dessert

nice cream, four ways

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I’ve got ice cream on the mind these days. The days are getting warmer, the local creameries are blowing up my Instagram feed, and Joe Biden is getting his own ice cream flavor at my alma mater this week!!! This (and, oh yea, also all the graduating smarty poos to whom Uncle Joe is speaking)(congrats, guys!) undoubtedly is cause for a celebratory cone!

However, in an effort to prevent myself from eating ice cream TOO often this summer, I’ve come up with some fun flavors for “nice cream,” which is a faux ice cream made with frozen bananas and milk as the base. It’s an imposter, for sure, but one that hits the spot when you want a frozen treat but can’t justify the calorie/sugar/fat bomb of real ice cream. I recommend stocking up on some batches of this lower-sugar, lower-fat version to satisfy those mid-week cravings, and saving the real stuff for the weekend :)

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nice cream

  • Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
2 small or 1 large banana, frozen
1/3-1/2 cup of milk or soymilk

Mix-ins:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1/2 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Matcha White Chocolate Pretzel: 2 Tbsp matcha powder + handful of white chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels
Orange Ginger Vanilla: 1/2 orange, peeled and cut into chunks + 1 tsp grated orange zest + 3 pieces crystallized ginger, roughly chopped + 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. *For this flavor, I recommend decreasing the milk/soymilk to 1/4 cup or less, as the orange juice adds some extra liquid!
Blueberry Coconut Almond: 1/3 cup fresh blueberries + 1/4 cup coconut flakes + 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:
1. Place frozen bananas and milk/soymilk in a food processor. Add peanut butter (for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip) or matcha powder (for Match White Chocolate Pretzel). Puree until smooth.
2. Add additional mix-ins, and use “chop” feature on food processor to incorporate.
3. Place this completed nice cream into a container for storage in the freezer. If a “soft serve” consistency is desired, you can eat immediately!
4. Once frozen, you will need to let the nice cream thaw ~10-15 minutes on the counter before it is scoopable!

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dessert

raw almond joy bites

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Listen, you guys know that I love me a good slice of cake. I’m a firm believer that delicious food represents more than mere nourishment– it’s a means of provision and hospitality, a medium for creativity and skill, a backdrop for community and camaraderie, and it is one of the most universal sources of pleasure life has to offer.

But let’s talk facts. There are things we, as members of modern societies, eat regularly that need to be moved to the “eat occasionally” lists. I know you know that added sugar is one of those things. To give a little perspective– the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of about 6 teaspoons a day of sugar (if you a lady) and about 9 teaspoons a day (if you a dude). The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends that no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake comes from added sugars. An NPR article from 2016 has quoted that the average American takes in about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily- far above the recommended limit, no matter how you spin it. For some more stats and graphics on how we’re doing on our sugar consumption as a nation, go here (spoiler alert- we’re not doing well).

Why do we overeat sugar? The blame has been passed onto a lot of things, from individual factors such as evolutionary instinct and human response to stress, to the food environment which includes big food companies and even the “traditional” thinkings of health professionals and nutritionists (for shame!). Succinctly put, studies have affirmed the addictive nature of sugar and our instinctual drive to seek it out for energy, survival, and pleasure. On top of that, sugar sells, and food companies know this. The low-fat diet craze of the 1970’s and 80’s in the U.S. led to the replacement of fat with sugar as the major taste enhancer for “diet foods.” Now what we’ve got is a food landscape in which added sugar, often disguised on food packaging labels by one or more of its aliases (ever heard of high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin?), has become a ubiquitous and an expected component.

Why is this a problem? Without going into too much biochemistry, when we eat more sugar than our body needs, an excess of the hormone insulin is produced; insulin acts to store sugar in the cells, including fat cells. Simple carbohydrates (think white, refined carbs) are digested and absorbed much quicker than a complex carb (think brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains) and therefore lead to a faster rise and, subsequently, a faster crash of sugar in the blood. This leads to a roller coaster-like effect in which the body tells us to consume more food and more frequently. Over time, we end up with weight gain and a myriad of metabolic health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

