Monday, October 24, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Prima Donna, Mojitos, and Sun!

Summer's been a bit sporadic on the west coast thus far: any and all sunshine-y days remain comfortably lodged between week long rain spells. Yesterday was so dreary, summer felt like a million miles away. I shivered at the thought of baring my legs or taking a dip in the ocean. Uh uh, no thank you! Not when it's raining so hard that wetness rebounds back into my face when I'm walking to my car, or when the high is only 14! degrees!!
And yet,
The sun came out today, and it felt like this was the way it had been all along. All glowy and warm and fabulous. Everything has seem so weighted down, completely water-logged and soggy, but when that sun came out, even the saddest of shrubs perked up, myself included.

And let me tell you, I am ENJOYING THIS SUN! I've had a super busy day of doing nothing but lounging in the backyard, eating fresh local strawberries, and drinking one of these:
There is something about drinking a mojito out of a wine glass and soaking up the sun sprawled across a lounge chair that makes me feel a bit like a Prima Donna, and I'm kind of loving it. Oh sweet sunshine, you bring out the best in everyone. Now would you please stick around just a little bit longer...?

Even if these sunny days are few and far between, these are the summer days I live for. My skin is rosy and freckled, and my body and soul feels rejuvenated. I'm going to raise my glass to that.

Strawberry Mojitos

Yield: 2 servings

I like to drink my mojitos SANS alcohol! But that just means you can drink more and never get wasted (win!). The combination of lime and mint is the most refreshing one I can think of, especially on a glorious sunny day.

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, divided
4 tablespoons simple syrup, divided (or to taste)
Juice from 4 fresh limes
Club Soda
Ice Cubes
Fresh Strawberries, sliced
1 oz. rum (optional!)

Muddle together the mint, simple syrup, and lime juice. Divide between two glasses. Add ice cubes, a couple of slices of strawberries, and rum (if using) to each glass. Top with club soda, stir, and enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011


If you were to show up at my door unannounced and say, "Jacqueline, I'm starving. Feed me!", I would. I would whip you up a batch of cookies without a doubt, because cookies are one of my main areas of interest in life. Seriously. A good cookie is not hard to come by, but a great one... well, I've got a few of those up my cookie repertoire sleeve (so to speak). You'd also be in for a huge bowl full of Fried Chickpea Salad (or garbanzo bean salad, as K likes to say), which I personally consume three days a week on average. Needless to say, I'd fill you up good.

I must admit that on a day to day basis, I am the most boring eater ever. I won't let you in on that secret when I cook for you. But I'm just saying, when when it comes to cooking for only me, I am e-a-s-y to please. You see, when I find a recipe I love, I am faithful to it until the end of time, or until I get tired of it (whichever comes first). For example, on the average day, I would far rather make myself my usual toad-in-the-hole breakfast than research a more sophisticated way of preparing eggs. While we're on the subject though, toad-in-the-holes are not only incredibly tasty, but they are very resourceful and inventive! Anyway, my point here is that I have a handful of go to recipes that I use and reuse over and over, and I like it that way.

This recipe for Fried Chickpea Salad is one of those ones that I consider a staple in my diet. My go-to meal. I have yet to grow tired of it, even after our multi-year relationship. I like it warm, or cold. And it doesn't really matter the time of day to eat it either. I am quite certain a few remaining chickpeas once found their way inside my early morning omelette, and I know for sure they've made an excellent midnight snack.

Fried Chickpea Salad

The key to this salad being delicious lies in your hands. You need to be heavy-handed with the salt. Too little will yield you a totally boring, bland salad. Keep adding, gradually!, until you've reached an adequate amount. You'll know, cause the salad will suddenly pop, filling your mouth with a bounty of flavours.

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Coarse sea salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet, saute onion in oil until soft. Add spices, stir, and continue to saute for 3 minutes. Add chickpeas, lemon juice, and salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add cilantro, and add more salt as needed. I like to eat the chickpeas on a bed of arugula, topped with avocado, or all on its own.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sweet Teeth and Rhubarb

I have a sweet tooth that is as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky. That is to say that my sweet tooth is practically infinite. I wonder if my love for sugar is genetic, if maybe I was born this way. But I've since discovered all these articles suggesting that sugar is a kind of drug that, once introduced into our diets, we forever crave. Therefore, this love of sweets must have been learned. And I think I know where it all began.

