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  • Sourdough Bread Pudding

    I knew that I had found "my people" at work when farm-fresh eggs, homemade sourdough, granola, raw milk yogurt and bundt cakes showed up at work. Ooh, also, garlic. Yep, homegrown garlic. And beans! One of my co-workers gave me a sample of his heirloom beans he grows. How cool?!But honestly, the thing that excited me most...like, I literally lost my shit, was when one of my co-workers brought in freshly baked sourdough bread. With almond butter and homemade jam. I mean, come on! A chilly late-March morning can't get much better than a freshly toasted slice of sourdough bread, adorned with a little organic butter, some almond butter and homemade jam, all with a cup of hot coffee. If you can't get on board for that, I just don't know....maybe you shouldn't be reading this? 

    Long story short, I managed to get a blob of sourdough starter from my co-worker. I was over the moon. The blob was accompanied by some instructions, and a book recommendation.

    That night, I downloaded the book onto my tablet (tbh I forgot you could do that...ha), and dove right in.I fed the starter. I fed it some more. I got some locally milled wheat and rye flours, I swore a little, and yeah...I did cry once (But it wasn't from the starter/bread, really). I found the warmest spot in my kitchen (above my fridge, by my kombucha), and let the sourdough cultures to there thing for 3 days.And then, there was bread. Glorious bread. I was so goddamn happy. 

    But then, there was bread. Two loaves. Too much for one person....so...bread pudding. But bread pudding with sourdough? After a search on the internets, I found that this was kind of a rarity. Everyone was using challah, brioche, or shitty white bread. What about those non-enriched, sans dough conditioner-rich breads?? I mean, come on, people. How boring?

    So, I am very pleased to report that sourdough makes a fabulous pud. I would even venture to say that the heartier crust and crumb allows you to be more flexible in how long you soak it, without fear of the bread cubes disintegrating into custard oblivion. A soak overnight, or for two nights, is perfect here. 

    And mix ins? Endless options. I went simple, with raisins...because I secretly love raisins. Blueberries, cranberries, hunks of apples, pears, banana...any sturdy fruit, I think would work. Dark chocolate (duh), nuts, toasted coconut....you get the idea. Be creative. Indeed, using brown sugar, coconut sugar, or even using some honey or maple syrup for sweetener would be a fun idea. I mean, this is bread pudding...not rocket science. I think you could get away with using 1/2 to 3/4 liquid sweetener instead of 1 cup of granulated. If you like it less sweet, I'd suggest cutting back, and using only 1/2 cup liquid sweetener, and scant 1 cup of granulated. Whatever your heart desires. And yes, brioche and challah will work just fine here too. The key: use what you have! That is what bread pudding is all about, am I right? Use this recipe as a template, and, shout out to Food52 for their no-fuss guidelines. Get at it. 

    Cheers to chilly spring mornings, and sharing carbs! Pssssst: this would be fabulous Easter Sunday treat!



    Bread Pudding // makes one 9"x13" pan of bread pudding // soy-free; nut-free; oil-free //

    • 1 lb (16 oz) bread cubes (a generous 5 or so cups), about 1” in size
    • 4 large eggs, using locally raised and/or organic if possible 
    • 3/4 cup granulate sugar, or 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc)
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • Sea salt*
    • 2 1/2 cups milk of choice, such as half & half, coconut milk or almond milk
    • 1 to 2 cups dried fruit, sturdy berries like blueberries or cranberries, or chunks of apples, dark chocolate, nuts, etc.

    *Salt: for my sourdough, which was fairly salty, I did NOT add any additional salt. If your bread is on the less-salty side, as a standard brioche or challah is, feel free to add in a pinch of salt if desired.

    1. Mix everything, except the bread, in a large bowl. Dump in bread cubes, and stir with a spatula to coat the bread crumbs. Let sit for a few minutes, and then stir again. Add in dried fruit if using, or other sturdy fruit like berries or cubes of apples, and stir.

    2. Oil or butter a 9”x13” pan. Pour in the bread/custard mixture, and pat into an even layer. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    3. To bake: preheat oven to 350F. Give the bread pudding a quick stir, and redistribute any fruit, nuts or chocolate pieces that have sunk to the bottom. Place the covered bread pudding in to bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the cover off and bake for another 20 minutes, checking at the 15 minute mark. Add or subtract baking time based on how the top is browning. If it is browning too much but needs more baking time, put the cover back on. The pudding is done when you stick a fork in, and see very little or no residual custard mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. 

    4. Remove, and cool slightly. Serve warm, or room temp. I wouldn't tell anyone if you had a scoop of ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream, with a bowl of warm bread pudding. 



     

  • Browned Butter, Buckwheat & Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    That is a mouthful! Eating 2 of these cookies at one time annnnd the title..."browned butter, buckwheat, walnut chocolate chunk cookies". They may look a little...homely...but they have incredieble flavor and texture. Note: you may use chocolate chips, and you may omit the walnuts. Similarly, I could see substituting hazelnuts being *amazing* in these.These cookies were born when I participated in a cookie swap in efforts to raise funds of the ACLU, that the lovely Miss Jen held at her crazy adorable pie shop (also, super tasty pies...I shouldn't have to say that about a shop that sells all-things butter and pie...right? Ok...good). I was also in-between moving from Beloit to my new place here in Viroqua (*happy dance*), and was spending a few days/nights at my Dad's in Madison. Let us just say that baking cookies for others is my kind of therapy when things get a liiiiittle stressful. Nibbling on pieces of chocolate, browning butter, adimiring the rich colors of buckwheat flour....I love it all. And I really, really love these cookies.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE a solid, well-executed chocolate chunk cookie. Sprinkled with sea salt, dunked into hot coffee, loaded with chocolate chunks...nothing will beat that. But for those who cannot eat the glutens (turns out, many people are still dabbling in the gluten-free arena), these are a really amazing option. The nutty buckwheat flour compliments the browned butter, and walnuts offer lots of crunch. And the chocolate. The chocolate....is the chocolate. I think I prefer these made with chunks of chocolate-some little pieces, some small, some shavings....but chocolate chips will do just fine. Just be sure to get your hands on some rich dark chocolate here-the contrast of the bitterness against the sweet cookie is *awesome*. A few notes on the flour and such: you can use either Bob's Red Mill buckwheat flour (it is blue-ish in hue, and almost like fine sand in texture) or a more flour-y buckwheat flour. I have made these cookies with both, and while both give slight different textures, both are equally delicious. The Bob's flour cookies were a little more crunchy and crispy around the edges, and were also a little more flat (i.e. they spread a litte more). Made with a more powdery, locally milled buckwheat flour prdoduced a more brown colored batter, and a cookie with less spread, so a more gooey, chewy center. I would 100% recommend allowing the batter for either version to rest for at least 30 minutes (bummer, I know...), or even overnight in the fridge. This allows the buckwheat to absorb moisture, and helps the batter thicken up a touch. Since these cookies lack that viscoelastic, streatchy network of gluten, their structural integrity can be improved with a nap. Your patience will be rewarded! They will still be space hogs, and spread quite a bit with baking, however.  And lastly, do NOT omit the tapioca flour (or sometimes called starch). You can easily find this in most grocery stores, and is extremely helpful in binding gluten-free baked goods...mmmkay? And I don't have to say this (do I?) but please try to use the best butter, sugar, eggs...just like a savory dish, with such few ingredients, using the best you can source really pay off here. But, if the cookie need is strong, use what you have in your pantry.....I get it! Enjoy, eat lots of cookie dough, steal nibbles of the chocolate...you got this!And lastly, if you wish, you can mix these up, portion them out into balls, and freeze. When the cookie need strikes, you can bake-off as many (or as few....but wtf is that with cookies?) as you need, straight from the freezer. Cookie addict hacks...so important for a happy life...right? 



    Browned Butter Buckwheat, Walnut & Chocolate Chunk Cookies // makes approximately 20, 2" diameter cookies // gluten-free; nut-free option (omit the nuts, yo!); soy-free // 

    • 1 stick (8 TB, 113g) unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup (160g) sugar*
    • 2 tsp molasses*
    • 3/4 cup plus 2 TB buckwheat flour (100g) buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB (45g) tapioca flour or starch
    • pinch of cinnamon and/or freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/2 cups (6oz, 170g) dark/bittersweet chocolate (at least 65% cocoa solids, with roughy 80% cocoa solids being my favorite here), either in chip form or chopped into chunks from a bar
    • 1 heaped cup walnuts (leave these out if you can't do nuts or if you don't like them, or substitue with pecans, hazelnuts, etc...)

    *Lately, I have been making my own brown sugar, because to me, it tastes richer and is really simple to make. For this recipe, I use 3/4 cup organic cane sugar with 2 tsp molasses; you can eyeball the molasses if you're feeling saucy, or measure it out like the amazing baking you are! :)

    1. Brown the butter: in a medium saucepan (you'll be mixing in a few more things in here, so use a slightly larger one that you think-I used a 4-cup sauce pan), melt the butter over medium heat, and allow it to cook, swirling occasionally, until it starts to brown and smell nutty. It may foam a few times, and you'll notice some of the butter solids sticking to the bottom-just keep swirling until a golden color is reached. Allow the browned butter to cool for 5-10 minutes while you carry on with the recipe.

    2. Sift the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour/starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Chop the chocolate, and walnuts if using, or measure out the chocolate chips. Whatever you are mixing into the batter, get it ready now!

    3. Into the slightly warm browned butter, add in the sugar, molasses (or light brown sugar), vanilla and egg. Mix thoroughly. The mixture will be almost caramel-like in consistency. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients, mix for a few turns, and then add in the chocolate and walnuts. Don't be shy here-you can mix, mix, mix since we have no gluten to worry about developing. The batter will begin to thicken as you stir-this is the buckwheat flour working the magic it has....

    4. You can let the batter sit for 30 minutes, or covered overnight in the fridge now. After it rests, and when you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Form batter into roughly 2 TB dough, place on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with sea salt (or you can form the balls, and freeze them for future baking). Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating or turning the pans after the first 5-6 minutes to ensure even baking. For frozen cookie dough balls, it may take a minute or two longer for the cookies to bake. The cookies are done when they appear to be dry-ish in the middle, but may still look a little gooey. For crisper cookies, bake until the edges start to brown.

    5. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before removing with a spatula-the cookies are a little delicate fresh out of the oven. Store for up to 2 months in the freezer in a covered container, or up to 3 days at room temperature (if they last that long...).



    You know how to do this...be sure to allot your measurements for snacking on the chocolate and walnuts. Really. You know you will do it. Sift...gotta sift! Don't skip it. Brown the buttaaaah! Swirl, be patient...you got this...Now, sugar, molasses (or brown sugar) egg...all stirred up into a caramel-like mass....mmm mass....and not the church kind, the "gravitational pull" kind...Stir stir stir....be sure your browned butter is not super hot here, or else you may curdle (i.e. cook) your egg. We don't want that...at least, not in our cookies. Pour the lot over your sifted dry ingredients...and stir, stir, stir again! So, this is the same batter, only made with a locally milled buckwheat flour. You can see that the Bob's batter is a little more loose, but it will firm up after some time. And no nuts in the batter below! But lots of chips. See, we are flexible here...do what you gotta do!All balled up....ahoo hooo...(Elvis voice there...)You can also freeze your balls (teehee), and bake straight from there. Don't forget the sea salt on top!On the cookie sheet, with generous space apart, since these guys like to stretch their legs. And run into each other....cookie venn diagram...it happens!Same cookies, just made with the locally milled flour below (Bob's flour above). Cool, and enjoy. Be sure to let these rest for a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing to cool, since they are delicate creatures right out of the oven. I mean, aren't we all, though?Nothing better than cookies in the evening light of spring....am I right? Enjoy! Share! Be merry. 

  • You Have the Power! Banana-Oat-Flax Energy Cookies with Homemade Coconut Butter

    So, in efforts to not let the cold weather get to me, I have been holding informal dance parties (usually after my at-home workouts). Typically to whatever songs show up in my Daft Punk or AC/DC Pandora stations, I sometimes really resonate with one that comes on. Recently, Tom Petty's Runnin' On A Dream really did it for me.

    The past few weeks have been pretty crazy, and if I were my (now I can feel ok saying this, I think?) "old self", I would be panic-ridden and still stuck, or well on the road to another rut. But after foraging on, I think I am going to be settling into a groove that is *just* comfortable enough to keep me happy, but also to keep me moving. Because I can feel the wind blowin' me in all directions in 2017, and I am ready. So, break out of the "box"? Check. I think I have, or at least have maybe stood up in the box, and can now see the horizon that is ahead of me. Still blury, but it is there. I know we all have dreams, aspirations, desires. And I think it is high-time that we start to take steps, even if they are small and even if we end up taking a few steps backward after a few forward, towards making our dreams, goals and aspirations a reality. 

    Who knows, maybe I am talking straight out of my ass here, but I am really starting to believe in the power of positivity, listening to my intuition and going with my gut. They are serious power-sources within you! The tricky part is calming down enough and giving yourself the time to listen, and act accordingly. But if there is one thing I have learned about myself in the past few weeks, it is that if I truly desire something...an outcome, a goal, a piece of chocolate...the more I internalize it, the more it seeps out into reality. Crazy stuff, right?To keep you energized and nourished on your powerful, intuition-driven adventures, I present to you some "healthier" cookies made up of bananas (over-ripe ones work perfectly here!), oats, ground flax, cinnamon and sea salt. To keep you extra energized and nourished, I present to you homemade coconut butter...because really, why not? Not only is it an indulgent, but healthy, addition to these cookies, but it is also really wonderful scooped into smoothies, eaten on toast, and also just by the spoonful. Something about the natural richness and butteriness of coconut....mmmm....These cookies, topped with a date half OR your favorite jam (I used some of Bushel & Pecks Cherry Lavender Jam, and was really happy with the flavors!), and then drizzled with warm coconut butter? Yeah....that is correct...healthy food CAN taste good, and be indulgent! 

