Refined Sugar Free

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Savory meat filling in a cool lettuce wrapI’m obsessed with things wrapped in lettuce. Which seems an appropriate response to having a gluten allergy, since buns and bread are effectively off the table. Every week I eat at least one dish that uses crisp romaine or butter lettuce leaves as the vessel with which I deliver said deliciousness into my belly.

I’m also a fan of simplicity and this recipe couldn’t be easier. You can even be super lazy and just buy grocery store Hoisin sauce, although for anyone with celiac, that’s a risky proposition, as most store bought brands contain soy sauce. Also if you don’t make the sauce from scratch, you’re missing a huge part of what makes this dinner so flavorful and awesome. Moral of this paragraph? Make the sauce. In fact, make a double batch.

What makes my lettuce wraps different from the mainstream recipes out there is the addition of more veggies. The best thing about Asian cuisine, to my mind, is the ease with which all sorts of vegetables can slide into a dish all stealth-like and punch up the color, crunch and fiber quotient while making only a modest flavor difference. Typically the sauce situation takes care of that. So I say “more veggies for all!” Seriously though, add even just one additional veggie to your stir fries or your take-out from now on. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Savory filling in a cool lettuce wrapSince I didn’t want to monkey with the original filling recipe too much except to add bamboo shoots, I opted to veg-ify this recipe with the addition of a crisp coleslaw, reminiscent of cucumber salad. Packaged broccoli slaw is my favorite mixture to use for this crunchy condiment, although last time when I couldn’t find it, I subbed a lovely kale, cabbage and Brussels sprout slaw to which I added shredded carrot. Basically whatever shredded veggie combo strikes your fancy ought to do the trick. Toss a handful of that in a tangy dressing infused with sesame oil and chili flakes, chill briefly before serving and you have a bright garnish that almost steals the show. Almost. There’s still that dreamy sauce…

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with whatever protein your heart desires. Organic, grass-fed beef makes a bomb lettuce wrap, but you’ll usually find them made with ground dark-meat turkey in my household. Even the roommate can’t get enough of these and he generally likes to eschew my healthy cooking as dramatically unsatisfying by virtue of it being gluten free.

Meaning he rarely eats my food, out of principle.

This recipe however, makes him say, “Principles be damned!” Actually that’s never happened. But since he’s happily munching away on these as I type, that must be what he’s thinking, right?

Point is, you’re going to want to make this your something delicious today.

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten and Refined Sugar-Free)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T organic cornstarch
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Sriracha, adjust to taste
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 T grapeseed oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey, chicken, pork or beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 cup Asian coleslaw (recipe follows)
  • Chopped peanuts or almonds
  1. Make coleslaw. Place in fridge to chill for one hour.
  2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Add rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, Sriracha, honey and ginger, and whisk until well-combined.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat,  a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, breaking it into small pieces, until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Remove the meat from the skillet and set it aside.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes more.
  6. Return the cooked meat to the skillet, add the sauce, and mix to combine. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken (1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the heat, and add the water chestnuts,  bamboo shoots, and green onions.
  7. Take a leaf of Boston lettuce and spoon in about 1/3 cup of the meat. Top with Asian coleslaw and chopped nuts.

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Tangy Asian Coleslaw
  • Half bag broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 T coconut sugar
  • 1 T grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly torn
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, oils and pepper flakes.
  2. Add slaw mixture and stir to coat.
  3. Chill 1 hour before serving, stirring every so often to coat veggies.
  4. Add cilantro right before serving.

 

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Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Gluten & Refined sugar-free)

Pumpkin Pancakes Cranberry-Pecan CompoteAs a person with food allergies, sometimes I’ll get lucky while traveling and find gluten-free options in places you would never expect. Recently I attended a wedding in Neverwhere, Ohio, and was delighted that the first breakfast in our historic hotel the big city–Lancaster, that is–had gluten-free bread on offer.

I can order a breakfast sandwich?! That is something that never, ever happens. I have forgone breakfast sandwiches for over three years now, so I was understandably delighted.

