Mango Almond Chiffon Cake

When I moved back to Minnesota, one of the things that I was dreading most was it long, long, long and COLD, COLD, COLD winters. I’m not sure how to articulate to you just how cold -30 Fahrenheit feels like, but maybe the best way to describe it would be to confess that I wore two pairs of pants, a long-sleeve, a sweatshirt and a vest, plus fuzzy socks — indoors (yep.).

But, you know, I am back, and for the most part, thrilled to be close to my family, literally down the street from some of my friends, and happily employed. Even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for the majority of my life, the transition back from New York hasn’t been easy. It’s sometimes a little lonely to look out the window and not see a single soul, and can we talk about how I’m pretty sure I forgot how to drive, period. Learning to get back on the road again when I’ve always been an anxious driver has definitely been a challenge. For now, I’m taking it slow and counting driving safely to my local Trader Joe’s a win.

One of the things that I have forgotten about Minnesota (and leaves me breathless every time), are the beautiful fall colors. The swirling leaves of red, pink, orange, gold and yellow surrounded by pockets of green are for me, one of the best parts of fall and best parts of living in Minnesota. The golden-y hue of fall color is what inspired this Almond Mango Chiffon Cake. What is chiffon cake you ask? Well, it’s probably the lightest, fluffiest cake you’ll ever taste and it’s got nothing but eggs helping it rise. In my recipe, there’s a slight hint of almond, and a fruity aftertaste. Basically, fall and summer all in one.

I like to make them in 6 oversized muffin tins, but there’s nothing stopping you from turning this into an 8″ or 9″ cake either. In fact, there’s definitely nothing stopping you from making this cake and a cream cheese frosting or whipped cream topping to finish it off. The best part of this cake is that it’s dairy-free and good for breakfast, dessert or a snack.

Mango Almond Chiffon Cake (adapted from Epicurious) | Makes 6-8 slices (depending on how you cut)

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried mango slices
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cold water mixed with 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour*

*If you don’t have cake flour, you can always make your own using all-purpose flour and cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca starch. Just measure out a cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and add in 2 tablespoons of your starch.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350(F) and line either cake tin or muffin tin with parchment paper.
  2. Combine honey water and chopped mango slices – let soak to re-hydrate the dried mango.
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine egg whites and salt. Using a electric mixer, start on the lowest speed, beating for a minute on each speed until you have reached medium speed. Then, gradually add in 1/4 cup sugar and continue mixing. Once sugar has been fully added, beat on high speed until you get peaks that just barely hold their shape (not stiff, but not soft either).
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine your egg yolks and remaining sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp). Using an electric mixer, beat until mixture turns fluffy and pale yellow.
  5. With the electric mixer on medium speed, gradually pour olive oil into the egg yolk mixture and mix until incorporated thoroughly.
  6. Then mix in honey water+mangoes and almond extract.
  7. Sift cake flour into egg yolk mixture (the sifting is crucial! this will make sure your cake isn’t dense), and combine using a wooden spoon (not electric mixer).
  8. Fold whipped egg whites into egg yolk mixture in three batches, make sure to using a folding motion so you don’t deflate the egg whites.
  9. Pour mixture into prepped muffin tins or cake tin. Sprinkle top with sugar.
  10. Place into oven and bake for 25 (if using muffin tins) or 45 minutes (if using cake tins), until golden and toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Enjoy!

Fluffy and Moist Dairy-Free Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Scones

Not going to lie, I’ve been on a Great British Baking binge – not the new show without Mary Berry, but like the old reruns with the original gang.  There is just something so absolutely stress-relieving and home-y about watching home bakers bake their hearts out.  I guess I should mention that I’ve been on a little bit of a baking kick lately as well, oops. I’m typing this as I have a banana bread going in the oven (I’m going to blame my overripe bananas) and a frozen loaf of zucchini bread in my fridge (I couldn’t let those go bad either, right?). 


Anyways, maybe you can guess, but I’m stressed.  It’s job hunting season and I swear there isn’t anything worse than pouring your heart into a cover letter and resume only to hear a big fat no.  Seriously, if anyone has any job hunting tips, please let me know!  I think that the transition from school to being a working full-time adult is always a little bit different.  Not only do you have loans, but the added stress of having to look for a job that pays a living wage and also the prospect of having to relocate and start making new friends kind of makes the whole deal a little bit of a downer.  Don’t get me wrong, I am suuupppperrr excited to be done with school (goodbye homework!), but transitions are hard, and I’m just acknowledging that.  


