Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

I drank my first Guinness atop the Storehouse in Dublin exactly two years ago this Sunday. It was then that I decided I didn’t particularly care for Guinness, but I did like the view from the Storehouse. Despite the gray clouds and fog that lingered over the city, it was stunning. Almost like Dublin was built for the gray. I also liked watching the men in kilts, and how they swayed ever so perfectly with their every step or turn. It was hypnotizing, almost. A nice respite from the pint of bitter syrup that set in front of my face, begging to be drank. But I just couldn’t do it. So I pushed my beer over to Thom’s side of the table and declared that I was not my father’s daughter. Because she would love and bathe in Guinness. And so that night we stumbled home drunk and I emailed my dad to tell him the unfortunate news surrounding my Guinness experience; how I hoped he wouldn’t disown me But seriously how does anyone drink that stuff?

He didn’t disown me (thank goodness) but he did write back saying how much he wished he could have been there with us, and that it was his dream to drink a Guinness at the top of the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember the words like it was yesterday: You’re living my dream.

That struck me in the gut. And not in a good way. Why am I living his dream? That’s not fair. I want him to live his dream. And so Thom and I spent an entire year devising a plan to surprise my dad with a trip to Ireland so that he could finally live his dream of drinking a Guinness at the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. And in May of last year, we purchased the tickets and made it final; there was no turning back. Except there was because I bought travel insurance like any level headed person does when they do something as bold as buy their dad and step mom plane tickets for a surprise trip to Ireland.

Is Sharebear even going to like Ireland? I asked. Who cares, we’ll get her drunk, said Thom. 
Dutch processed cocoa powder
Irish whiskey ganache
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

When it came time to surprise them with the trip, I started getting cold feet – wondering if it was too over the top and how we were going to break the news without stepping on toes on Christmas Eve morning. So we pulled them into the kitchen – my dad and step mom – and handed them a card. On the front it simply said THANKS, and the inside was filled with run on sentences about how much we’ve appreciated their unconditional love and massive support over the past half decade. And how we’d like to repay them with plane tickets to Ireland.

Their faces? Priceless. So here we are heading back to Ireland for our 2nd biennial St. Patrick’s Day trip, but this time with my other favorite man in tow. And for you? Well, I have a delicious post lined up next week – but for now I’ve got boozy cupcakes.

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Notes: Do not (DOOOOO NOOOOOOT) substitute natural cocoa for the Dutch processed cocoa. I mean it. You also cannot use Hershey’s special dark cocoa in this recipe, as it’s a blend of both natural cocoa and Dutch processed cocoa. You can, however, use special dark cocoa in this recipe – just replace the punkin ale with extra stout Guinness. Because it’s vegan (unlike regular Guinness). If you’re not into the tofu, you can substitute two flax eggs for it. But the cupcakes aren’t going to be nearly as tender as the tofu version. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: Apparently North American bottled Guinness extra stout is no longer considered vegan due to suspicion that bottlers practice a filtration process that uses the bladders of some fish.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CUPCAKES WITH IRISH WHISKEY GANACHE + IRISH CREAM FROSTING

Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup non-GMO canola oil
1/2 cup Guinness extra stout
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
6 tbsp soft silken tofu, blended

Ganache
4 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp non-dairy milk
2 tbsp Irish whiskey

Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup non-hygrogenated shortening
2 1/4 cups powdered cane sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses
2-3 tbsp Irish whiskey

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt; whisk and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the oil, stout, milk, and tofu. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk just until combined. Do not over mix. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350˚F for 16-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the ganache by adding the chocolate to a small mixing bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the whiskey and set aside.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a grapefruit spoon (or cupcake plunger if you’re fancy) (I’m not) to remove a small circle from the middle of each cupcake. I made mine big enough so they held about 2 teaspoons of ganache. Fill the centers with ganache then transfer cupcakes to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the cupcakes are chilling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and shortening on high speed for about 15-20 seconds. Sift in the powdered sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder then continue mixing, on high speed, for 30-45 seconds. Mix in the molasses and whiskey; blend on high speed until light and fluffy. If the frosting is still a bit soft, sift in 1-2 tablespoons of tapioca starch. Or more sugar, but I’m not a fan of overly sweet frostings.
Once the cupcakes are ready to be frosted, spoon about 3 tablespoons of frosting onto each cupcake and smooth with the back of a spoon. Store in an air tight container for up to three days. Cupcakes made with flax eggs will only keep for two days.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