The irony, however, was that there was something else on the menu that I wanted way way more than a breakfast sandwich. Something that was decidedly NOT gluten free. Something that the women I was traveling with (my mom and her best friend) could not stop raving about: pumpkin pancakes with cranberry-pecan compote. Oh my YUM.

If You Love Me, Lie to Me

Allow me to digress for a moment…I once dated this guy–let’s call him *Frank*–for far longer than was sane or reasonable considering what a poor match we made.

But he did this thing that was so irresistibly charming whenever he ate something I wasn’t allowed to have, it just might have been the glue that kept us together. He would bite into said glutenous item and wrinkle his nose, before describing in detail how disappointing the meal was. Then he’d take another bite and shake his head no, as if to illustrate how lucky I was not to be subjected to such torture.

I found the game delightful. One time, he was eating a bean and cheese burrito–one of my most-missed comfort foods which sadly seem to be gone from my repertoire in the absence of GF tortillas that actually resemble tortillas. He made a face of utter disgust and proclaimed that his burrito was just “too beany.”

I’m fairly certain that this action alone made me love him.

Too Damned Honest

*Frank’s* behavior stands in stark contrast to what my family does. Now, to be fair, we are a family who loves food. We are perhaps more likely to tell you what we ate on our European vacation than which museums we visited or what friends we made. But still, it’s hard when my mom eats a warm croissant so delicate that I can hear the crunch of 100 perfect layers as it reverberates in the part of my chest that acutely feels “lack.” I watch in slow motion as parchment-like crumbs drift gently onto the tablecloth like tantalizing golden snowflakes. Then she TELLS me how good it is. As if I’m not already dying a little inside.

Sigh…This particular memory ends with my mom actually rubbing the pastry on her face in an amorous gesture meant to make her more at one with the croissant. I might be embellishing, but who can tell anymore? All I know is that she didn’t lie to me.

Is that so much to ask?

Same Sh*t, Different Day

And that’s how it began with the pumpkin pancakes. It went something like this:

Me: (getting into the car after an entire day of flying and not eating due to a lack of G-Free options). Hi moms. How’s it going?

Moms: Hi girls. You are gonna love our hotel. It has GREAT breakfasts. Today we had the pumpkin pancakes. They come with a cranberry-pecan compote that is to die for. Oh my word…

Me: Sounds incredible. I’m starving. No chance they’re gluten-free (she asks hopefully)?

Moms: No…But they were goooooooooood. Mmmmm mmmmm! Really fluffy!! So full of pumpkin spice. I’ve never had cranberry compote on pancakes before, have you Lynda? No? No, me neither. Definitely not to be missed.

Me: Ok well I’m sure they have other good things on the menu.

Moms: Oh I’m sure, but these pancakes were reaaaaaaallly something. I’m thinking they’d be great for Christmas breakfast, don’t you think so Lynda? Just marvelous, really…

Aargh.

Suffice to say, I dreamt about pumpkin pancakes that night.

My Loss=Your Gain

The silver lining to this story, my friends, is that I came home on a mission.

A delicious mission.

And hopefully you will reap the benefits of it as much as I’m getting to. We start with a crazy healthy pancake recipe–one of the pumpkin-iest pumpkin recipes I’ve made. These babies actually qualify as paleo and are only mildly sweet, so they pair perfectly with your choice of toppings. One point that is particularly noteworthy: flax seed and meal is very delicate and will only stay fresh if you keep it frozen. Your best bet is to buy a small quantity of flax seeds in the bulk bin at your local health food store and grind them yourself. I make all the pancakes at once and then freeze them in a single layer. Then take them straight from freezer to toaster for quick weekday breakfasts.

The cranberry compote is super simple to make, and is bright and tangy with the flavors of orange and pumpkin pie spice. Of course you can serve this as a condiment for poultry or pork, spread it on toast, stir it into oatmeal or spoon it over vanilla ice cream. I make it a day ahead to cut down on prep time and thin a little bit with OJ or water when I’m ready to serve. Toast the pecans and add them at the end so they’re perfectly crunchy.

