Happy {Belated} Pi Day

lets eat pieSome of the best recipes are made on the fly. Others you mull over for days. You end up scraping the burnt part off after the first and second try. Maybe, you’re late to work one morning because you’re scrubbing flour off the countertops. The kitchen isn’t always glamorous. It all comes together on those rare days, when you think: this is where I should be right now. It’s that fraction of a second where you can just be present.

I turn off the lights to our apartment. Our kitchen and living room are dressed up in winter’s blue afternoon sun. I take the train to the airport. It’s strange to be moving in the city on a day when I’m supposed to be at work. On my first morning, my mom and I walk a loop around the apple farms, which is the same place I usually go for a run. There are so many versions of me living on this trail, like the time I went hiking with my friends in the mountains and spent the afternoon at the brewery OR the time the neighborhood dog almost bit me on my run. I wonder if those parts of me are still in the air.

My mom and I admire the sun at the top of the hill and she reminds me about the time I called her crying when our neighbors moved away. I’ve always had more feelings that I’ve known what to do with. I guess that’s why the past month has been difficult. My injury is still healing, so on Friday I end up walk-running on the trail that winds itself around the lake. I’m learning to go slow. This injury has jolted me out of all the ego junk that I picked up over the past few months. I can’t go any faster than my body will let me. I just have to accept what is or the process is a lot more painful, both mentally and physically.

Most Bostonians think that I’m from Lake Tahoe, per my recommendation, but it’s a lie. It’s hard to explain a town that is this small and attached to the base of the mountain like a barnacle. People know Coloma for gold and Tahoe for it’s ocean-like lake. Camino is just a road for most people, but not the people who live there or who grew up in the forest. Most Californians are quick to recognize the tourist name for the town, Apple Hill.

On Saturday night, my grandma and cousins are tossing around dice at the dinner table with my partner and I. They are laughing and he is teaching them the rules to our favorite domino game: kapicu. My parents are half asleep in the living room talking to my aunt and the house is buzzing with family and wine, lots of wine. I can’t believe my cousin is graduating college this year and that my younger cousin is in high school. Has it been that long that I’ve been gone?

Kevin’s cousin was over at our place today as I was putting this pie together for Pi Day! Kevin and him finished working early, but he decided to stay ‘till the pie was done. Who can say no to free pie?! Kevin was napping, Adiel was sitting in the office, and I was in the kitchen rolling dough. We all relaxed while the pie was baking and I was reminded of those days in California where my siblings and parents could just hang out as a big family and be together, even if that just meant moving around in the same space.

I love that feeling – of being in the same space as people with good hearts. Lately, I’m trying to be instead of do. We sat around the dinner table and woofed down pie, guiltily before it had time to completely cool. In honor of pi, here’s to the infinite love of family, late afternoon pie, and choosing to be present a little longer each day.

 – Pi Day Celebration: Apple Pie – 

slide of pie

I highly recommend picking up the book Ratio. It gives you all the things you need to know about making your own doughs from scratch – bread to pie crusts. This is a vegan version of a recipe adapted from Ratio. All-in-all the book inspired me to better understand how to baking and to teach me to trust my gut. When your pie dough doesn’t look like pie dough, trust yourself! This is the recipe that worked for me today, but you never know what’s going to happen based on the weather. I learned last week that cookies at 3,000 ft. elevation perform much differently then down here at sea level. Use this recipe as a guideline, but don’t be afraid to trust yourself.

3/4 cup unbleached flour + 1 tbs
3/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1 tbs
1 cup (2 sticks) non-dairy butter
1/2 cup water
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs raw sugar
1/4 tsp salt

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4 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs flour
2 tbs non-dairy butter
1 tbs vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°.

Flour GalleryIn a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Cut butter like a grid so that it is easy to mix into the dough.

Cut Butter

Pouring Butter

crumbled pie dough

Cut the butter into the dough using a fork or pastry cutter until it forms a soft dough. Mix in water and apple cider vinegar. Add additional flour if it’s too wet – i.e. doesn’t stay in a lightly firm ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. In the meantime, peel, core, and slice three apples. Mix in a large bowl with sugar, flour, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set aside.

apples

Cut pie dough in half. Roll half dough out on a floured surface until 1″ hangs over the side of a standard 9″ pie pan. Refrigerate for 15 min. Fill with apple pie filling (apples + sugar, etc). Roll out another 9″ circle using the other half of your pie dough and drape across the top. Pinch the corners to make a ribbed finish and slice in four ways in the center. Brush with 2 tbs of vegan butter and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the outside is lightly golden.

pie crust

pie with filling

pie bfore bake

pie carnage

Lapsang Souchong


lapsang souchong

1 tsp per cup | 212° | Steep for 4 minutes

There’s a campfire in our kitchen this morning, at least that’s what the upstairs neighbors must think. Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away it’s Wednesday or what I think must be too late for black tea, but in Boston the light still has the blue tint of late winter. I pour the kettle over a strainer filled with lapsang souchong. It’s smoky, like the lingering scent of campfire on cotton or like the things we don’t write down. I don’t know when this whole tea thing started, which gives me more grief then you might think because I have an obsession with origin stories. The footnote is my favorite form of procrastination.

lapsang souchong_2

I was introduced to lapsang souchong while working in the South End as a barista during university, or should I say, it found me. I used to work 40-60 hours and go to school full time. I still have no clue how I made it all work. Magic, I guess. I miss the rhythm of café life from those days, sometimes. It’s hectic, but there is something comforting about the regulars – the opera student getting her masters degree, the writer who does more reading than putting pen to paper, and the guy who always ordered large iced Americanos, light ice. Years later, your barista will remember your drink, if you are one of the regulars. It’s funny, how a drink can match somebody’s mood or personality, how there is more predictability in our day-to-day then we might think.

I had to wean myself off espresso that year because people typically wanted single shot etceteras and I couldn’t let the other one go to waste. Needless to say, my afternoons become absurd crashes for a couple weeks. I replaced espresso with black tea and roasted mate, and then my favorite, lapsang souchong. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save the wasted espresso – I had to save myself!

Lapsang souchong is also known as Zhengshan Xiaozhong, which is a special black tea produced in the Wuyi Mountains in southeastern China. The shoots of a local tea species, camellia sinesis var. senesis cv. Bohea, have been used since the 15th century to produce an earthy and smoky tea. It’s no secret that I’m constantly craving the mountains. I’m seriously starting to reconsider this city life idea – been dreaming of a place where the mountains are closer, like home. It is easy to get disconnected from natural rhythms in the city, but I find that tea helps to balance my energy.

The rich campfire smell and smoky flavor reminds me of growing up with a wood stove in California and filling it with pine and cedar. This tea, which centers me in my origin story, has quite the tale itself. It’s rumored to be the first black tea and is till grown in the region where the first black teas were grown, now the National Wuyi Mountain Nature Preserve.

Sometimes, I forget about the handiwork that goes into crafting something as delicate as tea. Lapsang souchong is made from an intricate process that involves plucking, withering, rolling, fermenting, fixing, and drying the sprouts. In Flavor Characteristics of Lapsang Souchong and Smoked Lapsang Souchong, a Special Chinese Black Tea with Pine Smoking Process, Yao, Guo, Lu, and Jiang outline an extensive manufacturing process that involves both knowledge and craftsmanship. The smooth and smoky finish on this tea comes from pan frying and drying the sprouts over pine smoke.

This morning, I’m wrapped up on the couch watching the sun rise in late winter, a whole pine forest roasting in my lap. A cup of tea to bring me home, to meet the day with two feet on the ground. What are the stories you are telling yourself today? What are you going to write down?

Blood Orange Vegan Bundt Cake

blood orange bundt cake one

This Saturday, Kevin and I left the city for the afternoon. I’ve been craving the road in some way or another. This was just a short trip down to Providence for lunch at The Grange and dessert at Wild Flour bakery. The restaurant, which calls itself a vegetable restaurant, was just the right escape from Boston that I’ve been craving and the bakery was everything that I wanted – soy cream next to almond milk, yes please! It was nice to be on the road, sun pouring through the windows, and singing like old times when we used to spend more days in the car.

