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

-

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

DSC_0310

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

-

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

-

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! 

 

Coconut & Vanilla Vegan Birthday Cake

Vegan Birthday Cake

Step outside, breath.

Run hard enough to feel your legs bow.

Pour a tall cup of tea, simmer.

My great granddad passed away a few weeks ago in his nineties. A long and beautiful life. I wasn’t able to make it home for the funeral, but that is the hazard of living 3,000 miles away from your family. It’s strange, when people pass away it’s as though all your memories of them come flooding back at the same time. I don’t know how to not control the way growing up sometimes means growing apart. I don’t know how to write a love letter from all the former me’s that fell in love with my granddad.

I have one hundred vignettes in my head that aren’t time stamped. It’s as though the day I used to steal gum from his bureau is blended in with him taking me out to feed the goats, or planting posts or covering cherry trees with nets to stop the birds from eating all the fruit. It seems like just yesterday I was perched next to my grammy on the piano, listening to her sing hymns with the kind of perfection that only comes from growing up in the South.

My fingers didn’t take to the piano and I ended up in the city. There is so much of their land still in my blood. I keep trying to grow corn in my front yard or harvest herbs from my window. If I close my eyes tight enough, I can see a shed filled with canned food from the garden or my granddad in the field planting strawberries or gloating over his squash. There is that old saying that my grandparents used to quote, as well as my mom, Squash season is here, lock your doors. 

After I got the news, I had my own ceremony. Lit incense in my apartment & wrote as many memories as I could down in my journal. There is no boundary to mourning. No timeframe. Just because you can’t make a funeral doesn’t mean you can’t remember – sweat tea in my grammy’s kitchen, bluegrass on the patio & feeding the horses with my brother and sister.

My birthday rolled around while I was still in the midst of asking myself so many questions. One of the most important people in my life sent me this message about death on my birthday. She said, “It’s a gift to have deaths as we live – many actually. And each year we’re afforded a new death, that of our birth-year cycle. It’s a wonderful time to reflect, to realign our dreams and our actions, and to evaluate our dreams for their appropriateness and validity in juxtaposition with our ever-changing selves.” She also included this poem by A.E. Housman:

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

I guess this year is about embracing both the small and large deaths and all of their beauty. I have died a thousand times this year. If I look back over the past 12 months, I can barely recognize myself from last spring, let alone last fall. For my birthday, my mom sent me my grammy’s cast iron skillet. It’s sitting on the stovetop like it’s holding down a memory. This birthday, I am celebrating the gift of family - my mom’s late night phone calls, catching up with my dad as he drives home from work, my sister calling me as she plays with her kids & my brother as he plays video games & tells me about the latest from his little one, Jelly. 

My birthday was about celebrating how alive it feels to be stripped down – to bake with all the creativity that has been passed down to me through the generations.

To face death in all of its mystery. 

- Coconut & Vanilla Vegan Birthday Cake -

Vegan Birthday Cake

Cake
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup + 2 tbs organic sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tbs sunflower oil or other vegetable oil
1 tbs coconut extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbs tapioca flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

-

Frosting
1 1/2 cups Earth Balance, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk

Cake

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 9″ cake pans and then line with parchment paper. The grease beneath the parchment paper makes it easy to pull the cake out of the pan without altering the flavor.

In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk & apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add sugar, oil & coconut extract. Whisk together until the mixture becomes frothy. A key indicator that you have thoroughly whisked is when you start to see bubbles around the side of the batter.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Add the dry ingredients in the small bowl to the wet ingredients and whisk together until the batter is completely smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until you remove a toothpick and there is no residue.

Cool the cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pan and cool completely before frosting. I recommend cooking the cakes the night before and frosting it the next day, so you make sure the frosting will not melt.

Frosting

If you have an electric mixer, then beat the butter until light and creaming. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Once the butter is light & creamy, add the powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is thoroughly mixed. Add the vanilla extract and non-dairy milk, mix until completely smooth. If you don’t have an electric mixer, then you can cut the butter with a knife and mix it together using a fork until its smooth enough to beat with a whisk. Then apply the same process. Put the frosting in the refrigerator until it matches the thick consistency of frosting.

Assembly

Once the cake has completely cooled & your frosting is firm, put the first sheet on a cake stand or plate. Put a dollop of frosting and cover the top of the first layer. Add the second layer and cover the cake. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies & Coconut Cream

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Time feels like it is moving quicker than ever. This weekend, I had a big work project and didn’t get to my usual rest, relaxation, cooking & friend time. I launched straight into this week with half of a menu plan and my birthday fast approaching. I am turning 25 tomorrow – woo! I remember during my childhood wondering what it would like to be 20, 21, 24, 25 etc.

I wish I would have written down all my expectations & dreams for myself. I am writing them down now so when I am 35 I will have something to look back on. To remember when I did that! Remember how awesome 25 was & all the days after.

I was listening to the radio on Monday and the anchor posed the question, Would you ever travel back in time? People had different answers, everything from changing history to making amends with loved ones. I sat at my desk struggling over the question myself, would I travel back in time and I kept thinking of so many qualifiers, so many buts that I couldn’t wrap my head around a moment in time I would go back to.

A 13 year old who the host interviewed said something like, she wouldn’t go back in time to change her mistakes, because mistakes are how you gain experience. I don’t know what mistakes she has at 13, but it’s exactly what I kept mulling over in my head. There are moments I could change, but for what purpose? Mistakes will happen & have already happened. Mistakes are happening all around me, but I’m learning to just be with them. Listen to them a little longer.

