Tim’s Mostly Raw Chocolate Ice Cream

mostly raw chocolate ice cream

When we started registering for wedding gifts last summer, there was one thing Tim really wanted to add: an ice cream maker.

And where I (the impatient, get-it-done type) probably would have just clicked the first version I saw at Target or Williams and Sonoma and rejoiced to have checked something off my list, this man I married is different. He does research.

delonghi ice cream maker

So it was in those final few months before our wedding that we had at least three different conversations about ice cream maker options: the kind where you have to freeze the bowl ahead of time, the kind with the freezing mechanism already inside; small ones, large ones; ice cream makers from Cuisinart, ice cream makers from Italy. Because this was around the time when I was off for a weekend to Oregon, I even remember talking to Kim and Tyler Malek from Salt and Straw about the ice cream maker(s) they use and recommend and why, jotting notes in my notebook to share with Tim.

scooping out ice cream

My Tim loves ice cream. I mean, he loves it. He’s been dreaming of making his own (with raw milk because that’s what we drink) since long before he knew me (there are handwritten notes that prove this fact).

spoonful of ice cream

So having told you all that, I probably don’t have to tell you what happened when, after our honeymoon, opening the handful of gifts at my parents’ house in Chicago that our friends hadn’t already transported down to Tennessee for us, we found one very heavy, very large box sitting amongst them, holding that dream ice cream maker (a Delonghi GM6000, if you’re curious):

those first few weeks back in Nashville, he must have made ice cream eight or nine times.

Literally.

bowl of ice cream

And while I’ve been telling Tim all along, amongst our ice cream night with friends and homemade ice cream at the pie party and quiet nights at home filled with scoops of chocolate chocolate chip or bourbon vanilla or cinnamon or hazelnut coconut chocolate chip, that one of these days, I’ll really have to blog these ice creams, it wasn’t until recently, amidst our raw experiment week, when Tim made a raw ice cream sweetened only with dried fruit (!!), that I got too excited to contain myself.

raw brownie  and raw chocolate ice cream

So, without further ado, I bring you the most interesting ice cream I’ve ever had: Tim calls it raw chocolate. With an ingredients list including raw milk, dried fruit, raw organic egg yolks (does that scare you? read this), cocoa powder, vanilla, gelatin and cream (if we’d had raw cream, this could have been a totally raw version), it’s free of refined sugar and, I can almost promise, unlike anything you’ve ever had: icy and sweet, flecked with hints of raisin (although next time, we might just do dates), refreshing and unique and delicious.

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Raw Brownies + Chocolate Avocado Frosting

raw brownies

This past week, Tim and I did sort of a cleanse, wherein we ate mostly raw: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, raw dairy, dried fruit. We added homemade chicken soup, nettle and Tulsi teas and, at a maximum of once a day, roasted vegetables, but otherwise it was, for the first time in our lives, an experience in raw eating.

ingredients for brownie base

It was interesting.

ground up brownie layer

First of all, it wasn’t hard, at least not in the way typical cleanses are. I wasn’t starving, I didn’t get major detox reactions, there was no need to summon all my willpower not to eat a cookie. A couple times, one of us would say to the other, doesn’t a taco sound good?, but, for the most part, we felt like there was so much we still could eat: a bowl of juicy grapefruit; fresh pomegranate arils sprinkled with flax seeds and coconut; caprese salad (tomatoes, raw mozzarella, fresh basil), morning smoothies, giant green salads (and you know how I like those), frozen fruit mixed with nuts in raw milk, homemade pecan nut butter on celery sticks—all along with our soup and roasted vegetables, so, as you can imagine, we were quite full and satisfied.

prepared loaf pan

Also, it was really, well, cleansing, just as we hoped it would be. The week made us feel good—really good—from our skin to our digestion to our energy levels. After the holidays, I had been fighting a little bit of a sore throat/cold/infection, the first one since I changed my diet in 2009. This cleanse week killed it, knocked it right out of me.

chocolate avocado frosting

But there’s one more thing, too, a thing that’s been especially fascinating and something I didn’t expect or plan for: this week has started to open my eyes to the world of raw eating. It’s something. You know, there are raw restaurants, raw blogs (like my new favorite g0lubka), raw cookbooks. And it’s not like you just eat an apple and a carrot and call it a day, either: there are crazy inventive raw recipes for things like raw donuts, raw cookies and chocolate avocado pudding, for example.

pan of raw brownies

I mean, have you ever had a raw brownie?

