XMAS in NYC

Times Square

Oh, XMAS tree

Whispering Gallery

Grand Central Terminal

Madewell

Flatiron building

Waldorf Astoria

Raw taco

Babycakes NYC

We’ve got a few more days in NYC, and I’m not going to lie – I cannot wait to be back home. Manhattan is probably one of my least favorite places in the world. Lower than Cleveland, even. Is that possible? Apparently. But, I did get to cross ‘spend XMAS at the Waldorf‘ off of my bucket list. And I had a pretty rad raw taco at FreeFoods. Which lead me to the conclusion that I need to buy an Excalibur dehydrator sometime in the near future. Like, as soon as I get home.

Click the photos for more info via flickr.

Chocolate drizzled peppermint cupcakes

Chocolate drizzled peppermint cupcakes

I’m not a fan of cupcakes piled high with frosting, but I’m a fan of these cupcakes. Despite the fact that they’re gluten containing and capable of doing very bad things to my digestive tract. They’re just so good. And not overwhelmingly pepperminty. But they do contain a massive amount of sugar. Which means you probably shouldn’t give one to a three year old an hour before bed. No, really. She’ll wake up at 3am and insist you two watch Toy Story 3. That’s a lot of threes.

CHOCOLATE DRIZZLED PEPPERMINT CUPCAKES

1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
3/4 c. cane sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c. vegan butter, melted
1 c. soy milk
1 1/2 tbsp soft silken tofu, blended
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/2 c. vegan butter
1/2 c. shortening shortening
2 c. powdered cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
2 tbsp soy milk
1/4 c. unbleached flour
1 c. vegan chocolate chips, melted
2 oz all natural candy cane, crushed

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, milk, tofu, vanilla extract and almond extract; mix with a hand mixer, on high speed, for 45-60 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners; about 1/4 cup of batter each. Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. While the cupcakes are cooling, cream the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Sift in the flour and continue mixing until combined. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes, then drizzle with chocolate and crushed peppermint. Store in an air tight container for up to three days.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Almond joy bites

Almond joy bites

Last night while I was hanging out with friends, an almond joy sat on the coffee table and glared at me for hours. All I wanted to do was tear that thing open and shove it into my face, but sadly it contained milk chocolate, so that wasn’t an option. I came home and decided I was going to make almond joy bites first thing this morning. And I have to tell you, I really had no intention of making these things bite sized, I promise. But I had a dream last night – no really, I did – about how much better these would be if the ratio of coconut filling to almond was closer. So I made them smaller than the original recipe. Walk – no, run – to your kitchen and make them immideately. You won’t be sorry.
ALMOND JOY BITES (GF)

3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 c. brown rice syrup
2 c. vegan chocolate chips
2 tbsp coconut oil
60 raw almonds

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, toss the shredded coconut with the brown rice syrup; mix until combined. If the mixture feels too dry, add additional rice syrup 1 tablespoon at a time. Using a 1 1/2 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Press almonds into tops and chill in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring about an inch of water to a boil. Set a large glass bowl over the pan (it should not touch the water) and melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Heat the chocolate until it is 115˚F then remove from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Whisk vigorously for 5 minutes. Add the coconut oil and continue whisking for 1-2 minutes. You could also temper the chocolate. 

Set out a large wire rack with paper liner underneath. Using a fork, dip the coconut rounds into the chocolate; cover the tops, tap fork to remove excess chocolate then transfer to wire rack. You can let them sit on the counter to harden (which will take more than a few hours), or transfer them to the refrigerator, where it’ll take about 45 minutes for them to harden completely.
Yield: 60 almond joy bites

Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies

I’ve never met a vegan sugar cookie I liked. You read that right, I’ve never had a good vegan sugar cookie. So a few weeks ago I changed that by creating the most flavorful, vegan sugar cookie in existence. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but this recipe makes some damn good sugar cookies. They’re like soft, little pillows of vanilla flavored goodness. And there’s no need to coat them in icing because they’re delicious on their own. But you can totally do that, if you’d like. I did.
The best part about these cookies isn’t the flavor – even though the flavor is spot on – it’s the fact that they’re tiny and adorable and you can eat ten without making yourself feel completely miserable. But if you’re like me you’ll find a way to do that, anyway. Like, by pulling out a jar of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread and eating the cookies like they’re dunkaroos. Don’t do it. I mean it. Hide the jar in your closet and and spin around 347 times. See? You forgot about the cookies becuase your head’s in the toilet throwing up your lunch. Who’s good?
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If you’d prefer to roll out the cookie dough and use a cutter, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour. You’ll also need to chill the dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes prior to rolling and cutting, then chill the cut dough pieces in the freezer for 10 minutes prior to baking. And these bad boys can easily be made gluten free by replacing the flour with gluten free flour and xanthan gum.
SUGAR COOKIES (GFO)

1/2 c. vegan butter
1/2 c. cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp vegan sour cream
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c. unbleached flour
Icing
1 c. powdered cane sugar
7-8 tsp water
Sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and sour cream using a hand mixer on high speed; mix for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mix in the salt, baking soda and flour; beat just until combined. Using a 1 1/2 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake at 350˚F for 8-9 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. To make the icing, stir together the powdered sugar and water. Dip the top of each cookie into the icing and cover with sprinkle. Store in an air tight container for up to five days.
Yield: 65-70 bite sized cookies

