Strawberry-lemonade nice cream.

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You all know that moment, right, when your stash of initially halfway greenish and still inedible bananas suddenly, and seemingly overnight, has turned into a bunch of freckled and speckled overripe fruit? My kids call them ‘rotten bananas’, but frankly, that’s a hyperbolically pejorative denotation that does not pay them the honour they actually deserve. Just have a look at  this long list of recipe ideas (some of which are vegan, plenty of which can be veganised).

Baking chocolate chip banana bread is my standard way to use up overripe bananas, and blending them into smoothies is my favorite second. When I don’t want to use them immediately, then I chop them up and freeze them. In this scenario also another option – something I should be doing more often – comes into the picture: making nice cream (aka banana-based ice cream), which is simple, sweet and satisfying. And a totally guilt-free way of enjoying ice cream.

So making nice cream is what I did last Sunday. I had some of spring’s first strawberries in the house, and wanted to add a lemony zing as well. So banana-strawberry-lemon ice cream it was, and really, it was goooood!

Usually, when making nice cream, I start from frozen banana chunks, but this time I reversed the order. I first blended the ingredients, then froze the (delicious!) cream until it solidified. The reason? I wanted to make popsicles. Not just popsicles, but beautifully decorated popsicles with heart-shaped strawberry slices. Not the worst idea ever, and it’s doable, but actually, next time I’ll stick to the usual order of things (as in the recipe below), and reserve my silicone popsicle molds for my regular, ice cream machine made ice cream.

Nice cream popsicles demand that you keep a very close eye on them, and regularly check when they are hard enough to remove from the mold, but not too hard that they’re icy. It can be done, but it’s tricky, as nice cream freezes less well than regularly churned ice cream. My regular ice cream contains arrowroot, an ingredient that prevents crystallization. Arrowroot requires boiling the liquid before cooling, churning and finally freezing it, and in the case of nice cream that process would undermine the exact USP of the concept: the fact that you can turn (frozen) bananas into nice cream in no time, with just a few whizzes of your blender.

In the pics below you can see that the popsicle my daughter holds has more or less the desired consistency. In the first pic, which was taken 1,5h later, you do notice that the ice cream has already turned rather icy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: the ice cream tasted amazing, the children were happy, and this is definitely something I’ll be making again in the future, be it in the traditional way: freezing, blending, scooping, eating!

strawberry-lemonade ice cream

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 5 minutes + advance freezing
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 bananas (cut in chunks and frozen)
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (preferably frozen as well)
  • 2 TB vanilla soy yoghurt (can be omitted)
  • pinch of vanilla
  • 1 TB grated lemon (I usually keep lemons in the freezer, which I take out and grate when I need some lemon zest or lemon juice.)

Directions

Blend all ingredients until they have a soft serve-like consistency. If the mass is too soft, then freeze it for maximum one hour before eating it.

Enjoy!

 

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Lemon curd cheesecake.

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vegan lemon curd cheesecake

Everyone knows cheesecake (I guess). But the cheesecake I grew up with was not the kind of cheesecake made with cream cheese. Instead, it had curd cheese in it, and the one my mom used to bake (and still does) was based upon a recipe she had gotten from a neighbour who, in her turn, had it from her husband’s German relatives. In German, this is called Käsekuchen or Quarkkuchen. The Austrians have their own word for it, Topfenkuchen. As far as my research indicated, the correct English term would be lemon curd cheese (the recipe indeed includes lemon zest and juice). But do correct me if I’m wrong.

When turning vegan about 12 years ago, I stopped having this marvellous cake which, apart from curd cheese, also has quite some eggs. But then after analysing numerous recipes of veganised versions, I started making my own curd cheesecake based upon a mixture of silken tofu and firm tofu. It actually worked and it was quite a decent cake. But now I have been able to bring the art of lemon curd cheesecake baking to top-level quality. And all thanks to two new ingredients. The first one being the soy-based curd cheese alpro has launched  (its organic counterpart provamel did the same), and which really tastes like I recall curd cheese to taste. The second one being aquafaba (ok, admittedly, that is not something new, but the insight that this chickpea liquid actually has distinct eggwhite-like qualities still is relatively recent). The addition of aquafaba is not strictly necessary, but it does add a sublime airiness to the cake’s texture. Take these two ingredients, and you’ll get a curd cheesecake that no one will ever suspect to be vegan in the first place.

So here you go!

 

dav

vegan lemon curd cheesecake

 

Lemon curd cheesecake.