I guess for me, when things get hard, I always tend to gravitate towards ideas and things that remind me of home or warmth/hugs.  This was definitely the inspiration behind these cinnamon chocolate scones.  I happen to love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate.  Cinnamon provides warmth, while the melt-y pools of chocolate add lots of richness.  I definitely don’t recommend skipping out on the chocolate, especially since the chocolate I’m using here is dark chocolate and dairy-free (practically healthy!).  While I’m lecturing on what else not to leave out, I’ll take the time to mention, don’t leave out the cinnamon butter spread on top either! OMG it’s legitimately the most delicious thing ever.  Once its baked, it turns into this crackly, cinnamon-y, crunchy topping.  SO GOOD.  Growing up, my sisters and I always tried to make scones every weekend, so these goodies definitely hold a lot of nostalgia for me. 


Hey, if you’re having a hard week or day (and I’m sending hugs to you if you are) take some time for yourself tonight, or maybe this weekend and make these scones.  Or if cinnamon/chocolate isn’t your thing, check out these blueberry and cream ones, or raspberry white chocolate scones.  Hopefully the warmth and home-y-ness will remind you of good memories and the fact that good times are coming. And hey, I know for a fact that good times are coming, because who doesn’t love summer?

DAIRY-FREE CINNAMON CHOCOLATE SCONES | Makes 8 scones

INGREDIENTS

for the scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (omit if your dairy-free butter is salted)
  • 6 tbsp dairy-free butter – chilled in the fridge before using
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut cream
  • 1 egg

for the cinnamon spread

  • 2 tbsp dairy-free butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sugar 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (F).
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Add in dairy-free butter and using hands a knife/pastry cutter incorporate butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse sand (butter should be pea-sized).
  4. Add in chocolate pieces making sure to coat each chocolate piece in flour (this will make sure they don’t sink to the bottom of the scone batter during baking)
  5. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine coconut cream, vanilla extract and egg, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour three-fourths of wet ingredients into the well.
  7. Using spatula, fold wet and dry ingredients together.  Continue adding in remaining wet ingredients until a shaggy dough forms.  uDO NOT overwork dough.
  8. Place dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat into an 8″ circle.
  9. In a small bowl, mix room temperature butter, sugar and cinnamon until a paste forms.
  10. Spread the cinnamon butter paste on top of the scone, making sure to cover the whole circle (see picture above)
  11. Cut circle into 8 pieces to help scones rise more easily in oven.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are just starting to turn golden brown and the tips of the scones feel firm to the touch.

Enjoy!!

Vegan Peanut Butter Apple Crumble Bites

 I can’t even begin to express how ridiculously excited about this recipe I am! First of all, it comes together SO easily (I would know, because I made this on a whim), but also, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to stop letting food go to waste.  I never try to waste food on purpose, but sometimes you just let the bag of spinach sit too long in your fridge, or forget about the bunch of sweet potatoes you bought cause they’re sitting in the cabinet…(yikes) and I always just feel so bad when I end up having to toss the food.  I know that I won’t be perfect with this resolution because sometimes things just happen, but I’m hoping that if I put my mind to it, I can change my lifestyle and the way I make purchases going forward. 


Coming back from my last grocery run, I realized that I had accidentally bought new apples when I already had some old ones, and then putting away my snacks, I noticed some slightly stale peanut butter cookies sitting in the bag of my pantry (you see what I mean when I say I need to change the way I make purchases? I’m always forgetting what I already have :p ).  I didn’t want to break my resolution 3 weeks into the new year, so I got creative.  My aunt and uncle happen to be a fan of vegan foods even though they’re not vegans themselves, so I figured that I could whip up a dessert from these things to bring over to them.  


Turns out, apples, peanut butter and cinnamon crumble make for a bomb flavor combination.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since as I kid, I always had Ritz crackers with peanut butter and apple slices.  Let’s just say biting into these sweet and salty cuties straight from the oven brought me intense waves of nostalgia haha.  The one (and might I add, only) bad thing about these bits is that they definitely do get soggy if you decide to store them overnight.  Because of this, I’ve only made this recipe to make one batch (a full muffin tin), and would not recommend doubling the recipe unless you know you’re going to have a big crowd. 


