raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan!)

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On October 19 I celebrated my birthday. This year it passed by quietly but had all of my favourite things – a grilled and buttered scone from Wychwood Barns, dinner out with my man, a low-key family lunch and of course a cupcake. It was a perfect birthday, really. Particularly so as I was feeling quite introspective this year.

raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan)
I couldn’t help but think back to my birthday last year. It was my 30th and Jeff took me to New York to celebrate. That weekend had all of my favourite New York things – a Russ and Daughter’s bagel, a bike ride, dinner out with my man and of course a cupcake. But despite an amazing weekend I couldn’t help but feel like I was coming apart at the seams.

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This time last year my life looked very similar, but everything was different. I had too much on my plate, I was running myself ragged, I was focused on all of the wrong things. I exercised twice a week but that hour out of the week was the only time I spent on “me,” and even then I was obsessively checking my email between reps. I ate too much of all the wrong things. I was hardly sleeping. I was a lousy wife and an even worse friend. In short, I had pressed the ignore button on myself.

Shortly after we got back from New York I realized I was running on fumes and I knew that if I didn’t make some changes — and fast — my physical, emotional and mental health were all in danger. Over the next couple of months I worked hard to make changes and now, a year later, I feel like a completely different person. A better one.

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More on those changes another time, let’s get back to that celebration? And this cake! Here’s a picture my mum took at my family birthday party. Two very excited girls, but one was not so excited once she realized it was a raw, vegan cashew cheesecake.

Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake
Adapted from Health Yeah!
Serves 8-10

As soon as I saw the Blackberry Coconut Zebra Cheesecake posted on Health Yeah! I knew it was going to be my birthday cake. Now, if you look at Hannah’s cake and then mine you will note that mine does not resemble a zebra in any way shape or form. Total Pinterest Fail. I was not paying attention when I set aside the coconut filling before happily whizzing my raspberries into what remained… Only to find out that instead of saving half of the coconut mixture I had poured out, oh, maybe a quarter. In the beginning I tried hard to layer the coconut and raspberry mixtures as instructed but gave up half way through and just mixed everything together. The result was still delicious, but certainly not zebra!

Equipment
Spring-form pan

Ingredients

Base
1 1/2 cups almonds (preferably raw)
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
3 tbsp cacao powder
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp coconut oil

Raspberry Coconut Filling
3 cups cashews, soaked overnight
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup coconut coil, melted
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp cacao butter
1/2 raw honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extra
2 cups raspberries

For serving
A couple extra raspberries
Some coconut
Handful of chocolate chips
Whatever you want to make your cake pretty

Method:

1. Prepare the base: place almonds and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed (it should stick together when you squeeze it between your fingers). Press mixture into the base of your spring form pan – use a pastry roller or the bottom of a glass to get it even. Place in the refrigerator.

2. Using a powerful blender (I used my Vitamix, of course), blend all filling ingredients except for raspberries until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed to make sure everything is blended up. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add raspberries to blender and whiz until smooth. Fold raspberries into coconut filing.

4. Remove base from fridge and pour in filling. Return to fridge or freezer and let set overnight. Just before you’re ready to serve, decorate with a few raspberries, some coconut and chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

the make list: road trip edition

At the end of the month Jeff and I are hitting the road to spend a week in Vermont. We rented a little guest house on a farm just outside of Burlington and I can’t wait to do nothing (i.e. play a lot of solitaire on my iPhone). Two things make a road trip: podcasts and snacks. Here’s what I’ve got on my make list to make sure we’re well fed on the road.


We’ll be staying in a few hotels that boast a free continental breakfast, so in other words a selection of tasteless fruit and refined carbohydrate sugar bombs that are guaranteed to have me cranky and crashing in a few hours. And when you’re spending seven hours in a two-door Volkswagon Golf, it could get messy. I’m going to whip up a batch of this travel cereal from YumUniverse to make sure I’m eating a proper breakfast.


Date truffles are the ultimate guilt-free indulgence and <a href="What’s Cooking Good Looking rolls dates, almond butter, bananas and crunch cacao coating into these yummy looking <a href="” target=”_blank”>chocolate, almond butter and banana bites. These will make great treats on the road and I won’t even feel guilty when I eat them all in one go.


I imagine there will be hiking. If this is the case, we will need snacks. I love my almond date granola bars but I’m thinking it might time for a change and Whole Living‘s Peanut Butter Hiking Bars hit all the marks.



These babies are just for me. Jeff doesn’t “like” nuts so I’ll get to have the whole batch of these roasted ginger sesame nuts from Dolly and Oatmeal to myself. They have all my favourite things; cashews! Ginger! Totally delicious.


Another road trip staple: veggie rice wraps. They are a great way to use up all of the left over bits and bobs in your fridge that you need to get rid of before you hit the road. Any combination of veggies will do the trick but I especially like spinach, avocado and cilantro. Meghan Telpner has a great tutorial on how to roll up these bad boys.

For more, follow me on Pinterest!

Note: these photos were taken by the bloggers and websites credited above.

chocolate chip power cookies

Almond Power Cookies and Goji Chia Chocolate Crunch Bats
Thanksgiving is my favourite of all the holidays that involve family and large meals. Everything about it is just so perfect – the timing, the weather (warm enough to take a walk through the gorgeous fall leaves but cool enough that you can wear your best jean jacket), and of course, the food. We do it potluck style, and when your family is filled with as many passionate and talented cooks as mine, you know you’re in for a real treat.

