Come to the Dark Side… I have pie.

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Pie! Such a perfect food. Especially when it resembles… the Death Star! Because why have plain pie when you could show off your nerdiness to the world? I almost didn’t want to eat this… but I did.

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Pie crust used to intimidate me, which is pretty stupid given that it’s basically just flour and water and butter… yet I think sometimes the simplest things end up being the trickiest (in life and in baking!). But pie is also a fairly forgiving food, and will love you endlessly if you learn to make it with the confidence it deserves.

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I think I’m finally at that point — this one felt great! I am quite pleased with the way it came out both in looks and taste… the sci-fi nerd is strong in me ;) I think the key with pie crust is not to let on that it makes you nervous! It can probably sense that, ha! Maybe with its pie crust force powers…

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Thank goodness pie is so delicious – it makes all the potential crust shenanigans worthwhile.

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In other news, another drawing for the series!

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Anndddd…. the first skiing of the season! Wheeeee!!! And what great skiing it was. More to come, that’s for sure.

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But for now, pie. Because often the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable, especially leftover pie for breakfast in good company! Nothing better.

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Wild Blueberry Pie with Whole Wheat Dark Side Crust

Refined sugar free and whole wheat! Naturally sweetened with coconut sugar. Crust recipe yields a double crusted pie, enough for a Death Star of your own making if you so choose. Crust recipe lightly adapted from Carolyn McCuaig (thanks Carolyn, if you’re reading this!)

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For the crust:

  • 2.25 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 c vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 c butter (mine was salted), cut into chunks
  • 5-7 tbsp ice water

For the filling:

  • 4 c wild blueberries, or enough to heapingly fill your pie plate (frozen is fine)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1/3 c whole wheat pastry flour

For finishing: 1-2 tbsp butter, 1 egg for egg wash

To make the crust: in a large bowl, whisk together pastry flour, coconut sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest. Cut in shortening and butter either with your fingers or a pastry cutter until a coarse mixture forms and the butter chunks are the size of peas. Make a well in the center of the dough and add in the ice water one tablespoon at a time – mix as little as possible when incorporating the water to avoid overworking the dough. Once it will stick together, you’re good to go. Divide it into two even pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour.

While the dough is chilling, put together the filling. Toss blueberries, lemon juice, coconut sugar and flour in a large bowl.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out between two pieces of parchment or on marble, whatever you have – I like parchment for easy removal. Aim for about 1/8″ thickness, and lay the bottom crust into a lightly greased pie dish. Shape it with your fingers, evening out the top as per your pie plate or design you want — this crust will make a double crusted pie, so keep that in mind. Toss in blueberry filling goodness and dot with butter.

If you want to get fancy and do the Death Star…

Cut out templates (thick paper or thin cardboard work nicely) for the Death Star and a TIE fighter. Have egg wash and coconut sugar handy (I use a beaten egg + 1 tbsp water). Use the templates to cut out the top crust shape, then use a chopstick or a knife to make the surface lines. Roll out thin pieces of dough for the details, and brush everything with egg wash to make it stick. Sprinkle coconut sugar where contrast is desired. Once finished, carefully lay top crust over the blueberry filling — there is no real need to seal the edges. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 35-40 until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven when done and let sit to cool for at least an hour, preferably more so that the filling will set. Serve warm or at room temp, and store any leftovers overnight on the counter, loosely covered, or in the fridge for longer (assuming it lasts that long). Pie can be made a day in advance if needed and reheated briefly in a 375 oven to crisp the crust and warm the filling – 10/15 minutes. The pie filling will firm up if stored in the fridge overnight, making slicing easier.

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Ode to Cake

Happy Eater! I mean… Easter.

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And yes. I have absolutely no excuse for the dearth of posts, minus the fact that grad school owns my life for another 10 weeks (how is it possible that I graduate in 10 weeks… can someone explain this?!). At which point I will hopefully get back to posting on a semi-regular basis… Until then…. we’ll just see. But I’ve missed my invisible internet friends! I hope you’re all doing just wonderfully.

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To tide us over, here is an ode to cake. This is the same whole wheat banana cake with dark chocolate ganache that I’ve made umpteen billion times because it’s basically the most perfect banana cake I know. It’s not vegan, or grain free or even gluten free, but for what it is, I love it. It’s also large enough to feed a crowd, which was called for in this particular sitch.

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I’ve made this for birthdays of loved ones, thank you-s for advisors, and welcome home presents for besties. It’s a winner: silky chocolate ganache surrounding soft, not too sweet, not too dense but just dense enough banana cake. This particular iteration is refined sugar free, sweetened with a combination of date sugar and coconut sugar. Perfect for a mid afternoon Easter treat, no post-cake nap necessary. The link to the original post is here.

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In other news…

Sunbathing adorable Jessie.