Pumpkin Pancakes (Gluten-free, Refined-sugar free, Paleo)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 T flax meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 can pure pumpkin
  • 6 eggs, whisked
  • 2 T coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (use extract for paleo)
  1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk wet ingredients.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until combined.
  4. Heat griddle over medium heat.
  5. When beads of water dance on the griddle’s surface, it is ready, Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle at a time and use the back of a spoon to spread it into a circle.
  6. When small bubbles form on the surface, flip pancakes and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Refined sugar-free)
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 3 oranges, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T coconut sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp homemade pumpkin pie spice (see below)
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  1. Place cleaned cranberries in a 2 quart saucepan.
  2. Add the zest of three oranges to the cranberries. Halve the oranges, and add the juice. Cook over medium heat.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and spices. Allow mixture to come to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated and sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
  4. Meanwhile in a dry saute pan, toast pecans over medium low heat until fragrant and just starting to brown. Allow to cool. Roughly chop.
  5. To reheat, add 1/4 c of water or orange juice to compote and slowly warm over medium low heat.
  6. Spoon warmed compote over pancakes. Top with toasted, chopped pecans.

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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  1. In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

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It’s National Chocolate Mousse Day! How About a Healthy, Vegan Version?

rp_Vegan-Chocolate-Mousse-1024x1024.jpgApril 3rd is a noteworthy day for a few reasons. For one, it is the birthday of the woman who created the food-obsessed individual who is writing these words (love you, Mom).

But April 3rd is also remarkable because it is National Chocolate Mousse Day.

Yep, that’s a thing.

So I guuuuueeess we’ve gotta eat some!

With two cups of heavy cream, traditional chocolate mousse is obviously not something to indulge in on the regular. But what if we waved our wellness wand at the recipe and gave our mousse a makeover? Filled it with heart-healthy fats and ditched the refined sugar? How about if we made it dairy- and egg-free too for our food-sensitive friends? Then we all could eat it often.

Every day, even.

Maybe it won’t come as a surprise that avocado is the base for this rich rendition of the classic. Avocado is used in a lot of healthy desserts because it’s so creamy and its mild flavor goes virtually undetected. I’ve made this for clients whose minds were blown when I told them what they were eating. And the ultimate test: kids! My favorite “little” had just finished devouring a bowl when I told her what it was made out of.

“But I hate avocado,” she insisted.

“Not anymore,” I replied, tap dancing just a little.

Score one for the grown ups.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse (Dairy/Egg/Refined Sugar-Free)
This luscious dessert is so rich, no one will ever guess it’s healthy. Serve small portions (1/3 to 1/2 cup) at room temperature for maximum fluffiness, and garnish with unsweetened, whipped coconut cream and fresh berries.
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate ***check that it’s dairy free for vegan
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 can coconut cream, chilled
  1. Using a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate and coconut milk. Stir until smooth.
  2. Place avocado, vanilla paste, maple syrup and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Add chocolate mixture. Process until combined.
  4. Open coconut cream. Spoon thick cream cream off the top and reserve the coconut water for making smoothies. With a handheld mixer, beat the coconut cream on med-high until creamy.
  5. Gently fold chocolate mixture into whipped coconut cream.
  6. Spoon into dessert dishes and garnish as desired.

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Now that you know, I hope you’ll use them to make something delicious!

 

Five Reasons You Should Consider an Elimination Diet (plus the most AMAZING Chicken-Apple Sausages)

E DietOk so I know the title of this post contains the word “diet,” and that’s likely to send at least a few of you running for the hills. I, myself, have a tendency to rebel against things that are limiting, so I feel you, I really do. But if there’s one thing I would encourage every person I care about to do in this lifetime, it’s to try this Elimination Diet, even just once.

I could go on and on about its benefits, and at its most basic, the diet will cost you two weeks of your life. That’s a small commitment to exchange for feeling better than you ever have in your time on this earth, no?

