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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Natural Foods Cooking Retreat – Day 3

We completed our three day Natural Foods Cooking Retreat the same way we began it with a heavy emphasis on great tasting food that also happens to be good for you. Some sweets lovers follow the "Dessert First" mantra so here is sneak peak at our class finale, Apple Pie Apples dessert. This treat was as much fun to construct as it was to consume. More on this to follow.

Apple Pie Apples with a dollop of Coconut Whipped Cream
Kicking off this final meal was burgers but these were not your typical highly processed garden variety store bought veggie burgers. Chef Jenny Brewer threw a great Black Eyed Pea and Chipotle Burger recipe at us. The touch I especially liked was adding a bit of corn meal to them just before baking.

Black Eyed Pea and Chipotle Burger Patties
And instead of tucking these beauties in a big old heaving bun we made our own wraps by flash steaming Collard Green Leaves.

Steaming even made the color of these leaves even more vivid
In order to put a quick stop to the steaming process we dipped the leaves into a quick ice bath.

Lightly streamed Collard Green Leaves cool down rapidly in an ice bath
Ready to wrap burgers topped with caramelized onions
Also on the menu was a Hemp Seed Caesar Salad. I have tried many mock Caesar dressings but this one is hands down the best. You could fool your biggest Caesar Salad fanatic in a blind test taste. Here's a shot of the ingredients for the dressing all prepped and ready to go. Just one tablespoon of kelp (sea vegetables) even give it just a hint of the anchovy flavor. This dressing is clever, heathy and really faithful to the spirit of the classic.

Another refrigerator staple as Jenny likes to call them is her Quinoa Pumpkin Seed Salad. Quinoa is a complete protein with all eight essential amino acids and gluten free. The addition of the pumpkin seeds make this salad so satisfying that it can stand as an entree itself. Included in this dressing was cumin, chili powder, cilantro and lime juice so it had a really nice Southwestern snap. We used red Quinoa for even more color.

Red Quinoa Pumpkin Seed Salad with a tangy Southwestern dressing.
We even made our own crackers called Flaxy Crackers. They were missing flour but not flavor or fiber thanks to chickpeas, walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds and lots of herbs. We rolled the mixture out onto parchment paper and then baked in a 425 degree oven. We served the crackers with Cashew "Cheese" which was really a non-dairy recipe turning raw cashews into a tasty cheese like dip. Garlic, tahini and lemon juice all contributed to the unique flavor profile.

Flaxy Crackers Pancake ready for the oven
Our final meal was especially colorful and had a huge variety of interesting textures as well as solid flavors.
Clockwise: Burger Wrap, Caesar and Quinoa Salad and Flaxy Crackers with Cashew Cheese
And back to our final recipe of the class. I got to work on the team that made these Apple Pie Apples or as I called them, "Twice Stuffed Apples." It was a bit like carving a pumpkin. We first removed the cores and most of the inner apple creating a cavity for re-stuffing them with bits of apple, raisins, cinnamon and sugar.

Granny Smith apple cups filled to the brink with sweetness and awaiting their crusty tops
The next step yielded a surprising crust that turned our apples into mini apple pies. We used sprouted spelt flour and coconut oil to create strips of crust in a basket weave pattern topping each apple. It was really fun to dress up each apple cup with the crust strips. Another surprise was making the most delicious Whipped Cream out of chilled Coconut Milk. We simply added some powdered sugar and whipped it with a hand mixer just as you would with cream. For me the texture and flavor surpassed whipped cream yet is was 100% dairy free. Unbelievable!

Apple Pie Apples ready for the oven
When the cold Coconut Whipped Cream danced with the warm freshly baked apples it melted into major yumminess. My parting food shot here just kind of says it all.

The best possible final bites of a great meal.
It was another "Winner Winner Natural Foods Dinner" with Chef Jennifer Brewer. Actually, we not only had many winning lunch, snack and dinner recipes but as I described in my Day 2 post we
also made some seriously good breakfast foods too. I'd like to thank Jenny for her relentless pursuit of healthy food that tastes great and to my classmates who made this experience a really memorable one. Here is our class group photo except for Mike who had to take off a few minutes early just before we all posed for one last time.

(L to R) FRONT: Steve, Victoria, Me BACK: Rebecca, Elizabeth, Jenny, Nancy, Barbara, Erin
My parting shot is of Chef Jenny and I. This was not my first class with her and it certainly won't be my last. For more information on all of Jenny Brewer's healthy lifestyle habits just check out her website at www.nourishingnutrition.com.