My favorite quote from the episode about the question of time travel was this:

“It makes me realize that I have been time traveling. It’s just that I have been traveling into the future at 60 minutes per hour and maybe that’s how we fix the past.”

I don’t know if the past needs fixing, but I know that I’m traveling 60 minutes per hour. I know that when I am able to be with actual time and not living out fantasies in my head or thinking of things to come, time feels ok. Time feels just as it should be.

- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies -

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

1/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/4 almond milk or other nondairy milk
2/3 cup sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbs tapioca flour
2 tbs coconut cream

-

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour or all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 oz vegan chocolate chips (1/2 bag)
1/4 cup pistachios

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, oil, vanilla, milk, tapioca flour and coconut cream. Mix together for 2 minutes until the oil and sugars are thoroughly mixed. You will be able to identify when the mixture has finished because it will have a smooth caramel appearance.

Add the flour, sea salt & baking soda. Mix thoroughly together and add chocolate chips & pistachios. Cook for 6-8 minutes & let cool before removing from the pan.

Vegan Crêpe Recipe

Vegan Crepe Recipe

I met some of my best friends in California during French class. Everyone told me it was impractical to learn French & sometimes I couldn’t agree more. Other times, I’m appreciative of my inner francophile. I like to pick up one of my French books every now and then & go on new adventures.

You never know when you are going to meet a new friend – sitting in class, during jury duty, on the train or just browsing online. Do you ever feel like there are people whose company you enjoy and you never enough time to see them? I spend so much time adjusting my schedule these days and less time letting things just be.

I learned to make crêpes between grammar and syntax lessons, between je suis un anana & TV5monde. When I moved to Boston, I lived in the French house, which was built along the Charles River. I don’t think we made enough crêpes & we definitely didn’t speak enough French to be called the French house, but there was still some kind of magic that kept us all there. One Halloween, I decorated the whole maison like beauxbatons from Harry Potter. I spent days cutting out shapes for each floor & endless hours on fanfiction WIkipedia sites studying the various houses. It was a beauxbatons wonderland. I don’t know if everyone got the reference, but it made people smile & I got to live out my fantasy of living in Harry Potter land!

Anyway, I made the kind of friends in class & at la maison that feel like my other halves. There are so many people to fall in love with in this world. I wish I had an ultra-fast traveling machine that would allow me to go see them, but I don’t. Nobody ever mentioned that one of the hardest things about growing up is that people follow their own journeys. They come & they go like a river, like some mysterious tide.

I’m an avid daydreamer. It’s the little moments when I found myself flipping through the catalogue of people in my head who carry pieces of my heart. When I drive by the bazaar, all I can remember is the warm smell of pastries as Irina and I shopped for kinder eggs, or when I’m plating blackberries in the kitchen & all I can see is the American River and my friend Jill and I with stained red hands chomping away while sitting on rocks, or when I’m stuck in the office for too long and I catch a glimpse of Chloé and I paddling out for a wave at our old surf spot in Hilo. There are too many memories with beautiful people in my head. I am made from so many hearts that are not my own. This morning, the kitchen was a playground of memory. This morning I felt like I was cooking for friends – for adventures with all the beautiful people I have been blessed to meet along the way. 

- Vegan Crêpe Recipe -

Vegan Crêpe Recipe Batter

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups almond milk
1 tbs sunflower oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Once thoroughly mixed, addd the wet ingredients & mix until you get a smooth texture. You can experiment with different portions to get the perfect consistency, but you are looking for batter that looks like heavy whipping cream. Crêpe batter is generally thinner and lighter than other batters. The consistency of your batter may change depending on the type of alternative milk you use. For example, if you use rice milk in lieu of almond milk, then you might want to use less liquid or add more flour. Rice milk tends to be thinner, which will create a more water-like consistency.

Once the batter is thoroughly mixed, heat a crêpe pan or fry pan on low heat. Thoroughly coat the pan with vegan butter, which will give your crêpes a decadent and buttery taste. Once the batter dries on the top and you start to see small air pockets, flip the crêpe over. It generally takes 1-2 minutes for a crêpe to cook, so you don’t have to stand around for too long.

Fill your crêpe with fresh fruit or vegan mousse. I made a chocolate and vanilla vegan mousse from coconut cream. I will be posting it on the blog soon because it was super delicious (i.e. I had to stop myself from eating it all).

Vegan Tortillas

Vegan Tortilla Recipe

It’s November, which means it’s the start of missing family. Any other transplants out there who start to think of home during this time? In my family, November is a celebration. There are birthdays every week leading up to Christmas & into January. Growing up with so many birthdays at once was great because it meant that I got cake every week for a whole month!

Now that I’m older and 3,00 miles away, birthdays are a lot quieter. November is the first month of rain in New England., which means more of the train and less time on my bike. It means more nights indoors reading books & less out under the stars. Last night, I found myself debating over birthday cards in the bookstore. I’m usually the type to text, send an email or if I’m feeling especially gregarious maybe even make a phone call on birthdays. Of course, most my cards this year will  be late – because what else can you expect from the youngest in the family?

I don’t know about anybody else, but there is something I love about picking out birthday cards. I always opt for the beautiful cover that is blank inside. I’ve never been a big fan of standard messages like HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I always find some obscure cover that reminds me of the person or has a relevant message to symbolize where somebody is at in their life.