Pretty well all of my early childhood memories take place at my grandparents house in Burnaby. This place was an oasis, an escape from reality in a sense. I remember a lot of things about that house. I remember climbing to the top of the great maple tree in the front yard, where I would sit for hours, thinking, writing, spying on unsuspecting next door neighbours, and dreaming of far away lands. I hid from the world within a thick blanket of the tree's dark, dense leaves. I also remember the freezer in the basement, which my Grandma would fill with Popsicles, Revellos and Fudgesicles. We never had such fun treats at my house (Grandma also had a cupboard filled with forbidden snacks such as Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, and Fruit Roll Up's!). I once found an entire tray of Petite Fours tucked away in the freezer. I distinctly remember pulling out the box and popping the beautifully decorated sugary squares into my mouth one after the other after the other while I sat perched on top of the freezer. All this goes to say that my love of sweets was fueled by my grandparents, who filled my belly time and time again with all sorts of sugary snacks.

Another memory I have of that big beautiful house was the rhubarb plant in the backyard that nearly consumed an entire plot of land. I remember it's bright red stalks that grew as past my knees and leaves as big as my head. I remember my horror when I took a bite out of one of the luscious stalks and discovered how incredibly awful it was capable of tasting. I couldn't feel my tongue for a week. Strangely enough, I don't remember ever trying rhubarb again until after my grandpa passed away, and after my grandma sold their home. Somehow rhubarb made it's way back into my life, in far tastier forms such as tarts, pies, and gelato. My sweet tooth prohibits me from turning down a slice of pie, and it so happens that rhubarb combined with sugar, and a tiny bit of grated orange zest tastes really damn good. Old memories dissolved, and voila! Rhubarb is one of my all time favorite spring ingredients.
Last week it was nice enough to put burgers on the grill and eat dinner outside in the sun. Sunshine don't come easy these days so to celebrate the occasion, I volunteered to make dessert. Rhubarb is in season and I was feeling slightly sentimental so I opted for something comforting: Rhubarb Crumb Cake. Light and buttery, sweet and crumbly, slightly tart from the rhubarb, and completely perfect for a spring evening spent on the patio... straight up rhubarb love. I keep calling it a crumb cake because you do make a bunch of delicious sugary crumbs to sprinkle on top, although I suppose it is also a kind of Coffee cake. Technicalities aside, this cake satisfied my sweet tooth in a totally adequate way. And I got my rhubarb fix. Win! When the rain settled in again the next morning, it made a balanced meal accompanied by a big mug of tea. That's what's so nice about this cake: it's appropriate for any kind of weather, no matter how bipolar.

I am thankful for springtime (regardless of it's rude weather), rhubarb, and grandparents who were kind enough to nurture my sweet tooth which otherwise may not exist today.

Big Crumb Coffee Cake with Rhubarb
Adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07

Butter for greasing pan

For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices, and slat into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of a small bowl and set aside.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garden!- Week One

It's still 14 degrees and raining in Vancouver. Spring, where are you!? I decided to try my luck and run away to the East Coast for the entire month, but it rained there too. Really.

I got home on Monday and was delighted to find that my dad had planted the vegetable garden. Apparently, it was sunny and warm for a weekend, and our garden (which normally is planted a month earlier) finally beckoned to be planted. And so plant he did. Three varieties of beets, three kinds of lettuces, two varieties of carrots, and some kale and swiss chard. As promised, I plan on charting the garden's progress. Here we are at week one:

Markers, letting us know what is what! I picked these up at Chapters, believe it or not. But you can find them anywhere. My dad normally just uses popsicle sticks, but I was looking for something a bit more cute this year. If you are planting a huge garden, I suggest you use markers. Things get confusing otherwise! And it's always nice to be organized.

This is what the garden looks like right now. Nothing growing yet! But with a bit of sunshine and a whole lot of whispered sweet nothings, there will be a lot growing soon!

We're growing a lot of fruit this year as well. Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and apples! Here we have real live blueberry blossoms! This is a good sign! That means that we will have real live blueberries soon. These bushes were planted last summer, at the end of the growing season so we were unable to harvest any. Blueberry bushes are a nice option for those looking for a bit of aesthetic appeal during the winter. The branches of the blueberry bushes turn bright red in the winter, providing a bit of much needed colour during the most drab months of the year. Then, in the summer they bare luscious, plump berries. Win!

And look! I found some apple blossoms. Last year we also planted some apple trees in the backyard. Each tree contains four different varieties of apples. Seriously! Don't question! The tree didn't produce any apples last year, but it looks like this year will be a different story! Blossoms = baby fruit!

