Strawberry Overnight Oats

Forgive me, I haven’t written a recipe in a really long time…

aaand, this isn’t really a recipe. It’s more throw-stuff-together-in-five-minutes-before-bed-instructions.

But still, it’s something.

Let’s talk about oats. They’re great, right? As Wilford Brimley will tell you, there are so many health benefits to eating them. And oat extract may even help you to quit smoking. (It does. I use it.) Also, they’re cheap! And we all know how much I like a good bargain.

In the winter, oatmeal is a staple for me (the real kind, not the weird packet kind that comes in gross flavors and reminds me of childhood backpacking/river trips). You can make it in the microwave. You can make it on the stovetop. You can put whatever the heck you want into it (almond butter? greek yogurt? figs? yes). But in the summer, who wants to eat something hot and heavy in the morning?

Enter overnight oatmeal! It’s so easy.

1. Get a graduated measuring cup (this makes it easier. Unless you are planning on baking something before breakfast. But, if you’re like me, you probably have more than one measuring cup floating around.)

2. Fill it to the 1/2 cup mark with good old “Old-Fashioned” oats (which you will find in your pantry amongst your Old Fashioned Pasta and Old Fashioned Rice.)

3. Fill to the 3/4 cup mark with frozen fruit of your choice (in this case, we’re using organic Santa Cruz Berry Farms strawberries that I cut up and froze since they were almost overripe — a great way to score organic produce from your local store, by the way. But I have also been using a lot of lovely local Palisade peaches, and figs! Always with the figs. Dried fruit works very well too.)

4. Add a tablespoon of flax seed.

5. Add a tablespoon of coconut shreds.

6. Add a tablespoon of sunflower seeds.

7. Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of honey, to taste.

8. Slowly pour milk of your choice (so that it has time to soak into the oats) to the full cup mark.

9. Cover with plastic wrap.

10. Put in fridge.

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Nestled nicely amongst your Upslope Craft Lager, Newman’s Salsa, kombucha and rosemary honey simple syrup…HIPPIE FRIDGE!!

11. Go to sleep.

Nite!

Flax Agave Toaster Waffles

I have a side job doing gardening and landscaping this summer, which is great in many ways (Tan shoulders! Vitamin D! Learning about flowers! Getting to wear old jeans and tank tops to work!) except for the fact that, burning 350-600 calories/hr, this girl can EAT. This girl can eat lots of things that her happy hippie budget doesn’t really allow for (sushi? YES PLEASE!), especially considering the fact that I can’t bring myself to live on 10 for $10 Hungry Man meals (I can’t even bring myself, most of the time, to set food inside a conventional grocery store.)

So, yeah, lots of dried beans, peanut butter, greek yogurt (whatever’s on sale) and a LOT, A LOT, A LOT of whole-grain pasta and baked goods.

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Groceries for the week.

Breakfast is key. And I loooove breakfast. And I have to eat something very filling or else I’ll get hungry by the third roll of sod or bucketful of river rock, and it has to be portable.

And I hate burritos.

Toaster waffles are awesome because the little cubicles hold any sort of protein you slather on them (such as greek yogurt or almond butter or cream cheese), but at almost $4 a box they far are from cost-effective. So, I figured, why not make my own?

(I used this recipe to give me a basic idea of ratios)

Flax Agave Toaster Waffles

1 2/3 cups almond milk + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp ground flax seed + 6 tbsp water

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted

1/4 cup dark agave nectar

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

Handful of flax seeds

Handful of dried shredded coconut (not the kind you put in German Chocolate Cake, which is just, I think, regular shredded coconut. This is the crunchier variety in the bulk aisle that is completely dry and in much smaller pieces, a little larger than turbinado sugar. If you can’t find that, I would probably skip it, since I think any other variety of coconut would make the texture strange.)

Combine the almond milk + vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes. Combine the ground flax seed and water, mix until it’s goopy, and stick in the fridge for the selfsame ten minutes.

Mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In smaller bowl, combine melted Earth Balance and agave nectar (do not be tempted to add the almond milk + vinegar to the Earth Balance, even though it’s sitting right there and it seems like it makes sense. It will only make the Earth Balance solidify again, and you will live to regret it.) Add Earth Balance mixture to dry ingredients and incorporate, followed by the almond milk and the flax mixture (aka “flax eggs”). Fold in flaxseeds and dried coconut, if using.

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Let sit for ten minutes while you’re heating up your waffle iron of choice (and, incidentally, if you don’t have a waffle iron, your local thrift store probably has about twenty of them just waiting for new homes. For some inexplicable reason, no one wants waffle irons. This may be what’s wrong with America).