Last night, we had friends over and I whipped together matcha cookies and we all snuggled on the couch to watch the Grand Budapest Hotel. It was nice to see everyone before we head out to California to visit my family on Thursday. It’s the first day of March and it’s snowing 3-6 inches tonight here in Boston, so needless to say – I’m excited to head toward warmer weather.

Confessions from a blogger: sometimes (or often) we fail. The first iteration of this recipe turned out as a complete disaster. When I’m working with egg substitutes, it takes me time to find the best ones that work with different types of baked goods. Apple sauce as an egg substitute didn’t give the lift that I was looking for. I had one of those kitchen meltdowns where you can’t look at the cake because you are frustrated by the couple hours you spent trying to put it together.

It’s in these moments that I know the kitchen tells me where my head space is at, if the little things are starting to not feel so little anymore – if i’m falling behind on being in the moment. I took a break and came back to this recipe with the lessons learned from my first failure and luckily found success, but it’s not always that way. Sometimes, a recipe refuses to cooperate for days on end, especially when I’m converting things from non-vegan to vegan. Sometimes, I can’t run because of injuries and the weather refuses to cooperate – it’s just remembering to be awake in these moments, to learn, not get too frustrated, to have patience with myself and the universe. That it will all work out, right? Everything is meant to work out. 

- Blood Orange Vegan Bundt Cake –
bundt cake table 1

The flavor of the season at our apartment is blood oranges. I casually slip them into water, smoothies, salads, and now cakes! Two reasons why I love blood oranges a) their sweet flavor and b) their colorful addition to my life in the dead of winter. This recipe combines the sweetness of blood oranges with the spice of ginger. If you want a list ‘spicy’ cake then feel free to halve the ginger and celebrate the blood orange.

bloog orange bundt cake_two

3 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup raw sugar
4 blood oranges
1/4 cup cashew milk
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup non-dairy butter or coconut oil
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

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4 tbs non-dairy butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup blood orange mixture

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a bundt pan and set aside.

blood orange_stage one

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including flour, sugar, ground ginger, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a blender, puree the blood oranges and cashew milk until smooth.

prepared bundt pan

Mix the wet ingredients thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl, including water, oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and 3/4 of blood orange mixture. Reserve 1/4 for icing. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Once totally combined, place in an oven and bake for 50-55 minutes.

bundt in oven

While the cake is baking, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and blood orange mixture to prepare the frosting. Once the cake is done baking, cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely before icing. Dust with powdered sugar & drizzle with icing.

bundt cake piece

The Sound of Friday: A Playlist to Soothe & Lift the Soul

Friday-Playlist

I don’t know about you all, but by the time Friday rolls around, I’m usually feeling pretty exhausted. Monday seems like a far way away and I want to ground my energy for the weekend ahead. No matter what happened between Monday and today, we’ve made it – through all the beautiful and stressful moments that the week has given us. Each one, a gift or an opportunity to learn something about ourselves – so my optimist side says.

Either way, Friday is always that day where things at work are wrapping up and I need something to sooth my spirits. Music reminds me to smile, breath, and let my heart be free. These are songs I listen to over a cup of tea in the morning, on my walk to the train, or at my desk while waking up to the sound of clicking fingers all around me, romantic, right? Here is to the nostalgia of Fridays & music, for it’s ability to calm and inspire whenever we need it. What’s on your playlist this morning?

Sodom, South Georgia – Iron & Wine

Sodom South Georgia_Iron and Wine

I had a friend who was in love with Iron & Wine, in truth, she is on the one who turned me onto them back when I was 17. I keep coming back to a few of their songs, including this one for its rich imagery + Beam’s soothing voice. This reminds me of a town of about 10,000 people, where so many people know how to play the guitar (except me) and hike the Sierra Nevadas.

Crosses – José González

Jose Gonzalez_Crosses

If I have a weakness for a specific type of music, then it’s undeniably Swedish indie folk music. I was listening to a radio show today and the hosts were talking about the fallibility of the individual. That, in fact, we can’t do it all by ourselves. Gonzalez reminds me of this too with his lyrics,

“Don’t you know that I’ll be around to guide you
Through your weakest moments to leave them behind you
Returning nightmares only shadows
We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright for now… ”

I’ll Get Along – Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka_Home Again

 

Every track on Michael Kiwanuka’s album is worth mentioning. I like this song where he talks about wandering…about getting lost.

After the Storm – Mumford & Sons

Mumford and Sons_Sigh No More

I saw Mumford & Sons live in Boston two or three years ago. It was getting to that point where they were on the radio all of the time, so I’ve taken a long hiatus, but lately, they’re back in my headphones in the morning. I think on Friday we all need to remember to overcome our fears & have a little more grace.

Slow Motion – PHOX

Slow Motion_Phox

I saw Laura Mvula at the Sinclair last year, which was A M A Z I N G. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t move the entire show. PHOX opened for her and the lead singer’s personality is unbelievably endearing. I like this song on Friday mornings because it reminds me to take it slow, forego the rush.

My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit_My Silver Lining

I honestly cannot get enough of First Aid Kit. I have seen two of their shows here in Boston and I will probably see them again. This song from their album Stay Gold reminds us to keep on keepin’ on. 

1957 – Milo Greene

1957_Milo Green

So I used to watch Andrew Heringer sing in coffee shops when I was in high school and now he’s on the radio and my friends from Boston post his songs here and there.

Sort of Revolution – Fink

Fink_Sort of Revolution

I think I’m a sucker for that nice humming sound, from this song to Drops by The Jungle, which is on repeat in our apartment, regardless of the day. This song is about portage – about moving, somewhere.

Follow the Sun – Xavier Rudd

Spirit Bird_Xavier Rudd

Every weekend is an adventure. It’s the time we have to dedicate to the people, places, and activities that we love. This song always makes me feel pumped about the weekend (even if there is no sun). It reminds me to get out, dare to try something new – to be the person I want to be. To follow my heart. 

p.s. i couldn’t find it on spotify, but check out Three Tree Town by Ben Howard.

Creamy Purple Carrot Soup + Turmeric Tahini Dressing

carrot soup

Ubiquitous orange carrots can be found at every grocery store, from tiny baby carrots to large root carrots. I have nothing against orange carrots, except that there are plenty of other colors with their own unique flavor – purple, white, and yellow. All these colorful carrots are derived from the wild carrot, which is one of the few vegetables that sustain us throughout the year. I remember discovering colorful carrots at a farmers market in California, needless to say I was obsessed with them (maybe, I still am) for a long time after.

I have been using the immersion blender a lot this month, despite horror stories from the New York TimesAs long as you keep the tip of the wand buried beneath the surface of your soup, then you should have no problem. And remember, never use your finger to try to un-stick the appliance.

This recipe combines the earthiness of purple carrots with the creaminess of non-dairy milk to create a soup that is simultaneously filling and refreshing. I am recovering from a serious running injury right now, so I have been sneaking turmeric into everything for its anti-inflammatory properties. This cheesy turmeric dressing is creamy and tangy, which complements the soup well. This has become a weeknight staple for late winter with a side of Irish soda bread from The Vegan Planet.

3 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion, quartered
4-5 carrots, quartered
1 head of garlic
1/2 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, almond or cashew
1 cup hazelnuts, roasted
2 tbs olive oil

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1 tbs nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tbs tahini
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 425°.

purple carrots

cauliflower

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl mix together coarsely chopped cauliflower and quartered onions and carrots in 2 tbs of olive oil. Season with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and nestle 1 head of garlic in to the center of the veggies. On a separate baking sheet, pour 1 cup of hazelnuts for toasting. Roast the vegetables for 30-35 minutes, or until you can pierce the carrots with a fork, and the hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma.

vegan carrot soup

In a bowl or small jar, mix together nutritional yeast, tahini, soy sauce, turmeric, and lemon. Add cracked pepper for additional flavor and 4-6 cloves from the roasted garlic.