And then we've got a plethora of fresh herbs! We are growing rosemary, thyme, chives, basil, cilantro, and mint (pictured below). If you are unable to grow a garden due to your living circumstances (ex: you live on the 50th floor of an apartment building), herbs are a great option that allow you to feel as though you are capable of being a real life gardener. They grow really well and don't take up much space, which is perfect for those with tiny living areas! Plus, fresh herbs always ALWAYS taste better than dried! To recap: they look gorgeous, smell fantastic, don't take up much room, are easy to grow, and taste DELISH.

So this is where we're at right now! Watching everything come to life is really quite special and magical. I'll be back soon, with lots of yummy things to share (triple chocolate scones, yes!). But in the meantime, plant something! and watch it grow. Really, it's incredible.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alive again

I finished my final essay for the semester at 2 am last night. When I woke up this morning, it was as though, on cue, all my joy and all my creative energy returned, back after a 4 month hiatus. And finally, I feel I've been brought back to life.

I'm so looking forward to this period of time where I'll have a bit more time to focus my attention on other areas of my life. Friends, for example, who so graciously put up with my stress and inconsistency during the school year. You all deserve a huge high-five and an award for being genuinely awesome. And let me tell you, I've got a lot of catching up with myself to do. Over the course of the next four months, I hope to learn and grow in more than just an academic sense. I am going to challenge myself, work on being more patient, clean up my language, and get in touch with the creative side of my brain again. You know, that kind of thing.

I'm happy to report that I'll be writing in this space more frequently now, giving you updates on the vegetable garden, farmer's market treasures, and of course, more insanely yummy recipes. But for now, I'm leaving you with a list. Yeah, another list. It's time to get the ball rolling and a list is the best place to start.

Summer Self Project

-Perfect my banana bread recipe : Kyran bought me some banana bread from Whole Foods the other day and I was absolutely delighted by it's comforting simplicity. Truly sometimes, less is more.

- Perfect my coconut macaroon recipe : I like coconut in all forms, but after some extensive trials of macaroons all over North America, I realize I've still got some work to do. Trust me, I'll let you know when I find it.

- Read these books : Finally, finally, freedom to read what I want!

- Continue going to the gym 4-5 times a week, and when the time is right, do the Grouse Grind once a week: Not only is working out an excellent way to relive stress, it elevates your mood when you aren't feeling so good and it makes you look better. Woo!

- Continue eating in a way that nourishes my body and makes me feel good: Eating well = feeling well.

- Start sewing again and doing more diy projects: A friend of mine who is a gorgeous designer has been inspiring me beyond belief to break out my sewing machine and make some pretty things.

- Get back in touch with the people who matter most: Tis the season for biking through the streets at midnight, bbq's in the backyard, and laughing like madpeople

- Take photos of everything : There is nothing more inspiring than the light at this time of year. Long, sunny days make for beautiful pictures.

- Write : a novel, a masterpiece, a journal entry, a thought, an idea, a blog post. I can make sense of almost anything once I've written it down on paper.

- Successfully grow a multitude of heirloom tomatoes: I've grown one or two plants every year with mixed results. I always manage to successfully grow the heirloom grape varieties, but the larger ones have not met my standards yet. This is the year for huge, juicy, sun-ripened heirlooms!

- Make homemade brioche burger buns - Burger buns are typically the most disappointing part of a burger. People neglect to give the bun any respect, but I'm telling you: IT IS IMPORTANT. The best burgers I have had come sandwiched between impossibly light and buttery brioche buns and I'm making it my mission to achieve these results.

And there is so much more, but for now, finally, it is time to sleep and dream.
See you soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Night Traditions

Home made pizza: prosciutto, peppadew peppers, onions, spinach, and fresh mozzarella

Soundtrack: John Coltrane "A Love Supreme"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I sound so whiny lately. I'm almost through, I swear.
But for now, for real: it's crunch time.
I've basically stopped doing the readings I'm supposed to be doing for school, so with those out of the way my revised to-do list looks something like this: 1 essay rewrite, 2 journal entries, 3 research essays (totaling 40-ish pages), and 4 final exams. Two and a half weeks to do it all. Wish me luck.

I am thankful for the boy who told me: "Make lists, your good at those. And Jacqueline, don't forget: one thing at a time."

I made a list today! Here I go...!

Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

These are nice to have around, especially when you are in a hurry and have too much on the go. Make a pan of these and enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or midnight snack. I LOVE raspberries, and I LOVE oats. Match made in baking heaven! *Please note: I significantly reduced the amount of sugar this recipe called for. I like my raspberries with their famous tart-bite. By reducing the sugar, I think, you make these bars appropriate for eating no matter what time of day *

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the Crust and Crumb:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light coloured metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars form the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.
Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.
Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Make the Raspberry Filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, and flour together.
Add the raspberries, lemon juice, and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and Bake the Bars!:
Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. the pars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Days Like These...

It's been one of those weeks where I just wish I could curl up in a ball and sleep for forever. I've been too hard on myself, again, and instead of being normal and just getting over it, I've lashed out at the people I love the most. Seriously, sometimes I am really unreasonable.
It's not that I need to be told I'm awesome a million times a day. It's not really like that. I'm not one of those people that needs to be praised and my ego doesn't need stroking. I already know what I'm capable of. And yet this week I doubted, and this week I said to myself, "What the heck do you think you're doing Jacqueline? Who the heck do you think you are?" which is the WORST set of questions to ask yourself when you are feeling stressed and sad. If those questions were actions, they would equate to a one-two-punch to the stomach, causing the very breath within you to leave your body, and once it returns cause you supreme anxiety that you may now be suffering from internal bleeding.
I made a lot of lists this week. I made a list of what I'm going to plant in the garden this summer, where in New York I most want to eat, what I have to do for school in the next month (holy shoot!), and a list of things I really like. Making a list of things you like when you are feeling down is incredibly therapeutic. My list included Kywin!, jam, speed scrabble, having my back patted, having my hair played with, writing self indulgent journal entries, soft cat paws, and Romesco Sauce. There was more to it than that (I like and get excited about A LOT of things), but I think you get the point. The fact that condiments, such as jam and Romesco sauce made the list should indicate that I am kind of nuts-o for the stuff. My grandma makes the best ever jam, and I happen to make the best ever Romesco sauce. I could eat copious quantities of both, although preferably not together.
Romesco sauce, for those of you who don't know, is a roasted vegetable and nut dip/spread from heaven. Seriously. I just discovered the stuff on Christmas Eve of last year and now I think about it all the time. When we have it in the fridge, I make it my mission to incorporate it into every meal. I love it's bright flavour, it's pretty colour, and the way it makes everything it pairs with look a little more cheery. Yeah, it's a friggen dip. But wowza...

If you are also having one of those self-loathing days:
Try not to beat yourself up anymore. No one has it all figured out, not entirely anyway. If things aren't going as well as you wanted them to, learn from the situation, shake yourself off, and move on. Do not yell at boyfriend. Do not freak out at the person beside you in class when they ask to borrow a pen. Just take a deep breath and let it go. Write a list of things that make you happy and include even the most ridiculous of items/people/places (Hey, I'm not judging... my list contained condiments.) Try not to forget about all the goodness and beauty that surrounds you every day. It's there, I promise, if you take the time to look. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, and I swear the sun shone a little warmer today.

And you,
You are awesome. Don't forget that.

Romesco Sauce
Adapted from a recipe from Steven Imbach

Okay, yes, this recipe is a bit of work. But the work is SO worth it, and I can't emphasize that enough, and you won't understand until you can try it for yourself. This sauce it so ridiculously good, you may be tempted to eat it on it's own with a spoon. Frick, just thinking of it...
This recipe doesn't exactly use exact measurements. It's pretty awesome in that sense, because you can kind of just throw in what you have on hand. And I swear, it always turns out good (so long as you adhere, mostly, to the below instructions!).
If you are wondering if your vegetables HAVE to be roasted, the answer is yes. It's not Romesco sauce without the vegetables being roasted. Or at least, I don't think so. And you will be seriously compromising the flavor level of this sauce.

2 medium ancho chiles, roasted then soaked OR 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (I used the the powder, and I found it really easily at my local grocery store)
1/2 - 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted (or hazelnuts)
4 large garlic cloves, roasted, peeled
1-2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded (fresh or canned) about 3/4 cup
2-3 large tomatoes, roasted, seeded, peeled. diced (canned, or tomato paste, 1 cup)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or hot paprika
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 slice crusty white bread, toasted and cubed (1/4 cup bread crumbs) (I used day-old baguette!)

Toast the chiles in a dry pan until they are aromatic and the color is mottled. Remove the seeds and stems. Place the chiles in hot water and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Drain and cut into small pieces - This is why I like to use the powder instead!

