Category: Dessert

Strawberries and Danish Summer Cream

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Danish Summer Cream

To say that Danish people have a strong food culture would be selling it short. Very short. After living in Denmark for nearly six years now, I have had the privilege of witnessing and taking part in many of their passionate and long-established table traditions, celebrating the seasons through what they eat and vice versa. They are proud, and borderline obsessive about certain aspects of their food, and it is this fervour, this dedication, even if it is often for pork products, that I so strongly resonate with and connect to.

When I first met my husband, it drove me kinda nuts how stubborn he was with his traditional Danish meals: “no, this has to go with that. And you need to eat this on top of this in this special way, then cut it like this and put it on this special plate”. Open-faced sandwiches are actually served on their own teeny wooden boards, and have very specific and time-tested combinations of foods that are not to be contested or fooled around with. No. But many meals are like this. The first day of advent, you eat yellow split pea soup. At Easter you have lamb. And as the weather warms up (if it ever does) you have koldskål. Say what? Directly translated, “cold bowl”.

Koldskål, is a beguiling combination of creamy buttermilk, egg yolk, lemon, vanilla and sugar. I know it may sound a little strange, but trust me, it’s heaven. It is often served with Danish strawberries (which, sorry Ontario, are the best strawberries in the world) and always with kammerjunkere: very crispy little biscuits flavoured with cardamom and lemon. Think of them as Danish biscotti. And they only go with koldskål. That’s a rule.

Danish Summer Cream

I tried the real koldskål last summer when I was pregnant and feeling very strong urges to eat dairy products. I have to say, as much as I wanted to be against it, the stuff was insanely delicious. Addictive even. And the mere act of slicing up a bowl of freshly-picked berries, then pouring silky white cream across their blood-red facets struck a deep, primordial pleasure chord. In that moment, a voice called out from inside me and cooed in all of its ancient wisdom, that this was going to taste really, really good.

Needless to say, it did and I was hooked. What is not to love about ripe fruit, tangy, cold creaminess and crunchy crumbled cookies? Right. Moving on. Since that fateful day, I’ve discovered that koldskål is very easy to make and can be tweaked a little to be much healthier than the traditional version (which is why I am calling it something totally different). My twist uses sheep yogurt instead of buttermilk, leaves out the eggs and sweetens with maple syrup. The biscuits are gluten-free and vegan and sweetened with coconut sugar. All things considered, this would make a rather respectable breakfast, albeit with a rather hefty dose of strawberries, as I tend to make it.

Danish Summer Cream

Now, if I am all for tradition, why I am messing with a perfect thing? Switching out the buttermilk for goat or sheep yogurt? Well, you know my M.O. is to make things both tasty and healthy. In this case, it’s a small change in flavour for a big change in nutrition.

For one, goat and sheep milk are easier to digest than cow milk due to the fact that the protein molecules found goat and sheep milk are smaller and in fact more similar to the protein found in human milk. In addition, the fat molecules in goat and sheep milk have thinner, more fragile membranes – half the size of those in cow milk. This leads to an average curd tension that is literally 1⁄2 that of cow milk (36 grams for goat milk and 70 grams for cow milk). Curds from milk form in the digestive tract or during cheese or yogurt making (anywhere that the milk is subjected to acid). Having less curd tension means that the milk is less “tough”, and easier to digest. Dr. Bernard Jensen (my personal hero) showed that goat milk will digest in a baby’s stomach in 20 minutes, whereas pasteurized cow milk takes 8 hours. The difference is in the structure of the milk.

Goat and sheep milk boast twice the healthful medium chain fatty acids than that of cow milk, such as capric and caprylic acids. These fatty acids are highly antimicrobial. Capric and caprylic acids are used today in dietary supplements to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and other yeast species. They also boost the immune system and enhance energy. 

Danish Summer Cream

To serve koldskål in our house, we slice up a large amount of berries and divide them among the bowls. Then each person pours their own cream (obviously, because this is the most fun part) and crumbles the biscuits over top, or leaves them whole according to their liking. The cream must be very cold. The strawberries must be very ripe – none of those ones picked before they are ready and that are still white in the center – no! The red juice must run into the cream as you eat it, swirling about and staining the whole concoction a delicate, blushing pink by the end. Guh. I also like to sprinkle fresh elderflower over the top for fun, since I love eating flowers too. This is totally unnecessary, and completely divine.