In other news, my last first day of school (of the second semester) officially started Tuesday! Can’t believe that I’m hitting 18 years of being in school…man I feel old.  I’m sure it’ll be surreal once everything comes to an end, but for now, I’m going to concentrate on enjoying my classes and making as many memories as I can make in Big Apple.  And maybe making more of these lil’ apple bites!

VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER APPLE CRUMBLE BITES | Makes 12 bites

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 peanut butter cookies (the sweet kind, like Nutterbutters)
  • 2 medium sized apples – cored and sliced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (for the struesel)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp of vegan butter
  • 12 Muffin tin liners

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350(F).
  2. Line a regular sized muffin tin with liners.
  3. Crush peanut butter cookies until a fine crumble is formed. I will usually just do this in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush cookies.
  4. Divide crushed cookies evenly between the 12 muffin liners.  Pack the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the liners.  The bottom of a 1/4 cup works super well to pack down the crumbs.
  5. In a separate bowl, toss the cubed apples, granulated white sugar and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon together.  Let the apples sit while you make the streusel topping.
  6. In another separate bowl, mix brown sugar, flour and 1/2 tsp cinnamon together.  Then cut vegan butter in with either a pastry cutter or two butter knives until a crumble forms.  It is SUPER important to keep the butter cold, cold, cold! If it starts to look soft/melty, just stick the bowl into the fridge for 5 or so minutes.
  7. Divide apples evenly between the 12 liners and place on top of cookie crumble base.
  8. Top with streusel.  Don’t be afraid to be generous!
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until streusel topping is golden. 
  10. Bites should be consumed immediately and not stored overnight for best texture (taste won’t be affected).

Enjoy!

Dairy-free Purple Sweet Potato Pie

 I used to think that I was a cake person, but after this pie, I think I’ve been converted.  Pie allows you to bring in so many different textures that I think that cake just doesn’t allow for (not saying that cake isn’t amazing, cuz TRUST ME, it soooooo is). BUT in one bite of pie, you get flaky, buttery crust, smooth creamy filling, and crunchy sweet topping – it really doesn’t get much better than that!  I guess I should also preface by admitting that a huge part of why I didn’t used to like pie is because I’m lactose intolerant and pie just doesn’t taste as good without butter.  I pretty much believed that butter-less pie was not worth eating until this past Thanksgiving rolled around.  With my grandpa working on controlling his blood sugar level, and pretty much my whole family is lactose intolerant, dessert options had to be 1) low in sugar and 2) dairy-free.  This pie delivers both.  Not only are sweet potatoes naturally sweet, they are also perfect because the sugars in sweet potatoes digest slowly and won’t spike up your blood sugar.  


Turns out, with the right substitutions, you can make just as delicious a pie crust and filling without dairy.  For my pie crust, I use coconut oil, the filtered kind, so you can barely taste/can’t taste the coconut flavor at all.  It’s honestly pretty amazing.  Just make sure to pay extra attention when you’re buying you’re coconut oil to pick up the filtered kind, otherwise your crust will definitely taste of coconut (unless of course, you like coconut, then have at it).  The key to making sure you get a flaky crust is to keep the coconut oil cold.  Since it’s hard to scoop when its cold, I will usually pre-measure it out and then stick the amount into the fridge for maybe 10 minutes.  You can assemble the rest of the ingredients while you wait.  The same goes with the pie filling, I use coconut cream and it creates the most luscious and creamy filling – you won’t even remember that heavy cream wasn’t used.  The real secret though? Straining your pie filling ensures that all the lumps are broken up and your custard will end up smoother than silk. 


Now, I’m not a fan of walnuts, BUT, as it turns out, when they are candied, they become the perfect complement for a creamy filling.  Of course, you can choose to leave the nuts out, but they just provide the perfect crunch, so I would recommend simply substituting for a nut that you do like.  Seeds would probably work too! It’s just nice to have a trio of different textures 🙂
I’m getting hungry just thinking about this pie while I write!  Might have to do some night time baking….


