Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Excuse the chaos..

I am in the process of changing the graphics on my blog because cbotb decided for some reason that the currents backgrounds would disappear on Friday.  It also said you could go "click here" to get a new code but..when I do the page won't load.

I REALLY, REALLY hate this crap......

Also, for some reason...the new design does not seem to be overriding the cbotb code so hense the new graphic at the top...and the old at the bottom.  Have I mentioned that I despise the piddly business of trying to insert codes and all that @^$&!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me just stick to cooking, writing, photographing and posting without the pain in the behind of redesigning ...because I do not have a clue!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vegan Coconut Milk Yogurt

This is actually something I make all the time and initially thought too ordinary for posting.  However, I've begun to realize that I'm not the only erstwhile Vegan who prefers to omit soy from their diet.

Now of course I realize there are now commercially available soy-free vegan yogurts but first, they are difficult to find and second; they are pricey.  Also, in my humble opinion, overly sweet but I generally prefer unsweetened yogurt so who am I to ask? 

First, I'm sure you are saying...well ok, so you make the yogurt with coconut milk but uhm, isn't the yogurt starter dairy based?  The answer is...yes, MOST are but you have a couple of options.  One is to buy a carton of So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt (plain) and use it as the starter.  I have found it at a few Publix supermarkets, most Whole Foods, some Fresh Markets and about 50% of small health food stores. 

The second option is a product called Culturaid by Klaire Labs.  This product is dairy, soy, gluten, yeast, soy and corn free.  It's basically a vegan probiotic that can be used as a yogurt starter.

Call me lazy but, I just bought a carton of the So Delicous cultured coconut yogurt (also, the store I went to didn't have Culturaid) and used that.  Yogurt making is NOT exactly difficult but it is testy.  Too much heat and your little friendly bacteria are floating belly-up in a curdled soup of sour smelling coconut milk.  Not enough heat and it just won't activate the which case you still end up with soured coconut milk but its just not curdled.  There's a lovely image to contemplate eh? 

There are a couple of schools of thought on which coconut milk to use as well.  The same company, So Delicious (for whom I would embed a link but their website says under construction) makes 1/2 gallon cartons of homogenized coconut milk and I have used it with good results.  However, my favorite brand is and probably will remain Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk

I have tried making my coconut yogurt with the lite version and find it makes a more watery yogurt.  Of course the full fat version has twice the fat but... heart healthy medium chain fatty acids concern me far less than commercial yogurt that is full of high fructose corn syrup, artifical colorings and flavorings and vile RBST-laden dairy milk!

A mixture of half lite and half full fat will produce a nice yogurt; a bit on the thinner side but definately workable.  In fact, it is nearly identical to the texture of the So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt. 

I need to drop a note in here about cheap, off brand and some imported coconut milks.  Read the labels.  Polysorbate-80 or 60 are commonly seen on the label of these inferior products.  These chemicals are by products of petroleum that are used as emulsifiers.  If you want to be even MORE grossed out...Polysorbate 60 is a major ingredient in many sexual lubricants.  Lets serve THAT up to our kids in artificially flavored/colored snacks like those God-awful kiddie yogurt concotions.  Bottom line...the group of DRUGS/CHEMICALS knowns as the polysorbates are literally as abundant as AIR.  READ READ READ your labels!

I often recommend a little book that I found entitled Food Additives: A Shopper's Guide To What's Safe & What's Not by Christine Hoza Farlow, D.C.   Its just a pocket sized booklet with 8 or 9 hundred of the most common food additives and what is right or wrong with them.  I believe it is revised every couple of years to include all the new mutations of this garbage that comes out.  *I am not being paid, compensated or otherwise recognized by the author or KISS for Health Publishing.  I recommend this book because I believe in knowing what you are eating!

Sorry for the detour onto my soapbox!  I believe we were chatting about Vegan Yogurt.  So, half full fat and half lite for a thinner yogurt.  All full fat for a thicker, richer yogurt.  A hint:  I make a very large batch so that I can actually strain it through a lined colander AFTER it has cultured.  This gives it the texture of store bought Greek Yogurt. 

