Date and Cashew Caramel Slice

Date and Cashew Caramel Slice

My mum sent me this recipe from Nadia Lim’s blog, and I absolutely love it. It’s gluten-free, vegan, and sugar free, and yet it tastes absolutely amazing – I brought some into work recently for a morning tea, and everyone loved it. I’m usually reluctant to promote that a recipe is sugar-free or gluten-free vegan until people have tried it, since “sugar-free”, “gluten-free” and “vegan” can often be equated in the mind with “tastes like splenda-flavoured cardboard”. Please take my word for it that this recipe is delicious – it gets plenty of caramel flavour from the dates and maple syrup – and since you know it’s healthy you can feel free to go for seconds 😀

Base:

• 1 ½ cup fine rolled oats or ground almonds
• 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
• 2 tablespoons cocoa
• 6 dates, pitted
• 1 cup raw almonds
• Pinch of salt
• 200g melted coconut oil (or butter)

Date and cashew caramel filling:

• 400g dried pitted dates
• ¾ cup boiling water
• 2 cups softened cashews (see note)
• ¼ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Chocolate and walnut topping:

• 150-200g good quality dark chocolate
• 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
• 1-2 tablespoons shredded coconut
• Optional: 1 teaspoon neutral flavoured oil, e.g. grape seed, walnut, hazelnut, canola, soy (this softens the chocolate so it doesn’t set too hard – do NOT use coconut oil or butter as this will make the chocolate set harder).

 

Method:

• Preheat oven to 180°C/360°F. Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of a square baking tin (20cm x 20cm) with baking paper.
• Place oats/ground almonds, coconut, cocoa, dates, almonds and salt in a food processor and blitz to a fine, crumbly texture. Drizzle in melted coconut oil/butter and pulse until well combined.
• Press mixture into the prepared baking tin, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon of spatula. Bake for 15 minutes.
• Make the caramel while the base cooks. Place dates and water in a medium-size pot and boil, stirring frequently, until the dates are very soft and mushed up, and all the water has evaporated. Place dates in the food processor along with the softened cashew nuts, maple syrup, coconut oil/butter and vanilla. Blitz until smooth (this will take a few minutes).
• Spread caramel over the base in the baking tin. Return to oven to bake for 10 minutes.
• Melt chocolate and mix in the oil if using. Pour melted chocolate over the filling and sprinkle walnuts and coconut over the top. Leave to cool overnight or for 3-4 hours in the fridge.
• Cut into about 25 pieces (I find it easier to cut upside down since the chocolate is the hardest layer to cut).

> To make softened cashews, either soak in water overnight, or boil in a pot of water for about 15 minutes. Drain well.
make softened cashews, either soak in water overnight, or boil in a pot of water for about 15 minutes. Drain well.

Stuffed Cherries

Stuffed Cherries

See note at the bottom for vegan/dairy-free stuffed cherries. 

I recently acquired a cherry/olive pitter, so I’ve been eager to give stuffed cherries a go. This particular recipe is from “Taste of Home”, but there are tonnes of ways to spin it – I found one recipe that stuffed the cherries with a blanched almond and then covered them in chocolate. A quick Google of “Stuffed cherries” will give you endless ideas, so feel free to get creative!

Ingredients:

• 3 dozen cherries
• 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 tablespoon ground almonds or hazelnuts
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:

• Pit cherries through the sides, leaving stems intact.
• In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Stir in ground nuts and syrup. Pipe into cherries.
• In a microwave-proof bowl, mix a tablespoon of oil into the white chocolate. Microwave in 10-20 second intervals on medium power, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate is melted. Repeat with the milk/dark chocolate.
• Holding the stems, dip a third of the stuffed cherries into the melted white chocolate and allow the excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper and leave to stand until set. Repeat with the remaining chocolate, dipping half in white and half in milk/dark. Leave them to stand in a cool part of the house if necessary but don’t refrigerate them at this stage or the moisture will cause the chocolate to sweat.
• Once the chocolate is set (and reheating the remaining chocolate if necessary), drizzle white chocolate over milk/dark chocolate-dipped cherries, and vice versa. Leave to set, then store in an airtight container. They can now be refrigerated, or frozen for later.

Stuffed Cheeries2

There are many ways of doing vegan or dairy-free stuffed cherries. Two examples include:
• Stuffing with a blanched almond and covering in vegan dark chocolate.
• Mixing maple syrup, ground almonds and coconut cream and piping it into the cherries before covering in chocolate.

Remember to pit the cherries sideways, to keep the stem intact: it makes it much easier to coat in chocolate, and looks more aesthetic.

Fruit Pulp Puffs

Fruit Pulp Puffs

We have a fruit juicer in my house and this cookie recipe is ideal for the leftover fruit pulp (waste not, want not). It’s also insanely easy.

Ingredients:

• 1 egg
• 1 cup fruit pulp
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 cup chopped nuts
• 1 teaspoon soda
• 2 cups flour
• Half a teaspoon each of cloves, of nutmeg, and of cinnamon
• 1 cup raisins or currants

Method:

• Combine all the ingredients together, then use your hands to roll spoonful-sized chunks into balls. Place on a greased oven tray, and flatten with a fork (dipped in flour if needed).
• Bake at 175°C/350°F for 12-15 mins.

Chicken Asparagus Stir-Fry

Chicken Asparagus Stir-Fry

From Step-By-Step’s Quick and Easy. Prep time: 15 minutes, total cooking time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons oil
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 10cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
• 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced
• 4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
• 200g fresh asparagus spears, sliced on the diagonal
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 4 tablespoons slivered almonds, roasted

Method:

• Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat, add oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger and chicken, and stir-fry until the chicken changes colour.
• Add spring onion and asparagus and stir-fry for a further two minutes, or until the spring onion is soft.
• Stir in soy sauce and 3 tablespoons water, cover and simmer for two minutes or until the chicken is tender and the vegetables are slightly crisp.
• Sprinkle with almonds and serve on steamed rice or hokkien (egg) noodles.