Friday, June 27, 2014

Carob Avocado Mousse (AIP)

When thinking about avocados, most peoples’ minds go immediately to guacamole or salads. But lately I’ve been reconsidering the uses for avocados, specifically when it comes to desserts. 

 The avocado’s flavor is somewhat ambivalent--it can be used in savory applications, as well as in sweet. It plays off of the flavors of items used with it. Mash avocado with some salt, lemon/lime juice & garlic powder, creating a simple guacamole (which also happens to be one of my staple items these days) Or, blend the avocado with honey, coconut milk & carob/cocoa powder, creating a luscious, “healthier” dessert. Both items (or really any avocado item) can be a little on the rich side, so portions might be smaller than you’d normally think. But due to the higher fat content, you’ll feel more satisfied even with eating less.

Using carob is not something I’ve explored until recently. I’m still following my doctor suggested detox diet, which is basically a more extreme version of the Autoimmune Protocol (commonly referred to as AIP). Both my doctor-suggested-diet and AIP put chocolate on the "avoid" list, hence, no cocoa powder. Enter carob powder, a great alternative to chocolate & cocoa powder. It doesn’t taste *exactly* the same as chocolate--my husband likes to say it has more of a roasted peanut taste--but when you can’t have the original, you settle for the next best substitution.

 The slightly nutty carob paired with the creamy avocado, sweetened with a touch of honey (which I recently had the ok from my doctor to add small amounts into my diet! yay!), and lightened with a little coconut milk to make it a bit more pudding/mousse-like.  A perfect little treat to satisfy my sweet tooth, while still staying within my dietary guidelines & ensuring I won’t regret eating it later.

Carob Avocado Mousse
makes approximately 4 servings 

2 Organic Avocados, ripe but not brown (mine weighed 10.5 oz / 207 g, without pits & skin)
2 Tbl (42 g) Organic Honey (local preferred) 
5 Tbl (30 g) Carob Powder (could sub cocoa powder, if preferred) 
  1. Place all ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor.
  2. Blend on high speed until everything is combined, scraping the sides as necessary. 
  3. Portion into cups & refrigerate a couple hours before serving. 

  • If you're not following an Autoimmune Protocol, feel free to substitute cocoa powder instead of the carob. The carob will give the mousse a slightly more toasted flavor. 
  • The mousse can be frozen for a delicious frozen treat 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sweet Potato Paletas (AIP)

It’s been hot. Super hot. Like +110 F hot, and it’s only June..... While I wouldn’t discriminate against a frozen treat any time of the year, I especially crave them in the summer time. Since I cannot just run to any store or shop & purchase a frozen dessert that would fit within my unique dietary guidelines, I have to make my own. I have a feeling my ice cream bowl will be working overtime, if only I can find a way to clear enough freezer space to actually freeze it. But, I did manage to clear enough space for my popsicle mold, so that’s where I’m beginning this summer. 

Paletas were not something I’d heard of until I moved to the southern border of Texas--they’re the Mexican version of a popsicle, only not usually as sweet as their American counterpart. We’re able to get paletas in just about any local gas station or grocery store & they come in much more interesting flavors than the regular popsicles I was use to seeing. Coconut. Watermelon. Pineapple. Pecan. Rice Pudding. Pina Colada. Tamarind. Fruit flavors spiced with chile. (The rice pudding ones use to be my favorite....).

Sweet potatoes have become one of my staple foods--most often either baked or roasted. Since paletas already come in such interesting flavors, I thought that adding sweet potato variation to the mix wasn’t such a stretch :)

Traditional paletas aren’t super sugary & my sweet potato paletas follow suite--they get their limited sweetness from the sweet potato & the apple juice. Even with the limited sweetness, they are cold & very refreshing, especially on a hot day when you’re just dying for an ice cream.

If I wasn’t following a sugar-free diet, I’d add a couple tablespoons of honey or maple syrup. Or maybe some candied pecans. If you prefer a creamier pop, adding some yogurt (whether sweetened, or plain) would also work.

One final note: I made & styled/photographed these sweet potato paletas while watching Diane Cu & Todd Porter of “White on Rice Couple”  give a 3 day food styling & photography workshop on Creative Live. While the presentation isn’t free anymore (unless CL rebroadcasts it), I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in furthering your photography skills. I learned some fun new tips & was reminded of some things I should have been remembering anyway. 

behind-the-scenes image of shooting these paletas while watching Creative Live

Sweet Potato Paletas 
Yields approximately 12 pops, depending on mold size 

1 large sweet potato (mine weighed just under 1lb, pre-baking & around 12 oz after) 
4 Tbl Apple Juice
1 1/2 c (13.8 oz) Coconut Milk (beverage, not the culinary coconut milk from a can) 
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla
optional: sweetener of choice (especially if you’re not following a sugar free diet).... I’d use a couple tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, if it was allowed for me.  OR add a little vanilla coconut yogurt.  
  1.  Wash sweet potato & pierce the skin with a fork or sharp knife. Place sweet potato into an oven safe dish & roast at 350 F until fork-tender. (Mine took approximately 60 minutes in our toaster oven). 
  2. Once cooked, let the sweet potato cool completely (I put mine in the refrigerator overnight. 
  3. After the potato has cooled, remove the skin & add to a blender or food processor.  Add the apple juice, coconut milk, cinnamon & vanilla.  Process on high speed until well blended.  Add additional coconut milk if the mixture is too thick. 
  4. Pour into your popsicle molds, leaving some headspace at the top to allow for expansion during freezing.  
  5. Place in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours.  
  6. After 2 hours of freezing, insert the sticks. Continue to freeze for an additional 10-24 hours.  
  7. To unmold, fill a large bowl with warm water. Set the frozen mold into the warm water for 30 seconds & remove the mold. Gently lift the paletas out of the mold & place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with a second layer of parchment & allow to freeze for 30 additional minutes. 
  8. After the additional freezing, the pops are ready to be consumed. If not eating right away, wrap them well & store in the freezer. 

For more information on paletas, this article is really helpful!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jessie & Joe: Engaged

I've been working on a new recipe, but it isn't ready yet…. So instead, I thought I'd share some of my recent portrait work.  While I was in Washington, DC for my sister's law school graduation, I had the privilege to take engagement photos for some friends. I've known Jessie for years and years & Jessie introduced me to her then-boyfriend Joe last year at our mutual friend Kelli's wedding. They're an adorable, hilarious couple. Both were cracking jokes & laughing throughout the entire shoot.

We started at Meridian Park...

While driving to the second location, we made a quick stop at Starbucks. Even though we were supposed to be taking a break, Starbucks seemed like a perfect location to grab a couple shots (especially since one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Jessie is "coffee").

Jessie is originally from ND, and Joe is originally from MN, but they met while in Washington, DC, when they both worked at the Capital. Such a cool story! I love when photo locations have a significance besides just being a pretty spot :)

Lastly, we wrapped up the shoot in the East Capitol neighborhood area. What an adorable couple. Their joy, humor, and love for each other was a pleasure to photograph. And I love Jessie's ring (though, I should admit I am *slightly* partial to blue rings). 

Before I wrap this post up, I need to give a HUGE thank-you to my sister Michelle, who came along as an assistant. She has a great eye for posing, as well as watching to make sure that neither Jessie's (nor Joe's) hair or clothing were out of place. Thanks, sister! I couldn't have done it without you.

I'll be back next week with a recipe!

All images copyright Laura E. Vein.  Please do not use, copy, or repost without permission!