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.

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

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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

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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.

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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?!

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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 two cups of flour, gradually add in third cup of flour until dough forms a loose ball.

vegan swedish coffee bread

Knead the last cup of flour into the dough for 8-10 minutes. 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

-

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.

vegan banana muffins

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

vegan banana muffins

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

Champagne Cookies + Happy (Belated) New Year

Champagne Cookies

The other night, I went to a new running group in the city and it was one of those nights when my snack was freezing in my hand on the way to the run. The cold here, it’s more winter than I know what to do with. I dragged my sore legs and cold hands through the night to make it to the only spot in the city where you see other smiley faces in the winter, bundled up in reflective gear and running tights. We started off our run together strong and laughing about the cold and the holidays.

I’ve been cranking up the miles lately in preparation for the Hyannis Marathon in February. My legs are cranky and some days with the cold and the training it feels like I will never be able to eat enough to sustain me. On my slow jog home from my run, the Southwest Corridor was lit up with street lights and I made my way toward the Boston skyline. If you’ve never visited Boston, it’s a quiet city that loves to sleep. During the holidays, the students are gone and the roads are empty. I made a silly song on my way home to get me through the cold that involved clapping and dancing to a made-up tune. I’m sure everyone who passed me thought that I was a runner who had lost my mind, and maybe they’re right – maybe I’m no longer afraid of being that guy singing on his run on a Tuesday night.

After our trip to Vermont, I’ve been missing the mountains. This past year, I’ve been trying to reconcile the parts of me that love the quiet of the forest with the way I enjoy the convenience and beauty of the city. I have no answers about what or why or how, just endless questions. Around this time every year, I can feel the push and pull of all the decisions I’ve yet to make, the dreams left untied, and the weight of all that happened and is to come.

As a kid, I celebrated all my New Year Eve’s with my grandparents and cousins. We used to drink sparkling cider and welcome the New Year with black eyed peas and grapes. It seems fitting this year that I’m spending it with Kevin’s family. My family is back in California and I made sure to close my eyes at midnight and send them all the cheer from a New Year three hours before their own…I also obnoxiously stayed up ’till 3 am just to give them well wishes for 2015.

To the past year: thank you for teaching me how to dream again. I wish you all a beautiful New Year filled with love, light, and happiness. I just finished hanging the whiteboard up from our old place and I’m writing this on it for January –

Run in the dark, brave the cold, let yourself be lost.

Happy (Belated) New Year!

- Champagne Cookies -

 Champagne CookiesIf you have leftover champagne, or want to wow your guests next year with a full menu of champagne desserts, then try out this simple champagne cookie recipe. Kevin + I aren’t the biggest drinkers so I have ben trying to find a creative outlet for the leftover new year celebrations. This is the perfect sweet treat that is light on the palette.

2 cups champagne
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil

-

3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup champagne (reserved from your reduction)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat 375°.

In a medium saucepan, reduce 2 cups of champagne for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat + let cool before combining with other ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together flour + baking powder, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar + coconut oil until smooth.

Champagne Cookies

Add 1/2 cup champagne reduction + flour mixture until you create a dough with a soft consistency. If it’s difficult to roll the dough into a ball, then slowly adjust the flour 1 tbs at a time.
Champagne Cookies

Champagne Cookies

Use a tablespoon to form dough into a ball + roll in remaining sugar. Softly press the cookies with the back of the spoon or your finger. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden. While the cookies are baking, mix together powdered sugar, salt, and remaining champagne to create the frosting. Chop 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes to sprinkle on the frosting.

Coconut for Champagne Cookies

Cool for 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet + allow to cool completely before frosting. Dip the top of the cookies in frosting, let sit for 1-2 minutes + sprinkle with chopped coconut flakes. Serve with some bubbly + toast the new year!

Champagne Cookies

Champagne Cookies

Champagne Cookies

Pomegranate + Grapefruit Salad

Pomegranate Grapefruit Salad

On Christmas morning, I paired our heavy breakfast of cinnamon rolls, tofu scramble, rosemary potatoes + vegan biscuits with a simple, stripped down fruit salad. I have to say, after so many holiday cookies, I needed the light fruit with this meal. I made this as a palette cleanser for our dinner party + couldn’t help myself with reusing the recipe. Lately, it just sits in our fridge as a big snack bowl that I like to grab a few spoonfuls of fruit out of every now + again.