I’m currently on winter break still, and I’m blissfully savoring the days I have left.  I’m still at work most days, but it’s just so nice to come home and not have a million pounds of homework to do.  Instead, I get a chance to cook, watch some netflix and catch up on my blogging.  The simple life pleasures are the best.  So here we go, pie recipe coming at you!

DAIRY-FREE PURPLE SWEET POTATO PIE | Makes one 4.5in x13.5in pie

INGREDIENTSfor the crust

  • 1/2 cup filtered coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp ice cold water

for the filling

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • heaping 1/2 cup purple sweet potato mashed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs

for the candied nut topping

  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425 (F)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add in coconut oil and use either a pastry cutter or a fork to break the oil into pea sized pieces.  DO NOT use your hands, this will melt the coconut oil!
  4. Once the oil pieces are thoroughly mixed into the flour, add in ice cold water, 1 tbsp at a time until a dough ball forms.  Try to add in as little water as possible, as adding too much water will encourage the formation of gluten which results in a tough pie crust.
  5. Form into a rectangle, wrap in saran wrap and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. While the crust is chilling, combine sweet potato, brown sugar, eggs, coconut cream, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl and whisk until blended.
  7. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the filling mixture into a clean bowl to ensure a smooth filling.
  8. Once dough has chilled, roll out to 1/4 inch in thickness and press into tart pan.  Place parchment paper on top of pie crust and fill with baking beans (I just use rice).
  9. Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes at 425 (F).
  10. Take out crust, carefully remove baking beans and pour in filling (at this point, I usually place the pie pan on a baking sheet for easier maneuvering).
  11. Lower oven heat to 325 (F).
  12. Bake pie for 20-25 minutes until filling is just set. Let chill.
  13. While pie is chilling, melt 1/4 cup white sugar in a small sauce pan until it caramelizes (you are looking for a dark amber color).  When it reaches this color, throw in walnut pieces and mix thoroughly.  Pour out candied nuts onto waxed or parchment paper and let cool.
  14. When you are ready to serve the pie, break candied walnut pieces over pie.
  15. Pie keeps up to 3 days in the fridge (and tastes amazing straight from the fridge as well!).  Be sure to store candied walnuts separately, as the moisture from the pie will liquify the sugar.

Enjoy!

Flaky Apple Hand Pies

 Happy 2019! 2018 brought a whirlwind of changes – new moves, new jobs, new friends, in fact, it’s almost overwhelming to think of them all!  It’s simultaneously been the hardest year, but the happiest year.  Isn’t it funny that life can be like that sometimes (and it seems, almost all the time?). I hope that for you, 2019 brings all the happiness that was in 2018, and only keeps getting better 😊


On the topic of better, I’ve been aspiring to be better about staying home and cooking with what I have, instead of falling prey to the wonderful app that is Grubhub.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and being in the kitchen, but after 8 hours of school and a seemingly endless pile of homework, the thought of even sautéing some veggies makes my head spin.  So, creating the simplest and fastest recipes are always at the forefront of my mind when I’m creating something new.


The recipe is actually from awhile back, but I’m finally getting to blogging about it now (talk about being behind! Haha, I’m just a year late).  Anyway, one of my bestest friends from my work came over to my itty bitty apartment this past Thanksgiving to make some apple hand pies.  We had originally set out to make cherry almond croissants, but upon realizing the both of us had no tools and barely any ingredients, we had to quickly change plans.  She brought some honeycrisp apples (shoutout to Minnesota for creating them!), and I supplied the puff pastry, voila! We had all the ingredients necessary for apple hand pies.  It’s that easy, I promise!  And it will bring smiles to anyone you serve them to, cause really, who can resist some pipping hot, cinnamony sugar and buttery pastries? 


So let’s ring in 2019 with some flaky apple hand pies, maybe a glass of champagne, and if you’re me, some R&R with my faithful buddy, netflix (lol).  Back to reality though, I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions, and I really only have two this year, okay, maybe three, but the first is the most important.  I want to be kinder to others, because you can always be kinder and you never, ever know another stranger’s full story.  So often I find myself quickly jumping to conclusions and judging others harshly before I even take a moment to put myself in their shoes.  What are the other two? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.  In the mean time, grab some apples, some puff pastry and sit down with a hand pie (or two). 