You don't really need a bunch of ingredients.  My basic list is 3 cans of Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut milk to every 1 carton of organic cultured coconut yogurt starter.  That yields about 6 eight ounce portions of finished yogurt.  Feel free to double or triple the recipe though. 

Do you NEED a yogurt maker to make yogurt?  No...but, you DO need a way to monitor and control temperature.  I actually saw an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown did this with a heating pad!  I don't suggest doing that unless you have one that has an actual thermostat on it so you can set it for a particular temperature and it will hold steady at that.  Frankly though, if your going to spring for a thermostatically cotrolled heating a darned yogurt maker! 

If you have a gas oven, the heat of the pilot light is generally pretty good for making yogurt.  In Florida, most of us aren't that lucky.  I've made it in my electric range by warming my oven on the lowest setting then turning it off, turning on the oven light and placing one oven rack on the highest rung (closest to the light).  I also cover my yogurt containers with a couple of layers of kitchen towels to help them retain heat.  It will actually work if you have a decent range that has good insulation and maintains heat well. 

Another kooky method that actually works is placing a baking rack in an electric skillet (they are thermostatically controlled heat) and putting a small amount of water in the bottom.  Set to the lowest setting, which is "warm" and then place the yogurt containers on the rack an cover lightly with a kitchen towel.  Two issues with this method: unless you want to be up all night checking to make sure the skillet isn't dry and taking the temperature of your yogurt you have to start it at the crack of dawn and incubate it all day.  Number two is that you have to take the temperature of your yogurt anyway.  You need to maintain a temperature of 110F...much more and the bacteria are belly up and circling the drain!  Below 100F and the yogurt won't will just sour.  I have heard that you can also use a slow cooker but again...the temperature has to be checked. 

Getting down to the nitty gritty of producing your yogurt begins with a double boiler set up.  Now this can be an actual double boiler or a bowl set over a kettle of simmering water...doesn't matter as long as the bottom of the receptacle does not touch the water below.  Then proceed as follows:

  1. Pour three cans of coconut milk into the top of the double boiler.  *You can make a richer, thicker yogurt by adding 1/2 cup organic rice milk powder.  It will also increase the protein marginally.  It must be pure rice milk powder though; not some kind of rice milk drink mix.
  2. Heat the coconut milk until bubbles begin to form around the perimeter of the bowl and you start to see steam.  You should stir with a sterilized metal spoon.  Don't want to be introducing any bad ju ju into your good bacteria colony!
  3. Take the temperature of the coconut milk.  It should register at least 180F but not higher than 200F.  It should NOT boil.  Maintain the coconut milk at this temperature, stirring as needed for approximately 10 minutes.  Careful not to let the bottom scorch.
  4. You should have your carton of yogurt/starter at room temperature.  I recommend using plain (not flavored)  cultured coconut milk yogurt.  Remove the sterilized coconut milk from the heat source and pour into a large bowl.  The coconut milk MUST cool to between 110-120F before adding the starter, with 112F being the optimum temperature.
  5. Temper the starter with about 1 cup of the warm coconut milk in a smaller bowl.  Then add the this mixture to the rest of the coconut milk.  This is your culture.  You need to cover it immediately to prevent any contamination.
  6. Have your containers washed and sterilized before you begin the culturing process.  I recommend glass containers with lids (not metal lids however).  Fill the containers with hot water and allow them to warm the containers before filling with your culture.
  7. Empty the water from the jars one at a time and fill before you emty the next.  Place the lids on filled jars immediately. 
  8. Use the incubation method of your choice.  Some recipes say incubation is 8-10 hours but I find that it will vary widely.  In my experience, the coconut milk yogurt takes longer to incubate than dairy yogurt.  After 5-6 hours of carefully maintained temperature (110F), check the yogurt by inserting the end of a sterilized spoon.  If the yogurt is firm you may stop incubation and refrigerate.  If not, continue until desired texture is reached.  Note:  Generally speaking, the longer the incubation period, the more tangy the yogurt will be.  Homemade yogurt should keep in the fridge for about 10 days.
As I mentioned, I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to yogurt.  Fruity, icky sweetness is just not my cup of to speak.  I add NOTHING to my yogurt until I'm ready to eat it.  This way you have the option of using your homemade yogurts any way you like.  If you stick a bunch of jam in the bottom or whatever...that lets out the possibility of a good tandoori marinade. 