After 20-25 minutes of roasting, bring three cups of vegetable broth to boil in a large soup pot. Turn to simmer and add roasted veggies and 4-6 cloves of roasted garlic. Puree with an immersion blender. Pour into bowls and top with chopped roasted hazelnuts and turmeric tahini dressing.

vegan carrot soup

Pistachio Matcha Cookies

DSC_0339

The marathon was scheduled for this Sunday, but there is too much snow and the temperatures are barely inching their way out of the single digits. Maybe I braced myself for this when the storms rolled in a few weeks ago, but after receiving the news from a friend over text late last night that the marathon is cancelled…I’ve been O.K. I am nursing an injury right now + it seems like this might have come at the right time. I went on a run today during my lunch break. I tried to skip the city as much as possible and ran out to the woods to see the trees – be with my people. An immense space is opening again after not being zeroed in on a specific goal. I’m enjoying the slow runs – the ones with no deadlines or expectations.

A few nights ago, Kevin and I sat on the couch together and I taught him how to crochet – I know my great grandma would be proud that I still got my old single stitch and double stitch skills. After living in the city so many years, I’m happy when I can feel rooted to the earth again. Cultivating stillness is an art that requires patience. This is what February has been all about – these small moments that I’ve been moving to fast over the past couple of years to just let myself sit in.

I know that spring is just around the corner, so I’m trying to savor the last moments of winter – sounds silly because everyone has been so frustrated by the snow, but it’s true. Each season has more to teach me than I ever expect. I’m in awe at how quiet the city becomes when it’s snowing & how people are changing even though everything seems to have passed. This winter, I’m thankful for the quiet of my own heart on days when there is nothing but snow.

One of my favorite bloggers + local Bostonians, Betty Liu over at Le Jus D’Orange, has an unbelievable collection of matcha recipes from her latest black sesame vertical roll + matcha mochi to one of my personal favorites matcha rolls with black sesame cinnamon filling. You don’t have to look far to find a wide collection of matcha recipes, but I’m happy to add this one to the mix.

Matcha is powdered green tea that can be made into a latte or mixed into your favorite baked good. The fine green tea powder is dissolved into warm milk using a matcha whisk. The green tea leaves that are harvested for matcha are ground into a fine powder, which means you are receiving all the antioxidants that are available from the leaves. If you are looking to replace your morning coffee a few times a week with a new flavor, then you can froth matcha with a non-dairy milk to make a matcha latte.

- Pistachio Matcha Cookies  -

matcha pistachio cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tbs tapioca flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup non-dairy milk, cashew or almond 2 tbs matcha powder
2/3 cup sunflower oil or coconut oil
3/4 cup + 1 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup + 1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a small sauce pan, warm 1/4 cup non-dairy milk for 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to bring the milk to boil, but make sure that it is warm to touch. Pour into small bowl and use match whisk to dissolve 2 tbs matcha powder. Set aside.

matcha cookies

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sea salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla, tapioca flour, and matcha milk. Whisk for 3-5 minutes until the mixture looks like smooth caramel. Slowly add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients followed by pistachios. Cook for 8 minutes on the middle rack + snack away.

DSC_0337

New Beginnings

Live where you fear to live.

I see the quote on my instagram profile laughing at me in this very moment. After spending this past weekend developing new recipes and posting to the blog, I woke up this morning with the same feeling I’ve had for a couple of months now, like something is missing from this space, like every time I post a new recipe, a small part of me is missing and its becoming more and more noticeable.

All that being said, it’s time for a few changes around here (recipes are here to stay). I have been slowly working on my photography, picture after picture, writing and deleting posts that feel almost right, but not quite right. I spent time here trying to figure out what is missing, only to find that the answer in the absence of something concrete. I started writing here during a time that I needed my focus to narrow in on food. Recipe by recipe, building up a repertoire of meals that were nourishing and sometimes decadent. I’ve had so much fun over the past couple of years recreating, adapting, and authoring new recipes. My kitchen is a much livelier place and its given me a whole new excitement for date nights at home and gatherings with my friends.

Last week, my friend told me that if I’m not feeling passionate about what I’m doing, then it’s time for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m passionate about local, sustainable, and veggie-based foods, but I’m also interested in materials, art, music, people, and places that share similar hopes and dreams.

There is more that I want to bring to the table, from marathon training, to small ways we are keeping a sustainable apartment in the city, to the gay history that keeps me alive, and all the beautiful people and places that make life worth living. I wanted to write a post about the passing of Keith Haring, but knew that it was time for this confession first.

I guess this is my way of telling you that it’s time to take my own advice – to let this space be what it was intended for – somewhere to feel free to explore & connect with all of you. I will continue to post recipes and stories each week, but I hope you’ll stick around as I play with new post types, focus on new content areas, discover, laugh, and continue to explore. Afterall, the full quote from Rumi reads:

“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

Beetroot Chocolate Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

chocolate beet cake

I like cakes that are savory and not too sweet. There have been too many strawberry desserts this valentine’s day weekend. I mean, come on, strawberries?! I wanted something that erred toward seasonal fare and was savory for our dessert this weekend. We had a few beets that have been kicking around the back of the fridge. I picked up a grater on Friday night, after borrowing one from our neighbor’s to make a parsnip cake last weekend, and thought I could put it to use with more root vegetable cakes.

I wasn’t so sure about beets, but a few years ago I started going to the farmer’s market in Copley Square and there was a stand that had huge golden and red beets. I would ride my bike home across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, beet greens waving in the wind, to go home and roast them in the oven with olive oil. I used to mix them into quinoa with kale and sit on my front porch to read under the beadboard at night. There is no going outside right now, but beets are the perfect winter root vegetable. I was reading a chapter of Fäviken the other day about storing root vegetables in the basement or cellar by covering them with layers of sand. I’m hoping that my application for the community garden near our house gets approved so that I can try this next winter, here is to hoping & blizzard baking.

 

2 cups of almond milk, or non-dairy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup + 2 tbs organic raw sugar
½ cup + 2 tbs sunflower oil
4 beets, peeled + grated
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 tbs tapioca flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt

4 tbs non-dairy butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
4 oz non-dairy cream cheese
¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.

vegan beet cake

Grease, flour, and line two 9” cake pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes.

vegan beet root cake

Peel and grate four beets. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients including cocoa powder, tapioca flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the milk and vinegar ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Slowly fold in beetroots. Pour the batter into prepared 9” pans and bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick.

Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pan and cool. While waiting for the cakes to cool completely, mix together the Minimalist Baker’s ingredients for cream cheese frosting and toast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma.

vegan beet cake

Remove the dome from each cake layer, frost one layer and sprinkle half the toasted hazelnuts, then frost the exterior and decorate with the rest of the hazelnuts.

vegan beet cake

what does love smell like: laundry detergent

Kevin and Austin

Mormon Emigrant Trail runs along the southside of the lake. The damn slopes at least a hundred feet down the right side of the road and a thick metal wire is bolted between rectangular cedar posts. During the summer, oncoming cars dodge enthusiastic runners who spend their days finding themselves in the red dirt along the water. And on early winter nights, high school students bring their friends to small clearings for bonfires, booze, and music.

Down the road from where tourists go to recreate the 1983 drama between Cheers characters, Diane and Sam, my running group makes its way through record snow banks on a Wednesday night run through the city. I notice that freezing air means little to no scent. We are all afraid of slipping on ice or misstepping in the snow. I tell my friend Cara that I’m afraid I won’t be fast enough next weekend for my race and she reassures me that everything is going to be O K. I believe her because she has a kind of smile that is reassuring.

Back in the woods, there is a forest green volskwagen jetta with a leather interior that smells like ambercrombie & fitch cologne, cigarettes, and the dust from an electric car heater. At night, we drive home with the windows and sunroof rolled down, mixing together the smell of dry bark and bitter pine. We don’t talk much on the road, but I lie on his shoulder and close my eyes. We hold hands and pretend that our lives aren’t duplicitous, which is to say that there is no difference between our daytime and nighttime selves.

