Report: NYU RANKS #1 AS BEST CAMPUS FOR LATE-NIGHT EATERS

As you may or may not know, NYU Spoon, a branch of Spoon University was what kick-started me into the food writing/blogging/journalism world, and for that I am ever thankful. [Thanks for taking a chance and believing in me guys! You've forever changed my life!] Spoon University is the world’s first and only online food website for college students, teaching them how to eat and cook smarter. It’s a SUPER awesome concept that has really taken off and is now doing all sorts of cool things that warm my heart to watch. YOU GUY GUYS! ILY SPOON!

Anyways, I wrote this piece based on some GrubHub stats on behalf of NYU Spoon/Spoon University. It’s a data-driven more reporting-style article, which I’ve never done before, but ended up really enjoying! I’m going to post a excerpt here, and a link to the full piece. Go check it out and follow Spoon while you’re at it ;-).

*~* there’s even a link to win a full year of food from GrubHub at the bottom of the piece so it’s def worth checking out!*~*:

New York is known as the city that never sleeps, and NYU’s campus is located the heart of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, Greenwich Village, where many of us work and play until the early morning hours. With many local bars open until 4am or later, it’s no surprise that nearby restaurants also keep their doors open into the wee hours to cater to, you know, Drunchies. So whether NYU students are trekking home from clubbin’ in Meatpacking or the ever-popping Club Bobst, we’re surrounded by everything from desserts to drunk munchies to fine-dining, no matter the hour.

We’re all familiar with late-night favs like Artichoke, S’mac, Two Bros,Mamoun’s, and ever-popular halal trucks, but we have plenty of chic dessert options like 16 Handles, Big Gay Ice Cream, Spot Dessert Bar, andMomofuku nearby, all of which keep doors open late. For those looking for a sit-down meal experience, Veselka and Kat’s are among numerous 24-hour diners, all within walking distance. We even have tons of grocery stores and delis catering to late-nighters (M2M, anyone?)

But how lucky are we, really? A study by Grubhub recently ranked NYU as #1 Best Campus for Late Night Eaters, showing that we Fighting Violets have the greatest number of restaurant orders received between 10pm-2am locally. Late night orders are 2x (more than 100%) more common for college students than non-college students, and with 239 late night restaurants locally located around campus, it seems NYU students have it made.

Best Campuses for Late Night Eaters:

……see the list, and the full article here!

5 Ingredient No-Bake Peanut Butter + Chocolate Teddy Bear Cheesecake Bites [Vegan]

I blog to you from my ginormous studio apartment in Manhattan. That is a joke. This place, though it feels more spacious than any other place I’ve lived in NYC, is tiny. Like, my closet at home in Wisconsin (almost) is larger. But Manhattan being Manhattan, for some reason many of us endure crammed living environments, pests, no cars, carrying groceries up a million stairs to our 5th floor walk-ups, no washing machines, and garbage on the sidewalks all for astronomical monthly rents just to live here. Sometimes I wonder why anyone is here. Other times I wonder why anyone would want to be anywhere else.

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I almost started this post “I blog to you from my Manhattan kitchen…” and then I almost started it “I blog to you from my Manhattan bed…” but like, truly I guess being in my bed is also sort of being in my kitchen because there is *zero* separation so I went with the general word “apartment.” I can even see my toilet from here. That said, I will never be sadder to leave a space than this studio apartment. It is magical, quite, and on the most enchanting street surrounded by all of my favorite desserts. I’m really going to miss this space and this neighborhood. So is Millie btw.

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As I’m in the middle of a move, and have very minimal counter space and pantry access, as well as cooking equipment that isn’t packed already or covered in goo, I wanted something fast, simple, with few ingredients that didn’t require much prep work or clean up. No dishwasher really does that to a girl.

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At the same time, I really really wanted TEDDY GRAHAMS. I kid you not for days and days I was having an overwhelming desire to put semi-sweet bears into my mouth and all over my body [not really for all over my body but I'm hyperbolizing to make my point so go with it]. Specifically, I wanted Chocolate Teddy Grahams. To dip in peanut butter. I went to Key Foods. I went to bodega after bodega (does anyone know how to pronounce that word btw? tbh I’ve never really known so I just call them all “delis”). I went to Walgreens. Duane Reade. Food Emporium. Cinnamon and chocolate chip bears smiled back at me from the shelves, teasing me with their sweet smiles, but no where could I find chocolate.

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Then my friend Shawn (hi Shawn, if you’re reading) reminded me about the Whole Foods 365 brand. And I was like omg duh. So I went to Whole Foods the next morning and bought a bag. And at that moment also wanted chocolate chip and cinnamon so I left with like 8 bags of animal shaped cracker things.

