Welcome to Pure Tastes!

Welcome to Pure Tastes!  This blog is for learning and sharing wonderful ideas, discoveries, and more: all related to food!  The majority of it is recipes that are made from scratch, with an emphasis on healthy, local, organic, and fresh foods.  You’ll also find restaurant reviews and links to other food-related topics.  If you’d like to be added as a contributor, or just want to send in recipes that you think would fit well on this site, please let me know!

Askinosie Chocolate Raspberry-Buttermilk Cake

This is my photo-documentary of my test baking & final cake for the Christian County Fair Cake & Pie competition.  Last year I won first place with my chocolate cake – it was my first baking competition!  Since I love chocolate (and apparently, so did the judges) I thought I would use chocolate again somehow.  I still have some tweaks to do before I post the recipe, but let’s just say there are things involved like: lavender and lots of vanilla-fruity-nutty goodness.   This is a cake you want to eat nice & slow to let the flavors mingle & linger.  Don’t take the leftovers to the office because you definitely don’t want to rush it.  Take it nice and slow & fully appreciate it!  (I eat a small slice during Patrick’s naptime or after he’s in bed for the night…)

Askinosie Chocolate was so kind as to give me some of their single-origin chocolate (grown in Davao, Phillipines) for this competition.  I’ve saved a little bit to take to them on Monday to try, but I hope you can thank them too by going to their site & ordering some of their chocolate.   Anything you get will be good (I have pretty much tried them all,  lol).  Their white chocolate is also unlike any other and would be tasty in baking, although I’ve yet to try baking with it…mmm…

Warning: This cake is so pretty, I took a lot of pictures.  (Plus I also had Matt around to take some action shots for me, too!)

I found these tartlett tins at Goodwill for $1!!  They were probably like, “What on earth are these?  Let’s put them in a baggie and mark it at $1 since we have no idea.”  To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure what they were at first, either.  I had to think about it a long time in the store before I was mostly certain, and even then wasn’t 100% until I looked up what “tartlett tins” looked like.

 

Since this was a test version and I also wanted to use my tart tins, I made the recipe for two layers.  I used half the batter in the tartlett tins, then cut the single layer cake in half & stacked the halves.  It’s also good for small families like ours.  The final version will be all round, but you bake it or could cut it into any shape….

Ganache drizzled on….for the test batch I used Nestle dark chocolate chips, but I know it would be it is MUCH better with some Askinosie chocolate!  (My absolute favorite!  I still haven’t found another single-origin chocolate that tastes quite as good, and believe me, I have had a lot of chocolate, lol.  I just ordered a special edition Askinosie bar that had coffee beans sprinkled on it, and I am so excited to pick it up this week & taste it.  It’s like a chocolate dream come true!  *EDIT* It is, in fact, a coffee-chocolate lover’s dream come true.

When I told him not to touch….

Most adorable fat cheeks.  Ever.

I could not find fresh raspberries last week, but I found some this week!

The “bite” shot happened sooner than I would have liked….see below for details…

He stole my berries, licked the ganache, AND poked a fork all over it.  I thought about Photoshopping those parts to make it look prettier, but…eh, I kinda like the real life look.  It tells the story better.

 

Ok, I bet you are ready for the recipe, so here it is.  Notes & thoughts are afterward.

Askinosie Chocolate Raspberry-Buttermilk Cake

Ingredients

1 c. spelt flour
1 c. almond flour
1/2 c. raw sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt or other unrefined salt
1/2 c.  melted coconut oil or butter
2 Tbs Irish Whiskey
3 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk (or milk or yogurt)
1/3 c. raw honey
1 lemon, juiced & zested.
1 tsp lavender flowers

Ingredients for the fruity & chocolate layers:

10-12 oz fresh or frozen raspberries
2 Tbs raw honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup cream
8 oz. Askinosie Chocolate, chopped or broken into morsel-sized pieces  (Plus more for garnish, if desired.  Used here: Davao 77% cacao – fruity tones go well with this cake)
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

1. Use real buttermilk or make your own (see Step 2).  First steep milk or buttermilk with lavender by placing it in a tea ball (or just strain the flowers out of the milk at the end).  Heat the milk over low/med-low heat until slightly warm.  You’ll probably smell the lavender scent, or you can taste test it.  Let cool.

2. To make “buttermilk:” Juice the lemon and add 2 Tbs of the juice to the cup of cooled milk.  Let sit for 10 minutes & it will curdle.