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Caramel apple crumb pie

Caramel apple crumb pie

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and The National pandora station is playing much louder than it should at this hour. I’m hunched over the dining room table, crying because I can’t sleep again. Crying because I wish I had a better relationship with my mother. Crying because my hormones are so out of whack that I can’t do anything but cry. Hands in my hair, tears on the table; I wipe the snot from my nose with the sleeve of my robe, and make a mental note to throw it into the wash because it’s been used as a hankey far too many times this week.

Ha, I just said hankey. My Oma would be proud.

In typical hormonal lady fashion, I got up from the table and started frantically looking through the kitchen for something to consume. Chocolate? Too early for chocolate. Gin? It’s definitely too early for gin. Vanilla almond butter? There isn’t any. So after five minutes of going back and forth between the pantry and refrigerator, I came out with a bag of trail mix, a can of coconut milk, and my mind set on making caramel sauce. Which probably wasn’t the best idea because I stood over the pot of caramel feeling sorry for myself, picking salty raisins from the trail mix and cursing the person who decided to add milk chocolate morsels to a perfectly good bag of nuts and raisins. So to make up for not being able to eat the milk chocolate morsels, I licked the whisk each time I gave the caramel a good stir. I thought I deserved it. Maybe I did.

Making spelt dough
Caramel apples
Caramel apple crumb pie in the making

When the caramel finished cooking I transferred it to one of those pretty weck jars and let it cool on the counter while I continued picking through the trail mix. Every once in a while I’d scoop a fingerful into my mouth, but enough was enough so I topped it and put it in the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind – until I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my coffee creamer and noticed droplets of condensation forming along the bottom of the lid. And so I removed it; quickly and carefully to ensure none of the droplets contaminated my perfectly golden sauce. Except you and I both know a little bit of water isn’t going to do a bit of harm to a jar of caramel sauce. But try telling that to an overly emotional basket case at 6AM. Then again, don’t. She’ll probably bite your head off.

The caramel sat on the counter for a good 45 minutes while I went back and forth, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. And since eating it from the jar with my finger wasn’t an acceptable option, I dove head first into making apple pie. Without hesitation I started cutting butter into flour, apples into slices, and more butter into equal amounts of flour and brown sugar. I had everything jamming at once and, although I was completely out of my element, it kind of felt good to get everything a little bit messier than usual. That, and now my unkempt kitchen resembled the way I felt on the inside; we were one in the same, me and the little kitchen.

I continued laboring over the pie; channelling all of my sadness into the crust, frustration into the filling, and shame into the topping. And wouldn’t you know? One hour later my oven gave birth to the most beautiful apple pie I had ever seen in my almost 25 years on this planet. The kind of pie you want to put on display at a county fair. But also the kind of pie you want to take into the closet and stuff into your face.

Caramel apple crumb pie
Quickest caramel sauce

The pie never made it to the county fair. And thankfully, our closets are so full that even if I wanted to take it into one of them, I couldn’t have. I can’t decide if I should curse the full closets or be thankful for them. Probably the latter, as orderly closets may have resulted in some seriously terrible things. Like a stomach ache and not being able to go number two for a week. I mean, that’s never happened to me but I imagine if I ate an entire pie it probably would. I also imagine not being able to go number two for a week would be one of the most miserable weeks of my life.

Anyway. We swept the pie away to the mountains where it was served warm, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. One scoop because someone got a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of a quart. For six people. Scratch that, five – I don’t eat their kind of ice cream. I also didn’t eat pie because I had two too many servings of lemon butter pasta for dinner, which inconveniently hung out in my belly for a good four hours before deciding to make room for pie. And so just before midnight, I found myself standing in the immaculate kitchen of the rental house, eating a piece of pie straight from the pan. Which, from that point forward, was referred to as the Best Apple Pie Ever. Ever. I mean it when I say this is the kind of pie you write home about; the kind of pie you’ll regret not having on your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is the kind of pie that gets devoured by six people in less than 18 hours because this pie is comprised of all things good in the world.

