coconut pecan fudgy brownies (gluten/grain-free)

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You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve been having a hard time eating sweets lately because they have so. much. sugar. Since my diet is relatively low in sugar (this is what happens when you’re eating vegetables ALL DAY LONG), baking holds less of an interest for me these days. When I first gave up gluten, dairy and yeast, I was devastated. I felt as if my identity as a baker of sweets was in jeopardy, until a good friend told me that being a baker–a creator of things–is not simply about butter, sugar and flour. I’ve been giving her words a considerable amount of thought over the past few months, and as you’ve likely noticed I’m baking less and cooking more. But I don’t mind it. I’ve been listening to my body; I bake when I have the urge for something sweet, which has been less and less these days. Sweet for me is a small bar of dark chocolate, fruit, rather than cinnamon rolls and pies.

But make no mistake. Come the holidays, I will WANT A PIE. I’ll just know that I’ll have to make it in order to maintain its nutritional integrity.

Yesterday, I was craving chocolate, specifically a brownie. I scanned the growing stack of vegan, paleo, and gluten-free cookbooks, and when I came upon this gluten + grain-free recipe, I was skeptical. I had APPLESAUCE SUBSTITUTION FLASHBACKS. Philosophically, I’ve been a believer that baked goods should been enjoyed in all their full-fat glory, and to mar that would be criminal. Yet, this recipe is certainly not devoid of fat (eh-hem butter/coconut oil) and has oceans of sweet flavor (maple syrup), so I gave it a go.

Know that I hesitated before I a sampled a brownie. I shoved the cooled bars in the fridge, considered dumping them altogether, but I HATE food waste, so I gave these a go, fully expecting burrito flavor in the guise of a brownie.

NOT SO! The brownies were fudgy, not too sweet, and delicious. They’re quite filling so you’ll likely stop at one, but color me shocked, surprised, that black beans can make a worthy grain substitute. WHO KNEW?!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Hemsley & Hemsley’s The Art of Eating Well, modified slightly
1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
8oz Earth Balance vegan butter or coconut oil
4 large eggs
1 cup of unsweetened cacao powder
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
sea salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp vegan chocolate chips (dark chocolate is fine here, too)

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9 1/2 x 8 baking dish with coconut oil, vegan butter or coconut oil spray (I like Spectrum Organic). Set it aside. Melt the butter/oil in a pan over low/medium heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place the beans, eggs, cacao, salt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract into the food processor. Pulse a few times and then blend until smooth. Slowly add the cooled butter down the shoot and mix until completely combined. Stir in 1/2 of the pecans, coconut flakes, and vegan chips, reserving the rest for the top of the brownies.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, making sure the batter is evenly distributed. Add the reserve pecans, flakes and chips, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the brownie feels firm but springy and its surface is cracked.

Leave to cool completely, 30-45 minutes before slicing. I actually put this in the fridge after 30 minutes so it can be slightly. The brownies had such a fudgy texture as a result!

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almond meal cookies with coconut + cacao nibs (gluten-free!) + the power of friendship

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The gift of girlfriends. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, how I’m privileged to have a group of women in my life who encourage me to be my truest, sometimes most awkward, self. All of my close friends have a singular trait in common: they’re strong. When you think of strong you might think of Popeye, fuerte, or image a pile of weights of incalculable size being flung into the air. The women I know are greater than the sum of their parts. Their strength isn’t about the thing they can lift, rather it’s about the way they can hold and what they can bear. They’re builders. Two of my closest friends are building a company from scratch, while another is reinventing one. Another creates single-page stories using an illustration and the words find themselves in the spaces between the lines–she writes about the tough stuff, and in a single page she can rip your beating heart out of your chest and scotch-tape it back together again. Some of my friends don’t even know their own strength. How the pace and depth of their breath doesn’t change even as the octaves of their children’s voices climb. Some are patient, some are funny, others are a little crazy (I like it that way), but when I’m with them, I’m my best self. They demand it and nourish it.