3. Mix spelt flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. Create a “well” in the bowl with the dry mix and add eggs, buttermilk, oil, Irish Whiskey, vanilla, honey, and lemon zest.  Use a mixer on low speed until ingredients are just combined.

5. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Butter and flour two 9-inch, round cake pans (or whatever you’re using…a simplified version of this would be to do it all in a 9×13 pan & cut out squares).

6. Bake at 300 for approximately 25 minutes (for round 9-inch pans.  Probably around 14 minutes for tart tins.)  Let cool on wire racks for 15 minutes, then turn cakes out onto rack & cool completely.  Wrap & set in freezer for assembling later (unwrapped is fine if you’re assembling the cake immediately).

Directions for Raspberry jam layer:
1. If you don’t care for too many seeds, in a blender or food processor, puree a 10-12 oz. bag of thawed raspberries, or fresh ones if you have them in season.  You may have to add a tiny bit of water to puree them better.  Strain the seeds out.

2. If there is leftover lemon juice from earlier, add it to the puree.  Cook over med-low heat until it thickens.  (You can drizzle in some extra honey if you like.)

Directions for Ganache:
Be sure to halve this recipe if you are NOT doing a layer cake!  Or just refrigerate the extra ganache & turn it into truffles.  😉

1. Heat the cream over med-low heat, stirring almost constantly until it just starts to barely bubble.

2. Pour into a bowl over the chopped/broken chocolate pieces.  Let set for a minute.

3. Stir with a whisk until chocolate is smooth.  Add vanilla & blend.

4. Use immediately for thinner, pourable frosting that will be smooth on the cake, or wait until thick & spread over cake for a more textural look.

Assembling the Cake (as in the final version – pictures coming soon)

1. Take the cake layers out of the freezer (30 minutes is a good time to be in there; this makes it so much easier to maneuver the cakes!  If presentation is important to you, you can trim the edges of the cakes at this point if they turned out messy or uneven.)

2. Pour about 1/3 of the ganache over the cake.

3. Pour the raspberry jam over the ganache.  (Steps 3 & 4 are switched in the photos.)

4. Line the edge with whole raspberries (fresh are best; rinsed & dried)

5. Top with the second layer of cake.

6. Top with rest of ganache.

7. Garnish with a grouping of fresh raspberries & crumbled Askinosie chocolate pieces, or Askinosie cocoa powder.

Notes

WOW, I know that looks like a LOT of steps….and it is….but you know what I always say: Get creative & find a way to simplify it or make it your own (especially with assembling the cake – there are soooo many options!  Google Images is a great way to get ideas!)  I’d like to try cutting the layers in half like a bagel so  I’d have four thin layers to work with, then alternate raspberry jam and chocolate ganache layers.  And I’d like to try Askinosie’s white chocolate sometime!

I recommend preparing the raspberry jam and infusing the lavender into the milk/buttermilk ahead of time, just for time’s sake.

I originally got 10 oz of chocolate from Askinosie because that’s what I’d used with other, inferior chocolate from the grocery store.  However, after having experienced many of our own ganache-topped cakes over the past few years, Matt & I decided that with the Askinosie, the ganache didn’t have to be as thick as the other stuff.  It has so many more undertones & is so much more flavorful and dark that you just don’t need as much.  (This is going to sound SO Food Snob but I don’t care because I like good food:) So if you MUST, go with approx. 10 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I’ve tried four grocery store brands & they’re all about the same.  (Baker’s being the worst, although I didn’t know any better when I first started making my chocolate cake.)  Conveniently, 3 oz. happens to be the size of the bar that Askinosie sells, so you can get 3 bars and have about 1 oz leftover for garnish and/or nibbling.  Perfect.

I won second place in the Cakes division, for anyone wondering.  I was at a workshop all day so Matt actually took it for me & he reported back with the following: He got there a little later to check in the cake & suspects they tasted them in order of arrival; thus, my cake was probably last to be tasted.  Since we have really whittled down our sugar intake, including in baking, I tend to not make foods as sweet as other people would like.  Just gonna put this out there from personal observation: Most people consume way too much sugar & their palettes are adjusted to always having sweet things.  Some people may thus think that dark chocolate is too bitter.  To that, I have to say, “psh.”  If you are a true chocolate lover, you will FULLY appreciate this fine-quality chocolate used in this recipe.  This is top-of-the-line stuff!  Anyways, Matt brought me a bite of the cake that won….and you can ask me about it in person.  I’m happy with the results, and I hope the judges and anyone who went to the 4H building at the Christian County Fair got to enjoy some raspberry-chocolate bliss today!  🙂

Parmesan Crackers

I’ve been wanting to try to make crackers for a while now & finally did it! I saw a few good ones, including some soaked flour recipes, but I went with Smitten Kitchen’s version. They taste like a cross between Wheat Thins and White Cheddar Cheezits. YUM! Here’s another cracker recipe I’d like to try.