What should we do about it? The simple answer is to eat less added sugar– something closer to the recommended limit of 10% of our daily calories, or 6-9 teaspoons per day. But we all know this is so much easier said than done, largely because many of the foods that are most convenient- and most appealing at times of stress, boredom and celebration- are processed foods high in added sugar. Knowing this, one practical way to reduce your daily sugar consumption is to stick as much as possible to a “real food,” or whole food, diet– one high in ingredients and foods that have had as little processing done to them as possible. This means whole grains, fresh (and as much as possible- local) fruits and vegetables, responsibly raised meat and animal products, raw or simply roasted nuts and seeds. You might find that, in an attempt to make fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and meats taste good, you have to add things like condiments and dressings, which are common sources of hidden sugars. My professional recommendation? Make your own dressings and sauces! Home prepared foods are not only healthier and fresher, they also make eating so much more rewarding and satisfying. Worried about the sugar content in certain whole foods, like fruit? Well, the sugar in fruit does break down into the same components as those from sugar in, say, a candy bar. But with the fruit comes a whole host of other good nutrients- fiber, vitamins, minerals- which not only gives fruit more “bang for the buck,” but also helps to slow down its digestion and absorption into cells. Food in its natural state is designed for optimal breakdown in and nourishment to our bodies, guys. Is this not amazing???!?

My last little tidbit here is that I want to make clear that I have no interest in a completely sugar-free lifestyle. In fact, I would recommend against an overly strict avoidance of sweets for many reasons- one being that strict bans can often cause “rebounds” of overeating and bingeing. Also, I do believe that sweets eaten as treats for a special occasion are one way of simply enjoying life! If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a damn good cookie– just don’t eat one every day! You should also know, my faithful readers, that I am preaching to myself here. We’re in this together, guys. There is a balance to be struck here, and I know that we can find it!

So here’s to taking back our health with a whole foods diet. I’ve made us some sweet little treats made with the most delicious of ingredients and no added sweeteners (trust me, the dates are so sweet that any added sweeteners would probably ruin these). These little guys are reminiscent of Lara bars, but they come packaged like cute little truffles. They are incredibly easy to make and serve as the perfect non-special occasion treat!

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raw almond joy bites

  • Servings: approximately 24
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Ingredients:
12-14 pitted dates
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cacao powder or cacao nibs (the nibs will give you a crunchier texture than the powder) + more cacao powder for dusting, if desired
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes (again, the difference is just in texture) + more shredded coconut for dusting, if desired
1-2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk (I used Califia Farms‘ no-sugar-added toasted coconut flavor)
1/2 tsp almond extract, optional
1/2 tsp coconut extract, optional

Directions:
1. Pulse almonds, cacao nibs, and coconut flakes in a food processor until you get a coarse meal. *If using cacao powder and/or shredded coconut rather than the nibs/flakes, I would pulse the almonds alone first!
2. Add dates, and pulse until blended.
3. Add coconut milk and extracts, pulse until the mixture comes together and can be formed into shape.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out tablespoon-sized balls with your hands and place on the sheet. Roll the balls in cacao powder or shredded coconut.
5. Put the balls in a sealable container and refrigerate for at least an hour (you can eat them immediately, but I find that refrigerating leads to a more dense and satisfying texture!)

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coconut beef curry

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HELLO INTERNET FRIENDS!!! I’m so sorry for being MIA over the past couple of months. No excuse. Just busy. You know.

Anyways, I’m back now after a fall full of, well, life. There was foliage, hiking, sweater-buying, and pumpkin bread-making. There were travels and birthdays (my own included- hello, late 20s!) and time spent with family and friends. There was Thanksgiving. There was an election. Fall is always such a fleeting season, one where we (or at least I) feel the need to PACK IN ALL THE THINGS. On top of it all, there is so much to think about, so much to digest about what is changing and happening in our country and in the world.

Winter feels a little more final. The temps dropped this week, and it’s like we’re all saying “welp, we knew it could happen any day, and now it’s here.” Might as well embrace it and hunker down for the season, always fighting for joy and peace, and clinging to hope in the midst of all the changes. A bowl of warm curry always helps, so here I am!

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*Special shout out to my roommate, who let me use this beautiful photogenic bowl, handmade by her sister! Thanks Megan!!

coconut beef curry

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef chuck, cubed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup slices carrots
1/2 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbsp red curry paste
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup torn basil (Thai basil if available)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups Jasmine rice

Directions:
1. Prep all ingredients: peel/chop carrots, slice onion and shallot, mince garlic, peel and grate ginger, and cube beef, discarding fat as able.
2. Heat a large skillet (use one that is ~2 inches deep) to medium. Salt beef cubes as desired, then cook in the skillet until browned all over. Set aside in a covered bowl.
3. Heat oil (I used olive oil) in the same skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, shallot, garlic, and carrots until onions begin to caramelize, about 5-8 minutes. Add the ginger and curry paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
4. Return the beef to the pan and add the stock, sugar, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, covered.
5. Uncover and cook for another 45 minutes, or until curry is looking like it is thickening (I added about 1 tsp of flour just to help speed this process). Add the lime juice and fish sauce. Cook, stirring, until heated. Stir in basil and cilantro. Add salt to taste.
6. Make Jasmine rice as directed; I combined 1 cup rice with 2 cups water and 1 tsp butter in a pot, brought this to a boil, then covered and let simmer for 18-20 minutes. Fluff with fork when done.
7. Serve curry over rice; garnish with fresh cilantro, basil, and/or lime wedges.