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Anyways, I really wanted something cool and creamy and no-bake because I’ve had lots of problems with my NYC oven leaking gas (#nycproblems) so I decided to go the cheesecake route. Lately my body is truly not handling dairy well, so I opted for Vegan Cream Cheese from my good bro friend Trader Joe. TBH it’s freakin’ delicious. Honestly better than the herbed tofu cream cheese that went on my bagel at Black Seed (although overall that sandwich was DANK and somehow got posted on Infatuation #instafame). I’ve been eating it nonstop on toasted English Muffins and/or plain. And also in these little dudes. If you are not vegan feel free to use regular cream cheese. That will work too.

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All you need for these is either a food processor or blender or a large bowl and spoon and a little ambition. There are 5 ingredients, no bake, minimal mess, maximum yum. Cool, creamy, crunchy and fun. They will make you feel like a wee one again. Which is a feeling I personally, am always after. The combine the *~*classic*~* pb + chocolate combo, both in the crust and in the filling.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes (but need a few hours in the fridge or freezer to set)

Level: Easy

 

Ingredients – Crust:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate graham crackers or Teddy Grahams (yes, they are non-dairy) or 365 Whole Foods Brand Chocolate Bear cookies or Annie’s. just something chocolatey and graham-y !
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar

Ingredients – Filling:

  • 6 oz cream cheese or non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powder sugar or granulated sugar first run through a food processor to make finer

Directions:

1. Whirl the little teddy cookies, peanut butter, and sugar in a food processor or blender until fine or crumbly. If you don’t have this equipment, place the cookies in a bag and smash with the back of a spoon until crumbly, then transfer to a bowl and mix with peanut butter and sugar until sticky.

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2. Pack crust into 6 lined muffin tins or a lightly greased muffin tray.

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3. In a food processor, blender, or bowl using a large spoon and some ambition, mix cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until combined and fluffy.

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4. Spoon filling on top of crust in muffin tins. In some of the bites, I added an additional layer of teddy grahams for extra crunch and an almost ice-boxy affect. This is totally up to you. But I like texture and layer so I did it. I also gently pushed some teddies into the tops of the bites b/c why wouldn’t you.

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5. Please in fridge and allow to set overnight or at least 3 hours. You can also do this in your freezer. Or, in your Manhattan mini-fridge, the tiny ice box that isn’t really a freezer but you pretend is.

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6. Remove from tins and eat. Allow pup to taste filling, but not crust. No chocolate for nuggets, silly girl.

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7. Go eat all the desserts in your neighborhood after, justifying this because you have limited time left here. YOLO.

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Recap: The Seed Experience NYC – Cooking Demo with Guy Vaknin of Beyond Sushi

This weekend I was fortunate enough to win tickets to The Seed Experience courtesy of Beyond Sushi. They had a giveaway and I entered and somehow won! Whoohoo. So on Saturday and Sunday I trekked myself down to Soho and ate a lot of samples and talked to a lot of cool inspiring people and ate a lot more samples and had me a good time.

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The Seed Experience was a collection of plant-based speakers, demonstrations, films, samples, more samples, and what I was most interested in: COOKING DEMOS.

vegan goat cheese for days!

vegan goat cheese for days!

And yes! There was a cooking demo by the owner/executive chef of  my ALL time favorite restaurant Beyond Sushi. You better believe I went in squealing.

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fooooooood

So on Saturday afternoon after I drowned myself in new products like aloe water, maple water, tons and tons of vegan cheese and ice cream (which were all very delicious!) I watched Guy Vaknin (owner/executive chef of Beyond Sushi) make some rolls, speak about how he got where he was, and wow the crowd with incredible avocado filleting skills (seriously, you should have seen it).

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I’m planning to soon post a recipe with a how-to for making black rice sushi but I thought I’d dedicate a little time/space to speaking about Guy:

Turns out Guy started as a chef and did a lot of catering for kosher crowds. Kosher people have lots of dietary guidelines that do not allow them to eat certain things at certain times. I’m not going to pretend I understand the rules well, but Guy mentioned there was rule about not preparing and consuming fish and meat together. But Guy wanted to make a sushi roll appetizer for the crowds. So he started making vegetarian rolls. Though he’s a trained chef, he was not a sushi chef, nor even a vegetarian when he started this concept. He sort of learned it form another caterer, and when he was off duty had no other option other than to master the art.

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Guy, a culinary creative genius, used black rice in his sushi instead of white rice. He said he “saw the reaction,” and knew there was something special about this concept. He started bringing his black rice/vegetarian sushi to vegetarian food festivals, and got lots of positive crowd reactions, inquires, and press, he was inspired to go back to the kitchen and keep working. After a second year vegetarian food festivals, he decided to take a big risk, poured everything he had into one business concept, and started Beyond Sushi. He built the original location on 14th street (between 2nd & 3rd – see my original rave review here) and started by serving vegetarian sushi.