If I’ve ever written you a birthday card, then you know it’s usually a stream of consciousness that covers the main points as to why I love you & then some…This year, I’m trying to call people more by squeezing in time while walking to the train, washing dishing, cleaning the house or even biking home from the yoga studio.

I called my brother last night & I almost forgot what it was like to hear his voice. You think I would remember after sharing a room for almost 18 years. It’s his big 3-0. We talked about video games, recipes & babies – the big topic of the year. My birthday is coming up next week & I have no clue what I want to do – bake myself a decadent cake or just escape to the ocean for the day. I am just letting it all happen right now. I’m trying not to make plans. I’m trying to just let it unfold as everything always does.

- Vegan Tortillas -

Vegan Tortilla Recipe

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 warm water
3 tbs olive oil or vegan butter

In a large bowl, combine unbleached all purpose flour & sea salt. Once the two ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, add the remaining ingredients. If you are using vegan butter, make sure that the butter is soft before adding it to the dry ingredients.

Vegan Tortillas

Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. You can add additional flour or water if your batter is not too sticky or too dry & crumbly. Let rest for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into eight even portions and roll out into tortillas about 1/4 inch thick. You can store these in a container or eat them fresh & warm.

Vegan Almond Banana Scones

Vegan Almond Banana SconesI think I’ve been hardwired to operate as if I’m fighting secret battles. I’m losing out against the clock, the unforgiving train, red stop lights, the speed of my feet, the loose front door to our apartment, the man speaking loudly next to me when I’m trying to work, time zones, my bike that is in need of constant maintenance – the pile of things I cannot change.

I don’t believe that we have the power to change everything around us. After all, there is no getting past the red stop light when you are rushing in the morning or balancing time zones because your family and friends are spread out across the world. Sometimes you just need to pause at a red light. When it is 3 am in the morning and no other car is on the road, you can blow right through it. You throw caution to the wind. You say, enough with convention. Enough with all the rules. Enough with believing the rules hold any power.

It’s knowing how and when to translate a red light into a green light that is most important. After all, the wrong move could leave you with a ticket, sideswiped by a vehicle – another place you didn’t expect. I’m not so certain it’s always the worst thing – the unexpected. I’m just saying I don’t always know the how and when part of things, but I’m starting to get better.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming of pâtisseries & novels that I haven’t yet finished reading, literature courses where every book felt so significant & summers picking fresh fruit with my friends by the river. I wake up in a mall with marble floors the color of saturn – or at least the Saturn from my childhood space books. Lately, I wake up and nothing is a battle. Everything just swims in front of me with the same kind of magic that I only imagined could come from history books. The red stoplight. My rusty bike chain. A novel covered in dust under my bed. A montage of failed battles turned inspiration floating in my head.

 – Vegan Almond Banana Scones -

Vegan Almond Banana Scones

½ cup raw almonds
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
½ cup vegan butter
¾ cup mashed ripe banana
¼ cup almond milk, or other non-dairy milk substitute
½ tsp vanilla extract 

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1/8 tsp fine grain salt
1 tbs sunflower oil
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & spread almonds on a single layer. Toast the almonds about 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned & your kitchen is filled with a nutty fragrance. Chop the nuts into small pieces. I also left a couple of bigger pieces of almonds for an extra crunch!

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, 1/4 chopped nuts, baking powder, cinnamon & sea salt. Whisk together.

In a small bowl, use a pastry cutter or knife to cut the vegan butter down to small pieces. Once the vegan butter is broken down, mash with a fork and mix into the flour. In another small bowl, mix together banana, milk and vanilla extract.

Pour the banana mixture into the bowl with butter & flour. I started the mixing process with a wooden spoon and quickly moved onto using my hands to knead the last of the dough. Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, transfer to a flat & dry surface. Shape the dough into a circle that is about 1″ tall. Use a sharp knife to cut your dough into slices. I cut my dough into 8 slices, but you could cut them into 6 for larger scones.

Place the individual slices on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown. Prepare the glaze ingredients while your dough is baking. Mix together the ingredients & drizzle the glaze onto the scones once they have cooled. Top with extra toasted almonds & enjoy!

**This recipe was inspired by & adapted from Cookie + Kate‘s recipe for Vegan Banana Nut Scones**

 

Vegan Chorizo & Sautéed Vegetables Recipe

                        i will wade out
                                               till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
                        I will take the sun in my mouth
                        and leap into the ripe air
                                                                     Alive…

- E. E. Cummings -

- Vegan Chorizo & Sautéed Vegetables – 

Vegan Chorizo & Sauteed Vegetables

6 oz soy chorizo (1/2 a package)
1 tbs olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 yellow or orange sweet pepper

-

1 cup water
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cracked rainbow pepper
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

-

1 handful arugula
3 tbs seasoned couscous
1/2 honey crisp apple, chopped
6 grapes, halved
1 tbs cashews
1 tbs almonds
1 tbs tahini

This is a staple at our house. On Monday nights we always get home late from yoga and quickly put this together for a simple & fast dinner. Because let’s be honest, you don’t have every day to wait for the bread to rise.

In a small saucepan, bring one cup of water to boil. Once the water boils, turn the heat off & add couscous & spices. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes, or until all the water has absorbed.

In a large pan, heat olive oil on low. Once the oil heats up, add olive oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. If the garlic starts to brown before 2-3 minutes, then add onions and mix thoroughly. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add soy chorizo and mix thoroughly with vegetables. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the chorizo is soft and warm.

The side salad is simple to make. Simply mix together the ingredients & sprinkle with your favorite spices. I like to add spice & add a little extra paprika, sea salt & nutritional yeast.