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dessert

lemon lavender mini bundt cakes + flower crown party!

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One year ago today, Britni- my good friend, dear roommate, and the floral genius behind Two Stems of Joy– told us about how a burst of purple from a flower arrangement she had put together for a work photoshoot had ignited in her a joy that led her to realize that, in her dreams and aspirations for life, there would be flowers.

Britni is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know, and it has been an inspiration and a huge honor to have seen her passions take root and start to bud. I have watched her thoughtfully and joyfully pour herself into every single set of arrangements she has done over the past year, whether it was flowers for an entire wedding (she’s done TWO all by herself in the past year!) or just a bouquet to give our dining room table a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’. My generally monochromatic life has gotten a healthy dose of color this past year, and I am certainly the better for it. How can you not be happy when a vase full of dahlias is staring you right in the face while you eat your morning yogurt??

The exciting thing is that this is just the beginning of the journey for Two Stems of Joy and for Britni’s pursuit of her floral dreams. I am incredibly proud to call this talented florist my friend, and think you should all hop on over to her site to see more pictures of our blogiversary celebration!!!! Britni made us these gorgeous flower crowns, I made some little lemon lavender cakes, and we problem-solved through afternoon lighting problems (aka so many shadows in our kitchen) to do a photo-shoot with our other roomie-friend, Megan! So fun!

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lemon lavender mini bundt cakes

  • Servings: 6
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Adapted from: I Bake He Shoots

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp dried lavender
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a mini bundt pan (or a full-size bundt pan, if you plan on making one large cake) with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mash the lemon zest with the back of a spoon into the sugar. Do this until the sugar is wet and fragrant. Cream the butter and lemon sugar until light and fluffy with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
3. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice.
4. In a medium/large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add the lavender and whisk to incorporate.
5. With the mixer on low for the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture, alternative adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before carefully taking the cakes out and inverting them to cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before adding the glaze. Dust with powdered sugar at the end.

 

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soups

curried pumpkin and red lentil soup

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IT’S FALL!! As I type this, a very crisp breeze is blowing through my window, a pair of fluffy new slippers are on my feet, and a Tupperware container of this curried pumpkin and red lentil soup is now in my fridge, awaiting many more days of blissful consumption.

This recipe was a total improvisation, so there are probably some tweaks that can be made here and there. I cut/scooped seeds out of/peeled a whole pumpkin, but I bet you can used canned pumpkin and get similar results with significantly less fuss. Any of the spices can be adjusted to your taste, or you can add anything I didn’t include! Consider the recipe below a set of loose guidelines. Easy, forgiving, and oh-so-cozy. As the fall should be.

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curried pumpkin and red lentil soup

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
1 small sugar pumpkin; peeled, de-seeded, and cut into cubes*
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked at least 1 hr
1 15.5 oz can full fat coconut milk
1.5 Tbsp red curry paste
1 cup chicken broth
Juice from 1 lime
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
Roasted and salted pepitas, for topping

*I found it easiest to cut the top of the pumpkin, scoop out some of the seeds with a spoon, then cut the pumpkin vertically into two halves. I then scooped the seeds/stringy fibers out of each half, sliced the halves into thinner segments, and cut each segment into a few chunks. From there I cut the rind off each individual chunk. This was a bit time-consuming, but it felt like the safest way! Feel free to use canned pumpkin if this amount of work seems excessive!

Directions:
1. Prepare all ingredients: chop onion, grate ginger, mince garlic, and cut pumpkin into cubes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a baking tray by lining it with aluminum foil.
2. Place the pumpkin cubes into a bowl and drizzle with ~1/2-1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and mix so pumpkin cubes are evenly coated. Spread the cubes on the foil-lined baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for ~15-20 minutes, until just starting to get soft. When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. Heat 1-1.5 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent, ~2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook until fragrant, ~1 minute.
4. Add the roasted pumpkin, lentils, chicken broth, curry paste, coconut milk, lime juice and bay leaves to the saucepan. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.
5. Let the mixture simmer, covered, for ~15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove from heat, fish out bay leaves, and let cool ~5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend everything together. Blend to desired texture. Add salt to taste (I used a fairly generous amount). Serve immediately, topped with pepitas or other desired toppings, or let cool and store in fridge.