    Notes: These are largely inspired by Angela's version over here, with my edits being topping mine with date halves and then smothering them in homemade coconut butter. I think she would approve! You can store extra cookies in the fridge in a bag or container for up to 1 week. Frozen, these will last for up to 1 month. You can pre-drizzle the jam filled or date-topped cookies, and store in the fridge or freezer in a container for a super quick or grab-n-go snack. Perfect with hot coffee, or for your drive down the interstate at a grueling 75 MPH (ps: WTF Scott Walker...WTF...).



    Banana, Oat & Flax Cookies //plant-based; vegan; gluten-free (use certified GF oats); oil-free; nut-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free (if using dates as toppers or jam made with un-refined sweeteners)// makes 10 cookies //

    • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
    • 2 or 3 large ripe or over-ripe bananas, or about 1 cup (this isn't super exact and does not need to be for this recipe, so RELAX!)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 TB ground flax seeds or flax seed meal*
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg
    • for topping: your favorite jam, date halves, coconut butter (recipe follows)

    *I make my own flax seed meal by grinding flax seeds in my spice/coffee grinder. You can also purchase pre-ground flax sees. Chia seeds would probably work as well, but I have not tried it.

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, process the flax and oats until the oats until they are coarsely pulverized, leaving some whole oats for texture. Place processed oats in a bowl. In the food processor bowl, add the bananas, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using), and puree until smooth. 

    2. Pour the banana mixture over the oats/flax mixture, and stir unti combined. Drop the batter into 10-12 mounds, using heaping table spoon measures. Using the back of the spoon or you thumb, poke an indent into the center of each mound, flatening the cookies slightly. 

    3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the are slightly dry on the outside and lightly brown on the bottoms. Out of the oven, place 1 tsp of your favorite jam or 1/2 of a date in each indent. Enjoy right away, drizzled with coconut butter or plain. Cookies can be stored in a container in the fridge for up 1 week, and in the freezer for up to 1 month. 


    Coconut Butter // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; oil-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes 1 cup of coconut butter //

    • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut 

    1. In a clean, completely dry food processor or blender, place the coconut. Blend until smooth. This may take some tiem in a conventional blender, or a lower-powered food processor. 

    2. Store the coconut butter in a container at room temperature or in the frdige. Coconut butter will harden, and to soften, place in a bowl of hot water or microwave for a few seconds. 



    The goods, pre-baking:Post baking + snacking ASAP:Excellent with coffee to start your day!

  • My Favorite (and flexible!) Sunflower Mac n' Cheeze!

    Here we are! 2017. Highly anticipated. Much looked forward to. Our feet are to the floors, and we are rockin' and rollin'.

    We are looking for meanings. For purpose. For new jobs. We are trying to learn Portuguese, learning to bake better bread at home (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery), and re-learning how to make puff pastry (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery).

    We are poised for tomorrow, looking ahead. We aren't going for perfection, but satisfaction and happiness. And what is satisfaction and happiness on a cold, cold January day/evening? Carbs. And nourishing, stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-your-arteries sunflower mac and cheeze. Approved by a taste-discerning Brazilian, a family of cheese-lovers, and former dairy mac-and-cheese addict (my hand is raised).The base: soaked raw sunflowers. The cheese-factor: nutritional yeast. The savory and kinda sweet players that enhance the cheese-like goodness: sauteed onions, garlic and carrots; roasted red peppers OR tomato paste OR oil packed sundried tomatoes (one of those is a must here, trust me); tamari or liquid aminos or shoyu; light miso (I like to use chickpea miso from South River; dijon mustard; paprika; sea salt. And finally, the hint of tang: lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.Yep, that list is a little long, BUT so worth it. And odds are, you have most of those things in your pantry right now. I will forgive you if you don't have the miso, but everything else needs to be present, ok?

    Once you remember to soak the sunflower seeds, you are seriously half-way there. And a word on the roasted red pepper/tomato paste/oil packed sundried tomato requirement: this element is, in my opinion, essential. It gives you that naturally sweet, yet tangy and savory, and earthy, quality that I think is present in all mac and cheeze that is worth eating. I have made this sunflower mac with all three, and all three satisfied my aforementioned requirements. So, you pick! And if you need to remember how to roast red peppers, see here or here.

    Bonuses, because we can be flexible AND satisfy our cravings: 

    1) you can prepare a double batch of this sauce, and freeze any portion for a quick meal in the future. Thaw sauce in microwave or in a saucepan over low-medium heat, boil pasta while sauce heats, wilt greens in the same water that the pasta is cooking in (removing once wilted or tender), and then mix the whole works in the same pot, topping with extra 'nooch, sea salt, nutmeg, paprika and lots of toasted pepitas. 

    2) leftover chili, but sick of chili? Make a batch of sun mac sauce, mix several spoonfulls in your chili as you reheat it in a pot. Boil some of you favorite pasta, mix into chili-mac mixture, and boom-chili mac! You can amp-up the spices if you wish, and I usually do so by adding a dash of cumin, chili powder and sprinkle of cayenne. Serve with tortilla chips, avocado, hot sauce and lotsa 'nooch on top for a hearty, satisfying bowl of goodness.

    3) broccoli, kale, hearty greens galore! Need a sauce to amplify your green veggies? Sunflower mac sauce to the rescue. Enough said! A cozy bowl of quinoa, hearty greens and this sauce is perfection on a cold night.

    4) feelin lucky, potluck?: you can easily bake this into a casserole-like situation by mixing the sauce with cooked pasta, and steamed greens, broccoli or peas. You can also sneak in some of your favorie veggie sausages for extra fun, or line the border of the mac with sausage rounds (see picture below; un-solicited veggie sausage recomendation: Tofurkey beer "brats"). Plunk the mixture in your favorite pan, top with toasted pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, 'nooch and paprika for color. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through, in a warmish oven (~350F), a step that could be completed at your potluck destination if needed. I find that you can safely use 1 pound of pasta for one batch of this sauce for a adequate sauce-to-pasta-and-greens ratio, but please feel free to alter this ratio of sauce:pasta to suite your needs and preferences.

    5) got a gluten-free situation on your hands? Easy. I love this sun mac with either gluten-full or gluten-free pasta, just be sure to pay attention and not over cook your pasta in either case, because no one likes a mushy sun mac. My two favorite gluten-free pastas: Ancient Harvest Quinoa & Corn, and Trader Joe's Brown Rice and Quinoa

    Sooo whatcha waiting for? Get at this...and have a happy, healthy carbohydrate-laden new year! Cheers!



    Sunflower Mac and Cheeze // makes about 6 cups of sauce // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free (use gluten-free pasta & tamari); nut-free; soy-free; sugar-free // 

    • 1 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in water overnight
    • 1 TB olive oil 
    • 1 small to medium onion, roughly diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and roughly minced
    • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into ~1/2" rounds
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • 3 cups vegetable stock or water, plus more to help thin if desired
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, plus more to taste and for serving
    • 2 tsp tamari, shoyu, soy sauce or liquid aminos
    • 1 tsp light miso paste, such as chickpea miso
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard or mustard powder
    • 2 TB tomato paste, or 2-3 medium to large oil-packed sundried tomatoes, or 1 medium to large roasted red pepper (homemade  or oil-packed roasted red peppers only, please!)
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg and/or a dash or two of cayenne 
    • for chili mac: you can add a pinch or two more of cumin, chili powder and cayenne if desired
    • for topping: paprika, nutmeg, pepitas, sea salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast
    • for serving/casserole-ing: steamed greens like kale, spinach, broccoli; your favorite veggie sausages cut into rounds
    • your favorite pasta (1 recipe of sunflower mac will accomodate about 1 lb of dry pasta, but please adjust your pasta:sauce ratio as desired)

    1. Soak sunflower seeds overnight. Drain and rinse. Sautee the onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil over medium heat until tender and just starting to brown. Into a blender, add the sunflower seeds, sauteed onions, garlic and carrots, and the remaining ingredients. A high-powered blender, like a Vitamix, will give you the creamiest results, but a conventional blender works, too.

    2. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding extra vegetable stock as needed to puree the mixture. You may need to blend for several minutes to get the sauce smooth. Taste the sauce, and adjust the salt, pepper and seasonings to your tastes, keeping in mind that adding to the pasta will somewhat dilute the flavors (i.e. don't be shy with the seasonings here!).

    3. Prepare pasta, and steam or sautee desired greens. Drain pasta, and mix in desired amount of pasta sauce. Stir in steamed or sauteed greens or broccoli, or frozen peas, and veggie sausage if desired. For extra flavor, you can sautee rounds of veggie sausage in some olive oil in a separate pan until brown. Alternatively, you can mix steamed/sauteed greens, veggie sausage, pasta and sauce together, and then place into a baking dish. Top with pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika and nutritional yeast. Bake at 350F until warm and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. 

    4. Extra sauce can be refrigeraged for up to 4 days, with liquid separation being totally normal, just stir it back in before use. Alternatively, sauce can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, or gently re-heat in a microwave or in a pan on low-meidum heat. Serve as desired! 



    The goods...creamy, cheeze-y, flavorful and also very nourishing!Prepare as desired. For Christmas, I showed up with a baking dish full of this stuff, and it was a hit. Stirring in a ton of steamed kale, I was a holiday hero. Or at least I thought so! Ha! Enjoy!

  • Holiday Cookie Line-Up!

    The cold days and dark nights of December, with their shortness and snappiness, encourages me reflect on my year. As with many, the end of the year is a time for peaceful reflection: where we were at the start of a year, where we are now. Goals we accomplished, adventures we went on, and decisions we made. Tears we cried, smiles we smiled. Laughs we laughed with so much life, our eyes started to water.

    Not going to lie, 2016 was one hell of a year for me. A "roller coaster" of a year sums it up quite well. Emotionally hard and taxing, the fear and anxiety of the unknown, the pressure of uncertainty. The internal push to make others happy and comfortable over my own happiness, and inutuition. Really, no pun intended, but it all snow-balled on me this week.

    The "holidays" have not felt as such for me yet. A certain unsettling feeling lingers, and as much as I try to harness this energy and put it towards positive action and creation, I find myself struggling. And I am sure many of you can relate to this feeling!

    But, nonetheless, I have conjured enough Christmas spirit and cheer to put together some treats I hope to share (ok, ok, and treat for me to enjoy with my coffee or tea each day, too!). I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, if I can motivate myself to melt some chocolate, and muster a stable emulsion. I think I can, I think I can.From left to right: gluten-free chai spiced walnut polvorones; ginger snaps; gluten-free walnut, coffee and cacao nib polvorones; orange and hazelnut biscotti (see here for recipe!); gluten-free buckwheat chocolate sea salt cookies (really they are like brownies masquerading as a cookie); and finally, gluten-free spiced cocoa and pecan polvorones.The polvorones were all inspired by The Bojon Gourmet. The spiced cocoa and pecan recipe is here, but the riffs I took on it (chai spiced, coffee-walnut-cacao nib) were taken with liberty by myself. The gingersnaps are made from my favorite recipe, and are from the infamous Alice Medrich (found in her Pure Dessert cookbook, as well as her cookie book). The biscotti recipe was recently posted here, and this time, I left the hazelnuts more intact by hand-chopping and must say I love the results (also, winning for not have to clean the food processor!). I also used Meyer's dark rum in place of bourbon. And finally, the gluten-free buckwheat chocolate sea salt cookies are from the Bojon Gourmet's new book, which I gifted my sister this past October for her birthday. I am storing these all in ziplock bags and containers, in the freezer, to maintain freshness over the next few weeks. And I warn you: a super crispy ginger snap, fresh out of the freezer, dipped in hot coffee, is love at first bite! So with this, likely my last post for 2016, I wish you the best holiday. Happy baking, cooking and candy-making. I hope you listen to your heart, follow your gut, speak to your intuition as much as you know how to right now in the present moment. Be fearless, own up to your shit, and move forward. Follow you dreams, feed your soul. As corny as that sounds, I am really starting to believe in this magic that we all have, sitting in our bodies, waiting to be summoned with courage. 

    Forward. For that is our motto in Wisconsin. Forward! My intention is to march into 2017 with my eyes and heart open, with deep breaths, and with the calm that January brings to us.  

    Peace, love and warm wishes to you all. I hope you find yourself with a hot mug of something a treat in hand many, many times over the holiday season! 

  • Winter Hug Buttercup Squash Soup with Herbed Garbanzo Beans, Lemon Tahini Drizzle and Ginger/Chili/Cumin Gomasio

    It is f'ing cold out, guys. As much as I love my vintage wool Macintosh peacoat, I had to respectfully hang it aside this past week...and bust out my Northface (insert small sigh of discontent). 

    Naturally, my mind has meandered to all things hot, including this soup I am sharing with you today. Which features the following to keep you cozy, warm and energized:

    • a ton of fucking (or perhaps a metric fuck ton) squash and sweet potatoes
    • lots of warming spices and garlic to ward of the winter nasties
    • roasty-toasted flavors from roasting the squash
    • carbs and starches, glorious carbs and starches!! But, the natural kind, so they won't make you feel like a zombie after devouring a little/a lot/ a LOT of this soup. And, these natural carbs lend a certain creaminess to the soup that omits the need for cream.
    • bright colors to fight off those dreary winter days...and gray, nasty snow banks along the roads/sidewalks
    • contrasting and coordinating (those are thing, right?) flavors (lemon! sesame! paprika! tahini! maple syrup!)
    • fiber...cause....your pooper needs love, too. 