Danish Summer Cream

 

If I have learned anything during my time here in Denmark, it’s that traditions exist for a reason. That certain foods taste best with other certain foods and that is just the way it is, no reason trying to fight it. In this case, strawberries and cream and cookies are best enjoyed together, and I am certainly willing to uphold this tradition for the good of us all.

Show me your Strawberries and Dansih Summer Cream on Instagram: #danishsummercream

Danish Summer Cream

Raw Bounty Bars

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Oh how times change.
If you were to hand me a Bounty Bar 20 years ago, I would have looked at you like you had gone coconuts (ahem, sorry). I thought Bounty Bars were totally sick-a-tating because coconut was a vegetable in my mind, and therefore decidedly not edible even when smothered in chocolate.

I don’t know when I came to my senses, discovered that coconut was in fact a not vegetable, and also totally delicious. These days, I’ll go so far to say that I don’t know what my life would be like without dear coconut around, as I likely employ one or more of its products on a daily basis. You can imagine then, that being in Bali was quite a gas for me, as it’s dripping with coconuts, quite literally. I loved being able to get fresh coconut water every morning; mammoth orbs heavy with well over a liter of liquid gold, for under a dollar. Freshly shredded coconut at the market, coconut palm sugar by the bagful, young coconut flesh blended in smoothies… it was the business!

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Big Tree Farms -  a place where they make incredible coconut  products among other things, such as raw cacao and sea salt. As I’ve been using their delicious coconut palm sugar for a while now, it was pretty amazing to see where the magic happens and meet the sweet people behind the sweetness. I was also introduced to a new product: coconut nectar! A gorgeous, full-flavoured syrup that looks a lot like honey, but with a citric, smoky flavour that surprised and delighted me.

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Coconut Nectar of the Gods
Coconut nectar, and the coconut palm sugar that is made from it, have been produced and enjoyed for over 6,000 years. In fact, the first documented sweeteners ever used are that from coconut palms (Coco Nucifera).

Coconut nectar is made by harvesting the sap from the coconut palm blossom, which is collected twice daily by the farmers at Big Tree. They climb up each trunk in the morning, remove the vessel full of sap, slice the very tip off of each flower bundle and place an empty vessel underneath it to collect sap until the evening when they will repeat the process. The sap is then boiled down to remove all the water it naturally contains, leaving a thick, caramel-like syrup, which can then be cooled and bottled.  To make coconut sugar, that same syrup is cooled and then rubbed, creating granules of the delectable coconut sugar that I love so much. You can watch a very cool video about the whole tree to table process, here.

Coconut nectar is high in minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is happily low glycemic, ranking 35 on the GI scale, compared to agave at 42, honey at 55, cane sugar at 68. This is due to coconut sugar’s composition of long-chain saccharides, which are absorbed by the body at a slower rate than something like refined white sugar. Coconut sugar also contains amino acids, which are thought to slow down the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, acting as a “buffer” of sorts. You can read more about Big Tree Farms Coconut Nectar and Palm Sugar nutrition here.

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After visiting Big Tree, I was feeling creative and hungry for chocolate. I decided to get my Willy Wonka on and recreate a favourite treat to pay homage to my coconut adventures, and also because, let’s face it, Bounty Bars are delicious. This is my (nearly) raw version of the classic candy, a very easy and scrumptious translation using simple ingredients. They are totally rich and coconut-y, just like the “real” thing, but way better because they taste real – not like science. The chocolate is smooth, rich and decadent, and the filling is extra coconut-y due to the virgin coconut oil I use. If you have a good-quality virgin coconut oil, I suggest employing it here, as you want to emphasize the coconut flavour. This is one of the few times I use virgin coconut oil, as I usually don’t want everything tasting of the tropics, but in this case I definitely do. If you don’t have any, regular coconut oil is fine.

And if you don’t have any coconut nectar not to worry – substitute it with honey or maple syrup and the results should be almost the same. These should be stored in the freezer, especially in the height of summer when the chocolate can melt in the heat. Plus, biting into one of these is quite refreshing when the 4 o’clock summer sun hits and you need something sweet to rouse you from your nap.

These are also really fun to make – who doesn’t love a good candy project? Get your kids involved, get your friends into it, and create some candy bars that you actually won’t want to share with anyone who has helped you. You’ve been warned.