 

 

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balsamic peach summer flatbread

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And here we are in September. How did we do on those summer bucket list items we talked about last month?? Are you all as exhausted as I am now??

August was excellent for me. I went to LA for a big family get-together (#reyoonion2016), spent time at the beach, was really into morning running/avoiding having to work out in the swampy afternoon humidity, moved apartments (only 5 blocks away but OOF what a process), and, to christen the little oven in my new place, made this flatbread with summer things (peaches! corn! heirloom tomatoes! fresh mozzarella!).

I love the fact that nature provides us with so much richness in both flavor and nutrition each season. Seasonal produce is the best. I am totally gearing up and getting real excited for the fall harvest, but I sure am going to miss the beautiful summer fruits and vegetables that rocked the farmer’s markets this year. But hey, it’s not Labor Day quite yet, so grab yourself some summer produce while it’s still phresh as heck, make yourself a summer-y flatbread, and bring the leftovers along on one last beach trip!

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balsamic peach, corn, and chicken flatbread

  • Servings: 4-8
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Ingredients:
1 frozen or hand-prepared pizza dough (I used Whole Foods sprouted black bean dough)
8oz can of corn kernels (I only used half of the can)
1 ripe, medium sized peach
1 medium heirloom tomato
1 package fresh mozzarella cheese
Few leaves of fresh basil
1-2 small chicken breasts
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Balsamic dijon dressing (see below)
Balsamic glaze (I used Blaze Fig Balsamic Glaze)
Other herbs as desired, to taste (I used dried basil)

Directions:
1. Remove dough from fridge and let sit for ~30 minutes prior to stretching it out.
2. Prepare chicken: Cut breasts into small 1/2-inch chunks. Place chunks in a sealable bag or bowl. Add olive oil, rosemary, minced garlic, and salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to marinate. When marinated, add chicken to a pan and sear over high heat. Flip chicken pieces to sear other side. Then, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook through.
3. Prepare corn: If using canned corn, drain liquid from corn. Add corn to a pan over medium-high heat and let sear until kernels brown on one side. Flip and reduce heat to medium-low. Remove from heat when both sides of kernels are browned as desired.
4. Slice peaches, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Stretch dough onto a greased baking sheet. Brush with about 2 Tbsp of balsamic dijon dressing. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, peaches, chicken, corn, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with any other herbs desired!
6. Bake flatbread in preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden at edges and cheese is melted.
7. Remove from oven and let cool ~15 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.

balsamic dijon dressing

  • Servings: 1 cup
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Ingredients:
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from 1/2 medium lemon

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a jar. Close jar tightly and shake to mix!

 

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sandwiches

really good BLT

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Are you guys bucket-listers? What’s still left on your list for the summer? Is it heirloom tomatoes? You’d better get to it! The beginning of August always catches me off-guard. Time, it just keeps a-flying.

The good thing about August is that, once we’ve gotten over our anxiety over the impending arrival of fall and, in a larger sense, the continual ticking of time, we can slow down and fully appreciate and enjoy the sweetness of this month. And a sweet month it is, indeed. I mean, look at those tomatoes!!! And that leafy lettuce!!! I went on a leisurely little jog to the local farmers’ market this morning, gawked over the beautiful veggies, and treated myself to an overpriced juice on my walk back. I’ve got a few more fun trips left this summer and lots more beaching and outdoor chilling to do before it gets too cold. It’s going to be a good month. It’s the little, simple things sometimes, ya know? Hope you have a great August too. Let’s enjoy these sweet summer moments while they last! At the very least, make yourself some delicious food- like this BLT- with all this pretty summer produce!

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really good BLT

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

1 loaf good focaccia bread (I baked my own using Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix and substituting onion powder for the garlic powder, and fresh thyme for the rosemary)
4-6 leaves of fresh green lettuce
1 medium sized heirloom tomato
8 strips of bacon, cooked
Chipotle-lime aioli (recipe below)

Directions:
1. If baking your own bread, make according to your favorite recipe! Cut into 4-6 buns, then carefully slice horizontally so that you have two slices per bun for your sandwiches.
2. Prep other ingredients: mix up chipotle-lime aioli (if not already done ahead of time), wash lettuce and tomato, cut tomato into slices, cook bacon.
3. Assemble sandwiches: spread chipotle-lime aioli on insides of each slice of bread. On top of bottom slice for each sandwich, place lettuce, then bacon, then tomato. Stack top slice of bread on top.

chipotle-lime aioli

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light or olive-oil based mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp adobo sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice from 1/2 lime

Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl or jar with a spoon. Ensure ingredients are mixed well!
2. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

 

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