Friendships, for me, have always been tricky. For over three decades of my life, I craved the companionship of a single person. The face of this person might shift over the years: he wears a flight jacket and sings Taylor Dane (we are 12); she is Filipina and we write letters from across the country when she moves away (we are 10); she has curls that flounce and she thinks the world is about ski trips, Nautica jackets and what money can buy. We watch Heathers in an apartment that will undergo inspections and violate state health laws for all the filth. But she, she, is impeccable. She is the definition of beautiful with those pink cheeks and eyes the color of certain seas (we are teenagers); She is a lover of Pink Floyd and nudity and we run on a beach naked before I realize my body is covered in burns from the sun. She is the antithesis of me and everyone tells us this. She’s an English major who writes long letters and lies to her family and I’m a finance major who writes short stories in the dark because story-writing doesn’t make you money. She will become someone who lies, so much so she gets lost in the stories she tells and she will never forgive me for having another friend (we are in college). This friend is blonde, hails from Connecticut and has a family I’ve only read about in books. We are funny, heavy drinkers, and serious about the business of being serious. From her and her family, I learn how to become a woman (in the absence of not having a present and sane mother). From them I’m Republican for a few years. From them, I’m Christian for many. We are friends to this day and while we are no longer a pair, while politics is a subject we don’t discuss, and while she is a devoted mother and wife and I sometimes don’t know what I am, we are still close. Ours is perhaps, as I think about this now, the only friendship that has endured half my life (we are 20, we are 30, we are 38/39). Within that time though, I form an unhealthy attachment to a woman who is also a writer, also a fellow addict, also a connoisseur of the dark, also a reader of books and “the right movies,” and our friendship spans many years and ends quietly, abruptly, and the only way I can think of her now is in positive terms because although she excised me from her life (had I been a barnacle? Had we both been?) I’m grateful for much of our friendship (we are late 20s, early 30s). That friendship taught me that I don’t need one physical, breathing person constantly by my side, I need many. I need legions, teams, beautiful, strong people who may take a week to respond to my email but will run, take cabs, fly to my doorstep if I really needed them.

So thank you, S, for the gift of your leaving. I mean that kindly and sincerely because I would’ve remained with a slight variation of me. I wouldn’t have friends who challenge me, uplift me, correct me, teach me, and love me in the small, wonderful ways that they do.

I think about this today, as I bake these cookies for a dear friend, because I have 11 women in my life who are so different from one another (some of whom don’t even know any of the other 10) and from me but they all are strong. I say this because I’m nearly 39 and I don’t know if I’ve things figured out just yet. Or do things need to be figured out at all?

I ate one of my friend’s cookies and I text her this, to which she responds, I hope so. Knowing you, you probably made dozens. I retort, 20.

I know that right now that this year has been greater than the previous five. That I’m healthy, strong, writing good stuff, making mistakes and quietly learning from them, and living on less so I can see more of the world. And I have friends who calm me down when I demand a single personal statement. I need the facts and the maths and the certainty, to which many of my friends remind me that there are few certainties, and if this time, this time right now, is good, roll with that.

Roll with that…

INGREDIENTS: Slightly adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (Sara used cacao nibs)
1/2 cup shredded toasted unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together almond meal, coconut and tapioca flours, dark chocolate chips, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until it’s a pale yellow color, and it’s doubled in volume.

Whisk in the slightly cooled coconut oil and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix on low until the ingredients have just combined.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (the original recipe said to nix this and ALL of my cookies clung to the pan, so forget that noise) with 1-1/2 inch space in between each. Press down slightly to flatten a bit. Bake until edges begin to brown, 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

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almond coconut chocolate chip cookies (gluten/dairy/grain-free)

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Here’s the thing–I’ve always approached vegan desserts with reticence because most recipes prattle on about how this cookie, muffin, cake, tastes just like the sweets from your childhood, when, in fact, that vegan muffin doesn’t come close to what you’ve had before. I grew up devouring saccharine sweet Little Debbie cakes, whose ingredients were questionable at best, and I eased into adulthood baking flaky French pastries, two-tier birthday cakes, and cookies that forced you to close your eyes and weep.

You don’t understand the rage I felt when someone would suggest I substitute applesauce for butter. And please don’t even suggest it now unless you’re making an apple cake. Regardless of my gluten, dairy, yeast, and the 500 other things I can’t eat, I’m still an ardent evangelist of full-fat baking. The phrase low-fat doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, as it’s just another way of saying, let’s fill the recipe with a pile of sugar, which inevitably will convert to garbage in your liver. I still believe in baking beautifully but consuming mindfully.