Afterall, winter is citrus season + I cannot get enough of these watery fruits. This recipe is light, simple + delicious. With Christmas under my belt + the New Year fast approaching….I’m ready to let goLet be. 

- Pomegranate + Grapefruit Salad -

Pomegranate + Grapefruit Salad

1 honey crisp apple, chopped
4 tangerines, peeled + chopped
1 grapefruit, peeled + chopped
20 red grapes, chopped
1 pomegranate, seeded
juice of one lemon

DSC_0432

In a large bowl, mix together ingredients. It’s important to use the lemon juice because it will prevent your apples from browning during the week, or while waiting for your guests to arrive.

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Last weekend, my friends and I were all joking that if any vegan recipe has brought us to tears, it’s vegan sugar cookies. Recreating non-dairy sugar cookies is a feat, to say the least. Last week I was busy testing recipes + perfecting the art of making arroz junto with my eyes closed – mantra of this week: recipe forthcoming. On Thursday night, I tried to make a fresh batch of vegan sugar cookies, but my brain was in too many places – split between the here and now of baking + the details of dinner parties – will the soup be ready on time, will I be able to make my own seitan, how will I bind the couscous and on and on.

At the end of my baking session, I pulled some kind of biscuit knock-off out of the oven. You know those moments where the smallest thing makes you feel like the whole world is crashing down around you? Well, maybe you don’t, but let’s just say it was all tears. I was in the kitchen with this sticky doughy mess and Kevin happily plucks one off the dish. He smiles, eats another + next thing I know the whole plate is gone. It’s funny, how other people can turn your failures into an afternoon snack – how there are people in our lives who love us for our mistakes, not despite them.

This month, I’m trying to love myself for my mistakes, not despite them – for the sugar cookies I can’t perfect, for falling asleep on my work even when I am trying to stay awake, for learning my camera step-by-step, picture-by-picture. I have trouble asking for help – sometimes I forget we are all in this soup together. Running in a group again reminds me how much a smile on a cold Wednesday night means along the Charles River. This isn’t that we-are-all-connected kind of feeling, but we’re in this together. Step by step, race by race, cookie by cookie. That we all need somebody in our lives who will tell us to try again + remind us that our failures don’t define our potential, and most importantly that it’s ok to ask for help. After all, there are so many hands who have got us here, to this moment, crying in the kitchen over sugar cookies, remembering the parts of ourselves that are still small + starting to grow.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus -

- Vegan Sugar Cookies –
a gift adapted from the Minimalist Baker

Vegan Sugar Cookies

 ½ cup vegan butter, softened
½ cup raw sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tbs tapioca flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp almond milk

½ cup vegan butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
splash of almond milk

Vegan Sugar Cookies

In a large bowl, cream ½ cup vegan butter. You can use a hand mixer or a knife + to chop the butter into small pieces and cream starting with a fork + slowly moving to a whisk as the butter softens. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, applesauce, and whisk for 2-3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, tapioca flour, salt, baking soda + baking powder. Gradually mix the dry ingredients the creamed vegan butter, add almond milk until dough is soft + bound together. Cover + refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside. Divide your dough into three + use a floured surface to roll out your dough until it is ¼” thick. I used mason jars to cut out round circles, but you could also use cookie cutters. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the frosting by creaming ½ cup vegan butter. Gradually add powdered sugar. Once the mixture becomes too thick to mix, add a splash of almond milk. If the consistency is too thick, then add more milk; however, if the consistency is too thin then continue to add powdered sugar.

Remove the cookies from the oven + allow to cool completely. One cookies are cooled, frost + enjoy!

Dinner Parties + Seitan w/ Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Almost every night, I get home before Kevin. I’m used to traveling four stops on the orange line to copley square and back. I’m not used to this apartment, yet – or the way I feel coming home to quiet. This year has been filled with noise. It seems that every year there is a new song – a new way my heart learns more about itself. I am not going to pretend that I know the reasons why the universe brings people into our lives, but I am grateful. I’m filled with gratitude for all the things that have brought me here, to this moment, living this life, loving in ways I never imagined possible.