My favorite method of yogurt consumption...lightly sweetened with a bit of stevia and heavily laced with cinnamon and layered with chopped apples and chunks of homemade granola.  Lacking the apples and granola, I generally scarf one down with a packet of stevia and a teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in.

The one I've made for you today is sweeter than I normally prefer but, I served this one as a dessert to a bunch of Vegan skeptics.  Needless to say...they were skeptical no more!

To turn my perfectly creamy Vegan Coconut Yogurt into a dazzling dessert simply simmer julienned orange peel in Organic Blue Agave Nectar.  Remove from heat and chill until ready to serve.  Spoon over homemade Vegan Coconut Yogurt and enjoy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who are you calling a tart?

Part two of childless Sunday ended up being a lovely goat cheese tart with a sundried tomato and garlic polenta crust topped with paper thin slices of yellow summer squash and zucchini. 

It is a tremendously simple dish to make and serves well as a light meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) or you may make in a square pan, cut into bite sized pieces and serve it as cocktail nibble.

To accompany the tart, we had a spinach salad which I dressed with a Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette.  Between the Herbs de Provence in the goat cheese and the dijon mustard in the dressing, the meal ended up having a decidedly French flair.

This is my lovely Tarte aux Fromage de Chevre et de deux Cougres Polenta or Goat Cheese and Polenta Tart with Two Squashes.  The salad is dressed with Jaune Tomate Vinaigrette Dijon or Yellow Tomato Dijon Vinaigrette.  I just SOUNDS so much fancier when you say it in French oui?

I also decided to set the small table by the kitchen window pour deux and have a leisurely dinner WITHOUT the television!  Now how to wrest the remote from Roger's clutches?  Someday he will be buried with that thing because it is unlikely that the mortician will be able to pry it from his cold dead fingers!

So here is our lovely intimate dinner for two...

Preparation of the tart begins simply with the making of the polenta crust.
You will need:
  • 2 cups boiling water or low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup yellow corn polenta (buy organic if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves finely minced or pasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sundried tomatoes, minced (do not drain)
Bring the water or broth to a boil over medium high heat; add the salt, garlic and minced sundried tomatoes with whatever oil is on them.  Gradually whisk in the polenta.  You must stir constantly and exercise caution for two reasons...lumps and splattering!  Hot polenta bubbles fiercely and can cause quite a serious burn if you are not careful. 

Once the polenta has thickened, remove from heat.  Lightly grease a removable bottom tart pan with room temperature butter.  Using a spatula, scrape polenta out into tart pan.  Grease the back of a spoon or your hands (if you have asbestos fingers like me) and press the polenta up the sides and evenly into the bottom of the pan creating a crust.  Set the crust aside to prepare the goat cheese filling.

  • 3 ounces soft, creamy style goat cheese at room temperature
  • 3 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese or cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 ounces crumbled goat milk feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) Herbs de Provence
Using a spatula, mash the cheeses and herbs together thoroughly in a small bowl until you have a creamy homogenous mixture.  Spread the cheese evenly into the bottom of the prepared polenta crust.

Next you will prepare the two squashes.
  • 1 large (about 7 inches long) zucchini squash
  • 1 large or two small yellow crookneck summer squash
  • 1 clove grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Using a mandolin slicer works best for getting the squash slices precisely thin but it you don't have one, simply slice them as thinly as you can.  Beginning at the outter edge, alternate slices of zucchini and yellow squash until a complete circuit of the tart is made.  Repeat in concentric circles to the center.  It usually takes 4 or 5 slices to finish the center of the tart.  Add the grated garlic to the olive oil and brush the whole surface of the tart liberally.