Funny thing, I’ve noticed. I don’t hoover like I used to. Since my diet is heavily plant-based, I’m surprisingly satisfied with just one cookie, 2 heaping tablespoons of dairy-free pistachio ice-cream (and trust me, the coconut and cashew milk are fat enough). I enjoy a small indulgence as much as I can, and then I wrap up the goods and save them for another day, or friend.

I fell in love with the magic that mixing a few ingredients can bring, and when I was forced to shift my diet, baking initially fell out of favor. The stove, rather than the oven, became my new best friend, and I neglected the new flours and ingredients in my pantry. However, lately, I’m finding that I’ve struck a nice balance between discovering new ways of cooking cauliflower (and there are SO. MANY. WAYS.) and finding new flavors in old favorites.

Take the chocolate chip cookie. I’ve baked A MILLION COOKIES a million different ways, and I initially regarded this recipe with disdain. However, when they came out of the oven and I took my first bite, I wasn’t comparing this cookie to a buttery, semi-sweet chocolate chip one, rather, I felt as if I’d encountered something altogether new. I can’t explain it just yet, but it was a different cookie, a richer, smokier, heartier one, and if given the choice I might choose this version over what I’ve had previously because it’s not a pale-down version of the original or a variation on a single theme, rather it’s a new song, a blank page ready for this first word.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m less interested in re-creating than creating. I don’t need a slew of bad ingredients to take me closer to where I was because all it does is reminded me of what I can’t have. This cookie pushes me forward, makes me think of all new flavors I CAN have.

BANANAS, right?

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook
1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp of almond butter
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups of almond meal
1/4 cup of dark or vegan chocolate chips
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

DIRECTIONS
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend coconut oil and nut butter until combined. Add both sugars and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined.

One by one, beat in the baking soda, baking powder, and almond meal. The dough should be slightly sticky. If your dough is dry, you can add a tablespoon of almond milk to thin it out. Fold in the chocolate chips and coconut flakes.

Using cookie scoop or spoon, scoop 1-inch balls onto prepared sheet. Leave 2-3 inches between each cookie as they spread. There is no need to flatten the dough before baking.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. The cookies will be soft coming out of the oven, but become chewy and crisp when they cool.

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nectarine, yogurt and poppy seed cake (gluten + dairy free)

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While I haven’t quite fallen under the spell of dairy-free chocolate chips (and you don’t even want to know my response to sampling a certain brand’s dairy-free salted caramel ice-cream, unless you want to queue up images of gagging and a face caving inward), gluten + dairy free baking is no longer the traumatizing experience I assumed it would be. And while I still occasionally uncover the packet of yeast I neglected to chuck, or wonder if a few pats of butter will really kill me (no, but I’ll itch and wretch horribly FOR DAYS, so there’s that), I’m slowly becoming accustomed to enjoying a whole new terrain of cooking and baking. And with the cooler months on the horizon, nothing gives me more joy than being ensconced in a hot kitchen, stirring soup and baking cakes.

Remember yesterday’s mini-rage blackout? When I lamented over the fact that I have to get creative with gluten-free cookbooks, because most invariably rely on dairy as a salve for our gluten loss? Aran Goyoaga’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats was one of those tomes, and as I paged through scores of lush and beautifully-photographed recipes, I kept seeing sour cream, cheese, butter, milk, yoghurt, heavy cream, in 80% of the recipes. Case in point, this nectarine pound cake. I fell in LOVE with the snap in the cookbook, and, quite honestly, who can refuse a pound cake? So instead of hurling the book out the window of my yoga studio, I got smart and made quite a bit of substitutions.

The result? A delicious, lemony-rich cake. So good, I had to shove the remainders in the freezer in case I get crazy (although my carb cravings have subsided quite a bit).

This morning I’m expecting a load of groceries and I’m back to recipe exploration. Wish me luck!

