggies & smoothie fruit that I cannot find space for my ice cream bowl. Oh to have a Pacojet or Gelato Maker-hey, I can dream, right? :) 

Instead, I made these roasted plums and topped them coconut yogurt & a little honey. It might not be an ice cream sundae, but it still is an elegant summer dessert option (or breakfast).

Honey Roasted Plums 
yields 4 servings

4 ripe plums, organic if possible
15 g (approximately 2 tsp) honey, organic if possible, plus additional for serving 
Vanilla Coconut Yogurt, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (I used our toaster oven). 
  2. Half each plum & remove the pit. Arrange the plums in a baking dish.  Drizzle with the honey, using more if the plums are not sweet, or less if the plums are sweet. 
  3. Roast in the preheated oven until the plums are very soft, approximately 30 minutes. 
  4. Cool slightly & serve topped with coconut yogurt & an additional drizzle of honey. 
  5. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Patriotic Panna Cotta (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Most every 4th of July (Independence Day for the US) of my childhood was spent at my family's lake cabin.  Sometimes we were on our own, just my parents, sisters, grandparents and me. Sometimes friends joined us.

The morning was spent getting up early and decorating our boat (as well as ourselves) with patriotic red-white-and-blue decorations before participating in the lake-wide boat parade where all the other decked out boats would lazily motor around our smallish lake. Our portion of the beach would be filled with many smaller American flags we stuck into the sand.

The food choices for the day would vary, but there was always a giant spread with many. Sometimes burgers, sometimes fish & even for several years, before the oven in the beloved vintage stove quite working, roasted a turkey with all the trimmings.

Once we kids were old enough to stay up, sparklers and fireworks became an important part of the evening. We would douce ourselves in bug spray & cover up as much skin as possible to ward off the mosquitos. When the sparklers were all used, we would move on to the smaller fireworks & then to a few bigger ones. My grandma would sit on the screened-in porch (blissfully mosquito free) and take notes on which particular fireworks we liked the best, so that we would know which ones to buy the following year.

Somewhere throughout the years, I started making a patriotic dessert. I'm fairly sure the first year's dessert was a fruit salad containing un-pitted cherries…. Luckily, my skills (and forethought) improved as the years progressed. Many desserts were inspired by things I'd seen in Martha Stewart Living magazine. One year, the cover of MSL featured the most gorgeous fruit tart, decorated to look like an American flag. While I couldn't make it exactly like the cover image, due to ingredient unavailability, my version became a favorite among family & friends. Pastry crust, chocolate, cream cheese/whipped cream filling, fresh berries…. I make some sort of variation on it nearly every year (you can find my recipe here).

As I was brainstorming something to make this year, I thought a bit sadly about my favorite fruit tart. Pretty much the only component of that tart I'm able to eat this year is the berries…. Nothing against berries, I just eat them most every day & thus have a hard time seeing them as a special Independence Day treat. Then I thought of panna cotta & how easy it would be to make a panna cotta out of coconut milk & add berries to it, sort of similar to the nectarine buttermilk panna cotta I made last year.  While I might be mourning my fruit tarts just a little bit, I'm consoling myself with the realization that this dessert is *much* faster to prepare (and less mess) and it's actually good for me!

Patriotic Panna Cotta / Coconut Panna Cotta with berries 
yields approximately 4-6 servings, depending on how big your vessels are

1 can (13.5 oz) Organic Coconut Milk (full fat)
1 Tbl (7g) grass-fed gelatin (like this one)
1 Tbl / 31g Organic Honey (local, if you can find it)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (optional for AIP)
around 1.5 c / 200g mixed organic berries (I used blueberries, strawberries & raspberries)

  1. Place half of the coconut milk (roughly 6.57 oz) into a small sauce pan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the coconut milk & mix gently--I usually use my fingers & break up any clumps that I can.  Set aside & allow the gelatin to bloom for 10 minutes. 
  2. Heat the sauce pan over medium heat & whisk constantly until all the gelatin just melts.  Remove from the heat and immediately add the honey & vanilla bean paste.  Set aside to cool until it is just warm to the touch. 
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your vessels & berries. Place the vessels onto a pan (for easy transport). Fill each cup approximately 1/3 to 1/2 full of berries (either whole berries or cut). 
  4. Give the coconut mixture a stir & then portion equally into the berry-filled vessels. 
  5. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The panna cotta may be made a day or two in advance, just cover the dishes with plastic wrap & store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. 


