Weekend Update/Life Update (My Next Step)

Hey there! I haven’t written a post like this in a while so I figured it was time. I thought I’d share my weekend and what I’m up to next!

IMG_7775

This weekend I was actually supposed to be in Denver, but life was too hectic with a move coming up this week (eeeeep) and with zero packing done and no apartment yet I decided I’ll go to Denver in January instead. My anxiety hasn’t been serving me well these days. Sometimes it does, other times it’s a messy butthole that gets in the way. Right now it’s the later. #anyways #movingon

Friday:

Friday I took my brand new MacBook Pro to the Apple Store because after shelling out a boat load of money for it, it came with a broken “D” key. How irritating. The guy was also totally not nice about it and didn’t believe it came that way (he kept saying Apple Care would cover the damage this time…and I’m like this isn’t damage….it came messed up). Anyways, now I don’t have a computer I can use Adobe on until Friday which is SUPER annoying because I was in the middle of editing several videos. Ugh!

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.27.46 AM

Also on Friday, it was announced that Millie’s photo in the TJ’s contest won us a $500 giftcard. I AM SO GRATEFUL AND HAPPY. Thanks to all who supported us! Here’s the photo from Millie’s Insta:

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.59.03 AM.png

I actually found out about this on Thursday and took Millie out to dinner and froyo at Panera to thank her for her cuteness lol.

IMG_7708

She got the chicken that would have come on my salad.

IMG_7710

Can we be real for a moment? I frickin’ love Panera. Like I know it’s nothing phenomenal but it’s consistently good. I just love their salads and soups and bagels! Tho their bread is kinda meh IMO. Bring back the actually yummy sourdough roll days!

IMG_7718

IMG_7713

Saturday:

Saturday I made peanut butter cookies (because I love to bake when I’m stressed; recipe coming soon), sort of packed, took Millie to the park, and was in a meh mood for most of the day.

IMG_7681

At the park, Millie made friends with a bee! Curious nugget.

IMG_7691

I met an old co-worker for dinner at Odd Duck. If you ever find yourself in MKE, go to Odd Duck. It’s small plates, different menu almost every time you go, and more often than not, very yum yum.

I got a quinoa salad (yes this photo is AWFUL, the lighting was dim) with greens, quinoa, apples, onions, golden raisins and a cumin vinaigrette. The golden raisins in it were MONEY. The cumin dressing could have used a hint more acid/salt to be a slam dunk IMO, but I tend to like very acidic/salty things so perhaps I’m biased.

IMG_7751

I also got this grilled cauliflower dish. It came with hunks of grilled Cauliflower (obvi) Guajillo Purée, Plantain Chips, Fingerling Potatoes, Poblano Jelly, Chili Oil “Powder”, Nopal Aioli. This was MONEY.

IMG_7748

After that I stopped by a friend’s in Bayview since I was nearby, did an errand, and headed home for sleeps.

Sunday:

Sunday I hit up Trader Joe’s bright and early to get in on some of their deals for their 50th anniversary. I got avocados and organic French baguettes for $0.50, and $93 of other stuff. I utilized the avos + baguette for an epic $1 lunch (with some everything bagel salt, of course).

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.52.21 AM

I also went to a barre class that morning, and ran another errand or 8. I also got stressed about my computer issues preventing me from getting work done so I made more cookies.

Levain Bakery Style Vegan Cookies

While I was baking I looked up and saw two wild turkeys and two deer in the backyard. Gotta love Wisco (political policies here aside)!

IMG_7767

Sunday evening I met my aunt for dinner at Beans & Barley, which is a Milwaukee health food institution that’s old school and charming in the best way.

IMG_7775

This was one of the first healthy diner type places around here, and it was nice to visit it since I haven’t been in a while. I love how old school certain things about it are. Like they put whole cherry tomatoes and alfalfa spreads in salad and serve everything with these cute tiny rolls and a pad of butter.

IMG_7779

Dinner was chips and guac with 3 kinds of salsa, a large greens salad (with all of the veggies, sunflower seeds, cashews, etc) with balsamic marinated tofu (yum), and of course, a wee little roll. Their balsamic dressing, BTW, is money.

IMG_7783

We also got dessert. German chocolate cake for her and vegan peanut butter chocolate cake for me. Yummo. Their cakes are good because they are not too sweet! #bless

It was a nice evening. I really enjoyed spending time with my aunt. She’s pretty awesome. After that I headed up, chilled with the weiner, and headed to bed.

