This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Hmm, I guess the problem with getting your family into eating healthier is that you might come home expecting to indulge in some Christmas sweets and find a fridge full of not fudge, but grass-fed meat and oranges.
When I looked at that fridge full of healthy foods I felt less than festive. And an inexplicable craving for fudge.
That was despite being surrounded by a million zillion twinkling Christmas lights and four Nativity scenes. Rich sweet foods are unfortunately tied to Holiday cheer.
So I chose to make one holiday dessert this year.
I've always been a bit of an Anglophile. I always like to read some Charles Dickens for Christmas and I've always been entraced by the food in those books. I think British food has a bad reputation that is unjust. Jane Grigson's book is a great introduction to British cookery and shows that true traditional British food isn't terrible different from good Swedish food. Lots of fresh fish, seaweed, goose, and mutton. Some of this was lost during the Industrial Revolution's urbanization, when people moved into the cities and could no longer harvest these foods from the land or afford them in shops. Unfortunately Jane's book has many recipes containing flour and refined sugar. I'm more interested in foods from the Middle Ages, when those ingredients were scarce. I'm not saying all British food is bad, but I do think there are some hidden gems.
This year I already made mincemeat, but I gave most of it away. I used this recipe, but added more suet since the lamb was a little lean. I also used fewer dates and added some brandy instead. I love the rich festive spiced taste of mincemeat and use it as a dessert or in a simple gluten-free almond-flour crust as a delicious pie.
For Christmas I'm making this Baked Almond Pudding for 4-6, which Jane says is a "firm cake-like pudding with a 'sad' centre and crisp outside."
250g ground almonds
a few drops of bitter almond essence
2 tablespoons double cream
1 tablespoon brandy
4 tablespoons rapadura
2 egg yolks
Melt the butter, pour it into a bowl, and add the remaining ingredients in the order given. Grease a shallow pie dish or Pyrex dish with a butter paper, ladle in the mixture and bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes. The time will depend on the depth of the mixture; allow room for it to rise a little. The surface will brown lightly and acquire that appetizing baked almond crust. Serve with sugar, butter and a sweet wine or sherry.
MMM. Not "healthy" but already gluten-free and not so bad either!
Yeah, it's my party and I get to be a dessert-making paleo deviant if I want to. For my birthday I decided to make some ice cream from The Ice Dream Cookbook. I first heard about this cookbook on The Healthy Cooking Coach, a blog by chef Rachel Albert-Matesz. Her husband Don writes another excellent blog called Primal Wisdom.
Yes, I know paleolithic humans didn't have ice cream, but sometimes we need to indulge. When I started doing paleo I tried a handful of paleo dessert recipes, with uniformly terrible results. It mostly involved dumping a bag of $12 nut flour in with some eggs and a pitiful amount of honey. The results were uniformly like insipid heavy omelettes. Maybe I just can't follow recipes to save my life. That coupled with the fact that I'm not exactly the best photographer in the world contribute to me posting relatively little on the subject.
But I tried Ice Dream and it's very good and while it might not be perfect, for those of us with non-paleo family and friends, it's better than serving up some Haagan Daaz. The basic idea is it's coconut milk made creamy and custardy with gelatin or agar and then sweetened with a variety of sweetener options coupled with stevia.
I hadn't liked stevia before this. Stevia, for the uninitiated, is a non-caloric sweetner made from the leaves of a shrub. It's sweet....but it also has a bit of a bitter aftertaste, especially to a super-taster like me. By itself, it tastes kind of horrible to me. But now that I've made some of the recipes from the Ice Dream cookbook I realize the secret it to pair it with small amounts of more delicious sweet things and other strong flavors. I've only made a few flavors from the book, but mango was one of the best. I couldn't taste the stevia at all.
The other sweeteners you pair stevia with are fruit, honey, maple syrup, or the less-preferable agave (because it's basically HFCS and has now been banished from the health foodie community). Yes, that does mean that there are carbs, but nearly half of commercial coconut milk ice creams and without nasty additives like carraggean.
A great thing about this dessert for me at least is that it's really satisfying. I didn't feel the need to eat much. It's sweet enough to be a birthday treat, but not too sweet.
Let's get real about chocolate. First of all not paleo: it requires advanced processing and the addition of sugar to make it edible. If you found the raw fruit growing on the tree it would taste pretty gross.
Second, it's one of the hardest foods to give up. It is admittedly tasty and has a powerful flavor. The problem is that many of us are addicted to it. I used to study alongside a bag of almond chocolate kisses and by the time my term paper was done, I had eaten ALL of them. I was ashamed, but I couldn't stop myself.
Looking back, I had to wonder if it's the mixture of chocolate and either soy or dairy that makes it powerfully addictive. Casein, a major protein in milk, can break down into an opioid that may be addictive. Some people have shifted towards dairy-free dark chocolate bars, but almost all contain soy.
Either way, modern technology and ingredients have made cacao into a food way more addictive than when it was originally used by the Mayans. The Mayans drank the bitter concoctions for religious purposes and it was forbidden to women and children.
My personal experience is that it is best to phase out consumption of chocolate because of the sugar content. I personally started by only consuming "raw" chocolate, which is the least-processed edible form. It's a treat that can teach you to respect the bitter qualities of the substance, while still allowing you to enjoy its culinary virtues.
I eat these treats occasionally:
Artisana Cacao Bliss is made with pureed coconut and just a spoon of this rich concoction satisfies!
Fine & Raw chocolate bars are made with the highest quality full-fat cacao and fully display the complex flavors inherant in the cacao plant.
Or make your own. I made this truffle using a Swedish recipe that is known as Ice Chocolate. Simply mix raw chocolate powder with coconut oil and honey to taste! Roll pureed berries in nuts in the chocolate coconut oil mixture to make truffles.