    Ok, so I have you sold. Right? Well, if not, MORE FOR ME. But if you do decide (and you should) to make this warm and comforting soup, here are few worlds of wisdom, as I realize there are several components to this recipe (all worth it, trust me!).

    You may substitute your favorite winter squash that is bright orange and fleshy here, such as kabocha, butternut or even sugar pumpkin. The sweet potatoes are negotiable, however, double up on the carrots if you choose to not include it. I have been loving locally produced organic sweet potatoes and carrots lately. Check out your natural food co-op to find the goods! As for the gomasio and lemon tahini drizzle, they really do make this soup pop! And bonus: if you have leftovers of either component after you eat all the soup, then you DID IT WRONG. Just kidding. You can store the gomasio in the freezer for up to 2 months in a sealed jar, and use it on top of anything you think you'd like it on: eggs, rice, sauteed greens, your smoothie in the morning (guess which one of those is NOT a good application? I bet you can pick it out if you try). The lemon tahini drizzle is great on pretty much anything, too. It will last for about 1 week i in the fridge in a sealed jar, but it usually never lasts that long around me. So, with that said, I have no data about freezing the lemon tahini drizzle. BONUS: yep, you guessed it-you can freeze this soup for up to 2 months. It makes for a fast meal, either alone or with all the fixin's, on a cold winter day or evening that will warm you form your head to your toes! 

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



    Winter Hug Buttercup Squash Soup with Herbed Garbanzo Beans, Lemon Tahini Drizzle and Gomasio // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes enough for 6 generous bowl servings, or several more small cup-sized servings //

    For The Soup:

    • 1 large buttercup squash, or other squash of choice (see above), washed, seeded and quartered or cut in half
    • 1 large sweet potato (optional), washed and cut in half
    • Coconut oil or olive oil 
    • Sea salt
    • 1 large onion
    • 3 large cloves garlic
    • 4-5 large carrots (or use 7-8 if omitting sweet potato)
    • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
    • 1-2 tsp mild yellow curry powder
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp Baharat powder (Used Oakland Spice Shop’s mix, but fee free to substitute with a few generous pinches each of cinnamon, paprika, cumin, coriander and nutmeg)
    • 1 TB miso (I used chickpea miso from Soth River)
    • 1-2 TB tamari or shoyu, or use liquid aminos for soy-free (or you may simply omit this altogether)
    • 1 TB apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • 1-2 TB maple syrup
    • Optional: 1 or 2 shakes cayenne pepper

    For The Beans:

    • 2-3 cups garbanzo beans, canned or home cooked 
    • Sea salt to taste
    • heaping ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
    • 2-3 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

    • ½ cup tahini (freshly made is great here: simply blend 2-3 cups toasted sesame seeds, either hulled or un-hulled, in a high-powdered blender or food processor. Store-bought works just fine, too!)
    • ½ cup lemon juice
    • Water to thin
    • Sea salt to taste
    • 1 tsp maple syrup

    For The Gomasio:

    • ¼  cup unhulled sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • ¼ tsp ground cumin 
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp paprika (I used sweet Hungarian, but use your favorite type)
    1. Prep the squash and sweet potatoes (if using): coat with coconut oil, sprinkle generously with sea salt, and roast the squash at 375F until tender. If using sweet potato, cut in half, coat with coconut oil, and place cut side up. This should take 45-55 minutes, and can be done up to 2 days ahead of time. Cool to the touch.

    2. While squash roasts, roughly dice the onion, peel and smash garlic cloves, cut carrots into rounds ~1” thick. Heat olive oil or coconut oil in a large pot. Add the veggies, and cook over medium until tender and starting to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper. 

    3. Scoop the squash and sweet potato flesh out of their skins and into the pot. Measure all the spices into the pot, and stir, allowing the spices to heat, and become fragrant-this should only take about 30 seconds. Add the stock, and stir, scraping all the bits from the veggies and spices from the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a slow simmer. Cook until everything is tender. Puree using an immersion blender, or in a blender, blending in batches if needed, until smooth. Taste, adjust seasonings. Return back to the pot over low heat.

    4. While the soup simmers, prepare the lemon tahini sauce by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl, and mixing together until smooth. Add water until the consistency is one that is ideal for drizzling. Taste, and adjust salt.

    5. To make the gomasio: toast the sesame seeds in a pan until fragrant. Allow the sesame seeds to cool slightly, then add to a blender/food processor/mortal & pestle, and grind until seeds are about half ground. Add the remaining seasonings, mix, and then store in a glass jar with lid for up to 2 months in the freezer.

    6. Lastly, prepare the chickpeas by tossing all the ingredients together. This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time to allow the chickpeas to marinate.

    7. Serve soup with a big pile of chickpeas, drizzled with lemon tahini mixture, and sprinkled generously with the gomasio.



    All the orange starchey veg...all the time...So worth it...cozy up and enjoy a bowl, or two! Stay warm!

  • Bourbon, Pecan and Salted Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

    You get all that in the title? Bourbon. Pecan. Salted Dark Chocolate. Banana Bread. 

    "Bread". Becaus let's be real here: this loaf is verging on a cake. Which, in my book, is just fine!

    This loaf came about when I was feeling a little (ok, a lot) down and sad. And for some reason, baking in general made me feel whole and happy. Sharing also made me feel good. I mean, when does it not? But it was that much better. This loaf, or cake, is not complicated, but the pay-off is great. Yes, you do need to get out your cutting board and a sharp knife to chop the pecans and dark chocolate (and yep, feel free to nibble away while you do, because....I know I am not the only one who does that). But I assure you, this is worth it. Also, lately I have been LOVING the heck out of my dough whisk. It truly does a wonderful job in thoroughly mixing quick breads, but not over-beating them to produce a tough, tunnel-ridden loaf. I got mine on Amazon, and highly recommend this tool for anyone who, like me, struggles to not over-mix quick breads! Game changer, for sure.Now, if you are looking for a more wholesome, more in-tune with your perhaps upcoming 2017 New Years Resolutions to Not Eat All the Sugar, check out the following: Gluten Free (but not full of weird flours) Banana Bread and/or Best Banana Bread for a vegan loaf. If you are looking to sabotage your health goals in a more gentle way, check out my Browned Butter Banana Bread! See, I got your back, whatever your goals may be! Heh...

    However, if you are in need of....

    • A sweet treat to go with your coffee early in the morning, when drinking all the hot things flood your mind as soon as your feet hit the cold kitchen floor
    • An easy, but special, host or hostess gift for an upcoming Holiday gathering
    • A relatively quick and fuss-free dessert, made even more indulgent covered with a quick chocolate ganache
    • A feel-good baked treat, to shove in your face by yourself or to share with others
    • Using up those overripe bananas languishing in your fruite bowl alongside that pomegranate you think is too beautiful to open, and those super sweet clemintines that come around this time of year
    • Something to bake to make your new apartment smell less like weird cleaning chemicals that the cleaning crew used to sweep your apartment of all traces of human DNA 

    Bonus round: this loaf smells like banana heaven while baking. All bananas go to heaven. Yep. Gather your bananas. Treat yourself to a bar (ok, or two!) of your favorite dark, salted chocolate (my favorite is Theo's Salted Dark Chocolate). Rummage your liquor cabinet for your bourbon. And splurge on those pecans in the bulk aisle, because this is soooo worth it. Happy baking, and stay warm!

    Notes: My first trials of this bread were using walnuts instead of pecans (see above picture of slices), but the pecan version overwhelmed me with the power of pecans to stand up to the robust flavors (like dark chocolate), and the sweetness in this loaf. But, feel free to use walnuts if you can't find or don't want to use pecans. As for the chocolate, I guessssssss salted chocolate is not required, but is a really, really lovely touch here, and also balances the sweetness of this loaf. Additionally, I have a weakness for the shards and chunks of chocolate that result when you chop the chocolate, rather than simply using chips, in this loaf but either work. Finally, the bourbon is not required, but strongly encouraged. If you don't have bourbon, a dark spiced rum (like Meyer's) will work beautifully, as would any other spicy, dark alocohol. If you don't have or don't want to add the booze, just add another dash or two of vanilla extract, and carry on! And finally, a word on sweetness: invariably, the ripeness of your bananas will influence this. You can bump up or knock down the brown sugar accordingly (using less for riper bananas, and vice versa). Similarly, if you want to verge more on cake territory, use the full 3/4 cup sugar. 



    Bourbon, Salted Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread // makes 1 standard 9"x5" loaf // certainly not gluten free, for sure not vegan, not a hint of plant-based, and full of refined sugar //

    • 4 large very ripe bananas
    • 1/3 cup (75g) melted virgin coconut oil or butter
    • 3/4 cup (145g) brown sugar, or use 1/2 cup (100g) for a less-sweet loaf
    • 1 egg, using locally sourced and/or organic when possible
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB bourbon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
    • 1 1/2 cups (190g) unbleached, all-purpose flour 
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dark salted chocolate, such as Theo's Sea Salt bar
    • 3/4 to 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9"x6" loaf pan. Chop the chocolate into small to medium chunks/shards, and do the same with the pecans. Larger pieces are ok, as this makes for a lovely texture and visual appeal as the loaf is sliced. 

    2. Smash the bananas in a large bowl using a fork or potato masher. Add the melted coconut oil or butter, the egg, the vanilla, the sea salt, the bourbon, the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the ginger, and mix well. 

    3. Sift the flour directly into the wet mixture in step 2. Stir breifly, then add in the chopped chocolate and pecans, stirring just to combine. 

    4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top if needed. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then carefully slide a knife or off-set spatula around the edges, and release the loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to throughly cool, if you can, before slicing. If you wish to pour a chocolate ganache or glaze over the top, you must let the loaf cool all the way before doing so. Loaf may be stored, covered or in a container, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or be frozen whole or in slices, for up to 1 month.



    1. Chop chop chop....Measure/weigh, mash, crack that egg, add the booze and vanilla...re-assure yourself that this is going to be amazing, because you are amazing!Sift, gently stir, then add the chopped goodies...briefly stir once more to bring the batter together.Pour. Admire the textures and colors.Bake, enjoying the lovely aromas!And you've done it. Look at you, all on top of your banana bread/caking skills! Go you. Enjoy as desired, either plain, sliced in thick pieces, or drizzle with your favorite chocolate glaze or ganache once cooled. 

  • Orange, Hazelnut & Bourbon Biscotti

    Alright. I don't exactly know how it is already December, BUT I do know that the holidays=cookie season. And hot beverage season. So naturally, biscotti rank high on my cookie list. Nothing is as satisfying as dunking a crunchy, nutty cookie into a hot cup of coffee (or whatever your hot beverage of choice is!). 

    I don't know about you, but, anytime during the day I can mentally and physically slow down enough to sit, make coffee or tea, and enjoy a treat is something I cherish. And even if you cannot manage to do this exact ritual, or don't need the sugar/caffeiene rush, I think it is healthy to slow down during the day, take some deep breaths, and focus on the present. For December, I am making this practice one of my values for the month. Whether I will choose to do this before going to work amidst my morning routine, mid-day during work, or when I get home, I want to get back into expressing gratitude and being present each day (even if it is just for 5 minutes!). Because really, I think being a sane, grateful and kind person is a valuable gift we can give to the people in our lives, and our world at large, especially during the often stressful, emotional and hectic holiday season. Now, back to cookies! To be perfectly honest, this was my first ever batch of non-anise seed studded biscotti. Not going to lie, it felt a liiiittle like betrayal. My go-to recipe is from my Aunt (which she got from her mother-in-law, who is from Italian stock), and I have many fond memories of coming home after school, and being elated when seeing a small container of the golden crusted, anise seed studded cookies. Not too sweet, super crunchy, speckled with little bursts of black licorice from the anise seeds that would inevitably get stuck in your teeth, where they would hide as flavor bombs well after you were done munching. A perfect after school snack, I could easily munch down 3 or 4 of these treats while procrastinating on getting started with my homework (because eating biscotti > doing homework).

    But I realize that anise can be a polarizing flavor. When anise is invited to the holiday party, you know damn well that it will be staying for a while. Get out of the way, because anise likes to party-invading the dance floor, drinking all the holiday punch, and making a scene. And who drank the last of the egg nog? You bet your ass that it was anise. The presence of anise, strong and pronounced, is known immediately, and understandably, not everyone cares for this. Enter: a plays-well-with-others, even-tempered orange and hazelnut character, mellowed with vanilla and bourbon. I was extremely happy with the results after tweaking an Alice Medrich recipe to my liking (from "Chew Gooey Crispy Crunch Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies"): the crunch factor and texture were spot-on, the flavors were well balanced, and the test of dunking a biscotto into a hot foamy latte passed with flying colors (and don't worry, I verified this seveal times for research purposes). Beyond being delicious treats to savor alone, or with a mug of hot-something, biscotti of any variety are ideal for the holidays: they keep very well, growing crunchier as they sit (put them in a pretty container on your counter next to your coffee maker); they also ship with ease, and travel like champions, so are perfect for sending to people you love around the holidays (and I don't think any sane host/hostess would turn down a tin of biscotti as a thank-you gift!). Simply put: make a big batch, store them in the freezer or on the counter in an air-tight container or jar, then share and enjoy! Notes: while the hazelnut flavor is amazing, I realize finding good quality raw hazelnuts to toast at home is a challenge at times, so substituting your favorite raw nut of choice, and freshly toasting at home, would be perfectly acceptable. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and even pecans, would work here (or heck, try a combination!). They key, as I mentionted, is to freshly toast raw nuts to ensure optiumum freshness and flavor. Using your discretion based on what type of nut you use, adapt which extracts and booze to use in the recipe, but please strive to use pure extracts, and booze that you would actually drink (i.e. no Fleishmann's here!). I favor a high quality vanilla extract, and am working through a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel. Rum, Drambuie, Frangelico, Brandy and Sambucca are all worthy contenders, based on your preferences for booze. In addition, seek out high quality extracts, reading ingredient labels to make sure no corn syrup or other nasty additives are present. And lastly, yes, the orange zest would be completely adaptable to another type of citrus zest (lemon! lime! bergamot!), but is also completely optional if you get right down to it. One could also sneak in some finely chopped dark chocolate as well to this recipe! But truly, the orange/hazelnut/bourbon combination is a winner for sure. 