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For a few weeks, customers came in and Guy noticed that some were confused by the different vegetarian vs. vegan options, as some of his original menu items contained eggs and dairy in their rolls and/or sauces. Guy made a lot of personal reflections and seriously considered desires of customers, and decided to turn the restaurant completely vegan, and made the switch to a vegan lifestyle himself. He says he can now “not even picture” life any other way.

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The tiny sushi shop quickly exploded in popularity and has received endless rave reviews and press features for its creative and delicious approach to vegan dining and sushi. Guy still works there 7 days a week, usually in the downstairs kitchen area.

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He puts a phenomenal amount of thought and effort into every roll and every piece of sushi that beyond sushi produces. I was shocked at the time and effort the prep work behind each item on their menu. All the regular rolls have such depth and preparation – including marinating and fermenting of vegetables (often overnight) to get the flavors exactly where he wants them. The rolls of the month are all produced using local, seasonal produce from the Union Square Green Market, which although are more expensive, truly reflect the flavors of the season and the responsible sustainable drive behind the Beyond Sushi concept. It was humbling to see such a successful man so deeply passionate about his craft. He also addressed the possibility of expansion – turns out he has been approached for franchise opportunities, but wants to stay small so the quality of each roll can be carefully controlled. People are hard at work, Guy insists, every morning at 5am, julienning and prepping vegetables and sauces to stuff the rolls with flavor. This care and attention to detail are part of the reason Guy won’t go big (yet). “You can’t mass-produce this,” he said, looking down at his just-crafted roll.

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And as a huge fan having had almost every roll and wrap on the menu, I must agree with him. There is nothing like it. That’s why it’s my favorite restaurant and why I can’t even go to another sushi place since trying Beyond Sushi.

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So thank you, Guy, for the inspiration. And thank you Beyond Sushi for the tickets to The Seed, the inspiration, and for continuously delighting my taste buds. I will forever be a loyal fan and customer – wishing you all the success in the world !

My Favorite Basic Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Cookie Recipes (22 years in the making)

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Greetings friends! Sorry I’ve taken a mini-hiatus from blogging. With a sick family member (yes my dog niece is family) and flying back to New York to start the moving process, and then Southwest loosing alllll of my luggage, blogging has been something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time to. Anyways, I actually wrote this post and took these photos last week while in Wisconsin, but didn’t get to put it all together ~~ until now!

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So here you have it: my chocolate chip cookie recipe that after 22+ years of experimenting I have contoured to my exact liking. These are my favorite simple chocolate chip cookies. They may not be your favorite. Everyone looks for different things in a cookie. But to me, these are wonderful. Chewy but not mushy. They have a lot of texture and a lovely simple flavor. I’ve also included alterations to make them vegan, as well as a double-chocolate option.

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I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies for a very, very, very long time. I don’t mean to age myself, but I started baking when I started babbling aka like 22 years ago, back in the days where all phones had curly cords and the radio bumped things like Ace of Bace and children all knew what a VHS was. Ahh, the early 90s.

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Another fond memory of mine is making cookies. It was one of the first things I can recall baking. I just remember making them over and over. Sometimes with my grandma, sometimes with my sister on rainy summer afternoons, and sometimes just by myself. I’m not sure how many fistfuls of cookies I’ve consumed since I started crafting the chocolate chip cookie , but I have experimented extensively with recipes and have honed the following as my favorite basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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Because no matter how many fancy desserts and trendy, sophisticated health food things I like to eat, there is simply nothing as blissful and comforting as an ooey gooey home-baked chocolate chip cookie.

These are super-moist and have a delightful mouthfeel. Not too chewy, but also not firm. Substantial enough to give way without much effort, but not so gooey they fall apart. The half whole wheat flour was once an attempt to make these “healthier” but ended up being a staple because it helps create this desirable texture. Also I like chewiness. These are definably not crispy. Crispy cookies have their time and place, but if you ask me, not in this situation. #thesituation #mike #jerseryshore #whatamiwritingnow

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I use chocolate chunks and/or diced up chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips because I think it creates a more interesting texture dynamic and overall mouthfeel. If you want to make a double chocolate cookie, that recipe is also below. Enjoy!

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Level: Easy

Ingredients For Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter [vegan: non-dairy butter or coconut butter] softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg [vegan: 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2 tablespoons nondairy milk]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (or other nuts, may also be omitted)

Ingredients for Double Chocolate Cookie:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter [vegan: non-dairy butter or coconut butter] softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 oz baker’s chocolate or 1/3 cup chocolate chips, chopped, melted, and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 egg [vegan: 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2 tablespoons nondairy milk]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or nondairy milk (I use almond)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts, may also be omitted)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream softened (room temperature) butter or Earth balance non-diary spread or coconut oil until fluffy. This should take a bout a minute. If making double chocolate variation, chop baker’s chocolate or chocolate chips and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments until melted, stirring after each increment. Should take about 90 seconds total. Set aside and allow to cool a bit. 