(Pardon my cell phone pic)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour, more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (fresh or not; I used the Kraft stuff & it tasted fine)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed (could also try half & half, yogurt, or milk, although do whole milk because it would lend more of the nice creamy flavor like the cream did)
Coarse salt, pepper, more cheese, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400.
2) Combine flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor OR with a fork/pastry cutter. Pulse (or cut) until flour and butter are combined.
3) Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit until a dough forms. If it does not come together, add more liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky. (I used maybe a Tablespoon more of milk.)
4) Dust a baking sheet or baking stone with flour. Divide the dough in half, form a ball, press slightly flat with your palm, and start rolling it out. Go for super-thin if you want them crisp, up to 1/4″ if you want them a bit tender in the middle.
5) Cut into cracker shapes with a pizza cutter, knife, ravioli cutter, etc. OR you can break it into crackers after it’s been baked. (Just be careful not to scratch your baking sheet.)
6) Prick with a fork & top with any toppings. (I brushed on olive oil & more parmesan cheese.)
7) Bake about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. They will crisp up more as they cool…if they last that long.

Graham Crackers

I thought I’d try to make some graham crackers after discovering a little box of Annie’s bunny graham snacks.  Oh my, I got the honey ones as a little treat for Patrick but I might have eaten more of the box than him.  They are delicious with cream cheese sandwiched between two of them!  The slightly-altered recipe from Smitten Kitchen was the first recipe I tried & they were pretty amazing.  I think it was the copious amounts of vanilla & honey – two of my favorite flavors!  I ate a lot of them…so I made more, and I tried to mess with the recipe the second time around but it wasn’t as good as the original.  (I was attempting to be frugal by cutting out just a bit of butter & I ran short on honey.  Neither were a good idea.)  I did, however, make some simplifications both times I made the graham crackers/cookies.  Here’s my sugar-free, whole-wheat, toddler-snack version:

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or graham flour if you like)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoon-sized slices
1/3 cup raw honey
1 Tbs molasses
5 tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

(Preheat oven 350 degrees)

1) Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl or food processor.
2) Add butter and cut with a pastry knife, or pulse in food processor.
3) In a small bowl, whisk the milk, honey, molasses, and vanilla.  (No, that’s not a typo on the amount of vanilla.)
4) Add milk mixture to flour mixture & cut in or pulse until it barely comes together.
5) Flour a large cookie sheet & roll the dough out to about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness.  (The thinner you get it, the crisper it will be, so pick your preference.)  Use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.
6) Slice the dough sheet into whatever size & shape you want.  Use something thin & plastic or wood (like a stiff spatula or a plastic knife) so you don’t scratch your baking sheet.  (Alternatively, you could roll the dough out on the counter or baking mat, cut with a pizza roller, and transfer to a baking sheet.)
7) Optional Pretty step: Poke with a fork, imprint a shape with a cookie cutter, or some other clever little thing.  (I made hearts on one batch with a plastic shape-sorter piece.  If I was the icing or colorful sugar type, I’d color the hearts after baking!)
8 ) Bake for about 15 minutes, until firm to the touch or until desired doneness.

Butternut Squash Soup

This is by far my favorite soup, and one of the few soups I don’t screw up (really, you don’t need a full hand to count them).  It’s a combined recipe from some of my favorite sites: Giada and FormerChef.com. I was planning on making this for Thanksgiving and so I practiced it for Sunday dinner last week.  It got good reviews there so I’m sticking with this version for now!

Yield: Approx. 8 cups.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs Olive oil, bacon grease, and/or coconut oil for sauteeing & flavoring
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1-2 butternut squash (depending on size), peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
2 c. chicken or veggie stock (homemade is best-tasting, healthiest, & even easier than these recipes)
1/2 c. apple cider
Whole Milk, Plain Yogurt, or Cream
4-6 strips bacon (optional)
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
cumin

Directions:

1) Prep the butternut squash and steam it until it slides off a fork when pierced.

2) Meanwhile, fry the bacon and saute the veggies in a bit of the grease (or olive or coconut oil for a lighter taste).  Season the veggies with a bit of salt.

