Strawberries and Spring

85ºF one day and 35º the next, shorts with sweaters, flip-flopping between hot coffee and iced lattes... Yep it is officially Spring in the Midwest. 

I'm trying to do some hard-core spring cleaning this year. It suddenly hit me that everything I'm going to need for the next coming year has to fit in a single backpack. Everything I currently own would probably need at least two moving trucks, so I'd say it's time to do some serious purging.

Spring cleaning is the not-so-fun part about this season. The fun part, however, is switching from winter to spring flavors! This means more salads, less soup and my favorite part- more berries. Berry season is my favorite. 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Bars

1/2 cup earth balance buttery spread
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats

1 tub vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and lightly grease an 8x11 or 9x13 inch pan.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the brown sugar and earth balance. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining crumble ingredients and then add them into the sugar mixture. Combine with your hands until nice and crumbly. If it seems too dry (not enough clumps) add a tablespoon or two of water.
3. Press half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of your pan so that it covers the whole thing evenly. Set aside.
4. Now to prepare the filling, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour on top of the crumble layer and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of the cream cheese layer.
5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and stick in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. If there happen to be leftovers, make sure to keep them refrigerated.

Mmm just looks at that perfectly creamy sweet filling. These are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

These would the perfect treat to bring for an easter brunch! Your friends and family won't even guess that they are vegan. 


Home-y Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies

I'm sure you were all worried, so for the record, I survived midterms! It was a little iffy for a while if I would make it out alive, but I did. And thank goodness it's all over. 

Now I can finally enjoy this wonderful, heavenly week known as Spring Break in which I plan to sleep, take long, luxurious walks, read books for fun, and catch up on the huge list of delicious things that have been on my "to-bake" list forever. 

Whenever I come home after being away for what feels like a long time, I tend to get swept up in the nostalgia of smells. Every scent in every corner of my house reminds me of a different childhood memory- cuddling with my cats while watching cartoons, playing with dolls in the musty old attic, the inviting freshly-laundered smell of my bed...
I figured in celebration of nostalgia, I would start by baking something warm, comforting and classically home-y. Hello, oatmeal raisin cream pies. 

Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies 

Makes one dozen sandwiches

Cookies (adapted from here):

1 tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup earth balance or other vegan margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp all-spice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins, soaked in warm water

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):

2 tbsp earth balance
2 tbsp vegan cream cheese
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix the flax meal with 3 tbsp warm water and let sit in the fridge for at least 3 minutes. 
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the margarine, canola oil and sugars until fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and "flax egg." 
3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Add the dry into the wet and stir until smooth. 
4. Fold in the oats and drained raisins. Use a spoon to drop dollops of the batter onto the cookies sheets, leaving room for spreading. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

5. While the cookies are baking, make the frosting by creaming together the earth balance and cream cheese. Mix in the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments using an electric hand-mixer, or use those wrist muscles, like me. Finally, stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Keep refrigerated until use.

6. Let the cookies cool completely before frosting. Once they are ready, spread about 1 tbsp of frosting on a cookie and sandwich another one on top. Devour, lick your fingers, and go in for seconds ;)


Chocolate Whiskey Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

My holiday post is a little belated... but I hope everyone had a happy St. Patrick's Day! I meant to post this on Saturday, but my weekend got insanely busy with rehearsals and work.

I'm only partially Irish, so St. Patrick's Day has never been a huge deal for my family. I'll wear green to show some pride, but that's about it. This year, however, I decided to get a little crazier and flaunt my Irish heritage with some good old fashioned Irish whiskey- baked in a cake, that is ;)

Chocolate Whiskey Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

makes about 10 cupcakes

Cake (adapted from this recipe)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp white distilled vinegar


1/3 cup vegan butter (I used earth balance)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp soy milk (or 1 tbsp soy milk and 2 tbsp whiskey, if you want to make it extra boozey!)
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and grease or line a cupcake tin.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour batter into the cupcake tin and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
3. While your cupcakes bake, prepare the frosting by creaming together the earth balance, soy milk (or whiskey), vanilla and one cup of sugar. Once it is creamy, whisk in the remaining powdered sugar. Either refrigerate for about an hour, or serve drippy and room-temperature, like I did :)

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful traveling suggestions! I'm still in the process of plotting out my route, so I'm open to any further recommendations and advice. I love hearing about other peoples travel stories- it makes me so excited to have my own adventures!


Wanderlust & Brownies

Remember how I said I had really exciting news? Well it’s finally official:

I am taking a leave of absence from school to travel around Europe all by myself for a whole year.

