Cookies & Chicago

Growing up in Minneapolis has definitely made me a city girl at heart. I love the tall buildings, the buzzing energy of big crowds, and the infinite list of things to do.

My trip to Chicago was too short. The city was beautiful. The art was beautiful. The food was delicious (although my quest to find vegan deep-dish pizza failed). My best friend and hostess Melissa is always wonderful. Can I go back now, please? I think I could spend the entire summer exploring Chicago. 

Mel and me at the Art Institute
In the meantime, I'll just have to busy myself with staying out of the heat and humidity in Minneapolis and baking when it finally goes below 80º.  You may have noticed I'm on a bit of a sweet 'n salty kick, but there are just so many possibilities with that flavor combination! These cookies are chewy with a little bit of crunch from the peanuts and pretzels. Mmm perfection.

Sweet ‘n Salty Cookies (adapted from Munchin' with Munchkin)
makes 1 dozen cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup earth balance
2 tbsp applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 2 tbsp water
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup crushed pretzels

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, salt and baking soda. Set aside. Whip together the earth balance and applesauce in a large bowl until fluffy. Cream in the sugar, then add the flax mixture, non-dairy milk and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, peanuts and pretzels. 
4. Drop the batter onto the cookie sheet in tablespoons and press down to flatten them. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown.


Wake up and Smell the Coffee

Confession Time:
I think I have a coffee addiction. I swear I never meant for this to happen.
Thank you, college professors, for the boat loads of work that forced me to stay up past 2am and wake up at 7am, groggy eyed with nothing but more work in sight and a huuuge cup of coffee to soothe me.

My only slightly embarrassing obsession with Gilmore Girls and watching Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel consume obscene amounts of coffee may have something to do with my addiction as well. Basically what I'm saying is, none of this is my fault. I can't help it if I'm crabby without my morning cup 'a joe. 

You know what is even better than a cup of coffee to wake you up? Coffee cakes. And I don't mean the kind of crumb cake you serve with coffee. I mean coffee-infused cake with chocolate coffee frosting. Oh my goodness. I promise you, these are 100% worth the caffeine crash you'll be having later today. 

Mini Coffee Cakes with Coffee-Fudge Frosting
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup earth balance
1/2 cup boiling strong coffee
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vinegar
1 1/2 tsp ener-g egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup earth balance
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp strong coffee

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and lightly grease and flour a cupcake tin. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. Melt the earth balance in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the coffee and remove from heat. In a measuring cup, whisk together the almond milk and vinegar. Add the egg replacer and vanilla.
3. Pour the coffee and butter into the dry ingredients and stir lightly. Add in the milk mixture and mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly into your cupcake tin (each will be about 2/3 of the way full) and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
4. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Mentally prepare yourself, first. This might be the best and most dangerous frosting I have ever made. 
5. Cream together the earth balance, cocoa powder and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Add in the rest of the sugar and 1 tbsp of coffee and stir until creamy. If the frosting is too thick, mix in another tbsp of coffee. You don't want it too liquified though, it should be a fudge-y consistency.
6. Let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes, then frost and enjoy :)


Chamomile Cloud Muffins

Let me tell you a little bit about my dad. 

Throughout his life, he has been a sculptor, painter, composer, musician and novel writer. He only does something if he loves it and he is always adaptable to change. This has been the most inspiring thing to me as I have grown up. Not only do I have someone who tells me "follow your heart, do what you love," but I have a role model who shows me that this is truly possible. Thank you, Dad, for always surrounding me with art, music and love my whole life.

Happy fathers day! To my dad and all great fathers.

Oh and one more thing about my dad? 
Here's an abridged list of things he can't eat because of his sensitive stomach:
-tomato sauce (yet he can eat whole tomatoes...)
-too much oil or butter
-too much sugar
-too much salt

This often makes it hard for me to cook or bake things that he can stomach. But you know what he can eat? These muffins. He says they are one of his favorite things that I have baked while at home. The chamomile flavor really comes through and goes perfectly with the subtle, sweet coconut. They are some of the lightest, fluffiest muffins I have ever made!