What’s Next:

In an attempt to be more open about my life on my blog and not just post recipes, I’m going to share that I’m moving back to NYC for more school (yup). I’m starting at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in the Environmental Health Sciences department, with a focus on Climate & Health. My goal is to focus on how climate change is impacted nutrition/food systems.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.48.08 AM

Yes, I’m a mega-nerd. If you know me IRL closely, you’ll know this year was kinda tough for me. I moved cross-country and started something that I knew in my gut just wasn’t right. Lesson learned: ALWAYS trust you your gut, not your logical brain or what anyone else tells you should do.

Anyways, after realizing what I definitely DON’T want to do, I revisited an urge to enter this program. I took classes in this department while at IHN of Columbia, and was blown away by them. I felt so moved, and motivated. Also throughout that entire program, I realized my strength is not in basic lab science. I can do it, but I truly excel at social sciences and public health.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.18.35 AM

I actually didn’t want to do this program since I’m wary about moving back to NYC after being there for so long and really enjoying a break from it, but accepted students day sold me. Hard. The department I’m in seems so awesome. The professors are amazeballs and very caring. And it seems like the students do such neat things!

I want to help communicate public health messages to the public and be an advocate. Eventually, I think, I want to be a professor. I have taught at U of MN and at Marquette, and really enjoy it! I’m excited to share my journey of life in NYC, public health, nutrition, and climate health. I hope you’ll join me; I’m legit VERY excited about this curriculum! And plan to NOT do what I did last time I was in school and stop blogging. No no. This is happening. HOLD ME TO IT.

IMG_6774

Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, especially in this last weird/icky/bumpin’ my head around the world year. I feel truly humbled and blessed for this upcoming opportunity.

Thanks for reading!!! Comment about your weekend; I love hearing from readers!

Vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

I did the damn thing! I made a vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie! Yippee!

Vegan Cookie Levain Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Yum

I have spent time living on the Upper West Side of New York City, and UWSers and tourists alike are all familiar with the famous Levain Bakery.

Vegan Cookies Delicious Dough Levain Style

They have these ginormous, cookies that are unbelievable delicious, with a perfectly crisp exterior, and a gooey almost underbaked center.

Vegan Cookie Levain Bakery Style Chocolate Chip

I remember my first Levain Bakery experience. My mom was visiting me while I was at NYU and I had heard of this place called Peacefood on the Upper West Side (yup, before they had a downtown location!) that I really wanted to try. So I dragged her from the East Village to the Upper West and we had a delightful lunch at Peacefood. I got the Asian Greens salad and Chickpea fries (still two of my favs on the menu). And then I said, “hey, since we’re over here, we should go to this famous cookie bakery.” And she agreed.

Vegan Cookie Dough Scoop

We got one chocolate chip walnut, and one double chocolate. The OG stood out to me. It was almost like the double chocolate was so chocolately it didn’t let the other elements of the cookie shine. Anyways, I digress, that cookie stayed in my mind for a very long time.

Cookie Dough Vegan

Back in my NYU days, I rarely trekked up to the UWS, but during my MS at Columbia, I ended up reluctantly relocating there. And I ended up loving it. To this day, it is still one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC.

Cookies Vegan Levain Bakery

But since my NYU days, I have gone vegan. Which means my options at Levain bakery include their whole wheat raisin walnut rolls (which TBH ARE SO GOOD), and a few other bread products.

Delicious Vegan Levain Style Bakery Cookies

So here we are. I veganized the Levain Bakery Cookie. And I’m pumped about it.

Vegan Levain Style Bakery Cookies Delicious

These vegan Levain Bakery style chocolate chip cookies are delicious. Full of chocolate chips and whole chunks of walnuts, they are a texture junkie’s dream. They also have that gooey middle thing going on in the best way possible. Paired with a glass of almond milk these are utter perfection. Now let’s get on to how I did the damn thing.

Vegan Levain Bakery Cookies

After doing some research online, I decided to play around and give them a whirl. A common characteristic I noticed in copycat Levain recipes was the use of cold butter. If you’re a baker, you know that typically cookies are made with room temperature butter. Yet all Levain cookies had this in common, so I went with it.

Vegan Cookie Dough Scoop on Baking SHeet

I also used half cake flour and half all-purpose. You can use all AP if you want. I also tried half bread flour with a pretty good result. Do you, honey. Use what ya got (with varied results).

Vegan LEvain Bakery Style Cookies

I highly reccomend chilling the dough before baking. I think it helps them maintain that gooey middle quite a bit. If you’re low on time, pop them in the freezer for a bit.