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Bake the tart on the center rack in the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes.  If the squash are not as nicely browned as you would like, switch the oven to broil and broil to desired browness.  I do not brown mine excessively...merely till the squash begins to curl at the edges.

The tart must rest for 10 minutes before attempting to remove the outer ring else you risk breaking the fragile polenta crust.  As it cools, the crust becomes more stable and the cheese filling more set.  This tart is actually best served at room temperature.



The Yellow Tomato Dijon Vinaigrette comes together in a flash with the blender
  • 2 medium yellow tomatoes, cored and cut into 8ths
  • 2 cloves pressed garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons dijon mustard (to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more if you don't mind the fat)
Plop tomatoes, garlic, mustard, honey, salt, pepper and vinegar into the blender.  Pulse until completely pureed.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  With blender running, drizzle olive oil through top opening until all is combined.  The mixture may break and curdle if all the olive oil is added at once.  Store any unused portion in a lidded container (not metal) in the fridge for up to a week.

(c)copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday and Childless...

It has been a few months since we have had no one in the house but Roger and I on a Sunday morning.  The last 3 weeks have been a flurry of chaos with the younger step sons visiting.  Prior to that, my mother moved here (with us) in May. 

The children have all gone home and my mother has been on an extended vacation to my younger brother's house in Indiana.  I have figured out that I love children but have an almost pathological aversion to the particulars of coexisting with them at my age!  Remember the raging wild-eyed germ-a-phobe clean freak thing?? are a walking germ factory and a mess waiting to happen!  I cleaned, washed, aired out and returned everything to it's rightful place and then had to sit and WOO-SAAAA for about an hour!  But it's all good.

Since Roger and I married 5 1/2 years ago, Sundays (when he isn't working) have always been our decompression days.  In a house with two Sagittarians, constant communication and togetherness is not really necessary or even appreciated.  It is a don't try to fix what is not broken kind of thing.  That one lazy day every few weeks seems to give us the recharge we need.

A typical Sunday morning lazy day breakfast doesn't happen till nearly noon but when it does, it is usually a production!  My husband is a total carbahaulic and asking what he wants for breakfast is about as redundant and unecessary as asking a child if he likes candy.  He loves crepes, pancakes, waffles and anything else that he can douse with syrup.

Lying in bed last night just befor dozing off, I had already decided that waffles would fit the bill today.  Not just any waffles though.  Something unique and totally indulgent.  The inspiration began with a marbled pound cake and ended up being a Chocolate Marbled Vegan Waffle with Strawberries, Whipped Coconut Cream and Dark Chocolate Chips...all drizzled with raw blue agave syrup.  It is served up with some strawberry jam glazed veggie sausage links.  I know; completely over the top right? I should be ashamed of myself...

This is a very simple batter that is made in one bowl and then divided, with rich dark organic cocoa powder and a bit of extra sweetener being added to one portion.  One tip that I have recently discovered about making vegan waffles is adding rice flour to the batter helps to create a nice crispy waffle.

The batter:
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached pure cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavored extract
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (more for brushing waffle iron)
  • 1/3 cup organic dark cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons raw blue organic agave (and extra for drizzling)
This simple batter is started by combining all three flours, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl and whisking to combine.  Pour 2 1/2 cups of almond milk, melted coconut oil and the butter extract into the dry ingredients; whisk vigorously.  Add additonal almond milk as needed until batter is consistent with regular waffle batter (about the thickness of cold heavy cream).  Amount of milk will vary according to humidity.

Once batter is mixed, transfer half the mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/3 cup cocoa powder and 2-3 tablespoons agave nectar.  Cocoa powder has natural fiber and will cause the chocolate batter to be thicker than the white batter.  Adding the agave serves two purposes; to thin the chocolate batter and sweeten it.  If the batter is sweetened to your liking but still to thick; thin with almond milk until it is about the same consistency as the white batter.

