A Balanced Diet is a Cookie in Each Hand

I love the Superbowl. Less for the football, more for the fact that it gives me an excuse to bake or cook in large quantities 🙂

This year, I took on the responsibility of making dinner for my whole family. Which also meant a game-time snack to keep the troops going. Luckily, I stumbled upon this recipe for Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies! Man, is that name long.

Anyway, this turned out to be the perfect recipe for the occasion. Really quick, with most ingredients being things you’ll probably already have at home. I didn’t go full vegan as the recipe calls for and used regular milk, regular chocolate chips, and regular sugar, but I did skip the eggs 🙂

I was tasked with a Trader Joe’s run that afternoon though, which was fine since I needed to pick up muesli or rolled oats for these cookies anyway. I got to TJ’s only to find out that they DISCONTINUED all Muesli – my mom’s favorite Blueberry Muesli and my substitute for the recipe’s rolled oats. Ah, well, finally decided to give in and just sacrificed the very little cereal we had left at home for these cookies.

Look at them…aren’t they perfect! Only took 8 mins to bake which meant I could have them out quickly for the starved spectators at home.

But wait, we haven’t even gotten to dinner yet. Stay tuned for another post about that adventure 🙂

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Life is a Combination of Magic & Pasta

Apologies for the lull, but I’m back! This time, with a long overdue pasta experiment – truffle butter.

Yeah, I know, truffle butter? Aside from its lackluster meaning in popular culture (thanks Nicki Minaj), it’s also super expensive and a luxury item. Nonetheless, a friend of mine recently decided to give it a try so I found myself at her place one day with the materials ready for a culinary experiment.

We loosely followed this truffle butter pasta recipe with some additions and modifications:

  • Pasta: Trader Joe’s Organic Pasta – Vegetable Radiatore
  • Added veggies: Cooked broccoli & brussel sprouts and sauteed onions
  • Sauces: Truffle Butter and some store-bought Pesto

The verdict? It actually came out well, but really needed the pesto for a stronger taste. Truffle butter on its own is actually pretty mild, so I’d suggest mixing with another sauce and even adding some chilies to spice it up a bit. Can’t say I’d splurge on truffle butter in the future but worth a try at some point and I’m sure there are more interesting things you can do with it beyond a simple pasta!

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“Superfood Power Smoothie” from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Start off 2016 right with a super healthy + no added sugar smoothie! Sally’s Baking Addiction is an amazing food blog, so I knew I had to give her Superfood Power Smoothie a try when I saw it! There’s something about the layered look that’s enticing, and I can confirm now that the layers were delicious (using spinach was also an added bonus)!

We made substitutions based on our preferences and what we had on hand. For example, we used pomegranate instead of strawberries for the pink layer and it turned out great! We also experimented with a third and even a fourth layer – using blueberries and then coconut.

If you’re making this smoothie, take your pictures fast since some of our layers ended up blending fairly quickly!

While smoothies may not seem fitting in the winter, they’re definitely a fun, healthy and easy way to pack in fruits, vegetables, and other items that we probably don’t eat enough of…which in my case, is probably kale. I’ve always felt like I need to pick sides between spinach and kale and clearly spinach wins…someone convince me otherwise? 🙂

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Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

Now that Santa has blessed us all with his presents and holiday cheer, it’s finally time to profile some fun holiday cookies. A close friend and I have a tradition of baking Christmas cookies together, and last year, we made these deliciously cute Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies:

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Since they were a huge hit, we knew we had to step up our game and try our hand at something even more complex: Roly-Poly Santa Cookies!

These were actually really hard to make…they tested our craftsmanship (ie. molding Santa hats out of dough, squishing dough pieces together to ensure that the cookies wouldn’t break after baking) and endurance (each cookie probably took 5-7 minutes just to shape). But I must say we prevailed and took home the gold for our cookies this year:

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Pre-baking. Protip: To ensure that the pieces all stay together after baking, try to connect the arms with the faces more before baking.

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This Santa won the “Best Looking” Award

Another protip: We made powdered sugar by blending regular sugar, but we may have needed to blend the sugar more since we didn’t really get a powdery texture in our frosting.

After we reveled in our glorious accomplishment, I took home the pound of extra frosting we made and decided to bake gingerbread cookies the day after at another friend’s place.

But this time, we couldn’t find gingerbread cookie cutters anywhere. It’s like all the stores said move over, Christmas, and cleared out everything for whatever else is coming. So we settled for “bunny” and “dog” cookie cutters which were the only options.

Shoutout to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for this awesome eggless recipe: Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies. WITH molasses :O

When we actually got to cutting the dough, we felt that our bunny and dog cookie cutters were too big so we ended up making circles, which created about 45 cookies! 45! I guess you could say we baked up a storm.

Anyway, we had lots of fun using the leftover chocolate chips, red hots, and frosting from the Santa cookies to decorate these gingerbread circles:

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Quite the baking adventure, but I’m already looking forward to what 2016 baking has in store. Get ready, Pinterest.

Big Girl Dinner #1

This post is long overdue, but I had the pleasure of hosting a few friends over at my apartment for dinner a few weeks ago…which meant lots of cooking! This was my first time throwing a dinner party on my own – I definitely underestimated how much time cooking would take and scrapped ambitious plans to bake a dessert, but hey, it was worth it.