Now, because you’re going to toast them later, you want to make sure that you don’t make them toasty on the first run-through. They should be slightly paler than your standard waffle, but not uncooked in any way (if your waffle iron has a Light —> Dark toggle like a toaster, you’ll want it on medium-high still. Anything lower will make them soggy and weird, believe me). The key is to open it up the iron and peek in, and take the waffles out when the color is right. Which is to say, only slightly toasty-looking.

When the waffles come out of the toaster, cool then on a rack or some paper towels. When they’re totally cooled, lay out a piece of plastic wrap, still attached to the roll, the length of a freezer bag and fill it with waffles, in one layer. When that layer is full, unroll more plastic wrap to fold on top of the first layer, and stack more waffles on top of that.

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Like so.

Keep doing this until all of your waffles are stacked with plastic wrap in between layers (you could also use parchment, if you were so inclined). Then wrap a slightly-tight final layer around the stack, tear off the roll, and gingerly insert it into the freezer bag, so as to not squish any waffles or let any fall out.

Freeze.

Remove, toast, and top as desired.

Vegan cinnamon rolls!

Temptation, they name is…

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Here’s the recipe at Vegan Yum Yum.

Time consuming? Yes. They have to rise twice, and there’s the rolling, and the cutting (dental floss, by the way, is the only thing that works), and all that jazz. But it’s the perfect project for a Thursday night. And it makes an ungodly amount of them (I had eighteen swirls of golden deliciousness), and you can freeze half the batch, or even the whole thing. And in the morning, when you take them out of the fridge and put them in the oven while you’re getting ready for work, and your whole house smells like happiness, it will be totally worth it. And everyone will adore you.

And that, really, is the purpose of cinnamon rolls.

Strawberry Layer Cake with Neufchâtel Filling

Ok, so here it is. ImageI know. It’s not pretty. But really, do our baked goods always have to be attractive? And isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder, anyway? I contemplated this yesterday while eating some sort of Vietnamese bean cake. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t taste very good either. But that is neither here nor there. And while you may have your own opinions about Vietnamese bean cake, let me assure you, this cake does taste delicious despite its awkward appearance. And, if you have slightly better nonstick pans, you could even make this cake look pretty. So I think it’s worth sharing.

I’m not a cake-out-of-a-box kind of person, but I was working with limited resources (not my own kitchen, which is generally overflowing with baking ingredients), so we’re starting with cake from a box. That is not to say that you are limited here to cake from a box — if you want to stick with Funfetti, here’s a from-scratch recipe. But I think it would also go amazingly well with Nigella’s Victoria Sponge cake or maybe even vegan chocolate layers. But it was Easter, and I wanted something colorful and easy, so Funfetti, ©Pillsbury, it was. I will say that the cake is really not the important element here. And, incidentally, the instructions are on the box.

I didn’t want regular old frosting though, mostly because I hate it, and also because I wanted a cake that was a little more light and airy and springy, as is befitting of Easter. Mascarpone sounded nice, but at $5.99 a tub, it was sadly not in the budget. Cream cheese was nixed because of the strong flavor…and then, there was cream cheese’s poor little “lite” cousin, Neufchâtel.

“This could work,” I thought. And it did. Perfectly. So here’s the

Ridiculously Easy Instructions

Two layers of Pillsbury Funfetti (or layer cake of your choice), baked in 8″ round pans

1 lb strawberries

1/2 cup very cold half and half

1/2 cup room temperature Neufchâtel cheese

about 2 cups powdered sugar (or more for consistency)

Spray pans with nonstick spray (or use nonstick pans) and set aside.*

Make cake according to directions on box.

While cakes are baking, wash strawberries, dry, and remove tops (it’s called a calyx! The more you know!). Slice them vertically into attractively medium-sized slices. Set aside.

Prepare filling by combining the Neufchâtel, half and half, and powdered sugar in a bowl and beating vigorously with a fork. The consistency you’re looking for is about that of pastry cream, which is to say that it should have peaks, but not be stiff. It takes about five minutes by hand, which, incidentally, is a great workout. Yes, of course, you can use an electric mixer, but your forearm definition might suffer.

Stick the filling in the fridge while the cakes are cooling. Once everything is nice and chilled, assemble the cakes by spreading a layer of filling and strawberries generously over one layer, plopping on the second, and spreading another layer on top, followed by nicely arranged strawberries.

Eat.