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Flowers.

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Perfect avo.

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It’s good to be back! Enjoy the rest of your weekend — I hope it has a treat in it somewhere!

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Bring on the avalanche of holiday baking

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SO!

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Holiday baking because NO MORE FINALS, wheeeeee!!!!! I literally don’t know what to do with myself. I constantly have this feeling that there is something I need to be doing, or turning in, or preparing for… or wait. NO. I’m done!

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So brownies! Also because work potluck + holiday season called for dessert. But of course I had to put my own spin on them, so they are whole wheat and made with unrefined sugar (sucanat! It’s making a resurgence in my baked goods because there happened to be some left in the pantry… end of finals = dislike of expending extra effort on anything except maybe jazzercise…which also includes going to the store and swimming upstream though the holiday masses. No thanks, unless I’m out of something I absolutely can’t live without)

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These brownies are spectac! We already know I’m ludicrously picky about brownies but these totally make the cut. Dense, fudgy but with a crackly crust, chewy edges, chunks of chocolate… all things a brownie should be. And the port soaked dates are just fun and festive — I don’t NOT drink but I don’t drink either, as most of you know, but I will occasionally have a glass of good port if it’s on offer, and it is literally amazing in brownies.

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One final doodle to usher in your weekend. Happy Saturday!

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Fudgy Whole Wheat Brownies with Port Soaked Dates

Fudgy, dense, dark and deeply chocolatey. Because who doesn’t want a little death by chocolate now and then? The port soaked dates add a little extra je ne sais quoi. Whole wheat, {less} refined sugar… and good for your soul around this time of year. Adapted from the awesome blog Sis. Boom. [Blog!], here! Yield: 1 8 by 8 pan, so somewhere between 9 and 36 brownies, depending on how much death by chocolate you want.

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  • 3 tbsp good port
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 c chopped dates
  • 5 tbsp salted butter, cut into smallish chunks
  • 6 oz extra dark chocolate, chopped (I used chips for ease; 73%)
  • slightly heaping 1/2 c sucanat (or coconut sugar)
  • 2 eggs, cold
  • scant 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 oz extra dark chocolate chips (again, 73%)

Preheat the oven to 325, and line an 8 by 8 pan with foil. Butter the foil (trust me. you think you can skip this, and be lazy like me, but don’t do it. consider yourself warned).

In a small saucepan, combine port and water and bring to just boiling, add dates, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the dates are soft (just a few minutes). Set aside. In a double boiler, melt butter and 6 oz of chocolate until the chocolate is just melted, then remove from heat and stir to fully incorporate (the butter should also be fully melted by the time you finish stirring).

Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated (the batter will look a little gritty and that’s okay), then each egg one at a time, stirring until the batter looks glossy. Stir in salt.

Transfer to a larger bowl if your double boiler is small like mine, then carefully whisk in the flour until just barely incorporated. Toss in 4 oz of dark chocolate chips + port soaked dates + any port left in the pan, and stir together. Scrape batter into prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes. A tester should come out just barely clean and the top will be shiny.

Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then grab the foil and lift the whole thing out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Slice and serve! Keeps well over night on the counter back in the original pan, covered with foil.

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Matching socks are overrated.

Sanctioned Birthday Indulgences (ie. Vati’s Annual Cake Nirvana)

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Happy Birthday, Vacuum Vati!

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His birthday was actually Sunday, but since my classes started again last week, I’m back on grad school time which means that all fun, personal things occur at least a day after I actually want them to, if not a few days or a week. Ha. Because grad school is just rude like that sometimes…

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A few days late, but I never want to miss out on a cake opportunity around here. Because, CAKE! Cake is awesome. Especially for birthdays (because then indulgences are sanctioned).

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Since we went chocolate-dark on the cake last year, Vati requested a lighter bourbon cake this year — sort of “dirty south” flavored, with bourbon, vanilla, and pecans. I lifted the cake recipe nearly intact from the Food Network, which is rare, but it was almost exactly what we had in mind, so why mess with a good thing?! I did, of course, make it whole wheat and reduced the sugar (though not quite on par with my usual reductions — it is a birthday, after all!), but then I put my spin on the glaze and candied the pecans (why use just toasted ones when you could candy them?!… Exactly).

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And since I actually made this on Sunday, Vati has been enjoying it since then with a verdict as such: delicious flavor combo, but the cake itself is ever so slightly dry. Solved by means of ice cream liberally spooned over the top, or an extra splash of bourbon poured over to hydrate it… because neither of those things is a bad thing when it comes to this cake.