As promised, we invited a few friends over to our apartment this weekend for a dinner party + dominoes. I’ve been dreaming of this moment for a year now. When I could invite my friends over, cook them food, and say thank you – for loving me on the days when I am most lost, for believing in my dreams even when I can’t see them. The dinner party, incredible. The people, wonderful. To be graced my so much beauty, intelligence, and charm was a gift.

I don’t know how to say thank you or I love you better than by offering a full belly. There is something about the holiday season this year that feels extra special. It might be the tree in the living room w/ ornaments borrowed from a friend or the bowl of holiday chocolate calling my name, but I am here this holiday, standing in wonder + amazement. To you and your loved ones, happy holidays – I hope they are filled with joy + amazement.

- Seitan w/ Vegan Mushroom Gravy -

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Nothing says happy holidays like a fresh seitan. Every holiday season I end up revisiting my quest to make homemade ‘imitation’ foods. This soft seitan has a tart and flavorful finish, which comes from the soy sauce + garlic. The shitake mushroom gravy tastes delicious over apple + chickpea couscous. I have to say, Kevin helped me out with the garlic. Yay for team work! The butternut squash hummus also creates a sweet + savory treat hidden at the bottom of the plate.

4 cups vital wheat gluten
4 cups boiling water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
9 cups of water
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs olive oil

-

8 oz shitake mushrooms
leftover water from boiling seitan
3 tbs vegan butter
3-5 tbs flour

Serves 10 

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

in a large pot, bring 9 cups of water to boil. In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil.

In  separate medium bowl, stir together vital wheat gluten and 2 cups of boiling water. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, which will improve the texture of the seitan. Pull + shape the dough into smaller pieces. Make sure that you have 2/3 of a pot leftover because the seitan will expand to roughly twice its size. Simmer for 1 hour.

Drain the seitan + keep the remaining liquid for your gravy. Thinly slice shitake mushrooms + saute in a cast iron skillet for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Turn the heat down to low + add the leftover liquid from the seitan.

In a small pot to melt 3 tbs of butter. Once the butter has melted, add 1 tbs flour. Slowly add additional flour, with each addition also add a small amount of the liquid from your cast iron skillet. Mix thoroughly for 3-5 minutes. Turn on low to keep warm while you saute the seitan in 2 tbs olive oil. Once golden brown, remove from heat. Serve on top of butternut squash + cashew hummus, chickpea apple couscous cakes w/ cheesy roasted broccoli. 

- Full Menu -

- Appetizers –
‘Olga’ Bread
Pistou, Butternut Squash + Cashew Hummus, Olive Tapenade

- Soup –
Parsnip + Green Grape Soup

- Main Course –
Seitan w/ Vegan Mushroom Gravy
Chickpea + Apple Couscous Cakes
Cheesy Roasted Broccoli

- Dessert –
Winter Citrus Fruit Salad
Vegan Sugar Cookies

Holiday Gift Guide for the New England Foodie

New England Holiday Gift Guide

I’m bad at planning for the holidays. I usually wake up the week of Christmas to find I haven’t done of my shopping or meal planning. This year, I am getting ahead, or at least trying. The Christmas tree and stockings are all hung up in our apartment. There is fudge cooling in the refrigerator and I’m finishing up the final touches on Saturday’s menu.

It’s a dinner party. The kind with beautiful friends and delicious treats. Yesterday, I stopped by Kitchenwares on Newbury to pick up the latest copy of Edible Boston. It’s beautiful. I’m definitely pulling out the recipe from Chef Michael Scelfo, of Alden & Harlow, for Charred Broccoli with Butternut Hummus and Smoked Cashew Crumble.

On Sunday night, Kevin and I went for a walk in the city, that’s right, I survived the 30° weather and smiled – it only took a couple of jackets! The Boston Common is lit up with Christmas lights, which stretch down Newbury Street and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. In Boston, the holiday season is picturesque, to say the least. We drank bubble tea in the park and took photographs of the lights. It’s nice to be outside, under the sky, as if every day were an adventure.

Adventure. I guess that’s the theme for next year. Here is my quick holiday gift guide for those with a wandering heart – for those who want to spend more time under the sky – for those who savor the moments that are less than planned.