  • Servings: 12 decent slices
  • Time: 1h 30 min
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

Crust

  • 300 g flour
  • 100 g vegan butter
  • 75 g cane sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 1/4 cup water

Curd cheese filling

  • 2 packages (400 g each) alpro Go On plain (curd cheese/strained yoghurt)
  • 100 g cane sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 50 gram package vanilla pudding powder
  • 4 TB cornstarch (maizena)
  • 2 tsp vanilla-flavoured sugar
  • 250 g plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • liquid of 1 can drained chickpeas (about 10 TB)

Directions

Crust

Mix all ingredients and knead until you end up with a smooth ball of dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin and line the bottom and side of a (relatively large) springform pan with it. Use a fork to perforate the dough here and there.

Curd cheese filling

Whip the aquafaba until it forms stiff peaks (and you can hold the bowl upside down 🙂 ). Set aside.

Mix all other ingredients. When you have a smooth batter, gently fold in the whipped aquafaba. Pour into the springform pan.

Bake for an hour in a preheated oven on 160-170 degrees Celcius. Your cake will be rising during the baking process, but will somewhat collapse afterwards. When done baking, leave it to cool in the oven (with the oven door ajar) for 20 more minutes before removing it.

Let cool completely (and thus firm up) before serving.

 

 

Apricot-almond bites.

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Raw nut-fruit balls are ideal snacks, because they’re

  • easy to make
  • delicious
  • healthy

What’s more,  they do not require any odd ingredients and the variations are just endless. Any type of nuts or dried fruits will do. Add some flavour (lemon, cocoa, raspberry, almond, vanilla…), add some extra dry ingredients like oats or coconut if you like, or sticky ingredients like maple syrup or nut butters, and wham, you’ve got yourself a nice treat within minutes.

Yesterday I experimented with apricots and almonds. Because I feared those two ingredients’ tastes would be too overpowering, I balanced them out with dates and cashews, and added some orange blossom water (I love that aroma!) and almond essence, together with some cinnamon and cardamom. The taste was quite sweet and mild (next time I’ll give the pure apricot-almond version a go anyway and see what that brings), and my decision to coat the balls with white chocolate turned out to be an extremely good one. Both tastes work wonderfully well together. You can eat the bites as they are, of course, but if you have white chocolate around, you really should add this extra layer of flavour. The proof lies in the fact that all balls – except the ones I saved for the children’s biscuit box for school tomorrow – have vanished within less than 24h.

apricot-almond bites

  • Servings: 18 balls
  • Time: 10 min
  • Difficulty: easy
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Apricot-almond bites

Ingredients

  • 80g apricots (about 10)
  • 80g  medjool dates (about 5)
  • 60 g almonds
  • 60g cashews
  • 80g oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 2TB hemp seeds (optional – can also be replaced by other seeds, like sesame seeds, which probably would work even better here, but which I had run out of)
  • 1,5 TB sunflower seed butter (optional – you could also use any nut butter you like)
  • 1-2 handfuls of vegan white chocolate – optional

Directions

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix until you have a sticky dough that can easily be rolled into bite-sized balls. If the dough is too sticky, add more oats.
  • Melt the white chocolate, and roll each ball into it. Place the chocolate coated ball on a silicone mat and let cool (in the fridge, when you want to speeden up the process).

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Belgian bread pudding.

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I am all in favour of maximally efficient food use (not that I am a champion in this – I know some who are – but I try my best). Which means that I aim at buying only those items that I need, that I like browsing the fridge for vegetables on the brink of wilting and then transform them into soup, that I save broccoli stalks and so on (also for soup), and that I always keep the leftovers of dinner. It also means that I freeze slices or chunks of bread that have gone stale. And at regular intervals, when having saved up enough of this leftover bread, which then starts to take up too much precious space in my freezer, I decide it’s time again to make bread pudding.

Converting stale bread into bread pudding is apparently apparently also a practice common outside of Belgium. But I haven’t seen any foreign recipes including vanilla pudding, as we usually do over here. Anyway, bread pudding is quite plainly stale bread, soaked in milk, which is baked again in a springform pan, with some vanilla pudding powder and gingerbread spices and raisins added (and traditionally also eggs, but I leave those out). I like having some chunks of apple in it too, as they add moisture to this dense pudding (which in the dialect I was brought up in is called poting), and I usually go for a decent splash of brown rum as well. Not just rum, really. It’s rum turned into vanilla essence, as I at all times keep some stalks of vanilla soaking (for months, for years) in a bottle of rum, turning this amber-coloured liquid into a vanilla spiked delicacy. The end result is a quite heavy cake, which cannot boast of any delicate qualities, but it’s a reminder of my childhood, and I like its moistness, its sturdiness and cinnamon taste. You can have it at tea time, just as a snack, or you might even eat it for breakfast.