Happy Birthday Vati!!! I know this year is going to be fantastic and I am thrilled you loved your cake :)

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Bourbon Vanilla Cake with Candied Pecans and Bourbon Glaze

Bourbony vanilla cake that has a lighter texture than a pound cake but is still fairly dense, complimented by a bourbon glaze and candied pecans. The whole wheat flour and addition of coconut sugar takes the sweetness down a notch, but this cake is definitely an occasion cake! And don’t feed it to the children (unless they have a taste for bourbon?!). Recipe adapted from the Food Network, here. Yield: 1 bundt cake + glaze + pecans for extremely liberal garnish.

Ps. This recipe isn’t complicated. But it will basically contrive to dirty every single bowl in your kitchen. Just saying. BUT. It’s worth it!

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For the cake!

  • 2 2/3 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 c bourbon
  • 1/2 c milk bev (mine was 1% milk, as that’s what was on hand)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) of salted butter
  • 1/2 c melted coconut oil
  • scant 1.25 c sugar (mine was about a 1/2 c coconut sugar, the rest white; use whatever blend suits you) + 1/4 c white sugar, divided
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

For the pecans:

  • 1 c raw pecans, chopped
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar

For the glaze:

  • roughly 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • liberal 1/4 c bourbon
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, soft
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the pecans (I like to do them first, or even on another day, so that they’re cool when I need them). In a saucepan over medium heat, toast the pecans until fragrant, just a few minutes. Add butter and coconut sugar and toss to combine, stirring frequently until the pecans are evenly coated, the butter is completely melted and the sugar is incorporated. Take off the heat, remove from the pan and let cool in a heatproof container until needed or stored.

For the cake: preheat the oven to 350, and liberally grease a bundt pan with coconut oil or butter. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon, and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring later, measure out the bourbon, milk, and vanilla and whisk together. It will look like it gets a little clumpy, but that’s okay! Set that aside too. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together butter and coconut oil until fluffy. Add 1.25 c of the sugar (whatever blend you choose is fine), and beat to incorporate until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the liquids, in four batches starting and ending with the dry.

In a non reactive bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then dump in the remaining 1/4 c of sugar, and whip until you get stiff peaks, about five minutes more. Fold the egg whites into the batter in thirds. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. This crust makes a great “crust” which forms down at the bottom (when you flip it right-side-up) of the bundt pan — that was my favorite part! Let cool until you can turn it out without burning yourself, then let it cool completely before glazing.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze! Combine powdered sugar, bourbon, melted butter and vanilla in a smallish bowl and whisk vigorously until it’s all combined and delicious. Adjust to your personal taste, but I prefer it heavily bourbony!

Once the cake is cooled, go to town with the drizzle factor and liberally garnish it with candied pecans. And then eat it in rapture because isn’t that what cake is all about?

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Any excuse for a cake

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So! Fourth of July! Always fun in the dessert department, because who doesn’t love an excuse for a celebration-type of dessert. And hold the phone, is it possible that I put something up here that isn’t a bar?! …. *pin drops* No. can’t be.

But it is!

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Shocking.

A CAKE! And a layered one at that, because really, if you’re going to make a cake, why not go big?

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And despite it giving me much grief in the assembly (hot weather and butter-based icing are not really the best of friends), it did turn out rather pretty— Props to E’s mom Jana for the cute little flags! This is a pretty simple cake to put together as well, as the lemon curd can be made ahead of time, and the buttercream comes together in about five seconds.

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This is the first time I’ve made a fun dessert in quite a while… as I mentioned before a few posts back, I’ve been having quite the run of stomach issues lately, and have been attempting to figure out why my digestive system seems to hate me so much of late. Rude. Still no concrete answers, sigh… but one day at a time. I’ve been experimenting with reduced / no gluten,  though the jury is still out on that one. Well actually, jury is still out, period. So, cake. Because I don’t seem to feel much worse when I do eat it, and it was the Fourth! Celebrations should ensue.

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Apologies for the huge gaps between my posts these days… life has been crazy the last few months and isn’t really getting much calmer (in fact, I start grad school in less than a month, so I don’t expect to be able to keep regular posts coming. We’ll see how things shake out!) E and I move in to our apartment the first week of September, so maybe after that things will get a little more normal. We’ll see, nothing is ever normal around here (because normal = boring. ha)

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Whole Wheat Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream

Whole grains, healthy fats, and CAKE. Winner, winner. A lightly sweet, lightly lemony cake is complemented by a rich but not too decadent vanilla buttercream, and tart homemade lemon curd. The cake itself is refined sugar free, but there is powdered sugar in the frosting. If you have the time, definitely make homemade lemon curd. It is eons better than the stuff you can buy in the store, and about ten zillion times cheaper. Yield: a 2 layer, 9″ cake + enough buttercream for the filling and the top. I preferred a naked cake look for this one, as it was hot and nobody really wants a mega glut of frosting when it’s over 90 outside… the cake is light but very satisfying, and doesn’t make you feel like you need a nap afterwards! Cake adapted from I Bake, He Shoots, here!

