Thursday, February 24, 2011

Coconut Bliss Giveaway and Ice Cream Cookie Pie

Coconut Bliss

I’m a huge ice cream nut.  It is my clear favorite dessert choice.  After becoming vegan, I had a rough time finding a non-dairy ice cream that I really liked.  Eventually, I came across Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss.  Sweet relief!  Finally, a creamy, rich, delicious non-dairy ice cream that is genuinely the best stuff ever.  It tastes so much better than dairy-based ice cream.  Every friend or family member I’ve encouraged to give it a try has loved it.  It’s made with coconut milk (obviously) and sweetened with agave syrup.  It’s also soy and gluten free, certified organic, fair trade certified, and they use cocoa from the Domincan Republic (see this post on why this is important).  Current flavors include naked almond fudge, pineapple coconut, chocolate peanut butter, naked coconut, dark chocolate, vanilla island, mint galactic, cappuccino, cherry amaretto, and chocolate hazelnut fudge (plus they’re releasing 4 new flavors in 2011).

And for the final hurrah?  Coconut Bliss donated a coupon for a free pint for a lucky US and a lucky Canandian resident.  To be eligible just post a comment stating how you like to dress up your ice cream or if you eat it straight up, state your favorite flavor.  Oh, and please state in your post whether you have a US or Canadian address so I can quickly separate into two groups.  Post your comments by the 28th and I’ll randomly select and announce the winners on the 1st

Ok.  So I’ll go first.  I like cookies with my ice cream.  So, with combining ice cream and cookies as my inspiration, I created a chocolate cherry ice cream cookie pie for Valentine’s Day.  It’s over the top amazing.  Just as a heads up, there’s a lot of prep time involved, but most of it is inactive so don’t be intimidated.  And you could always simplify by using a (vegan) store bought cookie crust  If you can, try to make it the day before serving to allow plenty of time for all the layers to really set up.

 Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream Cookie Pie
Chocolate Cookie Crust:
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 9 in spring form pan or pie plate with non stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed and water.  Set aside.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl whisk the oil and sugars together vigorously with a fork.  Add the extracts and whisk again.  Add the flour mixture and stir gently to combine.  Place cookie dough into pan and, using a small square of wax paper as a non stick barrier, push the cookie dough out to the edges and up the sides a little to form a crust.  Bake for 12-13 minutes.  Leave the crust in the pan, but place the pan on a cooling rack.  Once the pan is has mostly cooled, place in refrigerator or freezer to cool further.  In the mean time, place one pint of the cherry amaretto coconut bliss in the refrigerator to soften and prepare the ganache, sweet cherries, and cookie crumbs.

After the cookie crust has cooled in the refrigerator or freezer for about an hour, remove and scoop 3/4 of the softened pint of cherry amaretto coconut bliss into the crust.  Spread and smooth with a spatula.  Return to the freezer to harden, and place the dark chocolate coconut bliss in the refrigerator to soften.  Wait one hour. 

Scoop 3/4 of the softened dark chocolate coconut bliss into a small mixing bowl.  Add cookie crumbs, reserving enough aside for garnish.  Stir the cookie crumbs into the ice cream and scoop on top of the cherry amaretto layer.  Use a spatula to spread and smooth and return to the freezer to set.  Place the rest of the cherry amaretto in the fridge.  Wait one hour.

Scoop the remaining pint and half of the new pint of the cherry amaretto onto the chocolate cookie layer and spread and smooth with a spatula.  Return to the freezer for one hour.  Now you are ready to decorate.  I like to spoon the cooled ganache into a zip lock bag, then use scissors to cut just a little of one bottom corner off for easy piping.  Or you could reheat just a touch and drizzle (just be really careful not to let it get too warm or it’ll melt the ice cream).  Sprinkle with the left over cookie crumbs and adorn with sweet cherries.  Freeze for 4 hours or up to overnight.  Allow to defrost in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so before serving.  Also obviously if you used a spring form pan, remove from pan before serving.

Simply a two to one ratio of chocolate to non dairy milk.  I used 1/3 cup well chopped chocolate (Newman’s Own Organics - cocoa is not from West Africa) and 2/3 cup almond milk.  Put the non dairy milk in a small saucepan, stirring often while heating at a medium to medium high heat until very hot, but before simmering.  Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate.  Stir until melted.  Set aside to cool.

Sweet Cherries:
about 15 or so frozen sweet cherries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Place cherries and sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium until cherries fully thaw and most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring often.  Remove from heat to cool.

Cookie crumbs:
3/4 - 1 cup coarsely crumbled chocolate cookies (such as Newman’s Own Alphabet Cookies)
Place cookies in a zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin.  In this instance, I don’t like to use the food processor because I feel like it makes the crumbs way too fine.

Ice cream:
1 pint dark chocolate coconut bliss (you’ll use about 3/4)
2 pints cherry amaretto coconut bliss (you’ll use about 1 1/2)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let’s Talk Cocoa and Chocolate

For me, being vegan is about doing the best I can to avoid causing harm, period.  Before proceeding, please let me clarify that my intention is not to sound preachy or to be judgmental.  This is relatively new information for me, and I simply want to pass on a brief summary of the issue as well as some resources I have found helpful. 

By chance I happened across the documentary, Slavery:  A Global Investigation (you can watch it here).  It explores slavery in the carpet industry in Northern India, cocoa in the Ivory Coast (the world’s largest producer of cocoa), and domestic slavery in Britain and the US.  As cocoa products are something I purchase and consume frequently, I found the issue of slavery in the cocoa industry particularly devastating.  The film defines slavery as “people paid no money, locked away, and controlled by violence”.  Unfortunately, this type of treatment is the reality for the majority of people who help produce the world’s chocolate, many of them being children. 

Furthermore, I recently learned that purchasing only Fair Trade Certified cocoa products does not guarantee that child or slave labor was not used (recently, due to evidence of child labor, several West African supplier’s certifications have been revoked).  And choosing not to buy cocoa at all isn’t a good option either as it continues to drive down the price farmers receive, causing further incentive for them to use child or slave labor, and those farmers who are actually paying their workers can’t compete. 

The Food Empowerment Project has done a lot of work trying to educate the public about this issue and find those companies who can actually be sure their cocoa wasn’t produced using slave labor.  At this time, they recommend buying “only fair trade and/or organic chocolate from Latin America”.  You can see the list they made of companies who sell slave-free, vegan chocolate here.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a single company selling vegan chocolate chips whose cocoa is supplied by Latin American…which is some serious bull shit.  But hey, if you know of one, speak up.  So instead, I’ve been using chocolate bars, and therefore, chocolate “chunks” in their place.  And, really, chunks kick chips arse any day (bigger bits of chocolate, plus all the irregularly shaped bits are so….rustic!).  **See my recipe for Menage a Trois Cookies.**

Menage a Trois cookies with chocolate chunks

Lastly, I just wanted to offer encouragement to take the time to write to your favorite companies.  Let them know this issue is important to you.  Find out where they stand and either thank them or encourage them to be more vigilant.  My next few posts will include recipes spotlighting cocoa products that are from Latin America and are Fair Trade Certified.

As a side note, I was super bummed when I didn’t see Coconut Bliss, my favorite non-dairy ice cream, on the list so I contacted them and am delighted to say the cocoa they use is from the Dominican Republic.  And, I‘ve created a couple recipes spotlighting their delicious ice cream.  And, I’ll be doing a giveaway for a coupon for a free pint!  Stay tuned.