Gift Guide Pt 1

Rooibos Roots & Roasted Mate | MEM Tea Imports

At times, I miss my café days. I used to wake up at 5 am and walk from Back Bay to the South End just to catch my opening barista shift. I saw a lot of the city that year and walked farther than I thought possible. After my 30 min. trudge through the snow, I would warm up with a cup of MEM’s rooibos roots or roasted mate. I’m a long time fan of Watertown-based MEM Tea Imports, which has been around since 199 sourcing, blending, and distributing the highest quality loose-leaf teas. The first of these is perfect if you love the small of sweet bergamot in the morning and the second is for those who enjoy a nutty finish to their tea.

Chocolate Mexicano Discs | Taza Chocolate

I was skeptical of Taza Chocolate when I first moved to New England. After relocating from California and experiencing what New Englanders called Mexican food – I wasn’t so sure how this whole Taza thing was going to work out. I have to say, what a pleasant surprise. Alex Whitmore’s time in Oaxaca is clearly the foundation for this stone ground + organic chocolate. In the spirit of purism – I have to recommend the cacao puro on days you want something simple + salted almond for those days when you have that sweet + salty craving.

Handmade Crock | Ogusky Ceramics

Latest find + I am totally in love. These colorful crocks are made by the passionate potter and fermenter, Jeremy Ogusky. You can easily find his resume online, where you will find a list of amazing local projects + collaborations, from creating cups for the delicious Voltage Coffee to creating fermenting crocks for Williams-Sonoma. Definitely on my list this year – and I got to meet him to talk fermenting kombucha and learn some tips on home sauerkraut and kimchi kitchen.

Glass Fridays | Diablo Glass School

This gem is a stone’s throw from our apartment. If you go down the giant hill and across the road, there is a brick building with some of the best art you will find in Boston. I have been dying to take a class at Diablo Glass School for sometime. When I was younger, I was all about beading and stained glass. Every time I go home there is a collection of old art projects + it’s about time I made something new. Glassblowing + a glass of wine, yes please!

Hazy Jane | Mystic Brewery

Ok, I’m trying to embrace winter everyone, but my taste buds sometimes are still stuck in June or July. This definitely happens with my beer preferences. A couple years ago I discovered Belgian beers and my life changed. You mean, beer doesn’t have to taste so bitter?! I’m all about the saisons, especially the summer saisons that are lightly hoppy and filled with floral notes. For the craft beer enthusiast, shatter expectations + go summer. This summer saison has a tart citrusy flavor mixed with mild American and Japanese hops.

Tweed Cap | Salmagundi

The winter in Massachusetts is hat season, I feel like I move between beanies and hats from December through April. The cold here is no joke, so keep your head warm. This traditional wool hat is everything I love about New England and more. The satin lining sits nicely against your head for a soft touch. Guys, you know you are going to get a 0 or 0A fade this season + the back of this hat is perfect for the freshly shaven.

Holiday Gift Guide Pt 2

Tote Bag | Magpie

I like little memories from the places that I’ve been. In a lot of my food styling I use silk from a gift my second mother gave to me after graduating, prayer beads from Thailand. We have crystals all around our apartment from an adventure up to Maine + I have sand from the beach in Lake Tahoe. I need the physical things to remember. I’m all about pairing memory + functionality, or at least I should be – and this give fits both purposes. This Somerville tote bag is perfect for carrying my veggies + remembering the time I spent cooking for an adorable couple in Davis Square.

Handcrafted + Personalized Cutting Boards | Boston Handyworks 

I have been crushing over these cutting boards for sometime now. Boston HandyWorks is totally awesome + I need to prioritize setting aside some money to get this for Kevin, so I can not-so-secretly enjoy it as well. The handcrafted cutting boards are part of Pine Street Inn’s social enterprise, which provides on-the-job training and transitional employment opportunities to individuals who have experienced homelessness and have been estranged from the workforce. A great cutting board + working to keep this program going sounds great to me!

Vegetable CSA | Allendale Farm

What is better than a CSA right in Chestnut Hill? You can easily buy into the vegetable CSA for the summer. This will be the gift that keeps giving, at least for a few months. Their locally grown produce will encourage you to eat seasonal fare + maybe even get together to try new recipes. The CSA helps to support locally grown food in and around the Boston area + provides people with fresh + high-quality fruits and vegetables throughout the summer.