  • Right now I'm trying to incorporate lots of gelatin into my life (it's full of protein, can help heal your gut, and is good for hair/nails/skin, just to name a few benefits), so I've made this panna cotta a bit more firm than usual. If you like, reduce the gelatin by half to produce a softer "custard." 
  • This recipe could be easily doubled or tripled for a crowd. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Carob Avocado Mousse

When thinking about avocados, most peoples’ minds go immediately to guacamole or salads. But lately I’ve been reconsidering the uses for avocados, specifically when it comes to desserts. 

 The avocado’s flavor is somewhat ambivalent--it can be used in savory applications, as well as in sweet. It plays off of the flavors of items used with it. Mash avocado with some salt, lemon/lime juice & garlic powder, creating a simple guacamole (which also happens to be one of my staple items these days) Or, blend the avocado with honey, coconut milk & carob/cocoa powder, creating a luscious, “healthier” dessert. Both items (or really any avocado item) can be a little on the rich side, so portions might be smaller than you’d normally think. But due to the higher fat content, you’ll feel more satisfied even with eating less.

Using carob is not something I’ve explored until recently. I’m still following my doctor suggested detox diet, which is basically a more extreme version of the Autoimmune Protocol (commonly referred to as AIP, see more info here and here). Both my doctor-suggested-diet and AIP put chocolate on the "avoid" list, hence, no cocoa powder. Enter carob powder, a great alternative to chocolate & cocoa powder. It doesn’t taste *exactly* the same as chocolate--my husband likes to say it has more of a roasted peanut taste--but when you can’t have the original, you settle for the next best substitution.

 The slightly nutty carob paired with the creamy avocado, sweetened with a touch of honey (which I recently had the ok from my doctor to add small amounts into my diet! yay!), and lightened with a little coconut milk to make it a bit more pudding/mousse-like.  A perfect little treat to satisfy my sweet tooth, while still staying within my dietary guidelines & ensuring I won’t regret eating it later.

Carob Avocado Mousse
makes approximately 4 servings 

2 Organic Avocados, ripe but not brown (mine weighed 10.5 oz / 207 g, without pits & skin)
2 Tbl (42 g) Organic Honey (local preferred) 
5 Tbl (30 g) Carob Powder (could sub cocoa powder, if preferred) 
  1. Place all ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor.
  2. Blend on high speed until everything is combined, scraping the sides as necessary. 
  3. Portion into cups & refrigerate a couple hours before serving. 

  • If you're not following an Autoimmune Protocol, feel free to substitute cocoa powder instead of the carob. The carob will give the mousse a slightly more toasted flavor. 
  • The mousse can be frozen for a delicious frozen treat 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sweet Potato Paletas

It’s been hot. Super hot. Like +110 F hot, and it’s only June..... While I wouldn’t discriminate against a frozen treat any time of the year, I especially crave them in the summer time. Since I cannot just run to any store or shop & purchase a frozen dessert that would fit within my unique dietary guidelines, I have to make my own. I have a feeling my ice cream bowl will be working overtime, if only I can find a way to clear enough freezer space to actually freeze it. But, I did manage to clear enough space for my popsicle mold, so that’s where I’m beginning this summer. 

Paletas were not something I’d heard of until I moved to the southern border of Texas--they’re the Mexican version of a popsicle, only not usually as sweet as their American counterpart. We’re able to get paletas in just about any local gas station or grocery store & they come in much more interesting flavors than the regular popsicles I was use to seeing. Coconut. Watermelon. Pineapple. Pecan. Rice Pudding. Pina Colada. Tamarind. Fruit flavors spiced with chile. (The rice pudding ones use to be my favorite....).