Nothing says Christmas more than the Du Pont Mansions in Delaware, with French-style gardens and indoor plants. My younger self is stuck in the orchid room, pausing to remember my ole grandma’s favorite flower is the orchid, and half-noticing the giant tree fluttering with mechanical butterflies. Everything smells like cinnamon, even the water. There is so much holiday cheer that I don’t even remember what the orchards smell like anymore. I start wearing his cologne that year, borrowing his slippers, underwear, kept drinking from the same mug that I drink from almost every morning to this today. I now know what it feels like to run on the ocean at night and how to transition from lovers to friends – that fireflies smell like humid summers in the midatlantic.

A series of years are antiseptic, or unidentifiable, or some mix of the two. On Monday afternoon, I jog into work because the train was shut down from the snow storm. I pull out an old pair of running tights and dig around for a long sleeve shirt. We are in the habit of borrowing each other’s clothes, sometimes I’m not sure if the shirt is mine or Kevin’s. This particular one, is undeniably not mine, the long blue sleeves and wick-away technology are all my partner’s.

I’ve named this smell old Kevin, like the guy who likes to watch nick-at night in his boxers and dance to michael jackson in front of the computer. No matter how many times I wash the shirt, it keeps the same smell and floats around like a lifeboat for shipwrecked memories. “It’s just a detergent,” I tell myself. “No, some part of old Kevin is definitely in this shirt,” I reason. I rest my head on his shoulder during our car ride through his childhood neighborhood. He sits on the front of the car and tells me, “I’ll wait for you as long as I have to.” This night smells like old Kevin, feels like light filtering through closed blinds. I wake up this morning at 5:30, listen to him breath, and I smile.

Winter Porridge w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

winter porridge

 

“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves–the heavty-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds–never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.”

- Pema Chödrön-

winter porridge

recipe adapted from bon appétit brown rice porridge w/ hazelnuts + jam

1/2 cup brown rice
2 cups almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped and roasted
1 tbs maple syup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 dried date
1/2 blood orange, sliced

In the winter we crave food that fills our bellies and gives us the energy to traverse through snow and below freezing temperatures. When the long days of summer are gone, our bodies naturally turn toward breads and fats that will sustain us throughout the day and warm us up at night. I like the tartness of milk, but it is missing from a lot of non-dairy alternatives because of the high sugar content. I prefer the rich and sour flavor of milk versus the sweet alternatives or at least the nutty flavor and aroma of almond or cashew milk. A lot of non-dairy baking calls for soured milk, or a non-dairy milk that is spoiled with an acid. I love the taste of soured almond milk, which is thick, creamy, and tart.

Preheat oven to 400°.

For this recipe, we start by souring the almond milk with apple cider vinegar. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the two together until bubbles form around the rim of the liquid. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly coagulated. Mix brown rice, soured milk, vanilla, and maple syrup together in a medium sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook covered for 50-60 minutes, or until brown rice is soft and fluffy. While waiting for the rice, roast 1/4 cup of blanched hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma when you open the oven. Coarsely chop hazelnuts and set aside.

Once the rice has finished, top with chopped hazelnuts, sliced blood oranges, dried dates, and maple syrup.

You can use other grains in this recipe, like millet, oat, barley, or white rice. I chose brown rice because I enjoy the nutty flavor of the grain and I anticipated that it would pair well with roasted hazelnuts. I also want to try this recipe with rye or triticale, which is seasonally available in the northeast through the fall and winter, because I think it would add more earth to this recipe.

winter porridge

thanks green kitchen stories for this song, providing me endless light + calm today.

Seasonal Eats | Leek + Pomegranate Salad

leek + pomegranate salad

W I N T E R  I S  H E R E ! On the weekends, it’s hard to convince myself to go outside because the temperature has dropped significantly. If you live in the Northeast, then you know that there is nowhere to put the snow we have right now + more is on its way. I have a tendency in the winter to huddle down with books or stay inside + work on projects that will come to life in the spring. This is where I’m at now, except, I’m also reminding myself to G E T  O U T !

During the cold months, I’m likely to stock up on bread + soup, because who wants to eat freezing cold food when it is below zero outside?! This winter is a little different. I find myself gravitating toward the bounty of winter fruits and vegetables at the market – mainly blood oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, leeks, and cauliflower. I’m amazed at the abundance of produce in the market right now + trying to incorporate these beautiful foods into my meals (p.s. I know ‘blood oranges’ aren’t blooming in the Northeast, but hey – we are all trying, right?!).

Eating fruit + vegetables, combined with all the light from the snow has me feeling pretty content about winter these days. Kevin + I are yurt hunting right now to escape for a weekend up North. We are both looking for a place to unplug for a little bit – read, write, snow shoe, and ultimately slow down. We want something small + quiet, a place where we can look at the trees in the morning and hear our own heartbeats.

I have this thing, when I plan new travel destinations, where I’m always assessing for ‘gay friendliness’ – does anybody else do this when they travel?! I guess, maybe, it’s a lifestyle hazard OR maybe it’s just a hangover from growing up in the backwoods of California that has me extra cautious. Either way, there are plenty of options in the Northeast, which is a blessing. It’s interesting how the world moves + advances, but sometimes our hearts are still experiencing the small + old version of ourselves. Not much more to say about this, other than…huh…how easily our hearts remember fear + how much damn work it takes to overcome it.

I get excited now when I can recognize a fear blockage. It’s only through recognition that I’m able to move through it – to see fear as a road sign and say, S E E  Y A  L A T E R ! I told you that thing about the yurt, not so it would sit with you like a stone, but so you could see that we all have our work cut out for us. This whole grace + ease thing takes a quiet enough mind to cut through the noise. There will be yurt stays + more fears to cut through this winter, but we just gotta keep moving with one foot on the ground and the other aimed at where we want to go.

- Leek + Pomegranate Salad -

leek + pomegranate salad

I am eating lots of salad this month, but not as  a diet fad or a new years resolution – it’s because my body is craving nourishment during the cold winter days. My friend Jac, from the Vegetarian Baker, also works for Looly’s Pearls, which produces handmade moroccan couscous while providing its workers with wages and social support. He asked me last month for a product review – I’m usually weary of product reviews, but the social mission of Looly’s felt like a good fit. You can hear more about the story of the Looly’s women + how they work ‘beyond fair trade’ on their website.

The couscous: delicious. It comes mixed with turmeric + thyme. The pearls are finer than any I’ve seen in the store + it complimented the flavors in this dish perfectly. Feel free to use any type of couscous, but if you want to try something new + give your dollars to a company that is seeking to provide education and housing for their workers, then check out Looly’s. In other news, winter means L E E K S + P O M E G R A N A T E S! Leeks are amazing alliums that carry the earthy taste, similar to garlic and onions, that help you feel rooted + present. Pomegranates have always amazed me and in this recipe they are little pops of sweetness amongst a sea of savory. This salad is nutrient rich, from leeks that are high in Vitamin K to hazelnuts that c contain phytochemicals that support overall brain health and circulation.

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2 leeks, chopped
1 head broccoli, coarsely chopped
1 pomegranate, seeded
20 grapes, halved
5 oz arugula
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs nutritional yeast

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1 cup Looly’s CousCous
1 cup water

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2 tbs tahini
1 tbs nutritional yeast
2 tbs amino acids or soy sauce
1/2 lemon juice

leeks

Prepare the leeks by chopping off the white portion + 1″ of the greens. Chop the root end off + slice the remaining piece in half, lengthwise. Run the leek under water to clean out dirty from the inside. Chop into 1/2″ slices and saute in 1 tbs of olive oil in cast iron skillet until the greens are slightly golden. Set aside + clean out cast iron skillet.

pomegranate seeds

Coarsely chop broccoli and massage with 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs nutritional yeast. Saute in cast iron skillet until slightly golden, sed aside with cooked leeks.