Heat waffle iron and brush with some melted coconut oil.  I put my two batters into squeeze type bottles and fill the wells simultaneously with both batters.  However, you can do them one at a time and just fill in the gaps with the second batter.  Close the waffle iron and allow waffles to bake at least 5-6 minutes.  Test by attempting to open the lid.  If you are met with resistence, they are not ready.  When done, the lid will lift easily.  They need a little longer cooking time than a plain waffle because the chocolate batter is denser.

To serve; I layer them onto a plate, top with slice strawberries, big dollops of whipped coconut cream, drizzle the whole with warmed agave and sprinkle with dark tropical source vegan chocolate chips.

For the Strawberry Jam Glazed Veggie Sausages:  Cook veggie sausages in a large non-stick pan until browned.  Add 2-3 tablespoons all fruit strawberry jam to the skillet (I used Crofters organic Strawberry Jam).  Toss over medium heat until the jam melts and coats all the sausages.  Serve with Chocolate Marbled Waffles.

(c)copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More Excitement.....

Well, a few weeks ago I was honored to win the Quickies avocado and feta challenge and sponsored by Lazaro at  and Denise at Quickes on the Dinner Table. 

This week, I am so excited to win not one but TWO contests!  Thanks to everyone who voted for my Matcha Meringue Sandwiches with Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache in the tea week contest sponsored by Mission: Food 

Thank you Victoria and thanks to your sponsor, Upton Teas for the lovely prize!

I'd also like to thank Chef Chuck Kerber of for selecting my recipe for Mango Swirl Yogurt Cheesecake to win the original recipe contest that was held to celebrate the new website.

All this and getting an award too!!!  It's been an awesome week!

Thank you to all my blogger friends.......

Here are the pictures of the three winning recipes...

Avocado Fudge Brownies with Feta Cheesecake Swirl for the Quickies Challenge

Matcha Meringue Sandwiches with Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache for the Mission:Food tea contest

Mango Swirl Yogurt Cheesecake with Apricot Date Shortbread Crust (gluten-free) for the Pittsburgh Hot Plate Recipe Contest

Slice of Mango Swirl Yogurt Cheesecake

Friday, July 16, 2010

My first award (blushing)

How very exciting to check your comments and find that someone has given you an award!  I am always scooting around checking out all the beautifully crafted blogs, the amazing photos and recipes of other bloggers and I feel woefully inadequate in the IT department...LOL

Fortunately for me, technical expertise is not a prerequisite for people to enjoy my blog.  If it was...I'd be in deep water.

Let me just say, to win an award from such a gorgeous site as The Ardent Epicure is high praise indeed.  I was not aware that several on my list of favorite bloggers are all contributors (and related) to the site.  So, I thank you most humbly and kindly for the recognition.

The rules state that I must reveal seven things about myself...what a double-edged sword that could be eh?? 

1.  I am a complete techno-phobe (big surprise there huh) and have been known to throw abberant electronic devices across the room, in the pool, or just sweep them off my desk into the floor.  I once thought about shooting my computer tower with a 9mm handgun.

2.  My 27 year old daughter had to teach me what a blog was and why one would want to have one.

3.  I have asked Santa Clause to put Johnny Depp in my Christmas stocking for over 10 years now and it has never happened.

4.  I can resist any evil temptation save good dark chocolate.

5.  I am a raging, wild-eyed germ-a-phobe and clean freak.

6.  I have no formal culinary training, though I have devoured every book, magazine or article I can find on cooking.  My favorite show was a PBS series called "Great Chefs of America" over 25 years ago...and I watched it religiously.  As a child, I stood on a kitchen chair and made biscuits, pies and other goodies with my grandmother.

7.  I won the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association Beef Cook-off in 1996 and competed at the University of Kentucky at Bollingreen's culinary school for a chance to win the National Title.  There were 50 from every state.  I took second place in the Nationals. 

