Carrie Allen – Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream

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Eating healthy and serving healthy food to my kids is critically important to me.  Yet we all crave sweets from time to time so having recipes made from wholesome ingredients that actually benefit our bodies fills me with joy.  My friend Mia gave me Alissa Cohen’s Raw Food for Everyone Cookbook one year for Christmas.  It was here that I first stumbled upon chocolate pudding made from avocados.  I have adapted the recipe over the years to whatever I have on hand but the main ingredients are simple: avocados, dates (or agave syrup, honey or maple syrup – whatever you have!), plus cacao (or cocoa powder).

Last night I had to be on a work conference call (it’s hard to coordinate meetings with Tokyo) so I asked my 12 year old daughter to make pasta for dinner for her and her brother – you do what you need to do to balance work and life.  I set two avocados next to all the ingredients, thinking they would also have avocados with balsamic vinegar on top, a favorite of ours.

When I came down they were eating their pasta but the avocados were untouched.  I asked why they were not eating them and my son, who is 11, said “we thought you could make chocolate pudding with them instead.”   What a great idea!  I topped the avocado chocolate mousse (more of a mousse this time than a pudding) with cashew cream, which balances the deep rich chocolate flavor with a lighter creamy taste.

The recipe is super simple.  Here is what I made last night:

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup organic, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 dates, soaked in hot water for a few minutes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and spoon into bowls.  You can put it in the refrigerator to chill for 10-30 minutes.  The pudding will develop a skin over top, just like pudding, if it sits for a while. Spoon cashew cream on top before serving.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream
1 cup raw unsalted cashews soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/2 cup water, plus more for a thinner cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a high speed mixer (I use a vitamix) and blend until smooth.  Add more water, sweetener and cinnamon according to taste.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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Carrie Allen created this blog as a way to share stories of passion and love, big and small, with those around the world.  You can read more about this on the About page!

 

 

 

 

Eve Isenberg – In Praise of Shadows

Last night was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.  For me this is a somber time.  Candles and bonfires burned at the Yule celebration in my town where we sang and recited poems and hoped for the future together.  Deep inside we connect with each other in our common need to push back the dark, as have many past generations.  Dark is bad, light is good.  I remind myself to reserve judgement, because as death is part of life, light cannot exist without the dark.  One makes the other more beautiful.  We can only appreciate the sun in contrast to where it is not.  Architects, someone once said, build complex forms to better hold the emptiness.  Music serves to bracket the silence.  At this time of year it is important to appreciate shadow.
 
In Praise of Shadows is an essay written by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki in 1933 and was translated into English 44 years later by Thomas J Harper.  It is my December scripture.  The author mourns the loss of time-honored Japanese customs to Western modernization after the Meiji Restoration.  He records what it means to him to be Japanese: the warmth of wood and softness of paper, the murky quality of jade and the patina of well loved tin instead of glass, white tile, and chrome.  Dining by candle light, he noticed “as I gazed at the trays and bowls standing in the shadows cast by that flickering point of flame, I discovered in the gloss of this lacquerware a depth and richness like that of a still dark pond, a beauty I had not before seen.”  Gold decoration on lacquerware draws the light to it and also acts as a reflector.  My favorite verse is about Japanese domestic architecture:
 
In making for ourselves a place to live, we first spread a parasol to throw a shadow on the earth, and in the pale light of the shadow we put together a house… And so it has come to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on a variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows – it has nothing else.  Westerners are amazed at the simplicity of Japanese rooms, perceiving in them no more than ashen walls bereft of ornament.  Their reaction is understandable, but it betrays a failure to comprehend the mystery of shadows.  Out beyond the sitting room, which the rays of the sun can at best but barely reach, we extend the eaves or build on a veranda, putting the sunlight at still greater a remove.  The light from the garden steals in but dimly through paper-paneled doors, and it is precisely this indirect light that makes for us the charm of a room.  We do our walls in neutral colors so that the sad, fragile, dying rays can sink into absolute repose…. We delight in the mere sight of the delicate glow of fading rays clinging to the surface of a dusky wall, there to live out what little life remains to them. We never tire of the sight, for to us this pale glow and these dim shadows far surpass any ornament.
 

What a wonderful opportunity to give depth to the shadows!  In the shadows there is pattern, subtlety, tranquility and reflection.  The dim light allows our other senses to tell us what we may not have noticed otherwise.  We become aware of where there is carelessness or waste when we must reserve our energy for keeping warm and using just what we need.  We take time to appreciate those we love, what we have and the beauty of nature.

 

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Now it is silently snowing outside.  The gray sky and white ground are connected by countless tree trunks which tilt slightly this way and that.  My home becomes a warm cave from which I can rest and observe the changing seasons.  When the seasons do change I will run outside and absorb the warm sun.  But eventually, I always look forward to the return of the shadows.

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Eve Isenberg is an Architect, wife, mom of three daughters, and much older than her mugshot. She lives in Concord, MA.