Anfibious Boots | Sudo Shoes 

Because every foodie needs a good vegan boot for braving the winter farmer’s markets. These beautiful Italian boots are made with vibram soles and all vegan materials. You can easily get the boots in a high or low top, depending on your ferocity to kick through walls of snow. More importantly, vegan boots are a must for the winter. Waterproof and ready for the elements!

Linen Tablecloth | Winmill Fabrics

I’m going to take a leap here + say let’s fashion a linen tablecloth for somebody this holiday season. Last time I was here was in October when I was piecing together my homemade Gameboy Halloween outfit. The staff here is super helpful + one the right day, might talk to you about your work + stock options. Your friend will forever thank you for upgrading their dinner party with a linen handmade tablecloth.

Donation | The Food Project

I have been volunteering with the Food Project every year during harvest season, except – all truth told – I missed this year. The young people + adults that work across their urban and suburban farms are so knowledgeable and fun to spend time with. From the farm up in Beverly to the one right here in Dorchester, The Food Project works with youth around leadership development + the young ones teach me more about growing food than I ever thought imaginable.

Vegan Quesadillas w/ Sweet Potato & Kale

Vegan Quesadillas

 Lead with your heart.

Lead with the part of you that loves quiet. 

Lead with the part of you that isn’t afraid.

I leave Boston for a few minutes every time I make fresh tortillas. In middle school, we learned how to make them from scratch, in a skillet, with butter – the right way. Every time I smell fresh tortillas I think fall. I first learned to make them outside underneath the sky in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It wasn’t romantic just fourth grade, with all the awkward limbs and gelled hair. It was fourth grade and I can still smell the butter in the pan. Every time I taste tortillas I am comparing them to that moment, in the woods, when everything was made from magic.

I think of all the things I must know by smell, from eucalyptus in San Francisco to oak or pine up in the mountains. I think of all the links my brain has between memories and smell that I will never know until they happen.

This weekend, we finally picked up our Christmas tree and the apartment is screaming California. Kevin loves the smell when we come home and I keep thinking about how different it is for the both of us, him being from the city and me from the mountains.

For me, the pine tree is fresh air.

A year ago, Kevin and I decided to make our own holidays. We still celebrate all the others, but we added on our own. In December 2013, we were both burnt out, looking for a change. Last year, we started to teach ourselves new skills and believe in our hearts.

We named December 14th the Day of Empowerment. Barring all cheesy criticism, the name stuck. This was a thing.

A year later, here we are. Our apartment is starting to feel like home. We started the morning off with recipe planning for our dinner party next weekend. We sat on the couch and I pitched ideas to Kevin. He doesn’t really have to say anything and I already know his vote – savory, with more dipping sauce than actual food.

I’m staying here for the holiday season, in Boston, with a window full of cacti and a better chance of a snowy Christmas. I’m trying to stay more. To let people get to know the parts of me that always want to run. This Day of Empowerment, I’m challenging myself to face my fears. To remember every beautiful moment by smell.

To live, in the part of me that isn’t afraid.

- Vegan Sweet Potato Quesadillas – 

Vegan Quesadillas

5 oz kale
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp nutritional yeast

-

1 sweet potato
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped rosemary

1 tbs roasted cashews, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Peel & cube one large sweet potato. Once the water boils, add potato and simmer 8-10 min. until sweet potatoes are soft to pierce. Once they are soft, drain and mash with a fork or hand blender. Mix in salt, pepper, and rosemary.

While the sweet potatoes are simmering, wash and strip 5 oz kale onto a baking sheet. Massage with 1 tbs of olive oil and sprinkle with nutritional yeast & paprika. Bake in the oven for 6-7 min. until kale is lightly brown.

In a vegan tortilla, place sweet potatoes, kale, and roasted cashews. Garnish with chipotle salsa. Cook in a pan on each side for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.

Chipotle Salsa Recipe

Chipotle Salsa Recipe

I’m a salsa snob. It’s hard to admit it, but it’s true. Living in New England after California is hard on the salsa front. I prefer to make it at home. It’s fairly easy to throw together a few ingredients and you can be inspired by what is in your cabinet. A month ago, I picked up some chipotle peppers with big dreams and few plans. I found them as we were whipping up an early dinner the other night and decided to use them as a simple twist on our regular salsa recipe.