The next requirement for accepting this award is to pass it on to 15 other bloggers.  That will be a hard choice because there truely are SO many wonderfully talented foodies here.  However, I will do my best..

1. Stella at  who was one of the first people to find and begin following my blog.  Her site is lovely and her recipes are always bewitching!

2. Rick at who is just a hoot!  He was also one of the first to find and follow my blog.  His posts are so adorable and creative...I still get a kick out of the Nyquil thing...

3. Drick at whose garden fresh creations remind me of my childhood.

4. Kristin at (Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker) for her make-it yourself attitude and because I understand what its like to be the chauffer, laundress, cook, maid, teacher, bookkeeper etc etc etc.......

5. Chef Dennis at whose recipes are inspired, photos amazing and his obvious commitment to the girls who have been placed in his capable charge. 

6. Claudia at whose every recipe comes with a family story.  It is a lovely and tasty legacy!

7. Biren at because I am so envious of her photography skills and...her creative and beautiful recipes.

8. Jacob at Jacob's Kitchen ...Im sorry, I can't find the url for his site.  I know you can find it on facebook but I don't know the blog server.  All I can say is...WOW..that man can bake!  I don't know if I ever seen such mouthwatering baked goods.

9.  Chef Ryan (Cajun Chef Ryan)...again, I don't have the url but you can catch his posts on  I love his simple approach...great ingredients, homemade...and always fresh.

10. Lazaro at  I am endlessly amazed at his creativity and presentation.  If he's a practicing home cook...I'm in big trouble!

11. Roxan at for her creative use of healthy ingredients and wonderful writing.

12. Kristin at who is a prolific poster of delicious and healthful recipes.

13.  I'm sorry I don't know her name but this blogger is a wealth of information on healing foods.

14. Vegan url on this one either but find on foodbuzz.  An amazingly talented vegan cook.

15. Healthy Exposures...that girl makes oatmeal look like a 5 star meal.  I'm truely impressed with her very healthy eating habits.

That about raps it up...thanks again to The Ardent Epicure (and all it's contributors) for the award!

Look at these photos I took at the Edison Ford Winter Estates (in Fort Myers) a few weeks ago.  Why can't my food photos come out like this?

"Seminole Lodge" Part of the Thomas Edison Winter Estate in Fort Myers

Wisteria covered trellis that conects Edison's private home to his guest house, The Seminole Lodge.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Electrolux # splits: Paradise Found Banana Split

As we are all now aware, Foodbuzz has asked it's featured publishers to submit their recipes for the ultimate banana split to help raise funds and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Research (OCRF).  It will be a Top 9 takeover, with nine luscious creations chosen to post on July 19th, 2010.

Ovarian Cancer has claimed the lives of too many women already.  Electrolux and spokeswoman Kelly Rippa are asking ALL of us to work together to raise money for this worthy cause.  To make your donation please stop by today!

Foodbuzz has generously agreed to donate $50.00 for every featured publisher post that is created and uploaded before the July 16th midnight deadline. 

Living in the tropics, my ultimate banana split is a feast of exotic fruit delights.  With a serious dairy allergy, I grew up avoiding ice cream.  It was not until a few years ago when I began to experiment with vegan foods that I discovered you could create an amazing ice cream using full fat coconut milk.

The inspiration for my ultimate banana split comes from a little driftwood plaque that hangs over the threshold of a beach-side restraunt on Amelia Island, Florida.  It simply says...Paradise Found.

When poet John Milton wrote his epic Paradise Lost, he obviously had not tasted this!

Paradise Found Banana Split

The boats are hollowed out pineapple which stand on a "beach" of sparkling white sugar/sand.  Pull up a chair, plop down under your unbrella and enjoy the most decadant ALL VEGAN banana split you can imagine!

Each pineapple boat holds two generous scoops of Coconut Macadamia Nut Chip Ice Cream.  The ingredients are few and the technique is simple.

