Today, we are excited to share a conversation with Heather Christo of HeatherChristo.com (one of our go-to food blogs!). She is a trained chef and entertaining expert. And, she has used these experiences to turn a severe food allergy diagnosis into an opportunity to create delicious, allergy-free recipes the whole family will love. Here's a little bit of our conversation with Heather as well as her recipe for Coconut Macadamia Nut Chocolate Caramel Pie. Enjoy!
1. As much as we love this time of year, it can also be stressful between all of the holiday parties and family gatherings. Do you have any tips for entertaining ideas that are (mostly!) stress free?
I love to set out things that are not too complicated to prepare and that the hostess does not have to fuss with while her guests are there. For example- A huge crudite spread or antipasto platter. You can prep everything well ahead of time and set it up before guests arrive. Once they are there, it is just finger food so you don't have to worry.
The same goes for cocktails. I like to make a punch or signature cocktail and leave it in a spigot drink container or pitchers along with a self serve bar so I don't spend all my time playing bar tender.
2. We love that you are on a mission to "change the way the world sees—and eats—the allergy-free life." Do you have any tried and true advice for someone who is cooking a holiday meal for guests with an allergy or intolerance?
Don't get bogged down in the "can't haves", try focusing on all of the delicious "can haves"! I understand not wanting to give up family favorites like stuffing and butter laden mashed potatoes, but just add some extra sides of vegetables, salads or think about wonderful alternatives like rice stuffings and quinoa salads. If all else fails- head to my blog for ideas! Also, don't be afraid to ask those with the allergies to bring a few dishes- they will happily comply. Those of us with allergies will typically do anything to make sure that we don't put others out!
3. What are you looking forward to the most this holiday season and in the New Year?
During the Holiday season I am just all about my family. I try to work less and bake more and spend as much time with my husband and children as possible.
I feel blessed that 2016 holds so many wonderful things. My "Heathermade" fresh baked goods (vegan, certified gluten free, soy, nut and peanut free) line launches in Costco's on the West Coast in January so that I can bring the convenience of delicious baked goods right to the people who need it. And in April, my new book PURE DELICIOUS, 200 delectable allergen free recipes made without gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish or cane sugar comes out. That is meant to be a serious resource for those living with food allergies or intolerances, along with a detailed plan on how to figure out if you have them. oh, plus 200 AMAZING recipes that you will never believe are "missing" traditional old ingredients- they are just pure delicious!
Coconut Macadamia Nut Caramel Chocolate Pie
1 cup toasted macadamia nuts
pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
Coconut Chocolate Ganache:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut cream
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
12 ounces vegan dark chocolate chips or chopped
Vanilla Coconut Caramel:
1 cup beet sugar (or organic cane sugar)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut cream (I use Trader Joes)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
6 ounces vegan dark chocolate chips or chopped
1 tablespoons coconut oil
Toasted macadamia nuts, shredded coconut, flaked coconut, sea salt
- In the bowl of a food processor combine the coconut, nuts, salt and coconut oil and pulse until you have a crumb that when you pinch it together it holds tight.
- Spray a pie plate with coconut oil spray and press the coconut mixture into the pie plate. Press down firmly (I use a measuring cup to pack it firmly) and evenly, leaving a crust around the edges.
- Use foil to create a collar for the edges and then place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the collar and bake another 5 minutes until golden.
- Remove from the oven and set out to cool on a cooling rack.
- In a sauce pan heat the coconut cream over medium-high heat. Stir in the coconut and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat off and add the chocolate to the coconut cream and whisk until smooth- take off the heat to cool. Whisk and let the ganache thicken up and then pour into the cooked crust. Let the ganache set up and cool- about 30 minutes.
- In a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat melt the sugar. Stir gently until the sugar is mostly melted and then turn the heat to lowest and add the coconut oil and whisk in the cream and the vanilla. If the sugar seizes up then turn the heat to medium and stir consistently until the sugar has melted back into the caramel and it is smooth and thick. This can take 5-8 minutes so be patient!
- Pour the caramel over the top of the set up ganache. Let the caramel cool and set up- about 15 minutes.
- Melt the chopped chocolate and the coconut oil in the microwave and whisk until smooth. Spread it in a thin layer over the top of the pie and then immediately sprinkle with the garnish.
Printable version here