Celebrate with ice cream

Mint chocolate ice cream cakeOne of my favourite ways to celebrate someone is by making them an ice cream cake. In honour of one of my favourite person’s birthdays today and because I no longer have a springform pan, I thought I’d share… and maybe inspire an ice cream celebration!

The process of creating an ice cream cake is easy – all it takes is smoothing layers of softened ice cream into a springform pan – it’s just time-consuming. Often the hardest part involves standing in the ice cream aisle at the grocery store deliberating which flavours would go best together, taking into account which brands are on sale and the preferences of the cake recipient.

The cake in the photo is mint chocolate (great combination!); I’ve also had success with chocolate cherry, caramel chocolate, and straight up chocolate. I haven’t used the same flavours twice and haven’t tried anything not chocolate-based.

Layered ice cream cake

The proportions are a little loose as I’ve never really measured and I tend to buy more ice cream than necessary – it’s not a bad thing to have some leftover 🙂

Ingredients

  • Day-old brownies and/or crushed wafer cookies (or purchased cookie crumbs) for the crust and, if desired, between layers
  • At least three different flavours of ice cream (minimum 1.5 litres total for most sizes of springform pans), preferably in contrasting colours and complimentary flavours
  • Chocolate, fudge, or caramel sauce for the top of the cake and/or between layers – or homemade ‘chocolate shell’ (recipe below)
  • Candies, nuts, and/or sprinkles if desired for the top of cake and between layers

Method

  • Wrap the bottom of a springform pan with foil (to prevent leaks) and clear out space in the freezer for the pan to sit perfectly flat
  • Press crumbled brownies into the bottom of a springform pan, creating an even crust (if using cookie crumbs, mix them with a little melted butter or softened coconut oil to get the crust to stick together); put the crust-filled pan in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm up
  • Soften ice cream for the first layer by removing it from the carton and leaving it in a bowl on the counter at room temperature for about 20 minutes; when the ice cream is soft enough to allow it, beat it into smooth creaminess with a wooden spoon and a lot of arm power
    • Don’t overdo it, though, you want it spreadable, not soupy!
  • Using a spatula, spread the first layer of softened ice cream onto the crust, tapping the pan onto the counter to work out air bubbles; put in the freezer for an hour before adding the next layer
  • Repeat with additional layers of ice cream – softening each flavour before beating it and smoothing it into the pan; then letting each layer freeze for an hour before adding the next one
    • If you’d like to have fillings between the layers, freeze the ice cream for only 20 minutes before sprinkling on cookie crumbs, brownie bits, nuts, or other toppings so the toppings stick to the ice cream; then re-freeze for a full hour
    • If you’d like caramel, chocolate, or fudge between the layers, use a gooey sauce that won’t get too hard when it’s frozen and let the cake freeze for an hour before and after smoothing on the sauce
  • Once you’ve added all the layers of ice cream (and any sauce or fillings between the layers) freeze for at least 8 hours to allow everything to set
  • To unmold the cake, first slightly soften the ice cream using either use a hair dryer on the edges of the springform pan or by lowering the still tightly foil-wrapped pan into a few inches of hot water, then undo the ‘spring’ and gently wiggle off the sides of the pan; place the unmolded cake back in the freezer for at least an hour
  • Cover the top of the cake with chocolate, fudge, or caramel sauce if desired and decorate with bits of brownies, cookies, candies, nuts, and/or sprinkles; place the decorated cake in the freezer for another couple hours
  • Let the cake sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting using a metal knife run under hot water to help it slide through the ice cream
  • Eat, enjoy, and look forward to the next celebration you can use as an excuse to make an ice cream cake!

Homemade ‘chocolate shell’

  • 7 oz chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Place chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler; heat over water on medium high until fully melted, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes before pouring over ice cream… or ice cream cake!

Easter bliss

Homemade bliss ball treats in front of potted flowersEaster (or Ostern) is a big deal in Germany. There are Easter specials and corresponding displays in every store, just about everything closes over the holiday weekend, residential windows show off Easter decorations (like branches hung with decorated eggs), church bells ring, and there’s tons of chocolate!

As a slightly healthier alternative to all the Easter chocolate (which is fantastic… but sometimes a bit too much), I made a couple batches of bliss balls – although I’m calling them Glückseligkeit Bällchen in keeping with current surroundings and because I love the word Bällchen 🙂

I followed the recipe below as written for one batch (the ones coated in cocoa and chopped almonds in the image at right) and switched in shredded coconut for some of the ground almonds in the second batch (the coconut covered ones). I also used dried cranberries in addition to the dates in the coconut Bällchen.