    Orange & Hazelnut Biscotti // makes 15-18 larger 4" to 6" long cookies, or 24 smaller 2" to 3"  long cookies //

    • 1 heaping cup whole hazelnuts, or nut of choice, freshly toasted
    • 1 cup (4.5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour*
    • 1 cup  (4.5 oz) spelt flour*
    • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
    • zest of 1 orange, or citrus of choice, organic if possible
    • 4 TB melted butter, or 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 TB bourbon, or booze of choice
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract, or extract of choice

    *feel free to use either 100% all purpose flour OR 100% spelt flour, or a combination as noted

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread nuts on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Toast nuts until fragrant, about 7-10 minutes. If using hazelnuts, after toasting, transfer slightly cooled nuts to a kitchen towel, wrap, and begin to rub the skins off by massaging the hazelnuts in the towel. Shake partially skinned hazelnuts into a colander, rub together with hands to get remaining skins off. 

    2. Transfer skinned nuts into bowl of food processor, and process into a coarse meal. Alternatively, coarsely chop nuts with a sharp knife. 

    3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sea salt and nutmeg. Add chopped nuts and stir to combine. 

    4. In another large bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest. Rub together to work the oils out of the orange zest until the sugar is moist and fragrant with the orange oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the melted butter or olive oil, and then finally whisk in the booze and extracts. 

    5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture with the chopped nuts. Stir until a moist, thick and sticky batter is formed. Using lightly oiled or moistened hands, turn the batter out onto a an oiled parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Form the batter into a long rectangle of even thickness that is 12"-14" long and 4"-5" wide, using the larger measurements for smaller, shorter cookies. 

    6. Bake the rectangle for 45-50 minutes, until firm to the touch and dry in appearance. Allow the log to cool for 15-30 minutes, until cool to touch, and then slice using a serratd knife into 1/2" to 1" thick slices. If desired, cut on a bias or a diagonal. Place sliced biscotto back onto the baking sheet, and return to the oven for the second bake for 40-55 minutes, flipping the cookies halfway through baking, until golden brown. Allow to cool, and then store in airtight containers at room temperature or in the freezer.



  • Bourbon & Browned Butter Apple-Pear pie

    The days are getting shorter, almost as if the sleepy eyelids of the sky are dosing off earlier and earlier as the season progresses. Mornings are darker, the air is cooler, and the trees are sloooowly changing into their fabulously fire-colored fall frocks.

    We are looking FORWARD these days (I mean, that is not the Wisconsin motto, right?), not backward. And by doing this, we arrive (always fashionably late) at the bourbon & browned butter apple-pear pie party, draped in flakey, tender pastry doused in cinnamon sugar. Yes, full of butter, both in the filling and the pastry. And for sure packed full of locally grown apples, organic pears, spices (cinnamon! ginger! cardamom! nutmeg!), and a measure of bourbon. Because booze coats will keep you warm, and cozy, as the mercury falls. Yep, booze coat. I distinctly remember the occasion in which my friend Kendra shared this expression with me, and to be expected, we were out for a night of well-earned schenanigans in Madison, during a colder month, whilst we were undergrads at UW, full of good intentions (sarcasm, right there). 

    The filling was adapted from two of my favorite sources, Joy and Deb, to which I got the inspiration to brown the butter for the filling from day dreaming about browned butter, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. The apple and pear combination, in my opinion, satisfies the best of both worlds the flavors of each compliment, and enhance, each other. The all-butter pastry, being a relatively standard recipe with the proportions, can be found many places on the internets in various (and slight) permutations, but I provide my ideal measurements just in case. Becaus you see, the trick to a really good pie is to not use a pre-made pie pastry! You get one shot at this life, people, and don't waste it on sub-par pie crusts. And, what type of fat you use is up to you, so you can tailor your pastry to suit your needs/dietary mantra: butter, coconut oil, Earth Balance, lard, non-hydrogenated shortening, straight-up plasticized crisco, nitrogen votated vegetable oil, whatever (but maaaybe don't use the last 3, cause no...just don't).  I opted for using Organic Valley's award winning cultured butter, because life is too short (again!) for sub-par pie crusts (and really, we are so lucky here in WI to have amazing farmers who love their animals, and produce excellent products). I have had great success with a 50:50 ratio of quality butter and virgin coconut oil, as well as 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil and Earth Balance. Naturally, varied results are to be expected with what type of fat you use, but as far as I am concerned, if you make the effort to make homemade pie pastry, it will taste good.Real Life Example (and don't act like you haven't done this before, or seen it happen): you are at a party/gathering/social function that requires knives and forks, and someone walks in with/presents/proudly states that "they" brought the "pie". Your ears perk up in curiosity, and before you know it, you spin on your heels so fast, that you blurt out ("ask") "hey, what volume proportions of fat to flour did you use for the crust?!". And ladies and gentlemen, this is where the fine distinction of "pie" and "Oh, PIE!!". If you get a blank stare back, just walk away from that pie (and the person who brought it)....just walk away. Good pie does not used pre-made pastry, found in the cardboard box-a mere lifeless baton of fat mixed with flour. I don't care if you are Betty Crocker, or Poppin Fresh; the truth hurts, and that is it. 

    Homemade pastry=love. Pre-made, store bought pastry=sad, sad excuse. 

    The filling requires you to brown butter. Requires. The toasty, roasty Maillard browning that occurs as you gently heat butter to transform the milk solids (i.e. lactose, whey) to a golden color really does lend a magical, warm, cozy flavor to anything it comes into contact with (and honestly, I think we all deserve alllllll of the warm, cozy flavors during the colder months...right?)

    Bonus: you can make both the pie pastry, and filling, a day ahead of time. Heck, you can make several batches of the pie pastry, and freeze them for future pie making. Look at you, all prepared for the holidays and stuff...Just be sure to thaw your pastry out, either overnight in the fridge or on the counter.

    And final note: I urge you, no, BEG you to please utilize the amazing powers of tapioca to thicken the pie filling. You can make tapioca starch by grinding tapioca in a spice/coffee grinder, or you can buy straight-up tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour). A filling thickened with tapioca, in contrast to flour and cornstarch, is freeze/thaw stable, will not be cloudy, and will not be suseptible to acid hydrolysis on heating (i.e. will not result in a runny, un-set filling). 

    Happy Pie'ing! This one is worth it-from the homemade pastry, to the browned butter. So get on it!



    Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple-Pear Pie (with all butter crust) // makes 1 9" to 10" pie // nut-free; soy-free; makes your soul happy, espeically when shared with others //

    All Butter Pastry for Bottom Crust + Lattice/Top Crust:

    • 2 1/2 cups (340g) all purpose flour (I love Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup (2 sticks, 16 TB, 8oz) quality butter, such as Organic Valley Cultured Butter, OR fat of choice (coconut oil, Earth Balance, etc)
    • 2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 TB sugar
    • 8 to 12 TB ice cold water, mixed with 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

    1. Sift the flour, sea salt and sugar together in a large bowl. 

    2. Be sure your fat is cold, regardless of type you are using. Cut butter into small-ish cubes. For coconut oil and Earth Balance, I like to scoop out dollops directly onto the sifted flour mixture, and place the whole works in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the pieces of fat to cool. This ensures that the fat will not be too soft, and won't mix all the way into the flour mixture, resulting in a mealy or tougher crust (but no biggie if this happens!).

    3. Using your finger tips (with clean hands, people), break the fat down into smaller pieces and flakes, until you get sizes that average the size of peas, with some pieces of fat being bigger or smaller being just fine. If using coconut oil, this may be more of a involved process due to its more solid nature below 76F, but be patient and have faith!

    4. Sprinkle the acidulated ice water over the flour/fat mixture, starting with only 8 TB. Then, bring a shaggy, loose dough together by mixing with a fork. If there is still a good amount of crumbs/dry pieces not adhering to clump of dough, add in more of the water 1 TB at a time, sprinkling over the drier areas. Mix again with a fork, or your hands, until a shaggy, somewhat composed ball is formed. Dump onto a clean surface, and using your hands, gather it all up neatly, form a rough disc ~6" in diameter, and wrap/put in a ziplock bag. 

    5. Allow pastry to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. Alternatively, you can wrap the pastry really well, and freeze for up to 2 months. While you allow your pastry to rest, carry on with the filling.


    Bourbon + Brown Butter Apple-Pear Filling 

    • 3 TB butter, the best quality you can find
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger ripe, but not mushy, pears (I used Bartlett), peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger apples, whatever variety you wish, peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 3 TB bourbon (I used Four Roses Single Barrel)
    • 2 TB tapioca starch
    • 2/3 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed (can be made by combining scant 2/3 cup white sugar and 2-3 tsp molasses, mixing with your fingers to thoroughly combine)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger (or you could use 1/2 tsp freshly grated)
    • scant 1/4 tsp cardamom
    • 1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1. Brown the butter: melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Continue to heat the butter, which will foam, and then begin to brown, usually after 7-10 minutes. Swirl pan occasionally, keeping at eye on it during the last few minutes. The milk solids will brown, and the liquid fat portion will also become darker. Take off the heat once the milk solids are golden. Optionally strain the browned butter through a fine sieve or nutmilk/sprouting bag to remove specks. Set aside to cool slightly.

    2. Peel, core and slice apples and pears. Toss with the remaining ingredients, as well as with the slightly cooled browned butter. You can either cover and refrigerate the filling for up to 12 hours, allowing the fruits to macerate, or proceed with baking the pie right away.

    3. Bake the pie: preheat oven to 425F. Take pastry out of the fridge (or freezer), allowing it to come to room temperature (if frozen, take it out to thaw up to 1 day in advance in the fridge, or at room temperature). Cut the pastry disc in half. Roll, going from the center outwards to the edges, one half on a lightly floured surface, taking care to gently lift the pastry after every few rolls of the pin to make sure it isn't sticking. Add a touch more flour as needed to the rolling pin and surface. Once you have a ~12" diameter circle-ish piece, transfer to a 9" or 10" pie plate. You can either fold the pastry in half, and transfer to the pie plate, OR you can roll the entire pastry circle up on the rolling pin, and unroll into the pie plate. Gently nestle the pastry into the plate. Trim the edges to leave a ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang, using a sharp knife, scissors or pizza cutter. Patch scraps into place as needed to get the overhang. Place the bottom crust in the freezer while you roll the rop crust in a similar fashion as the bottom (starting from the center of the pastry, rolling outwards, until you have a ~12" circle-ish shape). If you wish to lattice your top, cut into strips of desired width. Take the bottom crust out of the freezer, and add the filling. Lattice your top crust, or, simply top the filling with the second piece of rolled pastry, following the same motions with the overhang to get ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang (same with the lattice strips, aim for a 1" to 1 1/2" overhang). Gently press the bottom and top overhangs together, and fold under to make a smooth-ish edge. Crimp as desired with your fingers or with a fork (my method is to use my thumb pressed between my fore and middle finger). If using a full top crust, poke a few vent holes to allow steam to escape.

    4. Place pie on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet (or not, up to you, I just don't like to deal with boiled over pie filling). Brush the top crust with milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond), or egg wash for a darker, shinier crust (1 egg beaten with 2 tsp water). Optionally sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling throughout. Allow to cool as long as you can muster, then enjoy! Serve with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cow or coconut cream (optionally spiked with bourbon and maple syrup). Also great for breakfast with coffee, but I don't need to really tell you that...do I?



    My idea of an exciting Saturday evening: peeling, coring and slicing apples/pears, making brown sugar, browning butter aaaand bourbon!12-ish hours later....pie pastry all rested and ready to roll. The patience and time for this is worth it, trust me.Roll, plate, fill....showing the pastry no fear (it can sense fear). But don't sweat it if you tear or rip the pastry-just patch it up and carry on with confidence. More rolling, cutting, lattice-ing (or just top crust-ing and vent hole poking). You are a pie champion!Trim, fold, flute....brush with milk of choice (or egg wash), sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake...waft in the wonderful aromas...pat yourself on the back....you are awesome, and now you have pie. What more could you ask for?

  • Favorite Lentil Salad

    I heard that 2016 is the international year of the pulse. Check yours: are you still alive? Just kidding!! I really hope you are still with us, since the lentil salad I am going to share is KILLER (See what I did there?? Too heavy? Ok, ok...enough with the bad jokes).

    But in all honesty, I have been making this lentil salad once a week ever since returning from visiting my sister in California at the end of February. My sister made it while I was visiting, and it was so dang good! Paired with roasted or steamed beets, crunchy fennel and toasted California walnuts, it was a memorable salad for sure. All the spices in this lentil salad just work. Don't be scared-just do it! 

    Bonus: you can prepare the lentils a few days ahead of time, and let them marinate in the supremely flavorful dressing. Have the lentils around for quick and simple week day lunches or dinners-it really isn't easier. In addition, you can roast/steam beets and prepare the crunchy fennel ahead of time, too. Everything will last a few days in the fridge, wtih the lentils being a-ok up to 1 week. 