Chamomile Cloud Muffins with Vanilla Coconut Glaze(loosely adapted from this recipe by the Sweet Life)

makes about 16-18 muffins

1/2 cup earth balance
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup agave
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried chamomile leaves (from tea bags)
1 cup non-dairy milk
3 tsp ener-g egg replacer 
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract


1/2 cup coconut cream*
1 tbsp agave
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*Chill a can of full-fat coconut milk for at least an hour. Once it's ready, scoop up the thick cream from the top of the can and if it's not quite 1/2 a cup, add a little extra coconut milk.

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the earth balance, flour, agave, baking powder and soda, salt and chamomile. Mix until crumbly. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg replacer and water.
3. Add the milk, egg replacer and vanilla to the large bowl and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the liners, about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
4. Meanwhile, make your glaze by whisking together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Once the muffins have cooled for about 15 minutes, drizzle them with glaze and enjoy with a cup of tea!


Almond Butter Jam-prints

Whenever I tell people I'm from Minnesota they always say "Isn't it FREEZING there?" Sure, it gets freezing. But guess what else. It gets boiling hot in the summer. 

When it gets up to 100º the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven. This has led me to discover something new and exciting: night baking. It's much quieter and cooler at night and baking becomes this kind of meditative activity. It's just you and the cookie dough.

And maybe a cat or two.

It's really quite lovely.

The only problem? The next day when I go to photograph the cookies, the batch I made last night is magically smaller... I blame the cookie gnomes. Cookie gnomes love these sweet and salty jam thumbprints almost as much as I do.

Almond Butter Jam-prints

makes 1 dozen

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup 
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
jam or jelly of your choice (I used blueberry pomegranate jelly from the farmers market. It was delicious! I highly recommend blueberry or blackberry to go with the almond butter flavor)

1. Preheat the oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Mix together the almond butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy. Add the dry mixture into the wet and stir until fully incorporated. 
3. Place your chopped almonds in a small dish. Form the cookie dough into about 1" round balls and roll each ball in the almonds. Align the balls on the baking sheet and press your thumb into each one to make a little well for the jam. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
4. Let the cookies cool for about 15 minutes, then fill each with roughly 1/2 teaspoon of jam or jelly. Enjoy and don't let the cookie gnomes get them! (They are a real thing, I promise)

In the words of my brother, these cookies "are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but better." True.


French Toast for Two

On the whole, I used to hate breakfast food.

I know, right? I think I was a little bit insane. In the past year or so something flipped and now breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Especially when it involves fruit.
And a lot of syrup.
And a big cup of coffee.

I had tried making vegan French toast before and it always just turned into a pile of soggy bready mush. Thanks to my favorite handy dandy cookbook, Big Vegan, I will (hopefully) never have that problem again. The secret, my friends, is a combination of nutritional yeast to make it have that slightly savory egg-y flavor and cornstarch to keep the milk mixture from dribbling everywhere. Voila! The perfect vegan French toast. My brother (the carnivore) said he couldn’t even tell the difference.

This recipe makes just enough for you and someone special to share a lovely summer breakfast together…
Or enough for you to stuff your face and be full and happy for the rest of the entire day. Your choice. No judgment.

French Toast for Two with Blueberry Syrup (adapted from Big Vegan by Robin Asbell)

4 thick slices sourdough bread (or other kind of hearty, crusty bread)

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup almond or flax milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan, combine the syrup, blueberries and cinnamon over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes or until the flavors have blended and the syrup is blue-ish. Set aside.
2. Mix together the milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, vanilla and cinnamon in a wide and shallow dish. Whisk until thoroughly combined. 
3. Preheat a large skillet or griddle and grease with a little bit of canola oil or earth balance. One by one, dip each piece of bread in the milk mixture, really soaking it up with both sides. Once the skillet or griddle is hot, cook the bread on one side until it turns golden brown (about 2-3 minutes) and flip, letting the other side brown. Repeat until all the bread is used up. Serve with a generous amount of blueberry syrup and enjoy!


Songs & Salads

It's amazing how much music can dictate your mood. I have always been the type of person to make playlists for certain events and periods of my life. The songs need to fit just perfectly so that when you listen to them years later, they take you back to that moment in time. 

