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Fruit pizza

fruitpizza3Happy Easter, everyone!

OK, I’m a few days late, but you can’t expect me to make an Easter dessert, photograph it, haul everything over to the family gathering, AND blog about it, can you? (No, you can’t…just to be clear…)

This year, I was asked to bring a fruit plate to the Easter festivities. However, I’m an artist (graphic/web designer, to be exact), so I can’t possibly be normal! This is when the idea of the fruit pizza was born.

I wanted to do something that was gluten-free (currently a little nervous about my thyroid), egg-free (‘cuz I’m fascinated with flax these days), and sugar-free (since small children would be eating it). My three-year-old niece was pretty excited about this one. She followed me EVERYWHERE as I was trying to find a place to cut and serve it. So there you go…kid-friendly? You betcha! Yes, they had jelly-beans throughout the day. However, their “crunchy” auntie was not about to be the one to load them up on more sugar! They didn’t even get sugary treats from me in their Easter baskets. That’s just the way I am.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Crust:
2 c. oat flour (make your own in a food processor!!!)
1 tsp. guar gum or xanthan gum
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
3/8 c. honey
3/8 c. Sucanat
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground flax in 4 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

Combine flax and water, and set aside in refrigerator for 20 minutes, until flax has an egg-like consistency. (I find this completely fascinating!)

Meanwhile, combine oat flour, guar gum, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter, honey, and Sucanat. Add flax mixture and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.

Grease a medium-sized jelly-roll pan and spread dough evenly. Bake at 350ยบ for 18 minutes. Allow to cool.

Mine was a big nerd and pulled away from the sides of the pan while it was cooling. It still turned out just fine!

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I actually made my crust the night before, just to save on time! Next up, you need to make the creamy goodness:

Cashew cream:
2 c. cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours and then drained
1/2 c. almond milk
1/4 c. virgin coconut oil
2 Tbsp. raw honey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in your Vitamix and blend until creamy. You may need to add a little more almond milk to the mixture, if the consistency isn’t what you want. Refrigerate for 2 hours. (You could also do this the night before to save on time! I actually recommend it…)

When you’ve got all of that finished, spread on the cashew cream!

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And now – creativity at its finest…

CREATE AN AWESOME DESIGN WITH YOUR FRUIT!!!

I used strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, mandarin oranges (not the stuff in the can, either), and bananas. Here’s a tip for you: after slicing your fruit, arrange it on a paper towel and let the towel soak up some of the juices. The fruit juices will do tragic things to the appearance of your pizza, otherwise!

For your bananas – do those LAST!!! They turn brown really quickly. You’ll also want to drop them in a little lemon or pineapple juice before placing them on the pizza. This helps to keep them from turning brown…but be forewarned – they’re slippery little things! Be ready for a few escapees…

If you have a particular design in mind, you can be a big nerd like me and sketch it out ahead of time. Seriously, this helps. I also used toothpicks to place the corners of my cross, just so I’d know it would be square. And then – create! Have fun! Who needs frosting when you’ve got all this fruit to play with?

My fruit pizza was an Easter dessert, so I went with an Easter-appropriate design. Really, you could do ANYTHING. Have some fun with it! Don’t be afraid to cut your fruit to make it fit the way you want it. My mind is already creating a billion designs, as we speak.

fruitpizza3

Next design: ceiling of the Sistine Chapel…(not really).

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Cream of Spinach Soup

spinachsoup5I’ve been craving this soup for the longest time, and I FINALLY got around to making it! The original plan was to follow a recipe I found online. I should have known better. I found this recipe, but then, as always, I ended up doing my own thing.

I have also been known to do this thing I call “clean out the fridge” cooking. If I’m making a soup, a casserole, or something to that effect, I search for things in my fridge that need to be used up, and they end up in whatever I happen to be creating. I’m fairly careful when I’m baking, because I know it’s a bit of a science. When it comes to cooking, however, I’m kind of reckless. I remember my aunt once calling this style of culinary artistry the “close your eyes and dump” method. I kind of like it!