If you are anything like me, then salsa matters. I love a smoky flavor to pair with my quesadillas or nachos. It makes any meal for a little bit more woodsy, and this salsa is no exception. As the Spice Girls would say,

When your feelin’,
Sad and lone
We will take you,
Where you gotta go
Smilin’ and dancin’,
Everything is free
All you need is
positivity
Colours of the world
Spice up your life
Every boy and girl
Spice up your life
People of the world
Spice up your life

Aaahh!!!

- Chipotle Salsa – 

Chipotle Salsa Recipe

2 vine ripened tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 lemon, squeezed
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 tsp salt

Chop tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and add to blender. Add lemon and purée until smooth. Add chipotle peppers and salt, puree until smooth.

Chipotle Salsa Recipe

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

It’s days later and I am still pulling together all the lessons learned from cooking last week. I have a lot of new recipes in my hands now & I have been enjoying my time in the kitchen more so than ever. Maybe it’s the new cast iron skillet or maybe it’s the coming peace of winter that is starting to settle in, but I have been happy to explore new recipes.

You see, there is no outrunning the cold here. It kind of just seeps in, under doors, through windows and even the floorboards. We have had a little warm spell, but the skies have been gray. When there is no sun, the days can stretch into one another. It feels like one consistent day, when in fact whole days have passed.

This past weekend, the sun was up. Kevin and I went for a run through the city. I love to stare at the tall buildings and small brownstones cuddled up next to one another. I like things that don’t match. I like new adventures, but I forget to take risks. This week, I’m reminding myself to chase a dream, to run faster than I ever have before. 

- Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe -

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs milled flax
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil

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2 1/4 cups canned pumpking
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tbs sunflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbs tapioca starch
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the over to 425°. Mix the dry crust ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix with a whisk or an electric mixer until the dough forms into lumps. The dough should be moist, but not sticky. If the dough is too sticky, then work in extra flour.

On a non-stick floured surface, roll out dough until it is 1″-2″ wider than the pie dish. Place a 9″ pie dish on top of the dough and trim the edges. Roll the crust onto a 9″ pie dish, crimp the edges and bake for 5-7 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the filling ingredients. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden. Let the pie completely cool before serving.

Vegan Apple Pie Recipe

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I grew up in a town that’s known as Apple Hill. It’s where all the people from the valley go to pick apples in the fall and Christmas trees in the winter. It’s a tourist town. I can’t count the number of times I heard people describing Apple Hill as adorable, rustic or earthy. I guess, it’s all of those things & more. Every town has its own history & heartache. There is something about the tourist mindset that wants to be believe some corner of the world is the romantic perfection they have read about in novels. If you only look at the sweeping mountains, the highways lined with trees and the massive lakes then you will find the mountain paradise of your dreams. If you know the people, the dentist turned farmer, the guy on the side of the road selling strawberries or the person keeping the old mill running, then you know that life everywhere is messy.

Every fall, the people from the city go off to pick apples in towns just like the one where I grew up. I usually grit my teeth and go to the orchards with all the other city-dwellers. For me, it’s the apples that remind me of home. Whenever I smell an apple turnover, I have the same memory: driving with my dad down a road lined with trees to a farm stand to pick up the best turnovers and fritters. They don’t taste the same here. I guess that’s the thing you have to get used to when you move to a new place – that nothing will be the same.

I fell in love with running in the forest. My friends and I spent our summers running and swimming along the lakes. One summer, my friend Jill and I swam around the perimeter of a lake picking up the bottles and cans that people threw into the water. It was our own little environmental adventure. I still remember it, because in a strange way, it was one of the most fun days that I’ve had in the mountains. Running in the city is different. I can still hear my childhood coaches pushing me to not just to run, but to fall in love with running.

Everything has an origin story. Everyone has parts of themselves that are fossilized, waiting to be discovered. The domestic apple originated in Turkestan and the wild apple in Central Asia. Apple Hill was started by a small group of retirees turned ranches, whose children and grandchildren would later form the bedrock of the community. I wasn’t born a runner. I was trained to run by two unbelievably talented runners. I unpack the gift every day that I step out my door, down by the water or running through the forest.