Apple & Sour Cream Breakfast Couscous

Sweet Apple Couscous

My uncle once told me that a conversation is dead when it turns to the weather. Sometimes, I want to start conversations with a long monologue about the wind, bone chilling rain or some other weather-related hum. I’m trying to listen to the advice of my elders more these days, maybe because I’m getting up there myself or maybe because I’ve finally slowed down enough to hear their advice. Sometimes, I can hear myself drumming on about the weather with a stranger, while whispering to myself, “What the heck do I talk to this person about?”

Not many people know that I’m really shy. A lot of people know me from professional settings, where I can just flip a switch. It’s easy to be on when you have to be. I know that it’s easier to tell somebody something, rather than conversate with one another. If you put me in a room full of strangers, then I’m the first person to feel like I have nothing to say. I get really quiet. I can’t catch my breath. I prefer to hide next to the food table because I can investigate the cuisine and simultaneously run away from party goers. My other personal favorite is jamming away on the dance floor in a I’m-just-so-psyched-to-dance-I-can’t-talk kind of way.

I don’t know where I picked up this shy bug, but it’s a hard one to shake. I sometimes feel it in moments with strangers on the train. I guess in the end, we all have to overcome the fear of being found out. For what, I’m still not yet sure, but I know every time I get the shy bug it’s usually all the stuff I’m still working through. A giant puddle of things I am still sorting out in my own life. So instead of running into last week’s Nor’easter or the bizarre 70 degree weather in October, I have been trying to talk about things of substance.

Afterall, a conversation is an exchange. It’s a way to share thoughts, ideas, feelings and the nonverbal with one another. I have to remind myself of this, often. Conversation is different than argument, persuasion or lecture. It’s the soup & mud of communication. It is where we give & learn the most if we are brave enough to put our hearts on the line. One of my best friends from California called me the other day on her way to her boyfriend’s house just to catch up & then my dad called me the other night on his way home from work to tell me about his day & talk about my weekend plans. It’s these mundane check-ins that mean more to me than ever. I don’t check-in with my friends as often as I should & definitely don’t pick up the phone to call anybody during moments I most need to chat.

This fall, I guess it’s time to teach myself how to conversate again, how to stay up late and listen, how to cry for tragedies that are not my own and celebrate the small day-to-day wins of those around me. No weather talk tonight, just me and a baking loaf of bread in the oven. No lamenting the last couple days of rain, just putting my heart on the line. Telling stories that I had forgotten were my own.

- Apple & Sour Cream Breakfast Couscous -

Sour Cream & Apple Couscous

1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cup almond milk or cashew milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

-

1 block tofu
4-5 tbs lemon
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

-

1/2 apple, diced

Heat up almond milk in a small saucepan on low heat. Once the milk starts to simmer, add couscous, cinnamon & vanilla. Turn off heat & cover for 10-15 minutes. While your couscous is absorbing the sweet almond milk you can make the vegan sour cream. In a food processor or blender, mix together tofu, lemon, almond milk & apple cider vinegar. If you are having trouble getting a smooth consistency, then slowly add additional almond milk 1 tbs at a time.

Once your couscous has completely absorbed the almond milk, then garnish your couscous with sour cream & diced apple. This breakfast bowl has the perfect tangy taste. I was out of nuts for the week, but you can also add cashews, almonds, pistachios etc. I also added a sprinkle of brown sugar and a slice of vegan butter to the mix.

Best Gluten Free Flour Substitutes

Gluten-Free Flours

Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen more & more gluten-free recipes on the menus at restaurants, bars & cafes throughout. The popularity in gluten-free recipes is great for diversifying our diet & helping out those living with celiacs. I use a lot of gluten-free flour in my baking because I don’t want the heaviness of whole wheats or the processed taste of unbleached flour all of the time. I like to mix it up by making sweet & savory treats with alternative flours, like brown rice flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour, quinoa flour, masarepa and plantain flour. These are just a few ‘alternative flours’ that sit in my kitchen during the week and help me during every meal. I like to try to substitute alternative flours into my recipes to see how it changes the texture or taste of my baked goods. Lately, I find myself pouring a bit of plantain flour in recipes that don’t call for it, just for a little extra flavor.

I know deciding on the right alternative flour can seem overwhelming. Sometimes when you go into the market there are just too many options & if you are new to the game of alternative flours you can get loss in endless labels & suggestions. Here are a few tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way for working with alternative flours in gluten-free and vegan baking.

Almond Flour

You might be familiar with sprinkling almonds on your salad, toasting them in the oven or eating them as a snack on the go, but almonds are also a really great substitute for flour when you are baking. We are most familiar with eating sweet almonds, which have a hard crunch on the outside, as well as an earthy & sweet finish. They are generally mild in flavor and give your baked goods or salads a nutty finish. Almond flour, which is also known as almond meal, is made by grinding up whole, raw & unblanched almonds. Almond flour is not only reach in protein, but is also gluten-free and contains a nutritionally significant value of Vitamin E.

You can use almond flour when you are making cakes, cookies, breads & even crackers. It’s important to remember that you will have a mildly nutty finish to any baked good you make with almond flour. I’m pretty in love with these Gluten-Free Muffins from The Vanilla Bean Blog – they look so delicious, not to mention the awesome photography.