In a small bowl or pot, prepare combine couscous with 1 cup of boiling water and let sit for 7-8 minutes, or until couscous fully absorbs the water. Let cool completely before mixing with other ingredients.

In the meantime, seed the pomegranate by chopping it in half, widthwise. Slightly pull the pomegranate apart with your hands until seeds start to loosen, but don’t tear the pomegranate in half. Turn each half over a bowl and tap the backside with a wooden spoon. This will loosen the pomegranate seeds so you can then easily remove then from the husk. Chop grapes in half + coarsely chop hazelnuts.

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Mix together couscous, arugula, leeks, broccoli, pomegranate seeds, and grapes. Top with chopped hazelnuts + lemon tahini dressing (prepare by mixing ingredients together in a small contained).

pomegranate + leek salad

Broiled Grapefruit

broiled grapefruit

“Possessing by letting go of things was a secret of ownership unknown to youth.”
– Yukio Mishima -

broiled grapefruit

Grapefruits are one of my obsessions this month, from warm grapefruit sake made to broiled grapefruit for breakfast or dessert. I’m skeptical about warm fruit, but pears and grapefruits have taught me that fruit actually tastes great when warm. Fruit sugars caramelize while cooking, which makes the fruit much sweeter. I often associate grapefruit with a bitter or sour flavor. Broiled grapefruit removes the bitters and replaces it with a juicy + decadent sweetness.

broiled grapefruit

- Broiled Grapefruit -

broiled grapefruit

Turn your oven to broil. Halve a grapefruit across its center, as if you were going to eat the grapefruit with a spoon. Rub with brown a tsp of brown sugar + spices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

broiled grapefruit

Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby

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January is flying by, it’s probably the busiest month out of the year. On Saturday, I had to finishin a few errands downtown, so I made the trip into an adventure by jogging to the fabric store. I find that errands are better if I am fully present during the trip. Today was memorable because I sat around and talked to Howard, the owner of the shop, about the fabric industry in Boston, listened to how his shop has changed over the last forty years + overheard him talking to Marie from Galvin-ized hats about small business. He gave me tips on the best place to find pants that will last + helped me find a few embroidery needles for a project later this month. Most importantly, his stories reminded me to slow down.

The store is tucked away on a side street right outside of Chinatown where you catch the smell of rice flour + sugar on your way up the steps. It’s a large space in a brick building that is nestled between the new Millennium Tower and historic Chinatown, which is always bustling with life. There are rows of fabric that my novice eyes worked hard to tell apart from one another. I got lost in everything from practical corduroy to delicate chiffon. There are rows of fabric across the space, which must have been at least 1200 sq ft, and lining the walls. In the center of the store, there is a large table where you can set your fabric while you shop + Howard will help you find the right length.

I’m captivated by stories. I found myself drifting off into details about the store’s mortgage + his knowledge of the local artists who he knew by name. It’s rare, to find someone in Boston who actually knows Boston – I’m talking about the physical landscape, not just the best night clubs and bars, but who can hold the people and the places and the things together in their palm, like a small gem. Some days the world seems so amorphous, holed up in the office late into the day and then drifting out on the web at night. I can forget the lifeblood of the city is under my feet. I can forget the here and now of it all.

It’s difficult to talk to people about the past without asking for a heavy dose of nostalgia, which is why I loved talking to Howard. We talked about the past, present, and future of the shop as if it were a living organism. And it feels that way while you visit, as though the spirit of the place is very much alive.

I am entranced by materials lately, by the things that make up the day-to-day. I guess a fabric shop will do that to you – bring you back a few years, when everything wasn’t a one-click button purchase, but it all had a person + a story behind it. Cheers to stories, to sitting down on Sunday with good friends + laughing over the things that weigh on our hearts.

My mom slows down on the weekends with big meals, which on the east coast, are called brunch. She used to make us dutch babies with fresh fruit + I could never get enough of the eggy + light flavor. The cast iron skillet in this recipe gives the dough a rich + buttery finished that goes nicely with the tartness of the apple + confectioners sugar garnish.

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- Cinnamon Apple Dutch Baby -

vegan dutch baby

1 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup almond milk
3/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbs vegan butter or vegetable oil
1 honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
1 tbs brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°.

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vegan dutch baby

In a small bowl, whisk together apple sauce, milk, flour, vanilla, salt and 1/4 tsp cinnamon and set aside.

vegan dutch baby ingredients

Peel and thinly slice one honey crisp apple.

cast iron skillet vegan butter

In a cast iron skillet, melt 2 tbs of vegan butter. After the butter melts, add apples, brownsugar, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until apples are tender enough to easily pierce with a fork.

vegan dutch baby ingredients

Place the apple and sugar mixture into a small bowl. Clean your cast iron skillet and heat in the oven for 5-6 minutes.

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Remove the cast iron skillet from the oven and coat with butter. Add apples in the center of the skillet, followed by dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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Served with powdered sugar + maple syrup.

10 Ways to Celebrate the New Moon & City Life

january new moon

The cold finally lifted from Boston this week & everyone seems a little friendlier on the streets, crammed into the train, and sitting at their desks at work. People all look more relaxed, including myself. This winter thaw is the first welcome break & hopefully there are more to come. The N E W  M O O N is tomorrow! This year, I’m noticing the way time slips through your fingers like water. This is the first of six supermoons in 2015 & my intention is to celebrate them all, in hopes that they will help me feel the water just a little bit longer.

My friend just got back from Europe & I bumped into her on the train. I enjoyed listening to her talk about her trip to Germany & laughing together at the end of the workday. It’s a nice surprise to find old friends in unexpected places. It’s as though the universe is telling you, this is what you need today, friendship!

It’s easy, especially in the city, to get caught up with the work that is ahead, forgetting to be in the here & now of it all – and sometimes, the here & now of it all is just too overwhelming to look at.

This new moon is all about beginnings – the ones we unknowingly wake up with everyday. It’s for living in the moment with friends & appreciating the small wonders of the world – one moment at a time.

Take a bath. I don’t know when we all got the message that we were too old for baths, but they are the right thing to do – especially during the winter. I am starting off the new moon celebrations with a bath. Tonight, I’m going with a green tea bath to replenish and restore my skin. The winter is always tough on the hands and face, so I thought this would be the perfect way to refresh in spirit of the new moon.

Meditate, early. I am early to rise because I like quiet mornings before the city is alive and turning. Tomorrow morning I’m waking up early and starting the morning-eve of the new moon festivities with meditation. Inch by inch, minute by minute. Sitting because it’s where the whole world finally opens up to breathe.

Journal. I have a tense relationship with journaling, at best. I have periods where I am married to my journal and others where you couldn’t convince me to pick it up. Winter seems to be the time when I need my journal most, writing those things down that I just didn’t get to during the summer.

Drink a Smoothie. This is a standard lunch for me nowadays. The heavy solids of dinner seem to hold me over for most the morning, aside from a few cashews, and into the afternoon. Lunchtime smoothies are easy on the stomach & they help me digest the gifts of a sweet tooth. Tomorrow’s new moon lunch: surprise smoothie from the boo!

Sauna. I just discovered the luxury of a sauna! I had no clue how drastically this would change my winter experience. A dry wood sauna really helps to hit the refresh button. You can sweat out all those impurities built up in your system, but I like to make sure to moisturize after to prevent drying my skin out even more.

Plant some greenery. Kevin & I are slowly building our plant collection. I just moved some of them the other day because they were competing for sunlight. I am going to pick up or plant a new succulent tomorrow. We can always use more air filtration in our small apartment & they are thriving as is in the sunny windowsill – after all, what’s better than a new friend?

Read something unexpected. I’m currently waiting for Forbidden Colors to arrive in the mail & let’s face it – I’ll be waiting for a few more days. Any suggestions on reading something N E W tomorrow in honor of the N E W  M O O N ? If not, I’ll be reading some articles from the New Yorker because I just got my first subscription & I’m already behind.