Aren’t we all a mix of lies and origin stories,

beautifulmessy.

- Vegan Apple Pie -

Vegan Apple Pie

 3 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sunflower oil
10-12 tbs cold water

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3 honey crisp apples peeled & sliced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs apple butter*
1 1/2 tbs unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400° and place the rack on the lower portion of your oven. Start by preparing the pie filling. In a medium bowl, mix peeled and sliced apples, cinnamon, sea salt, sugar, apple butter and flour. I used apple butter from Boa Vista Orchards in California, per a care package from my mom. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add sunflower oil and combine until dough is crumbly. Add 8 tbs of cold water until you get a soft dough. Transfer to a floured surface and kneed into a ball. Divide in two, for the top and bottom crust. I left a little more for the bottom crust because I made simple strips for the top.

Roll out the bottom crust and flip gently roll it up to flip it into the 9.5″ pie pan. Roll out the remaining dough into a 10″ rectangle and slice into 1″-2″ strips. If you have any trouble, then you can always do some repairs one your dough is in the pan. Fill the pan with the pie filling, reserving the liquid. Cover with strips of dough. Pinch the edges of the pie crust and brush with oil or nondairy milk.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden brown. Let cool before serving, enjoy!

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

I love the train, maybe it’s because I grew up in a town with 1,000 people or the manifestation of my childhood obsession with Thomas the Train. Last night, we took the train downtown to see a movie. The weather was, in some strange way, all kinds of movie beautiful. After moving to the east coast, I realize that a lot of my childhood movies have traditional New England architecture. There are moments when the scenery looks like a film still.

Last night, snow was falling around the train platform as the lights from a train came speeding up the wall. Kevin and I were on our way to the movies. I love to go downtown at night to see the lights from the buildings stretching into the sky and hundreds of people moving around. We went to our favorite bubble tea café in Chinatown & walked around near the Opera House, which I have still yet to go to. Living in a city, there is a certain way parts of it will aways be unknown. It’s strange, how an old city can feel brand new – how there are always parts of ourselves we are just starting to know. 

Kevin and I are talking dreams these days. I guess, to be more concrete, we are talking plans. I am not the best planner. I lean toward spontaneity, probably for the sake of convenience. I am working on it this year. I am writing notes, keeping plans, and repeating mantras. For me, the key to planning is memory.

I woke up this morning and the community garden behind our apartment is covered in snow. I got up to make tea and pushed my way passed all the vegan thankful day leftovers to find the almond milk. It’s strange, how rituals remind me of how much has changed. Here I am, with the same damn tea kettle making my morning tea, balancing all the unknown and all the plans. In this moment, I feel like I am waiting at a train station.

- Vegan Cinnamon Roll Recipe -

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

1 packet of instant yeast
1 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil, or other non-dairy butter substitute
3 tbs vegan butter, or other non-dairy butter substitute
1 tbs
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

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1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
2 tbs non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lemon

Heat almond milk and sunflower oil in a pan until warm to touch & transfer to a large bowl. Make sure the mixture is not too warm and add yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir in 1 tbs sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. Gradually add the flour. Once the flour is thoroughly mixed, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes.

Coat your bowl with sunflower oil and let stand for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Once your dough rises to double its size, transfer to a lightly floured surface again and roll the dough into a long rectangle. Brush with 2 tbs of melted vegan butter (saving a bit to brush the top) and sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon. Tightly roll up the dough and place the seam facing down. Cut the dough into 1-2″ sections and place facing up into a greased pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Brush the top with remaining vegan butter.

To prepare the frosting, melt 1/2 cup vegan butter. Transfer to a large bowl and thoroughly mix in the other ingredients. Mix for 2-3 minutes or until creamy. The cream cheese frosting should be soft and smooth. Pour over the top of the cinnamon rolls & enjoy!