Almond flour sells in most markets for $12.99; however, you can make it much more affordably at home if you have a food processor, blender or Vitamix. The success of your almond flour depends on your ability to process the almonds into a fine enough grain to use in baked goods. The more powerful the food processor or blender then the finer the your almond flour. Remember, don’t add oil or crush your almonds for too long or you might just end up with almond butter.

Tapioca Flour

To be honest, I can’t get enough of tapioca. When I lived with my best friend on the Big Island, I think I made enough purple sweet potato tapioca pudding to feed the whole town, at least 3 times a week. I love tapioca. Tapioca flour, which is also known as tapioca starch, is a great replacement for wheat flour. It is finely ground powder that gives baked goods a crispy & chewy texture.

I use tapioca flour in almost all of my vegan cookie recipes to create a gooey outside & a crispy inside. A lot of gluten-free flours contain flavors that can impact the taste of your recipe; however, tapioca flour is tasteless, which means you don’t have to worry about it interfering with other flavors. I use tapioca flour in vegan cookies & love this recipe for Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies from The Sprouted Kitchen. You can easily replace the butter with chilled sunflower oil to replace the fat.

Tapioca flour sells in the regular market for around $13.99. There are some recipes out there for grinding tapioca pearls down into a fine powder, but I honestly go straight to the market for this one. You can get tapioca flour at tropical food stores for as cheap as $3.79, which means that you can save money for other expensive treats. If you live in Boston, then you can go to Tropical Foods/El Platanero to pick up your tapioca flour & some other great food that is hard to find elsewhere in the city.

Brown Rice Flour

A side of brown rice and vegetables is delicious, but you might not have thought that you can turn your side into flour! Brown rice has a mild and nutty flavor, which is perfect when creating baked goods. The main difference between brown rice and white rice is that the former only has the husk, or the outermost layer removed, whereas the ladder is also missing its bran layer and germ. Since brown rice retains the bran layer and germ, then it also carries added nutritional benefits, like manganese, iron and fiber. Grinding brown rice into a light flour creates a healthy alternative to wheat flour.

If you would like a nutty-flavored tofu, then you can coat your tofu in brown rice flour & rosemary or use it to thicken sauce. I also like to use brown rice flour in smooth and nutty baked goods. I used brown rice flour in these Maple Walnut Bars, which was a favorite recipe of one of my old roommate’s. I one time woke up to the whole pan gone, which actually made me really happy. It’s always nice to create something delicious for someone. I also love this recipe from have cake, will travel for Gluten Free Fudge Brownies and cannot get enough of the other recipes on this blog.

Brown rice flour goes for about $5.39 at the market, which isn’t too bad. I am a big fan of purchasing brown rice flour; however, there are also easy ways to make it at home. If you experience symptoms from celiacs, then you might also find it important to make things at home where you know there won’t be any contamination. If you don’t have a grain mill, then you can use a food processor to break down the brown rice.

Chickpea Flour

I love to roast chickpeas in olive oil & smoked paprika or cayenne, but I also love to use them in my baked goods. As you probably know from the smooth texture of hummus, chickpeas are creamy and rich legumes that are high in protein. Chickpea flour can add additional nutrition to your baked goods and it also gives a rich flavor to your foods. This type of flour is not only good for people are following a celiac diet, but it is also a good source of iron, which is an important nutrient for vegans.

Chickpea flour is perfect for savory, rather than sweet, baked goods. You can use chickpea flour in crusts & breads to create a rich flavor. I am going to surpise the bf & slip this gem, Chickpea Flour Flatbread W/ New Potatoes + Fresh Basil, from Dolly | And | Oatmeal on the menu for this week. I am anxious try to it out topped with cranberries, roasted chickpeas & fresh basil.

I’m all about getting this one from the store at $2.69 per lb. You can always purchase dried chickpeas and process them in your food processor; however, this one is an affordable gluten-free option. This type of flour not only helps you create delicious baked goods, but it will also gives you more opportunities to work nutrients into your diet.

Quinoa Flour

Quinoa is a great addition to salads, as well as a delicious breakfast grain cooked with almond or cashew milk. You can also transform quinoa into a highly nutritious flour. Over the last few years, quinoa has soared in popularity and you can now find quinoa in almost any store, bulk or packaged. This super grain has been hailed for its powerful health benefits for those following gluten-free and vegan diets because it carries both complete proteins & essential amino acids.

I’m a complete quinoa flour novice because I have been trying to find a simple recipe for ages. I’m all about this vegetarian (easily made vegan) recipe from Eat This Poem for Quinoa-Flour Steaks, which is from the cookbook The Homemade Flour Cookbook.

A 22 oz. bag of quinoa flour generally goes for $16.99, so this is one of the more expensive alternative flours to add to your home pantry. This is a great place to cut costs & bring your flour making to your kitchen. With a food processor you can easily grind dried & toasted quinoa into flour.

Masarepa

One summer I moved back to Boston early from working on a farm up in New Mexico and I had a cafe job where I was just too tired to cook most days after work. That summer, I think masarepa saved my life. Make sure not to confuse masarepa with masa harina, which is used to make things like tortillas & tamales. Masarepa is unique because it is corn that has been precooked & soaked so that you can easily mix it with water & salt to make arepas. The flour comes in both yellow & white. There is always debate about which one tastes best, but I usually go with yellow if I want a rich corn flavor & white for a fluffier texture and more subdued taste.

I always have a stock of masarepa in my kitchen. It’s easy to put arepas together with avocado & tomatoes after a long day at work. I know it’s kind of bizarre, but I also had a stint of PB&J arepas that ere eerily delicious. In all seriousness, this is a simple recipes for arepas from Adriana Lopez of pica pica. I also like to add nutritional yeast to the batter, which gives your arepas a rich & cheesy flavor.