Roasted Chickpea Salad with Feta

Modifications ~ Seasoned chickpeas with paprika and basil in addition salt / pepper, sauteed onions instead of using them raw, used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar, added walnuts, used “mixed greens” instead of arugula, didn’t use mint

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Simple Spinach

Heat up a pan with olive oil, and once hot, add minced garlic (as much or little as you’d like with the amount of spinach you use). Cook the spinach thoroughly, and continue to drizzle with olive oil, curry powder, red chili, and salt.

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Pesto Spaghetti with Zucchini

First step is the homemade pesto – so much easier than I thought it would be and, let’s be honest, to die for. You can never have enough pesto. I decided to make Parsley-Walnut Pesto since parsley was pretty cheap at the grocery store, but there’s a lot of different leaf – nut combos that work.  Make sure you add enough oil (and water!) to make blending easy! I learned the hard way by settling for some kind of puree first, then making my pasta, then realizing I needed more pesto, and then revisiting the blender one more time only to realize that I could have made this pesto in 2 minutes instead of 20 if I had used more water…

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(Fry the zucchini until it turns golden-brown)

And voila, we have a tasty home-cooked meal!

 

Muffins = Smart Cupcakes

As a farewell to fall and hello to winter, I made these yummy Pumpkin-Banana (eggless) Muffins the other day. When I make these next time, I’d probably add a bit more spice than what the recipe calls for for a stronger taste.

If you’re feeling like you really want to load up on the sweet, definitely consider topping these muffins with frosting (I just used store bought)! After all, muffins are healthier than cupcakes…right?

 

Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

This Thanksgiving, I decided to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon (a bit late I know) and try my hand at some pumpkin desserts. If you ever need to whip up a dessert in less than hour, this is the recipe for you: Vegan (well except for the chocolate chips) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars.

No eggs and no mess! I didn’t have pumpkin spice, so I just ground cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger into a powdered form – didn’t explicitly follow any proportions but used cinnamon more than the other spices.

The end result is a pie of chocolatey – pumpkin goodness, with the flavors of fall reminding you of your daily pumpkin-spiced latte. Definitely an easy recipe I’ll be keeping in my back pocket!

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Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Holy CrĂȘpe…Or Should I Say “FRENCHiladas?”

This past weekend, R and I decided to have some fun and make crĂȘpes! It of course helped that she’s a killer cook and Parisian, but the recipe actually turned out to be much easier that I thought it would be.

We followed the general gist of this recipe for the batter and let it sit in the fridge for 40 minutes before making the crĂȘpes. Once you’ve heated the pan and spread some butter, take a scoop of the batter and pour on to the pan, quickly making sure to twist the pan right and left to ensure the batter covers the whole pan. You’ll notice that the edges will start to lift upwards after a minute or two, and then you can flip the crĂȘpe. Once it’s fully cooked, lift out of the pan and make the next one!

If you want to add savory fillings to your crĂȘpes, I suggest a spinach and cheese combo (I know this probably doesn’t come as a surprise). When you’ve flipped over the crĂȘpe, add some shredded mozzarella (goat cheese works too) and spinach to the middle, and fold over the crĂȘpe in half before lifting out of the pan. Sweet fillings are great too – add melted chocolate chips, sliced bananas, strawberries, whipped cream, nutella, apple, cranberries…you get the picture…

If you have extra crĂȘpes, you can store them in the fridge and reheat later on with your fillings – the taste stays great for days! Special thanks to R and her Mama for the expert guidance 🙂

Savory fillings pictured below:

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If I Call You Darling, Will You Make Me Pancakes?

Who recognizes the page below? Saw this on Pinterest today as I was looking at pancakes (I know, it’s midnight here and I’m drooling at pancake recipes instead of going to bed) and suddenly third grade memories of reading Shel Silverstein poems came back…Am definitely going to pick up Where the Sidewalk Ends over the holidays and give it another read. Nothing better than revisiting childhood stories. 🙂

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So with that enormous stack of pancakes courtesy of Shel Silverstein above as inspiration…

I had the orange-chocolate chip pancakes at Summer House Santa Monica a few weeks ago and can definitely say they were the best pancakes I’ve ever had. The texture was just right – not too soggy – and the combination of citrus and sweet was to die for. Summer House Santa Monica is themed as a ~California chill~ restaurant, and I’ve got to say, the orange in these pancakes definitely adds to the vibe. Worth a try if you’re into sweet over savory brunch. Here’s a recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod for the DIY folks!

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It’s Brownie O’Clock

Watch out – some decadent brownies coming your way. These Browned Butter and Red Wine Brownies might just be the best you’ll ever see.

One thing I will admit though, is that I still don’t really understand “Browned Butter.” When we melted the butter in a saucepan and let it heat, it never really turned reddish brown like it was supposed to. The milk solids did separate from the fat (I think?), but that was kind of it… if the same thing happens to you, just make a judgment call after 10 minutes or so since our brownies still came out amazingly well.

Some other things to note:

We didn’t use walnuts, but we did use red wine. I didn’t know this before, but red wine apparently enhances the flavor of the chocolate and loses much of its alcohol content when heated (I guess it’s up to you how you feel about that! 🙂 )

We also doubled the proportions here so that our brownies would come out thicker – with our standard pan, following the proportions suggested by the recipe would have yielded very thin brownies. Definitely a fun recipe to try and I can promise you’ll be in for a real treat!

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