Heat 1 tsp of the olive oil in a skillet and fry bread until golden brown on both sides. Break the bread in half and let cool.

In a food processor: add the nuts and bread and process until finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients. Process until the ingredients are a thick puree. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Adjust consistency by adding additional olive oil and/or vinegar to taste.

And voila! I use Romesco sauce on just about ANYTHING when I have a bowl of it lying around. One of my personal favorite ways to eat Romesco sauce is putting it on top of my eggs (pictured above). Holy yum. But you can eat it with veggies, crackers, baguette and cheese, in sandwiches, or with roasted chicken!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Not What You Think...

It's getting to be that time again. That time in which I need to somehow make $5000 appear out of thin air. I'm starting to think about this, and that means that my "student summer" is almost beginning. I am trying not to stress, but I have a feeling there will be a few minor breakdowns in my near future. I'm trying to be logical. I can do this.
The logical side of my brain seems to have dissipated over the past couple weeks. I'm dreaming of flying to far away places, of lying on the beach in a perfect little bikini, of going to the gym 5 days a week because I actually have spare time. This, I would argue, isn't illogical. I am a determined little lady, who's aspirations I happen to KNOW will happen. Are happening. I'm not realistic (what an awful, dreaded word!), but I have all the faith in the world I can do it all, have it all, see it all.
When I say that my brain has become illogical, I'm mostly referring to my eating habits as of late. They are horrifying. I keep forgetting to eat these days. Between work, and school, and intense last minute homework sessions (ugh, who am I!? I never leave things for the last minute!) my eating habits have essentially become non-existent. The other day I had a POP TART for breakfast. A pop tart! Seriously. Then it was Ky's birthday and I got sent home with leftover cake, vowing I wouldn't eat any of it myself, but instead share it with my lovely family. And you know what happened the next morning? I ate that cake. I ate it for breakfast and I was hungry, and exhausted an hour later, willing myself to stay awake long enough to hear my teacher tell me what the hell John Donne is rambling on about in his poetry. That guy, by the way, is a really quite a sap. If nothing else, this semester I've learnt that I'm not really into the "romantic genre" of literature.
Anyway, on Tuesday I decided enough was enough. I missed my chickpeas, my whole grains, and bright vegetables that I used to see so often. So I made a salad, and I think all of my life's problems were solved after that.

This salad is holy-smokes-so-so-so-good status. Wheat berries are so delicious! I love their nutty taste and chewy texture. This salad really has quite the abundance of flavors: we've got said nuttiness from wheat berries, sweetness of orange dressing, smokiness of roasted peppers, and the peppery arugula. Mmmm! I'm quite sure it is very healthy as well. It gives me a lot of energy too, which comes in handy during early morning lectures!

I swear, I don't eat cakes and cookies all day every day. (starting today. better late than never...)
Wheat Berry and Arugula Salad
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Best Recipes and Reviews 2011

I kind of do things my own way when it comes to this salad. The directions (in my opinion) are kind of fussy. Unless you are planning on serving this as part of a dinner course, I would suggest pouring all the dressing in with the wheat berries and chickpeas and letting them hang out in the fridge like that. That way, you can just grab a handful of arugula and add the dressing/topping as you need it. Otherwise (if you pour the dressing on the arugula to being with) you will end up with soggy leave, which is awful!

1 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup wheat berries
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry, and chopped
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
Black Pepper
8 ounces baby arugula (about 8 cups)

For the dressing:
Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the juice is syrupy and reduced to 1/3 cup, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the orange juice syrup to a small bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the cilantro, lime juice, water, oil, honey, garlic, cumin, salt, paprika, and cayenne, and set aside.

For the salad:
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the wheat berries and 1/2 teaspoon salt, partially cover, and cook, stirring often, until tender but still chewy, about 1 hour. Drain the wheat berries and rinse them under cold running water until cool. Transfer the wheat berries to a large bowl and set aside.

Assemble the salad!:
Stir the chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta, and half of the dressing into the bowl with the wheat berries. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining dressing and divide among 4 plates. Arrange 1 cup of the wheat berry mixture on top of each salad and serve.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes and an Icing Crisis

As promised, here are the photos of our vegan (and gluten-free and refined sugar-free) chocolate cupcakes!