Masarepa is a very inexpensive alternative to white flour products. This type of corn flour can be found at the market for $3.69. This is not a flour you will most likely use in other products; however, you can use it to make vegetable empanadas.

Plantain Flour

This might be my personal favorite. I discovered plantain flower two or three years ago when I was picking up tapioca flour at Tropical Foods/El Platanero. I couldn’t wait to substitute wheat flour with this gluten-free flour. I love to make sweet & green plantains, so the chance of working this into baked goods got me really excited.

I like to substitute plantain flour with wheat flour in cakes & cookies. I typically use a one-to-one ratio; however, plantain flour is very fine compares to wheat flour. The texture of plantain flour can give your baked goods an extra gooey texture with a crunchy exterior. I have a new cookie recipe with plantain flour I will be popping up in a few days.

This is another ingredient that you should probably just head to the closest caribbean food store. I have never seen plantain flour the mainstream markets. I can’t find the exact one online that I typically buy to link for you all, but I usually pay somewhere in between $2-$3. I really like to use this both to get that gooey center on my cookies and to add the sweet & delicious plantain flavor.

There are other flours I have heard about out there, but this is a handful of the ones I have been fortunate to try. I am on a new adventure to find the best alternative flours for making sweet breads and patisserie sweets. I have been drooling over some french pastries, as well as Chinese pastries, that I am dying to try out! Off to the kitchen, let’s talk soon <3

 

 

Flax & Rolled Oat Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Last night, I stayed up listening to Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery talk about her life & career. It wasn’t the glamor of listening to a chef talk about her work that captivated me, but the way she told her story. Straight, to the point. Matter of fact. She didn’t just gloss over the number of years it took her to start Flour or the difficulties she experienced along the way. She talked about working 6 days a week 4 am – midnight in New York & sleeping in her office during the early days of Flour. I’m not saying that I’m trying to open a bakery, but I’m saying that I needed someone to tell me that it’s ok to work as hard as you would like for the things you want. I needed to hear that sometimes you’re going to be the only person who thinks that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world.

I’m not afraid of hard work. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. I know it sounds strange, but I actually love the feeling of working on a project for a year or years, pouring myself into something I believe in. I’m revisiting an old book that I’ve been working on for since I was 18. In the book, one of the characters is consumed by her passion. It’s what keeps her awake at night. It’s why she finds herself staring off in the distance thinking about her next step. I’m not talking about passion in a blind feeling kind of way, but calculated precision.

Some days, I get caught up in the idea of what I should be doing rather than what I want to do. For the past year, I have been burying myself in books, staying up late reading and writing passages that are only meant to stay in my notebook. I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who doesn’t think I’ve lost my mind when some weeks, I decide I want to work on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. One time, somebody told me that I was missing out on my 20’s. I’m still not sure what that means, but I know that lately I’ve been feeling more like I’m in the right place than ever before.

This morning, I raced the sun out of bed because I was excited to get my day started. Before going to work, I went for a run, stopped at the market & made breakfast & a loaf of bread. Surprisingly, I didn’t get to all the things I wanted to, but that isn’t the point. Yes, I believe in slowing down. Yes, I believe in savoring the small moments with my favorite people, but I also believe in putting it all on the line & finding the moments when everything just fades away.

I have been listening to the New Yorker fiction podcast on my way home from work these days. It seems like it’s the perfect traveling companion when I’m on my bike (except for the days I want to belt it out with my favorite pop divas or etc.). Today, I listened to Joyce Carol Oates read Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl. In her conversation after her reading, she left me with this gem I have been chewing on over a pot of tea. Happy Friday <3

“Most people in the world are quite mute. Many people have just died voiceless. People were not education & they all had stories, some of them quite painful. If one does not tell their stories then they’re completely lost, just lost.”

-Flax & Rolled Oat Whole Wheat Bread-

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs agave syrup or honey
3/4 tbs instant yeast
1.5 cups warm water
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp flax seed
1 tsp hemp seed

Combine warm water & yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 5-7 minutes, or until the contents are foamy. Stir in honey, salt & flour. Lift the dough out of the bowl and lightly grease the inside. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover & let rise until the dough has doubled in size. This should take about 1 hour in a warm location.

After your dough has doubled in size, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Sprinkle additional flour on top of the dough & knead rolled oats, flax seeds & hemp seeds into your mixture. Continue to gently knead your dough until the oats are fully mixed in.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rest for another 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°. Once the oven is fully heated, place a metal pan with 1 1/2 cups of warm water on the lowest rack. Create three slits on the top of your dough using a knife. Place your lightly greased baking sheet with your whole wheat dough on a rack above the water. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Rose Hip Tea Pancakes

Rose Hip Pancakes

A few years ago I started writing on notecards and hanging them over my bed. This all started when I inherited a dorm room in college that was littered with messages left behind from whoever lived there before me. I can still remember my old bed with one window that looked out across the Charles River and the other into Elie Wiesel’s office. I used to watch him get out of his car on cold winter mornings and walk up the winding staircase to his office. The first notecard, “Own nothing, give everything.”

I don’t have any notecards over my bed right now, but I can still see them in my head. At my last apartment, I posted notecards around my mirror, Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek & find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi – 

I think there is some sort of cosmic energy following me around that I don’t understand. At my new apartment, the old inhabitants left behind a meditating yogi sticker in the window & a glass buddha statue that makes colorful little rainbows on the wall when the light hits it just right. I can’t make sense of all these tiny synchronicities.