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For the cake:

  • 2.5 c + 4 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • scant 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 c coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 c avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 c buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • zest of two medium/good-sized lemons

For the frosting:

  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon curd

Lemon curd is the same recipe I used about three years ago (but with regular lemons instead of meyer this time); my recipe is here. Yield is about 1-1.5 c. You won’t use it all for the cake, unless you use the extra to top the individual slices. I used some in the buttercream, and some on the top. I suggest making it the day before, and just letting it hang out in a jar in the fridge overnight.

Raspberries, for garnish.

For the cake: preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease+flour two 9″ cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mash together the lemon zest and 2 tbsp coconut sugar, until fragrant. Set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine remaining sugar, avocado oil, and eggs. Beat until lighter (though because of the coconut sugar, it won’t significantly lighten) and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add in lemon zest + sugar mixture. Combine buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice (I like using a liquid measure for easy pouring). Alternating dry ingredients and wet, add them to the larger bowl with the sugar/oil/eggs, starting and ending with flour. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes—the tops should spring back when touched lightly, and a tester should come out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the buttercream:

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add in 2 tbsp of lemon curd, and beat briefly to combine.

Frost the cooled cake as desired — I did a layer of buttercream/curd in the center, and topped the cake with the majority of the buttercream + another layer of lemon curd. Be careful of the cake sliding — my kitchen was hot so I ended up skewering the cake for transport, and letting it set up in the fridge for several hours prior to serving. Garnish with raspberries or another berry of your choice! Serve with extra lemon curd, because it’s basically the food of the gods..

Store covered cake in the fridge, assuming you have any leftovers!

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And then I ate a lot of brunch

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I have this feeling 2015 is going to be RAD.

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Because it is. Because 15 is a nicely odd number, and also… It just is. Rad!!!

Also, a ton of brunch was consumed in this house in the last 24 hours. And because New Years = brunch (along with cabbage+bacon, cornbread and black eyed peas for good luck, natch… to be consumed in several hours), I thought I would do sharezies with my fave waffle recipe and the uuuuhhmaaazing brownies E and I made and ate to celebrate.

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I had a fab New Years! E and I did exactly what we wanted to, which was a lot of nothing. And eating. Like tortilla pizzas and brownies and ice cream! And we fell asleep at 10:30, sorry we’re not sorry. AND made brownies. Which were spectacular. And were devoured under a massive pile of Strauss ice cream because it is essentially the best thing ever and also I can’t buy it because if I do, I go through the pint like a beast.

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SO anyway. I don’t make resolutions for the new year, but I hereby declare that this one is going to be sparkly and glittery and fabulous and rad. All at the same time. Happy 2015!

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Let’s ring in the New Year properly, shall we? Recipes for New Year’s healthified indulgences:

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Whole Wheat Waffles

Lightly sweet waffles made completely with whole wheat flour and barely any oil for a healthier take on a typical brunch staple (because HELLO who doesn’t love waffles?!). These are perfect with an apple blueberry compote, or some other kind of fruit. I prefer them with almond butter or salted butter and fruit compote and pure maple syrup, but I think these could easily go a savory route with some egg and cheese? Probs. Maybe that will be dinner later this week…
Recipe adapted from Eating Well, here. Yield is about 6 or 7 in my round waffle maker. Whole grain and vegetarian.

  •  2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 c lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites

In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolk, avo oil, and vanilla. Stir wet into dry until just incorporated. In a grease-free mixing bowl (I always use stainless for this), beat the three egg whites until stiff and glossy. Whisk 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the batter, then fold in the rest using a rubber spatula. Ladle the appropriate amount of batter into your waffle iron, according to the mandates of your specific waffle iron god, and cook accordingly. These come out of mine perfectly at 6 minutes. Store them temporarily in a warming drawer in a single layer on a cooling rack to prevent them from getting soggy if you’re not eating them immediately.

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 Deep, Dark, Flourless Brownies

Grain free, flour free, refined sugar free, and FULL OF CHOCOLATE. Basically, these are all you need. I like my brownies just this side of fudgy, with a crackly top and a salty bite. I also prefer mine dark and full of chocolate, instead of overly sweet. So… if dark chocolate is your thing… you need these. Immediately.
Recipe adapted from Running With Spoons, here!

  • 6 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 oz extra dark chocolate [mine was 77%]
  • 2 oz dark chocolate [mine was 63%]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar, NOT packed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • a handful of extra dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350, and line an 8 by 8 pan with foil, leaving extra hanging over two sides of the pan for easy removal.