3) Add the butternut squash, chicken stock, and cider.  Cook at least 10 minutes to get the flavors melding.  If it looks like it may be too watery, cook it longer (uncovered) and the juices will reduce.

4) Spoon the mixture into a food processor or blender (doing it in batches may be necessary).  Blend until smooth.  (This is an optional step & just depends on your texture preference level.)

5) Put blended soup back in the pot and add a splash of milk to thin it out as well as add a bit of creaminess.

6) Season as desired with salt, pepper, and cumin.

Garnish Ideas:

Crumbled bacon is SO GOOD on top (or pancetta, or prosciutto, or Beef Bacon from Rocking Z Ranch).  Alternatively for the bacon, try a few drops of liquid smoke, which is found near the mustard, I think.  It’ll still give a smokey flavor without the hassle of bacon (or if you’re on a special diet that says bacon is bad).  I’m just gonna say it:  Prepackaged bacon bits pale in comparison to real, freshly cooked bacon, especially if you’re going to the trouble of making soup from scratch anyway!  Croutons make good toppings for any soup (cut bread into chunks; drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt; bake at 300 until desired crispness is reached).  Cranberry sauce is also tasty!  We had cranberry sauce and bacon crumbles the other week and the tart-smokey-savory-salty combo made a party in my mouth.  One of the original recipes had pomegranate seeds on top, but I haven’t tried that yet.  I think Feta or some other kind of similar cheese would also be amazing – especially if you served the soup into individual dishes, put the cheese on it, and broiled it until golden.  We’ve had Feta like this on top of toasty French bread & eaten alongside the soup – yum!

Beef Jerky in the Oven

Ahh, beef jerky…the essence of long car trips and trekking through the backwoods.  Well, for us anyway.  The protein boost keeps you going much better than carby snacks!  Two things I DON’T like about store beef jerky, though: too much salt, and preservatives. Our family is moving more and more towards getting that stuff out of our system.  I don’t know what the long-term effects of that junk is and I don’t want to find out, so I’ll just stick to eating REAL food.  Joining a CSA this year has definitely helped with that goal!  So many fresh veggies at every meal has really made us feel better and refined our palettes.  Now we can walk down a grocery aisle (which is WEIRD in itself because we don’t go there much anymore), see a box of some kind of pre-packaged, processed junk with loads of sugar and white flour…and it’s totally unappealing (even the baking aisle.)

So anywho, upon their recommendation for a cut of meat, I picked up a pound of London Broil from Rockin Z Ranch in Mountain Grove, MO.  (I actually picked it up at the Ozark Farmer’s Market – much more convenient!)  I talked to the lovely gals at the market about making homemade jerky & decided to take the plunge.  It was a really good cut of meat because it was so lean.  When you make jerky, lean is good because excess fat that melts off the meat when you dehydrate it can lead to early spoilage.  Make sure you get a cut that is pretty flat, as it will be easier to slice and dry uniformly.

Now there are several ways you can dry meat.  Oven, food dehydrator, Alton Brown’s box fan contraption….this post happens to include the oven method. (Mostly because my food dehydrator doesn’t rotate evenly, which scares me when it comes to drying meat.)


Step One - Slice thin

Step 1: Freeze (or thaw) meat until it is semi-frozen.  Slice into quarter-inch strips.  I did it cross-grain so it would be easier to tear off chunks in the end.

Step Two: Mix marinade

Step Two: Add marinade and cover meat evenly.  Cover and marinade in the fridge for overnight or longer. Your marinade should have some acid in it to help break down the meat, like vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, tomato juice, orange juice, etc.  Try combining different tastes!  Here’s what I did for a slightly sweet-salty-spicy-savory combo:

1 c. apple cider, preservative-free
1/2 c. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp each garlic, cayenne, pepper, and salt

The juice was really nice because it lent a natural sweetness and we didn’t need to add any cane sugar (another thing I’ve practically cut out of my diet this year – I feel so good without it!  No more headaches, and more REAL energy!)  Red juices like grape, cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry, etc. would be tasty for this too.  Another natural sweetner that would be good is honey.

Don't try this at home

Step Three: Pat meat dry

Step Three: Pat meat dry.  The drier it is now, the easier it is to dehydrate.  You’ll notice how it’s brown now from all that yummy marinade!  You can reduce the used marinade down for another dish; just don’t use it raw for something else.

Step Four: Insert toothpicks

Hanging in the oven

Step Four: Insert toothpicks into one end of each slice of meat and hang between oven racks. Place a foil-covered pan on the bottom rack to catch the drips of fat.  There won’t be many, but some.