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted Earth Balance butter, at room temperature
4 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest or lemon extract
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup Almond Dream plain vegan yoghurt
3/4 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tbsp tapioca starch/flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
4 nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch tube/bundt pan with coconut spray, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, coconut oil, sugars, vanilla extract, and lemon zest no medium speed until light, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Add the yoghurt and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, ginger and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer and mix on medium speed until it comes together into a creamy batter.

Scoop the batter into the greased pan and spread evenly. Smooth out the top with a spatula as much as possible. Top with sliced nectarines and sprinkle with slivered almonds and coconut sugar. Bake for 1-1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan completely before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Store at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days. The cake can be frozen for up to a month.

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blueberry buckle cake (vegan!!!)

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You can’t imagine how wonderful it was to lick the batter out of the bowl again. For a moment, I was able to dial back the clock and stand in a kitchen surrounded by flour, butter and cream. Only this time I was creaming vegan butter and trying to understand the texture of its cream versus traditional butter. This time, I was sifting gluten-free flour and not working about over mixing the dough because there was no gluten to activate. It was strangely liberating making this buckle cake, which is really an oversized muffin in a fancy tin.

Yet, remember last week when I wrote about baking no longer being the singular object of my affection? That truth still stands even though I enjoyed a slice of this cake with Van Leeuwen dairy-free pistachio ice-cream (it’s surprisingly good, although don’t get the salted caramel, which is honestly not that good). While the cake baked, I stared longingly at the batch of tomato soup on the stove, flavored with double-smoked bacon.

This past week I had lunch with my friend, Jamie, who understands my L-Glutamine life, wholly. We spoke of our respective conditions, swapped gluten + dairy free baking ideas, and more importantly we mused over the fact that we’d swapped hats, as it were. An avid vegan cook, Jamie came to lunch carting a huge bag of almond flour, while all I could talk about was cauliflower, cruciferous greens, and the fact that I DON’T HAVE CELIAC (PRAISE, KITTENS). I have become less excited about baking and more enthralled with the seemingly endless ways one can prepare a vegetable.

But this cake. You have to know that blueberries were on my list of sensitivities, but I’m picking my battles. So I endured a good bit of temporary itch eating this buckle cake, but believe me when I say it’s worth it. While the cake may not be as photogenic as its gluten counterpart, the richness of the batter, the moist consistency of the end result, will have you closing the door on gluten + dairy.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Bon Appetit
For the topping
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (use Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted Earth Balance butter (vegan), cut into 1/2″ pieces

For the buckle cake
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted Earth Balance butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (use Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup)
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 tbsp chia seeds/3 tbsp warm water (for vegans); 1 large egg (for non-vegans)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut cream (this is different than coconut milk)
1 pint fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries

A 9″-diameter springform pan

DIRECTIONS
For the buckle cake: Preheat oven to 350°. If you’re going the vegan route, add the chia seeds and warm water to a small bowl and let rest for 10 minutes, stirring intermittently. Butter and flour pan. Whisk baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed (or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), beat sugar, 1/4 cup butter + 1 tbsp coconut oil until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg (if using; chia mixture, if using) and vanilla just to combine, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients, then coconut cream; mix just to combine. Gently fold in blueberries. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

For the topping: Whisk coconut palm sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with your fingers until mixture comes together in large clumps; set aside.

Evenly sprinkle topping over the cake.

Bake buckle until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 80–90 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely (30 minutes) before unmolding and serving.

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feather-light (vegan!) chocolate mousse

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Truth be told, I’m a little infatuated (read: addicted) to Organic Avenue’s Chocolate Mousse. Over the past few days, my travels invariably have me jetting into this uber-expensive health joint, and I’ve been seduced by the idea of a semi-virtuous sweet to take the edge off the fact that I’m on steroids, detoxing from gluten and feeling ravaged. Believe me when I say that I never, ever, want to have gluten again. It’s not worth all of this suffering. It’s not worth enduring this cruel invader who cleaves to every cell while my body retaliates with a full-blown gluten exit strategy.

Gluten, there’s the door. Thanks, bye.

