desserts

apartment charm / rawesome brownies

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Hy husband and I (and Dragon and Toast and Frodo and the unicorns…) live in an apartment. Let’s just say it’s cozy (translation: pet hair is part of my daily protein intake). Actually, I read somewhere that there are crazy cat ladies and dog people who collect their pet’s fur and–yes, literally knit themselves sweaters and scarves out of it. Umm…I already think it’s freaky how much pet owners look like their furry companions without dressing and smelling like them too. Zolts. Anyway, our apartment is on the first floor of an old house. It’s old in that charming New England way, complete with rusty sideboard heaters, rotting wood in the bathroom, and closets from the 1800’s. What I want to know is, how can a person actually fit all of their clothing in one of these tissue-box sized closets? My husband can’t even have his clothing in our bedroom because there’s no place to put it, so his stuff is in the “guest room” (translation: office / ironing board / dog crate / musical instrument room / place to put that thing that has no place).
The rotting piece of wood in the bathroom drives me crazy. I’ve asked our landlord to fix it a hundred times, but he suffers from that “sweet but dumb” syndrome, and I always feel guilty when I ask him to do anything. He looks at me with that friendly, deer-in-headlights stare that says “I don’t know what you’re asking, but I like cookies”. Needless to say, there is a piece of wood that falls out of the wall and onto the floor, revealing lovely mold, paint chips and other niceties that one ought to have in a bathroom. I push the stupid piece of wood back into place again and again and again, but every time I return to the bathroom, it’s fallen out again (not to mention Dragon plays with the paint chips…hopefully she doesn’t eat them, although that would explain a lot).
We also have neighbors. A wacko living in the garage, a perpetually drunk “carpenter” and his girlfriend in the basement, and an eccentric but friendly loner on the second floor (who gave us a card with a sailboat on it saying “welcome to the neighborhood”). The sailboat guy and the drunk have since moved out, but lucky for us, there’s still the wacko in the garage. The landlord is in the middle of a lawsuit with this guy because he hasn’t paid rent for over a year. He sports a mullet that would make Michael Bolton jealous, and he’s got one of those bouncy walks…you know the ones where the person never puts weight on their heels? Yup, one of those. Apparently some old lady gives him $500 a week to “help her out” (translation: he’s stealing an old lady’s money). Every time I leave the apartment I check to make sure he’s not outside. The problem? He’s always at home…one of those annoying habits of the unemployed.
For a while, I worried that we would get new neighbors of the same variety, but then a nice man from Greenwich Town Hall came to the door and asked how many apartments there were. I said “Four” and he said “Really?” and I said “Why?” and he said “It’s only zoned for two”.
We haven’t seen anybody new since…

So I never eat dessert (yup, I’m perfect). It’s partially due to my eternal hatred / fear of sugar, but also because of the way sweet things make me feel after I’ve eaten them: crazy, bug-eyed wildcat followed by something along the lines of a sluggish Eeyore. Solution? A kick-ass dessert without sugar, without wheat, and without baking?!? Yes, I’m giving you the recipe to RAW brownies, and let me tell you…they are so freaking good that you’ll want to make them every day. And the best part? This recipe takes about 10 minutes to make. Go ahead and thank me for making your life better. This recipe is adapted from amazing raw foods chef Laura at The Rawtarian.

Rawesome Brownies with Chocolate Frosting
2 cups raw pecans
2 cups fresh dates, seeds removed
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 T coconut nectar
1 tsp sea salt
for frosting:
1 cup fresh dates
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
¾ cup water
For brownies, pulse pecans in a food processor until crumbled. Add dates and process until incorporated, then add the rest of the ingredients and process until mixed. Pour mixture into dish of choice and press down firmly. Top with frosting and refrigerate a little before serving. For the frosting, place all ingredients in a blender (I use a VitaMix and so should you). Blend on a slow speed and then increase, allowing mixture to blend until velvety and smooth. Top on brownies. Serves 12 unicorns in need of a sweet pick-me-up after another boring day of unemployment.

the devil is white & sweet (not in a 50’s housewife kind of way) / cinnamon-scented poached pears