Vegan icing attempt #2!! (Attempt #1 already thrown in the trash)
Okay seriously? What the heck, vegan icing! Soo much wasted time and money!
Both recipes called for a basis of coconut oil, which I believe was at the root of the problem. It's solid at room temperature, but not completely smooth unless melted, which accounts for the chunky texture.
Despite it's unique appearance, we ventured on. Voila! A vegan chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing! Please note the mysterious drip oozing out of the icing. Weird, right? As I mentioned previously, the chocolate cakes were delicious, but that dang icing... We tried two different recipes, and both times we ended up with an icing that resembled overly sweet cottage cheese. What is the secret to vegan icing? If you happen to know the answer to that question, please humor me and tell me what on earth we did wrong! Both icing attempts yielded extraordinarily unfortunate results. Boo!
So into the garbage went vegan icing #2. We didn't want to leave our little cakes undressed, so we did the only thing we knew how, which was to make a coconut cream cheese icing instead - an icing that is so filled with un-vegan things that you know it has to be good. Finally an icing that looked white! and smooth! and creamy! All of the things our vegan icing wasn't. Ky said that the chocolate cake and cream cheese icing pairing could have been better. I think he was hoping for a billowy white vanilla frosting, which I agree would have been ideal. However, I feel like I could eat cream cheese icing out of a cereal bowl for breakfast and be set for life, so I thought the combo was sweet (so to speak).
To finish, just for fun, we sprinkled the freshly iced cakes with Bob's Organic Unsweetened Coconut flakes. Oh yes!
This project was certainly a learning experience. Come to think of it, I'm not sure why for a first real attempt at baking gluten-free and vegan, I decided to combine the two experiences into one. I like a good challenge or something (this a cliche, and a bit of a lie, I'm just trying I think of a reason for my decision). You know, for now, I'm going to stick with my familiar friends in the kitchen (butter! sugar! flour! oh my!). They're much better.

Photo's by Kyran Yeomans

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten- and refined sugar- free)
Adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna

These cupcakes were super yummy. Unfortunately, your on your own in terms of icing these guys. I do NOT recommend the vegan icing in the Babycakes cookbook (see above, and previous post!), or that icing that comes from a can (come on, these cakes deserve better, and so does your body!). See what you can come up. You're industrious young people!

1 3/4 cups garbanzo - fava bean flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coconut oil
1 1/3 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup homemade applesauce (or store bought unsweetened)
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup hot water or coffee

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the four, potato starch, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth.
Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The finished cupcakes will bounce back when pressure is applied gently to the center
Let the cupcakes stand in the tins for 20 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Spread with your favorite icing.

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Note: Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Today is a snowstorm and vegan chocolate cake(!!!).
I am frolicking about the house in knee-highs and a silk skirt, with Thelonius Monk, fireplace blazing, ignorantly ignoring the fluffy white flakes falling from the sky.
I'm all wrong for this weather.

I'm just popping in to say "hello" in between playing games of speed scrabble with my sister and studying for my abundance of midterms coming up this week. And I've actually got something pretty cool to share. Today officially marks my first attempt at baking vegan. Kyran had requested a remake of a vegan cake his sister made once upon a time, and I happily obliged. So today, he and I made vegan, refined sugar-free, and gulten-free chocolate cupcakes from this cookbook:
Right off the bat I'm thinking, if you bake without sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and flour, what the heck is the point of baking at all? I've done the whole vegan thing, and while I loved it at the time, I am vegan no longer and loving it. Also, vegan baking has a tendency to be loaded with ingredients with names that awkwardly fill your mouth and are impossible to pronounce. Not good. But, I had heard some really wonderful things regarding this vegan and gluten-free bakery from NYC (if it's good enough for Natalie Portman, certainly it must be good enough for us regular folk), so I picked up their cookbook a couple weeks ago and have been daydreaming of garbonzo bean flour and coconut oil ever since.

Today we opted for chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting. Our icing was a disaster, as in, it resembled cottage cheese rather than that gorgeous smooth, billowy stuff in the photos. Flavour wise, it was okay. But I was disappointed I wasted an entire tablespoon of my expensive vanilla extract on it. I was quite offended by this vanilla frosting imitator. When I bake, it turns out. Always! Kyran scoured Amazon reviews to see what the deal was and found that many reviewers were disapointedby the result of their vanilla icing as well. We also read rumor that the icing in the book isn't actually the same as the famous icing they use in the bakery. Lame. So that was the bad news. We rectified the situation by pouring the icing down the drain, and searching the web to find an alternate recipe. Kyran is experimenting with another variety of vegan icing (one using coconut milk! Mmm!) as we speak. I'll keep you posted as to how it turns out!
On the bright side of things, the cakes were delicious. Decadent, moist, and sinfully chocolatey. I was pleasantly suprised by the final product, which resulted from the combination of potato starch, arrowroot, garbanzo bean flour, agave nectar, and other strange and magical things. Kyran ate two, right off the bat, and is probably eating more right now-sans icing, which puts it into the "totally delicious, definitely will make again" territory.