Anyway, here’s what you’ll need, if you decide to be more planned than reckless:

1 c. cashews (salted, unsalted, or raw) soaked in water for 1 hour and then drained
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/3 orange bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 1/2 cubes beef bouillon (vegetarian, no MSG)
1 cube chicken bouillon (vegetarian, no MSG)
4 c. hot water
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. Penzey’s Fox Point spice
4 tsp. diced garlic
3/4 package raw spinach
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Soak the cashews in water for an hour. While you’re waiting for those to soak, toss your bouillon cubes in 4 c. hot water and wait for those to dissolve.

Pour the olive oil in a large soup pot, and add the red onion, yellow onion, bell pepper, celery, and zucchini. If you don’t have the exact amounts, it’s no big deal. I added 1/4 yellow onion because I had it left over in my fridge. The orange bell pepper was also added because I needed to use it up. My celery was looking a little limp, so I threw a little more of that in, too! Cook everything over medium heat until all the veggies are nice and soft.

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Normally, I would have used vegetable stock or chicken stock, but since I had these awesome “no MSG” (and vegetarian!) bouillon cubes in my fridge, I thought I’d use those instead. I had also planned to use fresh garlic, but when I pulled mine out, it was already growing a green mohawk. This made the pre-diced stuff in a jar the healthier option by default!

Add the now-dissolved beef/chicken bouillon and the water, along with the garlic, parsley, Penzey’s Fox Point spice (if you have it on hand), and spinach. Why did I use 3/4 of a bag? It’s what I had. I needed it to use it up, because it expires in two days!

spinachsoup2

You’ll need to stuff the spinach down into the soup in order to get it to wilt, but within a few minutes, it should look something like the above photo.

Now here’s the fun part: blending it! Drain your cashews and put them in the Vitamix. Pour everything that’s in your soup pot into the Vitamix as well, without dripping part of it on the counter like I did. (Disclaimer: I couldn’t see it dripping down the side of the pot as I was pouring.)

  • Note: This should work in just about any blender, but if you don’t have a ginormous container, you’ll need to do it in batches.

spinachsoup3

Of course, this is where that ginormous Vitamix container comes in handy! Make sure the lid is on, of course. Start at variable speed 1 and gradually work up to variable 10, and then HIGH. Blend for about a minute.

spinachsoup4

When I saw this frothy green mixture (and when I tasted a little bit of it that had dripped on my hand), I knew this soup was gonna be a winner!

Pour everything back into the soup pot. Add salt and pepper (I just measured it into my hand and said, “Close enough!”) and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Garnish with sliced spinach.

spinachsoup5

If you’re one of those people who can have raw dairy, this soup is GREAT with a little bit if raw sharp cheddar cheese on top!

  • Note: I can tell this is just one of many versions of this soup. It’s awesome, but after having a few bowls, the creative juices started flowing again, and now I have more ideas! There may be a chunky version in my future. I’ll be sure to post it and link the two recipes!

Cream of Spinach Soup, in a nutshell:
1 c. cashews (salted, unsalted, or raw) soaked in water for 1 hour and then drained
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/3 orange bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 1/2 cubes beef bouillon (vegetarian, no MSG)
1 cube chicken bouillon (vegetarian, no MSG)
4 c. hot water
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. Penzey’s Fox Point spice
4 tsp. diced garlic
3/4 package raw spinach
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Soak the cashews in water for an hour. Place bouillon cubes in 4 c. hot water and dissolve.

Pour the olive oil in a large soup pot, and add the red onion, yellow onion, bell pepper, celery, and zucchini. Cook everything over medium heat until veggies are soft.

Drain cashews and put them in the Vitamix. Pour soup pot contents into the Vitamix as well. Start at variable speed 1 and gradually work up to variable 10, and then HIGH. Blend for about a minute.

Pour everything back into the soup pot. Add salt and pepper and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Garnish with sliced spinach.