Express gratitude. I have been focusing on cultivating gratitude lately, from the simple way the sun hits the cobblestones on my walk to work to a surprise dinner when I get home after the day. Tell somebody how much you appreciate them – like a positive little token for them to take on their journey.

Dedicate your time to others. This is one I’ve been struggling with the most over the past few months. With a busy schedule, I find it hard to carve out time for others, but tomorrow I’m determined to make it happen. I’m going to dedicate a few minutes of my day to others, whether that is listening or lending a hand.

Look at the Moon. Most importantly, don’t forget to look at the moon. It may be small or large, depending where you are in the world, but it’s the first of many new things to come. I hope this is the first of many beautiful moments for your year & beyond.

Spicy Lentil Soup

vegan lentil soup

I practice balancing cookbooks and utensils while tucked away in our small apartment in the city. I’ve never been a fan of overhead lighting, so I set the mood for myself with leftover bulbs from the holidays. Pour a glass of wine. Light incense. Unpack the modest drawer next to the oven that is a mix of wooden spoons + silverware washed in a rush before work. I’m happy to see a cutting board after a long day of uncertainty. I can make sense of these tools, the spoons and knives waiting for me to pick them up and perform a familiar dance. I know that whatever happens here, it’s all going to be O.K. There is no revenue tied to the lentil soup – no pretense about what this will be.

In the background, Cynthia Ozick reads In the Reign of Herad IV by Steven Millhauser. Her voice cracks and wheezes through each sentence and I can feel the miniature art pieces come to life, from fantastical creatures to ornate furnishings. The artist in the story, constructs smaller and smaller miniatures until they are only visible through a special lens. In truth, this is me time, when the whole world just melts away. This is when I can get lost in a world that is all about the small details. And I guess that’s always been cooking + baking for me, these tiny art pieces that get washed away only to remake them again.

I imagine myself piecing words (or recipes) together with similar grace, but I know it will take more than faith and optimism to construct this intricate of a building. I tell myself, rinse the lentils, roast the garlic, don’t think about the architecture of the story, peel the potatoes, chop the onions, small – like miniatures the smallest dollhouse. Focus on your hands.

I come to the kitchen with all the lightness + heaviness from the day, as if somewhere between these small cooking techniques lays the answer to the things my heart does not know what to do with. Nothing else seems to sort it all out, so why not here, between kitchen utensils + the neighbors’ voices filtering in from the streets. I make cornbread in my grammy’s cast iron skillet, calculating buttermilk substitutes and dreaming of her recipe drenched in butter and honey. Lately, I’m ballooning with memories that are sometimes my own and at times, borrowed from ones passed down like invisible furniture.

Memory is a delicate ingredient. I know not to get carried away or pine for things I cannot change. And still, some days, it pours with no ending. Nostalgia was built to hold both joy + grief, like loneliness.

Mince, roast, check the temperature of the oven. Simmer. And there it is, between all the messiness of the day and potato skins – the feeling that you get when your feet finally come back to the ground.

Stir. Whisk. Bake. Slice. Serve.

 -Spicy Lentil Soup -

vegan cornbread
vegan cornbread

1 cup tricolor lentils
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves roasted garlic*
1/2 ripe vine tomato, chopped
1 potato, cubed
2 tbs olive oil
4 cups water
5 tsp vegetable bouillon
1 tbs cumin
2-3 green onions, chopped

 roasted garlic

In a small pot, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add vegetable bouillon and stir until thoroughly dissolved + turn off heat. In a cast iron skillet, or the oven, roast 4 whole cloves of garlic for 3-5 minutes or until lightly brown.

potatoes for vegan lentil soup

chopping potatoes for vegan lentil soup

vegan lentil soup ingredients

In a medium pot, saute crushed roasted garlic, onions, and cumin for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes + potatoes and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes.

potatoes for vegan lentil soup

Add vegetable broth and 1 cup of lentils, simmer for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are soft.

green onions for vegan lentil soup

Top with avocado, sweet + smoky tofu, green onions, and lemon tahini dressing. Serve with warm cornbread, enjoy!

vegan lentil soup

Sweet + Smoky Tofu

vegan smoke paprika tofu

“We human beings sometimes steer off in a direction in which we hope to find something a little bit better.” – Yukio Mishima, Forbidden Colors

- Sweet + Smoky Tofu -

spicy tofu

At times, you just need something a little different. Breaded + fried tofu is easy to make; however, it can be difficult to come up with new ways to flavor your. The smoked paprika adds a sweet + spicy flavor to the crisp cornmeal, which gives way to a soft and warm center.

8 oz extra-firm tofu
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cornmeal

vegan smoky tofuIn a small bowl, mix together smoked paprika, salt, and cornmeal. Cube the tofu and roll with your hands. Fry in a wok or frying pan until crispy on the outside. Serve inside tacos or even on top of lentil soup.

spicy vegan tofu

 

Vegan Cornbread

vegan cornbread

I used to think that summer was the only time that I craved the mountains, but boy has my heart been singing about home these days. I am trying to take it one breath at a time. Kevin and I both have the same feeling about the cold – escape! We try to go for runs outside when we can + adventure out when possible, but the real bitter cold days leave us curled up on the couch with tea + cookie experiments.

The other night I could not get warm, so I made some spicy lentil soup. I guess I like to stay true to my carbohydrate roots, because I firmly don’t believe in soup with bread – or crackers – or something with W H E A T! I didn’t have a lot of time + my sister and I have been talking more about our great grandma’s southern cooking – everything drenched in grease + honey. She used to make us potato soup + cornbread in the cast iron skillet. So, with a pot full of soup I set to piecing together a cornbread recipe that had some semblance of home.

I know this recipe for quick bread is older than my great grandparents, but I always put the two together. There is no replacing buttermilk, let’s be honest – but can’t just isn’t in my vocabulary. I love when we go to dinner parties and somebody tosses me a new challenge – I bet you C A N ‘ T possibly make T H I S vegan! I’m usually up to the task + happy to deliver a rebuttal in the form of food.

Forego the desire to complicate things with this recipe, stick to the basics. I think I might try caramelized onions on the bottom of the pan next time, but for this round I stuck to the basics. B U T T E R Y and drenched with M A P L E   S Y R U P!

- Vegan Cornbread -

vegan cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegan butter
2 tbs maple syrup
2 cups almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350° + butter the cast iron skillet.

You can’t replace buttermilk, but you sure can try. In a small bowl, whisk together non-dairy milk like almond, soy, or cashew with 2.5 tsp of apple cider vinegar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add butter + maple syrup, along with milk mixture. Stir for 2-3 minutes and pour into greased cast iron skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Kitchen Tips: Natural Vegan Egg Substitutes

My first few years of veganism meant giving up my favorite baked goods, from morning pastries to decadent desserts. Most of the time I’m eating one-bowl salads + grains, but I’m all about dessert. Luckily, over the last few years I’ve learned enough from friends, cookbooks, and food bloggers that being vegan does not mean giving up the extra serving of cheesecake or morning cinnamon rolls. The holiday season had me baking more often, which meant I needed to find egg replacers of all kinds, from sweet potatoes to apple sauce. I have been on a quest to find vegan egg replacers that are made from my favorite fruits and vegetables. I’ve put together a short list of my top vegan egg replacers that are natural + wholesome, so that you can choose the right one for any recipe. A few weeks back I also put together a guide to gluten-free flour. I am going to update my blog every Monday for the next few weeks with Kitchen Tips, ranging from substitutions to my favorite chopping techniques that I’ve picked up along the way.

What’s the purpose of vegan egg replacers?

Strangely enough, eggs have the ability to add structure, leavening, richness, and flavor to your baked goods. I have a bad memory, so I created a mnemonic device to help me remember this when I am working with a recipe – Savoring Leftovers is Really Fun. That’s it. Hopefully I can plug this away in my brain with PEMDAS and the other devices I have floating around from when I was a kid.