Caramel apple crumb pie

Notes: If you’re looking at this pie, thinking it seems rather pretentious with its spelt crust and caramel innards and crunchy crumb topping – I assure you, it’s not. In fact, I’d venture to say caramel is the best thing to happen to an apple pie. And crumb topping? Second best thing. The spelt flour was my effort to balance out the sugar content, but feel free to substitute unbleached flour or whole wheat flour. I know the long ingredient list and novel of instructions probably makes you think this recipe is a lot of work, but it’s not. And even if you feel like it is, the reward is more than worth it. This pie is out of this world good, and the only downside is that it’s best within two days. But aren’t most pies?
CARAMEL APPLE CRUMB PIE

Dough
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tbsp whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
4-6 tbsp water, ice cold

Crumb topping
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup rolled oats

Filling
6-8 medium apples, a variety is best
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Place bowl in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Once the flour mixture is chilled, use a pastry cutter, or two knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stick the bowl in the freezer for another 15 minutes to get the ingredients nice and cold. Once chilled, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix the dough using your fingertips. Your goal is a dough that’s firm but slightly sticky – and adding too much water will result in a tough dough (I added 4 tablespoons). Knead the dough for a minute then pat it into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days.
While the dough is resting, prepare the crumb topping. Whisk together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the oats then cover mixture with a damp cloth (or paper towel) and set aside.

Once the dough has rested for an hour, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick and fit it into a floured 8-10″ pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices, then into chunks. Drizzle with lemon juice; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca starch (use an extra tablespoon if your apples are super juicy), and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine. Pour the caramel over the apples then mix to evenly coat; set aside. Remove the crust from the fridge and sprinkle the bottom with about one tablespoon of flour (to ensure it doesn’t absorb too much of the liquid from the filling). Fill with caramel apples (there are a lot, but they settle during baking) then spread the crumb topping evenly over in two layers; press the first layer firmly to pack, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs. Trim the edges and decorate crust with finish of your choice. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then remove pie from the oven and carefully cover the crust with foil. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown. If you’re not anywhere near the 20 minute mark and the crumb topping starts to brown too much, simply place a piece of foil on top of it; do not seal it, just sit it on top. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 6 hours. Refrigerate in a not-so-air-tight container for up to two days. Crumb topping may soften, but will return to its previously crunchy state after a few minutes under the broiler (make sure you cover the crust with foil).

Yield: 12 slices

Easy caramel sauce

Easy caramel sauce

I’ve been looking for a way to make caramel sauce that is less involved than my other recipe. Because I don’t have time to wait around for 25 minutes, watching as coconut milk and sugar evolve into golden, syrupy goodness. And you probably don’t either. In the amount of time it takes for a pot of caramel to come to life, you could watch a rerun of The Office. Without the commercials. Or you could clean the kitchen. And when you’re done with that, maybe organize all of your stuff in the bathroom? No? Fine. But I really don’t think it’s necessary to have two dozen replacement razor heads or a year’s supply of bio-rutin supplements or three different conditioning treatments taking up precious bathroom real estate. Speaking of conditioner, maybe you could take a shower? And wash your hair while you’re at it because not washing your hair for four days is gross. I don’t care if you’re trying to protect your cylindrical filaments from the arid Colorado climate. It’s not cool to go on a hair washing strike when you share a bed with another human being. Your hair is dirty. Wash it.

Did that get weird? That kind of got weird. Anyway, I’m not saying we should ditch the old recipe entirely (ok, maybe we should), but this recipe is nice to have on hand when you don’t have half an hour to devote to making caramel sauce. It’s also nice to have on hand when you want to make caramel apple crumb pie at the eleventh hour. Like, maybe later this week?

Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce

Notes: Feel free to use brown sugar or muscovado sugar in place of the whole cane sugar (sometimes found under the brand name sucanat). I use whole cane sugar because a) I’ve got a lot of it hanging around my kitchen and b) it’s a nice alternative to highly processed brown sugar. Which actually starts out as whole sugar, but has the molasses removed for processing and then added back at the very end. Are you making a weird face? I did too when I first found out. So just buy the natural stuff, yo. Oh, and say you forget to whisk your caramel for a few minutes and it burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan. But you don’t find out until you go to whisk it and burnt flecks of caramel ruin your perfectly golden sauce. No worries! Simply pass the caramel through a fine mesh strainer a couple of times then place it back on the stove (in a clean pot, of course) to finish cooking. Crisis averted!