This was an idea that had never before occurred, let alone appealed, to me.

sliced raw brownies

And I know they say, when you take yourself away from something for a little while, say from sugar, for example, you change your tastes. So I know it’s possible that these brownies won’t seem sweet enough to the average palate or chocolatey enough compared to the typical brownie.

raw chocolate brownie

But to me, they were amazing, enough to make me wonder why I’ve trained my brain to think I need things sweeter than they have to be. I loved them. I made them twice. And both times, when I saw the simple combination of dates, walnuts and cocoa powder make a brownie and the ability of half an avocado with honey, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, along with just a pinch of salt, to create a velvety chocolate frosting, I marveled. It’s the same feeling I’ve had looking at a piece of segmented grapefruit or the inside of a pomegranate: what amazing foods we’ve been given. It’s good to celebrate them.

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Sprouted Coconut Cocoa Banana Muffins

sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffins up close

The first week Tim and I got back to Nashville, while we settled into a regular rhythm of making meals and paying bills and sharing a home office together, I began tackling the to-do list that follows a wedding. There were thank-you notes to write, bank accounts to merge, a pretty major name change to take care of—at the DMV, the social security office, with basically every account I have on record anywhere—and even looking back now, with it all done and finished and behind me, I can tell you there were definite low points (i.e., AT&T: Why is it so hard to get two existing users spun off into a new account? WHY?) and definite high points (i.e., these muffins).

baking muffins

I’ve always been the kind of girl to crave a couple hours alone in the kitchen. When I used to work a regular office job, I’d often come home at the end of the day, tired and not really wanting to go anywhere, and I’d comfort myself with cooking (eventually with my camera and you guys to join me, and thus this blog was born). Sometimes I’d play music or watch an online TV show in the background. Sometimes I’d talk to myself out loud. What mattered was the way it felt like downtime—cooking doesn’t always feel like that.

dark chocolate

If you talked to our friend Corri, for example, who came over for dinner last week, he could tell you what a different kind of cooking looks like. He could tell you about walking into a house and seeing both cooks still in the kitchen, green beans on the stove, chicken in the oven, flour all over the counters, and about hearing the sad, sad story of two back-to-back attempts to remake macarons and failing. At some point during our meal, I’m pretty sure I was apologizing to him for apologizing, that’s how bad things had gotten in my mind—and I do mean in my mind because the reality was our meal was perfectly good, thanks to that very capable man I married—but rather than loving my time in the kitchen and my contributions to what we were eating, I had been frustrated by it, by how my results weren’t matching my expectations.

baking banana muffins

I think that’s part of the difference between baking for leisure and baking for a purpose, and I think that’s what made these muffins such a highlight of our first week of Nashville married life.

muffins in the oven

There were a lot of things I was doing for a purpose that week: waiting for two hours at the DMV, mailing cards, sitting down with Tim to plan our monthly budget—but baking these muffins? That was different.

one sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffin

Because when you’re baking one morning in your pajamas while your husband works in the next room, you can talk to yourself, you can spill flour, you can burn something—you’ve freed yourself to. But when you bake for company or for a business or for the first time at a Thanksgiving dinner with all your family, you constrain yourself into thinking something must be how it must be and anything else is disaster. Or at least I do that.

buttered muffin

These muffins didn’t have to be anything special, just a way to use up ingredients and a way to relax for a few afternoon hours. Heaven knows, Tim and I would eat them regardless of how they ended up tasting. I found the original recipe online, where it came with high reviews, and I improvised ingredients with what we had (hello, huge sale on sprouted wheat flour at Whole Foods!) and ingredients I wanted to add.

muffins in cake stand

When I brought one to Tim, sliced and buttered and still steaming hot, it was just a happy bonus that we liked them—not too sweet, the perfect vehicle for a little jam or honey, yet chocolatey and cakey and a nice morning treat.

buttered muffins

And so it was these sprouted coconut cocoa banana muffins that, set beneath a glass bowl, first graced our dining room table, the dining room table that Tim built, and made our first week together in our first house feel a little more special, a little more right, a little more like home.

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peanut butter chocolate milk

peanut butter chocolate milk

I told Tim the other day,

you know,

the best things in life

really are free.