Levain Bakery Style Vegan Cookies

Anyways, these are wonderful plant-based nuggets of joy and I really hope you make these vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies! If you do, please let me know! Gimme an @ on InstaGimme an @ on Insta or comment on this post. I love to see when people make my recipes!

Vegan Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes
Servings: 10 giant cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold vegan butter (I used Earth Balance baking sticks)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (can sub additional all-purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water or unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 2 cups semisweet non-dairy chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups whole untoasted walnuts

Method:

  1. Cube butter and place in a bowl. Add sugars and beat using an electric mixer on low speed for about 3-4 minutes until creamy.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk together well.
  3. Add half of flour mixture and water or non-dairy milk to butter and mix by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until just barely combined.
  4. Add remaining flour mixture and water and repeat.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  6. Using an ice-cream scooper, scoop dough onto a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with a generous amount of space between each.
  7. Place cookies in the refrigerator for 40 minutes to an hour until dough is chilled. This will help the cookies maintain their shape in the oven, and give you that gooey gooey middle. If you’re short on time, pop in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  9. Remove cookie dough balls from the refrigerator/freezer and place directly in hot oven.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just brown on the outside, but still gooey on the inside.
  11. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes. This is essential! They must have time to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack.
  12. Enjoy with almond milk. 🙂

Copycat Vegan Cinnamon Crunch Panera Bagels

I JUMPED on a chance to make these babies for a project for Spoon University (where I sometimes write, lol). VerticalKatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera

So I’m also sharing the recipe here.

KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera_Holding

Cinnamon Crunch bagels at Panera contain dairy, and are therefore not vegan. And technically you don’t have to make this recipe vegan if you don’t want to (swap non-diary butter for butter). Do what works for you. I’m not here to tell you how to live your bagel life.

KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera_4

While you’re checking out that post, check out my two smoothie recipes I also did for Spoon this week: Copycat Panera Green Goddess, and Strawberry Smoothie. nom

KatherineBaker_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera

Speaking of fruit and smoothies, can we talk about a recent food trend for a hot second? The fruit-is-bad-for-you-and-messes-with-your-hormones garbage has GOT to go.

KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera_dough_prebake

What is with these Instagram influencers who have *zero* nutrition or science education background giving health and diet advice and info with nothing to back it up? Makes my skin boil.

KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera__

Guess what ladies? Eating bananas will not ruin your hormonal cycle. And I’m so sorry people with hundreds of thousands of followers are telling you so. Eat bananas and be happy, y’all.

KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera

Anyways, rant over. Here are the bagels.

*KatherineBaker_Bagels_Cinnamon_Crunch_Panera

Also published on Spoon University.

Copycat Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagels

Prep Time: 10 hrs
Cook Time: 0 mins
Total Time: 10 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 6 bagels

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar or honey – divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt – divided
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter or non-dairy butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Allow yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add flour and mix with an electric mixer and a dough hook for 3 minutes, or by hand for about 5 minutes. The dough should be tacky and fully moistened, but not wet. If the dough is dry, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes. Then, knead with an electric mixer and dough hook or by hand for an additional 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for at least an hour. Bagels will rise better if rested overnight or for at least 4 hours. If resting overnight, move to the refrigerator.
  5. If chilling dough, allow dough to come to room temperature for about an hour before shaping.
  6. When dough is at room temperature, shape bagels. You can shape bagels by rolling dough into 8-inch logs about 1 inch thick in diameter and then pressing the dough together to form a loop. Or you can roll out the dough to be about 1 inch thick and use a large circular cutter to cut a large ring, and then cut a small ring in the middle with a sharp knife or small circular cookie cutter.
  7. Allow shaped bagels to undergo a second proof on an oiled sheet pan for an additional 60-90 minutes.
  8. After second proofing, preheat the oven to 500°F and prepare poaching liquid by combining 8-12 cups water to a boil.
  9. While waiting for water to boil and oven to preheat, prepare topping by combining sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl and melting butter in a small microwave-safe dish. Set aside.
  10. Once water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon baking soda, the additional 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or honey, the additional 1 teaspoon salt, and stir gently.
  11. Grab a slotted spoon, wooden spoon, or spatula. Gently lower bagels into simmering pot, 1-2 at a time (the bagels should float). After 1 minute of boiling, flip bagels, and boil for an additional 30-60 seconds before removing and transferring back to the oiled tray, domed side up.
  12. Brush the tops of the bagels with melted butter or non-dairy butter, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of the melted butter. Drizzle any remaining butter over the tops of the bagels.
  13. Once all bagels have been poached in water, lower the heat of the oven to 450°F and place the bagels into the oven.
  14. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the tray halfway through to ensure even browning.
  15. Allow bagels to cool and enjoy.