Structure

Heating an egg causes the runny gooey mess to turn into a solid firm egg, especially the longer you cook it. Adding an egg to baked goods creates unique structures, from cookies to puff pastries. You may have noticed that breads, pastries, cakes, and pies all use an egg; however, they have different structures. This is caused my changing the ratio of eggs to other ingredients or only using the yolk or whites.

Best Replacement Eggs for Structure: Flax, Bananas, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Tofu

Leavening

You can find many different leavening agents, from baking powder to baking soda, at the market. A leavening agent is typically used in doughs and batters to create a light and soft texture – think the airiness of cake and cookies! The leavening agent reacts with the starch in flour, as well as the water, to create a unique and airy texture. An egg white is a great example of a leavening agent because it can produce foam that expands the structure during baking.

Best Replacement Eggs for Leavening: Flax, Chia, Apple Sauce, Tofu

Richness + Flavor 

Egg yolks also provide the fat content for non-vegan baked goods, which produces the richness in sweet breads and other desserts. By reproducing the richness found in eggs you no longer have to do without morning pancakes or your next birthday cake.

Best Replacement Eggs for Richness + Flavor: Sweet Potatoes, Avocado

Flax Seeds-01

Flax + Water
Flavor: Nutty
Use In: Breads, Pastries + Wholesome Breakfast Goods

I use this recipe almost every day because it is easy to get put together! It took me a long time to start stocking my cabinet with milled flax, but luckily I found a great brand that works well with almost any recipe. For one egg, I generally use 1 tbs of milled flax to 2.5-3 tbs of water. Mix the two together in a bowl + you can use them right away or let them sit for 15-20 min. to firm up. Flax is especially great for breads + pastries; however, if you want to create delicate + light desserts (i.e. white cakes + sugar cookies), then you might want to stray away from the nutty flavor of flax. This is also a great way to slip some extra nutrition into your diet. Flax seeds are most well-known for carrying Omega-3 essential fatty acids, or ‘good fats’, as well as antioxidants + fiber.

chia seeds-01

Chia Seeds
Flavor: Light + nutty
Use In: Breads, Muffins, Waffles

This works similarly to flax + water; however, chia seeds create a thicker texture than the former and require a bit more preparation time. For one replacement egg, place 1 tbs of chia seeds in 2.5-3 tbs of water and let sit for 25-30 min. Similar to flax seeds, chia seeds are best used with chocolates and hearty grains, from muffins to waffles. At this point, you’ve probably read 100 articles about the health benefits of chia seeds + made chia pudding in the morning until your heart’s content; however, if you haven’t – chia is super nutritious. This little seed is high in omega-3 healthy fats, fiber, protein + antioxidants. In fact, 8 tbs of chia seeds has more protein than an entire chicken breast at 30g…who knew?!

bananas-01

Bananas
Flavor: Rich + Creamy
Use In: Muffins, Breads, and Pancakes

This egg substitute comes packed with a strong flavor. At some point, you might get tired of your baked goods having a slight hint of banana, but this works perfectly with muffins and breads. You can easily whip this up my mashing 1/2 cup of banana to replace 1 egg. Bananas are your best friend and are high in vitamins, including potassium.

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Apple Sauce
Flavor: Sweet + Light
Use In: Cookies, Cakes, Muffins, and Breads

Apple sauce is an easy way to replace an egg if you are short on time. I have a fondness for the flavor of apple creeping into most my baked goods, from sugar cookies to white cakes. I made a cake the other day that had a hint of apple that was really delicious. You just 1/3 cup apple sauce to replace one egg. I go for the unsweetened organic apple sauce at the market, which contains high amounts of vitamin c and fiber.

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Pumpkin
Flavor: Sweet + Earthy
Use In: Muffins, Breads, Pastas, and Pastries

I always have an emergency can of organic pumpkin in my kitchen, which helps for any flash baking that I might do late at night. I’ve been known to make cookies before bed, no matter the time – I think that timelessness is a product of living in the city. Either way, pumpkin tastes great in baked goods as long as you don’t mind the earthy flavor of pumpkin. I know this year a lot of people were also fans of pumpkin cupcakes (including myself), so you can try this egg replacer in all sorts of baked goods. My recommendation is to start out with heartier + darker sweets, then work your way from there. You can use 1/3 cup of pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin to replace one egg, just make sure not to pick up pumpkin pie filling from the market! Pumpkins are rich in Vitamin A, some of those derived from carotenoids, fiber, and antioxidants found in beta carotene.

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Sweet Potatoes
Flavor: Sweet + Earthy
Use In: Brownies, Breads, Muffins

With my sweet tooth, I’ve never gotten over the sweet potato craze. I was happy to find that you can use sweet potatoes everything from brownies to muffins. This gives your baked goods a slightly earthy flavor; however, it can be good with the right cream cheese frosting. Simply use 1/4 pureed sweet potato to replace 1 egg. Sweet potatoes are chock full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and B-6 – so you can enjoy an extra helping of vitamins with your next pan of brownies.

Avocado
Flavor: Rich + Creamy
Use In: Scones, Brioche, Breads

I didn’t know eating avocados with a spoon was a Californian-thing until I moved out east. I can never get enough of avocados, which is probably the main reason why I have such difficulty with seasonal eating – trying more than ever this year! Regardless, any excuse to use avocado in new recipes is welcome. You can place 1/3 cup of mashed avocado in your baked goods for a rich and creamy flavor. The healthy fats of avocado provide the richness that is made possible by egg yolks.

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Tofu
Flavor: Light, Creamy, and Nutty
Use In: Cakes, Cookies, and Breads

Tofu has the least flavor compared to other egg substitutes, which makes it great for light cakes, cookies, and breads. As the most processed amongst this list, tofu is a great choice if you don’t want to alter the flavor profile of your sugar cookies or vanilla cake. Tofu is also very light, which means it works as a great substitute for egg whites. Use 1/4 cup pureed tofu to replace 1 egg. Tofu is a great source of more than just protein, including omega-3 fats and iron.

I’ll update this list as I do more testing in the kitchen. Drop me a line with your favorite vegan egg substitutes in the comment section below!

Swedish Coffee Bread

Vegan Swedish Coffee BreadDo you ever feel like your mind is a few steps ahead of your body? Sometimes, I get stuck thinking about the future me and not the one who is here right now, experiencing every moment. Ever since we got back from Vermont, I can feel the pace of the city more so than ever. Now that everyone has come back to work, projects are ramping up and it’s as though everything is a frenzy, though the cold has a way of slowing us all down. The hard winter is starting to hit New England, where the roads have all turned white from salt.

The thing I love most about winter…BOOKS! I am getting into that winter hibernation where all I want to at night is curl down with a blanket and read a book. I am waiting for a new fiction book to come in the mail, but I picked up a book to *hopefully* help me not be so socially awkward. Whenever somebody asks me about my blog at work, I get nervous and want to hide under my desk OR when I meet new people for the first time, I often don’t know what to say. Once you know me, I guess I’m a chatterbox, but before that I often find myself grasping for straws in conversations. Sometimes, all I can hear in my head during dinner parties is – I COOKED THE FOOD NOW WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?! CONVERSATION?!

All jokes aside, I need some help in the sociability department. I picked up this book “How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships” – and it’s totally awesome! Introverts out there – this is your salvation. It answers those nagging questions, like am I smiling too big? What do I say about my job? How do I avoid talking about the weather for the next twenty minutes? Overall, the book is helping me remember – we are all humans, right?

The book has fun sayings so you will remember the tips, like ‘Never the Naked Thank You’, which is pretty self-explanatory. When you want to say thanks, be specific! I used this a BUNCH this week and it was actually pretty fun. When I wanted to say thank you, I had to find a specific aspect of what somebody did to be thankful for + let’s just say it made me savor more moments from the week. From my coworkers presence + laughter to talking to my family on the phone. I find myself reciting some of the tips in my head on the way to work or in the middle of conversation. It’s nice to remember that I have the tools do things like this – to learn + change + grow any day that I put my energy into it.