I don't want to deliver my final verdict of the Babycakes NYC cookbook just yet. After all, I've only made two recipes. However, I think I will continue to be perplexed by the addition of altered bakery recipes that don't turn out well. What's the deal? I want that billowy frosting Babycakes is known to have, and now I have to go search for it elsewhere. Oh well. The chocolate cupcakes were quite wonderful and were the perfect treat for an afternoon snuggled up to my favorite person in the world, whilethe entire world slowly turned white.

Photo's of the final product coming SOON!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'm Not Horse'n Around

I just had reading break. It felt like it was 30 seconds long, but actually it was a week. Scary. I got next to nothing done, and now I'm freaking out because everythingisdueatonce! Ahh! Save me! Write my essay? Fill my brain with information, read me Shakespeare and John Milton, help me memorize how to classify metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks. Did I mention that it all has to be done by Wednesday? Oh sweet maria...

I'm tired and grumpy, but Kyran is still putting up with me like an all star, like he always does. That boy, I tell ya, is so good to me. Thanks to Ky, my music diet lately has been very Prefab Sprout heavy. Good music and frequent dance breaks are a must for getting through weeks like these. Also thanks to Ky, my food diet the past couple of years has been filled with amaaaaaaazing batches of guacamole. Avocados are filled with those healthy fats that are an essential part of maintaining a balanced diet, and essential for keeping me energized and focused during intense study sessions. (No, I do not get paid by Avocado growers to pimp this fruit. I just like it a lot a lot a lot, especially when Kyran serves them a la guacamole).
One time, we made a batch with 4 avocado's and polished off the entire thing in a matter of minutes. When our friends come over, we make a double batch it's always the first thing to go. I have a feeling that if we didn't make such good guacamole, we wouldn't be invited to many social outings, which is funny and probably not entirely true. In reality though, our guacamole is better than yours. And I know this for a fact because Kyran once entered it into a competition and won. Bam! True story.


Try this and never go back to your old guacamole making ways (or store bought varieties... ugh!). As mentioned above, guacamole is probably the number one most consumed food for K and I. We love!
This recipe does not have exact measurements, but I assure you, this isn't rocket science. You can do it. A little more of this and a little less of that isn't a problem here. Play around and figure out a ratio that works best for you! For now, I suggest:

2-3 avocados
1/2 of a firm but ripe tomato, diced
1/2 of a lime
3 thin slices of red onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (OPTIONAL! I prefer to do without, but if you are a garlic lover, you may want the additional flavor!)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

For a chunkier guac: Mash up the avocado A BIT, before mixing in everything everything else.
For a creamier guac: Mash up the avocado a lot, making sure to get out the lumps. If your avocados are really ripe, this will not be a problem. Then add all other ingredients and stir until everything is evenly incorporated.

Serve with chips, veggies, meat (cooked please!), or quesadillas!
The quesadilla in the photo above was filled with 2-year aged cheddar, sundried tomatoes, black beans and a whack load of spinach (my personal favorite combo).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lets Date

It has been brought to my attention that I am prone to experience over the top excitement far more than the average person. Sunshine, dance parties, strenuous workouts, kisses, and movie nights all tend to evoke the same reaction from me. Life is filled with so many beautiful and wonderful things, I just can't help myself.

I'm going to share some of this excitement with you today in the form of a totally unfussy and unpretentious date bar that will win over just about anyone, including yourself. Uh huh.
Before I get started here, we need to have a serious talk. Some people seem to be ridiculously scared of dates, or dried fruit in general. I'll admit that I do my best to avoid raisins at any cost, but dates, I swear are the most lovely little things on the planet. Do you realize that dates quite literally melt and become caramel when they are left to mingle on the stove in a pot of water? I don't think I need to say much else on the subject, because I am fairly certain everyone on the planet loves caramel. And if you don't like caramel, what is wrong with you?

