Almost Vegan Dark Chocolate Almond Tart

Last Wednesday, my instructor brought in silken and firm tofu for the class to experiment with. She recommended that we try out another chef’s Almond Chocolate Tart Recipe. My culinary experience with tofu preparation is for savory dishes like curries, vegetarian kebobs, and in stir fries, so this method of sweet preparation was intriguing.  It was only almost vegan because we didn’t have any carob chips, so I had to use dark-chocolate chips that most likely contained some sort of milk product. Though I trusted that the recipe would produce a good dessert, I was still a bit hesitant in putting the tart together and on top of that, I felt a little sense of pressure to do it right because for my many of my classmates, this would be their first experience with eating anything tofu.  I want to really perfect the process and change people’s minds about “weird” foods and healthy substitutions.

Almond Oat Crust

Almond Oat Crust

For the crust, in a food processor or blender, pulse together,

1 cup toasted sliced almonds (toast in a pan for about 5 minutes)

*reserve about 1 tbs of the almonds for garnish

1.5 cup Oats or whatever granola you have around

1 tbs Vegan Butter (Earthbalance)

1 tbs Maple Syrup

2 tbs Apple Juice

1/4 tsp Almond Extract

Process until a sticky mixture forms, then press crust dough into a 9-in spring form pan coated with pan release. Press into an even layer with slightly higher edges

Par-bake the crust at 350F for about 10 minutes, just till slightly brown (this is an optional step, but I liked the extra toasted flavor and it will help the crust hold together better)

For the filling, melt 3 cups chocolate/carob chip over a double boiler

mmm...Chocolate is always a good sign

mmm…Chocolate is always a good sign

In a blender, blend until smooth

3.5 cups Silken Tofu (about 1.5 of that store brought containers)

8 tbs Maple syrup

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Almond Extract

Tofu, Maple Syrup, and extracts...doesn't look tasty yet.

Tofu, Maple Syrup, and extracts…doesn’t look tasty yet.

Once those ingredients are combined, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the blender, you may have to stop in between and stir up the mixture yourself — it starts to thicken very quickly

After incorporating the chocolate

After incorporating the chocolate

Reserve 1 cup of the fully incorporated filing. Pour the rest of the mixture in the crust (I actually ended up with more filling than needed).

Smooth out the top, cover, and chill for two hours.

For decorating, take the reserved filling and scoop into a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe decorations abound the top edge of the tart.

Garnish with whatever your heart desires — I used toasted coconuts. You can go with the reserved sliced almonds, fruits, chocolate chips, etc.

The finished Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

The finished Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

Chill for another 30 minutes to firm up the piping work.

Enjoy!

Other changes you can make to pump up the creatively of this treat is utilizing other extracts/flavorings like orange or raspberry. With the leftover filling, I allowed it to chill over night, scooped them into 1 tbsp balls, and rolled them into an espresso powder/cocoa powder mix – – Tofu Chocolate Truffles were born.

-A

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Jackfruit Tacos

Last Friday night,  a few classmates and I celebrated the end of the week with a taco night and a few drinks. We have been curious throughout our beverage course about how some of the “drinks” we have been mixing tasted like, so why not combine that venture with tacos!

I originally planned on putting together typical vegetable tacos with marinated mushrooms or tofu but I was reminded of a jackfruit taco I had during a summer trip in Philly. I had to attempt to make a homemade version too.

Jackfruit is a commonly seen southeast Asian fruit found in a large green spiky shell. For the taco, I used young, unripen jackfruit but the ripen, sweetened version is a delicious snack.

RIpen, Sweet Jackfruit

Ripen, Sweet Jackfruit

Green Jackfruit

Young, Green Jackfruit

1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit, then allow to soak for 30 minutes in water

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

2. Drain the soaked jackfruit, and then marinate.

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

After sauteing, I added the marinated jackfruit mixture into the pan, then allowed to simmer for about 30 minutes. I did adjust the seasonings and ended up adding about 1/2 cup of water and a bit more tomato paste.

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

We had a can of black beans in the pantry, why not toss some of that in too?

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

The feast included fresh salsa and two other types of fillings. One was a bulgogi marinated beef, a type of Korean BBQ and a coffee-rub pork – seared then finished in the oven.

Did I mention we also had sweet plantains? They were delicious as a side dish but I also experimented with this:

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Cheers to more fun, creative culinary nights!