While gluten is making its exit, I’ve been foggy. It’s been harder to concentrate and write, and I find myself revising posts for hours because I can’t think straight. I’m privileged to have been off work these past few days because I can’t even imagine functioning in the workplace, and if there’s one thing I CANNOT stand, it’s not being at 110%, especially when I work with people whom I respect and admire. Walking around in a daze, simply in an effort to move, I took two new business calls with major corporate clients, sent bids, sent emails, spoke to friends, and I woke at 1:30AM thinking, what did I do yesterday? How did I do it?

Suffice it to say, I didn’t have the sleep of children. One of the side effects of taking steroids is insomnia, so I paced my apartment for the great portion of the early morning hours, feeling sick, slightly faint, and I only felt slightly better when took my next round of meds.

Seriously. I can’t wait for these hives to EXIT. I can’t wait for gluten to leave. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, etc. I can’t wait to be talking about something else other than gluten.

Which brings me to this mousse. Bad segue, I apologize, but I’m not at 110%. While chatting with Dana this week, I revealed that I’d become smitten with the OA sweet, of which she shared that the mousse came from a recipe she’d initially developed for OA, although the finished product was a bit sweeter than she’d anticipated. Luckily, I can now make this treat at home, and not only do you not taste the avocado, you won’t even miss the fact that this is DAIRY FREE. The glory, friends. The glory.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from my food coach, Dana James, adjusted slightly (Serves 2, 260 calories per serving)
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp coconut butter (or coconut oil)
2 tbsp coconut milk
3 tbsp coconut sugar or agave
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch Himalayan salt
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
To serve – 2 tbsp coconut flakes & 1 tsp raw cacao powder

DIRECTIONS
Put all ingredients in a powerful blender such as a Vitamix and blend for 2 minutes. Add more coconut milk if pudding is too thick. I chilled my mousse in the fridge for an hour before diving in.

Serve in a mini-bowl topped with raw cacao powder and coconut flakes lightly toasted in a cast iron skillet.

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chocolate almond banana acai bowl

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Let’s talk about the Avocado Consumption of 2002. 2002 was the year I discovered the avocado, consumed it at every meal (I practically subsisted on guacamole), and ended up developing an allergy to it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this space, you’ll know that I have an addictive personality. If I love something, I love it HARD until it becomes something that I hate, something that my body is desperate to reject. When I think about it, I’ve always been this way. When I love something so much I have to undress it, dig deep and burrow myself all the way in there. I have to know something until it’s completely familiar, until there’s nothing else to know.

Moderation is a joke, because I tend to skirt the extremes. But I’m trying. Hence, the nutritionist I’m seeing this week. But I digress.

I recently discovered the acai bowl. Believe me when I say that the feeling I had for my first bowl was like church. Light streaming in through the glass, cold pews, crisp paper–all that jazz. In short, I’m returning to the Avocado Consumption era. Luckily, I think I’ve hit a wall after having realized that I can’t LIVE ON ACAI. Naturally, this happened after two days of eating nothing but acai smoothies and bowls. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I love this bowl. Don’t be deceived by the look of this recipe because it’s not saccharine sweet. While the dates and banana lend some tenderness, the cacao is a bit bitter and the acai fruit isn’t your quintessential raspberry, which is to say that this bowl has wonderful balance. Not only is it insanely healthy, but you will be sated for HOURS.

HOURS, PEOPLE. Let that sink in.

Know that I’ve got a few more acai recipes cooking, so this won’t be the last of my beloved bowl.

INGREDIENTS
1 large banana
2 Sambazon‘s Immunity Smoothie Acai packs (New Yorkers, this is on Fresh Direct)
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup rice milk (coconut/almond milk will do just fine here, as well)
1 tbsp cacao
2 dates
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup your favorite granola
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS
Blitz all the ingredients (from the banana to almond butter) in a high-powered blender/Vitamix, with the banana being at the bottom as a buffer for your blades, until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the coconut flakes, granola + blueberries on top. Dive in with a spoon and weep.

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chocolate banana chia pudding

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Welcome to my new breakfast. After months of blitzing up my almond butter cup smoothie to only indulge in a scone once I hit the train station, I’ve finally found a breakfast that keeps me stuffed until lunchtime–no small feat, I assure you. Inspired by TV Dinner’s post + devouring expensive, yet insanely delicious, acai bowls at Tiny Empire, I decided to fix up a chia pudding of my own. Not only does this recipe feel like I’m having dessert for breakfast, but the protein and potassium boost give me enough energy to tackle my day. I’ve had this pudding three days in a room + I’m hooked.