This year I made another pot of braised white beans and leeks. My brother made a fine turkey that spent 48 hours in a beautiful bath of wine, salt and garlic, while my mum brought a restaurant quality salad that had orange slices and pecans in it. As always, my sister in law who has been blessed with the gift of baking made two types of cake and there was enough vegan mac and cheese to feed a small (vegan?) army. And of course, we can’t forget the roasted potatoes, which have been known to reduce Lairds to petty theft and physical violence for just one more. Okay, maybe not physical violence, but definitely petty theft.

I’ve been working with a holistic nutritionist to sort out some crummy allergy symptoms I’ve been having over the past few months and Thanksgiving fell smack dab into the middle of my elimination diet. While the buffet table boasted plenty of dishes that were free of gluten, wheat, dairy, corn and soy (the most common allergens in our diets), I knew that a sugar-free dessert was going to be harder to come by.

Not exactly one to pass up a sweet after a meal (and after Thanksgiving meal at that!) I knew I had to plan ahead. I debated a stop at a Tori’s, one of my favourite bakeries here in Toronto, but on Saturday morning I opened up my pantry and realized I had all of the ingredients to make these chocolate chip cookies. With a base of almond meal, sweetened with maple syrup and studded with soy-free, dairy-free unsweetened dark chocolate chips they hit all the check marks on my elimination diet.

Despite desserts for days on the table, these cookies were a hit! I was especially pleased that the two most important men in my life gave them the stamp of approval — my dad and my husband, who are equally discerning when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. These are definitely going to make a repeat occurrence at my table, for a celebration meal or otherwise!

Check out the recipe for Goji Chia Chocolate Crunch bars over at YumUniverse, my latest recipe obsession. And full disclosure, I did cheat on my diet with one roasted potato and the tiniest sliver of pink doughnut cake. But hello, it was a pink doughnut cake!

Chocolate Chip Power Cookies
Adapted from UnDiet
Makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups almond meal (raw, from 2 cups of almonds if making at home)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup chocolate chips (dairy free if you’re going for vegan)

Method

1. Place rack in centre of the oven and preheat to 350F.

2. If making almond meal at home, whiz 2 cups of raw almonds in a high powered blender.

3. Mix all ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes to let the dough come together. This will make it easier to shape.

4. Scoop out two tablespoons of dough, roll in to balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten them down a little.

5. Pop in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack (they’re delicate!). As the cookies cook they will crisp up.

Enjoy!

braised white beans and leeks

braised white beans and leeks
braised white beans and leeks

A couple of years ago good friends of ours moved to London, Ontario — just a few hours’ drive outside of Toronto. They have a big, beautiful house with lots of extra bedrooms and once a year or so they invite the whole group of friends down for the weekend. I lovingly refer to these weekends as our grown-up sleepovers. Not the put your keys in the bowl kind of grown-up sleepovers, but the kind that start off posh enough with wine and a fancy potluck dinner spread, only to end up eating chips in your pajamas and laughing until your sides hurt at 2:00 in the morning. These are always my favourite weekends and I look forward to them all year.

My man and all his friends went to school in London, so this year we went for Homecoming weekend at Western. Having attend college and not university I had no idea what this “Homecoming” was all about and was quite intrigued by the concept. By the time we got to campus most of the festivities were winding down, but nevertheless we took full advantage of the brilliant weather (over 20 degrees Celsius! in September!) and went for a vigorous walk around campus. We took a tour through the aptly named student ghetto, got denied entry to a bar (just because one of us was a baby, geesh), and hit the bookstore before heading back to the patio. After dinner we played Cards Against Humanity. Needless to say the next morning there was lots of coffee.

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pot luck dinner!
Cards Against Humanity

We had made these plans to visit almost two months ago, and as soon as the potluck roll-call went out I knew I was going to make these braised beans and leeks from the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. I had them in the spring when my friend Natasha made them for Lunch Club and I had been counting down the days until fall when I could try them for myself. It was warm enough to barbeque when we were in London but by the time the sun went down it certainly felt like fall, perfect for a hearty scoop of cheesy bean and leek goodness.

braised white beans and leeks
cheese!

This was a perfect contribution to a potluck. You only need one pot and you can throw the cheese on when you reheat them when you arrive at your destination. Not to mention they get better with age — I polished off the last of the leftovers four days later and they were better than ever.

Braised White Beans and Leeks
Adapted ever so slightly from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 8-10 side servings

Note: The original recipe calls for four cups of vegetable stock plus an additional 1/2 cup of water. I found that my beans were well cooked after about two hours in the oven but they were still pretty liquidy. Next time I’m going to drop the water and add it in if I find the pot to be drying out.

Ingredients

1 pound of dried white beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight
3 large leeks
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp herbes de Provence
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Drain and rinse your beans that have happily soaked overnight. Set aside. Next, preheat your oven to 225F with the rack arranged in the lower third. Now you’re ready to rock.

2. Trim your leeks so you’re left with only the white and light green parts. Slide them in half vertically and rinse well in cold water, getting all the nasty bits out from between the layers. Slide thinly into half moons.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy, oven-proof pot over medium and add olive oil. Add in celery, garlic and leeks and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add beans and herbs, along with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir in vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.

5. Cover the pot with an ovenproof lid or cover tightly with foil. Place the pot in the over and cook until the beans are full cooked, stirring occasionally. This could take anywhere from 2 to 3 and a half hours, so keep an eye on them! If your pot gets dry but your beans aren’t cooked add some water.

6. Once cooked, taste and adjust seasoning. Beans can be cooked until this point if serving later.

7. Turn your oven up to 500F and sprinkle cheese on top of your beans. Place the pot back in to the oven for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!