I am actually bursting with excitement. It’s hard to focus on anything else except planning and fantasizing!

So far, I have an internship in London this summer working for a small theater company doing arts administration-type stuff. From there, I will travel to Paris in mid-September where I’m hoping to find some kind of au pair position, then on to Spain, Italy and Greece. I’ll be getting a student Eurail pass, so who knows where else I could end up on the way to these main destinations!

I’m still deep in the process of organizing all of this and getting tickets and such, but it’s coming along really well! I’ve been considering the possibility of taking a year to travel for a while and next year just felt like the right time. I’m one of those people who gets antsy when I stay in one place doing the same thing for too long. I need a big change in my life, so I am taking a leap of faith and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’m terrified, obviously, but also ecstatic.

Making plans and doing research has been so much fun, but also so time consuming. However, I am a firm believer that no matter how crazy things get, you should always leave a chunk of time in your schedule for chocolate. In this case, chocolate, cinnamon and pear brownies. Trust me, these are 100% worth the procrastination.

Pear Cinnamon Brownies 

makes about 9 brownies

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
optional: 1 cup chocolate chips
1 pear, cored and sliced vertically

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and grease an 8x8 inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, applesauce, water, oil and vanilla. Stir in the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon and chocolate chips (if you're using them. Unfortunately I couldn't due to the fact that my friends ate my whole bag during a study session the other night. Thanks, guys). 
3. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the pear slices on top in a pleasing arrangement and bake for about 45 minutes-1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Unless, like me, you enjoy eating them hot, gooey and messy :)

I brought these as a treat for the performers in the dance I'm choreographing- the pan was clean within minutes :)

I'll keep you updated on the progress of my travel plans! Let me know if any of you experienced travelers have any handy tips, tricks or resources I should know about!


Sniffles and Spaghetti

It's that time of year again... the time when every single person on my college campus collectively gets sick. We call it the plague. I thought I had successfully avoided it, but the endless amounts of Vitamin C and tea can only fight it off for so long.

Instead of wallowing in sniffles and coughs, I'm trying to look on the bright side of being sick, for once. Now, I can catch up on some much-needed sleep, watch movies that I've had saved up in my Netflix forever, and finally finish that great book I started reading! Yay!

...But let's be real. Being sick actually mostly sucks.

I was going to make myself a big pot of soup today, but I realized I'm all out of vegetable broth. Instead, I might make another batch of this cajun white bean spaghetti that I had about a week ago for dinner. 
I got the delicious recipe here, from Noelle at the Peaceful Plate, except I made some minor changes. I used spinach instead of kale and had to mix up my own cajun seasoning using equal parts oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. 

All in all, it tasted super yummy and made great leftovers for a couple days! This will definitely be a weeknight staple around here. Maybe the spice will help to clear up the stuffiness in my head a little bit, too.

More yummy dessert recipes to come when I'm better! For now, time to doze off watching reruns of Mad Men.


Chocolate-Striped Banana Bread

Lately, a little stack of bananas has been accumulating in the corner of my room and was starting to turn very brown. I think besides just doing what bananas do, they were also trying to tell me that I need to get back on top of blogging and go make some banana bread!

Of course I have all the usual excuses for why I haven't been cooking or baking as often.. but on top of dance show auditions, midterms around the corner and work four days a week, I also have some very exciting news. You'll have to wait a little bit to hear what it is exactly (I want to have it more set in stone first!), but just know that it's kept me incredibly busy. I know I know, I'm being a tease. 

In the meantime, I highly suggest you take a break from your own busy schedule and make this banana bread. There are so many banana bread recipes out there in the world, but this one is so delicious. It's sweet, moist, super banana-y, and really fun to make with the stripes! Plus, as I have preached many times, chocolate makes everything better. 

Chocolate-Striped Banana Bread (adapted from this recipe at Babble's Family Kitchen)

makes one loaf

1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup soy milk
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and lightly oil a loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the canola oil and sugar. In a measuring cup, combine the soy milk and vinegar and let it curdle for a few minutes. 
3. Mash the bananas into the sugar mixture, then stir in the applesauce, soy milk and vanilla. Sift in the flours, baking powder and salt. Stir with a spatula until just combined.
4. Pour half of the batter into a separate bowl and mix in the cocoa powder. Spread a layer of plain batter into your pan, topped with a layer of chocolate batter, then repeat until all of the batter is used up (I ended up with 4 stripes total). Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Success! Yummy, crumbly and beautiful stripes of chocolate and banana.

Here is a fun song to get you through the week :)