Just in case you need a push, here are five reasons you should consider picking up Tom and Ali’s book The Elimination Diet and giving it a try today.

1) Sometimes–maybe not always–but at least part of your life is spent dealing with any of the following symptoms: bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, migraines, skin problems, joint pain, foggy thinking, anxiety, depression, sinus and lung problems, unexplained weight gain, low energy, insomnia.

Hey guess what? It’s not normal to feel bloated and gassy after you eat. You may have gotten used to it, but there is nothing more liberating than discovering that you can eat a meal and feel nothing but amazing afterwards.

Or maybe your digestive tract feels like a well-oiled machine, but you deal with severely dry skin or eczema. I’m willing to bet you my firstborn that two weeks of following this eating plan will reduce that inflammation.

Think it’s way too farfetched of a notion that your diet can affect how moody or anxious you feel? Okay, that’s fair. But aren’t you willing to try just about anything to get those feelings to go away, if such things are possible? Wouldn’t that include eating whole, organic foods combined into some of the most delicious meal combos to ever alight upon your palate?

Thought so.

2) Food allergies have increased 50% from 1997 to 2011—said the CDC in a 2013 study.

And no, this doesn’t just mean that people whine more now. For one, more people are starting to realize that constantly being miserable after eating is not a normal state of being. More and more doctors are recognizing the legitimacy of food allergies—especially those with backgrounds in Eastern medical theory—and are suggesting an approach to health that embraces the philosophy that “what you put in, is what you get out.” This is totally different from the Band-Aid approach we’ve become accustomed to, where your doc scribbles out a scrip for yet another “magic pill,” in an attempt to cover up your symptoms.

We have learned that 60-75% of the world’s population doesn’t have enough lactase after the age of 4 to digest the lactose in milk, so that probably means you. And if this urges you to go get a “scratch test” and discover your allergies that way, just know that food sensitivities and intolerances (as opposed to full-blown allergies) are less well known, often undetected, and can’t be tested for. They usually create a subtler, simmering sort of distress that leads to chronic symptoms.

When you can’t process a type of food, you lack an enzyme, nutrient, or organism to properly digest or metabolize. Each time you eat this food, more of the undigested particles build up in your body, feeding harmful bacteria and yeast in your digestive tract. Your body views these particles as foreign invaders and attacks them, putting your system on alert and causing inflammation. If you are constantly inflamed, your body is poorly equipped to handle actual foreign invaders—things like seasonal allergies, colds, or even cancer.

3) Maybe you’re like my roommate and you have an iron stomach, are vital as a stallion, and claim you’d gain no benefit whatsoever from doing an Elimination Diet. Okay, fine. Do you crave cheese? Caffeine? Sugar? Would it be hard to give these things up completely because the cravings would be too intense? After two weeks on the E-Diet, you will have completely reset your system, and the bacteria in your gut that leads to cravings for the afore-mentioned foods will be completely wiped out.

Don’t suffer from food cravings? Then you, my friend, are far stronger than I. But do you drink? A little? A lot? If that’s the case, your liver could use a detox. Trust me, your liver sent me a letter begging for it, and it thanks you in advance for your consideration.

4) Calories (and fats) don’t count!

Say what? Every time I pour coconut milk into my coffee, my mom cringes. “It’s so full of fat!” she proclaims. And that’s completely accurate. But! Coconut is one of the most heart-healthy fats out there, and this diet embraces these types of fat in spades. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, coconut milk and oil, avocados and nuts (once reintroduced) will become staples of your diet.

Mom is coming from the perspective of years of diet advice claiming that counting calories or fat grams is the best way to lose or maintain one’s weight. But the E-Diet embraces clean, whole foods that come from the earth, and is therefore low in additives, sweeteners, coloring and preservatives, so it follows that you can literally binge your face off on these things and worry not one iota about your waistline. In fact, this diet is almost assured to cause you to lose weight. I can’t imagine anyone following it strictly and not seeing similar results. Personally, I simply love that I can eat to the point where I am almost uncomfortably full and still wake up the next day looking slender and lean with absolutely zero tummy bloat.