*All of this is so nice and easy if you can get the cakes out of the pan, by the way. I couldn’t; henceforth, I had to paste together the entire contraption using filling as glue. It was messy, but delicious. Unless you want to repeat this for posterity’s sake, I urge you not to use butter to grease your pans.

vegan vanilla cupcakes with lavender icing

I tried this recipe the other day to make thank-you cupcakes for an awesome vegan who scored us tickets to Opera Colorado

http://www.eatliverun.com/vegan-chocolate-cupcakes-with-chai-buttercream/ ,

but I didn’t have any chai tea, so I used green instead. Magnificent! I like to eat animals, but I maintain that vegan baked goods are waaaay better than their butter-laden brethrens. Maybe it’s because I don’t really like the taste of butter (or maybe it’s because of my belief that butter and eggs don’t perform as well at high altitude), or maybe it’s just my conscience, but both the cakes and the frosting are so light and airy it’s hard to miss all the grease that usually weighs ’em down. That, and Earth Balance doubles as a nice hand moisturizer. Can butter do that? No. Does that make you want to eat it these more? Probably not. I’m just sayin’ (but don’t go trying to put Lubriderm in your cupcakes…)

Anyway, today I trimmed a big lavender plant at my new summer part-time job, and as I was contemplating taking a nap in it, I realized that I could use lavender in place of the chai tea for frosting. It would have to be on a vanilla cupcake. I give some to my co-workers. I would give some to my boyfriend, who was kind of sad that he didn’t get any of the first batch. I had a plan. I knew that the internets would have the vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World somewhere, and I was right.

I combined the two recipes, et voila. These cupcakes are little messengers of spring.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with Lavender Icing

(original recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Ingredients

1  cup almond milk

1  tsp. apple cider vinegar

1¼  cups all-purpose flour

2  Tbsp. cornstarch

¾  tsp. baking powder

½  tsp. baking soda

¼  tsp. salt (increase salt to ½ teaspoon if you’re using oil instead of margarine)

½  cup Earth Balance

¾  cup sugar

2  tsp. vanilla extract

¼  tsp.  vanilla extract

Steps

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.

In a separate large bowl, use a handheld mixer at medium speed to cream the margarine and sugar for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. (Don’t beat past 2 minutes.) Beat in the vanilla then alternate beating in the soy milk mixture and dry ingredients, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.

Lavender Icing

1 stick earth balance buttery spread (1/2 cup)

3 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup loose lavender flowers

zest of 1/4 lemon (or to taste)

2 T boiling water

2 T almond or soy milk (I used almond)

Beat the earth balance until soft (leave it out on the counter while you are making the cupcakes, or even beforehand). Steep the lavender flowers in two tablespoons of boiling water, and let sit for ten minutes. Strain the flowers out after they have steeped, and then add the almond or soy milk to the lavender water.  Add that mixture plus the powdered sugar to the earth balance and beat for 10 minutes until very light and fluffy. Zest in lemon with Microplane (I don’t know any other way of zesting. Is there?) near the end to taste. Sprinkle with any leftover lavender flowers.

(Sorry, I don’t have any pictures because of camera difficulties. Just imagine what the best cupcake you ever ate in your life looks like and you’re good.)

pizza a la nigella

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I just found out from the ever-resourceful Wikipedia that Nigella Lawson declined an Order of the British Empire (or, you know, an O.B.E.) in 2001. She does seem like the sort of person who would decline, or rather, just couldn’t be bothered with something like that (or, I don’t know, it may have to do with UK politics, of which I know exactly nothing), but I think she deserves some sort of exalted status for writing several of my favorite cookbooks of all time, How to Be a Domestic Goddess and Feast. 

I have spent many a winter hour reading one or the other of these cookbooks, which one can actually do (vs. just cook from them). They’re not just fancily styled food-porn pictures (in fact, the food, especially the cakes, look pretty darn realistic) with cut-and-dry recipes. Each recipe is full of reminiscences and anecdotes and asides, and they’re written in such a comfortable and familial — yet completely eloquent and British — way that it puts the reader at ease, even in the face of some daunting items.

And speaking of daunting, I haven’t tried to make pizza crust in a long time, because I find it to be a pain in the ass and not worth it. I live at high altitude, which is my excuse, but after perusing Domestic Goddess the other night I decided to try it again. See? That’s what happens. (Don’t even read the recipe in Feast for Christmas Cake, because it is extremely time consuming and involved, and you will end up making it.)