EASY CARAMEL SAUCE

1 13.6 oz can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup whole cane sugar

Start by opening the can of coconut milk and separating the thick, white milk fat from the water. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut water to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, whisking only a few times, then stir in 1 cup of the coconut milk fat (you may have more or less, depending on your can of coconut milk – that’s ok). Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking every minute or so. If you added less than 1 cup of coconut milk fat, you’ll want to cook the mixture for an extra 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, then transfer the caramel to a glass jar and cool on counter, uncovered, until the caramel reaches room temperature. Refrigerate for at least four hours before using; caramel will thicken as it cools. Will keep for up to one week.

Yield: 2/3-1 cup caramel sauce

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake liners
Brownie cake batter
Chocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting
Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.

BROWNIE CAKES WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING

Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes

Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Two waffle recipes over the course of one month might seem excessive – ok, it is excessive – but this recipe is not like the other. Because this recipe is for one waffle. Just one. And I wanted so badly to call this the single lady waffle then realized it might be offensive to Thom considering this is my go-to waffle recipe and I am not a single lady. I am, however, a single lady at breakfast time because I can’t remember the last morning we ate first breakfast together. Which is a shame because I really enjoy first breakfast. A lot more than second breakfast, which is usually a mug of stale coffee and a few scoops of peanut butter drizzled over an apple or banana.

Are you following along? So far: first breakfast > second breakfast and, if you’re single, this recipe is for you. But if you’re not single, this recipe might still be for you. Like, maybe you have a significant other who sleeps in two hours past breakfast time? Yep, this waffle’s for you. And if he tries telling you that this recipe technically makes enough waffles for two breakfasts, just remind him who wakes up at 6AM to go to the gym. Who spends an hour running and competing over the only good set of 35 pound dumbbells with a bunch of meatheads. Remind him who walks all the way home in the cold (COMMITMENT) with a bottomless pit for a stomach, while he’s still sleeping like a baby. So he wouldn’t know the first thing about eating a proper breakfast because babies don’t eat that much.

I digress. If you’re on Team Thom, go ahead and share the other half of this waffle with your favorite person. If you are your favorite person, go ahead and save it for later. Or you could halve the recipe to make one waffle (except everyone on Team Ashlae knows it’s actually just half of one waffle). If you’re a big kid and like starting off your day with a solid 500 calories, don’t change a thing and down the entire waffle for breakfast. With a protein shake on the side. And maybe a banana smeared with peanut butter and rolled in chocolate chips. And now this is just getting ridiculous, but see what happens when I try to make a point?
Blueberry maple syrup + buckwheat waffle
Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Notes: Feel free to use any flour you want. I’ve successfully made this waffle with all purpose flour, spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and a gluten free flour blend. You can also use any starch you want (or flax meal – that works, too), but if you don’t have starch or flax meal hanging around, add an extra 2 tablespoons of flour to the batter. If you don’t have a 2 slice Belgian waffle maker, you can probably get away with making this recipe in your normal waffle maker (but it might make more than one waffle).

BUCKWHEAT WAFFLE WITH BLUEBERRY MAPLE SYRUP, FOR ONE

Buckwheat waffle
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbsp potato starch
1 1/2 tsp cane sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup frozen blueberries, optional

Blueberry maple syrup
1/2 cup frozen blueberries, divided
2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat a 2 slice Belgian waffle maker. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, starch, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk, oil and vanilla extract; whisk just until combined. Let the mixture stand to thicken for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the blueberries using a spatula. Spray the waffle maker with oil then cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

For the blueberry maple syrup, bring 1/4 cup of the blueberries and maple syrup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes then strain the cooked blueberries from the syrup. Add the remaining blueberries to the syrup and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the berries to thaw. Once ready, drizzle over waffle then top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

Yield: 1 waffle

Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves
Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Thom and I don’t get into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. Not by my choosing, but because he thinks it’s silly to have a holiday where you’re expected to do something nice for your significant other. Shouldn’t that be every day? Why can’t I bring home flowers or chocolates, just because? he’ll argue. And so I support him because Yeah, ok, Valentine’s Day is straight up superficial and I don’t like roses anyway. But that’s not going to stop me from squeezing (literally) into a sexy black dress, putting on red lipstick, and taking my handsome man out on the town. Because that aspect of Valentine’s Day I can totally get behind. An extra day to channel my inner Beyonce? Count me in.