  • 2 cans organic full fat coconut milk ( my favorite brand is Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 cup raw coconut tree sugar (made from dehydrated coconut tree sap and not super easy to find so feel free to sub regular unbleached sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  1. Place the coconut milk in a heatproof glass bowl and microwave until warm enough to dissolve the sugar.  Add remaining ingredients, stir and chill overnight.
  2. Pour mixture into container of ice cream freezer and freeze per manufacturers directions.  Scoop finished ice cream out into a plastic container.  Stir in:
  • 1 1/2 cups tropical source vegan chocolate chips (minis or chop the large ones)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup organic, dessicated unsweetened coconut flakes
  3.  Stir ice cream to distribute ingredients well.  Cover and freeze until firm. 
       Makes approximately 6 large scoops.

Next, I placed 1 cup of fresh mango in my blender with 1/4 cup raw coconut tree syrup.  Again...not easy to find so you may sub honey or agave.  Puree to a smooth sauce.

Make or buy pineapple ice cream topping.  I bought ready made and then chopped some of the pineapple I hollowed out to make the boats to add to the topping.  It cuts the sweetness and gives it a fresher taste.

To make your Vegan Whipped Cream:

  • 1 can Full fat unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.  When ready to make the cream, move can to freezer for 15 minutes.  Open and use a spoon to scrape off the heavy coconut cream that conjeals at the top of the can.  Do not use any of the watery liquid from the bottom.  Save this for another use or discard.
  2. Place the cream in a chilled metal bowl and beat with chilled electric beaters.  Add the powdered sugar and beat until mixture forms a stiff cream.  If it is too thick, you may add a tablespoon of the water from the bottom of the coconut can. 
  3. Position a pastry tip in the corner of a zippered bag and scoop the whipped coconut cream into bag.  Store in fridge until ready to assemble your banana splits.
  4. Chop extra salted macadamias for the top
  5. Pare and slice fresh kiwi for garnish.
To assemble:

Halve bananas lengthwise and place on top of pineapple boats.  Top eac with two scoops of Vegan Coconut Macadamia Nut Chip Ice Cream.  Add pineapple sauce, mango puree and extra flaked coconut.  Position kiwi slices between scoops.  Pipe whipped coconut cream into lovely mounds atop the ice cream.  Drizzle with more mango puree, pinapple sauce.  Top all with chopped macadamia nuts.  Dive in...and prepare to be amazed!

*Vegan, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Soy-Free and Insanely delicious!

It's all in the presentation.......

There are few (if any) foods that wouldn't benefit from artful least in my humble opinion.  Even humble food is elevated to "good enough for company" status when presented with flourish.

Too often we sit down in front of our food and without thought or appreciation for the effort and love that went into the preparation; just wolf it down.  When I first met my husband (7 years ago this September), he had the most appalling habit of either eating at the stove or flopping something out on a paper plate and going off to his evil chail (lazy boy) to eat...completely unconcerned with whether anyone else in the house had food or was even aware that the food was done.  In all fairness, it was probably better that way given his mastery of Tuna Helper!  I was taking a bit of my morning oats and had trouble swallowing them when I typed that!

His half grown children would stand at the refrigerator door with a spoon and eat from the bowls or containers of leftovers.  Once I remember making a bowl of my grandmother's banana pudding and arranging the vanilla wafers in beautiful little concentric circles in the sides of the trifle bowl and on the top.  BEFORE dinner, I walked into the kitchen to discover his 25 year old son, 25 year old daughter-in-law, 19 year old daughter AND 15 year old son ALL standing at the counter with spoons eating out of the trifle bowl...shoving each other out of the way and having a duel with their respective spoons.

For someone like me, who takes so much pride and puts so much care and love into everything I make that was tatamount to a slap in the face!  Needless to say...the evil step-mother put a stop to that business in one hot-damned hurry!  I was flattered that they liked my food so much but...sucking mashed potatoes out of an ice cream scoop whild standing at the stove with me trying to work AROUND them does NOT fly in my kitchen!

After a few months, when it became understood that food was eaten at the table, from dishes (not paper plates), with proper utensils, napkins and MANNERS they began to notice the little things that gave the food that extra sump'n sump'n. 

