Friday, November 30, 2012

Black Sesame Sunflower Bread

Sometimes the ingredients speak for themselves! And sometimes the most basic of ingredients together bring a harmonious blend of flavor in one natural bite that I think to myself, "Geez, why do we make things so complicated?". Well, that is an easy answer...cause they taste good. Having said that, even I get so caught up in ingredient heavy recipes that I forget that something as simple as avocado and red onion on an all natural bread can taste so good and requires nothing else.

As we all round the bend into 2013 no doubt some of us are still enjoying cakes, cookies, yummy candies, and the cheese laden hors d'oeuvres that holiday festivities bring. It's my favorite time of year but I know I will be itching to get back to veggies and healthy living on a full time basis. In the meantime, I am okay with fattening up a bit (more).

However, when you are ready to decongest your body of refined sugar and flour and do a little cleansing, this is a good recipe to introduce into your diet. This recipe for Black Sesame Sunflower Bread comes from 'Ani's raw food kitchen' and was a simple straightforward recipe that yielded bread enough for 4-6 sandwiches (maybe more) depending on the size of bread you like.

This was the first time I used my Excalibur dehydrator that I have had sitting around for over a year. Previously the thought had daunted me on using this new equipment in conjunction with the raw food process and making recipes...but like most things I need to just dive in and figure it out! In the end- not very complicated. You can use an oven cooled to below 140F to dry foods but as this is a 5 hour drying period, you really would need to invest in a dehydrator. Keep in mind that dehydrators have many uses for dried fruits (including fruit rolls),veggies, nuts, chicken, herbs- you name it. It is a very useful tool when it comes to healthy living. And it is more affordable when making healthy snacks for kids and using natural foods in some manner before they have to be tossed out.

The recipe is as simple as mixing the ingredients and spreading the mixture onto a dehydrator sheet/tray. I was surprised that the wet bread mixture had a sort of meaty texture to it. I was intrigued to see how this would turn out. 

Let dry for 4 hours, flip and score the bread, let dry for another hour before serving warm.
Of course you don't have to serve it warm. As Ani states in her book, she will often make this bread and take on the road with her since it makes for a quick sandwich and she can throw some fresh cut veggies on it. Simple, fast, and healthy!

Originally I made this bread to go with another one of her recipes for 'Sun Burgers on Black Sesame Bread with Sun-Dried Tomato Catsup and Hot Mustard'

 I really enjoyed this bread for the taste, the texture, and that I felt like I was doing something good for my body at the same time. Admittedly, I liked it more with just a couple simple ingredients like avocado and red onion with a little bit of the hot mustard and sundried tomato catsup. I can imagine using it for other sandwiches that may have sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, and a little mayo. A lot of possibilities exist for this bread and they don't need to be raw food related.

1 cup ground flax seeds
1/3 cup whole flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds

Mix ground and whole flax seeds, salt, garlic, onion, and water. Add sunflower and sesame seeds and mix well.

Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly on one dehydrator tray. Dry at 104F for 4 hours. Flip and score the bread into nine slices to make it easy to break into straight lines. Dehydrate another hour before serving. Serve Warm

Yields: 4 to 5 servings

Crystal's Notes
  • Score your bread according to the size YOU prefer.
  • This bread keeps stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
    • You can double or triple your recipe, dry and store. When fully dried, the bread will keep at least a month or two.
  • Drying period may require longer than 4 - 5 hours depending...just check on it touching the top and bottom of the bread and get a feel for what you like and if you want it more dry.
  • Ani recommends using this bread for morning toast, a base for pizza's, or as a bun.
  • If black sesame seeds are not available, tan seeds wills work well too.
  • If 4- 5 hours of drying time seems long to you, it could be because working with a dehydrator is new. Dehydrators are energy efficient and a great way to dry foods while preserving the nutritional qualities that would otherwise be baked or fried out with other cooking methods.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cookies * Bars * Sweet Breads

Operation Baking Gals : November

This is my first post and baking effort in supporting the troops as a member of Operation Baking Gals! And my shipment comes the day after Veteran's Day which seems appropriate somehow.

What a pleasure and honor it is to give a little something back to those folks who are away from their family and friends in a career that serves and supports our country. This decision to be in the military can at any unknown time cost them dearly their own lives or that of their comrades. It's not the easy life they have, and during times of war, tougher than any one of us can even imagine. Based on this, I am happy to support them in any way possible.The achey feet and exhaustion from a day of baking is nothing compared to what they go through and the thought of any measure of happiness a home baked cookie can give them, goes the distance for me in imagining a smile on their faces or the excitement to receive something from "Home".