FLAKY APPLE HAND PIES | Makes 8-10 hand pies 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 honeycrisp apples (or any other baking apple) – cored and diced into small pieces 
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter – melted 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (I get mine from Trader Joes) 
  • 1 beaten egg (for egg wash) 
  • 1 tbsp milk*
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar*

DIRECTIONS 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (F)
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together diced apples, white sugar, melted butter and cinnamon.  Combine together and set aside. 
  3. Take thawed puff pastry and cut sheet into 8-10 rectangles, depending on how big you want your hand pies to be (remember, your hand pies will be half the size you cut your rectangles into, because you’ll be folding them in half to seal in the apple). 
  4. Take each piece of puff pastry and spoon in about 1-2 tablespoons of apple into the middle of the puff pastry. Make sure to leave out the juices that have pooled to the bottom of the bowl with the apples, this will make your hand pie extremely soggy. 
  5. Brush edges of the puff pastry with the beaten egg and seal together.  
  6. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you’ll want the parchment paper since the apples tend to leak their juices a little bit, it makes clean up easier). 
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove once the top is golden brown and puff pastry has puffed!
  8. Once cooled, create an icing by combining milk and powdered sugar together.  Drizzle over hand pies for just the slightest hint of sweetness to complement the apples.  
  9. Hand pies will stay fresh for just a couple of days.  To extend their shelf life, simply freeze and reheat in the toaster! 

Enjoy! 

Healthy Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

 I love mangoes and I love sticky rice.  I’m not sure there’s a better combination than this Thai dessert.  I’ll be honest, even though I’ve had coconut sticky rice and mango separately countless times, I had never put the two together until I was developing this recipe.  One of my favorite childhood memories is eating freshly picked mango in Taiwan on the beach.  We were so lucky to be staying at a small bed & breakfast that also happened to grow mangoes in its backyard. The couple running the B&B sent us off to the beach with a giant basket full of mangoes for breakfast – it’s probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had to this day. Unfortunately, delicious mangoes are hard to come by in the United States. You really have to be on either the East Coast or West Coast to get good mangoes year round.  I would definitely recommend making this recipe during the summer months, for the sweetest mangoes, but if you’re hankering for mango sticky rice in the dead of winter, this recipe will definitely cure it.


Traditional mango sticky rice recipes are very high in sugar (and delicious, don’t get me wrong!) but sometimes, it’s just nice to have a decadent dessert that doesn’t fulfill your weekly sugar allowance. One of the best things about mango is that it generally has a high sugar content.  This is the reason why for my recipe, I can add so little sugar, and still have such a delicious dessert.  In order to take full advantage of the high sugar content, I’m going to recommend that you use Champange mangoes. These are a smaller, yellow-er variety than the typical mango you probably know. It’s much sweeter and less fibrous, making it perfect for mango sticky rice.


If you’ve ever tried to look up a recipe for sticky rice before, I’m sure you’ve seen that there are a bajillion different ways to make it.  This is the way my grandma taught me, and also the least time consuming method I’ve seen so far.  While a lot of recipes call for soaking the sweet rice overnight and then steaming, I’ve shortened the soaking to just a couple hours and then cooking just like traditional rice. Much faster!  Traditionally, coconut sticky rice relies on been drenched in sweetened coconut cream to impart its flavor, but I’ve cut down on the fat content and sugar content by cooking the sweet rice in coconut milk to give it the coconut flavor, and then just a few spoonfuls of coconut cream to top everything at the end.


For those who are making sticky rice for the first time, when you’re purchasing the rice to make sticky rice, it will actually be labeled as sweet rice, not sticky rice.  Deceiving, I know! I’m not sure why it’s labeled sweet rice, but now that you know, you’ll be a pro at navigating the rice section of a supermarket!


Alright, well let’s get too it!

COCONUT STICKY RICE WITH MANGO | Makes enough for 3-4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Champange mango – sliced into wedges and chilled
  • 1 cup sweet rice – uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp granulated white sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place sweet rice into a mixing bowl and cover with water (all the rice should be submerged). Let sweet rice soak for two hours.
  2. At the end of two hours, drain sweet rice and let sit in a strainer for 20 minutes.
  3. Place drained sweet rice into a rice cooker or medium-sized pot and add in 1 1/2 cup coconut milk. If you’re using a rice cooker, simply press the on button and wait for rice to cook.  If you’re cooking over the stove top, bring coconut milk to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. This should be around 20 minutes or so.
  4. Once rice is cooked, let cool (I usually spread it out on a plate so it cools faster).
  5. Combine coconut cream and sugar.  Microwave for 60 seconds so the cream is hot enough to dissolve the sugar.
  6. Once rice is cool, simply arrange a scoop of sticky rice and several slices of mango on a plate. Top with a couple spoonfuls of the coconut cream.

