melT: The Almond Drop

I met Melissa Thomas on a progressive dining tour with Local Table Tours. We got to talking about cooking, food blogging, the gluten free trend and just how terrible some of the “healthy” gluten free pre-packaged foods taste. Melissa mentioned that she actually made a gluten free treat called The Almond Drop. She told me that her original intentions were not to create a gluten free product, but it just so happened to be delicious and naturally gluten free, so she found herself right in the middle of the gluten free industry. As she was incredibly friendly, a knowledgable foodie, and passionate about her craft, I told her I’d love to sample them and write a post to help spread the word.

I was expecting a small sample, perhaps one or two of each flavor, so I was really surprised when she gave me four whole packages: Walnut White Chocolate Dried Cherries, Cranberry Chocolate, Apricot Chocolate, and Simply Apricot (a vegan treat). I’m really glad she was generous with me because these things were my nightly dessert for a week or so.

Almond Drops

A combination of almonds, dates, almond butter, unsweetened coconut, and flax has never tasted so good. These little bite-sized balls are sweet enough (agave syrup) to satisfy my sweet tooth, yet wholesome enough to indulge in more than just one, as those calories (140 per ball) are mostly comprised of nuts and healthy fats. I loved each variety of Almond Drop almost equally, and found that having all four in one sitting made for a most satiating dessert.

You can purchase The Almond Drop here in Boulder at Whole Foods and Lucky’s Market. Way to go, melT Foods! That’s a well-deserved product placement.

 

Heavenly Bites

I recently discovered Heavenly Bites– delicious carob treats that will satisfy your chocolate-craving sweet tooth. These “truffley treats” are vegan and made from carob chips (read: no chocolate), which didn’t really sound very appealing to me at first.  But, Oh Yes You Candy, creator of Heavenly Bites, will change your perspective on chocolate-free chocolatey treats.  Trust me.

 

Jodi Feinhor-Dennis, the mastermind behind these almost healthy treats, has to maintain a very strict dairy-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free diet.  After spending years saying “no” to sweet indulgences, she decided to say “Oh Yes You Candy” and created a truffle-sized delectable option for herself and others.

 

There are three treats in each package, which is just enough to make you wish you had bought two packages… not just one.  I tried the Coconut, Almond, and Sea Salt treat and my tastebuds thought I was eating a macaroon.  For a total macaroon-lover, this was a really pleasant and seemingly guilt-less experience. I’m definitely a fan of this particular flavor.

As someone who does not have food allergies, I don’t often think about what it would be like to have to avoid certain foods.  But, if you’re limiting processed sugar intake, caffeine, dairy, or gluten, Heavenly Bites are a dessert-solution for you and well-worth a try.

*Disclaimer: I received one package of Heavenly Bites for free after meeting the owner, tasting the product, and suggesting I write about them since I genuinely enjoyed them.

 

Taste 8: Sweet Potato Carrot Coconut Soup

Call me old fashioned.  But, when he calls me at 9 pm to say he’s coming over, I naturally ask if he’s eaten.  When the response is “no,” I think it’s time to get cooking. Nine pm is generally considered late to start cooking, so I decided to make something simple with whatever I had in the kitchen.  In this case, for my eighth dish in my 14-part series (or challenge:) of giving him a taste of how much I care, I made roasted sweet potato and carrot coconut soup topped with coconut baby bok choy. With a name so long, it might sound like a complex dish, but it was simple and delicious.

Here’s how I made it-

I started by roasting two garnet yams (peeled), four carrots (also peeled), and a sliced shallot in a tablespoon of coconut cream (or fat- the thick cream at the top of an undisturbed can of coconut milk) and a few tablespoons of maple syrup.  This took approximately 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

When the yams and carrots are easily pierced with a fork, remove them from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes or so.  Meanwhile, skim off the rest of the coconut fat and separate it from the clear water. I LOVE this white temptress. I could eat it with a spoon.

Next, coarsely chop the baby bok choy and separate the leafy greens from the celery-like stalk. Chop a little red onion (maybe 1/2 cup), and you’re ready to assemble the meal.

Put the yams and carrots, the rest of the coconut water, and enough broth (veggie or chicken) to cover the yams into the Vitamix.  Blend this into a perfectly smooth puree (it just takes a few seconds in my favorite 2 horse-power toy).  Pour this into a stock pot and simmer on medium high.  I seasoned it with some cinnamon, cayenne, Vietnamese Sweet Lemongrass Curry (a Savory Spice Shop original), and soy sauce.  How much of those ingredients did I add? I don’t know… a little of this, a little of that. I’d say season to your liking.

While the soup was heating, I added the last dollop of coconut fat to a pan on medium high and started to sauté the onion.  When that was translucent, I added the stalky part of the bok choy and got that soft before adding the chopped bok choy leaves. Then a splash of soy sauce, and it’s done.

Top the soup with coconut baby bok choy and enjoy.

 

Pumpkin Peanut Curry Soup

Every autumn I have a craving for my pumpkin peanut curry soup.  I make it once or twice and then wait until pumpkins are in season the following year before making it again. Each time it comes out slightly differently depending on how much of this or that goes in it. Here’s what I did this time-

I roasted a locally grown pumpkin the size of a soccer ball at 375 for 30 minutes or so… I must admit, I totally lost track of time. I have NO idea how long that pumpkin was in there.  I’d say 30-40 minutes. I do know, however, that I cut it in half, seeded it (and saved the seeds to make Mexican Mole Roasted Pumpkin Seeds), covered the flesh in butter, and placed it cut side down into a pyrex baking dish with a cup or so of brandy.  I am sure of that part.

While the oven was preheating for the pumpkin, I toasted a cup or so of unsalted peanuts. Watch them! It’s really easy to over-toast (burn) nuts. Keep an eye on them and get them out of the oven when they’re starting to brown and smell like roasted peanuts.

But, before I even put the peanuts in the pre-heating oven, I had a thinly sliced sweet yellow onion sautéing on medium-low in some of the coconut fat skimmed from the top of an undisturbed can of coconut milk.  I let this start to caramelize while roasting the pumpkin. In the last 15 minutes or so I added a peeled, sliced apple.

So, when the peanuts were done, I put them in the Vita-Mix and made a little peanut butter.  Let’s all cheer for the power of that Vita-Mix. What a rockstar appliance. The next step is to blend all of the soft pumpkin flesh, onion, and apple with a can of coconut milk and a cup or so of water into the peanut butter.  Start on low, slowly turn it up to 10, then high, and then you’re ready to pour it into a pot and get it on the stove.

This is where the fun seasoning starts. I added a few tablespoons of soy sauce, Kecap Manis (called sweet soy sauce- it is palm sugar syrup, like molasses, but from palm), Vietnamese Sweet Lemongrass Curry (available at Savory Spice Shop), and some cayenne.  I let the soup simmer on medium for a while and added some thinly sliced kale that cooked down to be nice and tender after 20 minutes.

Just blogging about this now makes me want to eat another bowl. The creamy peanut-coconut combination is a nice compliment to pumpkin.  It brings me back to a small kitchen in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I had my first pumpkin peanut curry soup.  Enjoy!

 

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