At work, the only sticky notes I have are excel keyboard shortcuts so I can move quickly through rows & columns. I can hear myself, don’t take your hands off the keyboard, move quicker, write faster. This morning, it’s Thursday and I woke up with big dreams about recipes & writing & travel. I’m trying to bring my head down from the clouds today so I can focus on the day-to-day, the mundane. Organize your keywords. Analyze the data. Think clearly. Sit up straight. Listen.

On my bike ride home, I race as fast as possible under the bridge just to feel the wind on my face. Sometimes, I’m the most reckless cyclist & I don’t care who knows it. After all the sitting & politicking all I want is the open road, weaving between cars testing my strength. Some days,  I go for a run & I have no clue when I’m going to come back. I show up 10 miles later on the doorstep soaked in sweat feeling alive.

Today, I need that old notecard more than ever. I need a hundred notecards from all my favorite people. I need to listen to my heart a little more, beating even when I’m not awake enough to listen.

- Rose Hip Tea Pancakes -

Rose Hip Pancakes

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbs raw sugar
1 tsp sea salt

-

1 cup almond milk or cashew milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup rose hip tea
3 tbs sunflower oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together whole wheat flour, baking powder, raw sugar and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Use a spoon or the backend of your measuring cup to create a well in the center of the mixture.

Mix together almond milk, apple cider vinegar and sunflower oil. Add in rose hip tea & vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the well you made in the dry ingredients. Use a fork to slowly mix together the wet and dry ingredients.

Heat a pan with sunflower oil. Once the pan is heated, add 3 generous tbs of pancakes and move the spoon in a circular motion to make the perfect pancake shape. Heat for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom has turned golden brown.

Pistachio & Cashew Chocolate Cake Recipe

pistachio and cashew chocolate cakeI’ve been needing my own battle cry of sorts these days. It seems like I’m great at making plans in my head & not the best at making them happen. I have ideas for my blog, side business or activities with my friends that always just slip through my hands. Time feels more like sand than ever. I’ve been running long distances & spending more time on my mat. In yoga last night, my chest finally touched down in anahatasana. I got a little too excited and held the pose until I felt like moving. I think the rest of the class moved through at least three poses before I got up from my mat.

I just needed to be there. In it. I don’t know if anybody else experiences yoga this way, but I’ve been getting more flexible the more I let go of my mind. The more I concentrate on the present moment and stop worrying about the next pose or the proper alignment, everything seems to just melt away. Running, yoga, writing, baking, cooking all have the same thing in common – they quiet my brain. I feel awake, like everything is meant to be just the way it is.

A lot of people in my life have been going through big changes, including myself. New careers, businesses, children, marriage or evolutions in how they see themselves. It’s hard when everything is in flux to feel rooted in something true, even if those changes are positive. Five months ago I decided to take on a new adventure, teach myself a new skill – and I did it. It worked. I left the crummy place I was at and finally started to do something I enjoy.

I still find myself ballooning with doubt on the days I expect to be most confident. I find myself awkward, unsure & stumbling more days than I find myself on even feet. The difference now is that I’m not running away from these feelings as often as I used to. I’m trying to meet them head on. To make friends with my fears rather than hide in a corner and stare in the opposite direction.

The other night I was at a dance party and all my limbs felt heavy. I can’t be the only person who’s terrified of dancing in public and then can’t control themselves when they’re alone in their underwear. It doesn’t make any sense. Luckily, out of nowhere my boyfriend whips out some combination of Michael Jackson & Posh Spice, which reminds me that my legs and arms and chest and stomach and feet are all meant to move. So I found myself laughing hysterically on the dance floor giving all whatever kind of forest-child-moved-city realness I can. I had fun. I wasn’t afraid of the people staring at me or whether my body looked ridiculous dancing my life away to Single Ladies. It was a moment where everything was ok. I knew that I was going to be ok.

Tonight, I had two conversations with loved ones about their dreams. They’re unsure of the next steps. In so many words, they said that some days it all feels like just too much. And it does. I know that some days I’m split between so many things, I feel like I spend more energy just trying to put my head on straight than anything else, but I’m not allowing myself to be negative right now. I don’t have time to stay in bed with old doubt. I hope that talking helped them see their own beauty. That they can and will make their dreams come to life. I hope they know if they can just be with what is for a little longer they will find in themselves everything they are looking for. I will be here holding their hand through it as much as they’re holding mine. We’re in it together, holding this pose just as long as we can. Not worrying about our next move or the ten things we didn’t get done even though we wanted to. Trusting that with enough determination & love, we will get to where we need to go.

- Pistachio & Cashew Chocolate Cake – 

Chocolate Vegan Cake

canola spray
1/4 cup pistachios, ground
1/4 cup cashews, ground
1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour or white flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 cup honey, agave or maple syrup
1/2 cup vegan sour cream

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla

1/8 cup pistachios, chopped
1/8 cup cashews, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray an 8″ x 8″ baking pan with canola oil & set aside. Grind the pistachios and almonds in a food processor or blender until they have the consistency of almond meal. In a medium bowl, mix the ground pistachios & cashews, flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, blend canola oil, honey and sour cream together until it is creamy. Add water and continue to mix until completely combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients one cup at a time, mixing slowly. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until you can remove a clean toothpick from the cake. While the cake is baking, blend all the frosting ingredients in a food processor or a blender. Place the frosting in the freezer while the cake is baking to make it more firm.