I tried not to insert the toothpicks into a fat sliver because it felt flimsier that way, like it might fall off the pick more easily.

Step Five: Dry

Step Five: Set temperature as low as your oven will go (140 is ideal).  Dry in oven until entire length of meat is tough.  It should tear somewhat easily but not snap when you bite into it.  My drying time in this oven was about 8 hours.

The finished product!

Step Six: Let cool, package in an airtight container or bag, and enjoy when you have your jerky craving – whenever you want to, because it is dry!  (Since it doesn’t have a bunch of preservatives or salt, it will keep longer in the fridge or freezer.  We took it on a weeklong+ camping trip (to a drier climate) and it did just fine.

Rosemary-Balsamic Pear Salad

An updated, balanced twist on the classic pears-and-cheese combo.

Ingredients:

1 ½ c. whole spelt berries
3 c. water
3 Tbs. plain yogurt or vinegar
3-4 fresh, ripe, pears
1 lemon
5 oz. crumbled Gruyère cheese
approx. ½ c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. rosemary
sea salt, to taste
optional: 3 oz. prosciutto

Directions:

Soak the spelt berries overnight in the water and yogurt (or vinegar). Drain off water in the morning and rinse in clean water. Drain again.

Cut the pears into chunks. Juice lemon and toss with pears.

Toss pears with spelt berries, cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto, rosemary, and salt.

Heat balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium-high heat until it reduces to a slightly thick syrup. Immediately pour over salad and toss. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Notes:

Can be served cold or at room temperature. Makes approx. 5 servings.

This can be made with any combination of fruit, cheeses, and spices that you like – whatever is in season and locally available. Some other good fruits for this recipe are apples (with nutmeg and/or cinnamon) and peaches (with ginger and/or cinnamon). Some other good cheeses are goat’s cheese and gorgonzola. This would also be pretty good with Kamut grains.

Avacado-Coconut Ice Cream

Avacado-coconut milk ice cream

oh.  my.  gosh.

Indescribable.

I may never buy cream for homemade ice cream again.  The coconut milk in this lends a subtle coconut flavor (without the texture of shredded coconut, which most people who don’t like coconut seem to have issues with).  And I think it’s even cheaper than a cup of cream!  The avacado is even more subtle, so even though it sounds weird, it is heavenly!  The lemon flavor adds brightness and the vanilla…well, the vanilla is just good.  This whole concoction was so smooth; none of that weird chunky-frozen-milk texture that regular homemade ice cream has.  You know what I’m talking about?  And the great thing is that it is very high in good-for-you fats…..probably more than one needs for a few days, but just eat salads for a few days and it’ll make up for it.  hah!

I highly recommend this recipe!!!

Ingredients:

4 avacados

1 can coconut milk

1 c. milk

1/2 to 2/3 c. sugar

1-2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 tsp. lemon juice

Directions:

Blend everything in a blender.

Refrigerate for a bit until cold.

Add to cold ice cream freezer and mix [almost] according to manufacturer’s directions.*

THAT’S IT!  No cooking milk, no eggs, nothing!

The avacado-coconut milk puree with vanilla about to be mixed in

*If you have ever been told, either in recipe directions or by someone just saying you should do it, to  fill the can to the fill line with more milk – DO NOT do this!  I have been very disappointed every time I have tried that.  It really makes any ice cream mixture more watered down when you add more milk just to get it to the fill line, so you end up with that chunky-frozen-milk texture we talked about earlier.  You especially don’t want to do it with this recipe, or else you will miss out on the amazing smooth texture.  While we’re on ice cream in general, I would just skip the hassle of Rennet/Junket tablets too.  They either just suck or anyone I’ve known who has tried them doesn’t follow the directions or something….it never feels right afterward!

Someone got into things....Sanitary, I know.

Thoughts & Notes:

Next time I’m going to try and use honey for flavoring so I can let Patrick have more of it.  I’d also like to try it with a cup of plain yogurt instead of the milk, for even better-for-you-ness.  If you want to go completely dairy-free and/or you really like coconut flavor, you could just do another can of coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.  I *do* wonder how far you could “stretch” the recipe with the added milk/yogurt to get more yield, as this only makes a few servings.  But this amount is perfect for a small family without any leftovers that get super-hard in the freezer like regular homemade ice cream does.  Some other thoughts about ways to go with this recipe….perhaps infusing the milk with an herb like pineapple sage or lavender would be delicious!  This is garnished with pineapple sage leaf in the picture….also try coconut, citrus zest, or peanuts for garnish.