3. Gradually add both sugars and continue to cream until light and fluffy, another 3-4 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula occasionally.

4. Add egg or chia egg and continue to mix until fully incorporated. If making double chocolate variation, add melted chocolate. 

5. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together until well combined and aerated. If you are making double chocolate, add the cocoa powder here.

6. Put down your source of electric mixing and grab a spatula. With as few strokes as possible, add flour and oats and mix until just combined. I do not trust a machine to do the delicate work of my hands as I do not want the gluten to develop and become tough. I like chewy cookies, so to me this is a small step that yields better results. If making double chocolate variety, add 2-3 tablespoons liquid. Cocoa is a drying agen, so you’ll need this to retain moisture.

7. Add oats (if making regular cookies), chocolate chunks and nuts and mix again until just combined.

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8. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop dough out of the bowl onto an ungreased baking sheet. I use parchment paper for best results/minimal clean up/less burning on the bottom.

9. Lift up tray, drop it onto counter or table. This is loud and may cause dogs to give you concerned looks. But it also helps the dough spread out nicely on the pan so each cookie bakes more evenly.

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10. Pop cookie dough filled baking sheets into the freezer for 10-15 minutes. This also helps all the dough be at the same temperature and bake more evenly.

11. Place baking sheets in the oven on a middle wrack and back for 8-10 minutes until just golden and still slightly gooey. They will carry-over bake a little as they cool.

12. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on the sheet before transferring them to a cooling wrack. Allow to cool or enjoy warm and gooey. I like the word gooey.

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Cherry Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie Sandwiches with Healthy Ganache Filling

So. How do you explain this situation: you are standing outside at 6:55am wearing an oversized NYU hoodie and periwinkle blue leggings, accented by mismatched socks peeping through 6-year-old Birkenstocks, with a plate full of breakfast cookies before you, and  your giant camera, simultaneously eating the cookies while taking pictures of them, when suddenly the lawn service guy who is roughly your age comes around with a weed whacker and scares the daylights out of you???

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Answer: you don’t. You do not even try to explain the situation. You and your camera, dangling from your neck, run back inside and feel super awkward. Then you realize 2 minutes later you don’t care and go back outside and continue taking photos in peace, totally ignoring the weed whacking going on within your 4 foot radius. You finish the cookies and you head back inside, settling upon the fact that there is no quality explanation of this behavior, and that life is going to go on as usual because you have delicious breakfast cookies to eat.

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COOKIES FIX EVERYTHING! And these babies are simply scrumptious. It’s no secret that I’m crazy about oatmeal (in fact, my first EVER food-related article was written about a restaurant called OatMeals in NYC) and it’s also no secret that I love cookies. Lastly, it’s kind of fun for me to make baked goods that are normally not-so-nutrious good for you. Like these. Packed with whole grains and fiber, the cookies are great on their own or enhanced with a yogurt-based ganache (easily made vegan or not)- which is honestly as creamy and thick and rich and delicious tasting as any frosting you come across without being so nasty. The cocoa powder adds thickness and chocolatelyness because that’s what cocoa powder does. #foodsciencelessonoftheday

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Overall, these babies make for a satisfying breakfast, snack, or even dessert. They are nice and chewy. And also hearty with chunks of nuts. And sweet, but not too sweet. All things, I personally, look for when I’m in the mood for a specifically healthy-but-sweet-tasting-chewy craving. But most importantly, Millie approves. She even got a lil fiesty begging for these. Look at that sass. She just loves food. So do I. Sometimes, I swear we’re actually related. #family

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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Bake Time: 10-12 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup Soy or Greek yogurt
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or agave (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, place dates in a bowl of water and allow to soften for about 10 minutes.

2. Take one cup rolled oats and whirl in a food processor until a fine powder forms. This is your oat flour. Empty it from the food processor and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining 1 cup rolled oats.

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3. Place softened dates into the food processor along with the mashed, ripe banana and 1/4 cup of the almonds into the food processor. Blend until a play-dough like paste forms. Remove from the food processor and add to the large mixing bowl with oat mixtures.

4. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the large mixing bowl. Mix all until well combined.

5. Chop remaining 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup dried cherries and add to the bowl. Mix again.

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6. Scoop golf-ball sized balls of cookie dough from the bowl onto a nonstick baking sheet. Press the cookies down slightly with your palm to flatten a bit, and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until the oats begin to brown.

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7. Remove cookies from baking sheets and allow to cool completely. While the cookies are cooling, assemble the ganache: mix yogurt, cocoa powder, and sugar to taste in a small bowl. You can play with the amounts of chocolate and sugar you use in the ganache. The more cocoa powder you add, the thicker it will be. You can also make the ganache as sweet as you desire by adding more cocoa powder.