If you do not have vegan sour cream, then you can combine 16 oz firm tofu, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 tbs olive oil, 4 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp sugar or honey and 1 tsp salt in a blender. Blend up and use in this recipe & keep the extra for vegan nachos or quesadillas.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes. If you are having difficulty removing the cake, then you can always run a knife along the edges. Fortunately, if you grease the pan then the cake should slide out of the baking pan without a problem. Once the cake has cooled, frost the tops and sides of the cake and sprinkle extra pistachios & cashews as garnish.

 

 

Seared Tempeh & Tofu Scramble Recipe

tofu scramble

Avoiding the autumn posts – the ones with pumpkin cookies, hay rides and colorful leaves. Not because I’m feeling like a scrooge, but because I’m trying to feel my own rhythm and settle this year. Kevin and I drove up to Salem on Friday night for a party. I decided to bring back my childhood and dress up as a Nintendo Gameboy. On Friday, I poked out of work during lunch and hopped on a train to Chinatown to find costume fabric. I sometimes forget what it feels like to move with purpose. Around midday, I am usually just eating or reading, but it felt nice to go somewhere that I don’t usually go. Do something out of the ordinary.

I found myself on a cool fall day tucked inside Windmill Fabrics. I have been going here for seven years for all my Halloween attire. I can’t believe I’ve been in Massachusetts for seven years now. This is my favorite fabric store in Boston. I poured over the seasonally appropriate lines of felt rolls and squares. Talked with the woman at the front desk about business, Halloween and I left my company badge on the table so she continued to ask me about the website and investments. I’ve lived in Boston long enough now to see businesses come and go. I passed by my favorite bakery in Chinatown that is opening back up again, a new cafe on the corner with free WiFi and the golden doors to my old job.

Kevin and I spend the night getting ready, slow. We talk over our favorite thai food and stress over the survival of the lead characters in our latest anime obsession. This is what Friday night is suppose to feel like – a warm hug, a smooth kiss or a cold tingle under the skin. On our way up to Salem we wind our way through the Big Dig. The tunnels are lit up in yellow and I can’t help but stare at their strange brilliance. I am always amazed to be here – sitting 3,000 miles away from home, tucked away in a city that has more people than the town I grew up in within one medium-sized apartment building. A forest orphan or a city adoptee. Loving both places, but never fully committed to either one.

Fall and winter in New England taught me how to appreciate the night. There is magic that happens when the sun goes down. It’s like a whole new city stretches out before me, inviting me to corners I have never been before. I am in love with the lights down by the water, the sweeping lit up bridges and the old street lights that still carry some New World decor. The next night, Kevin and I went for an 11 mile run in the city. We ran through Roxbury, the South End, Chinatown, the Leather District, the Seaport, the North End, Bunker Hill and back. Ate a couple of pizzas while we talked about dreams, travel and saving up to experience more adventure.

vegan recipe book

I stay in the bed this morning with a cup of tea & a stack of cook books. I’m pouring over new recipes trying to find one that sounds delicious. I can feel myself gravitating toward the familiar and I push toward new ingredients, techniques and recipes. I close my eyes and can see Salem covered in fog from two nights ago, jet black water streaming underneath a bridge near the North End and the tree line from the Boston commons snaking its way along Beacon Hill. I know that every day is an adventure, all I have to do is wake up and remember.

 – Tofu Scramble -

Tofu Scramble Part II

tofu scramble

Tofu Scramble Part III

Scrambled tofu is perfect for fall days when you want a warm breakfast and a slow morning. You can add other vegetables to enhance this recipe, but I just chose vegetables that were simple and savory. This recipe is full of flavor!

1 tbs olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped into 1/4 chunks
4-5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch
4-5 broccoli florets
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound firm tofu, drained & crumbled
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp coarse sea salt

Prepare you vegetables by mincing the onion into 1/4 inch chunks, slicing the mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces and cutting a lemon in half and storing 1/2 in the refrigerator. You can also save time by draining your tofu and setting it aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté chopped onions until translucent, which takes 2-3 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms, broccoli florets and minced garlic. Add the spice blend and slowly mix until the vegetables are coffered in spices and oil. Sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add 1/4 of water to deglaze pan.

Crumble tofu in the pan and mix well, make sure not to mash the tofu. Once the tofu is covered in spices, turn the heat to low and cook for 12-15 minutes. If your tofu is sticking to the pan, then you can turn down the heat or add water by the tbs. Serve with your favorite hot sauce, guacamole, salsa or ketchup.

 - Pan Seared Tempeh – 

Tempeh Bacon

1 (8-ounce) package tempeh
1 tsp vegetable bouillon
1 cup of water
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs honey (substitute with agave nectar or pure maple syrup)
2 cloves garlic, minced

In a small pot, bring one cup of water to boil. Mix in 1 tsp of vegetable bouillon until completely dissolved. Set aside. In a medium-sized pot, bring water to boil. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the tempeh in half then cut each square diagonally to create four large triangles. Add the tempeh to the water once it started boiling. Reduce heat and simmer tempeh for 10 minutes or until you are able to pierce the tempeh triangles with a fork or knife. Place the warm tempeh directly into your marinade and let sit for 1 hour. If you are in a hurry, then you can always let the tempeh sit for less time, but you may have less flavor.

Sear the tempeh for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until sugar from the honey starts to caramelize. Pair the tofu scramble and the pan seared tempeh with a mix of arugula greens, apples and pistachio halves.