These are easy to make (especially with a food processor) and the recipe is easy to adapt to whatever nuts or dried fruit are in the cupboard. While they are sweet and chocolate-y, they’re also full of fibre (thanks to the dates) and protein (thanks to the almonds).

Have a blissful Easter! Frohe Ostern! 

Glückseligkeit Bällchen mit Kakao und Mandeln
(Cocoa almond Bliss Balls)

Makes about a 18 balls. They keep beautifully in the freezer for a few months – just wrap in waxed paper and tuck into a ziptop bag.

Ingredients

  • 125g (about 20) dried dates, pitted
  • 125g (1 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp oil (coconut, canola, or another neutral variety)
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 2 tsp water (reserved from soaking dates)
  • cocoa, coconut, chopped nuts, or a combination for coating balls

Method

  • Soak dates in warm water for 20 minutes; drain dates (reserving some of the soaking water) and chop into small pieces
  • Combine chopped dates, ground almonds, honey, oil, and cocoa; add water as necessary to make a thick mixture that comes away from the sides of the bowl and forms a moldable paste
    • This is easiest with a food processor, but totally possible with a wooden spoon and a bit of muscle
  • Using your hands, roll teaspoon-sized globs of the mixture into balls; cover with cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow Bällchen to firm up

 

Home cooked comfort

Homemade ham and cheese loafCooking is one of the things I miss most while travelling. Although we had a stovetop, fridge, and sink in the camper, space was very cramped and the ventilation system wasn’t great. Our most successful camper meals were pretty much bread, cheese, and paté.

I’m very much enjoying cooking in a real kitchen and have been making some old favourites. Relatively easy and very comforting meals like ravioli with mushrooms and sage, chili with baking powder biscuits, gnocchi with lemon and arugula, and this delicious ham & cheese loaf.

Most of these familiar recipes need a bit of adapting as German grocery stores stock different products than Canadian ones. We’re not always able to find exactly what the recipe calls for and sometimes that creativity pays off.

The original Ham & Cheese Loaf recipe (which I think my mum clipped from a newspaper about 20 years ago!) calls for chopped ham and grated Swiss cheese. My husband often made it with ham and cheddar cheese and we’ve also used leftover turkey in place of the ham before. I imagine a wide-range of cooked meats would work really well.

Cheddar cheese is hard to find in Germany and there are so many options for meat and sausage here that being limited to ham made no sense. I used gouda cheese and Schinken-Fleischwurst (a large, lightly spiced pork sausage) for the loaf in the picture.

The loaf (which is a rather unappetizing way to describe such a yummy combination of bread, meat, and cheese) is fantastic warm and even better cold the day after. A leftover slice makes an excellent snack and slices disappear from the fridge with astonishing speed.

Eating familiar food in a still-foreign culture makes me feel a little more at home, a little more comfortable, and a lot less hungry!

Ham & Cheese Loaf

Ingredients
  • 500g (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 packages rapid rise yeast (14g or 1/2oz in total)
  • 250mL (1 cup) water
  • 35mL (1/4 cup) Dijon mustard (or Senf mittelscharf if you’re shopping at a German grocery store)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups or 8oz) cooked meat, chopped
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups or 8oz) firm cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
Method
  • Set aside 125g (1 cup) flour; line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and lightly grease
  • In a large bowl, mix together remaining flour, sugar, salt, and yeast
  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat bring water, mustard, and butter to about 50°C (125-130°F )
    • it should be warm enough that you can’t comfortably dip your finger in for more than a few seconds
  • Stir warm liquid into flour mixture and add in enough reserved flour to make soft dough
    • in more humid climates you’ll need more of the flour
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes
    • the dough should be smooth and bounce back when pressed with a finger
  • Roll dough into a rectangle – just over 1/2cm thick (1/4”) and roughly 35x30cm (14×12”); transfer to greased baking sheet
  • Sprinkle meat and cheese down centre third of dough length; make cuts from filling to dough edge at 2.5cm (1”) intervals
    • kitchen shears are an easy way to cut the dough
  • Bring strips from opposite sides of filling together, twisting and placing ends at an angle across meat and cheese
  • Rise the dough by covering loaf with a warm, damp towel and placing the baking sheet over a large shallow pan half-full of boiling water;  let sit for 15 minutes
  • While dough is rising, preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)
  • Brush loaf with beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown
  • Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serve warm or cold
  • Enjoy leftover slices for as long as they last!