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8. Using a knife, spread 3 tablespoons of the ganache on each cookie. Eat cookie. Or assemble two cookies with some ganache into a nice little healthy cookie sandwich. Or you can dip the cookies straight into a bowl of ganache, basically using the cookie as a vessel for the ganache (it’s really thick and tasty!). The possibilities are endless and delicious! Enjoy.

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Cherry Chia Muesli Bread

We’ve been out of bread for like, 52 hours in this house. Which is, in my humble opinion, an emergency. I’ve been picking up whole grain bagels from Panera on the daily to get through these rough times. But last night, when I found myself unable to bear the thought of waking up to a bread less morning, I decided the store was too big a hassle (read: did not want to put pants on) so I dug deep into my dwindling pantry and decided to whip some up to bake in the morning.

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IMG_9441  IMG_9514  sorry for the excessive bread porn..

I was inspired by these weird Muesli rolls I grew quite found of when I studied abroad in Paris. This Monoprix grocery store right by school sold them $0.60 and when paired with some fresh fruit it made for the perfect little breakfast to eat before class (b/c eating IN class was a no-no in Franceland).

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Another no-no in France was iced coffee. It was like finding a nice, straight, actually decent non-pig boy at NYU. Basically impossible. I spent a gross amount of money and endured a lot of snickers from Starbucks cashiers who served me my iced Americanos, as they seemingly always enjoyed pointing out their appropriate names.

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So in Paris, not as much iced coffee. But great muesli rolls I’ll remember forever. Win some, loose some. Overall one of best experiences of lyfe.

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Back to bread: it’s the BEST. Especially when it’s homemade. Like this stuff. I didn’t have raisins like the muesli rolls I ate in France so I used dried cherries which I diced up. I also didn’t have millet seeds (which are GREAT in breads like this) so I used some chia seeds.

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The result was frickin’ delicious and a true treat to wake up to baking this morning and eat as a second breakfast because let’s be honest I need to eat within 10 minutes of getting out of bed or I punch people. So it baked as I downed my berries and oatmeal and served as a delicious mid-morning snack-attack buster.

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It’s really great warm. Or toasted. Or with almond butter. Would also pair nicely with goat cheese. Or cheddar. Or as part of a sandwich. Sweet or savory. Or just plain. Okay I really like this bread. Go bread. BREAD!! #carbs5ever

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Prep Time: 4 hours (including rising – if left overnight will be longer)

Cook Time: 22-35 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (to feed the yeast! nomnom #betterrising)
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, divided half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts, chopped (I used almonds, pistachios and cashews. and tbh this was because I bought an individual bag of these nuts at Walgreens earlier in the day and they were what was around. walnuts would work great. use what you have, always!)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds

Directions:

1. Heat water to 110-115 degrees and sprinkle yeast and sugar into the bowl. The sugar is for the yeast to eat. This will help it activate and your dough to rise. <–this is your mini food science lesson of the day.

2. Let the water/yeast sit for 5-10 minutes until it smells yeasty and looks foamy. Yum. Add flours, salt, and 1/4 cup rolled oats and mix.

3. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and let it work its magic for about 5 minutes. If doing it by yourself (bless your soul) kneed on a floured service for about 10-14 minutes.

4. Place dough in an oiled bowl and allow to rise/double in size. Two or three hours is minimum. I did overnight.

5. Punch down dough. This redistributes the yeast (#foodscienceminilesson2) and transfer dough ball to a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times and use a rolling pin or hands to flatten.

6. Chop nuts and dice dried cherries. Add sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and remaining 1/4 cup rolled oats together. Mix nuts, seeds, and chia together to make muesli.

7. Sprinkle about half of muesli onto flattened dough and then fold dough in half so the muesli is on the inside. Give it one knead then roll out then flatten the dough once more, sprinkling 1/4 of the muesli mix (half of what’s remaining) here and there. Next fold and knead the dough into  a round ball orby thing. Honestly I think when it looks a little imperfect it looks more beautiful.

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8. Sprinkle what’s remaining of the muesli on top of the dough and allow to sit (shaped) on a gently oiled baking sheet for an hour. This is the second rising aka the “proof”. It’s actually more important than the first. (#foodscienceminilesson3) Don’t skip this step. The proof is in the puddin’ LOL. sorry.

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9. While the dough is proofing, relax for a while. Walk your dog. When there are about 20 minutes left in your proofing time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place an empty baking sheet on the lowest rack. This has a purpose I promise. Give the dough ball a slash or two (or three) with a knife.

10. When the oven is preheated and dough is proofed, place bread in the oven on its baking sheet. Pour a large cup of water onto the lower empty baking sheet to create steam which will help your bread brown and develop a beautiful crust. You can also spritz it a few times with a spritz bottle full of water, but this seemed more complicated at the time.