The songs I've been listening to lately remind me of that smell of dewey grass, cicadas buzzing, warm breezes and the slight taste of citrus on my tongue. I wanted to share this with you guys, so I've put together a mini-playlist to give you a taste of my summer. Listen to these songs while you lay in the grass, ride your bike, drive around with the windows down, or whenever you feel in the mood to let in some sunshine.

(click on the photo for download links!)

This salad, in my opinion, is also quintessentially summer. It's light, crunchy, fresh and so incredibly simple to put together: the perfect summer lunch!

Simple Summer Porch Salad

makes about 3-4 servings

1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp agave

1/2 cup red quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup baby carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup crushed raw cashews
1/2 lime

1. Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover, bring the heat down to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes or until all the water is soaked up.
2. To make the dressing, combine the ingredients in a small sauce pan over low heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Assemble the salad by tossing together quinoa, veggies, cashews and the dressing. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and serve warm or chilled.

Does anyone else like to make playlists for certain seasons? I'm always looking for new music recommendations, so I'd love to know what you are listening to this summer!


Orange Blueberry Pecan Cake

Summer is a strange time of year. When my brain goes out of school mode and my thoughts float around without any structure, sometimes I start to feel kind of aimless. So then I make lists to organize things again. 

Things I Don’t Like About Summer:
-being away from college friends
-trying to find a job

Things I Like About Summer:
-boredom, because it leads to creativity
-being outside in the sun almost every day
-reading books for fun
-bike rides
-having a stocked kitchen at home
-driving with the windows down
-night swims
-fresh berries

Looks like the pros outweigh the cons… I guess summer isn’t really so bad overall!

You know what also isn’t so bad? This cake. Oh wait, that’s an understatement. This cake is incredible. I swear, you will not be disappointed by the flavors and the delicious pie-like topping. Plus, you know how I feel about making anything upside-down.

Orange Blueberry Pecan Cake

1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tbsp melted earth balance
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup crushed pecans
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup melted earth balance
1/4 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 375º. To prepare the "topping," toss blueberries in a small bowl with the flour, sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Pour the melted earth balance evenly over the bottom of a 9" round pan and sprinkle the blueberry mixture on top. Set aside.
2. To make the cake, mix together the milk and vinegar in a large bowl and let sit for 3-5 minutes to curdle. Whisk in the applesauce, earth balance, orange juice, zest, vanilla and maple syrup. Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and stir until just combined- it's okay if there are a few lumps.
3. Spread the batter over the blueberry-pecan mixture and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
4. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before carefully flipping onto a large plate. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I highly recommend enjoying this cake with a tall glass of iced tea, sitting on a porch or outside on a sunny afternoon, listening to this song. You will be refreshed.

How do you feel about summer?


Take Out Made In

Hi guys! I'm back!

Phew. These past two weeks have really taken the life out of me. First a week of finals, a weekend of packing, then a week of working 10 hour waitressing shifts during my school's commencement. Summer break has never been such a relief. 

Because of my long and exhausting work shifts plus the road trip home, I have been eating out a lot lately. Take out food tends to make me feel gross when I eat it for too many days straight, but it does taste pretty great (thank you, sugar and sodium). When I finally made it home, I decided to try to create a slightly healthier version of one of my all-time favorite chinese carry-out dishes: General Tso's Tofu. I'd say it turned out just as delicious as the real deal!

General Tso's Tofu (adapted from The Vegan Kitchen)

makes 2 servings

12 oz extra firm tofu
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 tbsp mirin (rice wine)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp siracha (or to taste)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

1. Preheat your oven to 400º and grease a baking sheet. Press the tofu between paper towels to get rid of excess water and cut into small cubes. Toss the cubes with a tablespoon of cornstarch and place them on the sheet to bake for about 20-25 minutes.
2. Prepare the sauce by heating the garlic over low heat in a small saucepan. After a minute, add in the other ingredients (except for the cornstarch mixture) and stir for about 3 minutes. Mix in the cornstarch and whisk until thickened. Remove from heat. 
3. Once the tofu is cooked, place the cubes in a bowl and carefully mix in the sauce. Serve with brown rice and broccoli. All you're missing is the fortune cookie!

This meal is super quick to whip up and perfect for a lazy summer movie night. Do you have a go-to take-out meal?