    Don't have beets? Don't particularly like fennel (uh, what is wrong with you? Jk jk...)? Allergic to nuts? Simply substitute your favorite things instead. Roast or steam another root veggie (carrots! sweet potatoes! aspargus!), make a crunchy slaw out of another flavorful fresh veggie (red cabbage!), and toast up a seed of choice (pepitas! sunflower seeds!). Keep them all in containers in your fridge, and you're poised for salad time, you salad boss. Cool, right??Want a more salad-y affair? Serve over spinach or your favorite lefy green. The dressing on the lentils is plentiful, full of spices and rich extra virgin olive oil, so a simple squeeze of fresh lemon and sprinkle of sea salt will do the trick to dress the greens. However, if you're super ambitious, you can whip up a lemon-tahini dressing (check out mine here, which is also a post on how to steam beets in your oven), and have another option to keep things tasty, but simple, during the week.

    Ok, enough talking! Let us go to salad town (HA! See what I did there?! Let us....lettuce...and salad town?? I swear, I am done with the crappy word play jokes now!). 

    PS: if you're interested in reading about my new adventures in home kombucha brewing, head over the the 'Booch and Bees section at the top of your page! :) Also, the lentil salad recipe is inspired by, and lightly adapted, from the "The Best Lentil Salad Ever" recipe in My New Roots by Sarah Britton. LOVE the book, and her blog, so check both out ASAP!

    Notes: do NOT use regular green or brown lentils here-you MUST use either de puy (French green) or black beluga lentils. You want the mineral-y taste, and you also really need the lentils to retain their shape, not turn to mush once cooked. You can easily source either de puy or beluga lentils from your local food cooperative (like the Willy Street Coop) or Whole Foods in the bulk aisle. And I don't need to tell you to not use canned lentils, right? To speed the cooking process and enhance the digestion of the lentils, soak them overnight in a big bowl with enough water to cover the lentils by 2". The soaking step is optional, but regardless, monitor your lentils during cooking (i.e. set a timer!), as the cooking time in your kitchen will be different from mine. This recipe is no good with mushy, over-cooked lentils, people! You want the lentils to retain some bite, but also be cooked all the way through, since no one likes to digest an under-cooked lentil (am I right?). Since cooking time may vary, start with cooking for 12-15 minutes, taste and add time as needed. The lentils *should* take between 15-20 minutes total to cook. ONE LAST THING: despite all the verbiage, this salad is SIMPLE. If all the spices scare you and/or you don't have them on hand, simply hit up a bulk aisle with spices, and purchase small quantities to start with. 



    The Best Lentil Salad // makes about 5 cups of lentil salad // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free; nut-free // 

    Lentils:

    • 2 to 2 1/4 cups de puy or beluga lentils
    • water, enough to cover the lentils in the cooking pan by 3"-4"

    Dressing & Other Add-Ins:

    • 4-6 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 TB apple cider vinegar, using a high-quality cultured variety, such as Braggs, when possible
    • 1 TB maple syrup, agave or honey
    • 1 TB dijon mustard, the smooth and spicy variety (no lie, I use Trader Joe's brand and love the stuff)
    • 2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
    • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin (freshly toasted whole cumin seeds, ground to a powder, are amazing here, but use what you have in your spice arsenal)
    • 1/2 heaped tsp ground turmeric
    • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
    • pinch ground cloves
    • pinch to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, using more if you like it spicy, and dial it back for sensitive taste buds
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • a frew gratings of nutmeg 
    • 1 cup raisins, chopped into smaller pieces, or simply use currants instead for their smaller size
    • Optinoal: a big handful parsley, chopped fine
    • Optional (not in the photos): 1/3 cup salt-packed or brined capers, rinsed or soaked for 5-10 minutes in cold water and drained
    • Optional (not in the photos): 1 small to medium red onion, diced into similar size pieces as the raisins/currants

    Some (My Favorite) Serving Suggestion:

    • Steamed or roasted beets
    • Freshly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces
    • 1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced and tossed with a pinch of sea salt, squeeze of lemon, and 1-2 TB chopped fennel fronds
    • Leafy greens, with spinach being my favorite here
    • Additonal extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt/Maldon

    1. Sort through the lentils for foreign matter (like small stones), and rinse. Soak overnight with 2" excess water covering the lentils in a large bowl, or simply thoroughly rinse the lentils if you are cooking them right away. If you soak the lentils, be sure to give them a good rinse before cooking as well. 

    2. Cook the lentils (can be done up to 2 days ahead of time): in a large pot, add the lentils and enough water to cover them by 3" to 4". Place a lid on, and bring to a good simmer over medium-high heat. Once a good simmer is reached, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and set a timer for 10-12 minutes. Taste for doneness, and add a few more minutes to the cook time as needed. The goal is a cooked, but not mushy, lentil that still retains its shape and some bite. Once cooked, remove from the heat, drain the cooking water off, and rinse with cool water one or two times to remove excess starch and stop the cooking process. Set aside, or place in the fridge in a covered container until ready to prepare the salad.

    3. Prepare the dressing: simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or container you wish to store the lentil salad in. Glass or non-porous material is recommended, as the spices and turmeric will flavor and color taint otherwise. Thoroughly whisk to combine all the spices, maple syrup/honey, and cider vinegar. When ready, simply combine the lentils, the dressing, parlsey and the onions (if using). Lentils will keep for up to 1 week, in a covered container, in the fridge. 

    4.  Give the lentils a good stir to distribute the dressing, and then if desired, serve with veggies, nuts/seeds, and leafy greens, as well a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. However, the lentils themselves make for a delicious salad or side dish. The lentils cand be served cold, or at room temperature. 



    Oh yeah...the dressing. This mixture is powerful, and likely has other super powers beyond tasting amazing.All mixed up...ahoo hooo (Elvis voice there, please)Choppin' up the raisins, or you could simply use currants, but I had these California raisins from my visit with my sister. Also, the bowl (and all the fun pottery/ceramic that you see, for the most part) is handmade by my aunt Karen. This is the first black/white/gray piece of hers that I have, and I am loving it!

    Ok, almost done...Mix, mix, mix...Beets, fennel...whatever floats your boat. I just really love the beets and fennel here...Fennel, it does a body good! Seriously. Get on eating this amazing veg!And...done. Your work is well worth it, as now you have a fabulous salad for the next few days to enjoy. Pat yourself on the back, cause it is delicious and great for you, too.Yes!

  • Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

    I love chocolate. What else do I love? A simple, delicious and quick chocolate dessert that can be made in advance, and spiced-up as you please.Enter: this amazing two-ingredient chocolate mousse recipe, which I lightly adapted from Oh Lady Cakes. I know, French-cuisine purists are turning up their noses. And everyone else is like "ok...keep going...". So I am going to keep going with this. Trust the process, with this recipe, cause it works. And rest assured, if you mess it up, you can totally start ALL OVER, which is (unfortunately) not an option with traditional chocolate mousse. Basically, you rely on the fact that when you melt and then cool chocolate, the cocoa butter solidifies. You cool a chocolate-almond milk mixture down to an optimal temperature to produce a viscosity that enables tiny air bubbles to be trapped into the chocolate mixture as you aerate it by whisk or hand mixer. The product is a light, airy mousse that is intensely chocolate-y. Top with your favorite whipped cream, either the moo kind or coconut kind, and you have yourself a simple, yet decadent treat. Even better: you can make the mousse up to 2 days ahead, topping with whipped cream while you serve it, either to your eager chocolate-loving self or guests. Put out a bowl of cocoa beans or pre-shelled cacao nibs, and you have a crunchy contrast to enjoy as a garnish. Or just eat it as-is....totally acceptable. Thanks, Ashlae for the awesome recipe and technique-it is a true winner! Notes: I used 3oz 100% cacao and 3oz 70% Organic Chocolate (a bar from Trader Joe's, but please use the best quality, most responsibly sourced chocolate you can get your hands on for this). The product was SUPER intense and slightly bitter, so I added 1 TB of maple syrup to bump up the sweetness just a touch. Feel free to do the same, or use all 60% to 70% chocolate. I would refrain from using anything less than 60% cocoa solids, as chocolate is the name of the game in this recipe, people! I don't know if other almond or plant-based milks will work with this recipe, as I have only used Califia as specified by the original recipe. Optional add-ins could include: vanilla extract, espresso powder, rum or brandy or cognac or Kahlua other booze of your choice, sea salt, peanut butter.....let your imagination run wild! Ashlae has some great ideas with the original recipe-check them out! Top with whipped cream and cacao nibs, Maldon sea salt, toasted coconut flakes...you get the idea....Lastly, I got 3 servings that were on the larger side, but use as many jars/ramekins as you think you'd like. Or, just make a big bowl and scoop it out to serve.



    Two-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse // plant-based; gluten-free; soy-free; oil-free // makes 3-4 small servings or 2 larger servings //

    • 6 oz 60-70% cocoa solids chocolate of high quality, or us 3 oz 100% cacao/cocoa solids chocolate and 3 oz 60-70% cocoa solids chocolate plus 1-2 TB liquid sweetener of choice 
    • 3/4 cup Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk or almond coconut milk
    • Optional: 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, or add-ins/flavorings (see notes above)

    1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice about 1/3 of the way full. Next, procure a bowl that will fit inside the ice bath, using either glass or metal, but note that if using the microwave to melt the chocolate you shouldn't use metal...but you knew that.

    2. Get a hand mixer or a balloon whisk ready, a rubber spatula, as well as the jars or bowls you'd like to use to serve. Set them nearby, as the mousse comes together quickly once you start mixing.

    3. Break up the chocolate into the smaller bowl, and melt it either over a water bath OR on low power in the microwave, stirring to ensure the chocolate scorches every 30 to 45 seconds. Once melted, place the bowl inside the ice bath and add the almond milk. Stir to combine with the rubber spatula, scraping the sides to incorporate all the chocolate. This would be the time to add-in flavorings, liqours, or extracts.

    4. Switch to the whisk or hand mixer, and beat for 2-3 minutes. During the first 2-3 minutes, the mixture will be loose and bubbly. As you continue to mix, the mixture will begin to thicken. You want to mix for just a few more seconds beyond the point when you just start see trails to form behind the whisk or mixer beaters. You want a thickened mixture, but not one that is clumpy*

    5. Immediately stop mixing and pour into jars. Lightly tap to even out the surface, and break up any large air pockets that formed during pouring. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Top as desired. 

    *If you have over-mixed and your mousse is super thick or chunky, simply re-melt the entire mixture, and re-do step 4, taken care to not over-mix. 



    Chocolate!and then magically, MOUSSE!It really can't be easier, which is dangerous, but still glorious.Yep, dangerous. But so worth it. And chocolate confetti! Really, how can it get any better?

  • The Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie

    Ok, I know I have already shared 2 pumpkin pie recipes, but guys...this one is pretty special. I mean, technically, you can't really make a vegan custard, with the eggs and milk and all...so why not just go full-force, and bust out some super rich and decadent plant-based ingredients, and make a unique pumpkin pie that is not only vegan, gluten-free and free of refined sugars, but also mega awesome? Yeah, I that is what I thought, too!

    (ps: I in no way want to put the perception our there that I am totally ready for the holidays. Let's be real here: I don't have my shit together. I am trying to write a thesis, defend, and graduate by late December. And I have a metric f*** ton of work left to do. But pumpkin pie makes these tasks a little less crappy, so if you're also stressed with school/work/life, I recommend taking a break, and making either variant of the pumpkin pies I have shared with you!)

    This pie is versatile. Don't want to make a full-on pie? Just pour the creamy filling into a parchment-lined 8"x8" pan, chill until firm, and you have yourself a) a delicious pudding-like treat, perfect topped with whipped coconut cream and some crunchy toasted nuts, or b) place in the freezer, and once frozen/firm, slice into squares for a fudge-like treat. (side note: leftover filling also makes a bomb oatmeal topping)The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance, simply cover the pie with plastic wrap so the filling stays moist (if you need to, you can smooth the top of the pie out after removing the plastic wrap). Leftover pie can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. Eating it straight from the freezer is like a pumpking ice-cream pie. Yep-even another "versatile" way to enjoy this amazing pumpkin pie! You can also let the pie come to room temperature-it really is up to your preference. I find that slicing the pie is a touch easier when a bit cold, so feel free to pre-slice and allow individual pieces come to the desired temperature if needed.

    I had the pleasure of helping a friend with a project and her awesomely talented group had the patience to film an interview of me about this blog, as well as film me making this pie! I was nervous, but managed to not be too twitchy or spill anything all over my kitchen. It was truly a holiday miracle. Their project will also feature Fromagination (a local cheese shop on our capitol square) and Mob Craft Brewing. I can't wait to see the final product (but can wait to see how nervous/rambling I was! Ha!).Speaking of rambling, I think I will just get on with sharing the recipe. I do hope you try this for your next holiday get-together or potluck. This pie was approved by my dairy-farming family last Thanksgiving, so it can certainly please the palate of anyone that has a love for traditional pumpkin pie!!

    Note: this pie cannot be made nut free-sorry! For a delicious nut-free alternative, check out the cashew-less version of my take on traditional pumpkin pie here. Have the time to make your own pumpkin puree? Good for you-come make some for me! Just kidding. See here for my puree how-to! If you don't have time to do this, using one can of organic pumpkin puree is totally acceptable. No one will be the wiser, I promise. 



    Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free // makes one 9" or 10" pie //

    Crust: 

    • 1 cup walnuts or pecans
    • 1 cup rolled oats, GF if needed
    • 2/3 cup soft medjool dates, pitted (if yours are a bit firm, soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain throughly; they need to be soft to bind the crust)
    • 1 TB virgin coconut oil, melted + a bit more for greasing pan
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 strips of parchment paper for lining pie pan (optional, but recommended to help prevent sticking)

    Filling:

    • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for 1 hour in hot water
    • 2 cups (or 1 15-oz can) pumpkin or squash puree, not pumpkin pie mix 
    • 6 TB virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger, or 1/2" hunk fresh ginger
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp molasses
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1-3 TB plant-based milk, to help blend if needed

    Whipped Coconut Cream:

    • 1 can coconut cream*, refrigerated upside down, until firm
    • 1-2 TB maple syrup
    • pinch sea salt
    • optional: a glug of cognac, brandy or rum, or vanilla

    *the coconut cream CANNOT have guar gum in it; Trader Joe's has carboxy methyl cellulose, and still whips, FYI. For an entertaining, yet sad picture of the results, see last picture at bottom of this post! :D

    1. Make the crust: in a foor processor, pulse the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt until medium-fine texture. Add the coconut oil and the dates, and pulse until it all comes together into a sticky ball. To know when you've processed enough, squeese a bit of the mixture in your palm-it should stick together. 

    2. Cut two wide strips of parchment that cover the width of the pie pan. Grease the pan, and then lay the strips of parchment accross in an "X". The coconut oil that you greased the pan with will help these stay in place. Oil or lightly wet your hands, and scoop crust mixture into pan. Distribute it evenly, and pat firmly into the pie tin. Use the underside of a measuring cup or a glass to help even-out. You want the crust to be firmly pressed in, but not too firm so that it becomes too compact so it doesn't come out easily when sliced (but if that DOES happen, you'll have the parchment strips to help coax pieces out).

    3. Bake the crust for 9-12 minutes, until it is fragrant and golden. Take crust out to cool while you make the filling.

    4. Make the filling: combine all the ingredients in a blender, and puree until completely smooth. Taste and adjust spices as desired. If using a conventional blender, it may take 3-5 miutes for the mixture to blend to complete smoothness. Scrape down the sides as needed. If the mixture is too thick to blend, then add a few TB of plant-based milk or water. Once smooth, simply pour into the baked and slightly cooled crust. Smooth out, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time. Pie can be frozen whole or in slices, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and put into another container to prevent freezer burn.

    5. Slice straight from the fridge, or freezer. Pie is easiest to slice when cool, but you can let it warm up as you see fit. Top with whipped coconut cream, and enjoy!

    To make coconut whipped cream: open the coconut cream as you had it in the fridge (open the bottom of the can!). Empty the watery contents into a jar, and reserve for a smoothie. Scoop out the thick, cold coconut cream into a large bowl, or the bowl of a mixer. Mix with a whip attachment (or just with beaters), until light and fluffy. Beat in the maple syrup, sea salt and booze if using. Can be whipped a few hours ahead of time, and placed in the fridge. Re-whip a touch with a whisk right before serving if your coconut whip deflates while sitting. 



    Crust: this is the texture of the oats and nuts that you'll want to aim for. Not too coarse, or else the mixture won't stick, and not too fine or the excess oils released from the nuts will make this too...well, oily, and like nut-butter.In with the *soft* dates (if they aren't soft, soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain thoroughly). Pulse until you have a mixture that sticks together when squeezed in your palm.Ok, now prep your pie dish by laying 2 strips of parchment cross-wise in a coconut-oiled pie dish (this is an extra precaution for if your pie crust sticks and you cannot manage to get pieces out! Simply lifting up simultaneously on the parchment flaps will get the pie loosened for easier cutting if the crust sticks).Ok, now pat the crumbly crust mixture into the dish, getting it as even in thickness as you can muster. I like to oil or wet my hands a bit to prevent sticking. To finish the edges and make it all even-like, use the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass...lightly oil or wet that, too! Sticking=the devil.Bake at 350F for 9-12 minutes, or unti fragrant and just starting to turn dark brown around the edges.Ok, while the crust bakes, get on with the filling! I love this part. The filling stuff! Simply throw (ok, not throw, gently pour/scoop/etc) into a blender, and....blend until completely smooth! It took me about 2 minutes in my Vitamix, but when I used a conventional, it look me about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the blender container as needed. Taste, and adjust sweetness and spice. This filling. So. Beautiful! The color gets me everytime. Just makes you want to smile, and shove your face in it. Right? Ok, now this is the part where you can diverge into pudding (place into a bowl and chill), freezer "fudge" (into a lined 8x8" pan and freeze until firm enough to cut into chunks) or carry on as pie! We'll make pie. So, scoop into the baked crust, smooth, and chill for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time (just cover it so it doesn't dry out on top!). Slice into whatever size pieces you'd like, whip some coconut cream, and serve! Highly recommend enjoying a piece for breakfast with hot coffee or tea. So rich. So decadent. So not like your traditional pumpkin pie, but so delicious and full of pumpkin and spice! I love it. I hope you do to! If you do make it, let me know how it goes! Cheers and happy (early) Thanksgiving!ps: this is how whipped coconut cream looks WITH guar gum (lesson learned for you-don't repeat my mistakes!)

  • Happy Halloween + Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

    Happy Halloween!! I hope everyone is either carving pumpkins (we did for the first time in a loooong time), drinking lots of cider (spiked with bourbon/whiskey if needed), and soaking in the last day of October. What month! It flew by. That is scary. Kinda like how today should be!! Boo!

    I am taking the morning off from school. First, I'll be having a breakfast with my bestie: pancakes, mimosas, homemade hashbrowns if I am ambitious enough/can convince my boyfriend to peel and grate the ptoatos, bloody Mary's for those who like tomato juice (i.e. not me), coffee, etc...you know the drill. I'll probably make a scary green smoothie, too, cause that's how I roll. After that, we'll be hauling our full bellies to the Badger game!! My friend, Shannon, is usually awesome enough to drag my sorry bum to a home game once a year. She rocks at school/Wisconsin spirit, I do not. But, I will be wearing a cute vintage red sweater....so that counts right? Go Badgers!! After the game, I'll be doing some sort of movie marathon and stuffing my face with chili and cornbread with my boyfriend. I mean, it is a holiday....

    I wanted to share this super tasty, excuse-to-eat-chocolate, crunchy and great-for-you CHOCOLATE granola today. It seemed like the right thing to do, on a holiday that is usually full of candy. Not that there is anything wrong with that on a day like today, but maybe give your body some lovin' with some nourishing and tasty granola while your at it. This granola does contain sugar, but hey, you're already eating granola...so live a little. I am usually a purist when it comes to granola, but the strong cocoa or cacao powder really needs a sweet backdrop to shine. You may be able to use more liquid sweetener, but be careful, as it may burn due to its higher fructose content (especially agave and honey!)...and as you may have guessed, this granola is already dark, it is hard to tell if it has burned. If you do substitute the sugar for a liquid sweetener, I'd love to hear about it!

    This stuff is SUPER easy to throw, erm, mix together! To make it even more speedy and reduce dishes, I used the weight measurements for most of the ingredients (but feel free to use your volume measures if you don't have a kitchen scale, both are included!). I initially planned to send the lot of it to my sister for her birthday last week, but decided against it. I thought some gluten-free and vegan brownies, choc full of walnuts, dark chocolate and topped with Maldon were a better brithday treat...no? Well, at any rate, the hardest part about this recipe is waiting for it to bake. 

    ps: this stuff would still make a great gift. Pour some in a jar + ribbon + label = insta gift!! 

    And the BEST part? You get chocolate milk after you eat a bowl of this stuff! Kinda like a hippy-dippy version of Cocoa Pebbles! I enjoyed my first bowl with a fresh batch of homemade almond milk, but do your thing, and use whatever type of milk is your jam. The original recipe is from Sarah over at My New Roots. I recently picked up her book for a gift for my sister, and after reading through the copy I shipped to her, I HAD to order myself one! So glad I did, because that book is amazing, and full of creative, delicious looking recipes. I can't wait to use it more!!

    So happy Halloween, or just Saturday. Enjoy your day, and revel in October's last stance! Happy Granola'ing!!!

    Notes: as mentioned, this recipe does contain cane sugar. Feel free to experiment with liquid sweetner, but be cautious of burning. Indeed, this granola is dark, so you'll want to keep a close eye on it and taste it towards the last 10 minutes of baking, as Sarah mentions in the original. The buckwheat groats are NOT kasha. Kasha=toasted buckwheat, raw buckwheat groats=raw not toasted buckwheat groats. Get the latter, not the former, since you're toasting your own! Look in the bulk aisle of a well-stocked grocery store, co-op or Whole Foods. And please don't skip them, their crunch is integral to this recipe, and they are super good for you and your digestive system! To help boost the fiber even more, and lend binding power, I added 2 TB ground flax seeds. After munching on the finished product, I could see replacing chia seeds with ground flax entirely, but up to you. To also help bind this stuff and make it more easy to digest, and other granolas, I always process a portion of the oats and all the nuts in my food processor for a few seconds. Feel free to not do this, and stick to the original's recipe instructions, but I find that the final granola is so much more aromatic and delicous if I give some of the hearty ingredients a quick blitz in the food pro. And last, but most importantly: I had to resist the urge to throw in some chopped super-dark chocolate or even some high-quality chocolate chips. I suggest you strongly consider doing this...or just add some of your favorite dried fruit as you eat it. Noms all around!



    Chocolate + Buckwheat Granola // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free // makes about 8 cups of granola //

    • 3 cups (300g) gluten-free rolled oats 
    • 1 cup (200g) buckwheat groats (not kasha, see note above)
    • 1 1/2 cups (65 to 80g) shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut (I used finely shredded, but the big flakes work too)
    • 1 cup (125g) hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, or combination thereof (I used 50:50 hazelnuts:walnuts)
    • 1/4 cup (30g) chia seeds (or sub with ground flax)
    • 2 TB (15g) ground flax seeds (optional, don't add if you use 1/4 cup ground flax above)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar, sucanant, or coconut sugar
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup, agave or honey
    • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 cup (120g) raw cacao powder (I used this one) or good quality cocoa powder (either Dutched/alkalized or natural would work here)
    • Optional Add In's Post Bake: dried fruit, like cherries or cranberries or apricots would be delish, or even some extra dark chocolate chunks or chips. Note: I like to add my dried fruit as I eat granola, not mix in the entire batch as it tends to dry out and get too chewy for my taste. 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking tray with parchment. In a small bowl or sauce pan, melt the coconut oil in the microwave or stove. Stir in the sugar, liquid sweetener, sea salt, cinnamon, vanilla and cocoa/cacao powder. Stir until completely smooth and set aside.

    2. Measure or weigh out the nuts and half of the oats into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts and oats until you have medium pieces. Dump into a large bowl, and measure or weigh out the remaining ingredients.

    3. Pour the wet chocolate mixture over the dry mixture, and stir well to combine. Taste, adjust cinnamon, sea salt and sweetness if desired.

    4. Dump onto prepared baking tray, pressing down firmly with your hands or the mixing tool you used. Bake for 20 minutes, give it a good flip/stir, and firmly pat back down onto the sheet using your stirring tool. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, stirring a few times during these last minutes to ensure the granola isn't burning by tasting it and smelling. Once done, shut the oven off, crack the oven door at least half-way, and allow the granola to sit undisturbed (I like to let it sit overnight-I keep it in the oven to allow the residual heat to firm it up and to also keep it out of my sight to avoid eating a ton of it out of the oven-you can also cool it on a cooling rack). The granola will firm-up and get more crunchy once cooled. Break up and store in an air-tight container. Lasts for a few weeks at room temperature, or for up to 3 months in the freezer. 



    With everything in your pantry now in this granola, you can feel like a superhero! A granola superhero. Boom!I always pulse half the oats, and all of the nuts for my granolas. I really love the texture, and find that the final granola is much more aromatic and well...nutty!

    The chocolate goo holding this stuff together. Mmmm...chocolate goo....Everything all mixed, ready to bake. This mixture itself tasted pretty rad.

    Ok, now using the mixing tool or your hands, pat the granola down firmly onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake! Taste towards the last 10 or so minutes of baking, to make sure this stuff isn't burning.And after baking! This stuff smells like a brownie baking. No joke.Put into an air-tight containe or jar, and enjoy! With homemade almond milk, this was truly a hippy-dippy spin-off of cocoa pebbles. Yessss!And chocolate milk after!And plenty more for later!!!

  • Pumpkin Pie: Two Classic Recipes

    As I mentioned earlier in the week, my grandma was a liar. Your grandmother probably is too. Juuust kidding. That was to get your attention!

    Now that I have it, let's talk about pumpkin pie. Traditional pumpkin pie is made with custard: a creamy, dense base of eggs and milk. The proteins from the eggs lend stand-up properties, while the fat and flavors from the milk make the custard sweet and rich. The lecithin (an emulsifier) present in the egg yolks make the filling satin-smooth, save any gritty bits or fibers present from the pumpkin/squash puree. Side note: some people like that sort of texture in their pumpkin pies!So, how do we replicate a custard, plant-based style? We rely on another type of suspension (truly a colloid) or gel: a starch-based gel. Now, this could get complicated...but it is pie, so I won't make it so. Essentially, I am telling you one thing: you will get close to the classic custard texture, but you will not mimic it 100% and fool your grandma. A starch-based gel has very different properties than a protein-based gel.

    But fortunately, our starch-based gel is still delicious. Creamy, smooth, thick, and flavorful. All without dairy or eggs. Topped with your favorite whipped cream, either one of these is sure to satisfy a hankerin' for pumpkin pie. I really hope you try either version...I did a lot of baking, and WE did a a lot of pie eating for you! 