Birthday cookie recipe

A stack of chocolate spice cookiesI really enjoyed teaching on my birthday yesterday. There’s nothing like lovely, appreciative students to make this birthday girl feel valued 🙂

It was great leading the class through some of my favourite yin postures while listening to some of my favourite yoga music (the playlist was heavy on Wah!, Snatum Kaur, and Deva Premal) and even more wonderful to chat with students over cookies afterwards.

As requested, here’s the chocolate spice cookies recipe.

The recipe as written below is vegan and gluten-free, but you could easily use dairy milk instead of coconut (or soy or almond) if you’d rather and you could make it nut-free by using soy milk and omitting the coconut oil (just add a little extra canola oil). I’ve also used barley flour instead of the buckwheat, which makes the cookies less grainy and toothsome.

These cookies come together quickly and can be easily varied by switching up the spices or omitting them entirely and using mint chocolate chips or butterscotch chips – although they won’t be fully vegan anymore.

If you try the recipe, let me know how they turn out!

Chocolate spice cookies

Makes about three dozen bite-sized cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (I use Camino)
  • 1/3 cup unrefined sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I ran out of canola oil so used grapeseed oil yesterday)
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk (the kind in a tetra pack, not a can)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (warmed slightly)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper
  • In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices; stir in flour, chocolate chips, and sugar
  • In another bowl, combine maple syrup, oils, coconut milk, and vanilla extract
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined; if dough is too dry, add a splash of coconut milk
  • Let cookie dough sit in fridge for about five minutes (or while you tidy the kitchen) to make it easier to roll into balls
  • Form rounded teaspoons of batter into balls and place on lined baking sheets; gently press each cookie ball to flatten slightly
  • Bake for 11 minutes until cookies are firm to the touch, but bottoms are not browned
  • Let cookies sit on baking sheets for about a minute to firm up; transfer to wire racks to cool

An apple smoothie a day…

Hunger-busting smoothie and a couple applesYoga can wreak havoc with eating. Between not eating before doing yoga (ideally eating lightly two hours before practicing) and teaching classes that coincide with regular meal times, I often find myself starving, but not wanting to eat heavily.

Thankfully, smoothies and energy bars (I like Larabars best) are there to fill the gap and soothe my grumbly tummy 🙂

The only problem with smoothies is that they need a supplement like protein powder to up their nutritional and calorie content and I’ve yet to find one I like the taste of.  I also lean towards vegan protein powders, which sometimes means that they taste even worse!

Thankfully, there are lots of creative flavour combinations to hide the generally artificial taste. My current fall favourite features homemade apple sauce and autumnal spices. Yum!

Maybe an apple smoothie a day will keep the doctor away 😉

Here’s the recipe:

Vanilla apple smoothie

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce (homemade and chunky is best, but store bought and pureed works too)
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I like almond milk best)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tbsp vanilla protein powder (or one serving as recommended by the package)
  • 1 tbsp plain or vanilla non-dairy yogurt  (I like Amande, a cultured almond milk)
  • generous 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (plus more for topping)
  • scant 1/4 tsp ground allspice

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and swirl until smooth; add extra non-dairy milk if it’s too thick, or extra yogurt if it’s too thin
  • Pour into a glass and sprinkle with cinnamon

Anti-negativity muffins

Yesterday afternoon I was feeling a bit low and struggling to combat negative thoughts. Needing to raise my spirits before teaching yin yoga at Bound Lotus in the evening, I decided to bake a batch of muffins.

Baking generally distracts me from whatever’s swirling around my brain, but I needed a little something extra to clear those negative thoughts. Cue the Gobinday Mukunday mantra, perfect for overcoming negativity. With SatKirin Kaur Khalsa chanting in the background I stirred my way to more positive thoughts and a dozen muffins.

Listening to meditative music while baking, cooking, or doing dishes is wonderful. I can’t help but start chanting along and it turns into a quasi-meditation as my mind starts to clear.

Combining baking and quasi-meditation was perfect! The muffins are yummy, my negativity cleared, and I had a really lovely time teaching 🙂

Here’s the recipe for my anti-negativity (aka applesauce pecan) muffins.