Enjoy!

Healthy Zucchini Bread

 Zucchini is one of those funny vegetables that either tastes amazing or super gross.  Unfortunately for me, growing up, I only ever had my share of yucky tasting zucchini.  This pretty much meant that I would try and feed my mom’s zucchini to my baby sister, or hide it under the rest of my food.  I did this for years until I went over to a friends house and they served zucchini bread for dinner. AND BOOM, just like that, my life was completely changed.  What made zucchini watery and gross, made the moist-est and sweet bread, and hey, it was a serving of vegetable too, technically.  
I went home and gushed to my mom about this amazing bread that I had eaten at my friend’s house, and how it was made from zucchini.  My mom, of course, was not impressed and wanted to actually taste this thing I was talking about for herself.  So, I went online and clicked on the first recipe I found (I’m pretty sure it was Allrecipes) and made my family some zucchini bread.   Needless to say, they fell in love with zucchini bread, just like me, and since then, it’s been one of our favorite after school snacks and the perfect dessert to complement a meal.


The zucchini bread recipe that I found that first day, has been modified and tweaked for over so many years, that I’m not even sure it resembles the same recipe that we started out with. I find that zucchini bread tends to be very sweet, and in some cases, just wayyy too sweet for my diabetic family.  During the period in which I was trying to create a healthier zucchini bread, my dad became lactose intolerant, and I figured that I should probably make a dairy-free zucchini bread recipe.  Luckily, oil based breads are actually more moist than breads made with butter since the oil is liquid and has an easier time encasing the flour particles (this is what prevents gluten formation, and tough baked goods).  So, this zucchini bread recipe is not only dairy-free, it is also low sugar, uses more zucchini than what would normally be called for a higher dose of veggies, and is still pretty much the most delicious bread ever.


I would recommend definitely keeping this recipe as a bread and baking it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake tin or muffin tins.  What makes this recipe over-the-top amazing is the delicious, golden crust that forms on top of the zucchini bread.  This crust only forms if its been baked for awhile, which wouldn’t be the case for cake layers or muffins. One thing that I can’t stress more than enough is DO NOT drain the shredded zucchini!  The water in the zucchini is what creates a moist and fluffy bread.  I made zucchini bread with my friend once and we were both curious as to what would happen if we squeezed all the water out of the zucchini before we put it into the batter.  Oh man, we were eating rock hard zucchini bread for days after. Haha, so please, learn from my mistake!

The key to good zucchini bread is all in the eggs.  You want to make sure to beat as much air as you can into the eggs before combining it with the rest of the wet ingredients!

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy TIME: 20 min prep + 1 hour cook time


HEALTHY ZUCCHINI BREAD | Makes 1 loaf (8-10 slices, depending on how thin you slice them)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or any other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (do not drain!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 (F).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk until air bubbles appear on the surface and eggs are well beaten.
  4. Then, add in vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Mix well.
  5. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time.  This mixture should be thick and hard to mix.
  6. Finally, add in grated zucchini and mix well.  At this point, the mixture should be much easier to mix because of the moisture from the zucchini.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and then check to see if bread is done.  If not, keep adding an extra 5 minutes of baking time.  In my experience, depending on humidity and oven circulation, bread can take between 60 minutes and 75 minutes to bake.
  8. Cool bread before slicing.
  9. Zucchini bread will keep fresh for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Not quite sure that there’s anything better than chocolate in this world.  I mean, chocolate is up there along with surprise snow days, long walks on the beach and lazy Sundays. Anyone that said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend clearly never had these double chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache.  Yep, I said it, the “g” word, gasp! Laden with butter, it used to be one of my favorite things to eat before I became lactose intolerant.  These days, I make do with dark chocolate squares after dinner, close my eyes and pretend like I’m licking the chocolate ganache off a spoon.