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In keeping with my seitan-ic theme, I will introduce you to the devil himself…the lord of dessert, candy and all things sinfully sweet. Yup, you guessed it…the devil’s name is Sugar. I know, I know…kind of a sweet (no pun intended) name for a supposedly badass fallen angel, but like so many things that sound deceivingly harmless (sanitary napkin, telemarketer, gynecologist, community marketing agent (see Hawaii post), department of motor vehicles, the I-95, enema, irreconcilable differences, “don’t take it personally”, “It’s you not me”, “I need to see you in my office”, “you’re not fat, just big-boned”, etc., sugar is the wolf in little red riding hood’s cape. And it comes in many forms to further confuse you: white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, raw suger, turbinado, sucanat, sugar cane, cane syrup solids, corn syrup, aspartame, fructose, and sucrose. Don’t be fooled by this little white powder. It is right up there with cocaine, heroine and all of my other favorite drugs…sounds great, right? Not so much…this little guy goes into your system, and like a drug, spikes your blood sugar and gives you a rush, a moment of bliss, a fleeting energy, and perhaps candy-coated wings & visions of purple bunnies hopping all over the yard (wait…that’s not sugar, that’s something else, and you should probably stop doing it right away). You’re probably thinking, fine I get it, but it’s not unnatural…I mean it comes from a plant, right? True, and if you gnaw on a piece of raw sugar cane, it’s not so bad because you’re eating a food in its whole form, which includes all of the vitamins, minerals and other things that your body recognizes, and can therefore assimilate for proper digestion and absorption. That is not, however, the form in which most people eat sugar. The sugar found in nearly everything from soda to cereal to gum (and even in those “natural” energy bars that you think are so good for you), is a crystalline chemical that’s been refined and processed to the point of being an “anti-nutrient” (translation: your body leaches vitamins and minerals from itself in order to absorb the sugar). The sugar cane (or beet) is pressed into a juice, then refined into molasses, and then further refined into a crystalline chemical that is NOT food, and is completely alien to our body. So what? Well, it’s one thing when you take a drug and know that it’s harmful to your health, but it’s quite another to blindly consume mass amounts of something that you think is okay. Sugar is a slow poison, but it’s as addictive as any narcotic. 95% of all Americans are addicted to sugar in one form or another, whether it’s artificial sweeteners, so called “natural” sweeteners, or good old white sugar. Consumption of sugar causes weight gain, tooth decay, and a slew of other illnesses that would take me half the day to list including diabetes, hypertension, many types of cancers, deterioration of major organs, and suppression of the immune system.  Solution? Stop eating it.
Easier said than done, I know. Like any addiction, it’s hard to stop…
Say goodbye to your venti, no whip, extra hot, nonfat chai latte in the morning with a low-fat blueberry muffin. Wait…WHAT?! I know, I’m totally ruining your whole day. But I’m telling you, sugar is the reason you can’t lose weight, the reason you feel like a truck hit you at 3pm everyday, the reason you become irritable (actually, I’m not sure about that…you might just be a pain in the ass naturally), and the reason why you think you’re just one of those people who “have a sweet tooth.” You don’t have a sweet tooth, you have a full on, psycho drug addict “I must give into my cravings” / “I eat cake behind closed doors, under my blanket with a flashlight” sugar addiction!

The good news? There are some sweeteners out there that aren’t as evil (they’re frenemies with the devil…it’s complicated), and may be incorporated, conservatively, into your diet.  They include: raw honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and coconut nectar.

Craving something sweet already? Don’t worry, I have the perfect solution: a dessert recipe without sugar in it! Hooray! Every unicorn you serve this to will be convinced that the sticky, syrupy goodness dripping off of the sides of your cinnamon-infused luscious pears is caramel or some other sinfully sweet sugar demon, but rest assured, it’s just fruit! Yes, fruit contains naturally occurring sugar, but it also has vitamins, minerals, and all the goodness needed for your body to happily absorb the sweetness without causing harm to you!

Cinnamon Poached Pears

2 pears, peeled & stems left in place, then cut in half lengthwise
1 small container of Organic Apple juice (without any added sugar, just apples!)
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (optional)
fresh mint to garnish

In a medium saucepan, place halved pears cut side down in pan. Pour apple juice over top until pears are almost submerged, about 3/4 of the way. Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves and turn on flame to high.  Bring up to a boil, then turn down flame to low, and simmer to a poaching temperature (a little higher than a simmer with a few bubbles popping occasionally) for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick can easily pierce each pear. Remove pears, cloves, and cinnamon sticks from poaching liquid and place on serving dish. Turn up flame and bring liquid to a boil and reduce until liquid becomes a thick syrup. Serve pears as is or slice from stem to bottom and fan out, then drizzle with syrup and garnish with fresh blueberries and mint. Makes enough for four unicorns suffering from sugar withdrawal.

Still need convincing? Consider this: cancer cells need nourishment to survive and grow…and guess what their favorite thing to eat is? Yup, you guessed it…sugar. In fact, many people undergoing treatment for cancer are encouraged to go on a sugar-free or sugar-moderated diet. Why not start now?