Sweet potatoes have become one of my staple foods--most often either baked or roasted. Since paletas already come in such interesting flavors, I thought that adding sweet potato variation to the mix wasn’t such a stretch :)

Traditional paletas aren’t super sugary & my sweet potato paletas follow suite--they get their limited sweetness from the sweet potato & the apple juice. Even with the limited sweetness, they are cold & very refreshing, especially on a hot day when you’re just dying for an ice cream.

If I wasn’t following a sugar-free diet, I’d add a couple tablespoons of honey or maple syrup. Or maybe some candied pecans. If you prefer a creamier pop, adding some yogurt (whether sweetened, or plain) would also work.

One final note: I made & styled/photographed these sweet potato paletas while watching Diane Cu & Todd Porter of “White on Rice Couple”  give a 3 day food styling & photography workshop on Creative Live. While the presentation isn’t free anymore (unless CL rebroadcasts it), I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in furthering your photography skills. I learned some fun new tips & was reminded of some things I should have been remembering anyway. 

behind-the-scenes image of shooting these paletas while watching Creative Live

Sweet Potato Paletas 
Yields approximately 12 pops, depending on mold size 

1 large sweet potato (mine weighed just under 1lb, pre-baking & around 12 oz after) 
4 Tbl Apple Juice
1 1/2 c (13.8 oz) Coconut Milk (beverage, not the culinary coconut milk from a can) 
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla
optional: sweetener of choice (especially if you’re not following a sugar free diet).... I’d use a couple tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, if it was allowed for me.  OR add a little vanilla coconut yogurt.  
  1.  Wash sweet potato & pierce the skin with a fork or sharp knife. Place sweet potato into an oven safe dish & roast at 350 F until fork-tender. (Mine took approximately 60 minutes in our toaster oven). 
  2. Once cooked, let the sweet potato cool completely (I put mine in the refrigerator overnight. 
  3. After the potato has cooled, remove the skin & add to a blender or food processor.  Add the apple juice, coconut milk, cinnamon & vanilla.  Process on high speed until well blended.  Add additional coconut milk if the mixture is too thick. 
  4. Pour into your popsicle molds, leaving some headspace at the top to allow for expansion during freezing.  
  5. Place in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours.  
  6. After 2 hours of freezing, insert the sticks. Continue to freeze for an additional 10-24 hours.  
  7. To unmold, fill a large bowl with warm water. Set the frozen mold into the warm water for 30 seconds & remove the mold. Gently lift the paletas out of the mold & place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with a second layer of parchment & allow to freeze for 30 additional minutes. 
  8. After the additional freezing, the pops are ready to be consumed. If not eating right away, wrap them well & store in the freezer. 

For more information on paletas, this article is really helpful!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jessie & Joe: Engaged

I've been working on a new recipe, but it isn't ready yet…. So instead, I thought I'd share some of my recent portrait work.  While I was in Washington, DC for my sister's law school graduation, I had the privilege to take engagement photos for some friends. I've known Jessie for years and years & Jessie introduced me to her then-boyfriend Joe last year at our mutual friend Kelli's wedding. They're an adorable, hilarious couple. Both were cracking jokes & laughing throughout the entire shoot.

We started at Meridian Park...

While driving to the second location, we made a quick stop at Starbucks. Even though we were supposed to be taking a break, Starbucks seemed like a perfect location to grab a couple shots (especially since one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Jessie is "coffee").

Jessie is originally from ND, and Joe is originally from MN, but they met while in Washington, DC, when they both worked at the Capital. Such a cool story! I love when photo locations have a significance besides just being a pretty spot :)

Lastly, we wrapped up the shoot in the East Capitol neighborhood area. What an adorable couple. Their joy, humor, and love for each other was a pleasure to photograph. And I love Jessie's ring (though, I should admit I am *slightly* partial to blue rings). 

Before I wrap this post up, I need to give a HUGE thank-you to my sister Michelle, who came along as an assistant. She has a great eye for posing, as well as watching to make sure that neither Jessie's (nor Joe's) hair or clothing were out of place. Thanks, sister! I couldn't have done it without you.

I'll be back next week with a recipe!

All images copyright Laura E. Vein.  Please do not use, copy, or repost without permission!