5) You get to eat things like Butternut Squash and Sage “Stuffing,” Chickpea Curry with Potatoes and Kale, and Mustard-Herb Lamb Burgers. This isn’t just a bunch of rabbit food here people. No boring iceberg salads drizzled with lemon juice, yeuuck! In fact read my post here about how I ate like a food champ during my last E-Diet.

The recipe below, for example, had me at hello. After tasting these little nuggets of deliciousness, I vowed to never eat store-bought, highly-processed breakfast sausage ever again, especially since processed meats have now been linked to cancer. 

Chicken-Apple Breakfast Sausages
  • 1 medium tart apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
  • 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 T fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil for cooking
  1. Place the apple, green onions, sage, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with the “s” blade and pulse a few times. Then add the chicken and process until the chicken is ground and the mixture starts to form a ball, about 30 seconds.
  2. With oiled hands, form the mixture into about 8 patties and set them on a plate. Heat a large skillet of medium-low heat and add 1 T oil. Place four of the patties in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining patties.
  3. These keep in the fridge for about 5 days or can be frozen and reheated in a 350-degree oven.

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Now trust me when I tell you making these bad daddies–and just embracing the Elimination Diet in general–is inarguably doing something delicious! And just because I love you so much, I’m even including a link to an awesome guide to shopping for the right ingredients to support your E-Diet. You’re welcome!

 

 

 

 

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)

 

fruit-tartI love ANYTHING that has that many words in parentheses and still tastes as good as this does. I’ve got some stubborn eaters in my extended family, and this stunning dessert satisfied them all. If I hadn’t already made it for her this season, I would shape the crust like a heart and serve it to mom for Mother’s Day brunch. Awww…

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-9″ tart
Ingredients
  • 1 can coconut milk (without guar gum)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal or flour
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 cups 100% all fruit apricot preserves
  • 2 T water
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of 5 lemons (about 1 cup)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1-2 T organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Mango, peeled and sliced thin
  • Pineapple, peeled and sliced thin
  • Kiwi, peeled and sliced thin
  • Clementines, peeled and separated
  • Assorted berries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. To prep the whipped coconut cream, pour coconut milk into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. To make the crust, stir together the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the vanilla, oil, maple syrup and 1 T water. Add the oil mix to the flour and combine well.
  5. Turn the dough onto a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers or a rubber spatula to spread it towards the edges of the pan, making sure to press it all the way up the sides of the pan. Try to make the dough a uniform thickness across the bottom and edges.
  6. Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown. Don’t overbake!
  7. While the crust is baking, make the glaze by heating the preserves and 2 T water to boiling in small sauce pan.
  8. Strain through a sieve to remove lumps.
  9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature before brushing with glaze.
  10. In the meantime, make the lemon curd. Heat agave nectar, arrowroot, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice In a small saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency.
  12. Whisk in coconut oil.
  13. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Curd will get very thick the longer it sits. Still tastes great spread on toast though!
  14. Once crust is cool, use a pastry brush to lightly brush interior of tart shell with thinned preserves. Let “dry” for 15 minutes.
  15. In the meantime, make whipped coconut cream. Drain off liquid (should look like thin coconut milk) and reserve for another use.
  16. Whip cream with a mixer on high until thick and frothy.
  17. Fold 1/2 c coconut cream into chilled lemon curd.
  18. To remaining whipped cream, add 1 tsp vanilla bean paste and organic powdered sugar, to taste. I like mine not too sweet. Reserve to use as garnish.
  19. Fill crust with lemon cream, spreading in an even layer.
  20. Channel your inner artist and layer slices of fruit and berries in whatever pattern makes you happiest.
  21. With remaining apricot glaze, brush fruit lightly until evenly coated and shiny. This will keep your tart looking beautiful for days—not that it will last that long!
  22. Serve with big spoonfuls of whipped coconut cream.

 

Now that’s the definition of doing something delicious!