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11. Allow bread to bake 22-30 minutes until fragrant and golden and delicious. When it is done, should should hollow when you tap it on the top.

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12. Allow it to cool (if you can wait) and slice with a serrated knife. Enjoy plain or with literally any topping because it is so good you can do no wrong. Like, it’d even taste good with ice cream and pickles on top. Probably. Maybe. Anyways, eat up.

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Vegan Animal Crackers with Coconut & Strawberry Icing

So a few weeks ago I had a wicked craving for these, so I bought some at Target.

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Except then I ate them and I wanted to cry because I was so disappointed in how gross they were…I don’t know why I remember them being tasty. They tasted like total junk – WAY too artificial and too sweet, I was surprised by how much flavor they lacked for how bright they were and the list of ingredients that was longer than most novels I’ve read.

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So I was deeply saddened grieving the loss of the enjoyment of a childhood treat; however, through my tears a glimmer of hope and inspiration struck me. I was determined to redo them. But make them delicious and flavorful and junk free.

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And today, I succeeded. These have a wonderful nutty, oaty flavor and are just pleasantly sweet, but light enough to eat as a snack or breakfast. I was actually surprised at how frickin’ delicious they are. My mom also enjoyed them quite a bit, as did Millie when I dropped one (lucky girl).

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I made these with half oat flour and half whole wheat flour because it’s what I had around, but for Celiac’s sufferers, it is very possible to use all oat flour or another gluten free flour as a substitute. These are also vegan, so they are friendly for those with dairy sensitivities.

“let’s makeout”

The icing is phenomenal, my friends. I basically used canned coconut milk and add powdered sugar. For the pink cookies, I pureed some freeze dried strawberries (available at Target and/or Trader Joe’s) which added color and flavor without ruining the consistency of the icing. A sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon adds a beautiful warmth to the cookie, as well.

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Overall, these are wonderful little nuggets of joy that taste and feel good for the body. A little more work than buying the junky ones, sure, but well worth the effort.

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Level: Easy (but putsy)

Ingredients:

Cookies:

  • 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons almond milk)
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (I made my own in a food processor with rolled oats)
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (can also sub a gluten free flour, such as rice flour, or just use all oat-flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil (can also use vegan butter or vegetable oil; I used Spectrum Coconut Oil)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • sprinkles (optional)

Frosting – Coconut:

  • 1/8 cup light coconut milk (canned)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Frosting – Strawberry:

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine chia seeds and almond milk. Mix and set aside for at least 10 minutes.

3. Melt coconut oil and mix in sugar and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon.

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5. Slowly add coconut oil mixture and chia egg to flour mixture. Mix until combined. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes or pop in the freezer if impatient (you just want the dough to be chilled so it’s easier to work with!)

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6. Place dough ball between two pieces of parchment so it’s easier to roll and doesn’t stick. Roll until about 1/8 inch thick. Use animal (or whatever) cookie cutters to make shapes and place on baking sheet.

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7. Bake for about 10 minutes until slightly golden and fragrant.

8. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine coconut milk and powdered sugar in bowls. Puree freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor or blender and add to one batch of frosting.

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9. Ice cookies using an angled spatula or knife and place on parchment paper to dry. Sprinkle with sprinkles for an extra fun pop.

10. Enjoy!

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Funfetti Cookies with Birthday Cake M&Ms

*~*cue katy perry song*~*

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I love healthy food. But sometimes I like really love to bake and eat things that are simply for fun and make me feel like a 5 year old because mental health is as important to physical health sometimes and feeling like I’m 5 makes me oh-so-happys! :) So yesterday I wanted a mood boost so I made some very silly but delicious Funfetti Cookies with Birthday Cake M&Ms. To be honest, I am a sucker for all things “cake batter” flavored. My absolute FAVORITE cake batter flavored thing is the vegan soft serve from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary on East 6th street in NYC. It’s mindblowing and unlike anything else on the planet. You should try it. But I’m always down to try cake-battered flavored things – froyo, M&Ms, that cream cheese from Thompkin’s Square Bagels that’s all over Instagram right now, etc etc).


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And cake flavored things are super trendy right now – I feel like every time I turn around there’s another random cake battered or birthday cake flavored thing. No complaints from me.

dough.

dough.

All of this cake batter-y sprinkly trending fits appropriately to the release of the new “Birthday” song by Katy Perry. I actually just love Katy Perry in general as a person and you cannot deny her music is catchy. You should listen to that song while you make these cookies. It will put you in a bubbly mood.