The recipe below is the result of some eyeballing. It’s quite hard fixing this recipe in exact measurements, as the amount of bread one works with varies from time to time, and the type of bread used likewise influences the amount of liquid needed.

dav

Belgian bread pudding

  • Servings: 12 decent pieces
  • Time: 1h 20 min + soaking time
  • Difficulty: easy
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Bread pudding

Ingredients

  • Ca. 750 g stale bread (could be somewhat less or somewhat more, but I usually take an amount which fills my largest baking bowl to the brim.)
  • Ca. 1 l plant milk (again, this is variable. It’s important to use enough milk to soak every tiny bit of bread, but don’t overdo it, otherwise the bread pudding won’t solidify enough during the baking process).
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding powder (the ones I use weigh 50 g a package); if you want a more vanilla-y taste, you perhaps could use two, but you’d need a bit more soy milk in that case, I guess.
  • 1 TB rum + 1 tsp vanilla essence (or you could just use vanilla-infused rum, like I do)
  • 1 heaped tsp gingerbread spices (or if you don’t have that at hand, just mix in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and/or cardamom)
  • 1,5 tsp baking powder
  • 100 sugar (if you really have a sweet tooth, add some more – I like moderate sweetness)
  • a handful each of raisins, chopped apple and nuts
  • a dash of salt

Directions

  • Take a large bowl for the bread and soak the bread for at least a couple of hours, or more easily, overnight.
  • Preheat the oven (180 degrees C)
  • Mix the bread so that you end up with a sticky, even mixture that shows no more traces of bread lumps
  • Add in all the remaining ingredients, mix well, and ladle into a springform pan.
  • Bake for an hour, until the outide is crispy, and the inside has set.
  • Let cool (more or less) completely before cutting.

Avocado-chocolate pudding.

 
dav

As with most things in life, also with food items, there’s no use in drawing up strict black and white oppositions of likes and dislikes  (except when garden cress is concerned – I really do not like garden cress!!). Avocados may well fit into a grey zone for many people, and my sister is most likely one of them. For many years, she’s been a self-proclaimed avocado detester, but I think that given the right circumstances, she might actually start developing a certain fondness for this rich and fatty fruit.

Such a grey zone, meaning a context in which you do not actually taste the avocado itself, but nonetheless luxuriate in its lusciousness, would most likely be found within the realm of TREATS! And such a treat, dear all, is avocado-chocolate pudding. My children are not fond – yet! – of eating plain avocado, but mix it into a smooth and silken pudding, together with some cacao, plant-based milk and syrup, and there’s the ideal incentive for having them nicely eat their dinner.

So, dear sister, upon your own request, here’s the recipe for avocado-chocolate pudding. Give at a try, and let this treat open the door an inch for some avocado-loving, even if it’s just within this grey zone.

[This is not a recipe I can get any credit for. It is one of those recipes that has circulated all over the internet for years, but no one has any clue who first came up with it.]

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Avocado-chocolate pudding.

For 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plant-based milk
  • 1/4 cup cacao

Instructions

Add all ingredients to you food processor, and blend until smooth.

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Bounty balls.

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Four-ingredient goodness. That’s what these bounty balls are. You only need dates, cashew nuts, desiccated coconut and a smooth chocolate layer to satisfy the cravings of your sweet tooth. They are a way healthier alternative than the original bounty bars, but taste as coconutty and chocolatey as the latter. I’ve handed out the oh-so-simple recipe below several times on request over the past few years, so that definitely speaks in its favour. So what are you waiting for? Grab that food processor and measuring cup, and grind those cashews!

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Bounty balls

ca. 15 bounty balls

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup deseeded dates (make sure they’re not too dry! if  they are, pre-soak them)
  • 1 cup cashew nuts
  • 1 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • pinch of vanilla
  • 3/4 – 1 cup vegan dark chocolate (I use Callebaut’s vegan callets, as the other mainstream Belgian brands Jacques and Côte d’Or contain milk)

Instructions

Mix the dates, desiccated coconut and cashew nuts in a food processor until the mixture is sticky enough to roll into walnut-sized balls by the spoonful. Melt the chocolate in whichever way you like (au bain marie, or like me, just in the microwave – make sure to melt them SLOWLY on a low temperature). Dip the balls in the chocolate, place on a silpat mat, and let cool in the fridge. You can garnish them with some more coconut, with sesame seeds, or hemp seeds (pictured), or whatever you like. Eat! And IF you have some left, they’ll keep in the fridge for a long time.

 

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