- Swedish Coffee Bread -

vegan swedish coffee bread

I know it’s winter because all I want is BREAD! After muffins last weekend, I decided I wanted something flaky, light, and buttery as a sweet treat this morning. It’s hard as a vegan to make flaky + buttery breakfast treats, despite all the delicious vegetarian pastries out there. To be honest, I’ve never had Swedish Coffee bread before today. I guess I have picked up a danish here and there, but this is totally delicious. This bread is light, buttery, and full packed with flavor. I thought about using apple sauce as the egg binder, but I couldn’t let go of flax as my substitute eggs, I was going for success over experimentation today. I made two loaves, but I halved the recipe below. I aimed for simplicity and tradition with the first loaf, dividing the dough into thirds, braiding them into a circle, and brushing with butter. This loaf is the perfect balance of sweet + salty that I look for in sweet breads. It’s perfect with soup or with jams. With the remaining dough, I whipped together brown sugar, apples, almonds, and butter to make a rich filling + topped off with some leftover frosting I had in the fridge. Both recipes are perfect for that winter need to warm up with a cup of tea or coffee.

1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegan butter
1 package active yeast, dissolve in 1/4 cup warm water
2 cups* all purpose flour
1 flax egg (1 tbs flax + 2.5 tbs warm water)
1 tbs maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs vegan butter, melted
1/8 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbs organic raw sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 honey crisp apple, chopped
1/4 cup roasted unsalted almonds, chopped

2 tbs butter

melting butter for vegan swedish coffee bread

In a small saucepan, heat almond milk until steam rises from the surface. Make sure that you don’t bring the milk to boil because it will kill the yeast. Remove from heat, stir in vegan butter, sugar, and maple syrup until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Pour into a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix in the yeast + water mixture, as well as the flax egg.

mixing bowls for swedish coffee rolls

Add salt + cinnamon. Add 1 cup of flour, then gradually add in second cup of flour until dough forms a loose ball. Knead for 8-10 minutes.

vegan swedish coffee bread

The dough should remain soft, so make sure to slowly add the flour to keep the dough at the right consistency. If the dough looks like it is getting to tough or dry, don’t panic – just leave out some of the flour.

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Place the dough into a large oiled bowl (or butted) and let rise for 1 hour. In the meantime, melt 2 tbs of butter, chop the apples + almonds, and mix with the other ingredients to create the filling. Remember, this is only optional as you can just created the traditional braided coffee bread.

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Preheat the oven to 350.

For the braided coffee bread, divid the dough into three portions and roll out using your hands. Twist into a braid, by alternating the outside fold over the center. Place on parchment paper, curl into a complete circle and brush with vegan butter.

For the filled coffee bread, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is about 14-16″ long. Melt 2 tbs of butter and rub on surface. Add apple and almond mixture. Roll lengthwise and place on parchment paper. Curl into a circle and use scissors to cut slits in the log. Twist each section to the left and right, alternating along the way.

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Bake either roll for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden. For the apple + almond bread, serve with sweet vegan icing!

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Banana Nut Muffins w/ Cashews

Vegan Banana Muffins

In the winter, my life here in Boston revolves around our apartment. I don’t spend a lot of time outdoors because, let’s face it, what’s the point?! The temperature is too cold and I don’t know what winter activities there are in the city. Any suggestions are welcome! I usually end up wandering around the mall because it’s connected to my work and the tall glass ceilings simulate being outside, but I get to enjoy the heated indoors at the same time – it’s my own little win. Ice skating is on the map for the next coming weeks (per request of Kevin), but other than that all my winter outdoor activity ideas revolve around running, snowboarding, and nordic skiing – all of which (except running) can be difficult to navigate when you live in a city.

I did a little reorganizing in our apartment this week, potting some new plants and moving the old around to make space for the new – or just the unbelievably large aloe vera plant that is taking over our living room (p.s. delicious in smoothies!). I always tell people we live 5 minutes from the train, but it’s a lie that I’ve told myself so many times it feels true. Don’t know if anybody else has those floating around…small lies that you’ve told yourself so many times that they are true (at least according to you). My brother used to make up explanations for the way things were and my sister and I believed him. When we got older and started repeating some of his explanations, people usually laughed at us. I guess this is my idea of truth – the thing you know to hold weight in an ever-changing world. It makes me feel better in the morning when it’s cold + my eyes are barely open. Kevin reminds me, it’s an 8 minute walk, at least. Either way, it only takes me 5 minutes ;-).

You can see the Prudential Tower from our street + I do enjoy working my way down the cobblestone hill to make it to the train. Everything is Boston is urban + quaint all at the same time. I love to watch the smoke rising from Longwood Medical Center. I’ve always been mesmerized by smoke, clouds – anything that appears weightless + by the things that are hidden from sight.

I don’t think there is a stretch of road in Boston without a few oddball cobblestones popping up to trip you. BEWARE BOSTONIANS: ICE IS COMING! New England architecture is beautiful, but sometimes I miss the unorthodox buildings sprawling across California, from the tacky McMansions to the earthy adobe walls + ceramic tiles. Each part of the state has it’s only little twist on the western imagination – the iconic great exploration. There is something about living 3,000 miles away that also leaves you in a permanent state of nostalgia. I can’t describe my home town to anybody because there are only 1,000 people. It’s not notable for anything, except apples + wine. It’s beautiful though, every city-boyfriend I take is mesmerized by the forest – and let’s just say it’s way less then when I was younger.

In other news, over the last two weeks I’ve done two 18-mile runs, both outside! Way to go me! I’ve ended both my runs by throwing my arms in the air, like ‘VICTORY!’ Little do the neighbors know, I’m celebrating the small wins, including the ones where I’m brave enough to face the cold for over an hour (i.e. happy that I made it home + didn’t curl into a ball and cry down by the ocean when my fingers turned purple from the icy wind). For all my bravado, I’ve been given the victor’s award of a cold, so I’m trying to shake it off this week with running indoors – back to the safety + comfort of the heated gym.

The art of living one place for too long has always been difficult for me. I feel like my brain, body, and heart are typically moving in different directions all at once. The only thing helping me pull it together these days has been running + cooking (of course). I watched a video from Salomon, which was a short clip highlighting races from 2014, including my favorite ultramarathon runner, Kilian Jornet. I spent a few hours one night gleaning over interviews with him and his mother about running, mountains, and everything down to his diet as a kid.

Sometimes, I have a fascination with the most specific information, from childhood diets to personal diaries. My ultra binge left me with this quote, which is going up on the whiteboard tomorrow night:

“…in essence, isn’t this why we run? To find out whether we can overcome our fears, that the tape we smash when we cross the line isn’t the one the volunteers are holding, but the one set in that place inhabited by our dreams? Isn’t victory being able to test our bodies and minds to their limits and discover that they have led us to find ourselves anew and gradually to fulfill our dreams?”

-Kilian Jornet-

This morning, on my way to work I was dreaming about endless summer, mountains + falling asleep at the edge of the world.  I am starting to remember how to dream with my heart.

- Banana Cashew Muffins -

vegan banana muffins

2 tbs milled flaxseeed
5 tbs water
4 ripe bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flower
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cashews, chopped

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1/4 cup brown sugar
5 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
2 tbs coconut oil

Preheat oven to 375°.

vegan banana muffins

Use vegan butter to grease the muffin pan. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix water and milled flaxseed together, let stand for 5 minutes. Add banana, mash until relatively smooth. Add brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and mix thoroughly.

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Mix in vanilla + coconut oil. Add flour + cashews, stir until completely combined.

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cashews for vegan banana muffins

vegan banana muffins

In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, and coconut oil. You can use a fork, or a pastry cutter, to thoroughly mix the ingredients.

vegan banana muffin crumble

Fill the muffin tins 1/2-3/4 of the way full with muffin dough + sprinkle on crumb topping.

vegan banana muffins

Place in the oven for 17 min., or until you can remove a fork without residue. Serve with cashew milk + enjoy!

 vegan banana muffins