Sexy black dress aside, the real reason I don’t fight him on Valentine’s Day is because he’s the guy who planned a faux vacation to Canada, just so that I’d have a reason to finally get my passport. And then, as we were coming up on customs at the Montreal airport – as I’m jogging twenty paces ahead of him and shouting Seriously dude! Hurry up before the line gets outta control! – he stops and starts rooting through his bag. I give him my best ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? face and he yells Stop! We’ve got to go the other way. To which I call him a moron and ask if he can read BECAUSE IT SAYS VISITORS TO CANADA THIS WAY. The way I’m going. And then he pulls out his phone and says We’re not actually staying in Montreal; we’ve got a connecting flight. We’re going to Paris for two weeks. And then I gasp and start bawling my eyes out, while he captures my reaction on camera

Almond meal + Creaming
Flour prints
Almond linzer cookie dough
Dough rolling

But that’s not all. He’s the man who waits for me at the bus stop with an umbrella, because it’s pouring rain and he doesn’t want me to get wet during the ten second walk to our building’s entrance. The man who hides my favorite candies in the pockets of my pants and cardigans, just so that one day I’ll find them and be reminded of how much he loves me. He’s the man who tolerates our perpetually messy kitchen because I’m a complete slob (for real) (Slobby McSlobberson) who can’t be bothered to clean it when I know it’s just going to get messy in the morning.

And so he’s the man who washes the dishes and cleans the countertops every night before he goes to bed, just so that I can wake up to an immaculate kitchen. The man who refuses to let me carry the groceries, and holds the door even when his arms are full. In fact, I can probably count on one hand (ok, two) the number of times I’ve had to open a door while in his presence. He’s the man who offers to go get me fries at midnight because I can’t sleep and Goddamn it, I’m craving something greasy. And salty. Always something salty. The man who would literally give his life – his existence on this planet – if it meant I’d never feel another ounce of pain as long as I live. He’s the man who chose to share his life with me and, despite his blatant refusal to celebrate Valentine’s Day, sometimes I can’t help but feel like the luckiest lady on the planet.

Maybe I am. And maybe you are, too.

We be cuttin'
Almond linzer cookies6
Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Notes: I use mostly powdered sugar in this recipe because it helps to keep the cookies softer than they would be if made with granulated sugar. Feel free to use your favorite nut meal and/or jam – I chose almond and cherry because the two together are pretty delicious. But I’ve got pecan meal and apricot preserves on the mind for the summer. If you don’t have almond extract, substitute additional vanilla extract. And for the love of Buddha, make sure you freeze the dough before you put it in the oven – this ensures the cookies keep their shape. If you don’t do it they’ll be puffy and mishapen. And you don’t want that.

ALMOND LINZER COOKIES WITH CHERRY PRESERVES
1/2 cup vegan butter
2 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 cup powdered cane sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup morello cherry preserves

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter, sugars, and extracts. Whip on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed, until light and fluffy. Add the salt, baking soda, and almond meal; mix just until combined. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Divide the dough in two and pat into discs. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to two days.
Line two large baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Remove one ball of dough from the fridge and roll it out until it’s about 1/4-1/8″ thick. Slide the dough, on the parchment paper, onto a cutting board or other flat surface that will fit in your freezer. Cut dough with a round 2″ cutter, then use a 1.5″ heart cookie cutter to cut the centers of half of the cookies (you will need a total of 12 cookies with centers removed), but don’t remove the center pieces just yet. Remove dough scraps from around the cookies and place tray in the freezer for 10 minutes. Transfer the frozen cookies to one of the prepared baking sheets, removing the center pieces from the cut cookies (you can bake those too, if you want). Repeat process with scraps and remaining disc of dough. Freeze cookies for another 10 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 350˚F for 7-8 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air tighter container until ready to spread with jam; will keep for up to five days.
When you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches, use a fine mesh sieve to sprinkle the cookies with the cutout centers with powdered sugar. Spread the uncut cookies with about 1 teaspoon of cherry preserves and sandwich with powdered cutouts. Serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen 2″ linzer cookies

Cereal milk ice cream

Cereal milk ice cream

We sat curled up on the couch, braving the steady stream of chilly air that snuck through the seams of the industrial windows. I knew those things were going to be trouble the moment I laid eyes on them, but at the time I didn’t care. I was entranced by the immense amount of natural light they let into the main living area. And their ability to open downward, making them perfect for rainy days. Except we hardly ever have rainy days. This, much like the situation with the cold, I didn’t conceive until after we were months deep into our lease. After I had fallen in love with our little home at the top of an old warehouse, ten times over.