____

Like sunlight in the morning:

morning sunlight

And sunsets at night:

sunset

Parks filled with trees:

parks filled with trees

Views like these:

windows in my kitchen

views like this

A day at the lake:

a day at the lake

And the man that I love:

tim

I mean, I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of this. Because, as much as I talk about simplicity here, the truth is: I am easily swept away into opinions and concerns that are anything but.

That’s why I’m starting a new series here at the blog (in life?) focused on simplicity—starting with a recipe that’s so easy, it’s honestly ridiculous. Those of you who wanted more Vitamix recipes, here you go! Those of you who don’t have a Vitamix, a regular blender still works.

Behold: time-tested, always delicious, peanut butter chocolate milk.

making peanut butter chocolate milk

peanut butter chocolate milk

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wacky chocolate cake

I’ve been playing this game the past few days where I don’t spend any money—cooking from the pantry, eating from what’s already in the fridge. I’m doing it partly to cut costs (how does one person spend so much money on food?) and partly to avoid waste (we’re heading back to Chicago for a few days on Tuesday anyway), and I have to tell you: nothing shows you how much you enjoy spending money like telling yourself you can’t.

It’s bad.

But it’s good.

I’m just telling you right now I won’t make it to Tuesday.

buttered cake pan

So anyway, yesterday, wanting to find something to bake that wouldn’t require a trip to the store, I found myself Googling such strange combinations as “flour, sugar, cocoa,” “baking with no eggs” and even “recipes from the Great Depression.”

It was the final option that landed me on this cake, posted by Alice over at Sweet Savory Life, a version of which I had actually previously posted here (we’re talking previously as in March 2009), and even though I remembered it being just OK last time, I knew I had to try again, if for no other reason than that Hannah of Honey and Jam had just told me about Alice’s site when we met in Chattanooga last Thursday.

(Have I mentioned here how much I love meeting other food bloggers in person? Hannah was sweet, smart, full of interesting info about blogging, and easy to sit and talk with for like three hours in the middle of the afternoon—just like I knew she would be, after following her site for the last few years.)

dry ingredients in the bowl

This time, I did a little more research on the cake, partly because I remembered it being just ho-hum before, looking for tips and tricks other people had posted about changing it up. I saw someone used brewed coffee instead of water, another person added extra cocoa, someone liked to add vanilla extract (I thought about adding almond?) and a few people emphasized cream cheese frosting, which, between us, is exactly what I would go for if I made this again when I was, say, able to go buy some cream cheese beforehand.

cake batter in the pan

Of course I made a few obvious adaptations to ingredients because of personal preferences regarding nutrition—whole-grain spelt flour, avocado oil, Sucanat—and so, I wasn’t expecting much from the cake when it emerged from the oven, even when it was soft and springy, fragrant with cocoa.

cake in the hand

After letting it cool, I sprinkled it with organic powdered sugar I also had on hand (I know, right? I’m really suffering here) and sliced a small square to sample.

cake on the stove

slice of cake

cake and slice on top of oven

As for how it tasted, I’ll just say this: I baked it yesterday morning, and we polished off the last morsel of it last night. Tim says we should make layers next time, putting berries and maybe a whipped cream or marscapone inside between.

But even on its own, this wacky Depression-era cake is just slightly sweet, moist, perfect for pairing with something else like maybe ice cream or coffee, and it’s so crazy simple, so easy to make with what you already have, that I have to say I am sold.

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Warm Coffee-Infused Chocolate Cakes

You know, I’ve gotten some pretty fantastic packages in the mail since I started blogging—a jar of coconut oil, a case of Talenti gelato, a bag of Xylitol, something like 20 containers of Chobani yogurt.

But this month, I received something totally new, something I’d never have expected, something that kind of amazed me when I opened it, in fact: I recieved an entire case of Starbucks Natural Fusions coffee—filled with several bags each of the vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon flavors—and along with, so it turns out, the opportunity to host a meal featuring the coffee: with $100 of grocery money to do it.

case of coffee

This, as you can imagine for someone who clips coupons and winces at $5 blueberries, was an offer too good to pass up.

starbucks cinnamon coffee

We planned the meal for Saturday, with six of us gathered around a table, eating a delicious feast of salmon and salad and vegetables, of which the crowning glory was definitely the dessert: coffee-infused chocolate cakes, topped with a coffee reduction sauce, set next to homemade coffee ice cream, with hot coffee to drink on the side.