Now that dinner is only just myself and my husband (and most recently my mother who moved in with us), were it up to me we would eat by candlelight with some nice jazz playing quietly in the background everynight.  I am idealistic yes, but realistic also and I know that is not always possible.  I do however TRY to make that happen at least 3 nights a week.

Today, I'm posting a very simple recipe for a summertime classic and a go-to starter course in our, refreshing gazpacho.  I know, everybody, their brother and the horses they rode in on knows how to make gazpacho so the recipe is not really the point.  The point is the BOWL!

Since gazpacho is undisputably best eaten chilled, what better way to keep it that way than glittering, herb studded ice bowl.  Yes...a serving bowl made of ice!  I must warn you, that the process surely must be started three days before you need the bowls, but the WOW factor is well worth the effort.  It hardly takes any of your TIME except for waiting because the freezer does the work.  You just have to know the tricks.  I will include the recipe for the gazpacho as well and directions for these incredibly impressive serving vessels.

Gazpacho in Glittering Herb-Studded Ice Bowls

To create these stunning ice bowls you'll need two different sized bowls.  Use either a jug of purified water or boiled and cooled tap water to create the clearest ice.

Begin the process by filling the larger of the two bowls with approximately 1 inch of water.  Repeat with the other larger bowls.  I generally do four at a time so I use a total of eight bowls; four of each size.  Place a cookie sheet on a shelf in your freezer.  It is necessary that the sheet set level.  You can't prop it up on top of your sacks of frozen veg or balance it on a rump roast!

Place the bowls un the freezer on the sheet and allow the base layer of ice to freeze solid.  It should only take a couple of hours. 

Step two is to place the smaller of the bowls in each of the larger on top of your ice base.  Carefully pour water down into the gap between the two bowls.  Slighlty over halfway up the sides will do because they will run over once weighted.

Now, using a butterknife, slide whatever fresh herbs you like down the sides between the two bowls.  I recommed working with one at a time and leaving the others in the freezer so as not to melt the foundation layer of ice.  Return this set to the freezer and repeat with the remaining bowls.  Once all are back on their baking sheet in the freezer, you will need to weight the top bowl down.  LOL...the first time I did this, I used cans of tomatoes which froze and bulged of course...what a mess!  I actually use rocks to weight my bowls down but any heavy objects that won't freeze and explode will do.  Some suggestions: another dish such as a heavy mug filled with water or you can even use masking tape ( X shaped) across the top and down the sides of the outer bowl to hold the inner bowl down.  The critical thing is not to let that inner bowl float AND to keep it as centered as possible in the larger bowl.

I sounds like a pain in the tush but the end results speak for themselves.........

Remember to place a cloth napkin under your bowls on the serving plate for two reasons.  One, to absorb the water and two so the ice bowl doesn't fly off the place as you are carrying them to the table!

For the Gazpacho:

5-6 heirloom or other meaty tomatoes) skins scalded off
2 cups low sodium vegetable juice cocktail  *may sub the spicy blend
1 english cucumber washed and cut into chunks
2 stalk celery, washed and cut into pieces
1 small sweet onion, peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
2 slices day old italian bread or ciabatta
1 large handful Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
chopped herbs, sliced black olives, minced bell pepper and lemon slices for garnish

This is complicated now....

Everything down to the parsley in the food processor or blender.  Blend to desired texture.  Pour into a bowl and season with salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice, sugar.  Lastly stir olive oil through all.  Chill and serve in your oh-so-chic Ice Bowls!  Garnish as desired.

*To unmold your ice bowls...simply leave at room temperature for a few minutes.  Slip the small bowl out first and the carefully tip the larger bowl and let the ice bowl just slide out into your hand...dont drop it!  If they seem to be stuck you may dip quickly in warm water for a couple of seconds to loosen them.  Store back in freezer until ready to serve.

When serving remember...the ice bowl waits for nobody so make sure all your dinner guests are present and at the table when you serve the first course!

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States