In a saucepan over med-low, melt coconut oil+extra dark chocolate+dark chocolate until smooth, stirring occasionally (you can also do this in the microwave, stirring at 30 sec intervals if you are feeling supremely lazy). In a biggish bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs, coconut sugar, and vanilla until pale and smooth, about 2 minutes. After that’s all good, beat in the coconut oil-chocolate goodness until incorporated. In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, and sea salt; then slowly use the mixer to beat that into the rest of the mix. Don’t overmix, just make sure there aren’t any pockets of cocoa powder. The batter should be thick and smooth. Stir in the extra chocolate chips. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for just about 25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean [mine was perfect at 25]. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then use the foil to lift them out to a cooling rack to cool completely. Or serve them warm with ice cream and eat immediately, for a happy gastronomical moment {I highly recommend this}. Store leftovers (WHAT leftovers?!) covered in foil at room temp.

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Muffins and cat selfies

Merry Christmas from the 1900s when no one thought anything was funny! We’re weird (and SO awesome). We know.

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Ugh. Total blogging fail. I’ve blogged… once?! the entire month of December and it’s now the 27th? Appalling.

But you know how the holidays go… it’s like eating, eating, eating, omg I never want to see food ever again, and then ten minutes later… wait, is that chocolate?! I know you… you do it too.

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So anyway, here we are in that odd stretch between Christmas and New Years when no one really knows what to do with themselves. Especially this year, where both holidays fall on a Thursday which makes the in-between week especially awkward. And we also find ourselves eating. Because that is apparently how you fill your time in that awkward week? Not to mention the previous week…. despite the lack of blogness that has been happening around here, there has been a proper amount of holiday food consumed. OMG. Food. Have I mentioned I love desserts? And waffles!

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Haha. One waffle kinda sorta stuck. Let’s call it waffle:deconstructed.

And in between the indulgent moments I try to be good. So then things like muffins happen (also things like this happen when I get irritated by the dead bananas that have taken up seemingly permanent residence in the back corner of the refrigerator and am determined to get them out by whatever means necessary but am, for the moment, semi-over banana bread… I know. I shocked even myself).

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Mystical muffins in the flowers. That photo was a lot harder than it looked. Apparently I can’t hold still long enough to get a non-blurry picture… Can’t sit still? Internal age? … Six.

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And also THIS SOUP. I made it and I want it again. Like, now.

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Because LENTILS! And BACON! No way, you say… SHE doesn’t eat bacon! But actually… I do. On occasion. When it fraternizes with lentils and cavorts around in a soup or around a date stuffed with a pecan. I like bacon in very specific applications. OR with brussel sprouts. Obvi. But okay. Moving on. You really should make this soup immediately.

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I did absolutely nothing to the recipe besides use green lentils and extra broth (and not wanting to go to the store for one thing meant I used a whole onion in place of the leek). The recipe is from The Wanderlust Kitchen, here! Also because it’s Bavarian, it made me want to get back into the eight years of German which have gone dormant in the recesses of my grey matter. Die Suppe. Mit Speck. It’s a start…

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But back to the muffins. I realized I hadn’t made muffins in ages, so these were a welcome change. Perfectly spicy and gingerbready, and not overwhelmingly banana-y. Lightly sweet and perfect with small hits of chocolate.

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Gingerbread Banana Muffins

The recipe is slightly adapted from the hilariously titled blog Connoisseurus Veg, here! Vegan, whole wheat, and refined sugar free. So delicious, especially with almond butter or salted butter (any kind of butter, really… as long as it has butter in the name you really can’t go wrong). Yield: 9 muffins in my ginormous muffin tins, probably 12 in normal sized, normal people tins.

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  • 2 super ripe, dead bananas (the nastier looking, the better)
  • 1/4 c blackstrap molasses*
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • 1/3 c unrefined coconut oil, melted*
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1.5 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 c extra dark chocolate chips

*Fun fact: molasses pours much more easily and less messily if you measure the coconut oil first, pour it out, then measure molasses in the same measuring cup. The oil residue in the cup helps that sticky business pour right out!

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your muffin tins of choice (ginormous or otherwise).

In a large bowl, mash the bananas (a fork is my preferred implement). Whisk in coconut oil, molasses, coconut sugar, vanilla, and almond milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together pastry flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt. Pour dry into wet, followed by the chocolate chippies, and stir until just incorporated. Avoid overmixing like the plague since it makes your muffins tough and no one wants that. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the tops spring back just slightly when poked (mine were perfect at just about 20). Remove tins, let cool for a few, then turn out the muffins and let them cool completely on a rack. Store in an airtight container for a few days.

Aaaannnd I take selfies with my cat. Apparently I’m now that person. Sorry I’m… NOT SORRY! Ha.

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Her face is like… “Really, giggling human?? Must we do this??”

My cakes are a little bit nuts, just like me!

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Happy Holidays!!