-A

Chocolate Fig Bites

I have the biggest sweet-tooth and moderation around anything with dark chocolate takes plenty of willpower. In a world of refined sugars, processed foods, and a never-ending Pinterest feed of delicious desserts and baked goods, feel good beginnings is not about restriction but trying healthier alternatives and minimizing added sugars!

These sweet bites were pretty easy to put together. I blended about half a container of black mission figs with (6 oz.) with 1 tbs of almond butter then rolled up 1 teaspoon scoop sizes into little bonbon-like balls. I dipped them into dark chocolate melted with some coconut oil. You can also make them vegan by using vegan chocolate chips. I also found that this treat is relatively inexpensive too. One 12oz container of dried figs from Trader Joe’s costs about $3.99,  I only used half the container and ended up with about 30 bites!

ChocolateFigBites_1

ChocolateFigBites

 

This is the recipe from Giada’s Feel Good Food

14 oz. dried Mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped ( about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted creamy almond butter

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (41% cocoa)

2 teaspoons coconut, safflower, or grapeseed oil

3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

1. Process the figs, almond butter, and 2 tablespoon water until smooth

2. Scoop out 1 teaspoon portion sizes and roll into 1-in balls*, place fig balls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper to prevent sticking

3. Melt the chocolate chips and oil in a double boiler (heat-proof bowl set over simmering water)

4. Once chocolate is completely melted, using a fork dip the fig balls in the chocolate to coat, allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl

5. Return dipped fig bites onto parchment paper and sprinkle with the salt

6. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the chocolate to set,  store for about 1 week.

Makes 34-35 bites; Calories – 56 each

*I made mine a bit smaller, a good trick to satisfy the sweets craving yet not over do it.

-A

Feel Good Beginnings

I’m back. It seems the craze of the holiday season and beginning my winter term courses left little time or should I say, energy to post updates about culinary school life. As always, the new year usually marks for many of us a time to set resolutions, break old habits, and develop new ones. I have been thinking about the sort of challenges I want to achieve in 2014. One of them is to be a better blogger. I started blogging while studying abroad in Vietnam, it served as a communication line to my family and friends back home and most importantly, a journal documenting my unique experience. I often skim through some of my posts, reflecting on how I grew and the impact on the person I was at the beginning of the semester to who I became when I departed. That is the goal of this blog as well, to share my culinary school experience with my friends who are scattered all across the country working their jobs, pursing graduate degrees, and overall experiencing the ups and downs of post-graduate life.  My goal into this year is to at least post one blog a week, doesn’t seem like too difficult a challenge, but that’s what I told myself when I started this blog. I also was to take my postings in a new direction, I’ll still post here and there about culinary school, I want to share healthy recipes and tips i come across and tried in the kitchen.

Over the years, I have collected all sorts of cookbooks and I seem to have a growing list of cookbooks I want. Usually though, I make a few recipes from the cookbook then leave it collecting dust on the bookshelf while referring to Pinterest posts instead. So, in combination with decreasing my smartphone dependence, I want to utilize my print collection more this year starting with Giada de Laurentils’s Feel Good Food.

FeelGoodFood

I aim to prepare at least 2-3 recipes from the book each week, a perfect way to align my new year fitness goals with creating healthy, fresh dishes, snacks, and desserts. Here are picks from the first week of January::

Mini Carrot-Fig Muffins (adaption of Mini Carrot-Apple Muffins)

Carrot_Fig_Muffins

Without added processed sugar, I find that these mini muffins satisfy snack time grumbles, pre-workout fuel and sweet-tooth needs.  I didn’t have currants or apple juice concentrate on hand, so I substituted with dried figs and orange juice. I’m sure the apple concentrate would have made the muffin a bit sweeter. Giada serves her muffins with a dollop of honey-flavored greek yogurt.

Mint-Spinach Pesto

A refreshing, lighter twist on the traditional basil and pine nut pesto that leaves you lingering for the memories (and warmth!) of last summer.  Gaida suggests topping it on her lemon-cumin grilled chicken, but as a pescartarian, I mixed it into whole baked sweet potatoes and topped on roasted sweet potato fries for dinner tonight.

SweetPotato_MintWalnutPesto

Cheers to a new year! Good luck with your resolutions too!

-A