That evening, our bodies were wrapped in blankets, our feet in two pairs of socks. It was cold. But not cold enough to squander his insatiable craving for ice cream. A craving I tried so hard to suffocate with copious amounts of chocolate and other sugary things, but I had no luck. As it turns out, you can’t just sweep a man’s ice cream craving (or any craving, for that matter) under the rug because it comes back full force days later. When it’s five below zero. It’s too cold for ice cream, I told him. But he didn’t care. He wanted it. Bad.

I untangled our feet and went to abandon my comfy spot on the couch, hoping he’d drag me back down and make me stay. Because I like to think that the warmth from my body reigns supreme to the satisfaction that comes with eating ice cream. Turns out it doesn’t, because he let me go into the cold. And so I put on an extra pair of striped long johns, his slippers, one of his thermals, a sweater, and a down parka. All of this to make ice cream for the man who complains about not getting warm waffles in the morning, but then sleeps through breakfast when I finally get around to making them (side note: I have waffles every morning, he’s just not up early enough to bask in the deliciousness). Despite not getting waffles on demand, this man is loved. I hope he knows that.

Pure vanilla extract
Churnin'
cereal milk ice cream-2

When the ice cream was ready, I scooped it into pretty bowls and we shivered on the couch and laughed about the fact that our loft was 57˚ and we were shoveling spoonfuls of frozen, milky goodness into our mouths. It was then that I decided to order a space heater. Because eating ice cream next to a surge of heat seemed much more enjoyable than the current situation, which was eating ice cream on our frozen couch, swaddled in so many blankets we could hardly move.

To tide us over until aforementioned heating device arrived, I took a page from the book of a little punk I used to nanny. Let me preface this by saying it was not my proudest moment. I retrieved my hair dryer from the bathroom and used it to heat our blanket cave, to which Thom completely objected up until the moment he realized he could feel his toes again. I’m going to go ahead and say that you should not use a hair dryer as your own personal heater because it absolutely is not safe. Unless your living room is 57˚. Then I’d venture to say that keeping warm takes precedence over any risks or dangers associated with using a hair dryer for anything other than drying your hair.

But really, don’t do it.

Cereal milk ice cream
Cereal milk ice cream

Notes: This recipe calls for more coconut milk than usual because the cereal absorbs a lot of the milk (about one can’s worth). I’ve made this with light coconut milk (and almond milk – holla!), but if you do this you’ll want to soak the cereal overnight. It won’t be nearly as creamy as the full fat coconut milk variety, but it’s pretty damn close. Growing up, I always loved fruity cereal milk so I went with Cascadian Farm Fruitful O’s. But feel free to use any kind of cereal you want – a few favorite cereals are Original PuffinsPeanut Butter Panda Puffs, and Chocolate Koala Crisp.

PS – I’ve got a s’mores version coming at you once the temperatures start to rise. Complete with graham cracker cereal milk, fluffy marshmallows, and chunks of rich dark chocolate.

CEREAL MILK ICE CREAM

5 cups cereal
5 1/4 cups full fat coconut milk (3 cans)
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add the cereal to a large mixing bowl. Cover with coconut milk and stir to combine. Place a large, heavy plate on top to ensure the cereal is sumberged the entire time. Refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Once the cereal has soaked, use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture over a medium saucepan; make sure to firmly press the cereal mush to get out as much coconut milk as possible. After you’ve pressed out as much of milk you can get, scoop the layer of thick cream that formed on the bottom of the strainer into the pot. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract; bring to a boil and whisk vigorously for 45 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, pour the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream machine and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat ice cream immideately (it will be somewhat soft) or transfer to a container and freeze until ready to consume. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving. Top with crushed cereal, if desired.

Yield: about 1 quart