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Anyways, back to the land of sugar, these are simple, classic, homemade funfetti cookies (with vegan options listed) full of artificial colors. #yum #health I’m sure there are non junky sprinkles out there, but I used Wilton because they were around. And they worked for aesthetics and to make a softer cookie by cutting the gluten strands as they were mixed in (as all mix-ins do! #foodscienceminilesson).

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Birthday Cake M&Ms are relitively new, but available at Target and CVS and probably lots of other places. While you’re there you should pick out some big balloons (song reference) and party hats.

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Prep Time: 12 minutes
Bake Time: 12-15 minutes
Level: Easier than pie so I’ll say easy as Birthday Cake ;-)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or non-dairy butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs or one mashed banana
  • 1.5 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but I dig)
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons sprinkles
  • 1 8oz bag Birthday Cake M&Ms

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Allow butter and eggs to come to room temperature. Zap butter for 10-30 seconds in the microwave until soft if you’re impatient like I am.

2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer or wicked arm, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula regularly. This will take 2-3 minutes.

3. Add mashed banana or eggs and vanilla and almond extracts to butter mixture, scrapping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

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4. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined. A cup at a time, gently fold into butter mixture until just combined. Add sprinkles and mix again.

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5. Roll dough into small balls (lol) and place on a baking sheet. This baking sheet from Crate’n’Barrel is my favorite ever! My sister gave it to me for Christmas. Love it! Nothing ever sticks to it and cookies always turn out BEAUTIFULLY. Thanks Jenn!

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6. Press 3 Birthday Cake M&Ms into each cookie. If you want a different look you can just mix them into the dough before rolling into balls. This will totally work, but just make note that Birthday Cake M&Ms are quite large. And in charge ;-).

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7. Bake 12-15 minutes until fragrant and slightly browned. Eat and dance and party and feel 5 years old. Share if you’re feeling nice. Or if you have your cranky pants on eat them all yourself, however this may result in a slight tummy ache (you have been warned).

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Spicy Sunflower-Infused Waffle’d Falafel Balls [Vegan]

Reason #1 you should make these: The name. Waffle’d Falafel Balls. Or Wafalafel. Whatever you call it, it’s great.

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Go ahead, say it out loud: “I made falafel waffle balls!” *instantly* you feel awesome. And a bit silly. Two great things to improve your mood and the mood of anyone lucky enough to share these with you.

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Which brings me to reason #2 you should make these: they are honestly ridiculously amazing. I [nearly] had to slap my mom’s fingers off them when I was taking photos. Although baking them in a waffle maker is totally unnecessary, it does wonderful things for the texture by providing more surface area for browning/crispiness and creating more dense and more airy pockets and gets a nice Maillard reaction going (which I explained better when I used the waffle iron to make Chocolate Chip Waffle Cookies here). You have my permission to make this recipe and simply bake them in the oven. They will still taste magnificent even though they would be as fun to say or quite as interesting to eat, but I think you’ll still enjoy them, and so will your body.

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Leading to reason #3 you should make these: they are quite nutritious! Chickpeas are powerhouses of protein, fiber, and quality carbohydrates which will give you oodles of energy to power through your day without leaving you feeling weighed down. If you aren’t already friendly with beans and legumes, I suggest you start eating more. They provide protein and satiety while also delivering the goodness of plants via an array of vitamins, and minerals. Aka, they win. Eat up friends, and don’t be afraid to toot. #worthit

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I made these vegan by replacing the egg typically seen in falafel recipes with one tablespoon chia seeds and 2 tablespoons water, which provided some viscosity and emulsification to the mix. I also ground up sunflower seeds for a boost of palatable fat, a more interesting texture, and a complimentary earthiness to dance with the chickpeas.

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These would be great on a salad, as part of a snack plate, or tucked into a pita or to bulk up a sandwich. Or, you can do what my mom did and just eat them plain. That works too. However you eat them, baked or waffle’d, enjoy these tiny nutritious nuggets of pure joy.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Level: Easy
makes about 8 small waffle patties – serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (15oz), drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (can also use tahini instead)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2 tablespoons water (or 1 egg, if not vegan)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder or cumin
  • a hearty squeeze of Sriracha or other hot sauce (if you like it hot, which I do ;-))
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Plug in your waffle iron and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place chia seeds and water in a small bowl to congeal and set aside.

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3. Drain and rinse can of chickpeas.

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4. Chop green onions and cilantro.

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5. Place sunflower seeds in a food processor and grind until fine. Slowly add teaspoon of oil until the sunflower seeds become a peanut-butter-like paste.

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6. Add chickpeas, onions, cilantro, spices, chia/water mix, juice of half a lemon, and Sriracha to food processor. Whirl until you get a nice mushy paste that is slightly wet and sticks together.

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7. Roll into donut-hole sized balls and place each in a quarter of the waffle iron. Close and allow to cook until golden brown and firm, about 2-4 minutes.