So, friends, my gift to you.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup enriched vanilla rice milk
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract {coconut extract would also be lovely!}
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp Truvia/stevia
1 tsp almond butter
1/2 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS
In a mason jar or a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the banana and almond butter. If you’re using a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store your pudding in the fridge overnight. In the morning, uncover, mix, and top with almond butter and banana slices.

vanilla-cream filled doughnuts

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My writing was like a grown up child suddenly taking up residence in all sorts of strange places and sending back photos.Leslie Jamison

I’m sorry, I’m distracted. Correction, I’ve been distracted, occupied by the sort of paralysis that happens when you sent your book out into the world. Right now, my novel is in the hands of four different people around the country and they’re reading it, not reading it, picking it up or placing the manuscript gently down. Honestly, this is the part about writing I hate–taking the small, private thing you’ve harvested and setting it free. I imagine this is what a mother would feel when she nudges her child on to a school bus for the first time and watches the doors close behind her child. The thing that I once held so close has been temporarily taken from me and I worry (worry!) that people won’t be able to see what I’m trying to do, or simply, they won’t like it.

And yes, it’s so easy to say that I shouldn’t care what others think, however, this is precisely why an artist creates. The only way I can make sense of the world is through writing about it, and as a result of that process there’s a hope that others will feel something, anything, as a result of it. The hope is that they can hear the way my heart beat when I wrote about hurt, and they would somehow understand why I had to linger in that hurt. Set up shop, played house in it. I worry that the structure of my novel will turn hurt into a maze, forcing readers to work to find my beating heart in an age where people don’t want to put in the work when it comes to art. Some want art to explain and tell rather than probe and ask.

I guess I’m also worried because this book represents some of the most confessional writing I’ve ever committed to paper–more so than my first book. It’s easy to use fiction as a curtain, and as a result I was able to imbue a great deal of myself across a few of my characters; I was able to be vulnerable on the page when I have a hard time being vulnerable off it. A great deal of me is in this story–perhaps in ways you might not so easily identify–but not all of it. Perhaps the worry is the very frightening question the book poses, really, will you follow me into the dark? Are you brave enough to go there? Will you take the time to linger there? And I brave enough to have you occupy this space with me? From this solitary act comes an invitation, of which the author prays the reader accepts.

I know this all sounds a bit looney, but this is what it’s like for me right now. For four years in my head and one year in front of a computer or stray pieces of manuscript, this book was MINE. ONLY MINE. Now, in its rawest state, it’s less mine, and I just have to breathe and deal with that.

THANK GOD FOR VANILLA CREAM DOUGHNUTS, especially on those Friday nights when the novel is the ONLY thing I can think about. Will they get it? Will they like it? Will they understand how and why I built this world? Will the world and words linger? Will they hold up over the passage of time? Was me being this vulnerable in fiction truly worth the risk at all {emphatic yes}?

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour
For the doughnuts
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast or 2/3 ounce (18 grams) fresh cake yeast
2/3 cup (160 grams) milk, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups (490 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (270 grams) sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs
7 tbsp (3/4 stick/100 grams) butter, at room temperature, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
Canola oil, for frying

For the vanilla cream filling
6 tablespoons (90 grams) heavy cream
Pastry Cream, chilled

DIRECTIONS
In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast and milk. Stir together briefly, then let sit for about 1 minute to dissolve the yeast. Add the flour, 1/3 cup (70 grams) of the sugar, the salt, and the eggs and mix on low speed for about 1 minute, or until the dough comes together. Then, still on low speed, mix for another 2 to 3 minutes to develop the dough further. Now, begin to add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to mix for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is soft and cohesive.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 15 hours.

Lightly flour a baking sheet. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch square about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2- to 4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out 9 doughnuts. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to proof for 2 to 3 hours, or until they are about doubled in height and feel poufy and pillowy.