Makiko Aikawa – Spiritual Gifts

Happy Holidays!

Every year I make something special as Christmas presents for various people who worked with me throughout the year.  This year I made 4 pouches for 4 ladies, who supported me in many ways.  I love colors and I actually feel colors in people.

The first pouch I made is for the lady who likes black. She is very mature compared to her age, but she has very strong and bright colors inside her. I am not sure if she realizes this though!

One is for the lady who always stays calm, whatever happens, and she is modest, but I feel her intelligence and clearness. She is like a big tree staying quiet growing her roots firm in the earth.

For the lady who attracts people and brings a lot of joy, she is always moving around like the golden wind with sparkling sand gold.

For the fourth, she is clever. She is right. She is a perfectionist, but she has an inner artist and this artist enjoys expressing her freedom sometimes. She has deep color, perhaps because of her many inner layers.

The world of color fascinates me. I love the special moments of picking out colors and fabrics for my loving friends and making something special for them.  This is the way that I express my gratitude and connect to the them.

With best wishes for Christmas!
Makiko Aikawa

Makiko Aikawa is a color spiritualist, mother, wife, daughter, producer, promotor, coordinator, connector….has so many hats!  Through her experience of living and traveling in Asia, Europe and the US, she is good at mixing culture and making very personalized products and connecting people in the world.

Todd Maul – Pairing Holiday Tunes and Cocktails

So, It’s the holiday season. For many its holiday party time and the cheer flows and the music plays. I figure I would give you a bit of help in the holiday music and drink category. For me being born in the late 60’s my Mom and Dad listened to a great deal of early 60’s music especially around the holidays.  Several such records / discs that hold a special place in my heart are:

  1. Ray Conniff’s “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”
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To me this is perfectly paired with an aged rum. In particular I would suggest: El Dorado 12. Demerara rum that ages beautifully. The smoothness of the rum with go magnificently with the camp of the music. I would suggest listening and drinking this in a smoking jacket by the fire.

2. My next music selection is Robert Goulet’s “Wonderful World of Christmas”

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To me this is perfectly paired with a bone dry Beefeater Martini. Preferably stirred and served in a chilled martini glass.  I would suggest the drink be made 16 to one with dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters. The most important part is that the lemon twist is misted across the the top of the drink. You want to hold your channel knife at a 45% angle and aim the opening of the knife toward the surface of the beverage – to the point that you can see the top of the drink actually move.

I suggest you drink this wearing a madman suit smoking a pipe after building a snowman.

3. Lastly I would suggest Burl Ives “the Christmas Collections”

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To me this is best paired with eggnog.  Homemade eggnog made with both rum and cognac. I recommend that you whip both the egg whites and the egg yokes. You want to make sure the cinnamon content is in balance so that the cream and the dryness of the spice work in tandem.

I would suggest drinking this while watching Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Black and white, while wearing a black turtleneck.

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Todd Maul is Co-Founder of Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, MA and an amazing mixologist who has revolutionized the way we see cocktails.

Todd Maul – Fall Daquiri

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We have all had a daiquiri rum, lime and sugar. It is one of my favorite drinks. The Daiquiri is a simple yet complex drink and on a hot day what else are you going to drink? and on a cold day…. why not.

It is a magical beverage brought into the American consciousness as an aside from  the after effects of the Spanish-American War. The beverage has morphed from citrus and sugar in rum  to cut the rum harsh flavor to the “Army Navy Daiquiri” to the Papa Doble aka Hemingway daiquiri made famous at the El Floridity in Havana, to any number of other variations.

I have made several variations in my time behind the bar. The latest is one anyone can make in their home.

The Fall Daiquiri 

2oz Dos Maderas PX rum
1oz Clement sirop De Canne
1/2oz lime juice (we clarify the lime at CAS but it is not necessary to enjoy this drink. It stands up to regular lime.)

Todd Maul

Todd Maul is Co-Founder of Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, MA and an amazing mixologist who has revolutionized the way we see cocktails.

 

Paul Ha – A favorite Place to Go

One of my favorite places to go, because I always end up finding something amazing there, is a general store in St. Louis called, Winslow’s Home.  The store is named after the painter who lived and worked in Maine. Through the Portland Art Museum you can arrange a tour of the home and the studio – I recommend it. http://www.portlandmuseum.org/homer

But Winslow’s Home is a special place because of the owner, Ann Sheehan Lipton.  Because of her careful eye and taste, every piece in the store is well curated. You’ll find a spoon that is just perfect and a serving set that you wished you had for years.  And the best way enjoy the store is to order food first and then to browse.

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The beef brisket sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever had and the beet salad is amazing.

She raises most of the vegetable and the eggs on a farm in Augusta, Missouri which is only an hour away from downtown St. Louis. Everything is amazingly fresh and incredibly flavorful.  Go there and spend a day…  http://www.winslowshome.com

Paul Ha

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Paul Ha is the Director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center and lives in Brookline, MA.

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