Seriously.

Thank you, Starbucks.

eggs

Of the three coffee flavors, we liked the ingredients from the cinnamon the best, as they were the most whole (i.e., no maltodextrin), so that’s what we used in every aspect of our dessert: some grounds in the cakes, some super-strong brewed coffee in the sauce, some grounds steeped with milk in the process of making the ice cream.

eggs in bowl

The cakes, served warm, are like little domes of soft, rich heaven, I kid you not. They’re not overly sweet, which makes them ideal to pair with ice cream, and they’re wonderfully moist in the center, with chocolate liquid oozing out as you eat.

cakes ready to bake

cakes baked

Saturday was actually the second time we made the cakes; the first time, at another group dinner, we had experimented with proportions, done without coffee, used the berries in a sort of puree all over the top.

That time was OK.

nate's cake

This time was perfection.

a cup of coffee

I mean, really. Forget cream and sugar. I think I’ve found a new favorite way to have coffee.

(And also, just because a delicious (and free!) meal is something to celebrate, pictures of our lunch:)

salad
cauliflower
rosemary sourdough bread
my plate
around the table

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Thin Chocolate Cookies + Ice Cream Sandwiches

I’ve been thinking lately: One of the worst parts about being far away from people is missing out on the everyday stuff of their lives, you know? The funny stories about coworkers, the play-by-play of awkward conversations, the new recipes, the introductions, the disappointments, all those ordinary humdrum things that make up our days. I remember feeling it after college, when my friends lived in other states and e-mail and phone calls could only help so much. Then there was last summer, when the friend I’d worked with for three years got a new job (and shortly thereafter, I became self-employed) and we stopped seeing each other every afternoon.

It’s life. People get married, friends move away, there are job transitions and new cities and all kinds of change. We should expect it.

And for me, lately, it’s been the transition of my own leaving—moving from almost everyone I know to live in a different city, to be with a different person, eight hours away from where I was—and along with it, the unintended but accompanying blog break, where I’m barely eeking out a weekly post. Where did that come from?

thin chocolate cookies

It seems these things can kind of sneak up on us. I mean, one day, you’re spending a casual Thursday chatting with your friend at the office; the next, you’re sitting at your roommate’s dining room table, eating avocado on toast in the middle of Tennessee. It’s life. It’s change. I may always be amazed by it.

And I think, in all these transitions, there are moments when you miss things—say, your family, your streets, the ability to run to Whole Foods with your brother at 9:30 PM—but, the longer you hang on and stick with it, seeing all the new, good things in your life along with what can seem to be bad, things keep feeling more normal. You grow with the change, and you adapt.

Also, you work really hard at staying in touch with the people you love because then you probably can. I hope.

More thin chocolate cookies

So that’s what this post is all about: you and me, staying in touch. A lot has happened since that chicken soup debacle, for example, and you ought to be updated: Tim and I went home for a few days to surprise my mom for her birthday (and it worked!); I got over being sick; I tried chewy, charred Neapolitan-style pizza at City House; I met an old coworker for coffee/lunch and we bonded over a love for warmer weather in the South. I’ve even got a real bed now, and it was approximately $50 cheaper than what I’d expected to pay.

ice cream sandwiches

Beyond that, as you’d expect, there has been some cooking.

When I have a little down time, I usually think of cookies—because some things don’t change at all—and after a few experiments last week, I was still on the hunt for a good chocolate cookie.

ice cream on cookies

Ideally, I was looking for a chocolate cookie with some crunch—a gingersnap but made of chocolate—and while these aren’t exactly that, they are a good find just the same.

ice cream spread on cookies

Plus, being that they’re adapted from an Oreo recipe at Smitten Kitchen, it was an obvious next step to turn them into sandwiches of some kind, which is exactly what we did Tuesday afternoon with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla.

chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich

Oh my goodness, people. It was really good that there were only four cookies left when the ice cream sandwich idea happened—just enough for two—because otherwise I literally wouldn’t have been able to stop making them.

Prepare yourself: These are no joke. I like to think of them as a byproduct of the move—along with changing addresses and learning new things and missing people—because in that way, things really seem pretty great.

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