I learned recently in my genealogy work on my own family tree that a many times great grandfather on my Dad's side is a 'Son of the American Revolution' and served proudly in the Revolutionary War in the Essex County - New Jersey Militia. It was a very proud moment for me to know that my family has played a role in serving our country and in looking at the actual documents, I was able to connect to that place in my family's history from here in 2012. Some of my family, on my sister Kim's side, still serve our country and I am grateful for their dedication and bravery.

For this month of November, I have baked for our U.S. soldiers: Zucchini Bread, Pfeffernusse Cookies, Chocolate Gingerbread Bars, and Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies
Sound good? They were...and once again, I ate way too many samples but such is life!

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars


Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies

Recipes and notes are as follows:

Click on the hyperlinked name to go to recipe page online.

Crystal's Notes
  • Martha's photo online is misleading in that the bars appear much thicker and larger than what they are for the 8" pan she recommends in her instructions. In doing a 'close up' shot, I can make it look that way too.
  • Her instructions yield 16 bars...if you look at your 8' pan, you will realize they are tiny bars. If you want bigger, double the recipe and use a larger pan.
  • Recipe did not taste as 'gingerbready' as I had expected. You could easily make modifications to this recipe to give it some extra ginger zing. 
  • The chocolate chips makes this a very yummy bar and the powdered sugar does make it a perfect holiday treat in one. 
While I don't think it really lived up to its name, it's still a yummy bar!

click on the hyperlinked name to go to recipe page online.

Crystal's Notes
  • People will differ on their interpretation of Pfeffernusse cookies based on their experience. I particularly like this recipe and have not ever tried the small bite size crunchy ones.
  • I use excess powdered sugar cause that is my thing and that is why they look exceptionally white :) ...recommended to not eat outside on a windy day or near a breezy window!
  • I cannot stand star anise (anise extract) which tastes like black licorice for those who need a reference. It is subtle in this recipe and I LOVE these cookies so if you have a 'hater' out there, these cookies may get a pass. They are on my favorites list for sure.
  • Slight crunch on the outside, chewy on the inside

Zucchini Bread /Recipe from Mom

This recipe has been made since I was a kid and has always been a holiday favorite of mine. Several years ago, my Mom lost it (Aye!). We tried some online recipes but they weren't "it" and while some were close it just didn't fill that missing piece inside our hearts (or bellies). It was very very very disappointing. Since that time my Mom has moved house like 3 times or something. So you would think not a chance in H** we would ever see it again. About a month ago, I asked her if she had ever found that recipe. I don't know why I even bothered given the time that had passed and what has gone on between now and then with garage sales and getting rid of old stuff... and now that I think about it, not sure why she never told me that she had indeed FOUND IT!  OMG! What a great day it was.
In making this for our troops, I made an extra one for at home and it was the reunion I had hoped for. It was everything I remembered it to be. Simple but GOOD.

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts ( I always use walnuts)
2 cups grated Zucchini
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
1 can crushed pineapple, drain juice
( I do not add the optional items)

  •  Mix dry ingredients
  • Add oil/ eggs/ vanilla
  • Add zucchini and nuts
Butter and flour loaf pans
Preheat to 350F   /  Bake for 1 hour- or until tops are browned and toothpick comes clean
Enough for 2 small loaf pans

Crystal's Notes
  • Top of loafs are crunchy and inside is soft and yummy. Perfect!
  • Taste great with a smear of butter.
  • Great anytime!

These were better than I expected them to be. The 'Baked' boys offer a suggestion in the book that these are indeed made for dunking and that you can and should let them bake up a little longer than you feel comfortable with since they are good for it. I did no such thing and baked for the suggested time. I hate a dry cookie and seeing as these have a journey ahead of them, I didn't want to risk them getting too dry, made for dunking or not! 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces dried cranberry (1 cup)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup) (Optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, until incorporated.

Add half of the dry ingredients and mix for  seconds. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat  until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat for 5 more seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the cranberries and chocolate chips. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a small ice cream scoop with release mechanism to scoop out the dough in 2 tablespoon-size balls (or use a tablespoon measure) and place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 14 - 18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cookies begin to brown. 

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the individual cookies to the rack to cook completely.

These cookies can be stored, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.

Yield: 36 cookies

Best wishes to all our military folks and their families.