And Happy Birthday, Elliott!!! Yayyyyy for boyfriend birthday because excessive CAKE! I had super fun making this huge shenanigan of a cake and surprising him with it. Birthdays are an excuse for excess (like I needed an excuse but shhhhhh), so thank you for making an appearance on this charming blue sphere! Not only do I get to make you cake, but I also get to be in your life!! And that is absolutely the best part :)

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I loooove this time of year. With extra o’s I love it so much. [Side note. I do NOT like grocery shopping this time of year. And as anyone who knows me will attest, I happily can spend forever wandering around the store usually… but not this time of year. No way. I don’t like throwing elbows to get to the last can of pumpkin, thank you].

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Also I LOVE that it is insanely pouring over here in California. We need it like I need almond butter. AND it’s snowing in the mountains and we know what that means! I get to get out my K2 babies again for the first time in far too long. Ahhh. Skiing.

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But first….

Christmas!!!

And lights! And cookies! And family! Raaaaiiiinnnn. Tinsel (or not. Jessie would eat it), cozy fires, blankets, human snuggles, cat snuggles, ginger things, an excess of tea, giving, sharing, loving.

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AND! Elliott’s birthday :) Oh heyyyy, December baby! The birthday boy requested a turtle theme for his dessert… so of course I obliged and then some. Because I really don’t do things by halves. Rich chocolate bourbon cake (mostly chocolatey, with just a touch of bourbon to give it depth) with caramel buttercream topped with salted coconut caramel drizzle+candied pecans. If that isn’t a fitting birthday treat, I don’t know what is… OH and obviously we ate it with Strauss vanilla ice cream because HELLO cake+ice cream = match made in heaven annnnnd really why not?!

Happy Birthday, E! I love you :)

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Chocolate Bourbon cake with Caramel Buttercream, Caramel Drizzle and Candied Pecans

This cake is really just a wonderful confluence of tastes and textures. It’s not hard to put together, despite having multiple parts… I candied the pecans the day before I baked the cake and made the caramel, and then I made buttercream and assembled it all the next day (Due to travel constraints). Everything turned out perfectly! Everything is refined sugar free (uses maple and coconut sugar), and the cake is whole wheat. And butter is just good for your soul. Store it covered in the fridge after it’s frosted, and eat it with good quality vanilla ice cream. Obviously. You’re already eating cake, why not add a little ice cream?! Life is short.

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Chocolate Bourbon Cake

I adapted mine from the one I made for my dad’s birthday, since that one was so good with whiskey. This one is chocolatey and dense, with bourbon adding a depth of flavor. Original is here.

  • 1.5 c coconut sugar
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 c lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1/4 (or closer to 1/3… I went heavy handed) c good quality bourbon
  • 1/2 c extra dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350, and grease the living daylights out of two standard 9″ cake pans {I use coconut oil for greasing}. Combine 1 tbsp flour+1 tbsp cocoa powder, and flour the inside of the pans, tapping out all the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, sifted cocoa, baking powder+soda, salt, and five spice until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, avocado oil, and vanilla. Pour wet into dry, and use an electric mixer to beat until just combined. Add water and bourbon, and continue mixing until just barely incorporated (don’t over mix, puhhleeez). Stir in the chocolate chips, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack in the pans until cool enough to handle, then flip out and cool completely (the cake, not you. I know the cake is fabby but don’t flip out. You can eat it… soon!!).

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Salted Coconut Caramel Drizzle

Makes more than enough to drizzle over cake while frosting, plus more for drizzle purposes just prior to eating. AND has enough for leftovers later. Win win win. The yield is somewhere around 2.5 cups of caramel. You’ll use at least 1/2 of a generous cup for the buttercream, and then at least another 1/2 cup for drizzle. Originally from this cake, here!

  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • scant 1 tsp fine sea salt

In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine coconut milk, maple, and coconut sugar. Let it boil, then turn it down so it’s just barely boiling, with the bubbles just breaking the surface. Whisking continuously, cook for 15-20 minutes, until the caramel has thickened slightly (though it will still be a runny caramel, that’s fine), the liquid has reduced, and the color is darker. I cooked mine for a bit over 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, butter, and sea salt, and whisk until smooth. Let cool completely in the pan, then store in a sealed jar in the fridge [because we know I store everything in jars anyway].

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Caramel Buttercream

Yields enough to frost the top and and between layers of a 9″, two layer cake with a little leftover. If you decide you want to frost the sides, make a double batch of buttercream. Be aware that this cake tends to pull up into the frosting, so a crumb coat would definitely be necessary if you’re into neat-looking cakes (I do not fall into this category. I want my cakes rustic, messy and delicious. And kind of nuts, just like me). Originally from my Banana Caramel Cake, here.