When ready to fry, line a tray or baking sheet large enough to hold the doughnuts with paper towels. Pour oil to a depth of about 3 inches into a large, heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until hot. To test the oil, throw in a pinch of flour. If it sizzles on contact, the oil is ready. (It should be 350 degrees if you are using a thermometer.) Working in batches, place the doughnuts in the hot oil, being careful not to crowd them. Fry on the first side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until brown. Then gently flip them and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until brown on the second side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the prepared tray and let cool for a few minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Place the remaining 1 cup (200 grams) sugar in a small bowl. One at a time, toss the warm doughnuts in the sugar to coat evenly. As each doughnut is coated, return it to the tray to cool completely. This will take 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the vanilla cream filling: While the doughnuts are cooking, whip the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold it into the pastry cream . You should have about 3 cups.

When doughnuts are completely cooled, poke a hole in the side of each doughnut, spacing it equidistant between the top and bottom. Fit a pastry bag with a small round tip and fill the bag with the filling. Squirt about 1/3 cup filling into each doughnut. Serve immediately.

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the chewiest almond butter cookies {goddamn you, gwyneth!}

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There was a time when I would devour the contents of my dinner plate within a span of two minutes. I was a marathon eater, a clock-watcher, an Olympian when it came to food consumption. I would eat simply to swallow, to move on to the next thing. Perhaps this comes from my childhood where I often wondered from where my next meal would materialize. Back then, you ate your food before someone else did. You ate your meal wondering if it would be your last. There was a summer when my family subsisted on potatoes, butter, and a hot pot. When we were flush, we feasted on chicken legs and quarter bags of cheese doodles from the local bodega–but these occurrences were rare. So now, even as I’ve been privileged to live a life of food abundance, I still flash back to my youth, and inhale every meal without being present.

Before my three-month program with my nutritionist/food coach commences, I’ve been really observing what I eat over the course of a day, and I often ask myself whether what I’m about to ingest will both nourish and sustain me. Am I savoring every bite and will the space between meals be less of a longing and more of a celebration, a siesta if you will? Otherwise, why bother. Why shovel food in your mouth just because?

Offline, I’ve been chatting with a lot of my close friends and have wondered how this demonstrable shift in my life will affect my baking and the kinds of recipes you’ll see here in the coming months. I have given this a lot of thought because I REALLY enjoy baking and the alchemy of ingredients, and the idea of photographing quinoa and chicken every day makes me CRY BUCKETS.

Then I had a thought. Why not make the very best pastries I can find {full-fat, full-flavor} as occasion treats, mixing in more virtuous desserts, which are not replacements for the sweets I love {don’t you dare talk to me about apple sauce in cakes because I’m not here for it}, but add a new dimension of flavor–desserts that take me to a new place rather than a revisit of the tired and old. It’s the difference between having homemade pasta with shaved truffles versus a box of dry noodles you dump into hot water.

Essentially, balance. Bake, but bake brilliantly and thoughtfully. Croissants mixed with these cookies and roasted veggies.

Now about these cookies. My friend Amber is over right now, and she can attest to the fact that these are THE BUSINESS. These chewy, rich cookies have no eggs, wheat, butter, sugar, or dairy of any kind and they are INCREDIBLE.

SERIOUSLY. ASK AMBER. THEY’RE THAT GOOD.

The almond butter flavor is pretty pronounced {you can use any nut butter, really}, and there is a smoky sweetness from the syrup, which pairs perfectly with the crunchy sea salt that christens the cookie. Honestly, these protein-packed cookies are a great treat for when you’re suffering from all the sugar cravings.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook.
1½ cups gluten-free flour (add ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum if flour does not contain it)*
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup natural almond butter {I made two batches, and in the second batch I mixed ½ almond butter with ½ peanut butter}
1 cup good quality maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp Maldon sea salt
*Note: I didn’t have xanthan gum on hand, and my cookies turned out fine.

DIRECTIONS
Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk or mix all the dry ingredients {flour, salt, baking powder}. In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients {almond butter, maple syrup + vanilla extract}. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with a fork and mix to completely combine.

Drop a tablespoon of mixture onto prepared baking sheets, ensuring that you’re creating small disks. Sprinkle each cookie with a small amount of Maldon salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes and cool on a rack before serving.

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