This chocolate cupcake and ganache recipe stems back to my bakery days, when I worked at one bakery in Minnesota. They served the best cupcakes, and this recipe is inspired by the light and fluffy, but still intensely chocolate-y cupcakes I would make. The key to these chocolate cupcakes is fresh baking soda.  I’m not even joking, one time, I had baking soda left over from who knows when, and my cupcakes ended up flatter than Flat Stanley. It was a sad day for all of us in the Chung household craving cupcakes. Lesson learned: always use fresh baking soda!


Okay, maybe I lied, the frosting is more of a buttercream frosting with an identity crisis.  It tastes just like a chocolate ganache, but way easier to make than ganache.  The problem with ganache is that you can so easily burn the chocolate, or overcook the cream, or even worse, the ganache might not even come together after all the effort you spent perfectly heating up that cream and chopping your chocolate into slivers. This one just requires room temperature butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and an arm looking for a good workout.


For my cupcakes, I chose to pipe the frosting on, but you can dip, whip, or spoon the frosting on in any way you would like.  Heck, you could probably skip the frosting altogether and just eat a bite of cupcake and lick the spoon you used to make the frosting.  This is really a whatever-you-want type of recipe.  Since baking is always such a precise measurement, I think that there’s a sort of beauty in decorating something that suits your taste and style.  There’s nothing better than taking a step back from your finished masterpiece and feeling utterly accomplished and satisfied.


As I’m nearing the completion of my first month of work, I can tell you its been an uphill battle the whole way.  Some days, all I can do is relish in the small victories of the day, and secretly wish I had a time machine to make time pass faster. Once I’m in the kitchen though, the stress and worries of the day melt away.  I guess the whole point that I’m making is, don’t forget to take some time for yourself! And also, eat a chocolate cupcake or two 🙂

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES | Makes 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp baking soda (FRESH)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil, or any other neutral tasting oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup hot coffee (instant is fine)

frosting:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Whisk together.
  3. Add egg, sugar, vegetable oil and buttermilk together into another large mixing bowl and mix well.
  4. Alternate adding hot coffee and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, starting first with the dry ingredients.
  5. Line cupcake tins with liners and fill each tin 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the center of a cupcake.
  7. Let cupcakes cool before frosting.

frosting:

  1. Beat butter until creamy (usually 5-8 minutes for me by hand).
  2. Add in cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Alternate adding in powdered sugar and milk and whisk until a fluffy frosting is achieved.  If mixture looks try, at additional milk 1/2 tsp at a time. If mixture looks wet, add additional 1 tbsp powdered sugar at a time.
  4. Either spoon chocolate frosting on, or pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
  5. Frosted cupcakes will stay fresh for up to 5 days covered a room temperature.

Happy Eating!

Vegan Dark Chocolate Orange and Pistachio Cookies

Vegan Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Yes, these cookies are vegan. No, I’m not joking. Promise (really!). I guess I should confess, I’ve been on a vegan kick lately.  Vegan savory dishes, vegan desserts, and for a hot second vegan purses (which turned out to be a scam -_- ) All else aside, these cookies are REALLY, REALLY good. I brought them to share with my friends at school and they were hooked onto the chocolate-y, nutty, orange-y flavor. In fact, none of them even noticed they were vegan until I casually mentioned that they didn’t have any eggs or butter.


I originally got the inspiration from my best friend, who happens to love the orange and pistachio combination.  She actually doesn’t like chocolate (I know, I was shocked too, but now I just make baked goods without chocolate in it for her, haha), but I LOVE chocolate, so I knew I had to incorporate dark chocolate as well.  This is just my personal opinion when it comes to chocolate, but I think that buying chocolate bars and chopping it up yourself just gives the best results. You get large melty pools of chocolate, but also tiny pieces that get all mixed into the dough and are like hidden gems when you bite into the cookie. So, it is really up to you whether or not you want to use chocolate chips, or buy a bar and chop it into pieces.  Just make sure that if you’re making these cookies for people who are strictly vegan to check your chocolate and make sure there is not dairy in it (believe it or not, some dark chocolate still have a lot of dairy in it!).