    Our plant-based "custard" secret weapons:

    • Arrowroot Starch: provides the primary gel structure; it forms a semi-ridgid gel, thickens the filling upon heating (starch gelatinization), and provides stand-up properties.
    • Coconut Cream: Provivdes air and lift. Eggs, when mixed into traditional filling, help increase viscosity of the custard, and while mixed, help trap air for slightly lighter filling.
    • Soaked Raw Cashews: lends fat and a nutty "cooked" flavor that cooked/baked milk takes on. Helps shorten the firm starch gel structure, leaving you a beautifully creamy and tender filling. 

    So if I haven't sold you on this "starch based gel pumpkin pie", I really urge you to try it for yourself. As I mentioned, I have tested TWO recipes several times, and have had two (unofficial) taste testers for each. The verdict:

    • Version 1: very tasty, but a firmer, ridgid texture. However, not as firm as traditional pumpkin pie. Spices are strong, to which I suspect is the lower fat content since fat helps dampen the impact of flavors and spices. Great cold and room temperature, but room temperature is softer if you like that texture better.
    • Version 2: again, very tasty; texture is less ridgid, and more "voluptuous" thanks to the addition of both cashews and coconut cream, and slightly less arrowroot. The added fat from the cashews and coconut helps replace some of the stand-up properties of the starch in the finished filling, leaving you with a firmer but more tender "custard". The flavors and spices are warm, not overpowering. The color is more opaque, more like the traditional pumpkin pie. The texutre is still soft and pudding-like at room temperature, but firms once chilled. 

    In sum: both get darn close, with version 2 coming in slightly closer. If you do not like or cannot eat cashews, then version 1 is still an incredibly tasty contender. If you cannot consume coconut, feel free to substitue the 1/4 cup with 1/2 cup of your favorite unsweetened plant-based milk, leaning more towards a  organic soy-based one as it has more fat and protein for a firmer filling. But, almond milk works well, too.

    And now, for the crusts:

    • Traditional Style: cut-in-solid fat type, using virgin coconut oil, was what it always is: tender, flakey, but substantial enough to stay firm, even without a blind-bake. Best when you plan on serving the pie sooner, rather than later, as it gets soggy after a day or so. In addition, it requires a chilling period, as all traditional pastry for crusts do. However, can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you are ready to roll. I love using the crust in fruit-based  pies (exhibit A and B). 
    • Melted Fat & Plant-Based Milk Style: overall a more "rustic" texture, much more crispy, and held up to the moisture in the filling for 2 whole days, making it ideal for serving the next day. In contrast to the traditional style, you can roll out this one immediately, no chilling required or recommended, although it is a bit fragile to handle. 

    So, you pick your ideal filling and crust. MY FAVORITE??? I'd have to go with the traditional crust and filling option #2!!

    Don't forget the whipped cream, coconut or otherwise! Happy Pumpkin Pie'ing! If you do make any of these combinations, I would love to know how it went!! 



    Pumpkin Filling Option 1 // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free option // makes 1 9" or 10" pie //

    • 2 1/2 cups pumpkin or squash puree, homemade or canned
    • 1/4 cup coconut cream or 1/2 cup plant-based milk of choice (using a soy-free milk if desired)
    • 1/2 cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanant
    • 3 TB arrowroot starch 
    • 2 tsp molasses 
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger, or 1/2" hunk grated fresh
    • small pinch cloves
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp vanilla 
    • 1 TB bourbon (optional, but very tasty)

    Traditional Cut-In-Solid Fat Crust // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free // makes enough pastry for TWO 9" or 10" pies //

    • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry, unbleached all-purpose or spelt flour, or any combination thereof
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB sugar 
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar or other vinegar
    • 5-7 TB ice water, or very cold water

    1. Make the pie crust (can be made up to 3 days in advance, or frozen for up to 1 month): Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. In small spoofuls, drop the coconut oil over the dry ingredients. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm the fat up again. While waiting, prepare ice water and get vinegar. Once fat has firmed up, cut the fat into the flour using a pastry cutter or fork. You want medium-small pieces, think pea size. Add the water, starting with 5 TB, and all of the vinegar. Cut the water into the dough, adding more by the TB until you can squeeze the pastry togeter into a mass that sticks together but is not sticky/wet. In the bowl, form pastry into a disk, cover with a tea towel and let sit in the fride while you prep the filling. Or, you can wrap the pastry tightly in plastic wrap and place in a storage bag, and chill it for a few days, or even freeze it for up to 1 month.

    3. When you're ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the pie filling: mix the sugar and the arrowroot together with a whisk in a large bowl. This helps prevent the arrowroot from clumping together. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk until smooth, and taste for spices. Adjust as needed. Alternatively, add everything into a blender, and blend until smooth. If you like more texture to your filling, and still want to blend it, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree to mix in after you have blended the filling (that is my favorite method)

    4. To roll out the pie pastry, be sure that it is not too firm from chilling in the fridge. If it is, allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes until you can easily roll it out (alternatively, thaw frozen pastry overnight in the fridge, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature once thawed). Cut the dough disc in half (freeze the other half or use for another pie). Use plenty of flour to help prevent sticking. Pick up and rotate the pastry as you roll it out every few passes of the rolling pie to re-flour if it is sticking. Roll about into a ~12" diameter circle (or large enough to have a 1" overhang on a 9" to 10" pie dish). Fold the pasty into quarters or roll-up on the rolling pin, and place into pie dish, gently coaxing it into place. If a tear happens, simply patch it up or press together again when the pastry is in place. Trim, or patch pastry in place if necessary, around the edges for a 1" overhang. Turn the 1" overhang under, and crimp as desired.

    5. Fill the pie crust with the pumpkin filling. Gently tap the pie on the counter to get rid of any air pockets. Smooth out top with a spatula or spoon. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then for 35-40 additional minutes at 350F. If the crust is browning too much, simply shield it with tin foil or parhment. The filling will be firm, but may wiggle just a bit when moved. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last for 4 days, covered in the fridge, but crust will get a bit moist over time. 


    Fat + Flour = Crust Power!The pastry, with just enough water to hold it together.Roll, fit and crimp. I really like using a scissors to trim excess pastry.Now, mix the filling. Taste it, too. No one likes an under-spiced pumpkin pie.Pour into crust, no pre-baking required. Bake, admire how awesome your kitchen smells, and contemplate whipped cream toppings.

    Pie for breakfast = breakfast of champions. With extra whipped coconut cream, please!!


    Pumpkin Pie Filling Option 2 // plant-based; vegan; soy-free // makes 1 9" or 10" pie //

    • 2 ½ cups pumpkin puree
    • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked, drained and rinsed
    • ¼ cup coconut cream
    • ½ cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanant
    • 2 tsp molasses
    • 1 TB agave, maple syrup or honey
    • 2 TB arrowroot powder 
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground ginger or ½” piece fresh, grated
    • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • pinch cloves
    • ¼ tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 TB bourbon (optional)

    Quick Crispy Spelt Crust // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free // makes one 9" or 10" pie crust //

    • ¾ cup spelt flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
    • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour OR other flour of choice
    • 1 TB ground flax seeds
    • 6 TB virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
    • 6 TB plant-based milk (use a non-soy milk if desired)
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • ½ tsp apple cider or coconut vinegar
    • 1 TB white sugar, brown sugar or sucanant
    1. To make the pie crust, sift flours, sea salt, flax seeds, sugar together. Melt the milk and coconut oil together, and then add to the flour mixture. Stir briefly, but make sure everything is mixed well.
    2. Allow pastry to sit for 5 minutes. Then, roll out as any pie crust, following the directions for the traditional pie crust above. The pastry for this crust will be more delicate, and can stick to the rolling surface so be sure to use plenty of flour to help roll the pastry out.
    3. Although I do not recommend chilling the pie dough in a disc as the traditional crust as it gets too firm, you CAN chill in the fridge once in pie plate, up to 1 day ahead of time, covered tightly with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
    4. When you are ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the filling by adding everything into a blender, and pureeing until the cashews are completely smooth. If you want more texture to the filling, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree ad stir it in after pureeing the filling. That is my favorite method to use! Taste the filling, adjusting spices if necessary.
    5. Pour the filling into the prepared crust, tap on the counter one or two times to get rid of air bubbles, and smooth the top out with a spoon or spatula. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, and then for another 35-40 minutes at 350F. If your crust is getting too brown, simply shield it with tin foil or parchment. The filing will be soft, and may wiggle a bit. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last up to 4 days covered in the fridge, with the crust getting only slightly less crispy.

     Crust time: simply sift, mix and roll. No chilling required for this one. Mix it all up...being gentle, don't over mix or else you will have a tough crust.Crust purists would prbably sneer at you now, but eh...whatever.This crust is a bit more delicate than others, so just be gentle, use enough flour to prevent sticking, and when in doubt, just patch up any holes or tears that happen. Gingerly put into your pie pan, trim the edges, fold under and crimp.Ok, now onto the filling! Our secret weapons: soaked cashews and coconut cream!I put 1 cup of pumpkin puree in a bowl, and then everything else in a blender to puree. I did this to keep some texture to the filling.Puree until smooth...this took me about 2 minutes in a Vitamix, but let your blender run as long as you need to. Your neighbors may hate you, buuuut pie!Mixed with the other 1 cup of pumpkin puree.Pour into prepared pie shell, tap on the counter to rid any air bubbles, smooth out and bake!You're well on your way to pie...it should smell like autumn-spice heaven, and give any stupid pumpkin spice latte a run for it's money.After you've let the pie cool and set, you can slice and enjoy! Pie for breakfast, as I already stated, is pretty much the best thing on a chilly fall moring. With hot coffee, of course.Enjoy!

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

    The leaves are turning colors, the air is crisp, my fruit bowl is full of Honey Crisp and Spartan apples (need to do something about that...), and there are squash/pumpkins scattered around our apartment. That meant only one thing this past week: it was time for pie. Pumpkin pie.

    At first, I was going to go present to you a post all about 1) how to make your own pumpkin puree and 2) how to make a delicious, scrumptious, perfect plant-based pumpkin pie, complete with a coconut oil crust. I have two filling options and two crust options to share with you, both yielding a perfect plant-based pumpkin pie.

    However, as I typed the post out, I realized that it was going to be a BEAST. A pumpkin beast. So, this week, I present to you two installments: 

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

    • Second: how-to make your very own, shove-you-entire-face-in-it-because-you-made-it-yourself plant-based pumpkin pie. It tastes amazing, has a texture very similar to the traditional pumpkin custard pie, and is full of those autumn spices that we all know and love.

    **Disclaimer: both versions of the classic pumpkin pie were tested not once, not twice, but three times. Each trial was tested and approved by at least 2 pumpkin pie taste testers, professionals in the realm of traditional pumpkin pie eating. Later in the season, I will share with you another version that has been approved by my dairy-farming family members. Yeah, it is that great, and a real show-stopper.**

    I love pumpkin pie. However, did you know that there is a secret among the old-skool bakers? The sneaky grandmas? Maybe even your parents? Well, I'll save you a childhood of lies (that is a bit dramatic!), deceit and folly: your pumpkin pie, the best one you've ever tasted, is made from squash. Yep-squash. Technically, pumpkin is squash, but I am talking about what we know as squash: butternut, kabocha, butterkin...a dense, sweet, intensely orange, not-too-stringey squash variety works wonders in a pumpkin pie. Why? Well, did you ever purchase a "pie" pumpkin and have it turn out to be too stringey, fiberous or not sweet enough? There is your answer. Legit squash is a fail-safe: always dense, sweet and never stringey. 

    My grandma...she is so sneaky...she had been using her homegrown butternut squash in her pies for years. YEARS. before my mom broke the news to me and my sister. I still remember that day: I was young, we were baking pies together, and my mind was blown. Squash? Ew. At the time, I hated squash. But after I tried that squash pie the next day, I knew my grandmother's secret: Perfect pumpkin pie=butternut squash pie. Still delicious, with a scoop (ok, ok...mound) of real whipped cream on top. I was in heaven as a kid, right there. The sweet, dense spicy pie contrasting with the cool, creamy, rich whipped cream. Today, a high-quality can of coconut cream with a touch of maple syrup, whipped to perfection, makes for a perfect topping for the perfect plant-based pumpkin pie. 

    Really, I should have known: she never grew pie pumpkins...only squash....silly me. Silly pumpkins.

    Making your own pumpkin or squash puree is SO. EASY. It is a perfect task for a weeknight that is chilly, or do it over the weekend. The canned stuff is great for in a pinch-but if you have the time, roast a few sugar/pie pumpkins and butternut squash (kabocha and butterkin work too), and puree the sweet, bright-orange flesh for a real treat for your next pie, loaf of pumpkin bread, soup, or even homemade pumpkin spice latte (yes, I did say that).

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

    The pumpkin puree will keep for 1 week in the fridge in a covered container, or freeze it for a few months. I like to portion mine out into 16oz (~2 cups) portions, enough for a pie, in bags, label it (I forget everything) and freeze it for future pumpkin needs. Be sure to squeeze our the air when you do freeze to prevent freezer burn. Totally worth it. So do it. Now!!



    Pumpkin Puree // yield depends on how many pumpkins or squash you roast, and how big they are // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free; gluten-free; oil-free option //

    • Pie Pumpkins or Butternut Squash (or other variety of dense, sweet squash, like Kabocha)
    • Olive or other neutral cooking oil (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large sheet tray with parchment. Cut the stem end or remove the stem from the pumpkin, cut in half the down the stem end, and scoop out the seeds and pulp (save those for making roasted pumpkin seeds if you like).

    2. Lightly oil the insides of the pumpkin (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking), place cut side down on the parchment, and roast until tender. This depends on your pumpkin and oven. It took me about 1.25 hours. The pumpkin should be easily pierced with a fork when it is done. Take the cooked pumpkins out, and allow to cook as-is on the tray until they can be handled, about 30 minutes up to overnight.