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Show me your bars on Instagram: #rawbountybars 

Tropical Groove Smoothies

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smoothies

I just got back from the island of Gili Air, a pinprick of land off the west coast of Lombok. Being so isolated and teeny, you can imagine the food in this particular place wasn’t so high-vibe. Not a raw food, vegan buffet in sight! Gasp! Somehow, I survived, har har, but what truly got me through were the smoothies. Every single restaurant and cafe, no matter how small and unassuming, had a long list of tropical blends to enjoy. I had it made in the shade, just sippin’ on my whizzed up fruits and ice. So simple, refreshing – it reminded me that easy edibles are sometimes the best.

When I got back to civilization here in Bali, I had a serious date with my blender. Nothing fancy, just local, seasonal, simple mixes to beat the heat. I came up with these two beauties, inspired by the foods and flora around me.

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The first smoothie is a Mango Coconut Jamu. Jamu is a traditional Indonesian turmeric tonic that has been made for centuries. With endless variations, some recipes including botanical ingredients such as flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, and roots, it’s fun to be creative with exotic blends, with a touch sweetener such as honey or palm sugar to mellow out the bitter edge. My version takes advantage of the newly-in-season mango (!!!) and fresh, young coconuts which are literally falling off the trees all around me. If you don’t have access to coconuts, just use canned coconut milk instead for a decadent, tropical treat. And as for the turmeric, use as much as you can handle. The recipe calls for only half a teaspoon of fresh turmeric, but I probably put in twice that amount in my own because I’m wild about that little tuber. Dried and powdered turmeric is fine to use too, just try to find organically grown if possible.

The second smoothie I made just had to be green, because this island is so inspiringly lush and leafy! I have been digging the traditional avocado-based drinks that are actually referred to as “juice” here, even though the avocado has been blended. They are thick, creamy, cold, and not overly sweet. My juice is spiked with a hearty dose of digestive ginger and tangy lime. If you want to get things even greener, toss in a handful of tender greens, such as kale or romaine and get glowing!

Either of these shakes would make a fabulous breakfast, as they are literally a meal-in-a-glass. They also satisfy as an afternoon snack, maybe split between two people.

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How to Drink Smoothies
Is there a big question mark sitting above your head right now? How hard is it to drink a smoothie?! Even though we may think just guzzling down a big glass of food is simple enough, there are in fact some ways we can optimize the digestion of these veritable meals-in-a-glass.

Smoothies are a wonderful way to enjoy a whole host of foods easily, as the masticating has been done for us. But, it is still essential to chew your smoothies! Why? Because digestion begins in the mouth and bathing our liquefied food in saliva is very important for the enzymatic action to take place. Especially for the first few sips, chew the smoothie or swirl it around in your mouth as you would any other food. This also sends a signal to your stomach that something good is on the way down and to prepare for the work ahead. It feels a little funny at first, but your tummy will thank you for giving it some time to put things in order before your smoothie arrives.

It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming really cold smoothies, as freezing drinks actually shut down our digestive system. A cold beverage will sit in your stomach until it reaches core temperature before moving onto into the small intestine, so the colder something is to begin with, the longer it will take to digest.

Once blended, smoothies look quite small, but remember that they are still a lot of food! If you were to sit down and eat an entire coconut, mango, and half a banana, it would take you quite a while. Smoothies are caloric and condensed, so keep that in mind when blending up your meal – a lot turns into a little.

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Living a in a tropical climate and being surrounded by all this incredible fruit has inspired me to do a mini-cleanse of sorts. I’ll be eating raw for the next three days, and even though I am practically doing that anyway, this is a conscious, and very intentional move away from anything resembling the ubiquitous white rice and occasional fried tempeh I’ve been enjoying (soooo good…). I just feel like a little freshening up and finding my balance once again. If you’d like to join me on my veggie and fruit feast, eat raw for the next three days and see how you feel! I’ll be enjoying these smoothies, simple fruit and vegetable salads as well as some of the other recipes from the site (here is a link). With the warmer temperatures and sun shining, it is a perfect time to step away from the stove.

I’ll be Instagramming my food during the raw refresher, so follow along my adventures here.

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Show me your smoothies on Instagram: #tropicalgroovesmoothies