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8. Transfer to baking sheet and place in oven for about 10 minutes to crisp them up a bit. This is optional, but I like things crispy, so I did it, yo.

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9. Allow to cool and eat on a sandwich, pita, or salad. Or straight to the face!

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Shortcut Mini Vegan Banana Cake Donuts with Almond-Coconut-Vanilla Glaze

It was a very humid day today here in Milwaukee. One of those days where when I left the mall after a fail-boat shopping trip to look for a dress for my friend’s wedding, I literally felt like I had to swim through a wall of heavy wet air to reach my car. MmmMmm, sweaty.

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As I write this post, I hear thunder rumbling in the near distance. Today’s inevitable storm is on it’s way! Get excited folks, according to this morning’s news it might get dramatic. And who doesn’t love a dramatic storm (unless of course, you’re Millie, in which case, you may refuse to even step on damp concrete).

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I was bored and restless so naturally, I found myself looming in my baking pantry. As I rummaged through my goodies, I noticed a dusty old box of fancy cake mix in the back corner of the pantry. Cake mix (or any baking mix) in my household was considered worse than dropping a four-letter word. My mother and grandmother could have cared less if I screamed the F bomb as a kindergardener, but would thrash out irrationally if I dared bake anything not from scratch.

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To be honest, I couldn’t recall why the box was even there. I mean, it was a nice fancy Cherrybrook Vanilla Cake Mix from Target, probably purchased as a back-up at some point, left here by another human, or for some purpose that currently evades me. Anyways, the mystery cake box stared me down, daunting me, saying, “figure out how to use me, you beyotch. let’s get creative.”

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Game on. I decided I’d do something different than use it for cake. Honestly, when it’s a nice, preservative/junk-free cake mix like the ones Cherrybrook makes, I don’t really even think it tastes bad, as long as you don’t think of it in the same category as homemade cakes that ooze with butter and love. These mixes create pastries that more airy/fluffy orbes of sugary chewy goodness. If you take them for that, they are good. This is also how I advise meat-eaters to think about veggie burgers. Don’t think it’s going to be the same as meat. Take it for what it is and appreciate it’s different deliciousness. So I must agree with my heritage, no box mix will even come close to a from scratch cake. I wasn’t even going to blog these because they seemed like such a cheat, but I had a few inquires after I Instagramed them, so I figured I’d share my recipe. Apparently people want their vegan banana mini cake donuts, and who am I to deny them?

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As I continued to voyage through my mountains of baking supplies, I noticed my good old Wilton Mini Donut pan for baking mini donuts in the oven. The stars were aligning. Cake mix. Cake donut pan. I decided to use it to make cake donuts because mini things are instantly adorable and more fun.

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I nixed the additions on the cake mix box and replaced them with some vegan tricks. I used bananas to replace eggs because it works well and tastes great. The sweetness and flavor from the banana also complimented the vanilla flavors of the mix quite well. I also used carbonated water because from lots of experimental vegan baking I’ve learned it gives a nice, springy texture to things, which is what I was looking for in these cake donuts. I used other things I had around for glaze because who wants to go to the storm in a rain storm, am I righttt?

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Anyways, these turned out adorable and yummy and vegan and I added sprinkles because sprinkles make everything more fun and fix all the ugliness on your baked goods and in your life (important life lesson I learned at work). Enjoy these tiny Millie-sized treats. They are almost too cute to eat but nothing actually is because let’s be honest food is yummy.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Decoration Time: 10 minutes
Level: Easy Peasy

Ingredients:

  • one box Cherrybrook Vanilla Cake Mix (or other cake mix, apparently Dunken Hienz is also dairy-free) ——> TELL NO ONE A BOX OF MIX EVEN EXISTED IN MY HOUSE PLEASE!
  • one ripe banana, mashed
  • one 12-ounce can of sparkling water [I used plain from my soda streamer, but any flavor LaCroix or a white soda would also work!]
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 2 cups powder sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk (I used canned for richness/flavor, you can omit these fancy milks and use any plain non-dairy milk if that’s what you have on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Peel banana and mash in a small bowl.

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3. Pour cake mix and sparking water in a bowl and add mashed banana and coconut oil. Mix.

4. Place a small amount into mini donut pan, so donut hole is only about 1/2 full. Less is more otherwise these turn out really awkward shaped.

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5. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown on the bottoms.

6. Pop out of pan and cool on a cooling wrack.

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7. Assemble glaze: sift powdered sugar (yes it is essential here) and add a drop of vanilla extract. Slowly add coconut milk and almond milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

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8.Dip the top each donut into glaze and then into sprinkles or coconut shreds.

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9. EAT!

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10. Also avoid holding too close to puppies with extreme jumping skills, because they might do what Millie did and snatch it out of your hand (seriously…she got lucky this morning).

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“But mommy, it’s just my size !!”