  • 1/2 c grass fed, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c caramel sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1.5 c powdered sugar

In a largeish bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together butter, caramel sauce, vanilla, and sea salt until mostly incorporated and smooth(don’t worry if at first it looks a little grainy, mine smoothed right out after I beat in the sugar). Pour in powdered sugar, and beat until a silky frosting forms. The texture is a little different than standard buttercream, with the addition of the caramel,  but it is silky and delicious. Chill in the fridge for a few minutes before frosting if you want it a little firmer.

Candied Pecans

  • 1.5 c raw pecans
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar

In a saucepan, toast pecans over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add butter, swirling pecans and butter chunk around until everything is nice and foamy and melty. Toss in coconut sugar, and keep stirring so nothing burns for about 4-5 more minutes. The sugar should start to get sticky, like it’s turning into caramel. Remove from heat and put the pecans into a heat proof container to cool completely before storage or use.

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Assembly!

Pop the first cake layer on a plate of choice. Smear buttercream goodness all over the top, drizzle with some caramel and maybe a few candied pecans, then top all that with the next layer and more buttercream+caramel+pecans. I opted for a naked cake this time since I like the way the layers look, but feel free to frost the sides if that’s your jam (though you’ll need to make extra buttercream). I topped mine excessively with extra caramel drizzle and candied pecans because BIRTHDAY! Store covered in the fridge and eat within a few days for best cakeness (can dry out if not eaten expediently, but it’s so good I doubt that will be a problem).

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Peat bogs and holey cakes

Ohhhh I know…

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It’s a CAKE!

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[There’s a hole in this cake…]

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But… I fixed it!

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There is now a hole in this cake and alcohol as well. Because… why not?? Also because… Happy Belated, Vacuum Vati! He has this penchant for drinking scotch out of these special glasses (and I can tell what he’s had because it’s either scotch or graham crackers with milk. That’s random, you say…. but actually there is a method to his madness. The wide mouthed glasses let the scotch breathe properly and also are the appropriate width for graham cracker dippage). Actually it’s really fun to just tell him I know exactly what he’s been drinking and have him be slightly baffled as to how I know. Muahhaha. Exemplary powers of observation, that’s what that is. And mildly hilarious to watch him drink scotch and carefully put a coaster over the top of the aforementioned wide mouth glass to discourage escaping peat-boggishness. Because my mom rightfully dislikes the peat bog smell that emanates from certain bottles of superior scotch. He has a special peat-bog-discouraging coaster. It’s hilarious and I love it.

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And actually I essayed a teeny sip of scotch today and it was DISGUSTING. I coughed for days. It burns all the way down. BUT. Then you put it in chocolate cake. With coconut sugar. And chocolate. And five spice. And CARAMEL and ohmygod is it actually delicious. I mean really, how is cake NOT delicious. But this one is especially good.

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Many happy returns, Vacuum Vati! So pleased you like your peat-bog-chocoalte-caramel decadence. Because everyone deserves a little indulgence on their birthday!

Also ps: I was in Texas visiting fam for the last several weeks and I will put up some pictures eventually probably if they’ll ever load. So cake first, vacay second. I’m sure you’re just sitting on the edge of your chair waiting with bated breath…

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Chocolate Scotch Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze

Recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil, here! Recipe yields a normal sized bundt cake. Refined sugar free (though it IS sweet, as per VV’s request), whole wheat, and healthy fats from the avocado oil. So it’s good for you! Uh. No. But indulge accordingly, because that’s what birthdays are for! Don’t worry–it’s not overly scotch-y, either. I like it quite a bit and I don’t even like scotch. It’s like chocolate cake that is deeper and richer than your average fair.

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Let’s get our cake on:

  • 1.5 c coconut sugar
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp five spice
  • 1 c lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1/4 (or closer to 1/3… I went heavy handed) c good quality Scotch whiskey [preferably one that smells less like a peat bog]
  • 1/2 c extra dark chocolate chips

For the caramel:

  • 1 c coconut sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2/3 c heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 2 tbsp Scotch whiskey

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Get yo’ cake on:

Preheat the oven to 350, and grease the living daylights out of a bundt pan. Standard bundt size is fine {I use coconut oil for greasing}. Combine 1 tbsp flour+1 tbsp cocoa powder, and flour the inside of the pan, tapping out all the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, sifted cocoa, baking powder+soda, salt, and five spice until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, avocado oil, and vanilla. Pour wet into dry, and use an electric mixer to beat until just combined. Add water and scotch, and continue mixing until just barely incorporated (don’t over mix, puhhleeez). Stir in the chocolate chips, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a tester inserted into the fat part of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack in the pan until cool enough to handle, then flip out and cool completely (the cake, not you. I know the cake is fabby but don’t flip out. You can eat it… soon!!).