Now that we've settled that, how do you feel about Valentines day?
I feel like it's in style for everyone to loath this day and complain about it as much as possible. Is it silly to have a day dedicated to roses, candy, and love? Are you kidding me, no! Roses AND candy AND romance... OH BABY! Is it ridiculous to have a day devoted to reminding those we love that we still love them, even though it's February 14? Okay, perhaps a little. But these date bars make a really lovely Valentines day treat. Not too over-the-top, which is great cause no one wants to seem too overeager these days, but ridiculously delicious... the kind of date (bar) you'd bring home to meet your mother. Ha!

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking.
You are thinking, "Whatever. I'm allergic to roses, candy is bad for my teeth, and my love broke my heart into a million pieces."

Fair enough. But hey,
you owe it to yourself to be excited every now and then.
These date bars, humble as they seem, are worth getting excited about. I promise.

Classic Date Bars
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2004

I returned home the other day to find that my sweet-souled sister had whipped up a batch of date bars, I was pretty dang happy. My happiness skyrocketed (it's possible, apparently) upon first bite when I realized that they were hands down the best date bars I have ever eaten. Ever. They were comforting, with a hint of cinnamon, slightly crumbly, and terribly moist. I've had my fair share of date bars. I'm telling you people, these are the real deal!
Thanks Em, for introducing me to these!

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 8x8-inch metal baking pan. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to simmer in medium saucepan. Add dates; simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in large bowl; stir to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until moist clumps form. Press half of oat mixture (firmly!!) evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Spread date mixture over. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture; press gently to adhere. Bake until brown at edges and golden brown and set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool completely on rack. Cut into bars and serve.

Yield: makes about 16 bars

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mellow Mallow

Does anyone like January?
I mean, seriously? Do you?

I don't. I really, truly do not like January.
I feel kind of tired all the time. I get mad at the trees for not having any leaves; I curse the sky for hastily turning dark so early day after day; I start school again and I have to find that "balance" again, that damn balance that I never seem to perfectly master.

But hey! It's almost over! February is two days away! That's a cause for celebration!
Because this time of year seems to stay way beyond its friendly welcome, I give myself bi-weekly projects to tackle. Sometimes I scrub down all our cupboards with Murphy's Oil Soap (yes, that is something I look forward to... anything is a welcome change from school work. Yesterday I swear I literally went cross-eyed because of the amount of reading I had to do), or sometimes I find a semi-daunting recipe and make a mess of the kitchen. Making a mess of the kitchen... I'm getting really good at doing that these days. I made marshmallows, from scratch one grey January afternoon. It was sweet and sticky and all together wonderful.

Marshmallows were always one of those strange foods that I never understood the logic behind. I never really thought much about how they were made or where they came from, but it never really mattered much because they were fantastic. But take one look at the ingredient list on the back of a package of these guys in the supermarket, and you may not ever want to eat them again. How can something so pure and innocent contain so many ingredients?
One of the nicer things about homemade marshmallows is that there is nothing scary inside of them. Just 8 ingredients (all of which you can pronounce!) whip up into those magical, springy, fluffy, soft squares that practically melt in your mouth. Also, did I forget to mention that these taste great? Like really, really great? Oh my, are they ever good.

I just can't get enough. In fact, tomorrow it is highly probable that I will boycott scrubbing the cupboards in favor of making another batch...

It's almost February after all.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Adapted from Gourmet, 1998

Making your own homemade marshmallows doesn't have to result in a gigantic sticky, gooey mess. Whatever you do, don't be a goof and stick your fingers into the fluffy white mass in the mixer. I know it is tempting. I KNOW! But seriously, just don't. I've learned from experience now. The first time I made these, I couldn't help myself, I swear that white fluff was beckoning me. This resulted in me finding marshmallow in strange places on myself and in my kitchen for DAYS afterward.
This recipe makes A LOT of marshmallows. If you find yourself stuck with a whole bunch, I suggest you make rice crispy squares of of them (don't even tell me you aren't guilty of consuming an entire pan at least once in your life).
Oh and these marshmallows sandwiched between two cookies with some high quality chocolate - WOAH! Just sayin'...

About 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (I used cane sugar)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean (alternately: 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 -inch rectangular metal baking pan (with 2-inch high sides) and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.
In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water, and stand to soften .
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
with standing or a hand-held mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (This may take even longer if you are using a hand mixer).
In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don't fret if you don't get it all out.
Sift 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners' sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Yield: Makes about 96- 1 inch marshmallows

Note: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for 1 week.