Couples Yoga

Couples Yoga

Pneumonia. The final diagnosis for Kevin’s bizarre sickness. We are both stubborn about going to the doctor, so it was one of those tea and positive thinking isn’t going to help any more kind of moments. This weekend, he finally started to feel better and we slowly put the house back together from a week of running around like mad. We had two Thanksgiving dinners this weekend & we are still sourcing a tofu duck for Thanksgiving day. If you have any tips out there about where to find tofu duck in Boston, then I am taking all the tips you can offer!

This morning, we took time off the regular schedule to play at home. To fall in love with the unexpected. We have spent the last few months going to yoga class & last night we met a couple who do yoga together. I guess we woke up inspired. That’s my favorite, the days where everything is unexpected, irregular. I guess it’s in the air these days…

I guess we are learning how to face our fears, one soaring pose at a time.

Bisoux.

Couples Yoga

Couples YogaCouples YogaCouples Yoga

Spiced Apple Walnut Muffins + Vegan Cookbook Giveaway

Vegan Apple-Walnut Muffins

Kevin is a cookie lover and I guess I am too. This week, I put a big glass jar next to the door and I think it tempts the both of us to grab a cookie every morning on our way out. I think we all need something sweet to put in our pocket as we head out the door in the morning, whether that’s a letter from a loved one, a kiss or a chocolate chip cookie. Something familiar to greet the day, which says – today, we’re gonna make it.

As a kid, I remember this time as the season for celebrations. In my family, there are seven different birthdays in November, an anniversary in early December, Christmas, and my sister’s birthday in January. Over the next three months there are celebrations of life, marriage, family and love. As a kid, my siblings and all of our cousins would stay with our grandparents for the holiday season. We would get into all kinds of trouble and spend most of our days running wild.

My grandma was a florist at the time. Somehow, she understood the secret part of holidays – from cuddling on the couch to laughing together. My great grandma used to dip chocolate in San Jose and as we got older she would teach us how to temper chocolate ourselves. She told us stories about moving across the country during the Great Depression from Oklahoma to California, working in the fields and teaching in a one room school house. She was the ultimate storyteller. The kind of person who can make you feel as though you are standing in the school house with her or smell the dry chalkboards and Oklahoma during harvest.

I’ve been waking up to all the gifts people have packed in my pockets to make it through this journey. My sister sent me pictures from our great grandparents estate sale. In one of the photos, you could see the shadow of her and my nephew standing in the field where we used to play as kids. My sister has always been my other half. If you look at my handwriting next to my sister’s they are almost identical, except her’s is admittedly better.

In our tiny apartment tucked away in the city, small gifts are abundant, from cards to cake pans. This morning, a small mirror that my friend picked up from me in Mexico fell out of my bag, I used the muffin pan Kevin bought for me for my birthday and I baked with all the creativity of my grandma and my great grandma. All these tiny gifts, playing their part in the same orchestra - we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it. 

- Spiced Apple-Walnut Muffins -

The Vegan Planet

In the spirit of small gifts and the holiday season, The Harvard Common Press sent me an amazing new vegan cookbook called Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. Luckily, they provided an extra copy to giveaway to one of you lucky folks. I am pretty amazed by this cookbook, with over 425 vegan recipes, international cuisine and some of basic cooking techniques for the novice to experienced vegan chef. I’m kind of in love with HCP right now, because they reached out to a few other Boston-based bloggers for giveaways. Check out this delicious  Rosemary-Blueberry Sauce from The Vegetarian Baker + a chance to get a copy of Herbavoracious, as well as this Apple Cranberry Pie w/ Orange Recipe + cookbook giveaway from Le Jus D’OrangeLeave a comment about your favorite vegan baked good or follow me on Instagram for a chance to get a free copy of The Vegan Planet! I will randomly choose one winner in the next week!

Vegan Apple Walnut Muffins1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and grated or 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3/4 cup almond milk or nondairy milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs sunflower oil
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the over to 400°F. Lightly oil a standard muffin pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the apple, nondairy milk, sugar, and oil and blend until smooth. Set aside.Chopped Apples

Vegan MuffinsVegan MuffinsIn a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Using a few swift strokes, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Fold in the walnuts, then transfer the batter to the prepared pan, filling the cups about two-thirds full.

Bake on the center oven rack until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

p.s. I also chose to leave off the all-spice and just go with cinnamon. If you aren’t a huge fan of holiday flavors I recommend this for a sweet and delicious cinnamon flavor!