Vegan Samoas (Caramel DeLites) with Date Caramel

Girl Scout Cookies.

Yummy Vegan Caramel Delites (Samoas) with Date Caramel

Don’t pretend you don’t like them. Almost everybody has a soft spot for at least one of those delicious, seasonal sweet treats.

Delicious Vegan Samoas with Date Caramel

Coincidentally, several varieties of Girl Scout Cookies are vegan (#bless). Which is honestly such a gift to dairy-free and vegan people. It’s so nice to not miss out on the Girl Scout cookie fun.

Vegan Samoas with Date Caramel

Thin Mints: vegan. S’mores cookies: vegan. Peanut butter patties: vegan.

Vegan Date Caramel

But what’s not? Sadly, samoas (or caramel delites, depending on who you ask). Boo.

Vegan Caramel Delites with Date Caramel

Now. I have seen a million line-extensions of Girl Scout cookie products on the shelves that hypothetically I could enjoy. Girl Scout cookie cereals, granola bars, candy bars, even teas – but nothing is quite as satisfying as the cookies themselves.

Amazing Vegan Samoas with Date Caramel

So when life won’t give me a vegan Caramel DeLite, I will make one myself. Because I am a strong, independent woman and I do not need a mass-bakery to support my inner-cookie-lover. I will get creative and I will succeed. Just watch me.

Vegan Caramel Delites (Samoas) w: Date Caramel

So here we are: vegan samoas. I played around with two versions. One batch I made used date caramel. The other used this Coconut Milk Caramel. You could also just melt a bunch of these heavenly nuggets and use that instead. You do you. I’m not here to tell you how to live your best samoa life.

Anyways ~ On to the cookies. A little prep work is involved, yes, but I promise it’s worth it. Perfect and impressive and tasty for your next party or Instagram. Or in my case, empty Friday night.

#bless up, Girl Scouts:

Vegan Samoas (Caramel DeLights) with Date Caramel

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes, and at least 20 additional minutes or refrigeration
Servings: 12 cookies

Ingredients:

Shortbread Cookies:

  • 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (can sub additional vegan butter)
  • 3/4th cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (can sub additional AP flour)
  • dash of salt
  • Date Caramel Coconut Layer:

  • 8 ounces pitted dates (roughly 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, cashew butter, or coconut oil (optional, adds richness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • Alternatively, you can sub one batch of this Coconut Milk Caramel
    Chocolate:

  • 1 cups dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
  • Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl combine softened vegan butter and melted coconut oil. Add sugar and vanilla extract and whisk well. Add flour and fold into dough until just combined. If dough seems dry, add a tablespoon or 2 of water or non-dairy milk. Place dough in refrigerator to set, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, soak dates in 1 cup water for at least 10 minutes. Once dates have softened, drain them and place in a food processor. Add sunflower seed butter, vanilla and salt. Pulse until a smooth caramel dough forms; the caramel should be sticky.
  • Transfer date caramel to a bowl. Add shredded coconut and mix until coconut is coated in date caramel.
  • Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll out dough to be about 1/8th inch thick. Use a circle cookie cutter, and/or an inverted drinking glass to cut dough into circles. Use a knife to cut a smaller hole in the middle of each cookie, to resemble a doughnut shape.
  • Place cookies onto a parchment paper-lined pan and place in the oven until golden brown, about 18-23 minutes.
  • Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool.
  • Once cookies have cooled, use a spoon or your fingers (fingers are much easier, honestly) to distribute date caramel around cookies. Aim for about 1/4-1/3th inch of date caramel.
  • Once cookies have caramel layer, melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave using 30 second increments, and stirring occasionally. This will take 2-4 minutes. Once chocolate is melted, stir in coconut oil.
  • Pipe chocolate or drizzle it in a zig-zag pattern using a pastry bag, and/or by letting it run off the back of a spoon. Once all cookies have a chocolate drizzle, dip the bottom of each cookie into the remaining chocolate, placing back onto the parchment baking sheet after each dip.
  • Allow cookies to set in the refrigerator until chocolate has hardened, at least 30 minutes.
  • Enjoy!