Applesauce pecan muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375°F and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin
    • Prepare muffin tin by lining with paper wrappers, inserting silicon muffin cups, or greasing with vegetable oil.
  • Stir together dry ingredients.
  • Combine applesauce, almond milk, maple syrup, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • Stir wet ingredients and pecans into dry ingredients until just mixed.
  • Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes; muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire racks.

Weekend warrior

Laura holding Warrior II at Mosquito CreekAfter my Friday evening yin yoga class at Bound Lotus, I was lucky enough to escape the city for a weekend away with friends. The time away (even though we didn’t go far) was fabulous. Nothing like a bit of time away from the usual routine to refuel and reconnect.

Great food, great company, great weather… and the Superbowl on Sunday. Amidst all the eating and relaxing I managed to do my sat kriya meditations on Saturday and Sunday (despite the smell of smoking meat for the Superbowl feast threatening my concentration!) and do a lovely hatha sequence – complete with Warrior II.

My contribution to the amazing food came in the form of homemade cinnamon buns. The recipe is a holdover from my eight months or so eating vegan, but you’d never miss the eggs and dairy. If you’re not concerned about keeping animal products out of the cinnamon buns, I’m sure butter would work in place of the vegan margarine.

Vegan cinnamon buns

Ingredients
Dough

  • 1 cup plain almond milk
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white bread flour *
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup melted soft vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance in the tub)

* You can also use 4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour if you don’t have bread flour. The bread flour just ups the gluten content which means the buns rise a bit more and are chewier.

Filing

  • 1/3 cup soft vegan margarine (like Earth Balance from the tub)
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

  • Warm the milk just enough to still be able to dip your finger in it – microwaving it at 60% for a minute seems to work well
    • If the milk is too hot it will kill the yeast, so heat the milk slowly
  • Add the sugar to the warmed milk and stir; add the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes
    • The yeast/milk/sugar mixture should get foamy on top of the milk; if the mixture doesn’t froth, get new yeast and try again
  • While the yeast is proofing, measure the flour and cinnamon into a large bowl and set aside
  • Combine the ground flax seeds and water and whip with a hand-mixer or stick blender until it gets thick and frothy
  • When the yeast is proofed, pour in the melted margarine, vanilla extract, and flax mixture and stir gently to combine
  • Add the wet mixture to the flour and mix the dough until most of it has come together
  • Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes; you know the dough is well-kneaded when it’s smooth and soft with an elastic texture
  • Let the dough rest for 5 minutes while you wash the large bowl and tidy up the kitchen
  • Place the dough in the now-clean bowl and cover with a tea towel that’s been run under hot water and wrung out; set the bowl in a warm place (like a sunny window or on top of a warm dryer – I often wash towels while baking yeast breads so the laundry room is nice and warm) and let rise for at least 30 minutes or until the dough ball has doubled in size
  • Make the filling by combining the soft margarine with the brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside until the dough is rolled out and ready for the filling
  • Once the dough has risen the first time, turn it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and lightly punch it into a rectangle
  • Stretch and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick and roughly 16 by 20 inches
  • Once the dough is rolled out, spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 2″ naked margin on one of the long edges of the rectangle
    • The naked edge is important because it will stick to the outside of the dough once you’ve rolled it up and seal in your filling
  • Pick up one of the short edges of the dough and roll the dough into a log; make sure the roll is equal in thickness by adjusting the position of the dough as you roll
    • The whole roll should be about 3″ in diameter
  • Gently grasp the dough with both hands and adjust the length by slightly lifting it off the rolling surface; you can also squeeze the roll gently to even out the thickness
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 roughly equal rolls
  • Line a 9”x12” baking pan with the parchment paper, with the long ends of the paper hanging over the edge of the pan
  • Turn the rolls on their ends and transfer them to the pan; position the rolls so they touch each other, rather than the sides of the pan, with the seams turned inwards so the rolls don’t unravel during rising or cooking
  • Cover the pan with the damp tea towel again, re-rinsed in hot water and wrung out; let the buns rise in a warm spot again for 30 minutes, or until they have doubled in size
  • Preheat the oven to 400F
  • When the buns are finished their second rising, bake them 15-20 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown and cooked through
  • Separate the buns while they’re still warm and let them cool on a wire rack – putting wax paper under the rack catches any cinnamon filling drips and makes clean-up a lot easier