About the flour: I needed some flour and I have always been curious about this stuff called Hungarian High Altitude Flour. I figured I could use all the help I could get. It’s made from hard winter wheat grown at higher altitudes, and has a denser and “squeakier” feel to it. Apparently, it’s not specifically designed for use at higher altitudes, but being that it’s heavier and denser I think it definitely helped (breads rise faster and cook faster here).

Pizza a la Nigella (adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess) (high altitude version)

dough:

1 2/3 cups Hungarian High Altitude flour

1 heaping tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

approximately 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm (not hot!!) water

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

baking sheet

Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the warm water and the olive oil, and keep stirring just enough to partially combine into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, with floured hands, for 5 minutes. Oil a bowl with olive oil and put your dough ball in there, then cover with plastic wrap. Leave this in a warm place for an hour (I turned the oven on for a few minutes and off again, keeping the door open to make sure it didn’t get too hot, and then let my dough rise in there, with the door closed)

Preheat oven to 500〫F.

Take your pizza pan of choice (I used a 6″ by 12″ cookie sheet) and dust it with a little cornmeal. Take your dough ball out of the bowl and fling it around a little bit. I like to make a little circle and then pinch it all around the outside while turning it around, to stretch it out. You’ll want it to be almost stretched out enough to cover your pan. Once it’s on the pan, smooth it out and cover up any holes in the middle.

As for the topping, the sky’s the limit. We made a sauce out of cherry tomatoes, a little oregano and rosemary, and olive oil, but really, you could do anything. Fresh tomato slices? Sauce from a jar? White pizza? I’m not going to tell you what to put on your pizza. You’re on your own here. What’s important is that you put the sauce on the crust first, and then bake it for 16 minutes in the 500 degree oven. This ensures that the liquid in the sauce will evaporate enough to not make your pizza soggy in the middle.

 

After 16 minutes is up (remember that I live at 5280 feet above sea level, so your time may be longer; HTBADG recommends 20 minutes), take out the pizza and add toppings/cheese. We did cooked sausage with sauteed red and green bell peppers and onions and mozzarella cheese. I think it would be amazing with goat cheese, or with fresh mozzarella. Stick it back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is just starting to brown/bubble.

Seriously, the best berry bran muffins

No, seriously.

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♥♥♥!

It has seemed in the past that I could not bake a bran muffin to save my life. And that’s sad, because they’re one of my favorite breakfast foods. They’re also great for those of us trying to increase our iron consumption because of the double iron-y (not irony. These are not ironic muffins. They are very serious) goodness of molasses + wheat bran. Often times, however, they end up too cake-y, greasy, or sweet. These are the perfect balance of dark and mysterious and healthy and happy and they’re positively exploding with berries.

Win!

Incidentally, this is the second recipe I’ve made this week using Earth Balance Coconut Spread (the first was EatLiveRun’s Loaded Oatmeal Cookies) instead of butter and I’m totally in love. I’ve been hooked on Earth Balance sticks since my vegan days, and I have never been a fan of butter for high altitude baking where it always seems to leave everything greasy and dry, but this stuff…oh wow. Highly recommended. And I didn’t get paid one thin dime to say that.

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Adapted from Circle B Kitchen

ZOMG Berry Bran Muffins

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray and line 12-muffin standard tin.

1 stick (½ cup) Earth Balance Coconut Spread, softened. 

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 1/2 cups blueberries or frozen mixed berries. If using frozen raspberries/blackberries, thaw for thirty seconds in microwave. Don’t thaw blueberries (unless they’re mixed in and you can’t separate them…)
1 cup all-purpose flour (+ 2 tbsp if at altitude)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat bran 

Heat oven to 425.

Cream coconut spread with brown sugar in large bowl. Add egg, then sour cream and molasses, and beat until uniform and creamy. In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and bran. Add to wet mixture and fold just until combined (should be chunky and like wet cement, not smooth). Thaw berries for 30 seconds in microwave if using mixed (highly recommended!), then fold in. Fill muffin tin with batter using ice cream scoop (it should perfectly yield 12 muffins. They won’t rise too much, so don’t worry about them oozing over.)

Pop ’em in the oven on a shelf one notch above the middle. Bake at 425 degrees for five minutes, then turn down to 400. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until the tops are toasty brown.

Like so.

You’ll want to cool them for a minute or so, but try to turn them out onto a paper towel spread on a table as soon as you can (this prevents them from getting soggy, the tragic downfall of many a berry-filled baked good). You will also want to eat one approximately one minute and thirty seconds after they come out of the oven, though be careful for molten blueberries.