Don’t leave out the orange zest in this recipe.  I know that sometimes the combination of orange and chocolate can feel strange, but the zest doesn’t change the texture of the cookie at all and really helps brighten up the flavor of the cookie!  The best thing about this recipe is probably the fact that you SHOULD bake these cookies right away.  Yep, that’s right, no chilling ladies and gentlemen.  Normally chilling intensifies the flavor and I’m all for it, but in this case, it actually makes the pistachios soggy and not very nutty at all.  However, if you want to chill your cookies, or forget them in the fridge because you had to do laundry (this girl here), they will still taste really delicious 🙂


New York is finally starting to show signs of spring.  Today was the first sunny day in awhile and I’m BEYOND ecstatic.  It’s still too cold for dresses and sandals, but at least I didn’t have to wear a second jacket going outside. The flower beds outside of my apartment are starting to sprout tulips and the pop of color really just makes it feel that much more spring-y. My apartment itself doesn’t get much sunlight, so I’m headed out to soak in some vitamin D. Hopefully spring is just around the corner for everyone.  And in the mean time, if you’re craving something citrus-y, make these cookies!!!!!! They’re so good!!! PROMISE!

VEGAN ORANGE DARK CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO COOKIES | Makes 1.5 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 cups of chopped vegan dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cups of shelled chopped pistachios
  • 1/3 granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 tsp water
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F) and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, combine white sugar and orange zest.  Work together with hands until sugar takes on the fragrance on the orange zest.  Then add in dark brown sugar, vegetable oil, water, molasses and vanilla extract into the bowl and mix well. 
  4. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until just combined. 
  5. Mix in pistachios and dark chocolate pieces until well incorporated.
  6. Portion out golf-ball sized dough balls and place at least 2 inches apart from each other.
  7. Sprinkle tops of cookies with sea salt or kosher salt
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just beginning to brown, and the center is just set.
  9. Let cool before storing in an air-tight container.
  10. Cookies will stay fresh for up to a week in an air-tight container.

Enjoy!

10-minute Chocolate Rice Krispie (Gluten-free!)

Are you into rice krispies?? I am! The chewy, marshmallowlly, super buttery, decadent, stuff-your-face kind of rice krispies. All on board? Okay! This will literally take you 10 minutes (I timed it…). It’s truly the most un-glorious of all ingredients, chocolate rice krispies, marshmallows and white chocolate, but somehow, when you combine it all into one giant pot, it turns into liquid gold.


When my grandma used to make these for me as a child, they would be insanely delicious right out of the pot, but then after a few hours (luckily they never made it that far), it would turn rock hard.  This always puzzled me as a child, but it was nothing a zap in the microwave couldn’t fix.  Now, as a student, sometimes I get to the point where I’m either too busy, or too lazy to soften rice krispies in the microwave.  Lucky for me, there exists this wonderful thing called the internet and after hours of scouring the web (and I MEAN hours), I figured out the best way to keep rice krispies soft and chewy.


I’ll spare you the food science details, but basically the key to great rice krispies is to make sure that you’re not overheating the marshmallows.  You want them just melted, but anything beyond that will result in hard-not-so-yummy rice krispies.  Now, the great thing is that just melted = less cooking time = less work for you, yay!


Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t vegan or vegetarian, but, it can be made gluten-free! Just make sure you buy the rice krispie brands that have been certified to be gluten-free. I think that I used regular General Mills cereal which wasn’t gluten-free, but I definitely know that there are brands in the supermarket that certify their cereals.


I happen to think that a pop of color makes everything just that much more fun, which is why I crushed up some freeze-dried raspberries to sprinkle over the rice krispies.  Freeze-dried fruit also makes for an excellent alternative to sprinkles (if you’re out), or if you would rather just stick with naturally colored toppings 🙂

10 MINUTE COCCA RICE KRISPIES | Makes 12 large rice krispies

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups marshmallows
  • 6 cups cocca krispies
  • 1 cup white chocolate – melted
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries – crushed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Over low heat, melt butter. Add in marshmallows and gently stir until 90% of the marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir until all marshmallows have melted.
  2. Add in cocca krispies and mix well
  3. Press into an 8x8in pan and cool
  4. Once cool, cut into rectangles and dip into melted white chocolate
  5. Sprinkle with crushed freeze-dried raspberries for a pop of color
  6. Rice krispies will stay fresh for up to 3 days in an air-tight container

Enjoy!