God Bless America!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pecan Chai Pie on Cashew Crust

The name of this dessert alone sucked me right in! Then I read the ingredients and saw some of my favorite spices; cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.

This is an almost guilt free dessert when compared to something like a traditional pecan pie and I am sure it takes a lot less time to prepare. 

When it comes to raw desserts (raw food in general, really) a couple things occur to me. The first is how amazing all the fresh ingredients smell. In this dessert I just want to immerse myself in the vibrant aroma of the fruits, nuts, and spices, that once mixed together are like aromatherapy heaven. They literally smell alive and the best thing is that this dessert smells like fall to me. So it's seasonally appropriate too!

The second thing I notice is how filling raw foods are. I can pack away a lot of food for a small person, especially desserts (which I do not share). With raw foods, I can usually only eat half of a portion and I am full and feel totally satisfied...AND...that satiety lasts me for hours.

The food postings I am doing on raw food recipes are new to me in terms of preparation . During my vegan years I bought my food already made and packaged from Whole Foods. Since I wasn't really into cooking or baking at that time, it was much easier to stay on track and assure I wasn't consuming animals and was getting healthy, fresh meals..and got my desserts in, of course.

So if this is new to you and seems 'weird' because it's not traditional baking, stick with's new to me too! It is different and some recipes will require some different tools, like a dehydrator, but it's another adventure in culinary experiences, as I see it anyway...and because it is raw food , you get the nutritional benefits of foods that are in their prime and haven't had their beautiful enzymes cooked out. This is also a nice option/addition to quickly put together if you entertain and some of your visitors have vegetarian or vegan needs, or maybe they are on a traditional weight-loss 'diet'...perhaps they will feel better about indulging if they know it is actually good for them.


Cashew Crust
1 cup cashews, dry
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups pitted dates (Medjool, khadrawhi, or other semi-soft date)
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1 medium orange, zested, peeled, and seeded
1 cup pitted dates
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp grated nutmeg
Splash of water, as needed

4 cups pecans, dry

Required: Blender and/or Food Processor


To make crust, pulse cashews, vanilla, and salt in your food processor. Slowly add the dates and process into a dough-like consistency. Empty into a bowl.

cashew crust

Use some of the shredded coconut to "flour" the bottom of a pie pan. Mix Remaining coconut into the bowl with the cashew mixture. Press into the "floured" pie pan.

'flour' bottom with coconut

spread crust into bottom of dish

To make syrup, place orange pulp into the bottom of a blender. Add dates, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and blend. Add a splash of water as needed to make a thick syrup. Set aside.

making the filling

To make filling, mix pecans, syrup, and 1 tbsp orange zest well. Spoon filling into pie crust.

Will keep for four to five days in the fridge.


Makes one pie

For 16 servings, per serving: Calories 300, protein 5g, carbohydrates 25g, fat 21g, sugar 16g

Percent daily value: potassium 11%, vitamin C 9%, calcium 4%, iron 10%, vitamin E 6%, thiamin 15%, riboflavin 4%, niacin 4%, vitamin B6 7%, folate 5%, vitamin K 6%, phosphorous 14%, magnesium 18%, zinc 13%, copper 31%, maganese 80%, selenium 5%, dietary fiber 25%

Source: ani's raw food kitchen

Crystal's Notes

  • Instead of one pie pan, I used 8 of my 5" ceramic dishes, which when compared to her serving reference would equal 2 servings per mini pie dish.
  • When making the syrup, you may need to use more than a 'splash' of water. I ended up with a paste and kept adding water until it was indeed a thick syrup.
  • After zesting and peeling the orange, I made sure to remove as much of the outer white skin of the orange segments as possible until it resembled a thick pulpy orange juice that I might get at the store.
  • I rolled the cashew crust into 8 balls and then flattened into discs and placed one in each ceramic dish. When pressing them out into the dish, I found it helpful to wet my fingers which prevented the crust from sticking to my fingers and allowed for a more successful smoothing out of the crust.
  • Use raw nuts and not salted ones. If all you have on hand is salted, then I would suggest to put them in a bowl and cover with double the amount of filtered water and let sit overnight. In the morning, rinse them off disposing of the salty water. DRY - this recipe calls for DRY nuts, so you can use a dehydrator at 104 to dry for about 3 - 4 hours. Or dry out on a cookie sheet for several hours, being sure to move the nuts and rotate the sheets around.

Until next time, have a great day!