While the cake is baking, make the caramel! In a high-sided sauce pan over medium-high heat, add sugar and cream of tartar. Pour water around the edges and bring to a boil, then cover and let sit for 2 minutes (the steam melts the sugar evenly). Uncover, and boil for a few minutes more, until frothy. It should NOT smell burnt, just delicious. Remove from heat, whisk in cream and butter until the lumps are gone (carefully, it can splatter). Return to heat and whisk a few minutes more until smooth. Remove from heat again, and cool in a heat proof container until ready to use, preferably an hour or two to let it thicken.

Pour about half the glaze over the cooled cake once you’re ready to serve! Then slice away and drizzle mooooore caramel over the individual slices because why not?? Because caramel, that’s why. Eat immediately. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for longer cake preservation… if you’re crazy enough to have leftovers.

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Birthday Excess

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Happy Birthday to meeeeee!!!

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I made my own dessert. Is that weird?! I have no idea. I’m weird, so it’s probably fitting, right??

Besides, not much has changed:

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Yep. As my mom says, “To our sweet girl (who still attacks dessert with dedication and gusto–and looks just as cute doing it!!) Happy 24th Birthday!
Much much Love, Mom and Dad”. That’s fairly accurate, don’t you think?! And I know for a fact I still make that face…

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I’ve always wanted to make choux pastry. So I did!! Forget cake. I love it and whatnot, but it’s my birthday so I’m playing by my own rules. Besides, all you really need to do is makes something delicious that you can put a candle on. Because birthdays are definitely NOT birthdays without smelling candle smoke. Nothing reminds me more of a birthday than smoking candles!

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My birthday rules are thus (and I just made them up soooo they’re going to apply from now on):

1. Excess is required.
2. Jazzercise is an excellent way to start the day and possibly offset the excesses of dessert that will happen.
3. SPRINKLES.
4. Desserts must be excessive. Because… see rule number 1.

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I think these are spot on. And I DID go to jazzercise yesterday morning which was fab and sweaty as usual and then I went and ate at least a cookie if not two (whoops, not quite sure how that happened) and then I ran around more and then I made these. And then I ate them! Muahahha.

24 is going to be excellent.

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Chouquettes with Vegan Banana Cookie Dough Ice Cream + Salted Date Caramel

Wow really?? Could that title be any longer?? But it’s my birthday sooooo I can do whatever I want, up to and including making excessive desserts that are actually refined sugar free! Because that’s how I roll. Healthy indulgences in celebration of turning 24. Wheeee!! There is gluten, butter, and sprinkles in this. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Chouquettes are lightly adapted from David Lebovitz (amazing!!), here. The date caramel is my own brainchild and the vegan banana ice cream is just embarrassingly easy… I made a half batch of chouquettes, which yielded 10. Recipe as listed yields 25 ish. And obvs made extra caramel and ice cream, obvs. These are also excellent stuffed with real ice cream… or pretty much anything.

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For the chouquettes (which makes me feel really sophisticated to say, even if I mangle the pronunciation):

  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • optional: chocolate chippies! I did them in half the batter

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium saucepan, heat water, salt, sugar, and butter, stirring often, until the butter is melted and the water starts to boil. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the entire amount of flour, stirring until the dough is incorporated and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (it should clump up into a big blob). Let cool for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to release heat. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until dough is silky and smooth. If adding chocolate chips, let the dough cool completely before adding them. If not, begin dropping dough onto the prepared cookie sheet (I found that a single large spoon worked well), about 2 tbsp’s worth per blob. They’ll spread just a little so don’t put them too close together. Bake for 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Remove to a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temp. Freeze any leftovers (or really, just eat them immediately).

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For the vegan banana cookie dough “ice cream”:

  • several frozen bananas (however many you need depends on the amount of peeps you’re serving)
  • a good splash of plain almond milk
  • 1+ tsp vanilla
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp (ish) peanut butter

Blenderize all that good stuff in a food processor until creamy. The bananas magically turn into this great ice cream-like consistency!! Like magic. So wonderful and happily guilt free. You can flavor this however you like, I usually use about 1 banana per person, and freeze them in chunks for easy blending. Eat immediately! It’s best fresh.

Then throw all this in the food processor [dry ingredients first, then the wet until it all comes together] :

  • 1 c raw cashews
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/6 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp unsalted almond butter
  • excessive amounts of sprinkles. ha.

Et voila! Vegan, refined sugar free funfetti cookie dough. Muahahha. Mix it into your banana soft serve and be really happy about life.

THEN.

Make salted date caramel:

Soak 1 c of pitted dates in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.

Chuck them all into the food processor, followed by a judicious about of vanilla + unsweetened almond milk + a pinch of sea salt + giant heaping blog of almond butter and blendy blend blend until it’s all smooth.

AND THEN.

Stuff the cookie dough banana deliciousness into a chouquette, top with a ridiculous amount of date caramel, and more sprinkles. Because… it’s your birthday. Or at least it’s mine. So you have an excuse to indulge anyway ;)

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