    3. When cool, simply peel off the skin or scoop the flesh out. Puree to desired smoothness in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender. Store in the fridge or freeze in desired quantities until you want to use it. 



    First things first, find a pumpkin...or squash, or two or three. I roasted 2 larger pie pumpkins, and got about 8 cups of puree. I would suggest you roast at least 2 at a time to make this process worth your while. It is worth your while...because pie!!Next, be-head the pumpkin, and carefully chop in half down the stem end.Ta daaaa!Scoop out the goop and seeds, reserving the seeds if you wish to roast them later.Ok, now plop cut side down on a lined baking tray and if desired, *lightly* coat with a neutral cooking oil. I used olive oil. This helps prevent the pumpkin from drying out and also sticking to the sheet, but is not necessary.Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a fork is easily poked into the pumpkin or squash. Allow to cool until you can safely handle them, and either scoop the flesh out OR simply peel the skin off. Puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Now, you're ready to make a pie, or use this puree in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree: bread, muffins, soups, hummus/dips...pumpkin galore! 

    Or, simply portion it out and freeze it for a few months.


  • Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (Plus: how to roast tomatoes + red peppers!)

    It seems that I am on a soup kick lately. Missed that? Well if you did, here you go!

    And now, probably my favorite, right up there with the sweet potato, carrot and coconut soup, is this creamy, dreamy roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Campbell's has nothing on us (ps: have you seen wtf is in canned soup lately? Sheesh). 

    This soup is perfect for a late harvest of peppers, and the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits. You can dunk you favorite grilled hunk of bread into a bowl of this, or make a grilled cheeze (or cheese, however you roll!). 

    However, if you don't want to make the soup, then at least take the time to roast some red peppers and tomatoes. They are great on sandwiches and salads, pureed into sauces and soups, flavor bombs for humms, or toppers for pizza. Whatever you choose, I highly suggest you get on the roasting train soon. And bonus: roasted tomatoes and peppers can be frozen! You can throw them into sauces, soups or even hummus in the dead of winter, and have a pleasant throw-back to summer. Yum. 

    You could in theory roast any type of tomatoes or peppers, but I chose to roast sweet red peppers (Italian Frying Peppers) and some of the bounty of organic heirloom cherry tomatoes from our CSA farm. I loved both of these because they are naturally sweet, so roasting not only adds a nice depth of roasted (go figure!) flavor, but also concentrates those natural sugars, and may even caramelize some of them if you're lucky! 

    If you choose to roast other tomatoes, just follow the same directions for the cherry tomatoes, and cook longer. The goal is wrinkled skin, some brown bits, and a roasty-toasty tomato aroma. You got this. The key is low oven temperatures, and a slow roast so you don't burn the 'maters.

    The peppers couldn't be easier: all you do is wash, chop, trim, smash, broil and optionally peel the skin off, or leave on for a more roasted flavor. Boom.The key to the soup recipe is the creamy basil cashew cheeze. I added a generous spoonful, probably 1/2 cup or so. However, you can substitute 1/2 cup soaked cashews, a handful of basil, and squeeze of lemon juice for very similar results. I have made both versions, and certify that both are equally as delcious and satisfying. 

    Yum allllll around. I promise you won't miss the canned stuff once to try this soup!



    Roasted Tomatoes // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 3 cups roasted tomatoes // 

    • Tomatoes, washed and thoroughly dried
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Sea Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 300F*. Wash tomatoes (if needed), and thoroughly pat them dry. Slice in half. Place cut side UP on a parchment lined baking sheet. *lightly* drizzle each with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle with sea salt-I used about 3/4 tsp for an entire sheet. Don't use too much, or else too much water will come out of your tomatoes, leaving them a soggy mess.

    2. Bake for 1 to 2 hours, or until the tomaotes look dry, golden in spots, and have slightly wrinkled. Taste as you bake, and pull them out at your desired sweetness/doneness.

    3. Allow to cool, and then store in a covered container for up to 1 week in the fridge. Can be froze as well, but will be mushy when thawed, but still perfect for soup, sauces and hummus. 

    *I have tried baking at higher temps, ~350F, but find the tomatoes get tougher and less intensely sweet the faster they are cooked.


     Wash and dry the tomatoes...

    Cut in half, placed on a parchment (don't skip the parchment...)

    Drizzle with a touch of oil and sprinkled with sea salt, then into the oven!

    Roast...patience...good smells....then you're done!



    Roasted Red Peppers // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 1 large roasted red pepper // 

    • Red Peppers

    1. Preheat broiler. Wash, dry and trim peppers of their stem ends. Cut in half, or whatever sized chunks you like, and remove seeds and pulp.

    2. Place peppers on a parchment lined baking tray, and smash them flat with your palm (they won't be perfectly smashed, but this helps them brown more evenly).

    3. Broil for 3-7 minutes, or until you see dark spots and blisters on the skins form. The parchment you use may also turn dark brown-just beware of this! Take peppers out once desired roasted level is achieved. Allow them to cool, and optionally peel the skin off if you'd like-it should come right off. Store in a container in the fridge for up to 1 week. The peppers can also be frozen, but will be mushy when thawed, but perfect for soups, sauces and hummus!


    Procure peppers...wash and dry them.Trim and chop in half

    On parchment, gently smashed, and broiled to blackened perfection. Peel skins off, or leave on for a more smoky flavor. 



    Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes about 6-8 cups of soup // 

    • 1 roasted sweet red pepper (see above!)
    • 3 cups roasted tomatoes (see above!)
    • 3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
    • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 3/4 cup sweet yellow onion or leek
    • 1/2 cup soaked cashews*, rinsed and drained (soak for at least 4 hours, up to overnight, using hot water to expedite the process if needed)
    • 1-2 TB nutrititional yeast (optional)
    • Optional: 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, pluse a few more to garnish if desired
    • squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • salt and pepper to taste

    *I used ~1/2 cup basil cashew cheeze: blend 1/2 cup soaked and rinsed cashews, 2 TB lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 1 TB olive oil, 2 TB nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1-3 TB water or enough to help blend into a thick paste consistency. Simply throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until a thick paste. Great on pizza, toast, or used as a spread for grilled cheeze. 

    1. In a pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, and cook onions, garlic cloves and celery until onions are transluscent and soft. 

    2. While that mixture cooks, prepare your cashew cheeze if using (tip: no need to clean the blender after making the cheeze, just carry on with the soup). If not using the cashew cheeze, then drain and rinse your soaked cashews. Place in a blender, and add the remaining ingredients. Start with 3 cups of stock, adding more if you need to help blend the soup.

    3. Once onions mixture is cooked, add to the blender with the rest of the ingredients, and puree everything until smooth. This may take a few minutes, depending on the power of your blender. I blended mine for 3-4 minutes with the Vitamix. Taste and adjust seasonings, and re-blend for a moment to mix. Soup can be stored in the fridge for later, or added to a pan to heat if your blender did not heat it thoroughly. Will last for 3-4 days, or could be frozen for 1-2 months.


    The roasted tomatoes (these we roasted whole as an experiment, and I found out that I much prefer the flavor of the version I shared above with the tomatoes cut in half), 1 whole roasted red pepper and celery. Celery is optional, but adds a nice savory depth to the soup! Only use 1 stalk, as a little goes a long way in pureed soups.

    Onions, garlic cloves, celery and olive oil in the pan. Cook to concentrate flavors and soften.Add everything to the blender:A good dollop of basil-cashew cheeze (if using-if not, just put the soaked cashews in): Blend!!Taste and adjust salt, then either pour into bowls and enjoy right away, or save for later and re-heat as needed. Perfect with a hunk of toasted bread, or your favorite grilled cheezy sandwich.

    Enjoy...think about summer...and get ready for the cold weather. More soup will be needed....



  • Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake

    Yes, I know. What the heck is a bundt? Well, for me anyways, it is a deliciously moist cake baked in a bundt pan-go figure. I am fairly certain that this type of pan is really common in the midwest, and has been spotted more freqently around the states each year. Growning up, my Mom had a retro avocado green bundt pan, lined with black teflon, because nothing is worse than a bundt cake that sticks to the nooks and crannies of the pan. Now, I rely on good ol' coconut oil and flour for non-sticking properties.

    Side note: I love, love, love Nordicware. I have this bundt pan, as well as a tart pan from their collection. Highly recommend their products...and I have to thank my dear cousin for recommending them to me (i.e. I "borrowed" her tart pan for about 4 months, then bought her a new one because I loved her's so much, I used it several times!). 

    Wednesday evening rolled around this past week, I was already exhauseted from the week, the stress of school, writing my thesis, and the impending doom of my half marathon in about a month. I haven't had a good workout in a few days, most likely due to being tired and run-down. So what is any sane, stressed and overwhelmed person to do??

    Make a pumpkin streussel bundt, just in time for October! Made perfectly good sense to me. A good dose of baking therapy, and some awesomely spicy Indian food for dinner, and I was good as new the next day. It feels good to bake-it is a major de-stressor for me. I feel accomplished when I produce something that smells wonderful, and makes you (and your kitchen) feel all warm and happy (ps: landlords, please turn on our heat soon!). I started out with the vision of "healthy-ish pumpkin muffins", complete with some oats sprinkled in. But, as I was getting all the ingredients together, I threw caution into the wind and went full-on cake. You only live once right? It is time to celebrate the new month, new goals and a fresh start! Besides, with the colder weather rollin' in, you need those extra kCals :)

    Originally a coffee cake, baked in a round 9" and 3" high cake pan, I chose to bake it in my bundt pan to show it some love. You could also make muffins, and simply bake for less time (probably ~25 minutes or so). This spicy, moist and flavorful pumpkin cake is not full of crunchy granola, oatmeal, chia seeds or hemp seeds. It is not low in fat, sparse in sugar, or lacking in the glutens. It is a proper bundt cake, covered in a nutty, spicy streussel. After all, vegan baking should not be about restriction, but highlighting what CAN be done with animal-free ingredients. The result? Nothing short of delcious, and a cake that would stand-up to a traiditional bundt any day. Happy October! Be sure to enjoy slices of this cake with a hot cup of tea (lovin' the rooibos with coconut milk lately!) or coffee! I won't tell if you have it alongside your usual breakfast, either....I am enjoying the last piece of this cake with a nice hot cup of coffee, and giant green smoothie as I type this. Lift is all about balance, right? :D :D

    Note: the original recipe only called for 1 cup pumpkin, but I went full force on the pumpkin using 1 cup 1/4 cup. This produced a super moist and dense cake. I also used a 50:50 ratio of whole wheat pastry (Bob's Red Mill) and organic unbleachd all-purpose flour. In regards to the sugar, I made my own brown sugar by using organic cane sugar + molasses, because I love the tatse and color molasses with pumpkin baked goods. However, feel free to use brown sugar, light OR dark, as the original calls for.  And finally, I modified the streussel recipe to produce only half the original, and thought this was just enough streussel in propprtion to the cake, but please, double it if you love the streussel!



    Pumpkin Bundt with Streussel Topping // makes 1 standard 6-cup bundt cake, or 1 9" coffee cake, and probably 1 dozen standard-sized muffins // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free option // 

    Pumpkin Cake:

    • 2 cups flour - I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry, 1 cup unbleached all-purpse
    • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp dried ginger
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used So Delcious Unsweetened Coconut)
    • 1 1/4 cup pure pumpkin puree (I used Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin)
    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup organic white sugar + 2 tsp molasses (or, simply use 3/4 cup brown sugar)
    • 1 cup pecans and/or waluts, roughly chopped or broken into pieces (simply omit the nuts, or add dark chocolate chunks OR pumpkin seeds instead for a nut-free option)

    Streusel:

    • 3 TB organic white cane sugar + 1 tsp molasses (or, 4 TB brown sugar)
    • 6 TB whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, or a combiniation thereof
    • 3 TB Earth Balance or solid virigin coconut oil, or combination thereof, in medium chunks
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • heaped 1/4 cup chopped pecans and/or walnuts (simply omit for nut-free, or substitute with pumpkin seeds)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour either standard (6 cup, 8.44" diameter) bundt pan, OR a 9" cake tin with 3" sides, or, use muffin tins, where you could use muffin liners for easy clean up. 

    2. Make the streussel: in a medium bowl, combine the ingredients. Using fingers, work the mixture into a crumbly paste. It will be a touch sticky, so don't be alarmed. Place in fridge to firm up.

    3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and all the spices. In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the milk, pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and sugars/molasses.

    4. Combine the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until just combined-be careful to not overwork the batter, but be sure there aren't any patches of dry ingredients lurking in the batter. Pour into prepared pan, and top with the cooled streussel, crumbling it into bits between your fingers. 

    5. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a tester or paring knife comes out clean when stuck into the center of the cake. The streusel will partially sink into the cake. Cool on a cooling rack until pan and cake are cool to the touch. Run a paring knife around the edges of the pan, releasing the cake. Place a plate on top of the cake, and invert the cake from the pan and onto the plate (it will be streusel side down). Then, in the exact same motion, transfer the cake back to the cooling rack to cool completely with the streusel side up. Can be served warm at this time, OR is even better the next day. Store in a container, or in a cake holder, at room temperature. Cake will last for 3-4 days at room temp. 



    Flipped out of the pan, this cake is spongey, moist and smells like Autumn perfume with all of those spices!

    Flip the bundt over, and cool with the streusel side up so it does not stick to the cooling rack. Be confident in the flipping process-don't show the bundt any fear! Bundt cakes, like lions, tigers and bears, can smell fear....

    Once cooled, you may transfer into any container that will hold the bundt. I use a vintage cake/pie carrier, because I am that rediculous/I love how it looks/good excuse to have it on my counter for a few days.

    Cut in slices, make some tea or coffee, and enjoy!I love fall!