Blackberry pie

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Thom had a birthday. I asked him what kind of cake he wanted and he said blackberry pie. So I made him a blackberry pie. Thom also got a new jacket. But only because I’m sick of seeing him dressed like he just walked out of a J. Crew catalogue, with a bulky, North Face jacket on top. So now he’s going to look like he just walked out of  J. Crew catalogue, with a J. Crew jacket on top. See what I did there? He’s essentially a real life J. Crew model, now. And to make up for the fact that I got him a jacket for his birthday (lamest gift ever), I also got him one of those fancy eReaders and a Beer of the Month Club subscription. I think he had a nice birthday.
Blackberry pie

Thom inhaled two pieces of his birthday pie in less than ten minutes. An indication that this pie is really, really Good. With a capital G. The only tricky thing about making this particular pie is that the blackberries must be dry. Repeat: THE BLACKBERRIES MUST BE DRY. If you toss them with the starch mixture and they’re wet, the starch will form clumps and it will not be pretty. Your pie will probably be ruined and you’ll sit on your kitchen counter and cry your eyes out because you wasted $10 worth of blackberries. And then you’ll have to change out of your pajamas, into normal clothes, to walk back to the grocery, in the freezing cold, to get more blackberries. The blackberry walk of shame is not enjoyable, friends.

BLACKBERRY PIE

2 c. unbleached flour
1/2  c. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 c. vegan butter, cold
1/2 c. shortening, cold
6-8 tbsp filtered water, ice cold
1/2 c. cane sugar
5-6 tbsp tapioca starch
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
5 c. fresh blackberries
1 tbsp vanilla sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flours, sugar and salt. Cut in the butter and shortening, using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the mixture resembles a fine meal with a few larger clumps. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue cutting the dough. Once 6 tablespoons have been added, begin kneading the dough with your fingers. Once the dough is firm and smooth, divide it in half; set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, starch and vanilla bean. Add the blackberries and toss until they’re evenly coated; set aside.
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Lightly grease an 8-9″ pie pan; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour. Roll out the first piece of dough into a 12-13″ circle – fit dough into the prepared pie pan. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork, 20-30 times, then fill with blackberry mixture. Roll out the other half of the dough into a 10″ circle and cut it into eight, long segments, each 1″ wide. Place the lattice top. Trim edges then press with a fork. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 375˚F for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350˚F, cover the edges with foil and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. Let cool then refrigerate in an air tight container for up to three days.
Yield: 8 servings

Gingerbread folk

Gingerbread folk

Lately, I’ve got a slight obsession with bite sized cookies. It all started when I purchased a 1 1/2 teaspoon cookie scoop and, as a result, felt the need to bake bite sized cookies for days on end. I made bite sized gingersnaps, bite sized raw cookies, bite sized chocolate crinkles, bite sized sugar cookies. Bite sized everything. Then, while I was searching for my gingerdead man cookie cutter, I discovered these mini gingerbread folk at the bottom of what is, admittedly, a large container that houses every cookie cutter I own. Friends, I fear the bite sized madness is never going to end. But that’s ok, because everything’s better when it fits perfectly into your mouth. And no, that was not a sexual connotation. Or was it?

Perverts.

GINGERBREAD FOLK (GFO)

1/2 c. vegan butter
1/2 c. cane sugar
1/2 c. unsulphured molasses
3 tbsp soft silken tofu
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and molasses, using a hand mixer on high speed, for 20-30 seconds. Beat in the tofu (or sour cream), ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and baking soda, just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Once you’ve added 2 cups, start mixing in the flour 1/4 cup at a time. If the dough feels firm enough after 2 1/4 cups of flour have been added, omit the last 1/4 cup.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and lightly sprinkle with flour. Roll out half of the dough until it is 1/4″ thick. Cut dough and transfer pieces to the prepared baking sheet; chill in freezer for 5 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 350˚F for 6-7 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack then store in an air tight container for up to five days.
Yield: 100+ mini gingerbread folk

How to make vanilla extract

Vanilla extract

I probably should have shared this recipe two months ago, but I’ve got terrible timing. And as a result I’ve screwed you out of giving your granny a perfectly good, homemade gift this holiday season. Well, kind of. Because, between you and me, you could totally buy one of those cheap bottles of vanilla extract, transfer it to a glass amber bottle, put a bow on it and tell granny you made it yourself. Chances are she won’t know the difference, anyway. But that would be a really terrible thing to do the woman who used to wipe your father’s ass.

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The best part about making vanilla extract is the fact that all you have to do is let the vanilla beans and alcohol mingle in a dark place for a few months and voila! vanilla extract. Let it mingle for 9-12 months and you won’t be sorry. I used organic vodka and madagascar vanilla beans, but it’d be much cheaper to use that lower grade vodka you used to get drunk on in high school. And any variety of vanilla beans will do, but I prefer madagascar.

VANILLA EXTRACT

3 vanilla beans
1 c. 80 proof vodka

Using a paring knife, split the vanilla beans lengthwise, leaving 1/4″ uncut at the end. Place the vanilla beans in a glass jar and cover with alcohol. Seal jar tightly then store in a dark, cool area of your house (such as a closet) and shake every 2-3 weeks, for at least three months. The longer you wait, the richer your vanilla extract will be. When you’re ready to bottle your extract, get yourself some four ounce amber bottles and share it with the people you love most.
Yield: 1 cup